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Writing about the Book of Mormon as an environmentalist


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11 hours ago, smac97 said:

I can appreciate that.  I wasn't really advocating that approach as much as noting that it is, by way of necessity, the typical way people come to accept the Restored Gospel.  I think most folks lack the time, resources, etc. to keep the Book of Mormon at arm's length, examining it from each of the various perspectives in "Category A" (naturalistic-secular), "Category B" (naturalistic-non-secular) and "Category C" (historicity / JS-H).  I don't think we ought to expect missionaries to lay out these mutually exclusive approaches to investigators.  Just as you propose to stake out a position on the origins of the Book of Mormon and proceed thereon, so too ought the missionaries proceed from the Church's position on the origins.

I wouldn't expect that either. That's not the missionaries' job. Their job is to present the Gospel to others for their consideration. By necessity, they need to keep the presentation basic. If I were to advocate anything, it would be merely that the Church allow members the freedom.

11 hours ago, smac97 said:

I lack context to understand what you are saying here.

I may be mistaken, but I thought it was in response to you that I linked to my conversion story. In any case, that should give you enough context to ask more questions.

11 hours ago, smac97 said:

I acknowledge that.  "The exception that proves the rule" and all that.

I have known many, many people who, having rejected historicity, jettison the book, the Church, the Restored Gospel, the whole shebang.  

I am genuinely happy that you have been able to thread the needle, but I will continue to oppose this line of reasoning, as I find it fundamentally flawed, both as a matter of reasoning/evidence and contradicting Joseph Smith, the scriptures, the Brethren, and so on.  That said, I will reiterate this point:

May I propose that at least part of the reason for this is precisely because of the all-or-nothing mentality you're advocating? If I had already been in the Church when I concluded against historicity, chances are I would have jettisoned the whole shebang as well. Indeed, the biggest barrier keeping me from becoming Mormon was the conclusion against historicity. It is possible I was able to thread the needle precisely because I wasn't in the Church yet. I had the freedom to explore that I wouldn't have had if I had been a Church that for most of my life had been pushing such an all-or-nothing position.

As I mentioned in another post, part of my purpose is to help those who are going through a similar faith crisis I went through. The very fact there are alternatives makes it less likely that rejecting historicity will lead to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

12 hours ago, smac97 said:

"Authenticity" = "the quality of being authentic."

"Authentic" = "of undisputed origin; genuine."

If I say "I am staking out a position on the origins/provenance/authorship of Hamlet as being authored by Francis Bacon, but I am saying nothing about Hamlet as an 'authentic" work of Shakespeare," that . . . doesn't track.  

Joseph Smith said X about the origins/provenance/authorship of the Book of Mormon.  You are asserting Not-X about the origins/provenance/authorship.  

Authenticity, like beauty, is the eye of the beholder. Take the Jackson Pollack painting story you posted. The painting is said to be worthless if Pollack himself didn't create it. Likewise, it is said to be priceless if he did create it. There are people who are willing to take the gamble to the tune of millions of dollars because if it does turn out to be Pollack's creation, they will make an immense profit. What has gotten lost in the story you presented is the painting itself. Is it a good painting? If so, then that is in itself reason enough to preserve and display it. If it is a genuine Pollack, then Pollack himself didn't it was that good--he threw it away!

Obviously for you, the Book of Mormon is authentic if, and only if it (and stories behind it) correspond to "reality." I accept that, and I respect that. I just don't see the Book of Mormon's authenticity that way. Regardless of whether the origins/provenance/authorship is X or not-X, God speaks to me through it. That is all I need for it to be authentic.

12 hours ago, smac97 said:

I don't dispute that the Witness statements are included in the published copies of the Book of Mormon.  But declaring them to be "part of the text" presupposes a paradigm.  It's a presupposition that stacks the deck.

Sure it presupposes a paradigm. What's wrong with that? Declaring them to not be part of the text also presupposes a paradigm.

12 hours ago, smac97 said:

Your statement is a presupposition about the text.

If I were to pull out a copy of "The Complete Works of Jane Austen," with a forward by this or that English lit scholar, it wouldn't really work to say that this scholar's commentary about Austen's work is part of the text written by Austen.  That is factually incorrect and misleading.

Here, the statements of the Witnesses can only be characterized as "part of the text" of the Book of Mormon if the "Category A" or "Category B" is presumed.  Under "Category C," this statement would be factually incorrect and misleading.

The paradigmatic contest continues apace.

I see your point, and I grant that I need to more fully develop the argument to account for things like forwards. In fact, I am pulling back from the hard statement that it is a part of the text. Instead, I'm going modify the statement to something like, "It should be seen as part of the text." Even so, I don't know if it is a matter of your categories being presumed. The Book of Mormon itself, along with Joseph's revelations on the matter, make such a big deal about the witnesses it could be argued that the Testimonies should be seen as part of the text even if one falls into your category C.

12 hours ago, smac97 said:

Of course you are.  The basic premise is nothing but a disputation about "the authenticity of the text."  Your "approach" is wholly separate from and incompatible with the explanation of "the authenticity of the text" as explained by Joseph Smith.  He denied authorship, you are calling him a liar or a lunatic.  Readers must accept his explanation, or else yours.  

Again with the all-or-nothing mentality. I am NOT calling Joseph a liar or a lunatic. You may well (and you have) taken issue with my model of Joseph as a mythmaker, and that is fine and well. But you do not get to accuse me of doing something that I am not.

It's not even as simple a matter of readers having to accept his explanation or mine. I'm not challenging Joseph's explanation so much as I am exploring what is going on behind the scenes as it were. That takes care of the liar part since the starting point is that he is telling the truth as he knows it. Insofar as I propose that my model doesn't require Joseph be consciously aware of he was doing, the lunatic part seems applicable. However, many of our own actions are driven by subconscious factors we simply aren't aware of. So all I'm "accusing" Joseph of is ... being human.

 

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38 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Regarding the possibility of approaching the Book of Mormon from an environmentalist perspective that respects faith, if you can manage it, more power to you.  I've read several attempts over the years, including Mark Thomas's Digging in Cumorah up to more recent attempts by Taves, Hickman and Fenton.  None of them have won me over, for various reasons. 

I'm not necessarily trying to "win you over." If nothing else, my conversation with smac97 is enough to prove I can't do that even if I were to try. I don't need you (speaking generically, not personally) to agree with me. If I "need" anything from you (again speaking generically), it would be an acknowledgement that I have succeeded in respecting faith in my approach. So I would be more attuned to critiques of tone than substance, for example.

I'm going to skip over your discussion of Thomas for now. I will still respond if you really want me to, but I think at this point responding would just involve getting into a pointless debate.

1 hour ago, Kevin Christensen said:

So, who has the best reading today?  And will the same reading be the best reading tomorrow or 10 or 20 years or more from now, in light of new information?  What is the best way to prepare our minds and check our uncritical presuppositioning?   Tagriffy mentions my use of Kuhn, which is good.  After Sunstone published an essay by Dan Vogel criticizing my use of Kuhn, I asked editor Dan Wotherspoon if he had personally read Kuhn.  Nope, and that explained a lot about Vogel's essay being published.  I noticed that Vogel's quotations followed mine rather slavishly, which was interesting if I was somehow misusing or misreading Kuhn.

Please feel free to call me Tim.

I'm skipping down here not because I am disputing you. Instead, I want to offer you unmitigated praise. I had fact read Kuhn before I knew you were making use of his work (it was required reading in one of my history courses). I mentioned Vogel's response in the same way that I cited historicist work to point readers to opposing views. But I hope I clearly communicated that I was taking your side. It was your work sparked the essay in the first place. Accepting your description that the historicity debate was a paradigm debate directly led to my desire to describe the environmentalist paradigm and how that paradigm serves Book of Mormon interpretation.

As I mentioned, even if the essay was not formally published, I found the very act of writing it very cathartic. I became less and less interested in debating historicity as such. Indeed, I've become so disinterested in debating historicity as such that smac97's assertion that I am sidestepping issues he finds important is not entirely without justification. I've become more focused on the text itself. I am now content that my work serve as an alternative rather than as proof my view is correct.

I understand that this may have quite what you have intended, but I owe all of that to you. Thank you.

 

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18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

That is a lot harder to answer. At the root of your question is another question? What is the nature of divine inspiration? When I was an evangelical, I took a similar view that the biblical writers were acting as a medium for the Lord. The view that was hammered into me was either that or it was nothing. But there came a point where I could no longer hold the "medium view," and that precipitated a faith crisis. I couldn't accept the "medium view" anymore, but neither could I deny that God spoke to me through the Bible. It wasn't that, but it was still something.

Raymond Brown's popular works can probably do a much job of explaining than I can. One way to think about it is to imagine that divine inspiration and scripture writing is an interactive process. God burdens the prophet with his message, and the prophet has to figure out a way to get that message across. But unlike God, who has an eagle's eye view as it were, the prophet is stuck in a specific historical-cultural situation. And of course, the only way a prophet can communicate is by using language.

I lean most toward the intellect theory with the actual writing process being stream of consciousness. He had the ability and he had the project in his mind for years. We could add that once Joseph sat down and started applying himself, additional impressions came in and those impressions found their way into the text as we now have it.

No offense taken. Indeed, one of the reasons I took such care to point to opposing views without comment is precisely because I'm not positing my theory is the only possible right answer. And one of the audiences I have in mind are those who have difficulty with a historical Book of Mormon but want to maintain faith in it. If I can prevent or help someone through a faith crisis like I had about the Bible, my work will have proven its worth.

I do like the idea of offering it as merely another perspective. That alone would help me avoid fights that I'm not inclined to be involved with anymore.

That is the question - what is the nature of divine inspiration as it applies to Joseph Smith and the production of the Book of Mormon.   I think our understanding is probably more similar than different.  When I describe Joseph as a sort of medium for the Lord, I don't believe that was an entirely passive process.   I fully agree that the production of the Book of Mormon was more of an "interactive process" as you describe, as Joseph needed to interpret what can only be described as a mystical experience into his own language. 

Modern researchers generally divide mysticism into two general categories - apophatic and kataphatic.  Apophatic mystics employ a process of emptying the mind and becoming devoid of sensory content - if any thoughts, visions, feelings enter the mind they work on ignoring them and embracing the void.  Kataphatic mystics do the opposite.  They are more active and their experiences often involve visions, etc.   Mystical experiences from different religious traditions all tend to share the following chacteristics.  They are ineffable, they are noetic, and they are passive.   While they may be induced in various fashion through meditation etc., once induced the mystic feels "out of control" as if they are "grasped by a superior power" (Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology by Happold).  

Being a practitioner of meditation myself I employ a hybrid method of apophatic and kataphatic approaches. The apophatic method was inspired by studying contemplative prayer in the Catholic tradition where the goal is to empty the mind.  I use the exercise as preparation for a more kataphatic experience.   I look at quieting and emptying the mind much like spiritual preparation for entering the sanctuary of the temple.  I am leaving the world behind to enter the holy of holies where the Lord can have influence.  Where the still small voice can be heard in the quiet of the heart.  When I feel sufficiently calm and emptied, I begin a more focused and active prayer and invite the spirit to direct my prayer.  On occasion, I have has what I can only describe as mystical experiences where I felt grasped by a superior power and felt out of control as I was guided in vision type experience.  As I was guided in vision, I would actively "study it out in my mind" asking if this was my own subconscious or if it was from the spirit - much like Joseph Smith describes.  Not realizing until later that I was paralleling Joseph's experience in many ways.   

