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Monday, December 7, 2009

A Bible! A Bible!


via The battle for truth in Bible translation
In some ways, the Conservative Bible Project reflects an ancient debate over Scripture. The Bible as it's known today more or less took final shape in the 4th century after hundreds of years of debate over which books were canonical.

The debate flared up again during the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther fruitlessly yearned to cut the Book of James because of its fairly explicit contradiction of his belief that salvation could be attained by faith alone.

"People have always done this with the Bible," said Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. "Virtually everyone in a mainstream Protestant or Roman Catholic church in the United States is reading a doctored version of the Bible."

The idea that the Bible was somehow lowered on a string from heaven and compiled into one book all at once (even across thousands of years) has never made sense to me.

Schlafly's project is distinctive, though, because non-experts collaborate Wiki-style on the Internet to produce their version.

"The best of the public is better than a group of experts," said Schlafly...

Jones says the project is a misguided effort to read contemporary politics back into the text.

"Ironically, there's a long tradition of the liberal twisting of scripture," Jones said. "Scholars have rightly deemed those translations illegitimate, and this conservative Bible is every bit as illegitimate."

Perhaps that is why the following does make sense.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/a_of_f/1/8#8
And this:

THE SECOND BOOK OF NEPHI
CHAPTER 29

Many gentiles shall reject the Book of Mormon—They shall say: We need no more Bible—The Lord speaks to many nations—He will judge the world out of the books thus written. Between 559 and 545 B.C.

1 But behold, there shall be many—at that day when I shall proceed to do a marvelous work among them, that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men, that I may set my hand again the second time to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel;
2 And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;
3 And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.
4 But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
6 Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
14 And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/29/1-14#1
God didn't just create Jews and Christians in the Middle East. He created ALL mankind. He caused the Jews to be scattered into the crowds of the Gentiles. So did He just write those scattered Jews off as "unsaved" just because they had lost access to the scriptures due to their initial disobedience? Is there no balm in Gilead for them as well? Or was it just for people living in and around Jerusalem and in the area of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation?

Did not Christ Himself state "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."?

It just makes sense to me that God saw this coming and so prepared a miraculous second witness (The Book of Mormon) to identify and confirm the lost or twisted truths of the first. I don't think He wanted us to have to take some professors' or the public's word for it as to which translation is correct. Some Christians seem to refuse to believe God is powerful enough to speak again through prophets, though. I just don't understand it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Real, unrehearsed, and genuine...

I'm about to head to Africa for a 2 week trip to help out the orphanage where we are adopting a 6 year old boy. So, to tide you over until I get back and can post more, I thought I'd share this great resource of testimony for those questioning the validity of the Book of Mormon, or for those looking to add a bit of brightness to their day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Elder Holland's Powerful Witness of the Book of Mormon



The 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a lot of wonderful talks by LDS general authorities. In the video above, Elder Holland bears a solemn testimony of the Book of Mormon. I especially love how he quotes 2 Nephi 33:10, which says, in part:
10 ...hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Popol Vuh: The Creation of Man


This is part two (past due...see part one) of a series of posts about the Popol Vuh, which is an oral transmittal of an ancient Mayan codex given by Quiché noblemen in the 16th century. In this post, I am using a readily available translation online for copying and pasting, and to which I will add my own notes. It is similar enough to the translation I was making from the summarized version I obtained in Guatemala and saves me from having to translate from Spanish to English. I will still use the topical dividers (via the blog post title) of my Guatemalan version as a convenience in pointing out similarities between Biblical Old World and Indigenous New World accounts of creation.
For this reason another attempt had to be made to create and make men by the Creator, the Maker, and the Forefathers. "Let us try again! Already dawn draws near:3 Let us make him who shall nourish and sustain us! What shall we do to be invoked, in order to be remembered on earth? We have already tried with our first creations, our first creatures; but we could not make them praise and venerate us. 4 So, then, let us try to make obedient, respectful beings who will nourish and sustain us." Thus they spoke.
This "starting over" can be paralleled with dispensations of the Gospel. When men were wicked, they were destroyed and God started over. It is interesting that this concept is found in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Popol Vuh, along with other pre-Columbian American texts.
Then was the creation and the formation. Of earth, of mud, they made [man's] flesh. But they saw that it was not good. It melted away, it was soft, did not move, had no strength, it fell down, it was limp, it could not move its head, its face fell to one side, its sight was blurred, 5 it could not look behind. At first it spoke, but had no mind. Quickly it soaked in the water and could not stand.

