Resist With All Your Might

I’m curious how LDS would respond to a person who accepts Moroni’s challenge, then prays with all integrity and humility, and then receives an answer from a still small voice that says:

“Resist the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the LDS church with all your might. Do what ever you can in righteousness to thwart their mission and destroy their destructive influence.”

Should that answer be accepted as valid and trustworthy? Please explain.

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95 thoughts on “Resist With All Your Might

  1. Thanks Dart.
    That article is interesting in a “preaching to the choir” sort of way. But it doesn’t really answer my question or if it does I didn’t catch it. Can you summarize for me?

  2. Doesn’t seem very likely to me that you’d get all that from one session.

    Sounds more like the sort of conviction that would build over time from various reactions and inputs.

  3. I think the entire article is relevant because your question (although I think rather extravagant and over the top) is part of the broader question/issue of spiritual experiences in general.

    Nevertheless, maybe this part in the off-the-cuff Q&A is relevant? (Seriously, you should read this article. It is far more than “preaching to the [Mormon] choir”.)

    “Q: How can one find the truth when two people experience two opposite things while praying about the Book of Mormon? One gets the feeling it’s true, the other gets the feeling it’s wrong?

    A: Well, I say trust your experience. I will tell you in my experience if the person gets the feeling it’s wrong, I’d like to talk to that person. I’ve never known such a person, but I have no doubt that there are such persons. Trust your Heavenly Father. What I said was that the experience that anybody else has is not evidence for us. If somebody else has a different experience, I think I have good prima facia reason for believing my own experience as opposed to theirs. What else can I do? And it comes down to faith. Am I going to trust my heart or not? Am I going to have an open heart or am I going to close it? That’s the bottom line. So trust your own experience and if your own experience tells you that the Book of Mormon just can’t be, and God confirms that, then go with God.”

    I think the relevant points are these:

    (1) Spiritual experiences are only binding on the persons who have them and thus (2) your spiritual experiences simply aren’t binding on me. (3) We can only choose within the framework of our own experiences, and so (4) if it is your sincere experience that God is telling you to do something, than in the integrity of your heart you should probably do that thing. But (5) if it conflicts with my experience, well, your experience is not binding on me, and I have no reason to accept your experiences over mine; additionally (6) There could be many reasons why our experiences are conflicting (which I won’t enumerate here) and so if someone really thinks that they should do something because God told them so (even if I think they are the ones who are in the wrong in whatever action they are taking), well, that is ultimately their choice that they are accountable for and to which they will be held responsible if they are wrong.

    My question to you Tim, is do you believe that someone can receive such a propositional revelation discrediting Mormonism as you have outlined in the post? If so, would it be an inerrant revelation on par with Scripture? From my own experiences in dealing with persons who pray about the BofM, as Seth said, I think your example is way over the top and seems rather unreasonable.

  4. I have to agree that the premise of the question is over the top, and that the FAIR article was extremely interesting and relevant. And, maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see it as “preaching to the choir.” In fact, it’s close to the opposite.

    For now I’ll just say two things:

    1) I’ve never based my faith on just a feeling, and, moreover, I think it would be crazy to do so. Reason, experiences, desires and all sorts of other things factor in to how we make spiritual decisions and commitments.

    2) To those who pray about whether the Gospel is true and get a negative response, I’d say that you have to go with what you believe is right, and God wouldn’t expect any different, but you should continue your quest for truth. And to those of us who believe it is true, I say the same thing. In the end, it doesn’t make sense to do differently than what you believe God is telling you. I would never expect anyone to throw away his or her judgment and take mine instead.

  5. The Yellow Dart said exactly what I was going to say, much better than I would have said it.

    I’ve said before in other comments on this blog that I’m in no position to judge another person’s spiritual experience, but just because they claim to have a spiritual witness that contradicts my spiritual witness, it doesn’t follow that I should trust mine any less. I could go on but I’d just be repeating what TYD has already said.

  6. Well, I’ve received direct revelations from God as well as direct communications (I won’t call them “revelations”) from devils, including voices from both camps, and in my personal experience, there is a distinct difference. From the message you propose, I would tend to think that it would come from the devilish side, as the devil is all about destruction and the word “destroy” is a red flag to me.

  7. The example is intentionally over-the-top in an effort to get to the heart of the matter.

    Dart,

    I didn’t see that Q&A portion as I perused the link. That is helpful to understand your position. Thanks for directly including it in your answer.

    But. . . . it illuminates that LDS believe God could be giving contradictory instructions to people at the same time. I think it was Jesus who said something about a house divided not being able to stand. How would you reconcile that?

    By saying “preaching to the choir” I only meant that it was intended for a Mormon audience. I apologize for the negative connotation that came with it.

  8. Tim,
    I firmly believe that many, if not most, of us are unable to open our mind and fully embrace all the truth God has for us, simply by the set of cultural suppositions and traditions of our fathers that we carry. If God gives us what we can handle, leading us in the path of truth as we find it within ourselves to accept, I can’t see that as a house divided, rather it is leading all his children slowly and steadily to a unity of faith, as far as our shortcomings will allow us.
    So if someone just can’t reconcile themselves to a personified God, but still feels an aching in their soul, does God leave them hanging? Or might he lead them to Buddhism where they can learn many profound truths about happiness and spirituality. Perhaps they have a profound faith in the potential goodness of mankind itself, then might God not lead them to Secular Humanism.

    If someone cannot accept the difficult teaching that a great teacher at the meridian of time is actually more than that, the literal Son of God, does God cast them out, or does he lead them to Islam, or Judaism, where they can learn of his dealings with man throughout time, and about becoming God’s covenant people?

    If someone can feel a burning truth about the divinity of the Savior and is okay the idea of prophets as long as they don’t have to deal with them interpersonally, where it gets much trickier, does God cast them off, or does he lead them to Creedal Christianity? Was God responsible for the splintering into groups or was Man? If man, it seems to me people naturally rally around the pieces of the gospel they “know” and resonates with them, excluding the other.

    If someone has faith in Christ and feels he organized and lead an actual Church with priesthood, but cannot comprehend the idea of a falling away, does God cast them off, or might he lead them to be Catholic?

    If someone believes in Christ, prophecy, gifts of the spirit, and yet cannot reconcile themselves the idea of becoming as God, does God cast them off, or does he lead them to the Community or Christ, or to perhaps Pentacostalism.

    If someone can’t buy the idea that God would organize a religion but feel something profound in nature and creation, are those feelings divine or not?

    If someone believes with their heart and soul that God loves all his children, but cannot reconcile this idea with the idea of one organized true religion, does God cast them off or does he lead them to Unitarian Universalism or Quakers.

    I believe in a God who has a contingency plan to bring all the honest in heart to him eventually.

  9. Oh, sorry, Tim. I thought you were asking how I would respond if I received such an answer. I didn’t catch that you were asking how I would respond to someone else receiving such an answer.

    I, personally, wouldn’t accept that answer as valid and trustworthy, as, per my own spiritual experiences, there would be conflict. I can’t see God telling me that the Book of Mormon is true, while telling another that it is a lie. So, there would be a problem with one or both of the revelations, either the one I received wasn’t from God, or the one of the individual in question wasn’t from God, or both weren’t from God. As I trust the revelations I have received implicitly to be from God, I’d have to conclude that the one received by the other individual was not of God. Whether I would reveal my thoughts to the individual in question would depend on the individual and the circumstance.

    At any rate, my experience with people praying over the Book of Mormon is not that they receive any type of revelations that they can write down. For most of the people who I’ve asked about their experience praying over the Book of Mormon, they either feel it is true or don’t feel anything. Hardly anyone hears voices anymore. So, your hypothetical situation, in my experience, is very far-fetched.

    And I believe that the people who don’t receive any answers are misunderstanding the process that Moroni described. (See The real meaning of the promise in Moroni 10: 3-5.)

  10. Tim,

    I too thought you were asking how I would respond to a person who *claimed* such an answer. I didn’t know that within the post I had to assume they actually *did* genuinely receive that answer from God.

    The problem is that spiritual experiences just don’t count as evidence for others. How can I know that someone else actually had a genuine spiritual experience (especially when it seems to contradict my own)?

