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

Thursday, December 31, 2020

More on the Limits of "Endless" and "Eternal" in the Book of Mormon: Awaking from "Endless Sleep" and the "Eternal Band of Death"

In a recent previous post, "'From Whence They Can No More Return': What Lehi Teaches Us About the Book of Mormon's Harsh Language on Hell," I noted that a passage in Lehi's farewell speech gives insight into the limits on the "eternal" nature of hell that has confused many readers of the Book of Mormon. Such limits, of course, are consistent with an important revelation given to Joseph Smith Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants where we learn that while God's punishment can be called eternal since He is eternal, that does not mean that those who experience eternal punishment are never freed from their pains. 

The Book of Mormon provides another example that should immediately help us calibrate the intent behind some uses of the words "eternal" and "endless" in the scriptures. In Mormon 9:13, Moroni writes, 

And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death. 

All men must die, and by so doing, we enter into a state that Moroni describes as "endless sleep" where we are bound with the "eternal band of death." It would last forever were it not for the redemption from death made possible by the Resurrection of Christ. Though the state of death, a function created by the Eternal God, can be called an eternal and endless state because He and His works are endless and eternal, it will be temporary for all of us.  If physical death can be called endless and eternal and yet be temporary, entrance into hell, spiritual death, can also be temporary. You may disagree with the way those words are used, but the Book of Mormon itself makes it clear that these words in the context of death and hell may need to be understood in the way they are explained in Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  

Update, Jan. 11, 2020: Robert Boylan has provided some valuable articles dealing with the meaning of "eternity" in the scriptures that can add further context to some of the issues raised here. Please see his "Resources for 'We Agree with Moroni 8:18' day (18 August)" at https://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/2018/08/resources-for-we-agree-with-moroni-818.html. Among these, be sure to see "Moroni 8:18, Psalm 90:2, and the Latter-day Saint Understanding of Deity."

Janus Parallelism in Alma 32 and 33?

Alma uses the verb "spring" in an interesting way in his sermon to the Zoramites in Alma 32 and 33:

But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. (Alma 32:41)

And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen.(Alma 33:23)

Others have noted the intriguing reference to tree of life symbolism here, drawing upon themes in the ancient Near East, not to mention related themes in Mesoamerica. But here I wish to consider the possibility of a potential word play or poetical device in the form of a Janus parallelism.

Janus parallelism refers to the two-headed Roman god, Janus, who could look forward as well as backward. In Janus parallelism, one word or phrase serves in two parallel structures by also looking both forward and backward, relying on a double meaning to connect in both directions to nearby words or phrases. Over at Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, I once reviewed Scott Noegel's excellent book on the abundant use of Janus parallelism in Job and also tentatively proposed several possible examples of Janus parallelism in the Book of Mormon based on the presumed Hebrew words behind the English translation. More recently Paul Hoskisson has proposed a possible example of Janus parallelism in 1 Nephi 18:16. By the way, I find it interesting that most of the examples with potential Janus parallelism come from Nephi, the man closest to the deep details of Hebrew poetry. In fact, chiasmic structures and parallelism in general is not distributed uniformly or randomly in the Book of Mormon, but has a distribution that is consistent with the details of the book's claimed ancient origins as opposed to being the fruit of Joseph Smith's mind. On the fascinating distribution of parallelism among Book of Mormon texts, see Carl J. Cranney's analysis in "The Deliberate Use of Hebrew Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 23 (2014):140–65.

Getting back to the verses from Alma, in English, readers may note that "spring up" naturally relates to the sprouting, growth, and flourishing of the tree that is nourished in the first portion of both verses. But "springing" and "everlasting life" seem less related. I have previously felt it was a somewhat odd word choice for discussing entry into eternal life, though it does convey a dynamic, vibrant sense that relates well to the tree. Recently I wondered if considering possible Hebrew roots behind this word might be useful.

The Hebrew word for "spring" can be Strong's H6779, tsamach, to sprout or spring up. This can refer to plants, hair, and figuratively to speech, and can also mean to grow abundantly or thickly, or to cause to grow.  This is translated 13 times as "grow" in the Old Testament, "spring forth" six times, "spring up" four times, and twice each for "grow up," "bring forth," "bud," and "spring out."

Strong's H6523, parach, can mean to bud, to sprout, to bloom, to blossom or send out shoots, as well as to break out (for leprosy) and to fly. It is most commonly translated as "flourish" (10 times), followed by "bud" (5 times), "blossom" (4 times), etc., with "spring" occurring twice and "spring up" occurring just once.

More interesting might be Strong's H5927, 'alah, which can mean to ascend or climb, as in to spring up or grow for vegetation, or to come up (before God), to go up, to excel, to be superior, and even to be exalted. This combination of meanings, the vegetative springing up of a plant but also the rising up to exaltation or coming up before God could make this an ideal word to use in Alma 32.  

By using 'alah or a related word that can both reflect the climbing or growing of a tree as well as being exalted or coming up into the presence of God, then both Alma 32:41 and Alma 33:23 could function as a Janus parallelism in which that word does double duty, creating a parallel with the preceding portion of the verse related to the growth of a tree  while also creating a parallel related to entering into eternal life in the final portion of the verse based on an additional meaning related to exaltation or coming up before God.

This is a tentative proposal that has not been subject to peer review. As always, I may be completely wrong and, as always, I welcome your relatively civil feedback on this topic.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Jewish Copper Plates of Cochin, India and a Hint of an Ancient Jewish Tradition of Writing on Metal Plates

A recent post here critiqued an attempt to explain the origins of the book of Ether based on inspiration from a rare book, A Key to the Chronology of the Hindus from a man named Alexander Hamilton (not the US statesmen). After substantial revision, my post was just published on the Interpreter Foundation's blog as "Was a Rare Book on the Hindu Religion a Source for the Book of Ether?" To my surprise, a comment was posted there suggesting a more relevant book from Alexander Hamilton. It turns out this was yet another Alexander Hamilton, a Captain Alexander Hamilton who had experience in the "East Indies," including India. He published his story in another large book almost a century before his namesake's book on the Hindus came out. It's actually relevant to the Book of Mormon in a couple of ways.

Here is the comment made by someone posting as "RM":

Both Lindsay and Toponce swing and miss. I recommend reading the earlier texts of Alexander Hamilton, particularly those describing members of the House of Manasseh and their brass/copper plates containing “their own history from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to this present time”. – A New Account of the East Indies

As in there were historical Israelites from the Tribe of Manasseh in this region of the world, and the accounts given by Hamilton were an accurate telling of their history.

Now that sounds much more interesting than what one can find in the later Hamilton's book, which is frankly a very poor candidate as a source for the Book of Mormon. Captain Alexander Hamilton first published his book in 1723, with some later editions. The 1744 edition is available at Google Books: https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_New_Account_of_the_East_Indies/-jNagGDT-PsC?hl=en&gbpv=1. Was A New Account of the East Indies available in the US for Joseph Smith the bookworm to access? Or could it at least have influenced his technical advisory team or Joseph's broad circles of literati

Unlike the later Hamilton's book, which wasn't widely distributed even in England where it was published, this earlier book had made it to the shores of the US by 1830 since the 1830 catalog of the library at Harvard shows it listed. However, it still may have been rather rare, for the Library of Congress, building upon Thomas Jefferson's vast library, did not obtain the book until 1904, based on my query with the extremely helpful Rare Books Collection team (email received Dec. 15, 2020). It wasn't in the noteworthy Rochester City Library in 1839. The 1821 catalog at the very large library of Allegheny College also fails to show this book. But at least we know that Harvard had it, so it's possible that Joseph's better educated farmer friends knew all about it, though given that its topic that would seem to have no value for Joseph or his peers and given the few words of material that intersects with Book of Mormon issues, it's unlikely this had any impact on Joseph and his environment. But if Joseph did read it, what would he have gleaned?

In discussing travels to India and beyond, the book raises the issue of the diaspora of the Jews on pages 323--325 (1744 edition), and mentions that some Jews in India said to be descended from the Jews who were carried away to Babylon during the Exile had a tradition about preserving their history on metal plates. Jews writing their history on metal plates? I've heard that somewhere before....

There is now a good body of evidence showing that other Jews and Semitic peoples had put various writings on metal (see https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1695&context=msr), but it was a source of mockery in Joseph’s day. For that Jewish colony in India, I don’t know what became of their recorded history on metal plates, if they really had one — there may be a sacred treasure waiting to be revealed sometime soon, for all I know — but the Jews of the colony appear to have had at least one important document on metal plates, an engraving of a royal charter for their colony from the king of Kerala about 1000 years ago and at least a replica of the plates still exists. See "Jewish Copper Plates of Cochin," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_copper_plates_of_Cochin. More on that issue in a moment.

Here is the relevant passage in Captain Alexander Hamilton’s book on p. 324:

They [the Jews in Cochin, India] have a Synagogue at Cochin, not far from the King’s Palace, about two Miles from the City, in which are carefully kept their Records, engraven in Copper-plates in Hebrew characters; and when any of the Characters decay, they are new cut, so that they can shew their own History, from the Reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the present Time....

They declare themselves to be of the Tribe of Manasseh....

While we don't know the details, this at least suggests that in a colony founded by ancient Jews there was an old tradition about preserving important documents on metal. Interesting.  Also interesting is the connection to the tribe of Manasseh, part of the tribe of Joseph, giving another connection to the Book of Mormon.

RM also offered a link to a source in India raising questions about the authenticity of the royal charter on copper plates. See "Few Translations of the Jewish Copper Plates and the Doubtful Authenticity of the Plates," Geopolitical Strategic and Security Studies Institute (GSSSI), India (no date). This reviews the history of the plates with the purported royal charter on them, discusses attempted translations, and raises questions about their authenticity. The focus is on Claudius Buchanan, who visited Cochin decades after Alexander Hamilton and allegedly purchased the plates with the royal charter and had a replica made. The replica had engravings on one side of two plates, while the original allegedly had both sides of a plate engraved. Here is an ancient drawing made of one part of the plates:


Jewish copper plates of Cochin (plate I, side I), a photo of 2-D artwork created before the 11th-century CE. Royal charter issued by the Chera/Perumal king of Kerala, south India to Joseph Rabban, a Jewish merchant magnate of Kodungallur. The charter shows the status and importance of the Jewish colony in Kodungallur (Cranganore) near Cochin, India. There were 28 lines on three sides of two copper plates dating to the early 11th century AD. Script: Vatteluttu (with Grantha/Southern Pallava Grantha script) Language, an early form of Malayalam. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, "Jewish Copper Plates of Cochin."

What happened to the plates? Were there ever real plates? Is it all just some kind of joke or fraud? GSSSI has many doubts, but, as shown in the paragraph below, they strike me as having a rather strong bias when they interpret the University of Cambridge's answer to their query as evidence of the "non-existence or loss of the original brass plates" when it seems that the reply simply means the University hasn't done any research on the plates yet. Plates that have a manuscript number in a university catalog is not the normal way of treating items that simply don't exist:

Buchanan writes in his Annual Report that the plates were originally in brass of which he made copper facsimiles. The original was engraved on both sides while the facsimiles were on two separate plates. He mentions that these plates were deposited in the Public Library at the University of Cambridge. But Thoufeek Zakriya, a researcher, mentions that in response to his inquiry to the Cambridge University, Ms. Catherine Ansorge, Head of Near Eastern Department, (manuscripts and printed Collections, Cambridge University Library) replied by a personal mail about the MsOo.1.14, Charter of Jews of Cochin, which was submitted by Dr. Claudius Buchanan stating “Oo.1.14 -- the texts are all written on rectangles of copper. I do not know of any studies which have been carried out on these” thus confirming the non-existence or loss of the original brass plates even in the Cambridge University or it is that the original brass  plate was never deposited by Claudius Buchanan but instead what he deposited was a copper facsimile. Buchanan also writes that the plates were taken to London. Does the brass plate still exist in London and if so in whose possession and why it has to be kept secret even from Indian historians is a ‘mystery’ yet to be solved.

Meanwhile, multiple studies have been published on the plates and scholars seem convinced that these are real, ancient, and non-fraudulent. See the Wikipedia article cited above and its sources, as well as the following: 

1.  Barbara C. Johnson, "New Research, Discoveries and Paradigms: A Report on the Current Study of Kerala Jews" in Indo-Judaic Studies in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Nathan Katz et al. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007), 129-146, online at https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057%2F9780230603622_8. Here is an excerpt from pp. 129-130:

Fresh historical insight into the early Jewish community in Keralahas emerged from new publications by the esteemed Kerala historian M. G. S. Narayanan, professor and head of the Department of History Emeritus at Calicut University. More than thirty years had passed since the publication of his definitive analysis of the eleventh century Jewish copper plates, still a basic source for all scholarship in the field, when his very welcome renewal of interest in the Kerala Jews was marked by participation in two scholarly gatherings, in Oxford in 2002 and in Israel in 2005. In a 2003 article, he once again turned his scholarly attention to the copper plates, enriching his earlier analysis of their sociopolitical context, and in 2005 he analyzed the leadership position of copper plate recipient Joseph Rabban in the context of eleventh century Kerala society and politics. Both these papers drew extensively from and expanded on material and analysis in his recently published monumental study on Kerala in the ninth to twelfth centuries, Perumals of Kerala. It is hoped that this volume will soon be published for wider circulation.

In addition to the important work in this volume by Chakravarti and Weinstein on ancient and medieval contacts between India and Jews in other lands, mention should be made of a 1992 article by the Israeli scholar MeirBar Ilan, exploring contacts between the Jewish communities of Yemen andSouth India. This study is based on interpretation of the controversial eigh-teenth century Cochin Jewish chronicle “Maggid Hadashot,” which is unusual in locating the origin of the Kerala Jews in Yemen. Bar Ilan relates part of its contents to similar eighteenth century Hebrew compositions from Yemen about the history of the Yemenite Jews. He then investigates the possibility that at least some of the manuscripts which are mentioned in the chronicle were actually copies of ancient “lost” apocryphal books, preserved in Yemen and brought to Kerala at a much earlier time.Whatever questions there might be about his analysis of the origin of the chronicle and of the “lost books” mentioned in it, Bar Ilan’s article is valuable in its identification of sources on early contacts between Yemen and Kerala. This topic is of particular interest to scholars exploring Yemenite liturgical and musical influences in Kerala, and to those examining Malabari alternatives to the “Joseph Rabban/Cheraman Perumal/Kodungallur” legends, as found in several other Cochin chronicles and at least one Malayalam folksong.

2. M. G. S. Narayanan, "Further Studies in the Jewish Copper Plates of Cochin," Indian Historical Review, 29/1–2 (Jan. 2002):19-28, online at http://www.mei.org.in/uploads/jijscontent/59-1534436177-jijsarticlepdf.pdf.

Narayanan explains that the language on the plates is consistent with other engravings in that part of India anciently and follows unusual ancient patterns in which dates were sometimes split up, perhaps out of superstition. Such elements are subtle indications of authenticity and antiquity.

It's interesting that engravings on both stone and copper in that part of India were part of the local elite culture anciently. Did the Jewish tradition of engraving on metal influence their environment, or did the Jewish interest in metal engravings derive from their environment, or were both independent? I'm not sure and would appreciate your input if you're familiar with this issue.

In any case, while the 1821 book of Alexander Hamilton on the Hindus is not of much interest for understanding Book of Mormon, a Captain Alexander Hamilton almost a century earlier had one brief section in his large book that hints at what we know from other sources: some ancient Jews may have had a tradition of recording scripture and their own history on metal plates. In spite of his brief hint on this topic, the idea of ancient Hebrews writing on metal plates was widely mocked in Joseph's day and was not part of common knowledge in Joseph's environment. 

Also of interest is the connection of the Cochin Jews to the ancient Jews in Yemen, some of whom Lehi and his family may have encountered, especially when they came to the place that others, perhaps local Yemeni Jews, called Nahom, likely in the region of the tribal lands for the ancient Nihm tribe of Yemen. That region is about 25 miles north of Sana'a and in just about the only place where one can leave the general scope of the Incense Trail and turn nearly due east with a chance of surviving and not only reaching the coast of Oman, but reaching the miraculous but real place called Bountiful. 

For Lehi's family, meeting a group of Jews at Nahom would have been a miraculous blessing that would have made it possible to give a proper Jewish burial to Ishmael, whose burial at Nahom is recorded in 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.  Note that Captain Hamilton is not aware of the Yemen connection and writes that the Jews of Cochin fled from Babylon after the Exile. But if they were from the Northern Kingdom, as suggested by their tribal affiliation, they might have been part of the many Hebrews who fled the Assyrian invasion by going to Yemen. Perhaps some later sailed from there for India?

There's much to explore here. I'm grateful for the kind leads provided by RM and welcome any further information you may have. 

Here are some images the Library of Congress kindly sent me of two of their copies of Captain Hamilton's books in their Rare Books Collection, both showing acquisition long after Joseph Smith's day. Beautiful books! And they come with a tiny treasure that intersects lightly with our  Book of Mormon and hints at further treasures to uncover.


Friday, December 11, 2020

Religious Liberty: Have We Forgotten the Pain of the Hutterites?

College students these days learn what a wise leader President Woodrow Wilson was, a good progressive. An example of the positive summary of his work is the historical summary of President Wilson offered in the Obama White House Archives at Archive.org. Nothing to dislike there. But  President Wilson needs to be remembered every time we think about religious freedom, for reasons you aren't going to hear from the progressive media or from typical college professors. 

Wilson's stance on religious liberty is one that should give us more than pause. It should motivate us to stand up against the increasing spirit of hostility toward religious liberty that is rising in this and other nations. More on that later, but first let's review what happened to religious liberty under Wilson. We'll see that we Latter-day Saints, as much as we love to recall the religious persecution our people faced in the distant past, aren't the only ones who have suffered and even died for our religion within the borders of this free land. The story of the Hutterites, the small religious group that ended up fleeing from our nation to seek relief from religious persecution, is one that we need to review and teach to our people, our families, and our communities that we may not let such persecution arise again. 

Please read "How Woodrow Wilson Persecuted Hutterites Who Refused to Support His War" by Lawrence W. Reed at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE.org). It describes the background of the Hutterites, a religious minority that came to the US to escape persecution in Europe. Their refusal to participate in war would make them a target when Wilson sought to bring "unity" to America to ensure that everyone supported World War I, the war Wilson claimed would make the world "safe for democracy." The Hutterites, however, due to their religious beliefs, were not willing to take up weapons and support his war. Lawrence Reed's article explains the price they paid for following their religion. Here is an excerpt:

Wilson signed the Selective Service Act into law in May 1917, setting the stage for the administration’s inevitable conflict with conscientious objectors, for whom no provision or exception was made. A quarter century later during World War II, objectors were offered alternative service, but not under Wilson, the “compassionate” progressive. 
At induction centers where young men reported for military duty, Hutterite men were pressured both physically and psychologically. This passage from Hostetler’s book will leave you wondering how such a travesty could ever occur in the land of the free and the home of the brave:

At Camp Funston some of the men were brutally handled in the guardhouse. They were bayoneted, beaten, and tortured by various forms of water “cure.” Jakob S. Waldner, who retains an extensive diary of his experiences in the camp, was thrown fully clothed into a cold shower for twenty minutes for refusing a work order. After such cold showers, the men were often thrown out of a window and dragged along the ground by their hair and feet by soldiers who were waiting outside. Their beards were disfigured to make them appear ridiculous.

