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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:08 pm 
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Dan's cavalier attitude towards what at least appear to be very serious errors in apologia could explain why such errors tend to exist within apologia in general. Other apologists may not seem interested in working together to ascertain a higher degree of accuracy in the work in general. So what if a fellow apologist claimed that "they would have found horses here" and then didn't mention the scholarly consensus on that particular claim? It's not their problem. It, apparently, is the province solely of critics.

It's the loss of the apologetic community, of course, because when these simple and obvious errors are, in fact, detected easily by critics, it makes the whole apologia appear suspect. I think apologists would be better served if they didn't view possible serious errors in the work of their comrades as "not their problem".

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:24 pm 
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I can well imagine, beastie, that you'd like to talk about me, explain my motives, etc., without my giving any input. Tough luck. You have no guarantees.

But you're ambivalent. The post above seems plainly to read something along the following lines, stripped of its ornamentation:

"Dan, please respond to me. Nobody takes me seriously. Nobody knows that this board exists. But you're here. Please respond to me."

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:33 pm 
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Quote:
I can well imagine, beastie, that you'd like to talk about me, explain my motives, etc., without my giving any input. Tough luck. You have no guarantees.

But you're ambivalent. The post above seems plainly to read something along the following lines, stripped of its ornamentation:

"Dan, please respond to me. Nobody takes me seriously. Nobody knows that this board exists. But you're here. Please respond to me."


LOL. You have quite an imagination. I have no idea how you constructed your summary based on my comments. I really don't care whether you respond to my points or not. I don't care if you, or anyone else, takes me seriously. I don't care if nobody knows that this board exists. You seem to have me confused with someone who has serious aspirations in this field. I don't.

But I'm certainly not going to allow you to respond to my points unchallenged, and I'm certainly not going to let you go on interminably about why you won't respond to substance due to my personal flaws unchallenged.

Since you really don't want to ignore me, I suggest you just buck up and quit whining.

(PS - in case you haven't figured this out, it is in the best interest of critics when apologia contains sloppy errors. So I'm not whining and pining in the hopes that apologists will listen to me and fix their errors. I'm just pointing out those errors. I hope they continue with their current sloppiness.)

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:37 pm 
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Beastie, I am trying to imagine any reason why you would want to try and make the contacts Dan is suggesting you should. I am unaware of any convention that requires a person to get the ok of an author before expressing criticism of an authors product. I suppose you could be curious but then perhaps not really.

Dan appears to be yanking your chain just for entertainment. He is back again through that saloon swinging door.


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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:45 pm 
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Daniel Peterson wrote:
I can well imagine, beastie, that you'd like to talk about me, explain my motives, etc., without my giving any input. Tough luck. You have no guarantees.

But you're ambivalent. The post above seems plainly to read something along the following lines, stripped of its ornamentation:

"Dan, please respond to me. Nobody takes me seriously. Nobody knows that this board exists. But you're here. Please respond to me."


Professor,

Your genteel disdain really is superior to my unadorned pugnacity!

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:10 pm 
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huckelberry wrote:
Beastie, I am trying to imagine any reason why you would want to try and make the contacts Dan is suggesting you should. I am unaware of any convention that requires a person to get the ok of an author before expressing criticism of an authors product. I suppose you could be curious but then perhaps not really.

Dan appears to be yanking your chain just for entertainment. He is back again through that saloon swinging door.

Man. You think I'm suggesting that she get their OK before criticizing them.

That had never occurred to me, but it would be pretty cool: Unless Senator Bunkum gives you permission to criticize his votes, you have to either praise them or remain silent. Unless Miss Lina Lamont gives you permission to criticize her singing and acting, you must either gush with enthusiasm or stuff it.

Just for the record: None of you have my permission to criticize me. Praise me, or hold your peace.

We'll see how this works.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:27 pm 
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Beastie, in 2005, Richard Bushman stated in a letter to a fellow religious academic (Quincy Newell) that "[o]ne quite well-respected Mormon archeologist is now claiming that there is actually more archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon than for the Old and New Testaments."

