Belief, Knowledge, and Community

In our stake general priesthood meeting last week, a member of our stake presidency testified that he knows the First Vision really happened. He rhetorically asked how he could say that he knows, since he wasn’t there at the time; of course his answer was that his knowledge comes from the Holy Ghost. He then followed up with another rhetorical question: “If our testimony comes by the Holy Ghost, then why don’t we say ‘I believe’ or ‘I hope’ that the First Vision occurred?”

He answered by turning to Alma 32:33-34:

And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

From an outsider’s perspective, this kind of justification for claiming knowledge may seem disconcertingly circular: we justify our claim to know based on writing that claims to be scripture based in part on the event we are claiming to have knowledge of based on the scripture… Yet within our faith community, in which the Book of Mormon is accepted as scripture, this seems a perfectly sound and natural means of justifying the use of the term “know.”

As I thought about this, a few ideas came to mind: First, the idea that knowledge is justified relative to a community. Someone who does not accept the authority of the Book of Mormon will not consider our justification based on appeal to the Book of Mormon legitimate. However, we can still communicate essentially the same thing by saying something like, “I believe such-and-such because I accept the authority of the Book of Mormon where it teaches thus-and-so.” When we make this kind of adjustment to the way we communicate, we acknowledge that knowledge is justified relative to a community. Conversely, within the LDS community, we value the claim of knowledge by personal revelation, and so within our community a claim to know that the First Vision really happened is stronger than saying that we hope the First Vision really happened.

I think the same sort of thing applies in many other communities. For example, I can envision a group of theoretical physicists discussing the finer points of superstring theory and saying, in the process, “Well, we know that principle X applies to quarks in these circumstances, therefore …” The claim of knowledge may be relative to their community, and someone who does not accept aspects of superstring theory or quantum theory may not feel that their knowledge claim is justified. If these same physicists were to present at a conference to a skeptical audience, they would likely acknowledge that their conclusions are based on certain assumptions or beliefs about quantum theory.

The second thought that came to mind is that of different kinds of knowledge. I thought of the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 46:13-14:

To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

It seems to me that this kind of knowledge may be different than knowledge obtained by our physical senses, in the same kind of way that experiential knowledge is different from theoretical knowledge. I used to say that if you couldn’t explain a concept reasonably well to someone else who makes a reasonable effort to understand, you really didn’t know the concept. But I have since recognized that this doesn’t apply to different kinds of knowledge. For example (the classic), I can say that I know what salt tastes like, but I can’t explain this to someone else unless she has experienced it for herself. If she were skeptical, she might claim that I don’t really know what I claim to know, since I can’t explain it.

The last thought that came to mind regarding the use of the term “know” is that there are many levels of knowledge. I can honestly say that I know how a computer works — basically. But put me in a room full of microchip designers and my knowledge claim looks pretty weak. Similarly, while I claim to know spiritually that Joseph Smith really did have the experience we call the First Vision, I can’t claim to know a lot of details about it, and have unresolved questions about those details. A skeptic might question me on those details and conclude that because I don’t have knowledge of all the details, I don’t have the knowledge I claim. Relative to the small community made up of just me and him, my knowledge claim may not be justified because of lack of detail. But this doesn’t change my knowledge, only how I may choose to communicate about it to my skeptical friend.

My conclusion from all this is that it is perfectly legitimate to make knowledge claims within a given community that would not be justified relative to another community. I know the gospel is true because, as Alma 32 says, it enlarges my soul; it enlightens my understanding; it is delicious to me. And for those who are not part of the LDS community, I say that I believe and hope the gospel is true for those very same reasons.

78 thoughts on “Belief, Knowledge, and Community

  1. I think religious people can be as justified in using the word “know”–even in mixed company–to describe their religious knowledge as others can be in using the word to describe secular knowledge. In my opinion, Alvin Plantinga (who received an honorary doctorate from BYU in 1996) makes a strong case for this in his epistemological trilogy Warrant: The Current Debate, Warrant and Proper Function, and Warranted Christian Belief.

  2. Interesting post.

    The empiricism encouraged in Alma 32 is compelling and legitimate whether one believes in the BoM or not. But I disagree with your stake presidency member that the principles in Alma 32 can lead to knowledge of the First Vision. I believe there is a difference between an event and a principle. Alma 32 is a way to discover the truthfulness of divine principles, not events. For example, we can discover empirically the truthfulness of the principle “love thy neighbor as thy self” because we can put it into practice and recognize its fruits. Also, we can discover the truthfulness of personal revelation through experiment–by practicing and testing. However, we cannot “practice” the First Vision because it is an event that either did or did not occur. Those things that we cannot discover empirically through Alma 32 must remain in the category of tentative knowledge.

    I came to this conclusion to answer the question “Why would a rational God expect me to claim knowledge about events that I did not witness?” Through Alma 32, I’ve come to the conclusion that he expects no such thing. God wants me to gain a conviction of divine principles that will build my character, not make wild eyed claims about the historicity of particular events. While this kind of rationality takes some of the fun out of claiming to know various things, it protects us from deception and superstition.

    By the way, I agree with your idea of saying “I believe” and “I hope” to nonmembers, but I would go a step further and suggest we use those terms within the Church. Mainly because I have had nonmembers friends leave testimony meeting feeling attacked and offended by all the “I know this Church is true” throw away lines during fast Sunday.

  3. I’ve come around to Sheldon’s point of view on Alma 32 as well. I think we might apply it more broadly than is warranted. I’m not sure I buy reliabilism of Plantinga or Alston either, although I do still accept a view of knowledge that allows religious knowledge.

  4. Sheldon, I think the distinction between events and principles in the context of Alma 32′s empiricism is very good one. You said further:

    Those things that we cannot discover empirically through Alma 32 must remain in the category of tentative knowledge.

    As far as I can tell, all my knowledge is tentative — even the knowledge I gain through the process described in Alma 32. But I don’t think that makes claims of knowledge illegitimate. For example, I can say that I know Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, even though I wasn’t there and I must admit that my knowledge is tentative. Should I refrain from saying “I know” this and instead say that I believe it? How is this different from my stake presidency member’s claim to know that the First Vision occurred?

