Bad Apologetics, Meet Bad Polemics

Andrew apologetics, book of mormon, doubt, faith, historicity, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, testimony, thought 35 Comments

polemics: The art or practice of disputation or controversy, especially on religious subjects; that branch of theological science which pertains to the history or conduct of ecclesiastical controversy. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996.)

Although I am often entertained by bad apologetics, I am equally amused by bad polemics. I find it simply fascinating when I see both camps use exactly the same faulty reasoning, but to prove exactly the opposite point. In those sublime moments, it’s almost as if I can hear someone performing a long-overdue introduction between two mutual friends: “Bad apologetics, meet bad polemics!”

The most oft-used method of flawed reasoning I’ve seen used by both proponents and critics LDS claims is to make comparisons at a 30,000 foot level and then conclude that, because general similarities exist between two things, they must somehow be linked or causally-related to each other. Of course, the problem with that line of reasoning is that you can find parallels between just about any two things if you make comparisons on a general level.  At 30,000 feet, the cars, houses, and people way down below all look the same.

Case in point: A few months ago, my wife and I watched a video produced by a well-known Mormon apologetics group in which they attempted to demonstrate that Meso-America was the most likely setting for the Book of Mormon. This was primarily accomplished by pointing out general similarities between the peoples described in the Book of Mormon and what scholars have thus far been able to discover about ancient Meso-Americans. For example, some scholars found it noteworthy that there is evidence of a system of lower kings subject to a high king in ancient Meso-America, which we see in the Book of Mormon with the relationship between King Lamoni (lower king) and his father (high king).  But, of course, this sort of arrangement is also known to have existed in feudal Europe and Japan, and in numerous other locations of the globe throughout the history of mankind. (Source.)  So this general lower-king, high-king similarity falls short of demonstrating a unique similarity between the Book of Mormon peoples and the peoples of ancient Meso-America.

Likewise, we often find critics of the Book of Mormon using a similar flawed methodology in their attempts to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from other sources.  For example, in An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, Grant Palmer points to general similarities, while ignoring numerous specific differences, to argue that the Book of Mormon story of Alma the Younger was copied from the New Testament story of Saul/Paul:

1.  Both men were wicked before their dramatic conversion.
2.  Both traveled about persecuting and seeking to destroy the church of God.
3.  Both were persecuting the church when they saw a heavenly vision.
4.  Their companions fell to the earth and were unable to understand the voice that spoke.
5.  Both were asked in a vision why they persecuted the Lord.
6.  Both were struck dumb/blind, became helpless, and were assisted by their companions.  They went without food before converting.
7.  Both preached the gospel and both performed the same miracle.
8.  While preaching, they supported themselves by their own labors.
9.  They were put in prison.  After they prayed, an earthquake resulted in their bands being loosed.
10.  Both used the same phrases in their preaching.
(Grant Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, p. 50.)

Sounds pretty compelling, right?  The problem is that the list above is a classic example of the same type of flawed analysis frequently employed by unsuccessful plaintiffs in copyright cases.  They try to prove their works were copied by seizing upon general similarities while ignoring numerous specific differences.

Under Copyright law, identifying generalized similarities between two stories is simply not sufficient to demonstrate that one work has been copied from the other.  For example, if it were possible to prove plagiarism based on general similarities, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien should sue George Lucas for copyright infringement immediately due to the following similarities between Lord of the Rings and Star Wars:

