Here’s part 2 of my review of the website http://www.bookofmormongeography.info/. I thought I’d go over the “Welcome” section.
First of all, there is a very interesting perspective, mentioned in bold on the website. **The doctrine of the Mormon Church has no basis in The Book of Mormon, and the two should be held separate.**
That got my attention.
The author goes on to list some websites to try to get others to convert to his/her brand of theology.
Then, these 2 questions:
First a challenge to Book of Mormon enthusiasts:
If you are unable to learn the Theology of The Book of Mormon, what chance is there you will be able to learn the Geography?
And to Book of Mormon skeptics:
If you are unable to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit, what chance is there you will be able to recognize the truth of The Book of Mormon? John 16:13
So, the author attacks both “enthusiasts” and “skeptics”, right off the bat. It seems he is more interested in arguing his own brand of Book of Mormon theology, than on scientifically backing up claims. While this is certainly the author’s prerogative, it does not make good science, as we will see in my future posts on this topic.
If you dare to disagree with any of the author’s conclusions, he/she can be quite combative, and is quite “unwelcome” to those questioning hisher beliefs. While wanting us to “**Respect the Boundaries of The Promised Land.**”, he/she often does not respect people who question his/her conclusions. So much for “Welcome.” A kinder, gentler approach would be much more persuasive, but it appears he/she is more adept at “arguments” than “persuasion.”
The author then uses some interesting analogies:
The promise God gave Nephi that The Land of Promise would remain hidden to non-believers is just as true today as it was 2600 years ago:
7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given (Book of Mormon doctrine.), it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations (Theorists);….
The true believers have discovered the true geography of The Book of Mormon, while others have been turned over to a false geography they cannot understand. This is analogous to what happened to the Jews:
14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness (Like Geographers deny what The Book of Mormon says.), and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand (Statements by Joseph Smith.). Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. (A forced Mesoamerican or Mississippi River setting.) And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)
I find these analogies very tenuous. This is not what Jacob was talking about, and to try to stretch is to cover Book of Mormon geography is too great of a stretch.
The author then says something I actually agree with:
Those who espouse the Mesoamerican or Mississippi River setting for Book of Mormon geography have a vested interest in the theory. It goes like this:
Joseph made certain statements + Joseph was not wrong = The Mormon Church is true.
However, if Joseph’s statements were wrong, they fear the formula would look like this:
Joseph made certain statements + Joseph was wrong = The Mormon Church is not true.
We do not follow this logic. Joseph was supposed to bring forth The Book of Mormon – which he did do, but he was not an expert on its contents. The many contradictory doctrines he taught are evidence he did not write the book, nor follow it.
I agree with his outline of some of these outlines of peoples beliefs, but I do not subscribe to them. Some call this “binary thinking.” While binary thinking has its place, I think that religion is generally much more complex than to lump it into true/false.
Certainly, Joseph Smith made some contradictory statements regarding Book of Mormon Lands, but I do not subscribe to either of these propositions. I think the statement could look like this:
Joseph made certain statements + Joseph misinterpreted some things + Joseph was right about other things = The Mormon Church is true.
Anyway, while this wraps up the “Welcome” section, I just wanted to note some of the areas where this theory is silent on, that I wish the author would add.
- How did Nephi cross the Atlantic?
- How do you resolve DNA issues?
- What happened to Hagoth?
- What linguistic analysis has been done?
Finally, it seems that the author is quite familiar with the NY area. However, most of us are not. It would be nice to explain many issues, landmarks, etc that he assumes the reader is familiar with. I am not familiar with NY. I suspect others are not familiar with NY either. Also, it appears he addresses most of his theories to “enthusiasts”, and does not adequately address “skeptics”. Further explanations for “skeptics” would help many people better appreciate his research.
The thing that caught my attention immediately was the statement: “Spiritual truths will never be revealed to the critical mind.” “Never”? That’s really a 100% conclusion. These folks with their special “spiritual” insights and lack of intellectual exercise are prime candidates for cults. How do they suppose people get manipulated by charletons and get led down the road to all sorts of erroneous beliefs and practice. Jim Jones’ followers could have used a dose of critical thinking before they drank the Kool Aid. The same could be said of the followers of David Koresh. So if you think logically and critically you can’t be spiritual? Joseph Smith proclaimed that an angel with a sword threatened him unless he took on more wives? Happens all the time that people get threatened by angels with swords if they won’t commit adultery. Tell that one to the wife.
