BYU editorial on word change
In case you missed it, the BYU newspaper came out with an editorial on the word change in the BofM. The logic employed in this editorial is a brilliant representation of the flawed logic that I usually see in apologetics (though there are a few regular commenters on here who seem to do better than this – shout out to Seth and dp). Let me dissect a few of the points made…
Here’s the first argument, “This is nothing new to the Church. The same attack has reared its head in the form of horses and elephants being on North America during Book of Mormon times. Such attack-minded reasoning is more agenda driven than truth driven.” The last sentence is the kicker – of course it is agenda driven. People who point out the lack of horse fossil evidence do have an agenda – making other people aware of the truth that there were no horses. Now, people may have other agendas to go with that (e.g., non-Mormon Christians trying to convert Mormons or Mormon critics just lambasting Mormons or scientists just telling the truth), but does it really matter whether there is an agenda or not when the truth is the truth? I don’t think so. That’s a non sequitur.
The last part of that same paragraph is also faulty in its logic, “The ancestral teaching (which was not a part of the original book) of the introduction is far from the core theological witness of the book.” This is, IMO, historical revisionism at its finest (logical fallacy: intellectual dishonesty). The ancestral teaching (that it was a record of Native Americans) was originally a key part of the original book and the primary means of spreading the book (though Teryl Givens denies that). I won’t rehash this argument, but there are dozens of D&C references of missions to the Native Americans who are clearly seen as having an association with the Book of Mormon. I see this argument as no different than an ostrich sticking its head in the sand while it is threatened – it is an outright denial of reality.
I think my favorite part of the editorial is this section, “Ironically, these scientific critics allow [sic] much larger degree of tolerance to their own profession than they do to the realm of faith. When science admits it was wrong, it is seen as progress. When a religion modifies a statement in the slightest degree, it is seen as being an imposter.” There is a reason for this – science (good science; let’s not argue this point, please!) never says it has the final word on anything. It’s goal is closer approximations of reality, but it is never done or absolute. Religion, on the other hand, has traditionally claimed to have THE TRUTH, which is depicted as unchanging. Well, if THE TRUTH changes, then it does warrant criticism and derision. Science and religious faith are not subject to the same critical criteria because they make different claims – science claims to approximate truth using a empiricism; religion claims to have truth via its revelational methodology. Religion is the proverbial apple; science is proverbial orange. Saying we should allow religion the leeway of science is comparing apples to oranges! (This is a “bare assertion fallacy”; it claims something is true based on saying it is true. If apologists want to subject religion to the same scrutiny as science, I’m all for it, but they won’t like the results.)
The last two paragraphs are contradictory, which is brilliant in itself. The second to last paragraph talks about how the change is in the introduction to the BofM and was only written by McConkie (you know, a mere mortal who made mistakes). The last paragraph then quotes the BofM saying, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore â€“ condemn not the things of God.” So, which is it? Is McConkie’s “mistake” irrelevant or is it relevant and you are using the classic “get out of jail free” card that Joseph Smith included in the BofM to begin with (i.e., any mistakes, well, they aren’t god’s, which is the world’s greatest cop out).
Overall, I would consider this editorial to be about as compelling of an argument as I’ve seen made by four year-olds in grocery stores insisting they want candy:
Mom: “No, you can’t have that.”
Four year-old: “But I want it.”
Mom: “But I said no.”
Four year-old: “Waaah!”