Argument from ‘Possible Textual Influences’ Against The Book of Mormon

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The argument from ‘Possible Textual Influence’ or ‘Literary Similarity’ IS NOT THE SAME as the argument from ‘Source Plagiarism’.  Apologists dismiss the former by attacking the latter which is a ‘straw man fallacy’.  I neither need to prove that Joseph Smith read any of the books included below before the publication of the Book of Mormon nor claim that these books and the Book of Mormon are exactly alike in order for my argument to have force.  Equally, the charge of ‘parallelomania’ – a common criticism directed against LDS apologetics – has no validity here because I’m not attempting to argue that Joseph Smith actually used any of these sources to write the Book of Mormon, but simply show how they might have influenced Joseph or any one of his contemporaries in their own creative writing process.  I would also claim that, unlike the so called ‘parallels’ that Mormon apologists identify, the textual similarities below are self-evident and require no ‘gymnastic-style interpretations’.  The upshot is, all things considered, the Book of Mormon is EXACTLY the type of book we would expect to see published in 1830 in the New York area.

The following is an ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’ style argument, typical in scientific and philosophical reasoning:

In Summary

  1. The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient text written between 600 BC and 420 AD on gold plates, giving an account of an ancient American civilization the historical existence of which has not been established by either Mormon or non-Mormon scholarship.
  2. Along with the King James Bible (1611, 1769), there is good evidence of possible literary influences for the Book of Mormon that are 19th century in origin.
  3. The Book of Mormon was published in the 19th century.
  4. Therefore, it is most likely and indeed the best explanation that the Book of Mormon was written in the 19th century and influenced by contemporary sources – and not written between 600 BC and 420 AD, engraved on plates, delivered by an angel and channeled with a rock in a hat.

Main Argument

  1. The Book of Mormon contains highly similar language, phrasing, style, idioms and thematic content to several books either written in or available in the 19th century which may have influenced Joseph Smith.
  2. While there is no evidence that Joseph Smith ever actually read any of these books before 1830 (apart from the Bible), they all pre-date the publication of the Book of Mormon and demonstrate how an author might have been influenced by them in their own creative writing process.
  3. The Book of Mormon was published in the 19th century at a time when, along with the King James Bible (1611), The Late War (1816), The View of the Hebrews (1823), The First Book of Napoleon (1809), the theories of Dr Mitchill and numerous other works – were all in print and in circulation [(The Late war was written “for the use of schools throughout the United States” (when Joseph was around twelve years old) and The View of the Hebrews was written by Oliver Cowdery’s Pastor)].
  4. Just these books alone demonstrate how a single author, living in the 19th century New York area, could have soaked up the literature of their time either by directly reading or even indirectly being exposed to such material by their peers, and thereafter produced their own book with a language and style highly imitative of the King James Bible.
  5. We know that the source of the Book of Mormon text, whether it be Joseph Smith or God, plagiarized whole verses and chapters from the King James Bible, 1769 edition, and that it is, elsewhere, highly imitative of the King James in style, language and phrasing.
  6. Therefore, it is most likely and indeed the best explanation that the Book of Mormon was written in the 19th century and influenced by contemporary sources, and not written between 600 BC and 420 AD, engraved on gold plates, delivered by an angel and channeled with a rock in a hat.

 

Ethan Smith, The View Of The Hebrews:

“It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel after they settled in America become wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries, that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren until the former became extinct. . . . These partially civilized people became extinct and what account can be given of this, but that the savages extirpated them after long and dismal wars?” Ethan Smith (pages 172-73), 1825 edition

Prof. Samuel Mitchill

Prof. Mitchill was one of the scholars to whom Joseph Smith sent Martin Harris to verify the characters on the now infamous ‘Anthon transcript’.  It is quite probable that before the publication of the Book of Mormon, Joseph had come to learn of Mitchill’s theories about native American origins and that this was one of the reasons why he sent Harris to seek his confirmation.

“…Professor Samuel L. Mitchill, formerly of Columbia College, had concluded that two main groups of people once dominated the Americas—the Tartars of northern Asia and the Australasians of the Polynesian islands. Furthermore, they fought one another for many years, culminating in great battles of extermination in what later became upstate New York.”

