Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Evidence versus proof’

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Published: Monday, April 11 2011 11:30 a.m. MDT

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Lehi, UT

Thanks Mike, another great article.

After reading your articles each week, I've learned that there is more than enough evidence, for anyone who needs that, to encourage honest hearts to commune with God about the BoM.

Those who claim there is none are dishonest, and, even if they found Lehi's journal, and it was seen by witnesses, these would still say it's only parallel evidence. Just some guy had the same name as a BoM person, and same life. : )

The interesting thing is, the need to claim there is no evidence when we all know there is. Apparently critics have even made another fabulous movie with such incredible claims.

I'm not sure why they just don't tell the truth and simply admit they don't have enough faith, even if they saw Lazarus etc, and leave it at that. Why do Critics intentionally try to deceive others and lead them from truth? I guess I understand, but don't know if they see that is what they are doing?

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

As Michael just stated there is AMPLE proof to the historical aspects of the Book of Mormon. Still there are those who believe it to just an allegory or parables but not historical (Otis). The Doctrine and Covenants holds that the Book of Mormon is historical (Doctrine & Covenants 17) when it discusses the three witnesses. It clearly states they would see the Sword of Laban, the Liahona the Brother of Jared used and the Compass used by Lehi. Why, because these prove that these individuals lived. To say otherwise by a member of the Church can and does lead to apostasy.

Bountiful, UT

"It should be indisputable to both critics and believers that there is scientific data which supports the historicity of the Book of Mormon. The strength and significance of such evidence might be debated, but it cannot be logically or ethically argued that there is no evidence."

Obviously this is true, but by the same measure there is "evidence" for every single theory or concept ever conceived. For example, people sometimes refer to a flying spaghetti monster as being as believable as the Gods most people believe in. We can observe spaghetti, therefore we know it exists. We know there are some creatures that can fly including birds, bats, insects, and even man. This "evidence" supports the theory that a flying spaghetti monster exists.

When I read logic like this it makes me feel like somebody is about to take all my money.

Murray, UT

Thanks for explaining your current thought process, and the direction that the articles are going.

It looks like these articles are comming to the conclustion that there is not enough evidence to rule out the historical aspects of the Book of Mormon.

Also, JM, that was your best comment to date, in my opinion. Thanks for taking the time to organize your thoughts.

Provo, Ut

There are countless articles discussing the various "types" of evidence, but only two really matter when it comes to proof - and perhaps this is what Ash is missing. There is Direct Evidence and Circumstantial Evidence. Examples of Direct Evidence would be eyewitness testimony, incriminating writings (such as a letter confessing guilt), etc. Circumstantial evidence is that which requires some "leaping" in order to make the connection. Each of these "types" can be stronger or weaker, depending on a number of criteria.

The only sources of "direct evidence" that justify The Book of Mormon are the scant testimonies of intelligible occurences. The First Vision, or The Three & Eight Witnesses. While not entirely credible, at the very least these instances place the jury into a position where we must decide if such claims are reasonably plausible, possible, and/or likely. And this is one place where I will give Joseph Smith credit, he seems to at least to have understood what a "testimony" was. Much to the contrary of Ash's third point that Testimonies are more than feelings. Okay then, more of what? What "more" is there to it? The point of defense seems rather incomplete to me!

Searching . . .
Orem, UT

I was hoping that these articles would be more about the evidence supporting the BoM, but apparently they are more of a toolkit to bolster the testimonies of the believers. Of his primary points, the first three are directly related to the nature of testimony, which can be evidence of belief but is in no way a litmus test for the validity of actual archaeological evidence. The fourth represents biased judgment (based on personal spiritual testimony) when evaluating what has been found.

The fact that Mr. Ash feels such a need to prep us with "you'll need to depend on your testimonies for this" before he presents the evidence doesn't bode well. Since when is faith a prerequisite for archaeological study? He continues to downplay evidence through to the end of the article. The current state or BoM evidence and archaeology is that the scientific community is resoundingly in favor of independent Mesoamerican development. Few, if any, are finding in favor of a Semitic influence. Is Mr. Ash's evidence enough to overwhelm that?

Tucson, AZ

Great article with interesting points. It made me really think about things of eternal importance, which is an uplifting thing to experience during a short lunch break. Thanks Mike. Keep up the good work!

