Faith and Reason 31: Nahom

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Nahom

Image of Nahom from The New Era

From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash

 In 1 Nephi chapter 7, not long after their departure into the wilderness, Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem to bring Ishmael and his daughters (which later become the wives of Lehi’s sons). In chapter 16 Ishmael died during their journey through the Arabian Peninsula and in verse 34 we read that Ishmael was buried “in the place that was called Nahom.” Ancient Hebrew did not use vowels, so NHM could have been translated with the use of various vowel sounds including Nahom as found in the Book of Mormon.

In the late twentieth century, a non-LDS German archaeological team was excavating an ancient temple in southern Arabia when they discovered the inscription of a man belonging to the tribe of NHM. A few years later, two more altars from the same excavation were also found to contain the tribal inscription of NHM. Since this area had been utilized for more than 2500 years (and was actively used during the days of Lehi,) non-LDS scholars have suggested that—in typical Near Eastern Fashion—NHM was not only a tribal name, but the name of a territory in which this tribe lived. This becomes even more interesting when we recognize that NHM was the largest burial site in all of ancient Arabia, and starting in around 600 BC (the same time that the Lehites fled Jerusalem,) anyone could be buried there.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.  He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

Praise to the Man Even with 40 Wives and Teenage Brides

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mob-700x5581[This post was originally written by David Grant at LDS.net and is reposted here with permission.]

It makes for compelling headlines, “Mormon Church Admits For First Time That Founder Joseph Smith Had A 14-Year-Old Bride,” and “Mormon Church Finally Admits Founder Joseph Smith was Polygamist with 40 Wives.”

These headlines and the accompanying articles were written in response to the “polygamy” essays published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo and Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah.

Most who engaged with and shared the stories in the Huffington Post, theTelegraph and many other outlets gave no thought to significant linguistic nuances that make the headline factually problematic.

Mormon History Was Never Hidden

For instance, the word, “admits,” is charged with accusation that there had been a previous denial of some kind. On the contrary. Off the top of my head I can think of three definitive declarations that attest to the practice of polygamy early in church history: Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a 1905 Improvement Era article by Prophet Joseph F. Smith, and a 1992 Ensign article.

In fact, being a student of Joseph Smith and history, I learned of these 14-year-old “brides” (another baggage-laden word) and 30-40 wives in my early twenties as a student at Brigham Young University, as I combed through journals and other documents in a quest to get to know and understand Joseph Smith better.

The events and history of Joseph Smith’s marriage to teenage and other brides have been well known and documented within available resources since there were accounts written of the event way back in history. All anyone had to do was look… and some did.

The information has been readily available for anyone to read. For example, Richard Bushman, in his book, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, has attempted to write more objective historical accounts of Joseph Smith and has included more difficult events in his history. Thanks to Bushman, the names of Joseph’s wives have rested on thousands of Mormon bookshelves since its publication in 2005.

Internet reach and information ease fluidity resulting in the availability and sharability of history have put the Church in the new and sometimes uncomfortable position of having to clarify interpretations of events, statements and doctrines when it would rather testify. Continue reading

Living with Fallibility

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[The following was written by James Faulconer at Patheos and is reposted here with his permission.]

Mormons have a joke that is so old it has become a cliché: Catholic doctrine is that the pope is infallible, but they don’t believe it; Mormon doctrine is that the prophet is fallible, but they don’t believe it.

Like many jokes and all clichés, that joke works because there is truth in it. The joke misunderstands the doctrine of papal infallibility, but it gets very close to the truth of the way many contemporary Mormons have thought about their leaders, not just the prophet. And for some the truth of that joke has become a tragedy.

The LDS Church’s recent postings on its history of polygamy (see here, here, and here) have caught many off guard. For a long time the Church has avoided and even covered over not only the particular facts about polygamy’s beginnings but sometimes even polygamy itself.

Frankly I understand the motive behind that avoidance: we don’t practice polygamy and haven’t for a long time, so let’s avoid talking about it so we can talk about more important things—like faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. But it is generally agreed that we made a mistake. That strategy has caused a lot of pain and doubt.

In spite of that, it is a mistake that I understand. As a young man I thought we should be more forthcoming about our history, but I’m not sure that had I been a leader at the time I would have done differently. Things looked different during the fifty-plus years that the Church was coming out of persecution and perceived persecution. Things looked different to people whose fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles had been expelled from Missouri and Illinois by force.

As Kristine Haglund points out, members of the LDS Church have lived in different circumstances, sometimes almost to the point of growing up in different churches. Some of us learned early on the things the Church is now writing about, so there is little new in the recent news. But not everyone did.

Many did not know about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy or about the difficulties that surrounded that practice. Even fewer, perhaps, knew about the complications of bringing plural marriage to a halt. And the institutional Church bears considerable responsibility for their ignorance.