1.  In both works, the protagonist (Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker) is an unassuming lad living with an uncle in a relatively remote area.
2.  In both works, the protagonists learn that an evil lord of darkness (Sauron and Darth Vader) is bent on conquering all free peoples.
3.  In both works, there is a special weapon (the Ring and the Death Star) that, if employed by the forces of evil, will spell the doom of all free peoples.
4.  In both works, the protagonist is given a risky mission that requires him to venture into the heart of enemy territory (Mordor and the Death Star).
5.  In both works, the protagonist is assigned to destroy the dark lord’s special weapon (by dropping the Ring into a the heart of a volcano, or by dropping a photon torpedo into the heart of the Death Star).
6.  In both works, the protagonist shares a psychological connection with the dark lord (Frodo can detect when Sauron’s eye is upon him; and Luke can “sense” Vader’s presence).
7.  In both works, the protagonist is assisted by a wise grey-haired mentor who wears a robe and carries a staff-like object that can glow (Gandalf and his staff and Obi Wan Kenobi and his light saber).
8.  In both works, the mentor sacrifices himself to allow the protagonist and his companions to escape a certain death (Gandalf falling into the abyss with the Balrog, and Obi Wan allowing Vader to slay him).
9.  In both works, the mentor ultimately becomes stronger by sacrificing himself for the others (Gandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White; Obi Wan becomes a seemingly omniscient spirit who can accompany Luke and give him much-needed guidance in pivotal moments).
10.  In both works, the protagonists are assisted by a rugged, handsome wanderer (Aragorn and Han Solo) who assists the protagonist’s party in escaping from danger on numerous occasions, and who eventually marries a princess. Perhaps most tellingly, the names Aragorn and Han Solo both consist of seven letters, and “just so happen” to share the same two vowels!!!  Coincidence?!  Hmmmmm . . .

The list above is by no means exhaustive.  I haven’t even gotten to the similarities between the variety of unusual creatures featured in both works, the use of genetic manipulation to create the evil forces in both works (Orcs and Stormtroopers), etc., etc., etc.

The point here is simply that critics who attack the authenticity of the Book of Mormon often engage in bad polemics by using the same flawed methodology that gets kicked out of court in copyright cases all the time, i.e., they point to general similarities between the Book of Mormon and some other work, while ignoring the obvious and numerous specific differences between those works.

But just because it’s bad polemics doesn’t mean it’s ineffective.  To the contrary, this particular method of bad polemics is highly successful because although the average person has seen both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and is therefore able to quickly detect the obvious absurdity of the allegation that Star Wars was plagiarized from Lord of the Rings, the average person has not read the books that critics allege Joseph Smith plagiarized to write the Book of Mormon (i.e., View of the Hebrews, the Spaulding manuscript, etc.)  For that reason, the average person is unable to critically examine and rebut arguments that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from other pre-existing works.

As a result, critics who attack the Book of Mormon with these generalized comparisons are able to convince the undiscriminating reader that the revered Mormon scripture was copied from a collection of obscure sources that they know the reader will likely never have the time nor means examine for himself.

Comments

comments

Comments 35

  1. Just to defend FAIR, while I’ve not seen the video in question, I suspect they are saying that mesoAmerica is most compatible, not that some of the elements can’t be found in other locals. Certainly you’re right that such elements are found in Japan. But are they found, for instance, in the Great Lakes region?

  2. I love it. I might suggest that the Frodo-Sauron/Vader-Skywalker connection is more of a psychic connection (different implications there) rather than psychological, but that’s just the geek in me coming out.

    While it would certainly be interesting to find legitimate concrete proof of the Book of Mormon, I still hold the same belief that we were asked to teach as missionaries. That is, no amount of concrete evidence or logical argument can ultimately replace deep, simple faith. Faith in the Book of Mormon, and faith in Joseph Smith (and by extension, our church).

    C.L., your Harry Potter/Jesus got me thinking about something. There was some speculation, when I was reading the books (partway through the series), that Neville Longbottom would possibly be the one who would die. Maybe I’m not up to par on my New Testament history; does anyone know if there were speculations that someone other than Jesus Christ, someone living at that time, would be the one to die as a willing sacrifice to save mankind?

  3. Andrew,

    I had never thought of apologetics and polemics as mutually exclusive terms. Can you define both terms for sake of the discussion? In my view, apologists by definition engage in polemics with their critics. For instance, in the case of the FAIR video you reference, there are perhaps two main groups FAIR is trying to convince: Mormon traditionalists, who believe what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, et al. believed about the hemispheric scope of the BOM narrative, and skeptics who believe the Book of Mormon is a product of it’s immediate environment.

    Both sides engage in polemics, to my way of thinking.

