Friday, April 5, 2013

REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 22, ISS. 1 (2010)


Overview

            Like other more recent issues, this issue is rather thin compared to issues from the last decade. The highlight of this issue is the lengthy review of Rod Meldrum’s DNA argument, which seemed to be the top priority of FARMS Review in 2010. In addition to dealing with DNA and the Book of Mormon, topics covered in this Review include Book of Mormon apologetics, literary approaches to the Book of Mormon, the Sermon on the Mount as a Temple text, grace, and plagiarism.


Recommended Reading:

            Gregory L. Smith, “Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt: Rod Meldrum and Book of Mormon DNA,” a review of Rod L. Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA (Honeoye Falls, NY: Digital Legend Press, 2009), pg. 17-161:  This review is long and tedious, and for many, it may not be very interesting or worthwhile, since it is not very apologetic (though some of the info here is useful on the DNA/Book of Mormon issue in general). This review is, nonetheless, very important. Meldrum is a faithful Latter-day Saint, who believes he has found Lehi’s genetic signature. However, as Smith demonstrates, he has used very bad junk science to reach that conclusion, and has also co-opted the scriptures and the prophets for his polemical purposes, claimed near revelatory status for his theory, and questioned the motives of those who disagree with him. Since Meldrum’s claims have gained some traction (being called a “movement” among some), it is important that he be responded too. I have expressed elsewhere the need for our apologetic arguments to rest on a sure foundation, and that is why I feel that this is a must read review for anyone interested in the claims made by Meldrum. For clarification, I am not saying that Meldrum is wrong. I am saying that (a) I disagree with him and agree more with Smith’s assessment, and (b) if he really wants to make his case, he (and the zealous supporters of his cause) needs to change his rhetoric and tone, fairly and accurately represent the science, and properly engage the arguments made against his claims (rather than label and smear those who disagree with him in order to poison the well). 

            Robert Boylan, “On Not Understanding the Book of Mormon,” a review of Ross Anderson, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Quick Christian Guide to the Mormon Holy Book (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), pg. 181-189: There are actually two reviews of Anderson’s book in this issue, both take different approaches, and both are worthwhile. I chose to recommend this one because Boylan incorporates a useful response to Dan Vogal’s five questions regarding the Arabian desert/1 Nephi correlations.

            Ugo A. Perego, “The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint,” pg. 191-227: Perego, a geneticist who has done research specifically on Native American populations, provides an update on the current state of Native American mtDNA studies, and explains why such studies neither prove, nor disprove the Book of Mormon.

            Steven L. Olsen, “Prospering in the Land of Promise,”pg. 229-245: This article outlines 9 aspects of “prospering” as identified by Nephi and goes through how they factor into the narrative of the Book of Mormon. Olsen is brief and quickly moves from one point to the next, rarely fully developing each theme; but his notes are full of scripture references meant to serve as examples. As such, this paper could be a useful study guide for personal (or even class) Book of Mormon study. If you feel that your study of the Book of Mormon is getting a bit mundane, I would highly recommend trying the approach laid out by Olsen. Sometimes, a new approach is all we need to make the narrative seem fresh and meaningful again.

            John Gee, “The Grace of Christ,” pg. 247-259: Gee makes note of the broad range of meaning that the Greek term charis, commonly translated as “grace,” invoked in antiquity, and points out that this richness the term once held is decidedly absent from modern discussion and debate over “grace.” He then notes how Christ and the Gospel writers used the term, as well as how it is used in the Book of Mormon, stressing the importance of seeking the “grace of Christ” rather than the grace of Protestantism.

            John A. Tvedtnes, “Was Joseph Smith Guilty of Plagiarism?” pg. 261-275: Tvedtnes addresses the issue of alleged “plagiarisms” in the Book of Mormon, pointing out that Bible believing critics like the Tanners are guilty of a double standard.

Final Thoughts

            Though I admit I am partial to the longer issues, which seemed to have so much more to offer, this issue is still a solid contribution to the Mormon studies world. Smith’s review of Meldrum is a must read for those curious about his (Meldrum’s) DNA argument, and Perego’s article is an important update and a must read for anyone interested in the debate over DNA and the Book of Mormon. The other articles are also interesting and worth reading if you have an interest in their respective topics.

Rating: 3/5

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