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Writing about the Book of Mormon as an environmentalist


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45 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

The introduction of words really does something to our ability to cognize, doesn't it? Not necessarily a good thing. Have you read some Iain McGilchrist?

No, not yet! 

John Dewey followed the pragmatic paradigm and stands chronologically between James and Rorty, and discussed the nature of art, extensively.

  Wikipedia:

"<Art as Experience (1934) is John Dewey's major writing on aesthetics, originally delivered as the first William James Lecture at Harvard (1932). Dewey's aesthetics have been found useful in a number of disciplines, including new media.

Dewey had previously written articles on aesthetics in the 1880s and had further addressed the matter in Democracy and Education (1915). In his major work, Experience and Nature (1925), he laid out the beginnings of a theory of aesthetic experience, and wrote two important essays for Philosophy and Civilization (1931).[1]

OverviewEdit

Dewey's theory is an attempt to shift the understandings of what is essential and characteristic about the art process from its physical manifestations in the ‘expressive object’ to the process in its entirety, a process whose fundamental element is no longer the material ‘work of art’ but rather the development of an ‘experience’. Experience is something that personally affects one's life. That is why these theories are so crucial to people's social and educational life.

Such a change in emphasis does not imply, though, that the individual art object has lost significance; far from it, its primacy is clarified: one recognizes an object as the primary site for the dialectical processes of experience, as the unifying occasion for these experiences. Through the expressive object, the artist and the active observer encounter each other, their material and mental environments, and their culture at large.

The description of the actual act of experiencing is drawn heavily from the biological/psychological theories Dewey expounded in his development of functional psychology. In Dewey's article on reflex arc psychology, he writes that sensory data and worldly stimulus enter into the individual via the channels of afferent sense organs and that the perception of these stimuli is a summation:

This sensory-motor coordination is not a new act, supervening upon what preceded. Just as the response is necessary to constitute the stimulus, to determine it as sound and as this kind of sound…so the sound experience must persist as a value in the running, to keep it up, to control it. The motor reaction involved in the running is, once more, into, not merely to, the sound. It occurs to change the sound…The resulting quale, whatever it may be, has its meaning wholly determined by reference to the hearing of the sound. It is that experience mediated.[2]

The biological sensory exchange between man, whom Dewey calls 'the Live Creature' in Art as Experience, and the environment, is the basis of his aesthetic theory:

...experience is a product, one might almost say bi-product, of continuous and cumulative interaction of an organic self with the world. There is no other foundation upon which esthetic theory and criticism can build.[3]

This quotation is a dramatic expansion of the bounds of aesthetic philosophy, for it demonstrates the connections of art with everyday experience and in doing so reminds people of the highest responsibilities that art and society and the individual have always owed to each other:

...works of art are the most intimate and energetic means of aiding individuals to share in the arts of living. Civilization is uncivil because human beings are divided into non-communicating sects, races, nations, classes and cliques.[4]

To emphasize what is aesthetic about an experience is not to highlight what is apolitical or impractical or otherwise marginal about that experience; instead, it is to emphasize in what ways that experience, as aesthetic, is a 'manifestation, a record, and celebration of the life of a civilization, a means for promoting its development' and, insofar as that aesthetic experience relates to the kinds of experiences had in general, it is also the 'ultimate judgment upon the quality of a civilization.'[5]

See his Experience and Nature for an extended discussion of 'Experience' in Dewey's philosophy.>"

And if one is interested in these matters, I would highly recommend Experience and Nature.

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Thank you everyone! I've found almost everything in the discussion so far to be useful in some way. Continuing to use "Environmental Theory" as a point of departure, let's see if I can focus my questions a little more.

It is clear the essay needs a massive rewrite. This would be true simply because it was originally written twenty years ago. New developments in Book of Mormon studies alone would necessitate a rewrite. But my own thoughts about how to approach the Book of Mormon have also changed, too. Here are some things I would change:

1. The whole point of the essay was to leave "apologetics" behind and get on with the task of Book of Mormon interpretation. Today, I would present my work as "merely" an alternative. This would allow a new version of "Environmental Theory" to be even less confrontational. So any notion that my approach is somehow "better" is out the window. To be sure, I'll state my case, but leave judgments to readers and scholarly consensus.

2. Pace smac97, it is still my position that consideration of the prophet/fraud dicotomy is irrelevant when it comes to Book of Mormon interpretation. However, it is also clear I cannot just say that and move on. Tentatively, my approach here will be to discuss why I believe these are two entirely separate topics.

3. I agree with Ben the term environmentalist has to go. It had meaning in its time, but now its too confusing. I haven't found a new term yet, though. A new term would have to a) fit what I'm doing and b) be as neutral as possible to "the other side." Suggestions here are definitely welcome.

4. Even presenting my approach as an alternative still leaves questions about how to deal with the other alternatives. The biggest questions revolve around when and how to engage (i.e., directly argue against) "the other side."

If I don't think I have to engage alternative arguments, my road is clear. Simply point readers to it and move on. I can trust readers to realize that I don't necessarily buy the argument even if I'm not engaging it. Furthermore, if I'm not engaging an argument, I'll still strive to point readers to the best statements of a given argument I can find.

How to engage is simple in theory but probably more difficult in execution: avoid rhetoric. Stick to the facts as much as possible. Be fair, i.e., make sure I'm responding to the real argument and not a strawman.

The harder question is how to decide when I need to engage. The way I would be approaching Book of Mormon interpretation now substantially lowers my burden of proof. I don't need to prove Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon. I don't even need to show Joseph's authorship is superior to the alternatives. All I need to do is show the case is strong enough to proceed on that basis.

So I would only need to engage if and only if a given counterargument would substantially impact the case I'm making at that lower burden. Obviously that can still be subjective, but it does give me a standard to work with.

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50 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I agree with Ben the term environmentalist has to go. It had meaning in its time, but now its too confusing. I haven't found a new term yet, though. A new term would have to a) fit what I'm doing and b) be as neutral as possible to "the other side." Suggestions here are definitely welcome.

As an issue that I have addressed in the past, I think that there is a fundamental problem with the Book of Mormon and interpretation in terms of what you describe as "the other side". Part of the challenge with the Book of Mormon is that disagreements about the fundamental nature of the text tend to overshadow everything else. If one group reads the Book of Mormon as a historical text documenting a real ancient history, and another group reads the text as a fictional novel, and another group yet reads it as scripture with an ahistorical narrative, and so on - these aren't differences that can be addressed simply by providing different facets of an argument or variants in interpretation. This decision about what the text is comes prior to decisions about what the text means. On some level, this suggests to me that you cannot avoid the debate over the text if you are going to interpret the text.

In considering this issue over the past few days, I have thought that maybe an interesting (but related) term that could be used would be the term "Ecology". This might not work for you, but it could work for me (as I would envision this sort of process). Ecology can be defined as: "a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments or the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment". In some ways, texts can come to resemble living things - or perhaps stated better, the idea of a living thing is an appropriate metaphor for texts. If I were to take such an approach, it would not be about the text, or about interpreting the text, but rather about how the text is interpreted. The range of interpretations reflects the "interrelationship of [texts] and their environments. The text is then seen as a living thing in the way that interpretations change over time. And while the act of interpreting the text is a rather subjective undertaking, the recognition and comparison of interpretations of the text (past and present) is not (or at least not so much). This then creates the subtext for the idea of an Ecology of the Book of Mormon. And such a study would be inherently neither apologetic or polemic.

Or maybe not ....

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1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

2. Pace smac97, it is still my position that consideration of the prophet/fraud dicotomy is irrelevant when it comes to Book of Mormon interpretation. However, it is also clear I cannot just say that and move on. Tentatively, my approach here will be to discuss why I believe these are two entirely separate topics.

I look forward to reading this.  In order to be effective, I think you will need to address the points raised by Oaks, Holland, Jackson, Peterson, Smoot, Givens, etc. which intertwine the two topics (historicity and scriptural authenticity/authority/dependability) you propose are "entirely separate" from each other.  You are approaching a topic about which there is already substantial and publicly-available thought, analysis, argument, etc.  Unless and until you address these, I think your effort will remain hobbled and unsuccessful.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

3. I agree with Ben the term environmentalist has to go. It had meaning in its time, but now its too confusing. I haven't found a new term yet, though. A new term would have to a) fit what I'm doing and b) be as neutral as possible to "the other side." Suggestions here are definitely welcome.

Well, we already have descriptors like "Pious Fraud" AND "Inspired Fiction."  The former is, I think, too pejorative-sounding to be useful to you.  "Inspired Fiction," though, is A) fairly clinical, B) fairly accurate, C) non-pejorative, and D) already in use.

I think Brian Hales has adopted a fairly clinical nomenclature: Naturalistic Explanations of the Origin of the Book of Mormon

However, "naturalistic" encompasses both non-secular/irreligious (total fabrication, with conniving intent) and secular/religious (total fabrication, with benevolent/inspired intent) theories, and it is clear you want to differentiate between these two categories.  

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

4. Even presenting my approach as an alternative still leaves questions about how to deal with the other alternatives. The biggest questions revolve around when and how to engage (i.e., directly argue against) "the other side."

Yep.  "The elephant in the room" springs to mind.

Imagine a biography of the life of Abraham Lincoln that speaks of his birth and childhood, his transition into adult life, his career as an attorney, his wife and children, and his funeral, but makes no mention whatsoever of his political career, slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, etc.

Imagine a biography of William Wilberforce that speaks of his political career, but makes no mention at all of his efforts as an abolitionist.

Imagine a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. that makes no mention of his efforts to advance civil rights.

Imagine a review of the Harry Potter series that discusses the characters, but makes no mention of magic.

And so on.

In the law there is a concept generally referred to as sine qua non.  See here:

Quote

Sine qua non {} or condicio sine qua non (plural: condiciones sine quibus non) is an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient. It was originally a Latin legal term for "[a condition] without which it could not be", "but for...", or "without which [there is] nothing". Also, "sine qua non causation" is the formal terminology for "but-for causation".

Both believers in and skeptics of the Book of Mormon, by and large, view historicity as being the sine qua non of the Book of Mormon's claim to status as inspired writ.

  • Quoth Park: "{T}he question of historicity is never too far from the text."
  • Quoth Austin: "{I}t is critically irresponsible to study the Book of Mormon this way because the bracketed items are precisely the questions that make it worth studying in the first place."
  • Quoth Olsen: "I think that the phenomenon of Mormonism has history and historicity as constitutive features."
  • Quoth Givens: "It is not what the Book of Mormon contains that Mormons value, but what it enacts. And that miraculous enactment is its history."
  • Quoth Givens: "It is therefore hard to bracket the book's claims to historical facticity when those claims are both integral to the religious faith of Mormons and the warp and woof of the record."
  • Quoth Givens: "{N}aturalizing the origins of the Book of Mormon is to emasculate its efficacy as Mormon scripture."
  • Quoth Hancock: "{T}o suspend or bracket the question of the ancient origin of the Book of Mormon is not really to transcend it.  To say that what the Book says about itself is not what really matters is to speak volumes.
1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

If I don't think I have to engage alternative arguments, my road is clear. Simply point readers to it and move on.

The "if" here is, in my view, intractably incorrect.

I will repeat this anecdote:

Quote

Some years ago I attended a CLE ("Continuing Legal Education") at which several judges from the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals participated in a panel discussion, followed by a Q&A.  One of the questions asked was something like "What is the most common shortcoming you find in attorneys who appear before you, either in their written briefs or their oral arguments?"  Virtually every judge wanted to respond, all saying the same thing: "Answer our questions.  Don't be evasive.  Don't equivocate.  Don't side-step.  Don't make stuff up.  You don't do yourselves any favors by avoiding addressing weaknesses or gaps in your case."

Imagine a lawyer presenting argument to the Utah Supreme Court.  Imagine the justices asking him questions as to the opposing viewpoint and their legal reasoning and argument.  Imagine the attorney saying something like "I don't think I have to engage alternative arguments.  My road is clear.  So I will just point you justices to the opposing party's brief and move on."

An attorney could, I suppose, say that.  But he would be doing his client and his client's legal argument/position a real disservice.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

I can trust readers to realize that I don't necessarily buy the argument even if I'm not engaging it.  Furthermore, if I'm not engaging an argument, I'll still strive to point readers to the best statements of a given argument I can find.

Well, sure.  But your objective here is to persuade your readers, not yourself.  Merely asserting something like "I refuse to engage arguments opposing my viewpoint, but that doesn't mean I think those arguments are correct" will get you very far with your readers.  Hancock was spot-on: "To say that what the Book says about itself is not what really matters is to speak volumes."

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

How to engage is simple in theory but probably more difficult in execution: avoid rhetoric. Stick to the facts as much as possible. Be fair, i.e., make sure I'm responding to the real argument and not a strawman.