When God burdens someone with a message through a mystical experience, that experience is passive in that the message is not choice as much as it is an endowment or "stream of consciousness", as you say, from an outside source.  They did not "author" the vision, experience, or insight - it is a stream of consciousness the flows into them.  The only choice they have is in how to interpret and communicate an ineffable experience into words.   In that way, I view Joseph more as a medium than an author.  I don't think his choices were as free and liberal as you portray though (deciding if Mormon would live or die, for example).  His only choice was "is this right" (from God) or is this "wrong" (from my own mind).  Then he also had the subsequent choice of how to put it into language.

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Whether through auto-dictation, automatic writing or some other means, Joseph Smith may have generated the Book of Mormon through an ecstatic process. If the descriptions of people experienced at scrying are to be believed, then Joseph emptied his mind and words or images flooded in to fill the void. Joseph would have needed to interpret those words or images, form them into coherent sentences, and dictate them to his scribe. Joseph's response to Oliver Cowdery's failed attempt at translating takes on new meaning when viewed in this light. Oliver came to Joseph as a trained rodsman—i.e., someone trained in the use of divining rods—and as such, would probably have expected that the correct translations would be received from an outside source. Instead, he was told that it was necessary to -

"study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I
will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is
right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you
cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. Now, if you had
known this you could have translated (D&C 9:7-10)."

https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V36N04_63.pdf

 

By placing his head in a hat, Joseph may have been employing a method of emptying his mind by limiting all external stimuli, after which a more active process of receiving impressions/visions/images that he studied out to see if they were right.  That to me is very descriptive of a more "medium" approach to the production of the Book of Mormon.  Perhaps we are only differing on semantics. 

Edited by pogi
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4 minutes ago, pogi said:

When God burdens someone with a message through a mystical experience, that experience is passive in that the message is not choice as much as it is an endowment or "stream of consciousness", as you say, from an outside source.  They did not "author" the vision, experience, or insight - it is a stream of consciousness the flows into them.  The only choice they have is in how to interpret and communicate an ineffable experience into words.   In that way, I view Joseph more as a medium than an author.  I don't think his choices were as free and liberal as you portray though (deciding if Mormon would live or die, for example).  His only choice was "is this right" (from God) or is this "wrong" (from my own mind).  Then he also had the subsequent choice of how to put it into language.

Reading your post, I am inclined to agree we are only differing in semantics. I see no substantial difference in substance, only in how it actually plays out.

A minor disagreement I do have is the idea that the Joseph's only choice is correct or incorrect. The Book of Mormon itself warns that "if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God" (Title Page). This allows for the possibility that "wrong" in your terms could find its way into scripture. Note for this purpose this goes beyond the choice of how to put it in language. Note I am not saying the possibility of such errors is not justification not to go looking for them. But this possibility does have an impact on the question of what scripture is. If we allow the possibility that "wrong" in your terms is in scripture, then scripture is not really a question of whether it is human or divine since it would in fact be both.

If this is so, then it radically alters the way we should interact with scripture. We can no longer just simply accept what scripture appears to say just because it is "the word of God." The mere possibility that scripture could contain "the mistakes of men" precludes that. Now we have to use discernment and critical thinking when reading scripture.

To take an issue that has come up in another thread, does "God hate f--s" as some reprobates put it? Certainly there are passages in scripture that might point that way. However, these are just a handful of passages. On the other hand, scripture makes it clear over and over and over again that "God is love" (1 John 4:7). This means we have to at least consider those passages are mistakes of men.

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20 hours ago, smac97 said:

I guess the lawyer in my compels some resistance to this.  I am not persuaded that these things "could" be done.  There are ample grounds for reasoned, principled, evidence-based disagreements about Sorenson's work, Welch's work, and so on.  In the end, though, the "judge," the arbiter/factfinder, is the individual.  Whereas secular judges have discretionary authority in many ways, in the main they are hemmed by the "the law," by the rules of procedure and evidence, and so on.  The individual, on the other hand, faces no such constraints.  There is nothing improper about insisting on a skeptical/naturalistic explanation as a starting point, but given that the topic at hand is fundamentally religious/faith-based, neither is there anything improper about adopting a "seed of faith" approach.  Either way, however, the individual will likely want to go through, not around, the evidence and analysis in order to reach a conclusion. 

I think quite a bit is, or can be, "accomplished by doing this."  As Joseph Smith aptly observed: “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.”  Our legal system is intrinsically adversarial precisely because the objective is to reach a conclusion about a dispute for which inconsistent claims are being made.  In the end, the judge has to make "findings of fact" and reach "conclusions of law."  That process necessarily requires the weighing of evidence, and the presenting of analysis and argument.  Broadly speaking, "sidestepping" doesn't work here.

Some skeptics may be on board with this approach, as you would be essentially pushing against an open door.  They will already agree with both your naturalistic ("environmentalist") assumptions and conclusions, such that you will be mostly telling them things they have already accepted.  And sidestepping apologetic ("historicist") arguments would certainly be easier than substantively engaging them.  Alas, I think this is already the state of things in many ways.

Meanwhile, the faith-based folks will likely not give your approach the time of day.  Faithful Latter-day Saints will see it as an alternative and incompatible narrative to the one espoused by Joseph Smith, the Witnesses, etc., and they would be correct in that assessment.  People investigating the Church will likely already be of a "seed of faith" bent, and in any event would likely not even be aware of your approach.

That seems like the "what," not the "how" of debating.  The "how" is almost always adversarial.  We refine a theory by challenging it.  We discovery new facts and then argue as to their significance and probative value.  We ask new questions and wrangle as to the most reasonable answers.  We determine how it all fits together by, as Joseph Smith put it, "proving contraries."

FWIW, I think most of this happens after an individual's conversion, which is (or should be) principally an exercise in faith.  The individual looks at the broad strokes drawn by missionaries, primary and Sunday School and seminary/institute teachers, and then starts to fill in the blanks.  But for my testimony being rooted in spiritual/revelatory experiences with the Gospel, I don't think I would have remained a member.

I don't see how you can avoid "asking whether the text is compatible with the narrative in JS-H."  It's baked into every word you write in support of your approach.  A naturalistic/"environmentalist" approach, whether "secular" or "non-secular," creates inherent incompatibilities with JS-H.  It's an either/or situation.  An interested party either accepts your explanation or Joseph Smith's.  

By way of illustration, consider this story

It matters whether the painting actually is a Jackson Pollock.  It also matters whether people believe it is an actual Jackson Pollock.  The difference here is stark.  If established as not a Jackson Pollock, the painting is worth little or nothing.  If an individual is willing to wager $2 million or $9 million that it might be a Jackson Pollock, then that's a very different story.  And if the painting is established as a Jackson Pollock, then the painting's value is astronomical. 

Value and authenticity are intertwined.  If someone were to come along and say "I'm not asking whether this painting is an authentic Jackson Pollock," then what's the point of examining the painting without regard to authenticity?  "For the sake of art" works, I suppose, but I think very few people would be interested in musing about this painting.  It may even have some intrinsic artistic merit (I'm not a big Pollock fan, but to each his own), but in terms of monetary value, it's nothing noteworthy or particular.

So it is, I think, with the Book of Mormon.  I previously commented on this point here:

The value of the Restored Gospel, including the Book of Mormon is, for me, inextricably linked with its realness and authenticity, with what it claims to be.  

Well, no.  Your essay goes much further than that.  You are expressly staking out a position as to the texts origins / provenance / authenticity:

  • So, environmentalist scholars produce data they believe points to a modern origin for the Book of Mormon.
  • The environmentalist position is traditionally a position taken by anti-Mormons and used to attack Mormonism.
  • Environmentalists have looked at Joseph Smith’s background, examined the Book of Mormon text, looked at American archaeology, consulted biblical scholarship, surveyed DNA studies, and considered population models. All these studies purport to show a modern origin for the Book of Mormon.
  • The environmentalist position derives from a network of interconnected assumptions, hypotheses, and information; no single argument is essential, and that is a point we must stress.
  • Currently, environmentalist scholarship is focused on showing Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. 

If we were discussing just the text and meaning of Hamlet, but not its authorship, then that's fine.  The words have beauty and significance all their own, regardless of who actually wrote them.

But if the analysis also disputes Shakespeare's authorship (in favor of, say, Francis Bacon), then I don't think it would do for you to say "this essay is about Hamlet, not Shakespeare." 

Only if you presuppose that Joseph or a contemporary authored the text.  Otherwise, the statements of the Witnesses were added to the published translation of an ancient text, and were not "part of" it.

I don't think you can base a thesis on disputing the authenticity of the text, then turn around and say that the natural and foreseeable ramifications of that dispute are "irrelevant."  

Joseph Smith never claimed that he wrote the Book of Mormon.  Joseph Smith claimed to have discovered ancient gold plates.  Eleven other men attested to seeing these plates.  Joseph Smith also claims to have been visited by Moroni and other angelic beings.  Joseph Smith spent the remainder of his life under threat due to these claims.  He wrote D&C 27, which he presents as a revelation from Jesus Christ, and in which the Lord states: "Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim."

You are setting your theory as an alternative and superior, and incompatible, explanation for the Book of Mormon.  For those who believe it is what it claims to be, sidestepping this is not enough.

Thanks,

-Smac

Interesting that you would bring up Pollock in this context.

I was in the art business for years, and was a gallery owner and associated with a lot of contemporary artists here in LA and studied art history pretty extensively- nearly got a Masters degree- until I took up with other pursuits like this strange religion called "Mormonism" ;).   Dealing WITH artists is why I stopped dealing the WORK of artists!

They did not understand business.   Period.

Very few do.   Well at least I can say that I am at least trained in art history about as much as I am in philosophy, not that it matters, but just to show that I do know at least a little academically about both subjects.

People who have not been trained in art history often do not understand why someone could throw paint at a canvas and then expect their paintings to be worth millions of dollars.  In fact there are "artists" who have the same problem, and that is why I am out of the business.

In short, Pollock's work is valuable AS art because of his choice of colors, and shapes and how they clash or harmonize with the colors around them.  There is no question of whether or not Pollock was trained, knew art history, but primarily had great artistic advisors who coached him along his path.

All this fits well into the Postmodernist 20th century movement, where both in art and literature the idea that language AND/OR art became no longer "representational of reality" but disciplines in themselves which were to be appreciated not for their ability to represent but for their transmit and cause NEW EXPERIENCES based on their own content.

Painting "jumped off the wall" and involved  the viewer not as a mirror of reality but as an object for discussion, and for giving the viewer some kind of new experience!

The effect the object had on one was more important than it's obvious "content".  One now interacted with the ART not with what it supposedly "represented".

In literature as well, well established ideas were being challenged on what a "story" was, what was fiction or non-fiction, down to the basis of language itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_literature
 

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Sometimes the term "postmodernism" is used to discuss many different things ranging from architecture to historical theory to philosophy and film. Because of this fact, several people distinguish between several forms of postmodernism and thus suggest that there are three forms of postmodernism: (1) Postmodernity is understood as a historical period from the mid-1960s to the present, which is different from the (2) theoretical postmodernism, which encompasses the theories developed by thinkers such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and others. The third category is the “cultural postmodernism,” which includes film, literature, visual arts, etc. that feature postmodern elements. Postmodern literature is, in this sense, part of cultural postmodernism.[7]

 

 

So what does all this have to do with the Book of Mormon?

Seen through Postmodernism, literature in general is to be seen for its SIGNIFICANCE and not necessarily for its content.   Unsurprisingly that also applies to art.

The Pollock paintngs are valuable in themselves for the fact that there are enough art critcs and collectors who understand art history to see art not necessarily as a skill but for the whole milieu which the work affects. 

I can almost hear my contemporaries "A drip painting in the MET?  Heck yeah- the times they are a'changin'" ;)   

Why would this guy Pollock get so much money for throwing paint at a canvas?  Precisely because it exists in a coherent way, when seen historically, as a treatise and statement about the state of culture and the vast changes.

Every person is expected to get their own "testimony" of a Pollock painting when one sees it as an object standing on its own- it is a new and perhaps for some, assaulting experience that causes them,hopefully to think on their own.

It's intent is to BREAK with history- it is its own new manifesto for a new paradigm for a way of seeing art.

In many ways I see the Book of Mormon- written for these days, VERY clearly- in a similar way.   It is challenging history.  It encourages a new way of seeing what scripture itself IS at its core.  It boldly proclaims that YOU can and WILL have your own testimony experience by reading its pages and absorbing its content, for crawling inside it and sharing the points of view and the realities of its writers, and most important meeting it on its own terms and HAVING a spiritual experience confirming its own authenticity.

It can be seen as a non-representational book that transcends representation and invites us all to see it for ourselves, even as one looks at a Pollock painting, yet this volume leads to God and Jesus Christ, written for out postmodern age.

THAT's what it is about- that's how I see it.  Confront its very existence, take it into your own heart and take it to God even if it is the first time you have ever prayed in your life, and follow what you learn.

Regarding historicity now and back to Pollock- the only reason a "real" Pollock is worth more than a "fake Pollock" is the value of his "signature" if there is an actual signature or not- THAT is the difference between the value of a Pollock look-alike and a certified "genuine" Pollock; with art it is provenance provenance provenance!!

Joseph Smith's signature now can fetch $80,000.

A Thomas Jefferson signature has one price but if it is an historically important document it fetches much more.   And so a Pollock painting that is suspect sells for less simply because it lacks the value of his "signature, ie provenance.

https://natedsanders.com/blog/2018/04/joseph-smith-autograph/#:~:text=Auction or Sell a Joseph,Sanders Auctions

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

Reading your post, I am inclined to agree we are only differing in semantics. I see no substantial difference in substance, only in how it actually plays out.

A minor disagreement I do have is the idea that the Joseph's only choice is correct or incorrect. The Book of Mormon itself warns that "if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God" (Title Page). This allows for the possibility that "wrong" in your terms could find its way into scripture. Note for this purpose this goes beyond the choice of how to put it in language. Note I am not saying the possibility of such errors is not justification not to go looking for them. But this possibility does have an impact on the question of what scripture is. If we allow the possibility that "wrong" in your terms is in scripture, then scripture is not really a question of whether it is human or divine since it would in fact be both.

If this is so, then it radically alters the way we should interact with scripture. We can no longer just simply accept what scripture appears to say just because it is "the word of God." The mere possibility that scripture could contain "the mistakes of men" precludes that. Now we have to use discernment and critical thinking when reading scripture.

To take an issue that has come up in another thread, does "God hate f--s" as some reprobates put it? Certainly there are passages in scripture that might point that way. However, these are just a handful of passages. On the other hand, scripture makes it clear over and over and over again that "God is love" (1 John 4:7). This means we have to at least consider those passages are mistakes of men.

All very good points.  I don't disagree at all.  

I still hold that the overall general narrative of the Book of Mormon was something that was largely inspired by the Lord and not generated by Joseph's own authorship.  I don't think he made-up, or chose the story, for the most part

In my own practice of meditation, there are times where there is no doubt that what I receive is undeniably from the Lord, there are other times when I am less certain that it isn't my own subconscious jumping out at me.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are elements of Joseph in the narrative in that same way.  But, the descriptions of the process and Joseph's testimony of being led by the "power of God", this all resembles classical mystical experience which is always described as largely passive - meaning that it is more something that is happening to the person, rather than something they have any control over.   

He was human, and all prophets are fallible.  There is bountiful evidence where proclamations of prophecy actually were not prophetic after all - later to be denounced by the church.  The book itself claims that human fallibility may be evidenced in the words.  All of this leads me to have little doubt that the Book of Mormon is at it claims, and as you suggest, both divine and human.  I suppose there is that spectrum of which way it leans (divine or human) - based on my understanding of mystical experience, I favor a more passive, divinely guided narrative.  

Edited by pogi
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3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I wouldn't expect that either. That's not the missionaries' job. Their job is to present the Gospel to others for their consideration. By necessity, they need to keep the presentation basic. If I were to advocate anything, it would be merely that the Church allow members the freedom.

"The freedom" to . . . ?  

If you mean something like "The Church should allow members the freedom to believe that the Book of Mormon is a 19th-century production, written - not 'translated' - by Joseph Smith," then I am pretty much on board with you.  I think the Church already allows such freedom.  I have some views on issues here or there that may, in the end, turn out to be substantively incorrect.  We "see through a glass, darkly" and all that, so gaps and errors in our finite comprehension of revealed truths (and even some unrevealed truths) are to be expected.  I made the following comment earlier this month (regarding Patrick Mason) :

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What I was really interested in is whether some of the solid believers here, and I include you in that camp, think Mason's views are acceptable to be considered an active orthodox Latter day-Saint. 

Just having reviewed the summary, he does seem to have a few eyebrow-raising things to say.  And I think him saying such things in a fireside could be problematic.  But I don't know him, nor have I interacted with him, nor do I have any stewardship over him, so I feel no particular inclination to adjudicate whether or not he is sufficiently "acceptable" or "orthodox."  I tend to pay more attention to what I suppose could be called orthopraxy, which in my view is a mixture of right motives and right conduct.  I think someone who is earnestly seeking to do what is right may nevertheless err here and there in his understanding of this or that point of doctrine.  As Joseph Smith put it: "It [doesn't] prove that a man is not a good man, because he errs in doctrine."

On the other hand, if you you mean something like "The Church should allow members the freedom to publicly espouse positions which contravene the doctrines of the Church, and to persuade others to accept these countervailing positions in lieu of the doctrines of the Church," then that becomes more problematic.  Back in 2019 I made the following comments about Denver Snuffer:

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First, I think there is a fairly significant difference between "holding" and "teaching" a belief about a point of doctrine.

Second, not all heterodox viewpoints are created equal. Some points of doctrine are open to some fairly broad interpretation. Latter-day Saints hold all sorts of viewpoints about things like the scope of Noah's flood, evolution, and so on. I think it's hard to claim there are orthodox/heterodox positions about such things, largely because we presently lack sufficient light and knowledge to be able to definitively state the scope of the flood, or the role (or lack thereof) of evolution in the creative process and/or the development of man, and so on.

Third, notwithstanding point no. 2 above, there are some beliefs, as publicly taught to others, that are susceptible to testability and being found incompatible with maintaining good standing in the Church.  The Restored Gospel allows us a fair amount of flexibility of belief and conduct, but that flexibility is not unlimited. For example, Amasa Lyman, a prominent early leader of the Church, was excommunicated for repeatedly giving sermons "which all but denied the reality of and the necessity for the atonement of Jesus Christ" and for his association with apostates (Godbeites).  So to your question about whether a person can be excommunicated for, as you put it, "openly holding or teaching heterodox views," the answer in Amasa Lyman's case was clearly "yes." I suppose we can now say the same about Denver Snuffer and John Dehlin.

Fourth, we are repeatedly commanded to not preach or accept false doctrine:

  • Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you: Deut. 4:2 . ( Deut. 12:32 ; Prov. 30:6 ; Rev. 22:18–19 . )
  • How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood? Job 21:34.
  • Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad.  Ezek. 13:22.
  • If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  Gal. 1:9.
  • But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  2 Pet. 2:1.
  • Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.  2 Nephi 28:9.
  • Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.  2 Nephi 28:12.
  • And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.  Jac. 7:2.
  • Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.  Alma 1:16.
  • That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.  Eph. 4:14.

Fifth, the preaching of false doctrine is not a whoopsy daisy.  If continued in defiance of priesthood counsel, it amounts to apostasy.

Sixth, to the extent "holding or teaching heterodox views" = preaching of false doctrine in continued defiance of priesthood counsel, that amounts to apostasy and requires disciplinary action.

Do wholly alternative explanations of the origins of the Book of Mormon fit into the third point above ("there are some beliefs, as publicly taught to others, that are susceptible to testability and being found incompatible with maintaining good standing in the Church")?  Candidly, I think so.  Consider these excerpts from Elder Oaks' essay in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures

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Some who term themselves believing Latter-day Saints are advocating that Latter-day Saints should “abandon claims that [the Book of Mormon] is a historical record of the ancient peoples of the Americas.” [2] They are promoting the feasibility of reading and using the Book of Mormon as nothing more than a pious fiction with some valuable contents. These practitioners of so-called “higher criticism” raise the question of whether the Book of Mormon, which our prophets have put forward as the preeminent scripture of this dispensation, is fact or fable—history or just a story.
...
I maintain that the issue of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is basically a difference between those who rely exclusively on scholarship and those who rely on a combination of scholarship, faith, and revelation.
...
{I}t is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit. Our side will settle for a draw, but those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon cannot settle for a draw. They must try to disprove its historicity—or they seem to feel a necessity to do this—and in this they are unsuccessful because even the secular evidence, viewed in its entirety, is too complex for that.
...
Some Latter-day Saint critics who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon seek to make their proposed approach persuasive to Latter-day Saints by praising or affirming the value of some of the content of the book. Those who take this approach assume the significant burden of explaining how they can praise the contents of a book they have dismissed as a fable. I have never been able to understand the similar approach in reference to the divinity of the Savior. As we know, some scholars and some ministers proclaim Him to be a great teacher and then have to explain how the one who gave such sublime teachings could proclaim himself (falsely they say) to be the Son of God who would be resurrected from the dead.

The new-style critics have the same problem with the Book of Mormon. For example, we might affirm the value of the teachings recorded in the name of a man named Moroni, but if these teachings have value, how do we explain these statements also attributed to this man? “And if there be faults [in this record] they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire” (Morm. 8:17). “And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?” (Moro. 10:27).

There is something strange about accepting the moral or religious content of a book while rejecting the truthfulness of its authors’ declarations, predictions, and statements. This approach not only rejects the concepts of faith and revelation that the Book of Mormon explains and advocates, but it is also not even good scholarship.
...
The Book of Mormon’s major significance is its witness of Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God the Eternal Father who redeems and saves us from death and sin. If an account stands as a preeminent witness of Jesus Christ, how can it possibly make no difference whether the account is fact or fable—whether the persons really lived who prophesied of Christ and gave eye witnesses of His appearances to them?

Professor John W. Welch pointed out to me that this new wave of antihistoricism “may be a new kid on the block in Salt Lake City, but it has been around in a lot of other Christian neighborhoods for several decades.” Indeed! The argument that it makes no difference whether the Book of Mormon is fact or fable is surely a sibling to the argument that it makes no difference whether Jesus Christ ever lived. As we know, there are many so-called Christian teachers who espouse the teachings and deny the teacher. Beyond that, there are those who even deny the existence or the knowability of God. Their counterparts in Mormondom embrace some of the teachings of the Book of Mormon but deny its historicity.

President Oaks sometimes lets his background as an advocate outshine his experiences as a diplomat.  He speaks very plainly here.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I may be mistaken, but I thought it was in response to you that I linked to my conversion story. In any case, that should give you enough context to ask more questions.

I did not see the link.  A good read.  Thank you for sharing.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:
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I acknowledge that.  "The exception that proves the rule" and all that.

I have known many, many people who, having rejected historicity, jettison the book, the Church, the Restored Gospel, the whole shebang.  

I am genuinely happy that you have been able to thread the needle, but I will continue to oppose this line of reasoning, as I find it fundamentally flawed, both as a matter of reasoning/evidence and contradicting Joseph Smith, the scriptures, the Brethren, and so on.  That said, I will reiterate this point:

 

May I propose that at least part of the reason for this is precisely because of the all-or-nothing mentality you're advocating?

I reject this characterization.  I don't think I am espousing an "all-or-nothing" mentality.  As I said above: "The Restored Gospel allows us a fair amount of flexibility of belief and conduct, but that flexibility is not unlimited."

In March 1862, Amasa Lyman, then an apostle, delivered a sermon in Dundee, Scotland in which he denied the atonement of Jesus Christ. After being deprived of apostleship in 1867, he was repentant and formally asked forgiveness of his error, but later, he continued to preach this false doctrine and was excommunicated in 1870.  Here is a link to the text of his sermon.

Is publicly repudiating the Church's doctrines as to the origins of the Book of Mormon on par with denying the atonement?  For me, such a public repudiation amounts to playing with fire.  As Pres. Oaks put it: "The argument that it makes no difference whether the Book of Mormon is fact or fable is surely a sibling to the argument that it makes no difference whether Jesus Christ ever lived."  

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

If I had already been in the Church when I concluded against historicity, chances are I would have jettisoned the whole shebang as well. Indeed, the biggest barrier keeping me from becoming Mormon was the conclusion against historicity. It is possible I was able to thread the needle precisely because I wasn't in the Church yet. I had the freedom to explore that I wouldn't have had if I had been a Church that for most of my life had been pushing such an all-or-nothing position.

Again, I reject the characterization.  There are all sorts of areas as to the historicity of the Book of Mormon about which there is plenty of room for reasoned and principled disagreement.  The text has errors and biases.  Our understanding of the textual descriptions of peoples, events, cultures, environment, and of the translation process, etc. are all very much a work in progress.  So I don't take an "all-or-nothing position" on such things.  The issue here is the rejection of historicity entirely.  That's your position, not mine.  And it's far less flexible a position than mine is.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

As I mentioned in another post, part of my purpose is to help those who are going through a similar faith crisis I went through. The very fact there are alternatives makes it less likely that rejecting historicity will lead to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

As an abstraction, maybe.  But in practicality, I think rejecting historicity to cure an struggling testimony is akin to curing an illness by shooting the patient.

Again, I am very happy that this line of reasoning works for you and your faith.  For many others, I think it will prove to be caustic and corrosive.  

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:
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Joseph Smith said X about the origins/provenance/authorship of the Book of Mormon.  You are asserting Not-X about the origins/provenance/authorship.  

Authenticity, like beauty, is the eye of the beholder.

Well, no. Authenticity is a matter of fact and reality, not mere taste or preference.

Either Joe Biden is the "authentic" POTUS, or he is not.  As it happens, he is POTUS.  There is no reasonable dispute about that.  None.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.

The authorship of literary works generally attributed to William Shakespeare has been questioned, with some advancing alternatives such as Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere.  Despite such disagreements, however, the actual "authenticity" of these works is, in the end, not a matter of taste or preference, not an "eye of the beholder" kind of thing.  Someone had to have written these works.  Someone is the "authentic" author.  

I don't think we can or ought to equivocate here.  I took your statement about "the authenticity of the text" as pertaining to authorship and ancient origins, but you are equivocating by characterizing "authenticity" as in "authentically the word of God."

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Take the Jackson Pollack painting story you posted. The painting is said to be worthless if Pollack himself didn't create it. Likewise, it is said to be priceless if he did create it. There are people who are willing to take the gamble to the tune of millions of dollars because if it does turn out to be Pollack's creation, they will make an immense profit. What has gotten lost in the story you presented is the painting itself.

Not so.  I didn't lose that point at all.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Is it a good painting?

That is an entirely separate question from "Is it a Jackson Pollock?"

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

If so, then that is in itself reason enough to preserve and display it.

But not enough reason to pay millions and millions of dollars for it.  

Again, you are equivocating.  I was speaking of the paintings authenticity as affecting assessed monetary value, not whether or not it is "a good painting."

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Obviously for you, the Book of Mormon is authentic if, and only if it (and stories behind it) correspond to "reality."

Yes. 

If I wanted to climb Mount Everest, I would want an "authentic" guide.  An actually experienced and skills Sherpa or some other genuinely skilled/experienced mountaineer who knows the way.  Too much is at stake for me to say "I need a guide to help me ascent Mount Everest, but I don't really care whether he actually has the information and skills and experience to do so."

Going further, let's say (hypothetically) that I spend time and effort to locate a skilled guide.  I come across this website: https://www.alpineascents.com/climbs/mount-everest/

From the "About" section:

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Ben, the Sherpa, and other AAI staff all did great and I couldn’t have asked for a better climbing experience.

Ben did a great job and the entire staff was fantastic to be around. AAI went above and beyond the whole trip. Thank you for providing such a great experience.

Alpine Ascents is the cream of the crop on Everest. From the guides to the organization to the infrastructure – we have the best. This is just one small example of the kind of care and attention to detail that AAI has. I am truly grateful to be here and on this team.

With guides Ben Jones, leading the way, our 2022 team had an incredible summit day with clear skies and literally had the summit to themselves ! We encourage you to chat with former Everest  team members!
...

Our 2023 team will be led by Alpine Ascents’ Everest guide Ben Jones along with Jangbu Sherpa and Eric Murphy. As always, we will employ our famed Sherpa staff. Our Sherpa team is legendary throughout the climbing community and will be the mainstay of our summit support team. Our long time Sherpa team will set the route and manage a quality Base Camp, which is renowned throughout the great tent city at the foot of the mountain. We look to bestow our traditions and expertise on every climber.
...

With over 25 years of guiding experience on Everest, Alpine Ascents is recognized as the premier guide service to provide you a truly rewarding experience climbing to the summit of the highest mountain in the world. We are known for the quality of our logistical services and the expertise of our guides, Sherpa team, and Base Camp staff. We have the latest technology in weather forecasting and communication systems both on and off the mountain. Our Base Camp services, which provide private tents and well-prepared meals by western trained chefs allow you to relax and regain strength when returning from your acclimation climbs.

On the mountain, our guides and Sherpa are focused on your welfare and safety. Our philosophy is that by working together as a team we will climb safer and have more climbers reach the summit.  Through leadership and excellent climber care, this has proven true year after year, giving us the highest success rate on the mountain and an excellent safety record.

Well!  This all sounds good.  So I sign up with Alpine Ascents, travel to Nepal, arrive at the base camp, meet the guides (Ben Jones, Jangbu Sherpa, Eric Murphy) and make final preparations to begin the ascent.

At that point, however, I encounter a fellow at the base camp, who tells me that he has just found out that the outfit he had signed up with, Alpine Ascents, was a big fraud.  The guides have no experience guiding climbers on Mount Everest, let along "25 years" of it.  They have no "logistical services" to speak of, just old walkie-talkies (hardly "the latest technology in weather forecasting and communication systems").  Their vaunted "well-prepared meals by western trained chefs" are just ramen noodles and Snickers bars.  They are almost entirely fraudulent in everything they represented themselves by in the above website language.

For me, these revelations would matter.  A lot.  A lot.  I was going to be relying on the experience and skill of my guides to get me safely up and down the mountain, and now I find that they are a bunch of crooks and liars, and are bereft of the very attributes I need them to have.  I needed their advertised skills/experience to substantively correspond with their actual skills/experience.

Would you expect me, having made the foregoing realizations about my guides, to just shrug and say "Ah, well, I'm sure it'll all work out, lead on, Ben!"?

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I accept that, and I respect that. I just don't see the Book of Mormon's authenticity that way. Regardless of whether the origins/provenance/authorship is X or not-X, God speaks to me through it. That is all I need for it to be authentic.

If actual origins/provenance/authorship don't matter ("Regardless..."), then why insist on a position that it antithetical to what the text says about itself, what Joseph Smith said about it, what the Witnesses said about the Plates, what the prophets and apostles say about it, etc.?

I can enjoy Hamlet and MacBeth without really needing to definitively establish who wrote them (Shakespeare, Bacon, etc.).  

You conclude with "That is all I need for it to be authentic."  Again, I think there is some equivocation here.  Authenticity as to origins/provenance/authorship is quite a separate topic from "authenticity" meaning "God speaks to me through it."

Several years ago I had an interesting experience, and last year I wrote about it here:

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I am a lawyer, and for the last many years have been involved in representing banks and lenders in residential foreclosures.  Not the best job in the world, but it pays the bills.  Anyway, one day some years ago I received in the mail a documents styled as a "judgment" against me from the "Washington County Judicial Assembly" ("Washington County" is located in southern Utah).  As I recall, the judgment directed me to pay $16 million dollars in gold bullion to James ____________, the "judgment creditor" (a bank I represented had foreclosed on him a few months prior).  A few days later I got a frantic telephone call from a realtor in Washington County.  She told me that she had been hired by the bank to market James ____________'s foreclosed property, and that earlier that day James ____________ had approached her in the Wal-Mart parking lot in St. George (which is in Washingtin County), handed her the above-referenced "judgment" (she was named in it along with me and others a "judgment debtors"), and had tried to "escort" her (essentially kidnap her) by directing her into his vehicle so he could drive her to the "Washington County Judicial Assembly" and explain how she was going to pay the $16 million dollar judgment. 

I contacted the bank and notified them what had happened, and the bank hired a security detail for her until the property was sold.  As for me, however, I wasn't really worried.  The "judgment" looked official.  It had all the trappings of a judgment: a caption naming the parties and the "Judicial Assembly," the location, the entry of judgment, the dollar amount, the signature of the "judge," even an embossed stamp.  But the "Washington County Judicial Assembly" isn't an authorized court of law in Washington County (or anywhere else).  Apparently James ____________ and some friends made it up.  The judgment document they created appeared to be "much the same" as a judgment from an actual court, such as the "Fifth Judicial District Court" created and recognized under the Utah Constitution, or an Article III federal court created and recognized under the U.S. Constitution.  And yet the similarities in form and function were ultimately superficial and meaningless because the "Washington County Judicial Assembly" lacked any actual authority to render a judgment against me.

Claims of authority, revelation, open canon, etc. are pretty important, as is actually having them.

As you might imagine, I did not pay much attention to the purported "$16 million dollar" judgment against me.  And if James had tried to enforce it, he would have failed.  His specious document had zero legal weight or merit, despite its apparent trappings.

The monetary value of the Jackson Pollock painting hinges on its authenticity.  On it actually being a painting by Jackson Pollock.

