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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book of Mormon Plagiarism: The Hawaiian Connection

Some of the town names in New York State and surrounding regions resemble some names in the Book of Mormon. For example, there is the town of St. Agathe in Quebec (Ville de Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, to be precise), and in Ether in the Book of Mormon, there is a passing reference to a place called "Ogath." Coincidence?? (If this challenges your delicate religious beliefs, it might be good to quit reading now. Toward the end of this post, I'll present new evidence pertaining to Book of Mormon plagiarism could blow your testimony to shreds. But first, I'll discuss the much weaker evidence for plagiarism of names from Joseph's rather vast surroundings.)

Here is the list of parallels recently posted in comments at Mormanity from someone with the screen name "ruadamu2":
Here is an interesting fact for you to research:

Names of towns in the vicinity of Joseph at the time he wrote the Book of Mormon (and their BofM counterparts)

Actual Town BofM Town

Tecumseh Teancum
Rama Ramah
Morin Moron
Ste Agathe Ogath
Moravian Moriancum
Angola Angola
Oneida Onidah
Kiskiminetas Kishkumen
Jacobsburg Jacobugath
Jerusalem Jerusalem
Alma Alma
Lehigh Land of Lehi-Nephi
Shiloh Shilom

Also note that the towns of Ramah, Moron, Ogath were in the land northward where Rama, Ste Agathe, and Morin are in Canada

And Teancum and Moriancum were near the border of the Land Northward, where Tecumesh and Moravian are near the Canadian border.

Am I the only one that sees an incredible bit of plausibility here?
Several anti-Mormon Web pages make much of these parallels, and even suggest that the locations can be fit onto a Book of Mormon map, as if Joseph Smith thought the Book of Mormon took place in Canada and the northeastern US and was simply copying names from his knowledge of the area (the critics sometimes recognize that he probably didn't have access to detailed maps). The efforts to fit these few Book of Mormon place names onto a map of the US and Canada requires, in my opinion, vast amounts of stretching or ignoring Book of Mormon data to obtain the desired result. However, I recognize that the results can appear impressive, at least at first glance.

To obtain this list of parallels, a huge geographical area has been scanned to obtain names like Rama, Ontario (over 100 miles north of Toronto, Canada); St. Agathe, Quebec (north of Montreal and Ottawa); Shiloh, New Jersey; Jerusalem and Jacobsburg, Ohio; and Alma, West Virginia. Five states and two Canadian provinces yield this little list of strained parallels.

Let's start with Tecumseh, the supposed origin of Teancum. Hmmm. Oh, I see it now: take off the last sylable, add "an" after the "Te," and there you have it. Tecumseh = Teancum. Kind of like John = Joshua, see? But could Joseph have known about Tecumseh, Ontario? As a prophet of God, yes, but as a plagiarizer, probably not. You see, there's a slight problem with Tecumseh, Ontario in this context: it didn't get that name until 1912. As Wikipedia explains, "Originally known as Ryegate Postal Station when it was first settled in 1792, Tecumseh was renamed in 1912 after the Shawnee tribe leader of the same name. It was officially incorporated as a town in 1921" (as viewed July 30, 2007). I've noticed some anti-Mormon sites speak of Tecumseh, Michigan instead of the Tecumseh, Ontario, replacing a ridiculous candidate with one that is merely silly (and even further from Joseph Smith than its later Canadian cousin). A quick Wiki-check of the history of the Michigan township indicates that this tiny Western suburb of Detroit had just barely been settled by a tiny handful of people in the late 1820s, but at least there was a village of Tecumseh in 1824. Insignificant and remote for those in Joseph Smith's area, it's hard to imagine Joseph being aware of that village and feeling some need to stick it on a mental map of the Book of Mormon. And while he may well have heard of the Indian warrior Tecumseh, it's still quited a stretch to get Teancum from that name.

Turning our attention to the second name given in the list of parallels above, let's consider Rama, Ontario. Yes, Rama is similar to an important name in the Book of Mormon, the Hill Ramah of the Jaredites. But was Joseph aware of Rama, Ontario? Google Rama, look at it on the satellite maps, read the minute entry on Rama in Wikipedia (and the article on the small Native American group that lives there), and tell me why Joseph would know of this tiny place. There's almost nothing there. It's far away on the other side of Lake Huron, home to about 500 members of an Indian tribe. It has a large casino, granted, but that probably wasn't much of a draw in Joseph's day. I see no evidence that it was any more significant in Joseph's day. Correct me if I'm missing something here.

