Read This, Then 2 Nephi 3

There are great doctrinal truths here, of course, but I had long been confused by the nature of 2 Nephi 3. Elderly Lehi is about to die, and he takes his youngest son aside for a moment to…talk about ancient history and prophecy about the future. That’s pretty much it. There’s really not much here that seems to relate directly to the young man himself.

Reading it again recently, I went looking for an answer. Why does Lehi spend his last words to his son lecturing about such seemingly random stuff? Here’s the answer I found:

I ended up imagining this implied context for the chapter. Read 2 Nephi 3 again after this, and see if it doesn’t open up better:

Joseph, my youngest son, you’ve already had a hard life out in the old desert wilderness, on the raging seas, and in this new jungle wilderness, and I wish I could promise that things will get easier, but honestly, they won’t. I haven’t been able to protect you much, but even that little comfort is about to be lost to you. I’m dying. After I’m gone, you will continue to face challenges in life.

But remember this:

There are three great Josephs at major turning points in history who will help advance the Lord’s work.

One was Joseph of Egypt, in the distant past. He endured serious adversity also, but founded a people who were close to the Lord. He knew of us and wrote about us.

Another Joseph will be in the distant future. He will endure serious adversity as well, but will found a people who will be close to the Lord. He will know of us and will write about us.

The third Joseph is you, my son. Just as the Joseph long before you and the Joseph long after you have their part in overcoming opposition to start new dynasties of righteousness, you have yours. Our little family here will grow to become a dispensation of a thousand years, whose story will someday go to all the world. And you’re here at the beginning, to help make sure it happens. This is your place in the story, and this is the difference you make.

The words which the ancient Joseph saw in vision and which the future Joseph will publish are the words which are being written now by our family. You’re an important part of this larger plan. 

The Joseph before and the Joseph after will know you in the eternities as their brother in this work. They are counting on you. I am counting on you. Indeed, a world is counting on you. Follow Nephi and serve with him. Make Joseph of Egypt and Joseph of America proud. Make the Lord proud. Make me proud. Good bye, my son, and fare well. I believe in you.

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The Book of Mormon and Female Scandinavian Olympians

Talking online with a critic of the Book of Mormon recently, I was reminded of a scene from M. Night Shyamalan’s last good movie, 2002’s Signs.

In the film, two brothers living on a farm in the Midwest investigate noises outside at night.  In classic suspense style, movement just off screen causes the characters and camera to look, just in time to miss whatever was there, but it was clearly someone.  When a police officer comes out the next day to look into it, the following exchange takes place:

OFFICER PASKI
How certain are you, that this was a male?

MERRILL
I don’t know any girls can run like that.

OFFICER PASKI
I don’t know, Merrill. I’ve seen some of those women on the Olympics. They could out run me easy.

MERRILL
This guy got on the roof in like a second. That roof is over ten feet high.

GRAHAM
He’s telling you the truth. Whoever it was, is very strong and can jump pretty high.

OFFICER PASKI
They got women’s high jumping in the Olympics. They got these
Scandinavian women who could jump clean over me.

GRAHAM
I know you’re making a point. I just don’t know what it is.

OFFICER PASKI
Yesterday afternoon, an out of town woman stopped by the diner and started yelling and cussing cause they didn’t have her favorite cigarettes at the vending machine. Scared a couple of customers. No one’s seen her since… My point is, we don’t know anything about the person you saw. We should just keep all possibilities available.

MERRILL
Excluding the possibility that a female Scandinavian Olympian was running around outside our house last night, what else is a possibility?

So, what does this have to do with the Book of Mormon?

In my online conversation, I offered to share three of the best evidences for the Book of Mormon, and invite the critic to analyze and account for them if the book is a hoax.  I suggested 1) the accurate, previously unknown geography of Arabia (Nahom, Bountiful, etc.), 2) the ancient texts that nobody had access to, given in 2 Nephi 12:16 and 3 Nephi 4:28-29, and 3) chiasmus.

His responses were quick.  Continue reading

“The Whole Concatenation of Diabolical Rascality”

Probably the single coolest phrase in all of scripture, right there.  In Doctrine and Covenants 123, Joseph Smith encouraged the Latter-day Saints to keep track of all the “libelous publications,” as well as property damage and physical abuse, they had suffered.

