Subject: Dallin Oaks in Private vs. Dallin Oaks in Public on the Book of Mormon
Date: Jul 08, 2008
Author: steve benson

Note:  Dallin Oaks is a Mormon Apostle.    See also 111 Dallin H. Oaks and the BofM

As a topic of ongoing discussion on this board, speculation has been raised from time to time as to what high Mormon Church leaders believe and speak in private about the foundation of their faith, as compared to what they proclaim in public.

In a recent observation, poster "Randy J." noted the following about LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks' public speechifying regarding the Book of Mormon, as found in an address entitled "The Historicity of the Book of Mormon," which Oaks delivered at a banquet of the faithful hosted by FARMS.

Notes "Randy J.":

". . . [A]lthough Oaks' address is titled 'The Historicity of the Book of Mormon,' he offers not one iota of evidence to support that title in his entire speech. . . .

"Church leaders are willing to let FARMS and FAIR apologists go out on fragile limbs and propose their silly theories and publish their silly papers; but the leaders are much more reserved in their pronouncements, because they don't want to make any statements about 'Book of Mormon evidences' which can be refuted later." (Subject: Two LDS apostles discuss scientific evidence for the BOM....., Date: Jul 06 14:33, Author: Randy J.)

http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon534.htm
_____


As a telling historical sidenote to the FARMS banquet speech which "Randy J." mentions, I learned from a private meeting with Oaks just a few weeks prior to him delivering that speech that what he said in private about the Book of Mormon was not in complete synchronization with his later public observations. To be sure, what Oaks expressed behind closed doors compared to what he later said in public at that FARMS banquet makes for interesting reading.

On 9 September 1993, in a closed-door meeting with Oaks and fellow Apostle Neal A. Maxwell in Maxwell’s Salt Lake City Church office, Oaks offered his personal observations and assessments about the Book of Mormon.

Approximately six weeks after having met with Oaks and Maxwell--on 29 October 1993—Oaks then spoke publicly on the Book of Mormon, in the aforementioned sermon entitled, “The Historicity of the Book of Mormon," which was delivered at the annual dinner for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in Provo, Utah.

The text of Oaks' banquet remarks is available at:

http://www.boap.org/LDS/Oaks-on-BoM-critics
http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/bom/Oaks_Historicity.htm


What follows is a compare-and-contrast examination of what Oaks said in that earlier private meeting about the Book of Mormon in the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City, as compared to what he publicly told the FARMS audience a few weeks later at their banquet in Provo.

Note the similarities and, more importantly, the differences between Oaks’ privately- and publicly-expressed views on the Book of Mormon--the keystone of the Mormon faith.


HISTORICTY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON AND EVIDENCE OF PLAGIARISM

--Oaks Behind Closed Doors:

In the privacy of Maxwell's office, Oaks was shown striking parallels between a cross-referenced, color-coded copy of the Book of Mormon and the text for the "Spalding Manuscript," B.H. Roberts' study of parallels between Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews" the King James text of the Book of Isaiah and the King James text of the New Testament--with particular emphasis being placed on the Book of Mormon timeline from 600 BC to 1 BC, when the words of the New Testament had not yet been written.

Further, Oaks was shown 17 parallels between the lives of the Book of Mormon prophet Alma and the New Testament apostle Paul. Note was made of the wording in Alma's letters that is found in exactly the same language in Paul's New Testament story.

Oaks' reply: "Well, you know, as you've thumbed through your book, it only appears to me that 5% of your book has been marked, so I would say don't throw out the 95% because of the 5%. Don't take the 5% that you have serious questions about and cast out the 95% that is unexplained or divinely inspired."

Oaks continued: "It's like being married to our wives. I'm sure there's more than 5% of me that my wife finds disagreement with, but she puts up with it anyway. It's kind of like being married to the Book of Mormon. Don't let your doubts keep you out of the mainstream."

