Joseph Smith and the translation of the gold plates

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Sargon
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Joseph Smith and the translation of the gold plates

#1

Post by Sargon » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:02 pm

Note: Some changes have been made from the original post in the old thread.

As I have pointed out, you need to find a definition of 'translation' which actually agrees with your position.
My position is that the Book of Mormon is a translation of the gold plates, exactly as every account suggests. What does translation mean? That a message was taken from one language, and put into the words of a different language. I recall having said something similar in a past post.
Now, what role Joseph played in the translation is debatable, as we have established. But I do not think it is our task to debate that in this discussion, though it may lead to that.
You also need to deal with the fact that as early as the 1930s BH Roberts was making the point that the Book of Mormon could not have been said to have been 'translated' in the true sense of the word, that the 'old theory' of how it was 'translated' was completely unsustainable, and that certain present day Mormon apologists make the same argument.
In my examination of what BH Roberts said, I came to a very different conclusion than you did.

"Are these flagrant errors in grammar chargeable to the Lord? To say so is to invite ridicule. The thoughts, the doctrines, are well enough; but the awkward, ungrammatical expression of the thoughts is, doubtless, the result of the translator's imperfect knowledge of the English language ... that old theory cannot be successfully maintained; that is, the Urim and Thummim did the translating, the Prophet, nothing beyond repeating what he saw reflected in that instrument; that God directly or indirectly is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors of translation. To advance such a theory before intelligent and educated people is to unnecessarily invite ridicule, and make of those who advocate it candidates for contempt ...
The "old theory" that Roberts is attempting to refute is the belief that the Urim and Thummin gave Joseph a word for word translation, and that he played no part in translation(which happens to be precisely your theory). He argues that because of grammatical mistakes in the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim could not have been the sole source for the translation. A more imperfect medium would have needed to be required. He argues that Joseph must certainly have played a part in the translation, and his human weakness allowed for mistakes in grammar.
Also, as a sidenote, BH Roberts is not the be-all end-all of Mormon apologetics, as Hugh Nibley also is not. His opinions are respected, but certainly are not accepted as true simply because they fell from his lips. That modern apologists will agree with him is doubtless, and that modern apologists will disagree is also doubtless.
So what was BH Roberts arguing for? That the translation was exactly that, in the true sense of the word. That the characters on the plates were translated via Joseph Smith and the Urim and Thummim. This allows for mistakes in grammar while preserving the divinity of the book.
You need to provide actual evidence that what was on the plates is the material which found its way into the Book of Mormon.
And what would that evidence need to consist of? I can demonstrate that at least some of the time the plates were present, and that Joseph copied characters from them, but it cannot be proven that he was not just looking at the plates while privately writing the story in his head. If it is in a language that is lost to mankind, and was translated by the power of God, then such a demonstration of evidence is extremely difficult.
What is clear is that at least one of the scribes described that when using the seerstone, the egyptian characters appeared on the stone followed by an english translation.
"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man."
If we are to trust that David Whitmer explained the process in accurate manner, then it is true that the characters that appeared on the stone were in fact the same characters on the gold plates. This refutes your earlier comment:
In order for him to have translated the text on the plates, he would have had to actually read the characters on the plates and then rendered them into English, but every single eye witness says that during the miraculous process of writing, he did not read the characters even once, he only ever read English text which was revealed to him

While using the seerstone, Joseph did read the characters that were on the plates. It was by the power of the seerstone that he was able to see them, without focusing his eyes physically on the plates.
This also refutes another statement you made:
* In addition to this, the eye witnesses could not read the text on the plates, nor confirm that the English dictated by Smith was a translation of the text on the plates, nor did they ever see or describe a process of translation (they saw and described a process of dictation, Smith reading from an alleged English text which they could not see)
David Whitmer described a process of translation, and that it was done by the power of God. Whether Joseph Smith simply read the english that appeared, or if the english that appeared reflected his own translation, is not quite the point.
Whitmer specifially said that it was a translation, not merely dictation. Yes, dictation was part of the process, but translation was also going on. No, he doesnt say that Joseph Smith translated it, but he does affirm that it was a translation of what was on the plates, through divine means.

You might argue that Joseph merely told him, and he believed. But that would then discount him as an eye witness. If we were to assign this same evaluation to every witness who described how Joseph recieved the translation or translated the plates, we would have no eye witnesses with which to work. But there is nothing that suggests that they did not literally witness the "spiritual light" that shone from the stone as David Whitmer describes. There was no curtain, there was no way to keep them from catching a glimpse of what was going on in the hat. Noone said anything to the manner that Joseph was extremely secretive about the process, in fact, he allowed Oliver Cowdery to try it.

One other side note, is that David Whitmer himself was a scribe and he admits in this testimony that Oliver Cowdery was the prinicipal scribe, despite your disagreement.
* All the other accounts say that different scribes were used in the writing process, sometimes writing for 'hour upon hour', indicating that the entire Book of Mormon ('save a few pages'), certainly could not have been dictated to Cowdrey
Along with David Whitmer's refutation of your argument, the mere facts don't support this. It is a well documented and accepted fact that Oliver Cowdery was the scribe for a large majority of the Book of Mormon. The apologists certainly aren't divided on this one, not to my knowledge.

