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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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:

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“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.

Those Words…They Don’t Mean What You Think They Do

My rebuttal to a viral picture/quote going around Facebook recently. The majority of the text in this post is directed at a single person but if you can read it open minded you shouldn’t have a problem with all the yous.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post and I will offer this TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read): Giving rights to groups that previously were denied doesn’t equal taking rights away from the first/main group, and a penis is just a penis, not a rod of superiority; love and take pride in yourself!

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Ok, you may be offended by my writing this but I really could care less, this is all getting out of hand. I know you didn’t actually write this yourself but you shared it as if you agree with what it says so I will assume you do.

“I find myself again being put in that same category as a second class citizen,”

The civil rights movement did not take rights away from the majority group. The Civil Rights Movement extended rights to groups that previously had none or had less. Some of the white people in the 50s and 60s felt like their rights were being taken and given away, but just like Christians now, they were/are wrong.

Christians are not comparable to the African race in the story of the Civil Rights Movement, they are the white people! Christians are the majority; they had rights that are now being extended to other groups. During the civil rights movement the whites were the majority and had the rights that were being extended to other groups. White people don’t have the right to eat at a restaurant and not have black people around; they don’t have the right to have the front of the bus; they don’t have the right to decide about the nation with no say from other groups of citizens. Christians don’t have the right to proclaim this a “Christian Nation” and forbid other religions from exercising their beliefs during events; Christians don’t have the right to say anyone who doesn’t believe as we do can step outside while we pray to our god; Christians don’t have the right to control the government. This nation is not and was never intended to be a theocracy.

Your church came to the same decision about equal rights eventually (even though it took far too long for that to happen especially in a church that was supposed to have been revealed from an all-knowing creator god).

“Tell a Muslim he can’t pray at school or at the airport or downtown when prayer time is called for, and see what happens.”

Saying someone or some group can’t do something is wrong, saying someone or some group can’t make other people follow their beliefs is NOT. Who has proclaimed that Christians can’t pray? Where has that come from? The only thing that has been said is that you can’t MAKE other people pray with you, for you, or like you against their will, and this is only in matters of the state (government).

“We refuse to sit by and let you or anyone else mock, attack, demean, or laugh at our beliefs,”

Unfortunately for all groups we have this little thing called the Constitution. It states that just because there is a majority who wants one way they don’t get it just because they are the majority. The minority has a voice too. The establishment clause of the Constitution guarantees the separation of Church and State, and good ole amendment one allows me to “mock, demean, or laugh” at your religion and any idea I see fit.

Another analog to the above story seems to be the plight of women in the “Church.” I recently read an article about the church coming to terms with equal rights for all, View it here. This article is based on the April General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which would be a pivotal moment in the history of the church as it would be the first time a female member would be allowed to pray at General Conference. Of course I was glad to hear this news and I did watch a clip of the conference but didn’t get to see the prayer.

Back to the analog: The males in the church don’t think their rights (to prayer and leadership) are being taken away and given to the female members, do they? Unfortunately, I found this rebuttal to the article, found here. This guy’s response is based on unchanging scripture and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This is probably one of those verses that is supposed to be taken figuratively or has been “misinterpreted.” Its pretty clear what this verse says and its not an isolated event, check 1 Tim. 2:12.

I don’t know how widespread the belief of female subservience is in the church, but it seems like some do feel their rights are being taken away and unjustly given to the female membership. It doesn’t mean he is right; Just as some whites thought their rights were being taken and given to the inferiors; Just as some Christians think their rights are being taken away and given to non/other-believers. I hope against all hope that you do not believe that an eternal being would condemn half of his creation to be subservient. If you do believe this I feel sorry for you. YOU ARE NOT A LESSER BEING THAN ANY MAN! YOU ARE A MASTERPIECE OF EVOLUTION (or creation if you must) NO ONE SHOULD BE GIVEN ANY MORE OR LESS RIGHTS THAN YOU. I LOVE YOU BUT IF YOU CANT ACCEPT THIS AS TRUTH I WILL HAVE TO BREAK TIES. CRYSTAL MAY CHOOSE TO STAY IN CONTACT BUT YOU WILL NOT TEACH THAT RUBBISH TO MY DAUGHTER.

