Date: Feb 15 18:42 2005
Author: Simon Southerton
During my trip behind the Zion Curtain I became more familiar with the dominant lines of
defense in response to the DNA evidence challenging the Book of Mormon. Some of you may be interested in my responses so I have posted these below.
[In early 2005 Simon Southerton toured the western US to promote his book
"Losing a Lost Tribe"]
Note: It is important to remember that most DNA apologists defending the Book of Mormon, do so on the assumption that Lehi and his family made a small genetic impact in the Americas. They flatly reject the hemispheric geography, the view accepted by most Mormons and all the prophets. This needs to be kept in mind when considering their arguments. [For information on rejecting the hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon see: 388 What is Limited Geography Theory or LGT?]
1. Bottleneck effect, genetic drift, Hardy-Weinberg violations and other technical problems would prevent us from detecting Israelite genes.
I agree entirely. In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2000 or even 20,000 years later. But does such a scenario fit with what the Book of Mormon plainly states or what the prophets have taught for 175 years? Short answer. No! Long answer. Nooo!
2. We don’t know what Lehi, Sariah, Zoram, Ishmael, Ishmael’s wife, or Mulek’s genes look like.
Sure, we don’t know what DNA lineage these Book of Mormon people had, but we do know they were Israelites. We know a great deal about the DNA lineages of living Israelites and living Israelites are descended from dead Israelites who lived 2600 years ago. Israelite DNA lineages belong to the same family groups found in European populations. These are the H, I, J, K, N, T, U, V, W and X groups. Essentially all Europeans and Israelites possess one of these lineages. In fact many other Middle Eastern populations such as the Syrians, Egytpians, Lebanese and other Arabic groups have similar DNA lineages. There is a smattering (<0.4%) of European lineages in American Indian populations but scientists justifiably assume they arrived after Columbus. They are most common in tribes that had greater impact with Europeans (North American); they are not common in Mesoamerica, the only “plausible” site for the Book of Mormon; and the lineages found so far are most common in Western European populations such as Spain.
3. The mitochondrial DNA lineages tell us nothing about the male lineages.
That is absolutely correct…but so what? Are we expected to believe that only males passed on the Israelite DNA? Y chromosome studies show strong links to Asia (>90%) as well. There is a higher European presence, which is not surprising, given that males dominated the early colonist parties.
4. When God changed the skin color of American Indians, couldn’t he have changed the DNA as well?
Yes, if God is a conniving bastard who would stop at nothing to trick his children, he could have changed the DNA. But why did he have to change it so that it matched Asian DNA? How could a Heavenly Father, who supposedly loves us more than we can comprehend, stoop to such depths?! We’ve already offended the Blacks and the Indians. Do we need to offend the Asians too!
5. Mitochondrial DNA only tells us about one ancestral line out of many. If we go back 10 generations it only tells us about 1 in 1024 of our ancestors. If we go back another 10 generations it only tells us about 1 in over a million of our ancestors.
This is a specious argument that has been quite popular among the apologists lately. It is a clever ruse, which on the surface looks sound, but which is based in deception. The vast majority of mitochondrial lineages found throughout the world can be grouped into less than 25 families, represented by letters such as A, H, X etc. If we look at American Indians, essentially 100% of their mitochondrial lineages fall into one of 5 families; A, B, C, D or X which were not derived from Israel. So 20 generations back, we are not talking about millions of unknowable mitochondrial lineages in an American Indian’s pedigree chart. We are talking about 5 that occupy virtually all of those millions of ancestral slots. Essentially all of those lineages, even those that end up in males and are not passed on, clearly must have belonged to the 5 lineage families. It is possible that some lineages may have not been detected yet or have been lost in time through chance, but these would have been very rare lineages.
6. The X lineage could be evidence for Israelite ancestry.
American Indian X lineages are descended from common ancestors who lived over 20,000 years ago in Asia. American Indian X lineages are even more distantly related to Israelite or European X lineages. In fact, most Israelite X lineage are now grouped in a different family, the N family, because they are so different to Asian and American X lineages. The X lineage has been found in ancient remains that pre-date the Book of Mormon period.
7. The wives of the early Book of Mormon colonists (Sariah etc or even the Jaredite women) may have brought the A,B,C,D and X lineages to the Americas.
The amount of DNA variation found in all 5 American Indian female DNA lineage families is sufficient to indicate that they have been present in the Americas for at least 15,000 years, possibly longer. This predates the existence of Israel by many thousands of years. Of course it is possible (but exceedingly unlikely) that several Asian woman carrying Asian lineages travelled to Israel where they intermarried with the ancestors of the Lehites and Mulekites, and that some Native American A, B, C D or X lineages came from them. What are the odds that this absolutely remarkable scenario actually happened in reality? I guess everything is possible for the Lord, but again it leaves me feeling less than kind thoughts about a God who could allow this to happen, knowing how much it would trick people. Why don’t we see these Asian lineages among Middle Eastern populations? The truth usually lies in the simplest explanation.
Subject: Re: Answering the DNA apologetics
Date: Feb 15 19:06
have no comment other than to thank you for the information you continue
to provide and for your recent visit. I attended one of your presentations
and I was simply amazed at the inability of some of the TBMs [Mormons]
present to understand simple logic.
The science behind DNA research is undoubtedly very complex, but the implications of the the science as it relates to the BoM seems pretty simple. How some Mormons can tie their brains into logical knots in defense of the indefensible parts of the faith is sadly fascinating!
Subject: Simon, I have a question for you.
Date: Feb 15 19:27
Author: Rich Hansen
Given your findings and the expectation that the theories put forth by FARMS will crumble over time, what is the road map you would suggest for church leadership in handling this issue? Can you suggest an "out" for them?
BTW, sorry I missed your presentation in SLC. I did happen to listen to the interview with Van Hale and was impressed with how you presented yourself. It is too bad Van Hale is more interested in listening to himself than listening to his guests.
Subject: Re: Simon, I have a question for you.
Date: Feb 15 20:46
Author: Simon Southerton
The church has two choices. Go backwards or go backwards quickly.
1. They can dig their heals in and continue to defend the historicity of the Book of Mormon. This will only buy them time. But time is what they need to dumb down the membership and gradually withdraw from the racist beliefs that they currently hold on to. But this approach will cost them dearly. The church is already haemorrhaging through the continual drain of once committed, intelligent, well-paid people who are leaving the church or withdrawing their moral support while remaining active. This will just get worse as the obviousness of the faults becomes more obvious.
2. At some stage in the future they will allow members to publicly question the historicity of the Book of Mormon. This is what the Community of Christ has done. Will there be a mass exodus from the church? Possibly, but not necessarily. I suspect that some people might even come back to church, if they suspected that the leaders were becoming more tolerant and showing more integrity. Besides, a lot of people don’t base their testimony on the Book of Mormon. They just feel good about the church.
What do I think the church will do?
The people in charge know less about the damaging church issue list than most educated people in the church. God doesn’t speak to them and they are not fed good information from their underlings. Imagine being in FARMS’ position. Can you imagine Dan Peterson saying to the leaders that the DNA does show that Asians are the principal ancestors of the American Indians and Polynesians, but this is not a problem with the Book of Mormon. I don’t think there would be many at FARMS who would have the guts to tell it like it is to the Brethren.
