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About Nevo

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    Halting Between Two Opinions
  • Birthday 09/06/1973

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  1. Like you, I enjoy testing my ideas—"proving contraries" as it were. As the philosopher Charles Taylor put it in The Secular Age, describing the plight of thoughtful religious people in the modern era: "We live in a condition where we cannot help but be aware that there are a number of different construals, views which intelligent, reasonably undeluded people, of good will, can and do disagree on. We cannot help looking over our shoulder from time to time, looking sideways, living our faith also in a condition of doubt and uncertainty." I live my doubt that way too. I come here to "look over my shoulder." I find the Book of Mormon a fascinating puzzle. On the one hand, it seems an obvious fiction. Case in point: the parallel narratives of the Nephites and Jaredites. As I've said before, what are the odds that two different migrations to the promised land would produce societies of millions of people destroyed by "secret combinations" down to the last man on the very same hill? And that their histories would both be recorded on gold plates and require decoding by means of a special rock? It's preposterous. Yet at the same time, the book is remarkably complex and doctrinally rich. And we're just now starting to discover the depth and sophistication of its interactions with the Bible. It seems way beyond Joseph's capacity to write, yet I can see no more plausible candidate. But I hesitate to call it a hoax because I've seen its power to change lives. People were converted by the Book of Mormon before ever meeting Joseph Smith, and then left everything to embrace the Restoration it heralded (Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt being two noteworthy examples). Oliver Cowdery gave a year's wages to support it before he'd even seen it, wrote the manuscript in longhand (twice!), and then walked to the edge of the United States, in the dead of winter, to deliver its message to the "Lamanites." William McLellin, dubbed an "arch apostate" for his attacks on Joseph Smith and the Church, said at the end of his life: "I have set to my seal that the Book of Mormon is a true, divine record and it will require more evidence than I have ever seen to shake me relative to its purity.... When a man goes at the Book of Mormon, he touches the apple of my eye. He fights against truth--against purity--against light." Since then millions of people all over the world have come to regard it sacred, authoritative scripture. What inspires such devotion? Even I, skeptic that I am, find myself drawn to its teachings, "which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him" (Moroni 7:13).
  2. Well, to be fair, I was talking about cement (or lime) plaster on the walls, not "a stucco veneer." I've tried to corroborate your observations about Teotihuacan containing buildings constructed "almost entirely of cement," but so far I've been unsuccessful. I did, however, find this: And this: And this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278416516000222 Anyway, to return to my original point. I don't dispute that cement (or lime plaster, to be more precise) was used in ancient Mesoamerica. I just don't think it's strong evidence for the Book of Mormon. I think it would have been entirely natural for Joseph Smith to have supposed that an advanced civilization that originated in the Old World would have known about cement (whether or not he was familiar with the likes of Priest, Morse, and Humboldt). So why am I on this board spending time on this subject? Because I think there are too many "uncontested slam dunks" in LDS apologetics
  3. I suppose it's possible that these passages might refer to structures made purely of cement, with no stones involved, but that isn't how cement was normally used in Joseph Smith's day (or in any other day, as far as I know). Cement is a binding agent, so what was it binding if not stones? Sand? Nothing at all? Personally, if I saw a house built of stones and mortar and plastered with cement, I would probably describe it as a cement house. I might even describe a wattle and daub house as a "cement" house. The interesting thing about Helaman 3 is that it tells us that timber was the Nephites' construction material of choice. When they moved into the land northward where timber was "exceedingly scarce" (because millions of Jaredites), they were forced to find other materials and therefore "became exceedingly expert in the working of cement." Mormon tells us that they lived "in tents and in houses of cement" (a rather odd juxtaposition) while waiting for the trees to grow back, "that in time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings." Eventually (tired of waiting one presumes--trees take a long time to grow!), they decided to import timber "by the way of shipping," which allowed them to build "many cities, both of wood and cement"--as well as ships(!), temples, synagogues, and the rest. They also produced "many books." Needless to say, none of this strikes me as plausible history. But others' mileage may vary.
