Monthly Archives: December 2008

Zina and Joseph, In Very Deed

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A few years ago I presented a paper at the 2006 FAIR Conference entitled Zina and Her Men concerning the tangled (and much misunderstood) marital relationships of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young. In preparing for the limited presentation time available in the conference format, I was not able to present much of the information that I had gathered relative to Zina and her relations with Joseph.

When considering the relationship of Zina and Joseph, it is natural in today’s voyeuristic society to ask a blunt question: Was Joseph Smith sexually active with Zina as one of his plural wives?
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Merry Christmas!

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Even though the Saviour was almost certainly NOT born on 25 December [See], I would like to wish all of FAIRBlog’s readers a very merry Christmas.

Why should I do that, you might ask? Let’s look at the the word itself: The word, “Christmas” derives from the words “Christ” and “Mass”–in essence, it is a mass (what we would call a “Sacrament Meeting” celebrating the Lord, Jesus Christ.

While we should be celebrating Him EVERY day, Christmas–TODAY–is a good day to start! ;)

Have a joyous one–and may God richly bless you as you treat Him as Lord in the coming year!

Bowman on Ordination

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It is a thrill to behold Rob Bowman go to work reconstructing leadership structures in New Testament times. This topic has gotten much attention in academic literature, but not many have drawn out the implications for a Church that prides itself as being a restorations of primitive Christianity. Bowman’s posts so far have argued that contemporary Mormon practice deviates from what he finds in early Christianity: 1) Ordination to a priesthood office wasn’t always done by the laying on of hands by one holding the authority to do so and 2) The office of apostle in the sense of being a spokesman for the Lord was not meant to continue as such. Such deviations, he contends, make it impossible for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make unique truth claims about exclusively having priesthood authority. Continue reading

Not Guilty

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Joseph Smith was subjected to five legal proceedings in New York, being accused of such things as being a religious impostor, con-artist, or treasure seeking fraud. Of these, four of the outcomes are not in dispute with Joseph triumphing against his conspiring enemies.

1826 South Bainbridge, Chenango, NY Joseph is accused of being a disorderly person or vagrant pretending “to discover where lost goods may be found” while in the employ of Josiah Stowell. I will discuss the outcome of this hearing below. Continue reading

“Lies, [Expletive Deleted] Lies, and Statistics”

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I recently perfunctorily read a new study written by three Stanford University professors, titled “Reassessing authorship of the Book of Mormon using delta and nearest shrunken centroid classification,” and published in the latest issue of the journal, Literary and Linguistic Computing.   While I admit to being disturbed by the article, it is not for the reason they would like it to be.  I teach statistics at America’s largest privately-owned university, and, frankly, I see so many problems, I’m not sure where to begin.

To start, they were not exhaustive in alleged authors. In this regard, the “study” is not unlike choosing five National Football League (NFL) teams at random (and two Canadian Football League (CFL) teams as a “control”), and stating that the one with the best won-lost percentage won the Super Bowl. Choosing the best of an woefully incomplete list tells the reader nothing about “Who really wrote the Book of Mormon”–the Stanford authors’ clucking agreement with the authors of the book by that name notwithstanding–just as not checking out ALL NFL teams says nothing about the winner of the Super Bowl.

For one thing, Joseph Smith’s writings were missing from this study. I can imagine that even many anti-Mormons would be upset at crowning Solomon Spaulding’s Manuscript Story as the true Book of Mormon, if it were demonstrated that Joseph Smith’s letters or journal was a better match!

Moreover, the authors alleged by Latter-day Saints are VERY conspicuous by their absence. While I admit that there are no other samples of Mormon’s or Alma’s or Nephi’s writing than what is found in the Book of Mormon, the Book does extensively quote Jesus Christ–and not just the rerun of the Sermon on the Mount!

Why is the New Testament missing from this study? Surely, if Solomon Spaulding were the author of III Nephi 9-12; 15-21; 23; 26-30, rather than the Saviour, wouldn’t testing His words in the New Testament put the final nail in the coffin burying Mormonism? However,whether or not Jesus’ New Testament statements are a match with His alleged words in the Book of Mormon, these authors have made sure that the reader would never know it. What are they afraid of–that the Gospels would be a match?

It gets worse. As I read the results, not one of the works studied had more similarities with the Book of Mormon than dissimilarities. Their choice of Spaulding’s manuscript as the true source of the Book of Mormon, then, is like taking the last place team in each division of the NFL and congratulating the best of them for winning the Super Bowl. Just as every last place team is disqualified from the playoffs, let alone winning the Super Bowl, a manuscript with more dissimilarities than likenesses to the the Book of Mormon should also be disqualified from consideration.

In short, this game is rigged, and such a misuse of scholarship offends me as a teacher of statistics, as a Latter-day Saint, as a Christian, and as a fair-minded person.  The fact that this pseudo-scholarship is in reality a poorly-reasoned anti-Mormon bromide makes it worse.

Investing a Chip in Peleg

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During my time as an undergraduate geology student at Brigham Young University (B.S. 1984), the “days of Peleg” (Gen. 10:25) came up more than once.  I fondly recall Professors Morris Peterson, Ken Hamblin, Lehi Hintze and others chatting with us students around campfires during geology field trips.  I recall them making the point that there were better interpretations than the highly creative interpretation that it was the continents which were divided during the days of Peleg.  These professors were the ones that first introduced me to the plainer understanding that “divided” was more likely intended to communicate a political reality that has continued uninterrupted to this day — that boundary lines or borders between tribes were established.  They reinforced the fact that there is little biblical and no physical evidence to go out on a geological limb to claim that Gen. 10:25 refers to a catastrophic episode of continental drift.

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