Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
New Book of Authorship Studies Published
ARMS's latest release, the long-awaited Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by FARMS president Noel B. Reynolds, is now available. This book builds on a 1982 publication, Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, also edited by Reynolds and recently reprinted by FARMS, and it introduces new scholarly evidences and analyses.
For Latter-day Saints, the authorship of the Book of Mormon is not in question. They firmly believe in its authenticity as an ancient prophetic document delivered to the young farmboy Joseph Smith Jr. by the angel Moroni and translated by the gift and power of God. But critis doubt this story and work to show the book a modern creation of Joseph Smith or his contemporaries. While the authors of the articles in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited are not trying to prove the truth of the Book of Mormon, their research does add to the growing body of scholarship that supports the scripture's authentic origins and that makes possible greater appreciation of its beauty and better understanding of its messages.
Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited is divided into four sections. Part 1 deals with various accounts of how the Book of Mormon was actually produced in 1829 and 1830, emphasizing the translation process and accounts of eyewitnesses of that process and of the plates themselves. Part 2 focuses on the authorship debate, giving a history of critics' alternative theories, criticisms, and arguments, along with their scholarly refutations. Part 3 presents textual studies of the Book of Mormon that demonstrate its plausibility and authenticity as an ancient text. Part 4 looks at scholarly studies of the ancient geographical and cultural setting of the Book of Mormon in both the Old World and the New.
Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited contains contributions by Richard L. Bushman, Richard L. Anderson, Royal Skousen, Louis C. Midgley, Daniel C. Peterson, Melvin J. Thorne, John W. Welch, John L. Hilton, James E. Smith, Donald W. Parry, John A. Tvedtnes, Noel B. Reynolds, John L. Sorenson, and William J. Hamblin.
Learn about the latest scholarly evidences for the Book of Mormon by purchasing your copy of Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited today. See the enclosed order form.
Scrolls Examined from an LDS Perspective in a Long-Awaited Book
Latter-day Saints love ancient religious records. In addition to the scriptures we now have, we look forward with anticipation to receiving the "words of the lost tribes of Israel" (2 Nephi 29:13), to the unsealing of a large portion of the golden plates, and to the restoration of other ancient texts authored by Adam, Enoch, Joseph, and others.
It is no wonder, then, that since the 1947 discovery of ancient scrolls hidden in caves along the shores of the Dead Sea, many Latter-day Saints have been fascinated by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although these scrolls do not contain the records we await, they do help answer some important questions related to the gospel: How has the Bible been transmitted to our day? What did the Jews believe in the years between the end of the Old Testament and the time of Christ? How much of the full gospel was known by these people before the coming of Christ?
The essays in this book help to answer these and other questions. They give the history of the scrolls, compare the scrolls and their writers to the Book of Mormon and its authors, and discuss what the scrolls teach about several gospel topics. The collection also includes a description of how high technology is aiding in all aspects of the translation of the scrolls. The essays are written by four BYU faculty who are members of the international team of scroll editors, plus world-renowned scroll scholar Florentino García Martínez, and other researchers at BYU and FARMS. They were presented at a FARMS conference in 1995.
More on Recent Archaeological Discoveries
As we reported in the June 1997 issue of Insights, recent archaeological excavations in Israel and elsewhere have uncovered more evidence for the historical authenticity of the scriptures. Here are some of the finds:
Based on research by John A. Tvedtnes.
Journal Offers Artistic, Linguistic, and Statistic Studies
Whether you fancy yourself a Mayanist or an Egyptologist, a linguist or an artist, the latest issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has something for you. It also provides subject and citation indexes for all previous issues of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.
Allen J. Christenson offers a richly illustrated piece on the "Sacred Tree of the Ancient Maya," in which he discusses similarities between this emblem of the power of life to grow from the underworld realm of the dead and Lehi's tree of life, "a symbol that Nephi associated with the afterlife and the sacrifice of the Son of God." Christenson outlines some of the creation myths contained in the ancient Maya document the Popol Vuh and myths of other ancient peoples, depicting ancient representations of the sacred tree as he does so.
