Possible Hebrew Wordplay in 2 Nephi 1:23?

(Taken from a post recently published at The Nauvoo Times.)

Recently in “The Strength of Moses,” I explored an interesting theory from Noel Reynolds about the relationship between the Book of Moses and the brass plates of Nephi. See “The Brass Plates Version of Genesis,” a chapter in By Study and Also by Faith, edited  by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990). Reynolds argues that  relationships between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses make more sense if at least some of the material in the Book of Moses were known to Nephi, as if something similar to the Book of Moses were on the brass plates.

Reynolds argues that relationship between the two texts is not just one of using a lot of the same terms and concepts in both, the way that would be natural if they had a common author. Rather, the relationship appears to be one-way: the Book of Mormon appears to rely upon content in the Book of Moses and not the other way around. Some incidents and passages are strongly enriched when we add knowledge from the Book of Moses, while there is no sign of the Book of Moses depending on information in the Book of Mormon. This is noteworthy because the Book of Moses was written well after the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon translation was primarily done from April to June of 1829, while the Book of Moses was given by revelation between June and December of 1830.

I’ll discuss a few of the examples Reynolds finds, introduce a couple of new ones, and point to a possible Hebraic wordplay in Nephi’s writings that I don’t think has been noted before. (I am uncertain, so I welcome feedback on this. If you know of relevant discussions on the verse in question, let me know.)

The Devil’s in the Details?

Reynolds introduces roughly 20 phrases or oncepts in the Book of Moses that might be sources for Book of Mormon material, though several of them can also be found in the Bible. Reynolds fairly observes the cases of possible biblical dependence, which only partially weakens the argument for a fraction of the cases considered.

My favorite example involves the description of Satan in the Book of Moses. Reynolds explains how one sentence in the Book of Moses appears to have been used in a variety of ways throughout the Book of Mormon:

One sentence from Moses seems to have spawned a whole family of formulaic references in the Book of Mormon: “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:4). This language is echoed precisely by both Lehi and Moroni, who, when mentioning the devil, add the stock qualification: “who is the father of all lies” (cf. 2 Nephi 2:18; Ether 8:25), while Jacob says the same thing in similar terms (2 Nephi 9:9). Incidentally, the descriptive term devil, which is used frequently to refer to Satan in both Moses and the Book of Mormon, does not occur at all in the Old Testament. New Testament occurrences do not reflect this context.

The Book of Mormon sometimes separates and sometimes combines the elements of this description of the devil from Moses and portrays Satan as one deliberately engaged in “deceiving the hearts of the people” and in “blinding their eyes” that he might “lead them away” (3 Nephi 2:2). Particularly striking is the repeated statement that the devil will lead those who do not hearken to the Lord’s voice “captive at his will” (Moses 4:4). In Alma we find that those who harden their hearts will receive “the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction” (Alma 12:11). Much later, Alma invokes the same phrasing to warn his son Corianton of the plight of the wicked who, “because of their own iniquity,” are “led captive by the will of the devil” (Alma 40:13). In the passage discussed above, Lehi taught his son Jacob that men “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, . . . or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that men might be miserable” (2 Nephi 2:27).

A remarkable passage in the first part of the Book of Mormon pulls all these book of Moses themes about Satan together—to describe someone else. The implication is unmistakable when Laman characterizes his brother Nephi as one who lies and who deceives our eyes, thinking to lead us away for the purpose of making himself “a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure” (1 Nephi 16:38). Laman insinuates that Nephi, who chastises his wayward brothers, is himself like the devil. And resistance against him is not only righteous, but required. This account has the added complexity that it is a speech of Laman, who is quoted here in a record written by the very brother he attacks. If we accept the possibility that this text is dependent on a passage in the ancient book of Moses, we then recognize a major new dimension of meaning, not only in Laman’s speech, but in Nephi’s decision to preserve the speech, thus showing his descendants, and any other readers familiar with the Moses text, the full nature of the confrontation between the brothers, as well as the injustice of the attacks he suffered. The full irony is revealed when we reflect on the facts reported in Nephi’s record and realize that Laman’s false accusation against Nephi is an accurate self-description.

That last paragraph is especially interesting to me, for we learn that Laman’s complaint about Nephi becomes more meaningful when we realize that he may be referring to a well known scriptural depiction of Satan that is not found in the Old Testament, but might have been on the brass plates. In this instance, the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses is one way.

The speech from Laman illustrates some of the reasons Reynolds gives for the one-way nature of the relationship between the two books

[I]t is clearly Moses that provides the unity and coherence to a host of scattered Book of Mormon references. It is the story of creation and subsequent events that supplies meaning to Book of Mormon language connecting (1) the transgression, fall, and death; (2) explaining the origins of human agency; (3) describing the character and modus operandi of Satan; (4) explaining the origins and character of secret combinations and the works of darkness—to mention only a few of the most obvious examples. The Book of Mormon is the derivative document. It shows a number of different authors borrowing from a common source as suited their particular needs—Lehi, Nephi, Benjamin, and Alma all used it frequently, drawing on its context to give added meaning to their own writings.

Perhaps most significantly, we have at hand a control document against which to check this hypothesis. A few years after receiving Moses, Joseph Smith translated an Abrahamic text. In spite of the fact that this new document contained versions of some of the same chapters of Genesis that are paralleled in the book of Moses, and in spite of the fact that the Book of Mormon has a large number of direct references to the Abraham, the person, detailed textual comparison demonstrates that this second document does not feature any of the phrases and concepts that have been reported above linking Moses to the Book of Mormon textual tradition. Nor does the distinctive, non-Old Testament phraseology of the book of Abraham show up in the Book of Mormon. The logic that would lead skeptics to conclude that these common concepts and expressions provide evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and the book of Moses runs aground on Abraham, as the skeptical hypothesis would seem to require a similar pattern there. But such a pattern is not even faintly detectable.

It is also impressive that most of the influence from the book of Moses in the Book of Mormon shows up early in the small plates and the writings of the first generation of Book of Mormon prophets—significantly, those who had custody and long-term, firsthand access to the brass plates. Many of the later passages that use book of Moses terminology and concepts tend to repeat earlier Nephite adaptations of the original materials.

One passage in the Book of Mormon that is not mentioned by Reynolds possibly uses three of the parallels he identifies. One is the description of Satan above. Another is the term “eternal life” in Moses 1:39. While this is found frequently in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, it is not used in the Old Testament. The third is the combination of “temporal” and “spiritual” in the Book of Moses, describing God’s creation. This passage comes from 1 Nephi 14:7:

For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other — either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.

