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267: Book Of Mormon Historicity

Today’s episode tackles the expanding space of Book of Mormon Historicity.  We share the words of Jared Hickman, Patrick Mason, Richard Bushman, Sam Brown, Grant Hardy, Elder Oaks, and Elder Holland.  We talk today about the space that is seemingly being created in this very moment.  Do we see how unique of a moment we are in.  The very scholars in the Church who are looked at by Church leadership as faithful informed voices are all at once enlarging the tent as they advocate that a non-historical belief in the Book of Mormon is a faithful space to hols that it can absolutely be a saving belief.  The tent is being enlarged right before your very eyes.  The question becomes if top leadership is open to helping Bishops and Stake Presidents to also see this ground as faithful saving ground for one to hold.  Time will tell.



Elder Oaks On Historicity

Elder Holland PBS including Historicity

Grant Hardy On a non-literal saving faith

Patrick Mason on the truth cart

Richard Bushman on 19th century material

Sam Brown on translation and historicity 



23 thoughts on “267: Book Of Mormon Historicity”

  1. If the book of mormon was the only problem with the church you make a great plea for those who cannot grasp its historicity. The issues in totality and the cover up of the issues by church leaders for so many years leaves me with a problem so large that addressing each individual issue in an apologetic way is to overlook the obvious.

  2. Another excellent podcast and valiant attempt to reconcile secular info with religious faith. The main thesis was, can a non-historical belief (especially the BoM) be a saving faith, and openly accepted at the ward level. To answer, you used two sources: so-called scholars (in all the pejorative sense Elder Oaks uses); and apostles. Scholars say yes, apostles say no.

    Oaks’ talk was given in Oct 1993, shortly after a bit of a crackdown by leaders on scholarship that wavered from the faithful line. This talk is a perfect example of gaslighting and is a danger to reason and rationality. He claims there is no secular evidence to prove or disapprove the BoM, the only way to dispute it is to know the histories of every group of people who ever lived in North and South America, and, if one concludes it is not historic they are dishonest. In short, there is no way to disprove the BoM.

    At one point you say that Oaks “left out of his words” the answer to your question, the possibility that one could believe the BoM is scripture yet accept it a 19th century product and non-historical. How did you conclude this from reading his talk? He left no doubt that he fully rejects this position. Anyone who thinks this is pejoratively referenced as a “new-style critic,” “so-called scholar,” and is “something strange.”

    Another interesting thing you said was you were not sure whether he still felt this way, after 24 years was he willing to bend on the foundational truth claims of the church. What does that say about these apostles and church doctrine in general? They are in no way reliable. The difference is that in those 24 years the evidence against the BoM (along with the rest of the church’s historical claims) has piled up so high and become readily available that simple gaslighting isn’t as effective as it used to be. Thus the leadership will tolerate the voice of these so-called scholars, because now they are useful and wholly disposable. You ask the same question he addressed 24 years ago and expect a different answer? Good luck, there are no apologies coming.

  3. I’m trying, but it’s hard to understand what I would do with the Book of Mormon here. If it’s just made up from parts of the bible and fictional stories what value does it have beyond what is already available in the world? I can read Harry Potter and learn about how we should and shouldn’t treat people. It seems like there would be many other ways to draw people to Christ that could be more modern and relevant to our time.

    Also it seems like these scholars (smart folks all of them) are just making things up. Until the leaders of the church speak up, the scholars can put forth as many interesting theories about how it all really works. I think that’s part of what Bill was getting at here. A call for the leadership to take a firm stand in some direction.

    One final thought I had is do you think the approach of treating the Book of Mormon as a take it or leave it proposition leads down the same path the RLDS (Community of Christ) took?

    Thanks again Bill. The content you’ve been producing (especially in the past 6 months) has been honest, enjoyable and gives me a lot to think about.

