Though I am opposed to off-topic comments and sometimes delete them, there’s one example recently posted on this site that was at least interesting enough to inspire me to respond. It’s a question that has already been answered to some degree on my LDSFAQ Website, which I hope some of you use (see the page “Relationships Between Man, Christ, and God: Mormon Answers (LDS FAQ).” The question I answered there was “Wasn’t Joseph Smith clearly wrong when he said Lucifer in Isaiah 14 refers to Satan?”
Here’s the question that a drive-by-critic apparently regurgitated from an anti-Mormon website:
There is a greater proof of Joseph Smith’s plagiarism than you have expressed in 2 Nephi 24:12. It is a typical mistake of most plagiarists. Joseph Smith was no linguist. Therefore, he had no understanding of what he copied from the King James Bible. From Isaiah 14:12, the King James scholars decided to keep the proper name of the morning star, renamed by St. Jerome when he translated the Septuagint (Greek Scriptures) into Latin. St. Jerome used two Latin words, a verb and a noun, which means, “to bring light.” St. Jerome joined these two Latin words and capitalized the word, making it a proper noun. Now, understand that most ancient civilizations had a name for the morning star, the brightest star of the morning. Most had a different name for the brightest star of the evening, even though it was the same celestial body, the planet Venus. The Hebrews had a name for this bright star, “Heylel.” Regardless of the reasons St. Jerome had for renaming the morning star, and why the King James scholars chose to keep that name, Joseph Smith made a grave error when he copied that name. The name I’m referring to is, of course, “Lucifer.” The inclusion of that name is puzzling enough. How is it that these ancient gold plates, written in an ancient Egyptian text, contained a name of the morning star that had been renamed by St. Jerome long after the alleged writing on these gold plates? Joseph Smith claimed that, while he had no understanding of the Egyptian text, he did have use of the Urim and Tummim (misspelled and completely misunderstood), as well as the Angel Gabriel, to help translate this text. Perhaps the Archangel decided to go with the Latin version, rather than the original Hebrew name, and conveyed that name to Joseph Smith. Okay, not a great argument; but not completely beyond the realm of possibility. Ah, but Joseph Smith didn’t stop there. In the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith wrote extensively on Lucifer. In fact, he claimed that, in primordial times, Lucifer was the name of an angel in Heaven, who later fell to Earth as the Devil. How is it that a fourth century Illyrian Catholic priest and apologist was able to stumble onto the primordial name of the Devil? For me, the use of Lucifer in 2 Nephi 24:12 is sufficient evidence to conclude that Joseph Smith plagiarized the King James Bible. As a teacher, it is not the correct answers common between two students, which proves that one copied from the other; it is the identical incorrect answers. After all, a correct answer is a correct answer. Identical anomalies will should prove sufficient.
Some have argued that the name “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12 doesn’t refer to Satan at all, but simply to a Babylonian king. The Hebrew word translated as “Lucifer” refers to the morning star, Venus, or otherwise indicates a bearer of light. Critics say that the Book of Mormon is simply wrong when it quotes Isaiah 14:12 in 2 Nephi 24:12 and keeps the name “Lucifer.” They say the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 76:26 is also wrong, for it also follows the allegedly incorrect interpretation of Isaiah 14 in calling Satan “Lucifer, a son of the morning.” A good answer to this question comes from Ben McGuire on a page at FAIRLDS.org.
As McGuire points out, early Christians such as Origen and Tertullian associated the name Lucifer with Satan. Further, several New Testament passages associate Satan with an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), with lightning falling from heaven (Luke 10:18), or as the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4)–all consistent with the fallen “lightbearer” concept in the Hebrew of Isaiah 14. Christians for centuries have equated Lucifer with Satan, so there is no question what is meant in Doctrine and Covenants 76:26. In that context, there is nothing wrong with calling Satan “Lucifer, the morning star.” However, in the book of Revelation, chapter 22, verse 16, we read that the title of “Morning Star” belongs to Christ, which again makes Satan an impostor, trying to take away the glory of God.
Here is an excerpt from Brother McGuire over at FAIRLDS.org:
Q. How come the LDS church erroneously believes that “Lucifer” is indeed Satan? This is an erroneous teaching and belief that wasn’t introduced to Christianity until hundreds of years after Christ. See the following Web site to understand what I am claiming: [anti-LDS URL is given]. This seems to show that Joseph Smith wasn’t “inspired” in a number of revelations (especially D&C 76) where he mistakenly equates “Satan” with the entity in Isaiah 14 that was always understood to be a fallen King of Babylon.
A. (by Ben McGuire) I am going to start off by saying that most of what appears on the Web link which you forwarded is nonsense. They give largely erroneous responses. While the Hebrew text is accurately noted, the quality of information goes downhill from there. Let me point out the major error, and then we can discuss the real meaning of the passage in Isaiah.
Jerome translates it as Lucifer in his Latin text–this, your article claims is the starting point for the connection between Lucifer and Satan.