This fact makes Cowdery's testimony very significant.
We can discuss the details of Oliver and Martin's respective testimonies afterwards.


Gotta run. More later.

Sargon
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#2

Post by Fortigurn » Wed Jan 31, 2007 2:24 am

Sargon wrote:My position is that the Book of Mormon is a translation of the gold plates, exactly as every account suggests. What does translation mean? That a message was taken from one language, and put into the words of a different language. I recall having said something similar in a past post.
Yes, that's the definition of translation. However, when you talk about translating a textual source, what you are talking about is someone:

* Viewing the textual source
* Reading and comprehending the textual source
* Transferring the meaning of the textual souce into another language

There is no evidence that Smith ever did this. None of the eye witness accounts provide any evidence that he did this. We are told repeatedly that he could not read 'Reformed Egyptian'. We are told repeatedly that all he ever read was English. If these accounts are true (and they are the only ones we have), then God did the translation, and presented it to Smith in English, which Smith then read to scribes.

We all know the problems which this causes for the Book of Mormon, and BH Roberts is not the only one to have identified them. This means you have to start questioning the witness accounts, which isn't healthy for Mormonism.
Now, what role Joseph played in the translation is debatable, as we have established. But I do not think it is our task to debate that in this discussion, though it may lead to that.
Until we have evidence that a translation process took place in which Smith was involved at all, we can't even say that he was involved in a translation process. What the accounts describe is revelation, not translation. The plates become irrelevant.
The "old theory" that Roberts is attempting to refute is the belief that the Urim and Thummin gave Joseph a word for word translation, and that he played no part in translation(which happens to be precisely your theory).
Actually my theory is that the 'Urim' and 'Thummim' never existed, but that's another story. What you mean is that Roberts is attempting to retute the traditional reading of the many witnesses to the process of writing the Book of Mormon, the reading which understands Smith to have been given a word for word translation which he then read. I said that myself. That is clearly not a process of translation, as I have already pointed out, and Roberts rightly says that it would be 'nothing beyond repeating what he saw reflected in that instrument', not a process of translation.

This exposes the real problem which the available eye witnesses create. Of course, I'm glossing over the fact that only one of them refers to the 'Urim' and 'Thummim' being used in this process, with the rest all insisting that the seerstone was used. That's another contradiction between Cowdery's testimony and the other witnesses.
He argues that because of grammatical mistakes in the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim could not have been the sole source for the translation. A more imperfect medium would have needed to be required. He argues that Joseph must certainly have played a part in the translation, and his human weakness allowed for mistakes in grammar.
Yes, I agree that's what he argues. That was in fact my point. He is forced by necessity (the errors in the Book of Mormon), to deny that the process of 'translation' took place as described by the majority of the witness accounts. He is forced by necessity to deny the traditional understanding of the 'translation' process. In doing so he throws doubt on the eye witness accounts, and exposes the real problems involved in the claim that Smith 'translated' the Book of Mormon from the plates.
Also, as a sidenote, BH Roberts is not the be-all end-all of Mormon apologetics, as Hugh Nibley also is not. His opinions are respected, but certainly are not accepted as true simply because they fell from his lips. That modern apologists will agree with him is doubtless, and that modern apologists will disagree is also doubtless.
I recognise this. Yet his comments still need to be addressed. I quoted him to show that my view of the 'translation' process is the same as his, and that mine cannot therefore be dismissed as a misreading of the sources or a result of personal bias. I have shown that other Mormon apologists hold the same view. There is no doubt that the Book of Mormon exhibits unmistakeable evidence of having been written by a fallible human being. Where then is the evidence that it was 'translated' by a fallible human being, having been recorded infallibly?
So what was BH Roberts arguing for? That the translation was exactly that, in the true sense of the word. That the characters on the plates were translated via Joseph Smith and the Urim and Thummim. This allows for mistakes in grammar while preserving the divinity of the book.
Actually he doesn't say anything about the characters on the plates, he just calls it (rather glibly), a process of translation. He overlooks the problem that Smith wasn't actually reading the characters on the plates.
Fortigurn wrote:You need to provide actual evidence that what was on the plates is the material which found its way into the Book of Mormon.
And what would that evidence need to consist of?
Well that is indeed a serious difficulty for Mormons. It would help if you could provide the plates, but you can't. It would help if you could even provide a verified copy or transcription of the plates, but you can't. It would help if you could provide eye witnesses who verified a process of translation (Smith reading the characters and rendering them in English, whether by his own powers or assisted by God, doesn't matter), but you can't. Do you have any other ideas?

This is why I say that there is in fact no evidence that what was on the plates is the material which found its way into the Book of Mormon. At least Strang had plates he could actually show people, and some fascimile transcriptions exist to this day, so that Strang's translation is actually verifiable.
I can demonstrate that at least some of the time the plates were present, and that Joseph copied characters from them, but it cannot be proven that he was not just looking at the plates while privately writing the story in his head.
* Yes, you can demonstrate that at least some of the time the plates were present
* Yes, you can perhaps provide evidence that Smith copied characters from them (though that evidence is unverifiable without the plates)
* No, you cannot provide evidence that he was reciting what was on the plates
* No, I cannot prove that he was looking at more than the plates while privately writing the story in his head
* No, you cannot prove that he was looking at the plates at all while dictating the Book of Mormon
If it is in a language that is lost to mankind, and was translated by the power of God, then such a demonstration of evidence is extremely difficult.
It is not difficult because it was written in a language lost to mankind. Nor is it difficult because it was translated by the power of God. It is difficult because:

* No transcriptions or fascimiles of the plates exist
* None of the eye witnesses desribe a process of translation
* There is no way to verify that the material in the Book of Mormon was taken from the plates
What is clear is that at least one of the scribes described that when using the seerstone, the egyptian characters appeared on the stone followed by an english translation.

