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The Automatic Book of Mormon

December 15, 2009
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Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon stands as proof for his prophetic genius. At least, that is what LDS apologist Michael Ash believes. Ash points to factors in the production of the BoM that he implies cannot be explained naturally—for example, the book’s consistency, Smith’s speed of production, and his lack of education. Ash also notes the seemingly supernatural method of translation: Smith peered into a seer stone buried in a hat, with no way to copy an existing text.

But are there any other examples of writing such as Smith’s—examples that could cast light on the method and origin of his works?  At the time Smith was killed in the 1840s, the Spiritualist movement was just reaching its zenith in the United States. Spiritualism emphasized contact with the dead, and among practitioners, automatic writing was a key feature for contact with the spirit world. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines this practice thusly:

[I]n spiritualism, writing produced involuntarily when the subject’s attention is ostensibly directed elsewhere. The phenomenon may occur when the subject is in an alert waking state or in a hypnotic trance, usually during a séance.

But the exact features of automatic writing differ from case to case. In a field of practitioners that included literary giants such as W.B. Yeats, one figure stands especially prominent, and especially notable for her many similarities to Joseph Smith. Pearl Curran gained notoriety in the early 20th century through her automatic writings, which she claimed were actually the words of a deceased 17th-century Puritan woman named Patience Worth. The existence of said Patience was never confirmed, but Pearl’s writings attracted much attention. Consider the parallels between Pearl Curran’s writing and the familiar accounts of the Book of Mormon translation.

  • “Patience Worth,” through Pearl, wrote novels and poems that won acclaim in the literary world, when Pearl’s own education had only reached the 8th grade. Some experts of the time asserted that because of this, Curran herself could not have authored the works.
  • Some also noted that the works bore imprints of an earlier time period, when Patience Worth supposedly lived.  One authority on the English language was amazed at the consistency of the non-contemporary English, which “no mere student could use through hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words without an occasional break into the speech of today.”
  • However, anachronisms were also quickly cited by skeptics, who questioned the ability of “Patience” to write a novel set in the Victorian Age, some 200 years after her supposed existence. Thus, Pearl was accused of fakery by skeptics, lauded as spiritually astute by believers, and regarded as a conundrum by investigators.
  • At first, rather than physically writing the supposed words of Patience, Pearl dictated them to a secretary.  She later wrote them herself.
  • The works appeared to Pearl visually: “When the poems come,” she wrote, “there also appear before my eyes images of each successive symbol, as the words are given me.”
  • Unlike typical automatic writers, Pearl did not enter a trance.  She remained aware of her surroundings and could even be involved in other activities, such as smoking or eating, while dictating the words to her stenographer.
  • Pearl was not previously linked to the Spiritualist movement before her contact with “Patience.”  However, her participation in other occult activity led to contact with the spirit.

In one additional way, Joseph Smith and Pearl Curran were similar:  Both claimed a dead person as their source. Joseph did not specifically claim, as did Pearl, to be channeling a spirit while dictating his translation.  But where did Joseph get the plates?  From the “angel.”  And who was this angel, to whom he spoke in his dark bedroom, just as Pearl spoke with Patience Worth, and as other Spiritualists spoke with other supposed dead spirits?  The Introduction to the BoM makes clear that the “angel” was a dead person—Moroni.

And what of Smith’s speed in writing?  Occult writer L W de Laurence notes this of automatic writing:

“I have seen messages written, not only automatically, but direct….The direct writing was done in an exceedingly short time, two or three hundred words in less time than an expert stenographer could write the same by the most expeditious efforts” (Clairvoyance, Thought Transference, Auto Trance, and Spiritualism, p. 113, emphasis in original).

What looking back at Spiritualism from our vantage point, what do we see? Charlatanism certainly emerges: Prominent mediums later admitted to faking the sound of spirits by tapping with their big toes. But real supernaturalism emerges, too: Several prominent scientists and other intellectuals became converts upon investigation.  Apparently Spiritualism was (and is) a world where naturalism and supernaturalism merge, where fakery and phenomena co-mingle.

But if Joseph Smith shares any similarities with the Spiritualism he seems to so resemble, what type of “supernatural” is that?  Is it of God, or…?  The Scripture specifically prohibits necromancy (communication with the dead), which was integral to Spiritualism.  In fact, the Bible’s most famous necromancer is described as “a woman that hath a familiar spirit”—that is, a demonic spirit.  Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, necromancers and those with “familiar spirits” are lumped in with idols and wizards.  Thus, the “supernatural” of Spiritualism is an evil supernatural.

So what of Joseph’s dictation?  What of his communication with the dead in his bedroom?  What of his claims, like Spiritualist mediums, to direct contact with the spiritual world?  What of the anachronisms that keep LDS apologists busy, co-mingled with supernatural elements that continue to convince some of its supernatural origin?  What of his inexplicable peep-stone method of automatic writing?

And when they shall say unto you,
“Seek unto them that have familiar spirits,
and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter”:
should not a people seek unto their God?
~ Isaiah 8:19

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75 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2009 2:44 pm

    So is this how you explain away the Book of Mormon? Automatic writing?

  2. NChristine permalink
    December 15, 2009 3:12 pm

    Hi Clean Cut,

    I am not attempting to “explain away” anything but rather point out some strong relationships and the ramifications of those relationships. How would you explain the strong affinities between Pearl Curran and Joseph Smith? Or between the speed and characteristics of automatic writing and JS’s method of translation?

    Thanks.

    NChristine

  3. December 15, 2009 4:39 pm

    Easy, perhaps they both had the same gift.

    But that still doesn’t even come close to explaining the Book of Mormon. Curran didn’t come close to producing anything comparable to that book.

  4. December 15, 2009 5:06 pm

    Okay, let me rephrase. Is this how you account for the writing of the Book of Mormon? Through autocratic writing?

  5. faithoffathers permalink
    December 15, 2009 5:24 pm

    NCrhistine,

    Would you consider Christ a necromancer? What of the mount of transfiguration? With whom did Christ speak?

    Who said Moroni was dead? He may have been translated or resurrected.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that Joseph ever had any communication with “the dead” in his translating the BOM. Where does this claim come from?

    You ask “What of his inexplicable peep-stone method?”

    Ever heard of Cornelius Van Dam? He wrote the definitive book on the topic entitled “The Urim and Thummim: A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel.” (Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1997). This non-LDS researcher examined everything available on the subject and essentially corroborated everything Joseph Smith said about the Urim and Thummim. In short, the device or tool was not just an instrument to receive yes or no answers from God. The Urim and Thummim included at least one stone that was said to have shone light with words that appeared and revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and His will. Van Dam provides evidence after evidence that this was the role of the Urim and Thummim.

    I think it is more than interesting that what Joseph and others describe (putting his head in a had) makes perfect sense if one understands anything about the ancient Urim and Thummim (which very few people do, including those critical of Joseph Smith’s method of translating the BOM).

    Critics love to bring this method of translation up, thinking it is embarrasing or exposing an area of sure weakness. Such is absolutely untrue. All of Joseph’s claims about the Urim and Thummim have been justified by this modern work by Van Dam.

    NChristine- do you think spiritualism was the way the BOM was produced? Or was Joseph just super smart? Or did the material originate from Spaulding, or Ethan Smith? Or Sidney Rigdom? I find it revealing that most critics do not have to be consistent in their theory. All of these theories are contradictory to the others, yet many seem to accept more than one of them. Which do you believe?

    fof

  6. December 15, 2009 6:20 pm

    I don’t think anyone in the 1800s – not Spaulding, not Rigdon, not the combined geniuses of the European continent were capable of producing the Book of Mormon.

  7. December 15, 2009 7:10 pm

    That’s an interesting comparison. We have today, a modern-day self-proclaiming prophet within Mormonism, so I’d be interested with maybe talking to Matthew Gill, who claims to have translated the Book of Jeraneck through the angel – Raphael(?)

    Hmmm…

  8. December 15, 2009 11:55 pm

    I really love parts of the BoM . . . like the untampered KJV passages of Isaiah . . . that is the trustworthy voice of God through Isaiah.

  9. NChristine permalink
    December 16, 2009 6:07 am

    Hi Clean Cut,

    perhaps they both had the same gift.

    Are you suggesting that Joseph and Pearl both had a natural gift? Then why follow Joseph as a prophet? Or are you suggesting they had a gift from God? Then why did Curran’s come about (or at least come to the fore) through necromancy and occult activity?

    But that still doesn’t even come close to explaining the Book of Mormon. Curran didn’t come close to producing anything comparable to that book.

    Actually, Curran won literary recognition from literary circles for her novels and poetry. I’m not aware of any such literary attention to the BoM (outside LDS circles). Are you?

  10. NChristine permalink
    December 16, 2009 6:14 am

    FoF,

    Would you consider Christ a necromancer? What of the mount of transfiguration? With whom did Christ speak?

    No, Christ was not a necromancer. Jesus is unique. When He was on earth, He was nevertheless still the God of heaven–and indeed, in heaven. He once referred to Himself as “the Son of Man which is in heaven”—even though He was at that very moment also on earth. When the disciples saw Him on the mount, this heavenly glory was momentarily visible, and He spoke with two of heaven’s inhabitants. Notice that the disciples did not speak with Moses and Elijah but spoke only to Jesus.

    Who said Moroni was dead? He may have been translated or resurrected.

    That would help the matter (re: necromancy), but these options are not possibilities via either biblical teaching or the BoM’s statements about Moroni.

    Let’s look at resurrection, for example. In biblical terms, a resurrected person is one whose body has been raised, and we are told that the resurrection of Christ’s redeemed will happen yet future (Rev. 20:4-6)—not in the 19th century. Even saints such as Paul anticipated that after death, they would still await bodily resurrection (see 2 Cor. 5:8). Moroni could not have been a resurrected individual, for it was not yet the resurrection!

    Let’s say he was just resuscitated, as it appears Lazarus was (rather than resurrected-to-die-no-more, as Christ was, and as His followers will be yet future). If that was the case, then what happened to him afterward, as a living human awaiting death again? And why did he appear with a “light,” “standing in the air,” and ascending/descending between heaven and earth, if he was merely a living human resuscitated?

    Furthermore, even the BoM precludes Moroni from being any form of resurrected person. In Moroni 10:34, we read the assertion that Moroni would be resurrected at the last day:

    And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.

    Taken with its natural implications, this statement conveys that Moroni would remain in a non-resurrected state…

    “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite”

    …until the Second Coming:

    “and I am brought forth triumphant through the air” (see I Thess. 4:17)

    …and the Final Judgment:

    “to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah.”

    Moroni’s statement also rules out that he was a “translated” human (as only Enoch and Elijah were in the entire Bible). If he were, his spirit and body would not have to be “reunited.” Elijah’s spirit and body were never separated—his very body rode in the fiery chariot to heaven!

    The BoM is clear in its assertions that Moroni was a human who lived long before Joseph Smith. It is equally clear in asserting that Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith. Since it is not possible to categorize Moroni—by virtue of his own words—as a resurrected or translated being, than discussion with him by Joseph appears to be necromancy.

    It is perhaps important to point out that the Bible’s discussion of “necromancy” actually centers on “those that have familiar spirits” and “wizards.” Newer translations use the words “mediums” and “spiritists.” In other words, the Bible isn’t really implying that such people actually commune with the spirits of dead humans (though they think they are doing so). Rather, they are just consulting with spirits. Period. And it is clear that those spirits are not good ones.

  11. NChristine permalink
    December 16, 2009 6:19 am

    Oops–sorry, Seth. That comment to Clean Cut above should have been to you. 🙂

    NChristine

  12. December 16, 2009 1:02 pm

    I’m going to play LDS apologist for this one.

    Smith claimed that Moroni was a resurrected being:

    “Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?
    “Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, as a resurected being, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them.” (Smith, Joseph, Jr. et al. [May 2, 1838–1842], “History of the Church, Ms. A–1 [LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City]”, in Jessee, Dean C, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; as cited at Wikipedia

    I’m also pretty sure I recall hearing an account wherein Smith asked to touch Moroni and ascertained that he had a body, but I could be remembering wrong.

    Even if you interpret Moroni 10:34 to mean Moroni expected to be resurrected in the final resurrection, that only states what the living Moroni at the time was expecting. It’s reasonable that he may not have been fully aware of the timing of his own pending resurrection.

    But since Mormons do believe that this dispensation is “the last day,” resurrecting Moroni in the 1800s isn’t all that much of a stretch. And I don’t think the biblical statements on the resurrection present much of a problem for the Mormon paradigm. They’re free to believe this was a special one-time case. They also believe John the Baptist, Peter and James got special resurrections to help with the restoration.

    I do think that the example of Pearl Curran is intriguing. I wouldn’t be so quick to brush her off as not doing anything nearly as impressive as Joseph Smith.

  13. faithoffathers permalink
    December 16, 2009 2:45 pm

    Jack,

    Thanks-that is the honesty I alluded to in the other thread.

    fof

  14. NChristine permalink
    December 16, 2009 4:05 pm

    Hi Jack,

    And I don’t think the biblical statements on the resurrection present much of a problem for the Mormon paradigm. They’re free to believe this was a special one-time case.

    Yes, they are free to believe this…but it is irreconcilable with the New Testament, which gives no wiggle room for a “special one-time case.” Paul gave the order of resurrection like this:

    But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

    Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God….

    The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Cor. 15:20-26).

    From Paul’s explanation, we see that —

    1. Christ was raised first.
    2. The very next to be resurrected are raised at His coming.
    3. This comes right before “the end.”

    The Revelation to the apostle John follows this exact same order (see Rev. 20).

  15. December 16, 2009 4:06 pm

    FoF ~ Thanks. I’ve been a bit cranky and disillusioned with interfaith dialogue lately, but I do try to be honest in assessing critiques of Mormonism and apologetic responses.

    I really did appreciate getting to read your testimony on the other thread. Would like to say more, but I’m too busy this week.

  16. December 16, 2009 4:12 pm

    NChristine ~ I don’t have a lot of time to comment right now. Perhaps I’ll get back to you on it this weekend.

    But since Mormon claims to authority are absolutely dependent on the presence of special resurrected beings, rest assured they will find a way to interpret the Bible to allow for it and are not going to be very bothered by your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:20-26. That doesn’t make your interpretation wrong; it just makes it a bit of a dead-end in terms of arguments that may appeal to your intended audience.