  4. J.Ro – “Maybe I’m not up to par on my New Testament history; does anyone know if there were speculations that someone other than Jesus Christ, someone living at that time, would be the one to die as a willing sacrifice to save mankind?” Are you thinking of The Life of Brian (Monty Python movie)? If not, no one at the time was really looking to Jesus (or anyone else) to die for mankind. They believed a Messiah would come to rescue them from the political oppression of the Romans. Many thought that was John the Baptist. There were also leaders of various pro-Jewish violent factions (e.g. the Zealots or the Sacarii).

  5. Unless Andrew is talking about a youtube clip, FAIR hasn’t really produced any videos. My guess is that he’s talking about the New World sequel to the Journey of Faith video, produced by the Neal A. Maxwell Insitute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

  6. I really like your use of the copyright infringement standard, Andrew. It’s an interesting perspective. This is just restating what you already said, but a problem with all these arguments is that they take the conclusion as a given and then go poking around for evidence to support it. Confirmation bias, in other words. But that’s how we typically reason, so I guess it’s not surprising.

  7. Clark (2) and Kevin (8), I wasn’t referring to anything produced by FAIR. Keep guessing . . . 🙂

    John N. (5), I can always count on you to critique word choice, and I welcome it. Truly Isaiah must have had you in mind when he referred to those who make others an offender for a word. 🙂 (KIDDING!) Admittedly I needed a word to signify the opposite of apologetics for my title. That word wasn’t coming to mind. Polemics was as close as I could think of. If you can think of a better word to signify the opposite of apologetics, I will gladly change the title of the post and buy you an ice cream cone. 🙂 BTW, the definition of polemics is, in my mind, certainly broad enough to include what I’m talking about above, and I don’t think the post can be fairly read to support the idea that I was suggesting that’s the EXCLUSIVE meaning of the word polemics.

    Ziff (9), I’ll be doing more on copyright law analogies in the future. I spent the first few years of my legal practice doing quite a bit of copyright litigation. I think it’s one of the most interesting areas of law because the subject matter you’re dealing with is movies, TV shows, songs, etc. As for confirmation bias, you’ll find it in abundance in the summaries of general similarities between two works. You’ll notice that in the lists above both Palmer and I have taken some “liberties” in making certain alleged similarities “work”. Others are just plain ridiculous, like Palmer’s first similarity: “Both men were wicked before their dramatic conversion.” [Uhhh, technically isn’t EVERYBODY wicked before their conversion? “There is not one that doeth good, no, not one . . . “]

  8. A (not so serious) question: So, certainly, Star Wars doesn’t pass muster for copyright infringement of Lord of the Rings, but how about Eragon infringing Star Wars? See here for laughs.

  9. “Lucas has often cited The Lord of the Rings as a major influence on Star Wars. The superficial stuff is the most obvious, but the subtle lesson Lucas learned from Tolkien is how to handle the delicate stuff of myth.” – http://www.moongadget.com/origins/lotr.html

    It looks like your comparison between JS and George Lucas is accurate as it seems pretty obvious that the Bible was a major “influence” on JS’s narrative (even going to far as to copy mistranslated sections of the KJV). I would even go so far as to say – “The superficial stuff is the most obvious, but the subtle lesson Lucas (Smith) learned from Tolkien (the bible) is how to handle the delicate stuff of myth”.

  10. stuff (14), it’s a shame the author of the statement above didn’t cite any source to substantiate the assertion that Lucas drew upon LOTR in creating Star Wars.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the critique that the BOM was ripped off from the Bible. If one assumes, for the sake of argument, that the BOM is what Smith claimed it to be, then should it surprise us that the BOM and Bible are so similar? After all, if they both represent the voice of God to mankind, should we be shocked that it seems to be the same voice in both?

    bruce (13), thanks for substantiating what I’ve always suspected: Stairway to Heaven was as total ripoff of Stairway to Joy. It’s even more obvious when you play them both backwards . . .