I assume that you mean to use "rhetoric" for its pejorative sense (as in "language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content").  Is that correct?

Again: Oaks, Holland, Jackson, Peterson, Givens, Hamblin, Smoot, Lewis, Hancock, Park, Austin, and Olsen.  These folks seem to be as sincere in their assessment of the Book of Mormon as you are, as interested in proving "meaningful content" about it.

Moreover, "fairness" is an admirable goal, and will necessarily involve addressing Joseph Smith's lifelong statements about the origins of the Book of Mormon, as well the Witness statements, as well as what the text itself claims to be.  You will be overtly contradicting these statements, and I don't think your readers will be satisfied with you refusing to A) provide an explanation as to why your approach is superior, and B) address the most basic and central pieces of evidence which contravene your approach.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

The harder question is how to decide when I need to engage. The way I would be approaching Book of Mormon interpretation now substantially lowers my burden of proof.

Well, sure.  As an attorney, I would love to lower my burden of proof by unilaterally ignoring and refusing to respond to my opponents arguments and evidence.  But would the judge find that refusal helpful and illuminating and persuasive?  Nope.  To the contrary, that refusal, that deliberate silence, would - as Hancock put it - "speak volumes" about the merits of my position.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

I don't need to prove Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon. I don't even need to show Joseph's authorship is superior to the alternatives. All I need to do is show the case is strong enough to proceed on that basis.

So I would only need to engage if and only if a given counterargument would substantially impact the case I'm making at that lower burden. Obviously that can still be subjective, but it does give me a standard to work with.

From my first post:

Quote

This seems like a protracted exercise in sidestepping.  It seems to work if your stated purpose of "systematically develop{ing} the environmentalist position" is the only objective in view.  Stating your position in a clear and concise way is great.  However, you proceed to state that "{i}f the theory is correct, environmentalists are right because they presented a better argument, not because they have refuted the opposition."  So it seems that you do want to "debate" historicists after all, but do so by largely ignoring them as "the opposition."  If that is the case, I think your effort will fail.  Claiming to present "a better argument" by ignoring opposing ones just won't work.

Thanks,

-Smac

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42 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Part of the challenge with the Book of Mormon is that disagreements about the fundamental nature of the text tend to overshadow everything else.

Agreed. A major part of my purpose both then and now is to find away to break away from the disagreements. If two or more people simply keep arguing about what a table is, the table is never going to be built. This is why my harshest criticisms were directed at my own "side." The FARMSian side (dont worry, I am NOT keeping this term) was certainly arguing about the fundamental nature of the text, but it was also working on interpreting the text. To use Compton's terminology, the were engaged in both the destructive and constructive tasks of their work. With notable exceptions, the Smithian side was not.

1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

If one group reads the Book of Mormon as a historical text documenting a real ancient history, and another group reads the text as a fictional novel, and another group yet reads it as scripture with an ahistorical narrative, and so on - these aren't differences that can be addressed simply by providing different facets of an argument or variants in interpretation. This decision about what the text is comes prior to decisions about what the text means. On some level, this suggests to me that you cannot avoid the debate over the text if you are going to interpret the text.

I know I can't avoid the debate in the long run. Grr! Argh! But knowing this and figuring out what to do about it are two entirely different matters. You may have noticed there is a strain of biblical scholarship underneath my basic reasoning. I have noticed that mainline and conservative scholars can frequently borrow from each other even though they have very different ideas about what the text is. Accepting the Documentary Hypothesis or Mosaic authorship obviously does affect how one interprets the Torah. But at least in certain matters, e.g., questions regarding divine inspiration, the differences fade into insignificance. The questions remain, but the interaction itself is still fruitful.

I am also hoping that the process of doing the work will help me find a way to address the debate.

1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

In considering this issue over the past few days, I have thought that maybe an interesting (but related) term that could be used would be the term "Ecology". This might not work for you, but it could work for me (as I would envision this sort of process). Ecology can be defined as: "a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments or the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment". In some ways, texts can come to resemble living things - or perhaps stated better, the idea of a living thing is an appropriate metaphor for texts. If I were to take such an approach, it would not be about the text, or about interpreting the text, but rather about how the text is interpreted. The range of interpretations reflects the "interrelationship of [texts] and their environments. The text is then seen as a living thing in the way that interpretations change over time. And while the act of interpreting the text is a rather subjective undertaking, the recognition and comparison of interpretations of the text (past and present) is not (or at least not so much). This then creates the subtext for the idea of an Ecology of the Book of Mormon. And such a study would be inherently neither apologetic or polemic.

I have to think more deeply about this. At first glance, I'd have to say the model doesn't work for me. To extend the metaphor, I'm trying to mark where I belong in the ecology.

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Well, we already have descriptors like "Pious Fraud" AND "Inspired Fiction."  The former is, I think, too pejorative-sounding to be useful to you.  "Inspired Fiction," though, is A) fairly clinical, B) fairly accurate, C) non-pejorative, and D) already in use.

I think Brian Hales has adopted a fairly clinical nomenclature: Naturalistic Explanations of the Origin of the Book of Mormon

However, "naturalistic" encompasses both non-secular/irreligious (total fabrication, with conniving intent) and secular/religious (total fabrication, with benevolent/inspired intent) theories, and it is clear you want to differentiate between these two categories.  

I agree "Pious Fraud" is too pejorative sounding. Right now, "mythmaker" is my preferred term, though that still comes with problem and/or potential for misunderstanding. "Inspired fiction" works well enough, but I'm currently favoring "modern myth."

My approach is certainly naturalistic and heavily favors the intellect theory. It is also certainly secular/religious.

A term I am trying out now is "Smithian."

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Both believers in and skeptics of the Book of Mormon, by and large, view historicity as being the sine qua non of the Book of Mormon's claim to status as inspired writ

Perhaps it is; perhaps it isn't. Either way, the question I am focused on right now is not "Is the Book of Mormon inspired writ?" The question I am focused on right now is more akin to "What does the Book of Mormon say?"

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Imagine a lawyer presenting argument to the Utah Supreme Court.  Imagine the justices asking him questions as to the opposing viewpoint and their legal reasoning and argument.  Imagine the attorney saying something like "I don't think I have to engage alternative arguments.  My road is clear.  So I will just point you justices to the opposing party's brief and move on."

An attorney could, I suppose, say that.  But he would be doing his client and his client's legal argument/position a real disservice.

I am not arguing in a court of law, I am not representing a client, and most importantly I am not engaged in a lawsuit. I am a scholar observing phenomena and trying to interpret them. While some the processes of argumentation are similar in law and scholarship, there is a very important difference. In a court of law, someone has to win; that's the point. In scholarship, I don't have to win. In a lawsuit, once the appeals process is played out, a decision is made, and it's done. In scholarship, the "appeals process" is never truly over. There is no high court that makes a final decision that ends the matter once and for all.

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

Well, sure.  But your objective here is to persuade your readers, not yourself.  Merely asserting something like "I refuse to engage arguments opposing my viewpoint, but that doesn't mean I think those arguments are correct" will get you very far with your readers.  Hancock was spot-on: "To say that what the Book says about itself is not what really matters is to speak volumes."

No, my objective is not to persuade my readers. At least, not necessarily and not anymore. Would I be pleased if my readers are persuaded? Sure! Would I be pleased if enough readers are persuaded that my view becomes the scholarly consensus? Again, sure. However, I'm now more concerned with simply making a useful contribution. But to even have a hope about any of these things at all, I need to get my view out there.

So there is a practical matter to consider here. If I'm spending all my time engaging opposing arguments, I'm not doing anything constructive. Indeed, I suspect that is the point of some apologists (here in the pejorative sense) presenting all sorts of issues that supposedly have to be explained.

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

I assume that you mean to use "rhetoric" for its pejorative sense (as in "language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content").  Is that correct?

Yes, that is correct.

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

Again: Oaks, Holland, Jackson, Peterson, Givens, Hamblin, Smoot, Lewis, Hancock, Park, Austin, and Olsen.  These folks seem to be as sincere in their assessment of the Book of Mormon as you are, as interested in proving "meaningful content" about it.

I have no doubt about that.

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

Well, sure.  As an attorney, I would love to lower my burden of proof by unilaterally ignoring and refusing to respond to my opponents arguments and evidence.  But would the judge find that refusal helpful and illuminating and persuasive?  Nope.  To the contrary, that refusal, that deliberate silence, would - as Hancock put it - "speak volumes" about the merits of my position.

Once again, this is not a court of law. There isn't a judge telling me to respond to a specific point. I'm not trying to win a lawsuit. What I do have is a relatively limited amount of time and far too many opposing arguments than can be handled if I am going to accomplish my basic task at all. At a minimum, that means I have to choose my battles wisely. That also means that at least sometimes, I simply point the readers the readers to those opposing arguments and trust they can decide for themselves.

As it so happens, in the time since I wrote the essay, things changed. The primary thing that changed is that over time, I stopped seeing it as a lawsuit. "Winning" became less important.

4 hours ago, smac97 said:

From my first post:

Quote

This seems like a protracted exercise in sidestepping.  It seems to work if your stated purpose of "systematically develop{ing} the environmentalist position" is the only objective in view.  Stating your position in a clear and concise way is great.  However, you proceed to state that "{i}f the theory is correct, environmentalists are right because they presented a better argument, not because they have refuted the opposition."  So it seems that you do want to "debate" historicists after all, but do so by largely ignoring them as "the opposition."  If that is the case, I think your effort will fail.  Claiming to present "a better argument" by ignoring opposing ones just won't work.

The problem is that you are quoting me out of context. What did I actually say about ignoring "the opposition?"

Quote

 Our theory will guide us in assessing various critiques, concentrating our responses on those that have some validity. If a critic presses an irrelevant issue, we have good justification for ignoring them.

and

Quote

 Historicists have raised a few issues notably impacting this theory, and necessity demands I respond.

Then and now, it is not a matter of ignoring the "opposition," and it is not a matter of refusing to answer. Then and now, it is a matter of focus.

Then and now, insofar as I am interested in "debating historicists," the method I'm talking about does not involve merely ignoring them. Here, admittedly I could have been more clear. Regardless, the basic idea is--once again--focus on what we're doing. We do what we do, historicists do what they do, and the "winner" is determined either by the test of time or by some decisive piece of evidence coming to light. Sort of like the way Copernican and Ptolemaic systems existed side-by-side.

This approach basically recognizes two things. First and most important, we simply don't have the evidence we need to decide the matter once and for all. Second, it is a recognition that historicists also have their own sets of interconnected assumptions, hypotheses, and information. They too have limited time and have to focus their efforts. Which means they too have to choose their battles wisely.

 

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10 hours ago, smac97 said:

Both believers in and skeptics of the Book of Mormon, by and large, view historicity as being the sine qua non of the Book of Mormon's claim to status as inspired writ.

That may be true, but I think the Book of Mormon is still interesting and worth studying apart from the question of whether or not there were Nephites.

When I was in Utah this summer, I picked up a new book called Book of Mormon Studies: An Introduction and Guide. The authors, you may be surprised to learn, express a strong preference for literary and theological approaches to the Book of Mormon over attempts to situate it in antiquity. 

Quoth Becerra, Easton-Flake, Frederick, and Spencer: 

Quote

What drives many Book of Mormon scholars today, it seems, is a worry that an exclusive concern for just the one question of historicity might compromise the larger apologetic task. They want a book that's true and valuable not only because it's historical (although that's obviously important). They want a book that's true in a hundred other ways also, and in ways that matter to human beings on an existential and not just on an intellectual level. Their experience leads them to believe that questions beyond that of historicity are what many or even most readers of the Book of Mormon want answers to.

As we've said before, readers of the Book of Mormon today are as likely—if not in fact more likely—to reject the Book of Mormon for reasons that have nothing to do with historicity. They're as likely or more likely to drop the book and the religion endorsing it because the volume seems to them to be irrelevant, archaic, boring, unenlightening, or ethically troubling. . . .

A simple simile might be useful in expressing what's happening among newer Book of Mormon scholars. Returning again and again to the issue of Book of Mormon historicity can feel like starting a car in the garage over and over again to prove that it runs—but only seldom putting the thing into drive to see what it might do. Book of Mormon researchers today increasingly feel that it's time to trust all the evidence that the car runs and take it out onto the road. . . .

We fully appreciate those who worked professionally over the course of six or seven decades to set the Book of Mormon in the ancient world and who proved themselves to be astonishingly prolific and creative in their efforts. . . . [N]ow, we believe, there's good and faithful reason to muster exactly the same kind of commitment and ingenuity and put that into a host of other questions regarding the book's truth. (112–113)

 

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11 hours ago, Nevo said:

That may be true, but I think the Book of Mormon is still interesting and worth studying apart from the question of whether or not there were Nephites.

