Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emergency Preparedness

As we witness the wrath that nature can cause in the eastern United States, let us not forget our own preparations for future emergencies. These can come suddenly and often with little warning. Early preparation is the key. Do you have a 72-hour kit in a backpack ready to grab and run if there is an emergency evacuation? Do you have flashlights and batteries? Do you have food, water, and clothing to help you get through a prolonged period when food might be hard to find, or when you might be out

One of the most important reasons for being prepared with supplies of various kinds is to be able to help your neighbors. Mormons, though often ridiculed for having food storage, are often the ones able to help first when disaster strikes, somedays days before the Red Cross arrives. That was the case with Hurricane Andrew back when I lived in Georgia and was one of the thousands who participated in "Mormon Helping Hands" relief service in Homestead, Florida. Mormon experience in organizing through the Priesthood system also provides a remarkably effective way of organizing volunteers. It was a pretty amazing experience.

Be prepared, and ignore the mocking of idiots who don't get it. Speaking of which, I find it distressing that in their zeal to be campaigners rather than journalists, MSNBC would stoop to mocking Mitt Romney for his efforts to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. There is plenty to mock in both political parties (perhaps even my third party of choice has its flaws), but mocking the efforts of a man who already gives millions to charity as "craven" and "lacking compassion"is a sad example of what political zeal does to distort the allegedly evenhanded media.

Those who object to Mormon "stockpiling" and our welfare and relief efforts also include religious opponents, some of whom have told me that it shows a lack of faith in God to prepare as we do. The rapture mentality will be deadly for those who think they will be spared from disaster and hunger in this world because they will be miraculously lifted up before trouble sets in. We've got trouble all over know, Trouble with a great big capital "T," and more is blowing your way. Be prepared and be grateful for your Mormon neighbors. Rather than mock their efforts, join them and be part of the solution next time an emergency hits your neighborhood,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: Insights from the Scriptures

From the scriptures, we can infer that a meeting or council occurred a time or two in the eons before we were born. Now in mortality, meetings are much more frequent. And painful. So many of us mourn and wonder, "Why is this meeting happening to me?" There is, however, purpose in the sufferings of the flesh. Ultimately we must remember the words of Christ in Matthew 24:13: "He that endures to the end, the same will be saved." If that applies to mortality, surely it at least applies to ward council or stake conference.

As for the punishment that is meted out to the wicked, we must also remember the mercy of relief that is promised. Drawing upon Doctrine and Covenants 19, we understand that it is not written endless meetings, but rather eternal meetings, which though eternal in nature need only be endured for a finite span, perhaps a thousand years or so, or so it often seems.

May we make our meetings more effective and better planned, that we may not be the cause of needless pain, that others might not despair and cry out, "What, no agenda? And why must we endure this chitchat that could have been handled with a phone call or email?" Remember, "inasmuch as we have done this meeting unto one of these the least of your brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hmongs and Mormons: A Window into LDS Diversity

One of my favorite US newspapers, the Sacramento Bee, just published a nice article about LDS diversity in Sacramento. "Mormon church a widely diverse entity in Sacramento region" mentions several different groups of Latter-day Saints in the Sacramento region, including the Hmong people.

Appleton, Wisconsin, where I lived for about 20 years, is a small town with a surprisingly high Hmong population, around 4 or 5%. On my first Sunday in Appleton when we moved there for the second time in 1994, I remember being surprised by all the Asian people sitting behind me near the back of the Church, speaking what sounded like Chinese but wasn't. I had taken a few classes of Chinese way back at BYU and strained to catch a few recognizable words, but it was definitely a different language. I would soon learn that they were immigrants from Laos who had paid a terrible price for supporting the United States during the Vietnam War. It's a long story, one I try to tell on my webpage about the Hmong people, but there is much more drama and trauma than I could ever capture. Every Hmong family I know, though, has stories to tell of fleeing for their lives and losing nearly everything. This includes fleeing through a dangerous jungle, evading vicious soldiers, swimming across a hostile river patrolled with enemy forces, losing loved ones along the way, sometimes being separated for years from family members, and suffering deprivation and neglect in refugee camps.