And the Creator and the Maker said: 6 "Let us try again because our creatures will not be able to walk nor multiply. Let us consider this," they said.

Then they broke up and destroyed their work and their creation. And they said: "What shall we do to perfect it, in order that our worshipers, our invokers, will be successful?"
Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon is reminiscent of the maker noted above in that the Lord of the vineyard makes several trials at having a successful crop and harvest. The allegorical devices are very similar to each other.
Thus they spoke when they conferred again: "Let us say again to Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú: 'Cast your lot again. Try to create again.'" In this manner the Creator and the Maker spoke to Xpiyacoc and Xmucané. Then they spoke to those soothsayers, the Grandmother of the day, the Grandmother of the Dawn, 7 as they were called by the Creator and the Maker, and whose names were Xpiyacoc and Xmucané.

And said Huracán, Tepeu, and Gucumatz when they spoke to the soothsayer, to the Maker, who are the diviners: "You must work together and find the means so that man, whom we shall make, man, whom we are going to make, will nourish and sustain us, invoke and remember us.

"Enter, then, into council, grandmother, grandfather, our grandmother, our grandfather, Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, make light, make dawn. have us invoked, have us adored, have us remembered by created man, by made man, by mortal man. 8 Thus be it done.
This mention of a "council" hearkens back to the council in heaven mentioned by Abraham in the Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith translated from Egyptian papyri.

Before you read the next few paragraphs, read Doctrine & Covenants 121:32, Job 38: 7, Alma 13: 3, Abraham 3: 22, Abraham 4: 26, Abraham 5: 2.
"Let your nature be known, Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú, twice-mother, twice-father, 9 Nim-Ac, 10 Nima-Tziís, 11 the master of emeralds, the worker in jewels, the sculptor, the carver, the maker of beautiful plates, the maker of green gourds, the master of resin, the master Toltecat, 12 grandmother of the sun, grandmother of dawn, as you will be called by our works and our creatures.

"Cast the lot with your grains of corn and tzité. 13 Do it thus 14 and we shall know if we are to make, or carve his mouth and eyes out of wood." Thus the diviners were told.

They went down at once to make their divination, and cast their lots with the corn and the tzité. "Fate! Creature!" 15 said an old woman and an old man. And this old man was the one who cast the lots with Tzité, the one called Xpiyacoc. 16 And the old woman was the diviner, the maker, called Chiracán Xmucané. 17

Beginning the divination, they said: "Get together, grasp each other! Speak, that we may hear." They said, "Say if it is well that the wood be got together and that it be carved by the Creator and the Maker, and if this [man of wood] is he who must nourish and sustain us when there is light when it is day!

"Thou, corn; thou, tzité; thou, fate; thou, creature; get together, take each other," they said to the corn, to the tzité, to fate, to the creature. "Come to sacrifice here, Heart of Heaven; do not punish Tepeu and Gucumatz!" 18 Then they talked and spoke the truth: "Your figures of wood shall come out well; they shall speak and talk on earth."

"So may it be," they answered when they spoke.

And instantly the figures were made of wood. They looked like men, talked like men, and populated the surface of the earth.
Now we read about how the Mayan gods became displeased with the outcome of their work. Compare the passages below with Genesis 6 and Genesis 7, and with Moses 8: 18, 26.
They existed and multiplied; they had daughters, they had sons, these wooden figures; but they did not have souls, nor minds, they did not remember their Creator, their Maker; they walked on all fours, aimlessly.

They no longer remembered the Heart of Heaven and therefore they fell out of favor. It was merely a trial, an attempt at man. At first they spoke, but their face was without expression; their feet and hands had no strength; they had no blood, nor substance, 19 nor moisture, nor flesh; their cheeks were dry, their feet and hands were dry, and their flesh was yellow.

Therefore, they no longer thought of their Creator nor their Maker, nor of those who made them and cared for them. 20

These were the first men who existed in great numbers on the face of the earth.

Immediately the wooden figures were annihilated, destroyed, broken up, and killed.

A flood was brought about by the Heart of Heaven; a great flood was formed which fell on the heads of the wooden creatures.

