Egyptians, Horses, and Rocks in Hats

Question:

Joshua,

I would appreciate the name of just one secular encyclopediaa and page which provides supporting information that:

1. “Reformed Egyptian” was really an ancient language.

2. “Domesticated” horses existed in the America’s prior to Columbus.

3. That ancient languages can be translated by looking at a rock in a hat. See: (Ensign » 1993 » July A Treasured Testament By Elder Russell M. Nelson)

Answer:

Of course there isn’t any secular encyclopedia that provides supporting information, but here are some explanations of perhaps why:

1. Reformed Egyptian was a language perhaps known by no one else but the people of the Book of Mormon, which appears to have been a relatively small group of people limited to a specific geographic area most likely in Central America. If so, how would anybody know about their language unless there were an archaeological discovery? And since there are literally thousands and thousands of sites in Central America that have yet to be excavated, and major discoveries are being made all the time, is it completely implausible that there might yet, at some future date 10, 20, or 50 years in the future, be the discovery of the same language the plates were originally written in?

2. No, but again, there are important discoveries being made all the time so we don’t know what we haven’t discovered yet. People used to say there were never any horses at all, not they admit there were horses, but no domesticated horses. But there’s even the question of whether Joseph Smith really meant “horses” when he wrote “horses”. There’s some good stuff on this over at Jeff Linsay’s site under the post “Plants and Animals in the Book of Mormon“.

3. Well, of course that’s just silly. There’s also no secular encyclopedia that explains how a man can die and then come back to life three days later, so if we’re in trouble on that point so is the rest of Christianity. Now, perhaps that’s not an issue for you, and if not, then the question I would ask is whether the scientific community can prove that such a thing is impossible. If they can’t prove that it is impossible, how can you claim it is? If you had put the question to the scientific community of 150 years ago as to whether it was possible to cook food without a flame, they could have racked their brains and they would have come back and have said it was impossible, and yet every one of us can purchase that technology for $50 at Wal-Mart.

Science doesn’t have all the answers. It doesn’t even have most of the answers. Chances are we know less than 1% of 1% of all there is to know about our own world, physics, etc., let alone the rest of the universe. To say something is impossible because modern science doesn’t know it is to assume we have all the answers, and such a viewpoint could only be held by someone who is virtually ignorant of the scientific world and how much there is yet to be discovered.

Actually, now that I think about it, we are getting pretty good with translation technology these days, so I’m not sure it is completely unbelievable that within a few decades we might be able to produce a device that would look like a clear rock or piece of glass, and which might be able to show us an English translation of any text placed on the other side of it. If we, as mere men, can create such a thing, I’m guessing it was probably even easier for God, and I bet it worked better too. Of course if you don’t believe in God, then that explanation doesn’t work, but if there is no God then none of the above questions really matter anyway.

Comments

  1. 1. "Reformed Egyption" was never given as the actual name of a language – it was what they called it as Mormon made clear, if someone bothers to read it: "And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof. " (Mormon 9:32-34)

    2. There is no evidence in the book of mormon that horses were ever ridden or used in battle. In fact, it can't even be said that there is evidence that horses were universally known throughout the Americas, only in certain areas. Check out Robert R. Bennett's article at http://mi.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=12

    3. The Urim and Thummim were definitely around in old testament times. They were gemstones that were carried by the High Priest of Israel on the ephod / priestly garments. They were used by the High Priest to determine God's will in some situations. No one knows exactly what they were or how they were used from what is written in the bible. There is not enough information, since they are only mentioned a few times. One of these mentions are in the description of the breastplate of judgment. Another, when Joshua succeeded Moses as leader over Israel, he was to receive answers from God by means of the Urim through Eleazar the High Priest. They are also mentioned when Moses gave his dying blessing upon Levi. It should increase our testimony of the validity of Joseph Smith as a prophet in that he revealed the true nature of the Urim and Thummim!

  2. Joshua,

    I appreciate your willingness to engage in civil dialog and thank you for affirming that nothing in secular academia concurs with the extraordinary claims of Mormonism as with the bible. What I find is the LDS belief is based almost entirely upon POSSIBILITY much like one might claim it is POSSIBLE that Coke Machines can be found on the Planet Mars. This opposed to the PROBABILITY of these things. Your answers beautifully illustrate this. Emphasis mine

    1. Reformed Egyptian was a language **perhaps** known by no one else but the people of the Book of Mormon, which appears to have been a relatively small group of people limited to a specific geographic area most likely in Central America. If so, how would anybody know about their language unless there were an archaeological discovery? And since there are literally thousands and thousands of sites in Central America that have yet to be excavated, and major discoveries are being made all the time, is it completely implausible that there might yet, at some future date 10, 20, or 50 years in the future, be the discovery of the same language the plates were originally written in?

