Mormon fair-cast 307: #6, Is the Bible an authentic source of truth?

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i-believe-podcast-karen-239x300This is the sixth installment on the authenticity of the Bible series of podcasts.

Many scholars, skeptics, and Bible students alike may wonder about the authorship of the four Gospels: were they really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? How old are they really? How accurate are the versions we have today–after 2000 years? D.M. Johnson and I are back discussing these very issues relating to the eyewitness testimony in the Gospels. They talk about the following points: ◾How ancient writers recorded biographies; ◾Why it’s important to be intellectually consistent; ◾Differences between the Gnostic and Canonical Gospels; ◾Why legendary development didn’t happen in the four Gospels; ◾Why the “telephone myth” of how we got the New Testament isn’t accurate; ◾Evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the actual authors of their gospels. Please join us for this sixth installment on the authenticity of the Bible!

The full transcript of this podcast can be found here.

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

 

FairMormon on Social Media

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With the mission of FairMormon being the defense of the LDS Church, we find it necessary that a key element of defending our religion is the promotion of our mission and of our love for the Gospel of Christ. With valuable information and perspective, our voice is useless if it is nowhere to be heard.

In an effort to make our voice heard and to share our insight and give our love and support, all in an effort to defend the Gospel that we hold dear, we are embracing the counsel from Elder Bednar and will strive to “Sweep the Earth as With a Flood” and turn our attention more fully to social media. With that being said, we cannot accomplish this on our own. As with everything about the FairMormon organization, we rely heavily on your support and donations (as we are a non-profit organization). This will be no different. We rely on your help and support by helping us “go viral”.

Please:

Share us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fairmormon

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @fairmormon

Follow us on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/+FairMormon

Follow us on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/FairMormon

Facebook: We would be very appreciative if you were to “share” us with your friends on Facebook. To do this, you can simply go to our Facebook page and up in the right-hand corner there is the option to “share” our page. If anything, share one of our posts that you find interesting. This helps us to generate more traffic.

Instagram: Instagram is a social media site of people, organizations and businesses who share their lives, thoughts, programs through pictures or memes. This is a “smartphone only app” and is generally more confusing for people of more “seasoned” generations to activate, so we will be giving more than just “sharing” instructions. To activate an Instagram account a person will need to download the app from their particular app store (it’s free). You can connect it through either your Facebook (recommended) or an email. The use of hashtags is a big feature of Instagram. Hashtags are a pound sign (#) immediately followed by a word or phrase (usually specific to the picture). The use and importance of hashtags is, you can click on any given hashtag and it will take you to every other picture or meme that used that particular hashtag. Once a person gets the hang of their use, they will begin to see how effective hashtags can be in promoting a certain picture or meme.

And if you can +1 and repin our posts on Google+ and Pinterest, respectively, that would also help spread our message.

We give you our continued thanks and appreciation for helping us in our neverending mission and duty of defending the gospel of Christ. The Internet is used for good and evil. With your help, we can do our part in using it for good of the gospel and of all mankind, in general.

RiseUp Podcast: Building a Testimony on a Sure Foundation – Part 1

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J. Max Wilson presents a two-part episode on how to build a testimony on a sure foundation by becoming a critical consumer of information. That sounds like a bunch of words found in a college essay, but the concepts are actually pretty easy to grasp. This means learning how to discern or judge not just the sources of information, but the information itself.

Sometimes this means disregarding something that we read or hear in a gospel class, sometimes this means discounting the words of critics of the church. Truth is a sure foundation, and in these two episodes, you can learn some principles to apply in your own life to have a sure and strong testimony that is based in truth.

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Book Review: A Refuge from the Storm: The Priesthood, the Family, the Church

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A Refuge from the StormTitle: A Refuge from the Storm: The Priesthood, the Family, the Church
Author: Boyd K. Packer
Publisher: Deseret Book Company
Genre: Nonfiction
Year Published: 2014
Number of Pages: 224
Binding: Hardcover and Deseret Bookshelf eBook
ISBN13: 978-1609079833
Price: $25.99

Reviewed by Trevor Holyoak

Boyd K. Packer is, of course, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a general authority in the church for over 50 years, he has given many talks on the priesthood, the family, and the Church. This book is a collection of 24 of them. Many of the talks are from General Conference, but there are also some from other meetings, such as Worldwide Leadership Training, firesides, BYU Women’s Conference, and a seminar for new mission presidents. While most of the talks are available online, there are a few that are not readily available outside this book.

