Defending the Faith: Book of Mormon style can be both subtle, sophisticated

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  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 27, 2011 9:09 a.m.


    You stated that you would like it if more Scientists began to "use the spirit to examine their conclusions". In response to Moniker Lewinsky's challenge you then present a hypothetical scenario where a stumped scientist would possibly be benefited from a flood of idea's to help them resolve their dillema, which you would attribute to the spirit. How does this scenario explain your rather bold contention that scientific conclusions should be examined through the spirit? That argument seems to imply to me that the spirit should be cross checking the scientific findings, rather than simply contributing to ideas for hypotheses. I don't think anybody would care if scientist gave credit to God for helping them concieve of a hypothesis, so long as the testing and resulting conclusions were scientifically rigorous. In fact, even I can admire the humility associated with giving God the credit for idea's. Where we have debate is when a spiritual "confirmation", as we like to say, contradicts the science without offering any empirical evidence that can be objectively demonstrated and unanimously observed without requiring any subjective/debatable religious pre-qualifiers. At that point is becomes just a baseless assertion that smacks of arrogance and stubborness.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 26, 2011 7:53 p.m.

    @ moniker lewinsky: "Mormoncowboy" is not likely to be asked to be my spokesperson, thank you very much.

    What "Mormoncowboy" describes is precisely what a scientist would do if the scientist did not feel or know the Spirit but wanted to create a false impression of feeling it. Someone with a real spiritual experience would not do that.

    I do not believe that God, being a good parent, wants to do everything for us. Let's propose this hypothetical situation: a scientist is seeking the truth about something and is stymied at every turn. The scientist has tried every possible approach that s/he can think of, and nothing confirms or rejects the hypothesis. The scientist then prays and asks for help; his her/his mind is suddenly flooded with a multitude of new ideas allowing him/her to proceed along previously unconsidered avenues of inquiry and experimentation. Each approach to a new idea renders possible a number of previously unconsidered truths that the scientist realizes from a spiritual confirmation as well as a confirming experiment, resulting in something that benefits humanity as well as the scientist.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 26, 2011 11:19 a.m.

    Moniker Lewinsky:

    I'll answer that. I would start by stating a hypothesis, such as...I don't know...mabey that the Book of Mormon was a true record of a real people. I would then begin attending services and paying money to it's parent organization. After some time I would falsify that premise a number of times, only to then reconfigure scriptural interpretation and selectively dismiss certain statements from Church leaders in order to protect my hypothesis. After some time I would come to learn that any means which can be established to objectively test my hypothesis would ultimately result in falsifying my hypothesis/deeply held belief. I would then contrive arguments and defenses which cannot be tested objectively. I would then introduce a new "empirical" method of testing, utilizing instruments that cannot be tested or measured or compared, and I call this method the spirit. I will also claim that it is the highest empirical method available to mankind, and should be given superiority over all other methods. I will then claim to have had an "undeniable" experience with the spirit confirming my original hypothesis. Case closed!

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    June 24, 2011 11:36 p.m.

    How would it benefit science for scientists to use "the spirit" to examine their conclusions? Could you give me an example of how this would work?

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 24, 2011 10:59 p.m.

    Jeff said, I disagree that there are Trinitarian ideas in the Book of Mormon, but I disagree that they're found in the Bible, too. Examples:

    For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one(*heis,1520). (1 John 5:7 KJV)and(1 John 5:7 JST)Both teach 3 persons one God and the Nicene creed was well before the KJV. *cardinal number 1, One God, not gods.
    Baptizing them in the name(*to onoma) of the Father,and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost(Spirit)(Mt 28:19 KJV)and (Mt 28:18 JST). Classical Tri-unity statement.
    *The name not names, good Greek grammar.

    Hear O Israel, The LORD=(YHWH)our God=(Elohim)is one(eshad)LORD(YWHW)(Deut 6:4),Gods personal name is YHWH. Jehovah is a poor KJV translation. Google tetragrammaton
    This is the doctrine of Christ, and the only true doctrine of the Father and of the Son ,and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end Amen.(2 Nephi 31:21) Early JS taught there is only one God.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 24, 2011 10:26 p.m.

