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Showing posts from 2012


Well, another year has passed, and despite the fact that I continue to be busy with several other things, I have managed to keep this blog alive, and it even seems to have a growing (albeit still very small) audience. Moving forward, I thought now was a good time to get some updates in.


Since William J. Hamblin has noted the passing of 6 months since the debacle this summer, now seems like a good time to offer up some comments as the implicitly promised part 2 of my earlier post. In that post, I took up the issue of whether or not the study of an internet podcast host and the accompanying community was worthy of an academic journal. I concluded then – and still think so now – the answer is yes, despite the protestations of a few commenters who, without having even seen or read the paper, insist that the paper is nothing like the kind of study I have suggested it is.

My Apologetic Wish List!

In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I would share my “wish list.” This isn’t so much what I want for Christmas as it is what I wish actually existed in the LDS scholarly/apologetic corpus.
1. Collected Statements of the Three and Eight Witnesses: On a number of occasions, Richard Lloyd Anderson has said that he has collected over 200 statements from one of the eleven witnesses relevant to their testimony of seeing the plates, many of which have never been published. Of the ones that have been published, they are scattered all over the place, or mixed into much larger collections of documents. What is needed for those who would like to study the witnesses is a volume with transcripts of all the relevant first-, second-, and even third- or fourth-hand sources. Any scrap of paper that has potential relevancy to the question of what they saw and experienced ought to be included, with introductions providing some historical context for the statements. It would have to be a colla…


            Early LDS history seems to take center stage in this issue, with two reviews on Nauvoo polygamy and a review and an article related to the Mountain Meadows massacre and the Utah War. It also features articles on the relationship between reason and faith, scholarship and discipleship, science and scripture. Book of Mormon geography theories are explored, Hugh Nibley is venerated, and the purpose behind “debating evangelicals” is explored.

More on “Hidden” History: The First Vision and Reactions to My Satire

It seems my little satire earlier this week ruffled a few feathers in the ex-Mormon community. Thanks to that, it quickly became the most viewed post in the history of this little, irrelevant web-space. At present, it has garnered nearly twice as much traffic than any other post I’ve written in the last 2-plus years. So, I thought another post on the so-called hidden history of the Church is in order. This time, I’d like to focus in on the First Vision.

Top Secret Research Hidden on YOUR Coffee Table!

That is right! For many years, the Church has been searching desperately for a place to hide some of the most damning facts in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Despite their best efforts, however, it seemed that people – especially the most malicious of anti-Mormons – always seemed to find them. They tried, over and over, to hide these kinds of historical blemishes in the Church magazines to no avail. They needed a better hiding place. Finally, last year, assistant Church historian Richard E. Turley, Jr. came up with a brilliant idea: hide them on member’s coffee tables! After all, what else is a Mormon’s coffee table good for? They obviously aren’t using it to as a place to set their coffee! So Turley and photographic historian William W. Slaughter put together the handsomely produced How We Got the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2011) and marketed it toward general Latter-day Saint readers (pp. vii-viii). Bound up in this beautifully illustrated (don’t let…

Salvation for the Dead: Then and Now

Last week Latter-day Saints in Utah watched the dedication of the 139th Temple in Brigham City, UT. The building of temples is one of the most distinctive features of the Restoration. The sacred ordinances preformed within the walls of temples are also unique to the Latter-day Saints today. While living members do go to temple for their own endowments and sealings, the vast majority of the work preformed in temples is on behalf of the dead – yet another aspect of temples that sets Latter-day Saints apart. While ordinances, such as baptism, preformed for the dead has ruffled some feathers of late, such practices are connected to a doctrine of post-mortem salvation that is beautifully inspired. It is about extending the mercy and compassion of God to those who are otherwise unable to access it; people whom some other Christians would consign to hell for no other reason than the fact that the news of Christ was unavailable to them in life. The acts are done out of love and concern for t…


Well, August has been a productive month, compared to more recent efforts. Nonetheless, tomorrow it is back to school for me, which means the usual acknowledge meant that blogging will become less of a priority. Given that even over the summer, I only managed about 1 post a month, this may mean that some months might pass without any new material, although one post a month will still be my goal. Here are few updates relevant either to this blog, myself personally, LDS apologetics generally, or some combination of the three:

A Newly Discovered Early Report of Seeing the Plates from One of the Three Witnesses

When it comes to history, early, primary sources are the always the ideal. Of course, they are not always readily available. Sometimes you have to settle for a primary source that is late, or you have an early source, but it’s second hand. Or you have both, have to decide if you’ll give more weight to the document that is early, even though it is secondary, or to the document that is first hand, despite it’s being late. Actually, quite often you will have multiple documents, some primary, others second (or even third or fourth) hand; some earlier, and others later, and whole bunch in-between, and deciding which documents to give priority to is difficult. History is a messy business, and more often than not there is more than enough room for disagreement on the what, how, who, and why of “what happened.” But when you have these ideal documents – the early, primary ones – you can sort through that mess with a little more confidence.


As usual, a number of topics get some treatment in this issue of the Review. Book of Mormon timelines, Mesoamerica, ancient bee-keeping, and the “common-sense” approach to the Book of Mormon. The relationship between faith and reason, modern and postmodern, the Joseph Smith Papyri and the Book of Abraham. Mormon culture, the “armor of God,” deification, and seventeenth century prophets. Plus responses to the “new atheism” and the old and worn out sectarian anti-Mormonism. Yup, this issue’s got plenty of variety, and something is sure to be of interest to you.

