Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Quick Thought On Nephi's Crops

Many of us are familiar with 1 Nephi 18:24-25:
And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance. And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.
At first, it might seem as though Nephi is telling us this as part of the story, i.e. describing what they found upon arriving in the promised land. But remember, these small plates on which he is writing were reserved for "the things of God ... that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham ... Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men" (1 Nephi 6:3-6).

So, what is the purpose of him taking up space on the plates to tell us these things? He says his intent is to "persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham," so how does telling us that he planted seeds which "did grow exceedingly" accomplish that?

It fits in perfectly if he's talking to Mesoamericans, because they believed their nature gods were necessary for making crops grow and bringing useful things from the earth. So, Nephi tells them that it is because of his God, the God of Abraham, that he was "blessed in abundance."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Parallel Books of Nephi

Andrew Norman shared with me a very interesting observation he made, and he has granted me permission to post his thoughts here on my blog, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.  

The Parallel Books of Nephi
By Andrew Norman

What's a bifid structure?
In order to understand a bifid structure you have to understand parallelisms in Hebrew.
Hebrew will use two statements in order to convey more meaning or a different meaning than what each statement alone would mean.
Consider the following:
Mosiah 3:25-26
therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls. 
Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God
Some Hebrew prophets would take this even further by writing their book and then halfway though writing a second half that mirrors ideas and concepts in the first half.
Consider the Book of Ezekiel
Chapters 1-23
The Vengeance of the Lord against his People 
The name of Ezekiel 1:3 
His commission 3:25-27 
Devine glory forsakes the temple 8-11
Chapters 24-48
The vindication of the Lord through his People 
The name of Ezekiel 24:24 
His commission 33:1-9 
Release from Dumbness 
Divine glory returns to sanctify the land 43:1-5
(RK Harrison Introduction to the Old Testament 848-49)
Here is an example of why Nephi would use this style of writing. Compare 1 Nephi 21 with 2 Nephi 30.
In 1 Nephi 21, Nephi is quoting Isaiah who uses powerful imagery of people imprisoned in the dark and then being liberated. By writing a parallel chapter in 2 Nephi 30, he's able to build off Isaiah's imagery when describing the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and it's helping the Gentiles and House of Israel being restored.
A final note before getting started is that Nephi does a great job using mile markers of two verses that use almost identical words or themes to help you keep pace between the two books.
Below is the pairing of theme in First Nephi (1N) coupled with the matching theme in Second Nephi (2N).
In some cases I use the notation with verses using a .5 e.g. 1N1:19.5 which is used to indicate that it's in the second half of the verse.
Nephi's Bifid Structure:
1N1:1 Nephi highly favored of the Lord, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God
2N1:1 Rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.

1N1:6-18 Lehi’s Vision and Destruction of Jerusalem
2N1:4 Lehi’s Vision of destruction of Jerusalem

1N1:19 Testified of Wickedness and Abominations (repent)
2N1:13-32 Tells sons to Repent

1N1:19.5 Expounded of the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
2N2 Explanation of the need for Christ

1N2:1 Lehi commanded to depart
2N3 Joseph taken to Egypt and blessed by Lord

1N2:16, Nephi Prays and heart softened
2N12:12 Lehi spoken according to the feelings of his heart and spirit of the Lord

1N2:18.5-20 Brothers anger Nephi, Prays and is given blessings of the lord
2N4:13-35 Brother angry at Nephi, psalm of Nephi

1N2:21-24 Brothers will be cut off for not keeping commandments
2N5:6 Nephites leave and take all religious artifacts

1N3 Goes to get Brass Plates & Sword of Laban
2N5:10, 14 Teaches from Law of Moses from Brass plates and makes Swords from Sword of Laban
1N6 Describes whats on his plates
2N5:30 Makes new plates

1N7:13-15 Jerusalem will be destroyed and why
2N6:1-15 Jacob tells of Jewish history and Babylonian exile.

