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.
|“There are also thousands of witnesses who never recanted their testimonies of seeing UFO’s, Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, Abominable Snowman, Aliens, and so on.” (CES Letter) Are the witness testimonies of the Book of Mormon similar to claims about Big Foot? Let’s compare the Book of Mormon witnesses with the New York judicial system’s official criteria for witness credibility:|
- “Did the witness have an opportunity to see or hear the events about which he or she testified?” Each witness was heavily involved with Joseph Smith and had opportunity to see and touch, and inspect the gold plates.
- “Did the witness have the ability to recall those events accurately?” None of the witnesses displayed any kind of impairment, disability, or confusion. By all accounts, they were men of high profession and good fitness.
- “Was the testimony of the witness plausible and likely to be true, or was it implausible and not likely to be true?” The events sound extreme and unlikely. There are multiple newspaper accounts of people discovering buried treasure in the area, but there were no accounts of ancient metal records.
- “Was the testimony of the witness consistent or inconsistent with other testimony or evidence in the case?” There is no other testimony or evidence to contradict what they said they experienced.
- “Did the manner in which the witness testified reflect upon the truthfulness of that witness’s testimony?” Each witness was of high education, good character, and virtuous behavior at the time of their statement, and well regarded by peers and the community. Their testimony is clearly-stated and straightforward.
- “To what extent, if any, did the witness’s background, training, education, or experience affect the believability of that witness’s testimony?” The witnesses were friends or distant relatives of Joseph Smith. They were highly regarded by the community.
- “Did the witness have a bias, hostility or some other attitude that affected the truthfulness of the witness’s testimony?” The reputation of the witnesses suffered because of their testimony, as well as their finances. They would have been much better off if they had denied it. Furthermore, each of the Three Witnesses turned against Joseph Smith and the church, yet never denied their testimony.
- “You may consider whether a witness had, or did not have, a motive to lie.” The witnesses were friends or distant relatives of Joseph Smith. Other than that, there was no motive to be a witness.
- “You may consider whether a witness hopes for or expects to receive a benefit for testifying.” The witnesses received no benefit for testifying. Martin Harris lost his farm to finance the Book of Mormon printing, and did not receive financial gain from the church.
- “You may consider whether a witness has any interest in the outcome of the case, or instead, whether the witness has no such interest.” The witnesses had no financial interest or benefit for their testimony.
- “You may consider whether a witness has been convicted of a crime or has engaged in criminal conduct…” There was no record of poor behavior with any of the witnesses.
- “You may consider whether a witness made statements at this trial that are inconsistent with each other.” The witnesses were consistent in their repeated accounts of the events.
People who beleive in Bigfoot get TV specials on Netflix. What did the Book of Mormon witnesses get? Nothing but persecution and scorn. Each of the Three Witnesses felt betrayed by Joseph Smith to the point that they left the church and attacked him, yet none of them ever denied their testimony. There was no material motive for them. Each witness was of sound mind and highly regarded professionals in their community.
Anybody could put on a Big Foot costume and walk in front of a camera, or attach lights to drones and fake a UFO, but how does a poor farmboy in 1830 forge a thick book of gold plates? This was before spraypaint. Where did he get the gold? How did he forge the plates? How did he fake a supernatural angelic appearance?
Strang’s Metal Plate Hoax – CES Letter says:
“‘The Witnesses never recanted or denied their testimonies’: Neither did James Strang’s witnesses; even after they were excommunicated from the church and estranged from Strang.” (CES Letter)
Strang’s witnesses admitted it was a hoax. Strang’s law partner, Caleb Barnes, later admitted that Strang made the plates out of a tea kettle. Samuel Graham admitted he helped make the plates. Samuel P. Bacon denounced the sect after he found remnants of the tea kettle in Strang’s attic.
