Me & Mormons — Part 7

After hearing President Hinckley speak we set up an appointment with Scott, his wife, Elder A and Elder P. It turned out that is was a really good thing that we invested time in getting to know each other on a personal level because our first discussion was not a positive one.

As I had mentioned before, in preparation for meeting with the missionaries I decided it would be a good idea to read the Book of Mormon in its entirety. The missionaries knew I had finished reading it and I think our discussion generally went down hill when they asked me what I thought of it. My impressions of the Book of Mormon were not positive ones. I can’t remember exactly all of the details of how our conversation went but I do remember what I initially thought of the Book of Mormon. So this should give you a flavor for our discussion. (I should also make it clear that the amount of anti-Mormon literature I had read at this point was quite minimal)

I didn’t really encounter anything all that controversial or profoundly new in the Book of Mormon as far as general themes and teachings. It seemed to me to be a generally benign religious tome that didn’t advocate sacrificing babies, drinking goat’s blood or wearing funny underwear. It talked quite a bit about Christ and I’m overall interested in anything anybody has to say about Jesus. There were large portions of Bible repeated word for word throughout. I certainly didn’t mind rereading the Sermon on the Mount in a different context. As I remember the only major things that stood out to me that were practically different from my own faith was that baby baptisms were wrong as well as being a pastor for hire.

I found it to be a terribly difficult book to read. It seemed that some one was trying desperately hard to copy the style of the King James Bible but without any understanding of the grammar that makes it readable and beautiful. I’ve grown up reading just enough of the KJV to know how to understand its lexicon so it wasn’t the genre of the writing that made it difficult as much as how poorly it was executed. The frequent use and misuse of “and it came to pass” seemed like a dead give away that it was someone’s favorite filler that enhanced the Old English feel of the passages. Poor writing is by no means a sin but the Book of Mormon lacked the cohesive readability I’ve come to expect in translations of scripture.

What caught my attention and my objection was that the Book of Mormon claimed to be an actual historical account. Through out the account I came across numerous things that were historically anachronistic for the New World. My wife had been a missionary in Peru and while we were dating I visited her several times. In my travels I began to learn quite a bit about Incan civilization. The Incans were by far the most advanced native people in the New World but according to Book of Mormon the Lamanites and Nephites seemed to have surpassed them by ages. Yet we have no record of them. Their cities and weapons can’t be found nor can we even see their neighboring tribes borrowing their advanced technology from them. (in case anyone wants to clarify it to me, I know that the events of Mormon did not take place in Peru but more than likely in the MesoAmerican area. But comparing the Incans to the Mayans, the Incans were more advanced and the Nephites were more advanced still)

I also found mention of plants and animals that I knew were not part of the American continents until the Spainards arrived. Yet, here they were being actively used by active groups of people only to disappear before the Europeans arrived and leave no historical record behind.

What I believe really sealed my conclusion that the Book of Mormon was in no way a historical account of anything was something Jesus was said to have stated. I read 3rd Nephi 19:4

And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah—now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen—and it came to pass that they went forth and stood in the midst of the multitude.

There was my name, Timothy, in the pages of the Book of Mormon. There’s nothing unusual or novel about me reading my own name in scripture. But of all the names in the Book of Mormon, Timothy, is the one I know something about. The people who came to the New World and were the ancestors of the Lamanites and Nephites were Jewish. Timothy is a Greek name. The Bible takes the time to make sure we know that Timothy was half Jewish and half Greek. Jews who fled Israel before the time of Alexander the Great would not have been naming their children with a Greek name for several hundred years in isolation from Hellenization. They probably wouldn’t have known the name much less used it. I strongly remember stopping and thinking “TIMOTHY! There shouldn’t be any Timothys in this story.”

The other thing that caught me wrong about the Book of Mormon account was the collapse of Christianity. It went against everything I’ve been taught and seen in practice. Whenever Christianity is opposed and persecuted it flourishes. Even today it’s generally agreed that Christianity would not be doing as well as it is in China without Communist oppression. More often than not it flourishes at the center of the place it’s being oppressed. Christians have a remarkable ability to convert their captors. But in the Book of Mormon, the true practicing Christians are rather easily wiped out. That just flies in the face of what I know of Christianity and what God promises (the gates of Hell will NOT prevail against it).

So that summed up a rather contentious discussion. It wasn’t a fight by any means, but it wasn’t a love fest either. I believe we ended the evening all feeling frustrated. I had to walk everyone out of our gated apartment complex. Scott’s wife pretty much disappeared as soon as we opened our front door I’m not sure where she went. As we reached the gate Scott pulled me aside and asked me what was going on. He was so sure that he had seen the Spirit in my wife and I and he couldn’t understand why we seemed to be rejecting their message. I responded that I was interested in investigating any truth claims made by anyone but that I just wasn’t seeing truth here.

Scott said we would talk more but he asked me to take it easy on the missionaries. He said that they were young, didn’t know too much and that I should just let them go through their discussion materials. (I found that ironic given the conversation Scott and I had about people delivering their religious scripts rather than having a conversation). It turned out that the Elder A and Elder P were much more resilient than Scott and would not be easily dissuaded from visiting my home. . . .

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97 thoughts on “Me & Mormons — Part 7

  1. Actually, the phrase “and it came to pass” has been found to be extremely common in the Maya language. The Maya term, “iual ut” literally means “and then it came to pass.” And the term, “utiy” means “it had come to pass.” According to Professor Michael D. Coe, in “Breaking the Maya Code” a good example of this is Stela 3 at Piedras Negras, which uses the term 4 times in 51 glyphs.

    I’m not sure what “advanced technology” you are talking about that is asserted by the Book of Mormon that was not also present in the Inca, Maya and Aztec societies. Perhaps you could clarify?

  2. If you read the last part of the Book of Mormon again I think that you will notice that the so called Nephites at the time of their destruction had become more wicked and hardened than the so called Lamanites. They were for the most part no longer really “Christians”, Mormon and Moroni being among the few exceptions.

  3. actually, the phrase “and it came to pass” has been found to be extremely common in the Maya language.

    Well I think we’re pretty much all under the agreement that the Book of Mormon is supposed to be a Jewish writing not Mayan. “And it came to pass” is also a phrase found quite often in the Old Testatment. None of that takes away from the fact that it’s overused and misused in the Book of Mormon. Check out “The New Mormon Challenge” for a more detailed critique.

    I’m not sure what “advanced technology” you are talking about that is asserted by the Book of Mormon that was not also present in the Inca, Maya and Aztec societies. Perhaps you could clarify?

    Yes, yes, I know. “Steel” doesn’t mean steel, “coins” don’t mean coins, “horses” don’t mean horses, “wives” don’t mean wives, “translate” doesn’t mean translate and there are definitely NO speeches delivered by George Washington found in the Book of Mormon. I’ll get to FAIR in my next installment.

    Paul,
    That doesn’t any better answer what I’ve come to believe that the community of true believers known as “the church” will not have the gates of Hell prevail against it.

  4. Tim said: “And it came to pass” is also a phrase found quite often in the Old Testatment. None of that takes away from the fact that it’s overused and misused in the Book of Mormon.

    I don’t know about misused, but I won’t disagree that it’s overused, at least to my ears. Maybe that’s why the Spanish version of the BoM uses at least three different ways of translating the phrase — not quite so boring that way. And in some languages, the phrase is sometimes replaced by an asterisk.

