Fond Memories from Before the Blast
Back before a massive nuclear logic bomb wiped out Latter-day Saint apologetics a few days ago, the story behind the map below once counted as some kind of comforting “evidence” for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon, or more specifically, evidence that important “facts” used for decades against the Book of Mormon had been completely “refuted,” turning pitiful weakness into apparent strength.
|Proposed route of Lehi’s Trail through the Arabian Peninsula, from Warren Aston, “Nephi’s ‘Shazer’: The Fourth Arabian Pillar of the Book of Mormon,” (Click to enlarge.)|
Before all hope for Book of Mormon apologetics was extinguished with a massive WMD (Weapon of Mass Disbelief) launched from an underground silo by an elite team of anti-Book of Mormon scholars, we used to talk about how cool this map was. We talked about “testable hypotheses” that had long been used by critics to mock the Book of Mormon’s account of Lehi’s Trail, which once seemed to describe impossible, illogical places like the River Laman and the fertile place Bountiful. Then people like George Potter and Warren Aston went there and did field work to see if such places possibly could exist, only to find impressive evidence that good candidates existed. Against all odds, there was a stunning candidate for the River Laman and the Valley of Lemuel in just the right place, about three days south of the northern “borders” of the Red Sea, per Nephi’s account. And south-southeast of that, a four-days’ journey away as Nephi describes, is an impressive candidate for Shazer, nicely matching details of the Book of Mormon account, as Warren Aston describes in “Nephi’s ‘Shazer’: The Fourth Arabian Pillar of the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 39 (2020): 53-72. (Field work continues to be the key to unlocking many insights of the trek into and through Arabia.) And there were two good candidates for Bountiful, both nearby in southern Oman, Khor Kharfot with Wadi Sayq and Khor Rori with Wadi Darbat. I’ve generally preferred Khor Kharfot, but both have their merits.
For a place like Bountiful that so many claimed was ridiculous, the surprising discovery of such candidates is noteworthy (some of the most important information about Khor Rori, namely, the very fertile nature of Wadi Darbat, is not well known but will be published shortly). The finds of Warren Aston at Khor Kharfot and Wadi Sayq, for example, were not based upon looking for any scattered random parallel that could be proclaimed a victory for the Book of Mormon, but used a rigorous methodology of identifying 12 characteristics for Bountiful from Nephi’s text that would need to be physically present in a plausible candidate. These criteria are explain in his 2015 book, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, and in his video that you can see at LehiinArabia.com. With that challenging set of 12 criteria, he considered each of several sites in Oman that had been proposed by others and showed that each were deficient in one or more significant ways. He visited many sites, ruling them out, and finally, late in the afternoon on his last day of a trip of exploration by boat along the coast of Oman, he yielded to the request of his daughter to go on shore and look at one particular region that she felt might be promising. He was reluctant and tired, ready to go home, but yielded. As they got past the sandbar that obstructed their view, they encountered Arabia’s largest freshwater lagoon and an abundance of life and greenery. His daughter was jubilant, feeling they had found Bountiful, but he insisted that they had to study this further and check all of the criteria. But it would turn out that all 12 criteria were fulfilled, and the site remains to this day to be a prime candidate for Bountiful, with further research only strengthening the case. This is not the stuff of random parallels, but discoveries based on sound methodology and thorough field work that add explanatory power to the Book of Mormon.
But are the candidates for Bountiful in the right place? That depends on Nahom, which determines the location, for Bountiful must be “nearly eastward” of Nahom. The problem, one of the biggest problems the Book of Mormon has faced for so long, is that you can’t just travel on foot or by camel from the west side of Arabia to the east side and have any hope of reaching the east coast alive, for most of the peninsula is dominated by the great Empty Quarter with impassible sand dunes and hopeless aridity. So the whole idea of crossing nearly eastward from pretty much anywhere seemed rather hopeless and was often ridiculed.
So what of Nahom? Or perhaps we should say NHM, as an important Yemeni tribal name was written anciently on three stone altars from Lehi’s day that a German team of archaeologists found at a temple site in Marib, Yemen, testifying to the regional prominence of the ancient NHM tribe whose lands today (the name is now transliterated Nihm) and anciently were just to the north of modern Sana’a. If any crossing to the east did occur, it began near the site Nahom where Ishmael was buried. Nahom was not named by Nephi but obviously by the locals there since it “was called Nahom” (1 Nephi 16:34). It needs to have been populated anciently and needs to be approximately south-southeast of the River Laman and Shazer, and nearly due west of Bountiful, with Bountiful being accessible by simply traveling nearly eastward (there’s no hint of any major barriers they had to bypass). That’s a pretty tall order and seemed rather hopeless, until a couple of decades ago. Incredibly, as Warren Aston demonstrates in his book, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, this actually all works out.