    @ lewinsky: I agree with much of what you say. I think my intent is different from yours, however. I would especially like it if more scientists used the Spirit to examine their conclusions; many do, and they are happy indeed.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    June 24, 2011 3:00 p.m.

    That most people appreciate hearing their beliefs defended does little to speak to the credibility and truthfulness of the defense. Especially when the one doing the defending has a preconceived agenda to fulfill. In my opinion, people should spend less time trying to defend their beliefs and more time trying to scrutinze them, even if that means having to deal with unpleasantries.
    In most scientific communities, one starts out with a theory and tries to disprove it. With religion, people are often encouraged to do the opposite. LDS missionaries teach investigators to have faith that the Book of Mormon is true and then pray to be told that they are correct in their assumption. Boyd K. Packer once declaired that a testimony comes in the bearing of it.
    I believe that all matters of evidence and proof- whether religious or secular in nature- should be held to the same standards of scrutiny. As long as everything is being held to the same standards of scrutiny, I have no problem. But in my opinion, nothing is so sacrosanct as to be immune to a second guess.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 24, 2011 1:49 p.m.

    Bill - That is similar to saying that there is no Book of Mormon translation manuscript. Of course there is, as he supposedly was getting the translation by revelation he wrote them down. The original is a manuscript. So yes, on the Joseph Smith translation of the bible it would be the same. Even if done by revelation there would be a manuscript. You also claim that critics refuse to listen... that is like critics saying the LDS faithful refuse to listen. That may be partially true, but reality is that people can come to different conclusions based on the EXACT same facts. There are historical facts - those facts lead us to our own personal truth. So although you say critics don't listen it is more that they do listen, but disagree on the conclusion of whatever facts you are presenting. Just because somebody doesn't agree with your interpretation of truth does not equal apostacy, anti-mormon, evil, etc.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    June 24, 2011 1:49 p.m.


    "It seems, at least to me, that the more you know about the church and its history the less impressive and faith promoting it becomes."

    I find just the opposite. As I have learned more about the Church and its history, the more impressive and faith promoting it becomes.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 24, 2011 1:33 p.m.

    Brahmabull and brokenclay: You both seem to be raising the idea that there is some deep, dark issue in that fact that LDS doctrine developed over time. Nothing could be more obvious. It's intrinsic in our Standard Works.

    I disagree that there are Trinitarian ideas in the Book of Mormon, but I disagree that they're found in the Bible, too. That both books use the same language to speak of God, despite the fact that Mormons from the First Vision have believed in the separateness and distinctness of the Father and the Son, shows that the books are inspired from the same source.

    I disagree with Brahmabull that there are inconsistencies in doctrine and history. I agree wtih Richard Bushman that Joseph Smith did not always fully understand the revelations that he was receiving, but the revelations, taken as a whole, are astoundingly consistent.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    June 24, 2011 12:21 p.m.

    Brahmabull and Brokenclay: What both of you miss and don't understand is that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are basis for what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believes. We believe in revelation, therefore of course Joseph Smith theology changed over time as more and more things were revealed to him. This is no different than any other prophet who lived or will live on the earth.

    Secondly, why do I have to give you a manuscript. The fact you ask for one is because there never was one. The translation Joseph Smith did of the Bible was done completely by revelation. In this he was a revelator and a seer, besides just being a prophet. I have read the Book of Mormon many times and I continue to read it. I find the insights brough by others of faith to be quite rewarding and something maybe I didn't see before. I learn something new each time I read the Book of Mormon. The reason there are apologists and defenders is because critics still refuse to listen. The only explanation after everything comes to light is that Joseph Smith told the truth.

  • Montana Mormon Miles City, MT
    June 24, 2011 11:45 a.m.

    I just re-read Helaman 13 last night. I found Dan Peterson's insights into Samuel the Lamanite's words very enlightening. Thank you for sharing.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 24, 2011 11:26 a.m.

