Bloom calls Smith “most eminent intellectual in Mormon history”

September 5, 2011

Harold Bloom of Yale University

In 1969 Leonard Arrington asked 50 prominent Mormons to identify the “five most eminent intellectuals in Mormon history.” The list was published in Dialogue.  Twenty-four years later, Dialogue decided to run the survey again.  It was re-published a few month ago in the Deseret News, and it has been a favorite bloggernacle topic for the past few months.  BH Roberts was #1 in both surveys.  In the 1969 survey, Joseph Smith was #3, but fell to #5 in 1993.

Concerning these surveys, Yale University Professor Harold Bloom said,

I can understand the two surveys you cite only if the Mormon Ph.D.’s employed an absurdly narrow definition of an “intellectual.” Joseph Smith, even to a Jewish non-Mormon like myself, is the only American creative enough to be called a prophet, seer, and revelator, that is, a religious genius. There was Emerson, of course, but ultimately his was more a literary mind than a religious one. I greatly admire McMurrin, and Roberts also, but if “intellectual” means what it should mean, then Smith clearly is the most eminent intellectual in Mormon history. He was an authentic visionary, and totally original in mind and spirit—really a kind of mortal god.  I cannot understand why he is not honored by more Americans.

The above letter was written in response to a query by Henry Miles.  Miles developed a correspondence with Bloom over the past 2 decades, and published the series of letters in Dialogue.  Bloom is one of the most high-profile non-Mormons that has extensively studied Smith, and has written or spoken about Smith on many occasions.  What do you think of Bloom’s characterization of Smith?  Do you think Smith was undervalued in the 2 surveys?

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39 Responses to Bloom calls Smith “most eminent intellectual in Mormon history”

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 5, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    MH — that is an excellent point. But Bloom has read a number of religious types on their own terms, something most refuse to do.

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  2. Andrew S on September 5, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    If Joseph Smith is the most eminent intellectual in Mormon history, then Boyd K. Packer’s old talk starts to take on new light.

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  3. Cowboy on September 5, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Whether you view Joseph Smith on his own terms, or more in a Fawn Brodie kind of way (an unbelieving admirer), you still can’t consider Joseph Smith an “intellectual”. I don’t believe he was as ignorant as we sometimes portray, ie, the unschooled farmboy narrative, but any analysis of his intellectual contributions are going to fall into two camps:

    1) Joseph Smith was a Prophet – In this case Joseph Smith, the one that most favors his integrity and intelligence as a sound person, Joseph Smith contributed little of anything to theology/cosmology/etc. He was merely the conduit of revelation from which God restored enlightenment. When I so often hear members speak of Joseph Smith’s intelligence demonstrated by certain accomplishments (for example: citing the accomplishment of bringing forth the Book of Mormon, or the comprehensive revelations of the restoration) I wonder if they have really internalized the idea that he was a Prophet rather than an innovator. Afterall, very little credit should be due Joseph for translating the Book of Mormon in a few short months (alleged actual translation time) if he was just following God’s direction and had access to supernatural capabilities. If you believe he was a Prophet he deserves no credit for revealing the doctrines of salvation, the degrees of Glory, etc – or for clarifying scripture, and even “correcting” the prevailing understanding of the nature of God, that he is a corporreal being and an exalted man further along on the continuum of progression. Etc, etc, etc. If you believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet, then these teachings are not manifestations of his intelligence, but rather his calling as a Prophet. In other words, he was just passing on the information that was more or less handed to him.

    2) If you believe that Joseph Smith wasn’t a Prophet, then how can any of his contributions be considered intellectual? It would mean that he made it all up?? He didn’t further our understanding of the purpose of life, the mysteries of God, or any other thing. He simply took advantage of mans uncertainty and filled in the gaps with pleasing fictions that largely cannot be verified, and have no rational basis beyond wishful thinking. Even if you conclude that he weaved together traditions and lore from Jewish traditions (I understand he was tutored by rabbi’s in Jewish tradition, scripture, and lore…in Kirtland I think) in an interesting way, all he did was assemble fiction from fiction…so, how would that be intellectual?

    I would agree that Joseph Smith was charismatic for his time and culture, manifest by the observable concentration of his followers…but that does not necessarilly bespeak the traits of intellectualism.

