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BLOG UPDATE: DECEMBER 2011

New Project: Sunday School Apologetics
            We are currently on the verge of a New Year, and New Years always seem to bring changes. One thing that this New Year brings is the first year, since I’ve been home from my mission and been exploring LDS scholarship and apologetics, that we have studied the Book of Mormon for Sunday School. As such, I have decided to start a project called Sunday School Apologetics, where I’ll be discussing scholarly and apologetic topics and themes in the context of the weekly Gospel Doctrine lessons. I’ve set up a separate blog for the project, and you can learn more about there. I’ll be teaming up with Stephen Smoot, who has already made somefinecontributions. Due to the template I am using, you can’t “follow” that blog, so I may provides links to that blog here each here, so that followers can…well, follow! The first weeks lesson is already up! 
            I still hope to make use of this blog, but Sunday School Apologetics will be a demanding pr…

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHY I BELIEVE MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS: THE IMPLICATIONS OF MY FIVE REASONS

I have presented five of the many reasons that could be given as to why I feel Latter-day Saints are Christians. I have focused on ways in which Latter-day Saints honor, respect, and reverence Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I have tried to show how these beliefs and practices are consistent with New Testament Christianity. Of course, I am not arguing that if a person is not a member of a church called after Jesus Christ, or if they don’t make formal covenants in Christ name, or if they don’t follow prophets who testify of Christ they are not a Christian. I realize there are plenty of Christians who do none of those things. Rather I am arguing that people who do those things are Christians. Many Christians are no doubt members of churches that are not explicitly named after Christ, or not even members of a church at all. Many Christians do not make formal covenants of any kind, don’t believe in prophets today, or new scripture. Many Christians may not agree with the prec…

FIVE REASONS WHY I BELIEVE MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS – PART 5: JESUS CHRIST AS THE ONLY MEANS OF SALVATION

I am sure I do not need to validate this claim through the New Testament, as no Christian would really question that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to salvation. Indeed, the very essence of Christianity is the message of hope and salvation – the “good news” – through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. At this point, I should hope that it is already apparent that this is what the Latter-day Saints believe. Nonetheless, to be sure I am as clear as possible, allow me to elaborate on this point a little bit.

FIVE REASONS WHY I BELIEVE MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS – PART 2: CHRISTIAN COVENANTS

Before moving on, some have brought up the concern of Mormons worshipping a “different Jesus,” thus suggesting that it does not matter how much we appeal to the name Jesus Christ if it is the wrong Jesus anyway. In my afore mentioned manuscript, I spend over 20 pages responding to this argument, including a table showing the characteristics of Jesus listed in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and “The Living Christ,” showing that they are indeed the same Jesus. Perhaps one day my arguments in that regard will see the light of day, but for now, I’m only interested in making my case for Mormons as Christians, not refuting the case against it. That has been done before, and I’m quite content to direct readers to the previous efforts of others.

FIVE REASONS WHY I BELIEVE MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS – PART 1: THE NAME OF THE CHURCH

Sometime ago, I was working on a comprehensive response to the accusation that Mormons are not Christians. It is currently 190 pages in length, and is probably about 55-65 percent complete. Though I still tinker around with it from time-to-time, my interest have generally moved on, and so I don’t know if the rest will ever be written. Though most of it deals with responding to anti-Mormon arguments, one portion, about 30 pages long, elucidates five reasons I think strongly suggest that Mormons are Christians.  Given the recent controversy, brought on by Rev. Jeffress, I thought now would be a good time to draw on some of that content. So, I thought I would do a five part series explaining those reasons. Despite breaking it up into five parts, my arguments have still been considerably condensed.

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 23, ISS. 1 (2011)

Overview Alas! Here it is, my first real “Reviewing the Review.” Now, you may be confused. After all, there are already 10 “Reviewing the Review” posts up, how is this the first? Allow me to explain. You see, when I announced this back in March, I intended this to be a semi-annual series, just as the Review itself is semi-annual. It was meant to be done on the most recently released issue of the Review shortly after I received my copy. I did also mention that I would do ones on back issues as I obtained them, but these were intended to be occasional. But, as it turns out, I managed to get my hands on quite a few back issues in the last six or seven months since then (much more than the number I have “reviewed”) and so postings on the back issues have been quite frequent. This will continue to be the case for at least a few more months, as I have a number of others already prepared to post.