When I was in Utah this summer, I picked up a new book called Book of Mormon Studies: An Introduction and Guide. The authors, you may be surprised to learn, express a strong preference for literary and theological approaches to the Book of Mormon over attempts to situate it in antiquity. 

Quoth Becerra, Easton-Flake, Frederick, and Spencer: 

 

The issue as I see it is to take on a more contemporary definition of "truth" and seeing it as intellectual justification which includes an understanding free of the Cartesian correspondence theory and moves more to seeing the FUNCTION and UTILITY of statements which are useful beliefs as being "true".

Is it "true" that all humans are "created equal and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights"?

Is it true that we should treat others as we would want to be treated?

These can be seen as "truths" because they are universally accepted ethical imperatives.

The BOM may be literally and historically true AND /OR true in other ways as well, if not one way, then another.

Both humanism and Mormonism seek the perfection of mankind as the ultimate goal.  For me it doesn't have to be one path or the other, it can be both simultaneously 

That's the key 

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On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

I agree "Pious Fraud" is too pejorative sounding. Right now, "mythmaker" is my preferred term, though that still comes with problem and/or potential for misunderstanding. "Inspired fiction" works well enough, but I'm currently favoring "modern myth."

My approach is certainly naturalistic and heavily favors the intellect theory. It is also certainly secular/religious.

A term I am trying out now is "Smithian."

Perhaps it is; perhaps it isn't. Either way, the question I am focused on right now is not "Is the Book of Mormon inspired writ?" The question I am focused on right now is more akin to "What does the Book of Mormon say?"

I am not arguing in a court of law, I am not representing a client, and most importantly I am not engaged in a lawsuit. I am a scholar observing phenomena and trying to interpret them. While some the processes of argumentation are similar in law and scholarship, there is a very important difference. In a court of law, someone has to win; that's the point. In scholarship, I don't have to win. In a lawsuit, once the appeals process is played out, a decision is made, and it's done. In scholarship, the "appeals process" is never truly over. There is no high court that makes a final decision that ends the matter once and for all.

No, my objective is not to persuade my readers. At least, not necessarily and not anymore. Would I be pleased if my readers are persuaded? Sure! Would I be pleased if enough readers are persuaded that my view becomes the scholarly consensus? Again, sure. However, I'm now more concerned with simply making a useful contribution. But to even have a hope about any of these things at all, I need to get my view out there.

So there is a practical matter to consider here. If I'm spending all my time engaging opposing arguments, I'm not doing anything constructive. Indeed, I suspect that is the point of some apologists (here in the pejorative sense) presenting all sorts of issues that supposedly have to be explained.

Yes, that is correct.

I have no doubt about that.

Once again, this is not a court of law. There isn't a judge telling me to respond to a specific point. I'm not trying to win a lawsuit. What I do have is a relatively limited amount of time and far too many opposing arguments than can be handled if I am going to accomplish my basic task at all. At a minimum, that means I have to choose my battles wisely. That also means that at least sometimes, I simply point the readers the readers to those opposing arguments and trust they can decide for themselves.

As it so happens, in the time since I wrote the essay, things changed. The primary thing that changed is that over time, I stopped seeing it as a lawsuit. "Winning" became less important.

The problem is that you are quoting me out of context. What did I actually say about ignoring "the opposition?"

and

Then and now, it is not a matter of ignoring the "opposition," and it is not a matter of refusing to answer. Then and now, it is a matter of focus.

Then and now, insofar as I am interested in "debating historicists," the method I'm talking about does not involve merely ignoring them. Here, admittedly I could have been more clear. Regardless, the basic idea is--once again--focus on what we're doing. We do what we do, historicists do what they do, and the "winner" is determined either by the test of time or by some decisive piece of evidence coming to light. Sort of like the way Copernican and Ptolemaic systems existed side-by-side.

This approach basically recognizes two things. First and most important, we simply don't have the evidence we need to decide the matter once and for all. Second, it is a recognition that historicists also have their own sets of interconnected assumptions, hypotheses, and information. They too have limited time and have to focus their efforts. Which means they too have to choose their battles wisely.


 

If you’re more interested in writing about interpretation of the Book of Mormon than dealing with the inherent rub your interpretation brings up with the historicist view, you could choose to write to an audience that already views the BoM as non-historical. You could find an appropriate publication and get your work out there without trying to satisfy every point that the ardent historicist wants you to address before getting onto your real work. Frankly, you’re not going to satisfy some of the commenters on this board, and there are intelligent and scholarly circles that would be interested in hearing what you have to say.

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14 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

You could find an appropriate publication and get your work out there without trying to satisfy every point that the ardent historicist wants you to address before getting onto your real work.

I'm in the same boat, a TBM, but a student of philosophy who sees the BOM as inspired philosophy.  It could be literally "true", poetry, or downright fiction, I honestly don't care. I care about its philosophical implications.

Any advice on publications?

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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

I'm in the same boat, a TBM, but a student of philosophy who sees the BOM as inspired philosophy.  It could be literally "true", poetry, or downright fiction, I honestly don't care. I care about its philosophical implications.

Any advice on publications?

The first one that comes to mind is Dialogue: a journal of Mormon thought 

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On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:
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If I don't think I have to engage alternative arguments, my road is clear. Simply point readers to it and move on.

Imagine a lawyer presenting argument to the Utah Supreme Court.  Imagine the justices asking him questions as to the opposing viewpoint and their legal reasoning and argument.  Imagine the attorney saying something like "I don't think I have to engage alternative arguments.  My road is clear.  So I will just point you justices to the opposing party's brief and move on."

An attorney could, I suppose, say that.  But he would be doing his client and his client's legal argument/position a real disservice.

I am not arguing in a court of law, I am not representing a client, and most importantly I am not engaged in a lawsuit.

That is a reasonable response.  You are quite correct.  There are legitimate differences between writing about a religious topic (either informally or in a "scholarly" way) and writing in a legal/adversarial setting.  

That said, it was intended as an analogy, a comparison of traits shared by two otherwise dissimilar things.  Moreover, in your first post you sure seemed to be open to analogies to legal argument: "The 'destructive' side refers to the fact that if I'm going to write about Joseph as the author, I have to argue the case that he is indeed the author. I don't think I have to prove it, and I'm not so arrogant as to believe I can anyway. I think I only need to establish a good enough case, a la "Environmental Theory," to get on with the work of analyzing the Book of Mormon from that perspective."

If you need to "argue the case" about X an important part of that will generally be responding to opposing viewpoints / arguments / evidence about X.

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

I am a scholar observing phenomena and trying to interpret them.  While some the processes of argumentation are similar in law and scholarship, there is a very important difference. In a court of law, someone has to win; that's the point. In scholarship, I don't have to win.

Well, that's a fair point as well.

In law school I was taught that lawyers need to learn how to write both "objectively" and, alternatively, "persuasively."  A fairly good explanation of the difference between the two  is:

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While the goal of objective writing is to inform and predict using a neutral point of view, with careful attention to OBJECTIVITY (as in an objective memo), persuasive writing is aimed at creating a desired outcome with a specific AUDIENCE (as in an appellate brief).  In legal writing, you may prepare an objective internal memorandum to inform your partner about a specific area of the law or an unbiased assessment of a case.  Even when your reader expects a prediction of the outcome of the case, this prediction should be based on objective analysis of the law that measures the strengths and weaknesses of the client’s position and balances them.  On the other hand, you may be writing to persuade a trial court to rule positively on a motion, persuading an appellate court to remand a case, or persuading a fellow attorney that a settlement will be in the best interests of both your clients.  

Thus, when writing persuasively, you must be clear on the PURPOSE of your persuasion, because that purpose will guide your choices throughout the WRITING PROCESS, from choosing content, strategy, and ORGANIZATION to REVISING for EMPHASIS.   

In comparison, "scholarly writing" may be characterized this way:

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Scholarly writing is also known as academic writing. It is the genre of writing used in all academic fields. Scholarly writing is not better than journalism, fiction, or poetry; it is just a different category. 
...
Scholarly writing communicates original thought, whether through primary research or synthesis, that presents a unique perspective on previous research. In a scholarly work, the author is expected to have insights on the issue at hand, but those insights must be grounded in research, critical reading, and analysis rather than personal experience or opinion.
...

Writing at the graduate level can appear to be confusing and intimidating. It can be difficult to determine exactly what the scholarly voice is and how to transition to graduate-level writing. There are some elements of writing to consider when writing to a scholarly audience: word choice, tone, and effective use of evidence. If you understand and employ scholarly voice rules, you will master writing at the doctoral level.

Before you write something, ask yourself the following: 

  • Is this objective?
  • Am I speaking as a social scientist? Am I using the literature to support my assertions?
  • Could this be offensive to someone?
  • Could this limit my readership?

Employing these rules when writing will help ensure that you are speaking as a social scientist. Your writing will be clear and concise, and this approach will allow your content to shine through.

As regarding the above four questions, is your writing on this topic going to be "objective"?  It seems not, since you are seeking to advance a particular point of view (or at least use that point of view as a presumptive starting point for speaking on a topic).  You have characterized yourself as a "religious environmentalist," what others have called the "pious fraud" or "inspired fiction" approach to the Book of Mormon. 

The crux of your position, its sine qua non, is a categorical rejection of historicity.  You speak of your "reverence and affection for the book," and that you intend to "argue" and "establish a good enough case."  That doesn't really sound like you are approaching the topic from an "objective" point of view.  Instead, you are advancing a particular perspective, with the intent of persuading others to accept it.  That's fine.  And that can even be "scholarly." 

But it's kind of hard for you to claim that it is not analogous to legal/adversarial writing.  You said: "I am not arguing in a court of law, I am not representing a client, and most importantly I am not engaged in a lawsuit."  It seems that you are acting as an advocate in some sense.  You seem to want to advocate, through persuasive reasoning, in the "court" of public opinion.  That you are "representing a client" and speaking on behalf of his position (you are representing yourself, pro se).  As for "a lawsuit," that's not really necessary.  Lawyers regularly write, either objectively or persuasively, without any lawsuit in view.  

The remaining questions have some value too, I suppose.  I am curious as to whom you are addressing your prospective writing project.  Certainly "people interested in the Book of Mormon," but I think you'll need to be more tailored than that.  I think writing to a "Dan Vogel"-type audience is a very different thing than writing to a "Dan Peterson"-type audience.

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

In a lawsuit, once the appeals process is played out, a decision is made, and it's done.  In scholarship, the "appeals process" is never truly over. There is no high court that makes a final decision that ends the matter once and for all.

As between those particular parties, yes.  But the dispute may carry on.  Look at the current debate on abortion.  In Roe a "decision {was} made," but that did not end the debate.  In Dobbs, another "decision {was} made" to reverse Roe, but that did not end the debate, either.  There remain two broad - and mutually incompatible - approaches to the topic.  Roe and Dobbs did not conclude the dispute.  It is not "done."

So it is, and always will be, with the Book of Mormon.  There are two broad and mutually incompatible approaches to the topic: historical and non-historical (the latter encompassing both secular and sectarian/religious approaches which reject historicity).

I think the above comparison to abortion captures what I have been trying to communicate to you about the difficult of your proposed approach.  My perspective is that elective abortion is, in virtually all instances, inherently immoral and wrong.  Countervailing views, in the main, reject that inherent and central point.  There are nuanced views between these two polarized positions, but I think most or all such nuances proceed from one of the polarized perspectives.  Thus, a "pro-life" person may say something like "elective abortion is inherently wrong, but there may be limited circumstances where it is necessary/appropriate."  Alternatively, a "pro-choice" person may say something like "elective abortion is inherently the choice of the woman, but there is a point at which that choice becomes constrained."

I don't see how you can stake out a position on historicity (and not only that, make historicity the central premise of your position), but then proceed to declare, as you have, that historicity is "irrelevant" to your proposed analytical "interpretation" of the text.  This is particularly so where you also state that you feel you do need to "establish a good enough case, a la Environmental Theory,' {that Joseph Smith wrote the text} to get on with the work of analyzing the Book of Mormon from that perspective."

If historicity is irrelevant, then "argu{ing}" and "establish{ing} a good enough case" against it would seem unnecessary.

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:
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Well, sure.  But your objective here is to persuade your readers, not yourself.  Merely asserting something like "I refuse to engage arguments opposing my viewpoint, but that doesn't mean I think those arguments are correct" will get you very far with your readers.  Hancock was spot-on: "To say that what the Book says about itself is not what really matters is to speak volumes."

No, my objective is not to persuade my readers. At least, not necessarily and not anymore.

Okay.  This actually helps clarify a bit.  Your purpose is not to "persuade," but to . . . what?  To "inform?"  To "educate?"

