Something has been on my mind since yesterday's Facebook PMs. You believe that the doctrine of dying before the age of accountability would logically lead to the conclusion that parents should kill their kids at 7. I then played along with other silly conclusions you could draw by using your logic. I then ended with the idea that doctrine misunderstood is funny and I'll add now that such misunderstanding can be dangerous.

We then posted back and forth about God and my belief he is restrained by natural law. So I tried to look up that scripture this morning but couldn't. But I came across another scripture that pertains to our discussions.

But back to the notion of God being subject to natural law. You realize such a notion is considered blasphemous today and would have been considered doubly so in JS day? That's just one example of an extreme peculiarity of the BoM. There's tons of those little tidbits and it seems like curious minds like Jonny's would want to know how on earth (as opposed to heaven) could JS establish such a doctrine at 19 years old. Or who was that preacher he was stealing all this good stuff from? And why doesn't he trumpet these original ideas as his own? That would have served him well.

But now to the other scripture I found in Alma 15. It speaks of knowledge and how the loss of it snowballs. Right now you consider my defense of the doctrine some kind of spin job because you can only vaguely understand me. Should you continue as you are intellectually, I'm confident that in 5 years my arguments will sound even more silly. And that 5 years ago they would have sounded less silly (even if you had just converted to atheism 5 years ago--I'm not sure when you did).

You will perhaps agree with me on how our understanding of things will continue to diverge, but not for the reasons cited in Alma. And I understand that. But perhaps in 5 years instead of being further from each other, we might be closer. And for the reasons mentioned by Alma.

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RE: Ships of the sea Conclusions by Jonny:

1) The BoM rendering of the verse is not more accurate than the other versions of the verse.  The addition of the "ships of the sea" is a redundant interpretation of the same, singular Hebrew phrase.  It adds no additional insight nor is it an indication of ancient origin.  Further, it breaks up the poetic structure of the original verse (see attached link sections 18-23)

2) The phrase could very well have been known to Smith prior to his "translation."  See sections 10-15 of the attached link for a list, in particular section 15: "The many pre-1829 editions of Thomas Scott's The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (Philadelphia: 1810-12; New York: 1812-15; Boston: 1823-24, 1827)" which cites "'Ships of Tarshish signify in scripture, any trading or merchant ships: accordingly here the Septuagint render the words "ships of the sea," as our old English translation does: Ps. xlviii. 7.' (Lowth.)[16]"

(Note: published in America, including in New York, prior to The BoM.  Not some obscure document published in England as you like to flippantly dismiss)

My conclusion is that it's very possible that Smith knew the phrase, and further that his inclusion of the phrase was a mistake which actually casts doubt on the authenticity of The BoM.

The footnote for the verse in The BoM is wrong, and this is not the evidence you are looking for.

Since we've been corresponding I often come across material--both new material, but mainly things I remember--that warrant further consideration. These are things you would use as "evidence" that the historical event is a lie (think peep stone) or that the doctrine is not logical (think JS and the trinity). And when I come across these little nuggets I'm compelled to share them with you. But then I think, why add fuel to the fire?

Should I add fuel to the fire?

Here I go. The best reputable source you can use to cause doubt in many a member's mind is the mormonstories.org interview with Michael Quinn. Most of the interview is not troubling, except for those that are alarmed with surface level stuff (e.g. peep stones).

However, in the last segment of the interview the interviewer asks the 5 things from Mormon history that are least resolved from a historical/doctrinal perspective. Quinn then rifles them off. One that I remember is that the manner of choosing a new prophet was not then as conclusive as modern Mormons like to think. But there were four other really good ones.

Start with those kind of criticisms. I think you will find those most gratifying because members like me may just have to respond, "I don't know. I guess that's what faith (i.e. the FIRST principle) is all about". You can consider that a cop out and declare victory!

New thread on Smith's imagination and penchant for storytelling.  This was B.H. Roberts' opinion on the storytelling from his book Studies of The Book of Mormon:

"It must be remembered that the above took place before the young prophet had received the plates of the Book of Mormon: these were the evenings immediately following the first interviews with Moroni. Whence came his knowledge for these recitals of "the dress," "the mode of the ancient inhabitants of America of traveling," "the animals on which they rode," "their cities," "their buildings," "their mode of warfare," "their religious worship"? And all this given "with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them"? Whence indeed, since all this happened before even the second interview with Moroni had taken place, and between three and four years before the translation of the Book of Mormon began.

And yet it must be from that book that he would get his knowledge of the ancient inhabitants of America, unless he has caught suggestions from such common knowledge, or that which was taken for "knowledge," as existed in the community concerning ancient American civilization, and built by imagination from this and possible contact with Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews his description of the ancient inhabitants of the land, their life, religion and customs. A year later he will be helped by Josiah Priest's book, The Wonders of Nature and Providence, published only twenty miles away, and it will have much to say about the Hebrew origin of the American Indian, and his advanced culture and civilization. Whence comes the young prophet's ability to give these descriptions "with as much ease as if he had spent his whole life" with these ancient inhabitants of America? Not from the Book of Mormon, which is, as yet, a sealed book to him; and surely not from Moroni, since he had had but one day and night of interviews with him, during which there had be several interviews, it is true, but these had been occupied with other subject matter than the things enumerated by Lucy Smith. These evening recitals could come from no other source than the vivid, constructive imagination of Joseph Smith, a remarkable power which attended him through all his life. It was as strong and varied as Shakespeare's and no more to be accounted for than the English Bard's."