  5. Clark Goble wrote:

    I’ve come around to Sheldon’s point of view on Alma 32 as well.

    Alma 32 is embedded in a sermon by Alma that seems to include not just principles but events. In particular, in Alma 33:22, Alma preaches of Christ’s death and resurrection, and in the very next verse he tells the Zoramites to “plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life.”

    I think we might apply it more broadly than is warranted.

    “We” meaning who? You? Me? General Authorities?

    I’m not sure I buy reliabilism of Plantinga or Alston either.

    Have you read the warrant trilogy?

  6. On the Reality of Circles and Squares

    (Thoughts about God on a Rainy Day)

    by Lee Edward Enochs

    “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).

    On a particular dreadful and rainy day my thoughts were about God and I wondered…

    Why is a circle a circle and a square a square?
    Why is an apple not an orange or a banana a pear?

    Why does gravity pull an apple down and not up?
    Why does a dog drink from a bowl and not a cup?

    Why do fish swim upward and not backward in a lake?
    Why is Martha in prison and not on TV baking a cake?

    Do we know the shape of objects from the womb?
    Or do we learn their identity from observing a room?

    Why do poor kids in the hood steal cars and get shot?
    While equally bad rich kids in the suburbs do not?

    Is reality inherent or through experience observed?
    This is what has my mind particularly perturbed…

    Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant, Hume and Hegel
    philosophers have all tried to solve this puzzle,

    Are things a priori knowable without appeal to
    particular experience?

    Like Descartes, do we “think therefore I am?” or like Popeye the Sailor Man, is it “I am that I am?”

    Or are things a posteriori comprehended through
    experience in the process of reasoning from facts or
    particulars to general principles or from effects to
    causes; inductive; empirical?

    John Locke(1632-1704) , the British Philosopher said that the mind is “tabula rasa” or a “blank slate”, before it receives the impressions gained from experience. In his “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1690), the culmination of twenty years of reflection on the origins of human knowledge. According to Locke, what we know is always properly understood as the relation between ideas, and he devoted much of the Essay to an extended argument that all of our ideas—simple or complex—are ultimately derived from experience.

    However, in counter distinction to Locke the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), argued that there are some things known epistemologically through a priori knowledge or experience.

    In the realm of Christian apologetics there are some apologists such as Aquinas, Tenant, Butler and Montgomery, that borrow from the thought of Locke and say that Christianity is “known to be true” by individuals by sense experience and probability. They say that the historical and philosophical evidence for the existence of God and the veracity of the Christian faith is probably true based on the empirical evidence.

    on the other hand there are “revelational” apologists in Church history like Calvin, Van Til and Bahnsen that argue that the Bible teaches in Romans 1:18-32 that all people inherently know God in their hearts and minds through conscience and creation, but they suppress the truth of God’s existence due to the depravity of their sin. This inherent knowledge of God is deemed the “sensus divinitatis” or divine sense.

    However, there are some apologists of the Christian faith such as Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), from Denmark, that argue that Christianity is known to be true exclusively on the basis of subjective experience and that empirical evidence is unnecessary in determining whether or not Christianity is true.

    So which is it? Do we know that Christianity is true based on empirical evidence, “sensus divinitatis”, or subjective experience?

    I tend to believe in the “sensus divinitatis” view, but then again, I could be wrong. I can see where it is possible that all three views, can be simultaneously true at once and that we know that Christianity is true through a variety of means, through the historical evidence such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His fulfilled prophecies (1 Corinthians 15:1-11), the knowledge of God that is within us all (Psalm 19, Romans 1:18-32 and Romans 2).

    I also believe that Christianity is known to be true through the inward witness of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13, Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:6, 1 John 5:10).

    Why then is a circle a circle and a square a square?
    And why is an apple not an orange or a banana a pear?

    I believe it is because God made them that way…

    “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

    (Psalm 14:1)

  7. Chris, that’s a good point about Alma 33:22. The last time I discussed Alma 32 I brought that one up as well. Clearly it fits. I’ve also brought up the King Follet Discourse where Joseph says,

    This is good doctrine. It tastes good. You say honey is sweet and so do I. I can also taste the spirit and principles of eternal life, and so can you. I know it is good and that when I tell you of these words of eternal life that are given to me by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the revelations of Jesus Christ, you are bound to receive them as sweet. You taste them and I know you believe them.

    However what I think Sheldon is getting at is that the word of God deals with generalities and less particulars. (Correct me if I’m wrong Sheldon) So, for instance, we couldn’t use Alma 32 to determine if our brother actually took our keys. The problem is, that as I see it, we have moral knowledge of the principle (that it is good) but not historic knowledge of the sort I think scientists and historians worry about.

    Note that I’m not saying we can’t know if the first vision was true or if Jesus truly lived. I think we can by the Holy Ghost. Simply that I think say Alma 33:22 talks about whether it is good to believe something. But logically it may be good to believe something that isn’t 100% accurate. (Of course some might disagree with that, in which case they’d say if something is good to believe it is historically true)

  8. With regards to Plantinga, I’ve read several of his books, but hardly all of them by any means. I do share Plantinga’s externalism, but am convinced more by Williamson than the reliabilists. I tend to think his approach to knowledge that doesn’t make use of the concepts justified, caused, or reliable is on firmer ground.

    Just to make one small critique, I don’t think Alma 32 is espousing empiricism. Far from it. Rather he seems to be appealing to some aesthetic sense and asking us to try an idea out. i.e. hold it as if true if you can’t manage to believe it. As you act “as if” it were true then your aesthetics will pronounce it good or bad. There are of course other effects, such as “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” So an effect is deeper understanding. There are, of course, other fruits to such beliefs as well.

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding Sheldon, but I think the issue at hand is how detailed we can know by this holding as if true. I think it applies to general statements. But I’m certainly open to being wrong. I’ll confess that until recently I always took Alma 32 to be a kind of pragmatic conception of truth. Now my views on Alma 32 are much more in flux.

    I should add that Jim Faulconer has an interesting write-up on Alma 32 some might enjoy reading.