  4. I agree that the narrative is slowly changing and the historicity of the BoM is no longer fastly held to. And I agree that as a book it does turn one’s thoughts to Jesus and it makes one feel close to Him, and it provides some really good nuggets of life advice. However, and it’s a big however, there are numerous books, fictional books, or self-help books, that also turn one’s thoughts to Jesus and who offer a good direction for life. But it doesn’t qualify those books, anymore than it does the BoM as a sole avenue to salvation. If the book of Mormon is not historical; if the words did not come off of golden plates; if those golden plates weren’t hauled for God knows how many miles to be conveniently located to JS, then JS was a liar. A liar to the highest offense. And I for one am not comfortable thinking my God would use a liar to present or “restore” the only way back to Him. The “truth cart” being too full was super accurate. Unfortunately, that bed has been made and the Church is going to have to try to get as comfortable as possible in it as more and more people choose to leave.

  5. Excellent podcast Bill. In the words of Richard Bushman, it’s a puzzle. But, wrestling with puzzles makes us smarter, for sure. Thanks!

  6. The logic displayed by some of the commentators in this episode is insane. The Book of Mormon “wants to be anachronistic.” Are you kidding me?! Come on. This is just out of touch with reality. And it’s out of touch with what the Book of Mormon claims, what Joseph Smith said it was, and what Church leaders have taught for nearly 200 years.

    These guys are moving the goalposts, and honestly, they sound desperate. Gold medal mental gymnastics on display.

    Bill, I love ya and love the podcast, but that one was a bit too much for me. i look forward to the next!

    1. My argument is that on this issue and its implications for a healthier church, moved goalposts are better than their current location. Mormonism is much healthier wants we stop accepting demonstrably false paradigms that are unhealthy in our LDS community and hurt and harm others.

      1. First off Bill, let me say, I have TONS of respect for you. It takes a lot of courage to produce a podcast like this and your work is important. My entire family listens and I have personally benefitted from the show. So, thank you.

        I applaud your goal/desire to make the church environment a safer and healthier place. You clearly know how crushing the weight can be once you discover the “dominate narrative is false.” But I suppose my question to you (or anyone else) would be this: What kind of “middle-way” requires you to ditch the Prophets, Apostles, and Scriptures, in order to follow the Apologists? I may be incorrect, but is seems the apologetics expressed in the podcast directly contradict the leadership of the church. The two views (Q15/History/JS/BOM and Apologists) simply cannot be squared in most cases.

        So, what do you have once you reach the point where you are rejecting the truth claims, the scriptures, and the leadership of the Church just to stay in the Church? What’s the point? And is that even a middle-way?

        The apologetic approach necessarily guts a rich and vibrant LDS tradition because the historical record (and the sciences) demands alternative explanations. But in it’s place we are left with a weak, unreliable, and ineffectual religion. Truly, the Mormonism built on Apologetics is a rather absurd shell of our former faith. The traditional Mormonism (as flawed as it may be) all but disappears. I am all for building bridges, but personally, that is a bridge I cannot cross.

        I hate to be a critic without putting forward any solutions, but I don’t know what the solution is. For nearly 200 years the Church has framed these issues in black and white terms and I cannot see how we can overturn those 187 years and keep anything intact. The Apologists have made heroic efforts to keep the Good Ship Zion afloat, but in end, we may all just be passengers on the Titanic.

  7. “Some Latter-day Saint critics who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon seek to make their proposed approach persuasive to Latter-day Saints by praising or affirming the value of some of the content of the book. Those who take this approach assume the significant burden of explaining how they can praise the contents of a book they have dismissed as a fable. I have never been able to understand the similar approach in reference to the divinity of the Savior. As we know, some scholars and some ministers proclaim Him to be a great teacher and then have to explain how the one who gave such sublime teachings could proclaim himself (falsely they say) to be the Son of God who would be resurrected from the dead.”

    1. You know, that was 24 years ago. We can’t hold him to this view./s Isn’t it at least a step in the right direction that folks who openly talk about it aren’t being excommunicated and are accepted in transitional mormon circles? Of course, the scholars Bill used who seem to realize it was written in the early 1800s still feel compelled to claim it’s ancient. Frankly, I don’t understand their conclusion and makes me think things aren’t as open as hoped by online non-orthodox mormons.