The enforceability of the "$16 million dollar" judgment hinged on its authenticity.  On it actually being a valid and enforceable-at-law document.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Sure it presupposes a paradigm. What's wrong with that?

When an assertion presupposes that which has yet to be demonstrated, that can be a problem.  If I say "Have you stopped beating your wife?", I am presupposing something about you.  If that something is factually incorrect (or is unproven), then you will naturally object to the presupposition.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I see your point, and I grant that I need to more fully develop the argument to account for things like forwards. In fact, I am pulling back from the hard statement that it is a part of the text. Instead, I'm going modify the statement to something like, "It should be seen as part of the text."

That just softens the presupposition a bit.  That's all.  If I change "Have you stopped beating your wife?" to "Have you stopped gently slapping your wife in the face on occasion?", and if you dispute the unspoken presupposition, then the second version doesn't do much in avoiding an objection to that presupposition.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:
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If I were to pull out a copy of "The Complete Works of Jane Austen," with a forward by this or that English lit scholar, it wouldn't really work to say that this scholar's commentary about Austen's work is part of the text written by Austen.  That is factually incorrect and misleading.

Even so, I don't know if it is a matter of your categories being presumed.  The Book of Mormon itself, along with Joseph's revelations on the matter, make such a big deal about the witnesses it could be argued that the Testimonies should be seen as part of the text even if one falls into your category C.

I'm not sure how that is responsive to my point.  Characterizing a forward written by an English lit scholar and added to a published compilation of Jane Austen's works as being part of the text written by Austen would be pretty risible.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:
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Of course you are.  The basic premise is nothing but a disputation about "the authenticity of the text."  Your "approach" is wholly separate from and incompatible with the explanation of "the authenticity of the text" as explained by Joseph Smith.  He denied authorship, you are calling him a liar or a lunatic.  Readers must accept his explanation, or else yours.  

Again with the all-or-nothing mentality.

Again, no.

Whether or not Joe Biden is a good POTUS or a bad one is up for debate.  Whether or not Joe Biden is POTUS, however, is quite a separate inquiry.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I am NOT calling Joseph a liar or a lunatic.  You may well (and you have) taken issue with my model of Joseph as a mythmaker, and that is fine and well. But you do not get to accuse me of doing something that I am not.

I actually went back and revised my comment (apparently after you quoted it).  Here is the revised version:

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With genuine respect, of course you are disputing the authenticity of the text.  The basic premise is nothing but a disputation.  Your "approach" is wholly separate from and incompatible with the explanation of "the authenticity of the text" as explained by Joseph Smith.  He denied authorship, your theory requires him to have been either a liar, a lunatic, or a "pious fraud."  Readers must accept his explanation, or else yours.  

I hope that clarifies things.  I apologize for my prior characterization.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

It's not even as simple a matter of readers having to accept his explanation or mine.

I am not saying that the matter is "simple."  I am saying it is important.  

Either the Book of Mormon is a miraculously "translation" of a tangible ancient record inscribed on gold plates as claimed and described by Joseph Smith, or it is not.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I'm not challenging Joseph's explanation

That's like claiming that advocates of the Baconian theory of authorship are "not challenging" the authorship of Shakespeare.  Isn't the former a per se repudiation of and alternative to the latter?

I don't see how you can say that with a straight face.  Your essay presents multiple declarations that flatly contradict "Joseph's explanation."

  • The historicist approach sees the work as ancient, even if addressed to a modern audience. The environmentalist approach sees the work as modern.
  • So, environmentalist scholars produce data they believe points to a modern origin for the Book of Mormon.
  • The environmentalist position is traditionally a position taken by anti-Mormons and used to attack Mormonism {that is, that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon}.
  • Environmentalists have looked at Joseph Smith’s background, examined the Book of Mormon text, looked at American archaeology, consulted biblical scholarship, surveyed DNA studies, and considered population models. All these studies purport to show a modern origin for the Book of Mormon
  • Currently, environmentalist scholarship is focused on showing Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon
  • My goal is to systematically develop the environmentalist position {that is, that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon}.
  • The Providence Principle states no overtly supernatural acts were involved in producing the Book of Mormon
  • As we have noted, the plain sense of a text encompasses both the writer and the intended audience. Both must be reckoned with. Though its authorship may be in dispute, the Book of Mormon itself is fairly clear about whom its intended audience is. 
3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

so much as I am exploring what is going on behind the scenes as it were.

Not sure what this means.  

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

That takes care of the liar part since the starting point is that he is telling the truth as he knows it.

This sounds like your headed toward delusion or mental impairment. 

"Joseph said he was visited by Moroni, but that is not factually correct because there was no party of Lehi, hence no Nephites/Lamanites/Mulekites/Jaredites, hence no records kept, no Mormon to abridge those records, and no Moroni to finish the abridgement, bury them, die, be resurrected, and appear to Joseph."

Joseph "telling the truth as he knows it," coupled with your assertion elsewhere that Joseph was not lying about origins/provenance/authorship, but that he nevertheless "wrote the Book of Mormon," seems to require Joseph to have been substantially mentally impaired for essentially all of his adult life.

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Insofar as I propose that my model doesn't require Joseph be consciously aware of he was doing, the lunatic part seems applicable.

I concur.  I addressed this back in 2018:

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I'm surprised I've never really thought about this before.  First, let's review what the trilemma is:

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

It seems this trilemma can be adapted to apply as a rebuttal to the "Inspired Fiction" theory.  The Book of Mormon is either A) the work product of an insane/deluded person ("Lunatic"), B) the work product of a duplicitous, dishonest person ("Liar"), or C) what it claims to be: an ancient prophetic record preserved and translated "by the gift and power of God" ("Lord").

It is difficult, then, to just elide on past this.  You attribute to lunacy/insanity/delusion the entirety of Joseph Smith's statements about the origins/provenance/authorship of the Book of Mormon, but then want to ignore that massive elephant in the room and focus on . . . what?

3 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

However, many of our own actions are driven by subconscious factors we simply aren't aware of. So all I'm "accusing" Joseph of is ... being human.

Take a look back at (my hypothetical version of) Ben Jones, the Mount Everest guide referenced above.  He's either a pathological liar or a profoundly deluded person.  Even if we are charitable and go with the latter explanation, how does that rehabilitate Ben as a guide to take me safely up and down Mount Everest?

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

I'm not necessarily trying to "win you over." If nothing else, my conversation with smac97 is enough to prove I can't do that even if I were to try. I don't need you (speaking generically, not personally) to agree with me. If I "need" anything from you (again speaking generically), it would be an acknowledgement that I have succeeded in respecting faith in my approach. So I would be more attuned to critiques of tone than substance, for example.

I'm going to skip over your discussion of Thomas for now. I will still respond if you really want me to, but I think at this point responding would just involve getting into a pointless debate.

Please feel free to call me Tim.

I'm skipping down here not because I am disputing you. Instead, I want to offer you unmitigated praise. I had fact read Kuhn before I knew you were making use of his work (it was required reading in one of my history courses). I mentioned Vogel's response in the same way that I cited historicist work to point readers to opposing views. But I hope I clearly communicated that I was taking your side. It was your work sparked the essay in the first place. Accepting your description that the historicity debate was a paradigm debate directly led to my desire to describe the environmentalist paradigm and how that paradigm serves Book of Mormon interpretation.

As I mentioned, even if the essay was not formally published, I found the very act of writing it very cathartic. I became less and less interested in debating historicity as such. Indeed, I've become so disinterested in debating historicity as such that smac97's assertion that I am sidestepping issues he finds important is not entirely without justification. I've become more focused on the text itself. I am now content that my work serve as an alternative rather than as proof my view is correct.

I understand that this may have quite what you have intended, but I owe all of that to you. Thank you.

 

Well to me at least it is interesting that Kuhn's work comes straight out of pragmatism and in no way did he invent the idea of "paradigms" and seeing ideas as tools to help us all achieve "what works" until some idea comes along that "work" better, but that is for another day ;)  But he was definitely a good salesman for the idea, so good for him anyway!

BUT I have to apologize for my lack of education in what it means/meant to be a "Mormon Environmentalist".   For me, as a Californian for over 40 years EVERYONE is an "environmentalist"- so what's the big deal about being a "Mormon environmentalist"?  Even the most conservative see the importance of limiting pollution for example because it is simply hard to breathe hereabouts some days! 

You have to wear a soup strainer over your face just to keep the big chunks of pollution out ! ;)

For me, it was like being a "Mormon Oxygen Breather", or a Mormon in favor of saving the whales- SO WHAT?  "We are not talking about anything controversial " I thought, "Nothing to do with theology, so it must be like a code word or something for some theological idea  I had never heard- WHAT THE HECK IS HE REALLY TALKING ABOUT?"

But then I found this article that raised the point of how Utah ain't exactly an enviromental paradise, so I finally got the point!

https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/the-environmental-ethics-of-mormon-belief/
 

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Some critics have gone so far as to accuse The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of officially encouraging anti-ecological positions. A survey of Christian denominations in the United States indicated that The Church of Jesus Christ was one of only a few churches that had no formal environmental policies and no institutional entities dedicated to fostering more sustainable environmental practices.1 Although the Church has clearly taken stances on political issues that pertain directly to moral issues, its policy is typically one of political neutrality. On the issue of the environment, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy recently explained that the Church teaches principles favoring conservation and sustainability and that environmentalism is not incompatible with Mormon belief. Nonetheless, he insisted that Church leaders “don’t dictate” what specific political actions should be taken in order to fulfill the mandate to be good stewards.2 Failing to understand this policy of political neutrality, Max Oelschlaeger, a professor of environmental philosophy, mistakenly concluded on the basis of the survey’s findings that the “only denomination that has formally stated its opposition to ecology as part of the church’s mission is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”3

Because of Church leaders’ reticence on the politics of environmentalism on one hand and an explicit anti-environmentalism expressed by several prominent Utah politicians on the other, a recent article by religion scholar Richard Foltz depicts Mormonism as an aggressive, profit-minded corporate culture. Mormons, he claims, are people who “have lost their way” spiritually and who “don’t know who they are anymore.” Foltz comes to the unfortunate and misleading conclusion that it is not clear whether an environmental ethic “is with or against the current of formal LDS teaching” or if caring for creation is merely one of many potentially heretical “private theologies.”4


 

OK!   Now I get it- it is definitely a "thing" and I remember the first time I visited Utah I was a bit shocked about the lack of recyclying and open pit mines and trash on some streets etc.

But now I get that it goes far deeper and becomes a church/state deal in Utah.

Sorry for missing it!

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On 10/25/2022 at 10:41 AM, smac97 said:

1. Your essay states that "{c}learly stating our {environmentalist} position will also help guide our studies."  That being the case, it could help to to address, somewhere on the front end of things, how you reconcile your environmentalist approach with what seems to be its patent incompatibility with the narrative in JS-H and the statements of the Witnesses.  From the outside looking in, your approach seems wholly alternative and incompatible with these sources.  (Unless, of course, your intended audience is not the Latter-day Saints, in which case this point is irrelevant.)

I don't think an environmentalist position is necessarily incompatible with the statements of the witnesses as there is some question as to what they actually saw, or how they "saw" it, rather..  

I suspect that these witnessed "saw" the plates in the same way that Joseph "saw" The Father and The Son - in a "vision".  Joseph describe his view of the natural surroundings disappearing as the vision began, and the vision concluded with him regaining consciousness on the ground looking up into the sky.   Just as described in Moses 1:11:

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But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face.

