A previous post of mine on the infancy of modern scholarship in Mesoamerica made a point regarding the lack of general knowledge about Mesoamerica among the English-speaking masses of Joseph Smith’s day – a topic of possible interest to students of the Book of Mormon and its origins. It’s not that many scholars were not aware of Aztec and Mayan ruins, but that the common knowledge of the day did not provide Joseph Smith with much guidance about the once great civilizations that had been on this continent. That can be debated, which is what I find interesting: not the post itself, but the robust discussion that followed, including the lectures of a most erudite scholar and poet out to awake Mormons from our mental slumber. Some challenges and questions have gone unanswered, and perhaps some of you will have further contributions to make on both sides of the discussion.
Perhaps the great poet herself will arise once more? My Website analytics service for this blog shows that someone has been searching for that grand name, “RadicalFeministPoet”, and coming to that old post as a result – I can only hope it’s her. As much as some of her comments were a tad harsh, perhaps even vitriolic (though too supernal in tone to stir up any but the most effete mobs, fortunately), she also brought some intelligent criticism and even some generously proffered references to the table that urged some of us to read, think, and refine our position. Enduring a bit of hostility is a small price to pay for such assistance. So RadicalFeministPoet, if you’re lurking, here’s a wink and a hello! Look forward to hearing your latest tactful thoughts. I also hope you’ll respond to Blake Ostler’s interesting challenge.
70 thoughts on “The Infancy of Mesoamerican Studies, Revisited”
I’m glad you’re hoping to connect once again with RFP. I went back and read some of the comments, and frankly, I find them a little hard to stomach — on both sides. Let me explain.
One thing about RPF’s arguments that galls me, isn’t her supposed superiority, nor her trolling for rebuttals, nor even her petty insults. It’s the QED she or he injects into every pronouncement. To her/him, the arguments are proof positive, and we dolts are just too “sheepish” (or later, buffoonish”) to get it. But, frankly, her logic just doesn’t clear the hurtle: there are simply too many possible unknowns in a fuzzy science like archeology to definitively say, as though this were a math equation, “And therefore I have proved that Joe Smith was a fraud.” Nice try, but she’s/he’s got nothing. Maybe it proves it to her (or him), but this “sheep” can see too many holes to follow the QED.
Sadly, we “sheeple” tend to fall into the polemics of the argument, and defend Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, our testimonies, etc., with the exact same logical fallacy. The reality is, we (correct me if I’m wrong here, Jeff) are not holding these new “discoveries” up as PROOF of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s divine mission, or the church–FOR THE VERY SAME REASON: the evidence is just too flimsy, and there are too, too many unknowns. A few of your comments made the same mistake she/he did — these little facts simply don’t PROVE the Book of Mormon is true, anymore that her/his facts DISPROVE it: they’re based on evidence that is too flimsy.
This is my BELIEF, so take it for what little it is worth: I believe that, for the time being, God will not allow us access to information to unequivocally PROVE the Book of Mormon is true, because (I believe) we’re supposed to learn FAITH from it. Contra-wise, I also believe that He will also not allow it to be unequivocally DISPROVED either (except possibly, again, to test the FAITH of the saints for a time). This is a matter of faith.
(I’ve read enough of RFP to hear her voice in my head, “How convenient! You BELIEVE that God won’t ever prove….”) Well, yup! It shorely is conveniunt! (Sorry I couldn’t resist–the hick sheep slipped out.) That’s because this is a religion; its all about faith. Faith is when you don’t have proof, at least not the physical kind.)
So why do we look at these kinds of things? If it were to build a testimony on, Jeff, you know as well as I that’s barking up the wrong tree entirely. You can’t build a testimony on these trinkets of fact.
I got a kick out of the implication, raised more than once, that general authorities are teaching this stuff to help build their case! Hilarious! No, RFP, if you’re listening, they are the realm of little blogs like this one–not general conference.
So, back to my question: why do we?
Here’s my take: If you already have a testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon, you can hear this with a knowing smile. Like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he asks his wife, Golda, “Do you love me?” When she finally answers in the affirmative, he points out, that it doesn’t change a thing, but it’s nice to know.
If you don’t have testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon, for heaven sake (literally) don’t base it on this stuff! Instead, exercise a little faith, read it, ask God to reveal it to you, and be prepared to follow the consequences if you get an affirmative answer. That is the only way God will allow you to find out. Every other means, I believe, will be futile.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oops had to edit hence the deletion.
