Thursday, December 29, 2016

Big Picture Thinking

A new book is coming out soon from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Entitled The Origin of Maya States, it looks at Maya city state polities in the preclassic, beginning at ca. 1,000 BC. Contributors include LDS archaeologists John E. Clark from BYU and Richard D. Hansen from the University of Utah. The book, following standard practice in the discipline, divides the Maya area into 3 distinct cultural areas:
  • Pacific Coast
  • Highlands
  • Lowlands
If we assume that the dividing line between the Book of Mormon lands northward and southward is the Coatzacoalcos River (a boundary that many serious students of the text support) then the Maya area is roughly coterminous with the Book of Mormon land southward. And what do we find in the Book of Mormon during Nephite (preclassic) times? 3 distinct cultural areas:
  • Land of First Inheritance
  • Greater land of Nephi
  • Greater land of Zarahemla sharing a fluid border with land Bountiful
Mapping everything out according to our Book of Mormon Lands Map January 2016 correlation, we find that the latest scholarship nicely validates our model.
Maya Area with Proposed Book of Mormon Correlations
More details are in the article "Test #3 Cultural Boundaries."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

El Tigre

Jorge Merino just visited El Tigre on the Candelaria River in Campeche and was very impressed with the size and dramatic location of the site. It was well situated for defense and to control canoe traffic up and down the river.
El Tigre aka Itzamkanac, Campeche
This site was opened for visitors about three years ago. According to INAH, it was first settled between 600 and 300 BC and was continuously occupied until European contact. Hernan Cortes executed Cuauhtemoc at this place during his overland trip to Honduras. The site reached apogee in the Postclassic. The urban core extends over 380 hectares. and includes at least 60 major structures.

I believe this site could have been part of the area the Book of Mormon describes as "the most capital parts of the land" Helaman 1:27 situated between the lesser land of Zarahemla and land Bountiful.
El Tigre in Possible Book of Mormon Context
El Tigre was interconnected with Palenque in a number of ways. Palenque is in the area we identify as the lesser land of Zarahemla shown in red on the map above.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Joseph Smith's 211th Birthday

Joseph Smith was born on December 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. That was 211 years ago today. We celebrated Joseph Smith's birthday this evening with friends. I showed them the only authenticated photo of the Prophet.
Daguerreotype of Joseph Smith, Jr. Taken in Nauvoo
Shortly Before the Prophet's Martyrdom
My friend, Chad Fugate from Pocatello, Idaho, was part of the team (Reed Simonsen, Jim Fugate) that determined the authenticity of this image. They did historical research and compared facial features with Joseph's death mask, taking into account the fact that the Prophet's skull was badly fractured in the melee at Carthage. You can read their report here.

This evening I also showed my friends the new Joseph Smith Chronology published by BYU Studies. This remarkable database of nearly 1,500 entries goes through the Prophet's action-packed life day by day and details what happened on that day. References come from the many sources that were studied to compile the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book of Mormon News December 2016

Nice article in today's Deseret News about Book of Mormon Central. I am quite excited that we have begun publication in Spanish. Ramah/Cumorah Expedition 2017 will be in southern Veracruz February 19th to March 11th learning more about the likely setting for the final Jaredite and Nephite battles. 14th Annual Book of Mormon Lands Conference (BMAF) will be held in the Utah County Convention Center in downtown Provo on Saturday, March 18th, 2017. First Book of Mormon Central travel experience, a cruise, will be May 20th - 27th, 2017.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Prophecy Fulfilled 005

Nephi explained that his small plates were for recording religious ministry 1 Nephi 9:4, while his large plates were for recording:
  1. the reign of the kings
  2. wars
  3. contentions
The word "king" appears over 400 times in the text. The word "war" appears over 160 times and "contention" more than 80 times. Nephite scribes clearly followed their founder's directives.

