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The Gold Plates


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1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Yes, the Sunrise Problem. It relativistic. And as a euphemism (which it really feels like you are using it that way here), it seems like you are saying that I may not know exactly, but, it is close enough to be certain to me. So I contest your notion that you didn't invoke the idea of impossibility (or certainty) here.

No, that is NOT what I am saying. The evidence was only strong enough for me to believe that she most likely didn't produce the paper using her own ability. I explicitly clarified that it wasn't enough for me to be certain, and without further evidence I would NOT have accused her of plagiarism. There is a huge difference between me feeling she most likely wasn't responsible for the wording (based on the initial evidence of advanced syntax and diction) and the certainty I felt after I discovered specifically where she had plagiarized her content from.

Your insistence on pushing others' arguments toward the extreme is fascinating, to say the least. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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4 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

I keep pointing that out. I believe that you did have evidence that the student had help writing their paper.

But how could the advanced features of her writing count as evidence that she "had help writing [her] paper", since all I had at my disposal was my subjective assessment that it was too advanced for the student. I didn't have any hard statistical data to support my assessment. I didn't have any brute "facts" that proved she didn't write it on her own. All I had was my best judgment based on my prior literary experience. How is that evidence of anything?

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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16 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

But how could the advanced features of her writing count as evidence that she "had help writing [her] paper", since all I had at my disposal was my subjective assessment that it was too advanced for the student. I didn't have any hard statistical data to support my assessment. I didn't have any brute "facts" that proved she didn't write it on her own. All I had was my best judgment based on my prior literary experience. How is that evidence of anything?

Observations are evidence. The question is, what are they evidence of? You suggested a theory of what that meant in your example (plagiarism). You then devised a test for that theory. That test revealed evidence that confirmed your hypothesis. The observations were not evidence of plagiarism (because those observations could have been caused by any number of competing causes). Finding sources that demonstrate the plagiarism provides the specific evidence of your theory.

The discovery of NHM in the Arabian peninsula is not evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Why? Because the observation is about a connection between NHM in the Arabian peninsula and Nahom in the Book of Mormon. This hypothesis needs to be tested. If it can be tested, then we can produce evidence that either supports or contradicts that hypothesis. I am fairly confident that we could describe the kinds of evidence that could be used to confirm the hypothesis. I am not at all confident that we could devise a way to produce those kinds of evidence - and because of this, I have no expectation that the proof or failure to prove the hypothesis could ever be accomplished - and so, I conclude that this issue will never rise to the level of evidence of the proposition that the Book of Mormon is an authentic translation of an ancient text. I am certainly open to being proven wrong - but the one thing that you haven't done is to engage the actual issue.

You suggested that my view of evidence isn't something that can be found anywhere - and yet, this is the basic principle of, say, the scientific method that is taught to every high school and college student who takes a science class. If you think that I am so wrong, then you need to explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity. I am all ears.

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4 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:
21 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

But how could the advanced features of her writing count as evidence that she "had help writing [her] paper", since all I had at my disposal was my subjective assessment that it was too advanced for the student. I didn't have any hard statistical data to support my assessment. I didn't have any brute "facts" that proved she didn't write it on her own. All I had was my best judgment based on my prior literary experience. How is that evidence of anything?

Observations are evidence. The question is, what are they evidence of? You suggested a theory of what that meant in your example (plagiarism). 

I didn't ask about "plagiarism." I specifically used your wording to avoid debating that topic (again). You said the advanced features of her writing provide evidence that she "had help writing [her] paper." What do you mean by that? 

4 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

You then devised a test for that theory. That test revealed evidence that confirmed your hypothesis. The observations were not evidence of plagiarism (because those observations could have been caused by any number of competing causes). Finding sources that demonstrate the plagiarism provides the specific evidence of your theory.

This validates what I was saying earlier about your conflation of proof and evidence. If a certain set of observations logically support a conclusion and provide the only possible cause or explanation for that conclusion, those observations amount to not just evidence but also proof supporting that conclusion. In other words, you seem unwilling to conceptualize evidence as anything that doesn't amount to proof (where all other possible causes can be demonstrably ruled out as so statistically unlikely that they can't be seen as legitimate competing explanations).

Yet that type of definitional framework simply doesn't work at all for the fields of history, law, literary studies, anthropology, and others which relate to the Book of Mormon. If you have read very widely at all in these fields, you will find that the "evidence" which is marshaled for or against certain theories or conclusions rarely meets your strict criteria. It is so easy to demonstrate this. 

4 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

The discovery of NHM in the Arabian peninsula is not evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Why? Because the observation is about a connection between NHM in the Arabian peninsula and Nahom in the Book of Mormon. This hypothesis needs to be tested. If it can be tested, then we can produce evidence that either supports or contradicts that hypothesis. I am fairly confident that we could describe the kinds of evidence that could be used to confirm the hypothesis. I am not at all confident that we could devise a way to produce those kinds of evidence - and because of this, I have no expectation that the proof or failure to prove the hypothesis could ever be accomplished - and so, I conclude that this issue will never rise to the level of evidence of the proposition that the Book of Mormon is an authentic translation of an ancient text. I am certainly open to being proven wrong - but the one thing that you haven't done is to engage the actual issue.

You suggested that my view of evidence isn't something that can be found anywhere - and yet, this is the basic principle of, say, the scientific method that is taught to every high school and college student who takes a science class. If you think that I am so wrong, then you need to explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity. I am all ears

Considering that your definition of evidence is so atypical for the fields of history, law, anthropology, literary studies, and so forth, it would do no good to discuss the specific details of Nahom with you. It is already abundantly clear that nothing I might point to would ever meet your inappropriately strict threshold of evidence. 

(Side note: I am using proof here in a normative way in these fields. Epistemologically speaking, I actually don't believe humans are capable of obtaining certain knowledge of anything. Thus, technically speaking, I don't believe that anything can be proven in an absolute sense. So my use of proof is necessarily qualified.)

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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11 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I didn't ask about "plagiarism." I specifically used your wording to avoid debating that topic (again). You said the advanced features of her writing provide evidence that she "had help writing [her] paper." What do you mean by that? 

Well, we get to debate the topic.

But, what do I mean by this? I mean that you were able to draw some conclusions based on the fact that the student's writing style had changed. This observed change is evidence (because it is a fact). In reality, we don't know at this point what caused the change. So we cannot say that it is evidence of any particular cause of that change. I used the phrase that the individual had help to cover the broad range of possibilities that could explain the change.

19 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

This validates what I was saying earlier about your conflation of proof and evidence.

No, it doesn't. You throw these assertions around but you aren't backing them up. Evidence isn't something that is for or against a premise or assertion or belief - it is simply observations. The same observation (of language chance) could have been caused by parental help, could have been caused by plagiarism, could have been caused by a visit to a tutor. All of these things are possibilities that could account for the observation. So the observation isn't evidence of these possible hypothetical causes for the change in language.

22 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

If a certain set of observations logically support a conclusion and provide the only possible cause or explanation for that conclusion, those observations amount to not just evidence but also proof supporting that conclusion.

You are making a mistake here in your definition (and why we have to continue the discussion about plagiarism). Using this definition, the observation of the change in writing style could support both a conclusion of plagiarism and a conclusion of help from a tutor - two conclusions that are reasonably exclusive. If this is the case, then the observation doesn't actually logically support one conclusion over the other - and is thus not evidence for one conclusion or the other. This has been the core of the problem in this discussion all along.

30 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

In other words, you seem unwilling to conceptualize evidence as anything that doesn't amount to proof (where all other possible causes can be demonstrably ruled out as so statistically unlikely that they can't be seen as legitimate competing explanations).

This isn't true at all. And I have pointed this out earlier - with regard to the conclusion of plagiarism. Real evidence of plagiarism must, of necessity, include actual connections between the plagiarizing work and an alleged source. It doesn't have to be conclusive, or the only possible explanation - but it does have to involve a claim that is specific to the idea of plagiarism. The idea that a person's writing style has changed isn't evidence of plagiarism because it isn't specific to plagiarism. This isn't a claim of proof, but a an argument that there needs to be relevance for their to be a logical conclusion.

33 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Yet that type of definitional framework simply doesn't work at all for the fields of history, law, literary studies, anthropology, and others which relate to the Book of Mormon. If you have read very widely at all in these fields, you will find that the "evidence" which is marshaled for or against certain theories or conclusions rarely meets your strict criteria. It is so easy to demonstrate this. 

Since you aren't responding to my arguments, this doesn't mean anything. My criteria are not as strict as you suggest. And we certainly shouldn't throw out criteria for evidence as unnecessary (as you seem to be doing).

Now - answer the question that you have consistently been avoiding:

5 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

If you think that I am so wrong, then you need to explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity.

Given your apparently deep understanding of how evidence is supposed to work, this should be an easy question for you to answer, right? This isn't the low hanging fruit here in this thread. We could go after the really easy ones - like the fact that the Book of Mormon is "nearly 270,000 words long". Back up your claims. Explain how these things are evidence for your proposition that the Book of Mormon is an authentic translation of an ancient text.

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27 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:
1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I didn't ask about "plagiarism." I specifically used your wording to avoid debating that topic (again). You said the advanced features of her writing provide evidence that she "had help writing [her] paper." What do you mean by that? 

Well, we get to debate the topic.

But, what do I mean by this? I mean that you were able to draw some conclusions based on the fact that the student's writing style had changed. This observed change is evidence (because it is a fact). In reality, we don't know at this point what caused the change. So we cannot say that it is evidence of any particular cause of that change. I used the phrase that the individual had help to cover the broad range of possibilities that could explain the change.

But your statement doesn't cover all possibilities because there is always the possibility that what initiated the change didn't derive from some external source (i.e., she might not have had help). So, would you now walk back your statement and say that the observable change doesn't count as evidence that she had help? I'm guessing you would have to, using our own definitions and criteria. 

39 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:
1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

If a certain set of observations logically support a conclusion and provide the only possible cause or explanation for that conclusion, those observations amount to not just evidence but also proof supporting that conclusion.

You are making a mistake here in your definition (and why we have to continue the discussion about plagiarism). Using this definition, the observation of the change in writing style could support both a conclusion of plagiarism and a conclusion of help from a tutor - two conclusions that are reasonably exclusive. If this is the case, then the observation doesn't actually logically support one conclusion over the other - and is thus not evidence for one conclusion or the other. This has been the core of the problem in this discussion all along.

You are just solidifying my point. 

51 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:
1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

In other words, you seem unwilling to conceptualize evidence as anything that doesn't amount to proof (where all other possible causes can be demonstrably ruled out as so statistically unlikely that they can't be seen as legitimate competing explanations).

This isn't true at all. And I have pointed this out earlier - with regard to the conclusion of plagiarism. Real evidence of plagiarism must, of necessity, include actual connections between the plagiarizing work and an alleged source. It doesn't have to be conclusive, or the only possible explanation - but it does have to involve a claim that is specific to the idea of plagiarism. The idea that a person's writing style has changed isn't evidence of plagiarism because it isn't specific to plagiarism. This isn't a claim of proof, but a an argument that there needs to be relevance for their to be a logical conclusion.

Okay, so how about you provide what you think would (1) qualify as legitimate evidence of plagiarism and which (2) couldn't possibly be explained by any other competing explanation (i.e. all other possible explanations are so demonstrably implausible or logically unrelated that they don't rise to the level of a legitimate or viable alternative explanation) and yet which (3) wouldn't qualify as proof of plagiarism.  But you won't be able to do it. Because as soon as you can confidently rule out all other possible conclusions but one, the observation in question will act as proof in relation to that conclusion. That is how proof works. In your current framework, evidence = proof. It is a conflation of ideas. 

