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Tad Callister: A Case for the Book of Mormon

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Nevo said:

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.

While it is true that Yigael Yadin's vocalization of the masculine name Yehuda-ben-Alma (Nahal Hever Letter 44) was later rejected by his colleagues, there is no actual certainty that it must read Allima "Strong, Powerful,”[1] or Alema "Eternal" (1 Maccabees 5:26).  In Mandaean-Gnostic the masculine name is vocalized Alma.  Reading consonantal texts (no vowels) is always fraught with difficulty, and it is uncharitable to fix on only one version or opinion in such an endeavor.  Compare also Arabic alma “sagacious, smart, shrewd, clever, bright, intelligent.”[2]


[1] The Documents from the Bar‑Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters. Hebrew, Aramaic and Nabatean‑Aramaic Papyri, eds., Yigael Yadin, Jonas C. Greenfield, Ada Yardeni, and Baruch Levine (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society/ Hebrew Univ. Institute of Archaeology/Shrine of the Book/Israel Museum, 2002), 47 = Dead Sea Discoveries, 10/2 (Brill, 2003).

[2] Hans Wehr, Arabic-English Dictionary, ed. J. Cowan (Ithaca: Spoken Language Services, 1994), 1031.

ETA:  I forgot to mention that Letter 44 spells Yehuda ben-Alma two different ways, as though Bar Kochba couldn't decide which was correct.  In one spelling, he ends Alma with an -h- as though it were Hebrew, and in the other with an aleph, as though it were Aramaic.  Did he even notice?

Edited by Robert F. Smith

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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Your suggestion earlier that a lot of trade was going on throughout the Americas should be emphasized.  Non-LDS scholars (the only ones who can apparently be trusted) point this out all the time, though partisans tend to ignore them. 

The second article I linked to from 2017 noted that there was quite a lot of trade in beans, squash and maize in its opening paragraph, suggesting that the domestication of little barley was tied to that. 

11 hours ago, Nevo said:

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...."

Just to add, the article you linked to is all studies from the early 80s. It's not surprising it doesn't agree with more recent studies looking at more recent evidence. If you want to know what the consensus is you should probably go by the newer literature that engages with the earlier literature. That article I linked to from 2017 also gives quite a few references to other papers documenting domestication.

Edited by clarkgoble
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15 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Actually the article referenced says [pre-Columbian little barley cultivation was] in Mexico as well [as North America].

I can't find the source now but I saw something which specified northern Mexico. This made me think that "Mexico" was too broad.

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21 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

The sentence quoted from Alexander Campbell does not imply that Campbell thought writing on metal plates was anachronistic. It is merely scornful about the claim that Smith had plates. Neither of the two linked articles describes writing on plates as anachronistic, either. Instead they discuss other anachronisms within the Book of Mormon as evidence against the golden plates having been real.

I would be surprised if critics ever found the mere concept of ancient inscriptions on metal to be anachronistic. The Twelve Tables of Roman law, written on copper tablets, were a famous element of Roman history. Ancient coins have always been well known to bear inscriptions; Jesus remarks in the gospels on Caesar's inscription on a Roman coin. 

What skeptics may have noted, then as now, is that there is no archaeological or historical precedent for metal inscriptions anywhere remotely near as long as the Book of Mormon. Not even the "very lengthy" early records are nearly as long as it is. If we were only talking about the Book of Mormon taking twelve thin plates instead of eight then the length issue would indeed be quibbling but the Book of Mormon would have needed either many times more plates than have ever been found with ancient writing, or ancient writing many times more highly compressed than any ancient writing that has ever been found. Pointing this out is not quibbling.

I have little to add to this beyond what Robert has said, but am responding because I wish to add to what has been said below. Nevertheless, writing on gold plates is not even anachronistic in America. An example can be found sitting in the Peabody Museum of Harvard which contains some gold plates with some pictographic type of inscriptions, which iirc were pulled out of a cenote. Unfortunately, the Spaniard thirst for gold probably destroyed anything not well hidden.

21 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

Regarding barley: pre-Columbian cultivation of a grass related to barley has been confirmed in North America but not in Central America and not in early Nephite times. This does make it less of a wild speculation to suggest that maybe barley cultivation did extend farther south and earlier and just hasn't shown up in the archaeology yet. It does not mean that the charge of anachronism on the count of barley has been rebutted. There might be hope if further evidence appears but as it stands barley in the Book of Mormon still looks anachronistic.

