Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Many different voices are needed for a chorus of witnesses’

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Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"I can't agree that defenses of the coherence and historical claims of Mormonism are obsolete."

But what if many of the claims of Mormonism are indeed incoherent and obsolete? For example, many of the astronomical and Newtonian concepts found in the BoA are scientific relics.

The problem with apologists like Petersen is that their defense of the truly incoherent is similar to the argument made against such dogmatists as outlined in Ibn Rushd's "The Incoherence of the Incoherence." In an effort to reconcile claims of truth with reality, apologists fail to coherently apply the tools of logic and reason which are used in the sciences.

In my humble opinion, one simply cannot reconcile the supernatural with reality without some kind of evidence beyond the claim of a supernatural witness like the "Moroni challenge." Rather, acceptance of supernatural claims should be a matter of faith.

But when apologists abandon logic and reason to defend the faith while at the same time laying claim to its use, such defense often becomes incoherent. And at its worst, it becomes downright disingenuous.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Article quote -
“I don’t believe that the sheer beauty of the Christian idea can sustain faith in the absence of conviction, or at least reasonable hope, that core events of Christianity (e.g., the incarnation of Christ and his resurrection from the dead) are factually true.”

Sad if this were true given the millions who are no longer able to believe in things that (even couched in the most positive light) are highly improbably.

But Fowler’s stages of faith suggests this may not be the case – that there are stages beyond “mythic religion” where faith stories can have just as much power to affect our lives without necessarily seeing them as literally true.

terra nova
Park City, UT

I love the mind and works of Truman Madsen. He exercised an economy in writing. Every sentence was packed with meaning. He was a man of extraordinary depth and insight. We need more like him.

Thinkman
Provo, UT

Truman Madsen's tapes on Joseph Smith were inspiring to me when I was younger. I almost felt as though Smith was near deity. I taught about him on my mission and in Gospel Doctrine classes and in Priesthood Quorums. Much of why I taught with such conviction about him was because of Madsen's writings and lectures.

Nibley was another inspiring and thought-provoking writer and lecturer.

However, when I started researching actual church history volumes and the Journal of Discourses and saw that the Book of Abraham turned out to NOT be a translation of ancient papyrus, I then very quickly realized that I didn't have the full picture of Smith and his claims and now have a much different view on him.

People like Madsen and even Nibley are actually dangerous because they know the full truth yet only choose to dwell on the faith-promoting aspects of Smith and the LDS church and its claims of being divinely inspired.

sharrona
layton, UT

RE: a chorus of(Mormon) witnesses VS a great cloud of(Christian) witnesses(Heb 12:1).

Reading about great Christian thinkers of the past is like being at a really good Bible study. They can help you think through things you may have been puzzled by. They can inspire with new light on a familiar scriptural passage.

E.g. Augustine: The Grace of God. Anselm: The death of Christ. Aquinas: Faith and Reason. Luther: Faith and Experience. Calvin: Our knowledge of God. C.S. Lewis: Let God be God….. many more.

“Unless you believe , you shall never understand. True theology presupposes faith”. Augustine

“Only God can save. Jesus saves. Therefore Jesus is God”. Athanasius

“The otherness of God, to experience the overwhelming sense of divinity of God, and to respond in humility ,obedience and wonder.” Karl Barth

“God is not a human being, Nor does the necessity of a human mother point to the need for a divine mother. They are analogies” Thomas Aquinas

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

Thinkman wrote: "...saw that the Book of Abraham turned out to NOT be a translation of ancient papyrus..."

Two additional pieces of information might have changed your course had you considered them:

1. The extant Abraham papyrus is a small remnant of what Joseph Smith originally had in his possession. The remainder was destroyed in a fire. We have no idea what he had.

2. Joseph Smith used the word "translate" differently than an academician might. The "translation" of the Book of Mormon consisted of being given the English words corresponding to the hieroglyphics on the plates. He didn't have to learn the hieroglyphics in order to "translate". He didn't even have to be looking at the plates. He only had to be a worthy, willing, and chosen recipient of revelation. (Recall that his Bible "translations" were made without physical possession of the original texts.)

Given that we can never have a perfect historical account of anything, we should rely on God rather than man to understand God's dealings with Joseph Smith. God is more than willing to reveal the truth to anyone who is more than willing to obey God's revelations.

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

@sharrona:

One prophet trumps a great cloud of philosophers.

The Scientist
Provo, UT

Pops wrote:

"@sharrona:
One prophet trumps a great cloud of philosophers."

Human history proves otherwise.

Dennis
Harwich, MA

@ Pops....."One prophet trumps a great cloud of philosophers."
I don't know any "prophets". I've met 5 men in my life that claimed to be such but went away feeling deceived. How is it that you're so sure that anyone is a prophet?
Harold B. Lee, Howard W. Hunter, Gordon B. Hinckley, Spencer W. Kimball and Thomas Monson left me pretty flat at meeting them.
I've met and had dealings with about a dozen other general authorities and came away thinking they were unhappy business men. Just my impression.
I'm fairly sure I wouldn't follow any of them anywhere.

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

Pops

Right.... Joseph Smith didn't even need the plates to translate... yet he went to great lengths to retrieve them anyways. That makes little sense. He put his life on the line to get plates that he didn't even need. Why would god have Joseph go get the plates to translate, but then not have him use them to translate? There is no common sense there. You are right - he didn't use the plates for translation... the most likely scenario is that they didn't exist, thats why he didn't use them.