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To my dear wife, daughter, mother, sister, and all females in my life (and around the world, too): I apologize for the caps lock but the emphasis was needed. I love you all, you are all of equal value to the human condition as any other person including myself. I see no reason why an extra appendage should give me rights over and above what you have. A penis does not give me superiority, it gives no one superiority. You are not a second class citizen and I will do anything in my power to help you not feel like one.

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Thank you for reading.

YEC v Me

I found out that a coworker of mine is a Young Earth Creationist and I expressed my feelings of wanting to discuss some of the claims she holds. She said that she would love to as she was once a scientific person who went to a meeting of Creationists with her science notes as to refute some of their claims but was unable, and she may be able to turn me to the truth. This, she claims, is her basis for believing the claims of Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis group. I have ordered the book and plan to do a read through and blog about my progress.

I sincerely doubt that my position will be swayed by the likes of Ken Ham and his pseudoscience but I said I would read and discuss it with her. Below is the first of our encounters and is the story of my relationship with religion growing up. If she agrees to continue I will try to blog about our discussions (possibly posting the transcripts).

 

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            You already know that we are on opposing sides of this argument but I would like to have a back and forth with you about it. I do not want anything we talk about to interfere with work, as such, I think we will have to not talk about it when we are at work, unless it is a claim we can both agree on. If you are willing, I would like to possibly have an email back and forth about the claims of Intelligent Design and Young Earth Creationism in particular.  If you feel like we shouldn’t do this as it may disturb work I will let it go and we will go our separate ways and continue as we were before. Either way, I will give you the story of how I got to where I am on religion. I would very much like to hear your story even if you don’t want to continue our debate.

 

I was raised in a Christian home; my mom took my sister and I to church as often as possible but at least once a month we had to miss because of her work schedule. In high school I took control and would go to church on my own most of the time, as my mom was working every weekend. It was easy to miss going when I was on my own and could come up with a million reasons to not go. I continued in my off and on attendance, all the while holding the belief in my head/heart though I never held the bible to be a completely literal account of what happened.

I believed that most of the events did, in some fashion, happen even if they had been exaggerated or elaborated them, as people do to their stories. When I met my wife I was introduced to a new religion (denomination/sect whatever you want to call it) in the Latter-day Saints. I fell for my wife and for her religion, both maybe quicker than is advisable. My wife got me going to church much more than I had been and I was learning about something completely new to me, I had never thought about or, perhaps, even encountered a Mormon before, now I was one. Looking back now, I don’t see how I could have overlooked so many apparent flaws in the doctrine and foundation of the LDS church. As I started actually studying about the church and its claims, I found more and more blatant fraud and problems with it. I know now that I should have done this investigation at the onset but I learned and have moved on.

The problems I discovered about the claims of the LDS church led me to immediately disavow my relationship with the church and its teachings, but as I learned more and more about why the LDS church is not true I also came on to atheist information. I easily debunked the LDS, but the more I read the more I blossomed all of the doubts I have ever had about God and religion.

As I grew up I could never understand why an all-powerful being couldn’t or wouldn’t help the people in Africa living in conditions that I wouldn’t let my worst enemy live in. I couldn’t believe that a loving family could live eternally and be in paradise/heaven if one of its members didn’t proclaim the same belief and spent their eternity in Hell. I couldn’t fathom how an all-knowing could have this one book that he gave to this one set of people in this one part of the world and they have the only means of being saved, but the worst part of it all is that one book can/could/would/have been translated and interpreted so many times that by now who knows what the true version and meaning is.

I have always been a school person. I mean that I loved learning; I loved reading about the ancient mythos surrounding the Romans, the Greeks, and the Vikings. I could easily understand why in their ignorance (the true meaning of the word not the demeaning one) they attributed natural phenomena to the “Gods.” As a kid I could easily draw a line between their “gods” and my God, but as I read more and more about atheism and freethought I came to realize that the Abrahamic god is just the same; We attribute anything we haven’t described scientifically to god. The best quote for this enlightenment was “Once you realize why you don’t believe in the gods of ancient Greece and Rome, the Vikings, Hindu, Islam, etc. You will realize why I don’t accept yours.” Probably not an exact quote but the bones are there and you can understand it. Another is, “I contend we are both atheists, I only believe in one less god than you do.”

