Yesterday afternoon, I participated in recording a “Follow Him” podcast on 1 Samuel 8-18 with Hank Smith and John Bytheway. I had a great time (which may perhaps explain the fact that I went on for far too long); they’re extremely interesting chapters, recounting a great but tragic story. The podcast will, I’m told, go public in a week or two. That’s actually earlier than I had expected.
A couple of new items have gone up on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:
They’re both by the Interpreter Foundation’s own remarkable Jeff Bradshaw:
- Stories of the Saints in the DR Congo: “Why I Believe” (Live/virtual fireside, Boise Idaho Mission, 13 February 2022)
- The Patience and Faith of the “Lost” Saints of Malemba-Nkulu (Virtual fireside hosted by Ross Boundy, 14 May 2022)
This is yet another concise and helpful set of notes that have been generously provided by Jonn Claybaugh.
A few days ago, I saw a discussion (or, perhaps more accurately, an instance of what often passes there for a “discussion”) over at an overtly anti-Mormon (and very largely, though not entirely, atheistic) message board. It focused on the golden plates that were purportedly connected with the Book of Mormon. I found it amusing for a number of reasons, but one of the principal reasons for my amusement is that these are people who (I’ve observed them for years) proudly insist on their uniquely powerful commitment to evidence and rationality. (I won’t bother to note, below, where supporting evidence for the discussants’ claims is absent because non-existent. It’s every single time.) Here are some of the highlights of the conversation, such as it was:
- We have only Joseph Smith’s word for the existence of those plates. (See “Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.”)
- If God were really involved, he would have made the plates available to absolutely everybody. (See “dubious assumption.”)
- Agreeing [!] with the first assertion, above, another rejects the testimony of the Three Witnesses.
- Martin Harris was delusional.
- Martin Harris had experienced many delusions and cannot be trusted. (See “Martin Harris: Skeptic or Gullible Dupe?”)
- David Whitmer was delusional.
- David Whitmer was too proud to admit that he had been fooled.
- Oliver Cowdery was in on the conspiracy and was a conscious fraud.
- All of the Three Witnesses had strong reasons for making their false claims.
- Martin Harris didn’t claim to have seen the plates with his literal, physical eyes.
- Scholars can’t examine the plates because there never were any plates.
- The fact that there were two groups of Witnesses (the Three and the Eight) somehow supports the idea that there were no plates at all.
- The overwhelming majority of Earth’s inhabitants have failed to accept the Book of Mormon, and this corroborates the nonexistence of the plates.
- The Book of Mormon was written in imitation “Bible English.” (On that purported “Bible English,” see the work of Stan Carmack and Royal Skousen.)
What continually surprises me about such assertions is the sheer, baseless confidence with which they’re laid down, not only as if there were conclusive evidence to prove them true — which, to put it mildly, there is not — but as if, and I’m again being modest here, there weren’t considerable evidence calling them into serious question.
To some significant degree, it was to make it more difficult (even, if you will, to make it more publicly embarrassing) to utter such dubious assertions as if they were self-evidently true, as if they required neither supporting evidence nor logical analysis, that we undertook the still-continuing Witnesses film project.
I’m a realist, though. I know that anti-Mormon claims offer some of the best examples on this side of the veil of the possibility of eternal life: My much-lamented late friend Bill Hamblin and I long dreamed of doing a movie called Bill and Dan’s Excellent Adventure in Anti-Mormon Zombie Hell, because, even when you shoot them in the head, squarely between the eyes, such claims often just keep coming at you as if nothing had happened.
Our overall Witnesses project has already created the Witnesses theatrical film, which is now available not only on DVD and Blu-ray but via streaming at Living Scriptures, Deseret Video+, Apple, Google, and Amazon. It is also currently issuing short video “reels” on directly related subjects. Very soon, moreover, it will release its two-part 140-minute docudrama, Undaunted: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, in addition to the still-growing “Witnesses of the Book of Mormon” website, to which I’ve already referred above.
Much of this effort, in turn, was inspired by the remarkable work of the late Richard Lloyd Anderson, the pioneering, preeminent scholar of the Book of Mormon Witnesses to whose memory the Witnesses dramatic film was dedicated.
Brother Anderson, who earned a law degree from Harvard before receiving a doctorate in ancient history from the University of California at Berkeley, remains one of the finest and most consequential scholars ever produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And his classic book Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981) remains one of the best and most important books ever published on the history of the Restoration. In this book, Professor Anderson subjects the Book of Mormon witnesses to meticulous examination. And they emerge from the process as sane, lucid, honest, reliable men — a fact of perfectly enormous importance because of the way their testimony directly corroborates central claims of Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Brother Anderson wrote many other indispensable articles on the Witnesses — and on other significant topics — both before and after Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses was published. These are available online (though perhaps no longer available at the redirected, post-2012 Maxwell Institute website), including but not limited to “Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31; “Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997), 39–60; and “The Credibility of the Book of the Mormon Translators,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds and Charles D. Tate (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982), 213–37. But Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses remains, I think, the best place to start on this vital subject.