  11. I think LDS Anarchist’s answer is more in line with how most Mormons would respond in reality, even if when discussing it hypothetically they would come up with answers more like Ostler’s.

  12. “But. . . . it illuminates that LDS believe God could be giving contradictory instructions to people at the same time. I think it was Jesus who said something about a house divided not being able to stand. How would you reconcile that?”

    Tim, this statement assumes that we can conduct an experiment that isolates God as a variable to the exclusion of all other variables. Therefore, you assume that when dealing with personal human spiritual experiences you can clearly tell what is “God talking” and what is not. So your hypothetical assumes that you’ve isolated the pure, undiluted “God talk” and it’s saying A, B, and C.

    Well, that’s simply not true. Whenever a person is hearing God – whether it be Joseph Smith, whether it be Moses, whether it be you, whether it be me, or Kullervo… whoever – it is always a matter of mixing the divine voice with flawed human expectations, thinking, understanding, and assumptions.

    Therefore if you have an angry ex-Mormon, who sees only abusive Bishops, patriarchal oppression, petty moralizing, and destructive self-imaging whenever they look at the LDS Church – well, yeah… of course their legitimate moral and spiritual reaction will be one of rejection combined with a desire to oppose the LDS structure.

    That’s a valid and even “true” reaction. But it is informed by their assumptions and limited vision. That is always true of human spiritual witness. It is always a combination of human voice and divine voice. And I don’t think “Moroni’s Promise” in the Book of Mormon ever suggested otherwise.

  13. Kullervo, I don’t see The Yellow Dart’s and LDS Anarchist’s responses as mutually exclusive. I agree with both, and it seems to be they are different angles of explaining the same concept: We trust our own spiritual experiences.

  14. Everyone here keeps talking about how they would trust their own experiences over the experiences of someone else… but that’s not a part of the question being asked. The hypothetical person who received this revelation is not asking you to leave the church, but rather telling you their answer to Moroni’s promise.

    So, I think the real question here is, how do you deal with someone who says that God has told them the opposite of what God has told you?

    I know my experiences have led to people telling me that my prayers are being answered by Satan (or, rather, “the adversary”) when the prayers don’t line up with Mormon doctrine.

  15. So, I think the real question here is, how do you deal with someone who says that God has told them the opposite of what God has told you?

    Well done Katy, Thanks.

    Seth said. . . Therefore, you assume that when dealing with personal human spiritual experiences you can clearly tell what is “God talking” and what is not. So your hypothetical assumes that you’ve isolated the pure, undiluted “God talk” and it’s saying A, B, and C.

    I absolutely agree and the impression I get from many Mormons is that any emotional experience a person gets in regards to Mormonisms truth claims MUST be God speaking into their lives.

    What would you suggest we use to measure these spiritual experiences to see how heavy they are in the “divine voice” compared to the “human voice”. Should we attempt to make a discernment?

    As you probably know, I think spiritual experience are important and vital to a vibrant life of faith. But I in no way think that they are THE best way to discern truth about anything. I think they are the last thing to add to stack of reasons to believe. Mostly because they are EASY to manufacture. Many Scientologist have very profound spiritual experience because brain washing techniques do an excellent job of producing them.

  16. katyjane — I can’t judge your experiences, only my own. If you claim to have experiences that contradict mine, there are many possible explanations, including the possibility that one or both of us is deceived. I’m not in a position to make any definitive judgment.

    Tim — Your argument seems to assume that every bit or at least the bulk of a given Mormon’s faith is based on intangible “spiritual feelings.” Am I correct?

  17. Tim — Your argument seems to assume that every bit or at least the bulk of a given Mormon’s faith is based on intangible “spiritual feelings.” Am I correct?

    Brian, I’m sure that there are exceptions to every rule, but pretty consistently when I ask Mormons about X,Y, and Z and how they reconcile their faith to them, they say that their faith is based on a personal spiritual experience that they can not deny.

    In the same vain, when I ask Mormons what kind of evidence or proof would show them that the LDS church, the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith are not what they claim, they say the only thing that would convince them to leave is a spiritual experience on par or greater than the one that told them to join the church.

    So yes, my argument is assuming that because that is what I’ve been told by Mormons to assume. If you want to tell me that is not what Mormons believe, I’m all ears. I’d LOVE to hear a different answer.

  18. I think when you are talking about “the bulk” of any faith’s membership – it’s a matter of “spiritual feelings.” This is every bit as true of evangelicals as it is of Mormons.

    So we’ve got the “factual side” of religion (can we call it that?) on one side and the “emotional side” of religion on the other.

    Tim, you acknowledge that both are important, but find the factual side deserving of more weight.

    I also find both important, but would assert that the emotional side is deserving of more weight. Religion is a matter of the heart. I’d like that heart to be well-informed and well-reasoned of course. But religious affiliation is an intuitive matter at its core.

  19. “katyjane — I can’t judge your experiences, only my own. If you claim to have experiences that contradict mine, there are many possible explanations, including the possibility that one or both of us is deceived. I’m not in a position to make any definitive judgment.”

    And, you know, I never asked anyone to believe my experiences, but to acknowledge that they were real. Instead, I get told over and over that my experiences come from “The Adversary”. It’s annoying. 🙂

  20. I think the “bulk” of any faith’s membership believes simply as a matter of their cultural norms.

  21. Tim #20, that is pretty much where I stand, too. I joined the church due to spiritual experiences and remain in the church due to spiritual experiences.

    What I wonder, though, is how do you respond to LDS who state that the Holy Ghost has told them that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, etc.? Do you accept that answer as valid and trustworthy?

  22. Galatians 1:6
    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! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

    Paul makes it clear that not all spiritual experiences can be trusted, nor all visits from angels are worth listening to.

  23. Of course, Paul was pretty convinced his experiences were right and certainly was not going to accept those that were divergent.

    By believing Jesus was the Messiah he was going against his previous learned and reasoned judgment that that claim was completely false. Of course Jews continue to believe that.

    The Galations point is strong rhetoric to help create orthodoxy but you should keep in mind its source. Paul strikes me as a relatively closed minded kindof guy once he makes up his mind, he would allow the heretic to be stoned, standing by approvingly. Sure he thought his experience was the bomb, but that position ignores the paradox and complexity that allows tolerance.

    The problem with divergent religious beliefs is a problem for all who believe in a God who interacts with the world. If there is a God who can tell you the truth, why does he allow some to have the truth and others to remain in darkness?

    I think I have had experiences with God, but having less self confidence than others, I am open to having more than contradict my previous thoughts on the subject.

    A question for those who question the Mormon method is, won’t teaching the “true” gospel to the Mormon in a powerful spiritual way produce similar spiritual experiences that will lead them out of error? Can’t protestants play on that same field with the advantage of having God on their side?

  24. “A question for those who question the Mormon method is, won’t teaching the “true” gospel to the Mormon in a powerful spiritual way produce similar spiritual experiences that will lead them out of error? Can’t protestants play on that same field with the advantage of having God on their side?”

    I would think no. Mostly because, from my understanding, other religions aren’t concerned with finding the “true” church, but rather with developing a relationship with Christ. And most of the rest of Christianity doesn’t teach that you can pray to know if it’s true and get an answer. That is, I believe, a uniquely Mormon doctrine.

  25. Katy Jane,

    From my point of view, other religions, assuming you meant Christian religions, still have to evaluate truth claims regarding Christ and the Bible. (1 Corinthians 10, James 1:5).

    What you don’t find in is the centrality of the prayer-answer experience. There seems to be more of a focus on hearing the word and being “convicted” by it rather than getting the answer from God after prayer.

    How do non-Mormons come to believe that Jesus is the one “true” God and that the Bible is “true” (other than by indoctrination)? Is archaeological and textual evidence the primary basis of their faith? Do they believe that the spirit will witness to the truth of all things?

    I actually think Mormons and non-Mormons are much closer on this point than non-Mormons would admit. Spiritual experience is a central part of the reason MOST Christians believe (both Mormon and non-Mormon). Spiritual testimony of Jesus is a central part of the church in Acts and the epistles. The fastest growing christian churches in recent times (including but not limited to Mormonism) seem to focus on the spirituality of the Christian experience.

