Thursday, September 10, 2020

LDS Simulation Theory

In the following video, Neal deGrasse-Tyson discusses the probability that we are living in a simulation. He ends up calling it a 50/50 chance (if the video fails to load, you can watch it here):

I would like to point out some similarities between the simulation idea and the LDS concept of "mortal probation."

First, both ideas accept the plausibility of beings existing which are far more advanced than ourselves.

Second, both ideas posit that these advanced beings created a controlled set of circumstances which they could monitor, observe and adjust as they desire (through a veil or advanced technology, respectively). 

Third, in both cases conscious beings are placed into the controlled circumstances and allowed to act out lives.

Fourth, in both cases the advanced beings intentionally limit the amount of knowledge available to the conscious beings who are acting out lives under the controlled circumstances. They are intended to act with limited knowledge.


Now, some questions arise, here.

First, there are ethical questions. The simulation idea faces the ethical problem of creating conscious beings and then making them suffer. The mortal probation idea, however, does not face this problem because it says the conscious beings chose and prepared to enter the controlled circumstances, in advance, in order to gain understanding prerequisite to special rights and privileges, such as the ability to form special family bonds in eternity and the right to serve others as a parental leader within those family connections.

Second, the question arises as to why our knowledge is limited. The mortal probation paradigm answers this naturally, because the "veil," which keeps our knowledge limited, does not block our relationship with God, even though we don't remember the details of it. What this means is that we can and do communicate with God, whether we know it or not. God entices us to make certain choices, while other factors entice us to make different choices, and we decide what we will do. Our knowledge therefore is limited in order to allow for this special process. In the First Estate, we chose based on greater knowledge. In this probationary period, we exist in a world of confusion and ignorance and we still feel God and we choose based on a direct relationship with God, without our memories of God, and that is called faith.

Third, there's the question of consciousness. The simulation theory assumes consciousness can be produced with software. This assumption is based on the idea that a neural network can be emulated with different substrates. However, this relies on the assumption that neural networks can actually create consciousness in the first place, which is problematic because consciousness is categorically different from anything in the empirical model of existence.  It is a mistake to think we have deduced that the brain creates consciousness. For instance, it is true that someone can be "knocked unconscious" from the perspective of brain activity, but this does not mean the person is actually not conscious during that period. Instead, it only means the person does not remember later being conscious during that period. This fits perfectly with the concept of a veil of forgetfulness. In this context, brain patterns can be seen as perhaps a language through which the mortal body communicates with the spirit body. 

In its proper context, consciousness is inductive evidence that the empirical model of existence is as a metaphorical bubble. Consciousness is akin to a ray of light shining into that bubble, indicating to us that things exist outside the bubble. 

Fourth, both simulation theory and the idea of a mortal probation require and implicate the idea of Intelligent Design. To read my post on Intelligent Design, click here

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Did Oliver Cowdery Really Claim There Was A "Book of Joseph?"

My theory, as explained in my response to Dan Vogel, is based on a careful reading of witness statements. In the Fourth Meditation, I go through each of the primary witness statements and discuss their implications. It appears Joseph of Egypt wrote a record containing some of Abraham's writings, and from this Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. The account from Joseph Smith III is particularly interesting, because he recounts what happened specifically to the papyrus containing the writings of Abraham, as opposed to the papyri collection as a whole. Significantly, he implies that when Joseph Smith found the papyrus it was in a roll containing another papyrus (it was bound together with the Book of Breathings?) and he also states clearly that it was sold by William Smith (as noted in my response to Vogel, the bill of sale for the papyri collection does not include the papyrus containing Abraham's writings).

For purposes of this post, I'm focusing on Oliver Cowdery's statements.


According to Vogel, "Cowdery gave a detailed description of the record of Joseph that leaves no doubt that he was referring to Ta Sherit Min's Book of the Dead ... Joseph Smith therefore identified Ta Sherit Min's scroll with the record of ancient Joseph, just as he had identified Hor's scroll with the Book of Abraham."

Oliver Cowdery's letter, printed in the Messenger and Advocate (December 31, 1835), was actually two letters to a man named William Frye, which an editor took excerpts from and pieced together to publish as one letter.

These letters are not actually in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. They were copied by other people (James M. Carrel and possibly an additional person) and stored in at least one letterbook.  One page that I know of from one of the letters is currently available. I suspect the Joseph Smith Papers Project will acquire and publish the other parts of the letters.

The two most important words, "Joseph's Record," appear in parentheses in the Messenger and Advocate article. As a simple matter of fact, we might never be able to track down who wrote this. I'm not basing my argument on that, but it is a matter of fact. The words may have been in the original letter, which we no longer have. Or, they may have been added by the person who copied Oliver's letter. Or, as far as I currently know, they may have been added by the editor of the Messenger and Advocate.

Let us first consider what it would mean if Cowdery himself inserted this, and then address some complexities. People have assumed Cowdery was referring to Joseph of Egypt. However, as I will argue, the context would indicate he was referring to Joseph Smith.

Being in parentheses, the words "Joseph's Record" are clearly intended to be a clarification. If we can identify a reason why Cowdery would think it necessary to add a clarification in this exact spot, it may help us paint a more accurate picture.

What, then, is the most likely explanation for why Cowdery would find it necessary to insert a clarification in this exact spot? Was there something in the text which made it necessary?