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 17, ISS. 1 (2005)

Overview
            Another issue of the Review which touches on a large variety of subjects, one of which is bound to be of interest to even some casual readers. This issue touches on Masonry, early Mormon history, the angel vs. treasure guardian debate, DNA, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, science, and both LDS and evangelical theology, with a tribute to Hugh Nibley to boot!
Recommended Reading:

WHAT EVIDENCE IS BETTER?

In his review “Hindsight on a Book of Mormon Historicity Critique,” Kevin Christensen proposes a hypothetical situation that, I think, really underscores the strength of the present case for the Book of Mormon, and answers the question not only which of evidence is better, but which kind of evidence is really more important to have in trying to build a believable case for the Book of Mormon:
Science historian and philosopher Thomas Kuhn observed that paradigm choice always involves deciding which problems are more significant to have solved.Suppose that in the ongoing Book of Mormon historicity debate we could swap currently plausible solutions for current problems. That is, suppose we had better evidence for metals and horses, a scrap of recognizably reformed Egyptian script, and even some profoundly unlikely DNA that somehow pointed directly to 600 BC Jerusalem. At the same time, suppose we did not have a unique fit for the river Sidon, nor an archaeologically suitable C…

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 16, ISS. 2 (2004)

Overview
           This is my first time offering a review of both issues from a given year. Once again, this issue of the Review features a diverse subject matter. There are essays and reviews dealing with Book of Mormon geography, specifically the LGT, DNA, linguistics, the Old World setting for the Book of Mormon, Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, LDS theology, religious and biblical symbolism, the Big Bang and quantum mechanics, Church history, the Book of Abraham, Egyptology, and the Counter-Cult movement.

BLOG UPDATE: AUGUST 2011

Well, in a few days I’ll be going back to school, and so my production will probably be going down. Like last year, I’ll try and maintain at least a once a month posting pace, but may occasionally get behind. Please be patient and understanding.
Obviously, you can see I have made some changes to the blog’s look. After a little over a year, I thought it was time for a face lift. I would also like to announce that I’ve gone mobile with this blog! Thus far, mobile visitors have been a very small slice of my traffic-pie (which is already a small pie), but perhaps by having a mobile version, that will increase. My main motivation for activating the mobile version was actually because I finally caught up to the twenty-first century and got a phone with internet access. 
I would like to thank all of you for visiting and reading my essentially irrelevant point-of-view on various things of a Mormon nature. The blog has grown slowly, but steadily, and I need to thank those who have helped spread…

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 16, ISS. 1 (2004)

Overview
I’m still missing issue 15/2, but picking up again at 16/1, I should note that this is not on one of the issues I got from the FAIR auction (all of those issues were older than volume 14).
The contents of this issue are noteworthy, featuring reviews and articles on a vast array of topics, including anti-Mormonism, ideology, method and theory, paradigms, Mosiah-first theories, “secret combinations,” Book of Mormon apologetics, archeology and Mesoamerica, limited geography theory, Enoch, salvation for the dead, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Thomas Stuart Ferguson and NWAF, and much more.

BUILDING UPON THE ROCK: MAKING SURE OUR ARGUMENTS REST ON A SURE FOUNDATION

Abstract (well…kind of): The following is a summary of Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, “‘Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish’: Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005), pg. 12-25. The reader is encouraged to read this whole article, and also consult it for source citations regarding that various points made in this brief review.

2011 FAIR CONFERENCE REPORT

Alas, the wonderful FAIR Conference has come to an end. I really enjoyed myself this year. I got to meet a lot of people, make new friends, and visit with/get to know some of the presenters whom I look up to, such as Brant Gardner, Daniel Peterson (whom I would say is the Jimmer Fredette of LDS apologetics), and Don Bradley. I also made friends with some of the younger folk, closer to my age, such as Stephen Smoot, Hales Swift, and Ed Goble. It was good to get to know some like-minded peers.  Here are some of the highlights from the Conference:
      FAIR President Scott Gordon announced the new website for the Mormon Defense League, a FAIR sponsored organization intended to address issues and a respond to questions from the media. To check out the website, go to mdl.orgMy favorite presentations from day one were those from Stephen D. Ricks, Brant Gardner, and Steven C. Harper. Gardner’s was clearly the talk of the day. In his presentation, he talked about how seer stones f…

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 15, ISS. 1 (2003)

