Metaphors for Dealing with the Tough Issues

By: Guest
May 22, 2012

Today’s guest post is by M. Taylor McKeown.

I consider myself a believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I would call myself a “True Believing Mormon” except that term has taken on a whole lot of baggage that I’m not sure I fully understand.  But I believe in the basic core truth claims of the Church, that God lives, Jesus is the resurrected Savior, the atonement is somehow important, Joseph is a prophet, the Book of Mormon is the word of God, the priesthood power is something real, etc.  I also think I am fully aware of all the tough issues and controversies in the Church, and have researched nearly all of them in some detail.

In addition to believing in the core truth claims, I believe in some things that some Mormons may disagree with… I believe that evolution is the most likely process that God used to create life on earth, that the scriptures are highly limited based on the light and understanding of their time (e.g. the flood was probably local, Adam didn’t really live 1000+ years, the New Testament was probably modified significantly between Jesus’ mouth and what we have today, etc.), that prophets are capable of mistakes (sometimes even big ones), and that we still have A LOT to learn about the eternities.  I also have a huge amount of empathy for those who disbelieve, because I think there are a lot of very legitimate reasons to doubt.   But I’ve also had some undeniable spiritual experiences that have rooted me in “belief” in general and rooted me in “Mormon belief” specifically.  I am a believer.

I sometimes get asked:  ”How do you deal with the tough issues of the Church and still believe?”  I think the temptation (and mistake) of many is to dive first into the specific controversial issues.  The Book of Abraham, polygamy/polyandry, Book of Mormon credibility, and the racial priesthood ban are four of the top issues that have been shown in recent studies to correlate to disbelief, for instance.  And while you can and should certainly examine each of those individually, I think it’s potentially harmful to do that without first providing a context for understanding how to frame those and other issues.

Here are a few of the best ways I’ve seen to provide context for dealing with the tough issues in our search for truth:

1. THE SHELF.

One of the most common frameworks I’ve heard is “Putting your issues on the shelf.”  This is a very valuable and common framework for many, since it allows you to suspend general doubts while you focus on the positive or faithful aspects of the gospel.  This analogy never worked for me, though, except as a very temporary solution for the less-important issues.  I’m far too curious, and if I had adopted this framework for dealing with the controversial topics, I’m afraid that my metaphorical shelf would have collapsed a long time ago under the weight of too many issues.

2. THE SCALES: WEIGHING THE EVIDENCE.

Another common and highly useful framework is the idea that you can weigh the evidence on both sides: for and against the Church.  I find this framework very helpful, as long as we are aware of a few key implications.

First, we need to be aware that we all underestimate our confirmation bias.  That is, if we are seeking to find evidence against the Church, we will find it; likewise, if we are seeking to find evidence in favor of the church we will find it.  So in many ways, how your scales become stacked depends more upon how you spend your time, rather than the true weight of the evidence.  If you spend 90% of your time reading faith-challenging materials and 10% reading faith-promoting materials, don’t be surprised if your scale starts to tip towards disbelief.  This has nothing per se to do with the evidence, but simply the fact that you have a bias (as do the materials you are reading) and are systematically accumulating more evidence on one side than on the other.

Another key implication is that even if we somehow eliminate our bias, we should probably still expect there to be roughly equal evidence on both sides.  This is the principle of intellectual agency that Teryl Givens and many other believers have articulated so well – that if God is just, then He must allow for there to be evidence available on both sides so that agency is upheld; you are not compelled one way or the other.  Since God has said that He must “try the faith of His people,” we should never expect the evidence to tip completely in favor of belief.   That way we are left with a legitimate choice.

A final implication of “weighing the evidence” is the dilemma of “spiritual witnesses” as evidence.  Very often, this is the evidence that tips the scales one way or the other, so the choice of whether or not to include “spiritual witnesses” is often the deciding factor regardless of any amount of evidence against the church.  To me there is a certain poetic justice to this.  No matter how much or how little we know or think we know, in the end our belief often comes down to our spiritual witnesses and whether or not you accept them as authentic and real.  Again, it is our choice.

In addition to those commonly utilized frameworks, here are some less common metaphors that I have found very helpful.

3. THE RELATIONSHIP.

Just as I have a relationship with my spouse, my family, and my country which I would not sever lightly, I have a relationship with my church.  Occasionally I will dig up “dirty laundry” – hidden bad things in the history of my spouse, my country, or my church – and I may wonder why I was left in the dark when I made my commitments and pledges.  And sometimes, perhaps often, I will disagree with the current actions and directions that the other party in my relationship is taking.  I may sometimes feel ignored and misunderstood – that my needs and wants are not being met or even listened to.  Do I give up on the relationship?  Do I cut the ties?  Perhaps at some point of extreme abuse and neglect, there does come a time when it’s better for everyone involved to just part ways.  But that is not a decision to be taken lightly, and it sometimes says just as much about me as it does about the other party.

Because relationships are intended to be a commitment, a give-and-take. While any relationship can be “functional,” in order for it to be meaningful and satisfying I need to put something into it, and believe in it to a certain degree, in spite of (and sometimes because of) the faults and shortcomings of the party with whom I have the relationship.  The saying “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” could apply equally to any relationship.  And the truth is, I have found that when I really make a dedicated effort to put something into it, my church relationship provides an amazing return.

4. THE ATTIC.

Instead of setting your issues permanently aside on some shelf to be ignored and forgotten, just put them up in the Attic, where there’s plenty of room and plenty of other curiosities, atrocities, wonders, tragedies and hidden treasure.  Bring your open mind, and come up to the Attic as often as you’d like to dust off the issues and explore them to your heart’s content.  You’ll find there are some amazing and very cool people in the Attic – as well as a few ignorant jerks, but don’t mind them – who love to debate and understand the issues in all their splendor and horror.  And if you’re like me, you’ll find things in the Attic that are truly fascinating and challenging, and a constant source of spiritual and intellectual stimulation.

But don’t get lost in the Attic.  Don’t forget that the House is so much more than the issues found up in the rafters.  The House is the gospel, the church, the community, the forever families, the serving others, the building of Christlike attributes, the all-loving God, the covenants, the search for truth, the desire to improve, the life-altering scriptures, the reaching for the divine, the answers to prayer, mixed in with a fair amount of faith, uncertainty, and personal decision.  The House is cozy but beautiful and strong – built on a firm foundation that can weather the storm.  And yes, there are a number of mundane, boring, day-to-day chores that are required to maintain the House and make it through to those occasional flashes of brilliant light and glory.  But if you remember to live in and take care of the House, it will forever change your life for the better and give you a glimpse of eternity.  And if you’re like me, you’ll find that your House can support anything and everything that’s up there in the Attic.

