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Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon by Dr. William L. Davis


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Believers often pose the question, if not from God then how?  How could an uneducated farm boy produce this book on his own without God's hand?  This new book provides an answer to that question.

Quoted liberally from his Amazon reviews: In a fascinating new book Dr. William L. Davis draws on performance studies, religious studies, literary culture and the history of early American education, Davis analyzes Smith's process of oral composition. Davis provides a plausible alternative explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon from the official narrative.  He explains how Smith was able to produce a history spanning a period of a 1,000 years, filled with hundreds of distinct characters and episodes, all cohesively tied together in an overarching narrative.

Eyewitnesses claimed that Smith never looked at notes, manuscripts or books, that he simply spoke words of this American religious epic into existence by looking at a Seer Stone.  Davis shows how this long held assumption is not true, that Smith had abundant time between looking at his seer stone to produce his story line and to think through his plot and narrative.

If you approach this book without a preconceived axe to grind, you will find solid research explaining how the oral sermon culture of the 19th century either crept into the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith translated it (from a believer's perspective) or explains how Joseph could have constructed the narrative himself (from a skeptic's). Davis does not take sides and leaves room for both believing and skeptical perspectives.

Judging the truth of the books claims is not Davis's interest. Rather, he reveals a kaleidoscope of practices and styles that converged around Smith's creation with an emphasis on the evangelical preaching styles popularized by renowned preachers George Whitefield and John Wesley. He allows for the believer to maintain a faithful view of the book.

In Visions in a Seer Stone, Davis adroitly restores for the modern reader aspects of the now-forgotten sermon culture of Joseph Smith’s 19th-century, burnt over district, world and the well-established rhetorical performance techniques of its preachers. Davis then demonstrates that this oratorical praxis—in which Joseph Smith himself was a participant—illuminates not only Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon as a dictated performance bearing the indicia of these sermon preparation and delivery techniques, but it also illuminates the very text of this LDS scripture itself, both its narrative events and sermon contents.

Davis details how numerous Book of Mormon narrative features—headings, outlines or summaries, some visible in italics and many others less visible in the text—are not mere textual devices for the reader, but were effective 19th-century sermon performance tools Smith could use to keep track of and produce the narrative as he dictated it. Davis produces an exhaustive list of ministers who wrote about sermon delivery techniques using such headings or outlines—“laying down heads”— with all of them substantially in agreement, having borrowed from each other and from bible dictionaries, such as Adam Clarke's bible commentaries and other sermon manuals, as well as from “Heathen Moralists” such as Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers, rhetoricians and writers from antiquity (see in particular on pp. 42 and 71 as to Bishop John Wilkins and the sources he used as well as his primary techniques to assist the preacher to speak from memory and which enable the congregation to understand “with greater ease and profit, when they are before-hand acquainted with the general heads of matters that are discoursed of”.) Smith incorporated these same rhetorical techniques into his Book of Mormon

Davis shows that The Book of Mormon narrative contains many examples of its characters also using these oratorical techniques, the most visible formulation of which is found in Jacob 1:4 in which Nephi gives Jacob very explicit instructions on preaching that (other than his references to “plates”) could easily have been inserted into the pages of a 19th-century sermon composition manual: “if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I [Jacob] should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible” (see p. 91). The term Heads while not a familiar to the modern reader would have been quickly recognized by an early 19th century reader as familiar terminology used by the religious orator as topical notes highlighting important points to touch upon in the sermon.

Although not an active Latter-day Saint himself, Davis writes generously for those still in the fold, providing room for Latter-day Saints to retain their faith in this book of LDS scripture while incorporating Davis’s new findings into a still orthodox understanding of inspired translation as described in LDS scripture, in Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-10. However, as shown by Avid Reader’s Amazon review of this book, apparently not all apologists will be satisfied with this option.