    Brokenclay - the part in the bible about 'adding to scripture' doesn't apply to this - the bible is made up of parts of thousands of manuscripts so they are technically adding to each other. Another thing is that the Book of Mormon supposedly was taking place around the same time - so that wouldn't be considered adding to scripture either. I do, however, agree with you that Joseph Smith and what he taught transformed over time. I agree that there are many inconsistencies with doctrine and the history. It seems, at least to me, that the more you know about the church and its history the less impressive and faith promoting it becomes.

  • brokenclay Scottsdale, AZ
    June 24, 2011 8:43 a.m.

    Idaho Coug, you raise an interesting point. The BoM Jews had suspiciously detailed prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, even by name, hundreds of years before it happened. The Old World Jews had nothing of the sort. And yet on the other hand, the NT church supposedly practiced all of the peculiar Mormon doctrines, like baptism for the dead (Mormons claim 1 Cor 15:29, but it really doesn't say a whole lot about the practice), temples, Melchizedekan priesthood, polytheism, etc. So the question becomes, how is it that the BoM Jews received a visit from the Savior, had detailed prophecies about him, but never were instructed in the basics of the LDS faith?

    The best explanation appears to be that Joseph Smith's theology developed over time. When he first started, his doctrine was slightly more orthodox, even Trinitarian in places in the BoM. But over time, the peculiar Mormon doctrines were developed and added to the repertoire.

    Once again, I challenge a Mormon to present hard, manuscript evidence for the JSTs. No one has taken me up on this yet. The Bible promises some of the severest punishment for those who add to the words of Scripture.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 23, 2011 9:10 p.m.

    Bill in Nebraska,Gentiles were not plan B*:
    ...I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the "Gentiles"(Isaiah 42:6).

    It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the "Gentiles",that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6).
    One of the basics Biblical hermeneutics is to use the N.T. to interpret the O.T..
    The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel who pursued a law of righteousness has not attained it. (Romans 9:30)

    Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect(in Love)(Mt 5:48)Jesus uses the law. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith(Gal 3:24 NIV).
    *No plan for Nephites or Lamanites.

  • Aspiring Theist Sandy, UT
    June 23, 2011 7:54 p.m.

    It is interesting to me how different people perceive their scriptures, and I appreciate insights I didn't see.

    When I read this story in the Book of Mormon I was intrigued by Heleman 13:8-9 where Samuel is telling the people if they don't repent they would be smitten in about 400 years. It seemed strange that the people would feel compelled to act by something that would happen that far in the future.

    I also felt Helaman 15:12 was a bit curious when Samuel says the Lord's blessing are on "our brethren" the Lamanites, kind of like he wasn't a Lamanite.

    Maybe I am too picky.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    June 23, 2011 7:35 p.m.

    TO Sharrona: Clearly you misunderstand Isaiah 65 entirely. The Lord is rebuking Israel for disregarding him, not the Gentiles as you state. A carefully reading of the entire Chapter is necessary to understand just one verse. Joseph Smith Translation of this same verse shows clearly that the Lord was speaking to Israel. Even using the NIV with the rest of the verses clearly shows that the rebuke was for Israel who and that he was silent because of their own wickedness. This is clearly illustrated further in the Book of Mormon when the Nephites and Lamanites both would become a stiffnecked people. The Lord would withdraw himself from them. So clearly not only do the Lamanites and Nephites meet this criteria as do all of the Lord's people who neglect to obey his commandments and ordinances.

    Again faith is dead without works. You have to prove to the Lord that you are willing to obey his commandments as with the charge to all of us, "Be ye perfect even as I am". How can we be perfect if we don't obey his commandments and ordinances? In the end, our Saviour's grace saves us, after all we can do.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    June 23, 2011 5:00 p.m.

    Idaho Coug: You will find that as you read the Book of Mormon more that you will find that it truely is ANOTHER TESTAMENT of The Lord Jesus Christ. You are right that the Nephites did follow the Law of Moses as they prepared for the birth of the Savior. This is why it follows so well with the teachings of the Old Testament. What is even more correct is that we learn in the Book of Mormon that what was taught to one people was also taught the same to another. This way the teachings are the same.