5. THE TRUE CHURCH IN EMBRYO.

Sometimes in Mormon theology we refer to ourselves as being “Gods in embryo” because we have all the genetic material to someday become Gods (emphasis on the “someday” part).  Similarly, it may be useful to think of the Church having all the right genetic material in its DNA to someday become the true and perfect church, whereas today it’s just the “true and living” Church, with an emphasis on the “living/growing/developing” part.  Challenges, mistakes, and misunderstandings are not only justifiable under this framework, but expected.  We would be surprised (and perhaps even disappointed) if the growing up process didn’t come with a fair share of learning experiences; and in fact, the mistakes made early in life often provide the foundation for success later on.  But underneath the roughness and adolescent imperfections, the Church has a genetic core of something beautiful and eternal – something true and enduring and amazing which can grow in light and glory until it achieves its eternal potential – just as each of us has that same potential if we can only unlock it and persevere.

In conclusion, I have found that these frameworks – these tools – have helped me to follow the advice of Joseph Smith to be “willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come.”  I have examined the evidence, weighed and contextualized it to the best of my ability, and made my informed choice:  I choose to believe, and I choose to remain a committed member of the Church.

So what about you?  Do any of these frameworks resonate with you?  Do you have other methods for seeking truth in the context of challenging issues?

Discuss.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Post note: A quick word of credit where due in a few of these analogies:

The “Relationship” analogy was one I first heard from Armand Mauss in his wonderful article from the book compiled by Robert Rees: “Why I Stay: The Challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Mormons.” http://www.amazon.com/Why-Stay-Challenges-Discipleship-Contemporary/dp/1560852135

The “True Church in Embryo” is an analogy I first heard from my brilliant and beautiful wife.

The “Mormon Attic” analogy came to me late one night in a dream-like state.  If you are inspired by it and find it uplifting, then I’ll give credit to God.  If you find it uninspiring, then we can just say that it was the result of spontaneous and random firings of neural patterns in my sleep-deprived brain.

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51 Responses to Metaphors for Dealing with the Tough Issues

  1. Bonnie on May 22, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Yes, Yes! That! Lovely. I use all of those at one time or another, though I talk of a shelf and treat it like an attic.

    The older I get the more I realize the power of the personal, and I appreciate that Joseph established the first principles and ordinances of the gospel as faith, repentance, baptism, the spirit, and enduring. Lather, rinse, repeat. In the absence of even core doctrines like the priesthood, birth, and sealing power, we have faith, repentance, sacrament, spirit. There’s gold in them thar hills. What’s in the attic fascinates rather than terrifying me now because of some practice with the principles.

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  2. Nerdherd on May 22, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    Am I the only one that feels like these are tools that could be used to convince ones self that anything is true?

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  3. Allen on May 22, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Excellent post. Very thoughtful and deserving of thought.

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  4. mapman on May 22, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Good post. I resonate with all of your metaphors. I especially like your analogy of the attic. I think that people often get caught up in proving things to be either true or false. The way I think of the problems with the Church as being puzzles I should try to help to solve. I think it would behoove all Mormons to read up on the philosophical theory of pragmatism. Pragmatism is essentially what the Church teaches, that we are going to learn a lot still and that we need to be willing to change our conception of things. That being said, there are other aspects of the Church that are equally as important as its truth claims: our community as Saints and families, the priesthood and its ordinances, and spirituality and a connection with God.

    I also really like your “true Church in embryo” metaphor. For me at least, I was always taught that the “true Church” had more to do with having priesthood authority from God and that it is an organization that God has special plans for. I think that one of these is building Zion. We should acknowledge that we have not reached the description of Zion presented in the scriptures. We have not sought out enough knowledge to become one in mind, we do not have perfect communities and so are not one in heart, none of us are perfectly righteous, and we have not been generous enough to eliminate poverty. The proper response to this acknowledgment should be putting our shoulder to the wheel and working with God to try to improve.

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  5. mapman on May 22, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Nerdherd: No, they are tools to work with the ambiguous and contradictory evidence that is inevitable when we just don’t know so much. It is perfectly possible to still reject things based on evidence, but these metaphors help us not to think like fundamentalists.

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  6. Remlap on May 22, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    “A final implication of “weighing the evidence” is the dilemma of “spiritual witnesses” as evidence.”

    How much weight should you give to a spiritual witness? Do all spiritual witnesses get the same weight? It seems we usually give our personal spiritual witnesses more weight than we do the witnesses of others.

    If someone were to get up and sincerely state that they had read the BOM from cover to cover with real intent and prayed over a series of days or weeks and the Holy Spirit did come to them and testify by that still small voice that the BOM is not true, what would most LDS say? “Well, you did not try hard enough.” “Is there some sin in your life that you need to repent of?” “ That was not the spirit that whispered that to you…” It would be the rare member that would say “Well, if that is what the spirit said to you then you should follow that guidance”

    There have to be millions of non members out there who truly believe that god has spoken to them in one fashion or another and really believe that their religious beliefs are the right ones.

    Why should the LDS version of a spiritual witness be given more weight than theirs?

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  7. Joseph McKnight on May 22, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Do you have to “like” Joseph Smith in order to be a good Mormon? I don’t like him, the more I read about him, but I still think God spoke to him, differently than most Mormons probably think of it. I take many of the difficult issues and give them a new twist to what I like. I take the things I like the best from these issues, and focus on them. Often I like to “flip off” some of the issues (as in give them the finger, so to speak) because I get really mad at some of the issues. Then I cool down a little and find the things I like and put the rest in the attic, where, just like you said, there’s lots of stuff and I go up on rainy days and check it out again. I don’t like Brigham Young, either, so I hope that’s OK. When I get to Heaven, I hope I don’t encounter either of them; I’d just as soon not have any “socialty” with them.

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  8. Christopher Lee Ogden on May 22, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    I like the “relationship” analogy best, because of the idea that you can separate your commitment to the church from your other interactions with the church. Like your relationship with a spouse, you stick together because you love each other and have been through enough together that neither of you could imagine a life without the other.