With bad or cowardly advice, I don’t think I can see things changing for a while. The church wants desperately to mainstream, but there are some very big obstacles in the way, not the least of which is that the LDS believe they are the only true church on earth and that other churches are abominations in God’s sight. I imagine this claim doesn’t go down well when they meet with the Christians. The church can NEVER become a mainstream Christian church until they ditch the one true church belief, the racist teachings in the Book of Mormon, and the claim that the prophet is God’s mouthpiece on earth. Unfortunately, if you start tampering with these you are on the slippery slope. So I guess I think the church will carry on the way it is going and the next few in line for prophet (Monson and Packer) would probably ensure this happens.
Subject: Re: Answering the DNA apologetics
Date: Feb 15 20:44
IMO, this first point is the entire crux of the argument. Apologists, by reinterpreting the BoM, have rendered it a completely unfalsifiable text. They would argue with you quite heatedly over your statement about what the BoM "states", and disregard what past prophets said, because they were simply wrong.
Of course, it makes sense that they argue this point so heatedly, because the entire historicity of the BoM hangs on this point. Their own apologists have demonstrated that there is no way the hemispheric model could possible be correct. If forced to admit that the LGT is a very strained reading of the Bom, they are admitting that the boM is not historical.
Subject: exactly. They are trying to argue BOTH sides of the coin.....
Date: Feb 15 21:20
Author: Scott Tippetts
Mormons (at least those with a functioning brain) are at the point where they HAVE to concede the hemispheric settlement of an empty, unpeopled continent is wrong, period. The scientific evidence has proven that model unquestionably false.
Unfortunately, that model was precisely what was taught as doctrine for over 150 years by every last General Authority who ever spoke to that question (the first hedging by a GA did not occur until approx late 1980s).
LGT (Limited Geography Theory) is a desperate ad hoc re-adjustment - but LGT utterly violates nearly every pertinent teaching on the subject given by the Mormon prophets and apostles over the past 175 years.
(This is why I linked to the Kevin Mathie article "Who Are the Lamanites?" in the other thread. http://home.comcast.net/~zarahemla/lamanites.pdf and Mathie's article contains only a small number of 'prophetic' quotes pertaining to the subject; in the past couple of years, I have posted to this board listings of scores of other official pronouncements by Mormon prophets.)
Here then is the 'Lamanite Origins' dilemma:
If F.A.R.M.S. (FAIR, Lindsay, etc) are going to use LGT at all -- as they must, in order to circumvent the irrefutable scientific disproof (DNA) of hemispheric Lehite/Mulekite settlement -- then they are repudiating the teachings of the Prophets of the Church. Watch out! Here comes the attempted loophole:
"But prophets make mistakes; and sometimes they just speak as a man..."
Well, no kidding, I think THAT is a painfully obvious understatement.... So then, just WHAT is the criterion by which we can judge:
(a) if they are a true prophet at all (since the obvious litmus test - their teachings turning out to be correct - apparently doesn't work); and
(b) if we loosen the criteria to allow for prophetic fallibility, then how can we know which sayings can be relied on or trusted, and which ones we should disregard?
What is the use of having fallible unreliable 'prophets' at all, who teach us things that are wrong when they think they are speaking for God?
If an average Joe Blow non-prophet is more prescient, more reliable, and more frequently correct than a purported 'direct conduit from God', then why should we bother to listen to those prophets at all? They're useless.
(Apparently God needs to invest in some Human Resources help, he's doing a lousy job screening job applicants for prophet.....)
But let's go back to the Lamanite Origins dilemma, of Mormons trying to argue both opposing sides of the same coin simultaneously. I think this is a far worse epistemological offense than that of unfalsifiability (since most religions rely on some amount of unfalsifiable 'rationale'); this is the graver sin of self-contradiction, of inconsistency. Rather than only being untestable/unverifiable, a contradiction is false by definition!
The very instant any Mormon so much as mentions LGT as an excuse for AmerInd origins, they have implicitly rejected their own prophets, and they are no longer worth taking seriously.
They can have prophets, OR they can have LGT, but not both.
They must choose one or the other.
They are now in a lose-lose situation with regard to the Book of Mormon. It's either false because the LGT means we cannot trust the prophet who brought it forth to even know what he's talking about, or else it's false by disproof of the hemispheric model.
And anyone with a brain who attempts to argue either of those sides is deluded. Anyone who tries to argue *BOTH* sides simultaneously - as FARMS does - is doubly deluded.
Yes, I just called a spade a spade. FAIR-LDS, FARMS, and other Mormon apologists: you guys are deluded. That's not ad hominem; that's a factually established definition of the situation.
Have a nice day.
Subject: always in the end, it is the uncertain nature of revelation
Date: Feb 15 21:29
In almost every discussion about Mormonism, it comes down to this slippery slope: believers are forced to admit that the nature of revelation is somewhat
ambiguous and open to interpretation, hence, the conflicting teachings of past prophets. The one question believers have not answered for me is this: Given the
ambiguous nature of revelation, why should ANYONE feel compelled to view any revelatory statement as authoritative?????
They can't answer it because there IS no reason. The only reason they could give is still based on revelation (ie, either personal revelation or group revelation resulting in cannonization), and revelation is the CRUX of the problem.
Subject: Re: Answering the DNA apologetics
Date: Feb 15 21:22
Author: Randy J.
>IMO, this first point is the entire crux of the argument. Apologists, by reinterpreting the BoM, have rendered it a completely unfalsifiable text.
Only in their silly, illogical minds. I'll illustrate:
Those Mopologists who tout the LGT bear the burden of providing the physical evidence within their chosen locale which demonstrates that any such people or events as described in the BOM actually lived or occurred.
To use an analogy: O. J. Simpson and his lawyers claimed that he was innocent, and that "the real killers" are still out there somewhere. O. J. vowed to spend the rest of his life searching for those real killers (even if he had to scour every golf course in the country to find them.) :->
Neither O. J. or his lawyers have provided a shred of evidence that anyone except O. J. committed the murders, even though a decade has passed. The logical conclusion is that no such "real killers" exist.
Similarly, the lack of evidence for "BOM events" in the locations that Mopologists claim that they occurred makes it highly likely that they never occurred at all. Thus, the BOM is "falsified" by the lack of evidence to support it in the areas we should reasonably expect to find that evidence.
The lack of physical evidence to support the BOM makes the Mopologists' LGT argument a "naked assertion." Such arguments do not require a rebuttal from opponents, because the Mopologists have not presented any evidence; they have only presented a theory.
Subject: they still find ways around that
Date: Feb 15 21:38
For example - the vast majority of the BoM took place during a period of time in Mesoamerica prior to text being inscribed on monuments, which is one of the major sources of information about ancient mesoamerican history. In addition, mesoamericans commonly destroyed the monuments of vanquished others, and commonly destroyed their OWN monuments in accordance to certain calendrical events. (a sort of starting over) And, of course, the lovely spaniards destroyed every mesoamerican text they could find after the conquest, so our resources are limited.
HOWEVER, that said, I agree with you. I'm just pointing out that apologists, like believers in the supernatural, are the ultimate unsinkable rubber ducks.