In the lavish 2015 book The Maya: Voices in Stone Harri Kettunen has an article entitled "Ancient Maya Warfare: Military Techniques, Tactics, and Strategies." He lists the main topics recorded in Maya epigraphy:
  1. dynastic histories of kings and queens
  2. armed conflicts
  3. political battles
The affairs Maya scribes chose to write about mirror Nephi's prophetic instructions to his successors.
Panel 2 Piedras Negras, Peten, Guatemala Showing Royalty & Warriors

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Prophecy Fulfilled 004

After he had a chance to read the plates of brass retrieved from Laban in Jerusalem, Father Lehi prophesied that the information contained on them would go forth to multiple "nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed" 1 Nephi 5:18. The Book of Mormon contains a great deal of information that was on the plates of brass. So, as the Book of Mormon goes forth to Lehi's descendants in their mother tongues, Lehi's prophecy is fulfilled. Lehi's descendants include native speakers of many languages. The date indicates when the Book of Mormon was first published in a significant language spoken by a large group of native Americans.
  • English 1830 (US, Canada, Belize, Guyana)
  • Spanish 1886 (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Dominican Republic)
  • Portuguese 1931 (Brazil)
  • Kaqchikel 1978 (Guatemala)
  • Quechua - Peru 1979 (Peru)
  • Quiche 1979 (Guatemala)
  • Navajo 1980 (US)
  • Kuna 1981 (Panama, Colombia)
  • Quechua - Bolivia 1981 (Bolivia)
  • Q'eqchi' (Kekchi) 1983 (Guatemala, Belize)
  • Mam 1983 (Guatemala)
  • Maya 1983 (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala)
  • Aymara 1986 (Peru, Bolivia)
  • Tzotzil 1993 (Mexico)
  • Guarani 2009 (Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil)
  • Quichua - Ecuador 2011 (Ecuador)
This map shows major places where native speakers of these 16 languages live today.
Sixteen Languages Spoken by Lehi's Seed
Who Have the Book of Mormon in Their Tongue
Lehi's prophecy has been fulfilled as the plates of brass have gone forth to his seed in many nations, kindreds, tongues, and people via the Book of Mormon.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Prophecy Fulfilled 003

At the end of the first day of His ministry to the Nephites, the risen Lord gathered his 12 New World disciples together, touched each of them individually, and spoke to them as He touched them. Jesus Christ gave each of his chosen disciples power to give the Holy Ghost 3 Nephi 18:36-37. Mormon then authored an editorial promise that at some point in his record he would show his readers that the Savior's ordinations were effective, that the 12 New World disciples did indeed possess the power to give the Holy Ghost 3 Nephi 18:37.

On the second day of the Savior's ministry, the 12 prayed to receive the Holy Ghost themselves 3 Nephi 19:9 and newly-baptized members had the Holy Ghost fall upon them 3 Nephi 19:13. The Holy Ghost was in rich abundance, but Mormon's prophetic promise was not explicitly fulfilled.

On the third day of the Savior's ministry, the 12 continued to baptize, and their converts were filled with the Holy Ghost 3 Nephi 26:17. Again, the Holy Ghost was present, but Mormon's prophetic promise was not explicitly fulfilled.

After the third day's ministry, the Savior's disciples continued baptizing and again their converts did receive the Holy Ghost 3 Nephi 28:18. Mormon's comments indicate he was citing the records at his disposal, but once again he did not explicitly fulfill his prophetic promise.

After approximately 1.5 years had elapsed, the Savior's disciples were still baptizing people who "did also receive the Holy Ghost" 4 Nephi 1:1. The baptism - Holy Ghost couplet was paramount, but the 12 possessing power was not mentioned - so yet again Mormon did not explicitly fulfill his prophetic promise.

Mormon authored the historical book that bears his name and did not return to this theme of the 12 and their ministry. He then turned his plates over to his son, Moroni Mormon 6:6. After surviving his nation's holocaust, Moroni was alone and bereft with very little room left on his father's plates Mormon 8:5. Moroni authored Mormon chapters 8 & 9 without regard to his father's unfulfilled prophetic promise.

Then, something remarkable happened. Moroni lived for several more decades. He obtained ore and fashioned more plates. He had time to go over his father's abridgment in detail. He discovered his father's unfinished business. So, in his own book, after a short introduction, Moroni immediately recounted 3 Nephi 18:36-37 embellished with additional details, and then he explicitly fulfilled his father's prophetic promise Moroni 2:3. Moroni as faithful son completed what his father had begun.

Iconic Arnold Friberg Painting of Teutonic Mormon and Moroni

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Prophecy Fulfilled 002

Nephi believed he was an effective public speaker but a relatively poor writer 2 Nephi 33:1. We marvel at his words today and consider the books of 1st and 2nd Nephi literary masterpieces. Nevertheless, he perceived his writing as weak 2 Nephi 33:4.

