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Assessing the Evidence: A Case Study


smac97

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On 10/3/2022 at 12:26 AM, Dan Vogel said:

"there is no actual evidence" that the plates were made out of tin. In my view, there's no "actual evidence" for gold plates either.

"If Joseph was inspired to give his immediate followers something to see and pick up and feel, so be it. I can live with that. The plates are a symbol--what is important is the Book of Mormon itself." That's close to my view. JS created the plates to give his revelation more plausibility. 

Mike Ash laughed when I told him that I think one day the only difference between my position and the apologists' will be faith, that is, faith that the BofM is a revelation.

 

Pretty much.

And in the spirit of pivoting as was done in the OP, this reminds me of the 2008 crash and the derivatives market where people overlevereged debt. 

In the end, the BOM is supposed to establish legitimacy of the early church, which in the current day is supposed to support the authority of current church leaders. 

For me, there shouldn't be too much reliance on indirect support in these matters. And there definitely shouldn't be dependence on flimsy support--that would be irresponsible. And the more leaders, be they business or spiritual, risk people's lives and livelihoods based on overlevereged supports, the more irresponsible they are.

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Error. Misquoted 

Edited by mfbukowski
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On 10/1/2022 at 10:24 AM, The Nehor said:

I am not going to start the fire.

*whistles innocently while bringing in gasoline cans just in case a fire does start*

Wise move.

With all these nuances and quotes of quotes it's getting hard to tell one side from the other.

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On 10/1/2022 at 9:47 PM, Bernard Gui said:

So many ways to avoid giving an inch to Joseph Smith.

Meh.  persecution complex much?  It is not about giving an inch or not. It is about examining the fantastical claims.  That is it.  Anyone who can be unbiased and use their critical thinking skills understand this.  But to those so invested its all about persecution.  If Joseph lied, if he was a con man wouldn't you want to know that?

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On 10/9/2022 at 10:54 PM, Teancum said:

Meh.  persecution complex much?  It is not about giving an inch or not. It is about examining the fantastical claims.  That is it.  Anyone who can be unbiased and use their critical thinking skills understand this.  But to those so invested its all about persecution.  If Joseph lied, if he was a con man wouldn't you want to know that?

Persecution complex accusations are stale.
Joseph didn’t lie. 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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5 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

persecution complex accusations are stale.

Yet you are the epitome of it.

5 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

 


Joseph didn’t lie. 

Likely he did.  We know he lied about other things.  Like plural marriage. To the public.  To his wife.

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5 hours ago, Teancum said:

Yet you are the epitome of it.

Ouch.

Touché! 🤕

Edited by Bernard Gui
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1 hour ago, Teancum said:

Never mind....

Good move.

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On 10/4/2022 at 12:04 AM, Meadowchik said:

In the end, the BOM is supposed to establish legitimacy of the early church, which in the current day is supposed to support the authority of current church leaders. 

I think spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is supposed to establish the Church's legitimacy / authority / provenance.

On 10/4/2022 at 12:04 AM, Meadowchik said:

For me, there shouldn't be too much reliance on indirect support in these matters.

In a sense, I agree.  "Reliance" on the Book of Mormon should be rooted in revelation, with "indirect support" being ancillary and supplemental.

On 10/4/2022 at 12:04 AM, Meadowchik said:

And there definitely shouldn't be dependence on flimsy support--that would be irresponsible.

"Flimsy support" seems like an "eye of the beholder" sort of thing.  It says more about the presuppositions of the individual than the evidence itself.

Secondary evidences are unlikely to be dispositive because if they were, they wouldn't be "secondary."

On 10/4/2022 at 12:04 AM, Meadowchik said:

And the more leaders, be they business or spiritual, risk people's lives and livelihoods based on overlevereged supports, the more irresponsible they are.

Not sure what this means.

Thanks,

-Smac

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On 10/9/2022 at 7:54 AM, Teancum said:

Meh.  persecution complex much?  It is not about giving an inch or not.

It kind of is.  I commented on this back in 2018:

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Facsimile 2, figure 6 is definitely a bullseye. The language Joseph Smith used has to be understood in the context of 19th century usage, which means that earth in its four quarters is clearly synonymous with the earth and its cardinal points. Once again here is footnote 2 from the PofGPC article:

 With that in mind, we have the following statements from Joseph Smith and other scholars about the symbolism of the 4 canopic jars:

  • Joseph Smith: "Represents this earth in its four quarters" (which as shown above is synonymous with the cardinal points or directions in his day)
  • Richard H. Wilkinson: "The group ... are often given geographic associations and hence became a kind of “regional” group. . . . The four gods were sometimes depicted on the sides of the canopic chest and had specific symbolic orientations, with Imsety usually being aligned with the south, Hapy with the north, Duamutef with the east and Qebehsenuef with the west."
  • James P. Allen: "representing the cardinal directions"
  • Manfred Lurker: "each [of the sons of Horus] had a characteristic head and was associated with one of the four cardinal points of the compass"
  • Geraldine Pinch: "The four sons were also associated with the four directions (south, north, east, and west)
  • Michael D. Rhodes: "They were the gods of the four quarters of the earth ... and later came to be regarded as presiding over the four cardinal points."
  • E. Wallis Budge: "Each was supposed to be the lord of one of the quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points."
  • Maarten J. Raven: the primary purpose of the Sons of Horus was to act as “the four corners of the universe and the four supports of heaven, and only secondarily with the protection of the body’s integrity.”