Recall the key elements of Moses 4:4: “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:4).

The devil and related concepts of deception, blindness, and being delivered (led) into captivity are included here, as is “life eternal” (not mentioned by Reynolds since the words are reversed–he mentions that this phrase is first used in 2 Nephi, when now we can consider it present in 1 Nephi also) and “temporally and spiritually,” all with connections to the Book of Moses.

Along with the theme of the devil, one concept in the Book of Moses not mentioned by Reynolds that I also see in the Book of Mormon is the symbol of the chain. In Moses 7:26 and 7:56, Enoch sees Satan with a great chain, and we see that people are held captive in “chains of darkness” until the judgment day.

Chains and the captivity of Satan are themes in the Book of Mormon, but I was disappointed to not find “darkness” and “chains” used together in the text. But then I noticed 2 Nephi 1, Lehi’s speech to his sons, where 2 Nephi 1:23 may be relevant:

[21] And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;

[22] That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body.

[23] Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

[24] Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.

In verse 23, the Book of Moses link between chains and darkness is provided, though not verbatim. In the entry for obscurity in the 1828 dictionary of Noah Webster, the first definition listed for obscurity is “Darkness; want of light.” Ah, another link in the chain, so to speak.

In that verse, chains are contrasted with the armor of righteousness. Obscurity and dust are linked, and possibly contrasted with Nephi, “whose views have been glorious”–vision and glory (light) are in contrast with obscurity (darkness) and dust. The Hebrew word for dust, (H6083 in Strong’s Concordance) is  `aphar, which comes from H6080, the primitive root ʻâphar, “meaning either to be gray or perhaps rather to pulverize”. The gray aspect of this word would seem to go well with obscurity.

Obscurity and dust are both mentioned in Isaiah 29, a part of Isaiah that Nephi quotes heavily, so it is reasonable to assume that similar Hebrew words were used in Nephi’s statement.

Dust, therefore, is likely from Strong’s H6080, tied to H6083, which can invoke the concept of grayness.

The KJV word “obscurity” in Isaiah 28 is Strong’s H652:

ʼôphel, o’fel (from H651, ʼâphêl); meaning “dusk:—darkness, obscurity, privily,: while ʼâphêl is “from an unused root meaning to set as the sun; dusky:—very dark.”

So “obscurity” could be ôphel/ʼâphêl, while “dust” is probably from ʻâphar. To me, those sound similar and looks like a potential wordplay that I don’t think has been noted. Is this legitimate? I’m not sure–Hebrew scholars, your feedback is welcome. But to me, it adds to the parallelism and poetry of Lehi’s words, in a passage that appears to draw from Isaiah 52 and, perhaps, a touch of the Book of Moses or related content on the brass plates.

David Bokovoy discusses Lehi’s beautiful speech to his sons and its relationship to Isaiah 52, where Israel is urged to rise from the dust. He notes that a previous scholar explored relationship between dust and obscurity, finding that Old Testament references to both may be referring to a theme of exaltation or enthronement. Very interesting possibilities. I’d also suggest that Lehi’s speech, including its continuation in 2 Nephi 2, gains further meaning and power when we consider Job 19 as an inspiration, especially the part about his rejection by his family, followed by the proclamation about the Redeemer who in the latter days will stand upon the earth. That phrase can also be interpreted as “rise from the dust.” More on that next time!

Reynolds thesis about the relationship between two books of LDS scripture and the its implications for the brass plates, if his argument proves to have merit, could really shake up a lot of assumptions about the origins of the Book of Moses and the origins of the Bible. It would be important information to consider to radically revise some aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis, for example.

What Reynolds is doing with the Book of Moses and passages in the Book of Mormon is similar to what scholars have done for many decades to pick upon sources and influences for biblical texts. This is something I’m beginning to explore, and will share more later.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

65 thoughts on “Possible Hebrew Wordplay in 2 Nephi 1:23?

  1. Maybe I've missed something here, but it seems to me every one of these points can be accounted for by assuming that the same 19th-century author wrote both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses, and in doing so relied heavily on the Bible.

  2. Sure, that works if the Book of Moses came first, and then its themes were carefully woven into the Book of Mormon. The relationships are one way, as if the Book of Moses were first, but the strange thing is that it didn't get started until after the Book of Mormon was complete, and after Joseph bought a Bible on Oct. 8, 1829.

  3. The main point in this post, though, is the proposal that we might have a Hebrew wordplay built into 2 Nephi 1:23. That's what I'd like feedback on, and I don't see how Joseph would do that deliberately by looking at the Bible without knowing at least a little Hebrew. Was this a lucky accident? But first is it a legit wordplay?

    I'm trying to track down Walter Bruggeman's 1972 article, "From Dust to Kingship," Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. Volume 84, Issue 1, Pages 1–18. Difficult to access from my perch here. If any of you can help me find it, that would be awesome. It's information about the ancient theme of rising from the dust could help shed some light on the Book of Mormon's usage of this concept. I am especially curious to see if he discussed wordplays related to dust. Or if any of you know of related scholarship I should consider, I would appreciate your help.

  4. "After the Book of Mormon was complete and after Joseph bought a Bible on Oct. 8, 1829"

    Cmon Jeff, you know that the added italicized words unique to the KJV showing up in the BoM prove Smith copied from a KJV Bible when writing the BoM. You've admitted in the past that it's a problem and wished it didn't exist. But it does exist. It's time to stop ignoring this truth and pretending otherwise

  5. ff: The view you have adopted is incomplete and inadequate. There are so many non-italics changes — and some of them are substantive — that there is much more to the story than mere copying. Take 2 Nephi 7:2 [ Isaiah 50:2 ]. There's a Septuagint reading with modification in the BoM. See e.g. the 1844 Brenton version, volume 2, page 725. There's the Coverdale or Septuagint reading in relation to the Tarshish passage. There are at least three 1611 readings, and not 1769 readings, in the BoM. If you want to go the KJB copying route, then you must confront much more data than italics in order to make an honest comparison and conclusions that are close to legitimate. All the data tells one that if JSJr consulted a Bible, then he needed four or five versions to do the job. Who has done a thorough analysis of Isaiah in relation to the earliest text, the critical text? No one. I think Skousen will publish on this in a year or so. Before that time, all such arguments and analyses are suspect.

  6. Jeff, you state that we might have a Hebrew wordplay built into 2 Nephi 1:23…. That's what I'd like feedback on…. Was this a lucky accident?

