Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Touched by the Worldwide Youth Devotional with President Nelson and His Wife

Although it's been several years since I qualified as a youth in the Church, I was still delighted to listen to and read the recent Worldwide Youth Devotional featuring President Russel M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, two of the most youthful old people around. The energy and vitality of that ninety-something President of the Church is remarkable.

In encouraging our young people to become more involved in the greatest work on earth, President Nelson offered 5 suggestions for things they could do now to become and achieve something more. I was quite intrigued by his first recommendation: a seven-day fast from social media. Here I am, struggling with guilt over not doing more with social media, while others suffer from the opposite problem and are entangled in a pseudo world where social media dominates too much of their life. His challenge to the youth on this issue began with a story that reflects not only wisdom from the parents of a young man, but a healthy willingness to learn displayed by the initially furious young man himself. I love what he learned in the experiment President Nelson describes:
And now I invite you to prepare yourself by doing five more things—five things that will change you and help you change the world.

First, disengage from a constant reliance on social media, in order to decrease its worldly influence upon you.

Let me tell you about one young man your age, the grandson of a dear friend of mine. He is popular with his friends and a leader in his high school. Recently, his parents found things on his phone that were inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ. They insisted that he go off social media for a time. They exchanged his smartphone for a flip phone, and he panicked. How would he stay connected with his friends?

Initially he was furious with his parents, but after just a few days, he thanked them for taking his smartphone away. He said, “I feel free for the first time in a long time.” Now he calls his friends on his flip phone to connect with them. He actually talks with them instead of always texting!

What other changes have occurred in this young man’s life? He says he now loves being free from the fake life that social media creates. He is actively engaged in life instead of having his head in his phone all the time. He participates in outdoor recreational activities instead of playing video games. He is more positive and helpful in his home. He seeks opportunities to serve. He listens better in church, has a brighter countenance, is so much happier, and is actively preparing for his mission! All this because he took a break from the negative influence of social media.
President Nelson then called for a seven-day fast and reminded us of further problems from excessive reliance on social media:
So, my first invitation to you today is to disengage from a constant reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast from social media. I acknowledge that there are positives about social media. But if you are paying more attention to feeds from social media than you are to the whisperings of the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual risk—as well as the risk of experiencing intense loneliness and depression. You and I both know youth who have been influenced through social media to do and say things that they never would do or say in person. Bullying is one example.

Another downside of social media is that it creates a false reality. Everyone posts their most fun, adventurous, and exciting pictures, which create the erroneous impression that everyone except you is leading a fun, adventurous, and exciting life. Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake. So give yourself a seven-day break from fake!

Choose seven consecutive days and go for it! See if you notice any difference in how you feel and what you think, and even how you think, during those seven days. After seven days, notice if there are some things you want to stop doing and some things you now want to start doing.

This social media fast can be just between you and the Lord. It will be your sign to Him that you are willing to step away from the world in order to enlist in His youth battalion.
I've been amazed at how social media leads people to become digital savages. The sudden formation of virtual mobs to mock and slander others is a painful phenomenon to observe or to experience. The ease at which insults are hurled and judgements made on the moral values or human worth of others is disheartening. The impersonal nature of writing short quips and the ability to hide behind a screen when insulting distant targets brings out the brute and the coward in many people.  Breaking away from that environment will be a healthy step for many. Ditto for dropping the savagery and mindless waste of time that typifies many online games. I am astounded at how often I learn of parents troubled over their promising child who insists on spending every spare moment shooting people or smashing things up via video games.

President Nelson's call is to make something more of our lives and to use our time for things that really matter. Bravo!

Overall, I was impressed and touched by the messages shared by both President Nelson and his wife, Wendy. We are so fortunate to have such people in our midst. Now I need to just find some more time to get out there and (politely) Tweet about this!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Out of the Best Books: Donald Parry's Valuable Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon

If you don't have this book already, I recommend that you download (for free!) one of the best tools for study of the Book of Mormon, Donald W. Parry's  Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Maxwell Institute for Religious Research, 2007), available as a PDF file from the Maxwell Institute. This text is reformatted to distinguish narrative from sections employing various forms of parallelism. For example, it is now especially easy to see many examples of Book of Mormon chiasmus just by browsing the text.

In my opinion, one of the more valuable ways to enhance one's study and appreciation of the Book of Mormon is to recognize the portions that employ the many forms of parallelism that are known in ancient Near Eastern tests, especially the Old Testament. The interesting structures and parallels employed are often difficult to note when reading a translation that formats everything as prose. Reading Isaiah, for example, can be much more meaningful when it has been formatted in verses reflecting the underlying Hebrew poetry. While any effort to reformat the Book of Mormon based on possible poetical elements in the original text will face speculation and error due to our current lack of the original gold plates to inspect, it is still possible to identify many seemingly deliberate examples of parallelism that are worthy of consideration. Parry does not capture all the interesting parallel-rich passages that may be present (in part because some candidates, like Janus parallelism or other structures, have only recently been identified), but he has done a great job in capturing many and in highlighting many cases where more may be going on in the text than a casual reader would recognize. It's definitely worth keeping on your electronic devices and using it regularly as you explore the richness of the Book of Mormon, an ancient "voice from the dust" worthy of much more attention.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Oldest Hebrew Inscription and the Psalms in the Book of Mormon

Tiny silver amulets engraved with Hebrew
from the era of King Josiah, found at Ketef Hinnon,
Israel. From the Biblical Archaeology Society.
My recent publication on David and the Psalms in the Book of Mormon ("Too Little or Too Much Like the Bible?" at The Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture), responded to some recent critical claims against the Book of Mormon by showing, among other things, that the Book of Mormon makes greater and more sophisticated use of the Psalms than one critical scholar recognized. However, one of the more interesting uses of the Psalms was not mentioned.

Psalm 67:1 is especially interesting because it is related to the oldest Hebrew inscriptions known,  inscriptions that probably date to Lehi's day. Interestingly, it was engraved on silver metal, two very small pieces, not a large book, but still legitimate inscriptions on ancient precious metal apparently serving as amulets. It was discovered near Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnon. The story and significance of the two engravings are discussed by one of the scholars involved in bringing that discovery to light, the Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay in "The Riches of Ketef Hinnom," Biblical Archaeology Review, 35:4 (July/August September/October 2009).
[Each of the] texts of the two inscriptions ... contains slight variations of parts of the three blessings that appear in the famous priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24–26:
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
These are the words with which observant Jews still bless their children before the Sabbath meal on Friday night and that are also used in prayers in synagogues....

The amulets can be securely dated on a combination of three grounds. Paleographically they can be dated by the shape and form of the letters to the late seventh century B.C.E., before the Babylonian conquest. Stratigraphically the first amulet was found only about 7 centimeters (less than 3 in.) above the repository floor, which testifies to its relative antiquity within the repository assemblages, which rose to about 2 feet total. The second plaque was found in the innermost part of the repository, far from the entrance, among the earliest deposits. Finally, the date suggested paleographically corresponds to the chronological horizon of the late Iron Age pottery found in the repository. The silver plaques thus come from the late seventh century B.C.E., or the time of the prophet Jeremiah and King Josiah.

The implications of this dating are startling. First of all, it means that these texts on our silver plaques are the oldest composition of words similar to Biblical verses in existence. The earliest Biblical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls date to about 250 B.C.E. at the earliest. That means that our texts are older than the next oldest Biblical texts by nearly 400 years.

Moreover, these inscriptions are the only texts of the First Temple period with clear similarities to Biblical verses.

This has important implications for the Biblical text. The Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses, is usually divided by text-critical scholars into four source strands, labeled J (for Yahwist, or Jahwist in German), E (for Elohist), D (for Deuteronomist) and P (for the Priestly Code). The priestly blessing from Numbers, which is quoted in our silver plaques, is generally considered part of P, the Priestly Code. (So, too, the passage from Deuteronomy 7:9, which has echoes in the larger silver amulet.)

There is a major scholarly disagreement as to the date of the Priestly Code. Some scholars contend it predates the Babylonian conquest. Others say it is later. Our two texts seem to support those who contend that the Priestly Code was already in existence, at least in rudimentary form, in the First Temple period.

The priestly blessing seems to have been widely used during the First Temple period. Its influence can be traced both in the Bible itself (see Psalm 67:1, for example) and in early Hebrew epigraphy. In addition to our references, an inscription painted on a large pithos at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the Sinai Peninsula contains the Hebrew words YBRK wYŠ MRK wYHY ‘M ’DNY, which can be translated as “[may God] bless you and keep you and be with my Lord.” This, too, dates to the First Temple period.

The Ketef Hinnom excavations have made an enormous contribution, not only to our understanding of life in Jerusalem more than 2,500 years ago, but also to our understanding of the development of the text of the Hebrew Bible.
Psalm 67:1, as noted above, is strongly related to the inscriptions. The KJV is: "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah."

