Monday, April 14, 2014

Stumbling Along ?

“There are two ways to be fooled.
One is to believe what isn’t true;
the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
 (Søren Kierkegaard ~ 1813-1855)

In varying degrees, we are all guilty of this reality of “two ways to be fooled.” This reality kept coming to mind as I recently read and listened to a scholarly hypothesis1 about the Bible as it relates to the Book of Mormon.

I confess to being both enlightened and questioning. If I am reading / hearing Daymon Smith right (which is by no means certain), he believes that tradition and metatexting have created a relationship between the two that should not exist.

The Book of Mormon states:
And after they [these things that proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew] go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. … [and] because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 13:26-27, 29)
But despite these alleged losses and corruptions to the original word of God, I wonder two things:
1)  if Daymon Smith’s analysis will cause some to turn entirely away from the Bible because it fails to meet the criteria for being the book that Nephi calls the book of the Lamb of God? (1 Nephi 13:28, 38); and
2)  if this will cause us to stumble even more?
Here are a few reasons to proceed cautiously:
▪ If the Apocrypha still has value despite its problems,2 why not the Bible, even when “plain and precious things” are missing?

▪ The Book of Mormon story begins, with its feet firmly set in the Bible landscape, and then makes continual reference to Bible characters and matters within Book of Mormon text. For example, word searches in the Book of Mormon reveal these number of relevant references:

Bible Characters
referenced in Book of Mormon text
Bible Matters  
referenced in Book of Mormon text
Adam (25)Garden of Eden (5)
Eve (3)Fruit of the tree ( / the Fall) (4)
Cain (3)confounded the language (4)
Noah (3)house of Israel (123)
Melchizedek (5)tithes (8)
Abraham (29)Sodom and Gomorrah (2)
Sarah (1)land of Jerusalem (40)
Isaac (13)Egypt (18)
Jacob (55)Assyria (9)
Joseph of Egypt (33)Babylon (11)
Moses (75)Red Sea (13)
Solomon (6)Law of Moses (43)
Zedekiah (7)Sinai (3)
Isaiah (23)sacrifice and burnt offerings (3)
Jeremiah (7)desiring many wives and concubines like David & Solomon (3)
Malachi (2)temple of Solomon (2)
(Apostle) John (3)born of Mary (2)
Christ (381)Jews (75)
Redeemer (41)Gentiles (141)
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (10)Sabbath (5)
Created with the HTML Table Generator

▪ The Lord, who knows past, present, and future, commanded us to study Isaiah3; and the Isaiah chapters, liberally quoted in the Book of Mormon, are markedly similar to those in the Bible, as are other Bible teachings and story references.

▪ As to Daymon’s strong objection to connecting the tower of Old Testament Genesis (11:1-9)4 to the Book of Mormon tower references (Ether 1:3, 33), I would suggest that the following further references to “the great tower” are supportive of a connection:
Book of Mormon Omni 1: 22 ~ It [a large stone with engravings on it] also spake a few words concerning his [Coriantumr’s] fathers. And his first parents came out from the tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people; and the severity of the Lord fell upon them according to his judgments, which are just; and their bones lay scattered in the land northward.

Book of Mormon Mosiah 28:17 ~ Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records [24 gold plates ~ Mosiah 8:9; 28:11-18], behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam.

Book of Mormon Helaman 6:27-28 ~ Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth. And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.
(Bold emphasis added in the above.)
▪ And though Daymon Smith may believe that other men’s “inspirations” and proddings were behind the Articles of Faith, including #8:
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:8);
as well as the “Joseph Smith Translation” of the Bible; yet the latter-day value of the Bible can perhaps be affirmed in this account from Joseph Smith’s history:
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the [New Testament] Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. (Pearl of Great Price JS-History 1:11-13)
Taking the same advice that Joseph Smith did, perhaps we can stumble a little less, if we don’t become too passionately attached to uncertain things before God fully reveals His mind, will, and words. Daymon Smith readily admits these are his ideas and theories. According to New Testament James 1:5, we can certainly ask questions and pursue possible answers, though, as usual, God responds in His “own due time.” (Scripture count for “own due time” = 23.)

