Monday, October 02, 2006

Another Choice Example of Flawless Mormon Reasoning

Here's yet another choice quote from my recent email exchange with my father. Enjoy.
It's pretty simple in the end if you consider the simple possibility that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up. [ I can consider that possibility and then reject is as utterly false. I and tens of thousands of others have had personal experience that is "evidence" that God lives - will you deny that? - that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior and redeemer of all - will you deny that? - by instituting the resurrection of all, good and wicked, and the resurrection was witnessed on both continents - will you deny the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon? and We have personal experience that the Book of Mormon is true and wholesome - and it is LUDICROUS to state or believe it was "made up" by a liar. ]
I think it's humorous that even he had to put the word "evidence" in quotes. So, will I deny anecdotal evidence as proof? You betcha, especially if it has perfectly mundane explanations. Will I reject circular reasoning (such as using the witnesses of the Bible and Book of Mormon to prove the events on their own pages as evidence of their own truthfulness)? I'm not sure how personal experiences of truth or wholesomeness in the Book of Mormon are evidence of its basis in fact. I could as easily argue that the Swiss Family Robinson is wholesome and full of truths, but it is still a work of fiction. And finally, putting a word in all caps doesn't make it more persuasive. Quite the opposite. If something is ludicrous then you should be able to demonstrate it with actual facts and the ridiculousness should become apparent to your reader.

For example, it is a fact that Joseph Smith found a brown stone while digging a well for Willard Chase. It is a fact that he claimed it was a seer stone and that when he placed it in the crown of his hat he claimed he could place his face in the hat and see the location of hidden treasure and many other wonders. It is a fact that he and his father made money by using it to search for hidden treasure. It is also a fact that he used the same seer stone in the same way to translate the Book of Mormon, sometimes when the gold plates were not even physically present. Another fact is that Parley P. Pratt claimed that he used it to translate the Book of Abraham. Finally, it is a fact that the brown seer stone is still in the possession of the First Presidency and that I have a picture of it in one of my history books. These facts are not from anti-Mormon sources but from first hand witnesses such as the 11 witness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's own family.

You see. I never once used a loaded word, stated a conclusion, or put a word in all capital letters and I think it makes the origins of the Book of Mormon sound LUDICROUS!!!! So take that: bold, italic, all caps, and not one, not two, but four exclamation points! I think I made my point and if you can accept those facts and still not see why I have an issue with the credibility of Joseph Smith or the believability of the Book of Mormon then I don't know what else I can say. And that is just one particular topic. A lot of other facts make it looks even more spectacularly ridiculous.

When I originally told my father this a couple of years ago, this was his reply:
I cannot imagine how any living person today could, with any credibility, state that Joseph Smith put a field stone on his head and buried his face in an old hat and dictated the text of the Book of Mormon and didn't even need the plates. No living person today would be a "first person witness". A person living today could only "quote" what someone in the 1800s said/wrote. I have read a couple of the anti-Mormon books, one by an Eastern reporter - the book is disgustingly lacking in credibility. He fills the book with things that are clearly inconsistent with other reporters or writers of the time - the book is riddled with typically malicious intent and illogical "anti-" verbiage. I note quite clearly that "modern" anti's simply quote and re-use impeached accusations of the earliest "anti's"
You see how persuasively he argued and what a firm foundation of knowledge of early Mormon history he brought to bear. He and my mother rather humorously sent me a FARMS book that confirms all of the facts that he so vehemently denied above. And to think that Daniel Petersen and his ilk at FARMS claim that if Mormons don't know their early church history it is their own fault. My father has been fanatically active since he converted as a teenager and he doesn't know the facts that even FARMS admits in its own publications.

It's that ignorance of the facts that makes discussion with Mormons so difficult. The facts clash so horribly with the church's own version of its history that when they hear them they just know they are lies. The alternative would be that the church had systematically lied and deceived them their entire lives. It's almost as if the more divorced the church's version of its history is from truth, the more believable it will be to the members and the more difficult it will be for them to read and accept the actual facts because the disconnect is so large. When I finally found scholarly, unvarnished histories of the church I was floored.

I have some sympathy for my father. The church tries to teach good Christian values to its members and my father values the positive and is able to ignore or dismiss or completely fail to see the negative. He sees the church as a cosmically powerful force for good and has swallowed the endoctrination that all of the goodness he sees is only available from the church for those that join the church. I've come to the opposite conclusion that the only unique things offered by TSCC are negative and all of the goodness can be found for free elsewhere.

So he remains frustrated that his persuasive arguments such as those above fail to change my mind and believes that I'm rejecting the compelling evidence and reason that he presents because I've made my mind up and dismiss anything that challenges or disagrees with my prejudices. The fact that reaching my new conclusions required me to change my mind about almost everything I'd previously believed about the church doesn't seem to disconfirm that, because that change of heart was obviously due to my wickedness and loss of the Spirit and a desire to swallow a bunch of lies.

Shaking my head....


Sister Mary Lisa said...

I can't imagine how difficult this must be to go through. Or maybe I can. It's in my nightmares of what will be when I go rounds with my dad. I may just tell him that I refuse to go rounds with him. That will piss him off. Would your dad be pissed if you refused to discuss these issues and let him give you his "evidence?"

I'm certain my dad would hate that. He relishes the control he can exert in matters he feels he's expert in. I also worry he'll send a mass e-mail to the entire family, including cousins, second cousins, uncles, aunts...none of whom I've seen in 15 years, and ask them all to pray for the apostate and her family. He did this to my sister once when her non-mo man got in an almost fatal drunk driving accident ~ he sent a mass e-mail asking everyone to include John in their prayers and aksing for a special prayer for him to see the evils of alcohol and change his ways.

I'm not sure it'd do me any good to try to explain myself. I also don't know if it does any good for you to explain yourself. It may just bring out more of that hatred you mentioned feeling as a teen. I'm so sorry you have to go through that right now. I'm no expert of course.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Oops, I meant to write ASKING. Not aksing.

Bull said...

My advice would be to not bother. I plan on taking my sister's advice and never discussing any disagreements with my father on anything ever again.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

That's still rough, as it leaves big empty spaces where love and acceptance could have been. Hang in there! Imagine the shock and horror he'll feel when he dies and discovers reality for the first time. He's gonna need you then.

Arizona Expositor said...

I saw five exclamation points.

Bull said...

OK, now that's just anal. Counting my exclamation points? :)

Just to show you how anal I am, I went back and fixed it. So there.