Monday, October 13, 2008

Was Joseph Smith so creative that he made up the Book of Mormon?—OBEY Sinner

This is near the top of the list when it comes to "Things Mormons don't understand about ex-Mormons." How can you not believe when the BoM is so clearly beyond the abilities of a young Joseph Smith? I'll take a stab at it, on the off chance someone's really interested in understanding us deluded apostates.

The first thing I should say is that I've read the book cover to cover at least six times, and of course read here and there throughout my 30+ years as a believer. This may surprise you, but the BoM doesn't seem especially miraculous or inspiring to me. I mean I always assumed that it was exactly what Joseph claimed it to be, but once it loses that luster it also loses its profundity. If that makes sense.

Next, your question is more an assertion than an inquiry. The implication is that an author would have to be remarkably creative to come up with this story. I would ask, compared to what? I'm no author, but I can walk into a library and find shelves stacked to the ceiling of stories I couldn't have come up with myself. If Joseph Smith wrote the book alone, he was certainly creative. So what? He also wrote the Book of Commandments, the Book of Abraham, and an Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar.

And that, of course, leads to another point: no one knows the whole story of the book's provenance, and no one ever will. Believers sometimes content themselves with the fact that we critics don't have a cohesive story to tell that counters the miraculous version Joseph purports to be true. It's an interesting mystery, I suppose, and I wish I could put it to rest, but all the witnesses are long dead. So speculating is all we can do.

That said, virtually any of the hypothesized versions of events are more believable to me than the official version. I don't know if Joseph wrote it alone, used other sources, received it chapter by chapter from the angel Sidney ... but I'm pretty sure he didn't get it from disappearing gold plates engraved in Reformed Egyptian. That's just not credible. Sorry.

And the last point I would add is that, authorship aside, the book itself is its own biggest detriment. It simply cannot be a real history of ancient Hebrews living in America. Jeff Lindsay can explain away each of the apparent anachronisms, but the list is a mile long. And meanwhile no one outside of believing Mormons or enterprising Central American tour guides has found a shred of evidence supporting its claim. This is not a case of God allowing some evidence for and some against; it's not a 50:50 by any stretch. To be a believing Mormon in these latter days requires either trusting ignorance or willing delusion. Google will be the end of Mormonism as we know it.

Edit: For slcbtf and his 23-point challenge for someone to write a similar book, I hope you realize the gigantic assumption you're making here. Who says the test of true Scripture is that it come out just exactly like the Book of Mormon? That's circular reasoning. The odds of someone's genome coming out exactly like yours are infinitesimally small, and yet you exist, don't you?

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