Cowdery had just told us that Enoch wrote a record. And Cowdery had been giving us details about it, saying it was a history and that Enoch placed this history into pillars, and Cowdery told us they were still around in Josephus's day.

My explanation, based on the text: when he tells us they were around in Josephus's day, Cowdery says, "his," then inserts in parentheses, "Josephus," clarifying that he was talking about Josephus as opposed to Enoch. Then he says, "the inner end of the same roll" and realizes the reader might think he is still referring to Enoch's record, because he uses the phrase "the same," which is significant because the last record he had mentioned had been Enoch's (and, presumably, Enoch had written on rolls). Cowdery, a teacher aware of proper grammar, thus sees a need to let the reader know that he is no longer talking about Enoch's record but is again talking about Joseph Smith's roll which he had been describing before he entered a tangent on Enoch's record.

In other words, within the space of ten words he felt a need to clarify not only that he was not talking about Enoch, but also a need to clarify that he was not talking about Enoch's record.

So, in both parentheses, he clarifies that he is not talking about Enoch, and in those parentheses clarifies that he is instead talking about Josephus and Joseph Smith, respectively. Specifically, in the case of Joseph Smith, that he is again talking about one of Joseph's Egyptian records, i.e. "the same" one he had been describing just prior to talking about Enoch's record, which is why he wrote, "the same," before realizing that the last record he had mentioned was Enoch's.

Since Cowdery's reader, William Frye, would have already understood that what Cowdery had been describing was one of Joseph Smith's Egyptian records, it makes sense for Cowdery to refer back to Joseph Smith. It would make much less sense for Cowdery to refer "back" to Joseph of Egypt in Cowdery's contrast with Enoch, because Cowdery had not claimed that the drawings he had been discussing were on Joseph of Egypt's record, so there is nothing to refer "back" to. Instead, Cowdery couched his descriptions in the context of characters which Michael Chandler had asked Joseph to translate. That is the roll from Joseph Smith's collection which he had been discussing.

Cowdery begins his analysis of that record, the record Chandler had asked Joseph to translate a small part of, stating: "the language in which this record is written is very comprehensive, and many of the hieroglyphics exceedingly striking..."

It is likely that Joseph's "translation" for Chandler was just his initial impressions of the vignettes, identifying a serpent and so forth, which is the only way to account for Chandler's claim, if truthful, that Joseph's interpretation matched the interpretations of other people he had talked to.

Chandler, having something to sell, and not likely believing Joseph could actually translate, may have set it up as a softball for Joseph Smith, to avoid putting him on the spot, while using it as an opportunity to generate enthusiasm. If this had been Chandler's plan, I imagine he would have followed through regardless of what Joseph said about them. The consideration here is that Oliver segues the Chandler episode into describing those vignettes.

Further complicating the issue at hand is the fact that Oliver's two letters to Frye were in reply to a letter from Frye to a woman named Elisha Groves, in which Frye apparently asked numerous questions. Cowdery was replying in her behalf. So, Oliver's statements in the letters do not stand on their own but are in response to a series of questions. However, we no longer have Frye's letter and we do not know what specifically he asked or how his phraseology may have affected Cowdery's wording.

Therefore, Cowdery's letters are, by definition, out of context.

The Messenger and Advocate printed Oliver's letters but Oliver did not write them as letters to the newspaper. Since Oliver's statements in those letters were answers to questions on content raised in Frye's letter, and since the editor would not have been aware of that content, this could lead to misunderstanding. For instance, Frye may have asked about the contents of Joseph Smith's record which he translated for Chandler, which would explain why Oliver in response may have mentioned Joseph by his first name only, which Frye would understand in the context of his question, but which may cause someone else, looking at only one side, to misunderstand the reference. Another observation worth noting is that the words "Joseph's" and "Josephus'" sound and look almost identical, and here we have both words appearing in parentheses in a short sequence of words. The presence of "Josephus" without a last name may have made the word "Joseph's" flow naturally without a last name as well, in addition to the aforementioned fact that Cowdery was likely replying in a context Frye had already established regarding Joseph Smith, and thus no need for a last name.

Also, Joseph of Egypt can be expected to be referred to with qualifying language such as "Joseph of Egypt," "the Patriarch Joseph," etc. unless it is already firmly established. And in this case, it was not established at all, let alone firmly established. While, in contrast, Joseph Smith was often referred to simply as "Joseph" by early Saints.

Now, regarding the copy of Cowdery's letter. First we should point out that some types of alterations were considered acceptable.

Consider the copy, in that letter, of Michael Chandler's certificate. Following convention, the word "signed" is placed in parentheses. There is nothing dishonest about this, however the word "signed" almost certainly did not appear in Chandler's actual certificate. It is added in an attempt to clarify for the reader, following accepted conventions.


This example does not create uncertainty, because it is a clear-cut use of the convention, and the person copying Chandler's certificate understood that Michael Chandler was not merely writing his name but was signing a document.

However, editors and copyists do not always understand intent so clearly, and liberties they take can misrepresent source material.

If one wants to say that Cowdery's use (or possibly the copyists's use) of the words "Joseph's record" is unrelated to the description of Enoch's record, one would need to provide a better explanation for why Cowdery would feel a need to interrupt the flow of his letter to insert those words.

