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Showing posts from 2015

The Book of Mormon: Warrior Women

And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children—both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war—they did march forth one against another to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not(Ether 15:25).
Learn about ancient Mesoamerican warrior women here.

Did Jesus Even Exist?

Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began his teaching career at Rutgers University, and joined the faculty in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC in 1988, where he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department. Professor Ehrman completed his M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees at Princeton Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude.

An expert on the New Testament and the history of Early Christianity, has written or edited thirty books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews. In addition to works of scholarship, Professor Ehrman has written several textbooks for undergraduate students and trade books for general audiences. Five of his books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list: Misquoting Jesus; God’s Problem; Jesus Interrupted; Forged; and How Jesus Became God. His books have been translated into twenty-seven l…

Five Popular "Evidences" for The Book of Mormon That Should Be Forgotten

If the Lord wanted The Book of Mormon to be proven true by secular means then He would have done that by now. The following are examples of what happens when we forget that. The problems with the following "evidences" vary but they all have one thing in common: trying to find a "smoking gun" that proves the book true. As always, much of this post is cut and paste, mostly from Brant Gardner, Ugo Perego and others. 
Stela 5 = Lehi's Tree of Life Vision M. Wells Jakeman interpreted Izapa Stela 5 as not only a tree of life, but as a detailed representation of the Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. The possibility of a tangible artifact specifically related to the Book of Mormon fired the imagination of the general LDS community. In spite of the continuing popularity of what has also been called the Lehi Stone, Hugh Nibley argued against Jakeman’s correlations.
 As better drawings of the eroded stela have become available, and as the scenes on the stela are compared t…

Paralleled Speech: Hoisting and Planting

The following was taken, almost verbatim, from Kerry Hull ' s new piece in JBMS
Moroni traveled throughout the Nephite land, setting up the title of liberty in each town or city. The physical presence of the title of liberty in each location in which it was temporarily erected would have served to further inspire people to their cause as well as to serve as an overt symbol of the covenant they were being asked to enter into: “And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites” (Alma 46:36).

Within the seemingly benign historical narrative of this verse one of the more remarkable links to ancient Mesoamerican societies in the context of the title of liberty is found. The core underlying structure of the verse is parallelistic, forming a synonymous couplet: “he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon e…

The Book of Mormon In History and As History

The first video on this post is that of Paul Senll, wherein he describes where the events and people described in Book of Mormon most likely took place and lived. Senll's model is an updating of Sorenson's and this presentation is a great explanation of it.
Once the setting is set, the second video is that of Brant Gardner, who I think, along with Mark Wright, is doing the best writing on the Book of Mormon's historicity. If the Book of Mormon is the translation of an ancient text, readings based on 19th century American culture will only give us understanding of it's 19th century American translation layer. But what about the original cultural context of the gold plates(?), the original setting in time and place?
In this post, once Senll sets the place, Gardner then uses it as a lens through which to read the book, with illuminating results. For those who understand Mesoamerica  AND the Book of Mormon, the two cannot be separated form each other. They are telling the…

The Book of Mormon and Ancient Calendars

The Classic period Maya had a number of calendrical cycles, but they probably didn't obsess about them as cycles any more than we think of our own repeating cycles of days and months and years. Recent scholars have openly acknowledged that past Maya archaeologists were often more obsessed with time reckoning than the ancient Maya themselves were.
One of their primary cycles was the 260 day cycle that combined 13 numbers with 20 named days (like we cycle the numbers 1-30 with seven named days) that roughly approximates 9 months. Modern scholars have nicknamed it tzolk'in since we don't know the ancient name for this cycle. According to Mark Wright, this cycle may be attested to in Omni 1:21 when it states that Coriantumr dwelt with the people of Zarahemla for "nine moons", which is a fitting translation since there is no English equivalent. What they were saying was "Coriantumr dwelt with the people of Zarahemla for one cycle of the Sacred Round". It is…

David Whitmer's Understanding of the Book of Mormon Translation

The following are David Whitmer's recollections of the Book of Mormon translation that transpired in his home:

"[H]e used a stone called a 'Seers stone,' the 'Interpreters' having been taken away from him because of transgression. The 'Interpreters' were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms [manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a 'Seers stone' which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English"(1).