Actually, Lucifer is first mentioned (under that name) in the writings of Origen (end of the second century) some two hundred years before Jerome puts it into his Latin text. Tertullian and others of the early fathers of the church also discuss Lucifer, so the connection between Lucifer and Satan was established some time prior to the end of the second century. Before the Latin text becomes widespread, however, the name Lucifer had a much more specific meaning. It was the name of Satan prior to his fall from glory. Origen explains that this is because prior to his fall, he was a being of light and thus it was an appropriate description of him. After his fall, Origen continues, he was no longer a being of light and became known as Satan.
The second point is that the scholarly community almost universally rejects the being identified as helel ben shahar in Isaiah 14 as being the king of Babylon directly. There is a figure in contemporary Canaanite religion which resembles Helel in Isaiah 14. That figure is ‘Athtar. At one point in Canaanite myth, ‘Athtar attempts to sit in the throne of Ba’al, the king of the gods. He fails in his attempt, and instead descends to the earth to rule there. ‘Athtar is known in southern Arabian inscriptions as Venus, or the Day Star. More than this though, is the account in Isaiah. The “stars of God” is a reference to the divine assembly–all of the divinities of heaven. The mount of the congregation in the sides of the north (in the original Hebrew) is equivalent to Canaanite phrases describing the dwelling place of Ba’al. So, in effect, we have in Isaiah a description of a divinity who wants to seize the throne of Ba’al and rule the heavens. Of course there are differences as well as similarities, but I find this argument to be fairly convincing myself.
While the Web-site article you reference tends to look at the literal meaning of the words, instead of examining them as names, it completely loses the rest of the context of the narrative. There is no basis in Isaiah’s charges as they would apply to the Babylonian king. It is primarily on the similarities between the Isaiah text, and text covering the Ba’al/’Athtar myth that this connection is drawn. (For bibliographic references and a description of the related scholarly arguments I recommend this article (the most recent on the subject that I am aware of): “The Mythological Provenance of Isa. XIV 12-15: A Reconsideration of the Ugaritic Material” by Michael S. Heiser, in Vetus Testamentum, 51/3 , p. 354-369).
At the same time, this concept is, interestingly enough, seen in the New Testament. Jesus claims that he saw Satan “fall like lightning from heaven” and in John and Paul we find Satan described as the “God of this world.” It was these references (among others) that led the early fathers of the Christian church to conclude that Helel in Isaiah 14 was Lucifer and also Satan. The similarities between their beliefs, and what they saw in the Old Testament texts came together to form a lasting opinion. And when the Latin text named the being in Isaiah 14 as Lucifer, that tradition has been followed ever since.
Continuing Ben’s thought, note that the 1828 dictionary of Noah Webster defines the word “Lucifer” and gives it two possible meanings:
1. The planet Venus, so called from its brightness.
Recognizing that Joseph was preparing an English translation in producing the Book of Mormon, we should not be surprised to find names translated or otherwise converted into modern recognizable forms. Jesus Christ is a translation, for example, with “Christ” being derived from the Greek for “anointed one,” related to the word Messiah in Hebrew. Lucifer, at least as of 1828, was an accepted English term to describe Satan. You could (incorrectly) argue that it wasn’t plausible or accepted when Jerome made that connection, but it certainly was widely accepted and understandable when Joseph Smith used the term in his translation and other writings. There is no confusion, only deliberate confusion caused by people trying to make a mountainous argument out of a non-existent molehill. Remember, the Book of Mormon is a translation into the modern English language. Most of the words in it were not used in ancient days because they did not exist–English did not exist. But today, Lucifer means Satan, and when railing against the latter, either term can be used by English speakers with fairness, whether you agree with Jerome or not.
Further insight is found in a discussion by René A. Krywult’s. The second half of that page provides some excellent insights into ancient Near Eastern views that support the LDS position.
The confusion over the Lucifer/Satan issue may be one of the best arguments against the Book of Mormon, one that our drive-by poster thought was (at last) a slam dunk, but it’s really a non-starter (not to be confused with the initial appetizer of bread at an Indian restaurant, which, of course, is a naan-starter).
I will at least give the critics behind this argument credit for recognizing that there can be errors in the Biblical record due to human limitations in translating. I hope they do not, then, rely on the alleged completeness and infallibility of the Bible as a reason to reject modern revelation and further scripture given by the Lord. For those in that camp, may I simply remind you that the Lord said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), and NEVER gave any indication that those words would stop.
The cessation of revelation and scripture as an allegedly Christian principle a post-biblical innovation created of necessity when it was clear that the word of revelation from apostles and prophets was no longer to be found, even though those offices and gifts were to be in the Church until we came to a not-yet-achieved unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:11-14). The problem, though, was not that we no longer needed them or that God had revealed everything we would ever need, but that man had rejected ongoing revelation and killed the messengers–part of the great falling away and famine for the word of God predicted in the Bible, requiring the future time of “refreshing of all things” also prophesied (Acts 3:19). That refreshing has begun and the Book of Mormon is part of the refreshing ancient scripture that has proceeded forth from the mouth of God. It’s something we should live by, not ignore and condemn for reasons as silly as quoting a passage of Isaiah with “Lucifer” as a term for Satan.