One reviewer complained that— headings, outlines and summaries have been used for centuries by historians and other ancient writers, including Josephus and Aristotle, and that they would have been available somehow to the Book of Mormon’s ancient authors—is interesting since it actually supports Davis’s thesis. Take the preachers who wrote about the oratorical techniques described by Davis. They themselves, in formulating and promoting these 19th-century techniques, had access to and were informed by these very authors noted a reviewer. (see the note about Bishop Wilkins above, not to mention the pseudo-archaic book genre in 19th-century America that borrowed them as well)! Yet these ancient authors noted by siad reader (both living in Greco-Roman times) are not ancient enough to have informed the Book of Mormon’s purported ancient authors who themselves left Israel before the Babylonian exile, a time when outlines, headings and summaries are not known among ancient scribes and authors (and even LDS apologists now recognize that ancient scribal colophons are not the same thing—see Davis, p. 126).


 

Davis has identified tell-tale signs within the Book of Mormon that give hints of Smith processes.  He also offers historical reference to Smith's becoming a trained Methodist orator.

This sounds like a very interesting book and I'm wondering if anyone here has read it and would share your thoughts.

The Journals of Nathan Bangs<-------- Not King Benjamin

10. Religion and Reform | THE AMERICAN YAWP

Edited by Fair Dinkum
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26 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I think there are solid reasons to believe that Joseph Smith concocted the Book of Mormon narrative, including textual ones. At the same time, my PhD-trained brain also sees textual clues that he may not have. That leaves me in a space of ambivalence using this approach, though the more likely conclusion is certainly that he wrote it.

Nope. Not likely at all. But you knew that...

26 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Which makes my discovery that the book actually comes from God all the more miraculous.

That's my assessment, too.

I recommend reading the review written for The Interpter that @Calm references.  It concludes as follows:

"The limited number of well-developed ideas presented by William L. Davis in Visions in a Seer Stone are a very welcome addition to the body of Book of Mormon scholarship. Representing the most detailed secular explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon published to date, it breaks new ground on a field of study that is surprisingly barren.

"However, as a comprehensive explanation describing all cognitive processes Joseph Smith would necessarily have employed while dictating the Book of Mormon, the theory presented in VSS is rather anemic. Only the transfusion of a large number of major assumptions can resuscitate VSS’s theory to make it viable. Several of the assumptions are problematic like the idea that ancient historians would not use summary headings. Similarly, the claim that Joseph Smith possessed the intellectual gifts needed to produce the Book of Mormon naturally is contradicted by multiple reliable historical sources.

"It appears that secularists still await the identification of a plausible hypothesis that explains how such a long complex book could be dictated in a single draft in fewer than three months by a poorly educated, twenty- three-year-old individual."

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32 minutes ago, Stargazer said:

"It appears that secularists still await the identification of a plausible hypothesis that explains how such a long complex book could be dictated in a single draft in fewer than three months by a poorly educated, twenty- three-year-old individual."

The problem is that highly unlikely things happen quite regularly. Joseph Smith as fabricator of the Book of Mormon is certainly problematic, but I personally find it less problematic than an explanation that involves angels, transoceanic voyages, buried records, etc. That is, until having my own experiences with highly unlikely things like angels. That changes everything!

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5 hours ago, Kenngo1969 said:

Would you hate me if I'm not convinced? ;):D

 

5 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

I would be more surprised if it had.

I'm sure. ;)

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Once again we have Joseph as an absolute savant with photographic memory( if such exists ) and possibly hyperthymesia and access to all kinds of sermons and documents. He is capable of creating such a great narrative and yet it is called " chloroform in print "  and Joseph is, at the same time a dolt and a dunce and uneducated schemer .

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6 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

This sounds like a very interesting book and I'm wondering if anyone here has read it and would share your thoughts.

I've read most of it and agree that it's an important, groundbreaking work. In addition to the Amazon reviews and the Interpreter reviews that Calm shared, I would also mention the four short reviews that appeared in Dialogue: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2020/05/dialogue-roundtable-william-l-davis-visions-in-a-seer-stone-joseph-smith-and-the-making-of-the-book-of-mormon/ 

And this one in the Juvenile Instructor: https://juvenileinstructor.org/review-visions-in-a-seer-stone-joseph-smith-and-the-making-of-the-book-of-mormon-unc-press-2020/

 

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5 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I think there are solid reasons to believe that Joseph Smith concocted the Book of Mormon narrative, including textual ones. At the same time, my PhD-trained brain also sees textual clues that he may not have. That leaves me in a space of ambivalence using this approach, though the more likely conclusion is certainly that he wrote it.