This is unquestionably a bullseye. 

 

Come critics are intractably absolutist in their declarations that there is zero evidence for the truth claims of the Church.  It's a surprisingly dogmatic and unreasoned position to take, particularly given the pose they so often strike (that they are basing their position on "evidence" and "reason").

I have a theory as to why this is so.  I've articulated it a few times on this board, such as here (from 2007!) :

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{Daniel Peterson}: Having carefully studied the relevant publications of Nibley, the Hiltons, the Astons, Kent Brown, and Potter and Wellington, you know that NHM isn't all "they can come up with" even in terms of Arabian culture and geography, and you also know both that NHM is pretty good indeed and that it's a richer and more complex hit than critics such as yourself are ever willing to acknowledge.

Critics {} constantly complain that there is no "evidence" for the BoM's provenance. They use this as a bludgeon with which to beat the Church.

So you would think that these professedly open-minded folks would be willing to evaluate NHM, because it does a pretty good job of meeting the criteria for "evidence" proffered by our critics.

But they aren't willing. Instead, they become remarkably dense, shrill, and unreasonable. And I think I know why. I call it the "Transmission Gap Theory," and I've explained it here:

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Some folks familiar with the LDS Church like to compare and contrast the relative "scientific" (read: archaeological) evidences for the Book of Mormon as compared to the Bible. One of the points that frequently gets noted is that evidence of antiquity or historicity doesn't necessarily (or even probably) translate into evidence of divinity.

...

William Hamblin was on a radio program and had the following exchange with a caller:

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William Hamblin: Let me give you an example for instance. The name Alma in Joseph Smith's day was a typical woman's name. Joseph Smith uses it in the BoM for a male. And since that time we have discovered in Hebrew manuscripts that Alma was in fact a perfectly decent name for a Hebrew male. Now, how would Joseph Smith know this? Same thing with Mosiah and Nephi,. All these names have been discovered. They are nonbiblical and yet they are authentic in the setting which the text claims to come from. So there are all sorts of histroical analyses you could do, I don't think you could prove it that way. We're not claiming proof for the Book of mormon. We are claiming some level of plausibility.

Caller: What I'm saying is that in the Bible I can see the maps of Israel, I can see the maps of of, all types of maps.

William Hamblin: Suppose that, well I could show you map where Troy was. Does that prove that Zeus is king of heaven and that we should worship Zeus?

Caller: Well, that has nothing to do with our subject.

William Hamblin: It is precisely to do with our subject. I mean Homer claimed that he had wrote a book about the doings of all the Greek gods. We have now autheticated that in fact the city Homer talked about existed. All the cities Homer talked about existed. It is perfectly good history. Now does that prove Zeus is king of heaven and that we should worship Zeus?

I wonder, though, if this argument yields the same result for the Book of Mormon as it does for the Bible.

The distinction I see between the two is the method of transmission. Speaking broadly, the Bible has a discernable historical pedigree, a pedigree wherein the text can be historically traced back, without significant gaps, to antiquity (though not necessarily to the original authors). This historical pedigree, coupled with the fact that some toponymns mentioned in the Bible are verified or verifiable...makes the Bible comparable in many ways to other ancient texts.

The rejoinder to this is that a historical pedigree + some archaeological verification does not equal evidence in favor of the Bible's truth claims. As Hamblin noted, The Odyssey has a historical pedigree and some archaeological verification, but that doesn't mean that the descriptions of the supernatural in Homer's work are factual.

But what about the Book of Mormon? Could its lack of a traceable historical pedigree + some archaeological verification actually work in its favor? Skeptics aren't persuaded that the Bible's historical pedigree or archaeological finds (like the Pool of Siloam that was recently discovered) mean anything precisely because those things are discernable without looking to God for an explanation (just like we can discern the historical pedigree and/or archaeological verification of The Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.).

However, the Book of Mormon belies these assumptions. There is a built-in gap, a giant one, in the transmission process for that book. So if (and this is a really big "if") we someday discover persuasive archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon (evidence of toponyms, for example), then the argument used against the Bible wouldn't work.

...

The gap in the historical transmission of the text could only be bridged by divine intervention. So archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, if found, would have a far more persuasive impact on the veracity of that book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.

...
I am happy to be a Latter-day Saint.  Acting from a position of faith, and without perfect knowledge, I must acknowledge the possibility that God does not exist, that there is no life after death, and all the dark nihilisms that are attendant to that postulation.  But by choice I have decided to exercise faith, to examine the claims of the Church, to give them a fair hearing, to see out guidance from God, to put the precepts into practice in my daily life, and to see if the Restored Gospel really can be what it claims to be.  So far I have received much confirmation and ratification of these things.  The "upstream" matters are beautiful to me, and are not only comforting and uplifting, they are reasonable and sensible.  The "downstream" matters are likewise overwhelmingly wonderful.  There are a few that are confusing and difficult, but that's to be expected.

