Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some Final Thoughts and Conclusions

I have spent the last few days looking over and assessing the validity of the claims of Matt Slick against the Book of Mormon. After reading and re-reading his materials, looking up his references and cross checking his citations, I have found Slick to be highly wanting in many areas. He not only mis-contextualizes and misuses the Book of Mormon text to suit his agenda but he makes bald faced assertions that just do not hold up to the evidence. He regularly employs double standards and other logical fallacies and conveniently ignores any evidence contrary to his arguments. In short, Slick is not a reliable source to turn to when it comes to analyzing the historicity of the Book of Mormon and whether or not it comes from God.

But so what? Why does this matter? Why did I even bother to address Slick's claims? 

I did so not to convince Slick or try to persuade him to abandon his belief that the Book of Mormon not only is not historical but also not of God, nor to impress any of the critics of the Book of Mormon in general. He and his like minded critics have shut the door to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is historical and of God, and thus it would be a waste of my time to try and convince him. No, I did this to help those who may have encountered Slick's material and need another perspective on these issues and a rejoinder to the critics. I did this so that those who are investigating the Book of Mormon can know for themselves that there are answers out there to the allegations of the critics. We Latter-day Saints are not hiding our heads in the sand and unwilling to critically examine the evidence and our faith. We are not blindly following the General Authorities of the Church or refusing to engage in criticisms of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. We are doing the research, looking at the claims, examining the evidence and weighing it against the claims of the critics. And I am personally happy to report that, for the most part, the criticisms of the Book of Mormon do not hold any weight after careful analysis. 

Now this does not mean that all of the questions have been answered or that the controversy has been settled. There still remain questions as to some of the points of Book of Mormon historicity. I myself still have questions about the Book of Mormon and some of the claims therein. However, I can fully affirm that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be; and ancient document with Near Eastern and Mesoamerican roots written by inspired Prophets of God. Even though I still have questions, that does not mean that I do not have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As John L. Lund has recently pointed out, we should not lose faith in what we do know because of things we do not know[1]. In other words, just because there remain questions about the Book of Mormon this should not disparage anyone or shake their faith.

Finally, we need to be careful not to place our trust on the arm of flesh in regards to spiritual matters such as the Book of Mormon. Our understanding of the ancient world is changing constantly. As new evidence is discovered old theories will either have to be refined or discarded. Critics need to be careful, therefore, when they make judgements against the Book of Mormon based on historical details that may not be yet confirmed by secular wisdom. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something has not been found that does not mean that it does not exist. To abandon the Book of Mormon on this standard is a sandy foundation if there ever was one. Matt Roper wisely summed it up thusly:

Let's imagine a scenario. Suppose I read the Book of Mormon some time ago, say, in the 1970s. I read about the Nephites having barley. I reject the Book of Mormon because there is no evidence for pre-Columbian barley. This was, after all, the scholarly consensus-there was no pre-Columbian domesticated barley in the New World period! But now it turns out that this view was wrong. There was in fact archaeological evidence for barley in pre-Columbian America. It just hadn't been discovered yet. Let's suppose I had even staked my life on the belief in opinion of scholars that there was no such grain before Columbus. Wouldn't I have made a terrible mistake? The example of pre-Columbian barley should be a warning to us that similar evidences for the Book of Mormon, which at present seem to be anachronisms, may yet be forthcoming as well. [2]

** End of Series **

[1]: John L. Lund in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon (The Communications Company. 2007) Pg. 215

[2]: Matt Roper in "Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon" (link here).


  1. My own final thoughts/comments.

    Whether Slick was totally off base or not, the case against the Book of Mormon is overwhelming. When this fact is pointed out to Mormons, they may retreat to their personal testimonies. But to isolate the Book of Mormon from all possible criticism ('it is spiritual, not rational') is a mistake. If it can be weighed in the balances, and if it is thus found wanting, no matter how much we hate to admit it, it simply is not authentic. One may continue going through the motions in order to avoid social pressures or disfellowshipping but, if one is honest, one cannot, in the privacy of their own heart, continue as a true believer once they are made aware of the facts.

    I for one, am not closed to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is authentic. Let's be perfectly clear about this. If a plausible case could be made for it, I would consider accepting it. I read it, "anti-Mormon propaganda" against it, and apologetic defences of it. Yet the more I learn, the less credible it becomes.