Overview
I scored this issue of the Review while scouring the bookshelves at the DI. So, yes, it is used and little more beat-up, but I was glad to acquire this “priceless gem” for a meager 3 bucks (unfortunately, I was unable to obtain a picture of this volume's cover)
            It was this year (2003) it officially became the FARMS Review (rather than the FARMS Review of Books), and it inaugurates their publishing of non-review essays, or “free standing essays” as they call them, the first of which is the essay by John Welch featured below. This is also when they added “Book Notes” and changed to the present (as of 2010 – Lou Midgley has reported that 2011 will different) cover design (I should note that 2011 marks several additional changes for the Review, including its name, but these will be further discussed after I get and read my copy of the forthcoming issue).
            This issue features a number of classics, including Midgley’s introduction and Welch’s article on chi…

2011 FAIR Conference

Last year I attended the FAIR Conference for the first time and really enjoyed it. So this year I am going back. For those interested in Mormon Studies, or (more particularly) Mormon Apologetics, I strongly encourage you to attend.
Last year there was ground-breaking research unveiled for the first time on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and their connection to the Book of Abraham. This year will feature several speakers on a variety of topics. Here are just a few presentations that interest me in particular:
Stephen D. Ricks, “The Sacred Embrace in Ancient Egyptian Religion and Art”
Brant Gardner, “The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon”
Steven C. Harper, “Accounts of the First Vision”
Newell Bringhurst, “The 2012 Presidential Race and the Mormon Question” (As a political science major, I can’t help but get excited when my major and my hobby intersect like this!)
Don Bradley, “‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates” (This on…

AN ANCIENT AMERICAN SETTING FOR JERUSALEM

In the Book of Mormon, we learn that a group of Lamanites and dissident Nephites had built a city which they named Jerusalem, being named “after the land of their fathers’ nativity” (Alma 21:1, also see vs. 2). This city was near the waters of Mormon, where Alma the Elder had preached and baptized earlier (see Alma 21:1-2; cf. Mosiah 18:4-16).
After the crucifixion of Christ, the Book of Mormon reports that a great deal of destruction took place, during which several cities are said to have been submerged by water (see 3 Nephi 9:7). This “Jerusalem” is one of those cities. 
            Based on that information, John L. Sorenson placed Jerusalem on the southern shores of Lake Atitlán, which he had designated as the waters of Mormon.[1] “The likely spot [for Jerusalem] is near Santiago Atitlan, on the extreme southwestern tip of Lake Atitlan.”[2] Realizing that Jerusalem was quickly submerged by water, Sorenson notes that “the level of Lake Atitlan has shifted dramatically – by as much…

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 14 (2002)

Overview
            First, to clarify, there was only one issue of volume 14. On the website, it calls it issue 1, on the binding it says “Number 1-2.” I decided to just call it volume 14 in the title (above).
This volume may have superseded 18/1 as my personal favorite. This was a very enjoyable read. Of the 19 articles, I have recommended a whopping 13 of them (and thought about recommending a couple more). So many of the articles had useful and interesting information. On top of that, this volume had a lot variety, which (in my opinion) is a trademark of the very best issues of the Review. It covered topics such as Book of Mormon geography, Evangelical/Mormon dialogue, the Christian question (Are Mormons…), anti-Mormonism, the “Bible Code,” and various figures in the Mormon history, such as Joseph Smith (of course), Sidney Rigdon, and George Q. Cannon. In the middle of the volume is a block of reviews and responses to the collaborative effort of Evangelical scholars, The New Mormon …

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 13, ISS. 1 (2001)

Overview
            Immediately following the huge 12/2 is this rather slim issue of the Review. Without counting the Editors Introduction, this whole issue is shorter than one review (Hamblin’s) in the previous issue. If we count the Editors Introduction, then it is only a few pages longer than Hamblin’s review.
            This issue features only 9 reviews/articles (including the Ed. Intro., which is still the only non-review essay), reviewing only 5 publications. Only four of these reviews/articles are longer than 20 pages, while the other five are all under 10 pages in length.
            Louis Midgely dominates this issue. The two longest pieces (combining to cover more than 85 pages) are from Midgely, both dealing with the ongoing debates about the “Brodie legend.”
This issue may signal the shift that took place in the Review over the years from its focus on the Book of Mormon, to being dedicated to “Mormon studies” in a broad sense. Only one review is centered on the Book of M…

THE NAME “SARIAH” – FROM “BLUNDER” TO “BULL’S EYE”

The name “Sariah” presents a particularly interesting case for the Book of Mormon’s historical authenticity. In that volume, it is the name of a Hebrew woman living in Jerusalem around 600 BC who departs with her husband and children into the wilderness to seek a new home, in a distant “promised land” (see 1 Nephi 2:5).

