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History And Historicity In The Book Of Mormon---Gardner


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Posting this even before I get a chance  to read it (dinner bell just rang and I missed it conference time) .  That is how much I like you guys:

 

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2015-fairmormon-conference/history-and-historicity-in-the-book-of-mormon

Yes, Brant's article here is very timely.  It not only provides insights from the Jenkins - Hamblin debate online, but also excerpts some important points made by Brant in his new book:  Brant A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (SLC: Kofford, 2015).

 

By the way, cal, it was delightful meeting you at the FAIRMORMON conference.  Thanks for disabusing me of some misinformation I had.  You have done me the honor of correcting me more than once here as well, and I am greatly in your debt.

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I'm not sure if Hamblin (and by extension other apologists) are being willfully obtuse on the subject of "evidences", but at the very least it appears to be a huge blind spot for them.  And I suspect much of Jenkins' frustration stems from the fact that it just isn't that hard to see his point.  And it's a good point. 

 

So allow me to explain it as best I can, not because I think any apologist will "get" it, but so those who are just learning about it (or who haven't followed the discussion) can perhaps get the gist of it.

 

Suppose in 1832, a shopkeeper named Theodore Brumley living in Boston, MA, publishes two books.

 

One of them tells the story of a Roman Legion that gets lost at sea and somehow finds its way to the New World, whereupon they engage in battles with the American Natives, similar to this story.

 

The second tells the story of a regiment from the American Civil war that made a more miraculous journey, this one back in time to ancient Rome, where they engaged in battle with Roman legions until they were wiped out (much like this story).

 

At the time of these books' publication, author Brumley prefaces them by explaining that he did not create these stories from whole-cloth, but instead they came to him in two very vivid dreams, in which he was shown these events by the spirit of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Da Vinci told him he must share these stories with the world because they really happened, but that knowledge had been lost.

 

Over time, these books amass a loyal following of believers who are convinced that Brumley's visions were real, and that these events did occur.  Most of their arguments are based on the incredible detail Brumley included in his works, and how those details match up with so much of what we know about those ancient times and places.  There are even things in those books that weren't known in the early 1830's.  Most historians remain unconvinced, to put it mildly.

 

Now, in 2015, imagine you are approached by someone who knows little of the Brumley books or The Book of Mormon.  They only know that they are three different "alternate histories" that were written in the early 1800s. 

 

Now, basing your argument solely on historical and archaeological evidence, how do you convince him that there is more evidence for the events in The Book of Mormon than for Brumley's books?

 

To put it simply, if the evidenciary arguments commonly put forth in support of the Book of Mormon are true, then there is no way to suggest that the Brumley books also didn't happen. 

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Now, basing your argument solely on historical and archaeological evidence, how do you convince him that there is more evidence for the events in The Book of Mormon than for Brumley's books?

Unfortunately, you have set an impossible goal. It is impossible to demonstrate the historicity of a text with only archaeological evidence (or history, when available). I'm sure you must have meant that the text in question has to be compared against the history and archaeology, and that can certainly be done.

 

As for that latter test, I do believe that there is evidence. However, just like any other historical case, it requires intermeshing evidence rather than single instances. Even the best single "proof" can be dismissed. However, when multiple non-coincidental convergences between time, text, place, and known history/anthropology/archaeology are marshalled, then the evidence rises above possible and becomes much stronger.

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Unfortunately, you have set an impossible goal. It is impossible to demonstrate the historicity of a text with only archaeological evidence (or history, when available). I'm sure you must have meant that the text in question has to be compared against the history and archaeology, and that can certainly be done.

 

As for that latter test, I do believe that there is evidence. However, just like any other historical case, it requires intermeshing evidence rather than single instances. Even the best single "proof" can be dismissed. However, when multiple non-coincidental convergences between time, text, place, and known history/anthropology/archaeology are marshalled, then the evidence rises above possible and becomes much stronger.

The problem, of course, is that one can draw any number of convergences between any known historical era and a proposed history. What some people consider "non-coincidental" may not be.

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Unfortunately, you have set an impossible goal. It is impossible to demonstrate the historicity of a text with only archaeological evidence (or history, when available). I'm sure you must have meant that the text in question has to be compared against the history and archaeology, and that can certainly be done.

 

As for that latter test, I do believe that there is evidence. However, just like any other historical case, it requires intermeshing evidence rather than single instances. Even the best single "proof" can be dismissed. However, when multiple non-coincidental convergences between time, text, place, and known history/anthropology/archaeology are marshalled, then the evidence rises above possible and becomes much stronger.