I was initially a little disappointed to find that this was a collection of talks and not something newly written (other than perhaps the introduction) like many other books by general authorities. But as I began to look through it, I realized that the talks (even those given decades ago) apply more to the situation the world is in today than they did when they were given. They were prophetic.

The book begins by explaining its purpose: “The gospel of Jesus Christ enables individuals to become exalted by being part of eternal families. The gospel contains the purpose, the doctrine, and the plan. The priesthood is the power and the authority. The Church has the means and the organization. The exalted, eternal family is the end of the gospel plan. In this book, we will discuss those three interconnected elements of the gospel: the priesthood, the family, and the Church” (pages ix-x). The remainder of the book is divided into three parts along those elements, with the repeating underlying message that “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children might be happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood” (page 25).

I will give an example from each section, and let the book speak for itself. In 1992, he gave some instruction that is particularly relevant today regarding the priesthood: “There are some things about the priesthood that every elder should know if he is to understand how the Church is governed to have things right before the Lord. There are principles and precepts and rules which are often overlooked and seldom taught. Some of these principles are found in the scriptures, others in the handbooks. Some of them are not found in either. They are found in the Church. You might call them traditions, but they are more than that. They are revelations which came when the Brethren of the past assembled themselves, agreed upon His word, and offered their prayers of faith. The Lord then showed them what to do. They received by revelation…These are things we do to have things right before the Lord” (pages 3-4).

He said this about The Proclamation on the Family in a Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast in 2008: “A proclamation in the Church is a significant, major announcement. Very few of them have been issued from the beginning of the Church. They are significant; they are revelatory…It is scripturelike in its power. When you wonder why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do and why we will not do some of the things that we will not do, you can find the authority for that in this proclamation on the family. There are times when we are accused of being intolerant because we won’t accept and do the things that are supposed to be the norm in society. Well, the things we won’t do, we won’t do. And the things we won’t do, we can’t do, because the standard we follow is given of Him. As we examine this proclamation more closely, see if you don’t see in it the issues that are foremost in society, in politics, in government, in religion now that are causing the most concern and difficulty. You’ll find answers there – and they are the answers of the Church” (page 87).

In General Conference, October, 2006, he explained part of the role of the Church: “The principles of the gospel life we follow are based on doctrine, and the standards accord with the principles. We are bound to the standards by covenant, as administered through the ordinances of the gospel by those who have received priesthood and the keys of authority. Those faithful Brethren were not free, and we are not free, to alter the standards or to ignore them. We must live by them…If we are doing the best we can, we should not become discouraged. When we fall short, as we do, or stumble, which we might, there is always the remedy of repentance and forgiveness…Some suppose that our high standards will repel growth. It is just the opposite. High standards are a magnet. We are all children of God, drawn to the truth and to good…Those who come out of the world into the Church, keep the commandments, honor the priesthood, and enter into activity have found the refuge” (pages 150-153).

As I read this book, my testimony of Boyd K. Packer as a prophet, seer, and revelator has grown, as has my conviction that this is God’s church, and my understanding of the things I need to improve on as a priesthood holder, husband, and father. I highly recommend it to anyone that seeks a better understanding of their place within God’s plan and wishes to find their “refuge from the storm.”

Articles of Faith 17: General Conference October 2014 – Apologetic Highlights

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In this special episode of the Articles of Faith Podcast, Steve Densley (executive Vice-President of FairMormon and host Nick Galieti, review some of the presentations from General Conference – October 2014. These focus on quotes and talks that had apologetic value, or addressed some of the critical questions that some have faced surrounding the LDS Church, its culture, teachings, and practices.

