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The Role of the Mind in Spiritual Discernment

May 9, 2009

(Special Note: Please believe that I am writing this post very prayerfully and seeking to convey love and a spirit of humility even in the hard things I write. Please ponder it prayerfully and in humility as well.)

Because Satan is the father of lies and a master deceiver, Christians must continually renew their minds in the truth in order to combat his lies and overcome deception.  Christians are commanded, “Think on things that are true” (Phil. 4:8), and “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37).

This brings me to a couple questions I have for Latter-day Saints:

What role does the mind play in the LDS spiritual discernment process concerning the Book of Mormon?  Are LDS investigators/members encouraged to fully engage their mind in the process of discerning the truth of the Book of Mormon?

I ask this because of the following facts that speak to my mind that the book is not of Him:

  • Contrary to the historical and archeological evidences for the Bible; the people, places, and events in the Book of Mormon are not true.  In other words, they are not historical.  The Book of Mormon is not recognized by any reputable source outside of Mormonism as a legitimate historical record of the early Americas.  As one BYU professor put it: “No one has found any inscriptional evidence for, or material remains that can be tied directly to any of the persons, places or things mentioned in the book” [1].  Archeology has not only failed to provide any tangible proof of the Book of Mormon’s historicity, it has created many problems for it.  Many LDS are leaning towards an “inspired fiction” view, or are becoming New Order Mormons, or are leaving Mormonism.
  • The Book of Mormon contains numerous parallels to nineteenth century thoughts/issues and incongruities with ancient Jewish records.  [2]
  • Despite it’s apparent general orthodoxy, a literal reading of the book uncovers an “impossible gospel,” especially when used in conjunction with the D&C, as demonstrated at this link here.
  • The “translation” process of the Book of Mormon involved an occult method of divination using a seer stone in a hat by someone who used that same same seer stone to hunt for buried treasure and who died with his Jupiter talisman in his pocket.
  • Other “translations” by that same individual have been demonstrated to be frauds [3, 4].
  • Other uses of the seer stone by the same individual have been demonstrated to be frauds in a court of law [5].
  • DNA evidence has proven that Native Americans are not descended from Israelites. Another change has already been made to the Book of Mormon introduction to account for this problem.  Instead of being the “principal ancestors” of American Indians, Lamanites are now……“among the ancestors of the American Indians.”
  • Other religions have spiritual books and subjective tests for determining their truth such as the Divine Principle of the Unification Church or The Divine Book of Holy and Eternal Wisdom of the Shakers.
  • Other religions have had eye-witnesses for their holy books. If the Book of Mormon witnesses are to be trusted, we should also consider the eleven witnesses who claimed they handled ancient plates that God gave to James Strang [6]
  • This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are a few examples.

Finally, and most importantly, the Book of Mormon does not contain any of Mormonism’s distinct doctrines.  The Book of Mormon test, therefore, is not a valid method for testing the truth of the Mormon religion.  You cannot test the truth of a religion by studying a book that does not contain any of that religion’s unique doctrines.  We don’t find anything in the Book of Mormon about the pre-existence, celestial marriage, plurality of Gods, that men can become Gods, that God is an exalted man, baptism for the dead, etc.

With the exception of passages that convey an “impossible gospel,” and some other anomalies, the general teaching of the book is pretty orthodox.  We may not be able to figure out the geography of the book, but we can find the Trinity (Ether 3:14, II Nephi 31:21, III Nephi 11:27, etc.), the teaching that God is a spirit (Alma 18:26-28, 31:15), and the doctrine of hell/everlasting torment (2 Ne. 9: 19, 26; 28:23).  Ironically, the Book of Mormon says that the teaching that there is no hell is a false teaching from the devil (2 Nephi. 28:21-22).

The Bible tells us to test the spirits.  I believe the spirit attached to the Book of Mormon is warm, enticing, and seductive.  Once you’re drawn in and submitted to that spirit, you’re hooked.  If you ever doubt some of the other truth claims of Mormonism or the other spirits within Mormonism you are drawn back to that warm, enticing experience with the Book of Mormon, but the Book of Mormon does not teach Mormonism!  This is a very great deception!

In order to overcome demonic deception, we are commanded to have our loins girded with truth (Eph. 6:14).  We cannot submit to just any spirit that manifests itself no matter how good it makes us feel.  Every religion has spirits that feel good, but the Holy Spirit is never disconnected from truth.  How do we know what is truth?  Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).  The Word of God is the sword of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:17); this sword pierces through deception and is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).  We must worship God in spirit AND in truth (John 4:24).

The Bible warns us that people will be deceived by demonic spirits in the latter days and that these spirits will be enticing:

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Interestingly, the Book of Mormon teaches that anything that invites or entices to do good is of God:

That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God (Moroni 7:13).

Contra Moroni 7:13, the Bible describes Satan’s subtle deception appearing as light:

It is no great thing if [Satan’s] ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor. 11:15).

When I read the introduction to the Book of Mormon, where Joseph Smith describes his visit by the deceased Book of Mormon person, Moroni, this scripture verse popped into my mind:

“Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light”

(2 Cor. 11:14)

The Bible warns us not to accept the devil’s subtle deception that appears to be from God:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

We are all vulnerable to the deception of demonic spirits.  Demonic spirits are working 24/7 to deceive, distract, and destroy people.  None of us are inoculated from their attacks.  I would submit, however, that we play into their deception when we disconnect our mind from our emotions in the discernment process.  I think this is why investigators and members are not encouraged to consider objective truth when examining the Book of Mormon.  They are encouraged to seek and maintain a spiritual testimony that the book is true regardless of objective evidence to the contrary.

“Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men”

(1 Corinthians 14:20)

In closing, I would like to remind my readers of I Peter 3:15:   “be ready always to give an answer [apologia] to every man that asketh you a reason [logos] of the hope that is in you.”  “Two key words are central to Peter’s meaning: apologia and logos.  The word apologia means ‘to defend something,’ for example, offering positive arguments for and responding to negative arguments against your position in a courtroom.  It is important to recognize that this is exactly how the apostle Paul did evangelism (Acts 14:15-17; 17:2, 4, 17-31; 18:4, 19:8).  He persuaded people to become Christians by offering rational arguments on behalf of the truth of the gospel…The word logos means ‘evidence or argument which provides rational justification for some belief’… Peter is saying that we are to be prepared to give rational arguments and good reasons for why we believe what we believe, and this involves the mind.  Peter’s reference to gentleness and reverence implies that we are to argue but not be argumentative.”[7]  Let’s all keep this scripture in mind as we discuss this post.

References:

1.  David J. Johnson,  “Archaeology,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 62-63.

2.  Alexander Campbell, “Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon With an Examination of Its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of Its Pretences To Divine Authority,” The Restoration Movement Pages (1832).

3. The Kinderhook Plates

4. The Book of Abraham

5.  Court Records When these records were first discovered, Hugh Nibley said “If this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith.”  Mormon scholar, F. W. Kirkham, said “If such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that his believers must deny his claimed divine guidance which led them to follow him” (as cited by L. Aubrey Gard, Mormonism: A Way That Seemeth Right, p.33).  The court record has been proven to be authentic.

6.  “History and Succession,” The Original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)

7.  J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, pp. 51-52.

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233 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2009 5:03 pm

    Jessica,
    There are just too many logical errors to even start. I pray that God will give me more charity for your beliefs than you’ve shown mine. God forgive you for misrepresenting Mormonism.

  2. May 10, 2009 5:11 pm

    You really believe that “the Bible” has been verified as genuine history by archeological and historical inquiry and analysis? Seriously? Do you merely mean that places like Israel and Jerusalem exist (both mentioned in the Book of Mormon too, I might add), or do you claim that the Bible can be taken as factual in all that it asserts because of such methods? If it is the latter, I don’t know anyone in the academy–whether Christian, Jewish, atheist, etc.– who would agree with such an assessment. The only persons who even make such wide-sweeping statements are persons with what I would call fundamentalist views concerning the Bible; and why should anyone who isn’t a fundamentalist already adopt such a position? It is demonstrably false.

    TYD

  3. psychochemiker permalink
    May 10, 2009 8:22 pm

    In order to respond to a lot of the dishonest claims made in this post, I had to include a lot of references. Therefore I have done this on my own blog. I don’t care where people comment, but I needed more than 3 links, as more than 6 links were put in the original post.

    <a href’=”http://psychochemiker.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/misusing-science-for-religion/” HERE

  4. psychochemiker permalink
    May 10, 2009 8:23 pm

    <a href=”http://psychochemiker.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/misusing-science-for-religion/” DOH!

  5. psychochemiker permalink
    May 10, 2009 8:24 pm

    Sorry .

  6. May 10, 2009 8:44 pm

    OK Jessica, it’s time to get real here. Why don’t you look at the archeo-history of Palestine and what scholars actually say? It wasn’t settled through a violent conquest and the OT is at odds with the archaeological record. Check this out: http://books.google.com/books?id=0Kf1ZwDifdAC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=settlement+of+biblical+lands+peaceful&source=bl&ots=07ElJXvtI9&sig=_910p4l-iwgGZ5N3ghhAeQWT0SI&hl=en&ei=oToHSrHpB5-etAOwmrHbAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10#PPA58,M1

    Further, your view of the Book of Mormon is so misinformed by EV propaganda that, as psychomemiker has point out, it is more than charitable to say that you are simply misinformed.

    Here is my challenge: The Book of Mormon contains genuine ancient Hebrew call narratives, Israelite judicial procedures and covenant renewal festivals. Check this out: http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=16228&CISOSHOW=16115

    I ask you to explain these features in the Book of Mormon.

  7. May 10, 2009 11:12 pm

    Jessica,

    Good post. The subject of how people gain a testimony of LDS Church is of particular interst to me. Most fail to realize many members of other faiths point to answers they have received from their “God” as evidence their faith is the only true one. I have personally spoken with Muslims, JW’s, etc who have shared as much. These faiths are too diametrically opposed to all be true. If Allah is God and Jesus is simply a prophet then Christianity nor Mormonism can be true. However, if Jesus is truly the Messiah then Islam is false. Bottom line, someone is being led by a false spirit (1 John 4:1).

    When I have asked Mormons how they know the spirit they received their answer from is a true spirit from God and not a deceiving spirit most have no clue what I am talking about. Once I explain to them how The Bible teaches there are false spirits about trying to deceive many use circular reasoning stating something to the effect of “Well of course my answer is from God because the Church is true”.

    Darrell

  8. May 11, 2009 1:13 am

    So, Darrell, if I understand you correctly, you believe that you became convinced of the truth of the Evangelical message via logic and reason? I suppose the same question goes to Jessica: Do you believe that you Evangelical belief is inherently more logical or reasonable that LDS belief? Do you believe that you rationally chose evangelicalism?

  9. faithoffathers permalink
    May 11, 2009 3:21 am

    Tradition is the lazy man’s revelation.

    Many religionists do not recognize the shallowness in accepting a religion based on tradition, or perceived archeological or anthropologic “evidences.”

    Those whose religion is based merely on tradition will not stand the heat of the day. Revelation is the bedrock for true religion and knowledge of God. It cannot be otherwise.

    Ironically, a very, very high percentage of persons who claim to rely on the mind to support their religious claims, such as in this article, have not read the Book of Mormon or really studied it before coming to their conclusions. It doesn’t take long to see that their knowledge of the book is shallow and superficial.

    The Book of Mormon is the most monumental and transcendent revelation in modern religion. Yet, just as in ancient days, the beauty of this thing is kept for the humble and earnest seekers of truth.

    Have unearthed some great evidences recently of which I was previously unaware. Will post these when I can.

    Honestly, the arguments in this article are shallow and not researched. Those who follow the pimary sources of data on the topic see that critical arguments FOR the Book of Mormon are far outpacing those of its detractors. But if one doesn’t look beyond the typical, over-used, already refuted propaganda against the book, it can be difficult to see through the smoke and mirrors.

    fof

  10. May 11, 2009 6:12 am

    testament

    dē-ä-thā’-kā (Key)

    Part of Speech
    feminine noun

    Root Word (Etymology)

    from G1303

    TDNT Reference
    2:106,157
    Vines
    View Entry

    Outline of Biblical Usage 1) a disposition, arrangement, of any sort, which one wishes to be valid, the last disposition which one makes of his earthly possessions after his death, a testament or will

    2) a compact, a covenant, a testament

    a) God’s covenant with Noah, etc.

    Mat 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

    will
    8. Law. a. a legal declaration of a person’s wishes as to the disposition of his or her property or estate after death, usually written and signed by the testator and attested by witnesses.
    b. the document containing such a declaration.

    THE
    BOOK OF MORMON
    ANOTHER TESTAMENT OF JESUS CHRIST

    How many people do you know that writes to WILLS.

  11. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2009 12:59 pm

    We do place heavy importance on the mind – “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart.” I regularly apply both heart and mind to understanding and discerning truth. I actually feel I rely too heavily on the mind.

    I refute the idea of an “impossible gospel.” This claim always hangs on the interpretation of Moroni 10:32 which I hopefully explained well enough on another thread.

    Even the verse in Alma is grossly misused. The distinction is made that Christ saves us “from our sins,” He does not save us “in our sins.” If we are “in sin” then we are not “in Christ.” If we are “in Christ,” it does not mean we do not sin, it just means that we have committed our lives to Jesus Christ and thus will be saved despite our sins.

  12. May 11, 2009 1:28 pm

    I’m not feeling much need to address the individual claims in this post (which other people have already addressed). I’m much more interested in the underlying claim that rationality is the key to finding God.

    I agree however that the “impossible Gospel” thing is convoluted poppycock.

  13. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2009 3:13 pm

    The DNA evidence thing cracks me up. DNA evidence as well as a lot of other scientific evidence can be used to “disprove” the Bible. Yet, it doesn’t shake your faith in the Bible. Why should DNA “evidence” shake my faith in the Book of Mormon?

    I thus find the DNA argument against the Book of Mormon to be incredibly dishonest. Again, you purport to have some version of truth that is fully corroborated and proven by scientific evidence which is simply not the case.

  14. Brad permalink
    May 11, 2009 4:42 pm

    Jessica,
    There are just too many logical errors to even start. I pray that God will give me more charity for your beliefs than you’ve shown mine. God forgive you for misrepresenting Mormonism.

    Jessica, all the points you brought up are good, even though not acknowledged by most Mormons. I pray God will bless you for your willingness to tackle these topics and speak the truth in love, even if others accuse you falsely. You have done a good job, have NOT misrepresented Mormonism, and I pray God blesses you for that!

  15. May 11, 2009 5:09 pm

    This post confuses me. I can’t speak for other evangelicals, but my conversion to evangelical Christianity wasn’t rational. Far from it. I was 10, my evangelical aunt pulled me aside and told me about who Christ was and what He had done for me, and I believed and prayed to receive Him as my Savior. She didn’t lay out Lee Strobel-like arguments for the empty tomb or other evidences for Christianity. She didn’t encourage me to search the Bible and test what she was saying against its words. She just told me, and I believed. It wasn’t until years later that I began looking for rational, intellectual verification for my faith. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my leaders were not always right and it was okay to question their interpretations of the Bible and the things they said and did.

    I’ve been to many, many evangelical services at which there were altar calls to accept Jesus, and rarely have they come after a sermon that made some kind of intellectual case for evangelical Christianity. They were almost always emotional affairs. People came and kneeled with tears in their eyes; no one was worrying about checking the preacher’s words against the Bible or making sure one could make a scholarly case for evangelical Christianity.

    So what exactly are we accusing Mormons of doing? We can’t be rebuking them for making their initial conversions primarily through subjective, emotional, spiritual experiences, because we do the exact same thing. Are we saying remaining in the Mormon church requires that one turn off his brain? That’s ludicrous. Mormonism has a deep shelf of scholarship and apologetics backing up its claims from which to pull from. Just listen to some of the Mormons who post here, check out their web sites and blogs. Do they really sound like people who are plugging their fingers into their ears and saying “La-la-la-la-la-la can’t hear you”?

    I don’t see any evidence that the average evangelical is doing a better job “using his mind” than the average Mormon. Not even a little bit.

  16. gloria permalink
    May 11, 2009 5:14 pm

    How does one even trust a book as being inspired that declares it has errors in it? Is God a god of errors? I think not. If the BofM is the most correct of all books – why does it not contain many of the main LDS doctrines, such as eternal marriage, work for the dead, the endowmnet, the different levels of heaven, the doctrine of progression, etc. Really, the Book of mormon agrees more with Biblical Christianity than it does with mainstream mormonism today. It’s confusing to say the least.
    Kind regards,
    gloria

  17. May 11, 2009 5:56 pm

    THANK YOU Jack. I was waiting for a respectable evangelical to see through the bunk.

    Gloria, I’m confused by your logic. Are you under the impression that the Bible must be perfect in order to trust in divine inspiration? Perhaps I can point you to my post on “Bart Ehrman: “Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Altered Scripture and Readers Who May Never Know”.
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/04/bart-ehrman-misquoting-jesus-scribes.html

    Not even the Book of Mormon claims to be perfect or inerrant. Yet I still see God’s “fingerprints” all throughout that book.

    As to your other questions, you’ll recall that LDS believe that many important things pertaining to the kingdom of God are yet to be revealed–ie: ongoing revelation. The Book of Mormon was not meant to be a final culmination of all doctrines of the Restoration. It was published before the Church was even organized. However, it most certainly laid the foundation for the great latter-day “work and a wonder” of which Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 29:14) I see the Restoration as an ongoing process.

  18. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2009 6:27 pm

    Wow, Jack, you’re 2 for 2 today! For those that missed the other one, see here.

    I’m perfectly happy to discuss the substantive issues of Mormon theology vs. Evangelical theology, but I find this post ridiculous. (as well as the “different Jesus…crap.”) Thanks again, Jack!

  19. May 11, 2009 7:56 pm

    THANK YOU Jack. I was waiting for a respectable evangelical to see through the bunk.

    Wow, Jack, you’re 2 for 2 today!

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but I have a two year-old here who needs tickles. Lots and lots of tickles.

    Or in other words, I’ve been pretty busy in real life. Nice to see you guys again just the same.

  20. gloria permalink
    May 11, 2009 8:54 pm

    Hi, clean cut-
    Nice to “see” you again. 🙂
    Yes you are right — the whole concept of “continuing revelation” would explain why the BofM does not contain most of the LDS doctrines that are really specific to mormonism. That came after the BofM was published.
    I just don’t believe God has errors. I believe if a Book if revealed by God and inspired by holy men, as the Bible was, it is not going to have errors in it’s translation. I don’t see how one can trust a book , and believe it is from God, and it has errors. That doesn’t make sense to me.
    Thanks for the chance to dialogue.
    Regards,
    gloria

  21. faithoffathers permalink
    May 12, 2009 1:44 am

    Gloria,

    While I do not necessarily believe the Book of Mormon is infallable, I whole-heartedly subscribe to the idea that it is “the most correct of any book on earth, and a man will get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book.”

    Not all truth is of the same value. The most important truths are those that deal with the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His gospel. In this sense, the Book of Mormon is more powerful and clear in bring a soul to Christ than any other book. It does not contain all truth, and never claimed to.

    fof

  22. May 12, 2009 3:08 am

    “I just don’t believe God has errors. I believe if a Book if revealed by God and inspired by holy men, as the Bible was, it is not going to have errors in it’s translation. I don’t see how one can trust a book , and believe it is from God, and it has errors. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

    I agree that God has no “errors”, but it’s a matter of fact that the Bible has errors. But the Bible is not God. I still believe the Bible is divinely inspired, despite its imperfections.

    Gloria, I don’t want to shake your faith or anything, so maybe on second thought, you shouldn’t go to my post on Bart Erhman or watch the videos I linked to there. I’ll just say that if you truly feel that there can be no errors in biblical translation in order to trust it, then you are indeed standing on a shaky foundation.

  23. gloria permalink
    May 12, 2009 3:16 am

    Hi, clean cut —

    I will check out the link you posted — I am not concerne — my foundation of my faith is built on the Rock of Christ. That is where I stand. I have complete and utter confidence in the Lord and what He did for me on Calvary. That is an amazing assurance that no book is going to be able to shake.
    Hope you have a great night,
    gloria

  24. gloria permalink
    May 12, 2009 3:19 am

    Hi, fof —

    I would have to kindly disagree, as I believe the Book of John is the most singular book that clearly lays out what a person must do to inherit eternal life. I read the Book many times as a LDS and yes I do believe it is very easy to understand and simple in language. When I read the Book of John it changed my entire way of thinking about who Jesus is/was and what I needed to do to receive salvation and eternal life.
    I find the Bible much meatier in general than the Bible.
    Sincere regards,
    gloria

  25. May 12, 2009 4:28 am

    Hi Jack,

    In this post, I was seeking to address the epistemological differences in our views of how to discern God’s truth. I wasn’t trying to imply that Mormons shut off their brains. However, the post was discussing the Book of Mormon test specifically. For this test, I believe Mormons are discouraged from engaging their whole mind when studying and praying to know whether the BoM is true. I’m not sure about you, but I have often heard Mormons say things like this: “God created this new dispensation as a test to see who would have enough faith to believe in the restored gospel in spite of the lack of evidence.”

    Personal revelation (as defined in Mormonism) basically trumps everything and people who reject Mormonism based on some of the basic facts I cited above are said to be relying on the wisdom of this world. Various scripture texts (used out of context) are cited as evidence that the Mormon teaching on personal revelation is how we discern truth (i.e. James 1:5). The point of my post was to show that this method of determining truth and preaching the gospel to others is unbiblical.

    I don’t have enough data on the average Evangelical Christian’s use of their mind, but I agree with you that many of them probably also base their faith on feelings rather than reason. This book I’m reading by J. P. Moreland (Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul) says,

    “For many, religion is identified with subjective feelings, sincere motives, personal piety, and blind faith… In other words, we test the truth of our religion not by a careful application of our God-given faculties of thought, or even by biblical mandates (see, for example, 2 Cor. 10:5), but rather by our private experiences. For the most part, theoretical reason is just not part of our local church life any longer.”

    He discusses the relationship between faith and reason and says we should have good reasons for believing Christianity is true before dedicating ourselves completely to it.

    Here’s my thought: Mormonism basically claims to be to Christianity what Christianity is to Judaism. However, the epistemological rules have drastically changed for this new dispensation. Instead of reasonable arguments based on the scriptures that were given to us in the last dispensation (the NT), Mormons ask us to read the Book of Mormon and pray for a subjective feeling that it is true despite the basic, factual evidence to the contrary. Where’s the reasoning from the scriptures, showing us how Mormonism completes or fulfills something we should be expecting from the prophecies in the New Testament? This is how the apostles reasoned with the Jews.

    Also, to be clear, I do not always write my posts with the commenters here primarily in view. Sometimes, such as with this post, I write for the lurkers, Google-searchers, etc. I realize the regular commenters here might not be persuaded, but Mormons I know in real life are greatly affected when presented with these facts. They haven’t heard these things before and I want the information to be readily accessible to those who are seeking. I agree with you that there is an abundance of pro-LDS scholarly research available. However, sometimes one can get so hung up examining and discussing the types of bark on the trees that they can’t step back and look at the whole forest.

  26. Tom permalink
    May 12, 2009 12:31 pm

    Mormons ask us to read the Book of Mormon and pray for a subjective feeling that it is true despite the basic, factual evidence to the contrary.

    Jessica – you have yet to provide one piece of “factual evidence” that the Book of Mormon is false.

    I don’t buy the DNA crap because it disproves the Bible, too, so you’re in a pretty rough spot if you want to resort to that. FURTHERMORE – NEW DNA EVIDENCE IS ALWAYS FORTHCOMING. WHAT IF ONE DAY THERE WAS A DNA LINK DISCOVERED BETWEEN ANCIENT AMERICA AND ISRAEL? I honestly want to know what you would say to that.

    STOP BASING YOUR CONDEMNATION OF THE BOOK OF MORMON ON THE LEARNING OF MEN (and that is precisely what DNA evidence is) WHICH IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING.

    I also don’t buy the “no archeological evidence” for the same reason. At worst, the archeological record of ancient America is incomplete and gives us insufficient grounds to discredit the Book of Mormon, and at best there are a lot of facts that do line up quite nicely (use of cement, etc.).

    Even if there is no DIRECT archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, a lack of data is not data!!!!! Stop acting like it is.

    Let’s focus on substantive theological issues, not your subjective opinions about why the Book of Mormon is proven false. (gag)

    Mormons I know in real life are greatly affected when presented with these facts.

    TO ALL THE LURKERS: These aren’t “facts,” they are Jessica’s subjective opinion. If you truly want to use your mind in discerning truth, go read the Book of Mormon for yourself It speaks for itself. Don’t take Jessica’s word for it.

  27. Tom permalink
    May 12, 2009 12:53 pm

    And just in case you care Jessica – I doubt you do, but just in case –

    “Reasonable arguments based on the scriptures” are among the major reasons I believe Mormonism. I could write a list of why I would never be an Evangelical based on logic alone. It’s not just my warm fuzzy “subjective feelings” that cause me to reject what you’re saying.

    Just because you don’t agree with my arguments doesn’t make them unreasonable.

  28. psychochemiker permalink
    May 12, 2009 1:28 pm

    Well, I guess you’ll continue to use any means necessary.

  29. May 12, 2009 1:31 pm

    “sometimes one can get so hung up examining and discussing the types of bark on the trees that they can’t step back and look at the whole forest.”

    How incredibly ironic.

  30. May 12, 2009 1:36 pm

    Gloria, glad to hear your rock is Christ and not a book. I essentially said the same thing to the nice Christian woman in the comments section of this post, but she apparently placed more faith in the Bible rather than God himself:
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2008/06/are-you-telling-truth-about-bible.html

  31. faithoffathers permalink
    May 12, 2009 4:44 pm

    Tom and Jessica,

    The DNA “proof” is truly laughable. The conclusions of the “scientists” who formulated this argument against the Book of Mormon are such huge jumps in logic, it is dizzying.

    First, consider that since 600 B.C. when Lehi left Jerusalem, the number of Jews has gone through several periods of expansion interrupted by severe declines in numbers caused by episodic destructions of the Jewish people and their subsequent enslavement.

    In addition, majority of “Jews” in the nation of Israel today are descendent of converts of Judaism that originated in eastern Europe.

    These phenomena will introduce very significant drift in the genetic makeup of a people. In other words, it is next to impossible to determine the genetic make-up of the people of Jerusalem in 600 B.C.

    Also, we know very little of the ancestry of Lehi, Sariah, Ishmael, not to mention others who mixed in with the Nephites.

    This all means we have essentially nothing in the way of a starting point to determine if a particular modern people descended from a small group from Jerusalem 2600 years ago.

    This is not even beginning to scratch the surface of the flaws with such claims and “evidences.”

    Then there is the whole issue of the “science” behind the supposed DNA proof against the BOM.

    Will add more as I am able- have been extremely busy clinically.

    This topic in absolutely no way threatens the BOM. But good marketing and misrepresentation by critics has resulted in many people with completley inaccurate perceptions.

    fof

  32. May 12, 2009 5:07 pm

    Jessica,
    So you aren’t saying that Evangelicalism is more rational than Mormonism? Now I am confused. I can’t agree with or dispute your claims unless I know what they are exactly.

    Regarding the use of scripture, of course we use the Bible. We just use it differently than you do.

  33. May 13, 2009 12:11 am

    John,

    I’m not sure “rational” is a good word for what I’m trying to get at. I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of explaining myself and I haven’t had a lot of time to respond to comments this week as I’ve been busy.

    I want to make sure people know my heart and understand why I wrote this post. As I mentioned earlier, I had lurkers in mind and not really any of the people who have commented and expressed they were very offended by this post.

    I don’t think Mormons are dumb or naive. I think most of them are probably really smart! (at least all the ones I know in real life are!) And the ones that post here sure are!

    I’m just longing for Mormons to funnel their intellect and faith in another direction.

    It bothers me that Mormons are defending this stuff that (to me) seems indefensible. I respect the heroic efforts that have gone into this defending, but honestly, from my perspective what a waste of precious resources! We could all be working together to try to defend the Bible’s reliability! Something that is actually possible to do because we have manuscript evidence, archeological proof, etc. Jack mentioned Lee Strobel earlier. He was an atheist who set out to prove Christianity wrong, but ended up becoming a Christian because of the evidence. That’s just one example – there’s others like him.

    I’m not saying everyone has to convert to Christ in the way Lee Strobel did, but I do believe that the evidence is there to really challenge the hard-core skeptics. I was blogging with an ex-mormon atheist for awhile and at first he thought Jesus was just a myth. I showed him his evidence and research was terribly out-dated and he agreed he could probably concede that Jesus was a historical person if he did a little more research. I moved on to try to show that He was divine and the fulfillment of OT prophecies. He had no response after I shared the Daniel 9 prophecy. He didn’t convert to Christianity and later became offended that I didn’t want to add him as a link on my blog (I didn’t want to promote atheism), but still I came away from our discussions with confidence that we DO have evidence to convince people to give Christianity another look. Not everyone will be persuaded and obviously we cannot convince anyone – that’s the Holy Spirit’s job – but we can and SHOULD give the best responses we can to the objections hurled against us.

    I wish, I wish, I wish LDS would join with us in these efforts!

    Instead of joining with us, though, I feel like Mormons pull out atheist arguments against the Bible in an effort to try to compare the reliability of the Book of Mormon with the Bible.

    I don’t want to undermine Mormons’ faith in the Bible or Jesus. I do want them to question their allegiance to a man-made organization, rituals, and spiritual books that I believe were all birthed in the occult and to join with us in defending the reliability of the Bible and historic Christianity that was founded by Christ and is carried on today by Him!

  34. gloria permalink
    May 13, 2009 12:25 am

    Jessica,
    I appreciate what you are trying to do here. It is challenging at times to present the truth with love & compassion, without offending… the balance is a challenge, and I will be praying for you as you do so.

    I was also thinking of Josh McDowell who wrote the book: Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He too was an atheist out to disprove the Bible and upon reading and studying he not only became a beleiver, but has not gone forth to defend the truth! Amazing book and very meaty too.

    Hang in there keep and keep at it. I’ll be praying that God will guide your every word. Before I sit down to type on sites like these or on my own blog I pray that the Lord guides my every word.

    I’ll be doing the same for you!

    Hugs,
    gloria

  35. faithoffathers permalink
    May 13, 2009 2:22 am

    Jessica,

    You said:

    “I respect the heroic efforts that have gone into this defending, but honestly, from my perspective what a waste of precious resources! We could all be working together to try to defend the Bible’s reliability!”

    Do you understand that one of the stated missions of the Book of Mormon is to prove the truth of the Bible?

    Nephi said roughly 2600 years ago regarding the latter-day coming forth of the Book of Mormon “And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

    I understand that it is not necessary to believe the BOM is true in order to believe in the Bible. But if the BOM is true, so is the Bible. By proving the truth of the BOM, a person also proves the Bible is true.

    I don’t think LDS agree with the atheists arguements to any degree. Rather they are attempting to show the inconsistencies in the EV argument against the BOM.

    Jessica- honest question- have you read the Book of Mormon cover to cover?

    I appreciate your honesty in your last post. I really don’t disagree with you when you say we need to utilize our intellect in understanding God and His word. He gave us our wits for good purpose.

    I don’t claim to be the smartest apple in the basket, but I have studied the BOM for 30 years. I have read it over 80 times. I have studied pro and anti arguments to their farthest end utterly possible over and over and over. More than any other knowledge I possess, I am absolutely convinced that it is exactly what it claims to be. I am convinced there is irrefutable evidence, to a truly objective party, that it is authentic.

    I believe I have done what you are speaking about- using one’s mental faculties to the fullest extent to which one is able- to determine the truth of these religious claims. And I am not peculiar among LDS.

    In other words, I have done what you proscribe. And my conclusions are different than yours. Have you done the “primary research?” I mean- have you read it with the consuming desire to know for yourself, independent of any other person, whether the book is true. Or have you taken other peoples’ word for it?

    Thanks. Hope you get my intent here.

    fof

  36. May 13, 2009 2:52 am

    Jessica,
    Your argument against the Book of Mormon is that it comes from an unlikely source and there have been problems verifying its veracity. If we note that the Bible comes from unlikely sources and that there have been problems verifying its veracity, it isn’t because we want to hurt people’s faith or dismiss the Bible. It is because we want to demonstrate that we (and you) operate with faith regarding the Bible (and the Book of Mormon). We’re not dragging the Bible down the level of the Book of Mormon; we are pointing out that we believe that they are already on the same level.

    I’m fine with defending the Bible as a repository of holy writing. I would also add that there is other stuff in there, too. I think that you need a clear head, a good heart, and a reliance on God and the Holy Ghost to separate the wheat from the tares. But I do love wheat.

  37. angie permalink
    May 13, 2009 10:31 pm

    Jessica,
    I respect your civil demeanor. I appreciate that you have not been directly offensive and have not made any personal attacks. I do feel sorry that you have spent so much time speaking against aspects of God’s work which have brought me so much joy, but I respect you for not being insulting.

    I myself am I member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I know the gospel has been restored, and that God still speaks to his children. Christ’s love has guided me throughout my life, and believe me, it hasn’t been an easy road. But even though my life still has its challenges, the feeling of peace and comfort I feel is more powerful than any argument. When you know something on such a special, personal level as I do, it is difficult to speak about it in such a public setting. But I can’t deny what I know to be true.

    My best wishes on everyone. My one wish is for everyone to know that God loves all his children and wants them to return to him. He will not abandon you. Now please, turn to him, and turn to Christ.

    -Angie

  38. May 14, 2009 12:12 am

    Angie,

    Thank you so much for your respectful comment! I really appreciate it! You are most welcome here!

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that “God still speaks to his children” – God speaks to me! I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as a young girl and have been growing in my relationship with Him ever since. He is so real and personal to me and I love Him more than anything else. There’s no human love that compares with His love. His compassion and mercy are new every morning. He is so faithful to me and I am so undeserving of His kindness to me – a sinner. He communes with me and I feel His love and comfort as well as the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit’s conviction when I’m not abiding in His love. I agree that life can be very, very hard, but God has brought me through many painful trials because of His great love for me. I know He wanted to teach me through these trials how to depend upon Him in everything and not to rely on my own strength. He wants to have fellowship with us and He draws us to Himself! He is indeed so Good!

    I also cannot deny the things He has revealed to me. I very much believe in personal revelation, but I do not define it in the same way the LDS church does. I don’t believe personal revelation is primarily “feelings-oriented”; God’s love toward us and the presence of the Holy Spirit can ignite very warm, comforting feelings, but I’ve also had warm, comforting feelings from demons/Satan. I’ve had to discern through the use of my mind in order to tell which feelings were from God and which were from the devil. I grew up in the home of a very devoted pastor (who was a prayer warrior and spiritual seeker) and God often brought into our lives and my parents’ ministry people with a background in the occult. I had to learn from an early age to discern between feelings from God and feelings from the devil.

    Though God does bring warm, comforting feelings to my heart, God also speaks to my mind – not in an audible voice, but in a still, small voice, bringing thoughts to my mind – Truths that line up with His Word. Sometimes He brings Scripture to my mind or sometimes a concept that He wants me to know personally or something to share with another. Sometimes it requires much time in prayer and spiritual warfare before I gain the spiritual insights He wants to teach me or for me to share with someone. I also have to test things that come into my mind as the devil is very deceptive and wants to counterfeit God’s word and God’s revelations to us. The devil and his demons are capable of planting thoughts in our minds as well as pulling on our emotional strings. I believe it requires much discernment and knowledge of God’s Word to sort it all out.

    Thanks again for your comment. You are always welcome to share your thoughts here!

    FoF,

    I’ll get back with you later on your questions. I have a lot of thoughts to share, but not enough time right now. I just wanted to give a shout-out to the new commenter! 🙂

  39. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 3:42 am

    Angie and FOF,

    Thanks for your words and your testimonies. I am finding strength in them today.

    Jessica,

    Though God does bring warm, comforting feelings to my heart, God also speaks to my mind – not in an audible voice, but in a still, small voice, bringing thoughts to my mind

    Given the juxtaposition of these two ideas, are you suggesting that Mormons don’t use the latter method?

  40. May 14, 2009 4:02 am

    Actually, it’s this method that I’m not sure LDS use:

    I’ve also had warm, comforting feelings from demons/Satan. I’ve had to discern through the use of my mind in order to tell which feelings were from God and which were from the devil.

    I’m not saying I have this method down perfectly either! I think there are some things that are much easier to discern than others.

  41. May 14, 2009 4:26 am

    have you read it [the Book of Mormon] with the consuming desire to know for yourself, independent of any other person, whether the book is true.

    FoF,

    I have spiritual and intellectual objections to the Book of Mormon that prevent me from studying it with a consuming desire to know for myself whether it is true. I have included the Book of Mormon, as well as other Mormon scriptures, in my studies ever since I started researching Mormonism in order to witness to Mormons. I have never had a desire to convert to Mormonism so I haven’t read the Book of Mormon with a consuming desire to know if it is true.

    Do you understand that one of the stated missions of the Book of Mormon is to prove the truth of the Bible?

    I don’t need the Book of Mormon in order to believe in Jesus or the truth of the Bible. I already have a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus Christ and I LOVE to study the Bible. None of the Christians I know (who love and revere the Bible way more than any Mormon I know) need the Book of Mormon in order to believe in the Bible. I have been studying the Bible my entire life and I cannot exhaust its depths. I still feel like I know zilch about it. I couldn’t be happier in my spiritual life. Life isn’t easy, but my heart is filled with peace and comfort as long as I’m looking to Christ and not at the messed up world around us. I don’t see that the Book of Mormon would add anything to my faith in Christ and I don’t see that Mormonism has anything to offer me spiritually, although I’m always glad to welcome more Mormons into my social life! Culturally, I fit with Mormonism very well! I’m a “Strong Saint” according to the survey I took here. 🙂

    Jessica- honest question- have you read the Book of Mormon cover to cover?

    I have set out to do so a number of times in an effort to better understand Mormons, but so far I have not made it through the book cover to cover. As I mentioned in my previous comment, I have some background understanding of the occult and occult strategies against Christians. I have had some spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon which have convinced me that it is not a benign book and so I have proceeded with some caution in my research since coming to this awareness. I have discerned it to be a counterfeit of God’s Word with seducing spirits attached to it. So, in addition to my lack of interest in converting to Mormonism and my intellectual objections, I also have some spiritual objections to studying it because of what God has revealed to me about its occultic origins. So, the only reason I read it is to better understand and relate to Mormons.

    If a Mormon were to try to persuade me that the Book of Mormon is of God they would have to engage my mind and respond to the intellectual and spiritual objections I have cited in this post. That’s how I respond to atheists’ objections to Christianity. I don’t tell them they should just read the Bible and pray about it. I know that would never work because there are mental roadblocks preventing them from that point. I try to engage their intellectual objections to Christianity first. I’ve been really convicted lately that I need to step up my intellectual capacity more. Evangelical Christianity is becoming increasingly less relevant in culture and part of it is that we are not using our minds the way God wants us to! There ARE arguments and facts out there to engage the hard-core skeptics of this world and Christians really need to step it up (including me)!

    When Mormons fail to respond with intellectual refutes to the objections I cite, though, it further entrenches me in my view that Mormonism is wrong and there are no reasonable answers to my objections. While Christianity might not be stomping out atheism, I don’t see any Mormon scholars even debating intellectually with atheists (please correct me if I am wrong in my assumption here). No one has really sought to engage my intellectual objections except to point me to a few links that have a little research related to a couple of the objections I cited and to share arguments from atheists on why the Bible can’t be trusted.

    I’m sure part of the reason is that it seems like I’m a total waste of time. I think it’s pretty obvious I’m not an investigator so I don’t blame Mormons for not wanting to waste their time on me. 🙂 But it does leave me with the impression that there’s no good answer to my objections except to tell me to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know whether it is true.

    I did have a visiting teacher try to persuade me to give the Book of Mormon another look by sharing with me a brochure called “Challenges of the Book of Mormon.” But unfortunately, that little pamphlet contains deceptions and (what I consider) outright lies including the assertion that everything in the book has been proven archeologically. Most of the commenters here should know that’s deceptive at best, outright lies at worst. Anyway, things like this further entrench my view that the LDS Church is not being honest with investigators and doesn’t have answers to my intellectual and spiritual objections.

    * * * If you’re reading this and you are a Mormon with doubts, there ARE answers that can satisfy your mind. The Truth is True. It shouldn’t satisfy one aspect of your person, but not convince your mind. Keep seeking the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind and ask Him to guide you into His truth. Repent for anything you are putting above Him (including church, family, whatever!) and give your heart to Him alone. Tell Him you are willing to follow Him no matter where He leads you.

    In Christ Alone,

    Jessica

  42. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 7:31 am

    OK, Jessica, I’ll level with you. Let’s have an “intellectual” look at your bullet points above. While I’m not vastly knowledgeable of areas of science outside my own (chemistry and medicine), I know good science when I see it. Below I have asked 8 direct questions which I would like you to answer if you truly want to be so intellectual about things.

    I invite any other LDS reading here to jump in and add where I may be lacking or correct where I am wrong.

    “Contrary to the historical and archeological evidences for the Bible; the people, places, and events in the Book of Mormon are not…historical.”

    I will agree that modern archeology has yet to provide any direct evidence of the Book of Mormon. However, you cannot draw conclusions without data. Lack of data is not data, no matter how much you want it to be. The Book of Mormon civilization was destroyed and supplanted. While we know a fair bit about the cultures that came after the Book of Mormon people, our knowledge of what happened in earlier times is pretty sketchy as far as I know.

    1) Can you direct me to some primary archeological or anthropological research on ancient America that refutes the Book of Mormon?
    2) How do you deal with inconsistencies between the Bible and the archeological record (some of which have been mentioned on your blog – Jericho, size of Jerusalem, etc.)?
    3) If you were an Anglican Christian in 1000 AD, and had no archeological data to base your faith on, how would that be any different than what we are doing with the Book of Mormon today? There were no Dead Sea Scrolls, no Bible really to speak of, at least not in your native tongue. Most people in England at the time were singing Bible stories written be Caedmon. Did that make their faith any less valid than yours?

    The Book of Mormon contains numerous parallels to nineteenth century thoughts/issues and incongruities with ancient Jewish records.

    It is impossible for a translation to bear zero influence of the time in which it was translated. As has been pointed out, the Book of Mormon claims to be a book written for our day, so if it is true it would contain issues relevant to the time in which it was translated.

    4) Can you be more specific on “incongruities?” Remember that Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 BC, and traditions are bound to change somewhat over time, so be careful how strict of a cultural standard you hold in comparison to Jewish records.

    “Despite it’s apparent general orthodoxy, a literal reading of the book uncovers an ‘impossible gospel…'”

    I’ve already refuted this charge. It’s hermeneutics at it’s poorest. Have you even attempted to read the DC and the entire book of Moroni to be making such a claim? You accuse us of not being intellectual enough with you, but c’mon, a failure to even read the primary source material you’re using to damn my position is intellectually lazy and sloppy.

    “The “translation” process of the Book of Mormon involved an occult method of divination using a seer stone in a hat by someone who used that same same seer stone to hunt for buried treasure and who died with his Jupiter talisman in his pocket.”

    I fail to see the relevance. The Lord can use whatever means He wants to inspire the translation. “Occult” is just using a connotation for an ad hominem argument. Christianity is “occult” by the dictionary definition, so you’ll have to do better than that….

    “Other “translations” by that same individual have been demonstrated to be frauds”

    We don’t have all the papyri from which Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, so we can’t know where the majority of his material for the BOA came from. The famous facsimile 1 debacle ignores the fact that Abraham could have used the image to represent a very similar event from his own life. I don’t care that the image has some other meaning to modern Egyptologists, Abraham could ascribe to it whatever meaning he wants, so unless we can examine ALL the BOA papyri and verify that Abraham included no footnotes giving the image a personal connotation, Facsimile 1 means exactly what Joseph says it means.

    As for the Kinderhook plates, Joseph himself never published a translation of them, nor did he ever mention a translation. We do have Clayton’s account, and it is impossible to verify that he wasn’t just giving way to rumors that would have been flying about the plates. I don’t really care that he visited Joseph’s house. We simply do not know what Joseph actually told Clayton and what Clayton himself interjected into the story based on rumor.

    “Other uses of the seer stone by the same individual have been demonstrated to be frauds in a court of law”

    Because the court system is the paragon of intellectual integrity, to be trusted always to uphold the law without bias and fairly in all circumstances. (gag)

    What we have is a page supposedly torn from a record book of a court hearing. It was not brought forward by Joseph’s enemies until YEARS later, despite their claim that they had it all along. It sounds a pretty fishy story to me. Let’s not forget that the guy who hired Joseph BEGGED him to come work for him and it was at Joseph’s behest that they quit digging for gold.

    I don’t think we can condemn Joseph by today’s standards on this one.At the time what he was doing was not unreasonable.

    DNA evidence has proven that Native Americans are not descended from Israelites.

    Lack of data is not data. The experiments done so far have not found a link, but they also don’t rule it out. So you aren’t being accurate when you say DNA evidence has proven they are not descended from Israelites.

    5) Can you propose an experiment that if successful would definitively prove the link? Or conversely an experiment that would definitively disprove it? I’ve been thinking about it for awhile and it’s hard to design the experiment, because we don’t know anything about Lehi’s and Ishmael’s genetic makeup, so what are we really looking for?

    6) Will you please respond to FOF’s and my assertions / positions on this issue?

    7) Can you cite me to some primary genetic research that disproves the Book of Mormon claims?

    Other religions have spiritual books and subjective tests for determining their truth such as the Divine Principle of the Unification Church or The Divine Book of Holy and Eternal Wisdom of the Shakers.

    And I expect you to use your faculties of discernment in judging them as well. We’re seeking the truth from God, and if God wants us to have other books, he’ll put them in our path.

    Other religions have had eye-witnesses for their holy books. If the Book of Mormon witnesses are to be trusted, we should also consider the eleven witnesses who claimed they handled ancient plates that God gave to James Strang

    Witnesses are just one evidence of many for the Book of Mormon. They alone do not prove it, but they sure help. Strang may indeed have witnesses. Did they ever deny their testimonies? None of the 3 witnesses ever did, and I am not aware that any of the 8 did either.

    One parting question:

    8) Joesph did not begin a serious study of Hebrew until well after the Book of Mormon was published. Yet the Book of Mormon contains something on the order of 200 unique Hebrew names. If Joseph is a fraud, how do you intellectually account for that? Was there any Hebrew scholarship in Palmyra NY or Harmony PA to teach him the Hebrew alphabet and how to make up names in Hebrew? There may have been, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.

  43. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 7:34 am

    Sorry , I accidentally combined two of my arguments without a blockquote in between. I think you’ll see what I’m getting at. It’s late and I’m waiting on some chemistry to finish up…..

  44. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 8:41 am

    I meant to include this for a laugh:

    Ascertaining the link link between native americans and ancient Israel isn’t as simple as running a “who’s your daddy” PCR experiment. (and here for those that may be too young to get the parody. Enjoy!

  45. May 14, 2009 11:20 am

    Jessica,
    If it is by fruits that you know the truth of the matter, then I don’t know that you or I have a monopoly on truth or divine approval. I’ve known plenty of good and bad in Mormonism and in Evangelical circles. It is my sincere wish that we all get ourselves to Christ.

    To my mind, I don’t think that Joseph did anything worse than Joshua, Abraham, Jacob, or Samuel. I believe that the translations that we have are inspired by God. I know I get closer to God when I read the Book of Mormon, just as I do when I read and study the Bible.

    I get that you have intellectual objections to Mormonism, but please remember that wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. That something doesn’t make sense to us does not mean that it isn’t of God. After all, why should the death of an obscure homeless man in the 1st century affect how I live today? Why should we believe he resurrected? These things don’t make logical sense, but we believe them anyhoo.

  46. May 14, 2009 2:57 pm

    Jessica: “I don’t need the Book of Mormon in order to believe in Jesus or the truth of the Bible”

    Me neither. But think of the implications that God really did inspire more than just one nation to believe in Him and His Son.

    Jessica: “I have been studying the Bible my entire life and I cannot exhaust its depths.”

    Me too. I also feel the same way about the Book of Mormon.

    Jessica: “I don’t see that the Book of Mormon would add anything to my faith in Christ”

    This is where you’re either blinded or you haven’t really opened your eyes to see. All the Book of Mormon has ever done to me is add to my faith in Christ. It seems to me that your “spiritual experiences” with the Book of Mormon have been based on counter-cultist propaganda, rather than from a serious personal study of the book.

    You give sound advice about “tell[ing God] you are willing to follow Him no matter where He leads you.” I pray that you have the courage to take your own advice, despite your fears, hesitancies, and temporary intellectual roadblocks. We are told to “trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”

    “And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.” (2nd Nephi 25:29)

    “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” (Moroni 7:16)

    Jessica, it’s hard for me to put into words something that is so dear to my heart–something that has so frequently blessed my life and filled it with faith, excitement, exhilaration, and power. And yet that is exactly what the Book of Mormon does for me. I’m not one to ever minimize my testimony of the Holy Bible, but still to me, the Book of Mormon is unique to this dispensation of time. And people still haven’t even read the book!

    It’s an unparalleled powerful witness of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. It builds faith in Christ. It also builds faith in a God of miracles. It teaches simple, plain, and powerful truths that thrill my mind, heart, and my soul every time I read or teach from the book. It brings the Spirit of God into my life and I’m able to see things so clearly–“things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13)–and my vision centers on the Redeemer of the World.

    The Book of Mormon is a message of hope–hope in Christ, through His atonement, and it leads to a pure love of Christ. My heart turns–repents–and begins to trust more in God. I feel a humble gratitude that I can be filled with such goodness and partake of so much wisdom. For me, it’s simply incredible.

  47. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 4:36 pm

    John Butler, a BYU alumnus and geneticist who has held positions with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, FBI Laboratory, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, and the University of Virginia wrote this snippet assessing the difficulty of identifying a suitable genetic source population for determining the link between Native Americans and Book of Mormon peoples.

    Morreover, as alluded to by Butler, the links that have been found between ancient America and Asia are consistent with the Book of Mormon account of the Jaredites. It’s not unreasonable that the Jaredite DNA found its way into the Nephite / Lamanite DNA, since the end of the Jaredite civilization overlaps the beginning of the Nephite civilization. Based on this entirely plausible scenario, I make the following conclusion:

    Far from disproving Book of Mormon claims, the DNA evidence of which I am aware may actually corroborate the Book of Mormon claims.

    Please, please, please point out any errors in my logic. Specifically, is the scenario I mention inplausible? Is there any reason to conclude that the link between ancient America and ancient Asia disproves the Jaredite account?

  48. faithoffathers permalink
    May 14, 2009 4:44 pm

    Jessica,

    I say the following with respect. How do you have a blog and claim to have any substantive knowledge about a book you have never read? The idea is absolutely ludicrous. . How are people getting away with this? And somehow you know more than others who have spent their whole lives studying every chapter, verse, phrase of that book. Do you see the huge problem here.

    You can say you have personal experiences with “spirits” connected to the book- but you dismiss any spiritual testimonies from LDS? It seems a little awkward to refuse to delve completely into the hard evidences and text and turn around and suggest others don’t use their minds in evaluating the books merit, and that others rely too much on spiritual manifestations.

    I respect that you love God and try to serve Him. But please try to recognize your limitations on the topics you are engaging with LDS. I truly feel it is a matter of honesty here. I hope this does not sound too harsh- I don’t mean it that way. But can you imagine a person having a blog discussing the writings of Shakespeare and arguing against his literary merits when that person has never read even a small proportion of that literature. And to claim any amount of authority in discussions with others who have spent their lives studying Shakespeare.

    If you truly want to discuss evidences of the Book of Mormon, I would be more than happy to discuss such things. I feel there is enormous evidences to support the historicity of the book in archeology, linguistics, geography, and other neat things few people know about in or out of the church. I have found it somewhat difficult to fully discuss such things in this forum, but am more than happy to attempt such a thing if you would be open to that. For example, I would love to discuss the “DNA evidence.” Far too many people hear soundbites on this topic and come to huge conclusions when nothing of the sort is justified.

    Sorry to ramble.

    Tom- are you a physician?

    fof

  49. May 14, 2009 4:46 pm

    TOm: I think you minimize the problem; you wrote

    It is impossible for a translation to bear zero influence of the time in which it was translated. As has been pointed out, the Book of Mormon claims to be a book written for our day, so if it is true it would contain issues relevant to the time in which it was translated.

    material that can be INTERPRETED and APPLIED to the 1800’s situation is one thing, but there are too many bold faced topics much more relevant to upstate NY than ancient middle america; this just strains our credulity; it would be like the Bilbe going on and on about econonmic bail outs and the price of oil…. these topics are misplaced and point to a modern author, not just a modern application of interpretation.

    Hope it’s OK to ‘butt in’

    peace and life to you and yours

    PS to JohnC this comes across as mostly a dodge:

    I get that you have intellectual objections to Mormonism, but please remember that wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. That something doesn’t make sense to us does not mean that it isn’t of God.

  50. May 14, 2009 4:59 pm

    S’alright, Germit. I figured that Jessica would appreciate it for the bible quote. 🙂

  51. May 14, 2009 5:07 pm

    Can I get an “amen” to faithoffather’s last post, please? AMEN.

  52. May 14, 2009 5:29 pm

    JohnC; you dog, you……tie a verse to it, and we eat it like we’ve never seen ALPO before…. 🙂

  53. May 14, 2009 5:58 pm

    Just on a quick lunch break ~

    Tom, thanks for all the intellectual thoughts. I’ll respond more later. I really do appreciate you engaging these though!

    FoF,
    I don’t disagree with most of the doctrines in the Book of Mormon so I view it as deceptive that this is the entrance tactic for people to get into this religion. As I’ve said before – it appears like a “bait & switch” ploy to me. I have theological objections with Mormonism as I’ve stated many times before. Anyway, even if I had read the book cover to cover by now I could never say I had read it as many times as you so you could still claim you know better because you’ve read it so many more times. It still comes back to individual/personal/subjective basis for determining truth.

    Yes, there are many LDS who believe the book is of God. There are also many former LDS who now have an opposite testimony – that it’s not of God. I prefer to stick with the intellectual arguments that have a more objective basis than what individual persons believe.

    Clean Cut,
    When I referred to “spiritual experiences” with the book I wasn’t talking about counter-cult arguments. I literally did have “spiritual” experiences with the book that I do not wish to go into detail about right now. Suffice it to say, I relied on my knowledge of how the enemy works (based on my experience in spiritual warfare and knowledge of the occult) to discern that the experiences I had were from the devil.

    After being a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ since I was a very young girl, seeking to obey Him in everything, learning from the Holy Spirit, etc. I do not see how my discernment should be discounted just because you, FoF, and Tom reached different conclusions. They are still your own individual, personal, subjective conclusions shared by others. Same with mine.

    That’s why I prefer to discuss the intellectual arguments surrounding the book’s veracity so we can reach an objective conclusion as to its truth claims. I do not deny it’s a spiritual book and that people have spiritual experiences with it. I whole-heartedly affirm this. But we are claiming opposite sources for those spiritual experiences.

  54. faithoffathers permalink
    May 14, 2009 6:10 pm

    Jessica,

    Pick one topic or evidence you would like to discuss regarding the Book of Mormon. I would rather not discuss the means of translation of the book as that is the emphasis of 99.9% of the arguments against the book- and I find it lazy on the part of critics. I am talking about primary evidences based on the claims of the book itself.

    My point above was not that I have read the book simply more than you, it is that you have not read the book. Therefore, you really need to get to specific arguments instead of blanket assertions, because those are next to meaningless from one who has not read the text. Again, no offense intended. But your article that started this thread argues that LDS often do not use their intellect enough when evaluating whether the BOM is true. I am simply pointing out the humor in your argument, given your personal experiences, or lack thereof.

    So, lets talk evidence- your choice!

    peace.

    fof

  55. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 6:13 pm

    All – thanks for the humor. 🙂

    CC – AMEN!

    FOF – Currently mired in the depths of MD/PhD studies…..not sure whether to put a smiley or frowny face here. LOL How about you?

    Germit – It’s kind of an ambiguous claim as written – perhaps people can give me something specific to work with.

  56. May 14, 2009 6:20 pm

    I always kind of thought that the “bait & switch” ploy was used more by the likes of Joel Osteen, etc. Although, one can argue that Osteen never quite gets around to the “switch” part.

  57. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 6:24 pm

    Also, Jessica, regarding your response to Clean Cut – you’re citing spiritual manifestations for claiming the book is false while at the same time stating that spiritual manifestations are insufficient to claim that it’s true.

    Double standard.

  58. Tom permalink
    May 14, 2009 6:26 pm

    As for bait and switch, I think Jack has pretty well established that EV’s are no better than Mormons on this front.

  59. May 14, 2009 11:54 pm

    I have been busy the last few weeks and have been unable to join this conversation. I am unable to separate my Christan beliefs from their redemptive historical context. To appeal only to faith and the Holy Spirit for the canonization of the BoM rips Scripture from a historical context. The Bible is a book of propositional truths that were made in time and space to an existent people. I acknowledge that we cannot currently prove or disprove each of those truths to the satisfaction of non-believers in a “scientific” fashion. I readily acknowledge the need for the Holy Spirit in faith and in believing and understanding scripture but at the some time there are external “proofs” that give us tangible signs of the works of God in the history of His relation to His creation.

    The argument from the Mormon side appears the be that the lack of any archaeological evidence is not proof that the events of the BoM did not happen. Ignoring the obvious logical fallacy, this argument serves only to remove the BoM from known history. Correct me if I am wrong but the Mormon Church, with a living prophet, seer, and revelator, does not have an “official” opinion of BoM geography. In order to claim the BoM as as a divine book then, is to acknowledge that the BoM is in itself radically different from any scripture, it has no place in objective history, but only in the subjective spiritual experiences of individual Mormons. Simply the BoM stands outside of redemptive history.

    If we do as Tom suggests and step back to 1000 AD we would not find an Anglican Church because it did not exist yet as this was still 95 years before the first crusade. Tom’s anachronistic slip does provide us with an example of the importance of historical context though. You see even in 1000 AD the Roman Catholic Church know where Jerusalem was. Again, correct me if I am wrong but the Mormon Church does not know where any of the BoM cities were.

  60. Tom permalink
    May 15, 2009 12:35 am

    I didn’t say “Anglican Church” I said Anglican Christian, meaning a Christian living in England. And I only bring that up because Jessica is so fond of citing modern evidences. Just because Jerusalem still exists doesn’t mean the events described in the Bible actually happened. That was my point.

    If Jerusalem had been destroyed and no city by that name was known and another civilization was built up in its place, the Bible would still be true. Because it’s true, plain and simple. It’s nice that history and archeology help us out, but they are not what make the book true. It could just be “hitorical fiction” – some people believe that’s exactly what it is.

  61. Tom permalink
    May 15, 2009 12:42 am

    I don’t see a logical fallacy with “lack of data is not data.” That’s just the way science works. I’m currently working on solving the structure of a small molecule ion channel. I have no data that show the structure is actually a discrete channel. I can’t go around saying science has proven it isn’t an ion channel just because no one has found the structure. All I can say is WE DON’T KNOW for certain based on evidence.