If Oliver supposedly thought the Ta-sherit-Min roll was written by Joseph of Egypt, that doesn't comport with him indicating that it is obvious from the illustrations that the people who drew them had an understanding of the gospel - because, of course, Joseph of Egypt had an understanding of the gospel. That should go without saying, hardly a new revelation worth reporting on. And, Cowdery speaks of it being written by "persons," plural, which contradicts the notion that Joseph of Egypt personally wrote it.

Contra these problems, Oliver's only clear, explicit mention of Abraham and Joseph describes "the writings of Abraham and Joseph" as "this record," implying the text was on a single roll. Moreover, he started with a plural reference when referring to "the Egyptian records," but changed to referring to "this record," singular, right after he referenced "the writings of Abraham and Joseph." This indicates he understood there were multiple Egyptian records in the papyri, but one record containing "the writings of Abraham and Joseph":

Upon the subject of the Egyptian records, or rather the writings of Abraham and Joseph, I may say a few words. This record is beautifully written [Not "both writings are beautifully written"] on papyrus [Not "both on papyrus"] with black, and a small part, red ink or paint, [Not "both with black, and a small part, red ink] in perfect preservation. [Not "both in perfect preservation"] [Emphasis added]

It might seem strange for him to describe the writing as being in "perfect preservation," but this of course is relative to the various torn fragments Chandler provided, and may simply mean that the text inside the roll was still intact. This is similar to how the words "long roll" in Charlotte Haven's account are relative.

Very significantly, as shown above, Oliver then enforces the idea of the writings of Abraham and Joseph being on a single roll, by describing the writing of both patriarchs at the same time as beautifully written, with black and red ink, in perfect preservation. If he were indeed referring to two separate records, we would expect him to say "both are beautifully written," "both are written with black and red ink," "both are in perfect preservation," etc. So, he not only refers to them explicitly as a single record, but continues describing them as though they are a single record. It's true the Ta-sherit-Min roll is also written with red and black ink, but that was extremely common, and the point here is how Cowdery referenced the writings of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt as a single record and continued doing so.

I believe Joseph's investigation into Egyptian mythology, as evinced in his Egyptian Alphabet, was, in part, an attempt to explore the true gospel roots of Egyptian theology, going back to Ham. It is in this context that I understand Oliver feeling at liberty to also speculate into Egyptian theology regarding Eve, Enoch, etc. Oliver made no attempt to attribute his speculations to Joseph Smith.

For all we know, Frye may have even asked in what ways the papyri demonstrated an Egyptian understanding of the gospel.

Remember, Joseph translated a portion of the Egyptian funerary papyri. So, the reality is probably more complex than the black-and-white thinking that "Oliver said something, so Joseph must have thought exactly the same thing," In reality, during the tumultuous Kirtland era, Joseph apparently didn't even have a chance to finish translating the Book of Abraham. He had to set it aside and return to it years later. I think his limited time for interaction with the material, let alone educating others on the finer points, would have left plenty of room for people to speculate.

Things which on paper may seem to be obviously true do not always play out in real life. To make this relatable, I would like to use Dan's videos as an example.

Why We Can't Assume Joseph's Scribes Represent His Thinking 

Throughout most of the series, Dan refers to and portrays Brian Hauglid as an apologist. But before Dan even produced his videos, Hauglid had in fact undergone a transformation and no longer held to the views he had held as an apologist.

Of course, we would not, even on paper, expect Dan to automatically know this. The problem is that one of Dan's best friends, who Dan specifically acknowledges as one of two people who provided critique for his videos, was, in turn, specifically singled out by Hauglid as someone who could attest to his transformation.

Moreover, we could assume, on paper, that this friend of both men was watching the videos as they came out, in addition to providing critique beforehand.

Yet new videos kept coming out, repeatedly portraying Hauglid as an apologist.

Today, Dan has a note in the videos he posted up to that point, which reads:

"In a recent Facebook response, Brian Hauglid, one of the BYU 'apologists' featured in my Book of Abraham videos, clarified his current position and now wishes to disassociate himself from the views of John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein. As an endorsement of these videos and a service to Hauglid, I post a portion of his statement here:

“'For the record, I no longer hold the views that have been quoted from my 2010 book in these videos. ... In fact, I'm no longer interested or involved in apologetics in any way. I wholeheartedly agree with Dan’s excellent assessment of the Abraham/Egyptian documents in these videos. ... One can find that I've changed my mind in my recent and forthcoming publications. The most recent JSP Revelations and Translation vol. 4, The Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts (now on the shelves) is much more open to Dan’s thinking on the origin of the Book of Abraham.'” (Brian Hauglid, Facebook, 8 Nov. 2018)"

I can understand why Dan would publicize the change. In fact, when Hauglid made Dan aware on the public facebook comment, Dan responded by saying, "While I appreciate and empathize and welcome your clarification, I sincerely hope it doesn't cause you too much personal grief. I have taken the liberty to post a portion of your statement in the written description of each video. Best wishes." To which Hauglid responded, "Many thanks Dan." The mutual friend commented, saying in part, "I do regret that those viewing my friend Dan's videos may assume that you maintain the same intellectual posture as in a few of your previous publications. I can affirm that you don't." This mutual friend, who had been singled out by both of them, also posted a comment linking to a podcast in which Hauglid had discussed his transformation several years earlier.

