LDS Scriptures: Bible and Book of Mormon

Wonderful lecture about the truth in both scriptures.   Samuel points out some issues found with Protestant and Catholic interpretations of the Bible.

The Book of Mormon provides much clarity in how to build a church.

The Book of Mormon reappropriated the Bible, in the view of this speaker.

reappropriate:

1  Employ or adapt (something) for a use different from its original purpose.

‘the twelve stadiums would be reappropriated for housing’
  1. 1.1 Adopt (a derogatory term) for use with a positive or neutral connotation.
    ‘they reappropriated and embraced the insult’
  2. 1.2 Reallocate (money or assets) originally devoted to a different purpose.
    ‘the council has control of the money and can reappropriate it if the need arises’
    2Reclaim or recover (something) for one’s own use.
    ‘he did not reapproproate copyright when the revised version was published’

Book of Mormon Changes (almost all spelling, grammar, and punctuation)

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Brian Hales has written much on Joseph Smith’s polygamy in the past.   He recently wrote this article —  Changing Critics’ Criticisms of the Book of Mormon Changes — for the Interpreter in 2/18.

You can listen in under 26 minutes here.

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Key quotes below:

“The words dictated by Joseph Smith between April 7 and June 30, 1829, were published with few alterations. However, Joseph intervened in the 1837 and 1840 printings to make multiple changes in the previously published wordings. Other emendations have been authorized by subsequent Church leaders.

Several authors have documented different tallies of alternations made in the various versions of the Book of Mormon (see below). Understanding the quantity and quality of these emendations may be helpful in understanding how Joseph Smith created the text in the first place.

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Two critics took the time to count the changes.  Turns out, they underestimated when compared to the digital work done by LDS scholar, Royal Skousen:

Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s 1965 publication, 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon, has probably had a greater influence. Much like Lamoni Call’s approach in the 1890s, Jerald Tanner sat down eighty years later with an 1830 edition and a 1964 edition of the Book of Mormon and annotated all changes he could identify. His count almost doubled Call’s. In their introduction, the Tanners also allege a conspiracy by Church leaders to conceal the changes: “The changes made in the Book of Mormon and in Joseph Smith’s revelations have apparently caused the Mormon Church leaders some concern, for they fear that their people will find out about them.”12

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In the last two decades, digitalization of the texts has allowed a much more nuanced analysis of the words and word substitutions by a team of scholars in the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project led by BYU professor Royal Skousen.13 When he was asked, “How many changes are there in the Book of Mormon text?” Skousen replied:

I don’t know for sure, and I’ll tell you why it’s hard to count them. In my computerized collation of the two manuscripts and 20 significant editions of the Book of Mormon, I can count the number of places of variation. These are places where there’s a textual variant. The variant itself can involve spelling, punctuation, words missing or added, a grammatical change, and so on. In all, there are about 105,000 places of variation in the computerized collation.14

Critics claim no errors at all should be present.  But the translation at least partly involved Joseph.  And the original didn’t include punctuation, headings, columns, etc.

Different camps of believing Latter-day Saint scholars believe Joseph exercised what have been called tight or loose control.

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There is evidence for both camps, tight and loose control.  Joseph spelled out proper nouns, but seemed to have freedom to speak (loose control), using words he knew, and playing a role in the transmission.

Others, such as Martin Harris and David Whitmer, reported that Joseph literally saw a scroll with Egyptian characters with English below.  That is the view of tight control.

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“Joseph Smith left no description of how the words came to him as he dictated. At a Church conference in 1831, Hyrum Smith invited the Prophet to explain how the Book of Mormon came forth. Joseph’s response was that “it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and … it was not expedient for him to relate these things.”24 His only answer was that it came “by the gift and power of God.”25

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That Joseph contributed to the process in an undefined but necessary way was demonstrated in 1829 when Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate but failed. The Lord explained why: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask.” (D&C 9:7–8). It appears that translating involved more than mimicking a court recorder reading back previous testimony.”