  9. Not to keep posting, but I should note to Chris that I certainly can see the fascination with Alma 32 for someone holding to Plantinga’s view of knowledge as warranted true belief. Talk of “goodness” in Alma 32 seems to tie the discussion of belief and knowledge to ethics, and thereby parallels some of Plantinga’s deontological comments towards belief.

    I don’t know if you are thinking along those lines or not. (I recognize that wasn’t the reason you raised his name)

    To everyone else, I apologize for the technical jargon. I promise to leave that alone. The basic idea is that just as acts are good, we can talk about believing as an act and the goodness of that act of believing. I definitely think Alma 32 can be read in those terms.

  10. We just had sort of this discussion on Times and Seasons and it was really a good one. I can’t follow all the deep philosophy, but I think this is a worthy topic.

    My philosophy has been: “I think, maybe I am.”

    I believe that my equivocation stems in part from my position in the majority here and a reluctance not to lord it over others. I think if I were living in the mission field here, I would be more deliberate in my faith more “knowing.” This is cathartic in nature, maybe not helpful to the discussion, but the discussion helped me.

  11. As far as I can tell, all my knowledge is tentative — even the knowledge I gain through the process described in Alma 32. But I don’t think that makes claims of knowledge illegitimate.

    True. I suppose what we’re getting at is that there are different kinds of knowing. But it seems the word “know” should be used for times when there is very, very little room for doubt. I know that Lincoln was assassinated in a different way than I “know” about the resurrection. In the absence of direct experience, the historical evidence is overwhelming that he was assassinated. Not so with something like the resurrection. I lack both direct experience and overwhelming evidence. Therefore I go by hope and spiritual intuition (as provided by the Holy Ghost). While both forms of knowledge might be legitimate, they are not of the same kind or degree of certitude.

    In particular, in Alma 33:22, Alma preaches of Christ’s death and resurrection, and in the very next verse he tells the Zoramites to “plant this word in your hearts,

    The resurrection is a tricky one because it is both an event and a principle. I still maintain, however, that we don’t know the resurrection is real in the same way we know the sun is real. Alma was right (not that he needs my endorsement) in telling them to plant the idea of the resurrection in their hearts. But even though this idea presumably “tasted good” (thanks Clark for the excellent KFD quote), they would have to die before gaining pure knowledge of this principle. Alma 32 tells us that swelling motions and general enlightenment are not enough to claim knowledge. Instead, we must see it through to the end to harvest the fruit of pure knowledge. The harvest of the principle of the resurrection will be the resurrection itself.

    I like to view my life as an experiment in the hypothesis that Mormonism, or Christianity in general, is true. Every day is another day in the laboratory testing principles, revising conclusions, and making mistakes. As I continue to gather evidence I move from belief, to hope, to conviction, and eventually certainty. I would like to publish the results in a journal when the experiment is over, but it seems there are rules against that.

  12. Sheldon wrote:

    While both forms of knowledge might be legitimate, they are not of the same kind or degree of certitude.

    You’re speaking for yourself and not for others, right?

    they would have to die before gaining pure knowledge of this principle.

    How does this pure knowledge compare to the “perfect knowledge” that Alma talks about in 32:24?

    Instead, we must see it through to the end to harvest the fruit of pure knowledge. The harvest of the principle of the resurrection will be the resurrection itself.

    I see no support in Alma’s sermon for your apparent assertion that any knowledge of the resurrection we receive in this life must somehow be impure.

  13. “How does this pure knowledge compare to the “perfect knowledge” that Alma talks about in 32:24?”

    “Perfect” may be a better word than “pure,” at any rate, I’m talking about absolute certainty.

    “You’re speaking for yourself and not for others, right?”

    Sure. But I suppose I’m not very alone in claiming tetative, imperfect knowledge of the resurrection. I do not equate a burning in the bosom with touching the marks on the hands of the resurrected Christ. That would be perfect knowledge. I, for one, have to go by faith and hope.

    I see no support in Alma’s sermon for your apparent assertion that any knowledge of the resurrection we receive in this life must somehow be impure.

    When it comes to things like the resurrection, I think most of us can only achieve the point described in verse 29. We have felt the enlargement of soul, the swellings, the enlightenment, but “it hath not grown unto a perfect knowledge.”

    I see Alma 32 as a way to prove principles. I can know with certainty that honesty, for example, is a true principle. But I have to practice it in order to find out. It’s not enough to simply feel good about it. Feeling good about something does not equal proof. I already feel good about the resurrection, it has already enligtened my understanding, but I haven’t practiced it yet (and I’m in no real hurry).

  14. How does one distinguish a true spirit from a false spirit in the LDS conception of religious verification?

    How does one differentiate truth from falsehood with any degree of certainty in the muliplicity of religious, philosophical and ideological truth claims being made in our postmodern world today?

    Arbitrary appeals to the authority prophetic revelations and seers seems to beg the question.

  15. Sheldon, perhaps the issue ought not be certainty, but doubt. Can one truly doubt the issue at hand? And, by that I mean real doubt, not the fake kind of doubt that philosophers often talk about. I tend to think that matters of belief and disbelief aren’t under our volition. They simply happen or don’t and we can but facilitate that process. In this view Alma 32 is talking about how to lead us to indubitable belief.

    I wonder what Chris thinks about that? Do you think that knowledge, for Alma, is indubitable belief, with belief being wrapped up in behavior?

  16. Clark, I like the “indubitable belief” approach better. While I understand some people’s problem with saying “I know…”, saying “I believe…” just doesn’t express my testimony very well, and “I hope…” feels even weaker. My own testimony of the gospel is more than “I believe…” How does one express indubitable belief? “I know…” seems to be a better expression than “I believe…” for expressing this kind of more than belief and I think that is why it is more used.

    I’ve noticed that the prophet and apostles often say “I testify of…” and then continue with assertions of the reality of the Father, the Son, the Plan, etc.

    I think we should be careful about judging the propriety of declarations of “I know…” by other people. While there are certainly people who do use it as a “throw-away line” Alma also taught that:

    And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. – Alma 12:9

  17. Let me fully agree Jonathan. I think we most definitely can say we know. Further I don’t see any problem with saying the Church is true either – something some complain about. (“What does it mean,” they ask.) Both to me a very natural and appropriate ways of talking.

