Monday, June 23, 2008

Mormon Mythbuster: Mormons do not believe in nor do they read the Bible!

Not true.

On, the Church's principal means of disseminating doctrine on the Web, these are the statistics for Google searches related to the Bible:

"bible" = about 12,100 mentions
"New Testament" = about 9,710 mentions
"Old Testament" = about 12,000 mentions

Together, the total is over 33,800. And that is just for those three sets of keywords. There are many more keywords that appear in the Bible itself that we could analyze, but this is a sufficiently convincing example.

Okay, so we mention the Bible on our web site. But what do we say about it? Do we actually believe it to be true, or are we just mentioning it as a criticism of it?

See for yourself. These search results from (which appear to be more limited as compared to the Google numbers) list all articles in all publications by the Church that refer to the keywords "bible", "new testament", and "old testament".

Look at the page-by-page results and read some of the articles to discover what we actually say. What you see here is what we use in all of our Gospel instruction lessons for Sunday School, Young Women's and Young Men's organizations (teens from 12-18), Primary (children under 12), Relief Society (women 18 and over), and Priesthood quorums (males 12 and over). They also include all of our General Conference sessions and firesides, support materials, magazine articles, and other special talks and occasions recorded for posterity.

We read and refer to the Bible. A lot.

Not once will you ever read of any of our leaders denouncing the Bible. The LDS Article of Faith #8 states: "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."

That is, when we weigh how the Bible came to be with how the Book of Mormon came to be, there are obvious differences that must be taken into account as we read, study, ponder, and pray. BUT, we believe both to be the word of God.

Our Bible is the King James Version (KJV). We are told by prophets, who are told by God via revelation, to use that version of the many that exist because it is the most correct of all translations. Joseph Smith was commanded to correct the scribal transmission errors and outright changes that were made, which version we call the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), but because Joseph was unable to complete that version and present it before the Church members for their acceptance before he was martyred, we use the King James Version.

As always, when in doubt, check it out. Ask someone who is a faithful member what they believe. There are always lots of people to tell you otherwise, but you'll really only know both sides when you also ask someone who is an adherent.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Role of the Compass (1 Nephi 18, Part II)

Listen now!
"And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work."
These are the words of Nephi as we return to the events that occurred after he calls Laman and Lemuel and those that heeded them to repentance. The ship they had built was well on its way to the promised land, they had been preserved numerous times in miraculous ways by God's power, yet they had returned to their riotous and rebellious ways of living.

The compass, yet another miracle showing God's power, ceased to point the direction in which they should steer the ship to arrive safely in the promised land. They were now adrift in a storm (see vs. 13) and for four days were not only driven backwards, but were dangerously close to being capsized.

After much lamentation and suffering on the part of the righteous members of the group, Laman and Lemuel finally saw that their actions had contributed to their dire situation and agreed to untie Nephi.

Immediately, the compass began to function again. Nephi prayed for deliverance and the storm abated. The sea calmed and Nephi again directed the ship toward the promised land using the direction given by the compass.

We should pause to note here how the compass was a physical reminder to them, much like manna was to the children of Israel, of the absolute necessity of relying on the guidance of the Spirit at all times and in all places. In order for us to hear the promptings of the Spirit in our hearts, we have to be living in such a way that we can recognize those promptings. The Lord provided the compass as a way to create a more recognizable dependency to show how lost they would be without Him.

Note that Nephi and Lehi seem to have gotten along just fine without the compass directing their every move. Numerous times we read of both Lehi and Nephi listening to the Spirit and responding to it and the compass is not mentioned as part of those experiences. They both had visions and angelic visits that seem to be separate from the experience of using the compass for guidance.

The compass, then, seems to have been prepared for the members of the family who were less inclined to listen to the Spirit. More importantly, it shows that the Lord did not forsake them for this, but made every effort to include them in the migration to the promised land so they could participate in the blessings found there for themselves and their posterity. He could have left them behind in Jerusalem to perish, yet did everything possible to give them the benefit of their own doubts so they could share in the same blessings as those who were inclined to listen to the Spirit.

God's plan was greater than Laman and Lemuel's disobedience.

Likewise, God's plan for us is greater than our individual disobedience. The Book of Mormon and other holy scriptures are modern-day compasses to guide us in these latter days. If we heed them, we will be blessed and guided. If we reject them, we will reap certain consequences, but God will still endeavor to bring us back to Him through adversity.

As soon as they arrive in the promised land, they begin to plant seeds that they had brought with them. Whether they were commanded to bring seeds or whether it seemed like a good idea when confronted with the unknowns of a new land is not noted in the Book of Mormon. But we do see that the Jaredites (see the Book of Ether), who came to the Americas at the time of the Tower of Babel many centuries before Lehi's group, also brought seeds with them. Therefore, it stands to reason that they were commanded of the Lord to do so for some purpose not stated.

Nephi's record shows that many animals were found in the promised land. The latest research into what animals existed in the Americas near 600 B.C. will be the subject of another post.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Authentic Egyptian Names in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon claims a close tie to all things Egyptian (1 Nephi 1:1-2, Mosiah 1:2-4). Indeed, the very script that Mormon used in abridging the plates was, according to him, an Egyptian script called amongst the Nephite scribes "reformed Egyptian" (Mormon 9:32). Because of this, and considering that 1) Lehi was a descendant of Joseph of Egypt (1 Nephi 5:14) and 2) Egypt had a strong cultural and religious connection with Israel during Lehi's time, we should not be surprised to find strong Egyptian influences amongst the peoples of the Book of Mormon.

One such influence can be seen in the names of several people in the Book of Mormon. These names, as have been noted by Latter-day Saint scholars, are authentic ancient Egyptian names. The following comes from Dr. Hugh Nibley's classic work Lehi in the Desert (pages 25-30) and can be accessed online on the website of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.

Aha (BM), son of Nephite commander in chief.
Aha (OW), a name of the first Pharaoh; it means "warrior" and is a common word.

Aminadab (BM), Nephite missionary in time of the judges.
Amanathabi (OW), chief of a Canaanite city under Egyptian domination. The name is "reformed" Egyptian.

Ammon (BM), the commonest name in the Book of Mormon.
Ammon (Amon, Amun) (OW), the commonest name in the Egyptian Empire: the great universal God of the Empire.

Ammoni-hah (BM), name of a country and city.
Ammuni-ra (OW), prince of Beyrut under Egyptian rule.

Cezoram (BM), Nephite chief judge.
Chiziri (OW), Egyptian governor of a Syrian city.

Giddonah (BM), a) high priest who judge Korihor, b) father of Amulek.
Dji-dw-na (OW), the Egyptian name for Sidon.

Gidgiddoni and Gidgiddonah (BM), Nephite generals.
Djed-djhwt-iw-f and Djed-djhwti-iw-s plus ankh (OW), Egyptian proper names meaning "Thoth hath said: he shall live," and "Thoth hath said: she shall live," respectively. On this pattern the two Nephite names mean "Thoth hath said I shall live," and "Thoth hath said: we shall live," respectively.

Gimgim-no (BM), city of Gimgim, compare Biblical No-Amon, "City of Amon."
Kenkeme (OW), Egyptian city, cf. Kipkip, seat of the Egyptian dynasty in Nubia.

Hem (BM), brother of the earlier Ammon.
Hem (OW), means "servant," specifically of Ammon, as in the title Hem tp n 'Imn, "chief servant of Ammon" held by the high priest of Thebes.

Helaman (BM), great Nephite prophet.
Her-amon (OW), "in the presence of Amon," as in the Egyptian proper name Heri-i-her-imn. Semitic "l" is always written "r" in Egyptian, which has no "l." Conversely, the Egyptian "r" is often written "l" in Semitic languages.

Himni (BM), a son of King Mosiah.
Hmn (OW), a name of the Egyptian hawk-god, symbol of the emperor.

Korihor (BM), a political agitator who was seized by the people of Ammon.
Kherihor (also written Khurhor, etc.) (OW), great high priest of Ammon who seized the throne of Egypt at Thebes, cir. 1085 B.C.

Manti (BM), the name of a Nephite soldier, a land, a city, and a hill.
Manti (OW), Semitic form of an Egyptian proper name, e.g., Manti-mankhi, a prince in Upper Egypt cir. 650 B.C. It is a late form of Month, god of Hermonthis.

Morianton (BM), the name of a Nephite city and its founder, cf. the Nephite province Moriantum.
Meriaton and Meriamon (OW), names of Egyptian princes, "Beloved of Aton" and "Beloved of Amon" respectively.

Nephi (BM), founder of the Nephite nation.
Nehi, Nehri (OW), famous Egyptian noblemen. Nfy was the name of an Egyptian captain. Since BM insists on "ph," Nephi is closer to Nihpi, original name of the god Pa-nepi, which may even have been Nephi. (Note: I have covered the name "Nephi" in an earlier post. See "Some Notes on the Name Nephi".)

Paanchi (BM), son of Pahoran, Sr., and pretender to the chief-judgeship.
Paanchi (OW), son of Kherihor, a) chief high priest of Amon, b) ruler of the south who conquered all of Egypt and was high priest of Amon at Thebes.

Pahoran (BM), a) great chief judge, b) son of the same.
Pa-her-an (OW), ambassador of Egypt in Palestine, where his name has the "reformed" reading Pahura; in Egyptian as Pa-her-y it means "the Syrian" or Asiatic.

Pacumeni (BM), son of Pahoran.
Pakamen (OW), Egyptian proper name meaning "blind man"; also Pamenches (Gk. Pachomios), commander of the south and high priest of Horus.

Pachus (BM), revolutionary leader and usurper of the throne.
Pa-ks and Pach-qs (OW), Egyptian proper name. Compare Pa-ches-i, "he is praised."

Sam (BM), brother of Nephi.
Sam Tawi (OW), Egyptian "uniter of the lands," title taken by the brother of Nehri upon mounting the throne.

Zemna-ri-hah (BM), robber chief.
Zmn-ha-re (OW), Egyptian proper name: the same elements as the above in different order—a common Egyptian practice.

Zeniff (BM), ruler of Nephite colony.
Znb, Snb (OW), very common elements in Egyptian proper names, cf. Senep-ta.

Zenoch (BM), according to various Nephite writers, an ancient Hebrew prophet.
Zenekh (OW), Egyptian proper name; once a serpent-god.

The reader must remember that in Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Egyptian, vowels do no exist, and thus the more important factor are the consonant roots, which are spot on in the names of these figures in the Book of Mormon and other Egyptian names. Furthermore, the presence of a variation in vowels in these names is, as Nibley notes, "...strong confirmation of their common origin, since names are bound to undergo some change with time and distance, whereas if the resemblance were perfect, we should be forced to attribute it, however fantastic it might seem, to mere coincidence. There must be differences; and what is more, those differences should not be haphazard but display definite tendencies. This brings us to a most impressive aspect of Book of Mormon names."

In summation, the presence of Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon is not only something that should create appreciation on behalf of the reader for the context from whence the Book of Mormon came (i.e. the ancient Near East) but is also strong evidence of its antiquity. Egyptian was not understood in Joseph Smith's antebellum America. Indeed, only a select few scholars in Europe could barely read Egyptian. For Joseph Smith to get any authentic Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon if he were simply writing it is beyond credulity. The presence of Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon can force only one conclusion: that whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was familiar with an ancient Near Eastern background.

For further reading, see the following:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon claims to be a record written by a series of ancient Hebrew prophets to "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." (Book of Mormon Title Page) If this claim were true, there should be evidence that the author(s) of the Book of Mormon was/were familiar with Hebrew poetic and rhetorical structuring.

As it turns out, the Book of Mormon is indeed ripe with many forms of Hebraic poetic rhetorical devices. One example is that of what has been called chiasmus. Chiasmus "is a form of parallelism used as a poetic structure in some ancient writings from the Middle East and Greece". (J. Welch, "Chiasmus in Alma 36," FARMS Working Paper WEL-89a, Foundations for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Provo, Utah, 1989). This form of parallelism is very common in Jewish literature, including the Book of Mormon.

Without a doubt, the leading authority on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is John W. Welch, a scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute who, while on his mission in Germany in the 1960's, discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. (The interesting account of his discovery is in the newest edition of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Professor Welch has written extensively on this issue, so I will not repeat everything that he has already discussed. Nevertheless, these few examples of chiasmus will serve as a good example as to the Hebrew nature of the Book of Mormon.

Mosiah 3:18,19:
(Men will drink damnation to their souls unless)
(a) They HUMBLE themselves

(b) and become as little CHILDREN

(c) believing that salvation is in the ATONING BLOOD OF CHRIST;

(d) for the NATURAL MAN

(e) is an enemy of GOD

(f) and HAS BEEN from the fall of Adam
(f') and WILL BE forever and ever

(e') unless he yieldeth to the HOLY SPIRIT

(d') and putteth off the NATURAL MAN

(c') and becometh a saint through the ATONEMENT OF CHRIST

(b') and becometh as a CHILD

(a') submissive, meek and HUMBLE.

Mosiah 5:10-12:
(a) And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the NAME of Christ

(b) must be CALLED by some other name;

(c) therefore, he findeth himself on the LEFT HAND of God.

(d) And I would that ye should REMEMBER also, that this is the NAME

(e) that I said I should give unto you that never should be BLOTTED out,

(f) except it be through TRANSGRESSION;
(f') therefore, take heed that ye do not TRANSGRESS,

(e') that the name be not BLOTTED OUT of your hearts.

(d') I say unto you, I would that ye should REMEMBER to retain the NAME

(c') written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the LEFT HAND of God,

(b') but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be CALLED,

(a') and also, the NAME by which he shall call you.

Alma 41: 13-14:

O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish--

(a,a) GOOD for that which is GOOD;
(b,b) RIGHTEOUS for that which is RIGHTEOUS;
(c,c) JUST for that which is JUST;
(d,d) MERCIFUL for that which is MERCIFUL.

(d')Therefore, my son, see that you are MERCIFUL unto your brethren;
(c') deal JUSTLY,
(b') judge RIGHTEOUSLY,
(a') and do GOOD continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward;

(d'') yea, ye shall have MERCY restored unto you again;
(c'') ye shall have JUSTICE restored unto you again;
(b'') ye shall have a RIGHTEOUS judgment restored unto you again;
(a'') and ye shall have GOOD rewarded unto you again.

But these are not all the examples of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. Entire sections, such as Alma's discourse to his son, seem to have been edited by Mormon in such a way that they, for added emphasis, are structured chiastically. (See bottom page).

These interesting Hebraic elements in the Book of Mormon are strong evidence that the book was written by someone familiar with ancient Hebrew rhetorical and poetic strategies. Considering that Joseph Smith did not study Hebrew until 5 years after the Book of Mormon, this further makes him an unlikely author of the text.

Note: This has been but a very short introduction to this issue. The reader, therefore, is encouraged to follow up by reading the following.

This website gives a good introduction to the issue with an excellent bibliography for further research.

Also see:

From Alma's discourse:

(a) My son, give ear to my WORDS (1)
(d) in REMEMBERING THE CAPTIVITY of our fathers (2);
(e) for they were in BONDAGE (2)
(f) he surely did DELIVER them (2)
(g) TRUST in God (3)
(h) supported in their TRIALS, and TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (3)
(i) shall be lifted up at the LAST DAY (3)
(j) I KNOW this not of myself but of GOD (4)
(k) BORN OF GOD (5)
(l) I sought to destroy the church of God (6-9)
(m) MY LIMBS were paralyzed (10)
(n) Fear of being in the PRESENCE OF GOD (14-15)
(o) PAINS of a damned soul (16)
(q) I remembered JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD (17)
(q') I cried, JESUS, SON OF GOD (18)
(o') Joy as exceeding as was the PAIN (20)
(n') Long to be in the PRESENCE OF GOD (22)
(m') My LIMBS received their strength again (23)
(l') I labored to bring souls to repentance (24)
(k') BORN OF GOD (26)
(j') Therefore MY KNOWLEDGE IS OF GOD (26)
(h') Supported under TRIALS, TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (27)
(g') TRUST in him (27)
(f') He will deliver me (27)
(e') As God brought our fathers out of BONDAGE and captivity (28-29)
(c') KNOW AS I DO KNOW (30)
(a') This is according to his WORD (30).

Book: Ancient Americans: Rewriting the History of the New World

Book of Mormon scholarship under the prominent LDS researchers today has been the mainstay of arguments for a different understanding of pre-Columbian populations in the Americas. At a certain point in recent history, that began to change as new publications, often independently authored, brought to light other theories and evidences that have the potential to change the consensus of typical American Indian studies.

One of those publications is "Ancient Americans: Rewriting the History of the New World" by Charles C. Mann. Published in 2005, this book outlines an alternative to previously held conclusions about pre-Columbian American civilizations as well as a new way of viewing the events that followed European contact with the Americas.

Mann is not LDS, which makes his work all that more interesting to me. I find it refreshing to see that we are not the only ones who question the status quo when it comes to ancient American research. There is much more to be discovered that will cast new light on our currently held understanding about ancient American civilizations.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Video: LDS Church Growth Through 2007

View now!The LDS Church has grown in leaps and bounds in the last century since it was founded in 1830. Church growth is often highlighted in news stories that treat various topics of Mormonism. Have a look at this updated video that highlights Church growth on a map of the world. The dots on the map correspond to "stakes", units of the Church that roughly correspond to what in the Catholic church would be called a diocese. A stake is made up of several "wards" (equivalent to a parish). Each ward has around 400 individuals and each stake has between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals.

Click an icon to watch the video... View in Quicktime View in Windows Media Player