I appreciate Jeff’s work and the evidences posted. Jeff has never claimed that anything proves the BOM is true. He says something like, it allows room for faith. Something like that. I agree testimonies should not be built on temporal evidence. But the information is way interesting and may answer the questions of people investigating the Church to see if those anti’s were right. But of course we need to read, ponder and pray constantly.
Todd, thanks for the comments. By way of clarification, could you point out which comments of mine you thought were claiming to “prove” the Book of Mormon? I ask because I sincerely try to avoid that kind of language or tone, recognizing that faith is essential, that we aren’t going to have “proof,” but that there can be and really should be indications that can support the plausibility of the text or refute some major arguments against it, in order that faith may find room to thrive.
Wow Jeff 3:02 am? Go to bed! hehe
You caught my most glaring error (one that I didn’t notice until after I posted)! It should have referred to comments in the thread, not yours specifically. On the contrary, your comments were very careful. I know you know these things, I think most of your readers/commenters do too, they just get caught up in the moment, like all of us.
Hey! Look what I just found:
Sorta takes some of the air out of RPF's & friends' arguments, I think…
Thanks, Todd. Your comment makes sense. And thanks for the link – it was broken when I tried it, though. Could you send it again – perhaps using tinyurl.com.
LDJ, I was just up for a short while in the middle of the night, tormented with the usual unbearable guilt of Mormonism (or maybe it was a loud truck that drove by), and thought I’d just check the old blog and do a bit of email before dozing off again.
Another very interesting conversation.
When I joined the LDS Church in 1981, I was shown the film “Ancient America Speaks” and was told by one of the elders that “a large number” of archeologists work in South America with “Book of Mormon in hand” so that they can find their way around.
Ah, the good old days!
Listening in on your conversation, I truly believe that the LDS Church is preparing for the day 20-30 years from now when it quietly closes down FARMS and reveals to the Saints that the Book of Mormon took place in a spiritual realm.
That’s why it cannot be proven. That’s why no one can find Zarahemla or samples of Reformed Egyptian or one single onti of silver. Those would be physical things…not spiritual.
Don’t think it will happen? I bet none of the early Mormon leaders ever thought the LDS Church would go so anti-polygamy either. But times change and things happen that we never dream of do come to pass.
I hope that everyone has a good Labor Day with all that wonderful Bar-B-Que Curlom and Cummom!
And what better place to enjoy that barbecue than in Nahom, the ancient burial place in the Arabian Peninsula which may correspond to the archaeologically confirmed ancient burial place associated with the name Nehhem and the ancient southern Arabian Nihm tribe, essentially right where First Nephi requires it to be in a very plausible journey across the Arabian Peninsula? Or better still, enjoy that meal in a plausible candidate location for the once allegedly implausible place Bountiful (in modern Oman) which, as First Nephi requires, is nearly due east of Nahom and fairly lush. Someone better get the word out to Nephi that his journey never occurred. Maybe First Nephi chapters 1, 6, and especially 39 are spiritual, but chapters 16 and 17 create the impression that someone must have actually made that journey in a non-metaphorical way. So maybe the Brethren only need to shut down part of FARMS?
Sorry about the link. Try this one:
Have the First Presidency and the Twelve come out and confirmed NHM?
How about any non-LDS archaeologists?
I think what you are involved in is this:
Besides, Bar-B-Que Curlom is traditionally eaten in downtown Moroni on Cumorah Island.
If you are equating the First Presidency refusal to confirm every geographic site, every secular truth with the conclusion that these things are merely spiritual realities, well frankly, that’s an enormous non sequitur. Even more so with equating that just because polygamy was killed that the BOM’s historicty will be. We might as well say that because Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation, we can therefore conclude that homosexual marriages will be legalized. The former was correct and the latter might well be; however, just because continuing revelation exists does not give us license to suppose what revelation will come in the future.
That said, there is ZERO evidence from the brethren for the conclusion that the BOM is strictly spiritual. If you want to believe it, then, like the historicists, I say please feel free to do so. But don’t make those who dare to use all tools at their disposal of being Mormon hacks. How can you accuse Jeff of engaging in pseudoarchaeology when you are making speculations based in part on such postmodern dogmas about “inspired fiction”?
Both of us accept dogma…the difference is that Mormons are generally self-conscious of their dogmas. Those who ascribe to the secularist or postmodern agenda insist that theirs is Truth with a capital T. Ironic indeed.
Russ, Go read Will Dunn’s blog, and you’ll have a better idea of where he’s coming from.
To me, it looks like he has his agenda and is not interested in learning any more about the gospel or the church.
Will, I wish you a happy life, and healing/resolution for all the offenses and hurts you received in the church and from members.