    And for what it’s worth, I wasn’t all that enamored with the Book of Mormon until I had to teach it. I have since found it to be surprisingly complex with some great insights. I still prefer the Gospels, the letters of Paul and the Psalms for my personal worship, however, partly because I can read them in my native language (21st-century English).

  5. Hello Timothy,

    I’m not sure if I am the one to help you with this. I am more of a Folklorest than an archeologist. I think the thing that struck you in the Book of mormon… The name Timothy. It is not the stance of the church but my humble opinion that the name you are questioning is possibily not timothy but possibally a hynomom of timothy. Not sure, and I have no proof but it could be possible. Anyway good luck anf God Speed with yopur search for truth.

    I would suggest some time when you can take your time and not be under a deadline you might enjoy the book better. The reason it does not say anything profound that is not in other scripture is that the gosple is the same, and the heart of the message in the gosple is about Jesus Christ. I hope you recieve that important message, if you join the LDS Church or not.

    Also the myans and incas do not seem less advanced than the Peoples in the Book of Mormon to me. The myans wer practicing brain sugery before spaniards arrived.

    Again Borther, God speed you on your search for truth.

  6. Tim, they weren’t “Jewish.” Secondly, the point wasn’t to make an affirmative statement that Mayan was the language used or not. It’s a likely neighboring culture though and the existence of linguistic parallels is quite relevant from a standpoint of placing the Book of Mormon in the region both archaeologically and linguistically.

    “Yes, yes, I know. “Steel” doesn’t mean steel, “coins” don’t mean coins, “horses” don’t mean horses, “wives” don’t mean wives, “translate” doesn’t mean translate and there are definitely NO speeches delivered by George Washington found in the Book of Mormon. I’ll get to FAIR in my next installment.”

    Actually, steel may or may not have meant an iron-carbon composite. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it mention large-scale steel industry. Neither does it ever say that the Nephite army used steel weapons. It just doesn’t say that. What you do have is a reference to a small number of steel items. From an archeologist’s point of view, it is hardly surprising that no steel implements have been found. Such finds are extremely rare, especially if use of steel was unusual to begin with. Archaeologists were extremely lucky to discover King Tut’s tomb (reigned 1333 BC – 1322 BC) for example. When they did find it in the 20th century, the tomb showed evidence of having been robbed on at least a couple different occasions. Among the lucky finds, was a – wait for it – STEEL ceremonial dagger which carbon-dated to the period of his rule. Steel. Despite being well before the “Iron Age,” and despite an utter lack of any evidence that such weapons were in wide use.

    So it’s entirely possible that the BoM meant exactly what we think it’s saying.

    Incidentally, the word “steel” itself is actually used in the Bible well before any record of steel being in use. Am I supposed to believe that the Bible is also discredited due to its use of the word “steel?” Or am I allowed to make a few reasonable linguistic allowances? Such as the fact that the word “steel” actually PRE-DATES carbon-iron composite metals in recorded history? Such as the fact that the word simply meant “something rigid and hard” in the old tongue? Am I allowed to do that for the Bible?

    Then why not the Book of Mormon?

    As for horses, there have been caves (Lol Tun Caves) discovered in Yucatan Mexico containing Mayan artifacts with horse bones. In the past, such bones were usually discarded by archaeologists on the assumption that it “must be” site contamination. Yet the bones were discovered at about the right geologic levels. Besides, horse bones have been discovered in the upper midwest, USA, and radio carbon dated to about the time of Christ. There have also been other horse remains carbon dated to Pre-Columbian, yet post-Book of Mormon time.

    Essentially, the generally accepted wisdom that horses did not exist until the Spaniards sailed to the New World is being called into serious question by recent findings, and honestly, I don’t think that particular theory is going to survive. It is currently VERY possible that there were horses in the New World exactly when the BoM says there were.

    As for the grains you mentioned, it was previously believed that barley did not exist in the Pre-Columbian Americas. But actually an archaeological dig near Phoenix Arizona discovered Pre-Columbian barley from the Hohokum Culture (300 BC – 1000 AD). They also found Pre-Columbian barley in Indian cultures in Illinois and Oklahoma. Which suggests that we ought to withhold judgment on the other grains mentioned. In the acidic soil, and heavy rainfalls of central America, a lot of plant evidence tends to disappear. You may never find evidence of these plants, but that isn’t even close to saying they didn’t exist. In fact, archaeologists and biologists almost NEVER find ANY evidence of Pre-Columbian plant life AT ALL. The stuff is extremely fragile and little of it survives intact.

    Incidentally, advanced cement slab-work has also been discovered in Maya and Aztec buildings as well. So, at this point, I’m having a hard time thinking of any particular piece of technology that the Nephites or Lamanites are reputed to have had that the Maya, Inca, and Aztecs did not also have.

    Look, it’s not our fault that the counter-cultists aren’t keeping up with the latest research, and keep recycling discredited arguments like they’re gospel-truth.

  7. Oh, one more thing. The words “coins” and “coinage” are not in the Book of Mormon text. All it speaks of is “weights and measures.” So to say that the Book of Mormon even uses the word “coin” is actually just flat-out untrue.

  8. “Poor writing is by no means a sin but the Book of Mormon lacked the cohesive readability I’ve come to expect in translations of scripture.”

    I’m certainly glad that poor writing is not a sin, otherwise the Book of Mormon would be a wicked book indeed, particulary the first edition. 19th century farm-boy grammar jumps out at you page after page (things like “we was”). And yet, somehow this strengthens my admiration for the book. Modern translations of the Bible have been done by lingusitic experts with advanced degrees and over the course of years. The KJV was translated by nearly 50 scholars over the course of 7 years. The Book of Mormon was produced in a much shorter space of time by a young man and his few associates, only one of whom had much formal education (Oliver Cowdery). The Book of Mormon has a raw quality to it that appeals to me. None of this matters if it doesn’t resonate with you, and I understand that, but to expect the same kind of readability from the Book of Moron as you get in the Bible is not really fair (no allusion to any apologetic sites intended).

    As for the name Timothy and other anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, I whole-heartedly buy into this warning on the title page of the book: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Chirst.” Whenever I come across something jarring in the Book of Mormon, or the Bible for that matter, these words come to my mind.

  9. Seth, I’m really not going to get into it with you. The two of us debating archeology is more pointless than debating doctrine. The main point of the post was not to discredit your belief in the Book of Mormon but to state why it didn’t resonate as a historical document with me.

    But I am glad that we agree, the historical truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is a relevant matter in a discusson on faith.

    BJH, I agree that it being poorly written would make a lot of sense given Joseph’s education. I think that explains a lot about the Book of Abraham. But the picture we get of Joseph translating the Book of Mormon (at least large parts of it) seems to be that he was dictating word by word and at times letter by letter via the seer stone. I think it’s a difficult problem for LDS to overcome: how directly influenced was Joseph by God as he translated the Book of Mormon? In my experience LDS scholars run to either side of the camp when a problem is presented.

  10. Well, if you’re going to bring up the points, you can expect a response. I’m fine with not pursuing that line of debate.

    The word-for-word picture of Joseph translating is only one picture among many that you might validly embrace.

    To respond to the noted lack of original doctrine – this misses the main point of the Book of Mormon. The primary purpose of the book was never to raise original doctrine. The point of the book is to stand as a corroborating witness of the Bible and of Christ’s divinity. The mission of the Book of Mormon is actually to vindicate the Bible and establish that God will speak to more than an isolated ethnic group in Palestine. The prophesies of the Book of Mormon speak of additional records coming forth from other “lost tribes” of Israel from all corners of the earth – adding their own voices in a UNIFIED testimony.

    The power of the Book of Mormon is not in its unique doctrines, nor is it in its prose (which I think you are actually unfairly minimizing, by the way). The power of the book is in its GRAND NARRATIVE of humanity. The Book of Mormon presents a unique divine vision for the destiny of our world. It takes the biblical narrative, and casts it, writ-large, upon the entire earth.

    The Book of Mormon is primarily a resounding shout that the voice of God is unto ALL people, and not just to the Jews. That is the central point of the book. You limited yourself too much to the small scale and missed the forest for the trees. Mormonism is not just a theology. It is a destiny. And that is what we have to offer and what the Book of Mormon has to offer.

  11. My personal belief is that Joseph was very directly influenced by God in the translation of the Book of Mormon inasmuch as he produced an incredible and sacred (albeit grammatically awkward) work that has influenced millions for good. And yet the Lord allowed Joseph to translate the words in his (Joseph’s) own voice.

    The prophetic word sounds different when coming from different prophets. Take, for example, any of the major or minor prophets from the Hebrew Bible who all speak for God, but do so in their own ways grammatically, semantically, etc. For Latter-day Saints it happens that the Lord told Joseph that “this generation shall have my word through you,” and that’s whether we like Joseph’s literary style or not. I have no doubt there were a lot of Israelites who preferred Isaiah’s elaborate poetical style over Amos’ more straight forward shepherd language, and vice versa. Both uttered “Thus saith the Lord,” but the words that followed were very different.

    This leads me to another thought, and it may be that I have read the Book of Mormon so often that I’m convinced of something that isn’t really there, but one of the most profound literary qualities of the Book of Mormon to me are the distinct voices in it. As a fun game I have, at times, had people read random sentences or phrases from the Book of Mormon and I am able to identify the author just from the “voice” of the words. This has led me to imagine that I could, given the time and means, produce a wonderful paper on source criticism and the Book of Mormon: How this modern methodology validates the claim of multiple authors (i.e. Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Mormon, Moroni) of the book.

    But I seeeeeriously digress. 🙂

  12. Tim, I think you have every right to not believe the Book of Mormon. I’m not interested, as it sounds like you aren’t, in debating the details of historical evidence for the Book of Mormon. There are plenty of places to do that and it’s been done many times over, and frankly I’m not an expert in that area. My purpose of commenting here is not to try to convince you, but I noticed that you didn’t mention a key point that the missionaries I’m sure brought up with you, and I’m guessing with all of your study of Mormonism you are familiar with Moroni 10:3-5.

    Hypothetically, if you found the Book of Mormon to be completely plausible historically (with names consistent with the location and time), and found Mormonism to be consistent with your view of how things should be (such as regarding the issue of apostasy and ward boundaries, for example), would you then accept Mormonism as the true church? I hope not, and I suspect it wouldn’t be enough for you. If you’re going to accept a religion 100% as God’s sanctioned religion, I would think the only way you could be sure enough is if God told you.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a place for debate regarding historical evidence (or lack of it) for the Book of Mormon, but shouldn’t we at least acknowledge that Mormons don’t hold to these evidences as the primary source for why we believe what we believe? Some of us are Mormons not because of historical evidence, but in spite of it, because we believe God has told us, in one way or another, that it is true. How much historical evidence against the Book of Mormon is enough to counteract what we feel is God’s personal revelation to us?

    Before I get accused of advocating “blind faith”, I don’t think this is a way of thinking limited to Mormonism. There are plenty of scriptures in the Bible that talk about asking God and not relying too heavily on ones own understanding. So I’m curious, Tim, what your thoughts on this way of thinking are? Now seems like a good time to bring it up, since (at least when I was a missionary) this topic was critical to the 1st discussion about the Book of Mormon, which is what your post was about.

  13. Tim,
    Me again, and not sure how I can be of the most help.
    Just want to lay down a line of encouragement.
    the scriptures say in several places that if you seek, you will find. Journeys to find the truth start out of a need or desire to find the truth. I hope you are not discurraged in you search and I know you will find what you seek. I hope it does not take as long as it did for me to find truth. Mine was a long and painful journey through winding paths that lead my away into the shadows and through dark nights before I saw there was nothing substantial there, Still a long time passed for me and finilly I searched in the right dirrection. Several years later I have found what I started out looking for. I know that my church is true. But it is up to you to find out what is true, I can not tske my journey and hand it over to you, I cannot give you my faith, nor would it be right if I could. It is up to you to take your soul-journey down your path to find truth for yourself. This journey is the most dangerous but also the most rewarding at it conclusion. When you do find what you are seeking, your journey will not end but will be to learn as much about the truth as you can and I hope you are willing to answer questions from other seekers when you can.
    Be encourraged that you will find your answers, if you whole-heartedly seek them.

    -Peace be with you, Brother. And God-speen you to the truth.

  14. katyjane and kullervo, your comments are fantastic! The name Tim always reminds me of that scene… “Oh Mighty Tim!” . . . “Death awaits you with big, nasty, pointy teeth.”

  15. Seth, no problem. I knew when I wrote the post that someone would give that response. It might as well have been you.

    Kullervo and Katy, I seemed to have exposed myself to the unthinkable. Every time I’ve tried to watch the holy grail I’ve fallen asleep. So I’m not able to quote anything from that movie. Hopefully you won’t think too much less of me.

    Mike,
    I will absolutely agree that there is a portion of faith that involves trusting what is unseen. But I don’t by any means thing that faith is only trusting the unseen. I also think that faith and belief are different things. I think that faith can and should be reasonably discerned and then acted on.

    Let me just quickly give you two examples to illustrate a fundamental disagreement we have. Did the disciples feel that they had every evidence that Jesus was Christ after the resurrection? They saw all the proof they could have ever needed to believe. By touching the wounds Thomas had all the evidence he required for faith (and wasn’t scolded for it). Yet we say that the disciples were men of great faith. Their faith was made great by acting on their knowledge, not by believing something without evidence.

    James, the brother of Jesus, was a skeptic. But when he saw the resurrected Jesus he was compelled to believe. He no longer had any choice but the believe that Jesus was who he said he was.

    I’m guessing that you think Joseph Smith is a great example of faith. He stands as the only person to ever see the Father and the Son and live to tell about it. He was visited by angels. He held the golden plates in his hand. Did he not have faith? Did he believe without evidence? Did he have faith in spite of evidence against his beliefs. Not so according to him.

    Check out 1 Corinthians 15. Paul tells the Corinthians that their beliefs are ground in historical fact. And if they are not true, then we shouldn’t believe them. The same is true for us. If our beliefs aren’t true then we shouldn’t believe them.

    There is a big difference between believing something without evidence and believing something in spite of contradictory evidence. If I thought the Book of Mormon could reasonably be discerned as a true historical account and if Joseph Smith could be reasonably discerned as a true Prophet then I absolutely would put my trust in them. It would be immoral to deny something that is true (just as it is immoral to believe something that is false).As it stands all of the evidence is against the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.

    Part of the reason you believe the way you do, is because your church ( or the Book of Mormon) tells you how belief is to be gained. But you’ve got to show me first why your church (or the Book of Mormon) are trustworthy to begin with before I buy into their epistimology. Why should I believe Moroni’s promise? How do I know Moroni is trustworthy? As far as I can tell Moroni is a fictional person. He has as much grounding in fact as Zeus. Why choose Moroni’s promise over Apollo’s promise?

  16. Tim–no problem on the lack of reference-getting. 🙂 Just so long as you remember that you always have a cure for insomnia (mine is the Dave Matthews Band–puts me right to sleep!).