Actually, Ramah is a Biblical place name, but it's such a simple name that it should be easy to find in many languages and cultures - even Roma in Italy is close enough. It's occurrence among the Jaredites doesn't require plagiarizing, especially not from tiny distant towns that Joseph probably never heard of. Not to mention the fact that Rama is another name for Cumorah in the Book of Mormon, not far to the north (the "two Cumorahs theory" does nothing to simplify the problem for critics).

Most of the closest parallels in the Americas are actually based on Biblical names, so Joseph would have no need to turn to North American locations to come up with names like Jerusalem, Shiloh, or Jacob.

The most interesting parallel to me is Angola, New York. And it's in the same state. OK, here's a place that Joseph Smith might have known about - except that the town wasn't named Angola in his day. Yes, some antis are seriously claiming Angola as a point in their favor, but if they would just let their guard down and give in to "a brief moment of Wikiness" (hey, I like that phrase!), they would discover this from Wikipedia's entry on Angola, New York:
Angola is a village in Erie County, New York, USA. The population was 2,266 at the 2000 census. The name is reportedly derived from the nation of Angola. . . .

The community was previously called "Evans Station." The name was changed to "Angola" supposedly because of local residents (primarily, Quakers) supporting missionary efforts in that African country. The economy of the village improved with the arrival of a railroad line in 1852. The Village of Angola was incorporated in 1873.
Following Wikipedia's link to a "Partial History of Angola," one learns that there are rumors of an "Angola" post office elsewhere opening in 1822 to accommodate some Quakers doing missionary work in Angola (I am not sure if this name was actually in use for that African colony at the time, though), but it wasn't until 1855, supposedly, that a request was made to move the Angola post-office to Evans Station, which was still almost 20 years before the Village of Angola become incorporated. There's a chance Joseph could have heard of the little Angola post office, or of the territory of Angola in Africa, but it seems far-fetched to think that modern Angola, New York could have any direct bearing on the Book of Mormon.

Alma, West Virginia is another interesting name. Unfortunately, the town is so small that there is almost no information about it on the Web - not even a stub in Wikipedia. The satellite image of the town suggests that there might be a couple of businesses in the area, but there's almost nothing there from what I can see. With so many other sources of "Alma" to choose from - like Alma Mater, or the female Latin name, Alma, why do we have to drop down to West Virginia to find this "incredible" parallel? Alma isn't a city in the Book of Mormon - it's a prominent name for a couple of prophets. True, there was a valley that Alma's group encounters in Mosiah 24 that his people briefly called the valley of Alma on their way back to the main land of the Nephites, but this is nowhere close to a notable landmark in Book of Mormon geography. The reality is that nothing available to Joseph Smith would have informed him that Alma was not a predominantly female name [note: among the few New Englanders bearing the originally female Latin name "Alma" in his day, some were men], but was actually an authentic male Jewish name in Nephi's day, a name that could have been brought to the New World by Nephi's group. This impressive fact from modern archeaology is discussed at MormonEvidence.com.

The Morin/Moron connection puzzles me. I've seen anti-Mormon Websites claiming there is a Morin, Ontario, but I can find no such place on the map. Google and Wikipedia don't seem to know of this important town that so influenced Joseph Smith. But there is a Morin-Heights in Quebec, almost a suburb of Sainte Agathe (north of Montreal). Very small resort community with a golf course. How influential was this on young Joseph Smith? The first question to ask is whether it was actually on the map in his day. The answer is found in A Brief History of Morin Heights by Sandra Stock:
Before the mid nineteenth century, there were only the occasional seasonal aboriginal hunters passing through the Morin Heights region, most likely Mohawk. Although some settlement had begun in the 1840’s, coming from the direction of Mille Isles, it was in 1850 that Augustin-Norbert Morin, with his guide, Simon, from Oka, came to survey the area. Morin later was the government minister for Lower Canada in charge of the colonization of our entire district and oversaw the organization of Morin into a township in 1855.
Some of the anti-Mormon sites, recognizing how easy it might be to show that these town names weren't on the map in Joseph's day, suggest that the names must have been known locally years before the towns were incorporated, and that Joseph could easily have known of them from others. But it's not like Morin was a major name of the land or river for decades before it became a town. The name comes from a man who arrived in the area in 1850. Chances of plagiarism from Morin Heights, Quebec seem remote - unless Joseph were using his prophetic skills again. But surely Joseph could find plenty of morons in his own area without having to scan the remote and sparesly populated hills of Quebec. In fact, if Joseph were making up names or plagiarizing them, I would think that he would naturally avoid common English words like "Moron" or "Grapefruit" (the latter not being in the Book of Mormon, by the way), to avoid raising unnecessary questions.