The critics behind this attack take the tack of Joseph as the unschooled pretender stumbling over the basics. I hope, in their response to the growing body of fascinating evidence for the Book of Mormon such as chiasmus and the evidence from the Arabian Peninsula, that they do not rely on Joseph vast intellectual prowess in scouring the best libraries of the globe for vast tidbit of knowledge that could be woven into the text, which is one of the other vectors for anti-Mormon attacks on the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith, boy wonder and literary genius tapping elite information across the globe, and Joseph Smith, uneducated farmboy pretender without a clue making the most basic mistakes imaginable. Make sure you at least stick with a consistent paradigm when you fail miserably to account for the modern miracle of the ancient Book of Mormon.
59 thoughts on “Easy Way to Disprove the Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith’s “Blunder” in Following the KJV in Equating Lucifer with Satan”
The Lucifer translation item is a new for me. Every time Mormanity posts something like this, the reader immediately wonders what the rejection criteria for a translation would be (principle of falsifiability)? How would Mormanity demonstrate that the Voree Plates are the fraud and non-translation he believes them to be?
Jeff, the link to René A. Krywult's discussion is broken. It returns a "Page not found" page.
FWIW, and please take this not as an attack on your faith but rather as an attempt of a nonbeliever to explain how he thinks, here's my "paradigm": No one will ever be able to reconstruct just who Joseph Smith was, though it seems pretty certain that he was decently educated for the time, something of a rogue, intensely religious and intensely patriotic (albeit in his own peculiar ways), creatively opportunistic, a student of the early 19th-century theories about the origins of the Native Americans (including the popular theory of Israelite origins), and a religious genius in the Harold Bloom American Religion sense of being able to help others satisfy that part of human longing that is beyond the reach of mere materialism and rationality.
Something like the above seems to me to do the best job of accounting for Smith and his writing of the LDS scriptures. I've read a ton of LDS apologetics, but none of it has even come close to convincing me otherwise. Only faith could perform that trick. Chiasmus certainly won't do it. I mean, chiasmus is so easy to produce that it can be produced with ease, as for example in the chiasmus I just produced without a moment's thought in this very sentence. Anyone who was trying in a general way to mimic the style of the Hebrew scriptures would very likely produce a lot of chiasmus, just like the upper-crust politician trying to mimic the speech of the ordinary folk will very likely start droppin' the letter "g" a lot.
The Doctrine and Covenants contains multiple examples of chiasmus but does not purport to be a translation of ancient scripture. Therefore chiasmus is not a specific indicator that something is translated from ancient Hebrew scripture. Winston Churchill used chiasmus quite a bit in his speeches. JFK used it. It's an effective oratorical device but proves nothing.
There are many things that reasonable people can see differently and discuss in intelligent ways. This particular issue is not one of them. It really is a non-starter.
Jeff, I apologize up front for engaging the "attack" comment again in what I am about to say.
Eveningsun, since your comment about "attacks" is directed at me, let me explain, as simply as I can, why I used that word about your former comment – and not about the ones in this thread:
Your previous comments had nothing whatsoever to do with the central content of the previous post – but Jeff did mention chiasmus in this one, so it doesn't qualify as an attack like your other comments did.
Jeff writes about specific topics; when you ignore those topics and write an indictment of Joseph Smith and/or Mormonism that, literally, doesn't address what Jeff actually wrote – in those situations you are using a tactic that is know as a "broadside" – pulling up to a ship and firing the guns without credible provocation.
That is exactly what you did in that last thread and not here. You read a post that was about one thing and then started firing at a totally different topic. It was an attack for one reason only:
It was unprovoked in ANY meaningful way and totally inappropriate to the situation.
Small accidental examples of chiasmus are easy to produce and can be found in all sorts of places. But chiasmus as deliberate, sophisticated poetry is something that, while it occurs in the Bible, is very hard to notice, especially in the KJV where it is often obscured, and was not widely recognized among Biblical scholars until well after Joseph Smith's day.
Most people today still haven't heard of it and those imitating the Bible DO NOT naturally produce it–show me a counter example, please, that comes anywhere close to the dense, tight, purposeful poetical forms we find in the Book of Mormon in places such as Alma 36 and various parts of the books of Mosiah and Nephi. Just as there is a world of difference between a Shakespearean sonnet and the rhymes that can occur in speech from people who know nothing of poetry, so there is a world of difference between accidental or found chiasmus that one might seek to find or force into text versus the masterful skill behind the intense and intended chiasmus by accomplished writers of Hebrew poetry in the Book of Mormon. Alma 36 and other examples are at a level that simply cannot be explained by osmosis from the Bible or by careful study of all the books Joseph Smith had access to.