    My question is more about Alma 32 and understanding what Alma’s getting at. I don’t think Alma is just talking about knowing by the power of the Holy Ghost. Yet that’s how I took the chapter for many years. But I think Alma’s getting at something else. That’s why I said I think we interpret it more broadly than is perhaps justified. And, let me say that I’m simply not sure how to take it. So I’m most definitely enjoying all the feedback here.

    BTW – let me also just say that I love the scripture Christopher used in his initial post, D&C 46:13-14. I frequently quote that to people who assume everyone can know quickly and easily the truth of the gospel. It seems to me that some people’s belief is indirect and isn’t knowledge. Indeed I’d go so far as to say that I have a lot of respect for such people since they continue to believe despite some doubts and not knowing.

  18. I strongly disagree with the speakers use of Alma 32. Let’s review what it really says about knowing:

    “28 … It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow….

    “35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.”

    Clearly Alma was not willing to say that such feelings were enough to give a perfect knowledge of the truthfullness of the message, only that it was good. Some might say that back in verse 28 he says that he means true when he says good, but this is not what the metaphor suggests.

    “31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.”

    I don’t think he meant the true message will produce true feelings while a false message will produce false feelings, but that a good message will produce good feelings and a bad message will produce bad feelings. This is the only interpretation which I can think of which makes sense.

    I believe, strictly speaking, that the Holy Ghost can let us know that the gospel is good, and that we should keep searching, but it cannot supply, by itself, a perfect knowledge of its truthfulness.

  19. On LDS Using Alvin Plantinga and Reformed
    Epistemology to Defend their Claims

    I have been astonished to learn here and elsewhere that some members of the LDS Church have been making appeals to the thought of Evangelical Christian Philosopher and University of Notre Dame Professor Dr. Alvin Plantinga to support their claims.

    I would be very interested in hearing from Dr. Plantinga what he thinks about this. I am almost certain that he would not think that belief in the Mormon conception of god would be epistemically justified, properly basic or foundational since in reality the LDS conception of god (s) has more in common with polytheism, since the LDS believe there have been an infinite regress of finite beings from a pre-existent spirit realm who were exalted to godhood via the LDS conception of eternal progression, a complete foreign notion to Reformed Epistemologists such as Plantinga.

    Dr. Plantinga, author of: God and Other Minds (1967), The Nature of Necessity (1974), God, Freedom and Evil (1974),
    Does God Have a Nature? (1980),
    Warrant: the Current Debate (1992),
    Warrant and Proper Function (1992),

    and other philosophical/apologetics writings is a devout Evangelical Christian with roots in the Christian Reformed Church. He taught at Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan for 20 years before taking the John A. O’Brien Professorship of Philosophy at the university of Notre Dame.

    I am going to write to him personally to see what he thinks about the LDS using his “Reformed Epistemology” to back up Mormon truth claims.

    It just seems very incongruent and arbitrary that a member of the LDS would use aspects of an Evangelical apologetic approach to defend their claims.

    “Reformed Epistemology”, the approach Plantinga uses, is taken from the Evangelical Christian Protestant Reformer John Calvin’s “Sensus Divinitatis” (Warrant and Proper Function, pages 42, 48, 183, 212) and is featured prominently in John Calvin’s “Institutes of Christian Religion chapters 1-5

    Calvin writes,

    “On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God” (1:2 “Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self”)

    The God Alvin Plantinga and the Reformed Epistemologists are attempting to demonstrate is not one and the same with the LDS conception of the plurality of God, hence there is a major incongruency.

    It is highly doubtful that Plantinga would deem this LDS usage of his thought to defend Mormonism justifiable.

  20. I don’t know much about Plantinga, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for a good argument, or aspects of one, to be used to multiple ends. Sometimes a shoe, while not necessarily intended as such, makes a decent flyswatter.

  21. Plantinga is not usually cited in support of LDS “polytheism” (as Ed would have it on this particular thread-jacking), but rather in favor of his idea of “social trinitarianism” which, to my limited understanding, is quite similar to teh LDS concept of the Godhead/Trinity. But you’d have to ask David Paulsen, or one of the other LDS philosophers.

  22. Social trinitarianism is Cornelius Plantinga not Alvin Plantinga. The appeal to Plantinga in this thread was to epistemic reliabilism and not to claims about God – although many people have appealed to Plantinga’s argument regarding the logical problem of evil.

    Ed’s treating arguments as if they were mere appeals to authority tends to miss the whole point of philosophy. After all one can even be an atheist and agree with reliabilism.

    It’s akin to saying no Evangelical could believe anything Einstein wrote about physics because Einstein believed in a Spinoza-like God and not the God of Evangelicalism. It’s an amazingly silly argument.

  23. Jeffrey: “I believe, strictly speaking, that the Holy Ghost can let us know that the gospel is good, and that we should keep searching, but it cannot supply, by itself, a perfect knowledge of its truthfulness.”

    Doesn’t Moroni 10:4 disagree with that? Just because something isn’t entailed by Alma 32 doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to know. I don’t think Alma 32 purports to be the only way to achieve religious knowledge.

  24. Newsflash to Ed Enochs:

    On August 15, 1996, Alvin Plantinga accepted an honorary doctorate from BYU and gave a commencement address. He was told that the honorary doctorate was, in part, in recognition of his contributions to Christian philosophy. It should therefore be hardly surprising to him that Mormons appreciate many aspects of his work.

  25. Sheldon wrote:

    But I suppose I’m not very alone in claiming tetative, imperfect knowledge of the resurrection.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you’re alone. I meant to imply that not everyone is with you. Alma preached to the Zoramites about gaining spiritual knowledge and in particular about gaining spiritual knowledge of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. He spoke of attaining perfect knowledge, with no indication in the text that those to whom he was preaching would have to die to do so.

  26. Ben:

    Don’t feel bad about getting Cornelius mixed up with Alvin. Just be glad that you know of their existence! And read Cornelius’s Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be, one of the best books I’ve read. (Since you’re a Mormon, you might want to have Ed Enochs contact Cornelius to get his permission first!)

