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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forgive My Excitement, But Have You Seen . . . The Latest Journal of Book of Mormon Studies?

If you haven't searched through the publications of the Maxwell Institute, ma I suggest you begin today with a careful reading of the latest Journal of Book of Mormon Studies? It's a blockbuster issue with some outstanding scholarship addressing a variety of issues that I take up here from time to time, including Book of Mormon evidences, baptism for the dead, and the Book of Abraham.

Here are the contents with links to the articles:
The article on Elkenah shows that the name introduced in the Book of Abraham for an Egyptian god is plausible (something Kerry Shirts has shown for Elkenah and the other three names given for the gods associated with the canopic jars from Facs. 1 of the Book of Abraham). The article on Lehi points to recent evidence that it was an ancient Semitic name for males and not only a placename. The article on salvation for the dead shows some of the history of loss in Christianity regarding one of the most precious truths that was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. John Welch's article on the Holy of Holies shows that a profound understanding of ancient temple concepts were artfully woven into the Book of Mormon.

Finally, I'd just like to point to one interesting paragraph from the reprinted 1967 essay by LDS scholar High Nibley. Decades before DNA evidence lead some misinformed people to pronounce that science disproved the Book of Mormon, and decades before critics claimed that the rather obvious limited geographical scope of the Book of Mormon along with the possibility of many other migrations was "desperate Mormon backpedaling" to cope with recent DNA data, Hugh Nibley stated something that other careful students of the Book of Mormon before him and after had pointed out. Namely, we are dealing with a record covering limited operations in a limited geography that leaves plenty of room for many others in the continent who got here via other migrations, Bering Strait included:
Throughout this big and complex volume, we are aware of much shuffling and winnowing of documents and are informed from time to time of the method used by an editor distilling the contents of a large library into edifying lessons for the dedicated and pious minority among the people. The overall picture reflects before all a limited geographical and cultural point of view--small localized operations, with only occasional flights and expeditions into the wilderness; one might almost be moving in the cultural circuit of the Hopi villages. The focusing of the whole account on religious themes as well as the limited cultural scope leaves all the rest of the stage clear for any other activities that might have been going on in the vast reaches of the New World, including the hypothetical Norsemen, Celts, Phoenicians, Libyans, or prehistoric infiltrations via the Bering Straits. Indeed, the more varied the ancient American scene becomes, as newly discovered artifacts and even inscriptions hint at local populations of Near Eastern, Far Eastern, and European origin, the more hospitable it is to the activities of one tragically short-lived religious civilization that once flourished in Mesoamerica and then vanished toward the northeast in the course of a series of confused tribal wars that was one long, drawn-out retreat into oblivion. Such considerations would now have to be included in any "minimal statement" this reader would make about the Book of Mormon.
Falling apart when our erroneous interpretations of the book are challenged by science is not the most intelligent response. The text itself does not impose requirements that are contrary to any DNA findings, though errant readings may topple. Updating our reading of the text may be in order rather than abandoning one's faith. Just my two cents.

Dig into this issue of the Journal and past issues as well. I think you'll find some impressive insights and outstanding scholarship for the most part.

5 comments:

Matt W. said...

I really enjoyed Paulsen's Article. I hope there is more like this in future issues.

DavidH said...

I agree that it is a terrific issue, and I have just read two of the articles so far. One side note, the name of the journal has been changed to Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture

Clark Goble said...

Nibley was of two minds about Book of Mormon geography. I remember when in 1990 he handed a handout in class he'd written about possible running distances arguing for a fairly large BoM geography. (It didn't seem terribly plausible at the time and seemed oriented at Sorenson's work)

But at least he never embraced the embarrassingly naive model that CES folks sometimes pushed in the 80's. Nibley recognized it was more complex than that.

Anonymous said...

This is my new favorite phrase: The text itself does not impose requirements that are contrary to...

Jeff Lindsay said...

Ouch, that is an awkward phrase. Hmm, maybe if I say "mandate" instead?