Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: A better methodology’

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Published: Monday, June 6 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"Once you assume that a document is a fake, no arguments and no evidence to the end of time can ever vindicate it, even if it is absolutely genuine."

Fair enough, but by following the same line of reasoning...

"Once you assume that a document is [genuine], no arguments and no evidence to the end of time can ever [disprove] it, even if it is absolutely [not] genuine."

To demand the acceptance of the first line of reasoning and then conveniently abandon the same logic on the opposite end exposes the writer's lack of credibility and intellectual honesty.

With all due respect, such display of incoherent thinking and obvious bias is far from a better methodology for establishing truth.

Miami Area, Fl

Lets continue on the same reasoning.

Does it also stand to reason the Mr Ash starts with the belief that in the following instances "we must begin by assuming that it was really written by ancient authors.

- God revealed the truth to the Prophet Muhammad? So, is the Quran correct?
- L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics and Scientology must be true?

Have either of the above religious texts been proven false?

Sure brings a whole lot of religions into play if we must take their claims as truth.

Or does this line of thinking only apply to the BOM?

Phoenix, AZ

What an amazing turn of events Mr. Ash has presenting to us readers. We started out searching for the hay stack and now we are being told it is not a hay stack that we are attempting to evidence but maybe a needle in the hay stack; so minor and assimilated that it too may appear as a straw in the hay stack, but we must accept it as so because we have no way of proving other wise. It seems like a magic show. Now if Mr. Ash can just explain away the DNA issue he will have establised the invisible history of the vanished Book of Mormon people.

Ogden, UT

To Weber State Graduate,

Your statement, "Once you assume that a document is [genuine], no arguments and no evidence to the end of time can ever [disprove] it, even if it is absolutely [not] genuine" does not, contrary to what you claim, make any sense.

You attempted to write a statement opposite to that of Michael Ash.

Instead of what you wrote you should have written it as follows: "Once you assume that a document is a [genuine], [all] arguments and [all] evidence to the end of time [will] vindicate it, even if it is absolutely [false]."

The point being, falsehood can never be vindicated because no valid arguments nor valid evidence to the end of time will ever exist.

Provo, Ut

I think anybody who has taken the time to read The Book of Mormon and pray about it has given the book for more benefit of the doubt than what it deserves. In any case, the idea that one must work on the assumption that the book is true is good for the researchers who undertake the task, to assist them in discovery. Though once they have discovered proof, they simply need to present those findings - and if they are compelling rational people will weigh the evidence. It is asking too much however for Ash to suggest that people in the general population must operate under the expectation that the book is true until it is proven false. The Church has plenty of researchers who operate under Ash's requisite a priori's - so now it's their turn to present their findings. What have they found?

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

We are learing more and more about the Mayan culture. Some exciting ruins are being uncovered daily even though much work is yet to be done. I think Mike and his contemporary colleagues are correct in moving from trying to find BofM content/teachings in the Mayan culture or the New World. We know enough about the Mayan/New World culture and very little resembles Judaism, Christianity or BofM without extreme and subjective stretches.

The modern scholarly move to a very limited geography and quick, complete assimilation is necessary given that we cannot identify the Old World in the New with any real objectivity. The more we learn about the Mayan culture it will be interesting to see what similarities LDS scholars can pull from the Book of Mormon.

I believe Mike already addressed this, but BofM analysis has to make the assumption that much of the text was personally inserted by Joseph Smith. There are way too many anachronisms and Biblical quotes written hundreds of years after Nephite existence to think it was a pure ancient translation.

If the BofM is true, the textual development HAD to include a good amount of Joseph Smith's personal additions.

Bill McGee
Alpine, UT

To Weber State Graduate: There is a fundamental flaw in your logic. It doesn't work both ways because you can't prove a negative. I can assert the BoM is true and require others to prove it is false. This is reasonable because the premise is testable. However, if others assume it is false, I can NEVER prove it is true to their satisfaction.

For example, if I present you with a document I claim is ancient, and it includes a passage describing Nephi driving his car to the next town, it is demonstrably NOT an ancient document. End of story. If, however, I present you with an internally coherent document and you tell me to prove it is ancient, what can I do? I can show you how it is completely consistent with its purported time and place, but you can raise objections until the sun cools. (Of course, the discourse is much more complicated in real life, but the underlying logic remains true.)