Kiskiminetas is somewhat similar to the name of a person in the Book of Mormon, Kishkumen. But a town of that name could not have been known to Joseph Smith before 1830, for as a history of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania explains, a "petition of sundry inhabitants of Allegheny township was presented December 22, 1831, to the court of quarter sessions of this county, asking that a new township be formed out of the upper end of Allegheny township, to be called Kiskiminetas." But the new town of Kiskiminetas was named for a short nearby river (27 miles long) that had long had that name in southwestern Pennsylvania. Did Joseph know about that little river, roughly 200 miles away from Palmyra? Think of all the short rivers you know of from regions 200 miles away from you and then decide. Sure, it's possible. But the case for Book of Mormon plagiarism from local place names becomes increasingly tenuous once you look into the details.

Frankly, I'm not very impressed by someone's ability to find a handful of strained parallels after scanning over townships spanning many thousands of square miles. Cognates and similar names occur easily by chance and can readily be found anywhere you look.

A Luau of Place Names: The Shocking Case for Plagiarism from Hawaii!
To demonstrate the ease with which one can find names similar to the Book of Mormon, let's explore an area that anti-Mormons, shockingly, have failed to consider: the case for Book of Mormon plagiarism from Hawaii. Now it's true that Hawaii was not yet a state in Joseph Smith's day, and obtaining good geographical information about those islands may have been almost as difficult for Joseph as obtaining detailed information about the Arabian Peninsula. But with Joseph's vast international network of frontier farmer-scholars at his side, surely he could have gleaned a few tidbits from the tiny islands of Hawaii.

As I scan the ridiculously small list of Hawaiian place names, behold, I find rich parallels to the Book of Mormon with a far greater density of "incredible finds per square mile" than any anti-Mormons have crafted by their scanning of Canada and the United States. In fact, I fear to list the parallels lest I shake the testimonies of some of the more gullible Latter-day Saints out there with the shocking theory of Joseph Smith and the Hawaiian Connection to the Book of Mormon. But, recognizing that momentarily entertaining my readers is far more important than rescuing the dozens of souls I'm about to destroy, here goes.

Below are name pairs, showing the Hawaiian place name first, followed by the Book of Mormon name that may have been plagiarized via Joseph's Hawaiian connection (perhaps drawing upon traders who used a little-known extreme westward extension of the Erie Canal). Some of the names are not exact matches, I admit, but educated readers will readily recognize that they are still within the acceptable limits of scholarship and do a much better job of establishing Joseph Smith's guilt as a plagiarizer than any previous critiques.

Hawaiian Place Name - Book of Mormon Name


Lahaina - Liahona (virtually a direct hit - the first plausible non-Semitic explanation of this strange name!)

Molokai - Muloki, Mulek (a direct hit for Muloki! Another first!)

Lihue - Lehi (as direct as a direct hit can be, minus a clumsy vowel shift)

Halawa - Heleman (note Joseph's clumsy inversion of the "w" to "m", as if we wouldn't notice - damning evidence indeed! Or could this just be poor penmanship on Oliver Cowdery's part?)

Lanai - Laman, Lamoni

Kihei - Kish (adding an "s" or "sh" is another of Joseph's amateurish tricks)

Hilo - Helam, Helaman, Helorum

Haleiwa - Helaman ("w" to "m" again), Helorum

Laie - Laish (there's that tell-tale added "sh")

Lanai - Laman

Lawai - Laman (the familiar "w" to "m" shift is at play again - such a lack of imagination on Joseph's part)

Mililani - Moroni (a characteristic "l" to "r" shift, no doubt influenced by Joseph's exposure to Far Eastern scholars)

Pahala - Pahoran (again, a clumsy repeat of the "l" to "r" shift that scarcely covers Joseph's tracks, being ever stuck in the same rut)

Pahoa - Pahoran

Pukalani - Pacumeni, Paanchi

Manoa - Manti

Nihoa - Nephi (note that the "h" in Nihoa may have a more fricative nature than in English, readily suggestive of the "ph" sound in Nephi)

