Mosiah-first Translation

Still Image from “Seer Stones and the Translation of the Book of Mormon” via LDS Church History.

Fascinating details below and found here.

New research strongly demonstrates that Joseph Smith started the translation of our current Book of Mormon with the Book of Mosiah. This is because when the 116 pages were lost, Joseph Smith simply started translating from where he left off, in Mosiah.

This provides strong evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon, because there are hundreds of references in the Book of Mormon to earlier content (content that Joseph Smith hadn’t even written yet). So either Joseph Smith was the most talented author of all time, or he was simply translating an ancient record. Watch here!

Additional evidence of a Mosiah-first translation: When Pages Collide: Dissecting the Words of Mormon

When Pages Collide: Dissecting the Words of Mormon

Careful readers of the Book of Mormon have probably found verses 12–18 of the Words of Mormon to be a bit of a puzzle. For stylistic and other reasons, they do not really fit with verses 1–11, so commentators have tried to explain their presence as a sort of “bridge” or “transition” that Mormon wrote to connect the record of the small plates with his abridgment from the large plates.

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This paper proposes a different explanation: Rather than being a bridge into the book of Mosiah, these verses were originally part of the book of Mosiah and should be included with it.

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This article presents both documentary and textual evidence to show that (1) Joseph Smith had translated some text that he did not give to Martin Harris (the lost 116 pages), (2) Oliver Cowdery, Joseph’s scribe, copied from the original manuscript onto the printer’s manuscript at the beginning of the book of Mosiah the chapter designation “Chapter III,” (3) verses 12–18 of Words of Mormon do not use the first-person pronoun “I” and do not speak of the small plates, as verses 1–11 do, and (4) the book of Mosiah begins abruptly, without an introductory heading and without any mention of the person for whom the book was likely named (Benjamin’s father, Mosiah).

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These and other pieces of evidence support the idea that the last seven verse in Words of Mormon were actually the last verses of what should have been Mosiah chapter 2, but chapter 1 and most of chapter 2 must have been part of the 116 pages lost by Martin Harris.

Curiously Unique: Joseph Smith as Author of the Book of Mormon

Brian Hales produced a wonderful accumulation of information about the Book of Mormon, including data on the following:


– Author Age
– Author Education
– Book word count
– Book complexity
– Composition timeline
– Composition methodology

Listen to the podcast below:

https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/jnlartaudio/hales-v31-2019-pp151-190-AUDIO.mp3

Primary vs. Secondary Questions

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, General Authority Seventy, speaks during a BYU devotional on Jan. 22, 2019.

Elder Corbridge gave this talk at the BYU devotional yesterday: What to do with your questions, according to 1 General Authority who’s an expert on anti-Church materials.

As part of an assignment, Elder Corbridge read critical material. Lots of critical or anti-Mormon material. In fact, he claims there’s virtually nothing he hasn’t read from critical or anti sources.

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Key point:

Elder Corbridge explained there are primary and secondary questions when it comes to the Church. The primary questions must be answered first, as they are the most important. They include:

  • Is there a God who is our Father?
  • Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world?
  • Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
  • Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the kingdom of God on the earth?
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In contrast, the secondary questions are unending. They include questions about Church history, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, women and the priesthood, how the Book of Mormon was translated, DNA and the Book of Mormon, gay marriage, different accounts of the First Vision and so on.

“If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too or they pale in significance and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t understand, things you agree with and things you don’t agree with without jumping ship altogether,” Elder Corbridge said.

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More from the talk:

“There are some members of the Church who don’t know the answers to the primary questions, and they spend their time and attention slogging through the secondary questions.

They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt,” Elder Corbridge said.

One cannot prove the Church is true by disproving every claim made against it. Ultimately, there must be affirmative proof. With the things of God, that affirmative proof comes by revelation through the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.

JRR Tolkien and the Book of Mormon

Fascinating article:    What J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works Can Teach Us About the Book of Mormon:   New Study Reveals

Article text below:

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Skeptics have sometimes compared the Book of Mormon to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, including his epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings. If, they reason, Tolkien could create an entire imaginary world, with a large and detailed geography and a complex history that involves multiple ethnic groups, wars, and intricate subplots, it’s surely not impossible to imagine that Joseph Smith might have done the same.

Of course, there are some differences between them. For example, Joseph Smith was a marginally literate frontier farmer who dictated the Book of Mormon in less than three months and always insisted that it represented genuinely ancient history.

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By contrast, Tolkien, who created his Middle Earth over the course of many decades and never claimed it was other than fiction, was an accomplished philologist and translator. He taught at Oxford University as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and then as the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature.

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However, a new comparison of the Book of Mormon to the works of Tolkien is well worth considering. In their intriguing article “Comparing Book of Mormon Names with Those Found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works: An Exploratory Study,” four Brigham Young University professors — Brad Wilcox (ancient scripture), Wendy Baker-Smemoe (linguistics), Bruce L. Brown (psychology, with specialization in the psychology of language), and Sharon Black (education, with a focus on writing and editing) — look specifically at the unusual names found within both Tolkien’s books and the Book of Mormon. (It’s published on mormoninterpreter.com, of which I am the chairman and president.)

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They focus on “phonemes,” the smallest units of sound, using a hypothetical construct that they term a “sound print” or “phonoprint.” This is a pattern of sound that — rather like the individual “wordprint” seems to characterize different writers or like the fingerprints that are used to identify and specify the perpetrators of criminal acts — appears to be distinctively characteristic of individual authors and could, therefore, serve to differentiate one writer from another.

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“Traditionally,” say the authors of this new study, “words have been seen as the smallest building blocks over which authors have some freedom to choose. This new line of research expands the fundamental unit of text into phonemes and proposes the possibility that we could produce a phonoprint that would differ from author to author. Despite that authors have fewer sounds with which to create words than they have words with which to create prose and poetry, there is some evidence that authors favor certain sounds over others when choosing or inventing names.”

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Using this fresh and unusual research approach in an “exploratory” fashion, the authors examine the dwarf, elvish, hobbit, and human names created by Tolkien, as well as the Jaredite, Nephite, Mulekite, and Lamanite names found in the Book of Mormon. Although Joseph Smith always maintained that he had translated the Book of Mormon from an ancient record, his critics have frequently claimed that he wrote it himself, just as any ordinary writer composes a fictional narrative. Presumably, if those critics are right, he would have chosen the names for his imaginary world, or created them, just as other writers of fiction do.

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Their summary of their findings is worth quoting:

“Results suggest that Tolkien had a phonoprint he was unable to entirely escape when creating character names, even when he claimed he based them on distinct languages. In contrast, in Book of Mormon names, a single author’s phonoprint did not emerge. Names varied by group in the way one would expect authentic names from different cultures to vary. . . . Thus the Book of Mormon name groups were significantly more diverse than Tolkien’s. . . . If the Book of Mormon names were created by an individual, they were created by a very different process or based on languages more different from each other and consistent within themselves than those created by Tolkien.”

For Tolkien, the invention of fictional languages was a lifelong hobby that contributed substantially to his creation of Middle Earth. He began developing “Elvish” in his late teens, for example, and was still working on its history and grammar at age 81 when he died in 1973.

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It seems highly unlikely that Joseph Smith was better at inventing fictional languages than Tolkien was.

Moroni’s Stone Box, Protecting the Golden Plates

image above:  A general view, facing south, of the west side of the Palmyra hill, near the summit. This is the general area where Moroni buried the plates. Large flat-faced rocks, like those shown in the foreground, are common on the hill.

Two geologists published this on the topic in the Interpreter:  The Geology of Moroni’s Box:  the Setting and Resources of Palmyra.  

They discuss the stones available in the region around Joseph’s home.  They also identified the needed components of cement that was used to hold the stones together for 1400 years.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Abstract: The story of Joseph Smith retrieving gold plates from a stone box on a hillside in upstate New York and translating them into the foundational text of the Restoration is well known among Latter-day Saints. While countless retellings have examined these events in considerable detail, very few have explored the geological aspects involved in this story. In particular, none have discussed in detail the geological materials that would have been required by the Nephite prophet Moroni ca. ad 421 to construct a sealed container able to protect the gold plates from the elements and from premature discovery for some fourteen centuries. This paper reports the outcomes from a field investigation into what resources would have been available to Moroni in the Palmyra area. It was conducted by the authors in New York state in October 2017.

Two significant hills near the Smith farm:

Note the many drumlins in Upstate NY and their north-to-south orientations:

In the Palmyra area, most of the drumlins consist of a mix of stratified or layered gravels and sands. However, near the Palmyra hill is one today named Miners Hill, which is an exception: it is predominately formed of clay — something that might well have played an important role in the making of Moroni’s stone box.

Joseph described the box:

Joseph Smith described the box and its location: “On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth. …

The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.”

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Oliver Cowdery’s description:

Oliver goes on to describe the relative dimensions of the box, including the fact that it “was sufficiently large to admit a breast-plate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest, etc. from the arrows and weapons of their enemy.

From the bottom of the box, or from the breast-plate, arose three small pillars composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these three pillars was placed the record of the children of Joseph.” For the purposes of this study, however, our focus will remain on the nature of the construction materials: stones and cement.

This image below demonstrates what the box may have looked like and uses Oliver’s account to describe the box:

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The Book of Mormon shares that the Nephites knew how to use cement:

became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell … And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement. (Helaman 3:7, 11)

Moroni thus grew up within a culture in which making cement using the abundant limestone of the region was already a common skill or technology.

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Interesting note about clay, a required ingredient in cement:

As clay is almost unknown in the Palmyra area, the clay that Moroni needed was the most challenging ingredient for us to locate.  As noted earlier, however, some 3 km (~2 miles) due north of the Palmyra hill is a smaller drumlin called Miner’s Hill.

Perhaps uniquely in the area, this hill consists almost entirely of fine clay. According to the current land [Page 248]owner, who allowed the New York Highway Department to mine it, it is the only location in the area that serves as a source of clay.

Additional details of the box and location on the hill in this article:  Hill Cumorah.

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What ever happened to the box?

Two surviving accounts are our sources for this likely outcome. The first was General Authority (First Council of the Seventy) Edward Stevenson (d. 1897) who published an account in 1893 about interviewing an “old man” living near the hill:

Questioning him closely he stated that he had seen some good-sized flat stones that had rolled down and lay near the bottom of the hill. This had occurred after the contents of the box had been removed and these stones were doubtless the ones that formerly composed the box. I felt a strong desire to see these ancient relics and told him I would be much pleased to have him inform me where they were to be found. He stated that they had long since been taken away.

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The other is a report in which David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had stated:

Three times [David Whitmer] has been at the Hill Cumorah and seen the casket that contained the tablets and seerstone.  Eventually the casket has been washed down to the foot of the hill, but it was to be seen when he last visited the historic place.

Read more about David’s account here.

Read this Primary lesson that details the many ways the plates were hidden — decayed part of a tree, in a knapsack, under a fireplace, in a shed, in a barrel of beans — after getting into Joseph’s possession.

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The Maxwell Institute looked at a related topic in 2004:  Cumorah’s Cave.

The Prophet Joseph Smith

Insights from Preston Nibley in December of 1958:

Preston discusses Joseph’s poverty, early struggles, and the help he got from others to further the mission of the Church.

YouTube intro:  “Without the Prophet Joseph Smith, the entire state of Utah—not to mention the entire world— would be a different place than it is today. Preston Nibley narrates accomplishments of Joseph’s life and proves that he was a man of sincerity and determination who never wearied of the task of spreading the gospel.

 

Joseph Smith and the Lighter View

Critics love to cite Arrington, ostensibly because Arrington was very open in a period less transparent than now.  Arrington presents Joseph as he really was.

“Although Joseph Smith was raised in an overly pious and sanctimonious society, his jovial nature, sense of humor, and zeal for life show the Saints that this life is for men to have joy.”

This talk was given at BYU in November of 1974:

Missourian Efforts to Extradite Joseph Smith and the Ethics of Governor Thomas Reynolds of Missouri

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Above:  Liberty Jail in 1888.

Joseph and the Latter-day Saints suffered much in Missouri.  I grew up there, and take a great interest in what occurred in the Show-Me State in the 1830s and 1840s.

Here is a link to FAIR Mormon about the broader topic of Joseph Smith’s legal history:  Legal Trials of the Prophet.

Abstract of this podcast specifically about Joseph’s dealings with Missouri’s efforts to extradite:

This is the second of two articles discussing Missouri’s requisitions to extradite Joseph Smith to face criminal charges and the Prophet’s recourse to English habeas corpus practice to defend himself. In the first article, the author discussed the English nature of pre-Civil War habeas corpus practice in America and the anachronistic modern idea that the Nauvoo Municipal Court did not have jurisdiction to consider interstate habeas corpus matters. In this article, he analyzes the conduct of Governor Thomas Reynolds in the matter of Missouri’s requisitions for the extradition of Joseph Smith in light of 1840s legal ethics in America. That analysis follows the discovery that Governor Reynolds had dismissed the underlying 1838 charges against Joseph Smith when he was a Missouri Supreme Court judge. It also responds to the revelation that Missouri reissued indictments based on the same underlying facts in June 1843 despite the existence of a double-jeopardy provision in the Missouri Constitution of 1820.

Conclusion:

In my earlier article, I explained that Joseph Smith’s use of habeas corpus practice was legally and morally unobjectionable, despite the contrary claims of his detractors. In this article, I have shown that Governor Reynolds of Missouri knew that all the Mormon War charges against Joseph Smith had been dismissed, yet he not only allowed his State’s unfounded 1840 requisition for Joseph Smith’s extradition to remain in place, but he issued a new requisition for Joseph Smith’s extradition on the strength of contrived new indictments. That is abuse of process which amounts to official state persecution of an innocent man who had been released because the prosecutor had abandoned a case he could not prove.

Governor Reynolds’ involvement in the requisition for Joseph Smith’s arrest on suspicion of complicity in the murder of former Governor Boggs is less objectionable on legal and ethical grounds, as there is no suggestion from available records that Governor Reynolds knew those allegations were contrived. But as a former chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, [Page 324]it is likely he recognized how thin the underlying case was. In the context of Missouri’s obsession with the persecution of Joseph Smith and his followers, he should have paused before adding his personal imprimatur to the interstate pursuit of Joseph Smith on those charges.

While legal ethics on the frontier were still developing, Governor Thomas Reynolds’ involvement in requisitions for the arrest and extradition of Joseph Smith to face contrived charges was dishonorable from start to finish.

 

From Wikipedia:  Assassination Attempt of Lilburn Boggs (image above).

Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision Through Reminiscences

Critics claim Joseph made up the vision in 1832 and the story evolved from there.  This is simply not true, given what we can find in the historical record.

You can read the PDF from the link below:

Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision Through Reminiscences

https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/circumstantial-confirmation-first-vision-through-reminiscences

I’ll include the conclusion below:

“Historical analysis of Joseph Smith’s earliest religious experiences
raises the larger question of what documentation can reasonably be
expected for such events. A few writers on this subject virtually claim that
one could not accept the vision if it were not headlined by the regional
press in the spring of 1820. But that is projecting twentieth century journalism
onto the patterns of another age, for precious little local news
reached the columns of the country newspaper of Joseph Smith’s youth.

A more realistic criterion is the outside publicity given the rise of Christianity.
Contemporary mention of this obscure religious reform is absent
until it became an influential force, and at that point comment emerges in
Roman sources. Non-Mormon references to the First Vision follow this
parallel. The earliest known newspaper allusion is a reaction to the first
great success of Latter-day Saint proselyting, the Ohio-Missouri mission.
“Our Painesville correspondent” forwarded a report of the 1830 preaching
of “Cowdery and his friends” in Ohio: “Smith (they affirmed), had seen
God frequently and personally.”88

At the peak of his career in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith was a creative religious
innovator, but every important First Vision account antedates that
period. The visions of the 1820’s were historically recorded in the 1830’s,
with the first detailed account of the First Vision framed in 1831–32, about
a decade after the event. This compares favorably to the best parallel, the
New Testament record of Christian revelations. For instance, Paul’s first
vision occurred about A.D. 33, but his only detailed descriptions are
speeches given in the period A.D. 58–60, also the earliest date for the composition of Acts, in which these speeches and Luke’s historical account of
Paul’s vision appear.

In present terms, many readers of this article in 1969 remember very well certain episodes of December 7, 1941 (a quarter of a century ago), because of their aroused emotions on “a day that will live in infamy.” Some twenty years after the death of his brother Alvin, Joseph Smith said that the vivid memories of that event had not left him.89 The First Vision, an experience of greater emotional impact, was entered in the early ledger book after about half that time. This paper has shown that Joseph Smith’s memory is basically accurate for the external events of his early life.

Although not commenting upon the circumstances of the First Vision,
Joseph Smith’s father alluded to the experience itself. The occasion was a
formal gathering of the entire Smith family and a few trusted Church leaders
in 1834 to receive their blessings from the appointed patriarch of the
Church. The meeting was opened by brief observations of the sixty-threeyear-old leader, surveying his personal and family history. He recalled that
the Lord had “often” given him “visions” and “dreams,” a supporting statement
for the seven related in detail by his wife, the last of which is dated
1819 by her. He reviewed God’s favor on the family in their “many afflictions,”
mentioning specifically the tragedies of the “untimely birth” of a
son (about 1797), the death of another child “in his infancy” (1810), and
the 1823 death of Alvin, “taken from us in the vigor of life, in the bloom of
youth.”90 Obviously, Joseph Sr. was voicing the personal convictions and
traditions of an entire household. After a prayer, the initial blessing was
given to his prophet-son.

The opening words of Joseph Smith, Sr., summarized the spiritual career of the twenty-eight-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr., as then accepted by those who knew him most intimately: The Lord thy God has called thee by name out of the heavens; thou hast heard his voice from on high from time to time, even in thy youth.91

In a series of revelations given “from time to time,” the initial experience
mentioned is not the coming of an angel, but an incident in which the
youth is addressed personally by God from the heavens.92 Thus the patriarch
spontaneously gives the same sequence for the First Vision as found in
the writings of his wife and prophet-son.

To recapitulate, the reality of the First Vision has recently been challenged
on the ground that no revivals are found in the village of Palmyra in
the years immediately surrounding Joseph Smith’s date of 1820. But a
study of the leading non-Mormon recollection of the Prophet’s early religious
investigations makes this line of investigation largely irrelevant.
Orsamus Turner, printer’s apprentice in Palmyra until about 1820, recalled
young Joseph’s “catching a spark of Methodism in the camp meeting, away
down in the woods…” Thus the “religious excitement” that the Prophet
identifies as preceding his First Vision must be seen in a rural setting, what
a contemporary minister of the Genesee Conference termed “forest gatherings.”93

The documented camp meeting near Palmyra in 1820 is no doubt
typical of many others not noted in the press. But a constellation of
Methodist preachers comprising all circuits of western New York gathered
in their annual meeting at nearby Phelps in 1819. The impact of their public
preaching is measured by the description of the “crowds which gathered
from far and near” for the conference of the previous year.94

A careful study of the quality of recollection found in the writings of
William Smith and Oliver Cowdery render them not prime sources for
the First Vision itself. This means in essence that recent challenges to the
Prophet’s first religious experience have set up the problem with improper
sources and have attempted a solution by studying only one type of revival
in an unduly restricted locality. When the personal recollections that reach
back to 1820 are isolated, the few Mormon and non-Mormon sources that
qualify are in basic agreement. Though scornful of Mormon claims and
preoccupied with money-digging gossip, Orsamus Turner and Pomeroy
Tucker agree that Joseph Smith loosely affiliated with Methodism but
shortly announced a negative evaluation of all Christian churches. A study
of Turner’s early life, combined with the shortness of Joseph Smith’s
Methodist association indicated in Tucker, requires a date of approximately
1820 for these events.

By far the best independent source on Joseph’s early personal life is his mother, who confirms the religious excitement about 1819 “in the surrounding country,” relates his vision, describes his ostracism afterwards, and emphasizes that his conviction that the churches were wrong prevented his following the majority of the adults of his family in participation in the local revivals of 1824–25.

Beyond these historical details, it is most impressive that both parents express acceptance of the First Vision. An exacting study of existing recollections of the early 1820 period leaves the distinct impression that Joseph Smith is more accurate on his early history than any of his current critics.

Joseph Smith’s Treasure Hunting, Emma, Seer Stones, and Tumbaga

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General background on Joseph and the seer stones here.

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Josiah Stowell’s nephew filed a suit against Joseph.  Josiah Stowell, the man for whom Joseph worked, testified in court on behalf of Joseph against the charge of Joseph being a conman.  No conviction.

Emma met Joseph while Joseph was employed by Josiah Stowell.  Joseph, in fact, stayed in Emma’s home.  Emma’s parents didn’t approve of their courtship.

 

Bill Reel discusses the history behind well digging, treasure digging, the seer stone, diving rods, and more.

Rather than being a treasure digger, Bill argues that Joseph was a lost-item finder.  Several anecdotes support this theory.

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Josiah Stowell surely heard about Joseph’s ability to find things, and hired Joseph to find rumored Spanish gold near Harmony, PA .  Joseph had a spiritual gift or talent.  He was not, however, a serial conman.  In fact, Joseph told Josiah Stowell to stop his gold-seeking enterprise, since it wasn’t successful.

Joseph was tried for glass looking after Stowell’s nephew pressed charges.  Joseph was ultimately exonerated.

***  The fellow who did the podcast (in 2014), Bill Reel, is now far from the kind of believer he was when he made this podcast. Faith is similar to any living organism. Must be nourished.

I’ve called Bill Reel. Nice guy. Sadly, he’s now very (very, very, very, very) far from the basics.

Excellent podcast, however!