The point is that, on paper, a person who is singled out as uniquely able to attest to something may be expected to set others straight on it, especially if they are also singled out as having critiqued the very thing which stands in need of the exact correction they are uniquely able to offer.

But in real life, things don't always go as we would expect on paper.

I'm comparing Brent Metcalfe to Joseph Smith, so please do not get the impression that I am in any way putting Metcalfe down. In fact, the point I'm making relies on the reality that Metcalfe is highly intelligent and detail-oriented. If he were supposed to be someone who was fumbling around, my point wouldn't stand.

If something like that can happen to Metcalfe, then what about a farmer-turned-Prophet on the American frontier who had ancient papyri thrown into his lap at a time when persecutions were raging, major projects were underway, and everyone he knew had questions and wanted answers about everything in life?

Even in Nauvoo, when those working on his history were reading it to him for approval, we can't assume he was hovering over every detail and ensuring every nuance of phraseology could not be misconstrued a century later. Instead, he was probably distracted by a dozen other thoughts, having sections summarized for him instead of read verbatim, requesting that the writers add color and simplify language for readability, etc.

We can't say, "Joseph would have corrected that."

And when it comes to the papyri, if Joseph had special understanding of the Egyptian theology, how was he supposed to convey that to others in a way they would understand? If his own understanding was line upon line, then all the more so for his fellow frontiersmen.

If, for instance, Joseph mentioned the Garden of Eden story contained on the Abraham roll, and Oliver asked about the snake on the Ta-sherit-Min roll, Joseph may have very well just told him he is free to interpret it how he'd like, rather than getting into details on Egyptian theology that he himself was in the process of discovering.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Multiple Versions Of CES Letter History

I almost put this post together a couple years ago, but I was torn. In interviews, Jeremy Runnells comes across as such a nice guy. And yet the very nature of this post calls into question his motives.

I ended up taking a long hiatus from apologetic blogging, mostly because of my struggles with mental health - anxiety and depression.

I've recently returned, and to me it is apparent that Jeremy's influence has expanded. I again asked myself whether I should put this information together.

At the end of the day, a few factors tipped the scales in favor of me putting together this post.

First, Jeremy has repeatedly stated that he believes people should have all the information "on the table," nothing hidden. So, it would seem strange if he were to complain about someone bringing relevant information to light. He says he wants his readers to be aware of all facts.

For example, Jeremy has said: "Few things infuriate me more on this planet than censorship and the obstruction of free flow of information. To censor and to obstruct is to limit and to steal the freedom and free agency of everyone."

Second, Jeremy's narrative manipulates good people and toys with their sacred beliefs. Narrative matters. If a man portrays himself as an objective juror who desperately wants to find a reason to acquit the defendant - but is actually working for the prosecution - the other jurors need to know that. It’s dishonest and underhanded and it taints what they say.

Third, Jeremy is clearly not trying to be honest with his readers. To this day he still claims, falsely, while knowing it is false, that "The first map" in his geography section is "constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon." He has known for a long time that this claim is false. It has been pointed out to him and demonstrated to him. But his geography argument completely falls apart if his readers know the truth about that statement, so he leaves the false claim in. Then, he turns around and claims that he just wants his readers to know the facts.

In 2015, I took him at his word that he was looking for answers, and I attempted to provide some. In response, he sent me a short message filled with insults and he did not even attempt to address the answers I had tried to help him with. I still chose to give him the benefit of the doubt for a while, but I eventually had to admit to myself that he is not acting in good faith. I did not want to believe that someone so soft-spoken could be the same person that sent me that rude message in response to the work I had gone to in attempting to help him find the answers that I thought he struggled hard to find.

I had honestly believed that the worst case scenario would be him thanking me for the work I had gone to in trying to help but that he didn't find my answers persuasive. Instead, he seemed to resent my attempt at helping.

So, I went ahead and made this post. Of course, the dishonesty of his narrative does not mean that his arguments against the Church are either valid or invalid. This particular post is not attempting to address his list of questions. Before accusing me of the ad hominem fallacy, readers need to understand that Jeremy makes different types of claims. Some are in the context of his narrative, some are miscellaneous commentary, and some are premises for his list of questions. In this blog post, I focus on one of those categories of his claims, and I judge them. This is very different from going out and trying to "dig up dirt." I am addressing a category of statements he has made about himself and his motives. This is only personal because the claims of his which I address are themselves personal.

Defining this post as ad hom would be comparable to a hypothetical situation where an LDS Egyptologist pretends they are not LDS, and you call attention to the fact they are lying about not being LDS, then people accuse you of ad hom and accuse you of trying to avoid the arguments of the Egyptologist. Many critics have in fact said that it does matter whether or not an Egyptologist is LDS. Are they guilty of ad hom?

Honest critics will appreciate the facts I present in this post. But I realize that those who are dishonest will be angry. I'm not thrilled about knowing that some people will be angry at me, but it will be easy to sort out the honest critics from the dishonest ones, based on who blames Jeremy and who blames the messenger. Any anger Jeremy experiences will be due to the fact that everything I say here is true. I'm citing his own words. I hope this realization will lead him to humility and to a more honest course.

If Jeremy responds to this post, his silence on any of these points should be taken as agreement, according to his standard which he established with FairMormon.