Of tzité the flesh of man was made, but when woman was fashioned by the Creator and the Maker, her flesh was made of rushes. 1 These were the materials the Creator and the Maker wanted to use in making them.

But those that they had made, that they had created, did not think, did not speak with their Creator, their Maker. And for this reason they were killed, they were deluged. A heavy resin fell from the sky. The one called Xecotcovach came and gouged out their eyes; Camalotz came and cut off their heads; Cotzbalam came and devoured their flesh. Tucumbalam 2 came, too, and broke and mangled their bones and their nerves, and ground and crumbled their bones. 3

This was to punish them because they had not thought of their mother, nor their father, the Heart of Heaven, called Huracán. And for this reason the face of the earth was darkened and a black rain began to fall, by day and by night.

Then came the small animals and the large animals, and sticks and stones struck their faces. And all began to speak: their earthen jars, 4 their griddles, 5 their plates, their pots, their grinding stones, 6 all rose up and struck their faces.

"You have done us much harm; you ate us, and now we shall kill you," said their dogs and birds of the barnyard. 7

And the grinding stones said: "We were tormented by you; every day, every day, at night, at dawn, all the time our faces went holi, holi, huqui, huqui, because of you. 8 This was the tribute we paid you. But now that you are no longer men, you shall feel our strength. We shall grind and tear your flesh to pieces," said their grinding stones.

And then their dogs spoke and said: "Why did you give us nothing to eat? You scarcely looked at us, but you chased us and threw us out. You always had a stick 9 ready to strike us while you were eating.

"Thus it was that you treated us. You did not speak to us. Perhaps we shall not kill you now; but why did you not look ahead, why did you not think about yourselves? Now we shall destroy you, now you shall feel the teeth of our mouths; we shall devour you," said the dogs, and then, they destroyed their faces. 10

And at the same time, their griddles and pots spoke: "Pain and suffering you have caused us. Our mouths and our faces were blackened with soot; we were always put on the fire and you burned us as though we felt no pain. Now you shall feel it, we shall burn you," said their pots, and they all destroyed their [the wooden men's] faces. The stones of the hearth, 11 which were heaped together, hurled themselves straight from the fire against their heads causing them pain. 12

The desperate ones [the men of wood] ran as quickly as they could; they wanted to climb to the tops of the houses. And the houses fell down and threw them to the ground; they wanted to climb to the treetops, and the trees cast them far away; they wanted to enter the caverns, and the caverns repelled them. 13

So was the ruin of the men who had been created and formed, the men made to be destroyed and annihilated; the mouths and faces of all of them were mangled.

And it is said that their descendants are the monkeys which now live in the forests; 14 these are all that remain of them because their flesh was made only of wood by the Creator and the Maker.

And therefore the monkey looks like man, and is an example of a generation of men which were created and made but were only wooden figures.
Just as in the Genesis chapters of the Bible, we find that the gods mentioned by the Maya were similarly displeased with the disastrous outcome of their creations.

The tradition of a great flood is found in nearly every ancient culture. A Babylonian account, that of Gilgamesh, closely resembles the record in the Bible, but the biblical account differs from all others, including the Popol Vuh, in its religious value and the purpose of it. The scriptural account teaches that the flood was sent to cleanse the earth because of the wickedness of the people. Noah and his family were saved because they were righteous.

That a great deal of the Popol Vuh parallels quite closely with the scriptural version of the Great Flood is either a bizarre coincidence, or it shows that the people of the Americas who preceded the Spanish Conquest had in their possession, at some point, a knowledge of the Genesis account and made an effort to retell it. In retelling it, and through hundreds, even thousands of years of political and religious upheavals, they likely altered it in certain ways, yet had somehow managed to keep the general theme of that oral tradition intact.

Monday, September 28, 2009

God Be With You Till We Meet Again

As of September 30th, 2009, I will be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Manchester New Hampshire Mission. As such, for obvious reasons, I will not be able to post here for the next two years. However, I fully trust Rob, a bright and capable poster here on American Testament, to take the reins and impart more of his nuggets of wisdom to you our loyal readers.

I will post my farewell address I gave on September 27th, 2009 as a final testimony to all of our readers here at American Testament while I am away. If I am able to, I will post periodic updates about my mission experience on the blog or relay some of my experiences for Rob to post. But we will see what happens when that point arrives. Note also that I did not footnote the sources I quoted since I read aloud this talk.

