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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Intriguing Comments on Brian Stubbs' Work on Possible Old World Connections to Uto-Aztecan Languages

After I published "The Next Big Thing in LDS Apologetics: Strong Semitic and Egyptian Elements in Uto-Aztecan Languages" at The Interpreter, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the the comments shared by various readers. Some of the most recent comments are especially interesting to me, beginning with two from Brian Stubbs himself:

1. How delightful to read civil discourse on Jeff’s review of my works! I’ve never experienced such a high percentage of reasonable commentary on such topics. Most of the questions were answered by later commenters. I might add two comments. One, Yes, I returned from two years among the Navajo, and immediately looked into that possibility, but within days of looking at Sino-Tibetan and other Far Languages, I could see that Athapaskan came from across the Bering Strait. So if I were of a mind to “create” something from nothing, it would have been there. Two, all the main UA pronouns are from Semitic or Egytian, as is a relatively high percent of its basic vocabulary: head, eyes, nose, cheek, neck, hair, shoulder, chest, breast, waist, leg, calf, finger/toe, sun, sky, moon, rock, water, several kinds of trees / plants, man, woman, several kinds of animals and insects, etc, etc. Of course, much remains to be figured out of how it all happened, yet it’s beginning to look like, rather than a near east infusion into UA, that other things came into the Near-Eastern base that UA actually is, because both Semitic-kw terms (Mulek) and Semitic-p and Egyptian terms (Nephi) are in all branches of UA, besides the actual Semitic terms for Nephites, both masc plural and feminine pl in some UA languages.

2. Stan Spencer pleasantly asked a fair question about Swadesh word lists, mentioning Tiberian Hebrew and Nahua, which deserves more explanation. Mulekite Semitic-kw would better correspond to Hebrew, but Mulek vocabulary is less prominent in UA than Lehite Semitic-p. UA pronouns are more from Lehite Aramaic and Egyptian, and you Sg is from you pl, just as English ‘you’ (originally pl) replaced ‘thou’ (related to German du, Latin tu, etc). So explainable changes make the Swadesh vocabulary lists problematic. E.g., the Hebrew word ‘ish ‘man’ is minimally found in UA, but the common UA word for man is from Aramaic dakar ‘male’ > UA / Nahua taka ‘man’, etc. The books explain things quite well, but plowing thru such books is not everyone’s priority, tho the smaller, lay-reader friendly Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now explains, in ways, more than the larger. Thank you Stan and all for your congenial discourse.
Then today came an interesting homework from a reader who has done his homework on this topic. Beau Anderson writes:
I know this article hasn’t been commented on recently, but just in case people interested in this subject come across this article, I would like to add to this conversation.

I became aware that Brian was working on this language proposal sometime around 2012-2013. I sent him an email inquiring about it and he very generously made available to me a pre-publication copy of the larger book that Jeff mentions in this article.

I found the proposal so professionally prepared and interesting that I immersed myself in it, trying to see if Brian’s arguments were truly as persuasive as they seemed to be. That pre-publication copy got so over-used that I heard it breathe an audible sigh of relief when I bought Brian’s finished book after it was published.

I also reached out Lyle Campbell, a (non-LDS) foremost scholar in historical linguistics and in Uto-Aztecan languages. Lyle quite literally wrote the book on what it takes to establish “long-distance” relationships between language families.

Lyle was kind enough to provide me with some general feedback regarding Brian Stubbs’ work, language relationships in general, and Uto-Aztecan in particular. I think it is particularly helpful to hear from a prominent non-mormon historical linguist about what he thinks of Brian Stubbs previous Uto-Aztecan publications and professionalism:

“Brian kindly sent me his [Semitic/Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan] work a few months ago, and I haven’t had time to do more than scan parts of it. Brian’s UA Comparative Vocabulary is excellent, the major source for checking UA cognates. It’s based on sound principles and rigorous scholarship. I refer to it often, and am grateful to Brian for sharing it with me.” (Lyle Campbell, personal correspondence, January 2016, shared with Lyle’s permission)

The book “UA Comparative Vocabulary” that Lyle mentions as being “based on sound principles and rigorous scholarship” presents its data in a very similar fashion as the language proposal, although the language proposal tends to provide even more detailed information and much more useful indexes and appendixes.

