Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Intellectual Book of Mormon Challenge

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"
— The late comedian, Groucho Marx

There are many more examples of scientific evidences, that could be given to help establish each point that has been presented, but for the sake of time and space, the forgoing should be enough to turn on the thinking light bulb of the honest seeker of truth.

This chapter is for the sincere critic of the Book of Mormon who fervently believes that it was a fabrication, a figment of the fertile imagination of Joseph Smith. If this belief is true, then who is willing to take the following challenge?

The Challenge
Many years ago I received a copy of what someone called “The Book of Mormon Challenge,” which I found rather fascinating. Therefore, I thought I would offer the reader that same opportunity. Therefore, the challenge idea presented in this chapter is based upon someone else’s concept.

The challenge is that someone must accept the responsibility of producing a similar book as the Book of Mormon under comparable conditions, and produce similar results from scientific probing after publication. For someone to accept the challenge, though, it will be necessary for them to comply with the following requisite conditions and produce the equivalent outcome as follows:

1. The individual must be a married man of 23 years of age.
2. He must live in the rural, farming, backwoods area of upper-state New York.
3. He must have not more than a formal third-grade education.
4. He will have to claim that he received a sacred record from an Angel of God,
5. Which record is to be engraved on golden plates, and
6. Which plates were hidden in a stone box that was buried in the ground.
7. The sacred record is to be written in an ancient language which he is to translate into English,
8. Which translation is to be performed using ancient instruments called the Urim and Thummim.
9. He will not be paid a salary or wage for his labor.
10. He will have no time to travel or do library or other research.
11. He will have only sixty to ninety days to complete the book.
12. While translating, he will often have to impose upon his in-laws for room and board to protect him from angry mobs.
13. He will have to continually find different hiding places for the gold plates to keep them from people who would steal them, which plates those same people say he doesn’t have in the first place.
14. He will be provided two scribes to whom he will dictate the manuscript as he translates.
15. One of those scribes will lose the first 116 translated pages, and the translation will have to start all over again.
16. He must find someone who is willing to put up money to publish the book without security.
17. The resulting translation must be published to the world as a book of sacred scripture.
18. The published book is to be a history of ancient America covering a chronological period from about 2,150 B.C. to about 421 A.D., a span of about 2,571 years.
19. The narrative of this book must include the history of two distinct and separate nations.
20. The history must include a description of the people’s religious, economic, social and political cultures and institutions, a description of which is not known when he publishes this book.
21. Integrated into the history must be accounts of the people’s contentions and wars, to the annihilation of those two nations of people because of their wickedness and corruption.
22. His narrative must consist of over 587 pages.
23. He must use a vocabulary of not more than 3,500 words, with a total of over 150,000 words.
24. In the book he must introduce into the English language 180 new and original proper nouns.
25. He must characterize some outstanding men, actually worthy to be called Prophets of God.
26. He must weave into the account the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and the pattern of Christian living.
27. His statements must not conflict with the Holy Bible, but must support and strengthen accepted scripture so far as men have translated it correctly.
28. He must find three reputable men of character, who will attest and witness to all the world with words of sobriety, that an Angel of God came out of heaven and declared the work to be true, and that they saw and held the gold plates and felt the ancient engravings thereon, from which this sacred book came.
29. Although the translator/author must thereafter become estranged from these three witnesses, these three men must always uphold their statements and never deny their claim and testimony.
30. He must find an additional eight other witnesses to these gold plates who will testify to the world that they saw and handled the ancient records and they also felt the engraving thereon.
31. The first three witness, along with the other eight witnesses, must not bear their testimony for profit or gain, but under great personal sacrifice and severe persecution, they will uphold their witness even to their deaths.
32. He must be willing, for 15 years, to suffer persecution and slander of the vilest nature, false arrests on trumped-up charges, beatings, being tarred-and-feathered, imprisonments, and finally, in his late thirties, he will be shot to death as a martyr for his testimony that the record is of God.
33. The sacred translated record is to fulfill Bible prophecies, the exact manner in which it shall come forth, its purpose, and to whom it is given.
34. In the sacred book he must come forth with ideas and statements which are contradictory and inconsistent with prevailing beliefs in the world at the time, but which will come into true light and focus in the future.
35. His book must contain external prophecies yet unfulfilled, many of which will be confirmed and fulfilled in the next 170 years or so.
36. His statements and claims regarding these people’s culture, religion, cities, architecture, building materials, tools, weapons, etc., must be verified when these things are unearthed through future investigation, scientific evidence, and archeological discovery many years after the book’s original publication.
37. The published book must be tested by able scholars and scientists for at least 170 years or more, and during that time no claim or representation in the book must be dis-proven, but all claims concerning the book must be upheld and vindicated
38. His statement in the book concerning the geography of Saudi Arabia, which no westerner knew anything about at the time, will be found accurate by future investigation.
39. The claim that the translator/author actually wrote the book himself, or that someone else of modern time wrote it, will be proven otherwise by the future discovery of Wordprint analysis.
40. Future discovery of DNA analysis will help support his statement concerning the origin of those spoken of in the book to be true as well.