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  4. MH on September 5, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    Cowboy, I don’t think Bloom fits into either of your defined camps, so there must be at least a 3rd camp, don’t you think?

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  5. Cowboy on September 5, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    The only other camp that could be possible would be some kind of universalist grouping. I suppose if you/Bloom wanted to go that route, you could…but it’s never been very compelling for me, so I generally discount it. Admittedly I only know of Bloom what you wrote and what I was able to glean from a few minutes perusal of Wikipedia, so I couldn’t comment to strongly on Bloom personally. Still, he is not a Mormon, he doesn’t seem to hold himself accountable for Joseph Smith’s revelations so, I cannot believe that he thinks Joseph Smith to be a Prophet in the way that Mormons do or in the manner Joseph Smith alleged. So, what else is there? To my mind the only other road, other than Joseph Smith was a complete fraud, is that he was a Prophet along some kind of Universalist landscape. Even still, the intellectualism of Joseph Smith can be broken down into two categories. Either it was revealed, or it was made up. Even if it was made up by drawing from the influece of many theological perspectives, it was still made up. Afterall what makes the three degrees of glory any more intellectual than any other view of heaven, Nirvana for example? What makes the Godhead anymore intellectual than the trinity? What makes any theological principle more intellectual than any other baseless guess that can be rationalized?

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  6. Glass Ceiling on September 5, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    JS got more done in his 39 years than any 10 men. Did he ever sleep? And he disorder all with the law against him. Whether he was a genius is a cumbersome question, as Cowboy well illustrated. But how JS was so resourceful is the real question, IMO.

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  7. Glass Ceiling on September 5, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Should say “…and he did it all…. “

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  8. FireTag on September 5, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Cowboy:

    I’m not sure I could consider EINSTEIN in such a limited notion as “made it all up” or “was inspired”. That requires assumptions about the nature of consciousness and spirit we can’t yet “intellectually” make.

    By the way, even though he didn’t have a lot of the concepts to understand what he was being shown prophetically — and probably shouldn’t have tried to interpret it too soon — Smith’s cosmology was a lot closer to 21st century understandings than that of his 19th Century Christian or secular contemporaries, as I noted here:

    http://thefirestillburning.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/youve-read-this-post-before/

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  9. Cowboy on September 5, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Firetag:

    With all due respect, you’re comparing apples and oranges. The basis for Einsteins theory of relativity is completely separate from Joseph Smith’s “theory of the degrees of Glory”, from the standpoint of how the theory was derived and most importantly, as to how it was supported. The contribution to intellectual inquiry is a formula and model that can be discussed on equal terms, even scrutinized. Even if it is not “true”, or completely accurate, the basis is a sound position to work from. Joseph Smith proposed no such model(s). He simply asserted himself to be a messenger from God, who from time to time was granted a view from “beyond the veil” into the eternities, who simply stated things as fact without trying to explain how. The closest he he came to that explanation, that I am aware, is his notion of God’s progression through an “eternal round”. Still even this is hardly an explanation of anything but rather infinite layer of infinite regresses between “creation needs a creator” and “who then, created God”.

    Joseph Smith didn’t propose an explanation for the world that rationally tried to account for all the variables of observation, but rather stated things as “fact” by appealing to the authority of God, and creating a position of authority on his words as an alleged Prophet of God.

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  10. Cowboy on September 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    “That requires assumptions about the nature of consciousness and spirit we can’t yet “intellectually” make.”

    One of the assumptions inherent is the very notion of a consciousness that exists independent of the body, ie, a spirit. In fact, it is this question that raises the problem between “consciousness and spirit”. So, we’re still back to square one – does God speak to man at all…and if so, did he speak to Joseph Smith?

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  11. MH on September 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Cowboy, I really appreciate your comments. You always make me think.

    I disagree with your either/or characterization of Joseph Smith. I know that church leaders like the “either/or” characterization that Joseph was a prophet/fraud, but I don’t think Bloom likes this paradigm. Let’s ignore this paradigm for a minute, and look at Joseph Smith not necessarily as a prophet or a fraud, but as an intellectual based on his own merits. (I don’t think one has to be a Universalist as you claim to do this.)

    Let’s pick some other men that we could consider intellectuals in the same vein as Joseph Smith: Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin. Does one have to believe that only one of these reformers was “true” and the rest are frauds, or can we acknowledge that all of these men (Smith, Luther, Wesley, Calvin) were theological innovators, regardless of whether we subscribe to any/all of their theological ideas?

