Category Archives: Mormon-isms

Extra-Biblical, Non-Christian Confirmation of Jesus

My response to a claim from an email exchange that I didn’t get to address during our conversation.

“There are actually lots of extra biblical non Christian sources that wrote about the life of Jesus and wrote them with in 100-150 years of his life. Historians like Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny, Trajan, Hadrian, Talmud, Toledoth, and more. What they wrote correlates with the biblical account.”

While I have heard of some of these, a few I’ve never heard of so I just want to go through each and see what claims are made for each. I would like to point out that I don’t think I was ever a mythicist. I see no contradiction is accepting that a preacher called Jesus existed; though, I will make clear that I don’t see any reason to believe the supernatural claims about him. What I know about these sources before this post is that most, if not all, are merely evidence that the Christian sect existed, not that a supernatural, god-man existed.

The first place I went to get information is Wiki, other sources will be linked when used.

After doing the research below, I wonder if those who spout these names, as sources of information that confirm the existence of Jesus, have done the same. A few of these are so sketchy that I wouldn’t use them and would think even a believer could see that they aren’t helpful in their arguments.

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Josephus

A Jewish historian, ~90CE, credited with two mentions of Jesus. Josephus is one of the ones I’ve heard of before but really don’t know what he was supposed to have said.

The first reference in Book 20, a reference to Jesus as the brother of James:

-Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law.

This reference seems okay though it does have some criticism surrounding it.

Critics like to point out that in the same passage Josephus references Jesus Damneus and Jesus son of Gamaliel. Richard Carrier says “who was called Christ” was likely an addition not written by Josephus in the original text. While supporters say it is used to distinguish this Jesus from the other two.

-While the authenticity of some passages in Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews has been subject to debate, the overwhelming majority of scholars consider the discussion of the death of James in Section 9 of Book 20 to be authentic. –Wiki

I think that by this consensus of people who know better than I, I will agree that this passage is likely talking about the biblical Jesus. That being said, I don’t think there is any reason for me to convert instantly. This is simply a passage that may be used to verify that he actually existed, not the claim that he was more than human, and it was written approximately 60 years after he supposedly died. That seems like plenty of time for stories to spread. Mythicism may be out of the window but post-mortem apotheosis seems more likely.

The second reference, in Book 18, and quite possibly the best a believer could hope for:

-About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.   – Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3

But then there’s this:

-Scholarly opinion varies on the total or partial authenticity of the reference in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3 of the Antiquities, a passage that states that Jesus the Messiah was a wise teacher who was crucified by Pilate, usually called the Testimonium Flavianum. The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian expansion/alteration. Although the exact nature and extent of the Christian redaction remains unclear, there is broad consensus as to what the original text of the Testimonium by Josephus would have looked like. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

The TF contains some obvious Christian glosses that no Jew would have written; such as “he was the Christ” and “he appeared to them alive again the third day.” – http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm

If there existed that much doubt about this source I would definitely not be using it to back my claim. That criticism even lends credence to the apotheosis hypothesis (that’s fun to say).

-After reading the rest of the text of this passage we find that the Jews were so angry about the stoning of James that they they demanded that King Agrippa fire Ananus. Why would the Jews be angered over the killing of a Christian, since Christians were seen as heathens by the Jews? After the angry Jews get their way, “Jesus” is put in charge, Jesus son of Damneus and not Jesus son of Joseph. It seems as though “who was called Christ” was simply a margin note that got added to the text. The context would suggest that Jesus and James are brothers and after James is killed his brother is made to be high priest. And therefore the passage has nothing to say about any Christians but rather Jewish infighting. –http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Testimonium_Flavian

In the end, I will accept that the writings of Josephus are possibly factual accounts of the existence of a man named Jesus. They can’t be used as anything more than that and I have already admitted that I am not a mythicist. I would agree that most of his information came from Christian sources but I don’t think that is any reason to disregard all of the information.

~~~~~

Tacitus

A Roman historian, ~100CE, provides an account of the persecution of the early Christians and the crucifixion.

-Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty (i.e., Crucifixion) during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus… -Tacitus, Annals

So, he states that a man called Christ, whom a sect of Jews were named after, was crucified by Pilate. But he calls Pilate a procurator, not a prefect. Tacitus would surely know the difference, even if we don’t.

-Thiessen and Merz, while stating that Tacitus provides few details the source of which is unclear, conclude that there was a Jew named Christus who Pilate had executed, and he began a religious movement which was widespread during Nero’s reign.

I think this next quote is relevant to most of the people/references on this list considering the events were so long ago, so poorly documented, and the claim is so extreme.

-In his book Jesus, Charles Guignebert states that “so long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus was simply repeating the story as it was being told], the passage remains quite worthless.” Without more information, which we don’t currently have, the passage proves nothing (it can’t be used as evidence for or against).

But…

-Scholars generally consider Tacitus’ reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

The IronChariots Wiki gives a list of other objections to the claim of relevance of Tacitus. Many of them lead me to believe that Tacitus was merely documenting what the Christians at the time were saying.

-Given that we are lacking key information, and that the passage itself provides very little detail, a determination about Tacitus’ diligence in investigating it cannot be made. Any statement which assumes he did exercise due diligence (i.e. that what he said was based on fact) is speculative.

My final judgement…Confirmation of a man named Jesus, leader of a set of Jews, but nothing about a deity. Even with just these two sources I am confident that the Christ Myth theory is debunked but I won’t go all the way to say that Jesus was the savior the bible bills him as.

~~~~~

Suetonius

Roman historian, ~115CE, reported to mention Jesus by name.

-“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome” –Suetonius

This one is pretty short and I’ll just copy/paste the whole of the article from the wiki.

-Elsewhere in the same work (The Lives of the Caesars) Suetonius talks about how “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.” under Nero demonstrating that Suetonius knew the difference between Jews and Christians.

Suetonius wrote in the year 115 CE, so this is far from a contemporary account. He doesn’t cite or list sources and Christianity would have been decently established by this time.

The name in the text is not “Christus” but “Chrestus,” which by no means is the usual designation of Jesus. It was a common name, especially among Roman freedman. (Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, book 2, letter 8, section 1; “What! Do you suppose that I meant you to send me an account of gladiatorial matches, of postponements of trials, of robberies by Chrestus, and such things as, when I am at Rome, nobody ventures to retail to me?”) Hence, the whole passage may have nothing whatever to do with Christianity.

I don’t think that most of the people who parrot the names of these “extra-biblical, non-Christian sources” have actually looked at them, just as I hadn’t. This is not a good example to use in favor of Jesus.

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Thallus

If Suetonius was a sketchy source, this one is worse. This “reference” to Jesus is from a 9th century source working on a manuscript of a 3rd century commentary of Thallus’ writings about the supposed darkness referenced in the Bible after the crucifixion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness

“On the whole world there pressed a fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. Thallos calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun in the third book of histories, without reason it seems to me.” –Africanus, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Thallus

So, Africanus is commenting on, criticizing really, something supposedly said by Thallus from 200 years prior. Not to mention the name is spelled differently though that is easily explained away I know.

~~~~~

Pliny

Pliny the younger, I assume, was apparently a Roman lawyer and the only mention relevant seems to be:

“Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.” –Pliny, the Younger, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Pliny_the_Younger

This in no way confirms the existence of Jesus, it only confirms that there were Christians. This couldn’t even be used as evidence against a mythicism view of Jesus. I guess I have to concede that Christians do exist based on this source, but again I’ll say it doesn’t have anything to do with a halfling Jesus.

~~~~~

Trajan

So, Trajan was the Emperor of Rome from 98-117CE, he is who Pliny the Younger was writing to in the quote passage above so there isn’t much more to say about him that wasn’t said to Pliny. There is a passage of him replying to Pliny but it too is only about the treatment of Christians in legal matters, not about the veracity of their claims about Jesus being a god.

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Hadrian

Emperor from 117-138CE, after Trajan, his secretary happened to be Suetonius. Again, he doesn’t actually say anything to confirm the existence of Jesus. The only account I can find of him that is useful:

“I do not wish, therefore, that the matter should be passed by without examination, so that these men may neither be harassed, nor opportunity of malicious proceedings be offered to informers. If, therefore, the provincials can clearly evince their charges against the Christians, so as to answer before the tribunal, let them pursue this course only, but not by mere petitions, and mere outcries against the Christians. For it is far more proper, if anyone would bring an accusation, that you should examine it.” Hadrian further explained that if Christians were found guilty they should be judged “according to the heinousness of the crime.” If the accusers were only slandering the believers, then those who inaccurately made the charges were to be punished.” http://www.westarkchurchofchrist.org/library/extrabiblical.htm

All he is doing is speaking of the way to treat Christians based on their crimes not based on the fact that they are Christians. A noble quote, for sure, but not evidence for the existence, let alone godhood of Jesus.