Why am I calling Jeremy out by name? Because when people have responded to him without using his name, he says they are "too terrified to name" him. So, to avoid that attack, I use his name at his own request.

I realize Jeremy will try to claim that my research into the history of his letter makes me a "stalker." He has accused others of stalking him when all they did was research some of the real history of his letter. However, Jeremy uses his narrative of the history of his letter as a public selling point and as a way of framing his arguments, and that makes the history of the letter necessary for research. When Jeremy characterizes this as stalking, it will only put his dishonest method of operation on display.

For all his talk of honesty, he has no right to complain about people learning the truth. In his first meeting with his Stake President, Jeremy said, "if I was actually spreading lies and misinformation about the Church, absolutely that's a real problem. That's a problem. And I deserve to be excommunicated." Well, I already mentioned a flat-out lie that to this day he refuses to correct: "constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon." So, by his own standard, his excommunication was warranted.

There are many other deceptions in the CES Letter, but I use that example because it can be shown to be false in a way that Jeremy can't hide.

Jeremy even had the audacity to tell his Stake President that he has always been 100% honest, while at that very moment he was secretly recording his Stake President, only moments after signing an agreement promising to not record their discussion.

Who makes a promise and then claims to be completely honest while breaking that promise in the same instant?

To understand his deliberate methods, consider this. Jeremy's Stake President had expressed concern about the presence of an ASL interpreter during Jeremy's disciplinary court, due to the confidential nature of their meeting. The Stake President offered to communicate with Jeremy through writing. In a March 7, 2016 letter to his Stake President, Jeremy stated: "As my interpreter is a professional interpreter, he is bound by confidentiality so I have zero concerns." In reality, Jeremy had no intention of keeping their meeting confidential. He had recorded every single meeting they had over the years, and he went on to record that one as well (even after signing an agreement in which Jeremy promised to not electronically record the meeting). What is telling is that Jeremy pretended that he was on the same page as his Stake President, saying that his interpreter is bound by confidentiality so therefore Jeremy had "zero concerns." Note the calculated methodology behind Jeremy's deception. His entire CES Letter follows this sort of deceptive tactic.

Jeremy's Different Versions of CES Letter History

"Truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by testing or investigation."
 - Jeremy Runnells

[Although I don't want to link to the exmormon reddit, you can find the posts in question here]

On September 17, 2013, a Reddit user publicly opined that the CES Letter should begin with discussing Joseph Smith instead of starting with the Book of Mormon.

In response, Jeremy revealed the reason why he put the Book of Mormon issues first, saying: "Joseph Smith this and Joseph Smith that can easily be dismissed in the TBM mind as 'anti-Mormon lies'. I felt starting out with Joseph Smith being a fraud/womanizer/pedophile/whatever would doom my letter from the start ... Why are there 1769 KJV errors in the Book of Mormon? Why are there 17th century italics in there? Why are there KJV text in there that Joseph later fixed in his inspired version? All of the above cannot easily be dismissed as 'anti-Mormon lies'. They can pull out the scriptures to compare the italics. They can compare to the inspired version and see the problems for themselves. If I'm going to have someone read 77 pages? They're going to get hooked immediately. This was my 'hook'. I go into the Joseph Smith stuff later but the foundation has to be laid and what better foundation than the very 'keystone of our religion'?"

Keep in mind that when Jeremy made the choice which he's referring to (to start his letter off with Book of Mormon issues), he had not yet even shared his letter. So, according to Jeremy, the reason he wanted to start his letter with Book of Mormon issues was so he could "hook" the reader, and he felt "starting out with Joseph Smith" would "doom" his letter "from the start" because people can dismiss those arguments as "anti-Mormon lies" unless a "foundation" is laid first.

Okay. Now let's look at what Jeremy tells visitors to his website:

"The reason why the letter is a list of questions and problems is because it was a letter - which the CES Director requested - with questions and concerns for the CES Director to answer. It was not written to overwhelm anyone or to destroy anyone's testimony. I was seeking official answers  from the Church to resolve my doubts and to hopefully restore my  testimony."

And, on the same page: "...I was doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true. The CES Letter is just a letter to a  CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was a document 'laying it all out' in hopes that the director could resolve my questions and concerns."

Okay. So, in this version, Jeremy was doing everything he could to restore his testimony. No mention of trying to hook the reader, and he says it was only written for the CES Director: "Nothing more. Nothing less."

So, are we to believe then that when Jeremy said he wanted them to be able to "see the problems for themselves" that he was referring to the CES Director in the plural, as "themselves?" Remember, he supposedly wrote it as "just a letter to a CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less."

He admits strategically organizing the letter with the intention to "hook" the readers, to pull them in and prevent them from dismissing his arguments. Yet, at the same time, he supposedly was not at all trying to "destroy anyone's testimony," but was actually "doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true."

Of course, there's ordinarily nothing wrong with a writer trying to "hook" the reader. The point here however is that it would be strange for Jeremy to think he was at risk of scaring off the CES Director. Yet, before he even sent the letter to the director, Jeremy had already tried to organize it in a way that would get the reader to read it. So, when he said starting out with other issues would "doom" his letter "from the start," - the question is, what does that mean? Is he saying it would cause the CES Director to set the letter down and not read it?

Jeremy later would explain that he targets the vulnerable. On November 2, 2015: "The target audience are the fence sitters." This was more than 5 months before he was excommunicated, and after this he still maintained to his Stake President that he was only ever looking for answers and stated that he never wanted to hurt anyone's testimony.