One night, eighteen men were aroused from their sleep and held under cold showers until one of them became hysterical. Others were hung by their feet above tanks of water until they almost choked to death. On many days they were made to stand at attention on the cold side of their barracks, in scant clothing, while those who passed by scoffed at them in abusive and foul language. They were chased across the fields by guards on motorcycles under the guise of taking exercise, until they dropped from sheer exhaustion. In the guardhouse they were usually put on a diet of bread and water. Such experiences were common to all sincere conscientious objectors, including Mennonites and those of other religious faiths.

A delegation of Hutterite ministers traveled to Washington in August 1917, hoping to advise President Wilson personally of their concerns. The most they got was a meeting with Secretary of War Newton Baker, who blew them off with meaningless assurances and did nothing. The guilt for what happened next lies not only with the men who personally perpetrated the deed, but also just as surely with the administration that allowed it to happen and that cared nothing for those to whom it happened.

At Fort Lewis, Washington, four Hutterite men reported as ordered but refused to sign admission papers or put on army uniforms. For their sincere, faith-based convictions, they were tossed into the guardhouse for two months, then sentenced to 37 years in prison. Hostetler reveals,

They were taken to the notorious military prison at Alcatraz, attended by four armed lieutenants who kept them handcuffed during the day and chained by the ankles to each other at night. At Alcatraz they again refused to put on military uniforms. They were then taken to a ‘dungeon’ of darkness, filth and stench and put in solitary confinement out of earshot of each other.

Four months later, the men were remanded to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas to serve out the remaining years of their sentences. The abuse heaped upon them there was unspeakably worse than at Alcatraz. Two of the men—brothers Joseph and Michael Hofer—became so ill from the experience they required hospitalization. Their wives, suspecting the worst, traveled by train to Kansas to see their husbands. Citing Hostetler once again,

After losing a day, the women arrived at midnight to find their husbands nearly dead. When they returned in the morning, Joseph was dead. The guards refused his wife, Maria, permission to see the dead body. In tears, she pleaded with the colonel and was finally taken to the casket only to find that her husband’s body had been dressed in the military uniform he had so adamantly refused to wear. Michael Hofer died two days later. The wives and a few other relatives accompanied the bodies to their home community, where their enormous funeral seared Hutterite minds with the price of true apostolic faith.

All through the summer and fall of 1918, the Hutterite colonies in the Dakotas and Montana suffered intolerable abuses from local citizens and officials for their German ancestry, their opposition to military service in general, and their refusal to buy the government’s Liberty Bonds in particular. Their sheep and cattle were seized and sold at auction to purchase the bonds their rightful owners would not buy. Finally, the Hutterites did what they had been forced to do so many times before: Nearly the entire population of Hutterites in America—an estimated 11,000—left the country. They migrated to Canada.

What did Woodrow Wilson say or do about the atrocities against the Hutterites? Sadly, just about nothing. Historian Stoltzfus reports that when businessman Theodore Lunde published pamphlets about what occurred at Leavenworth, Wilson tried to silence him and the journalists he was collaborating with:

…Wilson urged Attorney General Gregory to consider charging Lunde with treason for publishing criticisms of the government. “There are many instances of this sort and one conviction would probably scotch a great many snakes,” the president said.

Wilson had no qualms about jailing people he disagreed with, even after the war was over in November 1918. With Wilson’s full support, the Palmer Raids rounded up thousands of Americans in 1920—the vast majority of them for no greater offense than opposing the Wilson administration.

May we remember the Hutterites, their courage and their pain.  May we resist increasing intrusions of religious liberty in our day. Fortunately, conscientious objectors to military service are treated better these days. But I worry at the numerous governors and mayors who see religion as such an annoyance or threat that religious communities need to be forbidden from meeting while massive marches and protests are viewed with approval, while gathering by the hundreds at Walmart and other well-connected establishments is a sacred privilege. In many communities, rules for religious gatherings have been imposed that are far more stringent than rules for liquor stores or marijuana ships, and some have the gall to lecture religious people about the adequacy of praying in private. 

Government has no right to tell us how to worship. The vast majority of our nation's religious groups have show a willingness to take the COVID virus seriously, and many have shown that gatherings can still occur without creating great pubic danger. American's religious groups in general have taken the virus far more seriously than the politicians and petty tyrants who tell us to stay home while they travel freely, who tell us to celebrate the holidays alone while they and their families gather together,  who arbitrarily tell us which businesses must be shut down and be sacrificed while their pay checks are secure at our expense, who tell us to quit traveling while they vacation where they want to, who tell us to eat at home while they eat out in groups at the lucky restaurants they haven't destroyed yet. And then these great theologians tell us that we don't need to gather as religious communities, because the important thing is that we can always pray to God while we cower alone in our basements hiding from the world and from life as they command. 

Let them worship as they will, but respect the religious liberty that is supposed to be at the heart of this nation. 

May we not forget the Hutterites. It happened to them under the watch of a supposedly compassionate, humanitarian man who proclaimed the importance of liberty and democracy. It can happen again, in different ways, for different reasons, if we neglect our rights and allow them to be trampled upon.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

"From Whence They Can No More Return": What Lehi Teaches Us About the Book of Mormon's Harsh Language on Hell

The Book of Mormon's teachings on hell sometimes sound much harsher than what we understand from modern revelation. From Joseph's Smith's revelations, such as his vision on the three degrees of glory in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants and his revelations pertaining to the salvation of the dead and baptism for the dead, we know that many who die without having accepted Christ or without even having heard of Him will have a fair chance to hear and accept the Gospel. We also know that for almost all the wicked who have lived on this planet, the place or condition we call hell is ultimately only temporary for them, though the concept of hell itself is eternal and language about eternal punishment is ambiguous on purpose to stir men up to repentance, as explained in Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants (but yes, those who go to the Telestial Kingdom after suffering for their own sins in hell are eternally cut off from the presence of God and Christ, and do not return to them in the Celestial Kingdom).

It is only the sons of perdition who seem to be cast into hell forever, those who fully know the reality of God and Christ and openly fight against them and consent to the killing of Christ--but even then we don't actually know what their end is, if any, so it may not be fair to assume their suffering is endless. Section 76 tells us that the sons of perdition go "into everlasting punishment, which is eternal punishment" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:44). Here we must note that God's punishment by definition is "eternal punishment" since God is eternal, as explained in Section 19, but that doesn't mean that those who suffer such punishment suffer it forever.  Is that the case here as well? We don't know, for the next verse tell us this about their torment: "the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:45). If we don't know the end, it's possible there is one. We don't know. 

Likewise, the warning against falling into "eternal death" (2 Nephi 2:29) does not mean one will never be resurrected, but that one is cast out from God's presence and will "die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness" (Alma 40:26), things which I suggest relate to the majesties of the Celestial Kingdom that the unpenitent wicked will not experience. 

I raise these points because language in the Book of Mormon seems to reflect the view that there is either eternal heaven or eternal hell. Perhaps the strongest language on this point speaks of "never returning" from that state. For example, King Benjamin in Mosiah 2 said:

23 And now I have spoken the words which the Lord God hath commanded me.

24 And thus saith the Lord: They shall stand as a bright testimony against this people, at the judgment day; whereof they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.

25 And if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls.

26 Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more forever.

27 And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus hath the Lord commanded me. Amen. 

Then in 3 Nephi 27, Christ says something similar. Speaking of those who build up false churches not founded upon His Gospel and in His name, He said:

11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return. 

 Then speaking of the day of judgment, He said:

16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father. 

So it sounds like those who build up false churches or those who fall away from and reject the Gospel will suffer in hell forever. Isn't that rather harsh? How can that be squared with the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Please note that these scriptures may be examples of the forceful but ambiguous language Doctrine and Covenants 19 speaks of. In fact, they do not say that the wicked or those who rebel will be in hell forever. They will be cast into the fire/torment/hell, but rather than saying they remain forever, instead these verses declare that they don't return. Return? Return to where? This is a critical issue for understanding the scriptures. The verb return requires a frame of reference. Return to where? If I leave Wisconsin by going to China and never return, that doesn't require that I stay in China forever. I may be in China for a week, then go to Europe or New Zealand for years. 

The Book of Mormon concept of "from whence" one does not "return" has to be considered in light of the earliest use of this language in Father Lehi's farewell speech: 

Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth.  (2 Nephi 1:14)

Lehi is bidding farewell to his family and speaks of going soon to the grave, "from whence no traveler can return." So did Lehi mean that for him there would be no resurrection? That he would be dead forever? If so, why did he then go on to bear witness of Christ and the Resurrection, telling us that Christ would "bring to pass the resurrection of the dead" (2 Nephi 2:8)? But here it is clear what Lehi's frame of reference is: the mortal world. Lehi will die and will never return to be among his family and be part of this mortal life. But he knew that he would rise again and have eternal life. But once he died, he would never return to mortality.