Which makes my discovery that the book actually comes from God all the more miraculous.

He constructs a rational approach to Christian theology and a convincing model for its reconstruction.

Besides that, God whopped me upside the head so hard, I can't deny it. :)

We cannot confuse the sheer brilliance of the book with the irrelevance of why, how, or who wrote it.

Take its advice.

Read it and decide if God wants to let you in on the most amazing phenomenon in Christanity: God speaks to us individually.

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13 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

Believers often pose the question, if not from God then how?  How could an uneducated farm boy produce this book on his own without God's hand?  This new book provides an answer to that question.

Quoted liberally from his Amazon reviews: In a fascinating new book Dr. William L. Davis draws on performance studies, religious studies, literary culture and the history of early American education, Davis analyzes Smith's process of oral composition. Davis provides a plausible alternative explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon from the official narrative.  He explains how Smith was able to produce a history spanning a period of a 1,000 years, filled with hundreds of distinct characters and episodes, all cohesively tied together in an overarching narrative.

Eyewitnesses claimed that Smith never looked at notes, manuscripts or books, that he simply spoke words of this American religious epic into existence by looking at a Seer Stone.  Davis shows how this long held assumption is not true, that Smith had abundant time between looking at his seer stone to produce his story line and to think through his plot and narrative.

If you approach this book without a preconceived axe to grind, you will find solid research explaining how the oral sermon culture of the 19th century either crept into the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith translated it (from a believer's perspective) or explains how Joseph could have constructed the narrative himself (from a skeptic's). Davis does not take sides and leaves room for both believing and skeptical perspectives.

Judging the truth of the books claims is not Davis's interest. Rather, he reveals a kaleidoscope of practices and styles that converged around Smith's creation with an emphasis on the evangelical preaching styles popularized by renowned preachers George Whitefield and John Wesley. He allows for the believer to maintain a faithful view of the book.

In Visions in a Seer Stone, Davis adroitly restores for the modern reader aspects of the now-forgotten sermon culture of Joseph Smith’s 19th-century, burnt over district, world and the well-established rhetorical performance techniques of its preachers. Davis then demonstrates that this oratorical praxis—in which Joseph Smith himself was a participant—illuminates not only Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon as a dictated performance bearing the indicia of these sermon preparation and delivery techniques, but it also illuminates the very text of this LDS scripture itself, both its narrative events and sermon contents.

Davis details how numerous Book of Mormon narrative features—headings, outlines or summaries, some visible in italics and many others less visible in the text—are not mere textual devices for the reader, but were effective 19th-century sermon performance tools Smith could use to keep track of and produce the narrative as he dictated it. Davis produces an exhaustive list of ministers who wrote about sermon delivery techniques using such headings or outlines—“laying down heads”— with all of them substantially in agreement, having borrowed from each other and from bible dictionaries, such as Adam Clarke's bible commentaries and other sermon manuals, as well as from “Heathen Moralists” such as Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers, rhetoricians and writers from antiquity (see in particular on pp. 42 and 71 as to Bishop John Wilkins and the sources he used as well as his primary techniques to assist the preacher to speak from memory and which enable the congregation to understand “with greater ease and profit, when they are before-hand acquainted with the general heads of matters that are discoursed of”.) Smith incorporated these same rhetorical techniques into his Book of Mormon

Davis shows that The Book of Mormon narrative contains many examples of its characters also using these oratorical techniques, the most visible formulation of which is found in Jacob 1:4 in which Nephi gives Jacob very explicit instructions on preaching that (other than his references to “plates”) could easily have been inserted into the pages of a 19th-century sermon composition manual: “if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I [Jacob] should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible” (see p. 91). The term Heads while not a familiar to the modern reader would have been quickly recognized by an early 19th century reader as familiar terminology used by the religious orator as topical notes highlighting important points to touch upon in the sermon.

Although not an active Latter-day Saint himself, Davis writes generously for those still in the fold, providing room for Latter-day Saints to retain their faith in this book of LDS scripture while incorporating Davis’s new findings into a still orthodox understanding of inspired translation as described in LDS scripture, in Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-10. However, as shown by Avid Reader’s Amazon review of this book, apparently not all apologists will be satisfied with this option.

One reviewer complained that— headings, outlines and summaries have been used for centuries by historians and other ancient writers, including Josephus and Aristotle, and that they would have been available somehow to the Book of Mormon’s ancient authors—is interesting since it actually supports Davis’s thesis. Take the preachers who wrote about the oratorical techniques described by Davis. They themselves, in formulating and promoting these 19th-century techniques, had access to and were informed by these very authors noted a reviewer. (see the note about Bishop Wilkins above, not to mention the pseudo-archaic book genre in 19th-century America that borrowed them as well)! Yet these ancient authors noted by siad reader (both living in Greco-Roman times) are not ancient enough to have informed the Book of Mormon’s purported ancient authors who themselves left Israel before the Babylonian exile, a time when outlines, headings and summaries are not known among ancient scribes and authors (and even LDS apologists now recognize that ancient scribal colophons are not the same thing—see Davis, p. 126).


 

Davis has identified tell-tale signs within the Book of Mormon that give hints of Smith processes.  He also offers historical reference to Smith's becoming a trained Methodist orator.

This sounds like a very interesting book and I'm wondering if anyone here has read it and would share your thoughts.

The Journals of Nathan Bangs<-------- Not King Benjamin

10. Religion and Reform | THE AMERICAN YAWP

 

13 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

Believers often pose the question, if not from God then how?  How could an uneducated farm boy produce this book on his own without God's hand?  This new book provides an answer to that question.

Quoted liberally from his Amazon reviews: In a fascinating new book Dr. William L. Davis draws on performance studies, religious studies, literary culture and the history of early American education, Davis analyzes Smith's process of oral composition. Davis provides a plausible alternative explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon from the official narrative.  He explains how Smith was able to produce a history spanning a period of a 1,000 years, filled with hundreds of distinct characters and episodes, all cohesively tied together in an overarching narrative.

Eyewitnesses claimed that Smith never looked at notes, manuscripts or books, that he simply spoke words of this American religious epic into existence by looking at a Seer Stone.  Davis shows how this long held assumption is not true, that Smith had abundant time between looking at his seer stone to produce his story line and to think through his plot and narrative.

If you approach this book without a preconceived axe to grind, you will find solid research explaining how the oral sermon culture of the 19th century either crept into the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith translated it (from a believer's perspective) or explains how Joseph could have constructed the narrative himself (from a skeptic's). Davis does not take sides and leaves room for both believing and skeptical perspectives.

Judging the truth of the books claims is not Davis's interest. Rather, he reveals a kaleidoscope of practices and styles that converged around Smith's creation with an emphasis on the evangelical preaching styles popularized by renowned preachers George Whitefield and John Wesley. He allows for the believer to maintain a faithful view of the book.

In Visions in a Seer Stone, Davis adroitly restores for the modern reader aspects of the now-forgotten sermon culture of Joseph Smith’s 19th-century, burnt over district, world and the well-established rhetorical performance techniques of its preachers. Davis then demonstrates that this oratorical praxis—in which Joseph Smith himself was a participant—illuminates not only Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon as a dictated performance bearing the indicia of these sermon preparation and delivery techniques, but it also illuminates the very text of this LDS scripture itself, both its narrative events and sermon contents.

Davis details how numerous Book of Mormon narrative features—headings, outlines or summaries, some visible in italics and many others less visible in the text—are not mere textual devices for the reader, but were effective 19th-century sermon performance tools Smith could use to keep track of and produce the narrative as he dictated it. Davis produces an exhaustive list of ministers who wrote about sermon delivery techniques using such headings or outlines—“laying down heads”— with all of them substantially in agreement, having borrowed from each other and from bible dictionaries, such as Adam Clarke's bible commentaries and other sermon manuals, as well as from “Heathen Moralists” such as Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers, rhetoricians and writers from antiquity (see in particular on pp. 42 and 71 as to Bishop John Wilkins and the sources he used as well as his primary techniques to assist the preacher to speak from memory and which enable the congregation to understand “with greater ease and profit, when they are before-hand acquainted with the general heads of matters that are discoursed of”.) Smith incorporated these same rhetorical techniques into his Book of Mormon

Davis shows that The Book of Mormon narrative contains many examples of its characters also using these oratorical techniques, the most visible formulation of which is found in Jacob 1:4 in which Nephi gives Jacob very explicit instructions on preaching that (other than his references to “plates”) could easily have been inserted into the pages of a 19th-century sermon composition manual: “if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I [Jacob] should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible” (see p. 91). The term Heads while not a familiar to the modern reader would have been quickly recognized by an early 19th century reader as familiar terminology used by the religious orator as topical notes highlighting important points to touch upon in the sermon.

Although not an active Latter-day Saint himself, Davis writes generously for those still in the fold, providing room for Latter-day Saints to retain their faith in this book of LDS scripture while incorporating Davis’s new findings into a still orthodox understanding of inspired translation as described in LDS scripture, in Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-10. However, as shown by Avid Reader’s Amazon review of this book, apparently not all apologists will be satisfied with this option.

One reviewer complained that— headings, outlines and summaries have been used for centuries by historians and other ancient writers, including Josephus and Aristotle, and that they would have been available somehow to the Book of Mormon’s ancient authors—is interesting since it actually supports Davis’s thesis. Take the preachers who wrote about the oratorical techniques described by Davis. They themselves, in formulating and promoting these 19th-century techniques, had access to and were informed by these very authors noted a reviewer. (see the note about Bishop Wilkins above, not to mention the pseudo-archaic book genre in 19th-century America that borrowed them as well)! Yet these ancient authors noted by siad reader (both living in Greco-Roman times) are not ancient enough to have informed the Book of Mormon’s purported ancient authors who themselves left Israel before the Babylonian exile, a time when outlines, headings and summaries are not known among ancient scribes and authors (and even LDS apologists now recognize that ancient scribal colophons are not the same thing—see Davis, p. 126).


 

Davis has identified tell-tale signs within the Book of Mormon that give hints of Smith processes.  He also offers historical reference to Smith's becoming a trained Methodist orator.

This sounds like a very interesting book and I'm wondering if anyone here has read it and would share your thoughts.

The Journals of Nathan Bangs<-------- Not King Benjamin

10. Religion and Reform | THE AMERICAN YAWP

Hello Fair Dinkum. My brother in law wants to send me a book called, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. I was just wondering if you had any knowledge of that book, and do you think I would be better off starting with the one your recommending?

 

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21 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

................... Davis analyzes Smith's process of oral composition. Davis provides a plausible alternative explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon from the official narrative.  He explains how Smith was able to produce a history spanning a period of a 1,000 years, filled with hundreds of distinct characters and episodes, all cohesively tied together in an overarching narrative.

The Nephite record is indeed about a millennium.  However, add the Jaredite period, and that brings the whole to a total of about 3,500 years.  One then has to explain how the chronology and archeology of that period just happens to fit the known civilizations of Mesoamerica (as demonstrated by J. L. Sorenson, Mormon's Codex).  Automatic writing or sermonizing cannot explain that correlation.

Quote

Eyewitnesses claimed that Smith never looked at notes, manuscripts or books, that he simply spoke words of this American religious epic into existence by looking at a Seer Stone.  Davis shows how this long held assumption is not true, that Smith had abundant time between looking at his seer stone to produce his story line and to think through his plot and narrative.

Actually, one has a very compressed time period with almost no time at all to spare, unless this was planned long ahead of time, with the cooperation of colleagues (who never confessed).  If the manuscript had been prewritten over a period of many years, with careful thought, the internal consistency (geography, chronology, flashbacks, etc.) might have been accounted for.  Of course a number of scholars insist that it had to have been created in the 16th or 17th century to account for systematic EModE.  Joseph would then have to somehow obtain it and read it to his confederates (like any good magician).

Quote

.................. he reveals a kaleidoscope of practices and styles that converged around Smith's creation with an emphasis on the evangelical preaching styles popularized by renowned preachers George Whitefield and John Wesley. He allows for the believer to maintain a faithful view of the book.

In Visions in a Seer Stone, Davis adroitly restores for the modern reader aspects of the now-forgotten sermon culture of Joseph Smith’s 19th-century, burnt over district, world and the well-established rhetorical performance techniques of its preachers. Davis then demonstrates that this oratorical praxis—in which Joseph Smith himself was a participant—illuminates not only Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon as a dictated performance bearing the indicia of these sermon preparation and delivery techniques, but it also illuminates the very text of this LDS scripture itself, both its narrative events and sermon contents.

One can indeed find sermonizing in the Book of Mormon, just as one can find it in the Bible, so that is not really diagnostic.  What is diagnostic is the realia, which can be analyzed from a forensic/ scientific perspective.  I have long since provided just such a scientific assessment of the BofM, online at http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf .  Book of Mormon Central has a plethora of detailed assessments on particular issues from the Book of Mormon.  The BofM is a long book and contains  much more than just sermons and battles.  Davis is unable to deal with the realia.

Quote

Davis details how numerous Book of Mormon narrative features—headings, outlines or summaries, some visible in italics and many others less visible in the text—are not mere textual devices for the reader, but were effective 19th-century sermon performance tools Smith could use to keep track of and produce the narrative as he dictated it. Davis produces an exhaustive list of ministers who wrote about sermon delivery techniques using such headings or outlines—“laying down heads”— with all of them substantially in agreement, having borrowed from each other and from bible dictionaries, such as Adam Clarke's bible commentaries and other sermon manuals, as well as from “Heathen Moralists” such as Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers, rhetoricians and writers from antiquity (see in particular on pp. 42 and 71 as to Bishop John Wilkins and the sources he used as well as his primary techniques to assist the preacher to speak from memory and which enable the congregation to understand “with greater ease and profit, when they are before-hand acquainted with the general heads of matters that are discoursed of”.) Smith incorporated these same rhetorical techniques into his Book of Mormon

Davis shows that The Book of Mormon narrative contains many examples of its characters also using these oratorical techniques, the most visible formulation of which is found in Jacob 1:4 in which Nephi gives Jacob very explicit instructions on preaching that (other than his references to “plates”) could easily have been inserted into the pages of a 19th-century sermon composition manual: “if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I [Jacob] should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible” (see p. 91). The term Heads while not a familiar to the modern reader would have been quickly recognized by an early 19th century reader as familiar terminology used by the religious orator as topical notes highlighting important points to touch upon in the sermon.

Although not an active Latter-day Saint himself, Davis writes generously for those still in the fold, providing room for Latter-day Saints to retain their faith in this book of LDS scripture while incorporating Davis’s new findings into a still orthodox understanding of inspired translation as described in LDS scripture, in Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-10. However, as shown by Avid Reader’s Amazon review of this book, apparently not all apologists will be satisfied with this option.

One reviewer complained that— headings, outlines and summaries have been used for centuries by historians and other ancient writers, including Josephus and Aristotle, and that they would have been available somehow to the Book of Mormon’s ancient authors—is interesting since it actually supports Davis’s thesis. Take the preachers who wrote about the oratorical techniques described by Davis. They themselves, in formulating and promoting these 19th-century techniques, had access to and were informed by these very authors noted a reviewer. (see the note about Bishop Wilkins above, not to mention the pseudo-archaic book genre in 19th-century America that borrowed them as well)! Yet these ancient authors noted by siad reader (both living in Greco-Roman times) are not ancient enough to have informed the Book of Mormon’s purported ancient authors who themselves left Israel before the Babylonian exile, a time when outlines, headings and summaries are not known among ancient scribes and authors (and even LDS apologists now recognize that ancient scribal colophons are not the same thing—see Davis, p. 126).

Davis' claim is false.  He clearly knows nothing of the ancient world.  Such heads, headings, or header-outlines were known and used anciently.  Indeed, since the BofM was engraved in Egyptian, it is worth pointing out that a heading and autobiographical text similar to that in I Nephi 1 are known in the Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Abana (New Kingdom), on his tomb walls.  Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, II:12.  See also the reviews cited by calm.

Quote

Davis has identified tell-tale signs within the Book of Mormon that give hints of Smith processes.  ...........

There is nothing new in Davis' claims.  Dan Vogel and others have been over this ground before.  Like Davis, they fail to deal with the nitty gritty.

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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4 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Davis is unable to deal with the realia....

Davis' claim is false.  He clearly knows nothing of the ancient world....  

There is nothing new in Davis' claims....

Clearly, like the Book of Mormon, Davis's book is not "universally considered by its critics as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it." Your criticisms here are worthless.

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5 hours ago, AtlanticMike said:

Hello Fair Dinkum. My brother in law wants to send me a book called, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. I was just wondering if you had any knowledge of that book, and do you think I would be better off starting with the one your recommending?

You didn't ask me, but I'd recommend starting with Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Davis's book is excellent and well worth reading but is more academic, dealing with a narrower set of questions (I believe it's a revision of his Ph.D. dissertation).

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Here's a Saints Unscripted video that seems to bear on the topic:

 

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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

You didn't ask me, but I'd recommend starting with Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Davis's book is excellent and well worth reading but is more academic, dealing with a narrower set of questions (I believe it's a revision of his Ph.D. dissertation).

Thank you

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7 hours ago, AtlanticMike said:

 

Hello Fair Dinkum. My brother in law wants to send me a book called, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. I was just wondering if you had any knowledge of that book, and do you think I would be better off starting with the one your recommending?

 

Yes I've read it, it completely rocked my world.  It's not light reading and it completely changed my ability to see Mormonism through a traditional narrative lens ever again.  Who knew that Jesus was so busy making house calls to Joseph Smith's neighbor's.  His visits seems to be all the rage. With that said I do feel this book is an important book and would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to move from milk to meat

Edited by Fair Dinkum
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6 hours ago, AtlanticMike said:

My brother in law wants to send me a book called, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. I was just wondering if you had any knowledge of that book, and do you think I would be better off starting with the one your recommending?

I have two editions of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by D. Michael Quinn, but I can't comment on the book being discussed in this thread since I haven't read it.  But I'm curious about why you are interested in these books.

The reason I have two editions of Quinn's book is because I wanted to see how much he changed between the two.  His 1987 edition came out shortly after Mark Hofmann was exposed as a forger of early church history documents, and apparently Quinn had relied on some of Hofmann's forged documents and salamander letter as primary support for the arguments put forth in his book.  Fortunately Quinn's book wasn't published until after the documents were deemed to be forgeries and he had some time to revise his book before publication, but it ripped the guts out of his case.  Without those documents his case is very weak in my opinion.  His treatment of the Jupiter Talisman is a perfect example of how a whole case can be manufactured out of one suspicious second hand claim.   And he didn't add anything in his second edition to really help that case.   I think it's totally fair and helpful to understand the culture and mindset of the people who lived in the early 1800's and I know Joseph Smith wouldn't be excluded from participating in that environment.  But I don't think it's helpful when modern writers make assertions about specific items and practices and impose them on a historical person with little or misconstrued evidence. 

It has been years (yikes, even decades) since I thought about these things, but those were interesting times.

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36 minutes ago, Fair Dinkum said:

Yes I've read it, it completely rocked my world.  It's not light reading and it completely changed my ability to see Mormonism through a traditional narrative lens ever again.  Who knew that Jesus was so busy making house calls to Joseph Smith's neighbor's.  His visits seems to be all the rage. With that said I do feel this book is an important book and would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to move from milk to meat

Thank you. 

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36 minutes ago, InCognitus said:

.  But I'm curious about why you are interested in these books.

I'm not really that interested, but he was going to lend it to me, he thought it would be a good read. My wife told him I was posting on here and apparently he's now reading what I'm writing.  Lovely 😁 Hi 

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3 hours ago, Nevo said:

Clearly, like the Book of Mormon, Davis's book is not "universally considered by its critics as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it." Your criticisms here are worthless.

Of course they are.  What other conclusion could anyone reach?  Davis did not bother to read the research of serious scholars, and is unable to deal with actual historical and literary analysis, so it just seems to him that any off the wall claim is just fine.  As the two Protestant scholars, Mosser & Owen, pointed out decades ago, anti-Mormons just haven't bothered to read the research results and have blithely assumed that all aspects of Mormonism are automatically false.  No need to deal with that in any serious way.  Certainly no substantive conversation can be tolerated.

See Paul L. Owen and Carl Mosser, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?" Trinity Journal, 19/2 new series (Fall 1998): 179-205, online at https://www.academia.edu/185247/_Mormon_Scholarship_Apologetics_and_Evangelical_Neglect_Losing_the_Battle_and_Not_Knowing_It_ .

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Davis did not bother to read the research of serious scholars

How would you know? You've never even looked at his work. You're just making wild assertions.

Here's something to get you started, from the book's preface:

Quote

Regardless of what one believes about the origin of the work, the Book of Mormon contains an enormous amount of nineteenth-century material that permeates both the content and structure of the work. These contemporary influences, however, do not (or should not) pose a problem for believers. . . .

For those who believe that the translation appeared on the surface of the seer stone or in a vision of the text, without Smith’s input, the nineteenth-century anachronisms in the Book of Mormon can  . . . be framed as God’s alterations to the ancient record, which He transmitted to Smith via the seer stone or as a seer-stone-inspired vision in order to make the final text more accessible to Smith’s nineteenth-century audience. Alternatively, some believing scholars argue that Smith did, in fact, actually translate a text. In other words, through some process of visionary imagery, mental impressions, and divine inspiration, Smith produced the Book of Mormon by making use of his own vocabulary, frames of reference, training, and life experiences to articulate the work. Thus, for those who believe that Smith actively participated in a literal translation, the nineteenth-century elements can be understood as Smith’s personal contributions to the translation project (a theory often described as “loose control”). How much or how little Smith contributed to the construction of the Book of Mormon is therefore left to the reader’s personal determinations. Without commenting on the merits or failings of these competing theories, I invite those who believe in the historicity of the text to consider the ways in which their own religious and perceptual frameworks already provide a means to incorporate academic studies such as this one into their faith-based and faith-seeking paradigms.

Moreover, I would also encourage believing scholars and readers to recognize that this study addresses a readership that extends beyond the religious boundaries of the various denominations within the Latter Day Saint movement to include those who do not embrace the Book of Mormon as an inspired or authentic ancient text. This study represents an academic project, governed by evidence-based explorations of the connections between the Book of Mormon and the nineteenth-century environment in which it emerged. As such, I will be speaking about some of those specific nineteenth-century elements in the work as the product of Smith’s compositional skill and creative imagination. Likewise, in order to avoid bogging down the work with constant clarifications of the differences between nineteenth-century textual elements attributable to Smith and elements that believing scholars attribute to ancient Book of Mormon authors, I will often streamline the discussion by referring to the work as the result of Smith’s individual creative efforts.

This positioning, however, does not represent a tacit commentary on the validity of Smith’s assertions about the divine origin of the text, nor does it aim to engage in polemical discourse regarding faith claims. Rather, this approach seeks to avoid the laborious repetition of disputed claims, while acknowledging a readership that extends well beyond the communities of faith. In any case, the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the validity of Smith’s claims are not the focus of this study. Rather, I will be exploring how the textual phenomena and internal evidence within the pages of the Book of Mormon reach outside the text to engage with the pervasive oratorical training, practices, and concerns of Smith’s environment in early nineteenth-century America.

I believe that this information, for believers and nonbelievers alike, reveals valuable insights about the life of Joseph Smith, his background and religious experiences, as well as the cultural context in which he grew up.

 

Edited by Nevo
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