The Book of Mormon makes 2 claims. One is a spiritual nature and that it will bring you spiritual advice. This includes that is spiritual Testament of Jesus Christ — reading it might increase your testimony of Jesus Christ. This is a spiritual claim, and this is the claim that will never be proved or disproved with any kind of physical means.
However, the 2nd claim made by the Book of Mormon is that it is a literal physical history, as in a historical document in the secular history way. This claim CAN and SHOULD be backed up with physical evidence. Because IF the Book of Mormon is a real history, then it had to of happened in a real place on earth. No doubt that the Bible has its shares of flaws, mis-translations and probably a ton of stories that were made up. However, there is a lot of historical relevance in the Bible including place names, cultures that existed, animals, plants, weapons, etc. We can dig and find out which parts of the Bible were true and which parts were fairy tales by the archaeological evidence.
So a spiritual confirmation does not make something a true story. I could feel the spirit watching the Star Wars trilogy or the Lord of the Rings, it doesn’t make it a true story. I could feel absolutely no spiritual feelings from reading the Yucatec Mayan books of Chilam Balam, which consist of historical chronicles of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica mixed with myth, divination, and prophecy. Unlike the Book of Mormon lands and people, we know that the Mayas existed and that the authors of the books of Chilam Balam existed, and we know this through archeology. However, the historicity of the books of Chilam Balam does not make it spiritually true.
Mormon Heretic, I think the “ah hah” moment for me was when I thought for a second “what if it was not true?” I went through a paradigm change from the question “since I know it is true, how do I reconcile this thing?…” This caused all kinds of problems and cognitive dissonance which ultimately I could not resolve. So my point is that when I changed the question to “now, lets assume that it is not true and see where that takes us” a magical thing happened and it all became crystal clear to me.
I advise you to do the same thing. Look at all the facts from the view that it must be true, and see where that leads you. Notice how many things you are forced to “make up” right on the spot and the amount of mental gymnastics you must go through, it gets exhausting after a while.
Then, tell yourself O.K. now let’s hypothetically assume that it is not true and see where that takes you.
Falcon, excellent points!!! I don’t have much to add–you’ve presented it well.
Zelph, you’ve made some excellent points, and I don’t really dispute anything in your first 3 paragraphs. However, I think you make the assumption that I’ve never questioned “what if it’s not true?” This is something I have considered.
I think you’d find “Insider’s View of Mormon Origins”, by Grant Palmer quite interesting. Basically, he concludes that Joseph made up the Book of Mormon, inserted Pentocostal revivals, talks about the Kinderhook plates, copied Lehi’s dream from his father, etc… Anyway, Palmer made enough claims that Joseph was a fraud, that Palmer barely escaped excommunication. Instead he was disfellowshipped. According to John Dehlin and Grant Palmer, the CoC (RLDS) uses his book as a textbook for Mormon origins. Palmer continues to attend an LDS ward, though he finds the lessons quite infantile.
What intrigues me the most is how strenuously he objected to excommunication, and how he feels bad that he was disfellowshipped. He only claim is searching for truth, and he feels in many ways Joseph was a fraud. So, why does he even bother still going to church? (He still did, as of Dehlin’s interview.)
Because he thinks there are some very worthwhile things in the church. Could Joseph be both a fraud and a prophet? Yes, I think so. Could he have exaggerated some claims? Yes.
Could the Book of Mormon be fiction? Yes. Could the Book of Mormon be a literal history? Yes. I am open to both possibilities.
I’ve been exposed to many of the same things you have. I guess I found the Wilfred Griggs anecdotes that other scholars recognize that many golden plates have now been found since 1830, that the Book of Ether fits in well with 3000 BC (Bronze Age), that Joseph couldn’t have understood chiasmus, because it wasn’t discovered until some 60-100 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon.