"The gap in the historical transmission of the {Book of Mormon} text could only be bridged by divine intervention."

This is, I think, why so many critics take an absolutist, "zero evidence," not-an-inch approach to Joseph Smith.  From the same link as above:

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Critics of a certain bent (described by Daniel Peterson as "self-identified atheistic materialists or naturalists") have, philosophically and rhetorically speaking, painted themselves into a corner.  They cannot tolerate even the possibility that the Church's claims are true, or even that these claims are plausible.  It's not an "all or nothing" scenario for them.  There is only one option for them, and that is that the Church is a sham.  A fraud.  To quote Dan Peterson:

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The most serious contemporary criticisms of the Book of Mormon and of Mormonism more broadly tend to come not from self-proclaimed orthodox (i.e., usually Evangelical) Christians, but from self-identified atheistic materialists or naturalists. The Utah-based historian Dale Morgan, largely forgotten today but still much admired in certain small contemporary circles, wrote a 1945 letter to the believing Latter-day Saint historian Juanita Brooks. In it, he identifies the fundamental issue with unusual candor:

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With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith’s story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church.

 

 

 

On 10/9/2022 at 7:54 AM, Teancum said:

It is about examining the fantastical claims.  That is it. 

"Fantastical" seems to be an eye-of-the-beholder kind of thing.  And, as used here, it comes across as pejorative.

I am reminded here of Arthur C. Clarke's "three laws"

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  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  Consider these remarks from William Hamblin, Daniel Peterson and George Mitton in this 1994 article (reviewing John L. Brooke's The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology) (emphasis added) :

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In part, Brooke is simply taking the basic thesis of Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View and attempting to extend the range of alleged occult influences on Mormonism backward in time and space.  In one sense this simply belabors the obvious: It is undeniable that the alchemical and occult ideas found in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century America had antecedents in Europe in earlier times. Indeed. why should we stop at the Renaissance? Why not take hermeticism and alchemy back to their origins in Hellenistic Egypt? Brooke's subtitle could then read: "The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 344 B.C. to A.D. 1844." The real question, of course, is whether or not such ideas had any formative influence on Joseph Smith and early Mormonism. Here, Brooke has utterly failed to make his case. 

Problems of Definitions and Terminology

Perhaps the fundamental flaw in The Refiner's Fire is the author's failure to define his key terms, especially "magic." "hermeticism," and "alchemy." "Magic" is seen by many modem scholars today as a highly problematic concept, which has yet to receive a universally accepted scholarly definition.15  Many, in fact, feel that its use should be abandoned in academic discourse. As one important recent book on the subject puts it, "We have avoided the use of the term 'magic' in this volume. It is our conviction that magic, as a definable and consistent category of human experience. simply does not exist."16  It is not a question of whether or not there is a supernatural realm; the fundamental problem is that there are no firm boundaries between activities and beliefs that are clearly magical and those that are clearly religious. From this perspective. "magic" is simply a subjective and generally pejorative term used to describe unpopular forms of religious expression. "The beliefs and practices of 'the other' will always be dubbed as 'magic,' 'superstition' and the like .... Thus the use of the term 'magic' tells us little or nothing about the substance of what is under description. The sentence, 'X is/was a magician!' tells us nothing about the beliefs and practices of X; the only solid information that can be derived from it concerns the speaker's attitude toward X and their relative social relationship."17  Brooke makes no serious attempt to define the term, let alone to deal with the intricacies of its meaning or the solid objections that have been raised against its use. 
---
15. One of the present reviewers (D. C. Peterson) spent much of the summer of 1994 in a seminar. at Princeton University, on '"The Problem of Religion and Magic." The thirteen participants in that seminar, coming from backgrounds in anthropology, biblical studies, classics, history, Indology, Islamic studies, literature, medieval studies, religious studies, and sociology, were unable to arrive at anything remotely like an unproblematic, universal definition of "magic." 
16. John G. Gager. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 24. See his references and arguments, as also those gathered by Stephen D. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson in "Joseph Smith and 'Magic': Methodological Reflections on the Use or a Term," in "To Be Learned is Good if..." ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft. 1987), 129-47. 
17.  Gager, Curse Tablels and Binding Spells, 25. 

A well-educated person living five hundred years ago could have confidently declared instantaneous communications to the other side of the world to be "fantastical."  Was he correct?  

On 10/9/2022 at 7:54 AM, Teancum said:

Anyone who can be unbiased and use their critical thinking skills understand this. 

Do you feel you are "unbiased" in your approach to the Book of Mormon?

On 10/9/2022 at 7:54 AM, Teancum said:

But to those so invested its all about persecution. 

The only person referencing "persecution" here is you.  

On 10/9/2022 at 7:54 AM, Teancum said:

If Joseph lied, if he was a con man wouldn't you want to know that?

Yes.

If Joseph was telling the truth, and if the Witnesses were telling the truth, wouldn't you want to know that?