But, in the latter days, Nephi prophesied that his words would "be made strong unto" Lehi's descendants 2 Nephi 33:4. How do weak words become strong? The parallel text in 2 Nephi 3 has some of the answers.
  • The Book of Mormon convinces people of the truthfulness of the Bible. Nephi's words are strong because they reinforce the earlier text 2 Nephi 3:11.
  • The Book of Mormon and the Bible, growing together, strengthen each other 2 Nephi 3:12.
  • Book of Mormon words will come out of God's own mouth 2 Nephi 3:21. This is one of the many reasons Royal Skousen's and Stan Carmack's theory of tight control over the translation process is compelling.
  • Lehi's descendants in the latter days will exhibit faith 2 Nephi 3:21.
2 Nephi 33:4 goes on to say that Nephi's words will become strong because they help accomplish righteous purposes.

There is another way Nephi's words are being made strong unto the children of Lehi. Book of Mormon Central has published 245 KnoWhys in English since January 1, 2016. Each of these well researched, written, edited, illustrated, documented, and packaged essays (with podcast and video) strengthens a word, phrase, or concept in the Nephite text through faithful scholarly elucidation.
KnoWhys 234 - 245 on the Book of Mormon Central Website
We will be publishing KnoWhys for many years. Over time, they will become a formidable resource for profoundly engaging the Nephite text.

And now, after months of preparation, we are publishing KnoWhys in Spanish so they will reach many more of Lehi's dcescendants. Every Hispanic Latter-day Saint who reads, watches, or listens to a KnoWhy will be literally fulfilling Nephi's prophecy.


Prophecy Fulfilled 001

The Book of Mormon is beautiful, miraculous, and true. I first heard that description from Neal Rappleye, Operations Manager at Book of Mormon Central. One of the salient characteristics of this divinely-inspired text is its prophetic nature. How many prophecies are contained in its pages? I have never counted, but there are hundreds. Here is one being fulfilled before our eyes.

Nephi in his closing statement describes people who "cast many things away which are written, and esteem them as things of naught." 2 Nephi 33:2. He goes on to describe people in the latter days who will not "respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed out of the mouth of the Lamb of God ..." 2 Nephi 33:14.

In other words, in our day the Bible and the Book of Mormon will be unappreciated and ignored.

In 1899, three traveling businessmen, Samuel Hill, William Knights, and John Nicholson, founded Gideons International whose mission is to distribute free copies of the Bible. I remember as a youth in Arizona being given a small Gideon Bible in grade school. In 1908 the Gideons placed a copy of the Bible in every room of the Superior Hotel (which no longer exists) in Superior, Montana. Since that time the group has become known worldwide for placing the scriptures in hotel and motel rooms, hospitals, prisons, etc. In April, 2015, The Gideons placed their historic 2 billionth copy of the Bible. (A counter displaying the number of copies of the Book of Mormon distributed worldwide is hosted here.)

J. Willard Marriott founded world's largest lodging chain. A devout Mormon, he established a policy of placing both a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Bible in every room of every Marriott property. For decades I have delighted at finding a copy of the Book of Mormon in my room as I have stayed at Courtyards, Fairmont Inns, Residence Inns, and Marriott Hotels in many nations.
The Book of Mormon and the Bible in a Marriott Property
All of that is changing. An article by Hugo Martin in the LA Times this morning announced that "More Hotels are Checking Out of the Bible Business." Marriott has decided not to place scriptures in their new Moxy and Edition brand hotels because "the religious books don't fit the personality of the brands." Moxy and Edition hotels target "fun-loving millenials." A survey by a hospitality industry analytics firm reported that the percentage of U.S. hotels with religious material in their rooms dropped from 95% in 2006 to 48% in 2016.

The article goes on to explain reasons why many lodging chains are choosing not to place the scriptures in their rooms:
  • Younger Americans are less devout than their parents or grandparents
  • Muslims and Buddhists can be offended
  • Nightstands are becoming less common in rooms
  • Atheist groups are exerting pressure
The Freedom from Religion Foundation even goes so far as to encourage their members to affix stickers on hotel room Bibles that say "Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life."

I was in a medical office waiting room not long ago and picked up a copy of the Book of Mormon. It had one of these atheist stickers on the title page. I penned a heartfelt testimony and signed my name to the side of the sticker. Nephi's prophecy is being literally fulfilled and I like him esteem the word of God "as of great worth." 2 Nephi 33:3.