    Similarly, no data has yet disproven the Book of Mormon. They haven’t found definitive evidence in support, but there’s still a lot to find out.

  62. May 15, 2009 12:42 am

    Gundeck,
    You can’t prove a negative, so that’s not a fallacy. You might argue it’s clinging to straws or some such, but it ain’t a fallacy. Unlike what you said.

  63. May 15, 2009 12:48 am

    “Lack of data is not data, no matter how much you want it to be.”

    While I appreciate the point being made here this is simply bad logic. For, based upon this we cannot say with any certainty…

    1. Unicorns don’t exist
    2. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
    3. There are no little men dressed like Quakers on the moon (I guess Joseph was right on this one) 🙂

    In addition, there are numerous other issues with the BOM. Anachronisms out the ying-yang, no geographical land mass with which it conforms, no reformed Egyptian, a “translator” who has has been shown to be a fraud in other attempts to “translate”, etc.

    Numerous issues.

    I have read the BOM several times. Personally, I have found The Bible to be on an entirely different playing field. Not only can I look to The Bible as “a book of propositional truths that were made in time and space to an existent people” (love the way you put that Gundeck) but the spirit of the book is entirely different. I firmly believe what 1 John 4:1 says about deceiving spirits and, IMO, the witness which accompanies the BOM test is most certainly from a deceiving spirit.

    Darrell

  64. gloria permalink
    May 15, 2009 1:01 am

    Ditto, your thoughts, Darrell. I too read the BofM more times than I can count…I really actually don’t find the book to be offensive in any shape way or form. I just think it’s ironic that most of the unique LDS doctrines are not even mentioned in the book of mormon. For example, if temple ordinances are so very important, why would the correct of all books not mention it?

    I beleive Joseph Smith did indeed have visions… I don’t doubt that, but I do not believe they were visions from God. I always had a hard time with the first vision, although I never had a hard time with BofM. The missionaries who taught me told me not to worry about becuase if the bofm is true than J.Smith is a true prophet. Odd logic to be sure.
    IN any case, visions can accure, but as the bible says we need to test all spirits, lest we be deceived as I was and as Smith was.

    God bless,
    gloria

  65. May 15, 2009 1:14 am

    “I just think it’s ironic that most of the unique LDS doctrines are not even mentioned in the book of mormon. ”

    I know what you mean… the introduction says “it contains, as does The Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” It always struck me as funny how the BOM ITSELF teaches nothing UNIQUE doctrinal wise from The Bible. All the unique stuff came later. So, since I am a believing Christian who holds to The Bible I must have the fullness of the Gospel. Therefore, why do I need to become a Mormon (in this life or vicariously in the next life) to get into the Celestial Kingdom. In addition, since The Bible contains the FULLNESS of the Gospel and numerous people hold to it why do Mormons claim THEY have the fullness of the Gospel and non-Mormon Christians lack it.

    Interesting.

    Darrell

  66. May 15, 2009 1:29 am

    How do you have a blog and claim to have any substantive knowledge about a book you have never read? The idea is absolutely ludicrous. How are people getting away with this?

    FoF,

    Hold on here. You are twisting my words. I never said I had “never read the book.” I have read the book, but I answered your question as honestly as possible because you asked me very specifically if I had read the book “cover to cover” and I answered that I had not. I explained to you my reasons for not reading it “cover to cover” and explained that “the only reason I read it is to better understand and relate to Mormons.” I have read & studied different sections of the book – many times and on different occasions – but I cannot honestly state that I have read it “cover to cover.” Why is this idea so ludicrous? I’ve never been a Mormon and I have no interest in becoming one. I don’t have any reasons to believe the book is historical/true/from God. On the contrary, based on the translation method and what I know about the “translator” I have every reason to believe it is not from God. So why should I have a burning desire to read it? As far as “how are people getting away with this?” – this is a free country. Anybody can have a blog about anything. I have just as much right to post my opinions and strong beliefs as you do.

    Where on my blog have I ever asserted that I had a “substantive knowledge” of the Book of Mormon? If you will review my “About Me” page it is very honest in stating “I have done quite a bit of research on Mormonism, but still have much to learn.”

    I do not agree with the Book of Mormon’s “test” or your personal rules that require that I read the book “cover to cover” in order to know its truthfulness. What history book requires that a person peruse its contents looking for internal evidences that it is a true history of something?

    You say you have more info on DNA evidence. Why didn’t you share your evidence with the LDS leaders who changed the preface to the Book of Mormon? If the DNA evidence isn’t conclusive why would they feel the need to make this change? Looks VERY conclusive to me.

    Besides the DNA evidence, you failed to respond to any of my other objections to the book, but instead you attacked my credibility as post-author. This further entrenches my view that the book is false/not true, the “facts” I believe are true (“facts” in quotes to indicate that is my very strong opinion), and the tactics employed to get other people to read it are controlling and manipulative.

    You said, “Have unearthed some great evidences recently of which I was previously unaware. Will post these when I can.”

    I know you are very busy, but I look forward to seeing these “great evidences” you speak of when you have time.

    Finally, I don’t go on atheists’ blogs and tell them they can’t state their intellectual objections to Christianity if they haven’t read the Bible cover to cover. I assume most of them have not. Because they have intellectual objections that I have to engage if I expect them to give Christianity another look! If Mormons want to engage us they are going to have to step up their intellectual arguments to outweigh the mounting evidence against the Book of Mormon.

    Now I answered your honest question re: my “cover to cover” read and now I would like to ask you one:

    When you first read and studied the Book of Mormon to decide whether you would believe it was true – did you know all of the “facts” cited in my post?

    Tom,

    you’re citing spiritual manifestations for claiming the book is false while at the same time stating that spiritual manifestations are insufficient to claim that it’s true.

    No, this is what I said: “I relied on my knowledge of how the enemy works (based on my experience in spiritual warfare and knowledge of the occult) to discern that the experiences I had were from the devil.”

    I did not base my interpretation on the spiritual experiences I had by themselves. I interpreted the experiences I had based on my knowledge and the use of my mind – including the “facts” cited in this post.

    Similarly, in an earlier comment I said “I’ve had to discern through the use of my mind in order to tell which feelings were from God and which were from the devil.”

    That is my position. I incorporate my intellect and intellectual arguments into my “discernment toolbox.”

  67. faithoffathers permalink
    May 15, 2009 1:35 am

    Gundeck, Gloria, Jessica, Darrell:

    Somebody pick a specific topic or objection to the BOM that we can discuss. As the number of different lines of evidence discussed at once increases, the linear value and productivity of the discussion drops off as well.

    Geography, DNA- name it- let’s discuss it.

    Gundeck- you said “The argument from the Mormon side appears the be that the lack of any archaeological evidence is not proof that the events of the BoM did not happen.”

    That ain’t my argument my friend. There is plenty to discuss. But it is worth remembering what was said by (I think it was him) the famous William Albright- “abscence of proof is not proof of absence.” That being said, there is anything but absence of proof for the BOM.

    By the way, although the church has never announced an official stance on BOM geography, Joseph Smith made several statements that places the BOM events in Southern Mexico and Guatemala. Happy to discuss that if you like.

    fof

  68. faithoffathers permalink
    May 15, 2009 1:41 am

    P.S. to Jessica. I didn’t see your question above before my post. Your question is the equivalent to asking “did you know the book was false before you read it.” Please. I contend that you presented no “facts” in your article. You stated some of your beliefs which you have taken from the arguments of other people.

    Please pick a line of evidence to discuss.

    Thanks,

    fof

  69. May 15, 2009 1:43 am

    FoF, I think we’ve already established that you know more about the evidences than I do. Why don’t you share your BEST evidences with me?

    Thanks

  70. May 15, 2009 2:47 am

    I’m not LDS, and I’m not evangelical. I also happen to read the creation story as a really beautiful (albeit tragic) allegory about the human-God relationship. I simply cannot fathom how one could read those stories as literal fact. I have come to that conclusion after careful consideration, and my continued experience in faith has only grown stronger from that understanding.

    But I think it disingenuous to accuse my fellow Christians of ignoring reason if they read those parts of Genesis literally. I long ago accepted that God knows how to reach me on the deepest level possible, and I’m quite sure that He speaks to others in very different ways.

    Like Jack said above, I didn’t come to my faith through reason (even though I’m Methodist). I grow in my faith through exploring how reason intersects with that intangible something. I may disagree with LDS or any other theology for a number of reasons, but to say that they’re wrong based on their acceptance/rejection of certain assertions (or facts, depending on your view) seems like a rather faulty approach.

  71. May 15, 2009 3:07 am

    John C

    The logical fallacy is called “ad ignorantiam” and sadly you cannot understand it because you have severed the BoM from history so it has no burden of proof to meet.

    Tom,

    I apologize for putting words in your mouth about the Anglican Church, I hope you can understand my mistake.

    While the lack of data is not data, the lack of data where data should be present is data. I don’ want to make the mistake of putting words in Jessica’s mouth but I think that is one of the points that she is trying to make in this post.

    Jerusalem is only a single example. The external proofs for the Bible stretch into some of the most common of facts of history. There are other cities like Babylon and Bethlehem, a Roman Empire, and the nations of Israel, Syria, Egypt. These are a few of the external proofs that the BoM cannot meet. Ignoring this is your prerogative, but fail to see how Scripture can be separated from its historical context and still maintain its purpose of disclosing Gods redemptive purpose in history.

    We not only have this geographical proof but we have proofs from the existence of Scripture itself. The finding of the Silver Scrolls for instance has totally debunked the biblical minimalists school and has caused serious questions with the documentary hypothesis school. Once again correct me if I am wrong but to my knowledge there has not been a single verse of the BoM found.

    It would be wrong for me to claim that these external proofs serve to validate the truthfulness of the Bible, only faith, the work of the Spirit of Christ (2 Cor 4:13; Eph 1:17–19; 2:8), can do that. In fact God’s word does not require proof (2 Pet 1:19, 21; 2 Tim 3:16; 1 John 5:9; 1 Thes 2:13).

  72. NChristine permalink
    May 15, 2009 3:35 am

    As long as we are discussing biblical reliability, I thought I would post a portion of a comment I made recently on the blog of a commenter here.

    As just a fraction of the many archaeological finds supporting the accounts of only the OT — not to mention the New Testament, consider these:

    A victory stele by Mesha of Moab mentioning the Israelite dynasty of Omri (II Kings 3)

    Foreign rulers mentioned in the Bible—with appropriate dates—and attested to by other cultures’ inscriptions, texts, etc. (e.g., Shishaq of Egypt, Benhadad I/II and Hazael of Syria, Ethbaal/Ittobaal of Tyre and Sidon and daughter Jezebel, Rezin/Rakhianu of Damascus, Baalis of Ammon, Assyrian and Babylonian rulers Tiglath-pileser III/Pul, Shalmaneser, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Merodach-Baladan II, Nebuchadrezzar II, Evil-Merodach/Awel-Marduk, and Egyptian rulers So/Osorkon, Tirhaqah/Taharqa, Necho II, and Hophra/Apries/Wahibre)

    Israelite rulers mentioned in foreign records (e.g., Omri, Ahab, Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoash, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea)

    Kings of Judah mentioned in foreign records (e.g., Jehoram II, Ahaziah II, possibly Azariah/Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah…you get the idea)

    Chronology in I and II Kings that concisely matches the chronologies of other sources, such as Mesopotamian

    The Tel Dan stela, with text apparently authored by a king of Aram-Damascus, which is virtually certain to attest to events of 841 BC that are also recounted in II Kings 9:1-29 (It mentions “–ram, son of —, king of Israel. And –killed –iah son of —the House of David.”)

    Foreign campaigns (e.g., Shoshenq of Egypt, Mesha of Moab) mentioned in both biblical texts and foreign sources

    Familial murder of Sennacherib described in biblical and secular history

    Running historical records among other ancient kingdoms that match the types of sources used as references for Kings and Chronicles (e.g., “the chronicles of the kings of Israel”)

    Babylonian records of exile, including ration tablets for Jehoiachin king of Judah and his family

    Judean seals and bullae of people mentioned in the OT (e.g., in Jeremiah)

    Opponents of Nehemiah that are known from papyri, burial sites, etc. (e.g., Sanballat of Samaria and Tobiah the Ammonite)

    Letters granting safe passage (similar to those in Ezra and Nehemiah)

    Conscriptions into royal service at Ugarit and Mari that match the detailed warnings before the selection of Saul as king (I Sam. 8:10-17)

    Evidences from 2nd millennium history that match the dramatic events of Genesis 14 (e.g., political situations, names/name-types, alliance types at only this time, a Mari text that recounts a strikingly similar narrative in a literary format similar to Genesis 14, nighttime attacks and a religious ending to a campaign, etc.)

    Affinities of Deuteronomy with 2nd millennium documents rather than 7th century ones (presence of a historical prologue, magnitude and order of blessing and curses, use of ancient idioms, etc.) in comparison with 80-90 sequenced law/covenant/treaty documents

    Etc., etc., etc.

    There are myriad people, places, buildings, cultural and political realities, and events in the Bible that are attested to by an abundance of data. The above is just a summarized selection of only portions of On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

  73. faithoffathers permalink
    May 15, 2009 4:13 am

    Let’s talk geography!

    From the internal descriptions in the BOM, it is estimated that the BOM lands covered an area approximately 600 miles from north to south and 150 to 250 miles east to west, give or take. The BOM people considered themselves to be “nearly surrounded by water” (Alma 22:32). They describe an East sea and a West sea. They also describe a “narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west.” This matches Southern Mexico/Guatemala and the Yucatan very nicely (look at a map).

    The main river in the BOM which is mentioned most often, the river Sidon, is described as running from south to north, unlike the vast majority of rivers in North America, which run from north to south. The text of the BOM describes highlands to the south, around the Land of Nephi, and lowlands to the North, near Zarahemla. The book often describes “going up to the Land of Nephi in the south” as well as going “down to the land of Zarahemla” (to the north). In other words going uphill as one goes south. (Most people would say ‘going up north’ or ‘going down south’ unlike BOM descriptions).

    These basic descriptions from the text of the BOM fit very, very well with the area centered around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Southern Mexico. Indeed, there are the highlands of Guatemala to the south (the appropriate distance), and lowlands to the north in Southern Mexico. The Grijalva River and the Usamacinta River are both good candidate rivers for the river Sidon, based on their size, flow, and swiftness (BOM describes thousands of bodies being carried by this river after battles). Both these rivers flow South to North, which is not very common, but described in the BOM.

    There is a “wilderness from the east sea to the west sea” in the BOM. Indeed, the Cuchumantanes Mountains and the Sierra de las Minas are located on the border between Mexico and Guatemala running from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The wilderness separated the Nephites in the north from the Lamanites in the south according to the BOM. Again, this natural barrier and wilderness does in fact separate the highlands to the south from the lowlands in the north.

    Joseph Smith said “Central America, or Guatimala is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien [Panama] and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south. The city of Zarahemla stood upon this land.” He also stated that the modern cities of Palenque and Quirigua were sites of ancient Nephite cities. These modern cities are built on top of ancient cities, which were also built on top of previous cities dating back to Jaredite days. By the way, in this region is a land and city with the Mayan name Xarhamallah. (Sound that one out!). (Robert A. Pate, Mapping the Book of Mormon, 2002).

    The BOM describes an abundance of Gold, Copper, and Silver in the land. Where on the Western Hemisphere are these three minerals found in close proximity. Only in MesoAmerica in this area. These are still traded extensively among locals of the area to this day. Southern Mexico is a world class producer of these 3 metals!

    The hill Cumorah, the site of the last BOM battle, is described as being north, near Zarahemla. Interestingly, inland on the Yucatan near Palenque is very large Hill surrounded by 23 buried but recognizably man-made walls of dirt and rock, seemingly made as fortifications. TWENTY THREE IS THE NUMBER OF CAPTAINS DESCRIBED IN THE BOM WHO EACH LED 10,000 WARRIERS IN THE LAST BATTLE AT CUMORAH. (Local legend maintains that two great battles were fought in this area).

    A person could go on and on about the stunning correlations between MesoAmerica and the BOM geography. I am not an expert in this arena, but appreciate the obvious correlations. Again, can add more to this if desired.

    Again- these are merely geographical considerations, not archeological or cultural/historical evidences which can also be considered. It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of the existing archeological site and ruins of MesoAmerica have been uncovered and studied.

    There are also huge evidences from the book itself- linguistic, historical correlations, names, etc. But maybe this is a start for conversation.

    Keep the faith

    fof

  74. May 15, 2009 11:59 am

    FoF,

    The information that you have presented is truly interesting, not very compelling but interesting none the less.

    By ignoring archeology you rid yourself of the need to reconcile your geography of what is known about who actualy lived in Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Olmec people.

    As Richard A. Diehl says in his book, “The Olmec: America’s First Civilization” “Furthermore, not a single bona fide artifact of Old World origin has ever appeared in an Olmec archaeological site, or for that matter anywhere else in Mesoamerica.”

  75. May 15, 2009 1:23 pm

    FoF: the obvious question to me is:

    It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of the existing archeological site and ruins of MesoAmerica have been uncovered and studied.

    any of what’s been found help your story in any way ??

    thanks, glad to see ya taking your swings
    GERmIT

  76. May 15, 2009 1:35 pm

    Tom wrote:
    Again, you purport to have some version of truth that is fully corroborated and proven by scientific evidence which is simply not the case.

    let’s be careful with what’s claimed: CORROBORATED (or maybe ATTESTED TO) is not PROVEN and vica versa; I think most ev.’s here are fine with the first, but PROVEN is a very strong word (probably overused in many ev. circles) Nevertheless, MUCH of what the bible speaks about has strong corroboration…..meanwhile, back at the meso-american ranch…. well, let’s let TOM, FoF and friends give us the good stuff and we’ll see.

    GUNDEK: absence of data where there SHOULD be data is data……that’s what I’ve tried to say and couldn’t find the right words for many times; thanks…..we ARE talking about the mingling of SEVERAL MAJOR CULTURES in a very SMALL peice of geography……this should not be ‘hidden’, even if ancient….

    GERMIT

  77. May 15, 2009 2:33 pm

    Gundeck,
    From the wikipedia:

    “The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam (“appeal to ignorance”), argument by lack of imagination, or negative evidence, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or is false only because it has not been proven true.”

    I’m not claiming that the Book of Mormon is true only because it hasn’t been proven false. And I imagine that you aren’t claiming the Book of Mormon is false only because it hasn’t been proven true (although that is what I accused you of). We both agree that you can’t prove a negative or use a negative to prove a positive. Perhaps we had better drop this silly line of reasoning and move on. (BTW, I like how you snuck in a personal attack in your comment. Of course, I did the same in mine, so turn about is fair play and all that, I suppose).

    NChristine,
    Just taking your first two examples, those are circumstantial proofs (much like those that FOF is offering). The Mesha Stele does mention Omri’s dynasty, but it does it in a way that disagrees with the chronology of that dynasty as described in the Bible. The Tell-Dan Stele does mention (probably) the event’s of Jehu’s coup but it doesn’t mention Jehu and it plays havoc with the Biblical chronology, too. Each of these confirmations does just as much to complicate Biblical history as it does to confirm it. That’s why proof-texting lists like the one you provided (and the one in the Opening Post) ultimately fail. They are only surface assertions; they don’t (usually) address the matter with any degree of depth. They tend to gloss over contrary evidence and alternate interpretations. If you wanted to put up a post regarding any one of those topics (regarding the Book of Mormon of Old Testament historicity), I’m sure we could have a robust debate (although, I personally tend to be conservative when it comes to Old Testament historicity, so I don’t know that we would find much to debate about there). Throwing them all in just confuses the issue (the problems with the Tell-Dan stele are different from the problems of the Mesha Stele (which has a slight possibility of being a fake, for instance)). Does that make sense?

    Regarding the historicity of the Bible in general, what does that prove? Suppose that the New Testament was made up by a group of 1st century novelists (not a claim I am making, by the way; a thought experiment). They could have provided a setting that would meet your criteria for historical accuracy, but the story itself would be fictional. Historical accuracy, at its best, still can’t prove the accuracy of the important truth claims in the book itself (Jesus is the Christ, he resurrected after 3 days, and so forth). I’m happy to admit that the Bible’s historical setting is better attested in the wider world than the Book of Mormon’s, but it helps that we know where to look for such attestation in the Bible. The Book of Mormon has been set, depending on who you ask, in upstate New York, the Philippines, the Western Hemisphere, the Guatemalan highlands, the Yucatan, and in South America. Give me something testable in all that and I’m happy to oblige you.

    However, even then, you find problems: do there appear to have been pre-Columbian horses? Not at this time (at least, not since the ice-age). Do there appear to be animals that could have been ridden or that could have been used as pack animals? Yes. Could Joseph Smith have translated those animals as horses even though that’s not what we call them today (could the original documents have called them horses in a similar manner)? Yes. So, what have we proven? Nothing. We’ve looked at some possibilities; that’s all.

    Faith isn’t based in proof. Neither faith in the Bible nor in the Book of Mormon. As someone who has studied the Bible academically, I would guess that there is just as much out there that disproves the historicity of the Bible as proves it (and no proof of the foundational claims of either testament (OT: that Israel is God’s special people; NT: that Christ changed the nature of God’s covenant by dying and returning to life)). I really don’t know why I am having to explain this to a bunch of believers, but here we are.

  78. May 15, 2009 2:40 pm

    Also, for Gundeck and other interested parties, there is this.

  79. May 15, 2009 3:55 pm

    JohnC: you wrote:
    The Book of Mormon has been set, depending on who you ask, in upstate New York, the Philippines, the Western Hemisphere, the Guatemalan highlands, the Yucatan, and in South America. Give me something testable in all that and I’m happy to oblige you.

    I have a better idea, YOU tell us which of these theories is most probable and why…wouldn’t the “nuetral observer” (mythical, i admit) look at all these theories and say “What the….?????” If you think they are all equally specious , then OK, you can admit that….or just say that ANY kind of scientific attestation is just not GOD’s deal ( many go that route also)

    Your serve
    GERMIT

  80. May 15, 2009 4:44 pm

    John C,

    Let me apologize for my comment it was poorly worded and not meant as a personal attack. It was meant as a general statement regarding the historicity of the BoM in general and the BoM in redemptive history in particular.

    Thanks for the link, give me a little time to digest it.

  81. faithoffathers permalink
    May 15, 2009 5:08 pm

    Gundeck,

    I haven’t “ignored” the archeology. I limited my post above to geography for starters. I find that if there is an open forum to discuss all arguments at once, nothing is ever achieved or settled. I believe this type of discussion should be as methodical as possible and limited in scope to avoid complete chaos.

    I really just wanted to suggest that there is a very good candidate area for the events of the BOM, which happens to be the area Joseph Smith said was THE area. This regioni also happens to be the very location where very advanced ancient civilizations existed that met many of the requirements of BOM people. But- that is archeology. Just wanted to review geology first and see if people had comments.

    Germit- to answer your question, yes, much of what has been found does help our story. But what must be recognized is that when the folks from Europe arrived on the scene, they methodically and very intentionally destroyed all records and culturally significant treasures in order to preach their gospel of peace to the natives. Much was lost, unfortunately. But from what remains, yes, there are very interesting finds that support the BOM.

    Will post more later.

    Thanks.

    fof

  82. May 15, 2009 5:42 pm

    FoF: did JS see the BOM events to INCLUDE but NOT be limited by the boundarires you’re talking about ?? Did he see upstate NY as the scene for the last battle ?? Just curious…

    GERMIT

  83. May 15, 2009 6:03 pm

    John C,

    As someone who has studied the Bible academically, I would guess that there is just as much out there that disproves the historicity of the Bible as proves it

    Just curious – would your “guess” be along the same lines as on the other thread
    ? 😉

  84. May 15, 2009 6:33 pm

    Jessica,
    This guess would be from experience and personal study. I haven’t left the church yet, so that one was more academic. No-one has done a study on the subject (at least, no one I would trust to do it), so beyond that I cannot say.

  85. NChristine permalink
    May 15, 2009 6:49 pm

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the interaction! Could you provide a little more detail as to why you believe the Mesha Stele and Tell-Dan Stele play havoc with biblical chronology? The Mesha Stele refers to 40 years passing from Omri’s reign to “half the days of his son.” Perhaps you are positing that “son” must mean one generation only? Can you prove that it cannot mean “grandson” in Ancient Near East usage? It is thus often used in the Bible! Omri reigned 12 years (I Kings 16:32), his son Ahab reigned 22 years (I Kings 16:29), and his grandson Jehoram reigned 12 years, half of which is 6 (II Kings 3:1). From the beginning of Omri’s reign through the middle of Jehoram’s (Omri’s “son’s”) reign is 39-40 years. On the other hand, we do not even know if Mesha was trying to be exact in his figures. How does this conflict with biblical chronology?

    As for the Tell-Dan Stele, could you explain how you believe it conflicts, as well? As archaeologist Kenneth Kitchen notes, there is only one king of Israel whose name ends in “ram” (Jehoram, Ahab’s son), and there is only one king of Judah ending in “iah” who was a contemporary of Joram (Ahaziah). It just so happens that both men were killed off at the same time in II Kings 9. As for the fact that the author of the text (Hazael of Damascus?) claimed Jehu’s victory…note Kitchen (p. 37): “But it is commonplace for Near Eastern rulers to claim credit for actions by others. Hazael may have chosen to regard the usurper Jehu as a likely vassal in his own plans—but Jehu thought otherwise, and may (as a vulnerable new king of Israel) have appealed for support Shalmaneser III of Assyria, hence his immediate offering of tribute in 841, as recorded by that king. This was exactly what Ahaz of Judah did at a later date, appealing to Tiglath-pileser III when threatened by Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel (2 Kings 16:5-9)” (On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 2003).

    As for the potential fraudulent nature of the stele, archaeologist William Dever claims, “On the “positivist” side of the controversy, regarding the authenticity of the inscription, we now have published opinions by most of the world’s leading epigraphers (none of whom is a “biblicist” in Thompson’s sense): the inscription means exactly what it says. On the “negativist” side, we have the opinions of Thompson, Lemche, and Cryer of the Copenhagen School. The reader may choose” (What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? Eerdmans, 2002).

  86. faithoffathers permalink
    May 15, 2009 7:03 pm

    Germit,

    There is nothing in what Joseph said or wrote that would indicate that he thought any of the BOM events took place in NY, except Moroni buyring the plates there. On the other hand, he actually made quite a few statements indicating he believed it all took place in MesoAmerica.

    In addition to statements Joseph made himself, there were two people, Hamilton and … The name escapes me right now (I am working), that recorded in their journals the exact same description from Joseph of where the Nephite lands were and where the hill Cumorah was. Both men who were close to Joseph show in their journal that he thought Cumorah was in Southern Mexico/Guatemala.

    Hope this helps. I am hoping to post a little more in the way of physical evidences/correlations today or tomorrow. Please be patient…. there are actually a lot of things to talk about that are very interesting.

    fof

  87. May 15, 2009 7:39 pm

    FoF; thanks for the reply….have a great weekend and enjoy the family, when you aren’t otherwise occuupied in educating the heathen… 🙂

    GERMIT

  88. May 15, 2009 10:54 pm

    NChristine,
    Those are the positions in general that I was referring to. Let me give you a more problematic example. The three cities wherein Solomon built gates (Megiddo, Gezer, and (I don’t remember the third(Hazor?)) have all been excavated and structures identified as the gates have been found (I’m sure that Dever discusses this (and possibly Kitchen)). They were identified as being 10th century (Solomonic) because red burnished ware (which is identified with this era) was found with them. Actually, that’s reversed, red burnished ware is identified as 10th century because of its association with these gates. However, there is some evidence that the gates have been misidentified and that red burnished ware is not an exclusively 10th century artifact. In fact, some have argued that the gates, as we have them, are 8th century in origin. Either conclusion (8th or 10th century) is based (as you can see) on a number of assumptions and guesses. The same holds true for every one of the points Kitchen makes above. One artifact can arrive and throw everything into disarray. Thompson’s arguments were sounder before the Tell-Dan stele showed up and demonstrated an ancient house of David. Albright’s arguments were sounder until people realized that Abraham could have come to Israel at any time, not just in the Middle Bronze. A jar in the wrong place changes everything in Biblical chronology and our understanding of Biblical history. There simply isn’t such a thing as a proven point there. There are higher and lower probabilities and that’s what you get.

    I generally agree with Dever and Kitchen in these debates, so you know. But I am realistic regarding the transience of our current understanding.

  89. May 16, 2009 2:57 pm

    There is external evidence from Egypt for the dating of Solomon’s Gate at Gezer. The Egyptian campaign of the Pharaoh Shishak is dated 925 B.C. according to Egyptology. This campaign is attested to by both Egyptian sources and the bible (Kings 14:25–26). According to Egyptian sources one of the cities destroyed in the campaign was Gezer. Coinciding with both the Egyptian sources and biblical history the ruins of Solomon’s Gate at Gezer shows signs of destruction by fire.

  90. May 16, 2009 11:01 pm

    Gundeck,
    Ask the Egyptologists where they got that date and they will tell you the Bible. It’s circular.

  91. May 17, 2009 12:13 am

    Okay, I apologize for the long response. But I feel that I can’t shorten any of this anymore than I’ve already tried to do. In summary:

    Not one critic here finds any of the doctrines in the Book of Mormon objectionable. (Very telling, indeed). However, Jessica would prefer to have Mormons engage her intellectually with the Book of Mormon.

    Just a couple of thoughts. First, if the content of the book itself is not objectionable, or not offensive, how does a critic propose we got the Book of Mormon in the first place? If it wasn’t translated by the gift and power of God, then how Jessica, do you propose we have the book? Do think Joseph Smith was that much of a genius that he just wrote it? This is sincerely something I’d like to know. Frankly, you’ve got to engage me on this one before I can even seriously consider any legitimate alternative.