    Most likely yes, this was a "lucky accident." But that's not really the right term for it. You mark yourself as an amateur by using phrases like "lucky accident" to describe what is better thought of as a methodological artifact. The question is not whether Joseph Smith got lucky, it's whether you are using an analytic method that all but guarantees the production of false positives (which then go on to be touted by the faithful whom you are misleading as "bull's eyes" and the like).

    I cannot stress this enough, Jeff: You really, really, really need to think harder about your methodology. Not just you, but the entire apologetics community. That community has utterly failed to deal professionally with its methodology problems — and this is true even of members who know better, like Stanford Carmack — and until it does the outside world can only laugh at a lot of its work.

    The relationships are one way, as if the Book of Moses were first, but the strange thing is that it didn't get started until after the Book of Mormon was complete…

    But so what? Doesn't the same thing happen whenever a modern author writes a prequel?

    … and after Joseph bought a Bible on Oct. 8, 1829.

    Jeff, someone has to be honest here and tell you that your repetition of this irrelevancy makes you look foolish. You don't need to own a Bible to know the Bible inside and out. I didn't buy my own copy of the Bible until I was in my 30s, but I knew it very well long before then. I'd been reading and discussing it since my teens, and hearing it read to me since I was an infant — and I didn't even live in the intensely religious culture of JS's Burned-Over District. To cite this purchase date in support of an argument that "JS couldn't have done it" is just plain silly. It makes you look really, really, silly.

    When, oh when, are you going to get serious enough to think outside of the Mormon-apologetics box?

    What Reynolds is doing with the Book of Moses and passages in the Book of Mormon is similar to what scholars have done for many decades to pick up on sources and influences for biblical texts.

    Similar in superficial ways, but not in any important way. What scholars have been doing for decades is something you are not and never will be doing, namely, working with LDS scriptures in their original/ancient languages. No reputable scholar would even think of analyzing biblical sources and influences through the use of English translations alone. That's why real biblical scholars learn Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. But when it comes to the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and Book of Abraham, English translations are all we have.

  7. Anon 10:09, the (obvious) fact that Joseph Smith copied occasionally from the KJV doesn't mean that direct copying was the only way that the KJV served as a source for him.

    Growing up when and where he did, JS would himself have read extensively in the KJV. He would also have heard the KJV read to him and have heard it quoted extensively and repeatedly in sermons. Not all of these encounters would have involved the 1769 version. Not all of them would be remembered verbatim, either, so the mere fact that the BoM sometimes deviates a bit from the KJV is not the least bit surprising.

    The KJV was the single most widely read and discussed text in early 19th-century New England. There's no disputing the fact that JS was exposed in various ways to its phrases and passages, and its basic rhythms and patterns, in a variety of versions (1769 and otherwise). The young JS would have been at least as familiar with the KJV as today's young people are with Harry Potter or whatever they're into nowadays.

    By far the most probable explanation for the Book of Mormon is that it was written in the 1820s. None of these supposed textual complexities the apologists keep ginning up suggest otherwise.

    I'm not stupid, Anon, and I'm not simply being stubborn. Ditto for the rest of us gentiles who find your arguments so ridiculous. Believe in the BoM on the basis of faith if you must — but trying to validate it via evidence and logic is a lost cause. You just don't have the goods.

  8. I see posts like this one about wordplay and vague connections. I get the same feeling I get watching "documentaries" about Bigfoot on the Sci-Fi Channel. Or Ghost Hunters, for instance. The ghosts are always seen out of the corners of people's eyes. The sounds are always ambiguous enough to be anything other than a ghost, but everyone involved is sure it is a ghost. Yet, an entire show (and profession, apparently) is built up around these "almosts." Why don't ghosts just stand right in front of people and stomp their feet for once?

    The expression "…forth out of obsurity" shows up again and again in religious writings in the years before the publication of the Book of Mormon. In a series of Discourses by Elias Hicks. In a book called The Book of Wonders Revealed to George Turner, Man of God. Also, in Volume 3 of the Berean. Also in works by Quakers of the time period. All before 1829. It was a stock phrase of 19th Century Christianity.

    The phrase does not show up in the Bible. In Isaiah, the word "obscurity" appears in the KJV, but not "…forth out of obscurity." Which is how it appears in these 19th Century sources, and the Book of Mormon.

    In a collection of the Works of John Bunyan from 1806, We have the Devil both "blinding their eyes," and then they are "led away" with "very hardened and senseless heart" to their "eternal destruction." All in one sentence.

    1806. Sorry…the Book of Mormon is a 19th Century work.

  9. So it seems, OK, that you think it plausible that various biblical readings, from various Bibles, were available to JSJr, and he was capable of recall, from his 19c biblical culture. He didn't need to consult any particular Bibles for the dictation beyond the KJV, since he had heard them in his environment. He'd heard obscure Coverdale readings, LXX readings, D-R readings, Bishop's Bible readings, Geneva Bible readings, and then he incorporated them in the dictation, matching bits and pieces here and there. Is that how you view it?

  10. It is always curious to me to compare the fair-minded, appropriately patient, approach of Jeff (wanting to hear from experts in the field, questioning whether what he has found is legitimate, etc.) with the close-minded, dogmatic approach to some of his critics (certain of their conclusions, dismissive of evidence [even when they clearly didn't engage the arguments], etc.).

    Aren't the believers supposed to be closed minded and dogmatic, and the non-believers supposed to be open to new information, patient, and skeptical of their beliefs?

  11. Jonathan, in one important way it is Jeff who is being closed-minded. Despite my repeated requests, he has completely refused to get up to speed on the problems with his own methodology. He's never given the slightest indication that he understands the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. As far as I can see he's never consulted an expert about it. He just plows on and on, thinking he has "discovered" possible evidence when in fact he is simply manufacturing it.

    I respond to Jeff just as earnestly as he does to me.

    Everything: Yes. Now, of course, it's time for someone who totally misunderstands the workings of literary influence to say something silly about "Joseph's Frontier Library"….

    The ghosts are always seen out of the corners of people's eyes…. Yet, an entire show (and profession, apparently) is built up around these "almosts." Why don't ghosts just stand right in front of people and stomp their feet for once?

    Yes. Why is the evidence always so complicated and ambiguous? Why is it that so many of the so-called "witnesses" don't report seeing an actual stack of gold plates, but instead glimpse something hidden under a cloth, or heft a box with something heavy in it, or say they "saw" the plates with a spiritual eye? If the plates were real and Joseph had them, why would any of his close associates have to see them with a "spiritual eye"?