Jack Welch has written on the issue of deliberate versus accidental chiasmus and has provided some excellent guidance on how to discern the two. See the BYU Studies section on chiasmus.
Eveningsun, to argue that Joseph would naturally produce chiasmus of the kind found in the Book of Mormon is to put him in the mega-genius camp, going beyond the knowledge available to him in his vast frontier library. Just be sure you stick with that paradigm in your quips against Mormonism and we'll be a little more understanding of your position.
Do you think that chiasmus in the Doctrine and Covenants is small or accidental?
I had a lengthy response written to one of the commenters. I had put a lot of time into it but I decided just to cut my losses and drop it. I decided against posting it because while it was not meant to be, I realized it could have been taken as antagonistic and acerbic. It was written without any animosity but could appear overly critical.
Instead, I just want to thank you Jeff for a great post. You always have great insights into matters of faith and doctrine.
For anyone who has had experience translating it is easy (or should be easy) to understand the nuances that go into translation. For someone who has learned another language and has had to deal with the nuances of translation it is not surprising to have words like Lucifer or adieu (or Christ, or horses, or etc.) in the Book or Mormon.
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Wow, Jeff–"accomplished writers of Hebrew poetry in the Book of Mormon"? Alma 36 might or might not be purposeful, but one thing it is not is "dense" and "tight" chiasmus. Loose and baggy would be more like it. One can only make it out as chiasmatic at all by ignoring the several lengthy passages with which it is interlarded.
And even if it is purposefully chiasmatic, what of it? At most it would mean that Smith knew of the form, which even Welch admitted might have been the case. It was not exactly esoteric.
And really–"masterful skill"? More like "not mighty in writing," whether by ancient standards, those of the early 19th century, or those of our own day. Don't let your zeal ruin your taste.
Eveningsun, is that a snarky tone? We already know your resolutely negative opinion of Mormonism, but chiasmus in the Book of Mormon deserves a little respect. There are in fact powerful, highly artistic passages of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, and it's hard to find anything in Hebrew literature that is more obviously deliberate, deep, skillful, and powerful than the gem in Alma 36.
Read the first verse. Then read the last verse. Think that is accidental? Why the repetition? Chiasmus is a form of poetry that adds meaning and structure to a passage, with special emphasis at the center point. The crafting and contrasting of before and after around that critical pivot point are part of an expertly skilled chiasmus–truly world class in chiastic literature–designed to highlight the most important of many messages: the redemption that came when a sinner turned his heart to Jesus Christ, the son of God. Look at the relationship of the elements above and below that focal point. There are other portions given emphasis, too, but to have these few verses provide such a purposeful chiasmus with so many elements goes vastly beyond chance and vastly beyond what Joseph could have fabricated based on knowledge available to him. The same can be said for other shorter examples in the Book of Mormon text. The complexity, the beauty, the skillfulness, and the density are indicators of deliberate intent by a skilled craftsman adept in Hebraic poetry. We find numerous chiasms in the Book of Mormon, far more than one would expect from chance occurrence (they can occur by chance and many can be contrived out of repetitious text, as Welch has pointed out).
I would suggest you read the book on chiasmus by international scholars that Welch edited (cited on my chiasmus page) and some of the works that dig into Alma 36 and other BOM examples before you dismiss it so decisively–if you're interested in understanding why we think there's something very cool here that can enhance our appreciation of the Book of Mormon.
As for chiasmus in the Doctrine & Covenants, I'm not sure. Welch has suggested that the alleged examples are the result of people contriving chiasmus out of repetitious text rather and that they don't meet the criteria for intended chiasmus. I agree that they aren't as convincing as BOM examples. Others have suggested that this form of poetry may be part of how the Lord speaks sometimes, but I'm not sure of that. I don't really know. I think Welch's criteria for deliberate chiasmus deserves to be read.
The discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is a fascinating story. See "The Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Forty Years Later." Now if Joseph were the author of the Book of Mormon and knew about chiasmus somehow, and was adding it to make it look more Hebraic, then surely he or his co-conspirators would have eventually pointed out the evidence for Hebraic poetry in the text. But chiasmus and many other forms of Hebraic poetry would not be discovered in the Book of Mormon until over a century later.
It's one of many reasons why the Book of Mormon keeps getting more interesting and more convincing with time. One could even say that it gets "truer" with time–truer than ever, anyway.
Questions about chance versus intention and the issue of Book of Mormon versus Doctrine and Covenants chiasmus are also addressed here: http://fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Evidences/Hebraisms/Chiasmus. A statistical analysis suggested that those of the Doctrine and Covenants were due to chance, while at least four in the Book of Mormon were not. One of those was Alma 36.
The statistical analysis of chiasmus I mentioned can be found in BYU Studies: http://byustudies.byu.edu/chiasmus/pdf/Edwards.pdf. The article is "Does Chiasmus Appear in the Book of Mormon by Chance?" by Boyd F. Edwards and F. Edwards. Cool stuff.
