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

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Ancient Americans: Still a Mystery

Modern knowledge about the ancient inhabitants of this continent is still in its infancy compared to knowledge of ancient Old World peoples in Bible lands. As one example, consider the state of ignorance regarding the ancient inhabitants of the Amazon forest (from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle - thanks to Mark Foree). Did vast civilizations exist with massive construction projects and sophisticated agricultural techniques, including methods for creating rich soil in vast stretches of what is now poor soil in wild jungle? The very existence of the debate points to how little we know about the ancient peoples of this hemisphere. For the time being, too little is known to answer some of the questions that we would like to answer about the Book of Mormon and its peoples. Patience!

Remembering Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley passed away on Feb. 24. He will be greatly missed. I had the privilege of being in his ward when I was in graduate school at BYU. It was the Provo Ninth Ward, meeting in a building on 700 North and about 600 East. He was a warm and witty man. He was called as the Gospel Doctrine instructor for the ward, but needed some time off to keep up with all the demands on his time, so somehow I was called as his assistant. He would teach about every other Sunday, and I would when he didn't. I had the most fun when he was teaching, of course.

When Hugh Nibley taught Sunday School, you might not be surprised to know that he did not always strictly follow the manual, although he often did cover the section of the scriptures that we were presumably studying that week. One of my strongest memories is when, in the midst of covering the Old Testament, he chose to give a lecture on the meaning of the wadjet eye - the stylized Egyptian eye found on Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham (see the upper right-hand corner, Figure 3 - the eye is to the left of the orb above the seated god). The richness of ancient Egyptian concepts associated with that symbol are beautifully consistent with Joseph Smith's statement that Figure 3 is associated with the "grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood" and with divine authority. It was a fascinating lesson, filled with one scholarly citation after another read from handwritten cards or notes regarding what the experts have said about this symbol. The lesson began vigorously as Nibley jumped into the topic and continued at top speed for the rest of the lesson. Unfortunately, he never bothered to point out what and where the wadjet eye was, and several people in front of me were whispering among themselves trying to figure out what on earth he was talking about. I had read some of his writings and could benefit somewhat from the actually fascinating lesson, but those who didn't already know what the wadjet eye was were left in the dark. I don't think he ever looked up to take questions, and I was too shy to interrupt. I guess I should have said something. So much for being a helpful assistant!

Sadly, he passed away as Martha Nibley Beck unleashed a book with some of the wildest and most unbelievable accusations you could imagine against this saintly man. All her other siblings have joined together to provide a firm and convincing defense of Brother Nibley.

Brother Nibley's writings laid a foundation for LDS apologetics, showing Mormons and the world that there are many powerful evidences supporting the claim of authenticity for the Book of Mormon and other LDS texts. Even more importantly for me, he provided a context to help Latter-day Saints appreciate the rich and ancient nature of the LDS Temple, greatly adding to the value of the experience there.

Somewhat like Joseph Smith, Hugh Nibley's name is being had for good and evil all over the world - but his legacy was one of great good, in spite of whatever weaknesses he had as a person or as a Gospel Doctrine teacher. The weaknesses I saw were actually symptoms of unbalanced strength and excessive focus. Would that these were the worst weaknesses of all the Lord's people.

Husband and Wife as Equal Partners

Ethesis has a good post on the role of husbands and wives as equal partners. It is contrary to Church doctrine for men to think that their wives have to obey them because they are the priesthood leader of the family. But some unjust men have tried to use their alleged priesthood authority to boss around their wife. How sad to see Gospel principles trashed in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. But religion in the hands of the wicked rarely brings righteous results.

The problem is not religion, it is power: when the wicked reign, the people (and their wives) mourn.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Cartoons and Confusion Over Gender Roles

OrthoDixie, a blog by an Eastern Orthodox priest in the south (with some co-authors), has an article entitled "Lest We Be Gay" that raises questions about the the lack of traditional male role models in the media seen by our children. Specifically, the authors note that most cartoons aimed at young children feature male characters that are "metrosexual" rather than manly. Does this have an affect on perceptions of children about gender roles?

Their observations are worthy of some thought - and caught me somewhat by surprise. Previously, in poking a little fun at Michael Quinn's credibility-straining effort to find homoerotic elements in the friendships and writings of early LDS leaders, I did a spoof in which I pointed to the much more pervasive homoerotic elements in the Barney show. I don't think Barney is gay, pink dinosaur suit notwithstanding, but he certainly is not manly. Does the exposure to largely metrosexual wimps in cartoons and the lack of traditional male role models in cartoons or almost anywhere else in the media have a negative effect on our youth? Is part of the dangers of our worldly media not just the trash that they tend to dump on us, but also the lack of wholesome content?