    Think about the extremely untrustworthy worldview we're dealing with here. The people who prefaced the Book of Mormon with the witness statements seem to be people who put stock in all of the eleven witnesses, including those who saw the plates only in a vision, that is, did not really see them at all. These are not trustworthy people. These are people not in the habit of differentiating between material sight and spiritual "vision" in the first place. To call them "witnesses" at all is an affront to reason.

    Anyway, we see this "out of the corner of the eye" phenomenon again and again. We can't examine the gold plates because the angel took them away. We can't read the original text because Joseph never transcribed it, or even made a pencil rubbing of a sample page. Darn. And when we do have a surviving original, e.g., the Book of Abraham papyri, we can't use it to settle the question of authenticity because, gosh darn it, maybe Joseph didn't actually translateit, per se, but just kind of looked at it and wrote down whatever popped into his mind.

    There's always something.

    There's always a convenient dodge. In one way this is an amazing testament to the "will to believe." In another way, it's laughable.

    I've come up with a name for this willingness to put one's trust in evidence that is always only glimpsed, that is seen always seen at the very edge of the field of vision, that is somehow always just around the corner — just one more Interpreter article away from finally being established once and for all — yet that never quite manages to become a plain and simple fact accessible to all of us. I call it the "bright elusive butterfly" approach to evidence. (See here).

    You might have heard my footsteps
    Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind
    I might have even called your name
    As I ran searching after something to believe in….
    Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
    It's only me pursuing somethin' I'm not sure of
    Across my dreams with nets of wonder
    I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love.

    There's something both beautiful and sad about watching the apologist, across his dreams, with nets of wonder, chasing the bright elusive butterfly of evidence. He just knows it's out there, and by golly some day he's gonna find it.

  12. Sorry, OK, but these musings apply to you. You're as much an apologist for one side as Jeff is for another side. You ignore various evidence, repeatedly bringing up what is superficially weaker evidence, while it is still part of the entirety of evidence, which is substantial, taken together, not easily dismissed, since there are many different kinds and types of co-substantiating witness testimony. Because you deny/ignore quite a bit of real evidence, you're in a dream world of your own making.

  13. Orbiting Kolob:

    Speaking as someone who is formally trained in both logic and rhetoric, it appears as you are the one that does not understand the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy. Typically the fallacy does not exist if the examiner has an expectation or hypothesis prior to examination of the data. In this article, Jeff states:

    "Along with the theme of the devil, one concept in the Book of Moses not mentioned by Reynolds that I also see in the Book of Mormon is the symbol of the chain. In Moses 7:26 and 7:56, Enoch sees Satan with a great chain, and we see that people are held captive in "chains of darkness" until the judgment day.

    Chains and the captivity of Satan are themes in the Book of Mormon, but I was disappointed to not find "darkness" and "chains" used together in the text."

    His hypothesis, then, is that because the Book of Mormon was written after Moses, the phrase chains of darkness should be referenced by Nephi et. al. His overarching belief in the Book of Mormon as scripture does not discount this hypothesis (nor does in by its existence equate to the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy) — an ex ante expectation makes the likelihood of the fallacy less rather than more likely.

    Then he continued with his discussion of obscurity. You may find what he has written less persuasive or more persuasive (that is the nature of inductive logic), but it is certainly not fallacious.

  14. As to your references to the witnesses — your "convenient dodge" argument — and the rest I find wholly unpersuasive. Among the fallacies contained in your argument:

    Argumentum ad Lapidem – "Jeff, someone has to be honest here and tell you that your repetition of this irrelevancy makes you look foolish."

    Argumentum ergo Decedo – "There's something both beautiful and sad about watching the apologist, across his dreams, with nets of wonder, chasing the bright elusive butterfly of evidence. He just knows it's out there, and by golly some day he's gonna find it."

    Fallacy of Composition – "The people who prefaced the Book of Mormon with the witness statements seem to be people who put stock in all of the eleven witnesses, including those who saw the plates only in a vision, that is, did not really see them at all."

    Regression Fallacy – "I've come up with a name for this willingness to put one's trust in evidence that is always only glimpsed, that is seen always seen at the very edge of the field of vision, that is somehow always just around the corner — just one more Interpreter article away from finally being established once and for all — yet that never quite manages to become a plain and simple fact accessible to all of us. I call it the "bright elusive butterfly" approach to evidence."

    Suppressed Evidence – "The ghosts are always seen out of the corners of people's eyes…. Yet, an entire show (and profession, apparently) is built up around these "almosts." Why don't ghosts just stand right in front of people and stomp their feet for once?

    Yes. Why is the evidence always so complicated and ambiguous? Why is it that so many of the so-called "witnesses" don't report seeing an actual stack of gold plates, but instead glimpse something hidden under a cloth, or heft a box with something heavy in it, or say they "saw" the plates with a spiritual eye? If the plates were real and Joseph had them, why would any of his close associates have to see them with a "spiritual eye"?"

    Tu Quoque Fallacy – "Jonathan, in one important way it is Jeff who is being closed-minded. Despite my repeated requests, he has completely refused to get up to speed on the problems with his own methodology. He's never given the slightest indication that he understands the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. As far as I can see he's never consulted an expert about it. He just plows on and on, thinking he has "discovered" possible evidence when in fact he is simply manufacturing it.

    I respond to Jeff just as earnestly as he does to me."

    And those are just the ones there were handy quotes for. Certainly Special Pleading could also be raised (in general we believe witnesses, but not these witnesses). Long story short — if you are going to live by the sword of logic and rhetoric, you had best be certain that you are using it correctly.

  15. "Sorry, OK, but these musings apply to you. You're as much an apologist for one side as Jeff is for another side. You ignore various evidence, repeatedly bringing up what is superficially weaker evidence, while it is still part of the entirety of evidence, which is substantial, taken together, not easily dismissed, since there are many different kinds and types of co-substantiating witness testimony. Because you deny/ignore quite a bit of real evidence, you're in a dream world of your own making."

    The burden of proof is on those who claim the Book of Mormon is true. Orbiting is not required to do your work for you. He, as a skeptic of your claim, is only required to take your evidence and determine if it holds water. This is what he does. He simply shows that your claims are not holding water.

    Maybe the apologists should stop making claims (especially if they are only willing to make these claims in friendly company, rather than in true scholarly circles) when they have the proof positive.

    That is the way it works. Wake us up when you really have something to show. Like the ruins of Zarahemla.

  16. Everythingbeforeus:

    "The burden of proof is on those who claim the Book of Mormon is true."

    Yes, this is true. And the burden of proof is on those who claim the Book of Mormon is false. Both are affirmative claims. Both bear the burden of proof.