A piece of evidence that would make an apologist not bring up Hadrian may be this:

“There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ.“ http://caesarsmessiah.com/blog/2011/11/hadrian-wrote-that-serapis-and-christ-were-the-same-god/

He wrote that Jesus and Serapis were the same god. Strange indeed. If you want Hadrian to be used as evidence that Jesus existed then we would have to also accept that Jesus and Serapis were the same deity.

~~~~~

Talmud

The Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical teachings, supposedly referencing Jesus’ death, the passage in question:

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!” –excerpt from the Talmud, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Talmud

One criticism states that Jesus was crucified, not hanged as the passage states, but I can explain that away by saying the hung him up on the cross. A better criticism is that the Bible recounts Jesus being tried and then executed the day after his trial which was either on or after Passover; no 40 day waiting period and not on the eve of Passover.

Matt 26:2-5 – Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified… …But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

The Bible says he was killed after the Passover; it seems more likely that this reference to an unnamed person who was hanged is someone else and the passage is just vague enough to be used for Jesus.

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Toledoth

I’ve never heard of this source before and in asking for clarification I get this response:

Well of course I have never read teledoth just know him as early historian who wrote about the life if Christ. Let me ask around about that pRticular resource though.

You are citing a source you don’t even know about? Please agree with me that this is fallacious thinking. Considering what I’ve come across I would bet that many people who cite these “sources” haven’t done the least bit of research on them either.

I searched for a source by this title and the only thing I could come up with was the Toledot Yeshu.

Ok, so yes you are right I think. That is the one that has been referenced for me. Have you read?

If this is the source you were speaking of I must confess that I am sure that you didn’t actually look at the sources you sent to me. Laughably I read about this so-called source; it is called an “anti-gospel” and a parody of the life of Jesus.

The stories claim that Jesus (Yeshu) was an illegitimate child, and that he practiced magic and heresy, seduced women, and died a shameful death.

Jewish and Christian scholars agree that isn’t worth discussing as fact.

This scurrilous fable of the life of Jesus is a medieval work, probably written down in the tenth century. …. Though its contents enjoyed a certain currency in the oral traditions of the Jewish masses, it was almost totally ignored by official or scholarly Judaism

I hope this isn’t a source that is seriously being sent around but I fear it is still being parroted to extend the list of so-called sources and evidence for the apologist arguments. In stark contrast to giving veracity to the claims of believers, giving sources like this is harmful to the discussion.

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Lucian

This is one that wasn’t in the original list given to me but I came across it and wanted to see what it had to say too. Perhaps you know of this one but have decided to leave it out because it isn’t good enough but that would mean you approved of the others that were so bad. The passage in question is:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.” –Lucian, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Lucian

The sarcasm or vitriol in this passage is thick. This isn’t an eyewitness account of either the “distinguished personage” or the death of the “sage”. The link says it was from ~120 after the death of Jesus. I can accept that this is speaking about Jesus but it doesn’t seem like anything more than someone talking about the Christians, he certainly doesn’t give them any credit in their beliefs by speaking about them as he does.

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I would like to comment that it seems funny that the names of the ‘extra-Biblical, non-Christian sources’ seem to be in the same order everywhere. The list that was given to me in the email exchange is the same order as the list on IronChariots and the same as I’ve heard numerous times, though it could just be me counting the hits.

If we accept most of the above as evidence enough that Jesus existed, the following points are made:

  • There was a Jew named Jesus who founded a religious movement
  • He was ordered executed by a Roman prefect named Pilate
  • His martyrdom is likely what fueled the growth of the movement

However, we have not made the points that:

  • The man had magic powers
  • The Biblical account is factual
  • The Bible is a reliable historical source
  • What people believe today is true
  • Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, and Toledot Yeshu are useful names to drop as extra-Biblical, non-Christian sources of Jesus related factoids.

If you are one of the people who has been giving the above as sources of confirmation of the claims of Jesus…

to-admit-that-you-were-wrong-is-to-declare-that-you-are-wiser-now-than-you-were-before2

This post is not to say that I am smarter than anyone else. I feel like I have openly investigated the sources and criticized them fairly. Please take the sarcasm in this post as friendly. Above all take the information in this post back to your circles and make sure people stop citing some of these sources as confirmation of the life of Jesus. Admitting that some of the sources aren’t useful doesn’t mean you are admitting that Jesus wasn’t god; it means you are intellectually honest with both yourself and others.

In re: 5 Reasons Anti-Mormon Arguments Are Totally Unconvincing

 

This is my response to a post on happiness-seekers.com I stumbled upon recently, it’s really long, sorry in advance. This particular post seemed to fit perfectly into a conversation I was having recently with a family member. Though this is specifically about Mormon stuff and our conversation wasn’t, I think the ideas are similar enough to apply to a broader topic. I will direct comments to this person using the single letter J.

Though I will be quoting much of the post, I urge you to read it without my commentary first. Perhaps you have comments about what they wrote or even what I will write, share it!

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
-J. Reuben Clark

Consider the following reasons that anti-Mormon arguments are not as convincing as they appear to be:

1. Negative Evidence Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Many intellectuals argue that “negative evidence” is supreme. To understand what they mean by this, consider the hypothesis that “all swans are white.” According to these intellectuals, it doesn’t matter how many white swans you find, you never really prove that “all” swans are white. However, as soon as you find one black swan, you have disproved the theory that “all swans are white.”

Except for the obvious sarcasm vitriol in the above quote, I agree with this explanation of ‘negative evidence’; I actually don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t.

In the face of unsettling information, they disregard all of the positive evidence because they think that a few points of negative evidence is sufficient to end the discussion. And given how logical the above reasoning seems to be, it is no wonder why.

Perhaps not enough to end the discussion, but surely enough to change the viewpoint of said discussion. We found a black swan so clearly and evidently the claim that ‘all swans are white’ is wrong.

J – I don’t know if you remember specifically when I talked about this very thing in our conversation. My quote: “Disproving a claim is more about providing enough evidence to make someone doubt the claim.”

The author continues by explaining that Uranus caused doubt in Newton’s laws of physics. I think in giving this example the author actually hurt themselves unwittingly. See, the fact that it caused even a ripple in the scientific community is confirmation that negative evidence is worthwhile when investigating a claim. If the scientific community hadn’t acknowledged the problem and kept investigating, first, we wouldn’t have found more planets so quickly, and second, we wouldn’t have discovered that Newton was correct.

So, as it turned out, it wasn’t that Newton’s laws of physics didn’t work. It was that they didn’t seem to work. And that’s because the astronomers simply didn’t have all the relevant information and context.

Yes, but if the orbit of Uranus had been that ‘black swan’ it would have called for massive changes in how we think about the laws of physics. Cosmologists didn’t explain Uranus away, as many LDS attempt to do with the problems with Joseph Smith or Noah’s Flood, they acknowledged the problematic evidence and discovered why it seemed problematic. They didn’t disregard the negative evidence, they faced it and it just so happened that it was still a good theory. Just because it turned out to not be the ‘black swan’ doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have doubted.

This example shows very clearly why negative evidence is far from supreme. You can dig up all sorts of facts about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but you will never know if you really have access to all the relevant context and perspectives.

If you think I would argue that the scientific community is always right and couldn’t be proved wrong, just look to Einstein’s theory of a static universe (there are many other theories that were proven untrue). Evidence to the contrary made the community change their “mind” about the theory. Negative evidence need only plant a seed of doubt, if the original claim can’t hold up then it needs to be abandoned.

I could give you a list of examples a mile long of incredibly disconcerting and persuasive arguments that have been made against the Church since its founding but have since been invalidated by new information.

Actual claims? YAY.

How many accounts against the Prophet turned out to be forgeries?

I don’t know, how many? hmm… The author doesn’t provide anything to back this up except a link to the church website about the forged documents of Mark Hofman.

This is a really, really bad example for the author to have used. Bruce R. McConkie said “There is no perfect operation of the power of discernment without revelation. Thereby even ‘the thoughts and intents of the heart’ are made known.” The church accepted the Hofman forgeries as true, their ‘discernment’ didn’t happen.

The fact that the documents were forgeries isn’t the ‘black swan’ the fact that the ‘discernment’ of the church didn’t show them the truth is. On the church’s website at the link the author used the church states, “The announcements and texts of some of these documents were published in Church periodicals, and the documents have been used in good faith since 1980 in manuals and discussions by leaders, teachers, and members of the Church. The following documents and their fraudulent contents should not be used, even though they may have appeared in previous Church publications.”

In addition to the Mark Hofman forgeries, there is also the Kinderhook Plates, the Book of Abraham, etc. These are the ‘black swan’ of the Mormon claim.

How many Book of Mormon animals and crops were supposedly nonexistent before European settlement, but in recent years were discovered to have ancient American date?

Ooh, I love anachronisms. And again, no examples, just an unanswered question and an unsupported claim. I won’t reproduce it fully but click the link for a list of BoM problems.

I think my favorite anachronism that the LDS camp thinks they have explained away is the horse, possibly mentioned as the “animals” in the author’s post. No evidence of horses has been found in the Americas from the supposed timeline of the Book of Mormon. The church has offered, basically, two responses: 1-the evidence hasn’t been found YET, and 2-the “horse” in the BoM wasn’t really a horse, possibly a “deer or tapir”.

thanks_for_nothing_battletapir

Ever hear about the Spaulding-Rigdon theory? Probably not. It used to be all the rage in the anti-Mormon community, but it’s now joined the long list of discredited claims against the Church.

Ooh, I actually liked this theory. A couple of things the author doesn’t mention is that it isn’t the only theory about the origination of the BoM and I really don’t think there is a “long list of discredited claims”, more a long list of claims the Church simply attempts to explain away, none of them very well I might add. The author doesn’t even link a single page to discredit this nor any other claim.

To be fair, there are certainly things about the Church and its history that continue to defy any honest attempt to explain.

