Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

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Shulem
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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

huckelberry wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:01 am
White hats. I am sure that except perhaps in thin fabrics the color of the hat would have no difference in its ability to block light and create the desired darkness. Perhaps a single layer thin fabric would allow enough light but that is much different than above pictured hats. Would not a hat made thin enough to allow light to go through attract attention as suspicious and strange?
What? You're "SURE"?

Look, you ain't sure of anything unless that knowledge is based on actual data obtained and derived through actual testing -- you know, scientific experiments.

Have you actually performed a test of some kind? Have you read the reports of others who have performed tests?

No, you're not sure. This is an open matter for further investigation and that requires real hands on experience.

:rolleyes:

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

[url=https://tuesday-johnson.tumblr.com/post/1378398345/white-beaver-fur-top-hats-on-two-19th-century wrote:White, beaver-fur top hats on two 19th century gentlemen. Most hats before 1850 were in fact, felted beaver fur. Many believe this is what contributed to near-extinction of the animal in Europe. Later, the popularity in silk hats grew, mostly replacing their beaver counterparts. I suppose old fashion dies hard in the case of these men.
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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

Dan the Man, Vogel, is a busy guy but I was wondering if he was aware of this notorious LDS apologetic website that discredits the stone and the hat methodology as a hoax.

Did Joseph Smith Translate The Book Of Mormon With A Rock In A Hat?
NOVEMBER 18, 2017
Hoax Spread By Antimormons

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by huckelberry »

Honorentheos, "what! you are sure?"
Ok I confess to some rhetorical exaggeration. I fell for that temptation because I think the plot theory of have a text of the book of Mormon to read out of the bottom of a hat creates more problems than it solves.

I have in fact heard of science and though I know of no scholarly research on the subject I do own some hats.I compared both a very light hat with a dark brown one they were both dark as a mine inside. I tried experiments with some thin fabrics held in a hat shape. I fairly thin one layer cotton lets in enough light to possibly read something by. Someone could construct a wire or perhaps wooden frame and stretch some fabric over it. I mentioned that I thought such a hat would attract puzzled attention.Maybe he could line such a hat so that it appeared more normal till put to use when the lining could be removed.

I confess this is not beyond possiblity. But where did the text to read come from? That is always the primary necessary question.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

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huckelberry wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:12 pm
Maybe he could line such a hat so that it appeared more normal till put to use when the lining could be removed.

I confess this is not beyond possiblity. But where did the text to read come from? That is always the primary necessary question.
That's the point of this whole exercise. Think in ways of how a novice magician might use a 19th century white stovepipe hat as a prop in order to pull off a trick through some method of sleight of hand -- which is something I thought RFM would be most qualified to come up with and now that we know Vogel was somewhat of a magician he might like to consider that too.

How was the hat a trick? A simple flap that opened? A false top? Something?

I don't know the answer. What I do know though is that the Book of Mormon is not a historical record. It's a novel made up by Joseph Smith and his friends. Somehow.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Simon Southerton »

The hat below is probably more representative of the type of hat he had. It was described as an old hat so it was probably a bit worn. One writer described it as "battered". The frame for these hats was made by casting cheesecloth soaked in shellac (transparent resin) on a hat shaped wooden block. The interior was lined with silk and the fur attached to the outside. This fur could easily be worn off by someone wanting more light to enter the hat. The frame and silk would have been reasonably translucent.

I'm not saying this is definitely how the translation took place. Dan may be right. But I have not found Dan's arguments convincing and he clearly has formed the view that the translation was all based on Smith's memory. I think Huckelberry made a very good point. At least we agree on the most important fact. Joseph Smith was a conman and he knew he was tricking everyone.

Our polite disagreements pale into insignificance compared to the mental tussles that must be going on in Michael Quinn's head. I was reading Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View last night. He's done amazingly thorough research but its clear from the outset he is totally convinced Smith's use of magic was perfectly normal (if not predictable given the era), the seer stones had magical powers, the gold plates were real and the Book of Mormon is a true history. This probably explains why he wrote a scathing (and completely uninformed) one-page rebuke of an article I wrote for Sunstone. He is so emotionally and intellectually tied to his delusions that he will not tolerate anyone challenging them.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by I have a question »

Did people actually watch him translate by putting his face into a hat, or is that just something Joseph explained to them he was doing as he was sat behind a curtain?