NHM tribal lands happen to be in or bordering just about the only region where one can turn nearly due east from the generally south-southeast direction of the Incense Trails and continue all the way to the coast, bypassing the great Empty Quarter just to the north and also another equally impassible dessert just to the south. There’s a very narrow widow of just a few miles where one actually can turn nearly due east and not only survive, but without any major barriers, and with the availability of some water, not only reach the coast, but reach a place that very nicely fits the requirements for Bountiful. Here’s a close-up of Nihm tribal lands showing the Wadi Jawf where an eastward turn can be made, taken from “Book of Mormon Evidence: Travel Eastward from Nahom,” Evidence Central, https://evidencecentral.org/recency/evidence/eastward-turn:
|Nihm tribal lands northeast of Sana’a.|
The two “impossible” places, the River Laman and Bountiful, are linked by the directions in Nephi’s account where the south-southeast journey along the western side of Arabia suddenly turns nearly due east and reaches Bountiful. The intersection of the south-south leg and the eastward leg are at Nahom, and amazingly, there is now hard archaeological evidence for such a name in the right time (Lehi’s day) and the right place, with Nihm tribal lands today and anciently comprising or being very near to the ONLY place where a sudden eastward turn is not only possible without certain death, but can lead you to another impossible place that now seems to be verified with at least one solid candidate.
Warren Aston put it this way in Lehi and Saiah in Arabia, pp. 177-78:
Nephi’s simple statement that they traveled “nearly eastward” from Nahom becomes a stunning vindication of the Book of Mormon’s historicity. None of the classical or contemporary references to the incense trade mention this major change in direction, so it follows that Joseph Smith could not have known from them that there was such a turn, nor where it occurred.
And there is a further dimension to the matter of direction after Nahom. It comes from the specification, written well after the fact, that they traveled nearly eastward from that time forth. This seems to stipulate that this direction continued to be followed all the way to the coast. Indeed, the account mentions no detours, breaks in the travel, or any reason requiring a change of direction. Exploration and satellite imagery has shown that maintaining an easterly course was actually the only feasible way to reach the coast where Bountiful awaited.
Had Lehi’s group traveled even east-northeast or east-southeast from Nahom, they would have encountered the shifting sand dune deserts of the feared “Empty Quarter” to the north, or the equally-difficult Ramlat Saba’tayn desert to the south. Many of the constantly shifting dunes tower hundreds of feet high; they are simply too steep to be crossed by loaded camels. Instead, surely led by the Liahona, traveling almost true east from Nahom placed them on a narrow band of stony plateaus and valleys leading between the two deserts to the coast. A sequence of arid plateaus and valleys averaging 3,000 feet/900 meters altitude leads from the Wadi Jauf or Nahom area to low ranges north of the Hadhramaut Valley. From here, the Mahra plateau leads into the Qamar ranges on the coast of southern Oman.
Thus, not only is travel from Nahom in a direct easterly direction possible, but it is actually the most direct and only accessible route that one would take to reach the tiny area of fertile coast. No physical obstacles, whether sand dunes, mountains, steep ravines, or lava fields, prevent travel between the Nahom area and Dhofar. That a completely accessible and feasible “nearly eastward” pathway, with no intervening obstacles, from Nahom to the only fertile coast in Arabia can now be shown is one of the most significant findings in recent years concerning the Lehite journey. Surprisingly, the implications of this fact have yet to be fully assimilated by many writers on the subject. [emphasis original]
Nahom is not just a random name with 3 consonants that can be explained by finding any NHM-related name anywhere in the world, like Anaheim, California. It involves a specific location and a specific time, and we have solid “evidence” (or so we used to think!) that Nahom in the Book of Mormon is plausible both in terms of a precise location and a rare name prominent in the right era. Nahom involves a time, a precise location, a relationship to other places, and even involves a subtle Hebrew word play. The evidence around Nahom, including archaeological finds, coupled with evidence related to Bountiful, Shazer, and the River Laman in the Valley of Lemuel collectively overturned what once looked like strong evidence against the Book of Mormon, becoming instead apparent “evidence” for its authenticity and plausibility, making the theories of critics about its origins seem implausible. But again, that was before we got nuked.
And Now, the Extinction of All Book of Mormon Evidence
When long-standing arguments and evidence against the Book of Mormon are overturned by surprising new discoveries, what do you call the new evidence? Why, it’s the same word you use when once failed testable hypotheses from the Book of Mormon suddenly and strangely test positive. The power word to handle all this is COINCIDENCE. This word, when used with the proper nuance and sophistication, pretty much trumps any so-called evidence from the defeated Latter-day Saint side.
OK, you may be skeptical since this looks a little too easy at first, but this cool logical tactic is much more impressive than it seems at first glance. I must now reveal the irresistible power of the nuclear logic assault on the Book of Mormon, though I’m afraid whatever testimony you may have of the Book of Mormon is about to be obliterated. Reader discretion advised.