 

This same idea of seeing things with "spiritual eyes" or "eyes of faith" and not "natural eyes" are sprinkled throughout testimonial accounts of the witnesses:

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John A. Clark:

To know how much this testimony [of three witnesses] is worth I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly,-”Did you see those plates?” Harris replied, he did. “Did you see the plates, and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes?” Harris replied, “Yes, I saw them with my eyes,-they were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.” “But did you see them with your natural,-your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.” Harris replied,-”Why I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me...

 

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John H. Gilbert:

Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses,—(Harris—Cowdery and Whitmer—) I said to him,—"Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spir[i]tual eye."[2]

 

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Pomeroy Tucker in his book Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (1867) also refers to Harris using the phrase "spiritual eye":

How to reconcile the act of Harris in signing his name to such a statement, in view of the character of honesty which had always been conceded to him, could never be easily explained. In reply to uncharitable suggestions of his neighbors, he used to practise a good deal of his characteristic jargon about "seeing with the spiritual eye," and the like. 

 

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In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it 'being in vision.' We read in the Scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God. Daniel saw an angel in a vision; also in other places it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled at noon day, and there in a vision, or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. I am now passed eighty-two years old, and I have a brother, J. J. Snyder, to do my writing for me, at my dictation. [Signed] David Whitmer. [14]

Of course there are still many unanswered questions with this approach, but I feel like they are fewer and less strenuous than with the historicity approach. 
 

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5 hours ago, tagriffy said:

Obviously for you, the Book of Mormon is authentic if, and only if it (and stories behind it) correspond to "reality." I accept that, and I respect that. I just don't see the Book of Mormon's authenticity that way. Regardless of whether the origins/provenance/authorship is X or not-X, God speaks to me through it. That is all I need for it to be authentic.

 

2 hours ago, tagriffy said:

But this possibility does have an impact on the question of what scripture is. If we allow the possibility that "wrong" in your terms is in scripture, then scripture is not really a question of whether it is human or divine since it would in fact be both.

If this is so, then it radically alters the way we should interact with scripture. We can no longer just simply accept what scripture appears to say just because it is "the word of God." The mere possibility that scripture could contain "the mistakes of men" precludes that. Now we have to use discernment and critical thinking when reading scripture.

These SEEM to be in conflict?

Edited by mfbukowski
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23 minutes ago, pogi said:

I don't think an environmentalist position is necessarily incompatible with the statements of the witnesses as there is some question as to what they actually saw, or how they "saw" it, rather..  

Not "necessarily" incompatible?  I suppose I can go along with that.  But overall, it sure seems hard to reconcile the two.  And then there's the JS-H, and all the other statements by Joseph Smith re: origins/provenance.

23 minutes ago, pogi said:

I suspect that these witnessed "saw" the plates in the same way that Joseph "saw" The Father and The Son - in a "vision".  Joseph describe his view of the natural surroundings disappearing as the vision began, and the vision concluded with him regaining consciousness on the ground looking up into the sky.   Just as described in Moses 1:11:

Still hard to square the "environmentalist position" based, as tagriffy now apparently concedes, on Joseph Smith being mentally infirm/deluded (Joseph Smith's explanation of BOM origins derive from him being, a "lunatic").

I see lunacy as an alternative to an actual theophany.  

23 minutes ago, pogi said:

This same idea of seeing things with "spiritual eyes" or "eyes of faith" and not "natural eyes" are sprinkled throughout testimonial accounts of the witnesses:

I won't claim to understand the particulars of theophanies, and whether mortal participants must be physically "transfigured" in some way.

My point has to do with reality/historicity.  By way of example, D&C 27 characterizes Moroni as being a literally real/historical person who has previously lived and died on this earth, as well as many other literally real/historical figures (Elias, John the Baptist, Joseph and Jacob, Isaac and Abraham, Michael/Adam, Peter, James and John).

23 minutes ago, pogi said:

Of course there are still many unanswered questions with this approach, but I feel like they are fewer and less strenuous than with the historicity approach. 

I go the other way.  Naturalistic/Environmentalist explanations for BOM origins require us to pound far too many round pegs (statements of percipient witnesses) into round holes (a naturalistic/environmentalist paradigm).  Ah well, reasonable minds can disagree about such things.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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28 minutes ago, pogi said:

I don't think an environmentalist position is necessarily incompatible with the statements of the witnesses as there is some question as to what they actually saw, or how they "saw" it, rather..  

I suspect that these witnessed "saw" the plates in the same way that Joseph "saw" The Father and The Son - in a "vision".  Joseph describe his view of the natural surroundings disappearing as the vision began, and the vision concluded with him regaining consciousness on the ground looking up into the sky.   Just as described in Moses 1:11:

PLEASE tell me how "environmentalist" is being used here, I just became under the impression finally that it was about air pollution etc. 😉 and now it is apparently a theology reference after all 😰

Man, I am totally confused!

Thanks!

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16 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I go the other way.  Naturalistic/Environmentalist explanations for BOM origins require us to pound far too many round pegs (statements of percipient witnesses) into round holes (a naturalistic/environmentalist paradigm).  Ah well, reasonable minds can disagree about such things.

Ok so "environmentalist" here is a synonym for "naturalistic" in this context?

I'm losing what little marbles I thought I had....  ;)

 

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Just now, mfbukowski said:

Ok so "environmentalist" here is a synonym for "naturalistic" in this context?

I'm losing what little marbles I thought I had....  ;)

It appears so.  I will defer to tagriffy to provide any needed clarification.

Thanks,

-Smac

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36 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

PLEASE tell me how "environmentalist" is being used here, I just became under the impression finally that it was about air pollution etc. 😉 and now it is apparently a theology reference after all 😰

Man, I am totally confused!

Thanks!

As I understand it from the OP, in relation to the production of the Book of Mormon a "religious environmentalist" is one who engages the Book of Mormon as divinely inspired scripture, but does not accept the historicity of the book.  Meaning that Joseph had some authorship as directed by the spirit.  It is not viewed as a historical account, but a spiritual production.     

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6 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Regarding the possibility of approaching the Book of Mormon from an environmentalist perspective that respects faith, if you can manage it, more power to you. 

So "environmentalist" in this context means "naturalistic"?

We understand each other.  Thanks.

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27 minutes ago, smac97 said:

It appears so.  I will defer to tagriffy to provide any needed clarification.

Thanks,

-Smac

Thanks! I guess I am too much into philosophical jargon!

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15 minutes ago, pogi said:

As I understand it from the OP, in relation to the production of the Book of Mormon a "religious environmentalist" is one who engages the Book of Mormon as divinely inspired scripture, but does not accept the historicity of the book.  Meaning that Joseph had some authorship as directed by the spirit.  It is not viewed as a historical account, but a spiritual production.     

Thanks!  That's kinda like me, but for me, it could be strictly historical, complete fiction, I view those questions as unknowable and therefore irrelevant.

Evidence comes from God.

It's philosophy!

You see it as "right" and "useful" or not!  Tweak belief as needed and be guided by spirit!

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6 hours ago, smac97 said:

Do wholly alternative explanations of the origins of the Book of Mormon fit into the third point above ("there are some beliefs, as publicly taught to others, that are susceptible to testability and being found incompatible with maintaining good standing in the Church")?  Candidly, I think so.  Consider these excerpts from Elder Oaks' essay in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures

You "think so?" So where is the official Church statement establishing it as such?

6 hours ago, smac97 said:

Well, no. Authenticity is a matter of fact and reality, not mere taste or preference.

You say after directly quoting Elder Oaks: "Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit." That's pretty much exactly what I'm saying.

6 hours ago, smac97 said:

If actual origins/provenance/authorship don't matter ("Regardless..."), then why insist on a position that it antithetical to what the text says about itself, what Joseph Smith said about it, what the Witnesses said about the Plates, what the prophets and apostles say about it, etc.?

Because that is what the best evidence I see leads me to believe. You said it yourself:

 

6 hours ago, smac97 said:

You conclude with "That is all I need for it to be authentic."  Again, I think there is some equivocation here.  Authenticity as to origins/provenance/authorship is quite a separate topic from "authenticity" meaning "God speaks to me through it."

I keep those categories distinct. Basically, that is all there is to it.

6 hours ago, smac97 said:
9 hours ago, tagriffy said:

Even so, I don't know if it is a matter of your categories being presumed.  The Book of Mormon itself, along with Joseph's revelations on the matter, make such a big deal about the witnesses it could be argued that the Testimonies should be seen as part of the text even if one falls into your category C.

I'm not sure how that is responsive to my point.  Characterizing a forward written by an English lit scholar and added to a published compilation of Jane Austen's works as being part of the text written by Austen would be pretty risible.

I'm not sure I can put it any better then. Basically, what I'm saying it that the Testimonies are not like a forward. They are something different even though they serve a similar function to a forward. The fact that so much is going on both internally and externally with the witnesses suggests the Testimonies they are something more. That he went through so much trouble to obtain them and include them included suggests that it is important that they be there--that they are part of the text. This would still seem to be the case even if one falls into your category C. But like I said, I have to develop the thought further.

6 hours ago, smac97 said:

I actually went back and revised my comment (apparently after you quoted it).  Here is the revised version:

Quote

With genuine respect, of course you are disputing the authenticity of the text.  The basic premise is nothing but a disputation.  Your "approach" is wholly separate from and incompatible with the explanation of "the authenticity of the text" as explained by Joseph Smith.  He denied authorship, your theory requires him to have been either a liar, a lunatic, or a "pious fraud."  Readers must accept his explanation, or else yours.  

I hope that clarifies things.  I apologize for my prior characterization.

Thank you for that. Apology accepted.

6 hours ago, smac97 said:
10 hours ago, tagriffy said:

so much as I am exploring what is going on behind the scenes as it were.

Not sure what this means. 

At this point, I'm not sure I can explain it any better than already have. Fully explicating what I have in mind would probably require a book length treatment all by itself.

6 hours ago, smac97 said:

Joseph "telling the truth as he knows it," coupled with your assertion elsewhere that Joseph was not lying about origins/provenance/authorship, but that he nevertheless "wrote the Book of Mormon," seems to require Joseph to have been substantially mentally impaired for essentially all of his adult life.

Well, no. Prophets probably do have to be a bit "insane" to do what they do, but all I require him to be is human.

7 hours ago, smac97 said:

I concur.  I addressed this back in 2018:

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I'm surprised I've never really thought about this before.  First, let's review what the trilemma is:

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

It seems this trilemma can be adapted to apply as a rebuttal to the "Inspired Fiction" theory.  The Book of Mormon is either A) the work product of an insane/deluded person ("Lunatic"), B) the work product of a duplicitous, dishonest person ("Liar"), or C) what it claims to be: an ancient prophetic record preserved and translated "by the gift and power of God" ("Lord").

It is difficult, then, to just elide on past this.  You attribute to lunacy/insanity/delusion the entirety of Joseph Smith's statements about the origins/provenance/authorship of the Book of Mormon, but then want to ignore that massive elephant in the room and focus on . . . what?