Oaks' attention was also drawn to Moroni 10, which speaks of gifts of the spirit (to one is given one gift; to someone else is given another, etc). Verse by verse--comparing Moroni 10 to First Corinthians 12--the texts were shown to be almost exactly the same.

Oaks' reply: "Well, it's not word-for-word and it's not the whole chapter."

Oaks was reminded that except for some minor variations--such as the oft-repeated phrase, "and again"--it was, for all intents and purposes, word-for-word.

When asked to explain how Moroni used the same language found in the King James version of the Bible, written hundreds of years after the Book of Mormon was recorded, Oaks replied that he himself had had the same question while preparing a talk on gifts of the spirit, as outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon and the New Testament.

Oaks said he concluded that all three authors were "impressed by the Holy Ghost" to record their thoughts "in this particular manner and in these particular words."
_____


--Oaks in his FARMS Banquet Speech:

"In these remarks I will seek to use rational argument, but I will not rely on any proofs. I will approach the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon from the standpoint of faith and revelation. I maintain that the issue of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is basically a difference between those who rely exclusively on scholarship and those who rely on a combination of scholarship, faith, and revelation.

"Those who rely exclusively on scholarship reject revelation and fulfill Nephi's prophecy that in the last days men 'shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance' (2 Ne. 28:4). The practitioners of that approach typically focus on a limited number of issues, like geography or 'horses' or angelic delivery or nineteenth century language patterns. They ignore or gloss over the incredible complexity of the Book of Mormon record. Those who rely on scholarship, faith, and revelation are willing to look at the entire spectrum of issues, content as well as vocabulary, revelation as well as excavation."
_____


BOOK OF MORMON DOCTRINES THAT ARE NOT SUPPOSEDLY THE PRODUCT OF PLAGIARISM, BUT OF DIVINE REVELATION

--Oaks Behind Closed Doors:

In private, Oaks offered the following counsel: "You ought to go through the Book of Mormon and color in all the differences and emphasize the unique and special teachings of the Book of Mormon that don't have any similarities to other sources." (The point, however, was not highlight differences between the Book of Mormon and other texts but, rather, to get answers regarding their similarities and/or identicalness in areas of story lines, wording, etc).


--Oaks in his FARMS Banquet Speech:

"Scholarship and physical proofs are worldly values. I understand their value, and I have had some experience in using them. Such techniques speak to many after the manner of their understanding. But there are other methods and values, too, and we must not be so committed to scholarship that we close our eyes and ears and hearts to what cannot be demonstrated by scholarship or defended according to physical proofs and intellectual reasoning. . . .

"I admire those scholars for whom scholarship does not exclude faith and revelation. It is part of my faith and experience that the Creator expects us to use the powers of reasoning he has placed within us, and that he also expects us to exercise our divine gift of faith and to cultivate our capacity to be taught by divine revelation. But these things do not come without seeking. Those who utilize scholarship and disparage faith and revelation should ponder the Savior's question: 'How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?' (John 5:44)."
_____


GOD HAS NOT YET PROVIDED FINAL PROOFS AS TO THE TRUTHFULNESS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

--Oaks Behind Closed Doors:

When asked how to deal with the above noted anomalies found in the Book of Mormon, Oaks replied that the jury was still out.


--Oaks in his FARMS Banquet Speech:

"Another way of explaining the strength of the positive position on the historicity of the Book of Mormon is to point out that we who are its proponents are content with a standoff on this question.

"Honest investigators will conclude that there are so many evidences that the Book of Mormon is an ancient text that they cannot confidently resolve the question against its authenticity, despite some unanswered questions that seem to support the negative determination.

"In that circumstance, the proponents of the Book of Mormon can settle for a draw or a hung jury on the question of historicity and take a continuance until the controversy can be retried in another forum."
_____


THE WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE FOR AND AGAINST THE BOOK OF MORMON

--Oaks Behind Closed Doors:

In his ultimate assessment of evidentiary proof concerning the Book of Mormon, Oaks admitted that the arguments for and against the book were "equal," with neither side being able to prove whether the Book of Mormon was true or untrue. In the ultimate analysis, he said, the Book of Mormon had to be accepted on faith.

