Friday, October 17, 2014

Lehi’s “Missing” DNA

The subject of DNA and the Book of Mormon is a persistent topic of discussion. For a couple of decades now, scholars have realized that DNA is a powerful tool for unraveling human history, understanding relations of different populations, and tracing ancient migration movements. Nonetheless, even DNA has its limitations on what it can tell us about the past.[1] Can DNA shed any light on the migration of Lehi’s family? The latest paper from Interpreter, written by Ugo Perego, a population geneticist who has worked extensively on the origins of Native Americans, and Jayne Ekins, an international lecturer and published scholar on molecular biology and genetic genealogy (both ancient and modern), provide the latest, most up-to-date discussion of the topic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Analysis of Textual Variants Now Available Online FREE

I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May of 1987. A year later, in Provo, Utah, Royal Skousen took over the FARMS-sponsored Book of Mormon Critical Text Project (CTP from this point on). For the last quarter-century and some change, Skousen has been dedicated to that project, while I have just been living a rather ordinary and unaccomplished life. Frankly, I cannot personally imagine what it would be like to spend what is essentially my entire lifetime (up to this point) with a dedicated focus to a single topic of study. Yet that is exactly what Skousen has done. And anyone who has even lightly pursued the fruits of his labors can only stand in appreciative awe at the breadth and depth of Skousen’s work.

Monday, September 29, 2014



This issue is the first “issue 2” in the Review’s history. After a first issue in 1994 dedicated solely to the review of a single book, I guess they felt that there were other important publications on the Book of Mormon that merited attention as well. This issue settles into the standard pattern seen up to this point. There are 16 reviews of a mix of topics, from pro-Mormon, anti-Mormon (including the now seemingly mandatory reviews of the Tanners work from Roper and Tvedtnes), and Mormon fiction. I have recommended 9 out of the 16 reviews/articles, and it is worth pointing out that 8 (one of which is not recommended) of the 16 reviews dealt with critical claims in some capacity—that is 50%! Other than the first issue of volume 6 (which was at 100%), this is the highest ratio. We maybe at a turning point, where the Review starts to find its identity. Still some fluff, of course, but the fluff has been considerably reduced (two of the none critical reviews are substantive enough to be recommended here).

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Sons of Lehi and the Daughters on Ishmael: Were Their Marriages Pre-Arranged?

Before departing from the valley of Lemuel, Nephi reports that the he and his brothers, plus Zoram, each were married to one of the daughters of Ishmael (see 1 Nephi 16:7). Notably absent are any romantic notions or courtship between the sons of Lehi and the daughters of Ishmael. Lynn and Hope Hilton pointed out, “It was customary in ancient Israel for the father or kinsmen of a young man to choose his wife and arrange for the marriage. No doubt Lehi, acting on behalf of his four sons, negotiated with Ishmael, even though the ‘negotiations’ may have been mere formalities based on prior arrangements.”[1] John W. Welch and Robert D. Hunt more recently made a similar comment. “There is no dating—marriages are arranged and negotiated by the fathers of the bride and groom…. Most marriages are arranged when the children are very young.”[2] They elaborate:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mark Wright vs. Earl Wunderli: How Perspective Changes Everything

A Depiction of Mesoamerican human sacrifice, from Mark Wright's Article.
Notice the jaguar and macaw, on each side waiting to be sacrificed next. Cf. Alma 34:10
Last year, Earl Wunderli published study claiming to show that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith strictly by internal evidence. It has been critically reviewed by Brant Gardner, Robert Rees, and Matt Roper with Paul Fields and Larry Bassist (forthcoming from BYU Studies Quarterly). For Wunderli, one of the curiosities that seems to indicate a 19th century authorship for the Book of Mormon is that, “when Jesus appears, he invites the multitude to thrust their hands into the sword wound in his side and feel the nail holes in his hands and feet. How Nephites would know the significance of the wounds is a question.” (Earl M. Wunderli, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013], 217.)