    I have seen those who say that because you cannot prove the Book of Mormon true to my satisfaction, then that shows the Book of Mormon is false. They don't recognize that they have transitioned from responding to a positive claim to making a positive claim of their own. Once you assert the Book of Mormon is not true, you are making a positive claim and the onus rests on you to prove your case. Otherwise you engage in impermissible burden shifting.

    For example, in your earlier post you stated:

    "1806. Sorry…the Book of Mormon is a 19th Century work."

    This is a positive claim, and the burden is wholly on you to prove it true (including responding to all counterexamples and evidences). Forgive me if I take the position that you have been woefully unsuccessful in carrying that burden.

  17. In essence, it is a common example of arguing from ignorance (it cannot be proven true, and therefore must be false). To assist you in understanding this distinction (because it is a common mistake), I will present an example.

    Positive Premise:
    "The Book of Mormon is true."

    Evidence is presented.

    Negative Premise (the burden remains on the original premise):
    "You have not proved the Book of Mormon is true."

    In the alternative, many take the additional step of saying:

    Positive Premise:
    "You have not proved the Book of Mormon is true, therefore the Book of Mormon is not true."

    or

    "Based upon what I have read/seen/studied/etc., the Book of Mormon is not true."

    Both of these positive premises require the person who raises them to defend them — permissible burden shifting occurs and they must defend their assertion. If they fail to do so, it is perfectly reasonable to say (as I do to you and to Orbiting Kolob):

    Negative Premise:
    "You have not proved the Book of Mormon is false."

  18. Jonathan,

    Mostly what happens here is that those who accuse me of saying "stupid things" or speaking "blather" which is what I was recently accused of in another thread on this blog, fail to provide any evidence of the stupid things I have said or the blather I have spoken. I find it interesting that despite all the stupid, blathery things I do write, when I actually DO deal with the topic of Jeff's posts, as I did by presenting the John Bunyan material here, I get silence. No one has yet bothered to deal with it. Instead, there is a big discussion that follows trying to define the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy for Orbiting Kolob's sake.

    There is sufficient evidence to prove, at the very least, that the Book of Mormon is NOT what the Church has claimed it was all along. I don't think anyone can even authoritatively describe the actual process by which it was "translated." Did he use the plates? Did he not? Did he have spectacles? A special breastplate? Were these the Urim and Thummim? Was there also a seerstone? Or was the seerstone actually the Urim and Thummim? Loose translation? Tight translation? Did he ever learn any Reformed Eygptian? I was taught that he did. But now, I hear about this brown stone. What?

    Over the past five years, I have seen the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which was so clearly and confidently presented to me as a young child growing up and as a teenager preparing for a mission, completely unravel into a mess of competing narratives.

    How was the Bible translated into English? It was translated. People who read Greek and Hebrew took the Greek and Hebrew and turned it into English.

    How was the Book of Mormon translated? No one knows.

  19. Sigh… Jonathan, please read more carefully. Did I say that Texas Sharpshooter was the only problem with Jeff's arguments? No. Did I say it was the problem with his argument about Satan and chains? No. Yet you've assumed, completely without warrant, that I did so, thereby creating a strawman to torch.

    That's pretty sloppy — as is your "special pleading" accusation.

    Imagine a courtroom exchange like this, everyone:

    PROSECUTION WITNESS: I saw the accused stab the victim. I saw it with my own eyes.

    COUNSEL for the DEFENSE: Did you see it in the same way you see these papers I am holding up in my hand?

    PROSECUTION WITNESS: Well, um, no. Not exactly in, uh, the same way. But I saw it! I saw it with my spiritual eye, as one sees a city through a mountain!

    COUNSEL for the DEFENSE (choking back his laughter): Defense rests, your hon….

    COUNSEL for the PROSECUTION (jumping from his seat): Objection, your honor! Counsel is using a logical fallacy to cast unfair aspersions on my witness's testimony! A fallacy, I tell you, a fallacy!

    JUDGE: How's that? What fallacy?

    COUNSEL for the PROSECUTION: Special pleading, your honor. In general we believe witnesses, but not this witness….

    JUDGE (guffawing): Are you serious?

    Just to make it clear: special pleading means treating something as an exception to a usually accepted rule without adequately justifying that exception. If one does justify the exception — if one offers a good reason to treat a particular case as an exception — then it ain't special pleading.

    There are two ways of understanding why I didn't engage in special pleading in my treatment of the BoM witnesses:

    (1) By citing the witnesses' belief in "spiritual sight," I gave adequate justification for treating them as an exception. (See courtroom parody above.)

    (2) I did not make an exception to the generally accepted rule at all. Is there really a generally accepted rule that says In general we believe witnesses? Or is the generally accepted rule in fact this? — In general we don't accept witness testimony at face value but approach it carefully and critically. If this is in fact the rule, then I'm not calling for an exception. I'm just following the rule. (See Coutroom Procedure 101. See Historical Methodology 101. Watch Rashoman, fer cryin' out loud.)

    Jonathan, let me ask you this. Do you think Texas Sharpshooter is a problem with Carmack's EModE argument? Do you think Carmack started out with some plausible hypothesis predicting the presence of bits and pieces of EModE in the Book of Mormon?

    Or did Carmack see those bits and pieces because he was looking for any old apologetically useful thing he might find? (E.g., anything at all that might allow him to say, "Look at this everyone! This was not part of Joseph's linguistic milieu, so there's no way he could have written it!")

    Also: Do you have any interest in using your training to help apologists like Carmack improve their work?

  20. everythingbeforeus:

    I didn't deal with the John Bunyan material you presented because, quite frankly, it was a valid counterexample and there wasn't anything to complain about. There is value to that evidence. My approach to the material is that the translation process involved (necessarily) using language of the time. Your approach is, frankly, valid as well. We may disagree on the weight of your evidence or the importance of what was taught in Sunday School (as opposed to the organizational Church), but there is room for such disagreement.

    The problem in particular with your approach is that you take it too far. If you had said that you find what Jeff wrote unconvincing because of the evidence you presented, that would have been a fair argument (I might disagree with it, but again one of the joys of inductive reasoning always allows for reasonable disagreement). Where you jump the shark, in my opinion, is when you take that to form the conclusion that ""Sorry…the Book of Mormon is a 19th Century work." It simply doesn't follow, and you do not have the evidence marshaled to support that conclusion. You must admit that if Jeff had closed his article saying that the use of chains and obscurity proved the Book of Mormon was the word of God, you would be outraged (and, frankly, rightly so). What you miss is that you have done much the same thing. That being said, you are correct in your approach that what you presented was evidence — that's why I limited my response to you to the impermissible burden shifting that was taking place.