    In the Miles article, Bloom has said “There is no other figure remotely like him [Smith] in our entire national history, and it is unlikely that anyone like him ever can come again.”

    Are there really only 2 ways to view Joseph? Must Bloom only accept Smith as a Mormon prophet or believe that he is some sort of religious fraud? Is there a place to put Joseph as a religious innovator along the lines of Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Luther, Calvin, or Muhammad?

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  12. FireTag on September 5, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Cowboy:

    “One of the assumptions inherent is the very notion of a consciousness that exists independent of the body, ie, a spirit.”

    If you looked at the link I provided, you know that I do argue for a common connection between spirit and consciousness that NEVER separates the physical from the spiritual. They are, in my opinion, simply two different mappings of the same information.

    I may be totally wrong, but I have always been aware of the objection you raised. Spirit is to person as mind is to neuron, and it takes a great many minds (bodies) to create the complexity to house a Spirit. Indeed, I would suggest it takes all possible realities (including a few templates we haven’t even thought about yet) to house the complexity of God’s spirit.

    JS saw things he couldn’t explain. Einstein saw a concept that it then took him a decade or so to learn the math to explain. I’ve heard musicians say that the music can be heard before they create it. I simply don’t know where intellect stops or inspiration begins,

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  13. hawkgrrrl on September 5, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    I think the problem with being objective about JS is the same as the problem with being objective about the BOM. As Grant Hardy pointed out in his book Understanding the BOM, neither believers nor non-believers are capable of objectively appreciating the literary qualities (the structure specifically since the prose is so awkward)of the BOM because of what it purports to be. A believer accepts it uncritically (therefore with only superficial appreciation) and a non-believer dismisses it on principle (deeming it unworthy of deep analysis). So it is with JS.

    That’s why Harold Bloom is so unique. Very view can get past a shallow polemic vision when it comes to Mormonism.

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  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 5, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    Cowboy, Bloom is somewhat of a Jewish Gnostic.

    You are just failing to track on the issues as Bloom addresses them, which is as a professional professor of religion.

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  15. Mike S on September 5, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    I don’t consider Joseph Smith to be an intellectual, but perhaps it is semantics. He was certainly inspired in many things he wrote. He has had an impact on millions of people. But not much of what he said was analytical. He said things that people accept, not because he showed they were true, but because of his position.

    To me, an intellectual is someone who studies issues rigorously and lets the evidence fall where it may. This may include scientific data, religious data, etc. But at the end of the day, things stand or fall on an intellectual argument and not an appeal to “feelings” or the position of the person arguing the position.

    The most interesting things to me from the Deseret News survey is that there doesn’t seem to be much room for intellectuals in the Church today. Look at the year of birth for the people in the survey: 1882, 1807, 1910, 1908, 1872, 1862, 1914, 1805, 1811, 1857.

    Essentially no one born in the last century is considered both an intellectual and an active Church member.

    Have they become mutually exclusive?

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  16. FireTag on September 5, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    Good observation, Mike.

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  17. hawkgrrrl on September 5, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    It’s difficult to call any religious leader from JS’s day an “intellectual” because what we believe and know scientifically since that time has changed and progressed so much. So, you can have BY, JS’s successor, claiming that we will have missionaries teaching people on the moon and sun (clearly he was even out there for his day on the sun, but the moon – people didn’t know what to expect about the moon at that point).

    So many of the things BY said sound like nutty byproducts of his time, but JS holds up better through time. I suppose that’s what Bloom means.

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  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 6, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    Mike S, I’d put many of the people at FARMS/Maxwell Institute down as rigorous thinkers, but that isn’t what the term means, nor does it mean pretentious self-serving idiots.

    It means

    A person possessing a highly developed intellect.

    a person who uses the mind creatively

    An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence (thought and reason) and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity

    Which would fit Joseph Smith. Truman Madsen also. Hugh Nibley.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on September 6, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Truman Madsen? Really? In what way is he a critical thinker?

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  20. Andrew S on September 6, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence (thought and reason) and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity

    I don’t want to be that guy, but the “or” is really troubling to me.

