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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not a Myth After All? Too Few Mormon Men in the 19th Century and the Temporary Role of Polygamy

"'Go west young man' and sex ratios" at FAIRBlog.org is an important contribution toward our understanding of possible purposes behind the temporary practice of polygamy in the Church in the nineteenth century (yeah, probably my least favorite topic). It's been easy to dispel folk lore about polygamy being required because of so many Mormon men being murdered during the persecutions the Church faced. However, a more careful look at the demographics shows that there was in fact a shortage of Mormon men relative to women of marriage of age, not so much because of men being killed, but because of much higher conversion rates among women, resulting in a large influx of unmarried women to Utah. In the absence of polygamy, they would have been much more likely to turn to predominantly male non-Mormon population of Utah to find spouses or remained single in a place and era when one can argue that this was much more undesirable than it is today. Not that this was the reason--we don't know what it was--but, as Keller, the author says, it "at least seems like a positive side effect."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tattoo Haiku!

Tattoo Haiku, what’s that? Sounds like the name of a supermodel, or perhaps an anime heroine, or maybe even a sumo wrestler. Actually, it’s a contest, right here at Mormanity. As you all know, one of the top 6,458 problems facing young people today is tattoos and body piercing. OK, so maybe you think it’s not the most serious issue, but it’s one of the longest lasting and most visible ones. Some are very interesting and attractive, IMO, but usually much less so after 20 or 30 years. The Church encourages people to not pursue that route. There are good reasons for this. If nothing else, once regret settles in--perhaps Roxanne is no longer your true love, or maybe a giggling Chinese friend explains that your cool Asian tattoo doesn’t really mean “courage”--it’s not easy to fix. So let’s help raise awareness about the risks of adding a permanent fashion accessory that only fades with time.

Tattoo Haiku: yes, it’s a contest. Submit a haiku to raise awareness about tattoos, such as the challenges of getting a tattoo, or lots of tattoos. It can be about the pains of a tattoo gone bad, including the memory of love gone bad, spelling gone bad, whatever. Or it can be about our need to not be judgmental about tattoos, too, since a lot of great people get them. But we’re mostly focused here on helping young people prepare for the inevitable temptation to emblazon Lady Gaga across their lower lumbar region.

The winner will get some minor prize–either a silver half-dollar or a free copy of my internationally recognized book (I sent a copy to somebody in Canada, hence international–and he says he’d recognize it if he saw it again). If you choose the book, it will be personally signed, unless I really, really like the winning haiku, in which case the book will be unsigned: that makes it easier to resell at Amazon, according to my friend in Canada.

To get you started, here’s my own entry (though the rules of this contest excluded family members, clones of me, and me personally):

Fashion access’ry
With color always fading,
No updating: tattoo.


Contest ends at midnight on Oct. 31 (yes, Halloween, also known as "Bring Out Your Dead" day, just in time for the election).

Update: OK, to simplify life, I'm extending the deadline to midnight, Nov. 2, the same day as the election so that--speaking of deadlines--you can leave the voting queue and still have time to submit a haiku. Just like in the election, anyone can participate--you don't need to be a US citizen or even alive, and you can enter as often as you like. (At least that's the Milwaukee way, where they've had major elections with thousands more votes cast than there were registered voters.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How Best to Appreciate the Restoration of Ancient Temple Concepts?

I have the privilege of speaking to a large group of adult Latter-day Saints in the near future about the temple, including its symbolism and ancient roots. I'd like to help LDS people better appreciate the intellectually satisfying and spiritually delightful aspects of this important part of the restoration of ancient biblical concepts. I'm thinking of discussing how reading the works of non-LDS scholars like Mircea Eliade and Jon Levenson helped me while young and impressionable to gain a greatly strengthened respect for the Restoration and the pivotal role of the temple both anciently and now (I discuss this briefly on my Mormon Answers page about the LDS Temple and Alleged Plagiarism from Masonry). I'm thinking of summarizing some of Eliade's concepts of sacred space vs. profane space and what it means for the LDS temple in light of ancient temple paradigms. But before I move too far in any one direction while preparing, I'd appreciate your thoughts on what can help (or not help) in addressing this topic. Any favorite tidbits that have really helped you? Any favorite writings or articles? Any stories you would like to share in terms of the personal journey of coming to respect the ancient beauty of the LDS temple?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Double Whammy! Honesty Strikes Again

My latest post exposed the shocking honesty of a couple in Provo who went out of their way to contact me and let me know that we had accidentally deposited money in their account instead of one of my sons' account. Two days later, someone's honesty and kindness right here in Appleton rescued me from even greater expense, as I report on my local blog about Appleton.

The night before my third son returned from his mission in Taiwan, we were so excited about his return that it felt a little like Christmas Eve. At the end of a long day, I opened the kitchen door and pushed a button to close the garage door. I normally stand there and make sure it goes down OK--we've had trouble with that door before and I'm usually paranoid about it hitting something on the way down--but not tonight. I was feeling confident, bubbly, and in a hurry to wrap up and get to sleep. Moments after I closed the door and walked away, I heard a horrible crushing sound coming from the garage, and then silence. Gasp.

I opened the kitchen door again and looked out to see the wide garage door pressing down on the back of my recently purchased car--I had left it slightly under the garage door when I pulled in, intending to move it all the way in later, because a couple bins of apples were in the way from our apple harvest. The opener that moves the garage door had continued pressing down so hard that the top panel of the door had been ripped open by a metal bracket that kept moving into the door. Another panel was warped. The iron beam that holds the garage door opener looked highly bent. I figured everything was ruined and needed to be replaced, and guessed that it would cost $2000 or so, maybe even $3000. I was mostly worried about the car, but once I got the garage door released from its jammed position, I saw that it was unscratched, amazingly. Thank goodness for shocks. But the door was ruined due to my foolishness.

I went to sleep discouraged, and made a call the next morning after Googling for local garage door services.

Many people would have billed me for over $2000 to repair the door. The main door would need to be replaced, and since the new door would no longer match the discontinued style of our second small garage door, they'd encourage us to replace both at the same time, along with one or two openers (we only have one). But I was so fortunate to run into the good man that I ended up calling somewhat at random. He came over the next day and was extremely helpful in diagnosing the problem. Then came a big surprise: he had a customer with the same kind of doors who was getting rid of them, and he could salvage two panels from their door to replace the two damaged panels on mine. Same color, same style. Wow. I wouldn't need one or two whole new doors at all. Even more shocking, he said he wouldn't charge me for those panels. He also showed me how to pick up another part I needed to be replaced to save me money versus having him order it (he started with showing me how I might be able to repair the part myself, but my efforts and tools weren't good enough - the part only cost $38).

He was a delightful expert who, when he returned a couple of days later with the salvaged parts, spent time teaching me things about the doors and their operation and maintenance, and pointed out the problems that we had had from inadequate service in the past. He spent over two hours doing the repair and tuning everything up, including adjusting settings on the opener so next time the door will retreat with even a light resistance instead of self-destructing if something is in the way.

When he was done, I expected a hefty bill. I didn't have an estimate in writing and knew he could charge me almost anything at this point for his work. Would it be $500? $600? Still an amazing bargain over what it could have been, and I would not have objected, especially since I liked him. But I was in shock when he handed me his bill. He only charged me for 90 minutes of labor: a total of $65, with tax. (I pushed back and, drawing upon my well-honed negotiation skills, got him to accept a more appropriate amount.) My stupid accident ended up costing me less than 1/10 of what I had expected. Again, I'm the recipient of another person's integrity--twice in one week, both saving me a wad of cash at a time when we actually need it, given some of the demands we are facing (not to mention facing the largest tax increase in history in a couple of months!).

Can you imagine what a productive society this would be if everyone we worked with and elected had that kind of integrity? Can you imagine a world where we weren't surprised and delighted by honesty, but encountered it constantly? That kind of community is what we call Zion--an elusive goal, but one worth striving for.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Going the Extra Mile for Honesty

You've just paid your tithing, and then an unexpected gift shows up in your bank account. Not a computer glitch: there's a real check behind it. Do you rejoice in this generous blessing, get bills paid off, and share the miracle in your next fast and testimony meeting? Or do you go the extra mile to track down what happened and contact the people behind the deposit to see if there's a mistake?

