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Showing posts from 2014

The Nephite Practice of Burying Treasure unto the Lord

In Helaman 13:19, the Lord, through Samuel the Lamanite, castigates the people for not burying treasure unto him: "For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land".

In the following verses we learn that the people buried treasure so as to hide it from their enemies, as they themselves fled for their lives. The Lord answers this by saying that if they are going to bury treasures for any reason then it should be unto Him. Some would argue that this reference to buried treasure is a throwback to Joseph's own treasure digging activities and magical beliefs. His culture and beliefs certainly play a role in coloring the English translation of the book, as is the English translati…

The Star Gods of the Book of Abraham

Few things offend the sensibilities of modern readers more than the blatant polytheism of the Book of Abraham(Abraham 4). When the Prophet Joseph Smith first taught this doctrine publicly, some of his fellow Mormons called him a fallen prophet(Here). While learning Hebrew in Kirtland, Joseph learned that elohim has a plural ending. This opened up new spiritual vistas, reflected in the Book of Abraham. However, the rest of the world is catching up. The earliest Israelite religion was polytheistic and so is the Book of Abraham(Bokovoy).
From the perspective of this older theology, "Yahweh did not belong to the top tier of the pantheon. Instead, in early Israel, the god of Israel apparently belonged to the second tier of the pantheon; he was not the presider god, but one of his sons"(Mark S. Smith, pg. 68Abraham 1:16Doctrine and Covenants 110:3-4). 
"A generation ago, when I was a graduate student, biblical scholars were nearly unanimous in thinking that monotheism ha…

A Response to Grant Palmer's "Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo

Abstract: Grant H. Palmer, former LDS seminary instructor turned critic, has recently posted an essay, “Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo,” on In it, Palmer isolates ten interactions between women and Joseph Smith that Palmer alleges were inappropriate and, “have at least some plausibility of being true.” In this paper, Palmer’s analysis of these ten interactions is reviewed, revealing how poorly Palmer has represented the historical data by advancing factual inaccuracies, quoting sources without establishing their credibility, ignoring contradictory evidences, and manifesting superficial research techniques that fail to account for the latest scholarship on the topics he is discussing. Other accusations put forth by Palmer are also evaluated for correctness, showing, once again, his propensity for inadequate scholarship.

Read the rest at The Interpreter.

Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon

Abstract: Anti-Mormon criticisms of the Book of Mormon are frequently based on a questionable set of assumptions concerning the nature of historical and archaeological evidence, the role of governing presuppositions, and the nature of historical proof. Using arguments found in a recent anti-Mormon critique by Luke Wilson as a foundation, this article analyzes issues of the difficulties of reconstructing ancient geographies, problems with the discontinuity of Mesoamerican toponyms, the historical development of the idea of a Limited Geography Model, and difficulties of textual and artifactual interpretation when trying to relate the Book of Mormon to archaeological remains.
Read the rest here in The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Letter to a Doubter

"I understand that some doubts have arisen in your mind. I don’t know for sure what they are, but I imagine I have heard them before. Probably I have entertained some of them in my own mind. And perhaps I still harbor some of them myself. I am not going to respond to them in the ways that you may have anticipated. Oh, I will say a few things about why many doubts felt by the previously faithful and faith-filled are ill-founded and misplaced: the result of poor teaching, naïve assumptions, cultural pressures, and outright false doctrines. But my main purpose in writing this letter is not to resolve the uncertainties and perplexities in your mind. I want, rather, to endow them with the dignity and seriousness they deserve. And even to celebrate them. That may sound perverse, but I hope to show you it is not. ..."

Read the rest at terrylgivens.

"According to Their Language, unto Their Understanding": The Cultural Context of Hierophanies and Theophanies in Latter-day Saint Canon

Latter-day Saint canon is replete with manifestations of the sacred. A general term for a manifestation of the sacred is hierophany, whereas the appearance of a deity is referred to as a theophany. Scholars of religion note that hierophanies are products of their culture; in essence, a culture both defines and is defined by its hierophanies. The peoples and cultures described in Latter-day Saint canonical texts did not exist in cultural vacuums. They were surrounded by, and at times entrenched within, other nations; sometimes the people were generalized as Gentiles or pagans and at other times were specified by name, such as Babylonians, Egyptians, or Lamanites. It was within these contexts that ancient prophets received revelations and were witnesses to divine power. Each prophet was a product of his own culture, and the manner in which the divine was manifested to the prophets was largely defined by the semiotics of their culture. ...

