Tuesday, August 10, 2010

can i get a witness

the epic showdown continues. At the bell I fail to leave my corner. Time to retire (this thread anyway )...

To Whom It May Concern,

Further to our conversation regarding the three witnesses of the golden plates I would venture to add that while their unwavering dedication to their testimonies surrounding the events documented in the opening pages of the Book of Mormon (improper), was nothing short of exemplary; I cannot in good conscience take these men at their word, not enough to follow them to the ends of the earth or the pearly gates of heaven, or even exert more than a cursory glance over the documents regarding their story. I find nothing of any substance that would move me to esteem their special experience over that of any other subject claiming a divine visitation or ecstatic encounter. The world is filled with wondrous first hand accounts of extraordinary beings revealing themselves to lowly humans: Aliens, Allah, the Resurrected Christ, big foot, the Virgin Mary, Elvis et al. I cannot account for what these various witnesses claim, neither do I feel obligated to. I have neither the time nor the patience to embark on a exhaustive study of events and people who are of little interest to me. Their story did little to move me when I was a member in good standing, nor when I later became disaffected. I do feel an unmistakable compulsion to return to a study of Mormonism, but this would center around the two most compelling characters who were instrumental in its advent: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. So it is written, so it shall be done.

God's speed,

The Lozinator


Justin said...

Loren the comic book writer wants to follow the character driven storylines of Joseph and Brigham instead of that tedious technical information surrounding the Golden Plates. Understandable.

Still, the plates, witnesses and translation have an awful lot to do with Joseph Smith when one plays the logic out.

If Joseph Smith did indeed have golden plates, and did indeed spend time in work of translating the plates, and if it really was a miraculour translation then that's pretty important to his claim of being a prophet, and a pretty significant accomplishment.

Loren said...

"Tedious" is definitely the operative word here, bludgeoning myself to death with mind-numbingly repetitive accounts from something like David Whitmer: A Restoration Witness is hardly my idea of a good time.

"Technical" come on now, it's all fairly straightforward, there's nothing technical about it. I'm skeptical of Joseph Smith as a prophet, and the Book of Mormon as a historical document. You bring up the witnesses because it's probably overall the best evidence to support the said premises. The witnesses were faithful to their testimonies, but they did occasionally say some odd things about their experience which makes you wonder, why the hell would they say that?

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. They were true to the end. I believe that they believed that what they said was true. All true believers can claim as much though. People have flown planes into to buildings to prove their commitment to a cause. Just because someone dedicates their life to something doesn't make it true.

But getting into the the translation process, some of the witnesses, are the same people who described the way Joseph "translated" the BoM, which coincidentally closely resembled the way he at one time participated in glass-looking to seek hidden treasure in the earth, the same kind of behavior that got him in trouble with the law. Do you hear that ringing? Alarm bells.

Besides from the historical record based on the testimonies of reputable individuals, Joseph didn't even look at the plates while translating. Why did Mormon and Moroni go to all that trouble to preserve something that the prophet of the restoration didn't even use? (I can think of some pretty good reasons) Why get witnesses for the plates that you don't even use? It's bizarre.

This is partly why I don't think that the witnesses should be the primary focus of a discussion about the Book of Mormon. They were on the periphery, Joseph was the true mover and shaker. Why not focus on the man who made it all happen.

Justin said...

I have to disagree man, The last time I was thinking of it it seemed absolutely foundational for the case for Joseph Smith when put into a greater context. But we haven't really started on it.

Up to you cobber, stay in the ring or gracefully leave.

I haven't been on that topic for a while after all the faith and confusion thread stuff. Maybe I'll try adding something on it in the next few weeks. MAybe, jut maybe I can turn a boring topic into an interesting one (like selling ice to eskimos).

Justin said...

On second thoughts lets just role with the tangents and not worry about getting lost. We've done it before and it's probably more fun...

Loren wrote:
"...closely resembled the way he at one time participated in glass-looking to seek hidden treasure in the earth, the same kind of behavior that got him in trouble with the law. Do you hear that ringing? Alarm bells."

Why would treasure hunting in hte context of early 19th century America or Europe raise alarm bells? I assume your refering to the 1826 trial?

There are people to this day that practice something similar called water diving/dousing and they swear by it's practical use. I've seen it done myself. Here in Korea people use stacks of burned wood for 'air purification' in buildings, and various stones that people lie on for health and healing, I don't know how it works but it's pretty darn mainstream practice in this (high tech and educated) part of the world. And then there's acupuncture, and kinesiology/muscle testing, which to my knowledge and experience is a pretty reliable health diagnostic tool, even tho the exact science behind it may not be understood.

The list could go on, but "the Field" by Lynne McTaggart may make for a good scientific read under this context.

Like I said in another post whatever tool Joseph Smith used during the translation doesn't matter much to me. As far as I can tell he used about 3 methods at different stages of the work. So what?

Loren wrote:
"I can think of some pretty good reasons"
OK, go ahead and entertain us.

Loren said...

Agreed, let's roll.

"Why would treasure hunting in the context of early 19th century America or Europe raise alarm bells? I assume your referring to the 1826 trial?"

Granted there must have been a certain sub-culture where glass-looking was an acceptable practice; but I'm not sure if this acceptance extended to the society at large at the time, because if it did, Joseph probably wouldn't have gone on trial for disturbing the peace by engaging in such things.

This concerns me, because:

1. He was still engaged in folk magic even after the first vision. In the church today magic isn't looked upon too favorably (we've just finished a period, let's call it the McConkie era, where even playing cards was a spiritual offence, so forget about magic. Strangely the church has begun phasing many of the "Mormon Doctrine" (by McConkie) quotes out of their materials ). Magic's a counterfeit to the priesthood perhaps. So now we've got a situation where either...

(a) Joseph practiced magic, which is naughty, and used it to translate the plates


(b) Today we're wrong and magic is fine


(c) conveniently, magic was OK then for Joseph, but it's not for us, and God uses even the dark arts to sometimes to achieve his purposes.


(d) we accept it as a mystery and rely on faith to carry the day

There are probably other possibilities too, but this covers most of the scenarios I can think of right now. If (a) or (b) is true then we as a people have made a misstep somewhere. Either we should be more accepting of others, and not roundly condemn every other creed as an abomination, since our church began with an unorthodox form of magic (the consequence of (b)). Or it was just plain wrong, magic is bad and we should all start looking for another religion (a possible consequence of (a)). (c) seems to me like something an apologist would think of. God is constant and unchanging, but sometimes genocide is good -- see the OT-- sometimes magic is good it all depends on who knows what. God's caprice maybe? Is situational ethics how we measure what's good? Subjective morality, why that's no better than what the atheists have to offer. If you're going to take Mormonism at it's word I suppose (d) is the best option (I guess (d) and (c) can work together too). It's hard to reconcile any of the others. (a-c) are problematic for me because they aren't consistent (unless you accept (a) and just leave), something I'd expect from a God of order, and his church. If we've gone astray at some point maybe it's time to right the ship. As you can probably guess I don't much like the idea of (d) either, this would require that I ignore the inconstancies and hang my hat on the peg of faith. Faith has its place, it can bridge the gap between facts and the unknown, but I don't like to use it to obscure contradictory facts.

Loren said...


"Like I said in another post whatever tool Joseph Smith used during the translation doesn't matter much to me. As far as I can tell he used about 3 methods at different stages of the work. So what?"

2. One could say if the BoM is true we shouldn't concern ourselves too much with how it was translated, but let's not put the cart before the horse. What came first the BoM as we have it today or the process by which it was translated?Obviously the method used proceeded the words that were put on the page. Now in principle I don't have a problem with Joseph using a stone in a hat to translate, that's not any more fanciful than using an ancient Hebrew instrument for doing the same (but a little less grandiose, let's be honest). What I do have a problem with is that the story got changed at some point, to the point where the stone in the hat doesn't even get mentioned unless you accidentally bump into it on the internet or in some obscure text. Every picture I've ever seen by the church on the subject did nothing but reinforce this misconception about the translation process. Everything I was taught growing up led me to believe only the Urim & Thumim were involved. So what happened, was this an innocent oversight, or did someone along the line, like oh say the correlation committee, care enough about the translation process to leave out this tidbit of information. The party line for a few decades now has been "not everything that is true is useful", so I don't think I'm going out on a limb here. I agree with Richard Bushman (an apologist), who thinks the brethren may have deemphasized the stone in the hat to distance Mormonism and The Prophet from its folk magic roots.

Loren said...

continued again...

