Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
Lectures, firesides, and other presentations sponsored by the Foundation have drawn considerable interest recently, and new ones are planned.
The first ten videos in the new F.A.R.M.S. Book of Mormon video lecture series are now available. They bring to students of the scriptures everywhere some of the best lectures on the Book of Mormon. They can be ordered online.
A transcript of the remarks made by Elder Dallin H. Oaks at the annual F.A.R.M.S. banquet is now available (see the order form). In that talk Elder Oaks discussed aspects of the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the relationships between scholarship, faith, and revelation. We appreciate Elder Oakss kindness both in speaking to our gathering and in giving permission to make this transcript available to friends of the Book of Mormon who were not able to attend the banquet or who did attend and want a printed version of the talk to study in more detail.
Emanuel Tov, an eminent Dead Sea Scrolls scholar who is professor of Bible Studies at Hebrew University and Editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication project, will present a F.A.R.M.S-sponsored lecture at BYU on February 22 in the Varsity Theatre at 12:00 noon. He will visit F.A.R.M.S. and BYU to consult on the Dead Sea Scrolls electronic database, a joint F.A.R.M.S.-BYU project reported on in the last issue of Insights.
In November Noel Reynolds spoke at a regional conference of young adults in San Antonio about recent research on the Book of Mormon and other F.A.R.M.S. board members spoke at a fireside sponsored by the Maclean Stake in Virginia, coordinated by Lou and Barbara Cramer.
Truman Madsen shared with Saints gathered at a F.A.R.M.S. fireside in San Diego his thoughts on scriptural prophecies of a new temple to be built in Jerusalem (where Madsen has spent the last 2 years), including when and where it will be built, who will build it and administer within it, and what will be performed therein; and on connections between the temple and the Atonement. He pointed out ways in which temple ordinances "are designed to penetrate all levels of our consciousness, to dig into our frail flesh, and to melt and meld our hearts into oneness with ourselves, each other, and with him," and thus they create true at-one-ment through the power of Christs sacrifice.
(His talk will be published in May by F.A.R.M.S and Deseret Book in a volume on the temple.) The fireside was sponsored by the Penasquitos Stake and coordinated by Peter and Sherri Knobloch, with the cooperation of Bishop Roger Platt and President Michael Jenson.
The Provo Grandview 4th ward, in which two F.A.R.M.S. board members reside, recently enlisted the help of the Foundation in their efforts to accept President Bensons challenge to study the Book of Mormon.
For the past three years, Bishop Robert Walz has led his ward in reading the Book of Mormon in 60 days during November and December. He challenges each ward member to read 10 pages each day, then on Sunday the topic for each class in Sunday School, priesthood, and Relief Society focuses on the pages read that week.
This year, to provide another dimension to the learning, Bishop Walz invited F.A.R.M.S. to provide a fireside speaker each Sunday evening during the weeks of reading. Five board members participated in giving lectures, plus Royal Skousen of the BYU English Department, Jim Faulconer of the BYU Philosophy Department, and Ed Pinegar, former President of the Missionary Training Center.
On Christmas Eve the ward met together to read the final chapter of the Book of Mormon, to pray together, and to make a commitment to remember what they had read.
While we regret that F.A.R.M.S. board members cannot provide such a series of lectures in all wards and stakes, any ward and any individual can benefit from the same kinds of information by taking advantage of the F.A.R.M.S. Book of Mormon video lecture series. Masters of this video series can also be made available for local broadcast; call the F.A.R.M.S. office for details.
The annual F.A.R.M.S. symposium for 1994 is not yet scheduled, but details will be given in future issues of Insights.
"The world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah."
Times and Seasons *
*3 (September 15, 1842): 922, quoted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, comp. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 267.
Thanks to a donation from F.A.R.M.S, the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has moved more than half of the Samuel A. B. Mercer Egyptology collection from various locations in the open stacks in the library to the Ancient Studies Library. According to Gary Gillum, the BYU Ancient Studies librarian, the collection will be more secure and protected in that location and will receive better use as a collection. Hugh Nibley was partly responsible for BYUs acquisition of the Mercer collection over 35 years ago. Even though Mercer wrote several Egyptological articles attacking the authenticity of the book of Abraham, Nibley considered him a man of great courtesy and kindness and helped arrange for BYU to purchase "his splendid Egyptian library, the fruit of a long lifetime of diligent collecting." John Gee, pursuing graduate studies in Egyptology Yale, told Gillum that with the Mercer collection BYU has one of the finest Egyptology collections in the United States.
The collection moved to Ancient Studies numbers over 500 volumes, many of which are hard to find at any other library. The Foundation provided funds to carry out the relocation and to purchase over 100 new shelves for the books.