Thanks,

-Smac

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26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

 

 

"Fantastical" seems to be an eye-of-the-beholder kind of thing.  And, as used here, it comes across as pejorative.

It is not a pejorative and to say it is demonstrates my point about a persecution complex.  

 

26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I am reminded here of Arthur C. Clarke's "three laws"

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  Consider these remarks from William Hamblin, Daniel Peterson and George Mitton in this 1994 article (reviewing John L. Brooke's The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology) (emphasis added) :

A well-educated person living five hundred years ago could have confidently declared instantaneous communications to the other side of the world to be "fantastical."  Was he correct?  

Sure he was correct and 500 years ago it would have been fantastical. And claims surrounding the coming forth of the BoM still are.  I suppose someday something could happen where maybe it won't seem that way.  But an angel delivering plates of gold seems pretty bold and out of the ordinary. A devices that might translate less so these days but still pretty bold.

26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Do you feel you are "unbiased" in your approach to the Book of Mormon?

Well given I was once a believer I have been on both sides.  I was very biased as a believer and a hobby apologist.  Apologetics is totally biased.  When I started examining the criticism of the BoM origination story and other LDS things in a more skeptical I think I was trying to be unbiased but likely was still more biased in favor of these things. I certainly wasn't looking for a reason to not believe it.  Am I biased now in opposition?  Likely since none are without bias totally.

 

26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

The only person referencing "persecution" here is you.  

And it is because it i being demonstrated by some here.

26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Yes.

Are you sure?  Would you really want to know it it is not what is claimed?  It is a tough journey.

26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

If Joseph was telling the truth, and if the Witnesses were telling the truth, wouldn't you want to know that?

Thanks,

-Smac

Well here is the deal. I have been on both sides.  I am 100% sure JS was not telling the truth?  No.  But at this point I am fairly confident that his story is not what is claimed nor the witnesses. 

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On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:
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It is about examining the fantastical claims {of Joseph Smith}.

"Fantastical" seems to be an eye-of-the-beholder kind of thing.  And, as used here, it comes across as pejorative.

It is not a pejorative

It sure can come across that way.

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

and to say it is demonstrates my point about a persecution complex.  

"There is a growing consensus in the social sciences that, since there are no objective criteria for distinguishing magic from ritual, 'magic' is useless as a classificatory term.  In some ways, we are inclined to think it worse than useless.  It is so frequently pejorative in connotation and its polemical potential is so high, that it tends to draw its users away from the standards of objectivity that the social sciences claim to espouse.  (The same observation applies to the term 'occult,' as well.)" -Stephen D. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson

See also here (also by Peterson) :

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“Magic” is seen by many modern scholars today as a highly problematic concept, which has yet to receive a universally accepted scholarly definition. Many, in fact, feel that its use should be abandoned in academic discourse. As one important recent book on the subject puts it, “We have avoided the use of the term “magic’ in this volume. . . . It is our conviction that magic, as a definable and consistent category of human experience, simply does not exist.” It is not a question of whether or not there is a supernatural realm; the fundamental problem is that there are no firm boundaries between activities and beliefs that are clearly magical and those that are clearly religious. From this perspective, “magic” is simply a subjective and generally pejorative term used to describe unpopular forms of religious expression. “The beliefs and practices of “the other’ will always be dubbed as “magic,’ “superstition’ and the like. . . . Thus the use of the term “magic’ tells us little or nothing about the substance of what is under description.

I submit that, in regarding discussions about religious beliefs, the same can be said about the term "fantastical."

Some dictionary definitions of "fantastical" (or "fantastic") :

Dictionary.com:

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  1. conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque:fantastic rock formations;fantastic designs.
  2. fanciful or capricious, as persons or their ideas or actions:We never know what that fantastic creature will say next.
  3. imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality; foolish or irrational:fantastic fears.
  4. extravagantly fanciful; marvelous.
  5. incredibly great or extreme; exorbitant:to spend fantastic sums of money.
  6. highly unrealistic or impractical:a fantastic scheme to make a million dollars betting on horse races.

Merriam-Webster:

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Definition of fantastic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a: based on fantasy (see FANTASY entry 1 sense 2) : not real
b: conceived or seemingly conceived by unrestrained fancy fantastic new space and nuclear weapons— Jack Raymond
c: so extreme as to challenge belief : UNBELIEVABLEa fantastic industrial complex of steel, coal, machine tools, and other heavy industries— M. S. Handlerbroadly : exceedingly large or great spent fantastic sums on his library

"Fantastic" in Collins Dictionary

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You describe something as fantastic or fantastical when it seems strange and wonderful or unlikely.

Vocabulary.com:

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  1. adjective
     existing in fancy only
    synonyms:fantastic
    unreal
    lacking in reality or substance or genuineness; not corresponding to acknowledged facts or criteria
  2. adjective
     ludicrously odd
    synonyms:antic, fantastic, grotesque
    strange, unusual
    being definitely out of the ordinary and unexpected; slightly odd or even a bit weird

Cambridge Dictionary:

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strange and imaginary, or not reasonable:
He drew fantastic animals with two heads and large wings.
 
very unusual, strange, or unexpected:
It seemed fantastic that they still remembered her 50 years later.