The First Book of Napoleon, written by Michael Lining in 1809

There is no evidence that Joseph Smith ever read this book or that it was even in his possession.  I do not include it here and argue that it was a textual source from which the Book of Mormon was plagiarized.  I present the following simply as evidence of a POSSIBLE INFLUENCE upon the Book of Mormon and, furthermore, evidence of pre-Book of Mormon literature that:

  • Directly imitates the King James literary style, exactly as the Book of Mormon does
  • Is remarkably similar to the language, phrasing, and idioms of the Book of Mormon.

Excerpts from ‘The First Book of Napoleon’, 1809:

And behold it came to pass, in these latter days, that an evil spirit arose on the face of the earth, and greatly troubled the sons of men, And this spirit seized upon, and spread amongst the people who dwell in the land of Gaul…” FBN, chapter 1: 1

“…And this man, though small in stature, was nevertheless vast in spirit, and he not only conceived unto himself, great and marvellous designs, but was moreover wicked, and cunning in council, mighty in deeds, and powerful in war…” FBN, chapter 3: 2

Brings to mind the language and phrasing used to describe Nephi as ‘large in stature’:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God (vast in spirit), wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” 1 Nephi 2: 16

“And it pleased the Lord, as a punishment for the wickedness and perverseness of the people, to deliver into the hands of this man the dominion over many lands, that they might be ruled as with a rod of iron, and chastened for the iniquity and wickedness of their ways, and brought back from the paths of sin and licentiousness, and the idolatry of the beast, to those of justice, moderation, and truth, and the fear of the only true and living God.” FBN, chapter 3: 21

Rod of iron… Coincidence I’m sure, but isn’t it interesting?

“Now when good king Albanus saw his brave and loving subjects of all ranks and conditions, rally around him in this manner, as never men had done before, his heart was moved with gladness, and he wept from the joy thereof.  But behold the tears which he shed were not tears of sorrow, for they were mixed with gratitude to God, for his exceeding goodness, and love to his people, for their exceeding affection.” FBN, chapter 7: 4-5

Brings to my mind, Alma when he is reunited with the sons of Mosiah (Alma 17 & 26) or even the affection between King Benjamin and his subjects.

“And the power of good king Albanus continued to increase on the mighty deep, and no ship dared to appear, or be seen, on the face thereof, save by his permission; and when the Gauls, and the other nations upon earth, saw and beheld the greatness of the deeds of the captains and sailors of good king Albanus, they marvelled one with another, and were sore afraid.”

Reminds me of the war chapters in Alma, where one side, before battle, would look out at their enemy and be fearful of their armour and appearance.

“The measure of my happiness and ambition would thus appeal unto you to be full, but there is yet one king, and one people, that while he reigns, and they live, my rising up, and my down laying, my outgoing, and incoming, shall be unto me gall and bitterness.” FBN 6: 13

“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.” Alma 36: 18

“…and it had pleased the Lord to convert the hearts of those few, and they repented them of their wickedness, and espied the danger and error of their evil ways, and rejoiced in their hearts, that the coming to pass of their foolish dreams, and vain imaginations, had been averted by the hand of God.” FBN 6: 1

“And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men.” 1 Nephi 12: 18

“O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men!” 2 Nephi 9: 28

“Brave captains of my numerous and invincible hosts, companions of my many and difficult battles, sharers of my victories, and my glory by means of your skill and courage in war, under my auspices, nation after nation, and people after people, have been conquered and overthrown; and many kings, princes, and potentates, once great and glorious, but now bled and fallen, have become tributary unto me, and have been delivered into my hand.” FBN 6: 12

“And also Limhi, being the son of the king, having the kingdom conferred upon him by the people, made oath unto the king of the Lamanites that his people should pay tribute unto him, even one half of all they possessed.” Mosiah 19: 26

Excerpts from ‘The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain’, Gilbert Hunt, 1816:

“…two thousand hardy men, who … fought freely for their country … Now the men of war … were … men of dauntless courage.” TLW 35: 5-6

“…two thousand of those young men … to defend their country. …they took their weapons of war, … were all young men, and they were exceeding valiant for courage, …”

