Ten Thoughts After Debating Hundreds of Anti-Mormons

A little over four years ago, I posted this video about Book of Mormon evidence online. In the last year or so, it has really taken off, and now has over 77,000 views, with over 1300 comments. Many of those comments are from me–I read and respond to almost everything. Here are some things I’ve noticed from engaging those comments:

  • Many people who comment clearly have not watched any of the video at all. They’re posting pre-conditioned talking points on the subject. Most of those people, even when explicitly invited to do so, still do not watch the video. Even when I reply to a comment with just a single, simple question, most people will never return to comment again.
  • Even when I make it clear that my only criteria for posting is that people refrain from rudeness and that they address my questions, many people still won’t. If they repeatedly abuse my hospitality and I block them, others will complain about censorship. To be fair, though, on the other hand, I’ve also had to block several Mormons who won’t stop insulting critics or “spiking the ball” about how the critics are failing to make their points, even after I insist that they be nicer. It’s weird and frustrating.
  • The saddest exchange I’ve had is with a young woman who didn’t care if the evidence was true or not. She had decided to openly rebel against God, whether He’s real or not, because religion doesn’t line up with her political preferences. I didn’t know how to respond to that–it really was shocking. I think this may well be representative of a lot of people these days. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking.
  • Dozens of people have complimented the video overall, but have scolded me for not embracing the Heartland model of Book of Mormon geography. Every time, I tell them that I don’t really care about it, but I post a link to a summary of arguments on the topic and invite them to respond. Not one ever has.
  • Dozens of others have explained the evidence for the Book of Mormon by claiming that Satan inspired it. Nothing else productive ever happens after that.
  • Some of my favorite comments are ones posted from other countries and even in other languages. I’ve used Google Translate to reply to such comments more than once, and it’s a wonderful experience.
  • This hobby has taught me that there are sections of the world where the cruelest, most superficial stereotypes about Mormons and our beliefs are alive and well. There is still a lot of work to do.
  • Many people have written claiming to be innocent investigators who have honest questions. Such people are almost always undercover critics, and they reveal their hostility before long. It’s apparently a standard anti-Mormon trick.
  • Often a commenter will be shown definitively that a claim they’ve made is wrong–not as a matter of belief, but merely as basic factual inaccuracy–and then they’ll repeat the claim again later on in another comment. That makes me feel like I’m wasting my time.
  • But many others have said that they were impressed to study the book because of the video, and that’s immensely satisfying. Dozens have said that it has strengthened their faith. That makes it all worth it! :)

Top 10 Book of Mormon Evidences

I think this is one of the best Book of Mormon videos on YouTube–certainly, it gives the most information in the shortest time, and with great visual aids.  Yes, this is a greatly improved version of a video I did in June.  Please enjoy and share!

Testifying of Testimonies

The book of Mosiah starts with a testimony of three important things, and a wonderful observation about the nature of faith.

In Mosiah 1:3-5, King Benjamin refers to his family’s copy of the Hebrew scriptures, and he teaches his children about how crucial the scriptures are in preserving spiritual culture.  In the next verse, he says:

O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true,

and also that these records are true.

And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true;

and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.  (Mosiah 1:6)

Here, Benjamin testifies of the truth of three things: his own teachings to his children, the ancient scriptures, and the collected teachings of recent prophets.

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Defending Internal Book of Mormon Evidence: The Lesson of Proto-Indo-European

Critics of the Book of Mormon often deride it for its apparent lack of archaeological corroboration.  Indeed, most of the evidence that bears on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is “internal,” meaning evidence derived from the text of the book itself.  Those given to rejecting an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon often denigrate the value of internal evidence, perhaps considering anything not in the purview of Indiana Jones to not be “real” evidence.  For some, it seems, physical remains are all that counts.

As someone whose interests are primarily linguistic, and as someone who loves and believes in the Book of Mormon, I find this intellectually and spiritually disingenuous.  Frankly, ignoring the importance of linguistic evidence in a study is unscientific. 

Consider the study of the Indo-European language family, and its prehistoric origins among groups of people who spoke a language that we call Proto-Indo-European. 

