Messages to a liberal Mormon

11/5 - 11/8/97 Messages


The most recent messages can be found here.


received 11/8/97 [The following is a compilation of two letters from a person and my replies. I've combined them here so that they make more sense and the context can be discerned.]
I am extremely unimpressed with your light treatment of the issues you raise in your list of seeming Book of Mormon "contradictions," and "Joseph Smith Prophecies Which Didn't Happen," all of which have been answered in full in such books as "Since Cumorah" and "Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites," not to mention getting full treatment on FARMS.

I didn't write the Joseph Smith prophecies piece and it isn't housed on my site--not that I find too much wrong with the author's opinions. Nor have I written an essay entitled "Book of Mormon contradictions". Perhaps you are referring to this page?

In any case, I've read both of the books by Nibley that you refer to and much of what FARMS has put out, and I don't think they have answered any of the questions or comments on the above page adequately. If you have any specific examples, please send them to me.

"I don't think" is very weak. By that standard, I don't think you have raised any substantial objections to the Book of Mormon etc, but what I think doesn't matter. It's what I can prove that does matter.

In that case, I know that Nibley and FARMS haven't proven a single thing about the Book of Mormon. How's that? ;)

You have nothing to say on Davidic Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon?

Do you have nothing to say on Davidic Chiasmus showing up in all sorts of non-ancient writings? My whole website was created unconsciously in Davidic Chiasmus form. Look as hard as FARMS does for their claims and you will see the chiasmus format of my pages. ;) See the links on this page for much more on the subject.

Or the statistical studies showing different authors of the Book of Mormon, none of whom were the early Mormons?

You are way behind on the issues my friend. Try reading Ed Ashment's essays from almost 20 years ago in Sunstone. The only people who still rely on the BYU wordprint studies from the 70s are those who haven't been paying attention. See my 7/26 message on this page for more (including specific references).

Or the findings of horse remains in Meso-America? These are fascinating omissions- from a site which claims to be looking at the relevant facts.

If you are referring to Sorenson's horse then you can spare me the details. If you are referring to some other horses please show me your sources. I just read a book that dealt with the history of horses published in 1996 and it still indicates that horses became extinct in America long before any Jaredites could possibly visit the place. Try reading something by a leading expert on the history of horses who publishes in peer review journals like Bruce J. MacFadden instead of only reading the speculations of FARMS apologists.

I was also unimpressed with your review(!) of a review(!) of "No Man Knows My History." As Nibley's exact opinions concerning Ms. Brodie's style of "historical Faction" have been echoed by contemporary critics of her book on Thomas Jefferson, I wonder that you didn't review their reviews.

I couldn't care less what critics have said about a book Brodie wrote about Jefferson. That has no relevance to what she wrote about Joseph Smith. Do I think her book on Smith is without error? No.

Ah, but you do spout its praises.

No, not really. I've never recommended it to anyone, and in my review I clearly state that "The book is far from perfect".

A writer's tactics have no relevance to a writer's works?

Not if they didn't use those "tactics" in all their works. Do you judge Joseph Smith based completely on the times he lied about polygamy or do you look at his writings and statements on a case-by-case basis?

Isn't that the opposite of your critique of Hugh Nibley?

Not at all. I don't discount Hugh in total because of one poor article or book. I look at his writings one at a time and base my opinions on them individually. I would encourage you to do the same with any and all authors. I readily admit that some of Hugh's writings are more reasonable and accurate than others.

Best to be consistent with oneself, even if not with the external world.

I agree.

I believe that also was Nibley's point about her book.

It doesn't mean much when he takes her supposed inconsistencies out of context. I showed in my review that taken in context, she wasn't inconsistent--(or at least not as inconsistent as Hugh makes her out to be by distorting her actual words).

The exact charges you level against Hugh Nibley can be found strewn throughout your own site, and in fact, some may be found in your site which Hugh hasn't been guilty of, such as falsifying evidence

Please list all the cases on my site where I perform Hugh Nibley-like tactics or where I have falsified evidence. I'd like to correct those places.