 

 

I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.  Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.  Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

11 men testify of seeing and handling the resurrected Savior. 11 men testify of seeing and handling the plates...and then those 3 stubborn testimonies of the three special witnesses. You certainly can't discount one group and believe the other. I dunno, but when you look at the evidences with the testimony of the witnesses as your base, they seem less like a coincidence.

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The problem, of course, is that one can draw any number of convergences between any known historical era and a proposed history. What some people consider "non-coincidental" may not be.

The only way to answer the question is to examine the data. Boards aren't the place for the kind of complex discussion required--but I have done that elsewhere.

 

The key is time and place. When the text indicates that a certain action takes place, and the events that would produce that action only occur in that place around that time, you have a single pretty solid convergence. Of course, one of those could still be coincidence, so more of the same are required.

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.  Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

Surely you know that this doesn't describe anything I have written?

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The only way to answer the question is to examine the data. Boards aren't the place for the kind of complex discussion required--but I have done that elsewhere.

 

The key is time and place. When the text indicates that a certain action takes place, and the events that would produce that action only occur in that place around that time, you have a single pretty solid convergence. Of course, one of those could still be coincidence, so more of the same are required.

Brant, I sincerely believe you have made as good a case for the Book of Mormon as is possible.

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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?" or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief. Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be. Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day." So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

I believe you misunderstand. How does someone who receives a sure spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon's divine authenticity explain to someone who hasn't received the same witness why and how he knows the Book of Mormon is true? It's like trying to explain to a man totally blind from birth what the color azure blue looks like. When those who have a testimony of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is the word of God try to explain the spiritual dynamic that produced and sustains that spiritual knowledge, they realize they're now faceed with Paul's conundrum: which is that unless someone has been enlightened by the Spirit of God, it's impossible to explain to that that person, to any degree of fleshly satisfaction, what it's like to be enlightened by the Spirit.

So what do those who possess a testimony of the Spirit do? They resort to trying to explain the workings of the Spirit in some sort of rational way so that the spiritually unenlightenec might catch a glimpse as to why the enlightened know the Book of Mormon is true, and they do so with arguments like, "I know an uneducated farm boy could not have produced that magnificent, holy book without God's help." So don't confuse attempts at rational explanations to help the unenlightenec understand a rreasonable case can be made that the Book of Mormon may very well be true, with precisely how the enlightened actually KNOW by the revelations of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true.

Edited by Bobbieaware
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I think that many of the testimonies of the Book of Mormon, and many of the evidences for the Book of Mormon, rest on a single very shaky foundation:

 

Specifically, the beliefs people have about the likelihood of something being a coincidence.

Where and from whom do you derive this notion of isolated "coincidence" being given strong evidentiary value even by the hoi polloi?  Are ordinary people really that ignorant?  And does that form the primary basis of both anti- and pro-Mormon palaver?  How about the arguments put forth on this board?  Do any distinguish themselves as convincing to you, or are they all of a piece?

 

Any time you hear someone support their belief in The Book of Mormon with a statement that starts with "What are the odds...?"  or "How could XXXXXXXX be a coincidence?" or "How could an uneducated farm boy know XXXXXXXX?", you know people have reached the bottom rung of Book of Mormon defense and belief.  Because they are resting part of their belief on their own ignorance.

Reminds me of Archibald Sayce insisting that people should not make their own ignorance the measure of reality -- in his Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments -- which is what often happens when apologists and polemicists set out to criticize or to "explain" things.  That is, the principle works both ways, and is fully applicable to those who make snap judgments on whether a claim seems to them to be plausible (statistically likely) or implausible (statistically unlikely).

 

The reason these kinds of "evidences" are so weak is because no one has any idea what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be.

Here you sound very much like Bill Hamblin complaining that we cannot know anything for sure -- at least not by any secular, historical measure.  Do you agree with him?  And is it true that we cannot know anything because we do not know "what the limits of coincidence in the universe can be"?  Should jurors take that principle to heart, and, if so, would we ever get a verdict?  Could we ever assert the "preponderance of evidence"?  Those who employ the Bayesian Theory of likelihood probably believe that your judgment is incorrect.

 

Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, "Impossible things are happening every day."  So no matter how unlikely something is to be a coincidence, it isn't "evidence" that something happened.

Atomistic analysis of "coincidence" is not likely of much value.  It is rather professional and systematic groupings of coincidences which ought to catch our attention.

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But is it good enough?

No it is not. Only revelation from God can settle the issue. And why anyone who knows and understands Mormonism (I'm not specifically speaking of you) would think there's anything other than revelation that can establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when its writers say revelation is the only way to know, is beyond me. Those who are looking for some way other than revelation to know for a surety the Book of Mormon is true are embarking on a course that's sure to be a supreme exercise in frustration. The best the so-called empirical evidences being set forth can do is offer some possible encouragement, and that's it; but there is no way beyond revelation from God to know for sure. God has established the rules for gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon through his servant Moroni, as set forth in Moroni chapter 10: Therein Moroni promises that those with living faith, a sincere heart. real intent and a willingness to read and ponder the book's contents, can KNOW the Book of Mormon IS true, not just receive some encouragement that it might be true.

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No it is not. Only revelation from God can settle the issue. And why anyone who knows and understands Mormonism (I'm not specifically speaking of you) would think there's anything other than revelation that can establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when its writers say revelation is the only way to know, is beyond me. Those who are looking for some way other than revelation to know for a surety the Bool of Mormon is true are embarking on a course that's sure to be a supreme exercise in frustration. The best the so-called empirical evidences being set forth can do is offer some possible encouragement, and that's it; but there is no way beyond revelation from God to know for sure.

You specifically inject the phrases "for a surety" and "for sure," when most people with strong testimonies may fall somewhat short of that grand notion of certainty.  Instead, many people grew up believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is an authentic holy book containing a real history.  If they choose to accept the scholarship of a Hugh Nibley or a Mark Wright, along with various gradations of spiritual testimony, what's that to you?  Why do you condemn them?

 

God has established the rules for gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon through his servant Moroni, as set forth in Moroni chapter 10: Therein Moroni promises that those with living faith, a sincere heart. real intent and a willingness to read and ponder the book's contents, can KNOW the Book of Mormon IS true, not just offer some encouragement that it might be true.

Your version of the rules seems a bit narrower than God's.  Have you forgotten Alma 32?  In fact, just as there were both Liahona and Iron Rod, there is more than one way in which to obtain a testimony, including the mixing of logic and inspiration, i.e., the secular and the sacred can buttress one another.  And in Mormon theology that is a given.

 

But as a practical matter, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell used to note by quoting Austin Farrer:
 
Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. (Austin Farrer on C. S. Lewis)
 
That is why organizations such as FARMS and FAIRMORMON can play such a useful role.  Not that they have all the answers, but that they keep  the discussion going on so as to allow a high level playing field.  That gives all parties time to reflect.
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You specifically inject the phrases "for a surety" and "for sure," when most people with strong testimonies may fall somewhat short of that grand notion of certainty. Instead, many people grew up believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is an authentic holy book containing a real history. If they choose to accept the scholarship of a Hugh Nibley or a Mark Wright, along with various gradations of spiritual testimony, what's that to you? Why do you condemn them?

Your version of the rules seems a bit narrower than God's. Have you forgotten Alma 32? In fact, just as there were both Liahona and Iron Rod, there is more than one way in which to obtain a testimony, including the mixing of logic and inspiration, i.e., the secular and the sacred can buttress one another. And in Mormon theology that is a given.

But as a practical matter, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell used to note by quoting Austin Farrer:

Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. (Austin Farrer on C. S. Lewis)

That is why organizations such as FARMS and FAIRMORMON can play such a useful role. Not that they have all the answers, but that they keep the discussion going on so as to allow a high level playing field. That gives all parties time to reflect.

More seeing phantoms between the lines. Perhaps you missed my central point: I said the evidences thus far gathered can offer possible encouragement. And please note, nowhere did I in any way condemn nor negate the benefits of those gathered evidences and the encouragement and enlightenment received thereby. In fact, I have looked favorably on Nibley's work throughout the years and own and prize several of his works such as Since Cumorah, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Abraham in Egypt and other of his works. But my central point is that the only way we can know for a surety if the Book of Mormon is true is through revelation from the Holy Ghost, as per Moroni's challenge. If you have a problem with Moroni's method for coming to know the Book of Mormon is true, take it up with him in the resurrection.

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No it is not. Only revelation from God can settle the issue. And why anyone who knows and understands Mormonism (I'm not specifically speaking of you) would think there's anything other than revelation that can establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when its writers say revelation is the only way to know, is beyond me. Those who are looking for some way other than revelation to know for a surety the Book of Mormon is true are embarking on a course that's sure to be a supreme exercise in frustration. The best the so-called empirical evidences being set forth can do is offer some possible encouragement, and that's it; but there is no way beyond revelation from God to know for sure. God has established the rules for gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon through his servant Moroni, as set forth in Moroni chapter 10: Therein Moroni promises that those with living faith, a sincere heart. real intent and a willingness to read and ponder the book's contents, can KNOW the Book of Mormon IS true, not just receive some encouragement that it might be true.