So what is the frame of reference in the other verses speaking of the wicked never returning? Obviously, once the wicked are judged by Christ, they are sent out of His presence and will not return to Him and the Father. The language in Mosiah 3:25 is explicitly in the context of the day of judgment, where Christ is the judge. The frame of reference is the presence of Christ. 3 Nephi 27:11 is implicitly referring to the results that come on the day of judgement and 3 Nephi 27:17 also follows an explicit reference to the Father and the Son and the day of judgement in the previous verse. 

The wicked who are cast out of the presence of Christ do not return to Him, but that does not mean they suffer as if they were sons of perdition. Their pains will be great (thus Christ begs us to repent that we may be spared from the pain our sins can bring in Doctrine and Covenants 19), their regret may endure, but they will not rot in hell forever and will at last obtain a merciful kingdom of glory, though far short of what the Father hoped they would receive.

Like Lehi never returning from the grave, the language about the wicked never returning from hell needs to be followed by the simple question: return to where? With the right frame of reference, and through considering the Lord's intent in motivating us to repent, the Book of Mormon's language may fit the more extensive revelations of the modern Church better than we may have realized. 

Update, Dec. 31, 2020: Mormon 9:13 provides another clear indication about the limits on the words "eternal" and "endless" as Moronu  explains that through the Resurrection of Christ, we will all awake  from the "endless sleep" of death and be freed from the "eternal band of death." I discuss this in a subsequent post.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Four Types of Chiasmus in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah, with Implications for the Book of Mormon

Students of biblical literature and of the Book of Mormon can now access an important new volume on chiasmus, Chiasmus: The State of the Art, just published as a special supplement to the journal BYU Studies Quarterly. For subscribers (or everyone?), the PDF of the entire edition can be downloaded or individual articles can be viewed as HTML or PDF files.
Today I'd like to discuss an excellent article by Dr. David Rolph Seely, “'With strong hand and with outstretched arm' (Deuteronomy 4:34); 'With outstretched hand and with strong arm' (Jeremiah 21:5): Chiasmus in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah" from pages 129 to 150. He discusses four different kinds of chiasmus that are shared in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah, and also compares these types to what he sees in the Book of Mormon. Here is an excerpt:

Four Kinds of Distinctive Chiasmus in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah

Various scholars have identified four distinctive forms of chiasmus in Deuteronomy that may have provided a rhetorical prototype for Jeremiah. This does not necessarily mean that these forms of chiasmus are unique to Deuteronomy and Jeremiah but that they are suggestive of Deuteronomy providing a prototype for similar figures in Jeremiah. It could be argued that these four distinctive forms of chiasmus are representative of seventh-century Judahite rhetorical tradition. The four distinctive forms are: 
  1. Chiasmus of Speaker
  2. Chiasmus in the Position of Completing a Unit of Text
  3. Chiasmus Where Particles Create Semi-chiasmus in the Middle Two Cola of Four Cola Units
  4. Chiasmus Where Rhetorical Questions Occur in the Middle of the Structure
After examining these, Seely also considers examples of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon and shows that all but the first form are present in the Book of Mormon. Below I will tentatively propose that one famous chiasmus in the Book of Mormon may also share features of that first form, chiasmus of the speaker.

Here is what Dr. Seely writes on this category of chiasmus:
1. Chiasmus of Speaker: A distinctive form of chiasmus in Deuteronomy is the chiasmus of speaker. This means that the inversion in the chiasmus is not with the themes or the keywords of the passage, but rather with the speakers. Deuteronomy 1:20–31 illustrates a chiasmus of speakers. This type of chiasmus was first noted by Lohfink in 1960 and later discussed by Moran. Lundbom describes this chiastic structure as follows: “In Deut. 1:20–31, Moses narrates in the first person, introducing the direct address of each of the participants in the discussion—including himself—in chiastic fashion.”

The  same  rhetorical  figure  of  chiasmus  of  speaker  is  found  in  Jer  8:18–21. In this passage Jeremiah speaks first (v. 8) and then he speaks on  behalf  of  the  people  (v.  19ab).  In  the  center  of  the  chiasmus,  Yahweh speaks (v. 19c), then Jeremiah speaks again on behalf of the people (v. 20), and finally Jeremiah concludes (v. 21).

Another example of chiasmus of speaker is found in Jer 5:1–8 where the chiasmus alternates between the words of Yahweh to the search party and Jeremiah, of Jeremiah to Yahweh, and then of Jeremiah to himself. It begins and ends with the words of Yahweh to the search party (vv. 1–2 // 7–8). The second and fourth speaker is Jeremiah speaking to Yahweh (vv. 3 // 5c–6) and in the center Jeremiah speaks to himself (4–5b).


Later, as Dr. Seely explores the presence of related forms of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, he presents good examples for three of the four types but not really for the chiasmus of the speaker:

While I have not yet located an example of a chiasmus of speaker in the Book of Mormon, we can point to a similar example  involving the reversal of the subjects in the text. In Nephi’s interpretation of the block of Isaiah chapters that he has inserted into his record in 2 Nephi 12–24 that equal Isa 2–14, he gives a long historical discussion of how these Isaiah passages may help illuminate the history of the Jews, the Lehites, and the Gentiles. Nephi presents this discussion in a chiastic  form—that  also turns out to  coincide with the historical  order of the visit of the Savior to the three peoples and their acceptance of the Book of Mormon:

I find that interesting. But there may be yet another example to consider, one that may come closer to the chiasmus of the speaker form found in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. Consider Alma 36, where Alma is narrating a sacred experience to his son, Helaman. Technically, everything being said is simply Alma speaking to his son, but in this discourse, he recalls or remembers the words of various parties (his own, his fathers, his father Alma, his father Lehi, the words of an angel, the ministering of the Spirit, and the answer to his plea unto Christ--the latter two, of course, do not involve explicit spoken words, but can be viewed as acts of communication and ministering). There are multiple speakers or "living sources" here with with recipients of communication, whether explicit or implicit.

The structure could be mapped as:

A. Alma urges Helaman to give ear to his words and keep the commandments (v. 1) [source: Alma's words]

B. Alma reminds Helaman of the story of their fathers ("our fathers") and their deliverance (vv. 1-3) [source: "our fathers"]

C. Alms shares his own testimony and story with Helaman, urging him to hear his words and learn that he might be blessed (vv. 3-5) [source: Alma's words]

D. As he sought to destroy the Church of God [by speaking to other against it] (v. 6), an angel descended and spoke to Alma and his brethren, causing Alma to fall and lose strength (vv. 6-11) [source: an angel]

E. Alma, in torment over what he had done (vv. 12-16), recalls the words of his father ("my father") about Christ (v. 17) [source: Alma's father]

F. Alma cries out to Christ, the Son of God (v. 18) [source: Alma, speaking to Christ]

F'. Christ answers Alma with forgiveness and joy (vv. 19-20) [source: Christ answering Alma]

E'. Filled with exquisite joy, Alma sees what Lehi ("our father Lehi") had written, describing what he saw in the heavenly court (vv. 21-22) [source: "our father Lehi"]

D'. Alma regains his strength and stands, is filled with the Holy Ghost, and speaks to others to build up the Church (vv. 23-25) [source: the Holy Ghost]

C'. Alma testifies that the word imparted to him has blessed many and has blessed him (vv. 26-27) [source: Alma's words]

B'. Alma appeals to the deliverance of their fathers ("our fathers") from captivity (vv. 28-29) [source: "our fathers"]

A'. Alma urges Helaman to keep the commandments to be redeemed. "Now this is according to his word." (v. 30) [source: Alma's words]

If we view the text with a lens of the source being cited or referred to and the directionality of communication (including ministering), rather than just key words and concepts, it does seem to divide into sections with a chiastic structure of its own. But some of this structure does rely on repeated concepts or keywords, so it's not entirely based on implied or explicit sources. It could be simplified to something like this:

A. Alma speaks to his son, citing the deliverance of their fathers

B. Alma recounts his "anti-ministery" to destroy the Church

C. An angel descends and speaks to Alma

D. In torment, Alma recalls the words of his father ("my father") about Christ

E. Alma cries out to Christ, the Son of God

E'. Christ implicitly answers Alma with forgiveness and joy

D'. Alma sees what Lehi ("our father Lehi") had seen in the heavenly court

C'. Alma is filled with the Holy Ghost

B'. Alma recounts his ministry to others to build up the Church.

A'. Alma speaks to Helaman, citing the deliverance of their fathers. 

There is certainly some poetic license being used here, but does that exceed the bounds of what might have been intended in the poetry itself by an author familiar with Hebraic rhetorical forms such as chiasmus? In other words, could this be viewed as a form of a chiasmus of the speaker? I'm not sure but welcome feedback.  

The references to fathers is interesting. Referring to Lehi as "our father Lehi" does strike me as a potentially deliberate device to link his and Lehi's vision of God and the heavenly court to his own father's prophecies of the coming of Christ, the Son of God. The tight relationship between the visitation of the angel and his loss of strength and the visitation of the Holy Ghost and his regaining of strength and arising seems to link the ministering of the Spirit to the words of the angel in this parsing of the chiasmus, in spite of the Spirit not using words in filling and fortifying him. 

Alma 36 is a complex chiasm, not just because it has many steps in its fully mapped structures based on related words and themes, but because in the "messy" parts there is actually a lot of structure that seems to call out for additional lenses to be viewed, like the chiasmus of the speaker lens. This may be related to some concepts I once explored in the article, “'Arise from the Dust': Insights from Dust-Related Themes in the Book of Mormon (Part 3: Dusting Off a Famous Chiasmus, Alma 36),” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 295-318. Speculative, yes, but I think there is more artistry to Alma 36 than anyone simply reading the English translation would have ever noticed until scholars began teaching us about the rhetorical and poetical devices of the ancient Hebrews, which we can still be seem shining through the translation process.