Actually, you don't perform Hugh Nibley-like tactics, but you do perform those tactics you accuse him of- another proposition entirely.

For instance?

like your reference to the non-existent indian dna tests, and not giving your source citations for evaluation. It is rather hard to confirm a "finding" for which no evidence is given.

You are referring to a site I do not maintain. Notice the URL. I believe he does provide references though. I don't refer to DNA tests anywhere on my site. (At a later date I did add a reference to molecular testing that has been done. See this link.)

He alleges that reference, and declines to provide the url for it.

No, he states what the reference is when he says, "In a seminal paper published in the British journal Nature Rebecca Cann...". Considering that he wrote the article long before the internet as we now know it existed and he wrote it for a magazine, it isn't surprising that there is no URL provided.

I have found the complete report online, published by others, which show that what he is claiming in fact is not what the report says. Quite the opposite. Indians were excluded from testing. But, this didn't stop you from repeating the claim without verification.

Where have I repeated the claim? I'd like the URL you are referring to that contains the entire report so that I can judge for myself whether he distorted the research. To be honest, it wouldn't matter to me anyway since I haven't made the DNA claim. You are distorting his remarks anyway. He doesn't claim that the tests show Indians aren't Jews.

If I ever get the report URL again, I'll forward it. I'm sure you know by now that %90 of asians are type B, while only %3 of native americans are type B, the rest being type O. That's a hard genetic fact as well, which was lacking from your site.

This means nothing (even if it were true--which it isn't as East Asians are 61% type O). BB parents can produce children with O blood type. OO parents can't produce children with B blood type. If Asians had a higher B ratio than Native Americans, it is not hard to see how a relatively small population of isolated Asian ancestors could turn an entire population O. Also see Genes, Peoples, and Languages beginning on page 104 to find out the likely reason why Native Americans evolved type O blood. Syphilis originated in pre-Columbian America and those who didn't have type O blood tended to die young or become infertile and hence not leave as many offspring as those with type O blood.

Show us someone who isn't Mormon who still thinks the American Indians have descended from the Jews, and a few of the reasons why they think that way, and you may have a better time swaying others to your opinion.

Intellectual discussion which culminates in inductive arguments based upon authority can be neither strong nor cogent without the authority which is appealed to being available for verification and/or criticism by those who would like to investigate your claims - without this, the claim is irrelevant. As it is, I seem hear the distinct echo of certain discredited person's views throughout your presentations- I think, for example, I know where your "indian dna test" claim came from, and it has been shown to be a false claim upon examination of the study it claims to be a report of - indians were specifically excluded from the sample population. It would seem that your mantra of "scientific methodology" fell by the wayside when it came time to examine the credibility of your sources. I can only trust that this was accidental.

Once again, you aren't referring to claims I have personally made. The author of the above site challenges Mormons by stating, "Mormon apologists are invited to do their own DNA comparisons. Until they do, we may consider the transmogrification of Jews into Amerindians mere phantasy". Perhaps you would like to take up the challenge? I'll be happy to post your results. Since Mormons "in the scientific know" no longer make the claims that the early Mormons did (that the Indians are the descendants of the Book of Mormon people) it is not difficult to understand why Mormon scientists don't bother to investigate.

It is also interesting to note, again, that NO SCIENTIST, regardless of his religious affiliation, has bothered to investigate this particular "fact" either. "Mormons 'in the know'" apparently are taking the claims of our faith at face value now, instead of making broad generalizations - for example, where in the Book of Mormon do we get "jews into amerindians?" Nowhere in the Book of Mormon is this claim to be found, and in fact, the early leaders also made no such universal claim. Did you in fact read Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites?

I certainly have. Nibley apologizes the common Mormon beliefs away, but he has to ignore much information to do so. You should read the Book of Mormon again. Try Mormon 9:33 and 1 Nephi 15:12 for starters. Check out this page for the early leaders claims. The title page of the Book of Mormon itself states "Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel". Now how exactly can the "Lamanites be a remnant of the house of Israel", and "Hebrews", and from Jerusalem, and preached to in the 1830s as American Indians if Jews didn't become the American Indians in the view of the Mormons? How can the Book of Mormon be "written to the Lamanites" if the Lamanites no longer existed (outside of the mind of Joseph Smith) in the early 19th century?

