WEDNESDAY RESEARCH GROUP REPORTS FIRST SIX SESSIONS
Two Issues ago, we announced the formation of a Book of Mormon research discussion group. Noel Reynolds, and the Research Committee of the F.A.R.M.S. Advisory Board, have brought together a number of people, primarily faculty members at BYU, interested in exploring various aspects of current Book of Mormon research. The group meets two Wednesdays each month throughout the academic year. During the winter and spring terms of 1987 the group met six times. It will resume meeting again in the fall.
In the first meeting. Jack Welch discussed several aspects of legal expressions in the Book of Mormon and in ancient Near Eastern and Biblical law. He demonstrated that a number of innocent passages in the Book or Mormon offer impressive parallels with the series of laws and the casuistic law forms of ancient Near Eastern legal texts. (See WEL-87 and WEL-87a).
Second, Noel Reynolds discussed his paper, "The Political Dimensions in Nephi's Small Plates" (REY-87). His work shows the importance of Nephi's claim to political leadership over the Lehi colony in opposition to the claims of his older brothers. These competing political claims divided Lehi's posterity and eventually brought the Nephites' tragic end.
In the third meeting. Al Rencher updated the group on the latest developments in wordprint studies. He showed that new wordprint studies by Brian Roberts and John Hilton, using different methods, confirm his and Wayne Larsen's original wordprint studies concerning Book or Mormon texts. He cautioned against misuses of such studies, responded to critics, and reported on blind studies designed to check the underlying assumptions of wordprint analyses, including studies on translated materials.
Fourth, Dean Jessee examined chronologically the accounts of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He showed that the earliest accounts given by believers, the curious, and non-believers are all very similar until Abner Cole, a Palmyra newspaper editor, linked Joseph Smith with magic and treasure hunting in 1831. Cole made this link after first having told the traditional story and then having quarreled with Joseph Smith over the unauthorized publication of certain portions of the Book of Mormon.
Fifth, Stephen Ricks presented a paper on the coronation ceremony in Mosiah 1-6, elucidating the ideology of ancient statecraft of which the coronation ceremony was an integral element. His research examined concepts of kingship, coronation at sacred sites, investiture with insignia, co-regency, anointing, and other aspects of ancient kingship reflected in the Book of Mormon.
Sixth, Louis Midgley, building on the work of Stephen Ricks in "The Treaty/Covenant Pattern in King Benjamin's Address (Mosiah 1-6)" (RIC-83a), identified a possible covenant blessing and cursing formula present in Benjamin's address and in fourteen other place in the Book of Mormon. He linked this formula with the way Nephite prophets typically perceived events in their own culture and also with their understanding of the atonement. He proposed that the particular blessing-cursing formula may be evidence of a unique Lehi covenant.