Wow, I must say, I wouldn’t have expected someone to admit this. This is one of the reasons I chose to respond to this post. It is very honest. But then, he goes on to say:

But again, if we are sincere in our quest for truth, we will be very careful about how much weight we give negative evidences considering all the context we are potentially missing.

It is fallacious to keep a belief in light of contrary evidence simply because you assume more evidence will come to show your position to be true.

 

2. The Evidence in Favor of the Restoration Is Truly Extraordinary

Joseph Smith prophesied that he would be proven “a true prophet by circumstantial evidence.” Now, more than ever before, the evidence is mounting in Joseph’s favor.

Yeah, I really don’t think that’s true. There are more people leaving the Church now than ever before, at an ever-increasing rate even. One more thing, why “circumstantial evidence“? That isn’t the best kind of evidence as it can allow more than one explanation. I like to think that this is actually a sort of Freudian-slip. Direct evidence would be better as it doesn’t require support or inference.

And I don’t care if you think that the Book of Mormon was actually written by Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon or if you think that a 23 year old Joseph Smith was some kind of genius, you still can’t explain away what a feat the Book of Mormon would be if it truly was an invention.

Well, each of those could explain the BoM though I have any confidence in any of them. Don’t authors create new universes everyday? Aren’t universes expanded upon by new authors? Must we claim an author is a genius simply because they create a good piece of literature?

Authors create works of literature everyday. JK Rowling created the Harry Potter universe and as much as I like the universe I don’t think it took the efforts of a genius. Imagination and creativity abound when we are young and it’s not hard to see that people back then had an abundance of time that they couldn’t spend on tablets/computers/phones. It isn’t a far stretch to say that Joseph could have created the BoM whole cloth by himself, and it certainly doesn’t give him loads of credit.

The positive evidences may never “prove” that the Book of Mormon is true, but they can provide a strong justification to carefully and prayerfully study it.

Yes, as long as you poo-poo the negative evidence claims.

Since the evidences are so incredible and I want to do them a decent justice, I’ll have to take them up in a future article: The Surprising Evidences of the Book of Mormon.

As I don’t know what the author is going to specifically point to in the upcoming article, I’ll just have to wait for it to come out and then comment on it. But, wouldn’t this be more like the NdGT/B.O.B. flat-Earth argument if the evidences really were that “incredible”? Anyways, I won’t speculate at what these evidences may be so I’ll leave it open for another post too.

 

3. Anti-Mormon Arguments Are Like Conspiracy Theories

conspiracytheoriesBefore I get into what the author writes I simply will say that calling something a conspiracy theory doesn’t immediately invalidate it’s point, see theories that weren’t just conspiracy. We have to be careful to interpret these because we are talking about it in the past tense. Use your imagination or even your memory, if you’re old enough, to put yourself in the theory’s current time, think about it as the people from the present would have thought about it.

downloadAlso, it is a very good tactic to call those who don’t believe your claim conspiracy theorists in an attempt to throw them in a bad light. Yes, most theories are unfounded or at least very shaky. The evidences we are talking about against the claims of the Mormon church are much more solid, if they weren’t it would be more like the flat earth theory. You may not even be aware that there are people out there that say the Earth is flat, there are. The thing is that it isn’t even thought about as counter-evidence except by the most out-there people and certainly not debated daily.

Whatever proof or context the government provides to exonerate itself is simply dismissed because “of course, they’d say that” or “it’s just a government cover-up.” Most conspiracy theorists don’t recognize the problem with this, but imagine that you are accused of a crime and when you go to trial you aren’t allowed to defend yourself or bring witnesses in your defense.

Anti-Mormons get to present the facts (and half-truths and outright lies) in whatever manner they please, but when the Church releases context or LDS scholars present alternative views, anti-Mormons paint these attempts as worthy of dismissal since they come from “biased” sources.

This is true, the problem lies in the description of the ‘black swan’ from earlier. You can bring as much evidence to support your claim as you want but the evidence contrary to your claim must be weighted higher than supportive evidence. Saying you’ve found only white swans for 75 years is great evidence for your side, but a single contrary claim of a black swan one single time destroys your defense.

The thing that must be clear is that the black swan actually exists. Simply saying that I once saw a swan that wasn’t white isn’t enough to debase the claim, it should provide some doubt and lead to investigation, but more evidence would be required.

And doing so means that they are assuming their conclusion is true without actually caring about proving it to be true.

This is not true. Simple as that. I’ve explained why negative evidence is more important that positive so I won’t go at it again. Also, this very sentiment is used on the anti-mormon side about apologists calling any counter evidence “biased” and unworthy of belief.

Anti-Mormons attempt to undermine the credibility of Joseph Smith, the 11 witnesses, modern apostles etc., all so that it seems only natural to distrust the Church as a source.

Undermining the credibility of Joseph, the witnesses, the apostles, and the church is the reason there is negative evidence against the claims of the Mormon church.

“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.”
-Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith

Joseph was said to use a technique to “translate” the golden plates, he used the same technique, and possibly the same stone, to search for buried treasure and take people’s money and make money for himself.  The witnesses never actually saw the supposed golden plates with their “natural eyes”. The supposed witnesses weren’t actually witnesses at all. It seems so strange to me that there seems to be a direct negative correlation between the amount of miracles/revelation that happen and the amount of technology there is to document and investigate such. There hasn’t been any revelation by the modern apostles since the time of Joseph and Brigham Young. The church has only recently sought to face some of the claims against them in their essays. Many members of the church weren’t, and probably may not still be, aware that Joseph had as many wives as he did, or that he married a girl that was only 14. Some very prominent pieces of LDS art show Joseph seemingly reading and translating the golden plates while his own accounts say that he placed his head in a hat with a stone to have the translation revealed to him. While these may not be actively hidden or covered up facts, the church hasn’t been very open with these points.

“‘Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker Style & are quite general in Style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; comeing [sic] generally, near a thousand years.’ This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could ‘See’ whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see.”
-Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., in Journal of O.B. Huntingtonsix_foot_quaker_moon

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?… When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.”
-Prophet Brigham Young

“We will never get a man into space. This Earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it … The mood is a superior planet to the Earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.”
-Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith

The credibility of “revelation” to these so called prophets should be called into question after quotes like these.

If you want to see claims that are an awful lot like anti-Mormon arguments, look at this list of debunked claims that the Moon landing is really a hoax. The claims all seem to be very convincing, but when you dig a little deeper and talk to the people who actually know something about science, space, and NASA, you realize very quickly that the claims don’t hold much water.

The claims [of the LDS church] all seem to be very convincing, but when you dig a little deeper and talk to the people who actually know something about science, DNA, anthropology, archaeology, history, literature, and cult tactics, you realize very quickly that the claims don’t hold much water.

Wouldn’t an astronaut or film crew worker have spilled the truth by now?” are a lot like “Why did none of the 11 witnesses ever deny their testimony of seeing the gold plates, particularly when several of them became disaffected?”

There is some evidence that some of the witnesses recounted it as a hoax, particularly Oliver Cowdery, but I understand that those sources are concrete. Beyond that, there are many, MANY, people that we could talk to today that can tell a very realistic story of alien abuduction. The fact that they think it was a real experience doesn’t mean it actually was real. There are many people who believe something that no one else can corroborate and we put them away in asylums. I am okay with a group of early settlers agreeing that they “saw” some golden plates with their “spiritual eyes”, that doesn’t give their claim any more credit than Chris Namelka’s claim of translating the sealed portion of the BoM.

 

4. Anti-Mormon Literature Uses Deceptive Presentation Tricks

You see, the Church focuses on teaching the Gospel and the things that matter, while historical items that are unimportant, unedifying, or difficult to understand are often brushed over in the process.

Not presenting a part of your history that is directly connected to what you are talking about, simply because it doesn’t agree with or is contrary to what you are presenting is sneaky to say the least.

Why do some Mormons not know about Joseph Smith’s polygamy? Why does the church think that Smith’s polygamy is unimportant? Why don’t believers know that Joseph practiced polygamy in secret before and after the it was taught by the church? Yes, that information is unedifying but it is true and needs to be known. Joseph blackmailing a family into giving him permission to marry their 14 year old daughter isn’t “difficult to understand”, it’s damning information that the church wanted to keep covered up. What is difficult to understand is why there are so many accounts of the first vision.

The Church has responded to this by demonstrating that they have nothing to hide. They have released article after article discussing the biggest controversies, but placing them in context and providing a faithful perspective.

So, they’ve provided a bit more information that they hadn’t before but they still only share the parts that are ‘important’ or ‘edifying’, yeah that’s still sneaky.

The essays and the rebuttals to the essays are fun to read, if you’re bored.

Of course, you’ll never get the relevant context from John Dehlin and others.

That sounds a lot like something I read earlier…

…anti-Mormons paint these attempts as worthy of dismissal since they come from “biased” sources.

Dismissing information simply because it comes from a certain source is wrong on BOTH sides of an argument.

That makes no sense. And doing so means that they are assuming their conclusion is true without actually caring about proving it to be true.

This is kind of like the Trump v. Trump debate on Steven Colbert’s show recently.

What people have to understand is that while anti-Mormon literature is filled with many historical facts, they are often presented in a sinister light

Facts are facts. If there is something wrong with what happened it’s because there is something wrong with what happened, not with the presentation of the event. Just because something doesn’t mesh with what you believe doesn’t mean that thing is wrong, perhaps your belief is wrong.

An example of this is the way that some anti-Mormons will surprise their audience by revealing that Joseph Smith translated much of the Book of Mormon through means of a seer stone, instead of mainly translating through the urim and thummim as most members imagine.

I would rather go to the marriage to a 14 YEAR OLD GIRL, but to each his own, this is a good example too.

There’s really nothing more strange about using a seer stone to translate than ancient spectacles…

Another thing we agree on. They are both ridiculous.

