Monday, February 22, 2010

Scripture and intellectual dishonesty

In reading another fellow moho's blog the following topic came to mind.  While no disrespect is intended to those still trying to reconcile with the church I find the mental gymnastics some go thru rather fascinating.  The poster was commenting about a BYU professor who was of course a faithful member yet a thorough archaeologist.  When of course having a discussion about the lack of archaeological evidence around the BoM it was asked of the professor how do you remain faithful when the "proof" doesn't exist.  The professor's response was "I wear two hats."

The blogger went on to explain how they rationalized being in the church when it's keystone is not a book that may or may not be fiction, but solely upon faith, truth and evidence being irrelevant to that faith.

I find myself getting in to regular verbal sparring matches on Youtube with the blindly devout members and self proclaimed experts (aka "apologists") on the various vagaries of Mormonism.  It is really quite amazing the intellectual tail chasing such people do to find the most unsubstantial "proof" they can and qualify it buy being fact and  legitimate evidence.  Such things by these apologists are usually only quotes of some other member or apologist working at one of the fiction mills associated with not proving the credibility of Mormonism and all its claims, but trying to poke wholes in legitimate and reliable science practices that disprove overwhelmingly the church.  Really the whole thing and all the flows from it is nothing but one large and relentless ad hominem attack.

But the resulting issue remains.  If the church is in fact true why does it need so many people running around shoring up the dam and putting out doctrinal fires of the past?  I would think the church would not allow any defensive organizations to be "unofficially" spreading confusion through illogical and inconclusive findings and publishings.  But of course the church has said official doctrine comes from the First Presidency with a *wink wink and a nudge to the apologists and general authorities.  If Mormonism is true why the intellectual dishonesty?  Are we not to be honest in thought, word, and deed?  Wouldn't God have given some small scrap of something tangible to support faith?  We still have existing cultures and places from Old and New Testament times but yet not a shred of anything from Book of Mormon history has ever been found or will ever likely to be.

I'm sure in due course we will be hearing from the faith promoting justification leagues of people (that get a biased BYU education to lend credibility to their unscientific garbage) who shall still go unnamed as I don't want them to get any publicity on my watch, will start rationalizing the spiritual customs of early american civilizations.  Some how "The Great Spirit" is going to end up an apologist publication with more even more of the mental razzle dazzle saying "see Christ did come to the Americas - that's what the native cultures mean. This proves the church is true and why we need to give the remnants of the Lamanites the gospel again." Mark my words it's heading that way.

I'll use my favorite line again... "Truth needs no buttress."


  1. I agree with you. I'm a fellow disaffected Mormon who is also gay. I just sent you a facebook friend request.

  2. I also found the post you mention to be quite troubling, especially since it was written by a person I really care about.

    You wrote:

    We still have existing cultures and places from Old and New Testament.

    This is true, but there is *no* evidence for some very central parts of the Biblical narrative-- no evidence of Abraham or King David (this one is really troubling, since rulers are usually well documented). There is no evidence that the Jews were ever in captivity in Egypt. Etc. Our culture teaches us that the Bible is history, but this is not borne out by the archaeological evidence that we have today.

  3. Ow. Intellectual dishonesty. That really hurts.

    I know about the historical evidence. I'm a historian. I also know how enormous edifices of historical truth can be built on the flimsiest of evidence. I know how time and basic physical and social processes erase the vast majority of the past and literally leave little more than traces. And I also know how historians frequently are confronted with conflicting evidence, and are forced to choose their conclusions based not on "the evidence" per se but on their personal preferences or their theoretical models of choice.

    Even well-documented recent historical events are hotly debated by historians. In fact, it seems, the more the evidence and the more recent the events, the less incontrovertible our statements about them become.

    I don't know how many ways I can state that I am interested in more, not less evidence. I'm not interested in denying or suppressing evidence. I love the quandaries created when the same piece of evidence can be seen as supporting diametrically opposed points of view. Doubt and questioning are sacred. I love having my deepest personal convictions called into doubt. That too is sacred.

    We all have filters. From the moment we decide Mormonism must be false, for whatever reason, that immediately becomes a filter through which we glean and eliminate different kinds of evidence.

    I have to remain open to certain possibilities because of what I have experienced. I understand the complexities and contradictions, but to me it is not rational to reject faith based on what I know.

    If you want to call that intellectual dishonesty, OK. It hurts, but I'd rather endure the sting of that than abandon what I've found to be the way of life.

  4. I understand what you mean...I always find it amusing and kind of sad how instead of saying "I don't know" when it comes to the issues with historical evidence regarding the Book of Mormon, rather they turn it into a huge mess that overlaps at times onto itself with its explanations of the holes in the evidence. If they just said "I don't know", it would all seem more sincere...but instead it's a resolute attack on the evidence that the Boof of Mormon isn't true, complete with conspiracy theories and other ridiculousness.

  5. Grant, but isn't the issue that people are taught/encouraged to say, "I know..." in the first place. For them to say "I don't know" *is* a threat to their testimonies.

    J G-W, I understand your point about the flimsiness of history (which is why I, as a non-historian, don't really care about it too much). But I would say that the issue is not when one decides Mormonism "must be false." Rather, when one realizes that Mormonism does not have to be true (which is the assumption we have growing up in the church), then one doesn't have to rack themselves trying to reconcile prepackaged and correlated histories to nearly everything else in scholarship. To be frank, this isn't about the history. This is about the emotional duress that it takes to plug in holes of something that has too many for us.

    I think you're getting things mixed up. No one is calling your deepest personal convictions into question (unless your deepest personal conviction directly is, "The Book of Mormon is historically true and accurate.") Rather, your deepest personal convictions -- at least to me -- seem to be separate from the history around it. You are open to certain possibilities because of what you have experienced, and from what I've read, what you have experienced is not a historical or archeological breakthrough, but a spiritual one.

    I will repeat some things you said to Sean. History as a field is much more delicate than history books try to make it.