    I think some people join the Mormon church because they simply never had what they saw as a real spiritual experience in the religion they were raised in. That is not because it was not possible, but because those experiences may not have been emphasized.

  26. Using Gal 1:6 is problematic simply because Mormons can subjectively interpret it to mean that any gospel besides that revealed through Joseph Smith is not to be believed. Mormons believe the Restored Gospel is the same preached by Paul and his associates.

  27. I think the point in Galations is that angelic visitations should not be the (only) basis for your belief since even they could be misleading. Of course Paul is saying this firmly convicted that his spiritual visitation was authoritative and accurate.

    Why should we believe Paul over others with regard to what the Gospel is?

  28. Let me raise some ire:

    Paul’s use of another “gospel” is Galatians serves/is a rather specific reference in/for the overall purpose of his letter (and it doesn’t seem as though many here are very familiar with biblical scholarship on Paul and his letters). Maybe we should just move away from this oft-quoted and over-abused proof-text for now, since it is seems as though it is hardly going to clarify anything in this conversation.

    Getting back to the thread:

    I no longer understand the purpose of this thread given the points I have raised earlier. How can this persons’ spiritual experience be evidence for anyone other than themselves? The assumptions behind the question are faulty, so I say let’s throw out the question altogether; it simply doesn’t seem to be productive.

  29. And it gets to the heart of Mormon faith: the subjective spiritual experience as an omnipotent trump card.

    Juse because the question makes you uncomfortable doesn;t mean it’s not worth talking about.

  30. I think the point in Galations is that angelic visitations should not be the (only) basis for your belief since even they could be misleading. Of course Paul is saying this firmly convicted that his spiritual visitation was authoritative and accurate.

    Why should we believe Paul over others with regard to what the Gospel is?

    Well-said.

  31. Katy Jane,

    From my point of view, other religions, assuming you meant Christian religions, still have to evaluate truth claims regarding Christ and the Bible. (1 Corinthians 10, James 1:5).

    What you don’t find in is the centrality of the prayer-answer experience. There seems to be more of a focus on hearing the word and being “convicted” by it rather than getting the answer from God after prayer.

    How do non-Mormons come to believe that Jesus is the one “true” God and that the Bible is “true” (other than by indoctrination)? Is archaeological and textual evidence the primary basis of their faith? Do they believe that the spirit will witness to the truth of all things?

    I actually think Mormons and non-Mormons are much closer on this point than non-Mormons would admit. Spiritual experience is a central part of the reason MOST Christians believe (both Mormon and non-Mormon). Spiritual testimony of Jesus is a central part of the church in Acts and the epistles. The fastest growing christian churches in recent times (including but not limited to Mormonism) seem to focus on the spirituality of the Christian experience.

    I think some people join the Mormon church because they simply never had what they saw as a real spiritual experience in the religion they were raised in. That is not because it was not possible, but because those experiences may not have been emphasized.

    I would like a full answer to this comment by an evangelical.

    Mormon belief is based on a pretty simple formula: if you desire to believe (or are earnestly questioning), you pray and get a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Church is true. That’s conversion. It’s clear and cut and dry. YOu know when you’re converted to Mormonism because the Holy Ghost tells you, and you know how to get from wherever you are to that point ebcause Mormonism focuses so heavily on conversion by spiritual witness.

    Assuming Mormonism’s formula is total BS, which I think it is for a lot of reasons, what’s the alternative?

  32. Kullervo,

    Your simplistic 19th century enlightenment assumptions of “objective vs subjective” are out of date. You really need to revamp your naive approach.

    And what is with the ridiculous accusation that I am “uncomfortable”? You clearly don’t know me at all. What do I have to be “uncomfortable” about? I am confident in my beliefs and where I stand. I obviously don’t know everything, but I am certainly not ashamed by any means of my positions and I am happy to tell people what I think. I would like to think I am rather frank when I engage issues with others. Do others seriously think I am hedging in this thread? What am I hedging on that gives you such an impression? I have clearly statement my positions and arguments (which haven’t been responded to) which either answer or undermine the basic question(s) of the post; maybe you just have not understood what I’ve said. I would recommend you go back and reread.

  33. I don’t agree that Mormons, or others, actually believe that their spiritual experiences are valid only for themselve. If we believe God is speaking to us, we usually believe that what God says is right for us AND others. We usually believe our conclusions are valid for others to the degree that we can trust our own experiences. Otherwise its not “truth” just a relative perspective from a particular moment in time.

    The question is, how much can (or should) you trust your own experiences?

    I am not really sure I have a cogent answer to that.

  34. Yellow Dart, I’m not even all that interested in what you have to say, just that you’ve suggested we shut down discussion as “not productive,” which leads me to believe it’s not going somewhere you want it to go.

    And as far as my 19th-century simplistic assumptions go… well, that’s a load of crap. I haven;t suggested an objective-subjective divide at all. But by any definition of subjectivity, the personal mystical experience qualifies.

  35. Jared, I don’t believe in absolute truth. It is simultaneously why I was able to be a Mormon and why I no longer am. But because I don’t believe in absolute truth, it doesn’t bother me one bit if God tells you Mormonism is true, and tells me that it isn’t.

  36. Kullervo,

    You are interested in anything that I have said? Then please, continue to ignore me by all means, I don’t mind at all. But if you are going to confront me, then engage the arguments in my comments; don’t simply accuse me of being “uncomfortable” to talk about some issue. I don’t even know what issue you think I am uncomfortable to talk about.

  37. You said: I no longer understand the purpose of this thread given the points I have raised earlier. How can this persons’ spiritual experience be evidence for anyone other than themselves? The assumptions behind the question are faulty, so I say let’s throw out the question altogether; it simply doesn’t seem to be productive.

  38. Yellow Dart #31:

    I am well aware that Paul was speaking to the Galatians about a specific group of Judaizers. But just because we don’t have any contact with that specific group of Jews, doesn’t mean that we can’t glean some over all principles from Paul’s instruction to them. Paul apparently believes that “angels” might visit and their messages may not be trustworthy. It’s important to weave that bit of information into our epistimology.

    Jared said:
    I think the point in Galatians is that angelic visitations should not be the (only) basis for your belief since even they could be misleading. Of course Paul is saying this firmly convicted that his spiritual visitation was authoritative and accurate.

    It is true that Paul had a significant spiritual experience. But in his first (known) writings he makes it clear that if the resurrection is not an actual historical event, then we are all fools and we should stop believing. So he didn’t rest his faith on the road to Damascus, he rested it on the truth of the risen Jesus. He by no means suggested that we should believe something contrary to fact because of a spiritual experience.

    Why should we believe Paul over others with regard to what the Gospel is?

    Well, he’s part of your cannon just as much as he is of mine. Our reasons for believing he should be cannonized are probably different, but that would be a start. You also have Peter’s letters which endorse his teachings as (difficult but) sound.

    I appreciate how you’re actually wrestling with the real issues raised in the question (#38)

  39. Tim said: “In the same vein, when I ask Mormons what kind of evidence or proof would show them that the LDS church, the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith are not what they claim, they say the only thing that would convince them to leave is a spiritual experience on par or greater than the one that told them to join the church.

    For the sake of discussion, I’ll accept your conclusion about Mormons as true. But how would you say that’s different for evangelicals?

    Most of the evangelicals I know who are active in their faith seem to be that way because of a spiritual experience they have had. Their faith isn’t merely an intellectual exercise. Even if such evidence existed, I don’t think it would be possible to show them, for example, archaeological evidence disproving the Resurrection that would dissuade them of its truth.

    This is obvious with one subset of evangelicals, those who believe the Bible is to be interpreted literally (and I’m not trying to put you or anyone else here in that camp). By any rational measure, I can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the world wasn’t created in six 24-hour days. So what convinces these people, some of them very intelligent, that their understanding of the Bible is true? I assume it’s some kind of spiritual experience; it is certainly not a matter of evidence.

    So maybe I’ll ask you the question directly: What would it take to prove to you that the Resurrection didn’t happen? And if there were such evidence (I don’t believe there is, but we’re speaking hypothetically here), what would you do about it?

  40. How do non-Mormons come to believe that Jesus is the one “true” God and that the Bible is “true” (other than by indoctrination)? Is archaeological and textual evidence the primary basis of their faith? Do they believe that the spirit will witness to the truth of all things?

