Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Lehi as a doctrinal mentor of Alma-2

In a previous post, I discussed the idea that Abinadi and Alma-1 both influenced Alma-2 concerning his doctrinal teachings.  This makes a lot of sense given the relationship between these three men.

In this post, I'd like to lay out evidence that Alma-2 also studied the teachings of Lehi found on Nephi's small plates.

Perhaps the best example of this is found by comparing Lehi's words to Jacob found in 2 Nephi 2 with Alma-2's teachings found in the second half of Alma 12 and Alma 42.  The concentration of concepts and wording make it clear that Alma was quite familiar with Lehi's teachings. I haven't found any other sections in the Book of Mormon that cluster these phrases to this degree.

Before reviewing the table below, I want to share the verses that I believe make it highly likely that Alma-2 is referencing Lehi's words.  Let's compare Alma 42:16-22--
16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.
17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
19 Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
20 And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.
21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
...with 2 Nephi 2:10-13--
10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement. 
11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
Spend a little time rereading these passages a few times each and notice that the central ideas are very similar and very specific--the idea of affixing a punishment in order to bring about happiness. That is the connection that first caught my attention.  As I studied more, I found numerous additional common themes.  I made the table below, and upon reading Alma 12 a few days later, noticed the obvious similarities in there and added them.  See below for the details.  Far too many similarities to dismiss as coincidence, and yet the wording Lehi chooses in distinct from the wording Alma-2 chooses, even when they are talking about the same topics.



2 Nephi 2Alma 42Alma 12
fall/fallen42, 6, 9, 13, 1422
probationary state/time21424
plan of redemption6 ("redemption")11, 1325, 27, 30, 33
first parents15726
Garden of Eden19221
tree of life15626
plan of mercy/"mercy... of God"121526
men must die/"cut off by the law"56, 727
judgment/justice1013, 14, 2227, 32
make known the commandments/repentance to the children of men8, 2131 (indirectly--reminding his son of the duty to preach repentance)28-29; 32
salvation426
claim on mercy7-82434
plan of happiness/men are that they might have joy258
atonement/intercession1015, 2334 (indirectly)
spiritual death/"eternal death"/"second death"29932
"know good from evil"/5331
temporal law/temporal death5824
frustrating the purpose of the creation/"created for a thing of naught"/the word would have been void/destroy the wisdom of god12526
the fall brings temporal death22 (indirectly stated--if they hadn't partaken they would have remained forever)922-24
judgment after death10 (in the context of verse 8)2727
redemption through Christ261533
men are free to choose/in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures272731
prepare to meet God21 (indirectly--days are lengthened that they might repent)1024
punishment/law/repent/mercy11-13, also 5-816-2232-34

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Study notes (updated): God's covenant with Israel and latter-day events

I created a post about this earlier, but have now extended it to include some chapters in 1st Nephi as well. It's a bit long so I'm just linking the document instead of writing the text in the blog post: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1MmkaLdY0VhPKhlBvQhKEpuQ1amrJTijM

Jewish prayer customs in Alma

The Book of Mormon contains a lot of prayers. Two verses describe the time of prayer.

In Alma 8:22
And it came to pass that Alma ate bread and was filled; and he blessed Amulek and his house, and he gave thanks unto God.
In Alma 34:21
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
We have one example of a prayer after the meal and one admonition to pray three times a day. Both of these verses are in line with Jewish tradition and practice. Jews say grace after meals (https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Blessings/Daily_Blessings/Food_Blessings/Grace_After_Meals/grace_after_meals.html) and they are expected to pray three times daily (https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/682091/jewish/The-Three-Daily-Prayers.htm)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Outsider evidence: Amulek declares himself a Nephite

In Alma 8:20, when Alma first meets Amulek in Ammonihah, he asks him for bread.  Amulek responds with this words: "I am a Nephite." This is a very bizarre response if Nephites lived in isolation, but makes a lot more sense if they lived among other peoples with other religions/cultures.

In other words, this supports the idea that the Nephites were a small group of people living in a bigger culture, not a monothilic culture dominating the area at the time.

For other examples of "Outsider evidence", see this (growing) list.

Outsider Evidence, A(nother growing) List

This page will host another growing list of examples of what I call "outsider evidence".

I believe many faithful and critical minds hold too firmly to the idea that the Book of Mormon lands only contained Nephites and Lamanites.

In my opinion, and certainly from an archaeological/anthropological standpoint, this opinion is very hard to support. It is far more likely that Nephites and Lamanites mingled with the native peoples from the time of their arrival in the Promised Land.

