Tommy on Mormonism: Blog Post Review

Tommy on Mormonism is the name of a blog by a critic of Mormonism. Tommy takes up the ambitious task of reading the Book of Mormon and blogging about his thoughts, particularly about his criticism of what he reads. This post is dedicated to reviewing the first installment of Tommy’s series (a series which is still in progress). In this post I attempt to defend against Tommy’s attacks on the Title Page, Introduction, and Testimony of the Three Witnesses. It is my belief that Tommy’s demonstrated lack of knowledge on these issues does not bode well for the rest of his review of the Book of Mormon.

Tommy raises three basic issues, which I will address in order. 

1.

Tommy’s first complaint against the Book of Mormon (hereafter BoM) is concerning the fact that the BoM was “sealed up” and hid away, and that the Bible was not. Indeed, the title page of the BoM, written by Mormon, states that the BoM was “Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed”. Tommy apparently interprets these actions as being safeguards against the corruption of the text through mistranslation, editing, and the ravages of time. Comparing these safeguards with the history of the Bible, Tommy asks:

 If the Book of Mormon was written and sealed up unto the Lord so that it might not be destroyed, why didn’t the Lord take the same efforts to protect the Bible?…. it begs the question of one who does believe why God would go to such lengths to protect one portion of His scripture, but the other portion He will just sit back and watch as it falls into corruption and its manuscripts deteriorate?  Does God care more about the Book of Mormon and its accuracy than that of the Bible?

 Unfortunately, Tommy fails to recognize that the “deteriorat[ion]” of the manuscripts was not the purpose for sealing up the book. The very nature of the plates of metal themselves is a great precaution against those things. Metal plates aren’t as susceptible to deterioration through time as parchment. Furthermore, Tommy unfortunately assumes that LDS approach the BoM with the same inerrantist assumptions with which he approaches the Bible. We simply don’t expect the BoM to be totally accurate or infallible. We don’t believe that that is how scripture is produced. The title page to the BoM which Tommy is critiquing makes this clear:

 And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

 But, those are minor issues. What is more important is that Tommy fails to recognize the true reason why the plates where hid up. Mormon {or rather his son Moroni} took these measures because their enemies the Lamanites were out to destroy the Nephite people. Because religion would have been inextricably intertwined with every aspect of Nephite life [as it was in all ancient cultures], the Lamanites were interested in destroying the religious records of the Nephites. This is the reason why the plates are hid up. We read in Mormon 6:6 :

 6 And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.

 2.

 Tommy’s second complaint in this post is an old chestnut. He complains about the fact that the Introduction to the BoM was changed from describing the Lamanites as the “principal ancestors of the American Indians” to being “among the ancestors of the American Indians.” Tommy predictably suggests that the LDS Church has quietly made this change due to DNA issues.  Because this subject has been discussed ad nauseam, some general observations will suffice.

 First, the Introduction of the BoM is not part of the revealed text. It wasn’t written by a Nephite, nor was it written by Joseph Smith. It is simply an introduction that was added in much later years that summarizes what the book is. It isn’t recognized by anyone as part of the scripture. Tommy should think of it as similar to the table of contents, or the index, which also were not part of the original text. Therefore, any changes to the Introduction do not reflect a change in doctrine or a reversal of prophetic utterance.

 Secondly, LDS scholars and many LDS leaders have long recognized that the Lamanites were not the primary ancestors of all or even most American Indians. The recent DNA issue only confirmed what LDS scholars and many LDS leaders and laymen have been saying for years. The Book of Mormon text itself does not claim that the Lamanites are the ancestors of modern American Indians. Instead, this belief was a false assumption held for many years by faithful but misguided LDS. The update of the Introduction is similar to the update of any Biblical index, or commentary. As we study and learn more about the text and about the people who wrote it, we naturally make the appropriate changes. I fully expect the Introduction to change again in the future. In fact, I hope it does. I hope we learn more about the BoM people as we press forward in BoM scholarship.

 More on the DNA issue can be studied at both FARMS and FAIR.

3.