[...]

If we are to trust that David Whitmer explained the process in accurate manner, then it is true that the characters that appeared on the stone were in fact the same characters on the gold plates. This refutes your earlier comment:
I can accept Whitmer's account for the sake of the argument, and even accept that it represents the entire process of 'translation' (though I would have to throw out the other eye witness accounts), but it doesn't refute my earlier comment:
Fortigurn wrote:In order for him to have translated the text on the plates, he would have had to actually read the characters on the plates and then rendered them into English...
Whitmer says that he saw the characters, not that he read them. In fact Whitmer helpfully says that he saw the characters with an English translation already provided, and that what he read was the English translation. If Whitmer's account is accurate, then God translated the plates, and provided Smith with an English text which Smith then recited to the scribes. This leads us back to the difficulty of errors in the Book of Mormon.
While using the seerstone, Joseph did read the characters that were on the plates. It was by the power of the seerstone that he was able to see them, without focusing his eyes physically on the plates.
No, according to most accounts he didn't even see the characters, and according to Whitmer's account he saw the characters, but read the English text. None of the eye witness accounts I've read say that he read the characters. Cowdery's account is the only first hand account I could find which even stated that he was looking at the characters on the plates while dictating, and even that says that when he looked at the characters through the spectacles, what he saw and read was English, not the characters.

As I said, the eye witnesses could not read the text on the plates, nor confirm that the English dictated by Smith was a translation of the text on the plates, nor did they ever see or describe a process of translation (they saw and described a process of dictation, Smith reading from an alleged English text which they could not see)
David Whitmer described a process of translation, and that it was done by the power of God. Whether Joseph Smith simply read the english that appeared, or if the english that appeared reflected his own translation, is not quite the point.
Whitmer did not describe a process of translation, he described a process by which Smith read from an English text revealed to him. Whether Smith simply read the English, or whether Smith caused the English to appear by reading and translating the characters in his head with the gift of translation (something not a single witness says), is very much the point. The point is whether or not he actually performed a process of translation at all.
Whitmer specifially said that it was a translation, not merely dictation. Yes, dictation was part of the process, but translation was also going on.
Yes Whitmer calls it a translation, but what he describes is not actually translation. That's the problem.
No, he doesnt say that Joseph Smith translated it, but he does affirm that it was a translation of what was on the plates, through divine means.
That's right, he affirms very helpfully that Smith allegedly read an English text which was allegedly a translation of what was on the plates. That is not translation. That is simply reading English. If I read Victor Hugo's 'Les Misrables' in English, you cannot say that I have translated it from the original French. Even if the English text is placed beneath the French text, if all I am doing is reading the English text which someone else has already provided, then I am not translating anything.
You might argue that Joseph merely told him, and he believed.
I would indeed.
But that would then discount him as an eye witness. If we were to assign this same evaluation to every witness who described how Joseph recieved the translation or translated the plates, we would have no eye witnesses with which to work.
Well Sargon, I suggest you think seriously about that. That is one of the directions in which this is headed at present. It could head in a number of directions, and that is certainly one of them. As I've pointed out, Mormon apologists already have to struggle with the eye witness accounts, because they cannot get them to agree. Because of this, they have to downplay, omit, or just outright dismiss certain of the eye witnesses, in preference for others. Different apologists prefer different witnesses, to support their different theories. What they show to me is that there is no particular reason to believe any of them, but for the sake of supporting one preconceived theory over another.
But there is nothing that suggests that they did not literally witness the "spiritual light" that shone from the stone as David Whitmer describes. There was no curtain, there was no way to keep them from catching a glimpse of what was going on in the hat. Noone said anything to the manner that Joseph was extremely secretive about the process, in fact, he allowed Oliver Cowdery to try it.
* Accounts of the 'spiritual light' are second hand (none of them say that they saw this 'spritual light')

* If they caught a glimpse of anything going on in the hat while Smith was using it, it would have been amazing, since Smith had his head in it and it was so full of Smith's head that it occluded the entry of ambient light

* Certainly Smith doesn't appear to have been particularly secretive about the process, but while he handed the hat and stone/spectacles to Cowdery, he didn't actually show Cowdery (or anyone else), the stone/spectacles while the writing was actually visible on it
One other side note, is that David Whitmer himself was a scribe and he admits in this testimony that Oliver Cowdery was the prinicipal scribe, despite your disagreement.
I haven't actually disputed that he was the principal scribe. What I have pointed out is that his claim to have transcribed all but 'a few pages' of the Book of Mormon is very difficult to reconcile with the other witness accounts (at least four), who claim to have written for 'hours' whilst Smith dictated. It's difficult to belive that all of these other scribes were spending 'hours' with Smith while he dictated a mere 'few pages'.