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1 minute ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Okay, so how about you provide what you think would (1) qualify as legitimate evidence of plagiarism and which (2) couldn't possibly be explained by any other competing explanation (i.e. all other possible explanations are so demonstrably implausible or logically unrelated that they don't rise to the level of a legitimate or viable alternative explanation) and yet which (3) wouldn't qualify as proof of plagiarism.  But you won't be able to do it. Because as soon as you can confidently rule out all other possible conclusions but one, the observation in question will act as proof in relation to that conclusion. That is how proof works. In your current framework, evidence = proof. It is a conflation of ideas. 

Why don't you answer my question first, Ryan:

If you think that I am so wrong, then you need to explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity?

It should be a simple thing to do, right?

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On 10/18/2022 at 10:54 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

Now - answer the question that you have consistently been avoiding:

Quote

If you think that I am so wrong, then you need to explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity.

Given your apparently deep understanding of how evidence is supposed to work, this should be an easy question for you to answer, right? This isn't the low hanging fruit here in this thread. We could go after the really easy ones - like the fact that the Book of Mormon is "nearly 270,000 words long". Back up your claims. Explain how these things are evidence for your proposition that the Book of Mormon is an authentic translation of an ancient text.

I'll give this a go.

1. Meaning of "Evidence": The meaning of "evidence" requires some explanation/clarification.  A few resources:

Dictionary.com:

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1. that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
2. something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign:
His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
3. Law. data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.

Rule 401, Federal Rules of Evidence:

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Evidence is relevant if:

(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and

(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

Wikipedia

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Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field.

A "proposition" is "the meaning of a declarative sentence ... a linguistic statement which can be either true or false."

2. The "Proposition" in View: The "proposition" here could be stated as follows: "The Book of Mormon is derived from an authentically ancient text discovered by Joseph Smith, Jr. and 'translated' by miraculous means."

3. Contested Origins: The origins of the BOM text are disputed, with varied explanations as to who authored the text.  I have previously summarized things here:

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The text of The Book of Mormon exists.  The LDS Church has presented an explanation as to how that text came to exist.  Just ask any missionary. 

In contrast, critics and dissidents have presented alternative explanations as to the origins of the text.  That is certainly their prerogative.  But at that point they are the ones making a claim.  They are the ones asserting that the Church's teachings about the origins of the book are factually false.  They are the ones making assertions about naturalistic or quasi-religious-but-still-rejecting-the-Church's-position explanations for The Book of Mormon.  The "Inspired Fiction" theory is an example of such countervailing explanations for the existence and content of the text, as is the Spaulding-Rigdon Theory (and other "multiple author" theories), the "Joseph Smith as the sole author" theory, the "View of the Hebrews" theory, Grant Palmer's "The Golden Pot" theory,  "The Late War" theory, and so on.

I think the varied explanations can be reduced to three categories:

Category A: Naturalistic / Secular Explanations - This one covers most of the attempts to explain authorship.  Someone, prior to and/or during Joseph Smith's time (ca. 1827) wrote the text.  Either Joseph Smith wrote it, or he colluded with others in the writing of the text and passing it off as a divinely-inspired "translation."  The above-referenced Spalding-Rigdon, "View of the Hebrews," "Golden Pot," "Late War" and "multiple author" theories are fall into this category.  See, e.g., here:

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Book of Mormon secular authorship theories usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Joseph Smith wrote the book on his own, without assistance and with full knowledge that he was writing a work of fiction. It is sometimes postulated that Joseph wrote the book by drawing upon his own life’s experiences.
  • Joseph Smith wrote the book on his own by plagiarizing works that were available to him. Examples of this are the Spalding manuscript theory, the View of the Hebrews theory, and The Golden Pot theory.
  • An associate of Joseph Smith (Sidney Rigdon or Oliver Cowdery) wrote the book, either alone or in a group, and then allowed Joseph to take the credit.
  • Some combination of theories involving associates and plagiarism together. An example of this is the Spalding-Rigdon theory.

Category B: Naturalistic / Non-Secular / "Inspired Fiction" Explanations - This category attempts to reconcile, to some extent, Category A and Category C.  See, e.g., here:

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Non-secular authorship theories (those involving some sort of “spiritual” element) usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Joseph Smith’s own story that he received the plates from an angel and translated them by “the power of God,” but that the work thus produced is simply inspirational fiction.
  • Joseph Smith created the book through “non-divine” (i.e., satanic) inspiration.
  • Joseph Smith wrote the book without any knowledge of what he was writing through a process called “automatic” or “spirit” writing. Closely related to this theory is that Joseph wrote the book during fits of Epilepsy.

Category C: "Divinely Inspired" - The Church's explanation for the text is summed up in the "Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith" published with the BOM.  

4. Ahistoricity / Fiction v. Historicity / Fact: Categories A and B both overwhelmingly presuppose that the narrative in the BOM is ahistorical/fictional.  There was never a "Lehi" with sons named Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, etc.  The migrations and other events described in the text never happened.  The individuals and groups described in the text never existed.

Conversely, Category C asserts that the text is authentically ancient, that it describes actual persons and events, that it was translated from actual ancient records which had been compiled by the last surviving record-keeping prophets of the Nephites and then buried in the earth, and that the translation was by divine means ("by the gift and power of God").

Thus, the above-referenced "proposition" can be evaluated by examining evidence which tends to make Category C more probable or less probable.  The central distinguishing attribute of the text is its historicity.

5. Evaluating Historicity; the "Transmission Gap": I submit that Category C situates the BOM quite differently from the Bible.  I have previously explained my thoughts on this here:

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Because the Bible’s historical transmission can be discerned and explained naturalistically (that is, without any necessary reliance on “divine” intervention in the transmission of the text), the antiquity of the Bible is not particularly probative of its status as scripture (any more than Homer’s Illiad is probative of the Greek Pantheon).  This is why skeptics of the Bible find little or no persuasive value in archaeological artifacts presented as “evidence” for the Bible’s status as scripture and record of miraculous events.  After all, Homer’s Illiad has a historical pedigree tracing back to antiquity, as well as some archaeological verification.  This does not mean, however, that the descriptions of the supernatural in Homer's work are factual.  As one atheist fellow put it: "The only thing all those ancient bible sites prove is {that} the Bible is a really old fraud."
 
In contrast, The Book of Mormon is differently situated from the Bible.  There is a built-in gap in its historical transmission, consisting of some 1,400 years from when Moroni buried the plates to 1823, when the plates were re-discovered by Joseph Smith, Jr.  This “transmission gap” effectively precludes a naturalistic explanation of the text’s antiquity.  

Consequently, if we someday discover persuasive archaeological or other evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, such evidence would have a more persuasive impact on the veracity of the book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.
 
Put another way, the antiquity and truth claims of The Book of Mormon are intertwined, such that evidence of the former may  simultaneously be evidence of the latter.

The Church's narrative as to the origins of the BOM text are, to some extent, testable.  Some questions that often arise in examining Category C include:

  1. What is the credibility of the statements by the Three Witnesses?
  2. What is the credibility of statements by the Eight Witnesses?
  3. What is the credibility of the "informal" witnesses (Emma Smith, Mary Musselman Whitmer, etc.)?
  4. How do we account for the Witnesses never recanting their statements?
  5. Did Joseph Smith have the financial means, materials, skills, etc. to fabricate the plates?
  6. Did Joseph Smith have the ability to write the text?
  7. If Joseph Smith did not write the text, who did?  Why did they keep it a secret?  What did they have to gain?  What evidence do we have as to this theory?
  8. Do Joseph Smith's personal/private writings suggest that he was mentally deluded/insane?  Or that he was conniving and dishonest?
  9. How do we account for the speed by which the text was "translated?"  
  10. How do we account for the internal consistency of the chronology in the Book of Mormon?
  11. How do we account for the internal consistence of the geography / geospatial relationships in the Book of Mormon?
  12. What elements of the BOM narrative were known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s?  
  13. For those elements of the BOM narrative that were seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," which ones are inherently and intractably "anachronistic" or otherwise incompatible with the Category C?
  14. For those elements of the BOM narrative that were seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," which ones have been shown to be substantively accurate and/or "plausible"?
  15. How many of the elements of the BOM narrative which A) were seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," and yet also B) subsequently shown as being substantively accurate and/or "plausible" can be reasonably dismissed as lucky guesses?

And so on.

As regarding the historicity/authenticity of the BOM text, there is nothing particularly probative about the text referencing Jerusalem and the Red Sea, as although these places are real ("accurate"), they were "known or knowable" to Joseph Smith and his contemporaries. 

On the other hand, candidates for Nahom and Bountiful may be construed as having evidentiary/probative value if A) they were seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," and yet also B) subsequently shown as being substantively accurate and/or "plausible."  This is where we start to look at things like metal plates in stone boxes, ancient Jews writing in Egyptian, the NHM altar and its geospatial relationship with Khor Kharfot, cement, the so-called "seal of Mulek," barley, and so on.  There are also extensive linguistic elements that merit attention.  Chiasmus.  Hebraisms.  Consistent internal chronology and geography.

In other words, "lucky guess" dismissals can only go so far.  At some point the cumulative probative value of such evidences can, or ought to, increase the plausibility of Category C.  (Of course, this reasoning goes the other way as well, with demonstrable anachronisms lending probative weight to a "naturalistic" originating-in-the-19th-century explanation.) 

Our own Robert F. Smith summed up this concept as follows:

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Quote

 

.................  I think the Book of Mormon is situated differently from the Bible.

Because the Bible’s historical transmission can be discerned and explained naturalistically (that is, without any necessary reliance on “divine” intervention in the transmission of the text), the antiquity of the Bible is not particularly probative of its status as scripture (any more than Homer’s Illiad is probative of the Greek Pantheon).  This is why skeptics of the Bible find little or no persuasive value in archaeological artifacts presented as “evidence” for the Bible’s status as scripture and record of miraculous events.  After all, Homer’s Illiad has a historical pedigree tracing back to antiquity, as well as some archaeological verification.  This does not mean, however, that the descriptions of the supernatural in Homer's work are factual.  As one atheist fellow put it: "The only thing all those ancient bible sites prove is {that} the Bible is a really old fraud."
 
In contrast, The Book of Mormon is differently situated from the Bible.  There is a built-in gap in its historical transmission, consisting of some 1,400 years from when Moroni buried the plates to 1823, when the plates were re-discovered by Joseph Smith, Jr.  This “transmission gap” effectively precludes a naturalistic explanation of the text’s antiquity.  

Consequently, if we someday discover persuasive archaeological or other evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, such evidence would have a more persuasive impact on the veracity of the book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.
 
Put another way, the antiquity and truth claims of The Book of Mormon are intertwined, such that evidence of the former may  simultaneously be evidence of the latter.

I think this may be part of the reason some critics are so strident in insisting that there is zero "evidence" for the Book of Mormon.......................

 

Yes, this is exactly correct, Spencer.  Even to the degree that any strong evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon simultaneously becomes, by extension, evidence for the authenticity of the miraculous claims in the Bible -- an actual "Second Witness."  I try to make that point in my “The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage,” lecture, Aug 8, 2014, at the annual FAIRMORMON Conference, Provo, Utah, online at  http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf .

Some excerpts from Robert's article:

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What I want to say here is that the “preposterous” nature of the coming-forth of the Book of Mormon is a singular advantage.  Why?  Because, if the Book of Mormon cannot possibly be true (based on the unbelievable nature of its coming-forth), all the more reason to accept it as authentic when careful analysis of the text, along with comparison of it with archeology, linguistics, and history shows it to be based on empirical, secular reality.  That is, despite all that might be said against it, the preponderance of hard evidence shows the Book of Mormon to be an authentic ancient document. For, according to Thomas Bayes’ Theorem for calculating probabilities, the preponderance of evidence is enough in such improbable cases to establish likelihood 4– a likelihood which should be impossible. 

After all, both the Bible and Homeric Epic were transmitted to us by ordinary, secular historical means, being copied by scribes for thousands of years.  Both describe actual ancient civilizations which are known to have existed.  This does not tell us in either case whether the miracles described in those texts actually occurred, but the lesson should be clear: 

The “preposterous” origin of the Book of Mormon turns that situation upside-down, and provides the singular advantage that the verifiable, systematic claims in that book not only make it likely to be authentic, but also explicitly buttress the  miraculous claims of the Bible.  This is an extraordinary legacy of what has rightly become a “Second Witness.” 

Thanks,

-Smac

 

Edited by smac97
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5 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:
5 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Okay, so how about you provide what you think would (1) qualify as legitimate evidence of plagiarism and which (2) couldn't possibly be explained by any other competing explanation (i.e. all other possible explanations are so demonstrably implausible or logically unrelated that they don't rise to the level of a legitimate or viable alternative explanation) and yet which (3) wouldn't qualify as proof of plagiarism.  But you won't be able to do it. Because as soon as you can confidently rule out all other possible conclusions but one, the observation in question will act as proof in relation to that conclusion. That is how proof works. In your current framework, evidence = proof. It is a conflation of ideas. 

Why don't you answer my question first, Ryan:

If you think that I am so wrong, then you need to explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity?

It should be a simple thing to do, right?

Oh, I already have a pretty good idea at this point what you would say to any "evidence" that I might offer in support of Lehi's journey. That is why I instead chose a very simple example (the plagiarism anecdote from my personal experience). It has way fewer assumptions and complexities involved, and therefore is a much easier topic for determining exactly where and why our viewpoints clash when it comes to the principles and definitions of evidence. I already told you I wasn't interested in discussing the specifics of Nahom (at least not until we can agree, on a more general level, about what constitutes evidence). Furthermore, I already conceded that any data I might point to most likely wouldn't count as "evidence" under your hyper-strict criteria (where evidence = proof). I'm sure we are both fairly familiar with the data surrounding NHM and the constraints involved in that data. No need to hash it all out when we agree from the outset that NHM doesn't provide anything like proof of the Book of Mormon's claims about Lehi's journey. 

It seems prudent to make sure we are on the same page before we dive into the deeper waters. So I'll ask again, can you think of anything that would (1) qualify as legitimate evidence of plagiarism, and which (2) couldn't possibly be accounted for by any other competing explanation (i.e. all other possible explanations are so demonstrably implausible or logically unrelated that they don't rise to the level of a legitimate or viable alternative explanation), and yet which (3) wouldn't qualify as proof of plagiarism.  

If you can't think of anything that would meet all three of these criteria, then I think you will better understand why I am saying that you are conflating proof with evidence.  It is true that all proof is evidence, but it is not true that all evidence is proof. And with this type of fundamental error in your definitional framework (conflating proof with evidence) it will do no good to talk about Nahom, chiasmus, etc.

Edited by Ryan Dahle
Link to comment
13 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

It seems prudent to make sure we are on the same page before we dive into the deeper waters. So I'll ask again, can you think of anything that would (1) qualify as legitimate evidence of plagiarism, and which (2) couldn't possibly be accounted for by any other competing explanation (i.e. all other possible explanations are so demonstrably implausible or logically unrelated that they don't rise to the level of a legitimate or viable alternative explanation), and yet which (3) wouldn't qualify as proof of plagiarism.  

Ryan, it becomes exhausting, after a while, to be continually misrepresented and challenged. You have yet to actually defend your position in a meaningful way. It seems clear that we are never going to be on the same page. Rather than going through this ad nauseum, I want you to answer the question. I want to see how you actually defend your position - not with hypotheticals but with the real topic of discussion. So no, I am not interested in going further down your rabbit hole until you answer this question:

Explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of authenticity for the Book of Mormon.

Link to comment
16 hours ago, smac97 said:

Beautiful.

What is amazing to me smac97 (well it's not amazing, since I have been observing you serving up this kind of nonsense for a very long time now) is that you don't really answer my question. My question is about how the proposed connection between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in Arabia is evidence of authenticity. Let's look at the response:

1: Other people have contested the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

What difference does this make. How does the fact that there is an opposing viewpoint change whether or not this is actually evidence?

2: You list a bunch of 'testable' claims about the Church's narrative.

If these things don't have anything to do with the NHM-Nahom connection, then why are they relevant. I am not contesting any of those issues. I am not asking for an overview of everything that might contribute toward your belief in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. My question is very specific. How is the proposed Nahom-NHM identification evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon?

16 hours ago, smac97 said:

On the other hand, candidates for Nahom and Bountiful may be construed as having evidentiary/probative value if A) they were seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," and yet also B) subsequently shown as being substantively accurate and/or "plausible." 

And here it is. You see, this is what I predict. Your proposition B is problematic. Why? Because there is no way of determining whether or not the identification of NHM as Nahom is "substantively accurate and/or 'plausible'. Why is this? Because that identification involves a host of assumptions - including an interpretation of the text itself (making a circular argument). There is no way for you to place an actual value on the likelihood of this identification. So what we really have is an example of the Holmesian fallacy. In arguing that because the alternative is impossible, then the alternative must be true.

And there we have it. The claim that the Nahom-NHM hypothesis is evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon revolves around an appeal to the impossible. I do appreciate the window dressing though.

Thank you Smac97

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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2 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Ryan, it becomes exhausting, after a while, to be continually misrepresented and challenged.

As for you being challenged, that is part of what this board is for. We challenge each other's ideas. And I don't think I've misrepresented you. I'm just pointing out what I perceive to be inconsistencies and logical defects with the way you describe evidence. For instance, regarding the Book of Mormon's claim about Lehi's journey, you repeatedly argued without qualification that a so-called "evidence" like NHM only moves the Book of Mormon's claim from impossible to possible. I pointed out that the assumption behind your statement was invalid, as it arbitrarily privileged an unwarranted belief in the impossibility of the Book of Mormon's claim. You felt I was misrepresenting your core beliefs when I was really just pointing out a fundamental flaw in your description. Furthermore, you have repeatedly interpreted my statements of evidence to be more extreme than they are, despite my initial explicit statements otherwise, and even after I have told you otherwise. So if you feel misrepresented, know that you are not alone. 

2 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

You have yet to actually defend your position in a meaningful way. It seems clear that we are never going to be on the same page. Rather than going through this ad nauseum, I want you to answer the question. I want to see how you actually defend your position - not with hypotheticals but with the real topic of discussion. So no, I am not interested in going further down your rabbit hole until you answer this question:

Explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of authenticity for the Book of Mormon.

Okay, let's talk about Nahom. I concede that none of the information of which I am aware regarding Nahom would rise to the level of "evidence" in your definitional framework. That is my position, and since we are in agreement, it hardly seems worth trying to defend it. Our real disagreement lies elsewhere.

You seem to be evading my rationale for why it is prudent to use simple examples of evidence to test the assumptions in your definitional framework. Is it really a "rabbit hole" to try to first agree about what evidence actually is before trying to debate a very complex evidentiary topic. Your sudden exasperation with discussing basic principles of evidence using simple and straightforward examples seems like a timely diversion. That's okay though. I can understand why you might rather talk about something else. And you are, of course, free to disengage from the conversation any time. 

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On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

I don't think I committed that fallacy. 

First, I cited to three fairly broad and differentiated definitions, not just "a dictionary’s limited definition of a term."

Second, I did not present these definitions to argue that the term ("evidence") "cannot have another meaning, expanded meaning, or even conflicting meaning."

Third, I presented it because I think you are using the term in ad hoc, equivocative, and idiosyncratic ways, such that I wanted to clarify my generalized usage.

Fourth, attorneys often define terms when discussing a disputed issue.  This also occurs in many other contexts, including this board.  Your disagreement with me (and with Ryan) seems to center on the meaning of "evidence."  It seemed pretty reasonable to lay out my intended meaning as a precursor to laying out my reasoning.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

What is amazing to me smac97 (well it's not amazing, since I have been observing you serving up this kind of nonsense for a very long time now) is that you don't really answer my question.

I think I do.  I think you are resorting to a sort of No True Scotsman argument here.

You asked Ryan to "explain how the proposed identity between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian peninsula can be used as evidence of that authenticity.."

I responded, at some length, with A) definitional parameters of "evidence" and B) how NHM fits within those parameters.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

My question is about how the proposed connection between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in Arabia is evidence of authenticity. Let's look at the response:

1: Other people have contested the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

What difference does this make.

It provides context.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

How does the fact that there is an opposing viewpoint change whether or not this is actually evidence?

Because, as we have seen, reasonable minds can disagree about all sorts of things, including important things.

I think our disagreement is less about NHM and such things, and more about your conceptualization of the meaning of "evidence."  As noted above, I think your usage/application of the term is ad hoc, equivocative, and idiosyncratic.  And No True Scotsman-esque.  Candidly, your argument style brings to mind the sort of equivocating stuff (waning in recent years, I think) from Evangelical Christians regarding the meaning and application of the term "Christian."  See, e.g., here:

Quote

The "exercise" I was referring to was the oft-repeated claims that the Latter-day Saints are categorically excluded from the definition of "Christian," which is built on a "No True Scotsman"-style equivocation exercise.   My thinking on this issue has been heavily influenced by Daniel Peterson's and Stephen Robinson's Offenders for a Word, which delves deeply into it:

  • Introduction (Link)
  • Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Definitions, part 1 (Link)
  • Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Definitions, part 2 (Link)
  • Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Definitions, part 3 (Link)
  • Mormonism as "Cult": The Limits of Lexical Polemics (Link)
  • Bibliography (Link)

From part 3:

Quote

There is, after all, something rather peculiar about the assertion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not Christian. This is not a self-evident truth, and would even seem to contradict obvious fact. (This is presumably why it is so frequently announced with an air of breathless discovery.) Mormons declare themselves Christian, and are astonished to be told they are not. They belong to a Church in which every prayer is uttered, every sermon is given, and every ordinance is performed literally in the name of Jesus Christ. Their hymns—the devotional heart of their Sunday worship—sing of Christ and his atonement. At Christmas and Easter, they join with hundreds of millions of Christians around the world in a celebration of his life. In baptism and in the weekly communion they know as “the sacrament,” they testify that they are willing to take upon themselves his name (D&C 20:37, 77). Their 􀃗rst Article of Faith announces their belief in “God the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ.” The Book of Mormon closes with an exhortation to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). One of the high points of the Doctrine and Covenants is a stirring testimony of Jesus (D&C 76:22 —24). Their story begins with the claim of a young boy to have seen the Father and the Son. That young boy later claimed to be a prophet, de􀃗ning “the spirit of prophecy” as “the testimony of Jesus.”615 His successors, likewise regarded as prophets, are assisted by a presiding quorum of “Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (D&C 107:23).

Is it plausible to describe such people as “non-Christian”? It would hardly seem so, unless one is prepared to follow the idiosyncratic usage of the term that permits statements like, “I have been an active and committed Lutheran since my earliest youth; I became a Christian last July.” But language is a social construct, and meaning must be shared to be intelligible. To use terms in extraordinary ways, almost solipsistically, without alerting an audience, is confusing at best, as it is in the dialogue—if it can be called that!—between Humpty Dumpty and Alice. As illustrated by the case of certain Islamic zealots—who, when they accuse a woman of being a prostitute, really mean that she goes out in public without a veil—it can be distinctly dangerous. Yet most (if not all) of the arguments that claim to demonstrate that Mormonism is not Christian have, as we have seen, relied on private understandings of common words. Indeed, the denial that Mormons are Christians is, in and of itself, a massive instance of the elementary fallacy of equivocation, using—as it does—a very common word in a very peculiar sense.