Read the rest at Studies in the Bible and Antiqui…

Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Places are made sacred through manifestations of the divine or ritual activity. The occurrence of a theophany or hierophany or the performance of particular rituals can conceptually transform a place into an axis mundi, or the center of the world. A variety of such axes mundi are known from the archaeological record of Mesoamerica and the text of the Book of Mormon. I compare and contrast several distinctive types of such ritual complexes from Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon and argue that they served functionally and ideologically similar purposes.

Read the rest at The Interpreter.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy, is a valuable resource put together by Brian Hales and his wife, Laura Harris, Brian is the author of several books on polygamy. I was lucky enough to be at one of his firesides, probably the first fireside on the subject, in one hundred years, when he spoke at the Irvine Stake Center. I don't post on polygamy because I find the subject very boring. However, I realize how important it is, so I offer up the link to Brian's site; because Brian takes away the boredom and gives you all the details. Why did Mormons practice polygamy? Doctrine and Covenants 132 is a good place to start when asking that question. Brian outlines for reasons, which I will quote verbatim:
Reason #1 – Restitution 
The Apostle Peter spoke of the “restitution of all things” that would occur in the last days (Acts 3:21). Joseph Smith explained that this “restitution” would include a restoration of “the ancient order of plural marriage.” He taught that polygamy as practiced “ancientl…

An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Coe

Abstract: In August 2011 John Dehlin conducted a three-part interview with famed Mesoamericanist Michael Coe. Dehlin operates the podcast series Mormon Stories, which features interviews discussing the faith and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This article examines a large number of dubious claims made in those interviews, providing clarifications, responses, and references to numerous sources dealing with those issues. Much more detail will be forthcoming in Dr. Sorenson’s new book, Mormon’s Codex.

Read the rest at The Interpreter.

Testing a Methodology: A Malaysian Setting for the Book of Mormon

William G. Dever correctly posits that “in history-writing of any kind, the choice of method is fundamental, because to a large degree it determines the outcome of the inquiry. Where you arrive depends not only upon where you think you are going, but also upon how you decide to get there.” In his own work, he has suggested a methodology that he has termed “convergence.” That is, “it is possible to learn about the past, not simply by amassing more bits and pieces of disjointed ‘evidence,’ but rather by coordinating the pieces of evidence and situating them within a context relating knowledge to a deliberate quest.” It is a process where multiple data converge into a cohesive understanding relating to a particular time and place.

Read the rest at The Interpreter.

Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel

Abstract: Biblical “minimalists” have sought to undermine or de-emphasize the significance of the Tel Dan inscription attesting to the existence of the “house of David.” Similarly, those who might be called Book of Mormon “minimalists” such as Dan Vogel have marshaled evidence to try to make the nhm inscriptions from south Arabia, corresponding to the Book of Mormon Nahom, seem as irrelevant as possible. We show why the nhm inscriptions still stand as impressive evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

Read the whole thing at Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.

Alma 9: The Anti-Endowment

In The Book of Moses as Temple Text, David Bokovoy shows how the Book of Moses can be read as a temple text. In this post, I want to read Alma 9 as the anti-thesis of a temple text. Whereas the first chapter of Moses closes with an injunction to only show these things to the believers(Moses 1:42), Alma and Amulek are preaching to a degenerate and fallen people(Alma 9:8). What they present is not a gift from God but a stern warning of destruction. The chapter has the basic structure of, what might be described as, an anti-endowment, even if the elements are not totally tight. Without discussing sacred things in detail, the pattern can be seen here:

Alma 9:1-4; mention of the destruction of the earth, as opposed to creation.
Alma 9:13-14, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Alma 9:16-17, the traditions of men leaving people in ignorance; mercy upon those who call upon the name of the Lord.
Alma 9:19-21: light and knowledge being given by the voice of the Lord and his angels.
Alma 9…

The Cultural Context of Nephite Apostasy

Read it here, at The Interpreter.