  11. Stuff (14) after examining the link you posted above more closely, I really have to thank you for providing yet another example of exactly the type of flawed analysis that finds similarities through over-generalizations. It’s convinced me I need to do a more in depth discussion of common copyright law doctrines, how they are applied in cases with these sorts of superficially-convincing but actually-generic similarities, and how they apply to debates about authorship of the Book of Mormon.

  12. Stuff (14) after examining the link you posted above more closely, I really have to thank you for providing yet another example of exactly the type of flawed analysis that finds similarities through over-generalizations. It’s convinced me I need to do a more in depth discussion of common copyright law doctrines, how they are applied in cases with these sorts of superficially-convincing but actually-generic similarities, and how they apply to debates about authorship of the Book of Mormon.

    Andrew,

    IANAL, but don’t copyright law doctrines deal with questions of plagiarism rather than questions of influence? Tolkien didn’t plagiarize Northern European myths, but he borrowed heavily (and self-consciously and openly) from them. Campbell was influenced in part by the same myths, and Lucas self-consciously set out to make a Campbellian “hero’s journey” with Star Wars.

    There are thus good reasons for many of the similarities between LOTR and Star Wars. If we simply dismiss all the similarities as “superficial” and “generic” because they clearly don’t come anywhere close to plagiarism, we will miss some genuine connections among Tolkien, Campbell, and Lucas.

  13. Kuri, that’s absolutely correct that you can have influence that falls short of plagiarism. But copyright doctrines are, I think, a useful tool for identifying traps for the unwary who might mistakenly believe similarities between works indicates they are somehow based on each other, whether in whole or in part.

    The problem with detecting “influence” rather than plagiarism is that influence would be manifested at the highest level of generality, which presents the risk of creating “false positives” in the minds of those who are out looking to prove one work is based on another. As exemplified above, when you examine two things at a 30,000 foot level, you can find all sorts of similarities, thereby creating a superficial appearance of “influence”, when its entirely possible the similarities exist simply by chance. A good example of that is the fact that both Aragorn and Han Solo both have seven letters and the same two vowels. It’s definitely a similarity, but does anyone think for a moment that it’s evidence of LOTR’s “influence” on Star Wars?

    Bottom line: although you can’t have influence without general similarities, you can certainly have general similarities even where there was no influence. That’s the point I’m trying to convey (maybe I should have just said it like that in the post, then) 🙂

  14. I was just pointing out a flawed analogy – it really is no secret that Lucas was inspired by LOTR (regardless of whether or not the site linked has a “source” – what a silly thing to get hung up on considering all sci-fi authors gladly and openly give credit to their predecessors) just like its pretty obvious that JS used the bible in his narrative (you do realize he actually tried to sell the manuscript of this supposed “scripture” like any author would, right?). I dont even think mormon scholars deny that Joe used the bible as he “translated” the BOM. They have to explain the similarities somehow.

    I still find it funny that people who desperately want to believe latch onto the whole “plagiarism” argument. It seems to me that believers do it because plagiarism, in most cases, is very hard to prove. I can understand why LDS defenders/believers latch onto the word “plagiarism” rather than just accepting that the bible inspired JS to write the BOM. I, personally, would never say JS “plagiarized” the Bible, its an un-winnable position as its completely unprovable.

    What I can do is point out that many sections of the BOM were copied directly from the bible and I can show you several stories that mirror the stories in the bible. Even though you try to minimize the similarities as “superficial”, they are still there and quite obvious to those of us familiar with the stories in the bible. This, to an objective observer, indicates that Joe used the bible in constructing his pseudo-biblical narrative – he even wrote the BOM in Victorian English, it doesnt get much more obvious than that. I realize that people who choose/want to believe need to find reasons to doubt the claims of critics but how does researching copyright law change the fact that he copied whole sections of the bible into the BOM? How does researching copyright law change the fact that he supposedly “translated” the writings of south american jews into KJV English? You can claim that these are just “superficial over-generalizations” (farms much?) but it seems pretty obvious to me that the bible was the foundation for much of the BOM regardless of what copyright law says…

    “If one assumes, for the sake of argument, that the BOM is what Smith claimed it to be, then should it surprise us that the BOM and Bible are so similar? After all, if they both represent the voice of God to mankind, should we be shocked that it seems to be the same voice in both?”