  27. whether or not Plantinga received a degree from BYU is begging the question if you can use his reformed epistemology to support Mormon polytheism.

    BYU is a very good school, if I was from Utah I would go there myself. No argument here. I visited there a couple of years ago and got the tour.

    My only point of contention is that a movement should not be started by the LDS that Plantinga supports the Mormon conception of finite gods.

    The Evangelical book “The New Mormon Challenge” sold in the BYU bookstore shows Evangelical philosophers like William Lane Craig’s aversion to the finite godism of LDS theology “eternal progression”

    The whole point of Reformed Epistemology is to demonstrate the properly basic belief of historic theism not the LDS view that there are three separate “god’s” in the godhead and an infinite regress of finite gods who became god.

  28. Ed Enochs wrote:

    whether or not Plantinga received a degree from BYU is begging the question if you can use his reformed epistemology to support Mormon polytheism.

    Who said we were using reformed epistemology to support Mormon polytheism? I’m using the arguments of Plantinga (who believes the sensus divinitatis is accessible to all people; see p. 172 of Warranted Christian Belief) to support the concept of spiritual knowledge, in particular knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth suffered and died to atone for our sins, and was resurrected.

  29. ‘The New Mormon Challenge’ sold in the BYU bookstore shows Evangelical philosophers like William Lane Craig’s aversion . . .

    Craig is an Arminian! How dare a Calvinist cite an Arminian for any purpose whatsoever? ;-)

  30. My only point of contention is that a movement should not be started by the LDS that Plantinga supports the Mormon conception of finite gods.

    Ed, when you say that this is “your only point” it rings true beyond your intent. This discussion of the appropriateness of LDS citing Plantinga has little to do with the main topic of this thread. I know that your reputation for tangential and off topic comments is legendary. At this point you have become a caricature of yourself.

    What you really need is your own blog where you can link and respond to every single post and comment you disagree with in any part the LDS blogs without rudely disrupting the conversations. In the interest of your need for “free speech” and our need for conversation without such threadjacking, I would be happy to help you set up a blog and teach you how to use it to link to, quote, and respond to us to your heart’s desire. Whatdaya say?

  31. Might I suggest we not feed the trolls? (And I definitely am at fault there myself)

  32. Calling one a “troll” and making ad hominem remarks does not serve any purpose but to demonstrate that you LDS folk generally cannot take any criticism of the foundational claims of your faith.

    I have read your criticism’s of me and my approach and really, the only thing I have done is go against your expectations on some LDS blog sites.

    There is too much of a self important, self indulgent feel to all of this. So, I don’t go by your expectations of me, so that makes me Adolf Hitler?

    What have I done wrong really? It just appears that you guys cannot tolerate any scrutiny of Mormonism’s truth claims.

    The discerning reader can go back and look at my arguments and see that I have not personally attacked anyone.

    I just do not support the claims of the Mormon Church, so that makes me an evil person? So, I did not play by your imaginary and arbitrary blog rules, what’s the big deal?

    I think the bigger deal is that many of you do not demonstrate the true love of Christ of whose Church you say you belong.

  33. No Ed, it just makes you a rude person who does not play by the social rules.

    What have I done wrong really? It just appears that you guys cannot tolerate any scrutiny of Mormonism’s truth claims.

    This blog is not about the truth claims of the Church. It is a message board that presupposes them in our discussion.
    If you want to debate Mormons all the day long, and argue against our truth claims, please go elsewhere. I suggest Zion’s Lighthouse Message Board or the FAIR boards. There is vigorous debate there by Mormons who would just love nothing more than to debate with you for hours on end.

    You are insulting our collective intelligence, and we only have so much patience. If you are sincere in your desire to debate, I expect to see you on the FAIR boards soon :)

  34. “Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

    What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”

    Matthew 26:64-68

    When it comes down to it, the REAL reason you attack me and persecute me so vehemently is because like Jesus, I have come to bring you the truth and you just cannot tolerate that. Many of you resort to name calling and calls for censorship when all I am saying is that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God and that the Mormon Church is not the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

    In the end you shall know whether or not I spoke the truth or not. I came with love and you repayed me with hatred. I came with truth and you forbade it. In the end we shall see whether or not I spoke and bore witness of the truth of Jesus Christ.

    I leave you with this, I do not hate the Mormon Church, many of my friends are Mormon, but I just do not support your claims to be the only true church. I do not believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, I do not believe the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrines and Covenants are inspired Scripture like the Bible.

    I do not believe the true church of Jesus Christ fell away and Joseph Smith restored it. I do not believe that God was once a man and became a god as does the LDS doctrine of eternal progression. I do not believe we can become “gods” or believe salvation is “by grace after all we can do”

    I believe salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity and that the Bible alone is the Word of God.

    If this be wrong in your eyes, so be it. Like Martin Luther, the Evangelical Protestant leader before me, “Here I stand, so help me God, I can do nothing else”

  35. Ed, that is such an odd thing to say. Are you trying to claim that you are the next Protestant leader on the level of Martin Luther?

  36. Ed wrote

    I believe salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

    Great, so do we!

    Ed wrote

    I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity and that the Bible alone is the Word of God.

    Well, that’s interesting, since neither of those principles are, themselves, biblical. The creedal “Trinity” is the product of early committees trying to figure out who God is without the guidance of direct revelation to living prophets and apostles. The belief in the Bible alone as the Word of God is the creation of much later medieval Christian leaders, philosophers, and reformers who either (1) wanted to close off the scary possibility of God speaking to man and/or (2) wanted to close off the canon so as to preserve priestly power to themselves in their own interpretation of what was arbitrarily chosen by a committee to be in the “Bible” in the first place.

  37. Ed, just one follow-up question, if I may?

    How on earth is it possible that you have Mormon friends? From what I’ve seen of you, you’re completely incapable of being around Mormons without showering them with a million reasons why their faith is wrong. If you’ve made friends with some Mormons, that would mean you’ve found a way to discuss other things with them, and I really, really doubt that’s the case.

    You could be friends with people here if you talked about what people here are talking about. Alas. . .

