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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Emergency Preparedness Tip, Courtesy of Wells Fargo: Dont Trust Your Bank

Latter-day Saints have long been encouraged to prepare for tough times by having food storage and basic supplies as well as some savings. Once again, I wish to recommend that your savings include cash that you can live of when things go bad. Part of the problem is that the available currency for US dollars is less than 10% of the total amount of dollars that have been created through America's great credit bubble, meaning that when people feel nervous, the ATM machines will quickly be emptied and the banks won't be able to give you your money. That may just be a short-term problem that can be remedied eventually with the help of emergency printing of bills by authorized or unauthorized counterfeiters with the help of the paper and printing industries. But there is an even bigger and more serious long-term problem: the banks you trust with your money can't be trusted, as Wells Fargo has just illustrated (more on that below). And even if they are trying to be trustworthy, the US government can't be trusted, and it may suddenly feel justified in freezing, blocking, or just snatching your funds. Money in the bank may not really be there in the end. So having significant cash on hand or somewhere relatively safe is one way of preparing for the bubbles that are bound to pop.

Wells Fargo should be a hot topic all over social media right now. What was exposed is a massive criminal conspiracy that should be sending dozens of executives to jail and raises huge questions about the rule of law in a nation that increasingly seems to be acting like a Gaddiantonized banana republic ready to to collapse. Jail and justice for massive theft and fraud seems to be an issue that is just off the table. The penalty for such widespread fraud and theft is just a fine that is a pittance for the corporate giant. Kudos to Bernie Sanders for asking the only meaningful question that everyone should be asking: who's going to jail? (See his letter at the end of this post.)

Here's one perspective as reported by Mark St. Cyr in "Wells Fargo: Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay?" at ZeroHedge.com:
Unless you’re one of the few people still watching CNN,  you may have missed what can only be one of the most scandalous in-house criminal activities to be uncovered at a bank. And not just any bank. It happened at none other than Wells Fargo, which, up until the scandal was revealed, was the number one bank (as measured via its market cap) in the U.S. The scandal? Here are just a few highlights as reported. To wit:
“On Thursday, federal regulators said Wells Fargo (WFC) employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts — without their customers knowing it — since 2011.

The phony accounts earned the bank unwarranted fees and allowed Wells Fargo employees to boost their sales figures and make more money.

“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,” Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in a statement.”
And to use CNN’s own words to describe it: “The scope of the scandal is shocking.”
How shocking you may ask? Fair enough, here’s a little more from their reporting…
“The way it worked was that employees moved funds from customers’ existing accounts into newly-created ones without their knowledge or consent, regulators say. The CFPB described this practice as “widespread.” Customers were being charged for insufficient funds or overdraft fees — because there wasn’t enough money in their original accounts.

Additionally, Wells Fargo employees also submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge or consent. Roughly 14,000 of those accounts incurred over $400,000 in fees, including annual fees, interest charges and overdraft-protection fees.”
As scandalous as all the above is, what is far more insidious, is the damage it inflicts (once again) upon the very fabric of free market capitalism, trust in laws, and last but not least: trust and belief in actual contrition. i.e., “No we’ve really changed, really!”
Cyr goes on to quote the official response of an executive at Wells Fargo who explains that the CEO who was in charge when all this fraud took place, a woman who has suddenly resigned and is walking away with more cash in a giant parting bonus than you and I could ever haul in the biggest wheelbarrow you've ever seen, was a great gal and helped the stock go up, up, up. Hurrah! So Wells Fargo has changed, wiped the slate clean, and will be much more careful in the future -- careful not to get caught, I'm sure.

When major violations of US law can take place that are simply ignored by the enforcers, apparently because a company or VIP is to "too big to fail, too important to jail," we are no longer living under the rule of law. It's a symptom of a Gaddiantonized society and a sign of very big trouble to come. Those little slips like this one that get public scrutiny are usually the tip of a very sinister iceberg.

Whatever you think you have in the bank, remember that all those nice little intangible electronic digits consisting of 1s and 0s, can easily become a nice long string of 0s with the flipping of a few bits. Easier still, the bank can simply be put on a "banking holiday" as one of the great thieves of the past already did during a time of economic crisis in the US (the same thief who forced Americans to turn their gold over to the US government for $20 an ounce when the price would be $35 an ounce for the rest of the world). Be prepared for ugly surprises far more serious than paying a lot of spurious fees to Wells Fargo. You can't trust your bank, or the people who control and regulate your bank, and the people whose primary loyalty is to the bankers of Wall Street, not the US Constitution.

Though I'm not a fan of Bernie Sanders, I'm happy to praise him for asking the very important but actually taboo question in the letter below (courtesy of ZeroHedge.com):

Saturday, September 10, 2016

News on David Sneddon: Former Missionary May Have Paid a Heavy Price for Fluency in Korean

There's a downside to the gift of tongues, which is often alluded to in describing the ability of many missionaries to pick up a foreign language quickly. In one former missionary's case, that fluency may have led to his abduction and forced residence in North Korea. With your help, we may be able to reveal the truth and, if he is being held there, give him a chance to come home or at least contact his family.

Elder David Sneddon as a Mormon Missionary
at the MTC, before leaving to South Korea.
Twelve years ago, a Brigham Young University student, David Sneddon, was hiking in China's Yunnan Province and simply disappeared. As reported in the Deseret News, a Japanese news source confirms what David's family has long suspected: that David was abducted by North Korean agents, possibly to take advantage of his fluent Korean skills so that he could teach English to important people in North Korea. He is allegedly married now.

David's family has created a website, HelpFindDavid.com, to share what they have learned and to solicit your help.

A CNN report says that if true, this would be "one of the most astonishing stories to ever emerge from North Korea." Unfortunately, CNN seems to be overlooking that there are hundreds of similar reports and some completely verified cases in which abducted citizens were actually released by the North Korean government. Thus, I fail to see why this would be particularly astonishing, but the Western media doesn't do much actual reporting, reading, or anything approaching journalism anymore. Just the evidence of North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens, as detailed on Wikipedia's page, "North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens," should establish an important part of track record for North Korea.

It's an ugly aspect of that regime that, like other human trafficking crimes around the world, doesn't get nearly enough attention from the media, which generally is too busy trying to manipulate your vote and drive your consuming behavior rather than digging into the truth. (OK, that's an unfair over-simplification of what the media does. To be fair, I should have mentioned that they do provide a lot of coverage on celebrities and what they wear, or don't wear.)

My hope is that China will intervene and help David's family reach David and allow him to at least visit them again. Perhaps some key players over here will be able to make a difference in this matter. But go to HelpFindDavid.com to learn more about what you can do, wherever you, to help.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Longer Ending of Mark and the Book of Mormon, Part 5: Implications for 3 Nephi

In my previous post, Part 4 of my discussion of the disputed ending of the Gospel of Mark and its relationship to the Book of Mormon, we looked at the subtle Exodus theme that is an undercurrent throughout the Gospel of Mark, and which appears to be deliberately invoked in portions of Mark 16:8-20. Nicholas P. Lunn's The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014) examines a number of parallels to the Exodus, especially the commission of Moses at Sinai, in the longer ending where Christ commissions his Apostles to go into all the world and preach. Lunn offers this table as a summary (262-3, numbering added):

Mark 16 Exodus
1. Jesus "appeared" to the disciples (v.14)The LORD "appeared" to Moses (3:16, 4:5)
2. Commissioned to “go” into all of creation and proclaim the gospel (v. 15 )Commissioned to “go” to Egypt and bring out the Israelites from slavery (3:10)
3. “Whoever believes . . . whoever does not believe . . .” (v. 16 )“What if they will not believe me...?” (4:1); “that they may believe...” (4:5)
4. “signs” (v. 17 )“signs” (4:9, etc)
5. “with their hands” (v. 18)“in his hand” (4:4)
6. “they will pick up snakes” (v. 18)Moses took hold of a snake (4:4)
7. The disciples went and preached, accompanied by signs (vv. 19 –20)Moses went and spoke the message and performed the signs (4:20, 30–31)
8. “hardness of heart” (v. 14)“hardened . . . heart” (passim)
9. “cast out seven demons” (v. 9 )cast out seven nations (3:8; 34:24, etc)

The last item in his list may be a stretch and is easy to criticize. Nevertheless, it is at least possible that Mark saw significance in the number seven when choosing to mention that detail. If the frequent theme of casting out demons in Mark was viewed as an analog to the casting out of pagan nations in Israel as part of God's New Exodus through the ministry of Christ, perhaps Mark felt the number was significant, but it is simply speculation.

In looking at the parallels Lunn sees in the ending of Mark with the appearance of Christ and His commission to the Apostles, I wondered if anything similar might be happening in 3 Nephi with the appearance of Christ to Book of Mormon peoples.  Exodus themes are strongly present in the Book of Mormon, though most strongly in the writings of Nephi. Alma the Younger, clearly a devoted student of the brass plates, also uses Exodus themes in his writings. But do we find that in the 3 Nephi account of Christ's appearance and ministry in the New World?

Several of the items in Lunn's list have relationships to the Book of Mormon account. Obviously, Christ's ministry begins with an appearance to the Nephites. The heading before 3 Nephi 11, present in the earliest manuscripts of the Book of Mormon and thus representing text from the gold plates, not a later editorial insertion, states that "Jesus Christ sheweth himself unto the people of Nephi.... And on this wise did he shew himself unto them" (see Royal Skousen, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 593). The word "appeared" is also used directly in the body of the chapter. After a divine voice speaks three times to the people to call attention to the descent of Christ, they look up and see a Man descending from heaven, but did not know what it meant and "though it was an angel that had appeared unto them" (3 Nephi 11:8). The same word, "appeared," as found in the KJV of Mark and Exodus is also used to describe the visit of the Lord in the New World.

Incidentally, just as the Nephites initially thought it was an angel appearing unto them, so Exodus 3 initially reports that "an angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses]" in the fire of the burning bush (vs. 2), but shortly thereafter we learn that it is actually God calling Moses from the midst of the bush (vv. 4-6).

Regarding issue 2, the charge to "go" given to Moses and the Apostles is also found in 3 Nephi 11:41 in the introductory words of Christ, where He commissions His disciples to "go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth." It is a commission to go unto "this people," but the words and the Gospel message are intended to be taken "unto the ends of the earth." This echoes the commission in the longer ending of Mark and reminds us of God's command to Moses to "go" and free Israel in Exodus 3:10.  ("Go" is found in many translations of Exodus 3:10 such as the NIV, though the KJV has "Come now" instead of the NIV's "So now, go," even though the corresponding Hebrew root, yalak, is much more frequently translated as "go" in the KJV -- see Strong's H3212, Blue Letter Bible.)

The next three issues in Lunn's table, items 3 to 5 dealing with belief, signs, and hands, are all present in 3 Nephi 11 and somewhat in later parts of 3 Nephi. Before the miraculous appearance of the Lord, 3 Nephi 11:2 refers to the "sign" that had been given and fulfilled concerning His death in the Old World. Another dramatic sign is given immediately after His appearance, when the Lord invites the Nephites to come and "thrust your hands into my side" and to "feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world" (3 Nephi 11:14). Here the Lord offers his hands as a both a visual and tactile sign, and asks those present to use their hands to touch Him and confirm that He had been slain, removing any grounds for disbelief, that they might know that their God had appeared and completed His Atonement to redeem them. The topic of "signs" is explicitly addressed later, when the Lord speaks of a "sign" He will give Israel in the Latter-days so that they might know that the Lord is fulfilling His promises and keeping His covenant with Israel (3 Nephi 21:1, 2, 7).

The Exodus-related significance of Christ's opening words and the wounds He showed has been noted by S. Kent Brown in "The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon," BYU Studies 30/3 (Summer 1990):111; reprinted and revised in S. Kent Brown, From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1998), 75-98. Brown observes that in ancient times, agents sent to negotiate for the release of captives in foreign lands would be sent with credentials that could be shown to confirm that they had the requisite authority. Thus, Moses and Aaron were sent as representatives of the Lord to Pharaoh (Ex. 3:10; 4:14–15) and presented their “credentials” in the form of divine signs worked by the power of the rod of Aaron/Moses (Exodus 7:8–12). Relating this concept to the Book of Mormon, Brown writes:
When we turn to 3 Nephi, the need and the effort to recover those who were captives of sin becomes clear. The principal differences, of course, were that (a) the risen Jesus, the one who sought the recovery, came in person rather than sending a messenger, and (b) there was no captor to whom he needed to present his credentials. In this connection, important features of Jesus’ visit grew out of the scene in which he presented his “credentials” and the tokens of his mission to those whom he sought to rescue. Note the following overtones in the wonderful moments just after his arrival: “Behold, I AM Jesus Christ whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I AM the light and the life of the world” (3 Ne. 11:10–11, capitalization added). The similarities with Moses’ situation cannot be missed. In the first instance, Jesus identified himself as the one whom the gathered crowd had been expecting. Moses, too, had to identify himself as the envoy of Israel’s God (Ex. 4:29–31). Further, Jesus announced himself specifically by using the divine name I AM, the same name which Moses carried from his interview on the holy mount (3:14). Additionally, as Moses had carried at least one token of his commission which had the form of a physical malady, namely, his arm which could be made leprous (4:6–8), so Jesus bore the tokens of his crucifixion in his person. Moreover, to demonstrate the validity of his wounds, Jesus asked the entire crowd of twenty-five hundred people (3 Ne. 17:25) to come forward so that “ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet” (11:14). My last point in this context is that as the children of Israel had “believed” Moses and had then “bowed their heads and worshipped” (Ex. 4:31), so the people in Bountiful, after “going forth one by one . . . did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Ne. 11:15). They too “did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (11:17). And like the scene in which worship was extended to Jesus who was present, the Israelite slaves worshiped the Lord who “had visited the children of Israel” (Ex. 4:31).

Both the acceptance of the tokens and the response seem significant in each context.
Brown points to additional parallels between 3 Nephi and the Exodus account, including the use of "I AM" and the response of the Nephites in bowing and worshiping Him. Who "had visited the children of Israel" (Exodus 4:31). Christ, of course, was visiting the Nephites, and in His address to them, said that the Father will "visit him [who believes in Christ] with fire and with the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 11:35).

Turning to the next item on Lunn's list, number 6, there is no mention of snakes or serpents in 3 Nephi, apart from a passage on the Sermon on the Mount as adapted for and quoted to the Nephites ("Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" in 3 Nephi 14:10). However, Mormon in Mormon 9:22-25 later reports that Christ told the disciples essentially the same words found in the commission to the Apostles in the disputed longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:15-18, with the taking up of serpents mentioned in vs. 18 and in Mormon 9:24). Though it is so speculative that I hesitate to mention it, if the Nephites in Mesoamerica connected the brass serpent of Moses with Christ, perhaps in the context of an early form of what would become the Quetzalcoatl myth, then it is conceivable that there might be a link between touching Christ with their hands and the Exodus theme of Moses taking up the serpent that would become his rod again, or more directly a link to touching the living reality behind the symbol of the brass serpent. But if such a connection were intended in 3 Nephi, one might hope to find an allusion to the brass serpent or to Moses' rod associated with the scene in 3 Nephi 11.

As for item 7, speaking the message accompanied with signs, this was thoroughly accomplished by the twelve disciples in the New World. Beginning the very night after Jesus appeared, they undoubtedly led the effort to announce the coming of the Lord to thousands during the night that they might be present for His return the next day (3 Nephi 19:1-4). On the next day, they then began fulfilling their commission by teaching what Jesus had taught, dividing the crowd into twelve bodies, then leading them in prayer and teaching the very words that Christ had taught the day before (3 Nephi 19:5-8). That day their divinely appointed ministry would be confirmed through dramatic signs including the return of Christ in their midst. This commission to go and teach the words of Christ would be continued throughout their lives (3 Nephi 26:17). Numerous signs would accompany the ministry in particular of the three disciples who were given special power to tarry on earth until the return of Christ in the last days (3 Nephi 28:1-23). These three "did go forth upon the face of the land, and did minister unto all the people" (3 Nephi 28:18) and would miraculously surviving many attempts of the wicked to kill them or hold them captive (3 Nephi 28:19-22).

Item 8 dealing with the "hardness" of hearts is not clearly present in the context of Christ's ministry, though in 3 Nephi it is referenced as a key factor associated with the wickedness of the people before the great destruction in 3 Nephi 9. As reported in 3 Nephi 1:22, "there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord." Here the hardening of hearts under Satan's influence leads to disbelief of the signs and wonders they saw that were pointing to the coming of Christ. Then 3 Nephi 2:1-2 again reports that the people "began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen," ascribing signs and wonders from God to the works of Satan or the deception of men. Further, in 3 Nephi 21, in speaking of a sign to be given in the latter days regarding the gathering of Israel, Christ states that the Gentiles may be counted among His people "if they will not harden their hearts," and in the following verse He observes that the His prophecies about the gathering of Israel in the last days "shall be a sign unto them [the Gentiles]" (3 Nephi 21:7). These passages link hardness of hearts to disbelief of divine signs, which is what we find in several verses in Exodus. For example, in Exodus 4:21, "the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart [the JST has "Pharaoh will harden his heart"], that he shall not let the people go." The hardened heart does not believe and obey in spite of signs. Later in Exodus 7:3-4, the Lord tells Moses that "I will harden Pharaoh’s heart [also changed to Pharaoh will harden his heart" in the JST], and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you" (NIV).

Other heart-related passages in 3 Nephi include 3 Nephi 7:16 where the great prophet Nephi, "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds -- went forth among the people" to preach repentance. Then when the Lord speaks to the Nephites immediately after the great destruction of 3 Nephi 9, He commands them to "offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit" (v. 20), which is the opposite of a hardened heart. In Christ's initial words to the Nephites, he warns against Satan's power over the hearts of men, to stir them up to anger (3 Nephi 11:29-30). While not using the word "hardness," the concept is related.

Item 9, as mentioned (casting out seven nations/seven demons), may be a weak element in Lunn's analysis and is not found in 3 Nephi.  However, the Exodus theme of casting out pagan nations to prepare the way for Israel not only has parallels to Christ's casting out demons in Mark as part of a new Exodus, but also has links to 3 Nephi, where the theme of a New Exodus is also present. This New Exodus, unfortunately, appears to requiring casting out portions of a pagan Gentile nation in the New World, as described in 3 Nephi 20:15-22 and 21:12-24. The words Christ uses makes the ties to the Exodus particularly strong, for he introduces the concept after declaring that "this land" in the New World was given unto the Nephites/House of Israel for an inheritance (3 Nephi 20:14), and then begins the warning to the Gentiles on this land (3 Nephi 20:15-22), among whom the remnant of the House of Jacob shall be "as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep" (vs.  16), which is quoting Micah 5:8, but also making reference to Numbers 23:22-24, where Balaam prophecies that Israel, as it had left Egypt and was entering its promised land, would "rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain" (vs. 24). This lion/young lion combination is repeated in a similar context in 3 Nephi 21:12. The future gathering of Israel, coupled with some degree of scattering of Gentile peoples that reject the Gospel, is part of the New Exodus of the last days and is rich in parallels to the original Exodus. 

Significantly, nearly all of the Exodus themes that Lunn lists for the disputed ending of Mark, where Christ appears and gives the great commission to His apostles, are also found in 3 Nephi where Christ does the same with His twelve disciples in the New World. It was already known that Exodus themes run deep in the Book of Mormon, though 3 Nephi has received less attention than the abundant Exodus themes in the writings of Nephi and other early writers. Elements identified by Lunn in defense of the integrity of Mark also help us see more of the Exodus roots in 3 Nephi.

While Lunn focuses on Sinai-related parallels to Exodus 3 and 4, the Sinai experience continues in Exodus 6, where we find several noteworthy relationships to the 3 Nephi account in vv. 1-8:
1 Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.
2And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord:
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.
And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.
And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.
Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.
Parallels to 3 Nephi occur in the declaration, "I am the Lord" and "I appeared" as well as the language around the covenant and the land of inheritance given the House of Israel, all discussed above. Further,  Christ begins His words to the Nephites as he "stretched forth his hand and spake" (3 Nephi 11:10), similar to the "stretched out arm" in Exodus 6:6. He then made the declaration, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world" (3 Nephi 11:11-12). 

Other parallels to consider include the location of appearance of the Lord at the temple in Bountiful, the "mountain of the Lord's house" (Isaiah 2:2), which can be connected to Mount Sinai, site of Moses' theophany.

As with the burning bush on Sinai, one of the striking elements in the 3 Nephi account of the Lord's ministry to the Nephites is the word "fire." The theme of fire and burning begins with the first hint of the Lord's appearance, as the "small voice" from the heavens pierced the souls of the people gathered at the temple and "did cause their hearts to burn" (3 Nephi 11:3). After Christ appears and speaks, he says that those who believe in Him will be visited "with fire and the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 11:35).  Being baptized with "fire and the Holy Ghost" is mentioned again in 3 Nephi 12:1, 2. Dramatically, in 3 Nephi 17:34, the little children in the group are encircled with heavenly fire.

The transfiguration of Christ, an important Exodus theme in Mark 9, also plays a large role in 3 Nephi, with transfiguration occurring for Christ and his disciples (3 Nephi 19:14, 24-25), a scene in which "the light of [Christ's] countenance did smile upon them" (v. 25) and caused the disciples faces and clothing to glow white like Christ in this mystical transfiguration scene, apparently alluding to the way that Moses' face shone when he came down from Sinai in Exodus 34:35. The surrounding of the children in 3 Nephi 17 with divine fire may also count as a transfiguration scene.

Finally, the translation of the three Nephite disciples should also be considered. Here Lunn's analysis of the transfiguration of Christ in Mark 9, relevant to the many ways Mark alludes to the Exodus in his writings, also has relevance to 3 Nephi. One of the parallels between Mark 9 and the Exodus is that "Moses and Jesus both take with them three named persons (Exodus 24:1, 9; Mark 9:2)" (Lunn, 256). The three Nephites who are translated/transfigured and given power to live until Christ returns would seem to fit that pattern, but their names are withheld though among the listed twelve (3 Nephi 28:1-17). The word "transfiguration" is used twice to describe the change (3 Nephi 28:15, 17) which was accompanied by being caught up into heaven as the dramatic change took place (3 Nephi 28:13-15).

Among the other Exodus concepts that occur in 3 Nephi, another dramatic one is the feeding of the people with bread and wine in a sacramental meal offered by Christ, even though there was no bread nor wine that was brought for that event (3 Nephi 20:3-7), in parallel to the feeding of Israel with manna and miraculously produced water during their journey in the wilderness.

Another water-related concept from Exodus was the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), for which Lunn sees parallels in Mark to teachings regarding baptism. This is consistent with 3 Nephi's emphasis on baptism, one of the first topics that Christ touches upon after he appears (3 Nephi 11:21-27). Baptism, of course, is a ceremony whose symbolism includes being rescued from the waters of death and chaos. Water is explicitly mentioned in 3 Nephi: "ye shall go down and stand in the water" (3 Nephi 11:23), "ye shall immerse them in the water" and "come forth again out of the water" (3 Nephi 11:26),  "I have given power that they may baptize you with water" and "after ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 12:1), and four times in the context of baptism in 3 Nephi 19 (vv. 10-13), including going down to the water's edge (3 Nephi 19:10), which may be a parallel to the House of Israel approaching the Red Sea before the miracle began or to the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua and the priests carrying the tabernacle (Joshua 3:5-17, with the "brink of the water of the Jordan" mentioned in vs. 8, or "the edge of the Jordan's waters" in the NIV). Further, those who are not built upon his rock but on a sandy foundation will be received by the gates of hell "when the floods come" (3 Nephi 11:40, 18:13), followed by two references to the flood-like "waters of Noah" (3 Nephi 22:9, quoting Isaiah 54:9), waters whose destructive force reminds us of the Red Sea that destroyed the Egyptian army with its horses and chariots.

Speaking of horses and chariots,  Christ's partial quotation of Micah 5:10 in 3 Nephi 21:14, "I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots," is likely a reference to the destruction of Egypt's horses and chariots in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:6-9, 17-18, 23-28, 15:19; and especially Deuteronomy 11:4 where the Lord "destroyed" the Egyptian's horses and chariots).

The "cloud" that surrounds Jesus and hides Him from the Nephites as He ascends into heaven (3 Nephi 18:38) is also reminiscent of the cloud associated with God's presence and power in the Exodus story (Exodus 13:21-22, 14:19-20, 24, 16:10, 19:9, 16, 24:15-16, 18, 34:5, 40:34-38).

Christ's command to "Look unto me and endure to the end” (3 Nephi 15:9), followed by healing of the people (3 Nephi 17:9), could point to the account of the brass serpent that healed Israelites who would look to that symbol of Christ (Numbers 21:8-9), as George S. Tate has suggested in “The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon.”

In addition to multiple Exodus themes that unite the longer ending of Mark with the rest of his text, Lunn also notes the subtle presence of references to Elijah in Mark's text, including the longer ending (Lunn, 263-5). Following Lunn's lead, we also see Elijah references in 3 Nephi. The only explicit reference to Elijah in the Book of Mormon occurs in the words of Christ in 3 Nephi 25:5, quoting Malachi 4:5 about the future sending of Elijah. Further, there may be an allusion to Elijah's theophany on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:9-15), where Elijah witnessed destructive forces of wind, earthquake and fire (1 Kings 19:11-12), akin perhaps to the destruction reported in 3 Nephi 9, followed by the voice of the Lord as "a still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12), like the "small voice" that pierced the Nephites to the center and caused their hearts to burn (3 Nephi 11:3; cf. Helaman 5:30) as Christ began His majestic descent to them.

Lunn's work on the longer ending of Mark not only helps us understand the appropriateness of the word that Christ taught to His New World disciples, following the commission given in Mark 16, but also gives us tools and perspectives to better understand subtle themes woven into the description of Christ's ministry to the Nephites. As always, there is more to the Book of Mormon than meets the eye.

Related resources:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Longer Ending of Mark and the Book of Mormon, Part 4: Internal Evidence Including the Exodus Theme

Recently we surveyed a small fraction of the external evidence supporting what is called the "longer ending" of Mark, our current Mark 16:9-20, which is viewed by many Bible scholars as a late addition that should not be in the canon. In the book I recommend on this topic, Nicholas P. Lunn's The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014), Lunn focuses not on the compelling external evidence but on detailed analysis of the internal evidence. He begins by pointing out the serious flaws in the arguments used to reject the longer ending. For example, many scholars point to the large number of new words used there that are not found in the rest of Mark. But Lunn shows that the number of new words in the longer ending is actually quite consistent with the number of new words found in many passages of similar length in Mark, and that the ratio of new words in a short work like Mark is a very poor tool for assessing authorship.

Lunn's significant, detailed, and lengthy analysis of the internal evidence involves many technical issues that require a good knowledge of biblical Greek. I am unable to assess the accuracy of many of these points, but much can still be appreciated and understood by laymen and by those who have explored authorship in terms of statistical analyses like word prints and other measures. While Lunn is not a statistician and could certainly refine the statistical tools he applies, the analyses he conducts generally strike me as reasonable in principle and often quite compelling. What really impresses meis how extensive and multidimensional the arguments are. Some of the subtle points he makes suggest lines of analysis that might bear fruit in exploring the Book of Mormon, through we lack the benefit of the text in the original language of the authors.

As one of several approaches, Lunn examines each of the major words in the disputed ending as well as the grammatical patterns employed and compares them to Mark and other texts, and provides evidence pointing to Markan origins in many cases. For example, except for a related instance in Luke that is said to be dependent on Mark, the only occurrences of the form "cast out / demons / in the name of" are found in the longer ending of Mark and earlier in the main body of Mark, consistent with common authorship (Lunn, 187-

Analysis of Jesus' statement, "they shall lay hands on the sick," shows that the collocation of "lay hands upon" and a sick person occurs five times in Mark, including the longer ending, but just once in Matthew and twice in Luke. In Matthew and Luke, the healed person is represented with a pronoun, while Mark alone uses a noun to refer to the infirm/infirmity (6:5, 8;25, and 16:18 in the longer ending).
More than this, in 6:5 those upon whom Jesus lays his hands are described as ἀρρώστοις (“sick”), an adjective that we have previously noted to be more frequent in Mark than the other Synoptics. What is significant here is that this is very same word as that appearing in the collocation of 16:18. So, with that specific object in view, this three-part collocation is only found in Mark 6:5 and 16:18. In the whole of NT literature the grouping “lay/hands/on the sick” is seen to be an exclusively Markan collocation. (Lunn, 189.)
This kind of thing crops up over and over in the analysis, and to me creates another compelling case for common authorship. Of course, other scholars argue that the use of Markan words, phrases, and grammatical patterns is evidence of deliberate imitation. Lunn properly objects to that argument as wanting to have it both ways: unique words or grammatical patterns are said to be evidence of a second author, and common words and style are also evidence of a second author just trying hard to imitate Mark. But it is in the abundance of subtle consistency that the "just imitating Mark" argument becomes implausible, for many of the details favoring Markan authorship require scholarship, analysis, and attention to detail that just doesn't make sense for a plagiarizer, much as most of the plagiarism charges against the Book of Mormon don't make sense if one wishes to offer a coherent theory of how the Book of Mormon was concocted.

Here are some summaries from several of the chapters dealing with internal evidence to give you a flavor for the work:
Summary for Chapter Five, "Linguistic Evidence (2)"
In this chapter we have studied a selection of different linguistic features present in Mark 16:9 –20 . From this we have observed the following significant facts: 
• The analysis of the various parts of speech, regarding their range of frequency in individual sections, their hierarchy, and their deviation from the Markan average, results in the inclusion of the longer ending within the parameters exhibited by the rest of Mark. The same cannot be said of the undoubtedly spurious shorter ending and Freer Logion.
• The implicit manner of participant reference used with respect to Jesus at the beginning of the distinct units within the longer ending (16:9, 12, 14) matches that commonly found in the same episode-initial position in the preceding part of Mark.
• The majority of the two-or three-part collocations found in the longer ending have their exact or closest parallels elsewhere in Mark.
• The rare temporal phrase μετὰ τὸ + infinitive (16:19), attested only five times elsewhere in the Gospels, has its only exact Gospel parallels earlier in Mark.
• The particular form of juxtaposed genitive absolute phrases (16:20) has three matching constructions in Mark, which is more than appear in all the other Gospels.
• For the verb ἀκούειν followed by a complement clause in the present tense (16:11) the majority of its Synoptic parallels occur in Mark.
• The partitive phrase with preposition and pronoun (16:11) conforms to the pattern seen elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel.
• The form of the conjoined noun phrases with possessive pronoun (16:14) corresponds precisely to the preferred configuration for such constructions in Mark. 
The commonality of these very specific and very varied features with known Markan usage carries considerable weight. This contrasts with the weakness of the usual linguistic arguments against the genuineness of the longer ending discussed and refuted in the previous chapter. Here then we have noted positive linguistic indicators which collectively form another important element of our case for Markan authorship.

We note in conclusion that the findings of this chapter effectively refute Kelhoffer’s thesis that the supposed later author of the longer ending actually sought to deliberately imitate Mark. Kelhoffer’s arguments are based largely upon surface features of the language, in which, it is posited, the hypothetical writer only partially imitated the earlier Evangelist, leaving the basic non-Markan nature of his work detectable to the scholar. This, however, raises an insurmountable objection. Assuming the correctness of this thesis, if even regarding the more obvious features he only managed to imitate some and not others, how do we explain the fact that he went to even greater efforts to conform to Markan usage in less evident features of the language, such as those dealt with above? The greater subtlety of such linguistic components as discussed in this chapter is proven from the fact that no scholar, either in antiquity or in recent times, has remarked upon these within the context of the present debate. Almost certainly our hypothetical writer would have been completely ignorant of such things. Furthermore, assuming he/she was so linguistically informed, to have taken the trouble to have included these elements would have been pointless, since their significance would have remained almost entirely unappreciated by those who read or heard his work. Consequently, to claim imitation with respect to such details is quite groundless.

To bring our consideration of language-related matters to a close we may state that the findings of this chapter, plus the conclusions of the previous, contrary to popular scholarly opinion, enable us to firmly set Mark 16:9–20 linguistically within the Markan domain. (Lunn, 200-1)

Summary for Chapter Six, "Literary Evidence"
This chapter has looked to literary factors for the resolution of the question concerning the authenticity of the longer ending. Through the examination of a range of diverse rhetorical techniques commonly utilized by the biblical writers it has been demonstrated that these disputed verses show no signs of being a late appendage, but rather form an integral and indeed essential part of the author’s original composition. Several strands of literary evidence, both structural and intratextual, give confirmation to the church’s traditional acceptance of this portion of the Gospel. We here, by way of conclusion, summarize the findings of this chapter. Our investigation has demonstrated that
(a) the longer ending, by the reoccurrence of particular themes, words, and phrases, establishes an inclusio with the opening passages of the Gospel (1:1–20).

(b) the longer ending conforms to a specific form of episodic structure (ABCX) that is exclusively Markan.

(c) the longer ending relates to the immediately preceding verses (16:1–8) by way of a formal parallelism with distinct verbal and thematic correspondences.

(d) the unified narrative of chapter 16 , in displaying a resurrection-unbelief-preaching sequence, aligns closely with the material closing the first major section of the Gospel (5:21–6:13), with which it also correlates at a macrostructural level.

(e) the unified narrative of chapter 16 relates intratextually to material of 5:21–6:13 through multiple verbal linkages.

(f) the resurrection-unbelief-preaching accounts of 5:21–6:13 function as narrative anticipations or foreshadowings of the events recorded in 16:1–20. 
Had our findings merely consisted of one or two possible literary features, these might have been dismissed as coincidental. The literary evidence, however, is plainly manifold and in most instances quite objective. Such testimony cannot so readily be dismissed, especially when to it we add the corroboration of the thematic evidence, the topic that next falls to our examination. (Lunn, 240)
In Chapter 7, "Thematic Evidence," Lunn explores the extensive foreshadowing in Mark that points to multiple elements in the longer ending that are needed to complete prophecy or complete themes raised by Mark earlier. Lunn finds that a relatively unique aspect of Mark is the way he lays out forthcoming themes (foreshadowing) "with distinct verbal links in the narrative fulfillments" (Lunn, 246). With that in mind, Lunn explains that the multiple predictions of the resurrection of Christ, Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34, are not completed by the empty tomb alone if Mark ends at 16:8, but require the declaration that Christ has arisen. "Having risen..." in 16:9, the first verse of the disputed longer ending, does precisely that with a "resounding" echo of Christ's words (Lunn, 246-7).

I was especially intrigued by the subtle exodus themes that unite Mark, according to Lunn (Lunn, 248-263). Lunn shows numerous references to Exodus in the language of Mark, suggesting that Mark has framed the mission of Christ as a New Exodus. Christ seeks to bring Israel across the waters of baptism into a spiritual Promised Land, and in so doing, rather than casting out Gentile nations, Christ's work is to cast out Satan and his demons.

As one of many examples, Lunn explains how the transfiguration in Mark 9 points to Moses at Mount Sinai, something which a variety of scholars have previously observed (Lunn, 256-7). Both take place in a mountain, Moses and Jesus both take three persons with them (Exodus 24:1,9; Mark 9:2). A cloud overshadows the mountain in both cases. A voice is heard from the cloud. There are references to tabernacles in both (Exodus 25:9; Mark 9:5). The appearance of both principle characters is transformed. The injunction to "Hear him" in Mark 9:7 also has overtones from Moses, with similar words used to describe a Moses-like prophet in Deut. 18:15 (Lunn, 257), as other scholars have also noted.

Among other details, the miracles of feeding point to manna in the wilderness and the last supper points to the Passover feast. Christ's words, "This is the blood of the covenant" (Mark 14:24) have been observed by many commentators to reflect Exodus 24:1-8, where God establishes His covenant through Moses. As Moses throws blood upon the altar, he says "Behold, the blood of the covenant."

The longer ending, not surprisingly, has multiple exodus allusions that are consistent with Mark's overarching implementation of exodus themes. The appearance of Christ to the eleven uses the term "appeared" in a way the recalls the divine commission of Moses. Exodus 3:2 reports that "the angel of the Lord appeared to him," but we soon learn it is Jehovah that is appearing to Moses and giving him his commission, just as Christ does for the eleven.

The call of Moses in Exodus 3 and 4 involves miraculous signs, possibly reflected by the reference to signs in Mark 16:17. The signs are related to the belief of the people in both cases.

Lunn also sees a parallel in the snakes mentioned in the longer ending: "they shall take up serpents" (Mark 16:18). Taking up a serpent with his hand is exactly what Moses does after his rod is turned into a snake by the Lord (Exodus 4:2-3). It's a fascinating parallel that I hadn't noticed before. Also in this episode, "hands" play an important role in both accounts.

Mark's use of "hardening" of hearts also has affinity to the Exodus account in the Old Testament, both from the Egyptian's response to his message and miracles, and in the waning faith of the House of Israel.

Moses is also commanded to "go" and carry out his work of deliverance from slavery (Exodus 3:10), just as the Apostles are commanded to "go" and preach the Gospel among all nations.

With this perspective, it seems that much in the longer ending resonates subtly with the exodus theme that permeates Mark, consistent with common authorship and thematic intent.

In many cases, what we learn from Lunn has ramifications for Book of Mormon studies. For example, what happens when we look at 3 Nephi through the lens of the Exodus account? Does it show similar themes in the appearance of the Messiah to Book of Mormon peoples? Is there a new Exodus present in that book? And does Lunn's analysis of the theme of transfiguration offer any help in appreciating 3 Nephi and its transfiguration/translation scenes? These are topics I plan to take up in my next post.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Add This Scarce Resource to Your Emergency Supplies

Many Latter-day Saints do a good job of preparing for emergencies by storing food, water, and other essential supplies for times of trouble. But there is one valuable resource they often overlook, and that resource could quickly become a lot more difficult to scrounge up than most Americans imagine. I'm talking about cash. Real cash, currency, the kind you can touch, not the digits in a bank account that could be wiped out by a hacker, an electronic disruption, a power failure, or a bank failure. I recommend that you have enough to live on for two months or so.

Cash? Really? We can just go to the ATM down the street and get whatever we need, right? But when trouble strikes, how long will that ATM supply last? What if many American suddenly started doubting the security of their money in the bank and wanted cash? The shocking thing is that the vast majority of American dollars exist only as digital credit on a computer system. The total amount of physical currency in the world is a small percentage of US dollars in accounts. Much of our currency may actually be overseas. If Americans want cash, there is not nearly enough to cover but a tiny fragment of the demand. You need cash now, not when an emergency strikes.

In addition to natural disasters that can empty local ATMs in a hurry, man-made disasters can make people doubt the security of their banks and try to pull cash out. But bank reserves are small and can't handle the demand. Prepare now by having cash on hand to get you through a few weeks of months of trouble. That's a first step toward being prepared.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Longer Ending of Mark and the Book of Mormon, Part 3: More External Evidence

In my previous post, "The Longer Ending of Mark and the Book of Mormon, Part 2: External Evidence for Authenticity," we looked at some of the evidence from early Christian fathers showing support for the disputed longer ending of Mark, Mark 16:9-20, which contains a quote from Christ that He also gave to His New World disciples in the Book of Mormon (see Part 1 for details). Unique elements from the longer ending were quoted or alluded by numerous early Christian writers, showing that the longer ending existed in New Testament manuscripts before the creation and use of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest surviving New Testament manuscripts which have Mark stopping abruptly at Mark 16:8. These documents, however, are not independent witnesses but come from the same scriptorium and thus their omission of Mark may reflect a single corrupted source or a single influence.

Among the extensive evidence from early Christianity for the longer ending of Mark, perhaps the most important is that from before 150 A.D., for scholars generally conclude that the longer ending of Mark dates from the late second century, though some put it even later. If there is evidence that the longer ending existed before the last half of the second century, that would be particularly important. While the Apostolic Fathers do not directly refer to Mark 16:9-20 or quote from it, an important issue that many have missed is the possibility of allusions to the longer ending.

First Clement, the book authored by Clement of Rome, is one of the earliest Christian writings we have after the New Testament. Nicholas P. Lunn's The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014) illustrates Clement's awareness and use of the Gospels in several ways, with language and teachings drawn from Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Words and phrases unique to Mark are used in several cases, such as in Clement's allusion to the parable of the sower (First Clement, 24.4-5, discussed in Lunn, pp. 65-66).

In First Clement 42.3-4, right after a discussion of the apostles having received the Gospel from Jesus Christ, who was sent by God (42.1-2), Clement uses language with striking parallels to the longer ending of Mark, compared below:
Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection [ ἀναστάσεως ] of our Lord Jesus [ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ] Christ, and full of faith in the word [ τῷ λόγῳ ] of God, with full assurance of the Holy Spirit they went out [ ἐξῆλθον ] proclaiming the good news [ εὐαγγελιζόμενοι ] that the kingdom of God was about to come . . . preaching [ κηρύσσοντες ] in the country and in the towns . . . (1 Clem. 42.3–4)

Having been raised [ ἀναστὰς ] . . . he appeared to the Eleven . . . and he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach [ κηρύξατε ] the gospel [ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ] to all creation . . . .” So then, after the Lord Jesus [ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ] had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And going out [ ἐξελθόντες ] they preached [ ἐκήρυξαν ] everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word [ τὸν λόγον ] through the accompanying signs. (Mark 16:9, 14 –15, 19 –20) (Lunn, pp. 6-67)
Lunn notes that the setting in both passages is similar, dealing with the commissioning of the apostles and their going forth to preach the gospel. There is also "obvious thematic coherence" and in some cases "words unique to that ending among all the Gospel accounts." Lunn explains (footnotes omitted):
Regarding the apostles going out to preach, the particular verb chosen by Clement to describe that event ( ἐξελθεῖν ) is the same as that occurring in Mark 16:20 of precisely the same action. None of the other Gospel writers uses this verb in this context. This uniqueness with respect to the verb found in the Markan ending makes a strong connection between Clement and that intertext. The verb “preach” in the active voice with the apostles as grammatical subject appears in both Clement ( κηρύσσοντες ) and the disputed verses of Mark ( κηρύξατε , ἐκήρυξαν ), yet not in this particular way in any of the other Gospel endings. Luke is the only one here to employ the same verb, though evidently in quite a different manner. Luke makes no explicit mention of the apostles as the agents of preaching, while his use of the verb is passive with the abstract noun “repentance” as the grammatical subject.  Moreover, Clement and Mark are further united in using “preach” absolutely, that is, without an explicit grammatical object.  The former has the phrase “preaching [ κηρύσσοντες ] in the country and in the towns,” and the latter “they preached [ ἐκήρυξαν ] everywhere.” In each instance the absolute verb is qualified by a locative expression. Undoubtedly there is much semantic overlap between “in the country and in the towns” and “everywhere.”  Indeed, it may be the case that, for stylistic reasons, Clement here consciously avoided using “everywhere” ( πανταχοῦ ) since he had used this very term just a few sentences before in 41 . 2 . Whether this is so or not, there is a specific semantic and structural correspondence at this point between the two phrases which is unparalleled in the other Gospels. Also found in both writers is the definite noun “the word” referring to the message preached. This sense of λόγος is another uniquely Markan feature in the Gospel endings.  The presence of all these elements together in a passage relating an identical setting, plus the fact that the other Gospel endings do not contain such usages, makes not merely a good case but an extremely forceful one for Clement’s familiarity with the questioned ending of Mark. If so, the significance of this cannot be overestimated since Clement’s letter is generally dated to the late first century. 

Lunn also considers the possibility that another document from the Apostolic Fathers alludes to the longer ending of Mark as he examines the Shepherd of Hermas, a document often mentioned by LDS apologists for its vivid reference to early Christian baptism for the dead. Like First Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas was also written in Rome, where by tradition Mark was said to have written his Gospel. Since the Shepherd of Hermas was mentioned by Irenaeus and the author of the Muratorian Canon, both dating to around 175 –190 AD, it was likely written around 150 AD or earlier, and some authorities give much earlier dates. While it does not directly quote from Mark or any other scriptural source, it  has apparent allusions to scripture.  Lunn says, "It is certain that the author was familiar with the Gospel of Mark seeing that in 97.2 –3 unmistakable reference is made to Mark 10 : 23 –24" (Lunn, p. 68). The passage in question is part of a parable involving twelve figurative mountains, compared with a part of the longer ending of Mark below:

And from the eighth mountain, where there were many springs and all the creation [ πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις ] of the Lord drank from the springs, are believers [ οἱ πιστεύσαντες ] such as these: apostles and teachers who preached [ κηρύξαντες ] to the whole world [ εἰς ὅλον τὸν κόσμον ], and who taught the word [ τὸν λόγον ] of the Lord [ τοῦ κυρίου ] soberly and purely, and who misappropriated nothing for evil desire, but always walked [ πορευθέντες ] in righteousness and truth . . . . ( Herm. 102 . 1 –2 ) .

 . . and he said to them, “Go [ πορευθέντες ] into all the world [ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἅπαντα ] and preach [ κηρύξατε ] the gospel to all creation [ πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει ]. Whoever believes [ ὁ πιστεύσας ] and is baptized will be saved . . . .” And going out they preached [ ἐκήρυξαν ] everywhere, the Lord [ τοῦ κυρίου ] working with them and confirming the word [ τὸν λόγον ] through the accompanying signs. (Mark 16:15 –16 , 20) 

Lunn offers this analysis:
Here the mountain with its springs that give water to all creation represents those who preach the gospel to the world. Obviously there are several NT texts that deal with a similar subject. Yet of these, the phraseology of one in particular is traceable in the Hermas passage significantly more than any other, and that is the commissioning and preaching of the apostles recorded in Mark 16:15 –20. The most conspicuous link between the two texts is the occurrence in each of not just one but both of the semantically related phrases “all creation” and “the whole world.” The former phrase, apart from grammatical case, is identical in words and order ( πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις / πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει ), while the latter in both instances consists of the basic prepositional phrase εἰς τὸν κόσμον with a synonymous quantifying adjective adjoining the noun. Mark 16:15 is, it should be stressed, the only verse in the entire NT where both these ideas are expressed together. Elsewhere in the NT the phrase “all creation” also appears in Romans 8 :22; Colossians 1:15, 23. The first two of these three texts do not concern the subject of preaching. Though Colossians 1 :23 does relate to preaching, the use of the verb “preach” in this text differs from that found in Hermas in three ways: the subject is not the third person plural referring to the apostles but the third person singular of the gospel, the verb is passive not active, and the context lacks any equivalent phrase “to the whole world.” Hermas and Mark 16, on the other hand, agree in all these specifics. Speaking of the apostles each employs the aorist active of the verb κηρύξαι which, as explained earlier, is a form particular to Mark among the four Gospel endings. Additionally, both Hermas and the Markan passage contain the noun “the word” of the gospel message, which in each case is associated with “the Lord.” Both passages also refer to believers by means of an aorist participle. These several verbal connections, some quite specific, and especially the co-occurrence of the two phrases relating to κτίσις and κόσμος, lead to the conclusion that the author of the Shepherd of Hermas was in fact familiar with the final verses of Mark. (Lunn, p. 68.)

Lunn also points to the early Epistle of Barnabas which has some specific parallels to the longer ending, though the evidence is not as strong as the two cases considered above. Lunn also explores a variety of non-canonical or apocryphal sources which provide early allusions to the longer ending of Mark (pp. 71-76), before delving into evidence from 150 AD to 300 AD (p. 76 ff) and later sources.

The evidence in favor of the longer evidence is not limited to Greek writings.  James Snapp, Jr., in Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20: 2016 Edition (Kindle edition) weaves together numerous threads from other parts of early Christianity. Among the Armenian evidence, for example, we have this:
Eznik of Golb (440) was one of the Armenian scholars who took part in the revision of the Armenian translation of the Bible in the 400’s. Eznik quoted Mark 16:17-18 in part 112 of his composition “ Against the Sects ” (also known as “De Deo” ) 1:25 : “And again, ‘Here are signs of believers: they will dislodge demons, and they will take serpents into their hand, and they will drink a deadly poison and it will not cause harm.’” This evidence is over 400 years earlier than the earliest Armenian manuscript of Mark which does not contain Mark 16:9-20.
The wide variety of early Christian sources pointing to the authenticity of the longer ending of Mark strike me as compelling and impressive evidence. But for Lunn, it's just the beginning of the extensive analysis and evidence to be considered. We'll survey a few highlights of the internal evidence in upcoming posts, and will find that there may even be some lines of analysis that can help us better appreciate some details in the Book of Mormon. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Longer Ending of Mark, Part 2: External Evidence for Authenticity

Following up on my previous post on the Book of Mormon and Mark 16 ("Longer Ending of Mark, Part 1"), I would like to review a portion of the external evidence for the authenticity of the disputed longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20). Nicholas P. Lunn's The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014) provides a good summary of the external evidence, though the emphasis of his work is on the many internal evidences. But the most extensive resource I've found on external evidence is James Snapp, Jr., Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20: 2016 Edition (Kindle). In "Introductory Summary: Mark 16:9-20: A Scholarly Consensus?" in the section "Manuscript Evidence," Snapp explains that the evidence from New Testament manuscripts does not present an overwhelming case for rejecting the longer ending:
Regarding the Shorter Ending [wherein Mark ends abruptly at the empty tomb in Mark 16:8], it is very misleading to vaguely say that some manuscripts have the Shorter Ending and some manuscripts have verses 9-20, because only six Greek manuscripts contain the Shorter Ending. The Shorter Ending was composed in Egypt , where the abruptly-ending text had previously circulated, in order to round off the otherwise sudden stoppage of the narrative. All six of the Greek manuscripts that contain the Shorter Ending also present at least part of the usual 12 verses, showing that they contained the entire passage when they were in pristine condition. The rest of the Greek manuscripts, that is to say, the remaining 99% of the manuscripts, uniformly present Mark 16:9-20 after verse 8. Gundry’s assertion that these manuscripts (over 1,600 in number) “hopelessly disagree” with each other is absurd.
 In the following section, "Patristic Evidence," he summarizes evidence from the earliest references to Mark (discussed in much detail in later sections):
Four compositions from the 100’s attest to the existence of copies of Mark which contained Mark 16:9-20: Epistula Apostolorum (by an unknown author), First Apology (by Justin Martyr), the Diatessaron (by Tatian), and Against Heresies (by Irenaeus).

Epistula Apostolorum (150) echoes the narrative structure of these 12 verses; it depicts the disciples not believing the report of a woman who had seen the risen Jesus –an event unrecorded in the Gospels except in Mark 16:10-11. The author also mentions the command of Christ to the apostles to “Go and preach,” (resembling Mark 16:15 ), and his use of the phrase “mourning and weeping” resembles wording in Mark 16:10.

Justin Martyr (155), in First Apology chapter 45, as he interprets Psalm 110, makes a strong allusion to Mark 16:20 (blended with Luke 24:52, just as one would expect a person to do who was using a Synoptics-harmony, as Justin did). As Justin refers to how the apostles went forth from Jerusalem preaching everywhere , he used three words – exelthontes pantachou ekeruxan – which appear together nowhere else except in Mark 16:20, in a different order. In chapter 50 of First Apology, Justin alludes to the scene in Mark 16:14 , using the phrase, “And later, when he had risen from the dead and was seen by them.”

Tatian (c. 172) incorporated all twelve verses into his Diatessaron, which expanded on his predecessor’s Synoptics-harmony by including the text of the Gospel of John. In the Latin Codex Fuldensis (a Diatessaronic witness from the West), and in the Arabic Diatessaron (from the East), the contents of Mark 16:9-20 are given essentially the same arrangement, thus echoing their second-century ancestor.

Irenaeus (c. 184), in the tenth chapter of Book Three of Against Heresies, wrote, “Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God.’” Like most of Irenaeus’ work, this part of Against Heresies exists only in Latin. A Greek annotation in Codex 1582 (based on an ancestor-manuscript produced in the mid-400’s) next to Mark 16:19 affirms the genuineness of Irenaeus’ statement; the annotation says, “Irenaeus, who lived near the time of the apostles, cites this from Mark in the third book of his work Against Heresies.” This annotation also appears in minuscule 72, and in an uncatalogued manuscript recently described by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Papias, a writer very early in the 100’s (c. 110), wrote something that may relate to the contents of Mark 16:18. Eusebius of Caesarea, in Book 3, chapter 39 of his Church History, quotes Papias along the following lines: “Papias, who lived at the same time, relates that he had received a wonderful narrative from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that a dead man was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another miracle, regarding Justus surnamed Barsabbas: he swallowed a deadly poison, and received no harm, on account of the grace of the Lord.”

Papias describes a believer who was not harmed by poison, but he does not explicitly say that he is providing an example of the fulfillment of the prophetic words of Mark 16:18. It is possible that he mentioned this anecdote as an illustration of how Mark 16:18 was to be understood –that is, as a prophecy about incidental dangers, rather than deliberate self-endangerment – but it is also possible that he told the story simply because it was interesting.

Snapp addresses claims that Clement and Origen show no knowledge of the longer ending, which turn out to be arguments from silence that bear little evidentiary weight.  But in fact, there is a compelling case that Clement actually was aware of the longer ending.

Further, Jerome is repeatedly said, by commentator after commentator, to have regarded the longer ending of Mark as spurious, and to have known of no Greek manuscripts supporting it. But those claims arise from his tendency to freely copy the text of others with minimal change, resulting in his use of a passage ultimately deriving from Eusebius that questioned the longer ending. But Jerome himself actually supported the longer ending by including it in his Vulgate Gospels. As for Eusebius, who is perhaps the main early Christian voice cited to support rejection of the longer ending, he was clearly aware of New Testament manuscripts that had the longer ending, did not insist that it should be rejected, and "recommended to Marinus that the passage be punctuated and retained" (Snapp, section "Introductory Summary," sub-section "Patristic Evidence").

The patristic support for the longer ending include Tertullian (195-220), Hippolytus (235), Vincentius (256), and many more. Snapp has chapters dealing with evidence from the 100's, the 200's, the 300's, the 400's, and later evidence for the authenticity of the longer ending. It is also clear that the longer ending was an important part of early Christian lectionary documents used in worship (Snapps, Chapter 7, "Lectionary Evidence").

If the concepts in Mark 16:9-20 were fabricated long after the Gospel of Mark was written, it is difficult to understand how some of the earliest Christian documents we have provide support for their authenticity. Many of these documents existed long before the two related manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus were composed, the earliest extant Greek manuscripts that are the primary tools used to reject the longer ending of Mark. What we learn from the early Christian evidence is that there were much earlier manuscripts of Mark known in the Christian world but not extant today that support the authenticity of the longer ending of Mark. This strengthens the possibility that Christ actually spoke the words quoted at the end of Mark 16, and that He could have spoken similar words to His New World disciples in the Book of Mormon, as quoted in Mormon 9.

There is much more to the external evidence to consider, and also significant internal evidence that we will review briefly in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Book of Mormon Versus the Consensus of Scholars: Surprises from the Disputed Longer Ending of Mark (The Longer Ending of Mark, Part 1)

One of the most effective and interesting arguments against the Book of Mormon is that it quotes from the disputed ending of the Gospel of Mark. In Mormon 9:22-25, Mormon quotes words spoken by Christ to His disciples in the New World that gave them essentially the same commission that Christ gave His apostles at the end of the Gospel of Mark in Mark 16:15-18: go preach the Gospel, he that believes and is baptized will be saved, and signs will follow. Not a problem, right? After all, Christ was often teaching the same things in the New World that He taught in the Old, just like the Sermon on the Mount, so why should we worry about also using His own words from Mark?

The problem--hang on to your testimonies, folks--is that the quoted words from Mark should not be in the Bible and are a late, spurious addition, according to the consensus of most Bible scholars. The two earliest, extant New Testament manuscripts both have the Gospel of Mark ending at Mark 16:8 with two women amazed and afraid as they stand before the empty tomb. According to modern scholars, the following verses, known as the "longer ending of Mark," covering the appearance of Christ to Mary and then the apostles and the great commission to preach the Gospel to every creature, should not be there and may not have been inserted into some manuscripts until much later. So what's it doing in the Book of Mormon, ascribed to Christ in His teachings to the disciples? The critics can chortle and say too bad Joseph wasn't more of a bible scholar before he plagiarized a completely bogus quotation from Christ.

Fortunately, very recent scholarship on the longer ending of Mark provides many compelling reasons to accept the disputed longer ending after all. It's a fascinating story with many lessons for students of the Bible and the Book of Mormon that I'll be covering here in several future posts.

For those interested in this matter, the key resource I recommend, available in both print and for Kindle, is Nicholas P. Lunn's The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014). Lunn demonstrates how to dig deeply into the scriptures and explore them from many independent lines of analysis. Also see James Snapp, Jr., Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20: 2016 Edition, with extensive information about early Christian references to the longer ending of Mark. Cases for and against the longer ending are provided by four differing authors in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, ed. David Alan Black (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 2008), though the analysis in favor of the longer ending lacks the benefit of the extensive foundation provided by Nicholas Lunn's later work.

Here is the vulnerable passage from Mormon 9:22-25:
22.  For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;
23. And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;
24. And these signs shall follow them that believe -- in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover;
25. And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.
Here is the related portion from Mark 16:
15. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
19. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
If these verses were made up by some scribe to round out the abrupt ending of Mark at Mark 16:8, and if Jesus did not actually say this to his apostles in the New World, it would seem very odd that Mormon would quote from the teachings of Christ to his New World disciples and end up with the very same content given in the disputed longer ending of Mark. It is an issue that needs to be considered. One could argue, as some LDS people have, that the Book of Mormon is somehow an expanded text that builds on ancient gold plate material or, more extremely, at least on ancient "truthy" ideas, with lots of Joseph's added commentary and thoughts taken from modern sources, but this is unsatisfying and is inconsistent with the data we have about the translation process, both in terms of the mechanics of dictation and composition, as well as the structure and language found in that text.

Fortunately, in spite of an ongoing scholarly "consensus," there is surprisingly impressive evidence that the longer ending of Mark is authentic. Before I explore some of those details, let me first point out that over 95% of the existing ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament have the longer ending of Mark. The problem came with the relatively recent discovery of the two oldest extant manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, both of which end at Mark 16:8 and lack the longer ending. These manuscripts, though, differ from our canon in many other ways and need not be assumed to be the best and most accurate manuscripts.

They are the oldest extant manuscripts, yes, but they were not the oldest manuscripts used and quoted by early Christians, and that's the area where things are especially interesting. Dozens of ancient sources provide evidence that at least multiple portions of the longer ending of Mark were in place before the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus came into existence. In fact, both of those manuscripts provide evidence that the copyists were at least aware of an alternate ending for Mark (one has an unusually large space after Mark 16:8 as if leaving space for the additional verses, and the other has unusual markings at the end as if to physically prevent insertion of known additional verses).

The case for the longer ending of Mark, as we'll explore in the near future, includes an impressive array of different lines of thought. The evidence from early Christian writers is impressive. The analysis of individual words, themes, grammatical patterns, parallelism, prophecy and fulfillment, Exodus archetypes, and so on provide a fascinating, multidimensional approach to Mark from an able bible scholar that consistently calls for accepting the integrity of Mark as we now have it. Along the way, there are some interesting approaches that we can also apply to the Book of Mormon to better appreciate some subtleties in that ancient text.

Many scholars feel there is no need to even consider the questions Lunn and other raise about the "consensus" rejection of the longer ending of Mark, but this is truly unfortunate and reminds of some of the human limitations of scholars, no matter how impressive and infallible they may seem. I know, I know, that's heresy! So be it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Weeping, Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth? No Need to Grieve Over Another Case of Alleged Plagiarism in the Book of Mormon

"Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth" in the Book of Mormon has been criticized as an obvious mistake based on plagiarizing the New Testament. But there's no need to grieve over this case.

There are many questions like this that one case raise, for the Book of Mormon relies heavily on biblical language. It seems that when they fit, expressions from all over the Bible, including the New Testament, are used in the translation. The intertextuality with the KJV is actually remarkable. Pointing to a few words shared and crying foul misses the sophisticated way in which KJV language is used in the translation (more on this below).