  17. December 16, 2009 5:05 pm

    NChristine,

    You want to know why the “intellectual world” doesn’t pay much heed to the Book of Mormon?

    For the same reason the original twelve apostles were despised.

    Because they think we’re a bunch of delusional idiots and don’t think anything we have to say is worth listening to. Therefore, they – in their pride – despise the things of God.

    Frankly, I’m just completely fed up with this ongoing quest for the “honors of men” to validate matters of faith.

    I don’t care if every last misguided PhD at Harvard thinks we’re raving nutcases.

    They’re wrong. And we’ll see them eat their words in the end.

    So frankly, I don’t give two straws if Curran won a book award. If winning a book award is all it takes for you to acknowledge something being from God, then I’d submit that your bar for spiritual matters is too low.

  18. faithoffathers permalink
    December 16, 2009 7:55 pm

    NChristine,

    “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Matt 27:52-53.

    Christ was first. The first resurrection after Christ was immediately after his resurrection as described in the NT. Moroni being resurrected poses no problem with the Bible.

    Do you have another explanation for the verses in Matthew? Would like to hear it if so.

    fof

  19. The Red Dart permalink
    December 17, 2009 1:02 am

    NChristine,

    What do you make of such passages as Matt. 27:52-53, which states, “The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (NRSV); cf. Ignatius of Antioch’s statement in Mag.9.2 (C. 110 C.E.), “How shall we be able to live apart from [Christ], seeing that even the prophets, being his disciples, were expecting him as their teacher through the Spirit? And for this cause he whom they rightly awaited, when he came, raised them from the dead.”

    TRD

  20. December 17, 2009 4:31 am

    This is interesting… NChristine, I was looking at the blog stats and noticed that you got some referrals from a website called SpiritualismLink (A Forum for Spiritualists and those interested in learning more about the Religion, Philosophy, Science and Truth of the Spiritualist Movement). The Admin linked to your post and then said,

    “Interesting blog and yse [sic] the book was automatic writing by any definition.”

    http://spiritualismlink.forumotion.com/recent-news-and-web-articles-f35/the-automatic-writing-of-the-book-of-the-mormon-t702.htm

  21. faithoffathers permalink
    December 17, 2009 4:36 am

    What makes the BOM “automatic writing by any definition?” How about the book of Revelations?

    fof

  22. NChristine permalink
    December 17, 2009 4:58 am

    Hi FoF and TRD,

    Someone is going to have to clue me in on the signification of variously hued darts. 🙂

    The resurrected saints of Matthew 27 appear to have been resurrected before Christ rather than after (at the time of his death). Thus, they aren’t part of Paul’s timeline in I Corinthians 15. I don’t know whether they died again (one theory) or ascended with Christ (another theory) or what happened. But in order to posit Moroni as a resurrected being, there is a series of hurdles that can cause one to lose the forest for the trees. I Corinthians 15 seems to be against it. But maybe we can squeeze past that – maybe Matthew 27 could somehow help? Moroni 10:34 seems to be against it. But maybe Moroni was confused about his future? Revelation 20 is against it. But maybe….

    But those are just the trees. What about the forest?

    1848, Upstate New York — The Fox sisters claim to have communicated with the spirit of one Charles Rosma, died 5 years previous (existence never verified).

    1869, Glasgow, Scotland — David Duguid imparts discourses on the life story of a Persian prince named Hafed – complete with a journey with the Magi to see baby Jesus.

    1872, England — Florence Cook claims to have seen and spoken with Katie King, the spirit of Annie Owen Morgan, died in the 17th century (existence never verified, to my knowledge).

    Countless spirit communications were claimed during this time period – whether famous dead people (such as Shakespeare) or unheard-of individuals of the past.

    Many of the prominent mediums and clairvoyants of the 19th century had little education, and this was touted. (Examples include Edgar Cayce, Andrew Jackson Davis, Cora L. V. Tappan, and J. J. Morse.) Furthermore, their ability to discourse or write above their natural ability or educational level was often publicized. In one 1906 comprehensive treatment of the subject, author Frank Podmore described the somewhat lofty discourse given by an entranced Cora Tappan on the problems with Darwinian theory. [Like Curran, not all Spiritualists became entranced.] Podmore then noted one odd feature: “the characteristic defect of the automatic utterance – a redundancy of words for words’ sake.” This is worthy of note, given the reaction of some first-time readers to the Book of Mormon that it contains what seems to them a surprising redundancy of words and phrases.

  23. NChristine permalink
    December 17, 2009 5:13 am

    Hi Seth,

    If winning a book award is all it takes for you to acknowledge something being from God, then I’d submit that your bar for spiritual matters is too low.

    I agree. I think you misunderstood me, Seth. 🙂 I was not suggesting that praise from experts constitutes approval from God. And I was definitely not suggesting that Curran had approval from God.

    You were blowing off the similarities between Smith and Curran by saying that his product was far above hers. I was merely pointing out that wasn’t a legitimate contention. 🙂

    NChristine

  24. December 17, 2009 5:32 am

    Sure it is.

    The Book of Mormon is far superior to her work in its complexity, internal consistency and the ambitious nature of the content. I don’t think Curran would have been capable of such a work. Nor do I think any person of that day – Joseph included would have been capable of writing that book barring divine intervention of some sort.

    Scholarly accolade from that time period is irrelevant to this claim.

  25. The Red Dart permalink
    December 17, 2009 6:41 am

    NChristine,

    You said: “The resurrected saints of Matthew 27 appear to have been resurrected before Christ rather than after (at the time of his death). Thus, they aren’t part of Paul’s timeline in I Corinthians 15.”

    I think your exegesis is rather tortured. “Resurrected before Christ?” Wasn’t Christ the “firstfruits,” as you (well actually, Paul) said earlier? And doesn’t verse 53 of Matt. 27 specificly state after(Gr.meta) Christ’s resurrection anyway? Moreover, it seems apparent that these verses aren’t in chronological order with the rest of the account in Matthew if you continue reading. At any rate, I think it is certainly incorrect to suggest that these holy ones were resurrected before Christ, and I think if my reading of the passage is correct, then your so-called timeline in Paul is just a rough guide at best (providing one even feels the necessity to harmonize them in the first place), and there could certainly be exceptions if God so desired–and I honestly doubt (although this is just my opinion) that Paul himself would think he was making a hard-and-fast statement that God couldn’t step around if he so wished.

    I think it is also interesting that before you were saying, “it [Moroni’s being resurrected] is irreconcilable with the New Testament, which gives no wiggle room for a “special one-time case”” to now saying “I Corinthians 15 seems to be against it,” your use of maybes notwithstanding. And I always find it interesting/amusing when people use the Apocalypse to make specific chronologies and definite time-lines. At any rate, I think you are a long ways away from offering a convincing argument to LDS Christians that God couldn’t have resurrected Moroni if he so wished.

    Best,

    TRD

  26. The Red Dart permalink
    December 17, 2009 6:48 am

    I forgot to add as well that it is worth mentioning that Paul perceived of the parousia and return of Christ in glory as being an rather imminent event, perhaps (probably?) even to occur in his own lifetime. I think that is also significant for evaluating Paul’s eschatological claims.

    TRD

  27. Stephanie permalink
    December 17, 2009 2:53 pm

    I don’t think it is possible that Moroni was a resurrected being. Surely Joseph’s five brothers who shared a bedroom with him would have also seen Moroni. LDS pictures always depict Joseph in his bedroom alone with Moroni. But the reality was that he shared a very small bedroom with his five brothers. There were two beds. Joseph was communicating verbally (one would think, audibly) with a resurrected being and nobody else in the room was aware?

    For pictures of a replica of Joseph Smith’s house and the extreme close proximity of the quarters click here.

  28. December 17, 2009 3:24 pm

    Actually, some of the artwork has depicted Joseph Smith’s brothers in the room. Here for example.

  29. The Red Dart permalink
    December 17, 2009 3:31 pm

    I have been in the room. But surely if Jesus as a resurrected being could travel at extraordinary speeds, keep his identity hidden as he wished, and go into locked rooms without using doors or windows, one could imagine Moroni as a resurrected being visiting Joseph without his brothers waking up or noticing. How small is your god Stephanie?

    TRD

  30. December 17, 2009 5:09 pm

    Stephanie, that really is a self-defeating statement to make.

    I’m sure you didn’t intend this, but may I just tell you… in the few years I’ve debated with Evangelicals, I’ve sometimes gotten the distinct impression that they don’t believe in miracles at all. This is because they are often so dismissive of the possibility of anything miraculous in the Mormon story.

    Is this really the message you want to send?

  31. December 17, 2009 11:37 pm

    TRD, I have been in that room, too.

    Seth, we love the miraculous working God. I enjoyed what Mark Hall (of Casting Crowns fame) wrote in his book, Your Own Jesus (2009):

    “It’s easy to assume that if Jesus ever stood before us in the flesh, we’d have the spiritual sensibility to recognize him for who he is and surrender to him. But I know myself. I’d act just like the rich young ruler, who saw Jesus in person. And I have something he never had – God’s perfect and proven Word. Yet I still don’t always recognize Jesus as Lord over my whole life. It all comes down to the tension between the god we want and the God who is. The god we want fills our belly; the God who is fills us with the Holy Spirit. The god we want is happy in the middle; the God who is reigns from on high. The god we want looks a lot like us; the God who is wants us to be a reflection of him. The god we want shows up in comfortable nonverses that we assume are in the Bible but really aren’t. God helps those who help themselves. God blesses the rich so they can bless others. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. These “verses” describe the god we wish we had, rather than the God who is. What will the real God do? He’ll put us out in the middle of a sea and tell us to walk on it. He’ll place us before a giant with a rock and a sling. He’ll allow a tornado or cancer or a heart attack or a foreclosure or a job loss or a death to come our way. He will give us more than we can handle just to show us that only he can handle things. When I’m not in his Word, hungering after my own Jesus, I don’t understand the God who is. Instead, I assume that God looks the way I want him to look and uses my kind of logic” (p. 87, his emphasis).

    Nice encouragement for teens today.

  32. Stephanie permalink
    December 18, 2009 1:52 am

    I’m sure you didn’t intend this, but may I just tell you… in the few years I’ve debated with Evangelicals, I’ve sometimes gotten the distinct impression that they don’t believe in miracles at all.

    Its funny that you mention this, Seth, because I was thinking about this on my way to work this morning. I know someone who saw angels. She was outside walking with her husband at the time and he didn’t see them. She didn’t tell anyone about the experience for about one year. The angels didn’t say anything or do anything and it was such a momentary flash that she saw them for just a blink or two and then they were gone. Her description was very vivid and she is an otherwise completely trustworthy person who is not known to lie or tell stories. I have no reason to believe that what she witnessed was not a true miracle of God given to her at a time in her life when she was experiencing a great amount of pressure, stress and discouragement.

    I have never known Christians to not believe in miracles. I have had many experiences in my own life where I have realized that nothing but the hand of God protected me — both spiritually and physically. When a person has a history of deception their stories should be held somewhat suspect. Joseph Smith lied on multiple occasions about his own practice of polygamy. What should compel me to believe this story but not his other stories?

    This is because they are often so dismissive of the possibility of anything miraculous in the Mormon story.

    But I noticed you were extremely dismissive of Pearl Curran and her story. Why aren’t you a believer in spiritualism?

  33. NChristine permalink
    December 18, 2009 6:48 am

    Hi TRD,

    “Resurrected before Christ?” Wasn’t Christ the “firstfruits,” as you (well actually, Paul) said earlier? And doesn’t verse 53 of Matt. 27 specificly state after(Gr.meta) Christ’s resurrection anyway?

    There are so many things we don’t know about this passage. We don’t know, for example…

    — whether these saints were truly resurrected, or only raised, as Lazarus was
    — whether they were raised before Christ and came out of the graves afterward, or were raised afterward
    — what, if they were truly resurrected, happened to them (Some contend, citing Eph. 4:8-10, that they went with Christ to heaven. We certainly see no idea that they could still be around giving messages to people on earth.)

    We do know that these saints were not part of the church. When Paul says that “they that are Christ’s” will be the next to be raised at His coming, this Pauline phrase refers to New Testament believers. Thus, if the saints in Matthew were eternally resurrected after Christ (I agree the text could allow for this), Paul’s “timeline” for the next resurrection still stands. Any church-age believer in Christ will be raised at the Second Coming, not in the 4th or 5th century AD.

    As I stated previously, I feel that this discussion has turned to the trees and ignored the forest. “Moroni” appeared in a similar fashion to all the other 19th century spirit appearances (or claimed appearances) in the U.S. and England. I used to laugh at a dear friend who would go through boyfriends or potential boyfriends relatively frequently (or so it seemed to me). When she was in the lovestruck “getting-to-know-you” stage, she would glowingly tell me the same things she told me about the last one. When I looked doubtful, she would protest, “But this one is different!” That is the way the Moroni appearance seems to me. So many of the facets of Joseph’s life and story – the visions / appearances, the writings, his characteristics, his activities, his teachings, his beliefs – are so similar to other persons who have had experiences with supernatural realities (not good ones). Most particularly, his experiences are reminiscent of the supernatural fascinations of his time period.

  34. December 18, 2009 7:41 am

    I wasn’t dismissive of Curran.

    What gave you that idea?

  35. Stephanie permalink
    December 18, 2009 11:25 am

    Seth, the reason I felt that you dismissed Curran is that you have not (I presume) read any of her works, and yet you have placed the Book of Mormon as completely out of her range of ability. How do you know that she didn’t have more spiritual insight than Joseph Smith? It seems to me that you are judgmental of me for not having faith enough to believe in miracles (i.e., the Book of Mormon). But on the other hand you but don’t seem to take any ownership of your own lack of believe in miracles (i.e., spiritualism) based upon the work of Pearl Curran. You mentioned earlier that perhaps they had the same gift. If that is true that would mean that the god of Joseph Smith would have to be the god of Pearl Curran and other spiritualists. Is this the position that you take? If so, how do you justify the biblical injunctions to not engage in witchcraft and the occult?

  36. December 18, 2009 2:32 pm

    Stephanie, one doesn’t have to be well versed in Curran’s work to be fairly confident that she didn’t produce anything of the scope of the Book of Mormon.

    And note that I said that no one in that century (or any century) was capable of writing the Book of Mormon on their own lights alone. Including Joseph Smith.

    I acknowledged that she may have had bona fide spiritual gifts. But you can’t produce something like the Book of Mormon without divine intervention.

    The end.

    To be honest, I have no idea what you’re getting at. My comments have been pretty consistent here.

  37. December 18, 2009 2:35 pm

    Maybe you are simply equating spiritual gifts with revelation.

    I wasn’t.

    Revelation is one of the spiritual gifts. It is not synonymous with the other gifts that Curran and Joseph Smith possibly had. Just having a gift doesn’t make you qualified to write scripture.

  38. The Red Dart permalink
    December 18, 2009 2:49 pm

    NChristine,

    You would have made a great matristic interpreter. I always find interpretations based largely on eisegetical harmonistic hermeneutical methods in order to fit one’s preconceived views or opinions very interesting, because they usually reveal much more about the author than they do about the text. And I wonder…what sorts of card games were they playing with each other for the three days they were waiting for Christ’s resurrection. Or maybe they were playing twister.

    At any rate, just don’t expect LDS Christians to be very persuaded, just as you aren’t very persuaded when they bring their own theoretical interpretational possibilities to a text.

    And I find your last paragraph regarding Moroni’s appearance very interesting, because it is quite analogous to what I hear when I read historical Jesus books.

    Best,

    TRD

  39. December 18, 2009 3:13 pm

    Okay, now this is getting silly.

    You’re willing to believe that the Christian women walking with her husband saw angels while her husband did not see them. At the same time, you don’t believe Joseph Smith could have seen an angel because his brothers didn’t see the angel as well? And that women has never told a lie in her life, unlike Joseph Smith? All of this does, indeed, seem hypocritical.

    But the whole discussion is increasingly pointless to me anyway. Continue on…

  40. December 18, 2009 9:30 pm

    Yeah, these things do tend to devolve into circular firing squads, don’t they?

  41. Stephanie permalink
    December 18, 2009 9:58 pm

    You’re willing to believe that the Christian women walking with her husband saw angels while her husband did not see them. At the same time, you don’t believe Joseph Smith could have seen an angel because his brothers didn’t see the angel as well? And that women has never told a lie in her life, unlike Joseph Smith? All of this does, indeed, seem hypocritical.

    Clean Cut,

    I mentioned the story about the woman for several reasons. First, Seth had postulated that perhaps Evangelicals don’t believe in miracles, and I wanted to assure him that was not true. Second, I do believe that it is possible for one person to see an angel (i.e., the woman or Joseph Smith) and not for everyone in the room to see the angel(s). Balaam and his donkey comes to mind. 🙂 Third, I believe that a person’s credibility is critically important to our belief in their story.

    I do have a question for LDS regarding this matter. What sort of evidence would a committed Latter-day Saint need in order to call into question the Book of Mormon? I know that not all LDS have as strong a testimony of the book as others, but I wonder if there is some threshold that people reach which tips them over the edge to disbelief. Sometimes I get the impression from LDS bloggers that there is no threshold, but perhaps I’m misreading or misunderstanding. TRD, you mention presuppositions. It appears that LDS on this blog come to the table with the conviction that the BoM is “true” and no amount of discussion would persuade them otherwise. In that way, I suppose, the conversation is somewhat pointless.

  42. The Red Dart permalink
    December 18, 2009 10:41 pm

    Stephanie,

    I think you might find Blake Ostler’s article on the BofM intriguing:

    http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=16228&CISOSHOW=16115

    I think this is an fascinating attempt at dealing with a scriptural text critically, yet faithfully. I, along with Blake, Kevin Barney, and a number of other faithful LDS Christians, use critical methods for interpreting both the Bible and the BofM. I would turn the question back around to you and other conservative Evangelical Christians who are critical of Mormonism, however, because in my conversations with such persons it seems they utilize such critical methodologies except when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

    And I am glad that you (seem to have) conceded that your opinion that “I don’t think it is possible that Moroni was a resurrected being” based on the fact that his brothers did not also see him when he appeared to Joseph Smith is, from a traditional Christian theistic standpoint, rather inconsistent and self-contradictory. I didn’t understand why you made such a comment in the first place.

    Best,

    TRD

  43. Stephanie permalink
    December 18, 2009 11:21 pm

    I, along with Blake, Kevin Barney, and a number of other faithful LDS Christians, use critical methods for interpreting both the Bible and the BofM.

    This certainly does look like an interesting article. I’m very busy this afternoon (which is why I’m blogging, of course) but will look it over this weekend when I get the chance. I’m familiar with Biblical criticism but I don’t understand how that works with the BoM. Don’t you need original texts in order to use a critical method?

    And I am glad that you (seem to have) conceded that your opinion that “I don’t think it is possible that Moroni was a resurrected being” based on the fact that his brothers did not also see him when he appeared to Joseph Smith is, from a traditional Christian theistic standpoint, rather inconsistent and self-contradictory. I didn’t understand why you made such a comment in the first place.

    The mere appearance of an angel / resurrected being / spiritual entity is not a problem if there were brothers in the room. Joseph could certainly have been awake and seen a being in his room. I definitely agree that this is possible. However, it seems a little bit of a stretch to think that he could have spoken to this being without his brothers waking up.

  44. The Red Dart permalink
    December 18, 2009 11:28 pm

    Stephanie,

    You said: “However, it seems a little bit of a stretch to think that he could have spoken to this being without his brothers waking up.” And yet talking donkey’s pose no problem for you? Hmm…I would bet that God could keep his brothers from waking up if he wanted.

    As for biblical criticism, there are a number of methods, not all of which require “original texts” (actually, we have no “original” texts, just really old copies)–e.g., form criticism or source criticism.

    Best,

    TRD

  45. Stephanie permalink
    December 18, 2009 11:55 pm

    I know we don’t have originals–I guess I could have said early manuscripts. 🙂 So, I’m assuming that the practice you are describing with the BoM would be “form criticism.” Essentially you would analyze each passage and make a determination about its inspiration based upon factors like consistency, context, stuff like that? Am I close? 🙂

  46. The Red Dart permalink
    December 19, 2009 12:23 am

    Nope. I don’t think any form of literary or historical-critical inquiry can determine “inspiration”–that’s a faith claim, not something that can be proven on scholarly grounds. What source criticism or form criticism might show, however, is that the BofM is composed of multiple sources/authored by a number of distinct personalities or that a certain tradition or tradition complex fits better in an ancient (or modern) context, respectively. But such methods ultimately stop short of “proof” that something is “inspired.” It’s about determining provenance, not inspiration.

    And almost every historical-critical hermeneutical method utilizes “factors like consistency, context,” etc. You are right that Blake talks about form criticism at some length, however.

    Best,

    TRD

  47. Stephanie permalink
    December 19, 2009 12:25 am

    Thats very interesting. I’m going to have to research that further. Thanks for the links and info.

    Stephanie

  48. The Red Dart permalink
    December 19, 2009 12:33 am

    If you want an introduction to literary and historical-critical methodologies and their application to biblical texts, I recommend this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Each-Its-Own-Meaning-Introduction/dp/0664257844/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261182605&sr=8-1

    It provides a chapter in historiography, and then each chapter proceeds to describe a critical method, its history, its problems, and then uses the method on a specific text either from Genesis or Luke-Acts. The chapters are written by modern scholars who utilize the methods in their own research. Some chapters are admittedly better than others, but I recommend it because it is specifically written as an introduction with application for the non-specialist.

    Best,

    TRD

  49. December 19, 2009 12:51 am

    Stephanie, I’m a bit disappointed in this statement:

    “What sort of evidence would a committed Latter-day Saint need in order to call into question the Book of Mormon?”

    You seem to be forgetting your purpose here.

    Your purpose is not to simply refute what you find false in Mormonism, but to advocate for what you find good in your faith.

    What’s the point of undermining a Mormon’s faith if all you are doing is making an atheist out of them?

    Most of the ex-Mormons I encounter online go atheist. Because they realize that the attacks on their own faith, with a little tweaking, apply equally to Christian belief in general.

    So, not good enough Stephanie. You need to be asking what it would take to leave Mormonism and STILL remain Christian. Anything less than this is irresponsible behavior.

  50. December 19, 2009 1:17 am

    Your purpose is not to simply refute what you find false in Mormonism, but to advocate for what you find good in your faith.

    I don’t mean to answer for Stephanie (and I’m sure she’ll have more to say on this when she has time), but I happen to know her and I know her heart for Mormons. She is very much concerned with how to help a Mormon convert from Mormonism to Christ. But do you really think that every single comment or question geared toward questioning the Mormon paradigm has to be interlaced with why Christianity is true? That would make for rather cumbersome blogging. One of the things we have tried to do on this blog is to vary the posts between “questioning Mormonism” and “affirming the truth of the Bible/Christ.” So, this post happens to be geared toward questioning Mormonism.

  51. December 19, 2009 3:29 am

    Well, it would help you avoid making arguments that damage Christianity just as much as Mormonism. Because a lot of things Evangelicals assume are sufficient to discredit the Book of Mormon are also sufficient to discredit the Bible

  52. December 19, 2009 5:02 am

    I guess I would need a specific example, Seth. They are in such a different category in my mind that I am having trouble seeing the connection. The Bible=over forty authors over a period of 1500 years, so much manuscript evidence that scholars have more than they know what to do with and this results in different opinions on which texts are closest to the original, getting us into different camps with those who prefer the Majority Text vs. critical, etc. with even Bart Ehrman acknowledging that we can “reconstruct the oldest form of the words of the New Testament with reasonable (though not 100 percent) accuracy,” recovering “the oldest and earliest stage of the manuscript tradition for each of the books of the New Testament” (as quoted in Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus by Timothy Paul Jones, p.54-55).

    I guess I would need to understand the connection between making the arguments such as have been made on this thread and how that relates to the manuscript evidence for the Bible. The two books were composed so differently and by such different means.

  53. The Red Dart permalink
    December 19, 2009 2:03 pm

    Jessica,

    I think Seth is talking about higher, not lower criticism.

    TRD

  54. December 19, 2009 3:14 pm

    Note that I don’t think that either book can be discredited. It’s more that the same mindset that concludes the Book of Mormon to be a fraud is quite likely to bring the Bible in for similar treatment.

    Once the seeds of skepticism, doubt and suspicion have been planted, they tend to get away from you and poison a lot of other things you didn’t intend.

  55. NChristine permalink
    December 19, 2009 5:41 pm

    Hi TRD,

    Re: eisegesis and Twister jokes – With the way my heinously hectic week has gone, you could tell me I had said the sky is orange, and I might not be surprised. 🙂

    Nevertheless, I believe the New Testament as a whole and I Corinthians 15 in particular speak plainly on the timing of Christian resurrection, and this in turn impacts what we make of Joseph Smith’s claimed spiritual experiences. I Corinthians 15 says of the resurrection, “every man in his own order” [i.e., a series or succession—as in military troops]. There is a particular orderly arrangement, or “rank and file,” to the resurrection. What type of “order” is this? Consider the words that collectively assure us Paul is speaking of chronological order:

    But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Cor. 15:23-26).

    This passage by itself argues very strongly for a specific chronology to the resurrection: The resurrection of Christians will be at His coming. But this is not the only passage that teaches a Second Coming resurrection of the righteous. Jesus teaches it (John 5). Paul teaches it in numerous passages, saying that the resurrection / translation of believers will happen at the last trump. Paul and John agree that living Christians’ bodies will be glorified when Christ appears (Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:3, I John 3:2). Paul specifies that when the Lord shall descend, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Paul even speaks against those who “erred” by teaching that “the resurrection is past already.” Multiple New Testament characters and authors teach that there is a specific chronology to the resurrection of the dead, and that the chronology begins at the return of Christ.

    Had Moroni truly been a historical person, and had he truly belonged to the true Christ, then his resurrection would have happened at the Second Coming. As it stands, Joseph’s Moroni account strongly resembles Pearl Curran’s, Florence Cook’s, and so on – for their spirit contacts also had bodily appearances.

    And I find your last paragraph regarding Moroni’s appearance very interesting, because it is quite analogous to what I hear when I read historical Jesus books.

    Yes, that is ever popular. It’s interesting that the accounts of supposed “Jesus look-alikes” post-date Christianity, and I would be glad to discuss that sometime on a different thread. 🙂 But on this topic, the “Joseph Smith look-alikes” are contemporary accounts with no likelihood of being influenced by Mormonism. Would you agree with me that there are similarities between Joseph’s accounts and other 19th and 20th century claims to spiritual revelations and direct contact with the spiritual world? Is there justification for ignoring the latter and accepting the former?

    Also, you suggested Paul’s eschatology is suspect because his language showed a hope of the imminent return of Christ…though he never predicted he would live till the return of Christ, and said he was ready to live or die (Phil. 2). What of Moroni’s (alleged) specific prediction of his Second-Coming resurrection? Are you suggesting that he was incorrect about that? If so, then would not consistency dictate that we call Moroni into question more than you did Paul?

    Is there really reasonable justification for considering Moroni a resurrected being – despite clear NT teaching on the timing of Christian resurrection, despite explicit Book of Mormon statements, and despite the fact that communicating with similar beings has been a common human experience (and one the Bible forbids)?

    NChristine

  56. December 19, 2009 5:43 pm

    Ah – thank you for the clarification, TRD. That helps a lot.

    And to be perfectly honest, Seth, this is actually one of the reasons that I prefer to emphasize my view that I believe there are real spiritual realities behind the Book of Mormon. The problem is this is so offensive that it can shut down communication. So I think sometimes we emphasize the humanistic explanations and, as you point out, that can take one’s mindset down the wrong road toward humanistic rationalism that also can be dismissive of the Bible. The truth is, I have experienced so many spiritual experiences in my life (both good and evil) that I have a hard time going down that road. It’s more helpful, in my opinion, to recognize the fact that there are both good and evil spiritual beings and then to consider whether we can both be on the same spiritual side when we are at odds. So I think it’s more helpful to consider that either we are deceived and there really was a great apostasy wherein the gospel was lost (and things like Handel’s Messiah are preaching the incomplete gospel of the 1700s) or vice versa.

  57. The Red Dart permalink
    December 19, 2009 6:20 pm

    NChristine,

    Well, I hope it was twister. I personally would prefer Twister and Doritos & Sprite to poker any day–providing the company is good, that is.

    My disagreements remain. I think your view has already been shattered by the passage in Matthew referred to above (that is, if you want to read Paul and Matthew harmonistically, which it seems that you do), your eisegetical gymnastics notwithstanding. Honestly, I think you would be better served in analyzing Matt. 27:52-53 in light of New Testament and Early Christian traditions concerning Jesus’ descent to hell, rather than generating eisegetical theoretical hermeneutical hypotheses to sustain your tendentious preconceived reading of the text, but you can take that for what it’s worth. I would recommend Rescue for the Dead by Jeffrey Trumbower if you are really interested in looking into New Testament and Early Christian understandings of salvation for the dead, Jesus’ descent to hell, universal salvation, and other related issues, in their ancient (interrelated) contexts.

    And I don’t believe LDS Christians would dispute with you an order to the resurrection time line: they have their unique own texts, in additional to the biblical texts, that confirm such a (general) time line. What you think is indisputable I claim is disputable.

    And your comments re: the historical Jesus perplex me. What historical Jesus books have you actually read? I’d like to know.

    But I will answer your question anyway: Yes, there are obviously parallels. Anyone who has read Bushman wouldn’t even have posed your first question. Are there also differences? Yes.

    And I didn’t know the Bible forbids speaking with angels!

    Best,

    TRD

  58. December 19, 2009 8:01 pm

    TRD,

    I have read your comments with interest but I fail to understand the how Matt 27:52-53 presents the possibility of Moroni being specifically resurrected apart from the general resurrection to take place with the second advent of Christ. Read in its context Matt 27:52-53 is expressly connected to the historical death and resurrection of Jesus. This is a one time event without a parallel that I am aware of, in the Bible. It seems that the natural reading of this text in its redemptive historical context does not support the bodily raising of others after and apart from this unique instance and its direct relation to Christ’s resurrection.

  59. TRD permalink
    December 19, 2009 8:17 pm

    Hey Gundeck,

    It does undermine, however, the idea (again, if one is to posit that Matthew and Paul must be read harmonistically) that Paul is providing an unbreakable, rigid time line that God can not circumvent if he so chooses, as Paul mentions nothing about this event. Maybe Paul was simply unaware of Matthew’s tradition about the resurrection of bygone worthies at the time after Jesus’ resurrection. But, then, what else might he not have fully perceived or known about these things (especially given that he seems to have expected, incorrectly, that the return of Jesus’ was a rather imminent event)? I suppose my point is merely that God could do what he wants in these matters when he wants–including resurrecting someone from a later age if he so deemed it appropriate. Maybe this was one of those “one time event[s] without parallel,” although I am not saying that specifically (I don’t claim to know everything that God is up to). All I am suggesting is that NChristine’s proof text is not proof at all.

    Best,

    TRD

  60. December 20, 2009 1:51 am

    TRD,

    Thank you for the positive reply. If we keep Matt 27:52, 53 in its redemptive historical context there is no reason to apply an external harmony to Matthew and Paul (1 Cor 15:20-25) or speculate about a divided Christian community where Paul would have been unaware of the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ. The miracle where “saints which slept arose…” occurs as a testimony to the perfection of the resurrection to come where all those “in Christ shall all be made alive.” There is nothing in this passage to make us believe that this event would take place again apart from the Christ. Matthew describes a miraculous revelation associated with the resurrection of Christ. Paul teaches the normative eschatological process. The question that we need to ask is, “should we question claims a revelation that has a falling out with Paul’s normative eschatological prophesies?” In answering this question I come up with 3 observations.

    (1)Now far be it from me to deny the sovereignty of God and tie His hands by saying that He “must” act in a certain way, but revelation by a “resurrected person of flesh and bones” is simply not the normative mode of revelation in redemptive history.

    (2)Far from denying that God could reveal His will in this method, I have to ask why He would work in a way conflicting with the normative process of resurrection that was taught by Paul.

    (3)Understanding the necessity of this form of revelation in Mormon theology and its unique form of authority claims makes me wonder if this form of revelation has less to do with the sovereignty of God than it does with Joseph Smith’s version of a 19th century American restorationist movements.

  61. December 20, 2009 4:04 pm

    Gundeck,

    I don’t have time now to reply at length, but let me simply observe that a Mormon Christian could easily agree with your statement, “Paul teaches the normative eschatological process,” and still believe that God could make exceptions if he so wished.

    TRD

  62. December 20, 2009 8:22 pm

    TRD,

    Again thank you for the positive comment.

    You are correct, the Mormon is always free to explain away the conflict between Joseph Smith’s ecclesiology and the Apostle Paul’s eschatology as being within the sovereign power of God. I am not sure that this will prove a particularly satisfying explanation, having two normative doctrines in direct contravention, but it certainly cannot be helped by using Matt 27:52, 53 as a proof text. Matt 27:52, 53 is inextricably linked to the Messiah and His resurrection (Isa 26:19; Dan 12:2; Ezek 37:12; Hos 13:14; Zech 14:4-5) to use this passage outside of its historical context is further then the text can go.

    Geerhardus Vos comments in Biblical Theology, “In the long run that system will hold the field which can be proven to have grown organically from the main stem of revelation, and to be interwoven with the very fiber of Biblical Religion.”

  63. The Red Dart permalink
    December 20, 2009 9:25 pm

    Gundeck,

    There are so many obvious contradictions in the Bible, between the Bible and common Evangelical theology, and between the Bible and science/archaeology, etc., that I have a hard time taking Evangelical criticisms of Mormonism that attempt to show disagreements between the two (i.e., the Bible and Mormonism) seriously. I think the account in Matthew clearly undermines NChristine’s argument which I why I originally brought it up.

    As for Paul’s account in 1 Cor. 15 on its own terms, I will get back to you later when I have more time.

    Best,

    TRD

  64. December 20, 2009 10:41 pm

    TRD,

    Once again thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    I am sure that in your opinion there are “obvious contradictions” between the Bible and evangelical theology, otherwise I assume you would be an evangelical. Far from believing that I have all of the answers, I acknowledge the unknowns, mysteries and perceived contradictions of revelation as my failures and not the word of God. I am also sure that you believe that Matt 27:52, 53 “undermines NChristine’s argument”. I am just pointing out that to conclude that this text in any way supports the prospect of special resurrection(s) taking place apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ appears to be an “eisegetical theoretical hermeneutical hypotheses” built exclusively to read the New Testament and Smith “harmonistically”.

  65. The Red Dart permalink
    December 21, 2009 1:13 am

    Gundeck,

    All I am suggesting is that Matt. 27 undermines NChristine’s use of 1 Cor. 15. Whether or not God resurrected Moroni I consider a matter of faith.

    TRD

  66. NChristine permalink
    December 21, 2009 2:22 am

    TRD,

    Interesting discussion between you and Gundek; I had question to add. In order to posit a substantive “exception” to the New Testament’s “normative eschatological process,” don’t we need reasonable evidence that such an exception has actually occurred? What evidence is there that this is an exception? For example, can you establish that these resurrections were not to normal, mortal bodies (a view suggested by prominent resurrection scholar Gary Habermas)? Or can you verify that this is not an event inextricably linked with the “firstfruits” event of Christ’s own resurrection, as Gundek stated?

    It seems as though you are trying to present something that can’t be proven (namely, that Matthew 27 is a demonstrable exception to the normative process) as proof of something else (that there is therefore a precedent for diversions from the normative process).

    NChristine

  67. The Red Dart permalink
    December 21, 2009 3:12 am

    NChristine,

    Where does Paul mention in 1 Cor. 15 that there was a resurrection of past worthies as part of Jesus’ resurrection? Where does it say that they were part of the firstfruits there? It said Christ was the firstfruits–where does it mention others?

    In contrast to what you think I am trying to do, all I have attempted to show (as I said before) is that your unflinchingly rigid reading of 1 Cor. isn’t consistent with the passage in Matthew. That simple.

    TRD

  68. NChristine permalink
    December 21, 2009 4:15 am

    TRD,

    Thanks for the explanatory response. I did not intend to communicate that the resurrections themselves were part of the “firstfruits.” Rather I was communicating the idea that they were uniquely tied to Christ’s resurrection.

    I notice you didn’t answer my questions; I’m going to give them one more shot. 🙂 To clarify, can it be demonstrated that these events were not inextricably linked with Christ’s death and resurrection? If not, then how can you be certain Matthew 27 can serve as precedent for anything outside the death/resurrection of Christ? Note that the context lists several supernatural events that occurred: the temple veil being torn, the rocks quaking and earth rent, and bodies of saints rising. Can you imagine, given the NT’s use of sacrificial imagery, that the veil-ripping would ever be repeated in another scenario? This event is heavy with theological significance, and so are the resurrections. Does not the context lead us to understand that both stunning occurrences were part of a unique event?

    Likewise, can it be shown that these people were raised to immortality? What in the context would demonstrate this was resurrection to immortal bodies and not merely a raising to mortal ones? If this cannot be proven one way or the other, then how can Matthew 27 be relied upon as a certain “exception” to the “normative process” of not only I Cor. 15 but also John 5, Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:3, I John 3:2, I Thess. 4, etc., etc.?

    Thanks.

    NChristine

  69. The Red Dart permalink
    December 21, 2009 4:34 am

    NChristine,

    I don’t doubt that the resurrection of these “saints” in Matthew were tied to the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t remember ever claiming otherwise.

    My point, again, is that “your unflinchingly rigid reading of 1 Cor. [15] isn’t consistent with the passage in Matthew.” Again, where does Paul mention their resurrection in 1 Cor. 15?

    If you think these holy ones were merely raised from their death just to die yet again, then you can believe that if you wish (although, in my opinion, it doesn’t seem to be a very persuasive sign of Christ’s eternal power over death; was Christ was just going to die again too?). However, don’t be surprised when scholars, ancient Christians, and other modern Christians, including Mormon Christians, disagree with your idiosyncratic reading, and contend rather that this passage is underscoring early Christian conceptions of what Christian resurrection means.

    Best,

    TRD

  70. NChristine permalink
    December 21, 2009 5:24 am

    Hi again, TRD.

    your unflinchingly rigid reading of 1 Cor. [15]

    I guess it seems to me that the rigid interpretation (of Matt. 27) is yours. 🙂 Your position requires to you take a position the text does not require. It requires you to decide when (in relation to Christ) these saints were raised; the text can be read in different ways. It requires you to decide what nature of resurrection this was, though the text does not say. It also requires you to say that this was not a unique, one-time event, though here the context actually points to the opposite (e.g., the never-to-be-repeated veil-tearing). I guess it seems as though there could be many interpretations to this short little passage, but you hold to all the ones that could just possibly provide some sort of cover for Joseph Smith — and you even say it is proof of an exception to Paul, John, Jesus, et al. Isn’t that kind of rigid? 🙂

  71. The Red Dart permalink
    December 21, 2009 12:43 pm

    NChristine,

    Thanks for (not) answering my questions, and for attributing positions to me that I never took. And your homiletic interpretations are utterly fascinating!

    I suppose then we shall disagree and there is no further progress that can be made. You have offered as your saving interpretation of Matt. 27 (in relation to your unflinchingly rigid view of 1 Cor. 15) that these persons were not actually resurrected. Yet, this passage is set in the context of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The very point of the passage is a demonstration of God’s redeeming activity and power over death in Jesus and Jesus’ resurrection. The passage literally says that they came out of their tombs after Jesus’ resurrection, as well. The language involved mimics that used for Jesus’ resurrection (note, for instance, the verb used for their raising, and the word used for Jesus’ resurrection), and it also echoes Ezk. 37:12-13, a passage traditionally associated in later times with physical resurrection (although the original meaning of Ezekiel is not about physical resurrection). Their raising, as you have pointed out and I agreed above, is intimately tied with Jesus’ resurrection. Your interpretation clashes with numerous indications in the text–contextual, thematic, linguistic, literary, etc.–and the history of its interpretation. My point again is that you have not offered a reading of the text or of 1 Cor. that is going to prove to Mormon Christians that God could not resurrect Moroni if he so chose, because it is inconsistent with the passage in Matthew.

    TRD

  72. NChristine permalink
    December 22, 2009 4:50 am

    Hi TRD,

    Thanks for (not) answering my questions, and for attributing positions to me that I never took. I am very sorry – I know internet communication with someone you don’t know is just ripe for misunderstanding. I certainly wasn’t intending to put words in your mouth and am not sure what you’re referring to exactly; if you feel like clarifying, please do.

    You have offered as your saving interpretation of Matt. 27 (in relation to your unflinchingly rigid view of 1 Cor. 15) that these persons were not actually resurrected. Honestly, in relation to the three points I listed in the previous comment (the order of events, the nature of the resurrection, and the repeatability of the event), I don’t feel that I have taken – or even ought to take – a definite position on any of them. I guess I don’t feel comfortable doing so given such little data to work with! My reason for bringing them up was to note that in order for Matt. 27 to be a legitimate alternative and / or exception to Paul’s / Jesus’ / John’s eschatological framework, then all three of those points have to be interpreted in one way. It’s sort of like a slot machine (which I have no experience in so will probably botch this analogy): All three variables have to line up just right in order for the passage to be a genuine alternative or exception to the “normative process.”

    Regarding your responses to the “when” and the “what nature of resurrection,” I think you make good arguments – I really do. But there is a diversity of opinion on both these points – probably because there’s not enough data in two little verses for certainty on either topic. And I think given the close linking to Jesus’ death and resurrection (which you described), it would be quite difficult to infer from the passage that this event could be repeatable in a context outside Jesus’ resurrection. A repeat resurrection would seem to defy the point of the passage as much as a repeat veil-tearing.

    I suppose then we shall disagree and there is no further progress that can be made.

    Not a problem. Feel free to respond if you wish or leave it for another time if you wish. If I don’t talk with you again before Christmas, Merry Christmas to you!

    Sincerely,

    NChristine

  73. December 22, 2009 5:13 am

    Well TRD, at least she responded to you.

    Usually when you post, it seems like everyone is too intimidated to respond.

  74. The Red Dart permalink
    December 22, 2009 6:02 am

    NChristine,

    Merry Christmas!

    Seth,

    I am sure I come off much gruffer than I really am. If only y’all had the blessing of seeing me on facebook you’d really see my true self [grin]! Just ask Jack.

    TRD

  75. December 22, 2009 7:33 pm

    I wasn’t really thinking “gruff.”

    I was thinking more in the “oh snap, that was utterly over my head” sense.

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