  38. When it comes down to it, the REAL reason you attack me and persecute me so vehemently is because like Jesus, I have come to bring you the truth and you just cannot tolerate that. Many of you resort to name calling and calls for censorship

    …the only thing I have done is go against your expectations on some LDS blog sites.

    Ed,

    Even though I strongly disagree with your point of view, I’ve offered to help you set up a blog as an appropriate platform for you to declare your message within the bounds of blog etiquette. I don’t see how such an overture could honestly be mistaken for a call for censorship or an inability to take criticism. Yet you have displayed no interest in my offer and instead prefer to persist in rudeness and disregard for well recognized blog norms. Your disregard for my offer coupled with your declaration that you have gone against “expectations” amounts to a confession that you are purposefully flouting principles of etiquette for effect.

    That given, you seem to find a peculiar enjoyment in provoking your hosts and then taking on the role of the persecuted innocent when they react.

    And perhaps you are persecuted, Ed. But, compared to the persecutions suffered by our Lord, to those suffered by the early saints at the hands of the Romans, or the persecutions heaped upon the latter-day Saints shortly after the Restoration, the persecution of a man who actively goes out to provoke others and then wallows in righteous indignation at their response is pretty pathetic.

    Perhaps you are persecuted, Ed, though persecution actively sought appears pretty hollow. You may continue to seek this kind of substitute for real persecution by provocation and impertinence if it fulfills your need, but it really feels pretty superficial when compared to the real thing. I hope you can endure it well.

  39. None of this criticism passes the test of authentic love as mentioned by Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament.

    Christ would not resort to name calling and such to make their points.

    One thing you critics forget, is that I am a person and not an imaginary “bogeyman”. Christ would not behave the way many of you have towards me. Having said this, I have never expereinced such a lack of love and kindness from Mormons until I started contributing to these LDS blogs.

    Is the “love” that the LDS is supposed to have for their neighbors exempt on the internet?

  40. Ed, please respond to Jon’s comment # 42 directly. I need to see that you are actually reading the comments here.

  41. Ed, where is your “love” for Latter-day Saints. Sure, after blasting LDS truth claims on a blog that is not examining those claims but rather uses them as a point from which to procede, you often write something like “with love” or some other blurb about how much you love Latter-day Saints, but it truly rings hollow given the context of what you are doing.

    As for persecution aroused for preaching the truth, you might benefit from reading some accounts of the persecution of the Latter-day Saints, both in the nineteenth-century and now, at the hands of Christians enraged by Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints preaching the truth. These, particularly the experience of Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and other Latter-day Saints who have been murdered for preaching the truth, are more akin to Jesus’ experience and the experience of Martin Luther than is your experience being scolded for not maintaining blog etiquette in a specific context.

  42. Love cannot be demanded of men by men, it can only be given to others with no expectation that they return it. And if they do, then it is a miraculous surprise in which we can rejoice. Rather than condemn us for what you judge to be a lack of authentic love, show us how it is done. My offer to help you set up a blog as an alternative to your campaign of disruption still stands, brother Enochs, and you can show your good will and authentic love by accepting it and abandoning your threadjacking methodology. Will you accept my offer?

  43. I first became aware the Mormon Church in the early 1980’s through reading a Sport’s Illustrated article on BYU’s football team that featured their venerable offensive minded coaches Lavell Edwards and Norm Chow and the prolific passing attack led by Cougar quarterbacks Gary Scheide, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, SteveYoung, Robbie Boscoe and Ty Detmer.

    I remember the great controversy LDS and BYU had in the late 1970′s when they played other schools who did support BYU and the Mormon churches claim that Black people were not allowed to be priests in the Mormon Church, then all of a sudden in 1978, your leader got some sort of “Revelation” of convienance similar to the one they got in 1890 telling their men they could no longer have multiple wives.

    The existence of the Mormon Church and BYU became more prominent in my consciousness as a teenager, when BYU led by Bosco, beat the University of Michigan in the 1984 Holiday Bowl to win the NCAA Colligate Football championship that year.
    I first became aware of some of the religious tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints through reading that Sports Illustrated article. Since that time, I have studied the history and various doctrinal beliefs of Mormonism with great interest and concern. Over the years, I have countless conversations with Mormons from all walks of life, including hundreds of LDS missionaries and some of their most respected scholars and theologians. This interest in the Mormon Church culminated recently in my organization of three separate dialogs with various Mormon leaders.

    After careful reflection and thousands of hours of study I simply do not support the claim that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that the true Church of Christ fell away from the faith and that Smith restored it after receiving revelation from an Angel.

    Almost every Mormon I have spoken to over the last 20 years has told me that the manner in which a person can know if Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is an through a completely subjective and arbitrary experience of a “burning of the bossom”, i.e., the internal witness of the Holy Ghost.

    I am arguing here that such a “burning of the bossom” is not a valid test of truth and offers no one external to an individual’s expereience any objective evidence or verification if such an event actually occured.

    To go around and tell the world as do your 60,000 Mormon missionaries do, that the Evangelical church does not have the “authority” of Jesus Christ to baptize or administer the Lord’s Supper all based on the alleged experience of Joseph Smith (who had numerous wives and believed seeing an “angelic being” is the height of audacity.

  44. We already know from experience that Ed Enochs will go on and on and on. He’s not interested in dealing with the topic of a post or the discussion that his occurring. His main purpose is to take every opportunity to refute basic Church doctrines that are accepted and embraced by those who are of the LDS Church. He’s already been caught making up numerous pseudo-supporters for himself at T&S and been asked not to post comments there anymore. Maybe its time for M* to kindly ask him to go away as well.

  45. Ed Enochs wrote:

    I first became aware the Mormon Church in the early 1980’s through reading a Sport’s Illustrated article on BYU’s football team that featured their venerable offensive minded coaches Lavell Edwards and Norm Chow and the prolific passing attack led by Cougar quarterbacks Gary Scheide, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, SteveYoung, Robbie Boscoe and Ty Detmer.

    Maybe that’s why Detmer decided to come to BYU: When he was a youngster in the early 1980′s he also read this article and learned that he was destined to be a Cougar quarterback.

    all of a sudden in 1978, your leader got some sort of “Revelation” of convienance

    You prefer, perhaps, inconvenient revelations? Like the one Saint Peter received in Acts 10? No, wait, that one was pretty convenient, too.

