Posted May 5th, 2017
Come back with us to October 2013 for our 3-part series “Who Wrote the Book of Mormon.” John Hamer, Craig Criddle, and so much more.
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I can’t dismiss the Rigdon/Spaulding conspiracy theory altogether, but I’m like 97% like “Jesse”/Scott. But I don’t find many of the individual bricks in this wall compelling, though they may be interesting. I mention a few and just throw out some stream of consciousness questions.
Take the faster dictation when Oliver arrives. Not all scribes are equal. Not all material is equal. Slower ranslation prior to Cowdery: Could Oliver as a former clerk and school teacher have been a faster writer? a better listener? a more focused scribe? Have more free time to dedicate? Could Joseph have been composing, with the earlier scribes, one of the most theologically substantive portions of the book of Mormon (king Benjamin
sermon) and taking more time to do so? I think there are plenty of more plausible alternatives than Oliver was in on it. (Also, I agree with Heather that D&C 8 & 9 doesn’t make sense to me if Oliver was in on the scheme.)
Take the implication that all the Hurlbut affidavits should be treated equally or people are being hypocritical. Not all witnesses are equal. Not all witnessed events are equal. Do we know if the affidavits of the manuscript witnesses could read, so as to know that the one Howe presented was different? Could they have (with so many years passed) confabulated the names Nephi and Lehi and “it came to pass” into their memories when signing the initial affidavits, given those elements are some of the few well know parts of the Book of Mormon? When confronted with the actual manuscript, could they have doubled-down to save face to justify their confabulated memories? Is there some reason to think that confabulation is just as likely with the people who participating in treasure digging as listeners to a story reading decadesbefore? (Maybe, but I think correctly remembering portions of a manuscript read once decades before is probably more likely to have relevant memory errors and
confabulations than people remembering treasuring digging activities.) Did the affidavits mention the Jaredite submarines or other ideas beyond the first two chapters of the Book of Mormon?
Also, with respect to word printing, I would want hundreds of word prints from people in the Ohio and Palmayra. I would want word prints from Joseph dictating with a variety of scribes unrelated to the Book of Mormon text including trying to sound like King James English and not trying. I would want word prints from Rigdon and Spaulding trying to sound like King James English and not trying. Also, I would want word printing to be admissible in court, even if we had all those samples.
My thoughts of pronouncing “pseudepigrapha”
I start with something I know – a gas chromatograph.
Pronounced “chro-MA-to-graph.” But, the act of using the machine and the chemistry behind it is “chro-ma-TO-gra-phy.” In both cases, the third syllable from the end is emphasized.
You can write an E-pi-graph. Third syllable from the end. Studying ancient enscriptions is e-PI-ra-phy. Third from the end.
Evidence points to pseud-e-PI-gra-pha.
Plus, you get a better flow because you get to alternate your emphases like a normal person.
SOO-duh-PI-gra-pha, not SOO-duh-puh-GRA-pha
Yours is a pedantically nitpicky comment, and I just adore it!
A question about a couple of the listener responses:
A few people (one especially) leaned hard on the word “naturalistic” without defining the context. Is it meant to be the antonym of “spiritual”? Is it implying that “naturalistic” thinking is on par with or inferior to spiritual belief?
I enjoyed this reprise of ghosts of infants past.
Good on you for the prompt, history rhymes by reminding us that we have short memories.
I subscribe to the schizophrenic multi-personality authorship scenario of the BOM.
It’s too bad that TBM’s can’t vote on the authenticity of all Mormon writings; that is after exhaustive research before going forth to multiply ad nauseam.
One of the questions that was raised was whether the single author vs multiple contributor discussion was worthwhile. Here are my thoughts:
1. If (as exmos) we believe that the BoM is not inspired scripture it is helpful (but not necessary) to demonstrate a more plausible theory for the origin of the BoM, and as such, I am happy to let the academics perform research, and follow where the research leads. Of course, regardless of who wrote what, the BoM has a wealth of other problems that make it ahistorical, heavily plagiarized, and logically inconsistent, decreasing its value as scripture.