For myself, I have a hard time with the idea that scholarly writing is not intended to persuade its audience.  But perhaps that because my lawyer job is too deeply engrained in my way of thinking.  

As noted above, attorneys need to be able to write not only "persuasively" (that is, to argue in favor of a particular position, "aimed at creating a desired outcome with a specific audience"), but also an "objectively" (a "warts and all" assessment of a case, intended for the client or another attorney in the firm, an "objective analysis of the law that measures the strengths and weaknesses of the client’s position and balances them").

It seems like you are proposing to "objectively" about a disputed issue, which issue you nevertheless presuppose as established for your purposes.  For example, let's say that a law firm has a client bring in a document which he (the client) believes to be a valid and enforceable contract.  The partner at the firm reviews the document and finds that some portions of it are written in such a way as to create reasonable grounds for the opposing party to dispute the validity/enforceability of the document as a contract (though the document may be useful for purposes other than being a contract).  The partner calls in a junior associate, explains the situation, and asks him to draft an inter-office memorandum evaluating the utility of the document other than as a contract (such as, for example, evidence that the opposing party had previously waived a claim to real property which he now says he owns). 

The associate attorney's assignment, then, is both "objective" in that the partner wants a "warts and all" assessment of the document, but not about the ultimate issue of whether the document is a contract.  Instead, the associate attorney's memorandum presupposes, for the sake of analysis only, that the document is not an enforceable contract, and instead addresses whether it has alternative usefulness (such as evidence of waiver).

Could something similar be said about your proposed article?  You want to write about the Book of Mormon presupposing - but not attempting to establish - its lack of historicity, and from that point proceed to analysis of the text as being useful in some alternative way (the "inspired fiction" approach to "interpreting" what the text is saying, or whatever label you end up using).

Is that a fair summary?

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

So there is a practical matter to consider here. If I'm spending all my time engaging opposing arguments, I'm not doing anything constructive. Indeed, I suspect that is the point of some apologists (here in the pejorative sense) presenting all sorts of issues that supposedly have to be explained.

I don't think "apologists" (here in the non-pejorative sense, as I am happy to defend the Church and its truth claims) are trying to trip you up, or to silence you.  Nothing nefarious here.

You will not really be plowing any new ground here.  Folks have been writing about the topic of historicity for years, hence the recognizable terminology ("inspired fiction," "pious fraud," etc.), and extensive responses to it (such as 2001's Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures).  

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:
Quote

Well, sure.  As an attorney, I would love to lower my burden of proof by unilaterally ignoring and refusing to respond to my opponents arguments and evidence.  But would the judge find that refusal helpful and illuminating and persuasive?  Nope.  To the contrary, that refusal, that deliberate silence, would - as Hancock put it - "speak volumes" about the merits of my position.

Once again, this is not a court of law.  There isn't a judge telling me to respond to a specific point. I'm not trying to win a lawsuit.

Again, you started this thread stating that if you are "going to write about Joseph as the author {of the Book of Mormon}, {you will} have to argue the case that he is indeed the author," that you won't "have to prove it," and that you instead "only need to establish a good enough case, a la 'Environmental Theory,'" and then - having "establish{ed}" this premise, you can "get on with the work of analyzing the Book of Mormon from that perspective."

Boy, that sounds a lot like what lawyers do on a regular basis in their persuasive writing.  They use evidence, reasoning, etc. to "establish a good enough case."

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

What I do have is a relatively limited amount of time and far too many opposing arguments than can be handled if I am going to accomplish my basic task at all. At a minimum, that means I have to choose my battles wisely. That also means that at least sometimes, I simply point the readers the readers to those opposing arguments and trust they can decide for themselves.

I don't understand.  Above you state that "{your} objective is not to persuade {your} readers," yet here (and elsewhere) you state that there are "opposing arguments" to your "basic task."  If that "basic task" is not to persuade or argue, then how can you characterize it as having "opposing arguments"?

Consider, for example, this 2015 article by Erik McCarthy: The Possibility of the Book of Mormon as Inspired Fiction

An excerpt:

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While critics and apologists of Mormonism disagree with each other on just about every issue, there is one matter in which they often share a moment of agreement –Mormonism rises or falls on the historicity of the Book of Mormon. 
...
What has come to be known as the Inspired Fiction theory has come under additional scrutiny in an article posted on The Interpreter’s website entitled “The Imperative for a Historical Book of Mormon.” In it Stephen Smoot argues that the problem with the Inspired Fiction theory is that “no matter how much he’s desperately masked with trivialized adjectives like ‘inspired’ or ‘pious’, that, whatever else he was, Joseph Smith was a liar. Regardless of whether he was conscious of it or not, he was a liar whose fraud has misled millions into sincerely believing the Book of Mormon to be ancient, when, in fact, its history goes no further back than the 19th century. He either lied or was deluded in claiming that the angel Moroni delivered real golden plates for him to translate.” [ii] The rationale behind Smoot’s argument is that if there were no Nephites, then there would be no Moroni. If there were no Moroni, then there would be no gold plates. If there were no gold plates, then Joseph Smith was lying. Even if Joseph Smith had pure intentions behind his lie or even if he believed the lies himself he was committing a fraud.

An examination of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is beyond the scope of this analysis. Instead, I seek to flesh out some of the historical and theological possibilities of the Inspired Fiction theory and the associated implications and difficulties. While I do not necessarily believe in the possibilities that I hereafter present, I do intend to show that that they are not quite as irrational as various apologists and critics claim.

Erik forthrightly sets aside disputes about historicity and proceeds to presuppose the lack of it for the purpose of laying out alternative perspectives on the utility of the text:

Quote

A God that is willing to work according to people’s language and understanding

According to 2 Nephi 31:3 “the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their own language, unto their own understanding.” This scripture is often used as a justification for a pseudo universalistic view of religions outside of Mormonism.  A 1978 First Presidency statement regarding God’s love for all mankind states that “the great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.”[iii] B. H. Roberts takes the universalism even further.

Mormonism holds then that all the great teachers among all nations and in all ages are servants of God. They are inspired men appointed to instruct God’s children according to the conditions in the midst of which He finds them. Hence it is not obnoxious to Mormonism to regard Confucius the great Chinese philosopher and moralist as a servant of God inspired to a certain degree by Him to teach those great moral maxims which have governed those millions of God’s children for lo these many centuries. It is willing to regard Gautama Buddha as an inspired servant of God teaching a measure of the truth at least giving to these people that twilight of truth by which they may somewhat see their way. So with the Arabian prophet, that wild spirit that turned the Arabians from worshipping idols to a conception of the Creator of heaven and earth that was more excellent than their previous conception of Deity. And so the sages of Greece and Rome. So [with] the reformers of early Protestant times.[iv]

While B.H. Roberts and other LDS leaders who espoused pseudo universalistic views would acknowledge that other religious leaders have had access to divine inspiration, they would still elevate Mormonism above the rest; others would receive a portion of God’s word, but the LDS church would have the fullness. While other religious groups likewise proclaim that they are in fact the ones who see the full picture, these claims of grandeur do not seem to disqualify them from receiving inspiration and some form of revelation in the eyes of B. H. Roberts and other LDS leaders.

Latter-day Saints have displayed a great amount of nuance when it comes to other religious leaders. They do not proclaim all or nothing, black or white views about the teachings of Muhammad, Christian reformers, or other great religious leaders. They are willing to accept that God can reveal truth to an influential well intentioned leader without giving a stamp of approval on all of their theological and historical claims.  However, when the same nuance is applied to the LDS church by members who believe in a non-historical Book of Mormon, they are often told that their position is logically untenable and unacceptable. The reasoning being that if the gold plates did not exist, Joseph Smith would have to be a liar and a fraud, and God would not work through a liar and a fraud. Of course, one could point out that Muhammad claimed that he received the words of the Quran from an angel. The Quran has many teachings that are in direct contradiction with Mormonism, including the disavowing of the divinity of Christ. However, the ambiguity associated with distant history, especially before the wide use of the printing press, provide some with enough wiggle room to believe that the claims of Muhammad (including the angelic visions) and the text in the Quran have been exaggerated over time. However, since Mormonism’s inception occurred comfortably after printing press technology became widespread and accessible, the same historical ambiguity is not afforded to the claims of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. However, if Muhammad or other religious leaders did in fact lie about the authors and miraculous origins of their writings, the question then becomes “Is God unwilling to impart inspiration through seemingly fraudulent pseudepigrapha?”

This is actually pretty good stuff.  That said, I would have preferred that he interact with the various statements previously made on this point, with those from Oaks, Holland, Jackson, and Givens being the most important, IMO.  I think Erik substantially oversimplifies the "historicity" position, and in doing so he leaves me, as his "audience," dissatisfied.  He makes some solid points here, but he doesn't really advance the discussion because he is not interacting with well-established countervailing argument and reasoning.

And, you will note, his reasoning is recursive.  He says that "examination of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is beyond the scope of this analysis," and yet he necessarily returns to historicity when presenting "some of the historical and theological possibilities of the Inspired Fiction theory."  He also proposes to discuss "the associated implications and difficulties {of the Inspired Fiction theory}," and yet can only do so by . . . examining historicity. 

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

Then and now, insofar as I am interested in "debating historicists," the method I'm talking about does not involve merely ignoring them.

Well, you sure don't seem to be paying attention to or interacting with that they have presented.

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

Here, admittedly I could have been more clear. Regardless, the basic idea is--once again--focus on what we're doing. We do what we do, historicists do what they do, and the "winner" is determined either by the test of time or by some decisive piece of evidence coming to light. Sort of like the way Copernican and Ptolemaic systems existed side-by-side.

Sounds like you are trying to persuade your audience after all ("and the 'winner' is...").

On 11/1/2022 at 6:14 PM, tagriffy said:

This approach basically recognizes two things. First and most important, we simply don't have the evidence we need to decide the matter once and for all.

I think what you reference as "the evidence we need to decide the matter" is better characterized as "the evidence we would like to have to decide the matter."  There are endless circumstances in which people are required to "decide the matter" based on less evidence than they would like to have.  This is because the decision needs to be made, even when the evidence is not as extensive or as probative as we would like.  

Your posture here kind of demonstrates my point.  You have staked out a position that not only does "decide the matter {of historicity of the Book of Mormon}," but proceeds to analyze the text with that presupposition in place.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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On 11/3/2022 at 12:19 AM, Benjamin Seeker said:

If you’re more interested in writing about interpretation of the Book of Mormon than dealing with the inherent rub your interpretation brings up with the historicist view, you could choose to write to an audience that already views the BoM as non-historical. You could find an appropriate publication and get your work out there without trying to satisfy every point that the ardent historicist wants you to address before getting onto your real work. Frankly, you’re not going to satisfy some of the commenters on this board, and there are intelligent and scholarly circles that would be interested in hearing what you have to say.

I could do this with individual essays, but probably not on the whole. At least part of my intended audience are those who need help threading the needle, to use smac97's terminology. As his copious quotations show, these are people who have been told over and over again that the Book of Mormon's status as inspired writ depends on historicity. So part of my purpose is to show that the Book of Mormon is inspired writ regardless. Writing solely to an audience that already views the BoM as non-historical may not get that job done.

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On 11/4/2022 at 9:37 AM, smac97 said:

That is a reasonable response.  You are quite correct.  There are legitimate differences between writing about a religious topic (either informally or in a "scholarly" way) and writing in a legal/adversarial setting.  

That said, it was intended as an analogy, a comparison of traits shared by two otherwise dissimilar things.  Moreover, in your first post you sure seemed to be open to analogies to legal argument: "The 'destructive' side refers to the fact that if I'm going to write about Joseph as the author, I have to argue the case that he is indeed the author. I don't think I have to prove it, and I'm not so arrogant as to believe I can anyway. I think I only need to establish a good enough case, a la "Environmental Theory," to get on with the work of analyzing the Book of Mormon from that perspective."

If you need to "argue the case" about X an important part of that will generally be responding to opposing viewpoints / arguments / evidence about X.

We're talking past each other. I simply don't have the time to respond fully right now. I have printed out your entire post so I can work on it. It might take some days. Please don't think I'm ignoring you.

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19 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

We're talking past each other.

Actually, I thought I was starting to better understand you.

19 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

I simply don't have the time to respond fully right now. I have printed out your entire post so I can work on it. It might take some days. Please don't think I'm ignoring you.

No worries.  No rush.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, tagriffy said:

I could do this with individual essays, but probably not on the whole. At least part of my intended audience are those who need help threading the needle, to use smac97's terminology. As his copious quotations show, these are people who have been told over and over again that the Book of Mormon's status as inspired writ depends on historicity. So part of my purpose is to show that the Book of Mormon is inspired writ regardless. Writing solely to an audience that already views the BoM as non-historical may not get that job done.

Fair enough. I think it’s good work worth doing.