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  21. Jeff Spector on September 6, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    To the non-believer, the contributions of Joseph Smith appear to be an monumental intellectual exercise. To believers, it is the influence of God, full stop. Doesn’t matter how smart or educated Joseph was or was not.

    Intellectualism is in the eye of the beholder. Some would say the Church discourages it while at the same time we have three universities which have spawned some of the best minds in the Church.

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  22. Cowboy on September 6, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    MH – I also enjoy your topics, and hope not to come across too antagonistic.

    I don’t have a problem giving credit where credit is due. Could we argue that Joseph Smith has been one of the more influential persons in American history? I would certainly say yes. Does he compare to Martin Luther or John Wesley? I suppose some parallel’s could be drawn there, but we must bear in mind some distinction. There could be a lot said here, so to save space I’ll just point out that Joseph Smith’s “reformation” wasn’t the result of critiquing the scriptures or other teachings and traditions, and then contrasting those with the behaviors of the Church and resulting culture. In his own words, he didn’t know which Church was right, and claims to have had his answers given directly by God. Whether one believes this or not, I don’t see how this could have been a serious intellectual excercise in the form critical analysis and rational inquiry. Now, we could argue that technically Joseph was critiquing the religious atmosphere of his day and so this was in fact an intellectual excercise, and perhaps so, but this is a far cry from a superior specimen of rational inquiry.

    So, if we are going to consider Joseph Smith the greatest intellectual of Mormon history, and a “visionary” worthy of broader appreciation, we must ask – what was his contribution? If Joseph Smith claimed to be a trained minister who felt that the prevailing Church’s erred in how they interpreted scripture, then perhaps his contributions would have been intellectual, as they would have reprsented inquiry. That is not at all what Joseph Smith did. Instead he claimed to that the very authority to teach the gospel rested with he and a few others. He was right because he had the authority. Now, in light of this argument we now come down to two possibilities:

    1) he is correct on that claim – in which case we have camp 1

    2) he was incorrect on that claim – in which case we have camp 2.

    So, what did Joseph contribute, and where did the ideas come from. I would argue that it either came from God, or from a convenient manipulation of scripture.

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  23. Cowboy on September 6, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Firetag:

    I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did skim through it (so, I concede some ignorance to your perspective). Still, I think we are arguing semantics until we draw the distinction that you believe in a pre-mortal spirit and in some type of literal spiritual communion with God. Your comment #10 was directed at that assumption, suggesting that because we don’t entirely understand the nature or mechanics of this alleged communion, we can’t certainly distinguish Einsteins processes for inspiration from Joseph Smith’s. I am simply stating that your a priori, while not necessarilly invalid, is what leads to complications you point to in your comment #10. So we must start there, and then were still back to was it revelation or not? If it was then you may have a point and perhaps I have ignorantly dismissed Joseph Smith’s intellectualism. If God does not speak to man (in any form), then it would seem that both Einsteins relativity (as an example) and Joseph Smith’s three degree’s of glory were developed in the mind, a wholly independent form of consciousness (whatever that is). In short, relativity would be intellectual as it is rigorously defensible (even if not true) and three degrees of glory is whole cloth fabrication, even if borrowed from older literary fabrication.

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  24. Cowboy on September 6, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Stephen M (Ethesis):

    No, in fact I completely understand that this is why Bloom feels the way he does. I don’t doubt that as result of his professional background Bloom appreciates theological innovation largley for it’s effect (that would be my guess) on society, history, and culture.

    I’m simply arguing with Bloom’s assesment. Perhaps I’m out of my league – which is partly to explain why I am arguing with his point of view on a public blog instead of submitting papers to peer reviewed journals.

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  25. GBSmith on September 6, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    “Truman Madsen? Really? In what way is he a critical thinker?”

    Probably in his early days out of grad school and teaching philosophy at the Y.

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  26. MH on September 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    Cowboy,

    While I understand where you’re coming from, I think it’s a bit simplistic to think that Joseph simply turned off his brain for these revelations. After all, D&C 8 says Oliver must “study it out in your mind” and then ask if it is right. Certainly there must have been some part of Joseph’s intellect that played a part in these revelations.