In my opinion, a careful reading of the Book of Mormon offers numerous evidences supporting the idea that Nephites and Lamanites were only a minority of the many, many cultures co-existing in the land at that time.

For example:

Outsider evidence: Sherem has a "perfect knowledge of the language of the people"

In Jacob 7:4, we learn that Sherem (who contends with Jacob in this chapter) has "a perfect knowledge of the language of the people.  This makes no sense in the context of Nephites living in isolation from all other people, but makes a lot of sense if they live among native people who came along with them.  Jacob's first spoken language would certainly have been Hebrew. If Sherem has a language advantage over Jacob as it relates to the people, it makes sense his first language is a New World tongue.

For other examples of "Outsider evidence", see this (growing) list.

Returning a favor to a friend

A verse jumped out at me this morning.  In Alma 15:18, we read that Alma takes his friend Amulek into his own house in Zarahemla after Amulek leaves his house in Ammonihah:
18 Now as I said, Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord.
Remember in Alma 8:21, when the roles were reversed?
20 And the man said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.
21 And it came to pass that the man received him into his house; and the man was called Amulek; and he brought forth bread and meat and set before Alma.
22 And it came to pass that Alma ate bread and was filled; and he blessed Amulek and his house, and he gave thanks unto God.
 I find this touching and a reminder that each of us take turns in mortality serving others and being served by others.

"The Profession of Nehor"

In Alma 15:15, we read about the hard-hearted and stiffnecked people of Ammonihah, with this added detail:
...for they were of the profession of Nehor, and did not believe in the repentance of their sins.
Remember Nehor, back from Alma 1?  In that chapter he is introduced like this:
4 And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.
Like many examples of internal consistency in the Book of Mormon, this is one that is very subtle and draws no attention to itself.

Spacious buildings

We are all familiar with the great and spacious building from Lehi's dream in 1st Nephi 8. Nephi is told the interpretation of it in his vision in 1st Nephi 11:35-36 and 12:18: "the world and the wisdom thereof", "the pride of the world" and "vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men".

What I hadn't noticed before, was that the Book of Mormon contains two other references to spacious buildings outside of Lehi's and Nephi's visions. In Mosiah 11:8

And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings

In Ether 10:5

And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.

It is interesting to note how the description of king Noah, his priests and his people include words like "pride" and "vain", the same words used to describe the symbolism of the great and spacious building which Lehi and Nephi saw. For instance:

"...lifted up in the pride of their hearts" (Mosiah 11:5)
"...deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king" (Mosiah 11:7)

In his abridgment, Mormon probably notes that king Noah represents the essence of the spacious building symbolism. When he writes that king Noah built spacious buildings, my guess is that he does so with Lehi's dream and the associated symbolism in mind. King Noah becomes the constructor of a vain and prideful people, by erecting the same kind of building that Lehi and Nephi saw.

What about Riplakisk in Ether, who also constructed spacious buildings? We don't know much about him because his birth is described in Ether 10:4 and his death in Ether 10:8. But interestingly, what we do know very much resembles the descriptions of king Noah.

  • Noah "did not keep the commandments of God" (Mosiah 11:2) and Riplakish "did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord" (Ether 10:5) 
  • They both had "many wives and concubines" (Mosiah 11:2 and Ether 10:5)
  • They taxed their people with heavy taxes to finance their lifestyles (Mosiah 11:3-4, 8, 13 and Ether 10:5)
  • Noah built himself a throne ornamented with precious things (Mosiah 11:9) and Riplakish "did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne" (Ether 10:6)
It seems that both Mormon, who abridged the king Noah story, and Moroni, who abridged the Riplakish story and was familiar with the king Noah story, made a pun with Lehi's dream and the spacious building symbolism in mind.

Another interesting point: Evidence is pointing towards Joseph Smith dictating the Book of Mormon starting with Mosiah. It would be incredibly smart of him to include these two subtle details from Mosiah and Ether before placing them in the context given by Lehi's dream with the spacious building and symbolism. Of course, I believe it was rather Mormon and Moroni who did this after knowing about Lehi's dream and Joseph Smith was given their words by the gift and power of God.




