Friday, June 10, 2016

Unpublished Book by John L. Sorenson Now Available Online

Whether critics of the LDS faith know it or not, John L. Sorenson’s work on transoceanic voyaging in pre-Columbian times has garnered considerable respect among at least some non-LDS scholars. His publications on the subject span across six decades, and appear in a variety of peer-reviewed and academic publications, such as El México Antigo, New England Antiquities Research Association Newsletter, Man Across the Sea: Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts (published by the University of Texas Press), Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World (published by the University of Hawai’i), and Sino-Platonic Papers (published by the University of Pennsylvania).

He has co-published a 2-volume annotated bibliography of the literature on pre-Columbian contacts, which received some positive reviews. He also co-wrote (with a non-Mormon scholar) World Trade and Biological Exchange before 1492, detailing all the biological evidence for transoceanic contact before Columbus. In a letter thanking Sorenson for a copy of this work, Michael D. Coe declared, “So much of this evidence, I think, is irrefutable.”

With the above in mind, I thought it was worthwhile to point out that a heretofore unpublished book by Sorenson, called Transoceanic Voyaging: How Ancient America Became Civilized (2013) is available in Book of Mormon Central’s archive. Here, Sorenson attempts to use the evidence he has compiled in his previous work (namely, World Trade and Biological Exchange before 1492) to reconstruct a history of transoceanic contacts between the Old and New Worlds.

The conclusions reached are bound to be controversial, and I am not necessarily endorsing all of Sorenson’s views. But given Sorenson’s status as one of the leading scholars on pre-Columbian contacts, it is bound to contribute to the conversation in some important ways. I thus thought it worth drawing attention to this little known item in the Book of Mormon Central archive. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ward FHE Presentation: “Put Away Childish Things”—Changing How the World Sees the Book of Mormon

This last Monday, I gave a presentation at my YSA Family Home Evening on evidence for the Book of Mormon. Though I have spoken to my friends in the ward several times about my work with Book of Mormon Central, I took the opportunity to introduce Book of Mormon Central to them as resource, and specifically explained what KnoWhys are, since I was going to be drawing extensively from the KnoWhys for my presentation.

As you can tell by my title, I focused on using research to change the way we see and read the Book of Mormon. I used the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11 as a paradigm:
When I was child, I spake as child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
My reason for using this passage was because in my experience, many who experience a faith crisis over archaeology and the Book of Mormon never developed mature ways of reading the text. While they don’t do this consciously, they tend to read the book like a fairytale or fantasy novel. Now there is nothing wrong with fairytales and fantasy novels, except when they shape your perceptions of history and expectations of archaeology. When you believe the Book of Mormon is history but read it like fantasy, you set yourself up for a faith crisis.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Some Lessons in Assimilation, Archaeology, and Texts

While doing some reading on the events of the 8th and 7th centuries BC in Israel and Judah, for research on a writing project I am working on, I came across some interesting gems talking about the relationship of some biblical accounts and the archaeological record.

Monday, April 4, 2016

17 General Conference-Book of Mormon Memes

General Conference has once again come and gone. That, of course, means that we are only just beginning in terms of pondering and applying the abundance of counsel given to us as Latter-day Saints. As usual, there were a number of inspiring and motivating messages that were shared. And Church leaders frequently drew upon the Book of Mormon to teach important principles.

Given that memes have become such a large part of our social media culture, it is no surprise that memes have also become a common way to consume and share General Conference.  The Book of Mormon Central staff churned out 17 memes during the conference that highlight different instances where the Book of Mormon was used in General Conference.

Though these were posted in as timely a manner as possible on the Book of Mormon Central Facebook page, and I plastered my own Facebook wall with them (sorry to all my friends who got sick of me over this weekend), I thought I would collect them and post them here.


Hopefully these can be an aid to you in as you seek to ponder and share the many inspiring messages from this last General Conference.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Names and Meaning, Part 2: Zoram Revisited

Image by James Fullmer
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the Book of Mormon Onomasticon project, and it became a pretty popular post, even being featured on Real Clear Religion. In that post, I used the name Zoram as a case study on how the meaning of names can shed light on the text. The etymology I used there was Ṣûrām or *Ṣûrʿām, “their rock” or “rock of the people” and suggested that the narrative in 1 Nephi 4 lends itself to a wordplay with Zoram.

At the time, I noted that Zoram is first introduced into the narrative simply as the “servant of Laban” (1 Nephi 4:20, 31, 33), and that it’s not until taking an oath wherein he is promised his freedom that he is called by his name (1 Nephi 4:35). At the time, I suggested this could be a deliberate literary device intended to suggest that with the oath he became Zoram, a “rock,” steadfast and true to his oath.