First, my apology to my fellow apologists for the Book of Mormon. Our cause is over. It’s time to just abandon hope and forget about all the evidences in support of the Book of Mormon, evidences that only recently seemed to be growing steadily and adding increasing depth to the intellectual aspects of our faith. The recent discovery of evidence-rich, plausible, unexpected candidates for places long ridiculed by our critics such the River Laman, the Valley Lemuel, the place Bountiful, and the intersection point that joins those evidences from two opposing coasts in truly surprising ways, Nahom — none of that matters now.
A nuclear-grade argument has finally been devised after decades of research, pulling together the most powerful anonymous thinkers of the world who proudly display their anonymous thinking skills at MormonThink, where I link to an archived but still lethal version of their page for security reasons. This new Ultimate Argument against the Book of Mormon, offered specifically in response to my Book of Mormon Evidences page at JeffLindsay.com (the existence of my page was vaguely mentioned but no link was given to protect vulnerable readers), is vaporizing faith as I write. The argument about eerie coincidences was totally convincing to some of the leading Ph.D.-level minds who have been trying to lead me back to rationality on my blog. It’s been weaponized against all Book of Mormon evidences in general, but its most recent known detonation was against my discussion of evidences related to the Arabian Peninsula (see the discussion of the unanswerable “coincidences” argument in comments on my Feb. 19 blog post, “An Update on Maps of the Arabian Peninsula Showing Nahom-related Names“). While I was far from the epicenter of the blast when it occurred on my Mormanity blog, I’ve still been hit by what may be a lethal dose of anti-matter radiation. My passing is only a matter of time now — the doc says I may only have a few decades left. But before I go, I need to warn others. Nothing you have learned in your self-defense from anti-Mormons workshops will have prepared you for this deadly new tactical logical weapon.
The Ultimate Argument goes sort of like this: President John F. Kennedy has SEVEN LETTERS in his last name. See where this is going? Neither did I. Hold on. So did President Abraham Lincoln. SEVEN! And they both were assassinated by people with THREE NAMES (Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth). Now are you catching on? But it gets much more powerful, because BOTH killers had exactly FIFTEEN LETTERS in their name. After I regained consciousness, I counted the letters five times in disbelief. Yep, FIFTEEN! But it keeps getting more impressive: Both assassins were shot to death before they could be put on trial. Both Kennedy and Lincoln were shot in the back of the head while seated with their wives. Both Kennedy and Lincoln were shot on a Friday. And if you’ve still got a whimper of a testimony left, consider this: Lincoln was shot while at FORD’S theater. Kennedy was shot while riding in a FORD automobile. (There may be an parallel universe of bizarre coincidences where Kennedy was shot while riding in a YUGO, and Lincoln was shot shortly after saying, “YOU GO, GIRL!”)
My testimony was pretty much annihilated at this point. After all, if such bizarre coincidences can happen, then surely mere coincidence can account for all Book of Mormon evidence, right? And maybe all evidence of any kind! How can there be such a thing as truth or facts or evidence at all in such a weird world of endless, random coincidence?
But there were still more detonations to come — but somehow, the next blast gave me just a touch of hope. “Both Kennedy and Lincoln had been ship’s captains.” And then, somehow, the assault seemed to let up for a moment. I’m no historian, but have read some history and never heard about Lincoln pursuing sailing or going into the Navy. In fact, one of the less impressive parallels offered by MormonThink is that both Kennedy and Lincoln studied law (not sailing) — but didn’t most Presidents? Well over half of our presidents worked in law, so that’s not so bizarre. But being a captain of a ship, even of a PT boat like President Kennedy, is something quite unusual. Why hadn’t I head about this important aspect of Lincoln’s career? Historians, help me out. Was Lincoln quietly involved in the secret Indiana Marine Brigade or, say, the Springfield Naval Reserves, Landlocked Division, perhaps bravely serving as a Canoe Commander in a local swamp? As far as I can tell, the answer is no. Whence, then, this most interesting parallel that makes Lincoln a captain of a ship?
Ah, yes, here’s where Walt Whitman comes to the rescue, at least that’s my theory. Whitman has already played an important role in anti-Mormon theory by serving as the most impressive source of parallels to the Book of Mormon, for his Leaves of Grass serves as the state of the art for Book of Mormon plagiarism evidence, giving us a text with far more relevance and explanatory power for the Book of Mormon than any other modern text so far that critics have touted as sources that explain anything about Book of Mormon origins. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is the now the Gold Standard against the Gold Plates when it comes to plagiarism arguments, in spite of the minor weakness of having been written 25 years after the Book of Mormon was published. That little factoid can be overlooked in light of the mountain of impressive evidence showing Joseph simply must have had access to Whitman’s work, perhaps as boyhood friends, long before Whitman published it. Compare for yourself and see if any other argument for plagiarism makes more sense. Whitman account for so much of the Book of Mormon, including unusual specific terms like the Lamanites (derived from “lemonade”) and so much more.