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

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I have a question wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 12:15 am
Did people actually watch him translate by putting his face into a hat, or is that just something Joseph explained to them he was doing as he was sat behind a curtain?
I'm not well read on the subject like Dan the Man is but my understanding is that all references pertaining to Smith's stone in the hat come from eyewitnesses or hearsay from those who knew eyewitnesses. I don't think Smith ever wrote about the actual experience of the stone in the hat.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by huckelberry »

Simon Southerton, Thankyou for the further information about hats available at the time. I can see how a hat of this description might arrive at a state allowing light to come in. I must back further off my overreaching sureness that the hat would be dark.

I found Magic world view to be a fascinating book. I read it many years ago and my copy got lent away to disappear. I read it through Brodie lenses so find myself surprised by your report of Mr Quinn's emotions on the subject.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Dan Vogel »

RFM explicitly stated numerous times the hat was an essential part of Joseph Smith's magic trick. I don't disagree with that. The changeable stone (seer stone or U&T) was the misdirection. Where am I not understanding RFM's reasoning?
I’ve explained it twice. This is the last time. The magic box is essential for the magician to appear as if he can cut a person in half and then restore them. However, if he really had powers to do that, he wouldn’t need a box. RFM mentions this principle as part of his argument that the trick was in the hat. Have you bothered to go back and listen?
I'm not sure why you assume Joseph couldn't be hiding notes in his hat during his treasure digging days. Clearly, that's where he learned his tricks. Given he had his head in a hat for long periods, it's easy to imagine him one day realising "Hey, I can see in here. I could hide detailed notes on the layout of Hyrum Gullible's farm and wow them with my intimate knowledge of where their lost hammer is." You acknowledge he was a conman and he was conning farmers for years. It's not a huge leap to connect his treasure digging trick with his translation trick
This is all too fast and loose for me. He may have pretended to see treasure maps written in Spanish or Hebrew or hieroglyphics. But this doesn’t lead to a theory that he had to have notes in his hat as a treasure seer. You have a theory that Joseph Smith used this method to produce the Book of Mormon, then you argue that one cannot disprove he also did it as a treasure seer. My argument was that the hat and stone went together naturally, before there was a need to hide documents. You agreed with that observation. It doesn’t matter if he discovered another use later. My point was that the hat wasn’t like a magician’s box.
I think you are exaggerating the risks. These people had implicit faith in him. If he had brief notes concealed in his hat at the beginning of the day he probably only needed to shuffle their order maybe 4 or 5 times a day. If his hat wasn't on the table it would have been on his head. They took regular breaks for lunch, morning and afternoon tea (legal then), a walk, the loo etc. In my view you are underestimating his skill as a conman.
Yet, this would be a significant risk if this was the method he relied on. The average dictation was about eight first edition Book of Mormon pages per day.
What I meant was that he could have had brief notes that he used as a guide for his narrative for much of the Book of Mormon. He could have changed them a few times each day
I see this as an unnecessary hypothesis. How helpful could notes be, especially when he didn’t know Jesus was going to appear in America until late in the dictation? This shows he was making it up as he went. I have suggested that Joseph Smith worked out the translation in his mind, and then dictated what he worked out. There’s no need to have notes. Your theory has made the solution unnecessarily more complex.
To me this introduces an avoidable risk. From my recollection the Isaiah quotes are not identical to the Bible verses. People could have wondered how he could have come up with these supposedly inspired changes without the aid of his seer stone. If he didn't need the seer stone then they might suspect he was tricking them.
I have suggested that the wholesale borrowing from the KJV was done in the open similar to what he later did for his Bible revision, which has the same kind of variant readings. He could have read the Isaiah passages making changes along the way, or he could have written changes in a Bible and then had someone read them while he was away in Palmyra arranging for the printing in June 1829.
OK. I will be clearer. Martin Harris was afraid to stick his head in the hat to look at the stone. That was the act Joseph Smith warned him about. Everyone knew what the stone looked like because they all saw it. I would not be surprised if they had all handled it. But they were clearly instructed not to stick their face into the hat and look at the stone. Again, this clearly implies Smith didn't want them to discover they could actually see with their head in his hat
You don’t know that Joseph Smith didn’t want them to look at the stone in the hat for that reason. Nor do you know what kind of white top hat it was. The reasons I gave make more sense.
I thought RFM was fairly clear. He said he could have used "manuscript notes" in the bottom of the hat.
He wasn’t clear about how much Joseph Smith relied on this method, although he implied Joseph Smith couldn’t perform without it. Nor did he say how these notes could have helped, or why written notes were necessary.
I agree that he knew his bible very well and could have memorised large parts of it. He also could easily have concealed notes in the bottom of his hat to help create the Book of Mormon. The bottom line is he was a conman. He was treasure-digging to make money for little effort. It seems to me that a conman is far more likely to take the easy route to creating the Book of Mormon.
I would argue that Joseph Smith was both a con man and a religious fanatic who already knew his Bible.
I think the fact that it was an "old white stovepipe hat" is significant for a number of reasons.
It's easy to imagine a conman coming up with all kinds of ways to allow enough light into the hat. He would have been aiming for just enough light to allow him to read after taking a little while for his eyes to adjust but not enough light to allow someone to notice the trick straight after putting their head in his hat. If it was old and made of beaver fur it could have been worn thin in parts to allow enough light through. Since he had his head in the hat for long periods, he needed the hat to breath. He could have made small holes to allow air movement like they do with many hats these days. These could have been obscured by the fur.
Its also interesting that he chose a stovepipe hat, which was taller than regular top hats of the period. Its extremely hard to focus the eyes in a short hat, but it gets easier as the hat gets taller.
This just seems too convenient and ad hoc to me.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Physics Guy »

