Thursday, September 20, 2018

Seven Terrific Book of Mormon Videos

A new video starring Kelsey Edwards debuted today on Book of Mormon Central's BMC Studios YouTube channel.

Entitled "Evidences of the Book of Mormon: Hebraisms," this video is the fifth in the Book of Mormon Central evidences series. Previous videos in this series include Evidences of the Book of Mormon: Complexity starring Kwaku El,

Evidences of the Book of Mormon: Plates,

Evidences of the Book of Mormon: Translation,

and Evidences of the Book of Mormon: Nahom, all starring Stephen Smoot.

At the end of the latest video on Hebraisms, a user can click on links to two very good KnoWhy videos: Is It Possible That a Single Author Wrote the Book of Mormon? KnoWhy #399,

and What Can Stylometry Tell Us about Book of Mormon Authorship? KnoWhy #389.

Together, these seven videos present powerful evidence that the Book of Mormon:
The world is full of questions. Book of Mormon Central is providing well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated answers. Book of Mormon Central's mission is to build enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world. We take seriously the divine injunction to seek diligently out of the best books learning, even by study and also by faith D&C 88:118 and D&C 109:7, 14.

Six of the seven videos are available on the Book of Mormon Central en  Español YouTube channel:
Kelsey Edwards is a young Latter-day Saint actress who has played roles in several films. Kwaku El is a young Latter-day Saint actor best known for his comedy. Stephen O. Smoot is a brilliant young Latter-day Saint scholar with many publications to his credit. Stephen and Kwaku have appeared together several times on Three Mormons produced by the outstanding More Good Foundation.

Many people and groups produce Book of Mormon videos. What really separates the men from the boys is their degree of scholarly rigor. Go to this Book of Mormon Central blog post and click on "References" to see Book of Mormon Central's bona fides for the Hebraisms video thanks to the great work of another brilliant young Latter-day Saint scholar, Ryan Dahle.

How good are these videos? Elder Larry Y. Wilson, Executive Director of the Temple Department, thought our complexity video deserved to be on the lds.org homepage so every member of the Church could see it. That is unlikely, of course, but as of September 20, 2018 these videos have earned over 185,000 views in English and 230,000 in Spanish. These are relatively modest numbers, but our skills are improving and this material will have a long digital life.

We hope videos such as these help fulfill Pres. Ezra Taft Benson's vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon. We believe videos such as these help parents and educators fulfill Elder M. Russell Ballard's injunction in his important address "The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century." Shortly after Elder Ballard's talk on February 26, 2016, lds.org began linking to Book of Mormon Central as a trusted independent voice supporting the mission of the Church:
Elder Kevin W. Pearson speaking at FAIR 2018 told everyone to use material from FAIRMormon, Interpreter, and Book of Mormon Central, as well as to support these groups by donating time and money. The Church can't do this for itself, he said. Trusted, independent voices are essential. Elder Pearson's talk was important enough it was featured on the lds.org homepage for over a month.

Some early feedback on the new Hebraisms video:
  • "Please keep making these videos. They are amazing." Delvis
  • "Inspiring! Enlightening! Solid! Wow! I'm floored! And ... the animation was cool." Katie
  • "Very cool." Tory
  • "This is a great video, very informative and the narrator is easy to listen to, I subscribed to hear more like this." Christine
  • "This video is incredible! Thank you very much for sharing!" Eduardo
  • "Thank you for making these! Especially loved learning about and it came to pass!" Sylvia
A handful of people with Jewish backgrounds have joined the Church largely because of the Book of Mormon. This comment is from one of them: "My father is Jewish and mother Chilean (including some Lamanite). I found Christ through reading the Book of Mormon. I love your video and the vast amount of research to make such a brief summary of such an extensive topic. Please continue to share these." Gregorio. You can read his moving story here.

As is typical, hardened anti-Mormons swarmed around this video and began attacking it and us (Book of Mormon Central) almost immediately. We take their vitriol in stride. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Matthew 5: 11,12.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ammonihah's South Entrance

Dennis and Barbara Tedlock describe contemporary Highland Maya Day Keeper rituals performed in cities such as Momostenango at entrances situated in the four cardinal directions from the center of town. K'ich'e ritual specialists venerate sacred mountains and lakes north, south, east and west of their towns and on appointed days they travel to these outlying mountains and/or lakes, perform rituals, then return to monuments erected at one of the four town gates oriented toward that particular directional geographic feature. So, if it is the right day for a Day Keeper to visit the north mountain, he will travel through the north city gate, burn his incense, leave his offering, and perform his chants at the north mountain shrine, then return and finish his ritual at the north city entrance. Weeks or months later he will perform similar rituals at the east mountain and east entrance to the city, then later the south, and so on. See Dennis Tedlock, Breath on the Mirror: Mythic Voices and Visions of the Living Maya (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1997) and Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya, Revised Edition (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1992).