    2. No, but again, there are important discoveries being made all the time so we don’t know what we haven’t discovered yet. People used to say there were never any horses at all, not they admit there were horses, but no domesticated horses. **But there’s even the question of whether Joseph Smith really meant “horses” when he wrote “horses”.** There’s some good stuff on this over at Jeff Linsay’s site under the post “Plants and Animals in the Book of Mormon“.

    Another comment proposing POSSIBILITY

    Actually, now that I think about it, we are getting pretty good with translation technology these days, so I’m not sure it is completely unbelievable that within a few decades we **might** be able to produce a device that would look like a clear rock or piece of glass, and which might be able to show us an English translation of any text placed on the other side of it. If we, as mere men, can create such a thing, I’m guessing it was probably even easier for God, and I bet it worked better too. Of course if you don’t believe in God, then that explanation doesn’t work, but if there is no God then none of the above questions really matter anyway.

    Joshua, Jeff Lindsay’s website is a conjecture of POSSIBILITIES

    Jeff Lindsay has the following disclaimer

    Want to know more about "the Mormons"? Or, more properly, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? (It's not "the Mormon Church" – that's a misleading nickname.) Want to know what we really believe and do? Perhaps I can help. This page is the attempt of Jeff Lindsay, a Latter-day Saint in Wisconsin, to explain who we are and what we believe. I'm a student of LDS topics, a former bishop, returned missionary, father of four, BYU alumnus, and something of a geek – all the qualifications you could hope for, frankly, at least from me. Though I strive to be accurate and fair, this page – like anything mortals do – is subject to all sorts of errors, including typos and unintelligible writing. Sorry! For other information, be sure to visit LDS.org and Mormon.org – but even these Church-owned sites have mortal Webmasters and authors.

    From the FARMS/Maxwell Institute website:

    " The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

    Why the disclaimers? Because the spin does not hold up to scrutiny.

    Joshua, Jeff Lindsay’s website is a conjecture of POSSIBILITIES. Lindsay as well as FARMS (Sorenson et al) provides no ‘peer review’ (no **independent** factual collaboration) the process by which knowledge is certified. Again Extra Ordinary Claims Demand Extra Ordinary Evidence, that is unless we want to place ourselves in a position to be bamboozled.

    The apologists spin adhoc explanations like perhaps the horses were really Tapirs. Latter-day Saints must now picture the gallant Nephi Warrior riding a pig like animal into battle. Wouldn't it be nice so see some supporting carbon dated fossilized horse remains by independent scientists?

    And now Reformed Egyptian was really not Reformed Egyptian, what a hoot!

    So Joshua since value looking through the lens of POSSIBITY as opposed to evidential reasoning, perhaps I could interest you in one heck of a bargain. I recently received an email from an attorney in Indonesia advising me I have been named in a will to receive 2 Million dollars. All I have to do is send this gentleman two thousand dollars in transaction fees which I unfortunately do not have at the moment. If you would be interested in making $50,000 by sending me the $2,000, upon receipt of the 2 Million dollars I’ll gladly send you the $50,000. What say? – Skeptic.

  3. Posted by: Skeptic on November 2, 2009 at 8:35 pm
    Joshua,

    I appreciate your willingness to engage in civil dialog and thank you for affirming that nothing in secular academia concurs with the extraordinary claims of Mormonism as with the bible. What I find is the LDS belief is based almost entirely upon POSSIBILITY much like one might claim it is POSSIBLE that Coke Machines can be found on the Planet Mars. This opposed to the PROBABILITY of these things. Your answers beautifully illustrate this. Emphasis mine.

    ———

    Skeptic,

    I agree with you that Joshua Steimle is civil. I appreciate the existence of this website, and the fact that my comments get posted here. Someone else would have blocked me by now.

    Your comment evokes an insight I was about to post on my own. So much of Mormon apologetics is about possibility: perhaps the manuscript from which Joseph Smith claimed to translate the Book of Abraham has not been found yet; perhaps we will still discover crops and artifacts mentioned in The Book of Mormon, that did not come to the New World until the Europeans; perhaps we will discover pre Columbian writing that mentions events recorded in The Book of Mormon. Perhaps, but almost certainly not.