    I like what you said here: “Part of the reason you believe the way you do, is because your church ( or the Book of Mormon) tells you how belief is to be gained. But you’ve got to show me first why your church (or the Book of Mormon) are trustworthy to begin with before I buy into their epistimology. Why should I believe Moroni’s promise? How do I know Moroni is trustworthy? As far as I can tell Moroni is a fictional person. He has as much grounding in fact as Zeus. Why choose Moroni’s promise over Apollo’s promise?”

    My experience has been that that is an incredibly difficult concept for some Mormons (perhaps all people, but it comes up most often with Mormonism) to grasp.

  17. Problem is, none of us have real evidentiary basis for our beliefs, unless you consider the testimony of others to be evidence. Both Protestants and Mormons have testimonial basis for belief. But neither of us have direct evidential basis.

  18. Problem is, none of us have real evidentiary basis for our beliefs, unless you consider the testimony of others to be evidence. Both Protestants and Mormons have testimonial basis for belief. But neither of us have direct evidential basis.

    I agree that I am relying on the testimony of others and I think it’s valid evidence. The difference is that the testimonies I rely upon can be back up with surrounding evidence of place, time and location. The question of Peter being a real person is much different than that of Moroni.

    I think the testimony of the 3 and 8 witnesses of the Book of Mormon is an excellent start. It’s what they said later about it and what they did later about it that makes their testimonies less convincing.

    Katy,
    I think it’s the same problem for Christians who say to an Atheist “but the Bible says . . . .” That’s not where you start with people who don’t believe the Bible to be credible to begin with.

  19. Tim,

    If I’m understanding your position, you are saying that evidence is a necessary component of faith, and that faith has more to do with what we do after we acquire knowledge of the truth, than how be obtain that knowledge. I agree with that, but I would disagree on what constitutes evidence.

    Your examples are all examples of physical evidence. The apostles seeing Jesus in front of them and feeling his wounds after they had seen him die just days before was strong physical evidence. Joseph Smith seeing and talking with Heavenly Father and Jesus was physical evidence (although both were probably accompanied by spiritual evidence as well). However, some Mormons would say that they know that Jesus was resurrected and that Joseph Smith is a prophet just as much as they would if they had seen the resurrected Jesus or talked with Moroni. Mormons consider spiritual evidence to be just as powerful as physical evidence, or more. That spiritual evidence is the conviction that God has spoken to you spiritually and told you what is true. Note what Jesus said to Thomas:

    “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”

    (I agree, by the way, that I don’t think Jesus meant this in a scolding manner)

    Was Jesus speaking of those that just blindly believe the story after being told it? I don’t think so. I think he is talking about those who seek after a spiritual confirmation that it is true. As a missionary I occasionally ran into people who believed whatever was told them by someone claiming to be a “man of God”. Teaching such people was frustrating, and I sometimes found myself in the strange position of trying to convince someone to be more critical. What I mean by that is trying to help them seek out answers for themselves rather than just trusting what somone else says. I find it hard to believe Jesus would condone the latter, and the scriptures back this up: “Seek and ye shall find” instead of “Do you dare doubt me? I’m Jesus, for heaven’s sake. Just believe it.”

    With that said, most physical evidence only comes after one acts of spiritual evidence. I think all of the examples you gave were preceded by someone acting on faith based on spiritual evidence. Joseph Smith would not have seen God had he not felt a confirmation that James 1:5 was true, and that he could indeed ask God his question and receive an answer. (A noteable exception to this is Paul, but it seems that this is the exception, not the rule).

    So you say that you can’t have faith in the Book of Mormon because the physical evidence is not there, but the Bible has physical evidence associated with it so is worthy of being a basis for faith. I would argue that there is much physical evidence that there was never a global flood, and that humans have lived for much more than 6000 years, but yet you are perfectly willing to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, at least in part based on the fact that Bible says so, even though it says other things which physical evidence contradicts.

    As for Moroni’s promise, you could just as easily call it James’ promise or Jesus’ promise. Moroni was just stating something that is already stated in the Bible in many ways. Here are some more relevant scriptures:

    1 Cor 12:3
    Prov 3:5-7

  20. Part of the reason you believe the way you do, is because your church ( or the Book of Mormon) tells you how belief is to be gained. But you’ve got to show me first why your church (or the Book of Mormon) are trustworthy to begin with before I buy into their epistimology. Why should I believe Moroni’s promise? How do I know Moroni is trustworthy? As far as I can tell Moroni is a fictional person. He has as much grounding in fact as Zeus. Why choose Moroni’s promise over Apollo’s promise?

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. I declare that a new post must be written on the issue of Mormon epistemology. They say “I know” so much. But do they really know in any meaningful way?

  21. You don’t know Moroni is trustworthy. A Mormon should theoretically be just as willing to pray to see if Zeus lives.

    The real epistemological problem is a belief that you can obtain the “truth” from a spiritual experience, a belief that both Mormons and other Christians share.

    There is more “hard”evidence that Moroni exists than there is that Jesus is God incarnate.

    The proposition that Moroni exists is doubtful by objective standards, but it is something that could conceivably be proven with witness testimony, the proposition that Jesus is God is belief in a proposition which is beyond the scope of human proof, and simply cannot be proven with witness testimony.

    If spiritual experience is trustworthy you could justify your believe in both of these proposition through that sort of experience. However the trustworthiness of spiritual experience is not something that hasn’t been objectively proven.

  22. Sorry, should be:

    “spiritual experience is not something that HAS been objectively proven to be trustworthy.”

  23. Jared, while a Mormon should theoretically be just as willing to pray to see if Zeus lives, in practice, if you tell a Mormon that you prayed and God told you that it is okay for you to drink coffee, they tell you that the answer to your prayer came from ‘the adversary’. The fact is, Mormons won’t accept another answer besides ‘the Book of Mormon is true’, regardless of what people’s spiritual experiences tell them when they pray.

  24. Tim, your description of faith based partially on the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection is fine for us today, but it does little to explain the faith of those who, like Abraham and Noah, exercised faith in the unseen (Cf. Hebrews 11:7-8).

    And if I, through experiences in the LDS temple (for example), have experienced tangible witnesses of God’s power, what do you say then? Should I hold fast to the witnesses that I have received—the historical facts that I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears—or should I deny it?

    Kullervo, here is a potentially interesting post about the Mormon use of “I know.” My bottom line is that there are some things that I do know—personal witness—and many that I do not. My testimony of some things is not proof of all things, but is certainly good reason to show faith in “things not [yet] seen.”

  25. Brian, I appreciate what you wrote on the feastuponthewordblog. That was something I was never sure of how to deal with when I converted to the church–everyone said that they knew stuff in testimony meeting, and what the heck did I know? I knew that during blessings I had felt the spirit. I knew that answers to prayers led me to join the church. I knew how things made me feel. But, beings somewhat postmodern, I guess, I had a hard time with the idea that I could know a religious fact. Especially in the context of the LDS Church where facts change after inspiration. What if I had “known” that blood atonement was a true doctrine? Or if I had “known” that Adam was God the Father? Where would I be when the prophet later said ‘nope, those things ain’t so’? Now I know that these facts have changed? I know that Adam used to be God the Father, but now he’s just Adam?

    I don’t know that I ever really put it into words or let myself dwell on it when I was LDS though; I mostly just was vaguely uncomfortable, so would read my scriptures more to stop feeling that way.

    And, like someone commented to your thread, it’s awkward to NOT say that ‘you know’ when bearing testimony. Many LDS think that that is less of a statement of belief, when really it’s the same.

  26. Seth R. said: “The Book of Mormon is primarily a resounding shout that the voice of God is unto ALL people, and not just to the Jews. That is the central point of the book. You limited yourself too much to the small scale and missed the forest for the trees. Mormonism is not just a theology. It is a destiny. And that is what we have to offer and what the Book of Mormon has to offer.

    Well said.

    Katyjane said: “I knew that answers to prayers led me to join the church. I knew how things made me feel. But, beings somewhat postmodern, I guess, I had a hard time with the idea that I could know a religious fact.

    I’m somewhat with you. This “I know” stuff has always struck as a bit, I’m not sure what word I want to use, creepy in a way. What can we really know? Not a whole lot, unless (as you say) we’re talking about our internal feelings.

    I have heard people say it’s insufficient to say “I believe the church is true” but that we should say “I know the church is true.” I don’t understand it. How can we know?

    The best we can do is act on what we believe to be true. As a member of the Church, that’s what I try to do.

    But for me to say I know something would be arrogant and pretentious (I’m not saying it’s arrogant and pretentious for other people). But I do believe and have faith, and that’s good enough.

    If I had to know to become a member of the Church, I wouldn’t be.

  27. And if I, through experiences in the LDS temple (for example), have experienced tangible witnesses of God’s power, what do you say then? Should I hold fast to the witnesses that I have received—the historical facts that I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears—or should I deny it?

    Hopefully my answer to this will answer Mike’s post as well.

    I think Paul says something rather interesting to answer this question in Galatians 1.

    Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

    Let me clearly acknowledge that this is not directly talking about Mormonism, but it does give us some principles to work with. Apparently, Paul is telling us that we can have spiritual experiences which are not to be trusted. He doesn’t discount all spiritual experiences, but he says they shouldn’t tell us anything different than what he originally taught to us. At the very least, based on this scripture you have to concede that our spiritual experiences are not to be trusted by themselves, they have to be validated by something else.

    Katy nails it. If a Mormon is inspired to disobey Mormon leadership everyone quickly acknowledges that spiritual witnesses can’t always be trusted. But if a Mormon gains a spiritual witness of any of a number of Joseph Smith approved heresies then it must be true.

    As a missionary I occasionally ran into people who believed whatever was told them by someone claiming to be a “man of God”.

    I can sympathize.

    So you say that you can’t have faith in the Book of Mormon because the physical evidence is not there, but the Bible has physical evidence associated with it so is worthy of being a basis for faith.

    No I’m saying I can’t have faith in the Book of Mormon because the physical evidence CONTRADICTS it. It’s not just the absence of physical evidence. And just the same, I don’t have faith in a 6 day creation or a global flood. The physical evidence shows that they didn’t happen. I think the reading on the flood and creation can accommodate the physical evidence, but I haven’t seen any way the Book of Mormon can (unless you’re willing to say it’s inspired fiction).

    I don’t believe in the resurrection simply because the Bible says it happened. I believe in it because the disciples immediately and consistently started stating it happened and across the board acted in a way consistent with it being the truth.

  28. Katyjane- I think you are absolutely right when it comes to how Mormons test doctrine through prayer. They are

    I think the practice is that once you believe in the book of Mormon and Joseph Smith that everything else in the church should just logically follow from those premises. (Of course it doesn’t)

    Its similar to the Protestant who is born again and then essentially swallows the bible whole cloth. There is no logical necessity to believe the Bible is inerrant, even if you are a convinced Christian.

    However to maintain a “faith” or a community people naturally grasp for something that easier to obtain than direct contact with the Spirit. Its much easier to buy into doctrine and dogma and scripture and extrapolate from those sources. So within a religion people make a decision to accept the doctrine whole cloth and attack contrary spiritual propositions as satanic. That happens across the board.

  29. I’d repeat that the physical evidence DOES NOT contradict the Book of Mormon. There is admittedly a lack of evidence. But the same is true of the Bible.

    There has been no solid refutation Tim, there just hasn’t.

  30. Seth,

    Can I ask you something in all seriousness. If I presented you with contradictory evidence, would it make a difference to you?

  31. Depends. My study of law, politics and history in higher education has had the effect of making me cautious about things. Evidence may or may not be dispositive. I might or might not have the full story and the same goes for other people.

    Even assuming one part of the Book of Mormon was to be absolutely debunked, you would then have yet to debunk other parts of it…

    Let me break it down for clarity. There are a few ways to view the Book of Mormon:

    1. An actual “true” historical document about what went down in the Americas

    2. A true religious document containing God’s stated prophesies and teachings

    3. A useful book of moral teachings

    4. A dangerous and false book

    So, you see that you might disprove #1, and yet leave #2 and 3 untouched. Some Protestants do this for the Bible, incidentally. Some reject 1 and 2, yet accept #3. And of course, you can accept all the premises, except #4 (which is the standard believing Mormon view). You can also only partially accept each of the 4 views, based on your view of Joseph Smith, which I will now outline.

    There are several different ways to view Joseph Smith:

    1. An infallible prophet who always spoke with perfection when addressing spiritual or God-related matters.

    2. A fallible prophet who got things right most of the time or perhaps only half the time on “spiritual matters.” Or a variation on this one – a fallen prophet who began well, but eventually fell off the wagon.

    3. An often well-intentioned fraud who had some neat ideas and was possibly inspired on occasion

    4. A wicked sort of fraud who should be discounted entirely.

    Let me just assume that you adhere to, perhaps, viewpoint #3 on the Book of Mormon (just from what statements of yours I’ve read). I think I’d be safe saying that you take view #3 on Joseph as well, correct? Or are you a #4?

    Which position you are trying to discredit kind of matters, and it would be best to establish that first.

  32. Seth, Well done shifting the question to me. My position would be somewhere between 3 and 4 on both. But I would be THRILLED if any Mormon fell back to 3 on both.

    So where are you? And what if the Prophet made it clear that #1 was the only view that could be held about both? GBH held that there was no middle ground. Was he inspired when he said that? Was that doctrinal?

    Hold that thought, I’m making this it’s own topic.

  33. Regarding spiritual experiences, I agree that it’s possible to have spiritual experiences that lead one astray. It would be impossible to argue otherwise considering there are some that say God told them Mormonism is true, and some that say God told them Islam (or any other faith) is the true faith. One of them must be wrong, on account that at least Mormons claim to be the only true church.

    But recognizing that possibility does not mean that I should not trust my own spiritual experiences. If I see a red stop sign, and someone sitting next to me sees that the same sign is blue (assuming there is no one else in the area), I can no more prove to the other person that the stop sign is red than he can convince to me that it is blue. Yet, should I then conclude that I don’t know what color the stop sign is? I might look a little closer, but if upon closer inspection it still looks red, I’d have to stand by my position that it is red.

    In a similar way, if someone says they have received revelation that the Book of Mormon is not true, then I’d have to accept that as their view, but that doesn’t mean that I would have to give up mine.

    And I agree with Seth that it would be a tall order to undeniably prove the Book of Mormon false, for all the reasons he stated. Having evidence that makes it less likely to be true is not the same as contradicting it.

    In any case, my purpose in starting this line of debate regarding how we know things (physical vs. spiritual evidence) was just to understand how we are similar or different in that point of view. I think I understand that better now.

  34. My problem isn’t with people who claim that the Book of Mormon is true, but who claim that when personal revelations that I have received (telling me not to obey the Word of Wisdom) come from Satan.

  35. But recognizing that possibility does not mean that I should not trust my own spiritual experiences. If I see a red stop sign, and someone sitting next to me sees that the same sign is blue (assuming there is no one else in the area), I can no more prove to the other person that the stop sign is red than he can convince to me that it is blue. Yet, should I then conclude that I don’t know what color the stop sign is? I might look a little closer, but if upon closer inspection it still looks red, I’d have to stand by my position that it is red.

    Yeah well, maybe the person who thinks its blus is moving a lot faster than you are. Towards the sign.

  36. Tim asked Seth: Can I ask you something in all seriousness. If I presented you with contradictory evidence, would it make a difference to you?

    I do find it interesting that there are plenty of evangelicals (I take it Tim isn’t one of them) who believe firmly in a young Earth despite the overwhelming scientific evidence (so overwhelming it’s as close to proof as can be) that the Earth is millions of years old and that humans have been around since long before the Biblical account suggests that Adam and Eve were here. You can show these people all the proof you want, yet it doesn’t shake their faith in a Bible interpreted literally.

    Of course, such evidence is a serious problem only for those who believe in infallibility and the necessity of a literal interpretation.

  37. Kullervo, I’ll see your nerdy physics joke and raise you an even more nerdy computer science joke (slightly modified to be relevant to this discussion):

    There are 10 types of people in the world: those who believe in the Book of Mormon and those who don’t.

  38. One of the common misconceptions about the Book of Mormon is that it was a history of the Americas. It was not, or at least not all of it was. Consider the following:

    2 Ne. 10: 20

    20 And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.

    Is North or South America “an isle of the sea?”

  39. Hmmm, I am quite engaged in thought as I read through all of your comments. Tim, respect you stand highly, and agree unapoligetically… Thank you for sharing this experience with us. Quite humbling. Have a blessed Lord’s Day…;)

  40. Can I ask you something in all seriousness. If I presented you with contradictory evidence, would it make a difference to you?
    How about you Tim? If you were presented with irrefutable evidence supporting the BOM, would it make a difference to you? I’m talking about Zarahemla signs and everything.

  41. yep. It would make a big difference. I think accepting Joseph Smith and everything he added to it might be a little tougher, but I’d accept it without blinking an eye.

  42. You would?
    So your problem with Mormonism isn’t our doctrine, but our lack of archeological support?

    Have you considered some of the internal evidence that the BOM is an antique script?

  43. Ben said: “If you were presented with irrefutable evidence supporting the BOM, would it make a difference to you?

    Such evidence doesn’t exist. And I say that as someone who accepts the Book of Mormon’s veracity.

  44. Those who search for archeological support in the Book of Mormon are “barking up the wrong tree.”

    Consider the following:

    Ether 10:20-21
    “20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.
    21 And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants.”

    Many point to these verses thinking that the “land southward” is South America. That is a lot of land that would have been set aside “to get game.” Also, it might be pointed out that there is no archeological evidence to support that “the land northward was [ever] covered with inhabitants.”

    People assume the the Book of Mormon is a history of the Americas. There is an old saying about assuming, which I am sure anyone who is old enough has already heard.

    The following is a prophecy which is being fulfilled right before your eyes. Those who seek for Truth will understand will understand to to be true:

    “For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord.” (2 Nephi 28:3 Utah.)

  45. I know I’m going to regret asking this… so Rick, where did the events of the Book of Mormon take place, if not the ancient Americas?

  46. How did the plates get to New York then? A wizard? Magic?

    Also, it turns out Malaysia already has a history that doesn;t include Nephites.

  47. Rick, you quoted the verse in the BoM:

    “For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord.”

    I think this “prophecy” paints a picture that was more true during the time of Joseph Smith than it is today. The majority of Christian churches today (the non-cultish ones, anyway) don’t claim to be the “one true church” or “the Lord’s church.” The idea that all churches claim to be the one and only true church is a false notion that I also had as an LDS, but it simply is not true.

    I would like to see one “prophecy” from the BoM (or D&C, even) that has been fulfilled AFTER its publication. In other words, something that Joseph wouldn’t have already known while writing (or as you would say, “translating”) it.

  48. So your problem with Mormonism isn’t our doctrine, but our lack of archeological support?

    Have you considered some of the internal evidence that the BOM is an antique script?

    Don’t put words in my mouth Ben. My problem with the Book of Mormon is archeological not doctrinal. But the doctrine of Mormonism is quite different than the doctrine of the Book of Mormon.

    I actually have considered the evidence that the BOM is antique scripture and it is no where even close to the evidence that the BOM is historically anachronistic. Also I find chiasmus in the sports page every Sunday and I’m pretty sure it’s not from antiquity.

  49. Kullervo: I’m not sure what you mean by “leave it to the pros.” Also, I wasn’t trying to provoke, just stating why I think his commonly-held Mormon perception is false.

  50. My problem isn’t with people who claim that the Book of Mormon is true, but who claim that when personal revelations that I have received (telling me not to obey the Word of Wisdom) come from Satan.
    I hope you also have a problem with people who tell Mormons that our spiritual experiences are of the devil.

    Such evidence doesn’t exist. And I say that as someone who accepts the Book of Mormon’s veracity.
    It was a strictly hypothetical question.

    Don’t put words in my mouth Ben.
    Wasn’t trying to (and didn’t mean to offend), I was surprised by your response.

    I believe that your treatment of BOM chiasmus is more flippant than the sophisticated text deserves. That’s ok though. But there is also covenant formulary in Mos 1-6, accurate Arabian Peninsula geography (including Shazer and Nahom), etc.
    It won’t outweigh your “con” evidence, but it is interesting, and would make sense if the text were antique.

  51. Seriously, chiasmus is a literary device found all over classical literature. Stuff that was well-known in the 19th century. Smith wouldn’t have had to know the word “chiasmus” to ape the writing style. It’s only evidence if you really, really want it to be.

  52. Since I am not a prophet, I can only give my theory as to where the events in the Book of Mormon (BoM) took place.

    Several place in the BoM it mentions that the land, and the people who inhabited it, would be destroyed when they became fully ripened in iniquity. There is ample archeological evidence that supports at least one sunken city in the Caribbean basin. Perhaps the land where the events in the BoM took place lays buried under the sea. How the plates that were used to translate the BoM into the English language landed up on the North American continent is anyone’s guess. I suspect God had something to do with it. God can do anything.

    “For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord.” (2 Nephi 28:3 Utah.)

    This verse does not say that all the churches which are built up, but simply states “For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up…” Some churches, like the Catholic church and the Utah based “Mormon” church are obvious examples of this prophecy being fulfilled, but there are many others. I see them advertize on television, newspapers and in many other publications to boost their membership. I am sure that most have seen or heard these advertisements, too. Are they not saying “Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s?” Even on this thread there is evidence of this happing. Those who’s eyes and minds are open will be able to see this.

    I have found several prophecies in the BoM and the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) which have already come to pass.

    I would be surprised is someone hasn’t already quoted the following which is an obvious prophecy which parts of have already come to pass:

    (D&C Section 87:1 – 3)
    1 VERILY, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
    2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
    3 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.

    There are several more prophecies that come to mind that have already been fulfilled. The following is one of them:

    D&C 13:1
    1. Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I
    confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the
    ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and
    of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this
    shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of
    Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in
    righteousness.