Alma 53: 18-20

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“…made partly of brass … with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball.”  TLW 50: 24

“…a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles” 1 Nephi 16: 10

_________________________________________________________________________

“…Andweapons of war were of curious workmanship” TLW 19: 13

“…Andweapons of war … of exceedingly curious workmanship” Ether 10: 27

_________________________________________________________________________

“…sent forth a Proclamation, … abroad … And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the … standard of Columbia…they came in battle array against the …” TLW 6-7

“…sent a proclamation throughout … the land; … And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard [of liberty] … they … went down with their armies … against the …” Alma 61-62

Notes:

View of The Hebrews –

http://www.mormonhandbook.com/home/view-of-the-hebrews.html

Prof. Samuel Mitchill –

https://journals.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/viewFile/20211/18747

The Late War –

https://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

http://www.rickgrunder.com/parallels/mp193.pdf

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27 thoughts on “Argument from ‘Possible Textual Influences’ Against The Book of Mormon

  1. The problem with your reasoning is that it does require many assumptions that have no direct evidence. You say things are probable, or likely, or other such vague and ambiguous declarations as if they prove fact.
    What makes them likely, or probable? The fact that they existed at the same time is not sufficient to claim that two things likely came into contact with each other.

    It sounds like a nice argument, but it has nothing to support it except your claim that it basically supports itself.

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    1. Shemawater, you’re attacking a straw man. If you read my article carefully you will note that I do not claim to have proven anything but have presented what I see as the best explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon. An argument from the best explanation does not prove anything but attempts to make a strong case based on likelihood. Now, for you to challenge my claim and argue that it is more likely that there is a supernatural explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon exposes your disregard for the content of my article where I have demonstrated that all the creative influences were there in Joseph’s day for he or anyone else to write the Book of Mormon quite naturally without any supernatural component. Therefore, recourse to angels, magic stones and gold treasures becomes completely unnecessary in light of the existence of these contemporary texts including the King James Bible. I don’t need to prove that Joseph read any of these books (although we KNOW he read some of them especially the 1769 KJ as the BOM plagiarises whole sections of it) in order to demonstrate that contemporary textual influence is a better, more probable explanation than a supernatural explanation. Why, you might ask? Why is it more likely? Well, I don’t know about you but I live in a rational world where “angelic visitations”, “magic stones” and “mysterious gold treasures” are very unlikely occurences – all infinitely less probable explanations for the origin of a book than the natural, human, everyday explanation that, like every other book, symphony, painting, play, novel, ever composed … It is more likely, which is to say, the odds are infinitely in my favour that the Book of Mormon was written by natural means, by the same creative process as all the hundreds of thousands of other books in history that have been written. For you to challenge this claim and argue that a supernatural explanation is actually more likely is to assume that books are regularly brought into existence by supernatural means… Which, surely we can agree, is a ludicrously stupid notion. Now, it may be true that the BOM was received by supernatural means and is an ancient text, you can go on believing that if you want, I really don’t care… but I have proved that while that may be true, there is a better more likely 19th century explanation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You say I should read your words more carefully. I wrote significantly less words than you and yet you don’t seem to have read my words very carefully at all.
    Twice you say I am arguing for a supernatural explanation, but never in my words did I once offer any opposing argument. You have thus assumed my intent without any supporting evidence.

    On the other hand, while your basic argument is one of ‘the best explanation’ your intent is clearly to make a case against the claims regarding the Book of Mormon. You may make an argument that is not claiming to prove anything, but the very nature of the argument is to persuade others that, even though it is not proven, it should be excepted as if it was.

    Yes, you cleverly use an abductive reasoning so you can try to bypass any attempt to argue against you, but you also fail to use the reasoning correctly. You base it on a small amount of evidence without regards to other evidence. In other words, if we accept your view of the world than your reasoning is the best explanation. But you give us no real reason to accept your view other than that it is your view.

    Even in your reply you give no real reasoning. You belittle and mock anything that doesn’t fit your view in an attempt to exclude it from the discussion, but you give no actual reason to do so.
    So, if the only evidence we consider is that of literary influence, without regard to any direct evidence as to whether there was any influence, then, yes, your explanation is the best one. But there are other things to consider, and things that other people accept as evidence that you reject. So, your argument, while it sounds good and is correct in regards to you, it is a poor argument at best for anything but your own personal musings.

