Wednesday, January 16, 2019

124 Prophecies Fulfilled

Book of Mormon Central published KnoWhy #498 today and it is phenomenal. Entitled "How Does Prophecy Shape the Book of Mormon's Content and Structure?" this outstanding essay written by Ryan Dahle of Salmon, ID details 124 prophecies in the text whose fulfillment is explicitly recorded elsewhere in the Nephite record.

For instance, 1 Nephi 1:4 records a prophecy that Jerusalem will be destroyed and this prophecy gets repeated five additional times in the text. The first report of fulfillment came soon after the prophecy itself. Once his family was in the New World, Lehi announced that he had seen the destruction of Jerusalem in vision 2 Nephi 1:4 although some among the patriarch's posterity were inclined to disbelieve him 2 Nephi 4:13.

Nephi, through prophetic vision, also came to understand that Jerusalem had been destroyed and many of the Jews had been taken captive into Babylon 2 Nephi 25:10. He knew that not all of his family believed him 2 Nephi 32:7.

Undeniable proof that Jerusalem had been destroyed came when Mosiah I came down to Zarahemla from the city of Nephi and discovered the Mulekites ca. 200 BC Omni 1:15. Nephi II made this proof explicit when he called the people of Zarahemla to repentance from his garden tower Helaman 8:21.

As he compiled his book, Mormon made it abundantly clear that prophecies get fulfilled. We can trust inspired prophets. God keeps His promises. It is clear to most readers that the Book of Mormon places high value on prophetic content. When we discussed a potential KnoWhy on internal prophecies, I thought we might find 25 or 30 instances of prophecies fulfilled later in the text. Ryan found 124 examples and there are undoubtedly more. We have been reading it carefully for years and the Book of Mormon continues to surprise, excite, and impress us.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World

In a talk given at BYU in 1955, Elder Hugh B. Brown (1883 - 1975, his middle name was also Brown), then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, laid the foundation for what would later be called
Elder, then Pres. Hugh B. Brown in His Later Years
"The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World." This is a list of 30 or more characteristics (multiple versions exist as people have tweaked and shared it over the years) a work must have to be like the Book of Mormon. The challenge is for you or anyone to write a comparable book:
  • You will be in your early 20's with limited formal education.
  • You can do no research of any kind.
  • You must dictate 269,000 words to a scribe in about 65 working days.
  • Your cannot go back and edit your first draft.
  • You must get hundreds of historical and cultural details right that science will confirm over time.
  • Your book will remain in print continuously and be translated into more than 100 languages.
  • Over 1 million people will donate years of their lives to publicize your book worldwide.
  • and 23 other stringent requirements... The full list is here.
This long list of 30+ features is impressive because the Book of Mormon is beautiful, miraculous, and true. Historical forgery is impossible. The Book of Mormon continues to resonate with many people on multiple levels. The primary institution resulting from the Book of Mormon odyssey, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is world-class in dozens of ways.

Hugh Nibley (1910 - 2005) issued a version of this challenge to his BYU students year after year.
Hugh W. Nibley Who Taught at BYU from 1946 until 1994
"Write a history of ancient Tibet. Why Tibet? Because you likely know as much or more about ancient Tibet than Joseph Smith or anyone else in 1829 knew about ancient America." No one ever took Nibley up on his challenge. Of course no mere author could produce an equivalent book. The Book of Mormon is the most divine object most of us will ever hold in our mortal hands.

In 1966, Grace Guymon Jones first read a copy of "The Challenge" and decided she would do something with it someday. In 1990, her professor husband, Milt, was on Sabbatical in New Zealand. Her children were adults and she had time on her hands. She began collecting source materials and writing.
Grace Guymon Jones Received a BYU Emeritus Award in 2001
27 years later, when she was 88, she had a manuscript in circulation that was nearing publication quality. I worked with her for a few months, heavily editing and ghost-writing some sections. Her son, Milt Jr., did the same. By early 2018 she was sourcing images and working with a layout artist. In December, 2018, her website went live and her book was selling on Amazon. Grace was 90 years old.
Important New Book
This 340 page book has an introduction by Milt Jones, Jr. and 30 chapters, one for each of the 30 requirements on Grace's list. Her writing style is more folksy than scholarly, although her sources are well-documented with 926 end notes. Her text is enlivened with dozens of photos and illustrations from very good artists. In these pages you will find a faithful retelling of the Joseph Smith story, some of the best current Book of Mormon scholarship, an insightful look at many aspects of the contemporary Church, and above all lots of stories. Sister Jones has been collecting stories for decades from the Church News, Ensign, published books, and her own contacts in the places she and her husband have lived around the world. The result is a compilation of Book of Mormon human interest stories at their finest. I highly recommend this book.