I made the point that all the other accounts say that different scribes were used in the writing process, sometimes writing for 'hour upon hour', indicating that the entire Book of Mormon ('save a few pages'), certainly could not have been dictated to Cowdrey.

You claim:
Along with David Whitmer's refutation of your argument, the mere facts don't support this. It is a well documented and accepted fact that Oliver Cowdery was the scribe for a large majority of the Book of Mormon. The apologists certainly aren't divided on this one, not to my knowledge.
The testimony of Whitmer does not refute what I said. I can accept that Cowdery was the scribe for 'a large majority of the Book of Mormon'. What is difficult to accept is that he was the scribe for all but 'a few pages', which is his claim.

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#3

Post by Sargon » Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:56 am

Yes, that's the definition of translation. However, when you talk about translating a textual source, what you are talking about is someone:

* Viewing the textual source
* Reading and comprehending the textual source
* Transferring the meaning of the textual souce into another language

We are told repeatedly that all he ever read was English. If these accounts are true (and they are the only ones we have), then God did the translation, and presented it to Smith in English, which Smith then read to scribes.

Until we have evidence that a translation process took place in which Smith was involved at all, we can't even say that he was involved in a translation process. What the accounts describe is revelation, not translation. The plates become irrelevant.

In doing so he throws doubt on the eye witness accounts, and exposes the real problems involved in the claim that Smith 'translated' the Book of Mormon from the plates.

There is no doubt that the Book of Mormon exhibits unmistakeable evidence of having been written by a fallible human being. Where then is the evidence that it was 'translated' by a fallible human being, having been recorded infallibly?

Actually he doesn't say anything about the characters on the plates, he just calls it (rather glibly), a process of translation. He overlooks the problem that Smith wasn't actually reading the characters on the plates.

* No, you cannot provide evidence that he was reciting what was on the plates
* No, I cannot prove that he was looking at more than the plates while privately writing the story in his head
* No, you cannot prove that he was looking at the plates at all while dictating the Book of Mormon

* None of the eye witnesses desribe a process of translation

Whitmer says that he saw the characters, not that he read them. In fact Whitmer helpfully says that he saw the characters with an English translation already provided, and that what he read was the English translation. If Whitmer's account is accurate, then God translated the plates, and provided Smith with an English text which Smith then recited to the scribes.

No, according to most accounts he didn't even see the characters, and according to Whitmer's account he saw the characters, but read the English text. None of the eye witness accounts I've read say that he read the characters.

As I said, the eye witnesses could not read the text on the plates, nor confirm that the English dictated by Smith was a translation of the text on the plates, nor did they ever see or describe a process of translation (they saw and described a process of dictation, Smith reading from an alleged English text which they could not see)

Whitmer did not describe a process of translation, he described a process by which Smith read from an English text revealed to him. Whether Smith simply read the English, or whether Smith caused the English to appear by reading and translating the characters in his head with the gift of translation (something not a single witness says), is very much the point. The point is whether or not he actually performed a process of translation at all.

Yes Whitmer calls it a translation, but what he describes is not actually translation. That's the problem.

That's right, he affirms very helpfully that Smith allegedly read an English text which was allegedly a translation of what was on the plates. That is not translation. That is simply reading English.
I have copied and pasted some of the instances in your last post in which you continued to argue that Joseph did not do any actual translating, but that he was merely reading the english provided him by God, and this you claim to gleam from the accounts. Really amazing.
What I have repeatedly said and you have repeatedly not understood is that what role Joseph actually played in the translation is not relevant to the divinity of the Book of Mormon. I believe that Joseph Smith played a significant role in the translation of the Book of Mormon. But that belief starts from the premise that the Book of Mormon is indeed true. There are others who start from that same premise, and conclude that Joseph did not have a large role in the actual translation. You conclude that since words appeared on the stone, Joseph was not interpreting, but merely reading. This conclusion is premature, and does not consider how the words appeared, why the words appeard, and at what point in the translation they appeared. We may never know exactly how the process worked, because it was spiritual process that noone seemed to be able to express perfectly.
But all of that is beside the point. We do not need to determine what role Joseph Smith played in the translation, and I am not going to attempt to rebutt your argument in this post, and probably not in this discussion.

One thing I will argue against though, is your conclusion that if Joseph was not looking at the characters on the plates, then the plates play no role in the story, and therefore there can be no translation process claimed. This argument only works if you believe that translation can only be done if the text being translated must be present. Yes, it must be present if it being done by the power of man, and not of God. But if God provides a means whereby the plates do not need to be present(ie seerstone), then certainly it can be said that translation was still taking place. Why would God give Joseph the plates and then Joseph not use them in the translation?? Well it is clear that at some stages he did use them, probably in the earliest stages, when he was still becoming familiar with the characters, and needed the physical presence of the plates in order to enhance his faith.

What I am arguing for, is that we have several eye witness accounts which all describe a miraculous event taking place. What they describe is Joseph Smith translating and/or recieving the translation for the Book of Mormon.

David Whitmer- Joseph used the seerstone, and on it appeard egyptian characters and english characters. "Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man."

