Saturday, January 14, 2006

Alternative Explanation

Elder Maxwell once commented that most who are not members of the Mormon Church are eager to accept any explanation for the restoration of the church and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon--except the one Joseph Smith gave. I have included here a link to an article from a dearly beloved local journalist who will remain nameless, but whose name sounds an awful lot like Meggy Petcher Snack: This article deals with a Mr. Shugarts, who is writing a book to help readers decode the sequel to The Davinci Code (an interesting strategy since the sequel, of course, has not yet been released). In any case, Dan Brown's new book focuses on the Masons, and part of Shugart's book describes the little-known links between Masonry and Mormonism.

Among other things, Shugart apparently claims that Joseph Smith dug up the idea for the gold plates, as well as the method of their translation, from Masonic legend. This, I admit, is a new one for me. I had heard of apparent Masonic ritual/Temple ceremony similarities before, but not of this explanation of the Gold Plates. What strikes me as amusing is that I accidentally came upon an anti-Mormon web-site the other day which offered another, perhaps complementary, explanation for the Book of Mormon: Joseph wrote it and lifted many of its pages and lines from famous works written before his time. We can, of course, add this to a list that has long included the Spualding manuscript theory as well as many other naturalist explanations I am sure exist but of which I am not aware.

I wonder, though, if the purveyors of these theories pause to consider the implications of the irexplanations. Are we really to believe that Joseph, while sitting in a Masonic meeting one day, thought ya know, I could use some of these ideas, twist them a bit, and then pretend to the whole world that I have found a magic book and magical glasses with which to translate it? That he then went through the rigamarole of pretending to lug around a set of plates and of convincing his family he actually had something to physically hide when the marauders came? That he then hypnotized both the three and eight witnesses in order to make them believe they heard God's voice (especially the three witnesses)? And, finally, that he collected (from the nearby library?) some of the great literary works of our time--including a number of Shakespeare's plays--and sat behind the curtain dictating without pause to a number of scribes while lifting lines from the Bible, Shakespeare, et. al?

Forgive me, I vent. I understand sophisticated authors like Fawn Brodie have offered detailed, nuanced, and subtle explanation for the doings of the Prophet. And I know their explanations deserve more credit than I offer in the hopelessly straw-man-like argument I outline here. Still, I really do believe there are many anti-Mormons (especially with the advent of the internet) who put no more thought into their writings than the supposedly thoughtless and Lemming-like Mormons they pretend to lambast. In the end, I think I agree with Elder Maxwell: perhaps the most sophisticated and nuanced explanation is the one Joseph offered, "Wherefore, [The Book of Mormon] is an abridgement of the record ot the people of Nephi...written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation...written and sealed come forth by the gift and power of God."


Anonymous Dave Johnson said...

I agree. Ultimately, no matter to which explanation a person subscribes, there remains a piece of the puzzle that does not make "logical" sense. The real question is who do you trust to fill the void; God, or an un-educated farm boy employing intellectual qualities beyond his years?

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