Talk:Book of Mormon controversies/Archive 1

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Hey! I've got all this irrelevant discussion I cut from the Book of Mormon page. It was useless there, but I am embarrassed to poof it. I hope I won't get spanked, but I'm going to paste it here. At least here it will kind of show discussers that this article has been around and around and around.... If I have done wrong, go ahead and delete from here to the next zqzqzqz. Hawstom 22:58, 3 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Why don't you guys mention the 116 pages? Afraid people will see through your lies?

Oh, no! Criticisim from a vandal. —Frecklefoot 15:18, 21 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I'm going to need references before I can buy this statement:

The church no longer teaches that the dark peoples of the world will be made white after accepting the Book of Mormon and the rest of the gospel.

white is used in many places in the scriptures in a symbolic sense, and it would make sense to clarify that the use there referred to purity and not skin color, especially if individual members were starting to take it the wrong way.

The way the church works, it's not a church teaching unless the leaders taught it (and usually repeat it many, many times) in the official channels. The whole point being to not go off on single verses like that one. And I've never heard of changing skin color being church doctrine.

I remember a quote from President Kimball where he said a black person marrying a white person would drop dead on the spot. Yes, really. But I'll have to search for it. Yes, church doctrine was that black people would become white once they accepted the gospel, over a period of generations.

Reporting the Church's views is only NPOV if these view are put in the context of comparative religion and theological discussion. To dismiss such criticism as a "straw man" opens the path to declaring non-Mormon views as being heretic on the Wikipedia.

Right, which is why I reported that the church considered it a straw man. I would also be fine mentioning that the church considers particular non-Mormon views as heretical. Reporting the criticism itself as a straw man or reporting that the views themselves were heretical wouldn't necessarily be NPOV.
RANT: I've been frequently annoyed with the one-sidedness of criticism that gets posted about the church, as if 10 million church members don't mind or are somehow ignorant of great glaring inconsistencies in their faith (like, oh, say, Spencer Kimball teaching that interracial couples would fall over dead - I imagine we'll be waiting a long time for a reference on that statement). The problem is that lots of people who are anti-Mormon for some reason or another have published web sites with lists of trite claims like this which are completely false, don't tell the whole story, or are phrased to sound strange and menacing (God is an alien!). The original addendum about changes to the text of the BOM could have come right from one of those sites, and stated (falsely, AFAICT) that they had changed the text around after a change of doctrine about changing skin color. These claims sound especially bad to fundamentalist Christians, since they treat the bible as their ultimate authority, and may not realize that the mormon treatment of scripture is slightly different. All of these criticisms are fine to report, if for no other reason than that lots of critics are fond of them, but you have to realize that they often come from a biased source, and that, at least in this case, don't pose major problems to the internal consistency of the faith (which I believe I can say neutrally - an unbiased outsider should be able to consider the published doctrines and the changes to the book and come to the same conclusion). There are probably lots of good criticisms of the mormon faith, but I'm tired of having to refute the poor ones that keep getting reported here as fact. /RANT

You're right, there is no such quote from Kimball. There is, however, one from Brigham Young. I had just forgotten the correct attribution -- remember, it was from memory.

I added an explanation of the history of the beliefs regarding black people to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, under the history section. I tried *very* hard to be fair and npov, and I gave references.

So you didn't have to wait *that* long for an attribution. :-)

I'm really not interested in propogandizing one way or the other. If the information I have is not complete, and therefore slanted, I welcome your filling in what I've missed. --Dmerrill

I really don't know much about this. I do know that the church banned African-Americans from the priesthood until the 1970s. (On the other hand, apparently Joseph Smith Jr. had ordained an African-American in the early days of the church, so...) -- SJK

The article said no horse remains had been found in the Americas by archaeologists, although they are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't horses originate in America? IIRC, they evolved in the Americas, moved to Asia then Europe over the Bering Strait during the Ice Ages, and then died out in the Americas... all of this happened tens of thousands of years ago of course... in which case, I'm guessing they have found horse remains (although it would have been palaeontologists, not archaeologists, who found them...) Of course, horses existing in America tens of thousands of years ago is still no real evidence for the Book of Mormon's claims that they existed there much more recently, but we should be fair... -- SJK

Here's an article about horses: It appears that horses existed in North America for a long time, became extinct, then were introduced. --Eric

Removing pending verification from a source. I have heard third hand that the church made this claim, but that alone doesn't make it so. And I wouldn't even state it as a church claim, since I got it only third hand. Would whoever added it please give an attribution to the claim?