In the context of discussing religious beliefs, a critic (such as yourself) describing the religious beliefs of an unpopular minority religious group as "fantastical" comes across as pejorative. 

Our beliefs are "fantastical" as in "conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination," as "odd," as "fanciful or capricious," as "imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality," as "foolish or irrational," as "highly unrealistic or impractical," as "based on fantasy," as "not real," as "so extreme as to challenge belief," as "lacking in reality or substance or genuineness," as "not corresponding to acknowledged facts or criteria."

I get that the truth claims of the Church are no longer valued or respected by you.  But you are having a discussion with people whom you know do respect and value these things.  Nevertheless, you use a very loaded, laden-with-pejorative-connotations-when-used-in-discussing-religious-beliefs term, and then further disparage us as having a "persecution complex" when a mild rebuttal about it is offered.

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:
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A well-educated person living five hundred years ago could have confidently declared instantaneous communications to the other side of the world to be "fantastical."  Was he correct?  

Sure he was correct

If this well-educated person was correct, then how do you account for the Internet?

The correctness of the person's statement is subjective and conditional, right?  He was "correct" only in the context of his timeframe and his limited information, but he was not "correct" in an objective or definitive sense.

So if this well-educated person from 500 years ago were to be transported in the Tardis to 2022, and if he were given some months of intensive education and instruction regarding technological advances since 1522 (including electricity, computer technology, the Internet, etc.), do you think he would still insist that instantaneous communications to the other side of the world to be "fantastical"?

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

and 500 years ago it would have been fantastical.

Right.  "Fantastical" as in "conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination," as "odd," as "imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality," as "foolish or irrational," as "highly unrealistic or impractical," as "based on fantasy," as "not real," as "so extreme as to challenge belief," as "lacking in reality or substance or genuineness," as "not corresponding to acknowledged facts or criteria."

And yet here we are, using a system that allows for instantaneous around-the-world communication.  And not only that, we are using it cheaply.  The Internet is not a resource hoarded by the privileged elite.  It is a mundane, everyday kind of thing.  Common.  Normal.  Ordinary.

So the difference between "fantastical" and common / normal / ordinary / mundane (in the context of instantaneous communications) is . . . what?  It would seem to be a difference in the individual's perspective and knowledge.  In other words, it's an "eye of the beholder" sort of thing.

Can you accommodate the possibility of this same difference existing in other contexts?  Such as the truth claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Is it possible that your characterization of these things as "fantastical" might be as subjective and conditional (and, ultimately, as incorrect) as the fellow-from-500-years-ago's confident assertion denying the possibility of instantaneous around-the-world communications?

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

And claims surrounding the coming forth of the BoM still are.  I suppose someday something could happen where maybe it won't seem that way. 

I think that "something" has been happening for a while.  

And "seem that way" is a very apt characterization.  What may "seem" to be "fantastical" do you can be quite real and reasonable and correct to others.

  • "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."  (Matt. 13:35.)
  • "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given."  (Matt. 13:11.)
  • "Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men."  (2 Nephi 27:22.)

Meanwhile, "{f}or now we see through a glass, darkly..." (1 Cor. 13:12.)

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

But an angel delivering plates of gold seems pretty bold and out of the ordinary.

I agree.  But then, so is turning water to wine, multiplying the loaves and fishes, raising the dead, and so on.

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:
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Do you feel you are "unbiased" in your approach to the Book of Mormon?

Well given I was once a believer I have been on both sides. 

I'm not sure that answers the question.  

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

I was very biased as a believer and a hobby apologist.  Apologetics is totally biased. 

I agree.  So is what you and other critics do when discussing the Church.

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

When I started examining the criticism of the BoM origination story and other LDS things in a more skeptical I think I was trying to be unbiased but likely was still more biased in favor of these things. I certainly wasn't looking for a reason to not believe it.  Am I biased now in opposition?  Likely since none are without bias totally.

Seems like you don't even aspire to impartiality.  You and I both wear our respective biases on our sleeves.

I also think you and I are both interested in seeking and ascertaining truth.  Reality.  Facts.  We just have different ways going about that effort.

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:
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The only person referencing "persecution" here is you.  

And it is because it i being demonstrated by some here.

Well, not really.  A "persecution complex" is "an irrational and obsessive feeling or fear that one is the object of collective hostility or ill-treatment on the part of others."

Nobody here has expressed this sentiment.  Meanwhile, you are disparaging our sacred religious beliefs to our very faces.  This is just a message board, so the impact is de minimis.  In a broader sense, though, there sure seems to be a fair amount of "collective hostility or ill-treatment" of the Latter-day Saints.  It is therefore not "irrational" to say so (though I do not "obsess" over it or "fear" it).

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:
Quote

 

Quote

If Joseph lied, if he was a con man wouldn't you want to know that?

Yes.

 

Are you sure?  Would you really want to know it it is not what is claimed? 

Sigh.