    I actually think Mormons and non-Mormons are much closer on this point than non-Mormons would admit. Spiritual experience is a central part of the reason MOST Christians believe (both Mormon and non-Mormon). Spiritual testimony of Jesus is a central part of the church in Acts and the epistles. The fastest growing christian churches in recent times (including but not limited to Mormonism) seem to focus on the spirituality of the Christian experience.

    Non-Mormon Christians typically (though not exclusively) come to faith in Jesus because they understand and agree with the message that their sin separates them from God and that Jesus is the only one who can make them whole again. They find the model of Jesus attractive and wish to change their lives to mimic him. Most people, Christian or not, accept that Jesus was a real historical figure and that the Jews were real people and that Jerusalem is a real city. so they don’t go digging into archeology or history before converting. But if they want to before or after they convert they can. I became a Christian when I was 6. I didn’t start figuring out that this might actually all be well-founded truth until college.

    I don’t at all deny that non-Mormon Christians have spiritual experiences. I have them. But they are internal evidence. Because so many people have SO many conflicting internal evidences I don’t believe they can be weighted as heavily as many people weight them. They have to be grounded in something outside of ourselves to gain substance.

    There’s no such thing as “spiritual truth”. Moroni being an actual historical figure is not a question of spirit but of history. It isn’t true in one way and false in another. True is true regardless of the field it exist in.

  41. So maybe I’ll ask you the question directly: What would it take to prove to you that the Resurrection didn’t happen? And if there were such evidence (I don’t believe there is, but we’re speaking hypothetically here), what would you do about it?

    The body of Jesus would be a good place to start. The real tomb he was supposed to be permanently laid in would be a good next step. https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/an-empy-tomb/

    I would also accept a historical document that’s as authentic to the first century as I Corinthians that has an early disciple of Christ confessing it was a hoax. Or even a Jewish or Roman leader confessing that they stole and destroyed the body only to find out that Jesus had an twin unknown to anyone including his Mother.

    There could be other things as well. I’d recommend anything by Gary Habermas on the resurrection if you want to know more.

    I acknowledge that there are many who would remain Christian despite that evidence. They are silly. I would not. They are basically saying “I believe simply and solely because I want to believe (or because I chose to long ago).” I’m not going to rest my faith on something that vapid though others may choose to. If we aren’t open to change our minds based on contradictory evidence, then we acknowledge we aren’t being rational.

    Would you say that you could change your mind about your faith? What would you require to do so?

  42. Tim wrote: “Non-Mormon Christians typically (though not exclusively) come to faith in Jesus because they understand and agree with the message that their sin separates them from God and that Jesus is the only one who can make them whole again. They find the model of Jesus attractive and wish to change their lives to mimic him. Most people, Christian or not, accept that Jesus was a real historical figure and that the Jews were real people and that Jerusalem is a real city. so they don’t go digging into archeology or history before converting. But if they want to before or after they convert they can. I became a Christian when I was 6. I didn’t start figuring out that this might actually all be well-founded truth until college.”

    My personal conversion/conviction came when I was 16, and it followed exactly the pattern you described. It’s just that I came to the realization that sin separated me from God and it was only through Jesus that I could be reconciled by reading from Alma 36 in the Book of Mormon. I remember distinctly that night as a sixteen year-old, praying for forgiveness and feeling the love of God so powerfully that it consumed me. That was my subjective spiritual experience that convinced me that I was nothing without Christ. By extension I also developed an intense love for the Book of Mormon because it was what brought me to that place. Your comment about not figuring out until college that this might be well-founded truth fits my experience as well.

    Concerning the thread as a whole:

    “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true” (Alma 29:8).

    Might this not be the case for individuals as well? I believe in a just and merciful, omniscient God who loves each of His children and knows exactly what will lead each of us to Him. If our hearts are in the right place, seeking Him and seeking to do His will, I trust that He will lead us where we most desire in righteousness to be.

  43. Tim,

    “…even if we or an angel from heaven…” Was Paul really, genuinely worrying about he or an angel doing such a thing? I sincerely doubt it. It simply looks to be rhetorical emphasis.

  44. Tim said, “I don’t at all deny that non-Mormon Christians have spiritual experiences. I have them. But they are internal evidence. Because so many people have SO many conflicting internal evidences I don’t believe they can be weighted as heavily as many people weight them. They have to be grounded in something outside of ourselves to gain substance.”

    I wonder about the use of the term “internal evidence.” One of the reasons that I trust the personal revelations that I have received to be of God is that they didn’t come from inside me, but from outside of me. In the same way that my five senses perceive sensations happening outside of me, the spiritual experiences also manifested outside to inside stimuli, but using a altogether different sense. Sometimes, though, one or more of my five physical senses were also activated and sensing what my spiritual “sense” was perceiving. I can tell the difference between what I think in my mind as being internal actions on my part, and a revelation from God. There is a distinct difference. Maybe others have problems discerning the two, but the “voices” are completely different. My voice and the voice of the Spirit, sound different, just as my mother’s voice and my brother’s voice are different. However, with my mother’s voice, I can imagine in my mind her speaking and hear her voice and remember how it sounds, and so, when dreaming, I can make the dream seem real. The same with my brother’s voice. But with the Spirit’s voice, I can’t do that. I know what it sounds like when He speaks, meaning I can recognize the Spirit, but if I attempt to duplicate the voice in my head using my imagination, I can’t. When the Spirit speaks, there is something more that accompanies it which I cannot of myself duplicate, which makes it uniquely “the voice of the Spirit.”

    I also wonder about hearing audible voices, or seeing angels, or seeing visions, or speaking in tongues. Are these “internal evidences?” I suppose technically they are, if no one else can witness to the same occurrence happening. But then, all physical experience that is experienced in private or cannot be confirmed by others would/could be termed an “internal experience,” I suppose.

    Another thought, how do you explain the “internal evidence” that happens to groups and not individuals? The day of Pentecost, the angel Moroni (and plates, sword, Liahona, etc.) appearing to the Three Witnesses, the experience of hundreds at the Kirtland Temple or the joint vision that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith saw together? Surely those would be considered “external evidences,” right? Or is that just group delusion and/or trickery?

  45. Tim said: “Non-Mormon Christians typically (though not exclusively) come to faith in Jesus because they understand and agree with the message that their sin separates them from God and that Jesus is the only one who can make them whole again.

    I wouldn’t expect anyone to become Mormon unless he or she believes the same thing. As I recall, that was the content of the first lesson I received from the missionaries some years ago.

    Tim asked: Would you say that you could change your mind about your faith?

    If that weren’t the case, it would be a blind faith. I’d hope to be always open to what there is that God has to show me. If that weren’t the case, I never would have become LDS. At one time, I was reasonably content being an evangelical.

    Tim asked: What would you require to do so?

    I’ll start out my answer using the same approach that you gave when I asked you a similar question: I don’t expect that such evidence will ever be found. And so I guess that the type of evidence would be similar to the sort of things you mentioned, perhaps a document in Joseph Smith’s handwriting confessing that he was a fraud. (Of course, the same things that you mentioned would apply. If there was no Resurrection, there is no Mormonism either.)

    But, to be honest, with the way that I look at things, it would take close to incontrovertible evidence. I’m not troubled by the fact that Joseph Smith had his faults, maybe even some serious ones. It seems that what many of the anti-Mormons try to do (and I’m not putting you in that camp) is to set up a straw-man argument: Supposedly we believe that prophets have to be perfect people, and if some flaw can be found, then our belief system crumbles.

    Now, that may be true of some evangelical fundamentalists, which is why some of them go to such lengths to prove that dinosaurs existed 6,000 years ago. If you believe that Genesis is literal, and to throw away that belief means giving up your faith, you’ll go to all ends to ignore the facts that they are, even make up your own branch of “science” as some have done.

    But that’s not the way that I look at things. You (not you specifically, but LDS opponents in general) may want to tell me that Joseph was wrong here, that Brigham Young was inconsistent here, whatever. But it doesn’t really matter (within reason, of course). My testimony doesn’t rest on my not finding any flaws in church history. If I thought that Joseph Smith (or the Book of Mormon, or whatever) had to be perfect for my faith to crumble, I never would have become LDS. The fact that the church is true doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

  46. Katyjane- I am with you on “absolute truth”. Its generally impossible to separate the observation from the observer and her context. I am not bothered that people have divergent spiritual experiences something that we cannot sense in other ways.