IMO, "clues" about mesoamerican culture/religion should be found within the BoM, at the very least, if one cannot reasonably expect to find clues about the BoM in mesoamerica. For example, the prophets should logically be railing against the false teachings of mesoamericans of the period, not railing against "universalism" and atheism. Or one should see evidence of syncretism within the evolving "Nephite" religion - syncretism that would reflect ancient mesoamerican religion. I once argued this point at length with a FARMS apologist, and his response was that syncretism only occurs when there are points of commonality between the two belief systems, and the ancient mesoamerican religion was too dissimilar to Christianity for that to occur. however, he lated admitted that syncretism DID occur after the conquest, and even in forced situations, syncretism only occurs with points of commonality. Besides, it's not hard to speculate on possible points of commonality that could be exploited. The fact that the vast majority of "nephites" would have been native mesoamericans makes the case for syncretism even stronger.
Subject: So We Are Left With . . .
Date: Feb 15 23:20
Author: SL Cabbie
. . . Apologists, by reinterpreting the BoM, have rendered it a completely unfalsifiable text . . .
An absolutely impregnable apologist position? I think hardly. As Simon notes, "If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2000 or even 20,000 years later. But does such a scenario fit with what the Book of Mormon plainly states or what the prophets have taught for 175 years? Short answer. No! Long answer. Nooo!"
The apologists are quick to shout "ad hominem" or "personal attack" when we accuse them of being unreasonable for clinging to such slim probabilities. Fair enough, I'll accept my responsibility on that one, but I usually try to warn them about my life as former professional card player where I lifted a lot of money from people who clung to slim probabilities . . . after that, it's their responsibility if they want to stay in the game.
When we consider that there's a 4 in 1,000 chance there may have been Hebrews in pre-Columbian America, we have to add to that black-and-white figure the supposition that it requires that a Bronze age people managed the sea voyage out of the Arabian Sea, across the Indian Ocean, across the Pacific, and made landfall in the Americas . . .
I've made a private study the last few years of the Polynesians, the greatest pre-Columbian seafaring people the world produced (they pre-dated the Vikings by almost five hundred years), and if the Polynesians made landfall in the Americas, they didn't establish any colonies (that have something to do with why you like sweet potatoes, Simon?). They have an incredible oral tradition of navigation techniques, and their bodies have obvious genetic adaptations to life at sea. And it still took them a thousand years to reach Hawaii and Easter Island from their ancestral Tonga and Samoa...
By contrast, the biblical Hebrews only seafaring experience seems to be limited to Moses parting the Red Sea . . .
If that's an ad hominem attack, so be it.
Subject: I slogged thru Jeff Lindsay's
Date: Feb 15 23:11
paper last year and my reaction as a wavering TBM was, Well, that's not exactly the smoking gun I was hoping for but this point is a stretch but plausible and this point is
really a stretch but within the realm of possibility and so on. This despite the fact that I received my BA in Anthropology.
Occam's Razor may be a principle for physicists but anthropologists and exmo's have a use for it, too. Thanks for the good work, Simon!
Subject: And let's not forget about all of the corroborating evidence
Date: Feb 16 00:49
Native American bone structures bear a remarkable similarity to their Asian relatives. See Jim Chatters "Ancient Encounters". Of course, this is old news, but we shouldn't consider DNA evidence in a vacuum.
Simon, if you're reading this, I loved your book. Give em hell!!!
Subject: How Apologists Neuter Mormonism
Date: Feb 18 07:30
Apologists neuter Mormonism by diluting the strength of the most basic element of Mormonism - continuing revelation. Due to their awareness of problematic past prophetic teachings - some of which
occurred over the pulpit, some of which occurred in conjunction with "revelation" - they have been forced into a position that diminishes revelation. Revelation becomes a somewhat
ambiguous, flawed process, during which prophets may mistake their own ideas for God's.
Subject: Why Mormon apologetic arguments DO NOT EXIST
Date: Feb 21 19:23
Author: Tal Bachman
|I have come to believe that Mormon apologetic arguments in nearly every case undermine themselves, either on their own terms or when compared to some other Mormon apologetic argument.
These arguments take various forms, dealing as they do with the various, and I might say multitudinous, points of controversy which Mormonism by its nature carries; and an exhaustive study might be made of all the different ways that each individual argument ultimately breaks down. Here a few examples must suffice; but I should also say that maybe more fruitful than moving on to a laundry list of examples would be a statement of what I theorize to be the core problem common to all of them, and the reasons why I hold that theory. In doing so, I invite any criticism, whether from AJ or whoever the moderators will let post in reply.
The basis of my theory is that Mormon apologetic arguments fail, because in the end, there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a Mormon apologetic “argument”, in the way we understand that term, at all. For an apologetic argument to exist as such, it seems to me that some "apologia" (defense) has to have in fact occurred; that is, a thing has to be defended, not undermined. But Mormon apologetic arguments, once considered, always, or nearly always, seem to end up harming the church more than they have helped. It is the reverse of Brigham Young's old saying, that whenever you kick Mormonism, you kick it upstairs. Whenever apologists try to defend Mormonism, they end up kicking it in the groin, again.
Distilled all the way down, defense arguments might even be said fundamentally to be nothing more than revelations of a particular psychological state - another sense in which they are not, in fact, arguments.
On this point, it might be objected that any "argument" made by anyone reveals that arguer’s psychological state to some degree, and that is true. If Bob constructs an argument which conforms to the currently accepted criteria for a rational argument, that suggests that in his mind, Bob accepts those criteria as valid, etc. And yet, Bob’s argument might be more than the mere display of his own psychological state; it may actually be seen to in fact shed light on truth, on a reality which exists quite independent of his psychological state. I am not sure how arguments which do not do that at all really qualify as arguments at all. And at the very least, I believe that it should not be surprising that those “arguments”, such as they are, often do not convince others of anything other than that the arguer exists within a certain psychological state, and that that state, very literally, does not in the end accept reality on its own terms.
Another way of putting this quickly is to say that while we are all subjects, that we presume the existence of an outside or objective reality; and that arguments then about that objective reality must to the greatest possible degree refer to that objective reality, however imperfectly they may do so. Arguments about objective reality which in the end do not accept the parameters of objective reality, or even of logic, undermine themselves. They are not arguments at all. They are revelations of a psychological state, and only that.
There is nothing unique about Mormons in this respect; I’m only focusing on Mormons right now because that’s what we talk about on here.
So, to examples. I’ll start with the broadest example I can think of, a very general statement which on its face seems fairly unobjectionable, but which when looked at closely, may provide us with an insight into what I meant above.
Our first example is from Pres. Hinckley himself, made in the course of defending the BOM by “arguing” or at least stating that the BOM can be known to be true ultimately through the Holy Ghost. This is from “The Four Cornerstones of Faith”, Ensign, Feb. 2004, page three. I’ll break up the excerpt into three statements:
S1.) “The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some.”
S2.) “It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory…”
S3.) “Those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true”.
As I said, this at first glance all appears rather unobjectionable. But if we examine it closely, certain puzzling questions arise.
Re: S1.): For example, if, as GBH says, evidence for the BOM’s validity “lies not” in
archaelogy or anthropology (a categorical statement), on what conceivable grounds could archaeology and anthropology ever be “helpful” as a tool for supporting the BOM’s validity? How really could “no evidence” be “helpful”?
Re: S2.) If, as GBH says secondly, evidence “lies not” in “word research or historical analysis” (another categorical statement), on what conceivable grounds could “w.r. and h.a.” EVER be thought to be “confirmatory” in any way? That doesn’t seem to make any logical sense at all, at least on its face. If there is “no evidence” there, how can those disciplines “confirm” ANYTHING about the BOM? (“Confirmatory” is a strong word after all. And GBH is a lifetime printer, so he must know what it means. He even knew what the word “callow” meant, remember?).