Na Pali, Napili - Nephi (one can readily see how Joseph would conglomerate Nihoa and Napili into the shorter "Nephi" name)

Kohala - Cohor (the old "l" to "r" shift again!), Korihor

Kaumana - Cumora

Kemoo - Chemish (following the recipe of "just add 'sh'")

Maili - Melek

Anini - Ammon, Ammonihah

Plus many more, no doubt!
There you have it: in a territory vastly smaller than any one of the seven states or provinces that former anti-Mormon scholars have scanned to find place name parallels to the Book of Mormon, I have found an approximately equal number of parallels - with outstanding "direct hits" - in the microscopic islands of Hawaii. Surely this presents a vastly better case for plagiarism.

Further, Hawaii also offers the advantages of having a sea to the west, a sea to the east, several narrow necks of land to choose from, abundant hills, ancient native cultures, sea faring peoples, a history of wars, and, above all, ample evidence of volcanic activity consistent with the dramatic inferred volcanism in 3 Nephi. Plus, guess where the Spaulding Manuscript was eventually found? HAWAII!!! It's all coming together now.

Book of Mormon critics, take a deep breath, ponder for a moment as you sip an alcohol-free pineapple cocktail, recognize the significance of these finds, and join me in saying "Aloha" to the most plausible non-divine explanation for the Book of Mormon so far: Joseph Smith and the Hawaiian Connection.

Book 'em, Danno!

33 comments:

Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Uh, I live in Toronto in the age of cars and internet and I've never heard of Rama. How is Joseph Smith -- who lived 270 miles away in the horse and buggy era -- supposed to have been aware of it?

People have some strange ideas.

gej said...

Lehi is a name that can be found in the Old Testament. Looking to western sources of plagiarism becomes unnecessary.

gej said...

for this name anyway... :)

Pops said...

One of my favorites is the city of Moroni on the island Ngazidja - in the Comoros islands. This link even mentions the Book of Mormon!

http://www.ksu.edu/sasw/comoros/ngazidja.comoro

It's good for a laugh, but that's about all...

Wagoneer said...

"Frankly, I'm not very impressed by someone's ability to find a handful of strained parallels after scanning over townships spanning many thousands of square miles. Cognates and similar names occur easily by chance and can readily be found anywhere you look."

Seriously? No, seriously? Um, OK, I'll bite: Nahom, anyone?

So, I guess parallels are only good if they support your previously held beliefs? At least now, thanks to you, Jeff, we have more evidence for the BoM in Hawaii than we do anywhere else in the world.

Wagoneer said...

And can we put this one to rest, Jeff: "The reality is that nothing available to Joseph Smith would have informed him that Alma was not a female name..." Just take a few moments and look through familysearch or some other source. There were plenty of male Almas running around the US, upstate New York even, during Joseph Smith's day. I'm certainly not saying this proves anything, but golldarnit your evidences are weak. Well, I suppose if you keep saying it, it must be true.

Mormanity said...

Wagoneer, have you read the evidence regarding Nahom? You should look into this. The Book of Mormon gives very specific information about its location. It was a place of burial located south south east from the start of their journey near the Red Sea, at the point where one can turn nearly due east and survive a trip to the eastern coast. There is only a tiny corridor that fits these directions, and it's amazing enough that the directions work and bring you to an outstanding candidate for Bountiful. But what is simply stunning is at that place where you can turn east, there is in fact an ancient burial place called Nehhem, associated with the ancient tribe of Nihm, with archaeological evidence showing that this rare name was in fact present in Lehi's day. It's stunning evidence. Nahom/Nehhem/Nihm is not merely a name one can find in some random location anywhere on a map, but a name that is right where the Book of Mormon indicates it is. This is very significant. Very. Was this just a very lucky guess?

Mormanity said...

And Wagoneer, you are missing an important point about Alma. It is the anti-Mormons - the Tanners and others - who for years have been pounding away at the name Alma as an example of why the Book of Mormon is false. They are the ones who have raised that issue that Alma is a well known female name, obviously plagiarized by Joseph Smith. For some history, see SHIELDS for correspondence on the Alma issue. The fact that significant scholarly work from non-Mormons has confirmed that Alma was a legitimate name for men in ancient Judea blows away the anti-Mormon arguments on this issue, and that needs to be recognized.

