“Who Felt or Saw the Plates?”

“Who Felt or Saw the Plates?” September 10, 2022


Oxford of an evening
Evening at the University of Oxford  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Something new has just been posted on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


Witnesses of the Book of Mormon — Insights Episode 21: Who Felt or Saw the Plates?

Critics have long claimed that the various witnesses—both official and unofficial—never interacted with the plates in a physical way. First hand accounts indicate otherwise. What are we to make of such criticism?

This is the twenty-first in a series compiled from from the many interviews conducted during the course of the Witnesses film project. This series of mini-films is being released each Saturday at 7pm MDT. These additional resources are hosted by Camrey Bagley Fox, who played Emma Smith in Witnesses, as she introduces and visits with a variety of experts. These individuals answer questions or address accusations against the witnesses, also helping viewers understand the context of the times in which the witnesses lived. This week we feature Daniel C. Peterson, President of the Interpreter Foundation and Executive Producer of Witnesses. For more information, go to https://witnessesofthebookofmormon.org/ or watch the documentary movie Undaunted.

Short clips from this episode are also available on TikTok and Instagram.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel at https://youtube.interpreterfoundation.org/ and our other social media channels on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and TikTok.


One of the notable landmarks in Oxford
Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Isaac Schorr, of National Review, has been paying pretty close attention to the story about alleged racist insults at a recent women’s volleyball game in Provo between Brigham Young University and Duke University, which has now attracted the exceedingly weird attention of the University of South Carolina.  (Amid all of the controversy, by the way, the results of the match have tended to be overlooked.  So, just for the record:  BYU won.)


“BYU Investigation Finds No Evidence That Fans Hurled Racial Slur at Duke Volleyball Player”

“BYU Investigation Exposes Media’s Credulous Coverage of Volleyball Player’s Racial-Slur Allegation”

“South Carolina Coach Stands by Decision to Shun BYU after Investigation into Racial Incident Turns Up Nothing”


And here, for whatever it may be worth, is an oddly parallel story from back in 2018:


Washington PostSouth Carolina women’s basketball coach denies fans used n-word, spat at Missouri players”


Here’s a little parable or analogy to make the matter between BYU and Duke and South Carolina still clearer than it already is, if that’s even remotely possible:


Plaintiff:  “I saw Jones steal my car.”

Judge:  “I sentence him to be hanged tomorrow at dawn.  Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”

Jury Foreman:  “We have, your honor.  We find the defendant not guilty.  Most especially since the plaintiff’s car doesn’t appear to have been stolen in the first place.”

Judge:  “I stand by my decision.  The defendant will be hanged tomorrow morning at dawn.”


Meanwhile, in other but not wholly unrelated news:

“Oberlin Finally Agrees to Pay $36.59 Million to Bakery over False Racism Accusations”


New College, Oxford
The chapel of New College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


As, I suppose, some of you yourselves have done, I’ve been paying attention to the coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and to the ascension of King Charles III.  (How very strange it seems to me to say or type that latter name and title!)  There is, though, a dimension of the late queen’s reign that, I agree, the American news media seem to have largely left on the cutting room floor:


Deseret News“Queen Elizabeth II’s religious legacy: For Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday, faith was both personal and professional”

Deseret News“Opinion: Queen Elizabeth II — a uniting force in the age of division: Queen Elizabeth II lived a life of prayer, scripture study and religious devotion, which allowed her to stand as a constant reminder of the best virtues of her nation”

GetReligion:  “Elizabeth the Great: Why do many journalists choose to edit faith out of her Christmas talks?”


A lawn at the Queen's College, University of Oxford
Queen’s College, Oxford. (Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


Many years ago, I read an article in which, as I recall it, the late, great conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. explained why he had decided to step down from a position (on their board of advisors, or something of that sort) with the organization known as Amnesty International.  Amnesty had been established to publicize and champion the cases of “prisoners of conscience,” essentially political prisoners, around the world.  (I myself was a member of the group for several years.)  In recent times, though, Amnesty had broadened its mission to include opposition to capital punishment, and Buckley chose, for that reason, to end his involvement.  Not so much, I think, because he was a strong supporter of the death penalty (I’m not sure that he was one, as I am not) but because, in his judgment, broadening the mission of Amnesty International from its laser-like concentration on prisoners of conscience, which every decent person could endorse, to campaigning against the death penalty even in unambiguous cases of undoubted serial killers, where decent people might legitimately disagree, seemed to him to dilute the authority of a previously clear focus.