…however, anti-Mormons describe the events in a way that makes Joseph sound like a lunatic peering into a hat. They also make it seem as though the Church is trying to keep this information secret (it’s actually on the Church website).

No, it’s usually described in a way that makes the church sound like a liar since they like to concentrate on the urim and thummim.

In addition to manipulating information that few members know about, anti-Mormons also talk about things that happened two hundred years ago that are difficult to understand from a modern perspective. Without putting ourselves in their shoes and understanding all of the facts of the day, things that aren’t really that big of a deal suddenly appear to be very important pieces of negative evidence.

I really wish the author had given a specific example of something that is misunderstood because “the times they are a changin'” but nothing. Maybe something like slavery in the Bible? We know it’s wrong now but back then they didn’t, even though they had rules set down by their deity to tell them how to live somehow ‘Thou shalt not own another human being as property’ didn’t make the cut.

 

5. A Spiritual Witness Is a Really Good Reason to “doubt your doubts”

The real reason that I believe in Christ and in the Restored Church is because of the spiritual experiences I have had. Human reason is limited. Pure and simple.

Personal experience is not a good thing to go by. UFO sightings, speaking to god, having magical powers, ESP, these are all things people claim to have by personal experience but that most people simply dismiss.

Whatever atheists tell you, they have to exercise faith too.

Another claim without backing information.

There are just so many things that are unknowable and that is why personal revelation is so important.

So, you know something that is unknowable?

So, when you experience personal revelation confirming the existence of God, Christ’s love for humankind, the Book of Mormon’s veracity, and Joseph Smith’s sacred calling, it only makes sense that this would be an overpowering piece of evidence. It may be evidence that no one else can understand, but it is evidence, and it is certainly logical to draw conclusions from it.

Thoughts, memories, emotions, senses, etc, can all be fooled. Our personal experiences should not be used as “overpowering” pieces of evidence for that simple fact. You could be wrong. That is why the scientific model is set up around confirmation by alternate sources and even alternate methods. A single scientist would never say his experiment is the most correct and claim all others were wrong if they gave a different answer.

We don’t believe someone who says they have magic powers because this one time they told the traffic light to change to green and it did. My daughter might believe that but that’s because she doesn’t know any better yet.

And after many weeks of effort, praying and studying for hours each day, I had experiences that witnessed to me the truth I had been seeking.

Isn’t that begging the question?127024-126515

I challenge you to discover it. Just remember that half-hearted scripture study here and there doesn’t cut it. God expects more from us

Believe in god and in the Mormon scripture so you can study the scriptures and come to believe in god and in the Mormon scriptures….

Yep, that’s a circular argument.

 

Why You Should Consider Sharing This Article:

More people than you may be aware are struggling with the flood of information and arguments made against the Church. You used to have to seek it out, but now it finds itself in your pocket by virtue of social media and the internet more generally.

Consider sharing both of our articles to show that arguments made by the church and it’s apologists aren’t unapproachable. Looking at the evidence against the church doesn’t immediately make you biased. It doesn’t immediately mean you are completely and utterly against the church. It doesn’t mean that you can never agree with the church about anything, ever. It doesn’t mean that everything in church history is wrong.

I am against the church and its teachings but I hope I have conveyed impartiality in my providing links to both sides of the debate. J – if you made it this far, wow, -Dismissing the evidence provided simply because a source seems biased is wrong. The church has explanations for some events that I am okay with accepting but there are still more that they can’t explain away.

Also, I don’t have that many readers and would love some feedback about my writing.

 

 

Myth Math

Noah’s Ark is likely one of the biggest stories from the Bible. In this post I want to show that it just isn’t likely to have happened, and perhaps just couldn’t be possible.

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
-Genesis 7:17-20

So, we have a few very good math problems ahead of us. Not only are they just math, they aren’t even that complicated of a problem. Before we begin I will lay out the parts of the problem that are similar to each version.

First, the size of the Earth. NASA (clicky click) states that the volume of the Earth is 108.321 x 10^10 km³. These are big numbers, but I have all the room I need, it’s my blog. The average radius, the mean of the equatorial and polar radii, is:

(6378.1 km + 6356.8 km ) / 2 = 6367.45 km

That is the radius we will use to find the volume of the Earth and compare it to what NASA gave us.

V = 4/3 π r³
V = 4/3 * 3.14 * 6367.45 km³
V = 1.33 * 3.14 * 258164563961 km³
V = 1078146900000 km³
V = 1.0781469 x 10^12 km³

NASA reports the volume of the Earth to be 108.321 x 10^10 km³. I’d say a difference of 500 km is close enough, yay us!

15 Cubits Flood

So the text states that the waters went up 15 cubits. That is the first measurement we are going to work with. I am going to do the math to see how much water would be required to raise the sea level 15 cubits. But, how big is a cubit?

 

cubit-manBecause I want to give as much leniency to the story as possible I went to the group that takes the story most literally, Answers in Genesis.

They state that the cubit could range from 17.5 to 20.6 inches. I think the best bet for this problem is to take a middle point between the two.

(17.5 + 20.6) / 2 = our cubit
19.05″ = 1 cubit

15 cubits = 19.05 * 15
15 cubits = 285.75″
285.75″ = 23.8′

That doesn’t seem like a flood to me and it certainly doesn’t seem like it would cover the mountains. We are going to go with this measurement first.

So to find out the volume of water we simply find the volume of the Earth during the flood and take away the volume of the Earth. The 15 cubit flood raised the water level 23.8 feet so we add that to the mean radius we found earlier, a difference of only 0.00011%.

23.8′ + 6367.45 km = intra-flood radius
23.8′ = 0.00725424 km
0.00725424 + 6367.45 = 6367.45725424 km radius

If we then plug that radius into the equation to find volume during the flood, V(f):

V = 4/3 π r³
V(f) = 4/3 * 3.14 * (6367.45725424 km)³
V(f) = 1.33 * 3.14 * 258165446319.04806285631451844903 km³
V(f) = 1078150536917.6085 km³
V(f) = 1080852668589.0812231584367839066 km³

Then subtract the volume of the Earth, V,  from V(f) to find the volume of the water, V(w).

V(f) – V = V(w)
1080852668589.0812231584367839066 km³ – 1.0781469 x 10^12 km³ = V(w)
2705768589.0812231584367839065848 km³ = V(w)

That’s a really hard number to imagine, at least for me it is. Let’s make that volume into a sphere and see how it shapes up (I know it’s a bad/good pun however you see puns). If we take that volume and place it into the equation to find volume and work backwards we can find the radius of a sphere of water, r(w).

V = 4/3 π r³
r = ((3V)/(4π))^(1/3)
r = 0.62035 * V ^1/3
r(w) = 1188.4360369823730308866574874648 km
r(w) = 738.5 miles

That’s it. A sphere of water with a diameter of >1400 miles would be needed to raise the sea level to just 15 cubits. You know what else is about 1400 miles in diameter?

SLw0NlC

That’s right, a ball of water the size of Pluto would be needed to raise the sea level just 15 cubits. Like I said above though that’s only 23.8 feet of water, nowhere near covering the high hills or mountains.

Maybe we didn’t go by the Bible well enough. It does say “…and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.”

“and the mountains were covered” Flood

The tallest mountain we know is Mt. Everest at 29,029′ above sea level. If we change our math enough to cover it, not even counting going over it by 15 cubits, how much water would be needed then?

We are going to add 29,029′ to the radius of the Earth from above. Because water levels itself it would need to be at this level around the entire planet to cover any part of it. If you hold that the Earth was covered by a layer of water 15 cubits deep like a film over all the mountains and hill then I can’t do anything for you, that’s ridiculous (and I’m the one doing math to figure out Noah’s flood).

The radius of the Earth from earlier plus the added distance to the top of Mt. Everest:

r = 6367.45 km + 29,029 ft
r = 6376.2980392 km

An addition of just 0.1389%. If we then use that in the volume formulas from above we get the volume during the flood (I cut out the math but you are welcome to check for accuracy):

V(f) = 1085360995411.5541311496090510458 km³

To find the volume of the water, V(w):

V(w) = V(f) – V
V(w) = 7214100000 km³

Now, let’s find the radius of the sphere of water that would be required for that volume:

r = 0.62035 * V ^1/3
r = 1198.6641207880081840568342435861 km
r = 744.8 miles , d = 1490 miles

Isn’t that interesting? I know I am shocked. It’s less than 100 miles difference. That being said, that amount of water is staggering. Where did it come from and where did it go. Those are the big questions.

I know immediately the believer would bring up:

…all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
-Genesis 7:11

There just isn’t that much water underground, nor in the clouds, nor in the ice caps, nor in all of those combined. According to the USGS, all combined, there is about 1409560910 km³ of water on the Earth. That’s about 20% of the water needed to cover the Earth above the mountains.

Another theory I remember hearing is that the water came from an asteroid or some such object. Like we found the object would need to be nearly the size of Pluto to contain enough water, and that still leaves the question of where the water went after the genocide was complete.

The water couldn’t have been absorbed into the planet. Our planet is powered by a magmatic engine that would solidify if cooled by water. Without the core spinning we lose both our magnetic cover and our atmosphere.

It simply didn’t happen. I’m sorry if you can’t accept this point, but I feel like I have shown very clearly that the evidence just isn’t there to accept your claim of a global flood.

Well, that’s it. That was actually fun for me. I messed up the math in a few places because of the exponents and units but I feel this final post is error free. If you disagree with the math I urge you to do it for yourself and see that the only way Noah’s Ark would have actually happened is by magic. Be truthful to yourself and align your beliefs with those things that are provable. And let’s not even get started on the animals.

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Accountability

It is nearing…

I know no one reads this except me. I’ve accepted that. Just as Dumbledore needed his pensieve, I need this blog.

I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.
-Albus Dumbledore

Eight years old is considered the “age of accountability” in the LDS church. I suppose that means I have to bring up my apostasy again. I don’t know if it will renew the fights that have been known to occur when I bring up the church but I hope it won’t.

Baptism.png

I haven’t ever said anything (that I know of) about the girls being taken to church. They have gone both to LDS services and different Christian churches with family members, though I think I could count the number of times on one hand. This seems to be a different issue though. Should I allow her to be baptized into a church that she knows nothing about? Is there even going to be any push-back from the other side? Will I have to fight for my stance? Hopefully all three of these answers are no.

I’ve been online and reading through the thought processes of other people who have gone through this. Some say to be the man that baptizes your kid while others say to take a stand and make the decision wait until it is fully understood by the child. While each side is going to work for some family I haven’t wavered from what I thought I would do before I read all the stories. I am completely unable to do the first as I have renounced my membership and faith in the LDS church, but that doesn’t have any affect on my thoughts.

The fact is that I won’t agree to Sariah, and Sophia in a few years, being baptized into the church at eight. I am steadfast in my position that they won’t be taken “into the fold” until they choose to associate with the church.