But now, in yet another strange coincidence, Whitman provides us with yet another powerful parallel to buttress anti-Mormon arguments, and once again from the Leaves of Grass, but starting with the 1867 edition. Shortly after Lincoln’s death, Whitman wrote a moving poem about his beloved President Lincoln, “O Captain! My Captain!” (Of course, this could well have been inspiration for the whole Captain Moroni story, but that’s for another post.) You can read about the poem on the Library of Congress website. As far as I can tell, that poem is the apparent source of MormonThink’s claim about Lincoln serving as the captain of a boat. Whitman sees Lincoln as the figurative captain of the ship of our the nation. So the parallel is still completely solid, but to be more precise MormonThink might wish to say that Kennedy was the captain of a real boat and Lincoln was a figurative captain of a figurative boat in somebody’s poem since he was a President of the United States. Or you could reduce confusion here and simply say that the coincidence is that both Presidents served as Presidents (and at least one of them had been in a boat). Still completely eerie, though it does seem to reduce the momentum of the argument. But it was definitely cool at first.
The ship’s captain coincidence on MormonThink’s list isn’t on other versions of this list I’ve seen elsewhere such as at Wikipedia, so it may have been part of a special extra-mile research effort from MormonThink’s Deep Think Tank. If so, kudos for the anonymous creative work, which ironically may have been inspired by my own work calling attention to Whitman’s preeminent role in anti-Book of Mormon theory. That would be a very cool coincidence as well, eh?
I also got a touch of relief when I read what might be the coolest single parallel in MormonThink’s assault: “Kennedy had a secretary named ‘Lincoln.’ Lincoln had a secretary named ‘Kennedy.'” Feel that shiver? I sure did. This one is really impressive because it seems so unlikely, not rather mundane like having 7 letters in a surname (hey, me too!) or 3 names (me too, again!) or coming from the south (I used to live in Atlanta!) or studying law (patent law for me!) or being elected president (yes, I was Deacon’s President!) in one of the elections that occur only every four years. It’s unusual because the name Kennedy was not a big name in the US in Lincoln’s day. The mass migration of impoverished Irish families was underway, and the famous Kennedy family that would eventually give us a Kennedy in the White House had just landed in the US in 1854. Immigrants new to the US aren’t likely to be serving as trusted staff to the President just a few years later, so that would be remarkable — if it were true. Unfortunately, there’s no record of any Kennedy serving President Lincoln as a secretary. (Snopes.com takes on this claim and several others on the list.) Somebody slipped here, but that’s OK — it still seems truthy, even if not exactly accurate. Only a slight loss of momentum. But never mind. There are still MANY stunning coincidences. Even if some are fake and some are stretches and some are pretty mundane, what are the odds of finding so many coincidences like FORD’s theater and a car named FORD?? In my opinion, you just don’t expect coincidences like that (unless you look really hard and apply some serious creativity).
And now can you see what that means for the Book of Mormon and why all our evidences, especially our previous Arabian Peninsula evidences, don’t mean anything and aren’t actually evidence at all, just as MormonThink claims?
Not yet? Wow, you’re so hesitant. Let me help.
First, I may know what you’re thinking. You may be thinking something like this:
Hey, the whole issue of the Arabian Peninsula began as anti-Mormon evidence AGAINST the Book of Mormon. For years, the elite critics laughed and said there could be no such place as the River Laman because there are no rivers in the entire peninsula, and there could be no such place as Bountiful because it’s a big dessert without the lush green described for Bountiful, and if it did exist, it would be a major population center because water is the big attraction there, but the Book of Mormon implies there was nobody there but Lehi’s family. All impossible. And the whole idea of crossing the Peninsula is impossible. All ridiculous.
But then came evidence from Warren Aston, George Potter, and others, that completely overturned the “evidence” against the Book of Mormon. We now have remarkable and plausible candidates for each of the specific places mentioned in Lehi’s journey through Arabia, refuting what were one some of the most powerful arguments against the Book of Mormon. Surely that counts for something, right?
Here’s the painful answer, my friend: it counts for nothing. It all means nothing. The original evidence against the Book of Mormon meant a lot, but now that it’s apparently all “refuted” and “overturned” by new “evidence,” we need to realize that all this evidence — archaeological, geographical, whatever — isn’t evidence at all. It’s just coincidence, and because it’s coincidence, it doesn’t count. Evidence only counts when it supports the consensus of the majority, namely, that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. All other “evidence” is COINCIDENCE, or maybe better, COINCIDEVIDENCE, no matter how cool you think it is.
Remember, evidence from anti-Mormons is very serious. No rivers in Arabia, no unpopulated freshwater lagoons with abundant fruit, no place Shazer, no place Nahom, no eastward path to reach Bountiful from the nonexistent Nahom, it’s all impossible and ridiculous, and so we should abandon the Book of Mormon as a fraud and quit paying tithing to the wrong church. But when that old evidence is completely overturned with unexpected new “evidence,” it’s really nothing at all — because FORD was a car and a theater, and Lincoln and Kennedy were both captains or at least Presidents that might remind poets of a captain, and on and on …. because wild coincidences can be found when you look for them, even if you have to make a few up every now and then. So all Book of Mormon evidence, usually found by people looking for it, can be disregarded, meaning the old evidence against the Book of Mormon still stands! The logic is powerful, irresistible, and so easy!