I am not a fan of the MesoAmerican theory. For one thing the BoM describes the Nephites being led to a land unknown to other nations. Mesoamerica doesn't seem to fit that description. There were other nations there. Not much about it fits the descriptions in the BoM. The woodland culture of N. America does fit in a lot of ways. It appeared in a land without other nations. The clothing fits. The jewelry made out of pearls fits. It became a "rich nation." It was a trading center, and received goods from all over N. America. And yes the barley fits. It is not some anachronism there. It is still called "little barley" in English it is so much like European barley. There was also an early grass used as we would use wheat, which could serve as a source for the unleavened bread of the Passover. The barley only looks anachronistic in Mesoamerica.  There are many other points to make, but for now I am remaining silent on them.

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20 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

The ones I found usually were more targeted to the ancient Jews. So Suderland's Mormonism (1838) has "This book speaks (p. 9,15,29,) of the Jewish Scriptures, having been kept by Jews on plates of brass, six hundred years before Christ. The Jews never kept any of their records on plates of brass."

As I mentioned Burton definitely was familiar with the claim and attempted (very poorly) to refute it in his 1861 book on the Mormons.

The best example is John Hyde's Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs (1857) "...the writing materials then in use, and it was only very few who could use them, would be those such a youth would be familiar with. Now the Jews did not use plates of brass at that time. Their writing materials were 1. Tablets smeared with wax. 2. Linen rubbed with a kind of gum. 3. Tanned leather and vellum. 4. Parchment (invented by Attalus of Pergamos). 5. Papyrus." 

There's other works from the end of the 19th and early 20th century that tend to repeat that notion even though it was demonstrably false even then.

But I do agree that Nibley was exaggerating things (at least from what I've seen) and people since Nibley have just repeated the claim uncritically and without reference. (I did a curious look and couldn't find apologists refuting the claim actually establishing the claim with a reference or quotation – which ought be a no-no for apologists) Further as I noted (and there are tons of other examples) there's lots of books around the time of Joseph saying that the Jews wrote on brass. However it's not clear these scholarly views were widely known.

Okay; thanks. These are better references than were given. It seems that some old critics did indeed regard ancient Jewish writing on metal as intrinsically bogus, and evidently they would have been wrong.

It's not fair, though, to accuse the entire set of criticisms of the Book of Mormon of systematically shifting goalposts just because some older critics were misguided on some issues. Criticism of the Book of Mormon is not a monolithic agent whose competence can be discredited by pointing out individual errors. The Church in contrast has been an organized group with a clear authority structure, and yet the Church itself is willing to disavow even earnest teachings of its older Prophets. The Church certainly does not admit that its claims are weakened by any misguided defenses by amateur apologists. Instead it asks that critics engage with its best defenses.

That should cut both ways.

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, Physics Guy said:

It's not fair, though, to accuse the entire set of criticisms of the Book of Mormon of systematically shifting goalposts just because some older critics were misguided on some issues.

Oh I agree. When evidence changes then arguments should change. I've point that out, like you, in several of my comments. I think the "goal posts" charge is more applicable only for general often ethical criteria. The "moving goal posts" criticism is too often played by both apologists and critics IMO. And I also agree that apologists should (from a practical effect point if anything) only be engaging with the strongest arguments. Attacking strawmen isn't helpful. While I've not read the book in question, it does seem it's mostly a popularizing of existing arguments without paying attention to whether the arguments are out of date. That's unfortunate.

1 hour ago, Physics Guy said:

I can't find the source now but I saw something which specified northern Mexico. This made me think that "Mexico" was too broad.

Yes but that then gets into likelihood arguments. How likely is it that a domesticated crop would be in northern Mexico but not available in the rest of Mexico? Pretty unlikely IMO. Possible of course. But especially given how spread the domistication was across North American very unlikely. It's thus more apt that coincidentally it wasn't discovered or else just didn't survive due to conditions. That's especially true given how the discoveries in North America were primarily made just in the last 20 years.

40 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

I am not a fan of the MesoAmerican theory. For one thing the BoM describes the Nephites being led to a land unknown to other nations. Mesoamerica doesn't seem to fit that description. There were other nations there. Not much about it fits the descriptions in the BoM. The woodland culture of N. America does fit in a lot of ways. It appeared in a land without other nations. The clothing fits. The jewelry made out of pearls fits. It became a "rich nation." It was a trading center, and received goods from all over N. America. And yes the barley fits. It is not some anachronism there. It is still called "little barley" in English it is so much like European barley. There was also an early grass used as we would use wheat, which could serve as a source for the unleavened bread of the Passover. The barley only looks anachronistic in Mesoamerica.  There are many other points to make, but for now I am remaining silent on them.

I don't have strong commitments to mesoamerica although it seems a stronger location than others. All the locations have their poblems. That said I think one can interpret "other nations" as the near east nations and then that isn't a problem. I'd add that the woodland culture also had others there before the Nephites since it dates to around 1000 BC. If you raise the Jaredites then you run into the problem of your quotation since the Nephites were led to a land where others already were - at minimum the Jaredites but you also have to deal with the meso-indian period and its inhabitants going back to 8000 BC. It's also clear there were descendents of Asians there as well. Although I suppose "nation" could mean a more advanced centralized governmental structure.

My feeling is we should be open with the geography until we have something positive to lock down the location. Right now we have at best technologies compatible with the text and then various strategies for explaining elements that don't see to line up. I find the internal geographic descriptions fit mesoamerica best, but again there's strategies for dealing with those as well as criticisms for elements of those fits.

Edited by clarkgoble
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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I don't have strong commitments to mesoamerica although it seems a stronger location than others. All the locations have their poblems. That said I think one can interpret "other nations" as the near east nations and then that isn't a problem. I'd add that the woodland culture also had others there before the Nephites since it dates to around 1000 BC. If you raise the Jaredites then you run into the problem of your quotation since the Nephites were led to a land where others already were - at minimum the Jaredites but you also have to deal with the meso-indian period and its inhabitants going back to 8000 BC. It's also clear there were descendents of Asians there as well. Although I suppose "nation" could mean a more advanced centralized governmental structure.

Same thing, and even moreso in Mesoamerica which has been populated a very long time. I believe there was a Jaredite culture northward, but will withhold further comments for now - to accurately do it justice just wouldn't fit here. There is nothing in the BoM which says the Nephites would come to a land devoid of all peoples - just other nations. Personally, I believe the Lamanites intermarried, which is how they grew so much faster in number. The Nephites pretty much called anyone else who didn't follow the gospel Lamanites whose speech was "confounded" I believe with a native tongue.   

4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

My feeling is we should be open with the geography until we have something positive to lock down the location. Right now we have at best technologies compatible with the text and then various strategies for explaining elements that don't see to line up. I find the internal geographic descriptions fit mesoamerica best, but again there's strategies for dealing with those as well as criticisms for elements of those fits.

I believe important evidence has come out of the work in Mesoamerca, so I am not particularly knocking those who choose to believe it is the place, but I think a lot of the evidence shows it is not the place. I don't need to remind you of the linguistic evidence, but I believe there is something to be said in that regard for the woodland culture as well, but certain Native words seem to click  throughout N. America. As for the geography, I have my own ideas.  

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27 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

I believe important evidence has come out of the work in Mesoamerca, so I am not particularly knocking those who choose to believe it is the place, but I think a lot of the evidence shows it is not the place. I don't need to remind you of the linguistic evidence, but I believe there is something to be said in that regard for the woodland culture as well, but certain Native words seem to click  throughout N. America. As for the geography, I have my own ideas.  

I confess I find all the purported linguistic evidence for either the US or mesoamerica deeply unpersuasive.

27 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

Same thing, and even moreso in Mesoamerica which has been populated a very long time.

Right. My argument is that the "many nations" are the near eastern nations not the nations in the new world.

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26 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I confess I find all the purported linguistic evidence for either the US or mesoamerica deeply unpersuasive.

Are you including Brian D. Stubbs, Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan in your assessment?

26 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Right. My argument is that the "many nations" are the near eastern nations not the nations in the new world.

I just don't agree with that reading. I think the point was to lead them to where they could be a nation on their own - they weren't a ready made nation of hundreds of thousands of people which could just move into a land. They needed someplace where they would be unmolested while they grew in numbers - a land with a few hunter-gatherer families would fit that bill. They aren't really a "nation" in the sense of having an organized societal structure.  

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On 8/21/2019 at 2:10 PM, randy said:

.....................................

All this to say...I'm simple minded.  I received a witness that this gospel is true.  So the question is...Am I stupid for believing in my witness of the spirit given to me in that experience I shared above?  Should I doubt that revelatory experience based upon the "doubts" being shared here?  My answer to that is a resounding "NO"!  Again....I tend to be very simple in how I approach these types of things.  I will not as the scriptures say "cast not away my confidence".  If it was true in 1976, it's still true in 2019.

There is nothing simple-minded about a testimony of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many have sought just such a testimony and have yet to find it.  You are so fortunate and blessed.

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11 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

The second article I linked to from 2017 noted that there was quite a lot of trade in beans, squash and maize in its opening paragraph, suggesting that the domestication of little barley was tied to that. 

Just to add, the article you linked to is all studies from the early 80s. It's not surprising it doesn't agree with more recent studies looking at more recent evidence. If you want to know what the consensus is you should probably go by the newer literature that engages with the earlier literature. That article I linked to from 2017 also gives quite a few references to other papers documenting domestication.

Not just barley and maize (corn), but other important grains or food plants, then otherwise unknown to Western Civilization, were available in the Americas, such as huauzontle, chia, teosinte, quinoa, amaranth, jocote (mombin), manioc (cassava),[1] chile, or other grains or food plants.[2]


[1] Manioc was discovered at Ceren, El Salvador, to be dated 1400 years ago to the time of a massive volcanic eruption (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070820122541.htm , and www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090616133940.htm ).

[2] J. L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 305; indeed, Sorenson notes that Hebrew pôl “bean,” ought to be compared to Maya bol, buul “bean” (306).

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9 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

There is nothing simple-minded about a testimony of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many have sought just such a testimony and have yet to find it.  You are so fortunate and blessed.

A lot of people know, when they think they don’t.

Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was acalled many times and I would not bhear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling cagainst God, in the wickedness....

It’s too bad people fink out, and leave the Church, when life is short, over a bunch of stupid questions.

“Well, at age 80, [or insert your favorite age] I decided to leave the Church!” So much for enduring to the end. 

There shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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1 hour ago, Burnside said:

A lot of people know, when they think they don’t.

Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was acalled many times and I would not bhear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling cagainst God, in the wickedness....

It’s too bad people fink out, and leave the Church, when life is short, over a bunch of stupid questions.

“Well, at age 80, [or insert your favorite age] I decided to leave the Church!” So much for enduring to the end. 

There shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Good points, Burnside, I think . . .

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, RevTestament said:

Are you including Brian D. Stubbs, Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan in your assessment?  

Yes, I think it's too early to say much there. However there have been skeptical takes by believers. Indeed T&S put up a few discussions like Jonathan Green's. Part of the problem though is that to engage with Stubbs it's not enough to be aware of the underlying structural and philosophical issues one also has to be expert in the relative languages. That's a very small pool of people who can even really evaluate his claims in the particulars. I'll confess I'm skeptical of the whole approach more at a theoretical level.

19 hours ago, RevTestament said:

I just don't agree with that reading. I think the point was to lead them to where they could be a nation on their own - they weren't a ready made nation of hundreds of thousands of people which could just move into a land. They needed someplace where they would be unmolested while they grew in numbers - a land with a few hunter-gatherer families would fit that bill. They aren't really a "nation" in the sense of having an organized societal structure.  

That's certainly a defensible reading. The question is then take the reasonably possible readings and see what comports with the evidence. The reality is that both in the Woodland area as well as mesoAmerica you had existing civilizations. Further trade with the Woodland culture by other cultures invalidates the claim that they were unknown. Maybe unconquered, but that's not the same thing. I'd also dispute that the Woodland culture didn't have an "organized societal structure." They may not had a single dominant leadership over everyone, but that's not the same thing at all. 

Edited by clarkgoble

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7 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Yes, I think it's too early to say much there. However there have been skeptical takes by believers. Indeed T&S put up a few discussions like Jonathan Green's. Part of the problem though is that to engage with Stubbs it's not enough to be aware of the underlying structural and philosophical issues one also has to be expert in the relative languages. That's a very small pool of people who can even really evaluate his claims in the particulars. I'll confess I'm skeptical of the whole approach more at a theoretical level.

That's certainly a defensible reading. The question is then take the reasonably possible readings and see what comports with the evidence. The reality is that both in the Woodland area as well as mesoAmerica you had existing civilizations. Further trade with the Woodland culture by other cultures invalidates the claim that they were unknown. Maybe unconquered, but that's not the same thing. I'd also dispute that the Woodland culture didn't have an "organized societal structure." They may not had a single dominant leadership over everyone, but that's not the same thing at all. 

The evidence from the text indicates a larger area than Mesoamerica.

Limhi’s people found the Prophet Ether’s plates that were prepared in a manner that they could be found.

They weren’t found by the people of Mulek who discovered Coriantumr the last Jaredite, or later by the people of Zarahemla the descendants of Mulek’s group, who had had wars among themselves before discovered by the Nepjites. They were not found even after the Nephites fled the Land of Nephi and were lead to the Land of Zarahemla. But who found them? A group of Nephites who two generations earlier tried to inherit the Land of Nephi, failed and in trying to find the land of Zarahemla - got lost in their attempt. This was 400 years later.

Thus, for 400 yrs, Ether’s plates were out in the open hid in a manner to be found.

Moroni buried his record to protect them, as he was commanded to by the Lord, to protect them from the Lamanites.

Not so with the Prophet Ether. He hid his plates in a manner that they could be found, but they weren’t found until 400yrs later.(121 B.C. - Mosiah 21). This indicates Ether wasn’t concerned about anyone left alive to molest his plates, since all the Jaredites were destroyed.

Mesoamerica, as defined by LDS “Apologists” was swarming with people, even when Lehi arrived. This contradicts the text.

The Mesoamerica theory is a fraud, anyway, made up by the RLDS Church, adopted by a bunch of Utah Scholars to obtain money via 501(c)(3) Tax-Free Charitable Corporations. It’s called BUSINESS AND TURNING A PROFIT.

The Utah Scholars took the RLDS theory, expanded on it, by adding tapirs are Nephite Horses, metal swords are wooden, etc., etc., and claim the text contains anachronisms to account for the tapirs, etc..

What’s even worse, these same Utah Scholars, claim Oliver Cowdery was some chowder-head who was merely speculating when he wrote and taught the final Jaredite and Nephite battles were at the Hill Cumorah in New York. And that the Prophet Joseph Smith contradicted all that he had said earlier, but finally learned the geography of The Book of Mormon from reading about Mesoamerica from a popular travel book, the modern equivalent being a subscription to the National Geographic magazine.

RLDS Publications:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101074867811;view=2up;seq=2;skin=mobile

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t39z9z24w;view=2up;seq=4;skin=mobile

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89058377359;view=2up;seq=58;skin=mobile

It’s total RLDS phoney-baloney. 

Ted Callister is donating the proceeds of his book to Book of Mormon Central, btw, or so I read. That’s why FairMormon is promoting it: $$$.

BoMC, FairMormon, Interpreter, they all promote this RLDS Mesoamerica fraud. They have to, to get people confused, then they have the answers to the “big mystery of Book of Mormon geography,” all to get donations. One would think the account of Zeezrom would enlighten people about this matter.

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Posted (edited)

Look at the map on this page here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t39z9z24w;view=2up;seq=34;skin=mobile

And it’s here on the second page of this RLDS Quetzal Codex publication:

https://nebula.wsimg.com/7bb9e706664eb88ffcc243bf714261ca?AccessKeyId=AA525AED21BB7CA23BE6&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

From: https://www.bomf.org/quetzal-codex.html

 The Mesoamerica Theory is a fraud.

Tell your friends, so they won’t be deceived.

Edited by Burnside

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Burnside said:

all to get donations

And we at FM are getting so rich off of these donations!!!  At least our bookstore manager and tech guy are.  (Sarcasm if that wasn't obvious)

Rest of us pay for the privilege of volunteering (well, most do, on occasion others cover membership for poor students or otherwise inconvenient and sometimes we loose track as in I missed the conference this year, so may be behind a year or two as I just write what I feel like giving rather than a set amount yearly).

Edited by Calm
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3 hours ago, Burnside said:

The Mesoamerica theory is a fraud, anyway, made up by the RLDS Church, adopted by a bunch of Utah Scholars to obtain money via 501(c)(3) Tax-Free Charitable Corporations. It’s called BUSINESS AND TURNING A PROFIT.

BoMC, FairMormon, Interpreter, they all promote this RLDS Mesoamerica fraud. They have to, to get people confused, then they have the answers to the “big mystery of Book of Mormon geography,” all to get donations. One would think the account of Zeezrom would enlighten people about this matter.

Which overpriced book would you recommend I purchase to better understand your perspective?

https://bookofmormonevidence.org/bookstore/

And while you're here, could you swing a free pass to the FIRM Foundation's 501(c)(3) Tax-Free Charitable Corporate conference for me?

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On 8/22/2019 at 11:11 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

There is nothing simple-minded about a testimony of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many have sought just such a testimony and have yet to find it.  You are so fortunate and blessed.

Thank you for this!    I was incredibly blessed in that regard. I do not take that experience for granted. I consider it a sacred gift and as such I feel high degree of accountability for it.  I consider myself well read, I know the doctrine/teachings of the Church well, but when I read of members who stumble over "this or that" with respect to BoM historicity etc, or BoA questions and all the rest we read about on this forum...I am just SO thankful that I received my witness  early in life.  I'm not saying these things do not make for fascinating discussions for they certainly do!  Some really make me scratch my bald head...but at the end of the day..after all the dust has settled in my brain after reading all of it...such a wonderful sense of calm and tranquility comes over me...and I'm reminded once again as I see and hear Pres. Kimball in my minds eye...then I smile and think "all is truly well in Zion"!

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Posted (edited)
On 8/21/2019 at 8:53 AM, Nevo said:

I think Callister's barley and cement evidences are also weak, but I'm off to work now so that will have to wait.

I'll be curious to learn why you think the evidence for cement is weak.  Callister cited Hyman, but no direct link is provided.  Here is a long letter from Hyman in the American Anthropologist defending his research on Mesoamerican cements, which included many samples from the Oaxaca area of SW Mexico, the center of the very region tagged as the land of Desolation by some Mesoamerican BoM models:  

https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1525/aa.1973.75.1.02a00290 ,1973.

Here is an excerpt:

Quote

I collected a comprehensive number of concrete, stucco, and mortar samples from many important sites throughout Mexico and Central America including about a dozen representative specimens at Teotihuacan. These were subjected to load tests, chemical, petrographic, x-ray diffraction, and other analyses. Hydraulic cements would have exhibited the presence of the complex calcium/magnesium silicates and aluminates (Taylor 1964, Bk 2, Appendix 1) but these were conspicuously absent. Not a single sample possessed a trace of hydraulic cement. All cements proved to be pure or nearly pure calcium carbonate. Extreme hardness and durability of the finished concrete slab or stucco had been accomplished by purity of cement, incredible skill in proportioning and mixing with the aggregates and, in some cases, by the use of additives and surface hardeners.

I.e., he determined that these cements are non-hydraulic and produce the purest CaCO3 cement possible where the lime is derived from almost pure limestone.  Non-hydraulic cements incorporate water from the atmosphere for hardening so take longer to do so than hydraulic cements such as Portland.

This is one of the most direct hits you could get for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon . . . . . and it exactly fits the Hauck (and other models, as well) Book of Mormon  geography model.

 

Edited by blarsen
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13 hours ago, blarsen said:

I'll be curious to learn why you think the evidence for cement is weak.

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:

Quote

Humboldt says, that he saw at Pullal, three houses made of stone, which were built by the Incas, each of which was more than fifty metres, or a hundred and fifty feet long, laid in a cement, or true mortar. This fact, he says, deserves attention, because travellers who had preceded him, had unanimously overlooked this circumstance, asserting, that the Peruvians were unacquainted with the use of mortar, but is erroneous. The Peruvians not only employed a mortar, in the great edifices of Pacaritambo, but made use of a cement of asphaltun; a mode of construction, which on the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, may be traced back to the remotest antiquity. (p. 246)

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."

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3 hours ago, Nevo said:

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."

