Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Book of Mormon is Objectively True

The Book of Mormon is Objectively True
I'm not completely sure that the title of this post is true, but I think it is. I'm leaning that way. Take out the word, "objective" and I'm certain. It is a very bold claim to make, but if you are reading this then it did its job by being provocative.

What follows is the case for the objective proof of the Book of Mormon. I don't go into much detail about the various evidence and arguments, but I mention the big ones and provide links for you to get more info.

Just like miracles, these proofs are not the faith or spiritual life that comes from a true relationship with God, but they do provide room for it to grow. It's kind of like those sticks that people place next to saplings to help them stay strong in the storm.

If you don't really know the background of the Book of Mormon, here are some preliminary links to help you know the believer's account:

Good summary

Long explanation

The evidence:

1. Wordprint studies. These studies show that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries could not have written the Book of Mormon and the book was authored by more than one individual:
More detailed analysis:

2. The Witnesses: 11 witnesses claimed to have seen the gold plates and, some of them even saw the angel who gave the plates to Joseph:

3. The Hebrew/near-east character of the Book of Mormon:
a. What is chiasmus?

b. Hebrew style, names and structure.

The next post will have more.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Miracles are like Defibrilators

Miracles are like defibrilators. They can give a jump start to your faith, but they aren't a substitute for it. And miracles don't really prove anything because they can't really be replicated, at least not in a scientific way. Otherwise they wouldn't be miracles, they'd be natural law.

The following miracles are not my own by are related by a person that I find trustworthy. You'll have to make your own judgment about that.

This first one is, I think, very sacred and you should not read it if you feel inclined to ridicule or scoff at it. This is from a talk by Dallin Oaks:

"Another sacred experience is related in the book Tongan Saints. It happened while Elder ‘Iohani Wolfgramm and his wife were serving a mission in their native Tonga...

Their three-year-old daughter was accidentally run over by a loaded taxi. Four of the occupants of the taxi sorrowfully carried her lifeless body to her parents. “Her head was crushed and her face was terribly disfigured.” 20 The sorrowing helpers offered to take the little girl’s body to the hospital so the doctors could repair her severely damaged head and face for the funeral. I now quote the words of her father, Elder Wolfgramm: “I told them I did not want them to take her but that I would ask God what I should do and, if it was possible, to give her life back.”

The helpers took the little girl’s body into the chapel. Elder Wolfgramm continued: “I asked them to hold her while I gave her a priesthood blessing. By then the curious people of the village were flocking in to see our stricken little daughter. As I was about to proceed with the administration, I felt tongue-tied. Struggling to speak, I got the distinct impression that I should not continue with the ordinance. It was as if a voice were speaking to me saying: ‘This is not the right time, for the place is full of mockers and unbelievers. Wait for a more private moment.’

“My speech returned at that moment and I addressed the group: ‘The Lord has restrained me from blessing this little girl, because there are unbelievers among you who doubt this sacred ordinance. Please help me by leaving so I can bless my child.’

The people left without taking offense. The grieving parents carried the little girl to their home, put her body on her own bed, and covered her with a sheet. Three hours passed, and her body began to show the effects of death. The mother pleaded with the father to bless her, but he insisted that he still felt restrained. Finally, the impression came that he should now proceed. I return to his words:

“All present in the home at that moment were people with faith in priesthood blessings. The feeling of what I should do and say was so strong within me that I knew Tisina would recover completely after the blessing. Thus, I anointed her head and blessed her in the name of Jesus Christ to be well and normal. I blessed her head and all her wounds to heal perfectly, thanking God for his goodness to me in allowing me to hold his priesthood and bring life back to my daughter. I asked him to open the doors of Paradise, so I could tell her to come back and receive her body again and live. The Lord then spoke to my heart and said, ‘She will return to you tomorrow. You will be reunited then.’ ” 23

The parents spent an anxious night beside the body of the little girl, who appeared to be lifeless. Then, suddenly, the little girl awoke, alive and well. Her father’s account concludes: “I grabbed her and examined her, her head and face. They were perfectly normal. All her wounds were healed; and from that day to this, she has experienced no complications from the accident. Her life was the miraculous gift from Heavenly Father during our missionary labors in Fo’ui.”