Enjoy. And may God be with you all till we meet again!

Proclaiming the Message of the Atonement to All the World


Elder Stephen O. Smoot


In honor of my friends Peter Jensen and Jens Haugsoen, who couldnʼt be here today because of various circumstances (Peter is out in Chicago for school and Jens is, unfortunately, down with some health issues) I have to begin my talk thusly;

Websterʼs Dictionary defines the word “trite” as: beginning every single sacrament meeting talk by using Websterʼs Dictionary to define words like “faith” and “love” and “hope”.


But seriously, brothers and Sisters, I am deeply honored for the opportunity to speak here today. As one might expect, I am both excited but also nervous that the time has come for me to speak. I am excited by the prospect of me entering into the mission field, but nervous for a number of reasons, not the least of them being that quite a few of my friends and peers from school are here to see me off.


My remarks today are going to focus on the subject of proclaiming the message of the Atonement throughout the world. As a missionary, one of my key agendas is to do such. Next to proclaiming the key points of the doctrine of Christ and the message of the Restoration by the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith, it will be my obligation and duty to tell the people of New Hampshire of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.


But by what means am I, or any of us for that matter, to do such? How is it we are to proclaim the atonement of the Savior? After much consideration and pondering the scriptures and the words of the Prophets, I think that there are three main components in how to proclaim the message of the Atonement. This is the same method that has been used since the days of the great commission by our Savior to the Apostles and to the Seventy to proclaim the Gospel to all the world, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. These three components to proclaiming the Atonement are:


1.By revelation and prophecy, relying on the testimony from on high.


2.By the execution of the proper priesthood authority and keys.


3.Without hesitation or hinderance to all who have ears to hear. In other words, we

shout it from the rooftops and in all places.


Permit me, brothers and sisters, to explore these three components more in-depth. Before such, however, I find it fitting to quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith in his letter to John Wentworth in what is now our fifth Article of Faith. It states that “we believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof”. This is the great overlying statement on how we are to be effective missionaries to proclaim the Atonement.


Now, to the three components.


First, we are to teach the Atonement by the power of prophecy and revelation. This is foundational in our ability to connect with others and proclaim the Word of God unfettered by human reasoning and speculation. As the Prophet Joseph Smith reminds

us, there is no power in salvation without personal revelation. Why so? Because it is by revelation that we come to know that Jesus is the Christ. Let us recall the account of the Savior and his Apostles at Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16:13-17:


When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying,

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art

John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith

unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art

the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed

art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my

Father which is in heaven.


Notice that Peter didnʼt receive his knowledge by the speculation of philosophizing, but by direct inspiration of heaven. As Hugh Nibley insightfully observed in his monumental work The World and the Prophets, Peter, as well as other Prophets, simply reported their testimony that they gained from on high for the world to either accept or reject. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in the company of many of his brethren, recored his testimony of the Savior in D&C 76:22-24 by the means of a glorious vision:


And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the

testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!For we saw him, even on the

right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten

of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were

created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.


Especially apropos is the account of the commission of Peter and Andrew to become “fishers of men” in Matthew 4:18-20:


And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called

Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.


Notice here what the text doesnʼt say. It doesn't say that Peter and Andrew enrolled in courses of theology, biblical exegesis, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic at the divinity school. They didnʼt first finish their PhDs in philosophy (indeed, they may well have

been illiterate) or wait to get special training. No, the text says that they straightway left their nets and followed him. How audacious for these unlearned and unlettered men to be professing religion to the educated and noble Jewish, and later Gentile, authorities! The Roman and Jewish critics of the Apostles loved nothing more than to mock their

ignorance in philosophy, their lack of sharp rhetorical skills and their humble manners.


But the Lord assured Nephi that it is by the weak and lowly things of the world that the Lord confounds the pridefully learned. The Apostles preached with authority and power even though they lacked the worldly knowledge of the philosophers; so much so that it drove the wise philosophers and pious religious authorities mad. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in his unlettered youth, produced the Book of Mormon, a complex, sober, compelling and impressive record by any standard, in a matter of a few months, which to this day gives the critics of the Church heartburn and consternation.


Thus we see that the Prophets have always taught the message of the atonement and the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the spirit of revelation and the Holy Ghost. And just as they have done so, so we too, as individual members of the Church, are to teach the message of the atonement by revelation and the Spirit. We need not fret over our worldly possessions, status, or knowledge; for if we have the spirit of revelation we will touch the hearts of those who hear our message. That is not to disparage knowledge gained by means other than revelation. Indeed, D&C 88:118 tells us to seek learning by

study and also by faith. However, we should rely primarily on revelation and the spirit in teaching others about the Atonement.

Second, by the execution of the proper priesthood authority and keys are we to teach the central message of the Gospel; the Atonement. When Christ organized his Church, he ordained his disciples under proper priesthood authority to go into the world, teaching and baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19-20). In the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, the Prophet Joseph Smith, shortly before his death, utilizing the keys of the Priesthood restored to him by heavenly messengers, also ordained modern Apostles to do the same. The missionary manual, Preach my Gospel, has this to say on the subject:


Missionaries are to go “in the power of the ordination wherewith [they have] been

ordained, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy, even the everlasting gospel” (D&C 79:1).

You have authority to preach the gospel. If you hold the priesthood, you have the authority

to administer the ordinances thereof. As you prayerfully and worthily exercise that

authority, you will receive spiritual power, which is evidence of the reality of your call.


Do not be afraid or shy about fulfilling this commission. Just as the sons of Mosiah,

you are to teach with the power and authority of God (see Alma 17:2–3). In

addition to authority, you are also to exercise power in your work. The authority

that you have received can lead to power. Indeed, spiritual power is one evidence

that your authority is real. Spiritual power is a gift that makes it possible for you to do your

work more effectively.


This is important, as Preach my Gospel reminds us that:


Your power and authority should be evident as you work and teach. Power may be

manifest in many things you do, such as:


•Being led by the Spirit to say what the Lord would have you say at just the right

moment (see D&C 84:85).

•Receiving guidance about where to go or what to do (see D&C 28:15; 31:11; 75:26–27).

•Having your testimony confirmed by the witness of the Spirit (see 2 Nephi 33:1;

D&C100:5–8).

•Taking part in ordinances of salvation (see D&C 84:19–20).

•Giving priesthood blessings if you are an elder (see James 5:14–15).

•Praying with and for the people you work with(see Alma 6:6; 8:18–22; 10:7–11; 31:26–35;

D&C 75:19).

•Expressing love for the Lord, your family, fellow missionaries, and the people you

serve.


Now, does this mean that unless we have ordained to be missionaries we cannot be such in our individual lives? Of course not! As most of you likely know, President David O. McKay encouraged all members to be missionaries. We teach the Gospel, including the message of the Atonement, to friends, family, co-workers, schoolmates or associates in all of lifeʼs vicissitudes. However, in order to officially represent the Church as a missionary, one must first be ordained to the call by the proper priesthood authority. And finally, number three, we should teach the message of the Atonement without hesitation or hinderance to all who have ears to hear. In other words, we shout it from the rooftops and in all places.


Christ made clear to his apostles and disciples that they should preach the Gospel loudly and for all who can hear. Peter, Stephen and other Apostles did it in the Synagogues and at the Temple; Paul did it on Mars Hill in Athens, in front of kings and governors and in his circulated epistles to Church communities. In the modern Church, great missionaries such as Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff proclaimed the Gospel to large crowds in Europe, who had gathered together to hear the quaint teachings of the Mormons.


Unfortunately, more often than not this created trouble for the Lordʼs ministers. Peter, Stephen and the other Apostles were expelled from the Synagogues and eventually martyred. Paul, who to the Greeks was a “babbler” and “fool”, created a ruckus in many cities because of his preaching, which led to his subsequent imprisonment and lawsuits on multiple occasions. And Presidents Taylor and Woodruff, among other of the Lordʼs modern messengers, received the condemnation of the local ministers and the press, who spewed forth libelous epithets about the Mormons, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors from the pulpit and the evening post.


Notwithstanding, we should not cower or be afraid. Like Paul, we should not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Even though there will be opposition, we should wade through tribulation with patience and faith in

the Lord. As the magisterial hymn “How Firm and Foundation” penned by John Keith in 1787 promises:


When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;

For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.


When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not harm thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.