    So God only talks in Victorian English? Yes, that similarity is VERY surprising to me. Its also surprising to me that, somehow, the BOM quotes prophets that didnt exist before Lehi would have left the middle east. This, again, indicates that Joe used the Bible in his narrative. The D&C, “for the sake of argument”, supposedly also represents the voice of God but, somehow, that book is quite different, in every way, than the BOM and bible. So, in my mind (and the mind of anyone that is not trying to convince themselves its true), there really is no doubt that JS used the bible as a major source of “inspiration” for the BOM.

    So, it seems, the word “plagairism” is not a very useful term in this argument for either side. That said, its pretty obvious that the bible played a major role in the language and narrative of the BOM whether you choose to see it or not.

  15. That said, its pretty obvious that the bible played a major role in the language and narrative of the BOM whether you choose to see it or not.

    Stuff, I don’t think anyone here is denying that the KJV Bible played a HUGE role in the language of the Book of Mormon. That was Joseph’s religious language – the natural language of translation/transmission, if you will. When the Book of Mormon was translated originally into Japanese, the language was an old school formal style that was very hard even for many well-educated Japanese to read – since that was the religious language of the translators. It since has been re-translated into a style that is not nearly as archaic and difficult to understand, since that is the language of modern translators. There’s nothing surprising in that, at all.

    I always fall back on my tendency to parse. Joseph didn’t claim to be translating exactly word-for-word from the plates. Not far into the process, he stopped using the plates altogether. Therefore, the obvious implications are one of three possibilities: 1) He simply was winging it, as you believe; 2) He was seeing the exact words that would have resulted from a literal translation of the original words, which many members believe; 3) He was seeing the translation that made the most sense within the confines of his own religious language, which, frankly, is exactly the process for professional translators. (They can’t use vocabulary they don’t possess, and they nearly always try to translate it in a way that makes the most sense to them among the various possibilities.) Personally, I understand how easy it is to believe the first option, but the last one makes sense from a translation standpoint – and it fits much better the type of “visionary translation process” that Joseph himself described.

    Finally, I understand completely how hard it is for people to accept the Biblical passages as legitimate, but it simply isn’t as easy as many make it seem. For example, despite your assertion, almost half of the verses quoted from Isaiah aren’t exact copies of the KJV; there are some subtle yet significant differences. Also, in at least one verse there is an interesting combination of two Biblical translations – one of which was not available for Joseph to have studied. There are enough little examples like that to make it harder to dismiss simply as “Joe copying the Bible” – as easy as that is to do.

  16. But copyright doctrines are, I think, a useful tool for identifying traps for the unwary who might mistakenly believe similarities between works indicates they are somehow based on each other, whether in whole or in part.

    Well, I don’t know. I think plagiarism may be too sharp of an instrument, i.e., too narrowly defined. In the case of Star Wars and LOTR, I think the application of copyright doctrine actually backfires. Many of the similarities are not coincidences.

    The problem with detecting “influence” rather than plagiarism is that influence would be manifested at the highest level of generality, which presents the risk of creating “false positives” in the minds of those who are out looking to prove one work is based on another.

    I agree. I don’t think a lot can be proved that way. For example, the Book of Mormon is similar in some ways to the Bible, but what does that really tell us? If the Book of Mormon is what it purports to be, then it should be similar to the Bible because both it and the Bible are messages from the same God. If it was written by Joseph Smith and/or his friends, then it should be similar to the Bible because they would have imitated it or been inspired by it. Either way, the Book of Mormon ends up with similarities to the Bible.

    A good example of that is the fact that both Aragorn and Han Solo both have seven letters and the same two vowels. It’s definitely a similarity, but does anyone think for a moment that it’s evidence of LOTR’s “influence” on Star Wars?