    When you speak of uniqueness to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints you will find it in the teachings on baptism, authority through the Priesthood (not something a man can take upon himself), the importance of Prophets and Apostles, the partaking of the sacrament (the emblems of Christ) and most of all the marriage covenant. All are not unquie but all are comprised within the cover of the Book of Mormon. Where some say the Book of Mormon and the Bible contradict really there is no contradiction, only in the precepts of man himself.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 23, 2011 4:22 p.m.

    Helooo, Great article!!!! True the BofM, returns more and more with careful reading? Carefully reading the Bible can return more.

    And other sheep(gentiles)I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.(John 10:16).
    Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." And Isaiah* ( Isaiah 65:1,gentiles) boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."( Romans 10:19-20 NIV).
    Neither the Nephites nor the Lamanites can meet this qualification.

    But you are a *chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation(ethnic), Gods special possession (a peculiar people, KJV) that you may declare the praises of him who* called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) *God,s elect or(Church,). God chooses (elects) nation(ethnics).

    The true church are Gods elect.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 23, 2011 4:08 p.m.

    The truth doesn't need a defense, per se, but some in the faith really appreciate seeing it defended.

    Explaining the literary methods of the Book of Mormon is something that I appreciate--partly to strengthen my testimony, but very much because I love to discuss literature, and I have been fascinated for some time at how the Book of Mormon may be approached as a literary work. I enjoyed this reading of this particular passage--something I had not considered before.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    June 23, 2011 2:06 p.m.

    Nor should the truth require such elaborate and full time apologetic efforts.
    When it comes to religion and spirituality and morality, I believe two things:

    The truth should ring true.
    Faith should act as a bridge, but never an eraser.

    When somebody asks me to believe that which can't stand up to scrutiny or is incredulous or goes against knowledge I have attained or if that belief requires elaborate mental gymnastics in order for me to maintain it, I know to ignore that person. When somebody asks me to try to unlearn something or ignore it or sweep it under the rug or wait until later to think about it all in the name of having faith, I know I should ignore that person.

  • FarnsworthPMacGillicuddy Layton, UT
    June 23, 2011 12:52 p.m.

    I am a firm believer that the truth never needs a defense. So I am puzzled by those LDS members who make a living (as self-proclaimed defenders of the faith)out of doing just that. As an active LDS member, I've never been befuddled with, or by reading and studying the scriptures. The writing style is not something I choose to study, the message is what I concentrate on. The truth never needs a defense, even today.

  • BCA Murrieta, CA
    June 23, 2011 12:42 p.m.

    Yep. And Peter Sellers' character, Chauncey, in the movie "Being There" was a brilliant economist.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    June 23, 2011 12:09 p.m.

    On page 160 of my re-read and enjoying it. But honestly struggling to find "Mormonism" in it. Other than the backstory of the Lehites traveling to the Americas and the finding and translation of the plates by joseph Smith which is obviously uniquely Mormon, the book itself reads in a way that most mainstream Christians would generally say "yeah, we believe that too."

    Were the unique LDS teachings and doctrines most associate with Mormonism today not known to the Nephites? It definitely seems that much of what makes us unique TODAY came from the DandC, PofGP, and LDS leader teachings. So far (through page 160) it is searching for and living the Law of Moses to better anticipate the coming of Christ. Good stuff but far from uniquely LDS.

  • otonashii1 Round Rock, TX
    June 23, 2011 12:01 p.m.

    acrostic name calling cookies in "scholary" papers are subtle and sophisticated too. But it doesnt make them correct either.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    June 23, 2011 11:04 a.m.

    Solomon Spalding certainly seemed to think so.

  • Linus Bountiful, UT
    June 23, 2011 10:31 a.m.

    My experience is that it is much easier to feast upon the word if you serve it up aloud. My wife and I read all of the standard works aloud during the last three months of our mission, and we appreciated the scriptures more than ever before.

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    June 23, 2011 10:05 a.m.

    Great article!!!! True the BofM, returns more and more with careful reading, becomes prophecy more than history, and great counsel more than prose.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    June 23, 2011 9:43 a.m.

    Love it! Excellent analysis!