    I am arguing here that such a “burning of the bossom” is not a valid test of truth

    And here I thought you were a fan of Plantinga:

    `My heart, as if aflame, I offer to you, Oh Lord.’ This particular phenomenology–a phenomenology that is naturally expressed in terms of one’s heart being warmed or even aflame–goes back in the Christian tradition at least to the disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus: `Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”’ (Luke 24:31-32). There are parallel passages in Aquinas; and in _Preface to the Epistle to the Romans_ (1522), Luther says that faith `sets the heart aflame.’ John Wesley reports, `As one was reading Luther’s _Preface to Romans_ . . . I felt my heart strangely warmed.” In the Orthodox tradition, St. Seraphim of Sarov reports something similar (see William Abraham, ‘The Epistemological Significance of the Inner Witness of the the Holy Spirit,’ Faith and Philosophy 7, no. 4, p. 440).
    Warranted Christian Belief, p. 292.

  46. Dear Millennial Star, BCC and the good ole boys at Times and Seasons, Not to Mention Steve Evans,

    I want to let you LDS folks know that your desire to silence and persecute me had the opposite effect and gave me motivation to publish a book on Joseph Smith and the origins of the Mormon Church.

    “Joseph Smith and the Magic Stones: Exploring the Occultic Origins of the Mormon Church” should be out soon.

    Thanks for awakening me guys. To find out more about the book, log on to…

    http://edstheologicalblog.blogspot.com/

  47. Ed, you were not being persecuted. You simply refused to recognize and respect the rights of people to administer and make rules for their own blogs. You also broke standards of polite participation on blogs by inventing multiple personalities to represent your views. You could have stated your differences in a more respectful way and dealt with the topics of posts — but you didn’t.

    I doubt that your book against the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church will really provide anything new. The Church has faced much worse opposition than anything you have to offer and is thriving more than ever. I’d wish you luck in your endeavors, but that would be dishonest.

  48. Am I blind or am I missing something? I don’t know if Ed has been out of line on other posts or something, but I don’t see where he broke any kind of social rules here. He wasn’t running around saying the Church is false or anything of the sort. He mere admonished us to excercise caution in presenting arguments which he found unconcinving. There are quite a few comments above which, in my opinion, are rather offensive and attacking. It is good for us Mormons to be kept in check by somebody like Ed (someone who while not believing in our claims, is willing to give decent reasons for it without the pitched rhetoric) so we don’t become too fanatical and bigoted.

    Ed, I apologize for your treatment and I hope we can all treat our guests a little better in the future.

  49. No Steve, you are an awesome guy. I just want to let you know what I am up to. You are by far the best LDS thinker I have run into on line.

  50. Jeremy, to be fair to the LDS here, I was out of line a few times, in that I changed my name a few times. And I would say that I did force my issues sometimes. but I did not attack anyone personally and I had a lot of LDS that supported me to stay on line.

    But I have to say that many of the LDS at “Times and Seasons” and BCC, treated me like the scum of the earth, like I was not even a human being, they maligned me over the net over and over and I had no way to defend myself. Now through my blog, I will be heard. Once again I want to commend Steve Evans for his cordial and thoughtful approach.

  51. Ed, don’t feel bad about the way you’re treated on these blogs. Most are designed to be anonymous discussion of thoughts and realities. You can be treated unfairly anywhere, anytime by anyone. To hold BCC, T&S and now Mstar at a higher level than other blogs is self defeating. By proscribing to the rules of the game, you can at least be more effective in your Q&A, and feel a lot better about your role in the end.

    I would no more go on a site, that I happen to disagree with its stated philosphy, and expect to be treated with anything but disdain. That is if they have an open comment thread. Which is why, a lot of blogs are now, eliminating comments.

  52. Jeffrey Giliam (and others)–

    Ed Enochs has a history in the bloggernacle. He has been known to lie and to repeatedly flout the rules and conventions of other blogs, even after being asked numerous times to desist. As danithew has mentioned, his initial appearance on Times and Seasons was marked by the simultaneous appearance of a number of new commenters appearing to agree with him — when confronted, he initially denied doing so, but later admitted to inventing a number of personas to give the appearance of a large base of support for his positions. He would quote lengthy passages from other works without attribution as well.

    Times and Seasons and By Common Consent initially welcomed Ed’s participation — Steve even let him guest post at one point. He had interesting things to say, and worked hard to advance his arguments while maintaining a respectful attitude towards the church. However, he began to hijack threads to talk about things that he wanted to talk about without any regard for others. He was asked politely and respectfully to stay on topic literally dozens of times, and refused to comply. At the same time, he began to become more antagonistic in his attitude towards the Church.

    In response, several bloggers and commenters pointed out to Ed that Times and Seasons is “a forum for believing members or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs,” and not a place for discussions about the truth of the LDS Chuch itself, and pointed him to places like FAIR, BeliefNet, and ZLMB (which Ben did again here in #37) as places that would welcome the kinds of discussion that he was seeking. Still Ed refused to abide by the rules and policies of the various bloggernacle blogs, and began claiming that his constitutional free speech rights were being abrogated (a patently ridiculous claim). Eventually, he was banned from the major bloggernacle blogs.

    We haven’t posted a formal comments policy here, and have tolerated some of Ed’s comments here, as he started out this thread more or less on topic. Given his history, however, he’s on a short leash, and unfortunately, the conversation here has degenerated to the point where we feel the need to formulate a specific policy for comments. We started this blog with the intent that it would be a place where believing members of the LDS Church and others who are willing to respect the Church and its teachings can discuss issues of interest to the LDS community. While we individually do not shy away from conversations about the truthfulness of the Church, this blog is not intended to be a forum for such discussions. As has been pointed out, there are several other places where such discussions are welcomed.

    If Ed didn’t have a long history in the bloggernacle, I agree that his comments here would not deserve the kind of response he has received. Unfortunately for him, he does have a well-deserved reputation, and the dialogue here reflects that. First impressions count for something, as do second, and third, and fourth….

    We’re going to start deleting any further comments that have to do with Ed Enochs. Ed, if you’re reading, you’re welcome to post here if you stay on topic and are willing to respect the bloggers’ beliefs. We’re not inclined to give you much leeway, so be warned.

  53. For a long time I myself was encouraging the idea that Ed E. should hang around, even though we disagree greatly on a number of issues (stem-cell research for one). It wasn’t even his making up of many names that most bothered me. The main irritant is that Ed continually goes out of his way to bluntly refute Joseph Smith as a prophet, the Book of Mormon as a scriptural record and the veracity of the Restoration. He shouldn’t need to use the ‘Nacle as the forum to dispute these basic Mormon principles.

    Obviously, Ed creating his own blog is a good idea because then he can sponsor the discussions that interest him.

  54. Bryce, my apologies. I hadn’t read your long comment before I posted my last one.

  55. On verifying the LDS truth claims:

    When attempting to verify whether or not an angel appeared to the Mormon Church leader and founder Joseph Smith, subsequently leading him to some golden tablets buried under the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra, New York, it is of paramount importance to understand that Smith’s claim of angelic visitation is not unique in the chronicles of religion.

    Throughout the annals of human history there have been many religious leaders who have claimed to have been visited by an angelic being who in turn, gave that religious leader a revelation from God. History is replete with such instances including the alleged “angelic visitations” to the following religious leaders; Islam’s founder Muhammad (570-632), Immanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), Seventh Day Adventist founder Ellen G. White (1827-1915), the Unification Church’s Sun Yung Moon (1920-), the Children of God’s Moses David Berg (1919-1994), and the World Wide Church of God’s Herbert W. Armstrong (1892 – 1986). Hence, just because Joseph Smith and his Mormon followers say that Smith saw the Angel Moroni who led him to some alleged “golden tablets” does not necessitate the veracity of his story.

    Since there have been innumerable religious leaders who have claimed to have received similar “revelations” from angels. Even if Joseph Smith did see some sort of “angelic being” it does not necessitate that this creature was not in fact a demon, masquerading itself as an “angel of light”. The Apostle Paul warns;

    “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

    “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

  56. Ed –

    I’d feel much better about your previous comment if I thought that you were directly addressing one of the points in Christopher’s post. You may be. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Next time, make it much clearer.

    Christopher’s post draws a distinction between the community of like-minded believers and outsiders. He says “My conclusion from all this is that it is perfectly legitimate to make knowledge claims within a given community that would not be justified relative to another community.” Your comment seems to be saying that his knowledge claim concerning Joseph Smith’s first vision is not justified relative to your belief community. Point made. Move on.

  57. In the end, the subjective “inward witness” of the Holy Ghost that many Mormons say is the final arbiter of whether or not the LDS faith is true, offers no objective evidence to anyone external to such subjectivism.

    Thus, some sort of objective, empirical evidence is necessary to confirm to astounding claim that Joseph Smith was some sort of special prophet who was told by his god and later an angel, to restore the church which had fallen away. Some sort of criteria of historical verfication is necessary to substantiate such claims to historical accuracy.

    I want to argue that Joseph Smith’s alleged visitations by “God the father”, “Jesus Christ” and later, the Angel Moroni, must be open to the same objective historical-legal evidence criteria accepted as admissable evidence in a court of law and by historians and historically reliable…

    There are three standard tests (University of Chicago history Dept.) used by all historians to verify the accuracy of historical event and they are;

    1. The bibliographical evidence test- how reliable is the transmission of the historical account? Has the story been changed down throughout history

    2. The internal evidence test-does the writer of the event contradict himself internally in his own account.

    3. The external evidence test-is there any external evidence through documents and archealogy that contradicts the account under question?

    These tests of historical authenticity should be applied to joseph Smith’s accounts as a better means of verifying if indeed he saw an angel and the LDS religion is true, not some subjective unsubstantiated series of visions.

  58. I recall a General Auhtority comparing his knowledge of the Resurection of Christ to his knowledge of the sun rising in the morning. A skeptic can doubt both claims and it is very hard for me to prove today that the Sun will rise tomorrow. I also have to admit that I do not know for sure that it will. But I am sure enough in both cases to act as one who knows for certain.

  59. Ed’s listing of criteria by which certain claims are justified is a great case in point. If a community (e.g., Univ. of Chicago History Dept.) accepts those criteria as normative, then anything that meets those criteria (though they seem relatively subjective to me) meets the standard for knowledge claims. (Interestingly, I don’t think that the foundational events of historical Christianity fare much (or any) better under those criteria than do the foundational claims of Mormonism, as higher Biblical criticism demonstrates.)

    But Bryce is right: the fact that Ed and his community do not consider my knowledge claims justified does not make my knokwledge claims within the LDS faith community unjustified. Rather, they are justified relative to that community, and not the other.

  60. [email protected] [Visitor] on said:

    Time to Bury the Hachett With You Guys

    Dear Millennial Star, BCC and Times and Seasons,

    I want to once and for all bury the hachett with all of you folks. I have many friends that are Mormon and I do not desire a running feud any longer with my LDS friends.

    So if someone can get the word out, I want full reconcilation with all these Mormon blogsites, I would greatly appreciate it.

    I personally want to say I am sorry and repent of changing my name on different posts and I am very sorry that I have contributed to this feud and I want it to come to an end as of today. It does not honor Christ to at odds in this manner. I personally want to debate many of you. Including Steve and Matt Evans, John Fowlke and Kiami. But I have chosen the wrong format and I am sorry.

    I am already getting a good response at my blog:

    http://edstheologicalblog.blogspot.com/

    All are welcome to debate me and my Evangelical friends there, but I promise to end this feud on your LDS blogs as of today.

    Sincerely in Jesus Christ,
    Your Evangelical Friend,

    Ed Enochs

    [email protected]

  61. Grasshopper,

    I think I understand your point about knowledge being a state relative to a particular community. As communities themselves differ significantly, have you developed a useful criterion by which to evaluate the various community paradigms? IOW, do you prefer the Alma-centric solution you find in Mormondom to the replication-only criterion of the scientific method or the historiological approach attributed to the University of Chicago?

    greenfrog

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