The day may come when people like you are willing to grant to people like me the same basic and innate desire for the truth that is shared by most reasonable people.

Until then, you question my honesty when I tell you that I want to know the truth.  

Again, "yes."  If Joseph lied, if he was a con man, I would want to know that.  I am as interested in discerning the truth of things as you are.  That I have reached different conclusions than you have does not create grounds for you to question my honesty, particularly as to matters of what I think, believe, "want to know," etc.

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

It is a tough journey.

I acknowledge that.  Truly.  

Maintaining faith in and devotion to the Restored Gospel is also "a tough journey."  I am reminded of these remarks by Daniel C. Peterson, made in 1999:

Quote

Many Latter-day Saints entertain false notions about evangelical beliefs (p. 148). Mormons have sometimes used overly strong language to criticize evangelicals and their doctrines (p. 193). And, while this seems to us historically understandable, given what Latter-day Saints have endured at the hands of their fellow Christians. it is nonetheless to be regretted. 

But How Wide the Divide? appears to say that guilt for the frequently tense relations between Latter-day Saints and evangelicals should be evenly distributed (as on pp. 10, IS, 22-23. 189). We find this very implausible. indeed objectionable. No Latter-day Saints make their living as professional anti-evangelicals. Latter-day Saints do not picket new Baptist churches, or broadcast against evangelical beliefs, or hold seminars in their chapels to critique Protestant theology, or publish books and pamphlets denouncing fundamentalists, or distribute films exposing the sordid facts about other denominations, or seek to exclude Calvinists from community interfaith associations, or boycott evangelical-owned businesses. There are no Latter-day Saint tabloids dedicated to fighting the Assemblies of God. We have never turned our church curriculum over to a multiweek discussion of the errors of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet all of these things have been done. and are being done, to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The situation is not symmetrical. 
...
I have said it before, but I will say it again here: One will search in vain for Latter-day Saint Sunday School curricula devoted to "exposing" other faiths. There are no "ministries" among the Mormons focused on criticizing other religions. Our bookstores do not carry books, pamphlets, videos, or audiotapes attacking others. We do not picket other churches, mosques, synagogues, or temples, nor do we seek to block their construction. (Quite the opposite, in fact-for which many examples could be cited.) No Latter-day Saint hosts a radio or television show dedicated to critiques of other churches. Our chapels are never turned over to "symposia" denouncing those whose doctrines contradict ours. We would never seek to expel another denomination from a community council of churches, nor to exclude them from use of a shared chapel facility at a resort. Yet such activities, aimed at combating Mormonism and Mormons, abound on the soil of conservative Protestantism. There is no equivalence. 

Again, this is from 1999, when online anti-Mormonism was in its infancy.  It has since grown up and become quite potent.

Maintaining faith and devotion in the face of such substantial and concerted efforts can be quite difficult.  I hope you can appreciate that assessment without sneeringly dismissing it as a "persecution complex."

On 10/11/2022 at 10:38 AM, Teancum said:

Well here is the deal. I have been on both sides.  I am 100% sure JS was not telling the truth?  No.  But at this point I am fairly confident that his story is not what is claimed nor the witnesses. 

Hence the point made in the OP about assessing the evidence, particularly including the Plates, the Witnesses, and the actual (purportedly translated) text.  Again from Daniel C. Peterson:

Quote

Like the empty tomb on the first Easter morning — for which, by the way, I think the secular evidence is surprisingly solid — the Book of Mormon represents a concrete, tangible challenge to secular or naturalistic understandings of reality. It exists, and its existence requires explanation.

There are many arguments available in support of the historical authenticity (and hence the divine authority) of the Book of Mormon — ancient Middle Eastern parallels, corroborating linguistic features, elements of Mesoamerican archaeology, and so forth — and I myself have written extensively on such topics. I think they’re very much worth pursuing, and they can often be quite powerful.
...
And with the plates, as with the incarnation of Christ himself, we have a fully material, entirely tangible incursion of the divine into our mundane world, a very palpable refutation of the secular worldview.

 

And here:

Quote

My argument would be that all of the counter-explanations of the Book of Mormon that I’ve looked at – and I think I’ve looked at all of them – run into walls. You eventually run into something where, it simply can’t get you there. It can’t explain everything that needs to be explained. And so I sometimes see, well, I’ve had people tell me, “Look, I don’t owe you an explanation for the Book of Mormon. All I have to say is I don’t believe it.” Well, of course, you know, you can make your own decision, lead your life the way you want to, but it seems to me intellectually honestly that you really should try to come up with a counter-explanation. If you think Joseph Smith wrote it, how did he do it? If you think there were no plates, what’s going on there? You need to come up with another explanation.

You are "fairly confident that his story is not what is claimed nor the witnesses."  That's fine.  But I haven't really seen much in the way of meaningful interaction with the substantive evidence pertaining to the Plates, the Witnesses and the actual text of the Book of Mormon.  Dr. Peterson is, I think, quite correct: "{The Book of Mormon} exists, and its existence requires explanation."