News on Nahom/Nihm

For a long time now, one of my biggest interests in all of Book of Mormon research has been the correlation of the place called Nahom in the Book of Mormon (see 1 Nephi 16:34) and the tribal territory known as Nihm. In the late 1990s some altars verifying the existence of the Nihm tribe and territory in Lehi’s day were brought to the attention of LDS scholars. Many Latter-day Saints consider this the best evidence for the Book of Mormon to date.

FARMS Book of Mormon Research Updates of the 2000s

In for previous decades (the 1980s and 1990s) FARMS has published anthologies of their Book of Mormon Research Updates.[1] But the most recent decade past (2000-2009) no such volume has been forth-coming and recent events lead me to believe it will not be coming at any time in the future. I have found the previous collections to be quite helpful, and have regerted not having a similar volume for the more recent updates. So, I decided to prepare this bibliography of Book of Mormon research updates from the 2000s. I have included the few (6) additional updates from 2010 to the present. I decided I should share this with other interested parties, so here it is; with a notes and clarifications about organization, authorship attribution, etc. I have also made this available as a google doc. I hope you find this resource useful. Enjoy!


I used to read about the old FARMS/Signature Book controversies and wish that I had been old enough (and involved enough) to follow the controversies when they were happening. Recent events, however, have given my “generation” of apologists (if you will) its own controversy to eagerly follow as it unfolds.


Although this issue contains a substantial number of articles/reviews (20), it’s overall number of pages is more comparable to the thin vol. 18/2 than the thick 18/1 and other previous issues. Nonetheless, this issue offers a wide variety of quality reading material for those interested in Mormon Studies. Topics include, automatic writing and the translation of the Book of Mormon, Native American legends and the Book of Mormon, reformed Egyptian, sacred writing on metal plates, Joseph Smith and early Mormon history, theology, the tensions of new religious movements with the mainstream, a scholarly exchange on the Israel’s divine council, the great apostasy, the Book of Abraham, and Mormon Studies itself.


This issue, while old, is still an invaluable resource on Book of Mormon apologetics. As such I have recommended almost every single review from this issue. Each of the reviews is a response to one or more of the essays included in Brent Lee Metcalf’s anthology New Approaches to the Book of Mormon. Although they are all about the Book of Mormon, they still cover all kinds of different aspects, such as the Sermon on the Mount/Temple, Mesoamerica, Christology, demographics, linguistics, text criticisms, Mosiah first theories, the Nephite sacrament, and other details.

The Risen Jesus: The Immediate and Eternal Text

On September 26-27 back in 2008, a conference which aimed to explore 3 Nephi was held at BYU. The proceedings of that conference were recently published as Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, edited by Andrew C. Skinner and Gaye Strathearn. I picked up a copy just the other day, and one thing that pleased me is that it included the panel discussion that took place at the end of the conference. In my experience, these are quite often where some of the best, most candid remarks are made, so it is disappointing to me that all too often these do not get published. So I made that the first thing (and so far, the only thing) I read from the volume. I found some of the remarks enlightening, inspiring, and edifying, and so I thought I would share some of those comments, unadulterated with my commentary. Because comments won’t be included in full, I have added some remarks [in brackets] for clarification. Page numbers mark the end of an excerpt and (obviously) indicate the page(s) that ex…

Critiquing a Critique: Responding to Rod Meldrum's Critique of John Sorenson's Methodology

I posted the following at a blog that had recently done a podcast with Rod Meldrum. Thus far, my comment has been essentially ignored. Now, I have no ax to grind with Meldrum, but I find that his claims typically don't stand up to scrutiny. Here, I dissect the Meldrum's critique of John L. Sorenson's method for doing Book of Mormon geography. When I first heard this critique I thought Meldrum had made an interesting point. When I decided to actually investigate it, I quickly found that Meldrum had played fast and loose with the facts. Remember that this was just a quick comment (long though it is). You can read my more formal critique here, where it is included in my lengthy aside on Book of Mormon geography (you'll have to scroll down a long ways to find it, or use the ctrl+G search function and type in "Rodney").  ==============================================


Overview             Compared to most issues, this issue is rather small. It features only seven reviews/essays. Despite its size, this issue has a lot to offer. Five of the seven articles are recommended, and each was very good. A lot of emphasis seems to be on science this time around, with one review and an essay discussing the relationship of science and Mormonism (well, if you count intelligent design as a science). The others discuss pretty standard topics for the Review, i.e. theology, evangelical anti-Mormonism, apologetics, etc.
Recommended Reading
Daniel C. Peterson, “Editor’sIntorduction – The Witchcraft Paradigm: On Claims to ‘Second Sight’ by PeopleWho Say It Doesn’t Exist,” pg. ix-lxiv: In what is one of my favorite Ed. Intro.’s by Peterson, he offers an “apology (defense) for apologetics,” and also dispels several myths and rumors about FARMS (particularly their peer-review process) that are frequently circulated by anti-Mormon’s and other critics in an effort to dismiss …


            Despite only having 13 essays/reviews (counting the Editor’s Introduction), this issue stretches across more than 500 pages (again, counting the Ed. Intro.). Naturally, that means this volume featured some very long articles, including one that was more than 130 pages!
            Among the contents of this issue one will find topics discussing the Spaulding theory, the Book of Mormon translation manuscripts and eyewitnesses, sectarian anti-Mormon tactics, the Arabian setting for the early part of the Book of Mormon, in-depth analysis of LDS and Christian creation theology, Joseph Smith, psychohistory, positivistic ideology, and Book of Mormon literary forms, comparisons with Mormons and Jews, secular anti-Mormonism, the JST manuscripts, and the Joseph Smith Papyri. Thus, as usual, this issue provides an array of topics, one of which is bound to interest you.