Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some Miscellaneous Thoughts

Wrong to report preliminary finds?

In reaction to my most recent book review published at Interpreter, some are suggesting that Dr. Wade Miller should have gotten the work he is doing with horse bone specimen published in professional journals before he published his book. The insinuation being that it is somehow wrong to report his preliminary finds.

That is, of course, nonsense. Scholars report on their finds in popular outlets all the time before they get peer-reviewed and published. I just recently finished two books by an Egyptologist, published by Oxford University Press, that were highly praised because they frequently and repeatedly draw on yet unfinished, unreported, and un-peer-reviewed archaeological findings. It did so cautiously and with lots of caveats regarding the preliminary nature of the material, just as Dr. Miller was in his book. And, because of doing this, these books were praised for drawing on the most up-to-date data (then) presently available. Every news report on an archaeological dig is also popularizing yet unpublished, unfinished, and un-peer-reviewed findings. And this is not a phenomena limited to archaeology. It happens in science too.

While we certainly must not let ourselves get carried away by preliminary findings, there is also no harm in reporting such findings and being optimistic about the future possibilities, as Dr. Miller was in his book.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Book of Mormon Geography and Joseph Smith’s Backyard

The Book of Mormon critics have made an art of explaining a very big whole by a very small part. The game is to look for some mysterious person or document from which Joseph Smith might have got the few simple and obvious ideas and then cry triumphantly, “At last we have it! Now we know where the Book of Mormon came from!”
—Hugh Nibley

My attention was recently drawn to a comment on a Mormon blog that is currently growing in its popularity. The blog post was on Book of Mormon geography. One comment, by “Brent,” was somewhat interesting to me. He lays out a vague “local” model for Book of Mormon geography, then says: 
So, does this “local” model conform exactly in every detail with Smith’s narrative? Of course not because his narrative is a fictitious blend of the real and the imaginary. But the local model does provide a basic structure upon which Smith’s miraculous fantasy tale can be built.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This is the Place, but This Ain’t the Book

Review of: John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon: Is This the Place? (The Communications Company, 2007).

Most readers of this blog are probably well aware that I am an active and believe Latter-day Saint, I accept that the Book of Mormon is an ancient text, and even agree with Dr. John L. Lund that Mesoamerica is most likely the setting wherein the events in the text took place. So I am not writing a critical review because I have some kind of axe to grind against the Church, or because I think Lund has the wrong place. Neither do I have anything personal against Lund. I have no doubt he is a great teacher and speaker, as his reputation suggests, nor do I question his faithfulness or integrity.