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.
“The Book of Mormon Witnesses and their testimonies of the gold plates are irrelevant. It does not matter whether eleven 19th century treasure diggers with magical worldviews saw some gold plates or not. It doesn’t matter because of this one simple fact: Joseph did not use the gold plates for translating the Book of Mormon.” (CES Letter)
Used Gold Plates – The rock in the hat story is phony. It is a hoax story that a splinter sect started to undermine the Mormon church. Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim to translate the gold plates which were sitting right in front of him.
CES Letter had suggested that the experiences of Joseph Smith and the witnesses were in their imagination, what 19th century New Englanders termed “second sight.” Even if Joseph Smith had used “second sight” to translate, the people of the time defined second sight as the ability to see far-away things. So if Joseph Smith had used a seer stone, he still would have been claiming to “use the gold plates.” When someone looks at a star through a telescope, is the star not involved?
But again, Joseph Smith did not use second sight or seer stones. He did use the gold plates to translate exactly as he is portrayed in Church illustrations.
“The mistake that is made by 21st century Mormons is that they’re seeing the Book of Mormon Witnesses as empirical, rational, nineteenth-century men instead of the nineteenth-century magical thinking, superstitious, and treasure digging men they were. They have ignored the peculiarities of their worldview, and by so doing, they misunderstand their experiences as witnesses.
At the end of the day? It all doesn’t matter.” (CES Letter)
These are all lies. For people who insist on sound physical evidence, I am stunned that CES Letter would attack these man–not just them, but the entire 19th century New England civilization–based on shaky evidence . They are calling an entire civilization of people backwards primitives whose beliefs were based on fanciful imagination? Isn’t this what we know today as “racism?”
If “at the end of the day” it doesn’t matter, why does CES Letter spend 15 pages attacking the characters of the witnesses? Obviously it does matter, because the gold plates are physical objects, and if someone can say they know they are real, this lends more credibility to the Book of Mormon’s claim to be ancient scripture. The purpose of witnesses is to give us more reason to give it a try and start reading it. The truth of the Book of Mormon does not rest on the testimony of the witnesses, but they do lend more immediate credibility.
There is zero evidence that any of the witnesses believed in magic, were superstitious, dug for treasure, or had any kind of peculiar worldview.
Like many Mormons, I never considered the witnesses and anything more than a nice supporting page for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, not really all that necessary though. Why do skeptics attack their characters, almost as much as they attack Joseph Smith’s character. Derision is currency for anti-Mormons; people will be turned off if they display too much bitterness so they need to choose their battles carefully.
Daniel C. Peterson gave a great explanation for the importance of the Book of Mormon witnesses. It is not by accident that CES Letter attacks them after having reduced Mormon testimonies as nothing more than emotion.
We are living in a secular Western world, and ex-Mormons tend to become secularists. The witness testimonies are some of the best secular evidences for the Book of Mormon’s truth. It is one thing for a guy to claim visions, but it gains a lot more credibility when a dozen other men swear the same thing and know it for a fact. Anti-Mormons are reduced to dismissing the entire 19th century New England area as a bunch of superstitious primitives in order to undercut their testimonies.
No Relics In The Church – Mormons are not superstitious. Superstition would be if Joseph Smith had put the gold plates in a museum, like skeptics praise the Strangites for doing. Superstition would be turning it into a relic like this. What skeptics want is superstition.
The fact is, it is a matter of faith whether Joseph Smith received gold plates from an angel and whether they were a legitimate ancient record. The seer stones, which skeptics incorrectly claim Joseph Smith used to translate the gold plates, are just rocks. There is no reason why prophets should be able to tell which rocks were used for what or who actually wrote this certain document, because it does nothing to build our faith to have magic rocks. There is no holiness imbued in physical objects that prophets can use to build faith.
We are not a church that deals with relics, like pieces of Noah’s ark or the cup of Jesus Christ. CES Letter sets the narrative that we need to have some kind of physical objects, like the Catholic crusaders who scoured the Holy Land for objects from the bible. Well, the Mormon church does not do this. Superstition is spiritual belief built on a physical premise. Why is there lightning in the sky? Must be a manifestation of the gods! The Mormon path toward truth is physical conclusions based on physical evidence and spiritual conclusions based on spiritual evidence.
If the gold plates were discovered by archaeologists at the Hill Cumorah tomorrow, do you think CES Letter would change their minds? I don’t think so. No amount of scientific testing would convince them. Even if scientific testing removed all doubt that they weren’t forgeries, skeptics would pass it off as coincidence.