Jeff, much of this line of apologetic argument can be reduced to this:
1. The Book of Mormon contains examples of chiasmus. 2. Chiasmus is a technique used in great literary art. 3. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is a work of great literary art. 3. Therefore the comparatively unlettered Joseph Smith could not be its author.
Anyone can see the problem here. Anyone can write a poem in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, but that fact alone does not make anyone Shakespeare. Literary merit is simply not reducible to the use of recognizeable technique. (And the mere fact that a chiasmus is bigger hardly makes it better.) Packed away somewhere I have a book arguing for the literary genius of the Book of Mormon, an argument that hinges entirely on this fallacy. "Look!" writes the author. "Here's an example of chiasmus! And over here we have alliteration! Over there, apostrophe and internal rhyme! Everywhere we look, we see literary devices used by Homer and Shakespeare and Milton! Ergo, the Book of Mormon is a work of comparatively great art!"
It's like reading the immortal lines, "I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree," then discovering in them the presence of couplets, and concluding that, because couplets are used in great poetry, "Trees" is a great poem.
Now, how should I put this? Let's just say that such arguments do not serve the LDS cause very well.
Thus far, Jeff, you haven't even begun to make a case for the literary greatness of the Book of Mormon. Its defects are legion and alleviated only by its extensive quotations from truly great writers like Isaiah.
Does the Koran have as many so-called "scholarly" detractors as the Book of Mormon?
If detractors of the Book of Mormon think it necessary to save or rescue 14 million Mormons from the alleged folly of their beliefs, then don't they (either Christian or non-christian BoM-detractors) think the _hundreds_ of millions of Muslims need to be rescued from their erroneous beliefs?
Why pick on a measly 14 million Mormons (or better said, 5 million active and beleiving Mormons) when there are so many Muslims who also fail to meet the religious expectations of both the atheistic and evangelical brands of anti-Mormons?
Anonymous asks, "Why pick on a measly 14 million Mormons…when there are so many Muslims who also fail to meet the religious expectations of both the atheistic and evangelical brands of anti-Mormons?"
There's been plenty of (well deserved) criticism of Islam, some of it from "within" (e.g., Salman Rushdie, Azar Nafisi) and some from without (e.g., Bill Maher, the anti-Sharia types, those opposing the "Ground Zero Mosque," etc.). There are plenty of Christians out there trashing Islam, e.g. here.
I would add that Islam is not much of a political force in this country. Presidential candidates are not exactly falling all over one another trying to convice voters of how Muslim they are. It wasn't Muslims who were decisive in passing Proposition 8 in California, it was Mormons, Catholics, and evangelicals.
FWIW, political success quite rightly opens one up to criticism. My two cents: If you can't stand the (critical) heat, stay out of the (political) kitchen. Once your religion goes political, it becomes fair game in the marketplace of ideas. To think otherwise (as many do) is decidedly un-American.
Anon regarding the Koran: Yes the Koran has detractors in abundance, even before it was finished. The Koran itself contains the bulk of the apologist work, with entire sections rebuffing the charge that Mohammed was nothing more than a talented poet. The principle apologist response contain in the Koran was to challenge anyone to produce similar scripture. It is interesting to note that this is one of Mormonism’s responses to the same critique.
Mormonism and Islam reject each other while answering each other’s apologist challenge. The smart response by Mormons would have been to declare Islam at one time a divine gospel restoration that was quickly lost to apostasy. However, in the 1970s(?) the LDS leadership declared that Islam was never of divine origin, so now Mormon apologist have yet another counter example in the form of the Koran to deal with.
There are peer reviewed studies that indicated there are non-coincidental codes hidden in the Bible. I have not met a Mormon yet that believes there are non-coincidental codes hidden in the Bible. To use Mormanity’s methodology, if you are to reject that there are non-coincidental codes hidden in the Bible you have to reject non-coincidental Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.
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For a moment there I zoned out and thought I was reading an intelligent designed thread. Ex: How could something as beautiful and intricate as the human eye come about by chance? =) I guess beauty is in the intelligently-designed or evolved eye of the beholder. While Ether put Mark Twain to sleep I am sure Mormanity reads it in place of a morning coffee.
So while according to Wikipedia Shakespeare had long and complex chiasmi and even the Voree Plates (which Mormanity must believe were not divine and an imitation of the Book of Mormon) also contain chiasmus, Mormanity’s objection is that they are not as pretty as the BoM’s chiasmus. I am sorry, I just do not have the time to figure out whose chiasmus are the prettiest. May be if I had some Biblical authorized occult device I could chant: “Rock, rock in my hat, whose chiasmus are the prettiest of them all, rock, rock in my hat?”
Another very interesting post, Jeff. I've researched the LDS FAQ pages on several occasions, and they contain some of the most thoughtful and well-reasoned rebuttals to anti-Mormon propaganda. This actually is valuable material that is being provided. I'm aware of previously active members of the church who had their testimonies shaken after being referred to anti-Mormon websites, and in the process have left the church and have even started speaking up against it.