Now the slower to disbelieve among you may be saying, “Hold on! In Arabia, none of the evidence is related to random parallels like those dug up between Lincoln and Kennedy. The evidence comes from taking up the challenge of critics who said there was no such place as Bountiful or the River Laman, and then doing field work based in specific criteria or looking at discoveries of archaeologists, etc., to see if there was something plausible in the right place. The Lincoln-Kennedy parallels don’t answer any questions or give us any predictive theory to test. There’s no reason to consider counting letters or scanning the hundreds or thousands of factoids that someone to come up with the purported parallels. For the Book of Mormon, we have meaningful methodology and much more specific issues….” Cognitive dissonance, eh?
Please, you’re only making things worse. Let go. If you deny the irresistible logical force from MormonThink, you’re denying science and truth itself. The ultimate weapon has been unleashed and the end of everything we once held dear has come. All because someone finally figured out the truth: Kennedy’s name has seven letters, and so did Lincoln’s, and so does mine, etc. It’s all over. O Captain Moroni, my Captain, farewell!
Update, March 30, 2022: Also see “Debunking the ‘Lincoln — Kennedy Similarities Myth,” History of Yesterday, April 7, 2021, https://historyofyesterday.com/debunking-the-lincoln-kennedy-similarities-myth-68d515e4fa54.
40 thoughts on ““O Captain, My Captain”: Walt Whitman’s Surprising Role in the Ultimate Refutation of All Book of Mormon Evidence”
The perfect retort was left here and it was deleted.
Sign of a guilty conscience.
Really? I deleted two inappropriate comments, per my stated policies. One gave a link to an anti-Mormon site without engaging in any meaningful way to the content of my post, and the other struck me as an inappropriate insult rather than the civil dialog I encourage. Both were anonymous, which only furthers lowers their value as comments, but is not a sufficient reason on its own for deletion since I do usually allow anonymous comments in the interest of promoting meaningful dialog, though I wonder if that's a mistake.
It was late and I was in a hurry, so I may have missed a gem of wisdom in your retort. Share it appropriately and maybe it will survive.
And the frustrated guilty conscience tries to justified itself.
Honestly, I don't see how claiming that I feel guilty about deleting an insult does anything to prop up the MormonThink fallacy of "Kennedy's name has 7 letters…" as the ultimate argument against all Book of Mormon evidence. It seems a little off topic, in fact. But thanks for your opinion.
And it's not that I'm opposed to attempted mind reading — I usually try it myself whenever a politician speaks — but it's not all that interesting, especially when I know it's wrong. "You're thinking of the number 7." "Sorry, it was 4." "No, I know you were thinking of 7." "It was 4. Can we move on now?" "No, it was 7." Tedious.
Jeff's new definition of insult: anything he is incapable of retorting.
Jeff, you know there's something very easy you can do about the anonymous comments, right? Right?
If the response was all that perfect, it wouldn't hurt to a) copy and paste the relevant passages or at least SOMETHING to introduce the link, or b) rephrase the comment so that it could not be mistaken for being offensive.
Leaves of Grass validates MormonThink’s observation. jeff’s theory, that it comes to the rescue, is just more of his emotional ramble of “logic bombs” and mythical “elite teams” of critics most all readers have never heard of. Many, many LDS do not find Jeff’s connections, meaning Jeff’s emotional outburst of ad hominem has him lumping in his fellow LDS as anti-Mormon. Sighhh….
Jeff, you missed the crucial parallel that Lincoln & Kennedy were not merely captains of the ship of state, but that Lincoln had in fact been a captain of the Illinois Militia during the Blackhawk War. That is proof positive that everything is ever and always merely coincidental. QED
Robert – The example is one of the more tenuous ones MormonThink offered to parody and demonstrate the absurd extremes of parallelism and connection creation. By repeating it, you appear to be agreeing with MormonThink.
Mainstream LDS find the NHM thing cute and of entertainment value. Jeff’s need to excommunicate members who find little value in his crackpot theories, by labeling them ant-Mormon, shows his abusive nature and how he struggle’s to obtain a testimony of the gospel. No one is calling for Jeff’s excommunication, just inviting him to come closer to Christ and abandon his unrighteous dominion of self declaring LDS excommunicated.
To Anonymous, 3:17 AM, March 23, 2022,
Microagressions and parody aside, it would be nice to have a sincere discussion of something substantive sometime.
To Robert – You are clearly at the wrong venue … if that is sincerely what you were looking for.
You pick the venue, good buddy.
A masterpiece. Thank you Jeff…I loved this gem! Keep up the good (great) work.
Robert – There you go again with what you self describe as microagreesions and insincerity, It is now obvious that your stated fustration is due to neither venue or other people, but entirely of your own creation. Take personal responsibility for who are, buddy, instead of blaming others.
To Anonymous 12:00 AM March 24, 2022.
Thanks for the advice.