When I was bitter towards the church and church members, one of the things that helped me heal was reading “The Enchiridion” by Epictetus. There are a couple translations available on the web.
He was a Stoic philosopher. He was not Christian, but there is a certain amount of over-lap, such that it helped me realize some principles, such as how we are not responsible for the sins or offenses of others. Good reading.
Yes, I have an agenda and have not tried to hide it. I truly believe that people should be informed about the dark side of Mormonism as well as the warm, fuzzy side. My desire is not to convert anyone here but to give those that may be lurking the inconvenient truths that the missionaries just don’t have time to teach. I just want them to question the authority of the Mormon Church.
I’m as bitter as Jefferson was when he said “I have sworn on the altar of God eternal enmity against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
When a religion sends out missionaries to all parts of the world to convert as many people as possible and then says “but don’t question our beliefs”….that’s just silly.
You read Epictetus? Gee man, how can you endure the 3 hours of mental novacaine each week?
No, what I’m saying (if you read my post) was that the Saints are being PREPARED to accept the BoM as something that happened in a spiritual realm. It’s not hard to change doctrine or views in the LDS Church. Just tell the members it’s “revelation” and they will go along with it.
Of course it’s just my opinion, but trying to get the world to believe that there was this big civilization that left nothing behind is much more of a non sequitur.
You wrote: “That said, there is ZERO evidence from the brethren for the conclusion that the BOM is strictly spiritual.”
I can only tell you what I have seen over the last 27 years. When I joined I was told by the missionaries that there were all sorts of archaeological PROOFS for the Book of Mormon. That the American Indians were here because of Lehi ALONE. I was shown the film Ancient America Speaks.
Is this still part of the missionary approach? No.
It’s all about getting the warm fuzzies now.
Mormonism makes some pretty big claims. Don’t get upset when people call you on those claims.
The identification of an ancient tribal name NHM in the Nehhem region was done entirely by non-LDS sources. Some further info is at http://www.nephiproject.com/on__nahom.htm.
Will said: When I joined I was told by the missionaries that there were all sorts of archaeological PROOFS for the Book of Mormon. That the American Indians were here because of Lehi ALONE. I was shown the film Ancient America Speaks.
Is this still part of the missionary approach? No.
It’s all about getting the warm fuzzies now.
In my opinion, Will, you are 180 degrees wrong here – completely missing some major currents in the Church. The fact that shoddy scholarship from amateurs gained popular acclaim in the Church and was shown widely by enthusiastic members who didn’t know better is certainly lamentable. I went through that myself – getting all excited as a young high school student about some of the alleged Book of Mormon evidence from those who Nibley described as having “zeal without knowledge.” The reason you don’t see so much of that now is NOT because there is no room for scholarship, evidence, and intellectual rigor in dealing with the Book of Mormon, but is due to exactly the opposite phenomenon: the rise of serious scholars with degrees and intellectual honesty and familiarity with the evidence, good and bad. Through the influence of FARMS and other groups of LDS thinkers and scholars, there have been loud voices in the Church saying, “STOP! This filmstrip or that movie or book is based on very poor scholarship and in the long run will only hurt.” These voices have pointed out that understanding the tangible aspects of the Book of Mormon requires a more nuanced, studied approach. They have been active in pointing out the difference between fools’ gold and the real thing, whether the imitation is due to misinterpretation of data, flawed assumptions, stupidity, or in the case of some purported finds like the Padilla plates, forgeries.
While recognizing that there are impressive evidences for Book of Mormon plausibility, faithful LDS scholars of today also recognize the danger of shoddy scholarship and have been quick to warn against getting too excited over apparent evidences that don’t have good support. For example, voices at BYU/FARMS spoke out against the popular theory that Izapa Stela 5 was a Mesoamerican rendition of Lehi’s Tree of Life vision in First Nephi. They have published reviews shredding the pro-Mormon work of some hobbyists. FARMS scholars like John Tvedtnes have, for example, pointed out possible weaknesses in the appealing interpretation of Ezekiel 37 as a Biblical prophecy of the Book of Mormon (though I’m not yet convinced that the two sticks passage in Ezekiel 37 is not also symbolic of scriptural restoration).
The best place to find detailed refutations of pro-LDS books offering intriguing Book of Mormon evidences is actually the FARMS Review of Books, where pseudo-archeology and bogus scholarship, however faith promoting, are routinely taken to task. And the intellectual ecosystem of scholars in the Church, including groups such as FARMS, FAIRLDS, and the More Good Foundation, are increasingly offering intellectually stimulating insights that are consistent with the Book of Mormon as a real ancient record.
