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Monday, December 29, 2008

Reformed Egyptian Part Deux

In a previous post, I discussed "reformed Egyptian" in the Book of Mormon and explored this intriguing aspect of the Book of Mormon. In this follow up post, I have posted a series of videos exploring reformed Egyptian and explain how, contrary to the critics, this is evidence and not a blunder for Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

Part 1

Part 2
Part 3


Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Chisel in One Hand and a Sword in the Other (2 Nephi 5)


Listen now!In attempting to continue my chapter-by-chapter commentary of the Book of Mormon, I will continue with 2 Nephi 5 as the next chapter. The main themes of 2 Nephi 1-4 were covered in a previous commentary post.

After Lehi gave his posterity their prophetic blessings, he passed away. 2 Nephi 5 finds the Nephites and Lamanites separating from each other and becoming warring factions whereas the Nephites (those who followed Nephi and his teachings) were mostly defending themselves or running for their lives and the Lamanites (those who felt Laman should have been their ruler) were chasing the Nephites.
1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the aanger of my brethren.
2 But behold, their aanger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life.
3 Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to arule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to brule over this people.
4 Now I do not write upon these plates all the words which they murmured against me. But it sufficeth me to say, that they did seek to take away my life.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord did awarn me, that I, bNephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.
6 Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also aZoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the bwarnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.
7 And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.
As was the custom of nomadic Israelites at that time in the world's history, the naming of a city or dwelling or geographic region after a prominent leader, the Nephites called their new home "Nephi". They prospered in the new area through agriculture, recordkeeping, and building projects.

The Lord told Nephi that the Lamanites would become "a scourge unto thy seed, to astir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction." Knowing from his previous visions that his descendants would eventually succumb to wickedness and thus merit this scourge, Nephi began to focus on armaments with which to defend his people and their freedom to worship and work as they were taught.
14 And I, Nephi, did take the asword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many bswords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their chatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.
The most important building project on Nephi's agenda was a temple where his people could worship according to the Law of Moses and, therefore, hopefully avert the prophesied disasters.
16 And I, Nephi, did abuild a btemple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of cSolomon save it were not built of so many dprecious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s etemple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of fSolomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.
A temple, of course, needs priests and instructors. Nephi ordained and set apart his brothers, Jacob and Joseph, for these callings.
26 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did aconsecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be bpriests and cteachers over the land of my people.
27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of ahappiness.
The year was now approximately 569 B.C. All of the events of the Book of Mormon up to this point totaled 30 years since Lehi had left Jerusalem with his family between 600 and 599 B.C.

Nephi's people desired him to become their king, which he refused to be. But he recorded, "nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power." This pattern of selfless servant-leadership would later be followed by King Benjamin. King Benjamin's son, Mosiah, would inherit the "throne", as it were, only to abdicate it upon his death to a rule of law according to the will of the people. Thus, Nephi's humble attitude was setting the stage for what could be described as the first American democracy.

Nephi also continued the art of plate-making and, under command of the Lord made "other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people." On these plates, he "engraved that which is pleasing unto God". That period of recordkeeping added another 10 years (569-559 B.C.), during which Nephi's people "already had wars and contentions with our brethren."



Book Review: "Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidence Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith"

Michael R. Ash has once again authored a masterpiece that is a welcomed follow up to his fantastic volume Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidence Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith is not only a delight to read but an accessible and approachable work that offers something for all readers regardless of their understanding of LDS apologetics or scholarship. From those who are just being introduced to the subject to the seasoned LDS apologist on the front lines of online message boards and chat rooms, this book is a must read for any Latter-day Saint interested in learning about the latest scholarly material supporting the claims of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Mike's book is divided into several sections, which cover topics ranging from Book of Mormon evidences from both the Old and New World, evidences for the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and evidence for unique LDS doctrines from ancient Jewish and Christian sources. From sections that are a simple paragraph to five page discourses, Mike covers topics such as the Book of Mormon witnesses, Book of Mormon geography, ancient Near Eastern parallels, Book of Abraham astronomy and evidence for ancient Jews and Christians believing in a pre-existence and a council of the gods.

Perhaps the most amiable thing about Mike's book is how simple, to the point, and matter-of-factly Mike presents his information. This makes his book an easy and enjoyable read. Coupled with ample documentation and an appendix outlining various ancient literary corpuses, Mike also stays true to scholarly catholicity. 

In short, Of Faith and Reason is a must read! A fine book that offers powerful and not so easily dismissible evidence for the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Below is a series of videos I produced discussing Mike's book and offering some other recommended reading materials.

Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4



Monday, December 22, 2008

Notes on Book of Mormon Names

In this new series, I discuss some of the names in the Book of Mormon and show how these authentic Hebrew, Egyptian and Greek names in the Book of Mormon are evidence for its ancient authenticity and Near Eastern background.

Enjoy!!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Real Story of Christmas


Listen now!Ever since I found out (late) that Glenn Beck converted to the LDS faith, I've become more and more of a fan of his each year.

For those not familiar with his story of conversion, it is indeed fascinating. By his own admission, he is the last person he ever would have expected to be part of any kind of organized religion, let alone the LDS Church. Of all the religions he could have chosen, ours was the last one on his mind.

He went from a bitter, drug-addicted, bellicose radio host to becoming one of the most outspoken, and popular, apologists for Christianity in the Western Hemisphere.

This Christmas season, in his ongoing effort to replace political correctness with bold truth, he has put together a soothing, yet eye-opening narrative of "The Real Story of Christmas". In other words, it's not watered down with secularist nonsense and conjecture about whether Mary really was a virgin or whether any of Christ's first visitors really considered him to be their Messiah. Unlike with Dateline and Discovery Channel, Beck literally shouts it out loud and clear for the whole world to hear that he is not ashamed of Christ, the Redeemer of Israel, the Son of God.

How I pray that we will be so bold. We have less to lose than Brother Beck. He has a syndicated TV and radio show with millions of fans. Most of us have but a few neighbors who even realize we're Christians. Pass this along for all to hear.

Glenn won't mind. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Losing the Battle and not Knowing It: LDS Scholarship and Anti-Mormon Myopia

Here is a new video series I have made on LDS scholarship in which I respond to some of the inaccurate stereotypes and caricatures of LDS scholarship and scholars promoted by anti-Mormons.

Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Monday, December 8, 2008

Brant Gardner on the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica

One of my favorite Book of Mormon scholars Brant Gardner has recently delivered this lecture on the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica. Because it was a fireside inside of a chapel, it could not be recorded. However, my friend Tyler Livingston of FAIR was able to audio record the lecture and post it on FAIR's youtube channel

Enjoy!!!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Friday, December 5, 2008

Daniel C. Peterson on DNA and the Book of Mormon

On December 4, 2008, Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Brigham Young University, presented a lecture at Olivewood Bookstore on the subject of DNA studies and the Book of Mormon. He responded to some of the recent criticism directed against the Book of Mormon based on DNA evidence and spoke about a book that was recently released by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Research entitled The Book of Mormon and DNA Research. I was there and managed to film the presentation. 

Enjoy!!

Video 1


Video 2


Video 3


Video 4


Video 5

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Book - Evidence for Joseph Smith


Mike Ash, a phenomenal Book of Mormon apologist who has offered many insights into the Gospel and the scriptures with his papers and recent book, has released a new book on evidences for the Prophet Joseph Smith entitled Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Over the coming weeks, as I get time to read the book, I will hopefully post some of my thoughts on Mike Ash's treatment of the Book of Mormon in this new book of his. In the mean time, I would simply like to announce this new volume for those who may be interested. Although I have not read it, if it is anything like Ash's excellent book Shaken Faith Syndrome then it is going to be wonderful!

The book can be purchased here.

A website for the book can be found here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Elder Wirthlin Passes Away at 91


Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an Apostle of the Lord and a special witness to the name of Jesus Christ, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. He lived a long, full life and his testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ will always stand as a witness to the truthfulness of the Gospel of Christ and the Restoration of all things by the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

He will be missed by his friends, family and fellow Latter-day Saints, but we should remember that death is not the end. It is only a transition into the eternal worlds that are to come. Brother Wirthlin's earthly mission may be over, but his eternal mission has just begun.

Below is a video that details Elder Wirthlin's final testimony. 




Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Joseph Smith's Original Journals a Boon to Scholarship

Joseph Smith's original journals are now available at Deseret Book!
They survived amid mobbings, beatings, burnings, a horse-drawn wagon journey across the Great Plains and even the ravages of mice roaming inside their wooden crate.

Now the contents of journals kept by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith have been made available to the public for the first time, word for word, as he wrote and dictated them to various clerks and scribes.

The inaugural volume of the long-anticipated Joseph Smith Papers series is now in LDS bookstores, offering scholars and ordinary Latter-day Saints alike a look at the "unvarnished words" of a man who said he was called of God to restore Christ's original church to the earth.

Volume 1 is available now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is the Book of Mormon Racist?

Book of Mormon scholar John A. Tvedtnes has written a fascinating article on the subject of the charge of "racism" in the Book of Mormon. The paper is based off of an earlier talk given at the 2003 FAIR Conference. The videos and article are listed below. In them Tvedtnes offers a very interesting treatment on this subject, which should be read by all of those who would charge the Book of Mormon as being racist.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The Charge of Racism in the Book of Mormon by John A. Tvedtnes, published in the FARMS Review. Also see this page from FAIR for another transcript of the presentation. 


Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Timely Reminder from King Benjamin

The righteous King Benjamin, towards the end of his reign, taught a group of Nephites gathered at the Temple important principles relating to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Topics of his discussion included repentance, faith in Jesus Christ and baptism by both water and the Holy Spirit (i.e. being born again). 

As Thanksgiving comes again, let us all, as children of God, remember well this timely reminder by the King found in Mosiah 2:19-25: 

[19]And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

[20] I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another --

[21] I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another -- I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

[22] And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

[23] And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

[24] And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

[25] And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

Let us all remember that which the Lord has given us this Thanksgiving. Let us all remember how blessed we, as children of God, are to have a loving Heavenly Father who not only gives us life but sent his Son to pay our debt so that we may have eternal life. 

Let us be thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the eternal Plan of Salvation. 


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Anthropologist Looks at the Bible

This hilarious spoof shows that, if nothing else, FARMS scholars still have a sense of humor.

Enjoy!!

(From http://www.shields-research.org/Humor/TK_spoof.html)

Dr. Key, a biologist, has written a book entitled, A Biologist Looks at the Book of Mormon, the 15th edition (revised and enlarged) of which has been renamed The Book Of Mormon InThe Light Of Science.  It is sold by Utah Missions, Inc. (UMI).  John A. Tvedtnes (FARMS) has written a spoof on Dr. Key's booklet.

Disclaimer:  This is a spoof I wrote in March 1996 and sent to Tom Key, after he had sent me a copy of the 14th edition of his A Biologist Looks at the Book of Mormon.  Because my BA is in anthropology, I used the term "anthropologist" in the title instead of "biologist."  Neither term is relevant to either Key's work (most of which does not deal with biological issues) or mine.  Tom and I get on quite well and he enjoyed the laugh.  He wrote brief responses to each item on the following list, and guess what.  Many of those responses were very much like the kinds of responses "Mormons" give to criticisms of the Book of Mormon.  For some reason, it never occurred to him that responses he considered valid for the Bible could also be valid for the Book of Mormon(e.g., miraculous events).  As you read through the spoof, you will consider many, if not all, of the criticisms to be ridiculous, because of your faith in the Bible.  Those are the same feelings we have when reading the kinds of criticisms found in Tom Key's booklet.  Neither list of criticisms is to be taken seriously.

The following is Mr. Tvedtnes' spoof.

An Anthropologist Looks at the Bible
by B. Ware Kee


For centuries, people have gullibly believed that the Bible was divine in origin.  Some have even believed it to be inerrant.  But does the Bible stand up under the scrutiny of modern science?

The Bible speaks of mythological creatures that never existed, such as the satyr (Isaiah 13:21; 34:14), the cockatrice (Isaiah 11:8; 14:29; 59:5; Jeremiah 8:17), and the dragon (Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 30:29; Psalms 44:19; 74:13; 91:13; 148:7; Isaiah 13:22; 27:1; 34:13; 35:7; 43:20; 51:9; Jeremiah 9:11; 10:22; 14:6; 49:33; 51:34, 37; Ezekiel 29:3; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3).  In ancient mythology, the satyr is a creature that is half man (the upper half) and half goat, with horns on the head.  The laws of genetics make this combination of two species impossible.  The cockatrice was believed in medieval Europe to be a serpent hatched from a cock's egg.  It impossible for the egg of one species to produce an animal of a different species.  Besides, cocks don't lay eggs; hens do.  Dragons, of course, have never existed except in the imagination of primitive peoples.  Not a single dragon skeleton has ever been excavated by archaeologists.

The Bible speaks of a bowel disorder that causes the bowels to fall out (2 Chronicles 21:15, 19).  There is no known disease that could cause the bowels to simply fall out of the body.

According to the Bible, king Hezekiah was healed of a boil by placing a lump of figs on it (2 Kings 20:7).  There are no curative powers in figs such as that described here.

According to 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, illness is caused by partaking unworthily of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. But we know that illness results from infection of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

The Bible says that people can be healed by laying hands on them (Matthew 8:14; Mark 16:18; Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8) or simply by speaking a word (Matthew 8:6-13; 9:2-7; Luke 5:24-25).  Sometimes, people were healed merely by touching Jesus' garment (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 6:55-56).  Acts 19:12 indicates that sick people are possessed by evil spirits and that they can be healed by being touched with handkerchiefs or aprons touched by someone who has healing powers.  Even more fantastic is the story in Acts 5:15, where we read that people were healed when the shadow of Peter fell on them.  It is naive to believe that one could cure illness by magical gestures such as these.  Many illnesses must be treated with strong antibiotics, which were not available two thousand years ago.

The Bible claims that a man could be cured "of whatsoever disease he had" by going into a pool of water "at a certain season" (John 5:4).  While water can prevent disease by washing away germs found on the skin, it is foolish to believe that any and all diseases can be healed simply by taking a bath.

The Bible indicates that the sins of parents can cause blindness in their children (John 9:2).  While the causes of blindness can be either pathological or psychological, it is illogical to assume that the sins of parents could bring the curse of blindness on their offspring.  In another Bible story, a child died because of its parents' sin (2 Samuel 12:14-18).  Such superstitious beliefs have no basis in scientific fact.

The Bible speaks of a boy whose "sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him" (1 Kings 17:17).  If he could no longer breathe, the boy was not simply sick, but dead!

A number of Bible passages speak of the "shadow of death" (Job 3:5; 10:21-22; 12:22; 16:16; 24:17; 28:3; 34:22; 38:17; Psalms 23:4; 44:19; 107:10, 14; 139:23; Isaiah 9:2; Jeremiah 2:6; 13:16; Amos 5:8; Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79).  This, of course, is sheer fantasy.  Since death is not a substantive thing, it cannot possibly cast a shadow.

The Bible says that the heart is the center of thought (Genesis 6:5; Deuteronomy 15:9; Judges 5:15; 1 Samuel 1:13; 2 Samuel 13:33; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 19:18; Job 17:11; Esther 6:6; Psalms 33:11; Proverbs 23:7; Isaiah 10:7; Jeremiah 23:20; Daniel 2:30; Matthew 9:4; 15:19; Mark 7:21; Luke 2:35; 5:22; 9:47; 24:38; Acts 8:22; Hebrews 4:12), while, in fact, we know that thoughts result from the functions of the brain.  The Biblealso sees the bowels as the seat of emotion (Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26; Song of Solomon 5:4; Isaiah 63:15; Jeremiah 31:20; Lamentations 1:20; 2:11; Philippians 1:8; 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Philemon 1:20; 1 John 3:17).  The bowels are, in fact, for digestion and elimination of waste.  In Psalms 16:7, we read that the reins (kidneys) instruct a man at night, which is obviously too fantastic for comment.

The Bible indicates that the semen that produces children comes from the bowels of men (Genesis 15:4; 2 Samuel 7:12; 16:11; 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 48:19).  This is not true; semen originates in the testes.  But the Bible goes even farther by stating that the fetus is carried in the bowels of the woman (Genesis 25:23; Psalms 71:6; Isaiah 49:1) when, in fact, it is in the uterus.

The Bible says that if a man's wife cheats on him, the priest should mingle dust from the floor of the tabernacle with holy water and make her drink it, causing her belly to swell and her thigh to rot (Numbers 5:12-27).  The only "rot" is the story itself, which cannot possibly be true.  While the woman might become ill because of microorganisms in the dust from the floor, there is no known disease that would make both her belly swell and her thigh rot.

The Bible has a very unrealistic view of death. In one case, a dead man is brought back to life simply by coming into contact with the bones of the dead prophet Elijah (2 Kings 13:21).  In another case, Lazarus rises from the dead after four days, when decomposition had already set in (John 11:39-44).  While recovery from the state of death is known to happen on rare occasions, it is impossible for a decomposing corpse to be revived.  Moreover, if the dead person is not revived within a short period of time, the lack of blood circulation deprives the brain of oxygen, resulting in severe brain damage.

In one Bible story, fire consumes not only the sacrifice and the wood, but also the stones, the dust, and the water surrounding the altar (1 Kings 18:38).  This is totally contrary to the laws of physics.  Stones, dust, and especially water cannot be burned by fire.

The concept of seasoning one's speech with salt, found in Colossians 4:6, makes absolutely no sense.

Salt does not lose its savour (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34) or its saltiness (Mark 9:50).

The Bible speaks of "rivers in the desert" (Isaiah 43:19-20).  By its very definition, a desert is a place that has no waters.

The Bible says that a flood of water covered the entire earth, including the mountains, drowning every living creature except those on Noah's ark (Genesis 6:17; 7:19-22).  But there is no evidence of such a universal flood and, in any event, there is not enough water on the earth to cause a flood that would cover all the mountains.

The Bible claims that the walls of Jericho were made to fall down flat after the Israelites had walked around them for a week and then shouted and blew ram's horns (Joshua 6:1-20).  The resonance of sound may cause a champagne glass to shatter, but it is physically impossible for mere shouting and blowing of trumpets to make a thick defensive wall fall down.

Genesis 41:3-4 speaks of kine (cattle) eating other cattle.  Since cattle are herbivores, this is, naturally, an impossible situation.  But it is no more impossible than what we find in the next few verses (Genesis 41:5-7), where we read of corn eating corn!

The Bible tells us that Samson's great strength derived from his long hair and that when the hair was cut, he immediately became weak, but regained his strength again after his hair grew back (Judges 16:6-30).  This story describes an impossible situation.  We know that physical strength depends on such factors as proper nutrition, exercise, and rest, and that one's hair length plays absolutely no role.  If long hair makes men strong, why did so many circus strong men shave their heads?

The Bible talks about a virgin conceiving and bearing a child (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).  This is, of course, utter folly.  Unless impregnated by male sperm, the female ovum cannot produce a child any more than you can build a house without materials and construction workers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Are All Evangelical Critics Anti-Mormons?

I have communicated with a number of Evangelicals who, by their own admission, are critical of the Church and its teachings. In our dialogues together, I have at times used the phrase "evangelical anti-Mormons" to which some of my corespondents have taken umbrage. They say that they are not anti-Mormon but instead anti-Mormonism, or something similar. Others have at times expressed their view that Mormons can be too dismissive of critical voices by just labeling them as "anti-Mormons".

I would like to discuss the question as to whether or not any Evangelical[1] critical of Mormonism is an anti-Mormon.

In response to this inquiry, I would have to affirm that indeed not all Evangelicals who are critical of Mormonism constitute an anti-Mormon. Many of them have sincere questions and doubts as to the validity of the truth claims of Joseph Smith and the Church. Just because they have questions, that does not mean that they are "anti-Mormon". The Prophet Lehi affirmed that opposition is needed in all things, and I see this fulfilled in part by the role of apologists vs. critics for or of the Church. We all, as humans, have our questions and point of view; none of us, after all, are perfect in knowledge and objectivity. Therefore, to question things is a natural part of life.

On this blog and elsewhere, I have challenged conventional Christian doctrines and expressed my disbelief in the theories of those critical of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. In my view, apart from my spiritual conviction that the Book of Mormon is true, I see the evidence in favor for Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Does that make me "anti-Christian" because of such? No. No more than an Evangelical disbelieving in the claims of Joseph Smith automatically becomes an anti-Mormon.

However, why then do I use that phrase and to whom am I applying it to? When I mention "Evangelical anti-Mormons" I am most of the time speaking specifically of men and women such as Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Ed Decker, Joel Kramer and others; all of whom are Evangelical Christians and all of whom are staunch opponents of the Church. These individuals have devoted their entire lives and ministries to combating Mormonism. It is not just a question of disagreeing with Mormonism; these individuals are fighting Mormonism. They have produced an endless stream of books, articles, newsletters and DVDs criticizing the claims of the Church. It cannot be denied, therefore, that these individuals, who have focused their entire efforts on debunking Mormonism with great hubris (usually mixed with some vitriol and virulence) and loud declarations, are not just critical of Mormonism but decidedly opposed to it[2]. Hence the name "anti-Mormon".

Therefore, in my future dialogues with you, let me state for my Evangelical friends and associates that, unless your words and or actions speak contrary, I will try to not assume of the bat that you are an anti-Mormon. This is something I have been guilty of in the past, and I am sorry for such. I will in all ernest try to respectfully dialogue without any snarkiness or triumphalism unbefitting a Latter-day Saint.

And what do I ask in return? Only that you provide the same courtesy for me and my fellow Latter-day Saints. Lets us both approach the table in a feeling of mutual trust and respect for each other, so that, in the end, we can discover the truth.   

Notes:

[1]: While this post is speaking specifically of Evangelicals, other religious, or areligious, individuals can apply themselves to this situation.

[2]: Bill McKeever, for example, brags that his organization has been "challenging the claims of Mormonism since 1979." 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alma 32 - How To Know Whether the Book of Mormon Is Revealed Scripture

Listen now!About nine years after his preaching to the people of Zarahemla as recorded in Alma 5, Alma the Younger went to teach the wicked and apostate Zoramites. This branch of Nephi and Lehi's people had descended from Zoram, whom they brought with them to the promised land. They had built a tower upon which they sanctimoniously proclaimed their chosen status and gave hypocritical and ostentatious prayers to God, thanking Him that they were better. more chosen of God than other individuals within their neighboring faith communities.

While Alma taught them, a small group had also gathered there to listen. They were the poor in substance and spirit and sought truth, but had been turned out of these places of worship because of their poverty. Alma, seeing that these individuals were humble and, unlike their counterparts, were prepared and eager to receive more truth and wisdom, turned his focus completely to them and taught them to experiment upon the word as if it were a seed, inviting them to test what they have heard and to righteously judge whether it was of God or of man.

Anyone can use this same test to determine whether the Book of Mormon is truly scripture revealed of God.

In Alma 32, we read (my emphasis and [notes] added):

26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge — even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than
desire to believe
, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do
not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord
, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts [archaic "chest"] ; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit
thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.
So, as you can see, knowing the truth of something is not simply hearing it, finding it agreeable, and moving on. If you do only that, you will have neglected to grow that truth by nourishing it as you would a tree seedling. To make it grow within you, you have the responsibility--the imperative--to be humble, and to keep wanting more and learning more to get perfect knowledge of God's truth.

Similarly, if you neglect to even try the experiment, you can't possibly expect any fruit to come of it. That doesn't at all mean that the seed is bad, just that you didn't try the experiment.

It's one of the simplest laws of the harvest: From that which we sow and tend to and provide favorable conditions for, we can expect to reap something beneficial if the seed is good. If it is not, it simply won't grow no matter how much we nourish it. Conversely, from that which we do not sow, or that which we sow and then neglect, we cannot expect to reap anything at all.

Alma 5 - Alma the Younger and Salvation by Grace...and Works

Listen now!I felt impressed tonight to post about Alma Chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon. I realize I'm skipping ahead in my long neglected, chronological, chapter-by-chapter posting regimen, but this particular chapter has been on my mind.

Lately, there have been some interesting individuals with whom I've had conversations about whether we're saved by works or by grace--the very topics leading up to and culminating in Alma 5.

This chapter is one of the most classically Christian parts of the Book of Mormon and supports the Bible's teachings 100%, yet I am told by various traditional / protestant / fundamentalist / evangelical Christians (the vast majority of whom have never read beyond the Book of Mormon introduction page) that my belief in the Book of Mormon as Christian scripture is unfounded. I find this attitude both troubling and puzzling. I often want to ask them to try a little experiment--come to an LDS Sacrament meeting and ask any random member this question: "How are you saved?" The answer they get will be very much the opposite of what they've read in anti-Mormon literature.

Yet they continue to fail to explain adequately the provenance of the Book of Mormon, simply preferring as the basis for their arguments the regurgitation of anti-Mormon statements about (debunked) Spaulding manuscripts, (inconsequential) seer stones, and other (irrelevant) tangential topics. Quite often, when they don't have an answer to counter reasonable replies, they change the subject in an attempt to put the balance of the conversation back in their favor. They are ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. In doing so, they habitually refuse to ever read the book, or even accept the minutest possibility that God might be lovingly offering additional wisdom from on high tailored to the complex times in which we live.

Alma the Younger was, obviously, the namesake son of another man--a prophet, actually--named Alma. Unlike his righteous father, Alma the Younger was once a very rebellious person, given to fighting with all his might against the Church over which his father was a high priest at the time.

Alma the Elder had prayed mightily that his son would stop destroying the Church from within with his exceedingly wicked behaviors and false teachings. His righteous prayer was answered one day when an angel appeared suddenly to Alma and his apostate companions, who were sons of the also righteous King Mosiah, and commanded them to stop persecuting the Church or be destroyed. Alma was in a catatonic or "near death" state for two days while he suffered the most excruciating spiritual experience of being shown all of his sins, their consequences, and all of his inadequacies. At "rock bottom" during this experience, he called on Christ and was saved--by grace, and not by any merit of his own--from his evil works.

A beautiful hebraic poetry form called "chiasmus" was later written by Alma the Younger in order to describe to one of his sons his experience with salvation through and by the grace of Christ alone, conditional upon his work of calling upon Jesus and by sincere repentance.

After his full repentance and restoration to good standing within the Church, Alma's repentant companions left to serve a mission among their enemies, the Lamanites. Alma went to a city called Zarahemla to teach the introspective that we find in Alma 5.

Read that chapter, then ask yourself the following questions as if Alma were speaking directly to you.

Fifty Questions to Ask Yourself After Reading Alma 5
  1. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?
  2. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance God's mercy and long-suffering towards your fathers?
  3. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance that He has delivered their souls from hell?
  4. Were your fathers destroyed?
  5. Were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled your fathers about, were they loosed?
  6. On what conditions were your fathers saved?
  7. On what grounds had they hope for salvation?
  8. What is the cause of your fathers' being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
  9. Did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi?
  10. Was Abinadi not a holy prophet?
  11. Did Abinadi not speak the words of God?
  12. Did my father Alma believe them?
  13. Have you spiritually been born of God?
  14. Have you received His image in your countenance?
  15. Have you experienced this mighty change in your heart?
  16. Do you exercise faith in the redemption of Him who created you?
  17. Do you look forward with an eye of faith?
  18. Do you view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
  19. Can you imagine yourself that you hear the voice of the Lord, saying to you, in that day: "Come unto me you blessed, for behold your works have been works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?"
  20. Or do you imagine to yourself that you can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say--"Lord, my works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth"--and He will save you?
  21. Or otherwise, can you imagine yourself brought before the tribunal of God with your soul filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that you have set at defiance the commandments of God?
  22. Can you look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
  23. Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenance?
  24. Can you think of being saved when you have yielded yourself to become subject to the devil?
  25. How will you feel if you shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?
  26. What will these things testify against you?
  27. Will they not testify that you are a murderer?
  28. Will they not also testify that you are guilty of all manner of wickedness?
  29. Do you suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?
  30. If you have experienced a change of heart, and if you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, can you feel so now?
  31. Have you walked, keeping yourself blameless before God?
  32. Could you say, if you were called to die at this time, within yourself, that you have been sufficiently humble?
  33. Could you say that your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ?
  34. Are you stripped of pride?
  35. Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?
  36. Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
  37. If you are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are you?
  38. The devil is your shepherd, and you are of his fold: and now who can deny this?
  39. Do you not suppose that I know of these things myself?
  40. How do you supose that I know of their surety?
  41. Can you withstand these sayings?
  42. Can you lay aside these things and trample the Holy One under your feet?
  43. Can you be puffed up in the pride of your heart?
  44. Will you still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your heart upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
  45. Will you persist in supposing that you are better than another?
  46. Will you persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the Holy Order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this Church having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance?
  47. Will you persist in turning your back upon the poor and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?
  48. The names of the righteous shall be written in the Book of Life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand. What have you to say against this?
  49. What shepherd is there having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?
  50. If a wolf enter his flock doth the shepherd not drive him out?

If you want a quick check of where you stand before God with respect to salvation and exaltation, answer these questions for yourself, whether you're LDS or not. These are universal truths that apply to all men and women. And, that is exactly why the Book of Mormon is considered by members of the LDS Church to be an additional witness of Christ.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon

This video series discusses hebraisms in the Book of Mormon and the significance of such for Book of Mormon historicity.

Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Monday, November 3, 2008

Ancient Writing on Metal Plates

These new videos I made discuss writing on metal plates by ancient peoples and the significance of such for the Book of Mormon.

Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Top 5 Arguments Evangelical Anti-Mormons Can't Use Against the Book of Mormon - Video Additions

In a previous post, I outlined 5 arguments that Evangelical anti-Mormons cannot use against the Book of Mormon because of the fact that these arguments are a double standard. I have produced a series of video follow ups to this previous post which elaborates on these arguments a little further.

Enjoy.


Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4

The Book of Mormon and Democracy

In 1977, then Elder Ezra Taft Benson (later to become the 13th President of the LDS Church) gave a unique speech denouncing Communism as a potential form of government in the United States. In doing so, and with right authority, he momentarily departed from the Church's reticence to engage in discussing political philosophies as a matter of doctrine to issue a stern warning about where our nation would find itself should we continue to tolerate Socialistic and Communistic policies then beginning to take root.

See the video embedded below (on the blog if you're reading this in email).



What does this have to do with the Book of Mormon? Just about everything.

You see, if President Benson could be remembered for anything, it was his denouncement of Communism and his love of the Book of Mormon. When I left on my mission, I did so with his invitation ringing in my ears to share it early and often with as many people as possible. He said it contained the key to righteousness, liberty from sin, and freedom and equality for all. I have always found that to be the case. Undoubtedly, his strong views on the Book of Mormon fueled his strong passion for promoting liberty over tyranny.

From his 1979 Conference talk entitled "A Witness and a Warning", here are a few verses from the Book of Mormon that bear out his teachings.
Ether 2:10,12
10 For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be aswept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the bfulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are cswept off.
12 Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be afree from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but bserve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.

Ether 13:1-3
1 And now I, Moroni, proceed to finish my record concerning the destruction of the people of whom I have been writing.
2 For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had areceded from off the face of this bland it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should cserve him who dwell upon the face thereof;
3 And that it was the place of the aNew Jerusalem, which should bcome down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.

2 Nephi 10:10-12
1 And now I, Moroni, proceed to finish my record concerning the destruction of the people of whom I have been writing.
2 For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had areceded from off the face of this bland it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should cserve him who dwell upon the face thereof;
3 And that it was the place of the aNew Jerusalem, which should bcome down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.
President Benson also taught us that there are three things that we must do to avoid destruction in this land ordained for freedom (links added for additional study):

First: We must return to worship the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ. He has promised that the righteous will be preserved by His power (see 1 Ne. 22:17). But we must keep the commandments of God. We must pay our tithes and offerings, keep the Sabbath day a holy day, stay morally clean, be honest in all our dealings, and have our family and personal prayers. We must live the gospel.

Second: We must awaken to “a sense of [our] awful situation, because of this secret combination which [is] among [us]” (Ether 8:24). We must not tolerate accommodation with or appeasement toward the false system of Communism. We must demand of our elected officials that we not only resist Communism, but that we will take every measure to prevent its intrusion into this hemisphere. It is vital that we invoke the Monroe Doctrine.

Then we must put our trust in Him who has promised us His protection—and pray that He will intervene to preserve our freedom just as He intervened in our obtaining it in the first place.

Third: We must do as the Lord commanded us by revelation in 1833: “Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil” (D&C 98:10).

Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently. This is our hope to restore government to its rightful role.

Last: We must study the inspired Constitution and become involved in the political process ourselves. I quote the First Presidency statement that was read in sacrament meetings on Sunday, 1 July 1979: “We encourage all members, as citizens of the nation, to be actively involved in the political process, and to support those measures which will strengthen the community, state, and nation—morally, economically, and culturally” (Letter from the First Presidency, 29 June 1979).

November 4th is our opportunity to assist in God's will for this land: that it remain free and prosperous based on sound Gospel principles. We will do this by voting in what we hope to be a fair and free election. If it is not free and fair, we must make sure that this and future elections are to the best of our ability. Whether Democrat or Republican, we each have the duty and responsibility to exercise that right to elect our electors and representatives and to maintain the course that God has already expressed for us if we are to remain free.

Please don't forget to vote. Please don't listen to negative voices telling you your vote doesn't count or that your particular cause is lost. This year, more than ever, it does count. Our cause is not lost.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Top 5 Arguments Evangelical Anti-Mormons Can't Use Against the Book of Mormon

Evangelical critics of the Book of Mormon use many arguments to call into question the validity of the Book of Mormon. However, many of them are double standards. Evangelical critics usually throw out these arguments against the Book of Mormon while they ignore the fact that these same arguments can and have been used against the Bible. Here is a sampling:


5. The Book of Mormon has textual changes.
While this is true, it is even truer for the Bible, which, over the centuries of transmission and translation, has accumulated hundreds of thousands of textual variations in between manuscripts.

4. We Don't Have the Gold Plates to the Book of Mormon

Neither do we have the original manuscripts to the supposedly inerrant, complete, perfect Bible. 

3.  DNA Disproves the Book of Mormon

Many genetic scientists have also been using the exact same DNA data and methods to call into question the veracity of the fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of the opening stories of the Book of Genesis, such as Adam and Eve and Noah's Flood covering the entire world.

2. Archaeology Disproves the Book of Mormon

There is a popular, albeit false, notion amongst some Evangelical critics of the Book of Mormon that the Bible has been proven by archaeology and that the Book of Mormon has been disproven by archaeology. However, many of the historical claims of the Bible (such as the Israelite captivity in Egypt, the exodus from Egypt in the wilderness for 40 years and the Israelite conquest of Canaan, to name only a few) have been questioned by top biblical archaeologists. 

1. The Bible is Sufficient and Disqualifies the Book of Mormon as being Scripture.

The current Bible as we have it now did not spring up automatically but was compiled and edited over a course of many years. The passages used by Evangelicals to somehow prove that the Book of Mormon cannot be scripture because there cannot be anymore scripture could easily be applied to the Bible in its current form. For example, the Gospel of John is believed by many biblical textual critics to have been written after the Book of Revelation. If Evangelicals insist on using those verses from Revelation 22:18-19 and apply it to the Book of Mormon because the Book of Mormon came after the Book of Revelation, then, for the sake of consistency, they too would have to use it against the Gospel of John because it too postdates the Book of Revelation.

Please note that I do not bring up these points because I am "bashing" the Bible. I affirm the Bible as the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly. I love the Bible and its teachings have had a deep impact on my life. However, I do bring up these points to show that the Evangelical critics of the Book of Mormon should be careful in their criticisms of the Book of Mormon because many of their arguments could be used against the Bible. In other words, I am trying to show that these arguments are double standards and cannot be used by Evangelical critics.