A Remarkably Crude and Obvious Forgery

July 13, 2007 | 102 comments

In a recent video dialogue between two of the The Atlantic Monthly‘s stable of talented writers, left-wing blogger Matthew Yglesias argued that the Book of Mormon was “a remarkably crude and obvious forgery“. Right-wing blogger Ross Douthat essentially agreed with him.

Not long afterwards, Ross Douthat volunteered that he actually wasn’t that informed about the Book of Mormon and asked for help from “smart Mormons” . You may think that this admission makes Ross Douthat look ridiculous but you’re wrong. Having strong opinions based on deep ignorance is a universal human trait. Recognizing one’s ignorance and trying to correct it is not.

Having listened to the dialogue (so you wouldn’t have to, my chickadees–I care for you), Ross Douthat probably needs help most on the following points:
(1) The fact that the Book of Mormon mentions horses which the Conquistadores are thought to have introduced;
(2) The fact–if it is a fact–that the Book of Mormon describes two massive, New World-dominating empires that don’t seem to be reflected in the archaelogical record; and
(3) The fact–if it is a fact–that various sections of the Book of Mormon that purport to cite ancient biblical records include KJV mistranslations of the original biblical texts.

As I understand it, he’s not actually interested in converting at this time, poor, misguided fellow. But he is interested in understanding the case that the Book of Mormon isn’t obvious nonsense. Be brotherly, or sisterly, as the case may be; though I wouldn’t let civility stop you from saying “Some forgery!” after each piece of evidence that you adduce. Citations to published material, or some discussion of your own credentials, will probably make your case more convincing.

P.S. Matt Y. and Ross D. have also adopted Fr. Neuhaus’ silly position that the Church is “not recognizably Christian.” They have also taken the defensible but, I believe, un-American position that theological disagreements per se are a proper basis for distinguishing between candidates. Ross D. has not asked for further enlightenment on these subjects, but I’m not sure that will prevent him from getting it.


102 Responses to A Remarkably Crude and Obvious Forgery

  1. Russell Arben Fox on July 13, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Good summary of the discussion, Adam; I took the time to listen to the video too, and I think you touch on most of the points they brought up. It’d be nice to see Matt Yglesias put up a post where we could similarly help him out with some of his misconceptions, but I wouldn’t count on it. Anyway, I threw in my two cents here; I’m sure others can do better than I.

  2. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    I wasn’t convinced that Douthat’s post was a bona fide effort at getting the facts straight, but still I thought Russell’s post was excellent. Matthew Yglesias, in the meantime, appears to have some sort of chip on his shoulder about religion in general and nontraditional religion in particular. Labelling a faith as “preposterous” is something of a non-starter if you’re trying to engage the topic of how Mormonism should be a factor in the presidential bids. While I agree with Yglesias on many things, his level of intolerance with respect to religion is something shocking.

    In terms of proving the veracity of the Book of Mormon, it is also clear that what Douthat is interested in is not evidence of the message of the Book of Mormon, but rather the ancillary or secondary historical elements of the book. I would suggest that what he will find is not undeniable physical evidence that Moroni existed, etc., but rather sufficient proof to warrant a retraction of the claim that the Book of Mormon is any sort of obvious fraud.

  3. John Scherer on July 13, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Kudos to all of you for your well thought out, even tempered responses. Defending my beliefs without being defensive is definitely something I need to work on.

  4. Costanza on July 13, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    If they are proposing that faiths with “preposterous” beliefs are not welcome that leaves a very small group indeed.

  5. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    I’m a materialist atheist who believes that my consciousness is an illusion, Costanza, so I assume I’m part of that very small group.

  6. Costanza on July 13, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    That must be very liberating :)

  7. Jim Cobabe on July 13, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Adam said:

    Having strong opinions based on deep ignorance is a universal human trait. Recognizing one’s ignorance and trying to correct it is not.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon whereby people who have little knowledge systematically think that they know more than others who have much more knowledge.

    Wikipedia entry

    Kruger and Dunning’s studies hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

    1. incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill,
    2. incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others,
    3. incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy,
    4. if they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

    The first three items are abysmally depressing to contemplate.

    Item number four gives us some reason to hope — and incentive to continue striving.

  8. Ray on July 13, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    It’s easy to see that in others; harder to see in ourselves. That appears to be Kruger’s and Dunning’s biggest problem; it also is mine. Yes, we should continue striving – to illuminate both others and ourselves by truly listening to dissenting opinion and trying to see, in each and every case, if there is something within even the most ridiculous statements that can spark enlightenment for us.

    I learned that from my father – a “farm boy” who hated school, loved working with his hands and would never conceive of phrasing it the way I do – but has internalized it better than I have. There is a lesson in that, as well.

  9. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Most of us have a Kruger-Dunning problem with God.

  10. Ray on July 13, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Amen, Adam. One of my favorite things about Joseph Smith is that he never claimed to understand it all – and that he wasn’t shy about publishing accounts of the Lord calling him to repentance over and over and over again. He put his incompetence on the front page – and got ripped apart for it, but he kept doing it, anyway.

  11. ronito on July 13, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Could it be that RossyD is just baiting a trap? I mean it isn’t something foreign or unknown in the world of right-wing radio.

    As for the Kruger-Dunning. I used to have a problem with it. But anymore. Now I know everything.

  12. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    RossyD isn’t a right-wing radio figure and I’m not sure what the trap would be, anyway. I didn’t get collared and tagged when I posted over on his site but maybe my horns aren’t trophy quality.

  13. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    What follows is a chain of emails that I’ve posted with the Steve Evans’ permission because of some of the important points he makes.

  14. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    I am not sure which was more shocking — Yglesias’ tirade about mormonism or Douthat’s relative acquiescence. Perhaps they were just accepting a priori the bizarreness of mormonism as a given for the discussion of how that should affect the presidential campaign?
    Pretty sloppy for pundits that pretend to be above Coulter-level.

  15. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    I don’t think them being blowhards was just an ‘a priori’ thing.

    Anyway, I don’t know if there are actually that many pundits who are
    above the Coulter/Moore level. Pretending to be above it is about as
    good as we can expect

  16. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    disappointing nonetheless. Like I said on the thread, I have a hard time believing that Douthat is genuine in his asking for BoM proof by smart mormons, except perhaps as something to file away as a tool to use in some future debate.

    re: Coulter and Moore, Coulter is smart enough to know better than behave as she does. Not sure what Moore’s excuse is.

  17. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    I think he’s genuinely asking. I just don’t think he realizes that
    he’s not genuinely open to the answers. He’s definitely in the
    Neuhaus camp that’s very embarassed by Mormons associating with
    traditional Christianity.

  18. john f. on July 13, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    You should post that chain of emails within the body of one comment.

  19. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Agreed. Neuhaus talks a good tolerance, but like most people is shocked by the actual prospect of co-existence. Not that we Mormons are any better, really, but we don’t dissimulate about it as much

  20. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I think most Mormons are better, but its not to our credit. Its just
    that we have been forced to co-exist so we’ve gotten used to it.

  21. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    We still like to sneer at anyone more wacky than ourselves. All good mormons jeer at the Scientologists (rightly so — they are a nutty cult).

  22. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Thank goodness we have the Scientologists to look down on. That’s
    probably why the Heaven’s Gate people killed themselves, once they
    realized no one nuttier than them was around.