Based on my interactions with the More Good Foundation and others in the Church whom I consider to be thought leaders or just plain old leaders, I am convinced that the Church cares more than ever about the reality of the Book of Mormon.
To be more scientifically appropriate, one must recognize that science is forever tentative, and theories about particular finds and evidences may change with time. That’s why a Church that encourages thinking and academic rigor is not going to confuse matters of faith and spirituality with the fickle world of science. They will leave that to the scholars, perhaps with some encouragement, while focusing on their mission: bringing souls to Christ. And for that, they don’t need to show second-rate videos about alleged evidence for Christ in America.
Look for the Church to be as strong as ever in encouraging us to take the Book of Mormon seriously, to think about it rigorously, and to be open to what science and scholarship might teach us about the real ancient peoples who followed Nephi south-southeast along the very real borders of the Red Sea to a very real Nahom, and then nearly due east to a very real Bountiful in modern day Oman, before they set sail and landed in a real part of the New World that we now have described in the Book of Mormon. There is much it does not say, much we do not know, and much we may need to change about our assumptions about the peoples and places involved due to our ignorance and the limitations of the text. But given the many impressive intellectual evidences for plausibility and authenticity that we already have,I can’t imagine that any reasonable Church leader would turn around someday and say that the gold plates never existed, that the journey across Arabia never occurred, that it was all just Joseph and the numerous witnesses of the gold plates smoking something a little too strong.
“My desire is not to convert anyone here but….”
Ahem. Excuse me, but it appears from your blg that you’re firmly in the anti-camp. Your blog publishes against the Brethren and against the Gospel. You don’t just question, you make rather clear claims.
“When a religion sends out missionaries to all parts of the world to convert as many people as possible and then says “but don’t question our beliefs”….that’s just silly.”
That’s quite a misrepresentation. One of the main themes of LDS missionaries is “Don’t take our word for it. Pray and get an answer for yourself.”
And yeah, I was shown “Ancient America Speaks” 26 years ago too. I thought the narrator was a pompous buffoon. I didn’t like him.
But still, the missionaries essentially told me “Don’t take our word for it, or his either, pray and get an answer for yourself.
And guess what? I got a very powerful spiritual manifestation that the Book of Mormon is real, that Jesus did visit the Nephites.
So I got baptized. Not because I beleived any archeaological argument, but because I got a very clear answer to my prayers.
I fully expect to meet Lehi, Nephi, Alma, Ammon, Aaron, Mormon, Moroni, and the rest some day. Or at least listen to them give talks at firesides, or whatever goes on during the millennium.
And I still think that narrator in “Ancient America Speaks” was a horse’s patoot, well at least in the documentary. He was probably a lot nicer in real life.
Then I went on, and eventually did get offended and hurt by Mormons, and left the church for 15 years. But I couldn’t shake the powerful spiritual testimonies that I had about God, Jesus, the Atonement, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith as a prophet, and the Temple.
So after a lot of learning and healing, I came back to church.
Yeah, there are some real idiots in the Mormon church. What church/religion doesn’t have them?
Was there a time in the Bible when all the believers, Old Testament or New Testament, were perfect? Nope. Somebody was always screwing up at any given point in time. Many of the central characters made big time mistakes: Aaron, Moses, David, Solomon.
Even one of God’s prophets, Balaam, screwed up big time, and joined the bad guys, and got killed for it.
Jonah screwed up big time too, and almost got killed for it. If he hadn’t repented, he eventually would have come out the other end of the whale, no?
Archealogical evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon is not the slam-dunk that “Ancient America Speaks” might lead one to believe.
But you are also patently wrong when you say there is _no_ archeaological evidence at all in favor of the Book of Mormon. There are well over 100 general data points, with likely over 1,000 instances in Latin America, not counting the instances in the Old World, like discovery of records kept on metal plates, and the recent discovery of ancient Hebrew/Jewish names that match up with some Book of Mormon names.
I’m glad I never had a testimony of archeaology or of Church History.
But if you bought into the archealogical evidence as “proof” back then, just forgive yourself.
And forgive the bloomin’ idiots who pretended like that stuff was reliable enough for a testimony.
I don’t much care, in terms of testimony, that barley is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, or that a strain of barley was finally found in an archealogical dig.
But it is “nice to know” that it was found after all those years when anti’s mocked the church because barley was not known to have been cultivated by Native Americans.
And so it is with horse bones. I’m not going to let the absence of horse bones cause me to re-interpret the powerful spiritual experience I had that confirmed that Jesus really did visit some people called Nephites.
