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What books did Joseph Smith have access to?


1973betRP&Glendale

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Let's say I take the position that Joseph Smith was a fraud and that he made up the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Now according to church critics, Joseph Smith fabricated all of these works after carefully studying, cover-to-cover, all of the following:

- The King James version of the Bible

- Ethan Smith's "Views of the Hebrews"

- Solomon Spaulding manuscript

- The Apocrypha

- The works of Flavius Josephus

- The complete works of Shakespeare

Am I missing any? Now of course there's no direct evidence that Joseph Smith had possesion of every single one of these books, as well as others he would need to fabricate the BoM, D&C and PofGP, prior to 1830, but since only those defending Joseph Smith need to present direct evidence, that's beside the point.

Now remember, when the Book of Mormon was first published and distributed, Jospeh Smith was only 24 years old, and had not had the opportunity to attend college or study in either Europe or the Middle East. In fact, he barely had a fourth grade education. (Of course, now church critics are trying to say that's a myth)

So how did he do it? How did Joseph Smith gather all these books together, studying them throughly and carefully, and use them to create the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price? And how did he do this while at the same time convincing his wife, his immediate family, and many others such as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, David Whitmer, Newel K. Whitney, and Willard Richards, just to name a few, that his work was of divine origin?

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I don't think you will get a lot of responses here. You asked a question that leaves the critics without anything to say. Good job.

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Let's say I take the position that Joseph Smith was a fraud and that he made up the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Now according to church critics, Joseph Smith fabricated all of these works after carefully studying, cover-to-cover, all of the following:

- The King James version of the Bible

- Ethan Smith's "Views of the Hebrews"

- Solomon Spaulding manuscript

- The Apocrypha

- The works of Flavius Josephus

- The complete works of Shakespeare

Am I missing any? Now of course there's no direct evidence that Joseph Smith had possesion of every single one of these books, as well as others he would need to fabricate the BoM, D&C and PofGP, prior to 1830, but since only those defending Joseph Smith need to present direct evidence, that's beside the point.

Now remember, when the Book of Mormon was first published and distributed, Jospeh Smith was only 24 years old, and had not had the opportunity to attend college or study in either Europe or the Middle East. In fact, he barely had a fourth grade education. (Of course, now church critics are trying to say that's a myth)

So how did he do it? How did Joseph Smith gather all these books together, studying them throughly and carefully, and use them to create the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price? And how did he do this while at the same time convincing his wife, his immediate family, and many others such as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, David Whitmer, Newel K. Whitney, and Willard Richards, just to name a few, that his work was of divine origin?

A point of clarification.

The King James Version of the Bible which Joseph Smith possessed at that time included the Apocrypha.

Beyond that, there are those who've stated that there was a library locally, which included some of those books.

Even then, I'm not sure it's correct to assume that the only books one would have read are the ones one personally owns or possesses.

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1973,

Influence is much more complicated than your question implies. If person A meets person B, and person B quotes from Shakespeare, than A becomes acquainted with Shakespeare without having read the play which is being quoted. Remember Twain's story in Huckleberry Finn of the traveling actors. I don't think many critics today accept the Spaulding theory.

Richard

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My main point with this thread is to ask, if critics know for certain that Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price based on books and ideas he received from others of his time, then why has no one reconstructed all three successfully?

In fact, take away the D&C and PofGP for a moment and just look at the Book of Mormon.

-Show me exactly where Smith came up with each and every name for the Book of Mormon characters, especially the names not mentioned in the Bible.

-Show me exactly where Smith got the idea of how the Nephites and Lamanites conducted their wars.

-Show me exactly where Smith got the idea of people writing on gold tablets and hiding them in hills.

-Show me exactly where Smith got the idea for the Jaredite people.

-Show me exactly where Smith got the idea for gospel principles, such as he who serves man, only serves God.

-Show me exactly where Smith got the idea for the Book of Enos, the Book of Moroni, 2 Nephi 4:17-35, 3 Nephi 12:2 and Ether 12.