In a letter to his Stake President, dated March 7, 2016, Jeremy stood by his statement from a 2014 letter he had written: "The intention of the website should not in any way be construed to exist for the purpose of hurting the Church or its members. This is not and never has been my intention."

Another version. Jeremy said on April 23, 2013: "I didn't write this for the CES guy. I'm not under any illusion that I'm going to change his mind. It's not going to happen. I wrote this for my kids who one day are going to ask their dad why he left the faith."

His fraud is in plain sight. He frames it in terms of whether or not he would be able to change the CES Director's mind. Which is a far cry from what he tells people on his website: "I was doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true. The CES Letter is just a letter to a  CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less." And yet, at the same time he sent off the letter - April 2013 - he told Reddit that he didn't write it for "the CES guy."

Whatever happened to it being "just a letter to a CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less?"

On February 5, 2015, Jeremy stated that he emailed it to the CES Director in "late April 2013" - yet on April 23, 2013, he said he didn't write it for the "CES guy," and is not "under any illusion" about changing the director's mind.

On March 26, 2013, the very same day Jeremy first shared his letter on Reddit, Jeremy posted in the comments: "I will also be including a Word copy so that you and anyone can make the document your own. I stand on the shoulders of giants and all I've done was compiled many of their work and put it in my own style and narrative."

He tells the general public, however: "Unbeknownst to me at the time, a lot of people liked it and started sharing it with family and friends."

In a letter to his Stake President, dated March 7, 2016, Jeremy maintains: "the CES Letter went viral online because of other people who also share the same questions and concerns I do, independent of my involvement."

Independent of Jeremy's involvement? He's the one who was encouraging people to "make it their own" on the very first day he shared it on Reddit.

Jeremy repeatedly claims that all his work on his website is from a "defense posture." But on May 16, 2014, he said on Reddit: "My biggest desire right now is to get translation in Spanish as Spanish is the second biggest language in the Church, I believe."

Are we to believe people were attacking him in Spanish and he felt a need to defend himself in Spanish?

Compare this with what he told his Stake President. In his March 7, 2016 letter, Jeremy stated: "The only reason why I’m offering translations is because volunteers have given me translations of the CES Letter in their own languages."

Notice the deception. The "only" reason is that people just gave them to him, as though he never asked for translations, never sought translators and never organized the process. All the while, Jeremy swears up and down that he is 100% honest, transparent and forthcoming.

Which brings me to a chilling statement. On December 8, 2017, Jeremy advised a teenager on Reddit who had lost his testimony and wanted to share the CES Letter with his parents (who had asked him why he stopped believing). The teen's post said: "Sort of a bit of explanation: I'm currently living with my parents (almost out of high school), and they are both extremely TBM. They know that I'm out of TSCC, and they've expressed interest in finding out why I stopped believing. I feel like laying it out with words would be much to difficult and would result almost immediately in an argument that would go nowhere.... So fellow Exmo's, would buying my parents a copy of the CES Letter be a good idea? Is there something else I should do instead/along with? ... Also, yes I have read the CES Letter, and it's one of the resources that led my shelf to shatter."

Jeremy first mentions that he ordinarily would not advise it, but since the parents asked, then that created an opportunity. Then Jeremy said: "The key here is to not be the direct bearer of bad news. Do not be the guy telling them about polyandry this, Book of Abraham that, Kinderhook Plates this. Let the Church and me be that guy. I'd introduce them to the Church essays first.... Once that door is opened, feel free to share CES Letter with them. The power with doing this is that it protects you from being the 'anti-Mormon out fighting the church'. You just point to me and my questions and ask them to help you resolve them because you can't get those questions out of your mind."

Did you catch that? Jeremy advised this young man, who clearly indicated he had lost his testimony, to pretend that he wanted his parents to help him resolve the issues, playing on their parental instincts to help him because he "can't get those questions out of his mind" - all in order to manipulate his parents into getting sucked down the rabbit hole.

That sounds eerily like the story Jeremy uses to draw people in - complete with "I just need help resolving these concerns" under the guise of wanting to "restore his testimony." This hits me personally, because, as I mentioned earlier, I fell for the ruse and tried to help Jeremy find answers, only to have him message me with insults.

Remember what Jeremy says on his website: "I was doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true. The CES Letter is just a letter to a  CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was a document 'laying it all out' in hopes that the director could resolve my questions and concerns."

Now compare that with what he told the young man: "ask them to help you resolve them because you can't get those questions out of your mind."

Just shameless.

The examples in this post are by no means exhaustive. But I lost the most respect for Jeremy when I read the following.

Regarding the Temple, here's what he tells the general public:  "In my last Temple attendance in the Salt Lake Temple during my faith crisis/transition, I stood on the stairs in the Celestial room in tears as I looked around the near empty room (having been the last person in the session still standing) because I knew that it was going to be the last time I would ever be in a Temple again. It was like saying goodbye to a friend on his deathbed."

And here's what he said to his friends on Reddit on March 25, 2014: "I'd imagine that it just takes 10 minutes of watching the Temple video for an investigator to go into WTF mode and realize they were getting themselves into something deeper and creepier than what the missionaries are presenting to them."

