Saturday, 18 October 2014

There is quite an impressive amount of evidence in favour of the genuineness of The Book of Mormon (although this evidence is not conclusive)

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Mormonism stands and falls on the genuineness of the Book of Mormon being what it claims to be - there really is no wriggle room on this matter: the claims are much too explicit, specific and too concrete for them to be regarded as symbolic.

Furthermore, there really are only two possibilities with the BoM : it must be valid or else a conscious, deliberate and extremely elaborate fraud.

These are the rival hypotheses which need to be evaluated.

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Now, many or most people will be sure, a priori, that the BoM is a fraud; and if that is how the matter is approached, then that is the conclusion which will emerge.

However, if the question is approached in an agnostic fashion, then the matter is far from straightforward.

And in fact there is a lot of evidence, some of it remarkable, in support of the genuineness of the Book of Mormon - easily enough to make the claims factually plausible and to make belief in the genuineness of the BoM absolutely reasonable by normal evidential standards; even despite some currently-unanswered questions and inconsistencies.

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Here is an interesting and accessible round-up from Daniel C Peterson - who is a highly intelligent, honest and learned scholar who is himself a Mormon.

In watching this, I would suggest that the positive evidence that Prof Peterson presents should simply be regarded as reasonable and plausible and significant - it is quite unnecessary to regard it as absolutely hard-line conclusive, or as there being no other way of interpreting it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV8QN7bIeEE

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I think it would be a mistake to try and convince people that the Book of Mormon is true.

The validity of the Book of Mormon cannot be established by such evidence as assembled above; nobody is going to feel compelled to accept the genuineness of the book's claims on the basis of such evidence - not least because modern people find it easy to reject any 'supernatural' claims, and all empirical evidence of any kind is susceptible to plural interpretations.

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The Book of Mormon itself says explicitly that after all possible evidence has been gathered and evaluated, belief should be (and should only be) a consequence of prayer, of asking God about the validity of the Book of Mormon, and of obtaining a sense of personal conviction of its truth by revelation.

So, the way it works is that the investigator should establish for himself that it is at least not-unreasonable that the Book of Mormon's claims are true; and that there is significant (although it will never be conclusive) evidence to support its claims.

Then the investigator must pray to know the truth; must pray sincerely, earnestly and with an open heart.

If the investigator will not pray - then he should not believe; and if the investigator does pray but receives a negative answer - then he should not believe.

That's it - although of course the process may be repeated.

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Beyond evidence there absolutely must be faith by personal revelation.

Once the validity of the Book of Mormon's claims have been granted and confirmed, once someone is convinced, then this belief inevitably has immense significance and vast ramifications for understanding human history and the nature of life.

Nothing will ever be the same again.

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