 

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Brian Hales identifies and categorizes the changes and variants below:

Understanding the “Changes” and “Variants”

The Book of Mormon is “a literary feat for the ages,” writes Huffington Post blogger Jack Kelly. That Joseph Smith “dictated most of it in a period of less than three months and did not revise a single word before its initial printing is even more jaw-dropping.”29 So Joseph did not revise the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon before it went to print, but as Lamoni Call and the Tanners have documented, changes were made in subsequent printings.

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If numerous revisions, rewritings, edits, and modifications were needed in a second edition, then the question is why? Did the original Book of Mormon manuscript contain many errors that needed correction like the early draft of most books that are eventually printed? If so, its creation might not have required divine intervention or have been significantly different from other publications. But if the changes constituted minor letter and word substitutions to upgrade the dialect and grammar without changing the primary story line or message, then Joseph’s creation would retain an important uniqueness.

Royal Skousen has recently published “all of the cases of grammatical variation in the history of the Book of Mormon text.”30 His study identifies 106,508 “accidentals” in the different versions of the Book of Mormon.31

Skousen’s research supports that none of the general categories of changes indicates the presence of glaring problems within the Book of Mormon narrative.

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The two major (Tanner) claims related to adding “Son of” to God in four places in the Book of Mormon.  And changing Benjamin to Mosiah in two positions.  Hardly major changes.  Only editing changes for clarity.

From Hales:

“In Joseph’s early teachings, Christ was both God and the son of God, so either rendition was accurate.42 It could be reasoned that this highlighted change did not alter any doctrine or teaching, but the additional words served to more clearly distinguish the teaching from Trinitarian views popular in other religious traditions. Skousen speculates, “Perhaps he didn’t like the Catholic sounding expression” and that the addition was simply a “clarification.”43

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It appears that of all the possibilities, these two emendations were the most significant changes the Tanners could identify. If more important historical or doctrinal alterations had been encountered in their research, it is probable those would have been mentioned first.

The significance of all the changes will likely remain controversial, but a couple of observations can be made. First, these two do not seem to represent an attempt to correct sweeping contradictions or blunders in the text but rather provide clarification to potential ambiguities. Second, if these are the most egregious changes critics can identify, the Book of Mormon narrative, as it fell from Joseph’s lips, was remarkably free from significant errors.

 

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Book of Mormon Changes Do Not
Represent Revising or Rewriting

As discussed above, the changes identified by Skousen and Carmack do not refer to major modifications or corrections to sections of the Book of Mormon’s original wording.

(LDS critic) historian Dan Vogel acknowledged, “Smith’s method of dictation did not allow for rewriting. It was a more-or-less stream-of-consciousness composition,” adding, “It is not that the manuscript went through a major rewrite.”44

Normal content editing, which involves revising and reworking parts of the text, did not occur in the original or in subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon.

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Many naturalists consider Joseph Smith to have been a first-time novelist in 1829 as he created the Book of Mormon, so the lack of revisions is unexpected.45

Professional writers and instructors generally emphasize the need for rewriting in order to create a finished manuscript. Betty Mattix Dietsch, author of Reasoning & Writing Well, addresses the plight of first-time novelists: “Some inexperienced writers seem to think they have hit the jackpot on their first draft. They evade the fact that every exploratory draft needs more work.”46

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Note: image above is from the 9th edition.

“I usually write about ten more or less complete drafts” confides Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, “each one usually though not always closer to the final thing.”47 In her college [Page 62]textbook, Steps to Writing Well, Jean Wyrick emphasizes the importance of rewriting:

The absolute necessity of revision cannot be overemphasized. All good writers rethink, rearrange, and rewrite large portions of their prose. … Revision is a thinking process that occurs any time you are working on a writing project. It means looking at your writing with a “fresh eye”—that is, reseeing your writing in ways that will enable you to make more effective choices throughout your essay. … Revision means making important decisions about the best ways to focus, organize, develop, clarify, and emphasize your ideas. … Virtually all writers revise after “reseeing” a draft in its entirety.48

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Louis Brandeis, who served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939, coined a common maxim for authors: “There is no good writing; there is only good rewriting.”

