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Are Faith and Intellect Compatible? (Part 4 of 5)

Some people don’t like the academic study of the Bible and think the two are incompatible.  That’s not the case with Steve Pynakker, evangelical host of Mormon Book Reviews, and myself.  We’ll talk about some of the biblical stories that cause us to struggle.  Does that help strengthen faith?

GT:  Patrick[Mason] is one of the nicest people that you can meet, and I think he acknowledges most of the problems with Church history. I think the world of Patrick. Patrick’s a good guy. I think Patrick’s fair. But one of the things Patrick said was, there’s kind of this narrative, especially in the ex-Mormon communities of, “Hey, if you study Church history, you’re guaranteed to lose your testimony.” Patrick said, “That’s just not true. For one, I know all this stuff, and I’m a believer.”  I would put myself in that category, too. It’s not a given that you have to lose your testimony. If you study the Bible. I mean, there’s lots of problems with the Bible with the Exodus story. Did Moses even exist?  We’ve kind of touched on that. I’d like to get more into Biblical commentary and that sort of thing. I did that with Colby Townsend earlier, and we got into a lot more than I expected with that interview. There are lots of people who know the issues of the Bible, of the Book of Mormon, of Church history, of Mountain Meadows Massacre, that still believe.  So, it just feels like a false narrative that, “Oh, if you study Church history, I’m compelled to disbelieve.”  I mean, I acknowledge there’s lots of problems. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is one of the worst. I would say it is the worst chapter in Mormon history. Probably the second worst is the Mark Hofmann bombings. I think the Church is more of a victim in that, than they were in Mountain Meadows. But, if we look at the Crusades, all of us, if we’re Christians, we, in a sense, bear that terrible atrocity.

GT:  There’s lots of stuff, lots of skeletons in everybody’s closet, whether you’re Muslim or Jewish.  When I look at the stories of the walls of Jericho, and how the Jews, they walked around seven times and then killed every man, woman, child and animal. I mean, that’s genocide. How can we, as Christians, or Jews or Muslims, how can we defend that? That’s terrible. That’s not what Christ taught. That’s terrible. So, I don’t care who you are, if you’re a student of the scriptures, whether it’s the Bible, the Book of Mormon, whatever, you’ve got to deal with these issues.

GT:  I look at Abraham. One of the most appalling things–we talk about Abraham, the father of monotheism. He was the original Moses, in a sense. The fact that he sent out his wife, Hagar and child to go die in the desert, that’s appalling to me.  Then as Christians, we’ve been conditioned to say, “Oh, but God had a plan and [Issac] was supposed to be the guy, not Ishmael.” I mean, if you really look at that, I think those there’s some serious spiritual problems that you have to deal with, no matter what your background is.  You can still choose to believe and in some cases, it is a choice. But, I guess the Article of Faith, I’m trying to remember which one it is, “We believe all things…” Let’s see, I’m going to butcher it, now. I had it a second ago.  Seek after the good things:  Faith, virtue, love, charity, kindness, humility, diligence. Indeed, we follow the admonition of Paul. Seek after the good things. I’m not going to defend Abraham sending Ishmael out to die in the desert with Hagar.   I’m not.  To me, no Christian would do that.

GT  Whether or not I have a testimony of polygamy, which I don’t, that’s just appalling behavior. There’s lots of things that every Christian, I think, if you’re a serious student of the Bible, you need to look at and come to grips with. You can’t just say, “Oh, it compels me to disbelief.” Maybe it does. If you’re happier outside of a church, I don’t want you to be miserable. You shouldn’t be miserable. Maybe Christianity is not for you. But there are a lot of good and bad things with every church, with every institution.

GT:  I actually like wrestling with these dilemmas. But, it’s not for everybody. I’m sure there’s probably some people that are like, “How can he attack the story of Abraham?” But I’ve got problems with that story.  I’ve got big problems.

Steve:  And you should.  I think that those are things that I’ve struggled with, as well. I mean, there’s many things in the Old Testament, and there’s even things in the New Testament. Even Christopher Hitchens said, “You think the Old Testament is bad, well, Jesus gave us hell,” the concept of hell. It’s like, “Oh, boy, that’s a good point, Chris, yeah, point taken.” So, that’s the thing about having a real, challenged faith.  If your faith is never challenged, and your view of faith is basically what you were taught as a child, and you never wrestled with it… We should wrestle with God every day. That’s part of the faith journey.  It actually strengthens us. When you’re not wrestling with him, and–you’re absolutely right about everything. He said, “You got to wrestle with that.”