The reason Strang’s witnesses said they saw metal plates is because they actually saw metal plates. Nobody disputes that the witnesses saw exactly what they said they saw. In both cases of Strang and Joseph Smith, the witnesses were truthful in their testimonies. But in Joseph Smith’s case, how could Joseph Smith have forged fake gold plates and faked a supernatural angelic appearance?
|Shaker Sacred Roll Vision – CES Letter says: “Neither did many of the Shaker witnesses who signed affidavits that they saw an angel on the roof top holding the ‘Sacred Roll and Book’ written by founder Ann Lee.” (CES Letter)|
Maybe the Shakers did see an angel on a rooftop holding a book? I don’t really know much about it, nor do I care, because it isn’t relevant to the Book of Mormon. The Shaker roll was not an ancient record, was not translated from a physical book, and were not both seen and felt by witnesses.
|Virgin Mary Visions – CES Letter says: “Same goes with the thousands of people over the centuries who claimed their entire lives to have seen the Virgin Mary and pointing to their experience as evidence that Catholicism is true. ” (CES Letter)|
How does seeing the Virgin Mary prove Catholicism is true? Are Catholics the only people who believe in the Virgin Mary? No. There is no logical reason to think, “I saw a nice woman in a vision. It must be the Virgin Mary. This must means Catholicism is the one true church.” But as for the gold plates, seeing and feeling the plates is definitive proof that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be.
Again, maybe those people did see the Virgin Mary? I don’t really know, nor is it relevant, because Mary did not give those people an ancient record to translate. Furthermore, did those people see and feel the vision, like the witnesses did the gold plates? Were they credible witnesses?
Why Believe Witnesses? – CES Letter says:
“It doesn’t mean anything. People can believe in false things their entire lives and never recant. Just because they never denied or recanted does not follow that their experience and claims are true or that reality matches to what their perceived experience was.”
What is the point of having witnesses of anything if you consider an Abominable Snowman witness the same as any other witness? Why does CES Letter go on and on for many pages about witnesses if they don’t find any kind of witness credible?
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.
Mormons follow a method for truth, both seen and unseen. Alma 32 says we gain knowledge beginning with hope and by testing a hypothesis. This is a long, gradual process where one proves every claim through testing cause and effect
“Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words… 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… 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. 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.”
This is similar to Plato’s allegory of the cave. In his parable, Plato said knowledge starts with mere allusion to truth like a puppet show casting shadows upon a cave wall. This is the “hope” Alma speaks of. Then, a person turns around and sees the fire projecting the shadows. This is when a person gains a rhetorical belief or conviction of the source behind allusions. Next, they walk out the door of the cave they are in and see how the same principle of light and shadow operates all around us. When Plato calls this a “mathematical” or discursive understanding, he means this is a person understanding the nature of operation. As Joseph Smith put it, this is understanding the character of God and a knowledge that your own character is in alignment with it. Finally, a person fully understands that the sun is the source of all visible objects. This is the use of reason with which we approach divinity. Mormonism is different from Platonism in that the visible realm overlaps the invisible realm. The allusionary puppets that we started out with are not tossed aside as we exit the cave, but are kept as fundamental seeds of knowledge.
It is totally ignorant to think Mormons just “believe.” We start with the hypothesis that the Bible and Book of Mormon are true, and the principles inside are eternal truth. Superstitious people start with the physical reality as they perceive it and try to piece together a spiritual explanation–and atheists do this to even if they don’t admit it.
Skeptics follow a twisted method of dialectic to find truth, which we see in CES Letter‘s contradiction strategy. They constrain the context, deconstruct whatever doesn’t fit their narrative, and then change language to fit their ideology. For example, skeptics set a context where the word “horse” in the Book of Mormon couldn’t mean anything but the modern E. cabalus and where horses couldn’t possibly exist in north America at the time of Nephites. Next they deconstruct other Mormon beliefs through logical connections: they point out further contradictions of archaeology and the Book of Mormon. Before we know it, there is not a single bit of archaeological evidence in support of the Book of Mormon, and we consider “science” as the superior alternative for historical truth, or what fake science tells us, rather. Finally, they replace the deconstructed beliefs with their own ideology.