You seem to have forgotten to be skeptical of your own conclusions. This, in one who portrays himself as the champion of critical thinking and the "scientific method" does not enhance one's credibility. It behooves a man who would uphold himself as a shining light of reason in a darkened world of religious superstition to examine the issue from all sides before throwing his weight to one side.

To what are you here referring? I need specifics or I can't answer your assertions.

I am unsure if your atipathy towards Hugh Nibley would preclude your perusal of his works, but you might try reading his essay called "Three Shrines: the Mantic, the Sophic, and the Sophistic" or "Paths that Stray," found in the Collected Works Series, The Ancient State. These illustrate the basic methodological problems inherent in any supposed "scientific" approach towards both life and revelational religion.

I've read much of Nibley's "anti-Science" material. He shoots himself in the foot. He hates science, but then he tries to use it to prove his claims. Have you read Carl Sagan's chapter called 'Antiscience'? It's much better than anything Nibley has written on the subject.

While I, perhaps, am somewhat uncritical when it comes to Hugh Nibley's writing, I trust that you, who are extremely critical of Hugh Nibley's writing, can show me how he twists and distorts his supporting material in the scholarly way to illustrate his point.

I'm no longer in the Hugh Nibley critique writing mode. That's not to say that most of his writings aren't in need of a scholarly critique--I'm just bored of reading and commenting on Mormon literature. If you can't find enough in the pages I have already devoted to the subject, then you should look elsewhere. Was not the head of BYU's religion department's critique enough?

Not that it matters: show me the scholar who doesn't pick and choose his or her evidence to achieve that exact effect. Which reminds me: showing work which opposes critics of the LDS church does not constitue "equal time," which is the only reason I can infer for your including this bit of information in so many places on your site. Equal time, in the context you seem to be using this "my thoughts that are critical of the Tanners, links to FARMS, the church conference talks, positive excerpts of Gordon B. Hinckley, Hugh B. Brown, and other General Authorities, and links to many other faith-promoting pro-Mormonism sites" blurb, ought to involve referencing the counterclaims to your claims on the same page as your claims. To do otherwise is biased in the extreme, limiting the discussion to your side only.

You obviously haven't read enough of my pages. I do directly link to the counter-claims for every issue that I am aware of on the internet. If you know of 'refutations' of my pages that I am unaware of, let me know of them and I will gladly link to them. For just a few of the many examples of where I have done this see: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, & #6.

You made me smile... You characterize the refutations as wastes of time, and purport to summarize them, and all without even referring to anything substantial, as usual. Fair mindedness, indeed. And all without dealing with a single one of the issues, as usual. Seems that if I read one of your pages, I've read them all.

Apparently you have only bothered to read one and then comment as if you've read them all. You didn't look at all of the above pages very well. I link directly to each of the sites with opposing viewpoints to mine. I encourage people to look at them and both sides of all the issues. If you found nothing substantial on the sites I link to blame FARMS and the folks who wrote them--not me--the guy linking to them. Better yet, ask them to link back to my site and see what kind of response you receive. Perhaps then you will have a better idea of who only wants one side looked at.

You needn't suppose that I am a blind follower of the LDS church, even if I lack the resources to reference all of Nibley's sources. I am trying, however, to avoid the pitfalls which apparently beset those who would study the facts concerning the church- namely, bias in either direction. I can honestly state that my personal, "scientific" (read non-revelatory) appraisal of the facts as I have been able to determine them by referencing sites and books like this site and the those featured on it has led me to conclude, so far as I have the facts, that the Book of Mormon was not written by a peasant farmer with a third grade education. It is because of this research that I was bitterly dissappointed in your dismissal of the Book of Mormon. It seems to me, that your claim to have found the roots of the Book of Mormon in the KJV Bible, just to cite an example, is a classic case of "begging the question." The question is, was the Book of Mormon copying the Bible? Or were both the Bible and the Book of Mormon drawing upon a common reservoir of teachings as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Nag Hammadi, would indicate? You didn't show any parallels to these works, even though they are extremely relevant - why not show how the Book of Mormon was copying the Dead Sea Scrolls? Or the Nag Hammadi Library? Or the Bible in reference to these works?