Eventually, those missing pieces will be found, like barley. And people who left the church over barley or horsebones, are eventually going to say “Doht!” and slap their spirit forehead with the palm of their spirit hand.
They let me come back. So they’ll probably let you come back too.
Jeff and Book. preempted. Just because the scholarship was bad then doesn’t mean that scholarship is bad. Or as Clarence Darrow noted, just because ideas can cause evil does not mean that we abolish thought.
And your talk of how members will just “go with it” is cynical, hackneyed, and adds nothing new to the topic. I don’t fall in that camp and most of those I know don’t fall into that camp either. The “Mormon sheep” model is a myth not unlike 19th century propaganda (see Givens “Viper on the Hearth” to see the comrades in arms on Mormon caricatures and mythmaking).
You still have provided zero evidence that the BOM should be read in strictly figurative terms. We have word studies (having studied Hebrew myself, I know something of the merit of these studies), wordprint analyses, cultural analyses, and some archaeology that present plausibility.
I sense serious dogmatism here…a refusal to grant Mormons any credit for any kind of intellectual achievement. I cite “secular” naturalist scholars all the time in my research as a graduate student…are you willing to view Mormons with the same open-minded eye?
Well Dunn, said:
“When I joined the LDS Church in 1981, I was shown the film “Ancient America Speaks” and was told by one of the elders that “a large number” of archeologists work in South America with “Book of Mormon in hand” so that they can find their way around.”
In 1976 I was exposted to the same trap. But before they got to the weak case of BofM archeology they told me of the Joseph Smith first vision and the Holy Spirit confirmed to me the spirit I had felt many times before as a Christian. I know that RFP thinks such spiritual experiences are below her but I am thankful for a loving Heavenly Father that looks out for us fools that seek Him out with proof other than our faith in trying to keep His commandments. So all the hopeful proofs that may not be full true will not stop the witness of the Holy Spirit of truth.
The filmstrips and movie that I spoke of were endorsed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. I used them myself when I was a missionary.
What you call “shoddy scholarship” today was endorsed by the highest councils of the LDS Church back then. These are the same men who are charged with making sure the Mormon Church is not “tossed to and fro” with every wind of doctrine. Perhaps they just had “zeal without knowledge” back then.
Now you imply that these men can’t be trusted! (Don’t worry because I don’t trust them anyway.)
I agree that today’s LDS scholars have had to take a different approach after some embarrassing mistakes in the past. Yet, I think it’s fair to ask how much impact these scholars have in the LDS Church.
For example, look at this picture:
Note that the picture shows a man riding a HORSE into battle. This picture is used in Primary and in other presentations yet Robert Bennett of FARMS tells us “Moreover, the Book of Mormon never says that horses were ridden or used in battle, although some passages suggest that at times they may have been used by the elite as a draft animal…”
If FARMS is right why not commission new pictures without the horse or have them riding deer?
No, I still believe this is a slow process that will take place over the next 30-40 years. It’s already happened with the DNA issue causing a change in the scriptural introduction in the BoM. The theory that there is some hidden civilization in Central America that has been overlooked for over 175 years just won’t continue to hold up year after year.
As I have said more than once, in the LDS Church today’s revelation is tomorrow’s personal opinion.
If I am in the “anti-camp” how could I possibly convert anyone here? My desire is to give people WHO MAY BE THINKING ABOUT joining the LDS Church a different perspective.
If it was not about missionaries converting people, the LDS Church could send out DVDs to everyone.
“I got a very powerful spiritual manifestation that the Book of Mormon is real, that Jesus did visit the Nephites.”
People get powerful feelings about a lot of things. In the Heaven’s Gate Group they knew that there was a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet….people in waves had such intense feelings that Hitler would redeem Germany so much so that Rudolf Hess told them “Do not seek Hitler with your brain, you will only find him with your heart.”
Can you really put that much trust in your feelings? If you want to that’s fine. Go on and drink the Kool-Aid.
I’ve noticed with you it always seems to come back to being offended. I’m sorry that you were offended but LDS people are no different than any other people. For me it’s reality verses fantasy. Nephites, Lamanites, Hobbits, Sith Lords, Jedi…..they are all the same to me.
I’m sorry, your “missing pieces” are either in Middle Earth or on the planet Tatooine.
Pray, and it will be revealed which one.
What do you believe about life? About everything? I guarantee that I can demonstrate it to be based on unprovable assumptions. Marxism, positivism, existentialism, deconstructionism, isms ad nauseum. Criticize us for extending beyond the seen world if you wish, but remember that you’re burning down your own home in the process.