Here's a thank you to those of you who do more than just practice honesty passively but go the extra mile. I got a call from one such person tonight, apparently a married student out in Provo with nearly same name as one of my sons at BYU (first name, last name, and middle initials all match) and with an account at the same bank. He had noticed an unexpected deposit in his bank account. The bank told him it was a real deposit but he wanted to understand the details and sought paperwork from the transaction, and then contacted us to find out if we had perhaps made a mistake. Wow. He could have spent it and we probably would never have known. But thanks to the honesty of this man and his wife, the money will be going to where it was supposed to go.

Kudos to all of you who go are good Samaritans of honesty, putting active effort behind your integrity. It can be disappointing and painful at times, but God bless you for it.

My experience is also a good reminder to not rely on a bank looking up someone's account information when you make a deposit. City and name can match, and the money can still go to the wrong person, even in small towns like Provo, Utah.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for some of that Darkly Dreaming Dexter money to come my way.... My book hasn't done quite as well as that other guy's. But that's another story.

Salvation Unto the Ends of the Earth

Reading the prophecies in Isaiah 49 last night, I was impressed with the scope Messianic passage in verse 6:
And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
The scope of the Messiah's mission extends not just to redeeming the tribes of Israel, but to brining the gift of salvation to the entire world, to Jews and Gentiles, to everyone. The unlimited geographical scope--"to the end of the earth"--and the unlimited cultural or ethnological scope--Israelites and non-Israelites--should raise an obvious question for Christians who believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the only source of salvation: What of the temporal scope? What of the absolute scope? Is salvation only offered to those few who lived after the time of Jesus Christ and had a chance to hear the message of the Gospel?

This is one of the issues where the beauty of the Restoration really shines (the "Restoration" referring to our belief that God has brought back or restored the original Church of Jesus Christ and the "fullness" of the Gospel). We now know, as some early Christians apparently knew, that the Gospel is being preached to those that have physically died to also give them a chance to hear the Gospel message. For those that wish to accept, there is even the opportunity to accept valid baptism done for those individuals by proxy, in their name, as if they had been baptized physically (this is the controversial LDS but authentic ancient Christian practice of baptism for the dead). Related biblical passages include 1 Peter 3:18-20:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
Also 1 Peter 4:6:
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
And the faint hint in 1 Corinthians 15:29:
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
Today I'd like to call your attention to the very important topic of Christ's ministry to the dead. We have amazing details in a modern revelation given to the prophet Joseph Field Smith in 1918 in Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants. We learn that Christ, during the three days that his body was dead, visted the spirit world and organized missionary work among the souls of the righteous to take the Gospel message to all those who had lived and died without the privilege of hearing and accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or the Gospel of the Messiah, if you will).

The concept of Christ visiting the spirit world and preaching there is again just hinted at in the Bible. It's really because of modern revelation that we have these doctrines. But modern scholarship suggests that many ancient Christians understood that Christ during his three days between his death and resurrection visited the souls of those who had died and preached to the them, and that the concept of salvation for the dead is not just a Mormon invention. Here is a new work on the topic that I recommend: "The Harrowing of Hell: Salvation for the Dead in Early Christianity" by Kendel J. Christensen, Roger D. Cook, and David L. Paulsen, Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 56-77, 2010. What I especially enjoyed about this scholarly work is tracing the history of the loss of the precious doctrines of salvation for the dead. Augustine's rejection of that concept played an important role in this unfortunate process, for example.