    The following is evidence that the above prophecy has already happened:

    Northern Islander, Volume 2, Number 12
    July 8, 1852
    CONFERENCE.
    The General Conference opened the morning of the eighth
    at sun rise, by a most solemn sacrifice. The following
    persons brought victims: …
    Bros. … acted in the Priest’s office, and slew the
    victims.
    The Deacons, … prepared a splendid feast. Tables were
    spread at 1 o’clock for four hundred and eighty-eight
    persons, the families of those that offered. And at the end
    of the feasting the Priest at the head of the table said–
    LORD GOD! I have come into the land which thou gavest to
    thy saints: I have heard thy law, and have entered into
    covenant with thee to keep thy commandments, and I have
    eaten of the sacrifice before thee as a witness forever.

    ——————–
    Northern Islander, Volume 5, Number 5
    July 19, 1855
    CONFERENCE.
    We have not been able to find room for even a synopsis of
    the proceedings of the July Conference in this No. The place
    of meeting was in the splendid Enoch Park, and the first day
    was occupied by the prophet in preaching.
    The morning of the second day, very early, all the heads
    of families came to the place of the sacrifice, and offered
    their victims. Upwards of 200 victims were slain. Preaching
    and eucharist occupied the forenoon, during which the feast
    was prepared, and tables spread in the park, sufficient to
    accommodate the whole assembly. We have never seen tables at this place so loaded with
    the good things of the land, and never in any place seen
    such general abundance, and every voice was joyous. Among
    the guests were a large body of Indians. More remained than
    was eaten.
    The Conference continued in session five days, there
    being two discourses daily, except the last day, which was
    entirely occupied with business.

    There are over a million children living here in the United States who have no place to call home. Many of those children are going to bed hungry, yet churches are popping up like zits on a teenager. Millions of dollars are being spent building and maintaining these churches.

    2 Ne. 28: 13

    13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

    Just take a look around you the next time you go to church and start adding up the cost of the clothing being worn by those who have dressed up in their “Sunday best.” Then try to comprehend how much has been spent building and maintaining the building you are in. Then try to consider those who have so very little. If you can’t still see that the above prophecy is being fulfilled right before your eyes, than you need more than glasses.

  53. 2 Nephi 26:21
    “And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.”

    Is the above extraction from the BoM not true? How many reading this have had adverse effects from the church in-which they were once apart of?

    The following is another prophecy which came to pass. It was extracted from a revelation given through Joseph Smith Jr. when Nauvoo, Illinois was a strong hold for the Mormons:

    Doctrine and Covenants 124:45.
    “And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.”

    Those who followed Brigham Young, who was not “appointed,” were “moved out of their place.”

    The BoM is true. It has about as much to do with the “Mormon” church as the Bible has to do with the Catholic church.

  54. For someone who finds so much fault in the BOM, you sure do spend a lot of energy and time posting,but kudo’s to you for questioning and giving those missionaries a headache, you just make them that much more determined and willing to learn church history, that’s the great thing about this church I always value my FREE will.

    Good luck to you,

    A mormon @ heart

  55. “For someone who finds so much fault in the BOM, you sure do spend a lot of energy and time posting”

    What’s your point?

  56. Hey, Tim,

    What do you make of Hugh Nibley’s response to the “Timothy” criticism?

    “…[I]n Lehi’s day Palestine was swarming with Greeks, important Greeks. Remember, it was Egyptian territory [prior to being seized by Babylon] at that time and Egyptian culture. The Egyptian army, Necho’s army, was almost entirely Greek mercenaries. We have inscriptions from that very time up the Nile at Aswan-inscriptions from the mercenaries of the Egyptian army, and they’re all in Greek. So Greek was very common…” (quoted in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 4, “Book of Mormon Language”)

    From 1 Nephi 1:2 we learn that Lehi had been significantly influenced by the Egyptians, so if NIbley’s claim that Greek was common among the Egyptians of the time period, why is it so improbable to think that the name Timothy wasn’t had among the Nephites?

    The only reason I bring it up is that you said,

    yep. It would make a big difference.

    Yet you blew off Seth’s explanation about horses, coins, etc. I guess I just get frustrated when non-Mormons say there is no evidence for Book of Mormon claims but then they don’t want to listen to what evidences DO exist.

    Granted the point of this particular post is not to weigh evidence in the balance – but that doesn’t give you a free pass to just blow off our response to your criticisms of the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

  57. Dude, this is not evidence for the Book of Mormon. Showing how something is not impossible is not the same thing as showing that it is likely to be true.

  58. I didn’t say it was 100% iron clad evidence that the name Timothy was had among the Nephites. All I’m saying is the two cultures did influence one another during that time period.

    If it’s possible, why must people posit that it is impossible?

  59. Moreover, I think there are some pretty good responses to the “steel” and “horses” criticism. Yet they are ignored. Ho hum.

  60. Nibley also claims that the name Timotheus was common as a result of the inter-cultural influence. Maybe Nibley got it wrong, but I’m still waiting for someone to explain how he got it wrong.

  61. You’re using a false dichotomy, Tom. “Affirmative evidence” doesn’t have to prove the thing beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m just saying that you are confusing facts which may make the Book of Mormon not impossible with facts that make te Book of Mormon more likely.

    Even if the Book of Mormon is completely plausible and absolutely could have happened, that would not supply even an iota of evidence that it actually did.

    Let me illustrate: this morning, I could have gone to the grocery store to buy maple syrup. We have a car, I can drive it, the weather is good, the stores were open. I am not sick or disabled. I have two kids but I am completely capable of taking them with me. The grocery store is not far away, so it is not even inconvenient. We have enough money to buy maple syrup. It is absolutely something I could have done. Pretty much any reason you could come up with to say why it could not have happened, I could effectively counter with facts that show that it could have happened indeed.

    However, none of that provides any evidence whatsoever that I actually went to the store this morning. Not one shred. And rightly so, because I did not. We ate breakfast cereal and played in the living room to let katyjane sleep in a bit.

    All of those reasons why I could have gone to the grocery store just go to show that it is a plausible thing that could have happened. That’s not the same as actual evidence that it did happen.

    The Book of Mormon could be plausible, I don’t care enough to unpack the apologist’s arguments. But it doesn’t really matter, because the affirmative archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon is slim to nonexistent.

  62. I guess I get confused when non-Mormons put these things out there as reasons the Book of Mormon CAN’T be true.

    I’m just trying to sort out what they are really getting at by bringing it up and then not wanting to discuss it.

  63. Well, it’s not wrong of your opponents to want to show why the Book can’t be true, because that’s the only reasonable way to disprove it: even if there was not a shred of evidence for it, it still could have happened.

    Like right now, did I just wave my hand around? Who knows? Nobody saw but me. One guy might try to argue that I do not have a hand, and thus could not have possibly waved it, because is about the only way to come close to proving a negative (i.e. demonstrate that it is not possible given facts we accept to be true). But when the handwaving apologists come along and argue that I do in fact have a hand, that’s fine and good and may even undermine the anti-handwavers’ claims. But it still does not provide any affiermative evidence that I actually waved my hand. Only that I could have.

    But when the handwaving apologists start talking about all of the evidence for the waving of my hand, they’re being ridiculous. There isn’t any. All that’s there are answers to the antihandwaver’s objections, and even if the anti-handwavers can’t show that the waving of the hand is impossible, the pro-handwavers still have a hefty burden of proof to carry to show that it actually was more likely to have hapened than not.

  64. It’s a fair point Kullervo. I definitely am not in the camp that would say “archeology proves the Book of Mormon.” My intent was never to say that.

    Scientific evidence doesn’t “prove” the Book of Mormon one way or the other, so why bring archeology or linguistics into it at all? I suppose it’s possible that no Jew ever named their kid Timothy until the Timothy of the Bible. It’s equally plausible that the Greek influence on Lehi resulted in some of the Nephites naming their sons “Timothy.”

    I’m saying it seems like a non-issue because it can never go one way or the other based on what we have now.

  65. That last sentence is horribly written. Let me try again.

    It seems like a non-issue because current scientific evidence does not prove or disprove the Book of Mormon. So why bring it up? And if you do bring it up, why not interact with the response to the accusation?

  66. “It seems like a non-issue because current scientific evidence does not prove or disprove the Book of Mormon. So why bring it up? And if you do bring it up, why not interact with the response to the accusation?”

    I think non-mormons have a valid criticism of the book of mormon in that that based on all available scientific and historical evidence, it is an implausible story. Archeology does not rule it out, but it casts significant doubt.

    I think Mormons need to be self-aware about the serious difficulties in supporting the historicity of the Book of Mormon in order to be taken seriously by non-believers.

    When we overstate the historical/archeological case, as we have so many times in the past. we end up looking silly. (Almost like creation “scientists” who bring up evidence that the earth is only 4000 years old and that dinosaurs were contemporaries with humans). Mormons continue to believe that Mayans were somehow related to book of Mormon peoples when most evidence suggests otherwise. “Testaments” is generally embarrassing, not only because it had an unbearably corny storyline and bad acting.

    I think that Nibley’s best point was that the strongest evidence for the truth of the Book is the book itself, however weak this may be. If God brought the book out in a certain way, for a certain purpose, we have to assume that the weakness of the historical place was part of that design. If this is your view, why not take that for granted as a fundamental given in the discussion?

  67. 1. I’m not talking about scientific evidence. I’m talking about evidence, generally.

    2. If the evidence was such that there was about a fifty-fifty chance that the Book of Mormon was historical, then you could say the evidence didn’t help one way or the other. But it would have to be razor-thin balanced. As long as it was tilted even slightly one way you would say that the evidence was not conclusive, subject to reasonable debate and margin of error, but that it tended to lean one way.

    Look back at my trip to the store for maple syrup. The evidence there is not inconclusive; it is massively weighted on the side of “I did not go” because there is absolutely zero evidence that I did. That doesn’t prove I did not go: you really couldn’t prove I didn’t go unless you could show somehow that going was impossible.

    But that’s the thing; it is totally possible that I went to the store this morning, but there is no evidence at all that I did. That doesn’t mean there’s a fifty-fifty likelihood that I went; it means that there is for all intents and purposes zero likelihood that I went. Why would you think I went, based on no evidence at all other than that I possibly could have gone? That defies logic, because while it is possible that I could have gone, it is equally possible, given no evidence whatsoever, that I did an infinite number of other things.

    Even if all the claims of impossibility could be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, still we would be left with no actual historical or archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. That doesn’t mean it’s inconclusive: it means that as a matter of evidence, there is almost no zero chance that the Book of Mormon is authentic.

    It is not impossible, so you’re not crazy or stupid for believing it is authentic if you think God told you so, or simply as a matter of faith. But you still have to deal with the fact that you’re believing something for which there is absolutely zero evidence, and is thus not even slightly likely to have happened.

  68. Seth and Rick, can either of you provide links to websites that support your views on the pre-Columbian existence of steel, horses, or barley(Seth) or underwater cities (Rick) in the Americas? Because I’ve never heard of any of the evidence that you mention. Make sure that they are scientific or archeological sites, not religious, political, or personal blog sites.

  69. Also, I wanted to respond to Rick’s suggestion that Joseph Smith’s D&C 87 prophesy is evidence of a divine view of the future. True, to the average person, Joseph Smith’s revelation seems amazing. How could he have possibly known about the Civil War and that it would start with South Carolina?!

    But it is important to keep historical tides in mind. The nation had been struggling over the issue of slavery since the Constitution was signed (which made slaves count as 3/5ths of a person for representation purposes and allowed overseas slave purchases to be banned starting in 1808). With industry taking hold in the North and cotton plantations springing up in the South, slavery was quickly becoming a regional issue. The Missouri Compromise had shown how balancing the number of slave states and free states had become necessary to keep the nation from falling apart.

  70. Furthermore, South Carolina was always the feisty state. In 1832, for example, South Carolina declared that US tariff law would no longer be followed in South Carolina, causing President Jackson to threaten military retaliation. To anyone paying attention to national politics, including Joseph Smith, the conflict in South Carolina looked like it could very well balloon into a national or international war, something which always hovered on the horizon like a dark cloud. This was what was on everyone’s mind on Christmas day 1832, the date that Joseph Smith prophesized D&C 87. It seemed like a prophesy that could not go wrong. But three months after Joseph’s prophesy, South Carolina suddenly backed down and the Nullification Crisis was ended. Even States rights Southerners viewed South Carolina as over reacting and conflict was (temporarily) avoided.

    Mormon apologists will say “Well okay so the Nullification Crisis didn’t lead to Civil War, but Civil War did come! Joseph Smith’s prophesy that “For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.” came true!”

    Actually no. The claim that Great Britain was dragged into the war and that war ‘poured out upon all nations’ is false. The US Civil War was NOT a world war. The South had hoped that England would join it against the Union, but that never happened. No foreign troops fought in America. No major foreign battles were fought over the American conflict.

    Verse D&C 87:4 talks about slaves rising up against their masters, which would make sense during a Civil War (though in D&C 134:12, the Mormon Church prophesizes that God is against this and actually believes holding slaves is okay). But then verse D&C 87:6 talks about an earthquake (don’t remember that from Civil War history). The same verse talks about all nations coming to an end, which definitely didn’t happen.

    I’m sure some Mormon apologists will then say “Well, maybe Joseph Smith was talking about some war in the future that will start in South Carolina and tear America in two and start a world war, where there will be earthquakes somewhere and slaves (either from elsewhere or reenslaved Americans) will rise up somewhere and all nations will end.” Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Mormon apologists, like Rapture enthusiasts, tell us that we just need to wait a little longer. Always a little longer. Like Nostradamus’s predictions, Joseph Smith’s predictions can be twisted to fit even the most abstract situations and can always be kicked into the hazy future if necessary. They are never any good at providing any evidence of divine foretelling of the future.

    It seems likely that D&C 87 was issued in response to the Nullification controversy as a way for Joseph Smith to keep his followers enthralled by big prophesies in order to keep them in the church.

  71. Okay, so the reason why I posted that in chunks is that I thought it wasn’t posting because of the length but then I figured out that this blog isn’t letting me post links within my post. Once I deleated my internal links, it posted fine. So this makes it harder for Seth and Rick to post links to their sources, but maybe they can give us google terms that will lead us to the links they want us to find.

  72. Rollingforest ~ Welcome to the blog.

    Rick Hurd was banned from this blog some time ago and will not be responding to your comments. Seth is still around.

    IIRC, you’re allowed to post one link per comment without having your comment held for moderation—it might be two.

    However, if you want to use more links, I usually check this blog several times a day and will free your comment pretty quickly.

    If you hit “submit” and your comment disappears entirely rather than appearing with a note saying that it’s been held for moderation, it’s probably in our spam filter. Post another comment saying it disappeared and one of us will probably rescue it.

  73. Sorry I am so late to this discussion. I was not at the temple dedication cited. I have had several opportunities to hear President Hinckley – most via internet but once in person. I always loved to hear him and being with him in person was thrilling.

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