1N7:16-18 Nephi bound and released
2N6:16 Lawful Captive delivered

1N8 Lehi’s dream
2N7:10-11 Walk in darkness (because of pride)
2N8 Isaiah talking about leaving sins behind and turning to God and being clothed in glory and enthroned

1N9:3 Small plates for the ministering unto the people
2N9:1 Jacobs speech to the Nephites

1N10:3 Jews taken captive and brought back
4 Jesus
7-10 John the Baptist and Baptism
11 Resurrection and purpose of Gentiles (12 Olive Tree Branches)
13 scattering
14 Gathering of Israel/ Grafting
2N9:2 Jews restored
5 Jesus
23 Baptism
10:3 Crucifixion
8 Gentiles gathered and counted with House of Israel

1N10:17 Nephi desires to see
11:2 Nephi Sees

I went in depth on comparing 1N11 with 2N12 because the number of parallels was so striking.
1N 11
  • (a) 1n11:1 High Mountain
  • (b)Tree of Life (Asherah found in Ephriamite temples) is love of Christ (could imply an equivalence of the temple with the love of Christ)
  • (c) 24 People worship of Christ
  • (d) 25 Iron Rod
  • (e) 26 Condescension of God
  • 27 Bapt by John
  • (f) 28 Ministers to people
  • (g) and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.
  • Twelve Followers
  • Angels administering to men
  • (h) People afflicted with Devils and disease being healed by Christ
  • 32: Christ judged by man
  • 33 Crucified (could this be because you sacrifice humans to idols?)
  • 34: Fight against the apostles
  • (i) 35: Large and Spacious building Wisdom
  • (i) 36:  And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
2N 12
  • 2N12:2 (a)High Mountain
  • (b)Lord’s House
  • (c) 3:And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…
  • (d) and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law
Law = Scriptures
  • (e) and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem

John 1:1 … and the word was God (The implication here is that the scriptures from Zion/America and that Christ is from Jerusalem
  • (f) 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people and [Swords to plowshares or peace]
  •  (g) 5 O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways
  • (h) 6:Turning to false gods
  • 7-8:Idolitry
  • (i) 9-22 Vanity-Humbling by Lord
1N12:2 Wars and slaughter
2N3&4 War torn and remnants left behind

1N12:3 Numerous Cities
2N15:8 Wo to join house to house (huge cities)

1N12:5 Destruction of the land
2N5 Destruction of Vineyard but vs 24 and 25 mention destruction of the people
1N12:10 The twelve are cleansed through Christ and sent out
2N16 Isaiah ritually cleansed and sent out

1N12:11-12 The four generations after Christ and then destructions
2N7 Ahaz is told his kingdom would be safe but destruction would come (see vv 18-25) which was four kings from sign of the virgin birth

1N12:19 Nephites destroyed by not relying on Lord
2N18 Rely on the Lord to be safe. Ephraim wiped out.

1N13 Start of the Gentiles Kingdoms and church
2N9:11-12 Lord raises up Syria and Philistines ready to devour Israel

1N13 Gentiles to new world, scatter the Lamanites
2N10 Assyrian Conquests

1N13:12-36 Gentiles Humble Themselves, Mercy to Gentiles, BoM with Bible
2N11 Sprig of Jesse, peace, Righteous Ruler

1N13:33-37, Zion Blessed
2N12 Song of the return to Zion

1N14:3 Pit filled with those that dug it
2N14:15 Lucifer put in the pit

1N14:1-2 Gentiles numbered with House of Israel, blessed in promised land forever, no more to be confounded
2N13:3 Sanctified and Mighty called out before destruction of Babylon.

1N14:16 Wars and Rumors of Wars
2N14:29 More war with Palestine

1N15:2 Brothers can’t understand Lehi’s revelations
2N25:1 Nephi’s people can’t understand Isaiah

1N15:12 Lehi compared Israel to Olive tree by Spirt of the Lord
2N25:11 Nephi: And now I speak because of the Spirit which is in me

1N15:12 House of Israel Restored by Gentiles, Wicked rejected (VV 7 olive tree branch)
2N25:12 And notwithstanding they have been carried away they shall return again, and possess the land of Jerusalem; wherefore, they shall be restored again to the land of their inheritance.

1N15:13 Lehites dwindle in unbelief
2N25:12.5 Reject Christ because of hard hearts

1N15:13.5 -20 Lehites receive gospel from Gentiles and Jews restored
2N25: 17 And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.
& 2N25: 18 Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah
Note: I cant find parallels in the text in order that allows the following two examples in 1Nephi so I paired them with what I could find that seemed logical and was before the mention of Moses and the serpents since that was a direct mile marker for me:
1N16 Travel through wilderness and call to build boat
2N25:9 God warns before destruction

1N17:23-40 Recalls Gods power with Exodus
2N25:10-19 Exiled, Christ, Scatter Restored

1N17:41 Moses and Serpents
2N25:20 Moses and Serpents

1N17: 45 Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder
2N25: 28 And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffnecked people; wherefore, I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

1N17:  55 And now, they said: We know of a surety that the Lord is with thee, for we know that it is the power of the Lord that has shaken us. And they fell down before me, and were about to worship me, but I would not suffer them…
2N25:29.5 wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

1N17:55.5 and honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee.
2N25: 30 And, inasmuch as it shall be expedient, ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses.