"By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing urim and thummim…

The Book of Jacob: Polygamy and Social Stratification

In the Book of Jacob, the Nephite prophet, Jacob, gives a sermon in which he decries the twin evils of his day:

Wherefore, I must tell you the truth according to the plainness of the word of God. For behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people. 

And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully. 

And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren…

A Tale of Two Rivers: The Limhi Expedition

Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness. 

Nevertheless, they did find a land which had been peopled; yea, a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed; and they, having supposed it to be the land of Zarahemla, returned to the land of Nephi, having arrived in the borders of the land not many days before the coming of Ammon. 

And they brought a record with them, even a record of the people whose bones they had found; and it was engraven on plates of ore.
Mosiah 21:25-27

The discovery of Ether's record was a strange occurance, from the vantage point of modern readers who lack geographical context. Just two generations before, Zeniff led a group to reclaim the "land of first inheritance",  south east of Zarahemla, in the highlands. 
Zeniff and his people reclaimed the land, makin…

The Shorter Version: Alma's Use of the Large Plates and Small Plates of Nephi

Alma 50:20 is unique in that it is not Alma or Lehi speaking to Lehi's descendants; but rather, in Alma 50:19, Mormon introduces the promise as a direct quote from God to Lehi about Lehi's descendants. 

Both Alma 50:20 and Alma 9:13 have the ending: cut off from the presence of the Lord; Alma 9:13 also retains both instances of my commandments, found in the first and second clauses of Alma 50:20. Alma 9:13 can thus be said to be a paraphrase of Alma 50:20.

Alma 50:20 Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

Alma 9:13 Behold, do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that:Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence…

Translating the Book of Mormon: Alma's Use of the Large Plates and Small Plates

The Book of Mormon is fascinating. The English translation of an ancient metal codex, this book comes to us via the dictation of an unschooled, 24 year old farm boy, as he buried his face in the blackness of a hat, staring into a seer stone. 
One of the interesting themes of the book is a promise from God, to Lehi. Parts of this promise are quoted in numerous places through out  the book but a version of it, composed of two interdependent clauses, declares that if Lehi's descendants obey the commandments of God, they will prosper; if they disobey then they will be cut off from His presence. The promise was originally made to Lehi but is paraphrased multiple times by Alma. 
Lehi gave at least three renditions of this prophesy, hereafter referred to as the Lord's promise or the promise: a complete version recorded in the Large Plates of Nephi, which survives for us in a later section of the Plates of Mormon; and two shorter versions found on the Small Plates of Nephi. The versi…

The Jenkins Follies: Nahom and the Strawman Fallacy

Philip Jenkins is the Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, a Baptist university in Waco, Texas. Jenkins and Bill Hamblin have been having a war of words on Patheos, which can be found here. In a recent post by Jenkins, The Nahom Follies, he attempts to diminish the significance of the Book of Mormon's description of Lehi's exodus, and it's convergence with the ancient Arabia, by ignoring multiple convergences between the two and focusing on the perceived inevitability of finding a three letter root, NHM, anywhere and everywhere in the Arabian peninsula. 

Jenkins reveals his ignorance of Book of Mormon studies, and attempts to correlate Lehi's exodus, as recorded in First Nephi, with the real world places it claims to describe, by claiming that such a correlation "is, literally, the only case where anyone still seriously pretends that they have some kind of archaeological support for the Book of Mormon."
This is a big tell for if Jenkins had …

Oliver Cowdery's Failed Attempt at Translation: Notes From the Earliest Manuscript

Doctrine and Covenants, section 9, is one of my favorite set of scriptures. The following post is a quotation of Royal Skousen, found HERE, which I think sheds light on the circumstances surrounding that revelation:
"Another kind of evidence for the length of dictation can be seen in a change of scribe found in Alma 45:22 of O; Oliver Cowdery (OC) suddenly stops acting as scribe and Joseph Smith (JS) himself takes over the scribe's task for twenty-eight words:
OC:  . . . therefore Helaman & his Brethren went forth to establish the church again in all the land JS: yea in every citty throughout all the land which was possessed by the people of Nephi and it came to pass that they did appoint priests and teachers OC: throughout all the land over all the churches . . .
These twenty-eight words in Joseph Smith's hand are written very carefully. And except for one spelling variant (citty), all the extant words are spelled according to standard orthography.
One possible expl…

King Lamoni and Xibalba

One of the strangest exchanges in the Book of Mormon, strange to us, takes place between Ammon  and King Lamoni, in Alma 18. Having finally gained his attention and the opportunity to teach him the true religion, Ammon and Lamoni have the following exchange:
And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth? 

