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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Favorite Conference Talks – Elder Holland » Favorite Conference Talks – Elder Holland

Favorite Conference Talks – Elder Holland

MCQ - October 5, 2009

I’ve been thinking about which conference talks really resonated with me this time around, and wanted to hear from you about which ones were your favorites as well.  There were many that made me think or that made me feel a great connection to the speaker or to the spirit but there was one that stood out for me:  Elder Holland’s talk about the Book of Mormon.  It seemed to be a talk out of the past.  It’s the kind of talk we don’t hear very often now because it is not a comfortable or warm and inviting talk. 

Some were a bit offended by it or felt it ignored the very real historicity problems that they themselves feel about the Book of Mormon.  But Elder Holland did not give the talk for the purpose of explaining how to deal with whatever problems you might have with the Book of Mormon.  He gave the talk to simply testify of his knowledge that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  How did he say that he knows this?  Did he say that he had sifted through all the potential scientific and historical objections that had been raised by the critics of the Book of Mormon?  No, though Elder Holland may at times have explored those issues, he did not discuss the issues or their potential answers, he simply testified of his knowledge of the Book of Mormon’s truth by personal revelation.  He also testified that the actions of Joseph and Hyrum just prior to their deaths provide an additional testimony of its truth, as well as the fact that no satisfactory explanations for the Book’s origin have ever been found, other than the story of divine origin given by Joseph .  

Tellingly, he quoted Nephi’s final testimony, one of the most moving and powerful testimonies of God ever recorded, to my mind:

10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

  11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

  12 And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.
  13 And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.
  14 And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.
  15 For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.
Elder Holland’s testimony quoted Nephi’s because the two are similar in tone and purpose.  They stand as a warning to those who fail to understand or appreciate the significance and importance of the Book of Mormon, and who therefore attempt to dismiss it.  He compared the Book of Mormon to Christ, about whom it testifies, calling it “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” to those who would like to believe God does not exist, or that Christ is not his son, or that God does not speak to his prophets.
Throughout the talk, Elder Holland was animated, even heated, as he testified with all the energy he had of the truth he knows.  It wasn’t comfortable to watch or to listen to.  It wasn’t peaceful of inviting.  There is nothing peaceful or comfortable about the fact that the words of the Book of Mormon may condemn you before God.  It just happens to be the truth.

52 Comments »

  1. I pegged that talk as my favorite too. Whether he discussed specific “historical issues” with the BOM or not, the point about alternate theories is well-made.

    The Book of Mormon exists as a physical object–it’s not imaginary. Any critic who doesn’t buy it as a historical record in ancient America still has to present an alternate theory to explain its existence that passes the laugh test.
    Elder Holland is right that those alternate theories have as many or more holes in them than the original…

    Comment by KMB — October 5, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  2. There are a number of blogs commenting on his talk as well as numerous commenters who feel offended or felt the talk was too aggressive.

    As a convert to the church, I don’t understand this divide that appears to be taking place over the past few years between believing members and merely cultural or social members. It is definitely apparent if you pay close attention.

    Many members seem to want to avoid the pure truth and witness of the Restored Gospel and all that entails for a quiet existence of comaraderie and non-offensive feel-good relations.

    Now, I am not talking about going off the deep end in our isolation but there is a natural division that arises when truth is revealed to one person due to their diligence in seeking it but is not revealed to another for whatever reason.

    Compromise of our beliefs will never bring forth Zion.

    Comment by Michael — October 5, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  3. I think too, that Elder Holland was not being bold in order to forcefully shame people who have doubts. he was doing his job, which was to shatter doubt. There are, I’m sure, many voices who will call out at the last day something like:

    “You knew the Book of Mormon was true. Why didn’t you try harder to convince us?”