Larry G. Childs and Brian D. Stubbs both explore language structures of the Book of Mormon compared to works prepared through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith Jr. In "Present Participle Adjuncts in the Book of Mormon" Childs finds that the Book of Mormon contains unusually long compound adjunct constructions, contrary to Joseph's usage.
The second study, "A Short Addition to Length: Some Relative Frequencies of Circumstantial Structures," builds on Stubbs's earlier Journal articles. Stubbs examines the frequency of circumstantial clauses (hal-clauses translated from Hebrew or Egyptian) in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and concludes that the styles of these three works are very different from one another.
In an ongoing effort to identify valid author-attribution techniques to assist in confirming the multiple authorship of the Book of Mormon, G. Bruce Schaalje, John L. Hilton, and John B. Archer examine the "Comparative Power of Three Author-Attribution Techniques for Differentiating Authors." They reexamine the validity of three techniques, one of which produces results that contradict the others. Their studies identify the contradictory technique as not sensitive enough, especially when applied to translated works.
This issue of the Journal also contains the following Notes and Communications:
Directors of Masada Exhibit Offer Helpful Pocket Guide
Marti Lu Allen, Associate Director of the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures and co-director of the exhibit The Story of Masada: Discoveries from the Excavations, currently on display in the BYU Museum of Art, has written a brief guide to the exhibit. Major sections of The Story of Masada: A Pocket Guide to the Exhibition cover "The Historical Backdrop," "Herod the Great," "Jews at Masada," "The Roman Conquest," and "The Moral of the Story."
The guide provides background information for the exhibit as a whole and for many of the individual artifacts, models, reconstructions, and displays in the exhibit. It can be used to guide visitors through the exhibit (in place of the audiotape provided by the museum) and it can help visitors remember and more fully appreciate what they saw.
Allen's text is illustrated with photographs of portions of the exhibit, and it is supplemented by New Testament notes prepared by John W. Welch, codirector of the exhibit, that help visitors appreciate the value of the Masada artifacts in visualizing the world of Jesus, Peter, Mary, and Paul. Notes cover historical matters such as the destruction of Jerusalem and the king of the Jews, as well as religious topics such as tithing and ritual immersions, and details about spear heads and sandal lachets.
As a cosponsor of the Masada exhibit, FARMS is pleased to make this booklet and other Masada items available to FARMS subscribers at special discount prices. See the order form for details.
LDS Scholars Discuss the Role of Ancient Scriptures in the Restoration of the Gospel
More than 350 FARMS supporters gathered on 7 June to learn more about "Ancient Scriptures and the Restoration." The attendees of this conference were enlightened on a variety of topics, from the prophetic language of the Doctrine and Covenants to the history of the Latter-day Saint use of the Book of Mormon in instruction.
FARMS wishes to extend its gratitude to the Smith Institute for Church History at BYU, which cosponsored the event, and to its faithful supporters who wish to further their knowledge of the gospel and help in building up the kingdom of God on earth.
Richard L. Bushman, professor of history at Columbia University, gave the first presentation, entitled "The Rhetoric of Revelation: Ancient and Modern Models." Professor Bushman's focus was on the incident recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants of William E. McClellin's attempt to immitate the revelatory language of Joseph Smith. He failed, of course, because the Spirit of the Lord was not with this proud man.
Bushman gave some observations about the nature of the Lord's revelations to mankind: first, the Lord addresses his audience; second, he gives religious teachings interspersed with mundane details, instructions, and church business; third, he does not try to make the revelation believable, convincing, or authoritative but allows man to choose. In Joseph Smith's recorded revelations, none of his personal influence can be detected; we definitely feel the Lord speaking through His Prophet. But Bushman pointed out that even knowing this pattern, man cannot successfully immitate the beauty, clarity, and power of the Lord's revelatory language.
FARMS Senior Project Manager John A. Tvedtnes gave a presentation on "The Role of the Book of Mormon in the Restoration." Tvedtnes discussed ways that the Book of Mormon was prepared to assist Joseph Smith in the restoration of the gospel. He illustrated this point by discussing doctrines and practices of the church that are outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants (particularly section 20) but are drawn from the Book of Mormon, such as names and functions of priesthood offices, the proper way to conduct meetings, the baptismal prayer and conditions of baptism, guidelines on public and private prayers, the law of consecration, the unity of the godhead, descriptions of the New Jerusalem, religious tolerance, and so forth.
Though witnesses of the translation of the Book of Mormon have given valuable accounts about that process, sometimes those witnesses went beyond what they had actually witnessed to speculate about additional details, at which point their descriptions become unreliable and contradictory. In "Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript," Royal Skousen, professor of English and editor of the critical text project, offered his findings about what his painstaking comparison of the original and printer's manuscripts of the Book of Mormon tells us about the translation process. Professor Skousen gave detailed examples from the physical texts that support aspects of the translation process that the witnesses actually saw but refute some of the witnesses' speculations. As such studies continue, scholars reveal insights into that miraculous translation process and answer questions about the authorship of the Book of Mormon.
"The Articles and Covenants of the Church: Doctrine and Covenants 20 and Its Antecedents" was the title of a presentation given by Scott H. Faulring, FARMS Research Associate. In this lecture Brother Faulring first reviewed the principal events associated with Joseph Smith and the rise of the church, including some early revelations of the Prophet. Then he outlined the contents of Oliver Cowdery's "Articles of the Church of Christ" and discussed the "forerunner" relationship of Cowdery's 1929 "Articles" to Joseph Smith's 1830 "Articles and Covenants," which became Doctrine and Covenants 20. Scholars have assumed that Smith revised Cowdery's document to write the "Articles and Covenants," but Faulring's comparison of the texts does not support this supposition. While Cowdery's document is based mostly on teachings gleaned from the translation of the Book of Mormon, Smith's seems to be based mainly on direct revelation. We learn much about the early church by studying Cowdery's "Articles," which served as the preliminary groundwork for the church's organization.
Robert L. Millet, professor of Ancient Scripture and dean of Religious Education at BYU, spoke on "The Contributions of the Joseph Smith Translation to the Restoration." It is widely accepted among Latter-day Saints that the Old and New Testaments contain errors inserted by scribes and priests, intentionally or by mistake. Yet even the Saints are uncertain about how to react about additions and changes the Prophet made to the biblical text until his death. Brother Millet gave the chronology of the inspired "translation" and afgued that this work should be accepted as scripture and not simply as biblical commentary.
"The Contributions of the Book of Abraham to the Restoration" was the subject of a presentation by John Gee, a Ph.D. Candidate in Egyptology at Yale University. Brother Gee examines the forthcoming of the Book of Abraham and its eventual cannonization in 1880. He speaks of the role the book played in shedding light on the doctrine of the preexistence.
The penultimate speaker, Richard L. Anderson, gave a presentation entitled "Oliver Cowdery's Direct Contributions to the Restoration Scriptures," in which he addressed Oliver Cowdery's accounts of the restoration of the priesthood. As professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, Brother Anderson has long been a leading figure in the study of the Book of Mormon witnesses. He expressed his feeling that the sincere, faithful, and even inspired writings of the Second Elder of the church should be shown more attention in LDS scholarly and personal studies.
In "The Use of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century," FARMS President Noel B. Reynolds addressed the history of Latter-day Saint instruction using the Book of Mormon. Brother Reynolds explained that in the early days of the church, the Saints mostly quoted the Bible to support their ideas and teachings and to respond to questions about Mormonism. Not until the latter part of this century, with the popularity of scholarly studies of the Book of Mormon begun by Hugh Nibley, John L. Sorenson, and others, did Latter-day Saints began to take that ancient book of scripture more seriously. Brother Reynolds's studies show that the Book of Mormon's use in LDS religious instruction and missionary work is on the rise, as is partly demonstrated in the book's translation, publication, and distribution rates.
See the order form to obtain videotapes or audiotapes of these presentations.
LDS Books Donated in Croatia and Slovenia
Earlier this year, Truman and Ann Madsen traveled to the former country of Yugoslavia and placed LDS books (donated by FARMS) in university libraries there. At their first stop, in Zagreb, Croatia, the Madsens were welcomed by Dr. Josip Stipanov, the deputy director of the National Archives. In a brief ceremony attended by local Church members and the branch president, the Madsens presented a four-volume set of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and English and Croatian copies of the Book of Mormon.
At the university library in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the Madsens were warmly greeted by Eva Kodric Dacic, the librarian. In a similar presentation, attended by members, they donated another copy of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and more copies of the Book of Mormon in both English and Croatian. The couple also gave a radio interview with the national Slovenian Radio Station explaining the books. FARMS also donated two other sets of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which the Madsens sent to the University Library of Split, Croatia, and to the National Library in Maribor, Slovenia.
A representative of the Church in that part of the world, Austria Vienna South Mission President Johann Wondra, commented that these donations in "countries where there is so much conflict and suffering . . . were highly appreciated." Brother Wondra suggested that these LDS materials could "build a bridge of friendship" between those people and members of the Church. He commented that the Madsens' visit "was truly a highlight during the '1997 Sesquicentennial Celebration.'"
In keeping with its mission, FARMS continually seeks further opportunities such as these to help spread the gospel throughout the world.
13 August (10:00 a.m.) and 21 August (7:00 p.m.): FARMS is sponsoring special tours of the exhibits on Masada and the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially for visitors to the CES Symposium and campus Education Week. For tickets or information, call the FARMS office, 1-800-327-6715.
20-21 August: "The Garden" presented at Timpview High (Provo). Tickets available at Utah County Deseret Book stores.
18 September: Last day to attend exhibits on Masada and the Dead Sea Scrolls at BYU. For tickets call 378-BYU1 or 1-800-322-BYU1.
18-20 September: Book of Mormon symposium hosted by the Denver, Colorado, North Stake and supported by FARMS. Speakers include Ann and Truman Madsen, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch. Call Richard Call (303-469-8030) for details.
Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea, edited by M. Gerald Bradford. This full-color booklet documents the scroll exhibit at BYU and provides useful background information.
Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life, by John L. Sorenson. Over four hundred photographs, drawings, and maps illustrate ancient Mesoamerican life and help us visualize what life was like in Book of Mormon times. This full-color book is the result of a lifetime of study by one of the Church's foremost scholars on the Book of Mormon.
King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," edited by John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks. The most substantial collection of studies ever assembled on this treasure trove of inspiration, wisdom, eloquence, and profound spiritual insight.
Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch. These studies will help all readers get through the Isaiah "barrier" in the Book of Mormon and enjoy the marvelous prophetic writings of this great servant of God.
FARMS Sponsors Tours for Campus Visitors during CES Symposium and Education Week
FARMS is once again offering special tours to the exhibits at the BYU Museum of Art on The Story of Masada: Discoveries from the Excavations and on The Dead Sea Scrolls and Discoveries from Qumran. The tours are timed to make them as convenient as possible for people visiting the BYU campus for the annual CES Symposium (on Wednesday, August 13, at 10:00 a.m.) and the campus Education Week (Thursday, August 21, at 7:00 p.m.). Participants in these tours will receive a discount on tickets and will enjoy special introductory remarks by John W. Welch before the tour and an opportunity for asking questions during the tour.
To join either tour or to get more information, call the FARMS office at 1-800-327-6715 or 1-801-373-5111.