Oliver Cowdery- Joseph held the Nephite interpreters, or Urim and Thummim over the plates "as he translated".

Martin Harris- Describes Joseph using both the seerstone and the Urim and Thummim(Nephite Interpreters).

These are the 3 most prominent witnesses to the Book of Mormon. They all describe a process by which the Book of Mormon was translated, whether it by completely by Joseph Smith, completely by God, or a combination of the two. What is clear is that they all agree that the plates were translated.

What is also clear is that none of them mention any other text being available to Joseph while he was working. In fact, Emma Smith who was almost always present during the work explicitly stated that there was no way he could have hid any kind of manuscript from her.

Could he have hid it in the hat? Probably not very successfully. Especially considering what Emma said, and that Oliver and Martin both looked into the hat. And considering that they all sat right in front of him, and would surely have heard any rustle of papers.

Could he have read them alone, memorized parts of it, and hid the manuscripts somewhere while he dictated? Not likely. Emma said he could not have hid anything from him. And there is no evidence that he had access to the proposed works.

Did Joseph simply read the bible voraciously, remembering everything he read, and simply reguritating it back out? Probably not. There is no evidence for this. His mother said he was not very fond of reading. And there are very limited parts of the Book of Mormon which reflect biblical passages. And of those that are almost word for word from the bible, it is impossible that he could have memorized that much of it. Did he copy them from the bible? I mean, he did have a bible after all. Well not according to every eye witness. They all describe a process where he used no manuscript, and only a stone, hat, plates, or urim and thummim.
So such an argument does not stand up to the facts. Does the presence of biblical sounding passages constitutue your "positive" evidence for your case? No. Because the presence of the biblical sounding passages fits much better with the traditional story than with the conspiracy theory that has no other evidence.

Was the Book of Mormon simply the product of an extremely intelligent man who paid attention to the politics, culture, religion, and ecomony of his day, and reflected that in his work? No, the Book of Mormon displays none of those characteristics. In fact, it displays exact similarities to ancient hebrew culture, things which noone knew in his day.

I admit that the traditional story is not perfect. There are some things that certainly need explaining, like the changes in the book, and the grammatical errors. Most of those are overcome by the simple acknowledgement that Joseph did play a part in the translation, or that Mormon made mistakes in his record, which allows for human error. There are some anachronisms, but slowly those anachronisms are fading away as discoveries are made. We can debate about how reliable the witnesses are, but their honesty and integrity have been proven time and again by many essays by various apologists.

So your conspiracy theory is limited in its evidence. You may continue to contend on the point about the "translation" of the Book of Mormon, how it happened, and what the witnesses say about it. But it is entirely besides the point. The point is that the Book of Mormon was produced without the aid of any other outside source. Every account agrees on that. It was produced by miraculous means, and its message does not reflect the mind of a scheming charlaton.

It is also a very outstanding composition if it really was written and dictated in so short a time. The book doesnt read like it was written by one person, like Lord of the Rings does, or Les Mis, it reads like the bible. The authors have different styles, perspectives, and the stories do not attempt to create a romantic drama, but they are very down to earth in recounting events that happened. I know of no other work that achieves this, except for other books of scripture.

I think that our respective conclusions about the divinity of the Book of Mormon should not ultimately rest on our weak human comprehension of the facts. We can debate for weeks or months, and it is possible that neither of us will cede ground. I know that I do not trust my intellect on matters of salvation, and I certainly don't trust anyone elses.
What the real challenge is, is if we can read the Book of Mormon, and receive a spiritual confirmation that it is true or not. After that the individual pieces of the puzzle will not matter quite as much, because the picture that the puzzle is making will already be known. Im sure you have encountered a similar experience in your defense of the bible. There are many things which just don't make sense, but if you already have a testimony of the truthfulness of it, it makes it alot easier to understand.


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#4

Post by Gman » Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:02 pm

Sargon wrote:So your conspiracy theory is limited in its evidence. You may continue to contend on the point about the "translation" of the Book of Mormon, how it happened, and what the witnesses say about it. But it is entirely besides the point. The point is that the Book of Mormon was produced without the aid of any other outside source. Every account agrees on that. It was produced by miraculous means, and its message does not reflect the mind of a scheming charlaton.
Sargon, plain and simple... You have been duped... Joseph threw out the bait and you took it... I'm sorry for your choice but it is wrong... We are not laughing at you either, just what your superiors are putting you through. I really blame them for this not you...

The factual evidence from Fortigurn and the other sources such as the Spalding manuscript say otherwise.. In almost exact detail. I'm about to give you more surprising evidence this weekend once I get around to it...
Sargon wrote:What the real challenge is, is if we can read the Book of Mormon, and receive a spiritual confirmation that it is true or not. After that the individual pieces of the puzzle will not matter quite as much, because the picture that the puzzle is making will already be known. Im sure you have encountered a similar experience in your defense of the bible. There are many things which just don't make sense, but if you already have a testimony of the truthfulness of it, it makes it alot easier to understand.
Well if I receive a spiritual confirmation and truth from my God too (which I have), then who is right?? We both can't be right because my God doesn't agree with your god... Period. This is not logical what you have stated...

We've been down this road before... Remember?