 Finally, in this post Tommy also criticizes the Testimony of the Three Witnesses. In the close of their testimony, they write, “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God.  Amen.” Tommy argues that this represents an early Trinitarian belief by Joseph Smith, one which was later changed. This too is an old chestnut. This type of language can also be found in much later documents, and simply is not incompatible with later revelations of Joseph Smith. We understand “one God” in the same sense in which Jesus says that he and his disciples are “one” and how Jesus and the Father are “one.” It simply doesn’t demand a strange metaphysical unity of being like the apostate Trinity doctrine requires.

This short review of Tommy’s post is enough to demonstrate that Tommy is not familiar with the back and forth of the debates surrounding these issues.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in ..

14 comments on “Tommy on Mormonism: Blog Post Review

  1. Steve Smoot says:

    “Tommy predictably suggests that the LDS Church has quietly made this change due to DNA issues.”

    Yes, they “quietly” did it… which is why they issues press releases about the whole thing in the mass media.

    Interesting stuff James. Look forward to reading more of it.

  2. Steve Smoot says:

    Here is something I tried to post on his blog, but can’t because I don’t have wordpress:

    “What I find somewhat unusual about Nephi’s angel is that he gave Nephi no way of knowing whether or not this message was from God. ”

    How do you know that? Because the Book of Mormon doesn’t say so? That is nothing less than an argument from silence, a logical fallacy of the greatest calibre.

    “In 1 Nephi 4.10-14, God commands Nephi to murder his uncle!”

    Where does the text specify that it is his uncle?

    “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s that simple!”

    “We’re commanded not to kill but special exceptions were made for Nephi? It doesn’t add up.”

    So, I suppose that you are equally outraged at the fact that Joshua was commanded to kill the inhabitants of Jerico. Or that Elijah was commanded to kill the priests of Ba’al. Or Elisha for commanding the bear to kill those kids who made fun of him. Or David for killing Goliath. Or Peter for killing Ananias and Sapphira. Or Moses for killing the Egyptian priest. Or the entire nation of Israel for their continual wars.

    But what is stopping you there? God himself has commanded in his infallible Word to kill those who don’t listen to the priests (Deuteronomy 17:12) witches (Exodus 22:17) homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13) fortunetellers (Leviticus 20:27) adulterers (Leviticus 20:10) fornicators (Leviticus 21:9) nonbelievers (2 Chronicles 15:12-13) blasphemers (Leviticus 24:10-16) and, of course, false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

    Are you sure that you want to criticize Nephi for slaying Laban? Doing so would force you to therefore apply the same standard to those biblical prophets who killed someone and God himself for commanding certain people to be put to death. And if you don’t apply the same standard, then that means you are using a double standard, another logical fallacy that renders your arguments invalid.

    Plus, when one understands the legal context of this scenario in its 6th century BCE context, one understands why Nephi was commanded to kill Laban. See, for example, the works of John W. Welch in “Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban” in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1/1 (1992): 119-41.

    • James says:

      Thanks Steve. I’ll paste your comment in on his blog, but we will see if he approves it. He has it set so that every comment must “await moderation”.

      I’m not sure if I’ll continue critiquing his posts. Every now and then he comes up with something slightly unique, but the vast majority of his attacks seem to stem from simple ignorance of the issues.

    • James says:

      By the way, it’s nice to see you again Steve. I hope all is well. Keep me updated on the mission!

  3. Tommy says:

    Hey James and Steve, I just thought I’d check and see…can the two of you see the comment that James posted for Steve on my blog? When I got the e-mail notification about it there was no place for me to approve it, but it looks to me as if the comment’s already there (which is fine with me, as I see nothing objectionable about the post; I basically just use that safeguard in case someone tries posting something pornographic or with vulgar language).

    Just so you know, it may take me a while to respond (I’ve been super busy lately; in case you didn’t notice, I’ve only put up one post in about the last 5-6 months, even though I’m now in Helaman in my BoM reading). There are some things you guys said that I disagree with, but I also think you raised some good points that give me an opportunity to learn more on these topics in the BoM and Bible and compare the two. This is my first time reading the Triple straight through, so I’ll be the first to admit that I may have gotten some things confused. Thanks for posting!