After working to understand the validity of Brian’s work for several years, I can’t say enough about how powerful I think the case is for significant Semitic & Egyptian influence in Uto-Aztecan languages.
Thank you, Beau!

Note that Dr. Campbell is not directly evaluating the merits of Stubbs' recent work, but is kindly acknowledging his competence in the UA arena. Eventually I hope Dr. Campbell will be able to more directly evaluate the specific findings in Stubbs work, in spite of the sensitivity of anything tied to Book of Mormon evidences. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 14, 2018

New Document Discovered from a Book of Mormon Witness

From the Juvenile Instructor blog, we have an important new finding regarding a Book of Momron witness. See "1829 Mormon Discovery Brought to you by…Guest Erin Jennings" which shares news about the discovery of an important early letter from Oliver Cowdery regarding the Book of Mormon. The letter had been printed before, but the original was only recently discovered through painstaking work.

Daniel Peterson notes a key learning from this letter in his brief summary at Sic et Non:
Dated 9 November 1829 — which is to say, nearly five months before the actual publication of the Book of Mormon — the account is contained in a letter that was evidently written by Oliver Cowdery to a Mr. Cornelius Blatchly.

Mr. Blatchly had evidently suggested that the Book of Mormon, and the testimonies of the Witnesses to it, might rest upon “juggling.”  Noah Webster’s 1828 American dictionary defines the verb to juggle as  “1. To play tricks by slight of hand; to amuse and make sport by tricks, which make a false show of extraordinary powers.  2. To practice artifice or imposture.”

Oliver Cowdery responded to Mr. Blatchly as follows (with editorial notes from Mr. Blatchly enclosed within brackets), referring to his encounter with the plates and the angel as one of the Three Witnesses:

“It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, [who] ascend [descended I suppose] out of the midst of heaven.

“Now if this is human juggling — judge ye.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

When a Child Has a Fracture, Why Are the Parents Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

In the end the parents got their children back, but it took two years of separation and harm inflicted to a child by the State of Pennsylvania. You can read the decision from the appeal that finally, after two years, returned a baby to its parents after a rogue judge had decided to take the baby away. It is a case where two loving parents were presumed guilty of something until proven innocent. It's a troubling reading, especially for those of us who have a grandchild with loving parents in Philadelphia, where this travesty occurred. It could happen again and my granddaughter could be next.

[Update, May 13: The URL for the court decision, http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/Memorandum%20%20ReversedVacated%20%2010346885234069864.pdf?cb=1, is on odd one that Firefox displays with spaces that can create problems. I changed the link above to a TinyURL shortcut that seems to help. If you still have trouble, you can also download the PDF file from JeffLindsay.com.]

Simon Black, founder of the SovereignMan service that I subscribe to, shares the story in a recent newsletter. Here is an excerpt:
It started back in 2016… on April 6th to be specific. A Philadelphia-area mother walked into a clinic because her 7-month old baby was being excessively fussy.

The doctor performed a cursory examination, concluded the baby had an ear infection, and prescribed an antibiotic.

Later that day, the mother noticed what seemed like a bone popping in the baby’s side and thought this might be the source of the discomfort.

Concerned, she went right back to the clinic to show the pediatrician.

The doctor claimed that he could not feel any popping and reassured the mother that the baby had an ear infection.

By the next day, the baby was in even worse shape. So the father took her to the hospital and insisted on an X-ray.

The parents’ instinct turned out to be correct-- the baby had a mild fracture of her ribs.

Now-- this is problem #1 in our story. Certainly the US health care industry is filled some incredibly hard-working and talented professionals.

But the system is designed the churn and burn... to push people through the clinics as quickly as possible.