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On 11/1/2022 at 2:29 PM, tagriffy said:

I have to think more deeply about this. At first glance, I'd have to say the model doesn't work for me. To extend the metaphor, I'm trying to mark where I belong in the ecology.

I think that one of my essays illustrates how I would (and did) do this. My introduction starts with this:

Quote

Nephi, of course, could not have been a postmodernist. No matter what conclusions we may draw from the text, even from the perspective of a book published in 1830, his work simply stands outside the postmodern time period. Yet as I, a postmodernist, read Nephi, I find that he reflects that perspective. In this sense, I am providing both a postmodern reading of Nephi and illustrating how Nephi anticipates that reading. My goal in this essay is to offer a new perspective on the narrative of the Book of Mormon — a perspective that changes not only the way we read the text but also the way the text changes us and our perceptions of our faith.

The problem faced by any theory that grounds the authorship of the Book of Mormon in a specific context (apart from all of the usual problems that come with these sorts of propositions) is that it has already (as I pointed out earlier) engaged in all sorts of assumptions about the text, its nature, its authorship, and all of that. And each of those positions places you into that ecology as a specific kind of reading and interpretation - as Smac97 has been trying to point out, I think. In this essay, I start by unmooring the reading of the text from any historical context. Consequently, one thing you may note about my essay here is that there is an absence of any mention of Joseph Smith. I do not discuss translation. There is no discussion (apart from references like this in the introduction) to history (the one possible exception, I think, is the reference to Nephi as an autobiographical writer - but this is Nephi's representation of himself). In doing this, I am able to really dig into what I would identify as the meaning of the text. I can discuss its rhetoric. I can look at its narrative. Most importantly, I can show how the text has a narrative structure, how the text engages itself through that structure, how our reading can change as we recognize the rhetorical structuring of the text - and for me personally, most importantly, how the text presents some engaging philosophical discussions about the nature of knowledge, texts, and reading. This essay clearly puts me into a specific place in that ecology - without the need to engage the question of historicity. If you discuss the meaning of the text, then there isn't a way for you not to mark where you are in that ecology - no matter what you write (you are going to do this regardless of how you approach the text). The question is, are you able to mark where you belong in that ecology without actually taking sides in that historical/modern fiction debate.

My earlier suggestion was that one way to avoid taking sides was to simply observe and compare the interpretations of others - but as you note, this doesn't leave room for your own interpretation. If you want to talk about the meaning of the text (and so leave your mark) in a way that doesn't engage the debate, this is a lot more difficult. And the moment that you start talking about potential sources for the text, you have already taken sides. I often take sides when I start dealing with the questions that impact historicity (anytime I start making proposals that ask about the original language representation of the Brass Plates, for example). Discussions of verisimilitude may be possible (but I think that it would be difficult to do in this context). I also recognize that I routinely take sides when I compare the text to historical contexts.

These are just a couple of things I have been thinking about in regard to your comments. I think that if you are interested in some readings, you might look at the ways that Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Søren Kierkegaard's Diary of a Seducer (in his Either/Or) are discussed. I bring these up because while they are fictional, they aren't meant to be read as fiction (in the sense of the way we normally read fiction). They use fiction to discuss very complicated issues. It is, in a way, our modern development of the simpler parables of the New Testament (which are just as fictional). Kierkegaard in particular uses a lot of parables - and so his novel is in part an expansion of that rhetorical technique. Most discussions of these kinds of texts have a very limited interest in the fictional nature of the texts - because they aren't written as fiction but as philosophical parables. We can discuss an awful lot about them without ever worrying about the extent to which such a text is biographical or a historical depiction of some real person(s).

Ben McGuire

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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22 hours ago, smac97 said:

Actually, I thought I was starting to better understand you.

We are getting closer, but there were points you raised that made me realize there were still issues where I haven't communicated clearly enough. There are things I've been taking for granted that I shouldn't have. So I have to spell things out a little more.

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Especially for smac97:

In my last response to you, I mentioned that I realized I was taking for granted things I shouldn't have been taking for granted. I am going to attempt to clear the air a little more.

Let's start before the beginning. As I have mentioned, my journey into Mormonism started with a rejection of biblical inerrancy and a concurrent acceptance of modern historical-critical biblical studies. I took for granted that you would see the straight-line relationship between rejecting biblical inerrancy and rejecting BoM historicity while still seeing both as inspired writ that I do. Here, I was wrong, so I'm going to spell this out some more.

I think it really needs to be made clear is that I was being told the same things about biblical inerrancy as you cite Oaks, Holland, et al. saying about Book of Mormon historicity. I'm sure you are aware that there are authors and organizations that defend biblical inerrancy with the same vigor and tenacity as a stereotypical FARMSian. You'll remember that my biggest problem with the BoM was the historicity issue. Also keep in mind that biblical inerrancy subsumes historicity. Given that Scripture is supposed to be inerrant, if one can't affirm historicity for the BoM, then it simply can't be inspired writ. Oaks' argument in a nutshell.

So it was only once I gave up biblical inerrancy that I could look at the Book of Mormon in a new light. This is how I know the BoM's claim to inspiration can be disconnected from historicity--because I already came to the same conclusion about the Bible.

Part of the new light I'm looking at the Book of Mormon involves absorbing and applying what I am learning in biblical studies to the BoM. And what is in the Bible? At least four books (Ruth, Esther, Job, Jonah) that could be classed as "Inspired Fiction." Lots of pseudipigraphical material (especially the disputed letters of Paul and most of the general epistles). Narratives with so many legendary accoutrements that it's difficult at best to establish the historical core, or even if there is one. Mythical material, especially Genesis 1-11.

You quote McCarthy in part:

On 11/4/2022 at 9:37 AM, smac97 said:

However, if Muhammad or other religious leaders did in fact lie about the authors and miraculous origins of their writings, the question then becomes “Is God unwilling to impart inspiration through seemingly fraudulent pseudepigrapha?”

When it comes to the Bible, I had already concluded, "Yes, he is so willing!"

The absorption and application of modern biblical studies to the BoM helps explain some of the things we keep butting heads about. I keep saying that the stories about how the BoM was produced is irrelevant to interpreting the book itself. In biblical studies, you don't need to take any particular confessional stance. You don't even need to believe the Bible is inspired writ. It's not that those issues are unimportant, but they are still separate from the question of what the text says.

This is also why I could say that consideration of the prophet/fraud dichotomy is beyond the scope my essay in "Environmental Theory." To borrow something Ben said about the Voree Plates:

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The best example I can think of at the moment though for the way that this plays out is the Voree Plates. We actually know that there were plates. We know exactly what they were like, and what the characters on them were. We have the testimonies of people who saw them. We have a translation produced by Strang. I also know that they are a hoax - and I know this from the copies made of the artifacts themselves rather than from any analysis of the witnesses or the claims made by Strang (excluding his translation which is a very important part of this conclusion). In fact, even if the witnesses were absolutely reliable, and there were no questions about them, in general, the textual evidence would trump their testimony.

The reason why the disputed epistles of Paul are disputed is because the literary evidence suggests Paul didn't write them. The reason biblical scholars talk about Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah is because the literary evidence suggests they don't belong to the same time and author as Isaiah the son of Amoz. The reason the Documentary Hypothesis was formulated is because the literary evidence suggests that the Torah is not a unified work by a single author. It such cases, what is said by (or claimed for as the case may be) these texts is trumped by that evidence.

Or to bring the issue a little closer to home, consider the Book of Abraham. Since the original papyri were rediscovered, we've known with certainty that they are really copies of the Breathing Permit of Hor. It has nothing to do with Abraham. This is as close as you are going to get to "catching Joseph redhanded." Whatever Joseph and/or his associates said about the work, we know something else is going on.

So if, as I think it does, the evidence points to Joseph's authorship, that trumps the testimony of Joseph and the witnesses. Something else is going on. The question is what. However you answer that question, we still have a text in front of us that needs to be interpreted.

I hope spelling things out like this helps you understand where I'm coming from--or at least helps you to ask informed questions. We might have to take this part of the discussion to another thread. I'm going to stop here for the time being and take up issues you raised about argumentation and audience in another post.

Edited by tagriffy
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26 minutes ago, tagriffy said:

Especially for smac97:

In my last response to you, I mentioned that I realized I was taking for granted things I shouldn't have been taking for granted. I am going to attempt to clear the air a little more.

Let's start before the beginning. As I have mentioned, my journey into Mormonism started with a rejection of biblical inerrancy and a concurrent acceptance of modern historical-critical biblical studies. I took for granted that you would see the straight-line relationship between rejecting biblical inerrancy and rejecting BoM historicity while still seeing both as inspired writ. Here, I was wrong, so I'm going to spell this out some more.

I think it really needs to be made clear is that I was being told the same things about biblical inerrancy as you cite Oaks, Holland, et al. saying about Book of Mormon historicity. I'm sure you are aware that there are authors and organizations that defend biblical inerrancy with the same vigor and tenacity as a stereotypical FARMSian. You'll remember that my biggest problem with the BoM was the historicity issue. Also keep in mind that biblical inerrancy subsumes historicity. Given that Scripture is supposed to be inerrant, if one can't affirm historicity for the BoM, then it simply can't be inspired writ. Oaks' argument in a nutshell.

So it was only once I gave up biblical inerrancy that I could look at the Book of Mormon in a new light. This is how I know the BoM's claim to inspiration can be disconnected from historicity--because I already came to the same conclusion about the Bible.

Part of the new light I'm looking at the Book of Mormon involves absorbing and applying what I am learning in biblical studies to the BoM. And what is in the Bible? At least four books (Ruth, Esther, Job, Jonah) that could be classed as "Inspired Fiction." Lots of pseudipigraphical material (especially the disputed letters of Paul and most of the general epistles). Narratives with so many legendary accoutrements that it's difficult at best to establish the historical core, or even if there is one. Mythical material, especially Genesis 1-11.

You quote McCarthy in part:

When it comes to the Bible, I had already concluded, "Yes, he is so willing!"

The absorption and application of modern biblical studies to the BoM helps explain some of the things we keep butting heads about. I keep saying that the stories about how the BoM was produced is irrelevant to interpreting the book itself. In biblical studies, you don't need to take any particular confessional stance. You don't even need to believe the Bible is inspired writ. It's not that those issues are unimportant, but they are still separate from the question of what the text says.

This is also why I could say that consideration of the prophet/fraud dichotomy is beyond the scope my essay in "Environmental Theory." To borrow something Ben said about the Voree Plates:

The reason why the disputed epistles of Paul are disputed is because the literary evidence suggests Paul didn't write them. The reason biblical scholars talk about Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah is because the literary evidence suggests they don't belong to the same time and author as Isaiah the son of Amoz. The reason the Documentary Hypothesis was formulated is because the literary evidence suggests that the Torah is not a unified work by a single author. It such cases, what is said by (or claimed for as the case may be) these texts is trumped by that evidence.

Or to bring the issue a little closer to home, consider the Book of Abraham. Since the original papyri were rediscovered, we've known with certainty that they are really copies of the Breathing Permit of Hor. It has nothing to do with Abraham. This is as close as you are going to get to "catching Joseph redhanded." Whatever Joseph and/or his associates said about the work, we *know* something else is going on.

So if, as I think it does, the evidence points to Joseph's authorship, that trumps the testimony of Joseph and the witnesses. Something else is going on. The question is what. However you answer that question, we still have a text in front of us that needs to be interpreted.

I hope spelling things out like this helps you understand where I'm coming from--or at least helps you to ask informed questions. We might have to take this part of the discussion to another thread. I'm going to stop here for the time being and take up issues you raised about argumentation and audience in another post.

I think that's what a lot of people are spelling out but where are the answers? Oh, it's called faith. But faith isn't always black and white. I believe God wouldn't say believe no matter what. I believe faith should have something backing it up. I applied the faith thing with my mom, when she got her priesthood blessing years ago. And everyone knows that there isn't a cure yet for Alzheimer's but I sure tuned that out and tried the faith thing. Didn't work, and like you've offered here, seems to be the same thing IMO. And didn't Pres Nelson mention something about not worrying over the Book of Mormon and it's historicity? Or are you listening to conference or reading the talks, not sure of your background. I wonder what that is telling us. Is it telling us to not worrying over the historicity, and just read/listen to the message?

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1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

As I have mentioned, my journey into Mormonism started with a rejection of biblical inerrancy and a concurrent acceptance of modern historical-critical biblical studies. I took for granted that you would see the straight-line relationship between rejecting biblical inerrancy and rejecting BoM historicity while still seeing both as inspired writ. Here, I was wrong, so I'm going to spell this out some more.

Not only do I not see a "straight-line relationship" between the two concepts, I see a gaping chasm between them.  