Oaks reiterated that there was no evidence proving or disproving the Book of Mormon.

He placed his hand over his heart and said, "I get this knot, this warm feeling right here, and that is what I go on." Oaks said that he had a conviction that the Book of Mormon was "true."

He said that feeling of truthfulness came from a "personal witness."


--Oaks in his FARMS Banquet Speech:

". . . [I]t is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit. Our side will settle for a draw, but those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon cannot settle for a draw. They must try to disprove its historicity--or they seem to feel a necessity to do this--and in this they are unsuccessful because even the secular evidence, viewed in its entirety, is too complex for that. . . .

"Speaking for a moment as one whose profession is advocacy, I suggest that if one is willing to acknowledge the importance of faith and the reality of a realm beyond human understanding, the case for the Book of Mormon is the stronger case to argue. The case against the historicity of the Book of Mormon has to prove a negative. You don't prove a negative by prevailing on one debater's point or by establishing some subsidiary arguments."
_____


FARMS' EFFORTS TO EMPIRICALLY PROVE THE BOOK OF MORMON

--Oaks Behind Closed Doors:

Oaks acknowledged that FARMS sometimes gets "hyperactive" in trying to prove that the Book of Mormon is true.

He said he becomes concerned when FARMS "stops making shields and starts turning out swords," because, he said, "you cannot prove the Book of Mormon out of the realm of faith." Accepting the Book of Mormon, Oaks said, was ultimately a matter of faith.


--Oaks in his FARMS Banquet Speech:

"Brothers and Sisters, how grateful we are--all of us who rely on scholarship, faith, and revelation--for what you are doing. God bless the founders and the supporters and the workers of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. The work that you do is important, it is well-known, and it is appreciated."

*****


--Oaks in Private and Oaks in Public on the Book of Mormon:

Would the real Dallin Oaks please stand up?

 

Subject: When posters bring up the subject, I will repost the episode for the benefit of new board readers--
Date: Jul 08 22:37
Author: steve benson

--much the same way we see re-examinations here all the time of various moments and matters in Mormon doctrine and history.

If you yourself are familiar with this particular subject to your personal satiation, satisfaction and/or saturation, then of course you don't have to read or comment on it further--unless you might prefer to do so and perhaps argue that that new board participants should not be presented with, or exposed to, the material.

On that score, I would respectfully disagree. :)

 

Subject: Re: Let's be fair here.......
Date: Jul 09 20:54
Author: quinlansolo

Steve has every right&incentive to put his experiences on this board with these Brass assholes. fact is very few of us have seen these clowns in action.
No harm in repeating what these "Idiots" are all about.
I like it......

 

Subject: Re: When posters bring up the subject, I will repost the episode for the benefit of new board reade
Date: Jul 09 07:18
Author: Guatemango Verde

Thanks, Steve. Little did I know it wasn't "fresh" information for the board when I read your account of the encounter with Oaks/Maxwell about 3 cycles ago. To me it was new information.

As a BIC AZ ExMo, it was especially helpful for me to get to hear your side of the story. At the point in time when you were making your exit from the church, I was preparing for my mission. I remember feeling sorry for you when you published the "Book of Moron" cartoon. I thought that it was such a shame that the "pride of your heart" had led you away from the gospel (or some similar line of TBM pseudo-logic) Being able to read your experiences with church higher-ups made me realize that it wasn't pride, it wasn't a capricious move, and that they whole chain of events was much more complex than Mormon group-think would ever have allowed me to see.

At the time I first read about the episode, it was one of the things I needed to solidify my exmo conversion. Now I'm to the point of skipping over a lot of the details I've already read. But as mentioned in other posts, there's always a new set of readers taking their first steps out of Mormonism, so please continue to repost your experiences whenever the board starts to bring up those subjects again.