What are some of the stories in the scriptures you struggle with?  Do you think studying Church history is a ticket out of a testimony?  If so, how do you explain all the Mormon scholars who still believe?  Are faith and intellect compatible?  Check out our conversation….

Are faith and intellect compatible?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Steve!

556: Are Faith & Intellect Compatible?

555: Why Start Gospel Tangents?

554: Difference between Evangelicals & Protestants

553:  Background on Rick

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Intro to Malay Hypothesis (Part 5 of 6)

Where did the Book of Mormon take place?  Most people think it is in Central or South America, or maybe North America.  However, we’re going to talk about the most unusual theory around called the Malay Peninsula, as in Malaysia, as in Southeast Asia.  It’s a very unusual theory.  It’s a fun theory, and we’ll find out more about how KC Kern and Greg Pavone got acquainted with this.

KC:  So, with that in mind, I encountered this [Malay theory.] I can’t remember where it was. Honestly, I think it must have been a blog post. I don’t know if it was on Mormon Matters, or the blogosphere circa 2006-2007. There was some comment about it. It’s like Malay theory.  Seeing [the comments about the Malay theory], it just did not register. I was just like, what the heck is this?  But [these comments] kept coming up. I’m like, “Why do you keep talking about the Book of Mormon in Malaysia?” This makes no sense.

GT:  That was my reaction, too, when I first heard about it.

KC:  It’s just completely bonkers. I’m thinking, “Why doesn’t this guy get banned?” Okay, so, I’m just like, okay, Malaysia, what are you even talking about? So I opened up Google Earth, and I type in “Malaysia.” And then Google Earth starts spinning—goes across the world, starts zooming in, and I see it.

KC:  I see this. [The shape of the internal map from Mormon’s Map]  It was a jaw-dropping moment.  It was like—how has nobody noticed this before? That was just the first impression. I started digging more, and then I came across Ralph Olsen’s work where he basically proposes that the Book of Mormon took place on the Malay Peninsula. The narrow neck and the land northward and the land southward, it all took place there. Now, Lehi and his family left the Arabian Peninsula and traveled the coast around India, the Bay of Bengal and then landed and stayed on the Malay Peninsula. That’s just so like, “Wait, what? No, the Book of Mormons is about America.” So, the first concession to make is, this is absolutely 100% incompatible with any traditional reception history of the Book of Mormon and that has to be established upfront.  You can’t make it work—pretty much at all. There’s no question that for Joseph Smith and early Saints and everyone—this was about America.

KC:  But, there’s one thing that I think is really worth noting. What I have found is, as I’ve looked into various geography theories, a lot of them turn into dead ends very quickly. What I have found is that the Malay one, has continued to be a fruitful line of inquiry, meaning that the more you press against it, the more it yields. Let me give two examples there. The Karen, like I said, they’re an ethnic minority in Burma, and they’ve had a lot of military conflicts with the Burmese Government. They’ve set up their own militia. In their history, and this is in the early 90s, there was this one confrontation where they had the stronghold around this oxbow lake thing on a river on the border of Thailand. They named that stronghold Kawmoora (Cumorah.) I kid you not. I read this in a book, and it’s just like all the Karen, their last outpost was Kawmoora. I’m just like [wow!]

KC:  If any of this, in any remote sense, was emerging from the Ohio River Valley, or from Mississippi or from Chiapas, Mexico, a lot of people would be making a lot of noise on the apologetic side. The other thing is after I published that article on the blog, I got a note from this guy in Kentucky. He said, “I can prove this theory true.” I’m like, “Okay, I’ll bite.” So, I respond, I get his phone number. I have a conversation and he says that there were some Karen students they were refugees in the U.S. in Kentucky. He was a shop teacher or auto mechanic and he had some [Karen] students that he was talking to.  He had somehow gotten his hand on the Caractors Document. Do you know which I’m talking about? The one that was copied by John Whitmer and may or may not have been the Anthon Transcript.

GT:  That Mark Hofmann made a forgery of it, too.