If you have a talk or a quote from this General Conference that had a particular apologetic value, please leave that in the comments section of the blog entry for this podcast at blog.fairmormon.org

Nauvoo Polygamists Were Skeptical — Just Like You and Me

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The historical record shows that Joseph Smith and other Nauvoo Church members were very skeptical and were in no hurry to practice plural marriage. Had it not been taught to them as a commandment, it is probable that few would have ever entered into its practice. In the Book of Mormon the Lord explains that he might command polygamy in order to “raise up seed” to Him (Jacob 2:30). Apparently, He wanted to expand the size of LDS families faster than monogamy would have allowed, but Church members were not excited about it.

Universal Reaction of Church Members to Plural Marriage: Revulsion

The near universal reaction of early Church members to the introduction of plural marriage was negative. Brigham related, “My brethren know what my feelings were at the time Joseph revealed the doctrine; I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time. And when I saw a funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation, and to regret that I was not in the coffin.” He later commented, “I never should have embraced it had it not been a command from the Almighty.”

John Taylor, who married his first plural wife in 1843, similarly recalled, “[At] the time when men were commanded to take more wives. It made us all pull pretty long faces sometimes. It was not so easy as one might think. When it was revealed to us it looked like the last end of Mormonism. For a man to ask another woman to marry him required more self-confidence than we had.” Also he commented that polygamy “was a very heavy thing for us to meet, for we generally professed to be and were pure men.”  Additionally, he remembered his first feelings: “When Joseph Smith first made known the revelation concerning plural marriage and of having more wives than one, it made my flesh crawl.”

The reaction to the commandment among LDS women was similar—great dislike, or worse. Bathsheba B. Smith remembered, “We discussed it [polygamy] . . . that is, us young girls did, for I was a young girl then, and we talked a good deal about it, and some of us did not like it much.” Recalling an even stronger aversion, Mary Isabella Hales Horne reminisced that at one point: “The brethren and sisters were so averse to polygamy that it could hardly be mentioned.” Eliza R. Snow remembered that, “The subject was very repugnant to my feelings.”

[To continue reading this article, please visit LDS.net.]

Fair Issues 72: How did the Book of Mormon people travel to the New World?

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MAIn this podcast brother Ash discusses how the Lehites weren’t the only Book of Mormon people to come from the Old to the New World.  The Mulekites (or people of Zarahemla) and the Jaredites (who preceded the Lehites) also begin their journeys from the Old World.  The next few issues will examine the world of the Jaredites and their journey to the New World.

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

 

Book Review: Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch

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Textual-and-Comparative-Explorations2-small[The following review was written by Allen Hansen.]

If you are looking for something that discusses the parallels between ancient Enoch texts and the Book of Moses, then Samuel Zinner’s book might not be for you. It is not Nibley’s Enoch the Prophet. Zinner, who is not a member, does not even discuss Joseph Smith and the Restoration until the final chapter. Instead, what Zinner has given us is a very erudite exploration of the two groups of text known as 1 and 2 Enoch. He is conversant with current scholarship on a variety of topics, and is a pleasure to read.

In the past, Zinner has produced sensitive translations of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, two of the most elegant and powerful voices in Russian poetry. I’ve dabbled in translating Russian poetry just for fun, so I can speak to how difficult an undertaking it is. Translation requires not only a grasp of the bigger picture, but also of the incidental details, and how the words paint images. These are important skills to have when dealing with ancient texts which are often cryptic and confusing. Zinner is well-prepared to dig deep into these texts.

The chapters are generally fairly short. The topics cover a variety of issues. There is discussion of the meaning of the phrases “Son of Man,” and “Ancient of Days,” the relationship between 1 Enoch and the Book of Daniel, Gnosticism, Iranian religions, Mandaeism, the Quran, and medieval Jewish mysticism. There are plenty of charts showing the parallels being discussed, and despite this book primarily consisting of textual studies, no languages other than English are required in order to enjoy it. When foreign terms are used, they are always rendered in English as well, so non-specialists will benefit.

One of the highlights for me is the chapter discussing a parallel between 2 Enoch and the writings of Rabbi Isaac of Acre, a highly important transmitter of Enochic lore. I’ve presented a paper co-authored with Walker Wright on a different teaching of Rabbi Isaac’s on Enoch’s love for God, so it was nice to encounter the somewhat obscure rabbi in this context. Zinner suggests that Rabbi Isaac’s teaching on how God revealed to Enoch that sacrifice unites God and man (or superior and inferior worlds) is ultimately derived from 2 Enoch. This illustrates just how far-reaching of an impact ancient texts can have, even when they are not explicitly mentioned in medieval writings.

I don’t find all of Zinner’s logical steps persuasive, but even then he often suggests brilliant solutions. A good case in point is the chapter dealing with a curious term in 2 Enoch- “their clothing was various singing.” Zinner presents a Mandaean parallel to demonstrate that ‘foaming’- a variant reading preserved in a Bulgarian manuscript- should be preferred to the standard rendition ‘singing.’ Zinner then shows how it A minor detail? 2 Enoch is full of odd and uncertain readings. The minor details can make or break our understanding of the book’s message. Zinner is not the only scholar to look to Mandaean texts. Nathaniel Deutsch, for example, has successfully shed light on puzzling passages in Jewish mystical texts by drawing upon Mandaean insights and concepts. Mandaeism is among the only living religions engaging in ritualized ascents of the soul, and has a long textual history, so its importance for studying things like 1 and 2 Enoch is obvious.

Zinner’s speculation over deluge traditions, or which book preceded which, does not materially affect the conclusion in this case. Zinner is not afraid to go out on a limb, so the results are frequently illuminating. This book is less a compendium of definitive answers, and more of an intelligent discussion partner sounding out various possibilities and inviting us to dig deeper. This opens the door to further questions and research.

Chapter 19, dealing with some Latter-day scriptures, is the most speculative. I personally find it the weakest, too. Zinner looks at the concept of Zion in Joseph Smith’s revelations and connects it to Lady Wisdom and Asherah, seeing Zion as a divine hypostasis.

Despite my reservations, Zinner raises some very important points in this chapter. He very pertinently observes that Joseph Smith’s prophecies of Zion are “simultaneous[ly] temporal-eternal,” pointing to a teaching of the Zohar on how the world to come is not just a future event, but is present now, too. One needn’t accept the Zohar as the genuine teachings of Rabbi Shimeon bar Yohai in order to appreciate how useful of a concept this can be for understanding Joseph’s revelations. It might seem odd to some readers that Zinner insists upon reading God’s wings in 1 Enoch seriously, given how central an anthropomorphic god is to our teachings. Zinner, though, has a point. I found the quoted Arapaho Ghost Dance song particularly moving. It helps move past simplistic dichotomies such as literal versus symbolic/allegorical. 1 Enoch, after all, is not a Mormon text.

Because this book has been published by Interpreter, I hope that this will whet the appetite of LDS readers for closer engagement with the riches to be found in these kinds of sources.

Forget what I said at the beginning. If you have an interest in ancient and medieval texts and thought, as well as possible affinities with our scripture and doctrine, this book is for you. Zinner is worth hearing out. The Interpreter Foundation is to be commended for publishing such an intriguing work by a non-LDS author.

A Mormon Reads a REAL Atheist’s Blog Post

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"An ostracon from the end of the eight century BCE. In the first line we have the ciphers 50 + 7 in Egyptian hieroglyphic forms used widely in Israel and Judah." (Shmuel Ahituv, Echoes from the Past, 36.)

“An ostracon from the end of the eight century BCE. In the first line we have the ciphers 50 + 7 in Egyptian hieroglyphic forms used widely in Israel and Judah.” (Shmuel Aḥituv, Echoes from the Past, 36.)

[Cross posted from Studio et Quoque Fide.]

Many have probably already seen the post, “An Atheist’s Response to the First 31 Pages of The Book of Mormon.” I am going to guess that fewer people have seen “A REAL Atheist’s Response to the First 31 Pages of the Book of Mormon.” This “real atheist” appears to be an ex-Mormon named Benjamin V. (or else a Benjamin posted this on behalf the atheist). In any case, this “real atheist” (RA from here on out) is much less flattering than the first, providing a critique of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. (In keeping with RA’s own practice, I will not link to either of these blog posts.)