Verse 5 uses this unique and memorable phrase to summarize that record: “the whole concatenation of diabolical rascality.”  Isn’t it wonderful?

First of all, it’s funny in the way that wordy phrases are, using multiple long, obscure words right next to each other.  Also, it’s a perfect example of that 19th century style of excruciatingly exact wording.  The individual words themselves are quite funny, too.  “Concatenation.”  Just say that one aloud.

Everybody should definitely highlight this phrase in their own copies right away.

And if you haven’t read the Doctrine and Covenants, you really should.  Who wouldn’t want to read a book that has gems like this in it?

 

 

Favorite Quotes from Joseph Smith

I recently finished reading the book, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.  These are the passages I marked:

 

“[The latter-day scriptures are published] so that the honest in heart may be cheered and comforted and go on their way rejoicing, as their souls become exposed and their understanding enlightened by a knowledge of God’s work through the fathers in former days, as well as what He is about to do in latter days to fulfill the words of the fathers.”

Chapter 4: The Book of Mormon: Keystone of Our Religion

Continue reading

Upcoming 200th Anniversaries

In 2005, the LDS Church celebrated the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth.  As major an event as that was, the next big milestone is far, far more important, and as it’s only a little over eight years away, I wonder if plans are already being made to honor it adequately.

The 200th anniversary of the First Vision will be in the Spring of 2020.  General Conference that season will likely be on Saturday, April 4th and Sunday, April 5th.  I imagine celebrations could most conveniently coincide with that.  Certainly it’s what all the talks will be about!  But this will be a celebration that the whole world should know about, and be included in.  It should, conceivably, be the biggest event the Church has ever undertaken to organize and present, with the possible exceptions of the pioneer migration and the construction of the earliest temples.

Some other important 200th anniversaries that we might already start keeping in mind:

  • Thursday, September 21st, 2023:  Angel Moroni appears to Joseph Smith and mentions the Book of Mormon
  • Wednesday, September 22nd, 2027: Joseph Smith receives the Book of Mormon plates
  • Tuesday, May 15th, 2029: Restoration of the Aaronic priesthood
  • Tuesday, March 26th, 2030: Publication of the Book of Mormon

And, of course:

  • Saturday, April 6th, 2030: Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

So at least one major event’s anniversary will actually fall on a weekend!

The New York Times Admires Joseph Smith’s Civil War Prophecy

In a blog post last week about Mormons and the Civil War–focusing on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young–the New York Times mentioned this:

Fascinatingly, Joseph Smith had prophesied in 1832 that an immense civil war would someday transform America, and that it would start in South Carolina.

It is fascinating, isn’t it?  A couple of commenters noted that there were good reasons in 1832 for predicting such a thing, but that hardly does the prophecy justice.  I submitted the following as a comment, but it hasn’t been published yet:

Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy is impressive.  As Jeff Lindsay notes, in 1832, Smith predicted that:

  • The war would begin with the rebellion of South Carolina.
  • It would cause the death and misery of many souls.
  • The Southern States would be divided against the Northern States.
  • The Southern States would call upon other nations for assistance, even upon the nation of Great Britain.

And that, later, Great Britain would enlist help from other nations in wars which would “be poured out upon all nations.” 

For those who think this was a lucky guess based on 1832 politics, one would be hard pressed to explain why the opinion wasn’t common, and why Smith repeated the claim eleven years later, in 1843.  The original prophecy is in a Mormon scripture called Doctrine and Covenants 87; the reiteration is found in D&C 130:12-13

Not only did Smith predict the war, but he even foresaw details like the South calling on Great Britain, which it did (this fact is even mentioned in the second National Treasure movie). 

There are plenty of other instances of recorded prophecies by Joseph Smith which came true:  http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_prophecies.shtml

Two Things Joseph Smith Got Right About the Book of Abraham Facsimiles

I’ve been studying up on the Book of Abraham a bit lately, and as fascinating as all the scholarly, arcane parallels are, it’s even more exciting to see that some of Joseph Smith’s explanations of these symbols are easy to confirm in accessible pop culture. 

