Loading

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Winning" the battle and not knowing it?

In 1998, ten years ago almost to this day, Trinity Journal published an article by Carl Mosser and Paul Owen titled "Mormon scholarship, apologetics, and evangelical neglect: Losing the battle and not knowing it?" in which they warn fellow evangelicals that the anti-Mormon arguments previously published were in danger of carrying less scholarly weight than before.

Their conclusions (remember, this was almost exactly TEN years ago), might startle evangelicals who have not yet read the article. The "call to action" was this (my personal comments interspersed):

The evangelical world needs to wake up and respond to contemporary Mormon scholarship. If not, we will needlessy [sic] lose the battle without ever knowing it. Our suggestions are as follows: First, evangelicals need to overcome inaccurate presuppositions about Mormonism.
This goes without saying as it is the first rule of true scholarship.
Second, evangelical counter-cultists need to refer to qualified persons LDS scholarship that is beyond their ability to rebut.
Good luck with that. Still haven't seen it happen. Many counter-cultists are simply out to make money and the way that they do it is to sensationalize their subject so as to make it appear to be something it's not. Referring scholarship to more qualified persons on items beyond their ability to rebut would put them right out of business.
Third, evangelical academicians need to make Mormonism, or some aspects of it, an area of professional interest.
They have, but all we've seen so far is more of the same...they've just stepped up the marketing efforts and sold more books and movies.
Fourth, evangelical publishers need to cease publishing works that are uninformed, misleading, or otherwise inadequate.
Thank you. This is, in part, a duplicate of #2. We Mormons anxiously await the day when this happens.
Fifth, scholars in the evangelical community ought to collaborate in several books addressing the issues raised in this paper. Related to this, professional journals should encourage articles on these same topics. Finally, might we suggest that evangelical scholarly societies form study groups to assess the claims made by LDS scholars. Members of the Evangelical Theological Society have made a move in this direction with the recent formation of the Society for the Study of Alternative Religions (SSAR). The fact is that the growth of Mormonism is outpacing even the highest predictions of professional sociologists of religion, and is on its way, within eighty years, to becoming the first world-religion since Islam in the seventh century. With such growth, the needs expressed in this paper will become ever more pressing as the twenty-first century approaches.
I would merely add that it would be nice to see more brotherly humility and even evangelicals conceding rather than wresting the scriptures (see comment #14) in a misguided attempt to be "correct" about popular misconceptions of LDS beliefs. The LDS scholars I read are more than willing to say, "I don't know" in a number of instances because, quite simply, the evidence isn't in (yet). But that is fine. It is better to argue from what you know than from what you don't know or don't yet understand. I put more credence in a scholar who says "Let's wait and see if more evidence arises" than ones who say "Not a shred of evidence has ever been found that there were advanced civilizations of the type Joseph Smith described existed in the Americas." and then try to "prove" it by attempting to discredit nearly every archaeological find cited.

Those anti-Mormon authors who did not take the Mosser's and Owens' advice to heart need only look around to see that they were correct and that their predictions have come true. The Church continues to grow in spite of persecution by evangelical "scholars" precisely because of the ludicrousness and sensationalism of their claims against us. Mormon scholars are winning the upper-hand on evidence and arguments quite handily.

In closing, I couldn't agree more with Mosser and Owen in their conclusion:

This spiritual warfare can be considered under the aegis of a contest of the gods, a neglected biblical theme I want to retrieve.... The various religions and their gods appear to be vying for people's allegiance. Competition in religion is not only biblical, it is empirically evident. Vital religions always compete with other's claims. If you can find a religion that is not competitive, you will have found a religion on its last legs. A dynamic religion always wants to tell its story, which adherents think is the best story ever told, and the one most worthy of commitment.
In other words, if your claims can't stand up to criticism and scrutiny, what are they worth to anyone?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amaranth grain, honey, and transubstantiation: Another evidence for BoM authenticity

While researching edible plants on the Web, I ran into a recipe for Amaranth Corn Chowder. The recipe had a paragraph that caught my eye and I thought I'd share it as another likely evidence of the Book of Mormon's authenticity. It appears that the concept of the Catholic teaching and ordinance of transubstantiation was discerned by Conquistadors at the time they were conquering the Aztec civilization because of a ritual involved with eating amaranth grain and honey. Here is the quote:
Amaranth is, in fact, another ancient [Central and] South American grain (It was also a featured crop halfway around the world in the Himalayas). It was a staple of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. Like quinoa, it all but disappeared in the region after a Spanish ban enforced by the Conquistadors. The Aztecs mixed amaranth with honey, shaped it like gods and ate it in ceremonial rituals. The similarity between this ritual and Catholic communion was too eerie for priests, thus the grain was banned for centuries.
There were other "eerie" things that caused Conquistadors to lash out at Aztec practices, resulting in the burning of piles of written records and religious texts sacred to the Aztecs. Without first-hand knowledge of what was in those books, we can only conjecture as to what, exactly, that might have been.

We do know, however, that there were instances in which the Conquistadors saw elements and traces of Catholic teachings in Aztec ways, such as a belief in a resurrection of God and that a Messiah would visit them and deliver the Aztec people, that the Conquistadors vehemently worked to destroy all such teachings among the Aztecs.

Why? Weren't the Conquistadors there to convert them anyways? Shouldn't they have been glad that Aztecs already had this basic teaching in their theology? Why didn't they just build upon it instead of burning it?

We know from the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan and other records
that survived that literary holocaust that the Mayans and Aztecs viewed
themselves as descendants of foreigners who came from a rich religious
tradition we now recognize as being startlingly similar to biblical
narratives.

The Conquistadors couldn't fathom that people they regarded as ignorant savages would ever have a knowledge of Middle Eastern stories such as Moses and the 12 tribes of Israel, or would have known about a Messiah who would sacrifice Himself for them, ask Him to remember Him through a ritual eating ceremony, and come from an eastern country to rule them again. Therefore they concluded that natives must have had those things introduced to them by the devil.

The oxymoronic absurdity of this conclusion is only tempered by the fact that they had come to the Americas, in part, to conquer it in a pseudo-religious sense for Spain, seeking to convert heathens to a knowledge of God. When they saw that the supposed "heathens" already had traces of Christian teachings in their legends and laws, they went out of their way to eradicate those notions so as to preserve the "success" and credibility of their royal mandate to "convert" them.

Amaranth and honey is another fascinating parallel between the Book of Mormon and ceremonial elements passed down to 14th century Aztecs that, while admittedly corrupted from their original form, undoubtedly had their root in a primitive Christian teaching.