Wednesday, July 24, 2019

King Mosiah-2 as a seer

King Mosiah was a seer.  We learn this in Mosiah 8 from the first Ammon (not Mosiah's son) who visits the land of Nephi and meets King Limhi:
13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.
14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.
In Mosiah 28:11-17, 20 chapters later, we find out that King Mosiah (near the end of his life) translates the records. A summary of the translation of these records becomes the Book of Ether (compiled by Moroni).  They are referred to several times prior to that, perhaps most notably in Alma 37 (see verse 21 for example).

In fact, an editorial promise to give an account of this record is found in verse 19:
19 And this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account.
Thus, the author of the book needs to remember to include this record in order to fulfill this promise. There are dozens of editorial promises in the Book of Mormon. The author of this book clearly had a lot of time and a lot of notes.

The Math of King Mosiah-2

In Mosiah 6:4, we learn that Mosiah takes over for his father at age 30, about 476 years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem.

Twenty-three chapters later, we find out the Mosiah dies at age 63, about 509 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Simple math, yes, but these are details that need to be kept in mind for several days, along with dozens of other important details. Also remember that the story of Lehi as we have it was not dictated until after Mosiah was completed.  The Book of Mosiah is complicated.

King Mosiah-2 worries about his son as king

The Book of Mosiah is complicated.

In Mosiah 29, King Mosiah-2 argues to the people against having a king.  He gives many reasons.  One of them is that his son Aaron (the man the people want as his successor) might not always be as righteous as he is at the moment
9 And if my son should turn again to his pride and vain things he would recall the things which he had said, and claim his right to the kingdom, which would cause him and also this people to commit much sin.
This is consistent with what we read  earlier in Mosiah about the wickedness of Mosiah's sons, and their recent conversion.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

An editorial promise about Alma's missionary work

The Book of Mosiah is complicated. Several editorial promises can be found within this book.  An editorial promise is when the author promises to give an account at a later time.  There are many examples of these throughout the Book of Mormon. Here is one:

In Mosiah 21:35, Mormon mentions that when king Limhi and his people joined the Nephites in Zarahemla, they wanted to be baptized:

35 They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless they did prolong the time; and an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter.
 This account is found in Mosiah 25:17-18
17 And it came to pass that after Alma had taught the people many things, and had made an end of speaking to them, that king Limhi was desirous that he might be baptized; and all his people were desirous that they might be baptized also.
18 Therefore, Alma did go forth into the water and did baptize them; yea, he did baptize them after the manner he did his brethren in the waters of Mormon; yea, and as many as he did baptize did belong to the church of God; and this because of their belief on the words of Alma.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Study notes: God's covenant with Israel and the latter days


This is a summary of certain passages in the Book of Mormon, talking about the covenant God has made with Israel, how this will be restored in the latter days and the role of the Gentiles. Primarily, this is presented by the Savior himself when he visits the Nephites.

I have always found these chapters a bit difficult to follow, but it was a great help for me to summarize them like I did below. Here we see that there are certain key events that are presented and repeated. In chapter 16, Christ is talking about this subject right after having talked about “his sheep” in chapter 15. After a lot of other events, he returns to this topic in chapter 20. In verse 11 he basically says: “Remember what I told you about Isaiah’s words being fulfilled?” with a clear reference to chapter 16, verse 17. Then he goes on to repeat some of the events described in that chapter.

Then, in chapter 21, he talks about how the coming forth of the Book of Mormon will be a sign that the restoration of Israel is about to happen and repeats all the events discussed in chapter 16. They are color coded for easier identification. They are not necessarily in order (neither here nor in the Book of Mormon) since they are not necessarily discrete events and may overlap or occur on multiple occasions.

When we read these chapters, we note how Old Testament scriptures, in particular Isaiah, is dispersed into the text in these chapters, especially at the end, to demonstrate that this is what Isaiah was really talking about.

Note also how Mormon, who abridged the words of the Savior among the Nephites, thinks this part of his words were important to include and how he repeats several of these key issues in Mormon 5.

3rd Nephi 16
Gentiles will populate the Americas and scatter the remnant of the House of Israel there (v.8)
The fulness of the gospel shall come to the Gentiles (v.6-7)
Still, many Gentiles will sin and reject the gospel (v.10)
God will fulfill his covenant with the House of Israel (v.11)
The gospel will be brought to the House of Israel (from the Gentiles) (v.11)
Israel will be gathered (v.5)
The Gentiles who repent will be numbered among the House of Israel (v.13)
Gentiles who do not repent will be “trodden under foot” by the House of Israel (v.15)
“This people” will have the Americas for an inheritance (v.16)
Isaiah 52:8-10 will be fulfilled (v.17-20)

