Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Big 5: Introduction


I've recently had a few discussions about Mormonism and 'anti,' apologetics, and issues with the Church. One was a co-worker, another a person feeling 'in-between' on leaving the church or staying, a couple discussions in the Utah Valley atheist group, or on the Mormon Expression page. Tons of people always say they 'know' about the real problems, they recognize them, but maybe still believe or are in-between. I find there are two types of people who say this:

Those who think they know the actual issues but don't.
Those who know some issues but don't know much about others.


If I am ever involved in a debate or discussion with multiple people who have opposing polemic stances I usually favor the person in the middle who says, "See, I'm just not so sure." Not because they are unsure, not because they 'appear' unbiased, and not because they are trying to find an answer in the middle (there's no "middle" in a debate on if the Sun is closer than the moon), but because this person is likely to have looked at both extremes and is possibly seeing a bigger picture. They could be weighing both arguments more fairly. They could know more facts and have read up on more opinions to have reached a point of 'not being sure.'

Now some of you will have already noticed what I did. But let me make it clear: Joseph Smith was correct, there is no middle ground with Mormonism. At least not in belief. I love Mormon Expression, and I do have a level of respect for Mike and the TBMs who take part in the ME community and podcast. But often Mike has no actual answer to the big issues that get discussed there. He has 'his' answer, he has an apologetic answer, he has a way to throw possible 'doubt' on the issue, but most often he doesn't have answers to the big questions when they are questions against the truthfulness of the LDS church. Same with other people I talk with. Second hand. I should mention I have yet to discuss big issues with any Mormons directly. I simply have never felt the need and they never ask. They never do, and I understand that. Most are afraid. And for me that is one reason to stay away from the church. If you can't even question it, within yourself, then something is wrong with what you are stuck in.


With Mormonism, when you get a big picture either you will be like Mike or you become like me. If it is true then you will blind-side yourself to some of the big questions, recognizing you have no answers but ignoring it all the same, or it is false and all those straws form a nice big weight to tear it down. This has nothing to say on attitude towards the LDS church. The church's idea of ''anti'' is quite astounding once you are 'out' of the culture/belief system. Just the fact that questioning it is bad or means you are sinful says enough of the cult-like atmosphere left over as a remnant of the cult the church truly used to be. (and by cult I am referring to any religion that would make you think "1984").

With a couple of these discussions things could be mentioned, like polygamy, blacks and the Mormon priesthood, Book of Abraham. But usually nothing of even what Egyptian hieroglyphs actually are, the polyandry, Masonry, Richard Lyman, or the Kinderhook plates. So, to freshen my memory on these issues, and to expand my knowledge of 'things I do not know,' I plan on doing some reading and studying (like the best sections of Rough Stone Rolling, the Setting the Record Straight series, checking out No Man Knows my History, reading Written by his hand on papyrus), listening (go through more LDS podcasts, ME just came out with a Kinderhook episode which also spurred my motivation), and writing out notes and making big pictures for myself.

Now, I am not implying I am 'better' and know so much more. Knowing 'facts' doesn't make me a better person. It doesn't help me be more ethical or drive slowler (the speed limit). But I do get annoyed when people say 'oh, i know what you know, but ..." uh... No. You don't. If you do then you'd ask what I know, you have no idea what I know. And so far I've never met a person who said they did, and then knew some of things I brought up. It seems like only those people who have spent over 300 hours listening to podcasts taking critical looks into the LDS church and who had a year of being lazy on the mission and buying and reading nearly three dozen apologetics books by LDS scholars would know as much as I do. I've wasted a lot of my life on this. And thousands of others have wasted more. But so long as we have gone to the source on these things, we might as well tell others who do not know. That's what I love about ME. I do always learn something new, something I did not know that I did not know.

(Holy shit I spelled "Johari" right on my first try! I thought I would not be able to remember what it was, lol) I like the Johari Window construct from the field of psychology. Here's a picture, and I will explain:


For my purpose I am relating this to Mormonism, obviously. There are things you know that you know; these things are known to others. There are things you believe you know, but are not known to others and therefore may not be true, or at least are not objective. There are things known that you do not know: your Blind Spot. And last, and most relevant, there are things that you do not know that you do not know.

Book of Abraham. Most people, who are smart, know there are issues with it: arena. You might be aware that the facsimiles do NOT say what Joseph Smith said they do, while most Mormons are not aware (except Egyptologists like the ones at BYU who read The Pearl of Great Price): facade. There's thing you don't know but others do, like how many critics will point out how we have Joseph Smith's notes next to the hieroglyphs and he was NOT translating them correctly, AT ALL: blind spot. Lastly, the Unknown ... some new details I will hopefully learn soon.

The problem is this: #1 - for any TBMs they will say i just used 'anti.' No, i just used facts, and #2 - these are facts readily available to everyone. You can Google what hieroglyphs are and learn in 5 seconds how they are phonetic sounds, not sentences and paragraphs. I have the Egyptian 'alphabet' on papyrus, framed, at home. Joseph Smith's writings, journals from his scribes, and Times and Seasons are almost all publicly available, and that's where we have his incorrect translations. Lastly, the papyrus was found, experts looked at it, including people from BYU. They gave their 'opinions' on what it said and it was not the Book of Abraham. And that's just the tip of that one.

I have talked about a few of these things before but over the next month or so I will release more scholarly posts on what I'll deem the Big 5. Book of Abraham, Richard Lyman, and the Adam-God Doctrine will be on there. I feel these three things, put together are probably the biggest issues the church faces from a 'Aha!' standpoint. I'll make the rest of the list later, probably as I go along, who knows, maybe one of these will be replaced by another as I learn more.

