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Radio Free Mormon: 95: The Case for the Book of Mormon? Part 2

Radio Free Mormon is joined by Bill Reel for this in-depth discussion of Elder Tad Callister’s recent video, “A Case for the Book of Mormon.”

Join us for this 20,000 foot view of Mormon apologetics.

Radio Free Mormon style!


14 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 95: The Case for the Book of Mormon? Part 2”

  1. As always, a good podcast.

    I think that you probably want to stay away from discussing probability and statistics, because many of your examples were so completely wrong in terms of statistical method that it undermines the good points you’re making.

  2. just a quick comment on david whitmers not denying his testimony so must have been sincere in his spiritiual experience whatever it was.

    IMO the motivation is more likely because his own break off church of christ loses its legs if he denies it.

    His publications to say his testimony is solid all happen post forming his branch of mormonism which lasted until the 60s

    he wouldn’t have been able to start his offshoot if he admitted to “misremembering”

  3. I enjoyed both parts of this episode. I had watched the church video just a day or two before, after one of my relatives shared it on Facebook. I was struck by how completely unpersuasive it was, not least because of the glaring omission of any mention of Lamanites. The Book of Mormon would gain a lot of persuasive power if it was actually fulfilling one of its primary purposes, namely, bringing the Lamanites to a knowledge of “their fathers,” etc. Since neither Tad nor any of the ordained seers can tell us just who the Lamanites are, the BOM is now more a testament of its own untruth. The Church tries (in another mode of deception) to obscure this by focusing–in lessons, talks, or Tad’s video, e.g.– on single verses or groups of verses, or smaller parts of the narrative, that somehow have a ring of divine authenticity. It avoids the larger narrative altogether. This isn’t exactly new–“Moroni’s promise” is not directed to any old Joe or Jane Gentile. It’s a promise to . . . wait for it . . . the Lamanites. In this regard, in 3 Nephi, Jesus tells the contemporary (1830s) American gentiles they had better believe and repent or the Lamanites will be coming for them like a Lion among the flock, tearing things to pieces (a violent bit of imagery, that). I’ll be more inclined to believe Russell M. is getting real visions in the bedroom when, in addition to all the other highly significant things (cough) he has conveyed, he interprets this and other prophecies for us. Surely Jesus is offended when we don’t talk about his prophecies–especially those that apply to the land choice above all others.

  4. Loved the discussion regarding the witnesses to the BOM, and additionally those of James Strang. One thing not mentioned or I may have missed during the discussion, is where these eleven witnesses ended up… I remember the moment I read how many of theses BOM witnesses actually followed not Brother Brigham West, but James Strang North. This information deeply affected me, because when I was taught they never denied their testimony of the BOM, what I heard was they never left the mainstream church.
    It also helped me to see that although they didn’t witness for the Strang plates, they were certainly persuaded regarding there authenticity. To me this made the original plates less unique, and opened my eyes to how easily these witnesses could be lead to believe whatever the presenter wanted them to believe.
    Thanks for the work you do, here’s hoping for a move to the head of the class.

  5. Forgive the Geek-out moment, but I can’t resist adding some clarity to the discussion regarding statistical probability. My calculation of the probability of winning the card game described is 1.6%. (Not the 25% of 20% suggested in the podcast) It’s calculated like this:
    Probability of winning a single draw: 1-(1/13) = 92.3%
    Probability of winning 52 draws in a row: (92.3%)^52 = 1.55%

    In the case of the card game, you don’t want matches, so “winning” means making it through the whole deck with zero matches. But if a person plays the game with the opposite goal (i.e they want to get at least one match), the probability flips. The chance of getting at least one guess correct is: 100%-1.55% = 98.45%.

    The point is exactly the same as brought out in the podcast, but the numbers are actually even more stacked in Joseph Smith’s favor than is suggested by the numbers mentioned in the recording. Bottom line, if you make enough random guesses it is a near certainty that one or more will end up being correct.

    And if you look at only the correct guesses (ignoring the large number of incorrect ones) it will look like the person guessing has an uncanny ability for predicting the unpredictable.

    Thanks RFM and Bill Reel for another interesting discussion.