  21. Orbiting Kolob:
    No, you did not explicitly say you were applying the Texas Sharpshooter argument to Satan and chains. Yes, I did assume you were doing so. No, I did not make that assumption without warrant (it was the first argument you raised, and rereading it in the most favorable light to your position creates little doubt in my mind even now that you were applying it to this argument). No, I did not create a strawman to torch — the bulk of my response to you was in the misapplication to logic beyond the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

    Regarding your courtroom scene, you have conflated compositional fallacy with special pleading. The general rule is that witnesses who testify are more likely than not telling the truth, and barring a reason to disbelieve a particular witness we assume that witness (more likely than not) to be telling the truth. Otherwise, there would be no need for witnesses. (See over a decade of trial practice, lead attorney in over 100 trials, and having both seen and read Rashomon [for whatever little that is worth]). If you dispute the presumption that most people are more likely than not to be truthful, then any further conversation or argument irrevocably breaks down — both in trial and, frankly, in real life.

    Your special pleading, then, is this (if I can break down your argument for you):

    "Most people testify truthfully. A number of people testified that they received their testimony through spiritual eyes (we disagree on this premise, but I will concede it for the purposes of this argument). Therefore these other people who have not testified that they received this testimony through spiritual eyes, but rather testified that they received it through their natural eyes, should not be considered truthful."

    Do you see how this amounts to both a special pleading (against the general rule that witnesses testify truthfully) and fallacy of composition (claiming that because some people saw things through spiritual eyes others who claim to have seen through physical eyes are more suspect in their testimony). You cannot simply dismiss those who viewed with spiritual eyes — you must also account for those who refuted that they saw with spiritual eyes and insisted that they saw with physical eyes. Otherwise you are picking and choosing the evidence you want to deal with.

    Regarding Carmack, I admit ignorance on much of what he has written (and certainly on the origins of his theory). I would be happy to assist him (or anyone else, for that matter — though, of course, I don't presume he would need or want my help). But I will present this for argument — in most every theory of the translation process, words and phrases from Joseph Smith's linguistic milieu can be explained (with a tight translation — Lord speaking to Joseph in his language and according to his understanding vs. with a loose translation — Lord giving concepts with Joseph putting those concepts into words vs. somewhere on the continuum or a hybrid approach).

    In my opinion, it would be very difficult to disprove the Book of Mormon based upon linguistic pieces consistent with the early 1800s. But there is, again in my opinion, considerable evidentiary weight to any language that is not consistent with that time period (or the linguistic milieu of the King James Bible, assuming the argument Joseph drew from that source). This evidence would seem to demand an explanation for its source (assuming that the evidence was legitimate, which — as I said — I lack sufficient understanding to speak on).

  22. "My approach to the material is that the translation process involved (necessarily) using language of the time."

    This is not sufficient. It is not the language that is similar. There are Christian concepts that are not found in Jewish scripture, but which can be traced into European Christianity, that show up in the Book of Mormon, too. I've done a fair amount of research on this.

    'Satisfied the demands of justice' is not found in the Bible. But it does come out of the Middle Ages. It is the Satisfaction Theory of the Atonement.

    The expression "plain and precious truth" is found in 19th Century works. "True and living church" is found in the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg.

    I could go on. And on. And on.

    There is even 19th Century writing that declares infant baptism an abomination, and a "mockery."

  23. everythingbeforeus:

    I don't have too much to criticize in what you wrote, but I do want to share with you another perspective that may explain why I find what you wrote unpersuasive.

    2 Nephi 29:12 reads:
    "For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it."

    According to our doctrine (and this is the Lord being quoted by Nephi, so it is just about as serious as doctrine gets), the Lord talks with ALL people. So the fact that there are Gospel truths not found in the ancient Church which are found in the Medieval Church or the 19th Century Reformation movement is not something that gives me much heartburn. After all, the Lord can (and, doctrinally, did) continue revealing to all those who sought Him out (c.f. 2 Nephi 26:13).

    For that reason, I weight things found in the ancient Church (but not in the things in Joseph Smith's day and age) as far more convincing to me than the existence of things modern that are not found in the ancient Church. I can understand why, assuming your argument in toto, the True and living church is still used even with my understanding of both linguistic and theological development. It is much harder, however, to explain those elements of the ancient Church that were Restored by Joseph Smith that were not found in the theological world in which he lived.

    Put another way, showing me fifty things that were pulled from times after the Apostasy, and I can fit those into my worldview (even as mistakes from an imperfect Joseph Smith, though I think that is far less common than we like to think). But five things from the ancient Church, lost to time, but Restored makes for a much harder thing to fit into your worldview (from my perspective).

    Again, no criticism in what you wrote at 5:02, just an explanation as to why I find it unpersuasive.

  24. Jonathan,

    I like where this discussion is going. Show me five things found in the ancient church, lost to time, but later restored. I want to see strong evidence for their existence in the ancient church. For instance, the solitary Corinthian verse about baptism for the dead doesn't cut it. Paul is not owning the practice. And there are other valid explanations for what he was trying to say.

    I want clear cut evidence of five ancient practices lost and then restored.

  25. everythingbeforeus:

    Be careful again in recognizing the difference between unpersuasive and invalid. "For instance, the solitary Corinthian verse about baptism for the dead doesn't cut it." Doesn't persuade you, certainly. Doesn't cut it is more determinative than I think is justified.

    That being said, I am happy to provide you with examples persuasive to me (is there a reason you want them limited to practices? — from my perspective a restoration of a doctrine from the ancient Church is just as persuasive and we know far less about ancient religious practices than we do about restored doctrine making your request more difficult somewhat arbitrarily). But what I cannot do is provide them tonight — I am off for the rest of the evening with commitments. I will see what I can throw together for you tomorrow in response to your request.

  26. No, they don't have to be limited to practices. But I would find that far more convincing. And I assume that whatever evidence you provide will be from the ancient True Church, and not the Ancient Apostate Church. Because that is the deal. You said fifty things AFTER the apostasy are no problem for you, but that five things BEFORE the apostasy will be hard for me to fit into my worldview.

    So, show me a few things from BEFORE the apostasy that were later lost and then restored by Joseph Smith.

    Anything. Practices or doctrines, or whatever.

    See, the problem I see is proving that these things were lost. If they were lost, and restored, then will be no evidence of them before the apostasy. If there is evidence, then they weren't lost, and it is very likely that Joseph Smith didn't restore them at all. He just borrowed them.

    You'll also have to determine the date that separates the truth ancient church from the apostate ancient church. The church has made not statement on this.