RA was respectful in his critique, no snarky remarks or sarcastic jabs, which I appreciate. I nonetheless found his critique to be somewhat naïve not only of LDS scholarship, but of biblical scholarship more generally. In RA’s defense, he (I am assuming gender here) does admit, “I’m not an expert on Christian theology or the Bible, and I certainly don’t believe in much of either, but I do have a passing familiarity with them.” In the spirit of promoting a more informed discussion, I would just like provide an informed Mormon’s opinions of RA’s objections.

  1. Pre-Exilic Jews: RA thinks Nephi’s frequent reference to “Jews” is anachronistic. He writes, “the term ‘Jew’ wasn’t coined until after the Israelites returned from captivity under the reign of the Persians.” RA then tries to predict the apologetic response:

Knowing a bit about Mormon apologetics, I’m sure some would like to explain this away by appealing to Joseph Smith’s imperfect translation skills. Perhaps Nephi used a word like “Israelite,” and Joseph Smith translated it as “Jew.” But there are clues in the text that would argue against this explanation. For example, in 1 Nephi 15:17 (on page 31, as it happens), Nephi refers to “…the Jews, or… the House of Israel.” Clearly Nephi was familiar with both terms, when only one would have been invented at the time of his writing.

Actually, a more simple solution is that Nephi used yehudi (יהודי); plural yehudim (יהודים), which is translated as “Jew” (or in the plural, “Jews”) in the KJV, and even in some instances in modern translations like the NIV and the NASB. In fact, it appears at a rather high frequency in the writings of Jeremiah, Nephi’s contemporary (e.g., Jeremiah 32:12; 34:9; 38:19; 40:11, 12, 15: 41:3; 44:1; 52:28, 30). Though it more properly means “Judean” or “Judeans,” the distinction was not made in 1830. So, there is really no problem with Nephi’s use of the term. In fact, there are arguably a number of wordplays in the underlying text on the Hebrew meaning of the word.[1] An interesting point to consider, since Joseph Smith did not know Hebrew.

  1. Egyptian Writing: RA’s next comments, “It’s hard to understand why someone who was born and raised in Jerusalem ‘in all his days’ would have known Egyptian at all.” This is not really a serious conundrum. Stefen Wimmer has documented several instances of what he calls “Palestinian hieratic,” an Egyptian script being used by Israelites in ancient times (cf. 1 Nephi 1:2).[2] According to Wimmer, this script was used in Palestine “probably over several centuries,” and its usage peaks in the late-7th century bc, coming to an abrupt end “after the Babylonian captivity.”[3] This is the very time period of Lehi, Nephi’s father (it probably would not have been his primary language, but nothing in the text requires it to be). Given that RA says he knows “a bit about Mormon apologetics,” I am little surprised he does not know about this, since it has frequently been commented on by LDS scholars.[4]

The idea that Lehi’s “children write their diaries in Egyptian,” is not really in the Book of Mormon. Nephi is not writing a “diary,” but an official record of his people, replete with an origin story meant to give them a sense of identity and meaning. Under such circumstances, Nephi was probably following the pattern of the Brass Plates, which were actually written in Egyptian (Mosiah 1:4). This resolves the contradiction RA creates by saying, “This document seems to have been written in Hebrew, but it is taken, in part, ‘that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers.’ So is the language (always singular) of their fathers Egyptian or Hebrew?”

  1. Clarity About the Messiah: The next strange thing, according to RA is “their portrayal of the Messiah.” RA goes on to explain that there are few explicit prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament, and the prophecies of the Messiah that do exist provide a very different picture than the Christian version. He states that most Messianic prophecies are taken out of context.

if you read the Old Testament and 1 Nephi back-to-back, 1 Nephi’s Messianic prophecies are wildly out of place. The Old Testament contains a few scant clues that (even if read the way Christians traditionally understand them) are so vague that they could only be understood in hindsight. Meanwhile, Nephi is receiving incredibly specific prophecies that could only apply to Jesus. The Jewish conqueror-Messiah of the Old Testament is nowhere to be found in 1 Nephi. In his place is a Jesus precisely described, right down to the time and place of his birth, his name, his mother’s name, and a description of John the Baptist. It also specifically refers to this Messiah as God, which would never have occurred to any Old Testament prophet. If anything like this had appeared in the Old Testament, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have questioned Jesus’ divine identity.(emphasis added)

Frankly, I think that RA answers his own question here. The prophecies are only “wildly out of place” if one rejects the idea of genuine prophecy. If we accept that God can, in fact, reveal the future, then there is no real barrier to believe that God could reveal even highly specific prophecies; nor can there be a reasonable objection to God revealing more specific prophecies to one group of people, and less specific prophecies to others. Within Mormon theology, agency is an all-important principle: people need to have the ability to choose. Thus, since highly specific prophecies like those in the Book of Mormon make it “hard to imagine that anyone would have questioned Jesus’ divine identity,” such specificity could not be revealed to those who would be there for his mortal ministry; otherwise it would be so obvious their agency would be compromised. Meanwhile, those who would not be there could have more specific details.

I get that this answer can come across as a bit of a cop-out. But the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to provide evidence that revelation is real. As such, it seems inappropriate, to me, to judge its historicity on grounds which rule prophecy and revelation out a priori. For what it is worth, some non-LDS scholars would dispute RA’s points entirely. Margaret Barker, for instance, has argued that Christianity was based on deep roots of pre-Exilic (i.e., before the Babylonian captivity) Israelite religion. When she commented on the Book of Mormon, she wrote:

The original temple tradition was that Yahweh, the Lord, was the Son of God Most High, and present on earth as the Messiah. This means that the older religion in Israel would have taught about the Messiah. Thus finding Christ in the Old Testament is exactly what we should expect, though obscured by incorrect reading of the scriptures. This is, I suggest, one aspect of the restoration of “the plain and precious things, which have been taken away from them” (1 Nephi 13:40).[5]

Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish scholar, has made a similar argument.[6] I have not yet read Boyarin’s book, but Daniel C. Peterson quotes him as saying, “The theology of the Gospels, far from being a radical innovation within Israelite religious tradition, is a highly conservative return to the very most ancient moments within that tradition, moments that had been largely suppressed in the meantime — but not entirely.”[7]

Nephi’s prophecies still might seem much too specific for those who refuse to believe in revelation, but in light of work by the likes of Barker and Boyarin, they really are not quite so “wildly out of place” after all.

  1. Law of Moses: RA states that, “upon a cursory analysis of the text, I could find very little evidence that these people even knew what the Law of Moses was, let alone that they lived it.” Many who have given the text more than a cursory reading, however, have found that the law of Moses permeates the text. John W. Welch, who is an attorney and a scholar of ancient Jewish and Israelite law, has provided numerous studies of the law and the Book of Mormon. Welch has shown that the text describing Nephi’s “particularly grizzly murder,” of Laban, as RA calls it, was in fact consciously written with an understanding of the Mosiac law as it existed and was interpreted in 600 bc.[8] Welch has also thoroughly examined 7 legal cases in the Book of Mormon, finding them consistent with the ancient law of Moses.[9]What about the “holidays or festivals that play such an important role in Jewish life,” which RA says, are never “mentioned in the Book of Mormon”? Several scholars have shown that major sermons like those of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10 and Benjamin in Mosiah 1–6 are examples of just such festivals.[10] Several other aspects of the law of Moses have also been found in the Book of Mormon.[11]

Then there is the fact that, “the moment Lehi and his (non-Levite) family leave Jerusalem, they immediately set up altars and sacrifice animals in the wilderness, which would have scandalized a family of Israelites raised in the Deuteronomistic Mosaic tradition.” This actually finds an interesting solution in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where the Temple Scroll allows such sacrifices if you are beyond a three-day journey from the temple.[12] It also worth pointing out that some have argued that Lehi was not fully on board with the Deuteronomistic reforms going on in his day, and in fact spoke out against them; in which case, his not being in full compliance with the Deuteronomistic tradition is not a serious defect.[13]

  1. Miscellaneous Topics: RA states that, “there are so many other oddities that it would be ponderous to give an exhaustive list.” In that same spirit, I note that there are so many other responses, both to the topics I have chosen to respond to, and the ones I have not, that it would be a rather tedious task to keep going. He notes that, “structures that seem to be natively English,” and “phrases copied from the New Testament” which are, in my opinion, not surprising for an English translation made ca. 1830. He also notes “a pattern of prophecy that is highly unusual, consisting of uncharacteristically specific predictions from the time of Nephi to the time of Joseph Smith … followed by absolute silence about anything that’s happened since the early 19th Century, which would have been most useful to the stated audience of the book.” This, like the prophecies of Christ, are really a matter of accepting prophecy or not, and agency could again be invoked for the lack of specificity on details after Joseph Smith’s time—highly specific prophecy of events after its publication would have simply made it’s truth to obvious, and thus interfered with the exercise of true agency (which requires that competing explanations have seemingly approximately equal merit). I could go on with the issues I have skipped over, but will refrain.

Closing Comments

I appreciate that RA was willing to read and comment on the Book of Mormon, and his professional tone. I hope I have successfully engaged him with just as much professionalism. I realize that little of what I have to say is going to convince RA or any other atheist that the Book of Mormon is true. And, it is certainly correct that none of the above proves the Book of Mormon true. I have merely sought to add to the conversation, as I said before, with some reflections from a Mormon who considers himself well-informed. I hope that, at the least, I have shown some that the Book of Mormon merits a more serious reading. Much of what initially seems odd and out of place turns out to fit more comfortably than one would expect, and certainly more comfortably than what was known in 1830.

[1] Matt Bowen, “‘What Thank They the Jews’? (2 Nephi 29:4): A Note on the Name ‘Judah’ and Antisemitism,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 12 (2014): 111–125.

[2] Stefen Wimmer, Palästiniches Hieratisch: Die Zahl- und Sonderzeichen in der althebräishen Schrift  (Wiesbaden: Harraossowitz, 2008).

[3] An English summary of Wimmer’s work, from which I have quoted, is  William J. Hamblin, “Palestinian Hieratic,” at Interpreter (blog), September 1, 2012, online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/palestinian-hieratic/ (accessed September 25, 2014).

[4] For example, Stephen D. Ricks and John A. Tvedtnes, “Notes and Communications—Jewish and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/2 (1996): 156–163; John S. Thompson, “Lehi and Egypt,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed. John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2004), 266–267; Aaron P. Schade, “The Kingdom of Judah: Politics, Prophets, and Scribes in the Late Preexilic Period,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, 315–319; William J. Hamblin, “Reformed Egyptian,” FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 31–35.

[5] Margaret Barker, “Joseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,” in The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2006), 79.

[6] Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (New York: The New Press, 2012).

[7] Daniel C. Peterson, “Messianic Ideas in Judaism,” Deseret News, June 14, 2012, online at: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765582991/Messianic-ideas-in-Judaism.html?pg=all (accessed October 23, 2014).

[8] John W. Welch, “Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1 (1992): 119–141.

[9] John W. Welch, Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: BYU Press and Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship, 2008).

[10] John S. Thompson, “Isaiah 50–51, the Israelite Autumn Feastivals, and the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 123–150; John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., King Benjamin’s Speech: “That Ye May Learn Wisdom” (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998).

[11] For example, John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), chaps. 16, 18, 24, 38, 39, 44, 50, 54, 56, 70, 72, 73.

[12] David Rolph Seely, “Lehi’s Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): 62–69.

[13] Margaret Barker and Kevin Christensen, “Seeking the Face of the Lord: Joseph Smith and the First Temple Tradition,” in Joseph Smith Jr.: Reappraisals after Two Centuries (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 143–172; Kevin Christensen, “The Temple, the Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret Barker,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, 449–522; Kevin Christensen, “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies,” FARMS Occasional Papers 2 (2001).

Faith and Reason 26: Trails in the Book of Mormon

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FT

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

by Michael R. Ash

Lehi and his family lived in the wilderness for many years, most likely following trails which were previously known only in ancient times. Today, scholars are aware of ancient caravan routes along “Frankincense Trails” where traders traveled to bring frankincense and myrrh from the southern coast to inland cities. At least two of these trails run south along the Arabian Peninsula near the shore of the Red Sea. Nephi likewise tells us that after Lehi departed Jerusalem, “he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5; italics added).

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.