And the cheap shot about Heaven’s Gate is bumper sticker argumentation…an excellent example of the “ecological fallacy.” Indeed, one might as well indict anti-Christianity for Nietzsche’s madness or Judaism for revisionist Zionism.
And as far as the “today’s revelation is tomorrow’s revelation,” that’s a simplistic conclusion…it betrays that you haven’t ever bothered to actually read/examine the primary source documents on how LDS revelation functions except for a few quips about “Follow the Prophet; he knows the way.” Using your analysis, one could convict Paul of being both a radical feminist and an oppressor or Jesus of being a weak pacifist and a militant. One-liners don’t get us very far in these discussions…except for throwing some fuel on the polemical fires. For your discussion of hard-nosed scholarship, you haven’t demonstrated a similar discipline in your discussion of LDS teachings.
When you seem interested in discussing the meaningful nuance in LDS doctrine of continuing revelation, I encourage you to inquire. We are listening.
What I believe, above all things in this discussion is that NO religion whether it be Mormonism, The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, etc. has the right to lie to people in order to convert them? I consider omitting details that would play a major part in a person’s decision to convert to another belief system the same as outright lying.
I do like some aspects of existentialism and Buddhism but I have not declared my belief system “the only true and living” way to believe and I don’t go door to door bothering people with what I believe.
I am sorry that I forgot to qualify my quote about Heaven’s Gate and even the Hess comment. I am not saying you fellows are a suicide cult or that you are Nazis! My point was that many times people believe in things (fervently and with their entire beings) that turn out not to be true.
In saying that yesterday’s revelation is tomorrow’s personal opinion I just am telling you how I have seen the LDS people behave today toward the words of former leaders who were sure that they were teaching an eternal truth that God had revealed to them. The “word of the Lord” becomes just so much personal opinion (Journal of Discourses for example).
If I want to discuss LDS revelation, then let’s start with a rock in a hat.
I think that it has been demonstrated time and time again that the leaders of the LDS Church have no special powers (Remember Mark Hoffman?) but get along the way the rest of us do: By taking in all the facts and trying to make an intelligent decision based on them.
Do you really think that Monson knows the future?
I sure don’t.
“The filmstrips and movie that I spoke of were endorsed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. I used them myself when I was a missionary.”
“Ancient America Speaks” was not in the missionary system when I served in 1984-1986. We did not have it on filmstrip, nor as 8 or 16mm, in Ecuador in 1984-86.
I did see “Ancient America Speaks” movie at least twice, as investigator (1982), and as a member 82 or 83). I forget who owned the copy I saw, the ward library, or a member.
I don’t remember if it was produced by the church, like the First Vision movie that we showed in the mission field. My memory is that it wasn’t, and it was an independent production, though it may have used BYU resources.
Your assertion that it was endorsed at the highest level of the church is also misleading. The movie made no assertions that the President or apostles blessed the movie’s claims/conclusions with a prophetic or revelatory approval. I don’t remember a claim in the movie that “we know these artifacts to be Nephite/Lamanite by revelation”.
My memory is that the narrator guy, who often appeared on camera, was speaking in his own name, and not as a representative of the church.
If the Brethren approved anything, they approved the showing of the movie to members/investigators as something that appeared to support the church at the time. And why not show something that appears to support the church?
But approving the showing of the movie on church property or to members/investigators is not the same as your statement that it was prophetically endorsed.
Is it online anywhere, so we could check to see if it was produced by the church or by BYU?
Overall, I can tell that you’ve re-interpreted your “Mormon experience.” But you yourself are not being totally honest now either. You’re at the point of striking back and misrepresenting the church with your hyperbole and mis-characterizations.
You’ve apparently become as polarized and myopic as you paint the church and its members to be.
You also need to be more up-front about what your religious beliefs are, and that you specifically disbelieve all forms of Christianity. You need to tell investigators (especially those who are already Christian) that you are NOT Christian, and that you specifically disbelieve Christianity.
Your disbelief in Christianity taints your view of Mormonism. Because much of what you now believe to be wrong about Mormonism, is also applicable to other denominations of Christianity.
The “stick” that you now use to attack Mormonism, is also used to attack all forms of Christianity. Specifically, your mocking of religious/spiritiual experiences, and your assertion that God doesn’t answer prayer, and your logical framework that pre-supposes that all religious leaders have to be perfect at all times.
Sir, you’ve become dirty with the very mud that you throw.
Paul Cheesman of BYU did the narration and the film was produced at BYU. Why is everyone trying to distance the LDS Church from this film now? You would think that I was talking about some Ron Jeremy movie.
“I don’t remember a claim in the movie that ‘we know these artifacts to be Nephite/Lamanite by revelation’.