    The problem with these possibilities is that there is no evidence for them at all, and no reason to believe in them other than one's passionate desire to believe in the doctrines of the Mormon faith. I would like to believe that next week a rich relative I have never heard of will give me several million dollars. Yes, I guess it is possible, but it is so unlikely that it would be unwise for me to borrow a half million dollars and take a luxery cruise around the world.

    It is the same way with the Mormon faith. It is unwise to devote one's life to such a demanding religion, and to base one's hopes of salvation on a religion that may possibly be verified at some undisclosed time in the future, when there is so much evidence that Joseph Smith was a religious charletan.

    A while ago I read a brilliant analogy of Mormonism by one who was converted, eventually found disrepencies, and left the faith. He likened conversion to Mormonism to buying a Victorian mansion without examining the foundations. Yes, the mansion is beautiful and impressive, but the foundations are flimsy, and all one needs to discover that is to investigate them.

    I enjoy talking to Mormon missionaries. I like Mormons. I would appreciate living in a community with a high Mormon population. Such a community would probably have a low crime rate. Nevertheless, I would not vote for a Mormon, even if the Mormon agreed with me on most of the issues, and even if the Mormon was of an excellent character. This is because Joseph Smith was so obviously of a bad character. Anyone who makes a dispashionate investigation of Mormonism will have to conclude this. I want to be governed by leaders who have the rational ability to evaluate evidence and different arguments, and the courage to accept unpleasant truths.

    • I believe both of you may be misunderstanding the purpose of Mormon apologetics, as well as the foundations of Mormon belief in general. Mormon apologetics is not dedicated to proving that Mormonism is true. Nor is any Mormon (ok, maybe a few) waiting anxiously for the day when physical evidence proving Mormonism to be true will be found. We already know these things are true. I created this website not because I wanted to prove that anything about Mormonism is true, only that it cannot be proven false. This way, those who are looking for the truth may be able to keep an open mind as they research Mormonism. I want them to see that despite nearly 200 years of criticism, threw is still nothing close to a smoking gun, and that in fact every argument against Mormonism can be explained away fairly easily, so that even in sum the collective arguments hold no more validity than any single argument on its own. Also, it's kind of fun.

      It makes sense for things to be this way. If part of the purpose of this life is to be tested to see what we will choose to do when we are free, then we cannot have proof. In other words, I think God gives us just enough information, and withholds just enough, that we are in a sort of limbo. This way, we are free to believe what we want to believe, rather than feeling forced to believe something because it's "obvious".

  4. Mormon apologetics is not dedicated to proving that Mormonism is true… We already know these things are true.

    – Joshua Steimle

    ———-

    The truths of mathematics and symbolic logic are true by definition. The truths of the experimental sciences can be verified by repeated, controlled experiments. Even then our understanding of these sciences grows, and occasionally changes when new scientific evidence comes forth.

    Strong belief, unsupported by facts that can be documented, is not knowledge. Frequently it is a delusion.

    Mormon missionaries tell their charges to read The Book of Mormon, and prayer for guidance to see if it is true. If it is true, they are supposed to feel, "a burning in the bosom." After reading The Book of Mormon I did that. I did not feel a burning in the bosom.

    That is not why I reject the Book of Mormon, however. I reject it because there is no evidence in the New World that the events happened, and much evidence that the events did not happen.

    • The experience one has when one receives an answerfrom God regarding the Book of Mormon is not belief, it is knowledge.

      When one does not receive an answer it is because they did not follow the steps. Most frequently I believe that part that is left out is sincerity. Some ask to satisfy vain curiosity. Others ask just so they can say they asked and did not receive an answer. Others ask but are not prepared to live their lives based on what receiving such an answer means. And perhaps others are having their sincerity tested by God. There is no guarantee of an answer the first time someone asks. Brigham Young studied the Book of Mormon extensively for years before he received his answer. Parley P. Pratt received his answer within 24 hours. They were both sincere, and yet had distinctly different experiences getting their answers.

      I think one major factor in measuring sincerity is desire. Does one really want these things to be true, or do they just want to know? God will force no man to heaven, and I don't believe he will give answers to those who would be reluctant to abide by them.