  4. I don't think the evidence for cement is weak. I think cement existed in pre-Columbian America. I just don't think that is strong evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. For one thing, Joseph Smith could have meant almost anything by "cement". Webster's 1806 dictionary defined cement simply as "that which joins bodies together." The 1828 edition went a bit further, defining it as "any glutinous or other substance capable of uniting bodies in close cohesion, as mortar, glue, soder, etc. In building, cement denotes a stronger kind of mortar than that which is ordinarily used" -- mortar being defined in the same publication as "a mixture of lime and sand with water." So we needn't assume that the references to "cement" in Helaman 3 must refer to "the purest CaCO3 cement possible." Callister states: "The Book of Mormon references to cement were simply contrary to all known scientific facts of the time." Yet Josiah Priest's American Antiquities, published in Albany, New York just a few years after the Book of Mormon, referred to the discovery of a subterranean stone wall in North Carolina where "every stone [was] covered with cement" (234). Priest's source here is Jedidiah Morse's The American Universal Geography, page 515. On the facing page, Morse reports that "on some of the rivers in North-Carolina there is found what may be called a shell rock, being a concretion of shells and sand, in a hard ragged composition, and is sometimes used instead of stones, for the foundation of houses, which purpose, when mixed with mortar, it answers very well, making a strong wall." Further, he notes, "there is a long ridge of limestone, which extending in south-westerly direction, crosses the whole state of North-Carolina." Priest's book also notes the following: Humboldt's Researches Concerning the Institutions and Monuments of Ancient Inhabitants of America was published in English in 1814 and contains several references to pre-Columbian "cement."
  5. WordCruncher also has this module for only $10. The attention to fonts, formatting, pagination, etc., is flawless. It's really well done.
  6. But it doesn't. Aramaic Allima is not the same as Hebrew Alma (which is not attested as a masculine name). I don't "demand" that Callister do "dog tricks" with etymologies. I only ask that he not make bogus claims. Even tax attorneys are capable of that much.
  7. Here's another: "The Bible prophesies of [the Book of Mormon's] coming forth and its purpose. . . . There are actually a number of Bible prophecies that refer to the Book of Mormon, its people and their promised land."
  8. So, in other words, you agree that Alma isn't attested as a Hebrew name, as Callister claims.
  9. It would be nice if paleoethnobotanists could come to some kind of consensus on this. Another source claims that "there is disagreement about whether or not little barley was domesticated. Evidence for true domestication should include morphological change in the caryopsis. While this change often includes an increase in seed size, this is not always the case. Hunter (1992) demonstrates a minor increase in seed size, but acknowledges that it is not as significant an increase as is needed to confirm domestication...." In any case, I have no confidence that the Book of Mormon is referring to little barley grass when it mentions "barley."
  10. Callister implies that the idea that ancient people wrote on metal plates was viewed as anachronistic in Joseph Smith's day. It wasn't. He also suggests that the discovery of "numerous metal plates containing ancient writings" during the 20th century has become "a witness of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon." Not so. Quite the opposite, in fact. As Ryan Thomas has recently demonstrated, "comparison of documented practices of metal epigraphy from throughout the ancient Near East/eastern Mediterranean show that the Book of Mormon tradition of writing extensive literary compositions on metal for archival purposes was conspicuously outside the norm, without historical precedent or parallel." Callister's assertion that "the Book of Mormon revealed a correct usage of the name of Alma"--proving that Joseph was "either inspired once again or a very, very lucky guesser"--is another outdated argument that doesn't hold up to scrutiny, as noted here: http://mormon*****.***/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=49737. The upshot of that thread is that there is no evidence for Alma as a genuine Hebrew name (although it was used as a male name in Joseph Smith's day). I think Callister's barley and cement evidences are also weak, but I'm off to work now so that will have to wait.
  11. I think there is harm in misrepresenting issues and making facile arguments and indulging in cheap point-scoring. This is exactly the sort of thing that gives apologetics a bad name. Callister's presentation is the mirror image of the CES Letter, but with even less depth and rigor.
  12. "For decades critics have placed their scholarly stethoscopes firmly against the Book of Mormon, anxiously listening for a 'striking clock'—something out of date, out of context—but with the passage of time, their stethoscopes have encountered a deafening silence." This is comforting for members to hear but it couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm a bit surprised Brother Callister is still making this claim but I guess he doesn't spend much time on the internet.
  13. I have this one: https://www.amazon.com/Greek-English-Interlinear-Testament-Personal-Size/dp/0842345647 I'm very happy with it. The critical text it uses is a bit outdated now (NA26). So, for example, it has "Junias" (masc.) in Romans 16:7 whereas more recent editions have "Junia" (fem.). But overall I'd recommend it for folks like myself whose Koine doesn't extend much beyond the letters of the alphabet.
  14. http://ldsview.wordcruncher.com/index.html This is a great tool, with more search functionality than I will ever be able to use. You can also search on Hebrew and Greek words. Don't be fooled by the ancient website design and 2014 copyright date. The latest build is from March 2019.
  15. William's biographer, Kyle Walker, finds that William was a lot like his uncle Jesse Smith: "William's personality mirrored that of his uncle Jesse, and the two men were a match in being impulsive, quick-tempered, and obstinate in their views" (Walker, William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet, 76). Furthermore, both were large imposing men who sometimes used their physical strength to get their way. Writing of William's experience in Palmyra, Walker notes that "being an outcast for his religious convictions did not sit well him, nor would he tolerate the name-calling and ostracizing he experienced, especially from his peers." His patriarchal blessing later noted that "thou hast greatly desired to see thy father's family redeemed from trouble . . . but thou hast not altogether desired this thing in meekness." Regarding William's physical altercation with Joseph in 1835, Walker writes: "William's animosity toward Joseph went back at least as far as their teens. While the rest of the family universally accepted Joseph's prophetic calling and prominent position in the family, William sometimes resented his older brother and the deference his parents paid to him. In later years, William acknowledged that his rather carefree, irreligious youth had elicited frequent lectures from his brother Joseph. Given that he already found the family's religious devotions irritating, William must have experienced his brother's lectures as bossy and preachy. It was also not the first time the brothers had scuffled, and certainly not the first time William had acted disrespectfully toward his older brother. Benjamin F. Johnson recorded another episode that had occurred, apparently at an earlier date. 'For Insolence to him,' Johnson related, 'He [Joseph] Soundly Thrashed his Brother William who Boasted himself as Invinsable'" (115). Walker continues: "Though William eventually accepted his brother's prophetic calling, some of his earlier resentments appear to have been rekindled while they were serving together in the leading councils of the church. William felt annoyed that Joseph frequently got his way because of deference to his position as Church president. His brother's prominent role in the family was equally grating. It is evident from Joseph's writings that he strongly felt that he had the prerogative--even the responsibility--to reprove his younger brother for wayward behavior, both because of his ecclesiastical [position] and also because of his birth order in their family." In his letter to William afterward, Joseph wrote that it was "his privilege, of reproving a younger brother" and right "to admonish you because of my birthright" (116). Walker observes that "it was also hard for William to stay in the background while his older brother was continually the focus of attention, both publicly in his civic and church responsibilities, as well as privately in the family. The recipient of his father's name, Joseph Jr. was the fulfillment of both family and scriptural prophecy that all the Smiths unequivocally accepted. . . . With most of the family siding with Joseph, the cost of holding on to his anger became too great, as it left William feeling ostracized from the Church and also isolated from his family. His strong family ties propelled him toward reconciliation with his brother" (117-118). Joseph Sr. was instrumental in softening William's heart: Joseph Smith is said to have prophesied that William "would become a good man when He became an old man" (Brigham Young, quoted in Wilford Woodruff's journal, 14 June 1857). As it happened, William's last 30 years were peaceful. In a small community in northeastern Iowa he finally found the respect and acceptance that had eluded him his whole life. Walker records that when B.H. Roberts visited William in the fall of 1880, he found him "a gracious host, feeding the two missionaries supper and breakfast and, although they didn't know it until the next day, giving them his own bed while he slept on the floor. The next day, William wrote a letter to a possible contact in Elkader, urging this friend 'to receive us as he would himself and to see to it that no one insulted us.' He walked with them to the outskirts of town and, in saying farewell, burst into a 'flood of tears accompanied by a clinging warm clasp of his hand.' Three times, Roberts looked back as they continued on their way, and each time, William was also looking at them, giving them 'a farewell wave of the hand'" (561). Reflecting on William's turbulent, eventful life, Walker offers this appraisal:
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