How grateful I am for the Restoration, not just of authority and organization, but of core truths dealing with the fairness and justice of God and the scope of salvation. The Atonement of Jesus Christ and the love and mercy of God are so powerful that they can extend not only to a few privileged souls within earshot of Christian preachers in mortality, but truly to the ends of the earth. Breaking past barriers of geography, lineage, language, and even time, the gift of salvation is offered to all who will accept it, and preaching is being done to reach the whole human family with the message of Christ's infinite Atonement. Hallelujah!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book of Mormon Trivia: The Name Moroni and the Comoros Islands

Here's an interesting coincidence to ponder: The Book of Mormon name, Moroni, is also an Italian last name, and the name of the capital city of Comoro, a nation in the Comoros Islands. Whoa, hold on a second: Comoro?? Isn't that suspiciously close to the name Cumorah, the hill where the Nephite armies of Mormon and Moroni were defeated in the last great battle that wiped out the Nephite civilization? Moroni at Cumorah, and Moroni in the Comoros Islands. Hmmm, looks like Joseph Smith just lifted those names off the map, right? So goes an increasingly popular argument for the theory of Joseph Smith plagiarizing the Book of Mormon, or just making it up by drawing tidbits of information from all around him.

So did Joseph Smith just pull out a handy map from his vast frontier library, stick his finger into the middle of the Indian Ocean, and pluck out a couple of place names to insert into his fabled text? Or is the similarity in names just coincidence?

"The Comoros Islands and Moroni" at FAIRMormon.org examines these charges and finds them implausible. An examination of gazetteers from Joseph's era suggests that even if Joseph were looking for names from maps, he would not have found both. There is no evidence that Joseph had access to maps with the name Comora on it. But if he had access to major maps, he theoretically could have stumbled upon one source to find the name Comora, but Moroni does not show up there. This is not surprising since the tiny settlement of Moroni did not become a capital city until 1876, long after the Book of Mormon had been published. A century later, in 1958, its population was still on 6500. Not a big draw for 19th century maps, and not likely to fall into the hands of eager 19th-century plagiarists who had to open random books from their vast collections to come up with names, words, and phrases--a tedious process for a busy plagiarizer cranking out the large Book of Mormon text in about 65 days.

Coincidences happen. It's an interesting one, but too obscure and implausible to add anything to the debate over the origins of the Book of Mormon. Keep trying!

Related resource: LDSFAQ on Plagiarism in the Book of Mormon

Sunday, October 10, 2010

President Boyd K. Packer's Talk and LDS Moral Standards: Important Editorial from the Deseret News

The anger unleashed in response to Elder Packer's talk at General Conference is disappointing. Even more disappointed is the effort of some to find hostile intent where no hostility was meant. Some have accused President Packer's support of traditional morality as a call for bullying and persecution of homosexuals. This is outrageous given his express words to the contrary and the Church's vigorous efforts to condemn and prevent violence and hostility. The Church has repeatedly affirmed that whether people accept our moral positions or not, whether they are gay or not, they are all sons and daughters of God deserving kindness. It is irresponsible in the extreme to accuse the Church of hate for its moral standards or to link the Church with hostility or violence that is contrary to its teachings.

"A Call for Civil Dialogue" is an important editorial that just appeared in the Deseret News several hours ago. Please read the story. Also read or listen to President Packer's entire talk, not the hostile spinning of what he said. Here is an excerpt from the news story:
This focused attention on the LDS Church is deeply ironic given the church's shared condemnation of hate and violence toward gays and lesbians, its mutual support of anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians and its compassionate ministry to LDS Church members who have same-gender attraction.

This past week, the LDS Church re-emphasized "that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone." This is not new — it mirrors, for example, how the LDS Church helped to champion a Salt Lake City ordinance banning discrimination of gays and lesbians in housing and employment. And it is consistent with how the LDS Church has ministered to members with same-gender attraction.

In a 2007 article in the LDS Church's Ensign magazine, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland relates a conversation with a self-described gay member of the LDS Church: "You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you. What's more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you."

Interestingly, given the events of this week, Elder Holland spoke about other church leaders: "I'm reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. 'We do not reject you,' he said. '… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.' "...

Nonetheless, tactics used this week ostensibly to accomplish these purposes were counterproductive. Instead of seeking genuine common ground around issues of mutual concern, activists began this week with a grossly misguided caricature of the LDS Church's support of traditional morality.

The tactic is now all-too familiar: take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church.

