Thursday, June 30, 2011

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 as 60 feet within historical times, and up to 15 feet in a single year – so a city located on this shore could understandably be submerged quite abruptly.”[3] Sorenson also suggests that this new world “Jerusalem” would have had religious significance to those who built the city.[4]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

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            This volume may have superseded 18/1 as my personal favorite.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 Challenge. These featured some very interesting exchanges, well worth the read.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

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 Mormon, though this may be explained by the lack of content presented in this issue generally.

Recommended Reading:

            Kevin L. Barney, “A Seemingly Strange Story Illuminated,” a review of John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: “Out of Darkness unto Light,”(Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), pg. 1-20: Barney’s review of Tvedtnes book is both enjoyable and insightful. Barney explains why a book of this nature was necessary, and provides a useful mini-response to Thomas J. Finley’s critique of Hugh Nibley.    

            Louis Midgley, “The Legend and Legacy of Fawn Brodie,” a review of  Newell G. Bringhurst, Fawn McKay Brodie: A Biographer’s Life (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), pg. 21-72: Midgley is essentially the “Brodie expert” of the FARMS Review. He gives what I felt was a generally positive review of Bringhurst’s biography of Brodie, though he certainly points out where he feels Bringhurst’s discussion is lacking, and adds some important insights for those interested in the “Brodie legend.”

            Louis Midgley, “Comments on Critical Exchanges,” a review of Glen J. Hettinger, “A Hard Day for Professor Midgley: An Essay for Fawn McKay Brodie,” Dialouge 32/1 (1999): 91-101, pg. 91-126: Midgley responds to Hettinger and others, as well as spells out and clarifies his position on a number issues. An import read for those who seek to follow not only the debates regarding Brodie, but debates over how to do Mormon history in general (a debate which Midgley has been a major player).

            L. Ara Norwood, “He Ain’t Heavy,” a review of James R. White, Is the Mormon My Brother? (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1997), pg. 133-164: A good review of a slightly improved evangelical anti-Mormon approach (“slightly improved” in contrast with more traditional, sensationalistic and derogatory anti-Mormonism such as that of Walter Martin). Some good sources and arguments in response to the “polytheistic” charge frequently made against Mormonism, along with some brief treatment of other criticisms.

Final Thoughts

            Overall, this issue was somewhat lack luster. While both of Midgley’s essays are important, I would not consider any of the content of this issue to be “must-read.” That is not to say that none of this issue is worth reading. For those who are avid about Mormon studies, some good information and insights can be gleaned from the reviews in this issue (including, as always, even the reviews/articles not recommended here). But compared with other issues of the Review (both older and newer), I found this issue to be sub-par.

Rating: 2/5 

Monday, June 6, 2011

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.