The change from "white" to "pure" was first made in an 1840 edition edited by Joseph Smith, but the change wasn't perpetuated in later editions until 1981.


Take your pick; the first four are pro-LDS sources, the other two anti-LDS:

I've removed the statement that says some of the witnesses later signed statements denying what they had stated earlier. As far as I've been able to find out, this simply isn't true, and even the anti-Mormon sites I checked out don't make this claim. Rather, they raise other questions about the witnesses' credibility. See . --E.

Um, this page does make this claim. Please re-read it. I don't see how it supports your position.

BTW, why were my recent changes deleted? Someone said that they were not NPOV, but how so? NPOV does not mean that everyone will agree with it. It means, rather, that we are honor-bound to discuss issues in an impartial manner, in accord with the highest levels of historical and scientific scholarship. Nothing I have seen in the latest revert strokes me as being NPOV. Rather, it looks to me that we have merely removed facts that would offend a Mormon true believer. But the point of having a non-religious encyclopedia is to point out the history and facts behind each subject, even if true believers of any stripe disapprove. That goes for my faith as well. I would greatly appreciate it if you would simply mention any phrase that you find problematic, and offer an alternative. But don't just wipe it all out. That's not maintaining a high level of academic integrity. RK

RK, You have added some interesting material, but please change the tone and presentation to reflect a NPOV. These excerpts illustrate what I'm talking about:

  • "No historians or archaeologists accept the validity of any of these claims."
  • However since the plates mysteriously disappeared, this is impossible to verify."
  • "It is literally impossible..."
  • "LDS apologists originally claimed..."
  • "However, in recent years Church leaders have admitted that many changes were made. They have since created an entirely new doctrine..."

Further, there are a few instances when links to source material really should be included. For example, you cite a BYU doctoral thesis. Did you personally look at the thesis? Are you borrowing the reference from a third-party source? Then cite that source. I am not doubting that it exists, but you need to build a solid case for things like this.

Until you do these, your changes just don't fit into the article.Q

I've re-added some comments I made about the "horses" -> "tapirs" statements. My original comments were expanded by someone else to a larger (and likely NPOV degree) which was outside of my original intent.

The two main things I think are important here:

1) Claiming that "Word X" which happens to be historically ... incongruent ... is actually "Word Y" which happens to be historically compatable. IMHO violates some prinicples of textual criticism. I think we owe it to ourselves that we treat BOM as any other book.

For Example: It would be completely acceptable that when talking about Fermats Last Theorem to take his claim that he had found a solution and say that he was possibly mistaken. Why? Because although we know the theorem to be correct. We also know it is extremely unlikely that the modern solution was Fermats. We also know that there are a number of "blind alleys" i.e. Methods that look like complete proofs but are not.

If we were to apply the same logic it would be reasonable to say that: Joseph Smith was possibly mistaken in his translation of the original text. However that, IMHO opens a whole can of worms concerning accuracy (and possibly the origin) of Urim and Thurim. So I think it's reasonable to point out that the claim isn't actually evidence unless we have the original text..or something linking to the original text (such as in the case of other books which have many manuscripts).

2) Normally I wouldn't be so adamant about this however the phrase in question does appear in a section that is labeled "Authenticity of the Book of Mormon" and just after a sentence that mentions "linguistic" evidence.

So I think implicitly we are sending the message that this is "linguistic evidence of authenticity". Which would only be the case if we had the original text...However since we don't it's really apologetics.

Anyway hope this doesn't offend anyone! :-)

I am deleting the following paragraph because it imposes a claim not made by LDS:

The claim that the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica wrote with a variation of Egyptian heiroglyphics was in line with early published antiquitarian accounts at the start of the 19th century, but when better accounts became availible starting in the 1840s with the works of William H. Prescott, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood this was shown not to be the case. Today the vast majority of ancient Mesoamerican writing can be read by scholars, confirming it is unrelated to the Egyptian language and writing system.