Let me know if you ever decide to get serious.
There you go again with your microagressions. Your inability to forumulate effective responses to rational, serious, and substantive dialogue is not someone's else inabiliy to be serious.
Your stated fustration was: "it would be nice to have a sincere discussion of something substantive sometime." The internet is not the nascent small thing it was 20 years ago, it has more content than you could view in a 1000 life times. If you need someone to point you to substance, you are the problem, not the universe.
Here you were with a choice to make, to continue blaming everything and everyone else for your fustrations, or take personal reponsibility. You chose the first. With every data point you provide we learn more and more about type of person you are chosing to be.
Asking for a meaningful reply to the content of a post makes Bob Smith a bad person? Huh?
Jeff – There you go again playing dumb and strawman. Falsely accusing someone does make a Bob Smith a baad person. Duh. When will you get serous?
Robert – To be clear, here is what you will need to do to begin serious dialogue.
1. Recognize Your 6:26 AM, March 22, 2022 was a strawman argument. MormonThink never said everything is coincidence. You provide us a great object case. Despite your immediate use of strawmen and ad hominem, you complain someone else is not being serious, but never state the criteria for being serious. In your linguistical world, you alone decide what is serious. Whereas, here I am placing certain criteria for seriousness. In Jeff’s case this would be self declaring some wadi a river, something one wouldn’t think his mythical elite team of critics would agree with, but hey when you alone get to decide … this a common theme for Jeff, he constantly asserts prophets, seers, and revelators were acting as men and not in their role when they taught what the Book of Mormon narrative is, asserting they were ones not using his correct and careful reading of the book. This also matches what MormonThink observation of a posteriori. Jeff has to change the original interpretations to maintain something from the original.
2. Abandon your ad hominem ways. Your opening salvo was a strawman then complaining the person who points it out to you is not being serious is ad hominem. For Jeff to be serious, he will need to quit calling his fellow LDS anti-Mormon and apologize for ever doing it.
Congressman Ignatius Donnelly had a massive tome of evidence at that the natives of the New World were descendants of the City Evidence. Ignatius’s list of evidence rivals Jeff’s. No serious group of academics finds validity in Ignatius’ antiquated theories. This has been pointed out endlessly, but as you observe, Jeff is not interested in being serious and has never offered a retort.
It is incumbent on those asserting connection to demonstrate what they are doing is not what Ignatius Donnelly was doing or what Jeff admits is even a problem even with Leaves of Grass. The mere fact Jeff asserts Leaves of Grass comes to the “rescue” (a little dramatic?), is a sign he is not being serious, because he is clearly smart enough to know it is yet another example of parallelism.
All wind and no sails.
It is unfortuate you chose to soil the Church your sub-culture of hate.
Let me know if you ever decide to get serious.
I did, but you rebuffed me and then went into your looking-glass
Funny, I said something similar to you
This thread is full of people telling their reflection it went through the looking glass.
Overall, the Lindsay team capitulates.
People? Huh? Capitulates? HUH!?!
This is a fun descent into utter madness.
Hard to descend to a place it started … emotional rambles of "nuclear-grade argument" and "logic bombs" … but yes, team Lindsay's inability to have meaningful serious discussion of the MormonThink article was fun to watch.
Anon @1:03, HUH?!
Anon @5:56, Yup.
“Even their cumulative weight is counterbalanced by what appear to be striking intrusions into the Book of Mormon text of anachronisms, 19th-century parallels, and elements that appear to many scholars to be historically implausible and inconsistent with what is known about ancient American cultures.” -Terryl L. Givens
"It's just…you know, if you take a long enough list of place names, you'll find parallels, especially if you're "loosy-goosy" about it. You'll find parallels with just about anything. This is easily done." -Daniel C. Peterson
"This claim, like many efforts to explain away the Book of Mormon, commits the logical fallacy of the Appeal to probability. This fallacy argues that because something is even remotely possible, it must be true." – Fairmormon
It's surprising to see so many people taking the MormonThink piece so seriously, and claiming that I have failed to deal with it, as if there is profound depth that should take volumes of analysis to attempt a refutation. As physicist David Deutsch explains in his popular and excellent book, The Beginning of Infinity (NY: Penguin Books, 2011), "the overwhelming majority of false theories can be rejected out of hand without any experiment, simply for being bad explanations" (p. 15). A good theory should not only be testable and fit observed phenomena, but should have explanatory power that can lead to new insights. The theory that the Kennedy-Lincoln coincidences can tell us something meaningful about apparent Book of Mormon evidences is so bad, so unrelated and inapplicable to the facts, and so devoid of explanatory power on its face that it is in the same league as the ancient Greek theory for the cause of winter involving the gods Hades, Persephone, and her mother Demeter, with the cool of winter being caused by Demeter's command when she became sad by Persephone's absence when she was required to visit Hades every year. The Greek theory of "the gods did it" can seem to fit the data (yep, gets cold every winter, consistent with Demeter being sad this time of year), but offers nothing to advance knowledge.