Since I’m bringing up the theism stuff again I think I will take this time to share a podcast that I’ve been listening to lately. Unequally Yoked is a show of a couple talking to each other about their beliefs and their journey to where their family is now. I know I haven’t been this open in my relationships and use this blog to get what I need out of my head.

600x600bb-85

Naomi is LDS and Neal is an atheist. I enjoy their open and honest discussion and am actually envious of it. I haven’t listened to it yet but one of their children is coming up to eight years old and is the first to do so since Neal renounced his faith. I hope to hear their discussion on the topic but I don’t feel that it will change my position on the topic.

I have tried to stay away from religion since the fighting and distancing of family members, as part of that I don’t know where some people stand. I guess it will all come out soon. In reference to that, I’ve been reading about and listening to something called Street Epistemology, another post to follow at some point.

 

A Response to a Blog’s Response to a Blog’s Response to a Meme

I don’t know how I did it but I came upon an almost year old post by an old acquaintance which happened to be a response to this post by an unacquainted third-party. This is my response to each in turn. My initial comments are directed at the unacquainted one or to anyone who holds similar views. Just in case the links don’t work I’ve posted them below.

Original Post: http://brianhblack.blogspot.com/2014/04/an-honest-concern.html?spref=bl

Witzlaw’s Response: http://blog.witzlaw.com/2014/04/reblog-raised-brow-tech-honest-concern.html

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I was brought to your blog randomly (and, yes, a year late) but I must make a few comments about what you have written. I am admittedly much less pithy with my comments than you and for that I’m sorry. First and foremost about this meme and the following quote:

i-think-that-svg4go

“What leaves me laying awake at night is that people can force repercussions on someone for their beliefs, totally contradicting the first Amendment of the Constitution.”

In reading this quote I am forced to assume that you aren’t aware that the Constitution is a restriction on the actions of the government only. The Bill of Rights offers specific protections of individual liberty and justice and place restrictions on the powers of government. The Freedom of Speech says only that you can’t be prosecuted by the government for your speech, it says nothing about the backlash you can receive from its citizens.

The Free Exercise Clause guarantees a person’s right to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to freely exercise that belief. Since when did exercising a belief mean that someone else couldn’t have the same rights as you? Your belief is that homosexuality is wrong and you shouldn’t marry someone of the same gender, the free exercise of your belief isn’t being hindered; Believe it, but you can’t force your belief system on everyone else. The only way your right to free exercise would be dampened would be if the government said that you could only marry someone of the same gender (just so you know, I would be against that position as strongly as I am against yours). Being unable to force everyone to follow your belief system isn’t persecution.

“I understand the hate, the fact that we are closing an option for them.”

I don’t think you understand the hate completely. Most of the ire that is directed at the religious is based on the religious person’s stance that their belief is more important than everyone having the same rights. Believing, in your head or heart, that a homosexual person is sinning is very much different from taking actions against that person. Whether it be refusing service or publicly harassing/demeaning them.

I wonder what your position on race relations is. Some very similar statements to those you are making about sexuality were not too long ago made about race. I’m not saying that you are a racist, I want you to think about how hard people fought against desegregation and interracial marriage and now it isn’t even a thought in our mind (most of us at least). Marriage equality will be accepted in the future, don’t be one of those protesters everyone sees pictures of in the history books!

imagine-how-stupid-you-are-going-to-look-in-40-years

“Three years of late night programming and frustration may go to waste if employers start to reject potential leaders on the basis of what they believe.”

“As soon as someone takes a stance against gay marriage, you may as well quit your job.”

This could very well have been a legitimate fear decades ago but there are restrictions (laws) put in place to keep an individual safe from faith-based discrimination in the work place. Thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you can not lose your job because of your faith/belief; religion is a protected class. You can however lose your job if your actions bring the company into a negative light. It is then no longer about your faith, it is about your actions. In most jobs you are acting as an extension of the company and as such you are acting as that company, quite like in John 15:2, if you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to you get cut out. Religious belief has very little to do with most careers and shouldn’t even be brought up, especially yours unless you are currently coding for some church.

“It is an opinion and a belief that I hold to be true from God Almighty. It won’t affect how I work in a position at a company.”

What if your company was contracted to program something for a gay person? Would it then affect (it’s affect, by the way) your work? If not, good for you! I hope it wouldn’t, as it very well shouldn’t. What if you said you couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work because of that belief, do you think you should be kept on at that company? How could your belief that you personally shouldn’t be homosexual or marry someone of the same gender have ANY impact on the quality of work you would/could do for a client? Why would their sexuality even come into play/question?

Hopefully you say ‘it doesn’t, it wouldn’t affect my work’, again I say kudos, why then would their being able to get married possibly affect your belief system?funny-protest-signs-7

It is well-known, perhaps more so than Mormons against gays, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are bound to not receive into their body that which isn’t from their body; most notably no blood transfusions. This is a religious belief that they hold dear and will fight to be able to keep, but what is different in this scenario is that they aren’t out in the public arena denigrating those people who have had a transfusion, they aren’t attempting to pass legislation to make it illegal for people who don’t hold the belief to abide by it, they aren’t screaming “persecution” because someone disagrees with them.

Those who want to ban marriage equality must admit that it isn’t about their beliefs being attacked, it’s about attempting to make everyone see things the way they do. Why not hold your belief about homosexuality like the JWs hold their belief about transfusions; Think it’s wrong, don’t do it yourself, but it’s none of your damn business if someone else does it as long as they aren’t forcing you to do it.

Lastly, and possibly annoyingly, you could do with some spell and grammar check, specifically, change the “effect my carrier” to ‘affect my career’ as I assume that’s what was meant.

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And now I switch my commentary to Witzlaw’s post.

 I don’t see this as being very far removed from posting the Family Proclamation (which, incidentally, I’m going to do here), in a public forum, such as my own timeline on Facebook, in my own blog, or over on Twitter.

Actually, it is a bit different. You aren’t the CEO of an internationally recognized company. Also a financial contribution (however small compared to his salary) is a bit more meaningful and has more grip than posting the Proclamation to your personal Facebook wall. What’s that saying… “Actions speak louder than words”.84a3296e2686be248e9d22a6babe8d0e

The last General Conference was, I thought, pretty emphatic about the need to respect others, but doing so does not require that one adopts the views or orthodoxy of the person(s) with whom you disagree. In my mind, it means that one acknowledges the differences, agrees to disagree on those points, and then move on.

This is the best thing I’ve seen you write but I wonder if you see any hypocrisy. In not simply holding your belief but attempting to make marriage equality illegal the protesters are trying to make everyone “adopt the view” that homosexuality is wrong. I said it above and I’m sure you read it but I’ll ask again; Why not be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses are with transfusion? Respect and “acknowledge the differences”, “agree to disagree”, don’t require others to adopt your view, and “move on”.

I don’t know much about you Sander but I think you are in law, as part of that I assume that you very well know the laws about the EEOC and protected classes. I must confess that I was a little stunned that you didn’t say anything about these things when you responded. At the very least you could have reassured this person that their job wasn’t in limbo.

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 I will leave you with a quote routinely attributed to Paul Mattingly (I know it isn’t actually his, it’s a joke from the Ice Cream Social Podcast).

“You have the right to be offended, you don’t have the right to not be offended.”

Sacred Temple Clothing, a video review

Many people would say that my treatment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been unfair but I maintain that it is truthful. I do not see criticism as disrespectful or insensitive, nothing is above critique. I am completely opposed to Elder Packer who is quoted as saying:

“I have a hard time with historians… because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.”

Once again the church has put itself out there by producing something undoubtedly directed at its critics. Like the recent essays on LDS.org (see the links below), the video below is set to face a pivotal part of the LDS faith, Sacred Temple Clothing. (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/temple-garments)

Like many other videos from the church, this one is produced very well. It explains the garments fairly well and takes away some of the secrecy that has surrounded them for the nearly 180 years since Joseph Smith, Jr introduced them. First, I must point out a few parts of the video that need to be examined beyond a cursory glance at the video. Just a fun part to point out is the guy at 0:50 and how enthused he is at holding a plate to catch crumbs during a Catholic sacrament.

Twice, the video shows or speaks of Buddhists when referring to a religious garments being worn to “show their inner most devotion to god” at 0:41 and again at 1:30. Though they do wear certain garments, a distinction must be made when Buddhists come into the conversation. The video states that “the saffron robes of the Buddhist monk” (1:30) are worn as a “devotion to god” but this is a mistake, mainly because Buddhism isn’t devoted to divinity, the Buddhist doesn’t believe in a god.

Was the Buddha a God?
He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.(http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm)

Explaining the robes:

The robes serve not just as a kind of uniform to remind the wearer that he or she is a member of a larger universal community…Above all, they remind the wearer that he or she has committed him or herself to high spiritual ideals — to master the Dharma, liberate oneself and show others the Way. (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/robe_txt.htm)

Continuing in the video, at 3:20:

“There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of good will.”

It is true that many sources from the church state that the protection afforded to the saints who wear their garments is merely a spiritual protection.

When you wear it properly, it provides protection against temptation and evil. (LDS Manual, True to the Faith, p.173)

But, then there are the ‘stories’.

Some Mormon lore also invests the garments with a power to protect — there are stories about people who got through car wrecks, floods and other calamities unscathed, and thanked the godly power of the underwear. (Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/26/AR2007122600781_pf.html)

Beyond this article, which tried (just as the video above) to demystify the garments, even the leaders of the church itself speak of the powers of the garments.

Though generally I think our protection is a mental, spiritual, moral one, yet I am convinced that there could be and undoubtedly have been many cases where there has been, through faith, an actual physical protection, so we must not minimize that possibility” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 539)