Parents are used to filtering out raunchy content from their children's media diet, but perhaps we also need to worry about what is missing, particularly the lack of helpful role models when it comes to gender roles. Above all, this is a reminder that we must not rely on TV for the education of our children! The fewer hours, the better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Here Comes the Splendid Sun

J. Stapley has started a new LDS blog, Splendid Sun, that I enjoy for its clarity of writing and tone. Who is Brother Stapley? As he explains in his introduction, he is a BYU grad and returned missionary with a Ph.D. in carbohydrate chemistry from Purdue, who spent his teenage years in the Midwest. Nice credentials, from my point of view (plus I love the Midwest!). Nice work, Brother Stapley.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Name that Church Leader....

As just one example of the teachings that get us Latter-day Saints condemned as non-Christians and cultists by other Christians, consider this passage from an early Church leader, which I admit is radically out of harmony with modern mainstream Christianity:
It [the knowledge of the Gospel] leads us to the endless and perfect end, teaching us beforehand the future life that we shall lead, according to God, and with gods; after we are freed from all punishment and penalty which we undergo, in consequence of our sins, for salutary discipline. After which redemption the reward and the honors are assigned to those who have become perfect; when they have got done with perfection, and ceased from all service, though it be holy service, and among saints. They become pure in heart, and near to the Lord, there awaits their restoration to everlasting contemplation; and they are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior.
This early leader taught the concepts of eternal progression, of the need for obedience on our part to access the gift of grace from Christ, and of the exaltation of the righteous to be "gods" among other "gods" who will be with God (the God of all), thanks to the gift of eternal life made available to us by Christ.

Can you guess which leader this was? Brigham Young, perhaps? No, try again. Joseph Smith? Heber G. Grant? Hyrum Smith? No, no, no. . . .

Answer: this early leader of the Church was a leader in the original Church of Jesus Christ (more precisely, its second-century descendant). The passage comes from Saint Clement of Alexandria, one of the famous early Christian Fathers who wrote in the late second century, recognized as an authentic early Christian leader and defender of the faith. The quotation is from his Stromata 7:10. You can find this passage yourself on the page of Stromata 7 of Clement at EarlyChristianWritings.com, about halfway down the page, or read it on a similar page in Vol. 2 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers collection at the incredible Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College.

I hope those who condemn us for teaching such doctrines will be a little more consistent with their condemnation, and be sure to inform their congregations that the early Christian Fathers, as well as the Apostles and even Christ Himself (see John 10:34-35, for example), just don't qualify as Christians according to their standard of what "historic Christianity" is all about. As for us, well, it's nice to be in the company of such fellow "non-Christians."

Thanks to John Tvedtnes for calling attention to the interesting passage from Clement of Alexandria.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Scientific Study: If You're Going to Have a Large Family, It's Good to Be Mormon

Tonight was the first time I heard about a study done in 1998 on the issue of large families and resource dilution. The results suggest that being Mormon is especially good for your kids if you're going to have a lot. Here is a summary taken from a news item at Scienceagogo.com:
Among Mormons, the addition of new children to a family doesn't have the same negative educational effects seen in most of the population, according to a study led by Douglas Downey, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

"Our results suggest Mormons have found ways to devote more resources to their children as family size increases," Downey said. "This helps their children continue to achieve academically."

In a 1995 study published in the American Sociological Review, Downey found that academic achievement among children dropped as family size grew because parents had less time and economic resources for each child. "Parents only have so much time and money, and we found that the more children they have, the more those resources are diluted," he said.

This new study was designed to see if the "resource dilution" explanation held true for groups, such as Mormons, in which large families are accepted and even encouraged. The results of the study showed that Mormon children didn't display the significant declines in educational performance that other children showed as family size increased. And one reason may be that resources parents devoted to children did not decline as significantly among Mormons as they did among the rest of the population, Downey said.
Now here's a question: If you're Mormon and not planning to have a lot of kids, are you wasting a valuable sociological resource?

Hats off to you LDS families who manage to raise a lot of healthy and well educated kids (this is, of course, a subset of large Mormon families, but I think a pretty large subset). It's a huge amount of work, but thanks for blessing the lives of so many people. I know our society often fails to appreciate the marvelous accomplishment of raising children well, but it's one of the most valuable skills that can be found among any people. As the Prophet David O. McKay said, no other success compensates for failure in the home.

