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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Arabian Peninsula: The Roots of a Remarkable Adventure in Understanding the Book of Mormon

The first part of a series of articles on the Arabian Peninsula and the Book of Mormon was just published in Meridian Magazine. "Beginnings: The Discovery of Nephi’s Bountiful" by Warren Aston retraces the events behind the discoveries relevant to the Book of Mormon in the Arabian Peninsula. Part 1 looks at the formulation of the hypotheses Warren Aston wanted to test.

As a result of work by a few individuals, we now have remarkable treasures of knowledge regarding the Book of Mormon and evidences supporting the plausibility of First Nephi, as I discuss on my Book of Mormon Evidences page.

Meeting Warren Aston last year in Australia was one of my highlights for the year. I am inspired by his story and how much good one man, entirely self-funded, was able to do. But much remains to be done to more fully explore key sites in Oman, Yemen, and Arabia (not to mention the New World!). The surface has barely been scratched. What an exciting time to be a Latter-day Saint.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Big thanks to Warren Aston for the hard work he has put in to the research!

Thank you Jeff for bringing this information to our attention. I appreciate this information being put out "there" for all to see and know about.

There is still much more to be discovered,in all areas. In the early 1900's people in the Physics field said that all there is to know about physics had been discovered and there would be no more new information or discoveries. We know that was not the case. So yes, there is still more to discover, learn, find, invent, etc.

EG

Anonymous said...

"we now have remarkable treasures of knowledge regarding the Book of Mormon and evidences supporting the plausibility of First Nephi"

Evidence according to who?

LDS prophets spoke of how God's people arrived here in the past, but are now silent on the issue, this must be for a reason.

It's too bad the modern prophet will not support our endorse any of this "evidence", rendering it as speculation and personal opinion.

It's an interesting premise, but the silence of the Church leaves it untrustworthy and ultimately invalid.

Pierce said...

It is not the duty of an apostle to validate historical, linguistic,archaeological, or scientific theories. Theirs is to testify of Christ and administer in the affairs of the church.

Who says that any kind of evidence or persuasive argument needs to be ratified by apostles?

Anonymous said...

Was it not the ancient Prophet Nephi who wrote the account of how the people traveled to the Americas? Was it not the Prophet Joseph Smith who translated this account and brought it to the modern world? Both ratified by the Church

Why then couldn't today's Prophet clarify this important issue? After all one of the most widely promoted distinctions between Latter Day Saints and other Christian sects is the modern prophet!

"God has called prophets to lead His Church in our day, just as He did anciently"
http://www.mormon.org/faq/present-day-prophet

If there's no difference between ancient prophets and T. Monson I don't think my reasoning is invalid.

"Who says that any kind of evidence or persuasive argument needs to be ratified by apostles?"

Because according to the Church it's opinion and speculation otherwise and should be taken as such.
It seems to me you want it both ways. If a prophet teaches the Adam/God theory it should be tossed out because it was never ratified, but unofficial theories about Bountiful candidates should be taken as "evidence"


Pierce said...

The idea that there are apostles that teach the gospel with Priesthood authority does not suggest that all truth in the world flows from them, and it never has. You're saying that information is invalid because it did not come from a prophet, and even taking it a step further by suggesting that a person's opinion on whether or not something is evidence is invalid because it was not based on a prophetic statement.

You also seem to confuse the idea of doctrine with evidence. Evidence in this case can also be taken to mean "something convincing." The two are not similar at all, which makes your example with the Adam-God idea confusing.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the difference between one prophet (Nephi) recounting your own LDS origins and another (Monson) corroborating the story through modern revelation. If one spoke about it, why can't the other?
I thought that was the advantage of a modern prophet. After all, they clarify shortcomings of the Bible, why not clarify missing details of Nephi to the New world?

Pierce said...

The question isn't "Why can't President Monson utter some prophetic statement about Book of Mormon geography?" Perhaps he could if he was inclined to. The question is "is information invalid because it came from researchers rather than a church president?" Perhaps you're ready to move on from that (I hope so, it's not something any thinking LDS person believes).