    So…I am eager to see what you present.

  27. But Jonathan, there is no general rule that people testify truthfully. That's why we have cross-examination in courtrooms, and why historians must carefully and critically examine their sources. People lie all the time. People fool themselves into sincerely believing falsehoods all the time. Our brains did not evolve primarily for the logical derivation of and rigid adherence to empirical truth, but rather to serve other ends. We are social animals, we crave the approval of our fellows, we generally benefit from group cohesion, etc., and our brains routinely function to facilitate these sorts of ends. We naturally tend to engage in groupthink, to agree with those around us. This is routine. It happens all the time. And we do not always "testify" as individuals; generally we do so as part of social networks that we value, in relationship with people we want to please, etc., etc. (Just look at the tremendous social pressure bearing down on young people in church when they are expected to testify. One can hardly imagine a worse setup for producing truth.)

    What I'm getting at here is that there are indeed very good reasons to be suspicious of the testimonies of the BoM witnesses, even those who didn't explicitly cop to seeing with a "spiritual eye." There are still plenty of reasons to doubt their statements. And sorry, but no, this is not "guilt by association," it's an eminently justified heightened scrutiny applied to members of a group that exerts certain kinds of distorting social pressures and permits certain kinds of truth-bending. If someone says "I saw that black man raping that white woman, yesirree, saw it plain as day, now excuse me because I'm late to the Ku Klux Klan meeting and it's my turn to light the cross," you're darned right I'm going to subject his testimony to heightened scrutiny, and I'll bet even you would hesitate before accusing me of guilt-by-association, or cite some "general rule that people testify truthfully." Your comments are all predicated on some vision of human nature and social interaction that are decidedly at odds with reality. Your invocations of formal logic make about as much sense here as using a micrometer to measure the width of a sea slug.

  28. The arguments presented that the Book of Mormnn depends on the Book of Moses, rather than each coming from a common author, are specious and fallacious, but there's no need to address them individually because the entire case falls apart considering the story of Sherem in Jacob 7. Sherem claims that the Nephites perverted the law of Moses by making it about the worship of Jesus Christ. The Nephites' source of knowledge about the law of Moses was the brass plates (1 Nephi 4:15). If the book of Moses had been contained in the brass plates, there would have been no wiggle room for Sherem to make his claim because it explicitly predicts Jesus Christ, even mentioning his name several times, and explains that animal sacrifice is performed in "similitude" of the sacrifice of God's son. Jacob does respond to Sherem's arguments by claiming that "all" of the prophets testify of Christ, but he can't be referring to the clarity of prophecy contained in Moses, or there would have been no room for debate. Rather, he would have to be referring to a clarity of prophecy contained in the Old Testament as referenced by Matthew in several places, where he claims the prophets are predicting Christ, but in order to see that, you have to already believe in Christ and assume that they prophecy about him. If the brass plates contained the clear prophecies about Christ seen in the book of Moses, Sherem would have had no motivation to make his case no plausibility with his audience.

    Another problem with the claim that Moses is contained in the brass plates can be seen in 2 Nephi 10:3. Jacob wouldn't have needed an angel to tell him the name of Christ or to explain how he knows the name because it was already mentioned several times in the Book of Moses.

    While we're on the subject, it would have been impossible for the Nephites to keep the law of Moses if apologists are correct about limited geography and millions of pre-existing native Americans. They couldn't keep the law because there were no sheep or goats, no olive oil, and no Levites. If the small plates of Nephi were really concerned with the people's spiritual history, they would explain how the Nephites resolved these problems in order to keep the law. Also, the problem of whether the gentile native Americans with whom the Nephites allegedly mingle their seed should adopt circumcision would have been just as big a deal in the Book of Mormon as it was in the New Testament.

  29. everythingbeforeus:
    Thanks for your patience with this. Before I begin, a couple of ground rules to avoid future conflict on this. First, I do not believe (or claim) that any of these evidences "prove" the Gospel is true — your post of 6:52 indicates to me that you are still in the proving mindset. Understand that inductive logic, which is all that we have to deal with when we are talking about the past, is about persuasiveness and weight. You fundamentally cannot prove to me what you had for dinner last night. Logic simply doesn't workt that way. What I claim is that these things are persuasive to me — your mileage may vary. If you are expecting me to present something that drags you kicking and screaming into a belief in the Gospel, you will be disappointed — no such argument exists. Nor, to be fair, does any similar argument exist convincingly disproving the Church.

    I do not believe that it is possible to prove the Church either true or false. I state that both as a matter of logic (proving an inductive claim ['the Church is true' or 'the Church isn't true'] is so ridiculously difficult through logic as to be borderline impossible barring one minor exception) and as a matter of doctrine (I believe that our test here is far more effective if things are not proven to us).

    Second, I do not claim that this is comprehensive — it is deliberately limited to a single area of study (restoration of ancient doctrine and practices), and many of the principles that I believe are persuasive carry over into linguistic and other mechanisms for evaluating these claims.

    Third, you say "And I assume that whatever evidence you provide will be from the ancient True Church, and not the Ancient Apostate Church." "You'll also have to determine the date that separates the truth ancient church from the apostate ancient church. The church has made not statement on this." There is a presumption buried in this that I think should be directly discussed. The human experience indicates to me that the ancient Church didn't transition instantly (or at a date certain) from being "true" to being "apostate." It was a regression. Nibley's "The World and the Prophets" is a great historical primer on this. In my view (the one I believe and the one I defend in this post), the existence of a doctrine as part of the Church is 400 AD which by 1800 AD is lost or heretical remains a restoration that needs to be explained. How did Joseph Smith come so close to ancient ideas? Bloom claimed it was luck or daemon — I am unconvinced by both explanations.

    You mentioned in your post that "If they were lost, and restored, then will be no evidence of them before the apostasy. If there is evidence, then they weren't lost, and it is very likely that Joseph Smith didn't restore them at all. He just borrowed them." But there is a logical jump that you are making — you are assuming that he borrowed them. That is a positive claim, again, and the burden is on you to demonstrate it. So if everyone in the world believed (x), but there is one book in the back of the world that claims (y) (or buried with somewhere near the Dead Sea), and the ancient Church believed (y) and Joseph Smith taught (y), I am able to present that as evidence. If only certain splinter groups believed in a particular doctrine or practice, and there is no indication that Joseph Smith encountered or knew of those groups, I am able to present that evidence. You may claim the possibility that Joseph encountered (y) at some point, and the persuasiveness of that claim is dependent on how likely he is to have encountered it. You may then marshal your evidence to support your proposition that Joseph Smith did (or likely) encountered (y).