    I think Tim’s question hits at the heart of the Mormon and I believe the entire Christian experience.

    If spiritual experiences are to be evidence of anything, then what you are spiritually seeing must have the capacity to reflect reality. If they don’t reflect a reality that others can also relate to in some way then they are essentially meaningless, I mean meaningless in Wittgenstein’s sense, i.e. that they don’t reflect the world. I have enormous sympathy with the idea that ultimately some things cannot be said, only shown. Therefore I reject the notion that spiritual experiences are only valid for the person having the experience. I think that is a argument that is used to remove the confusion and complexity. If others can’t trust your spiritual experience in some way, why should you trust them?

    This said, even when somebody sees something with their eyes, feels it with their hands, and recalls their memory, this evidence must be skeptically approached. Just as multiple eye witnesses see and recall different things, we have to assume that if spiritual discernment is possible that it will be mired in the perspective of the discerner.

    Tim’s question, and point, makes me recall Nietzsche’s observation:

    As interpreters of our experience.— One sort of honesty has been alien to all founders of religions and their kind:—they have never made their experiences a matter of conscience for knowledge. “What did I really experience? What happened to me and around me at that time? Was my reason bright enough? Was my will opposed to all deceptions of the senses and bold in resisting the fantastic?”—none of them has asked such questions, nor do any of our dear religious people ask them even now; on the contrary, they thirst after things that go against reason, and they do not wish to make it too hard for themselves to satisfy it,—so they experience “miracles” and “rebirths” and hear the voices of little angels! But we, we others who thirst after reason, are determined to scrutinize our experiences as severely as a scientific experiment, hour after hour, day after day! We ourselves wish to be our experiments and guinea pigs.

    – section 319 of Nietzsche’s Gay Science

    However, I think non-Mormon Christian’s are fooling themselves if they think they can avoid the brunt of Nietzsche’s critique. (indeed they are its target)

  47. Thanks Eric, How do you reconcile the Book of Abraham with that? In that case it’s not just a moral imperfection on Smith’s part, it’s a flat out debunking of his ability to translate Egyptian. That bit of evidence has caused many LDS to re-evaluate Joseph Smith prophetic status. I wonder why it doesn’t bother my friends here as it has other Mormons.

    Anarchist,
    What most LDS describe as their Testimony is nothing like the Day of Pentecost or the events at the Kirtland Temple. It’s typically described as a rush of feelings or sensations. If Mormons were consistently describing visions or visitations I think this conversation would go a much different way.

    I think the 3 and 8 witnesses did not actually see the physical plates. They saw them with their “spiritual eyes”, there’s plenty you can read on that elsewhere. The fact that almost all of them ended up leaving the church tells me the event wasn’t as significant as we’re lead to believe. The witnesses of the resurrection went to their deaths for it. Hardly the case for the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, they could hardly stand losing money.

  48. One of the reasons that I trust the personal revelations that I have received to be of God is that they didn’t come from inside me, but from outside of me.

    Total BS. You can’t possibly tell whether any stimulus, spiritual or physical, comes from outside of you.

  49. Tim- I think your account’s of the 3 and 8 witnesses is not 100% accurate but the point can still be made with the actual story. I don’t know how much you have read about them but their testimony’s are at least as accurate and consistent as those of the resurrection. They were also interviewed and questioned hundreds of times after the event.

    I am not saying they are rock solid witnesses. . I like the way Mark Twain put the skeptical position:

    Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything; but for me, when a man tells me that he has “seen the engravings which are upon the plates,” and not only that, but an angel was there at the time, and saw him see them, and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to conviction, no matter whether I ever heard of that man before or not, and even if I do not know the name of the angel, or his nationality either. . . .

    And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but “hefted” them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.”

    Some of the witnesses of the resurrection went to their deaths, but willingness to die for something does not necessarily vouch for its truth. The lack of fanaticism is at least as credible as its presence. The fact that the Whitmer’s did not publically deny their testimony even after they were essential forcibly removed from the church does not

    Keep in mind that there were many early believers in the Book of Mormon who thought Joseph was a fallen prophet and they called him to the carpet many times, it doesn’t seem to be a cult of personality.

    However, as you say, we don’t hear much at all about visions in the church anymore. I think the reason is clear, visions are always controversial since they purport to tell the world something about God. No institution likes a lot of talk of real visions or visitations (rather than the “burning feeling” experience. . since they shake things up far too much, and necessarily they tend to undermine the authority of the leaders who do not have those visions.

    I think your overall point is rock solid, if you had a vision or and angel that came to you and said to resist, how would it be possible for you to reject that over what anybody else said, assuming that the experience was powerful and consistent with the spiritual experiences you had.

    The problem for me is how to make sense of God who fails to consistently reveal himself through experience that is not easily be doubted or explained away (if not dis-proven).

  50. Tim, I’m just not seeing that the Book of Abraham has been “debunked.” You keep saying it, but I don’t see it.

  51. Seth R. said: “I’m just not seeing that the Book of Abraham has been “debunked.” You keep saying it, but I don’t see it.

    I don’t see it either.

    Granted, the evidence doesn’t match up with what may be popularly understood about the Book of Abraham, and it would certainly be problematic if I had to believe that the Book of Abraham is a translation (as that word is usually used today) of the Egyptian funerary documents we have.

    But there are alternative explanations. I don’t know which one is true.

    At this point, I’m more interested in what the Book of Abraham teaches (and it’s a fascinating piece of scripture) than in the precise method by which the revelation came about.

  52. Kullervo (#56), said, “Total BS. You can’t possibly tell whether any stimulus, spiritual or physical, comes from outside of you.”

    When I close my eyes and imagine an elephant, how it sounds, how it looks, how it smells, how it feels when I imagine that I touch it, it doesn’t compare to when I am actually in the presence of a real elephant, and really hear it, and really see it, really smell it and really feel it. Although I have a vivid imagination, and can compose in my mind a lot of detail for that imaginary elephant, what I experience in my imagination is more like a ghost image, ghost sound, ghost smell, and ghost touch. The two just do not compare. One comes from inside of me (my imagination), while the other comes from outside of me.

    I’d say for most people, the above applies. You may call it BS, and attempt to philosophically explain the difference away, but I think most people would just ignore you and trust their own experience of inside and outside, as that is our real experience.

    So, when I state that my spiritual experiences are classified by me as the outside kind, I mean just as outside as any physical experiences can be (using the physical as my reference point), minus the physicality.

  53. No philosophy. The experiences you are so certain are coming from outside of you–say that elephant you’re sure you’re seeing, for example–is this: light bounces off the elephant into your eyes, where it goes through all those eye parts (flipped around by the lens, registered as basically pixels by the rods and cones in the retina). The eye sends electrical impulses to the brain. The brain decodes the impulses, interprets them, assigns them meaning.

    Perception happens entirely inside your brain. You’re trusting that your sensory apparatus works, and that it is in fact your sensory apparatus that is sending signals to the brian, and that your ultra-complex brain is correctly interpreting the signals it may or may not really be picking up.

    There’s a lot of room for serious uncertainty there.

    What about hallucinations? Night terrors? The things that seem real–not ghostly like the imagination–but aren’t? What about hypnotically induced “stimuli”?

  54. At this point, I’m more interested in what the Book of Abraham teaches (and it’s a fascinating piece of scripture) than in the precise method by which the revelation came about.

    So if it turns out that Joseph Smith made it up whole cloth, you’re fine with that?

  55. Tim, I’m just not seeing that the Book of Abraham has been “debunked.” You keep saying it, but I don’t see it.

    I typically don’t get into the particulars of these kinds of arguments on this blog. But would it matter if I could show you that it has been debunked?

    The more pressing question related to this thread is: Would you say that you could change your mind about your faith? What would you require to do so?

    And in all sincerity I only bring up the Book of Abraham because I’m genuinely flumoxed by it. Eric I appreciate your answer because it tells me you’re wrestling with it too.