    But though your commitment may be rock solid, sometimes you don’t trust each other. Sometimes you let each other down. Sometimes you aren’t completely forthcoming to each other with important information. And sometimes you have to just agree to disagree on certain issues.

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  9. hawkgrrrl on May 22, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Remlap – To me, the decision whether spiritual witnesses are in or out is the crux, and it is the most personal one. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that because other people had a BOM experience, everyone should be Mormon. I took it to mean how we feel about our own spiritual witness (if we had an answer and not a lack of answer) and also the nature of the 3 and 8 witnesses to the BOM (that Grant Palmer’s book claimed was never a physical encounter with the plates). Also, how do people perceive the First Vision – do they believe that being visited by heavenly beings is possible or conclude that it’s only a delusion?

    We are inclined to believe those things one way or the other and then to justify that belief, either for or against. There are many people who dismiss their own BOM experience as teenage sentimentality or wishful thinking. There are others for whom their BOM experience is the one thing that holds them in the church. The experiences are very similar when described. It boils down to whether the person considers that sort of personal spiritual experience valid evidence or dismisses it.

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  10. Badger on May 22, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    For spiritual witnesses, there’s more to it than authenticity. Taking the Book of Mormon as an example, there is more than one church for whom it is scripture, and as with the Bible in the Joseph Smith story, it is logically possible that even if the BoM is true scripture, none of the churches that accept it as such is a true church. As far as I can see, people for whom this ambiguity is a troubling issue are a vanishingly small group. On the other hand, I’ve heard more than one LDS member say that everything else followed from a testimony of the BoM, and it seems to be taken for granted in church lessons and talks that this will be the case. So, many Mormons get from a testimony of the BoM to a testimony of “everything else” (Pres. Monson is a prophet, etc.), but it is not purely by means of logical implication. Has anyone here experienced a perception of needing an extra step to get from “true BoM” to “true Church”? I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say so.

    For intellectual agency (IA), is there a succinct formulation of where its limits lie? It seems obvious that it makes no sense to apply it to every crackpot theory that comes along, for example, “the church isn’t true because Joseph Smith never existed and the historical records of him were fabricated by a giant conspiracy”. I presume we can all agree that regardless of anyone’s theory of IA might seem to imply, there is in fact nothing like a 50/50 split of evidence on this point. How can anyone tell in a less blatantly obvious case whether to rely on IA or not?

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  11. M.Taylor on May 22, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    Thanks everyone for the insightful comments on my post!

    Remlap, I think you bring up great questions to which there is no one-size-fits-all answer. To me, I agree with hawkgrrrl that this is the absolute crux of the weighing-the-evidence dilemma: that everyone’s interpretation of their spiritual witness is completely personal. You decide how much weight to give it, based on whatever factors you decide are important.

    If your personal spiritual witnesses lead you towards or away from the Church, then you and you alone are the one who will be responsible for your decision of how to interpret and act on your spiritual witnesses. I don’t feel I’m ever in a position to say that someone else’s spiritual witness is invalid, even if it takes them in a direction I disagree with. Likewise, I hope that people can afford me the same level of respect.

    However, it is clear from recent survey data that very few people who stop believing in the church do so because they feel a spiritual witness in another direction (only 12% of disbelievers claimed that as a major factor in the recent Open Stories survey). Even those 12% had multiple other factors that simultaneously impacted their belief (an average of 15 other “major” factors). So while your “I received spiritual witness to leave” is hypothetically a situation, in practice it is far less common than many other issues, and almost never an exclusive factor.

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  12. M.Taylor on May 22, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    Joseph McKnight –
    The recent Pew Survey “Mormons In America” showed that 93% of Mormons think that in order to be a good Mormon it is important or essential that you “Believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.” However, I’m not aware of any data saying whether or not you have to “like” Joseph or not!
    My personal philosophy is to “like” and respect everyone for who they are, but to recognize that everyone has both good and bad in them. I like Joseph and Brigham a lot, but I recognize that there are many attributes they have and actions that took that I don’t aspire towards.

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  13. M.Taylor on May 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    Badger, I think that you’re absolutely right that for many Mormons, belief in the BOM is “daisychained” to many other beliefs (if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph must be a Prophet, and there must be a living prophet, and the Church is therefore true, etc.). Church leaders often promote this sort of logic, and it has a huge simplicity advantage for many people who just want to make a decision once and then be able to act on it.

    However, I must say that in my own situation, I have had to gain an independent testimony of each independent factor. I tend to be an “attic dweller” and so I’ve spent a lot of time in the attic trying to sort through all the nuances of whether or not each daisychain makes sense… whether Joseph could have been a fallen prophet… whether Brigham was really the successor to the prophetic mantle… whether the current Church is guided by true living prophets. So yes, I absolutely have had to take that extra step to validate from “true BOM” to “true Church”… and also to evaluate “what does it MEAN to be a true Church? True BOM? A true Prophet?” etc.

    I’m not sure fully understand what you’re asking about Intellectual Agency? Do you mind clarifying? Thanks.

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  14. Badger on May 22, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    It makes a lot of sense to me that there is an extra step (for some) in going from “true BoM” to “true church”, but as I said, I think you’re the first person I’ve heard say so who accepts both. I’m inclined to think it’s just not part of the usual framework for discussion, as opposed to your experience being unusual, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

    On Intellectual Agency, I’m trying from a position of ignorance to understand how it works. As I understand your description, beliefs about God’s existence and nature lead to a conclusion that for certain yes-or-no questions, the evidence will be roughly equal in support of “yes” and “no”. So far, I think follow the rationale, but in practice, which questions does it apply to? If the question is “does God exist?” it seems premature to base one’s reasoning on principles derived from the assumption that He does. If the question is the truth of the BoM, then it seems there are various equivalently placed candidates (Quran, Bible, Book of the Law of the Lord, Dianetics) and it’s harder to see how to apply the principle to all of them simultaneously, and it’s easy to multiply such examples ad infinitum. Rome Pope or Avignon Pope? Ahura Mazda or Shiva? If the question is patently divorced from reality like my “Joseph Smith didn’t exist” example, then it’s perverse to expect equal evidence on both sides. So, in which cases does IA tell me to expect balanced evidence? I really can’t tell. If the answer is that it isn’t simple and I need to go read Givens, fair enough.