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Most Appropriate Thanksgiving Message for This Day: President Nelson on the Power of Gratitude

I just listened to President Nelson's short message delivered at noon (Central Time) via Youtube. I always enjoy listening to this kind, wise man, but he greatly exceeded my expectations. I feel it was the most appropriate and beautiful message that could be delivered as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, a message that can our minds away from political strike, anger, and division and instead fill us with the gratitude that can heal us and bring us closer to God. What an inspired message! And he gave us an inspired challenge to spend the next week sharing thoughts of gratitude each day on social media, using the hashtag #GiveThanks, to be a force for good across the globe. Truly inspired!



I'll start with one of the miracles that I ponder almost daily, certainly weekly, that fills me with wonder and delight at the handiwork of God. Can you guess what I'm talking about? Yes, ATP synthase! The amazing complex of proteins that acts like a finely tuned motor with a rotor that spins around 200 times a second cranking out energized reactants as enzyme structures open and close endlessly, turning the oxygen we breathe into the chemical energy that runs every cell and organ of our body. Fiendishly clever is the wrong word, and diabolically clever is worse! We need better words for cleverness. Divinely clever might work, but few use that expression. Why not? Satan's cleverness is a dead end while the Lord's gives us everything, including the breath of life and the motorized enzymes that give us life from each breath we take. 

Here are a couple of videos explaining what go on in mitochondria and show some different animations of the incredible whirling motors that catalyze formation of ATP to give our bodies energy:


These whirling motors of ATP synthase would quickly stall if they were not given the "fuel" of hydrogen ions (protons) atoms pumped into one portion of the mitochondria by another stunning mechanism, a complex of proteins that are precisely tuned to pump protons "uphill" across the membrane into the hydrogen-rich zone that drives the rotors. Check out the electron transport chain:

These wonders are just the beginning of the brilliant molecular machinery that makes life on this planet possible -- and even joyous. We should life our voices in praise of God's Creation every day. I'm so grateful that it's possible to be alive, thanks in part to the miraculous chemical engines in our mitochondria. What a marvel life is!

Monday, November 09, 2020

Video of My Presentation with Noel Reynolds, “'Strong Like Unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses"

On Sept. 18 and 19, 2020 in Provo, Utah, the Interpreter Foundation sponsored a virtual conference, "Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses." Dr. Noel Reynolds and I collaborated on a paper that I presented, joined by Noel in the Q&A session. The presentation and our Q&A are in the Youtube video below. You can also read a draft of the paper on the Interpreter Foundation website, where you can also see the video and listen to the audio recording.

In our paper, we propose that the extensive textual relationships between the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon is not easily explained by Joseph just relying on Book of Mormon language when he later dictated the Book of Moses, for many of the relationships suggest a direction of dependency from the Book of Moses to the Book of Mormon, as if something like the Book of Moses were on the brass plates used by Book of Mormon writers. In some cases, it is as if the Book of Moses text provides the backstory that Book of Mormon writers allude to, wherein knowledge of the relevant Book of Moses passage adds meaning to the allusions in the Book of Mormon text. Interestingly, writers most familiar with the brass plates like Nephi tend to provide the heaviest textual linkages to the Book of Moses. Further, the heavy relationship between the two texts is not evident when we compare the Book of Mormon with the Book of Abraham. The dozens of textual parallels not based on the KJV may provide an unexpected and fascinating insight into the ancient roots of both the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon, via its ancient roots in the brass plates. 

We recognize that this is a controversial position, but please consider the data presented in the paper and briefly summarized in the presentation before you dismiss the hypothesis.

An array of other speakers participated in the conference. The Interpreter Foundation is providing free access to the papers and to video recordings of most of the presentations. The presentations include:

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Dangers of Censorship: Static Science, Diminished Liberty, and a Population in the Dark

A few weeks ago I made a post on Linkedin.com that cited a report on the apparent media censorship of information on a certain compound that many doctors were finding helpful in treating COVID patients at an early stage. The article summarized the latest peer-reviewed findings and argued that the media's reliance on only the negative studies, even one that was fraudulent and had to be withdrawn, was putting the nation at risk and reflected harmful and inappropriate bias. I said that "if this story is true, it will decrease my respect for the media." I was not saying that everyone should start taking any particular medication, but was pointing to an article offering a different perspective on the debate around COVID treatments in light of scientific studies. I wanted some feedback and thought it was something worth considering, while also being worried about the possibility of media bias (or censorship) on that topic.

Shortly after sharing that post, a doctor I know who liked what I had shared told me that my post had just been censored. I had received no notice, but when I tried to view it, I saw a warning indicating that I had violated LinkedIn policies. The crime was linking to something not fully aligned with WHO policies. From a scientific viewpoint, I found that troubling, for science is inherently tentative. The scientific method is about continually recognizing that we don't know everything and being willing to test previous conclusions or explore new hypotheses, learning from the surprises, the exceptions, and the unexpected results. To say that what we think we know now is the Final Answer and that data, however anecdotal, challenging the Ruling Paradigm must be hushed is anti-science and potentially dangerous. 

If social media had been in force a century ago, one scientist might have received this notice:

Dear Mr. Einstein, your account has been suspended for providing false scientific information. Scientists have established that Newtonian physics governs the universe. Your statements about "quantum theory" and "relativity" contradict mainstream physics and are thus false. 

The power of elite officials to stifle debate and contrarian data about a reigning scientific paradigm cost the lives of tens of thousands of British sailors who died from scurvy during the two centuries after it was demonstrated that adding fresh fruits and vegetables to the sailors' diet seemed to prevent scurvy. Such data contradicted the proclamations of Aristotle on the source of disease from mysterious vapors. It cost thousands of lives in Europe after the medical establishment rejected the compelling data from Ignacz Semmelweis on the possibility that something unseen on hands (germs) was transmitting deadly disease. Doctors continued to deliver babies or conduct operations without washing their hands, even though they may have been dissecting a corpse shortly before going to the delivery ward in their studies as students in European medical schools. Semmelweis's own supervisor who had seen his excellent results in reducing mortality through careful handwashing and cleansing of medical instruments continued to focus on the hospital's ventilation system as the cause of disease rather than handwashing because, after all, Aristotle must not be doubted. He was rejected and it would be decades before "germ theory" would finally be accepted and safer medical practices would be implemented. (A short summary of his work and life, and his own failure as a change agent, is at "Ignaz Semmelweis and the birth of infection control" by M. Best and D. Neuhauser.)

But the scientific need for openness about scientific information is less important than for America's need for freedom of speech, a freedom viewed by our Founding Fathers as essential for the American experiment. I am not saying that all nations need to emulate that experiment. I'll leave it to other nations to decide how to live and don't want to meddle. China, for example, has quite a different system, and many of my friends in China will tell me that based on China's history, its peoples, and its needs, its approach to government must be different. Further, as an outsider, I have no right to tell China how to do things. But here in America, for our people, our systems, and based on our history, I believe freedom of speech is essential for a free Republic to flourish. And it is essential for religious freedom as well, for minority religions such as ours need to be able to share our information and views without government or coalitions of opponents silencing that voice.

My little taste of censorship was nothing compared to what is happening nationwide. What I am about to say now will be misinterpreted as being politically motivated. Maybe even as Russian disinformation. But as my mentor, Vladimir Putin, instructed me to say in my weekly guidance chat last night, that's ridiculous. I have profound disappointment and concerns about both of our political parties and do not trust either party or their candidates for President. But my trust dips even lower when it comes to our media, including the giants of social media, in their willingness to silence dissent. 

If you get your news from CNN, Facebook, or Twitter, you might not have any idea what I'm talking about. You might not know about a certain insider to one family that has come forward in an explosive interview with a certain journalist Tucker C. (yeah, I'm afraid to give too much info lest I overstep some invisible line for sharing harmful information) confirming many details related to prior story from a New York newspaper that was brazenly censored by social media outlets, another story you may not have heard about, except perhaps for a quick "fact check" declaration that it's all "Russian disinformation -- now move along folks, there's nothing there to worry about." 

Both presidential candidates have serious problems and I can understand why good people might refuse to vote for either one, or might prefer either one over the other. My point is not about which candidate is the lesser evil, but about the brazen censorship on news related to some critical controversies that would be considered news in any other era. Such censorship not only includes blocking links to certain news sources, suppressing videos, or hiding the sources in search results, but shutting down or freezing their accounts or demonetizing their accounts. Even some who rely on Mailchimp for reaching large groups via email are allegedly finding their accounts are being closed and their massive email databases are locked up if they share information that Mailchimp doesn't like, as just happened to two independent news organizations.

It's looking like an all-out war to prevent "harmful information" from reaching the masses, even when that information may be highly credible and confirmed from multiple sources. The media and their allies are creating new standards as excuses to reject and censor information. If you were around in the days of the Watergate scandal, imagine an alternate universe with all the same facts but a media totally dedicated to supporting Nixon. Imagine a populace who had never heard of Watergate, and reporters who were punished for even asking questions about what happened. Imagine having your business suddenly crippled in its ability to market or reach customers because you said something unfavorable to Nixon that social media giants and their allies didn't like. Vote for either party or something else, but please be aware that broad censorship is at play these days. Your help is needed to support freedom of speech and denounce censorship.