It may be that some men have been named Alma. But I just checked on FamilySearch.com, searching for people named Alma Smith (you have to enter a last name to search) born between 1810 to 1830 in New York, and all 19 in my list were female. I think that's significant. Do you have meaningful stats to the contrary that would indicate that Alma was commonly recognized as a male name in New York?

I don't think the Tanners and others were smoking something when they insisted that Alma was a female name in the United States. Maybe a little smoking began when they refused to withdraw their argument when faced with the plain scholarly evidence that Alma is an authentic ancient Jewish name.

Ryan said...

Was this just a very lucky guess?

It must be. After all, just think how complicated it would get to believe BoM evidence without believing its message. With all that baggage lurking around "luck" is a much simpler explanation, and therefore, by Occam's razor, the better one.

Or something.

tracy m said...

Jeff, you totally rock!

Paulina said...

sorry but this argument seems like a worthless venture on either side. but then again as an aspiring fiction writer when i need a town name i often pull out a map and look for some little known town that sounds good. but that's just me.

and...not because i see it as any importaince but because it is being thrown around here... the name origin site i looked at said Alma is definetly hebrew in origin and for a girl meaning madin. but that's the internet and anyone can write anything on the internet. and besides names have a tendency to change.

Wagoneer said...

Jeff: For the record, relating to the name Alma, you said "The reality is that nothing available to Joseph Smith would have informed him that Alma was not a female name..." Certainly it was a female name, but also a male name. Just do the same search, Alma Smith, Vermont, USA, and you'll see a number of male Alma's, in Vermont, living during the Joseph Smith's time. So this very very very specific search yields male Alma's. That would make your statement false, wouldn't it?

Wagoneer said...

Regarding the Nahom connection, I have actually read the evidence. So far as BoM evidence goes, it is not bad. Not bad at all. But a "direct hit", hardly. But I think you are awfully generous with it. I mean, when you say it is "right where the Book of Mormon says it is," I just can't agree with that. If it were 300 miles to the north, 300 miles to the south, 300 miles to west or east, located along another of several possible trade routes, would you still say that it is right where the Book of Mormon says it is? I'm going to have to guess yes. It sounds to me like you are actually very much impressed by someone's ability to find a handful of strained parallels (or at least 3 letters) after scanning over townships spanning many thousands of square miles.

Ujlapana said...

Complaining about parallels, Jeff? As an apologist? Live by the sword, die by the sword!

I find it curious that you keep returning to the idea that these small towns must have had significance to Joseph. If we examine the possibility that he was writing a fictional work that he intended to present as non-fiction, would you expect him to put in names like Bahstonah or New Yorkiah? He was not an idiot, whatever his faults.

You skip some of the better parallels, I notice, like Lehigh or the East and West seas (except, as Alma 22:32 explains, the northern and southern lands were surrounded by water except for the narrow neck of, whoops, did I just screw up the LG model?)

Russell said...

"If it were 300 miles to the north, 300 miles to the south, 300 miles to west or east, located along another of several possible trade routes, would you still say that it is right where the Book of Mormon says it is?"

I continue to be impressed with the vehemence with which some critics insist--with an almost religious fervor--that Joseph Smith's ability to pinpoint a "three lettered" name place ANYWHERE within an acceptable parameter should somehow be discounted. Out of all the names Joseph might have picked from the Bible, he manages to pick the one that can be traced 1,500 year old Arabic artifacts? To pick a name, Cumorah, that fits BEAUTIFULLY into a Hebrew context ("like Gomorrah" would be my translation) Hence the religious fervor--this discounting of evidence requires an act of faith beyond my ability to believe!

These parallels might actually amount to something if they were all we had to go on. But as historical method dictates, context is everything. Given that, they amount to blips on the radar which are often caricaturized by the opposition as though there were nothing more to the matter. But there is cement, there is a site for Bountiful, and many Book of Mormon names have a better etymological heritage in the Near East as they do in upstate New York.

Intellectual myopia rears its ugly head again.

Ryan said...

How many cities/towns/villages in the Eastern U.S. and Canada are (corruptions of) Native American place names? Pennsylvania and Ohio, at least, are crawling with them.

Now, pretend for just an instant that the Jaredites/Nephites/Lamanites actually existed and were a reasonably important culture during their heydays, like the BoM claims.

Then, how many Native American place names might be inherited -- or derived -- from BoM place names?

NM said...

Jeff,

The list that you gave, I'm guessing, came from Zelph.