Do you or anyone else know who the "quite well-respected Mormon archeologist" is and where this claim was made?

As a side note, in the same letter, Bushman makes it sound like he believes in a very loose translation model when he states "[p]ersonallly I think that it is possible that Joseph's inspiration led him to interpret the ancient text for a modern audience, for that is what all prophets do. They explain old texts for new circumstances."


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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:31 pm 
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dblagent007 wrote:
Beastie, in 2005, Richard Bushman stated in a letter to a fellow religious academic (Quincy Newell) that "[o]ne quite well-respected Mormon archeologist is now claiming that there is actually more archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon than for the Old and New Testaments."

I don't know who he's referring to but I found this rather poorly-titled article overstates the case:
"Archaeology provides proof for Book of Mormon"

:lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:47 pm 
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huck
Quote:
Beastie, I am trying to imagine any reason why you would want to try and make the contacts Dan is suggesting you should. I am unaware of any convention that requires a person to get the ok of an author before expressing criticism of an authors product. I suppose you could be curious but then perhaps not really.

Dan appears to be yanking your chain just for entertainment. He is back again through that saloon swinging door.


I actually would like to hear Dr. Miller’s side of the story. I think it’s possible that he made the clarification that would have allowed him to make this statement without being accused of making a pretty egregious error, but that the editor chose to edit it out. But other than that possibility, there really is no adequate explanation for such a glaring error.

But, aside from that, I don’t think it’s necessary to contact authors before criticizing their product. I think that Dan was engaging in diversion by making a big deal about it.

Dbl
Quote:
Beastie, in 2005, Richard Bushman stated in a letter to a fellow religious academic (Quincy Newell) that "[o]ne quite well-respected Mormon archeologist is now claiming that there is actually more archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon than for the Old and New Testaments."

Do you or anyone else know who the "quite well-respected Mormon archeologist" is and where this claim was made?

As a side note, in the same letter, Bushman makes it sound like he believes in a very loose translation model when he states "[p]ersonallly I think that it is possible that Joseph's inspiration led him to interpret the ancient text for a modern audience, for that is what all prophets do. They explain old texts for new circumstances."


As Structurecop mentioned, I would guess that he was referring to Dr. Clark, although, as far as I know, Dr. Clark did not make the claim that there is “more archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon than for the Old and New Testaments”. That would be quite an extraordinary claim. I did contact Clark with a fairly lengthy criticism of some of the claims he made in his now-famous BYU devotional, and he did respond promptly and politely. I was very impressed with him. Of course, he didn’t try to claim that I just plain didn’t know what I was talking about, as Dan often tries to portray, and instead simply offered an explanation for why he made the statements he did, and, at times, conceded he needed to clean up the talk a bit. Since he gave me permission to share that correspondence, I’ll hunt it up and post it here.

I’m not familiar with Bushman’s comments about the Book of Mormon, but it certainly does sound like a very loose translation model he’s suggesting – maybe even close to Ostler’s model.

I really don’t have a problem with LDS viewing the Book of Mormon as inspired scripture. They have as much right to identify their scripture as any other group, and I think the Book of Mormon does capture the myths of a group of people, like other scriptures do. I just happen to think that the group in question is nineteenth century Americans, not ancient Mesoamericans. I just have a problem with the extremely strained apologia that attempts to link the Book of Mormon with ancient Mesoamerica.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:58 pm 
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And it goes on.

beastie wrote:
But, aside from that, I don’t think it’s necessary to contact authors before criticizing their product.

Duh!

beastie wrote:
I think that Dan was engaging in diversion by making a big deal about it.

Nope. You wanted me to explain what Wade Miller and Steve Jones said. I don't even know the men. I've never met the men. I suggested that you get them to explain what they said. You wanted me to contact them for you. But they're just as much strangers to me as they are to you, and I figured that was your business. I declined your demand that I be the go-between.

I didn't make a big deal about it. You did.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:11 pm 
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Quote:
Nope. You wanted me to explain what Wade Miller and Steve Jones said. I don't even know the men. I've never met the men. I suggested that you get them to explain what they said. You wanted me to contact them for you. But they're just as much strangers to me as they are to you, and I figured that was your business. I declined your demand that I be the go-between.