Skeptics are doomed to blindly rely on witness “testimonies” that they see on TV and read in school textbooks. Mormons do not do this. We discover truth for ourselves.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||James Strang’s witnesses did admit that his plates, though real physical objects, were a hoax.|
|Logical Disjunction||People lie about seeing Big Foot, therefore all witnesses can’t be credible?|
|Shifting Goalposts||CES Letter tried to show contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies and suggested that they didn’t agree to it. But now CES Letter is arguing against the position that the witnesses “never recanted or denied their testimonies.”|
|Misleading Vividness||CES Letter spends page after page of detail about the Strang witnesses and the Shaker witnesses to make them sound relevant to this issue.|
|Red Herring||CES Letter asks about, “Joseph Smith’s neighbors and peers who swore and signed affidavits on Joseph and his family’s characters,” but what does this have to do with the witness statements of factual events?|
|Repetition||Three pages wasn’t enough. CES Letter needs to repeat their argument about James Strang a third time. The argument about the Shaker Roll is repeated on p. 63.|
|Etymology||CES Letter switches between past and present tense to make this all sound more applicable to Mormons living today.|
|False Dilemma||CES Letter acts like Mormonism couldn’t possibly be true if some Shakers saw an angel on a rooftop or some Catholic saw the Virgin Mary.|
Again, CES Letter mixes up mythology like the Loch Ness Monster and Aliens with spiritual claims. This is a big lie that they insist on repeating, that religious claims are the same thing as mythology. They aren’t.
Testimony of spiritual truth begins with faith in spiritual principles, not in some guy’s stories about the Loch Ness Monster. CES Letter is setting up a strawman caricature of how the Mormon testimony works. We don’t blindly believe in crazy stories we hear about on Netflix. We test and discover truth for ourselves.
Mythology has an important place. As long as we place mythology in its proper place, it can be extremely useful for unifying as a society and learning moral truths. The best mythology we have now-a-days are comic book stories put to film, and they are pretty entertaining, but they are nowhere near as effective as the epic tales of ancient Greece or fairytales of Germany. It is unfortunate that atheists demonize mythology and we lose out on this essential, human device of communication.
The skeptic’s narrative sets the expectation that spiritual communication should be a magical oracle or genie that gives us whatever we want. But if it is just a matter of requesting an angelic visition and then receiving one, what is the point? CES Letter‘s expectation perpetuates Satan’s solution where all our decisions are made for us and salvation is universal. This is why God does not just make it plainly obvious that the Book of Mormon is true at first glance. The essence of Satan’s plan is universal salvation.
The essence of Satan’s inspiration is that we are fated to make choices. There is only one possible “correct” choice and if you don’t pick it you are a failure. This may sound counter-intuitive considering how skeptics so often talk about “shades of grey” and moral relativism. But just look at any of the social issues that Mormons get attacked for in the church, from racism, to sexism, to homophobia. Skeptics are always telling us there is one prescribed path to follow for all of these issues, while we recognize issues are complex and require individual tailored care. Mormons recognize that the gate is narrow and the path strait, but we don’t say that there is always one prescribed solution for everything to cover each individual. We are men and women, and the Holy Ghost talks to us individually on a case by case basis, and most of the time there is not one single “correct” choice that we must make.
The godly decision is not to hand out the answer that God would choose but to help us improve ourselves so that we can excel as men and women. This is the process of repentence, and it should constantly be working when it comes to all personal issues, big and small. We work to change whatever inside ourselves is holding us back, and we get help and assurance that our mistakes are no longer remembered. The best thing the Holy Ghost can do is act as Comforter and tell us that we are children of God with a divine purpose and we deserve to love ourselves. We need that assurance to build confidence and take the leap of faith.
Faith precedes the miracle, and a demonstration of good behavior precedes the revelation, as tests make us more confident in our abilities. We can be sure of the Spirit’s witness of Mormon doctrine because it aligns with our good works, works that consistently lead to final success, and it continues to enlighten and improve our lives. Then, we know it came from a good source.