That’s because that they know, as do you, Jeff and everyone else that there are no Nephite/Lamanite artifacts…there are just artifacts that MIGHT be Nephite/Lamanite artifacts.
“If the Brethren approved anything, they approved the showing of the movie to members/investigators as something that appeared to support the church at the time.”
So they voted for the movie before they voted against it. I can’t believe all the convoluted logic here!
“You also need to be more up-front about what your religious beliefs are, and that you specifically disbelieve all forms of Christianity. You need to tell investigators (especially those who are already Christian) that you are NOT Christian, and that you specifically disbelieve Christianity.”
I will be more upfront about my beliefs….but I will wait until people are ready for that. I don’t want to give them more information than they can handle. You can’t be taught advanced math until you learn the basics.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was 16 years old. That was several years before I came in contact with Mormonism. Under the rules of the Southern Baptist Convention (once saved, always saved) I’m still a Christian so your claim is false.
As for attacking Mormonism…come on! You know you guys love that stuff. It gives you the opportunity to play the persecution card. “Oh, everyone hates us because we have the truth!”
As for mud throwing, I never designed a ceremony in which I taught that Christian ministers were hirlings of Satan.
Will, can you clarify why you think the First Presidency endorsed it? I don’t think it even had BYU’s imprimatur on it, popular as it was. Or am I mistaken?
I appreciate your apology re: the Heaven’s Gate comment and also that you are responding to sometimes uttered (and ill-informed) comments about the doctrine of continuing revelation.
I agree on the lying part (though I would be careful on being terribly simplistic about these things…to resort to argumentum ad Hitlerum, remember the case where the Nazi comes to your door when you’re hiding a Jew? Do you tell them the truth?…just a thought). That said, you’ll be hard-pressed to demonstrate lying (intentional deceit) on the part of the brethren. Misunderstanding? Incomplete understanding…perhaps, but guess what? We might as well delegitimize THOUGHT as a means of attaining truth…it’s wrong so often!! This attack does not just address beliefs in a supernatural deity…it addresses beliefs in any kind of higher power. Karma, Allah, thought itself is vulnerable to the ideological flames you are setting.
But you speak as though you are uttering something new, an expose. Indeed, it seems your primary opposition is to Mormon artwork, as though we all stood up to bear witness of Arnold Freiburg on Sundays! And his art isn’t woefully wrong…it just captures a certain element of it…do you know that Joseph NEVER looked at the plates? He had to have…he transcribed the characters for the Anthon transcript? And frankly, what difference does it make whether Joseph used a rock in a hat or used a handkerchief (like Peter) or two pieces of rock (like Moses) or the Urim and Thummim of the O.T.? The reason you obsess over the hat, I would guess, is really just because you object to the idea of the mundane meeting the divine.
And I know a good deal about Mark Hoffman…maybe even more than most. And frankly (pardon me as I put on my wild-eyed apologist glasses), had not the Church purchased the documents, we would have never engaged in the rigorous study of the early history as we had. And further, Hoffman’s other forgeries would have by all measurable accounts remained unknown. Unfortunately, two people died in the process…and that is a tragedy borne of an evil man who needed exposure, even if the leadership did not know they were ultimately helping to expose him.
And frankly, the idea that there is no true way is itself a dogma more stringent than any I believe.
As far as the Journal of Discourses (and I have read MANY of them), we need to be willing to accept that the Brethren are in the process of receiving light as well. We also need to realize that most people NEVER EVEN HEARD those discourses. How can we possibly call it doctrine when they never learned it? Prophesy was a fluid concept to early members…hardly the strict definition we believe.
“Why is everyone trying to distance the LDS Church from this film now? “
People are trying to put it into proper perspective because you’re mischaracterizing and misrepresenting what the movie was, and how it was presented.
If you, as a naive convert and naive missionary, thought that the movie “proved” or was even intended to “prove” anything, then you were among those in the wrong. For crying out loud, forgive yourself. Forgive other people who naively believed in it too.
To hold mainstream Christians to the same standard, you’d have to denounce Moses as a false prophet for thinking that bats were birds.
“That’s because that they know, as do you, Jeff and everyone else that there are no Nephite/Lamanite artifacts…there are just artifacts that MIGHT be Nephite/Lamanite artifacts.”
Then you shouldn’t have any problems with the movie.
However, your former declaration contradicts the 2nd declaration. We don’t know that there are no Nephite/Lamanite artifacts. There are plenty of artifacts from that time-frame. Some really could be, as you attest by your second declaration.