Or consider the words of my unquestionably favorite LDS poet, Eliza R. Snow, in her poem “Be not Discouraged”:


Though deepening trials throng your way,

Press on, press on, ye Saints of God!

Ere long the resurrection day

Will spread its light and truth abroad.


Though Satan rage, 'tis all in vain;

The words the ancient Prophet spoke,

Sure as the throne of God remain;

Nor man nor devils can revoke.


All glory to his holy name

Who sends his faithful servants forth

To prove the nations, to proclaim

Salvation's tidings through the earth


Let us therefore not be discouraged in the face of our foes or those who mock and belittle. Nephi, in his recital of his Fatherʼs vision of the Tree of Life and the Great and Spacious Building, noted the following in 1 Nephi 8:33:


And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did

enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were

partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.


Even though, as the hymn “As Zionʼs Youth in Latter Days” mentions, the “truths and values we embrace are mocked at every hand”, we should take the council of Nephi and not heed those who mock or scorn as we press forward, feasting on the words of Christ. Thus, we are to proclaim the message of the atonement without reserve or fear, as the Lord will look over all those who are steadfast in his ways. Shout from the rooftops the Atonement of Christ. Fools may mock, cowards may libel, calumny may defame, but the truth of God surely will go forth boldly as we remember the rock of our foundation, Jesus Christ.


Brothers and Sisters, let me again voice how grateful I am for this opportunity to speak. I am both excited and nervous for my mission to New Hampshire, but I am confident that if I strive to live up the standards that the Lord holds for me I will be blessed in the field. I am so grateful for the friendship and love that you have all shown me. To my priesthood and young men leaders, I am grateful for your leadership and example you set for me, and the sacrifices you made to ensure I had an undeniably enjoyable experience in the Young Menʼs Program and Priesthood Quorum. To my dear friends and brethren of the Quorum, thank you for your friendship and kindness. Likewise to all my friends who have come here to support me, thank you for suffering a nerd like me to be in your midst. You truly have been a beacon for me as I have prepared for my mission. To the bishopric and ward, stake leaders who have done so much for the ward and stake, I thank you for your service and example. To my general ward family, my many thanks and gratitude goes to you for making my experience in the Monument Park 16th Ward both edifying and uplifting. And to my family, especially my parents, for your love and never ending support. Moroni taught that charity is the pure love of Christ, and I have never felt Christʼs charity stronger than in the bonds of my family.

In the end, brothers and sisters, I leave you my final testimony before I go. I have a testimony that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God. In the spring of 1820 that young man entered a grove of woods and beheld a marvelous vision of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, ushering in the last dispensation. I have a testimony that 7 years later Joseph Smith received and subsequently translated by the gift and power of God, ancient plates of gold into the Book of Mormon. That record is an authentic ancient text written by inspired Prophets and stands as a second witness of Jesus ChB. H. Roberts so eloquently said on the Churchʼs centennial in 1930:


Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for God hath spoken. The record of Joseph in

the hands of Ephraim, the Book of Mormon, has been revealed and translated by the

power of God, and supplies the world with a new witness for the Christ, and the truth of

the fulness of the Gospel.


And as Elder Roberts said later:


I am convinced that when men of intelligence can be brought to the point of being

sufficiently humble to read again the Book of Mormon, and to take into account the high

purposes for which it was written, and will stop sneering at such human elements that

may be in it, and will examine once more its teachings upon the great theme of salvation

through the atonement of the Christ, they can indeed find wisdom and truth in its

doctrines.


Brothers and sisters, it is my testimony that Joseph Smith the Prophet restored the priesthood of the Lord by ordination under the hands of heavenly messengers. It is my testimony that Joseph Smith restored many plain and precious doctrinal truths lost to the long night of apostasy; that he received a multitude of glorious revelations and translations as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price and elsewhere. In short, I have a testimony that, in the words of President John Taylor in D&C 135:3,


Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for

the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short

space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by

the gift and power of God... has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it

contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and

commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other

wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men... and left a fame

and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and

his people; and like most of the Lordʼs anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission

and his works with his own blood.


I have a testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a modern, living Prophet who has received inspiration from the Lord in leading the Saviorʼs Church. We would do well to hearken unto his counsels and the counsels of the other General Authorities of the church, all of whom I wholeheartedly sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators.


And finally, above all, I testify that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He has performed the grand and infinite atonement that will cleanse our sins and enable us to enter back into the presence of the Father. Only on his name can the children of men come unto salvation. Indeed, we “talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that [we and] our children may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins" (2 Nephi 25:26). I am far from perfect, and will undoubtedly make mistakes in the years to come, but I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who sent His Son to shed his blood that I may repent and call upon Him and His undying mercy. I am deeply honored to be a missionary for the Lord Jesus Christ, and wish that I may walk

the path of the Master as I proclaim the message of his atonement.


In the end, brothers and sisters, I end my testimony with the words of Elder Bruce R.

McConkie:


I believe in Christ; he is my King!

With all my heart to him Iʼll sing;

Iʼll raise my voice in praise and joy,

In grand amens my tongue employ.

I believe in Christ; he is Godʼs Son.

On earth to dwell his soul did come.

He healed the sick; the dead he raised.

Good works were his; his name be praised.


I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!

From him Iʼll gain my fondest dream;

And while I strive through grief and pain,

His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”

I believe in Christ; so come what may,

With him Iʼll stand in that great day

When on this earth he comes again

To rule among the sons of men.


And so it is my testimony to you all, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons



My cousin's wife, Margaret Blair Young, worked with Darius Gray on the documentary film "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons".

The documentary addresses in great detail the various myths and misunderstandings regarding whether the decision to not admit blacks into the priesthood was a matter of policy or doctrine. Did the 1978 revelation on the priesthood come from God or from men? The answers will surprise even most long-time Mormons.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mayan City Pyramid Battles Mirror Book of Mormon Conflicts


These archaeological findings tell a story that are remarkably similar to various events in the Book of Mormon. We'll be sure to keep an eye on what happens with El Mirador. I'm particularly curious about the DNA findings...not so much that I expect there to be any kind of conclusive evidence either way as to the question of whether they are Israelites (already beaten to death), but simply because they found usable/testable DNA on obsidian fragments from 150 AD!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?

From the ever erudite Brant Gardner comes this watershed article on the question of the translation process that Joseph Smith used in translating the Book of Mormon. A MUST read!

http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2009_Joseph_the_Seer.html

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's All Greek To Me! On Greek Words and Names in the Book of Mormon

A standard criticism by anti-Mormons against the Book of Mormon is in regards to the presence of Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon. From Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry to Richard Packham of the Ex-Mormon Foundation, the critics make merry over the fact that there are Greek names such as Timothy and Lanchoneus in the Book of Mormon as well as Greek words like "Church", "Baptism", "Christ" and "Bible". Obviously these are blunders for the ignorant knave Joseph Smith, they inform us, and clear evidence against the Book of Mormon's authenticity.

But are Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon really hazardous to the claims of the Book of Mormon? Let us explore this criticism a little further. As shall be clear by the end of this post, there is no problem with the presence of Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon.

Timothy & Lanchoneus

Hugh Nibley put this silly accusation to bed ages ago.

The occurrence of the names Timothy and Lachoneus in the Book of Mormon is strictly in order, however odd it may seem at first glance. Since the fourteenth century B.C. at latest, Syria and Palestine had been in constant contact with the Aegean world, and since the middle of the seventh century Greek mercenaries and merchants, closely bound to Egyptian interests (the best Egyptian mercenaries were Greeks), swarmed throughout the Near East. Lehi's people...could not have avoided considerable contact with these people in Egypt and especially in Sidon, which Greek poets even in that day were celebrating as the great world center of trade. It is interesting to note in passing that Timothy is an Ionian name, since the Greeks in Palestine were Ionians (hence the Hebrew name for Greeks: "Sons of Javanim"), and—since "Lachoneus" means "a Laconian"—that the oldest Greek traders were Laconians, who had colonies in Cyprus (BM Akish) and of course traded with Palestine.[1]

[R]emember...that in Lehi's day Palestine was swarming with Greeks, important Greeks. Remember, it was Egyptian territory [prior to being seized by Babylon] at that time and Egyptian culture. The Egyptian army, Necho's army, was almost entirely Greek mercenaries. We have inscriptions from that very time up the Nile at Aswan-inscriptions from the mercenaries of the Egyptian army, and they're all in Greek. So Greek was very common, and especially the name Timotheus.[2]

Thus, as explained by Nibley, there was a known Greek influence and presence in the Levant by the time of Lehi. Thus, there is nothing out of order with the presence of Greek names in the Book of Mormon.

Greek Words

But what of the presence of Greek words in the Book of Mormon? Richard Packham quotes Joseph Smith in the Time and Seasons to demonstrate that the presence of Greek words in the Book of Mormon are a problem for the book's claimed historicity:

There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself.[3]

However, this is fallacious reasoning for several reasons. The first and most important thing we must remember is that the Book of Mormon is a translation. Thus, as such, it would be foolish to think that the Greco-English words that appear in the text such as "Christ", "Church", "Bible", etc. were on the original plates. As the Prophet continues to note, the underlying script of the Book of Mormon was "reformed Egyptian" (Mormon 9:32). Accordingly, the script of the Book of Mormon seems to be the usage of Egyptian characters to express and write Hebrew words. Thus, there wasn't any Greek words on the plates but in the translation of the plates. This is an important difference. As Irish biblical scholar Robert Boylan explains,

The Book of Mormon purports to be a translation. Therefore, it stands to reason that the language into which it was translated is not the language from which, according to its very own claims, it was translated. The fact that Joseph Smith used words with a Greek etymology (e.g., “Christ”) does not mean that the word “Christ” was on the very plates of the Book of Mormon. For someone with a long career in languages, Packham really should know better.[4]


This applies as well for the other words in Greek that the critics point to as "problems" for the Book of Mormon. Take the popular target "Christ". The Greek Christos is nothing more or less than the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach. Both are nouns meaning "anointed one" and both carry the connotation of the two English synonyms Christ and Messiah.[5]

"Bible" is from the Greek Biblios, or books, is equivalent to the Hebrew Cepher.

"Church", from the Greek Ekklesia, is comparable to the Hebrew Qahal. Alfred Edersheim explaines:

Nor would the term 'Church' sound strange in Jewish ears. The same Greek word [ecclesia], as the equivalent of the Hebrew Qahal, 'convocation,' 'the called,' occurs in the Septuagint rendering of the Old Testament, and in 'the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach' (Ecclus, 24.2) and was apparently in familiar use at the time.[6]

"Alpha and Omega" is another Greek phrase used in the Book of Mormon that the critics criticize. However, the ever erudite Robert Boylan has once again offered a succinct rebuttal to this accusation:

“Alpha and Omega” in the Book of Mormon is an accepted English expression and we may view it as the best way of conveying the meaning of a certain Nephite expression to English readers. The purpose of a translation is to transmit meanings, not words. “Alpha and Omega” makes more sense and is more recognizable to English readers than the Hebraic equilivant “Alepha and Taw.”[7]


By now it should be obvious the point I am trying to make. The presence of Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon are not harmful to its claims of authenticity. The attestation of Greek influence in Lehi's day has been documented. Further, because the Book of Mormon is a translation, the presence of these Greco-English words can be attributed to Joseph Smith best approximating the words in reformed Egyptian to words that he understood and was familiar with. Those who insist otherwise are either ignorant of how translations work, desperate anti-Mormons, or both.

Notes:

[1]: Hugh Nibley, Collected Works of Hugh Nible volume 5, Lehi in the Deseret/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, eds. John W. Welch, Darrell L. Matthew, Stephen R. Callister (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 31.

[2]: Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993), 1:431. Both of these citations can also be found on the FAIR wiki. Link here. LDS Irish biblical scholar Robert Boylan reminds us that the name "Timothy’s Hebrew equilivant is Heqar’el, meaning God-fearer. However, for transaltion purposes and style, the Prophet used “Timothy” because of the familiarity of the name in our culture." See Robert Boylan, "Linguistics and Mormonism", found online here.

[3]: "Correspondence", Times and Seasons, May 15, 1943, vol. 4, no, 13, 194.

[4]: Boylan, "Linguistics and Mormonism".

[5]: For a general discussion, see the entry under "Messiah" in Dennis L. Largey, ed., The Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 536

[6]: Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson Publ., Peabody, Mass., 1993, pp. 531-532. Found online here.

[7]: Boylan, "Linguistics and Mormonism".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: The Holy Bible & Mormonism

Here is a book review I have written on a book by Christopher Mills entitled The Holy Bible & Mormonism. Feel free to download the PDF and read it, send copies to friends, etc.