  6. Thank you for these episodes. Very interesting, well thought out and researched. I enjoyed the breaking down of the logical assumptions made during apologetics, as well as identifying the psychological manipulations behind each tactic.

    I also really appreciated the recognition that the Book of Mormon has many great ideas and beautiful passages. It doesn’t have to be historically accurate in order to have meaning.

  7. Loved this podcast.

    I wish you guys would have called out that cement is absolutely NOT a hit for the book of mormon. Even though it has been found, the only way to make it anciently was to use a high degree of heat.

    Read into that burning of trees.

    But the book of mormon said they used cement because they didn’t have trees. Hmmmmm. Kind of a problem.

    No trees/heat. No cement.

    See this website for a further discussion of how this is a failed bullseye.

    1. There is a cement like material used by the Mayan. They developed a kiln capable of creating a “blown furnace” effect to create the heat rise. The result of said efforts was to de-forest large sections of their territory and eventually[believed by some] create their need to fade and migrate into the Yucatan. What that points out is that the author never had a grip of cement manufacturing or the detail escaped his grasp.

  8. In my past professions as a Highway Patrolman investigating traffic accidents, a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) investigating crime scenes, a Criminalist investigating evidence from crime scenes or a Forensic Toxicologist investigating Discovery in criminal or civil cases, my duties have taught me to regard witness statements generally as reliable sources of information. A witness statement is readily accepted in the courtroom as evidence, sometimes enough to convict someone on trial with a crime.
    Statements made in journals are also regarded to be genuinely true. If a source is from a personal journal, it is a reliable source and likely true. However, there are exceptions, but they are few to the point of it being a surprise when a witness statement or personal journal entry is found to be false.
    Taking this concept into church history, an historical event recorded in a personal journal is generally not taken to be false. Perspectives may differ from one account to another, but people don’t lie in their journal writing. When I read something coming from a personal journal, I feel confident right from the start I’m reading something true. For example, take the almost unbelievable events which took place at the Kirtland Temple Dedication on March 27, 1836. We are literally at the same level in Kirtland during this time as describing something in our day coming from Area 51.
    When over 100 people, both children and adults, many of whom were not of the Mormon faith, all give basically the same description in their separately written journal accounts and in their own handwriting, what you have and what it’s legally called is irrefutable evidence of truth. People in court get convicted on less.
    An example of what I’m describing is as follows with many more examples to be found by the curious investigator:
    Joseph Smith relates an incident occurring during the Kirtland Temple dedication services held on the evening of 27 March 1836:
    Brother George Albert Smith arose and began to prophesy when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind which filled the Temple and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power, many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with light and angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running to the temple hearing the unusual sound within, and seeing the bright light, like a pillar of fire, resting on and without the Temple, were astonished at what they saw. This continued until the meeting closed at 11 pm.
    Keep in mind, the description of this event recorded by Joseph Smith came from personal journals or, at least, from testimonies of people in the surrounding area. I do not believe Joseph would make any of this up because there were too many witnesses of the event who saw and recorded it.
    Sister Prescindia Huntington records the following which adds angelic visitors to the story.
    In Kirtland, we enjoyed many great blessings, and often saw the power of God manifested. On one occasion I saw angels clothed in white walking upon the temple roof. It was during one of our monthly fast meetings when the Saints were in the temple worshipping. A little girl came to my door in wonder and called me out exclaiming, “The meeting is on the top of the meeting house.” I went to the door, and there I saw on the temple roof angels clothed in white covering the roof from end to end. They seemed to be walking to and fro as they appeared and disappeared. It was the third time they appeared and disappeared before I realized they were not mortal men. Each time in a moment they vanished and their reappearance was the same. This was in broad daylight, in the afternoon. A number of children saw the same.
    When the brethren and sisters came home in the evening, they told of the power of God manifested in and on the temple that day (of the dedication), and of the prophesying and speaking in tongues. It was also said, during the interpretation of tongues, “that angels were resting down upon and in the house.”
    Research from other records would easily corroborate these two incidences and I’m sure it’s been done because there are no anti-Mormon articles I’m aware of refuting the visitation by angels and light coming from Heaven during the Kirtland Temple Dedication.
    Let’s go to another time recorded by William M Daniels when Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, was killed by mobsters:
    Mr. Daniels states after seeing Joseph leap from the window of the jail, someone picked him up and placed him against the well curb and several shot him, Col. Williams exclaiming, “Shoot him!” On page 18 of this account it says when one of the assassins would have severed the prophet’s head from his body, a sudden and intense light burst in from the heavens. This light in its appearance and potency baffles all description. The arms of the ruffian fell powerless; the muskets of the four behind him who had fired into the prophet fell to the ground and they (all five of them) all stood like marble statues, not having the power to move a single limb of their bodies. Not everyone on the scene claimed to have seen it, but there are at least five Missourians who have an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, the backward Missourians were not known to keep journals, in fact few could even write. So this account is an example of mixed accounts of witnesses at the same time and place which is often the case. But there was no electricity in that day, so unless it was a bolt of lightning, it had to be something coming from another world many people did see.
    There are more examples of records made by witnesses recording them in their personal journals. They are a strength for providing reliable truth of past history.

