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

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lehi's Library on the Horse and Mesoamerican Art

Lehi's Library has a noteworthy post showing several examples of Mesoamerican art with humans riding deer, and a quotation dealing with several possibilities related to a favorite Book of Mormon puzzle, the horse. (One theory being that "deer" might be the actual species in question.) There are a range of possibilities regarding what is meant, each with problems, and each with some degree of plausibility. If the Book of Mormon is true (hint: it is), then we will need more data to resolve the various possibilities.

Related page: "Mormon Answers about Plants and Animals in the Book of Mormon (LDS FAQ)."

16 comments:

vcatnd said...

"If the Book of Mormon is true (hint: it is), then we will need more data to resolve the various possibilities."

I have a hard time understanding the relevance or importance of evidence of "plausibility." From a scientific standpoint, it seems ridiculous to choose a conclusion and work towards it.

I know people will say that this is a matter of "personal testimony" or faith, but I don't see how that lends any credence to the claim that the Book of Mormon is true. Either it is or it isn't, right? Why make the leap and assume that it must be? I think it would be great if it is true, but how can someone say that it is, objectively?

vcatnd said...

Also, just to add: I'm not trying to stir the pot here. I'm genuinely curious and would really like to hear views from Mormons on this.

I've read the entire book and have been impressed by some passages, but remain generally unconvinced that it is true. Is there any way to obtain a first edition of the book? I think it would be interesting to read the book in its most original form - to actually see some of the more eloquent and beautiful passages shortly after Smith wrote them down would be worthwhile to me.

Marc Carson said...

>Why make the leap and assume that it must be?

This word "assume" may be the problem. You appear to be starting out with the assumption that people who claim the Book of Mormon are true are *assuming* that it is. In fact, most of them will tell you they *know* it is true because of a spiritual gift or testimony. Now, how do you measure that?

As a recent speech proposed, there are different ways of knowing things. For example, I know I love my wife, and she knows it too. We don't have to wait for science to prove that. Most importantly, the fact that science hasn't proven it doesn't make it any less significant.

>I've read the entire book and have been impressed by some passages, but remain generally unconvinced that it is true.

I suggest your read Alma chapter 32 again - probably starting around verse 17 or 21. In verse 27, we see this concept of "desiring to believe" that is so crucial. This probably seems uncomfortable to a scientist. But spiritual things being different from the scientific does not mean we are left without means of spiritual verification. It's just a different world, a different model.

The great promise of the Book of Mormon found in Moroni chapter 10, verses 3-5 is sort of the summation of this principle. If you can manage to study and pray about this in a *sincere* way, you've just found the conduit, the proper spiritual method of confirming things. Actually, it's more than that - it's a way of communicating with this God who we believe created the earth.

BTW I think the last thing an LDS church member would want you to give up is your scientific experience. There is plenty of room for scientific belief along with the spiritual (just to clarify). However, when people let their scientific background predetermine the outcome of their spiritual study...well, that has never seemed very scientific to me, in spirit anyway :)

sigma said...

vcatnd, I have seen w/ my own eyes the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon as Oliver Cowdery and others wrote as dictated from Joseph Smith. The interesting thing about it is the manuscript I saw really lends credence to the fact that it was written the way Joseph Smith says it was written. On the page I saw, there was no punctuation, verses, paragraphs, etc.. just words. You could even see where someone stopped transcribing mid-sentence and then when it picks up again, it is in someone else's handwriting for a while.

Marc Carson said...

BTW Jeff, are you familiar with the Nephi project? I thought it was interesting that George Potter is aiming his efforts at Peru. Here's a link to his introductory PDF if you want to check it out (long/weird link, sorry):

http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=00171Z7ZGPyPkSL_BjVJI6L1XGxcu-ji3lLiTaRsA0sNGHeUtJLGfAjaV-H4BMnIPqsmQR4ny7kSkP6jsBD9ttAOqapTTamGY9IdOD5WhCKFo6tNrbY5I087Kwh_7JsnMEqcNfeAgINs9SDNxvGKmxGxFBX1ubCJjXgQybY-Fx-Cgs=

Anonymous said...

vcatnd,

There is a project called the Zarahemla Research Foundation. I know nothing about it or the people that run it so I cannot comment on how good the work is. The project is interesting and their goal is publication of the 'original' Book of Mormon.

http://www.restoredcovenant.org/

Eric Nielson said...

vcatnd:

From a scientific standpoint, we are always starting with a possible conclusion - it is called a hypothesis. We then try some experiments to see if the hypothesis can be proven wrong. This happens all the time.

Andrew Miller said...

I might add, Lehi's Library is a great blog.

Anonymous said...

"I've read the entire book and have been impressed by some passages, but remain generally unconvinced that it is true."

Pray about it and live it. As a convert it was not the BoM that sealed it for me it was Joseph Smiths first vision and many other spiritual experiences from the Holy Spirit. You need to live the Restored Gospel then the day will come when the spirit will burn in you. The rest of the digging in the dirt is just for fun.

Mormanity said...

The point of the post is not proving anything, but gaining a better understanding of the text. The issue of the horse is one of the most popular puzzles for critics to pick at. There are several possibilities that could resolve the problem and shed insight into what Book of Mormon peoples were doing.

I also note that science often gets abused in discussions of religion. Here, though, one can fairly apply the scientific method to evaluate the hypothesis is that the Book of Mormon cannot be true because it mentions horses, which were probably not in the Americas at the time. Scientifically, we can put that hypothesis to the test and determine if in fact there might have been horses here, or, based on the possibility that the text is a translation, ask if another species might have been translated as "horse," etc. And in this investigation, we determine that the case against the Book of Mormon based on the horse is not ironclad and has not been clearly proven by the critics, though questions remain. That's all.

James said...

Thanks for referencing my site!

James

vcatnd said...

Thanks for the references, everybody. I'll continue to think about it.

Zelph said...

I just want to say that I am glad that we have apologists to tell us the secret "real" translation of the Book of Mormon. Horses are really deer, metal swords are really wooden swords. I suppose that if Nephi wore "Kevlar" and rode in a helicopter it would be o.k. because that is why God invented the apologist to tell us the "real" translation.

Anonymous said...

Zelph said:

"I just want to say that I am glad that we have apologists to tell us the secret "real" translation of the Book of Mormon. Horses are really deer, metal swords are really wooden swords. I suppose that if Nephi wore "Kevlar" and rode in a helicopter it would be o.k. because that is why God invented the apologist to tell us the "real" translation."

My thoughts:

Since the BoM *is* a translation, it is perfectly legitimate for a translator to use words that approximate the actual *spirit* of the text. This type of idea actually does happen in the real world - using old words and applying them to new situations to closely approximate the *spirit* of the new situation. Take the hippopotamus for example. Literally translated that means 'river-horse', but a hippo looks *nothing* like a horse aside from having four legs and a head. Individuals were taking familiar terms and applying them to new situations. That would make sense if these people were using these specific type of deer in such a fashion. Even more so if the domesticated deer actually happened to look and be used more like a horse than a typical deer.

Russtafarian said...

Interestingly, the BOM actually tells us to assume it is NOT true "ask if these things are not true..."

now might that be a colloquialism from New England? Perhaps...but just my two cents...

Del said...

The problem is looking for the answer in Mesoamerica, Lehi never saw mesoamerica. I think Joseph Smith new exactly what he was talking about, when he translated the animal to be a horse. If the Book of Mormon is true ( I think it is too ), maybe mesoamerica is not the location. Nephi had many points to the Book of Mormon land, and it's obvious it's South America, not Central.

Nephi Code