Insights: Joseph Smith Right on Target, New Book Shows
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
In his writings over the years, Hugh Nibley has often pointed out "hits" and "bull's-eyes" in the Book of Mormon-details about the ancient world that were unknown until recent times but that Joseph Smith got right anyway. Serious Book of Mormon research took shape in the early 1900s but has accelerated in recent decades, establishing an entire field of scholarly endeavor and yielding many clues to the book's ancient origins
Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, the Institute's latest publication issued under the FARMS imprint, takes inventory of those striking discoveries of the past century. It conveniently summarizes more than 100 hits in 500-plus pages. The 12 chapters are separately authored by some of the most active Book of Mormon researchers, including the book's editors: Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch. The cumulative effect is weighty.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell's opening chapter on the process by which the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon characterizes the translation as "a marvelous feat of inspiration." The next chapter reprints Welch's instructive study on the role of evidence in nurturing faith. The remaining chapters—which reflect academic perspectives ranging from ancient Near Eastern studies and anthropology to political science and Egyptology-include contributions by S. Kent Brown, Alison V. P. Coutts, John Gee, Noel B. Reynolds, Stephen D. Ricks, John L. Sorenson, and John A. Tvedtnes.
An appendix highlights an array of hits culled from Nibley's voluminous writings. All of the hits covered in Echoes and Evidences are listed alphabetically at the end of the book with their corresponding page numbers. Icons in the margins throughout the book draw these hits to the attention of all readers.
Here is a sampling of the interesting observations in the book:
The editors note that while not all of the hits discussed in the book carry equal weight, they all are of "significant probative interest." As substantial as the book is, each point by necessity receives brief treatment compared to the quantity of supporting scholarship-by LDS and non-LDS
"Lehi's dream is not at home in Joseph Smith's world but is at home in a world preserved both by archaeological remains and in the customs and manners of Arabia's inhabitants."--S. Kent Brown
"Considering Joseph Smith's educational background and his very limited knowledge of the Bible, . . . it is very doubtful that he could have extrapolated the details of asylum from the Bible and incorporated them into the story of the people of Ammon."--Alison V. P. Coutts
"Nineteenth-century-American notions of romantic love are far removed from the patterns of Nephite and Jaredite courtships mentioned in the Book of Mormon, clearly separating the book in that regard from the cultural milieu of Joseph Smith's day."--John Gee
"More than fifty able English scholars labored for seven years, using previous translations, to produce the King James Version of the Bible, averaging about one precious page per day. The Prophet Joseph Smith would sometimes produce ten pages per day!"--Neal A. Maxwell
"Joseph's level of education and familiarity with the Bible could not have equipped him with the requisite literary knowledge and skill to craft so many Hebraisms so seamlessly and correctly into the Book of Mormon text."--Donald W. Parry
"The description of Columbus provided by 1 Nephi 13:12 . . . remains a remarkable demonstration of the revelatory accuracy of the Book of Mormon. It is only with the growth of Columbus scholarship in recent years . . . that English-speaking readers have been fully able to see how remarkably the admiral's own self-understanding parallels the portrait of him given in the Book of Mormon."--Daniel C. Peterson
"Joseph Smith went out on a limb when he included specific dates and population data in his translation of the Book of Mormon. Only in light of sophisticated analysis . . . can modern readers appreciate how true to actual human experience such details in the Book of Mormon are."--Noel B. Reynolds
"The series of events outlined in Mosiah 1-6 reflects what biblical scholars call the 'treaty/covenant pattern' in ancient Israelite literature--a literary feature that was completely unknown when the Book of Mormon was published in 1830 and was not identified and studied until the past two generations."--Stephen D. Ricks
"No one in the nineteenth century could have known that cement, in fact, was extensively used in Mesoamerica beginning at about this time, the middle of the first century b.c."--John L. Sorenson
"The fact that the three earliest known manuscripts with Bible text are, respectively, written on metallic plates, written in a reformed Egyptian script reflecting an underlying Semitic language, and hidden away for future discovery demonstrates that the Book of Mormon fits an ancient pattern."--John A. Tvedtnes
"Similarities between the laws of Mosiah and Eshnunna and the Egyptian mathematical papyri (which were unknown in Joseph Smith's day) show yet another way in which the Book of Mormon presents specific details whose rootsrun unexpectedly deep in ancient societies."--John W. Welch