RFM's point is a good one, that the hat is suspicious as an unnecessary element added to the translation process, but I think Dan Vogel also has a good counterpoint that the hat might just have been there as part of Smith's established seer stone routine. So the hat doesn't stick out quite as much as a gimmick added specifically for the translation trick. I still think that a hat is an obvious gimmick for any kind of scrying performance and a suspicious part of Smith's translation schtick. Whether Smith might have made practical use of the hat in his trick is a good question to ask.

As to the risk of notes in the hat being discovered, I don't think the way to weigh risk is to compare having notes in the hat to having no notes at all. If one follows that approach then the obviously least risky strategy is to be a genuine prophet who doesn't need notes. If Smith needed notes, though, then that wasn't an option and the question is how he could best have used notes. If he had notes he would have had to hide them somewhere; if he needed to consult notes then he would have had to find some surreptitious way of looking at them. Putting them in the hat while he was supposed to be scrying could well have been the least risky option of all strategies for using notes.
How helpful could notes be, especially when he didn’t know Jesus was going to appear in America until late in the dictation? This shows he was making it up as he went. I have suggested that Joseph Smith worked out the translation in his mind, and then dictated what he worked out. There’s no need to have notes. Your theory has made the solution unnecessarily more complex.
I admit that I don't know the Book of Mormon well but it seems to me that there's a false dichotomy here. There isn't a binary choice between either having a detailed outline from the start of the story or else not using notes at all. Relying on notes to keep an improvised story from going too far off the rails doesn't preclude continuing to revise the story's outline over the course of dictation.

Using notes adds risk and effort, and requires skill on Smith's part. Relying entirely on improvisation and memory avoids those risks and that effort, and does not need that skill, but it requires unusual skills in improvisation and memory, as well as the effort of keeping a story straight from pure memory, and it adds the risk of screwing up the story in some irrecoverable way. Which set of risks and troubles was Smith most keen to avoid? Which skills did he have?

I don't think we can tell. I agree that pulling off the Book of Mormon without notes would have been far from impossible, but using notes in the hat undetected would have been possible, too. So I wouldn't bet my life on this hat trick theory but I think that it's a good suggestion to add to the list of ways by which Smith could have "brought forth" the Book of Mormon.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

QUESTION:

How did Joseph really find that lost pin in the grass?