While critics have often had to come up with convoluted theories as to how Joseph got so many plausible details into the Book of Mormon, his equally startling “guesses” in the Book of Abraham are usually ignored…maybe because they are even more shocking.  How could Joseph have known what any of these old Egyptian hieroglyphics meant?  He didn’t know ancient Egyptian–hardly anybody in the world did!  The Rosetta Stone itself had barely been translated around the time that Joseph first started producing the Book of Abraham. 

And yet, what should have been wild shots in the dark hold up remarkably well nearly two centuries later, when the basics of Egyptian are so widely available, that a major hotel here in Las Vegas, the Luxor, makes them into a cute and easily recognizable theme. 

In Facsimile 1, there’s a weird creature shown near the bottom. 

The text defines it as “the idolatrous god of Pharaoh.”  Look closely–it’s a crocodile in the waters of the Nile.  So, did the Egyptians of Abraham’s time really identify Pharoah with a crocodile-god? 

They sure did.  His name is Sobek, Continue reading

Two Poor Wayfaring Men of Grief

167 years ago today, Joseph Smith, first prophet of the LDS Church, was murdered by a mob in a jail in Carthage, Illinois. 

As he and a few friends sat in a room in the jail, awaiting what they knew to be an imminent ambush, Joseph asked John Taylor, who would later become the church’s third president, after Brigham Young, to sing his favorite song for him.  The song was “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” which is about a man who keeps coming across a humble, suffering stranger throughout his life; the narrator keeps helping the stranger, regardless the sacrifice involved, until the end of the song, when the stranger is revealed to be Jesus Christ, who then offers salvation to His faithful friend. 

The song may have comforted Joseph in two ways.  He probably identified with the singer, who , like Joseph, had undergone almost constant adversity in a life devoted to serving Jesus.  Joseph also likely found some measure of peace in the fact that his difficult life was only a shadow of the suffering the Savior endured, as the song describes. 

Continue reading

A Silly Test of Book of Mormon Authorship

This morning, First Thoughts featured a link to a new tool called “I Write Like…” where writers can compare their work to the styles of famous authors.  The site is clearly an ad for a publishing agency, and gives wildly illogical results: for example, though it correctly identified the first chapter of Huck Finn for me as written in the style of Mark Twain and the short story “Araby” as by James Joyce, it also said the first chapter of Genesis (King James Version) was in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and that the first few paragraphs of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” sounded like H.P. Lovecraft.  Those comparisons are plausible, I suppose, but still a bit far-fetched.

The site does not provide any commentary on its analyses, nor does it even explain its program’s methodology.  Such background information would make this much more enjoyable.  As it is, it’s little more than a cute novelty. 

However, as I played with this toy, I thought about the issue of Book of Mormon authorship.  Though this would hardly be a scholarly study, I wondered what this site would say about it: does all of the text seem to come from one author, or many?  Does it sound like Joseph Smith?  (Though, to be fair, “I Write Like…” surely doesn’t have Smith in its program, nor is it consistent: in the space of two pages, Faulkner’s short story goes from sounding like Lovecraft, apparently, to Vladimir Nabokov.  My test here is purely facetious fun.) 

1 Nephi chapter 1 is written in the style of cyberpunk master William Gibson.  (Strange, I don’t remember Nephi spending much time dwelling on malevolent artificial intelligence.  Perhaps the desert wilderness into which his family was exiled was the Matrix?) 

1 Nephi 22 sounds like Daniel Defoe.  Makes sense.  Nephi Robinson and Lehi Crusoe sure could have used Friday. 

Alma chapter 1 could have come from the pen of Jane Austen, it says.  Continue reading

A Fireside With Joseph Smith’s Great-Great-Great-Grandson

Last week Michael Kennedy spoke to members of  the Las Vegas Stake.  My in-laws are in that stake, and invited my wife and me to attend.  It was a wonderful event.

I knew that Joseph Smith’s wife and children had not gone west with Brigham Young and the pioneers, and that his son Joseph Smith III had been the first president of the Reorganized LDS Church (now the Community of Christ), but I had also assumed that that meant that all of Joseph’s descendants were RLDS. 

Wrong.  Not that he has that many descendants, anyway.  The highlight of the fireside for me was a seventeen foot long chart he and his wife displayed that showed the family tree of Joseph and Emma, including every single member of his posterity, including those still alive.  The most surprising thing about it was how bare it was.  Of the five children he had with Emma who survived to adulthood, only two have lines that would be considered normal for population growth from one generation to the next.  Various reasons exist for this, but one example is particularly striking: one granddaughter joined the LDS Church and was so hounded by other relatives that she refused to have children, not wanting them to have to bear the stress she went through.  Many of the lines of Smith’s descendants have died out. 

