This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice (conflictofjustice.com). Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.
Mass Hysteria – The Shaker Roll Book was a product of group hysteria, like the mob hysteria and witch burnings among the Puritans. Psychologists recognize that people can sometimes imagine things as a group:
“Epidemics of hysteria have been recorded as far back as the Middle-Ages and continue to strike today. Most often, the outbreaks afflict children and teenagers, girls more than boys, and fainting and hyperventilation are the most common symptoms. Occasionally the illness persists for days; but usually, once the afflicted crowd disperses, symptoms tend to disappear… In a heightened state of anxiety, victims often notice and misinterpret normal physical sensations.” (PsychologyToday.com)
|For example, when Orson Welles convinced thousands of people with a fictional radio broadcast, “War of the Worlds,” that earth was being invaded by aliens, people reported smelling poison gas and seeing lightning flashes in the sky. High moments of stress and stress make people very susceptible to the power of suggestion.
The Shakers had so many witnesses for their scripture book because of group hysteria. They thought the world was going to imminently end, and that angels were moving all around them. Once one person thought they saw the angel, the suggestion spread like wildfire among the group.
The three Book of Mormon witnesses were not under any such influence. They didn’t think the world was going to end. They were a tiny group, and under no kind of stress or fear. With Mormonism, miracles don’t tend to manifest as large groups, but in private and peaceful circumstances, to ensure that they aren’t being affected by emotional or cognitive bias.
Shakers Can’t Be Mormons? – CES Letter claims: “The Shakers, of course, did not believe in the Book of Mormon,” but is this true? Is there some article of the Shaker faith I haven’t found that says they can’t believe in the Book of Mormon? Conversely, is there some tenant of the Mormon faith I don’t know about that says only Mormons are allowed to see angels?
Why shouldn’t the Shakers believe in the Book of Mormon? There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that labels Shakers as evil. Mormons certainly disagree that “Christ has made his second appearance on earth, in a chosen female known by the name of Ann Lee,” but other than that, they seem like good people, and the world would be better off if more people were like Shakers. Mormons do not claim to have a monopoly on truth. It would be foolish to immediately dismiss every spiritual claim that does not fit into your particular church frame.
Different Scripture Books – It is easy to verify or dismiss the claim of gold plates, while when it comes to the Shakers’ Roll book, one could just say: “Well you just don’t see the angel!” The Shaker witness statements did not include physical feeling or investigation of the angel’s roll like the Book of Mormon witness statements did for the gold plates. It was purely visual.
The Roll Book claimed to be written by a person, not translated. It was copied from an angel’s roll rather than translated from ancient plates like the Book of Mormon. The contents are very different from the Book of Mormon. They are two very different cases.
But in both cases, anyone can read them, ponder, and pray to receive enlightenment and witness from the Spirit of God whether they are true or not.
Fake Martin Harris Quote – CES Letter repeats their phony claim they already made that Martin Harris witnessed for the Shakers:
“The evidence seems to show that Martin Harris accepted the Sacred Roll and Book as a divine revelation. Clark Braden stated: ‘Harris declared repeatedly that he had as much evidence for a Shaker book he had as for the Book of Mormon’ (The Braden and Kelly Debate, p. 173).” (CES Letter)
Then CES Letter repeats this phony claim a third time:
“What are we to make of the reported Martin Harris comment that he had as much evidence for the Shaker book he had as for the Book of Mormon?” (CES Letter)
He didn’t. The Martin Harris quote is a fake. Yet another hoax spread by the RLDS splinter cult, many years after Martin Harris’s death. Clark Braden wasn’t even a Shaker! He was a member of the RLDS spinter sect in the late 19th century. He was a provable liar, and he was lying about what Martin Harris said. There is no credible evidence that Martin Harris ever testified for or witnessed for non-Mormon scripture. How could Martin Harris have joined the Shakers when they believe in celibacy and he wasn’t celibate?
Perhaps Martin Harris showed some interest in the Scroll Book because of its claim as divinely inspired scripture. I could see why he would do that. It was similar to the Book of Mormon in that it was said to come from angels and prepare the world for the Millenium. But there is no evidence that Martin accepted it. Thomas Colburn reported of Martin Harris: “he tried the Shakers, but that would not do.”
Shakers More Credible? – CES Letter says:
“Joseph Smith only had three witnesses who claimed to see an angel. The Shakers, however, had a large number of witnesses who claimed they saw angels and the Sacred Roll and Book. There are over a hundred pages of testimony from ‘Living Witnesses.'”
Yes, they had more witnesses, and that is what makes them less credible, not more. It was more likely to be the product of mass hysteria. And the length of a testimony does not reflect whether it is true or not. CES Letter spends more than 80 pages arguing what could be argued in less than 5 pages, so I can see why they would be confused about that.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|“Why would anyone gamble with their lives in believing in a book based on anything these men said or claimed or what’s written on the testimonies of the Witnesses page in the Book of Mormon?” I don’t think our lives depend on it today, but it probably did for the Three Witnesses, and they stuck by their testimony. Why is that?
|Argument From Ignorance
|The Martin Harris quote is fake and doesn’t make sense. The Shaker Scroll Book is very different from the gold plates, produced under very different circumstances, and it is illogical to compare the two in this fashion.
|Previously, CES Letter dismissed the vision of an angel in the Three Witness account as the superstitious belief in “second sight,” but now CES Letter uses it as evidence of stronger credibility for a vision.
|CES Letter repeats the Roll Book claims and the fake Martin Harris quote several times. The Shaker testimony statement is referred to repeatedly, and is quoted from at length, even though it really has nothing to do with Mormonism.
|CES Letter assumes more witnesses means more credibility, but really the opposite is true.
|What does any of this have to do with anything?
|Guilt By Association
|CES Letter quotes the Shaker and Strang witness statements at length in order to make them sound somehow relevant, and to associate them with Mormonism.
Contradiction Strategy – Following the Marxist strategy of contradiction, CES Letter uses fellow Christians to attack the Mormon church. The attack is always more powerful when it comes from someone associated with Mormonism, which is why anti-Mormons so often pretend to be faithful latter day saints and sow dissension inside the church. Skeptics often try to turn Christians against each other to tear each other down, and then point to the dissention in the religion as evidence that it must be false.
We must be careful to avoid this trap. Call out RLDS and other hoaxers, but why should we denounce Shakers? They are nice people.
As for the testimony of the Book of Mormon witnesses, you just have to take it for what it’s worth. Someone who picks up the Book of Mormon for the first time has no idea who these witnesses are, so they just think, “Oh, here are some people who say this book is true.” That’s fine. They don’t need to blindly believe what 11 random people have to say to start reading the book.
A testimony of truth does not happen because of someone’ s stories, whether they are true stories or not. People often tell stories to explain what their testimony means to them, but bearing testimony is about gospel principles that they know to be true. The “seed of faith” is planted when a person hears those fundamental truths and it stirs them to begin the knowledge process of testing faith for themselves. The point of these witnesses is to give people a tiny push to read the book.
Use Opponent As Authority Tactic – This is a popular Marxist tactic that anti-Mormons use. They use Mormonism’s own authorities to discredit the faith, such as an alleged Mormon scholar. What makes this argument powerful is:
- Deceptively discredits the vast libraries of study on Book of Mormon theology by LDS professionals.
- Gives more focus to a phony frame that attacks the Mormon church.
- Divides the ranks of the church.
- Establishes a frame that demands a clear, modern explanation in the Book of Mormon for every religious issue in existence, and that it be exactly corroborated by every other Mormon source.