In 1830, this name could have easily been viewed as case-in-point evidence that Joseph Smith was just making the whole Book of Mormon up, creating inauthentic “Hebrew sounding” names by cherry picking name elements from the Bible. At the time, the potential Hebrew equivalent (śryh) was known in the Bible as a Hebrew male name translated as “Seraiah,” not “Sariah.”[1]  To make matters worse, a female name ending in the divine element –iah (-yah or –yahu) was unconventional, because as Hugh Nibley explains, “in female names the yahu element usually comes first.”[2] In essence, everything about this name seemed be to wrong.

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 12, ISS. 2 (2000)

Overview
            This is another one of the older volumes I was able to pick-up from the BYU Bookstore. Somewhere between this issue (12/2) and the only older one I own (8/2), all of the stylistic problems I complained about were improved on. Thus, reading this issue was less of a burdensome process, and was more enjoyable in some respects.

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 8, ISS. 2 (1996)

Overview
            In my goal to collect and read every back issue of the Review, I am excepting to buy a lot of used copies of the older issues.  Nonetheless, I was recently fortunate enough to pick up brand-new copies of several older back issues, which I suspect are out of circulation at this point, from the BYU Bookstore. For all but one of these, I grabbed the last copy on the selves. I consider myself quite lucky (though I doubt anyone else thinks I got much of a treasure buying old books with old articles, which are in some ways dated and are available online for free). This issue was one (the oldest one) of those purchases.

KNOWING THE BRETHREN LOVE YOU

In the Church, we stress the importance of testimony. Specifically, we stress how important it is to have a testimony of God, of Jesus Christ, and of the scriptures, often with an emphasis on the Book of Mormon. We stress the importance of having a testimony that Joseph Smith was divinely called as a prophet to restore the Church of Jesus Christ, and that the prophets and apostles that followed him are also called and chosen by God, and act as divine instruments in fulfilling His will. These are all important – and perhaps even vital – aspects of a testimony of the Restored Gospel.
Sometimes, however, such a testimony may not be enough. When anti-Mormons dredged up the dark aspects of LDS history – such as the short comings and imperfections of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or some other past or present LDS leader; or when an apostle’s message is not exactly “politically correct,” or perhaps even downright “offensive” in the eyes of some; or when we are exposed to the (quite often) biz…

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 18, ISS. 1 (2006)

Overview
            I picked this issue up as a gift for my subscription to FARMS. This is, in my opinion, the best number of the review (that I have read all the way through) to date. With 21 reviews or articles, spanning across more than 500 pages (including the pages numbered with roman numerals), this issue is huge! The entries cover a vast array of topics related to Mormonism, from early LDS history, Mormon theology/philosophy, Evolution, DNA research, and the “New Atheism,” to Old Testament studies, textual criticism, comparative apologetics, and parenting.  An interesting thing about this issue of the Review is that is contained a lot of non-review articles (9 total), most of which I feel represent the most interesting studies in this issue.

MORONI 10:3-5 AND THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

As most are familiar, the Book of Mormon contains a promise, commonly called “Moroni’s Promise,” which asserts that by praying to God, and asking him if the book is true, God will provide a response via the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:3-5). Some who are critical of the church refuse to try this method. They argue that it is circular reasoning, that “feelings” are not a sufficient way to learn truth, etc.
Subsequently, they insist the Book of Mormon must be tested on some other grounds; through reason, logic, and empirical evidence. I argue that one can never know if the Book of Mormon is true or not by this method, and not because there will never be enough evidence to “prove” it either true or false; and not because almost any position can be maintained on rational, logical grounds (though I believe both to be the case). Rather, I argue that such a position is impossibly inconsistent, as it suffers from two fatal flaws:

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 21, ISS. 2 (2009)