By real magic or by some other means? Real magic doesn't require a box or a hat but in this case it appears it does?

It seems to me that Smith proved his ability to perform a miraculous act and Martin Harris vouched for it. Time to repent and go back to church, boys, that includes you, Dan! You too, grindael! You know the hat is true. Joseph found that pin in the grass by divine means, did he not? Prove he didn't.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by MonkeyNumber9 »

Shulem wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 7:10 am
QUESTION:

How did Joseph really find that lost pin in the grass?

By real magic or by some other means? Real magic doesn't require a box or a hat but in this case it appears it does?
As someone earlier in this thread postulated, Joseph could have found the lost pin early on (before taking off his hat to run his show) and covertly palmed it. Then, face in hat, quarter-from-behind-the-ear style, miraculously reached out and "found" it in the grass right under Harris' nose. Because: magician.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

MonkeyNumber9 wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:12 am
As someone earlier in this thread postulated, Joseph could have found the lost pin early on (before taking off his hat to run his show) and covertly palmed it. Then, face in hat, quarter-from-behind-the-ear style, miraculously reached out and "found" it in the grass right under Harris' nose. Because: magician.
Yeah, I guess, I hear ya. Was it real magic or just an illusion? Dan points out the either-or of the situation:
Dan Vogel wrote:These proofs separate Smith from the group of self-deluded treasure seers, for they were either true demonstrations of his seeric gift or evidence of his talent for deception. In any event, Harris was persuaded by Smith’s demonstration.
Smith was talented. He pulled that pin trick either by sleight of hand or peeking through his trick hat. It's one or the other.

One thing is for sure, Joseph Smith was a conman -- a liar, a swindling cheat, and a child molester. He got exactly what he deserved at Carthage. The man swindled, stole other men's wives, rocked 14 year old cradles, and destroyed a printing press.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by consiglieri »

William L. Davis, in his new book, "Visions in a Seer Stone," posits that the sermon material in the Book of Mormon, was likely produce by elaboration on a written outline. This was customary for Methodist exhorted of his day.

Note I haven't read the book yet and am going off another's recent synopsis.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by consiglieri »

It is probably stating the obvious that the outline could have been hidden in the stovepipe hat.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

consiglieri wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 2:11 pm
William L. Davis, in his new book, "Visions in a Seer Stone," posits that the sermon material in the Book of Mormon, was likely produce by elaboration on a written outline. This was customary for Methodist exhorted of his day.

Note I haven't read the book yet and am going off another's recent synopsis.
OMFG. Radio Free Mormon is indeed on top of things. :razz: Oh, I hope you weren't offended by my calling you and Dan "____" earlier. It was kind of a term of endearment and I meant it in a positive complimentary way.

This is FRESH (just off the printing press) material that is going to be looking at things from new perspectives.

Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon

I would think that Dan Vogel is going to want to examine this, STAT!

Woo hoo!!

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by honorentheos »

Some years ago there was a Radiolab titled Black Box that explored instances where it was observable what went into something, what came out, but the processes inside the black box were opaque. The three examples explored included the mechanism of anesthesia, a 1950s era radio broadcast that attracted millions of listeners based on telephathy, and metamorphosis of caterpillars into moths/butterflies.

The middle episode regarding telephathy and a popular 1950s BBC radio broadcast centered around a couple whose grandson was exploring their legacy and the fact the grandmother who was the surviving member and half of the act maintained the catchphrase from the show, "You be the judge" whenever asked to explain the trick. She never did, and maintained it wasn't something she could convey.

The hosts end the piece by interviewing Penn Jillette who laughed about the supposed mystery. One of his comments that I think applies here was this -

ROBERT: You know, I don't think it's actually time for us to end this, because I didn't tell you this. We were so interested in trying to figure out how they did that trick, that -- that Soren and I, because we just wanted to find out, like, did somebody know how they did it? So we called this guy.

PENN JILLETTE: [laughs]

ROBERT: Who ruined everything. This is Penn Jillette, who you probably know from Penn & Teller. Famous for doing magic tricks and then telling you how they're done. Now, I don't really know what I was expecting when we called him. I guess I was thinking he would know what they did, but he wouldn't choose to tell us. I didn't know. But when we called him and we played him the story, as soon as he heard it he said ...

