Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

The catch-all forum for general topics and debates. Minimal moderation. Rated PG to PG-13.
User avatar
Doctor Scratch
B.H. Roberts Chair of Mopologetic Studies
Posts: 1153
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 7:24 pm
Location: Cassius University

Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Doctor Scratch »

Despite their claims to the contrary, it would seem that the eminent historian Richard Bushman is *not* the Mopologists’ friend. I’m sure that longtime readers remember Bushman openly upbraiding the classic FARMS apologists for their aggressive tactics, for example. And some of his historical writings completely undermine certain Mopologetic claims. In fact, I was recently baffled that the following quote was posted to SeN the other day:
Richard Bushman wrote:Harris said he viewed the plates as a visionary sees “a city through a mountain.” Burnett understood the words to mean that Harris saw the plates only in his imagination. The admission, Burnett thought, destroyed everything. If the witnesses never saw the plates, “there can be nothing brought to prove that any such thing ever existed.” “The last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins.”
Martin Harris was among the defectors in 1837 and 1838; he turned on Joseph Smith for the same reasons as Burnett—the failed bank and a loss of confidence in Joseph Smith. But strangely, his statement about seeing the plates in a vision was not meant to undermine the Book of Mormon. Burnett also heard Harris say that “he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true.” Harris was actually warning his fellow apostates they would suffer if in rejecting Smith they relinquished faith in the book. Harris’s visionary description of the plates was not intended to undermine their reality. He spoke of not seeing the plates “with his natural eyes only in vision,” because he believed that was the only way a mortal could view heavenly things. Pomeroy Tucker, the Palmyra printer who later wrote a book on Mormonism, remembered Harris speaking “a good deal of his characteristic jargon about ‘seeing with the spiritual eye.’ ”
In Harris’s world, the plates were enchanted. He said he was “told by Joseph Smith that God would strike him dead if he attempted to look at them.” When Charles Anthon asked him to bring the plates to New York, Harris told him that the “human gaze was not to be permitted to rest on them.” Harris’s thinking was based on Bible passages suggesting that human eyes could not look upon God without preparation. He did not dare to look into Smith’s seer stones “because Moses said that ‘no man could see God and live.’ ” Though intensely curious, Harris had not snuck a peek of the plates while helping Smith translate. He feared that he, an unworthy mortal, would suffer if he did. When Joseph offered to show Harris the plates in return for his help, Harris refused “unless the Lord should do it.” He told Burnett’s audience that the three witnesses had seen the plates “only in vision” because that was the only safe way. He had no intention of undermining the reality of the plates or questioning the Book of Mormon. (60)
Prior to this, Dr. Peterson explains the Mopologetic issue:
Among the more sophisticated critics of the Restoration, it has become popular to portray Martin Harris as denying the literal reality of the Book of Mormon plates, as saying, effectively, that he “saw” them only in his mind’s eye. They base their portrayal on two or three cherry-picked statements, ignoring the many occasions on which he testified to having seen them quite literally, with his physical eyes, and even to having held them on his lap and being impressed by their extraordinary weight. I think that Richard Lyman Bushman’s recent book Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History correctly understands what was going on:
This is absolutely baffling. Did DCP not actually read the quote? Bushman is providing devastating evidence here that Harris *never saw the plates*! In fact—according to Bushman—Harris was *afraid* to look at them, fearing that he would no doubt suffer a fate similar to what happens to the Nazis as the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, after they look into the sands in the Ark of the Covenant.

But Bushman completely affirms the critics’ argument: Harris never actually saw the plates. Of course, the Mopologists have for years been trying to spin-doctor this issue, claiming that, no, Harris actually *did* say that he saw real plates (so is Bushman wrong, then?). But if Bushman’s evidence is correct, Harris never saw the plates. He may have *thought* they were real. But his belief in their reality would have been due more to faith than due to having actually *seen* the actual plates. And is there anything more laughable than a “witness” who hasn’t actually seen the most important piece of evidence?

In any case: consider this yet another Mopologist chestnut blown to pieces!
"If, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14
User avatar
Kishkumen
God
Posts: 6031
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2020 2:37 pm
Location: Cassius University

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Kishkumen »

Sometimes people so badly need something to be the case that they cannot accept what is obvious to those who do not share that need. Harris saw the plates with his spiritual eyes. He did not see them in the same way I see the computer screen in front of my face. To those who believe, that spiritual eye is all that is necessary. It is the materialist who needs the plates to be just another mundane object that anyone can touch or look at. It is as though apologists do not believe in spiritual things. If they did, they would have no problem with accepting Harris’ witness on its own terms instead of deliberately misreading him to say what they so desperately want to be the case.