1N17:42 And they did harden their hearts from time to time, and they did revile against Moses, and also against God; nevertheless, ye know that they were led forth by his matchless power into the land of promise.
1N25:24-26 Moses points us to Christ who gives us a remission of our sins.

1N18:11 Nephi Bound
2N26:10 Destruction of Nephites by brothers

1N18:16 Nephi prays and is released
2N26:15 Prayers of the faithful are heard

1N18:23-1N:19 Land in promised land and makes plates
2N26:16,17 Restauration to Lamanites, Sealed book

1N19 Nephi commanded to build a book and put more important doctrine in it
2N27 Coming forth of the Book of Mormon and sealed portion

1N20 Apostasy
2N28 Conditions of churches in apostasy

1N21 Light to gentiles and House of Israel
2N30 Gentiles converted and counted with House of Israel

1N22:2 Manifest by Spirit
2N31 How to get Holy Ghost

1N22:29 for I durst not speak further
2N32:7 the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance

1N22:30-31 I would that ye should consider that the things which have been written upon the plates of brass are true; and they testify that a man must be obedient to the commandments of God.
2N33:11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words

Monday, October 17, 2016

Question For Jeremy Runnells (CES Letter)

Hi Jeremy,

     A little over a year ago, I confronted you about a weakness in your Book of Mormon Geography section, and instead of rebutting my argument, you told me you would remove the Book of Mormon Geography section from your upcoming version of the CES Letter.

     I was impressed. I even thanked you for your integrity in admitting how weak the section is:

     I'm surprised you haven't removed it yet. I'm assuming that removing it would not be a difficult process. So let's talk about it.

     I can understand how you might want to wait and post lots of updates at once. However, your Geography section actually misleads the reader regarding the strength of the evidence. It does not admit to the reader how weak you know the evidence to be. Instead, you ask with apparent incredulity, "This is all just a coincidence?"

     Weak evidence is not itself misleading. What is misleading is writing a letter which you say is a list of your honest concerns, when in reality one or more of the items listed are things which you know to be weak but are choosing to prop up to make the reader think they are strong.

     I suspect if the tables were turned and I told you that I thought chiasmus or some other argument was "weak evidence," yet I touted it on my blog and asked incredulously how it could just be a coincidence, you would probably call that dishonest. But I don't think you are dishonest. I think that, like Prophets, you are only human. And as someone interested in apologetics, I give you the same benefit of the doubt that I would give them.

     Nevertheless, my heart goes out to people who have been influenced by your geography section, including these commenters:

     So, for the sake of anyone who might be misled by your argument, I'm calling you out. It's nothing personal. Please either remove the section, or defend the section. Are you willing to do one of those two things?

     If you choose to defend it, please explain why there are much better Book of Mormon geographic name matches in the Median area, which is where some of the Lost Tribes of Israel, who shared Lehi's language (and are thus a good exhilic analogy for the Nephites), were taken to (2 Kings 17:6).

Your Matches:

Median Matches:

     I actually could have included more names, but I didn't want to offer low hanging fruit. For instance, Angola = Angulesh; Cumeni = Kamani; Gid = Gidesk; Hermounts = Hirmand; Minon = Mehnan; Morianton = Marian, etc. My search results are by no means exhaustive. 

     The Median names are not even rare. Many are quite common throughout the area, which is especially interesting because when it comes to the Median language, Harvard University tells us that many forms "are found only in personal or geographical names ... and some are typically from the religious vocabulary" (note also how the names "could in principle also be influenced by Avestan," which some might see as linking the Lost Tribes taken to Media with the Biblical Wise Men from the East).  

     If we look at the word "Cumorah," for instance, which you highlight in your section, we find plenty of Median matches. As you know, the "C" in "Cumorah" is pronounced with a "K" sound.

Kamareh District (Markazi),

Kamareh (Markazi),

Komor (Mazandaran Province),

Kamaraj (Fars),

Kamareh-ye Hashem Beg (Lorestan),

Kamareh-ye Sofla (Kermanshah),

Kamareh (Kermanshah),

Kamareh-ye Gharbi (Kermanshah Province),

Kamareh-ye Olya (Kermanshah Province),

Kamareh (Kurdistan),

Kamareh (Lorestan),

Kamareh-ye Bala (Lorestan),

Kamareh-ye Heshmatabad (Lorestan),

Cheshmeh Kamareh (Lorestan),

Zir Kamareh (Lorestan),

Sar Kamareh (Lorestan),

Siah Kamareh Zali (Lorestan),

Sefid Kamareh (Kurdistan Province),

Kamareh-ye Bala (Lorestan),

Var Kamareh (Ilam Province)

     Moreover, a cursory analysis indicates that other regions of the world which have uncommon numbers of Book of Mormon name matches are also linked to groups which claim to have descended from the Ten Lost Tribes.