Semester 4 of Hugh Nibleys Honors Book of Mormon class will be broadcast on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. by KBYU-TV (channel 11) beginning January 2. At the completion of semester 4, KBYU plans to start over with semester 1, probably at a different timewatch future issues of Insights for details.
Broadcast of the class in the Seattle area has been interrupted for a few months, but will resume (details will be announced locally).
In 1982, Erich Robert Paul published an article in BYU Studies entitled "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library." Essentially Paul shows that, while Joseph had potential access to a wide range of books there, "it is likely that during the 1820s he simply was not a part of the literary culture." This article has long been available as a F.A.R.M.S. Reprint.
Because Joseph Smith spent little time, however, in the area of Manchester/Palmyra from 1825 to 1829 (he moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania, in 1827 when he and Emma married), the logical extension of Pauls study is to ask the further question, "But was there a library in Harmony, Pennsylvania?"
Even more significant than the information environment of Palmyra was that of Harmony. If Joseph Smith had wanted to do any kind of research while he was translating the book of Lehi onto the 116 pages in 1828 or while he was translating the bulk of the Book of Mormon during April and May, 1829, he would have needed to use libraries or information sources in or around Harmony where he was living at the time.
Harmony was a small town on the border between the states of New York and Pennsylvania. The region was very remote and rural. Recently we asked Erich Paul if he had ever explored the possibility that any libraries existed around Harmony in the 1820s which Joseph Smith might have used. He responded: "In fact, I checked into this possibility only to discover that not only does Harmony and its environs hardly exist anymore, but there is no evidence of a library even existing at the time of Josephs work."
Accordingly, those who have considered western New York as the information environment for the Book of Mormon may be 120 miles or more off target. One should think of Joseph translating in the Harmony area and, as far as that goes, in a resource vacuum.
Even if Joseph had wanted to pause to check his details against reputable sources, to scrutinize the latest theories, to learn about scholarly biblical interpretations or Jewish customs, or to verify any Book of Mormon claims against the wisdom or theologies of his dayeven if he had wanted to go to a library to check such things (something he showed no inclination to do until later)there simply was no library anywhere nearby for him to use.
While this is only a piece of circumstantial evidence for the Book of Mormon, it is still a piece. Perhaps a significant one.
There is still time to sign up for the tour to the Holy Land that F.A.R.M.S. has arranged through Educational Opportunities, a tax-exempt organization sponsoring educational travel, but only if you call right away. The ten-day tour will be enhanced with solid information, some of it supplied by daily lectures from F.A.R.M.S. board member Jack Welch. For details, call the F.A.R.M.S. office without delay.
"The Book of Mormon in the Land of Jerusalem" is the title of a new course in Book of Mormon studies offered at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Israel. The course was developed and is taught by Jeffrey R. Chadwick, Near Eastern specialist at the Jerusalem Center. Dr. Chadwick is also preparing a book manuscript with the same title.
The course was taken by 50 students during Winter Semester 1993 and 75 during Fall 1993. According to the class outline, the course goals are "to learn about the people, places, events, and doctrines of the Book of Mormon, with emphasis on the books of 1 Nephi through Jacob, where the Near Eastern roots of the Small Plates of Nephi are most in evidence." In this effort, students study findings from the fields of archaeology, geography, and history, as well as languages such as Hebrew and Egyptian.
In his introduction to the study guide, Chadwick explains that "the Book of Mormon is often called Americas witness for Christ," and such it is. But most readers do not realize that it is really two different books. One, the abridgment done by Mormon and Moroni (Mosiah through Moroni), is clearly the product of the ancient American Nephite culture. But the other, the Small Plates of Nephi (1 Nephi through Omni), was heavily influenced by the Near Eastern origin of Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob. Even though the Small Plates were composed in ancient America, their culture, doctrine, and languages were from the ancient Near Eastthe Land of Jerusalem."
What does the influence of Viking metal working on the inhabitants of the New World tell us about the Book of Mormon? Were any Book of Mormon names still used by peoples in ancient America after Book of Mormon times? What significance did the sword of Laban have to the Nephites and to Joseph Smith? What can we learn from the differences between the visions of Lehi and Nephi? Can the 1834 affidavits attacking the Joseph Smith family be trusted? What did B. H. Roberts say about the Book of Mormon in The Truth, the Way, the Life?
The 6 F.A.R.M.S. Updates published in Insights during 1993 give the most up-to-date information related to these questions. The collection, available on the order form mailed with this issue, is a handy compilation for regular readers and a great way to introduce your friends to F.A.R.M.S. and to the latest in Book of Mormon research.
We appreciate very much the generous donations made by faithful supporters of the Foundation at the years end and throughout the year. Your generosity makes the work of the Foundation possible.