      One other factor plainly evident in our conversations is that you place a lot of importance on evidence that comes from a source other than God. That's all well and good for scientific research, but unnecessarily time consuming when it comes to the larger questions of life. Were one to depend on science to get their bearings when it comes to the things of God, they would constantly be blown about and caught off guard by every new piece of information, and would never be able to make a decision, let alone move forward with confidence. It is only logical that we must get an answer from God so that we will not be dissuaded by the shifts in scientific knowledge, but can move forward knowing that in the end everything will support what we already know to be true.

      If you consider God's objective to allow us our freedom to choosehow could things be set up any other way?

  5. despite nearly 200 years of criticism, threw is still nothing close to a smoking gun.

    – Joshua Steimle

    ———

    The acrid smoke billowing from the the documents discovered in 1966 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York singes the nostrils.

    • If one comes from the standpoint if already believing the whole thing is a scam. If you already believe it to be true, or consider things with an open mind, then there are perfectly reasonable explanations for everything. These exclamations seem unreasonable only to those who have already made up their minds to not believe.

  6. When one does not receive an answer it is because they did not follow the steps. Most frequently I believe that part that is left out is sincerity…

    I think one major factor in measuring sincerity is desire. Does one really want these things to be true, or do they just want to know?

    – Joshua Steimle

    ———

    When I began my investigation of the Mormon religion I wanted it to be true. I was terribly disappointed when I discovered that it was not. Many Mormons who have learned what I know about Joseph Smith's perfidy appear to have been traumatized, perhaps for life.

  7. One other factor plainly evident in our conversations is that you place a lot of importance on evidence that comes from a source other than God. That’s all well and good for scientific research, but unnecessarily time consuming when it comes to the larger questions of life. Were one to depend on science to get their bearings when it comes to the things of God, they would constantly be blown about and caught off guard by every new piece of information, and would never be able to make a decision, let alone move forward with confidence. It is only logical that we must get an answer from God.

    – Joshua Steimle

    ———-

    How does one know when God speaks, or what He says? After the invasion of Iraq President Bush said that God told him to invade.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/st

    I am glad that Bush did not think God told him to launch a nuclear attack on Russia.

    The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition thought God told them to burn heretics. Many people have thought God told them to persecute Mormons.

  8. "When I began my investigation of the Mormon religion I wanted it to be true. I was terribly disappointed when I discovered that it was not. "

    There is no way for you to "discover that it was not". There is no proof the Mormon religion is false. This is proof that you did not want it to be true. Otherwise you would not have had the ability to prove a negative. If you were saying that you could not prove the Mormon Church to be true and therefore couldn't join, that would be saying quite a different thing.

    "How does one know when God speaks, or what He says?"

    Ultimately through the Holy Ghost, but also through the scriptures and God's chosen leaders. They do not contradict each other and by utilizing all of them one learns more and more about the truth and God's will.

    As for President Bush, the Spanish Inquisition, and Mormon persecutors, what can I say other than I think they were mistaken if they think God was telling them to do what they did. It's not impossible for someone to think they're under the influence of God when they aren't. But when someone is truly under the influence of God it's difficult to mistake it for anything else. I believe it would take a certain amount of will.

  9. Why does the Bible say to paraphrase: When you know the truth, the truth will set you free. The truth is right in front of Mormons, but they close their eyes & ears and sing out: "I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, and they deny the truth & evidence that the very God who created this universe is giving them.

    • Our interpretation of the Bible confirms what we believe as Mormons. When we read the Bible we don't see it as contradicting the Book of Mormon or anything else in our church.

  10. Posted by: Joshua Steimle on July 4, 2011 at 9:37 am

    “When I began my investigation of the Mormon religion I wanted it to be true. I was terribly disappointed when I discovered that it was not. ”

    There is no way for you to “discover that it was not”. There is no proof the Mormon religion is false. This is proof that you did not want it to be true.

    ———

    How much proof do you need? Do I have to keep repeating the facts that I have posted here again and again? Also, you cannot judge my intentions. I really did want Mormonism to be true.

  11. "How much proof do you need?"