 

This reminds me that on one of Bill Hamblin's posts in his exchanges with Philip Jenkins, Hamblin noted that if the Book of Mormon were to be accepted historically that means that historians would have to deal with the book's divine claims. That a) it is a testimony of Jesus Christ and b) that its records were delivered to Joseph Smith by an angel of God. How do historians quantify these truth claims? you're correct that it is only the Holy Spirit which provide a truth affirmation of the Book of Mormon.

 

NOTE: I am not opposed at all to studying the Book of Mormon's history. If anything it places the Book of Mormon's narrative on solid ground by which I can relate better to its stories and more aptly apply their purpose into my life. Studying its history also requires a thorough understanding of its text. One can never go wrong delving into its texts. Finally, studying the Book of Mormon's historicity it's just plain fascinating 

Edited by Darren10
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Brant Gardner;

 

I was tempted to make this a separate thread here but since you are already participating on this thread I thought I'd ask you directly. In your article, you wrote:

 

 

 Anything on as perishable medium simply didn’t survive (either naturally or by escaping Spanish zealous destruction).

 

I was thrilled to read this as I have been quite curious as to how much history has been destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. I am sure there's no way to really quantify that but surely much, a significant amount in fact, of Meso and Southamerican history "went up in smoke", if you will. Are there any authors you are aware of that have reported on this topic?

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I was thrilled to read this as I have been quite curious as to how much history has been destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. I am sure there's no way to really quantify that but surely much, a significant amount in fact, of Meso and Southamerican history "went up in smoke", if you will. Are there any authors you are aware of that have reported on this topic?

The documented case is Diego de Landa, who gathered all of the Maya codices he could and burned them. He is also, ironically, the one who preserved what would become the key to translating the Maya glyphs.

 

As for lost history, Aztec history records that one of their priests also destroyed books as he was establishing the "new" history of his people. All of that is after the Maya were writing on stone. Prior to that time, the murals at San Bartolo tell us that they painted temple texts, but there is only the one that remains (so far).

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The documented case is Diego de Landa, who gathered all of the Maya codices he could and burned them. He is also, ironically, the one who preserved what would become the key to translating the Maya glyphs.

 

As for lost history, Aztec history records that one of their priests also destroyed books as he was establishing the "new" history of his people. All of that is after the Maya were writing on stone. Prior to that time, the murals at San Bartolo tell us that they painted temple texts, but there is only the one that remains (so far).

Brant,

 

Is there any information about what was on the stuff that was destroyed or do we just know that it existed and was destroyed?

 

Thanks

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There are texts that describe Iztcoatl's changing history. Of course, they wouldn't say he destroyed anything, but that is a favorable source looking backwards. Modern scholars assume that there was a pretty large destruction at the time.

 

Diego de Landa's destruction is documented.

 

For much of the rest, the problem is reasoned from the climate that "eats" perishable materials. There are traces of paint on many sculptures that indicates that they were painted, and there is evidence that all of the gleaming white temples we see were also brightly painted--probably more red than white. Almost all of the paint is gone (and when some places didn't use as hard a stone, the stone images and texts are also worn away).

Do we have any information as to what was on the texts that were destroyed?

 

If not, I do not see what conclusions can be drawn from such information beyond the fact that they were destroyed.

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More seeing phantoms between the lines. Perhaps you missed my central point: I said the evidences thus far gathered can offer possible encouragement. And please note, nowhere did I in any way condemn nor negate the benefits of those gathered evidences and the encouragement and enlightenment received thereby. In fact, I have looked favorably on Nibley's work throughout the years and own and prize several of his works such as Since Cumorah, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Abraham in Egypt and other of his works. But my central point is that the only way we can know for a surety if the Book of Mormon is true is through revelation from the Holy Ghost, as per Moroni's challenge. If you have a problem with Moroni's method for coming to know the Book of Mormon is true, take it up with him in the resurrection.

So you discount entirely Alma 32?

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      “I believe Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon,” he said.
      I spent an hour or so pushing back on this point. I brought up the complex geography of the BOM (“Fiction writers very rarely invent geography, and when they do it’s a very simple geography”); the language (“Who invents something like Reformed Egyptian? If you’re inventing a story about Jews from 600 BC you have them speaking Hebrew”); the various plates (“Someone could write a whole book on the various plates in the BOM alone, the abridgments, the abridgments of abridgments, the large plates, the small plates, what happened to these plates over the course of a thousand years”); the messiness yet internal consistency of the narrative (“Fiction is not messy, it is tidy, organized. But the BOM is untidy, messy, and there are loose ends everywhere. Why? Because it is not fiction"); etc., etc.
      But it was all to no effect. Richard has never been a reader, and most of what I said––well, it just didn’t register with him.
      But what I said next, did.
      “The Book of Mormon was originally rendered in a language Joseph Smith didn’t know.”
      “What?”
      “The Book of Mormon, the original text that Joseph Smith dictated, was not written in the English of that day. It was not the King James English of the Bible, nor was it the English of Joseph’s day. It was written in Early Modern English, a language which had been out of use for 200 years by 1827. This was a language Joseph Smith did not know and could not have known.”
      Long pause. I’d finally hit on something that Richard could grasp.
      "The presence of Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon is proof that Joseph Smith did not produce the book himself," I said.
      Maybe it would be more accurate to say that it is a different kind of proof, one that is easily grasped by someone like Richard, who is not going to respond to other proofs.
      Not that Richard is suddenly going to return to the church. I doubt that he will.
      But the presence of EModE in the BOM, when taken with all of the other proofs, makes it extremely unlikely, really impossible, that JS wrote the BOM.
      P.S. - Tried to edit headline but can't.
    • By Robert F. Smith
      A symposium on "EGYPT AND THE OLD TESTAMENT" will be held at the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Gabelsbergerstr. 35, Munich/München, Germany, on 6-7 Dec 2019.
      The proceedings will be published as ÄAT (AEGYPTEN UND ALTES TESTAMENT) volume 100.
      More on the symposium can be found at https://www.freunde-abrahams.de/aegypten-und-altes-testament/  .
      ÄAT's spectrum covers the philological, art historical, and archaeological branches of Egyptology, as well as Old Testament exegesis, the archaeology, glyptics and epigraphy of Israel/Palestine and neighboring regions such as Sinai and Transjordan, literature and history of religions, from the Bronze Ages up to Greco-Roman and early Christian periods, as well as relevant aspects of research history.
       
    • By Bernard Gui
      At the end of Alma 37, Alma gives his final instructions to his faithful young son Helaman. After encouraging him always to be obedient to God’s commandments and to pray to God continually, Alma uses the Liahona as an object lesson to teach Helaman how to obtain eternal life through following the words of Christ. Using analogy, Alma compares the Liahona, the temporal compass provided by God to Lehi, with the words of Christ, the spiritual guide provided to all by God. In this remarkable passage, Alma, like all good teachers, repeats this image three times, and like a good Nephite teacher, he uses a parallelism to increase the impact.
      Alma employs the alternate parallel form, one of the most common and effective forms of poetic parallelism in the Book of Mormon. It appears hundreds of times. An alternate consists of two or more lines that are repeated in parallel order. The simple alternate form is outlined ABAB. Extended alternates are outlined ABCABC, etc. 
       Alma uses three extended alternates in rapid sequence to instruct his son. 
       A   For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, 
          B   which will point to you 
              C   a straight course to eternal bliss, 
      A   as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, 
           B   which would point unto them 
               C   a straight course to the promised land.
      The A phrase compares the ease of heeding the words of Christ with the ease of looking at the Liahona. The B phrase describes the purpose of A which is to point the course. The C phrase declares the final destination of those who follow A, salvation and arrival at the promised land.
       A   For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, 
         B   by following its course, 
             C   to the promised land, 
      A   shall the words of Christ, 
         B   if we follow their course,
             C  carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
      The A phrase again compares the words of Christ with the Liahona, but in reversed order. The B phrase indicates what we should do with A – follow their directions, and the C phrase gives the destination of those who do B – the promised land and a far better place, eternal life. 
       A   for so was it with our fathers; 
         B    for so was it prepared for them,
            C   that if they would look they might live; 
      A   even so it is with us.
         B   The way is prepared, 
            C   and if we will look we may live forever.
      In this last alternate, Alma personalizes the analogies of the first two. The A phrase compares the Nephite fathers (Lehi and Nephi) with Alma and his son Helaman. The B phrase indicates that God prepared the ways of direction for all of them. The C phrase compares the physical salvation of the Nephite fathers by following the Liahona with the spiritual salvation promised to all of us who will look upon Christ.
      Alma concludes his instructions with another impassioned fatherly plea that his son rise to the greatness of his calling.
      This passage indicates deliberate logical planning on the part of Alma in giving crucial instructions to his son prior to his death. This is what Alma thought would be of most worth to his son - look to Christ. It gives us insight into the Nephite mind, especially that of a powerful and gifted leader. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the beautiful intricacies that await in its pages for us to discover. (Thanks to Donald Parry for his marvelous edition of the Book of Mormon. Poetic Parallelism in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted. Maxwell Institute, 2007).
       Your comments are welcomed. 
       Here is the passage in context.
       
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