(I’ll leave S3 for later).
So, if we focus on these puzzling remarks, and try to see beyond their logical inconsistencies to what GBH really might mean, I suggest that we will end up with the following formulations:
P1.) Sometimes disciplines and methodologies produce evidence which appears to support the BOM’s claims;
P2.) What that is the case, these disciplines are “helpful” and even “confirmatory”;
C.) Therefore, there is no reason to doubt the BOM is true.
P1a.) Sometimes disciplines and methodologies produce evidence which appears NOT to support the BOM’s claims;
P2b.) When that is the case, the evidence “lies not” in these disciplines or methodologies;
Cb.) Therefore, there is no reason to doubt that the BOM is true.
If we focus on these syllogisms and try to reduce them further, we get this:
For all intents and purposes,
E1.) Whatever evidence confirms my BOM belief exists (or counts);
E2.) Whatever “evidence” disconfirms my BOM belief does not exist (or does not count).
And if we reduce this down as far as we can, we get:
R.) Everything confirms what I believe.
Pres. Hinckley’s remarks to me appear to be an attempt at a particular argument for belief in the BOM (see the P series above). Fundamentally, however, those statements boil down to R. They might even be boiled down to one simple word: “believe”. Examined closely, his remarks appear very much like those I described initially: they appear to be a statement about objective reality; but upon examination, do not actually acknowledge, abide by, exist within, the parameters of objective reality. As such, his remarks (or “arguments”) do not constitute anything like a valid argument at all - they undermine themselves. Every sentence turns out to be a tautology, each imbued with a tacit claim of authority, each appearing to countenance objective reality, while in the end merely conscripting whatever facet of reality into the effort to maintain a particular psychological state. Objective reality, supposedly the thing sought for, turns out to be a wholly malleable construct at the whim of the holder of the particular psychological state, not to be acknowledged on its own terms or “deferred” to at all. At best, indications of it are gobbled up as fuel for the state; at worst, it is degraded and disdained altogether.
Pres. Hinckley’s comments so far seem to me, when boiled down, to comprise nothing more than an authoritarian tautology only justifying or endorsing a certain psychological state. That is it. In that sense, since it turns out not to be what it is supposed to be, it undermines itself.
But there is a graver sense in which it undermines itself, and that is, it is made as though it were a statement of universal truth. That being the case, as a result of detaching itself fundamentally from the objective reality it purports to embrace >as a universal statement of truth, it gives license for >anyone else to inhabit any psychological state, and likewise come to see NOTHING except what confirms their belief. It pretends to be rooted in the cosmic right, but reveals itself to be nearly, if not in fact, arbitrary.
What this means in turn is that in the end, a person, following the fundaments of Pres. Hinckley’s own remarks, would be just as justified in DISBELIEVING the BOM’s claims, no matter HOW supportive all indicators of objective reality might be that it is all it purports to be. It would mean that if DNA confirmed Israelite descent for the aboriginals, we’d identified ziff and chariots and the whole bit, that following Pres. Hinckley, a man would have just as much justification for preferring a theory that it was NOT true, as anyone else might for a theory that it WAS. Even in the most innocuous sounding example, we can see that in the end, it undermines itself - even its own authority.
This brings us to the often noted tendency of Mormon apologists to make the most dogmatic assertions imaginable about the “truth” of Mormon claims, and then when confronted with certain indications of reality - like, say, the fact that Egyptian hieratic is quite easily read these days - to instantly revert to, “Well, how much does anyone really know about this stuff anyway?”. This pattern will be familiar to anyone who observes politics; it is, strangely enough, often those who begin by saying, “My truth is just as valid as yours, no matter what”, who end up most fervently clinging on to their beliefs, refusing to reckon with anything that appears to call into question the relationship of their beliefs with the reality in which they purport to reposit, and most intolerant of others in practice. (Hence, Grant Palmer).
Consideration of the last part of Pres. Hinckley’s remarks brings us back to the authoritarian tautology, or maybe better in this case, the circular argument, for he refers to the claim that absolute knowledge of the authenticity of the BOM may be had through the Holy Ghost (Mor. 10:3-5). All of the church’s claims on this are circular, as far as I can tell.
Church: “The Holy Ghost communicates through warm, peaceful feelings”.
John: “But why should I believe that warm, peaceful feelings come from the Holy Ghost?”
Church: “Because the Holy Ghost will let you know that.”
Church: “Well, it will let you know that by communicating that to you through warm, peaceful feelings”.
Let’s say John jumps into the circle above. Now it becomes this:
Church: “The Holy Ghost gives us knowledge that the BOM is true ”
John: “Why should I believe the HG will give us knowledge that the BOM is true?”
Church: “Because the BOM says it will”
John: “But why should I believe the BOM when it says that the HG will give us knowledge it is true?”
Church: “Because the Holy Ghost gives us knowledge that the BOM is true”.
At each step of the way, the arguments are totally closed, totally circular, and fundamentally, tautologies - authoritarian tautologies or circularities. And our instinct to seek authority is so strong, that often we ignore the self-undermining nature of church claims and dive in, (just like if we met and began to date a ravishingly gorgeous woman who, we knew, had some major personality problems, but minimized them in order to give way to our instincts, and ended up marrying her.)
The arguments do not bear reference to anything outside of themselves. They are not what they appear to be. They are totally enclosed. They are expressions not of a line of reasoning at all, but only of a particular psychological state. It is a psychological state which promises an end to uncertainty, entrance into a world of beauty and joy, the revealing of mysteries, fraternity, the dulling of the hardness of life, elite status, safety, eternal progression, access to supernatural power through a priesthood, all sorts of things. It is no wonder that one might make the leap to it. But the arguments are not arguments - they are advertisements, and advertisements of that state. That is all. Looked at closely, every single one of them undermines itself. But how can we, being mortals, craving all that we crave, hope to resist the lure of the benefits that psychological state promises?
Conversion is a process not of coming to see then that the Mormon theory of the world is preferable to any other; it is a decision (even if it not fully seen as such at the time) to try to leap full force into a psychological state promising happiness, but which is nothing but a totally circular maze, struggling to complete the project of having validity without reference to anything outside of itself.
But what is worse is that the internal logic of the thing, itself, is inconsistent; and it is perhaps this which more than any other thing wreaks damage on to our cognitive structures. We become forced, in order to maintain that state we have now given so much to attain, and with which our egos and money and family and friends and self-identity are all involved, to try to not see the breakdowns in internal logic. This means declaring war on our own minds. It means gradually, without really realizing often, dimming our awareness, trying ever more desperately to just….keep believing….just keep following our leaders…make “all these other things irrelevant”….
Truth, untruth - this becomes totally incidental. We are subsumed into a spinning cycle which is nearly impossible to even see as such while in it; and very difficult to get out for all kinds of reasons once we are in it. Some of us can’t even summon the will to get out, or get our own children out, even when we see how we are stuck. We sometimes even start to deceive ourselves all over again in order to dull the pain of having to confront our own enfeeblement, telling ourselves it’s not so bad, our kids are learning “morals”, etc.
But the truth is, the only difference between church and the Moonies, the Branch Davidians, or Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, is that the church hires better PR people. The psychological dynamics are the same, and possibly, even potentially worse in the church. For devout Mormon parents to hand over their frightened, trembling daughters for “the prophet” to have sex with, for devout Mormon men to massacre even infants in cold blood, must tell us something; and sooner or later, we must reckon with the fact that the internal psychological dynamics that facilitated those types of behaviour HAVE NOT CHANGED. This, as I’ve said before, is the real point of Jon Krakauer’s book. There is NOTHING internally which could stop something like this from happening again. You still swear an oath of allegiance, a vow of consecration, a vow to NEVER speak “ill” of the Lord’s anointed, etc.
And by the way, there is something very attractive in this, even for the potential perpetrator of atrocities - these vows of total submission confer a great benefit: absolution. The Lord will hold the prophet accountable - not you. Your duty is to obey. That is a real benefit. It absolves us from responsibility for our actions - that’s everyone’s big dream. Nothing is forbidden in the service of “the church”, save that which is prohibited by The Oracle. It works for everyone.
But back to the breakdown in internal logic itself. Here are a couple of examples.
I mentioned the Holy Ghost, so I’ll make some comments on this first.
Once upon a time, an atheist and future serial killer decided to extort money from the church. He realized that the church was paranoid that documents might surface showing that Joseph had not told the truth, and would pay high prices for them. Before all the TBM lurkers tune out, just hear me out for a second.
Gordon B. Hinckley bought, in many cases using church funds, dozens of documents from Mark Hoffmann, before the Salamander Letter became public. And let’s be clear - he would NOT have bought them if he had thought they might not be authentic. He gave Mark Hoffmann tens of thousands of dollars. You don’t pay out that kind of money for documents which you think might be fake; and then hide them in your vaults. He thought they were authentic.
I want to raise a point here that every single one of us seems to have missed at the time as members. >Those documents had as much claim to being potential scripture as any other text which IS considered scripture. That is why this incident matters.
What is the New Testament? Luke says he wrote up his history after doing a bunch of research. John for his part at least claims to be writing a first hand account. The Salamander Letter purported to be a FIRST HAND ACCOUNT of something that Joseph Smith had said about a supposedly SACRED EVENT - just the same as John quoting Jesus about a sacred event. There is NO DIFFERENCE.
So, let’s freeze frame for a second to examine the apologetic epistemological claim. This is where we are the Salamander Letter as a case study:
1). John, an investigator, is confronted with a text (the BOM) claiming to be a reliable account of sacred events. The BOM (reiterated by the church) tells him that the Holy Ghost will tell him the truth of “ALL THINGS”, including - and ESPECIALLY - whether a putatively HISTORICAL (sacred) account is in fact a historical (sacred) account.
2.) At the same time, Gordon Hinckley, a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a church claiming to be in regular contact with Jesus Christ himself), a man sustained as a “prophet, seer, and revelator”, a man with access to Joseph Smith’s original seerstone, a man who is the de facto president of the church due to illness amongst the other First Presidency members, living a life supposedly far less contaminated with worldy influence than John is, is ALSO confronted with a text (the Salamander letter) claiming to be a reliable account of sacred events. The BOM tells him, as it does John, that the Holy Ghost will tell him the truth of “ALL THINGS”, including - and ESPECIALLY - whether a putatively HISTORICAL (sacred) account is in fact a historical (sacred) account.
In that moment, both the Book of Mormon and the Salamander Letter are in EXACTLY the same boat - both John and Gordon wish to KNOW whether they are authentic. But Gordon tells John (and by extension, us) that he should pray, and that God will tell him whether it’s authentic or not.
But does Gordon pray? Not at all. Why should he, when he already knows that method - even for a prophet with a seer stone - is not really reliable? Instead, he hands the document over to a team of historians, handwriting analysts, rare documents dealers, and chemists for evaluation; and when they are done their tests, Hinckley accepts their finding that it is authentic.
Why didn’t he just pray about it? That’s what Pres. Hinckley has told the rest of the world to do to find out whether the BOM is authentic (text which may or may not be scripture).
If he did pray about the Salamander Letter, he got the wrong answer. That torpedoes the church’s claim about the reliability of feelings.
If he didn’t pray about it, it shows that he himself has NO faith in the CORE ARGUMENT of his OWN CHURCH! And one which comes right from the BOM itself! So that too torpedoes the church’s claims - the guy actually RUNNING the thing doesn’t even believe it himself!
What else did Gordon B. Hinckley do? Once the bombs started going off; once the forging equipment was found; once Mark Hoffmann confessed; he REVISED HIS OPINION in the face of indicators of objective reality.
Where I’m going is here: the apologetic arguments made to explain GBH’s mistake have tended to settle down to a slogan: “Hey - no one ever said prophets don’t make mistakes”.
But that is precisely the point, apologists - NOT EVEN A PROPHET knows “objective truth” via “feelings”! No one does! You’ve just undermined the thing again. In the very act of defending the church, you’ve just admitted that it’s core claim - the HG WILL reveal truth, ESPECIALLY about putative scripture - is a fraud.
The fact is, that if the Holy Ghost did NOT even accurately indicate to a guy with a SEER STONE whether a certain text was or was not “authentic sacred writing”, or scripture - nor to his team of experts - nor to the quorum of the 12 - it simply cannot be believed to be an accurate indicator, period. It’s just that simple - and you have proven that yourselves. This defense - to be found on all the apologetic boards and discussions - of the prophet is in fact an admission that the claim that “feelings/the Holy Ghost are a reliable indicator of historicity” is totally unsustainable. The logic used to defend the church, in fact undermines it at the same time. But the psychological state we exist in as members won’t permit us to see that, will it? There is something wrong, and it was something wrong with all of us. There is something wrong.
There is another inconsistency here. When indicators of reality started rolling in, Gordon Hinckley changed his mind. But - for some reason - no one’s allowed to change their mind when evidences of reality far more convincing than a Mark Hoffmann confession start rolling in demolishing nearly every last historical claim of the Book of Mormon.
What’s the difference? “The BOM was canonized, but the Salamander Letter wasn’t. That’s how we already know the BOM is true.”
Okay, let me ask you this, then: say the Salamander Letter had in fact been canonized before we knew it was a fraud. Just suppose. If it had been, every member would have gotten a “testimony” of it. What would the church have done then, if only last year, Hoffmann had confessed? What? Would it be removed? Or would the church be saying, “We already know it’s true, so don’t listen to him. It was authenticated by all the world’s experts, and Hoffmann’s obviously gone evil and is just trying to embarrass the church”?
Well…when Fulgate confessed in 18 whatever that he had forged the Kinderhook Plates, what did the church and BH Roberts say? They DIDN’T believe him. Go look in Vol. 5 of the OHC, and you’ll see BH Roberts explaining how we can “know” that Fulgate was lying! And can anyone imagine what torturous spinning would be going on at FARMS if JS HAD finished his “translation” of the K. Plates, and they had been canonized - just like the Book of Abraham?
Well, here we are then to another exercise in apologetic cannibalism.
The Book of Abraham is NOT a translation. Apologists have attempted all sorts of ridiculous explanations of how to handle this problem, since this “translation” again has more reason to be believed fraudulent, than even the Salamander Letter (after all, Hoffmann DID deal in authentic documents, too). The apologist arguments defending the church via the Book of Abraham boil down to DENYING that Joseph Smith “translated” these documents. Instead, the “process” has become “mysterious”.
Hugh Nibley has come up with a “hidden meaning” theory, where the characters were cryptograms. Even though there is a story about a guy lying on an altar clutching his erect penis on the surface, Joseph got the real, “hidden” story right - it’s actually about an Israelite patriarch named Abraham. Nibley also reiterated what is coming to be sort of a classic “out” - the scribes messed it up (See BYU Studies, Spring 1968, or “They Lie in Wait to Deceive”, starting on page 236.)
FARMS “scholar” John Tvedtnes came up with the mnemonic device classic. Then we’ve got the “how much does anyone really know about Egyptian anyway?” approach, and the “he just got it through revelation anyway” approach…
But how these all undermine themselves is that they rely on declaring war on the credibility of the very guy who they are trying to defend. Here are a few comments from Joseph Smith himself. These are found in the vicious anti-Mormon book, “The Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings”, published by Deseret Book, and available at all of the viciously anti-Mormon Deseret Bookstores, starting on evil page 4.
1.) “…As Mr. Chandler had been told I could TRANSLATE them, he brought me some of the characters, AND I GAVE HIM THE INTERPRETATION, and like a gentleman, he gave me the following certificate:
‘This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., in DECIPHERING THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHIC CHARACTERS…Michael H. Chandler’ (HC 2:235)
2.) July 1835 “Soon after this…I commenced the TRANSLATION OF SOME OF THE CHARACTERS OR HIEROGLYHPICS…”
3.) July 1835 “The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in TRANSLATING AN ALPHABET to the Book of Abraham, and ARRANGING A GRAMMAR of the EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE AS PRACTICED BY THE ANCIENTS” (!!!). (HC 2:238)
4.) 1 Oct. 1835 “This afternoon I LABORED ON THE EGYPTIAN ALPHABET…” (HC 2:286).
5.) 7 Oct 1835 “…I recommenced TRANSLATING the ancient records”. (HC 2:289)
6.) 19 Nov 1835 “I returned home and spent the day in TRANSLATING THE EGYPTIAN RECORDS” (HC 2:318)
7.) 20 Nov 1835 “We spent the day in TRANSLATING, and made rapid progress” (HC 2:318)
8.) 24 Nov 1835 “In the afternoon we TRANSLATED some of the Egyptian records”. (HC 2: 320)
9.) 25 Nov 1835 “Spent the day in translating” (HC 2:320)
10.) 26 Nov 1835 “Spent the day in TRANSLATING THE EGYPTIAN CHARACTERS FROM THE PAPYRUS…” (HC 2:320-21)
11.) “…Thus I have given a brief history of the manner in which the WRITINGS OF THE FATHER, ABRAHAM AND JOSEPH, have been preserved, and how I came in possession of the same - A CORRECT TRANSLATION of which I shall give in its proper place (HC 2:348-51).
12.) 11 Feb 1836 “Spent the afternoon in READING, and in exhibiting, the Egyptian records…” (HC 2: 394)
13.) 22 Feb 1836 “Spent the day TRANSLATING with my scribe…” (HC 2:398)
14.) 8 Mar 1842 “Recommenced TRANSLATING from the Records of Abraham…” (HC 4:548)
15.) 9 Mar 1842 “In the afternoon I continued the TRANSLATION of the Book of Abraham…” (HC 4: 548)
16.) 16 May 1842 “…The first out of a facsimile from the Book of Abraham, has been published…together with the TRANSLATION from the Book of Abraham”.
Who should we believe? If we believe FARMS, we must disbelieve Joseph Smith. But once we regard Joseph as unreliable or not truthful (or just plain incorrect), then the church has no claim for legitimacy at all, does it, since it all rests on him?
And if we disbelieve FARMS, and believe Joseph, we are forced to acknowledge that he was wrong - the Book of Abraham is NOT a “translation” at all, neither of the facsimiles nor of the characters. And if he got THAT wrong - and was able to create a story as imaginative and unique as he did around Abraham, on what grounds should we suppose that he couldn’t have done the same thing with the BOM? The apologist response undermines itself, or the church, at the same time it attempts to save it.
The bottom line for me is that any attempt at explaining the Book of Abraham that ignores, or does violence to, the numerous and explicit statements from Joseph Smith himself about his Book of Abraham “TRANSLATION” - namely, that it was a TRANSLATION - are totally self-undermining. Joseph Smith’s testimony is CLEAR and unambiguous - his book, according to him, is a “translation”.
I can’t cover all of the many ad hoc apologetic arguments here on this one, but just in response to the “missing papyrus scroll” theory (as if somewhere, someday, a papyrus scroll is going to turn up that will ACTUALLY tell the precise story of the “Book of Abraham”), I suggest that all you really need are the facsimiles. John Gee tragi-comically tries to dodge this one by saying among other things, in his sad little book, that “whether the head is a jackal or a bald man in no way affects the interpretation of the figure, however, since in either case, THE FIGURE WOULD BE A PRIEST”.
Anyway, since you wanted some &%^$#@ examples, I’ll give you a few more.
This is from a church-funded, church-approved publication, The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 12, Number 1, 2003, page 12:
"In regard to the ORIGINS and ETHNIC COMPOSITION of the ancient inhabitants of America in relation to the Book of Mormon, opinions among the leaders have varied. Again no definitive or 'orthodox' viewpoint has claimed to provide 'the' answer".
That this statement met with the official approval of the church is evidenced not only by the fact it was funded and vetted by the church, but by the fact that the church has posted links to the article on the official church website, www.lds.org., to the article.
This statement is an attempt to DEFEND the Book of Mormon against the awkward fact that it turns out, after all that, that the Indians not only have no Israelite ancestry, but no Semitic ancestry whatsoever. But see how it relies on ATTACKING the BOM itself in order to make this claim. This is from the BOM itself:
"...For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth...there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the REMNANT OF OUR SEED.
"And then shall THE REMNANT OF OUR SEED know concerning us, how that we CAME OUT OF JERUSALEM, AND THAT THEY ARE THE DESCENDANTS OF THE JEWS". (II Nephi 29: 3-4).
It’s no wonder Joseph made the same claim:
"The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians... By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph that was sold into Egypt…". From a letter written by JS to Rochester, New York, newspaper editor N. C. Saxton, January 4, 1833. You can read this letter in a book published not by the Tanners, but by…..Deseret Book. (Page 297, "Personal Writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith", edited by Dean Jessee).
In an official church publication, The Times and Seasons, Joseph Smith described the Book of Mormon as "the history of ancient America . . . from ITS FIRST SETTLEMENT by a colony that came from the tower of Babel [the Jaredites]" – Times and Seasons, (March 1, 1842) III:707. Why shouldn’t he, when that’s what the BOM says?
Apologists might declare war on the word “remnant”, used in the BOM quote above. So here is Joseph Smith himself on the word “remnant”, and what that BOM scripture was referring to:
“The REMNANT of Book of Mormon peoples are the INDIANS that NOW INHABIT THIS COUNTRY” (Encyclopedia of JS’s Teachings, Deseret Book, p. 336).
And if all that wasn’t enough, after clarifying in such strong terms WHO the BOM is about, Joseph declares that it is “most most CORRECT book on earth”, and says:
“The Book of Mormon is true, JUST WHAT IT PURPORTS TO BE” (Encyclopedia, p. 86), and then, in a comment which might be directed at FARMS even as they are scrambling in that Keystone Cops way we’ve all (except AJ) come to notice in defending it, he says, “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none” (Encyclopedia, p. 86).