2. As an atheist exmo, I have no potential “return to belief” riding on the outcome of the debate. If JS turns out to be sole author, or if it was crowd sourced with the internet and a time machine, I don’t really care. As a result, the debate as to the authorship of the BoM is purely academic. I believe it was written by men for motives that may or may not have been altruistic.
3. If, as an anti-Mormon polemicist, you want to convince believing Latter-day Saints that the Book of Mormon is not inspired scripture, it is entirely necessary to demonstrate a more plausible theory for its origin.
Remarkably (or at least it would be remarkable if the book was merely a 19th century human production) no such theory has managed to displace its rivals. Even the regularly-discredited Spalding theory keeps treating us to periodic “Night of the Walking Dead” impressions.
Thank you, I’ve never been called a polemicist before. I’ve been called a lot of other things, but it’s nice to have something new for my collection. 😉
I’m not sure that I entirely agree with you about the necessity of putting forth a more plausible theory for the BoM origin. If a person’s belief in the veracity of the BoM is based on faith (a la Moroni’s promise), then even a more plausible theory is unlikely to displace the prior belief. There are people out there that believe the Earth is flat in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and the evidence regarding the origins of the Book of Mormon are nowhere near as clear. As a result, it seems exceedingly unlikely that a ‘more plausible theory’ would be terribly effective.
Furthermore, you seem to make an assumption that I’m at all interested in convincing believing Latter-day Saints that the Book of Mormon is not inspired scripture. The thought of doing so seems exhausting and distasteful. Also, from the looks of things, there are thousands of members who are getting there all on there own, with no help from me. I would only wish to provide support for those who are going through the upheaval of a faith transition.
Amen, Ryan. Well said.
It’s sad that Kiwi feels so under attack. But I totally understand why he does. I could have very easily been in the same position he is in right now. And he is 100% right to push back on any unfair or inacurate accusations made against him or his cherished beliefs. That doesn’t make it OK for him to levy unfair and inacurate accusations towards others. But I’m comfortable enough with where I am these days that I can let that go. I see you doing that here, too, Ryan. I like it! 🙂
I’ imperssed by the wealth of material archived by IOT, worthy of review and critique of past material vis-à-vis to the present gestalt of the American Psyche. American Magic is pregnant with fecundity –– Mormon contributions to the supernatural are rightly esteemed by believers in such stuff, alien abductions, spiritual manifestations and the like.
It’s a testimonial to our nations’ tolerance to lunacy regarding religious freedoms.
And there was Bob Mankoff’s famous comment on lemmings:
If you’re going to rely upon ignorant stereotypes, you might as well rely upon ignorance for every detail of your silly assumptions.
FYI, lemmings do not throw themselves off cliffs. That notion is primarily an artifact of bad documentary film-making. Watching a few thousand hamsters taking a long walk isn’t very compelling viewing, so the film-makers actually herded a bunch of them off cliffs.
I’m sure you’ll find it much easier to modify your views about lemmings than about the Latter-day Saints. After all, you aren’t irrationally prejudiced against lemmings.
Lemmings were an urban legend before there were urbs to have legends about. I’m going to have to think about the great lemming conspiracy; that’s a new one on me. I, personally, am so bad at herding cats that I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to wrangle a whole herd of lemmings off of a cliff. I wouldn’t know where to start.
Are you sure you’re not Glenn Ostlund’s left hand inside of an old gym sock with some buttons sewn on?
Glenn as a rather hairy Shari Lewis?
If I was that close to him, I’d be suggesting that he get a profile picture that doesn’t show a close-up view directly up his nostrils.
Who says Shari Lewis wasn’t hairy? Just kidding. Boy, that’s one thing we can agree on, though: Glenn’s profile picture is really off-putting. I always scroll past it as quickly as I can.