  23. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    C’mon, that was a government conspiracy at Heaven’s Gate, to be muttered in the same breath as Ruby Ridge, Waco and Jonesville. All perpetrated by the ATF. I read that on In Medias Res somewhere.

  24. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Speaking of nutty . . .
    All those conspiracies the government comes up with, I mean. Not In Medias Res.

  25. john f. on July 13, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Steve and Adam, re # 20 and # 21, see here at ABEV. I seriously hope that your comments about Scientology are no more than a joke. My hope is that no good Latter-day Saints jeer at Scientology. Of course Latter-day Saints do not find the concepts of Scientology to be correct, there is no reason to treat Scientologists with less respect because of their beliefs. That is one thing Latter-day Saints should understand better than most. (We aren’t that similar to creedal Christians Adam — after all, that is their m.o., right?)

  26. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:16 pm


    Hey, remember that podcast? Still the best thing that ever happened to the Bloggernacle. Not that I’m bragging, but people STILL talk about it in hushed tones.

  27. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Why should you brag? It was all me.

    Somewhere I have some notes for a follow-up. I’d be the guest host
    and you’d be the host guest. But that was before you stopped doing it
    and I convinced myself that I could successfully back away from the

    I am so totally going to post this conversation, except with your
    stuff edited to show a little wit.

  28. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Let’s consider bringing it back. Show poseurs like Dehlin what REAL podcasting is like.

    It will make more than a little editing to make this conversation seem witty. Maybe we can hire Carrot Top to punch it up a little for us.

  29. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I looked back over your comments and you’re right that a little
    editing isn’t enough. You really think Nate Oman would help, though?

  30. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    No, we’d need someone intentionally hilarious.

  31. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    John F., there’s a significant chance that we were kidding about the Scientologists.

  32. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Steve, I’m going to post this. I’ll leave out the bit about John D. unless you don’t mind.

  33. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Leaving out John Dehlin completely undermines the rationality of my

  34. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    OK, I’ll leave him out.

  35. Steve Evans on July 13, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Dibs on hosting the podcast at BCC.

  36. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    “Were” being the operative word. We aren’t kidding anymore. It’s Adam and Steve versus Scientology and We. Have. Airguns.

  37. john f. on July 13, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    re # 34, now it refers to # 20 and # 21, not # 22 and # 23.

    [Thanks. Steve E.'s on LSD after following our sidebar link so I'd have to do some pretty heavy editing.]

  38. Ray on July 13, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Larry Bird once described Danny Ainge as the little brother you love dearly – but sometimes simply have to smack. FWIW.

  39. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    First it got Steve E., now Ray. I should really take that link down.

  40. Ray on July 13, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Which link, Adam? I was talking about Steve.

  41. Tona on July 14, 2007 at 9:38 am

    So, what about the original questions? The kind that, indeed, some reasonable people are likely to have about the book? No one addressed those in the dude smackdown of comments. Steve’s answer in #2 doesn’t seem sufficient for people with genuine issues on those points, although I agree that perhaps Douthat doesn’t fall into that category.

  42. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    if you have some answers to those questions, please follow the link to post them on Ross Douthat’s blog.

  43. Matt Asay on July 15, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Is this famous podcast available online? If not could one of you send it to me?

  44. Adam Greenwood on July 15, 2007 at 1:38 am
  45. manaen on July 15, 2007 at 2:25 am

    FWIW, I submitted the folllowing yesterday and this morning to Ross Douthat’s blog requesting LDS defense of our beliefs. It hasn’t appeared, maybe because I omitted a URL when I submitted for it for approval or maybe because it’s too grounded in my paradigm and not enough in his.

    # # # # #

    I’m a frequent interloper on Times &Seasons who’s usually tolerated by the official gang there. I don’t know that I’m a “smart Mormon,” but [Friday's submission included, "I have nearly 30 years’ professional experience, including CFO of a public company, and a GMAT score in the top 3% when my synapses fired as designed."] I’ve learned a few things that satisfy me.

    I also recommend highly Givens’ By the Hand of Mormon as a good survey of intellectual inquiry into its subject. After several readings, it still offers much to consider.

    I used to be fascinated by all the intellectual debates and have hundreds of books on Mormonism and its issues. I’m old enough to have seen the debate on Mormonism’s historical accuracy evolve some. Old issues are gone and new ones keep arriving (e.g. recent flap over DNA) but few seem to notice the trend of most questions being answered and replaced with new ones. A couple of the past-and-answered ones are:
    * Ancient writing on golden plates, bound together (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2939362.stm – note that the date under the photo is the same as beginning date of The Book of Mormon)
    * “reformed Egyptian” characters Joseph Smith copied from golden plates didn’t match writing used by any ancient civilization (http://www.shields-research.org/Scriptures/BoM/Anthon_Transcript-Crowley/1942_02-IE.PDF – note the last four pages; photographic character-by-character comparisons of Smith’s characters with verified ancient writing. Publication date was 65 years ago and people still make this claim!)

    Echoing Tim Butler’s comments, however, I propose that using available evidence and our intelligence’s ability to assess it as a means to ascertain religious truth is much like using a barometer to tell the day of week: it’s the wrong tool. Jesus taught that the Holy Ghost would guide the believers to “all truth” (John 16:13, 14:26) so to test Christianity would be to try its founder’s — Christ’s — approach to finding truth. A person couldn’t be a Christian and not follow Christ’s instructions of how to know truth – which are echoed in The Book of Mormon’s” statement that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).

    Millennia of debate based upon human abilities have not resolved to universal satisfaction the key questions about religion, despite Paul’s early warning: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Cor2:12-14)

    But there’s good news for intellectual pursuits: The Book of Mormon follows Paul’s counsel in giving its own stern description of human self-importance and then offers encouragement, “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2Nephi 9:28-29)

    The Book of Mormon teaches that “man is that he might have joy” (2Nephi 2:25), which is more a spiritual than intellectual event, exercise, or state. It follows that the things which fulfill our purpose will be spiritual: love, peace, service, and personal inspiration.

    The Holy Spirit teaches us spiritual truth. A modern apostle, Marion G. Romney, described a significant further step towards joy that can come by the Holy Spirit, “Somebody recently asked how one could know when he is converted. The answer is simple. He may be assured of it when by the power of the Holy Spirit his soul is healed.” (General Conference, Oct., 1963) I have experienced this spiritual healing. Like with Tim Butler, this continuing spiritual reality of what I now am dwarfs any concerns that may pass by because of a new intellectual challenge: it would not be *reason*able for me to lay aside awareness of what I became to consider that it may not be real. (See here for my recounting: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2582#comment-97137)

    We have in the Church the saying that “no one can live on borrowed light,” meaning that each has to test these spiritual truths for theirself. There’s a slight irony here: all over world people of different cultures, incomes, and ages apply Christ’s test, using the Holy Ghost, to them and have the same result – an application of the scientific method that has consistent results. Our conversion stories are so commonplace that we sometimes don’t notice. But, as Maslow observed, a miracle is miracle, even if happens millions of times.

    We’re all at different stages and on different paths in coming to this wholeness. I believe this is why there is doctrinal latitude outside of our core beliefs that Christ as our Savior, and what he wants for us to become. This is why Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch both can be LDS in good standing and act very differently in the Federal government.