Your non-building, Webster citations show that cement/glue were synonymous even back in JS’s day.  So nothing new there.  And I don’t think you really believe Joseph thought buildings could or would be built out of some type of glue.  Now part of the definition that tags building cement as being mortar using lime is what Joseph would likely have known and thought.  Definitions, of course, partake of common usage.  Real building cement derives from lime.

And the 3 BoM passages referencing cement refer to houses and cities built of cement, not just used as mortar to hold stones together.  A visit to Teotihuacan would demonstrate that cement was used for entire walls of houses/structures in that local.

And no one is saying the cements referred to in Helaman 3 need be the purest cements possible.  The remarkable thing, however, is that the non-hydraulic cements analyzed by Hyman were in fact very pure and highly indurated; which underscores the idea that very real cements are found throughout southern Mexico and other parts of Mesoamerica.

Priest’s and Morse’s citations of an underground stone wall using some type of mortar are quite anecdotal at this point; furthermore, the referenced wall is what would be termed an ‘isolate’; i.e., no other examples or context.   And Morse’s comments on the facing page of page 515 simply refer to sedimentology/geology, having nothing to do with man-made cement.

And Humboldt?   another reference to houses built of stone laid in mortar, not cement houses.  Also, rather an ‘isolate’ and anecdotal.  And hard to believe that JS would have access to Humboldt’s publication, even though published in 1814, let alone selecting out an obscure reference to cement mortar on page 257.  The same could be said of Morse’s 1812 publication, with its obscure reference to mortar on page 515, or Priest's rehash of it.

All other references to cement from Humboldt’s work have to do with the character string embedded in words such as ‘commencement’, to cement used in sedimentary rocks, or to asphalt used as a mortar.

The Book of Mormon says cement was used extensively and over a broad area; exactly what you find in southern Mexico.  The fact it is found throughout the region regarded by some BoM models as the land of Desolation is doubly impressive . . . . . to me, that is.  Someone who consistently “~halts between two opinions" may have a tougher time being impressed with this evidence. 😉

Edited by blarsen

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20 hours ago, blarsen said:

And the 3 BoM passages referencing cement refer to houses and cities built of cement, not just used as mortar to hold stones together.  A visit to Teotihuacan would demonstrate that cement was used for entire walls of houses/structures in that local.

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.

Edited by Nevo
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3 hours ago, Nevo said:

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.

My approach to reading the BoM is to assume the words it uses means what we generally think they mean.  Perhaps a naïve approach, but makes the most sense to me.  After all, if it was translated for our day by the power of God, why not?  For instance, when passages from the BoM refer to things that don’t translate, it uses the original ‘Nephite’ names:  think of cureloms and cumoms, sheum, onti, etc., etc.

Your idea that Joseph Smith wouldn’t know of buildings using cement alone is actually good evidence for the Book of Mormon, provided houses/structures built almost entirely of cement are found someplace in the ‘new world’.  These actually exist in Teotihuacan, and probably at other sites in the general area.  I’ve been there, and have seen palace/houses that give every appearance of being built entirely of cement, both floors and walls . . . . no sign of stones used, no sign of the cement being just a stucco veneer.

Alma 48:8 gives the one instance where Nephites built with stone:  Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort;  . . . . . . .  also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.”

Did the Nephites use mortar to bind these stones?  Doesn’t say, but why not.

Now the one question the Nephite use of cement raises with me, is where did they get the fuel to heat the CaCO3 'feedstock' to produce lime, especially if there was a lack of timber?  Peat or coal?  Or perhaps large bushes/small trees that would never grow into building material lumber, answers that for me.

I’m surprised you give this forum and this subject any attention at all if “none of this strikes me as plausible history”.  I don’t understand your motivation.  Interesting . . . .

Edited by blarsen

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1 hour ago, blarsen said:

My approach to reading the BoM is to assume the words it uses means what we generally think they mean.  Perhaps a naïve approach, but makes the most sense to me.  After all, if it was translated for our day by the power of God, why not?  For instance, when passages from the BoM refer to things that don’t translate, it uses the original ‘Nephite’ names:  think of cureloms and cumoms, sheum, onti, etc., etc.

While I think that ought be the default reading, we should note that semantic drift is a pretty common phenomena.

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