That changes have been made in the Book of Mormon text should not be confused with the idea that revisions or rewriting occurred. They did not, which is surprising for a frontier-schooled twenty-three-year-old farm boy who is listed as “author.”49

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Potential Propaganda

A review of critical literature regarding the Book of Mormon identifies two classes of critics. There are those who tell their audiences that many changes have been made and provide examples (like the Tanners). There are others who report “upwards of 4,000” changes without any further discussion.50

On the surface, voices that stress the thousands of emendations could easily generate a mental picture of a book that underwent significant revisions and rewriting after its first edition. If the overall insignificance of the changes is not disclosed, the number of 2,000 or 3,913 changes could be used by critics to mislead their audiences, as propaganda is designed to do.

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Jerald and Sandra Tanners have sold many copies of their book 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon, since first released in 1965. The title of the book is technically accurate. But how many unsuspecting observers have read (and continue to read) the title and assume the Book of Mormon manuscript required thousands of corrections to compensate for significant mistakes in Joseph Smith’s dictation?

The perception created by the title might be misleading because readers may impute more significance to the word “changes” than actually justified. If transparency is sought, then adding a subtitle might be useful: 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon: But None are Really Significant.

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Royal Skousen summarized his research: “Errors have crept into the text, but no errors significantly interfere with either the message of the book or its doctrine. … Ultimately, all of this worry over the number of changes is specious.”51

 

Reid Moon, a 1985 BYU grad, shows the first five editions of the Book of Mormon printed in Joseph’s lifetime.

By Royal Skousen at FAIR, published in 2015.  Royal discusses several minor emendations.  Nobody knows more about the Book of Mormon manuscripts and the Book of Mormon changes than Royal Skousen.

The Book of Mormon is a marvel.  The translation was a matchless feat.  It contains the restored Gospel.

 

Book of Mormon and Stylometry

Is Stylometry the Ultimate Proof that Joseph Smith Did Not Write the Book of Mormon?

The first few paragrahs:

“Stylometry examines the styles of writing in a text by identifying word-use patterns. It is “also known as computational stylistics [and] is a method of authorship attribution that uses …statistical techniques to infer the authorship of texts based on writing patterns. It tries to describe an author’s conscious and unconscious creative actions with quantifiable measures such as the frequency with which an author uses certain words or groupings of words. Stylometric analysis is based on the fundamental premise that authors write with distinctive, repeated patterns of word use.”1

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Comparison of the Book of Mormon to Novelists of the Same Time Period

In the past, Roper and Fields had used stylometry to show a consistency of authorship in Isaiah and the Pauline Epistles. But in this presentation, they chose to compare two novels each from Jane AustinCharles Dickens, James Fennimore CooperMark Twain with the Book of Mormon. Together these eight volumes have about the same number of words as the Book of Mormon, but contrast in voice, character development, and other aspects.

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Using a 3-D computer model, they showed a unity of authorship in each book written by contemporary authors along with the characters they each developed. They showed how these authors did not come close to the 119 characters developed in the Book of Mormon. That book shows four major authors or abridgers, who among them go on include many more writing styles from other Book of Mormon contributors.

For example, Mormon as a writer contributed about 36% of the words in the Book of Mormon with a central theme around war. Nephi is the next most prolific writer with a theme around family. He is followed by Alma with a theme of faith and Moroni with themes of ordinances and governance. In each of these themes, the writer of abridger developed 24 more writing styles with 24 other sentiments. This is far too many for Joesph Smith to keep track of and many more than the selected contemporary authors of the prophet.  In the same light, the 119 Book of Mormon characters shows narrative voices that eclipse any of the other contemporaries chosen.

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Together this was supposed to help the audience consider the impossibility of someone of Joseph Smith’s age and limited experience working with Oliver Cowdery over 60 working days to compose anything so complicated as the Book of Mormon. It worked for me and others in the audience.”