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  27. Cowboy on September 6, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Hi MH:

    First – I have miscommunicated if I have suggested that Joseph Smith simply “turned off his brain”. Nor have I meant to imply that he was not capable of rational thought, etc. What I am challenging is not whether Joseph Smith had any “intellectual” faculties whatsoever, but rather that he is/was the most “…eminent intellectual in Mormon history” and that he ought to be “…honored by more Americans”. As I said, I don’t believe Joseph Smith was dumb, but I don’t think his contributions merit these conclusions. If they were revealed, then they weren’t his. Conversely, if they weren’t revealed then they aren’t real, in which case they are meaningless and indefensible on “intellectual” grounds.

    As for D&C 8 – 9: I have stated this before, but that scripture cannot be taken at face value. The Book of Mormon characters were said to be written in a lost language with unfamiliar characters. How could Oliver C. study them out in his mind, in some kind of intellectual endeavor, before applying the bosom burning test? If this story is to make any sense at all then we have to conclude that the injunction to study it out in ones mind had some kind of spiritual/prophetic implication. Otherwise this story is frankly just absurd.

    As a side note – If we want to conclude that the act of prophecy is still intellectually taxing and/or rigorous, we are still left with Firetag’s observation that at best we do not fully understand the “nature of consciousness and spirit” – making any assesments of Joseph Smith’s intellectual aptitudes or contributions simply a matter of arbitrary opinion.

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  28. FireTag on September 6, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Cowboy:

    OK, I understand what you’re saying better now, and I think you are understanding me better. I am arguing that modern physics suggests that multiple copies and variations of all of our physical bodies have always existed, exist now, and will always exist in the future. That implies that personal properties are inherent in reality as well as impersonal ones, and leads me to think of problems of consciousness and spirit in a pantheistic rather than panentheistic sense.

    So, if we are to evaluate the inspiration vs intellectual nature of JS’s contribution, I think we should build the intellectual into a better model of inspiration BEFORE we do that evaluation.

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  29. Cowboy on September 7, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Firetag:

    I’m okay with that. Over the course of this discussion I’ve wondered if most of the disagreement or confusion has rested in the ambiguity behind what it means to be an “intellectual”. Bloom, according to the quote in MH’s post, even makes note of this by saying:

    “but if “intellectual” means what it should mean, then Smith clearly is the most eminent intellectual in Mormon history.”

    Which now has me wondering – what should it mean to refer to someone as an “intellectual”, according to Bloom?

    In any case, I think I have gone overkill on trying to make my point here.

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  30. MH on September 7, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    Cowboy,

    what should it mean to refer to someone as an “intellectual”

    That’s the whole point of the discussion. The Dialogue people tried to define intellectual as someone with a PhD, though they let Joseph Smith in anyway. If a PhD is the criteria, then I guess we couldn’t assume that Bill Gates or Steve Jobs are intellectuals, even though they are obviously quite gifted in the field of computer.

    It is apparent that Bloom is using intellectual differently that the Dialogue authors. But what should intellectual mean? More importantly, what part of Joseph’s intellectual gifts play a part in the revelations he received? You seem to be saying “no part”, but Bloom seems to disagree (if I am understanding you correctly.) I think Joseph’s speeches (such as King Follet sermon) should be viewed through an intellectual lens too, not simply a revelatory lens.

    Sorry for not responding sooner. I’ve enjoyed the interaction, and you have nothing to apologize for. Unfortunately, I’ve been crazy busy over the past few days.

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  31. Mike S on September 8, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    I think the crux of the matter is that we all have different definitions of what it means to be an “intellectual”.

    To me, an “intellectual” is someone who loves the pursuit of knowledge, who is willing to put in the time seeking out new knowledge, and who is willing and honest enough to follow that knowledge where ever it may lead. And if an intellectual finds truth, it should be reproducible by anyone else who does the same thing.

    An example: Einstein. He developed knowledge. He thought about things while he was doing other things. He followed the pursuit of truth even though it lead to what seemed like paradoxical results at the time. And everyone who has chosen to test his theories has found the same predicted results.

    In the LDS sphere, I would consider BH Roberts to be an intellectual. He also followed and investigated truth. Some of his results didn’t necessarily agree with accepted teachings, but he still presented them (sometimes posthumously).

    This is where I think FARMS isn’t truly intellectual. They have a preconceived idea of what they want to prove. If they find something they can remotely stretch to fit this preconceived idea, they develop it. If there is something that conflicts with their preconceived idea, they cover it up or explain it away. But the a priori idea is NEVER wrong. This isn’t intellectually honest.