  8. Bill, the position in your podcast is difficult to accept because it raises, but does not address, issues that are the foundation of Moronism. For example, 1) is “scripture” the “word of God” through a prophet? or, just the prophet’s words (AofF: 8) 2) is a “prophet/seer/revelator” a person who receives God’s directions/words and conveys them to man? or, is he just a good person with his own ideas influenced by his own time? (D&C 1:38); 3) and is truth what “is” or really “was” or what we want it to be or think it is? (D&C 1:39). Explaining historical brick walls in front of the BofM by running around the wall to claim the book is inspired (I believe it is), is spiritual (I believe it is), or conveys a faithful approach to life (I believe it does), simply places the book in the realm of many other books inspired by man. Either it is revealed truth (what actually occurred….history) from God to man or it is something made up that is still good. It is not possible to dilute the book’s status without removing the foundational principles that are supposed to make this church a church of God instead of another church of man. I think you need to pick one or the other….but, it can’t be both.

    1. either/or us/them are paradigms I gravitate less to. Simply because you see nor allow any middle ground does not mean it does not exists.

      1. This is an interesting and accurate reply for a rational analysis of faith issues. How can there be a reconciliation between the gray area you seek with the continual preaching and teaching by the GAs that it is only black and white? They seem incompatible to me nor does it seem possible for them to walk back into the gray without destroying the foundations of Mormonism. There seems to be no path forward as you suggest that they allow for continual state of grayness. The gray area is allowed already, but only as a way station on the way to full faith.

  9. You simply cannot make your primary defense of the church so arcane that it requires graduate degrees to understand it. These ethereal, layered, intersecting and, I would argue, imagined defenses of the BoM are impenetrable to most members. In my opinion, the church must arrive at a more direct approach to historicity that mostly jibes with fact to remain relevant. What works for Sam Brown, Richard Bushman and Teryl Givens is not a solution for the entirety of the faith.

        1. I can’t speak for Bill, but my feeling is that today’s LDS prophets wouldn’t know a revelation if it swam up and bit them in the ass.

          But that’s just me.


        2. God is leading this church. He is also leading other churches. He is also leading me and you and my catholic neighbor. You will have to further define your stated question as I sense you want to put in in a corner and I would prefer to dance around the room enjoying my space and experience.

          1. Dancing with dead prophets who’s words have died like they did is not enjoyable to me. There is a larger ball room that is not boobytrapped with questionable history and scripture.

  10. Bill,
    Interesting comments addressing this issue. You said: “Simply because you see nor allow any middle ground does not mean it does not exists.” I admit that I have a very, very difficult time conceiving or understanding a middle ground. But, I desperately want to find it.
    I am a product of the Church’s 1970s and early 80s thinking. I want figure out this “middle ground” that you (and others) say exists. I am sincerely asking you to devote some episodes to explain and/or teach us what this middle ground is and how it can survive next to the Church’s positions articulated in scripture and the AofF. The podcast above, in my opinion, states there is a middle ground; but, it doesn’t explain how the middle ground can exist given current church scripture and doctrine. In other words, I can only see that a “middle ground” exists, IF the Church changes its teachings. And, if the church changes its teachings about historicity, then it simply isn’t the church I always understood it to be.
    Sincerely asking for your help.

  11. Nephite/Hopewell Fortifications and ruins

    Reformed Egyptian Four Surviving Characters

    Native American Traditional use of Sacred Metal Tablets

    Archeological Evidence of the West Sea Fortified Line

    Native American Hebrew like temples

    Book of Mormon Cloth and Fine Twined Linen

    Iroquios Lamanites

    Buried Nephite City and BOM Elephants

    Book of Mormon Breastplates

    Book of Mormon goats and cattle

    Book of Mormon Swords

    Book of Mormon DNA Evidence X2A’J

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