long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The goal

People keep asking me what I hope to accomplish by maintaining this blog, doing the research, writing the books and articles, etc.

My main goal is to have the LDS community reach a fact-based consensus about what happened in Church history. Then I want to reach a consensus about Book of Mormon historicity, including geography, anthropology, culture, etc.

A lot of active Church members tell me they want to know what the General Authorities think. In my experience, they are focused on ministering to people, not on addressing issues of Book of Mormon historicity. I think that's the right approach, too.

However, I also think the historicity issues are important to ministering, because there is a widespread perception--certainly among investigators and former/inactive members, and even among many active members--that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. It is tragic that anyone would lost faith on that basis, because it's not true. There is an abundance of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon--just not in Mesoamerica.

So the sooner the Mesoamerican setting is jettisoned, the better.

Ultimately, the goal is to replace the article on lds.org titled "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies." I've written about this before, but it deserves repeating. If it wasn't on lds.org, this article could be on an anti-Mormon site. It boils down to a rationalization for the absence of any sign of the Book of Mormon people in Mesoamerica; i.e., they vanished, or were completely absorbed without a trace. That's exactly the point made by former/inactive/anti Mormons.

The article cites the "Facts Are Stubborn Things" article from the Times and Seasons, claiming that because it "was published under Joseph Smith's editorship," "Joseph Smith appears to have been open to the idea of migrations other than those described in the Book of Mormon." There are two logical problems with these statements. First, the fact that Joseph was the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons says nothing about his participation in the writing, editing, or even publishing of that article. There is zero evidence that he had anything to do with it; in fact, all the historical evidence shows he had nothing to do with it. Second, the article itself says nothing about other migrations. Instead, it purports to link the Mesoamerican ruins to the Book of Mormon people, a direct contradiction to everything Joseph actually said and wrote about the topic. IOW, the lds.org article is based on a compound error that, IMO, makes Joseph Smith look foolish and uncertain.

The article also cites Roper's piece, "Nephi's Neighbors," which I've discussed before.

The article claims, "Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples." But anyone who reads the book knows Lehi's group came from Jerusalem and were, as Joseph said, "principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph." That's not nothing. At the very least, that tells us their DNA is certainly not Asian.

Here's another fallacy in the article. "Book of Mormon record keepers were primarily concerned with conveying religious truths and preserving the spiritual heritage of their people. They prayed that, in spite of the prophesied destruction of most of their people, their record would be preserved and one day help restore a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Contrast that to the title page of the Book of Mormon: "Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile... Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever."

So Moroni dedicated the book to "the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel," so they can learn about their fathers. But the lds.org article claims it is "unlikely that their DNA could be detected today" because "nothing is known about their DNA" and "processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration for West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today." IOW, the article insists we can never know who the Lamanites are. So how are they, a remnant of Israel, going to know who they are? Can one be a descendant without any DNA from one's ancestors? If so, what does it mean to be a "remnant of the house of Israel" anyway?

I realize that in a sense, everyone is related to everyone else; everyone, then, may be a remnant of the house of Israel. But Moroni distinguished between the remnant and the Jew and Gentile, so he seemed to think there was some genetic identification.

In the next few days, I'll post the letter I think lds.org should use to replace the one on there now.


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