  56. Kullervo (#61), exactly, I’m trusting my brain. Most people do trust their brains. And when the brain says, “That comes from the outside and this comes from the inside,” most people believe their brains, as do I. There are times when the brain registers something new, something that I’ve never experienced before. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the brain is hallucinating. We live a comparative existence. A dream is compared with reality and the parts of it that don’t fit in with reality are checked off as imagination. If I have a spiritual experience and get a communication from the Holy Ghost, my first ever, if it were the first ever of all men, I might be tempted to say, “Hey, that must be a hallucination,” but if others have also had communications from the Holy Ghost, there is a basis in reality. If I see an angel, and was the first ever to see an angel, I might be tempted to say, “I was just seeing things.” But if others have also testified of seeing angels, there is a basis in reality, as we compare our experience with those of others, or the testimony of others. As such, nothing I have experienced spiritually is out of the norm. Others have also received revelations, spoken prophecies, seen angels, healed, been healed, etc. The end result? I trust my brain in these things. Outside is outside and inside is inside, so says my brain.

    Seth R. and Eric, I also don’t see the Book of Abraham being debunked. In fact, it exactly conforms to plasma mythology and plasma cosmology, which was not known by Joseph Smith, so I think the balance of evidence tips in favor of it being an inspired document, as Joseph could not have known to make up a plasma mythological document.

  57. Tim said (re the Book of Abraham): “Eric I appreciate your answer because it tells me you’re wrestling with it too.

    I didn’t say that. All I’m saying is that if I were standing on the outside and looking at it objectively, the origins of the Book of Abraham would be one of the more problematic issues. (A more positive way of saying that is that if I were acting as an apologist, I would find it easier to make the case for the veracity of the Book of Mormon than I could for the Book of Abraham.)

    I wouldn’t say I’m wrestling with the issue. I did to some extent before joining the church, but not now.

    Kullervo asked (re the Book of Abraham): “So if it turns out that Joseph Smith made it up whole cloth, you’re fine with that?

    I wouldn’t say that either. But it is conceivable to me that the revelation is separate from the content of the papyrus that Joseph Smith had. Joseph Smith often translated the book of Mormon without having the golden plates open in front of him, and he “translated” the Bible without original text. From there, it isn’t that much of a stretch to think of the papyrus as a “catalyst” rather than something that had the actual text of the Book of Abraham on it.

    I’m not saying that’s the case, nor am I saying that there are no problems with that view, which is kind of a worst-case scenario. But I suppose I am saying I would be “fine with that” if I found it it were true.

    You may see that kind of revelatory experience as equivalent to the BoA being “made … up whole cloth.” I don’t. And as LDS Anarchist suggests, there are some ways in which it is a remarkable document.

  58. A few possibilities on the BoA:

    1. Joseph literally translated it from papyrus – perhaps with some minor grammatical and wording errors, but more or less a sentence for sentence translation.

    2. Joseph merely used the papyrus as a catalyst for receiving revelation. He mistakenly felt he was “translating,” but the revelation was still valid.

    3. The book is made up entirely “out of whole cloth.”

    4. A combination of all or some of the above.

    Tim, if you can prove that #3 is exclusively the case on the Book of Abraham, that would probably be enough to make me stop viewing it as valid scripture – but merely a nice piece of prose that I should give no more weight to than I ought to give weight to Emerson’s “Walden Pond.”

    Good luck with that.

    However, if either #1 or #2 apply to any significant degree however, then I think I am fully within my rights to continue treating the book as scripture. The book doesn’t have to be a flawless transmission for me to treat it as scripture.

    My own conviction of the Book of Abraham simply comes from an intellectual resonance with the book’s message. I also derive a satisfactory spiritual response, but I find the book to be completely satisfactory for providing a paradigm for the universe and God’s dealings with humanity.

    It also doesn’t hurt that apocryphal and other external sources about Abraham discovered long after Joseph Smith died have actually corroborated his narrative of Abraham.

    So tell me – did Joseph just get lucky in providing an in-depth tour of ancient Jewish folklore? From where I’m sitting, it’s the critics of the Book of Abraham who are making the implausible stretches here.

  59. Can you point me in the direction of these other sources on Abraham? I always like to check out the evidence for myself.

  60. There is a lot of good LDS scholarship on the BofA.

    Try for starters:

    Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant by John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid

    You can read it online here fortunately:

    http://farms.byu.edu/publications/booksmain.php

    There are quite a number of other books and articles as well.

    Since so few seem informed about the basic modern historical circumstances surrounding the BofA, you can check out this useful presentation (in 6 parts I believe) as well:

  61. This is also a good place to start as well:

    Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, edited by John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2001).

    However, I couldn’t find this one online for free unfortunately

    Both books I have cited (f.y.i., my previous comment is still in moderation because it contains 2 links and it references another book) contain good documentation of primary sources and secondary sources.

    Since I doubt many will read the books, this link might be useful:

    http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/boa.shtml

    I haven’t read through all of Jeff’s work, so I can’t vouch for it all. But having glanced over it, it seems pretty good and relevant to your question(s) (it is actually a three part series; I have only linked to the third one–feel free to check the others out for yourself).

  62. And as LDS Anarchist suggests, there are some ways in which it is a remarkable document.

    Plasma mythology? Please.

  63. I will never cease to be amazed by the bizarre mental gymnastics that some Mormons will go through to find ways to believe what is a laughably implausible religion.

  64. Like I said a while back Tim, if you aren’t willing to seriously entertain the “biased” LDS sources, you just aren’t going to get that much serious scholarship on the Book of Abraham.

    No one else cares – except the counter-cultists and they just haven’t bothered to step-up their game yet.

    Nibley isn’t the only source to look at, but just to use him as an example. I recently read a little passage of his where he tried to link Joseph’s “coat of many colors” to the LDS temple garment. I thought that, “yes, that’s a little contrived and out-there.” He did seem very much to be doing what you accused him of earlier – piecing together an odd argument from a dazzling array of information from various inter-disciplinary sources such that few people are equipped to coherently respond to his arguments.

    But that doesn’t mean you get to automatically discount everything he wrote or claimed. There’s a lot of solid scholarship in there and it’s being expanded upon by modern LDS scholars.

    Kullervo,

    It seems to me that the accusation of “mental gymnastics” is thrown around so carelessly in the world of apologetics that it has lost most of its usefulness. Unless you can accompany the charge of “mental gymnastics” with some real hard proofs, I’m not sure you’re really adding much to the conversation by making the accusation.

    And be honest. You aren’t really “amazed” by it, are you?

  65. It’s not carelessly thrown around in the world of apologetics, because it applies to virtually everything in the world of apologetics!

    Plasma mythology as proof of the Book of Abraham is mental gymnastics when the hard evidence for Abraham is nonexistent. Sure, it’s possible that there’s an alternate explanation for the BoA, but the overwhelmingly most likely explanation is that Joseph Smith filled in the blanks with his own drawings and then made up a “translation.”

  66. And be honest. You aren’t really “amazed” by it, are you?

    No, it’s more like “utterly flabbergasted.” Especially since I used to be just as guilty of it.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable to believe in God, or even to have a religion. But to start claiming that there’s actually hard evidence that your beliefs in the religious sphere are well-grounded in real evidence? You just start to sound stupid. Seriously.

  67. Tim,

    If you were to take the time to actually read what LDS scholars have to say about the issues surrounding the BofA, then you would find numerous references to and thorough interaction with almost all of the non-LDS literature which has dealt with the BofA.

    Having re-read your question to Seth (“Can you point me in the direction of these other sources on Abraham? I always like to check out the evidence for myself.”), I simply thought you were asking for LDS treatments of and evidences for the BofA. Perhaps I was mistaken.

    What is your real question though? I just don’t know many non-LDS writers to link to who write in defense of the BofA (but then again I know of few non-LDS who actually take the time to read what LDS scholars have written on the issues and who also have the language and historical skills to analyze their arguments).

  68. Oh, I did just think of this paper delivered by (non-LDS) Mosser and Owens which briefly touches on this topic among others:

    http://www.cephasministry.com/mormon_apologetics_losing_battle.html

    I am sure most here have read it before (or if they haven’t, they ought to). Part V is the part I was specficially thinking of. Here is a brief quote:

    “In a panel discussion a question was asked concerning connections between Mormon scriptures and ancient sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha and the Nag Hammadi texts. In answer S. Kent Brown pointed to two main areas. First of all, there are points of contact with regard to interest in key personalities: Adam (Moses 6:45-68; cf. Life of Giants fragments, and the Ethiopic, Slavonic and Hebrew books of Enoch), Melchizedek (Alma 13:14-19; cf. 11Q Melchizedek and the Nag Hammadi Melchizedek work), Abraham (Book of Abraham; cf. The Testament of Abraham and Apocalypse of Abraham), and Joseph (2 Nephi 3:5-21; cf. Testament of Joseph). Second, there are parallels in terms of key themes such as the Creation account (Moses 3:21-5:21; cf. 4 Ezra 6:38-54 and the Gnostic, On the Origin of the World and the Hypostasis of the Archons), the notion of a pre-mortal existence of souls (Abraham 3:18-28; cf. the Apocryphon of James and the Gospel of Thomas, saying 4), and the idea of an eschatological restoration following a period of apostasy (cf. The Apocalypse of Peter in the Nag Hammadi library).54”

    Their notes are:

    “54. See S. Kent Brown and others, “The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible: A Panel,” in Scriptures for the Modern World ed. Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1984), 81-83.”

    So if you were just looking for primary sources Tim, just go read the BofA and then read the Testament of Abraham and Apocalypse of Abraham. I think many of the general parallels will be clear. James Charlesworth has put together an excellent collection of and set of translations for these documents. You could start their if you’d like.

  69. *start there (not their)…

    However, for thorough analysis of these ancient documents with the BofA, you are still going to have to read the LDS sources–they simply can’t be ignored (and shouldn’t be by any means).

  70. I am in agreement in principle with Kullervo on #76, in my mind, all Christians, both Mormons and non-Mormons, have slim to no real hard proof of the core tenants of their theology.

    Even if, as Tim claims, the Resurrection is a fact firmly established by trustworthy first hand testimony, this would only be circumstantial evidence that anything else in the Bible was at all accurate. (We could just as easily interpret the resurrection in a Hindu context as a Christian context, which would lead to wildly different theology).

    It always sounds a bit delusional to me when Christians or Muslims or anybody else claim they have “proof” in any scientific sense of the tenants of their religion.

    Of course science is so misused and manipulated in most situations that “proof” or “evidence” of things generally is simply conjecture or theory or guesses based on somewhat tenuous correlations of data. There are so many ways to get science wrong that most things called “scientific” in popular parlance really aren’t.

    However, where I think Kullervo is wrong is that he appears to be relatively dismissive of Mormon thought because it appears that he believes people were laboring under the same delusions he was, and are worthy of contempt.

    On topic with this thread, I think that generally religion and religious experiences may not be established enough to kill for, or go to war for or persecute people for, but they may be established enough to provide a plausible and rational basis for ordering your life. The evidence of Jesus, coupled with the context and ideas in the New Testament provide a morally acceptable way to order your life, even when there is not absolute evidence that can, in no small part to the fact that Christian ideals are practically valid and “true’ rather than simply supernatural, they make a difference on the ground, not just in heaven. I can say the same thing with the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith.

    The religious stories told by Christians, Mormon and non-Mormon, are implausible, but the apologetic process of removing some of the implausibility of the stories is not a vacant effort so long as it is done with a degree of intellectual honesty.

    This brings me to the heart of this post, i.e. that individual experience, however uncertain, may provide a stronger moral basis to believe than the borderline sophistry of some apologists. Theology and apology provides a way to order religious experience in a way that takes away the mystery and unexplainability of such experiences but it cannot really supplant it as the bedrock of the faith of most people.

    The problem is, these experiences should be doubted and the mystery acknowledged in order to avoid fanaticism. I am most skeptical when people are certain of things that cannot be subject to experiment or proof.

  71. Just to let everyone here know, I’ve posted some preliminary images of what I believe is the actual, missing (now found) daguerrotype of Joseph Smith on my blog. Come take a look at the Prophet, if you want. Prior to today, only three other modern LDS, besides myself, have seen this image.

  72. Um, I’ve been hearing about the daguerrotype for the past week and saw an online image of it a couple days ago. The jury is still out on whether it’s the real deal or not.

    To clarify something, I never claimed that to the extent that the BoA is backed up by apocryphal Abrahamic stories and lore, that would be conclusive proof of the book. I’ve never claimed that about any evidence I’ve presented about the books of my religion.

  73. Seth, the image you saw was not what I am referring to. I just posted this daguerreotype a few hours ago. (I’m the one who made the discover of it and who is breaking the story on it.) It is impossible that you saw it a couple of days ago. This is a different daguerreotype that blows all others right out of the water, as I believe it is the genuine article, the actual photo of Joseph Smith. Take a look and let me now what you think.

    Tim, sorry for the off-topic post. Also, are you going to keep my #74 post in moderation, or finally release it?

  74. Like I said a while back Tim, if you aren’t willing to seriously entertain the “biased” LDS sources, you just aren’t going to get that much serious scholarship on the Book of Abraham.

    No one else cares – except the counter-cultists and they just haven’t bothered to step-up their game yet.

    I actually think that http://www.bookofabraham.info/ handles the issues pretty well. I have yet to hear a serious LDS response to it other than “too bad we can never know what 19th Century Americans meant by the word ‘translate’.” If you’re going to stretch to connect it to apocryphal Jewish mythology, you’re going to have to jump over a bunch of obvious anachronisms in the Book of Mormon on the way.

    And while we’re talking about people not stepping up their game. Why have no LDS scholars even attempted to give a response to “The New Mormon Challenge”? LDS complain that no one is answering their scholarship, but when someone actually does, it goes ignored. Meanwhile Mormons apologist spend their time yelling on a message board and setting up a Wiki to answer a poorly made DVD.

  75. Tim,

    Are you kidding about the NMC?

    Yes, there wasn’t a book dedicated to responding to it, but numerous responses have been written to virtually every article/chapter found therein in various places.

    I would link to many of them, but my comment would go into moderation. You can start by searching through the FARMS review.

    However, my personal favorite is this one:

    http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/index.html

    where Blake Ostler takes on Copan and Craig concerning “Creatio Ex Nihilo” (I am trained in ANE/Biblical studies, so the philosophical arguments are not really as interesting to me as the historical/exegetical treatments that Blake discusses in the first segment). You can read my post at my blog for more links and additional responses to the issue.

    However, the NMC is very shady when it comes to this topic. Copan and Craig don’t even mention that the vast majority of biblical and ANE scholars reject the notion that the Hebrew Bible (and also the NT) teach “creatio ex nihilo”. In fact, I am unaware of any who have studied the issue in depth who have concluded otherwise. They can disagree with majority if they want, but shouldn’t they at least make such information clear when addressing their audience? They give a highly skewed and misleading view of the situation to their audience. Copan and Craig are in the great minority.

    David Paulsen put it well in his panel address to the NMC concerning the nature of their goal to achieve good “scholarship” in the book:

    “I am a philosopher, so I will leave it to my colleagues to evaluate the soundness of the book’s scholarship. But, by and large, I am impressed with the quality of the critiques collected in this book. Contributors have posed challenges to Latter-day Saint positions that will likely keep LDS apologists engaged for some time. I do, however, want to raise a metalevel question relating to Aim 2. In context, what does “sound scholarship” require? Consider two major points argued for in the book: (1) the Bible teaches that the world was created out of nothing, and (2) the Bible teaches that God is a single metaphysical substance consisting of three persons. Each of these claims, I understand, flies directly in the face of a scholarly consensus to the contrary. Of course, this fact in no way entails that these claims are false or, by itself, impugns the scholarly nature of the arguments marshaled in their support. But, given a contrary scholarly consensus, does “sound scholarship” require that defenders of a minority position (1) acknowledge the contrary consensus, (2) at least summarize the grounds on which such consensus is based, and (3) only then make a case for their minority report? Failing to do this, defenders of a minority position may mislead their readers to conclude that the scholarly consensus supports their view when in fact it does not. Again, what does a critique of LDS beliefs based on “sound scholarship” require?”

