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 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, 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 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.)