We encourage all to read President Packer's talk rather than simply rely on the media interpretations and selective quotations. It stretches all credulity to find in President Packer's pastoral counsel what some are calling a hateful message "that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide." Contrary to what some have written in provocative press releases, nothing in President Packer's talk says that "violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable."

This distortion is not only misguided and political, it is dangerous. It frays trust that helps people of goodwill from different perspectives to constructively address the serious problems under consideration. By holding up a caricatured account of people's spiritual leaders, those in greatest need of pastoral care may be mistakenly alienated from the very people who can compassionately help them get access to professional resources and counseling.
As you know, there were a couple of sentences in President Packer's talk that are being revised for the official print version of his talk. I feel that is healthy. Though inspired and called of God to serve, Church leaders remain completely mortal and human in their ministry. It's fair that we be prepared for revisions at times to repair statements that might not be accurate or ideal. The continued hostility against the Church for his talk, even with the softening or clarification, reflects more than a good faith dialog. I suggest we need to calm down. My two cents.

Other resources:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Preserving Wealth: Add Something Durable to Your Food Storage

I received another request to repost my 2006 article, "Food Storage Yes, Wealth Preservation No: A Mormon Enigma in Preparing for Hard Times?" Just go to the link and read it, please.

That was one of several times on this blog when I've urged people to consider adding a component of precious metals to their investments in order to protect their wealth should stocks tank or the dollar plummet. Now that printed money has become our national diet and counterfeiting (in essence) our primary economic engine, a primary source of hope and subsistence for our fiscally insane society, the time of accounting must come when trillions of fiat dollars in the economy pulls down the dollar even further. Every nation that has relied on the printing press to support its appetite for spending has seen their currency erode or even fail catastrophically (e.g., Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe, the Weimar Republic). The factors that have helped us defy economic laws of gravity could change overnight or gradually over the next couple of decades. China may no longer feel it is wise to rely on the US dollar. Trading in petrodollars may fall out of fashion in the world of oil. People might notice that we're flooding the earth with trillions of dollars created of thin air - or rather, our of your thinning wallets.

While we have been told over the past few years that deflation is the primary threat and that inflation is not occurring, the cost of many real goods has continued to climb. In spite of the collapse of the government-created housing bubble and other economic challenges, the monetary pressures that threaten to weaken the dollar have not gone away. Are you prepared?

For those of you who have followed my advice over the years and invested in or acquired precious metals as part of your preparations for the future, you may be a little better off today. Maybe you bought some silver around March 25, 2006, when I issued the post mentioned above, "Food Storage Yes, Wealth Preservation No: A Mormon Enigma in Preparing for Hard Times?" If so, you bought when the spot price of silver was under $11 an ounce. Today it's over $23. Or maybe you bought some gold later that year when, on July 14, the price had run up to $666 an ounce, prompting another tongue-in-cheek reminder from me about the importance of adding a little precious metals to your savings. If so, you'll be happy to know that today, gold is at $1,350 an an ounce, also more than double. If you also picked up some gold or silver stocks, you might be feeling very grateful now also, if you held onto them while they and everything collapsed for a while in 2008.

These prices can come crashing down for a while, but for the long-term, the fundamentals are strongly in favor of continued investment in precious metals as a component of your portfolio. In my opinion, some of your savings really ought to be in something that doesn't depend on other nations propping up the US dollar and sustaining our voracious appetite for debt, an appetite that is eroding the future of the country. Even a handful of old silver coins, "junk silver," can be a great start if you're not able to use your 401k to invest in previous metals (e.g., exchange-traded funds or the Canadian gold and silver bullion-backed fund that I prefer for its safety, CEF, which trades like a stock).

The economic experts will tell you that I'm insane (do your own investigation, they may be right) and that it's crazy to invest in commodities that are now at highs and have run up wildly this year. There certainly is a possibility of a sharp correction and a slide in price. For the short term, I expect that--maybe a 10% drop or more, but don't rely on that happening. Have the prices reached dangerously high levels that would make investing foolish now? That was what the experts were saying in 2003 when the price of gold was at $350 and silver was around $6 an ounce, after having run up from lows of $250 and $2, respectively, over the preceding couple of years. It's what experts were saying when gold went to $400, %500, $700, and $1000. But the fundamentals for precious metals have only gotten better--meaning the economic practices of our country have only become less responsible. But do your own diligence. I may be crazy and have often been wrong, and many unpredictable events could change the landscape in wild ways.