As I see it, our job is to
seek learning, even by study and also by faith[,]
(Doctrine and Covenants Section 88:118; 109:7, 14)
which, in our human condition, seems to involve a lot of stumbling even when we have access to things that are
plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.
(Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 14:23)
History and scripture seem but to witness one long déjà vu of stumbling and stumblers! So, let us thank God, for the promises of repentance and revelation.

1. Daymon Smith’s, A Cultural History of the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1: Setting, a foundation, of stones to stumble over; see his website:
2. Doctrine and Covenants Section 91:1-6 ~ VERILY, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen. (Bold emphasis added.)
3. Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 23:1 - 3 ~ AND now, behold, I [Jesus Christ] say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.
4. Old Testament Genesis 11:1-9 ~ AND the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (Bold emphasis added.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reasonable or What ?

Here is a classic example of why “rational” is such a poor measure to judge another’s actions.

In a recent talk,1 a man described his wife’s thoughts and action in jumping from a moving, 18-wheel semi while holding their first-born, infant son. The truck cab had suddenly filled with thick, choking smoke, and as her husband maneuvered the rig to a stop, she believed the engine was on fire. She feared the truck would explode, and that they would all die. And so, before the semi was quite stopped, she jumped out. When her husband exclaimed afterwards: “What, in the world, were you thinking? Do you know how dangerous that was? You could have been killed”; she replied: “I was just trying to save our son.”

Now, based on her beliefs and fears, what could be more “rational” than that?! What, in her mind (or ours, in like circumstance,) would be the least catastrophic (the most reasonable) of two possible actions:
1) stay put and die in a fiery blaze; or
2) leap with some risk of injury?
YET, at the conclusion of his story, the husband described his wife’s action as courageous, but “utterly irrational.”

Perhaps it was intended as humor, but I instantly bristled in sympathy with the poor wife who had, no doubt, endured retellings of “irrational action” for 40 years. And I exclaimed out loud and LOUD. “That was NOT irrational ! ! !

If someone knows the man, would they please read to him, a definition:
Rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason. Rationality is a normative concept that refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, or of one's actions with one's reasons for action. … A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem.
( )
Maybe he could apologize to his wife, and maybe this can be a lesson to us all that:
▪ a wife’s rationality does not depend on what an observing husband thinks, knows, or believes (and vice versa);
▪ if we think someone is acting (or has acted) irrationally, perhaps we should get down off our “rational” horse and listen to their reasons (their POV), and realize
▪ what looks irrational may really be rational, even transrational, as in the words:
“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.”
~ Blaise Pascal ~

“Faith consists in believing what reason cannot.”
~ Voltaire, The Works: Voltaire ~

1. Video: (between minute: 00.16 and 03.06)
Audio: (between minute: 00.16 and 03.06)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Strange Movements ?
(The following block quote is from Hugh Nibley, The Ancient State: The Rulers and the Ruled, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Provo, Utah, pp. 333-334  © 1981; bold emphasis added.)
The beginning of the sixth century B.C. is what Karl Jaspers calls the “Axial Period” in human history. The significance, according to Jaspers, was first noted by Lasaulx, who in 1851 wrote: “It cannot possibly be an accident that, six-hundred years before Christ, Zarathustra in Persia, Gautama Buddha in India Confucius in China, the prophets in Israel, King Numa in Rome and the first philosophers—Ionians, Dorians, and Eleatics—in Hellas, all made their appearance pretty well simultaneously as reformers of the national religion.” A strange movement of the spirit passed through all civilized peoples. The time was marked by a series of popular revolutions which everywhere saw the final overthrow of the old sacral kingship; the great social crises and world upheavals of the early second and middle sixth millennia B.C. had dealt shattering blows to the old sacral order, and the sixth century saw the completion of the process with what we might call the great Sophic revolution. With the passing of the priest-kings, people everywhere found themselves looking for some other principle of authority for the ordering of society; with oracles silent and priestly lines extinct, who would have the final word? Where could men turn for the voice of authority? What could now command their loyalty? [End of quote.]
So, if “strange movements” could characterize 600 B.C., what about other times? How about the 19th Century A.D. of Joseph Smith?

This is just another question to ponder for those reading the interesting theories of Daymon Smith.*