Besides, Nephi's record wasn't a scholarly review about the evidence of Moses' exodus out of Egypt. He was documenting his own experiences and teachings. The apostles today are following that same paradigm, in a sense.

Anonymous said...

The Church controls and moderates their own official doctrine. Every Ward is directed to teach whatever the Church dictates. The Church denounces any teaching that is not sanctioned by the Church. So would it not stands to reason any information pertaining to Latter Day Saints that is outside of their official doctrine would be considered opinion and speculation, including unofficial theories about Bountiful candidates?

"it's not something any thinking LDS person believes" That's a rather presumptuous statement

Pierce said...

"it's not something any thinking LDS person believes" That's a rather presumptuous statement"

Nowhere in our doctrine do we believe or claim that a church president has absolute monopoly on information, truth, evidence, etc. The idea is absurd. If someone does believe this, they have a LOT to explain. That is not presumptuous.

"The Church denounces any teaching that is not sanctioned by the Church."

Again, you are not differentiating doctrine from evidence or information. Your claim was that information is invalid because it is not endorsed by the "church" (the First Presidency). Is math invalid because the church doesn't teach it in its curriculum or have revelations about it? If you are going to support this claim, provide some evidence for it. If not, let's return the board back to its topic.

Robert Boylan said...

Good stuff.

Do you (Jeff) have any ETA as to when Aston's *Lehi in Arabia* will be released?

Ryan said...

The church doesn't teach a specific route for Lehi's trail. For one reason or another the specifics have not been given by revelation. Probably because as far as salvation is concerned, it makes no difference. This does not mean the church considers anything not specifically taught in scripture to be false.
I like Pierce's example of math- there are no scriptural or prophetic statements that 1+1 = 2, yet it is the case. There is also no scriptural or prophetic statement regarding the existence of the Higgs boson, nor can science currently confirm it's existence with complete certainty. What science CAN do, though, is offer very convincing evidence for the existence of the Higgs. So convincing, in fact, that some would go so far as to say we've effectively found it in this case. And still President Monson is silent on the issue.
Similarly, the church as an entity says nothing about Lehi's trail. Science can not currently prove that the place Aston refers to is the same as the Bountiful mentioned by Nephi. But what science CAN do is show that there is a place in the Arabian peninsula right by the ocean that looks an awful lot like the Bountiful described by Nephi. In other words, it offers evidence that such a place not only can exist, but does exist. Whether or not that is the actual place is not the point. The point is that for some time it was thought that no such place existed, and now it is known that such a place does exist. Like the evidence for the Higgs, that is true whether or not President Monson comments on it.

Anonymous said...

"Nowhere in our doctrine do we believe or claim that a church president has absolute monopoly on information, truth, evidence, etc. The idea is absurd"

Nowhere??

In the fourth and fifth verses of the Doctrine and Covenants section 21, the Lord declared to the Church their OBLIGATION to heed the guidance of His prophet:

“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto ALL his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in ALL holiness before me;

The Living Prophet: Our Source of PURE Doctrine
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/the-living-prophet-our-source-of-pure-doctrine?lang=eng

"you are not differentiating doctrine from evidence or information"

Really?

Unlike math, The belief that Jews traveled from the middle east to the Americas is a SPECIFIC LDS DOCTRINE (doctrine: a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group)

The belief that Jews traveled from the middle east to the Americas is a DOCTRINE taught in the Book of Mormon. It's an incomplete doctrine that the living prophet is silent about. Since the living prophet is the SOURCE of PURE doctrine, anything else would be considered impure, thus invalid.

Ryan said...

I'm confused- first we're accused of not providing a shred of evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, then when we do it doesn't count because the prophet didn't say it? Are you saying if President Monson affirmed this, then you would believe? That suggests that you take him to be a true prophet, in which case you should believe anyway.

It seems to me that the church is often criticized for following the prophet without external evidence to back our claims. Here we have the external evidence. Prophetic/scriptural claim: Nephi found a land with fruit, wild honey, and sufficient wood to build a ship near the ocean on the Arabian Peninsula. Criticism: No such place exists in the Arabian Peninsula. External evidence: Here is an example of such a place. Whether it is Nephi's bountiful or not is irrelevant (and that is what President Monson would comment on if anything). The point is, the Arabian Peninsula apparently CAN host such a place, because it does. Therefore a group of migrating Jews could have found such a place.