The supposed Nephite writers would have had no access to these works so showing how they were copying Biblical ideas is actually not good evidence for your Book of Mormon case.

This type of one-sided parallelism smacks of a preconcieved notion. I trust this, too, was accidental.

If the Book of Mormon was drawing from the same resource as the Bible then it is even easier to dismiss Imo since the Bible contains far more contradictions, inconsistences, and doctrines which I can no longer believe in than the Book of Mormon. If the same 'reservoir' is supplying the teachings then I want nothing to do with such a false source. A very good site which you may want to explore for more on the Biblical influence can be found here.

Which was the exact page I was referring to. Since you endorse it, you are also responsible for the content.

Using this line of reasoning, I suppose Yahoo! is responsible for the content of all the sites they link to too?

Let us always remember that the "scientific method" requires our null hypothesis to conform to the claims of the subject being tested: the Book of Mormon must be assumed true, and tested accordingly.

That was my basis (although science doesn't require that everything "must be assumed true").

Actually, your actions speak louder than words on this point. Upon reading the pertinent stuff, I find that you have reverse-engineered arguments from a pre-determined conclusion. At least Hugh Nibley reads ALL of the AVAILABLE information before drawing a conclusion.

Now you are really being silly. I was a very active member when I came to some of my conclusions. My pre-determined conclusion was that the church was absolutely 100% true. Perhaps you can document how Hugh Nibley has read ALL of the AVAILABLE information? Some speed reader he must be. ;)

Your site shows a mere dismissal, which is an affront to any claim of using the "scientific method."

This is not at all true. If you have any evidence for the Book of Mormon, I'll be glad to post it.

So then, post the contents of FARMS!

Why? They have their own website. I have dozens of links to their site. They won't let me post their copyrighted material anyway.

Put your actions where you portray your mouth to be. You never did mention any positive evidence, did you?

I've yet to see any. I've posted all of the so-called positive evidence that people have written to me about--including your's above.

and yet I know you know that it's there. What is your agenda?

I have a UFO hiding behind a comet in space. It won't pick me up until I convince the world that thinking is better than blind faith. How's that? ;)

Remeber, any inductive argument, including the "scientific" ones, must be "forever tenable," which means "unproven."

I agree.

Even the law of gravity is unproven; it is merely a strongly supported theory. If a bigger, and better, theory which accounts for gravitational forces came along, even this, the oldest and most venerable of all scientific theories, must give way. This must be true also of one's conclusions concerning any issue - be skeptical of your own conclusions. I am open to the possibility that someone may put forth a "grand unified theory" of the LDS church, but until that happens, I will accept the LDS's "grand unified theory" of itself - they have all of the weight of the evidence on their side. And who knows, such a theory, should it arise, might even confirm the church!

That would be great. The same could be said for the Heaven's Gate folks. Why not kill yourself and take a ride on a spaceship then too? I'm not going to accept everything just so that I can say that I didn't reject anything that might possibly be false. I can, and do, hold all my conclusions tentative. I've stated that elsewhere. You really should read more of my site before trying to put words into my mouth.

You are rejecting the "scientific method" by this little explanation. You must accept, and then test for veracity.

The scientific method does not require complete acceptance before any testing or analysis. You are referring to the religious method as this person already explained to me.

Did you not get a college education?

I was schooled at the Lord's University where I received my undergraduate degree. I also did my graduate studies and received an advanced degree at BYU. If BYU isn't a good enough background for me to have for you then I am sorry.

You ought to have seen the irony in this "explanation." PS. Heaven's gate claims = non testable. Big difference, false dichotomy. Logic faulty.

Not at all faulty. Please show me how the Heaven's Gate claims are any less testable than Joseph Smith's visions, gold plates, etc.? A claim need not be completely testable in order to still analyze it for reasonableness.