In countries where censorship is the norm in the name of national security and stability, people learn to cope and are very careful about what they say. I lived in one such country for nine years, a country I respect in many ways and whose people I love, but it was so strange to come back to the US, relishing the thought of not needing to be constantly cautious and having American-style freedom of speech, only to find that I was now in a land where I had to be exceedingly careful to not express my nn-mainstream political views and where social media censorship would soon be pushed and praised by many. 

Other sovereign nations can choose what they do and I don't believe we should invade or otherwise meddle in their affairs. But the way of censorship, however useful and stabilizing it may seem in other lands, is not supposed to be the way of United States. Our success and our liberty has come from people being able to challenge ruling paradigms, whether political, social, commercial, religious, or scientific, such that we can propose something different or point out what is flawed. We can change and improve our world by speaking out about wrongdoing, bigotry, foolishness, racism, scientific error, bad dance moves, or whatever inspires us to speak. Free speech comes with the danger that many speakers will say things that are foolish or wrong at times, as has often been the case in science and is typically the case in pop culture, religion, and perhaps most fields, but we must never let one mortal man, one party, or one company or coalition of aligned companies like our social media giants assume that they are so wise, so omniscient, so beautifully woke, that they can decide what may be spoken and what may not. In a world that is increasingly politicized, our liberty depends on being able to speak and share information that may clash with the political desires of others, including those who want more power and control over our lives. We need to be civil and respectful in this, but at the same time must not be so hyper-sensitive as to become angry at dissenting voices. Persuasion, not force and censorship, should be the tool for change. 

Freedom of speech supports all our freedoms, and without it, all our freedoms can ultimately be at risk.

Friday, October 23, 2020

An Update in the Scholarship Regarding the Archaic Language in the Book of Mormon

One of the most interesting puzzles about the Book of Mormon is the recent discovery that much of the language is archaic in ways not easily explained by imitating the King James Version. We've previously discussed work from Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack showing apparent influence from Early Modern English in the words dictated by Joseph Smith. Why that is the case is still a subject for debate, but there is solid data and careful scholarship behind that observation. Part of the scholarship has included looking at specific words that appear to have archaic meanings that predate Joseph Smith's era. 

In The Nature of the Original Language, parts 3 and 4 of volume 3 of the massive Book of Mormon critical text project, Skousen and Carmack compiled evidence from searches of Early Modern English texts that showed many aspects of the Book of Mormon (meanings of certain words, the use of specific phrases, and many aspects of grammar) had fallen out of use by the 1740s. Their findings at that time were limited by the challenges in searching the databases of Early Modern English texts. Since then, better search abilities and access to more data has made it possible to more fully test their published work, and over the past year, the authors have been carefully reviewing the data to more fully evaluate their prior findings. As a result, they have found a need to issue an update since a few of the archaic words and phrases turn out to have persisted longer than initially thought, while many remain solid examples of archaic language in the Book of Mormon. This is a great example of strong scholarship, reflecting a willingness to continue learning and to correct and revise one's findings in the ever tentative quest for knowledge.

To rapidly facilitate Book of Mormon scholarship and to make further review and feedback from others possible, a preliminary version of their update was just published by the Interpreter Foundation. See “Pre-print of 'Revisions in the Analysis of Archaic Language in the Book of Mormon'” by Stanford Carmack and Royal Skousen. The document is a pre-print of what will be published part 8 of Volume III: The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon in the critical text project. It is meant to be viewed only, not printed or saved.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

"I Think It Helps Them": A Young Boy with Cancer Teaches Us About Service, Duty, and Patience with Naughty Children

Steven J. Lund's talk at the recent October 2020 General Conference focused on "Finding Joy in Christ." It began with a story from his young son, a deacon, who lost a long battle with cancer. While in severe pain, when his family expected him to simply rest and not try to attend Church, he insisted on going, for he had an assignment to pass the sacrament that he wanted to fulfill. When encouraged to stay home because others could take his place, he answered, "I see how people look at me when I pass the sacrament. I think it helps them." This pure and simple awareness of how his service could help others, though at great pain to himself, moved me deeply. A child with such knowledge, such a Christlike desire to serve others, is one of the fruits of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that inspires me to see the world in a different way. 

After pondering this story, I recalled my own surprise this week while talking with an even younger granddaughter. A few months ago I had been worried for her after seeing her lose control repeatedly over her emotions. But for the past few weeks, all that has been gone and she seems to have been going out of her way to be peaceful and do kind things for others. So I simply asked while visiting the family if something has changed that has led to her being so helpful and nice to everyone. To my surprise and delight, this young girl began telling me how much she loves Heavenly Father and how she wants to do her duty on earth. She told me that she has been fasting and praying for a relative she is close to who is not a member of the Church, and said that she wants her home to be a place with the Spirit there always so that her relative can always feel it when he comes over and will want to have it in his life. So by staying calm, being kind, and having the Spirit in her life each day, she feels that she can do her part to make the world a better place. 

This young child floored me with that answer. I just about melted in wonder. I asked her permission to share this conversation with her parents and others. How I wish I had been like that at her age. I hope  can be like that someday. What a wonderful thing it is to find young people who don't just know about the Gospel, but who have decided  to actively live it and follow Jesus Christ. I love these fruits of the Gospel that spring from the hearts of those who allow the seed of the Word of Christ to flourish.

Here is the told by Elder Lund, to whom I am very grateful for sharing this personal and tragic story for our benefit:

A few years ago, our little family went through what many families face in this fallen world. Our youngest son, Tanner Christian Lund, contracted cancer. He was an incredible soul, as nine-year-olds tend to be. He was hilariously mischievous and, at the same time, stunningly spiritually aware. Imp and angel, naughty and nice. When he was little and was every day bewildering us with his shenanigans, we wondered if he was going to grow up to be the prophet or a bank robber. Either way, it seemed that he was going to leave a mark on the world.

And then he became desperately ill. Over the next three years, modern medicine employed heroic measures, including two bone marrow transplants, where he caught pneumonia, requiring him to spend 10 weeks unconscious on a ventilator. Miraculously, he recovered for a short time, but then his cancer returned.

Shortly before he passed away, Tanner’s disease had invaded his bones, and even with strong pain medicines, still he hurt. He could barely get out of bed. One Sunday morning, his mom, Kalleen, came into his room to check on him before the family left for church. She was surprised to see that he had somehow gotten himself dressed and was sitting on the edge of his bed, painfully struggling to button his shirt. Kalleen sat down by him. “Tanner,” she said, “are you sure you are strong enough to go to church? Maybe you should stay home and rest today.”

He stared at the floor. He was a deacon. He had a quorum. And he had an assignment.

“I’m supposed to pass the sacrament today.”

“Well, I’m sure someone could do that for you.”

“Yes,” he said, “but … I see how people look at me when I pass the sacrament. I think it helps them.”

So Kalleen helped him button his shirt and tie his tie, and they drove to church. Clearly, something important was happening.

I came to church from an earlier meeting and so was surprised to see Tanner sitting on the deacons’ row. Kalleen quietly told me why he was there and what he had said: “It helps people.”

And so I watched as the deacons stepped to the sacrament table. He leaned gently against another deacon as the priests passed them the bread trays. And then Tanner shuffled to his appointed place and took hold of the end of the pew to steady himself as he presented the sacrament.

It seemed that every eye in the chapel was on him, moved by his struggle as he did his simple part. Somehow Tanner expressed a silent sermon as he solemnly, haltingly moved from row to row—his bald head moist with perspiration—representing the Savior in the way that deacons do. His once indomitable deacon’s body was itself a little bruised, broken, and torn, willingly suffering to serve by bearing the emblems of the Savior’s Atonement into our lives.

Seeing how he had come to think about being a deacon made us think differently too—about the sacrament, about the Savior, and about deacons and teachers and priests.

I wonder at the unspoken miracle that had impelled him that morning to respond so bravely to that still, small call to serve, and about the strength and capacities of all of our emergent youth as they push themselves to respond to a prophet’s call to enlist in God’s battalions and join in the work of salvation and exaltation.

Yes, such faith, such commitment, and such love for others in the hearts of those who accept the Gospel, even our young children, is a remarkable and sweet fruit of the Gospel. Thanks to all the parents who are giving their children the chance to be transformed by the power of Christ. They may bicker and falter many times along the way, they may be mischievous and often naughty, but keep teaching and loving and sharing the Word, knowing that it will help and at some point may yield a surprising bounty of joy.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Turning Gems into Dirt: The Case for Adam Clarke as a Source for the "Inspired Translation" of the Bible

John Dehlin with his podcasts and videos criticizing the Church has recently stirred up a lot of interest in the "amazing" and "historic" case of "plagiarism" against Joseph Smith based on the "groundbreaking research" of Haley Wilson-Lemmon about Joseph's "Inspired Translation of the Bible" (often called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible or simply JST) conducted as undergraduate research with BYU Professor Thomas Wayment. John in his Mormon Stories podcast tells us that this incredible work exposing plagiarism in the JST "strikes to the heart of Mormon Church truth claims." Before the publicity Dehlin created, others were already talking about the troubling implications of the work before the details were published, before we could see what the many purported examples of plagiarism actually were. 

All people had to go on until recently (as far as I can tell), was the very short paper of  Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," published online in the Journal of Undergraduate Research at BYU, March 16, 2017. It alleged that there were hundreds of parallels that "demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance." Only one example, and hardly a compelling one at that, was presented in the undergraduate paper--the first one we'll review in just a moment. 