And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens. 

And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels. And king Lamoni said: Is it above the earth? 

And Ammon said: Yea, and he looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart; for by his hand were they all created from the beginning.
Using Mayan texts to illuminate the Book of Mormon, the way a student of Hebrew Bible might use Akkadian texts, Lamoni's ignorance of the location of "the heavens…

The Nephite Sacred Bundle

Sacred bundles, which generally contain the ritual paraphernalia of a cult, were among the most sacred object of the Aztecs, and some of the other Mesoamerican peoples, as well as the Plains and Pueblo Indians. There where individual bundles held by priest-shamans, and there were institutional bundels held by tribes, clans, ceremonial organizations and villages. The institutional bundles were brought by the tribe on it's migration to the present locale and formed the focus of the group's commonality"(1).

"The textual histories that record the Mexica migration often mention the presence of Huitzilipochtli's sacred bundle and its importance in directing the progress of the journey. The bundle(tlaquimilolli) of Huitzilipochtli appears throughout the pictorial migration in the Codex Azcatitlan" as a man's head, topped by a humming bird head.(2). Huitzilipochtli's sacred bundle was supposedly passed on through the generations and was spirited away from it…

The Interweaving of Allusions: Moroni's Construction of Scripture

Probably, the best book ever written on the Book of Mormon is: Understanding the Book of Mormon, by Grant Hardy. It's published by Oxford University Press, so it's written with an academic tone and not a devotional one. I highly recommend it; the following are two of my favorite passages, on Ether, chapters 9 then 12:

"The borrowings here are not random: all of Nephi's come from the final chapter of his second book, with most (again) deriving from his prophecies of the latter days in 2Nephi 25-28, while Mormons are taken from his own late writings (3 Ne. 29-30; Morm. 5) and from his one extant sermon (included later by Moroni in Moro. 7). Again, it appears that Moroni is not so much composing this conclusion as constructing it, extracting phrases from particular texts by Nephi and Mormon in order to weave them together and thereby unify the voices of these two illustrious predecessors."
"Finally, in section IV, Moroni brings this second conclusion to its en…

Gidgiddoni: Brass Plates in the North Kingdom?

John Gee and Matt Roper have pointed out the existance of the non-biblical Book of Mormon name, Gidgiddoni, in Neo-Assyrian texts, the same Assyria mentioned so many times in the Bible.
As they note, "The simplest explanation is that an Assyrian individual with the name Gidgiddanu was mentioned in the brass plates. This was then the source of the name for this particular military leader several centuries later." They also explain that the a is long, an important fact since Assyrian(Akkadian) long a becomes o in Hebrew. Cuneiform does not have an o sound thus various strategies are used to reproduce it. 
What's fascinating about this is that the Assyrians conquered and dispersed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC. By 600BC, Lehi, a Mannasehite, and Ishmael, an Emphraimite, are living at Jerusalem thus indicating that they and Laban, a fellow Josephite, were descended from northern refugees who fled down to Judea. What's more, Lehi's genealogy was recorded on …

Archaeology and the Book of Mormon: Thoughts on Sorenson's Basic Paradigm

For decades now, John L. Sorenson's model of Book of Mormon geography, seen above, has been the most influential among Mormon scholars of the Nephite record. Sorenson even goes as far as identifying sites like Chiapa de Corzo and Santa Rosa, with Sidom and Zarahemla, respectively. Was Chiapa de Corzo a Nephite city? It's impossible to know one way or the other. For now, I'll say no. As Mark Wright reminds us, there is a whole lot going on Mesoamerica, much of which still remains a mystery. For the pusposes of this post, the entire history of Chiapa de Corzo, much less the other pre-classic sites in the Central Depression of Chiapas, cannot be given. That being said, it's plausable that the Nephites lived in or around these cities. Why? Because the same basic things are happenening at the same times. In this post, I will show the archeological timeline of Chiapa de Corzo, as shamelessly plaigerized from the NWAF website; then I will show what was happening at around th…