So, in conclusion to this novel length comment, The reason why I'm skeptical is because, Joseph continued to practice folk magic even after the first vision. But not only that, he used the exact same process to translate the BoM that he had used to "find" treasure in the earth for people foolish enough to believe the glass-looking claims. I say foolish, because he never actually found any treasure with the stone, which is probably why he went to trial and was convicted. We get taught, generally, that Joseph used the urim and thumim to translate, which was preserved for that special purpose. When most of the first hand accounts indicate that he used some stone that he found in a well. There are these special tools that have been prepared for him by god, and he uses the stone from a well "out of convenience." Then for a few years the stone gets written out of the narrative. So, even though you don't care how he did it, it appears that some one did, otherwise the story would have come to us in a form that was closer to how things happened; oh the deception (also please don't reply saying that I'm only speculating as to why they don't talk about the stone, it's very clear from the way the church has behaved that we've gone through a period where they've whitewashed their history, the most reasonable explanation is that simplified absolutes attract converts far more than nuance. Oaks has said that we might now be moving to a place where we can tell a warts an all history, implying that we have not done so in the past). So, we have a scenario were Joseph started out as a bit of a huckster (assuming that folk magic is nothing more than superstition, whatever the case Joseph didn't seem like an affective practitioner when he was searching for treasure) then there's a claim that he's seen God, that he's a prophet and has gold plates to translate. And he use's the same method to translate as when he was a huckster. So if the process that Joseph used was dubious, what does that say about what we now have in the BoM. Can a corrupt tree (folk magic, and form of it that doesn't seem to work) bring forth good fruit? It's not so much the stone, but the context surrounding in it. This is what I find problematic. Of course some one could conclude that the stone started working once Joseph was called to his work, but that doesn't feel right to me.

"So what?" Well, that's what I think anyway. I've got to say that this kind of dismissive statement really rubs me the wrong way, it's so typical of a FAIR response. To guys like Daniel Peterson they sometimes act like it's all much ado about nothing. Well, actually these are real issues for me that affect me greatly. Anyway, I hope this helps you understand where I'm coming from.

Loren said...

and finally...

""I can think of some pretty good reasons" OK, go ahead and entertain us."

The best one I can think of is: It's made up

Someone who is watching said...

Loren & Justin

It seems to me that the purpose of the three witnesses and other players in the restoration movement is to provide just enough credibility to get your attention and to get you to read, study and search the contents of the Book.

Beyond that, the three witnesses and even Joseph himself, become somewhat irrelevant.

Beyond that, your ability to comprehend light is really all it boils down to.

As someone who has probably done over 10,000 key word and key phrase searches between the Book of Mormon and the other standard works, I would suggest that your judgment and discernment of the truthfulness of the Book can be taken to a much deeper level.

I would encourage you to quit analyzing and intellectualizing the history and statements of the "barking dogs" of the LDS restoration movement, pro and con, and learn to discern truth for yourself.

Great things are at stake here.

I apologize if my remarks seem condescending, that is not my intent.

I feel you are both probably my intellectual superiors, and yet, perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps that is your stumbling block.

I just feel that you are approaching your eternal welfare with your left brain instead of tapping into the light that is within you.

Just saying...


Loren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren said...

Hi Watcher,

I appreciate your comments. I realize they are offered with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, I may have already advanced to the "past feeling" stage of spiritual decrepitude. I don't think the Holy Ghost (or any other personal type of God) exists outside of our minds. So, What I feel is at stake is how we live this life, anything beyond that, for me, is pure speculation. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Speculation is fun, which is why I keep talking about Mormonism. It has become an intellectual curiosity for me, but I no longer see it as a guide post that (directly) influences my decision making.

By the way, I don't think the evidence per se affects Justin's testimony at all. He's attuned to the spirit. His efforts here, I think, are just his meeting me halfway, probably in an attempt to save my soul. It's nice to have people that care (also I think both of us just think the topics are interesting, except for the 3 witness thing, it's gotten stale for me)

Justin said...

Someone who is watching, comment appreciated. I agree with you on the purpose of the three witnesses and other players in the restoration movement. For most people that's the way it works.

However, a lot of likeable people are being -vely affected by details surrounding these same things. I feel that it's important to communicate with them on their own basic grounds.

Now that I think about it, my intention is to give the Book of Mormon (and it's associated faith) just enough credibility to get Loren's attention to rethink some of what he is saying in his posts. Perhaps even get him to read, study and search the contents of the Book again... and tap into the light that is within him.

Whether I succeed or not I don't know. As a believing friend, I just feel that it's important to try. From my experience, once a person has shared his views about something publically for a long time (on internet or otherwise), it becomes very hard to change their perspective/position on something.

Loren, I can't let you have your say for years on end and gaining a large audience, without making my own contribution. In the worst case it's nice excercise in though to meet you halfway.

Justin said...

In future I will change "so what?" to something like, "why is that important to you?"

Back to the talk...a few questions and comments. They may fail to encapsule the entirety of your expressed concerns, but here goes...

1. What is 'magic' really, and how do we know what is magic and what isn't? What's the difference between magic and scientic practice? What do you think God's take on it would be?

2. A lot of people go to court even though they don't think they did anything wrong (and perhaps they didn't). A lot of people are prosecuted when they don't think they did anything wrong (and perhaps they didn't). A lot of wrong things are made legal. Let's not confuse the accusations and judgements of people with the accusations of God.

As a far flung (but personal) case study and side note, I know that raw milk and dairy is extremely healthful and important for preventing or even treating disease. However, it is basically illigal to sell it commerically in New Zealand (and most developed countries I can think of), doesn't mean the law is right tho, and as far as I can tell the 2 reasons for the law are a. flawed scientific paradigm (thankyou Pastuer) and b)financial interest.

What flawed paradigms and personal interests surrounded the 1826 trial/examination of Joseph Smith then? We don't know, but it's possible they existed.

2. On the assumption that glass looking and money digging is false practice: I haven't done or witnessed a lot of things either, but of course that doesn't mean to say they aren't real. Did Joseph Smith have reason to believe money digging was a valid profession? Probably.
According to the Newspaper "Palmyra Herald", July 24, 1822:
"digging for money in the earth is a very common thing, and in this state it is even considered an honorable and profitable employment.
"one gentleman... digging 10-12 years again found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a commodious house.
Another... dug up... Fifty thousand dollars!"

Well, true or not, sign me up if I'm to beleive those reports..

A number of christians also found the practice compatible with their faith.

Joseph Smith even seemed to have some genuine ability at it according to some reports. Apparently Joseph could see unseen things by looking through a stone.
Brigham Young made comment of this.

4. The following video is about a product that many people consider a scam. But upon a closer look, a different conclusion is possible (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cnvj4cV7GK0&feature=related)

5. I doubt validation of the practice could have gone very far for several reasons. For one, Is it likely that there was a lot of treasure buried around the place? probably not. As a rough parallel, we don't see many people sifted for gold inthe rivers of New Zealand these days.. but it used to be popular and they even found gold.

6. With all this in mind, is glass looking/treasure digging really 'magic'?

7. What exactly the technique/tool has to do with translating records and Gods aid, I do not know. But the result (Book of Mormon) is impressive.

8. Why doesn't the Church talk more openly about Josephs use of the seer stone? Well, I know I was told about it by the missionaries when I was learning about the church, but not the detail about the hat. As you can probably tell the part about the hat doesn't affect me much, but some people care. For those people that care, is it worth telling them about it before they are gain a solid testimony? probably not. Do I feel betrayed by the pictures of Joseph looking at pages of gold leaves along side notes of it's translation. No? Do I feel betrayed that I wasn't told the more bizzare details of the translation process? No I don't. Do I see anything 'satanic' or 'occult' in the church doctrines? No I don't. So I'm pretty sweet with my concludion that it's of God.

Your thoughts?

Someone who is watching said...


I only entered this conversation (uninvited) because of a response that Loren posted on another blog about Mormonism that led me to believe that he was still interested in objectively valuating Mormonism and was interested in hearing from other perspectives.

Had I known that he was in the "'past feeling' stage of spiritual decrepitude" I wouldn't have bothered him.

I admire your persistence in wanting to share your passion with him.

BTW I am now listening to the 2nd video from David Getoff regarding the BioElectric Shield and enjoying it very much... thanks for the heads up.

I enjoy learning about and evaluating alternative medicine.

Its funny, a few decades ago when my wife and I first learned about muscle testing we thought it was either a scam or of the devil..

I now find its place in David's evolution in accepting the concept of the viability of a BioElectric Shield very compelling.

I agree with David that probably less than 10% of practitioners really are competent in the use of muscle testing... it can be a very subjective science. However I think it is valid when done by someone gifted enough to be able to deal with subtle energies.

He hasn't convinced me yet about the bio shield, but he still has over one and a half videos to make his case...


Loren said...


This is the internet everyone's invited, feel free to disabuse me of my heretical ignorance any time.

Loren said...


What are we going to do with you?

"1. What is 'magic' really..." Well, magic is performance art. It doesn't exist (in a paranormal sense). So, it's likely that some skulduggery was afoot. Science is a practice that involves collecting verifiable facts about the world, while magic is a form of entertainment, I'm not quite sure where you're going with this one. We can do cool stuff with science so it's like magic? 'Like' is not the same as equal to. Anyway, if we're to broaden the definition of magic to where it's able to encompass everything, well that kind of defeats the purpose of language.

"2. A lot of people go to court even though they don't think they did anything wrong..." I see, laws are only convenient when they don't contravene the prerogative of The Prophet. Joe can't have been wrong in this instance, it was the state of New York that we should condemn. There was possibly some higher law at work, that we possibly don't know about, that would possibly make this statement make sense. This is the classic, we-can't-explain-it-so-god's-ways-are-higher-than-our-ways argument. Who cares if Joseph thought what he was doing was right. Hitler probably thought what he was doing was right. Joe broke the law, and don't worry I wont under any circumstances bring up the 12th article of faith.