     Of course, some of the names are Jaredite names, but they were first rendered into the language of the Gold Plates before Joseph Smith rendered them into English. The Jaredite language was special, because it had not been confounded, so we don't know how well the original sounds were rendered on the Gold Plates. The names might not even have been rendered by sound, but by meaning. And the names passed through both King Mosiah and Moroni before arriving at Joseph Smith. So, when Joseph Smith translated the story of the Jaredites, it was written in Nephite language.

     I know you are a busy man, but I hope to hear back from you.



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Don't Be Overwhelmed By "Big List" Arguments

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things."
2 Nephi 2:11

"Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he 
was enticed by the one or the other."
2 Nephi 2:16

     So, we find ourselves on a spinning rock, racing through space around a giant, exploding ball of gas. And we try to figure out the meaning of it all. We debate, we philosophize, we observe, we hypothesize.

     Some of us believe that being on earth is part of a plan. We believe the earth was prepared for us to live on, and that we chose to come here. We believe that we came here to have experiences, some of which would be difficult, and also to make choices... some of which would likewise be difficult. And we believe that in order to truly make choices for ourselves, and to have an opportunity to choose the right, we need to be enticed to do things which are wrong and which we would not otherwise do.

     Fortunately, God entices us to have faith, hope, and charity. The opposition however entices us to doubt, to fear, and to look at other people as either objects to be used or as creatures of no importance, instead of looking at others with charity. 

     Sometimes opposition comes in the form of appetites. Sometimes it comes in the form of pride. Sometimes it comes in the form of intellectual puzzlement. 

     All of this opposition is to be expected. As a matter of doctrine. 

     Unfortunately, some people fall into the trap of feeling overwhelmed in the face of large aggregate opposition. And, once overwhelmed, people can lose sight of the divine concepts of faith, hope and charity. For instance, the fact that there is so much suffering in the world might cause some people to struggle with hope (see this post on the problem of evil). Or, the prevalence of loose moral standards in the world can cause confusion about how God wants us to view each other. 

     Of particular interest to this post however is the fact that the large aggregate number of "big list" concerns, or lengthy compiled lists of concerns regarding Church leaders and doctrines, can seem overwhelming, even when each individual concern has plausible answers which fit within a consistent paradigm. 

     The fallacy which makes such big lists seem overwhelming comes in not recognizing that the gospel requires opposition, and therefore the sheer number of arguments which critics have come up with neither proves nor disproves anything. 

     Here the critic may cry foul, claiming that I am dismissing the strength of the individual arguments on their lists. But clearly I am not doing that. Each argument should be taken on it's own merits, and their arguments usually do involve some inductive evidence, which they are welcome to try to connect to build a case, but their interpretation of that evidence usually relies on assumptions which are deductive in nature. In other words, the inductive evidence they present does not clearly point where they want it, so they typically make deductive assumptions. Keep in mind that the plausible answers put forth by apologists need not be proven in order to effectively counter critical deductive arguments (see the Apologetic Proof Paradox). 

     The fallacy typically manifests when a critic realizes a given argument on a big list is not as strong as they had thought, and then resorts to pointing out how big the aggregation of all critical arguments against the Church is, trying to use the number of arguments as a reason for invoking Occam's Razor, while supposing that if the Church were true then it wouldn't be possible for so many critical arguments to exist. Again, the fallacy is in not realizing that the existence of such opposition is expected and even required in the very gospel paradigm which they suppose the existence of the aggregation disproves.

     What this means is that God intentionally allowed history to unfold in such a way that enough uncertainty and confusion would exist to allow the adversary to formulate a wide variety of clever arguments against the Church. Were it not so, where would the opposition be? 

     The doctrine of opposition in all things is not an ad-hoc formulation or in any way spurious. It is integral to the plan of salvation and runs throughout all of scripture, from Lehi's dream to Joseph Smith in the Liberty Jail; from Adam exiting the Garden of Eden, to Pharisees contending with Jesus himself, and ultimately Christ's very atonement, crucifixion and overcoming of all things. 

     Pointing to the amount of opposition does not constitute a viable argument. Yet critics resort to this quite often.