In his book about the history of Mormon temple worship, David John Buerger wrote:

“Early on, the garments were seen as protecting those who wore them. This idea was underscored by the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the jail at Carthage, Illinois. Neither Joseph, Hyrum, nor John Taylor had been wearing his garment. Willard Richards, who had, escaped unscathed in the attack.” (The Mysteries of Godliness, 146)

Buerger cites several early LDS sources that confirmed and propagated the belief that Willard Richards was spared injury or death at Carthage because he was wearing his garments.

With the prophet, the highest power on earth (from the point of view of the LDS obviously), speaking of “actual physical protection” and stories like that of Willard Richards it isn’t hard to imagine why people outside of the faith would designate them as “magical” when the stories abound within LDS lore of the power they have; not just a power to resist urges or remind one of their covenants.

Hank Stuever, of the Washington Post, recounts a story of an encounter with a member of the LDS church ending with Stuever asking the man if he was wearing his garments.

“That’s a rude question,” he said, and grew quiet. Well, I told him, I had to ask. The Mormons welcomed the world, after all, and showed us what they’re all about. Showed us almost everything. (Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/26/AR2007122600781_pf.html)

Almost. After watching this video (more than a few times I’ll tell you) I was left wanting more. The video made no mention of the veil for women nor of the symbols on the garments.

Also at 3:20, the video shows a woman selecting garments and then a set is laid out on a table for showing. Strangely and very clearly both at 3:20 and at 1:55/2:10 it doesn’t ever show the veil that women are made to wear during parts of the secret sacred ceremony. The only remark that could be seen to reference this is in the statement “men and women wear similar clothing” at 2:22.

Another item that isn’t mentioned in the video are the symbols that are part of the garments. The compass, the square, the slit on the knee all representations of potentially good qualities but unrecognized in this video. To say they weren’t mentioned because they aren’t particularly interesting is in itself intriguing. The church has strict rules to follow when discarding garments.

To dispose of worn-out temple garments, members should cut out and destroy the marks. Members then cut up the remaining fabric so it cannot be identified as a garment. Once the marks are removed, the fabric is not considered sacred. (https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/selected-church-policies?lang=eng)

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In the end, the video is well made and informative if not lacking in certain points. Many of you know that I was a member of the church but never went so far as to get into the temple. How then do I know so much about the goings-on? The internet! I will end here but below this will be a set of links that anyone who watched the above video from the LDS should check out. The above video was produced, edited, scripted, and set out to very carefully give certain information. Don’t stop there!

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Google is your friend.

Wikileaks,

YouTube,

MormonThink,

and many others will give you ALL of the information.

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Click here for a video of the actual temple ceremony.

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Essays from LDS.org / MormonThink.com

First Vision Account – LDS/MT

Race and the Priesthood – LDS / MT

Polygamy – LDS/MT

Translation of the BoM – LDS / MT

Book of Abraham – LDS / MT

BoM vs. DNA – LDS / MT

Christian or Not – LDS / MT

Violence in the Church – LDS / MT

Deification – LDS / MT

Women and the Church – LDS / MT – Not out yet.

What the 15-million statistic of Mormon church membership really means

The Irresistible (Dis)Grace

The post that I am responding to really doesn’t centralize the size of the church at all — it is really a quite thoughtful (though I disagree with much of it), lengthy discussion of the roles and purposes of marriage (especially in light of the recent legal decisions that have made same sex marriage a reality in Utah). I apologize from the start for doing such a disservice to James here for referring to such a tangential matter here, but I just wanted to talk about how one casually mentioned statistic really derailed the rest of the article for me.

First, the article: Three Reflections on Same-Sex Marriage in Utah.

Second, the part I found problematic:

Now, I am not saying a state government couldn’t choose to encourage the formation of such “extended nuclear families.” But it seems clear to me that Judge Shelby’s assertion that same-sex marriage will…

View original post 820 more words

In re: In re:

I know the title sucks but sorry I couldn’t come up with something right now. Basically this post is a rebuttal post to Witzlaw at Blogger. Obviously I’d like you to read his first as mine is merely a rebuttal of his statements. Its long, I’m sorry, but it is needed. There are many misconceptions and errors in the blogger post I hope to confront and correct.

http://blog.witzlaw.com/2014/01/in-re-faith-versus-atheism.html

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By the definitions set in this post I would be considered an agnostic, but these definitions are not the generally accepted ones. First and foremost atheist and agnostic are not mutually exclusive. Agnostic and Gnostic are mutually exclusive; Theist and Atheist are mutually exclusive. Actually if you want to be nit-picky we are all atheists about the vast majority of the gods that have ever existed (or said to have existed), I just go a few more. A Venn diagram or Punnett square are the best ways to look at these terms.

Most atheists classify themselves as agnostic atheists. One who doesn’t believe that a god exists because they don’t ‘know’ and would change their belief if the evidence supported any god, while most theists claim to be gnostic theists claiming they know that god exists. Someone claiming to be a gnostic atheist is simply untruthful or mistaken on the terms. Similarly a theists claiming to be gnostic is likely mistaken or untruthful. I offer that we are all agnostic.

More directly this post says Atheists “are those who firmly adopt a belief system in which god does not exist, and where there is not even a possibility of such existence.” This is the most blatant exaggeration of the atheistic stance I have ever seen and you need to know that for the vast majority this is not the case. In fact later in his post the author states that atheists are lead by truth, this statement does not correlate with that. This statement about all atheists is akin to if I went around spouting that all Mormons are polygamists. Mine, like most others, is a position that there is not enough evidence to support belief in this particular god and the claims thereof. If evidence surfaced that supported a god claim, and the evidence was sufficient enough, I and most others would change obviously to gnostics but also to theists.

You may be weary of what I have said and retort that some atheists would be hard headed enough to still reject god even after the evidence surfaced and I agree, some would. Have you ever heard of the geocentric theory of our solar system or that our planet is a sphere (an oblete spheroid actually)? There is an abundance of evidence for each of these theories and they are readily accepted as fact but unbelievably there are people who deny them. The Flat Earth Society is the largest.

Objective and Subjective are fairly well defined but the examples given are not the best. Yes a snowball is objective; the cold, the texture, the taste even, but in criminal trials we allow objective evidence but he makes no mention that we also, faultily, allow subjective evidence. Eyewitness testimony is a subjective thing. It is what that person thinks they saw. It has been shown that eyewitness testimony can be faulty and lead to bad results. If you’ve ever seen the show Mind Games you know a bit about what I am talking about.

The example of pain as a subjective thing is not the best. Pain can be examined with scientific instruments and tests. When the body is in pain it changes the brain chemistry and electrical waves. Endorphins are released and a reaction to the pain can be examined. A better example of subjective evidence is, noted later, prayer. Spiritual is a sub category of subjective evidence only.

“I would also submit that answers to prayers are repeatable under the right conditions.” This is a strong statement that has ZERO backing. The answers to prayers are subjective at best. The ability for answers to be repeatably given has never been shown to be true. The conditions given are basically ‘if you believe you are going to get the same answer you will’.

Inference is logic. We must approach logic arguments with care because you can infer truth from another statement but only if the truth is the basis for the argument. He knew his friend had more than enough drinks but what if those drinks weren’t alcoholic? You can have an internally consistent argument that is based on false information.

Why is Webster ok to define agnostic but not faith? I must point out that the majority of the world doesn’t go to Alma for their definitions. Just because this single definition fits his personal need for a definition and that makes it the best for the situation is ridiculous; Webster’s definition is clearly the best.

This idea that saying there is no proof means that there can be no proof is beyond absurd. That is not what the definition says! There is no current proof of what gives matter it’s mass but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any proof to be found. At one time there was no proof that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe but that didn’t mean we would never find any (we did by the way and we found out earth wasn’t in fact at the center of anything).

It’s strange that a theist would liken the argument for his god to the tooth fairy, but since it was laid out I will talk about it. He says the child’s belief in the tooth fairy wouldn’t be called faith by this definition but again this is wrong. The tooth fairy is taken on faith by the child the first time until the money appears, then it is considered, faultily I’ll admit, an objective belief. Of course we all know that the entire system of the tooth fairy is set up to deceive the child and they are not faulted for their belief in such myths. The money is given as evidence and the child infers that the tooth fairy is real; remember an inference, or logical argument, can lead to a faulty answer if based on false information.

Again this post restates that having faith means you can never find evidence to validate your point.

Amazingly, the statement, “I would infer that even the most outspoken among them would say that their one guiding principle is the truth,” is one of the best in this entire post. That is the most truthful statement he has made, in fact one of the most out spoken atheists Matt Dillahunty is credited with saying, “I want to believe as many true things as I can and as few false things as I can.” We don’t know absolutely that mermaids don’t exist but we don’t believe until it’s disproven; we don’t believe until it is proven. This is the position of the atheist/agnostic

But on to the main point….

He is correct in stating that Korihor’s statement is similar to what would be said by atheists today because HE WAS AN ATHEIST! Korihor didn’t believe in god and told people about it. Why would this be such a revelation?

“…even the concept of experience seems to be constrained by the need for objectivity, repeatability, and verification.” YES! If you assume that a single experience you had yourself was truth you would likely be flawed. We have experiences everyday that show our senses can be mistaken. Repeatability and verification are extremely important. You see a shadow on the wall or hear a sound in another room; you don’t instantly think someone is in your house. You look around for what could have made the shadow or sound and attempt to recreate it usually to satisfy curiosity and imagination.

Korihor and today’s atheists do not think anyone can look into the future and know of future events. Harold Camping prophesied of the end of the world many times and after each failed prophecy followers dwindled. You likely didn’t believe any of his prophecies and you had the attitude of Korihor when it came to Mr. Camping.