    Jeffrey R. Holland writes in “Christ and the New Covenant”: “If Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient origin, then I would move heaven and earth to meet the ‘real’ nineteenth-century author. After one hundred and fifty years,…surely there must be someone willing to step forward—if no one else, at least the descendents of the ‘real’ author—claiming credit for such a remarkable document and all that has transpired in its wake. After all, a writer that can move millions can make millions. Shouldn’t someone have come forth then or now to cashier the whole phenomenon?”

    Elsewhere, Holland was interviewed on the origins of the Book of Mormon. He responds: “The only thing more miraculous than an angel providing him with those plates and him translating them by divine inspiration would be that he sat down and wrote it with a ballpoint pen and a spiral notebook. There is no way, in my mind, with my understanding of his circumstances, his education, … [he] could have written that book. My fourth great-grandfather — this goes back to my mother’s pioneer side of the family — said when he heard of the Book of Mormon in England, he walked away from the service saying no good man would have written that, and no bad man could have written it. And for me, that’s still the position.” http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html

    Secondly, Jessica, you seem to be forgetting that Christian apologetics have essentially had 2,000 years to corroborate “evidence” for the critics, much of which has only been done recently. Would your faith have been insufficient without the scholarship? Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, have had less than 200 years to work up to where we are today, barely scratching the surface in corroborating empirical evidences for the Book of Mormon. Yet you don’t find Latter-day Saints saying that our faith is insufficient or that the book itself does not have great value and thus cannot be confirmed as “true”.

    Why is this? Because Latter-day Saints believe that “spiritual realities are investigated and confirmed first and foremost in a spiritual way, that, as the Apostle Paul wrote, the things of God are known only in and through the power of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11-14)…While there must be an actual physical referent upon which faith is built (a moment in real time, an event such as the resurrection of Jesus, or a set of golden plates), to exercise faith is to believe in the reality of the unseen and to accept as evidence the hope in that which cannot, for the time being, be proven empirically.” (Millet, “Claiming Christ”, p. 131).

    President Gordon B. Hinckley confirmed: “I can hold [the Book of Mormon] in my hand. It is real. It has weight and substance that can be physically measured. I can open its pages and read, and it has language both beautiful and uplifting. The ancient record from which it was translated came out of the earth as a voice speaking from the dust…The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God.” (“Faith: The Essence of True Religion”)

    I really like how respected historian Richard Bushman has put it:
    “I wish I could strike a responsive chord in Christians like you. Mormons wonder why all Christians don’t understand that we believe in the Book of Mormon on the basis of a spiritual witness. It is very hard for a Mormon to believe that Christians accept the Bible because of the scholarly evidence confirming the historical accuracy of the work. Surely there are uneducated believers whose convictions are not rooted in academic knowledge. Isn’t there some kind of human, existential truth that resonates with one’s desires for goodness and divinity? And isn’t that ultimately why we read the Bible as a devotional work?

    “We don’t have to read the latest issues of the journals to find out if the book is still true. We stick with it because we find God in its pages—or inspiration, or comfort, or scope. That is what religion is about in my opinion, and it is why I believe the Book of Mormon. I can’t really evaluate all the scholarship all the time; while I am waiting for it to settle out, I have to go on living. I need some good to hold on to and to lift me up day by day. The Book of Mormon inspires me, and so I hold on.

    “Reason is too frail to base a life on. You can be whipped about by all the authorities with no genuine basis for deciding for yourself. I think it is far better to go where goodness lies. I keep thinking other Christians are in a similar position, but they don’t agree. They keep insisting their beliefs are based on reason and evidence. I can’t buy that–the resurrection as rational fact? And so I am frankly as perplexed about Christian belief as you are about Mormons. Educated Christians claim to base their belief on reason when I thought faith was the teaching of the scriptures. You hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, and you follow it….I am a believer and I can’t help myself. I couldn’t possibly give it up; it is too delicious.” http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/02/you-hear-good-shepherds-voice-and-you.html

    Hugh Nibley, perhaps the most respected Mormon apologist of the twentieth century wrote: “The words of the prophets cannot be held to the tentative and defective tests that men have devised for them. Science, philosophy, and common sense all have a right to their day in court. But the last word does not lie with them. Every time men in their wisdom have come forth with the last word, other words have promptly followed. The last word is a testimony of the gospel that comes only by direct revelation. Our Father in heaven speaks it, and if it were in perfect agreement with the science of today, it would surely be out of line with the science of tomorrow. Let us not, therefore, seek to hold God to the learned opinions of the moment when he speaks the language of eternity.” (“The World and the Prophets”)

    If we had to base our faith completely on logic, I’d say LDS have a pretty darn good leg to stand on. On the Book of Mormon alone, within just the last few decades, there have been “investigations into ancient literary devices, Hebraisms, name studies, treaty-covenant patterns, word print analyses that focus on single or multiple authorship within the Book of Mormon, warfare, and geography—all intended to establish Book of Mormon antiquity and an ancient meso-American milieu for the narrative.” (Millet). Thus, time and patience are needed in regards to “proving” Book of Mormon historicity. In all fairness, biblical scholars have had centuries.

    Millet goes on to write in “Claiming Christ” that “Latter-day Saints will continue to read and study the Book of Mormon, paying particular attention to the witness of the Spirit that assists us in discerning truth from error, but never relying wholly upon scientific support. While physical evidence may fan the flame of conviction, I refuse to allow my faith to be held hostage to what science has or has not discovered.” (p.133)

  92. May 17, 2009 12:13 pm

    John C,

    Egyptian chronology dating comes from a number of sources, connections with Greek history, the Assyrian king lists, and other near eastern chronologies. This is one of the reasons that the Solomon’s Gates are considered so important in Biblical archeology. They (1) provide a fixed geography for cities of the OT, are (2) confirmed by archeology, (3) historically the presence of these gates constructed in the same manner shows signs of a unified kingdom wide building projects attested to in the books of Kings and Chronicles, and finally (4) as I mentioned earlier the 10th century BC destruction of gate at Gezer is attested to by outside (Egyptian) sources.

  93. May 17, 2009 12:52 pm

    Gundeck,
    I’m not making it up. That date in Egyptian chronology comes from the Bible. Read the original reports regarding Shisak’s campaign (or even current ones) and you’ll see it. All Ancient Near Eastern chronology remains fluid (until the Assyrians show up and even then it is occasionally iffy). To take another example, look at Kitchen’s Third Intermediate Period collection to get a good idea of the scraps and leftovers on which chronology is currently based. It doesn’t take much to shift events around in time. There is a reason that there are High, Middle, and Low chronologies and it isn’t because the majority of people feel confident about any of the above.

    Regarding the gates, take a look at Ussishkin’s article (I think it is in the Olga Tefnell festschrift) regarding the gate’s placement at Megiddo. There is some reason to question the original interpretation regarding the stratigraphy of the site.

  94. May 17, 2009 1:35 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Since you have chosen to quote Hugh Nibley he also said, “The Book of Mormon can and should be tested. It invites criticism, and the best possible test for its authenticity is provided by its own oft-proclaimed provenance in the Old World. Since the Nephites are really a branch broken off from the main cultural, racial, and religious stock, that provenance can be readily examined.”

    If as Dr. Nibley says the BoM invites a test for authenticity, for you revert to a spiritual witness of its truthfulness is an evasion of that test. Before we can evaluate the truthfulness of the teachings of the BoM we need to examine the authenticity of the book. My claim is that the BoM is not authentic, before I would attempt to determine if the teachings of the BoM were true it needs to be proven authentic.

    I readily acknowledge that the Koran is an authentic book from the 7th century AD. This is attested to by a number of external historical evidences and manuscript traditions. While I grant the historical authenticity of the Koran, I reject the teaching and theology that comes from it.

    The fist step for me in proving authenticity would be to demonstrate a manuscript history for the BoM. Failing to provide a manuscript tradition for the BoM another plausible test would be a direct connection between archeology, geography, and a specific BoM episode, peoples, city, event etc.

  95. May 17, 2009 3:47 pm

    If as you and I both acknowledge, that the Assyrian time line provides the best and most reliable cross reference for near east dating I am not sure what your point is. Mine is that the Shishak raid is a chronological anchor for dating the gate at Gezer. The date 930-925 for Shishak raid can be attested to without biblical sources by using the well established Assyrian dates. The Karnak ruins also attest to the towns destroyed by Shishak, while there is little doubt that the list is incomplete it does contain Gezer. Gezer is on a historical Egyptian invasion route and Shishak would not have bypassed this critically strategic city.

  96. May 17, 2009 8:45 pm

    Gundeck,
    The Assyrian timeline doesn’t stretch that far back in Palestine or Egypt. So it bears no relevance to the Shishak invasion. Karnak does mention Gezer, but as an example, it doesn’t mention Jerusalem. There is also the possibility that large portions of it are copied from the monuments of Thutmoses III. The only mention of the Shishak raid (which is not very strongly chronologically established because nothing in the Third Intermediate Period is) is in the Bible. That’s why it provides the date.

  97. May 17, 2009 9:43 pm

    I’m sorry Gundeck, but my testimony of the Holy Bible is not based on how many manuscripts there are. It is primarily a spiritual witness.

  98. May 17, 2009 9:55 pm

    John C,

    Assyrian chronoloAssyrian chronology is fixed to 911BC and can be tied together to with the King of Tyre (960 BC), Egyptian chronologies and Solomon. Kitchen has demonstrated that Karnac stele is incomplete. With the exception of the Shishak campaign there is no other campaign to account for the damage done at Gezer.

  99. faithoffathers permalink
    May 18, 2009 12:25 am

    In addition to describing the topography and geography of MesoAmerica perfectly, also consider the following:

    In 1830, common knowledge held that the natives who had occupied the western hemisphere were aboriginal type tribes, with little societal structure, language, scientific knowledge, or military structure.

    Yet, in the BOM is described 2 highly civilized societies, each with written languages utilizing hieroglyphics, city states, political sophistication, architectural achievements, knowledge of science, math, medicine, astronomy, and a calendar system. Both of these societies used gold, copper, and silver. One of the groups had “level highways” and engraved stones, alters, towers, temples. They became experts in masonry and working with cement. That group, at times, also had slaves and practiced human sacrifice at a time of massive societal decline.

    One of these societies precedes the other in roughly the same physical location- the earlier group existed a little north of the later group, but their areas of occupation did overlap.

    According to the BOM, the earlier group, the Jaredites arrived in the new world around 2200 B.C. and experienced a rather sudden decline from civil war around 600-500 B.C. The later group, the Nephites arrived on the scene around 590 B.C. and eventually occupied the land formerly possessed by the Jaredites. They too underwent massive society disruption due to civil war around 400 A.D.

    These are basic assertions from the BOM- broads strokes here.

    This is not a bad description of what we know today about the societies that inhabited MesoAmerica during these periods. All of the descriptions of the Olmec and Mayan civilizations are accurate. Experts may alter the dates a bit, but this is actually pretty close. The trend over the last 100 years, as more has been discovered of the Olmec civilization, is to extend the dates further back. Currently it is thought that their civilization developed around 1400 B.C. in San Lorenzo (Southern Mexico).

    These were record keeping people. In 1904, Edward Herbert Thompson discovered thin gold plates with pictographic and hieroglyphic writing on them in a cenote (underground water pool) at Chichen Itza. They currently are held at the Peabody Museum in Boston. The translation of the writings is “All the nations were to be sacrificed before him. Their hearts were to be carved out from beneath their shoulders and armpits.”)Popol Vuh, Christenson, p 217). Interesting that the surviving lamanites offered human sacrifice, cutting the hearts out of their enemies.

    In 1932, Alfonso Caso discovered similar thin gold plates at Oaxaca, Mexico in the tomb #7 at Monte alban.

    How about boxes? There have been many stone boxes found buried in MesoAmerica. Interestingly, many of these have been found around Tres Zapotes, Vera Cruz, Mexico- the place Moroni would have lived and where Mormon would have abridged the Nephite records. These are on display in the National Museum in Mexico City. One stone box dated from 485-550 A.D. Such boxes were used to store valuables.

    Realize that when the Spaniards arrived, they were obsessed with gold and stole every bit they could find and steal. It is said that the smelters and mines burned for a hundred years night and day to satiate the greed of Europe.

    Also interesting is the BOM description of writing on stone. Countless large stones have been unearthed in this area with engravings from this era, especially the Olmecs. Remember that in the BOM it was the people of Limhi who discovered a large stone with the written history of the Jaredites nation.

    I must go feed child. Sorry so hit and miss.

    Can you see why critics do not want to abandon the assumption that the BOM events took place in New York? Critics laughed riotously at these claims in 1830. Much more to relate, will try again later.

    keep the faith

    fof

  100. May 18, 2009 2:29 am

    Hi Clean Cut,

    Not one critic here finds any of the doctrines in the Book of Mormon objectionable

    To be clear, I do have objections to some of the doctrines and I cited some of these verses in my post (i.e. 2 Nephi 25:23, Moroni 7:13). I don’t generally emphasize my doctrinal disagreements with the BoM, though, because Mormons usually tell me that I’m misinterpreting these and that’s probably fair. They would know better than me. Suffice it to say that I personally take a historical-literal-grammatical approach to Biblical interpretation and, using that same approach with Book of Mormon, I have personally found contradictions between the BoM and the Biblical gospels.

    One of my main contentions, though, (as stated in my post) is that the BoM does not (from my review) really contain the glaring doctrinal differences between our two worldviews. This is why I find the BoM test deceptive. Why aren’t investigators informed up front of the major differences between Mormonism and the traditional Christian worldview so they can consider these differences and make an informed, discerning choice? Why don’t MM’s hand out copies of the D&C or PoGP to investigators?

    I know the LDS response is that the BoM invites that it be tested by its own rules. I get that. But can LDS see how this appears to us as sort of like a deceptive carrot dangling on the end of the stick? An investigator signs up for the worldview of the BoM and, instead, they get the worldview of the King Follett Discourse. To me this is like false advertising.

    First, if the content of the book itself is not objectionable, or not offensive, how does a critic propose we got the Book of Mormon in the first place? If it wasn’t translated by the gift and power of God, then how Jessica, do you propose we have the book? Do think Joseph Smith was that much of a genius that he just wrote it? This is sincerely something I’d like to know. Frankly, you’ve got to engage me on this one before I can even seriously consider any legitimate alternative.

    I do not believe in a purely naturalistic cause (i.e. JS was a fraud). I do believe he was a fraud, but that, by itself, does not offer a reasonable explanation to me for Mormonism’s spiritual influences.

    Okay, you asked for my opinion, Clean Cut. Please don’t punish me for giving you my honest answer.

    We know one of the devil’s strategies is to use God’s own words to try to deceive (as in the temptation account – the devil quoted the scriptures to Jesus). So it does not surprise me that we find many Biblical doctrines in the BoM and lots of passages borrowed directly from the KJV.

    Now before LDS accuse me of calling God’s work “of the devil” I would like to cite my reasons from scholarly literature for why I find this the most compelling answer (with facts and evidence to back it up). Clean Cut, you may already know this information, but I am posting the following quotes and links to the full articles for interested readers.

    1) As noted in an article in The Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Joseph Smith’s involvement with the occult and Kabbalah is well-documented:

    “there is substantial documentary evidence, material unexplored by Bloom or Mormon historians generally, supporting much more direct Kabbalistic and Hermetic influences upon Smith and his doctrine of God than has previously been considered possible. Through his associations with ceremonial magic as a young treasure seer, Smith contacted symbols and lore taken directly from Kabbalah. In his prophetic translation of sacred writ, his hermeneutic method was in nature Kabbalistic. With his initiation into Masonry, he entered a tradition born of the Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition. These associations culminated in Nauvoo, the period of his most important doctrinal and ritual innovations. During these last years, he enjoyed friendship with a European Jew well-versed in the standard Kabbalistic works and possibly possessing in Nauvoo an unusual collection of Kabbalistic books and manuscripts. By 1844 Smith not only was cognizant of Kabbalah, but enlisted theosophic concepts taken directly from its principal text in his most important doctrinal sermon, the ‘King Follett Discourse.’ Smith’s concepts of God’s plurality, his vision of God as anthropos, and his possession by the issue of sacred marriage, all might have been cross-fertilized by this intercourse with Kabbalistic theosophy – an occult relationship climaxing in Nauvoo.” You can link to the whole article here.

    2) Another article in The Dialogue discusses the connection between Joseph Smith’s occult activities and the translation process for the BoM. The method used to “translate” the BoM is “an ancient and universal form of divination known as scrying, crystal-gazing, or crystallomancy. It involves gazing upon an object like a crystal ball or a mirror until visions are seen.” The full article can be accessed here.

    Bottom line of my point: Let’s say I were to visit a fortune teller and she tells me that when she gives me my reading I will experience tingling sensations all over my body and I will know deep within my soul the truth of the reading. She gives me the reading and I experience said effects. Does this automatically mean the source of the reading is God?

  101. May 18, 2009 2:39 am

    Not to threadjack, but are you insinuating that Freemasonry and Kabbalah are “of the devil”? (I haven’t read your side posts on the subject, so I’m sorry if this is superfluous.)

    I’m obviously not a Freemason, but I was a Job’s Daughter, which is a Masonic organization, and I can assure you that nothing in it is even close to being “of the devil.” And my rather opinionated and conservative grandfather–a long-time Mason–and Shriners everywhere would no doubt object to having the rituals of their organizations dubbed “of the devil.”

    I obviously can’t speak to the rituals that they do, but we had our own rituals in Job’s Daughters, and nothing freaky was going on. And I find it hard to believe that the rituals that my grandfather and Joseph Smith participated in are all that freaky either.

  102. May 18, 2009 2:49 am

    Just to clarify, I fully understand that Smith was greatly influenced by Masonic rituals, but I don’t think that necessarily makes him “a fraud.” I think there is great personal/spiritual value in the rituals that Masonic organizations do, so if Smith felt they were a small piece of a larger puzzle that he was putting together, I certainly won’t hold that against him (promises of secrecy notwithstanding). That said, I’m not LDS, so I don’t associate said rituals with salvation anyway.

  103. May 18, 2009 3:42 am

    Hi Whitney,

    I wasn’t trying to make a point about the level of freakiness or non-freakiness of any rituals – Masonic or otherwise. Although it may have been unclear, my point was intended to be specific to the method of translation of the BoM. The Bible specifically condemns and forbids divination (Deut. 18:9-11) so I don’t believe the method of “translation” through the use of divination would result in an inspired work. Rather, the method of divination seems self-evidently (to me) to be invoking a demonic spirit.

  104. faithoffathers permalink
    May 18, 2009 4:13 am

    Jessica,

    You said:

    “Joseph Smith’s involvement with the occult and Kabbalah is well-documented.”

    My question- can you show me the documentation? Many people have opinions and theories. If you notice, all of these theories and claims are based on big unsupported assumptions and 3rd and 4th person accounts removed in time by decades. A person can certainly buy into one of these theories if that is what they want to believe.

    You quoted the following: “Through his associations with ceremonial magic as a young treasure seer, Smith contacted symbols and lore taken directly from Kabbalah.”

    Do you just accept this type of claim with no further thought or investigation?

    If a person claims to be interested in the truth, it would seem the more direct solution to read the book and examine it. Why the resistence to do such a simple thing?
    From your comments it seems you fear the BOM. Am I correct?

    In my opinion, this is bordering on superstition and pseudo-spiritualism. In my experience, some people would rather accept any possible explanation for the BOM than consider that it is actually a revelation from God- even to the point of believing things that are way more weird or supernatural than God simply revealing something to a man.

    I intend no offense, simply commenting on what I see.

    Thanks,

    fof

  105. faithoffathers permalink
    May 18, 2009 4:13 am

    Demographics:

    The BOM claims that millions of people lived in a relatively small area. There were periods of massive annihilation. Many experts estimate that at its peak, MesoAmerica of that time was home to 11 million people. In 1830, this was laughable. (James Mooney, ethnographer from the Smithsonian estimated in 1928 that the number of people inhabiting all of North America in 1491 was 1.15 million.)

    Modern researchers recognize that there were periods of sudden collapse in these Mesomerican populations. When? It is thought that the inhabitants of LaVenta, the largest Olmec city starting in 900 B.C. suddenly disappeared around 400 B.C. (The BOM claims the Jaredite civil war occurred around 600 B.C. to 500 B.C.).

    They were replaced by the Nephites around 550 B.C. The Maya are thought to have developed a highly civilized society by 500 B.C. where the Olmec had previously lived.
    The Maya had well developed city states, ruled by kings, priests, and nobles. They paid taxes and had a highly structured military.

    Eward Herbert Thompson, Harvard archeologist, spent 40 years in the Yucatan. He said in his book “People of the Serpent” in 1932, “the legends of the primitive races of Yucatan and of portions of Mexico tell of the coming in ships of a fair-skinned race of men who became the rulers and the leaders of the dark-skinned aborigines…But a tradition so widespread and a legend so persistent must have some basis in history, and it is legitimate for us to hold as probable that at some time in the remote past a group of people representing a civilization of which we have lost all trace made their influence felt upon the races indigenous to Mexico and Yucatan.”

    “Some went north and some went south, each with a band of dark-skinned followers. Those who went north were known among the Chichimecas and even more northerly peoples, the savage tribes amongn whom they worked and taught and whom they left enlightened, as Tultecas- “teachers” or “builders”

    “Those who went south forded rivers, lived under the shadow of great forests, and in cave darknesses suffered all things that man may suffer and live.”

    Those who know the BOM will see the parallels. The Nephites moved northward and became industrious builders and developers of the land. The Lamanites became an indolent people who did not demonstrate the same level of skill and industry. The Lamanites were in the southern part of the BOM arena.

    More later.

    fof

  106. May 18, 2009 4:33 am

    Hi Jessica,

    I see your point with the divination, but the excerpt you have above specifically links Smith’s Masonic activities to his occult activities (the same is true of your sidebar articles). I feel like I see that automatic association a lot, as if Masonry makes one more inclined to embrace the occult (I assume because of its rituals). Obviously the chronology here is reversed, but I still think it’s kind of odd that Masonry always comes up in terms of Smith’s occult behavior rather than as a separate association that influenced his take on rituals. In other words, people seem to take his involvement in the organization as confirmation of supernatural dealings and tendencies, therefore creating more reasons to distrust the BoM and the subsequent temple rituals.

    Anyway, this is clearly not that related to the historical debate going on, so it doesn’t really matter.

  107. May 18, 2009 4:40 am

    One last comment before bed…

    From your comments it seems you fear the BOM. Am I correct?

    Nope. Just conclude it’s not of God for the reasons I have cited.

    Have not had time to respond to all comments, but need some rest now.

    Goodnight all. 🙂

  108. May 18, 2009 6:09 am

    My question- can you show me the documentation?

    FOF, read the article Jessica linked to. It goes into that stuff in some detail. Much of it is speculation, but there are some interesting, thought-provoking points.

    While as faithful LDS we believe that Joseph’s revelations came from God, his involvement in treasure seeking and fascination with mystery initiation rites is something we need to deal with as we piece together his incredibly complex life and theology (I think Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling has already set a precedent for this). There is enough evidence that we can’t just toss it aside and say it never happened.

    I feel like I see that automatic association a lot, as if Masonry makes one more inclined to embrace the occult (I assume because of its rituals).

    Whitney, from what I understand, Masonry does have something of an historical connection to the Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition.

    Remember that the word “occult” does NOT necessarily mean Satan-worshipping or kool-aid drinking, but as I understand it, can be used to refer to traditions where people unlock divine secrets hidden from the world at large through rituals, folk magic, etc. The ritualistic, secretive aspect of Masonry–as well as some theories of its origins–is probably why it’s connected to the word “occult.” (I could be wrong on this point; I haven’t studied it in-depth, so someone please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    However, “occult” is a very loaded word, and has lots of negative connotations, so I would prefer we didn’t use it. It’s one of those things where you can get so caught up in the emotion of the word that you miss what’s really going on behind it, and never move past it to explore the depths of the issue. It’s for that reason I say it’s counter-productive, and suggest that we just throw it out in discussions like this.

  109. May 18, 2009 11:54 am

    Hey Katie,

    I think you’re right on all accounts, and that actually goes to the point that I wasn’t making very well. There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about what Freemasonry is (I think it has changed since like, 500 years ago, but in the past couple hundred years, especially in the US, I think it’s probably been consistent in aim and scope). Therefore, because of the mythos surrounding the organization, people seem to use Smith’s membership as a way of further “proving” that he wasn’t legit. I just don’t think it’s valid to use his association with Masons as a negative, precisely for the reasons you say–we get tangled up with loaded terms and things we don’t understand, and it takes away from the value of the discussion.

  110. May 18, 2009 1:53 pm

    Clean Cut,

    I can agree with you regarding the Bible. My testimony of the truthfulness of the Bible does not come from archeology or or manuscript evidence but these external proofs do provide a conformation and a defense of the faith. To disregard manuscripts or Archeology, would place us at the whims of any Johny come lately scholar who has bold ideas about the corruption or irrelevance of the Bible.

    The Bible is the word of God revealed to a particular people for a particular purpose. There is physical evidence of these peoples. There is manuscript evidence of the Bible. This physical evidence, totally lacking for the BoM, provides a confirmation for the authenticity of the Bible. To ignore this would be to ignore revelation.

  111. May 18, 2009 2:18 pm

    “To be clear, I do have objections to some of the doctrines and I cited some of these verses in my post (i.e. 2 Nephi 25:23, Moroni 7:13). I don’t generally emphasize my doctrinal disagreements with the BoM, though, because Mormons usually tell me that I’m misinterpreting these and that’s probably fair.”

    Actually, that’s probably exactly what I’d say. 🙂 I’d mean it too.

    Jessica, I’m not denying any connection to magic or treasure seeking or whatever. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Richard Bushman’s “Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling”, but he seems to situate that magic stuff as a preparation, if anything, in preparing Joseph or even his family to accept angels and gold plates, etc. To be fair, Joseph was not an isolated occurrence here. Christians at the time were seeking out those kinds of things as evidence or to connect to the the miracles of Christianity.

    By any means, by the time the Book of Mormon is translated, Joseph clearly has found his prophetic voice and is speaking for God. So my question still stands. Is this your best explanation for how we got the Book of Mormon? Really, I can understand a fortune teller giving “sensations”, and maybe even conceivably dictating a few pages of some pseudo-revelation through a “crystal ball”, but I have a hard time believing that a complete book of such spiritual, redeeming, and genuinely inspiring substance could have come from a “vision” you seem to be giving Joseph Smith credit for.

  112. May 18, 2009 2:28 pm

    FaithofFathers, I’ve got a question for you. Do you mind emailing me? cleancutlds @ gmail.com

    And I say, keep those fascinating posts coming…

  113. May 18, 2009 3:20 pm

    FoF,

    If you are interested in what was known and thought about Meso-America in 1820 you should look up Alexander Von Humboldt. His “Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the new continent” was published in 1821.

  114. May 18, 2009 3:24 pm

    Gundeck,
    How is it tied together with the King of Tyre (at 960) no less? The Neo-Assyrian empire doesn’t have any significant interaction with Palestine until the 9th and 8th centuries (Ahab and such), as far as I know. Can you provide more information regarding that tie?

  115. May 18, 2009 4:27 pm

    My material comes from Willaim Dever’s article in the Age of Solomon.

  116. May 18, 2009 4:55 pm

    Fascinating how three separate conversations are going on here.

    I want to piggy-back on my earlier comment: “Really, I can understand a fortune teller giving “sensations”, and maybe even conceivably dictating a few pages of some pseudo-revelation through a “crystal ball”, but I have a hard time believing that a complete book of such spiritual, redeeming, and genuinely inspiring substance could have come from a “vision” you seem to be giving Joseph Smith credit for.”

    Jeffrey R. Holland put it this way, in his book “Christ and the New Covenant”:

    “As the word of God has always been—and I testify again that is purely and precisely what the Book of Mormon is—this record is ‘quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow’. The Book of Mormon is that quick and is that powerful. And it certainly is that sharp. Nothing in our history or our message cuts to the chase faster than our uncompromising declaration that Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. A recent critic said that our account of and devotion to the Book of Mormon and, by implication, Joseph Smith’s role in producing it, is ‘the most cherished and unique Mormon belief’. I could not agree more, so long as we are allowed to maintain that is so because the Book of Mormon affirms our yet higher and more sublime belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

    “Consider the withering examination the Book of Mormon and its admittedly extraordinary claims have withstood. Has anyone presently reading these words ever tried to write anything of spiritual, redeeming, genuinely inspiring substance? With university degrees and libraries and computers and research assistants and decades of time, have you ever tried to write anything that anyone could read without tedium or apathy? And if one could produce even a few such inspiring pages, would that slim volume be anything anyone would want to read more than once, to say nothing of scores of times—marking it and pondering it, cross-referencing and quoting it, taking thousands of public sermons and a heart full of personal solace from it? Would it be good enough for people to weep over, to say it changed their lives, or saved their lives, or became something they were willing to give up fortune and future for—and then did just that?

    “What if your literary piece created enemies for you? What if it were left in the public arena, open to the criticism of your most hostile and learned opponents, for more than 150 years? What if it were pulled apart and minutely examined and held up to the light of history, literature, anthropology, and religion with no other purpose than to discredit it and denounce you? Could what you have written be that good? Would you still be willing to say that it was an inspired piece of wok, let alone hold to your assertion that it was divinely revealed and that its contents were eternally important—that in a very real sense the whole future of the world was linked to your little volume? By this time would either you or your piece still be standing? Would anyone still be reading it?