Here is a video of Grace talking about the process she went through to compile material for her book:

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world. Book of Mormon Central currently publishes in English and Spanish.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Why Only Male Authors in the Book of Mormon?

Many gifted writers are female as J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series demonstrates.
J. K. Rowling's Ubiquitous Boy Wizard
In Joseph Smith's America (1805 - 1844), women were recognized authors. The first book published in the English colonies was a collection of poems by Anne Bradstreet (1612 - 1672) entitled The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America that appeared in 1650. English America's first best-seller was Charlotte Temple first published in 1790.
1814 New York Edition of Charlotte Temple
It was written by Susanna Rowson (1762 - 1824) who came to Massachusetts from England at the age of 5. Charlotte Temple remained the most successful book in English American literature until Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 - 1896) published Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. Briton Jane Austen (1775 - 1817), largely unheralded in her lifetime, achieved enormous posthumous fame as the author of the very popular Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Joseph Smith's Bible contained the books of Ruth and Esther. We don't know for sure who wrote either book, but their presence in the Old Testament tells us something about the role of women in ancient storytelling.

So, why, when we read the Book of Mormon, do we find all its authors are men?
  • Nephi
  • Lehi
  • Isaiah
  • Jacob
  • Enos
  • Jarom
  • Omni
  • Amaron
  • Chemish
  • Abinadom
  • Amaleki
  • Mormon
  • King Benjamin
  • King Limhi
  • Zeniff
  • Alma
  • Captain Moroni
  • Helaman
  • Giddianhi
  • Parhoron (Critical Text orthography)
  • Ether
  • Moroni
The foregoing list is not exhaustive, but it is exclusively male. Women such as Sariah 1 Nephi 5:2 and King Lamoni's wife Alma 19:29 are quoted briefly very occasionally, but female authorship is not attested in the text. If the Book of Mormon was written in Mesoamerica as most Latter-day Saint and Community of Christ (Restoration Branch) scholars believe, the reason is straightforward.

One of the best sources for late-breaking news from the exciting world of Maya Decipherment is a blog named simply "Maya Decipherment" authored by David Stuart, Stephen Houston, Simon Martin, Marc Zender, and other luminaries. In a June 28, 2018 post entitled "What Writing Looks Like," Stephen Houston, formerly at BYU, currently at Brown, discusses glyphs on textiles. Even though weaving in the Maya world was typically done by women, "Yet there is also overwhelming evidence that the scribes and literate sculptors were men." For authority, Houston cites his article "Crafting Credit: Authorship among Classic Maya Painters and Sculptors" in Cathy L. Costin, editor, Making Value, Making Meaning: Techné in the Pre-Columbian World (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2016) pp. 391-431.
The Hero Twins as Scribes, Drawn from Justin Kerr Number K344
In another publication, Houston observed "there is no evidence that women painted pots with legible writing." Stephen Houston, The Gifted Passage: Young Men in Classic Maya Art and Text (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014) p. 5.

In the Mesoamerican world the Book of Mormon likely came from, only men were authors.

Another article explains that Maya art and iconography in general tend to be heavily male or "androcentric." Stephen Houston and Andrew Scherer, "Maya Animalia, or Why Do Dogs Dress Up?" in Maya Decipherment, July 7, 2020. 

A related topic is discussed in Book of Mormon Central's KnoWhy #391 published December 19, 2017 in English "Why Are So Few Women  Mentioned in the Book of  Mormon?" This KnoWhy was published July 10, 2018 in Spanish.

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world.

Friday, January 4, 2019


A beautiful blog post by Jasmin Gimenez captures the essence of veil symbolism in the Temple and on a bride's wedding day. Recently married herself, Jasmin draws on scholarship by Lynne Wilson and deep insights from scriptures such as Ether 3 to help us understand the Temple more clearly from a woman's perspective. Highly recommended.
Lace Cathedral Length Veil from the UK
My brother, Alfred Magleby, spent many years as a diplomat in Islamic countries where his wife, Hiromi, wore a face veil in public. I asked her once if she did not feel belittled or demeaned by what I regarded as a suppression of her natural right to self expression. On the contrary, she replied, she felt liberated and empowered wearing her veil and most of the Muslim women she talked with felt similarly. Being inside rather than outside the veil is a powerful symbol of proximity to God.