"[3.] On the assumption that glass looking and money digging is false practice: I haven't done or witnessed a lot of things either, but of course that doesn't mean to say they aren't real..."

I've never been to the moon but I know that it's made of cheese.

You're right, in that I should not dismiss things based solely on the fact that I have not experienced them. But I shouldn't automatically embrace them either. Joseph and his contemporaries may have thought glass-looking was legit, but why should that move me to do the same? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So, until the day President Monson gets up at GenCon, plonks his head into a hat, and reads the will of God from a seer stone (preferably from the stone) in front of a gob-smacked congregation, you can count me out on this get rich quick scheme.

Loren said...

"6. With all this in mind, is glass looking/treasure digging really 'magic'?"

I don't think that was what I was getting at, at all with my concerns. Magic is the least of my worries. Here's the most simplified way I can explain it... Joseph makes all these outlandish (in relation to our modern world view) claims. When I look at the evidence as a whole it doesn't paint him in a favorable light. The only way any of it can be justified is beginning from the idea that: God lives and Joseph is his prophet, and going from there. The unfortunate thing about this premise is that because of some of the questionable things Joseph did, anything and everything becomes justifiable in some way no matter how weak the argument or how foolish it makes the defender of the faith look.

I never used to like the extreme claim of some atheists who posited that all fundamentalist (read: literalist) religious memebers are always only one command away from committing genocide or some other grotesque atrocity, because of the unwavering trust they place in their leaders, but the more I hear from true believers, the more plausible this frightening situation becomes to me. I can hardly wait to begin discussing Joseph's marriages to 14 year old girls, if only to hear the justification for statutory rape.

It's strange, I hear from apologists that the prophets were humans just like the rest of us (that's not the strange part), they made mistakes some times. But whenever a possible (and in some cases probable) mistake that smokin' Joe made, is brought up, there is always some lame ass excuse. He's human and made mistakes, just not any that we know of. Um, OK... (at least there are some apologists who think Polygamy might have been a mistake, it gives me hope).

P.S. on 8. Let me assure you talking about the seer stone during the discussions is not a common thing, especially during the time you were taught. We were supposed to deliver those D's verbatim. You may be the exception that proves the rule in that case.

Justin said...

OK, well I'll define magic as some act that hass unexplained mechanics but is remarkable, and people are left to interpret the 'how' in a number of ways. Whether positive, netral or negative to what the performer claims. And the peerformer's claims are usually supernatural (particularly gods, angels and spirits). Just wanna be sure we speak the lame langauge on this one.

In the trial, which predefined law did Joseph Smith apparently break? I'm not that up with it.

Yeah, I'm happy to question your opinion on different topics regarding Jospeh Smith's character, seeing I think he's a prophet I'm keen interpret those things in a favourable light. I'd like him to be a wonderful man, whose example I could model my own life after. Hail to the prophet.

But for a moment lets just assume that Jospeh Smith WAS a thief, a lyer, an alcoholic, a sex-hungry womaniser, and a rapist. Should that -vely affect one's existing testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the restored church? If so, How and why?

Loren said...

Now we're talking. We've entered the sarcastic stage of argument, and none to soon. It's my fault, I started it, I know. But that is a legitimately good question (back to not being sarcastic for the moment):

"But for a moment lets just assume that Jospeh Smith WAS a thief, a lyer, an alcoholic, a sex-hungry womaniser, and a rapist. Should that -vely affect one's existing testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the restored church? If so, How and why?"

Gotta ponder that for a bit, I feel a massive massive post coming on...

Justin said...

Someone who is watching, Over the last 18 months or so, I've been very impressed by David Getoff. Very sincere and very knowledgable, and fantastic at explaining things in a clear way.

Try his name under youtube for a few other brief videos/interviews.
His website is www.davidgetoff.com

The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation (of which he is the VP)is also very good. Fascinationg research that the masses know almost nothing about.

OneWhoIsWatching said...

Yes Justin

I find his communication and delivery to be really very understandable and compelling.

I believe he is sincere and very knowledgable.

He appears to be one of those rare health care gurus that is in it for his love of understanding the universe around us and serving others as well as the money...

Thanks for the heads up.


PS I do think those pieces of metal are pretty pricey..

They are clearly priced based on what they do for you, not based on a reasonable mark up above the raw manufacturing costs..

But that is what makes Babylon great... right?