So, since JS mentions them, let’s just look at revelations for one second. Joseph Smith says, “DO NOT BETRAY the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or DOCTRINE & COVENANTS” (HC 3:385).
We’ve already seen what appears very much to be a FARMS “betrayal” (Joseph’s word) of the BOM’s REVEALED identification of the origins and ethnic component of the ancient inhabitants of America, through the clear identification of modern Indians as the descendants/remnants of Lehi. Now let’s just see if there’s a D&C revelation, too.
Well, what do you know? When we turn to D&C 19:27, we see:
“…The word of God, which is my word to the Gentile, that soon it may go to THE JEW, OF WHOM THE LAMANITES ARE A REMNANT”.
And who again are the Lamanites? “Jesus” sends Oliver Cowdery out on a western mission with these words: “…you shall go unto THE LAMANITES and preach my gospel unto them”. (I could insert about another ten quotes here on this point).
Like the Book of Abraham defense statements, this Book of Mormon defense depends on trying to make obscure what “Jesus” and Joseph Smith were unambiguously clear on: the ancient inhabitants of America were Israelites, and were the ancestors of modern Indians. Their ORIGINS and their ETHNIC COMPOSITION are totally clear.
What this weird defense argument also does is attempt to make Joseph Smith’s pronouncements nothing more than “personal opinion”, since a prophet is only a prophet when he is speaking as such.
Joseph invented this “out” (as a way of evading responsibility, in my opinion); it’s a wonder it is still being used, since it too undermines itself. The question this slogan raises is: If a prophet, speaking ex officio and in public, can be wrong about the FUNDAMENTALS of the Mormonism, on what grounds should we believe ANYTHING that he, or any other “prophet”, says? This is another example of how defense arguments undermine themselves.
If Brigham Young can be WRONG about who we worship (is it Adam? Is it Elohim? Who?); if Joseph Smith can be WRONG about who the Indians are, or where the Lehites lived; if Gordon B. Hinckley can be WRONG about putative scriptures despite more access to the “Holy Ghost” than anyone else on earth; etc., etc., on what basis should we believe they have ANY greater insight into matters of religion than anyone else? They can’t be defended by being undermined.
Just to conclude what I started up there, let me provide another example of a FARMS “betrayal”, contra the teaching of Joseph Smith, of a revelation, this one from the Bible that JS said shouldn’t be betrayed.
In “Notes on Historicity and Inerrancy”, Daniel C. Peterson writes: “We…understand the INEVITABLE TRUTH of (Niehr’s) assertion that the Hebrew Bible ‘does NOT depict the histories of Judah and Israel as they took place, but as they have been REIMAGINED in the mind of the writers”.
Well, duh. Sure, it’s not an accurate history. The problem is, that Daniel C. Peterson also says, everytime he wishes to protect some church president from the latest unearthed fiasco, that “the standard works are the only standard for church doctrine”. The Old Testament is part of the standard works. He has just conceded that it is a “reimagination”. No distinction that I know of has ever been formally made by the church between the authority of one portion of the standard works over another, (unless it is the BOM’s designation as the most correct).
(And by the way, the “standard works” out is another self-underming argument; for which scriptures in the standard works specifies that the OT, the NT, the BOM, D&C, and PGP are all “the only official standard for church doctrine”?! NONE! They are regarded as such ONLY because GA’s have said they were - which means that’s it’s the GA’s that determine what’s “official church doctrine” or not, and nothing else…).
But back on point. Here is DCP shooting himself in the foot (again): Since DCP has already conceded that ONE portion of the standard works is a “reimagination”, why then should we give any credit to FARMS blathering about how the BOM can in NO WAY be any such thing? The defense weapon is necessarily offensive. Lucy Mack Smith says Joseph used to tell “the most amusing anecdotes” about the ancient inhabitants of the Americans, YEARS before he “translated” any plates. So…if we subscribe to DCP’s argument, we are just as justified in concluding that the BOM “does NOT depict the histories of the ancient inhabitants of America as they took place, but as they have been REIMAGINED in the mind of…Joseph Smith”, as he is with the OT. And by the way, DCP, for that last word, uses “writers”. What’s the difference between an imaginative later Israelite historian, and an imaginative later American historian - named Joseph Smith? If the first isn’t objectionable, why should the second be? Thus, it is no other than church defenders which once again cast doubt on the church, and the BOM itself.
And by the way, Joseph Smith in that quote above referred to the Bible as comprising “revelations”, and said it was the word of God NOT DESPITE being a “reimagination”, but insofar as it is “TRANSLATED” correctly. And he made those corrections, didn’t he? Joseph Smith said he “finished” correcting the Bible! For DCP to just throw it out then is to do something JS seemed to think was very wrong (“We finished the translation of the Bible, a few hours since” - HC 1:368, 369). Or was that just another one of JS’s “personal opinions”?
Why does DCP allow that the OT is a reimagination? I propose that he does so, because an overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that this is the case. But the same is true of the Book of Mormon, no matter how many more ridiculous “chiasmus as proof of Semitic origin” articles Welch spits out. Why the difference? Why does the same line of reasoning NOT apply to the BOM? Why is DISCONFIRMING evidence so easily and formally acknowledged when it comes to the OT - but NOT when it comes to another portion of the standard works? (Back to the original GBH example…).
It is certainly not because there is more evidence to support BOM historical claims. There is much less. The Israelites were a real people. You can go to Capernaum and visit Peter’s place, find ancient Hebrew writings, all kinds of things. No one can dispute that the Israelites were a real people, with a real language, fighting real wars, with real weapons, with real beasts of burden, etc. The artifacts and evidences are in abundance. But there is nothing but an impassive, stony silence from American soil and indigenous American blood. There is nothing there. And there will be nothing there in 50 years, or in 500 to support the BOM’s claims. There is as much evidence that Israelites colonized America, as there is that David Icke’s shape-shifting reptilians from outer space did - about as close to zero as you can get with these things. And not matter how much bluster they can muster, that will not go away.
So, once again, for all the reasons I mentioned, even in the course of trying to defend historicity while allowing for errancy, church apologists use a weapon which ends up inflicting damage on unique Mormon claims.
Are those enough torpedoes for you, AJ? No? Here are a few more then.
If the standard works is really the “only standard for official church doctrine”, why does the present version of the Word of Wisdom, violation of which will keep you out of the temple and thus damn you, NOT conform to the “revelation” included in “the standard works”, in D&C 89? To defend the current version of the W o W, you have to disregard the exact reasoning of the “standard works” out - and not notice. It torpedoes itself.
If, as apologists tell me, I should disregard the statements by the witnesses indicating that their experience with the plates was not a physical experience (as suggested by the text of the Eight’s affidavit), on what grounds should I give the affidavits credit? How can it be suggested that the witnesses are SO reliable that I should base my life (partially) on their testimonies, and then in the next minute tell me they are unreliable when they CLARIFY their experience? Torpedoed.
If, as Stanley Kimball and others have suggested, I should believe that the totally loyal William Clayton may have placed in his diary entries regarding Joseph’s comments on the Kinderhook plates that were TOTALLY unrepresentative of reality - on what grounds should I believe ANYTHING he put in his diary? And by extension, why should I believe all the stuff in the Official History of the Church which CAME from Clayton’s diary? Torpedoed.