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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27 minutes ago, smac97 said:

You are "fairly confident that his story is not what is claimed nor the witnesses."  That's fine.  But I haven't really seen much in the way of meaningful interaction with the substantive evidence pertaining to the Plates, the Witnesses and the actual text of the Book of Mormon.  Dr. Peterson is, I think, quite correct: "{The Book of Mormon} exists, and its existence requires explanation."

Thanks,

-Smac

The simple explanation is that it looks exactly like a 19th-century American depiction of a mix of moundbuilder mythology with late Protestant/Restorationist religious teaching. Occam's Razor suggests it is what looks like. I'm not sure what there is that demands explanation.

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Again, this is from 1999, when online anti-Mormonism was in its infancy.  It has since grown up and become quite potent.

Bah. Most of it is the same you-know-what, different author. If it is potent at all, it is probably due to one or both of two things:

1. The Church doesn't do enough to innoculate members against the criticisms.

2. Too many Latter-day Saints don't get what Mormonism is about.

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46 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

The simple explanation is that it looks exactly like a 19th-century American depiction of a mix of moundbuilder mythology with late Protestant/Restorationist religious teaching. Occam's Razor suggests it is what looks like. I'm not sure what there is that demands explanation.

Way too facile for me.  And devoid of evidence.

The statements of the Witnesses need to be accounted for, as does the text itself.  Waving it all off as "a 19th-century American depiction of a mix of moundbuilder mythology with late Protestant/Restorationist religious teaching" is wholly conclusory.  It does not engage the evidence.

I think the depiction of the Nephites and Lamanites is very different from what we would expect to see coming from "a 19th-century American depiction" of Native Americans.  See, e.g., here:

Quote

Nibley's writings suggest that he was partial to a Mesoamerican model, with later infiltration of some ideas northward. For example, in his 1946 reply to Fawn Brodie, Nibley rejected the idea that the moundbuilders of the eastern United States—used by the Heartland theory as evidence of Book of Mormon geography--had anything to do with the Book of Mormon:

"The Moundbuilders actually resemble the Book of Mormon people not at all. Who said they did? The Book of Mormon tells of a people ages removed from the Mound-builders and very far away." [6]

He would later say:

"All this took place in Central America, the perennial arena of the Big People versus the Little People."[7]

Thanks,

-Smac

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Just now, smac97 said:

Way too facile for me.  And devoid of evidence.

The statements of the Witnesses need to be accounted for, as does the text itself.  Waving it all off as "a 19th-century American depiction of a mix of moundbuilder mythology with late Protestant/Restorationist religious teaching" is wholly conclusory.  It does not engage the evidence.

I think the depiction of the Nephites and Lamanites is very different from what we would expect to see coming from "a 19th-century American depiction" of Native Americans.  See, e.g., here:

Thanks,

-Smac

I knew you were going to say I was merely "waving it off." After 40 years of study and prayer to try to make the Book of Mormon work, I can honestly say the one thing I am not is dismissive. As for the moundbuilders, in Joseph Smith's day it was common for people to believe the drumlins in western New York (such as the Hill Cumorah) were burial mounds constructed by ancient Americans. When you have many common legends of a "good" white race being destroyed by a "bad" brown one in early 19th-century America, it's on you to explain how it's just coincidental that these themes appear in a book that emerged at that exact time.

But you're right. 40 years of study and prayer led me to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is a 19th-century late-Protestant production that is exactly what you would expect to emerge from that milieu. I've spent a lot of time dealing with the evidence over the years, as you know, so I'm not going to rehash it. You asked for an explanation that fits, and this does. 

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25 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Bah. Most of it is the same you-know-what, different author. If it is potent at all, it is probably due to one or both of two things:

1. The Church doesn't do enough to innoculate members against the criticisms.

2. Too many Latter-day Saints don't get what Mormonism is about.

Hey- also loved that essay on Hume, good stuff.  Got busy and forgot what thread it was on....  🤔

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19 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I knew you were going to say I was merely "waving it off." After 40 years of study and prayer to try to make the Book of Mormon work, I can honestly say the one thing I am not is dismissive. As for the moundbuilders, in Joseph Smith's day it was common for people to believe the drumlins in western New York (such as the Hill Cumorah) were burial mounds constructed by ancient Americans. When you have many common legends of a "good" white race being destroyed by a "bad" brown one in early 19th-century America, it's on you to explain how it's just coincidental that these themes appear in a book that emerged at that exact time.

But you're right. 40 years of study and prayer led me to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is a 19th-century late-Protestant production that is exactly what you would expect to emerge from that milieu. I've spent a lot of time dealing with the evidence over the years, as you know, so I'm not going to rehash it. You asked for an explanation that fits, and this does. 

So where's the 19th century Protestant work demanding that God is immanent and is a glorified human with fingers?

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12 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

So where's the 19th century Protestant work demanding that God is immanent and is a glorified human with fingers?

When someone asks for a plausible explanation for such a book, we can talk about that subject. Hope all is well with you. Life's good here, with a new grandchild on the way. 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I also think you and I are both interested in seeking and ascertaining truth.  Reality.  Facts.  We just have different ways going about that effort....