When I found out about Young Earth Creationists I was confused, in my mind they attributed things that we had explained scientifically back to god and said that science was flawed or misguided. I was excited to learn that you claimed the belief because I really wanted to meet and talk to someone so that not all of my information came from the internet; the land of the extremists.

I am sure you have heard of and been warned about atheists, but I am not the hardened anti-theist you have heard of. I am not the staunch “god cannot exist” atheist from the internet. In fact, my position is actually that of a completely neutral person, I am the Switzerland of god claims. I have learned that I require evidence that is more than a personal revelation or a collection of stories written decades or more after the events.

Monopoly vs. The Bible

While browsing the stories on the Yahoo news page one caught my attention. Click Here to read. Basically, it says there are a few rules that players have changed and/or forgotten about over the years and some people don’t even know they’re doing it wrong. This instantly clicked into my head as the same way most people have gone about learning about the Bible. My favorite sentence in the article,

“Perhaps because so many people learn the game from their parents, siblings and friends,

no one has bothered to read the actual rules for a while.”

Doesn’t that just ring true for the Bible and Christianity, and all religions at that.

We’ve almost all taken the knowledge of the Bible from our parents/friends and few have read the “rule book” for themselves. I actually have started to study the Bible so I can say I am one of those few, it really does change your perception of the religion and the stories if you read it yourself. Its easy to see that some or most of the stories in the Bible could possibly have gotten changed centuries ago over the years of verbal communication especially if the rules of a game were changed in today’s world. In addition, we haven’t got anything to gain by tweaking the rules to the game but back then if they could have their “Messiah” be better than the other messiahs they would have exaggerated some of the stories. Don’t even get me started on the changes that have been made to the Book of Mormon.

Contradictions of Biblical Proportions

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Prompted by the list of biblical contradictions on The Thinking Atheist, I want to start a series of posts to confront the issue of contradictions in the bible. I have seen many verses posted by hard core atheists (and by unlearned/uninformed ones) that claim the bible is wrought with conflicts and contradictions. In looking at some of these they do not actually seem to be contradictions at all. I plan to go through some of the supposed contradictions and work it out. I do not believe that all of the reported ones are actually contradictions, but are preyed upon by militant atheists. I urge everyone to read the verses around the contradictory ones, put it in context. Anything can be take from the middle of a conversation or sentence and be made to be contradictory, especially in our world of half-truths. Another big part of determining if something should be considered a contradiction is the version of the text you are reading.

I will be as middle-of-the-road as I can be because I really just want truth out there, not the utter destruction of religion. If you attack a religion its people will harden and not listen to anything but being fair to both sides I hope to bring us together to agree on some and (of course) disagree on others.

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Answer the Fool or Not?

Proverbs 26:4-5

“4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

 

This is hard to read. Are we to answer the fool, or not? This is the best example of reading the surrounding verses to put the questionable section in context in order to determine if it is correct to consider this a contradiction. My verdict….NOT A CONTRADICTION, just a poorly worded couple of sentences, but we are in proverbs so they are hard to read even on a good day.

In examining this verse, it states to not be like the fool who questions you. Don’t stoop to their level, but to answer them in kind. I can think of a great example of this but it turns the tables 180 degrees. A christian thinks to stop an atheist they need only ask the atheist where the original matter from the big bang came (this is not a hard question for most atheists, I’ll just let you know). The atheist can rant and rave about it being eternal and having always been there in one form or another (answering the fool according to his folly – verse 4), OR they can simply ask where god came from (answer the fool as his folly deserves – verse 5).

