Comments about ‘Debate renewed with change in Book of Mormon introduction’

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Published: Thursday, Nov. 8 2007 6:14 p.m. MST

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Thomas

Alan (5:08 Nov. 11): It's one thing to have faith despite a lack of evidence. It's another thing entirely to have "faith" in the *face* of strong contrary evidence.

Science will never have answers to the ultimate questions -- what is the purpose to life, whether there is a God, and if so, what His nature is. So those questions have to be answered by faith.

Science can, on the other hand, provide evidence as to whether a large population of Hebrews (or at least Hebrew-influenced Middle Easterners), ultimately numbering at least in the hundreds of thousands and preserving their bloodlines for at least six hundred years, built a major civilization in the Americas between about 600 B.C. and 400 A.D., raising Old World crops and animals.

The best evidence presently available indicates that this did not happen. If you've had an overwhelming, unmistakable spiritual witness that you ought to ignore this evidence, that's fine: Such a witness may itself be useful evidence to you (although not necessarily conclusive evidence).

But let's not confuse the issue: What Mormons are asked to do is not to believe despite the absence of evidence, but to believe despite abundant contrary evidence. That's different.

Reason to believe

I believe our LDS prophet is truly called from God, but like many also recognize that he is still human and thus not entirely infallible. Yes, everything he says I consider scripture, and as if God himself revealed it to me. The reason why I believe that God did not "intervene" in the introduction of the Book of Mormon even if it was not entirely precise is because it really MAKES NO DIFFERENCE in matters pertaining to our salvation. What difference does it make who the descendants of the lamanites are? That is not important, what's important is that people read the Book of Mormon,find out for themselves that it is true, and use it as guidance for their salvation. People who are set upon finding fault within the Book of Mormon will always be able to find faults in the book. As for me, I really don't care. I've received my witness of the Book of Mormon and it is all that I care about.

Rationality

Those who already believe will continue to believe despite this word change. These comments demonstrate that, with testimonies being declared repeatedly by many.

The frustrating thing for the unbelievers is when they hope to engage in a dialogue about an important topic. Imagine how frusrating it is when your interlocutor avoids the substance of the discussion and resorts to "testimony echolalia."

In this case, the consequences are mild. But imagine trying to have a rational dialogue with an Islamic fundamentalist who refuses to engage in reasonable and substantive discussion and, chanting his/her "testimony", proceeds undeterred to slam the jet into the skyscraper!

That is how it appears to us nonbelievers - we feel we are being held hostage by your esoteric knowledge, and reason is ruled out of bounds from the beginning.

Harold

Rationality, this is a good point. However, few of the beliefs of the LDS church or any church can be proven in a debate. So in a debate we are left to try to show that it is possible that the beliefs are true - and in this case you have a point if someone resorts to spiritual testimony. And in this case the LDS often admittedly have an ulterior purpose, to proselytize.

However apart from just debate, it does seem that that many of the criticisms of the LDS are harsh considering any alternative religious belief. It is easy to criticize with no or unspecified religious belief, like a backseat driver.

Research has and is done on the Book of Mormon as well as many other aspects of the LDS religion by faithful LDS scholars. Most have not jetted the church nor have they proven LDS claims. But the church has never asked its members to accept teachings soley based on physical evidence, it has asked them to receive a witness for themself from God. Whether this has happened or not for anyone is obviously open for intense critism from those who believe that it has not.

A story

I have a story that might help explain how to put this kind of thing (a word change in our scriptures) into context...

A couple of years ago I bought a book at an LDS bookstore. The book dealt with a "theory" that the BOM peoples/cities, etc, were in North America, not in central America. An interesting read, a nice theory. Some of the "evidence" was based on statements by Joseph Smith and BY regarding "the location of Zarahemla", "where the Gadianton Robbers hid out", etc. There were MANY statements by early leaders which "located" BOM sites (Hill Cumorah, for example). I had a specific question about copper plates that were found in the upper mid west (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, etc.). I wrote the question to the church representative at the Church History Museum (next to the Genealogy Library). I got a call back! We had a nice converstation. The gist of the conversation was he did NOT believe the copper plates ("Michigan Collection") were genuine and did NOT believe the statements by early leaders were accurate. There are times when leaders are simply giving their opinion, but we take it as fact. That is the case here.