    “If Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient origin, then I would move heaven and earth to meet the ‘real’ nineteenth-century author. After one hundred and fifty years, no one can come up with a credible alternative candidate, but if the book were false, surely there must be someone willing to step forward—if no one else, at least the descendents of the ‘real’ author—claiming credit for such a remarkable document and all that has transpired in its wake. After all, a writer that can move millions can make millions. Shouldn’t someone have come forth then or now to cashier the whole phenomenon?

    “And what of the witnesses, the three and the eight, who forever affixed their signatures to the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon declaring they had, respectively, seen an angel and handled the plates of gold? Each of the three and several of eight had difficulty with the institutional Church during their lifetimes, including years of severe disaffection from Joseph Smith personally. Nevertheless, none of them—even in hours of emotional extremity or days of public pressure—ever disavowed his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon.

    “Late in his life David Whitmer said ‘as sure as there is a God in heaven,’ he had indeed seen the angel Moroni and did know the Book of Mormon was true. Fifty years after the experience, he could still readily identify the month, the year, even the time of day (“It was approximately 11 A.M.,” he said) when the angel appeared in ‘a dazzingly brilliant light’ and brought ‘a sensation of joy absolutely indescribable’.

    “Martin Harris was asked in the last year of his life if he ‘believed the Book of Mormon was true.’ He answered ‘No,’ then reassured his initially surprised interrogator that he ‘knew’ the book was true, which was greater than belief. ‘I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen, and I have heard what I have heard,’ he said. ‘I saw the angel and the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated and heard the voice of God declare it was translated correctly.’

    “Oliver Cowdery, who served as scribe as well as witness in this remarkable translation process and whose unique role in the early years of the Church is all the more poignant in light of his later fall from such sacred and significant responsibilities, said (while excommunicated from the Church), ‘I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet, as he translated it by the gift and power of God…I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was translated…That book is true.’ Thirty-seven years after Oliver called his family to his deathbed to yet once more bear his testimony of the Book of Mormon, his wife Elizabeth wrote, ‘From the hour when the glorious vision of the Holy Messenger revealed to mortal eyes the hidden prophecies which God had promised his faithful followers should come forth in due time, until the moment when he passed away from the earth, he always without one doubt or shadow of turning affirmed the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon.’

    “No other origin for the Book of Mormon has ever come to light because no other account than the one Joseph Smith and these witnesses gave can truthfully be given. There is no other clandestine ‘author,’ no elusive ghostwriter still waiting in the wings after a century and a half for the chance to stride forward and startle the religious world. Indeed, than any writer—Joseph Smith or anyone else—could create the Book of Mormon out of whole cloth would be an infinitely greater miracle than that young Joseph translated it from an ancient record by ‘the gift and power of God.’

    “On occasion this young prophet dictated his translation at white-hot speed, turning out as many as ten present-day pages in a sitting and ultimately producing the whole manuscript in something less than ninety working days. Those who have ever translated any text will understand what this means, especially when remembering it took fifty English scholars seven years (using generally superb and readily available translations for a starting point) to produce the King James Bible at the rate of one page per day.

    “It is not insignificant that Joseph Smith did virtually all of this work in the midst of seemingly endless distractions and in the face of sometimes open hostility. Nevertheless, following those breaks in the translation effort he apparently never looked at the previously dictated material nor had any portion of it read back to him for context or continuity. Furthermore, he was never known to have consulted any reference book of any kind during the whole of the translation experience…

    “I have read a reasonable number of books in my life, and I hope to read many more. I am not steeped in scholarship, but I can recognize profundity in print, especially when I see it page after page. In a lifetime of reading, the Book of Mormon stands preeminent in my intellectual and spiritual life, the classic of all classics, a reaffirmation of the Holy Bible, a voice from the dust, a witness for Christ, the word of the Lord unto salvation. I testify of that as surely as if I had, with the Three Witnesses, seen the angel Moroni or, with the Three and the Eight Witnesses, seen and handled the plates of gold.

    “The Book of Mormon is the sacred expression of Christ’s great last covenant with mankind. It is a new covenant, a new testament from the New World to the entire world. Reading it was the beginning of my light. It was the source of my first spiritual certainly that God lives, that he is my Heavenly Father, and that a plan of happiness was outlined in eternity for me. It led me to love the Holy Bible and the rest of the Standard Works of the Church. It taught me to love the Lord Jesus Christ, to glimpse his merciful compassion, and to consider the grace and grandeur of his atoning sacrifice for my sins and the sins of all men, women, and children from Adam to the end of time. The light I walk by is his light. His mercy and magnificence lead me in my witness of him to the world.

    “As Mormon said to Moroni in one of their most demanding times, so I say to the family of mankind, who must prepare for the coming of our King of Kings: ‘Be faithful in Christ; and may…[he] lift thee up…May his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and longsuffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever. And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power…be, and abide with you forever.’”

  117. May 18, 2009 7:04 pm

    Okay, Gundeck. I’ll give it a look. All I can tell you is that when I was in coursework (roughly 4-6 years after that was published) nobody was arguing that The Assyrian annals connected into Egyptian history until much later and the Egyptologists I worked with were quite frank about the origin of the dating of Sheshonqi’s invasion. I think that Dever might be overemphasizing the certainty of his data slightly.

  118. May 18, 2009 9:12 pm

    John C,

    Also look at Kitchen’s article Pages 119-120 for dating using the great Stella 100 at Gebel Silisa.

  119. May 18, 2009 9:18 pm

    John C,

    I would be interested in reading someting that says Egyptian cronology is based on biblical cronology. I have to admit in everything that I read it is proposed biblical chronologies that are on trial not the other way around.

  120. May 19, 2009 7:21 am

    Clean Cut you said,

    “The Book of Mormon is the sacred expression of Christ’s great last covenant with mankind. It is a new covenant, a new testament from the New World to the entire world.

    God Made the first old covenant, old testament, old will for the coming of the messiah. He then made the new covenant, new testament, new Will and fulfilled that Will with the death of the messiah. The messiah cannot die again. He can not fulfill another covenant, testament, Will.

  121. May 19, 2009 11:13 am

    Gundeck,
    There are High, Middle, and Low chronologies for Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia and they are all tied into each other. Unfortunately, they all seem to have roughly coincidental dark ages that each last for who knows how long. The longer you see them, the higher your chronologies get.

    I’m going out of town for a few days and it may be a while before I can look at this, but I will return and report.

  122. May 19, 2009 1:02 pm

    John C : mildly interesting about the timelines, but this seems to be the relevance to this thread: you might disagree about how the silverware is set,and in what order, but you’re still staring at complete place settings. With the BofM, all this is mythical: we don’t have the particulars in front of us, they are all “alleged”. This is what GUNDEK is talking about with the BofM not being authentic (historical). Again, the bible has ONE level of attestation, and the BofM has (seemingly) quite another.

    GERMIT

  123. May 19, 2009 1:53 pm

    jm, that is actually a quote by Jeffrey R. Holland. The Lord also described the Book of Mormon as a “new covenant” in D&C 84: 57. Elder Holland goes into more detail about that language in the beginning of his book “Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon”.

    The restored gospel has been described itself as a “new and everlasting covenant”. Modern revelation affirms “Wherefore, I say unto you that I have sent unto you mine everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning” (D&C 49:9). “Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old” (D&C 66:2)

    Robert Millet has written: “The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations. The gospel covenant is “new” in the sense that it is revealed anew following a period of falling away. It is “everlasting” in the sense that it was had from the beginning.”

    jm, Latter-day Saints would thus agree with your statement: “God made the first old covenant, old testament, old will for the coming of the messiah. He then made the new covenant, new testament, new Will and fulfilled that Will with the death of the messiah.”

    I’m not sure it’s necessary here to bring up an additional argument or not, and this might not be earth shattering for you, but Latter-day Saints also believe that the “everlasting gospel”, that is, Redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, was known from the beginning of time from Adam all the way down through the prophets to Moses. Because of the wickedness of the the children of Israel at the time of Moses, the Lord instituted the lesser law or gospel–the law of Moses–as a schoolmaster to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah and the fullness of His gospel. This is why it is the “old covenant” or law that dominates from the first five books of Moses on down through time until the New Covenant, or New Testament was given (again).

  124. May 19, 2009 2:40 pm

    Germit, if you don’t mind me asking, I’d be curious to hear what your best answer is to my earlier question. I’m sincere here. So far, it hasn’t received enough serious consideration, in my opinion. If you don’t believe the Book of Mormon to be authentic based on the fact that it doesn’t have a (currently available) set of corroborative manuscripts/records, then how DO you account for it? That is, how do you explain the presence of a Book of Mormon today (as it continues to shape religious history) in pages that I can search, study, cross-reference, and which impact my daily discipleship?

    I know the Book of Mormon is a work of God–not of the devil. I know what I know and I know what I’ve felt–I don’t need to see the gold plates or the other records from which Mormon compiled the Book of Mormon. The evidence for its divinity lies within its pages. In a nutshell, it has helped me draw nearer to God and inspires me to learn and know of the majesty of my Savior. It has provided a sure anchor concerning the doctrine of Christ. Take just the debate about the resurrection, for example. While skeptics can debate it, the Book of Mormon is an undeniable witness for the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, as well as our own personal resurrection.

    So if this book were not divine, I’d need someone to seriously engage the issue of where it thus came from. Because dismissing the lack of historical evidence is like trying to side-step the issue right in front of me. People try to dismiss it without even seriously reading it! Some can try to get me to look in other directions to distract me from seeing the obvious, but the elephant is still in the room–and that elephant is evidenced within the Book of Mormon which I’ve now studied for a lifetime, precisely because of its divinity.

    It might be hard to explain it–it is, after all, miraculous–but then again I can’t really explain how a man can walk on water either. But I need someone to do better than simply try to explain it away by saying that Joseph thought it would be fun to get involved with magic, produce a hoax, and then live the unrelenting and persecuted life he lived defending a lie, eventually give his life for it. That just doesn’t work for me. John Taylor, a witness to the martyrdom of Joseph and his brother Hyrum (and who himself was shot), later wrote that he Joseph “sealed his mission and his works with his own blood”.

    As Jeffrey R. Holland writes:
    “Consider the withering examination the Book of Mormon and its admittedly extraordinary claims have withstood. Has anyone presently reading these words ever tried to write anything of spiritual, redeeming, genuinely inspiring substance? With university degrees and libraries and computers and research assistants and decades of time, have you ever tried to write anything that anyone could read without tedium or apathy? And if one could produce even a few such inspiring pages, would that slim volume be anything anyone would want to read more than once, to say nothing of scores of times—marking it and pondering it, cross-referencing and quoting it, taking thousands of public sermons and a heart full of personal solace from it? Would it be good enough for people to weep over, to say it changed their lives, or saved their lives, or became something they were willing to give up fortune and future for—and then did just that?”

  125. May 19, 2009 4:08 pm

    Clean Cut: good points and good questions.

    As to the effects of the Bood of Mormon….two thoughts, or two examples of the same point jumped into my very small brain: 1) Eckhart Tolle’s two bestsellers “Power of NOW” and “The New Earth” and then 2)L.Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and Scientology. OK: roll your eyes if you’d like, but the simple fact is there are MILLIONS of people who have wept over , and swear by, these books, authors, writings…..I haven’t read L.ROn, but I have read large parts of Eckhart….let’s just say GERMIT was not buying…I’d say the same for the BofM….so the fact that large numbers say it’s the best thing since ZIPLOC…well, that’s strong testimonial, but there are MANY testimonials out there, and MORE coming , no doubt…

    AS to who wrote the BofM, I don’t really have a single smoking gun….my best GUESS is that JS cut and pasted from a variety of sources, not the least of which was the KJV bible, that would explain how KJV textual errors and specific Elizbethan wordings cropped up in your “ancient” book. I’ll flesh this out a bit later today;

    you are asking good questions, but are you willing to go where the evidence, all the evidence, takes you ? this is not a rhetorical question.

    GERMIT

  126. May 19, 2009 4:14 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Again you said, The restored gospel has been described itself as a “new and everlasting covenant”. Modern revelation affirms “Wherefore, I say unto you that I have sent unto you mine everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning” (D&C 49:9). “Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old” (D&C 66:2)

    Again I ask, The messiah cannot die again. He can not fulfill another covenant, testament, Will. Why would he send mine everylasting covenant, testament, Will. When he finished and closed the last with the blood of his son.

  127. May 19, 2009 4:19 pm

    Thanks Germit for your response. I look forward to hearing back from you. You asked “are you willing to go where the evidence, all the evidence, takes you?”

    I say, “of course”. But apparently we could have a healthy debate about what exactly constitutes “evidence”.

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Translation_Errors_from_the_KJV

  128. May 19, 2009 4:20 pm

    Clean Cut,

    You have presented this quote “Consider the withering examination the Book of Mormon and its admittedly extraordinary claims have withstood. Has anyone presently reading these words ever tried to write anything of spiritual, redeeming, genuinely inspiring substance?” from Holland a number of times and I understand your point from a pure “belief” point of view. My question is what if I replaced the Book of Mormon in this statement with the Qur’an, Dianetics, or the Daozang. From the “believers” viewpoint the same claim of “truthfulness” you make regarding the BoM can be made by any of the worlds religious books. This does not move us in the direction of establishing the plausibility of authenticity for the BoM.

    If you look at reasonable proofs for testing the authenticity of the BoM I am not so sure that the BoM has withstood the examination very well. As for where the BoM comes from if not from a divine source there are any number of theories or combination of theories that can account for the book. It is common knowledge that connections between Native Americans and both the lost tribes of Israel and the tower of Babel were popular in the 19th century. Whole swaths of the BoM come from the King James Version of the Bible and Apocrypha. Parts of Nephi 27 comes from the “Christian Baptist” by Alexander Campbell. Alma 40:11-14, & 20 are taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith (remember that the next time you feel inclined to speak out against the creeds and confessions).

  129. May 19, 2009 4:28 pm

    jm, why do you assume that the Messiah must “die again”? I don’t believe that.

    Was the Millet quote not sufficient for you? (ie: “The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations. The gospel covenant is “new” in the sense that it is revealed anew following a period of falling away. It is “everlasting” in the sense that it was had from the beginning.”)

    This misunderstanding may actually have more to do with our disagreement over the “falling away” rather than the efficacy of Christ’s atonement. That is, the extent of the apostasy/need for a restoration.

  130. May 19, 2009 4:32 pm

    Gundeck, then let me ask how you personally account for the Book of Mormon, and we can lump the “Qur’an, Dianetics, or the Daozang” in there for good company.

  131. May 19, 2009 4:39 pm

    Gundeck, I have one more request. I think you’re going to need to be much more specific with the alleged connections between specific scriptures and other works, otherwise I can’t really deal with them. Please provide the specific references you’re referring to, and that will be more helpful and much appreciated. Thanks!

  132. May 19, 2009 4:53 pm

    Clean Cut: a few observations on your post.

    1) you will NEVER hear me say or write that JS was perpetuating what he believed to be a fraud. Even though there is SOME evidence that his treasure hunting experiments MIGHT have been like this. I’m very convinced that he believed what he was selling, and was very articulate and passionate in selling it. He was the very best “true believer” in his own book and message. Along the same lines, I am NOT saying that when JS says that dozens of OT and angelic messengers appeared to him, that this was a pure fabrication. No, I’m more of the view that he DID have visitors. Jessica has already mentioned a cautionary note on this. Put me in this camp, for now, as well.

    Your primary reason, it seems, for holding to the BofM’s divinity is that it’s had such a positive , profound, effect on you. Well, containing such large amounts of the bible, this doesn’t shock me, and I can’t refute your experience, that would be swatting at sunbeams; but again, many people have been greatly influenced by a wide variety of material, some biblically related, some not. Sometimes material that is quasi-biblical.

    Busy day, have to “work at work” , but I’ll pick this up later.

    Peace and light on you and yours
    GERMIT

  133. May 19, 2009 5:01 pm

    Thanks Germit for your thoughtful response. I again look forward hearing more from you. This is really what I’m after. I’m not looking to debate this or draw a line in the sand and put up my “dukes”. I’m looking for mutual understanding. Yes, I want others here to better understand where I’m coming from, but I also want to better understand where you’re coming from. By having a “respectful conversation”, I think we can learn from each other here and ideally we can all benefit from this. I especially appreciate your thoughtfulness; it seems to me that yours is a fair-minded voice of reason. That’s what I’m looking for.

  134. May 19, 2009 5:36 pm

    Clean Cut: may GOD land on me with a firm hand if my approach wanders from respect (and it has, before). We ev.’s don’t always major in respect, and for that I have no excuses , only a “cover us Jesus” and apology where appropriate.

    I’m grateful for having LDS and ev. examples of how to behave, of which I’d include you.

    HIS rod and staff will comfort us
    GERMIT

  135. May 19, 2009 5:53 pm

    Your honesty is refreshing, Germit. 🙂

  136. faithoffathers permalink
    May 19, 2009 8:49 pm

    Gundeck,

    Thanks for the reference. But Von Humboldt’s work was primarily a naturalist’s description of botany and animals. Am I wrong? He did include descriptions of the natives of central and south America as well, but this was little more than a snap-shot picture. It would have been impossible to piece together the historical details and sequence of the MesoAmerica peoples from Von Humboldt’s work, would it not? The current knowledge of the history of MesoAmerica which I allude to has been pieced together over the last 200 years.

    I think it is fair to say that in 1830, it was not even close to common knowledge that there had previously been very highly civilized socities in the Americas with highways, written languages, scientific knowledge, massive architectural accomplishments, and a fairly sophisticated social order.

    Dr. William Robertson, who wrote History of America said in 1821 “America was not peopled by any nation of the ancient continent which had made considerable progress in civilization. The inhabitants of the New World were in a state of society so extremely rude as to be unaquainted with those arts which are the first essays of human ingenuity….there is not, in all the extent of that vast empire, a single monument or vestige of any building more ancient than the Spanish conquest.” (Robertson, History of America, 1821, p 2.)

    The famous dean of U.S. American historians, George Bancroft, said in 1841 that prior to the Europeans arriving only tribal barbarians lived in North America. “America was “an unproductive waste… destitute of commerce and political connection… In the view of civilization the immense domain was a solitude.” (Bankcroft, History of the United tates, from the Discovery of the American Continent, Eighth edition, 1841 p. 3-4.)

    What do folks make of the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan? It was written by indigenous authors after their own records were burned by the Spanish. In it they review their history in great detail. Interestingly, the story bares great similarity to Genesis and even speaks of the scattering of Israel. I quote “These, then were the three nations of Quiches, and they came from where the sun rises, descendents of Israel, of the same language and the same customs…[our ancestors] were the sons of Abraham and Jacob.” (Chonay and Goetz, Title of the Lords Totonicapan, University of Oklahoma, 1953, p 170).

    Also from that translation: “Now on the twenty-eighth of September of 1554 we sign this attestation in which we have written that which by tradition our ancestors told us, who came from the other part of the sea, from Civan-Tulan, bordering on Babylonia.”

    What about the very clear legends of the “Descending God?” The Maya dedicated temples to Him. This God was “white-bearded.” Quetzalcoatl was believed to have descended in the remote past from heaven and taken a mortal form. He promised to return in the future. L. Taylor Hanse (not LDS) published more that 55 legends from north and south America and many islands off the coasts that reflect such a belief in a returning God with a white beard. This belief among the natives is thought to be responsible for the unlikely fall of Montezuma to Cortes in 1519.

    Many critics love to ask “where is Zarahemla?” Or show me the evidence of Nephi, etc. etc. I believe this is very naive. We may not be able to show you the sign of the city limits of Zarahemla, but there are plenty of findings that should make an objective person consider the plausibility of the BOM.

    So in summary- the Book of Mormon claimed in 1830 that 3 highly civilized societies existed on the Americas and inhabited an area roughly 600 miles by 200 miles, nearly surrounded by sea, with highlands in the southern part of that region and lowlands in the north. The main river flowed north. The first civilization existed from around 2000 B.C. and abruptly underwent a dropoff in numbers around 400-500 B.C. and were replaced by a new civilization from Jerusalem. They knew of the books of Moses and the creation/flood. The built highways, temples, and were experts in cement and masonry. The prophets/leaders wrote on metal plates, and they kept valuables in stone boxes. They had a very ordered society with Kings, Priests, merchants, artisans, farmers and slaves. In times of wickedness, they offered human sacrifice, even cutting out the hearts of enemies at times. They claimed to have abundant supplie of gold, copper, and silver. Their civilization had millions of people in a relatively small area. Jesus Christ, a caucasian, bearded God appeared to them and told them, among other things, about His second coming to the earth.

    I have provided information on MesoAmerica that correlates with all of these claims. I even included a reference to a group of Maya who call their land and town Xarhamallah. (ring a bell? -Zarahemla). There is plenty more.

    Jessica (and others)- what of these coincidences? The culture of the region certainly does not present us with a uniform history and clear picture. That is hard to expect after 2000 years, and influx of different peoples/cultures, and the cultural extermination that took place at the hands of the Spaniards. But these correlations are not trivial? Will add more when can.

    Thanks,

    fof

  137. May 19, 2009 9:05 pm

    FOF,

    What about the very clear legends of the “Descending God?” The Maya dedicated temples to Him.

    I’m no history expert, but I thought the assertion that Mayan temples (that is, pyramids) were discussed in the BoM had been rejected by many Mormons? I think it’s been pretty well established that Mayan temples weren’t very happy places by our standards (and by “our standards” I mean those of us who aren’t big fans of human sacrifice). I understand that there are legends of a descendant God who appeared among them, but I have a huge problem with saying that Mayan temples were actually Christian in nature.

    I’ve read in other threads (on other blogs) that the artwork appearing at the beginning of the BoM with Mayan pyramids in the background should be regarded as artistic vision rather than historical. That statement was put forth by an LDS commenter in response to critiques that Mormons think Mayans were Nephites. So I may be way off base here, but I personally reject the assertion that Mayan pyramids are proof of the BoM, and I think many LDS would agree.

  138. May 19, 2009 9:09 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 32 parts 1 and 2 are found in Alma 40:11-14, & 20. 3 Nephi 27:3-8 take from Alexander Campbell’s the Christian Baptist with regard to the naming of the Church and the restoration.

    I am not sure what you mean how do I account for the BoM? Of the top I would say that John Calvin was correct when he said that “man’s nature so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” He continues, “Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to his own capacity…” (Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.11.8).

    If you are asking how did Joseph Smith write the book? My answer would be that it is a hodge podge of various common 18th century themes, sources, and religious controversies combined into an imaginative and compelling story.

  139. faithoffathers permalink
    May 19, 2009 9:44 pm

    Whitney,

    Thanks for the response. Your point is a good one. But I think you may misunderstand my claims- or I did not explain them clearly. The practice of human sacrifice is discussed in the BOM in detail. Unfortunately, the Nephites and Lamanites apostatized, turned their backs on the true religion of Christ, and degenerated into this practice along with other apostate religious practices. I am not claiming that the Mayan temples were used in Christian religion (or Law of Moses practices). Most were likely used for a religion that on the surface was very little like the religion that it came from.

    In fact, I would not expect the later temples and religion of the area to be the same as the earlier religion. The BOM says over and over that the Nephites would be destroyed if they did not repent, and the remaining Lamanites would degenerate into an idolatrous, indolent, and bloodthirsty people. They did not repent, and the rest is history.

    My point was to note that some of their temples were dedicated to the “Descending God” who had appeard to them according to legend. While their religions may have been apostate, the persistence of the belief in a God who had appeared to them, and who would return, is a very significant correlation to the BOM claims and shows the importance of that ancient event in their culture and religion.

    Thanks,

    fof

  140. May 19, 2009 11:44 pm

    FoF,

    I can agree with your assessment of Von Humboldt’s books as primarily naturalistic, in fact I think he has been criticized for glossing over native peoples. My point with bringing him up is that the geography of meso-America was not unknown in 1820’s nor were discussions regarding the possible extent of advanced Native American civilizations. Smith must have had at least a cursory knowledge of the Spanish contact with early native Americans as attested to by his hunting for Spanish treasure in the 1820’s.

    In fact the problem that you have is the dates and cultures in the BoM simply do not coincide with any of the civilizations that existed in mesoarmerica. I also find your reference to a “a caucasian, bearded God” to be problematic. Artist renditions to the contrary, I do not sure the Jewish people of the first century can be described as Caucasian.

  141. May 20, 2009 2:29 am

    I think it’s been pretty well established that Mayan temples weren’t very happy places by our standards (and by “our standards” I mean those of us who aren’t big fans of human sacrifice).

    Dear Whitney,

    I’m pretty sure that was my favorite comment of yours ever. Thank you.

    With love,
    Katie

  142. Stephanie permalink
    May 20, 2009 2:46 am

    fof,

    I generally don’t post on this board but I follow it closely. Your post compelled me to respond. Your first statements addressing the lack of knowledge of the Mayan civilizations during the 1800s are valid. Much of what we have discovered about Mayan culture, architecture, and writing have only come within recent years. Further, any comparison with the Mayans and the peoples described in the Book of Mormon is certainly fair. No one will fault you for drawing comparisons between those groups of people. We will choose to ignore the obvious lack of supportive historical information regarding the Mayans riding horses (or were they deer?) or writing on metal plates.

    However, you lost me when you described Jesus Christ as a “caucasian, bearded God.” The Jesus of the Bible was certainly no Caucasian. The problem with your post is that you could go on all day making an attempt to draw similarities between Mayan culture and the Nephites. This does not address the real glaring problem. The problem is that the Nephites are supposed to be Jewish! The issue is not in comparing the Mayans to the Nephites. This issue is comparing the Mayans/Nephites to the Jews! Jewish culture has existed for more than 3000 years—in many ways unchanged. Following the diaspora Jews were forced to live in groups and faced tremendous persecution. The urge to assimilate would have been strong. They were scattered across the Old World. And yet, throughout the centuries they maintained their distinct Jewishness. They kept kosher, followed the law, celebrated Sabbath, studied the Talmud, practiced circumcision, worshiped one God, etc. Most importantly, they remembered who they were. Your challenge is not to prove a connection between the Nephites and the Mayans. Your challenge is to prove a connection between the Mayans and the Jews. Do Mayans claim to be Jewish? Have they ever claimed to be Jewish?

    After reading Simon Southerton’s book, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, I find it amazing that people continue to assert the old LDS phrase found in the front of my copy of the Book of Mormon—“they [the Lamanites] are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” It has been several years since I read Southerton’s book but the percentages are hard to forget. The ancestry of American Indians is 99.6% of Asian heritage. The remaining 0.4% is a smattering of European and African heritage—clearly from post-Columbus era. LDS are quick to deny the validity of the DNA claims yet use the same research on their coveted genealogy! Ancestry.com, owned by the LDS parent company The Generations Network, advertises DNA testing to link customers to their relatives. For a fee of only $149 researchers can have both Y-chromosome 33 and 46 tested. Possible countries of origin are provided to the user based upon their “Ancient Ancestral Group.” Yet, this DNA research, which is counted so conclusive in a court of law, is considered flawed and inaccurate when related to the Book of Mormon. Perhaps it is like some claim, that God changed the DNA of the Lamanites when He changed their skin from “white and delightsome” to black. If so, what a sinister and deceitful God that would be!

    I only googled one of your claims and that was regarding the town of “Xarhamallah.” There was only one hit which was a Youtube video on the Linguistical evidence for the Book of Mormon. I would be interested to see non LDS sources for this town. I think that you have focused so closely on the link between the Book of Mormon and the Mayans that you have lost site of the most outrageous claim of all—that the American Indians are Jewish.

  143. May 20, 2009 4:41 am

    Gundeck, thanks for your response. It’s just good for me to see where other people are coming from and to see how you make sense of the presence of the Book of Mormon. I’m equally in the dark with how some “new order” Mormons can believe the Book of Mormon is inspired, but that it’s “inspired fiction”. I just can’t quite understand that.

    Now, I’m not sure if you want me to respond to that which you have stated. Since I’m not viewing this as a “debate”, per se, I’m not sure a “rebuttal” is in order. Would you prefer I go ahead with a rebuttal of sorts? More than anything, I just have some additional thoughts and questions sparked by your comment.

  144. May 20, 2009 4:48 am

    “occult” is very a loaded word and has lots of negative connotations, so I would prefer we didn’t use it.

    I agree with you, Katie, that it is a very loaded word with lots of negative connotations. I hear what you are saying here and I don’t plan to go on and on with this, but I have a couple more points to make and if I use the word “occult” I’m just using the term that is being used in scholarly Mormon literature on the topic of BoM origins. Lance Owens won the Best Article of the Year Award from the Mormon Historical Association for that article I linked to on Joseph Smith and Kabbalah and he frequently uses the word “occult.” If Mormon apologists want to re-define that word now that history is re-defining their prophet that is their prerogative. Personally, I’m not buying it.

    There is enough evidence that we can’t just toss it aside and say it never happened.