 

Subject: Re: I think you need to take a new closed door meeting Steve
Date: Jul 08 22:57
Author: Shummy

Even though the Bensons vs Oaks/Maxwell showdown is now legendary, there is always a fresh crop of newcomers coming here who are bound to enjoy hearing the tale for the first time.

Thanks again, Steve.

 

Subject: Attorney Comment
Date: Jul 09 16:19
Author: Reed Smith

As an attorney I would like to comment on Oaks' unbelievable reference to legal advocacy: He states:

"Speaking for a moment as one whose profession is advocacy, I suggest that if one is willing to acknowledge the importance of faith and the reality of a realm beyond human understanding, the case for the Book of Mormon is the stronger case to argue. The case against the historicity of the Book of Mormon has to prove a negative. You don't prove a negative by prevailing on one debater's point or by establishing some subsidiary arguments."

First, it goes without saying that faith has no place in legal advocacy. Thus, there is no such thing as a "strong case" that relies upon faith. In legal advocacy, there is a burden of proof. Whether Mormon apologists, or detractors have such a burden is beside the point. The evidence as presented by apologists, after cross-examination and rebuttal, would fail miserably to establish a reasonable basis for belief in the Book of Mormon. On the other hand, the evidence against the Book fo Mormon would be overwhelming, and unquestionably beyond a reasonable doubt. It would not be relying upon "one debater's point," or "subsidiary arguments." It isn't a matter of "proving a negative." It is a matter of weighing the evidence, and reasonably establishing facts based upon such evidence. And "faith" or postulating a world view "beyond human understanding" does not add to the "evidence" for the book. Rather, these are rhetorical devices that are offered solely to trump the overwhelming contrary evidence.

I am reminded of a talk given by Neal Maxwell once. (Unfortunately I don't have the reference) He said, in effect, that the Lord would not permit the evidence against the Book of Mormon to tip such as to make belief in the book intellectually unjustified from a probability standpoint. In other words, he would not let it get beyond roughly 50-50. But this is exactly what has happened. The Book of Mormon cannot support faith based upon the overwhelming evidence against it. The question becomes, "Given the overwhelming evidence against the Book of Mormon, how could a just God expect anyone to take it seriously--even given some commitment to faith. The answer, of course, is that any such expectations would essentially demand irrationality in the name of blind faith. I doubt that even Oaks would accept such a view.

Thank you for this post, Steve.

Reed Smith

 

Subject: Oaks needs to return to law school, not as a professor but as a first year
Date: Jul 09 22:06
Author: Odell Campbell

It appears that Oaks has failed to recall the difference between the "propensity of the evidence standard" (more than fifty percent) and a scintilla of evidence.

Examining the Book of Mormon historicity fails to produce a scintilla of evidence in support of it – forget about the propensity of evidence standard!

 

Subject: Maxwell told me that the Lord was holding out in revealing the final proof for the Book of Mormon...
Date: Jul 09 23:27
Author: steve benson

With Oaks at his side, Maxwell insisted that external authentication of the Book of Mormon would be left "until the last," but that the Lord will no longer let critics of the Church "slam-dunk" the Book of Mormon.

In response to criticism of the purported authenticity of Mormon scripture, Maxwell added that, in the end, "We will not twist or oscillate every time we come across new evidence. The Church is not a jerkwater organization."

So there.

 

Subject: Re: Maxwell told me that the Lord was holding out in revealing the final proof for the Book of Mormon...
Date: Jul 09 23:38
Author: luminouswatcher

No "slam dunk"? How about "check mate"?

 

Subject: Re: Maxwell told me that the Lord was holding out in revealing the final proof for the Book of Mormon...
Date: Jul 13 17:30
Author: Randy J.

>With Oaks at his side, Maxwell insisted that external authentication of the Book of Mormon would be left "until the last," but that the Lord will no longer let critics of the Church "slam-dunk" the Book of Mormon.


Just a tad ironic, seeing as how the apologists' adherence to the LGT [Limited Geography Theroy], when it contradicts Mormon scriptures, is itself a slam-dunk against the BOM.