If it's not spiritual, then your only other choice is the burning in the bosom...

Again this whole procedure (burning in the bosom) is utterly WITHOUT scriptural foundation. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that we can trust our feelings with important issues like our eternal destiny. We cannot use the Book of Mormon or other LDS scriptures to prove the validity of the burning bosom, because that would be circular reasoning. You cannot logically or reasonably prove the Book of Mormon with a quote from the Book of Mormon or other Mormon books which depend upon the Book of Mormon for their authentication. We must depend on the Bible alone, which says nothing about trusting our feelings. To the contrary, the Bible warns that "there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). Additionally, in Jeremiah we read, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

There is no guarantee from the Bible (or even from our own experiences in life) that our feelings can be trusted. How many times have you felt sure that you were right about something, only to find out you were wrong? How often have people felt sure that someone really loved them, and then found out they were deceiving themselves without even knowing it? If we can be this easily deceived in human relationships, why trust our immortal souls on such emotional, unreliable methods?
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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#5

Post by Sargon » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:13 am

I do not want to get sidetracked on a different topic. But I will only mention one important key to you understanding of what I mean.

It is not by my feelings that I determine truth. I recognize that human feelings are inadequate, changing, and biased. Our wants and desires affect the way we feel.
It is by the Holy Spirit that truth is determined. Of course, we must search it out ourselves, through faith and study. But ultimately we will recognize the truth of all things as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus. After Christ taught them all things from the scriptures, they were only convinced after they felt the their hearts burning within them.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
No amount of scriptural debate can cause this burning. Pharisees employed similar methods of debate, but it is not reported that the Holy Spirit burned within the hearts of their pupils when they taught false teachings.

So your suggestion that it is unbiblical is completely wrong.

Sargon
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#6

Post by Gman » Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:53 pm

Sargon wrote:No amount of scriptural debate can cause this burning. Pharisees employed similar methods of debate, but it is not reported that the Holy Spirit burned within the hearts of their pupils when they taught false teachings.

So your suggestion that it is unbiblical is completely wrong.

Sargon
Sargon, if you want to call me a pharisee then that is fine with me.. The point I'm trying to make here is that someone is right and someone is wrong...

And we both can't be right because my Bible teaches me the complete opposite of what the Book of Mormon teaches..

For example, if you are implying that your burning in the bosom is a spiritual enlightenment or an issue of the heart, my Bible tells me to test the spirit, doctrine, and most of all our hearts...

We TEST the spirits to see if they are from God.

Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

We TEST the doctrine that comes to us.

Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to determine if what they were being told was so. (Acts 17: 10-11)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

We TEST our hearts and feelings.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. (Prov. 28:26)

Sargon, to the best we can, we TEST what we think are answers to our prayers for wisdom. We do this because the Bible tells us to and because of the experiences many of us have had...

It's that simple..
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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#7

Post by Fortigurn » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:53 pm

Sargon wrote:But ultimately we will recognize the truth of all things as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus. After Christ taught them all things from the scriptures, they were only convinced after they felt the their hearts burning within them.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
No amount of scriptural debate can cause this burning.
Actually the passage tells us that they were only convinced after Christ revealed himself to them in the breaking of bread. During the conversation, it was the discussion of the Scriptures which caused their hearts to burn ('Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?').

The burning of their hearts gave them no indication of truth, or that the man with whom they were speaking was Christ. It was an emotional response to well expounded Scripture.

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#8

Post by Fortigurn » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:55 pm

Gman wrote:For example, if you are implying that your burning in the bosom is a spiritual enlightenment or an issue of the heart, my Bible tells me to test the spirit, doctrine, and most of all our hearts...

We TEST the spirits to see if they are from God.

Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

We TEST the doctrine that comes to us.

Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to determine if what they were being told was so. (Acts 17: 10-11)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

We TEST our hearts and feelings.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. (Prov. 28:26)

Sargon, to the best we can, we TEST what we think are answers to our prayers for wisdom. We do this because the Bible tells us to and because of the experiences many of us have had...

It's that simple..
Gman, this was well said. It is, in fact, precisely why I remain skeptical of the many claims by various Christians to be 'led by the Holy Spirit'. Their descriptions are identical to the Mormon 'burning of the bosom'.

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#9

Post by Fortigurn » Fri Feb 02, 2007 1:48 am

sargon wrote:What I have repeatedly said and you have repeatedly not understood is that what role Joseph actually played in the translation is not relevant to the divinity of the Book of Mormon.
Actually I agree that the role that Smith actually played in the translation is not relevant to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, but only if it can be proved that a Divinely inspired process of translation actually took place. I'm not interested in the mechanics of that process. I don't care if he chose words himself, or selected them from several suggestions given by God. I don't care if he was lying on the ground with a bucket over his head, or hanging upside down from a rafter on a rope.

But what I need to see first is evidence that a translation process took place at all. To date, we do not have any such evidence. None of the eye witnesses saw a process of translation. They weren't even first hand witnesses of what went on in the hat (or in the lenses of the spectacles). They simply record what Smith told them was taking place. They appear to have chosen to believe him. But there is no reason for me to believe them.