As the rumors spread, I wondered if the crown jewel of Joseph's "Inspired Translation of the Bible," the canonized Book of Moses, had clear evidence of derivation from Adam Clarke. I was working on a paper that I just presented at the "Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses Conference" in Provo, Utah on Sept. 19, and I wanted to see if some of the cases of intertextuality linking the Book of Mormon to a possible text similar to the Book of Moses on the brass plates might be related to Adam Clarke. So I looked up Adam Clarke's commentary and began searching for distinctive Book of Moses terms related to Book of Mormon concepts to see if anything interesting came from Clarke. I couldn't find any connections, though I got exhausted before exhausting the numerous interesting phrases from the Book of Moses, so I could have missed something. But I quit searching when I heard a podcast (an interview with Laura Hales for LDS Perspectives) in which Thomas Wayment explained that they had found no connections with the Book of Moses (see p. 4 and especially p. 7 of the transcript: "There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1– Genesis 24"). It was only in later material, especially in the New Testament, where parallels were found (but also apparently not in the also canonized revision of Matthew 24). If the canonized Book of Moses, with its breathtaking original material, lacked influence from Clarke, I wondered why parallels elsewhere in non-canonical material that Joseph never published would be such a big deal? But whatever evidence of "plagiarism" had been found was apparently a big enough deal for Haley Wilson-Lemmon that it shattered her testimony of the Restoration. She left the Church and has become something of a hero to our critics. 

Thomas Wayment, on the other hand, took what I felt was a more reasonable approach in light of the apparent parallels that he and his student thought they had found: he saw revelation at work in the Book of Moses, but as Joseph looked at other verses in his ongoing, incomplete work, he recognized the value of turning to "the best books" to help him study things out in his own mind and use suggestions from other scholars when they made sense. With that framework, the parallels, however clear and compelling they might be, could be parsed as the reasonable effort to use available knowledge in addition to seeking pure revelation on a few key issues. Those purported parallels only involve less than 5% of the JST and even if Adam Clarke was influential, should not pose a fundamental problem for cases of Joseph studying things out in his own mind to make reasonable alterations.

But there's much more to this story, now that we can see the details that so shook Wilson-Lemmon. Their long-awaited paper has been published as Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith's Bible Translation," Chapter 11 in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, edited by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020). I just purchased the Kindle edition.

While the paper looks solid and fascinating at first glance, there are actually some serious gaps. Unfortunately, readers are unlikely to spot most of the problems unless they are thoroughly familiar with the details of Joseph's "Inspired Translation of the Bible" and unless they take the trouble to look at Adam Clarke's text. That text is The Holy Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments,  8 volumes (New York: Daniel Hitt and Abraham Paul, 1817). The text of an 1831 version is available at Sacred-Texts.com. Images and the text from Vol. 1 of an 1825 printing is available at Archive.org, where I did my initial searching of Genesis-related material. Fortunately, the hard work of digging into ALL of the examples in the Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon paper has just been done by Professor Kent P. Jackson in a valuable paper, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, 40 (2020): 15-60, which just came out yesterday. I highly recommend that you read this paper, if only to understand how misguided anti-Mormon claims can be, and how the zeal to attack the Church can lead to the unfortunate tendency of turning gems into dirt and pearls into trash, even while thinking one is acting as an objective scholar. 

To be clear, I am not saying that the paper by Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon is "anti-Mormon" -- Wayment surely prepared it in good faith in spite of the now revealed major gaps in the analysis. Yes, LDS scholars like all scholars can make serious mistakes at times. But it is being used by many critics of the Church as if it provides compelling reasons to reject Joseph Smith. Those anti-Mormon claims would be misguided even if the paper were completely accurate, but upon closer inspection, the paper itself lacks any compelling evidence linking Joseph Smith to Adam Clarke. Jackson's response  devastates the claims of critics. Many of them will likely ignore Jackson's work and continue to talk for years about Joseph's "plagiarism" of Adam Clarke. Some may even go on to argue that Adam Clarke was a source for the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, or other revelations, repeating perhaps the same mistakes shown here (mistakenly seeing Clarke as the source for a natural preference for "will" over "shall," etc.). As with the case for Joseph borrowing from a book about the ancient Hindus to create the Book of Ether, the topic of a recent post here, the cases for Joseph's "plagiarism" inevitably seem to fizzle upon closer inspection. When startled by new charges, stay calm and look for more information from those who have dug into the sources, as Kent P. Jackson so ably did for this case.

I was quite surprised to find out that the case for plagiarism by Joseph Smith wasn't just weakened considerably by Jackson's review, but was utterly demolished. Not a single example of the many newly published cases selected as the best and most compelling by Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon survives scrutiny. Some of the examples are completely erroneous, some actually have Joseph doing the opposite of what Clarke recommended, some have much simpler explanations than borrowing from Clarke, and many are a stretch at best. Not one still stands as reasonable evidence that Joseph was influenced directly by Clarke. There is simply no explanatory power in turning to Clarke as a source. The case for "plagiarism" is utterly without merit, but even the case for mild influence also has no foundation. Even Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's alleged evidence that Joseph may have been exposed to Clarke's text is unfounded. It's an example of scholarship based on wanting to see something, on relying on a foregone conclusion or a premature conclusion that continued to drive the way data was filtered, resulting in a pile of "evidences" all without merit. It's an easy mistake to make. It happens all the time, which is why review from others like Dr. Kent Jackson is often needed to help expose the trouble with shaky methodology and weak evidence.

So let's look at a few of the examples from Jackson's thorough review. First up is the example from the 2017 publication in the BYU Journal of Undergraduate Research, presumably the most compelling single example they could offer at the time, taken from Colossians 2:20-22. First I'll show Adam Clarke's commentary from Colossians 2:20-22 from the 1831 edition at SacredTexts.com, with Clarke's relevant comment in bold:

Colossians 2:20

If ye be dead with Christ - See the notes on Rom 6:3, Rom 6:5 (note).

From the rudiments of the world - Ye have renounced all hope of salvation from the observance of Jewish rites and ceremonies, which were only rudiments, first elements, or the alphabet, out of which the whole science of Christianity was composed. We have often seen that the world and this world signify the Jewish dispensation, or the rites, ceremonies, and services performed under it.

Why, as though living in the world - Why, as if ye were still under the same dispensation from which you have been already freed, are ye subject to its ordinances, performing them as if expecting salvation from this performance?

Colossians 2:21

Touch not; taste not; handle not - These are forms of expression very frequent among the Jews. In Maccoth, fol. xxi. 1: "If they say to a Nazarite, Don't drink, don't drink; and he, notwithstanding, drinks; he is guilty. If they say, Don't shave, don't shave; and he shaves, notwithstanding; he is guilty. If they say, Don't put on these clothes, don't put on these clothes; and he, notwithstanding, puts on heterogeneous garments; he is guilty." See more in Schoettgen.

Colossians 2:22

Which all are to perish with the using - These are not matters of eternal moment; the different kinds of meats were made for the body, and go with it into corruption: in like manner, all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion now perish, having accomplished the end of their institution; namely, to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

After the commandments and doctrines of men? - These words should follow the 20th verse, of which they form a part; and it appears from them that the apostle is here speaking of the traditions of the elders, and the load of cumbrous ceremonies which they added to the significant rites prescribed by Moses.

Now here is the excerpt from Kent Jackson's article:

Colossians 2:20–22

KJV: [20] why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, [21] (Touch not; taste not; handle not; [22] Which all are to perish with the using,) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

JST: why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances which are after the doctrines and commandments of men, who teach you to touch not, taste not, handle not all those things which are to perish with the using?

In this passage, Joseph Smith, among many changes, moved the second half of verse 22 to the end of verse 20. The Alexander Campbell and Rodolphus Dickinson translations reorder the verses in the same way. Clarke writes, “These words should follow the 20th verse, of which they form a part.” Without rearranging the words, the translations of Abner Kneeland and John Palfrey insert extra words in attempts to make better sense of the existing text.80 These examples show that others in Joseph Smith’s generation observed that the awkward passage was in need of repair. But had the Prophet done as Clarke advised, it would still be very awkward, and it would not look much like how he actually revised it. If there were a printed source that influenced the JST, Campbell’s translation, because it was widely available and known, would be a better candidate than Clarke’s six-volume commentary.

There is no way to tell if the Prophet was influenced by any printed source to make this revision. Campbell, Clarke, Dickinson, Kneeland, and Palfrey were not drawing from superior Greek manuscripts, nor from special academic knowledge, in wanting to revise the passage. They simply observed that in its current state — in Greek as well as in English — the text was cumbersome. The awkwardness of the text itself was sufficient to invite a change, and Joseph Smith could see this as well as anyone else. Verses 20–23 constitute a single sentence — both in Greek and in the King James translation — with a parenthetical phrase inserted in the middle that spreads over a verse and a half (verses 21–22a). The insertion interrupts the grammar of the sentence and makes the whole passage awkward and difficult to comprehend. Joseph Smith’s revision places the parenthetical phrase in a clause at the end of a sentence, and it makes the whole passage read very nicely. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon write that “the change does little to smooth out the flow of the English translation, and nothing to clarify the meaning.”81 This is manifestly untrue, because the revision certainly does smooth out the flow and clarify the meaning, and thus it is startling that they would be so condescending about it. With several carefully selected additional words (not suggested by Clarke or Campbell), the revision creates the clearest reading of this passage that I have found. It makes the sentence grammatically whole, and the insertion of “who teach you to” changes [Page 45]the overall meaning significantly and makes sense of the “touch not, taste not, handle not” sequence. This JST revision is a gem.

Joseph Smith made other changes in the surrounding text (in verse 23, for example) that cannot be explained with reference to Clarke, suggesting even more that Clarke was not the source for any changes in this passage.