Tooele, UT

Re: "The Church has plenty of researchers who operate under Ash's requisite a priori's [sic] - so now it's their turn to present their findings. What have they found?"

There's plenty there. And Mike has promised to discuss it all.

His point, however, is that betting the farm on finding -- or not -- a stele that translates to "Welcome to Zarahemla," is neither realistic, nor dispositive.

Deniers, on the other hand, seem much more positive. They constantly bear snarky, testy testimony of their primary article of faith -- that the Book of Mormon is hooey. Well, that places the burden on them to show it, then.

Mike's brilliantly elaborated thesis is more modest -- no scientific proof requires either belief in, or rejection of, the truth of the Book of Mormon.

Stay tuned.

Murray, UT

This weeks summary:

First, I am starting from the assumption that the Book of Mormon is true.

Second, I don't expect to find archelogical evidence of a Hebrew culter in the New World, as the Lehites adopted culture from te native who were all ready here.

Lehi, UT

Enjoyed the article.

In my studies Ive found an undeniable relationship between American and Middle Eastern cultures, religion, morphology, DNA,etc (speaking collectively).
This relationship is so detailed that it is impossible for it to be by chance. I dont claim to know how it exists.

We have to remember though that the BoM doesnt begin at the beginning of American history.

The BoM does report millions here before Lehi and Mulek arrived. Jaredites were important for a reason, so their history was included, others were probably left out (same reason Jareds bro was?). Mulekites were probably closer to Jaredite hubs and survivors. Mike points out that Nephite language was altered. Nephites were also absorbed by larger Mulekite cultures, whose language they couldnt understand, after this renegade Nephites taught Lamanites another language etc.

IdahoCoug, right, Mike did discuss the translation process for weeks, I agree with the "co-creative" model (even Isaiah, John, etc wrote God's word within their own context, after manner of Jews, seeing current surrounding (even pagan) symbolism in vision etc), but I disagree with the rest of your assessment. Broken, Sharonna, etc have long been posting supposed translation issues, none have stood that I recall.

Provo, Ut

The most poignant argument against population incursion is the fact that the Book of Mormon makes no mention of this. Instead the entire history is woven around Nephites and Lamanites, and all manner of ites, while Ash asserts they were living among the non-ites. They were able to "blend in with the crowd" so to speak, so as to completely hide their history, and yet still able to carry out a massive open family drama for a millenium. If they integrated with the indigenous people (a concept the Book of Mormon actually disputes), then how come they didn't adopt the indigenous governments - or currency, or language? Why didn't the Nephites and Lamanite lose interest in their own obscure conflict, and instead just adopt the concerns of the greater society of which they became a part of? None of this makes any sense. In fact, quite frankly the only way the Book of Mormon can make sense as a "real history" is if you try and stress that they were in fact the primary ancestors of the Native Americans. They either integrated and blended, in which case the BoM seems unplauzible, or they didn't.

Round Rock, TX

For me,this weeks post goes sideways with the declaration that a small incursion of people in a larger existing population would not leave behind markers. Well Lehi in the desert was only about 30 people in a land supporters like to call Nahom. Small group leaving a marker in an existing larger group. Also, the BoM makes no direct references to other people. In fact, the Lord says he has kept the land hidden from other nations. And finally, small incursion? The numbers of people killed in battle indicate hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. And how did such a small group expand so quickly? Population growth rates for the world in BoM times was near zero.

Clearfield, UT

How about not assuming the BoM is true OR false, but instead....take a neutral stance? Research is then initiated, evidence is gathered, and then a determination is made based on the evidence. Most researchers want their research to be an accurate reflection of reality and produce meaningful results. One factor that will always attempt to compromise the integrity of research is researcher bias....a self-caused error due to improper procedures or allowing personal beliefs to affect experimentation. Mr Ash seems to be approvong confirmation bias: only looking for data that confirms a desired conclusion. Allowing confirmation bias to get the better of your results is regarded as a particularly sad form of incompetence. If you use Ash's method you are bound to come come out having biased determinations right from the start. This could also be viewed as the circular reasoning.

Lehi, UT

In addition to the above, I must say that, even if we were to omit the proof of God's voice, recognized by all with ears to hear and eyes to see, even omitting those most powerful evidences, there are still mountains of external evidence that the BoM is an ancient record, translated into Joseph's 19th Century religious "language," testifying MOST powerfully of the Divine Nature of Christ and His real interactions with very real people in the Americas.

