Friday, August 22, 2014

An Open Letter (#2) to Jeremy Runnells

The “Letter to a CES Director,” written by Jeremy T. Runnells, has been making its rounds online and growing in popularity for some time now. Runnells lays out his laundry list of issues that caused him to lose his faith.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Open Letter (#1) to Jeremy Runnells

The “Letter to a CES Director,” written by Jeremy T. Runnells, has been making its rounds online and growing in popularity for some time now. Runnells lays out his laundry list of issues that caused him to lose his faith.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Book of Abraham and Logical Fallacies 101


In a recent Facebook discussion on the Book of Abraham, I asked the question, “Why should I trust Ritner over Muhlestein?” I posed this question after reading both Kerry Muhlestein’s arguments for human sacrifice during the Middle Kingdom period of Egypt (Abraham’s era), as published in the Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 51/2 (2008): 181–208, and Robert Ritner’s counter-argument in response to the Church’s new Gospel Topics essay. I offer an evaluation of Ritner’s critique and gave my reasons for finding Muhlestein’s argument more persuasive. After a little prodding, I got a couple of great answers that give me some additional perspectives to consider on this question.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Convergence Challenge

My first exposure to the idea or concept of “convergence” between text and history was in Brant Gardner’s 6-volume commentary Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Kofford, 2007–2008). Gardner, in turn, had borrowed the concept from William Dever, a prominent Syro-Palestinian archaeologist who studied the relationship between the biblical texts and archaeology. I decided that, in order to fully understand how the concept worked, I ought to pursue Dever’s work myself, and so I have since read his What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? (Eerdmans, 2001) and Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Eerdmans, 2003). Both are excellent books, though I do disagree with some conclusions in each one. I certainly learned much more about his method reading them, and although I would make some adjustments (based on the different nuances I have seen used by other, equally reputable scholars who come to somewhat different conclusions than Dever), I am nonetheless just as impressed as Gardner is with Dever’s concept of “convergences” as a means for determining historicity, and have made it a central element in my own method to examining the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The House of Joseph in Judah? Inconceivable! Or is It?

This “Lehi,” it seems, was of the tribe of Joseph, and dwelt at Jerusalem. The tribe of Joseph at Jerusalem! Go, study scripture-geography, ye ignorant fellows, before you send out another imposition, and make no more such foolish blunders!
—Origen Bacheler, 1838[1]

Prior to departing for the desert, Jerusalem was where Lehi had “dwelt … all his days,” according to his son Nephi (1 Nephi 1:4). Lehi, therefore, not only lived in Jerusalem the year Zedekiah took the throne, but had grown up there, suggesting his family had settled there before he was born. Lehi, however, was not a “Jew” (or, more accurately for that time-period, “Judahite”) in the strict sense of the word. He was, in fact, a descendant of Joseph, as was a Jerusalem official, Laban, who plays a prominent role in Nephi’s narratives set in Jerusalem itself (see 1 Nephi 5:14, 16). Another man from Jerusalem, Ishmael, who ultimately accompanies Lehi into the desert wilderness of Arabia, was also from the house of Joseph, according to Joseph Smith, who had access to now lost documents relating to Lehi and his companions.[2]