Jeremy tells website visitors that the Temple is like an old friend he had a hard time saying goodbye to. He doesn't tell them that he approves of hidden cameras being used by blatantly dishonest people who lie their way into the Temple in order to create footage for propaganda purposes. And he doesnt' tell them that he views the Holy Temple as something "creepy."



Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Apologetics, Pizza and Philosophy

     I was twelve years old. Our Deacon’s Quorum adviser told us there was enough pizza for each of us to have four slices, including the boy who would be arriving late.
     Being overweight and not wanting to be accused of eating more than my share, I took only three pieces. My strategy was to very slowly pick at the pieces of pizza as we watched the video. And that’s what I did.
     When the late boy arrived, there was no pizza left. He was not too happy about that. Then one of the boys, with great indignation, said that he had seen me take 9 pieces of pizza – a whopping 9 pieces! He had been watching me, he said, and counting how much pizza I took.
     I knew I had only taken three pieces, but the evidence was stacked against me: I was known for eating a lot of food, the pizza was in fact gone, or missing, and to top it off there was an eyewitness who claimed to have seen me take it.
     I denied the charge, but to no avail. I wanted to get to the bottom of it, but before I could, the Quorum adviser chimed in and told us that we were not to say another word about it. Perhaps he thought he was doing me a favor. Perhaps he thought I had taken the pizza and he was sparing me embarrassment. But quite the opposite was true – I wanted justice, and I wasn’t getting it. The prosecution had its day and I was not allowed to cross-examine. I wasn’t allowed to clear my name.
     And thus the evidence of what really happened was hidden away.
     Now let’s say that in a hundred years from now someone decides to write a biography of my life. Somehow they dig up an old journal from one of the boys who had been at the pizza night with me, and the journal states as a fact that I took 9 pieces of pizza when I was only entitled to 4 pieces, that I had even been seen doing it and yet I turned around and lied about it.
     Now suppose the historical biographer factors that into a narrative of what I was like as a child. The biographer would perhaps be praised for conducting such exhaustive research into my early years, and he would probably be considered thorough and objective.
     But the historian would be wrong, and his narrative would be tainted.
     Rather than being the type of boy who would steal pizza and lie about it, I was a boy who took one slice less than he was entitled to and ate my pizza slowly over the course of two hours.
     The boy who accused me was not known to lie, and I’m not accusing him of lying, I’m accusing him of being wrong.
     But, you might ask, how could he be wrong about something so straight-forward as watching me take pizza out of a box and put it on my plate? Isn’t it just his word against mine?
     Well, let’s suppose I go to a magic show and afterwards I tell you that I saw a tiger turn into a house-cat. Are your only options to either believe me or to think I’m lying? Of course not. Most likely, what I actually saw is not what I thought I saw. I probably drew a false inference from what I saw, and I then claimed to have seen the thing which I had actually only inferred and not seen. For instance, I may have seen a tiger on stage and then seen the tiger momentarily covered up, then the cover was removed and I saw a housecat. I then inferred that the tiger turned into the housecat. Due to the imperfection of language, my statement that “I saw a tiger turn into a housecat” does not convey the factual substance of what I actually saw, but only conveys the conclusion I reached.
     Likewise, due to the imperfection of language, my accuser’s claim to have seen me take 9 pieces of pizza does not tell us what he actually saw. It tells us his conclusion rather than giving us factual evidence with which to reach our own conclusions.
     His inference hides evidence.
     This puts us in a position where if we are to believe his account we must not merely trust that he is honest but must also trust his judgment in place of our own.
     This hidden evidence prevents us from finding the truth.
     For instance, he may have seen me pull 3 pieces of pizza from the box and put them on my plate – something which I freely admit that I did. But then the lights went down and the video came on. He may have seen me stand up at some point and walk over to the table where the food and drinks were made available. I may have refilled my cup with soda then sat back down with the same 3 pieces of pizza on my plate, creating the illusion that I had taken a second helping of pizza. A while later, he may have glanced over at me and still seen 3 pieces - from which he inferred that I had gone back for thirds and a total of nine pieces.
     That’s a plausible explanation. I don’t know for certain that it transpired that way, but the burden of proof is on the accuser. That’s because he’s the one making a claim.
     Yes, I am also making a claim by saying that I had only 3 pieces, but neither side is disputing that I took those 3 pieces – the question is whether I took an additional six. The accuser says I did, and is therefore creating a burden of proof for himself.
     Yes, another thing I did was lay out for you a scenario whereby my accuser may have been tricked by an illusion and made a false assumption. But that scenario doesn’t need to be proven. The purpose of the scenario is to demonstrate that we don’t have enough data to decide whether or not his inference was valid. To serve its purpose, the scenario need only be plausible, which it is. But I don’t need to even present a scenario such as that in order for my point to be valid. The scenario only illustrates that evidence is hidden from our view, and this is denying us the ability to judge for ourselves.
     The larger issue here is that we need to differentiate between objective evidence and inferences drawn by others. We don’t have the luxury of cross-examining the witnesses of history or allowing the accused to speak in their own defense.
     Like a magician’s stage, the past has many secrets which are out of view. The best available data is not always enough to draw a conclusion, and can in fact be highly misleading. Our desire to know a detail of history is not sufficient cause for pretending that we do in fact know it. Sometimes the evidence is there, other times it is not.