    This may be the wrong forum to advocate a position that there isn’t a definitive intellectual answer of whether our beliefs are true, but I believe asking for one is the wrong question. It’s more about what we use the truth to become (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-15,00.html), how to make our nature Christ-like – which is the reason Christ gave us the church (Eph 4:11-13) — than historical proofs. This is the ultimate purpose of knowledge of truth. David O. McKay, a modern prophet, said, “It is one thing to acquire knowledge and quite another to apply it. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge and true education – the education for which the Church stands – is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.” I found that all of what’s called Mormonism is true literally, but it’s meaning is how these truths help in achieving our purpose: joy.

    I propose that as well as asking your intellectual questions, you also accept Christ’s challenge, “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16-17). I am amazed at the change in my fundamental nature that I received when I finally did this.

    “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.” (2 Nephi 33:6)

  46. Ray on July 15, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    FWIW, my contribution on that thread:

    I was going to add something to this discussion of intellectual substance, since I have sat in theological discussions of many these very topics at the Harvard Divinity School (just a cheap attempt to establish some cred), but, frankly, it would be rather pointless. The original request was for sources and input from “smart Mormons”; sources and input has been provided; some continue to ignore those sources and that input – then spit out simplistic complaints that are addressed very well in the sources and input, with obviously no attempt to try to understand.

    I’m not naive enough to think that anything a Mormon contributor provides here is going to “convert” anyone else, but that wasn’t the intent of the request – nor has it been the intent of any of the contributors. The original request simply asked for intelligent input. That has been provided. Frankly, I am disappointed that an opportunity like this to create mutual understanding, despite theological differences, has been exploited by some to manufacture a fight.

    All I can say, from studying and teaching religion for over 20 years, is that I know of no better source or input than that which has been provided by those who have commented before me. If someone reads those sources and wants to ask about specific quotes from those sources, I might consider contributing to this discussion. Otherwise, I’ll pass.

  47. Bubba on July 15, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Regarding point 2:

    \”The fact–if it is a fact–that the Book of Mormon describes two massive, New World-dominating empires that don’t seem to be reflected in the archaelogical record\”

    I am in the process of reading Charles C. Mann\’s excellent 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. One of the major points of the book is that pre-Columbus cultures in the Americas were much more numerous than was previously thought, and much more advanced, as well. In meso-America (namely present-day Guatemala and Mexico) alone there were 10s of millions of inhabitants. Epidemics such as smallpox, brought by the Europeans, decimated as much as 90% of the population, advancing ahead of conquistadores and pilgrims.

    Very fascinating.

  48. Bob on July 15, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    #46: Good post. I don’t know if these guys asked their question in ‘Good Faith’, as I don’t follow them. But it could be answered in ‘Good Faith’, then just move on. I like to read about the American Civil War. There were issued that needed to be solved. But the Battles themselves, never seemed to add anything to solving the issues: Sad.

  49. Bob on July 15, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    #47: The book 1491, is bad science. It would be a mistake to tie it the the BoM.

  50. Adam Greenwood on July 16, 2007 at 8:07 am

    It hasn’t appeared, maybe because I omitted a URL when I submitted for it for approval or maybe because it’s too grounded in my paradigm and not enough in his

    Your excellent comment is just too long. Ross Douthat’s comment system rejects everything above a certain length. Break it up into multiple comments or just link to your comment here.

  51. Kyle R on July 16, 2007 at 8:11 am

    I also disagree that the BOM is a crude forgery. I\’ve read it twice and the bible twice. I think Joseph Smith not only possessed a geniunely original visionary imagination but an incredible and unique literary genius. So I\’m kinda half way on this point. I don\’t believe for an instant that the BOM is literally true or delivered by angels and translated from golden plates any more than I can credit that there\’s some kind of \’one true church\’. But that there are spiritual truths communicated through the BOM seems obvious, and proof of at least Joseph Smith\’s geniune – if narcicisstic and slightly corrupt – connection to truly spiritual matters, and I can see why Mormons treasure it. And even though I think it\’s a sign of spiritual immaturity, vanity, self-importance and childishness to claim that one\’s own religious system is the only true one and the one God has ordained it so, there\’s no doubting that Mormonism – apart from that – is as Christian as any other Christian practice and an admirable spiritual practice, which at the end of the day is the main thing.

  52. Michael Closson on July 16, 2007 at 10:11 am

    There’s plenty of good literature on the Fair website (http://fairlds.org/apol/ai105.html). Jeff Lindsay has some good stuff (http://www.jefflindsay.com/BMEvidences.shtml).

    Also, There are a lot of comments on T&S. I admit that I don’t always read them all before posting (not that I post a lot). The eds should think about adding a moderation system (like on Slashdot).

  53. manaen on July 16, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    50. Thx, Adam. I\’ll try submitting a link.

    51. Re: I also disagree that the BOM is a crude forgery.

    The week before last, our priesthood lesson was about honesty. When the teacher asked what to do when your wife asks whether her dress makes her look fat, I blurted out that the right answer is not, \”No, it isn\’t the dress.\”

    In a similar way, your comment could be taken to mean, \”No, it isn\’t a crude forgery; it\’s a very elegant one.\” ;->

  54. Mark B. on July 16, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Yglesias and Douthat seem to be part of that vast number whom Neal Maxwell described as self-appointed critics of the Book of Mormon who never read the book.

    Their opinions, as John Nance Garner said of the vice presidency, aren’t worth a pitcherful of warm spit.

  55. Bob on July 16, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    #53: I think #51 was open and honest. I don’t think Kyle was trying pull one over on us, only stating, as many Mormon writers do, that ‘crude forgery’ doesn’t work as an answer.

  56. Kyle R on July 17, 2007 at 3:55 am

    #53 & #55…. My point is precisely that I don’t view the BOM as a forgery of any sort, whether crude or elegant. I think so many arguments about the BOM – and about Mormonism in general – are cast in ludicrous extremes. With regard to the BOM, there seems to be on the one hand the Mormon belief that it is absolutely literally true and its origin literally the origin attributed to it by Joseph Smith. This belief is only ever challenged with the assertion that it is a complete fraud and forgery by a moneydigger and charlatan. There is endless cod archaeology, cut-and-past history, amateurish psychology and sloppy textual exegesis employed by both sides. But I don’t think you can look at a book with such clearly impressive spiritual content in such a way.

    To the ‘forgery’ camp I say, ‘You are tilting at windmills and don’t seem to have much of worth going on in your lives’. To the BOM believers I say, ‘You have a habit of vastly underestimating the spiritual power of literature and you have a epistemologically totalitarian view of truth’. I think it’s perfectly possible that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon but that this does not make it a forgery. I think that in a sense any great literary or religous artist is indeed a prophet of sorts, someone who taps deeply into the spiritual malaise of mankind and seeks to heal it. This kind of literary activity takes place on a level of both poetic and spiritual imagination. On this level its absurd and petty to nitpick about truth in its most pedantic sense.

    For example, the novels of the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky are fiction. As fictions one might say they are therefore somehow ‘forgeries’. But this would be to miss the point. Dostoevsky’s novels are beyond fiction. They explore vast territories of mans relationship with God in such a profoundly spiritually and psychologically aware – one might say ‘inspired’ or even ‘revelatory’ – way, that to read them becomes a religious experience. A form of religious education. A form of revelation. Dostoevsky sought to understand the power of Christ’s light by describing very difficult forms of human darkness. His question was, ‘Can the love of Christ penetrate even here? Can forgiveness and love overcome even this?’.

