Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mormon apologist claims there is no damning evidence against Mormonism

The poster Nogginus read on the MAD board where a famous apologist "declared something to the effect that they have never even once found even one shred of evidence that was damning to the Mormon church".

I used to be an amatuer apologist and knew almost all of the dirt on the church, but remained a true believer. I had found a way to explain all of the data in such a way that the Church could still be true. I firmly believed that none of the dirt I then knew about threatened the truthfulness of the Church. It would only weaken the testimony of those who never bother to think of those things in the way the apologist does. But, those things don't really weaken the claims of the Church. <- That is what I believed.

You see, the apologist plays in the realm of what is possible, not what is objectively probable. It is technically possible that the reasons the First Vision accounts differ so much is because each time the story was retold, Joseph simply focused on different aspects of the Vision. You can't say that that is not possible, because it is possible and if you look at the differing accounts with the assumption that the Church is true, then the differing accounts does not prove that it is not true. This can be repeated for every issue out there.

It is only after one starts to consider that the Church might not be true and look at the preponderence of the evidence and focus on what is likely to be the truth as opposed to what might be true, that is when it begins to look so obvious that the Church is a fraud.

I would have stayed forever in the apologist state if it were not for the Book of Abraham. If the Church has an Achilles Hill (aka a fatal weakness), it is the Book of Abraham. Many apologists have tried and many congratulate themselves on putting forward possibilities that they believe save the reputation of Joseph Smith in regards to the BoA, but upon closer examination of the evidence, they all fall and cannot work even as possibilities, except two theories. All the other theories from Nibley's "the scribes did it", to it is still a true revelation from God even if it isn't a translation, etc, cannot work.

The two possibilities that a TBM can take and still remain true to the evidence are these: 1) the pious fraud theory, which states that Joseph knowingly created a fraud, but did it to bring people closer to Christ. The Mormonism that one must believe in if one accepts this theory is that Christ is real and Joseph created a unique way to teach about Christ by reappropriating things from his environment (Masonry, egyptian papyri, Native American legends, etc).

2) The Blake Ostler Expansion Thesis - that Joseph truly, mistakenly believed he was translating Abraham's scrolls. The resulting work was mostly the product of Joseph's own mistaken ideas and beliefs, but mingled in there are profound truths revealed to the mind of Joseph directly from God. Revelation is not downloaded directly from heaven, but passes through the prophet medium. The resulting scripture contains a lot of false add-ons by the prophet, but the prophet believes it all comes from God. The prophet believes he is receiving pure intelligence, but is mistaken. The Mormonism that results from that belief is a mixture of a lot of false ideas with some true, profound divine revelations. Proporters of this theory believe that the prophet is never wrong about the big things, but will often be wrong about the unimportant little things.

I can't accept either view. I don't believe DP accepts either view, instead I think he tentatively favors some of the other apologist theories, subconciously focuses on the seemingly miraculous parallels with ancient traditions about Abraham, and prefers a wait and see approach while "scholars" focus on minutiae such as whether the Kirtland Egyptian Papers read more like translation or revelation notes or later attempts to match the text with the characters.


Anonymous said...

I not trying to invoke an argument (or even a dialogue) but parts of your post seemed very strange.

1) I’m not sure why you are talking about the “The Blake Ostler Expansion Thesis” when discussing the Book of Abraham. That theory is specifically about the Book of Mormon. Also, you greatly misinterpreted what that theory speculates about what scripture can be understood to be. Have you really read it? You might find it interesting no matter your view on the historicity or value of the Book of Mormon and other religious texts (http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=16228&CISOSHOW=16048 page 66).

2) The claim that someone has “never even once found even one shred of evidence that was damning to the Mormon church” may or may not ring true with you, but technically I don’t see why it isn’t an accurate statement. What I mean is that for evidence to be damning to the church would require the church to suffer the ruinous consequences of that evidence, which is not the case. Individual members or those learning about the church may consider evidence damning of their belief in or trust of the church, but as of yet the church itself is still doing relatively well in terms of growth and retention. It would be very hard to make a case that the Church itself is in a state of decline due to Amerindian DNA or the recovery and recent translations of Joseph Smith’s lost papyri. This may change in the future, but currently the majority of members exposed to this kind of information do not leave the church (despite newspaper article and prime-time TV exposés on these topics). Thus it seems that no evidence (as of yet) has proven to be damning to the church. Of course, blogs like yours may help to change that; so maybe you should put a little more thought into your posts…

Hüffenhardt said...

I have read Blake Ostler's Expansion Thesis, and yes, I know that he only applied it to the Book of Mormon. But, many have applied the same thinking to the BoA. Both the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham have incorrect reconstructions of history in them. Blake's theory has been used to account for both, not by Blake himself, but by posters such as John D the First on Otterson's blog and others including a guy on the Hatrack board, who I can't remember his name.