No LDS apologist nor church authority has made such a broad claim about the written language of Mesoamericans.

You are attacking a strawman. LDs people did have such beliefs, even if you prefer that they were phrased another way. You seem embarrassed by their beliefs, because these belief have been proven to be based on a hoax. So be it. But we can't rewrite historical facts to cover up someone's embarassment.
RK, a number statements in your last reply were somewhat ambiguous and vague. Please state what strawman I am attacking. Also, please reference an authoritative source attributable to the LDS church that 'ALL or most or a majority' of ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica wrote with a variation of Egptian heiroglyphics. (That is what the deleted claim implies.) 1 Nephi 1:2 of the Book of Mormon states that "...I[, Nephi,] make a record in the language of my father which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians." Please show us how to move from the Nephi quote to the broad claim above. I'm not embarrassed in the least bit. The actual beliefs of the LDS have hardly been disproven. Please state exactly what historical facts are being rewritten. BoNoMoJo 23:49 Dec 7, 2002 (UTC)

The criticism about the "plates being constructed entirely of gold" is another strawman argument. There is, for example, the testimony of witnesses in the front of the Book of Mormon state that the plates had "the appearance of gold", but there is no official declaration that the plates were constructed entirely of gold. These two claims (entirely of gold and re: egyptian language) examplify what sort problems that could arise without proper attribution or citation. Even if I myself believe that the plates were "gold plates", but that doesn't mean I or any other LDS member believe that the plates were made entirely of gold. If I say the ring on my finger is a gold ring, that doesn't mean the ring is 24-karat. LDS apologists have pointed out this distinction many times. The "gold plates" could have just as easily been called the "gold-alloy plates". To be sure, Mormon beliefs should not be whitewashed or rewritten, but we do need to be sure that we do not attribute beliefs to Mormons which they did not have. BoNoMoJo

While there is plenty of room for valid criticisms, I hope the critical posters are more prudent about the positions they advance. There are some other paragraphs in this article attributing claims to the "church". These will need some fixing too. "The Church" generally just doesn't address criticisms. Please try to be more precise about whom you think is making a claim or engaging in apologetics.

I've also deleted:

However since we lack the original text this is difficult to validate.

Sarkeizeri's comments do not appear to have insight into the translation process in general and as it applied to Joseph Smith in particular and the fact that the original text is not available is irrelevant in this case. Any one who has studied a second language knows that translation is an art. Languages have meanings not directly transferrable into the words of another language. Thus, translators use discretion in the words they use in the target language. Translators are also bound by the extent of their own vocabulary. I can't imagine that the unschooled JS had the word "tapir" at his command. So even if JS knew in his mind to what the original text was referring, it's easy to see how JS would use a familiar word to describe a similar-looking animal. Therefore, it doesn't matter what the original text said.

Personally, I'm persuaded that: the original text referred to modern horses; the theory that modern horses were introduced to America from Europe after Columbus is wrong; and appaloosas and pintos may be good candidates for descendants of pre-columbian american horses...but what do I know. Here is an interesting link to a non-LDS source who agrees about the origins of some american horses. [1]

Please note "probative" is being used in NPOV, not partisan, fashion. The last paragraph on the archeology section is also a nice summary of that section. Don't delete it just because you misunderstand what it says. Sark, since you have an ID now, please remember to sign off on comments you make in the Talk page.

BoNoMoJo 21:51 Dec 5, 2002 (UTC)

I'd like to try to treat all books, religious and otherwise, from the same neutral point of view. That even goes for the holy books of my own religion. I have had cause to diagree even with people of my own faith, and they have attacked me with emotional outbursts, and they have used the same fundamentalist techniques to prove that their interpretation of a holy book is "the truth", even when science, history and archaeology have proven that they are incorrect. RK

I feel the same way about all books religious or otherwise including my own faith. Unfortunately, members of my own faith have relied on poor grounds to "prove" their beliefs from time to time. I am skeptical that science generally can conclusively prove (empirical) claims. IMO the laws, theories and hypotheses of science shift and change over time as more evidence becomes available and will continue to do so until humankind can bound beyond its finite capacity of observation. I would like to think that scientific theories and laws become more accurate over time, but IMO neither science as a whole nor any of its various fields have once and for all met its ends and become the final arbiter of truth...yet. History is no less controversial in this respect. I respect science and history like any other seeker of knowledge, but also appreciate their shortcomings. I've been influenced by Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, some of W. V. Quine's views (like his observations "Two Dogmas of Empiricism") and other philosophers of science. BoNoMoJo