If no one can be found who will accept the challenge, and successfully fulfill all of its 40 required conditions as just put forth, and producing a similar work, then the only possible conclusion is that the Book of Mormon is as it claims to be: a work of the true and living God.

From "Science Speaks"
This study into the Book of Mormon presented many facts that Joseph Smith could not have known of when bringing forth that book, facts which were disputed by his critics then and now, many facts of which have been substantiated in the meantime. So let’s now consider one more thing, that is, some calculations that just might enhance the probability of the thesis presented in this work.

At the end of most of the foregoing chapters, under the “Summary” heading, there are a few challenging questions or statements regarding the Book of Mormon. From the relevant chapters there are:

16 in Chapter 2
15 in Chapter 3
01 in Chapter 5
07 in Chapter 6
07 in Chapter 7
08 in Chapter 8
06 in Chapter 9
01 in Chapter 10
07 in Chapter 11
01 in Chapter 12
40 in Chapter 13

From the forgoing chapters, the challenging questions or statements total one hundred and nine (109) in all. But for the sake of being conservative, let’s discount the forty requisite conditions mentioned in this chapter, which will leave us with only sixty-nine (69).

Now let’s do a little calculation with the help of Professor Peter W. Stoner who was Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College, and who authored the book, Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible.

Professor Stoner calculates in his book, Science Speaks, that the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of the specific prophecies in the Holy Bible was one chance in 10 to the 17th power; that would be a one in one-hundred quadrillion (a 1 followed by 17 zeros: 100,000,000,000,000,000) chances that one man could fulfill all eight prophecies. (Professor Stoner’s calculations have received The American Scientific Affiliation stamp of approval, as you can read in the endnote at the end of this chapter.) In order for us to be able to comprehend this staggering probability, Professor Stoner illustrates it with the following example taken from his book:

“… we take 10 [to the 17th power] silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote in their own wisdom.

“This means that the fulfillment of these eight prophecies alone proves that God inspired the writing of those eight prophecies to a definiteness which lacks only one chance in 10 to the 17th power of being absolute.” (Peter W. Stoner, Science Speaks. Chicago: Moody Press, 1963, pp 100-107.)

In his work, Professor Stoner was using the eight prophecies to show that Jesus, indeed, was the promised Messiah. But his theory of calculation also holds true to other prophecies and claims, as well, for Professor Stoner had “applied these principles in a proper and convincing way,” according to The American Scientific Affiliation stamp of approval.

So let’s push Stoner’s calculations a little further with the probability of Joseph Smith’s accuracy in not just eight prophecies or claims regarding the divine nature of the Book of Mormon, but sixty-nine (69) prophecies or claims pertaining to the book, as put forth by the challenging questions or statements in the previous chapters.

If only eight prophecies or claims are near impossible to fulfill, as Professor Stoner pointed out, how much more impossible for sixty-nine (69) to be fulfilled? And that’s not all of them. If the calculation example above, of a man picking up a specific coin, is correct, could there be any doubt as to the accuracy for claims made by Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon? Let’s be honest about it, now! Remember, this is not an issue between you and me, it’s an issue between you and your God.

The Challenge Reiterated
Will anyone take the challenge of duplicating the feat offered above? If no one can be found who will accept the challenge, along with successfully fulfilling all of its 40 requisite conditions, then the only possible conclusion is that the Book of Mormon is as it claims: that it is a divine and sacred record delivered by an Angel of God to the Prophet Joseph Smith who translated it from gold plates, from an ancient language, by the gift and power of God.

The evidences presented in this book, and the challenge set forth in this chapter, are designed to provide the reader with what one would call an “intellectual” testimony of the Book of Mormon. But such a testimony is only superficial. What that really means is that such a testimony can be, in like manner, intellectually and scientifically challenged and destroyed. Though such a testimony may be satisfying to man, it may not be enough for God.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."(Isaiah 55:8-9.)

The real testimony of the Book of Mormon, an unshakeable witness of its truth, only comes by way of the Holy Ghost. The next chapter provides such an opportunity, an opportunity for a spiritual testimony of the Book of Mormon. Is the reader willing to venture into that realm and take the “spiritual” challenge of the Book of Mormon? If so — then go ahead to the next chapter.
ENDNOTE: Professor Peter Stoner (1888-1980) was Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953, and Chairman of the Science Division of Westmont College from 1953 to 1957. In 1944, he published his research results in Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible. The American Scientific Affiliation gave Stoner’s work their stamp of approval: “The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.”