    Exactly. As Lance Owens points out, this is a really uncomfortable position that Mormonism is facing in the twentieth-century:

    “Despite its success and respectability, however, a fundamental crisis looms before Joseph Smith’s church–and the crux of the predicament is Joseph Smith. Late twentieth-century Mormonism is being forced into an uncomfortable confrontation with its early nineteenth-century origins–an inevitable encounter given the preeminent import of the founding prophet to his religion. From the start, Joseph Smith has been cast by his church as a man more enlightened than any mortal to walk the earth since the passing of the last biblical apostles. No historical life could be granted a more mythological tenor than has his. To Mormons, Joseph Smith is, simply, “The Prophet”. He bares the imago Christi. He alone stands as doorkeeper to the last dispensation of time; to him angels came and restored God’s necessary priestly “keys” and powers; he built the Temple and taught the ancient rituals which therein make of men and women, gods.
    But now, one hundred and fifty years after his death, Smith’s place in Western religious history is undergoing an important and creative reevaluation. Historians and religious critics alike are examining him anew. And in his history’s newest reading, themes unrecognized by its orthodox interpreters are quickly moving to stage center. Quite simply put, modern Mormonism–guardian of the Prophet’s story–has no idea what to do with the rediscovered, historical, and rather occult Joseph Smith.” (from Lance Owens, Joseph Smith: America’s Hermetic Prophet)

    Mormons and Christians used to agree on the definition of the occult and Mormons used to deny that there were any links between their religion and occult activities. According to Mormon historian, Klaus J. Hansen, “For Mormon apologists there was a clear inference that any link between Mormonism and magic would seriously undermine the truth claims of their religion. As historians over the past two generations amassed growing evidence of a link between Mormonism and magic, apologists, to some extent, were able to reassure the faithful because much of this literature was regarded as hostile: the exploitation of anti-Mormon sources by authors unfriendly to the church. In recent years, however, the rise of the “New Mormon History” has made this position increasingly untenable as scholars professing to be believing Mormons or regarded as friendly to the church have also explored the relationship between Mormonism and magic, aided and abetted by a rising scholarly interest in magic and religion in the Western world in general and in American history in particular—to the increasing discomfort of apologists and church leaders.” http://www.signaturebooks.com/reviews/magic.htm

    Jessica, I’m not denying any connection to magic or treasure seeking or whatever. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Richard Bushman’s “Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling”, but he seems to situate that magic stuff as a preparation, if anything, in preparing Joseph or even his family to accept angels and gold plates, etc.

    And this is where there’s a pretty significant difference in thought on this topic. I think most Christians would not consider participation in these kinds of activities as a credible or legitimate preparation for a founder of God’s one true church.

    To be fair, Joseph was not an isolated occurrence here. Christians at the time were seeking out those kinds of things as evidence or to connect to the the miracles of Christianity.

    This may very well be true and if one of them started up a “one true” religion while they were continuing to participate in these activities I would question their credibility as well.

    By any means, by the time the Book of Mormon is translated, Joseph clearly has found his prophetic voice and is speaking for God

    I find it interesting that you say “by the time the Book of Mormon is translated.” If I were to accept his claims of the First Vision, though, I would have to reconcile the fact that he continued these activities after that vision. The court record is hard evidence that he was continuing these activities after his first vision and prior to “translating” the BoM using the same rock that he used for his other activities. That just doesn’t jive for me.

    Wow… too much to say, too long of a comment, and too many comments to respond to. I’m going to bed now. Goodnight 🙂

  145. May 20, 2009 5:20 am

    If Mormon apologists want to re-define that word now that history is re-defining their prophet that is their prerogative. Personally, I’m not buying it.

    I read the Owen article and found it fascinating–and was not offended or upset for a moment at his use of the term.

    My only concern is that in a discussion like this, where people haven’t read the material, and where they’re deciding on what level to engage the issue, the word itself can be such an emotional hot-button that they will shut their brains off and decide not to pursue the question further because they’re offended. It is in that sense I might suggest, while it may an accurate term, if discussion and engagement of the issues is what we’re after, and if the use of any given word is going to be a stumbling block for getting people into the conversation, let’s not use it. At least not until people have allowed themselves to look into what it really means.

  146. faithoffathers permalink
    May 20, 2009 5:30 am

    Stephanie,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. Forgive the use of the word “caucasian.” I should have used the word “fair skinned” or “white.” It is a matter of degrees. To the dark skinned Lamanites in the BOM or the natives of MesoAmerica encountered by Cortes and other Europeans, Jesus would certainly be considered to be fair-skinned or “white.” It is a matter of semantics. Bottom line, local legend in 55 different locations in Central and South America held that a “fairer” skinned God had appeared and that He would return someday.

    DNA- the holy grail of the Book of Mormon Critic:

    You said “The problem is that the Nephites are supposed to be Jewish! The issue is not in comparing the Mayans to the Nephites. This issue is comparing the Mayans/Nephites to the Jews! Jewish culture has existed for more than 3000 years—in many ways unchanged.”

    Your last sentence demonstrates exactly what “scientists” like Southerton and Murphy depend on in readers of their material- naivete on the subject.

    To compare any two populations, a person needs good samples from both. First- the reference population, or in this case, the “Jews.” It would be next to impossible to determine the genetic make-up of the inhabitants of Jerusalem at 600 B.C. And were Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram representative of the population at Jerusalem? Lehi was a descendent of Manasseh, son of Joseph. Joseph’s wife was Egyptian, introducing non-Jewish mitochondrial DNA into the picture that Southerton paints so simplistically. We know nothing about the ancestry of Ishmael or Zoram.

    Are the Jews of today the same as those of 2600 years ago as you suggest? Consider the following:

    The mitochondrial DNA of different Jewish groups around the world shares little similarities with other Jewish groups, rather it usually reflects their host populations. Although BOM critics attempt to use mitochondrial DNA to discredit the BOM claims, such methods have been pretty much abandoned in determining who is “Jewish.” Martin Richards (non-LDS) said: “Studies of human genetic diversity have barely begun. Yet the fashion for genetic ancestry testing is booming. . . . Other groups, such as Jews, are now being targeted. This despite the fact that Jewish communities have little in common on their mitochondrial side.” (Martin Richards, “Beware the Gene Genies,” Guardian, 21 February 2003).

    Dr. Shaye Cohen of Harvard University said “the historical origins of most Jewish communities are unknown.” (Quoted in Wade, “In DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots.”)

    Mark G. Thomas and colleagues state that “in no case is there clear evidence of unbroken genetic continuity from early dispersal events to the present. . . . Unfortunately, in many cases, it is not possible to infer the geographic origin of the founding mtDNAs within the different Jewish groups with any confidence.” ( Thomas et al., “Founding Mothers of Jewish Communities,” 1411, 1415, 1417—18).

    The Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH) is a different genetic marker thought to have originated from Aaron, brother of Moses. The CMH is present in approximately 45—55 percent of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Cohens, compared to 2—3 percent of non-Cohen Jews. This genetic marker is also used to discredit the BOM. BUT NO COHEN JEWS, OR DESCENDENTS OF AARON LEFT JERUSALEM WITH LEHI’S GROUP. Only 2-3% of TODAYS non-Cohen Jews even have this gene present. AND- the gene is found in non Jews including Armenians, Kurds, Hungarians, and Italians. It is truly amazing what considerations and details are ignored by Southerton and Murphy.

    They focus on the Lemba tribe in Africa as an example of how a group of Jews “should” be able to be traced to modern Jews using the Cohen gene. But they do not mention that this Lemba tribe has virtually no commonalities of mitochondrial DNA with other Jewish Groups. Using this type of DNA, they are indistinguishible from other Bantu-speaking groups. AND, the Lemba group is thought to have migrated away from Yemenite Jews only 1000 years ago. Lehi left Jerusalem 2600 years ago. This tribe in Afribe happens to have had a high percentage of Cohen Jews in their founding members. And this is extremely atypical of Jewish Communities.

    Ken Jacobs, geneticist focusing on Jewish ancestry says: “The only Jewish subgroup that does show some homogeneity—descendants of the Cohanim, or priestly class—makes up only about 2 percent of the Jewish population. Even within these Cohanim, and certainly within the rest of the Jewish people, there’s a vast amount of genetic variation.” (Tony Ortega, “Witness for the Persecution,” New Times Los Angeles, 20—26 April 2000).

    The gene that most closely links Jews who are not Cohen (descendent of Aaron) is seen in only 30%. And that gene is thought to have been introduced with the mass conversion of Turkic Khazars between 700 and 900 A.D. (David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000, 99—100).

    Why the genetic diversity among a people whom you believe “has existed for more than 3000 years—in many ways unchanged?”

    Consider these historical facts:

    1. Rates of intermarriage increased enormously during and after the captivity in Babylon. Ezra made great efforts to separate Jewish men from their heathen wives on a massive scale (Ezra 10). Prohibitions against intermarriage were never really achieved- hence, the constant reminder and plea to stop the practice. Such intermarriage will “dilute” or essentially erase genetic uniqueness over generations.

    2. The bible suggests a population for Israel of 2 million at the time of the exodus. But within a century of the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish population had decreased to 300,000. It then expanded again to around 2-5 million by the time of Christ, then fell again to less than one million after going toe to toe with the Romans. Then there were the persecutions at the hands of Europeans- Robert Pollack says the Ashkenazi Jews (80% of modern Jews) “descend from a rather small number of families who survived the pogroms of the mid-1600s.” ( Robert Pollack, “The Fallacy of Biological Judaism,” Forward, 7 March 2003). Others estimate that “from an estimated number of 25,000 in 1300 AD, the Ashkenazi population had grown to more than 8.5 million by the beginning of the 19th century.” (Behar et al., “Contrasting Patterns of Y Chromosome Variation,” 354).

    Such expansions and reductions in populations introduce huge swings in genetic background of a group of people. Add a bit of intermarriage to the mix and it is essentially impossible to establish with any degree of confidence that a particular group is NOT descended from the Jews of 600 B.C.

    Pollack says “there is nothing in the human genome that makes or diagnoses a person as a Jew.”

    AND- this is only represents a portion of the reasons it is impossible to obtain a sample of the Jews of 600 B.C.

    We can also consider the other end of the question- the mixture of Lehi’s party with other groups who lived in the Americas. This would add at least as many confounding variables and difficulties in comparing the two groups- can go there if you like.

    Any evidence of “Jewish blood” among the natives? Ever heard of the huge Emory University DNA study of Native Americans? The researchers from around the world concluded “it has been inferred that 97% of Native American mitochondrial DNA belong to one of four major founding mtDNA lineages, designated haplogroups A,B,C,D. It has been proposed that a fifth mtDNA haplogroup (X) represents a minor founding lineage in Native Americans….supporting the conclusion that the peoples harboring haplogroup X were among the original founderss of Native American populations. To date, haplogroup X has not been identified in Asia, raising the possibility that some Native American founders were of Caucasian ancestry.” (Michael D. Brown, et al., “mtDNA Haplogroup X: an Ancient Link between Europe Western Asia and North America?” University of Chicago, Nov 25, 1998.”

    To the researchers surprise, this haplogroup X was only found in groups of people living in Europe and Asia Minor (middle East), including Italian, Finns, and ISRAELIS.

    There are more data suggesting possible genetic links between natives of this hemisphere and the middle East if any are interested.

    Critics of the BOM who employ the DNA argument very much depend on the assumption that all natives of the western hemisphere are direct descendent of father Lehi. That is why they will fight tooth and nail and quote every possible church leader to establish the hemispheric model of interpreting the BOM. And arguing for the hemispheric model is simply a losing argument- it is contadicted by the text itself as well as statements from Joseph Smith.

    But even if you gave such critics those enormous assumptions, their conclusions would not be supportable based on the inability to sample accurately the two groups they are trying to compare.

    Sorry for the length- but the topic sort of demands it. So much hay has been made of DNA junk science as it relates to the BOM. (the BOM critics really haven’t done the primary reasearch- just based their enormous conclusions on the work of others).

    fof

  147. faithoffathers permalink
    May 20, 2009 5:51 am

    Stephanie,

    I saw one more of your statements that had to be pointed out.

    You said, “this DNA research, which is counted so conclusive in a court of law, is considered flawed and inaccurate when related to the Book of Mormon.”

    The DNA evidence used in a court of law is so dramatically and fundamentally different than the DNA research involved in population dynamics and genetics. They are absolutely worlds apart.

    It is like an evolutionist using the change of eye color in a rabbit from dark red to not-so-dark red to support the conclusion that mankind descended from primordial soup. There are small, micro-steps, and there are huge, massive steps. Different beasts altogether. One does not prove the other. Make sense? Courtroom DNA evidence and this BOM related “evidence” is waaaayyy different. But the average Joe has no idea and is therefore easily impressed by technical language and claims.

    fof

  148. Stephanie permalink
    May 20, 2009 6:16 am

    fof,

    It is too late for me to write a detailed response to your post…I will try to tomorrow. 🙂 However, I wanted to quickly respond to your question “Ever heard of the huge Emory University DNA study of Native Americans?” I hadn’t so I googled it and found it. It was done in 1998. There is a brand new study done that I think you may find interesting. It was published in the May issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. The title of the article is “Native Americans descended from a single ancestral group, DNA study confirms.” You can read about it here.

    http://www.physorg.com/news160214945.html

    The single ancestral group is believed to be Asian. Yes, I can agree that there would be a vast difference in the DNA found in modern Jews and that found among Jews living during 600 A.D. However, that is still no explanation for the Asian connection. Further, it ignores the geological evidence of Bering Strait land bridge. Logic would argue that it would be much easier and historically accurate for humans to have migrated through normal means (such as walking, riding a mule or in a cart, etc) than for them to have SAILED to America. The journey that the supposed Nephites made is unprecedented and certainly before their time. The Vikings were famous for their sailing, not the Jews. Their is no indication that Middle Easterners were making transatlantic voyages in the 600s B.C.

    To be perfectly honest, if I were a Mormon I would find the claims of the B.of M. to be so embarrassing that I would chose to believe an alternate theory. For example, that the story took place somewhere other than America. Or that it is a fiction work that provides examples of moral living. Or, that it is a story of what COULD have happened if Jesus visited the Americas after His resurrection.

    Thank you for the well thought-out response. I will try to write more tomorrow.

    Stephanie

  149. May 20, 2009 2:24 pm

    Stephanie, now certainly there may be things to be embarrassed about–but DNA? Perhaps in one held to the “hemispheric” model rather than limited geography. But I personally have never taken that view–specifically because the Jaradites arrived long before Lehi and Nephi ever did. A good description about this can be found here: http://www.fairlds.org/Book_of_Mormon/Brief_Review_of_Murphy_and_Southerton_Galileo_Event.html

  150. May 20, 2009 3:19 pm

    Gundeck, I’m going to have to keep this short. I don’t want my wife to get the impression that I’m married to blogging rather than her!

    I read over the 32nd chapter of the Westminster Confession of faith and Alma 40. FAIR puts a side by side comparison up here: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Plagiarism_accusations/Westminster_Confession

    All in all, I agree with their conclusion. “When one considers the short amount of time in which production of the Book of Mormon was completed, it is not reasonable to believe that such detailed and difficult method of generating text was a factor in the process even if one does not believe in the book’s divine origin. If Joseph were attempting to plagiarize The Westminster Confession, he ought to have taken the easier route of duplicating entire sentences or even paragraphs in the manner that the critics accuse him of doing with passages from Isaiah. Why would Joseph “plagiarize” a well know source such as the Bible so precisely, yet go through a potentially slow and difficult process of extracting phrases and ideas from a lesser known source in order to produce a few verses in a single book in the Book of Mormon?

    “Critics can always find “source material” for the Book of Mormon if they extract small enough phrases from their alleged source documents. Since both the Book of Mormon and The Westminster Confessional are religious documents, it is not unreasonable to expect similar words and phrases.”

    Now Alexander Campbell, on the other hand, was one of the early critics that actually took the Book of Mormon seriously. He was kind of forced to confront the Book of Mormon issue, especially after so many people, including his associate Sidney Rigdon, converted to “Mormonism”. Campbell actually wrote a very detailed critique of the Book of Mormon, and offered his opinion about Joseph Smith. I read through the whole thing here: http://www.lds-mormon.com/campbell.shtml

    Funny though, for all the details (he had obviously read the book in detail) he mentions, 3 Nephi 27:3-8 doesn’t even register a blip on the radar. You would think that if Joseph had plagiarized from Campbell, Campbell himself would have raised a red flag or called Joseph out on it in this very detailed analysis.

    Campbell labeled Joseph Smith “as ignorant and as impudent a knave as ever wrote a book” and felt he was simply trying to answer all of the contemporary theological questions that had been going around in upstate New York–ultimately dismissing it as “romance”. He fails to deal with its complex story.

    You, on the other hand, acknowledge an “imaginative and compelling story.”

    So which is it? Joseph as an ignorant fraud? Joseph as a complex genius–even though he was a practically uneducated kid (without access to the internet, mind you)? Or Joseph, as a 23 year old young man, a legitimately inspired prophet?

    Think about how and if all the other implications fit together and how many unanswered questions (how, what, when, where, why) would remain as a result of your approach, not the least of which was the motive. How does that compare with all that we know?

    How in the world could this boy even fathom that he could do it, and then do just that, pulling it off to the “t”? Even if the most genius writer of today–with all modern materials available–tried to piece together this book (and in such a short amount of time!)–I hardly doubt they’d have the guts to then say that it 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”.

    Guts indeed.

  151. May 20, 2009 4:50 pm

    Also, don’t forget to take into account the witnesses (as described above). Oh, the witnesses…

  152. May 20, 2009 6:13 pm

    the word itself can be such an emotional hot-button that they will shut their brains off and decide not to pursue the question further because they’re offended

    Thanks for this insight, Katie. I do see what you are saying here.

  153. faithoffathers permalink
    May 20, 2009 7:05 pm

    Stephanie,

    Thanks for the reference and dialogue.

    The recent study you reference used a 9 sequence “allele” to determine commonality among western Hemisphere natives and compares them to Asian counterparts. But did you notice only 908 people were tested in the western hemisphere? “Overall, among the 908 people who were in the 44 groups in which the allele was found, more than one out of three had the variant.” ONE IN THREE. The authors conclude that “in general, Native Americans are more closely related to each other than to any other existing Asian populations, except those that live at the very edge of the Bering Strait.” That is the take-home message.

    That study really does not change the findings of other studies, simply the variable used to arrive there. As I said in a previous post “97% of Native American mitochondrial DNA belong to one of four major founding mtDNA lineages, designated haplogroups A,B,C,D.” So 3 percent have other variables of this particular Haplogroup. Again, I argue for a limited geography model of the Book of Mormon- the findings in this study in no way threaten this model.

    The Emory study tested nearly 23,000 people. It was a much more robust and powerful study, meaning the conclusions are much more likely to represent reality. It was led by renowned leaders in the field from Europe and the U.S. But paradigms change. Any single study should be viewed in the context of the bulk of evidence on any given topic.

    By the way, do you know that it is theorized and thought by LDS scholars that the Jaredites lin the BOM originated in Central Asia and travelled to northeast Asia and then via barges to the New World. And it is not the DNA data that drives this belief. Take a look at the giant heads of the Olmec- certainly look like Asian features. They lived here for 1500 years before the Lehi group arrived on the scene. Therefore, their influence would have been much more important on the genetic composition of the New World. But this is essentially never addressed by BOM critics.

    You bring up the Land Bridge Theory and said “The journey that the supposed Nephites made is unprecedented and certainly before their time.” Did you know the single migration theory is anything but established with certainty? There are plenty of respected researchers who believe there were many transoceanic crossings to the Americas.

    Such researchers base their position on the following:

    1. Cultural, religious, and architectual similarities between the new and old worlds. Consider the Pyramids of MesoAmerica and their likeness to Egypt. Associated with these structures is the manner of burial with mummification.

    2. There are over 100 plants that are now known to have crossed the sea either from the old to new world or reverse before the arrival of the Europeans in America. In other words, there is archeoligical/cultural evidence in carvings, murals, writings that clearly document the presence of crops and plants in India and Asia that are known to be native only to the Americas. Interestingly, most of these plants are thought to have had medicinal properties- strange coincidence that among such a vast variety of fauna, mostly those perceived as being valuable to humans would be found on the other side of the world. Also interesting is that many of these shared plants also share the same root names in their different hemispheres and languages- explain that.

    3. Two species of beetles that infested Egyptian mummies—Alphitobius diaperinus and Stegobium paniceum—have also been found in mummies in Peru. Tobacco has been discovered in the stomachs of mummies in Egypt (tobacco is known to have been grown in the Americas- not in the East).

    4. The discovery of the “Kennewick Man” in Washington and similar finds in Chile suggest there were inhabitants of different ancestry and earlier than the Asian migration klan.

    The technological aspect is really not an issue. It has been shown that even with very primitive ocean craft, people have crossed vast distances on the seas. Consider the natives of Austrailia and other “isles of the sea.” They were inhabited by peoples who crossed seas long before the European expeditions. How can a person who believes in the Bible claim that such crossings were not possible- remember Noah?

    Although originally a staunch believer in the one group theory, Michael Coe (Harvard University) admitted in the 6th edition of The Maya in 1999 that the Americas may have been settled by maritime crossings of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Even the American Association for the Advancement of Science acknowledged in 1998 that the Americas may have been settled by trans-oceanic travelers thousands of years ago.

    Charles Mann of Science magazine (official publication of the AAAS) said in 1998 “When I went to high school, in the 1970s, I was taught that Indians came to the Americas across the Bering Strait about 13,000 years ago, that they lived for the most part in small, isolated groups…At the time, the ice pack extended two thousand miles south of the Bering Strait and was almost devoid of life… And it happened just before the emergence of what was then the earliest known culture in the Americas, the Clovis culture, so named for the town in New Mexico…I learned it when I attended high school. So did my son thirty years later. In 1997 the theory abruptly came unglued… an archeological dig in southern Chile had turned up compelling evidence of human habitation…thirty thousand years old. Or perhaps the first indians traveled by boat, and didn’t need the land bridge…”We’re in a state of turmoil,” the consulting archeologist Stuart Fiedel told me. “Everything we knew is now supposed to be wrong.”

    Paradigms and dogmas change. Some resist that change. But the direction of change now is definately away from the one founding group theory.

    Do you really think every native of the whole western hemisphere came directly from one small group of people who crossed the Bering Strait?

    If anything, the trend is for archeologic and scientific arguments against the BOM to fall with time. How many of the older criticisms against the book have been drop-kicked and refuted? Many- happy to list if desired. With the growing body of scientific knowledge, the BOM actually become more plausible, not less. This is why so many critics spend the majority of their efforts attacking the manner in which the BOM was translated instead of the text itself or its claims.

    fof

  154. May 20, 2009 7:12 pm

    About the Book of Mormon witnesses, this essentially conveys the thoughts I was trying to express earlier:

    “I have often thought that Joseph Smith would have been in a terrible position if he was somehow putting people on. How could he produce a revelation? How could he produce five ancient objects? How could he satisfy people that a personage with the power of God was really there? You cannot counterfeit the power of God. You cannot counterfeit ancient objects.”

    -Book of Mormon Witnesses, Richard Lloyd Anderson
    http://farms.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=21

  155. May 20, 2009 8:56 pm

    Clean Cut,

    I don’t regard this as a debate, more of a friendly conversation between people who disagree. I accept that you will not agree with me on most issues and the position that I have taken with regard to the BoM. You asked how I account for the BoM, I tried to answer you and to provide a few examples of material that I believe influenced Joseph Smith.

    You will note that I do not use the word “plagiarise”. I believe that Smith was influenced by many outside materials, the KJV of the Bible, WCF and religious controversies of his day are just a few. You should also note that I have never called Smith ignorant or stupid. If anything I give him credit for having a great intellect.

    While the FAIR explanation for similarities between Alma 40 and the WCF make sense on the surface when examined closer I find it wanting. For instance Alma 40 was written in 73 BC. All of the source material, with the exception of Gen 3:19, Ecc 12:7, Job 19:26, for chapter 32 is from the NT and would have been unknown to Alma. Also while both the book of Alma and the WCF are religious documents the WCF was written by English/Scottish “divines” in the 1640’s. To expect similarities in language between Alma and the Westminster divines seems odd, no matter the subject at hand.

    Maybe you can explain why FAIR claims Smith had a short period of time to write the BoM? Looking at the time frame he had from September 1827 until June 1829, almost 2 full years assuming Smith did not begin before September 1827.

    I am interested in your views and comments. Please do not feel compelled to provide a point by point rebuttal but I welcome your comments and thoughts.

  156. faithoffathers permalink
    May 20, 2009 9:16 pm

    Gundeck,

    Sorry to but into your discussion with clean cut. But I couldn’t help thinking that it seems strange that a person insists on a plagiaristic or direct connection between Alma chapters 40 and 32 and the WCF, yet dismisses the striking statistical improbabilities associated with the complex chiastic structure in Alma 36.

    I think it is a much weaker argument that Joseph copied or was influence by the WCF than the argument that the chiasmus in Alma 36 (and others) is legitimate. What are your thoughts or comments?

    Thanks,

    fof

  157. May 20, 2009 9:18 pm

    Thanks Gundeck, I appreciate the approach. I think the “short” time must be referring to the translation of the actual manuscripts that currently make up the Book of Mormon. It was a matter of only a few months. Then another 7 months or so before the entire book came off the presses in Palmyra. While Joseph had begun translation earlier after finally receiving the plates from the angel Moroni, that translation work had been the original 116 pages (Book of Lehi?) that were lost. I think that incident devastated Joseph. It took awhile for him to begin the translation of the rest of the plates, beginning with Mosiah and eventually translating the plates of Nephi which ended up covering the same time period as the 116 lost pages, and which happen to start out the Book of Mormon as we now know it.

  158. May 20, 2009 10:58 pm

    FoF,

    As far as chiasmus or other Hebraism [sic?] go my first response is that with out the original language it is a stretch to prove any word patterns. I am aware of the “Mosiah 5:10-12” Chiasm but find it unconvincing as Smith was so influenced by the KJV as the Chiasmus in the D&C prove. I think Mormons overplayed their hand with Hebraisms because this would restrict the translation theories to a “word for word” theory ruling out the inspired Joseph theory.

    Now since the many of the exact words and thoughts in the same language (English) is found in both Alma 40 and the WCF it makes you wonder? Part of this may be that I honestly cannot stand poetry and when I had to learn about Chiamus in the OT I wanted to gouge my eyes out, so this is one area that I have a cursory knowledge but not enough to discuss in depth.

  159. May 20, 2009 11:00 pm

    FoF,

    I butt into enough conversations that I am obliged to always welcome someone…

  160. Stephanie permalink
    May 20, 2009 11:25 pm

    Dear fof,

    Thank your for the response both last night and today. I would like to respond to last nights post first. To start, I have to admit I was greatly taken aback by your research and quotations of numerous academic texts. While I thought it possible at first that you did have all of those books and articles at your house and had read them yourself I began to find that impossible, based upon the speed of your response to me. Then I began to think that perhaps you had written a paper in the past on the subject of DNA and the Book of Mormon and that your quotations were from prior research which you had saved. I have listed the sources used for your article below.

    1. Martin Richards, “Beware the Gene Genies,” Guardian, 21 February 2003.

    2. DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots.

    3. Thomas et al., “Founding Mothers of Jewish Communities,” 1411, 1415, 1417—18.

    4. Tony Ortega, “Witness for the Persecution,” New Times Los Angeles, 20—26 April 2000.

    5. David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000, 99—100).

    6. Behar et al., “Contrasting Patterns of Y Chromosome Variation,” 354.

    7. Robert Pollack, “The Fallacy of Biological Judaism,” Forward, 7 March 2003

    8. Michael D. Brown, et al., “mtDNA Haplogroup X: an Ancient Link between Europe Western Asia and North America?” University of Chicago, Nov 25, 1998.

    However, upon doing minimal research on FAIR I found an article entitled DNA and the Book of Mormon by David G. Stewart, Jr., M.D. I don’t want to accuse you of plagiarism for your wording was not identical, but your post appears to be simply a synopsis of Stewart’s work. Even the order of your ideas appears to be the same as his. While it is certainly not illegal to use another person’s research it is always a good idea to cite their work. Otherwise it is somewhat deceptive to the reader. I initially thought that you had done all of this research yourself. Correct me if I am wrong for I don’t want to offend if you do have these books and articles and have read them for yourself.

    If I were to summarize your response to me I think it could be summed up in the statement, “We don’t know the origins of the Native Americans.” Even if a person were to accept this as 100% true it certainly doesn’t prove that they are Jewish! The fact is that when Joseph Smith wrote/translated the Book of Mormon it was a very commonly accepted thought that the Native Americans were among the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Josiah Priest’s book American Antiquities
    , written in 1835, devotes an entire chapter to the supposed Jewish nature of the American Indians. This was a popular view at the time. It no longer is commonly accepted by science. Therefore, the burden of proof rests upon the LDS community. The task is not to prove that WE DON’T KNOW the origin of the American Indians. The point to prove is that the American Indians are Jewish. I feel that you have not responded to my two questions which were rather simple ones. I will repeat them here and respond to questions that you have for me as well.

    Do Mayans claim to be Jewish? Have they ever claimed to be Jewish?

    Thank you again for the dialogue, it has been thought provoking and stimulating!

    In Christ,

    Stephanie

  161. Stephanie permalink
    May 20, 2009 11:26 pm

    For some reason my hyperlink for the book American Antiquities didn’t work. Sorry, here it is.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=D9YKAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0

  162. faithoffathers permalink
    May 21, 2009 1:06 am

    Stephanie,

    I have stacks of books and articles on all this stuff and I have referred to many in this thread. Yes- one of them is the article by Stewart. Another great source is John L. Lund’s book on the subject as well as one by Robert A. Pate. John L. Sorensen is another guy who has done enormous amounts of work in the area of the migration and whom I have used. The University of Calgary also has some interesting sources on their website.

    As to your questions/criticisms:

    One of my purposes in discussing DNA was to answer the claim from BOM critics that DNA evidence has proven that the book is not true. This is absolutely false, and hugely overstates their arguements’ merits.

    The “DNA evidence” against the BOM is a total misrepresentation. They essentially use the Lembda tribe in Africa as an example of linking Jews to their source population. But the “scientists” fail to mention that the Lembda group is one of the only groups of Jews where this is possible. It doesn’t work with the other groups of Jews around the globe. But the authors insist that making such a connection should be easy with the Native Americans if they truly came from ancient Israel (again- they use the hemispheric model in their assumptions).