Fascinating study.  Check out the entire article above!

 

Book of Mormon: Translation, Publication, and Structure

As part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.  Click below to watch associated videos:

Translation

Royal Skousen — the leading authority on the Book of Mormon manuscripts — hasn’t found a word in the Book of Mormon that is found to have come into English (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) later than 1720.  The Book of Mormon is an archaic, biblical-sounding text.  It’s not simply the King James Text.

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It’s an Early Modern English text, not an Upstate New York dialect.  Skousen doesn’t fully know what it means.

Skousen believes Joseph saw words, and in many cases spellings, in the interpreters.  Not simply ideas.

Printing (click to watch BYUtv video)

 

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Consider the structure of the Book of Mormon:

Structure (click to watch BYUtv video)

Interesting complexities in the Book of Mormon:

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The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon (click to watch discussion on BYUtv)

 

This LDS historian, Gerrit Dirkmatt, points out details in history you’ve never heard.  Joseph and Martin visited several printers before their negotiations led them back to Grandin (who finally agreed, after getting paid much more than usual).

Dirkmatt points out additional details, such as early accounts of Joseph’s visions (possibly the first mention of the 1st Vision), that were published in a competing print shop around the time of the Book of Mormon printing.

Joseph’s Bad Grammar vs. Early Modern English?

Stanford Carmack – Exploding the Myth of Unruly Book of Mormon Grammar:  A Look at the Excellent Match with Early Modern English

Dr. Carmack focuses on syntax: the arrangement of words and phrases.  Early Modern English was spoken centuries before Moroni’s visit.

1475-1700:  Early Modern English

BH Roberts posited that the Book of Mormon was full of grammatical errors because Joseph was uneducated.  This has long been the dominant view.

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Carmack above showed many syntax correlations to Early Modern English (from 1475-1700). Syntax is the way in which words and phrases are arranged.
 
More specifically, certain BoM syntax closely correlates with several books in the late 15th Century. However, the BoM has a negative correlation — when comparing these same variables of syntax — with the King James Bible.
 
And Joseph didn’t use this syntax in his own language. Only in the scriptures he transmitted.
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The dominant English Bible  in Joseph’s day was the King James.  The KJV had lots of Tyndale’s writings in it.  Tyndale wrote in the 1520s and 1530s.  Early Modern English works well with the KJV that is found within the Book of Mormon text.
Carmack posits that the Book of Mormon has a range of syntax usage from Chaucer through the 19th Century with a concentration in the 1500s and 1600s.
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Dr. Royal Skousen is the premier authority on the Book of Mormon text.  He argues we should continue to adapt our theories of the Book of Mormon, based on new evidence.

Skousen reviews the translation witnesses’ accounts, what the documents show about the translation process, unique vocabulary, and other variables.

Skousen closes, saying the transmission involved Joseph Smith.  But the transmission was the Lord’s.

 

Another publication by Carmack:  Is the Book of Mormon a Pseudo-Archaic Text?

Carmack compares the Book of Mormon syntax to four books from Joseph’s time period.  Three of them have elements that more closely match the Book of Mormon than the fourth book: The View of the Hebrews (VH).

The View of the Hebrews has long been claimed by LDS critics to be a source material for the Book of Mormon.  I find it highly interesting that other books — with no real or even claimed connection to the Book of Mormon — more closely mimic the Book of Mormon than a book (VH)the critics claim gave rise to the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source

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You gotta listen to these Blake Ostler podcasts.  This topic is one that Blake had already published in BYU Studies in 1987.  But, fortunately for us, he recently put into podcast form.

In this weekly episode Ostler’s synthesis is this:  the Book of Mormon has ancient, as well as modern, elements.

Ostler and his sons discuss several modern topics that others suggest influenced the Book of Mormon:  View of the Hebrews, the use of the King James Bible, claimed anachronisms, possible Wesleyan (Methodist) influence on Joseph Smith, a very developed form of Christianity (not available in ancient Judaism), and others.

Then Blake and his sons review the improbability of Joseph knowing ancient material and otherwise guessing correctly in so many areas.

  • Mosiah 1-5, 7-8:  closely reflect covenant renewal festival in the Old Testament
  • Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite:  evidence of prophetic lawsuit, following biblical form
  • 1 Nephi 1:  ancient form of prophetic commission

Blake sees ancient and modern influences in the same text.  The same thing occurs in the Bible, as older texts are re-purposed and redacted.

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They also discuss the translation process that was not a simple fax from heaven.  William Smith described how Martin Harris used the breastplate/spectacles to translate in 1828. He stopped using this system, as it strained his eyes.

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Once Oliver was involved (1829), Joseph used a chocolate-colored stone he found near him home when he was digging in a well.  Blake explains that David Whitmer’s explanation — ancient text with English below — can’t be the answer for a variety of reasons.

  • Joseph wouldn’t have edited a text directly and exclusively given by God (with no room for variation or modification); in fact, in 1827 Joseph added and modified text to clarify
  • translation will never be directly and solely from God, unless God overpowers Joseph’s mind
  • no translation can possibly be exactly word for word; and Joseph didn’t know a language other than English at this time
  • Ostler speaks of the Gospel of John, which was written long after Jesus’ death, and contained insights into Jesus’ divinity (living water, bread of life, etc); these insights weren’t understood at the time of Jesus, as the other Gospels show that the Apostles didn’t understand Jesus’ mission and teachings during his life; the Gospel of John in much more reflective and imposes a more complete view

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  • Ostler argues that, like the Gospel of John, Joseph is receiving the revelation of the text, but also the true meaning of the text in a 19th Century thought world
  • not only is the Book of Mormon a translation (from the Golden Plates), but it’s also a revelation with Joseph’s expansion and reflected through Joseph’s world
  • puzzler:  no text of Isaiah on table, but he has multiple chapters; uses neither plates nor book available while Joseph is looking at stone (within hat); he was simply inspired to know revelation; he translated just as he did the parchment of John, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, and other translations (revelation is the answer)

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  • early witnesses needed Golden Plates to help Church grow, not because Joseph viewed the plates to translate (in 1828 he gave up trying to understand the characters)
  • theory of revelation:  includes a human and God, but it’s a human experiences; this experience requires interpretive framework; reflects ancient text, but his own abilities, terminology, and cultural influence has its effects observable
  • there’s no such thing as revelation from God’s point of view; we get revelation from our point of view
  • the Book of Mormon is twice inspired!  Once with the original prophet, but second with Joseph’s expansion.

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  • Was Joseph aware he was expanding beyond the plates?  In 1837, Joseph felt inspired to expand the already-published Book of Mormon.  Ostler argues that he originally followed inspiration, not knowing he was the instrument to expand.
  • Joseph was free to express, not give an isomorphic 1:1 translation.  Any translation has “play” in it.  Ostler believe he received concepts and phraseology, and then explained it.
  • The Book of Mormon revelation was given great liberty what the underlying text meant.
  • Ostler recognizes that chiasmus, Hebrew phrases, separate and unique voices in the book (Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni) are all evidences against the expansion theory.

Orson Scott Card and Book of Mormon historicity

Elder Oaks referenced world-famous LDS author, Orson Scott Card (OSC) in his own talk about Book of Mormon historicity.

Elder Oaks and OSC both spoke on this topic in 1993.

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OSC wrote this essay on the topic of BoM historicity:  “The Book of Mormon – Artifact or Artifice?”

This essay was adapted from a February, 1993 speech given at the BYU Symposium on Life, the Universe, and Everything.

The final paragraph of OSC’s essay:

“Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon, though he did translate it, so that his voice is present when we read, including the flaws in his language and understanding.

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Those who wrote the original were also fallible human beings who will reveal their culture and their assumptions just as surely as the writers of I Love Lucy did.

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But unlike the writers of that TV show, the prophets wrote and translated under the direction of the Lord, out of love for us.

It’s well worth finding out who these men were, the culture from which they wrote, how it’s different from ours, and how it’s also very much the same.”

Horses and the Book of Mormon

Hot off the presses!

Radiocarbon dating put horse bones in the Americas around 500 BC, in Nephite times.

Read more about this recent development here. 

This is encouraging, though provisional .

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The current consensus is that horses died off in the Americas around 10,000 years ago.  Horses, scholars believe, were only reintroduced by Columbus to the Carribbean in 1493, and by Cortez to the continent over two decades later in 1819.

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In other words, critics claim that the Book of Mormon is a fraud, since horses — mentioned in the Book of Mormon — couldn’t have lived here at the time of the Nephites.

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However, don’t forget that many critical claims against the Book of Mormon have disappeared as new evidence is uncovered.  For example, early critics (around 1830) scoffed at the idea of metal plates and stone boxes.  Since that time many examples of metal plates and stone boxes have arisen.

So, it’s prudent to exercise patience and restraint when questions arise.

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Back to horses.    This was reported recently in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Horse remnants we’re dated to 50 years before the Spanish arrived in Southern California.

“The finds are significant because native North American horses were thought to have been extinct more than 10,000 years ago, and the remains are older than the recorded conquests by the Spanish, who reintroduced horses to the New World.”

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http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-centuries-old-bones-of-horses-unearthed-in-2005jul17-story.html

 

A few videos about horses in Pre-Columbian America:

Michael Ash, among other things, shares that at least 2 non-LDS scholars believe that smaller horses weren’t extinct in the Americas before Columbus.

Couple thoughts about translation:

Did Joseph mean horse when he dictated “horse” to Oliver?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Joseph likely had never heard of tapirs, llamas, or other large animals — known to exist in the Americas — when translating the Book of Mormon.

Horse may have been the only related word Joseph knew.  Joseph, after all, only used words with which he was familiar.

When the Greeks first saw a hippopotamus in the Nile they called  the animal a “river” horse.  They had no name for such an animal.  Would you consider a hippo a horse that’s in the river?  Not really, but the Greeks just grabbed the best name they could think of.

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A Baird’s tapir, currently the largest land animal in Mesoamerica, is called a “jungle” horse by indigenous people.  Mayan people called the Spanish horses by the same name they previously applied to tapirs.

Further, showing how names are sometimes inexact, the Baird’s tapir is called an ante-burro by people in the Oaxaca-Vera Cruz area.

Further, horses were discovered in North America (by the French and other explorers) in modern-day Texas, Missouri, and elsewhere in the 1680s.

The Kiowa and Pawnee Native American tribes had horses before 1600.  A report about horses arises in 1567 from the Sonora Valley.  Before the Spanish arrived to those areas, and therefore their horses could have spread.

More videos on the topic:

Daniel Johnson talks about wheeled vehicles, horses, and other related issues:

Horses with riders are found on petroglyphs in Southern Utah.

From Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_Rock_State_Historic_Monument

The first carvings at the Newspaper Rock site were made around 2,000 years ago, left by people from the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures.[3]

In Navajo, the rock is called “Tse’ Hone'” which translates to a rock that tells a story.[3]

The petroglyphs were carved by Native Americans during both the prehistoric and historic periods. There are over 650 rock art designs.

The drawings on the rock are of different animals, human figures, and symbols. These carvings include pictures of deer, buffalo, and pronghorn antelope.

Some glyphs depict riders on horses, while other images depict past events like in a newspaper. While precisely dating the rock carvings has been difficult, repatination of surface minerals reveals their relative ages.

The reason for the large concentration of the petroglyphs is unclear.”

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BYU Geology professor Wade Miller’s comments at the 2009 FAIR MORMON conference about the petroglyphs (photo above):
 
“I took this photograph last year of Petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock in southeastern Utah. I thought it was interesting to see all the animals depicted – including sheep and goats. Certainly they were here at the same time as man.
 
In talking to Bureau of Land Management archaeologists about these Petroglyphs, they said while it wasn’t possible to date them, they nevertheless were made over many centuries. You can see that there is a man on a horse as one of the figures.
 
They (BLM personnel) would say that this shows it was after the time of Columbus since horses weren’t here before this time. But this leads to a circular reasoning.
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Some of the petroglyphs are very faint, and it’s assumed that these are much older ones. This picture also shows some of the kinds of animals that the people of the time were familiar with. They include sheep and goats, possible both domesticated and wild types.”
 
Not proof. But another data point…
 
https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2009/science-and-the-book-of-mormon

Prove or Disprove? Science and the LDS Church

LDS critics often claim “all reputable” scientists or scholars say this or that in relation to the LDS Church.  Broad, sweeping claims.  Often lots of bravado and bluster.

Absolutely no evidence for this. Absolutely no evidence for that.

Is it true?  Science checkmated the LDS Church?

How could it be true when more and more faithful Latter-day Saints are doing Science.  The very Science the critics claim disproves the LDS Church.

Science is simply a method to understand truth.  Mormons are good geologists, statisticians, chemists, and are distinguished in every field of Science.  How Mormons interpret data for their personal lives is unique.  So is the way in which life-long agnostics interpret non-scientific data.

Experiments on bacterial genetics, plant growth, and other topics won’t prove or disprove God.  Won’t prove or disprove the Book of Abraham.  Nor the Book of Mormon.  Or a long list of issues.

Science answers how.  Faith answers why.

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To repeat, has Science check mated the LDS Church?

Quick summary:  Nope.

Longer summary:  evaluate each specific critical claim in context.  When all relevant data is on the table “all scientists” don’t tend to agree and/or the argument is often itself flawed with biases.

Let’s first consider what “all scientists” believe.  Scientists, like most academics, tend to be very secular.

Many, many non-believers. Do non-believers believe in the Book of Mormon?

Nope.

 

Moreover, the individual critic frequently herself lacks a fundamental understanding of Science and how exactly Science would perform an experiment to unequivocally illuminate the question under discussion.

To unequivocally prove the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, or other topic is obviously false — contrary to many critics’ belief system — turns out to be quite challenging. In fact, it’s impossible.

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For example, a critic might say that no self-respecting scientist believes major battles with steel swords and wheeled, horse-driven chariots took place in Palmyra, NY around 400 AD.  And further, no archaeologists have found lots of steel blades, metal armor, and wheels in the ground.

Book of Mormon defeated in a single swipe?  Nope!

This is an example of a straw man.  I and every LDS scientist would agree.  Yet, there’s more nuance to this situation than you may initially appreciate.

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1) Joseph never called the hill near his home the Hill Cumorah.   That belief — that the hill where Joseph got the plates was the same site as the final Nephite battle — sprung up long after Joseph Smith passed away, as folks hypothesized where the Book of Mormon took place.  It didn’t help that well-meaning Church leaders latched onto the idea.

The final Nephite and Jaredite battles likely happened in Mesoamerica — near where the entire narrative occurred.  Moroni wandered northward for decades.  36 years total.  A trek from Mesoamerica to NY can be accomplished by a fit person in around a year.

2) Nephi mentioned the fine steel of his bow and the Sword of Laban.  Both of these could have been made with technology of the time.  The Book of Mormon text doesn’t otherwise mention steel swords.

Dr. Wade Miller discusses iron, steel, swords, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon.

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3) The Book of Mormon mentions chariots, but doesn’t indicate horses led those chariots.  These “chariots” could have just have easily been smaller animals or people pulling a litter on which rested a leader.

Lots on horses and the Book of Mormon here.

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4) No archaeologists have excavated the Hill Cumorah.  Farmers have plowed the field, but no organized excavations have been undertaken.

I’d be suprised if anything were found, but the point still remains that nobody has done the research to rule out presence of metal Nephite objects.