I've debated people in online forums who have quoted many of those propaganda sites, and without fail when I ask them to reference their sources, the site contains mostly blatant untrue claims regarding the church, and then they also have a generous portion of claims that are nitpicky things that could be taken a number of ways, or they use linguistic devices to bait and switch, ultimately using poor argumentation techniques. And then there will be criticisms of the church that they don't consistently assign to other Christian denominations, even though one could just as easily make the same claims against the others. Or they'll criticize the Book of Mormon for mere incidental incongruence, without recognizing that the Bible is the same way.
And then the remainder of arguments consist of theological arguments, which in effect cannot be argued through logical means (otherwise we'd all be able to determine which church's doctrine was correct). I liked Stephen Colbert's recent clever satirical assessment of what "weird" doctrine in religion must be… "Mormons believe Joseph Smith received golden plates from an angel on a hill, when everybody knows that Moses got stone tablets from a burning bush on a mountain."
The bottom line is that the propagandists shoot down their own arguments by displaying a lack of understanding of Mormonism and its doctrines and practices, as well as theology in general. They attempt to apply standards beyond reproach that no religion would be able to uphold, thinking they're effectively attacking the LDS church, when all they're attacking is religion in general. Anyone who tries to refute the tenets of any body of thought, and the bulk of whose analysis is plainly unfactual, has thereby rendered their entire analysis noncredible. What they're doing is using the shotgun approach, hoping that something will stick, or that the barrage of items will make their argument look more impressive, when in reality all they've done is assemble a mass of hyperbole.
Sometimes it's fun to go through their laundry lists and just check off what's wrong with each anti-Mormon claim. They are either very misinformed with their talking points or they've done very poor research. They try to tell us what we believe in by twisting our words around (i.e.-that our works save us) instead of verifying with us if that's truly what we believe. Unfortunately, propaganda is rampant on the Internet, and there are many denominations critical of the LDS in their texts and preaching, so it's an uphill battle trying to help people sort through what are honest or dishonest assessments of the LDS church. And unfortunately as well, many of them believe the first thing they hear about the LDS church without finding out the truth about it. Maybe clearing up the glut of propaganda in today's information age is what a lot of our missionary work will be.
Rusty, I think you're absolutely right that there's a lot of bad anti-Mormon arguments out there.
But that doesn't mean there isn't also some good criticism out there. To focus only on the junk is intellectually kind of lazy and definitely misleading. That's fine, of course, if the goal is to never have your beliefs seriously challenged.
I think you're also right about anti-Mormons telling Mormons what they believe. Better not to make claims about "What Mormons believe," which is pretty hard to really know without the power to read minds, and which varies from individual to individual anyway; for the purposes of civil dialogue, it's much better to make claims about what the Mormon scriptures say, what Joseph Smith or Brigham Young did, etc. Sticking to such claims will not end our disagreements, but at least it depersonalizes the discussion and focuses it not on individual people but on texts and facts. The disagreements then become disagreements over what the texts and the facts mean.
I don't think my previous question about Christian or atheistic challenges to Islam was adequately addressed by anyone.
Can anyone point me to a pro-Islamic blog that tolerates anti-Islamic comments, or at least tolerates open challenges to the truth-claims of Islam?
IE, a parallel to this pro-Mormon blog that tolerates comments and challenges to the truth-claims of Mormonism.
Can anyone point me to a pro-Islamic blog that tolerates anti-Islamic comments, or at least tolerates open challenges to the truth-claims of Islam?
Yes. I googled around for a couple of minutes and found Islamicity, which seems to be basically pro-Islam yet allows a fair amount of leeway in the comments. Here's a sample comment (concerning a post about the belief that the Jews were/are God's Chosen People):
"Muslims not only insist that Jews are God's favourite people, they demand that Jews accept this, too. Jews, of course, believe that God does not play favourites. It is interesting that muslims not only insist that God plays favourites, they also believe that muslims are not God's favourite people. I wonder how much of the hostility muslims have had for Jews over the centuries is caused by muslims being jealous of this supposed favouritism muslims believe that God shows towards the Jewish people. If muslims are angry that the Jews are (according to the koran) God's favourite people, then shouldn't they take this up with God and not the Jews????"
That's not an overtly hostile comment, but it's probably open to many of the same criticisms that are occasionally leveled against commenters here on Mormanity (e.g., a vaguely disrepectful tone, non-Muslims speculating about Muslim beliefs, maybe a selective focus on negative aspects of the faith's history).
Elsewhere on the site is a lengthy comment by a Christian challenging the (apparently) Muslim belief that there are contradictions between Paul and the Gospels.
Islamicity is not entirely comparable to Mormanity, but seems at least to be in the ballpark, and I would imagine there are better examples out there.