    And while Joseph Smith presented a number of concepts, I don’t know that I would consider him an intellectual either. Many things he gave us are certainly inspiring, but they are accepted on the basis of his office and not for the idea itself. No one can prove how many kingdoms there are in the afterlife. No one can prove that God was once like man. No one can prove these types of things – you either have to accept that they are or aren’t.

    Re: JS, Moroni’s promise would come the closest to a “provable” thing. But for everyone who has received an answer to it, there are many more who have prayed about it and who HAVEN’T received the same answer. So it is not reproducible.

    Unfortunately, because many things in religion are not able to stand up to close scrutiny (hence the need for faith), many people in the Church today denigrate those who DO scrutinize things. This has lead to seeing an “intellectual” as almost a derogatory term.

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  32. Cowboy on September 8, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Mike S:

    I think you have articulated what I have been trying to say in a much better way. I have not been trying to posit the notion that Joseph Smith was blank, so to speak, but that his idea’s either cannot be attributed to him (because if they are, then aren’t based on light and knowledge – perfections of truth), or if they are then they aren’t based on anything rational.

    Now, in spite of this, Joseph Smith may have been every bit the genius that some believe him to be, and I’m okay with that. Perhaps there is some kind fusion between intellect and inspiration, and I am also okay with that – at least theoretically. Where I sort of feel compelled to draw the line is that we have discernable evidence of Joseph Smith’s intellectual contributions. Without that he may or may not have been truly “intellectual”, but on what basis are arguing for that?

    I’m willing to concede theoretically to Firetags point that we can’t discount that there may be somewhat of a fusion there, provided we accept that we don’t understand the nature or mechanics of it. Even so, I also tend to see the matter more along the lines of Mike S in comment #31.

    Side note, Mike S argument regarding apologists was spot on.

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  33. FireTag on September 8, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Mike S.:

    Good comment, but I’m not sure there are very many “intellectuals” in academia either by your standards. Big bang theorists tended to research and discover evidence for the big bang while steady state theorists kept researching and finding evidence for the steady state notion of continuous matter creation. This went on for decades. “Big bang” was originally a term of derision coined by a steady stater.

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  34. mh on September 9, 2011 at 4:23 AM

    what is the difference between a genius and an intellectual?

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  35. Chino Blanco on September 9, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    Genius doesn’t rhyme with ineffectual.

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  36. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 9, 2011 at 6:00 AM

    Mike S … FARMS started on a small table in Professor Welch’s law office. Originally it was just some photocopies of observations and thoughts, mostly preserved essays from Hugh Nibley and the like that were out of circulation.

    The best of which is Bird Mountain. http://www.ldspromisedland.com/?p=220 for a link to it.

    Welch got started by diagramming the Book of Mormon like you might a legal case, and noticed the poetic structures. But he was looking at things deeper, fresher, with more attention and he cross-fertilized his thinking with other fields.

    Though it would be fair to say that there are no physicists who are intellectuals because they tend to presuppose gravity, at least in their every day lives. Only rampant deconstructionists would count under your definition.

    Which is something I doubt you meant.

    But I do think it illustrates that perhaps your comment about FARMS as a group (rather, than perhaps, specific individuals) might be unfair.

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  37. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 9, 2011 at 6:03 AM

    I would note that an early work by FARMS was an explanation of why the Lehi cave was not the Lehi of the Book of Mormon.

    (The “Lehi Cave” is a cave in Palestine that has some drawings and other things in it that dates back to generally the time of Lehi — it also has the name Lehi in it. Whoever that Lehi was, he was of the wrong tribe to be our Lehi).

    I’ve seen others analyzing various North American artifacts that some have thought supported the Book of Mormon to show that they did not.

    Anyway ….

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  38. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 9, 2011 at 6:07 AM

    Andrew, I hate to be “that guy” too, but

    I don’t want to be that guy, but the “or” is really troubling to me.

    Which is the “or” that is troubling you? I was quoting a definition there, btw, not making mine own up. But the sentence has two “or”s in it.

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  39. Mike S on September 9, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    #36 Stephen M:

    I agree that there are individuals within FARMS (or any other organization) who might fit what I call an intellectual.

    But, as organizations, groups like FARMS and FAIR exist to teach what is inspiring, not necessarily what is true. They have a different goal than pursuit of truth.

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