Temple City, CA

I, too, enjoyed the article a lot. I felt that Ash has articulated many things that I have wanted to say, but have felt inhibited by either the 200-word limit or my own limitations.

For me, the evidence of the Spirit is so powerful that the rest is just icing on the cake (so to speak). For that reason, I think that the Spirit of one of the evidences that Ash speaks of that carries more weight than other evidences.

Because of the Spirit, I find the testimonies of the eleven additional witnesses to the Book of Mormon to be credible (though I think there are also historical evidences of their credibiility). And the Spirit of the only way to truly evaluate the prophetic evidences of both the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.

I appreciate Ash's distinguishing between evidence and proof, and the special distinction between mathematical proofs and scientific evidences.

Tucson, AZ

There is no evidence that jesus was/is the son of god. There is no evidence moses parted the red sea. There is no evidence the god of isreal exists or that any of the spiritual occurrences depicted in the bible occurred. However, there is eveidence the civilizations depicted in the bible existed. There is evidence the characters in the bible existed (not everyone, but many). There is eveidence the locations depicted in the bible existed. Many of these evidences are of the level of proof. What evidence is there of any new world character found in the book of Mormon, any new world location, any new world civilization? Let alone evidence that elevates itself to proof?

Alberta Reader
magrath, ab

Just the fact the BofM is tangible is very direct evidence. It absolutely exists and no one can argue that point. You can read it, live its principles or burn it stomp on it or let it collect dust but it still exists.
One of the prophecies of the BofM is that it will continue to exist and won't go away. Time will prove this as well whether it is years or hundreds of years for the existence of this world as it now is the BofM will persist read and debated as it now is.
BTW cowboy how many times have you read the BofM care to answer?

layton, Ut

Jeff: "A Marvelous Work and Wonder" is evidence against the BoM.

Therefore behold I will proceed to remove this people, and I will remove them: and I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will hide the understanding of the prudent. (Is 29:14 Septuagint Lxx)
I will Destroy the wisdom of the wise ,and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent(1 Corinthians 1:19)
Paul is quoting from the Apostles Bible, from where God denounces the policy of the Wise in Judah seeking an alliance with Egypt against Assyria. God will punish the Jews for spiritual wickedness; He will remove their discernment from their hearts. Fulfilled in that they rejected Christ.

A paraphrase gives a good view of Isaiahs prophecy. Therefore I will take awesome vengeance on these hypocrites, and make their wisest counselors as fools. (Is 29:14 LB).
JS mis-used the KJV; to create his false own prophecy of the BoM.

Tucson, AZ

Alberta Reader-I never thought of it that way. Send the missionaries.

the truth
Holladay, UT

RE: sharrona

Joseph Smith got it correct.

There is nothing in the BOM that indicates that the BOM prophets were quoting Isaiah directly,

they seem to be teaching from Isaiah,

in addition the BOM prophets had the Brass plates which had more correct and complete record of the prophets of Isreal up tp 600 BC, something the greeks did not have.

RE: Doctor:

Without assuming, What would BOM evidence look like? What would everyday writings and speech look like and sould like?

A culture that mostly built with wood what would you expect to remain from a people that was destoyed 1600 years ago?

And how do you know evidence has not already been found, it just not recognized as such?

You have to have faith (the FIRST principle of the Gospel) to believe someone is a prophet or the Son of God o rin any of the miracles.

NO physical evidence can and will ever prove those things.

Provo, Ut


I don't mind answering - I'm a returned missionary, I've led Gospel Doctrine three times, served in both Stake and Ward Sunday School Presidencies, and eagerly preached the Mormon message from a scripturally intensive standpoint. I am not professionally trained in the scriptures, but I am not ignorant of them. I generally wasn't one to track the number of times I read the scriptures, but I am comfortable in saying that I have managed The Book of Mormon cover-to-cover at least five times. I also have done written theological analyses of various sections, in great deal - so the cover-to-cover quota is quite misleading. I have read the D&C cover-to-cover twice, and again performed theological analyses an other sections. I have actually read The Old Testament cover to cover twice, the New Testament about four times with considerable LDS analyses on Revelation, The Acts, and a comprehensive study of the Gospels alongside BRM's Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. I used to read Joseph Smith History in the PoGP one Sunday each month, and have consequently read the PoGP more times than I can count. Not an expert, but not ignorant!