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Book of Mormon Birthers

“Show me the brass plates!” sounds an awful lot to me like “Show me the birth certificate!”  In each case, whether it’s someone looking for hard evidence of where the Book of Mormon or the president comes from, there’s the tacit implication that they would be convinced of authenticity by the presentation of such an artifact.

But it doesn’t work.  When President Obama released his birth certificate, there were plenty of people who automatically assumed it was forged, or that he was still ineligible for office for some other reason.  Whatever anyone might think of the president, it seems obvious that some of those who criticize him for issues relating to his birth certificate are being disingenuous. 

So also with critics of the Book of Mormon, who suggest that if they could just see the ancient plates from which it was translated, they’d believe.  Does anyone think this is serious?  As if they’d look at these plates sitting on a table, which the Church told them they’d convinced God to return for a bit just to disprove skeptics, and then scratch their heads and say, “Well, shucks, I guess that’s that.  When’s my baptism?” 

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The Book Of Mormon and the Heart On the Window

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I watched the suspense movie Flight Plan.  It’s pretty good, but what really stuck with me was the turning point for the main character.  [WARNING: spoilers follow]

Jodie Foster plays a distraught widow flying with her sad young daughter and her husband’s body from Europe back to the US, when she wakes up mid-flight to find her daughter apparently kidnapped.  The kidnappers have planned it to look to everyone else like the daughter was never there and the mother is crazy with grief.  The plan is so devastating that after being restrained and made to listen to a psychiatrist, Foster’s character seems to begin to believe herself that she only imagined that her daughter was really there. 

But just as she’s about to abandon herself to despair, she leans over, almost sobbing, and breathes on the cold little window.  That’s when she sees it: the heart that her daughter had drawn on the window after fogging it up with her breath right after boarding.  The kidnappers hadn’t known about it and therefore couldn’t erase it.  This was one solid evidence that couldn’t be ignored, couldn’t be explained away.  It’s a proof that awakens her from the slough of despond and, ironically, considering what everybody else aboard thinks of her, strengthens her sanity.  It instantly reassures the mother and revives her will to fight.  Needless to say, from there she launches an ingenious solo investigation that leads to the kidnappers being punished and her daughter being rescued. 

For me, in real life, that heart on the window is the Book of Mormon.  The world is full of spiritual conspirators of all stripes who would love to convince us that we’re crazy for believing in Jesus Christ, even going so far as trying to remove any arguments for Him from our culture, history, and public lives.  Like those poor souls who were lost in the mist of darkness in Lehi’s dream (1 Nephi 8:23), many of us do become swayed by the massive tide of majority opinion whispering in our ears that we’ve been deluded

But when we’re being assaulted for our belief, and especially when we’re tempted to give in and give up, we can always lean over and see that perfect, beautiful, crystal clear little heart on the window, left there by the One in whom we place our faith, and on whom we center our lives.  The Book of Mormon is a solid physical evidence that God is not only there, but knows us and loves us, and is helping us find our way back to Him. 

And just like that valiant mother in Flight Plan, when we’ve had our spirits lifted and filled by that blessed gift, we can go back out and fight the evil with twice the power we had before, we can endure in the face of any opposition, and we can win the goal of our contest: a reunion with the beloved family member who left us that precious gift in the first place. 

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“All the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator”

One of my favorite physical evidences for God comes from Hugh Nibley’s essay, “Before Adam:”

Here we get what is perhaps the most striking instance of “anthrocentric cosmology.” An astronomer (I think at Notre Dame) recently calculated the probability of a planet in the solar system having a moon (just one moon, at that) that subtended exactly the same arc in the sky as does the sun from the surface of the same planet. The chances are astronomically remote, so remote, indeed, that there seems to be something deliberate about what is otherwise a stunning coincidence. From no other point of view in all the universe will the sun and the moon have exactly the same size.

I had never thought of that before.  The moon is a fraction of Earth’s size and a couple of hundred thousand miles away; the sun is thousands of times larger than Earth and millions of miles away.  Yet, from the perspective of a human on Earth, they appear to be about the same size.  The odds of the ratio between those sizes and distances being a coincidence seems extremely unlikely.  This perfectly balanced proportioning results in the awesome spectacle of total eclipses, where the moon exactly blocks out the sun.  It’s truly awe-inspiring.

“All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”  Alma 30:44