“Thou Knowest That I Believe”: Invoking The Spirit of the Lord as Council Witness in 1 Nephi 11

Abstract: The Book of Mormon features an esoteric exchange between the prophet Nephi and the Spirit of the Lord on an exceedingly high mountain. The following essay explores some of the ways in which an Israelite familiar with ancient religious experiences and scribal techniques might have interpreted this event. The analysis shows that Nephi’s conversation, as well as other similar accounts in the Book of Mormon, echoes an ancient temple motif. As part of this paradigm, the essay explores the manner in which the text depicts the Spirit of the Lord in a role associated with members of the divine council in both biblical and general Near Eastern conceptions.

Read it here at The Interpreter.

Zarahemla and Pompei: Volcanoes in the Book of Mormon

In 3 Nephi 8, we can read about the destructions that signaled the death of Jesus Christ, to the Nephites in ancient America. The above awesome video, which is worth a watch for it's own sake,is a recreation of the destruction that took place at Pompei; it can be found at the Museum Victoria website. Is the destruction in 3 Nephi 8 a volcanic one? I will leave that for the reader to decide; read 3 Nephi 8 then watch the video. If it is a volcanic destruction then that is a very strong clue as to where the Book of Mormon takes place.

The Protean Joseph Smith

Proteus was a Greek god that was capable of assuming many forms; kind of like Mystique from X-Men. In the history of anti-Mormon attack, the Prophet Joseph Smith has also taken many forms. Slightly before the publication of the Book of Mormon and shortly there after, the book was described as a poorly written fraud by ignorant Ole' Joe Smith.

As the years passed, this could not be maintained for the book is anything but poorly written or simple, so theories were concocted, ranging from Sidney Rigdon wrote it, to plagiarism from a lost text by Solomon Spaulding; Joseph Smith became a conspiring plagiarist. As those theories were discredited, authorship was then reattributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith; but now, he was Joseph Smith: Super Genius.  That is what this paper by Daniel C. Petersen is all about: The Protean Joseph Smith.

Brant Gardner's List of Book of Mormon Evidences.

Brant Gardner is a consultant for a privately held software firm in New York. He has published articles on Nahuatl mythology and kinship and has formal training in Mesoamerican studies. The following list will be beneficial for those who know both the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica very well. For those who don't, I recommend anything from John L. Sorenson and Michael Coe
Geospatial convergences Internal geography corresponds to a specific region in Mesoamerica
Book of Mormon has over 400 geographic references which are consistent in their interrelationships, both spatial and topological.
Sorenson’s correlation is best known. Poulsen’s is an important alternative using the same basic area, but resolving directional issues.
One set of references in Helaman may combine to point specifically to Teotihuacán
Relative relationships of Jaredite, Nephite and Lamanite territories.
The meeting of Mulekites and Nephites in the Grijalva River Valley is convergent with archaeological evidence of the…

DNA and the Book of Mormon by Dr. Ryan Parr

Lately, the issue of DNA and the Book of Mormon has made it's rounds in the news and the internet again. Here is a great presentation that demonstrates why it's a non-issue for those who accept the historicity of the Book of Mormon but not the 19th century folklore Mormon's invented to describe it.

Nephite Daykeepers: Ritual Specialists in the Book of Mormon

Mark Alan Wright received his PhD in Anthropology (with a subfield of specialization in Mesoamerican Archaeology) from the University of California, Riverside in 2011, and his BA and MA in Anthropology from UCLA (2003) and UC Riverside (2004). He has conducted fieldwork in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. He began teaching part-time in the Ancient Scripture department at BYU in 2007 and has been full-time since 2011. Prior to BYU, he taught Anthropology at Mt. San Jacinto College (2006) as well as early-morning seminary and Institute classes in Southern California from 1999-2007. He was born and raised in Long Beach, California. He and his beautiful wife Traci (Adjunct Professor of History at Utah Valley University) live in Vineyard, Utah.

Axis Mundi: Nephite and Mesoamerican Temples

Mark Alan Wright received his PhD in Anthropology (with a subfield of specialization in Mesoamerican Archaeology) from the University of California, Riverside in 2011, and his BA and MA in Anthropology from UCLA (2003) and UC Riverside (2004). He has conducted fieldwork in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. He began teaching part-time in the Ancient Scripture department at BYU in 2007 and has been full-time since 2011. Prior to BYU, he taught Anthropology at Mt. San Jacinto College (2006) as well as early-morning seminary and Institute classes in Southern California from 1999-2007. He was born and raised in Long Beach, California. He and his beautiful wife Traci (Adjunct Professor of History at Utah Valley University) live in Vineyard, Utah.