Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Mormon Test for Truth

The Book of Mormon remains the foundation of Mormon faith and its authenticity still the fundamental test of Mormon claims for their religion. Mormon belief in the Book of Mormon is all the more remarkable given that it is purported to be an historical record but there is not a scrap of evidence to support that claim. The way Mormons get around this is to play on the popular but erroneous belief that faith is the opposite of reason and operates outside the realm of evidence and proofs. It is not uncommon for a Mormon to argue, “If God had wanted us to rely on physical evidence there would be no need for the Holy Ghost.” This suggests that, given proof, the Spirit is redundant.

Mormons are quite mistaken in how they understand the relationship of physical proofs and the work of the Spirit. They are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they work together and there is no particular virtue in believing in the absence of proof, much less when there is evidence to the contrary. Luke writes of Jesus:

"He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3)

God gives proofs and Spirit not proofs or Spirit. This suggests that Mormons are quite wrong in making a virtue of ignorant and blind faith.

Mormons will argue that, nevertheless, we take the testimonies of these things “by faith”, i.e. we believe the testimony of history without evidence. Of course, we are to treat historical proofs differently and trust it on a different basis. Yet, there is nothing in the least controversial about this and it is wrong to make a drama of it. We have tried and tested methods for testing the veracity of what history tells us and it is wrong to suggest that distance in time throws us back on how we feel "by the Spirit". This teaching is what is at the root of the Mormon deception and it is thoroughly unbiblical. It does, however, sit very well with the post-modern notion that truth is how you feel about it.

Not a Pot, Not a Shard…

It is simplistic to suggest that the Spirit instructs us in the truth like some sort of didact – “Believe this. Don’t believe that.” Rather, He testifies to the truthfulness of the proofs and evidences with which the Bible and the Christian faith presents us. In this way truth is more than the bare facts but it is never less than the facts.

Of course, Mormons only argue as they do because there is not a scrap of evidence, no proofs, and because of this they make it virtuous to believe without evidence, even against the evidence rather than consider the implications in the lack of evidence. Given a scrap of evidence any Mormon would jettison this nonsense and declare the Mormon case proven - on the evidence. But there isn't any evidence and even the absence of evidence is significant evidence against Mormon claims.

Not a city, not a road, not a building, not a temple or a house, not a wall, not a pot or a shard, not a coin, not a bone, not a record of any kind, not a sword, not a helmet, not a necklace, not a bead, not a casket or an inscription, not a glyph, not even an identifiable topography, not a mountain, a plain, a valley, a river or a lake, not a lore or tradition passed down through generations, not a remnant of a myth, not a legend, not a memory or a whisper about the Mormon story of the ancient inhabitants of America outside Joseph Smith's imagination.

History Tells Us

Ask any historian and they will tell you this is simply not possible. Even talking like this about "the ancient inhabitants" is misleading because the time scale indicated by the Book of Mormon is not so ancient. During the time of the major events reported in the book to have taken place, 600BC – 400AD, we have evidence from all over the world of peoples, civilisations, movements, migrations, settlements, histories, social structures, religions, political movements, etc.

Just look at any chronology of World History and you will find an embarrassment of riches when it comes to producing evidences for the claims of historians. Just looking at the Americas we find:

600 BC: Mayan people start the construction of the city of Tikai in the present day Guatemala.

500 BC: Emergence of the Paracas culture in Peru.

500 BC: Zapotecsbuild a new ritual and political centre at Montana Alba'n.

400 BC: Start of Nazca culture in coastal S Peru.

400 BC: Sack of the Olmec capital La venta dn cllapse of Olmec power; start of Late Formative period in Mesoamerican history.

300 BC: Domestiation in present-day E USA of knotweed, maygrass.

300 BC: Maya build cities in the lowland region of Peten in Guatemala.

The significance of such a list - which is vastly increased in content when looking at other, better excavated and studied parts of the world of that time - is that it highlights the complete absence of such evidences and historical data for the Book of Mormon, whose people are claimed to have numbered in millions and to have built vast cities and civilizations. But not a pot, not a shard...

In a recent article a Mormon apologist argued that a name like “Lamanite” could cover any number of different people who joined the culture and society of Lamanites over time and that, further, different people have different designations depending on who is naming them. However, all this talk of mixed races and comparisons with modern tags such as German, French, English, etc. is just so much cant. The very fact that we can talk with authority about these mongrel races itself strengthens the case. We know where people groups came from and can trace, the British for instance, back to times way beyond the scope of the Book of Mormon, taking in Saxons, Celts, Norse people, Romans, Franks, the list is beyond controversy and well established.