    There are many given testimonies of the Book of Mormon that are softer and less brash. It could be said that they are easily forgotten/glazed over in their meekness, and that listeners might accuse the testifier of only “believing” and not “knowing”. I don’t think anyone who hears Elder Holland’s talk will be able to make that substitution. Elder Holland has plainly and forcefully stated that he “knows” the Book of Mormon is true. Now it’s up to the world to decide, not if he is a spiritual and believing man, but whether or not he is an outright liar. He’s eliminating any middle ground. Sure it’s uncomfortable, but to the pragmatic, it’s also a very useful tool for saving a lot of time vacillating about the gospel.

    Comment by Ryan — October 5, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  4. Thank you for this, especially for the analysis near the end.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 5, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  5. I agree with that Ryan, and I would go further: Holland’s approach to the Book of Mormon is the only approach that has any hope of yielding final results. Those who think they can find out the truth or falsity of the Book of Mormon by studying scientific, linguistic, or historic analyses of it are deluded. Those things will always be interesting sidelines of inquiry, and definitely worthwhile to the academic-minded, but the pursuit of a final determination of the origins of the Book of Mormon ends only one place: Revelation by the Spirit of God.

    Comment by MCQ — October 5, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  6. I agree with MCQ. The scientific, linquistic or historical studies are re-enforcement to our own testimony of the book. Without the testimony, nothing else really matters!

    Comment by Renn — October 5, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

  7. If this is intended to invite comments about other talks than Elder Holland’s, I will say that I really felt God’s spirit in the talks given by President Uchtdorf on loving God and loving neighbor, by Elder Andersen on repentance, and Elder Cook’s talk on our duties to self, family, and the poor and the needy. Those talks really resonated for me.

    If this thread is intended to solicit continued evaluation of Elder Holland’s talk, my apologies, and please delete my comment.

    Comment by DavidH — October 5, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  8. I think anyone convinced the Book of Mormon is true by an other person rather than the spirit still doesn’t know and may eventually deny it. Certainly it’s not what I’ll call a testimony. So in reference to (#3) I think anyone who makes that excuse is already in trouble. Since God will undoubtedly just reply, “why didn’t you seek?”

    Comment by Clark — October 5, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

  9. My favorite moment wasn’t necessarily a single talk, but a series… in the Priesthood session when Elder Choi was followed by Elder Gonzalez who was followed by Prestident Uchtdorf. Somehow that series of talks in accented English spoke to my soul about the love God has for all his children.

    Comment by Chad Too — October 5, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  10. Is it possible that we have missed the point of his sermon? My sense was that he intended to bear a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon as a witness of Christ and the redemption that He offers.

    Is it possible for somebody to come to a testimony of that and still have a few quibbles with the book? I believe it certainly is. B. H. Roberts was a better person than anybody comment here, including me. He had questions about the book, but it didn’t alter his testimony of Christ. Anyone who believes that we have to believe every jot and tittle of the Book of Mormon in order to be believing Mormons has to take into account the fact that the book itself has been changed a lot over the years. The forward used to say that the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians, and we just changed it last year. Let’s not be too hasty to read somebody out of the church because their testimony doesn’t look just like ours.

    I’m quite certain Elder Holland thinks the value of the Book of Mormon lies in its powerful witness of Jesus, not in the minutae of Lamanite warfare.

    Comment by Mark Brown — October 5, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  11. I appreciated Elder Holland’s sermon a great deal–was, in fact, deeply moved by it, even though I’m someone prone to agnosticism on some aspects of the Book of Mormon historicity question, and would flatly disagree with Elder Holland on a few points. In part, I think we all just loved it because it was passionate and human, in a context where we’ve become accustomed to having a good deal of the humanity sucked up by protocol and teleprompting. It’s just nice to have a fuller range of rhetorical and affective style on display, I think.

    Comment by Kristine — October 5, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  12. David: Your comment is more than welcome. Thanks.

    Chad: Right on, I thought the same thing.

    Mark:

    Let’s not be too hasty to read somebody out of the church because their testimony doesn’t look just like ours.

    I agree, but I don’t think anyone was saying that, including Elder Holland. Did you?

    Kristine: Absolutely right. It was the old-time-gospel-hour quality of the talk that was so compelling, in part. We just don’t hear that kind of thing very often, so it stood out on that basis.