I didn't make a big deal about it. You did.


As I've already explained twice on this thread, I asked you how you justify asserting this dvd is of high quality in spite of such an egregious error. That is a fair question, and one you are more than qualified to answer. You have assured us that this dvd is of high quality. The error is glaring. How, in your opinion, does such a glaring error not affect its quality?

The Jones thing, yes, I admit I have long been curious about why this oft-mentioned incredible finding has never been shared, and though you would have a better chance getting a response than I would. I still think that is the case. Of course, you had already made a big deal out of me contacting Miller before that point.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:14 pm 
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It goes on.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:23 pm 
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I am going to state this as plainly as I can. As long as you respond to either points I've made, or make comments about my personal flaws, I will respond back. Period.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:35 pm 
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It goes on.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:59 pm 
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Just ignore him, beastie. I know you can do it. Or make sure your response has fewer characters than his.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:24 pm 
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Dr. Peterson -

I don't think we have ever corresponded directly to each other in the past, but I am curious as to what your opinions are on the statements made in the DVD that Beastie is contesting. I realize you don't know the men personally and do not want to answer on their behalf. But certainly you must have an opinion on what they said. Do you agree with their statements or not?

Personally, I can understand not wanting to go "on the message board record", should you not agree with their statements or if you believe they were in error. However, since you won't really endorse what they said, most people here will assume that you do actually see beastie's point and just don't want to say it. You would (or should) have known this is the way it would go down and be perceived, so why enter the thread at all? Unless its just to have fun bantering back and forth with beastie, which i can understand might be fun in a sort of "playground-hit the girl you have a crush on" way, but then again, who doesn't have a crush on beastie?

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:05 pm 
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Quote:
Just ignore him, beastie. I know you can do it. Or make sure your response has fewer characters than his.


Heh. Well, this has many more characters, but isn’t a reply to DCP, so I win!!

Quote:
Unless its just to have fun bantering back and forth with beastie, which i can understand might be fun in a sort of "playground-hit the girl you have a crush on" way, but then again, who doesn't have a crush on beastie?


Awwww. ;)

Ok, here is my response which has nothing to do with DCP, but rather addresses Dr. Clark’s BYU devotional talk. I first sent him this email:

Quote:
Dr. Clark,

Thank you for taking the time to read my email. I know you are a very busy person, and well-respected in your field.

I have a few questions pertaining to your May 2004 BYU address, "Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief". These questions have bothered me since I first read your address a year ago, and someone recently provided your email so I could ask you directly.

First, regarding my own background - I have no training or formal education in archaeology or anthropology, although I do have a master's degree in education. Although this has nothing to do with my own profession, for the past couple of years I have had an intense interest in ancient Mesoamerica and how it relates to the Book of Mormon. I have read approximately thirty books by various authors on the subject, so my
comments here reflect the understandings I have garnered from those texts on my own.

I do hope that I don't sound like I'm lecturing or scolding you in anyway. That is not my intent. I feel certain you are already well aware of the particular information I to which I shall refer. I have much respect for your knowledge, and your work is cited in almost every book I've read about ancient Mesoamerica. This is why I'm confused about some
of your BYU statements.

I will first quote the section of your talk that interests me and then add my questions or concerns.

"The book's description of ancient peoples differs greatly from the
notions of rude savages held by nineteenth-century Americans. The book's claim of city-societies was laughable at the time, but no one is laughing now. As the city example shows, the lower the probability that Joseph Smith could have guessed a future fact, the stronger the likelihood that he received the information from a divine source. Consequently, the most compelling evidence of authenticity is that which verifies unguessable things recorded in the Book of Mormon, the more outlandish, the better. Confirmation of such things would eliminate any residual probability of human authorship and go a long way in demonstrating that Joseph Smith could not have written the book. This is precisely what a century of archaeology has done."