As knowledge shines forth in the Last Days, the Lord lights my path of faith with His Spirit.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Explaining “Wherefore” And “Therefore”

     One anti-Mormon argument, upon investigation, turns into remarkable evidence of Joseph Smith's authenticity as translator. The anti-Mormon argument deals with the frequency with which the interchangeable words “wherefore” and “therefore” occur in the Book of Mormon.[1] The books of Ether, Moroni, 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni and Words of Mormon display a strong preference for the word “wherefore,” while the books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi and Mormon display a strong preference for the word “therefore.”

Here are the books, in the most likely order of translation:




Wherefore


Therefore
Mosiah

1
1%

123
99%
Alma

3
1%

291
99%
Helaman

0
0%

63
100%
3 Nephi

3
3%

97
97%
4 Nephi

0
0%

5
100%
Mormon

0
0%

22
100%
Ether

63
70%

24
30%
Moroni

38
100%

0
0%
1 Nephi

97
88%

13
12%
2 Nephi

137
83%

28
17%
Jacob

52
98%

1
2%
Enos

6
100%

0
0%
Jarom

3
100%

0
0%
Omni

6
100%

0
0%
Words of Mormon
4
100%

0
0%

     Critics cite this as evidence against Joseph’s claim to have translated the Book of Mormon, saying it shows evidence of multiple English authors.
     I can understand why it would look that way. I don’t expect to see sudden shifts in people’s use of words. It’s not as though Joseph suddenly discovered the word “wherefore” and decided to start using it.
     But let’s look deeper, for hidden evidence.
     The argument against Joseph implies that the shift in wording began at the very beginning of the Book of Ether. This creates the illusion that the shift corresponds with a new book starting, and not with the substance of anything being said in the text.
     In reality, the first few chapters of Ether show a preference for the word “therefore.” The shift doesn’t happen until after some very significant verses at the end of chapter 4 and through chapter 5.
     To understand the significance of these verses, let’s back up for a moment and treat Joseph’s story of the plates as objectively true. The reason for doing this is to help us ascertain the implications of his story if it is indeed true.
    Joseph says he was introduced to the Book of Mormon by Moroni, who had lived on the earth hundreds of years ago. It was Moroni who instructed Joseph in the specifics regarding the work he was to perform. Before Joseph ever began translation of the plates, he went through a process of preparation which we don’t know much about. Moroni was Joseph’s friend and mentor.
     Now imagine when Joseph was translating and reached Mormon chapter 8 and finally began the part written by his mentor. If I was in Joseph’s shoes, I would have thought that was pretty neat. But it gets even more significant, because Moroni was writing directly to us in our day. He wasn’t keeping a record to be handed down, he was writing something to be hid away and saved for us.
     Now consider Ether 4:17-18, which is a message from God being quoted by Moroni from memory. These verses state that because we have received the record we may know the work of the Lord has commenced in our day and we are thus commanded to repent and be baptized. Unlike the previous times when baptism was mentioned in the Book of Mormon, this is not merely a record of other people in a past age being commanded to be baptized, but is a commandment being issued directly to us in our day.
     If there was any doubt in Joseph’s mind that this commandment was being issued to him, that doubt should have been wiped away by the time he finished the next few verses. In them, Moroni speaks directly to Joseph himself about what he can translate and who he can show the plates to.
     Prior to the commandment to be baptized, Ether contains 13 instances of the word “therefore” and 7 instances of the word “wherefore.” After the commandment, Ether contains only 11 instances of “therefore” but has 54 instances of “wherefore.”
     Now consider the words of Joseph’s mother:

     One morning … they sat down to their usual work when the first thing that presented itself to Joseph was a commandment from God that he and Oliver should repair to the water and each of them be baptized.

(From The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Chapter 27)

     The only verse in the Book of Mormon which directly fits this description is Ether 4:18, and that fits the timeline of where Joseph would have been in translation at the time of his baptism.[2]
     Now consider the impact Joseph says his baptism had on him:

     Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings … Our minds now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.

(From Joseph Smith History, 1:73-74)

     Joseph explains his eyes were opened. He had a new reverence and understanding.
     This is key: before Moroni commanded Joseph to be baptized, in Ether, each time Joseph used the word “wherefore,” sacred subject matter was being addressed in the Book of Mormon. In particular, God speaking to man. But after that commandment to be baptized, Joseph expands the use of “wherefore” dramatically, as if he now realizes that it is unnecessary.This matches the claim that he saw the scriptures in a totally new light after being baptized. 
     Thus we see that the shift from “therefore” to “wherefore” is not at all problematic for the Book of Mormon, and actually lends powerful credibility to Joseph’s story. Especially since the evidence was hidden and obviously not intended as subterfuge.




[1]    The distribution of the words is a scholarly appraisal originally made by Brent Metcalfe, which is not anti-Mormon, of course. There are two instances in the Book of Mormon where “wherefore” is used to pose a question. Other than those instances, the words are interchangeable in meaning.
[2]    Elden Watson constructed a thorough timeline, in which he readily admits he wanted Joseph’s baptism to correspond with a verse in 3 Nephi after Christ visited America – thus Watson adjusted the estimated number of pages translated per day in order to make that fit. Removing Watsons’ adjustment places Joseph in Ether. Watson's timeline is available on the internet at eldenwatson.net/BoM.htm