Gabrielle Vail and Christine Hernández believe passages in the Dresden Codex refer to these directional rituals. Vail and Hernández, Re-Creating Primordial Time: Foundation Rituals and Mythology in the Post classic Maya Codices (Bolulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2013), p. 106. While reading Vail and Hernández, it occurred to me that the passage in Alma 8:18 may allude to this Mesoamerican pattern of building city entrances in each of the four cardinal directions. In the Book of Mormon, Alma II returns to apostate Ammonihah via the south entrance. The context of the passage indicates the south gate was not the only entrance into or out of the city.
Our Candidate for Ammonihah with Uplands to the South
In another indication that Book of Mormon cities may have been following Mesoamerican practice, Alma 62:21 indicates that Nephihah had an east entrance. The same chapter says the city of Nephihah had a west wall (Alma 62:22), although no entrance or gate in that direction is mentioned. It is possible a river flowed west of Nephihah which would have helped mask the sound of Captain Moroni and his men scaling and descending the west wall.
Our Candidate for Nephihah in Topographical Context
In any event, these passages describing Ammonihah and Nephihah suggest that Book of Mormon cities were laid out, like their Mesoamerican countparts, in directional quadrants.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Primordial Flood

Book of Mormon peoples knew about Noah and the great flood. 3 Nephi 22:9 cites Isaiah 54:9 saying that Noah's deluge was a one-time event that will never be repeated. In Ether 6:7 Moroni compares the construction of the Jaredite barges with Noah's ark. Alma 10:22 talks about an ancient destruction of the earth by water as an archetype of an expected future destruction by famine, pestilence, and the sword.

When did Noah's flood destroy the earth? Some biblicists are comfortable with a 3,000 BC date which corresponds nicely with the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Ancient Near Eastern culture hero Gilgamesh is clearly cognate with biblical Noah in Genesis chapters 6 - 8.

A Maya universal flood story has come down to us from Diego de Landa in his Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, the Chilam Balam of Chumayel, and the Popol Vuh. All of these sources are post contact which means they could reflect European (biblical) influence.

However, a universal flood story is portrayed on page 74 of the famed Dresden Codex which is unambiguously pre-columbian.
Flood Scene Page 74, Dresden Codex
The Dresden, one of four ancient Maya codices that survived the Spanish Inquisition, dates no later than AD 1,345. It is generally thought to be a copy of a native book originally composed ca. AD 900 - 1,000. Page 74 shows water flowing from the mouth of a sky crocodile and two eclipse glyphs hanging from his underside. Below the saurian are figures of the goddess Chak Chel pouring water from a jar and God L holding a spear. The Maya conceived of this flood as a total destruction of the previous world.

And when does the best contemporary scholarship date the primordial flood event pictured in the Dresden? About 5,000 years ago just before the creation of the current world age on 4 Ahaw 8 Kumk'u (August 11, 3,114 BC). See Gabrielle Vail and Christine Hernández, Re-Creating Primordial Time: Foundation Rituals and Mythology in the Postclassic Maya Codices (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2013), particularly chapter 5.

The Maya, like other ancient Mesoamericans, perceived the universal flood as a one-time event that would not be repeated, although they expected the current world age to be destroyed at some future date by other means (wind, earthquake, fire, etc.)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Elder Pearson at FAIR 2018

The FAIRMormon 2018 Conference was held August 1 - 3 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. This three-day conference drew 450 participants who attended in person and another 470 who watched the event remotely over live streaming. Book of Mormon Central (BMC) was a conference sponsor. I volunteer as Executive Director of BMC and this article highlights our involvement.

On Wednesday, Lynne Hilton Wilson gave a masterful presentation on women in the New Testament, laying a foundation for understanding Peter and Paul's sometimes contradictory statements in the King James Version. Lynne co-founded BMC along with John W. (Jack) Welch.