The Restoration in Images - New Resource

The Restoration in Images is a valuable new pictorial resource showing photos from many places having connections to the Restoration. Kudos to Tim Frodsham for putting this together.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Sacred Gift of Religious Freedom - and Remembering Tibet

As I just reported at Sanity Defense, tonight my family watched the video, Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt, based on the true story Heinrich Harrer, the Austrian man who escaped from a British POW camp during World War II and found refuge in Tibet, where he eventually became friends with the young Dalai Lama. I was amazed to see that a Hollywood production would actually expose audiences to some of the truth about Tibet, showing that Tibet was a peaceful independent state that was brutally invaded and seized by Communist China. At the end, we even are allowed to learn that over a million Tibetans have died as a result of China's illegal, immoral, and brutal occupation of Tibet, and that over 6,000 monasteries (nearly all of them!) have been destroyed.

My heart yearns for Tibet and for their loss of religious freedom. The Tibetans are a brave and freedom loving people who suffer under ongoing oppression. Many have died in their quest for freedom - a quest largely ignored by the West. Do Latter-day Saints truly recognize how marvelous the gift of religious liberty is? Do we remember our own roots and our forefathers' escape from religious persecution, even in this free land? Do we stand up for the religious freedom of others?

May we stand for religious freedom in all lands. Tibet would be a good place to start.

I also look forward to the day when the many sacred records of the Tibetan people are more available for our perusal. We have much to learn from the religious writings of many peoples, and perhaps we might find some pearls of great price that are far more than just the philosophies and teachings of men, as wise and beautiful as those may be.

When I was in China briefly in 1987, while visiting the family of a friend in Beijing, I was introduced to an old man - I believe it was the grandfather - who had lived in Tibet and could read their scriptures. He showed me a volume and told me that the study of Tibetan writings had been his passion through his life. Our meeting was brief, but he left me with the impression that these writings were precious and worth his life's effort to study them.

May religious freedom some come to Tibet! Oh, and China, too. That is something we can at least pray for. The Lord has His ways - may it happen soon in those wonderful lands, if only for a season....

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Two Jaredite Names in the Book of Mormon

The Jaredite name Kish is discussed by Bruce Warren in an article at MeridianMagazine.com suggesting that there is evidence of this name being used in Mesoamerica. According to Warren:
Before the development of this method of translation, little more than dates could be deciphered from archaeological findings. With the new procedures, however, significant new information is now coming to light. For example, the name of the Jaredite king Kish, as well as his birthday, birthplace, and the day he ascended to the throne, may have been deciphered.

On the Tablet of the Cross at Palenque are found engravings that trace the genealogy of Kan Balam, the son of King Pacal, who is buried in the great tomb there. Among the names of Kan Balam's royal ancestors is found what may be the full name of King Kish_U-Kish Kan, an ancient king of the Olmec culture.

Kan means serpent. One of the meanings of Kish is feathered. Now that the Maya code is being deciphered, the name of U-Kish Kan has been translated as "he of the feathered serpent."

This symbolic connection between U-Kish Kan with the feathered serpent suggests a relationship to Jesus Christ, whom the Jaredites knew to be the Mesoamerican Messiah or the white god of Mesoamerica who is also known as "the feathered serpent."
Interestingly, while looking up some information on the well established Mesoamerican name Xul, known both among the Olmecs and the Mayans (a relatively common name, still in use, as I understand - it was also the name of a Mayan month), I found it is also preceded by the term "Kan" in another person's name from Palenque, as shown on the page http://www.jaguar-sun.com/glossary.html or at a page from the Colorado School of Mines. Xul is pronounced as "Shule" and may correspond with the Jaredite name Shule in the Book of Mormon.

There are many other Book of Mormon names that appear to be authentic ancient Semitic names. It's interesting that tentative links to Mesoamerican names are also beginning to appear. An understanding of ancient Mesoamerica is many years behind our knowledge of the ancient Hebrews, of course - stay patient and stay tuned.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Porn Tsunami

Pornography is more than a tide of filth, it is a tsunami. Escaping requires more than wading slowly toward shore, one must run desperately toward higher ground and hold on as the filth surges across the landscape. Thanks to Adam Greenwood's thoughtful article, "Pornography My Enemy" at "Time and Seasons," I was pleased to encounter David B. Hart's essay, "The Pornography Culture." Here is an excerpt:
The damage that pornography can do—to minds or cultures—is not by any means negligible. Especially in our modern age of passive entertainment, saturated as we are by an unending storm of noises and images and barren prattle, portrayals of violence or of sexual degradation possess a remarkable power to permeate, shape, and deprave the imagination; and the imagination is, after all, the wellspring of desire, of personality, of character. Anyone who would claim that constant or even regular exposure to pornography does not affect a person at the profoundest level of consciousness is either singularly stupid or singularly degenerate. Nor has the availability and profusion of pornography in modern Western culture any historical precedent. And the Internet has provided a means of distribution whose potentials we have scarcely begun to grasp. It is a medium of communication at once transnational and private, worldwide and discreet, universal and immediate. It is, as nothing else before it, the technology of what Gianni Vattimo calls the "transparent society," the technology of global instantaneity, which allows images to be acquired in a moment from almost anywhere, conversations of extraordinary intimacy to be conducted with faceless strangers across continents, relations to be forged and compacts struck in almost total secrecy, silently, in a virtual realm into which no one—certainly no parent—can intrude. I doubt that even the most technologically avant-garde among us can quite conceive how rapidly and how insidiously such a medium can alter the culture around us.