Critics have objected to two aspects of the combination in Alma 40:13 of "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," as well as "weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth" in Mosiah 16:2. The first objection is that this phrase is close to a New Testament phrase, "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30 and Luke 13:28) that is not found in the Old Testament, making it seem that Joseph "plagiarized" from the New Testament. It is also close to "wailing and gnashing of teeth" in Matthew 13:42,50. Second, they object to "weeping and wailing" together since they mean roughly the same thing and are redundant, and allegedly not found in the Bible: "The Bible never uses both weep and wail because in all of these cases they are just alternate translations of the same original word" says one critic at https://m.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/1q1tmt/, for example. It's an odd combination of arguments, though. First, we must reject a phrase in the Book of Mormon because it has a combination of words from the Bible, and second, we must reject it because it uses a combination of words NOT found in the Bible. That's a relatively high hurdle for any divinely aided translation of scripture, IMHO.

Is it true that "weep" and "wail" don't occur together in the KJV? Not so fast! Esther 4:3 seems to invalidate that specious argument: "there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes." Here "weeping" is from Strong's H1085, bekiy, and "wailing" is from Strong's H4553, micepd, which in the KJV is typically translated as "mourning" or "wailing." Further, Jeremiah 9:10 has the same combination: "For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation." Later in Jeremiah 9:20 we have "wailing" and "lamentation," which is close.

Regardless of how they are translated, a pair of similar words to express mourning is actually a legitimate ancient Hebrew practice attested in many places besides Esther. It's just a natural part of parallelism in Hebrew, especially in poetical expressions. 2 Samuel 1:12 has "And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son...." The word "mourned" is Strong's H5594, caphad, meaning "to wail, lament, mourn," and "wept" is Strong's H1058, bakah, meaning "weep, bewail, cry, shed tears." A Hebrew word often translated as "howl" is Strong's H3213, yalal, meaning "howl, wail, make a howling." Both yalal and caphad are combined, for example in Micah 1:8 where they are translated in the KJV as "wail" and "howl" in "I will wail and howl," followed by two other Hebrew words for mourning in "I will make a wailing like the dragons and a mourning as the owls." That's wail, howl, wailing, and mourning all in one verse, with four different Hebrew terms. Isaiah 14:31 has "Howl, O gate; cry, O city" in the KJV, with "wail" and "howl" in the NIV. Isaiah 22:12 has "weeping" and "mourning," Isaiah 25:34 and Isaiah 65:14 have "cry" and "howl," Jeremiah 4:8 has "lament" and "howl," Jeremiah 6:26 has "mourning" and "lamentation," Jeremiah 48:31 has "lament" and "cry." Other examples with two terms for mourning or lamenting combined include Genesis 50:10 and many more.

"Wail" and weep" or "cry" cannot be said to come from the same word, as the critic alleged, and can be combined with other terms for mourning, as often happens in the Hebrew Bible. There's no problem here. Translating a pair of terms for mourning as "weeping" and "wailing" poses no problem, even if it looks like it's from the New Testament. It's found in the Old Testament, but even if the Old Testament bulls-eyes from Esther and Jeremiah weren't there, using New Testament terms in the translation is not a problem and does not invalidate the authentic Semitic origins of the Book of Mormon.

But what about "gnashing of teeth"? Isn't that straight out of the New Testament? Perhaps, but as with much of the language in the New Testament, there are ancient echoes to consider. In fact, the combination of mourning with "gnashing of teeth" is found in the Hebrew Bible in Psalm 112:10: "The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth." Further, Lamentations 2:16 has "they hiss and gnash the teeth." There is no reason why Book of Mormon writers could not have used similar terms to describe the grieving of the wicked, including a parallel pair of mourning-related terms. Gnashing (upon someone) with the teeth also occurs in Job 16:9, Psalm 35:16, and Psalm 37:12.

Whatever the original Hebrew/Egyptian words were, a poetical pairing of mourning-related words and the vivid imagery of gnashing teeth, all attested in the Old Testament, could naturally and appropriately be translated into familiar KJV language to yield "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth." This grouping has Biblical support but is not simply plagiarized from the Bible. It's ideal for critics because they can object that it is too much and too little like the Bible.

For details on the profound level of interwoven language, see Nick Frederick's presentation, "'Full of grace, mercy, and truth': The New Testament in the Book of Mormon," presented at the 2015 Exploring the Complexities in the English Language of the Book of Mormon conference sponsored by The Interpreter. Also see "Why Did Ammon Borrow So Much from Tradition in Alma 26?" at Book of Mormon Central, June 30, 2016; Quinten Barney, "Samuel the Lamanite, Christ, and Zenos: A Study of Intertextuality," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 18 (2016): 159–70; "Why Does Jacob Quote So Much from the Psalms? (Jacob 1:7)," Book of Mormon Central, March 25, 2016, and Taylor Halverson, "Reading 1 Peter Intertextually with Select Passages from the Old Testament," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, 20 (2016): 151-176.

Monday, August 22, 2016

David Archuleta Makes China a Better Place

Long after the devotional was over, David was
still talking with fans and giving autographs.
David Archuleta made a brief visit to Shanghai last weekend and as a result, China is a better place, especially for the many foreign-passport holders who came to the devotional he kindly gave on Sunday afternoon. It was difficult for some in the audience, though, because applause and screaming were not allowed.

I saw some audience members, my wife included, barely able to hold back the applause because David is so wonderfully talented. It's not just a beautiful voice, it's the beautiful message that he delivers with the Spirit. He actually spoke more than he sang because he has so many stories and inspiring thoughts he wanted to share, and I enjoyed his spoken words just as much as the music. (Kudos also to two very talented pianists from the Jinqiao Branch, Jenna Gray and Cheryl Parkinson.)

His message was not just for the English speakers. David also sang "I Am a Child of God" in Mandarin with just a few minutes of coaching from one of our members before the devotional. It sounded great. How he managed the pronunciation of Pinyin (the transliteration system for expressing Chinese in the Roman alphabet) with so little preparation is beyond me.

Really, this young man is so impressive and yet so humble. He came to bear testimony of Christ and touched every soul, from what I could see.

This is a man who had the courage to walk away from millions of adoring fans to "fall off the edge of the earth," as some said, to serve a mission in Chile. So many of his peers in the musical industry who became famous while young seem to have fallen into tragic spirals of decadence, debauchery, and selfishness. David is so different. The family he stayed with here and who worked with him most closely for part of his visit to Asia told me that he is just as sweet and good in his daily life as he seems on stage. He is above all a servant of God seeking to help others, and his beautiful, inspiring devotional won me over as a fan. (Yeah, even bought a bunch of his music.) I look forward to more miracles from this great Latter-day Saint.

Two of the stories he shared involved bus rides. One was his story from Chile, one his grandmother's from Honduras. In Chile, David was on a bus ride when he felt a strong impression to turn and look at a person behind him. He did, and saw a young woman with a lot of piercings. Her?? Then he felt a powerful prompting to go over and talk. Shy, quiet David felt like this was an unreasonable request and spent a lot of time resisting, but recognizing that it was the Spirit, he finally walked over to her right before the bus reached his destination. His companion starting calling to him to get off and David was about to give up, when the Spirit urged him to act and give her an invitation to an upcoming Young Single Adult event. Awkwardly, he pulled out a printed invitation to the YSA event and said something like, "Uh, there's an event my church is having. You are welcome to come." And then he had to run.

Later other missionaries asked if he remembered a girl he had met on the bus, describing her and giving her name. They told David that she had come to the YSA event and was now taking the discussions. Then later he learned she was getting baptized. And then her sister got baptized. And then her whole family. She also went on a mission. For many lives, the world was changed for the better. "I didn't say anything intelligent to [that girl]. All I did was give her an invitation." David cited this as an example of how the Lord does the real work and can achieve great things through small and simple things.

The other bus story took place in Honduras as his grandmother noticed two strange Americans in white shirts on a bus. She was curious about who they were. Were they knife salesmen, perhaps? She would later learn that one of them felt a strong prompting that they needed to find this woman and teach her, so he remembered the village where she got off the bus and planned to return. A couple of weeks later, his grandmother became agitated when she saw those same two missionaries coming down the street. She was outside, and they recognized her and walked toward her. She was worried that they would want to talk and sell her something, and she did not want to invite them in because she was so poor and the little hut she lived in was not a good place to receive visitors. They overcame her resistance and said they didn't care about the setting and just wanted to share a message.

When one of them opened up his briefcase, revealing a picture of Jesus instead of knives or other wares, she was relieved and was able to listen. She loved the message and accepted the invitation to come to church. The morning she was to go to church, she awoke with a sense of tremendous peace, and then had a vision. She heard music, the singing of a choir, and as she looked up, there were angels singing a beautiful song. Later that morning, when she arrived at the church, she broke out in tears when she heard the opening song, "Come Come Ye Saints," the song she recognized from having heard it earlier that morning in her vision. She knew she had come to the right place. Thank God for our missionaries who respond to the promptings of the Spirit and invite people to come unto Christ (or, in many cases, to more fully come unto Christ). And thank you David, for giving your time and energy to come a place where the need for your message is tremendous. So many of us were lifted by your love, your music, and your witness for Christ and the power of the Atonement.