    How about any proof? I have never seen any facts which, individually or collectively, prove Mormonism to be false. Circumstantial evidence is not proof. Lack of objective proof that Mormonism is true is not proof that it is false. After years of people coming to this website and trying to prove to me that Mormonism is false, plus years of my own reading of anti-Mormon websites and investigating their arguments, I continue to find that those who believe Mormonism is false are exercising faith. If they possess any actual knowledge that Mormonism is false they have been unable to adequately present their case. Their "facts" never lead to the conclusions they have previously reached. Instead, the facts are often shown not to be the actual facts, or the facts are at least in dispute without a means of verification. Or the facts simply do not lead to the conclusions argued for without making various assumptions, which are often incorrect in part or in whole.

  12. Posted by: Joshua Steimle on September 26, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I continue to find that those who believe Mormonism is false are exercising faith.

    ——-

    Joshua, you are too intelligent to really believe that. You do not seem to understand the scientific method, or know how to evaluate evidence. Nevertheless, I know that you do. If you exercised faith in making business decisions you would have gone out of business long ago.

  13. John, throwing out insults does nothing to help either of us acquire more truth. If you have a point to make, then use logic and make it.

    BTW, I'd estimate that most entrepreneurs use about 95% faith and 5% scientific method when they're getting started. Perhaps the more successful ones are 90/10. If an entrepreneur relied too much on the scientific method they'd never get around to starting a business.

  14. I find it interesting that you would claim parts of Mexico or Central America as where these "lamanites" would have settled, when the "golden plates" were "found" in the eastern mounds of the US. It makes no sense that they would have been that far from there supposed settlement. By the way, I was raised LDS having been adopted at age 5, probably because they thought to save me as a specimen perhaps , as I am part native american. As I have had a good proportion of my youth spent studying lds beliefs, from primary to youth groups and seminary at 6 am, later to becoming a primary teacher. Farther into adulthood and much inquisitiveness about world religions and archeological history, it occurred to me that this "new & true" religion was just more of the same. Just as we now find ourselves wondering how people could have worshiped as they did, so will the future generations wonder about this one. Many of the bible "stories" when looked at with the scientific knowledge we have now, are acts of nature, yet the people of that time believed they were being "punished" for sins. ie: the earth opening up and swallowing them (earthquakes) floods, locusts , disease etc….Religions main purpose is to control groups of people and give certain others the "power" to rule, and it is incredibly effective, why would those with the "power" want "believers" to stop believing? They would of course, not have the reverence, and willingness to to be "followed". My main objections as I left this "religion" was to the extreme patriarchy and racism of the lds. That a woman could not "enter into the highest level of the kingdom of god" without being married is something I find quite insulting. Likewise the opposition to the negro peoples considered to be "cursed". I might also note that the "lamanites" were also considered "loathsome" to their sight. This is classic racism, and there is history of Brigham Youngs racism. That "the church" chose to change policies when the US government made it clear that polygamy would not be accepted, and then called it "prophecy" speaks volumes. Why Blacks were "suddenly" not as cursed is also a bit suspect to me.

  15. Skepticism is an excellent character trait. It saves one from jumping off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings. God said in the Bible: "Come let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18) "Reason" has 19 definitions in my Webster's Dictionary, but in the biblical context of Isaiah, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool." The Bible is the first text. According to ancient lineal manuscripts, God's gift of forgiveness is free to those who come to God with empty hands. Mormons come to God with tightly clenched fists, unable to receive his free gift of forgiveness and justification. Mormonism teaches that mormons must pay a tithe (in the New Testament this is voluntary stewardship), must be "worthy" according to their bishop (God the Holy Spirit helps a Christian become worthy each day of a Christian's life) attend a mormon temple, must be married, must …., must…… must…….. must do everything a current prophet says, must…….etc. Gospel means "good news". Mormonism is not good news.

  16. A number of years ago I read an excellent analogy on the internet of what it is like to convert to Mormonism. The writer said it is like growing up in a neighborhood with a beautiful Victorian mansion. Finally one buys the mansion without examining the foundations. Eventually one goes into the basement, turns on the lights, and sees a lot of what one does not want to see.

    There are intelligent Mormons, but nearly all of them were born into the faith, like Mitt Romney. I have read that most converts are poorly educated. The Mormon missionaries I have talked to were nice boys, but they knew less about their religion than I did. Without exception I had to tell them about the Book of Abraham.

    When I told them about the Book of Abraham, they smiled politely in a vacuous sort of way that indicated little or no comprehension, as though I was lecturing to them on the theory of relativity.

    It says bad things about the human mind that this hoax has thrived as long as it has. Mormon membership has actually doubled since the fraud of the Book of Abraham was exposed.

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