PENN JILLETTE: Oh, it's a book test, right? It's a book test. It's an envelope switch.

JAD: A what?

PENN JILLETTE: And there are, you know, three or four ways to do them.

JAD: What did he say?

ROBERT: He said basically, "I can tell you how they did it."

PENN JILLETTE: Yeah.

ROBERT: Or how they might have done it, but you are not going to like it.

PENN JILLETTE: There -- there you go. The only secret in magic -- there's only one, and that is that the secret must be ugly. You cannot have a beautiful secret.

ROBERT: A beautiful secret's the kind of thing that's short and sweet. Like, he folded the hat twice. Or ...

PENN JILLETTE: There's mirrors under that table.

ROBERT: When you hear it, it's like, "Oh! Of course, that's what they would do." And you love finding it out.

PENN JILLETTE: Then you will whisper it to the person next to you. So in magic, what you want is an idea that is not beautiful.

ROBERT: So what he told us is a magic trick that stays secret is one that's so boring to tell you don't want to tell it, and you don't even want to hear it.

PENN JILLETTE: If I have to say, "He's lying about this and there's gaffers tape over behind there, and they're -- they're not actually telling you the exact truth here," and -- and it gets so -- you don't get an a-ha. One of the strongest feelings you can get in life, one of the most rewarding feelings is the feeling of an a-ha, I finally understand. If you don't have a wonderful a-ha, people won't figure it out. So I'm -- I can tell you easily how they did that trick, but you will not get an a-ha.

ROBERT: Basically, he said the true answer to this one is gonna kill your joy.

PENN JILLETTE: Yeah, it's ugly.

JAD: So did he -- did he tell you what they did?

ROBERT: Yeah.

JAD: Well, what did he say?

ROBERT: Well, I'll tell you -- I'll tell you in just a second. He went into excruciating detail about how he thinks they did it.

PENN JILLETTE: Now a book test, we actually do one in our show.

ROBERT: But the more important thing, he was so right. Once we heard the explanation and the details and all, we were -- we were both like, "Oh, all right. Well, [bleep]."

ROBERT: This is like a kiss with a poisoned dart in it.

PENN JILLETTE: I love how much I bummed your ____.


I think this is attempting to make an ugly truth into a beautiful trick. While I think what matters most is the fact the Book of Mormon doesn't describe ancient America but is very much a product of the 19th century, racist foundation and all, I do have an opinion on the way it came to be. And that is Smith and Cowdery talked about it openly when it was only the Whitmers and Emma around. Most of what we have today is from a three month period where Cowdery and Smith made writing the Book of Mormon their job and the Whitmers supported them. All the showmanship was originally part of what produced the 116 pages but who knows how crappy that was to read, how obviously bad it was, how many verilys and came to passes per page there were. Yeah, they used the hat trick later when being observed, but it's believing in magic Ina different way to ignore the obvious ugly reality there probably wasn't a trick in the end that resulted in the actual work of production.

The modem magician is fine with the audience knowing he isn't really magic as long as they imagine the trick is something magnificent in itself. They don't want you to know how many people were in on the trick to make it work, how mundane the reality is, that the audience was played and manipulated rather than dazzled by some act of singular wonder if still explainable without resorting to the supernatural. The attempt to figure out how it was produced is a deception that keeps up the charade that gives the production more credit than it deserves. It's a lie, a fake, and the most obvious answer is there were a core group of people who were behind it, intended to benefit from it, worked it for all it was worth, had a falling out and took the con in different directions, and today there's a multi-billion dollar corporation as the result. All because people want to believe there's more to this than there really is. And that's the real trick - that people keep chasing the big reveal, the a-ha moment when they see behind the curtain. There's no curtain. Just some fakes making up a fake story.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Shulem »