Anon said: "Jeff, much of this line of apologetic argument can be reduced to this:
1. The Book of Mormon contains examples of chiasmus. 2. Chiasmus is a technique used in great literary art. 3. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is a work of great literary art. 3. Therefore the comparatively unlettered Joseph Smith could not be its author."
Anon, much of the LDS apologetic line can be MIScharacterized in that way, by those who don't take time to read and consider what we're saying. I expressly pointed out that chiasmus can be found almost everywhere. It's mere presence alone is not an argument for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. But deliberate, intricate examples from the authors most connected with the Hebraic tradition adds to the plausibility of the Book as an ancient document with Hebraic roots. It's a reasonable argument. I am careful to say that this does not PROVE the Book of Mormon is true, but it's interesting, no?
You really need to apologize to the anon. I reread your posts and the anon did accurately characterized your statements. While I was quicker to pick up that you were subtly moving your argument to an unprovable thing of beauty, this subtly automatically falls out when your comments are abstracted. You repeatedly made assertions to validate the assessment that alternative authorship theories are debunked.
Furthermore, the anon conceded that you could make a case for great literature, but clearly implied that they don’t feel being great literature is in and of its self interesting. So the anon’s answer to your question is obviously no.
Anon regarding the Koran:
Your first post did not ask for blog feeds. What makes a blog superior to the Koran itself? But of course you were not really looking for blog feeds, were you? After all, if you were you could have just use a search engine.
What you were doing is the wanaaa, wanaa, <( quit picking on me defense. A defense that essentially concedes that Mormons are wrong, but that Muslims are more wrong, in hopes of drawing attention away from the Mormons. In my response I obliged you in critiquing the Muslims, but not without drawing attention away from the Mormons.
I can sympathize with your position. Losing is never fun. However, considering it is Mormanity that throws down the gauntlet, it is hard to cry for him win he struggles with responses.
Actually, a GA did mention that mohammad had a portion of God's light, and I personally believe exactly what you said. That it was an attempt at restoration that was quickly lost to apostasty.
Mormography, look at the careful explanation I attempt to give on my chiasmus page for the context of this argument, and note at least two spots in my comments above where I acknowledge accidental chiasmus, including the possibility of accidental chiasmus in the Doctrine and Covenants. So where, where, where do I say the that the mere existence of chiasmus of any kind is evidence that the Book of Mormon is divine?
The merit of Alma 36 is one of degree and mastery, and that's what the links I provided address–even to the degree of statistical analysis for further insight.
Don't play the game of saying, "well, you didn't say that actually, but when we 'abstract" your text, then you did." Huh?
I'd hardly call your cheap sophomoric antics here "winning." Your most obvious antic is the straw-man game, mischaracterizing what others say, then attacking what you falsely claim is the others' position.
Either your reading comprehension is very low, or you're a calculating liar. But you're typical of the RfM group, who always seek to twist things in order to assuage their hurts and resolve their beefs with the LDS church. (What was your beef? How were you hurt in or by the church?)
You're not playing any new tune here. Your sophomoric tactics have been used before. Your specious arguments are obvious. Your points of contention have been addressed. You're just in it for the mind games now.
And again, which of those pro-Muslim blogs tolerates anti-Muslim commenters? None that I could find. The point about that is that not only are you here to stoke your own ego, you're like the bully who only picks on those who you know won't track you down and go jihad on you.
I think the reason Mormanity tolerates you (and many others before you) is that neutral observers who read his posts with any degree of reading comprehension, and check the articles he references, know that HE is really winning.
Jeff claims that Alma 36 demonstrates a degree of some sort of "mastery" that supports (while not proving) its authenticity. I claim it does no such thing, for the simple reason that chiasmus is so easy to produce. I could compose a text with a complicated, 50-part chiasmus, but if that text were otherwise as inartfully written as the Book of Mormon, what sort of "mastery" would be demonstrated? None. What would be demonstrated is the unsuccessful effort of an unskilled writer to improve his work.
Don't play the game of saying, "well, you didn't say that actually, but when we 'abstract" your text, then you did."
Well, yes and no. Suppose I were to write this: "The examples of chiasmus in the so-called Book of Mormon, which is believed to be authentic by those indoctrinated in the tenets of Mormonism, are not very convincing."
What's more important, my explicit claim about chiasmus, or my implicit claims about the BoM's inauthenticity and the indoctrination of Mormons?
If by "abstracting your text" is meant "picking up on your text's implicit meanings," then it is indeed a viable procedure.
Unless I misread you, you lean toward the position that statistical analysis shows that chiasmus in the Doctrine and Covenants is accidental in contrast with chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, but let's be careful not to overgeneralize the results of the study by Edwards and Edwards. That study deals with a very specific hypothesis: that chiasmus in the Book of Mormon (or other books) is unintentional and occurs as a consequence of frequent repetition of literary elements.
There are a couple of problems with this hypothesis: 1) There are non-chiasmus forms of repetition which are also Hebraisms. Using the hypothesis, we're more likely to erroneously conclude that a Hebrew author accidentally composed a chiasmus because the same author used frequent repetition of literary elements that bracket the chiasmus. In other words, the proximity of too many other Hebraisms leads us to mistakenly conclude that chiasmus isn't a Hebraism.