So there's that.  I really like in his book where he talks about how astounding and unlikely the events of The BoM were, concluding they must be of the imagination of a boy/young man.  My whole life I was taught this was some remarkable achievement, but when I read a member of the First Presidency essentially pointing out how absurd the stories are...huh, they actually are pretty dumb. 

But then again, if missionaries bring me a bag full of limbs when they knock on my door next, I may commit to baptism.  

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Proposition: we allow ourselves to be free of the ad hominem.  For example, you continually seem to laugh at Chris Johnson and call him a pseudo-intellectual, taking great delight in any instance you can connect my line of thought to his.  I think in doing so you are failing to refute the actual argument being made and are instead content to do what amounts to some name calling.

The source of this seemed to be his dismissal of BoM chiasmus.  You laughed, scoffed, and subsequently ignored anything else except talking about how ridiculous it was to dismiss the chiasmus.  

First: that he's wrong about The BoM chiasmus being ordinary (something you have never followed up on despite my repeated calls to do so) has no bearing on the arguments he's making about anything else.  A complete idiot could explain to me that the sky was blue.  He wouldn't be wrong because he was a complete idiot.  

That being said, I don't think Johnson is an idiot. He could be wrong about chiasmus (again, you have yet to show your cards here), but that doesn't mean his other data or conclusions are subsequently all incorrect. I remain unconvinced of either of your arguments at this point, though, because you haven't shown me anything, and neither has he.  But name calling doesn't do anything to convince me either.  Stick to the facts.

Second: you dismissed his conclusion without seeing any of his data.  To me, this shows you're being overtly close-minded and biased.  I'm curious about his methodology and raw data and, as I said above, remain unconvinced/undecided in either direction.  COULD the chiasmus found in The BoM be significant?  Perhaps.

Could it also be someone reading into it too much?  I find this very plausible as well.  Sometimes my brain tells me a cloud looks like a horse.  Proponents of chiasmus significance could be under the same misconception.  

In any case, can we agree that we should stick to the facts and that the ad hominem has no place here?  

New topic: why does the original edition of The BoM have a trinitarian view of the Godhead?  Why do contemporary (i.e. early Smith teachings) also hold this view?  How is it that this view evolved over time into the Mormon view of separate individuals if Smith actually saw God and Jesus as separate individuals at the age of 14?  Don't the original BoM and his early teachings contradict what he supposedly saw?  Is it unreasonable to assume that a true prophet could get his facts straight about something so basic and foundational?

Further, if you accept that the "ships of the sea" part of The BoM is significant, how do you dismiss the significance of the need for this monumental doctrinal revision to be made after The BoM was published?  Is it not also significant, then, that at various times BoM prophets refer to Jesus and his atonement in the past tense when they are speaking of future events?  Seems like maybe the true author made some mistakes.

You've mentioned my bias.  Here I think you need to prove your own view isn't terribly biased by giving equal weight to the contradictions and measure them against this article of faith you're clinging to (that "ships of the sea" is proof of Semitic origin).  I think it is patently unreasonable to believe God would ensure Smith got this one phrase right while screwing up in so many other areas.  It might be an interesting addition, it might be some deviation from what I would expect to see, but when taken in the context of all the errors in The BoM, it seems to be relatively insignificant and definitely not indicative of any trend.

So, let's, for the sake of argument, say The BoM is actually closer to the original text than the KJV (something you've yet to even establish).  How do you justify cherrypicking this outlier and ignoring the real trend of doctrinal contradiction, anachronism, past tenses where they don't belong, etc.?  Isn't this obvious bias on your part?  

New topic: why did God mention to The Brother of Jared that he could have no windows on their submarines hundreds of years before windows existed?  Of all the anachronisms in The BoM, this is the most damning.  This is not a simple "horse really means tapir" nonsense scenario: what "windows" could God have possibly been talking about except the glass kind?  Why would God be talking about windows to someone who had no idea what windows were? 

If I produced an ancient text from before Christ's time that had God saying "and you can't use facebook, it makes people vain!" to someone, you would immediately call me out as a fraud.  How do you explain this and give Joe a pass?

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I've produced a document which I believe addresses an issue I have with the way you approach issues/spin/redefine things.  New thread for a new topic.  I think we need to not equivocate on any terms we use here.

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REPLIES COMPLETE: I'm starting something new, in hopes we can end it according to the ground rules that I articulated in the last discussion.  (So I do want a reply to the last discussion). See this link from my dropbox. It's some text that I manually typed in from a book.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/24638883/ancient_text.html

I'm not well versed in things anti-Mormon, but I bet you won't find a better specimen than I found.  Does it not prove that BofM ideas are not original? And that perhaps JS used this source to plagiarize the BofM? 

So here's the new challenge: find me another document that better coincides with the themes and stories of the BofM. It would be nice if your source were as concise as mine, but that's not mandatory.

Will you rise to the challenge?

REPLIES COMPLETE: I often try to view my faith from the standpoint of an educated non-believer. For example, how do people come to terms with the fact that many educated, reasonable people believe in the unlikely claims of the LDS church?

If I were looking at such members from a non-LDS perspective I might think, "Jews are pretty smart too and they believe in burning bushes and stuff". So I might be able to dismiss the oddity of LDS scholars when compared to similar Jews.

But then again, our claims are more audacious. Primarily because 1) they are more recent, not fables of yester-century, and 2) they are more fantastic. A 14-year-old seeing God and then getting gold plates and then translating them? That's the stuff that people think of while hallucinating on crack. But no, in this case, a full religion is based on those events. And a thriving, growing, prospering religion at that. Unsurpassed by any other, in fact.

And, there are a lot of smart people who join. How does a non-believer reconcile that? I realize most don't know enough about us to be perplexed by such things. But some are. And how do they respond?
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