As an aside, since you deny the place of revelation in acquiring knowledge, then how can you, in any semblance of intellectual honesty, claim to be knowledgeable about revelation, and related topics? Isn't that somewhat akin to a peasant farmer with a third-grade education telling the world what Jerusalem was like in 600 bc?

Where have I denied revelation? I don't think revelation is the best way to 'sure knowledge' (especially when we have tons of evidence showing that revelation tends to be faulty), but I haven't denied it or anything else religious. Why I led a discussion on "spirituality" just this last Sunday.

You reject revelation by that top line, and others like "I no longer go on feelings" and other statements of the sort.

This isn't a complete rejection of revelation. I can rely on something other than feelings alone and still go with hunches that aren't completely irrational and don't contradict a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

One must ask, then, what do you accept in place of revelation?

Reality.

If it consists in interpreting "only things [you] can see", then you are in deed denying revelation. Revelation is a matter of the spirit. Didn't the Pharisees and Scribes also talk about spirituality?

Who cares? I don't bash Jews as the late first century Christian authors did. Do you? Whatever happened to belief in the 11th Article of Faith which states "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."? Do you not think it is OK to let others (like myself) have the same privilege of going by the dictates of our own consciences?

It didn't help them to get revelation, nor did it help them to interpret the words of those who did. See the parallel? How could you honestly speak on spirituality when you have rejected things revelational, the only way to know things spiritual? (A: not honestly)

I was speaking to a group of UUs--not a bunch of orthodox Mormons. Some people define "spirituality" a bit different from orthodox Mormons. Something can be "spiritual" to me (or others) without having anything to do with the supernatural. I can gaze at a starry sky, swim in the ocean, or listen to a moving piece of music and feel "spiritual" w/o having to believe that some supernatural spirit is possessing my body or speaking to my brain.

You may publish this letter upon your "crackpot letters" page; however, should you do so, I ask only that you publish it in its entirety.

Those you call "crackpots" are actually just the typical orthodox members of Mormonism and Christianity. The messages I receive that are way out there in left field I don't bother to post. I rarely cut out anything in messages I publish and when I do I always explain what I cut. The occasional . . .s that you see were not put in by me. Those are dots from the original author of those messages.

I don't trust your explanations. Nothing personal, but explanations tend to be merely a statement of the snipper's bias. Myself included.

Well once you see all this posted you may find a newfound respect for my honesty. Until then, try and lighten up a bit. If you enjoy your faith, don't bother with my site. Read FARMS over and over again and do whatever else it takes to have some fun and peace in life. As the famous poet Dave Mustaine once said (and here I will intentionally distort him in Nibley-like fashion in order to serve my needs), "Peace sells, and I'm buying". Peace brother. I wish you only happiness.


received 11/7/97
It seems like almost everything you say I agree with.

What don't you agree with? That's what I'm most interested in from like minds--the areas of disagreement. I learn far more from people who think similarly but have a few points we have a difference of opinion on then I do from those who disagree with everything I say and don't bother to logically explain why I am "wrong".

I think similar environments produce similar responses, (I wonder if this is how they perceived our royal generation turning out). I'm proud of what you have come up with here. I am loving your pages, having to control myself not to spend too much time here.

Just let yourself go. ;) Once you get the Site Map down, it's not too time consuming to just keep up on what is new.

I don't know how you have done it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for intelligent, honest insights. I guess you got where you are by being pure enough to believe you didn't ever have to be afraid of anything, 'cause the truth will always come out on top'. It is a wonderful way to grow up, and then again after you survive the scary part it's wonderful again.

It wasn't really the way I grew up though. I was very afraid of delving into my faith from a rational point of view. I had to sweep everything under the carpet until the carpet became far too bulky to stand on anymore. It is wonderful to know that I don't have to raise my kids that way.

The scary part is when you find out the truth is not what you thought it was.

Yes indeed. Those were very difficult (although exciting) times. That's not to say that I think I have some sort of corner on the truth market now. I just have a better methodology now to finding truth and discarding my old false notions.