He has posted something new; again, something that seems pretty compelling - something about seer stones and the Urim and Thummim...

What do you make of this? Maybe Russell could comment?

Russell said...

NM,

That post sounds to me to be sub-par in its analysis. It really sounds as though his disillusionment has gotten the better of his evidentiary analysis. In some ways, I sympathize; all Latter Day Saints who study Church history go through this stage to some degree or another. It appears that Zelph just has a harder time handling ambiguities and nuances. His testimony about how he was taught should be taken as just that--one testimony about how one, two or more sunday school teachers or even bishops explained something to him. Speaking for myself, I have found my leadership to be nothing but welcoming to scholarship on church history (one bishop even asked me to talked to me about working with his struggling daughter--she had issues with polygyny, polyandry and treasure hunting).

His talk about how "odd" the image of Joseph translating via a seer stone represents his own biases rather than a fair reading of the circumstances. He presented ABSOLUTELY no new information to me and yet here I am, having some good old fashioned "cognitive dissonance" (I never liked the completely harmonious classical-period music anyway). Seriously though, this information does nothing to affect my faith in the BOM, either intellectually or otherwise. The account of the seer stone is widely known and can be accessed in many histories, even those hagiographic histories whose treatment is less than scholarly. I knew full well that he used the seer stone for both endeavors; this would be expected for a prophet-in-training whose religious heritage had been incubated in a magical subculture.

He also (offensively, I believe) caricaturizes the testimony of most members I know. Some of my very best friends are STALWARTS in the faith and would never parrot some "pray about it" line, leaving it at that.

He claims that Joseph's decision to translate from the Book of Mosiah onward in Sept. 1828 was "odd"--only because Zelph refuses to accept Joseph's revelation that he was to avoid translating the Book of Lehi (this in itself, incidentally, is a hint that translation work begin soon--even though Zelph maintains that Joseph re-translated without direction).

Now his accusations on the dating of section 10 really do amount mere intellectual uppitiness, straining at a gnat. He claims that "now restored" must of necessity that it mean the action has just taken place. Herein is HIS ENTIRE CASE. Yet I could say "I am now living in Utah"--even though I might have moved 2 years earlier. HOw and when Joseph received his revelation depended much upon where his mind was (see the anecdote about how he was upset with Emma and how it affected his revelatory capacity). This is one explanation.

But here's the kicker (hopefully, you're still reading): James Mullohand, the prophet's scribe, dated section 10 right after section 3 (there was an insert in the Manuscript History to this effect). While Mullohand did not make the date change in the history itself, this was probably a scribal oversight, given his placement of the revelation. So the Church's changing of the date does represent propagandizing but historical genuinity. It fits better with the story because that's probably how the story played itself out.

Zelph appears to be willing to impugn the worst motives wherever there is ambiguity. He has his right to believe such things, but he is not right in exploiting that ambiguity to the detriment of the ill-informed.

Latter-Day James said...

Excellent comment Russell.

NM said...

Hi Russell,

Thanks for making your presence known to Zelph over at his blog.

I don't know him, but I don't think that he is willfully trying to exploit other people's beliefs. He maintains that his blog stands as a way for him to vent his inward frustrations - and, maybe, it just so happens that people (who might have little knowledge) have joined the band wagon.

If I may ask, I would love to see more of your presence over at his blog (if only for personal reasons)...

It's hard for somebody like me (an outsider looking into Mormonism) to determine what is viable material and what is blatantly anti-mormon.

Russell said...

Honestly, I could take issue with most things he says. I could make debunking his claims a part-time job. So I hesitate to embroil myself too much in the melee of claims and counterclaims...But I do check it every once in a while, so he'll probably hear from me in the future.

I'm all about teaching folks to fish for themselves. Use your own reason, and think of alternativees. That's exactly what I do. Whenever he makes a judgment, "odd" "good" "unusual" "troubling"--it is in such judgments that his bias is made known. Just remember what his blog is meant to do...vent frustrations. Frustration is an emotion and therefore inferior to real truth-seeking. It's a legitimate emotion and "real" in its own way, but not COMPLETELY helpful when analyzing factual claims. They can lead folks astray (yet another reason why I distance myself from the feel-good testimonies that our opponents slap upon us).

However, I check Jeff's blog regularly. If you find anything, bounce it on over this way as we (Jeff, myself, Bookslinger, and others) are more likely to see it over here. We'll flesh it out, see what it's worth.