They faced genocide for their part in supporting the U.S. Sadly, many Americans had no idea why the U.S. government allowed many to come over here (partial repayment for their valiant service and a recognition of the mess we had created). We got them to fight for us in the secret wars of Laos with the promise that we would never abandon them. We armed their boys and trained fighter pilots. Those pilots would fly mission after mission until they were shot down, nearly 100% casualties. When our pilots were shot down over the jungles, Hmong soldiers waged valiant rescue missions to reach them before the enemy did and bring them back alive. Many US pilots owe their lives to the Hmong. In some cases, over 100 Hmong men would lose their lives in a rescue mission to bring back a single U.S. soldier. The Hmong people are tough, gutsy, freedom loving, and truly beautiful. Because the campaign in Laos was secret and contrary to our official news, they were not given public recognition for their valor. They were the best allies the U.S. ever had. Then, without warning, we packed up and left, leaving the poorly prepared mountain people exposed to the full wrath of an angry enemy.

My first calling when we returned to Appleton was to work with minorities in the Stake including the Hmong people. This began a journey that would bless my life in many ways. Later a Hmong-speaking branch would be formed in Appleton and my family would serve in it. I was first counselor to a Hmong Branch president, a good, loving man. There were many challenges for Hmong Mormons, and some good people would leave the Church when Hmong culture and the Gospel clashed just a little too harshly. My time with that branch was wonderful, but there were also some messy, traumatic, terrible moments, including one of the most painful episodes of my life, where I have a desire to go back in time and try things differently to see if a better solution could have been found.

The Hmong Mormons of Wisconsin, California, and many other places are remarkable Latter-day Saints. If you know any, tell them "Ua tsaug!" from me (that means thank you, pronounced like "waw jiao" with a breathy, falling tone on the "jiao"). If you have a chance to serve them as a missionary, you are a blessed and lucky creature. If you have a chance to serve with them, be prepared to work hard and grow quickly. They are a beautiful and vibrant part of the remarkably diverse LDS community, and I'm glad the Sacramento Bee recognized this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meet the Real President Packer

Flames erupted last year when President Boyd K. Packer gave a talk at the October 2010 General Conference that included a seemingly insensitive remark regarding those facing same-sex attraction. Actually, the way I interpreted the controversial sentence as initially spoken also bothered me, but that's not the way he meant it. That point was clarified in the printed edition of his talk. The spoken talk, the printed edition, the press release about the change being made, and the unwavering anger of some critics is an interesting story of how messages can be misunderstood and how good-faith efforts can be interpreted in sinister ways. If you instantly formed an opinion and have felt angry toward President Packer ever since, I would ask you to reconsider and see what he has been teaching consistently on this complex and delicate topic. Gregory L. Smith digs into the story in detail in his article, "Shattered Glass: The Traditions of Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Encounter Boyd K. Packer" at the Maxwell Institute.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

For the Strength of the Youth

One of my favorite things about this last LDS General Conference for me was the citing of great examples from young people in following Christ. The briefly mentioned story of the LDS child who deliberately reached out to and included the class bully really inspired me. Other examples of young people showing faith and courage in following Jesus were scattered throughout the talks, along with references to the outstanding new materials that have been developed to help our young people.

I really admire the approach of the Church in helping its youth with resources like For the Strength of the Youth and the fabulous teaching materials and programs the Church offers.

Personally, I feel that many parents of the world would flock to the Church if they knew what Church activity can do to protect and bless the lives of their children. The healthy, positive, strengthening influence of the Church in the lives of my children was so significant for my wife and I as parents. It contributed greatly to the happiness we have experienced as a family. I am so thankful for that.

There is so much that can pull young people down these days. The principles in For the Strength of the Youth and the other tools and teachings of the Church are precious resources to help them stand tall and free from the enslaving temptations of the world. It can help them have vastly better and happier lives.

There is much we can learn from the faithful examples of the young people in our midst. But there is also much we must continue to teach them, and the resources the Church has developed for them are a great place to start.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Endless or Temporary Punishment: A Deceptive God?

For many of us Latter-day Saints, Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants is viewed as a beautiful passage of Mormon scripture that deepens our appreciation of God’s mercy and grace. But for some, it’s a stumbling block, one that has raised serious doubts about God, or at least “the God of Mormonism.” Today I’d like to address the problematic side of Section 19 in hopes of helping some who struggle with it.

This section discusses repentance and the danger of punishment, even hell, for those who do not accept the grace made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ on conditions of repentance. However, we learn that hell, though an eternal and endless institution in God’s eternal and endless work is not endured endlessly for those who are sent there. Here are some relevant verses (read the whole section at LDS.org):

4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.
5 Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my left hand.
6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.
7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory….
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore–
11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment.