Kiwi – I love this insight here. Let me see if I understand what you are saying:
There is a common misconception in society at large that Lemmings leap to their death en masse by just following a Lemming leader who jumps off a cliff. This misconception exists because of the way it has been dishonestly (but pervasively) depicted (and re-depicted) in art. The art has made lemmings become a symbol for blindly following a leader, but it became that symbol dishonestly, and even though millions of people belief this whole mistaken lemming thing, you have educated yourself above such ignorant stereotypes and are now trying to help us rise above such ignorant stereotypes as well.
Is that right?
Cuz if so, I totally agree. We should all definitely un-ignroance ourselves about these kinds of things we come across in our lives.
So…. how exactly is this different than the way the LDS church depicts Joseph Smith is depicted in LDS art translating the gold plates? Or Nephites and Lamanites being depicted by Arnold Friberg? Or the whitewashing of any number of things that don’t quite tell the story the way they want it to be told?
I truly think you’re on to something here!
Of course, for some people, the Lemming stereotype is just far too precious and personally meaningful to even consider debunking. Even Lemmings have their apologists, I guess. But we know better. Don’t we. Wink wink, hug hug.
The point is that people accept the great “Lemming Mass Suicide” legend because they’ve heard it, and they don’t know any better.
And this is rather a good parallel with the way that people accept various (negative) stereotypes about groups of people they don’t like.
However, there’s a difference. For example, if there were “Lemming Apologists,” nobody would see a need to accuse them of every kind of villainy, because nobody is emotionally invested in the great “Lemming Mass Suicide” legend. Not to the extent that they are emotionally invested in believing negative stereotypes about groups of people they don’t like.
Such as the Latter-day Saints, for instance.
Believing negative stereotypes is convenient whenever we want to dismiss, marginalise or demonise the “other.”
Dismissing, marginalising or demonising the “other” is really really useful for anyone who should happen to want to feel superior to someone else.
Which may explain the degree of emotional investment in those negative stereotypes we so readily observe.
And the way in which the expression “Mormon apologist” is so unquestioningly assumed to be a pejorative.
In some quarters, anyway.
As far as your argument about Church art: you do have a point. So I’ll just add a couple in rejoinder.
First, it is not a conspiracy. (Breathe in. Breathe out. I know you’ve got the nostrils for it.) I have seen no evidence, among all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, that any artists wanted to show the events more realistically, but some faceless Church leader ordered them not to. Artists show Joseph with the plates for rather similar reasons as Avard Fairbanks depicted Moroni with a trumpet; not to “deceive the masses,” but to tell a story. Some people think the plates are a more important part of the story than the seer stones.
As far as I know, no serious student of religious art thinks it is supposed to reproduce religious-historical “Polaroid moments.” Critics of the Church might, but I was talking about serious students of religious art.
Second, the Church is taking steps to show those details more accurately. See here:
The only thing we can say for sure is that the Book of Mormon is uninspired. Even if it came from God, it is uninspired.
“Uninspired,” I hate so sound like a ditto-head but St. Ralph is onto something.
“Even if it came from God, it is uninspired?” That makes no sense.
Unless you are using a private dictionary somewhere that defines “inspired” as something equivalent to, “I like it.”
One thing I can say for sure is that the Book of Mormon is inspired. The throw-away opinions of unserious dilettantes don’t change that.
By “uninspired” I meant not clever, flat, dull. Read Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles or Orson Scott Card’s Ender series sometime. Just the first six Dune books and the first five Ender books. After Herbert died and apparently took Card’s muse with him, both franchises went south. Anyway, there’s some entertaining prose storytelling for ya if you like sorta religious-like sagas.
And as for serious: As long as there is a carp-faced clown with piss-colored cotton candy hair who brags about sexually assaulting women wandering around the White House in his bathrobe, I simply don’t have the wherewithal to take anything seriously.
Oh, and no offense intended by any of this. The upside of an inability to take anything seriously is that it is also impossible to harbor any ill will toward anyone, not even the clown in the White House; he does what he does because he can’t do otherwise.
Another thing we can agree on: Mr Tangerine Man is a slow-motion train wreck.
But you’ve got to admit, he’s entertaining. You never know what he’s going to tweet next.
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