And while you're researching this, show me how it is that Smith was able to convince Martin Harris to finance his alleged work of fiction, even though Harris was publicly ridiculed for doing so, even by some in his own family.

Show me how Smith, along with his co-conspiritors, was able to not only convince Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball to join the Mormon Church, but get them to leave their families (more than once) travel to England and convert thousands to the fact that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true.

If Smith, living in the 19th century, was a fake, it shouldn't be to hard for 21st Century scholars and historians to piece together his complete and total fraud.

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Let's say I take the position that Joseph Smith was a fraud and that he made up the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Now according to church critics, Joseph Smith fabricated all of these works after carefully studying, cover-to-cover, all of the following:

- The King James version of the Bible

- Ethan Smith's "Views of the Hebrews"

- Solomon Spaulding manuscript

- The Apocrypha

- The works of Flavius Josephus

- The complete works of Shakespeare

Critics are merely attempting to describe the Book of Mormon in naturalistic terms. There are many theories, none of which may be exact or conclusive. The only reason critics search for a naturalistic explanation is because the best "proof" of all, vanished, exactly as a critic might expect from someone who is attempting a deception.

If you take God out the equation, there is NO reason not to have Golden plates to back up the "truth". God is the wildcard that only the perpetrator (Joseph Smith) had access to. Ascribing any power, will, decision or outcome to the "will of God" is nonsensical, as there are no reference points for comparison.

So what is the best explanation for the lack of the physical Golden plates without utilizing God or the supernatural (a resurrected Moroni) as part of the equation?

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1973,

Which critic has asserted that JS was intimately familiar with all these works? Why would knowledge of all of Shakespeare's plays be required for writing the BOM?

Genius, whether for good or ill, often produces surprising results. Note the reaction to Pilgrim's Progress

Owen was himself a writer, but he could not believe what Bunyan had written. He urged Bunyan to have it be printed immediately. When Bunyan returned to London weeks later to check on the printing he was aghast at what had happened. His printer Nathaniel Ponder sold copies as fast as he could print them. Bunyan became the victim of double-takes, stares and stammering praise. The King's Court asked of Pilgrim's Progress not 'is it any good?' but 'is it a masterpiece'?

http://www.heroesofhistory.com/page29.html

Richard

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The critics have the same problem they excoriate LDS for. They can't come up with a straight story. They bob and weave everytime a challenge is presented and they can't seem to get together and come up with a cohesive attack. So we have a dog's breakfast of reasons why JS made it all up. But the reasons conflict and none are fool-proof. And if you put the mess all together...you have JS being accused of doing things that would make him almost more knowlegable than God. At some point they are going to have to get together and work something out.

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So what is the best explanation for the lack of the physical Golden plates without utilizing God or the supernatural (a resurrected Moroni) as part of the equation?

That is the problem...they start with an easy question (there were no plates) and then get tangled up in the consequences of it. The very real existence of the BOM. That is too hard to confront so they come up with peripherals of the "gotcha" variety, i.e., "your prophets taught....", "Mormons believe...". But they never get around to dealing with the text. This will be a growing problem for our home grown experts as Mormonism is taken seriously as a religious movement by scholars who are trained in the study of religion, history, ritual studies and most important, languages. The garden variety critic who depends on pitting "prophets" and "history" against the religion they represent are going to look increasingly out of touch. Mormonism may be as false as a two-dollar bill...but it will be right there with the other religious traditions and if you can imagine scholars arguing over whether Islam is "true" and it's prophets got their geography right...well....time to get back to grad school.

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The very real existence of the BOM. That is too hard to confront so they come up with peripherals of the "gotcha" variety, i.e.,

The text exists because someone penned it, like every other book ever made since mankind began. Is that so difficult? It is the origins of the text that is relevant as to its historacity. The very story of the origins of the BoM, its "witnesses", and its disappearance, are part of the story behind why the BoM even exists. This says nothing about the true nature of God (or if God as we fancy him, even exists), it is the storyteller, claiming to be God's mouthpiece, shaping the nature of God to fit the story. It is the prime assumption that exists unchallenged; the cosmology of Christianity and Mormonism. Challenge the cosmology and the text can only be of human origins.