Many Christians over the centuries have struggled with the concept of hell and wondered why God would create endless torment for those who didn’t find their way to Christianity. Part of  the problem is the injustice of condemning millions who simply had no chance to learn of Christ and become baptized Christians. That problem, of course, is elegantly and beautifully resolved in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ when one understands the divine concept of baptism for the dead and the preaching of the Gospel to the dead so that all will have a fair chance to hear and accept the Gospel of Christ. But another part of the problem is this: Why endless torment for those who sin? Mercifully, we learn in Section 19 that suffering of hell is temporary. It is an endless and eternal institution, but one’s passage through hell is temporary. As I understand it, it lasts long enough for one to fully pay for one’s sins, but then, as we read in Section 76, even those who sinned and refused to repent will be released from hell and enter into a decent place, though still cut off from the full glory of God that is reserved for those who loved Him and accepted the grace offered through the covenants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While some of us Latter-day Saints read Section 19 and want to rejoice over the mercy shown even toward those deserving of hell, others are troubled by the tactic God has taken. By using words like endless and eternal to describe a temporary hell, isn’t God deliberately deceptive? Doesn’t He admit to playing deceptive mind games in saying “it is written eternal damnation . . . that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men”? If our God isn’t an honest God, can we really trust Him? Does He even exist?

The questions are fair and worth discussing. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning led one acquaintance of mine out of the Church--apparently being the “last straw” or the final catalyst for abandoning faith. I’m writing this post today for her and anyone else struggling with God’s integrity due to this issue. I will share some thoughts that I hope will help, though may not change anyone’s mind.  The points I wish to make are that 1) the technical gaps in the basic warnings about eternal torment or endless hellfire may be an appropriate way for a loving parent to simplify complex teachings into a simple message that rebellious kids can grasp (e.g., the pains of hell are very bad, and yes, there are eternal consequences to sin), and 2) long before Section 19 was given, the scriptures already contained hints that the “eternal torment” of hell could be experienced temporarily, as Section 19 indicates.

Parents and Simplified Messaging
When I read Section 19, I do not experience the sense of deliberate deception and lack of integrity from God. I experience the sense of a parent trying to teach rebellious children. Yes, the words used lack technical detail, just as many instructions from a parent are incomplete and even technically inadequate, while adapted for the good of the child.

A big part of parenting is teaching complex things in simple ways. To lead children to the right behaviors and right conclusions, giving the full technical explanation with all the exceptions, theory, qualifiers, etc., is often inadequate. What may be complex often has to be boiled down to a simple concept when people aren’t ready to explore and understand  to understand the full details and all the nuances. The simplified, incomplete guidance parents give to young children on topics ranging from safety, diet, and human reproduction is not because parents are inherently deceptive, but because they love their children and are trying to teach them what they can digest in ways that will help them. The oversimplified explanations may be rife with technical gaps that anyone with an advanced degree could point out. God is a heavenly parent teaching often rebellious kids with highly limited comprehension. Mercifully, at the most basic level, the complex story of the various stages of judgment, punishment, paradise vs. spirit prison, resurrection, etc., becomes something like this: "Don’t mess with sin, and don't stay trapped in sin, because the consequences are very bad and very painful. The consequences are eternal. Forever. You really, really, really don't want to go to hell!”

Yes, the consequences are eternal, for being locked out of God's presence and all that joy is eternal. OK, the direct suffering to pay for one’s sins in hell does not last forever, but being out of God’s presence does, and though that is not hellfire, it is tragic. Technically the intense suffering in the darkness of hell is only temporary, mercifully, and then we live eternally in fairly cool kingdoms that, however, are away from God’s presence, which means eternal loss and separation. Not endlessly in hellfire, but endlessly apart, and even a brief touch of hell is eternal enough if we knew what it was like. Given all that, it makes sense that God, the merciful parent faced, condenses the message for us slow learners to inform and motivate correctly, not to deceive, though the condensed message has some technicalities that advanced learners can object to. For the advanced learners, again mercifully, we have Section 19 and Section 76 and Section 138, and more to give us a more nuanced understanding of the afterlife, though still highly incomplete and perhaps rife with other technical gaps that we will appreciate once we ready to understand more.

This could be a case where the more technically nuanced explanation would get condensed in the minds of men to a message that would ultimately be deceptive by leading men to think hell and punishment are not a big deal and everything will be OK in the end, regardless of what they do. After looking at this again, my conclusion might be that perhaps we need to give God the same kind of break that we hope our kids will give us and understand that the answers given to 5-year-olds might have relatively necessary gaps compared to what we can teach later on. Not because we are deceiving, but because we are parenting and loving.

The scriptures contain other examples where wording seems to convey simplified messages that are technically inadequate, but are perfectly adequate for the purpose intended with the target audience. For example, the Creation story speaks of 7 days, and men have naturally understood this to be short days of 24 hours, when the Hebrew word day can also refer to an epoch in time. We are now learning that the earth is very old and that whatever process it has been through to prepare it for life as we now know it, millions and even billions of years were involved. Why didn’t God give us the technically correct data to begin with? Why not explain the Creation in a more scientifically robust manner? Perhaps because the purpose from the beginning has been to let us know that He is the Creator, and the technical details don’t matter much, at least so far they haven’t. Perhaps that is changing and some future revelation will address the science of the Creation more satisfactorily for those who feel they deserve more details. Patience for now, please.

Temporary Tasting of Eternal Torment: A Consistent Message
The concept of experiencing hell temporarily is not new to Section 19. It is part of the ancient Christian concept of the “harrowing of hell” in which Christ bring deliverance to the dead who once were rebellious but hear and accept the Gospel. This concept is hinted at in 1 Peter 3 and 4, and in the early Christian concept of baptism for the dead, but for details on the pervasive extent of this doctrine, see "The Harrowing of Hell: Salvation for the Dead in Early Christianity" by Roger D. Cook, David L. Paulsen, and Kendel J. Christensen.

Perhaps a more directly relevant issue comes from the story of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon. In describing his torment for three days and nights after recognizing that he had been fighting against God, he says that he experienced “everlasting burnings” and “eternal torment.” See Mosiah 27:28, 29 and Alma 36:12:

Mosiah 27:
[28] Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulations, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.
[29] My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.
Alma 36:
[12] But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

Everlasting. Eternal. Temporary. Completely consistent with Section 19.

Alma is not playing mind games either nor being deceptive. The torments of hell are from the Eternal One, the Endless One, and are endless and eternal, though temporary.

For further insights on this topic, see a related article at FAIRMormon.org on eternal punishment.

I would appreciate your thoughts and insights on how to better deal with this topic. It does matter for some people and I would like to find better ways to treat the challenges that some face with this topic.

Lowering the Age Requirement for Missionaries: Great Idea!

Young LDS people in Shanghai today were generally delighted to hear the news from Salt Lake City about the new age requirements for missionaries. Now young men can begin serving as early as age 18 (if they finish high school or its equivalent and meet the other challenging requirements the Church has for the privilege of service on a mission). Young women can begin serving at age 19. It used to be ave 19 for men and 21 for women. The option to serve earlier will make life a lot easier for many while also reducing risk that people won't go who otherwise might have been able to serve. I really like this change in policy.

My two years in Switzerland were one of the best parts of my life, at least up to then. The last two have probably been the best so far. (But age two was really awesome also, I suppose.)

To those of you considering serving on a mission, it's far less of a sacrifice than you might think and can be one of the greatest blessings you can experience at this point in your life. If you can, please go! Experience the joys of serving God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Ojibway Metal Plate: An Intriguing Episode

Today I'm happy to share an article contributed by a sharp Latter-day Saint in Wisconsin, Mark Treter. It relates to a common question about the Book of Mormon: Is there any evidence for writing on metal in the ancient Americas?

First note that the Book of Mormon does not indicate that writing on metal was a widespread, traditional activity of peoples in the Americas, but was a practice brought from the Old World and maintained by a few prophets and leaders seeking to preserve rare and precious records. The Book of Mormon text and the history of its many witnesses is evidence for the reality of writing on metal in the Americas. But there may be other examples of writing on metal in the New World that will yet be discovered, as our knowledge of the ancient Americans and state of archaeological exploration there is still in its infancy compared to the Bible lands. However, there may be some further hints about ancient writing on metal plates to consider.

One example, called to my attention in an excellent and previously unpublished essay by Mark Treter, was a sacred copper relic that was observed in 1842 by William W. Warren. His History of the Ojibways, Based upon Traditions and Oral Statements (St. Paul : Minnesota Historical Society, 1885, available online at http://imp.lss.wisc.edu/~jrvalent/old_nlip/NLIP_Institute_2006_bu/attachments/WarrenHistory.pdf, a PDF file with over 300 pages) provides an interesting section that Mark discusses (this begins at page 63 of the PDF file, which is apparently page 89 of the original book).

Here is the essay from Mark. Thank you for your kind contribution!

Update, Oct. 3, 2012:
Warren's eyewitness account is the only evidence I know of for the metal record kept by some of the Ojibwe (also spelled Ojibway) people. So is his account plausible and reliable? Corroborating evidence can be found in the book Native American Mathematics by Michael P. Closs (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1986). Beginning on page 181 is a relevant chapter entitled "Tallies and the Ritual Use of Number in Ojibway Pictography." The documented use of tally marks and pictographs to convey information about family lines (see especially p. 183) is consistent with the report of Warren, and adds to the plausibility of his report, in my opinion.


Copper Record of the Ojibway

by Mark Treter

For students of the Book of Mormon, an interesting event is referenced in the pages of History of the Ojibway People, by William W. Warren1. The event is also of interest to Wisconsin archeologists because of its reference to metal objects fashioned by native Americans in Wisconsin.

According to Warren, as a teenager in 1842, he was in the company of his father and mother visiting the Ojibway town that had been a capital or principal gathering place, founded at the mouth of Chequameogon Bay on what is now called Madeline Island in Lake Superior, one of the Apostle Islands. In 1693, French explorers had established a fort and trading post near there which they called La Pointe. The Ojibway town and the trading post are located at the southern end of the island, approximately 2.6 miles across the water from the Wisconsin shoreline along Lake Superior. This location was one of the first outposts for the Ojibway migrating westward under pressure from other tribes, and was selected by the Ojibway for their first settlement in that area of Wisconsin because of the additional security provided by being on an island. Warren’s family was visiting his mother’s uncle, who was a chief of the Crane clan.

It should be noted that there were smaller Ojibway towns established all along the shore of Lake Superior from Fond du Lac, Minnesota (on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border at the extreme western end of Lake Superior’s waterways) to Keweenaw Bay on the east. Warren reports that the Ojibway found a successful life in these lands. Fur was plentiful, fishing was good among the nearby islands, large fields of corn and squash were cultivated, and wild rice was harvested in the lakes and streams. Also, after the French abandoned the trading post at La Pointe in 1698, the other tribes of the area, such as the Fox and Lakota (or Dakota), had no choice but to obtain European goods through their neighbors the Ojibway. In the winter months, hunting bands traveled deep into Wisconsin woods to the south. But in the summer, Ojibway people from the whole area, as well as from the north shore of Lake Superior, came to Chequamegon on the island for the Medewiwin (or "Grand Medicine") ceremonies. These religious gatherings of the Ojibway nation were held in a great lodge which stood in the principal village on Madeline Island.

At this time, Warren and his parents were shown a "sacred relic"2 of the Ojibway people, exhibited to him by the old chief, Tug-waug-aun-ay of the Crane Clan. Warren would have been about 16 or 17 years old, as he was born on May 27, 1825. The event was later reported in Warren’s book, in connection with a historical review of chieftainship among the various Ojibway clans.3

In his book, Warren describes the "sacred relic" as a record or "register" made on a "circular plate of virgin copper."4 Warren reports that the existence of the sacred record was not generally known and that it was seldom displayed even to those were closely related to the one tasked with maintaining the record. "On this occasion he only brought it to view at the entreaty of my mother, whose maternal uncle he was." Warren also reports, "I am the only one still living who witnessed, on that occasion, this sacred relic of former days."

For students of the Book of Mormon, it is of interest that this sacred relic was kept hidden in an underground location. Warren reports, "[T]he old chief kept it carefully buried in the ground . . ." Warren reports that the chief "was about sixty years of age at the time he showed this plate of copper, which he said had descended to him direct through a long line of ancestors."

Warren reports that, on this metal plate are "rudely marked indentations and hieroglyphics." It appears that this plate may be one among several, and that it was prepared new at the time the tribe took up residence in this new area. The tribe had selected this location as their new center, and the town or city was reported to be crowded with lodges and hogans, taking up an area three miles long and two miles wide. The purpose of the metal plate appears to have been to keep a new record from that time forward.

According to Warren, the markings on the record showed, among other things, that by 1842, there had been eight ancestors to this chief with responsibility for maintaining the record on this plate, since the time the tribe had come to build their center there. Each "had lived to a good old age," and upon their death, the duty was transferred to another.

It appears that the "indentations and hieroglyphics" on this metal plate was to keep a record "denoting the number of generations of the family who have passed away since they first pitched their lodges at Shaug-a-waum-ik-ong and took possession of the adjacent country, including the Island of La Pointe or Mo-ning-wun-a-kaun-ing."

Also recorded on the plate was a "figure of a man with a hat on its head" placed opposite the third generation markings, indicating the generation during which the white man first came among them.

From the record, Warren was able to conclude that it had been about 360 years since the Ojibway Tribe had ceased their migration from the area around what is now Western New York and collected to settle down and build a principal center at La Pointe. Warren was able to estimate that it had been 240 years since the Ojibway had encountered the white man. He was also able to estimate the year when a formal meeting took place between the Ojibway and a representative of the French nation, as well as the year that Father Claude Allouez discovered the Ojibway. 5

Warren also reports that the Ojibway are believed to be related to the other Algonquin-speaking or Algic tribes, who share certain customs believed to be of ancient origin. One such custom pertains to the keeping of sacred relics. Warren reports that it was the custom among them that a man would be appointed by the elders and the chiefs, for a designated span of years, to be responsible for these sacred things, as follows:

". . to take charge of the sacred pipe, pipestem, mat, and other emblems of their religious beliefs. A lodge is allotted for his especial use, to contain these emblems and articles pertaining to his office. Four horses are given to him to pack these things from place to place, following the erratic movements of the camp. This functionary is obliged to practice seven fasts, and to live during the term of his priesthood in entire celibacy."6 He is the only one who "can or dare handle the sacred pipe and emblems."7

Warren notes also that "[A]ll religious councils are held in his lodge, and disputes are generally adjusted by him as judge. His presence and voice are sufficient to quell all domestic disturbance, and altogether he holds more actual power and influence that even the civil and war chiefs." It is also reported that, "[A]t the end of his term the tribe presents him with a new lodge, horses and so forth, wherewith to commence life anew."

Other sacred records are maintained by those initiated into the central religious rites, which ceremony and teachings Warren calls "the grand rite of the Me-da-we-win"8. The teachings of this rite are kept sacred, and even Warren admits that, despite his intimacy with these matters, he yet stands only "at the threshold" of the Me-da-we lodge. The teachings include the creation of the earth, man’s true relationship to God, the global flood or deluge caused by man’s wickedness. In this rite, the Ojibway are taught that, after the universal flood, the commencement of a "new earth" or "second earth" was only made possible by the "intercession of a powerful being, whom they denominate Man-ab-o-sho, a divine uncle or brother figure, and that by this intercession they were allowed to exist, and means were given them whereby to subsist and support life, and a code of religion was "bestowed on them whereby they could commune with the offended Great Spirit, and ward off the approach and ravages of death."9 Warren reports that in the teachings of the religion of the Ojibway, "hieroglyphics are used to denote this second earth."10

From the writings of Warren, one can gain some insight into the religious teachings among the Ojibway, which include the following. The Great Spirit alone is the great God and "Master of Life." He rules over all, is the guardian of men who are His children, and is full of mercy, pity, charity and kindness toward them. He teaches, and commands, charity and forgiveness. He is worshipped with reverence in sacrificial feasts, and mention of His holy name is always accompanied by reverence, prayer and sacrifice of some "article deemed precious".11 They never use His name in vain, and they never take profane oaths. They fast, pray, sacrifice and receive visions and dreams. In these visions and dreams, if the Great Spirit is revealed, He "invariably appears to the dreamer in the shape of a beautifully and strongly-formed man." For the dreamer, such dreams or visions "guides in great measure his future course in life, and he never relates it without offering a sacrificial feast to the spirit of the dream."12

In brief, from what Warren has reported, the following ten cultural elements may be of special interest to the student of the Book of Mormon: (1) The keeping of a sacred record on a metal plate;

(2) Starting a new record on a new plate at the commencement of a major event;

(3) Recording on the record major occurrences, especially those with spiritual implications for the people;

(4) Assigning a respected member of the tribe the duty of keeping the record;

(5) Passing the record down from generation to generation;

(6) Storing the record with other items regarded as sacred relics;

(7) Giving the duty of common judge to the keeper of the record;

(8) The construction of a major edifice where the most sacred religious rites were to be conducted;

(9) An annual gathering of the people to the center place to participate in the great religious rite; and

(10) Preparing a place to hide the record buried in the ground.


1. "Warren's skill and W. Roger Buffalohead's able introduction call us to read, or to reread, this classic history." -- Minnesota History. William W. Warren's History of the Ojibway People has long been recognized as a classic source on Ojibwe History and culture. Warren, the son of an Ojibwe woman, wrote his history in the hope of saving traditional stories for posterity even as he presented to the American public a sympathetic view of a people he believed were fast disappearing under the onslaught of a corrupt frontier population. He collected firsthand descriptions and stories from relatives, tribal leaders, and acquaintances and transcribed this oral history in terms that nineteenth-century whites could understand, focusing on warfare, tribal organizations, and political leaders.

First published in 1885 by the Minnesota Historical Society. Current edition includes annotations researched and written by professor Theresa Schenck. A new introduction by Schenck also gives a clear and concise history of the text and of the author, firmly establishing a place for William Warren in the tradition of American Indian intellectual thought.

Theresa Schenck is an associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe, and The Voice of the Crane Echoes Afar: The Sociopolitical Organization of the Lake Superior Ojibwa, 1640-1855."

2.Ibid., at 89.

The event is also cited under "Ornamented Coppers of the Wisconsin Area" by The Wisconsin Archeologist, published by The Wisconsin Archeological Society, Vol. 23, No. 1 in connection with a survey of copper implements made by the Ojibway tribe, as follows:
. . . Only the last mentioned variety of socketted copper knife has been found bearing indentures or ornamentation of any kind.

No copper axes or celts with decoration of any kind seem to have been found in Wisconsin.

Ornamented Coppers of the Wisconsin Area 83

One copper spud with incised lines has been described. A ridge-backed spud having the back fluted was found near Palmyra, Jefferson County, and is in the Ringeisen collection.

An interesting copper plate is described by Warren and, because of the peculiar character of the plate, Warren's description will be quoted literally.*

"The Cranes claim the honor of first having pitched their wigwams, and lighted the fire of the Ojibways at Shaug-ah- waum-ik-ong, a sand point or peninsula lying two miles immediately opposite the Island of La Pointe.

"To support their pretensions, this family (of the Crane) held in their possession a circular plate of virgin copper, on which is rudely marked indentations and hieroglyphics denoting the number of generations of the family who have passed away since they first pitched their lodges at Shaug-ah-waum- ik-ong and took possession of the adjacent country, including the Island of La Pointe or Mo-ning-wun-a-kaun-ing.

"When I witnessed this curious family register in 1842, it was exhibited by Tug-waug-aun-ay to my father. The old chief kept it carefully buried in the ground, and seldom displayed it. On this occasion he only brought it to view at the entreaty of my mother, whose maternal uncle he was. Father, mother, and the old chief, have all since gone to the land; of spirits, and I am the only one still living who witnessed, on that occasion this sacred relic of former days.

"On this plate of copper was marked eight deep indentions, denoting the number of his ancestors who had passed away since they first lighted their fire at Shaug-ah-waum-ik-ong. They had all lived to a good old age.

"By the rude figure of a man with a hat on its head, placed opposite one of these indentions, was denoted the period when the white race first made his appearance among them. This mark occurred in the third generation, leaving five generations which had passed away since that important era in their history "

From the marks on the copper plate, Warren placed the arrival of the Ojibways at about 1490. His narrative is interesting and accepted as authentic, but the plate seems to have no counterpart in Wisconsin Archeology.

4. The abundance of copper in the lands of the Ojibway clans is well known, although the preparation of a copper plate for the purpose of maintaining a family or clan record or register does not appear to be elsewhere reported. Responses from tribal members to the dissemination of information about this "sacred relic" appears to be to express regret that sacred knowledge of the tribe is being divulged to those who cannot be expected to give due honor or reverence. This may account for why the existence of such items is not more generally published.

5. Warren, at 90.

6. Ibid, at 68.

7, Ibid, at 69.

8. Ibid, at 65.

9. Ibid, at 56.

10. Ibid, at 65.

11. Ibid, at 64.

12. Ibid, at 65.