Once Spain was expulsed from Latin America in the 1820s, the door was opened to investigations and captured the American imagination. Prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, nineteenth century Americans were already aware of the fact that a massive civilization, with impressive structures, once populated the New World. The notion that the ancient inhabitants of the New World were once divided into two groups, one civilized and advanced, the other barbarous, was quite common at the period. Ethan Smith's "The View of the Hebrews" is one example of this idea. According to R. Tripp Evans, in his book "Romancing the Maya - Mexican Antiquity in the American Imagination 1820-1915", page 10:

"Following Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821, the sudden accessibility of its colonial archives and archaeological sites fueled dramatic foreign interest in the nation's pre-Hispanic past. More publications devoted to Mexican antiquities appeared within the nation's first two decades of independence, in fact, than had been produced during the past three centuries of Spanish rule. The enthusiasm generated by these publications, however - mostly reprints of formerly unobtainable colonial surveys - often compromised their author's search for archaeological truth."

Other books that addressed this topic, prior to the appearance of the Book of Mormon, were:

James Adair's "The History of American Indians", 1775

Boudinot, Elias, "A Star in the West; or a Humble Attempt to Discover
the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel", 1816

Humboldt, Alexander, "Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain", 1813

The idea that, in some way, the former inhabitants of the New World were connected to ancient Israel was another popular notion, as seen in Ethan Smith and Boudinot's work in particular. So your statement about the general knowledge about ancient America at the time of the Book of Mormon seems incorrect.

But what interests me the most was this section of your address:

"The golden plates and other relics ended up in New York in the final instance because the Nephites were exterminated in a cataclysmic battle. The Book of Mormon brims with warfare and nasty people. Until twenty years ago, the book's claims on this matter were pooh-poohed by the famous scholars. Now that Maya writing is being read, warfare appears to have been a Mesoamerican pastime. The information on warfare in the Book

of Mormon is particularly rich and provides ample opportunity to check Joseph Smith's luck in getting the details right. The warfare described in the book differs from what Joseph could have known or imagined. In the book, one reads of fortified cities with ditches, walls, and palisades. Mesoamerican cities dated to Nephite times have been found with all these features. The Book of Mormon mentions bows and arrows, swords, slings, scimitars, clubs, spears, shields, breastplates, helmets, and cotton armor-all items documented from Mesoamerica. Aztec swords were of wood, sometimes edged with stone knives. There are indications of wooden swords in the Book of Mormon. How else could swords become stained with blood? Wooden swords could sever heads and limbs and were lethal. The practice of taking detached arms as battle trophies, as in the story of Ammon, is also documented from Mesoamerica."

Although there was a long period in which Mesaomerican scholars viewed the Maya as a peaceful people, led by calendar-obsessed priests, that is not an accurate reflection of what Joseph Smith's contemporaries thought about ancient Mesoamerica. As I stated earlier, they also believed that there were likely two groups of people, and the less civilized group completely exterminated the more civilized group.

The fortified cities with ditches, walls, and palisades, was described in several publications that predated The Book of Mormon, including the aforementioned The View of the Hebrews, which states:

"Near Newark in Licking county, Ohio, between two branches of the Licking river, at their junction, is one of the most notable remains of the ancient works. There is a fort including forty acres, whose walls are ten feet high. It has eight gateways, each of the width of about fifteen feet. Each gateway is guarded by a fragment of a wall, placed
before, and about nine feet within the gate, of the bigness of the walls of the fort, and about four feet longer than the width of the gateway. The walls are as nearly perpendicular as they could be made with earth. Near this fort is another round fort containing twenty-two acres, and connected with the first fort by two parallel walls of earth about the size of the other walls. At the remotest part of this circular fort, and
just without a gateway, is an observatory so high as to command a view of the region to some distance. A secret passage was made under this observatory to an ancient watercourse. At some distance from this fort (but connected by a chain of internal works, and parallel walls) is another circular fort of about twenty-six acres, with walls from
twenty-five to thirty feet in height, with a ditch just under them. Connected with these forts is another square fort of about twenty acres, whose walls are similar to those of the fort first described. These forts were not only connected with each other (though considerable distance apart) by communications made by parallel walls of five or six
rods apart;--but a number of similar communications were made from them by parallel walls, down to the waters of the river. All these works stand on a large plain, the top of which is almost level, but is high land by a regular ascent from near the two branches of the river, to a height of forty or fifty feet above the branches of the river. At four
different places at the ends of these internal communications between the forts and down to the river, are watch towers on elevated ground, and surrounded by circular walls. And the points selected for these watch towers, were evidently chosen with great skill, to answer their design. These forts and chains of communications between them, were so
situated as nearly to enclose a number of large fields, which it is presumed were cultivated, and which were thus far secured from hostile invaders. From these works are two parallel walls leading off probably to other similar places of fortifications at a distance. They have been traced a mile or two, and are yet clearly visible. The writer says; "I should not be surprised if these parallel walls (thus leading off) are found to extend from one work of defence to another for the space of thirty miles--such walls have been discovered at different places, probably belonging to these works, for ten or twelve miles at least." He apprehends this was a road between this settlement, and one on the
Hockhocking river. And he says; the planning of these works of defence "speaks volumes in favour of the sagacity of their authors." (page 145)

Other texts of the time period also mentioned fortifications, including Alexander Humboldt's writings and John Haywood's 1823 "The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee".

You cited bows and arrows as being confirmed in Mesoamerica. My impression remains that the standard thought on this chronology of the bow and arrow in Mesoamerica is that it did not reach that area until around 800 AD or thereabouts. Even the atlatl, which some have suggested is what the "sword" was, is dated too late for the Book of Mormon period. The breastplates and headplates, from the description of Lucy Smith, were made of metal. There was no advanced metallurgy in Mesoamerica during the specified Book of Mormon period which would have been able to produce such an item.

This next statement:

"In summary, the practices and instruments of war described in the Book of Mormon display multiple and precise correspondences with Mesoamerican practices and in ways unimaginable to nineteenth-century Americans."

concerns me for two reasons. The book of Helaman describes a conquest war, in which the Lamanites forced the Nephites to exodus their city, and the Lamanites possessed it. This type of conquest warfare was not known in Mesoamerica during that time period. Also, the end of the Book of Mormon wars describe a polity that controlled, at least during warfare, twenty cities that stretched over the Mesoamerican landscape (using John Sorenson's map). There was no polity that powerful or wide-spread during that period of Mesoamerican history.

I have read John Sorenson's Ancient Setting, as well as several articles on FARMs website, and have read Brant Gardner's explanation of these discrepancies, so am aware of the thoughts of some on this matter. I understand that some explanations do exist, but it concerns me that you did not qualify your statements in your BYU address so listeners could seek out and judge the quality of those explanations themselves. Your statements sounded far more conclusive than the actual evidence would indicate.

Thank you for any time you can take to address my concerns. I also wondered if I could share any response you may deem appropriate to share with me with others who may also have some of these concerns. If you do not wish me to do so, I will not.


I’ll come back with his response as soon as I clean up the format.

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 Post subject: Re: Journey of Faith: The New World review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:21 pm 
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Clark’s response:
Quote:
Thanks for your excellent comments. I am sending a copy of my response to them to my colleague Fred Nelson to, in effect, put it on the public record so you can share anything you wish with others.

You have a very good eye and have picked a few spots in the talk that have caused me to question my own text in its various revisions. A published version is coming out in a few days in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies with some changes, but none to the issues you raise. Since it is being published as a record of the talk I gave, I have not fiddled with it much.

Let me start with the last point first, my lack of qualifying statements. This was simply not the kind of talk where I could qualify anything, so the statements are clearer and stronger than scientists are comfortable with. Minimal qualifications for what I said would take several days of talking. I think I could do it for each point, so I stand by my list of assertions.