    The Book of Mormon is not literary art in the same sense as Dostoevsky’s novels, nor the approach to Christ the same. But then Joseph Smith was a religious visionary in a different context. When you look at the spiritual system he brought into being, and the Book of Mormon which is its scripture, the argument over whether it is literally true is misguided. I don’t think the BOM is ‘literally’ true, as I have said. Nor do I believe that Mormonism is the ‘only true church’ whose leaders have some kind of hotline to God that no-one else has. But that’s only using the word ‘true’ in it’s most petty sense. If something has spiritual power, and if it creates a community of believers such as the Mormons whose sincerity, good works and capacity for good works are impressive and self-evident – whatever trivial human vanities, self-delusions and hypocrisies go along with that – then is this spiritual power not indeed a kind of truth?

    Equally, this absurd argument over whether or not Mormons are Christians genuinely baffles me. Since when did any one have a patent on the word ‘Christian’? In Mormons we have a people who seek to live a form of life informed by love, compassion and forgiveness. They look to the example of Jesus Christ in doing so. This is what a Christian is. The Book of Mormon is a prophetic and revelatory religious literary text quite out of the ordinary that provides the Mormon Christian with a cornerstone for pursuing such a Christian life. The Mormons – despite a certain empire-building self-importance – are part of what’s light and good in a cruel and selfish world. And their religion is a self-improving religion with all the right tools to help its members themselves individually spiritually self-improve.

    So what is there to complain about? The Mormons are – on balance – a force for good. Neither their religion nor their scripture have to be ‘literally’ true for Mormonism to still be ‘true’ in a more important sense.

  57. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Ryan Bell has a post up at the Romney Experience. The last paragraph was obviously true once I read it but something I haven’t seen anywhere else:


    *If I had to offer my own underinformed evaluation of where the battle stands at present, I would say that regarding internal evidence of the historicity of the Book of Mormon (language structure, linguistic studies, cultural factors, authorship issues, etc.), the Mormons are ahead of their opponents. As for the battle over external evidences (archeology, anthropology, genetics), the critics of Mormonism have the lead, at least as far as the site where the great majority of the Book of Mormon takes place- the still unknown site on the American continents. The “external evidences” arena of the contest has a subset, though– evidence regarding the departure points of the Book of Mormon peoples on the Arabian peninsula. Regarding that minor but crucial Book of Mormon setting, LDS apologists appear to have taken a respectable lead.

  58. Bob on July 17, 2007 at 11:34 am

    For me..the real question is: will #56 or #57 be the future of the BoM in Mormonism?

  59. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    The Mormons – despite a certain empire-building self-importance – are part of what’s light and good in a cruel and selfish world

    Ha! You got that right.

  60. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    For me..the real question is: will #56 or #57 be the future of the BoM in Mormonism?

    There’s no need for a #56. I understand and respect that viewpoint, but . . . God will raise someone else up in our place if we spiritualize and make metaphorical all his doings.

  61. Bob on July 17, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    #60: I don’t think history is not on your side. I am 62, each year the Church becomes more spiritualized and metaphorical. Maybe you see the Church as becoming more literal, I don’t.

  62. manaen on July 17, 2007 at 3:27 pm


    Kyle, thanks for your elegant answer that is much more than my drive-by #53 merits. I appreciate that youv’e captured the spiritual force of the BoM, even without (yet?) receiving a spiritual testimony of its literal truth. I remain convinced that it’s literally true or a forgery because, unlike Dostoevsky’s novels, it is published as literally a translation of an ancient record, not using that as a literary device disclosed to the reader.

  63. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    I’m not predicting which direction we’ll go on the Book of Mormon. I’m only saying that the question “will #56 or #57 be the future of the BoM in Mormonism?” is meaningless because if #56 is the answer Mormonism will cease to meaningfully exist in short order.

  64. Bob on July 17, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    #63: Many Literal parts of Mormonism have ceased to exist. But I don’t think it has lost it Meaningfulness. If the Church comes to believe the BoM was by ‘spiritual power ‘, not Golden Plates, I think it will go forward as it has done before.

  65. DKL on July 18, 2007 at 2:16 am

    Crude and obvious forgery? Funny thing. That’s what I always thought of the New Testament!

  66. Kyle R on July 18, 2007 at 8:20 am

    #59 The empire-building Adam…..it’s inevitable, it’s a guy thing…..seeking salvation, in the American context, is intertwined with seeking success, shifting the product and opening lots of overseas branches. I don’t mean to imply in saying this that the LDS ‘product’ is any less spiritually valuable or is a con. But high-powered marketing, evangelism and the male need to somehow conquer the world are sometimes an unfortunate combination that brings out the wrong kind of arrogance in some Mormon men. Joseph Smith’s spiritual and psychological prescience warns of this. I’m thinking of D&C 121:39. Dominion simply for the sake of dominion isn’t in the best spirit of Mormonism. The unfortunate video of Mr Millet instructing LDS missionaries that appeared on YouTube demonstrates both this and the ‘epistemological totalitarianism’ that I mentioned in my last post. Mr Millet’s words in the video remind me of a sign in the back of sports shop my brother used to work in, “If you’ve sold a customer what he wants you haven’t sold him anything”

    Apologies for drifting slightly off topic…

    #58, #60, #61, #63, #64 – Thanks for appreciating my post Adam. The respect for viewpoints is mutual. Bob, wouldn’t it be strange if the future of the BoM in Mormonism went down only one path or the other? People’s brains and hearts are very unique and they perceive and process truth in different ways. I’d expect Mormonism, however it survives and if it’s to grow, to broaden its appeal. Thus it will speak in different ways. The BoM, as a text, is inevitably ‘written by the reader’ in any case. People will approach it and apply it as meets their needs. Some people have very literal minds and the BoM story will continue to represent historical fact for them. They need it to in order to grasp its instructive messages and grow from them. Some people have brains more in need of the metaphorical approach, and with this approach the BoM speaks to them. Like I said earlier, this is another issue on which I would disagree with the “either/or” way of processing truth.

    The origins of Mormonism have a lot in common with the origins of Islam. Islam continues to speak in many different ways to many different people despite its own epistemological totalitarianism. That out of it grew very mystic and non-literalist traditions did not spell its end, nor take it down a singular path. And so re: #60, Adam, I doubt very much that the viewpoint of my #56 would spell the end of Mormonism, which is not only a religion now but also an entrenched religious (and social) culture.

    #62 – I was very happy to clarify my brief earlier statement and glad you appreciated it. Yes your distinction between a declared fiction and an undeclared fiction is a good point. Joseph Smith is fascinating because – using for the sake of argument my view of him as a prophet-artist – his work of art, as it were, is a much vaster project than simply the BoM. Again, I think that Joseph Smith can in a sense ‘lie’ about things because he is seeing a bigger picture, a more profound sense of truth in which the distinction between ‘lie’ and ‘truth’ in the mundane sense is not so important on the metaphorical and spiritual level. Like many artists on his level, he’s a megalomaniac. But this megalomania isn’t necessarily a negative thing, because it’s required in order to drive such an ambitious spiritual project. And this megalomania encompasses the kind of wisdom and insight I’ve been noticing in the D&C. It’s a complex package.

