Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Use of Qualifiers in Studying The Book of Mormon

I want to address the criticism concerning qualifying words in our writings. These are words such as "probably", "most likely" and so on that indicate a degree of doubt concerning scholarly research. What follows is a brief response to the charge that scholarship which defends The Book of Mormon is faulty or inadequate because it includes these qualifiers:

I have found that the more I study and the more degrees I get the more I realize how much I DON'T know. In fact, one of the main conclusions of my Master's Thesis was that even deceptively simple topics defy easy conclusions; and the problem only gets worse with ancient topics that have a paucity of written sources, such as pre Nara Period Japan, Shang Dynasty China, Old Kingdom Egypt and Pre Classic Mesoamerica.

In the books I've read even the most simple points are debatable based on how you interpret evidence. So the authors correctly offer qualifiers. I could open to a random page from any academic book and find the same qualifiers that you attack. This process is accelerated the farther back you go in time. These qualifiers acknowledge the limitations of research and represent an honest attempt to allow the possibility that contradictory evidence may be uncovered in the future. Thus is shows that the historian is aware of the limits of his craft and his sources. When there is a rush to judgement, and refusal to allow for additional sources you will probably find somebody begging the question with an ax to grind.

And these "books" that I mentioned earlier are not fluff pieces either, but from the leaders of their fiel such as Bernard Bachrach, David Graff, Peter Lorge, Ralph Sawyer, and John Gallagher. So people who are leaders in their fields with PhDs and years of experience, still qualify many of their arguments; but those at some "Christian" ministry sites, read a few articles from an anti Mormon site and think they can end the debate. So I think a negative reaction to the use of qualifiers says more about your education and scholarly acumen than quality of Mormon researchers.

My spiritual testimony of the book is firm and unbending, but when you enter the academic realm a cautious reading of sources is not only understandable but desirable.


David J. West said...

You been getting into some dogfights lately Morgan?

Morgan Deane said...

Wow, I thought that was restrained. But yes, some Christian sites hardly deserve that name, or my time.