Psalm 67:1 is mentioned in a Book of Mormon Central article just released on May 29, 2018, "How Do the Psalms Quoted in the Book of Mormon Teach about the Temple?":
Another related and important part of the ancient temple rites was the idea that when the Lord appeared, He would “lift up” the light of His countenance and His face would “shine” upon the people. This was part of the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24–26) and is mentioned repeatedly in the Psalms [the footnote here cites Psalm 67:1]. The sight of the shining face of the Lord was supposed to effect a transfiguration in those who saw it so that their faces would also shine, as was the case with Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:29–35).

Again, this is exactly what happened during Jesus’ visit to the Book of Mormon people. In 3 Nephi 19:25, after Jesus had prayed with his chosen disciples, the record states:
And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus …
These findings demonstrate that Book of Mormon authors had access to at least some of the Psalms, either from the plates of brass or from memory.
So the Book of Mormon appropriately integrates language from a text in Psalm 67:1 and Numbers 6:24-26,  once thought to be a creation from a late Priestly tradition that would not be written until long after Lehi and Nephi left Jerusalem, but now provided with surprising archaeological evidence that those words were known and sacred to the Israelites in Lehi's day. Those words were important enough to be inscribed on thin silver plaques or plates, but rolled up and centuries later unrolled and interpreted in our day.

One little discovery provides helpful evidence simultaneously against three arguments that have been made against the Book of Mormon, the first dated, the second still current, and the third very new from leading scholarship at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
  1. Writing and preserving scriptures on metal plates anciently was unknown and is a ridiculous concept (now it's much trendier to say that this would have been obvious to Joseph Smith since everyone knows this).
  2. The Book of Mormon cannot be authentic in light of the Documentary Hypothesis because it relies on some material from the Priestly source that was not in existence in Lehi's day. 
  3. The Book of Mormon cannot be from authentic ancient Israelites because it does not use the Psalms heavily like some other biblical writers. 
There has been debate over the dating and interpretation of the scrolls, but the evidence appears to be in favor of Dr. Barkay's assessment. For background, see “Bible Texts on Silver Amulets Dated to First Temple Period,” Haaretz.com, Sept. 19, 2004. See also “Ketef Hinnom,” Wikipedia.org. Also see Stephen Caesar, “The Blessing of the Silver Scrolls,” BibleArchaeology.org, 2010. The dating and interpretation was challenged by Nadav Na’aman, “A New Appraisal of the Silver Amulets from Ketef Hinnom,” Israel Exploration Journal 61/2 (2011): 184–195. That work was then rebutted by Shmuel Ahituv, “A Rejoinder to Nadav Naaman’s ‘A New Appraisal of the Silver Amulets from Ketef Hinnom,’” Israel Exploration Journal 62/2 (2012): 223–232. (I have that article but don't have a link to an online version.)

Friday, June 01, 2018

The High Suicide Rate in the Mountain States: Possible Effect of Altitude

The relatively higher suicide rates in Utah and other Mountain States has often been blamed on Mormonism or the culture of the Mountain West or the ready availability of guns, but one factor that some scientists and medical professionals are beginning to recognize is altitude itself.

Here is an abstract from a scientific publication, Rebekah S Huber et al. (including Perry Renshaw, mentioned below), "Altitude is a Risk Factor for Completed Suicide in Bipolar Disorder," Medical Hypotheses, 82/3 (March 2014): 377–381:
Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe brain disease that is associated with a significant risk for suicide. Recent studies indicate that altitude of residence significantly affects overall rate of completed suicide, and is associated with a higher incidence of depressive symptoms. Bipolar disorder has shown to be linked to mitochondrial dysfunction that may increase the severity of episodes. The present study used existing data sets to explore the hypothesis that altitude has a greater effect of suicide in BD, compared with other mental illnesses. The study utilized data extracted from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), a surveillance system designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). Data were available for 16 states for the years 2005–2008, representing a total of 35,725 completed suicides in 922 U.S. counties. Random coefficient and logistic regression models in the SAS PROC MIXED procedure were used to estimate the effect of altitude on decedent’s mental health diagnosis. Altitude was a significant, independent predictor of the altitude at which suicides occurred (F = 8.28, p=0.004 and Wald chi-square=21.67, p < 0.0001). Least squares means of altitude, independent of other variables, indicated that individuals with BD committed suicide at the greatest mean altitude. Moreover, the mean altitude at which suicides occurred in BD was significantly higher than in decedents whose mental health diagnosis was major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder. Identifying diagnosis-specific risk factors such as altitude may aid suicide prevention efforts, and provide important information for improving the clinical management of BD.
The first such study I am aware of is C.A. Haws et al. (including Perry Renshaw), "The possible effect of altitude on regional variation in suicide rates," Medical Hypotheses, 73/4 (Oct. 2009): 587-90, with this abstract:
In the United States, suicide rates consistently vary among geographic regions; the western states have significantly higher suicide rates than the eastern states. The reason for this variation is unknown but may be due to regional elevation differences. States' suicide rates (1990-1994), when adjusted for potentially confounding demographic variables, are positively correlated with their peak and capital elevations. These findings indicate that decreased oxygen saturation at high altitude may exacerbate the bioenergetic dysfunction associated with affective illnesses. Should such a link exist, therapies traditionally used to treat the metabolic disturbances associated with altitude sickness may have a role in treating those at risk for suicide. 
Now a variety of additional studies have been published, with several cited in the Huber et al. article above. The lower concentration of oxygen at high altitudes can have an effect on serotonin and while that can be positive for many people, it can exacerbate or contribute to depression for others. Multiple studies now point to altitude as having a significant effect on suicide. There is still more to understand and debate, but this is a noteworthy development.

Such findings are gradually making it into popular media, though I suspect that many of us haven't heard much about this yet. One very readable and interesting report is Theresa Fisher, "There's a Suicide Epidemic in Utah — And One Neuroscientist Thinks He Knows Why," Mic.com, Nov. 18, 2014 (a hat tip to Russell Osmond for this article and motivation for my post). For a Wyoming perspective, see Joe O'Sullivan, "Altitude may be major factor in suicide," Casper Star-Tribune, Sept. 18, 2011. An excerpt follows:
When it comes to suicide in Wyoming, guns often take the blame as a contributing factor. So does the isolation and flinty independence of rural culture. But a possible cause now being looked at appears to be a more important contributor to self-inflicted deaths: altitude.

Researchers at the University of Utah have found a correlation between how high above sea level people live and per capita suicide rates. Between 1999 and 2007, Wyoming had the fourth-highest rate of suicides per capita in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; states in the Mountain West hold nine of the top 10 spots.

The researchers looked at 35 separate factors that could cause suicide. Using suicide data from the CDC and mapping data by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, they found a distinct correlation between elevation and suicide.

“The Rocky Mountain states just jumped out at you,” said Dr. Perry Renshaw, a professor at the university who took part in the research. “No matter what we did, the altitude kept coming up with a significant factor.”

The study shows that suicides occur between 60 and 70 percent more frequently at high elevations compared to sea level, according to Renshaw.

In fact, altitude surpassed both the isolation of rural culture and the prevalence of gun ownership, both of which come up as assumed causes for the high suicide rate, according to Renshaw. Altitude was the second-highest ranking of 35 variables. The only suicide indicator that ranked higher was being a single mother, he said.

Renshaw, who has spent 15 years studying brain chemistry, said lower oxygen levels in the brain affect people with depression and bipolar disorder.
Both of those disorders involve problems with how the brain uses energy, according to Renshaw. Recent research suggests that the amount of oxygen a person receives affects their mental faculties and performance.

“In depression, what we find is that there are changes in these high-energy compounds in the brain,” Renshaw said.

While oxygen makes up the same percentage of air at sea level as it does at high altitudes, atmospheric pressure — the amount of molecules compressed into one space — decreases with height.

That means people take in fewer oxygen molecules with each breath in a city like Casper, which is a mile above sea level, compared to someone living at sea level.
Comparisons outside the U.S.

To prove the data wasn’t just a fluke, Renshaw and the researchers looked overseas to prove their hypothesis. They did this by analyzing suicide rates in a mountainous country with an elevation that at its highest reaches 6,398 feet: South Korea.

“It was exactly the same result,” Renshaw said, referring to a comparison of suicides in South Korea with the Mountain West. “The higher you went, the higher the result.”
O ye mountains high, indeed!

Understanding the impact of altitude for those facing depression or other mental health challenges may now help guide medical professionals in better assisting patients, including single mothers (being a single mother turned up in one study as just about the only risk factor more significant than altitude). If nothing else, getting away to a lower altitude area for a while might be a big help. We'd love to see you here in Shanghai, a place where you may find it's a good thing to have friends in low places.


Update, June 3, 2018: Some readers questioned why Colorado or the Andes weren't considered. Renshaw's work has considered the entire Mountain West and also many nations, and has seen the altitude effect repeatedly.

A very recent publication involving the Andes, not done by Renshaw, also points to a possible altitude effect, though the authors don't seem familiar enough with Renshaw's work to explain why an altitude effect might exist. See Esteban Ortiz-Prado, "The disease burden of suicide in Ecuador, a 15 years’ geodemographic cross-sectional study (2001–2015)," BMC Psychiatry, 17(2017): 342; doi: 10.1186/s12888-017-1502-0. They found that "Provinces located at higher altitude reported higher rates than those located at sea level (9 per 100,000 vs 4.5 per 100.000)." A much higher suicide rate for the high-altitude provinces. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Democracy in the Ancient Americas? Maybe Not So Ridiculous After All

The Book of Mormon has often been criticized for its introduction of a form of democracy during the rule of judges era starting around 90 BC. Instead of a potentially despotic king, the Nephites would be ruled by law and a system of judges chosen somehow by "the voice of the people." Those trappings of democracy have long been viewed as horribly anachronistic. But maybe such a system wasn't all that crazy after all, and perhaps not all that original in the ancient Americas. See a recent article, "It wasn't just Greece: Archaeologists find early democratic societies in the Americas" by Lizzie Wade, March 15, 2017, at ScienceMag.org.

A brief excerpt follows:
Now, thanks in part to work led by Fargher's mentor Richard Blanton, an anthropologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Tlaxcallan is one of several premodern societies around the world that archaeologists believe were organized collectively, where rulers shared power and commoners had a say in the government that presided over their lives.

These societies were not necessarily full democracies in which citizens cast votes, but they were radically different from the autocratic, inherited rule found—or assumed—in most early societies. Building on Blanton's originally theoretical ideas, archaeologists now say these "collective societies" left telltale traces in their material culture, such as repetitive architecture, an emphasis on public space over palaces, reliance on local production over exotic trade goods, and a narrowing of wealth gaps between elites and commoners.

"Blanton and his colleagues opened up a new way of examining our data," says Rita Wright, an archaeologist at New York University in New York City who studies the 5000-year-old Indus civilization in today's India and Pakistan, which also shows signs of collective rule. "A whole new set of scholarship has emerged about complex societies."

"I think it's a breakthrough," agrees Michael E. Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. "I've called it the most important work in the archaeology of political organization in the last 20 years." He and others are working to extend Blanton's ideas into a testable method, hoping to identify collective states solely through the objects they left behind.
The region where these collective societies with advanced civilization occasionally flourished is squarely in Mesoamerica, the most plausible location for the New World setting of the Book of Mormon on the basis of many factors (in my opinion). There is still much to learn and explore regarding collective societies and forms of democracy in the ancient Americas. Those instances cited in this article are not likely to involve Nephites, of course, but do establish that forms of rule other than all-powerful kings were known anciently in Mesoamerica, an important new development to consider.

A hat tip to Bill Knighton for calling my attention to this article.

Engines of Beauty


"Mandarin Fish," the winning work from a recent art contest, shown above (courtesy of Wikipedia), was produced by the world's most prolific and accomplished artist, variously known as "Meaningless Random Mutations" or the Lord God. See "Synchiropus splendidus" at Wikipedia. However the design was first created, the custom reprints are continuously manufactured through the standard manufacturing engines of carbon-based life based on numerous genes encoded in DNA. The cellular machinery decodes DNA to produce proteins that in turn assemble and produce the structures of each organism including the colors and patterns we see on the outside.

As beautiful as the mandarin fish is, its reprint engine is even more stunning. That basic cellular machinery for making proteins is what creates so much beauty and wonder, or, if you insist, meaningless junk.

There is so much to marvel at in the cellular engines that create the bodies of the complex creatures known as Eukaryotes, the organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes, in contrast to bacteria and some other single-celled organisms. Just one of numerous aspects of your cellular engines to contemplate is the stunningly beautiful spliceosome. Spliceosome? Yep, and it's a beauty. Just look:

https://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(17)30487-7



Maybe you're shaking your head and saying, "I just don't get modern art." But this is very ancient art, and it's art you need to survive. But it was only recently uncovered and framed for mankind to enjoy, though it's been there all along helping you and your ancestors to manufacture the proteins you depend on. In fact, it's something of a miracle/really interesting meaningless accumulation of random mutations.

The miracle involves a dirty little secret of biological science. Everyone knows that genes encode proteins. Each protein from a gene, with many thousands of genes for many thousands of proteins, right? But there's a problem you might not have heard about: there are a lot more proteins in your body than there are genes to encode them. We have about 20,000 genes, but over 100,000 proteins. How is that possible? Is there some kind of cover-up going on? No, not a cover-up, but another engine of beauty, a small machine in your cells that runs around splicing. There's a word you ought to contemplate whenever you look at a beautiful creature like the mandarin fish or your spouse. The word is SPLICEOSOME (say it like "splice -- oh -- sohm" which rhymes with Rome).

The spliceosome is an incredible machine that assists in transcribing information from your genes. Spliceosomes cut out certain parts and assemble information multiple regions of your DNA to create more proteins than there are genes. We rely on them, and when something goes wrong with spliceosomes, humans suffer from genetic disease. "Around 35% of human genetic disorders are caused by a mutation that alters the splicing of a single gene," according to a great article on spliceosomes at Cell.com. Also see X. Zhang et al., "An Atomic Structure of the Human Spliceosome," Cell, vol. 169, issue 5 (May 18, 2017): 918–929. Or see Wikiepedia's article, "Spliceosome." A basic explanation is given at "One gene, many proteins – alternative splicing" at ScienceExplained.com.

The spliceosome is an engine of miraculous beauty, allowing human life and most multi-cellular life to be remarkably efficient in their reprint engines that keep this world going in such beautiful ways. Only recently discovered, but has been there all along, a work of brilliant art and stunningly advanced technology/random chance that we Eukaryotes depend on. Technology so sophisticated, so cool, so other-worldly, that it almost makes me tremble to contemplate it. How is this even possible no matter how intelligent the designer is? It is beyond our comprehension, though every step of the way toward understanding it awaits a potential Nobel prize to those who are intelligent enough to figure out bits and pieces of how this machine works. And yet somehow the marvel of the machine itself has nothing to do with intelligence but is merely the result of random, meaningless mutations? Now that's what I call faith.





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Elder Gong in Shanghai

Shanghai was blessed to be visited by Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a newly called Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Sunday, May 20. He was accompanied by his wife and also by Elder Randy D. Funk and his wife. Though we only had just over one week's notice for the visit, the special District Conference that was called set a record in attendance, with almost every available seat filled in the large ballroom where we meet in Shanghai.

Here are some photos, kindly provided by Monica Alvarado. Members in China can see or request additional photos from the event if you connect with her on on WeChat. He WeChat ID is Ginitas23. More on the content of the session later.







Monday, May 21, 2018

Intriguing Comments on Brian Stubbs' Work on Possible Old World Connections to Uto-Aztecan Languages

After I published "The Next Big Thing in LDS Apologetics: Strong Semitic and Egyptian Elements in Uto-Aztecan Languages" at The Interpreter, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the the comments shared by various readers. Some of the most recent comments are especially interesting to me, beginning with two from Brian Stubbs himself:

1. How delightful to read civil discourse on Jeff’s review of my works! I’ve never experienced such a high percentage of reasonable commentary on such topics. Most of the questions were answered by later commenters. I might add two comments. One, Yes, I returned from two years among the Navajo, and immediately looked into that possibility, but within days of looking at Sino-Tibetan and other Far Languages, I could see that Athapaskan came from across the Bering Strait. So if I were of a mind to “create” something from nothing, it would have been there. Two, all the main UA pronouns are from Semitic or Egytian, as is a relatively high percent of its basic vocabulary: head, eyes, nose, cheek, neck, hair, shoulder, chest, breast, waist, leg, calf, finger/toe, sun, sky, moon, rock, water, several kinds of trees / plants, man, woman, several kinds of animals and insects, etc, etc. Of course, much remains to be figured out of how it all happened, yet it’s beginning to look like, rather than a near east infusion into UA, that other things came into the Near-Eastern base that UA actually is, because both Semitic-kw terms (Mulek) and Semitic-p and Egyptian terms (Nephi) are in all branches of UA, besides the actual Semitic terms for Nephites, both masc plural and feminine pl in some UA languages.

2. Stan Spencer pleasantly asked a fair question about Swadesh word lists, mentioning Tiberian Hebrew and Nahua, which deserves more explanation. Mulekite Semitic-kw would better correspond to Hebrew, but Mulek vocabulary is less prominent in UA than Lehite Semitic-p. UA pronouns are more from Lehite Aramaic and Egyptian, and you Sg is from you pl, just as English ‘you’ (originally pl) replaced ‘thou’ (related to German du, Latin tu, etc). So explainable changes make the Swadesh vocabulary lists problematic. E.g., the Hebrew word ‘ish ‘man’ is minimally found in UA, but the common UA word for man is from Aramaic dakar ‘male’ > UA / Nahua taka ‘man’, etc. The books explain things quite well, but plowing thru such books is not everyone’s priority, tho the smaller, lay-reader friendly Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now explains, in ways, more than the larger. Thank you Stan and all for your congenial discourse.
Then today came an interesting homework from a reader who has done his homework on this topic. Beau Anderson writes:
I know this article hasn’t been commented on recently, but just in case people interested in this subject come across this article, I would like to add to this conversation.

I became aware that Brian was working on this language proposal sometime around 2012-2013. I sent him an email inquiring about it and he very generously made available to me a pre-publication copy of the larger book that Jeff mentions in this article.

I found the proposal so professionally prepared and interesting that I immersed myself in it, trying to see if Brian’s arguments were truly as persuasive as they seemed to be. That pre-publication copy got so over-used that I heard it breathe an audible sigh of relief when I bought Brian’s finished book after it was published.

I also reached out Lyle Campbell, a (non-LDS) foremost scholar in historical linguistics and in Uto-Aztecan languages. Lyle quite literally wrote the book on what it takes to establish “long-distance” relationships between language families.

Lyle was kind enough to provide me with some general feedback regarding Brian Stubbs’ work, language relationships in general, and Uto-Aztecan in particular. I think it is particularly helpful to hear from a prominent non-mormon historical linguist about what he thinks of Brian Stubbs previous Uto-Aztecan publications and professionalism:

“Brian kindly sent me his [Semitic/Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan] work a few months ago, and I haven’t had time to do more than scan parts of it. Brian’s UA Comparative Vocabulary is excellent, the major source for checking UA cognates. It’s based on sound principles and rigorous scholarship. I refer to it often, and am grateful to Brian for sharing it with me.” (Lyle Campbell, personal correspondence, January 2016, shared with Lyle’s permission)

The book “UA Comparative Vocabulary” that Lyle mentions as being “based on sound principles and rigorous scholarship” presents its data in a very similar fashion as the language proposal, although the language proposal tends to provide even more detailed information and much more useful indexes and appendixes.

After working to understand the validity of Brian’s work for several years, I can’t say enough about how powerful I think the case is for significant Semitic & Egyptian influence in Uto-Aztecan languages.
Thank you, Beau!

Note that Dr. Campbell is not directly evaluating the merits of Stubbs' recent work, but is kindly acknowledging his competence in the UA arena. Eventually I hope Dr. Campbell will be able to more directly evaluate the specific findings in Stubbs work, in spite of the sensitivity of anything tied to Book of Mormon evidences. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 14, 2018

New Document Discovered from a Book of Mormon Witness

From the Juvenile Instructor blog, we have an important new finding regarding a Book of Momron witness. See "1829 Mormon Discovery Brought to you by…Guest Erin Jennings" which shares news about the discovery of an important early letter from Oliver Cowdery regarding the Book of Mormon. The letter had been printed before, but the original was only recently discovered through painstaking work.

Daniel Peterson notes a key learning from this letter in his brief summary at Sic et Non:
Dated 9 November 1829 — which is to say, nearly five months before the actual publication of the Book of Mormon — the account is contained in a letter that was evidently written by Oliver Cowdery to a Mr. Cornelius Blatchly.

Mr. Blatchly had evidently suggested that the Book of Mormon, and the testimonies of the Witnesses to it, might rest upon “juggling.”  Noah Webster’s 1828 American dictionary defines the verb to juggle as  “1. To play tricks by slight of hand; to amuse and make sport by tricks, which make a false show of extraordinary powers.  2. To practice artifice or imposture.”

Oliver Cowdery responded to Mr. Blatchly as follows (with editorial notes from Mr. Blatchly enclosed within brackets), referring to his encounter with the plates and the angel as one of the Three Witnesses:

“It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, [who] ascend [descended I suppose] out of the midst of heaven.

“Now if this is human juggling — judge ye.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

When a Child Has a Fracture, Why Are the Parents Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

In the end the parents got their children back, but it took two years of separation and harm inflicted to a child by the State of Pennsylvania. You can read the decision from the appeal that finally, after two years, returned a baby to its parents after a rogue judge had decided to take the baby away. It is a case where two loving parents were presumed guilty of something until proven innocent. It's a troubling reading, especially for those of us who have a grandchild with loving parents in Philadelphia, where this travesty occurred. It could happen again and my granddaughter could be next.

[Update, May 13: The URL for the court decision, http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/Memorandum%20%20ReversedVacated%20%2010346885234069864.pdf?cb=1, is on odd one that Firefox displays with spaces that can create problems. I changed the link above to a TinyURL shortcut that seems to help. If you still have trouble, you can also download the PDF file from JeffLindsay.com.]

Simon Black, founder of the SovereignMan service that I subscribe to, shares the story in a recent newsletter. Here is an excerpt:
It started back in 2016… on April 6th to be specific. A Philadelphia-area mother walked into a clinic because her 7-month old baby was being excessively fussy.

The doctor performed a cursory examination, concluded the baby had an ear infection, and prescribed an antibiotic.

Later that day, the mother noticed what seemed like a bone popping in the baby’s side and thought this might be the source of the discomfort.

Concerned, she went right back to the clinic to show the pediatrician.

The doctor claimed that he could not feel any popping and reassured the mother that the baby had an ear infection.

By the next day, the baby was in even worse shape. So the father took her to the hospital and insisted on an X-ray.

The parents’ instinct turned out to be correct-- the baby had a mild fracture of her ribs.

Now-- this is problem #1 in our story. Certainly the US health care industry is filled some incredibly hard-working and talented professionals.

But the system is designed the churn and burn... to push people through the clinics as quickly as possible.

The standard of care now is to prescribe some medication (usually antibiotics) and send people on their way without taking the time to conduct a comprehensive examination....

But this story isn’t about medical care. This is a story about a family being ripped apart by the ‘Justice’ system.

That’s because, after the physicians finally saw the baby’s cracked rib, they called in the local Child Protective Services.

A hearing was immediately convened, and the parents couldn’t explain the injury. Their best guess was that their older child may have accidentally injured the baby, but they didn’t know for certain.

And it was based on this uncertainty that BOTH children were taken away.

The older child was placed in the custody of his grandmother, and the baby was shipped off to a foster home.

This is where things become truly bizarre.

The local authorities conducted an investigation and found no “aggravated circumstances”. So the older child was soon returned to the parents.

But the baby remained in a foster home… in the care of complete strangers.

FOUR MONTHS LATER, there was finally an initial court hearing. The judge acknowledged that the older child had already been returned to the parents and was safe in their home.

But she refused to return the baby.

More importantly, the judge mandated that the parents should have SUPERVISED visitation, i.e. they had to go to the foster home to see their own baby under the supervision of a government employee.

Another four months later (now we’re in December 2016), another hearing was held.

Once again, the judge refused to return the baby… and even refused to transfer the baby from the foster home to the custody of the grandmother.

Bear in mind that the older child had already been returned to the parents several months prior.

So if they’d had any evidence that the parents were unfit, you’d think that BOTH of the children would have been in foster care.

But that wasn’t the case at all. That’s because the investigation showed no evidence of wrongdoing. The police weren’t involved. And no charges were being filed.

This was simply a matter of a single judge abusing her authority to separate a family, solely because she wasn’t satisfied that the parents didn’t know how the baby had sustained her injuries.

At that point the family hired a SECOND attorney who appealed the decision.

Another four months went by, and in March 2017, the judge held further hearings on the matter.

At that hearing, the attorney attempted to introduce evidence supporting the family’s claim, as well as testimony from other physicians citing a number of plausible reasons how the baby could have been injured.

But according to court records, the judge “refused to take any testimony in the case” because she thought the new attorney was “disrespectful and a little bit arrogant”.

The judge concluded the hearing by punishing the family even more-- she suspended the grandmother’s right to visit the baby, denied the parents request for unsupervised visitation, and authorized the city to start the process to put the baby up for adoption.

More hearings took place over the next several months, until, in October 2017, the judge “involuntarily terminated Parents’ rights.”

In other words, the judge stripped the baby away and shipped her off like cattle to another home. Permanently. The parents were no longer the parents.

Now, it took a looong time. But last week the appeal was finally settled, with a different judge in a higher court.

And the appeals court sided with the parents.

More importantly, the appeals court issued a scathing condemnation of the other judge’s behavior, calling it “abuse of discretion” among other choice phrases.

It took more than TWO YEARS for this family to be reunited… not to mention a ton of money in attorney fees and an incalculable amount of stress.
Increasingly, in the United States, the citizens in the "land of the free" find that they are relatively free until one judge, one police officer, or one petty official from a host of bureaucracies and agencies decides to simply take those rights away. Whether it is confiscating your home or car or bank account under the abusive procedure of civil asset forfeiture without a trial, or attempting to take away a child permanently because the parents didn't know when and how a rib was fractured, Americans are increasingly at the mercy of despots.

For Mother's Day, may I suggest that we ponder what we can do to resist the loss of fundamental rights and to better protect the rights of mothers and parents in general. I don't currerntly know who the best organizations are fighting for our rights in this area, but one good group may be ParentalRights.org. I would appreciate your input on key allies we should consider to resist the erosion of parental rights.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Two Witnesses, Witnessed by Sally Parker

The vast body of scholarship on the witnesses to the Book of Mormon paints a consistent story of real people who really saw something and, in spite of whatever problems or differences with Joseph Smith or others they may have later faced, never denied the reality of their witness. The scholarship on their lives also includes studies on many peripheral figures whose words add to our understanding of what the witnesses said. One such figure is Sally Parker. See Janiece L. Johnson , "'The Scriptures Is a Fulfilling': Sally Parker's Weave," BYU Studies, vol. 4, no. 2 (2005). This publication features a letter written by Sally Bradford Parker to her brother-in-law John Kempton on August 26, 1838. The young convert shares her experience in hearing the testimony of Hyrum Smith and also of Lucy Mack Smith. On page 1 of her letter (I'll use the edited version with conventional spelling and grammar), she states:
And you said you wanted if we could send you something to comfort you, which I don't know as I can. For I have not heard but one sermon since we have been in the place and that by Hyrum Smith. As he was moving to Missouri he tarried with us a little while. His discourse was beautiful. We were talking about the Book of Mormon, [of] which he is one of the witnesses. He said he had but two hands and two eyes. He said he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands and he saw a breast plate and he told how it was made. It was fixed for the breast of a man with a hole in [the] stomach and two pieces upon each side with a hole through them to put in a string to tie it on, but that was not so good gold as the plates for that was pure. Why I write this is because they dispute the Book so much.

I lived by his Mother [Lucy Mack Smith, in Kirtland] and she was one of the finest of women, always helping those that stood in need. She told me the whole story. The plates were in the house and sometimes in the woods for eight months on account of people trying to get them. They had to hide them once. They hid them under the hearth. They took up the brick and put them in and put the brick back. The old lady told me this herself with tears in her eyes and they run down her cheeks too. She put her hand upon her stomach and said she, "O the peace of God that rested upon us all that time." She said it was a heaven below. I asked her if she saw the plates. She said no, it was not for her to see them, but she hefted and handled them and I believed all she said for I lived by her eight months and she was one of the best of women. [emphasis added]
She testifies to the character of Lucy Mack Smith and observes that while she had not seen them directly, she had "hefted and handled them" (apparently while covered) and thus, of course, was a witness of their physical reality. Of Hyrum Smith, she heard him directly describe what he had seen. He made it unmistakeable that it was with his real eyes that he saw and his real hands that he handled the plates. These accounts are numerous, consistent, and granular. The witnesses were genuine witnesses and the plates were real. In my opinion, that's the most logical conclusion that can be made in light of their statements and their behavior.

Cultural Misappropriation: Much Worse Than You Thought

Some Americans are steaming about the shocking incident in Salt Lake City when a young Utah white girl demonstrated her white privilege and scandalous racism, imperialism, consumerism, colonialism, narcissism, egocentrism, materialism, highbrowism, astigmatism and even touch of isomerism and dimerism, a loathsome cornucopia of vice all wrapped in one egregious act: wearing a Chinese dress, the elegant qipao. Sadly, most folks here in China don't have the advanced education that is required to get so frothy over someone's dress, as the Southern China Morning Post reports. Chinese mainlanders tend to think Keziah Daum's choice of prom dress was a cool decision and don't understand the vitriol, which is why we need more elite American tourists to come to China and help educate the natives over here. Feel free to educate me, too, when you visit. And then after your lecture, I can show you some of the better places to get nice tailored Asian clothes cheap.

You'll need to know where those places are so you can tell Chinese people where to go after you vent about just how offended you are at their cultural misappropriation of Western dresses, pants, shoes, shirts, and suits, even down to specific Western brands like Nike and Boss. If you enjoy venting, there are bigger fish to stir fry than a Utah prom dress.

Meanwhile, another Westerner who has lived for years in China, Mark Cohen, the US government's former liaison to China from the US Patent and Trademark Office, wrote an article on this incident that helped me realize that cultural misappropriation among Americans is far worse than I imagined.

Critics of Mormonism (another offensive -ism to stir up sensitive souls) will be pleased with the shocking news that scandalous cultural misappropriation is taking place every Sunday in almost every Mormon chapel around the United States and perhaps all over the world. See those men sitting on the stand as if they are some kind of leaders or something? How many of them are genuine Croatians? Almost none. But there they are, egregiously and ignorantly misappropriating the classical Croatian attire. Mark Cohen seems way too calm as he explains this scandal:
One need not travel far to see evidence of cultural borrowings.  Whenever a man wears a tie, he is following a tradition set by Croatians during the Napoleonic wars.  Indeed, the French word cravate is a corrupt French pronunciation of Croate.  The origin of the tie is a source of some pride to the many Croatians I have met over the years.
It's time we stand in solidarity with Croatian pride! So next time you see some white Mormon male  wearing a tie, ask him about his genealogy and see if he's got at least 50% Croatian roots. Once he's admitted that he doesn't, you've got him! Then get on your high horse -- wait, that would be misappropriating Apache and Mongolian horsemanship skills -- or rather, throw down the gauntlet (totally OK if you are descended from medieval French knights), and let him know just how morally superior you are. Eat your heart out, or his -- if you come from an authentic cannibal culture, that is, and if local laws and regulations permit.

Best to keep that Asian-themed tattoos covered up while you do this, just to prevent misunderstanding (especially the kind that comes from understanding, if he understands Chinese -- sometimes those cool Chinese characters people get for tattoos actually say some pretty awkward things).

By the way, happy Cinco de Mayo!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Li Jing, China's Mysterious Long-Distance Horse Rider, Has Finally Been Found and Rides Again!

Li Jing has now been found in Russia and connected
to the international Long Riders' Guild
One of the most interesting escapades of my years in China has been the search for Li Jing, China's mysterious long-distance rider who completed a monumental horseback ride of over 9,000 kilometers from Moscow to Bejing a decade ago, and then seemed to vanish as far as the international equestrian community knew. The background story is told in my previous post, "Where Horses Can Take You, and My Quest for Li Jing (李荆)," where I explain how my article on horses and the Book of Mormon for Meridian Magazine resulted in a connection with the illustrious international society dedicated to long-distance riding, the Long Riders' Guild, whose colorful and eloquent president, CuChullaine O'Reilly, asked me if I cold help them in their nine-year quest to find Li Jing. That previous Mormanity post, along with efforts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my Chinese network and Chinese social media, including both Chinese and English comments posted on two Chinese social media sites apparently owned by Li Jing, were part of my effort to help connect Li Jing with the Long Riders' Guild. I had also learned in my searching of Chinese-language websites that Li Jing had moved to Russia, apparently Moscow, and was still riding.

Wonderfully, Li Jing has now been found! A few days after my efforts, CuChullaine O'Reilly was contacted by a Russian organization with information about Li Jing. The President of the National Equestrian Tourism Center (NETO Russia) has connected Li Jing with the Guild, and the Guild will now be able to help support future rides and projects, and share precious information about Li Jing's ongoing work with its international membership.

The news is already spreading around the world. From New Zealand, for example, there is this dramatic story: "World’s most elusive Long Rider finally found, riding toward the Arctic Circle," May 2, 2018, from HorseTalk.co.nz. My minor efforts even get an undeserved mention there.

In an overly kind act, the Guild has officially named me as one of the Friends of the Guild, though I have pointed out that in my recent communication with the leader of the Russian organization, he was not aware of my efforts here in China to connect the Guild with Li Jing. His reaching out to the Guild, which he was already aware of, may have been completely fortuitous. But perhaps the prodding led to a chain of events or conversations that helped make the connection. In any case, I'm thrilled that Li Jing has been found and that another chapter in the great story of horses and humans can be more fully written.

I also hope to meet Li Jing one day, and have contacted NETO Russia to explore such opportunities. Li Jing, a native of Wuhan, China, in the heart of this land, embodies the spirit of adventure and passion that has resulted in so many great things out of China. His story needs to be told more widely here as well as around the globe. I also hope that the Guild's newly kindled interest in the story of horses among the religions of the world will lead to more treasures of knowledge for all of us. Many thanks to Li Jing, to Gennadii Semin of NETO Russia, and especially to CuChullaine O'Reilly of the Long Riders Guild!



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Joseph the Amusing Teller of Tall Tales: Lucy Mack Smith's Puzzling Statement in Perspective

One of the pillars of disbelief for critics of the Book of Mormon is the notion that Joseph Smith was well known as an imaginative story teller. He was allegedly telling wild stories about the ancient peoples of the Americas years before be began the "translation" of the Book of Mormon -- that pretty much is all we need to know to explain the origins of the Book of Mormon.

This mischief begins with a puzzling statement from Lucy Mack Smith that is endlessly used and abused by Book of Mormon critics, and often accepted at face value by Latter-day Saints. But there are enough oddities in her account and a lack of support from Joseph's peers for her statement, as we discuss below, that a little more skepticism might be healthy. It is hardly the kind of evidence that one can hang one's hat on. Here is the statement from her 1853 autobiography:
From this time forth [after the initial visits from Moroni], Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening, for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same. I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth, all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life: he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children, but far more given to meditation and deep study. We were now confirmed in the opinion that God was about to bring to light something upon which we could stay our minds, or that would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family. This caused us greatly to rejoice, the sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house, and tranquillity reigned in our midst. [p.85] During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them. [emphasis added]
This is used not only by Book of Mormon critics to suggest that Joseph's story telling skills were remarkable and predated the production of the Book of Mormon, but is also used by some factions within Mormonism who claim that Joseph of course knew all about the details of Nephite civilization and where they were located, so various statements inferring a North American setting must be taken as prophetic certainty, in sharp contrast to what the record really shows about Joseph's evolving views on where the Book of Mormon scenes in the Americas might have taken place.

The abuse of Lucy's quote includes episodes when some critics misuse her statement to imply that Joseph had long been interested in the ancient Americas and was telling stories of life in ancient America before he encountered Moroni and the gold plates. Lucy's statement in context clearly indicates that the occasionally "amusing recitals" were usually quite serious and inspiring, and only began after Joseph was introduced to the Book of Mormon by Moroni, not before. But the way the statement has been edited by the Tanners has caused some confusion in readers. Below is a passage from Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? by Gerald and Sandra Tanner, p. 81, as discussed in a fascinating report by Robert Vukich in "An Incident Concerning Page 81 of Mormonism–Shadow or Reality?" from the 2000 FAIRMormon Conference:
The fact that Joseph Smith had a great interest in the ancient inhabitants of the land prior to his “translation” of the Book of Mormon is no secret to those who have read the History of Joseph Smith by his Mother. Mrs. Smith said: “I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth–all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age, …During our evening conversations, JOSEPH would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ANCIENT INHABITANTS of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with EASE, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 1954 Edition, pages 82-83)
Lucy's statement in context is the voice of a witness seeing a miracle taking place through Joseph's encounter with Moroni and the Book of Mormon, but the serious and inspiring flavor of her statement becomes a focus on amusing tales from an entertaining story teller who was skilled at making stuff up, thus explaining away Book of Mormon origins as the work of Joseph's imagination. As edited and presented, that's not exactly true to what Lucy's statement really indicates.

Vukich shares his correspondence with the Tanners as he questions their motives and accuracy in their editing of Lucy Mack Smith's quote. It is an interesting exchange that reminds us that some critics in spite of their proclaimed commitment to truth and accuracy might take a few shortcuts that can be questioned. 

The abuse of Lucy Mack Smith's statement to turn the Book of Mormon into the easily explained fruit of an entertaining story teller has been replayed in many forms. A recent example is in a seemingly scholarly work that is unable to get past the author's personal biases to confront the Book of Mormon seriously. The work is Ann Taves, Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies in the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), as reviewed by Kevin Christensen in "Playing to an Audience: A Review of Revelatory Events," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 28 (2018): 65-114. Christensen offers some significant analysis regarding Lucy Mack Smith's statement that should be considered the next time someone rattles it off as if it helped explain the origins of the Book of Mormon, or as if it takes away from the miracle of what Joseph dictated from a hat while housed in the information vacuum of Harmony, Pennsylvania (a village that essentially no longer exists and wasn't much in Joseph's day wither), without the aid of manuscripts, a Bible, reference materials, or a technical advisory team scouting the world for Hebraisms, maps of Arabia, details about the ancient Americas, etc.

In response to Taves' excessive reliance on Luck Mack Smith's statement, Kevin Christensen offers the following analysis in his review:
There are some unexamined oddities about the Lucy Smith quote. Before I would take it as an interpretive foundation, I must consider that, even though a first-hand account, it is not an autograph account, and it is late, dating to an 1844 dictation in Nauvoo to the non-LDS, 24-year old Martha Jane Coray regarding events in Palmyra 1823 and then not published until 1853. That is, the quote is six years older than Joseph Smith’s official history from 1838, which Taves takes notable interest in dissecting and comparing with earlier sources. In her discussion of method and sources for Mormonism, she observes:
Apart from the 1825 agreement with Josiah Stowell and the 1826 court record, both of which are preserved in later versions, we have no real-time access to events until July 1828, when D&C 3 — the first real-time recorded revelation — opens a window in the wake of the loss of the first 116 pages of the manuscript. Chapter 1 thus opens with an in-depth analysis of D&C 3, read as a window on that moment rather than as it was interpreted and reinterpreted in later accounts. (21)
The Lucy Smith quote, aside from being a late account, rather than early and contemporary (not “real time access,” not a direct “window on the moment”), turns out to be notably odd and unique with respect to Joseph Smith, rather than well supported from a range of sources. Certainly much in Lucy’s biography is well supported, but let us recognize the anomaly here. Odd accounts do occur in history, yes, but the account raises questions that should be faced and mentioned before building one’s structure there. First of all, the Book of Mormon we have has no descriptions of people riding animals in over 500 pages that include several major migrations and 100 distinct wars. It provides no notably detailed descriptions of clothing (other than armor) and no detailed descriptions of the structure of later buildings. The most detail we get involves descriptions of fortifications with palisaded walls and ditches.

Then there is the unasked question as to why — if Joseph Smith as a youth was capable of this kind of detailed, immersive, evening-filling recital on the everyday particulars of Book of Mormon peoples and culture — do we have no further record anywhere of his performing the same service as an adult? Perhaps the closest circumstance on this topic involves the Zelph story on Zion’s Camp, but in that case the notable differences in the details recorded by the different people who reported it, even those writing close to the event, should give pause to a person trying to build an interpretive foundation on an isolated, late, anomalous account related to far longer and complex narrative than the Zelph gossip. It bears mentioning that if Joseph Smith had been telling stories about the Book of Mormon peoples, animals, clothing, and culture, such stories should have had an obvious influence on Abner Cole’s 1830 parody version, the Book of Pukei, which “tells in mocking fashion about the sorts of things that Joseph’s neighbors expected to find in the Book of Mormon.” Yet the most notable thing about the Book of Pukei is how utterly different it is from the actual Book of Mormon. The book Joseph Smith produced was emphatically not what his neighbors expected.

It is true the Book of Mormon does contain abundant details about “their religious worship” and their “modes of warfare,” but we have no other accounts of Joseph Smith’s filling anyone’s evening or afternoon with amusing or serious recitals on those topics either. Again, why not? This is not a frivolous question but one addressed to a foundation stone upon which Taves chooses to build.
The one notable discussion of ancient buildings from Joseph Smith comes as his surprised and delighted review of John Lloyd Stephen’s Incidents of Travels Central America as expressed in two articles in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. I find Michael Coe’s report of Joseph Smith’s encounter with the Stephen’s book particularly telling:
In 1841 — after the Book of Mormon, actually — there was a publication in New York and London of a wonderful two volume work called Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan by John Lloyd Stephens, an American diplomat, and his artist-companion, the British topographical artist Frederick Catherwood, with wonderful illustrations by Catherwood of the Maya ruins. This was the beginning of Maya archaeology, … and we who worked with the Maya civilization consider Stephens and Catherwood the kind of patron saints of the whole thing.
Well, Joseph Smith read these two volumes, and he was flabbergasted, because what he had dictated about the ancient his mind, these were the ancient cities that he was talking about. They weren’t in South America, as he originally thought; they were in Central America and neighboring Mexico.
It happens that there are over 500 passages with geographic details for the New World portions of the Book of Mormon, and they have a remarkable internal consistency. But they are not at all consistent with any location in South America, and more particularly, there is no way to fit the internal travel accounts required to a New York Cumorah and a Land South that includes South America. Coe doesn’t bother to explain how Joseph managed to describe in detail and at length something so very different than he originally imagined, or more accurately, what Coe imagines Joseph imagined. Taves avoids these issues the same way Coe does: by not exploring the Book of Mormon text or Joseph Smith’s history or believing Mormon scholarship in enough detail to encounter or generate such problems. In her account, the Book of Mormon is Biblical sounding, has a bit of distinctive language in chiasmus, and has a story of “shining stones” and divine rebuke she reads as analogous to Joseph Smith and the plates. But for purposes of her discussion, it can be defined simply as “large” and “complex,” just as The Big Book of AA is, and as Schucman’s A Course in Miracles is, and as a range of other automatic writings are. Personally, I find the superficiality of her approach to the Book of Mormon to be astonishing in a book that purports to authoritatively account for its existence. And this is true even considering the comment of another sympathetic Catholic scholar, Thomas O’Dea, who famously observed, “The Book of Mormon is not one of those books that one must read in order to have an opinion of it.” [references omitted]
Lucy's statement is an oddity. Certainly Joseph discussed things that he learned from revelation with his family, but there is no reason to believe that what he would encounter and dictate in the translation process was already part of a worked out collection of stories or from a manuscript he was already familiar with. Joseph the remarkable teller of Indian stories is not the Joseph that anyone seems to have known. After the Book of Mormon came out, he didn't tell such stories, either. From his sermons, we don't see evidence that he was all that familiar with Book of Mormon peoples and details. We don't see that in the statements of others closely associated with him. Lucy's lone statement long after the Book of Mormon was published does not form a solid foundation for understanding the origins of the Book of Mormon.

By the way, an important point overlooked by the Tanners and other critics in their use of Lucy mack Smith's (edited) statement is that Joseph's family believed him. They believed that this young man had seen an angel and been directed to ancient plates with a sacred record. Daniel Peterson underscores this important point from several angles on his post at Sic et Non, “Father and mother believed him; why should not the children?” He quotes, for example,  the 1875 testimony of Joseph’s younger brother, William Smith:
Joseph Smith, at the age of seventeen years, with the moral training he had received from strictly pious and religious parents, could not have conceived the idea in his mind of palming off a fabulous story, such as seeing angels, etc. . . .

There was not a single member of the family of sufficient age to know right from wrong but what had implicit confidence in the statements made by my brother Joseph concerning his vision and the knowledge he thereby obtained concerning the plates.
 
Father and mother believed him; why should not the children? I suppose if he had told crooked stories about other things, we might have doubted his word about the plates, but Joseph was a truthful boy. That father and mother believed his report and suffered persecution for that belief shows that he was truthful.

And again in 1884:
All believed it was true, father, mother, brothers and sisters. You can tell what a child is. Parents know whether their children are truthful or not. . . . Father knew his child was telling the truth.
 His parents knew. His family knew. And millions who give the Book of Mormon a chance have also come to know that Joseph was telling the truth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Another Reversal: Why Is King David So Absent in Book of Mormon Discourse?

One of the many curious aspects of the Book of Mormon is the frequency with which arguments against it suffer "reversals" and, upon further investigation, actually become evidences in favor of the plausibility and antiquity of the text. Just a few examples include almost every aspect of Lehi's Trail (the River Laman, the "more fertile parts," the place Nahom and its eastward turn, and especially the place Bountiful), along with other issues such as "the land of Jerusalem" instead of Bethlehem Bountiful as the birthplace of Christ, the girl's name Alma for a man, the bad grammar of the dictated text, the very idea of writing on gold plates, the lack of barley in the New World, cities of cement, etc.

One recent attack on the Book of Mormon may be another example of a reversal. I have previously discussed a recent thesis from a young Bible scholar criticizing the Book of Mormon for its failure to emphasize King David and make heavy use of the Psalms. In reviewing that work recently, it struck me that his argument regarding David really makes a lot of sense from the perspective of a modern reader familiar with the Bible, whether it is a young theologian at a Baptist seminary or a young Joseph Smith in a society familiar with the Bible. In our modern environment and in Joseph Smith's, anyone familiar with the Bible should notice that kings in the Old Testament are routinely evaluated by comparison to King David. David was a big deal to the ancient Jews. Strangely, he gets almost no attention in the Book of Mormon, and even gets criticized rather than held up as a glorious example. Kevin Beshears at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary finds that to be powerful evidence against the Book of Mormon as an ancient Hebrew text, as he explains in detail in his thesis, "Davidic References in the Book of Mormon as Evidence Against its Historicity."

What Beshears overlooks is extensive, but one key gap is failure to recognize that in light of modern scholarship, there are good reasons why a group of Hebrews like Lehi's family with roots from the Northern Kingdom and the tribe of Joseph would not buy into the ruling paradigm among the Judeans regarding the greatness of David and the majesty of the so-called Davidic covenant, which allegedly guaranteed the Israelites that they would be safe and a king would remain on David's throne no matter how bad their behavior.

A basic problem in Beshears' work is assuming that there is a “typical” type of Bible text that should be found wherever we look in the Bible, when that is simply not the case. As mentioned above, a large number of books in both the Old and New Testament fail to mention David at all. Since some authors see the Davidic Covenant as central and all-important,[i] Beshears’ perspective is understandable. But there is not a uniform urge to turn to David and the Davidic covenant of an everlasting throne in Jerusalem, even in books like Daniel that look forward to the end days and the final victory of God. For example, the wisdom literature, a type of literature Beshears errantly claimed was absent in the Book of Mormon but in fact shows a strong influence, tends to ignore the Davidic covenant, as Daniel Peterson noted in his widely cited exploration of some aspects of wisdom traditions embedded in the Book of Mormon:
Biblical scholars recognize a genre of writing, found both in the canonical scriptures (e.g., Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon) and beyond the canon, that they term “wisdom literature.” Among the characteristics of this type of writing, not surprisingly, is the frequent use of the term wisdom. But also common to such literature, and very striking in texts from a Hebrew cultural background, is the absence of typically Israelite or Jewish themes, such as the promises to the patriarchs, the story of Moses and the exodus, the covenant at Sinai, and the divine promise to David. There is, however, a strong emphasis on the teaching of parents, and especially on the instruction of the father. [emphasis added][ii]
Since the wisdom-heavy founding documents of the Nephite people paid little attention to the Davidic covenant, it should not be a surprise to see other writers like Alma follow suit in their emphasis of similar themes (including the exodus, not normally emphasized in wisdom literature but obviously an important issue for Nephi and Lehi as they made a literal exodus to a promised land) and a lack of emphasis on the Davidic covenant. This is not to say that any Book of Mormon author wrote exclusively in the wisdom tradition, but there is a significant thread of wisdom influence in the book.

Several more noteworthy factors may contribute to the relative lack of interest in David among Nephite writers. Lehi was not a Jew from David’s tribe of Judah, but was descended from the tribe of Joseph, probably with roots in the northern kingdom, where there was less respect for descendants of David on the throne in Jerusalem. More importantly, Lehi may not have accepted some aspects of Josiah’s reforms that began in 622 B.C. These “Deuteronomist” reforms, triggered by the “discovery” of a book of the law in the temple, believed to be the source of our Book of Deuteronomy, sought to impose centralized worship in Jerusalem and may have introduced the concept of the David covenant — the idea that God would always keep a king descended from David on the throne of Jerusalem, no matter how bad those kings might be. Josiah’s reforms were actually violent, causing many priests to be killed and sacred relics from the temple to be forcefully destroyed.

Non-LDS scholar Margaret Barker argues that Josiah’s reforms were largely destroying many of the things in the old Jewish faith, including the idea of the temple as the place where the presence of God could be encountered, the idea of visions and angels that minister to prophets, and the wisdom tradition.[iii] She argues that the reformers, the Deuteronomists, took out much in early Jewish faith during their violent purges. Barker also points to many ways in which the writings of Nephi comply with results of her own research about pre-exilic Jewish religion.[iv] Although LDS scholars disagree with her assessment of Josiah,[v] if she is right, then Lehi the man of visions, the seeker of wisdom, would naturally be at odds with the Deuteronomists and their scribes, who shaped a great deal of the Bible.

Modern scholarship on the origins of the Bible, including the theories related to the Documentary Hypothesis, provides some related insights that can help us understand the significance of the David Covenant that Beshears expects the Book of Mormon to emphasize. In Richard Elliot Friedman’s famous Who Wrote the Bible?, the mystery behind the centralization of worship and the Davidic covenant is unraveled in several intriguing steps.[vi]

There is a mystery here, for in spite of the strict command in Deuteronomy to centralize worship in Jerusalem, we find David, Saul, Solomon, and Samuel making sacrifices in other places as if they had no awareness of this fundamental command attributed to Moses. This and other issues have led multiple scholars to conclude that the long-lost book of the law that was mysteriously found in the temple during Josiah’s reign was in fact composed at that time, being written by someone close to Josiah. And textual and thematic evidence also suggests that the author or school that produced Deuteronomy also produced the following six books: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. The Davidic covenant given in 2 Samuel 7 was part of that effort. This comes from the Deuteronomists, and not from the other sources proposed for the Bible in the various versions of the Documentary Hypothesis.

The Davidic covenant only makes sense if it was written before the exile, when the confident Jews felt the holy city of Jerusalem could never fall. Lehi, warned of Jerusalem’s destruction, obviously did not see things that way.

An interesting thing about the Deuteronomists, according to Friedman, is how much emphasis they gave to David. In their writings, every king is evaluated by comparison to David. But that emphasis stops after Josiah, possibly because the bulk of the Deuteronomists writings (most of seven books in all) were done in that day, with only minor additions required to cover the tragic fall of Judah and the last four disastrous kings following Josiah. Friedman explains:
That is not the only thing that changes after the story of Josiah. King David figures in a fundamental way in the Deuteronomistic history. Half of the book of 1 Samuel, all of the book of 2 Samuel, and the first chapters of 1 Kings deal with his life. The majority of the kings who come after him are compared to him. The historian states explicitly, several times, that because of David’s merit even a bad king of Judah cannot lose the throne for the family. Especially among the last few kings down to the time of Josiah, the historian reminds us of David. He compares Josiah himself to David, saying, “We went in all the path of David his father.” … Altogether the name David occurs about five hundred times in the Deuteronomistic history. Then, in the story of the last four kings, it stops. The text does not compare these kings to David. It does not refer to the Davidic covenant, let alone explain why it does not save the throne now the way it did in the reigns of Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijam, and Jehoram. It does not mention David at all.