I am trying to look at all the evidence, but you seem more focused on the negative evidence and less focused on the positive evidence. To me, the field of Book of Mormon archeology is in its infancy compared to the Bible.
There have been countless scholars that have said David never existed, or was a myth. Then, an inscription was found in Syria (I believe) proclaiming that the Assyrians conquered the “House of David.” David is no longer a myth–there is now evidence of him outside the Bible. And this has been found within the last 20 years, after 2000 years of searching. The Book of Mormon only has 170 years of searching, and unlike the Bible, with known locations, the Book of Mormon has unknown locations, making the task more difficult.
So I ask, do I have a more open mind, or do you?
I wish I could find the exact quote from a Jewish rabbi on MSNBC. He has written several novels, based on the Book of Ruth, Genesis, Exodus, etc. He is trying to help people understand the bible. Anyway, in the interview, he said that all religions have problems with intellectualism. He said that it is important for intellectuals to stick with the traditions of their fathers. When we fight through all the seeming contradictions within every religion, we end up with even greater spiritual growth afterward. Anyway, I find his insights very “spiritually mature”, and I am trying to emulate them.
Let me ask a few more questions. Zelph, now that you “know” the church is not true, what next? Is it best to become a missionary against the church, or a missionary within the church to improve things? What is the better plan of action? From your website, it sounds like you are going to church to keep peace in your family. How does that impact your decision?
It almost seems like you enjoy bitterness, cognitive dissonance, and disillusionment. Is this true? Does this make you a happier person? I just have a hard time understanding why this disillusionment makes you feel better.
I understand your hurt feelings to a point. But it seems more consistent with the kid at school who is tired of being picked on, and takes a gun to school to blow everyone away. At some point, it seems like we need to take a step back, and work through these feelings of bitterness to find a better end, because I don’t think getting more frustrated is a solution. Perhaps Grant Palmer has a better solution…..
BTW, I’m substitute teaching Gospel Doctrine this week. I’m much more of a Bible Scholar than Book of Mormon/D&C. Got any advice for me? It’s Mosiah 25-28, and Alma 36. I’m probably going to compare Alma’s conversion to Paul, but I’m not sure what else to do.
I admit that was rather presumptuous of me to assume that you had never ran that scenario through your head.
You do draw a good point that it is easy to call people in the church “elitists” when I am rejecting what they believe in, so maybe I am the elitist?
I think that if there ever was any physical evidence to support the Book of Mormon, one would have to consider that Joseph Smith was a prophet, because there would be no way he could make it up. However, I am not holding my breath.
Grant Palmer’s book is on my list, I still have to read “No man knows” and after that, the next one on my list is “By his own hand…upon papyrus” then “insider’s view”. I look forward to the full page color pictures of the book of breathings text. I have always found the whole story fascinating, even when I was TBM. I guess that is why I was so disappointed when I discovered about the Book of Abraham, and I am convinced that it is a fraud.
I don’t know much about the Bible, but I just watched some interesting videos, one was a video from the history channel entitled “who wrote the bible”. It was about an hour and a half. I did not realize that the gospels of Matthew Mark Luke and John were not written until like 70 years after Jesus’ death and they were not written by the apostles themselves, they were written by second or third hand accounts. This is very surprising and leaves a big problem as to the credibility of the Bible, as we don’t even know who actually wrote it.
As for the GD class, good idea to bring up the parallels to Paul’s conversion and compare and contrast. Perhaps you can bring up the point that God does not necessarily only reveal himself to people that are actively looking for him, but even to people that are out persecuting against him? Maybe I have a chance for God to reveal himself to me afterall 😉
Going back to your original point, I agree that it is easy to get caught up and only focus on the bad points of the church and make it seem like it is all of the church. I am into music and I just saw a video of the MoTab choir and remembered the beauty in music and what I loved about the church just a few years ago. It reminded me that the church is not all bad bad bad, and that maybe it is an organization that works for some people and gives them hope. I was at stake conference yesterday and I saw a member there with his daughter who before the church used to be a gang member and a drug dealer. I remember thinking that the church has helped this person become a better person and a better member of society and how badly I did not want him to discover many of the things that I know about the church. However, it is still hard for me to focus on the good aspects of the church when I am no longer associated much with it. I attend sacrament meetings, but do not hold any callings anymore. Perhaps if not for my wife, I would stop going altogether and if not for my family, I would probably remove my name from the records and I would probably forget about Mormonism. But yet here I am. I probably do harbor bitterness and anger inside and I have found a very therapeutic way to deal with these emotions. Will I one day ‘get it all out’ and go on? I think so.