Rationality

To Harold | 12:27 a.m.

Likewise, your point is well-taken. If I have understood it correctly, it is that the LDS Church asks people (not just its members) to ask God if their claims are true.

That is fair enough as far as it goes. But there can be no doubt that in practical application this challenge turns into a no-win situation for those who HAVE asked God and either NOT received such a "testimony," or have received what they believe to be revelation from God saying that the LDS claims are NOT true.

Such people are clearly and openly condemned by believers as being flawed or sinful in some way. It is never a possibility that very good, righteous people actually have received spiritual confirmation that the LDS claims are NOT true. Instead, believers insist that such a "revelation" must be from the devil, or must be a sign of sin on the part of the petitioner.

Which brings up the key point. How can two seemingly righteous people receive "spiritual confirmation" of "truths" that are fundamentally contradictory? And most importantly, how can these contradictory claims be reconciled or adjudicated?

Religion has no answer. Science does.

Rationality

Scientific inquiry adjudicates between conflicting claims of "truth" by peaceful public discourse and systematic testing according to mutually agreeable principles.

By contrast, religions either refuse to adjudicate between conflicting claims of "truth" altogether, or do so through economic, political, and military warfare.

I invoke the history of Western civilization to testify that science is an overall more peaceful and civil approach to adjudicating between truth claims than religion has ever been.

As such, with the track records of both religion and science cited as witnesses, it seems clear that the leaders of the LDS Church have decided to change this word in deference to the superior knowledge obtained by scientific inquiry. Kudos to them. We can only hope that the significance of such a change is not lost on the LDS members who should have a new respect for science and its contributions to peace and civility in human societies.

Good grief

The purpose of the BOM is for "...the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ." EVERYTHING ELSE RE that book is secondary. We don't know where the history took place (you will find stronger evidence in the cultural aspect of the record than in archealogical evidence -- or lack thereof). We don't know how widespread the civilization of those peoples was, or even how many other civilizations were in the place before Lehi and crew showed up. It is all rather innocuous. The BOM is not given to prove Joseph Smith to be a prophet. It is a written record that Jesus Christ was a real person and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way of salvation. A change in the "introduction" to the BOM will not, indeed cannot change that. One thing I try to keep in mind is this: Just because I wasn't there to see it for myself doesn't mean it didn't happen. Many special things have happened to me and I have a record of them for my children. The same is true for the writers of the BOM (Mormon was the abridger of a larger record).

Joyce

Someone famous once said a life unexamined isn't worth living. A religion unexamined isn't worth living either. Ask yourself - if you die and go to heaven and find out it was all a lie, what part of how you've lived will you regret? If it's nothing. Then continue on with your blinders on your eyes. Remember, the truth will set you free.

Anonymous

When you believe in things that you don't understand - then you suffer.

Superstition ain't the way. - Stevie Wonder

da

the bible does not contain the fullness of the everlasting gopel

Fed-Up!

Give me a break! I'm reading so much nonsense here. Let the LDS church change whatever they want to change. It wont make a bit of difference, or change the church any. However, why don't the church members work on some more important things within the church... Like teaching members not to place themselves above others because they have a certain or higher church calling than someone else. The church is creating a lot of holier than thou group of people. The arrogance is repulsive to say the least!

PURPOSE

The main purpose of the Book of Mormon if you read the title page is written to the Lamanites who are a remnant of the tribe of Israel. The Book of Mormon is written to the American Indians so they will come to realize who they really are and that they are not cast off forever. This is the real purpose of the Book! This is why it was saved and this is why the prophets prayed for it to come to them in the future to remember their ancestors and what great things they did.

