February is black history month. Many white members of The Church will say “who cares?” or “good for them!” or even “aren’t they over that yet?” and move on about their daily tasks. That’s unwise. With the presidential election in full swing, our faith and our history of race relations has come under the spotlight of public scrutiny and the intensity will continue to grow. As that happens, I am hopeful that we as members are educated to move the discussion forward instead of saying things that are harmful to the Church and hurtful to many of our members. [Read more…] about Three Mormon Myths About Blacks and the Priesthood
The great German literary demigod Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once remarked: “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” My reading of Bethany Blankley’s recent Huffington Post article has confirmed Goethe’s fear as being my own. In the doleful cacophony that sounds forth from the ranks of fundamentalist Evangelical critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ms. Blankley is more than suitable at playing first-chair violin. She is an adept Konzertmeisterin who plays with a zealous gusto that is by no means forced into a decrescendo by facts or evidence.
The accusation that Latter-day Saints are not Christians is not new, and it is not it likely to go away anytime soon. So long as fundamentalist Evangelicals dominate the religious landscape of modern America, the benighted Mormons can anticipate this Hydra to rear its ugly heads incessantly. All of the efforts of the Latter-day Saints to quell this tired assertion will almost certainly be in vain, as misinformation, misrepresentation and outright calumny continue to capture the imagination of an ignorant public with scandalous tales of the moral and theological debauchery and baseness of the Mormons. [Read more…] about Bethany Blankley and the “Mormon Question”
In this KSL Radio interview, Religion Today host, Martin Tanner, talks with Tyler Livingston, Stephen Smoot and Mike Ash, some of the producers of the recently released DVD on the Book of Abraham called “A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Abraham”
This broadcast is posted here by permission of KSL Radio.
This week FAIR has released a new DVD exploring the issues surrounding the Book of Abraham. “A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Abraham” puts forth answers to various criticisms directed against the Book of Abraham, as well as provides evidence favorable to the Book of Abraham’s ancient authenticity.
[Read more…] about “A Most Remarkable Book”: Supplementary Reading
In the address from the 2006 FAIR Conference, Matthew Roper states: “Critics of Latter-day Saint Scripture and teachings have generally paid very little attention to the Book of Moses. Those who have condescended to comment on it have generally dismissed it as a shallow plagiarism of New Testament doctrines and themes if they do not ignore it altogether. Such dismissals show an unawareness on the part of these commentators of the often striking convergences between the Latter-day Saint scripture and the ancient world. Critics, skeptics and the disaffected have in my view greatly underestimated the revelations of Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, so have many members of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
The full text of this address can be found at here.
Matthew Roper (MS from Brigham Young University), is a resident scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University.
Brian M. Hauglid discusses more about his brand new book, A Textual History of the Book of Abraham in part two.
The papyri Joseph Smith used when he translated the BoA went missing for decades, but were reacquired by the LDS Church in 1967. The papyri were quickly swept up in a tornado of research. In this episode Professor Hauglid talks about criticisms and controversies surrounding the Book of Abraham. Hauglid also describes how the BoA became part of the LDS canon. In addition to some of Hauglid’s favorite devotional bits of the text, he discusses a few interesting ancient parallels.
Cosmology, astronomy, ancient parallels, parallelomania, and Doritos. All these things and more in this episode of the FAIR Podcast.
Incidentally, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship currently provides the chapters from Hauglid’s Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant online for free. Check them out here. Folks interested in learning more about the Book of Abraham might be interested to start there. A review of Hauglid’s new book is available here.
Hauglid received a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Brigham Young University and an MA and PhD from the University of Utah in Arabic and Islamic Studies. He is currently an associate professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU. Along with John Gee, Hauglid is both principal investigator and general editor of the Studies in the Book of Abraham Series.
Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to [email protected] Or, join the conversation in the comments here at fairblog.org.
FAIR relies on contributions from readers and listeners. To help support FAIR, make a donation today.
The Book of Mormon narrative begins with a small group of people who arrived in the Americas around 600 b.c. and numbered less than 30 people. Yet, within 1,000 years, grew to a civilization of hundreds of thousands of people. While the dynamics of such a population growth seems astronomical, it has been dealt with by previous scholars. 1 What is important to realize is the vast amount of people that compose the Nephites and Lamanites in The Book of Mormon. For example, after the Nephites fled the land of Nephi and joined the Mulekites in the city of Zarahemla, it is said that the group was “exceedingly numerous” (Omni 1:17). Although, there were many people located in Zarahemla it was not even “half so numerous” (Mosiah 20:11) as the Lamanites, meaning the Lamanites were at least double the population of the Nephites.
