Friday, August 9, 2019

Review of A Case for the Book of Mormon

People are asking me what I think of Tad R. Callister's book A Case for the Book of Mormon.

Overall, it's probably effective for bias confirmation; i.e., if you're a follower of the M2C citation cartel, you'll be happy to see your biases confirmed. There are plenty of citations of the usual suspects, all members of the M2C citation cartel.

However, if you still believe the teachings of the prophets, you might find parts of the book troublesome. And if you are a nonmember, a questioning member, or a youth seeking for answers, you will likely come away hoping that there is a much stronger case for the Book of Mormon than what is offered in this book.

For a positive review, read anything from Book of Mormon Central. Brother Callister is donating the proceeds of the book to Book of Mormon Central, so naturally, Book of Mormon Central and its employees are promoting the book as much as they can. He's a featured speaker at the FairMormon conference as well.

If you buy this book, you are helping to promote and promulgate M2C.

Here's an example of a positive review:

My take is a little different.

The book makes a good opening statement for a case for the Book of Mormon, but because it relies so much on material from FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel, it is ultimately not all that helpful for people who seek answers to questions posed by knowledgeable critics.

Here, I'll give just two examples of the issues I noted.

At one point, Callister writes:

To suggest that Joseph Smith dictated more than five hundred pages of history and doctrine with no notes or rewrites (only minor changes to his original draft, and most of them grammatical, without the aid of any gospel scholars, and without the power of God, in approximately sixty-five working days, is totally incomprehensible and inconsistent with my experience and the experience of every doctrinal writer I know. It reminds me of the observation made by Hank Smith, a popular Latter-day Saint speaker and teacher: "A person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an opinion." 35

35. Excerpt from various talks given by Hank Smith and confirmed to the author in an email dated Sept. 1, 2017.

While I agree that Joseph's dictation of the Book of Mormon is a demonstration of the gift and power of God, citing one's personal experience is not a persuasive argument. I'm told that Joseph only wrote out one sermon. Yet he delivered over 200 for which we have no record, and many more for which we have at least some record. In most if not all of these, he cited scripture from memory. 

Another problem is the quotation from Hank Smith in the footnote. It sounds a lot like this one from Leonard Ravenhill:

“A man with an experience of God is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”

Sourcing quotations is often difficult, but one must wonder if this one originated with Hank Smith or Ravenhill.

Here is a second example. In his book Brother Callister discusses the book The Late War based on a study by the Johnsons. 

Here's a point I make in an upcoming article:

The Johnson study [on The Late War] received a strange reaction from LDS scholars. They raised two objections. First, they sought to distance Joseph Smith from The Late War, claiming there is no evidence he ever read the book. Second, they claimed there were more differences than similarities.
For example, in his discussion of The Late War, Tad R. Callister, an LDS General Authority and former General Sunday School President, recently wrote, “I doubt that Joseph read any of the books alleged by the critics to be sources for the Book of Mormon before the translation process commenced. There is no historical evidence confirming that he did.”[1]
Despite his belief that Joseph did not read the book, Callister recognized the possibility. “In the event that Joseph read any of these books, no doubt he learned some words or phrases that enhanced his vocabulary that would be available for future use in translation—that would seem natural to me.”
It does seem natural; in fact, this is evidence that Joseph did translate the text in his own language. One wonders, why did Callister first argue that Joseph didn’t read the book?
Callister does not say, but we can infer that it could be because the current narrative among LDS historians holds that Joseph did not translate the plates; instead, these historians teach that Joseph merely read English words that appeared on a stone in a hat.[2] In that case, he wouldn’t need an “enhanced vocabulary” from The Late War or any other source.
The second argument by LDS scholars—that there are more differences than similarities between The Late War and the Book of Mormon—is an argument against outright plagiarism, but it rings hollow because it does not refute the critics’ point that The Late War influenced at least the vocabulary Joseph used in producing the Book of Mormon. Differences between the two books do not erase similarities. The question becomes how much influence, not whether there was any influence at all.

[1] Callister (2019): 79.
[2] See the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation, The Church’s web page teaches Primary children that “Joseph used a special rock called a seer stone to translate the plates” and that “Joseph didn’t have much schooling, so he wasn’t good at writing or spelling.”

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Fighting Preacher - Willard Bean

If you haven't seen the movie The Fighting Preacher, you need to go ASAP. It's an outstanding depiction of a little-known aspect of LDS Church history.

97% on Rotten Tomatoes!

This is the story of Willard Bean, who was called on a mission to Palmyra in the early 1900s.

The boxing ring he set up was in the building across Main Street from today's Oliver Cowdery Memorial, too.

The photo in this article shows the boxing ring:

The movie is doing some good business, but not as good as it deserves. Go see it. And take someone.