Mormonism is taken seriously as a religious movement by scholars who are trained in the study of religion, history, ritual studies and most important, languages

Mormonism now is something exponentially more than just the BoM. It is great news to the LDS faithful that sholars study its history, ritual, theology and every aspect of its evolution. Scholarship does not deal with the supernatural origins in absolute terms. It cannot, because it cannot define them.

The assumption is that because we have a text, it supports the supernatural, when it should be first to prove the supernatural to then support the text.

I do have to laugh at your loaded words Juliann as if you represented current mormon thought and others are sorely lacking:

-Garden Variety critic? As opposed to a "scholar" whose erudition is more apt to have the "truth", when the truth of Mormonism is found by means other than scholarship? When the truth claims of Mormonism are tied to factual, literal, black or white type events? Are there any posters here reading this who have found Mormonism to be true by only studying its doctrines and history, and not praying or receiving a divine witness?

Juliann - Did a resurrected Peter, James and John lay their hands upon Joseph Smith to impart the holy Melchizedek priesthood, Yes or No? What do non-LDS religious scholars say about that?

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The text exists because someone penned it, like every other book ever made since mankind began. Is that so difficult?

Yes. If it was easy there would not be ever growing tangled mass of explanations as to how he was able to do it. And "every book" has not created the rabid hatred, furor and following...that this one has.

It is the origins of the text that is relevant as to its historacity.

That does not explain its contents. Scholars debate the origins of ancient texts all the time. They do not use that as an excuse to denounce the text. They still study the text.

It is the prime assumption that exists unchallenged; the cosmology of christianity and Mormonism.

The existence of God has been questioned since the beginning of recorded religion.

The assumption is that because we have a text, it supports the supernatural, when it should be first to prove the supernatural to then support the text.

That is an "assumption" of the believing community. It is irrelevant when it comes to the study of the text by outsiders. You are skirting the issue. You can dress the text up with any peripheral assumptions you want...the text still has to be dealt with.

I do have to laugh at your loaded words Juliann as if you represented current mormon thought and others are sorely lacking:

Current Mormon thought allows for this representation. For heaven's sakes...this is little different than the profs at BYU are saying. I do think BYU is still part of "the church". :P

-Garden Variety critic?  As opposed to a "scholar" whose erudition is more apt to have the "truth", when the truth of Mormonism is found by means other than scholarship?

I find you to be very reasonable, TC. But this is what I was talking about. As soon as the topic gets narrowed...all the peripheral stuff pops up. "Truth"? Who is talking about truth? You just said scholarship does not deal with truth claims...they are not equipped to do so. I am talking about scholarship. I always talk about scholarship because that is what I am acquainted with. Am I supposed to pretend otherwise so I don't step on toes? I have attended every lecture (except one) and the conference kicking off the new CGU Mormon Studies program. I was at Yale for that conference. Should I not talk about how the gathering of scholars dealt with the BOM and Mormonism? The question should be why this is such a hot button topic for those who haven't had this exposure. (And yes...there is a huge disconnect between the critics and the scholars who spend their lives and careers studying what they talk about...is this really a surprise?)

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When the truth claims of Mormonism are tied to factual, literal, black or white type events? Are there any posters here reading this who have found Mormonism to be true by only studying its doctrines and history, and not praying or receiving a divine witness?

I didn't catch your edits.... Those literal black and white events are not so black and white or there would not be so much disputation...and mockery of things like the different versions of the First Vision. As for how one determines something as undefinable and nontransferrable as the "truth of Mormonism", it would be highly personal. As I recall, Nibley did attribute a compilation of knowledge and evidence as a major factor in his belief. He likened it to a scientist who experiments until a body of evidence has been established that is meets his criteria of proof. Some would require more evidence...some less. Some more spiritual witness...some less.

Juliann - Did a resurrected Peter, James and John lay their hands upon Joseph Smith to impart the holy Melchizedek priesthood, Yes or No?  What do non-LDS  religious scholars say about that?

They say it just like they "say" any other experience. Scholars don't snicker over Paul's vision. Or the Reformers. Or Mohammad. Who would go into a field of study they found ridiculous? It really is possible to analyze historial claims without judging them....or expecting a spiritual witness of them.

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didn't catch your edits.... Those literal black and white events are not so black and white or there would not be so much disputation...and mockery of things like the different versions of the First Vision. As for how one determines something as undefinable and nontransferrable as the "truth of Mormonism", it would be highly personal. As I recall, Nibley did attribute a compilation of knowledge and evidence as a major factor in his belief. He likened it to a scientist who experiments until a body of evidence has been established that is meets his criteria of proof. Some would require more evidence...some less. Some more spiritual witness...some less.

It seems to me that Mormonism has a hierarchy of "truths". Principal to its truth claims (truth in the sense of effectuating the correct ordinances of salvation), is the restoration of the priesthood. This is crucial because the priesthood keys were not a re-interpretation of doctrine or theology, but rather, literal and factual events with resurrected beings touching their very hands, on the very heads of Joseph Smith and others to restore the priesthood. The first vision is important, but the first vision is not the truth claim of the church...the restoration of the priesthood keys are. In fact, the restoration of the priesthood is the central core of Mormonism superceding the first vision and the Book of Mormon in its importance. The priesthood IS the king daddy!

I think what you mean, as you stated; something as undefinable and nontransferrable as the "truth of Mormonism", perhaps is another layer dropping down the hierarchy of truth claims. This is the realm of scholarship, of theologians...of committees :P, this is the "undefinable" truth via revelations found in the D & C, revelations recieved elsewhere and simpler interpretations of various doctrines and ordinances of the gospel. However, what good is a revelation without the power to act in God's name?

They say it just like they "say" any other experience. Scholars don't snicker over Paul's vision. Or the Reformers. Or Mohammad. Who would go into a field of study they found ridiculous? It really is possible to analyze historial claims without judging them....or expecting a spiritual witness of them.

I don't know what non-LDS scholars say of the restoration of the priesthood keys to those early LDS leaders, but if they agree it happened, then by default they exclude their religion of the final power (the priesthood) necessary to effectuate the ordinances of salvation.

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My main point with this thread is to ask, if critics know for certain that Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price based on books and ideas he received from others of his time, then why has no one reconstructed all three successfully?

Not all critics claim JS stole/copied/borrowed ideas from books of his day. Personally, I just figured that JS had an active imagination ("telestial," "Kolob," etc.? Those are some of the most silly and imaginative words that I have heard of.)

And while you're researching this, show me how it is that Smith was able to convince Martin Harris to finance his alleged work of fiction, even though Harris was publicly ridiculed for doing so, even by some in his own family.

Show me how Smith, along with his co-conspiritors, was able to not only convince Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball to join the Mormon Church, but get them to leave their families (more than once) travel to England and convert thousands to the fact that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true.

Look at any modern-day charismatic religious leader (e.g., Warren Jeffs, David Koresh, et. al) I don't see how JS is any different. Having a band of devout followers does not equate to truth.

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Juliann, with her customary grace, wrote

The critics have the same problem they excoriate LDS for. They can't come up with a straight story. They bob and weave everytime a challenge is presented and they can't seem to get together and come up with a cohesive attack.
Why are the crtiics required to agree with each other. Heck, the LDS can't seem to agree on what your church teaches on any number of topics. The Ostlings made this point in their 1997 book on the LDS.

The half life of your prophets' teachings is awfully short. Based on previous expereince, I'm twenty years ahead of FARMS. In 2025 they will be dismissing most of what GBH teaches today. I dismiss it now.

Alexander Campbell's reaction to the BOM reflects well my opinion of it.