8 comments:

  1. I recently listened to podcast by “Reasonable Doubts” that was a recording of lecture entitled "Which Jesus: Examining Differences in the Gospel Narratives" by Jeremy Beahan. In it, Beahan covers contradictions in the gospel narratives of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John and how they reveal the evolution of the stories of Jesus. I found this lecture particularly valuable because Beahan deliberately remains primarily in the text of the gospels themselves because believers tend distrust and dismiss secular bible scholarship. Reading the biblical text itself and examining the contradictions critically is enough argue his point.

    I’m doing just, finishing Mark last night.

    It occurred to me that an argument formed in a similar fashion regarding some of your “Big 5” would be equally valuable and practical. With “anti” material be so incredibly taboo, a typical Mormon would instantly dismiss any arguments with evidence based from material of a non-Mormon source. Rather, what if the argument was based on evidence found in accepted church history, authorized biographies, General Conference talks, the Mormon Standard Works and other generally accepted works of Mormon doctrine that are relatively easy for the average Latter Day Saint to acquire. Such an argument would be of great value and when challenged by it, a LDS member cannot as easily dismiss it as the work of the devil.

    Adam-God may best fit this type of argument.

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  2. Very good points Jim. I actually have been working on this. But like I mentioned, I'm going to need to narrow it all down. My plan IS to use as many church official documents, Desseret books, and non-anti anti as possible. Polygamy, if I decided it should be one of the 5, would be easy: Mormons and Polygamy by Susan Black, Joseph Smith, RSR, by Richard Bushman, and even In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton, are all honest books, Blacks book is available at Desseret, Bushman is a patriarch.

    I recommend "Jesus Interrupted" if you enjoy a critical historical look at the Gospels, that book IS just that. Examples primarily, if not entirely, taken from inside the scriptures themselves. In fact, it might make as a good 'companion guide' as you're reading through the scriptures right now. I've considered writing a post on it because once you are aware of what is happening then it suddenly makes so much sense of the scriptures, kind of like A History of God with the Old Testament making sense of the polytheism.

    Good points though Jim. I honestly want to write something truly worthwhile here, so it may still be a couple weeks before I post the first one, but I'm glad a couple people have shown interest, and I'll try to live up to the standard you'd like. Thanks.

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  3. An ambitious venture! I also worry about the amount of time I spend on this stuff. I admire the regular run-of-the mill less active people who just drop it because it didn't work for them and probably forget their mormon from time to time.

    I look forward to reading your future posts. I'll also be looking into "upon my own hand" in the near future. That's also something I only have a surface knowlege of at this point.

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  4. This is a great posting I have read. I like your article.

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  5. Perhaps I am blind, but I just don't see the problem. If Joseph claimed to "translate" the Book of Abraham (and the B of Mormon for that matter) in the same way that I (knowing Spanish) would translate a Spanish newspaper to English, I could see where you are coming from.

    However, if you read his journals, or even the History of the Church series, you will notice that he uses the term interchangeably to refer to both intellectual translation (like me translating Spanish to English) and "translation" via revelation.

    I assume you are aware of how he claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon. It was via the seer stone he had for the most part. In fact, some of the witnesses to his translation of that book said that he sometimes didn't even open the book. The words were given to him from God on the stone, not from his brain by looking at the characters in the book.

    Now, you can claim that he made it all up, which is fine. But you can't use the argument that just because the characters on the papyrus don't match what the Book of Abraham, it is all baloney.

    Here is why that logic is faulty:
    1) The Book of Abraham being false (if it is) would only mean that the Book of Abraham is false, not that anything else is.

    2) The characters on the papyrus not matching the text in the B of A does not imply that the text in B of A is not what it purports to be, because Joseph did not translate that record through what we would today call translation, but through revelation. If a man can receive revelation direct from the voice of God (as in the revelations in D&C), why would the papyrus even matter? The text of the B of A could have appeared to him on a seer stone, or it could have just come to him in response to him asking the Lord.

    So, the real problem with this whole thing is:
    Did God give Joseph the Book of Abraham, or did he make it up?

    Unfortunately, reason cannot answer that question for you, only revelation can.

    As for me, I know it is true.

    There are many, many problems with the Church. None of those should be a detraction from the gospel.

    I have spent a lot of time talking with people who have decided against believing the gospel because of issues with the Church. I have yet to find an issue they bring up that I was not already aware of, yet I found my reaction to those issues to be very different to theirs.

    I've come across the following scripture/quote, which I think sums up my observation:

    "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that
    they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 1 John 1:19 (here I read "us" as disciples of Christ, not members of CJCLDS).

    "Some are apt now to say, "I don't know anything about this Mormonism, I don't know about the Priesthood."Did you not once know? "I thought I did." Did you not once know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet? "I thought I did." Did you not once know that this was the kingdom of God set up on the earth? "I thought I did, but now I find myself deceived." What is the reason? Because they give way to temptation;...they may have had great light, knowledge, and understanding, the vision of their minds may have been opened and eternity exhibited to their view, but when this is closed up, in proportion to the light given to them, so is the darkness that comes upon them to try them." " Brigham Young JD 3:206 − p.207

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  6. Short answer Rob - if you're saying that I can't use the argument that characters J.S. wrote down and then translated were incorrect so therefore the BoA in the very least did not come from the hieroglyphs that J.S. SAID and wrote down that they came from ... then you can't say "J.S. was a prophet because he wrote the BoA because I believe those words are from God."

    You can't say I am making a leap when you are jumping off a fucking cliff. Well, you can say it, but I am just trying to point out your massive amount of hypocrisy.

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  7. Bc everything I google will be 100% true...

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