(Incidentally, as I’m sure you’re thinking, Kennedy shared an important bit of trivia that bears on the number of descendants as well as a common criticism of the Prophet: though he was sealed to many other women, he doesn’t appear to have had children with any of them.  DNA testing continues, but has ruled out every candidate tested so far.  Though skeptics like to point out that some of the women he was sealed to were still teenagers, some of those “wives” were nearly twice his age.  Strange, if he was abusing his hold over people just to “sow his oats,” don’t you think?) 

The first half of Brother Kennedy’s presentation was his conversion story, which was just as entertaining as it was inspiring.  He grew up in rural Nevada, unaware of his famous ancestor until the early ’70’s when he had to do a report for a history class about an important American in his family tree.  Just as his father was showing him some family heirlooms about Joseph Smith, two missionaries knocked on his door.  Continue reading

Quotes, Pics, And Clips

Last night my family saw Bella Rumore in concert; they’re an excellent electric violin quartet that did a wide variety of rock covers (you’ve never really heard “Back in the USSR” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” until you’ve heard them on a viola and cello).  The little kids all ran around and danced in the orchestra area, and the wife and I got to relax.  I see they’re playing the Reed Whipple Cultural Center in November; that goes on the calendar now.

They played as part of the Movies, Moonlight, and Music series at the Rainbow Library (where, as you know if you read my last post, due to my North Las Vegas residency, I now have to sit at the back of the bus).  My wife said it was her favorite show that we’ve seen there.

Anyway, while this cross-genre extravaganza titilated our aural sensibilities, my thoughts turned to art and I was reminded of Terry Teachout’s great running feature of throwing up random quotes he comes across, and I thought this might be a good way for me to share more material, balance out my categories, and have a more regular routine myself.  I’ve wondered if this blog isn’t more popular because it covers so many topics–there’s something for everyone, but the whole package might only appeal to me.  Should I break it up and start a bunch of smaller blogs?

The answer is no.  I hate the idea of compartmentalizing my life, and I love the idea of mashing all this variety together so that fans of one area might strike out to new territory and explore something else.  A weekly quote collection might be a great way to do that.  OK, enough said.

ARTS:

Rembrandt, “Aristotle Contemplating Bust Of Homer”

A cautionary tale about selling out…

EDUCATION:  “Today we have discovered a powerful and elegant way to understand the universe, a method called science; it has revealed to us a universe so ancient and so vast that human affairs seem at first sight to be of little consequence….science has found not only that the universe has a reeling and ecstatic grandeur, not only that it is accessible to human understanding, but also that we are, in a very real and profound sense, a part of the Cosmos, born from it, our fate deeply connected with it.”  Carl Sagan, Cosmos

The wonder of discovery…

HUMOR:  “We constantly see surveys that reveal this ignorance, especially among our high school students, 78 percent of whom, in a recent nationwide multiple-choice test, identified Abraham Lincoln as ‘a kind of lobster.’  That’s right: more than three quarters of our nation’s youth could not correctly identify the man who invented the telephone.”  Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort Of History Of The United States

If it were up to me, this would be required reading in U.S. History classes

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE:  “Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse.  She comes softly and quietly, behind your left ear or in a corner of the next room.  Her words are whispers, her ideas shifting renditions of possibilities that have not been resolved, though they have occurred and reoccurred a thousand times in your mind.  She, or it, is a collection of memories not exactly your own.”  Walter Mosley, “For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Every Day,” from Writers On Writing: Collected Essays From The New York Times 

LIVING WELL:  “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.  We need the tonic of wilderness….We can never have enough of Nature.  We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets.  We need to witness our own limits transgressed…”  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

POLITICS AND SOCIETY:  “It is necessary that there be an unpopular institution in our midst that sets clarity above well-being or compassion.”  Allan Bloom, The Closing Of The American Mind

I’m willing to step up to the plate…

RELIGION:  “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”  Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:134

 

Just in this scanty collection of quotes from diverse sections of the library, we can see strong strains of integrated, multi-disciplinary thought.  And it is good.