Clarke recommended reordering verses in other passages. He believed, for example, that verse 13 of Matthew 23 should come after verse 14, but Joseph Smith did not make that change. Joseph Smith, in turn, moved text in other places. He placed John 1:28 after 1:34 and Mark 14:10–11 after 14:28, moves not suggested in Clarke. He moved verse 23 of 1 Timothy 5 to after verse 25, even though Clarke (in a small mention in a large commentary on other topics) stated that the verse was in the correct place and should not be moved. The Prophet also put Philippians 1:22 in front of 1:21 and moved Hebrews 7:21 to after 7:22, changes not reflected in the commentary of Clarke. He moved a piece of Exodus 33:3 to 33:1, also not noted in Clarke. And he reversed the order of verses 49 and 50 in John 6, also not noted in Clarke. Examples like these show Joseph Smith’s independence as a reviser of the text, something readily apparent in the more dramatic changes he made in Genesis and elsewhere.

Jackson appropriately observes that Joseph's alteration goes far beyond the obvious need to move the parenthetical comments to make the passage more readable. What he does is convert a still puzzling and awkward passage into one that makes more sense than any of the numerous attempts others have made to improve the translation. Truly it is a gem. It's only commonality with Clarke can be explained by common sense. What makes the JST distinctive here is independent of Clarke. It's a gem that our critics would discard as the dirt of plagiarism. 

Here are a few more of the many examples Jackson treats:

Exodus 11:9

KJV: Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you

JST: Pharaoh will not hearken unto you

For linguistic reasons, Adam Clarke criticized the King James translators for their use of “shall” here instead of “will.”50

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon suggest that Joseph Smith followed Clarke in making this change, but there is no reason to think that this is the case. The manuscripts show that the Prophet dictated both “shall” and “will” when revising texts. Prior to arriving at this verse, he had already changed “shall” to “will” in several places, including Genesis 23:9, Romans 3:30, and Revelation 19:15. In a passage similar to the one [Page 29]here, he had already changed “he shall not let the people go” to “he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). In a passage identical to this one, he had already changed “Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you” to “Pharaoh will not hearken unto you” (Exodus 7:4). Clarke suggested none of those changes, and thus, because Joseph Smith made them prior to arriving at Exodus 11, the connection that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon make with Clarke is unfounded.

The Prophet made other significant changes in this verse and in surrounding verses, but Clarke’s commentary cannot explain any of them. This is something we shall see repeatedly.

Exodus 22:28

KJV: Thou shalt not revile the gods

JST: Thou shalt not revile against God

That Adam Clarke disliked the KJV here is understandable, because its wording is indefensible. Joseph Smith’s change is different from Clarke’s paraphrase, but both replace “the gods” with “God,” as do virtually all modern translations.

Wayment suggests that the Prophet was dependent on Adam Clarke here, but there is a much better explanation.51 One of his guiding instincts in revising Bible passages was to correct errors, particularly doctrinal errors. There are no “gods,” and why would the law of Moses want to protect “the gods” from ridicule anyway? This is a common-sense revision that is predictable and consistent with many other changes Joseph Smith made.

Psalms 119:20

KJV: My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times

JST: My heart breaketh, for my soul longeth after thy judgments at all times

King James’s translators rejected the sensible reading of the Geneva Bible in the first clause, “Mine heart breaketh.” Clarke does not call for a revision of the text but merely comments in the course of his discussion, “We have a similar expression: — it broke my heartthat is heart-breakingshe died of a broken heart.”

With no more evidence than that, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe that those words from Clarke influenced Joseph Smith to change “soul” to “heart.”54 They have no case here, and there are other changes in the passage that cannot be attributed to Clarke. Many examples in the manuscripts and Joseph Smith’s Bible show that he viewed italicized words with suspicion. Because this verse contains a string of three italicized words, it invites a change. The unidiomatic nature of the first phrase is obvious. We do not say “My soul breaketh” in modern English, so Joseph Smith changed it sensibly to “My heart breaketh,” consistent with revisions he made to other unidiomatic phrases. But he may also have been especially sensitive about the meaning of the word “soul.” Shortly before he made this revision in Psalms, he received a revelation stating that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the [Page 31]resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul” (D&C 88:15–16). With those words in mind, the phrase “my soul breaketh” makes no sense at all.

True to his frequent pattern of preserving KJV words when changing the meaning of a verse, he saved the word “soul” and moved it to a different location in the verse, certainly not anticipated by Clarke. He revised the grammar of the sentence further by replacing the noun “longing” with a verbal phrase, “longeth after,” likewise not anticipated or desired by Clarke. The combined changes make the passage read very nicely and are a significant improvement over the KJV.

This is one of several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made.

Now we consider 2 Timothy 3:16. For context, below is Adam Clarke's commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16 (emphasis mine), where he offers a corrected translation that is radically different from the JST:  "Every writing Divinely inspired is profitable for doctrine, etc." This is followed by Jackson's reply to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's treatment:

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God - This sentence is not well translated; the original πασα γραφη θεοκνευστος ωφιλιμος προς διδασκαλιαν, κ. τ. λ. should be rendered: Every writing Divinely inspired is profitable for doctrine, etc. The particle και, and, is omitted by almost all the versions and many of the fathers, and certainly does not agree well with the text. The apostle is here, beyond all controversy, speaking of the writings of the Old Testament, which, because they came by Divine inspiration, he terms the Holy Scriptures, Ti2 3:15; and it is of them alone that this passage is to be understood; and although all the New Testament came by as direct an inspiration as the Old, yet, as it was not collected at that time, not indeed complete, the apostle could have no reference to it.

The doctrine of the inspiration of the sacred writings has been a subject of much discussion, and even controversy, among Christians. There are two principal opinions on the subject:

1. That every thought and word were inspired by God, and that the writer did nothing but merely write as the Spirit dictated.

2. That God gave the whole matter, leaving the inspired writers to their own language; and hence the great variety of style and different modes of expression.

But as I have treated this subject at large in my Introduction to the Four Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, I must refer the reader to that work.

Is profitable for doctrine - To teach the will of God, and to point out Jesus Christ till he should come.

For reproof - To convince men of the truth; and to confound those who should deny it, particularly the Jews.

For correction - Προς επανορθωσιν· For restoring things to their proper uses and places, correcting false notions and mistaken views.

Instruction in righteousness - Προς παιδειαν την εν δικαιοσυνῃ. For communicating all initiatory religious knowledge; for schooling mankind. All this is perfectly true of the Jewish Scriptures; and let faith in Christ Jesus be added, see Ti2 3:15, and then all that is spoken in the following verse will be literally accomplished.

 Now from Jackson:

2 Timothy 3:16

KJV: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable

JST: And all scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable

Clarke states, “This sentence is not well translated,” and he renders it “Every writing divinely inspired, is profitable.” The primary issue in the English translation is whether there is an implied is before “given by inspiration of God,” as the KJV translators assumed, or whether “All scripture given by inspiration of God” is the subject of the sentence.

I can think of two reasons why Joseph Smith might have wanted to revise this verse, and neither of them suggests reliance on Adam Clarke. To begin with, the verse as it stands in the King James translation is not true. One of the Prophet’s guiding instincts was to remove errors, and it is an error to state that everything in the Bible is inspired and profitable. As we have seen, in revising the Old Testament he rejected a whole book as “not inspired,” and he later taught, “[There are] many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelation of the [Page 46]Holy Ghost to me.”82 Perhaps it was the false idea expressed in this verse that led to the revision.

But there is also a textual issue here. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon again distort the matter by not showing the italics in the KJV passage.83 They believe that Joseph Smith was “apparently persuaded by Clarke’s reading of the verse,”84 but instead the change reflects the Prophet’s instinct to focus on italicized words. This is another example in which he deleted italicized words and then adjusted the remaining words to make sense of what remained. In this case, the deletion of the first italicized word, the verb “is,” makes almost inevitable the other changes he made. Clarke argued that the “and” should be omitted, but the Prophet kept it and moved it to the beginning of the sentence. Altogether, the only words that the revisions of Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke have in common are the two words that neither of them changed. [emphasis mine]

 And one more that illustrates how big the mistakes can be in mining for "plagiarism":

Luke 23:32

Clarke’s KJV: there were also two other malefactors led with him to be put to death

Joseph Smith’s KJV: there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death

JST: there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death

Adam Clarke’s edition of the King James Bible reads as noted above. He states that this verse “should certainly be translated two others, malefactors. … As it now stands in the text, it seems to intimate that our blessed Lord was also a malefactor.” Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon state, “Apparently in deference to Clarke, Smith rendered the problematic line in precisely the same way,” that is, by inserting the letter s to change “other” to “others.”70

But there is nothing here “in deference to Clarke,” and the lack of care with which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon treat this example is troubling. Unlike Clarke’s Bible, the edition of the KJV that Joseph Smith used in preparing his revision already has “others.” Joseph Smith did not change this verse at all. He simply read it as it appeared in his Bible, and his scribe wrote it down.71 [emphasis mine]

None of these are good reasons for leaving the Church. In fact, the Book of Moses, the crown jewel of the JST project, provides some excellent reasons for deeply respecting the prophetic gifts Joseph Smith employed in his translation work, as we shall discuss in an upcoming post here related to the "Ancient Threads" conference I mentioned above. Stay tuned, and stay faithful, no matter how momentarily shocking an alleged parallel between Joseph's writings and some other text may be -- until someone digs in and reveals just how weak if not silly the case for plagiarism actually is.