We are already, as it happens, a casually and chronically pornographic society. We dress young girls in clothes so scant and meretricious that honest harlots are all but bereft of any distinctive method for catching a lonely man’s eye. The popular songs and musical spectacles we allow our children to listen to and watch have transformed many of the classic divertissements of the bordello . . . into the staples of light entertainment. . . .
The entire article is a great read. We are living in the midst of a tsunami. All of us need to act more vigorously than simply wading and putting up an occasional umbrella.

Finding LDS Temples: Resource at LDS.org

LDS.org's "House of the Lord" section is a valuable resource for finding where temples are in various parts of the world (including maps to get you there). There are also answers to several frequently asked questions.

The youth in our ward had a trip to the Chicago temple yesterday (three-hour drive from here). Well worth the time. Such a wonderful place for selfless service (they got to do baptisms for the dead).

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Ring in the Vineyard: A Story from My Father's Life


My father, William Dean Lindsay, showing the spot on my grandmother's property where he found his wedding ring many years ago as an answer to prayer.

Here's the story: Shortly after he was married, my father took my mother from Salt Lake down to St. George, Utah to visit her family (Maurice Jarvis Miles and Mary Lyon Miles). My mother's parents had a large backyard with many grape vines. My parents spent a lot of time in the backyard and picked many grapes, some of which they took back with them to Salt Lake. On the way back, just a few miles outside of St. George, my father realized that his wedding ring was missing. He guessed it must have fallen off while he was in the backyard, probably while picking grapes. The area where it could be was so large that it seemed hopeless to even look for it. They debated whether to go back or not, but decided to try to find it. First, though, they prayed for the Lord's help.

When they got to my grandparents' home, my Dad walked among the many rows of grapes and felt prompted to turn right at a particular point. As he turned and moved down they row, he immediately saw a glint of sunlight reflected from something on the ground - his ring.

He related this story as we were walking together in the backyard of my grandmother's home last May while we were in St. George for her funeral. He recalled the spot where he found the ring and pointed to it while I snapped this photo. Thanks, Dad!

That simple story reminds me of the day I recall the beginning of my own personal testimony about the power of prayer. I was six years old and had been having fun with a little magnifying glass my Dad lent me. I thought it was precious and thought he needed it for his job - now I realize it was a cheap plastic one with a value of about 10 cents. Unfortunately, I lost it during the day, and felt a great need to find it before my Dad came home. I thought I looked everywhere, but couldn't find it. I remember my mother's teachings about praying for help and decided that this was a time when I really needed God's help. I closed the door to my room, got on my knees and prayed for help to find the magnifying glass. As soon as I finished, I looked at my chest of drawers, walked over to it, opened a middle drawer, moved something, and there it was. I found it immediately after prayer. As a six-year-old, I had just experienced a direct answer to prayer, something that would be repeated many times in my life.

One of the greatest things my parents did for me as a child was to teach me to pray. How grateful I am for that gift from them, and for the reality of a Living God who hears us - and sometimes grants us answers that we can recognize as gifts from Him.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Logic of DNA Attacks on the Book of Mormon

Blake Ostler has a good paper on the logical fallacies of DNA attacks on the Book of Mormon that was published in Sunstone. He provides some very clear analysis on the invalid assumptions that Thomas Murphy and others implicitly accept when they try to deny the authenticity of the Book of Mormon based on DNA studies. Recommended reading.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Google Taken Over by Tricky Mormon Apologists???

Feb. 19, 2005 update: At my request, Google has cleared the cache for the map image in question. The problem now appears to be solved. It was a puzzling occurrence. The original post follows.

Go to Google.com, click on images, and then search for a map of mexico at MIT by entering "mexico map MIT" and then hit enter. The first map image that is returned should be "mexico.jpg" with a URL from MIT.edu. Yes, it's a thumbnail of a real map of Mexico from MIT's Website. But when you click on it, you will be mysteriously redirected to my Book of Mormon Evidences page, a page that has no such maps on it.

The displayed link for the map is for an MIT.edu URL, but the actual shortcut does a tricky redirect to my site. The shortcut (right click on the previous link and copy the shortcut and paste it somewhere to see - this blog gets messed up if I try to display the long continuous string) is where the problem is - take a look.

