Friday, February 02, 2007

Nobody Else Saw the Light?

Oh, come on. Nobody else was swayed by the brilliant article my father sent me (linked at the title of this post). Sorry, I can't leave them alone because I feel like I'd be neglecting an opportunity to educate some future lost soul who ends up here from Google or where ever and doesn't realize that I was being facetious and doesn't understand what was wrong with the article. So, endulge me to make a few brief responses.
A. He will boldly claim that God [has] spoken to him.
I guess that would qualify an almost limitless supply of nut jobs including David Koresh and Oral Roberts and would immediately rule out at least current church president Gordon Hinkley and former president Joseph F. Smith.
B. Any man so claiming would be a dignified man with a dignified message; no table-jumping, no whisperings from the dead, no clairvoyance, but an intelligent statement of truth.
How dignified was it for Joseph Smith to have an affair with a 16 year old maid? Or marry other men's wife? Or libel his opponents? Or destroy the property and reputation of people that disagreed with im? How dignified was he with a background of treasure hunting with a seer stone? Many of his neighbors swore out affidavits that he and his family were of low character.
C. Any man claiming to be a prophet of God would declare his message without any fear and without making any weak concessions to public opinion.
Con men do this all the time. Bill Clinton boldly and fearlessly declared, "I did not have sex with that woman," and never backed down even when impeached. Exactly why is this evidence of divine status as a prophet?
D. If he were speaking for God, he could not make concessions although what he taught would be new and contrary to the accepted teachings of the day. A prophet bears witness to what he has seen and heard and seldom tries to make a case by argument. His message and not himself is important.
Why is failure to be able to justify through argument (meaning reason and evidence) a sign of a prophet? If it is divine truth then scrutiny and argument should be encouraged and even invited. This would also seem to be better evidence of a con.
E. Such a man would speak in the name of the Lord, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” as did Moses, Joshua, and others.
This is a restatement of A.
F. Such a man would predict future events in the name of the Lord, and they would come to pass, as did Isaiah and Ezekiel.
If you guess enough times or are general enough in the prediction then anyone can get it right. Mormons claim Smith predicted the Civil War, but if you look into the papers of the time you will see that he was just repeating what was the common opinion of the time. However, if you want to go down that path, then all you have to show is that he was wrong once to show he wasn't a true prophet. If this is evidence of a prophet (and I don't think it is) then Smith failed on numerous prophecies.
G. He would have not only an important message for his time but often a message for all future time, such as Daniel, Jeremiah, and others had.
So Gandhi was a prophet? How about Hawking? Why would this be evidence of anything other than a good message from a wise person? Are regular human beings incapable of such things without revelation?
H. He would have courage and faith enough to endure persecution and to give his life, if need be, for the cause he espoused, such as Peter, Paul, and others did.
Hello Muslim suicide bombers everywhere. You've not only earned a place in paradise, according to an apostle you have also shown that you are a prophet. This could show religious fanaticism. In Smith's case, I believe that he had to play it out for good or bad because he didn't really have any other options. And, by the way, he fought to save his life right to the bitter end including shooting at his attackers and calling out for rescue to the masons in the crowd. He didn't willingly go to the slaughter and had every intention of escaping justice like he had done many times before.
I. Such a man would denounce wickedness fearlessly. He would generally be rejected or persecuted by the people of his time, but later generations, the descendants of his persecutors, would build monuments in his honor.
This is not unique to prophets, any particular religion, or even religious people. Smith was widely regarded as a dangerously powerful fraud in his time and continues to be considered a fraud by most educated people today. Nothing has really changed over time, but even if it had it wouldn't be evidence that he is a prophet.
J. He would be able to do superhuman things, things that no man could do without God’s help. The consequence or result of his message and work would be convincing evidence of his prophetic calling. “By their fruits ye shall know them”
And what would those things be? I've heard the Sunday School lessons about healing the sick in Nauvoo. If this really worked, then why did so many people continue to be sick? I watch David Blaine do incomprehensible illusions that seemingly defy any natural explanation. Does that prove magic or just my lack of knowledge and skill at illusion? Take your choice. Joseph's life was a sequence of train wrecks and failures culminating in an early death that left his wife and children debt and abandoned and derided by the church he founded.

The two examples he gives are the "translation" of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the church. If the Book of Mormon had been translated in the manner described by the church, then it would have truly been wondrous. But it wasn't. Read the histories and accounts. You'll realize that the church's version of the story differs markedly from the eye witness accounts by Smith's own followers. Regardless, other churchs' prophets and prophetesses have even more remarkable output, but Mormons don't consider that persuasive.
K. His teachings would be in strict conformity with scripture, and his words and his writings would become scripture. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”
Start from square one with a definition of which scriptures we're talking about and then follow up with why we should consider them authoritative. The Bible isn't even internally consistent so I'm not sure how anything else could be consistent with it other than continuing the inconsistencies. For example, the Book of Mormon condemns polygamy except in unique circumstances which were not in existence in the Mormon church. The world is full of books of scripture that Mormons don't accept. Most non-Mormons don't consider Mormon scriptures to be consistent with the Bible.

Summary. This was a complete fluff piece. I was actually hoping, when I first received it, that it would have some actual facts or attempts at reason or some cause for thought. But it doesn't even survive a minimal scrutiny or offer up anything that could be refuted because each of the points is essentially meaningless. Whether or not a person had each of those attributes would prove nothing about his status as a prophet.

This is why rational discussions with my father on the topic are fruitless. He considers such things to be strong evidence. Taken alone or taken separately, they don't prove anything because they could be true whether a person was a prophet or not. It's not only that he can't consider the evidence against the church, he doesn't even seem to have a working understanding of logic and logical fallacies and how people can convince themselves of provably false completely unprovable things.


Simeon's . . . Turning the Corner said...

Frustrating indeed. There's nothing more annoying than someone you care about putting something like this in front of you as proof only to see that they have the inability to actually discuss in logical terms the proof they have presented.

Just one of many said...

My DH and I have been shunned by his family. When we declared our "exit" from the Morg, they wouldn't ask for an explanation, nor would they let us explain. We just ceased to exist. Numerous family events have occured without our knowledge. They are comfortable with their shell and refuse to listen to the flip-side of the coin. All they have said is that whatever questions we have will be resolved in the Millenium! WTF!!! I can't wait that long. I can't turn off my brain to follow my's that easy.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Wow. Too bad your dad doesn't just leave you alone about it already. That article is hilariously funny, when considered like you did, with actual thought and "prophetic" examples. Sheesh.