Food for thought--or maybe I should say metal for thought. Hope you've got the food storage part down already. But challenging times are ahead--a few little steps to diversify your portfolio could really help.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

General Conference Highlight: Elder Juan Uceda

For me a highlight of General Conference was Elder Juan Uceda's talk in the Priesthood Session on Saturday, especially his story about a Mormon father who angered his daughter by ordering her to participate in family scripture study. The MP3 file is available already. In the story, the LDS father was angry with the attitude of his teenage daughter. When she stormed away and locked herself in her room, he realized something was wrong and wisely took a moment to turn to the Lord in prayer to understand how he should approach the mess.

Thank goodness he calmed down and sought divine help! He then felt the inspiration come: he needed to apologize. Such a simple thing, but it softened her heart and helped them both see that they needed to overcome the easily provoked "natural man" in each of us and seek to live closer to God. The details of that story and the spirit of Elder Uceda's message brought tears to the eyes of a number of fathers. Are there any of us that don't regret moments when we were angry with a child or loved one? How all of us cranky men need the softening influence of the Spirit of God that comes through prayer.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Alex Boye and the Power of Music

Abandoned by his mother and left to fend for himself in London, Alex Boye was driven to sing and became a musician, but something was missing. I love the story of this man who knows the power that music has to bless others. One of his songs even helped a suicidal person decide to keep living. Wonderful!

Can't Wait for Conference? LDS Radio Has Conference Gems Right Now

Have you realized what a tremendous website the Church has at LDS.org? Among the many outstanding services is LDS Radio (radio.lds.org) where you can listen to great programming on the Mormon Channel. One of the many features of their programming is Stories from General Conference, a great collection of excerpts of beautiful stories told by leaders in past General Conference sessions. For example, here is an MP3 link with some stories illustrating the principle of kindness. Well worth listening to. I also was inspired by the stories on forgiveness, including a powerful reminder from the Amish community.

As I write, the Mormon Channel is playing a talk from Sister Vicki F. Matsumori from a 2008 BYU Women's Conference as she discusses a group of young women working together to deal with the issue of modesty in an increasingly immodest world. They came to realize that if they dressed in a way that elicited comments about how "hot" they were, that this this would actually be degrading. So instead of being "hot," they would prefer to look "adorable" instead. The word "adorable" became somewhat of a code word for them. When one of their group was nicely and modestly dressed, they'd say, "My, you look so adorable today." Well, I thought that was cute. Even adorable.

Here's a Youtube video being featured right now on the Mormon Channel. It's "The Missing Piece," telling the story of an athlete facing adversity who found strength and hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.(Also available in Spanish.)


See? You don't have to wait until General Conference starts today to find spiritually uplifting media. Enjoy!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Book of Mormon Geography: Consider Attending the Book of Mormon Lands Conference, Oct. 23

The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF.org) is announcing an interesting event on Oct. 23, the Book of Mormon Lands Conference. What a terrific line up of speakers! Richard Bushman is one of my favorite authors. Ugo Perego is a very sharp scientist dealing with DNA research who has a lot to say about the issue of DNA and the Book of Mormon (hint: it's a very unscientific reason to abandon one's faith). Ted Stoddard is also speaking. Just read a paper of his ("Critical Criteria for Identifying the New World Lands of the Book of Mormon: Implications for the Heartland Model and the Mesoamerica Model") and think he's a clear thinker who has nicely distilled some of the key issues regarding Book of Mormon geography. Wish I could be there! (I will be in Salt Lake on October 8 and 9 for the BYU Chemical Engineering Dept. Annual Dinner on Oct. 8. Any cool events I should attend on the 9th?)

Kudos to the The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (link newly added to my blogroll at the left).