Friday, February 14, 2014

Turner's Criticisms of Book of Mormon

With university professor Turner's 1842 criticism of the Mormon Movement as yet another element in the sheer endless chain of reform movements guided by spiritual assurances we are looking at one of the best articulated criticisms of early Mormonism.

Turner's natural religion would not stand up to present-day scrutiny, as the Deistic consensus he presupposes has eroded. But he makes relevant points about the BoM---and its interpretative tradition, such as Pratt's Voice of Warning publication---that are worth noting.

  • Turner challenges the idea that God, after hiding the Golden Plates safely for hundreds of years, could lose the first 116 pages to the Devil, could not re-reveal them, nor force the Devil to give them back; see also (p.197-198). Turner also points out that the 2nd edition of the BoM eliminated the Preface narrating that story (p.199).
  • Turner exposes the absurdity of considering the Old Testament prophecies literally, since they use metaphorical language that then needs to be mapped to a literal meaning after all (p.185ff). This is especially damning in the case where the Atlantic Ocean needs to be taken as the literal interpretation of the expression "the wall" (p.185); see also the rejection of the literal interpretation of the signs in Mark XVI,17 (p.235); see also the comments on the expounding foreceps 
  • While Gen 48,16 is a prophecy about the seed of Ephraim (p.187f), the book of Mormon actually only talks about descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, thereby leaving all other nine tribes as lost as before (p.188). In my opinion, this is a strong argument for the Spaulding thesis, because this lack of congruency between the intent---which the BoM shares with Ethan Smith's work---and the execution suggest that the base document---Spaulding's romance---has a different interest altogether.
  • The resurrection of the lost tribes from the tribe of Manasseh is itself problematic because in numerous passages in I King and II King only Judah is described as following the Lord (p.191).
  • Turner challenges the Aaronitic priesthood of the Indian tribes, as even Jesus did not have it, and no one descended from Manasseh could (p.192).
  • Turner notes that the description of Jared's water-tight boats (p.194-196) requires Jared to invent a light that God could provide, not God to foresee the need for a light (p.196).
  • Turner points out inconsistencies between the revelations and the BoM witnesses and publication, for example between what the revelation demand the three and the twelve should witness to (REF); or how much of the history should be given to the world (p.199).
  • Turner points out the litany of titles that Joseph Smith Jr decked himself out with over his life, ranging from "General of Nauvoo" to "retailer of ... cap, letter, fool, and wrapping paper", asserting that all these are from the "Book of Mormon" or the "Times and Seasons" (p.203). In my opinion, this is a strong indication of the bad self-image that JS Jr had.
  • Turner has some opinions on the patterns to the revelations in D&C (p.218) as mediators for controlling the followers.
  • Turner points to the hand-in-glove coincidence of the prepared congregation in Kirtland, Ohio, being missionized by Rigdon pal Pratt (p.220) as a sequence of so-many "stumbles".
  • Turner points out how essential (p.222) to the prophetic title the regaining of Zion, Missouri is.
  • Turner points out that the role of Smith Jr was enlarged in a revelation concerning his translator status between the first and the second edition (p.226), as well as the change in the amount of wealth to hand over to the Church (p.233).
  • Turner notes that Hebrews XI,3 is used to claim that God created the world through faith, though the passage says that we understand the world through faith (p.229).
  • Turner notes the missed prophesies in D&C respecting the destruction of the Eastern Home of Mormonism and the everlasting possession of Zion in Missouri (p.236).

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