I think the better "straight-line relationship" would be between the "rejecting BoM historicity" and "rejecting {Bible} historicity."  I have previously laid out my thinking here:

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It has been suggested that it doesn't matter whether Noah's flood and other stories in the scriptures actually happened.

 

I think it may be helpful to differentiate a bit here.  Here is my thinking on the subject:

1) Ahistorical Stories, or Stories Where Historicity is Immaterial

There are some "stories in the scriptures" that are helpful and valid even if they never "actually happened."  The Parable of the Talents, for example.  Historicity is not necessary for such stories to be instructive and "true."

The Parable of the Talents.    The Good Samaritan.  Zenock's Allegory of the Olive Tree.  The story of Job (maybe - I'm sort of conflicted on this one).  These are stories that may have actually happened, or may be purely fiction.  We'll never really know, I suppose.  But it doesn't matter, since these stories are intended to preach moral precepts, not establish the reality of the events described.  So they can be historical or ahistorical.  It doesn't matter.  

2) Stories that are "True" (Historical) but Particulars and Details are Missing or Misunderstood

Then there are some stories that happened, but about which we lack the particulars, or about which we may harbor erroneous notions.  For example, I think it's sort of hard to deny that Noah's Flood happened at all, but I think the scope of it (local rather than literally every square inch of dry land in the world covered) is open for principled, reasoned discussion.  We must, in the end, construe/interpret scripture.  We should seek to understand it both in the way it was originally intended, and also in ways that reconcile the narrative with observable things.  Consider, for example, Luke 2:1, which states: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. Dan Peterson noted:

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Augustus was much too savvy to have invited the Persians and the Chinese -- or even the Germanic tribes of Scandinavia, the Picts of Scotland, or the ancient Irish -- to pay taxes to him. He wasn't savvy enough to have demanded taxes from the Japanese, the Maya, the Hawaiians, the Tibetans, and the Congolese. Augustus, a competent and realistic ruler, sought to collect taxes from all of those who were subject to him. Which, though many, wasn't exactly "all the world." It wasn't even all the known world.

In other words, even though the text says "all the world should be taxed," nobody interprets this verse in an absolutist, literal way.

For this category of narratives from scripture we really need to remember the Church's teachings on A) inerrancy (we reject it), B) continuing revelation (we are big into this), and C) seeking knowledge and wisdom from the "best books" (we are big into this, too).

For me, I view Noah's Flood through this lens.  I believe there was a literal flood, but I have real reservations about the notion that I am required to believe that the flood was global.  

I like this comment by William Hamblin (responding to Brent Metcalfe) :

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Historicity and Truth

Thus the real historical problem is quite different from the one Metcalfe claims is central to the "apologist" enterprise.  Metcalfe would have us believe that I (whom he would place squarely in the camp of the apologists) am arguing that "the Book of Mormon is only true if the personalities and events it describes were objectively real (p. 154). In fact, this is simply Metcalfe 's own faulty presentation of the argument. He is thereby obscuring the real issue of the connection between the antiquity and historicity of the Book of Mormon and the prophet hood of Joseph Smith. by shifting the grounds of the argument from the historical truth of the events of the book, to the ethical or doctrinal truth of statements that are made in the text. While it is quite true that doctrinal statements made in the Book of Mormon-such as "Jesus is the Christ"-may be true even if the book is not ancient, the prophethood of Joseph is still compromised. Furthermore, the authoritative power of the statement that "Jesus is the Christ"--even if it is true-is greatly diminished when we realize that the stories of the power, prophecy, and miracles of God, and of the resurrection of Jesus and his visitation to the New World, are simply pious fictions.

Let me state my position on the question of the relationship be tween historicity and truth. First, it is quite possible for scripture to be ahistorical. For example. the parables of Jesus are true, and yet entirely fictional. Likewise the story of Job may well be an extended parable. Second, I make no claim that everything in the Book of Mormon itself is in fact historical. For example, I doubt that anyone would argue that Zenos' allegory of the olive tree (Jacob 5) ever really happened. Likewise, it is possible that there may be historical or scientific mistakes in the Book of Mormon.

Thus, the issue is not, as Metcalfe would have us believe, that the Book of Mormon must be historical for it to be considered scripture. The argument is that the Book of Mormon must be historical for Joseph to be a prophet. Those who would argue that Joseph is the prophetic author of a nineteenth-century pious forgery must provide a cogent explanation for why Joseph's prophetic claims should be taken seriously in light of the falsity of his visionary claims-a falsity which necessarily follows from the nonexistence of the plates and Moroni. 

3) Stories that Require Historicity

I will note that there are major portions of the scriptures that must be "historical" (meaning that the persons described were real, and that the events described really happened).  

Consider, for example, these comments by Daniel C. Peterson:

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It is vastly important that the scriptures be reliable guides to salvation and to the nature of God and His purposes. It is far less important that they be entirely accurate on the numbers of Israelites who left Egypt, or on the magnitude of the number it in the construction of Solomon’s temple. Historicity is essential. Inerrancy is not. And the two are not the same. Some skeptics want us to abandon our belief in the historicity of the scriptures because the scriptures do not appear to be infallible. But this is a leap we need not take. Some among those skeptics want us to believe that the scriptural stories can still be religiously meaningful even if they are purely fictional. In some cases, of course, this is true. The story of Job illustrates various answers to the problem of evil just as well if it is fictional as it does if it is an accurate historical account. In this regard, it rather resembles Plato’s Republic, or his Symposium, where we really do not care whether Thrasymachus or Alcibiades really said or did the things Plato relates. But Jesus is not Job, and it matters very much whether the story of Christ really happened as the Gospels say it did. Even here, though, we must distinguish the essential from the nonessential.

And these remarks by Kent Jackson (regarding the historicity of the origins of the Book of Mormon) :

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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 Latterday 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.

And these remarks by then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks (also regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon) :

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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.

I highly recommend Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, edited by Paul H. Hoskisson, and available online for free.

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I would suggest that the reality of the literal global flood in the days of Noah matters. 

With respect, I disagree.  As Daniel Peterson put it: "{W}e must distinguish the essential from the nonessential."  I feel quite at ease viewing the Flood as possibly-but-unlikely-to-have-been "global."

I think the third point above ("'Stories that Require Historicity' - {T}here are major portions of the scriptures that must be 'historical...'") is a very big hurdle for you.  As I have noted

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Parables aren't necessarily true historic events but they still teach true principles, right?

I concede that the historicity of a particular parable spoken by Christ is immaterial to its spiritual value. However, the historicity of the existence of Christ is a markedly different issue. If Christ never existed, then belief in Him has no salvific power. "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" has no meaning or relevance. In fact, it is a lie and a fraud which must be affirmatively rejected if there is no historicity underlying it.

I think the same must be said for The Book of Mormon. The "fake but accurate," "I can reject what The Book of Mormon claims to be and what Joseph Smith represented it to be, but still accept it as scripture" type of reasoning is a fundamentally flawed line of reasoning. Elder Oaks aptly described it as "not only reject(ing) the concepts of faith and revelation that The Book of Mormon explains and advocates, but it is also not even good scholarship." This is why I find advocacy of this approach problematic. Such advocates are steering others up a spiritual blind alley; a path, I think, which sooner or later will culminate in a crisis of faith and/or a rejection of The Book of Mormon. After all, one who rejects its historicity has already rejected a substantive, even vital, part of the book. Rejecting the rest of it would seem to be just a matter of time. That is why I disagree with you that Mr. Owen's scholarship is a viable lifeline. I think an affirmative denial of the book's historicity will, sooner or later, become fatal to a testimony of the book. Ambivalence about historicity is perhaps possible, but affirmative denial is, I think, not compatible with an enduring and efficacious testimony of The Book of Mormon.

...

The "inspired fiction" approach to The Book of Mormon requires a rejection of The Book of Mormon for what it claims to be. To accept it on those grounds would be like saying "Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and my Lord and Savior, even though I reject the idea that he ever actually existed." A fictional Christ does not work, and neither does a fictional Book of Mormon.

To reject the Bible's inerrancy is, in my view, a materially different proposition from rejecting its substantive historicity

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

I think it really needs to be made clear is that I was being told the same things about biblical inerrancy as you cite Oaks, Holland, et al. saying about Book of Mormon historicity.

With respect, I disagree.  There is a substantial difference between A) categorically rejecting historicity and B) rejecting biblical inerrancy.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

I'm sure you are aware that there are authors and organizations that defend biblical inerrancy with the same vigor and tenacity as a stereotypical FARMSian.

I am.  But the comparison is way too apples-and-oranges-ey. 

I am curious why you are not comparing apples to apples.  That is, comparing the rejection of BoM historicity with the rejection of Biblical historicity.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

You'll remember that my biggest problem with the BoM was the historicity issue.

Yes.  And the host of other scholars who have written on this topic have likewise addressed its significance.  That is one of the reasons it has been strange to see you dismissing historicity as "irrelevant."

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

Also keep in mind that biblical inerrancy subsumes historicity.

With respect, no, I will not keep that in mind.  To the contrary, I reject it.

"Subsume" means to "include or absorb (something) in something else."  Biblical inerrancy presumes and requires historicity, but historicity is nevertheless an independent inquiry.  There are oodles of Christians who do not insist on inerrancy (that it "is without error or fault in all its teaching"), who believe that substantial portions of the biblical text were written in milieus quite different from our own, but that substantive historicity is nevertheless essential in terms of the Bible having salvific (as opposed to merely poetic / literary) value.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

Given that Scripture is supposed to be inerrant,

What?  How is that a "given"?  The Bible makes no such claim for itself, nor does the Book of Mormon, nor have any prophets/apostles.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

if one can't affirm historicity for the BoM, then it simply can't be inspired writ. Oaks' argument in a nutshell.

No, that's not an accurate summary of Oaks' argument.  He does not assume inerrancy or tie it to historicity as you do.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

So it was only once I gave up biblical inerrancy that I could look at the Book of Mormon in a new light. This is how I know the BoM's claim to inspiration can be disconnected from historicity--because I already came to the same conclusion about the Bible.

I am sorry, but this is not illuminating at all.  Oaks, Holland, Givens, Peterson, et al. are all, I think, reasonably characterized as never having harbored notions of inerrancy (whether as to the Bible or to the Book of Mormon).  It has never been the burden it apparently was on you.  And yet they are still all adamant about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, with no assumptions about it also needing to be inerrant.

A few of the contributors to Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures did reference "inerrancy" relative to historicity.  See, e.g., Alexander Morrison:

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The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ has as one of its purposes “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Title Page). Of it the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “I told the brethren [the Twelve Apostles and Joseph Fielding] that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” [5] When that statement is coupled with our assertion that the Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, it must be concluded that even within the written canon, there are gradations of inerrancy and spiritual power.

And Paul Hoskisson (emphases added) :

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The assumption that there can be no errors in scripture, even minor ones, is called the doctrine of inerrancy. This doctrine began to assert itself in certain areas of Europe where the Reformation took root. “By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Bible was seen by some Protestants in northern Europe as a deposit of inerrant information, including information about scientific questions, which had been dictated by God. Rather than being a record of events in which God was revealed, scripture itself was viewed as infallible knowledge in propositional form verbally imparted by God.” [10] The doctrine of inerrancy is a red herring because at first glance inerrancy sounds wonderful. However, Latter-day Saints in general, along with most Christians, [11] reject the doctrine of inerrancy. Indeed, Latter-day Saint scriptures inform us of the struggle that some prophets have had in expressing the thoughts they were impressed to write down. Both Nephi and Moroni, the first and last prophets to write for our Book of Mormon, expressed the fear that their writing was not as powerful as their speaking. As Moroni stated it, “Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing. . . . Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words” (Ether 12:24–25; for Nephi’s remarks see 2 Ne. 33:1).

In addition, our scriptures warn us that there may be faults in scripture, particularly by later redactors, but that God is not responsible for such faults (Morm. 8:17). [12] We also believe that while what we have received is sufficient for the moment, there are still many things that God would like to reveal to us (2 Ne. 2:5; 2 Cor. 12:9; 2 Ne. 25:28; Omni 1:11; D&C 17:8; D&C 42:67; D&C 102:23; see also Article of Faith 9). As Latter-day Saints, we have no need to assert the inerrancy or all-inclusive nature of scripture, and therefore we do not feel the need to defend every tittle, jot, word, or phrase. [13] That is why minor inconsistencies, incomplete passages, or slight inaccuracies in the scriptural record of central events are not a problem for Latter-day Saints. We are not forced to choose between absolutely inerrant scripture and scripture we cannot trust at all. The doctrine of inerrancy is a red herring that Latter-day Saints can safely ignore.
...
[11] The cogent remarks of A. H. Sayce, written nearly one hundred years ago in Monument Facts and Higher Critical Fancies (New York: Revell, [1904]), 124–25, are still applicable: “There was a time when the Christian regarded his Bible as the orthodox Hindu regards his Veda, as a single indivisible and mechanically-inspired book, dictated throughout by the Deity, and from which all human elements are jealously excluded. But heathen theories of inspiration ought to have no place in the Christian consciousness. Christ was perfect Man as well as perfect God, and in the sacred books of our faith we are similarly called upon to recognize a human element as well as a divine. The doctrine of verbal inerrancy is Hindu and not Christian, and if we admit it we must, with the Hindu, follow it out to its logical conclusion, that the inerrant words cannot be translated into another tongue or even committed to writing. Nevertheless, between the recognition of the human element in the Old Testament, and the ‘critical’ contention that the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with myths and historical blunders, pious frauds and ante-dated documents, the distance is great.”