    As to your question “Do Mayans claim to be Jewish? Have they ever claimed to be Jewish?”

    The answer is shockingly yes. In fact, I opened my June 2009 copy of Discover magazine today and found a short but very interesting article on the Popol Vuh. The Popol Vuh, along with the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan were historical texts written by the Quiche Maya in the 1550s. They were both written after the Spaniards arrived and destroyed every possible native record they could find. Having lost their written history, the Maya rewrote it as closely as possible to the original. In these rewritten histories are described the creation of the world by the Quetzal Serpent and His Father, “Heart of Sky.” The rewritten Popol Vuh tells the story of a group of Maya who discovered the hieroglyphic original Popol Vuh during a journey from the highands to the lowlands by the sea. This matches very well with the story of the people of Limhi who were sent to find Zarahemla, but found instead the Plates of Ether. The Popol Vuh contained the creation story and many tales that parallel Biblical history. It contains many legends and beliefs that are similar to LDS doctrine, including the belief in the Father God and the Son of God, Quetzal Serpent. (another fascinating topic hopefully in our future).

    Well, LDS critics have long laughed at the LDS for referencing the rewritten Popol Vuh and highlighting its correlations to the BOM because they claim the Maya were influenced by the Spanish Catholic Priests who accompanied Cortez, etc. (Strange that Catholic Priests would teach LDS doctrines).

    Anyway, the article in Discover magazine relates the recent discovery of “two massive carved stucco panels in the Mirado Basin of Guatemala’s norhtern rain forest.” They are the earliest known representation of the Mayan creation myth, dating to 300 B.C. They are 26 feet long and 20 feet high. They corroborate the Mayan legend and their rewritten histories.

    And did you read my quote above from the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan? I will post it again:

    ““These, then were the three nations of Quiches, and they came from where the sun rises, descendents of Israel, of the same language and the same customs…[our ancestors] were the sons of Abraham and Jacob.” (Chonay and Goetz, Title of the Lords Totonicapan, University of Oklahoma, 1953, p 170).

    Also from that translation: “Now on the twenty-eighth of September of 1554 we sign this attestation in which we have written that which by tradition our ancestors told us, who came from the other part of the sea, from Civan-Tulan, bordering on Babylonia.”

    So to answer your question- Yes, the Maya have claimed to be descendents of Abraham and Jacob. These statements from the Popol Vuh and the Title of the Lords… correlate very well with the Nephite history.

    Also-

    1. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxî chitl was a descendant of the rulers of Mesoamerica before Europeans arrived. His authoritative history from the 16th century states:

    “It is the common and general opinion of all the natives of all this Chichimec land, which now is called New Spain . . . that their ancestors came from western parts . . . as appears in their history; their first king was called Chichimecatl, who was the one who brought them to this New World where they settled . . . and they were those of the division of Babylon.”

    Fray Bernardino de Sahagî n collected materials in the 16th century including the native tradition that:

    “the account which the old people give is that they came by sea from toward the north, and it is certain that they came in some vessels of wood, but it is not known how they were built; but it is conjectured by one report which there is among all these natives, that they came out of seven caves and that these seven caves are the seven ships or galleys in which the first settlers of this land came . . . they came along the coast and disembarked at the Port of P înuco, which they call Panco [near Tampico, Veracruz], which means, place where those who crossed the water arrived.”

    Other stories say these vessels were like “turtle shells.” Hard to read the story of the Jaredites in Ether and not see the correlation.

    Thanks for the discussion! I learn a great deal from them.

    Have a good evening!

    fof

  163. Stephanie permalink
    May 21, 2009 3:25 am

    Fof,

    Thanks for clarifying your sources. I wasn’t trying to argue that you hadn’t researched the topic, I was just trying to point out that your post very closely followed the FAIR article. Right down to the format of your sources. In fact, I copied and pasted your sources to find them on the page. Perhaps that was a coincidence. I am more interested to hear what you believe than to hear the party line from FAIR.

    I think I am beginning to see the “disconnect” in our arguments. Permit me to summarize and correct me if I am wrong.

    Your view: Israelites=Nephites. Nephites=Mayans.

    My View: Israelites=Isrealites. Mayans=Mayans. Nephites=unsubstantiated people group.

    The problem with this disconnect in views is that when I am asking you whether or not the Mayans have asserted themselves to be Jewish or have asked for the evidence in their Israelite roots you continue to offer supporting evidence for the Nephites being Jewish. If you can understand from my perspective, since I don’t believe in the Nephites, this doesn’t help the argument. I didn’t ask for comparisons between the Nephites and the Mayans. To me that would be like drawing comparisons between the Calormenes (for you Narnia buffs) and the Mayans. In other words, the discussion is pointless because I don’t accept that Calormen exists.

    Thank you for providing the quote from Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxî. I googled it and came up with a total of four hits. They were lds.org, mormonwiki.com, ldslibrary.com, and mormontopics.com. The other quote from “Title of the Lords Totonicapan” was interesting as well. I searched google for more information regarding that topic and, once again, received almost exclusive LDS websites. I did find one book, however, that quoted the same line you did. The author concluded that the texts construction was “corrupted by Christian influences” (Collins, A (2002). Gateway to Atlantis: The Search for the Source of a Lost Civilization. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, p. 225).

    Arguments about “creation stories” are always interesting however don’t offer much proof. Most of the time they are so open to interpretation that a person could infer almost anything from them. I am not aware of any world culture that doesn’t have a creation story. In fact, many have flood stories. That in itself is interesting to ponder, isn’t it? It is certainly possible that there may be something to the creation story accounts as they are consistent throughout people groups around the world. I tend to think that the most Biblical explanation is Romans 1 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (vv. 19-20).

    Thanks for the interesting conversation, fof! I enjoy it. J

    Stephanie

  164. NChristine permalink
    May 21, 2009 6:06 am

    FoF,

    Hi! 🙂 Wanted to add just a little blurb re: the historical writings linking the Maya to Israel or Babylon. According to Jace Weaver of Yale University, Columbus’ arrival in Europe in 1493 with indigenous captives caused confusion for the Catholic Church, and European civilization in general, due to perceptions regarding biblical accounts of human dispersion after the flood (That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community, Oxford U. Press, 1997).

    Though ultimately the dilemma was resolved in 1512 when Pope Julius II declared Natives to be descended from Adam and Eve through the Babylonians, the first response was to postulate that the dark-skinned peoples that met Columbus were the Lost Tribes of Israel.

    The quotations you provided, supporting Mayan self-understanding of Near Eastern origins, were from the 16th century. Though I am unable to find Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxî chitl (could you provide a source?), the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan was written in 1554. This is 42 years after the Pope had declared them “descendents of the Babylonians,” and up to 61 years (from 1493) after they had been speculatively labeled “the Lost Tribes of Israel.” This strongly indicates that this understanding of themselves as Babylonians or Israelites was not native but came from the Europeans! Indeed, at the “1554” link above, the 2003 Bulletin of the American Comparative Literature Association quotes from the translation of the Title of the Lords which you cited (Adrián Recinos, Dioniso José Choney, and Delia Goetz). Those editors/translators note this:

    Clearly aware of the Conquistadors’ speculation that the remarkably sophisticated native population might be the lost tribes of Israel, the Lords of Totonicapán embrace this history, assimilating
    Moses to Balam-Qitzé [their founder], who goes the Bible one better by leading his entire people—thirteen tribes in all—safely across the sea to the new world, where he then ratifies a covenant with them by the side of a sacred mountain, giving them permanent possession of their promised land. (171-72)

    The purpose of the Title of the Lords was to legitimize Mayan claims to their land. Why not incorporate images of biblical scenes and claim biblical ancestry? None of this is sound evidence of a link between the Maya and the Near East. Rather, it is evidence of the old adage that the Catholic Church is “the great chameleon” — producing syncretism wherever it goes.

    Also, you noted that the Popol Vuh “contains many legends and beliefs that are similar to LDS doctrine.” I am sure this is true, but it does not indicate a link between the BoM and the Mayans. At its most foundational level, you might agree that the LDS worldview shares many things in common with polytheistic religions (though I am sure LDS would avoid the term “polytheism”). Plurality of gods and physicality of gods are two prominent beliefs of Mormonism that distinguish it from biblical Christianity but are similar to polytheistic religions such as that of the Maya.

  165. faithoffathers permalink
    May 21, 2009 1:26 pm

    Stephanie and ChristineN,

    Thanks for your responses. I appreciate the intelligent thoughts.

    Did you notice that in my last post I mentioned the brief article in the current issue of Discovery magazine. I have not used the Popol Vuy or Title of the Lords up until now due to the common criticism that such documents were influenced by the Spanish Catholics. But in Discovery magazine, they report the discovery of a 26 by 20 foot heiroglyphic panel in the highlands of Northern Guatemala that corroborates the authenticity of the stories and history recorded in the Popol Vuh. In other words, the Maya were not simply mixing their history with what the Catholic Priests told them, their history which they felt so important to record PREDATED THE CATHOLIC AND EUROPEAN INFLUENCE- The newly discovered panel dates back to 300 B.C.

    So we have a very well matched geographical setting for the BOM. We have societies that are very much like those described in the BOM in that very same geographic area. The members of that society claim in their legend and history to be from the tribes of Israel and to have traveled across the sea by boat. A person does not have to believe the Book of Mormon, but knowing this information, one should at least admit that it is plausible- at least a millions times more than what is admitted by BOM critics.

    I have to run now. Will post later.

    fof

  166. NChristine permalink
    May 21, 2009 6:22 pm

    FoF,

    Thanks for the response. I found the Discover magazine article to which you referred and will link to it here. Per the information in the article, nothing on the panels remotely links the Maya to Israelites. Let me quote a bit of the article:

    In the part of the story shown, the Hero Twins swim through the underworld after retrieving the head of their father, the deity Hun Hunahpu.

    Some historians dismiss the Popol Vuh as a contaminated document, containing not only ancient Mayan mythology but also contemporary Spanish Catholic influences. The discovery of the panels establishes key portions of the stories as genuinely Mayan. “We can now extend the authenticity of the creation myth back another 1,000 years,” Hansen says.

    This shows that at least “key portions” of the Popol Vuh are authentic (i.e., show early Mayan beliefs), but it does not link the Maya to Israel (nor does the Popol Vuh, as far as I am aware). You again asserted in your most recent comment that “The members of that society claim in their legend and history to be from the tribes of Israel.” What evidence is there for this statement, beyond the 16th century quotations which have undeniable links to the earlier beliefs of the Europeans?

  167. May 22, 2009 2:56 pm

    Germit,
    All chronology hangs by threads. There is absolute and relative chronology. Absolute means that you can patch a thing into the absolute timeline (via carbon dating, eclipses, dendrochronology,etc.) There are remarkably few absolute dates in ancient history (and some may come from contaminated contexts, further sullying their usefulness). The rest of chronology is relatively (they say that this event happened 4 years after an eclipse, an eclipse could be seen on such and such a date, therefore it must be four years after that date). There are multiple possibilities for multiple absolute events, so we have multiple chronologies.

    The problem with Book of Mormon chronology is that we have a paucity of absolute dates (not a one within the new world). However, there are things which could provide such (I’m thinking of the night without darkness at Christ’s birth). If you (or I) can come up with something that might cause that effect, then we might have something to test. Unfortunately, while I am familiar with attempts to do so, I am not familiar with any that I find particularly credible at this time.

    The problem with Book of Mormon chronology is not that it is mythical (the Bible has loads of mythical dates (at least 40 😉 )). It is that we aren’t sure what to look for and where to look for it. That’s a difference of type, not lack. Our problem is, always, sample.

  168. GERMIT permalink
    May 22, 2009 4:32 pm

    John C: I can appreciate the amounts of uncertainty to BOTH biblical and BofM timelines; for FoF, I can certainly appreciate the uncertainty surrounding DNA and what we can know with any appreciable likelihood. BUt the elephant that continues to walk thru the room is just that there aren’t enough Jewish/Nephite/Lamanite connections to get the ball rolling. There are certainly a few things that correlate to some kind of old world connection. They seem, to me, paltry and just not what I’d expect as remnants of major civilisations. And while there may be a cultural expert here or there who accedes to an old world possibility, the LDS explanation of middle american history and the word “mythical” seem to be the de facto setting for those who make a living out of studying these things. Have I overstated that ?? I mean, do the non-Mormon (and I DON”T mean the religious guys with an ev. axe to grind) experts in the field even give the slightest chance to there being a REAL Nephite or Lamanite origin to the Mayans or any other meso-american population ??

    I’m not saying I know the answer is “NO”, I honestly don’t know the answer to my question. Again: at least with biblical history, we’ve gotten as far as “significant stuff happened here, here, and here…. by peoples and cultures mentioned in the bible” I don’t see where BofM archeology has gotten us anywhere close to this.

    as usual, appreaciate the back and forth
    GERMIT

  169. May 22, 2009 5:14 pm

    For whatever reason, most of the academy (as I understand it) is opposed to the notion of Pre-Columbian old/new world interaction. The saga of Vinland was only adopted as standard history in my own lifetime. So, the status of this is hard to judge. Cyrus Gordon, for example, was open to the possibility, but he is an outlier. The academy, as a whole, does not take the Book of Mormon seriously in any sense, historical, archeological, literary, or religious. Some of that is changing (there are Mormon studies sessions at the biggest conferences), but I am confident in saying that most of the academy thinks that Mormons are crazy/deluded. I am equally confident in saying that most of the academy considers Biblical fundamentalists in the same boat. I think that this is a situation where, in the eyes of the mainstream academy, we are equally disregarded.

  170. GERMIT permalink
    May 22, 2009 6:07 pm

    John C: let me make a warm up observation, then continue; GOD certainly did not get HIS OK from the academy, and then proceed with HIS plans for any part of HIS universe. Mix into this thought that the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and Co. are being listened to, and swayed, by many, so the secular voice has seen a spasm of popularity (not as big, really, as the major media outlets let on, but that’s another story..)

    BUT, EQUALLY discredited…?? No, I think not, again, there are entire departments of major colleges that have a very low view of YEC’s (young earth creationists) , but they still study the peoples , places , and many of the events of the old and new testaments. Methinks thou hast painted with quite a broad brush, my friend. Yes, pehaps, ev’s have made too much of our biblical historicity, but I think you’ve made too little of it. Again, to lump what we do know of biblical times in with the BofM still looks like apples and oranges….or perhaps fruit and pits would be more apt. I will admit that if there is a way to look ridiculous in the academic world, some PART of the evangelical dog and pony show will find it, use it, and praise GOD for being a “fool for Jesus”.

    GERMIT

  171. May 24, 2009 12:43 pm

    Germit,
    Evs look ridiculous to the academy. The Bible itself, less-so. That’s your apples and oranges.

  172. May 24, 2009 12:47 pm

    Actually, that is an overstatement. Evs are a subject of study (as is everything else). My point is that the academy frowns on the insistence of a particular theological approach above all else. They are happy to study the bible, but they don’t insist on there being a Trinity in the Old Testament when there isn’t one. They study it in its original context and attempt to understand it within that context (in saying that, I am not insisting that Mormon approaches are more academic inherently (because I don’t believe that)). So while the academy is more willing to deal with the Bible than with the Book of Mormon historically (see the potential historical context), it treats the theology of evangelicals, catholics, buddhists, and mormons with equal skepticism.

    Does that make sense?

  173. germit permalink
    May 24, 2009 2:33 pm

    JohnC: thanks, I think it does. I was leaning more toward history, culture, anthropology with my point, not so much theology. Of course ANY field of endeavor will see disagreement both within and without the classroom walls, that’s where we humans excel. There is certainly much to be laughed at within evangelicalism, but my point was more along the lines of “what there is to study”, or “how historical is our religion”. In that respect, I just don’t see the two , the bible and the BofM , to be anywhere equal, even roughly so. And for many Mormons, that’s no big deal, and I understand that.

    GERMIT

  174. faithoffathers permalink
    May 26, 2009 5:47 pm

    ChristineN,

    I have been camping with the family. Great fun. Sorry to leave you hanging.

    The recently discovered panel corroborated some of the history of the Popol Vuh. No- it did not specifically corroborate the statements from the Maya about being descendents of Abraham and Jacob. The point is, that the claims which were corroborated had been largely dismissed as being, to some degree, the result of the Spanish influence. This new finding forces archeologists and anthropologists to reassess how much the Maya were influenced in their writings.

    Before this find, they had pretty much, like you, assumed that the Mayan claims had “undeniable links to the earlier beliefs of the Europeans?” My question is- is there evidence for such an assumption? Bottom line is that the Mayan people claimed to have descended from Abraham and Jacob. Well documented legends, present at the earliest arrival of Europeans, claimed the locals originated form groups who had crossed the seas. It is a wave of the hand to simply dismiss these things as having been the result of the Catholic influence.

    What of the whole returning White God issue? No way Cortez would have succeeded in destroying the natives if they had not believed very strongly that he was the white-bearded God returning as promised. Where did that belief and legend come from?

    Jessica started this thread by claiming among other things that there was no archeological or historical evidence for the BOM. I have shown that there are very big correlations in the geography and culteral history of MesoAmerica. She also claimed DNA evidence had proved the BOM false. This, too, is not possible, despite enormous claims from BOM critics.

    So, in face of currently accepted knowledge on the geography, history, and DNA data, the Book of Mormon is plausible. In fact,it is hard to ignore the correlations in the Nephite and MesoAmerican societies and in the geographies. Do you think Joseph had secret knowledge of these things in 1830? The chance of that is extremely small.

    No rebuttals to the stone boxes in Mesoamerica, the writing on gold plates, etc.?

    Could examine other similarities between Mayan religion and LDS religion if interested.

    Haven’t begun talking about the internal evidences as far as linguistics, names, and historical accuracies. But in all these evidences, I find that the end result doesn’t change much in the way of belief. When discussing each line of evidence, critics will maintain that it is possible for Joseph to have been familiar with all the historical, geographic, linguistic, and reilgious data that would otherwise suggest an ancient source for the Book. But such would be an enormous task for even a well educated expert with access to the internet and other helpful sources. Bottom line, there is no evidence that proves that Book of Mormon is not what it claims. And the trend is the loss of validity for claims against the book.

    fof

  175. NChristine permalink
    May 28, 2009 4:28 pm

    Hi FoF,

    You seem to be saying that since the early “histories” of Mesoamerica contain a mixture of native beliefs and European influence, then how do we know that the Israel/Babylon references are not part of the native beliefs instead of the European ones? This is certainly a fair point if that is all the information that we have about those references. However, since the earliest Israel and Babylon statements (by decades) come from the Europeans (see my comment above), doesn’t this swing the probability strongly toward a “European influence” origin?

    And isn’t this probability deepened by the fact that of the only two references you cited of this Mesoamerican belief, one of them has a probable cause for fancifying its history (the Title of the Lords), and the other has a known pattern of fancifying his history (Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxî chitl)? I discussed the purpose for the Title of the Lords in a comment above. Regarding Ixtlilxochitl, while I have been unable to locate your specific quotation, Latin American scholar Benjamin Keen (PhD, Yale University) wrote this of the man’s historical writings:

    The many fictional touches in the Historia [considered Ixtlilxochitl’s best work] suggest Ixtlilxochitl’s reading of Spanish medieval chronicles, romances of chivalry, and pastoral romances. His legend-making propensities flowered in his account of the life of an ancestor of the same name…[recounts a mythical story presented by Ixtlilxochitl as “history”].

    Indeed, one can find multiple sources testifying of this same propensity of Ixtlilxochitl’s. Further, based on biographical information from Wikipedia, Ixtlilxochitl was profoundly influenced by the Spanish. He was a “mestizo,” born several decades after the conquest of Mexico, a convert to Catholicism, the son of a convert to Catholicism, a “distinguished student at the Imperial College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco,” and a governor.

    Are you aware of any other Israel/Babylon connections claimed by early Mesoamericans? If so, could you provide complete source references? If not, doesn’t this seem to be an improbable conclusion based on these two seemingly spurious sources?

  176. NChristine permalink
    May 28, 2009 4:34 pm

    Oops — link for quoted material doesn’t work. Let me try again.

    Benjamin Keen

  177. May 30, 2009 4:15 am

    “And the trend is the loss of validity for claims against the book.”

    FOF,

    I appreciate what you are trying to do here but IMO the above statement vastly ovestates the case and the evidence you cite for The BOM is tenuous at best. Take the White God Quetzalcoatl for example. Have you actually seen the depictions of him? He is also called the “Feathered Serpent” as many depictions of him show him having the head of what almost appears to be a dragon. And this is Jesus?

    As you seem to believe modern science, archeology and anthropology are trending towards validating the BOM I would like to challenge you to something. Can you name one non-LDS Archeologist, Anthropologist or Historian who has admitted the BOM is a document written by an actual race of people who REALLY existed in real time and space? Bear in mind I can name FORMER LDS archeologists who, as a result of years of search in Meso-America have given up their belief in the BOM claim and now count it as nothing more than a work of fiction. Can you name even ONE non-LDS archeologist who is willing to even admit the BOM peoples/lands actually existed/exist?

    Darrell

  178. faithoffathers permalink
    May 30, 2009 12:55 pm

    Darrell,

    Thanks for the post.

    Understand though that in asking a non-LDS scientist such a question is not just asking them a question about archeology or anthropology- you are also asking them a religious question. The two cannot be separated as a result of the means of the book coming about. No non-believer of the BOM is going to consider it possible for it to have been delivered by an angel and translated by the “gift and power of God.”

    No atheist scientist is going to agree that Moses led hundreds of thousands of people through the red sea through miraculous means.

    You are expecting a group of essentially atheist people to accept the miraculous.

    As far as the Feathered Serpent- those depictions are coming from people who are members of a culture with customs, manner of dress, superstitions, and a somewhat self-centered perspective like the rest of us. And when were those depictions created? How long after the visit of that white skinned God? Look at their depictions of themselves- do you think they really looked like that?

    Fundamental to the widely held legend is that a fair skinned God appeared to them anciently and promised to return.

    Thanks,

    fof

    fof

  179. germit permalink
    May 30, 2009 2:10 pm

    FoF: you wrote

    You are expecting a group of essentially atheist people to accept the miraculous.

    not at all, read his question again:
    . Can you name even ONE non-LDS archeologist who is willing to even admit the BOM peoples/lands actually existed/exist?

    We don’t have the bar near that high, that would be unreasonable, the request is that they recognize these peoples, places, cultures even existed. Again, there are MANY who thoroughly discount the miraculous in the bible who would acknowledge that this kind of content is real (biblically).

  180. May 30, 2009 3:03 pm

    I completely agree with Germit. We are not asking for a non-LDS archeologist to agree with the theological claims of the BOM. All we are asking for is for one who is willing to admit the BOM peoples and places actually exist(ed) on planet earth. As Germit pointed out earlier we have whole departments at universities dedicated to the study of The Bible FROM A SECULAR PERSPECTIVE in many cases. The heads of many of these departments wholeheartedly disagree with the theological claims of The Bible (some are atheist) yet they are at least willing to postulate as to it’s historical value. What about the BOM? If science, history, archeology and anthropology are trending towards validating the BOM as FOF insinuates one would expect at least a minor acceptance of it from someone in the secular fields.

    “Fundamental to the widely held legend is that a fair skinned God appeared to them anciently and promised to return.”

    Yes, and this White God is ONE OF MANY GODS they identify and he is depicted as having feathers and the head of a serpent. Leaving that last part out can appear a bit misleading. This Serpent God doesn’t sound like Jesus to me. Again, a tenuous connection at best.

    Darrell

  181. germit permalink
    May 30, 2009 6:37 pm

    If science, history, archeology and anthropology are trending towards validating the BOM as FOF insinuates one would expect at least a minor acceptance of it from someone in the secular fields.

    EXACTLY: OR, show us the evidence that they all are failing to deal with that supports these peoples, places, and events…..no one is served by classing all these experts as “atheists” by the way.

  182. faithoffathers permalink
    May 31, 2009 3:07 am

    Darrell and Germit,

    If the BOM historical claims are true, then the religious claims of the BOM are also true. Can you see this?

    If the Nephites lived somewhere on the American continent, if they travelled from Jerusalem 600 B.C., if they fought wars with the Lamanites as the book describes, If there were cities named Zarahemla, Jershon, and Manti, if Moroni was a real historian, then the miraculous claims of the Book coming forth with the assistance of angels and the power of God are also true. There is no way around this. Would you agree?

    You are right Germit- I should not classify all anthropologists and archeologists as athiest. I should classify non-LDS specialists in these fields non-believers as it relates to the BOM.

    fof

  183. May 31, 2009 3:37 am

    germit, I’ve been meaning to ask you for awhile now if you have a blog of your own.

  184. May 31, 2009 12:09 pm

    FOF,

    “If the BOM historical claims are true, then the religious claims of the BOM are also true.”

    You are still misunderstanding my challenge. I said…

    “Can you name even ONE non-LDS archeologist who is willing to even admit the BOM peoples/lands actually existed/exist?”

    I said nothing about finding a non-LDS archeologist who is willing to accept all of the historical claims of the BOM. Admitting a group of people merely existed does not necessitate accepting the entire history they have written about themselves. For example, most (in fact nearly all) atheist/agnostic scholars, archeologists, anthropologists and historians admit Jesus was a real person and the people who wrote his supposed history in The Bible are real people, yet they are unwilling to accept that he performed miracles and was the actual Messiah.

    So, what about my challenge? Do you know of any non-Mormon archeologists who admit the BOM peoples/places actually existed?

    Darrell

  185. germit permalink
    May 31, 2009 1:46 pm

    FoF: my agreement is somewhere between yours and Darrell’s. An unbelieving (spiritually) but academically sincere scientist could, and perhaps should, agree with BofM history if the evidence start to pile up that it is true. So he, or she, might do this somewhat reluctantly, not “bowing the knee”, but at least giving your HISTORY some kind of head nod. Make sense ?? I agree, though, that if the history bears out, JS status as sent from GOD takes a HUGE step forward…where else could he have gotten it ?? Please notice I’m saying if the history as a collective whole holds together, NOT an isolated correlation here and there.

    Even an imaginative person (Da vinci, Ray Bradberry, Jules Vern) can get some particulars correct out of a creative imagination) So an item here or there that is radically different than the 1800’s basic mindset is, to me, no big deal FACTUALLY.

    Finished reading John Clark’s paper yesterday: all the eggs (for him) seem to be in the Olmec and Mayan baskets. I’ll comment later.

    Enjoy your family and this great spring weekend.
    GERMIT

    PS: clean cut: no, not yet, but I think I would enjoy it, other than moderating those whose claim to truth gives them, in their own eyes, the right to be jerks . this obviously does NOT mean you; and the ones that would annoy me the most would those in my own circle, theologically….but that’s the job of net-nanny, I guess. If I get plans to start a blog, I’ll get ahold ofyou. Blessings.

  186. May 31, 2009 2:10 pm

    Germit–please do!

  187. faithoffathers permalink
    May 31, 2009 9:38 pm

    Germit,

    Your take is fair. I think that scholarly types who are believers in the BOM largely have the task of synthesizing all the archeological, anthropologic, etc. work done by all, be they LDS or not. Of course bias often enters in. What the non believing experts are more likely to concede are small parts of the larger argument such as connections to the near east, transoceanic travel, legitimacy of place name connections in the region, the appropriate role and limitations of DNA data, the timing of big migrations and events, causes of collapse, etc.

    I think that at some point we may find non-LDS researchers who will admit something like “I suppose it is theoretically possible for the historical claims of the BOM to be legitimate.”

    I really don’t expect a non-LDS researcher to say “yep, the Nephites of the BOM lived right over here, etc.” That is simply expecting them to take on so many religious assumptions and conclusions. And this in an area where so much of the history has been wiped out unfortunately, and where so little is know, comparatively speaking. Make sense?

    So, for the time being, we are left with a smaller group of people actually asking the specific questions of whether there are connections between the BOM and MesoAmerica. Those people are largely LDS believers who are basing their claims on their own findings and those of non-LDS researchers. It is tricky getting non-believers to sign on to the whole enchilada as a result of the religious conclusions.

    Make a list of all the scientific objections to the BOM since its original publication. One finds that there is a consistently growing number of those objections that have been shown to be false or invalid as our knowledge grows from all these fields.

    I just got a new book on place names in MesoAmerica and their connections to BOM names. Looks interesting. We’ll see. Believe it or not, I do maintain a degree of the skeptics doubt when looking into such claims.

    Darrell,

    Don’t know how to explain any clearer the reality of the BOM being an all or nothing proposition. I can’t really expect a person to jump on board with only historical truths of the BOM. They simply cannot be separated from the religious.

    Peace mine bruders!

    fof

  188. June 1, 2009 5:26 am

    One of the most insidious diseases afflicting the Christian world today is the desire to objectively prove God and his word by the small-minded intellectual gropings of humankind.

    The way Darrell talks, you’d think you needed to wear a funny hat and black robes and get a silly little diploma to actually declare the Bible true. He seems to actually need affirmation from these people.

    Yet another victim of our pompous and pointless world of diplomas and credentials.

    As if God cared about any of that.

    If you could gaze into heaven but five seconds, you would know more on the subject than all the theological books ever written. We are merely playing around here on earth with trivialities.

    The need for your faith to be validated by such rags as human archeology and history is nothing more than the Evangelical world’s own personal Tower of Babel. An arrogant attempt to force God to reveal himself on OUR own terms, rather than humbly seeking him on HIS terms.

    Judging from the confused babble of conflicting opinions and views I keep hearing from Evangelicaldom on a regular basis, it already seems that God has confounded your language. But apparently few of you are getting the message.