If some evidence were uncovered that made the truth of the church undeniable, that would destroy the entire purpose of being born on earth, to be tested. It would be detrimental to Mormonism because it would shift our narrative away from matters of faith toward unspiritual confirmation of a historical event from physical evidence. And that’s what CES Letter is trying to do. The shift away from faith serves Satan’s intentions because a person who relies on superstition is not practicing personal agency, but being totally reliant on others for his beliefs and actions. The Marxist ideology is to believe only what you have a physical explanation for and to twist it however you need to for the current narrative. Mormons do not need to do this.
It is very convenient for CES Letter that Mormon must produce gold plates to prove their beliefs, yet CES Letter can rely on dubious quotes from biased sources. The difference between CES Letter and Mormons when it comes to testimonies is CES Letter cherry-picks anything from anyone to back up their pre-conceived conclusion, while Mormons get both sides of the issue and seek a personal witness to know if something is true, by a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. Skeptics read something online and instantly believed it because it aligned with their narrative.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||Joseph Smith did not use a rock in a hat to translate; he used the gold plates.|
|Ad Hominem||CES Letter attacks the character of the witnesses, Joseph Smith, modern-day Mormons, and 19th century New Englanders.|
|Repetition||This argument repeats empty claims from earlier arguments. It repeats “it doesn’t matter” four times.|
|Appeal To Ridicule||CES Letter repeated this argument on p.44. There, their appeal to ridicule was even more strident: “That the gold plates that ancient prophets went through all the time and effort of making, engraving, compiling, abridging, preserving, hiding, and transporting were useless? Moroni’s 5,000 mile journey lugging the gold plates from Mesoamerica (if you believe the unofficial apologists) all the way to New York to bury the plates, come back as a resurrected angel, and instruct Joseph for 4 years only for Joseph to translate instead using just a… rock in a hat?” (CES Letter)|
|Burden Of Proof||After 15 pages, CES Letter could not disprove the witnesses or back up their claims with credible evidence, so they just repeat over and over “it doesn’t matter.”|
|Shifting Goalposts||The previous 14 pages suddenly don’t matter.|
|Non Sequitur||Even if the seer stone story is true, how does that make the gold plates irrelevant to translating? How does that make the question whether the witnesses saw and felt the gold plates irrelevant?|
|Confirmation Bias||As CES Letter put it: “In other words, repeat things over and over until you convince yourself that it’s true.” That’s what they are doing in these character attacks of the witnesses.|
[diagram: witnesses are false > BoM can’t be proven > Joseph Smith used second sight > BoM is false >]
|Big Lie Tactic – This is pretty much a repeat of CES Letter‘s earlier argument that the Book of Mormon witnesses only saw the gold plates in their imagination. It is hokey for CES Letter to repeat this narrative right after they admitted that the witnesses claimed to have “seen and inspected ancient metal plates” But as we know, a big lie is more effective when it is repeated over and over and over.|
Contradiction Strategy – The reason this lie is convincing is because CES Letter just got done convincing us that your testimony must either be absolute knowledge of everything or you don’t actually know anything. This argument supports this narrative, and we start to wonder if we really could have a testimony of Joseph Smith.
The attack on faith and promotion of fake science gains considerable strength with this narrative in place, and the explanation for how Joseph Smith fabricated the founding of the church suddenly appears more credible.
The human mind is trained to find patterns. It is easy to cherry-pick a few vague discrepencies, clip out all context, and build a narrative that one thing is different from the other. We start to wonder, if the witnesses couldn’t be 100% consistent, does that mean feeling the Holy Ghost is just feeling emotion? The false correlations and false causation fallacies crop up when anti-Mormons start telling Mormons what should have happened.
It is especially effective for CES Letter to play this game following arguments where they attack faith and our method of gaining knowledge. At this point in their document, our brain is eager to understand how it can justify what it knows, so when CES Letter points out that something we believe was supposedly contradicting itself, our brain questions what should be a basis for what we know. This is the same argument that Leftists use against the bible and all the other prophets. The human brain is trained to look for discrepancies and patterns, so this trick is common. It is confirmation bias. Fools jump to conclusions.We must be careful not to be tricked when it comes to pareidolia and history, take care to use critical thought. It is easy to manipulate Satan’s followers when it comes to history because they rely only on what they can see and put no true faith in anything. It is easy to be negative.
This Marxist propaganda technique of finding contradiction is especially insidious as it defines Mormons in a constrained and unfair frame, and it rallies non-Mormons or anybody who was sitting on the fence in solidarity against Mormons and their beliefs. These days, everybody knows about Joseph Smith and his peep stones, right? It’s all over the media.