    That’s obviously nonsense, but 9 out of your 10 Star Wars – LOTR example similarities are not coincidences. At minimum, they stem in large part from common sources. So if copyright doctrine suggests that the similarities are meaningless, then copyright doctrine is probably not a very good tool for understanding the similarities between the two works. (It might be useful for understanding other works; I don’t know.)

    Bottom line: although you can’t have influence without general similarities, you can certainly have general similarities even where there was no influence.

    I can’t disagree with that.

  17. stuff (21), I see your argument, and you’ve opened my eyes to whole new realities that I can’t believe I previously overlooked. Come to think of it, the Apostle Paul’s writings sound suspiciously similar to that Jesus guy’s teachings. So I think it’s pretty clear we can discount everything Paul wrote, since it sounds like something that someone else previously said. After all, if Paul’s writings were legit inspiration, they wouldn’t sound ANYTHING like any pre-existing holy scriptures. I see where you’re going here: if the BOM is a fraud because it sounds like the Bible, then every book and author of the Bible that sounds like previous books and authors must be a fraud as well! Especially because all the authors in the KJV are speaking the same King James English even though they’re purported to have been living in the Middle East separated from each other by hundreds and thousands of years! I mean, come on! Can someone please explain to me how ancient Hebrews living in 3,000 B.C. are all speaking the Queen’s English?!

    I apologize for what is perhaps the most sarcastic comment I’ve ever posted on a blog. But, I mean, seriously . . . it’s hard for me to follow your line of reasoning about how similarities between the BOM and Bible prove the former was not divinely inspired.

    To be clear, I see my purpose here is to simply explain how doors of possibility that some people would argue are closed are actually still open. We’re talking about the existence of possibilities here. Is it possible that Smith authored the BOM out of whole cloth? Of course. Is it possible that the BOM is what Smith claims it to be? Of course. How do we determine which is true? My point here in this post is that although you can’t have influence without general similarities, you can have general similarities even where there was no influence. (see comment 20). So we find general similarities between two works, that means it is possible, BUT FAR FROM CONCLUSIVE, that one is based, adapted, or derived from the other. And the more general the similarities, the less certain we can be that one work influenced the other. In order to reach a higher degree of certainty that one work was taken from the other, we’d have to meet a more rigorous standard, such as that applied in copyright law. Short of meeting that more rigorous standard, general similarities show a POSSIBILITY of “copying,” but not CONCLUSIVE PROOF of it.

    Believe me, it grates on me to no end to hear people try to “prove” the BOM’s authenticity through archaeological data, etc., and to suggest the evidence compels us to the conclusion that the BOM is authentic. But by the same token, it drives me nuts to hear people argue with such unflinching certainty against the possibility that the BOM is what Smith claims it to be. My fundamental world view is that life is a glorious and complicated and fascinating puzzle, filled with questions that are largely intentionally unanswerable precisely because it is the questioning process that helps us grow. So when I hear people on any side of an issue take a strident position that the doors of certain possibilities are closed because it’s been “proven” so, and that we’re compelled to a single conclusion, it raises red flags for me. Oh, that reality were so simple. But it’s just not.

    To be clear, stuff, not suggesting you fall into the class of persons described by the last paragraph above, but trying to explain my original purpose in putting up this post.

  18. I apologize for what is perhaps the most sarcastic comment I’ve ever posted on a blog. But, I mean, seriously . . . it’s hard for me to follow your line of reasoning about how similarities between the BOM and Bible prove the former was not divinely inspired.

    Agreed. 😉

  19. #22 – I think its pretty clear from the eyewitness accounts how JS “translated” the BOM. He read the words out of a hat as God showed them to him and was only shown the next word when the previous word was written and repeated back correctly. This is one of the reasons I wonder why the BOM is written in KJV english and this is also one of the reasons i have trouble understanding how biblical translation errors ended up in the BOM. The “translation” process, as described by Joe’s scribes, shouldnt allow for either of these possibilities.