As a consequence of this talk and two later ones, I have begun to question the opinions on these matters I received from others and have decided to do the research to evaluate more critically the accuracy of my own statements. I am just starting some of this. All of your questions boil down to the issue of looking at what Joseph Smith could have read in books or heard in gossip by 1829. I am aware of the books you mention and scores of others. I am collecting them and working through them. The other point you raise is that some of the correlations with archaeology don't date to the right time period, as things are currently reconstructed by archaeologists. I am aware of these gaps and am currently working on a different project with higher standards of evidence and precision. All of your points are well-taken, up to a point. Perhaps one significant difference between what you have done, and what I did, is that I do not take the statements of my colleagues to be definitive. This includes my own statements. Archaeologists can only do the best they can with the facts available. We do research to discover more facts. I know how archaeological facts are generated and packaged, and by whom, and it is no prettier a picture than watching the manufacture of sausage. Such knowledge makes skeptics of us all.

My current project will perhaps be of interest to you because it has the potential to cut a huge hole in my BYU Forum talk. At the Forum, I attempted to talk to laymen at their level and to address major concerns. My basic point is that there is some evidence that supports Book of Mormon claims, many items which have not been confirmed, and that neither situation is definitive or ever can be. The evidence will never be compelling for either side of the argument in rational terms. The truth of the matter necessarily goes beyond physical evidence, as evaluated at any given moment of archaeological inquiry, and can only be had from a secure source -- God's revelation. Last year I talked at the Library of Congress and tried to make the same point, and I gave a presentation at FAIR. By this last talk, I had started a project spawned by the other two to see how good the evidence really was on all the points I had made thus far. I hate to rely on secondary sources, but I did for some of the points in my talk because they were so far outside
my range of expertise at the time. Our goal is to evaluate all of the criticisms and apologies for the Book of Mormon and evaluate them in terms of the claims of the text and by the lights of the best archaeological information for the New and Old Worlds. I am working with a student assistant, and at the moment he has worked through over 100 anti-Mormon sources for the 19th century and has come up with several thousand criticisms. We have a long way to go. Early in the research, it became clear that we were not being specific enough or hard enough on our own position, as represented in the FORUM talk. We intend to hammer all of my claims without mercy to see if they will hold up to the most caustic criticism we can muster. The bow and arrow example is a good case in point. Sure, the book mentions them and Mesoamerican archaeology has them, but so far not in the same period. So this should not count as a confirmation at the level of specificity with which we are now approaching the matter. We will be super-specific and critical in what we are doing, and evaluate each point on a scale that goes from no evidence to positive and confirmed evidence in specific details. The bow and arrow is currently an intermediate category where they are in the supposed right place but not at the right time.

Getting back to your opening example, in your wonderful critique of my point of early historic perception, you slide into the same generic morass you imply that I am in. You mention the opening up of Mexico for foreign scholars after Independence and the wealth of information that came back to the US. You also cite the recent book by R. Tripp Evans. I read this book, and it is not very rigorous or useful. The earliest report of Mesoamerican archaeology I can find is an 1822 report on Palenque published in London. It doesn't have much in it that Joseph Smith could have exploited. I'm still trying to chase down a first edition to check the illustrations because the BYU HBLL Special
Collection's copy appears to incorporate later art. The book mentioned brackets a period of two decades for the Book of Mormon moment. That is fine for Evans's purposes but not mine. Something published in 1830 is simply of no use to me because it is too late to have influenced the Book of Mormon. Here we get into some swampy territory. There are three requirements for our task, and we can only check up on one of them. What was "available" before July 1929 (the date that the Book of Mormon was in the printer's manuscript)? What was available to Joseph Smith? Of the things possibly accessible to Joseph Smith, which did he read? As far as I can tell at the moment, almost nothing was really available, and the few things that were, he did not read. This is a question that probably cannot be resolved. I plan on getting around it by assuming, for the sake of argument, that Joseph Smith got access to everything available on the planet, and in all languages, read it, and understood it. We know this is absolutely a false position, but it does establish an ideal baseline for evaluating other arguments. This stance privileges the
anti-Mormon position and makes the strongest possible case for it. Even at its best, however, the contrary position has little going for it. One does not have to read many early sources to see how remarkably different the Book of Mormon was and is.

At the moment, I am still collecting materials and have not read all of the sources seriously or systematically. I did come across a source that will interest you because it was made to order for this project and your concerns. J. H. McCulloh, jr., 1829, "Researches, Philosophical and Antiquarian Concerning the Aboriginal History of America." This man was a true scholar, and he got access to an incredible amount of sources through copies of manuscripts, etc. This book represents what the best and brightest could know in 1829. I leave it to you to contemplate the differences between this and claims in the Book of Mormon. The earlier materials you mention are critical for
reconstructing the mindset of frontier America, and I will be working through them too. As a preliminary comment, they do not undercut my claims made at the Forum. They only look serious if one is using sloppy categories. All the talk of Hebrews prior to Joseph Smith looks to some like he tied into to this notion, as Dan Vogel claimed in his early book. The Book of Mormon, however, makes radically different claims. The anti-Mormon position will eventually have to adopt a more nuanced stance to come up with an acceptable argument (it lacks one at the moment): It has to argue for environmental influence, similarities between prevailing views of the time and Book of Mormon claims, and significant differences in these views and claims. This is a high-wire act in epistemology. It has to see the Book of Mormon as a document written as a contradiction to the prevailing opinions of the day -- not as a repetition of those views. Thus the lost 10 tribes stuff in the 1820s becomes transformed in the BM to descendants of the tribes that were not lost. Behind the supposed similarity lies its contradiction. This would be dialectics and not copying the opinions of the day. The notion of dirty, lazy savages is transformed into civilized pagans, etc. Have some fun with this and get back to me. Read others' work as carefully as you read mine and you will have a blast seeing the irony and carelessness in all the literature, pro and con. I think about 80 percent or more of what has been claimed on both sides of the argument is bogus, and I am in the process of burning both camps to see what remains and what the argument really is about.

As to fortifications, I am aware of this point and the literature, and I have used this argument many times against facile use of this correlation. I hesitated to use it in my talk for this reason, but I decided to include it to be logically consistent. Just because there is a possible other explanation for this correlation, it does not detract from the archaeology of Middle America and the timing of fortifications there. To get a correlation we have to have a clear message from the book, solid archaeological information, and a correspondence of a cultural practice, at a particular place, at a particular time. Getting all five things to line up for any given issue is phenomenal, so I don't expect any correspondences due to random chance.

As to your point about the opinions of the peaceful Maya, etc., I'm still looking into the attitudes of North Americans concerning natives pre-1829. I am still comfortable with my statement. I would appreciate any clear evidence you can supply to the contrary. It will be sufficient for you to mention the book, edition, and page number rather than retyping the quotation. I need to sign off now and get back to my paying work. I would appreciate your opinion on the phenomenon of the publication of Stephens's "Incidents of Travel ..." If everything was known and appreciated that you claim, why was this book so mind-expanding for Americans? I suggest to you that only a few scholars knew a portion of what you suggest -- and Joseph Smith was not among them. The Stephens's book really was novel.

Again, I appreciate the careful reading of my talk and look forward to further comments and helps. There is much more out there than I was aware of when I made my statements. If my research proves that I got it wrong, I will publish a critique of my own work. If you have the time to work through the background material, I suggest you read it in historic order and respect the July 1829 cutoff date as the last possible moment for Joseph Smith to have been influenced. The other thing I would recommend highly, remember that few things that archaeologists say are set in stone. New syntheses for Mesoamerica come out every year because of the discovery of new facts. My major claim in the Library of Congress talk (published in "The Worlds of Joseph Smith") is that if the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient document, the facts of science will confirm more and more of its details. If it is a hoax, it should conform more closely to what folks believed in the 1820s (or some mirror image of it), and the facts of science should get farther and farther away from it. This later inference comes from the fact that no one in the 1820s had a clue about Mesoamerica beyond the claims in a few Spanish documents -- all of which talked about cultures posterior to those in the Book of Mormon. It was not until the late 1930s that people began considering the possibility of Mesoamerican societies going back to the time of Christ. The Book of Mormon period was simply a blank page for the Americas in Joseph Smith's day.

All the best, John Clark, April 10, 2006, BYU

_________________
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com


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