    So when I read in my copy of the NMC that LDS scholars haven’t adequately dealt with this issue I can hardly do anything but laugh at the audacity of such a statement. They don’t even address the relevant biblical and ANE scholarship (and there is a lot of it) that contradicts their own position.

    (I would note that they have written another volume on the same topic which does a somewhat better job by remedying some of their obvious neglect in the NMC; but Blake has responded to it from a LDS perspective already in the FARMS Review. Moreover, their historical and exegetical arguments are simply unpersuasive as far as biblical and historical scholarship are concerned.)

    Anyway, I have went on to long.

  76. Tim said:

    “Why have no LDS scholars even attempted to give a response to “The New Mormon Challenge”? ”

    I know this comment may go into moderation for a little while since it will contain too many links(I have tried to take out the hyperlinks so the comment won’t go into moderation), but I thought I would give a few links (the one’s I could find from a quick search of the Farms Review) in a convenient collection for Tim’s and others’ interest to some LDS scholars who actually have attempted to reply to the NMC.

    So since you asked why none has “even attempted” yet, here you go:

    David Paulen’s invited response to the NMC (quoted in my above comment):

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=405

    Tvedtnes and Roper on the NMC and the BofM:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=472

    Ostler (it’s a PDF) on Creatio Ex Nihilo and the NMC:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/pdf.php?filename=MTMxOTQzMzcwMC0xNy0yLnBkZg==&type=cmV2aWV3

    Ostler on the problem of evil and the NMC:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=473

    Kevin Barney’s critique of Finley’s article (and also Blomberg’s) in the NMC:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=471

    Kevin Christensen on Paul Owen’s critique of Margaret Barker:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=409

    Louis Midgley responding (in part) to Mosser’s essay in the NMC:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=408

    Barry Bickmore’s review of another article by Paul Owen in the NMC:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=474

    There may be others I have simply glossed over since I am in a hurry. Enjoy looking them over.

  77. I will come up with a small collection of essays later (in addition to the ones linked above) a little later for your convenience.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  78. Yes, I forgot “New Mormon Challenge” in that statement. I seem to recall reading somewhere around three separate Mormon-written articles addressing the book though. I remember the Creation Ex Nihilo one by Blake Ostler though. I thought he pretty-much nailed that one and Craig and Copan didn’t come off well in the exchange.

  79. Actually, it won’t let me post the comment because there are too many links. I am not sure how to create them without hyperlinks on wordpress, so I will just remove the “http://” that they all begin with (you can add it if/when you copy and paste them obviously).

    Tim said:

    “Why have no LDS scholars even attempted to give a response to “The New Mormon Challenge”? ”

    I though I would give a few links (the one’s I could find from a quick search of the Farms Review) in a convenient collection for Tim’s and others’ interest to some LDS scholars who actually have attempted to reply to the NMC.

    So since you asked why none has “even attempted” yet, here you are:

    David Paulen’s invited response to the NMC (quoted in my above comment):

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=405

    Tvedtnes and Roper on the NMC and the BofM:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=472

    Ostler (it’s a PDF) on Creatio Ex Nihilo and the NMC:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/pdf.php?filename=MTMxOTQzMzcwMC0xNy0yLnBkZg==&type=cmV2aWV3

    Ostler on the problem of evil and the NMC:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=473

    Kevin Barney’s critique of Finley’s article (and also Blomberg’s) in the NMC:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=471

    Kevin Christensen on Paul Owen’s critique of Margaret Barker:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=409

    Louis Midgley responding (in part) to Mosser’s essay in the NMC:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=408

    Barry Bickmore’s review of another article by Paul Owen in the NMC:

    maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=474

    There may be others I have simply glossed over since I am in a hurry. Enjoy looking them over.

  80. Expanding on what The Yellow Dart has been saying.

    I don’t really think that Evangelicals and Mormons challenging and refuting each other is interesting for the simple reason that we each live and publish in ghettos. By that I mean that if you walk into any Christian bookstore (where I live it’s Mardel) or into any Deseret Book you are going to find little, if anything, published by scholarly presses, such as Oxford University Press. When we challenge and refute each other we tend to rely on home grown, ghetto approved, materials.

    The truth is that when you venture into the world of rigorous scholarship we both find out we are living in a ghetto and that BOTH of our ways of approaching the gospel have problems. For instance Evangelical theology really needs some form of biblical inerrancy and creation ex nihilo, neither of which is supported by more scholarly readings of the Bible. More scholarly readings of Isaiah and Matthew are real problems for why certain passages are included in the Book of Mormon. The bottom line is that scholarship leaves both camps wanting.

    So, what do we do? We each go back to our ghettos and engage in apologetics as to why scholarship so badly understands our position, but we probably don’t go too far to defend the other ghetto’s position, because after all, THEY have it wrong! We also comfort ourselves that our own publishing outlets (Zondervan, FARMS) are good enough and are doing the Lord’s work, those darn scholars just don’t get it because they lack something. Mormons say they lack the guidance of the Spirit. Evangelicals I am sure say something similar. The point is we end up right back where we both started, in our ghettos, damning each other to hell.

  81. Here’s a link to a presentation by Klaus Baer in ‘Dialog’. Klaus was from the University of Chicago and was representing a purely scholarly perspective of the BOA from neither the mormon, evangelical, or any other religious perspective. Although the pictures of the papyri are unreadable the translation of them is not and Klaus’ translation does not match Smith’s translation.

    http://bhporter.com/Temple/Abraham/Egypt/The%20breathing%20Permit%20of%20Hor.pdf

  82. I’m sorry to bud in a conversation. But I only read because my heart hurts alot over this and has for sometime. I’ve been on both sides. Never felt the sensation everyone tells me about, but went off of everyone elses testimony and was LDS for a long time. But as a convert, in my experience only, the Bible will always outweigh the BoM, and the BoM will never seem like the most correct book on earth.

    Anyway, just my own thoughts on alot of this, birth and circumstance play a role in my mind too. I too asked God, and feel like God keeps telling me no, but members of the LDS church would convince that it was Satan that I was feeling, so I would and do continue to pray about it.

    Through all of this craziness ride of a rollarcoaster, I have began to form a relationship with God. One that I never had at the LDS church. I’m not saying it was wrong, but just learning to go to the one who can move a mountain, verses the bishop, etc., has greatly improved my life.

    My thoughts. I spent so much time worrying who is right, that I missed out many years of “doing what is right”, to the best of my ability.

    My comfort comes from this:
    If LDS is true, and God did not allow me to know for some reason, I’ll be a servant in the second kingdom. That’s probably where I belong, because I woul never be ok with sharing my husband and would make a much better servant than a 2nd, 3rd, 4th wife.

    At first when I started going to LDS, the thought of “families forever” sounded beautiful. I wanted sealed! But as time goes on, you find out that families forever is not what you once thought, it includes more women which I would not be cool with anyhow. All of the sudden, it doesn’t seem so much like a heaven, but more like a punishment.

    If LDS is not true, then I’m cool with that too, because my God, has promised me this in the Bible. If you ask me for fish, I will not give you a snake. I am not only asking for fish, but beggin’ for it daily. We all have got to have faith that God has us where he wants us.

    In my personal experience, LDS was dangerous, because the members do beleive in absolute truth, they could be told absolutly anything and not question it even if the Bible says diffently. And that scares me.

    I beleive my God is so strong, that he would have never deceived his people by giving them a Bible that is not correct. He would be a weak God if that were possible. I will be big enough to say, I don’t know, that’s why I need God. I was fooling myself to think he needs me. It’s me that needs him! I guess part of this rollarcoaster has helped me need him. Once again, sorry for budding in. Blessings to you all!

  83. In my personal experience, LDS was dangerous, because the members do beleive in absolute truth, they could be told absolutly anything and not question it even if the Bible says diffently. And that scares me.

    How is this any different from you believeing that the Bible is absolute truth?

    I beleive my God is so strong, that he would have never deceived his people by giving them a Bible that is not correct. He would be a weak God if that were possible.

    Nonsense. While I concede that an all-powerful god should, by definition, be able to “give a perfect Bible,” this does not appear to be what God actually did. Be careful about insisting on what you think God should have done or ought to have done when it appears to contradict what God has actually done. Isn’t that a kind of idolatry?

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