Having known about the history of plural marriage, about issues with the Book of Abraham, and so on for a long time, I’m long past those things being trouble for me. That’s not to say that I don’t understand that they trouble others or why. It is to say that they are no challenge to my faith. I’m interested in the recently published materials, but not because of what they say or don’t say about the history of the LDS Church.

I hope that the new strategy of making our story public even when we find it difficult to explain will in the future help prevent the kinds of pain we see some people suffering now. But those documents are important to me because I also hope that they will help Latter-day Saints rethink what it means to recognize authority and to have a living prophet.

We have often been guilty of a kind of idolatry of our leaders, implicitly imputing the characteristics of God to them because we thought that is what it meant to be called by God. To my knowledge few of our leaders asked for our idolatry, but we fell into it anyway. Perhaps our new strategy will help us repent.

I hope that the recently published documents on LDS history will help us see that prophets don’t usually get definitive answers to their questions, and even when the answer is definitive, they don’t often, if ever, get definitive directions for how to put into practice what they have been told. Being called and inspired by God doesn’t remove the need to figure out what that calling and inspiration mean, nor does it remove the possibility that I will confuse my will and desires for those of God.

Prophets speak for God, but he leaves them their personality, humanity, talents—and weaknesses. As he said through Joseph Smith in 1831, revelation is ‘given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language’ (D&C 1:24). God can speak to us only where he finds us.

But if prophets are human too, how can I trust what they teach? Even if a prophet is onlyanother human being like the rest of us, it doesn’t follow that I ought not to trust him. Trust—in other words, faith—and doubt are not mutually exclusive. Trust requires uncertainty, and human agency requires uncertainty. In turn, uncertainty and human fallibility mean that, Christ excepted, even the most righteous or smartest or whatever-you-wish person will misunderstand and be wrong when he hears what God has to say or when he tries to do what he has been asked. Those who are less than such a maximally great person, which includes all of the prophets, will not only be wrong, they will sometimes even do wrong.

But I don’t believe that those called by God, whether a Primary President or the President of the LDS Church is only another human being. I believe that callings can be and usually are inspired, and I believe that inspiration means something. It means that the person called has access to inspiration about his or her calling that I don’t have.

That inspiration will almost always come as a feeling or intuition about needs or directions. It always requires that the person who receives it make decisions not only about what it means but how to implement what it suggests, and mistakes both of intellect and of will are always possible. But since I believe that those people are called and inspired, I am willing to allow what they say to have more authority over me than I would allow someone who is just another person like me.

How far am I willing to go with that? There can be no definitive answer. Obviously some could go so far as to violate the trust I’ve put in them. I know such a violation when I see it. But I give people I love and respect more room for mistakes than I do others. My children can do a lot more than can strangers before I lose faith in them. People whom I have had good experiences with previously also get extra leeway. And if I sincerely believe that a person has been called by God, I am willing to continue to trust them though I am aware of their failings.

Hans-Georg Gadamer has argued that to passively submit to someone’s edict is not to recognize authority at all. Instead it is to agree to tyranny. So recognizing someone as an authority and having faith in that person doesn’t mean following them blindly. Faith in an authority needs to be wide-eyed. But being wide-eyed doesn’t mean being unable to look beyond a person’s mistakes and even some wrongdoing. Within parameters that I cannot specify in advance, I can do what a leader asks even though I think he is mistaken, especially if I remember my own fallibility.

My hope is that the conversations the recently published materials create will help us learn that being called by God isn’t an either/or. It isn’t that either the person is called by God and never makes a mistake in their calling or he isn’t called by God at all. I hope we will begin to see the falsity of that dichotomy, that we will develop a more mature understanding of our relationship to those who lead us, one in which we neither idolize the prophets nor assume that their humanity means we ought to no longer follow them.

Fair Issues 74: What happened at the Tower of Babel?

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MAIn Genesis we are told that following the confusion of tongues the people were scattered across the earth (11:7-9).  Many people have traditionally assumed that the scattering or dispersion, was caused by the divergence in languages.

In this episode brother Ash explores the possibility of a serious drought and  strong winds that could have contributed to this event.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon

 

Faith and Reason 30: The Liahona

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Liahona

From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash

During the Lehites sojourn through the Arabian wilderness, Lehi was given a device called the Liahona, which helped guide them on their journey. Nephi described the Liahona as round, made of brass, and containing two spindles or arrows. Nephi called the ball a “compass” and mentions that there were things written in the Liahona which gave them instructions.

While critics often claim that the compass was unknown in Lehi’s day, it’s important to note that the function of magnetic hematite –the principle core or iron– was well understood in both the Old and New Worlds before Lehi left Jerusalem. Magnetite, or Lodestone, is, of course, naturally magnetic iron, and the word magnetite comes from the name of a place in which it was mined in Asia Minor by at least the seventh century BC, namely Magnesia.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.  He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

Mormon Fair-cast 319: #8, Is the Bible an authentic source of truth?

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i-believe-podcast-karen-239x300D.M. Johnson and I are back in this second-to-last podcast on the authenticity of the Bible. Today, we discuss undersigned coincidences. Undersigned coincidences are events or things in the Bible that could be coincidental, but there are just so many that they add up to real, compelling evidence.

As D.M. explains, “It becomes a little bit ridiculous to insist that all of these things are just purely happening by luck or some kind of random circumstance.”

We’ve got plenty of examples of such undersigned coincidences, from both inside and outside the Bible, including:

  • Jesus healing the sick;

  • The apostles keeping silent after the events on the Mount of Transfiguration;

  • And Jesus feeding the 500.

Jesus heals a woman.

We invite you to join us on this podcast, and again, to read and study the Bible for yourself. It truly is God’s word.

You can find the complete transcript at ibelievepodcast.com.

Read more: http://ibelievepodcast.com/1825/8-points-authenticity-bible-undesigned-coincidences-8-9#ixzz3JdTQNCy4

This series of podcasts were produced by the “I Believe” podcast group. They are used by permission of Karen Trifiletti the author of this work.

As always the view and opinions expressed in this podcast may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint or that of FairMormon

RiseUp Podcast: President Eyring Defending Marriage at Vatican Colloquium

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EyringHB_1Apr10President Eyring of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was invited to speak at a gathering at the Vatican-The headquarters for the Catholic Church worldwide—Think of it as the Salt Lake City of the Catholic Church..sort of….

(Here is a link to the Church’s press release and world report video on the gathering)

This gathering featured religious leaders from all over the world and from a variety of denominations. In some cases this gathering was called Humanum, in others the gathering was simply referred to the Colloquium.

The website for the event states this as the purpose of the gathering:

The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.

Witnesses will draw from the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work
 of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.

The Colloquium is sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and
 the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

In short, the Catholic church put on a meeting of religious leaders from across the world to talk about and defend the family unit, but more specifically, marriage between a man and a woman. His presentation was about 13 minutes long. This was an important presentation for a few reasons that I can see, but there may be even more.

It was important because historically, such a connection between the LDS Church and the Catholic church was not such an open door. I personally consider this to be a tremendous act of kindness and christian fellowship on the part of the Catholic church to invite President Eyring, but also for President Eyring to attend.

This was also significant in light of the various perspectives and direction the laws of many nations throughout the world have taken with respect to legalizing same-sex marriage. Sometimes we might feel like a small minority of people who believe that marriage should be only between man and woman legally and lawfully married. This event stands to show that some of the largest and most well respected faith traditions in the world can be unified in our defense of God’s moral standard regardless of where some in the world advocate.

President Eyring stood as a prime example of what it means to defend our faith to all the world. He is an apostle and hopefully you will sense the nature of his calling coming through in the message he was sharing. He spoke with authority, and with purpose. While this particular environment was not considered hostile, other engagements between the communities of some of these faiths have not always been so kind to the LDS Church. President Eyring, without fear and without reservation bore his testimony of God our Father, Jesus his divine Son and our Savior, and of the central role of eternal marriage in the plan of Salvation. His example of both missionary work and being one to stand and defend the faith is a powerful example to the membership.

Additionally, this became a message to the larger audience of people that may have misconceptions about the LDS views on marriage in a polygamous sense. While not a direct part of his message, it should be clear that a top leader of the faith has 1 wife. The relationship of current church practice with regard to polygamy is still in question with many people in spite of a tremendous amount of transparency on the part of the church with regards to this issue.

His message is a call for a renascence or a rebirth of happy marriages. While many of you listening to this are young adults, and probably not married or even engaged, marriage is a topic that is something you should be educated on in order to either put your life in order, or know what it means to seek for and work towards having a happy marriage. When that time comes to get married, or what qualities you are to look for is a topic for another time. However, as you listen to President Eyring’s message, you may hear some important advice as you move on in life towards that goal.

So, I am going to play for you parts of the presentation, but I would encourage you to watch the presentation in its entirety.

Why Build Temples?

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The Boston Massachusetts Temple

The Boston Massachusetts Temple

A couple of years ago I encountered an online blogger who was complaining about how much money the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wastes on temple building, especially in poor countries like Peru, where the money could be better spent on assisting the poor. Why indeed should so much funds be devoted to building temples rather than to poverty relief?

We all know that poverty relief consists of two types, handling out bread and fishes, that can sustain a man and his family for a few days, or handing out a fishing pole and seeds, together with instructions on how to catch fish and grow grain, that will sustain the man and his family for months and years to come.

The Church does both of the above kinds of relief, in the form of emergency assistance, or in such wonderful programs as the Perpetual Education Fund. But there is another form of assistance that vastly exceeds either of these types. In countries like Peru (or Ghana, or many other places), the Church has built temples, to which any member holding a recommend may attend, no matter what his or her social status may be.

Inside the temple, no one can tell who is the Peruvian peasant or who is the banker from Lima. All are alike (even in dress), and all are treated the same.

Can you imagine what this does to the self-esteem of that Peruvian peasant (or, indeed, to the viewpoint of the banker)? The temple is the Great Leveler, and unlike the Marxist ideal where everyone is supposed to be leveled down to the proletariat, it levels everyone up, to become kings and queens.

No amount of poverty relief, no matter how lavishly dispensed, could possibly achieve such a remarkable outcome. When viewed from this angle, the amount the Church spends on temple construction could be considered more effective than any other outlay.

All this, even before considering the religious aspects of this work (ie, that God commanded it, or that temples are an essential element in LDS theology in the work of salvation for all mankind).

But this is not just an LDS theme. In my opinion, religious edifices have always elicited such responses. The great cathedrals of Europe were built at great expense, by the elite of society, but also with the enthusiastic participation of the lower classes, who saw these structures as their own. (This adoration does not extend to secular buildings, btw. When I toured Versailles back in 1991, my first thought was “Now I know why they had the French Revolution.”) The theme also holds true in non-Christian societies. The Great Buddha of Nara, constructed in the 8th century when Nara was the capital of Japan, was a project that encompassed all layers of society (it included raising a wooden structure to house the statue that even today is the largest purely wooden building in the world), and it is an awe-inspiring sight even now, more than 1200 years later.

And, of course, in the LDS context (as in the above non-LDS examples), the temples must be built of the highest quality materials possible. This serves to cement the leveling-up effect. Even the Church’s outlays for the downtown shopping mall in Salt Lake City, which has elicited such scorn from critics, is a part of this same effort, by upgrading the environment around the Salt Lake Temple (and Conference Center), so that members visiting from faraway places can feel safe and secure.

Articles of Faith 20: Geoff Biddulph – Why Didn’t The Church Teach Me This Stuff?

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Geoff BiddulphGeoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times. He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade. He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”

Questions:

During your time as an LDS blogger, how have you seen the “bloggernacle” as it is often referred to, the catalog of blogs who claim some voice in the Mormon Community, how have you seen it change during that time?

While we seek to focus on Articles that come from what would be considered more academic or scholarly, we do find articles from time to time that strike an apologetic tone and regardless of the level of scholarship, the argument presented can help those struggling to reframe their position in such a way that might help calm the stormy waters of a faith crisis. Your article entitled, Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff, was released on November 12th, 2014. This was a response to a gospel topics essay that the Church released on Polygamy in the early church, specifically during the Kirtland and Nauvoo periods. If you could, for those that haven’t read the article, summarize what one might find in that piece, specifically the parts that have caused some stir in public discourse recently.

The Church released its gospel topics essay Around October 22nd. A google search just this morning showed a massive amount of news outlets posting articles just three days ago (from the date of this recording), so on November 11th there seemed to be this bump in interest, which makes me wonder what about this topic seems to be keeping this subject around so long?

Your article is in response to a strain of discourse that centers around some discontent or uneasiness with the Church’s release of this gospel topics article. What is that position and why did that strike as something that warranted a response?

You ask the question of the reader but I want to turn it back on you, Why didn’t the Church teach me this stuff?

It is a difficult position to respond to because you don’t want to demean what someone is feeling, that kind of hurt or shock is sometimes not so easily dismissed. So, how does your article serve to address that dissonance?

This may sound like a loaded question or one that is hard to answer in a short podcast, but if people are feeling that the church hid this from them, it begs the question, what is the role or responsibility the church has towards its members with respect to topics such as this? All the lurid details as you put it in your article?

The article concludes:

The Church did teach you stuff about even controversial topics. Perhaps you were distracted or didn’t pay attention or were not curious enough to explore on your own. You are ultimately responsible for your own learning, and you are responsible for how you respond to new information. That is what that whole “free agency” thing is all about.

Faith and Reason 29: Nephi and His Asherah

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Asherah

Asherah and the Tree of Life

From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash

What young adult in Jacksonian America would make a connection between a sacred tree and the Virgin Mary? In Nephi and Lehi’s day, however, the connection would have been obvious (and obviously colored by their cultural background). Mary was a perfect mortal typification of Asherah –she was a virgin, fair, and the mother of the most joyous subject in the world. While Mary is not Asherah, to Nephi the symbolism would have made sense and would have taught him not only of the coming of the Christ, but also would have helped him understand the meaning of the sacred tree. It’s easy to see how Nephi’s culture would have prepared him to understand such an interpretation in his vision as recorded in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 11). But how did Joseph Smith know this in 1830?

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.  He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.