What are the implications of embracing SITH (stone-in-the-hat) as the explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon?
For the first 200 years of the restoration, believers accepted the claims of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery that the Book of Mormon was a translation of ancient records kept on metal plates. They rejected the claims of critics that Joseph merely read words that appeared on a stone he put in a hat (SITH).
About 20 years ago, LDS scholars re-interpreted the historical evidence to reject what Oliver and Joseph said in favor of SITH. Lately, SITH has gained more widespread acceptance.
Nevertheless, many Latter-day Saints (including me) still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught.
Some of us think Joseph used SITH solely to demonstrate the process to a handful of supporters to whom he could not show the Urim and Thummim or the plates. Decades later, after Joseph and Oliver had died, some of the eyewitnesses transformed the demonstration into the translation, as I've described in my book, A Man that Can Translate.
Does it make a difference what we believe about the origin of the Book of Mormon?
I think it does, but apparently others do not think it matters. For them, it's the words in the book, not their origin, that matter. That explains much of recent apologetics, but it also explains why recent apologetics are so ineffective, as I'll discuss in my upcoming book on LDS apologetics.
I'm curious what people think about this topic, because it raises the question, what are we reading when we read the Book of Mormon?
1. A translation of a history of a small group of Hebrews living within Mayan culture?
2. A translation of a history of the moundbuilders in North America?
3. A spiritual vision?
4. Words, provided by an unknown source, that appeared on a stone that only Joseph could read?
5. A composition by Solomon Spalding and/or Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, etc.?
6. A compilation of Christian teachings in the framework of a faith-promoting narrative unrelated to any actual people?
7. Something else?
In my view, the evidence points to #2, which also happens to corroborate the teachings of the prophets.
And yet, many believers accept alternatives, including #1, #3, #4, and #6. It is their underlying assumption about these alternatives that drive apologetic arguments such as M2C.
I'm fine with people believing whatever they want, of course.
But I don't see much discussion of the implications of replacing #2 with the other alternatives. We'll discuss the alternatives in upcoming posts.