The most extensive treatment was in Daniel Peterson's Notes on Historicity and Inerrancy.  Some excerpts (emphases added) :

Quote

Some believe that historicity and inerrancy in scripture are the same. By this argument, when a portion of scripture is found to have errors, the entire record is considered neither historical nor accurate. However, nothing in this imperfect world is inerrant, and although the authors of the scriptural records were prophets and called of God to write their portion of the scriptures, they were not perfectno one is. So although the authors were not inerrant, their writings are nonetheless historical. By academic standards the scriptures fulfill all the criteria for historically accurate records. With the human errors accounted for, the scriptures are reliable historically and accurate in their testimony of the doctrines of the gospel and the mission of Jesus Christ.
...
When I agreed originally to discuss “historicity and inerrancy,” I was a bit perplexed. One way for me to have dealt with this subject—and, I believe, to have done so quite adequately—would be simply to have observed that historicity and inerrancy are not the same thing. In fact, I was severely tempted to do only that. Most people would, I suspect, think it obvious that they are distinct. But most people, I fear, would be naive. There are individuals who claim that asserting the historicity of the scriptures entails an assertion of their inerrancy. Although the equation of belief in historicity with belief in inerrancy borders on the slanderous—despite its manifest character as a straw man intended to stigmatize those who believe in the essential credibility of the scriptures as unreflective, irrational fundamentalists, and notwithstanding the fact that there is no obvious merit to it but indeed major counterevidence against it—the equation persists in some circles.

Are you one of these individuals (claiming that "asserting the historicity of the scriptures entails an assertion of their inerrancy")?

Quote

I am reminded, for instance, of one well-educated Latter-day Saint writer who can discern no middle ground between fundamentalism, on the one hand, and radical skepticism on the other. “Once one gives up the idea of an inerrant, strictly historical, biblical record,” he says, “it must be admitted that there is little in the life of Jesus that can be known with certainty.” [2]
...
{T}here should be little surprise that history, which manifestly operates on a lower level of certainty than those sections of almanacs that predict times of sunrise, can generally furnish plausibility and even a very high degree of probability—but no more than that. But this is true of all history, not merely of that area of history that focuses on religion and religious claims. Leopold von Ranke’s contention that real, scientific historians can and must describe the past “as it actually happened” is dead. Nobody that I know or read believes that totally objective, scientific history—history written without preconceptions and without prejudgments—is possible.

But I suspect that our selected revisionist skeptic is not merely offering us a banality, a bit of trivia, when he offers us his Hobson’s choice between inerrancy and agnosticism. No, his claim seems a different one, and it is one that is both remarkable and wholly indefensible. [6] This becomes instantly apparent if we simply plug different terms into an argument with a structure identical to his, as follows: “Once one gives up the idea of an inerrant, strictly historical [Thucydides], it must be admitted that there is little in the [history of the Peleponnesian War] that can be known with certainty.” Or, “Once one gives up the idea of . . . inerrant, strictly historical [records from the late eighteenth century], it must be admitted that there is little in the [history of the American Revolution] that can be known with certainty.” Or even, “Once one gives up the idea of an inerrant, strictly historical [memory], it must be admitted that there is little in the [story of one’s own life] that [one can know] with certainty.” Obviously, such claims would be laughed to scorn in secular historiographical circles, and well beyond. If they were to be accepted, they would destroy historical scholarship; they would destroy the human individual’s sense of identity and his or her capacity to act intelligently. Yet to reject thoroughgoing and unjustified doubt in religious studies, our revisionist writer informs us, is to be a fundamentalist.

I think your fusing inerrancy with historicity takes is unworkable (and unnecessary).

Quote

Historical knowledge does not, it is true, attain the same kind or degree of certitude as can be attained in a chemistry lab, or at the end of a geometric proof—though, even those two areas may not deliver quite as much certainty as is commonly thought [12]—but it can attain a plausibility or probability that comes very close to certainty. And we are right to call it, precisely, “historical knowledge.” Historicity is not the same thing as inerrancy. An inerrant narrative would certainly be historical. But there are plenty of substantially accurate historical narratives that are not inerrant. In fact, there is (so far as I am aware) no other kind. Although nobody in his or her right mind would ever call Josephus or al-Tabari inerrant, much less the author or authors of The Annals of the Cakchiquels, we still find these writers indispensable for the reconstruction of what we generally regard as fairly reliable histories of Second Temple Jewry, the early Arab Muslims, and the inhabitants of pre-Columbian Guatemala.

I think Peterson's comments here are devastating to your position that "biblical inerrancy subsumes historicity" (unless, of course, I am substantially misunderstanding you, in which case I am happy to be corrected).

Quote

President Brigham Young offered another reason why inerrancy is hardly to be sought, even in the scriptures themselves: “I do not even believe,” he reflected, “that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities.” [26]

If God had wanted inerrant, perfect scriptures, He would not have wasted them on human beings. For what would be the point, anyway, of inerrant scriptures? We could neither inerrantly recognize them as such, nor inerrantly read them. Already in the sixth century before Christ, the pre-Socratic thinker Xenophanes of Colophon recognized this aspect of the human condition: “And as for certain truth, no man has seen it, nor will there ever be a man who knows about the gods and about all the things I mention. For if he succeeds to the full in saying what is completely true, he himself is nevertheless unaware of it; and Opinion (seeming) is fixed by fate upon all things.” [27] In other words, no mortal human being can know the truth absolutely, indubitably, precisely, or beyond any possibility of error or dispute. Humans are fallible and often foolish. Anything can be disputed. Anything can be doubted. Still, despite his awareness of human limitation, Xenophanes did not despair of attaining, perhaps asymptotically, at least a fairly good idea of the truth. “Truly,” he said, “the gods have not revealed to mortals all things from the beginning; but mortals by long seeking discover what is better.” [28]

Inerrancy has never been part of the Plan, IMO.

Quote

I want my position to be clearly understood. On essential issues such as the resurrection of Christ, we can trust that the accounts given in the scriptures are fundamentally and significantly correct. And, perhaps even more important, we can trust that the prophets have identified sound lessons for us, that they have given us the real meaning—or, at least, the most significant portion of it, since there is probably no way to exhaust completely the meaning of anything consequential—for the events they narrate. But I will go even beyond that. If I have seemed during this paper to insist only on accuracy in the big picture, while appearing ready to jettison the minor details, I want to make it clear that although I reject inerrancy, I believe that the scriptures are substantially accurate even in the details, that the narratives of the Bible are by and large accurate, that there were Nephites, and that their history is as accurately told in the Book of Mormon as it is humanly possible to tell a story. I believe that considerable evidence can be amassed to support these propositions and to sustain and confirm the witness of the Spirit.

I really don't think you can get very far in advancing your thesis without addressing Peterson, Oaks, Givens, et al.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

The absorption and application of modern biblical studies to the BoM helps explain some of the things we keep butting heads about. I keep saying that the stories about how the BoM was produced is irrelevant to interpreting the book itself. In biblical studies, you don't need to take any particular confessional stance.

Well, that is true.  In my youth I was fascinated by Greco-Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology.  I enjoyed reading the stories as literature, and also observing how so many of them are reflected in society these thousands of years later.  What I did not read them for, however, is as inspired or revelatory, as messages and instructions from God through human authors.  

The converse is true for the Book of Mormon.  I approached it principally (almost exclusively, in fact) as inspired/revelatory, as containing messages and instructions from God through human authors.  So from a religious standpoint, we do need to take a "particular confessional stance" as to quite a few things.  Even your position seems require this (as evidenced by your reluctant concession of "inspired fiction").

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

You don't even need to believe the Bible is inspired writ. It's not that those issues are unimportant, but they are still separate from the question of what the text says.

That depends on whether you are viewing the bible as mere literature or as inspired writings.  As to the former, you are quite right.  As to the latter, you are quite wrong.

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."  (John 14:6.)  Reviewing this as merely an ancient text or aphorism, it has no particular weight or significance to me at all.  But viewing it as a declaration of a revelatory truth from God, it is perhaps the most singularly important statement in the history of the world.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

This is also why I could say that consideration of the prophet/fraud dichotomy is beyond the scope my essay in "Environmental Theory." To borrow something Ben said about the Voree Plates:

The reason why the disputed epistles of Paul are disputed is because the literary evidence suggests Paul didn't write them. The reason biblical scholars talk about Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah is because the literary evidence suggests they don't belong to the same time and author as Isaiah the son of Amoz. The reason the Documentary Hypothesis was formulated is because the literary evidence suggests that the Torah is not a unified work by a single author. It such cases, what is said by (or claimed for as the case may be) these texts is trumped by that evidence.

Well, we're getting pretty far afield here.  

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

Or to bring the issue a little closer to home, consider the Book of Abraham. Since the original papyri were rediscovered, we've known with certainty that they are really copies of the Breathing Permit of Hor.

With respect, I don't think "we've known with certainty" any such thing.  FAIR presents a good summary of this issue, including a statement from Muhelstein that we may have as little as "2.5 percent of what Joseph originally had."  Gee has also presented apparent eyewitness recollections about this issue:

Quote

Eyewitnesses from the Nauvoo period (1839–1844) describe “a quantity of records, written on papyrus, in Egyptian hieroglyphics,”32 including (1) some papyri “preserved under glass,”33 described as “a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics”;34 (2) “a long roll of manuscript”35 that contained the Book of Abraham;36 (3) “another roll”;37 (4) and “two or three other small pieces of papyrus with astronomical calculations, epitaphs, &c.”38 Only the mounted fragments ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and thence were given back to the Church of Jesus Christ. When eyewitnesses described the vignettes as being of the mounted fragments, they can be matched with the fragments from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; but when the vignettes described are on the rolls, the descriptions do not match any of the fragments from the Met. Gustavus Seyffarth’s 1856 catalog of the Wood Museum indicates that some of the papyri were there.  Those papyri went to Chicago and were burned in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Whatever we might imagine their contents to be is only conjecture. Both Mormon and non-Mormon eyewitnesses from the nineteenth century agree that it was a “roll of papyrus from which our prophet translated the Book of Abraham,”39 meaning the “long roll of manuscript” and not one of the mounted fragments that eventually ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.40
---
32. William S. West, A Few Interesting Facts Respecting the Rise, Progress, and Pretensions of the Mormons (Warren, OH, 1837), 5, cited in Todd, Saga of the Book of Abraham, 196–97.
33. Quincy, Figures of the Past, 386.
34. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons; or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842 (London: Rivington, 1843), 22–23.
35. Charlotte Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843, printed in “A Girl’s Letters from Nauvoo,” Overland Monthly 16/96 (December 1890): 624, as cited in Todd, Saga of the Book of Abraham, 245.
36. Jerusha W. Blanchard, “Reminiscences of the Granddaughter of Hyrum Smith,” Relief Society Magazine 9/1 (1922): 9; and Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843.
37. Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843.
38. Oliver Cowdery to William Frye, 22 December 1835, printed in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 2 (December 1835): 234.
39. Blanchard, “Reminiscences,” 9; and Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843.
40. For the distribution of the manuscript fragments, see John Gee, “Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri,” in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed.  Stephen D. Ricks et al. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 188–91; and John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 10–13.

Jeff Lindsay provides a pretty good summary of the relevant evidence re: scroll length (and number of scrolls) here.

The Church isn't the only group needing to update its narrative.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

It has nothing to do with Abraham.

I think it has a lot to do with Abraham.  There are a number of indicia to that effect.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

This is as close as you are going to get to "catching Joseph redhanded."

And yet not only is the jury not yet out, we don't even have all the evidence in.  So "catching Joseph redhanded" becomes more a statement about presuppositions and perspectives than about the evidence.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

So if, as I think it does, the evidence points to Joseph's authorship, that trumps the testimony of Joseph and the witnesses.

An Ace of Diamonds "trumps" a Jack of Spades.  No question about that.  But some evidence over here "trumping" evidence over there is a very different and disputed claim, and one I think you have come nowhere near establishing.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

Something else is going on.

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

The question is what.