2) The notion of "intentional" chiasmus is too ill-defined. Was JFK "intentionally" using chiasmus when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?" He probably didn't know what chiasmus is and didn't mean to use it as Hebrew poetry, but I'm sure he deliberately used the chiastic form of the words for its rhetorical effect.
The paper essentially shows that if chiasmus occurs "unintentionally" as a consequence of repetition, then chiasmus in the Doctrine and Covenants is more likely to be "unintentional" than chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. What the paper does not show is that chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is more likely to have a Hebrew origin than chiasmus in the Doctrine and Covenants.
There are a couple of criticisms of the paper. Although they attempt to define literary elements and boundaries objectively, there is still some unavoidable subjectivity in selecting what is an element and what is a boundary. Their statistical analysis doesn't account for grammatical, linguistic, and logical constraints on the ordering of literary elements, thus overestimating the potential number of orderings.
Does anyone really think that this chiasmus from the Doctrine and Covenants is an accident of repetition? "for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space."
Talk about mischaracterizing. Where, where, where did I or the anon (or eveningsun if eveningsun is the anon) claim that you claimed that you did not “pointed out that chiasmus can be found almost everywhere.” Why should we have to point where you did when we never claimed you did? To the contrary the anon clearly addressed the issue of beauty/complexity/whatever in the parts you left out: ”And the mere fact that a chiasmus is bigger hardly makes it better.“
What you did write was
“elements goes vastly beyond chance and vastly beyond what Joseph could have fabricated”
"Now if Joseph were the author of the Book of Mormon and knew about chiasmus somehow, and was adding it to make it look more Hebraic, then surely he or his co-conspirators would have eventually pointed out the evidence”
"One could even say that it gets 'truer' with time–truer than ever, anyway."
The anon’s post sums this up rather well. That is actually what you said. No one claimed that you did not think the BoM chiasmus are prettier than other chiasmus, only that beauty is not an argument “bigger hardly makes it better.“ It is well understood that Mormons think the BoM is the most beautiful thing. Nowhere in the anon’s post did the anon say that you did not think BoM chiasmi are prettier. Honestly, does modifying to “1. The Book of Mormon contains examples of [pretty|complex| non-coincidental |beautiful|Hebraic | chose your modifier] chiasmus“ vastly change the characterization. Absurd, especially when you read the anon’s entire post.
For example, lets modify it to: 1. BoM contains Hebraic chiasmi. 2.Therefore, BoM has Hebraic influence. 3.Therefore JS could not be its author.
The characterization is the same especially when given the anon’s sentence that follows. “Anyone can write a poem in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, but that fact alone does not make anyone Shakespeare.” Ex1: Anyone imitating Hebraic styles is more likely to have complex accidental chiasmi. Ex2: Think Nostradamus imitating Isaiah.
originally, I thought you were most upset about claims of provability. I see now that Hebraic origin is vastly more interesting than great literature to you than it is for the rest of us. Hebraic items influence many things in the west, including great literature.
Plausability is not interesting. Why is that so hard for you to understand? Everything that you reject is plausible. To borrow a tactic from the Koran anon: The Koran is plausible, so why are you not interested in the Koran?
You would have been better off offering an alternate clarifying characterization (as I just did), instead of falsely accusing the anon of a mischaracterization. You only pretend to be interested in genuine dialogue. A person genuinely interested dialogue would have no problem stating their rejection criteria for declaring the Voree plates translation a non-translation.
Yes, but the declaration lumped Mohammed in with Socrates, Plato, Confucius, essential anyone with a philosophical following. This is probably why Daniel Peterson and James Toronto (Mormonism resident SMEs) don’t consider Mohammed divinely inspired.
Your theory does maintain a consistent explanation of the universe. However, it implies a massive conspiracy. It implies that Mohammaded was a Christian reformist that never denied that Jesus was the son of God and messiah, but when Mohammed died conspirators erased any evidence of this from history, and false made him into a Christian antagonist.
Also, your paradigm does not provide a method for rejecting the Bahai faith, which gives religious importance to Joseph Smith, but not necessarily Mormonism.
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Anon regarding Koran:
(with thick sarcasm) I am shocked. You didn’t like any of the blogs. I could not have possibly predicated that your next post would say that you did not like any of the blogs given.
Accusing me of being RfM (I had to look it up) sophomoric, straw-men, mischaracterizing, specious arguments, mind-games, etc without any examples tends to make you guilty of them.
The mere fact that I respond to you is prove positive that I am not afraid take on those who want to “track you down and go jihad on you.”
We are indeed blessed that spiritual truths are not acquired in proportion to one's cleverness, which leads ultimately to arrogance and error, but rather through humility and obedience, which lead to enlightenment. For if God is real and omniscient, then it is by Him that we can most reliably learn truth.