Critics, who have been trying to discredit the BoM for almost 200 years, and are here day in and out, can't explain away the evidence. If they could, and if they had any proof against the BoM, the game would be over.
They only need one touchdown. But must resort to fabrication, alteration, dishonesty, darkening the light etc.

Yet the Bom has made many many touchdowns, and changed millions of lives for the better, including mine. It led me to Christ, and away from the destructive path I was on.

There is no proof against the BoM.

There are mountains for it.

Ogden, UT

And (to add to JM | 10:09 a.m. June 6, 2011 Lehi, UT), there will never be proof against the Book of Mormon. Why? Because all these pseudo scientists keep insisting they can prove nonexistence---impossible.

Several years ago a couple of U of U researchers claimed they had discovered a way to produce cold fusion. But true scientists were unable to replicate their supposed findings. They indeed had not produced what they claimed to have produced. Replication proved impossible.

Does that fact prove that cold fusion cannot exist or be produced?

Absolutely not! as any true scientist will tell us.

The fact that the U of U researchers did not discover or produce cold fusion is only proves that the researchers did not do what they claimed they did.

Other researchers may yet discover or produce what the two at the U of U researchers claimed they did.

Bottom line, science has not nor will ever be able to prove nonexistence and, as I said, any true scientist will frankly state, "The best we can do is to discover evidence to support to some small degree a hypothesis, not the opposite."

Otis Spurlock
Ogden, UT

Bill McGhee,

The statement that you cannot prove a negative is simply false. According to your logic, the following can NEVER be proven:

Five is not equal to four;

The ancient Egyptians did not watch Seinfeld; and

There are not millions of living dinosaurs in North America

Clearly, its possible to prove a negative statement. Especially when all the scientific, archaeological, linguistic, geographic and geologic evidence points one way.


Assuming a claim is what it says it is makes it testable, and therefore falsifiable. This is the core of every TV crime show: when a witness is questioned, you assume that they have something to offer. Even a confession is put to the test, because sometimes people cover up for someone else or are looking for attention, so you start with the premise that they're on the level, but you follow up, verify the facts, interview corroborating witnesses, etc. If you dismiss a witness out of hand without talking to them, then they aren't part of the case, for or against any argument. Plots often feature a belated return to the once-dismissed witness who turns out to be key.

There are people who take the Book of Mormon's claims seriously, and the questions they ask have led to dead ends, and to new lines of inquiry. The comparative geographical theories would be utterly useless if you don't believe it's real to begin with.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

To Bill and yarrlydarb:

"It doesn't work both ways because you can't prove a negative."

Precisely my missed it entirely. By pointing out the same reasoning on the other end, it shows the flawed logic of the initial premise...both premises are equally absurd when taken to its extreme.

Unfortunately, apologists begin with the premise that BoM authenticity is an absolute and no arguments and no evidence to the end of time can ever disprove such a premise, even if the BoM is absolutely not genuine. They look for supporting evidence and casually discard any contrary or lacking evidence based upon their initial premise.

An objective investigator will begin with an initial premise of possible truth without any preconceptions against the possibility of being wrong. Any evidence to the contrary is objectively weighed by honestly entertaining the preponderance of evidence against the initial premise, something that an apologist refuses to do.

sandy, ut

Jm - once again you make claims that are in and of themselves, untrue, dishonest, etc. You make claims of mountains of evidence for the Book of Mormon, but don't give 1 reference of that material or evidence you are talking about. You never give any sources or any real information, only your very vague opinion. I like others to give their opinion, but they need to back it up with something. That is great that the Book of Mormon changed your life in a positive way. That is not the debate. Many books, truth or fiction, have changed peoples lives in a positive way - but that doesn't make them all true.

Phoenix, AZ

The truth is that the LDS church is a very wealthy large international corporation that has the money and resourses to employ independent experts and professionals to establish if the Book of Mormon is authentic history. The LDS church has smart leadership at the top that is not going to play Russian roulette with the truth; and chance coming out on the losing end. They learned their lesson when they conceded research liberties to Fawn M.Brodie to write her book: No man knows my history. No other major qualified institution is going to research the truth of a historical Book of Mormon because they all feel it is a no brainer work of fiction. So in the meantime the best we can do is debate unqualified opionions such as Mr. Ash's (and others pro and con)and hope we learn something new and gain some insight.

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