Right after Lynne's presentation, oohs and aahs filled the hall as BMC's Nicole Shepard and Jasmin Rappleye unveiled Robert Pack's breathtaking new painting of Mary Whitmer being shown the plates by Moroni. She was the first of the June, 1829 witnesses. On Thursday, BMC's KnoWhy article #455 entitled "What Does Mary Whitmer Teach Us About Enduring Trials?" showcased this wonderful new addition to the corpus of Book of Mormon art. Bob Pack was the artist who painted the portrait of Jack Welch with Paul Gaechter that we unveiled at the Chiasmus Jubilee celebration on August 16, 2017 at BYU. The blog article entitled "Recent Book of Mormon News" includes an image of that painting. I presented the new Mary Whitmer painting to Lynne as a token of our appreciation for her founding role in our organization. Many people asked for prints and those will be available soon through Altus Fine Art in American Fork. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Book of Mormon Central People around the New Mary Whitmer Painting
L to R Standing: Tyson Yapias, Jonathon Riley, Jasmin Rappleye, Lynne Wilson
L ro R Standing: Robert Pack, Jack Welch, Stephen Smoot, Israel Gonzalez
L ro R Kneeling: Robert Starling, Neal Rappleye, Noe Correa, Trace Mayer
L ro R Kneeling: Kirk Magleby, Matt Cutler, Zander Sturgill

Photo by Michael R. Ash August 3, 2018
Wednesday evening, Jack Welch and I from BMC met with Scott Gordon and John Lynch from FAIR along with Lindsay Hadley, Stephen H. Smoot, Dick Gordon, Bob Babcock, Tyler Perry, and Trace Mayer who are advisers to Mormon Voices, the association of BMC with FAIRMormon and Interpreter Foundation.

The lead presenter on Thursday was Sara Riley who gave a terrific presentation on Exodus narrative elements found throughout Mosiah 11-18. Dozens of cell phones were snapping photos of her Powerpoint slides as she showed layer upon layer of coincident literary motifs between the two texts. Sara is married to Jonathon Riley, one of BMC's researcher/writers.

Ever popular Brad Wilcox gave an insightful presentation on grace as it is understood in Protestant and LDS thought. He gave several shout outs to BMC that generally mirrored his sentiments in one of our YouTube videos from August, 2016.

Friday opened with Wade Miller talking about paleontology. He is the world's expert on the animals in the Book of Mormon and his current research interest centers on horses. The blog article "Horses" gives more information about his work. BMC has sponsored Wade's expeditions for the last couple of years. He showed a photo of myself, Matt Roper, and Daniel Smith in Coahuila in April, 2018 filming a team of Mexican paleontologists who were bringing a new horse bone out of the ground.

Elder Kevin W. Pearson, General Authority Seventy, talked about the need for all of us to advance the Church's mission through digital outreach. He formerly headed the Missionary Department and currently serves on the Communication Services Committee and Strengthening Church Members Committee. He was assigned to speak at FAIR 2018 by M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve and he told the audience he was speaking on behalf of the Church.
Elder Kevin W. Pearson at FAIR, August 3, 2018
Photo from LDS Church News
Elder Pearson had everyone's attention as he showed a graphic of the 7.6 billion people currently on planet Earth, then indicated that 6.6 billion of them have never even heard of the Church. Of the 1 billion who do know we exist, more than half have a negative impression of us. He characterized the amount of missionary work to be done as enormous and lauded Mormon Voices: BMC, FAIRMormon, and Interpreter Foundation, for helping the Church accomplish its mission. Elder Pearson said people should get behind these independent groups as volunteers and donors as well as do their part as individuals to spread the good news of the restored gospel worldwide.

I enjoyed lunch on Friday with cryptocurrency thought leader, Trace Mayer, a couple of his friends, and prolific author Jonathan Neville. Jonathan and I agree on 90% of contemporary Book of Mormon studies. We are diametrically opposed on the other 10% (geography) but we remain friends.

FAIR 2018 was the 20th anniversary of the annual FAIR Conference. Dan Peterson was the closing speaker as he has been in each of the previous 19 years. Dan, chairman of Interpreter Foundation, reiterated the importance of the work BMC, FAIRMormon, and Interpreter are doing to help people discover their way into truth through study and faith D&C 109:7, 14.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Torches

The Book of Mormon explicitly says the Nephites used candles, torches, and wood for light 3 Nephi 8:21. Evidence of ancient American candles is not yet well-established, although wax was known. Metal smiths used the lost wax technique to cast intricate patterns in jewelry as in this exceptional piece from Monte Alban.
Gold Pectoral on Display in the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
Torches are well-attested. This is an image of a lit torch atop a reptile eye symbol with a bar and two dots representing the number 7.
Drawing from Piedra Labrada (Veracruz) Stela 1 
Piedra Labrada is 8 kilometers north of Cerro San Martin Pajapan, our proposal for Hill Ramah/Cumorah. See the blog article "Ramah Cumorah."