>In response to criticism of the purported authenticity of Mormon scripture, Maxwell added that, in the end, "We will not twist or oscillate every time we come across new evidence. >The Church is not a jerkwater organization."

Hmmm, is "jerkwater" a reference to that big ol' stinking salty lake that's next to Mormon HQ? :-)

 

Subject: Reed, yuo may be interested in reading...
Date: Jul 10 09:20
Author: Randy J.

...my comments about Oaks' speech at

http://www.salamandersociety.com/randyjordan/

The part about Oaks begins about halfway down the page with "Along those lines."

Even though I'm just a high school graduate, I know enough about law and logical arguments to realize that Oaks was full of crap.

 

Subject: Response
Date: Jul 10 11:51
Author: Reed Smith

Thanks, Randy. Your comments are right on, and match my own in most points.

Let me clarify a couple of points. You state:

"Mr. Oaks' comments about "proving a negative" were actually the opposite of the way that principle operates. Oaks asserted that it is up to those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon to prove that it isn't. To the contrary, the burden of proof of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is on its advocators, rather than on its detractors."

First, "burden of proof" is a legal concept that is assigned by the law to particular kinds of disputes. Outside of the legal context, the "burden of proof" if there is such a thing, is upon the person trying to persude his or her adversary that their view is wrong. In the Book of Mormon context, I would be happy to accept the burden of proof. "Proof" from a legal context means at least "preponderance of the evidence." I believe that the Book of Mormon can be "proved" false by a higher legal standard, "beyond reasonable doubt," based upon substantive evidence.

Regarding the notion of "proving a negative," this is a confusion between "logical proof" and "legal" or "inductive proof." In the legal context, you can surely prove a negative by inductive evidence. For example, "Jones did not commit the murder," (a negative) can be proved by evidence showing that Jones was not near the scene of the crime. The Book of Mormon is not real history (a negative) can be proved by multiple facts and evidence of which we are all familiar. This is not difficult, contrary to what Oaks claims. On the other hand, as a strictly logical matter, we cannot "logically" prove the Book of Mormon false, in a formal way, which would imply a kind of mathematical certainty. To do this would require showing a logical contradiction; a standard of proof beyond empirical evidence. Of course, we are not doing mathematics here, or formal logic. This is purely a matter of empirical evidence.

Finally, I note your contribution to this Board. I have learned a great deal from you and appreciate your efforts. As I have said many times, one's educational or other intellectual stature is totally irrelevant to correct reasoning and valid argument. What is false if false, and it makes no difference that Oaks, or anyone else, is a lawyer, a former judge, an apostle, or where he went to school, or what degrees he might have, or how many books he might have written.

Reed Smith

 

Subject: Response to Reed.....
Date: Jul 13 16:46
Author: Randy J.

>Thanks, Randy. >Your comments are right on, and match my own in most points.

Thanks. I'm glad you read them.

>Regarding the notion of "proving a negative," this is a confusion between "logical proof" and "legal" or "inductive proof." >In the legal context, you can surely prove a negative by inductive evidence. >For example, "Jones did not commit the murder," (a negative) can be proved by evidence showing that Jones was not near the scene of the crime.


Right, but in that example, Jones is proven innocent by the *positive* evidence which places him elsewhere (his alibi.) By contrast, the BOM has no "alibi." Its proponents argue that it happened *somewhere.* If they cannot show any evidence for it in any proposed location where we would *expect* to find evidence, then the BOM is proven false by the negative evidence.

In my speech, I was referring to Oaks' comment:

>I am convinced that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. >Those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon have the difficult task of trying to prove a negative.


Oaks' comment referred to "secular evidence" rather than legal evidence, and that's what I geared my response to.