Overview
            I obtained this issue of the Review by attending some of the Nibley Lecture series last year. They were giving copies away at a desk near the entry way as a way of promoting their work.
            This issue of the Review is not especially long, and possess nothing particularly ground breaking. Nonetheless, it contains some solid contributions to Mormon studies and related fields, on topics such as the biblical Christmas story, the influence of Greek philosophy on protestant soteriology, Mesoamerica, the “New Atheism,” the Book of Mormon, early Mormon history, LDS apologetics, and “born-again Mormonism.” Interestingly (and perhaps “bafflingly” to some), this issue only has one review of an anti-Mormon book. It contains an additional article which is directed at an anti-Mormon claim, and a review of an atheist book. In contrast, it has three reviews of LDS publications (two of which are generally positive, while one is critical), a review of recent “reader editions”…

BLOG UPDATE: MARCH 2011

I would like to announce to all my readers (if there are any out there at all) that I have become an official subscriber of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute periodicals (which includes the FARMS Review, Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, and Studies in the Bible and Antiquities)! With that, I will likely draw on the content of the recent issues more frequently in my postings.

One thing I plan to do is to start the semi-annual series, “Reviewing the Review,” in which I will be doing just that: reviewing each issue of the FARMS Review after I have received it and read through it. This project may also extend to the other periodicals, but I primarily plan to do it with the Review. These will not be lengthy, extensive, or rigorous reviews; just short, brief summaries of thoughts and impressions regarding that particular issue.

Each review will follow this format:
Overview: A brief paragraph describing my general thoughts on the content of that issueRecommended Read…

DOES THE BOOK OF MORMON PROMOTE SOCIALISM?

In his recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, “The case for Book of Mormon socialism,” Troy Williams states that, “At their most righteous, the Nephites presented in the book were benevolent socialists; at their most depraved, they were greedy free-market capitalists.” According to Williams, this is true “Whether one accepts the historical or theological claims” made by the book or not.
Williams then makes it clear that “socialism” for him (as it is for me) is equivalent to “redistribution,” stating that “Having ‘all things in common’ suggests a society invested in public infrastructure and welfare for the whole.” He then explains that “Redistribution is not an anomaly in Mormon scriptures,” and calls “redistribution” the “highest economic order in Mormon scripture.”

DOCTRINE VS. THEOLOGY

The following are some thoughts I have had bouncing around in my head for quite some time. I finally wrote them out (albeit rather quickly) as a comment on another blog. Since I feel like the point being made here is important to understanding Mormon thought for the member and non-member a like, I thought I would share them here as well. I have made some minor changes and additions: While I understand where people are coming from when they say that there is no official Mormon “doctrine,” I must disagree. Things like the physical nature of God, our being his literal children, salvation being through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and many other things are clearly official tenets of doctrine in the LDS Church. What frustrates people, and makes them think that no such “official” doctrine exists is the lack of an official, systematic theology that ties all of those doctrines together.

FOLLOWING UP ON A MISSION EXPERIENCE: THE BIBLE VS. THE BOOK OF MORMON

First and foremost, I would like to wish my wife a happy birthday! She turns 22 today, and I feel so blessed and so lucky to have her in my life! She means everything to me! 
With that said, I would like to reflect on an experience I had on mission. When I was in my last area, my companion and I went to visit a less-active. My companion had set up the appointment, and said that the brother was very excited to see us. Something about it all just didn’t seem quite right, so just before going in I reminded my young companion about the feelings of the Spirit and how to distinguish them apart from other influences.

INFYMUS, I BID THEE “ADIEU”

And I, Jacob, saw that I must soon go down to my grave; wherefore…I make an end of my writing upon these plates, which writing has beensmall; and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu. (Jacob 7:27)
Recently, as I was surfing the internet, I came across a page on mormoncurtain.com dedicated to the ridiculing of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), or the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship. The Mormon Curtain is an ex-Mormon community site, and the page on FARMS is rife with inaccuracies as various ex-Mormon writers spew their obviously hate-filled diatribes all over.
One cannot help but chuckle at the irony displayed as several writers scoff at FARMS’s peer review process when it is evident that the page in question lacks any form of peer review (or any other process equally effective in refereeing or screening the content and checking its accuracy). Further irony is displayed as they g…

JUDAISM, CHRISTINAITY, AND MORMONISM

In a previous post, I speculated about how Mormonism and traditional Christianity might relate to each other as both being Christian, and yet being separate religious traditions.[1] In that article, I mention the views of Jan Shipps, and I also connect the relationship to Mormonism and Christianity with that of Christianity and Judaism. In a later post, I responded to Richard Abanes use of Jan Shipps own statement wherein she likens the relationship between Mormonism/Christianity to that of Christianity/Judaism.[2]