The standard of care now is to prescribe some medication (usually antibiotics) and send people on their way without taking the time to conduct a comprehensive examination....

But this story isn’t about medical care. This is a story about a family being ripped apart by the ‘Justice’ system.

That’s because, after the physicians finally saw the baby’s cracked rib, they called in the local Child Protective Services.

A hearing was immediately convened, and the parents couldn’t explain the injury. Their best guess was that their older child may have accidentally injured the baby, but they didn’t know for certain.

And it was based on this uncertainty that BOTH children were taken away.

The older child was placed in the custody of his grandmother, and the baby was shipped off to a foster home.

This is where things become truly bizarre.

The local authorities conducted an investigation and found no “aggravated circumstances”. So the older child was soon returned to the parents.

But the baby remained in a foster home… in the care of complete strangers.

FOUR MONTHS LATER, there was finally an initial court hearing. The judge acknowledged that the older child had already been returned to the parents and was safe in their home.

But she refused to return the baby.

More importantly, the judge mandated that the parents should have SUPERVISED visitation, i.e. they had to go to the foster home to see their own baby under the supervision of a government employee.

Another four months later (now we’re in December 2016), another hearing was held.

Once again, the judge refused to return the baby… and even refused to transfer the baby from the foster home to the custody of the grandmother.

Bear in mind that the older child had already been returned to the parents several months prior.

So if they’d had any evidence that the parents were unfit, you’d think that BOTH of the children would have been in foster care.

But that wasn’t the case at all. That’s because the investigation showed no evidence of wrongdoing. The police weren’t involved. And no charges were being filed.

This was simply a matter of a single judge abusing her authority to separate a family, solely because she wasn’t satisfied that the parents didn’t know how the baby had sustained her injuries.

At that point the family hired a SECOND attorney who appealed the decision.

Another four months went by, and in March 2017, the judge held further hearings on the matter.

At that hearing, the attorney attempted to introduce evidence supporting the family’s claim, as well as testimony from other physicians citing a number of plausible reasons how the baby could have been injured.

But according to court records, the judge “refused to take any testimony in the case” because she thought the new attorney was “disrespectful and a little bit arrogant”.

The judge concluded the hearing by punishing the family even more-- she suspended the grandmother’s right to visit the baby, denied the parents request for unsupervised visitation, and authorized the city to start the process to put the baby up for adoption.

More hearings took place over the next several months, until, in October 2017, the judge “involuntarily terminated Parents’ rights.”

In other words, the judge stripped the baby away and shipped her off like cattle to another home. Permanently. The parents were no longer the parents.

Now, it took a looong time. But last week the appeal was finally settled, with a different judge in a higher court.

And the appeals court sided with the parents.

More importantly, the appeals court issued a scathing condemnation of the other judge’s behavior, calling it “abuse of discretion” among other choice phrases.

It took more than TWO YEARS for this family to be reunited… not to mention a ton of money in attorney fees and an incalculable amount of stress.
Increasingly, in the United States, the citizens in the "land of the free" find that they are relatively free until one judge, one police officer, or one petty official from a host of bureaucracies and agencies decides to simply take those rights away. Whether it is confiscating your home or car or bank account under the abusive procedure of civil asset forfeiture without a trial, or attempting to take away a child permanently because the parents didn't know when and how a rib was fractured, Americans are increasingly at the mercy of despots.

For Mother's Day, may I suggest that we ponder what we can do to resist the loss of fundamental rights and to better protect the rights of mothers and parents in general. I don't currerntly know who the best organizations are fighting for our rights in this area, but one good group may be ParentalRights.org. I would appreciate your input on key allies we should consider to resist the erosion of parental rights.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Two Witnesses, Witnessed by Sally Parker