Again, "yes."  If Joseph lied, if he was a con man, I would want to know that.  I am as interested in discerning the truth of things as you are.

[emphasis added]

I would suggest that some ways of going about ascertaining truth are better than others. Following Joseph Smith's advice to seek wisdom out of the best of books (D&C 88:118), here are the books I'd recommend for becoming grounded in clear thinking so that you can ascertain the truth.

1- Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker. In this book, Professor Pinker provides an excellent overview of how to use the normative tools of rationality to think clearly and make solid inferences about the evidence.

2- The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll. This book talks more about how science and clear thinking works, what science does and does not know, and how much confidence we ought to have in various scientific results. It's surprising how much scientists have figured out, how robust those conclusions now are, and what those conclusions imply about other things.

3-Collective Illusions: Conformity, Complicity, and the Science of Why We Make Bad Decisions by Todd Rose. This book puts more emphasis on how our opinions affect and are affected by the groups of people we surround ourselves with.

4- Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain by Michael Gazzaniga. This takes a deep look into who we really are and what we know about the brain, consciousness, how we think, and free will.

Some ways of going about finding the truth are designed to overcome biases that are baked into the way humans think. Other ways are designed to exploit those same biases in order to cause us to believe what we want to believe. If somebody really wants to ascertain the truth, it's worth taking a big step back and analyzing what methodologies have the best track records of leading to actual truth.

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42 minutes ago, Analytics said:

I would suggest that some ways of going about ascertaining truth are better than others. Following Joseph Smith's advice to seek wisdom out of the best of books (D&C 88:118), here are the books I'd recommend for becoming grounded in clear thinking so that you can ascertain the truth.

1- Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker. In this book, Professor Pinker provides an excellent overview of how to use the normative tools of rationality to think clearly and make solid inferences about the evidence.

2- The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll. This book talks more about how science and clear thinking works, what science does and does not know, and how much confidence we ought to have in various scientific results. It's surprising how much scientists have figured out, how robust those conclusions now are, and what those conclusions imply about other things.

3-Collective Illusions: Conformity, Complicity, and the Science of Why We Make Bad Decisions by Todd Rose. This book puts more emphasis on how our opinions affect and are affected by the groups of people we surround ourselves with.

4- Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain by Michael Gazzaniga. This takes a deep look into who we really are and what we know about the brain, consciousness, how we think, and free will.

Some ways of going about finding the truth are designed to overcome biases that are baked into the way humans think. Other ways are designed to exploit those same biases in order to cause us to believe what we want to believe. If somebody really wants to ascertain the truth, it's worth taking a big step back and analyzing what methodologies have the best track records of leading to actual truth.

Positivism is dead.

If you don't believe it, just google those words.

Passmore was one of the inventors of positivism and even he says

"Logical positivism, then, is dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes" (Passmore, 1967).

I would suggest keeping that in mind while reading anything 

Edited by mfbukowski
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25 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

Positivism is dead.

If you don't believe it, just google those words.

Passmore was one of the inventors of positivism and even he says

"Logical positivism, then, is dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes" (Passmore, 1967).

I would suggest keeping that in mind while reading anything 

Is rationality dead? Is logic dead? Is critical thinking dead? Is probability theory dead? Is rational choice and expected utility theory dead? Is Bayesian reasoning dead? Is signal detection and statistical decision theory dead? Is game theory dead? Is empiricism dead? Is psychology dead? Is cognitive neuroscience dead?

Asking for a friend.

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32 minutes ago, Analytics said:

Is rationality dead? Is logic dead? Is critical thinking dead? Is probability theory dead? Is rational choice and expected utility theory dead? Is Bayesian reasoning dead? Is signal detection and statistical decision theory dead? Is game theory dead? Is empiricism dead? Is psychology dead? Is cognitive neuroscience dead?

Asking for a friend.

These have all changed in the last hundred years to accomodate Postmodernism.

Tell your friend.   Religion cannot be proven right OR wrong by any of these ideas that work well for experimental science.   Religion ain't that.

Religion is more LIKE psychotherapy and cognitive science.

Quote

Psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”) is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

>Google dictionary   Infallibility at its best.

Alma 32.   What is "sweet" and works in your life as a belief system is "true" IF you are looking for your PERSONAL PURPOSE in life.

Religion ain't about "facts" ;)

Stories about people who lived thousands of years ago have nothing to do with rationality, logic, critical thinking, rational choice and expected utility theory ,Bayesian reasoning ,signal detection and statistical decision theory, game theory, or empiricism unless you are talking about Radical Empiricism.

None of those disciplines have anything to do with our PURPOSE of life or morals.   By now you would think your friend could clearly see the difference in questioning how the world works objectively and our purposes in being IN that world.

Of course he is likely to believe we HAVE no purpose and that is exactly the problem.  But tell him nicely, ok?  ;)   A lot of other people don't know that either.  :)

Your typical answer is usually "But the LDS church does not teach that!"

Well Alma 32 does and I think the church has not thrown that one out yet.  It certainly does provide a paradigm that causes that reaction in millions of people.

 

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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