Book of Mormon/Witnesses/Were the witnesses not "empirical" or "rational" men

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Were the witnesses not "empirical" or "rational" men because they lived in the 19th-Century?

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Question: What is "empirical evidence"?

"Empirical evidence" is evidence based upon observation

Merriam-Webster defines empirical as: "originating in or based on observation or experience." The Book of Mormon witnesses testified that they saw the plates, and three of them testified that they saw an angel. This is the very definition of "empirical evidence." They reported what they saw with their own eyes. This is not faith, but knowledge.


Question: Is a man unreliable because he lived in the 19th-Century?

To imply that someone is unreliable simply because of the era they lived in is a ad hominem attack

Were the Book of Mormon witnesses not "empirical" or "rational" because they lived in the 19th-Century during a time when "folk magic" was practiced?

  • One critic of Mormonism claims "The mistake that is made by 21st century Mormons is that they’re seeing the Book of Mormon Witnesses as empirical, rational, twenty-first century men" (The claim was modified to read "nineteenth-century men" in later revisions)[1]

To imply that nineteenth-century men are intrinsically unreliable is both an ad hominem (an attack against the character of person making the claim, rather than the claim itself) and sets an impossible standard of evidence for the gospel inasmuch as they were the only men available as witnesses at the time. Thus the author is using a screening argument (dates of life) that can be used to exclude whatever evidence he wishes to ignore.


Peterson (2014): "It’s rather like someone to ascribe early Christian belief to the resurrection of Jesus to the supposed fact that ancient people, unlike us, hadn’t yet realized that dead people tend to stay dead"

Daniel C. Peterson, responding to a claim in the Letter to a CES Director:

This is what he says, the author of the letter: “The mistake that is made by 21st century Mormons is that they’re seeing the Book of Mormon Witnesses as empirical, rational, nineteenth-century men instead of the nineteenth-century magical-thinking superstitious and treasure-digging men they were.” [2] I confess as someone who has spent a lot of time, much of my life, looking at people from pre-modern periods, that the sheer condescension of this, the chronological smugness and complacency of that statement irritates me, and not merely because I’m a believing Latter-day Saint. It’s rather like someone to ascribe early Christian belief to the resurrection of Jesus to the supposed fact that ancient people, unlike us, hadn’t yet realized that dead people tend to stay dead, which, if it were true at all would leave us wondering why they thought the resurrection of Jesus was such a big deal. Happens all the time, right? [3]

Notes

  1. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (original version posted on the critical website "FutureMissionary.com") (2013)
  2. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (2013)
  3. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference