In his sweeping vision of human history (or, from Nephi’s perspective, human future), Nephi divides all people into “save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil” (1 Nephi 14:10). Such a dichotomy is a common theme in the Book of Mormon, and is an indispensible aspect of early Judeo-Christian literature, dating back to Lehi’s time (see Jeremiah 21:8). This can be easily misunderstood to insinuate that anyone who is not a Latter-day Saint is of the church of the devil, and therefore evil. Here, I would note the interpretation of these two symbols by several scholars, which suggests that the picture is much more complex.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
This issue has a great editorial introduction which discusses the then-current controversies involving FARMS and Signature Books, a fascinating chapter in Mormon apologetics and even just Mormon studies more broadly. After this introduction, however, the issue starts slowly, and never really fully picks up steam. Of the first 12 reviews, only one engages a volume critical of Mormons, and even that review is relatively short. There are also a couple more interesting reviews of faithful books, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Of the remaining 18 reviews, only 6 of them engage critical material, and most of it is standard sectarian anti-Mormonism, which only 4 volumes in is already getting boring. (I can only imagine what it was like for those who had to keep reviewing these books.) I nonetheless recommend these reviews because they tend to have potentially useful material on the Book of Mormon, and for the sake of some who may not have already gotten over the standard hurdles of 1990s anti-Mormonism who might find these reviews helpful.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Websites critical of the Church love to tell the story of one Thomas Stuart Ferguson, an archaeologist who spent years trying to prove the Book of Mormon was true only to be ultimately disappointed, reaching the conclusion that the Book of Mormon could not possibly be true history. Or, so the story goes, in a nutshell. There are a lot of problems with the way the critics like to tell the story. For one, it should be born in mind that Ferguson was not a professional archaeologist, and that he did not have advanced training in the matter. He was at best an amateur archaeologist with enough passion and enthusiasm to establish the New World Archaeological Foundation. Also, while there can be little doubt that he did lose his faith at one point, stories from close family and friends suggest that toward the end of his life he may have regained his faith. But I’m not really going to make a fuss about that right now. I am more interested in talking about why critics tell the story in the first place.
Friday, October 25, 2013
In a recent blog post for Interpreter, Stephen O. Smoot remarks,
“If the work of Mormon scholars in the past 50 years has proven anything, it is that a rigorous defense of the Book of Mormon’s historicity can and has been made in such a compelling manner that one must confront this body of scholarship and adequately account for it before one can propose any Inspired Fiction reading.”
In light of this remark, a mutual friend of ours approached Smoot about a proposed “canon” on Book of Mormon historicity. Smoot brought me into the loop, and we bashed our heads together and came up with this list.
Monday, October 14, 2013
A key criticism of John L. Sorenson’s geographic model has been that the directions seem to be off. Sorenson has consistently maintained that directions are cultural, that no given direction system is “obvious” and that we ought not assume that the directional system of the Nephites was identical to that of our own culture. Some have not found this explanation satisfactory, but Brant Gardner has built on that work, showing how certain aspects of Mesoamerican directional systems may help explain at least some of the apparent anomalies.