Mormanity said...

"I find it curious that you keep returning to the idea that these small towns must have had significance to Joseph."

Recall what prompts this post. A number of critics have been bringing up the names of towns that Joseph would have been familiar with. Many theories for Book of Mormon origins argue that Joseph drew upon his environment and the things he was familiar with to craft the Book of Mormon. If the town names he was supposedly plagiarizing didn't exist in his day or belonged to tiny little villages hundreds of miles away, those names can hardly be considered to be among the familiar entities of his environment.

If he was carefully drawing upon remote names that required access to detailed maps or other geographical information, then yes, it may be possible he could have located a Sainte Agathe in Canada, found Angola in Africa, and perhaps a few other names, too. But then we have a much less "quaint" story of plagiarizing from the familiar. And the theory that he had his surrounding in mind as the lands of the Book of Mormon becomes less compelling (not that it is compelling to begin with!).

Canadians who live much closer to Rama are likely to have never heard of it. So how would it be known to Joseph?

tatabug said...

Ryan,

I have thought of that idea with regard to current place names being derived from Indian names and hence BofM names. It is very interesting to me, but I suppose someone could turn that one around in just the opposite way if they wanted to.

Jeff,

You crack me up. I enjoy the humor you so eloquently use to display the ridiculousness of some of the charges leveled against the Church. The Moron/Grapefruit thing was great.

Russell,

Yes, it is a part-time job refuting Zelph's claims, which is a job I've foolishly undertaken, and something I need to at least partially extricate myself from. His claims are for the most part easy to refute, but those refutations are nonsense to him and others who are of his mindset. But I sure do appreciate your help.

NM said...

Thanks Russell =) Good comment by the way. I am beginning to appreciate you with your very honest responses =)

Mormanity said...

Interesting - there were some males named Alma in Vermont. But I'm confident that it has been a predominantly female name. But perhaps Joseph did bump into a male Alma once and never heard of all the female Almas, or perhaps he didn't know that Alma is a female Latin and Spanish name.

My statement still stands that nothing in Joseph's experience would have informed him that Alma was a male name in ancient Judea. But there is a remote chance that he could have encountered one of a handful of male Almas in New England and said, "Aha! Alma can be a man's name. Sure, and why not an ancient Jewish man's name, eh? Sounds like a safe guess." I'll modify my blog entry by adding "predominantly" before "female name."

Russell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It is not that Joseph knew or did not know that Alma was a male or female name it is that the Tanners have made such a big deal about it. Like it matters. The BofM is true or a great work of fiction. Great work of fiction because people just can't stop talking about.

Russell said...

Thank you for the compliment. I try hard to be frank; I've found that to be less than that does more harm than good.

mike said...

hi Jeff
it is possible that if Joseph had help writing the Book of Mormon , say from a traveling preacher who had knowledge of small towns or Post Offices such as Angola
take care
mike

MrNirom said...

I was just thinking and I am sure if I read everything.. someone else probably brought this up... Our critics are always pointing out to us that there is no geographical places anywhere that point to any names of cities in the Book of Mormon. And then if you do find them.. they accuse you of plagiarizing some map and saying that Joseph wrote the BoM. So either way.. we are wrong. So I say.. the heck with trying to prove anything to them.

LDS Laie Boy said...

Aloha Mormonaity, You claim that Joseph smith used a lot of these "Hawaiian towns" to be the origin of places and names. however at the time of the Book of Mormon would have been written and published many of these Hawaiian places were not known by those names. they have been changed at a later period. The best example would be when you said Laie is Laish. I use Laie since this is were a lot of LDS live now. The original name of Laie was Pu'uhonua and was not changed till after the book of mormon was published. what ever and however you have been hurt by the church I am sorry about it. I do not know why you want other people to be miserable too. I know it is not easy keeping a blog going and commend you for your diligence. It's not to late to ask for forgiveness and repent of trying to a maybe even successfully leading away the hearts of people.

Anthony Davis said...

To the author,

Excellent post, I came across it by means of the FAIR website. The anti-Mormon critics must be admired for their efforts; they are far more creative than Joseph Smith ever was. ;-)

LDS Laie Boy,

I guess you missed the obvious sarcasm/satire of the whole OP? The author is a Mormon.

Paul Senzee said...

Hey Jeff -

Great post. We've been discussing this theory on /r/exmo and have been citing your post here to get a rough idea of its legitimacy.