    #24 – Again, i was initially just pointing out your flawed analogy. You know, the one were you said we souldnt take critics claims of similarities between the bible and the BOM seriously because of the similarities between Star Wars and LOTR. The fact that Lucas used LOTR as inspiration for Star Wars pretty much ruined the point you were trying to make considering its pretty obvious Joe used the Bible in creating the BOM so i did not really get your point in comparing similarities. Apparently I wasnt among the intended audience because, it seems, plenty of others did “get it” (somehow).

    The sarcasm isnt really appreciated and it makes you look a bit threatened. I have never suggested that i can prove anything DEFINITIVELY and i also never suggested just throwing the BOM out because of similarities to the Bible, nice stretch. That said, I will gladly show you how the writings of “ancient Hebrews living in 3,000 B.C.” were translated into KJV english if you really dont know. Now, Please explain to me how the BOM ended up in the same language if Joe didnt borrow LIBERALLY from the bible. This is the whole point of this thread, right? to show that the similarities are insignificant. Well, to me, these similarities are FAR from insignificant and go beyond a writer using another authors work as “inspiration” (Lucas didnt use the same writing style as Tolkein).

    Your life can be whatever puzzle you want it to be and you can leave open whatever possibilities you want (UFOs, Bigfoot, Lamanites:)). The thing is, I find the cry for CONCLUSIVE evidence to be a cop out and a way to justify anything you choose believe. Sometimes common sense and intelligence needs to kick in as I dont believe God intends for us to float through life latching onto “possibilities” and apologetic speculation.

  20. stuff, just so it’s clear, your first paragraph describes exactly the process I was describing in my comment. We don’t disagree on the process at all.

  21. stuff – KJV is not written in “Victorian” English. King James lived 1566-1625. Queen Victoria lived 1819-1901. You’re off by a couple hundred years.

    Andrew A – wow, poppa bear, never seen anyone get your dander up before!

    Why do haters always refer to JS as “Joe”? I do not see him referenced as “Joe” in historical documents. It seems an unusual phenomenon. Is this just a connotative swipe to denigrate him by making him sound more ordinary? It seems petty. Just wondering.

  22. stuff (26) in the immortal words of that old man in Cold Hand Luke, “what we have here is failure to communicate.” It’s pretty clear to me now that you don’t understand my argument, and I don’t understand yours. That said, I’m happy to live and let live.

  23. Stuff’s arguments are the same ones I hear from a lot of people that have never actually read the Book of Mormon. Somebody tells them that entire sections of the Book of Mormon are right out of the Bible but they dont’ realize that there are another 400+ pages that aren’t. And how come the same logic doesn’t apply to the Bible? Shouldn’t the similarities in the four gospels prove that Matthew, Luke, and John ripped off Mark’s writings?

  24. “Shouldn’t the similarities in the four gospels prove that Matthew, Luke, and John ripped off Mark’s writings?”

    Um, they did, at least Matthew and Luke. In biblical scholarship it’s called the Synoptic Problem.

    Jesus also “ripped off” Isaiah and other Old Testament authors as we can see in the Gospels.

    It seems that in Mormon circles, there is an unfortunate and unnecessary imputation of immorality to the act of being influenced by ones’ environment. I don’t understand how the subtext of “ripping off” or “plagiarizing”, including copyright law precedent in the United States, has any bearing on historical judgments of a text’s authorship.

    When one sets up a dichotomy of Plagiarizing versus Inspiration, the conclusion is foregone. When that step is taken, any attempt to plausibly identify even mundane, obvious influences on the Book of Mormon, like the fact that it was written in the style of the King James version of the Bible, is seen as a smear on the reputation of Joseph Smith. This is just too bad, as it clouds the real issues.

  25. “Come to think of it, the Apostle Paul’s writings sound suspiciously similar to that Jesus guy’s teachings”.

    Careful, Andrew, here you’re going against the grain of modern biblical scholarship, AND my own personal opinion, which is much worse. Watch it. 😉

  26. So we have a post on bad apologetics and bad polemics, and almost as if on cue, a commenter shows up to inform us that the Book of Mormon is a fraud because it is written in King James English. If there’s ever been a more risible polemic against the Book of Mormon, I can’t think what it would be. What’s more, the commenter appears to be serious.

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