The trick in the shortcut is that the displayed URL and the actual URL of the original image is for the map at MIT.edu, which follows the "imgurl=" string, but the actual URL that the link takes your browser to follows the "imgrefurl=" string, and points to my site. Hey, that's just not fair! The Google image service is hijacking people to a place they didn't want to go. I like my site and all, but the hijacking is wrong - and I'm embarrassed to be the "honored" recipient. Have any of you seen this kind of thing before?

Has a warped Mormon hacker taken over Google?

I received an angry e-mail from a professor demanding that I quit hijacking Google's image service. Boy, if I crooked enough and smart enough to hijack Google in that manner, I wouldn't be wasting my time blogging and running an amateur informational Website in spare moments of free time - I'd be taking over the World Bank or Microsoft. Honestly, I have no idea why Google is unfairly favoring my Book of Mormon Evidences page. For some reason, MIT's maps of Mexico are very popular, and the hijacking of Google is affecting nearly two thousand people every week, if my estimates are correct.

I have sent two e-mails to several groups at Google (no response yet after over a week) and to MIT's Web staff, and MIT confirms that it appears to be a Google problem. Here is one of my e-mails:
I'm getting thousands of IMPROPER extra hits from Google by people who
are searching for images of Mexico, finding images at mit.edu, and then
getting mysteriously redirected to a page of mine. When people search
for maps of Mexico in Google images, the displayed imgurl is not equal
to the imgrefurl. The latter redirects people to one of my pages at
http://www.jefflindsay.com/BMEvidences.shtml.

I don't think MIT is doing this - it appears to be a bug at Google.

While I appreciate the traffic, something is clearly wrong. I don't have
maps of Mexico on my site. People trying to find maps of Mexico are
being misdirected to my site. This is not good. Is there some way to fix
Google images?
A few minutes ago, Google finally replied:
Hi Jeff,

Thank you for your note. We apologize for our delayed response. We can
remove the cached copy of this image from our search results. Google's
search results display cached copies of images so users can view an image
even if its server is down. A cached copy is a snapshot of the image from
the last time we visited it. Deleting the cached copy removes this
archived information from the web.

Please let us know if you would like us to delet this cached copy.

Regards,
The Google Team
I'm not convinced they appreciate the nature or seriousness of the problem. I hate to have them simply clear the cache for MIT's images - I'll ask MIT if they are OK with that. But something bizarre is going on here. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Spoof: Planned Unparenthood

Perhaps this is going too far, but I do have a new spoof page at JeffLindsay.com: Planned Unparenthood.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Yearning for DOS: My Experience with MLS, the Church's New Software for Wards and Branches

For years I wondered why units in the Church were stuck with DOS software for handling membership information. Now that the Church has issued its new Windows-based MLS software, I'm yearning for the DOS days again. The new software looks nice and is definitely a Windows program, but relative to the old DOS version, it reminds me of what Microsoft calls "upgrades." Things that used to be simple are now difficult, and some vital things don't even seem possible. For example, one of my first tasks was to enter home teaching information for the high priests and then determine out totals for our monthly report. MLS will give us our percentage of home teaching, but not the number of families home taught. I had to count that manually. Sweet.

Then I needed to print out home teaching assignments to give to people in my quorum (I'm the H.P. Group Leader). With the DOS version, I could easily print out a page for each home teacher giving a listing of their families, addresses, phone numbers, etc. I can print out tables showing companionships and just giving the head of household of a family, with about 20 companionships per page, and not with the information they really need. Maybe there is a way to get the right information out, but after several attempts I ended up writing down one man's assignment by hand. Sweet. I'm told there is a way, but the Bishop has not yet found the Windows-based Urim and Thummim that MLS requires. Its help file is written for people who already know how to use the program effectively and just need to tweak something - it doesn't explain how to do basics.

Then our Relief Society President came in while I was on the computer and told me that she had spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to print out an attendance roll for her sisters. Ah, that's got to be easy, I thought. So I offered to help her. Look, one just has to select Relief Society, see, and then under this menu, just pick, uh, well, uh, maybe this, no, or this . . . no, she had tried all that. Every option had been pursued, with no roll in sight. I was a little flustered. I later learned from a more experienced user that rolls can be printed, but it requires a completely non-intuitive approach. To print the Relief Society roll, one must not select Relief Society as the desired organization, but "other," and then one will find a menu with organization rolls, from which one can then select Relief Society. Ah ha! Sweet.

It's a sweet program, all right, but not as sweet as the good ol' DOS version. When it comes to religious software, I guess Acts 3:19 is not yet fulfilled, and we must keep on waiting for the restitution of all things.

Can You Spare Four Quarters for an Old Apologist?

Yesterday in a priesthood lesson I taught on the Book of Abraham, I had time to mention only one of the many interesting evidences for the plausibility of Joseph Smith's discussion of the meaning of the facsimiles. I chose Figure 6 in Facsimile 2 - the strange figure of 4 upside down figures with animal heads. If somebody were just guessing, what are the chances that they would come up with Joseph's answer of "the four quarters of the earth"? I have asked a variety of people to guess at its meaning before looking at what Joseph wrote, and naturally, none of these people ever made such a guess. But it is correct. Was Joseph just lucky?


Below is my discussion of this topic from page 2 of my pages on the Book of Abraham (the cited references are on that page):

Figure 6: the four quarters of the earth

Figure 6 is the same as the four canopic figures under the lion couch of Facs. 1 and is said by Joseph to represent "this earth in its four quarters." How many farmers would have guessed that four little statues represented such a thing? But it is an entirely plausible explanation based on a modern understanding of Egyptian, and fits nicely into the themes of the hypocephalus. E. Wallis Budge explained, "These jars were under the protection of Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Serqet, and represented the south, north, east, and west respectively" [Budge, 1904, 1:210]. In the forward to Budge's translation of the Book of the Dead, Budge wrote that the four "children of Horus" were each "supposed to be lord of one of the quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points" [Budge, 1967, p. cxxiv, emphasis mine]. Joseph was absolutely correct.

According to John Gee [Gee, 1991], the four canopic vessels represent the four Sons of Horus, each of which has its own unique name, its own animal head, and its own cardinal direction. The link between the Sons of Horus and the cardinal directions was first established in 1857 [Brugsch, 1857], so Joseph could not have drawn upon scholarly knowledge in saying that they represented the four quarters of the earth. Indeed, there was essentially no valid knowledge of Egyptian to draw upon in 1842 when the Book of Abraham was published.

Stephen E. Thompson criticizes Joseph Smith's interpretation of Figure 4 [Thompson, 1995]. Concerning the claim of LDS scholars that the fours sons of Horus represent the four quarters of the earth, Thompson objects:

"As far as ancient Egypt is concerned, there is no evidence currently available to support this claim. There is only one context in which the sons of Horus are associated with the cardinal directions, i.e., 'the earth in its four quarters.' They were sent out, in the form of birds, as heralds of the king's coronation....I must emphasize that it is only in this context, and in the form of birds, that these gods were associated with the cardinal points. In the funerary context no such relationship is evident. Furthermore, the fact that these gods are sent to the four quarters of the earth does not mean that the Egyptians equated them with these directions. There is no evidence that they did so."
Thompson's approach fascinates me. Instead of marveling at how Joseph could have guessed even a remotely plausible meaning for the canopic figures, he quibbles. After flatly stating that there is no evidence for a link to the four quarters of the earth, then he admits that there is only one context - coronations - in which such a link exists. He then denies the relevance of that link, alleging that Facsimile 2 is only a funerary scene. I wonder if he is unaware of what Hugh Nibley has been writing about Facsimile 2 for many years: that it centers around the concept of the endowment, which is the "coronation" of the resurrected soul in the kingdom of God. Indeed, non-LDS scholars acknowledge that figures of this type (the hypocephalus) are concerned with the life after, with a triumphant resurrection and entrance into eternity. It seems entirely reasonable to me to place Facsimile 2 into the context of a coronation scene, the one scene for which Thompson says the sons of Horus are linked to the four quarters of the earth. But Thompson can allow no room for plausibility in anything Joseph says.

I also disagree with Thompson's stance that only one context permits a relationship between the sons of Horus and the cardinal directions. John Gee provides others in his article. For example, in the Pyramid Texts, "the Sons of Horus are associated with the orientation of the four corners of the earth and used to orient the Pyramid" [Gee, 1991, p. 38]. They are also connected to winds from the four corners of the sky.

I feel that identifying the "four quarters" with the sons of Horus in Figure 6 is especially appropriate, since the four legs of the adjacent cow, Hathor = 'house of Horus', have a similar meaning mentioned in the quote from Campbell [discussed in connection with the upside down cow of Facs. 2 on my Book of Abraham page].