  189. germit permalink
    June 1, 2009 11:53 am

    Seth: academia can be, and has been , all of that for some. But it need not be. All truth is GOD”s truth, the sciences themselves have many christians as their founding fathers and mothers. I’m sure you are aware of that. Somewhere in Psalms it says “the earth is declaring the glory of the LORD….” so even the earth, and the study of it, lifts up HIS glory.. I’m sure BYU has an approach similar to what I wrote above, does it not ??

    Blaise Pascal had a slip of paper sewn into his cloak or top garment. It said “FIRE”, so I’m pretty sure he had a vibrant personal experience of GOD. May GOD give us the same.

    Have a great early summer day.
    GERMIT

  190. June 1, 2009 1:41 pm

    germit,

    Learning is pleasing to God. Mormon scripture clearly states that “the glory of God is intelligence” and to “seek learning out of the best books.” Neither is there anything wrong with a believer taking some satisfaction in discovering Nephite patterns in ancient Maya culture, or pinpointing locations of Bible events. As long as these things aren’t taken too seriously, it’s all good as far as I’m concerned.

    But we’ve gone far beyond mere hunger for light and knowledge here. Darrell and others are pointing to such trivia as, not a supplement for the faithful to enjoy, but the FOUNDATION of faith.

    And this is a poison to religious faith. It’s the same attitude behind the Intelligent Design crowd, the Christian river raft tours in the Grand Canyon that point out flood rings, and even a lot of Holy Land archeological tours. People have become so used to worshiping science instead of God and so heavily bought into the legitimacy of this new god’s priests and prophets that they feel if they are to worship the God of the Bible at all, they must do so with the blessing of the academy.

    I find it sickeningly telling that Darrell seems to consider a PhD to be a more credible title than that of prophet.

    There’s nothing wrong with organizing institutions of higher learning. There is something deeply wrong with raising those institutions to the level of a new priesthood to which we must send all our prayers of approval before God will answer us.

    I get criticized constantly for having my direct relationship with Jesus interfered with by some religious hierarchy in Salt Lake City.

    Criticized by people who are doing the exact same thing with history, science and archeology.

    At least my mediators are theoretically holy men. The same can’t be said for Darrell’s.

  191. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 4:09 pm

    Seth: very good post, thouigh I think the ID statement is too strong and somewhat of a caricature. If anything, I’ve seen more the attitude you’re talking about with YEC’rs (young earthers), and I don’t see IDers throwing the “proof” word around a whole lot. Other than that, I like the post. ARe you sure that Darrell would use the word “foundational” regarding the use of sciences and learning ?? Guess we’ll find out, eh ???

    GERMIT

  192. June 1, 2009 4:16 pm

    I don’t really know for sure how Darrell is on this issue. But he talks about academic evidence enough that it sure sounds like his faith is contingent on it.

  193. June 1, 2009 4:41 pm

    Seth,

    You have a serious misunderstanding of my position as well as that of the “Intelligent Design” crowd as you call them. Those holding PHD’s are our holy men and science is our FOUNDATION for faith? Seriously? Get real Seth. You are doing nothing here but building a straw man and you know it.

    The greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul and MIND”. With your caricature, Seth, you seem to speak disparigingly of those who want to worship God with that last little word he mentions… MIND. I will submit that if you throw ANY of these parts out… heart, soul or mind… then you are not only breaking the greatest commandment but you also setting yourself up to be misled.

    The idea that you need to approach God with your brain tied behind your back it sickening. God has given us our brains for a reason and we can use it to approach Him. We don’t need to set it aside to simply rely on a subjective experience. We have been warned in The Bible that our hearts will deceive us so relying on emotions alone is very dangerous. In addition, let us not forget another wonderful verse in Romans 1 which says “for since the creation of the world, Gods invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood from WHAT HAS BEEN MADE so that men are without excuse.” His creation crys out about Him so why be so afraid of investigating it to approach Him!

    The whole idea of “not being able to approach God with your mind” is a tool that False Prophets have used for years… “you can’t know the truth so you just need to trust ‘so and so’ who ‘speaks for God’.”

    In addition, this is the whole idea behind Post Modernism.. truth is subjective, it can’t be known, all paths lead to God, etc, etc, etc. Besides being complete garbage intellectually, it is dangeous. The playing field has changed. As Christians, if we want to keep our teenageers in the faith we need to arm them intellectually. Heaven knows when they go to college or into the work force they will be approached by those who hold to the post modern world view who will share it as if it is factual. Just look at the likes of Oprah and her little cult. Sickening.

    We need to approach God with ALL our faculties. Afterall, He is the God of EVERYTHING and He created us. Let us worship Him as He commanded… with Heart, Soul and Mind.

    Darrell

    BTW: A great book that talks about this is Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. She does a stupendous job of laying out the problem of compartmentalizing Christianity to a “subjective not provable/factual” type of faith. She makes a great case for bringing it all together as one WHOLE TRUTH as God intended.

  194. June 1, 2009 4:49 pm

    “But he talks about academic evidence enough that it sure sounds like his faith is contingent on it.”

    Truth, if it is really truth will be true no matter where is comes from. You are talking as if there are different truths… one for science and academia and one for God. Science/academia and Religion are both after the same thing… truth. Why would academic truth contradict spiritual truth?

    Darrell

  195. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 4:54 pm

    Darrell: I’m all for THIS

    As Christians, if we want to keep our teenageers in the faith we need to arm them intellectually.

    and J.Budziszewski’s book on “How to Stay Christian in College” is a must read…..BUT I would also stress the limits and boundaries to all academic and rational pursuits of truth. GOD is not irrational , but HE is super-rational, if there is such a word. HE goes beyond the limits of our puny understandings, something that Seth touched on. And there is certainly a mysterious quality to our faith that GOD is in no hurry to remove, so there are limits to how much of GOD we can apprehend with our mere minds. This isn’t a rebuttal to what you said, maybe just a mild balancing thot.

    Like your work,
    GERMIT

    I’m not that fond of post-modernity, but the over stepping of modernity paved the way for it: including the influences of modernity WITHIN the church, and I don’t mean of the liberal theological variety: ev.’s seem to have a penchant for taking a good thing (scholarship) and at times wringing the life out of it. I appreciate the shout out for ID: those guys are misunderstood, in general, seems to me

  196. psychochemiker permalink
    June 1, 2009 5:20 pm

    Seth,
    We all like a little Hugh Nibley channeling now and again, awesome post.

  197. faithoffathers permalink
    June 1, 2009 5:46 pm

    I would agree with Seth that evangelical critics of the BOM place primary importance on their version of the physical proofs- ahead of the spiritual sources of truth when it comes to the BOM. I think things are a little different for them when it comes to the Bible.

    While I recognize the evidences for the BOM (especially linguistic) and think they provide interesting comfirmatory knowledge for some, I also recognize that a person whose testimony of the BOM is based entirely on the physical has a very superficial testimony- based on something other than what God wants us to seek and achieve.

    Darrell,

    Just a little thought. I have seen several people use the verse about loving “God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength” to support the argument that we are to use physical evidences to guide our search for spiritual truth. I think it may be a little stretch. When I think about loving God with my mind, I tend to think he wants my thoughts directed toward Him and not the woman who lives next door- totally different concept.

    fof

  198. June 1, 2009 6:06 pm

    Germit,

    “GOD is not irrational , but HE is super-rational, if there is such a word. HE goes beyond the limits of our puny understandings, something that Seth touched on.”

    I agree with you. God does go beyond our understanding. We will never fully comprehend His nature or His greatness. However, it is vital to point out that we can approach God with our minds because, as you said, He is not irrational. IMO, He won’t say one thing about Himself to a supposed prophet and then utterly contradict Himself in what He tells us in nature. Nature points to Him not away from Him.

    “I’m not that fond of post-modernity, but the over stepping of modernity paved the way for it: including the influences of modernity WITHIN the church, and I don’t mean of the liberal theological variety:…”

    Check out Nancy’s book if you haven’t already. She provided a well thought out, researched analysis for what has led us to this point. In her opinion, it is due to Christian allowing their faith to be confined to a separate realm OUSTIDE OF fields like science. We have, over the past 100 years, allowed those fields to be given totally over to the secular world and the secular world has defined the rules. Rules which RULE OUT God from the very beginning. As a result, we have resigned ourselves to this idea of two types of truth… One Secular (science, acadmia, etc) and another one Spiritual (which can’t be proven). I see this type of thinking in what Seth is expressing. Perhaps I am minunderstanding him but it does appear to be underneath what he is saying. IMO, this is a disaster and we are seeing the fruits of it today. In reality God’s truth is Total Truth and we can approach Him with all our faculties.

    FOF,

    “When I think about loving God with my mind, I tend to think he wants my thoughts directed toward Him and not the woman who lives next door- totally different concept.”

    I can see your interpretation but don’t agree with it. What you are describing, at least to me, would be more along the lines of heart… a “where your heart is there will you be also” type of thing. God gave us our minds so why would He not expect us to use them to approach and worship Him. As I mentioned above, look at the scripture in Romans which talks about all nature crying out about God. I simply do not believe God would tell us one thing through nature which would totally contradict Him spiritually. Although I cannot completely comprehend God’s nature I do believe all His creation will point to Him. Reality is truth and all truth comes from God.

    Darrell

  199. faithoffathers permalink
    June 1, 2009 6:37 pm

    Darrell,

    I see your perspective. But in my experience, the heart follows the mind. In other words, thoughts precede desires, desires precede actions.

    I agree that God expects us to use our minds to the fullest. That is not equal to demanding physical proofs before we will believe eternal truth. I think God greatly augments our intellectual capacities after we recieve the spiritual witness of truth AND live accordingly.

    fof

  200. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 6:54 pm

    Darrell: i am a big nancy Pearcey fan, and have skimmed the book, the parts on ID/evolution I read more carefully and I’m in her ‘camp’. Having said that , it’s a mistake, I think , to arm ourselves and others with the right “facts” and then think we will win the day with better ‘facts”. It’s not quite that simple, though you guys know how much GERMIT loves a good fact or two. I agree with there NOT being two tiers of truth, but there is a reason that the gospel is mostly NARRATIVE. Not because GOD doesn’t care for facts, but because HE wants to reach us on a level that goes much deeper. Facts are handy, and useful, and reflect a GOD of order. But I’m starting to warm up more to narrative, and the power of stuff that may be , not more real, but perhaps more powerful as a truth carrier. Does this make sense ?? Granted: sometimes facts, history , science, can gain an audience that will then appreciate other ways of conveying truth….I think C.S. Lewis himself would fall in this category….and many others.

    You would love J. Budziszewski’s stuff , if you haven’t already seen it. Strong mind, good balance, great heart for missions, esp. college kids.

    let’s go higher, longer, by faith
    GERMIT

  201. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:03 pm

    FoF: the psalm “meek will HE teach in judgment, meel will HE teach HIS way…” came into my mind as I read your post…. I don’t know what PART of us this is exactly, but I’ll throw a vote in for our WILL first, then all the rest follows in no particular order…this seems to make sense of Romans 12:1,2 for me: first we offer OURSELVES (the verse says “bodies” but I think the meaning is ALL OF US), then we see our lives transformed by the renewing of our minds…. this is not just a mental exercise, but our minds are a player.

  202. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:08 pm

    FoF: the psalm “meek will HE teach in judgment, meel will HE teach HIS way…” came into my mind as I read your post…. I don’t know what PART of us this is exactly, but I’ll throw a vote in for our WILL first, then all the rest follows in no particular order…this seems to make sense of Romans 12:1,2 for me: first we offer OURSELVES (the verse says “bodies” but I think the meaning is ALL OF US), then we see our lives transformed by the renewing of our minds…. this is not just a mental exercise, but our minds are a player.

    GERMIT

  203. June 1, 2009 7:18 pm

    “But in my experience, the heart follows the mind. ”

    But what of the Christian (or LDS… they are not exempt from this either) who attend Church, give tithing and by all appearances love God with their heart yet behind the scenes they…

    1. Are pro-abortion
    2. Believe all paths lead to God (check out the survey’s on this. They are startling)

    Etc, etc. etc.

    Our post-modern society is into this idea that the heart and the mind are the same thing. They are not. It is possible to live a double life. Claiming you have given your heart to God yet keeping your mind separate from Him by believing and living a life during the week based upon the post modern junk our society feeds us. I am not necessarily talking about moral issues here it could be just as simple as believing the junk Oprah is spouting right now yet still going to church claiming Jesus is the Messiah. What!!!???

    God specifically said “HEART and MIND” thereby, IMO, defining them as separate things. If one AUTOMATICALLY followed the other why would He lay them out separately? I believe in order to be wholly God’s we have to make sure we are giving Him all three, Heart, Mind and Soul. Again, Truth is truth and God will not tell us one thing in science or academia (if it is TRUE) and then tell another to a supposed prophet (among other things that is why I really have trouble with Mormonism).

    Darrell

  204. June 1, 2009 7:25 pm

    Darrell, is not the “heart” and “mind” a part of our “soul”?

  205. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:28 pm

    on 01 Jun 2009 at 11:57 am Memphis Aggie
    Imonk,
    To All: this is a little off topic, but maybe not that much…from todays Imonk

    In reference to faith, love and works you said:

    “Jesus keeps these things together, and makes the life of a disciple very difficult at times.”

    Your thought carries over into this thread in that we don’t make credible witnesses to Christianity unless are lives are demonstrably changed by Christ. WE are the evidence that atheists are weighing and in that analysis our lives are more important than our words.

    As much as I love strong words, strong messages, strong preaching….what the world is crying out for is a LIVING WITNESS to the truth of the bible… this does not demean biblical truth (or BofM truth for my LDS audience) , but in America especially, we have had a flood of words, and precious few whose lives make a clear case for the cross. I’m preaching to myself, mostly, here….. this is where I think Pearcey, Colson, and Strobel need some balance: I love their work, but only in the context of the life of a disciple, within a community of born again ones that live a radical gospel: otherwise, even the ‘right facts’ will be wood, hay, and stubble… IMO
    GERMIT

  206. June 1, 2009 7:33 pm

    Germit–I like you. Well said.

  207. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:46 pm

    Clean cut: thanks….i’ve never studied this out, but I’m wondering if the MIND, SOUL, HEART, distinctions are really that biblical…yes I know the bible (or at least the translator into english 🙂 ….) used different words, but are the base greek and hebrew words really that different ? Just wondering.. I have a gut feeling that we parse things out a lot more than the jews did… I’m not so sure they saw humans as a collection of this, this, and some of that…. but like I said, I’ve never done the reseach on theat.

  208. June 1, 2009 7:49 pm

    “this does not demean biblical truth (or BofM truth for my LDS audience) , but in America especially, we have had a flood of words, and precious few whose lives make a clear case for the cross.”

    Yet only a life that is grounded in firm Biblical Truth will truly be able to live out a life that makes a clear case for the cross. If you leave the intellectual side out then you cannot be sure you are grounded in Truth.

    “I love their work, but only in the context of the life of a disciple, within a community of born again ones that live a radical gospel: otherwise, even the ‘right facts’ will be wood, hay, and stubble… IMO”

    I love their work for those in the faith AS WELL AS for those outside the faith. Only going after people’s hearts will leave part of the person out (it is not a wholelistic approach) and will leave a large segment of society out. For many, it is not until they are able to overcome the intellectual barriers presented by our post modern, atheistic, naturalistic society that they are able to come to Christ. The works of the great apologists certainly help to do this.

    Darrell

  209. June 1, 2009 8:22 pm

    Bear in mind as well that the apologists are not trying to fill all roles. God has given each of us different spiritual gifts for the building up of His kingdom. Colson, Pearcey, etc are fulfilling their calling from God using their spiritual gifts. They help to bring many people to Christ. However, their information/approach does not work for everyone and is not meant to. You also have your Preachers who are very gifted at sharing messages which touch people’s hearts and help bring people to God. Taken ALL TOGETHER you then have a wholelistic approach. Thus God is using each of us in different ways to help bring people to Him.

    Darrell

  210. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 9:06 pm

    Different ones, expressing different gifts, to edify all towards a saving faith, well said Darrell, and I like the following with a qualifier:

    For many, it is not until they are able to overcome the intellectual barriers presented by our post modern, atheistic, naturalistic society that they are able to come to Christ.

    the qualifier is: I don’t think MOST peoples barrier to Christ is all that intellectual; and along this line, I don’t see the major, in terms of numbers, foe to the faith as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, or Bart Erhmann. Not that they are inconsequential (yes, OPRAH and her german prophet boy-toy make me gag also) but I see the biggest hurdle as the nature of church itself, what the church has become, what we’ve gotten used to as “the life of a disciple”. I know this is kind of a different category, but I’m hoping the next generation can grow up appreciating BOTH Nancy Pearcey and Tim Keller, BOTH an apologist and those trying to lift up a “Jesus shaped spirituality”. Without SEEING a real christian in action, my fear is that we are inoculating our nation against words, even the ‘right’ words.

    GERMIT

  211. June 1, 2009 9:06 pm

    The problem is Darrell, your position, as you have repeatedly advocated it to me, is not one of balance between different aspects.

    I can never have a dialogue with you for five seconds without you hammering away at the empirical proof aspect of faith. It’s become sort of an all-consuming theme whenever you are talking about Mormonism. “If only objective proof of Zarahemla could be found…”

    What I find disturbing is that you appear to be only one Harvard PhD research paper away from jumping back in with Mormonism.

    Talk about selling the birthright for a mess of pottage…

    And I don’t think it’s a straw man at all to say that American Evangelicalism is obsessed with empirically proving God. The ID movement does operate off this premise actually.

    In this sense, they are really no different than Christopher Hitchens. And just as misguided.

  212. June 1, 2009 9:08 pm

    And don’t think for a moment that Mormons don’t have INTELLECTUAL arguments on their side to.

    We do. We just don’t engage in the sort of magical thinking that claims these intellectual proofs are sufficient or even necessary to prove God enough for the individual to exercise faith in Him.

  213. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 9:14 pm

    Seth; you wrote

    American Evangelicalism is obsessed with empirically proving God. The ID movement does operate off this premise actually.

    In this sense, they are really no different than Christopher Hitchens. And just as misguided.

    If you want to believe that the ID folk are misguided, I can live with that (though I disagree) but the comparison to Hitchens is way over the top. The ID position, in a nutshell, is that the universe suggests strongly the presence of intelligence added to the operation of the physical laws as we understand them. Yes. for most of these guys, that ‘intelligence’ would be GOD, but that is not part of the theory, not can it be. The ID position is more nuanced, and much more careful in what it claims than the rant you get from Hitchens. I’m not saying this to win you to ID (not likelly) but your comparison is way off.

    GERMIT

  214. GERMIT permalink
    June 1, 2009 9:22 pm

    Seth: the curious thing is that one second the lds are giving you their BEST intellectual argument (and there ARE some good arguments) and the next second they are saying that the whole enterprise of talking about such an argument is a colossal waste of time….. this ‘love-hate” thing with this kind of apologetic drives me bonkers…. of course I’m glad that there is SOME kind of “love” in there, or we might not be talking at all; for what it’s worth, Im driven bonkers by the cold shoulder that this area gets in my neck of evangelicalism: believe me, precious few know who Nancy Pearcey is and what she’s written, and I get blank stares when I broach most of the modern apologists. For almost everyone, they consider it food for the ‘brainiacs”. What you see in the blggerdom is very, very, thin slice of the ev. pie.

    GERMIT

  215. June 1, 2009 9:57 pm

    My concern germit, is preserving a church that can be true even for the simplest child all the way up to the most learned scholar.

    As for evidence, I don’t mind finding evidence, or debating the finer points of theology. But I think it’s just stupid to think that this sort of stuff is some sort of gate-pass for true belief. There are ignorant Christian mothers in Ethiopia who can’t even read, who have greater faith in God than any of us here.

    I don’t mind apologetics and empirical inquiry as long as we firmly keep in mind that they are inadequate to unmask God.

    Darrell feels like Mormonism is a fraud and has let him down. As a result, it seems he has taken a hyper-empirical approach to religion as a way of ensuring it doesn’t happen again. But it remains a suspicious and misguided approach.

    The Bible is not worthwhile because you can locate Jerusalem on a map. Nor is it validated because you can spot the name Jesus in the writings of Josephus. The Bible is relevant because of the way of looking at the universe and one’s own existence that it presents. Whether you can empirically prove God or Jerusalem exists is completely beside the point.

    This is what the new atheists just don’t get. And apparently, a lot of Evangelicals too.

  216. June 2, 2009 12:06 am

    Seth,

    “The problem is Darrell, your position, as you have repeatedly advocated it to me, is not one of balance between different aspects. I can never have a dialogue with you for five seconds without you hammering away at the empirical proof aspect of faith. It’s become sort of an all-consuming theme whenever you are talking about Mormonism. “If only objective proof of Zarahemla could be found…”

    You obviously don’t know me very well… of course how could you simply based upon a few conversations on line. Check out my blog under the Mormonism category. There are about 20 posts in there right now and only 2 or 3 involve anything remotely close to “emprical evidence” for Christianity or against Mormonism.

    “What I find disturbing is that you appear to be only one Harvard PhD research paper away from jumping back in with Mormonism.”

    Wishful thinking. With everything God has revealed to me in The Bible, the problems I find with LDS History and the relationship I have garnered with Christ since leaving Mormonism, I am about as far from returning to the legalistic bonds of the LDS Church as one can get. The happiness my wife and I have in our home now is immeasurable. We never found that within in Mormonism… it is something God has provided since leaving Mormonism and giving our lives to Him and Him alone.

    “And I don’t think it’s a straw man at all to say that American Evangelicalism is obsessed with empirically proving God.”

    You obviously don’t have much exposure to Evangelicals. Most could care less about “proving God”. It is a straw man and it is uninformed.

    “The ID movement does operate off this premise actually.”

    Quite the caricature and lack of understanding about what the ID movement is about. The ID movement is about nothing more than following the evidences from nature where they naturally will lead. Back to the intelligent power which created them. It has zilch to do with proving the Christian God.

    “My concern germit, is preserving a church that can be true even for the simplest child all the way up to the most learned scholar.”

    And if you think the ID movement or Christian Apologetics in general is preventing Christianity from being this type of religion I don’t know what to tell you other than you are completely uninformed and misguided in your opinion. BTW, you do realize that your church is losing about 70% of it’s kids once they graduate from High School and go on to college. Why do you think that is? Trust me, it is not all because of us in the counter cult movement. When I was in the Bishopric we talked about this.

    “The Bible is not worthwhile because you can locate Jerusalem on a map. Nor is it validated because you can spot the name Jesus in the writings of Josephus.”

    I completely agree. The Bible is not valid simply because we have external evidence to support it. Nevertheless, the internal and external proof we have supporting it is overwhelming. Unfortunately for Mormons the lack of external proof, the internal issues and the scientific evidence AGAINST the BOM is very troubling.

    An interesting question to ponder:

    Why would God provide so much evidence to demonstrate the validity, accuracy and dependability of His word in The Holy Bible yet provide virtually nothing for the BOM? By all appearances it seems God has gone to great lengths to preserve evidence for The Holy Bible. The New Testmanent is BY FAR the number one text from antiquity in manuscript authority. It alone has more than the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th texts in manuscript authority combined. Yet curiously He has done virtually nothing for The BOM. Yes, we can cling to the idea of Horses really being Deer but come on. To me this is a problem. I realize for those who come to the BOM with an a priori assumption that it is true this isn’t a problem. Just something to think about.

    Germit,

    “i’ve never studied this out, but I’m wondering if the MIND, SOUL, HEART, distinctions are really that biblical”

    The word for heart in Greek is KARDIA and denotes feelings and emotions.

    The word for soul in Greek is PSYCHE and denotes breath of life.

    The word for mind in Greek is DIANOIA and deontes reason, mind and manner of thought.

    These are the three words that have been translated in Matthew 22:37-40 and they clearly demonstrate a three pronged approach to approaching God with ALL of oneself.

    Hope that helps!!

    God Bless and have a great night!

    Darrell

  217. June 2, 2009 12:21 am

    I’ve heard that 70% figure from you before. You were asked to back it up then and never did. Doubt you will this time either.

    Where did you get it from?

  218. June 2, 2009 12:29 am

    The Bishop I served under came back from a stake training and shared the figure. Even if the figure is not exactly 70% it is very high. Of course, you can choose not to believe it but if you do le me ask you this, do you have any evidence to show it is false? Look around you in the ward you are in and do some checking on those that graduate from High School. Follow up on them in 3-5 years to see who is still active. I would be willing to bet you 20 bucks you will find about 70% go inactive. Of course you could simply approach SLC to see if they will provide the statistics. Think they will answer you? They are probably about as likely to answer that as they are to tell you how much of a “living allowance” a prophet or apostle gets.

    Darrell

  219. germit permalink
    June 2, 2009 12:53 am

    this is WAY off topic, and I won’t rummage around here much…but SETH: what is strongest thing you’ve read to date from the ID crowd ?? this does not have to devolve into a long evol/ID debate, just wondering what, or who, you’ve been exposed to.

    GERMIT

  220. GERMIT permalink
    June 2, 2009 1:09 pm

    Seth: I was rereading some of this thread, and noticed

    My concern germit, is preserving a church that can be true even for the simplest child all the way up to the most learned scholar.

    what an EXCELLENT goal, and it reminded me of Henri Nouwen, a dutch born catholic priest and scholar who gave up his ivory tower status at Yale to go work at a home for the mentally disadvantaged (at least that’s what we call them). His comments from that community , L’Arche, echo yours exactly. you aren’t a latent catholic are you ?? maybe just dutch …… I appreciate your direction: making all of GOD”s gifts available to as many as possible.

    GERMIT

  221. GERMIT permalink
    June 2, 2009 2:03 pm

    Clean Cut: if you like my quote from IMonk, then i strongly recomment you take in the May 31 article @ internetmonk entitled “What God has joined together: Grace and Discipleship in the teaching of Jesus” It fleshes out the quote unbelievably. thot you’d want to know

  222. June 2, 2009 2:36 pm

    Seth R. I loved your last comment, as well. Definitely resonated with me.

    Germit, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll be sure to check it out.

  223. June 2, 2009 11:37 pm

    By the way Seth, I have a separate comment/question for you. I’d love to get your email or have you email me. (cleancutlds @ gmail.com)

  224. psychochemiker permalink
    June 2, 2009 11:49 pm

    That’s the great thing about anti-Mormons.
    They make a claim, don’t back it up (hear-say is NOT evidence), tell you it’s your job to refute it, and then assume they’re right because you don’t refute it. Amazing.

  225. June 3, 2009 1:37 am

    PC,

    I will freely admit that it is POSSIBLE this statistic is incorrect. The Stake President and/or Bishop could have been sharing inaccurate information. I am simply passing along information that was shared with me from what I consider to be a reliable source. In addition, based upon my time serving in the Bishopric, Early Morning Seminary and the Young Men’s program I believe it is fairly accurate.

    Darrell

  226. June 3, 2009 2:05 am

    For the record, I don’t really care whether the stats are true or not.

    It’s not like Noah had great stats either.

  227. faithoffathers permalink
    June 4, 2009 12:58 am

    In the mood to discuss evidences again-

    How about Nahom? You have all probably heard about the find in Yemen?

    Nephi records that Ishmael, the other father figure in Lehi’s party, died and “was buried in the place which was called Nahom.” (Nephi 16:34).

    From the descriptions of their travels in the text, we know this place would be in ancient Southern Arabia.

    Three alters were discovered at a temple near Marib in modern day Yemen with inscriptions that include the name NiHM.

    The inscriptions say that tells us that Bi’athar, clearly a man of wealth and importance and the grandson of Naw’um, member of the Nihm tribe, donated three altars to the temple. (http://mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=10&num=2&id=255&q=nahom)

    NHM would be interchangable with NiHM. Nahom is very arguably one variation of NHM or NiHM.

    The inscriptions are dated to 600-700 B.C.

    Is this evidence that the BOM claim that a place named Nahom existed in Southern Arabia in 600 B.C.?

    fof

  228. GERMIT permalink
    June 4, 2009 1:33 pm

    FoF: after mulling over your recent posts, and challenge, I’ve come to a conclusion: I really cant’ give you much of an answer (other that off the cuff GERMIT blather) until I:

    1)read the entire Book of Mormon carefully

    2) read at least one, and probably more, decent histories of the Mayans, Olmec, etc.

    Until I do this, it’s really a “he said, she said” scenario between what you, John Clark and others on one side….the “anti-s” on the other….and I can’t really make heads or tails of who is stretching what. Make sense ??

    I’m willing to consider any recommendation on the history, histories.
    Appreciate the patience, blessings on you and yours.
    GERMIT

  229. June 4, 2009 2:40 pm

    #1 would certainly help, Germit, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into #2 in regards to the Book of Mormon. There are multiple Book of Mormon geography theories at this early point in time, that it doesn’t make sense to put too much stock into just one. (And I know of at least one vocal and philosophical Mormon (Blake Ostler) who rejects any Nephite/Mayan connection.

  230. June 4, 2009 2:56 pm

    Clean Cut: hmmmm, that’s interesting; I’m going to put on my ‘psychic hat’ and guess that Blake will say that any kind of connection (to any ancient people) is too much of a stretch to bother with. Well, how close did I get ??

    GERMIT

  231. June 5, 2009 3:06 pm

    It’s not a bad stance to take Germit.

    It’s much better than this self-conscious, self-referential, nattering over “historical Jesus” I keep hearing.

  232. June 5, 2009 4:01 pm

    Seth: well, there certainly are a LOT of historical JESUSES running around the seminary , sure thing. Of course , there are a wide variety of purely spiritual JESUSES also….but this is America, and in SAM WALTON country, we luvs our choices…. similar to the trinity, and the creeds, next to no one is all that hung up on this stuff, typically, when they come to know who JESUS is and become HIS disciple….that usually happens later.

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