RK, you need to realize that a lot of your "serious scholarship" appears to be drawn from anti-Mormon sites whose editorial policy consist of:
  1. Assertion shows how foolish and/or fraudulent the Mormons and their leaders are.
  2. Assertion has a ring of plausibility.
Some of this material can be useful, but you need to take care when you use it. Beware of generalizations, like the one I cited above that "No historians or archaeologists accept the validity of any of these claims." You do not speak for every historian and archaeologist on Earth.
Another example:
"since the plates mysteriously disappeared..."
To whom was the disappearance mysterious? In the LDS POV, Joseph Smith gave the plates to the angel Moroni. There was no mystery. Many non-Mormons believe that the plates never existed. For them, the "disappearance" is not a mystery either. So why use the word mysterious?
And third, be careful in distinguishing the various groups involved.
In your descriptions, you must be careful to distinguish these:
  1. Mormon leaders
  2. Mormons in general
  3. Mormon apologists
Also these:
  1. Mormon doctrine
  2. Things certain Mormons believe/believed to be true, even if not based on doctrine.
  3. Something stated by a Mormon, perhaps a leader (in any of a variety of contexts).
When you blur the distinctions in these cases, you risk putting words in people's mouths.
A good rule of thumb for any claim you think might be contraversial is to include a reference to the source. If a web site cites some other source, then you should cite the web site. Otherwise, you are responsible for any misrepresentations (out of context or otherwise) the site may have commited.
I'm actually glad you wish to contribute to this article. I want to see each side represented fairly. Anyway, welcome aboard. Q

I just want to be absolutely clear here to any one that has doubts. I have no pro-Mormon agenda here and I'm sure I'll end up having heated disagreements with Mormon adherents who will not like valid criticical points of view on LDS topics to which I contribute or support. If some one disagrees, let's focus on the issue rather than jump to personal or inflammatory attacks. BoNoMoJo

Hmm - I guess I must be a non-educated member of the Wikipedia community... Btw, Is it necessary to have individual (stub) entries for each of the books of Mormon? Since the Book of Mormon is less widespread than (say) the Bible, I think it'd be reasonable to have just one article on it - the same as other books. -Martin

Actually, I would hope that we could have a lot of information on all the modern, as well, as classical, religious books. Even though this book isn't anywhere near as widespread as the Bible, it is at least as widespread as many other religious works. Wikipedia isn't constrained by the high costs of paper publishing, and disk space gets cheaper each year. Why not have more info? RK
Martin, there is some exegesis and comparative work on the BoM from LDS that could be included on separate pages for various books and chapters in the BoM. Beyond that there is non-LDS work on BoM with its emphasis on critical attempts to draw out inconsistencies, revisions, word usage, etc. This brings up the issue Karl mentions below about wanting to be able to come to the page to see the beliefs, tenets, etc of a religious sect and then turn to other pages for debatable issues on the primary article. If debatable issues are to have their own separate pages, some contributors may want a separate page for each book in the BoM as well since LDS critics generally leave no stone unturned and contributors may want to have something to say about every "and it came to pass" in the BoM. At least one thing that should be linked to each book for quick and direct reference is the full text of each book online at the LDS' website. B 16:43 Dec 12, 2002 (UTC)

I'm not even going to bother to read the above interchange (RK vs. Bonomo) closely. A quick glance shows that it's mean-spirited. How ironic that two religious people, both sworn to God to be good to their fellow man, would betray their own ideals by stooping so low. --Uncle Ed

Surely there's some space between the rock of an eye for an eye and the hard place of turn the other cheek. I really don't have time to fix the NPOV errors in this article. In fact, I haven't even read it since last week. Let's focus on improving the process.

First off, RK, let's drop personal remarks like

  • surprisingly unsophisticated
  • your emotional outbursts
  • Bible-thumper

Such remarks are counter-productive to your own goals, don't you know. They focus attention away from the issue at hand, which is: how do we improve the article?