    And one final caveat — as with any long post like this (especially done quickly), there are liable to be mistakes. My apologies in advance when they show up.

  30. With that said:

    1)
    Apotheosis. The belief in human deification, while alluded to in the scriptures, was considered heretical by every major religion and the entire theological community in which Joseph Smith lived. There are exceptions to this general principles (there are some orthodox religions that persisted in believing in apotheosis), but it would be difficult to argue that Joseph Smith reasonably encountered them. In contrast, the ancient Church certainly believed in apotheosis (for example, Saint Irenaeus, said that Christ became man "that He may bring us to being even what He is.") (Incidentally, apotheosis provides a wonderful example of an area where an expert in the field — a Father Jordan Vajda — examined the doctrine and concluded that the LDS Church matched the ancient Church better than his own Catholic faith. He subsequently converted and was baptized).

    2)
    Temple Rites. There was no major religion that practiced temple worship consistent with the practice revealed by Joseph Smith. To be fair, there is much that we don't know about the practice of temple worship in ancient times, but we do know that it was important. Not to get ahead of my skis here, but I can point to the Gospel of Philip, which described a three-state temple initiation rite corresponding to the three chambers of the Jerusalem temple. There are, of course, additional examples of these similarities.

    3)
    Trinity. Those of us connected or raised in the Church forget what a substantial deviation that this was from the accepted view of the Godhead. Admittedly there is some elements in contrast to Nicean Trinitarianism that were accessible through the scriptures. But the substantial similarities between the doctrine revealed through Joseph Smith and the beliefs of the Arianists is striking. This does not mean that Arianism is precisely consistent with the true ancient Church, but is more persuasive that elements of the true doctrine of the nature of God persisted into Aranism. This doctrine was subsequently lost, then restored by Joseph Smith.

    4)
    Mother in Heaven. This is probably the purest example that fits your classification. There is no record in the scriptures indicating Mother in Heaven, and it was certainly heretical in the 1800s. But Mother in Heaven was a key component of pre-Christian Israelite religion. What's more, and this goes a little beyond the topic, it is difficult for me to read 1 Nephi 11:11-22 without seeing a reflection of the Asherah cult across the page (or else how would Nephi have gained understanding in those verses?). We are limited, still, in how much we know about the true practices even in ancient Israel (and there were many pagan counterfeits), but this is persuasive to me as a hit.

    5)
    Preexistence. Other than a brief mention in Jeremiah, we don't have much on this in the scriptures. As far as I know, this is heretical in all Christian religions — and almost certainly Joseph Smith would have not encountered any proponents of the doctrine. But we do now have quite a bit of writings on the subject from 100-200 AD. It shows that the bulk of the ancient Christian Church believed in preexistence. It was subsequently declared heresy in the 6th Century. It is actually a very thorny philosophical issue, and Mormonism is unique in its ability to sidestep some profound problems.

    These are the five that leapt to mind this morning as the most persuasive examples to me when limiting myself to strictly restored practices and doctrines. There are other persuasive elements (textual, linguistic, historic, experiential, etc.), but I figure this post is long enough already. Again, you may determine for yourself whether you find these persuasive or not. But if you attempt to dismiss one or all with a positive assertion ('Joseph Smith could have heard about the Temple from the Masons!'), you are then in the position of needing to carry a burden of proof of your own. Simply saying that the examples are unpersuasive to you, however, requires you to carry no burden.

  31. Orbiting Kolob:
    There is the concept of a Platonic circle, where Socrates would start his argument with someone with them saying (x), and after argumentation they would arrive at a position where the person was arguing (not x). Socrates would then end the conversation.

    We have just completed a Platonic circle. You started with your frustration that Jeff refused to recognize his logical fallacies, and we have ended with your assertion that "invocations of formal logic make about as much sense here as using a micrometer to measure the width of a sea slug." It is not a precise Platonic circle ('fallacies for thee, but not for me'), but it is certainly close enough that it is clear that further engagement with you would be unproductive.

  32. Wow, Jonathan — talk about a nakedly sophistical misreading. I nowhere said "fallacies for me but not for thee," merely that your specific remarks about a particular fallacy (special pleading) made no sense. I quite agree that "further engagement with you would be unproductive." Merry Christmas!

  33. OK is consistently unsystematic and purposely incomplete and misleading in quite a few of his proposals and assertions and should generally be ignored. He's apparently quite convinced that "spiritual eyes" is terribly significant, willfully misreading it, and he pontificates about many things he hasn't studied in depth. Happy Hanukkah!

  34. Apotheosis – not a big deal. This can easily be pulled out of the Bible. C.S. Lewis managed to do it. The big deal is the concept that God was once a man. Show me that in the ancient church.

    Temple Rites – this reminds me of some research Stephen Robinson (author of Believing Christ) engaged in to show that the presence of secret rituals and esoteric doctrines do not disqualify someone from being a Christian. He really did his homework! (That was sarcasm.) He cites the Mar Saba Letter which talks about a Secret Gospel of Mark. He used this as proof of initiatory rites in the ancient Church. But, there is a problem. This secret gospel of Mark is mentioned in a COPY of a letter by a 2nd Century Saint (Clement) added into the endpages of a 17th Century book which was found in the Mar Saba Monstery by a 20th Century professor of religion who interpreted it to suggest that Jesus was gay. And the copy of this letter is now lost, along with the original letter in Clement's own hand (which may not even really exist), along with the secret gospel (which also may not even really exist). I'd love to see some really solid evidence of the endowment ceremony in the year 69 C.E.

    Trinity – The existence of Arianism in early Christianity does not mean that this was the correct doctrine. Just as the existence of Luciferian-infused Gnostic interpretations of Adam and Eve in early Christianity does not mean these interpretations are correct doctrine. There were a lot of false doctrines being taught. Why do you assume that just because Joseph Smith has an Arian-esque view of the Godhead that the original Arianism was closer to correct doctrine? Sounds like you are letting Joseph's tail wag the dog.

    Mother in Heaven – if you are so bold as to really investigate the Adam-God doctrine, you will find the possible original of the Mormon version of the Heavenly Mother. Hint: Heavenly Mother is Eve. Brigham Young said so. No…he really did. Heavenly Mother is Eve. The FLDS Priesthood holders still believe in this stuff. Their plural wives will all be Eves when they become the God's of their worlds. BY also claimed that JS taught him this doctrine.

    Pre-existence. This is Occultic. Gnostic. Kabbalistic. Joseph Smith infused his new religion with a lot of the occult.

    Nope…not persuasive to me.