3rd Nephi 20
Jesus reminds the people what he said in Chapter 16, that Isaiah 52:8-10 will be fulfilled (v.11)
God will fulfill his covenant with the House of Israel (v.12)
The gospel will be brought to the House of Israel (from the Gentiles) (v.13)
Israel will be gathered (v.13)
Gentiles who do not repent will be “trodden down” by the House of Israel (v.16)
“This people” will have the Americas for an inheritance (v.14)
Isaiah 52:8-10 will be fulfilled (v.32-25 paraphrasing Isaiah 52:8-10 again before moving on to quote other Isaiah passages)

3rd Nephi 21
Gentiles will populate the Americas and scatter the remnant of the House of Israel there (v.2, 4)
The fulness of the gospel shall come to the Gentiles (v.6)
Still, many Gentiles will sin and reject the gospel (v.14-21)
God will fulfill his covenant with the House of Israel (v.4, 7)
The gospel will be brought to the House of Israel (from the Gentiles) (v.5, 7)
Israel will be gathered (v.1, 24, 28)
The Gentiles who repent will be numbered among the House of Israel (v.6, 22)
Gentiles who do not repent will be “trodden down” by the House of Israel (v.12)
A remnant of Jacob will have the Americas for an inheritance (v.22,28)
Quoting Isaiah 52:12 (v.29) and Isaiah 54 (Chapter 22)

Mormon 5
Gentiles will populate the Americas and scatter the remnant of the House of Israel there (v.19-20)
God will fulfill his covenant with the House of Israel (v.20)
Gentiles who do not repent will be “trodden under foot” by the House of Israel (v.24)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Intertextual Connection between the words of Alma the Younger and Abinadi--"Discover the abominations"

In two earlier posts, I discussed the influence Abinadi has on Alma-1 and subsequently Alma-2.  Those posts center on the topic of the first resurrection.  I found another example of Alma-2 paraphrasing the words of Abinadi in a letter to his son Helaman, this time on the topic of works of darkness/abominations.

Compare Alma 37:24-25
24 And now, my son, these interpreters were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled, which he spake, saying:
25 I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations; and except they repent I will destroy them from off the face of the earth; and I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations, unto every nation that shall hereafter possess the land.


...with Mosiah 12:8
8 And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations.

Intertextual Connection between the words of Alma the Younger and Abinadi

In an earlier post, I discuss the topic of the first resurrection in the Book of Mormon and how it is only discussed by three men--Abinadi, Alma-1, and Alma-2.

As if to underscore the point, I noticed that Alma-2 paraphrases Abinadi in his discussion of the topic. Compare Alma 40:16
16 And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
and Mosiah 15:21
21 And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called.




Abinadi as Alma-1's doctrinal mentor

I noticed a subtle example of internal consistency today, in the form of doctrinal mentors in the Book of Mormon.

The most compelling examples for me are the ones that draw no attention to themselves.

It is clear from the narrative account that Alma-1 was heavily influenced by the words of Abinadi.  Although he was a wicked priest of King Noah, the words of Abinadi caused him to stand up to the king and eventually flee and live in seclusion for some time, secretly building up a small group of believers.

As I read the very familiar baptismal covenant passage in Mosiah 18:8-10, a few words from verse 9 stood out to me:
...to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life...
I don't know that I've ever noticed that specific mention of the first resurrection.  As it turns out, there are not many mentions of the first resurrection in the Book of Mormon.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the first mention is in the words of Abinadi in Mosiah 15:
21 And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called.
22 And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection; therefore, they are the first resurrection.
Outside of these two chapters, the only other reference to the "first resurrection" that I can find in the entire book is found in Alma 40:15-17.  This is not surprising since we know Alma-2 was heavily influenced by the words of his father.

To summarize, Abinadi influenced Alma-1, who influenced Alma-2.  Those three are the only ones who mention the "first resurrection" in the entire Book of Mormon.

Just one more example of how complicated the Book of Mosiah is.

"Continual Peace"

Here is yet another example of a subtle detail that could easily get mixed up and present a glaring inconsistency in the Book of Mormon:

In Mosiah 1:1 we learn that King Benjamin had "continual peace" for the remainder of his days. He decides to pass the kingship along to his son, which he does, and according to Mosiah 6:3, he lived three more years and then died.

In Mosiah 7:1 we learn that his son, King Mosiah, had "continual peace" for the first three years of his reign.