If, as the apologists concede, the HG did NOT inform GBH or any other GA or member in the circle about putative sacred scripture, why should I believe the claim I ought to base my life on acceptance of the contradictory claim that it WILL testify of the truth of scripture? Torpedoed.
The apologists argue, following GBH, that there is no evidence which disconfirms the BOM; but then also argue for the truth of their theories and versions of what the BOM is supposed to be about which have ONLY been necessitated by……….EVIDENCE ITSELF. Torpedoed.
To excuse prophetic errors, apologists ask us to simply remind ourselves that prophets are not infallible. They then ask us to not question the prophet when he asks us to do something. Torpedoed. And what happens what that “something” is - “lie for the Lord? Hand over your daughter? Go kill someone? Abandon your wife Sarah, and T. (Ezra)and all the little kids on a farm in Idaho for two and a half years to go on a mission? Marry five new wives? Anything?”. They argue that we are all supposed to believe that “prophets make mistakes” - but also that we should all obey them as if there was no chance they were making a mistake in asking us what they do - even if it means KILLING or providing him with our fourteen year olds. TORPEDOED.
Even though JS himself said he was “ARRANGING” the Egyptian Grammar, the apologists ask me to disregard it since it wasn’t written primarily in his own hand. They then ask me to ACCEPT as true the 1838 version of the First Vision, even though that, like EAG, was not written in his own hand. They argue that since the Kinderhook plate comments weren’t written in “Joseph’s own hand”, that they don’t count either - but then argue that we accept the D&C, the BOM, and the PGP, even thought that was all dicated, too. But they then argue that Joseph’s 1832 version of his “First Vision” story should NOT be preferred over the 1838 version - EVEN THOUGH it WAS written in his own hand. Torpedoed.
The church argues that I should not criticize the brethren because “they will not be permitted to lead the church astray”; then the church argues that I should ignore the fact that BY led the church astray by teaching repeatedly - even at the lecture on the veil in the temple - that we should worship Adam. But that isn’t in accord with the first of the ten commandments, is it? And the ten commandments are in the standard works, aren’t they, which is what they always say is the only official standard? But if I had disobeyed BY, I would have been excommunicated just as Orson Pratt almost was, wouldn’t I have? And if I now argued with GBH on a point of his doctrine publicly because it was NOT in accord with the standard works, I would be excommunicated now too, regardless of what the standard works said, wouldn’t I? So, the church asks you to believe what it itself has clearly demonstrated you have NO RIGHT TO BELIEVE, and then punishes you if you don’t, and all the while argues it is being directed by a divinity who, to quote Paul, is not “the author of confusion”, when it itself has come to embody nothing other than the most absurd confusion imaginable. Torpedoed.
There is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a Mormon apologetic "argument". All there is, is the expression of a certain psychological state; and it is one not peculiar to Mormons, but true of them nonetheless. This state induces particularly distorted views of all reality, to the point where the most basic inconsistencies of logic can no longer be recognized, to the point where EVERYTHING always in all places becomes “confirming evidence”, while literally everything else vanishes.
Those who raise questions about this must be destroyed personally by apologists, because in the end, that psychological state cares about nothing, not truth, not right, not anything, other than surviving. And there is nothing forbidden in the service of that end. There is no difference between ad hominem insults, and appraisals of arguments; there is only war. It is a war which in that state we like to imagine is between us and our enemies; but the only enemy, in the end, is ourselves, and our own instincts and abilities to discern reality. We strike against others, but really only strike at ourselves.
It is no wonder that Mormon apologetics obliterates itself; for each individual, in the end, has to obliterate him or herself, and obliterate what to me are the miraculous abilities we had even as children to see, to feel, the experience, to love, to weigh and appraise and test and understand. We entered into that psychological state believing sincerely, just as those we love now do, that it would lead us to a higher realm of conscious; but it only imprisoned us, trapped us in a seemingly endless series of authoritarian circularities and tautologies.
Maybe at bottom we knew. I don’t know. It’s hard to remember now. Maybe this is why FARMS won’t go near peer review; maybe deep down, they all know, or secretly fear. Who knows?
All I know is that it seems no wonder that there appears to be absolutely zero comprehension on the part of sincere men and women trying to defend the church about how their arguments fall down, destroy themselves, about how they come across.
As I noted in another post recently, DCP once recommend that everyone go and read everything Karl Popper ever wrote (another torpedo). So as a fitting close to a thread devoted to recognizing how church apologetics ends up killing itself in the end, I close with Sir Karl, a recovering Marxist, speaking about the enormous psychological appeal of “theories of everything” (of which Mormonism is definitely one) which promise enlightenment and a secure emotional orientation. Acceptance of one of these theories, he writes, has:
“…the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere; the world was FULL of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth…”. (from “Conjectures and Refutations”).
"Communism is a creed which promises to bring about a better world. It claims to be based on KNOWLEDGE...but I questioned whether I really knew - whether what I had thought was knowledge was not perhaps mere pretence. I had, of course, read some Marx and Engels - but had I really understood it? Had I examined it CRITICALLY, as anybody should do before he accepts a creed which justifies its means by a somewhat distant end?
"I was shocked to have to admit to myself that not only had I accepted a complex theory somewhat uncritically, but that I had also actually noticed quite a bit of what was wrong, in the theory as well as in the practice of communism. But I had repressed this - partly out of loyalty to my friends, partly out of loyalty to 'the cause', and partly because there is a mechanism of getting oneself more and more deeply involved; once one has sacrificed one's intellectual conscience over a minor point one does not wish to give in too easily; one wishes to justify the self-sacrifice by convincing oneself of the fundamental goodness of the cause, which is seen to outweigh any little moral or intellectual compromise that may be required. With every such moral or intellectual sacrifice one gets more deeply involved. One becomes ready to back one's moral or intellectual investments in the cause with further investments. It is like being eager to throw good money after bad...
"I had accepted a dangerous creed uncritically, dogmatically...It was awfully depressing to have fallen into such a trap.
"Once I had looked at it critically, the gaps and loopholes and inconsistencies in the Marxist theory became obvious...one of the things which revolted me was the intellectual presumption of some of my Marxist friends...They had, I knew, no special intellectual qualifications. All they could claim was some acquaintance with Marxist literature - though not even a thorough one, and certainly not a critical one...the whole movement was inspired by what can only be described as an ardent religious...faith.
"There are what might be called 'unsophisticated' theories like 'All swans are white'...these theories are falsifiable, though falsifications can, of course, be evaded...but the evasion would usually be dishonest: it would consist, say, in denying that a black swan was a swan, or that it was black...
"The 'reinterpretation' of Marx's theory of revolution to evade this falsification immunized it against further attacks...' (from "Unended Quest").
Do you want more examples, AJ, are you sick of it yet?
Related Short Topics:
|11. Horses - Book of Mormon||27. A Mormon Letter to FARMS|
|28. Reformed Egyptian||53. Cureloms|
|51. Horses, FARMS and BofM||86. BofM a Missionary Tool?|
|67. Lamanites and DNA||111 Dallin H. Oaks and the BofM|
|175 BofM - Any Value Left to Ex-Mormons?||323 How Boring is the Book of Mormon?|
|330 Captain Kidd, Joseph Smith and Moroni, Camora Island||333 Is FARMS Credible?|
|378 Rigdon and the Origin of the Book of Mormon||388 What is Limited Geography Theory?|
|389 Joseph Smith as Sole Author?||399 Sorenson, Smelting, Tapirs and Misleading Documentation|