  9. Danny,
    Even if the whole town in Kirtland saw angels and wrote about them, and even if we admit that these angelic visitations did occur, does that mean Joseph Smith’s teachings are true? Not necessarily.

    From the time Jesus established his Church, the apostles have warned Christians that Satan
    can disguise himself as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

    How then would they who saw those visions at Kirtland know if they’re being duped by false angels? Only by the content of the message or gospel they heard: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Galatians 1:8).

    Therefore, if we’re to follow what the scriptures teach, we’re not supposed to believe every angel that comes along. Rather, we first determine whether the angelic message or vision conforms with what has previously been taught by the apostles long ago.

    In short, conformity to apostolic teaching trumps angelic visions.

    So the crucial question is this: Do Mormons preach a different gospel than the one preached by the first apostles like Paul? The answer: Yes. Mormonism is not the same gospel taught by Jesus and handed down by the apostles. And, this is not hard to substantiate.

    For one, neither Jesus nor his apostles taught the Church will fall away and totally disappear from the earth. The doctrine of the so-called “Great Apostasy” is not apostolic teaching. For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, none of the best Christian minds ever saw this in the New Testament. This doctrine only appeared at the same time and place where the Protestants also appeared, and that’s just 500 years ago in Western Europe. It’s a doctrine they had to invent in order to legitimize their revolt against apostolic authority.

    Protestants never talked of a great apostasy when they were still insiders who saw themselves as “reformers” reforming the Church from within. But once their efforts failed, they chose the path of revolution, and rationalized their rebellion by portraying the Church as a hopeless apostate. In psychology, this is called “projection.” They merely projected their desperate rebellious selves to the Church, and cherry-picked the Bible for proof texts.

    In short, the Catholic Church was not “Babylon the Great” when these critics were still insiders. It only became so once they turned outsiders. When pressed by their critics as to how and when the “Bride of Christ” became the “Great Harlot” they could not explain nor agree among themselves. No wonder, their peculiar doctrine was unknown and unbelieved in Christianity for 1,500 years.

    Now if God was really talking to Joseph Smith, He would have pointed to him this ridiculously gross Protestant error, and told him to avoid it. But no, Smith built his “Restored Church” on this rickety, man-made doctrine.

    Why Smith chose such a shaky foundation in direct opposition to what Jesus and His apostles taught about the Church is not hard to explain. Smith’s God is the same God that Elder Holland believes in his talk “Wrong Roads” (see RFM ep. 011). It’s a God who reveals falsehoods.

    Therefore, it doesn’t matter if angels were seen on top of the Kirtland temple by the whole town and everyone wrote about it in their diaries. If those Mormons end up disbelieving what Jesus and his apostles had taught long ago, then they have followed a gospel from a God who reveals falsehoods.

  10. Hi RFM, I normally really like your podcasts and appreciate the work that you do in providing us with the non-white-washed version of the Church.

    However, I had a couple problems with the examples in this podcast. First, as stated by others, the probability math is incorrect. So, in the future, I would suggest not discussing this because it undermines the credibility of your other arguments, which are typically on point. Alternatively, you could run the example by an expert in statistics or math before using it.

