Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Diamond in the Field

A young man once long ago claimed he had found a large diamond in his field as he was ploughing. He put the stone on display to the public free of charge, and everyone took sides. A psychologist showed, by citing some famous case studies, that the young man was suffering from a well-known form of delusion. An historian showed that other men have also claimed to have found diamonds in fields and been deceived. A geologist proved that there were no diamonds in the area but only quartz: the young man had been fooled by a quartz. When asked to inspect the stone itself, the geologist declined with a weary, tolerant smile and a kindly shake of the head. An English professor showed that the young man in describing his stone used the very same language that others had used in describing uncut diamonds: he was, therefore, simply speaking the common language of his time. A sociologist showed that only three out of 177 florists’ assistants in four major cities believed the stone was genuine. A clergyman wrote a book to show that it was not the young man but someone else who had found the stone.

Finally an indigent jeweler named Snite pointed out that since the stone was still available for examination the answer to the question of whether it was a diamond or not had absolutely nothing to do with who found it, or whether the finder was honest or sane, or who believed him, or whether he would know a diamond from a brick, or whether diamonds had ever been found in fields, or whether people had ever been fooled by quartz or glass, but was to be answered simply and solely by putting the stone to certain well-known tests for diamonds. Experts on diamonds were called in. Some of them declared it genuine. The others made nervous jokes about it and declared that they could not very well jeopardize their dignity and reputations by appearing to take the thing too seriously. To hide the bad impression thus made, someone came out with the theory that the stone was really a synthetic diamond, very skilfully made, but a fake just the same. The objection to this is that the production of a good synthetic diamond 120 years ago would have been an even more remarkable feat than the finding of a real one.

- Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 121–22.

This is what we have with The Book of Mormon. The young man is Joseph Smith, and the year is 1830. Most of the world rejects it without examination, relying on the rejection of others they presently trust, but who also have not seriously examined it.

It's perhaps easy to dismiss The Book of Mormon as the fabrication of one unusually gifted man. Except for two things: (1) nobody thought he was unusually gifted at the time -- quite the opposite; and (2) the pesky issue of 11 other men who signed testimony that they were shown the original metal plates, the ancient record the book was translated from.

Re. #1, maybe he had an amazing talent for narrative and ancient culture that he developed on a farm in rural New York that he kept hidden from his brothers, parents, and wife? And that he never used again? Maybe.

But #2? Some might suppose these men were friends of Joseph Smith -- they were. However, most of them later left the church and were angry with Joseph Smith for problems in Missouri, and many of them never returned. That would've been the perfect time for them to come clean with an exposé of the whole affair -- yet not a one did, despite many opportunities, and many people prodding them to do so.

Other explanations? All the remotely credible ones are documented in this recent BYU talk by Todd Callister, which is what prompted this post.

I love The Book of Mormon -- the many-years story of Nephi (Lehi's son) and his family that is a wonderful allegory for man's journey out of darkness, Isaiah's description of God's people and their interactions with those around them and what to expect from the Messiah, the sons of Mosiah's missionary experiences and the effect that a few good people can have on those around them, the "war" chapters that serve as an analogy of Satan's various strategies of attack on us, Nephi (Helaman's son) and his experience with miraculous events reminding us that they don't create faith, the visit of the Savior to other people as he promised and the types of interactions we can expect, and stunning rate and extent and mechanism of which evil overtakes a people when they stop trying to stay close to the Spirit of the Lord.

I wish sincere truth seekers would ignore the florists' opinions and just read it and see for themselves.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008