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    1. Shemwater…I am an active member of the church and I got to say, your rebuttal is totally incoherent. The author completely destroys your argument. It is obvious that you are influence by wishful thinking.

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  3. I understand that for believing Mormons there exists a range of “evidence” which supports the ancient authenticity of the Book of Mormon. The strength or weakness of that evidence is in the eye of the beholder just as people will subjectively weigh the evidence against the Book of Mormon. It’s true that my intent in writing the piece above was to make the case for 19th century authorship, and I assume that most people who read it will already be familiar with the “positive case” for the Book of Mormon. I was, in fact, very conservative with the evidence I presented and could have included much more like the many anachronisms, the second temple Isaiah problem, the textual anachronisms in 3rd Nephi, that there are 1769 King James errors in the Book of Mormon which prove that the author plagiarised the King James Bible when he wrote the Book of a mormon, that the “first draft” of the BOM has thousands of grammatical errors consistent with the schooling of its author, the fact that DNA supports the 19th century case and not the ancient case, the lack of direct and peer reviewed archeological support for the Book of Mormon, the fact that as Richard Bushman has commented on, there is a lot of 19th century Protestant theology in the Book of Mormon, discussion of themes in the BOM that were of great interest in Joseph’s day, that “Moroni” and “Cumorah” are two words easily lifted from stories that Joseph would have heard about the pirate Captain Kidd which Joseph used to enjoy hearing and telling, that Joseph was a great raconteur even before the publication of the BOM telling stories to his family about the ancient inhabitants of America, that the vision of the tree of life in 1 Nephi is remarkably similar to a dream that Joseph’s father had and that he shared with his family before the publication of the BOM – I could have mentioned, as supporting contextual evidence, that Joseph translated the Kinderhook plates which were a proven fraud, that his translation of the egyptian papyri to create the Book of Abraham was wrong as the papyri are common funerary texts, that Joseph was found guilty in a preliminary hearing of being a glass looker and a disorderly person who defrauded his employer out of treasure that he said was buried in the ground which miraculously disappeared … But I didn’t mention any of that because I think that the textual evidence I presented above is the most persuasive, but I accept that you disagree. What’s your position on the Book of Mormon, Shemawater? You say I have wrongly assumed that you’re arguing for a supernatural explanation, are you arguing for a natural explanation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And in all this you would have come up against many other things that prove problematic to your argument. Again, the thing that makes your argument weak is that it requires one to accept your view of the evidence without giving any reasons as to why.

      For example, you say you could mention the Kinderhook plates. The problem here is that the evidence shows only that Joseph Smith had a casual look at them and described what they appeared to be. The assumption that he actually translated them is unsubstantiated, and there is no credible reason to accept it. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/08/kinderhook-plates-brought-to-joseph-smith-appear-to-be-a-nineteenth-century-hoax?lang=eng)

      As to the original argument of literary influence, we would actually expect this same influence to be seen in a translation of ancient text. And, if the Book of Mormon is exactly what one would expect to be produced in the 19th century then why was there no other book like it produced at that time?

      So, again, you are arguing that we should accept your view of things for no other reason than that it is your view.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “And in all this you would have come up against many other things that prove problematic to your argument.”

    There is no problem with my argument. It is water tight. The problem is your inability to recognize logic and reason.

    “Again, the thing that makes your argument weak is that it requires one to accept your view of the evidence without giving any reasons as to why.”

    You’re being incredibly hard headed … I supplied several reasons why my view of the evidence is valid and compelling and numbered each stage of my reasoning above. It’s comments like this that cause me to believe you haven’t fully understood what I wrote. If you can argue persuasively that, given all the evidence, a supernatural explanation for the Book of Mormon is more likely the case than a natural explanation, then I’d love to see you try…

    “For example, you say you could mention the Kinderhook plates. The problem here is that the evidence shows only that Joseph Smith had a casual look at them and described what they appeared to be. The assumption that he actually translated them is unsubstantiated, and there is no credible reason to accept it.”

    Now I’m just embarrassed for you.