In my view, Harris is not much of a credible witness of anything, but there you go. I would have never staked my acceptance of the truth of anything on one damn thing Harris said. He was happy to lend his witness to a wide variety of things. Why should his Book of Mormon witness be held up as something special? If I were to trust Harris whenever he testifies of something, perhaps I should go restart the Shaker religion. Harris was a witness for them, after all.
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”~Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
User avatar
Doctor Scratch
B.H. Roberts Chair of Mopologetic Studies
Posts: 1153
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 7:24 pm
Location: Cassius University

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Doctor Scratch »

Great post, Reverend. It’s really remarkable: the Mopologists sunk a million dollars into a “theatrical film”—a box office bomb, by the way—as an attempt to undo the problems posed by Harris’s own words.
"If, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14
User avatar
Gadianton
God
Posts: 3823
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:56 pm
Location: Elsewhere

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Gadianton »

That Bushman quote ends Mopologetics for good.
The Reverend wrote:To those who believe, that spiritual eye is all that is necessary. It is the materialist who needs the plates to be just another mundane object that anyone can touch or look at
A great find Reverend, yet more evidence that Dan is just as much of a reductive materialist as Gemli, if not more.
Imwashingmypirate
Elder
Posts: 351
Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:46 pm

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Imwashingmypirate »

Where's the sources that talk about Martin Harris having the plates on his knee?
User avatar
Kishkumen
God
Posts: 6031
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2020 2:37 pm
Location: Cassius University

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Kishkumen »

Gadianton wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2024 5:11 am
That Bushman quote ends Mopologetics for good.
The Reverend wrote:To those who believe, that spiritual eye is all that is necessary. It is the materialist who needs the plates to be just another mundane object that anyone can touch or look at
A great find Reverend, yet more evidence that Dan is just as much of a reductive materialist as Gemli, if not more.
Isn't this why so many Mormons who leave become atheists? They were already materialists. Once they find that the religion does not work on material terms, the only honest and feasible thing to do is drop the stuff that is not backed up materially and stick only with those things that are.
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”~Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
User avatar
Kishkumen
God
Posts: 6031
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2020 2:37 pm
Location: Cassius University

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Kishkumen »

Doctor Scratch wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2024 1:44 am
Great post, Reverend. It’s really remarkable: the Mopologists sunk a million dollars into a “theatrical film”—a box office bomb, by the way—as an attempt to undo the problems posed by Harris’s own words.
All of these productions, including South Park's take on Joseph Smith, are just rewritings and new interpretations. They do not really capture what happened. It is guaranteed that they do not faithfully represent what happened. They chiefly appeal to what people hope to see. For the South Park camp, Mormons were gullible people who were nonetheless nice and decent. Their Smith is a charlatan, but he is not maliciously so.

Honestly, the single most insightful modern interpretation of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon musical. I saw it on Smithmas, and suddenly the brilliance of the whole thing was clear as day. Book of Mormon the musical casts a young missionary in the role of Joseph Smith. He is the one making up stories to rewrite religion in a way that appeals to the situation around him. I think it is entirely appropriate that this musical is a huge success with lasting impact that will eclipse all of these movies.

And I say that as a person who enjoyed the first Interpreter movie quite a lot.
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”~Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
I Have Questions
Priest
Posts: 313
Joined: Tue May 23, 2023 9:09 am

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by I Have Questions »

Doctor Scratch wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2024 1:44 am
Great post, Reverend. It’s really remarkable: the Mopologists sunk a million dollars into a “theatrical film”—a box office bomb, by the way—as an attempt to undo the problems posed by Harris’s own words.
Does the film Witnesses portray Harris as seeing the plates through normal sight? Or in vision? Or does it avoid the process completely?
Chap
God
Posts: 2305
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 8:42 am
Location: On the imaginary axis

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Chap »

Kishkumen wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2024 3:26 pm
Honestly, the single most insightful modern interpretation of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon musical. I saw it on Smithmas, and suddenly the brilliance of the whole thing was clear as day. Book of Mormon the musical casts a young missionary in the role of Joseph Smith. He is the one making up stories to rewrite religion in a way that appeals to the situation around him. I think it is entirely appropriate that this musical is a huge success with lasting impact that will eclipse all of these movies.
As a nevermo who has nevertheless learned a fair bit about Mormonism, I agree heartily. It is the only musical I have actually seen on Broadway, and it was clear to me that it was a worthy member of the genre, as well as giving a sympathetic caricature (yes, that can be done) of the principal character.

The opening number was so cleverly worded:

"I BELIEVE that God Almighty created the universe!" ("I'm fine with that too" goes a large proportion of the audience)

" and I BELIEVE that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die for us!" ("Count us out on that" goes the Jewish part of the audience, not negligible in NY)

" and I BELIEVE that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America!" (Major "Huh?" from pretty well everybody watching)

" I am a Mormon, and Mormons just BELIEVE!!!!" ("Okay ...... ")

I enjoyed every minute!
Maksutov:
That's the problem with this supernatural stuff, it doesn't really solve anything. It's a placeholder for ignorance.
Mayan Elephant:
Not only have I denounced the Big Lie, I have denounced the Big lie big lie.
User avatar
Everybody Wang Chung
God
Posts: 1584
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:52 am

Re: Bushman Delivers Another Devastating Blow

Post by Everybody Wang Chung »

Martin Harris was a wife-beating moron. From No Man Knows My History, page 149:

Image

https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comme ... ?rdt=61865
"I'm on paid sabbatical from BYU in exchange for my promise to use this time to finish two books."

Daniel C. Peterson, 2014
Post Reply