That scripture in Doctrine and Covenants says we should listen to the prophet. It doesn't say we shouldn't listen to anyone else. In fact, twice in the Doctrine and Covenants it says to seek learning by STUDY and also by faith (section 88:118, 109:7, emphasis mine) That's what we're doing here. Study complementing faith.

Anonymous said...

I just find it a convenient double standard that doctrine you want to believe (Bountiful candidates)does not need to be ratified by the First Presidency to be valid, but doctrine you don't want to believe (Adam/God Theory for example) is invalid because it was never ratified by the First Presidency.

Ryan said...

What physical evidence would corroborate the Adam-God theory? That's the difference here. We have physical evidence to corroborate the existence of bountiful, which is not only ratified by the First Presidency, but within our own cannon of scripture. Therein lies another difference- Brigham Young's statement, as it is most commonly interpreted, is not only not ratified by the First Presidency, but it is inconsistent with canonized scripture. The existence of bountiful is not.

Ryan said...

And not to put too fine a point on it, but no one is saying "This IS Bountiful," only that such a place could exist. To verify that it is indeed Nephi's Bountiful probably would require some sort of revelation. All we're saying is the criticism that such a place could not exist does not hold any water. I do not care where the actual location is, though, as it has no effect on my relationship with God.

Pierce said...

Your misunderstanding of what is "doctrine" and what is an "interesting idea" does not create a double standard. The church has certain doctrines (i.e. the Book of Mormon is a book of scripture and is a historical record, etc.). There are no doctrines or official statements, etc that describe the route taken by Lehi. I have not heard any apostles who have declared that it is their responsibility to map Lehi's journey. Have you?

We do not have a "set of beliefs" officially accepted by current apostles (pretty sure past ones to) that describe the route taken by Lehi. So no, we do not have any "doctrine" about this subject. Any details that people bring forth that describe it can therefore be considered evidence to the person who finds it convincing.

If you don't find information convincing because it doesn't come from the office of the first presidency, then that's your prerogative. That alone doesn't make something true or false. What makes it true or false is if it is actually true or false. And that information can be gained in a variety of ways, such as scholarship. "Adam-God" cannot be vetted through scholarship, only by other apostles. And since this falls under the category of "doctrine," it was denounced by later apostles.

Your quotation of D&C gives no support of the idea that interesting information is only valid if taught by Joseph Smith (whom that scripture was referring to, by the way). It merely means that the people were to accept the counsel that he DID give. It says nothing about information he DIDN'T give.

Can you really not see the difference?

Anonymous said...

Pierce, If it makes you feel better, that's okay. You're obviously splitting hairs to get out of the double standard. The Book of Mormon tells of Lehi's journey. Sorry, That's LDS doctrine

Pierce said...

You're welcome to actually address what I have said to demonstrate how I "got out of" it.

"Sorry, That's LDS doctrine"

Very good, you've restated your point but still haven't provided any substance for it. You have not provided anything official that has canonized the details of Lehi's journey **and how it correlates to modern geography**. That is what is being discussed here, and what you have ignored. And the reason why you haven't is because it doesn't exist. Ergo, there is no "doctrine" on how Lehi made it down to the sea, what routes he took, and how it relates to modern geography. It is not taught by past or present church presidents, and the Book of Mormon itself cannot make that correlation. There is no indication that any apostles have assigned that monopoly to themselves.
Therefore, this information is valid inasmuch as it is like any other piece of scholarship, and there is no contradiction for accepting it as evidence while not accepting the red herrings you've provided.

Ciao.

Anonymous said...

The LDS Church and members are d####d if they do and d####d if they don't by the critics. The church could have irrefutable evidence and the critics would find a way to dismiss it or ignore it. Critics do not care about evidence, they just want to complain. They get some sort of a rush to do so.

Anonymous said...

on the contrary. It's the LDS Church's M.O to teach something one day, then when they're backed into a corner or challenged over it, they receive new revelation to change, disavow, or side-step the teaching.