The vast body of scholarship on the witnesses to the Book of Mormon paints a consistent story of real people who really saw something and, in spite of whatever problems or differences with Joseph Smith or others they may have later faced, never denied the reality of their witness. The scholarship on their lives also includes studies on many peripheral figures whose words add to our understanding of what the witnesses said. One such figure is Sally Parker. See Janiece L. Johnson , "'The Scriptures Is a Fulfilling': Sally Parker's Weave," BYU Studies, vol. 4, no. 2 (2005). This publication features a letter written by Sally Bradford Parker to her brother-in-law John Kempton on August 26, 1838. The young convert shares her experience in hearing the testimony of Hyrum Smith and also of Lucy Mack Smith. On page 1 of her letter (I'll use the edited version with conventional spelling and grammar), she states:
And you said you wanted if we could send you something to comfort you, which I don't know as I can. For I have not heard but one sermon since we have been in the place and that by Hyrum Smith. As he was moving to Missouri he tarried with us a little while. His discourse was beautiful. We were talking about the Book of Mormon, [of] which he is one of the witnesses. He said he had but two hands and two eyes. He said he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands and he saw a breast plate and he told how it was made. It was fixed for the breast of a man with a hole in [the] stomach and two pieces upon each side with a hole through them to put in a string to tie it on, but that was not so good gold as the plates for that was pure. Why I write this is because they dispute the Book so much.

I lived by his Mother [Lucy Mack Smith, in Kirtland] and she was one of the finest of women, always helping those that stood in need. She told me the whole story. The plates were in the house and sometimes in the woods for eight months on account of people trying to get them. They had to hide them once. They hid them under the hearth. They took up the brick and put them in and put the brick back. The old lady told me this herself with tears in her eyes and they run down her cheeks too. She put her hand upon her stomach and said she, "O the peace of God that rested upon us all that time." She said it was a heaven below. I asked her if she saw the plates. She said no, it was not for her to see them, but she hefted and handled them and I believed all she said for I lived by her eight months and she was one of the best of women. [emphasis added]
She testifies to the character of Lucy Mack Smith and observes that while she had not seen them directly, she had "hefted and handled them" (apparently while covered) and thus, of course, was a witness of their physical reality. Of Hyrum Smith, she heard him directly describe what he had seen. He made it unmistakeable that it was with his real eyes that he saw and his real hands that he handled the plates. These accounts are numerous, consistent, and granular. The witnesses were genuine witnesses and the plates were real. In my opinion, that's the most logical conclusion that can be made in light of their statements and their behavior.

Cultural Misappropriation: Much Worse Than You Thought

Some Americans are steaming about the shocking incident in Salt Lake City when a young Utah white girl demonstrated her white privilege and scandalous racism, imperialism, consumerism, colonialism, narcissism, egocentrism, materialism, highbrowism, astigmatism and even touch of isomerism and dimerism, a loathsome cornucopia of vice all wrapped in one egregious act: wearing a Chinese dress, the elegant qipao. Sadly, most folks here in China don't have the advanced education that is required to get so frothy over someone's dress, as the Southern China Morning Post reports. Chinese mainlanders tend to think Keziah Daum's choice of prom dress was a cool decision and don't understand the vitriol, which is why we need more elite American tourists to come to China and help educate the natives over here. Feel free to educate me, too, when you visit. And then after your lecture, I can show you some of the better places to get nice tailored Asian clothes cheap.

You'll need to know where those places are so you can tell Chinese people where to go after you vent about just how offended you are at their cultural misappropriation of Western dresses, pants, shoes, shirts, and suits, even down to specific Western brands like Nike and Boss. If you enjoy venting, there are bigger fish to stir fry than a Utah prom dress.

Meanwhile, another Westerner who has lived for years in China, Mark Cohen, the US government's former liaison to China from the US Patent and Trademark Office, wrote an article on this incident that helped me realize that cultural misappropriation among Americans is far worse than I imagined.