    Someone on another thread quoted the “frankly pathetic” language that he used in one part of the talk and I hadn’t even remembered that he said that. But I don’t think he was condemning “agnosticism on some aspects of the Book of Mormon historicity question.” I think he was saying that those issues wilt into into irrelevance under the bright light of a witness from the Spirit.

    Comment by MCQ — October 5, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  13. [...] many I was struck by Elder Holland’s Sunday Afternoon talk (Video and Mp3 Link) on and powerful [...]

    Pingback by Elder Holland’s Book of Mormon Talk « Symphonyofdissent — October 6, 2009 @ 6:10 am

  14. I agree with MCQ’s view of Elder Holland’s talk. But there is cause for concern, in particular how local leaders might be tempted to take Elder Holland’s ball and run with it. I trust their ability to consistently strike the right tone and balance while giving energetic exhortation much less than I trust Elder Holland’s ability to do so. And I have no doubt that he is more aware of the historical issues that trouble some Latter-day Saints than most local leaders, which is also likely to temper his tone but may not similarly restrain what happens at the local level.

    How, for example, will this talk play out in LDS seminary and institute classes around the Church?

    Comment by Dave — October 6, 2009 @ 6:17 am

  15. Let me offer the perspective of an active member with serious doubts about the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    I loved his talk. It was powerful, sincere and eloquent. I was moved by his conviction. He challenged me to rethink my doubts. However, he also frustrated me. Why is that God has apparently chosen to speak so clearly and unambiguously to him, and others who share his certitude and not to me and others like me have also studied, and prayed and pleaded and served to no avail? And to suggest that there are no other plausible explanations for the book works only for those who are already convinced. It is just wrong to suggest that those who don’t believe are blind to the obvious force of his arguments, as I think he does when he suggests that all other explanations are pathetic, and that the Book of Mormon has successfully withstood intense scrutiny for 180 years. It has withstood scrutiny for those who believe, but there are great many who are convinced otherwise. These cannot all be dismissed with a wave of the hand.

    As I said, I loved his talk and I admire him greatly. I envy that kind of faith. But God has a lot of explaining to do when he appears to be so arbitrary about whose prayers he answers and whose he does not. I would love to hear Elder Holland address that issue some time.

    Comment by notsosure — October 6, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  16. I also enjoyed the forcefulness of Elder Holland’s talk. It was a nice change from the more “bland” talks, and something I could imagine Brigham Young giving. At the same time, I think it was somewhat troubling in several days, especially when you look at potential audiences:

    For those who have testimonies of the BofM: The talk didn’t particularly change much. They already have a testimony. While hearing an apostle give a bold testimony of the BofM is certainly reassuring, if you believe, you can’t really believe more.

    For those who want to have testimonies of the BofM: I would echo the comments in #15 above. I would consider myself in this group. I served a mission. I served in multiple callings, most recently YM President. I have read the BofM probably 15+ times. I have prayed about it hundreds of times. I have never received what I feel is a testimony of the BofM. For me, Elder Holland’s talk was actually more discouraging than uplifting. If left me asking… why?

    For those who are not members or who are potential investigators: The talk doesn’t have any weight at all. Consider it from an outsider’s point-of-view. How would we consider someone in Iran giving the same talk substituting Mohammed for JS and the Qu’ran for the BofM.

    Paraphrasing, it might be something like this: “If you don’t believe the Qu’ran, explain how Mohammed brought forth the book. He was visited by an angel. Why would Mohammed come up with this as a fabrication. Over one BILLION people accept the Qu’ran as the word of God. The Qu’ran has been investigated and has held up to all attacks. These attacks are all pathetic and wrong. And anyone who rejects Mohammed and leaves will have to trip over the Qu’ran on their way out”.

    Would hearing someone in Iran or Saudi Arabia say this make you more or less likely to even consider looking into Islam? Would hearing something like this make you more or less likely to think that the Islamists were “crazy” or “deluded”? And, from an outsiders point-of-view, who already look at Mormons as a “cult” of polygamists, did this talk really help?