Richard

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Juliann wrote:

The critics have the same problem they excoriate LDS for. They can't come up with a straight story. They bob and weave everytime a challenge is presented and they can't seem to get together and come up with a cohesive attack.

Richardmdborn responded:

Why are the crtiics required to agree with each other. Heck, the LDS can't seem to agree on what your church teaches on any number of topics. The Ostlings made this point in their 1997 book on the LDS.

I would second RmdBorn's response and to add:

Some critics hate the church, some critics merely dislike it, while some critics are mostly ambivalent. Some critics are from competing Christian denominations, while others are outside of Christendom altogether. Some ambivalent critics could more appropriately be called skeptics, while some skeptics could be LDS members unsure of some or many aspects of their faith. Some members could be skeptical of some claims but be fully active. Some fully active members have unanswered questions that require more clarification.

I don't think all critics, skeptics or questioning members are on the attack, but for varying reasons as diverse as the first vision accounts :P , ask questions, seek clarification, and search to filter out the human from the purported divine.

To redirect the thread back to its original intent; is there a naturalistic explanation for the BoM that believing members would grant some plausibility or possibility?

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Juliann, with her customary grace,

The problem is not with my "grace" or lack of it. The problem is with the inevitable squeamishness of critics who won't stand for something (to quote GBH). I stopped using "antis" because of the harrowing howls it produced from those who spend their free time ripping apart a religion. I honestly do not get it. One thing you will get from me is a straight up acknowledgement of what I do and what I think. Call it what you will. I will not run from my behavior...which is one of the things that infuriates the critics. I feel no need to live up to their standards of a nice Mormon that does not talk back.

Why are the crtiics required to agree with each other.  Heck, the LDS can't seem to agree on what your church teaches on any number of topics.  The Ostlings made this point in their 1997 book on the LDS. 

The better question is...why the double standard? Of course LDS don't agree. Of course our apologetic changes. But if critics aren't supposed to be expected to have a straight story...why are we? We are not the ones chasing down other religions and making demands of their adherents. The burden is on those who do to live up to their own demands.

The half life of your prophets' teachings is awfully short.  Based on previous expereince, I'm twenty years ahead of FARMS.  In 2025 they will be dismissing most of what GBH teaches today.  I dismiss it now. 

That is an awfully convenient but broad dismissal. And here we go again. I will admit that we do move on in some elements of our practices. But you will not. You cannot because you will also not acknowledge that the Bible cannot carry the burden you put on it. Just drop the double standards if you are going to make a hobby of finger pointing. It is just common sense.

Alexander Campbell's reaction to the BOM reflects well my opinion of it.

Well, that is nice. But it still tells us nothing about the BOM itself. Not to mention that Campbell carries a lot of baggage you might have to unpack if you want to do the same to any other religious leader.

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We are not the ones chasing down other religions and making demands of their adherents.

How many thousand full-time LDS missionaries are out in the field right now doing just that on a daily basis?

None that I know of. All that they should be doing is just sharing our beliefs. They are not told to go out and ask others to prove their religious beliefs to them. All that the missionaries are told is to go out and share our beliefs with those who are interested. That is all.

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We are not the ones chasing down other religions and making demands of their adherents.

How many thousand full-time LDS missionaries are out in the field right now doing just that on a daily basis?

None that I know of. All that they should be doing is just sharing our beliefs. They are not told to go out and ask others to prove their religious beliefs to them. All that the missionaries are told is to go out and share our beliefs with those who are interested. That is all.

Missionaries don't chase down adherents of other religions?

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I do not think that they "chase down" adherents of other religions. What they do however is try and extend a hand of fellowship to those in other religions, in order to share with them what we belive. If they are "chasing down", i.e. "bible thumping" not letting people get a word in edgewise, etc., then they are not behaving in the proper missionary attitude. Did the Apostles of Christ's time "chase down" adherents of other religions, or did they openly discuss the message that they had to any and all that would listen?

Personally I think that there is a big difference between the two, those who chase down, and those who share.

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