    Secondly, the logic of one of your arguments didn’t make sense to me regarding the plants/animals in the Book of Mormon.

    You talked about how Mormon apologists will often say that a horse is not really a horse (the apologist might say the horse mentioned in the BOM might actually be a tapir or a deer). Then you argue that when this argument is made then the apologist would have to say that Barley is not actually Barley.

    This argument seemed extremely weak. Let me provide an example why this doesn’t make sense logically.

    Let’s say I’m hunting and I tell you I killed a grizzly bear and a caribou, but in reality, I actually killed a grizzly bear and an elk (not a caribou). Then, let’s say I didn’t call it the right name because I grew up seeing caribou and had never seen an elk before (but the elk resembles a caribou so it makes sense for me to call it that). Or maybe I called it a caribou since everybody from my town calls them caribou. Now, just because I technically said the wrong animal name due to a lack of vocabulary or due to my own town’s naming convention, DOES NOT make my statement about the grizzly bear false. The grizzly bear can still = a grizzly bear. And I was still correct when I said I killed the grizzly bear.

    So, let’s bring this back to the Book of Mormon example. Let say the apologist claims that a horse referred to in the BOM is actually a deer or a tapir. The BOM inhabitants maybe called tapirs horses due to tradition or lack of proper vocab, or maybe Joseph Smith didn’t know what a tapir was, so it got translated to horse. This DOES NOT negate the statement that metal plates can equal metal plates or that cement = cement. So, in other words, because we allowed some leeway in stating that horse = tapir (due to naming conventions, lack of vocab, etc.) doesn’t mean everything else now has a slightly different meaning. Metal plates still can equal metal plates.

    So, I think you normally do a great job, but this logical argument fell flat with me. Nevertheless, thanks again for all your work and I look forward to more podcasts in the future

  11. Sung with difficulty to the theme of the “Mr. Ed” television show

    A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
    And no one can find a Pre-Columbian horse, of course,
    Because that missing horse, of course,
    Is only in the B.O.M.

    Go right to the source and ask “Where’s the horse?”
    J. S. will give the answer that only Mormons endorse
    Its always that same old chorus, of course
    Its in B.O.M.

    Elders on a mission will yak-it-ti-yak,
    And waste your time away,
    But ask them for the proof of a horse,
    And they quickly slink away.

    A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
    Unless it is really a tapir of course,
    And then it is not really a horse of course
    And all of this fills me with remorse, of course.
    Because this is a religion I can no longer endorse, of course.
    Well listen to this…..

    I am an ex-Mormon

  12. You’re right that if “horse” does not have to mean horse, then it is irrelevant whether barley has existed in ancient America, as “barley” does not have to mean barley. I find this line of apologetics problematic for another reason too. It is true a word can acquire new meanings. For instance, the English had the word “corn,” meaning grain of cereals in general. When the American plant zea mays became known to Europeans, back in England they called it “maize,” but English settlers in America called it “Indian corn,” which in time became simply “corn.” So “corn” has now two meanings, “grain” and “Indian corn, maize.” Now in the 1963 movie Cleopatra, someone says that Rome wants the Egyptian corn. In Portugal, the movie subtitles translated “corn” as “milho”, Portuguese for “Indian corn” but not “grain in general,” at which point I explode, ANACHRONISM!!! you moron, there was no Indian corn in the Old World at the time of Cleopatra! Ok it really was a wrong translation. A translator worth their salt must know “corn” can mean different things, see what thing it was the author meant, and find the right Portuguese word for it. Same with horses in the Book of Mormon. If whatever word the Nephites used could mean horse, but in the BoM referred to, say, tapirs, then the English translation should show “tapir.” At this point you might say, yeah, but Joseph Smith was an uneducated farm boy, so you have to cut him some slack. The problem is it wasn’t really his translation. He just dictated it. He had no knowledge of the source language. So whether the English words shone on the seer stone or came to his mind in some other way, the translation was really God’s translation. So to say that “horse” does not mean horse and so on amounts to saying God knowingly, for God knows all things, mistranslated the Book of Mormon. And this I find hard to swallow.

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