Monday, August 31, 2020

Exceptionally stupid? Current LDS apologetics

Here are two suggestions for LDS apologetics:

1. Instead of ridiculing sincere objections and questions from those outside our faith, answer them accurately with equivalent sincerity and understanding.

2. Instead of repudiating and ridiculing the teachings of the prophets about such basics as the New York Cumorah and the translation with the Urim and Thummim, support and corroborate those teachings.
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What brought this to mind was a recent post by Dan the Interpreter.

People often send me links to blog posts by Dan the Interpreter, but they're usually just more of the usual braggadocio we've seen for decades so I ignore them.

This one, though was unusually arrogant, and because it typifies so much of current LDS apologetics, let's discuss it briefly.

[No doubt, Dan and his alter ego will react to this with another of their juvenile posts, but we're all used to that by now.]

This can be a little confusing, so let's unpack it this way:

1. In a blog post, Dan the Interpreter claimed someone made an "exceptionally stupid" argument against the Restoration.

2. Dan linked to another blog, scripturalmormonism, which quoted yet a third blog that discussed "one of the dumbest arguments ever raised!" The argument: that the authors of a book titled Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? were the Three Witnesses. Seriously, that's the "exceptionally stupid" argument according to Dan the Interpreter. But it's not even an argument. It's an obvious mistaken identification, accompanied by the serious argument that the Three Witnesses did leave the Church.

3. The scripturalmormonism post in turn linked to an article by Roper that criticized Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?

4. In his blog post, Dan added additional gratuitous and irrelevant ad hominem criticism of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? while ignoring the substantive issues.
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Certainly the original blogger (quoted in red below) made a mistake by thinking the authors of the book referenced (Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon,) were the Three Witnesses, but that's ignorance, not stupidity. The mistaken identity is not their argument, or their point, which is the question why the Three Witnesses left the Church. That's a factual, accurate, and valid point that people assessing the claims of the Restoration want to understand.

But instead of addressing the substantive point, Dan, as usual, ridicules the mistaken identity as "exceptionally stupid."

Finding fault over someone's simple mistake while obscuring the serious (and presumably sincere) point is the type of "apologetics" that has turned off so many people. It was this type of apologetics alerted me that something was fundamentally wrong with LDS apologetics, at least as practiced by the M2C citation cartel (FARMS, FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, etc.).

But there's an even larger issue here. Dan, like other M2C promoters, has explicitly rejected the statements of all three of the Three Witnesses regarding the New York Cumorah.

M2C constitutes a repudiation of the teachings of the very Three Witnesses whose testimony accompanies every copy of the Book of Mormon. All three--David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris--identified the "hill in New York" as Cumorah. One of Oliver's missionary companions, Parley P. Pratt, noted that it was Moroni himself who called that hill Cumorah anciently. And Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates.

According to Dan and the other M2C advocates, all of these people (as well as LDS Church leaders since) were wrong. They were victims of a false tradition that started even before the Book of Mormon was published.

And we're all supposed to believe Dan and the M2C scholars because... I suppose because if we don't, we're also "exceptionally stupid" to believe the teachings of the prophets.
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Here's a link to Dan's post:

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2020/08/an-exceptionally-stupid-argument-against-the-restoration.html

Key excerpt:

our Irish friend Robert Boylan, who might understandably be more attentive to Catholic criticisms of Mormonism because of his location near Dublin, has located what surely has to rank as one of the most obviously laughable anti-Mormon arguments that I’ve ever seen, and it’s from a Catholic:
If you click on that link, you get this blog post:
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On a Catholic apologetics page, Mormonism and it's [sic] Mythology, we read the following question that is supposedly unanswerable for any Mormon:

Why did Smith's three main witnesses, Cowdrey, Davis and Scales write the book, "Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Vision House Publishers, 1977)? Why did they leave the Mormon Church, even though they claimed to have seen Smith’s tablets?

I am sorry, but this has got to be one of the dumbest arguments ever raised! Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard Davis, and Donald Scales were three authors of an anti-Mormon book released in the late 1970s; they were not the three witnesses of the gold plates and the angel Moroni! They were all born in the 20th century, well after the publication of the Book of Mormon and the time of Joseph Smith (d. 1844).

The actual three witnesses were Oliver Cowdery (d.1850), Martin Harris (d. 1875), and David Whitmer (d. 1888). For a scholarly discussion of the Three and Eight Witnesses, see Richard L. Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981).

For a review of the second edition of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?, see Matthew P. Roper, The Mythical "Manuscript Found"
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In his post, Dan the Interpreter spends some time criticizing the book Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon, with his usual ad hominem logical fallacies, such as this:

Incidentally, the Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales book to which Brother Boylan refers was pretty funny even back when it was published in 1977, both because it was deliciously awful and because Wayne Cowdrey was claiming to be a descendent of Oliver Cowdery. 

The otherwise omniscient Dan the Interpreter doesn't seem to realize that Wayne Cowdrey clarified that he is related to Oliver because Oliver's grandfather was Wayne's uncle, six times removed. Nevertheless, Dan embarks on a bizarre explanation of why Wayne could not be descended from Oliver, as if that has any relevance to the facts and argument Wayne has made. It's another typical diversion from the main points of the arguments raised by critics.

The Roper article titled "The Mythical 'Manuscript Found'" is cited by FARMS here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Books/Who_Really_Wrote_the_Book_of_Mormon

You can also see that one here:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1616&context=msr

This is a useful article that also points out the contradictions of M2C.

On page 12, Roper accurately writes:

Leaders of the church at that time reacted to Mormonism Unvailed in several ways. First, they published in the Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate a series of letters on the history of Joseph Smith and his early prophetic experiences. These materials were intended as a rebuttal to the negative testimony published by Howe.

Here's the irony.

Two key assertions of Mormonism Unvailed were:

(i) Joseph translated with a "peep stone" and

(ii) the Book of Mormon was fiction, copied or adapted from the Solomon Spalding manuscript.

Regarding these two assertions, Roper, Dan the Interpreter, and every other member of, supporter of, employee of, and contributor to the M2C citation cartel have expressly rejected the defense to Mormonism Unvailed published by Joseph and Oliver.

They reject parts of Letter IV, most of Letter VII, and most of them even reject the part of Letter I that is canonized in the Pearl of Great Price because Oliver testified that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim.

By rejecting the defenses by Joseph and Oliver that were published and republished multiple times during Joseph's lifetime, our M2C scholars have not only undermined the credibility and reliability of Joseph and Oliver, but also the credibility and reliability of the LDS prophets and apostles who have reiterated those defenses ever since.
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The problems don't stop there.

The authors of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon published a follow-up that includes a 57-page response to Roper's article. If Roper addressed the points they raised, FairMormon hasn't included it.

Instead, FairMormon offers a stale response that is adequate for confirming the biases of believers who just want an answer (any answer will do), but does little to inspire confidence among those who seek clarification and resolution of the Spalding theory.

That's a topic for another day, but it is articles such as this from Dan the Interpreter and other LDS apologists that lead so many people to find better answers elsewhere. People don't want to read ad hominem attacks that skirt the issues.

Sadly, they end up consulting the CES Letter, Mormon Stories, etc.
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To reiterate, here are two suggestions for an alternative approach:

1. Instead of ridiculing sincere objections and questions from those outside our faith, answer them accurately with equivalent sincerity and understanding.

2. Instead of repudiating and ridiculing the teachings of the prophets about such basics as the New York Cumorah and the translation with the Urim and Thummim, support and corroborate those teachings.

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