>That the Book of Mormon is not real history (a negative) can be proved by multiple facts and evidence of which we are all familiar. >This is not difficult, contrary to what Oaks claims. >On the other hand, as a strictly logical matter, we cannot "logically" prove the Book of Mormon false, in a formal way, which would imply a kind of mathematical certainty. >To do this would require showing a logical contradiction; a standard of proof beyond empirical evidence. >Of course, we are not doing mathematics here, or formal logic. >This is purely a matter of empirical evidence.


Right. I understand that scientists never declare a "mathematical certainty" on issues. However, in the case of the BOM, true believing Mormons are the only people on the planet who believe in or argue the position that the BOM is authentic. For the rest of the world, it's not even a question. The Mormons' position is based solely on religious belief, rather than on any empirical facts. So Mormons are sorta like Scientologists who argue that such things as Xenu and Thetans are real. There is no evidence for their beliefs outside of their own "faith." That's why Mopologists don't publish any papers re: "BOM evidences" in peer-reviewed media; they know they will be debunked.

>Finally, I note your contribution to this Board. >I have learned a great deal from you and appreciate your efforts.


Why thankyew. You've suddenly become one of my favorite people. :-)

>As I have said many times, one's educational or other intellectual stature is totally irrelevant to correct reasoning and valid argument. >What is false is false, and it makes no difference that Oaks, or anyone else, is a lawyer, a former judge, an apostle, or where he went to school, or what degrees he might have, or how many books he might have written.


True, and the same goes for the apologist "scholars." Oaks & Co. are acting as apologists preaching to a choir of fellow believers, rather than legitimate scholars arguing a position based on legitimate research, experimentation, facts, and evidence. Neither Oaks or any of the apologists would make their same silly arguments before a non-Mormon audience.

 

Subject: Why in the world should Oaks "stand up"??
Date: Jul 09 20:19
Author: Mårv Fråndsæn

Oaks has been quite vocal on his views about truth. To wit, he has zero reason to tell any inconvenient truths.

For Oaks as with Packer truth is utterly utilitarian. It's nice if truth is on your side, but if not then dispense with it.

For Oaks the ends justify the means. Lying for the Lord helps the Lord along when he needs it. End of story.

Oaks does seem to interpret his lawyer training as giving him a license to lie for the Church as his fiduciary client. For Oaks this is a natural transition.

The church pays him so he lies for it.

Not all attorneys have this attitude outside of the contrived rules of the courtroom, of course. Some understand the difference and have moral integrity.

Notice very few scientists or engineers are GAs any more (one prominent M.D. exception). Our professional training is precisely the opposite of lawyers in regard to truth telling, which may be a barrier to really good lying for hire.

 

Subject: Re: Dallin Oaks in Private vs. Dallin Oaks in Public on the Book of Mormon
Date: Jul 13 18:54
Author: evidence?

what proof do you have that this meeting ever took place? assuming it did what proof do you have to show what was said there?

 

Subject: Oaks publicly acknowledged the mtg in a column he later wrote for the Salt Lake Tribune . . .
Date: Jul 13 19:08
Author: steve benson

. . . and which was later republished in BYU's student newspaper, "The Daily Universe."

Oaks wrote his column in response to my own account--which was also published in the Tribune, as well as subsequently in the Provo "Daily Herald," regarding our conversations.

Oaks further acknowledged having met with me in a tape-recorded phone conversation with then-Arizona Republic reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers, whom Brinkley-Rogers had interviewed for eventually-published stories about (among various Church-related topics) the excommunication of Paul Toscano and others in the so-called "September Six" group of 1993.

In that phone call with Brinkley-Rogers, Oaks acknowledged that he had not told the truth in a previous on-the-record interview with Brinkley-Rogers about what he (Oaks) actually knew (as Oaks had privately and earlier related to me) regarding Boyd K. Packer's improper involvement in the Toscano excommunication.

Further, Neal Maxwell sent me a letter offering to arrange the initial meeting (which Maxwell attended with Oaks), and both Maxwell and Oaks agreed to meet with me in a follow-up second.

Thanks for asking.

 See also 111 Dallin H. Oaks and the BofM

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