Mormonthink's Lincoln-Kennedy revelation about the mighty works of the gods of chance doesn't even attempt to explain anything about Lincoln and Kennedy, and thus cannot predict about either of them or anybody else. With firm faith in the Lincoln-Kennedy scroll, what can we say about the relationship between, say, Biden and Obama or any other presidents? Yes, odd coincidences can happen. If you sort through a mountain of random facts, you can find coincidences. But they have utterly failed to demonstrate that this has anything to do with the Arabian Peninsula evidence. In fact, it's clear that the argument is unrelated to the argument at hand. The argument began as "The Book of Mormon is false because there simply is not and cannot be any place like the River Laman or any place like Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula." The issue is not whether you can find a random river in a valley anywhere, or whether you can find someplace on a map anywhere in the world with the letters NHM. It was about the existence of a seemingly impossible place in a very specific part of the world. Is it there or not? The field work led to brilliant candidates for both of these places, the Valley Laman and Bountiful, in plausible locations, each with noteworthy explanatory power and compliance with numerous details in the text. This does not prove the Book of Mormon to be true or show that Jesus is the Christ. But it does adequately refute the claim that the evidence shows no such places could exist. The new evidence overturns a long-standing claim against the Book of Mormon, and thus must be considered as evidence for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon.
MormonThink's claim in response is that this evidence for plausibility is not evidence at all — absolutely zero evidence — because Lincoln was a captain of a ship, and so was Kennedy, and Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, etc. Dear readers, MormonThink has given us a beautiful example of a self-refuting argument, an argument so unrelated to the issues at hand, so silly, so obviously fallacious, so devoid of explanatory power, that it needs no formal refutation. Do we also need to write a detailed essay explaining why Persephone's annual visits to Hades don't adequately fit global climate data?
I have gone the extra mile in pointing out why the finds in Arabia are entirely adequate to refute the claims of critics about Arabia and the Book of Mormon, why the MormonThink "gods of chance" argument from Kennedy and Lincoln is irrelevant details of the data from Arabia, and the silliness of relying on several made-up "facts" to make the mighty works of the gods of chance seem more impressive than they are. But there was no need for me to do anything. MormonThink's "refutation" of ALL Book of Mormon evidence is unscientific, illogical, lazy, and obviously flawed. It needs no formal response, and yet many who identify as highly educated people fell for it and thought it was impressive, and continue to chide me not take taking such silliness more seriously. I can now see why anonymity is so important to the folks at Mormonthink and their allies here. Seriously, the Lincoln-Kennedy scroll has no relationship to the issues at hand. There's nothing there to respond to. The issue is not whether words with N-H-M can be found in, say, the name of a ditch in Mozambique. What does that explain about the complex and rich Nahom evidence, the Bountiful evidence, the Shazer evidence, or the River Laman evidence? Your faith in the gods of chance is impressive, but misplaced.
MormonThink offers a theory that is essentially "the gods of chance did it." The critics for years said there was no possibility of there being a place like the Valley of Laman with the River Laman because there are no rivers in the relevant part of the world that could fit the Book of Mormon. When fieldwork provided a previously unknown (to the West) example of a valley and a continually flowing stream that seems to fit every detail one can extract from the Book of Mormon, the MormonThink response is "that's not evidence at all — it's just a coincidence" — courtesy of the gods of chance. So there are two competing theories: the River Laman at Wadi Tayyib Al Ism in Tabuk Province, brilliantly fitting many Book of Mormon details and previously said to be utterly impossible and proof that the Book of Mormon is false, now is either (1) the result of mere coincidence since Lincoln has 7 letters in his name, etc., as the gods of chance have revealed in the sacred Lincoln-Kennedy scroll or (2) possible evidence that the account in 1 Nephi 16 and 17 actually may have a basis in reality.
Theory 1, the Gods of Chance Theory, gives us nothing to test and no meaningful explanation for the origins of the Book of Mormon. It may comfort you, but it does not advance knowledge or give you useful tools for explaining Book of Mormon origins. Without a demonstration that the Arabian Peninsula evidence is analogous to the Lincoln-Kennedy methodology of mountain-sifting, even the idea of "coincidences happen" has no bearing on confirming the possibility that long-disputed "impossible" locations may actually exist.
Theory 2, however, leads to further avenues to pursue. If the proposed site is where Lehi's family dwelt, then how does the site fit with other details of the story? Is the distance compatible with the 3-days journey from the northern tip of the Red Sea? Yes, but only if traveled by camel. Does it fit the symbolism used by Lehi in a sermon alluding to the location? Yes, and we learn things about his meaning when that is considered. How about the detail of the departure from the site, where they were apparently camped on the north of the river and then simply walked across it and started going south-southeast to reach Shazer in four days. Can we further test the theory with that data? Yes, and all those details add meaning and insight to the story, as Warren Aston has shown in his fieldwork related to Shazer. The theory that at least part of Nephi's writings are historical leads to new knowledge and new issues to explore. It advances knowledge and has explanatory power.