    I’m afraid I’ve not received testimony of the BoM’s literal truth Manaen. And I wonder if you’ll accept that ‘God’ – I use the term despite it’s vagueness – may approve of Mormonism and even direct it in His own way without Himself necessarily thinking it the best option in all cases. I didn’t think the invitation to pray for this testimony in the BoM – in saying ‘these things’ – can be shown to specifically mean the historical veracity of the story. The ‘voice’ in the BoM is really interesting and in some senses its authority interests me in terms of language, just as the Koran is written in a very unique voice. Muslims will tell you that the Arabic of the Koran is beautiful in an unearthly way, quite far and away – even now – the most beautiful Arabic every written. This gives it authority. I’m sure the voice in the Koran gives the Muslim his testimony just as surely as the voice in the BoM gives the ‘still small voice’ experience to the Latter Day Saint. The BoM impressess and interests me but I can say in all honesty that the closest I’ve ever come to what a Mormon describes as the testimony experience after praying to know if the BoM is true – is in reading T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘Four Quartets’. The Koran for the Muslim, the BoM for you, the Four Quartets for me. Many people in the world cannot read. How does God give the truth – in all its forms and permutations – to them?

  67. Kyle R on July 18, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Adam, my sincere apologies if my posts have been a bit of a threadjack in any way

    #52 Michael, thanks for posting the fairlds link….much appreciated

  68. Adam Greenwood on July 18, 2007 at 8:52 am

    epistemological totalitarianism’

    A silly label.

  69. Kyle R on July 18, 2007 at 10:00 am

    #68 Yes. I’d appreciate a simpler term if you can think of one Adam. With all due respect, anything that roughly indicates the attitude of, “What is true for me is not only true for me but is true for you whether you know it or like it or not. And what’s more I know this with absolute certitude through a means of knowing that’s absolutely flawless and has nothing to do with my own personal emotional and psychological needs or cultural conditioning or anything else because it’s absolutely objective. I know it’s absolutely objective because God told me so personally through this way of knowing that I’m talking about. And me and a lot of my pals all got together and agreed on this. We also agreed on the wording. And so many pals can’t possibly be wrong. Especially my pals. My pals all know things you and your pals can’t possibly know. If my way and my many pals way of knowing things with this flawless way of knowing things doesn’t work for you and doesn’t cause you to agree with me (and God) then it’s only because you’re not doing it properly or because you think too much or because you don’t really understand the nature of truth, of which I have my own private stash.”

  70. Bob on July 18, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Kyle: OK, your writing is way to deep to have been done on the back of a napkin with your coffee. Where can we get more Kyle or Kyle lite/like? I thank you for you efforts to ‘redefine the Pie’, but I now want more than the sample bite given.

  71. Adam Greenwood on July 18, 2007 at 11:17 am

    For an advocate of humility, Kyle R., you’re remarkably free with pejorative caricatures to dismiss other points of view.

  72. Ray on July 18, 2007 at 11:21 am

    To echo Kyle from the other angle: I have been concerned for many years in my callings that too many members take a my-size-fits-all approach to the Gospel, the Church, the BofM, spiritual gifts, answers to prayers, etc. All of our scriptures, I believe, argue against that approach – and, frankly, most of the comments about most of the topics discussed here also do. Frankly, I have no problem believing that God is doing mighty and glorious things through people of all faiths – and that it all will be worked out in the end. I try to share the Gospel because of the joy it gives me, but I also try to avoid judging others who choose their own paths – especially those who express appreciation for my efforts, beliefs and foundational scriptural texts like Kyle just did.

    What is one of the most common themes I read here from “strongly committed” members? Basically, “Just because I see it differently doesn’t mean I’m wrong,” or “I wish people would recognize the legitimacy of my perspective,” or, on-going right now, “I view HT in this way,” etc. As Kyle says, if someone finds great spiritual meaning in the BofM – and if the BofM causes appreciation of Joseph Smith as an inspired prophet (but not necessarily as The Chosen Prophet), why should I devalue or denigrate that? It might grow to something else in the future; it might not. That’s out of my hands. Based on what I have read of Kyle’s comments, he’s just as likely as I am to be able to have that conversation with me in the hereafter – so I’m fine waiting until then to find out where each of us was wrong.

  73. Kyle R on July 18, 2007 at 11:40 am

    #70 Bob. I’m afraid that ‘on the back of a napkin with your coffee’ is very nearly the truth. I’m a relative newcomer to blogging and my entry into this thread has been during my last few lunch hours at work. But these are things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately so it comes out quickly. All the previous writing I’ve done is not in any online or other published form. I’m working on a novel at the moment though. Otherwise, mostly my own extensive journals kept over a lifetime. My background is in English and Russian Literature. I’m a university administrator in London England. Always happy to discuss these topics if you like and quite enjoy ‘redefining the Pie’.

    # 71 No offense meant. It’s my sense of humour and might be more sarcastic on-line than I intend. Otherwise, you do have a fair point and I accept it despite perhaps pot-kettle. But I’m sincere in all I’m saying and mean no malice or disrespect Adam. I appreciate your including me in a conversation that interests me.

  74. Kyle R on July 18, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    #72 Thanks Ray. I think Mormons are essentially ‘right’ in the ways that matter. i.e. the overall moral and spiritual template (and who knows, the plan of eternal progression could turn out to be a good approximation of the truth and Joseph Smith’s intuitions on this a genuinely original leap of cosmological insight). In all the attacks on your Church, Joseph Smith and the BoM, the attackers themselves seem prone to blinkered black and white thinking, all too willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It seems to me possible to have a high regard for the LDS church, value Smith, the BoM,and – as I’m discovering – the D&C, without having to become a Mormon or believe exactly as they do.

  75. Ardis Parshall on July 18, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Dostoevsky’s novels are beyond fiction. They explore vast territories of mans relationship with God in such a profoundly spiritually and psychologically aware – one might say ‘inspired’ or even ‘revelatory’ – way, that to read them becomes a religious experience. A form of religious education. A form of revelation.

    The key to your theory is in the word “form.” “A form of revelation” is not at all the same as “revelation,” except to those who have experienced the one but not the other. A “form” is only a shadow, a hint, a trace, an echo, the ticking of a Geiger counter in contrast to a vein of the real ore.

    The Book of Mormon is the real ore.

  76. Kaimi Wenger on July 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Well, Ardis, it depends on the definition, doesn’t it?

    A form of an item can mean, as a matter of sematics, a plaster mold of that item. In that case, as you note, it’s not really the same thing.

    However, a form of an item can also mean one legitimate variety within a larger group. So, polygyny is one form of non-monogamous marriage. Piano is one form of music. And so on.

    If the word was originally meant in the second sense, it undercuts your critique. Sure, we can read it in the first sense. We may think there are good reasons for doing so. But there is nothing in the word “form” that requires us to do that, is there?

  77. Ardis Parshall on July 18, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Sure, Kaimi, I’ll defer to your erudition. In the context of this specific discussion, does your dictionary include a definition of “form” illustrated by the phrase “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof”?

  78. Adam Greenwood on July 18, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Reading that phrase as “having a plaster mold of godliness but denying the power thereof” really illuminates it. Thanks, you two.

  79. Bob on July 18, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    #73: Soooo..then Kyle, am I missing a link between Russian Lit. and Mormonism?

  80. Bob on July 18, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    “Dostoevsky’s novels are beyond fiction. They explore vast territories of mans relationship with God in such a profoundly spiritually and psychologically aware – one might say ‘inspired’ or even ‘revelatory’ – way, that to read them becomes a religious experience. A form of religious education. A form of revelation.”
    WOW! This is why I missed out with my Public Education: I was told ,” All I needed to know about Russian Lit. The Russians live sh– lives, they know they live sh– lives, and do a great job of whiting about their sh– lives End of Russian Lit, now let’s move on to English Lit..”