Alberta Reader
magrath, ab

You prove the exact point we try to make
You correctly note that places in the bible exist as fact, that is verifiable. All would agree they do even you acknowledge this.
You then discount the teachings in the Bible of Jesus as the son of God that he clearly and with no ambiguity taught the people. He taught with no ambiguity all must come to the Saviour to be saved. As I understand your posts you discount this as well.
So even if geography could be proved for the BofM your beliefs would not change at all. The saving principles in scripture having nothing to do with actual geography or locations but what is taught as principles and commandments
Likely no point in any missionaries yet for you we can always hope though

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

To Mormoncowboy: I've done many of the same thing. I have also attended a Catholic University and gone through many of the theological classes, yet my testimony remains in place. So where is the difference between you and I. I refuse to put my trust in what man can bring. The Book of Mormon in many ways states that it confuses the wise. Which are you the wise or do you take the Spirit for what it is?

As Michael Ash stated when the Spirit testifies it is much more than just a "feeling". I've had too many spiritual ensounters to just discount it to something created by the mind. I've witnessed too many miracles that just can't be explained by man. I've watched the miracle of the Atonement take a person much as the women brought before Christ and seen a complete change of heart that the Book of Mormon and the Gospel brings. The Gospel in and of itself is pretty simple but it is MAN that tries to make it more than it is. The Doctrine & Covenants testifies of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ.

Full-on double rainbow
Bluffdale, UT

How is "reason and rational thought" a part of the process if you already have a predetermined conclusion? As an apologist you are trying to fit the square peg of evidence into your circle hole of your conclusion (the church is true). In many instances the two are incompatible, hence the need to play the faith card to fill in the gaps. It would seems that faith could be used to explain any unverifiable phenomenon (ie flying spaghetti monster). It just seems that some members have their minds made up and no amount of contradictory evidence could sway them. That kind of approach doesn't seem very honest or effective.

Provo, Ut


The difference between us is that I try and put my "faith" in that which deserves faith, by demonstrated evidence. You put your faith litterally in "Man". You state that your faith is in God, yet your entire conception of God requires you to accept a doctrine of him revealed to Joseph Smith. You take on faith the words of those who claim to hold God's authority, and call that "faith in God". I don't accept the claims of religious men, particularly those who frankly aren't trustworthy. You also echo Ash's argument that the spirit is "more" than feelings, and yet I haven't seen you provide any cogent explanation for what that means beyond "more". If it is "more" than feelings, perhaps you could provide greater explanation for this epistemological experience you call the "Holy Ghost"?

Alberta Reader:

I don't get this argument about BoM geography and evidence compared to Biblical archaeology. Seeing as how Joseph Smith claimed to have recieved the Gold Plates via a miracle, any archaeological claim supporting the BoM history, would be a major point scored for Joseph Smith. Are you familiar with the foundational Church history?

Tucson, AZ

You miss my point. I'm not asking for evidence of divinity. Just evidence there was even a civilization. I have not read the BOM. My understanding is the church once believed a vast civilization existed that was the forefathers of all native americans. Since more and more archeological knowledge has emerged your scholars have backed off that claim. So if you are saying a couple hundred jews built wood huts and survived for a few years then I'll concede evidence will be hard to find. But I don't think that's what you preach or believe so let's establish what you believe was the extent of your civilization so we can discuss what scholarly evidence such a civilization should have left. From what i have read here on this site hundreds of thousands of warriors fought with steel weapons at the hill cumorah. Show me an artifact.

born again
Murrieta, CA

The truth is whether people are willing to see it or not is that there is no evidence that the BOM stories ever existed. No brass plates. No evidence of Laminites and Nephites battles. Nothing written in any other books of history mentioning the Nephites or Laminites. On the other hand, the Apostles that walked with Jesus wrote first hand accounts of his existence with possibly some seccond hand accounts. The geography is still their. The archeology is there. The Romans wrote about Jesus. The Koran talks about Jesus. There are more writings verifying the life of Jesus, than any other historical text ever written. In second place is Homer's book the Illiad and the Odyssey. The Apostles that walked with Jesus are mentioned in many different historical texts as well.

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