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Where did Aaron die? Mt. Hor vs. Moserah

Numbers 33:38 – Aaron died on Mt. Hor

Deuteronomy 10:6 – Aaron died in Moserah

 

This discrepancy will be much harder to iron out. Mt. Hor and Moserah are biblical locations that are not widely agreed on in current geography. Many sympathist would say that Moserah is a region and Mt. Hor was located within that area. The authors of the stories (and the verbal story tellers before that) chose to record the location of his death in different ways.

Much like if I was to talk to someone from Tennessee I would say I am from Clarksville, but if I was talking to someone in Europe I would say I was from Middle Tennessee. I actually had this happen to me when I was on vacation in 2008 atop a mountain in Switzerland. Some people came up to our group and asked us where we were from, we responded the US, they said “yes, what part?” “Tennessee” “We have family in Tennessee, where are you from?” “The Nashville area.”

Likely a contradiction but unable to conclusively say on this one.

 

I hope this is informative to everyone. I want to make sure that everyone follows the same logic when looking at claims of fellow atheists as when we reject the claims of theists. Don’t just believe it because they say it (or me even), look for yourself. I have provided the links for you to be able to see the context of all the verses. I may be wrong too, let me know if you think i am.

Removal of Aversions

As a part of my apostasy I am removing some of my aversions that I had before, the first is to drinking alcohol. I am not going on a drinking spree, I am going to familiarize myself with the different categories of drinks and the specific brands. I know some of these will take a couple of tries to make them palatable, I’ve already started and I can confirm some of these are horrible.

So far I have tried a few beers, a few whiskeys, and some vodka. I am sure I will mislabel some of these, let me know so I can fix it. I have gone to the liquor store and not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars, I bought a couple of the mini drinks. I am sure that this is what these were made for because who would want to spend $50 on a jar of drink that you might not like? Good idea companies!

I will try to put my thoughts to pen but I am having a hard time wording my thoughts to make sense to anyone else, so I’m sorry if you can’t understand my writings. I did not drink all of these on the same night (Usually just one/two a night, and I didn’t drink more than a sip of some of them)…I want to go about this as scientifically as I can and I thought the tastes and types would not mix well with each other. I am going to score each drink that I try using a 5 point scale:

1 – Something I’d never try again.

2 – I might try it again if someone vouched for the drink.

3 – So/So.

4 – Pretty good, but I will probably just stick to the minis

5 – I like this very much. Would potentially drink this often.

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Beer

Rolling Rock

Blah. Not good for me. I couldn’t finish it. I tried this one b/c it was a light ale and I thought the taste would be milder, it was but it wasn’t good. 2/5

Blue Moon-Belgian White

My favorite so far, but I don’t think I’d drink it often. I am just not a fan of the “beer” flavor. 4/5

Blue Moon-Agave Nectar Ale

Pretty good, pretty much the “beer” flavor that I had in my mind. I couldn’t detect the Agave Nectar addition I use this in my tea and I know it is a subtle taste on its own and can easily be overpowered. 3/5

Smirnoff Ice-Green Apple

Pretty good, not much to say really. This is a true starter drink. Not much alcohol, nice taste with the green apple (look forward to the other flavors). 5/5

Whiskey

Crown Royal

My mouth is numb. Wow, I’ve never had anything like this…I’ve never thought about something being like that. I can perfectly understand now why people shake their heads in movies/tv when they take a drink of whiskey. Pretty good and it soothed my sore throat, keep this one in the medicine cabinet i think. 3/5

Jameson

Whats up with the Irish and green bottles? Whew, strong. Good job Irish. Def. too strong for a newbie like myself. I’ll keep the little bottle around and retry it in the future. 2/5

Jack Daniels

I actually didn’t know what to expect when I bought this one. I’ve grown up in TN and heard about Jack all my life, never tried it. My grandfather even has a good story about someone in his family selling the recipe for Ole’ Number 7. I might go for the big bottle on this one. 5/5

Vodka

Smirnoff-Green Apple

Wow, not at all like the other Smirnoff I had. This one is hard to drink, apparently it is completely different than the beer-like one I had earlier. A lot, A LOT, more alcohol and green apple taste in this one. 2/5

Hpnotiq

This one is pretty good, not very harsh, nice fruit flavor apparently mixed with Congac (will try that soon). 4/5

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