I disagree.  You presuppose that which is yet to be demonstrated.  You presuppose "something else" as an explanation for the origins of the text without accounting for countervailing evidence, which you summarily dismiss as having been "trump{ed}." 

That just does not work for me.  And I don't think such grand-scale sidestepping will get you far with anyone other than those who already agree with you.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

However you answer that question, we still have a text in front of us that needs to be interpreted.

Yes.  One such interpretation is that the text is what it claims to be, what Joseph claimed it to be.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

I hope spelling things out like this helps you understand where I'm coming from--or at least helps you to ask informed questions.

I think my questions have been generally informed.

But yes, I think I understand a bit better.  You are linking inerrancy to historicity, and I think that is a huge leap in logic, reasoning and evidence.  It is entirely foreign to Latter-day Saint thought, belief and scholarship.

1 hour ago, tagriffy said:

We might have to take this part of the discussion to another thread. I'm going to stop here for the time being and take up issues you raised about argumentation and audience in another post.

Okay.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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2 hours ago, tagriffy said:

Especially for smac97:

In my last response to you, I mentioned that I realized I was taking for granted things I shouldn't have been taking for granted. I am going to attempt to clear the air a little more.

Let's start before the beginning. As I have mentioned, my journey into Mormonism started with a rejection of biblical inerrancy and a concurrent acceptance of modern historical-critical biblical studies. I took for granted that you would see the straight-line relationship between rejecting biblical inerrancy and rejecting BoM historicity while still seeing both as inspired writ. Here, I was wrong, so I'm going to spell this out some more.

I think it really needs to be made clear is that I was being told the same things about biblical inerrancy as you cite Oaks, Holland, et al. saying about Book of Mormon historicity. I'm sure you are aware that there are authors and organizations that defend biblical inerrancy with the same vigor and tenacity as a stereotypical FARMSian. You'll remember that my biggest problem with the BoM was the historicity issue. Also keep in mind that biblical inerrancy subsumes historicity. Given that Scripture is supposed to be inerrant, if one can't affirm historicity for the BoM, then it simply can't be inspired writ. Oaks' argument in a nutshell.

So it was only once I gave up biblical inerrancy that I could look at the Book of Mormon in a new light. This is how I know the BoM's claim to inspiration can be disconnected from historicity--because I already came to the same conclusion about the Bible.

Part of the new light I'm looking at the Book of Mormon involves absorbing and applying what I am learning in biblical studies to the BoM. And what is in the Bible? At least four books (Ruth, Esther, Job, Jonah) that could be classed as "Inspired Fiction." Lots of pseudipigraphical material (especially the disputed letters of Paul and most of the general epistles). Narratives with so many legendary accoutrements that it's difficult at best to establish the historical core, or even if there is one. Mythical material, especially Genesis 1-11.

You quote McCarthy in part:

When it comes to the Bible, I had already concluded, "Yes, he is so willing!"

The absorption and application of modern biblical studies to the BoM helps explain some of the things we keep butting heads about. I keep saying that the stories about how the BoM was produced is irrelevant to interpreting the book itself. In biblical studies, you don't need to take any particular confessional stance. You don't even need to believe the Bible is inspired writ. It's not that those issues are unimportant, but they are still separate from the question of what the text says.

This is also why I could say that consideration of the prophet/fraud dichotomy is beyond the scope my essay in "Environmental Theory." To borrow something Ben said about the Voree Plates:

The reason why the disputed epistles of Paul are disputed is because the literary evidence suggests Paul didn't write them. The reason biblical scholars talk about Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah is because the literary evidence suggests they don't belong to the same time and author as Isaiah the son of Amoz. The reason the Documentary Hypothesis was formulated is because the literary evidence suggests that the Torah is not a unified work by a single author. It such cases, what is said by (or claimed for as the case may be) these texts is trumped by that evidence.

Or to bring the issue a little closer to home, consider the Book of Abraham. Since the original papyri were rediscovered, we've known with certainty that they are really copies of the Breathing Permit of Hor. It has nothing to do with Abraham. This is as close as you are going to get to "catching Joseph redhanded." Whatever Joseph and/or his associates said about the work, we know something else is going on.

So if, as I think it does, the evidence points to Joseph's authorship, that trumps the testimony of Joseph and the witnesses. Something else is going on. The question is what. However you answer that question, we still have a text in front of us that needs to be interpreted.

I hope spelling things out like this helps you understand where I'm coming from--or at least helps you to ask informed questions. We might have to take this part of the discussion to another thread. I'm going to stop here for the time being and take up issues you raised about argumentation and audience in another post.

Good points.

I wish everyone had an opportunity to study philosophy, because that is where you learn that what matters is IDEAS which make their historicity irrelevant.

Let's say that Locke and Rousseau invented the ideas found in the US constitution. We can argue all day about giving them "credit" for the idea that all humanity is created equal. We can say the ideas were stolen from elsewhere. We can allege that one or both were drunkards and philanderers. 

Yet the IDEAS changed the world.

What are the implications for humanity that we should treat others as we would like to be treated? That is "Christianity" even if Christ never existed, and it had another name! 

We worship in effect, the idea that mankind can become perfect by emulating the image, form, or notion of an IDEAL person.  All can be that if they do their best!

"Be all you can be" ought to be our constant mantra. Live up to the image of being an Ideal Human, and see that person as our "Father" and his Son, Jesus.  Live this image as we believe that Jesus lived.

Men, strive to see yourself as the image of the Perfect Father, even if that never happened for you. Women strive to see yourselves as a Perfect Mother, even if that never happened for you. Follow principles that teach about the Ideal Family. Treat all mankind as if they were on the path to being perfect mothers, fathers, and children, if that is the literal case or not. Teach your children these principles! 

Treat all as if they are part of your family! 

Participate in rites and liturgies which remind you of these values and tell stories, fictitious or not, which help us see and absorb these absolute and universal truths into our lives.

Practice obedience to others in ways which do not offend your inner voice. Sometimes obedience for its own sake is worthwhile, because it helps one to learn obedience  in following that spirit within. It can be a lesson in self discipline, and helps you to learn to follow your own ideas which come from that spirit within.

In all things follow that inner voice that teaches you what is good or bad, how to treat others and what is the best truthful path for you.  

Don't worry about the history of a good idea, but seek ideas that will, and have, shaped history!

All these suggestions can be proven through Alma 32, and none of them require worry about who came up with them first as a test of their "truth".

To me this us the core of "LDS-ism" ;)

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

Not only do I not see a "straight-line relationship" between the two concepts, I see a gaping chasm between them.  

I think the better "straight-line relationship" would be between the "rejecting BoM historicity" and "rejecting {Bible} historicity."  I have previously laid out my thinking here:

I think the third point above ("'Stories that Require Historicity' - {T}here are major portions of the scriptures that must be 'historical...'") is a very big hurdle for you.  As I have noted

To reject the Bible's inerrancy is, in my view, a materially different proposition from rejecting its substantive historicity

With respect, I disagree.  There is a substantial difference between A) categorically rejecting historicity and B) rejecting biblical inerrancy.

I am.  But the comparison is way too apples-and-oranges-ey. 

I am curious why you are not comparing apples to apples.  That is, comparing the rejection of BoM historicity with the rejection of Biblical historicity.

Yes.  And the host of other scholars who have written on this topic have likewise addressed its significance.  That is one of the reasons it has been strange to see you dismissing historicity as "irrelevant."

With respect, no, I will not keep that in mind.  To the contrary, I reject it.

"Subsume" means to "include or absorb (something) in something else."  Biblical inerrancy presumes and requires historicity, but historicity is nevertheless an independent inquiry.  There are oodles of Christians who do not insist on inerrancy (that it "is without error or fault in all its teaching"), who believe that substantial portions of the biblical text were written in milieus quite different from our own, but that substantive historicity is nevertheless essential in terms of the Bible having salvific (as opposed to merely poetic / literary) value.

What?  How is that a "given"?  The Bible makes no such claim for itself, nor does the Book of Mormon, nor have any prophets/apostles.

No, that's not an accurate summary of Oaks' argument.  He does not assume inerrancy or tie it to historicity as you do.

I am sorry, but this is not illuminating at all.  Oaks, Holland, Givens, Peterson, et al. are all, I think, reasonably characterized as never having harbored notions of inerrancy (whether as to the Bible or to the Book of Mormon).  It has never been the burden it apparently was on you.  And yet they are still all adamant about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, with no assumptions about it also needing to be inerrant.

A few of the contributors to Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures did reference "inerrancy" relative to historicity.  See, e.g., Alexander Morrison:

And Paul Hoskisson (emphases added) :

The most extensive treatment was in Daniel Peterson's Notes on Historicity and Inerrancy.  Some excerpts (emphases added) :

Are you one of these individuals (claiming that "asserting the historicity of the scriptures entails an assertion of their inerrancy")?

I think your fusing inerrancy with historicity takes is unworkable (and unnecessary).

I think Peterson's comments here are devastating to your position that "biblical inerrancy subsumes historicity" (unless, of course, I am substantially misunderstanding you, in which case I am happy to be corrected).

Inerrancy has never been part of the Plan, IMO.

I really don't think you can get very far in advancing your thesis without addressing Peterson, Oaks, Givens, et al.

Well, that is true.  In my youth I was fascinated by Greco-Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology.  I enjoyed reading the stories as literature, and also observing how so many of them are reflected in society these thousands of years later.  What I did not read them for, however, is as inspired or revelatory, as messages and instructions from God through human authors.  

The converse is true for the Book of Mormon.  I approached it principally (almost exclusively, in fact) as inspired/revelatory, as containing messages and instructions from God through human authors.  So from a religious standpoint, we do need to take a "particular confessional stance" as to quite a few things.  Even your position seems require this (as evidenced by your reluctant concession of "inspired fiction").

That depends on whether you are viewing the bible as mere literature or as inspired writings.  As to the former, you are quite right.  As to the latter, you are quite wrong.

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."  (John 14:6.)  Reviewing this as merely an ancient text or aphorism, it has no particular weight or significance to me at all.  But viewing it as a declaration of a revelatory truth from God, it is perhaps the most singularly important statement in the history of the world.

Well, we're getting pretty far afield here.  

With respect, I don't think "we've known with certainty" any such thing.  FAIR presents a good summary of this issue, including a statement from Muhelstein that we may have as little as "2.5 percent of what Joseph originally had."  Gee has also presented apparent eyewitness recollections about this issue:

Jeff Lindsay provides a pretty good summary of the relevant evidence re: scroll length (and number of scrolls) here.

The Church isn't the only group needing to update its narrative.

I think it has a lot to do with Abraham.  There are a number of indicia to that effect.

And yet not only is the jury not yet out, we don't even have all the evidence in.  So "catching Joseph redhanded" becomes more a statement about presuppositions and perspectives than about the evidence.

An Ace of Diamonds "trumps" a Jack of Spades.  No question about that.  But some evidence over here "trumping" evidence over there is a very different and disputed claim, and one I think you have come nowhere near establishing.

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

I disagree.  You presuppose that which is yet to be demonstrated.  You presuppose "something else" as an explanation for the origins of the text without accounting for countervailing evidence, which you summarily dismiss as having been "trump{ed}." 

That just does not work for me.  And I don't think such grand-scale sidestepping will get you far with anyone other than those who already agree with you.

Yes.  One such interpretation is that the text is what it claims to be, what Joseph claimed it to be.

I think my questions have been generally informed.

But yes, I think I understand a bit better.  You are linking inerrancy to historicity, and I think that is a huge leap in logic, reasoning and evidence.  It is entirely foreign to Latter-day Saint thought, belief and scholarship.

Okay.

Thanks,

-Smac

I cannot agree with any of these arguments which require historicity to make the IDEAS TAUGHT "true" if and only if they actually happened.

It's horrible logic.

"But if Jesus didn't die for us, then our sins are not forgiven."

Nope.

We are freed from guilt about our sins because God gave a model to visualize of a Human Being so elevated that he overcame all evil AND MOST IMPORTANTLY THAT OUR SPIRIT CONFIRMS THAT MODEL.

In the darkness of the bottom of the deepest psychological pit, there is a spark of love and forgiveness which overcomes the darkness, if we only believe as OUR SPIRIT confirms it is there.

There IS an INTELLIGENCE out there to Whom you can reach out and a spark of light that can grow into an inferno of love that is more real than "reality"

Next time you have the gun in your mouth, it's not logic that makes you put it down. I think most "lifer LDS" have been protected from that.

If you have never been there, good for you!!

But trust a student of every logical paradigm for "truth" humanity has invented- :)

It ain't logic!

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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Sorry all who have noticed, I was editing a post and got distracted and repeated portions in the new post, so I ended up posting some of the same material twice!  Will fix.... or not... ! ;)

 

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