Relying on the gods of chance, we can dismiss all such finds, from solid candidates for the River Laman to Bountiful and the hard archaeological finds at Nahom and the numerous issues that link it to the Book of Mormon account (relationship to the River Laman and Shazer as well as to Bountiful, for example), but that dismissive approach is without explanatory power. Without a good theory behind it, what stops us from using the "gods of chance" approach to dismissing all evidence of any kind that we don't like with the "gods of chance" bludgeon?
There Jeff goes again, deliberately misreading skeptical analysis, pretending MormonThink was specifically addressing Bountiful. MormonThink referenced NHM, chiasmus, and Lindsay’s https://www.jefflindsay.com/BMEvidences.shtml
“Some that have stirred a lot of interest are so-called “chiasmus” passages in the Book of Mormon and the finding of the consonants “NHM” on a stone in Yemen. The “NHM” inscription has been called “the strongest evidence yet” for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.Jeff Lindsay has a website with scores of “Book of Mormon Evidences.””http://www.mormonthink.com/coincidence.htm
Finding Nihm (NHM) and turing it into Nahom is exactly what MormonThink was addressing with Kennedy-Lincoln parallels, something Jeff pretends to not understand. Although no one knows of a critic who ever claimed the word Nahom could not exist in the Arabian peninsula, in Jeff’s typical sleight of hand he attempts to redirect the MormonThink analysis to some mythical critic who supposedly (according to Jeff) stated, “The Book of Mormon is false because there simply is not and cannot be any place like the River Laman or any place like Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula.”
I do not know of any skeptic or anyone who has ever heard any skeptic making such a weak argument. When challenged to produce evidence of such a skeptic, Jeff produced an evangelical who got a PhD in Biology who didn’t know Arabian people have been lumbering and producing Dhows for a very long time. When this evangelical’s brother in the US Air Force corrected him, the evangelical with a Biology degree then updated his online PDF. Despites Jeff’s insistence, exposing some random born-again’s poor understanding and research methodology does not constitute evidence of much of anything, anymore than exposing Jeff’s poor understanding of research methodology makes something false, other than Jeff’s reasoning.
After all this sleight of hand, Jeff then completely glosses over MormonThink’s explanation of the Birthday problem and a priori vice a posteriori. Finally, Jeff continues to ignore the fact Ignatius Donnelly, using the same techniques, produced evidence that the pre-Columbian New World populations descended from the fabled Lost City of Atlantis.
Contrary to Jeff’s sleight of hand, most skeptics actually believe the Book of Mormon narrative that the Arabian desert was in fact a desert and traversing it was not impossible, but extremely arduous, requiring miraculous intervention for those not born in it.
I once watch a documentary by supposed evangelicals claiming certain miracles of the Old and New Testament were actually plausible. It left me stratching my head, were they validating or were they debunking the Bible as natural events turned legend? Jeff leaves me scrathcing my head the same way? He openly rejects the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ official doctrine of a global flood, with Jeff dismissing it as a local and natural event. Non-Lindsayite Latter-day Saints accept the Book of Mormon narrative stating Lehi’s exodus was indeed implausible, but possible with miracuous help from supernatural devices such as the Liahona, favorable winds, manna style divine intervention, and lots of fantastic good luck.
In the end Jeff ultimately capitulates, agreeing with MormonThink, “This does not prove the Book of Mormon to be true”.
Humble in his arrogant attempts, Jeff finally resorted to famous fallacies,
Ad Hominem: “I can now see why anonymity is so important to the folks at Mormonthink and their allies here.”
Beauty In The Eye of the Behold 1. “the complex and rich Nahom evidence” “brilliantly fitting many Book of Mormon details”
Seriously, complex? rich? brilliantly fitting? Just like Ignatius Donnelly and Kennedy-Lincoln parallels?
“Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer: there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness.”
Yep. All Jeff can do is brandish words like "complex", "rich", and "brilliantly fitting" as if they have magical abracadabra power to conjure evidence into existence. No matter how well-intentioned his deliberately poor reasoning is, it paves a road to nothing and nothing is all he has.
The fact is, according to the Book of Mormon narrative, in the space of eight years the miraculous journey could have been anywhere from 50 to 1000 miles along the Red Sea and then "nearly" east according to the route the Liahona took them. According to the Book of Mormon narrative, eight years is enough time have ended anywhere from Doha to Aden. Hunting for random inscriptions in the great space in between is exactly the methodology describe by Kennedy-Lincoln parallels.
It is case closed, until Jeff finally decides to actually address the question of how his methodology is different from crackpot theories which draw connections to pre-Columbia civilizations and the fabled City of Atlantis.
Really nice article, Jeff. I appreciate your detailed response and even the “over-simplified” method of pointing out your obvious point so that there could be no misunderstanding. Very neatly and nicely done, and if anyone thinks it isn’t a valid response to the charge of “coincidence,” then they’re not going to listen to anything you refute anyway…