 

The reference above to Humpty Dumpty is explained in Part 1 of the book:

Quote

Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Denitions, part 1

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

I think this is what you are doing with the word "evidence" ("scornful tone" and all).  You want it to mean "just what {you} choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."  I think you've got yourself caught up in an argument that is more semantic and pedantic than substantive.  I also think you have sort of painted yourself into a corner by relying too much on an idiosyncratic, No True Scotsman-style usage of the term "evidence," and so you are responding more with evasions, taunts and personal jabs than with substantive argument.

My answer sought to clarify and explain my usage/application of the term "evidence," to present how NHM can be reasonably construed as such vis-à-vis the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  I am using sources and reasoning that have been amply used elsewhere by Peterson, Hamblin, Welch, Ash, Lindsay, Tvedtnes, Midgley, FAIR, FARMS, Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, Evidence Central, and many others. 

In this BYU Studies article by Warren Aston, he references NHM as "the possibility, even likelihood, that ancient evidence of the Book of Mormon site 'Nahom' survives to the present day."  He also quotes Terryl Givens as characterizing NHM as “the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon” and “the most impressive find to date corroborating Book of Mormon historicity.”

FAIR has an entire article responding to the question "Why does 'Nahom' constitute archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?"  It explains "a significant correlation in name and location" for the site, the dating of the site and tribal name to Lehi's time, a possible etymological connection between the place name and the Lehites burial of Ishmael there, and so on.  It also includes a quote from S. Kent Brown:

Quote

The case for Nahom, or NHM, in this area is made even more tight by recent study. It has become clearly apparent from Nephi's note—"we did travel nearly eastward" from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1)—that he and his party not only had stayed in the NHM tribal area, burying Ishmael there, but also were following or shadowing the incense trail, a trading road that by then offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. From the general region of the NHM tribe, all roads turned east. How so? Across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, east of this tribal region and east of Marib, lay the city of Shabwah, now in ruins. By ancient Arabian law, it was to this city that all incense harvested in the highlands of southern Arabia was carried for inventorying, weighing, and taxing. In addition, traders made gifts of incense to the temples at Shabwah.[5] After this process, traders loaded the incense and other goods onto camels and shipped them toward the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas, traveling at first westward and then, after reaching the edges of the region of the NHM tribe, turning northward (these directions are exactly opposite from those that Nephi and his party followed). Even the daunting shortcuts across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, which left travelers without water for 150 miles, ran generally east-west. What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn of Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia. In a word, no one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it or who lived in that territory. This kind of detail in the Book of Mormon narrative, combined with the reference to Nahom, is information that was unavailable in Joseph Smith's day and thus stands as compelling evidence of the antiquity of the text.

It also includes a link to a YouTube video by Evidence Central entitled "Evidences of the Book of Mormon: Nahom"

It also includes this quote from Neal Rappleye and Stephen O. Smoot:

Quote

Biblical “minimalists” have sought to undermine or de-emphasize the significance of the Tel Dan inscription attesting to the existence of the “house of David.” Similarly, those who might be called Book of Mormon “minimalists” such as Dan Vogel have marshaled evidence to try to make the nhm inscriptions from south Arabia, corresponding to the Book of Mormon Nahom, seem as irrelevant as possible. We show why the nhm inscriptions still stand as impressive evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

The article by Rappleye/Smoot goes into some further detail:

Quote

The debate over the historicity of the Hebrew Bible’s depiction of the Davidic monarchy reignited over an important archaeological discovery that surfaced in northern Israel in 1993–94. The so-called Tel Dan inscription, a basalt stele written in Aramaic and dating to the ninth century bce, was highly significant in that it was the earliest non-biblical attestation of bytdwd, or the “house of David.” The significance of this discovery lies in the fact that it challenges the arguments of biblical “minimalists,” or scholars who assign minimal value to the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible, who wish to relegate the biblical depiction of the Davidic kingdom to myth.1

Yosef Garfinkel, writing in the Biblical Archaeology Review, has summarized how this discovery undermines the minimalist argument by noting that the inscription “is clear evidence that David was indeed a historical figure and the founding father of a dynasty.… There was a David. He was a king. And he founded a dynasty.”

I think NHM constitutes evidence for the existence of Lehi and Nephi in ways similar to the Tel Dan inscription constitutes evidence for the existence of David.  However, as I have noted previously, I think the Book of Mormon is situated differently than the Bible.  Evidence as to the existence of David has, in my view, less probative value as to the divine authenticity of the Bible because the Bible's generalized antiquity is not really in dispute.  That the Bible references places like Egypt and Jerusalem are not very remarkable, not probative of divine origins, because these place names have been known and attested to for thousands of years.  The existence of David is notable given biblical references to this person, but not necessarily markedly more remarkable than extra-biblical confirmation of the existence of Egypt or Jerusalem.

I think the Book of Mormon is situated quite differently.  As I have noted previously here:

Quote

Because the Bible’s historical transmission can be discerned and explained naturalistically (that is, without any necessary reliance on “divine” intervention in the transmission of the text), the antiquity of the Bible is not particularly probative of its status as scripture (any more than Homer’s Illiad is probative of the Greek Pantheon).  This is why skeptics of the Bible find little or no persuasive value in archaeological artifacts presented as “evidence” for the Bible’s status as scripture and record of miraculous events.  After all, Homer’s Illiad has a historical pedigree tracing back to antiquity, as well as some archaeological verification.  This does not mean, however, that the descriptions of the supernatural in Homer's work are factual.  As one atheist fellow put it: "The only thing all those ancient bible sites prove is {that} the Bible is a really old fraud."
 
In contrast, The Book of Mormon is differently situated from the Bible.  There is a built-in gap in its historical transmission, consisting of some 1,400 years from when Moroni buried the plates to 1823, when the plates were re-discovered by Joseph Smith, Jr.  This “transmission gap” effectively precludes a naturalistic explanation of the text’s antiquity.  

Consequently, if we someday discover persuasive archaeological or other evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, such evidence would have a more persuasive impact on the veracity of the book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.

I think NHM fits.

Rappleye/Smoot continue:

Quote

Perhaps Garfinkel is somewhat exaggerating the significance of the Tel Dan inscription and its evidentiary weight against minimalist arguments. While significant, the Tel Dan inscription cannot be seen as proof, per se, of the historicity of David’s dynasty, though it is compelling evidence for such. Significant scholarly debate still revolves around the importance of the Tel Dan inscription. Most scholars would concede that the discovery offers evidence for the historicity of the Davidic kingdom, and that “attempts to avoid any possible reference to an historical David… stem… from a form of scepticism at odds with all known ancient practices.”

Some pretty good measured words and qualifications, these.  The same can be said of NHM.

Rappleye/Smoot continue:

Quote

Dan Vogel, a biographer of Joseph Smith, exemplifies this minimalist reaction in his 2004 account of the Prophet’s life. Vogel, who has usually proven to be one of Joseph Smith’s more informed critics, dismisses the significance of the nhm inscription for the Book of Mormon’s historicity on five grounds.

(1) What need was there for a compass if Lehi followed a well-known route? (2) The Book of Mormon does not mention contact with outsiders, but rather implies that contact was avoided. (3) It is unlikely that migrant Jews would be anxious to bury their dead in a heathen cemetery. (4) There is no evidence dating the Arabian nhm before A.D. 600, let alone 600 B.C. (5) The pronunciation of nhm is unknown and may not be related to Nahom at all.7

We will argue for the weakness of Vogel’s five objections, which parallel the sort of reaction that biblical minimalists exhibited over the Tel Dan inscription discovery.

If NHM cannot be construed as evidence in favor of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, why would Dan Vogel be publicly disputing its significance re: the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

Rappleye/Smoot conclude their critique of Vogel: 

Quote

We’ve looked at Vogel’s five points of argumentation on this matter, as well the arguments of some others, and find them wanting. The discovery of the nhm altars remain as, if not more, significant for the historicity of the Book of Mormon as the Tel Dan inscription is for the historicity of the Davidic kingdom recorded in the Hebrew Bible. Book of Mormon minimalists like Vogel will have to try much harder to dismiss this significant evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon. For, as Brant Gardner comments, “the data pointing to the connection between the Book of Mormon Nahom and the now-confirmed location of a tribe (and likely place) called nhm are extremely strong. The description fits, the linguistics fit, the geography fits, and the time frame fits. Outside of Jerusalem, nhm is the most certain connection between the Book of Mormon and known geography and history.”85

I think my line of reasoning is essentially identical to that of Rappleye/Smoot, and Gardner.  

As seen in the above YouTube video, Book of Mormon Central describes NHM as "evidence."  Elsewhere, BOMC has published an article entitled "Archaeological Evidence for 7 Locations on Lehi’s Journey to the Promised Land," which includes NHM and Bountiful.  It concludes:

Quote

Evidence that supports the narratives in the Book of Mormon is ever increasing. While we still have much to learn about the ancient world and how it correlates with the Book of Mormon, the stories in 1 Nephi fit right at home in 7th century Israel. The locations of Lehi’s journey are beginning to be identified, and details about his experiences in the wilderness correlate well with what we know about the ancient Near East. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has encouraged members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to embrace and seek after evidences of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

In making our case for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe God intends us to find and use the evidence He has given—reasons, if you will—which affirm the truthfulness of His work…Thus armed with so much evidence of the kind we have celebrated here tonight, we ought to be more assertive than we sometimes are in defending our testimony of truth.

As members of the Church take to heart the commission to be more assertive in defending our testimonies by studying and researching evidences, the Book of Mormon will surely get better with age.

BOMC's use of "evidence" to describe NHM seems pretty reasonable here.

The article also includes a link to a talk by Elder Holland, "The Greatness of Evidence," referencing chiasmus as "evidence" and given during a 2017 conference on the subject.  As you likely know, Jack Welch "discovered" chiasmus  in the Book of Mormon.  From Elder Holland's remarks:

Quote

It's rare to be part of a jubilee.  This whole thing has made me jubilant.  To all of you who have made this evening, as Yogi Berra once said, 'necessary,' we say thank you.  And the 'we' that I'm representing - and this is important - includes the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  In that spirit, with that reference, I wish to say at the outset that the presiding officers of this church appreciate and applaud, more than perhaps you know, the exceptional work being done by so many to search out and substantiate, to defend and promulgate, the history and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including and especially that dealing with the Book of Mormon.  This done in ways both scholarly and spirtual{ly}.  Obviously, one of the influential representative figures in this generation of such work is our friend and colleague John W. Welch, {who is} being honored tonight. ... Suffice it to say, Jack, that the brethren are grateful for your faith, your loyalty, your productivity, and what is increasingly your scholarly legacy in defending the Kingdom of God.  That compliment is extended to a legion of other men and women across the Church ... who are putting their shoulders to the wheel, of reasoned, determined, persuasive gospel scholarship.  
 

This is a preamble to Elder Holland's later remarks.  The topic of that event was chiasmus, which I think the participants were construing as "evidence" for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon in ways quite similar to how others construe NHM as evidence.

Elder Holland continues:

Quote

Faith and testimony, gospel devotion and church loyalty, conviction so strong it leads to covenants and and consecration, are ultimately matters of the Spirit.  They come as a gift from God, delivered and confirmed to our soul by the Holy Ghost in His divine role as revelator, witness, teacher of truth.  But it should be noted that truly rock-ribbed faith and uncompromised conviction comes with its most complete power when it engages our head as well as our heart.  "Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind," Jehovah declared to the early Saints {D&C 64:34.}  And {to} Oliver Cowdery He specifically said, "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost ... behold, this is the spirit of revelation."  {D&C 8:2-3.}
...
{T}ruth borne by the Holy Spirit comes with, in effect, two manifestations, two witnesses, if you will.  The force of fact, as well as the force of feeling.  Peter assumed that two-fold aspect of our conviction when he said, "{B}e ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."  {1 Peter 3:15.}  Reasons.  Reasons for the hope that it is in us.  Reasons for our belief. 

I'm not a lawyer ... but I don't have to be one to understand the power and the primacy of evidence.  In making our case for the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe God intends us to find and use the evidence.  Evidence He has given.  Reasons, if you will, which affirm the truthfulness of His work.
 

Elder Holland goes on to speak at some length about the utility and role of "evidence" relative to ascertaining the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  Elder Holland gave these remarks at an event focused on chiasmus.  If that counts as "evidence" of the Book of Mormon, then I think NHM can be reasonably construed in essentially the same way. 

BOMC has also published a blog entry on NHM that speaks of it as "evidence":

Quote

For a little background, Nahom is mentioned only once in the Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi 16:34, during Lehi's journey to the promised land:

And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.

When Ishmael passed away on their journey, Nephi implied that the place where they buried Ishmael already had a name. If the place was called Nahom back in Lehi's time, you'd expect to be able to find it in the archaeological record, and that's exactly what we find in southern Arabia, along Lehi's trail.


nahom-altar2-400.jpg
An altar from Nehem with the inscription "NHM"

In southwestern Arabia, one can find a small settlement called Nehem. At first, people were unsure if "Nehem" could really be the same place as "Nahom" mentioned in the Book of Mormon. However, in 1997, German archaeologists discovered an altar that dated back to Lehi's time, with an inscription containing the name "NHM."

This site in southwestern Arabia not only is supported by the archaeological record, but it fits perfectly into Nephi's story. Nehem was one of the largest burial places in ancient southwestern Arabia, making it the perfect location for Ishmael's burial. After Lehi and his group left Nahom 1 Nephi 17:1 tells us that:

we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth

As it turns out, if you travel east from Nehem you'll end up right on the coast, at a location that perfectly fits Nephi's description of Bountiful.

The discovery of Nahom may be one of the strongest pieces of evidence we have for the Book of Mormon, but it is far from being the only one. Time and time again, the Book of Mormon has proven true to its claims.

I could go on for quite a while.

I feel my understanding and usage of the term "evidence" relative to the Book of Mormon is broadly normative and reasoned, whereas your usage of the term comes across as idiosyncratic and ad hoc.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

2: You list a bunch of 'testable' claims about the Church's narrative.

If these things don't have anything to do with the NHM-Nahom connection, then why are they relevant.

Because NHM is, to an extent, "testable."  It is an element of the BOM narrative which A) is seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," and yet also B) subsequently shown as being substantively accurate and/or "plausible."

As Brant Gardner put it (quoted above) : "{T}he data pointing to the connection between the Book of Mormon Nahom and the now-confirmed location of a tribe (and likely place) called nhm are extremely strong. The description fits, the linguistics fit, the geography fits, and the time frame fits. Outside of Jerusalem, nhm is the most certain connection between the Book of Mormon and known geography and history."

I agree with Gardner.  He understands the evidentiary/probative value of NHM.  So does Rappleye.  And Smoot.  And Brown.  And Peterson.  And Givens.  And Aston.  And in this thread, Ryan Dahle.  And (presumably) Elder Holland.  Even Dan Vogel understands its relevance (though he disputes its probative value).

I see my assessment of NHM has being very much in line with the foregoing folks, which you airily dismiss as "nonsense."  Well, okay.  

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

I am not contesting any of those issues. I am not asking for an overview of everything that might contribute toward your belief in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. My question is very specific. How is the proposed Nahom-NHM identification evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon?

Asked and answered.  And see above.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:
Quote

On the other hand, candidates for Nahom and Bountiful may be construed as having evidentiary/probative value if A) they were seemingly not "known or knowable by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the 1820s," and yet also B) subsequently shown as being substantively accurate and/or "plausible." 

And here it is. You see, this is what I predict. Your proposition B is problematic. Why? Because there is no way of determining whether or not the identification of NHM as Nahom is "substantively accurate and/or 'plausible'.

Yes, there is.

Your usage of "plausible" is as ad hoc and idiosyncratic and No True Scotsman-esque as is your usage of "evidence." 

It has long been said that "Politics is the art of the possible," meaning that "politics is a matter of pragmatism, instead of idealism."  Similarly, evaluating arguments and evidences for (and against) the Book of Mormon is "the art of the possible," meaning that evaluating arguments and evidences for (and against) the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is a matter of pragmatism more than idealism.  We work with what we've got.  A lawyer going to trial recognizes that he is going in with the evidence he has, which is often not as complete or as good as the evidence he would like to have.

That said, the cumulative evidences pertaining to the Book of Mormon are getting better and better.  While such things will always be secondary and ancillary, they are still helpful in ascertaining the truthfulness and authenticity of the book.  like these comments by Daniel Peterson:

Quote

Of course, scholarship does not replace spiritual witness as a source of testimony. As Elder B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the Seventy said: “The power of the Holy Ghost … must ever be the chief source of evidence for the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary. … No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place.”

Yet scholarship has a definite place even in spiritual matters. The Lord said in an 1829 revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost” (D&C 8:2; emphasis added). In 1832 the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). As one writer observed: “What no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” 

The truthfulness of the Restored Gospel must be predominantly and fundamentally ascertained through faith.  Through studying, pondering, and prayer.  Through inspiration from God.  All other evidences are helpful, but secondary.  Supportive, but not foundational.

As for your fixation on what is increasingly a semantic and pedantic quibble over what is pretty clearly normative usage of terms like "evidence" and "plausible," I don't really understand it.  I also don't understand your reliance on disparagements and personal taunts, as to both me and Ryan.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

Why is this? Because that identification involves a host of assumptions - including an interpretation of the text itself (making a circular argument).

Well, no, it's not a circular argument.  And some assumptions will pretty much always be necessary when advancing an argument.  Here, I think the assumptions are pretty solid.  And the Latter-day Saint scholars who are looking at it are generally cautious, but optimistic. 

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

There is no way for you to place an actual value on the likelihood of this identification.

I don't really buy into your possible/impossible paradigm, nor do I subscribe to your idiosyncratic usage of basic terms like "evidence" and "plausible," nor do I agree with your apparent expectations and presuppositions about the probative value of matters such as NHM.

Again, as Brant Gardner comments, “the data pointing to the connection between the Book of Mormon Nahom and the now-confirmed location of a tribe (and likely place) called nhm are extremely strong. The description fits, the linguistics fit, the geography fits, and the time frame fits. Outside of Jerusalem, nhm is the most certain connection between the Book of Mormon and known geography and history.”  Gardner is, in my view, a circumspect and cautious evaluator of evidence.  And I think his evaluation here is substantively correct.  

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

So what we really have is an example of the Holmesian fallacy. In arguing that because the alternative is impossible, then the alternative must be true.

Nobody has posited that alternative explanations of the Book of Mormon are impossible. 

The only one who is apparently relying on some sort of all-or-nothing, black-or-white, "possible" or "impossible" style of dichotomous reasoning is you.  In the real world, both sides of a disputed issue will almost always have evidence in support of their respective positions.  This is why Lady Justice has her scales.  She is weighing evidences against each other.

I have now provided quite a few resources which posit that NHM constitutes evidence favoring the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  It's certainly no slam dunk.  No smoking gun.  But claiming it has no probative value/weight at all is, in my view, pretty unreasonable.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

And there we have it. The claim that the Nahom-NHM hypothesis is evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon revolves around an appeal to the impossible.

I have said nothing like this.  I reject it.

You are not accurately stating my position.

On 10/19/2022 at 6:08 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

I do appreciate the window dressing though.

Candidly, I was writing more to other readers than to you.  I responded to you anticipating that you would return to your prior MO of mischaracterizations and personal taunts.  Looks like I was correct in that anticipation.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
Link to comment
3 hours ago, smac97 said:

I don't think I committed that fallacy. 

We disagree on a lot of things Smac.

 

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

It provides context.

The context remains irrelevant.

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

My answer sought to clarify and explain my usage/application of the term "evidence," to present how NHM can be reasonably construed as such vis-à-vis the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  I am using sources and reasoning that have been amply used elsewhere by Peterson, Hamblin, Welch, Ash, Lindsay, Tvedtnes, Midgley, FAIR, FARMS, Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, Evidence Central, and many others. 

I don't disagree with you that are you simply parroting the errors of others. I do want to contest one small thing. You write this:

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

I feel my understanding and usage of the term "evidence" relative to the Book of Mormon is broadly normative and reasoned, whereas your usage of the term comes across as idiosyncratic and ad hoc.

That one small thing is a very important issue. How many individuals who are not already believers in the Book of Mormon would agree with you? There is something ironic here in your labeling your view as broadly normative and non-idiosyncratic under these conditions.

But, I really don't think I am ever going to convince you so. whatever.

Link to comment
3 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Okay, let's talk about Nahom. I concede that none of the information of which I am aware regarding Nahom would rise to the level of "evidence" in your definitional framework. That is my position, and since we are in agreement, it hardly seems worth trying to defend it. Our real disagreement lies elsewhere.

Whatever you think is the real issue, it seem clear to me that you seem unwilling to explain how the things that you claim are evidence (like Nahom). Perhaps it is because you recognize that a core part of the issue of labeling these discussions as evidence is, as Smac just illustrated, an appeal to impossibility.

So let's end the discussion. It isn't going anywhere.

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1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Whatever you think is the real issue, it seem clear to me that you seem unwilling to explain how the things that you claim are evidence (like Nahom). Perhaps it is because you recognize that a core part of the issue of labeling these discussions as evidence is, as Smac just illustrated, an appeal to impossibility.

Or perhaps it is because of the stated reason that I gave you but which you are apparently choosing to ignore. Perhaps you realized that you couldn't defend your definitional framework when it came to a simple example of evidence, and therefore you demanded that we discuss a more complex issue where the flaws in your assumptions might not be so obvious.  

1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

So let's end the discussion. It isn't going anywhere.

Fine with me. Your choice. 

Link to comment
17 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Or perhaps it is because of the stated reason that I gave you but which you are apparently choosing to ignore. Perhaps you realized that you couldn't defend your definitional framework when it came to a simple example of evidence, and therefore you demanded that we discuss a more complex issue where the flaws in your assumptions might not be so obvious.  

It certainly isn't that, Ryan. After giving it a little more thought last night, I'll make another go.

Evidence is made up of facts. We can discuss the change in style for your hypothetical student that you bring up as a concept that can be demonstrated (we could analyze the earlier writing and compare it to the one in question - this analysis is a topic I am more than a little familiar with). Because it can be demonstrated (tested), it can be called a fact - and it can be used as evidence, although there are natural limits on the range of propositions that it can be used for. The normal process is to take your observation (that they are different), and then making our comparisons to produce the data that will confirm (or refute) your observation. Once this has been confirmed (and, I recognize that you were comfortable enough with your observation that you skipped this step), you can then use the fact that the styles are different to make further theories explaining the cause of the difference.

The fact that we have a testable difference isn't itself evidence for a proposed specific cause for that difference (although it is necessary to have a difference to justify proposing a cause for that difference). The process then normally moves forward by determining how to test the new theory and produce new data. You described yourself as doing this in the internet searches, where you found source material that you believed demonstrated plagiarism (you didn't share, but I have no doubt that your conclusion was likely accurate given my experience with the subject). The change in style isn't the evidence for plagiarism because it could be evidence for a whole range of explanations. The comparisons you made (using internet search tools) provided source documents - and this data becomes evidence for the claim of plagiarism. If you think I am conflating proof with evidence here, it isn't because I cannot make a distinction between source texts that have been plagiarized and source texts that haven't - its because you haven't provided enough detail for me to reasonably make such a distinction in your hypothetical. I could certainly describe theoretical situations where you could have evidence and it would not amount to proof.