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  15. Bob on May 23, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    I don’t know how it can be said the ‘evidence’ concerning the BoM is in balance? The original ‘evidence’ remains the same__the book and the story. But we have learned a lot of things about the book and story,(tons), to show the book is not true, (IMO).
    Modern thinking is weakening on ‘personal witnessing’ being good evidence.

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  16. hawkgrrrl on May 23, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    “Modern thinking is weakening on ‘personal witnessing’ being good evidence.” I just finished Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. His studies show that what we call thinking is really just the mind justifying our feelings. Paraphrasing his analogy, our thoughts and logic are really just the PR department or lawyer of our feelings. The feelings are driving the bus. The lawyer then defends where we went.

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  17. M.Taylor on May 23, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Bob – Are you being serious, or are you really unaware of all the counterbalancing evidence for the Book of Mormon?

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  18. Bob on May 23, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    #17:M.Taylor,
    I am being serious,(on this point anyway). I don’t know the “counterbalancing evidence” you are referring to. But I feel I am read up on most of it and don’t accept it as compelling evidence.

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  19. M.Taylor on May 23, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Badger – I’m honored to be the first you’ve met to fit that category, but I’ve personally known quite a few who fit that bill. I’d actually estimate that at least 5-15% of active Mormons approach the BOM-to-true-church link with some amount of nuance… I’ve been working with some databases of Mormon data, and one interesting statistic I found was that for active Mormons, 90% strongly agree that the “BOM is the true word of God” but only 75% strongly agree that the Church is the “only true church.”

    Regarding “intellectual agency” (which is not an official term, but it kind of works as one), here’s a nice summary of the principle from Teryl Givens on the Mormon Scholars Testify Site: “In the course of my spiritual pilgrimage, my innate capacity for doubt led me to the insight that faith is a choice. That the call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true, and have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. I am convinced that there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, for only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally “enticed by the one or the other,” is my heart truly free to choose belief or cynicism, faith or faithlessness. Under these conditions, what I choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who I am and what I love.”

    I guess the only other thing I would add is that I don’t view this concept of “intellectual agency” as a method for determining truth, I think it’s more of a limiting factor. Once you already think you’ve found the truth through all the other tools at your disposal, you should certainly have some evidence in favor of the truth, but you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have an overwhelming abundance of tangible evidence, because that would violate the principle of intellectual agency. Is that at all helpful?

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  20. M.Taylor on May 23, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Bob –

    I must admit that I’m always a bit baffled by those who claim being informed and yet can’t acknowledge that there are at least SOME highly compelling evidences in favor of the Book of Mormon’s divinity and authenticity. I’m ok if you say, “I’ve weighed the evidence, and in my opinion the evidence for it is not as compelling as the evidence against it.” I may disagree, but that’s ok, we can agree to disagree. But to say that the “evidence is just the book and the story” and to imply that there’s not a WHOLE lot more evidence that’s emerged and continues to emerge on a daily basis… well, with all due respect that seems either uninformed or disingenuous.

    This was a post I made elsewhere with just a few key points about the BOM. Sorry to repost it, and sorry it’s a bit long, but I’m not sure there’s a shorter way to get the point across:

    Personally, I’m fine with the Book of Mormon even if were just inspired fiction. It promises to be a life-changer, and for me, it delivers on that. That said, there are quite a number of fairly impressive external evidences and complexities that imply something “real” and ancient was going on with the Book of Mormon. Here are the ones that are most compelling to me:
    * Accurate description of Arabian peninsula travel routes, including correct directions and distances, an only-recently re-discovered oasis, and the name location NHM/Nahom that actually may match up with a real site on the way.
    * Accurate description of olive tree horticulture.
    * Existence of metal plates as writing materials.
    * Concept of language/symbols being repurposed (i.e. similar to Chinese/Japanese symbols)
    * Ancient patterns of speech/literary structure (chiasmis, Semitic/Hebraic: “dreamed a dream”, “if…and”, etc.)
    * Complex, ancient war tactics (including ‘scorched earth’ guerilla warfare, strategic campaigns with multiple tactics, negotiation strategies, etc.)
    * Goverment systems (“semi-democracy” system of Judges, kings, etc. instead of anything remotely like the US government)
    * Mulek – son of King Zedekiah – Bible says all sons were killed, BOM says no, and recent scholarship indicates that BOM may be plausible in this
    * Highly consistent internal geographical map references.
    * 200 new names not found in Bible (many of which have been verified to have Semitic roots, including “Alma”)
    * King Benjamin’s speech as ancient oratory
    * Multiple authorship (distinct key narrator voices/styles for Nephi/Mormon/Moroni, complex and purposeful use of embedded documents, etc.)
    * Complex development of literary characters
    * etc.

    What’s interesting to me is that those facts aren’t even the main story… nor were they touted as evidence at the time… they’re merely brought up in passing in the context of a highly cohesive spiritual text that introduces a huge range of spiritual new concepts, “things that act vs. acted upon, God cease to be God, Adam fell that men… might have joy, when ye are in the service of your fellow man…, demands of mercy and justice, debunking of original sin/infant baptism, concise summary of the doctrine of Christ, natural man, line-upon-line revelatory process, etc..”

    The fact that Grant Palmer and others find parallels to some concepts, language, and practices in Joseph’s time is interesting “evidence” that the Book of Mormon may have 19th century influence, but COMPLETELY unconvincing to me when the Book of Mormon is viewed in its entirety.

    I find it very hard – even impossible – to believe that Joseph Smith could have come up with all that on his own… Bushman put it this way, “To account for the disjuncture between the Book of Mormon’s complexity and Joseph’s history as an uneducated rural visionary, the composition theory calls for a precocious genius of extraordinary powers who was voraciously consuming information without anyone knowing it.”

    Besides Joseph as sole-author, the next best theory I’ve heard is the Rigdon, Cowdery, Smith conspiracy theory using repurposed Spaulding manuscript. However, besides the fairly laughable theory about the second lost manuscript (we found the Spaulding manuscript!… this isn’t the Book of Mormon?… well, there must be a SECOND lost manuscript!), I find it even more difficult to believe that such a conspiracy could come up with a cohesive spiritual text the way that the Book of Mormon reads. Givens and Hardy’s work, as well numerous other commentaries on this (such as a great Orson Scott Card article: http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-bookofmormon.html) as well as my own reading of the BOM – which I’ve read numerous times – just blow this one away. It’s not a “cobbled together” 19th century fiction.