“I will be more upfront about my beliefs….but I will wait until people are ready for that. I don’t want to give them more information than they can handle. You can’t be taught advanced math until you learn the basics.”
Cool. You’re adopting the style of the church that you mock.
But you dodged the issue, you’re still hiding your anti-christianity and not giving full-disclosure to Christian investigators who might be influenced about taking you as an authority figure if they knew you were anti-Christian.
“I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was 16 years old. That was several years before I came in contact with Mormonism. Under the rules of the Southern Baptist Convention (once saved, always saved) I’m still a Christian so your claim is false.”
Good, I’m glad you still consider yourself Christian. Or, that you voted for Jesus before you voted against Jesus. 🙂
But also, in the terminology of the Southern Baptist Convention, you would quality as a backslid Christian, unless you get your butt back on a pew in a Bible-believing church every Sunday.
I’ve flip-flopped several times myself: born outside of the church, joined the church (1982), left the church (1987), and came back to church (2002).
“As for mud throwing, I never designed a ceremony in which I taught that Christian ministers were hirlings of Satan.”
Non-sequitur. The point is that you’re engaging in worse misrepresentation and mischaracterization than what you accuse the LDS church of doing.
And for all I know, and many of your fellow-travelers might agree, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart are or were hirlings of Satan.
“Will, can you clarify why you think the First Presidency endorsed it? I don’t think it even had BYU’s imprimatur on it, popular as it was. Or am I mistaken?”
Jeff, you are no fun, I think you ran Will off. As a missionary at that time we use any story we could to get and keep the interest of those we taught. Even many stories of the Bible that are still taught (but are more than likely not true) by the “Southern Baptist Convention” members to teach Baptist children and adults.
How dare they! I am now feeling so ashamed that I used that film on my mission and that I experenced the Holy Spirit of truth about the Bible before I was given the false impression that some of those stories may not be totally true. What do I now do with all those feeling of the Holy Spirit that tells me the Bible and that Jesus is the Christ the Holy Son of Heavenly Father? What to do, What to do?
Jeff, I just remember being told by the missionaries at the time (those two elders whom all of you have pointed out were FULL of misinformation) that the film was endorsed by the leaders of the LDS Church. I don’t know if there are still copies of it around, but I know that it was produced by BYU and used in missionary work at the time.
If the movie was bogus, them why did the Mormon Church include it in a video along with The First Vision and Man’s Search for Happiness?
Russ you wrote:
“That said, you’ll be hard-pressed to demonstrate lying (intentional deceit) on the part of the brethren.”
“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher Of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.
Some things that are true are not very useful.”
For example, the leaders could be honest and tell people up front that Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon by putting a rock in a hat and sticking his face in it. But how useful is that when you are trying to convert people?
You wrote: We might as well delegitimize THOUGHT as a means of attaining truth…it’s wrong so often!!
Interesting but I think I’ll sidestep the road to solipsism and stay on message. If it doesn’t make any difference whether Joseph used a rock in a hat then why not tell new converts during the missionary lessons that’s how the translation took place? It’s not about the mundane meeting the divine it’s about being honest about recorded history and giving potential converts both sides of the story.
“…..had not the Church purchased the documents, we would have never engaged in the rigorous study of the early history as we had.”
I thought Arrington and Quinn were doing the New Mormon History before the Hoffman affair.
The leadership had nothing to do with “exposing” Hoffman. They were his dupes. The Tanner’s had more insite on the matter than God’s Prophets did.
“For crying out loud, forgive yourself. Forgive other people who naively believed in it too.”
This is my point here. In 20-30 years most of the things touted in the LDS Church about “Christ in America” and Book of Mormon archeology will be talked about the same way. The process has already started with the Lamanites going from “principal ancestors” to “among the ancestors”. To paraphrase Bob Dylan “Oh the doctrine, it is a-changing”.
As for the rest of my post, it was irony and sarcasm. Sorry I wasted it on you.
“Even many stories of the Bible that are still taught (but are more than likely not true) by the “Southern Baptist Convention” members to teach Baptist children and adults.”
Whether the stories are literal or figurative is highly debate in the Protestant Christian world.
I have not been scared away and have found the back and forth of sharp opinions enjoyable. I will be going away for a while depending on how badly Gustav hits the coast to try and help out with recovery.
I was thinking…maybe I’ve been wrong. Maybe you can pray and find out if it’s true or not! I’m going to do just that!
In 2006 the Prophet Matthew Philip Gill received 24 brass plates from God from which he translated the Book of Jeraneck.
I guess now we all need to have an open mind. We need to read the Book of Jeraneck and find out if it is true.
Will you good people join me in this quest?