But now I feel light and bright and happy, and life is interesting and fun since there is nothing to be afraid of.

Amen.

It makes me feel that..I am that I might have joy! ooh wait, I think I heard that somewhere.

Not everything in the Book of Mormon is BS. ;)

I've read alot of your book list before I got here, it's wonderful to be able be a part. I am geographically isolated, but for all I know there is someone similar close by.

There are far more of us than you would believe. We just tend to be a quiet bunch. You could probably go into any LDS ward and meet one or two. You just wouldn't know it since they aren't going to have these kinds of discussions with just any other member.

Thank you again for all your work.

Thanks for the feedback. Any additional commentary on applicable books you have read will always be welcome too.


received 11/6/97
Just thought I'd second the sentiment of the person who acclaimed you the Guru of Goodsense. Maybe you don't get heaped with praise all that often (or at least as often as you get insulted), but I sure think you deserve it. I've visited your page on and off for about two years now, and I'm always very impressed and always finding something new. Keep up the good work of promoting reason, clear thinking, and science! Actually, I do have one complaint: I'll never have enough time to read even half of the books listed on your page. (Reminds me of a phrase from those cheesy My Turn on Earth tapes from childhood about having all eternity to read, etc.)

Now I'm going to have those tunes going through my head all day. ;) We weren't allowed to listen to any secular music on Sunday in my family so my sisters played "My Turn on Earth" and "Saturday's Warrior" over and over again. Even though I haven't heard those tunes in almost 20 years, I can still remember every single silly word.

I've been ploughing through Michael Martin's Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, which is quite thorough, albeit dense in places. Smith's book Atheism: The Case Against God was a good primer before starting into Martin's book (dare I say, the "milk before the meat"?). I wasn't as impressed with Armstrong's History of God as you seemed to be, but I did think it was worth reading once.

I think I enjoyed Armstrong so much because reading her book was the first time I realized the history of the evolution of God--a concept I really hadn't even considered before then. For someone who is already well versed on the topic I can imagine that it won't have nearly the impact. Smith's book is indeed an excellent primer for anyone--theist or atheist.

I'm glad to see you really liked Sagan's Demon-Haunted World (if you remember, I recommended it to you when we were on Eric Kettunen's exmormon newsgroup). I actually liked that one so much I bought and mailed a copy to my TBM parents, although I don't think it saw much usage. My father likes to read a lot of books, but mostly those strange Mormon apologetic/cosmology ones.

Anyways, I hope you will continue to keep up and add to these very useful pages. It's nice to see pages like yours which do a good job of defending reason and freethought, especially when I cruise the web and see so many fundie sites that blatantly espouse untruth and misrepresent both the scientific method and its findings. I hope to get a webpage of my own up someday soon - thanks for giving me an ideal to shoot for :).

Thanks for all the kind words and suggestions. Let me know your URL once you get the site up.


received 11/5/97
As an active member of the LDS faith, I can see through the anti-mormon Satanistic deceptions. Your Anti-Mormon websites do not affect my testimony in the least, in fact they strengthen it.

If my site makes you happy, then you are welcome.

Thank you RPCMAN, however you will be judged someday and your efforts to slow the expansion of the Lord's church even though in ignorance, will lead to your downfall.

I couldn't really care less how fast the LDS church expands. If everyone in the world was a happy Mormon who enjoyed life to its fullest, then I wouldn't see much wrong with that.

Perhaps you could be so kind to point out exactly where my site is "ignorant" of the facts? What about Mormonism have I misrepresented or not studied in enough detail to pull myself out of the ignorance you perceive?

When times get tough in the last days and only the Mormon's have their act together, you will probably go to them for food. Maybe you will wake up and smell the roses, but I doubt it.

This is at least the third time someone has said that I will come begging to Mormons for food. I never heard this teaching in the church even though I have attended well over 5,000 LDS meetings. Is this a new teaching? What exactly is it? Something like "if someone has doubts about Mormonism, they will one day come groveling to LDS members for food"? If you have a quote on the subject from a General Authority, please send it my way.


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