Monday, November 12, 2012


I spend a fair amount of time and energy (mostly online) around people who are questioning or disaffected from the LDS church. I do it for a few reasons. I like questions, and these are forums where people can ask complicated questions and get serious answers (sometimes). I sympathize with those who feel hurt by the LDS church or something that happened in it, and I want to offer them my support as they deal with separation or isolation from the culture that they once treasured--I don't want them to feel cast off. I want to be an example of one way of being thoughtful and staying LDS. That's potentially a very prideful reason, but it does motivate me at times. Having said all this, I frequently feel like I have to bite my tongue on these forums, and I want to let it out someplace equally public (even if no one reads this, anyone COULD read it). So, I'm going to start with the Book of Mormon. Please, give me a truly thoughtful criticism of the Book of Mormon in its entirety or shut up about it! Go ahead and criticize my actions or the actions of particular church leaders if you feel you must, but don't pretend you are being rational when you criticize the Book of Mormon.

There, I said it. I'm tired of the lack of archaeological evidence being trumpeted as a proof of falsehood. The record is ambiguous, and there are circumstantial evidences in favor, as well. If you'd care to make a side by side list with me, I'll put in my share of the work. We can see which side currently comes off better. Otherwise, get off your pseudo-scientific high horse.

I'm tired of genetic evidence of Asian ancestry for Native Americans being touted as proof of falsehood. At best, it is proof that a commonly held, superficial, LDS genetic hypothesis is false. I understand enough genetics to comprehend the claims, but I have also read the Book of Mormon closely enough to see that there is no clear genetic hypothesis regarding the ancestry of Native Americans to even do a good study. You can't even formulate a clear, testable hypothesis that is supported by the text. If the text falsifies your hypothesis to start with, why would you expect anything but a negative answer? False assumption, arbitrary conclusion.

I'm tired of tired arguments about authorship. There is a thoroughly controlled, objective study of authorship ( that convincingly shows that Alma and Nephi are different authors, and that they are not Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, or Solomon Spaulding. You can quibble about subjective textual analyses, about the exact process of translation and why the King James Version is quoted so extensively all day long. Explain to me how Joseph Smith created at least two completely independent authors according to non-contextual word print analysis--a feat not matched by great authors attempting to appear to be multiple authors--and I will then discuss your subjective, circumstantial complaints. Forget the fact that Joseph Smith really did have gold plates, as attested to by witnesses that many have tried to discredit for years. We have a text. It has multiple authors. The authors are not Joseph Smith. This is not circumstantial or derived from ambiguous historical accounts. Deal with it, and then I will believe that you are serious about examining all the evidence available to you.

I'm tired of hearing about 2nd Isaiah based on circumstantial textual criticism of ambiguous, incomplete ancient records for which we know we don't have the original (or even a claimed translation straight from the original). Give me a clear argument, if this is really an issue. I don't think Bible scholars have an agenda against the Book of Mormon, but I also don't think an appeal to their authority is sufficient proof. I do think no one has explained to me why 2nd Isaiah should bother me in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon doesn't talk about Cyrus. It does talk about coming out of Babylon. Cyrus could be a problem requiring some mental gymnastics, but it isn't there. Explain to me why coming out of Babylon is unambiguous or insuperable. Show me that Isaiah wouldn't have heard of Babylon, or at least show me that he would have more likely identified some other country as the worldly place that Israel should spiritually separate itself from. Then I might take the criticism as more than a possibility that is interesting to consider. (And then address my last point to show why I shouldn't consider the Book of Mormon as evidence that 2nd Isaiah was 1st Isaiah edited by post-exilic editors.)

Then show me why I shouldn't agree with my ancestor, George Cannon, who is reported to have said upon reading the Book of Mormon: An evil-minded man could not have written this book, and a good man would not have written it with the intent to deceive.


  1. "...Asian ancestry for Native Americans being touted as proof of falsehood..."

    Sweet! Now we are finally a part of the debate!!

    1. As Ammie said (but not in these words), racism is ugly, even when it comes just in the form of being ignored.

  2. Jonathan, I share your concern with facile dismissal of the Book of Mormon, both because the historicity remains objectively ambiguous and because I would continue to consider it an inspired text even if persuaded that the book is objectively not historical.

    1. I would actually agree that the book is not historical, if by historical one means it isn't a history text, or that it contains some demonstrably historically inaccurate points. I would have to reformulate my understanding of inspired if the Book of Mormon were somehow proven to be a hoax. That's because I find the evidence overwhelming that it wasn't a hoax perpetrated by Joseph Smith. I would struggle trying to understand why God made that hoax. It would be like trying to understand why God perpetrated the hoax of dinosaur bones and radioactive dating. I just reject it. He didn't. So I would have some form of crisis if the Book of Mormon could be objectively dismissed. Of course, my prejudices place the burden of extraordinary proof on those who would dismiss the book, as my post probably made clear. :) Hopefully these specifics give grounds where I am offering to meet critics on at least a couple of objective points, and I'm not just totally shutting down the discussion as my opinion vs. your opinion.