Each of these verses is referring to the same three years.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Limhi references the words of Abinadi

Prior to reading directly about Abinadi, the reader hears Limhi's summary of his prophesying, Mosiah 7:27. Several chapters later, we find each of these in Abinadi's words.

And because he said unto them that 
(1) Christ was the God, the Father of all things (See Mosiah 15:2-4)
(2) that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God (See Mosiah 13:34 "Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?")
(3) God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth... (See Mosiah 17:8) 

A book without a beginning

The Book of Mosiah is complicated.

In addition to numerous internally consistent references through the Book of Mosiah, there is another feature of the book that makes it unique--it is missing the beginning.

The original first and second chapters were part of the missing 116 manuscript pages.  Rather than re-translating this portion, Joseph Smith was instructed to start where he had left off.  As a result, we don't have many details about majorly important parts of the history of the Nephites, including:


  • The daring escape of the Nephites from the land of their first inheritance and their journey through the wilderness to the Land of Zarahemla. (See Omni 1:12-13).
  • The reign of King Benjamin's father, Mosiah 1--how he became king as a refugee to a foreign nation. (See Omni 1:19)
  • The discovery of a lone Jaredite survivor, Coriantumr, and his short time with the Mulekites. (See Omni 1:21)
  • Gazelem? (See Alma 37:23)


Notice that in every other named book in the Book of Mormon, there is either a header that summarizes the contents of that book or (in the case of the shorter books) a first-person reference made by the author of the book.

Not so with Mosiah.  There is no header, and the first verse of "Chapter 1" begins:
1 And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.
I find this aspect of the Book of Mormon to be curious to the point of incredulity. It forces me to ask a couple questions:

  1. Who writes a book, develops all of these interesting story lines, and then leaves them out? 
  2. If Joseph's motivation in writing the book was fame, why leave such a glaring gap in the text, which by so doing highlights the limits of his divine gift?
And yet, despite the glaring gap in the text, several internally consistent references point back at this missing section, including a reference to a place of resort near Shilom in Mosiah 11:13
...and he caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom, which had been a resort for the children of Nephi at the time they fled out of the land...

Abinadi and the east wind

In Mosiah 7, King Limhi laments the wickedness and bondage of his people.  He recounts some of the words of a slain prophet, including this passage about the east wind:
31 And again he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.
A few chapters later, we get a detailed account of Abinadi, including many of his prophecies.   In Mosiah 12:6, we get confirmation of the passage Limhi previously referred to:
...they shall also be smitten with the east wind;

Limhi's lamentation

King Limhi is the son of the very wicked King Noah.  His people are in bondage, and he is convinced that this has been brought upon them through iniquity.  In Mosiah 7, Limhi laments the wickedness of his people. He cites as an example of their wickedness the murder of a prophet:
26 And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations, and prophesied of many things which are to come, yea, even the coming of Christ.
This prophet of course is Abinadi, who has not yet been mentioned by name (and won't be until Mosiah 11:20).

The Book of Mosiah is complicated.

The Book of Mosiah is complicated.  Though dictated in a single draft, the text shifts back and forth across generations and over several different geographic regions, while maintaining internal consistency throughout.

My appreciation for this aspect of the Book of Mosiah has grown tremendously in the past several years.  I encourage anyone struggling with a testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon to read the Book of Mosiah all the way through a few times within a week and map out the various story lines, and then imagine dictating it in a single draft without any notes.

The (growing) list below is just a sample of dozens of examples of internal consistency found in the Book of Mosiah.  A larger list of examples of internal consistency in the Book of Mormon can be found here.

Limhi rejoices upon learning Zarahemla has not been destroyed

Perhaps you've read the Book of Mosiah at least one time in your life.  Do you recall King Limhi?

When Ammon (the explorer from Zarahemla) first meets the king, the king rejoices to learn that his brethren in the land of Zarahemla are still alive.
Now, I know of a surety that my brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla are yet alive. And now, I will rejoice; and on the morrow I will cause that my people shall rejoice also.
This begs the question...

Why did Limhi believe they were dead?

This question is not immediately answered, but 14 chapters later, we get a more detailed account of the struggles of Limhi. In that account, found in Mosiah 21, we get the answer to our question (an answer which brings up an entirely different mystery):
25 Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness.
26 Nevertheless, they did find a land which had been peopled; yea, a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed; and they, having supposed it to be the land of Zarahemla, returned to the land of Nephi, having arrived in the borders of the land not many days before the coming of Ammon.
The Book of Mosiah is complicated!