This takes us here:
I believe that Joseph Smith played a significant role in the translation of the Book of Mormon. But that belief starts from the premise that the Book of Mormon is indeed true.
Exactly. It's circular reasoning. You make Smith self-validating.
There are others who start from that same premise, and conclude that Joseph did not have a large role in the actual translation. You conclude that since words appeared on the stone, Joseph was not interpreting, but merely reading. This conclusion is premature, and does not consider how the words appeared, why the words appeard, and at what point in the translation they appeared. We may never know exactly how the process worked, because it was spiritual process that noone seemed to be able to express perfectly.
As I've pointed out, we don't even have evidence that a process of translation took place. That's a problem.
But all of that is beside the point. We do not need to determine what role Joseph Smith played in the translation, and I am not going to attempt to rebutt your argument in this post, and probably not in this discussion.
We don't necessarily need to know what role he played in the translation. We do need to know that a process of translation took place.
One thing I will argue against though, is your conclusion that if Joseph was not looking at the characters on the plates, then the plates play no role in the story, and therefore there can be no translation process claimed. This argument only works if you believe that translation can only be done if the text being translated must be present. Yes, it must be present if it being done by the power of man, and not of God. But if God provides a means whereby the plates do not need to be present(ie seerstone), then certainly it can be said that translation was still taking place. Why would God give Joseph the plates and then Joseph not use them in the translation?? Well it is clear that at some stages he did use them, probably in the earliest stages, when he was still becoming familiar with the characters, and needed the physical presence of the plates in order to enhance his faith.
I've dealt with this before:

* If God was showing him what was on the plates, then there was no need for the plate at all - they could have been left buried, or taken to the moon, but the whole story of the Book of Mormon gives the plates a prominent position because it is argued absolutely that they were essential to the 'translation' process (it's only when we examine the witness accounts closely that we find that they were in fact irrelevant)

* You asked 'Why would God give Joseph the plates and then Joseph not use them in the translation??, which is a good question indeed - and yet only one of the witnesses describes Smith doing anything with them in the writing process, so perhaps we need to ask this question of the witnesses, because most of them tell us that Smith didn't use them at all

* It's all very well to talk about Smith 'becoming familiar with the characters', but from start to finish there's nothing to indicate that he was more familiar with them at the end of the writing of the Book of Mormon than he was at the end - there's no evidence that he understood even a single character, which would certainly explain why he was shown English
What I am arguing for, is that we have several eye witness accounts which all describe a miraculous event taking place. What they describe is Joseph Smith translating and/or recieving the translation for the Book of Mormon.
What I am pointing out is that we have several eye witness accounts of a man dictating while looking into a hat, and one account of a man looking at some gold plates through oversized spectacles. None of them describe a process of translation by Smith. All of them describe a process of revelation by which Smith received a translation from God.

There are many problems with the accounts. Some of them contradict each other. Cowdery's cannot be accepted as true. Even Mormon apologists disagree over which of them are accurate, and which of them should be discarded in part or in whole. It is not possible to recover a coherent description of the process of writing the Book of Mormon from these accounts. All of this throws them into doubt.
David Whitmer- Joseph used the seerstone, and on it appeard egyptian characters and english characters. "Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man."

Oliver Cowdery- Joseph held the Nephite interpreters, or Urim and Thummim over the plates "as he translated".

Martin Harris- Describes Joseph using both the seerstone and the Urim and Thummim(Nephite Interpreters).

These are the 3 most prominent witnesses to the Book of Mormon. They all describe a process by which the Book of Mormon was translated, whether it by completely by Joseph Smith, completely by God, or a combination of the two. What is clear is that they all agree that the plates were translated.
They all agree that the plates were translated, but unfortunately none of them describe a process of translation. Not only that, but their accounts cannot be made to agree with each other.
What is also clear is that none of them mention any other text being available to Joseph while he was working. In fact, Emma Smith who was almost always present during the work explicitly stated that there was no way he could have hid any kind of manuscript from her.
We've beeen through all this before.
Could he have hid it in the hat? Probably not very successfully.
Speculation.
Could he have read them alone, memorized parts of it, and hid the manuscripts somewhere while he dictated? Not likely. Emma said he could not have hid anything from him. And there is no evidence that he had access to the proposed works.
Emma said that he could not have hid anything from her while he was actually reading to her. There is plenty of evidence that he had access to a number of the proposed sources. We know for a fact that he even checked the Bible at least once to see if what he was writing agreed with it. That is a very significant account.
Did Joseph simply read the bible voraciously, remembering everything he read, and simply reguritating it back out? Probably not. There is no evidence for this.
As I have pointed out, he would not have had to have remembered everything he read. As has been pointed out more than once, a number of the passages of the Bible which are quoted in the Book of Mormon are slightly or even significantly different to the way they appear in the BIble. This is consistent with someone reciting from memory. And let's remember, we have eye witness accounts to the fact that Smith not only had access to a Bible, but used it on at least one occasion to check the accuracy of what he was writing.
Did he copy them from the bible? I mean, he did have a bible after all. Well not according to every eye witness. They all describe a process where he used no manuscript, and only a stone, hat, plates, or urim and thummim.
As I've pointed out, there is no need to posit that he sat there with an open Bible. There's also the fact that if the eye witnesses were colluding with him then certainly they would not have mentioned his sources. But of course, there's also the important fact that we have eye witness accounts to the fact that Smith not only had access to a Bible, but used it on at least one occasion to check the accuracy of what he was writing.
Does the presence of biblical sounding passages constitutue your "positive" evidence for your case? No. Because the presence of the biblical sounding passages fits much better with the traditional story than with the conspiracy theory that has no other evidence.
On what basis?
Was the Book of Mormon simply the product of an extremely intelligent man who paid attention to the politics, culture, religion, and ecomony of his day, and reflected that in his work?
Certainly not.
No, the Book of Mormon displays none of those characteristics.
It certainly doesn't. It's a patchwork, as well described by BH Roberts.
In fact, it displays exact similarities to ancient hebrew culture, things which noone knew in his day.
Such as?
I admit that the traditional story is not perfect.
Thank you. And yet it is still represented by the LDS Church as fact.
There are some things that certainly need explaining, like the changes in the book, and the grammatical errors. Most of those are overcome by the simple acknowledgement that Joseph did play a part in the translation, or that Mormon made mistakes in his record, which allows for human error.
These issues certainly do need explaining, which is precisely why Mormon apologists are still trying to explain them (and disagreeing over explanations in the process).
There are some anachronisms, but slowly those anachronisms are fading away as discoveries are made. We can debate about how reliable the witnesses are, but their honesty and integrity have been proven time and again by many essays by various apologists.
Certain anachronisms just won't go away, like the elephants, horses, and swords of fine steel.
The point is that the Book of Mormon was produced without the aid of any other outside source. Every account agrees on that.
Almost every account claims that. One account shows otherwise, which is telling. And of course, we would expect all the accounts to claim it wasn't produced with the aid of any outside source.
It was produced by miraculous means, and its message does not reflect the mind of a scheming charlaton.