Some Final Thoughts and Conclusions

I have spent the last few days looking over and assessing the validity of the claims of Matt Slick against the Book of Mormon. After reading and re-reading his materials, looking up his references and cross checking his citations, I have found Slick to be highly wanting in many areas. He not only mis-contextualizes and misuses the Book of Mormon text to suit his agenda but he makes bald faced assertions that just do not hold up to the evidence. He regularly employs double standards and other logical fallacies and conveniently ignores any evidence contrary to his arguments. In short, Slick is not a reliable source to turn to when it comes to analyzing the historicity of the Book of Mormon and whether or not it comes from God.

But so what? Why does this matter? Why did I even bother to address Slick's claims? 

I did so not to convince Slick or try to persuade him to abandon his belief that the Book of Mormon not only is not historical but also not of God, nor to impress any of the critics of the Book of Mormon in general. He and his like minded critics have shut the door to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is historical and of God, and thus it would be a waste of my time to try and convince him. No, I did this to help those who may have encountered Slick's material and need another perspective on these issues and a rejoinder to the critics. I did this so that those who are investigating the Book of Mormon can know for themselves that there are answers out there to the allegations of the critics. We Latter-day Saints are not hiding our heads in the sand and unwilling to critically examine the evidence and our faith. We are not blindly following the General Authorities of the Church or refusing to engage in criticisms of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. We are doing the research, looking at the claims, examining the evidence and weighing it against the claims of the critics. And I am personally happy to report that, for the most part, the criticisms of the Book of Mormon do not hold any weight after careful analysis. 

Now this does not mean that all of the questions have been answered or that the controversy has been settled. There still remain questions as to some of the points of Book of Mormon historicity. I myself still have questions about the Book of Mormon and some of the claims therein. However, I can fully affirm that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be; and ancient document with Near Eastern and Mesoamerican roots written by inspired Prophets of God. Even though I still have questions, that does not mean that I do not have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As John L. Lund has recently pointed out, we should not lose faith in what we do know because of things we do not know[1]. In other words, just because there remain questions about the Book of Mormon this should not disparage anyone or shake their faith.

Finally, we need to be careful not to place our trust on the arm of flesh in regards to spiritual matters such as the Book of Mormon. Our understanding of the ancient world is changing constantly. As new evidence is discovered old theories will either have to be refined or discarded. Critics need to be careful, therefore, when they make judgements against the Book of Mormon based on historical details that may not be yet confirmed by secular wisdom. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something has not been found that does not mean that it does not exist. To abandon the Book of Mormon on this standard is a sandy foundation if there ever was one. Matt Roper wisely summed it up thusly:

Let's imagine a scenario. Suppose I read the Book of Mormon some time ago, say, in the 1970s. I read about the Nephites having barley. I reject the Book of Mormon because there is no evidence for pre-Columbian barley. This was, after all, the scholarly consensus-there was no pre-Columbian domesticated barley in the New World period! But now it turns out that this view was wrong. There was in fact archaeological evidence for barley in pre-Columbian America. It just hadn't been discovered yet. Let's suppose I had even staked my life on the belief in opinion of scholars that there was no such grain before Columbus. Wouldn't I have made a terrible mistake? The example of pre-Columbian barley should be a warning to us that similar evidences for the Book of Mormon, which at present seem to be anachronisms, may yet be forthcoming as well. [2]

** End of Series **

[1]: John L. Lund in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon (The Communications Company. 2007) Pg. 215

[2]: Matt Roper in "Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon" (link here).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Response to Matt Slick or Steve Smoot's Excellent Adventure in Anti-Mormon Zombie Hell (Pt. 4)

"The Book of Mormon is tough. It thrives on investigation. You may kick it around like a football, as many have done; and I promise you it will wear you out before you ever put a dent in it."

- Hugh W. Nibley

One of the standard methods employed by anti-Mormons when it comes to criticizing the Book of Mormon is to create a long and impressive laundry list of "problems" with the text (must need items on that list include steel, horses, wheat and Jesus being born in Jerusalem) and present it to the audience without any further follow up or elaboration. After all, once the list runs well over several items that should be enough to have the Latter-day Saints shaking in their boots and other like-minded critics nodding in solemn agreement. 

Without failure, Matt Slick flawlessly executes this trick in his article with the unexciting, unoriginal and cliche title "Problems with the Book of Mormon".

After a watered-down and somewhat inaccurate synopsis of the Book of Mormon[1], Slick then presents his list of "problems" with the Book of Mormon and glibly remarks that the book therefore "is not of God".

Let us take a look at Slick's chart and see if it hold up. As with the other articles in this series, Slick's comments are in red whilst mine are in black.


Adam's Fall/ 2 Ne. 2:25 / False: Men exist without Adam's Fall.


Slick provides no Scriptural evidence for this claim. He simply asserts this and leaves it be. Paul, on the other hand, spoke of how "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22). Does not death for everyone "in Adam" not also require first that we all partake of mortality? Furthermore, were not Adam and Eve unable to have children lest they fall from grace in the garden? It seems, therefore, that Slick contradicts scripture.

Birth of Jesus/ Alma 7:10/ Alma 7:10 contradicts the Bible in Matt 2:1

The fact that Slick brings up this old and worn out anti-Mormon chestnut demonstrates that not only is he unfamiliar with the usage of the words "land" versus "city" in the Book of Mormon (indeed, Jesus is said to have been born in the "land" of Jerusalem and not the "city") but that he also is either woefully ignorant of the most recent Book of Mormon scholarship or is simply ignoring it. 

It must be remembered that Bethlehem is less than 5 miles south of Jerusalem, and thus, it would have been considered to be apart of the larger geo-political "land of Jerusalem" as is recorded in the Book of Mormon and other texts such as the Amarna letters and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Like the ancient Greek City-States of Athens and Sparta, Jerusalem was both a "city" and a "land" in that there was the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding landscape and smaller cities that the "land of Jerusalem" encompassed. Daniel C. Peterson aptly sums up the issue thusly:

The prophecy of Alma 7:10 fits into antiquity very well. If, as Professors Eisenman and Wise observe, an allusion to "the land of Jerusalem" in Pseudo-Jeremiah fragment 4Q385 "greatly enhances [its] sense of historicity," does similar language not "greatly enhance the sense of historicity" of the Book of Mormon? Alma 7:10 is not the sort of thing that Joseph Smith would likely have invented, precisely for the same reason that it bothers enemies of Mormonism. Far from being a serious liability for the Book of Mormon, Alma's prophetic comment about the birth of the Messiah is plausible evidence that the Nephite record is exactly what it claims to be—an authentic ancient historical text with roots in the Near East. [8]

Cimeter (Scimitar)/ Mosiah 9:16/ Scimitars (Curved Swords) didn't exist until the 500's.


This is simply false. Plenty of epigraphical and archaeological evidence shows that scimitars were being used in both Pre-Exilic Israel and Pre-Classic Mesoamerica[2]. 


Elephants/ Ether 9:19/ Elephants weren't in America at the time of the BOM [Book of Mormon]


FAIR has created a nice summary on the issue of Elephants and other animals[3] in the Book of Mormon. I shall quote the page in extensio for the reader:

The only place that elephants are mentioned in the Book of Mormon is in Ether 9:19 in approximately 2500 B.C. Thus any elephants existing upon the American continents need not have survived past about 2400 B.C...Besides the traditions, five elephant effigies have been found in ancient Mexico. Dr. Verrill, a well-known (non-Mormon) archaeologist describes one of these figures as “‘so strikingly and obviously elephantine that it cannot be explained away by any of the ordinary theories of being a conventionalized or exaggerated tapir, ant-eater or macaw. Not only does this figure show a trunk, but in addition it has the big leaf-like ears and the forward-bending knees peculiar to the elephants. Moreover, it shows a load or burden strapped upon its back. It is inconceivable that any man could have imagined a creature with the flapping ears and peculiar hind knees of an elephant, or that any human being could have conventionalized a tapir to this extent’”...
The oral traditions, written records, and artwork depicting elephants lends strong support for the claim that the elephant existed in ancient America. Even more substantial support-- actual remains-- have also been discovered. Today all scholars agree that mastodons and mammoths (which are unquestionably elephants to zoologists) once lived in the Americas. The dispute today is how late they lived. According to the Book of Mormon they need not have lived later than 2400 B.C. Within recent years archaeological evidence has demonstrated that the elephant could very well have survived to such a late date. Butchered mastodon bones were recently discovered at one archaeological site which dates to shortly after the time of Christ. Another site, dating to approximately 100 B.C. has yielded the remains of a mammoth, a mastodon, as well as a horse.
Some scholars have suggested that the elephant (mammoth or mastodon) lived later than hitherto believed. Ludwell Johnson, in an article entitled “Men and Elephants in America” published in Scientific Monthly, wrote that
“Discoveries of associations of human and proboscidean remains [Elephantine mammals, including, elephants, mammoths, and mastodons] are by no means uncommon. As of 1950, MacCowan listed no less than twenty-seven” including, as noted by Hugo Gross, a “partly burned mastodon skeleton and numerous potsherds at Alangasi, Ecuador...There can no longer be any doubt that man and elephant coexisted in America.... Probably it is safe to say that American Proboscidea have been extinct for a minimum of 3000 years."
If the elephants had died off at least 3000 years ago, they would still have been well within range of the Jaredite era. And as noted above, some evidence indicates that the elephant may have survived in limited numbers for centuries later.

In short, the elephant presents no problem for the Book of Mormon. [4. Footnotes silently deleted]


Honey Bees/ Ether 2:3/ Honey Bees were introduced to America by the Spanish


Slick needs to read the Book of Mormon text more closely. The only mention of Honey Bees in the Book of Mormon occur in an Old World setting (that of the Jaredites in central Asia or western Mesopotamia). Furthermore, evidence of pre-Columbian domesticated Honey Bees is ample[5]. The simple fact of the matter is that Slick is wrong on both counts.


God Indwells the Righteous/ Alma 34:36/ BOM contradicts the D&C


Context is everything. The quotation from D&C 130 is speaking of the "old sectarian notion" that because God and Christ do not have bodies they therefore can literally dwell within the hearts of the men. The Prophet Joseph Smith clarifies and states (verse 22) that it is by the Holy Ghost (who does not have a body) that God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (who do have bodies) dwells within the hearts of the righteous. Therefore, the D&C does not contradict but instead clarifies the Book of Mormon by stating that it is by the Sprit that the Lord dwells within our hearts. 


Horses/ 1 Ne. 18:25/ Horses didn't exist in America until the 16th Century


Actually, horse remains have been found that date to the 2nd Ice Age (circa 10,000 BCE). The question, however, is whether or not any of those horses survived until the times of the Book of Mormon. Again, we turn to FAIR:

 As mentioned, one should not reject the possibility of "loan-shifting," — candidate species for "horse" under this interpretation include the tapir, deer or llama.

However, the case against pre-Columbian horses may not be as 'iron-clad' as the critics assume:

Excavations at the site of Mayapan, which dates to a few centuries before the Spaniards arrived, yielded horse bones in four spots. (Two of the lots were from the surface, however, and might represent Spanish horses.) From another site, the Cenote (water hole) Ch'en Mul, came other traces, this time from a firm archaeological context. In the bottom stratum in a sequence of levels of unconsolidated earth almost two meters in thickness, two horse teeth were found. They were partially mineralized, indicating that they were definitely ancient and could not have come from any Spanish animal. The interesting thing is that Maya pottery was also found in the stratified soil where the teeth were located.

Some have argued that horse remains ought to be better attested, if they did play a role in Nephite society. However, it should be remembered that horses do not play a major role in the Book of Mormon. They are mentioned in the following contexts:

Quotations from Old World scriptures

  • 2 Nephi 12:7 - citation from Isaiah
  • 2 Nephi 15:28 - citation from Isaiah

Apocalyptic teachings in Old World style

  • 3 Nephi 21:14 - Jesus speaks of "horses and chariots" in a symbolic and apocalyptic address

Horses in the New World

  • 1 Nephi 18:25: we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness,...the horse...
  • Ether 9:19 - Jaredites had "horses"

Used in conjunction with chariots

  • Alma 18:9 - Ammon feeds the Lamanite king's horses, which are associated with his "chariots."
  • Alma 20:6 - Lamanite king uses horses and chariot for visit to neighboring kingdom
  • 3 Nephi 3:22 - Nephites "had taken their horses, and their chariots" to a central fortified area for protection against robbers

(It should be noted that we are not told if these chariots served a purpose in riding, or if they were for transport of goods, or if they had a ceremonial function. One assumes some sort of practicality, since they brought chariots to the siege in 3 Nephi.)

Role in animal husbandry

  • Enos 1:21 - the people of Nephi did...raise...flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses.
  • 3 Nephi 4:4 - During the robbers' seige, the Nephites "reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years"
  • 3 Nephi 6:1 - After the seige, Nephites each take their possessions home, including "horses and cattle"

It is interesting that the horses are often grouped with cattle, and seem to have played a role in the diet (though this may have been under the exigencies of the siege of 3 Nephi.)

Conspicuously absent is any role of the horse in the many journeys recorded in the Book of Mormon. Nor do horses or chariots play any role in the many Nephite wars; this is in stark contrast to the Biblical account, in which the chariots of Egypt, Babylon, and the Philistines are feared super-weapons upon the plains of Israel.

Nor do we see a role for the horse in gallant cavalry charges that were the romantic warrior ideal in Joseph Smith's day. Nor is there any sign of the rapid war of manoeuver and skirmish favored by the cavalry of the western nations. These are not the horses of the nineteenth century's practical realities or fanciful dreams.

There are societies in which the horse was vital, such as among the Hun warriors of Asia and Eastern Europe, for whom horses were a sign of wealth and status, and for whom they were essential for food, clothing, and war. Yet, there is no known horse bone from this period in the archaeologic record.

If the hundreds of thousands of horses owned by the Huns left little or no trace, it may not be surprising that little has been found in the Americas, given that the Book of Mormon's role for horses is minimal. Ironically, there is more evidence of horses among the Mesoamericans than among the Huns!

Besides, "everyone knows" there were no horses in the Americas before Columbus. Joseph Smith would have understood this common belief. If he was trying to perpetuate a fraud, why include an element that nearly everyone would have heard about, especially when it plays such a small role in the book? [6. Footnotes silently removed.]


Steel/ 1 Ne. 4:9/ The Jews did not have steel at that time.


Again, Slick is simply wrong. Evidence shows that steel swords were being made as early as the 10th century BCE in the ancient Near East. Furthermore, the "steel" mentioned in the Book of Mormon is most assuredly not modern steel (which was not invented until the 1850's) but is consistent with the ancient usage of the word[7].


Salvation/ 2 Ne. 25:23/ Salvation by works.


Slick reads this verse in the Book of Mormon (which talks of being saved by grace "after all we can do") as promoting salvation via works. As a fundamentalist Protestant this is nothing short of heresy for Slick. However, as has been demonstrated by Jeff Lindsay[9], plenty of Scriptural texts point to works being a vital role in our salvation. The Lord reminds us, for example, that not everyone who simply cries "Lord, Lord"[10] will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who "do the will of my Father" (Matt. 7:21). However, does this mean that we therefore can disregard the Atonement of Christ and his Grace? Absolutely not! The Book of Mormon is emphatic in its declaration that all men will be saved by the Atoning power of Christ. However, that does not mean that we can simply "confess Jesus" and expect to be saved willy-nilly. We must strive to keep the commandments of the Lord and follow His example that he has set for us in order to access the Atonement of Christ. 


Silk/ Alma 4:6/ The Jews didn't have silk at that time.


John Sorenson, in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon[11] and elsewhere has dealt with the issue of silk in the Book of Mormon. He shows evidence that ancient Mesoamerican cultures had fibrous materials that could qualify as silk. Again, we need not assume that the silk in the Book of Mormon is referring to Chinese silk that we modern readers are familiar with. Again, we turn to FAIR:

The production of Old World "silk" requires both silkworms and the mulberry trees upon whose leaves they feed, which critics have charged is impossible.

However, there are several examples of silk or silk-like fabric in pre-Columbian America:

  • wild silkworms do exist, and some commentators insisted that the Amerindians spun and wove it from their coccoons
  • hair from rabbit bellies was also spun into a cloth dubbed "silk" by the Spanish conquerors
  • floss from the ceiba (silk-cotton) tree was made into a "soft delicate cloth," kapok.
  • fibres from the wild pineable were also prized for their ability to be woven into a fine, durable fabric
  • cotton cloth in Mexico from A.D. 400 is "even, very fine, and gossamer-thin." [12]


Sufficiently Humble/ Alma 5:27/ How do you become sufficiently humble?



This is a gross misrepresentation of Alma's words and demonstrates that Slick is not only sloppy but also highly disingenuous with the Book of Mormon text. In that verse, the one which, it should be noted, Slick even posted on his webpage, so he cannot claim ignorance, it is clear that Alma is rhetorically asking how one can be sufficiently humble without the Atonement of Christ. The verse reads:

Have ye walked, keeping yourself blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? (Emphasis added.)

It is clear that Alma is asking this rhetorically because all throughout Alma 5 he asks a series of other rhetorical questions meant to call out the reader and put them on the spot. It is intended to show that without the Atonement of Christ we couldn't stand before God and seriously expect to escape judgement. After all, for example, how could we say that we have been sufficiently humble to God without the Atonement of Christ? 


Two Churches/ 1 Ne. 14:10/ If non-Mormon church is the church of Satan, why is Mormonism trying to appear like it?


This is a strange question. What does Slick mean by this? Is he suggesting that the Church of Jesus Christ is trying to become more mainstream? Is he suggesting that Mormons are trying to appear more "Christian"[13]? Until Slick clarifies his statement, this remains an anomaly that I cannot answer.

Conclusion

Not content with that list alone, Slick then again provides another list that shows supposed contradictions with the Book of Mormon and other Latter-day Saint teachings. I have also dealt with this list in parts 1 and 2 of this series.

Thus we see that Slick's list of Book of Mormon problems does not hold up under close scrutiny. Not only is he ignorant of the most recent scholarship that contradict his claims with regard to steel, scimitars, silk, horses, elephants and honey bees but he also is irresponsible when dealing with the Book of Mormon text on issues such as salvation, the birthplace of Jesus and Alma's discourses. Until Slick cleans up his scholarship, we must therefore dismiss his exegesis and analysis of the Book of Mormon as nothing more than pedantic and shallow polemics.


*** End of Part 4 ***


[1]: For example, Slick claims that the Book of Mormon covers a period of 600 BC to 400 AD. In reality, the Book of Ether provides a chronology much earlier than 600BC. Slick also claims that the Book of Mormon describes "some Jews" escaping Jerusalem. While it is true that the Mulekites would have been Jewish, Nephi and his family most certainly were not. The Book of Mormon records that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh (Alma 10:3, 1 Ne. 5:14) and that Ishmael was an Ephraimite (JD 23:184).

[2]: On scimitars in the Book of Mormon, see Paul Y. Hoskisson "Scimitars, Cimeters! We Have Scimitars! Do We Need Another Cimeter?" and William J. Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill "Notes on the Cimeter (Scimitar) in the Book of Mormon" in Warfare in the Book of Mormon (FARMS, 1990) pages 352-359 and 360-364 respectively. Also see "Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon" and "Mesoamerican "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon" by Matt Roper. (See links here and here)

[3]: When dealing with plants and animals in the Book of Mormon, we must be careful not to read our modern presumptions or paradigms into the text. For example, when the Book of Mormon authors describe certain plants or animals, we must remember that the ancient peoples practiced what is called loan shifting, or, in other words, using a familiar name and applying it to an unfamiliar item (such as an animal or object). For example, the hippopotamus in Greek means "water horse" because when the Greeks first discovered the creature they had no other way of describing it. Thus, when the Nephites describe horses or elephants, we need to consider the possibility that they were using a familiar name and applying it to an unfamiliar creature (such as a deer or a tapir in the case of the horse or mammoths in the case of the elephant). We also need to remember that the Book of Mormon is a translation, which would also allow the possibility of Joseph Smith using a familiar word (like horse) to describe the original word in reformed Egyptian in his translation. 

[4]: See: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Animals#Elephant

[5]: See: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Animals#Bees

[6]: See: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Animals#Horse

[7]: See William J. Hamblin in "Steel in the Book of Mormon" (link here) and "On Nephi's Steel Bow" by Kevin Barney (link here). Also see "Ancient Steel Sword Unearthed" by Gordon C. Thomasson (link here).

[8]: Daniel C. Peterson "On Alma 7:10 and the Birthplace of Jesus Christ" (link here). Also see the offering by FAIR (link here).

[9]: See his website on Grace vs. Works (link here).

[10]: This would seem to contradict the Evangelical position that all one must do to be saved is confess the name of Jesus. Notice how the Lord specifically says that it is not enough to simply say "Lord, Lord" as Protestant theologians would have us think.

[11]: John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (FARMS, 1995) pg. 232

[12]:http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Plants#Silk

[13]: Which, of course, would be absurd considering the fact that, despite the protest from the likes of Slick, Latter-day Saints are Christians.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon

In the past, I have posted some discussions on some of the names in the Book of Mormon and evidence for ancient Hebrew and Egyptian origins of these names. A new and excellent resource now on the web is the following by John A. Tvedtnes*, who presented this information to the Thirteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies in 2001 in Jerusalem.

Not only should this give members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints some better appreciation for the Book of Mormon as an ancient Near Eastern document, but it also should give the critics of the Book of Mormon pause. How could Joseph Smith, an unlearned farm boy with no training in biblical Hebrew or exegesis, have gotten lucky so many times with the names in the Book of Mormon? The presence of Hebrew names in the Book of Mormon is further evidence of the book's ancient origin and divine authenticity.

Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon by John A. Tvedtnes.

* Pronounced Ta-wet-ness.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sharing the Book of Mormon

I've been experimenting with different ways of more effectively sharing the Book of Mormon with friends and acquaintances as well as complete strangers I sometimes meet in various settings. Here are a couple of ways that I've found to be effective, if not at least personally satisfying, in carrying out my goal to help flood the earth with the Book of Mormon.

Paste a typewritten welcome message into the book's front cover. This helps me when I'm in a mad dash to go on a trip somewhere and I want to share a Book of Mormon with someone, but a) I don't know who it will be and b) I don't have much time to thoughtfully write something by hand in the cover. You can download a copy of what I've done and use it as well. To add the personal touch, I sign my name on the bottom and write a note or two.

The other cool thing about doing it this way is that the recipient can fold the insert over to act as a "persistent page". It's a great study aid because you don't have to juggle a piece of paper and the book to look things up. It's all one unit. The study page stays put while you flip through the scripture references.

Leave behind "business cards". These are printed on my home inkjet printer on both sides of regular or cardstock paper. I then cut them out using an inexpensive paper cutter. They're meant to get people interested in the concept of the Book of Mormon when I only have a few moments, say, in an elevator or on the train, after having had a conversation that references a gospel theme. The back of the card has the Web addresses for
in case a person becomes interested enough to explore further. I also put the card in 3 Nephi 11 so that a book recipient can naturally turn to the focal point of the Book of Mormon...when Jesus Christ visited the American continent.

Here are pictures of the final result once you paste the insert into the front cover (minus my signature) and use the card as a bookmark.

Insert in front cover

Full layout of insert and card

Let us know how these ideas work for you (or don't) and what can be improved.

And, if you're visiting this site as a result of receiving a book and/or card, please let us know if you found them helpful in discovering the Book of Mormon. We'd love to hear from you!

YouTube - 3 Nephi 11

In the "related videos" section of the video Steve just posted, I found this beautifully done piece. This one is a reading of 3 Nephi 11 with a similar artistic treatment. I find it very inspirational to see artists' renderings of what Christ's visit to the America's might have been like.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Inspiring Video on the Book of Mormon

I came across this video on Youtube and found it very inspirational. I think it is only appropriate to post it on this blog.



Along with the comments left by the poster:

The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, contains a record of God's dealings with a part of the House of Israel. It contains prophecies of Christ and also reveals how Christ, after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, later ministered to those who had waited for him in the New World. The Book of Mormon was anciently abridged by a prophet named Mormon and was engraved on gold plates, to preserve the sacred writing for a future time. Joseph Smith received the divine commission to translate the gold plates through the power of God. The translation was published in 1830 as a volume of scripture, a sacred record.

If Joseph Smith were a fraud, the Book of Mormon would be a ridiculous forgery, a silly 500-page witness to the stupidity of the unlearned Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is offered as the most tangible and easiest test of the mission of Joseph Smith: he was either a forger or a con-man of the worst degree, or a prophet of God. There is no middle ground. The Church has no foundation at all if the Book of Mormon is anything other than an authentic ancient document and the word of God. So how does the Church and its membership view the Book of Mormon after 165 years of critical examination? Do we apologize for it, speak of it as metaphorical, ignore it as an embarrassment? No. More boldly than ever, we invite the world to put it to the test - to examine it, to dig into it, to treat it seriously. We solemnly proclaim that it is the word of God, that it can and should be held up for meticulous inspection - linguistically, historically, culturally, theologically, anthropologically, etc., but most importantly, through the power of prayer and inspiration from God as the ultimate test of its veracity. It is because of my personal knowledge that the Book of Mormon is true that I am a member of this Church. If that book is true, then so is the Bible, then so was the claimed restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith, then so is the principle of restored priesthood authority and of modern, living prophets. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

Many people today scream: But we already have a Bible! We don't need anymore scripture! But didn't God say that we should live by every word that proceeds from His mouth (Matt.4:4, Deut. 8:3)? If He has spoken more - and yet speaks more - that He wants us to know, should we not receive it with gratitude rather than stopping our ears?

How can you know if The Book of Mormon is true? By reading it sincerely and asking the Lord in prayer if it is true. Near the end of the Book of Mormon, the final writer, Moroni, said that if the sincere reader would ponder the things in the book and ask God in the name of Christ if it is true, that God would manifest the truth of it through the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:3-5). Read, ponder, and pray - find out for yourself. Certainly the power of the mind must be used - that's what is meant by ponder. Compare it to the Bible, ask yourself if any man could have written what is in the book, and think about what the writings really mean. Then pray, seeking understanding through the power of God. We invite all people everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.

"The Book of Mormon is true, just what it purports to be, and for this testimony I expect to give an account in the Day of Judgment." (Encyclopedia, 86-87) - Joseph Smith, Jr.

"I did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God and it is before the world; and all the powers of earth and hell cannot rob me of it." (Encyclopedia, 92) - Joseph Smith, Jr.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Response to Matt Slick or Steve Smoot's Excellent Adventure in Anti-Mormon Zombie Hell (Pt. 3)

"Through all of these years critics have tried to explain [the Book of Mormon]. They have spoken against it. They have ridiculed it. But it has outlived them all, and its influence today is greater than at any time in its history."





A double standard is a logical fallacy in which one subjects one's opponent to a standard that one is unwilling to subject to oneself. In other words, one is not being fair and balanced in how one evaluates the arguments of one's opponent when compared to how one allows another to evalute his or her own argument.





Matt Slick, in his treatment on textual variations in the Book of Mormon editions and manuscripts, employs a double standard that is both glaring and unfortunate. He, out of either "stunning ignorance or appalling cynicism[1]" has demonstrated that, when forced to, some anti-Mormons are not below employing double standards to fight against the Church of Jesus Christ.





On his website, Slick warmly endorses the Chicago Statement on biblical Inerrancy[2]. This statement, drafted in 1978, details the modern popular view of Scrpitural inerrancy amongst Evangelical Christians. Slick himself passionatly writes that "recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture [read: inerrancy] is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.[3]"





Thus, when Slick turns his cross hairs on the Book of Mormon, one would expect him to apply the same standard he employed for the Bible, right? Unfortunatly, to expect such is asking too much of Mr. Slick.





In his obtuse article "Some of the Many Changes in the Book of Mormon[4]", Slick again recounts the quote from Joseph Smith wherein the Prophet described the Book of Mormon as "the most correct book". Shortly thereafter, Slick reminds the reader that "allegedly it [the Book of Mormon] was translated by the power of God." Then, the bombshell:





Nevertheless, it has some 4,000 changes in it.




What?! Can he be serious! 4,000[5]? That sure is a high number! How can it be?




If that is not enough for the Latter-day Saints, Slick then asks two more questions that are sure to give the Saints some headaches:




Why is this so if the book of Mormon was translated accurately by the hand of God?


Why would the Mormon Church continue to change the work even after Joseph Smith's death?




After these two questions, Slick, in his usual form, provides a handy chart which compares a "very small sample of the changes in the Book of Mormon" and informs his audience that "some are mere spelling corrections, but others are significant changes." Some are mere spelling corrections? Royal Skousen has noted that the majority of the variations in the Book of Mormon are "mere spelling corrections" or grammar and punctuation corrections[6]. He concludes that "errors have crept into the text but no errors significantly interfere with either the message of the book or its doctrine. These textual errors have never prevented readers of the book from receiving their own personal witness of its truth--every sincere reader.[7]"


Thus we see first hand the disingenuous way in which Slick presents his information on the textual variations in the Book of Mormon. He leads his reader away with a red herring by making it seem that only "some" of the variations in the Book of Mormon are simply "spelling corrections". Furthermore, he also tries to make it seem like the majority of the textual changes in the Book of Mormon are of doctrinal import. However, just the opposite is the case. The vast majority of changes in the Book of Mormon are of minor importance (i.e. spelling, punctuating, grammar, etc.) while very few deal with doctrine[8].


But how is Slick pointing out the changes in the Book of Mormon employing a double standard? Remember that Slick is a firm disciple of biblical inerrancy. For him, therefore, to attack the Book of Mormon based on textual changes while simutaniously ignoring the fact that the New Testament alone has had, according to some textual critics, "literally hundreds of thousands"[9] of textual changes is a glarring double standard[10].


Therefore, unless he abandons his views of biblical inerrancy, Slick cannot attack the Book of Mormon based on textual variations because the Bible has had similar changes[11]. Furthermore, he cannot ask pedantic questions or make desperate comments like the following (Slick's comments are in red, mine are in black):


Why would the Mormon Church continue to change the work even after Joseph Smith's death?

For the same reason that the various sects of Christianity continue to change the Bible even to this day; namely, that 1) as new manuscript evidence becomes available new changes are required to best reflect the original texts and 2) because, as human beings at the time, the men who were charged with preserving both the Bible and the Book of Mormon were subject to making mistakes and corrupting God's word because of their limited ability to preserve writings[12].


Where will the Mormon Church change it next?


What kind of a question is this? Is it intended to reflect some spooky conspiracy that will alienate people more against the Church? Is it a rhetorical question gone horribly wrong? Whatever it is, if Slick wants to find out for himself, he can look at the 2004 Doubleday Edition of the Book of Mormon, published by the Church, which includes new variations based on the textual evidence brought forth by the work of Royal Skousen and others. Or he can go right to the source and look at the works of Royal Skousen himself on this subject[13].

As you can see, the Book of Mormon is a changing document.


Just like the Bible, and all of it's thousands upon thousands of changes through the centuries, right Mr. Slick?

Why is this so if the book of Mormon was translated accurately by the hand of God?

Could we not ask the same thing about the Bible if it is infallible? Why are there so many changes in the text if it is inerrant?

But why is this even an issue? The Book of Mormon never claimed infallibility or inerrancy. As FAIR reminds us, "the authors of the Book of Mormon themselves explained several times that their writing was imperfect, but that the teachings in the book were from God[14]." And as Hugh Nibley so rightly observed:

The second mortal offense of the Book of Mormon was the admission on the title page that this record, translated "by the gift and power of God," might possibly contain mistakes. Mistakes? In a book revealed by the power of God? Another blasphemous conception. Yet Bible scholars accept this proposition [for the Bible] as readily as they do the first...and once the possibility of human errors is conceded, why should the idea of corrected editions of the Book of Mormon be offensive[15]?


Thus, Slick has set up both a double standard and a straw man in his attack on the Book of Mormon based on textual changes. He is attacking a book for changes that never claims infallibility and ignores the fact that a book he holds to be infallible contains many more changes. Until Slick drops any notion of biblical infallibility, he has no authority or ground on which he can attack the Book of Mormon for textual variations.


** End of Part 3 **





[1]: Daniel C. Peterson in Reflections on Secular Anti-Mormonism. While the comment was directed to Evangelical anti-Mormons in general, they apply well to Slick specifically.





[2]: http://www.carm.org/creeds/chicago.htm





[3]: Ibid.





[4]: http://www.carm.org/lds/bom_changes.htm





[5]: Actually, Slick here is being a bit modest. According to Royal Skousen, Professor of Linguistics at Brigham Young University, who has worked on the critical text edition of the Book of Mormon manuscripts for well over 20 years, the number of changes in the Book of Mormon manuscripts is closer to 105,000. See his excellent discussion here.



[6]:See here.



[7]: Ibid. For Skousen's other works, see here.



[8]: Slick brings up the fact that "the Son of" has been added in later editions of the Book of Mormon, which, no doubt, is an attempt to cast doubt on the doctrines of the Book of Mormon. For a response to this charge, see here. Slick also brings up the changing of the name "Benjamin to "Mosiah" in Mosiah 21:28. For a response, see here and here.



[9]: Thomas A. Wayment "The Story of the New Testament" in The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ: From Bethlehem Through the Sermon on the Mount edited by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment (Deseret Book. 2005) page 45. For an excellent treament on the textual development of the New Testament, see Bart D. Ehrman in Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Harper San Francisco. 2005.) See especially page 6, wherein Ehrman comments on how there are more variations in the New Testament than there are words in the New Testament.



[10]: Note that I do not have the intention to "attack" the Bible. I am simply trying to show that Slick is holding a double standard. Also note that, like the Book of Mormon, the majority of the changes in the Bible are small changes to spelling, punctuation, and grammar.



[11]: See the following two essays (here and here) by Professor John Gee of BYU.



[12]: On the subject of errrors in the scriptures, see John Tvedtnes in "The Mistakes of Men: Can the Scriptures be Error-Free?". Found online here.



[13]: See the multi-volumed works of Royal Skousen (editor), in Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University.)

[14]: Found here.

[15]: Hugh Nibley in Since Cumorah (2nd edition. FARMS, 1981) pages. 3-4.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Response to Matt Slick or Steve Smoot's Excellent Adventure in Anti-Mormon Zombie Hell (Pt. 2)

"The whole structure of anti-Mormon scholarship rests on trumped-up evidence."
-Hugh W. Nibley

In the second half of his article "A Quick Look at the Book of Mormon", Matt Slick provides the reader with a handy chart comparing teachings of the Book of Mormon with other Latter-day Saint doctrines. This is not, however, to be mistaken with some attempt to show consistency between the teachings of the Book of Mormon and other LDS beliefs. Instead, Slick tries to show that Mormon doctrine and the Book of Mormon "is not internally consistent and it is self-contradictory." This is a rather bold pronouncement, one that needs to be investigated.
Below are the points made by Slick. They shall be in red while my comments will be in black.

There is only one God
Mosiah 15:1,5; Alma 11:28; 2 Nephi 31:21
Mormonism teaches there are many gods.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 5

First, the scripture references provided by Slick will be posted.

Mosiah 15: 1,5
[1] And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
[5] And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
Brant Gardner, commenting on these verses, writes:

The Nephite understanding was that Jehovah would come to earth as the Messiah. Modern readers read "Jehovah" as the premortal designation for Christ, and, hence, agree with the Nephites[1].

Gardner explains elsewhere that the Nephite understanding of God, in the context of pre-exilic Israel, would have included a belief that YHWH, or Jehovah, as the God of Israel and also one of the 70 Sons of El, would come to atone for the sins of the people[2]. YHWH, however, is not to be confused with El Elyon (God most High) whom, as Margaret Barker has shown, was viewed as a separate deity by the ancient Israelites[3]. Thus, these verses do not compromise the teachings of plurality of gods as later taught by Joseph Smith as the Prophet himself taught that Jehovah and Elohim were two distinct personages, as is recorded in the Book of Mormon.

Alma 11:28 features a discussion between Zeezrom and Amulek in which Zeezrom, who is described as being an "expert in the devices of the devil"(Alma 11:21), tries to catch Amulek in his words by asking if there is a plurality of gods. Amulek, who had previously spoke of only one God, answers that there is one God in verse 29. Slick tries to use this as evidence against the Book of Mormon. However, as has been pointed out by Brant Gardner, it is clear that Amulek answered the way he did in order to avoid getting caught in Zeezrom's trap of catching a contradiction in Amulek's words[4]. Furthermore, notice how the Book of Mormon text capitalizes the "G" in God. While it is true that LDS believe that men and women can become gods - lower case "g" - we reserve worship and faith to God the Father, which is consistent with Amulek's words.

2 Nephi 31:21 reads:
[21] And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

However, once again, we need to look at these verses in the context of ancient pre-exillic Israel. To the ancient Nephites, the oneness of the Godhead would have been in the fact that they are united in their purpose; namely, to atone for the sins of the world and "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

Furthermore, there is some indication that the Book of Mormon teaches that man can become as God. In Alma 18:31 we read of how the righteous shall "become as Gods" if they follow the commandments.

The Trinity is one God
Alma 11:44; Mosiah 15:5; 2 Nephi 31:21
The Trinity is three separate gods.
James Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 35. 1985.

Like with his other proof texts, Slick does not bother to read these verses in context. As should be noticed by the reader, he even repeats the same passages as he did in trying to establish Book of Mormon monotheism. However, Brant Gardner has shown that the ancient Nephite understanding of God is both consistent with the ancient pre-exilic Israelite idea of God and the Modern LDS view as well[5].

God is unchanging
Mormon 9:9,19; Moroni 8:18; Alma 41:8; 3 Nephi 24:6
God is increasing in knowledge.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 120.

Once again, Slick fails to read in context. Mormon 1:9,19 teaches that God is unchanging in that he will always grant miracles unto the children of men. This is consistent with the teachings of Joseph Smith, who taught that God will always give miracles and revelations unto men. Alma 41:8 teaches that the "decrees" of God are unalterable and says nothing of God himself not changing. 3 Nephi 24:6 and Moroni 8:18 teach that God is unchanging, but they need not mean in knowledge or power. The Book of Abraham teaches that all intelligence is eternal and that the spirits of men (including God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ) are equally unchanging (Abr. 3:18). The Prophet Joseph Smith in his King Follett discourse taught that:

Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. That is good logic. I want to reason further on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the spirit and body of man--on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement[6].

Thus we see that, as is taught in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham and by the Prophet Joseph Smith, that the reason why God is not changing is because his spirit and intelligence is eternal.

God is spirit
Alma 18:24,28; 22:9,11
God has the form of a man.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 3.

The verses cited in Alma which, according to Slick, demonstrate that God is a spirit read as follows:

Alma 18 -
[24] And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
[25] And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.
[26] And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?
[27] And he said, Yea.
[28] And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

Alma 22 -
[9] And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?
[10] And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?
[11] And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.

The Latter-day Saints fully affirm that God has a spirit. Such is clearly taught in the scriptures both ancient and modern. However, we also believe that God has a physical body. What Slick fails to show his readers (probably on purpose) is that the Book of Mormon teaches this as well.

In the Book of Ether we read of the Brother of Jared who saw the finger of the Lord.

Ether 3 -
[6] And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

Furthermore, Brant Gardner has show that the specific identification of the Lord as a "Great Spirit" was probably to gain an association and connection on the part of Ammon between Lamoni who, as a Lamanite, would have been worshipping a pagan god. This is similar to Paul or the other early Christian apologists who associated Christ with various pagan gods in an attempt to make a connection with others and thus have a better chance of contextualzing the Gospel for non-members[7].

Eternal hell
Jacob 3:11; 6:10; 2 Nephi 19:16; 28:21-23.
Hell is not eternal.
James Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 55.

First, none of the verses cited by Slick speak of an "eternal hell". 2 Ne. 28:23 does speak of hell as "endless torment" but, when read in light of D&C 19: 10, we find out that the phrase "endless torment" is a rhetorical usage that emphasizes God's judgment of the wicked.

Furthermore, The Nephite concept of hell has been explored by John Tvedtnes and David Bokovoy in their book Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and Hebrew Bible. In this is volume, they write that the Hebrew word "Sheol" - which is the equivilant of the English word "Hell" - is not a place of damnation, but is rather the dwelling place of spirits after death[8].

This is in strict accord with modern LDS teachings which speak of the spirit world (Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison, respectively) that the spirits of all men and women will enter into upon death until the resurrection.

Polygamy condemned
Jacob 1:15; 2:23,24,27,31;3:5; Mosiah 11:2,4; Ether 10:5,7
Polygamy was taught and practiced.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266

Again, we turn to Brant Gardner. He has convincingly shown that the Nephites did not condemn polygamy per se, but instead condemned the pratice of plural marriage in the context of using this system to get personal wealth or power. In ancient Mesoamerica, the most likely place were the Book of Mormon events took place, social statues was exalted by not only material goods but also by how many wives men had. Notice that Jacob (and the other Nephite prophets) condemns both of these practices together in conjunction in these verses. This shows that while, as is indicated by Jacob, polygamy is acceptable if commanded by the Lord to raise up seed under the covenant[9], the practice of polygamy for personal gain is not acceptable[10].

After this impressive laundry list of items of supposed contradictions, Slick then asks:

If the Book of Mormon is the "most correct book of any on earth" (History of the Church, vol. 4:461), then why does it not contain essential Mormon doctrines such as...
1. Church organization
2. Plurality of Gods
3. Plurality of wives doctrine
4. Word of Wisdom
5. God is an exalted man
6. Celestial marriage
7. Men may become Gods
8. Three degrees of glory
9. Baptism for the dead
10. Eternal progression
11. The Aaronic Priesthood
12. Temple works of washings, anointing, endowmants, sealing.

First, it must be understood that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring men unto the fulness of the Gospel of Christ and Salvation. The fulness of the Gospel of Christ, however, is different then those doctrines required for exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. The fulness of the Gospel of Christ is a 6 step program that is intended not for exaltation, but simply salvation in the Celestial Kingdom - one of the lower two degrees in the Celestial Kingdom - in and of itself. These six steps include:
  1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins
  4. The Laying on the Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost
  5. The doctrine of the Resurrection
  6. The doctrine of Eternal Judgment.[11]
The other doctrines selected by Slick, while being important for exaltation or becoming like god, do not have to do with the fulness of Christ' Gospel. This is why there is no explicit mention of some of these other items listed in the Book of Mormon; because they do not have to do with the fulness of Christ' Gospel.

However, some of the items listed by Slick are mentioned in the Book of Mormon, as we shall see. Once again, Slick's comments are in red and mine in black.

Plurality of Gods
Alma 12:31 speaks of men who shall "become as Gods".

Plurality of Wives
Jacob 2:30 teaches that the Lord will command polygamy if he desires to "raise up seed unto me".

Men may become Gods
See Alma 12:31 again. Furthermore, 3 Ne. 27:27 has an admonition by the Savior to his 12 Nephite disciples to be "even as I am" [i.e. deified beings or gods].

Temple Works
A fascinating article on the Temple in the Book of Mormon, including the rituals therein, has been discussed by Thomas R. Valletta in the book The Temple in Time and Eternity. In this volume, Valletta explores the temple and shows evidence for a Nephite understanding of the Endowment ceremony[12].

After yet another list, Slick then concludes that "essential Mormon doctrines aren't even found" in the Book of Mormon. However, one has to ask what doctrines aren't found. As has been said earlier, the purpose of the Book of Mormon was to proclaim the fulness of the Gospel of Christ.

This Gospel, however, is not to be mistaken for other doctrines that, while important, nay, essential for exaltation, are not required for salvation.

Slick, true to form, then ends his article with a giant logical fallacy. He declares that the reason these doctrines are not found in the Book of Mormon is because "the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a fictional account made up by Joseph Smith."

This is a massive non sequitor. The logic simply does not follow. Just because certain doctrinal concepts later introducted by Joseph Smith are not found in the Book of Mormon, that does not mean that the Book of Mormon events are fictional. How on earth does the fact that the because the Book of Mormon does not teach baptisms for the dead that therefore means that an ancient American named Mormon could not have written it? How is it that because the Book of Mormon is silent on issues like God once being a mortal that therefore means that there was never a battle at Cumorah or a city called Zarahemla? The historical aspects of the Book of Mormon are to be judged based on historical criteria such as archaeological and/or anthrological evidence, not theological evidence.

That being said, Slick in another essay does devote some attention to the historical aspects of the Book of Mormon, which we shall explore next time.
**End of Part 2**

[1]: Brant Gardner in Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Greg Kofford Books. 2007. 6 volumes.) volume 3 pages 299-300. Henceforth this title shall be abbreviated SW followed by the volume and page number
[2]: See Gardner in Monotheism, Messiah, and Mormon's Book presented at the 2003 FAIR Conference. Link here.
[3]: See Margaret Barker The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God (Westminster John Knoxs Press. 1992.) For a discussion of the early Israelite understanding of monotheism and polytheism, see Mark Smith in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Ploytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (Oxford University Press. 2001.)
[4]: SW 4:187
[5]: Aside from Gardner's excellent article referenced in note 2, also see his Excursus: The Nephite Understanding of God in SW 1:214-222. For an excellent rebuttal to the claim that the Book of Mormon reflects modalism, see David Paulsen in the FARMS Review (13/2). Found here.
[6]: Found online here.
[7]: SW 4: 281-283, 331
[8]: John Tvedtnes and David Bokovoy in Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and Hebrew Bible (Heritage Press. 2003.) pg. 81.
[9]: SW 2: 483-499
[10]: Ibid. Also see Jacob 2:30
[11]: 3 Ne. 11:31-39 and 27:13-21 outline the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. The JST translation of Hebrews 6:1-3 also provides these six points as the "principles" of the Gospel of Christ. And, finally, in a discourse delivered 27 June 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith further elaborated on these principles and other items. See Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook in The Words of Joseph Smith (Religious Studies Center. 1980.) pgs. 3-6.
[12]: See "Conflicting Orders: Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah" in The Temple in Time and Eternity (FARMS. 1999.) pgs. 183-231. Found online here. Also worth reading is John W. Welch "The Temple in the Book of Mormon: The Temples at the Cities of Nephi, Zarahemla and Bountiful" in Temples of the Ancient World (FARMS. 1994.) pgs. 297-387.