Another miracle related by Dallin Oaks in the same talk.

I had an experience with the gift of tongues in the newly opened country of Bulgaria. In November 1990 we sent missionaries into Bulgaria. A handful of elders entered from Serbia, without any contacts or training in the Bulgarian language. Through their labors and the blessings of the Lord, we soon had 45 Bulgarian members.

In April 1991 I went to Bulgaria with Area President Hans B. Ringger and mission president Dennis B. Neuenschwander. There, most of our members and about 150 investigators assembled in an attractive civic building in Sofia for a fireside at which I was to speak. My interpreter was Mirella Lazarov, a newly baptized member in her 20s. The audience included many professional people and some government officials. I had prayed fervently for guidance in this talk but had little time for preparation.

I began by telling the audience about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how we differed from other Christian churches. I then felt impressed to speak about the Apostasy, which I did in some detail. In doing so, I completely forgot that I was speaking through an interpreter who had been a member only five months and had almost no background in the subject of the Apostasy. Forgetful of this, I made no attempt to speak in simple terms but made extensive use of the unfamiliar English words involved in a detailed explanation of the Apostasy and the Restoration.

After the crowd had departed, Sister Lazarov tearfully told me of her unique experience in translating my talk. Despite her fluency in English, she sometimes heard me speak words or express thoughts she did not understand in English. She said that whenever this happened, “another voice” spoke through her so she found herself using words or explaining concepts in Bulgarian that she did not understand in English. I told her to cherish this experience and testify of it to others..."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First Miracles

I created this blog to explain why I believe what I do. The title was inspired by something that Dave Barry said. He said that most people find other people's religious views boring, and that people who want to share their beliefs are usually not interested in hearing about yours. So the title of the blog gives you fair warning that you probably don't care what I think and that you would be far better off just going back to youtube or whatever you were doing.

Of course, I don't believe that, really. I mean, why would I be blogging if I didn't think I could say something interesting or valuable?

Here is the first miracle that happened in my life that I can remember. (Actually I can remember an earlier one, but I'm keeping it private.)

This one is about the bedside, pixar-type, lamp. It was a sunday morning when I was less than 12 years old. I don't remember exactly how old I was, but the details of what happened that day are fresh in my mind.

I was getting ready for church very slowly. My mother got mad at me a few times for not getting ready. I was just being very lazy. But when my mom got at me the last time, I started to cry and I said, "Mom, I am just not supposed to go to church today." I don't have any idea what I was thinking. It was just an overwhelming feeling and I didn't think I had any choice. I just wasn't supposed to go to church that day.

Well my mom, being sensitive and kind, let me stay home, but I had to read a church magazine and come to the second half of church. (the church was within walking distance). I promised I would.

After the family left and I was alone, I read the church magazine on my bed. As I usually did when I slept on my bed, I let my arm drop to the side. When I did I felt something bite me! I brought my hand up quickly and looked at my hand. There was no mark. Then I realized that it wasn't really a bite. I couldn't tell what it was.

Then I decided (and this shows the thinking patterns of young males) to put my hand down again and see if I got "bit" again. My hand brushed against a bedside lamp that had fallen face down on the carpet. It was burning hot. Nowadays they put holes in the back of the lamp so that you can tell if it is on. This one didn't have that.

I used a book and knocked it over. Under the lamp was a smoldering black hole in the carpet. I turned off the light and decided it was time to go to church. I was certain (and I'm still fairly convinced) that the house would have caught fire if I didn't turn off the lamp.

It only occurred to me later that maybe it was God telling me to stay home. I eventually felt pretty proud of my experience and felt that I was kind of special. Maybe people will say that it was a coincidence or that there is some other explanation. Maybe there is, but this all took place in the context of my being a member of the LDS faith and believing it completely.