    So I think there is really really strong reason to reject it. Is there any good reason, on the other side of the debate, to accept it? Almost the only reason given for anyone to accept it, even by Steve and Rob, is the so-called burning in the bossom. It seems that we KNOW that it is not true, but are asked to ignore what we know, and go with only what we FEEL. In all cases outside of religion, such behavior would immediately be classified as insane. For all the objections Mormons raise to this characterisation, I have yet to see (and I have searched high and low) any good reason why this is not precisely what we are being asked to do.

    What if you are investigating the Book of Mormon for yourself? By all means, check out what "" and FAIR have to say about it. But you need to reflect critically on what they say. One must read critically what everyone says (including my own writings). I try to give an accurate portrayel of what I believe to be the truth. While Steve and Rob are presumably not intentionally lying to you, I do not think they are really painting an accurate picture for you. But, again, I don't want you to blindly swallow what I am saying either.

    To get an unsympathetic perspective of Mormonism (but not Mormons as persons) there are many available resources. I find the CARM site (hosted by Matt Slick) to be a generally reliable source of information on Mormonism and other religious groups, contrary to what Mr. Smoot would tell you. is a very good site hosted by a woman who was a Mormon but left the faith after examining suppressed (by the LDS Church) sympathetic (to the LDS Church) documents. Be warned, Mormons are normally too quick to blow off Sandra Tanner but she really is a good-and reasonably unbiased-source of information. The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin has a good chapter on Mormonism. He, like Tanner, is very comprehensive. He is way too quickly blown off by Mormons as well, and without justification. Finally, my own blog deals frequently with Mormonism. is the address. Steve Smoot has been kind enough to pay me a visit there (sorry for not getting back to you yet Steve). While there is a lot of bad "anti-Mormon literature" the sources I just mentioned are all quit good. And by all means, look at the pro-side as well.

    I went through an awful lot of trouble, and time, to write thoughtful and, I hope, friendly critiques of this series of posts and other posts at this site. Enough has been said so far that I do not think I need to say any more. If you believe what I've told you so far (after reflection and fact checking) then you have enough to get you started. If you don't believe what I've said so far, you are not going to believe me if I continue to say it. So then, I have enjoyed my time here and the dialogue with Steve and Rob, but, I think, I am not going to do any more posts here. If you'd really like to hear more from me, please visit my blog. My email adress is available through there. I'd be happy to continue the discussion in that way.

    With respect to the Book of Mormon we are not just talking about a few minor details lacking independant attestation (like horses in pre-Columbus America). Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Rather, we are talking about a butt-load of positive evidence against Mormonism. We have sufficient evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Mormonism is not true.

    I do not say that to win an argument or make anyone uncomfortable. And I fully realise how radical it is to blatantly tell a million people, "your religion is a lie." It is very hard for somebody to leave their faith even if they are overwhelmingly justified in doing so. So why bother saying all this? Because eternity is on the line. It is not just a matter of a lack of evidence of barley and one messing up one's life. It is a matter of an abundance of positive evidence against Mormonism and one messing up eternity. If it is even possible that I am correct in my belief that Mormons are, quite frankly, going to Hell, then it would only make sense, for a devout Mormon, to do some serious reflecting on the case against Mormonism. If I am wrong-and you Mormons know that I am-what harm could it do?

    Finally, my deep and sincere thanks go out to both Steve Smoot and Rob Watson for their eminently kind responses to my very unsympathetic words. Though we shall probably never meet face to face, I really do count you both as friends. Even if we never see eye to eye on faith matters-I am praying, but you both have agency-I do hope there are no hard feelings to-meward. Thank you all, and goodbye!

  2. If Mormons are deceptive, then Evangelicals are more deceptive than Mormons.
    The majority of the people who have sites and books the LDS (and some are Preachers in their own churches) have lousy credentials, have lied about their credentials, have gotten their credentials from schools that are not accredited, have gotten their credentials through mail order, and on and on.
    Some even call themselves "Dr." and they do not have a MD nor a PhD.
    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Evangelicals are masters of hypocrisy and double standards, and evidently lying.


We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)