Yellow Horse

PURPOSE/ They do not like mormons or any other religion!

RELIGION

Its nice to see the DN poke a stick in the beehive that is "religion in Utah." Its these kind of articles that really bring out the jesus freaks, mormon zealots, and those who adamantly oppose them. Thanks DN editor.

A NONY MOOSE

I strongly feel that any one person who feels that a small change in the introduction page of the Book of Mormon changes it's content or meaning should spend some time on thier knees in prayer with thier Father In Heaven. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God"

To FED-UP!, I am truly sorry. I personally have never had this issue with anyone in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I think this is probably because my parents taught me as a young man that there is no greater calling in the Church than the one you hold. It is not a matter that should even have to taught in Church. (Though I agree with you that it has become necessary)

I place the blame for your offended soul on that of your parents not teaching you tolerance, learn to tolerate these people and your soul will rejoice!

I further place the blame of your so called "Holier Than Thou" groups on that of their parents. Where they went wrong, I may never know.

We are all children of our Father In Heaven! That alone makes us equal in every right to one another.

Jackboot

How many comments above are from those who are most affected by this change? I'm referring to LDS who are of Native American and Pacific Island descent. As one who is partly of that lineage among others, I can say that I know who I am and where my ancestors come from. I know that the Book of Mormon is a record of their ancestors. That said, even the Book of Mormon documents many people who have come into this hemisphere, and there are about 1400 years between the time Moroni put it into the ground and Joseph Smith brought it back up again. I don't know who else came through during that time. Also, given that there were 12 tribes of Israel and we really know of only one that has maintained its identity, how accurate can DNA testing be? It can tell us that my son is mine and not my brother's. Compound that over the millennia and see how far apart genetic strains can go. The descendants of Lehi are who they are. We know it, from the faithful members in Tonga to the faithful members of the Catawba Nation in South Carolina.

Genealogy bird

I am really interested in the DNA research going on with Ancestry.com . It looks as though many people will find out just a bit about their genealogy, and perhaps their ethnic and geographic origins. It will certainly answer many questions for many people who are looking for their roots.

As far as the small change in the Book Of Mormon. It doesn't affect the gospel whatsoever. We need change now and then. This isn't the dark ages, as someone else mentioned earlier.

Derak

Maybe people should learn the first thing about passing along mitochondrial DNA before they start taking it as evidence of a link or non-link across a 1600 year time period. I think that DNA research should certainly continue, but it is not to the point where we can make conclusive results yet.
A few interesting points from this article and some general info from good old wikipedia. M. DNA is passed by the mother only, so a line of it would end if a mother had no daughters. More importantly, having children with a woman of a different geneology would insert her m. DNA into your children, replacing the m. DNA from generations before. Also, the Jaredites could be from other places and the Lamanites had gone through some change to make their skin darker. Intermarrying with peoples whom had migrated from Asia, for example, could accomplish that. Furthermore, the Lamanites and Nephites may have united for a time in 4th Nephi before dissenting. Intermarriage with Asian dissent would again mask hebrew m.DNA. Then there is the fact that Native American populations (500) are mixed and so are the Jewish populations. 75/500 N.A. pops have been tested.

Derak

Another interesting fact about Thomas' work. He monitored a Y chromosome gene to link one African population considered to be non-jewish to a jewish population. This gene is only present in 45-55% of the Jews claiming to be in that group. He then notes that this particular gene wasn't found in any of the N.A. indians checked, so that is proof that they have no Jewish relation. No wonder there are claims that his search did not follow the scientific method! I can't believe how easy it really is to poke holes in the argument that genes disprove the BofM. Any respectable scientist should turn up his nose as such inconclusive studies. I say that as a scientist, a grad student specializing in pchem, who also has exposure to biochem experts.

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