The king is outside the city walls

In Mosiah 7, we read of a group of explorers who leave the relative safety of Zarahemla and travel back to the land of Nephi to find out what happened to a group of Nephites who had left 2 generations earlier to seek out the land of their first inheritance.

They are captured and held in prison for 2 days before finally being able to speak with the king, who asks them:

10 And now, I desire to know the cause whereby ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city, when I, myself, was with my guards without the gate?
This is King Limhi, the grandson of the first king of this group. Why was he outside the city walls with his guards?

We find out the answer to this question in Mosiah 21:19

19 And the king himself did not trust his person without the walls of the city, unless he took his guards with him, fearing that he might by some means fall into the hands of the Lamanites.
In chapter 21, we get much more detail about the pressures king Limhi and his people were under, as tension with the Lamanites had escalated into war and bondage.

In a single read-through, a detail like this would almost certainly go unnoticed.  And yet the text was dictated in a single draft without reference to any written notes.

The Book of Mosiah is complicated! 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Intertextual Connection between the words of Jesus Christ and the writings of Moroni

In Moroni 7:34, Moroni writes:
34 And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.
This is a very close paraphrasing of 3 Nephi 27:20, in which Christ says the following:
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Amulek's reference to unclean things

In Alma 11:37, Amulek states:
...and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven.
 This is a recurrent theme in the Book of Mormon. For instance, Nephi is saying the same thing to his brothers in 1st Nephi 15:34 and Jesus is saying it to his disciples in 3rd Nephi 27:19. But at this point in the book (Alma 11), there has not been a clear example of God saying this. Also, this phrase is not found anywhere in the Old Testament. So when Amulek is saying "he [God] hath said", what is he referring to? Fortunately, we have search functions which enable us to find answers to these questions much more easily than before.

In the Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:55, we read that "the Lord spake to Adam" and in 6:57, he says that
all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there. 
So it seems that the words which the Lord spoke to Adam according to the pearl of Great Price, which have been lost from our current version of the Old Testament, were found on the brass plates.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The coherence of Moroni 7

Last time I read Moroni 7 was a real eye-opener for me. This is Moroni writing down what he heard his father, Mormon, preach. I used to think of this sermon as twofold: The first part talking about the light of Christ and distinguishing good from evil, the second part talking about faith, hope and charity. I didn't really think there was a connection between the two. But then I noticed the transitional verses and a curious expression there repeated several times (in bold):
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.
20 And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?
21 And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing.
I realized that Mormon's entire sermon in Moroni 7 is describing a process:
  1. Recognize what is good
  2. Lay hold upon it through faith, hope and charity
What is good? Whatever persuades to believe in Christ (v.16). Why does faith, hope and charity help us lay hold upon it? Because faith is centered in Christ (v.25), our hope is in Christ (v.41) and charity is the pure love of Christ (v.47). This chapter made so much more sense after this realization and has caused me to reflect on how I can use faith, hope and charity to "lay hold upon every good thing".

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A serialized response to John Hamer - Part 7 (last remarks)

I have commented on all of Hamer's arguments up until part 6 of this serialized response. The rest of John Hamer’s presentation follows a different structure, so I will just make some general remarks as a response to the rest of the interview. He is telling about the oral story-telling tradition from Joseph Smith’s time. That’s fair enough, but it adds to the impression that Hamer thinks the Book of Mormon is not much more than just a collection of stories and sermons. He does not seem to be aware of its complexity, which in part has been demonstrated in this response.

Hamer goes on to argue that the timeframe for the Book of Mormon was relatively short but completely manageable. The math he does is not taking into account historical records with information about the days Joseph Smith was busy with other things, traveling, etc. and could not have worked with the translation. Other much more thorough calculations have been done in the past, taking these things into account. Their conclusion is that Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon in about 65 working days, spending approximately 6 hours per day. The average time spent each day is difficult to assess, but the approximate number of days spent can be deduced from historical records. This might not be a big deal as both critics and believers obviously think that there was sufficient time to dictate and write the whole Book of Mormon in that timeframe. But there is also little doubt that there was not much time for additional research in that time period. When Joseph and Oliver were occupied with the translation in the time period from April 7th to Mid-June, it consisted of dictating and writing essentially in one draft. This is confirmed by eye-witness accounts and the Book of Mormon manuscript.