As a side note, at the beginning of that last paragraph, I noted something that should be relatively obvious. If there isn't evidence for a difference, then the proposition of plagiarism wouldn't be reasonable from the beginning - there would be nothing to explain. It is the fact that there is a difference which makes propositions explaining the difference possible.

Now, back to the real issue.

The equivalence between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian Peninsula is NOT a fact. It cannot be demonstrated (at least I don't see a way to do so). It is purely speculative. We cannot say with any degree of certainty that Lehi was actually at NHM in the Arabian Peninsula around 600 BCE. It is itself an untested proposition. We can talk about evidence for that proposition that the places are the same. We can argue (as has been done) that there is a similarity between the names. We can argue that there is an onomastic parallel that can be drawn from the text (assuming, of course, that the English text is an accurate reflection of the original place names), and so on. To the extent that these individual arguments can be tested (which is an important part of being evidence), they can be used as evidence in the proposition that Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian Peninsula are the same place. But, that proposition cannot be proven and so it cannot, itself, rise the level of fact and be used as evidence in a further proposition.

You claimed that I am conflating proof with evidence. Something actually has to be factual before it can be used as evidence. If we could prove that Nahom and NHM refer to the same place, then we could use that correlation as evidence for another proposition. However, this cannot be done. There is no way to prove this. And so it remains speculation.

But, there is value in this sort of space (as smac97 points out in his lengthy discussion over context in terms of the contested nature of the Book of Mormon) in that these argument can be used against the premise that alleged anachronisms and inconsistencies in the text make it unlikely (or even impossible) to be an authentic translation of an ancient text. These arguments - because we cannot answer them - allow us to maintain the possibility of an authentic text against argument that it is impossible for the text to be authentic. I don't have any problems with this approach, it seems appropriate.

The way that you and smac97 try to use speculation as evidence is by inappropriately comparing the speculation (propositions which could be possible) to something which you claim is impossible. And in doing this, you engage the idea presented in the Holmesian claim that if all of the alternatives are impossible, what is left, no matter how improbable, must be true. By suggesting that it would be impossible for the Book of Mormon to have occurred as a production by Joseph Smith, you argue that the divine revelation of the Book of Mormon must be true. While there may be appropriate uses of this idea popularized in the Sherlock Holmes novels, this is not one of them.

Rather than Nahom, which you don't seem really anxious to engage over, perhaps we could switch to the really low hanging fruit in your list of evidence: the fact that the Book of Mormon has just under 270,000 words. I don't question this fact (as I do issues like NHM and EModE - and this allows us to trim a bunch of stuff out of the discussion). The question here is the same: how is this evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? There are lots of texts contemporary with the Book of Mormon that are much longer - and yet, we don't suppose that there is anything divine in their production. So this fact, by itself, doesn't suggest anything of the sort. My question, then, is this - what is the string of logic that you use to employ this fact as evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? Why does the length matter? And at what point are you forced to bring up the unlikelihood (or impossibility) of Joseph Smith having produced a text of this length without divine assistance?

In going back to my discussion of your hypothetical, we can now draw the parallels. You can certainly argue that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon on his own without help. For this proposition, the length of the text could be employed as evidence (as could comparisons with earlier writings by Joseph Smith). But, just as with your example, this is not a binary question. You devised a test for your proposition that the student plagiarized. You found evidence that supported that proposition. The length of the Book of Mormon may help us conclude that Joseph Smith did not write it using his own abilities. But this isn't evidence for the proposition that the text is an authentic translation of an ancient text. For that, you need a test that can actually produce evidence for that proposition.

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
Link to comment
34 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

It certainly isn't that, Ryan. After giving it a little more thought last night, I'll make another go.

Evidence is made up of facts. We can discuss the change in style for your hypothetical student that you bring up as a concept that can be demonstrated (we could analyze the earlier writing and compare it to the one in question - this analysis is a topic I am more than a little familiar with). Because it can be demonstrated (tested), it can be called a fact - and it can be used as evidence, although there are natural limits on the range of propositions that it can be used for. The normal process is to take your observation (that they are different), and then making our comparisons to produce the data that will confirm (or refute) your observation. Once this has been confirmed (and, I recognize that you were comfortable enough with your observation that you skipped this step), you can then use the fact that the styles are different to make further theories explaining the cause of the difference. The fact that we have a difference isn't evidence for a proposed cause for the different. The process normally moves forward by determining how to test the new theory and produce new data. You described yourself as doing this in the internet searches, where you found source material that you believed demonstrated plagiarism (you didn't share, but I have no doubt that your conclusion was likely accurate given my experience with the subject). The change in style isn't the evidence for plagiarism because it could be evidence for a whole range of explanations. The comparisons you made (using internet search tools) provided source documents - and this data becomes evidence for the claim of plagiarism. If you think I am conflating proof with evidence here, it isn't because I cannot make a distinction between source texts that have been plagiarized and source texts that haven't - its because you haven't provided enough detail for me to reasonably make such a distinction in your hypothetical. I could certainly describe theoretical situations where you could have evidence and it would not amount to proof. Now, back to the real issue.

The equivalence between Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian Peninsula is NOT a fact. It cannot be demonstrated (at least I don't see a what to do so). It is purely speculative. We cannot say with any degree of certainty that Lehi was actually at NHM in the Arabian Peninsula around 600 BCE. It is itself an untested proposition. We can talk about evidence for that proposition that the places are the same. We can argue (as has been done) that there is a similarity between the names. We can argue that there is an onomastic parallel that can be drawn from the text (assuming, of course, that the English text is an accurate reflection of the original place names), and so on. To the extent that these individual arguments can be tested (which is an important part of being evidence), they can be used as evidence in the proposition that Nahom in the Book of Mormon and NHM in the Arabian Peninsula are the same place. But, that proposition cannot be proven and so it cannot, itself, rise the level of fact and be used as evidence in a further proposition.

You claimed that I am conflating proof with evidence. Something actually has to be factual before it can be used as evidence. If we could prove that Nahom and NHM refer to the same place, then we could use that correlation as evidence for another proposition. However, this cannot be done. There is no way to prove this. And so it remains speculation.

But, there is value in this sort of space (as smac97 points out in his lengthy discussion over context in terms of the contested nature of the Book of Mormon) in that these argument can be used against the premise that alleged anachronisms and inconsistencies in the text make it unlikely (or even impossible) to be an authentic translation of an ancient text. These arguments - because we cannot answer them - allow us to maintain the possibility of an authentic text against argument that it is impossible for the text to be authentic. I don't have any problems with approach, it seems appropriate.

The way that you and smac97 try to use speculation as evidence is by inappropriately comparing the speculation (propositions which could be possible) to something which you claim is impossible. And in doing this, you engage the idea presented in the Holmesian claim that if all of the alternatives are impossible, what is left, no matter how improbable, must be true. By suggesting that it would be impossible for the Book of Mormon to have occurred as a production by Joseph Smith, you argue that the divine revelation of the Book of Mormon must be true. While there may be appropriate uses of this idea popularized in the Sherlock Holmes novels, this is not one of them.

Rather than Nahom, which you don't seem really anxious to engage over, perhaps we could switch to the really low hanging fruit in your list of evidence: the fact that the Book of Mormon has just under 270,000 words. I don't question this fact (as I do issues like NHM and EModE - and this allows us to trim a bunch of stuff out of the discussion). The question here is the same: how is this evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? There are lots of texts contemporary with the Book of Mormon that are much longer - and yet, we don't suppose that there is anything divine in their production. So this fact, by itself, doesn't suggest anything of the sort. My question, then, is this - what is the string of logic that you use to employ this fact as evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? Why does the length matter? And at what point are you forced to bring up the unlikelihood (or impossibility) of Joseph Smith having produced a text of this length without divine assistance?

In going back to my discussion of your hypothetical, we can now draw the parallels. You can certainly argue that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon on his own without help. For this proposition, the length of the text could be employed as evidence (as could comparisons with earlier writings by Joseph Smith). But, just as with your example, this is not a binary question. You devised a test for your proposition that the student plagiarized. You found evidence that supported that proposition. The length of the Book of Mormon may help us conclude that Joseph Smith did not write it using his own abilities. But this isn't evidence for the proposition that the text is an authentic translation of an ancient text. For that, you need a test that can actually produce evidence for that proposition.

Excellent post, Ben. The way I understand Ryan's analogy, one could determine the likelihood that the accused student didn't actually write the paper based on a comparison with the student's prior work. This same technique can be used to argue that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon as its sole author. Of course, there are many possibilities: someone else wrote it, he had help, etc. Where the problem lies is in the "string of logic" that leads us from concluding he likely didn't write it himself (I'm saying this for the sake of argument) to his clearly having divine assistance and therefore establishing that the Book of Mormon is an actual translation of an ancient record.

Obviously, anything is possible, and many LDS scholars and apologists have made cases for the Book of Mormon containing hallmarks of an ancient text, but it requires a lot of heavy lifting to suggest that the only possible--or even likely--explanation is revelation from God. 

Edited by jkwilliams
Link to comment
20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

We disagree on a lot of things Smac.

Yes, it appears so.

20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

The context remains irrelevant.

As you like.

20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:
Quote

My answer sought to clarify and explain my usage/application of the term "evidence," to present how NHM can be reasonably construed as such vis-à-vis the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  I am using sources and reasoning that have been amply used elsewhere by Peterson, Hamblin, Welch, Ash, Lindsay, Tvedtnes, Midgley, FAIR, FARMS, Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, Evidence Central, and many others. 

I don't disagree with you that are you simply parroting the errors of others.

Rather than address the substance, you again resort to insults.  This sort of "Oh, yeah?  And so's your old man!"-style retort does not advance the discussion.  

Our disagreement seems to be more about semantics than about the evidentiary/probative value of things like NHM.  I have supported my usage of terms by citing to variegated sources as to such meaning/usage, and then drawn comparisons to meaning/usage in other sources.  For example, Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence have no bone to pick, no argument to bolster.  It is used countless times every day by thousands of judges, lawyers, etc. to parse out the meaning of "relevant evidence."  

20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

I do want to contest one small thing. You write this:

Quote

I feel my understanding and usage of the term "evidence" relative to the Book of Mormon is broadly normative and reasoned, whereas your usage of the term comes across as idiosyncratic and ad hoc.

That one small thing is a very important issue.

I agree.  

20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

How many individuals who are not already believers in the Book of Mormon would agree with you?

As to the basic meaning/usage of terms like "evidence" and "plausible"?  Plenty.  I didn't formulate Rule 401 or the dictionary definition.  Citation to authoritative and objective sources of information can therefore be helpful when the dispute ends up as a matter of semantics.  

By way of example, I am presently litigating a dispute over real property in Tooele County, Utah.  My client owns it, and another party, the defendant, recorded a "Notice of Interest" against it in the county land records.  This document has the effect of clouding title (meaning my client cannot re-finance the property, or sell it, etc. until the document is released from the county records).  So we filed a lawsuit, which centers on a few statutory provisions, including Utah Code section 38-9-203 ("Civil liability for recording wrongful lien -- Damages"):

Quote

(1)A lien claimant who records or causes a wrongful lien to be recorded in the office of the county recorder against real property is liable to a record interest holder for any actual damages proximately caused by the wrongful lien.

(2)If the person in violation of Subsection (1) refuses to release or correct the wrongful lien within 10 days from the date of written request from a record interest holder of the real property delivered personally or mailed to the last-known address of the lien claimant, the person is liable to that record interest holder for $3,000 or for treble actual damages, whichever is greater, and for reasonable attorney fees and costs.

(3)A person is liable to the record owner of real property for $10,000 or for treble actual damages, whichever is greater, and for reasonable attorney fees and costs, who records or causes to be recorded a wrongful lien in the office of the county recorder against the real property, knowing or having reason to know that the document:

(a)is a wrongful lien;

(b)is groundless; or

(c)contains a material misstatement or false claim.

"Treble actual damages" in this case is likely going to amount to many hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it has been important for me to establish the defendant's liability under subpart (2) or subpart (3).  You will note that both of these use the words "wrongful lien," which naturally required the court to examine the question of what makes a lien "wrongful."  The answer is provided in the statutory definition of the phrase in Utah Code section 38-9-102(12) :

Quote

{As used in this chapter,} "Wrongful lien" means any document that purports to create a lien, notice of interest, or encumbrance on an owner's interest in certain real property and at the time it is recorded is not:

(a) expressly authorized by this chapter or another state or federal statute;

(b) authorized by or contained in an order or judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction in the state; or

(c) signed by or authorized pursuant to a document signed by the owner of the real property.

Note the disjunctive at the end of subpart (b) ("or"), which means that I only needed to show that the Notice of Interest i) "purports to create a lien, notice of interest, or encumbrance, and ii) at the time it was recorded (on February 5, 2021) it was not (a), (b) or (c) above.

This set the stage for the marshaling of evidence.  I filed a motion to ask the judge to order the Notice of Interest released from county records.  Regarding subpart (a), I cited to affidavits, emails, text messages, statutes and case law to establish that the Notice of Interest was "{not} expressly authorized" by any statute.  Regarding subpart (b), I used court record searches to show that there was no court order authorizing the recording of the Notice of Interest.  Regarding subpart (c), I cited to affidavits, emails, text messages, and case law to establish that there was no document "signed or authorized pursuant to a document signed by" my client.

At the hearing, all of the foregoing was heavily contested by the defendant.  Their attorney used tactics similar to your behavior in this thread.  That is, he did not marshal evidence or substantive reasoning to oppose my motion, and he instead resorted to vague assertions, taunts, and even a few personal insults ("Your honor, it looks like opposing counsel just does not understand the law, so let me walk you through it...").  

The judge concluded the hearing by stating that she had thoroughly reviewed the written briefs and evidence each side had presented, and had considered the oral arguments as well.  She concluded that my client had established that the Notice of Interest was a "wrongful lien" under all three subparts.  She then stepped through her analysis and explained how she reached that conclusion.  She noted the pieces of evidence she found to be competent, admissible, and probative.  She also noted the cited authorities (statutory and case law) which she felt governed the dispute.  She then applied those authorities to the facts and evidence presented in the dispute and rendered a decision in favor of my client.

Lawyers and litigants present and parse out "evidence" on disputed issues every day.  Sometimes this evidence is shared informally between the parties, who then resolve the dispute between themselves.  If that fails, one or both sides gets legal counsel involved, who also exchange evidence and argument informally.  If that fails, the parties can attempt a mediation, or else proceed with filing suit (or seeking arbitration).  The formalities regarding a party's presentation of and reliance on evidence will vary according to the formality of the venue in which the dispute is being discussed, but attorneys and judges tend to pay particular attention to this, as they have more training and experience with assessing how such evidences will be handled by a judge / jury / arbitrator.

Of course, "evidence" in legal disputes tends to be a bit more finicky than evidence used in other contexts.  Historians, for example, often must rely on witness statements as "evidence" for an event where the witness is long dead, or hearsay statements (which are, in the main, not allowed in legal proceedings).  The historical records we have about the assassination of Julius Caesar, for example, are considered as "evidence" in a historiographical context.  

So the context of the dispute matters.  As regarding the Book of Mormon, we have a religious dispute as to its origins.  The courts would not adjudicate this dispute.  Historians typically remain "agnostic" regarding the historicity of miraculous claims in a particular religious tradition.  Similarly, scientists and mathematicians generally cannot empirically test the historicity of, say, Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision.  "Wordprint" studies of the Book of Mormon have been attempted, but the results have been indeterminate.  From FAIR:

Quote

Debate about the value of wordprints persists, though it has been used in some academic settings to identify previously-unknown authors. Readers are cautioned that the results of wordprint analysis of the Book of Mormon are only as reliable as they would be for other written works, and that "the jury is still out" as to whether wordprints can actually do what their advocates hope. The statistical analyses are not generally disputed; the points of contention revolve around the assumptions which undergird the statistics.[1]
...
1. 
See, for example, the discussion in John A. Tvedtnes, "Not Your Everyday Wordprint Study: Variations on a Theme (Review of: Book of Mormon Authors: Their Words and Messages)," FARMS Review of Books 9/2 (1997): 16–27. off-site

Nevertheless, interested persons constantly review and debate "evidences" about the Book of Mormon.  There really isn't an agreed-upon framework for what does and does not constitute "evidence" (as we see in, for example, the Federal Rules of Evidence), so citation to and reliance on such evidences is going to be more unsettled than otherwise.  The "eye-of-the-beholder" factor can be significant.  What Person A finds to be probative may be discounted by Person B.  By way of example, I point you to these 2012 comments of yours:

Quote

I have lots of personal evidence. But that won't help without some ground rules - so what is it that you would classify as "evidence"? What is the proverbial evidentiary bar that you set? As I noted in the OP, this is a very problematic area, since by default most of those who want evidence to exclude from the outset most of what believers would call evidence.

I agree with the 2012 Ben who felt that defining terms ("what is it that you would classify as 'evidence'?"), as compared with the 2022 Ben who has disparaged my efforts to provide such a definitional framework.

I also can't help but contrast this with your comment/question above ("How many individuals who are not already believers in the Book of Mormon would agree with you?").  Are naysayers the definitive arbiters of what does and does not constitute evidence?  And even if their perspective creates legitimate dispute over what is and is not evidence, does that dispute alone preclude the presentation of evidence and argument in support of it?  I think not.

Take, for example, your comments about "evidence" in your August 2001 FAIR presentation, Nephi and Goliath: A Reappraisal of the Use of the Old Testament in First Nephi, in which you spoke of "some of the literary aspects of the writings of Nephi in the Book of Mormon."  You proposed that you could "demonstrate that not only was Nephi aware of the similarities between his exodus and that of Israel under Moses, but also that he intentionally patterned his writings on the Old Testament text," even to the point that, in your view, "{t}here can be no doubt" that "this connection is first and foremost in his mind."  You proceeded to state that you would "demonstrate is that Nephi, in writing the literary unit of his encounter with Laban, borrowed, or re-wrote the text of the Old Testament story of David and Goliath," including correlating "the evidence with literary criticism of the David and Goliath story in the Old Testament to show how the Book of Mormon confirms current scholarly opinions on the authorship of this story in the Old Testament."  You noted parallels between 1 Nephi 3-4 and 1 Samuel 17.  You then noted a scholarly consensus about the biblical narrative of David comes from two sources ("earlier" and "later"), and then focused on comparing the materials deemed to be from the "earlier" source with the BOM narrative about Nephi/Laban.  You conclude by stating that "{t}his line of study" (of literary dependency) is "increasingly important" because the BOM "as literature is beginning to mature as a study in its own right," and also because this line of study "provides an extremely important and legitimate evidence to the authenticity and reliability of the Book of Mormon as a historical literary text from the milieu which it claims for its origins."  You further conclude that demonstrating that Nephi apparently intentionally borrowed from the OT, and that this borrowing "gives us insight into the state of the text of the Brass Plates" provide us with "an interesting new evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon."

See, I can track this.  I think I generally understand what it is you were saying here.  This is partly why I have been surprised at your seeming hostility in this thread, both as to the generalized notions of "evidence" and "plausibility" presented by Ryan and myself, and also you ongoing incivility.  So Nephi's apparent literary dependence on the biblical narrative about David is "evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon," but NHM is not?  Not at all?  Even to the point that citing it in ways similar to your comments about literary dependency is, in your view, "nonsense" and "error"?

Moreover, is your assessment of Nephi's literary dependence as "evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon" undermined or weakened by asking "How many individuals who are not already believers in the Book of Mormon would agree with you?"

I have previously found your comments on EModE interesting (here), particularly your informal sparrings with Robert F. Smith and Champatsch.  I also appreciated your 2013 "Late War" and "Finding Parallels" articles in Interpreter, and your 2016 FAIR presentation about the BOM "as a communicative act."  I have seen numerous Latter-day Saint writers both reference your published items and express appreciation for your input/assistance.  I am not sure what I did to earn your public expressions of contempt, but I hope we can get past that.  

20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

There is something ironic here in your labeling your view as broadly normative and non-idiosyncratic under these conditions.

You cite to Nephi's apparent literary dependency on the Davidic narrative as "an extremely important and legitimate evidence to the authenticity and reliability of the Book of Mormon as a historical literary text from the milieu which it claims for its origins," but categorically reject NHM as constituting evidence at all.

I don't see much daylight between the two efforts at marshalling evidence.

20 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

But, I really don't think I am ever going to convince you so. whatever.

Well, you could drop the insults and stick with the substance.  That could help.

Bryce Haymond also quoted other portions of your 2012 comments noted above:

Quote

I enjoyed reading a piece by Benjamin McGuire last night about Apologetics and Polemics, in which he makes a very good point about current events:

What fascinates me is that the most vocal proponents of the idea that apologetics is harmful are the critics of the church (and it doesn’t matter if they are still on the membership roles).  I have to wonder if part of this isn’t a rather unorganized campaign to try and smear apologetics writers in rather the same sort of way that they are accused of hurting the church…   the suggestion that it is disagreement with leaders that is the source of the conflict – all of these things are concerted efforts to create division, to put the “faithful” members of the church with their leaders on the one side, with apologists on the other.

Yet, he notes the reality of the good that comes from these organizations,

FAIR and FARMS do good work, try to be responsible, try to limit the emotional appeals that come in their polemics, try not to engage in the fear mongering of their opponents – and they try to be intellectually responsible. They help members of the church far more than any harm that comes from them. But this is not the potrayal that any critic wants to hear (or to present).

The critics would have you believe that it is the apologists, in fact, that have been on the dark side the whole time, leading people away from the Church.  Well that certainly turns the tables, doesn’t it?  Why do they say this?  Well, they don’t want you to ever read or hear what those apologists have to say!  That would not be good for them, especially those apologists who are very good at defending the kingdom, and helping countless members strengthen their faith.

The outfits which you affirmed as doing "good work" and "trying to be responsible" and "to limit the emotional appeals" and "try to be intellectually responsible" have extensive materials in which they attempt to marshal evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, which include both your insights about Nephi's literary dependency and various others who have commented about NHM and many other types of evidence.

I agree with the 2012 Ben.  I think such efforts are helpful. The 2022 Ben, meanwhile, has been a surprisingly acerbic.  To the extent I have instigated or reciprocated such things, I apologize.  I would like to be able to have spirited and yet civil discussions about such things.  The Brethren have repeatedly exhorted us to work on being able to disagree without being disagreeable.  If that is just not in the cards, I will withdraw and we can try some other time.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
Link to comment
42 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Yes, it appears so.

As you like.

Rather than address the substance, you again resort to insults.  This sort of "Oh, yeah?  And so's your old man!"-style retort does not advance the discussion.  

Our disagreement seems to be more about semantics than about the evidentiary/probative value of things like NHM.  I have supported my usage of terms by citing to variegated sources as to such meaning/usage, and then drawn comparisons to meaning/usage in other sources.  For example, Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence have no bone to pick, no argument to bolster.  It is used countless times every day by thousands of judges, lawyers, etc. to parse out the meaning of "relevant evidence."  

I agree.  

As to the basic meaning/usage of terms like "evidence" and "plausible"?  Plenty.  I didn't formulate Rule 401 or the dictionary definition.  Citation to authoritative and objective sources of information can therefore be helpful when the dispute ends up as a matter of semantics.  

By way of example, I am presently litigating a dispute over real property in Tooele County, Utah.  My client owns it, and another party, the defendant, recorded a "Notice of Interest" against it in the county land records.  This document has the effect of clouding title (meaning my client cannot re-finance the property, or sell it, etc. until the document is released from the county records).  So we filed a lawsuit, which centers on a few statutory provisions, including Utah Code section 38-9-203 ("Civil liability for recording wrongful lien -- Damages"):

"Treble actual damages" in this case is likely going to amount to many hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it has been important for me to establish the defendant's liability under subpart (2) or subpart (3).  You will note that both of these use the words "wrongful lien," which naturally required the court to examine the question of what makes a lien "wrongful."  The answer is provided in the statutory definition of the phrase in Utah Code section 38-9-102(12) :

Note the disjunctive at the end of subpart (b) ("or"), which means that I only needed to show that the Notice of Interest i) "purports to create a lien, notice of interest, or encumbrance, and ii) at the time it was recorded (on February 5, 2021) it was not (a), (b) or (c) above.

This set the stage for the marshaling of evidence.  I filed a motion to ask the judge to order the Notice of Interest released from county records.  Regarding subpart (a), I cited to affidavits, emails, text messages, statutes and case law to establish that the Notice of Interest was "{now} expressly authorized" by any statute.  Regarding subpart (b), I used court record searches to show that there was no court order authorizing the recording of the Notice of Interest.  Regarding subpart (c), I cited to affidavits, emails, text messages, and case law to establish that there was no document "signed or authorized pursuant to a document signed by" my client.

At the hearing, all of the foregoing was heavily contested by the defendant.  Their attorney used tactics similar to your behavior in this thread.  That is, he did not marshal evidence or substantive reasoning to oppose my motion, and he instead resorted to vague assertions, taunts, and even a few personal insults ("Your honor, it looks like opposing counsel just does not understand the law, so let me walk you through it...").  

The judge concluded the hearing by stating that she had thoroughly reviewed the written briefs and evidence each side had presented, and had considered the oral arguments as well.  She concluded that my client had established that the Notice of Interest was a "wrongful lien" under all three subparts.  She then stepped through her analysis and explained how she reached that conclusion.  She noted the pieces of evidence she found to be competent, admissible, and probative.  She also noted the cited authorities (statutory and case law) which she felt governed the dispute.  She then applied those authorities to the facts and evidence presented in the dispute and rendered a decision in favor of my client.

Lawyers and litigants present and parse out "evidence" on disputed issues every day.  Sometimes this evidence is shared informally between the parties, who then resolve the dispute between themselves.  If that fails, one or both sides gets legal counsel involved, who also exchange evidence and argument informally.  If that fails, the parties can attempt a mediation, or else proceed with filing suit (or seeking arbitration).  The formalities regarding a party's presentation of and reliance on evidence will vary according to the formality of the venue in which the dispute is being discussed, but attorneys and judges tend to pay particular attention to this, as they have more training and experience with assessing how such evidences will be handled by a judge / jury / arbitrator.

Of course, "evidence" in legal disputes tends to be a bit more finicky than evidence used in other contexts.  Historians, for example, often must rely on witness statements as "evidence" for an event where the witness is long dead, or hearsay statements (which are, in the main, not allowed in legal proceedings).  The historical records we have about the assassination of Julius Caesar, for example, are considered as "evidence" in a historiographical context.  

So the context of the dispute matters.  As regarding the Book of Mormon, we have a religious dispute as to its origins.  The courts would not adjudicate this dispute.  Historians typically remain "agnostic" regarding the historicity of miraculous claims in a particular religious tradition.  Similarly, scientists and mathematicians generally cannot empirically test the historicity of, say, Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision.  "Wordprint" studies of the Book of Mormon have been attempted, but the results have been indeterminate.  From FAIR:

Nevertheless, interested persons constantly review and debate "evidences" about the Book of Mormon.  There really isn't an agreed-upon framework for what does and does not constitute "evidence" (as we see in, for example, the Federal Rules of Evidence), so citation to and reliance on such evidences is going to be more unsettled than otherwise.  The "eye-of-the-beholder" factor can be significant.  What Person A finds to be probative may be discounted by Person B.  By way of example, I point you to these 2012 comments of yours:

I agree with the 2012 Ben who felt that defining terms ("what is it that you would classify as 'evidence'?"), as compared with the 2022 Ben who has disparaged my efforts to provide such a definitional framework.

I also can't help but contrast this with your comment/question above ("How many individuals who are not already believers in the Book of Mormon would agree with you?").  Are naysayers the definitive arbiters of what does and does not constitute evidence?  And even if their perspective creates legitimate dispute over what is and is not evidence, does that dispute alone preclude the presentation of evidence and argument in support of it?  I think not.

Take, for example, your comments about "evidence" in your August 2001 FAIR presentation, Nephi and Goliath: A Reappraisal of the Use of the Old Testament in First Nephi, in which you spoke of "some of the literary aspects of the writings of Nephi in the Book of Mormon."  You proposed that you could "demonstrate that not only was Nephi aware of the similarities between his exodus and that of Israel under Moses, but also that he intentionally patterned his writings on the Old Testament text," even to the point that, in your view, "{t}here can be no doubt" that "this connection is first and foremost in his mind."  You proceeded to state that you would "demonstrate is that Nephi, in writing the literary unit of his encounter with Laban, borrowed, or re-wrote the text of the Old Testament story of David and Goliath," including correlating "the evidence with literary criticism of the David and Goliath story in the Old Testament to show how the Book of Mormon confirms current scholarly opinions on the authorship of this story in the Old Testament."  You noted parallels between 1 Nephi 3-4 and 1 Samuel 17.  You then noted a scholarly consensus about the biblical narrative of David comes from two sources ("earlier" and "later"), and then focused on comparing the materials deemed to be from the "earlier" source with the BOM narrative about Nephi/Laban.  You conclude by stating that "{t}his line of study" (of literary dependency) is "increasingly important" because the BOM "as literature is beginning to mature as a study in its own right," and also because this line of study "provides an extremely important and legitimate evidence to the authenticity and reliability of the Book of Mormon as a historical literary text from the milieu which it claims for its origins."  You further conclude that demonstrating that Nephi apparently intentionally borrowed from the OT, and that this borrowing "gives us insight into the state of the text of the Brass Plates" provide us with "an interesting new evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon."

See, I can track this.  I think I generally understand what it is you were saying here.  This is partly why I have been surprised at your seeming hostility in this thread, both as to the generalized notions of "evidence" and "plausibility" presented by Ryan and myself, and also you ongoing incivility.  So Nephi's apparent literary dependence on the biblical narrative about David is "evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon," but NHM is not?  Not at all?  Even to the point that citing it in ways similar to your comments about literary dependency is, in your view, "nonsense" and "error"?

Moreover, is your assessment of Nephi's literary dependence as "evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon" undermined or weakened by asking "How many individuals who are not already believers in the Book of Mormon would agree with you?"

I have previously found your comments on EModE interesting (here), particularly your informal sparrings with Robert F. Smith and Champatsch.  I also appreciated your 2013 "Late War" and "Finding Parallels" articles in Interpreter, and your 2016 FAIR presentation about the BOM "as a communicative act."  I have seen numerous Latter-day Saint writers both reference your published items and express appreciation for your input/assistance.  I am not sure what I did to earn your public expressions of contempt, but I hope we can get past that.  

You cite to Nephi's apparent literary dependency on the Davidic narrative as "an extremely important and legitimate evidence to the authenticity and reliability of the Book of Mormon as a historical literary text from the milieu which it claims for its origins," but categorically reject NHM as constituting evidence at all.

I don't see much daylight between the two efforts at marshalling evidence.

Well, you could drop the insults and stick with the substance.  That could help.

Bryce Haymond also quoted other portions of your 2012 comments noted above:

The outfits which you affirmed as doing "good work" and "trying to be responsible" and "to limit the emotional appeals" and "try to be intellectually responsible" have extensive materials in which they attempt to marshal evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, which include both your insights about Nephi's literary dependency and various others who have commented about NHM and many other types of evidence.

I agree with the 2012 Ben.  I think such efforts are helpful. The 2022 Ben, meanwhile, has been a surprisingly acerbic.  To the extent I have instigated or reciprocated such things, I apologize.  I would like to be able to have spirited and yet civil discussions about such things.  The Brethren have repeatedly exhorted us to work on being able to disagree without being disagreeable.  If that is just not in the cards, I will withdraw and we can try some other time.

Thanks,

-Smac

The idea that we critics "don’t want you to ever read or hear what those apologists have to say" is pretty funny. I don't believe all apologetics is harmful, but certainly some of the over-the-top and rather caustic brands of apologetics can be harmful, but most apologists I know are good people with good intentions, regardless of how much I disagree with their arguments and conclusions. (Same goes for most critics I know.) The other day I was having lunch with a fellow apostate who used to run a message board for active members who were trying to stay in the church. He said he received death threats from ex-Mormons and active Mormons alike because both sides believed he was shilling for the other side. I've received death threats, but only from believing LDS (at least that is how they represented themselves), but I also know some ex-Mormons who are so rabidly obsessed that I think they are dangerous. Neither side has a monopoly on crazy/evil.

Apropos of nothing, this thread has gotten a song stuck in my head: "The golden plates lay hidden, deep in the mountain side ..." Ugh.

Link to comment
2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

The idea that we critics "don’t want you to ever read or hear what those apologists have to say" is pretty funny.

Quite a few seem prone to out-of-hand dismissals of "what those apologists have to say."

2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I don't believe all apologetics is harmful, but certainly some of the over-the-top and rather caustic brands of apologetics can be harmful, but most apologists I know are good people with good intentions, regardless of how much I disagree with their arguments and conclusions. (Same goes for most critics I know.)

That is good to hear.

2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

The other day I was having lunch with a fellow apostate who used to run a message board for active members who were trying to stay in the church. He said he received death threats from ex-Mormons and active Mormons alike because both sides believed he was shilling for the other side. I've received death threats, but only from believing LDS (at least that is how they represented themselves), but I also know some ex-Mormons who are so rabidly obsessed that I think they are dangerous. Neither side has a monopoly on crazy/evil.

Latter-day Saints who are threatening others in any way are behaving shamefully.  I am sorry to hear this.

Thanks,

-Smac

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6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Quite a few seem prone to out-of-hand dismissals of "what those apologists have to say."

That is good to hear.

Latter-day Saints who are threatening others in any way are behaving shamefully.  I am sorry to hear this.

Thanks,

-Smac

I know people here think I dismiss apologetic arguments out of hand, but I really don’t. True, I don’t tend to argue specifics on this board because I don’t see the point. There have been some novel approaches since I’ve been around (Stan Carmack can tell you, for example, that I sincerely made an effort to look at his EModE stuff). But in the end, I’m not going to even try to change anyone’s mind because, again, what’s the point?

As for the death threats, I didn’t point that out to cast aspersions on Latter-day Saints. I’ve seen crazy on both sides. For a brief moment people thought I was in cahoots with a well-known guy who secretly films inside LDS temples (I wasn’t). It’s stuff like that that brings out the worst in people. 

A record made by Nephi, a godly man of old …

Make it stop!

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