  81. Kyle R. on July 19, 2007 at 4:28 am

    # 80 Bob, yes Russians have had to wade through a fair pile of the substance you refer to. And they do write extensively about the experience. But then this is their description of the earthly challenges the Lord has sent them, which are not the same as yours and mine and are therefore worth learning from, no? I don’t know about a link between Russian Lit and Mormonism if great but Dostoevsky is an inspired writer – which is why I bracketed him with Joseph Smith as a prophet/artist. I’m about to respond in detail to the ‘form’ issue raised by Ardis in #75 and feel I should note that I sat down and did this last night, so it’s not a ‘back of the napkin with my coffee job’

  82. Kyle R. on July 19, 2007 at 4:31 am

    #78 Reading that phrase as “having a plaster mold of godliness but denying the power thereof” really illuminates it. Thanks, you two.

    What a great phrase!

    Adam had a thought about my #71 and decided that along with making a point I was sneering a bit, so I retract the sneer.

  83. Kyle R. on July 19, 2007 at 5:22 am

    #75 “The key to your theory is in the word “form.” “A form of revelation” is not at all the same as “revelation,” except to those who have experienced the one but not the other. A “form” is only a shadow, a hint, a trace, an echo, the ticking of a Geiger counter in contrast to a vein of the real ore.

    The Book of Mormon is the real ore.”

    The Book of Mormon could indeed be the real ore. Joseph’s Smith’s explanations of its origins could indeed be literally true. I cannot say – and would never assert – that this possibility can or ought to be discounted out of hand, because to do so would be to close my mind to truth in all its potential manifestations, to vastly overestimate my own understanding of reality (which can be strange), and to make absolutist claims for my own powers of discernment. One aspect of my point in this blog thread, with regard to truth and knowledge, is that such blanket assertions – one way or the other – do not seem to me to be existentially or neuropsychologically feasible. And in fact I wonder if either “I know for certain it is true” or “I know for certain it is nonsense” can even be entirely sincere on the level of deepest honest. At the same time, we should all be free to describe what is true for us and allow others to do the same, without adding the indefensible caveat that our own truth is the superior one.

    I would say in specific resopns to your point Ardis – and without any intention of casually splitting hairs merely for the exercise of it – that I wonder what the distinction between ‘revelation’ and ‘a form of revelation’ actually amounts to. Neither you nor I have more than merely mortal brains. From God’s much more enlightened viewpoint and divinely higher state of being, it must look as though both of us are still on the level of only comprehending ‘forms of revelation’.

    For example, the Old Testament covenant as revealed to the Israelites through the prophet Moses was, it appears, a partial covenant. It was explained to me by Mormon missionaries that for the Israelites, in that place, at that point in history, the ‘full covenant’, a complete ‘revelation’, was more than they were able to deal with. They were not prepared for the ‘fullness of the gospel’. They could only cope with a level of revealed divine law that made sense to them in their particular historical and geographic context with its challenges and limitations. This was a violent, venal and brutal time. People were living with certain deeply conditioned needs for particular modes of ritual, justice, authority, societal relations and knowledge. At that time, human mental, spiritual and emotional development in some sense precluded any possibility of appreciating or benefitting from Christ’s gospel of love in its fullness. So rather than take an all-or-nothing approach, God gave them a ‘revelation’ which could equally be said to be a ‘form of revelation’, a – to use your word – ‘hint’.

    If we accept this principle as an example of how God speaks truth in different ways to different groups of people at different coordinates in time and space, then it follows that God would equally concern Himself with variances in spiritual cognitive ability between different individual or group consciousnesses/souls existing at the same time, but perhaps in different places, whether these ‘places’ are external or very personally internal. I would expect that even within local Mormon congregations, or within the global Mormon community, such different states of progression and capacity are recognised and allowances made for them, in the spirit of love. The very fact that the ‘revelation’ of Mormonism is only partially available to those without access to temple rituals presupposes that within Mormonism itself there are both full and partial covenants, and thus different ‘forms’ or levels of revelation that are still considered to all be ‘true’.

    While a faithful Mormon ineligible for the fuller revelation of temple teachings is aware there is more, it would appear the ancient Israelites, while promised a Messiah, were not informed that they had only been given a partial truth. In practical reality, from the point of view of your average Joe Israelite, slogging it out during those years in the winderness, the law was the law, not a ‘form’, not a ‘partial covenant’, but indeed the absolute and complete Word of God. Perhaps some strata of Israelite priests close to Moses and Aaron were aware of more to come in terms of revelation, but not your rank and file. At the same time, the Israelites – and for that matter the spectators on the life of Jesus Christ – witnessed fabulous miracles as a ‘form of revelation’ that God does not usually choose to present to you or I.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong in this, but in Mormon cosmology God presides over a vast realm, over many worlds, over many individual souls living within a presumably bewildering variety of planetary environments, courses of history, socio-psychological constructs, languages and states of progression. Would Mormonism or even just ‘revelation’ on another of the worlds God has sent His spirit children to look exactly like Mormonism or ‘revelation’ on this planet?

    If ‘eternal progression’ is in fact how we develop, then this implies that even Mormonism must be a very elementary ‘form of revelation’, tailored to the capacities of human consciousness and soul awareness on 19th, 20th and 21st century earth.

    I can accept the possibility – though I do not at the moment believe it as fact – that a literal angel sent by God appeared to Joseph Smith and gave him a genuine historical record of pre-Columbine American prophets, following which Joseph gradually received a genuine revelation of a ‘true church’. But I ask – in all sincerity – whether or not certain Mormon beliefs themselves don’t carry some humbling implications.

    1) that God can equally speak to an earnest truth-seeker like Dostoevsky – or Mohammed, or Mr and Mrs. Wilson down the road – not with the intention of introducing a full religious practice through him, but revealing to him geniune truth – truth is vast – and thus a revelation. A revelation couched in the appropriate terms for the context, in the ‘form’ most likely to be helpful to Dostoevsky himself and to those who read him. Thus both a ‘revelation’ and a ‘form of revelation’. Some of these truths might very well be necessary and fitting for the progression of certain categories of God’s spirit children, and not necessary or helpful at this time for those He has gathered under the revealed gospel of the LDS church. Some people may not be prepared for the truth of Mormonism, but is it not fair to assume that some or even a good number of Mormons may equally not be prepared for some of God’s truths?

    2) that the ‘eternal progression’ of Mormon belief implies that even the restored LDS gospel cannot equate, logically, to a ‘full revelation’, because this would mean that Mormons already know all ther is to know, all that God knows. I’m guessing you wouldn’t argue they do, though again correct me if I’m wrong. Thus Mormonism can clearly be both a ‘revelation’ and a ‘form of revelation’, a form of truth, a covenant that is full in its own way, but partial from the perspective of eternity.

    You say ” ‘A form of revelation’ is not at all the same as ‘revelation’, except to those who have experienced the one but not the other.” You cannot possibly be saying that you yourself are personally capable of withstanding and comprehending a full of revelation of all that God knows and all that eternity and truth entail. I’ve tried to suggest that for both you and I, our understandings of Gods’ eternal workings are of necessity ‘forms of revelation’. Even if you hold that Joseph Smith received a full revelation this is not the same as asserting that you yourself have.

    What’s more, if you say that God reveals himself through the Book of Mormon, and through the Bible, and through prophets, and through the ‘still small voice’, and through all the wonders we see on heaven and earth, and through learning experiences that he chooses to give us, then these are surely ‘forms’ of revelation. In other words, your distinciton between a ‘form of revelation’ and ‘revelation’ is not exactly supported by Mormon belief. At the end of the day it may just come down – as Kaimi says in #76 – to a semantic distinction between different meanings of the word ‘form’.

    Regarding the original point, are you so sure, that since both you and I…..and a seeker of God reading a Dostoevsky novel in 19th century Russia….and a primitve hunter in the Amazonian jungle to whom both Dostoevsky and the Book of Mormon would be useless, but who nevertheless looks up to heaven with faith and hope, and with love and compassion at this fellow tribespeople….and a child of God on a completely different world in some other solar system….are you so sure – since all of us are mere infants in our ability to truly understand God’s mind or all that eternity may hold in wait for us – that you have experienced ‘revelation’ as opposed to a ‘form of revelation’?

    If the ancient Israelites were not prepared for a fuller law of love, and if the early Christian church apostasized because it couldn’t, at length, cope with it either, then are we ourselves not able to do little more than merely practice at the kind of love that God understands? God’s higher love might very well have led him to reveal the LDS gospel to Joseph Smith. But even Mormons cannot claim to be able to grasp Gods’ love in its fullness. God in his knowledge of progression and infinite love must understand reasons and cases where the Mormon ‘form’ of His revealed truth – however spiritually powerful and approved by him – is not suitable or even helpful for everybody.

    God’s love – for instance – could be such that he could reveal and direct the Mormon church and yet not be bound by it. He is God after all. I’m trying to open my mind – and my heart – to whatever truth the Mormon revelation contains. Because I believe it obviously contains truth. But it seems equally obvious that it cannot contain complete truth as God could truly communicate it, if we were prepared. Mormonism cannot possibly contain and encompass all that God is, nor all that eternity and progression – in their infinite variations and conditions – actually mean and involve.

    If Mormons are saddened that people block their ears to the truth they have to share, they must understand that it is also perhaps saddening – and quite possibly not even God’s will – that some of them tie the LDS gospel up in black leather and refuse to accept the full extent of God’s ways and means of revelation.

    I belive you when you when you give a testimony of what truth is. I can indeed accept this testimony to be from God. I don’t think I’ve got any more grasp on truth than you do and for all I know, perhaps God has indeed revealed something to you that he has not revealed to me.

    But I honestly ask if you are so absolutely sure in respect of ‘revelation’ and ‘forms of revelation’ that you as an individual feel you can speak for God in this way, that God has given you personally – with regard to my relationship with Him and your relationship with Him, both of us as his children – permission to speak for Him in this way.

  84. Ardis Parshall on July 19, 2007 at 11:18 am

    KyleR, would you like to move your essay to your own blog? Asking someone to wade through and respond to a “comment” that is four times longer than the original post is asking a bit much.

  85. Ray on July 19, 2007 at 11:41 am


    Yes and No.

    I can, and I can’t.

    I think you (and I) are right, and I think you (and I) are wrong.

    God is great; God is good; let us thank him for our food. (Sorry; my mind was wandering.)

  86. Bob on July 19, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    #83: Thank you for your ‘Form’ answer. I say that because is it not a “question’? I live in a questioning world, and that’s the way I like it! Questions keep my mind on the move. Answers bring it to a stop. If God has a ‘Form of Revelation’ for ME, it come in the form of a questions, for me to ponder on.

  87. Adam Greenwood on July 19, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Answers are what questions are for. To arrive is better than to travel hopefully.

  88. Kyle R on July 19, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    #84 Yes, fair enough. I’m new to blogging and used to passing around lengthy discussion papers with friends. A blog is a different kind of forum and if I want to go on at length then having my own blog may not be such a bad idea. Still, it’s quite easy and shows a kind of fear to make a sweeping statement such as that one thing is genuine and another is not, then not be wiling to go into at least a little explanation. That in its own way answers my question. But at the same time I appreciate that exchanging essays may not be a time-manageable form of dialogue for everyone.

    #85 Very good, very witty. Thank you for your little ditty.

    #86 Couldn’t agree more Bob and thanks for appreciating my way of expressing things. Yes it was a (series of) questions, but also an attempt to be specific about what I understand and don’t understand of a subject. Apparently too much in one go however.

  89. Mike on July 19, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    I found the long blog by KyleR to be one of the best pieces of response I have ever read on this computer. I hope the comment in # 84 is given with a smile and is not intended to be hurtful or dismissive.

    I grew up 7th generation Mormon with fairly orthodox beliefs that I have gradually modified through wrestling with my experiences and my eclectic study to the point that I am a strange mix of orthopraxia and maverick. Garden-variety Mormonism works for many people born into it, but not for all of us. Yet I want to be part of the community of Mormons and I would be horrified if my children did not continue in the Mormon faith and it deeply pains me when members of my family leave the faith. I do not posses the cognitive skills to put into words so many of the things that seem to make sense to me. But KyleR hits it right on the head for me in so many ways.

    I would be delighted if KyleR or anyone of his intellectual ink wanted to be part of my quorum or blog or circle of friends.

  90. Adam Greenwood on July 19, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Intellectual ilk?

  91. Ray on July 19, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    My #85 was very much tongue-in-cheek. I appreciated your comment, Kyle, very much, but there simply was no way I could have tried to answer thoroughly.

    To try to address the issue of how to determine absolute truth or universal meaning: (I posted this comment on another site, but I’m technologically challenged. If an admin wants to teach me how to paste a link, send me an e-mail with directions – and my children will bless your name to future generations.)

    On one hand, we teach that it was the proliferation of personal interpretation sans Spirit and prophetic authority led to the condition that necessitated the Restoration – and that the Book of Mormon was written largely to help an apostate world understand what the Bible really teaches. (Mormon 7) Also, there is a very strong sense of not wresting scripture to justify something that the prophets never intended to teach. Finally, there are some scriptures that I believe really do lose their power and immediacy if they are not taken literally.

    On the other hand, I also have read the same passage at different times and gotten different lessons out of it – and given a talk to a group of people and had them hear very different things. We carry on discussions like this within a forum like this largely to hear perspectives that can influence and even alter our own. We are taught to recognize and honor nuances in our collective understanding – even when some expressions of those individual views by our former leaders have to be massaged or rejected completely. (Adam-God is easy, but there are way too many to try to list.)

    FWIW, this whole issue of finding individual balance (of muddling through the middle) is one of my favorite aspects of the Gospel we teach. It also is the biggest reason I shake my head in perpetual incredulity whenever I hear the “Mormonism is a cult” bile. I lived and taught high school in the Deep South Bible Belt, and I saw first-hand how much MORE freedom we have – how much MORE we are encouraged to create our own unique views on most questions – than are those who attend most conservative / evangelical churches.

    When JS said, “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves,” I think he was addressing what Kyle did in his comment – the struggle to balance the literal with the figurative / interpretive – the effort to understand the universal Gospel and also God’s will for one’s self. The principle might teach, “Study the scriptures,” but the governance places the responsibility for what is learned on each student. We often want more guidance and easier answers, but we also complain often when we get extra guidance and feel spoon-fed.

    Such is life, and I’ll take it over the alternative every day and twice on Sunday.

  92. Kyle R on July 19, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    #89 Thanks Mike. My ilk are very inky. You have your own blog? Can you recommend that or any others to me? I think Times and Seasons is excellent. Usually I don’t bother with blogs.