I thought of that case during my recent Saturday spent at the annual meeting of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) in Salt Lake City.  I understand that a conviction of the validity of near-death studies might open one’s mind to the possibility of the truth of still other “paranormal” ideas.  That is, in fact, somewhat the position in which I find myself:  My mind isn’t wholly closed to such things as clairvoyance and extra-sensory perception, though my broader worldview neither demands them nor deems them particularly significant even if they’re true.  In fact, within the past decade or a bit more — so tepid is my interest that I need to reach back at least that far to find them — I’ve read a couple of books, both of which were written by reputable psychologists with tenured faculty appointments at top-tier universities, that have surprised me with their presentation of seemingly genuine evidence for the existence of ESP and remote viewing.  (I’ll probably write something up, eventually, on those two books.)  I’ve also had an entirely astonishing personal experience with water-divining, which I didn’t expect and for which I cannot account:  On this, see my previous blog entries “Thoughts on a few controversial topics related to science” and “My career as a water witcher, armed with a divining rod.”


With those admissions on public record, I was nonetheless concerned at IANDS, and have been concerned for quite a while when I’ve seen it elsewhere, to see a mingling of what I regard as pretty solid material with other things that seem to me rather dubious at best — e.g., crystal-gazing, drum circles, mediums, past-life regressions, and various kinds of New Age spirituality that have been cherry-picked and decontextualized from world religious traditions and Third World indigenous practices.  (I know from speaking with him that at least one of the officers of IANDS himself shares my concern, that association with a whole host of such fringy and undisciplined things detracts from the credibility of what we both see as credible claims of out-of body experiences [OBEs] and near-death experiences [NDEs].  And they are already dismissed by quite a few people without serious consideration.)


A case in point:  I bought a book at IANDS by one Mark Anthony, who bills himself as “the Psychic Lawyer©.”  It’s entitled Evidence of Eternity: Communicating with Spirits for Proof of the Afterlife (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2022).  I bought it because of its title, and because it carried back-jacket endorsements by two people whose books I have respected.  I’m almost done reading it, and, well, I’m not positively impressed.  For one thing, I don’t, umm, resonate to vague talk about spirit vibrations and spirit frequencies.  I could probably just pass that off as matter of style.  But it’s deeper than that:  His claims may be true, but I can’t grant them any authority or real credibility.  Partly because there’s too much self-promotion in the book, and too little real content.  Partly, too, because, while it doesn’t prove him fraudulent, I’m bothered by the fact that he charges for his “psychic readings.”  And I can find very little about him other than sites that puff him as a psychic and puff his psychic-related books.  His repeated claim to be “an Oxford-educated attorney” makes no sense to me, since he seems to have no Oxford degree and since he has been admitted to practice, if he really does practice, not in the United Kingdom but in Florida, Washington DC, and, so he says, before the United States Supreme Court.  I’ve made only a cursory search, but I could find nothing confirming his status as an attorney in those venues.  Has he really he really lectured “at universities including Harvard, Brown, Columbia, and Yale”?  If so, I’ve found no evidence for it via Google.  I did, however, find this:


“‘The Psychic Lawyer’: Probably Not A Psychic. Is He Even A Lawyer?: It’s not clear what being a lawyer has to do with this psychic’s routine — or that he is, in fact, a licensed attorney.”


And everything in his book rests on his personal credibility.  The evidentiary value of the experiences he relates depends entirely upon whether he himself is reliable.  They’re all stories that he tells.  Now, I also freely confess that I’ve devoted only about five minutes to my searches regarding Mr. Anthony.  Maybe I’m being too hasty.  But I’m skeptical.



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