Regarding the papyri... Yes there may be pieces missing, we will never know what they said. What we do know is the part that egyptologist do have access to are NOT translated correctly by Joseph Smith - not even close. So then why would we assume that the other parts that are lost are translated correctly when the very small example we got from him turned out to be wrong? If this small sample is wrong, where is the leap to believeing the rest would be right??? It doesn't add up.

cowboypriest
Sacramento, CA

2 Nephi 9:42

And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.

terra nova
Park City, UT

It is clear that the process of "revelation" is not understood by those decrying Smith's "translation" of the papyri.

When an LDS Bishop contemplates a calling that needs to be filled, he may feel strongly impressed to extend a call to some person. He talks to his counselors. They help confirm the feeling. Then the person is called in to talk about it. From time to time, that interview reveals additional information that may cause the Bishop to reconsider the call. Does that mean he was uninspired?

No.

To say so is to deny the process. The Lord wanted that person to come in and talk with the Bishop. But sometimes the reason for the talk only reveals itself as they talk.

If Joseph was inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics, his inspiration is no less valid because a learned man says "that ain't what it says." The real key is found in what the Holy Spirit testifies to you. If you read it, does it testify of eternal truth? Does it enlighten your mind?

If so, let the academics bury the academics.

Understanding how revelation works (with imperfect people) may help you understand why prophets occasionally even misspell names.

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

terra nova

One problem that you ignore is that Joseph didn't say he was getting the information by revelation. He said it was by translation. He tried to translate the papyri from one language to another - and failed miserably. Are you now claiming that the papyri somehow "inspired" him and that opened the revelation that is now the pearl of great price? Quite a stretch considering he said he translated them, and that it was from the hand of Abraham himself. So he needed revelation, and that revelation had to be triggered by the papyri that he said he translated.... Yeah totally adds up..... Either way, the translation/revelation is not what was on the papyri, so either way it is false.

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

terra nova

Btw - you use translation and revelation as if they are one in the same. They obviously aren't. You example of the bishops interviews is grossly off point because the bishops never claim they "translated" in the interview. They only claim the calls come by revelation. They aren't "translating" anything from one language to another... they are interviewing. Don't you see the difference?

SCfan
clearfield, UT

Weber State Graduate

Just remember, at one time logic and reason had the sun revolving around the Earth. I think one of the greatest errors humans make is the belief that we know it all now because we are in a time when we can know it all. I'll bet many generations of philosophers, scientists, and religious people have been caught in that trap. It is a little arrogant to believe that we know it all, just because this is the 20th century, or the 21st century. It doesn't take much imagination to conceive of things we might know in the 22 or 23rd century. Or do you believe that we have reached the pinicle of human knowledge? You don't have to answer that, it's rhetorical. And as for the Book of Abraham, the very fact that it talks about worlds without number, is enough for me to know that a prophet saw those things. Think how limited the universe was in Joseph Smiths day. Today, with Hubble and other modern technology, we are beginning to see what Abraham saw.

Jeff
Temple City, CA

I agree with the premise that the beauty of the Gospel is a witness of its truthfulness. I also agree that it is useful to give people something to hang onto until they are spiritually converted, which makes outside evidence necessary in a limited sort of way. Further, I think that God always intended us to balance our intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual selves, and all of those things may come into play as evidences of the truth of the Gospel.

For me, though, the evidence that supersedes all other considerations is direct personal communication with God through the Holy Ghost. That provides the foundation, then all other things may be properly built upon it.

sharrona
layton, UT

RE: Pops: In(D&C 84: 6-17) the line of priesthood is given from Moses to Adam. verse 13, Esaias, who lived in the days of Abraham. Esaias, from Greek LXX, S/B Isaiah, Hebrew lineage.
To avoid confusion Modern N.T. translations have Isaiah instead of Esaias, see (Romans 9:27,29, NKJV, NIV,NET). JS used KJV,but didn't read Greek.

RE: Cowboypriest, 2Nephi 9:42,come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.

“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” ― St. Francis of Assisi

(D.H.C. v 6. P 408,409) “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet..

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

There's a certain amount of hubris in many of the criticisms of Joseph Smith. Critics imply that if Joseph Smith were really a prophet, he would have done such-and-such rather than what he did, as if the critics knew better how God would have dealt with a prophet than does the prophet himself, or even God. It isn't difficult to postulate reasons why Joseph Smith needed plates in order to produce the Book of Mormon, yet didn't in order to produce corrections to Bible translations. Simply because one don't understand God's economy doesn't mean that God didn't do what he did. God is under no obligation to conform to our expectations when it comes to such things as how one translates through revelation.

Sure knowledge of God's dealings with man comes not through reason or philosophy, but through obedience and revelation. I suspect most of us live below our privileges with respect to receiving revelation due to our disobedience. To the degree that I have learned to obey God's commandments and seek his will rather than mine, I have been blessed with assurances of his reality and purposes.

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

Pops

That is a great answer when you really have no good answer for the problems I presented. Your answer only confirms that I am on the right path, and that if something doesn't make sense, it isn't true. Thanks!

Stay the Course
Salt Lake City, utah

Thats OK Dennis you felt that way a hole bunch of people at the time of the Saviour didnt think much of Him as well and did not follow Him

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