The question is, if the "ancient" Israelites, Egyptians, Babylonians, etc. in the same way fall comfortably within the remit of historical research and what historians and archaeologists can reasonably expect, why not the Book of Mormon peoples? Why, if the Bible and church history press on us proofs and evidences to which the Spirit testifies, why not Mormonism? Why, if Mormonism is restored Christianity, does it operate so differently to the Christianity it claims to restore in respect to these things. Jesus offered “proofs” but Joseph offers – his word?

Because it is all smoke and mirrors, makes a virtue of ignorance and teaches its adherents to honour blind faith. This last concerns me the most because the "faith" promoted by Mormons is the very opposite of faith as it is defined and demonstrated in the Bible. It comes close to denying the very worth of the Incarnation of Christ, suggesting as it does that His demonstrating with many proofs his qualifications and God's purpose is redundant to those who pray and have "faith." The denying of proofs' worth in the face of such proofs as the Incarnation brought is the denying of the Christ who brought them.

6 comments:

  1. As a mental-health professional, I'd say that if faith, if it is not based upon reality, is the basis of psychosis. Also, Michael Ramsden gives some really interesting insights in his four-part lecture entitled, 'Narcissism - The World-View of Self, Living Inside My Head'...

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  2. Excellent article Mike. Thank you.

    In fact, I had just completed a long winded discussion with an LdS Scholar on this point - and on the same Mike Ash Mormon Times article - when I stumbled across your fine work. Suffice to say we concur on all points.

    Not coincidentally I was also finishing up a Mormon Expression podcast about the "Dream Mine" (aka "Relief Mine") in Salem, Utah in which a Latter-day Saint claims to have received visions similar to those that lead to the Book of Mormon regarding gold buried in the mountains of Utah.

    Hundreds (or is it thousands) of Mormons have sunk personal savings and earnings into buying shares of this mine over the 20th and 21st Centuries based on the same type of "truth discernment" methods discussed in your article.

    Yet a shovel hasn't turned the soil in this mine in over 30-years, no gold has ever been found in this "Dream Mine", and at least one geologist has told them that none ever will be. Never the less, apparently P.T. Barham was right when he said, "There's a sucker born every minute!"

    That's why in the comments section for this Mormon Expression episode I wryly noted: "Anyone who wants a practical demonstration of what Mormon Epistemology is and how it’s applied in Mormon Culture need only listen to this podcast." (see http://mormonexpression.com/?p=358)

    Meanwhile those of us with Mormon family and friends patiently wait for their snapped psychological state to lift and clear thinking to reappear - some for the first time ever - before it's too late.

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  3. Thanks NM for your professional input and especially for the lead to bethinking.org. Of course, it is important to show that Christian Faith is founded in reality if only because there are many out there today (such as the New Atheists) who press an agenda declaring faith to be, per se, a psychosis.

    Thanks Mr IT for your encouraging and kind comments. I had forgotten about the mine. Perhaps I need to be better informed on this. In some 20 years of speaking to Christians about witnessing to the cults I have pressed the idea that we are to reason from Scripture and life, much as Paul did in Romans, es. Ro.7.

    Unfortunately, within the body of Christ there is such a leaning towards experience based testimony that it is somethimes hard to convince people that thinking and reasoning actually helps.

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  4. >it is somethimes hard to convince people that thinking and reasoning actually helps<

    Mike I am of the opinion that many - if not most - modern Christians are only a step or two away from a Mind Control Cult because their epistemological base is skewed toward experience/feelings and away from evidence/reason.

    And I say this as a 30+ year Charismatic Christian who has seen first hand the bad fruit that this epistemology produces.

    The hard truth is that many (if not most) Christians (at least American Christians) appear to be doctrinally Christian in beliefs but are for all practical purposes Mormons in behavior.

    And speaking of Americans, sadly we must purchase the resource that NM recommended. Here is the link to order the CD from Sound Word http://www.soundword.com/l-abri-fellows--andrew-narcissism--the-world-view-of-self.html

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  5. Thanks for the link. You are so right about the decline of teaching in the face of experience based religion. The irony, of course, is that, without correct teaching, we cannot understand the correct use and application of gifts. This leads to anyone who can pull off a trick being able to impress people while faithful and fruitful "gifted" people are sidelined because not wacky enough; rather like Paul and the so-called super-apostles. It also means many Christians avoiding gifts altogether because it is too confusing intellectually and too frightening practically.

    I know, and I am sure you do, excellent Christian teachers who share the experience of Spurgeon who declared, "It is scarcely possible in most places to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God." When good teachers offer "only God" pews are empty.

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  6. Not much to say to that but: Well said!

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