    So Occum’s razor is unclear for me on this one. The simplest explanation is NOT that Joseph Smith just made it up. Nor is it that a group of conspirators cobbled something together. That leads me to the same conclusion as Armand Mauss: “The Book of Mormon is a unique tour de force in the history of religion. I know the official account of how it was produced, but I don’t understand it, and I have no explanation of my own apart from the Prophet’s own account. I find the alternative explanations, proffered by non-believers, harder to believe than the angel stories, so I’ll go with those for now.”

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  21. Paul on May 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    Here I’ve been treating my shelf like an attic all these years… Silly me.

    My only issue with weighing the evidence is wondering if I have enough evidence to make a final choice; hence my need for a shelf (or attic).

    As for the power of witnesses — the most important one for me is my own. If someone else claims a spiritual witness that is different than mine, all I can say is, “Hmm. That’s not been my experience.” I can’t judge their experience as real or true.

    Nice post.

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  22. Bob on May 23, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    #21: M.Taylor,
    If the ‘evidence’ was compelling, there would be no need for attics, shelfs, or Metaphors :) But it’s not, so we use these work-arounds.
    This is not a post on the truthfulness of the BoM. So I will stay away form that debate.
    But please give me some credit for having put study into this.
    I believe the Church scholars are now passed the idea JS ” was an uneducated rural visionary” But a well home-schooled boy and deep Bible reader.

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  23. M.Taylor on May 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Bob –

    I’m happy to give you credit for having put study into this when you’re willing to admit that there’s far more counterbalancing evidence for the Book of Mormon than just the “book and the story” which is what you said in your original post. Fair enough?

    I agree with you that if the evidence were compelling (i.e. overwhelming in one direction, as opposed to some compelling evidence in both directions) we’d have no need for attics, shelves, or metaphors. But then we’d also have no need for choice or agency or accountability. The only logical thing to do would be to believe, and in that sense we’d all be intellectually compelled to believe. Metaphors like these are not just workarounds – they are ways of finding truth if the world does in fact allow for agency… which according to Mormon theology, it does.

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  24. Remlap on May 23, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    M. Taylor –

    I will agree that the BOM’s description of Arabian peninsula with the travel routes, Nahom, Bountiful and all of that are definitely a plus and I might even go so far as to say it might be a bull’s eye. But for me, that is about where it ends. There are just so many other issues with the BOM many of which have been gone over and over, like metal, horses, goats, wheat, wine, issues with the KJV bible translation errors being found in the BOM, DNA, and so on.

    In the end of the day when I weight the positives against the negatives for the BOM there seems to be much more evidence against the BOM being true. The only thing left in my kit bag then is the spiritual witness and that goes back to my earlier point of how much weight do I give it. I agree that it is a question only the individual can answer. For me the spiritual evidence was not enough. For some people it is enough and I nothing I or anyone else can say will sway them.

    At the same time there are millions of people of other faiths who have had spiritual witnesses that their beliefs are true and nothing that I or anyone else can say will sway them.

    Additionally, just because I don’t believe that Joseph Smith translated the BOM from golden plates, doesn’t mean that I am obligated to show how the book came about. I don’t need to know what the actual square root of 1,020,000,320 is to know that 231 is an incorrect answer.

    Top notch post by the way.

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  25. Bob on May 23, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    #24: M. Taylor,
    I line up closely to Remlap (#25) on the evidence for the BoM.
    I think the bigger problem is the Church does not back any of this evidence(?) The Church scholars are not ‘balanced’ in this evidence.
    The outside world seems fully in balance in dismissing it.

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  26. FireTag on May 23, 2012 at 3:48 PM

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  27. Badger on May 23, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Thanks for mentioning the 75%/90% statistics. I’ve seen numbers like them before but hadn’t put them together in my mind with this topic.

    In addition to your confirmation that you are not a one-of-a-kind rarity, I have run across a few LDS who accept the BoM but not “everything else”. Presumably they are more visible in decoupling the two because their position is not camouflaged by the expectation that one follows from the other automatically. All of this suggests to me that it’s something I’m not observing rather than something that isn’t there. Thanks.

    On intellectual agency, I can see that it works retrospectively–after coming to believe in God, I wonder why the evidence was not more compelling, and IA provides an explanation. I had indeed read your initial description as a method for determining truth, i.e., you’ll know you’re on the right track when your experience is consistent with IA. With that misunderstanding eliminated, my question disappears.

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  28. M.Taylor on May 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    Remlap –

    That’s a fair enough answer, and you seem like someone reasonable who is open to evidence. While there are certainly two sides to every coin, I agree that DNA, metal, wine culture, and KJV errors are certainly evidence against many of the *common* historical interpretations of the Book of Mormon. On the other hand, I frequently am confused how bright people like you are willing to accept as evidence something like singular translated words (wheat, goats, etc. – which serve no purpose in the narrative other than as placeholders for “food,” “animals,” etc.) and yet at the same time reject as evidence something like an extended allegory that seamlessly weaves in ancient olive tree horticulture (when olive trees were not found in New England, the grafting practices described were likely discontinued sometime B.C., the narrator of the allegory knew not only about standard ancient practice but enough to know when the servant should be surprised about unconventional practices, etc.). I’m just using “olive tree horticulture” as one example here out of many I could use, but the standard for what qualifies as evidence just seems a bit skewed to me. Is that because you just haven’t taken the time to examine some of those issues, or have you consciously decided that the word “goats” qualifies as compelling evidence on your scale while “olive tree horticulture” does not?

    Or is it more an issue of deciding at some point that you’re not convinced (231 can’t be the square root 1,020,000,320, so why bother double-checking my work or wonder whether I’m asking the right question) so from that point on you tend to accept every negative evidence on your scale and reject every positive evidence (i.e. so that evidences like “olive tree horticulture” don’t even get examined in detail)?

    Anyway, thanks for the engaging dialogue. I’m sure we could have an interesting discussion on all of the specific issues you mentioned – but in the end, if your spiritual witness “isn’t enough” as you say, then in some ways it’s probably all a moot point. But still I’m interested to hear your logic.

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  29. M.Taylor on May 23, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    Bob –

    I’m not sure I agree with any of your points.