Zelph, I have had “Who wrote the Bible” on my list of videos to purchase, and am looking forward to see it one day. It is funny to me that you are so down on all religion. Even your comments on the Bible are pessimistic, when you talk about credibility problems there as well.
I don’t know how much time you have….but if you really want to learn some amazing things about the Bible, there are some free podcasts on iTunes. If you do a search for “Covenant Theological Seminary” you’ll find all sorts of fascinating things. They talk about all the controversial stuff you and I seem to enjoy.
I believe the seminary is a Presbyterian Seminary. They actually put recordings of many of their classes there. In fact, if you chose to pay tuition, you could actually take these classes for credit and get a theology degree. (I am actually considering doing this, but I have to get my current master’s degree out of the way first.) They offer both Master and phD in Theology, and you could become an ordained pastor. (I’m only interested in the master’s level. It actually can be done online, except for 1 o2 2 summers in St Louis.)
Anyway, I’ve downloaded and listened to 4 semester’s worth of classes so far: Life and Teachings of Jesus, Life and Letters of Paul, New Testament History, and Old Testament History.
I believe it was the New Testament History class that talked about the Gospels, and they talked about how credible they were. Some interesting tidbits: It is obvious that Luke-Acts was written by a physician, because of all the medical terminology he used. One of the gospels (Mark, I think) is the best source of maritime shipping information of any book in the world! If you want to understand maritime shipping, your best source for the ancient world is actually one of the gospels.
The seminary deals with the chronological problems, and admit that they gospel were written much later, but they also emphasize how reliable the gospels are. It is important to remember that the gospels’ primary purpose is to preach of Christ, not of ships, medicine, or other things. However, there are some amazing things found there. I just find so many parallels between the Bible and the Book of Mormon….
Th teacher even tells of an experience of playing tennis with a Mormon. He said that as he was winning, the Mormon started behaving badly, getting mad, etc, and then used this to illustrate that Mormons are not really Christian, because they don’t act like it. (Every member a missionary!) 🙂
Anyway, if you’re real serious about Bible study, try listening to some Master’s level classes (for free) before you dismiss it as unreliable. I just wish there were some Book of Mormon resources like this available. Unfortunately, it seems the LDS church never really rises above high school level scholarship. I guess that’s why we have the bloggernacle.
MH- Very interesting stuff. Keep in mind that my pessimism is probably based on my hard-lined upbringing. I have commented on how black and white the church was growing up. I think a lot of it has to do with your parents and your ward when you are young, because the way they present the church is the way you view the church.
Regarding the New Testament, I always had this idea that the apostles followed Jesus around with scrolls and wrote down everything he said, however this is not the case.
I don’t mean to sound too pessimistic, but it is difficult to overcome this when I was raised with such a literal view.
I remember seeing on t.v. a broadcast of a theologian from some denomination reading a chapter from a book in the Bible. He would read a verse, then give contextual explanation to what was happening. I found it fascinating and wished that our church did more of that. I felt that I learned so much more in one hour of watching that than I ever did in seminary or Sunday school. The truth is that I think that most Mormons don’t know very much about Bible scholarship, and I think that the church leadership can share the blame on that.
Maybe that is what the church needs is professional paid Mormon theologians.
Going back to the Bible, I find it troubling that we don’t really know who the original authors were. What I want to know is why it should still be considered a credible source. As I said, I don’t know very much on the subject, but find it fascinating and I thank you for your references.
I feel that the church does not encourage too much intellectual thought, and even Oaks said in an interview that he sees intellectualism as a danger to the church. This coming from the church that teaches that it was necessary for Adam to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge for his eternal progression, even in disobedience to God.
A little off topic, but what is your opinion on the Gnostic Gospel?