    I’m interested in your comment that it would pain you to see a member of your family leave the Mormon faith. Why exactly? I’m going back to work in a short while but could reply tomorrow to anything you had to say. I’m aware we’ve departed somewhat from the main topic of this blog thread. Is that usual and acceptable?

    # 91 “The Mormons are a cult” makes no sense to me either. The difference between a church/religion and a cult is not clear to me and I suspect the supposed distinction wouldn’t bear close inspection. As I said in an earlier post, the idea that Mormons are not Christians (is there an International Christian Committee that decides such things?) is ludicrous.

    I very much appreciate your comments. Scripture to me is text and I don’t discriminate as a believer does between literary and religious texts where honesty, profundity and the engagement of the struggle of the soul are the text’s animating principles. So I think the meaning and value of scripture is always in the mind of the reader in the end. Orthodoxy of a text’s interpretation is perhaps more difficult to establish than the orthodoxy of a religious practice.

    The intellectual freedom within Mormonism is attractive, though there are no doubt always ‘local conditions’. I suppose it’s unavoidable that in a large, widely-spread community of believers there will always be a kind of tug-of-war between on the one hand the need for a common orthodoxy in order to make it a community in the first place, and the natural propensity of any given human being to see things their own way. Any wise religious organisation will permit open and honest dialogue because human interaction is naturally ‘dialogic’ in any case, I think.

    At the same time, I have to question the idea of ‘apostasy’. The apostate world continued to be full of human beings growing – or not – spiritually and interacting with the divine, and it continues to do so. Mormonism is a positive part of this. Mormonism, however, is a set of beliefs. Mormons are simply people. One person in this reality we live within is not in a position to say to another person within the same reality that their beliefs are ‘apostate’, without inviting suspicion that such an accusation has very little to do with Man and God, and more to do with a more petty exclusionary impulse. From God’s point of view – from His state of perfection – we are all apostate to a degree.

    Again much appreciated your comments. I’ll dip back into this hugely stimulating blog tomorrow.

  93. Adam Greenwood on July 19, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    No one denies that apostates are human beings. No one denies that Mormons are people. Where are you getting this from? What we do deny is that the fact that we’re all people means that we’re all equally right and equally wrong. When God spoke to Joseph Smith and said that all the creeds were in error, Joseph Smith did not pretend it didn’t happen in the name of conflict-adverse humanitarianism, even though the ministers and congregants he knew were, I’m betting, people and/or human beings. “I had seen a vision and I could not deny it.”

    BTW, I’ll be shutting down this post down in a few more comments. This is a Mormon blog and Mormonism’s exclusive truth claims are axiomatic here. We’ve been more than fair in letting you use our forum to attack those exclusive claims as totalitarian and petty-minded. Please reciprocate that fairness by keeping your remaining comments to a reasonable length.

  94. Ardis Parshall on July 19, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Still, it’s quite easy and shows a kind of fear to make a sweeping statement such as that one thing is genuine and another is not, then not be wil[l]ing to go into at least a little explanation. That in its own way answers my question.

    You make unwise assumptions about a forum with which you are admittedly unfamiliar, and about a writer with whom you are entirely unfamiliar. What you mistook as “fear” would be more accurately characterized as a disclination to wade through four screens of words — in my experience, those who cannot make their points briefly cannot make their points at all.

    But you’re welcome here; others may be willing to engage you, although I am not.

  95. Ray on July 19, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Kyle, I think this is a classic case of reading meaning into words that aren’t there – based on what someone else has attached to the word. “Apostate” to me simply means different than originally intended – by Jesus or Peter or John or Paul or whomever. It has nothing at all to do with condition of the soul or “savability” – and it in no way denies great insight or “closeness” to absolute truth. I think that is the central issue of the original post – and that of the post that initiated this one. There were core assumptions regarding the BofM that just don’t fit, so people here were invited to address those assumptions.

    To echo Adam and Ardis, this post began as an opportunity to comment about someone else’s claim that one of our basic canonical texts was a “crude and obvious forgery” (primarily to respond on that site, actually) – not as a forum for discussing or defending other doctrines or beliefs. That, in my mind, is the rub – not necessarily that anyone is scared to address anything, but rather that all of us have done so too many times already over the years in other places to want to turn this thread and site into what it was not meant to be. Even though I contributed to the discussion with you, and even though I thought your lengthy comment might have been sincere, there is no way I am going to try to answer your questions and assertions in this forum. I tend to be too wordy myself, and even I was overwhelmed by your volume.

  96. Mike on July 19, 2007 at 4:37 pm


    “attack those exclusive claims as totalitarian and petty-minded”

    I did not feel attacked in the very least. Perhaps challenged to think in new ways and maybe even in ways that are not satisfactory in the end, but not attacked. None of these comments paint us as totalitarian and petty-minded. I think this description is way over blown. You better demonstrate these characteristics with your comment, in my perspective.

    BTW, whether you are willing to accept it or not, I am Mormon. It is as much my church as it is yours and this in spite of whatever heretic or crazy ideas I might have. So this Mormon is not attacked.

    For KyleR:

    I am also leaving on vacation right now. No time to answer your questions except one in this way:

    A beloved member of my family left Mormonism and it hurts.

  97. Adam Greenwood on July 19, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Those are quotes, Mike. I don’t think they reflect the full tenor of the comments, but they’re a definite strand of them.

    Its not your church at all. Its God’s.

  98. Seth R. on July 19, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    On the other hand Kyle, if you’d like to accuse Steve of being a cross-dresser, I’m sure everyone here would be quite receptive.

  99. Steve Evans on July 19, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Seth, myself not least among them.

  100. Jacob on July 19, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    “One person in this reality we live within is not in a position to say to another person within the same reality that their beliefs are ‘apostate’, without inviting suspicion that such an accusation has very little to do with Man and God, and more to do with a more petty exclusionary impulse.”

    So then Judas was just going a different way. He just had a doctrinal disagreement with Jesus. No apostasy involved.

  101. Adam Greenwood on July 19, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    If you have a comment that needs posted, email me (KyleR. or others). Its my first name at timesandseasons.org
    No guarantees.

  102. KyleR on July 20, 2007 at 8:06 am

    93 I’m very appreciative of your fairness in allowing me my point of view in your blog Adam. Perhaps I have not shown this more clearly, and if I’ve proved an ungrateful guest I unreservedly apologise. My forceful and passionate mode of expression is in no way an attack. None of what I’ve said is meant as an attack. It’s a cut and thrust style of debate I’m used to but which I’m very happy to rein in. I’ve a lot of respect for the level of cordiality, intelligence, straightforwardness and willingness to engage on T&S and would be horrified if I’d caused any offence. The use of the word ‘totalitarian’ was unfortunate as was the word ”petty”. ‘Totalitarian’ was mean to specifically describe the ‘knowing for sure” and it’s implication that someone else therefore “does not know for sure”, not the claims of truth in a more general sense. I did not accuse anyone of being ‘petty-minded’, but merely said such a suspicion of petty motives could arise. But again thanks for allowing my contributions. I think your toleration of my challenges and responses to them speaks highly of your breadth of mind and your commitment to truth.

    #94 I accept your point.

    #98 & #99 Very happy to oblige. I hereby accuse Steve of being a cross-dresser and 18 boxes of evidence of this are now on their way to you in support of this claim.


Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.