Abraham Lincoln was famous for having stored notes and letters in his hat in which he was able to refer to at a moments notice. This is an example of someone using a stovepipe hat for the purpose of retrieving retained information. How about Joseph Smith? What tricks did he learn from his magician friends in which he came in contact with during his treasure seeking days? What 19th century hat tricks are there for hiding notes within a hat? The thing about tricky Smith is that he stole everything he ever got his hands on. Frankly, I think Smith was too stupid to invent his own hat trick. He stole it from somebody. Smith was a thief with sticky fingers.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Dan Vogel »

Shulem wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 2:22 pm
consiglieri wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 2:11 pm
William L. Davis, in his new book, "Visions in a Seer Stone," posits that the sermon material in the Book of Mormon, was likely produce by elaboration on a written outline. This was customary for Methodist exhorted of his day.

Note I haven't read the book yet and am going off another's recent synopsis.
OMFG. Radio Free Mormon is indeed on top of things. :razz: Oh, I hope you weren't offended by my calling you and Dan "____" earlier. It was kind of a term of endearment and I meant it in a positive complimentary way.

This is FRESH (just off the printing press) material that is going to be looking at things from new perspectives.

Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon

I would think that Dan Vogel is going to want to examine this, STAT!

Woo hoo!!
I'm fine with Bill's research. It doesn't prove the outline had to be in the hat. I'm not saying it wasn't on occasion, but it's not necessary for Joseph Smith to perform.

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Re: Radio Free Mormon: Magic and the Book of Mormon (We Need Dan Vogel's Help!)

Post by Physics Guy »

honorentheos wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 3:05 pm
The modem magician is fine with the audience knowing he isn't really magic as long as they imagine the trick is something magnificent in itself. They don't want you to know how many people were in on the trick to make it work, how mundane the reality is, that the audience was played and manipulated rather than dazzled by some act of singular wonder if still explainable without resorting to the supernatural. The attempt to figure out how it was produced is a deception that keeps up the charade that gives the production more credit than it deserves. ... And that's the real trick - that people keep chasing the big reveal, the a-ha moment when they see behind the curtain. There's no curtain.
A very interesting point about modern magic. Between the authority of Penn Jillette and a certain ring of truth, I'm inclined to believe it.

It's not the whole story. There are quite a few famous illusions that really do turn on some natural but marvelous gimmick. Robert Houdin used to catch a pistol ball between his teeth by swapping into the pistol a ball made of gray wax that looked just like wax but vaporized harmlessly when the pistol was fired. He also used to vanish people on stage by using a narrow curtain hanging in front of a matching backdrop. There is the "Pepper's ghost" trick with a huge sheet of glass between the stage and the audience. There are card tricks that work without any sleight-of-hand by mathematical processes that are just complicated enough that it's kind of satisfying to unravel them.

So Yes, Virginia, don't lose all faith: there are some real illusions out there.

But I expect that Jillette is completely right—of course he would be likely to know either way, so what I mean is that I think he's being honest—that in most of magic even the illusion is just an illusion, and the trick is really completely banal and stupid, working by nothing more ingenious than the brute force of having a lot of people and material involved, with nothing marvelous or clever at any point. And in the same way I reckon that most con artistry isn't The Sting, but more like the Nigerian banker mass e-mail.

No doubt it gives Smith too much credit, and even plays into his hand still all these years since his death, to keep looking for ingenious ways he could have faked things. Accounts of disinterested observers cover what, less than 1% of the total production time for the Book of Mormon, no? Only by the desperate standards of normal history, where there is no reason to suspect any deception, and nobody is being asked to believe in angels or prophets, but we are grateful for any shred of evidence pointing one way or the other about historic events, would the hearsay evidence that we have for the production of the Book of Mormon be considered significant.

They probably all just sat around the table cooking up the Book of Mormon and then lied through their teeth. There was no reason for anyone to recant in later life because it would only have made them look either wicked or stupid, whereas as long as they stuck to some core of their story there was always a chance that someday it would pay. Nobody was even remotely honest or pious—that was all just a put-on for the marks—and that's all there was to it.

It's the simplest explanation and it may most likely be true. I still think it doesn't hurt to speculate about how it could have been spiced up with gimmicks, as long as one doesn't get too carried away in pursuit of a trick that may well itself be nothing but an illusion.

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