    From Joseph’s most trusted scribe, William Clayton and primary author of the History of the Church:

    “I have seen 6 brass plates…covered with ancient characters of language containing from 30 to 40 on each side of the plates. Prest J. [Joseph Smith] has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.”

    And again:

    “I have translated a portion of [the plates] and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.”

    It’s as clear as day to anyone not already emotionally invested in Mormonism, as I suspect you are, that Smith attempted to translate the Kinderhook Plates and failed in the most exposing way possible. Did he attempt a full translation? No. Did he offer a translation summary of their contents? Yes. Was his translation summary correct? No. Because the plates were a fraud and he was duped. Apologists now claim that his summary translation was not done by the power of God, hence why it is bogus, but was Smith’s attempt to apply his Egyptian alphabet and grammar! You even have the apologists accepting that Smith gave a summary translation of a fraudulent artifact! The fact that you would try and defend Joseph from the Kinderhook Plates fiasco demonstrates how impossible it is reasoning with someone like you. The Kinderhook Plates stands as a witness that Joseph Smith had no ability to translate anything, and further strengthens the case against the Book of Mormon.

    “As to the original argument of literary influence, we would actually expect this same influence to be seen in a translation of ancient text. And, if the Book of Mormon is exactly what one would expect to be produced in the 19th century then why was there no other book like it produced at that time?”

    Well, there’s certainly no book exactly like the Book of Mormon, but then, no two books are exactly alike unless they are copies… but as I presented in my article, there were books at the time like the View of Hebrews, The Late War and The First Book of Napoleon that are strikingly similar in content, language, style and phrasing. The fact that the two latter books directly imitate the King James style just like the Book of Mormon is, I maintain, further evidence that refutes your claim that “there was no other book like it at that time”. That is simply wrong as I’ve demonstrated.

    “So, again, you are arguing that we should accept your view of things for no other reason than that it is your view.”

    Well, I’m not going to repeat my reasoning again for the permanently dim witted, but to anyone rationally inclined, I say again, the argument from 19th century influence for the production of the Book of Mormon is infinitely more likely an explanation for how the book was produced than the alternative … angelic visitations, gold plates, and magic rocks. If you can’t see that, then, you really are like those of whom Thomas Paine once spoke:

    “To argue with a man who has renounced the use of reason … is like administering medicine to the dead”

    And on that note, Shemawater, I will leave you to your grave.

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    1. I was preparing a lengthy reply to explain exactly how you misuse the argument of best explanation, but then I got to the conclusion of your post.
      It is my experience that when someone has to resort to personal attacks rather the actual use of rational discussion that they are not interested in anything except the destruction of others beliefs.
      To belittle one for disagreeing with you shows your own lack of moral character and mental acumen. Anyone who would do such or uphold that behavior has proven themselves unworthy of engaging the honest in discussion, and should be ignored by all civilized society.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmm … “…lack of moral character and mental acumen … Unworthy of engaging in honest discussion … Should be ignored by civilised society”

    What were you saying about resorting to personal attacks? 😀

    But seriously, you seem really rattled by my argument like it’s got right under your skin. Maybe you should contemplate why that is …

    And you dodged my earlier question, Shemawhatever, so I’ll ask it again, what’s your faith position? Do you have your doubts about the Book of Mormon or are you a “I must defend the church at all costs” Mormon? I hope you note how civilised I’m being. I apologise for implying that you are dim witted. I’m sure that’s not the case. This can be a highly frustrating exchange, between believing and non believing Mormons, where it seems that there are few if any points of common ground or shared perspectives.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll add one point. I agree with you that much of our disagreement rests on how or with what criteria we assess/evaluate the evidence for and against the BOM. Here lies our shared frustration I suspect.

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  7. I have no doubts regarding the Book of Mormon, but nor do I feel the need to defend it at all costs. I believe that it defends itself rather nicely whenever such a defense is needed, and I leave it at that.
    I am also a firm believer in angels and all the other supernatural stuff (well, not all, but you understand). As such I have a question for you: How would you present this argument to one who had actually seen an angel?