Still puzzled about Thompson's allegation, I borrowed a copy of Richard W. Wilkinson's Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art [Wilkinson, 1994] from our local library. The discussion of the Sons of Horus in Wilkinson clearly links them to the four quarters of the earth or the four cardinal directions, with no hint at all that this connection only occurred during coronation ceremonies. For example, Wilkinson's glossary entry for the Sons of Horus explains that they "were four genii or minor deities connected with the cardinal points and which guarded the viscera of the deceased. Originally human-headed, they were regularly portrayed with the heads of different creatures: Imsety, human-headed (south); Duamutef, jackal-headed (east); Hapy, ape-headed (north); Qebesenuef, falcon-headed (west)" (p. 213). His section on the meaning of the number four notes that the four Sons of Horus were one of several groups of four commonly found in Egyptian art. Then he writes, "Frequently the number [four] appears to connote totality and completeness and is tied to the four cardinal points...The four cardinal points are certainly an ancient concept.... Usually ... the four areas represent the four quarters of the earth alone. This is the case in most religious rituals which find representational expressions" [Wilkinson, 1994, pp. 133-134, emphasis mine]. He does cite the coronation of the king as well as the jubilee ceremony as examples involving the cardinal directions, but there is no hint that the connection between the four Sons of Horus and the four quarters of the earth only occurs in a narrow and limited context.

Page 145 of Wilkinson shows a photograph of canopic jars (shaped as the Sons of Horus, containing human viscera) in a decorated chest (22nd Dynasty). Each side of the chest also has one of the four Sons of Horus on it, being protected by the goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selket. This concept is discussed on pages 70-71 in the context of placement of coffins, which were sometimes oriented with the cardinal directions (head to the north, with the body sideways facing east). The four Sons of Horus were sometimes placed on the long sides of the coffin, with two on the west side and two on the east. Wilkinson then notes that the Son of Horus are sometimes represented on the four sides of the chests in which canopic jars were stored. Again, the Sons of Horus are linked to directions in a context other than coronation rites alone. Joseph's "four quarters of the earth" remains a "direct hit," in my eyes. Now how can the critics explain that? If Joseph were a fraud, why the direct hits?

References
E. Wallis Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, or Studies in Egyptian Mythology 1 (1904), as cited by Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 1992, p. 148; and 2 (1969), New York: Dover, as cited by McGregor and Shirts, p. 218.

E. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (New York: Dover, 1967, originally published 1895).

H. Brugsch, Die Geographie des alten Aegyptens, Leipzig, 1857, pp. 30-37, as cited by Gee, 1991.

John Gee, "Notes on the Sons of Horus," FARMS paper GEE-91, Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991.

Stephen E. Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham," Dialogue, 28, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 143-162.

Richard W. Wilkinson, Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Erica's Thoughts: An Insightful Jewish Blog

I'm adding a link to a new blog I encountered today:
Erica's Thoughts. Erica is a Jewish woman who takes her religion seriously and deals with issues that will resonate with many LDS people such as how to be a good corporate citizen in her work and still be true to the Sabbath (her post on this topic involved a corporate retreat that included a Saturday in Orlando). She also has an insightful discussion on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism - is there a difference? I think Latter-day Saints can learn a lot from our religious Jewish brothers and sisters.

One item I found on her blog is a link to a story on how
the German welfare system may force women into prostitution. Now that the liberal German government has legalized prostitution, brothels are using government jobs services to hire employees. A provision in their welfare system specifies that welfare recipients under age 55 cannot receive unemployment benefits if they refuse to take a job. So already there has been a case of a woman losing benefits for refusing to work in a brothel. (Feb. 7 update: the first comment to this post indicates that this may be a false allegation due to some bad journalism from the London Telegraph. Stay tuned....)

Ah, the sweet fruits of socialism (here I go on one of my rants - please close this window now if you are offended by conservative views). I know my far-left friends will bristle at the suggestion of some kind of link between their political ideology and the degradation of women, but the basic Marxist call in the Communist Manifesto for the abolition of the family and the complete "equality" of women is ultimately a call to destroy the sacred roles of men and women as fathers and mothers and eradicate the respect that men must have for women. As in Plato's big-government republic, where the family is destroyed and women are essentially consigned to a state brothel operated according to principles of totalitarian eugenics (see Chapter 5 of The Republic, if you can bear such revolting "wisdom"), the Marxist mindset ultimately regards men and women as animals who procreate for the State and who have no other inherent value than to serve the State. (I suppose they are then "equal" in the sense of both being degraded from humans to mere cattle.) And the practical result of this Marxist "equality" is that women are nothing more than sex objects. It is no surprise to find that some of the most prominent American symbols of women's "liberation" live degraded lives of lonely immorality. "Women of the world, lock yourself inside a cage and rejoice: now you are liberated!" And if America is still too unliberated for you, please move to a more enlightened nation like Germany or the Netherlands where you can enjoy socialist compassion and find all sorts of interesting jobs. (Actually, try North Korea or Cuba or China or the Sudan if you want to experience the full benefits of socialism. They have plenty of openings. For some reason, there are more people risking their lives to get out than to get in.)

Uh hum. Excuse me. Where was I? Oh, yes, Erica's blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world!