Korihor “characterizes the interaction between god and man as indicative of a form of mental illness.” More and more, lately, the news has had to report on scenes of gruesome death/murder based on religious belief. A Phoenix man takes an axe to his son because he thinks he has a demon inside him. A woman drowns her children in the bath because god told her to. Daily in the Middle East religion is used as the basis for murder. Maybe Korihor was on the right path.

Atheists are not an organization of people who have to think the exact same like religion. There are those who like to ridicule those who have a faith in god, but over all atheists do in fact believe that faith in god is faulty thinking. Publicity of criticism of religion can go too far sometimes but it is the best way to get the message out sometimes. You don’t believe in unicorns but you likely don’t disbelieve them at the same amount as I do. You may think that even entertaining the thought of unicorns is laughable while I think it is possible however improbable. If you wanted to tell other people about my beliefs you would say it was laughable that I believe and that it is ridiculous.

I think this next paragraph is very telling of many religious people. “…but I can also assure you that my own views will not change.” This is not the stance of most atheists but it is the stance of most theists. An atheist will change his/her views in accordance with the evidence. The closed mindedness of this and many other theists is harmful to our world as a whole.

“First, atheism’s emphasis upon the purely objective and the scientific is inconsistent with how even much of secular society operates.”

The rambling of this post is hard to read but it basically states that subjective evidences is used in society sometimes. Yes, it must be. Subjective evidence is used and it just can’t be avoided. The only thing the author doesn’t mention is that the decisions made based on the subjective evidence are relatively meaningless compared to those that are made based on the objective evidence. Guilty or not is based mostly on objective evidence while the sentence or pain and suffering payment is based on the subjective. Who to market to is likely based on objective evidence (who buys the product, who watches tv at this time, who listens to the radio in the car) but whether to use cats or dogs in the commercial is subjective. The subjective evidence is not being used to decide the fate of the world, as well it shouldn’t be.

“Second, atheism’s emphasis upon the objective and the scientific—even to some extent its emphasis on experience—is also inconsistent with how individuals naturally operate, even when decisions are made outside the realm of religion or spirituality.”

Talents are hard to explain. In fact I can not explain them properly, I doubt you can either, but that isn’t evidence of god. Intuition is similar but I have the distinct feeling that intuition is based in our brains on personal experience. The examples given about a manager hiring someone or a cop talking to a particular suspect may very well be some good examples. What about that manager who hired someone who turned out to be a thief and stole from the company? What about that suspect who had enough time to get away because a cop went to interrogate someone else first? The manager and cop made these decisions based on intuition and ‘gut feelings’ too but they turned out to be wrong. I’ve bought a different kind of toilet paper because of a gut feeling but I have since gone back to my trusty Angel Soft. Experience is a type of scientific inquiry, however informal we use the scientific method within our own heads everyday. Look at a child who has had no formal science education and you can see them decide to put something in their mouth, it tastes bad, they see something similar they decide to not try that one because of their experience with the last one.

Our brains are not very well understood yet. Growing up we are confronted with millions of stimuli that affect us is unknown ways. A particular font or color on a sign that at the time you didn’t notice but your brain made note of it. If in that same instance you had something bad happen to you, your brain would likely have connected the two items and caused a ‘gut feeling’ later in life for some unknown reason.

“Third, atheism, as a philosophy, discounts the fact that scientific knowledge is itself very limited and finite.”

“the very best we can do—when left to our own devices, is to make an entire series of inferences and extrapolations to form models.” Yes, we do, that’s called science. The models and inferences are based on very basic mathematical facts and just like the logical arguments above are only as good as the information fed into them. Scientists know this and are careful that the information is as correct as possible. This is why the peer review process is so important in the scientific community. One person doesn’t just say ‘this is how it works’ and everyone believes them; someone says that and everyone tries to disprove it. In addition to the models science is very open about the facts that theories and models degrade at some points and our current understanding just doesn’t work. That is why they keep going!

The author quotes Korihor again but now he agrees with him. “You cannot know of things that you do see.” I must disagree with the both of them. Inferences can be made to gain the knowledge of something I didn’t physically see. The entire field of forensics is based on this fact. The author takes Korihor’s statement and ‘runs with it’ but he just runs off a cliff of misunderstanding. Science holds theories about planetary formation, stellar formation, the origin of life, and evolution; yes, but they are not held so dear that they can never be overturned. Through his rant, the author, has missed one or two points that would go well with his argument: Were you around when Joseph Smith found the golden plates? Were you around when Mormon/God/Jesus/Evil Spirit came to Joseph in the grove? Were you around when Jesus rose from the grave and then came to the America’s?

The author states that it takes faith to make the extrapolations or inferences, but this does not mesh with even the author’s definitions in his own post. And the author makes a false correlation with the inferences based on known data and the belief that god created the universe less than 10,000 years ago.

“Fourth and finally, atheism discounts, discards, and even ridicules the notion that knowledge can be obtained in ways other than the objective or purely scientific. Specifically, it ridicules the idea that knowledge can be obtained spiritually, since this is the antithesis of the view that there is no source that exists which can provide spiritual knowledge in the first place.”

Again the author makes the mistake, knowingly or not, that atheists are completely against even the idea of a god existing. The atheist will change their position depending on the evidence and can usually conceive of a universe ruled/reigned over by any particular god, so this line he speaks of is only for his point of view. “…and as certain as anything, I will not even consider unlearning such things,” it’s so sad to read this and think about how closed minded this person is and that many more people feel this way without speaking about it.

Alma is quoted speaking to Korihor that all things denote a creator god, and the author falls in line 100%. The author then takes to explain that the intricacies of life and the universe are evidence of a creator and another false claim about atheists. Imagination lends itself to be able to help me conceive of the thought that the universe is so vast that we don’t know how abundant or probable life is. We have theories that explain the movement of the planets, the formation of stars and star systems, and even at the galactic level. And again most atheists don’t hold the position that there is no possibility of the existence of a god.

The author says Alma says that everyone can come to the same conclusion as he has about god if they only have the correct state of mind. Basically ‘if you believe you can come to the same conclusion, you will.’ Crazy. Especially since he claims the freedom for the people to believe as they will but (not quoted by the author) in Alma 1 Nehor was killed for heresy and in Alma 30 Korihor was taken before a judge for the same.

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“For just because something is subjective doesn’t invalidate the underlying truths behind what that person is feeling.” A faulty statement; the mere fact that something is felt doesn’t mean it is true and too we must be open to the possibility that our feelings and senses can be fooled. Just because someone feels that they have truth doesn’t necessarily mean they do. That man in Phoenix felt his son was a demon; his evidence was spiritual and subjective but I doubt you would agree it was based on truth. The lady who drowned her children knew god had spoken to her; it was a spiritual truth to her, but I doubt you would side with her. Just because we feel something does not instantly make it true. Many mind games and puzzles are easy examples of this.

“a person who sincerely loves god with all of his might, mind and strength will behave a certain way and desire to do certain things for himself, his family, and his community, within the limits of his capabilities, and notwithstanding his weaknesses and imperfections.”

A good quote on the surface but look deeper and it’s not much. The author states that spiritual truth is objective because that person then acts better. Two things about this statement:
1-What about those religious people who do bad? (i.e. Catholic priests molesting altar boys, the Mormon boys who nearly killed a guy for fun, or honor killings in the Middle East)
2-What about those good people who aren’t religious? (I hope you don’t think you can only be good with religion. I find myself to be a better person now than I was with religion; I am more honest and giving)

The author has likely had a few bad encounters with atheists and has formed his conclusion based on them. I want you to know we aren’t all like that. We have no mantra that we live by. We have no creeds we are bound to follow. The only thing that makes us different is that we require more than feelings to lead our lives. In closing I must ask you to not be completely set that you will never change your mind. Thank you for reading.

Revelation Today, Misunderstanding Tomorrow

Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don’t be so shallow… FREE YOUR MIND!

-Free Your Mind by En Vogue

This post was inspired by reading an article posted by a Facebook friend from LDS.org. As I am unsure if my comments on that particular wall will be saved from deletion, I expound upon my thoughts here. I would urge you to read the link below before continuing so we start on the same footing.

Race and the Priesthood

I won’t give it much room in this post for a few reasons but I must mention polygamy. At the time it was pronounced as the only way to enter the Celestial Kingdom, but after many years of criticism, and actions taken against them, Official Declaration I was revealed by Wilford Woodruff.  Perhaps the best evidence for the driving force for this ‘revelation’ is found in the text of the Declaration itself:

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

     -Wilford Woodruff, Official Declaration I, 1890

Spencer W. Kimball and his Quorum revealed what we know now as Official Declaration II in 1978. Although this was a good turning point in church history ultimately this declaration was ‘revealed’ after many years of social and political pressure. (Brown v. Board of Education – 1954, Rosa Parks – 1955, Little Rock Nine – 1957, ‘I Have A Dream’ – 1963, Civil Rights Act of 1964 – 1964, Loving v. Virginia – 1967, and many more)

Understanding the above sequences of events lends credence to the idea that the revelations may have been more socio-politically motivated than divinely revealed. Also, even though the Church is currently fighting against the ‘invasion’ of homosexuality and the fight for equality, one day in the future there may be a revision of beliefs, perhaps Official Declaration III; the teachings of the today’s leaders about the sin of homosexual behavior and the like may be taught as only being the ‘words of man’ and no longer the ‘inspired word of god’.

The words of each president of the church during their time as ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ are considered true and everlasting, insights into the world of the Lord, and divinely inspired teachings. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and latter prophets taught of the literal curse on the African race citing the stories in Book of Mormon, and were used as the basis for decades of discrimination by the Church.

I can understand that the teachings of a leader could go against the societal norm and cause controversy, but it seems more likely that a divine message from an all-knowing deity would/should be given before the society had already made the change. If, say, David O. McKay or George A. Smith had made the Official Declaration about African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement this argument would be very different, or perhaps if Joseph Smith or Brigham Young had used their power as ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ when founding the church on the correct terms there would have been no controversy.