Hamer also shows a slide with a quote from Lucy Mack Smith’s book. This gets misused a lot by critics in general. They talk, as does Hamer, about his “story-telling abilities”. Let’s look at this portion of the manuscript of Lucy’s book, available at josephsmithpapers.org:
From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time and every evening we gathered our children togather And gave our our time up to the discussion of those things which he imparted <​un​> to us I think that <​we​> presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the Earth all seated round in a circle father Mother sons and Daughters listening in breathless anxiety to the <​religious​> teachings of a boy 16 <​19​> yars of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life for Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had but much more given to reflection and deep study We were convinced that God was about to bring to light something that we might stay our minds upon some thing that we could get a more definite idea of than anything which had been taught us heretofore and we rejoiced in it with exceeding great joy Uni the sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house no jar nor discord disturbed our peace and tranquility reigned in our midst In the course of our evening conversations Joseph would give us some of the most ammusing recitals which could be immagined he would de[s]cribe the ancient inhabitants of this continent their dress thier maner of traveling the animals which they rode The cities that were built by them the structure of their buildings with every particular of their mode of warfare their religious worship as particularly as though he had Spent his life with them it will be recollected by the reader that all that I mentioned and much more took place within the compass of one short year»

The bold text is the part presented by Hamer.

I don’t know of any other sources which describe Joseph Smith’s story telling skills.  But I would expect that if he was known as a great story-teller from a young age, there would be sources confirming that. Even Lucy’s book is not really saying anything about stories. It tells about “amusing recitals”. They involve descriptions of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent which may or may not involve stories.

But looking at the quoted paragraph, we see that there is a part in the middle (italics added) which is not quoted, which says that Joseph never had read the Bible through and was less inclined to reading than any of his siblings. Doesn’t that contradict the previous statements in the Hamer interview where Joseph Smith has “better than average, if not gifted knowledge of the Bible”? It’s interesting to see how sources are used: A paragraph in Lucy’s book is quoted in part and stretched to fit their narrative. But it skips the middle part which does not fit the narrative. This is intellectual dishonesty.

Conclusion:
In this interview by John Dehlin, John Hamer presents a lot of arguments to prove his theory that the Book of Mormon is solely the work of Joseph Smith. Most of the arguments are weak, some contradictory, some just pointless and many are plain false as demonstrated in this serialized response. The false arguments backfire since they show e.g. that the Book of Mormon demonstrates much knowledge of ancient Jewish practice, it contains language that does not seem to come from Joseph Smith and it is more complex than it first appears. When the arguments to support the theory that the Book of Mormon is an invention by Joseph Smith fall apart, the theory falls apart too. Critics may need to go back to conspiracy theories while believers can be confident in their beliefs that Joseph Smith and the witnesses told the truth and that the Book of Mormon is an authentic, ancient record translated by the gift and power of God.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A serialized response to John Hamer - Part 6

Claim: "BoM – Not an isolated production"

Argument 1: "Joseph Smith displayed his capacity to compose text throughout his career, beginning with dictating revelations that ultimately became the D&C"

This argument is another contradiction. Was he “composing text” or “dictating revelations”? Those are two very different things. If he dictated revelations that became the D&C, then it means that he was able to receive the Book of Mormon text through revelation as well. If D&C was just him composing text, it still doesn’t explain the Book of Mormon very well because it’s a very different kind of text. More about that here: https://www.reddit.com/r/latterdaysaints/comments/bgv5ob/there_is_a_huge_literary_difference_between_the/

Argument 2: "After the BoM was published, he dictated the JST, later the BoA, and was dictating his own life’s history at the time of his death"

None of those come anywhere near the complexity of the Book of Mormon. If this is all Joseph Smith’s work, why start with the Magnum Opus? Highly unusual.

Claim: "Book of Mormon filled with Joseph Smithisms"

Argument 1: "The text includes Joseph Smith Sr’s vision (Lehi’s dream in 1st Nephi 8)"

Joseph Smith Sr’s vision is found in Lucy Mack Smith’s biography long after the Book of Mormon was written. There is no known source of Joseph Sr’s vision from before the Book of Mormon. So this seems rather a case of Lucy’s recollection of her husband’s dream decades earlier being filled with Book of Mormonism. I find that far more likely than Joseph Smith incorporating his father’s dream in the Book of Mormon. Surely, he must have known that would make his family members suspicious.

Argument 2: "The text predicts a choice seer: Joseph son of Joseph (2nd Nephi 3)"

This is useless to debate. Those who have already made up their minds that Joseph Smith invented the Book of Mormon will say this is him dictating a prophecy about himself. Those who believe in the ancient origin of the Book of Mormon believe that Joseph in Egypt actually prophesied about a future Joseph.