Thus two common, crucial matters in the Deuteronomistic history — centralization and David — disappear after the Josiah section.[vii]
Friedman explains that caution is needed in applying arguments from silence, but here the silence is deafening. When every king is compared to David, and then suddenly the last four kings are not, and when centralization is viewed as essential up to Josiah and then suddenly is not, “we have evidence of a real break and a change of perspective that are connected to that king.”[viii]

While there are some details in the Documentary Hypothesis that can easily be questioned, especially the dating for various sources, the possibility of multiple versions of documents and competing agendas influencing the Bible is actually consistent with information we obtain from the Book of Mormon, not only in terms of how ancient sources were pulled together, but in terms of its report of loss and change that would occur in the records of the Jews.

However the Bible was composed, there is strong evidence that references to David and the Davidic covenant are highly nonuniform in the Bible, and are most concentrated in the documents that are considered to be most influenced by the Deuteronomists. Seeing Lehi as an adherent to the old visionary ways opposed by the Deuteronomists can also help us understand why he might not have bought the new agenda of centralization and the new emphasis on the confident claims of those touting a David covenant that would keep the throne safe, no matter what. The Book of Mormon’s relative silence on David, though not as silent as many other legitimate biblical books, is consistent with the view based largely on Barker’s work that 1 Nephi accurately portrays the complex religious differences and tensions present in pre-exilic Jerusalem, with some groups not accepting the new reforms and possibly not accepting a new emphasis on security through the Davidic covenant.

Jon Levenson’s review of modern scholarship on the problem of the Davidic Covenant reminds us that its presence and influence in the scriptures is not as broad as some seem to assume:
The dynastic Davidic Covenant is of another character. There are only a handful of passages that show awareness of it, and the only two that set it out in any detail at all are those we have already discussed, 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89…. Several considerations, however, militate against the idea that this indicates that the Davidic Covenant commanded the same degree of public awareness and loyalty as the Sinaitic. First, we must notice that Abraham himself was the object of far less attention in the history of the tradition than was Moses. For Abraham, for example, we have nothing even remotely resembling Elijah’s rehearsal of Moses’ pilgrimage to Sinai/Horeb (1 Kings 19) or the great pseudonymous Mosaic address that has come to be called Deuteronomy. The second point to bear in mind is that the expansion of the empire is not quite the same thing as the Davidic Covenant. In certain Israelite circles, by no means small or ephemeral, kingship came to be as important as we know it was elsewhere in the ancient Near East. But to say that kingship was central and even that in Judah it happened to be held almost always by a Davidide is very different from the assertion that the Davidic Covenant, with all it entails, was a central concern. The truth is that most glorifications of David or his reign do not mention a covenant. In fact, the only reference to an “eternal covenant” with David in the books of Samuel is in the so-called “Latter Words of David” (2 Sam 23:1–7), and it is by no means certain that even this obscure reference (v. 5) signifies the dynastic commitment of 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89. In short, kingship and the Davidic dynasty were not synonymous.[ix]
He also explains that in the daily and religious life of an Israelite, the issue of the Davidic covenant was minor compared to the covenant at Sinai:
Even in the religious consciousness of an Israelite for whom kingship was of central importance, the entitlement of the House of David could remain peripheral. That is why, despite the presence of a great quantity of material bearing on royal theology, the specific covenant with David is expounded in clear form so very rarely. Not all royal theology was Davidic, and not all Davidic theology was covenantal. The average Israelite could probably live his life without giving any more attention to the Davidic Covenant than the average American gives to the 25th amendment to the Constitution, which also at- tempts to regulate the matter of succession to the most important office in the land. The same cannot be said of the Sinaitic Covenant. Therefore, it is wrong to assume, as Bright, for example, does, that emphasis on one must have been at the expense of the other, just as it is wrong to assume, with all the scholars I term “integrationists,” that the dynastic oracle of 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89 rests upon an acute consciousness of the Sinaitic Covenant. It appears that the importance of the Davidic-messianic material in subsequent Judaism and especially in Christianity has led scholars to exaggerate its importance (relative to the Sinaitic material) in the Hebrew Bible, even to the extent of their imagining that the two covenants must have been in some kind of constant conversation, either harmonious or discordant.[x]
As for the centralization of worship that Josiah imposed, Lehi and Nephi obviously had no qualms with ritual worship outside of Jerusalem, even to the point of building a temple in the New World, just as Jews at Elephantine in Egypt did.[xi] In fact, Lehi was so at odds with the reigning religious establishment in Jerusalem that his life was in danger. His “apostasy” might have included rejecting some aspects of Josiah’s reforms that began just a few decades before his exodus. Again, what we find in the writings of Nephi makes a good deal of sense in the context of pre-exilic Israel, based on still-tentative research from Margaret Barker and others.[xii]

Joseph Smith could have known none of this. If he were making up the Book of Mormon based on average familiarity with the Bible in his day, or even above average graduate-student level familiarity with the Bible in our day, it is indeed reasonable that we would expect him to pick up on the extensive mentions of David, most of which occur in Deuteronomistic writings, and to then imitate that in the Book of Mormon. Praising King David and comparing good and bad kings to him would be the natural thing to do for a Bible-sponge imitating all things biblical.

Beshears’ puzzlement about David in the Book of Mormon is understandable. It is only through deeper understanding of the complexities behind that statistics on David’s name that we realize the Bible is highly nonuniform regarding David, that there are reasons for sudden changes in the text regarding David, and that there may be good reasons why ancient faithful Hebrews from the tribe of Joseph, ill at ease with the southern Kingdom Jews and their recent violent religious reforms, might not follow suit with the Deuteronomistic writings and their constant awe for David. Those Hebrews, clinging to the old ways of prophecy, revelation, temple worship, and wisdom literature, would respect David as a great but fallen king, and could be frank about his disobedience without betraying their Hebrew roots. They could appreciate the parallels between the young righteous David and Nephi, and could name a land after David, but had no need to make David a touchstone of their faith.

Once again, it seems we have a reversal. A terrible blunder in the Book of Mormon, one that anybody well-schooled in the Bible ought to have avoided, turns out to be just the kind of thing that makes sense for a text from the ancient world with the added complexity of having been written by people derived from the Northern Kingdom and came from the traditions that were being overthrown by the Deuteronomists before and as Lehi escaped Jerusalem.  The role of David in the Book of Mormon is a subtle evidence that it is indeed an ancient text, not a modern forgery.

References:

[i] Michael A. Grisanti, “The Davidic Covenant,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 10/2 (Fall 1999) 233–250.

[ii] Daniel C. Peterson, "Nephi and His Asherah," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/2 (2000): 16–25, 80–81, quotation at 23; http://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/9/2/S00003-50be458eb2b313Peterson.pdf.

[iii] Margaret Barker, “What Did King Josiah Reform?“ in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed. Jo Ann H. Seely, David Rolph Seely, and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2004) 521–42; http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1081&index=16. See also Neal Rappleye, “The Deuteronomist Reforms and Lehi’s Family Dynamics: A Social Context for the Rebellions of Laman and Lemuel,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 87–99; http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-deuteronomist-reforms-and-lehis-family-dynamics-a-social-context-for-the-rebellions-of-laman-and-lemuel/ as well as Kevin Christensen, “The Temple, the Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret Barker,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, 449–522; http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1081&index=15 and Kevin Christensen, “Prophets and Kings in Lehi’s Jerusalem and Margaret Barker’s Temple Theology,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 4 (2013): 177–93; http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/prophets-and-kings-in-lehis-jerusalem-and-margaret-barkers-temple-theology/.

[iv] Margaret Barker, “Joseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,” in The Worlds of Joseph Smith: The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John S. Welch (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press: 2006), Kindle edition. See also Margaret Barker, “Joseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,” BYU Studies 44/4 (2005): 69–82; https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/joseph-smith-and-preexilic-israelite-religion.

[v] For examples of scholars who view Josiah positively, see William J. Hamblin, “Vindicating Josiah,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 4 (2013): 165–176; http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/vindicating-josiah/; and David Rolph Seely and Jo Ann H. Seely, “Lehi and Jeremiah: Prophets Priests and Patriarchs” in John W. Welch and David Rolph Seely and Ann H. Seely, eds., Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem (Provo, UT: FARMS 2004), 357–80; http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1081&index=12.

[vi] Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: Harper Collins, 1997, originally published 1987), 91–124.

[vii] Ibid., 115.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Jon D. Levenson, “The Davidic Covenant and its Modern Interpreters,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 41/2 (April 1979): 205–19, citation at 216–7; http://www.jstor.org/stable/43714665.

[x] Ibid., 217–8.

[xi] Jared W. Ludlow, “A Tale of Three Communities: Jerusalem, Elephantine, and Lehi-Nephi,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16/2 (2007): 28–41, 95; http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol16/iss2/5. See also Jeff Lindsay, “Lessons from the Elephantine Papyri Regarding Book of Mormon Names and Nephi's Temple,” JeffLindsay.com, May 22, 2004; http://www.jefflindsay.com/bme20.shtml.

[xii] Margaret Barker, “What Did King Josiah Reform?”; Margaret Barker, “Joseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion”; and Kevin Christensen, “Prophets and Kings in Lehi’s Jerusalem.”