    I think the Church does already “back” some of the evidence, and (since I believe it’s the True Church in Embryo) will probably back more of it once the dust has settled. Give it time.

    “Church scholars” are not all equal… certainly many Church apologists are highly biased in their approach, but so are many of those “scholars” who teach against the Church. And then you have many emerging Mormon scholars like Teryl Givens who write amazingly unbiased work (i.e. By the Hand of Mormon) that takes into account viewpoints from all sides.

    Finally, I don’t think the “outside world” even cares enough to understand the real issues, let alone to show “balance” in dismissing them. They make the best judgement they can on and may be dismissive on their specific area of expertise, but rarely if ever do they cross the multiple disciplines required to evaluate all of Mormonism. Unless you’ve got a motivated agenda (either to prove or disprove the Church) you’re just not going to take the time to consider Mormonism in its entirety.

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  30. allquieton on May 24, 2012 at 2:15 AM

    Enjoyed the post. Found the attic metaphor to be fitting.

    It seems to me that most people who dig into the issues, quit believing. Usually I don’t feel like I quite understand why. And the people who don’t dig puzzle me. How can they put something like that on a shelf?

    Anyways, it’s refreshing to hear from a fellow Digging Believer.

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  31. Bob on May 24, 2012 at 3:22 AM

    #29: M. Taylor,
    You contine a theme, that not having a full knowledge__is to have no knowledge. That not to have your knowledge of the BoM__is not to have any knowledge of it at all.
    The Church GAs have stated over and over__the BoM can’t not be proved or not proved by Science (in their opinion). I feel you are trying to do this. I have only stated__IMO__ Science has disproven the BoM to me.

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  32. allquieton on May 24, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    As far as the strategies go, I think the Shelf is pretty worthless. I think the Relationship piece might keep someone from leaving, but I don’t think it does much to help deal.

    A Church in Embryo doesn’t make sense to me. What I see in the scriptures over and over is God establishing the church, which then becomes corrupted or steered wrong. So I see the church as constantly becoming more imperfect from each time it’s restored. The scriptures are the iron rod, not the church.

    For me the Attic is what works, with a good dose of Evidence Weighing.

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  33. Remlap on May 24, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    M.Taylor –

    Actually I think the “olive tree horticulture” brings its own set of problems to the BOM. Olives were not native to the Americas until the Spanish brought them in the 1600s. Jacob, the BOM prophet that gave the olive tree allegory was born in the Middle East though he was very young when they arrived in the Americas but I suppose it is possible that he would have learned about olives and grafting from his family.

    From my very limited research, I don’t find any evidence that the native Americans (both in North and South America) knew about grafting plants in their efforts to domesticate trees or even if they were trying to domesticate trees at all. Again, I admit that I have not done a lot of research on this. Even so with the fact that olives were not native to the Americas, why would Jacob use olive trees in his allegory when the people he was preaching to would have had a hard time relating to olive trees or grafting procedures? Now I guess you could make the argument that Jacob did not preach the olive tree allegory to his contemporaries but wrote it for the people who would read it a couple of thousand years in the future, assuming that we would understand and that some future prophet (Moroni) would include the allegory in his compilation.

    It does seem reasonable to me that Joseph Smith or someone helping him could have developed the allegory from reading the bible. In one quick search of the New Testament I found:

    “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive atree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of aunbelief they were bbroken off, and thou standest by cfaith. Be not highminded, but dfear: For if God spared not the anatural branches, take heed lest he also bspare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11: 17-24)

    So as I said before, I think olive tree horticulture brings as many negatives as it does plusses.

    I want to be clear that the issues with the BOM were not the sole reason for my disaffection from the Church. I had known about these issues for years before I finally decided to leave. They were locked away in my attic or on the shelf someplace. It was just one of several issues that made me leave though I agree with President Benson that the BOM is the corner stone of the LDS faith.

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  34. Stephen Marsh on May 24, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    I often encounter things in the scriptures before I encounter the theory in “real life.”

    For example, limited geography for the scriptures.

    In the Pearl of Great Price, it has God telling Moses that each land is as a world, and the history of this world only is given to Moses.

    The reading I got from that was that when the word “world” was used it meant a very limited geographical area and that for the most part God was limiting the discussion to very limited geographic areas.

    See Moses 1: 29 “And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth …”

    Moses 1: 35 “But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you.”

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  35. Stephen Marsh on May 24, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    One other thing that affected me was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair so I could grade essays on it.

    From my perspective, the book is about a philosophy major who drives himself crazy trying to close a logic loop without enough parts. Easy enough to do.

    Taught me a lot about the danger of trying to force conclusions without all the information.

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  36. Stephen Marsh on May 24, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    Conversely, Mormons are also aware, on some level, of what scholars of the Hebrew Bible have known for some time: Adam is everyman. We are all Adam and Eve, as we are expressly told to consider ourselves. They might have indeed been real individuals, but they are also great archetypal stand-ins for all of humanity, past, present, and future. Their story metaphorically recapitulates the monumental shift in the human story, from a paradisaical nostalgic hunter-gatherer past—a time-unbound period when we subsisted on that which the earth spontaneously brought forth in abundance and where we had a more genial relationship with the animals (also framed as the blissfully ignorant innocence of childhood)—to a sweat-of-the-brow, hard-fought, alienating and dreary life cultivating grain and eating bread (a transition into adulthood, with all that entails in terms of reproduction and parenthood, work and responsibility, and an ever-present awareness of death).

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/05/24/at-adam-ondi-ahman/

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  37. Bob on May 24, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    #36: Stephen Marsh,
    When and where and How did this ‘monumental shift in the human story’ happen? I think science missed it:)

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  38. Stephen Marsh on May 24, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Bob, science missed the transition from hunter-gathers to agriculture which swept the globe and was the foundation of the cult of Ceres, etc.?

    I’ll be.

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  39. Bob on May 24, 2012 at 9:27 PM

    #38: Stephen Marsh,
    No. Science didn’t miss the coming of agriculture . But it was very slow in coming after the Ice Age, (50,000 years)? But hunting and gathering remained more popular after small areas of agriculure appeared and disappered. It’s still very common today.
    That’s why I say it was not a ‘‘monumental shift in the human story’.

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  40. Stephen Marsh on May 25, 2012 at 4:56 AM

    Bob, it was huge in terms of city building and a number of static cultures, the shrinking size of individual humans and the expansion of the size of cultures.

    You are right that it was sporadic until about ten thousand years ago when it really picked up legs.

    But, we do not get modern life without agriculture. We do not get Rome or Greece or Persia or similar cultures.

    If you do not consider the difference between yourself and other internet users and hunter-gatherers in the rain forest monumental, I suggest trying the hunter-gatherer route for a while.

    ;)

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  41. Bob on May 25, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    #40:Stephen Marsh,
    I don’t think we disagree that much. There is definitely a role for agriculture that leads to modern life. But the picture is bigger than that.
    We have island people who grow yams ( agriculture ?). We have large groups that hunt Tuna, cut down trees, mine, etc. (Hunters and gatherers ?) We had cultures based largely on trade & shipping. We have had powerful cultures based on ‘tribute’ or others people’s work.
    Do we put agriculture over writing in creating a modern world? Do you put agriculture over government/science in making a modern world? I think we ask the same questions.

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  42. M.Taylor on May 26, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    #31@Bob – I think if you’ll look carefully, you’ll realize I have never implied that partial knowledge is no knowledge or that you can prove the Book of Mormon with science. My point is that there is evidence on both sides, and since we all have a confirmation bias, we should be careful about coming to quick conclusions without carefully weighing all the evidence (see “The Scales” section in my original post) and making an important choice about the validity of spiritual evidence. I don’t think you can prove OR disprove the Book of Mormon with science, but if you can’t admit that there is evidence both in favor of and against the Book of Mormon, then your confirmation bias is completely blinding you to reality. On the other hand, you keep saying that “science has disproven the Book of Mormon to you” without giving me any reason to believe that you have thoughtfully considered any of the positive evidence in favor of it. In fact, first you said there was no evidence that has emerged “beyond the book and the story.” Then when Remlap conceded that the Arabian peninsula was a possible bullseye, you said that you were in line with him. So which is it: were you unaware of the Arabian peninsula evidence when you said there was “no evidence that has emerged beyond the book and the story” or had you forgotten about that piece of evidence?

    Look, I’m not pretending that you will be convinced by the positive evidence, nor am I trying to pretend that there is not negative evidence against the Book of Mormon. But it’s empirically wrong to state that there is no evidence beyond the “book and the story” that has emerged to support it. Can we agree on that?

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  43. M.Taylor on May 26, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    #33 @Remplap
    Thanks Remlap for another very thoughtful response. I agree that olive tree horticulture is not bulletproof, but I was mostly interested to find out (1) if you had previously considered it and (2) if so, why you would reject it as evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon, when you had accepted and cited something singular words like “goats” as evidence against. I’m mostly interested in this issue of why some evidence gets considered thoughtfully and with an open mind while other evidence gets pushed aside rather quickly and with barely any research or consideration… which goes back to the initial key point in my post about evaluating/weighing evidence that “First, we need to be aware that we all underestimate our confirmation bias. That is, if we are seeking to find evidence against the Church, we will find it; likewise, if we are seeking to find evidence in favor of the church we will find it. So in many ways, how your scales become stacked depends more upon how you spend your time, rather than the true weight of the evidence.”

    Although my goal isn’t at all that to prove olive tree horticulture is a big deal, it actually serves as a good case-study for this point I was trying to make, so I’m going to expand upon it a bit for how it played out for you here.

    Your confirmation bias is that “the Book of Mormon cannot be true.” Therefore, when considering a piece of evidence which it sounds like you hadn’t really considered much before (olive tree horticulture), you did a quick websearch and came to a few quick conclusions:
    1. Jacob, the prophet who gave the analogy, shouldn’t have known anything about olive trees – so it doesn’t even fit consistently with the story.
    2. Native Americans wouldn’t know anything about olive tree horticulture, so the analogy would be lost on them.
    3. The Bible contains a reference to olive trees including grafting, etc. So Joseph Smith or someone of that time period could have used that as a jumping off point for developing the allegory.

    Based on your quick websearch and analysis, those are perfectly logical and reasonable assumptions to come to. And so your conclusion is: “I think olive tree horticulture brings as many negatives as it does plusses.” And basically you wrote it off as not worth your consideration. And since that fits your world view and confirmation bias (i.e. the Book of Mormon is false), you were ok with stopping there.

    However, someone else (i.e. a believer who has a confirmation bias that the Book of Mormon is true) might look a little deeper and come up with some different conclusions:

    1. It wasn’t Jacob who gave the analogy in the narrative. Jacob was quoting an “ancient prophet Zenos” who probably lived in Israel some time around 900-700 BCE and easily could have known a lot about olive trees. So your first point is not accurate or relevant.

    2. While it’s true that Native Americans would know little about olive trees, that’s sort of irrelevant. Most people today know almost nothing about olive trees. The point of the allegory isn’t to learn about olive tree horticulture. The point of the allegory is to understand about the scattering and gathering of Israel, the spread of the gospel through the world, to learn of Christ’s “long-suffering” and anguish in working with humanity, etc.. And that’s kind of what makes the allegory so fascinating. It has this spiritual message independent of any agriculture lesson, and yet, for whatever reason, the author of the Book of Mormon chose to make this point through an extensive connection to a very falsifiable horticultural practice that was connected to the Old World and had no place in America – 19th century or ancient. Why not just do a poem about how Israel would be gathered/scattered?

    3. The reference to Romans in the Bible is the only extended reference to olive trees in the Bible. There are a few other limited references (Psalms, Isaiah, Hosiah, etc.) in the Bible to vineyards, olives, grafting, burning, etc. But they would be entirely insufficient to fill in the details about ancient olive tree horticulture practice that would be needed to write the details of such an extended metaphor. To quote a small section from just one article out of many available on this subject: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=124&chapid=1473