Argument 3: "The text predicts the Martin Harris and Charles Anthon story (2nd Nephi 27:6-12)"

Same as the previous section. Except this is also found in Isaiah 29 which was written way before the Harris-Anthon event.

Isaiah 29:11-12: “And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.“

Does Isaiah also contain Joseph Smithisms?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Intertextual Connections between Helaman 5 and Alma 11 -- Nephi and Lehi recall their father Helaman quoting Amulek.

Nephi and Lehi recall the words of their father Helaman, who summarized words from Amulek in Helaman 5:10 this:
10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.

(Note that Helaman quotes the words, but also the setting--Amulek is speaking to Zeezrom in city of Ammonihah.)

We can find the relevant passage (or Mormon's version of these words) in Alma 11:36-37:
36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

Intertextual Connections between Helaman 5 and Mosiah 4 -- Nephi and Lehi recall their father Helaman quoting King Benjamin.

In Helaman 5:9, Nephi and Lehi recall the words of their father Helaman, who invited them to remember the words of King Benjamin:

9 O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.

These words can be found in Mosiah 4:7-8, about 95 chapters earlier in the text:
7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.
8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.

The author of the Book of Mormon must have had a lot of notes and a lot of time. Joseph Smith had neither.

The author of the text needed to keep track of many details in order to produce a text this complex, consistent, and rich. These details fall into several categories.

Intertextual Connections

Dozens of examples of intertextual connections can be found in the Book of Mormon, when a writer or speaker refers to the words of another writer or speaker, often without directly referencing the original source. A (growing) list can be found here.

Geography

The land of Nephi, first occupied by the Nephites and later occupied by the Lamanites, is higher in elevation than the land of Zarahemla which is to the north and separated by a wilderness.  This is very consistently described through the Book of Mormon.

Movements


Multiple interwoven storylines

The Book of Mosiah, for example, is complicated.

Editorial Promises

The appendix at the bottom of this BOMC article offers a long list of editorial promises embedded within the text.  Many of these are details promised in the ancient section headers which are fulfilled within that same section.  This is to be expected, and so I won't focus too much on these.  Other editorial promises (which I find much more compelling) are offered up in the text itself and then satisfied many pages later.

Each of these elements adds to a long list of details which the author of the text must have kept track of.  Any theory of origin which limits the production of the text to Joseph Smith dictating with his face buried in a hat should account for the presence of these details, whether by divine or natural means.

Internal Consistency

A serialized response to John Hamer - Part 5


Critical claim: Joseph Smith is "dumb when only needed to be apologetically"

Argument 1: "And yet somehow the same Joseph Smith at age 24 is imagined to be illiterate and unable to compose stories orally"

Straw-man again. He is not illiterate, but he is poorly educated as were most farmers in 19th century America compared with today. He can read of course, but we have no personal writings from Joseph Smith prior to the age of 26. His personal writings are not exactly literal masterpieces and they are very different from the Book of Mormon language. This is demonstrated in the links below (one of them already shared in part 3):




I don’t know of anyone who says he was unable to compose stories orally. But there is a huge difference between just a story and the Book of Mormon, as demonstrated in part 2b of my response.

Argument 2: "In fact, his background was neither especially educated and uneducated – he could read, he’d studied the Bible, he’d been tutored by Hyrum, etc."

True. For his time and social class he seems to have been pretty average. He could read and he had studied the Bible. According to his mom, he was the least inclined to reading among the siblings and had never read the Bible from cover to cover at age 18. But he could read. I don’t know of anyone who has claimed otherwise.

But I think dictating the Book of Mormon takes a lot more than being able to read and be tutored by another farmer. I don’t think Hyrum or his parents had the education or knowledge to help him with Arabian geography, Hebraisms, ancient Jewish customs, etc.

Hamer is also contradicting himself at this point. He’s going quite far in the first claim (see part 1a of my response) saying that the Book of Mormon knows almost nothing about the Bible. But when he’s making the case of Joseph Smith being smarter than people tend to think, the argument is that he has “better than average, if not gifted knowledge of the Bible” (John Dehlin’s words in the interview, but Hamer agrees). If Joseph Smith had such good knowledge of the Bible, then what is the point of the first claim? Perhaps Joseph Smith is dumb when only needed to be, critically?

Mormon's references to Alma 5

Alma 6 is a short transitional chapter between sermons in Alma 5 and 7, where Mormon moves from quoting Alma's words on the plates of Ne...