    So, while the talk might get some “atta-boys” from people who already believe, I fear it may have alienated people in the Church who are truly struggling with important issues, and may have reinforced outsiders viewpoint of us?

    Comment by Mike S — October 6, 2009 @ 7:16 am

  17. Here’s the context of the “frankly pathetic” language:

    “For 179 years, this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart, like perhaps no other book in modern religious history, Perhaps like no other book in any religous history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born, parroted and died. From Ethan Smith to Salomon Spaulding, to deranged paranoid, to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book, have ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph Smith gave as its young, unlearned translator.”

    From the context it is clear that Elder Holland is taking the “failed theories about its origins” to task, not anyone’s personal journey.

    This next section, however, starting around 11 minutes into his talk, reads more like a challenge to the individual response to the Book of Mormon:

    “If anyone is foolish enough, or mislead enough, to reject 531 pages of a heretofo unknown text teaming with literary and semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages somehow, especially without accounting for their powerful withness of Jesus Christ and the profund spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now 10 of million of readers; if that’s the case, then such persons, elect or otherwise, have been deceived. And if they leave this chruch, they must do so by crawling over, or under or around the Book of Mormon to make their exit.”

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 6, 2009 @ 7:32 am

  18. Best response to Elder Holland’s talk:

    Houston, we have an apostle.

    -Ardis

    Comment by CJ Douglass — October 6, 2009 @ 8:02 am

  19. I think the key to that comment, Peter is in the “without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages somehow.”

    I think E. Holland is arguing that there is complexity and non-nativity to Joseph Smith’s culture in the Book of Mormon (something lacking in the Islamic comparison) which requires explanation, whether divine or Satanic inspiration, borrowing from other writers (i.e. Ethan Smith or Solomon Spaulding) or extensive genius-level plagiarism/Biblical insight (thinking of Bloom on that last one.)

    Comment by Ben — October 6, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  20. It was a Mormon apologetic. As with the entire Conference, it was meant for believers.

    Comment by Tim — October 6, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  21. I found the talk to be incredibly powerful and felt the spirit strongly throughout. I don’t think that a conference talk should be about academic nuance and certainly should not sound like something presented at a FAIR or sunstone conference. Elder Holland is not calling people out on the minutia but on the overall story of the Book of Mormon. If we don’t believe that it was inspired, then to some degree all of our faith is in vain.

    Comment by Daniel Ortner — October 6, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  22. if you believe, you can’t really believe more.

    I’m going to have to disagree with that strongly, Mike. You certainly can, and that’s precisely the purpose of public testimonies borne by believers every month in our testimony meetings. We often bear testimony to each other of things bith general and specific. Why? Because a testimony borne by a believer to believers calls forth the Spirit which testifies of the truth of the words and strengthens the faith (or belief) of those who are present.

    Comment by MCQ — October 6, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  23. #22:

    I actually agree with your criticism, and was a bit imprecise in my words. I should in fact have used the word “know” as it depends on your definition of “believe” or “know”, which is why I have a problem with the phrase “I know…” in testimony meeting.

    In my mind, to know something means to be certain of it. When someone says that they “know” the BofM is true, then that’s essentially a fact. It can’t really be MORE true. That’s the sense in which I should have addressed the first section of my post. If you “believe”, that leaves room for doubt. It means it’s probably right, but not necessarily.

    Given that, the first group of people are people who “KNOW” the BofM is true. To them, they can’t really “KNOW” that it is any more true, so Elder Holland’s talk couldn’t convince them more.

    I would therefore place myself in the “believe” group. I believe that the BofM is likely true, and live my life according to that belief. At the same time, I have been struggling for decades to be able to say that I “know” it is true. Elder Holland’s talk didn’t help me at all in that regard, other than actually be more down on myself, wondering what is wrong with me and why I can’t “know” that it is true.

    Comment by Mike S — October 6, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  24. I think Elder Holland’s talk might have been in response to the mounting DNA evidence that Native Americans are not descendants of Israelites.

    I have no problem with him bearing powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon.

    I do think he was mistaken in saying that the Ethan Smith View of the Hebrews thesis is “pathetic.” True or not, it’s a plausible explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon.

    Comment by California Condor — October 6, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  25. Meh. I went to the trouble to skim through VoH, and no, it isn’t a plausible explanation for the origins of the Book of Mormon. Not when you start getting into the details of Joseph’s education and previous literary attainments, the details of history, prophecy, and doctrine among the Lehites which Ethan does not mention, and the references to world history and the supposed similaritiues of customs and language of the North American Indians to the Hebrews that occupy considerable space in VoH but the Book of Mormon does not mention.

    Comment by Confutus — October 6, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  26. Mark:

    Let’s not be too hasty to read somebody out of the church because their testimony doesn’t look just like ours.

    I agree, but I don’t think anyone was saying that, including Elder Holland. Did you?

    MCQ,

    No, I don’t think Elder Holland meant that, but that is certain to happen among the rank and file of the church. My concerns echo what Dave said. Just look around you in the ‘nacle right now to see how easily lots of Mormons take to the aggressive, take no prisoners, my way or the highway style. I have no doubts whatsoever that many will emulate him in ways that will produce negative outcomes. What might be appropriate for an apostle in conference in many cases is not appropriate in gospel doctrine, for instance. Try to imagine somebody in Sunday school asking a question and hearing an apostle’s words quoted back, saying that his concerns are frankly pathetic.

    Also, try to imagine our missionaries as they try to follow Holland’s example. Fellowshipping FAIL. There are already too many insufferably arrogant 19 year olds in the world.

    Comment by Mark Brown — October 6, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

  27. Yeah, Mark, I do worry about that. When I was a missionary, it was BRM being quoted. I can’t tell you how many times I heard missionaries say, “Anyone who would believe that has the intellect of an ant and the understanding of a clod of clay in a primordial swamp.” It was so sad to watch.

    Comment by MCQ — October 6, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

  28. Confutus,

    True, View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon are not exact clones of each other. However, they share the same basic premise: Israelites came to present-day America.

    Ethan Smith was from the same town as Oliver Cowdery, so I think it’s fair to admit that Cowdery might have copied the idea in collaboration with Joseph Smith. I’m not saying this is what I believe, but I think it’s fair to admit that it’s within the realm of the possible.

    If Cowdery was aping Ethan Smith, it makes sense that Cowdery would alter a lot of the details, especially if Cowdery didn’t have a copy of View of the Hebrews with him but just remembered a guy from his hometown who made waves with a sensational story.

    Comment by California Condor — October 6, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  29. CC, I don’t think that Elder Holland was saying that any particular theory was not possible, just that after years of trying to establish one or another of these theories, serious study of them has led rather to their being discredited than supported by the evidence. In other words, they don’t hold up under scrutiny. That’s not the same thing as saying they are not possible. Anything is within the realm of the possible. These thories are just not established, even after a very long time of some people trying very hard to establish them.

    Comment by MCQ — October 6, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

  30. Condor, “Plausible at first glance” and “still plausible after close examination” are not the same thing at all. The “Derived from View of the Hebrews” may fall into the first category, but it doesn’t in the second.

    The more consecutive unsupported “might haves” you have to insert in a theory to save it, the weaker that theory becomes. Now it becomes necessary to account for Oliver Cowdery, too. Set against “might have helped write the Book of Mormon” after reading Ethan Smith” are Oliver’s own accounts describing himself as scribe and not translator or originator, given well after he had ample motive and opportunity to denounce Joseph’s version and his own testimony as one of the three witnesses.

    Comment by Confutus — October 7, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  31. If Cowdery did help Joseph Smith fabricate the Book of Mormon, Cowdery would have discredited himself if he admitted that it was all a ruse. Even after he left the Church, he had motive to keep the ruse going (if it was a ruse), because he wouldn’t want to admit having been a charlatan in the past.