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    1. shematwater…we need to find a way to accept that which is good in the church and make a space to reject that which is obviously not true or good. The church has finally come out and said that the earlier church leaders were wrong about blacks and the priesthood. Clearly this opens up the possibility that other things are wrong as well. As long as the church contributes to making the world a better place you can still support it without feeling you have to defend the things that are clearly wrong. Don’t be afraid of the truth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am never afraid of the truth. But when we take it upon ourselves to judge that which God has revealed we put ourselves above God, and that is not something I am going to do. When the leaders of the church speak I accept, because to do anything else is a dangerous proposition.
        Now, I have not read anything from the leaders of the church that in any way even hints that the former policies were wrong. I have read much of what the church has printed on this point, and I have found nothing like what you claim.

        As to my arguments, I actually chose not to give further detail, for the reasons I gave above. Honestly, it has been too long and I am not that interested is trying to write it all out now. The basic argument that I would make is simple: While Leaton makes a nice case for his conclusion, he does not explain why other conclusions are not are valid, and that is where his argument fails. We might expect what he explains in an original work, but why wouldn’t we expect it in a translation of an ancient work? He fails to address this. Without the comparison to show why his view is not just valid, but more valid than others, his argument is exactly what I said it is: a claim that his view is correct because his view supports it.

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      2. shematwater, you are confusing the term valid and probable in the way that they are normally used. What Eaton was saying is that the explanation that Joseph translated the plates with a supernatural power and got them from an angel is less probable than the explanation that he made the book up and was influenced by other books he read that were available to him at the time. This issue of probabilities cannot be rationally disputed.

        As to you never having read anything in conflict about blacks and the priesthood there are hundreds of examples. The following is just one example that was actually provided to me in another blog by Eaton which I highly recommend you read where he provides all of the sources.

        …”Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching
        the preexistence of our spirits , the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that
        our birth into this life and the advantages under which we my be born, have a
        relationship in the life heretofore *

        From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine
        of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes
        are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

        Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the
        intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been
        most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs till now*
        God’s rule for Israel, His Chosen People,, has been endogenous . Modern Israel
        has been similarly directed •

        We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particu-
        larly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the
        breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites
        and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to

        Church doctrine •

        Faithfully yours,

        (signed) Geo, Albert- Smith

        J* Reuben Clark, Jr.
        David 0, McKay

        The First Presidency ”

        https://archive.org/stream/LowryNelson1stPresidencyExchange/Lowry_Nelson_1st_Presidency_Exchange_djvu.txt

        The Church Today
        Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.24

        https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

        Your refusal to face this contradiction for what it is demonstrates the deep emotional need you have for the ‘prophets’ to never be wrong.
        But remember, I am an active member of the church and support the church as long as the moral calculus works. Anything that does more good than harm in the world can be supported without reservation.

        But we have to face the truth where we find it.

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  8. Yes I thought you sounded like a true believer. Well, you hit upon the crucial difference between us very well with your question, which I think explains why you can so easily dismiss my abductive argument. My view is that supernatural explanations have a zero success rate and I would say that history confirms this. Supernatural explanations for natural phenomena always give way to scientific investigation where, ultimately, a natural explanation is identified making the supernatural unnecessary. Now, the supernatural explanation for the BOM might be true and I appreciate that for you, there is no other explanation. That’s fine with me. However, having learned about all the many problems with the BOM many of which I listed in one of my comments above, and discovering contemporary texts that were written in the biblical style, and discussing highly similar themes, and learning about the mismatch between the papyri and the book of Abraham, for me, a natural explanation is the better explanation in light of all the facts. This, I have to say, was an extremely painful discovery for me as I hope you can appreciate. Now, my argument will never persuade a believer such as yourself and that’s really not my intention, and if I met someone who claims to have seen an angel I would be highly skeptical of their claim. I would expect skepticism from you too as a rational thinker, aware that some people lie, some people are unwell etc. it would be foolhardy to simply believe them without evidence. Again, if they presented a book and say ‘here is my evidence’, I would say that if the book can be explained naturally without appealing to Angels and the supernatural, then that explanation is more likely true. This is Occam’s razor and it’s an excellent rule of thumb for evaluating evidence. The simplest explanation is oftentimes the best one. Not necessarily true, but most likely true all things considered. This is the rational principle I’m using in my argument.