    ———[Jacob 5] purports to be the work of an ancient northern Israelite author, living between 900-700 B.C., about olive growing. Almost every detail it supplies about olive culture can be confirmed in four classical authors whose authority on the subject can be traced back to Syro-Palestine. Zenos’s parable fits into the pattern of ancient olive cultivation remarkably well. The placing of the villa above the vineyards [Columella, Rei Rusticae I, 5,7] means that, when the master gives instructions to his servants, they have to “go down” into the vineyard (Jacob 5:15, 29, 38). It was also customary for the master of the vineyard to have several servants (cf. Jacob 5:7,10-11,15-16, 20-21, 25-30, 33-35, 38, 41, 48-50, 57, 61-62,70-72,75). [Cato, De Agri Cultura 10; Varro, Rerum Rusticarum I, 18.] When only one servant is mentioned in Zenos’s parable, the reference is most likely to the chief steward. Likewise, Zenos’s mention of planting (Jacob 5:23-25, 52, 54), pruning (Jacob 5:11, 47, 76; 6:2), grafting (Jacob 5:8,9-10,17-18, 30, 34, 52, 54-57, 60, 63-65, 67-68), digging (Jacob 5:4, 27, 63-64), nourishing (Jacob 5:4,12, 27, 28,58,71; 6:2), and dunging (Jacob 5:47, 64, 76), as well as the fact that dunging occurs less frequently in the parable than the nourishing, all mark it as an authentic ancient work. The unexpected change of wild olive branches to tame ones (Jacob 5:17-18) would have seemed a divine portent to our ancient authorities. [Theophrastus, Historia Plantarum II, 3,1.]

    Even more striking, for Joseph Smith to have made up the parable from these classical authors, he would have had to read all four: Theophrastus is the only one to discuss the differences between wild and tame olives, the tendency for wild olives to predominate, and prophetic use of the olive tree as a sign. [Romans 11:16-24 does mention wild and tame and grafting, but nothing about the fruit or the purposes thereof. A casual reading of Paul leaves the impression that it is as easy to be one way as the other.] Varro and Columella are the only ones to acknowledge the Phoenician connections. Cato and Varro are the only ones who discuss the servants’ roles. Cato and Columella alone note the placement of the villa above the groves; Varro is the only author to discuss the “main top” in association with the “young and tender branches” (cf. Jacob 5:6). Yet Joseph Smith probably did not have access to these works. And even if he had, he could not read Latin and Greek in 1829. Theophrastus’s Historia Plantarum first published in English in 1916, [Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, trans. Arthur Hort (London: Heinemann, 1916)] and no part of his De Causis Plantarum was available in English until 1927 [Robert E. Dengler, ... Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1927]. While English translations of Cato, Varro, and Columella were available to the British in 1803, 1800, and 1745 respectively [Thomas Owen, M. Porcius Cato concerning Agriculture (London: White, 1803), ...], it is hardly likely that they were widely circulated in rural New York and Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith could have known nothing about olives from personal experience, as they do not grow in Vermont and New York. Can it reasonably be supposed that Joseph simply guessed right on so many details? And even if he somehow managed to get the details from classical authors, how did he know to put it into the proper Hebrew narrative form? [The narrative of Zenos follows the Hebrew narrative pattern as laid down by Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981).]

    Even if Joseph Smith had somehow gathered the details of ancient olive culture from someone who knew it intimately, he would still have had no plot. [Zenos's plot is much more complicated than Paul's, and if Joseph Smith is adding to the plot, it must be explained how he got the extra details ... and made them fit in with ancient olive lore.]———

    And so the thoughtful believer may come to the conclusion, “Well, olive tree horticulture is actually a very interesting point in favor of the Book of Mormon’s ancient connection to Israel. At the very least it proves that Joseph Smith probably didn’t just pull it randomly out of his head on the spot – it would have likely required some research and preparation. And where would someone in 19th century New England have even done research about ancient olive tree production?” So in the end, the believer may take that as a point of evidence in favor of antiquity and authenticity.

    My point here isn’t to show who is right about olive tree horticulture. That was just the next item on my long list. My point is that ALL of us have a huge confirmation bias, and that most bright people who believe that there is no evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon usually have already made up their minds by the time they come to examine any evidence in favor of it. So the fact that it’s not compelling to them is not necessarily because of nature of the evidence, but because, like you demonstrated, they may be a bit quick to discard. Likewise, believers may be overly quick to discard negative evidence. My main point is that we need to acknowledge that there is interesting evidence on both sides, and just because you’ve spent much more time studying the negative evidence, it doesn’t mean that the positive evidence isn’t also compelling (or vice versa).

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  44. Bob on May 26, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    “We all have a confirmation bias, we should be careful about coming to quick conclusions without carefully weighing all the evidence”. This is not what the Church has teaches __”read the BoM, pray, and in a day you will be good to go”.
    I have been a Mormon for 67 years. I also have a degree in Anthropology that is centered on Mesoamerica from some of the finest professors in that field. That’s my bias

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  45. remlap on May 26, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    ” I don’t think you can prove OR disprove the Book of Mormon with science…”

    I think that science is disproving the Book of Mormon. It is just that some people won’t accept the proof. If on the other hand, they were to find the body of a man with middle eastern DNA, a steel sword in one hand and a gold plate in the other lying next to the bones of his horse people who were saying that science can’t prove or disprove the book would be yelling “See science does prove the book of mormon is true!”

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  46. FireTag on May 26, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    I think we find evidences most convincing when they are in fields of our own expertise. As in comment 20, I have tended to be more persuaded by things in the “story sidebar” that experts of the time would have mocked but turn out to be correct under modern analysis — even when apologetic defenses of them were trying to defend a wrong premise.

    I tend to pay attention to details of geophysics, military tactics and strategy, and “world building” (as someone like Card would recognize). I base my belief on personal testimony, of course, but regard the BofM as a scientific anomaly rather than as proven or disproven.

    Physicists like me love to tease at anomalies. Sometimes I think other disciplines are too quick to consider concepts as irreconcilable because they lack imagination. In physics, there has always been a standard joke that goes, “Your ideas are crazy, sir, but are they crazy enough?”

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  47. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 26, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Firetag, well said.

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  48. Bob on May 26, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    #45: FireTag,
    Did you know Dale Broadhurst as RLDS? I traded e-mails with him some time back. Seems like a man you would talk with.

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  49. Glass Ceiling on May 28, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    I’m a believer in the Book of Mormon. Not just for the reasons presented by M. Taylor, or my own testimony, but for the life of Joseph Smith. Who can deny he was the most remarkable, productive man America has ever known?

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  50. Bob on May 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    #49:Glass Ceiling,
    ” Who can deny he was the most remarkable, productive man America has ever known”?
    He can__”No man knows my history”?

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  51. Bob on May 29, 2012 at 12:51 AM

    #50: No ? at the end…

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