Critics of Mormonism (another offensive -ism to stir up sensitive souls) will be pleased with the shocking news that scandalous cultural misappropriation is taking place every Sunday in almost every Mormon chapel around the United States and perhaps all over the world. See those men sitting on the stand as if they are some kind of leaders or something? How many of them are genuine Croatians? Almost none. But there they are, egregiously and ignorantly misappropriating the classical Croatian attire. Mark Cohen seems way too calm as he explains this scandal:
One need not travel far to see evidence of cultural borrowings.  Whenever a man wears a tie, he is following a tradition set by Croatians during the Napoleonic wars.  Indeed, the French word cravate is a corrupt French pronunciation of Croate.  The origin of the tie is a source of some pride to the many Croatians I have met over the years.
It's time we stand in solidarity with Croatian pride! So next time you see some white Mormon male  wearing a tie, ask him about his genealogy and see if he's got at least 50% Croatian roots. Once he's admitted that he doesn't, you've got him! Then get on your high horse -- wait, that would be misappropriating Apache and Mongolian horsemanship skills -- or rather, throw down the gauntlet (totally OK if you are descended from medieval French knights), and let him know just how morally superior you are. Eat your heart out, or his -- if you come from an authentic cannibal culture, that is, and if local laws and regulations permit.

Best to keep that Asian-themed tattoos covered up while you do this, just to prevent misunderstanding (especially the kind that comes from understanding, if he understands Chinese -- sometimes those cool Chinese characters people get for tattoos actually say some pretty awkward things).

By the way, happy Cinco de Mayo!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Li Jing, China's Mysterious Long-Distance Horse Rider, Has Finally Been Found and Rides Again!

Li Jing has now been found in Russia and connected
to the international Long Riders' Guild
One of the most interesting escapades of my years in China has been the search for Li Jing, China's mysterious long-distance rider who completed a monumental horseback ride of over 9,000 kilometers from Moscow to Bejing a decade ago, and then seemed to vanish as far as the international equestrian community knew. The background story is told in my previous post, "Where Horses Can Take You, and My Quest for Li Jing (李荆)," where I explain how my article on horses and the Book of Mormon for Meridian Magazine resulted in a connection with the illustrious international society dedicated to long-distance riding, the Long Riders' Guild, whose colorful and eloquent president, CuChullaine O'Reilly, asked me if I cold help them in their nine-year quest to find Li Jing. That previous Mormanity post, along with efforts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my Chinese network and Chinese social media, including both Chinese and English comments posted on two Chinese social media sites apparently owned by Li Jing, were part of my effort to help connect Li Jing with the Long Riders' Guild. I had also learned in my searching of Chinese-language websites that Li Jing had moved to Russia, apparently Moscow, and was still riding.

Wonderfully, Li Jing has now been found! A few days after my efforts, CuChullaine O'Reilly was contacted by a Russian organization with information about Li Jing. The President of the National Equestrian Tourism Center (NETO Russia) has connected Li Jing with the Guild, and the Guild will now be able to help support future rides and projects, and share precious information about Li Jing's ongoing work with its international membership.

The news is already spreading around the world. From New Zealand, for example, there is this dramatic story: "World’s most elusive Long Rider finally found, riding toward the Arctic Circle," May 2, 2018, from HorseTalk.co.nz. My minor efforts even get an undeserved mention there.

In an overly kind act, the Guild has officially named me as one of the Friends of the Guild, though I have pointed out that in my recent communication with the leader of the Russian organization, he was not aware of my efforts here in China to connect the Guild with Li Jing. His reaching out to the Guild, which he was already aware of, may have been completely fortuitous. But perhaps the prodding led to a chain of events or conversations that helped make the connection. In any case, I'm thrilled that Li Jing has been found and that another chapter in the great story of horses and humans can be more fully written.

I also hope to meet Li Jing one day, and have contacted NETO Russia to explore such opportunities. Li Jing, a native of Wuhan, China, in the heart of this land, embodies the spirit of adventure and passion that has resulted in so many great things out of China. His story needs to be told more widely here as well as around the globe. I also hope that the Guild's newly kindled interest in the story of horses among the religions of the world will lead to more treasures of knowledge for all of us. Many thanks to Li Jing, to Gennadii Semin of NETO Russia, and especially to CuChullaine O'Reilly of the Long Riders Guild!