    The View of the Hebrews theory holds up well under scrutiny.

    Comment by California Condor — October 7, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  32. It would be an understatement to say that most people who have studied the issue disagree with you, CC. If you can cite to a source that provides an analysis of the theory that is positive and credible, please provide it. Thanks.

    Comment by MCQ — October 7, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  33. MCQ,

    B. H. Roberts

    Comment by California Condor — October 7, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  34. B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 28-29; 151-54. Roberts wrote, “It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.”(240)

    Comment by California Condor — October 7, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  35. CC, that’s incredibly weak sauce. You’re citing a very old source, and one who, despite his long study of this issue, concluded nevertheless that the BoM was of God and kept his testimony of it all his life.

    Comment by MCQ — October 7, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  36. MCQ,

    I’m actually surprised at the lack of any source at all that adequately explains why the View of the Hebrews theory is not plausible.

    I recently saw an essay by John Welch from 1985 called “An Unparallel,” which was intended to discredit the View of the Hebrews theory. But all it did was point out a lot of places where View of the Hebrews is different from the Book of Mormon. But like I said, if Cowdery was copying View of the Hebrews, it makes sense that he wouldn’t make an exact copy.

    Comment by California Condor — October 7, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  37. CC, The burden of proof is on those advocating for a theory that differs from the sworn uncontroverted testimony of numerous witnesses. In arguing for this theory, you are arguing that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses are all liars and frauds. Wilful liars and frauds. Intentional deceivers to their dying day. And you are saying they did this without any monetary motivation and in the face of extreme pressure to change their stories, even including the imminent threat of death. If you can’t come up with anything more than what you have said so far, you are a complete and utter failure and you should back down and apologize.

    Comment by MCQ — October 7, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

  38. MCQ,

    It might help if you knew I’m a believing Mormon. However, I think we have to be fair with our religion. It’s a mistake for us to say that plausible theories are “pathetic” and “complete and utter failures.” It’s like saying “you’re wrong, because I said so.”

    As nice as the testimonies of the three and eight witnesses are, they’re not the slam dunks that we would like them to be. Martin Harris later indicated that he might have seen the golden plates “with his spiritual eyes.” In other words, he might have just thought that maybe he had a vision. As far as the eight witnesses go, they were all part of just two families (he Whitmers and Smiths), and they were followers of Joseph Smith. Maybe they succumbed to pressure to sign the testimony. Whether their testimonies are true or false or something in between, they are not as credible as testimonies from non-Mormons would have been.

    Comment by California Condor — October 7, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

  39. CC, I know you are a believer but you’re also a troublemaker, and you’re missing my point.

    My statements about Joseph, Oliver and the other witnesses apply only to the context of this conversation. I’m not saying that they’re “slam dunks” in any general sense, only that they provide a context, or a starting point, from which, if you’re going to argue in favor of a theory like VoH, you have to bear the burden of proof.

    You can’t argue that the VoH theory is in any way established because it hasn’t been sufficiently discredited by Mormons, as you did above. The only way a theory like that gets any traction at all in the face of the many witnesses of the BoM, is to establish itself by some independent plausible evidence. That is far from what it has done, and you have not made the slightest progress in that direction either.

    BTW, your argument that the witnesses of the BoM are undeserving of credibilty because they “are Mormons” is circular. It goes without saying that anyone who testifies of the things that they did would be very likely to join the Church, so saying they are Mormons is no legitimate criticism at all. In fact, since many of them left the Church at various times in their lives and still never recanted, crirticising them for being Mormons is not only irrelevant, it’s misleading.

    Comment by MCQ — October 7, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

  40. Condor,
    I certainly could not have told you were a believer from your defense of the anti-mormon line. I also don’t think claims that Joseph Smith and all his associates were lying frauds need to be defended. Or that they ought to be.

    Comment by Confutus — October 8, 2009 @ 12:26 am

  41. Confutus,

    You don’t have to be an anti-Mormon to admit that the Ethan Smith / View of the Hebrews theory has merit to it.