It is also a very outstanding composition if it really was written and dictated in so short a time. The book doesnt read like it was written by one person, like Lord of the Rings does, or Les Mis, it reads like the bible. The authors have different styles, perspectives, and the stories do not attempt to create a romantic drama, but they are very down to earth in recounting events that happened. I know of no other work that achieves this, except for other books of scripture.
All of this is a matter of opinion, except that I agree it certainly doesn't read like it was written by one person. It does read like it was put together from bits and pieces of a number of other works.
I think that our respective conclusions about the divinity of the Book of Mormon should not ultimately rest on our weak human comprehension of the facts. We can debate for weeks or months, and it is possible that neither of us will cede ground. I know that I do not trust my intellect on matters of salvation, and I certainly don't trust anyone elses.

What the real challenge is, is if we can read the Book of Mormon, and receive a spiritual confirmation that it is true or not. After that the individual pieces of the puzzle will not matter quite as much, because the picture that the puzzle is making will already be known.
The problem with this is that it is the exact opposite to the way the Book of Mormon is presented to us by the original sources:

* Constant appeal is made to multiple eye witnesses of the 'translation' process, as well as the plates and other artefacts

* The LDS Church has repeatedly and consistently made appeals to archaeology, science, literature and linguistics in its attempts to validate the Book of Mormon

* Smith himself attempted to validate it with additional artefacts
Im sure you have encountered a similar experience in your defense of the bible. There are many things which just don't make sense, but if you already have a testimony of the truthfulness of it, it makes it alot easier to understand.
Actually I believe in the Bible because of the evidence I see for it. There are a number of issues with regard to the Bible which I take on faith. I am open about that. But I take those issues on faith on the basis of the massively greater substance of physical validation of the Bible. Where my faith on an issue has been challenged by facts which prove my faith wrong, I have changed my mind on that issue.

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#10

Post by Sargon » Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:18 pm

I apologize for the delay. It has been some days, and it will yet be more days before I am able to produce a full response to your last post. I find myself with less time than before.

Thank you for your continued patience.

Sargon
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#11

Post by Fortigurn » Sun Feb 04, 2007 4:13 pm

No rush, take your time.

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#12

Post by Gman » Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:08 pm

I almost forgot about this post.. Sorry guys. My Dad is having the fight of his life right now, I'll return with more info later.

Cheers,
G -
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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#13

Post by Fortigurn » Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:08 pm

Sounds like you have other priorities right now. Don't worry about this. God be with you and yours.

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#14

Post by Fortigurn » Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:19 pm

By the way, anyone intending to visit the forum to which Sargon linked, be prepared for hate. A lot of hate. The abuse there is really something else, and the moderators give Mormons free hand to attack non-Mormons.

I received this treatment in two recent posts:
The hater who claims that the MMM is the result of Latter-day Saint teaching had the temerity to post:

What he, and I, and every other non-bigot doesn't do

that seems to be beyond your grasp.

the extreme fanatical spin you are trying to put on events.

How small words do you need me to type, and how s-l-o-w-l-y do I need to type them?

If that is what you believe, you are living in Fantasyland.

thoroughly unscrupulous demagogue
I have reported posts on the forum to the moderators, but no action is taken and I receive no response.

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#15

Post by Fortigurn » Thu Feb 15, 2007 4:15 am

Since I reported the posts, the thread has been closed, which was an excellent way to stop me replying. I received no response from my report of the posts, and the abuse was allowed to stand.

I think that even Sargon would have to admit he has been treated better here.

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