Thursday, February 03, 2005

On Genes, Homosexuality, and Free Agency

The debate about homosexuality and genetics will heat up again with one recent study claiming to have found evidence for genetic predisposition to homosexuality. Some previous studies making strong claims for genetic origins of homosexuality were found to be highly questionable, but this one may have a better basis. If genetic factors do influence homosexuality, is it somehow unfair to call homosexual behavior a sin?

I would suggest that many external factors outside our choice influence our lives and the temptations we face. Whether it is biology, upbringing, peers, climate, sunspot activity, astrology, fluoride in the water, or a host of external factors, we each face different temptations and challenges that we must overcome. Some are easy, some seem to take a huge toll on us. Rather than share too much about my own weaknesses, let me give an example related to the Word of Wisdom, but one that can be applied to much more personal parts of our lives. Personally, I think I might be genetically predisposed to adore coffee - the aroma of some brews drives me crazy with desire - but for the cause of Zion and my own spiritual welfare, I must not yield to that temptation. Now that may seem like a pretty trivial thing compared to sexuality (not so, according to some coffee connoisseurs), but avoiding sexuality outside of marriage is asked of all of us, and for some, that has meant never experiencing physical intimacy - and it almost always means delaying that beyond what the world considers "normal."

Many heterosexual men and women, adhering to high standards of morality and high standards for a potential spouse, end up remaining single throughout their lives, though they wished to marry. For those who feel homosexual orientation and do not seek marriage, the standards of the Gospel still apply, and can be lived. We are each unique, and God knows and loves each of us - and will give us strength to abide by His commandments. He doesn't change the laws He asks us to live - but can change the hearts of those willing to live them.

Regardless of its origins, it is critically important to understand that homosexuals can change: for some, the change to heterosexual life in the confines of marriage has been possible and successful; for others, the change has been one of gaining self-control and resisting temptation, though the inclinations may remain. In no way am I declaring that all homosexuals can completely change and never feel homosexual inclinations, but for many, dramatic change has been possible. See my page, "Responding to Gay Activists: Homosexuality Can Be Changed." An excellent resource is DrThrockmorton.com, with lots of excellent material, including information about the documentary, I Do Exist. I bought a copy of that DVD and found it to be fascinating. Gay activists insist that no homosexual has ever changed, but this is simply an incredible lie. Not easy, but for those who wish to - and there are many - change is possible. And with God's help, I firmly believe that dramatic change is possible - certainly power to resist whatever moral temptation may come our way, regardless of genes and environment. That's good news for some.

Temptation may always be with us - I wish I could completely eliminate the lure of my own temptations that remind me of just how mortal I am, and how great the need to always be cautious and seek strength from the Lord to overcome temptation each day. As Paul put it so well, we must "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (that's from Philippians 2:12 - a verse that has been removed from many modern Bibles, it seems), and "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest ye fall" (this oft-deleted verse is 1 Cor. 10:12).

Quick Picks from FAIRLDS.org

Two recent articles from FAIRLDS.org that I'd like to recommend:
  • "Is God Only a Spirit?" by John Tvedtnes - showing that John 4:24 ("God is a spirit . . .") provides no reason to believe that God does not have a body, based on scriptural evidence from the writings of John and others that give insight into the real meaning of that often-quoted passage.
  • "Did Brigham Young Say that He Would Kill an Adulterous Wife with a Javelin?" by Mike Parker - an essay that pokes holes in a favorite little attack of anti-Mormons. He was not advocating or trying to implement "blood atonement."
There is also an interesting discussion on the FAIRLDS message boards of a newly noted parallel between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Old Testament, the "three-four" pattern. This ancient pattern was noted by Israeli scholar Yair Zakovitch in a 1977 publication. Understanding it sheds insight into several items in the Book of Mormon - consistent with the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon has an ancient origin.

Harry Reid, the LDS Senate Minority Leader

After President Bush's State of the Union Speech last night, it was interesting seeing a fellow Latter-day Saint stand before the cameras and offer the Democratic response. Without getting too deep into political issues here on this blog, let me just say that it's often been difficult for me to praise Democrats, but Harry Reid looked and sounded pretty good. (Here's the text of his comments.) Of course, he had an unfair advantage: I was still in shock at the previous announcement that we're going to give $350 million to the Palestinians (i.e., the Palestinian Authority - Yasser Arafat's gang - long associated with the kind of terrorism we are supposed to be fighting), among other things. But that's not for this blog. There are other places for such rants.

Well, it will be interesting watching Harry Reid in the Senate.

Any word on Ken Jennings' campaign for Senate?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution": Article Now Online

On the issue of evolution, I have previously recommended an excellent article by Michael R. Ash, "The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution," Dialogue, Vol. 35, 2003, pp. 19-59. Brother Ash sent me e-mail informing me that his article is available online in PDF format at http://www.mormonfortress.com/evolution.pdf. Good news!