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  9. Amazing article and excellent rebuttals. I do hope in future you can resist resorting to the ad homenim attack as your arguments have the blunt force trauma of a sledge hammer and the ad homenim weakens the blow.

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  10. Brandon

    Your need to resort to person attacks seems to make you perfectly suited to reading Eaton’s posts.

    First, Eaton never once made the argument that “that the explanation that Joseph translated the plates with a supernatural power and got them from an angel is less probable than the explanation that he made the book up and was influenced by other books he read that were available to him at the time.”
    Actually, he specifically denied making a claim that Joseph Smith had read or had even heard of the books in questions. Rather he argued that the general atmosphere created by these books was sufficient to make a valid argument of textual influence.
    In addition, he never once held up his argument regarding textual influence against any other until after I challenged the initial argument. In the initial post he opened by explaining why no one could argue against him, and then he laid out his reasons for believing the textual influence theory.
    He never once gave any reason to reject other theories, of any sort, but still insisted that his was the best and that it was impossible to argue against it.

    This is what my initial comments were about, and it seems that neither you nor Eaton understands abductive reasoning. This reasoning requires not only a reason to accept a particular theory, but a reason to reject other theories, or at least a reason why they are less acceptable than the one presented.
    For instance: We see one day that the lawn is wet. We may abduce from this that it rained during the night. This is completely possible, but it is a poor abduction because it does not consider anything else. It is also possible that the lawn is wet from dew, or sprinklers, or even children carrying water in cups to water the grass. Why should we accept that it rained and not these other explanations? This is what good abduction does. We may point out that not only the lawn but the sidewalk and street are also wet. This makes children watering grass much less likely than rain, though still not impossible.

    So, as I said, Eaton’s original post was not a good argument, but was rather a statement of opinion that is only beneficial to those who already agree.

    Now, regarding the supernatural, I find it incredible that anyone could be an active member in the church and not believe in the both the divine power of God and the infernal power of Satan. You say I can’t rationally dispute that Textual Influence is more likely than supernatural intervention. I would say that no truly rational person can deny the supernatural. One who relies solely on science as a basis for rational thought is not rational.

    As to Blacks and the priesthood, I am very familiar with everything you have said, and it changes nothing. The reasons for the restrictions were always a matter of speculation and opinion, and they have been disavowed. But the restrictions that were in place were put in place by God and were taken away by God, and there has never been any statement that says otherwise. It is an issue that no one in the modern day truly understands, and I would venture to say that no one, or at least very few, understood it at all. Because of many ideas were advanced and have since been rejected, and none of that matters.

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    1. Shematwater, it seems like you read a different article than I read. You say…”First, Eaton never once made the argument that “that the explanation that Joseph translated the plates with a supernatural power and got them from an angel is less probable than the explanation that he made the book up and was influenced by other books he read that were available to him at the time.”
      ….and yet here it is from the article…
      “Therefore, it is most likely and indeed the best explanation that the Book of Mormon was written in the 19th century and influenced by contemporary sources, and not written between 600 BC and 420 AD, engraved on gold plates, delivered by an angel and channeled with a rock in a hat.”
      And as for you being the only one who understands abductive reasoning.

      Abductive reasoning (also called abduction, abductive inference or retroduction) is a form of logical inference which goes from an observation to a theory which accounts for the observation, ideally seeking to find the simplest and most likely explanation.

      From the text book definition it seems that you are the only one who misunderstands the basic reasoning that whenever you bump into someone who wrote a book that it is more likely that they made it up than it is that they were given the book by an angel and then translated it with the power of god.
      If neither you nor I nor Eaton nor anyone I have ever met has ever seen an angel then that argument is obvious and doesn’t need to be stated to be obviously less likely than the explanation that it was made up.

      And I never attacked your character. To state that it is obvious that you are emotionally invested in this argument is not an attack of character.

      The sources that I copied about blacks and the priesthood are a direct contradiction and both are sources from the churches highest authority on the matter.
      It seems as if you don’t realize that people from very different faiths defend the indefensible things that they believe in and do with as much vigor as you do. It’s likely easy for you to see how this is a problem when that comes to ISIS. How can we convince people that a very powerful feeling isn’t enough to defend the indefensible?