Sure I can, because it's a bad argument. As you own source said:

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Criticisms

Writing of the argument's "almost total absence from discussions about the status of Jesus by professional theologians and biblical scholars",[27] Stephen T. Davis comments that it "is often severely criticized, both by people who do and by people who do not believe in the divinity of Jesus".[28]

Jesus' claims to divinity

A frequent criticism is that Lewis's trilemma depends on the veracity of the scriptural accounts of Jesus's statements and miracles.[29] The trilemma rests on the interpretation of New Testament authors' depiction of Jesus: a widespread objection is that the statements by Jesus recorded in the Gospels are being misinterpreted, and do not constitute claims to divinity.[30] According to Ehrman, it is historically inaccurate that Jesus called himself God, so Lewis's premise of accepting that very claim is problematic. Ehrman stated that it is a mere legend that the historical Jesus has called himself God; that was unknown to Lewis since he never was a professional Bible scholar.[31][32]

In Honest to God, John A. T. Robinson, then Bishop of Woolwich, criticizes Lewis's approach, questioning the idea that Jesus intended to claim divinity: "It is, indeed, an open question whether Jesus claimed to be Son of God, let alone God".[33] John Hick, writing in 1993, argued that this "once popular form of apologetic" was ruled out by changes in New Testament studies, citing "broad agreement" that scholars do not today support the view that Jesus claimed to be God, quoting as examples Michael Ramsey (1980), C. F. D. Moule (1977), James Dunn (1980), Brian Hebblethwaite (1985) and David Brown (1985).[34] Larry Hurtado, who argues that the followers of Jesus within a very short period developed an exceedingly high level of devotional reverence to Jesus, at the same time says that there is no evidence that Jesus himself demanded or received such cultic reverence.[35][4] According to Gerd Lüdemann, the broad consensus among modern New Testament scholars is that the proclamation of the divinity of Jesus was a development within the earliest Christian communities.[36]

Unsound logical form

Another criticism raised is that Lewis is creating a false trilemma by insisting that only three options are possible. Craig Evans writes that the "liar, lunatic, Lord" trilemma "makes for good alliteration, maybe even good rhetoric, but it is faulty logic." He proceeds to list several other alternatives: Jesus was Israel's messiah, simply a great prophet, or we do not really know who or what he was because the New Testament sources portray him inaccurately.[37] Philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig also believes that the trilemma is an unsound argument for Christianity.[38] Craig gives several other logically possible alternatives: Jesus's claims as to his divinity to have been merely good-faith mistakes resulting from his sincere efforts at reasoning, Jesus was deluded with respect to the specific issue of his own divinity while his faculties of moral reasoning remained intact, or Jesus did not understand the claims he made about himself as amounting to a claim to divinity. Philosopher John Beversluis comments that Lewis "deprives his readers of numerous alternate interpretations of Jesus that carry with them no such odious implications".[39]

 

7 hours ago, smac97 said:

Take a look back at (my hypothetical version of) Ben Jones, the Mount Everest guide referenced above.  He's either a pathological liar or a profoundly deluded person.  Even if we are charitable and go with the latter explanation, how does that rehabilitate Ben as a guide to take me safely up and down Mount Everest?

Apples and oranges. Jones is merely offering to accompany you up a mountain. Joseph Smith was trying to proclaim a message from God.

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15 hours ago, tagriffy said:

They aren't. Hearing God's voice and exercising discernment aren't mutually exclusive categories.

Considering that for me that we humans see through a glass darkly due to language, but unspeakable revelation is designed to be "face to face", they are indeed ULTIMATELY mutually exclusive.

But of course while walking around this alleged world created by human perception which CANNOT logically be "reality" we have to practice "when in Rome, do as the Romans do".

Check out the Rorty quote in my siggy.  We live in a world constructed by human perception, not God's perception- He sees the CAUSES of our perceptions while we see the colored cartoons.

Odd to think that God only sees color if He wants to and somehow sees waves of energy if that is what He wants.

Is a chair solid or made of constantly moving atoms and quarks and who knows what?

Which is "real"?

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote

Do wholly alternative explanations of the origins of the Book of Mormon fit into the third point above ("there are some beliefs, as publicly taught to others, that are susceptible to testability and being found incompatible with maintaining good standing in the Church")?  Candidly, I think so.  Consider these excerpts from Elder Oaks' essay in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures

You "think so?"

Yes.  I was trying to be specific here.  I was speaking of my own perspective.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

So where is the official Church statement establishing it as such?

I don't think there is one.  I think the real-world consideration of such matters is better left to those with stewardship and authority (bishops and stake presidents), who address each case individually.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote

Well, no. Authenticity is a matter of fact and reality, not mere taste or preference.

You say after directly quoting Elder Oaks: "Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit."

I think you have substantially decontextualized this statement.  Here's the context:

Quote

Honest investigators will conclude that there are so many evidences that the Book of Mormon is an ancient text that they cannot confidently resolve the question against its authenticity, despite some unanswered questions that seem to support the negative determination. In that circumstance, the proponents of the Book of Mormon can settle for a draw or a hung jury on the question of historicity and take a continuance until the controversy can be retried in another forum.

In fact, it is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit. Our side will settle for a draw, but those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon cannot settle for a draw. They must try to disprove its historicity—or they seem to feel a necessity to do this—and in this they are unsuccessful because even the secular evidence, viewed in its entirety, is too complex for that.

I think what is is saying is materially distinguishable from what you are saying.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

That's pretty much exactly what I'm saying.

No, I don't think so.  

Joe Biden is the authentic current POTUS.  He won the election, was sworn in as president, currently works in the White House, and so on.  A Biden supporter likely appreciates and approves of this, but that appreciation/approval is not what authenticates his status.  Similarly, a Biden opponent may dislike this, but that dislike does not affect the authenticity of Mr. Biden's status as POTUS.

The authenticity of the Jackson Pollock painting depends on whether or not Jackson Pollock actually painted it.  It is a question of fact, not of taste or preference.

The authenticity of the Book of Mormon depends on whether or not it is a "translation" of an ancient record created and maintained by actual ancient persons (Nephi, Jacob, etc. down to Moroni).  This is what it presents itself to be, what Joseph Smith presented it to be, what prophets and apostles from 1830 to present have presented it to be, what the Church presents it to be, etc.  

Elder Oaks categorically insists on historicity, whereas your approach categorically rejects historicity.  From his essay:

Quote

The historicity—historical authenticity—of the Book of Mormon is an issue so fundamental that it rests first upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the first principle in this, as in all other matters.
...

There is something strange about accepting the moral or religious content of a book while rejecting the truthfulness of its authors’ declarations, predictions, and statements. This approach not only rejects the concepts of faith and revelation that the Book of Mormon explains and advocates, but it is also not even good scholarship.
...
Neusner praises these two books, one as “an intensively powerful and poetic book . . . by a great writer who is also an original and weighty scholar”
 [10] and the other as “a masterpiece of scholarship.” [11] But notwithstanding his tributes to their technique, Neusner forthrightly challenges the appropriateness of the effort the authors have undertaken. Their effort, typical in today’s scholarly world, was to use a skeptical reading of the scriptures rather than a believing one, to present a historical study that would “distinguish fact from fiction, myth or legend from authentic event.” In doing so, their “skeptical reading of the Gospels” [12] caused them to assume that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels was not the Jesus who actually lived. It also caused them to assume that historians can know the difference.

If Pres. Oaks were here on this board to speak for himself, I think he would reiterate the foregoing statements.

Again, I am very happy that you have threaded the needle, that you have found a way to reconcile (A) rejecting the Book of Mormon for what its authors declared it to be, what Joseph Smith declared it to be, what the Church declares it to be, etc., with (B) persevering in faith and covenant-keeping in the Restored Gospel.  Many people of my acquaintance have not been so fortunate.  They have listened to voices advocating (A) and, having accepted it, cannot continue with (B).  I have noted this a few times, and it looks like you have remained silent about it.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote

If actual origins/provenance/authorship don't matter ("Regardless..."), then why insist on a position that it antithetical to what the text says about itself, what Joseph Smith said about it, what the Witnesses said about the Plates, what the prophets and apostles say about it, etc.?

Because that is what the best evidence I see leads me to believe. You said it yourself:

Quote

You conclude with "That is all I need for it to be authentic."  Again, I think there is some equivocation here.  Authenticity as to origins/provenance/authorship is quite a separate topic from "authenticity" meaning "God speaks to me through it."

I keep those categories distinct. Basically, that is all there is to it.

I don't understand.  You are saying that you "keep those categories distinct."  I said that you seem to be equivocating.  So "You said it yourself" doesn't work here.

With respect, you are not "keep{ing} those categories distinct."  You are equivocating.  I illustrated my point about the "authenticity" of the purported Jackson Pollock painting as affecting its monetary value, and you responded by equivocating, by shifting to speaking of "authenticity" as pertaining to its artistic value ("Is it a good painting?").

Regarding the Book of Mormon, you have denied disputing the "authenticity" of the text in terms of it being authentically ancient, written and abridged by actual ancient authors, etc. ("Yes, I staked out a position on the text's origins/provenance/authorship (I said NOTHING about authenticity)..."), even though your essay is shot through with statements that explicitly do this:

  • The historicist approach sees the work as ancient, even if addressed to a modern audience. The environmentalist approach sees the work as modern.
  • So, environmentalist scholars produce data they believe points to a modern origin for the Book of Mormon.
  • The environmentalist position is traditionally a position taken by anti-Mormons and used to attack Mormonism {that is, that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon}.
  • Environmentalists have looked at Joseph Smith’s background, examined the Book of Mormon text, looked at American archaeology, consulted biblical scholarship, surveyed DNA studies, and considered population models. All these studies purport to show a modern origin for the Book of Mormon
  • Currently, environmentalist scholarship is focused on showing Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon
  • My goal is to systematically develop the environmentalist position {that is, that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon}.
  • The Providence Principle states no overtly supernatural acts were involved in producing the Book of Mormon
  • As we have noted, the plain sense of a text encompasses both the writer and the intended audience. Both must be reckoned with. Though its authorship may be in dispute, the Book of Mormon itself is fairly clear about whom its intended audience is. 

You then equivocate, speaking of "authenticity" not in terms of origins/provenance/authorship, but about your personal spiritual experiences with it ("God speaks to me through it. That is all I need for it to be authentic.").

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote

 

Quote

{I}t could be argued that the Testimonies should be seen as part of the text even if one falls into your category C.

I'm not sure how that is responsive to my point.  Characterizing a forward written by an English lit scholar and added to a published compilation of Jane Austen's works as being part of the text written by Austen would be pretty risible.

 

I'm not sure I can put it any better then. Basically, what I'm saying it that the Testimonies are not like a forward.

The comparison between the witness statements and the scholarly forward was an analogy, a comparison of traits shared by two otherwise dissimilar things.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

They are something different even though they serve a similar function to a forward.

Nevertheless, they are not "part of the text" (unless, of course, you presuppose a naturalistic approach).  

"The text" of the Book of Mormon purports to have been written / abridged over a roughly 1,000-year period of time (600 B.C. - 421 A.D.).  "The text" of the Book of Mormon was purportedly "translated" into English by Joseph Smith via "the gift and power of God" between 7 April and 30 June 1829.

The Witness statements, meanwhile, were written in English in the first instance (not purportedly translated from an ancient text), and were apparently authored by Oliver Cowdery in late June 1829 (not by Joseph Smith, nor by ancient authors) (see here and here).

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

The fact that so much is going on both internally and externally with the witnesses suggests the Testimonies they are something more. That he went through so much trouble to obtain them and include them included suggests that it is important that they be there--that they are part of the text.