  4. James says:

    Hi Tommy. The comments on your blog show up for me. I understand the delay in posting, life gets busy.

  5. GB says:

    I must concur with James.

    “. . . the vast majority of his attacks seem to stem from simple ignorance of the issues.”

    In his last post he mentions MRM. If MRM is his source, then that explains his ignorance of the issues.

  6. James says:

    Hi GB.

    I admit I feel kind of bad for singling out Tommy. Tommy seems well-intentioned, and he certainly doesn’t display the vitriol and bombast of, say, CARM.

    It’s just too bad there are so many folks out there like Tommy who are attacking the faith of the Latter-day Saints but do so without a firm grasp of the issues involved.

  7. Tommy says:

    Hey GB and James,

    Just so you guys know a little bit more about where I’m coming from in all of this, yes, MRM is one of my sources of information, but certainly not my only one. I’ve got to admit though that any time I’ve looked up any of the quotes they may present, it seems to be in context and not misused, which is why I continue to consider their website a valid resource. I also check the website of the LDS Church and many others dealing with Mormonism, both in favor of it and against it, quite often. I simply try to get a balanced perspective by listening to both sides of the issue. I admit I may have jumped the gun by blogging on certain topics that have to do with Mormonism that I’m not as familiar with, but all the same I’ve also done quite a bit of reading over the last several years on it from resources produced by the LDS Church or members of it, so I’m not completely ignorant of the issues.

    All the same, James, I’m glad that I came across as someone well-intentioned because I genuinely care for Mormons! While I understand that you genuinely believe in Mormonism (or at least I’ll assume you do), I genuinely believe that it is a false Gospel which preaches a false Christ, and since I have many Mormon friends for whom I care deeply, I don’t want to see them misled by that. Just the same, I’ll respect their right to believe whatever they wish so long as I’ve made the effort to inform them of the parts that I think are deceptive and tell them more about who I believe to be the true Jesus.

    I hope this clears some things up!

  8. James says:

    Thanks Tommy. I appreciate your stated willingness to be responsible in your research and in your presentation of LDS beliefs. If there is any point on which you would like to dialogue, I am always interested!

  9. GB says:

    I actually tried to post a response to Tommy on his blog but it wouldn’t take. Perhaps because I don’t have a wordpress account.

    James, I hope you don’t mind if I post it here.

    Tommy said “Nowhere in the Bible is there any implication that there is more than one God!”

    GB: There are these.

    Deut. 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:

    Josh. 22:22 The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the Lord, (save us not this day,)

    Ps. 136:2 O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

    Dan. 2:47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

    Dan. 11:36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

    1 Cor 8:5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
    6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

    Although, technically these are NOT “implications”, but direct expressions.

  10. “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s that simple!”

    “We’re commanded not to kill but special exceptions were made for Nephi? It doesn’t add up.”

    It seems that this is a frequent anti-Mormon argument. The common LDS Apologetic response is to list all the examples of killing in the Bible, as Steve does so well here. But, I never see reference to Ecclesiastes, where it specifically says there is “a time to kill” (Eccl 3:3). If there is a time to kill, then it would seem appropriate that God, who gives the the commandment not to kill, would be the one authorized to declare when a situation is a time to kill, just as he does in the narrative of 1 Nephi 4.

  11. James says:

    Hi Neal. Thanks for calling us back to this discussion. I think you make an excellent point, one I have never considered.

    I recently read a short summary of an argument by Paul Hoskisson (a BYU prof) regarding Laban’s death. Basically he suggests that Nephi was in keeping with the Law of Moses, and with the more ancient Hammurabi’s Code (on which much of Judaism was based). Perhaps I’ll blog on it sometime. The quickest summary is that there was a requirement that if someone falsely accused another of a crime, then the accuser would face the punishment that the accused would have faced. Laban falsely accused Nephi and his brethren of attempted theft, and as punishment ordered his men to kill them.

  12. Thank you, James, for your positive feedback.

    I am somewhat familiar with professor Hoskisson. That sounds like a very interesting argument, I’ll have to look it up. It makes sense though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s