The ability to change the teaching of someone who is considered a ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ from ‘divinely inspired’ to simply the ‘words of a man’ severely weakens the argument that those teachings were divinely inspired at all. In addition, how are we to be advised to follow some of the teachings of that person but to disregard others? Also, how are we to have confidence that the teachings of the current leaders will persist as ‘revelation’ into our future society.

With this post I am not arguing that the LDS church or its membership is secretly racist or that this change is somehow bad. I wish to make public the startling problem the Church now faces. It is great that the church and its members have come forward and admitted that the teachings and position they held concerning those of African lineage was wrong, but the fact remains that the teachings were based on the Book of Mormon.

The article I linked to above is a very good read and actually mentions some of the less glamorous parts of the history of the Church and also the progress that has been made by it and its members. I am glad that not only the good parts are presented but I must say it doesn’t speak the whole truth about the darker side (pun intended).

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

While the article states “…the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse…” The Book of Mormon is quite clear in describing who, when, and why the ‘curse’ was placed on some humans. 2 Nephi 5:21 states that the black skin was a cursing placed upon them for their iniquity by God. I can’t think of any way it can be explained that this was not a “sign of divine disfavor.”

Continuing the sentence quoted above from the article “…or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.” Once more the Book of Mormon is in conflict with the article; 3 Nephi 2:15 says the cursing could be taken off and they could become like the Nephites again. How better to say one race of people (who are described as ‘cursed, with a skin of blackness’) is inferior to another than to say that they could become like the other (who are described as “…white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome”).

One extra quote from the same paragraph that I will point out but then pass over. “…the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past…,” “…that mixed-race marriages are a sin.”

In contradiction to the article the Aaronic Priesthood Manual clearly states “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background…” It doesn’t specifically state that interracial marriage is a sin or forbidden but it is clearly not approved of; I wonder when the new issue of the manual will be released to correct this problem.

With this post I would like to urge rationality to those who follow the words of the prophet. The prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are seen as a direct link to the Almighty, they ‘speak boldly and clearly’, and ‘make known God’s will and true character’. It should be concerning that anything they teach as doctrine could some day be considered wrong and interpreted so differently. How are we to know which words of the prophet are to be taken as the divine teachings of eternal doctrine and which will become simply the earthly words of a man. LDS.org has this disturbing sentence, “We can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord…” What about the past prophets? Their teachings were considered the ‘will of the Lord’ but if it conflicts with the living prophet is it no longer trusted? This would logically say that the will of the Lord changed, but D&C 1:38 says “my word shall not pass away.”

The Book of Mormon is presented as a literal historical account of the civilizations that inhabited the America’s and are the ancestors of the Native American civilizations. If the story of the ‘curse’ is to be taken as an allegory or a figurative account, why not any other account in the Book of Mormon (or the Bible even)? How long until the teachings on homosexuality become the uninspired ramblings of a simple man who just happened to be speaking as the ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’? How long until the ban on giving the priesthood to women is lifted as it was with black males? I myself have seen the wavering and interpretation after interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, how long until it is interpreted out of existence?

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth…

     -Joseph Smith

Even though it has been held to be the most correct book and belief system on Earth, the Saints and their Book of Mormon are well versed in change. Among roughly 3000 changes in the Book of Mormon alone the largest and most recent must be pointed out. The original Introduction to the Book of Mormon, the necessary parts only (emphasis added):

After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas

And the Introduction after the 2004 and 2013 edits, respectively:

After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas

These two changes signify another monumental change in the teachings of the Church. Before the edits, the church taught that the Lamanites were the ancestors of the American Indians, the Native population of the Americas. The ‘curse’ explained their skin color but with recent advances in science the DNA couldn’t explain their origin. The Church was faced with the facts that there exists zero geographical, archeaological, anthropological, or genetic evidence in support of the Book of Mormon and its claim of the ancestry of the Native American populations. Analogous to the changes with polygamy and race issues in light of social pressure the teachings about the ancestry of the Native Americans has been adjusted.

I do not wish to turn the church back to its racist roots and I by no means think that this is their largest problem. I simply want the contradiction to be noted and more importantly admitted. The Book of Mormon is clear on its teachings about the ‘curse’ and the ancestry of the Native Americans; if the Church and membership are going to not follow these parts then what else can be given up until the meaning behind having and studying the Book of Mormon is trivial? Why hold the Book in such high regard if its basic teachings can be thrown to the wayside so completely? If you choose not to believe the curse part is true then why not the part about Jesus visiting the America’s; why not the part about the Hebrews making it to the same landing spot in the new world in three separate boats with but one small window; why not the part about being in the America’s all together?

This post will very easily be taken as a hate-filled, Mormon-bashing, atheist rant but please understand that I only bring these topics up as a matter of honesty and integrity. It is possible, however unlikely, that some of you reading this did not know about some of the problems or contradictions that exist in the church, and I hope that as you have now been advised that they exist you will do some simple work to investigate my claims. There is no dishonor or disgrace in investigation; wouldn’t it be more intellectually honest to be able to say that you have scrutinized the problems instead of denying that the problems exist? If, however, you are one of those who knew of these changes and the sequences of events that led to them and see no dilemma, I wonder if you know of the term cognitive dissonance?

I think it was Matt Dillahunty who said (probably better and in fewer words), in my life I strive to believe as many true things and reject as many false things as I am able. I will live my life to that standard as I hope all humans would. Thank you for reading, I end this post with two things; first, a poll meant for fun, second, some immortal lyrics.

 

You Aren’t Going To Read This Post…

Ha, I knew you would read this post, the title was just a joke.

Been thinking and discussing free will lately and I’ll apologize now, I just love memes.

One acquaintance of mine, I like to call her Handy Helper (HH), has been attempting to explain her god and his power and awe to me for quite a while and was the spark of my inquiry. She is quite literally the thickest headed person I have ever talked to as she will not hear or conceded any points I make. She even goes so far as to say that we needn’t worry about the lives of any other person in the world, or at least in the third world countries. More about her later.

As luck would have it, a call came in to a podcast show I listen to and the topic turned to free will. Below is a questionnaire-like response that was given to the caller. Courtesy of Matt Dilahunty of the ACA, I present to you an argument against the idea of free will. I didn’t conceive of the questions but I have changed them slightly because I couldn’t recall them exactly but i have captured the essence of them.

I offer them to you to ponder.

Answer each question honestly and then continue to the next. I do not expect this to change everyone’s mind nor do I expect everyone to have the same beliefs about free will and god, but it is at least something to think about.

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Do you believe god created everything?

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Yes-this universe and our lives are a direct result of that creation

No-why praise him, he is not then the all powerful creator god

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Do you believe god had decisions about what kind of universe to make or is this the only possible outcome?

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Yes-he chose this one, everything in it was created purposefully

No-is he not all powerful?

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Do you believe god has knowledge of the future; is he eternal, knows the future, knows the outcome of decisions and actions?

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Yes-god is eternal and all powerful, he created time and space and knows the past, present,and future.

No-god’s power has limits

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If you answered yes to all of these questions, like most people do, you should rethink your understanding or thoughts on free will.

These three circumstances preclude the option of free will.

A god that created this universe over other options with a knowledge of the future has already decided everything that has and WILL happen. He chose this universe in which this specific set of decisions has already been made; there is NO free will.

Many people believe that the god that created the universe knows the decisions that have/will be made, but the series of question addresses the fact that a god would have known the result of the decisions that would be made in the billions of different options and that god chose this very sequence of decisions. This logically means that the person would sense that they have the ability to choose between two or more options but that god has decided which decision will be made and knows what future decision will be made as a result of this one. Free will could only exist with a creator god if that god did not have knowledge of the future and had very little control over the universe that was created.

Back to HH, her stance is the most firm ‘just believe‘ stance that I have ever encountered. She believes in free will but also believes in ‘god’s plan’ (see the diagram below, the bottom question has so many options that I have presented her with but the loop continues). I have attempted to explain to her that free will doesn’t exist but I have been unsuccessful so far. She is the polar opposite of myself; she completely and admittedly refuses to think about anything she believes. I plan to continue because it is fun to see her try to explain something but then go back to the ‘mysterious ways’ claim. My arguments have never been as concise as the one presented above but also I understand now that my claim must change. I can’t argue against free will because I think free will does actually exist.

I will not try to explain that free will doesn’t exist anymore. I understand that my stance is, now, that free will does exist, just not in connection with the creator god claim, most especially the god of the bible, of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

The atheistic stance is the penultimate free will claim.

I do not accept the claim that a god is in charge and I make my decisions myself; the decisions I make affect myself, my friends and family, my community, and even my world.

That sentence can easily be continued to the conversation about morality, but I’ll save that for another post.

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