BoNoMoJo: I think RK deserves to be mollified. You don't need to chide RK. Let me do that, since he seems to tolerate it better from me than from you. Try to keep in mind what our common goal is. In fact, it might help if both of you stated what you believe is your common goal for this article. Or at, least, each of you write a short summary of what your individual goals are. There's really no reason to fight. --Uncle Ed

I've already stated some of my intentions in the eariler exchange, but I'll add to it. My primary goal is to see that all important views on any LDS topic are presented fairly, accurately and thoroughly. I also care about working towards that goal with civility and respect. BoNoMoJo
Just follow our NPOV policy and all will be happy. --mav

Don't take it to heart, BoNoMoJo. "When they are learned, they think they are wise" (2 Nephi 9:28). What is happening here reminds me of Helaman 3:33-34. I think you have been well within line, BoNoMoJo (may I call you BoNo for short?). RK, I fully agree with you that there are problems with the BoM, D&C, PoGP, etc. These should be reported. However, there are also responses to these problems, which should also be reported, and that is exactly what BoNoMoJo did. Are these responses valid? That is a question of POV. AFAIK, he did not push it one way or the other. He simply reported the responses, which, in my book, is NPOV. Now I don't think you will call me a closet Mormon for saying that, would you? Danny

I've rephrased the section preceding archeology. I've already pointed this out once...the statement below is false. While some individuals may have made the claim below, it is not an official claim of the church:

The Church of Latter Day Saints originally claimed that the plates were made of pure gold.

Besides also not being attributable to the church, it has not been show to be generally attributable to its adherents either. The section relied on this false premise but the section's relevance is tenuous without the contributor showing that the church or its adherents accepted this claim. Apologists do not speak for the church or its adherents. The material below ignores this point and confuses the issue further as if the official position of the church and the beliefs of apologists were interchangeable with each other:

After the above criticisms were made many LDS apologists changed their position to hold that these plates were made of some alloy of gold. This, however, is a new position, and not the original position of the LDS church.

Every effort should be made to attribute a position to specific individuals or entities and back up the attribution with a reference especially where the claim is controversial and the attributions are disputable. Generally I've no problem with the material below but it again ignores attribution and backing up the attribution with a reference:

There are various explanations available:
  • The plates never existed. It was a hoax.
  • The plates were made of an alloy of gold
  • The plates were only golden in appearance

I ended up rephrasing it and adding back the attributions and references which were deleted. If this convention is not followed, these articles will be a hopeless quagmire of anyone claiming any person/thing claimed anything. For this purpose I've rephrased and reposted an earlier criterion encouraging people to follow this convention:

"*Contributors should cite sources when attributing controversial claims and positions to various entities (e.g. the LDS Church), groups (e.g. LDS members) or individuals (e.g. Joseph Smith). Contributors have the burden of citing sources for disputable attributions and representing the material from the cited sources accurately. When attributing a position to either the LDS Church or its members, contributors also have the burden of demonstrating that the material reflects an official position of the Church or the beliefs of its adherents."

Citing sources and clearly attributing the claim/position to a proper referent are in good keeping with scholarly rigor. This has been a primary motive driving my contributions to this article so far. BoNoMoJo

BoNoMoJo is correct. Pasting random facts into an article without a source creates a dilemma for future contributors: did this fact come from a reputable source? Does it misrepresent the real facts? Any respectable scholarly source (which RK seems to agree is important) will attribute all critical information to its source, thus allowing readers to trace facts back as far as needed to analyze its authenticity.
By the way, RK, I really like the Seer of Lublin's quote on your home page: "I prefer a wicked person who knows he is wicked, to a righteous person who knows he is righteous". Q
I like that quote too. It reminds me of Socrates' reference to his own wisdom that "I know that I do not know." BoNoMoJo

Has anyone got an attribution for Joseph Smith claiming the weight was 40-50 pounds? All I've found was the quote from William Smith (which is now in the article). -Martin

Martin, I appreciate your cleaning up the attributions and citations. Maybe RK or whoever won't agree with your revision but IMO that section appears more NPOV than any other previous version. BoNoMoJo
It was my pleasure. -Martin