    Comment by California Condor — October 8, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  42. No, just mistaken.

    Comment by MCQ — October 8, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

  43. Negligible merit. To my knowledge, there is no solid historical evidence, none, that either Joseph Smith or Oliver Codwery ever actually read View of the Hebrews.
    If all you can produce is “could haves”, you’ve got nothing.

    Comment by Confutus — October 8, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  44. CC, you bring up BH Roberts here.

    BH Roberts has been a popular source for opportunistic critics of the LDS Church to cherry-pick quotes from to make it look like they’ve got a real General Authority (and venerated Mormon scholar) dissing on the Book of Mormon. I believe his quotes are taken out of context and his repeated statements of confidence in the Book of Mormon conveniently ignored.

    Critics also ignore the fact that a lot of his “concerns” with the Book of Mormon have been rendered non-issues by modern historical and archeological work.

    For more on this read the following:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/B.H._Roberts%27_testimony_of_the_Book_of_Mormon

    Comment by Seth R. — October 8, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  45. The Ethan Smith/Spaulding theories have more secret meetings, freak coincidences, hidden relationships, and dark motives than a Glen Beck conspiracy.

    But I guess they’re plausible enough – if wild conspiracy theories are your thing…

    Comment by Seth R. — October 8, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  46. I agree that theories attempting to derive the Book of Mormon from Joseph Smith’s (or some associate’s) reading in specific nineteenth-century sources have little merit as they are usually presented, e.g. “Smith read X, then incorporated it into his Book of Mormon.” The only solid fact here is that the Book of Mormon resonates in significant ways with several other books extant in the cultural milieu of nineteenth-century North America. What are we to make of that resonance? Believers will see the Lord preparing hearts for the truth (in the BoM), and skeptics will see just one more story detailing the discovery of a mystic treasure and/or the interpretive key to some historico-religious puzzle common to Joseph Smith’s cultural milieu (the place of the native Americans in Judaeo-Christian mythology; the true doctrine of Christ; means to salvation, personal and corporate). There is no obvious right answer: people have to think for themselves and come to a decision that they are comfortable with. To get all exercised over the “truth” on either side of the issue is to cloud judgment unduly with emotion (and forfeit one’s ability to contribute usefully to intelligent discussion). If people would investigate the BoM dispassionately, come to private conclusions, and then hold these respectfully (offering them as tools potentially useful, not the solution that must be accepted by all at all costs), I think the dialogue between Mormons and their non- and ex-member counterparts would be much more civil, and much more faith-inspiring for BOTH sides. As is, it seems interfaith dialogue on this issue usually ends up as a shouting match in which winning the argument trumps saving souls.

    Comment by Joseph — October 9, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  47. Excellent points, Joseph. I would add, however, that coming to any conclusion about the BoM should include asking God about it. Conclusions reached without involving God are, of necessity, flawed and ephemeral.

    Comment by MCQ — October 9, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  48. I loved his talk. I didn’t find it uncomfortable at all. I thought it had a wonderful evangelical bent to it.

    I also believe it fulfilled President Benson’s remark about “pulpits aflame” in the November 1988 Ensign (Oct 88 conferendce):

    “I have a vision of homes alerted, of classes alive, and of pulpits aflame with the spirit of Book of Mormon messages.”

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 12, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

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    Comment by blog.djarumbeasiswaplus.org — October 17, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

  50. The rejection of original sin certainly presents some works-based-righteousness problems for the Mormon understanding of Atonement. But, it also gives us a more expansive view of God’s goodness.

    “all things which are good cometh of God”

    In other words, secular organizations that relieve suffering and protect the vulnerable in this world are guided by the spirit of God and contribute to God’s purposes – regardless of what they actually believe.

    Comment by Christian J — October 17, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

  51. Hey MCQ, please delete comments 51, 50 and 49.thx

    Comment by Christian J — October 17, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

  52. all the time i used to read smaller articles or reviews that
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    Comment by free stuff — January 4, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

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