KC:  Right, or at least was inspired by that.  He [the teacher] supposedly had that, things copied from the gold plates. This Karen student looks at that and says, “Oh, I know this.  This is chicken scratch script.”  It was just like, what? Okay, what is this about? So, I look it up.  The proper name for the script is called Leke script. It’s unique to the Karen people. They teach their youth in these camps, how to how to write in this script. I contacted an expert in the script. There’s not a lot [of experts]. I gave them the Caractors Document and said to them, “Does this check out? Does this look familiar at all?”  The expert said, “Well, are many iterations of [the script]”  They had examples from the 1800s, and stuff like this. [The Caractors] would be coming from 500 or 400 AD.  It’s not going to be a match. But, they mentioned that there were certain characters that looked similar. At that point, it’s like—I know, Dan Vogel’s is like, “Oh, well, it’s just 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in Arabic numbers and [Joseph is] just reconfiguring them.” The characters are simple enough and abstract enough that you can squeeze in anything, but just the fact that the aesthetic was—completely unsolicited—recognized by a Karen student, and made enough of an impact that they contacted me out of nowhere, in response to the article. It was just like [Wow!] This should not be happening. If this is completely nonsensical, we should not see any of this. And if anything like this was happening about Mayan glyphs, you know there would be entire volumes of apologetic works written about it.

Are you familiar with the Malay Theory?  What do you think of it?  Check out our conversation….

Dr. Ralph Olsen believes the Book of Mormon took place on the Malay Peninsula. KC Kern introduces us to the theory, discussing strengths & weaknesses.

Don’t miss our other conversations with KC and Greg.

541: Clearing Out the Mormon Cave

540: Finding the Mormon Cave

539: History of Mormon Cave

538: Raiders of the Lost Mormon Cave

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Clearing out the Mormon Cave (Part 4 of 6)

As you know, KC Kern and Greg Pavone hit pay dirt and found the Mormon Cave.  Now we’re going to talk about the dig inside the cave where they tried to clear it out.  What did they find in the cave?

Greg:  So, at the base of the cave, there were these wooden boards, and we, honestly, not being archaeologists, didn’t want to damage anything. So, we dug down, probably 10 feet or so.

GT:  Inside the cave?

Greg:  Inside the cave, cleared all the dirt out, but there So, at the base of the cave, there were these wooden boards, and we, honestly, not being archaeologists, didn’t want to damage anything. So, we dug down, probably 10 feet or so.

GT: Inside the cave?

Greg: Inside the cave, cleared all the dirt out, but there were these wooden boards that we didn’t want to necessarily fully [destroy.] We didn’t want to keep going down.

KC: We were running out of time.Greg: And we were running out of time.

GT: Kind of like a boardwalk.

Greg: Yeah. What I would love to see if I had the time and the resources and the expertise, would be to have a full archeological dig occur on that site. To go down, dig farther down, like I said, and to really do it right with experts and professionals who can both safely and properly archive and protect anything that could be there. It’d be even better, I would think, if the Church, if they were interested, would maybe purchase the property, and then restore the cave to its original 40-foot dimensions to say, hey, this was a part of the Restoration and maybe turn it into a visitor’s center, so people can see what it originally looked like. That would be interesting.

KC: That would be a big project. It would require, probably like installing a big culvert or some sort of structure that would keep things in place. Then, of course, do all the earth moving to bring it back.GT: You’ll have to get [some universities involved.] I know BYU has got an Archaeology Department. Of course, Utah State and Utah both have Mormon Studies departments. I think you should talk to them. I know Utah State has done some archaeological research with the Bear River Ma were these wooden boards that we didn’t want to necessarily fully [destroy.] We didn’t want to keep going down.

KC:  We were running out of time.

Greg:  And we were running out of time.

GT:  Kind of like a boardwalk.

Greg:  Yeah.  What I would love to see if I had the time and the resources and the expertise, would be to have a full archeological dig occur on that site. To go down, dig farther down, like I said, and to really do it right with experts and professionals who can both safely and properly archive and protect anything that could be there. It’d be even better, I would think, if the Church, if they were interested, would maybe purchase the property, and then restore the cave to its original 40-foot dimensions to say, hey, this was a part of the Restoration and maybe turn it into a visitor’s center, so people can see what it originally looked like. That would be interesting.

KC:  That would be a big project. It would require, probably like installing a big culvert or some sort of structure that would keep things in place. Then, of course, do all the earth moving to bring it back.

GT:  You’ll have to get [some universities involved.] I know BYU has got an Archaeology Department. Of course, Utah State and Utah both have Mormon Studies departments. I think you should talk to them. I know Utah State has done some archaeological research with the Bear River Massacre site.

Check out our conversation….

What did KC Kern & Greg Pavone find when clearing out the Lost Mormon Cave?

Don’t miss our other conversations with KC and Greg!

540: Finding the Mormon Cave

539: History of Mormon Cave

538: Raiders of the Lost Mormon Cave