      And as for saying that you aren’t truly rational if you don’t believe in the supernatural…does that extend to voodoo and witchcraft or is it just your brand of the supernatural?
      Just take some time to think about how your arguments also support ISIS, witchcraft, and voodoo. Do you really want to be in that camp?

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      1. I read the article, and I admit that in my last comment I missed the reference to angels, but that does not change what I said.
        First, I pointed out that he makes no claim that Joseph Smith read any of the books mentioned, but in your statement you say that this is what he is basing his argument on. Thus you claimed a point he had never claimed.
        Second of all, I stated that in order for this to be an argument he would have needed to give reasons why we should reject other theories, which he never does. As such he is not making an argument but stating an opinion, which, again, was the point I was making in my original comment. I admit I did not make it very well, though I think my second comment was much clearer.

        “If neither you nor I nor Eaton nor anyone I have ever met has ever seen an angel then that argument is obvious and doesn’t need to be stated to be obviously less likely than the explanation that it was made up.”
        In other words, it is obvious to those who already except it. As I said before, it requires the acceptance of a particular view.
        Now, I did make this point to Eaton and a even asked how he would present the argument to one who had seen an angel. His response was to say basically that he wouldn’t and it didn’t matter because he wouldn’t believe the person anyway. So, to support his opinion he simply rejects anything that would support a different opinion, and that is not sound reasoning.
        (And just so you know, while I have never seen an angel, I know someone who has.)

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      2. As to the documents you gave regarding blacks, I have read them before and they are not a contradiction. You have selectively quoted what was said. Go back two paragraphs and you get a very different picture of what was said.

        First it addresses the position of Dr. Lowery that “God’s children stand in equal positions before Him in all things.”
        In response to this we read the example of the per-eminance of Israel and to the doctrine that many were called to higher position on the earth before the earth was even created. Then we read the following paragraph, which you quoted.

        “Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the preexistence of our spirits , the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we my be born, have a relationship in the life heretofore.”

        Thus this paragraph is not speaking of the specifics of the restrictions on the African race, but on a general doctrine that some people are born with greater privilege in this life than others. This doctrine is in opposition to the basic premise of Dr. Lowery’s view.

        After that the letter addresses the specifics of the black issue. What does it say? That from the time of Joseph Smith until the time of them writing this letter the doctrine has been “that the Negroes
        are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.” It also expresses a dislike for interracial marriages, but it never actually calls such a sin.

        The later statement that you quote does not contradict these points. It states that the church disavows the following:
        1. That black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse
        2. That it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life
        3. That mixed-race marriages are a sin
        4. Tat blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.
        The one thing this article never does is to say that the restricting of the African race in the church was in anyway wrong. It only disavows the explanations that have been offered to explain it.

        The letter above never once says that black skin is a sign of disfavor or a curse.
        It never once links black skin to unrighteousness in the preexistence. It only states that the preexistence has an effect on all of us in this life.
        While it discourages interracial marriage, it never calls it a sin.
        It never once says that any race is inherently inferior to any other.

        Thus there is no contradiction.

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      3. Shematwater,
        Why do you think that I see it as a direct contradiction? And do you think others might see it that way?
        Also you didn’t answer my question about voodoo and witchcraft. Does your insistence that no rational person can deny the supernatural extend to voodoo and witchcraft?

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      4. Brandon

        I think you see it as a contradiction, and I think many others do as well, because you want there to be a contradiction. You reject the policy and you want to be able to say that the church does as well so that you can justify to yourself your remaining a member. People do the same thing with Plural Marriage or any doctrine or practice that they personally don’t like. It is a perfectly natural reaction.

        As to voodoo and witchcraft, yes I extend my words to include them. I would say that most people who accept these concepts have a faulty understanding of the supernatural and are being deceived by Satan. However, their acceptance of the supernatural is still a rational belief.

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  11. Shematwater, so let me get this straight…belief in Voodoo is rational yet a deception of Satan and I want the Church leaders to contradict themselves so that I can continue to believe in them??!!?? WTF!

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      1. Just to clarify, I think a belief in voodoo is more rational than a complete denial of the supernatural. I do not think it is the most rational explanation of the supernatural however.

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