Except that they are not "part of the text," nor have they ever been characterized as such.  Not by Joseph Smith, not by the Witnesses, not by the Church.

The witness statements are published with the text of the Book of Mormon, but they have entirely different origins and authorship.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

At this point, I'm not sure I can explain it any better than already have. Fully explicating what I have in mind would probably require a book length treatment all by itself.

I understand.  You have presented this as a work in progress.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote

Joseph "telling the truth as he knows it," coupled with your assertion elsewhere that Joseph was not lying about origins/provenance/authorship, but that he nevertheless "wrote the Book of Mormon," seems to require Joseph to have been substantially mentally impaired for essentially all of his adult life.

Well, no. Prophets probably do have to be a bit "insane" to do what they do, but all I require him to be is human.

Nope.  What you "require him to be" is the author of the text, something he never claimed.  Not once.  Ever.

What you also "require him to be" is profoundly mentally ill, incapable of differentiating between reality and delusion, for pretty much the entirety of his adult life (during which he represented the text as a translation of an ancient text, not something he himself wrote).  Your approach requires readers to disregard what Joseph Smith said as to the origins of the Book of Mormon because he was so profoundly mentally disturbed that he cannot be trusted.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote
Quote

It seems this trilemma can be adapted to apply as a rebuttal to the "Inspired Fiction" theory.  The Book of Mormon is either A) the work product of an insane/deluded person ("Lunatic"), B) the work product of a duplicitous, dishonest person ("Liar"), or C) what it claims to be: an ancient prophetic record preserved and translated "by the gift and power of God" ("Lord").

It is difficult, then, to just elide on past this.  You attribute to lunacy/insanity/delusion the entirety of Joseph Smith's statements about the origins/provenance/authorship of the Book of Mormon, but then want to ignore that massive elephant in the room and focus on . . . what?

Sure I can, because it's a bad argument. As you own source said:

Okay.  I was not presenting it as an "argument" as much as a "framework."

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:
Quote

Take a look back at (my hypothetical version of) Ben Jones, the Mount Everest guide referenced above.  He's either a pathological liar or a profoundly deluded person.  Even if we are charitable and go with the latter explanation, how does that rehabilitate Ben as a guide to take me safely up and down Mount Everest?

Apples and oranges. Jones is merely offering to accompany you up a mountain.

There is nothing "merely" about fraudulently claiming guiding expertise, skills, equipment, etc. needed to climb Mount Everest.  At least 310 people have died in attempting the ascent.

If "Jones" were just providing a movie review or advice on the best Thai food in Salt Lake (despite never having seen the movie nor eaten at any Thai restaurant in Salt Lake), "merely" would be appropriate.  Jones' fraud just wouldn't matter.  But Jones fraudulently representing himself as a competent guide on the life-imperiling slopes of Mount Everest is an entirely separate, and far more consequential, matter.

Similarly, the truthfulness of the claims of Joseph Smith are likewise consequential.  Big time.

18 hours ago, tagriffy said:

Joseph Smith was trying to proclaim a message from God.

I think you are sidestepping the point.  

It would be reasonable to distrust the self-advertising Mount Everest guide after discovering he lied about his experience, skills, equipment, qualifications, etc.  It is these things that he lied about that formed the basis for hiring him initially.  It would, frankly, be very unwise to not take his fraud into account once you discovered it.

This is, I think, the tack taken by many who adopt a naturalistic/environmentalist approach to the Book of Mormon (you being the fortunate exception).  And frankly, I don't blame them.  As Kent P. Jackson noted:

Quote

The Book of Mormon is a thoroughly self-conscious book. Throughout its pages, its authors recorded not only the history of their people and the revelations of their prophets but also the process of the composition of the book.
...

The nouns record and records are used in almost one hundred verses with respect to the Book of Mormon itself and the documents that went into it. [10] The word plates is used almost one hundred times with respect to the Book of Mormon and the plates that went into it. [11] The words write and writing are used in over one hundred fifty verses, all having to do with the writing of the Book of Mormon record. [12] Other words, such as book, [13] account,[14] and engravings [15] appear in dozens of places in the book, all chronicling the writing of the records that became the Book of Mormon. Following is a list of passages in which the Book of Mormon refers to itself, the process of its creation, or the writings that comprise it.

1 Ne. 1:1–3, 16–17; 6:1, 3–6; 8:30; 9:1–5; 10:1, 15; 13:35–36; 14:25, 28, 30; 17:6; 19:1–6, 18
2 Ne. 3:12, 18–19, 23; 4:14–15, 25; 5:4, 12, 29–33; 11:1–3; 25:1, 3, 6, 8, 21–23, 26; 26:15, 17; 27:6–26, 29; 28:2; 29:10, 12–13; 30:3; 31:1–2; 33:1, 3–5, 11
Jacob 1:1–4; 3:13–14; 4:1–4; 7:26–27
Enos 1:13–16, 23
Jarom 1:1–2, 14–15
Omni 1:1, 3–4, 8–9, 11, 14, 18, 25, 30
WofM 1:1–6, 9–11
Mosiah 1:6, 8, 16; 8:1, 12–13, 19; 12:8; 17:4; 21:27–28, 35; 28:9, 11, 17–20
Alma 3:12; 5:2; 8:1; 9:34; 11:46; 13:31; 18:36, 38; 22:1, 35; 23:5; 28:8–9; 35:13, 16; 37:1–2, 8–9, 21; 43:3; 44:24; 45:2; 47:1; 50:38; 63:17
Hel. 2:13–14; 3:13–17; 8:3; 14:1; 16:25
3Ne. 1:2–3; 2:9; 5:8–11, 14–19; 7:17; 8:1; 10:19; 16:4; 17:15–17, 25; 18:37; 19:32, 34; 23:4, 6–8, 11–14; 24:1; 26:6–8, 11–12, 18; 27:23–26; 28:18, 25; 30:1
4Ne. 1:19, 21, 47–49
Morm. 1:1–4; 2:17–18; 3:17–20; 4:23; 5:9, 12; 6:1, 6; 7:8–9; 8:1, 3–5, 12, 14, 23; 9:31–35
Ether 1:1–6; 2:12–13; 3:17, 22–24, 27; 4:1, 3–5, 17; 5:1–2; 6:1; 8:20, 26; 9:1; 12:20, 23–25, 40; 13:1, 13–14; 15:11,33–34
Moro. 1:1, 4; 7:1; 9:7, 24; 10:1–2, 27, 29

I know of no book that discusses itself so much and so thoroughly. The authors wrote about the smallness of their plates, the difficulty of engraving in metal, their primary sources in other books, and, more than anything else, the messages that they wanted their distant readers to learn from what they recorded.

...
Given all the clear and consistent claims in favor of historicity made by the Book of Mormon itself, by Joseph Smith, by other witnesses, and by the revelations of God to Joseph Smith, what credibility could any of these sources have if the book is not historical?

Can the Book of Mormon indeed be “true,” in any sense, if it lies repeatedly, explicitly, and deliberately regarding its own historicity? Can Joseph Smith be viewed with any level of credibility if he repeatedly, explicitly, and deliberately lied concerning the historicity of the book? Can we have any degree of confidence in what are presented as the words of God in the Doctrine and Covenants if they repeatedly, explicitly, and deliberately lie by asserting the historicity of the Book of Mormon? If the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be, what possible cause would anyone have to accept anything of the work of Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints given the consistent assertions that the Book of Mormon is an ancient text that describes ancient events?

This is not an invitation for anyone to leave the Church. It is, instead, an invitation to abandon the fallacious and logically impossible argument that the Book of Mormon can be true, though not historical, while Joseph Smith, the revelations of God, and the book itself claim in clear and unmistakable terms the opposite.

As one chooses to embrace the gospel, the other line of reasoning must be pursued. The book’s repeated assertion of its historicity, the faithful testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning it, and the voice of God speaking to us of it through the Doctrine and Covenants join with the spirit of personal revelation and testimony in bearing witness that the Book of Mormon is a genuine historical record of ancient origin.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Yes.  I was trying to be specific here.  I was speaking of my own perspective.

Oh, come on! You're a lawyer. Surely you're aware of the principle nulla poena sine lege.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I think what is is saying is materially distinguishable from what you are saying.

The bottom line is the same.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Again, I am very happy that you have threaded the needle, that you have found a way to reconcile (A) rejecting the Book of Mormon for what its authors declared it to be, what Joseph Smith declared it to be, what the Church declares it to be, etc., with (B) persevering in faith and covenant-keeping in the Restored Gospel.  Many people of my acquaintance have not been so fortunate.  They have listened to voices advocating (A) and, having accepted it, cannot continue with (B).  I have noted this a few times, and it looks like you have remained silent about it.

Actually, I did say something about--only to have you dismiss it:

On 10/26/2022 at 12:38 PM, smac97 said:

 

On 10/26/2022 at 9:26 AM, tagriffy said:

As I mentioned in another post, part of my purpose is to help those who are going through a similar faith crisis I went through. The very fact there are alternatives makes it less likely that rejecting historicity will lead to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

As an abstraction, maybe.  But in practicality, I think rejecting historicity to cure an struggling testimony is akin to curing an illness by shooting the patient.

Again, I am very happy that this line of reasoning works for you and your faith.  For many others, I think it will prove to be caustic and corrosive.  

 

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

I don't understand.  You are saying that you "keep those categories distinct."  I said that you seem to be equivocating.  So "You said it yourself" doesn't work here.

...

You then equivocate, speaking of "authenticity" not in terms of origins/provenance/authorship, but about your personal spiritual experiences with it ("God speaks to me through it. That is all I need for it to be authentic.").

At this point, if you don't understand, there isn't anything else I can do to help you understand. Authenticity in the personal spiritual experience is all that matters. That is my stance. If you want to call that equivocation, fine. You're entitled to you opinion.

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

Nope.  What you "require him to be" is the author of the text, something he never claimed.  Not once.  Ever.

What you also "require him to be" is profoundly mentally ill, incapable of differentiating between reality and delusion, for pretty much the entirety of his adult life (during which he represented the text as a translation of an ancient text, not something he himself wrote).  Your approach requires readers to disregard what Joseph Smith said as to the origins of the Book of Mormon because he was so profoundly mentally disturbed that he cannot be trusted.

I don't require him to be either. That is you reading something into what I said, but isn't actually there. I don't believe Joseph was profoundly mentally ill, or incapable of differentiating between reality and delusion--and I never said that. I am trying to understand the evidence as best I can. And the evidence as I see it points to two basic conclusions: 1) The Book of Mormon is more likely to be a modern work authored by Joseph, and 2) Joseph saw reality as being far more than this crude matter. Conclusion 2 is not the same thing as being profoundly mentally ill.

The question I'm working out is how do 1 and 2 work together. Granted this is still a work in progress and I haven't dotted all the is and crossed all the ts. Granted it might not deal with you think is necessary. Granted you probably still won't like the result. Granted you might think it still falls into the deluded category. But let's have no more of this replacing your opinion with what I am actually saying.

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

I think you are sidestepping the point.

Again, you are entitled to you opinion.

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

This is, I think, the tack taken by many who adopt a naturalistic/environmentalist approach to the Book of Mormon (you being the fortunate exception).  And frankly, I don't blame them.  As Kent P. Jackson noted:

I am aware of how self-conscious the Book of Mormon is of itself. It's part and parcel of the myth.

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