In this roll-out photo by Justin Kerr, a Maya vase from Chama shows God L holding a torch. Chama we correlate with Nephite Manti. See the blog article "Manti."
K702, Vase in the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
Another Maya vase shows deities holding torches emitting stylized flames.
K5363, Vase in the Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, NC
The Codex Mendoza (aka Mendocino) was painted ca. 1541. It depicts Aztec history and descriptions of daily life. This image shows bride's maids carrying split pine torches to an Aztec wedding.
Wedding Scene from Codex Mendoza in the Bodleian Library, Oxford
Many other depictions of pre-Columbian torches fueled by pine resin and wooden split pine staves are known and could be shown. This small Book of Mormon detail is amply attested in Mesoamerican art and iconography.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Lehite Temples

Six LDS Temples were dedicated in 1983, all by President Gordon B. Hinckley who at that time was Second Counselor in the First Presidency serving with Presidents Spencer W. Kimball and Marion G. Romney.
Temples Dedicated in 1983
The dedication dates were:
  • Atlanta, Georgia June 1, 1983 The Book of Mormon did not figure in the dedicatory prayer.
  • Apia, Samoa August 5, 1983 Pres. Hinckley in the prayer quoted the Prophet Jacob 2 Nephi 10:21 describing the isles of the sea.
  • Nuku'alofa, Tonga August 9, 1983 Pres. Hinckley in the dedicatory prayer said the Book of Mormon was a "record of the forebears of the people of Tonga."
  • Santiago, Chile September 15, 1983 Pres. Hinckley did not explicitly mention the Book of Mormon in the dedicatory prayer, but he referred to "this great continent of South America which is part of the land of Zion."  
  • Pape'ete, Tahiti October 27, 1983 Pres. Hinckley in the prayer twice alluded to the fundamental Book of Mormon promise that obedience yields prosperity 1 Nephi 2:20 (among others).  
  • Mexico City, Mexico December 2, 1983 Pres. Hinckley in the dedicatory prayer said that most of the Saints in Mexico and Central America "have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi."
As part of his talk in the Mexico City temple, Pres. Hinckley said "Six new temples have been dedicated this year. These were unplanned in terms of particular prophecy but most of these temples have been built to serve descendants of Lehi ... I believe the Lord has touched His prophet [Spencer W. Kimball] to bring into play those processes by which He is remembering ancient covenants concerning descendants of Lehi."
Gerry Avant, LDS Church News History Revisited, published June 22, 2018.

See also "Father Lehi in the Mexico City Temple."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Father Lehi in the Mexico City Temple

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency with Pres. Spencer W. Kimball and Pres. Marion G. Romney, dedicated the Mexico City Temple in multiple sessions on December 2 and 3, 1983. The Mexico City Temple was designed with Maya architectural motifs such as the basket weave pattern reminiscent of Uxmal and other famous Maya sites.
Pres. Gordon B. and Sis. Marjorie P. Hinckley
at the Dedication of the Mexico City Temple

December 3, 1983 Photo by Gerry Avant
In the dedicatory prayer, Pres. Hinckley said these memorable words: "Bless Thy saints in this great land and those from other lands who will use this temple. Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou hast kept Thine ancient promise. Many thousands 'that walked in darkness have seen a great light.' " (2 Nephi 19:2 quoting Isaiah 9:2)

At one point in the dedicatory service, Pres. Hinckley spoke to Father Lehi who was present in the room. This is how Gerry Avant, long-time editor of the LDS Church News, remembered the incident:

"President Hinckley spoke with a quivering voice as he testified that souls 'from the other side of the veil' were present ... President Hinckley then named specifically ... Brigham Young, who sent missionaries to the country. He stated the names of several of the missionaries and the first mission president. He named the first Mexican who was baptized and pronounced the names of several others who had occupied a place in the history of the Church in Mexico."

Sister Avant continued, "President Hinckley had been speaking several minutes. He paused and explained that there was another person from the other side of the veil he had not mentioned. In a strong voice filled with emotion and joy, President Hinckley exclaimed, 'Welcome, Father Lehi! Oh, how your heart must rejoice!' "