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So, when aspecific example is given by critics — and not simply exaggerated generalizations — the Book of Mormon typically stands on reliable evidence.  Sure, questions still exist, but critics’ sweeping claims are nearly always uninformed and imprecise.

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The same thing applies with claims toward the Lehites and DNA.  When one looks at all the evidence — and not simply listens to critics’ absolute  and usually unsupported statements — the picture becomes clearer.

Watch Ugo Perego and Michael Whiting dispel common misconceptions.  These two scientists are leaders in the field of genetics, and see no conflict between their science and the Book of Mormon narrative.

Another scientist, Dr. Keith A. Crandall, converted to the LDS Church.  He discusses DNA and the Book of Mormon below:

 

A larger point should be emphasized:  how does one prove the Book of Mormon?  How does one disprove the Book of Mormon?  I’ll argue one can do neither.

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To say there’s not a shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon historicity is a mischaracterization.   Haven’t we — that is, LDS and non-LDS scholars — found things in Mesoamerica and elsewhere that are in sync with the narrative of the Book of Mormon?  Yep!

Critics used to say say steel wasn’t known till 100s of years after Lehi.  And they mocked Joseph and the Book of Mormon for that.  That’s clearly no longer believed.  We could list item after Book of Mormon item (silk, swine, iron, etc) that is no longer a mismatch or an anachromism.

See trends below:

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I like the trend:

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Surely, not everything matches and much work remains.  But to say there’s no evidence is untrue. To prove or disprove is not possible.  To find supporting evidence is possible and is under way.  A complete fraud wouldn’t be expected to get so many matches.

LDS scientists are the ones (no surprise!) who are interested in finding support for the Book of Mormon.  Other scientists typically don’t care or are perhaps mildly opposed to such ventures and findings.  Again, no surprise.

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Do atheist, Catholic, evangelical, or other scholars, who find wheat (or other disputed item in the Book of Mormon) in Guatemala, refuse to admit wheat was in the area?  No. 

They’re scholars doing scholarly work. They publish their findings, regardless of implication. 

Does finding wheat in Mexico change non-Mormon opinion of the LDS Church? The Book of Mormon?  Probably not in the least.

Does wheat in Guatemala (if found) absolutely prove the Book of Mormon?  No.  Evidence for?  Absolutely.

So, let’s allow scientists — Mormon and non-Mormon — to do their jobs:  Science.  And publish all findings.

The truth will take care of itself. I expect more and more evidence will be uncovered to support the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon: Inspired Production

Each major author in the Book of Mormon had his own style and vocabulary:

 

I’ve heard critics say the Book of Mormon isn’t unique in any way.  But it is.  Several time lines, complex and novel doctrines,  and interweaving narratives.

And examples often cited by critics — Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” or Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” — took years of development and represented their best (not first, unaided) work.

Years of preparation preceeded these two books.  Joseph, in contrast, was not an author.  He was not educated. Not an academic. 

He had no editor.  No feedback. No revisions before publication, except primarily to add punctuation not present in the original dictation. 

Oliver Cowdery was the primary scribe.  From April 7th through the end of June 1829 they translated.  Less than 60 working days.

Many details here.  A quote below:

“The dictation flowed smoothly. From the surviving portions of the Original Manuscript it appears that Joseph dictated about a dozen words at a time. Oliver would read those words back for verification, and then they would go on. Emma later added that after a meal or a night’s rest, Joseph would begin, without prompting, where he had previously left off (The Saints’ Herald 26 [Oct. 1, 1879]:290). No time was taken for research, internal cross-checking, or editorial rewriting.”

The dictated draft was copied onto the printer’s manuscript and published by Grandin in Palmyra. 

No evidence exists Joseph used other sources, despite desperate critics’ claims.  His wife Emma said Joseph couldn’t have his such sources from her if he tried.

October 2017 General Conference talk by Elder Callister:

Elder Callister gave another wonderful speech below:

Royal Skousen — the leading expert on the Book of Mormon manuscripts — details the process of dictation and printing:

This book was a product of inspiration. Translated by the gift and power of God.