Throughout The Book of Mormon, we begin to see hints of what “exceedingly numerous” actually means. Throughout this sacred text we see repeated mentioning of thousands 2, and tens of thousands 3 of Lehites in regard to lives lost in war, conversions, or armies. In the last battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites around 400 b.c., these numbers increase to hundreds of thousands people 4. James E. Smith, one of the creators of the Cambridge model for estimating historical populations noted that “With a moderately positive population growth rate of .1 percent per year, a population of 300,000 in Zarahemla in 87 B.C. would produce 450,000 in Mormon’s day.” 5
Any candidate for consideration to be Book of Mormon people must have a large civilization with tens and hundreds of thousands of people. If the population was not there to match these numbers, then they could not be Nephites and Lamanites. [Read more…] about The Hopewell culture (in the Great Lakes area) and The Book of Mormon: Do they match?
Season 2 of The Joseph Smith Papers Television Documentary Series contains 42 episodes on 6 DVDs. It takes a closer look at some of the areas covered in Season 1, such as the First Vision. It contains episodes devoted to things like the production of modern scripture, a tour of church history sites, a look at Joseph’s family, the early music of Mormonism, and brief biographies of other early members, such as Hyrum Smith, the Pratt brothers, the Snows, and others. There are also some episodes devoted to the books published so far as part of the Project. The final episode is a tribute to Larry H. Miller, who provided financial support for the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Viewers who use closed captioning will be happy to learn that it’s been employed for Season 2 (although it’s a little rough in places). And I’m very happy to see that the list of episodes also says which disc they’re on this time. (Both of these things were missing for Season 1.)
There are 2 episodes about the manual containing the teachings of Joseph Smith that was used recently in priesthood and Relief Society. It begins by recounting a history of publications of his teachings, and then spends the rest of the time talking about the preparation of the new manual. It was intended not to be a comprehensive source of known teachings, but rather to be selected teachings that apply to our day. They were very careful in what was included, and the standards for determining such, which depended on the sources, were explained.
The Word of Wisdom episode was particularly interesting to me, since this topic can often be a stumbling block for people who assume that it has always been followed and enforced the way it is today. It is pointed out that the first 3 verses of D&C Section 89 were not actually part of the revelation, but were originally a preface. It is explained what the restrictions on hot drinks, alcohol, and meat meant at the time it was given. A history of the Word of Wisdom from moderation to abstinence is recounted. Unfortunately, here I feel the episode falls short. The groundwork is laid to mention that not just church members but also church leaders had difficulty with it at first, but then it doesn’t quite go that far. It can be confusing for someone that was taught that Joseph refused alcohol for his leg operation to learn that he did not always abstain (see, for instance, History of the Church, vol. 7, page 101), and I thought this episode could have done a little better towards inoculating against that.
Another interesting episode is about D&C section 76, which outlines the different degrees of glory available after this life. It was referred to originally as “The Vision,” since it was the first vision to be published (accounts of the “First Vision” were not published until later). It was one of just a few visions that had a witness – Sidney Rigdon participated in it along with Joseph Smith. Until then, the understanding of the afterlife was black and white. Those who didn’t like it considered it to be universalist. It was written down immediately by Smith and Rigdon, and because they were commanded to write it down, copies were allowed to be made freely. Joseph was probably tarred and feathered for it.
This DVD series should be of interest to anyone that enjoys church history or is interested in learning about it. There is some that is glossed over – such is the nature of the medium – but this is the most in-depth and accurate treatment of Joseph Smith and the early history of the church that has been made available for viewing, and it could even lead those that don’t particularly like non-fiction reading to do further research.
In my opinion, one of critics’ most harped-on “weaknesses” of the Church is actually its greatest strength: the lack of absolute certainty and infallibility, and the possibility that Church leaders could potentially lead astray. How could that be a good thing? Because of our purpose for being here, and the great blessing of learning through experience to seek, receive, discern, process, and apply personal revelation. That this is not a guaranteed error-free process for anyone, regardless of past success, is what makes this crucial, and what ultimately preserves and protects the Church from being led astray.
There are numerous statements from Church leaders, unknown to many, that expound on this seeming paradox. Comments on my recent paper for FAIR are welcome!
Chapter 16 discusses the church set up by Jesus both in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, and the apostasy that followed. Here are some related resources: