Skip to comments.The Book of Mormon Challenge
Posted on 04/27/2006 3:03:34 PM PDT by restornu
The Book of Mormon is often dismissed as gibberish by those who have never taken the trouble to read it. In fact, its very existence poses a serious puzzle if it is not what it claims to be - an ancient record. Below is the Book of Mormon Challenge, an assignment that Professor Hugh Nibley at BYU sometimes gave to students in a required class on the Book of Mormon. The following text is taken from the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.8, Ch.11, Pg.221 - Pg.222:
Since Joseph Smith was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well-educated as any of you at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of, say, five to six hundred pages in length. Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history. Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times; have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicissitudes; give them names--hundreds of them--pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 b.c.; be lavish with cultural and technical details--manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites, and traditions, include long and complicated military and economic histories; have your narrative cover a thousand years without any large gaps; keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once; feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting; observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials.
Above all, do not ever contradict yourself! For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up--we have our little joke--but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as fiction or romance, but as a true history! After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it (in this class we always use the first edition of the Book of Mormon); what is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible. If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim--they will love that! Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel. Now go to work and good luck!
To date no student has carried out this assignment, which, of course, was not meant seriously. But why not? If anybody could write the Book of Mormon, as we have been so often assured, it is high time that somebody, some devoted and learned minister of the gospel, let us say, performed the invaluable public service of showing the world that it can be done." - Hugh Nibley
Structure and Complexity of the Book of Mormon First Nephi gives us first a clear and vivid look at the world of Lehi, a citizen of Jerusalem but much at home in the general world of the New East of 600 B.C. Then it takes us to the desert, where Lehi and his family wander for eight years, doing all the things that wandering families in the desert should do. The manner of their crossing the ocean is described, as is the first settlement and hard pioneer life in the New World dealt with.... The book of Mosiah describes a coronation rite in all its details and presents extensive religious and political histories mixed in with a complicated background of exploration and colonization. The book of Alma is marked by long eschatological discourses and a remarkably full and circumstantial military history. The main theme of the book of Helaman is the undermining of society by moral decay and criminal conspiracy; the powerful essay on crime is carried into the next book, where the ultimate dissolution of the Nephite government is described.
Then comes the account of the great storm and earthquakes, in which the writer, ignoring a splendid opportunity for exaggeration, has as accurately depicted the typical behavior of the elements on such occasions as if he were copying out of a modern textbook on seismology.... [Soon] after the catastrophe, Jesus Christ appeared to the most pious sectaries who had gathered at the temple.
...Can anyone now imagine the terrifying prospect of confronting the Christian world of 1830 with the very words of Christ? ...
But the boldness of the thing is matched by the directness and nobility with which the preaching of the Savior and the organization of the church are described. After this comes a happy history and then the usual signs of decline and demoralization. The death-struggle of the Nephite civilization is described with due attention to all the complex factors that make up an exceedingly complicated but perfectly consistent picture of decline and fall. Only one who attempts to make a full outline of Book of Mormon history can begin to appreciate its immense complexity; and never once does the author get lost (as the student repeatedly does, picking his way out of one maze after another only with the greatest effort), and never once does he contradict himself. We should be glad to learn of any other like performance in the history of literature. - Hugh Nibley, Collected Works Vol. 8
The four types of biblical experts There are four kinds of biblical experts: At the very top are the professionals who have been doing biblical research all their adult lives. They are usually professors in leading universities in various fields that are related to the Bible such as archaeologists, historians, paleographers, professors of the Bible, and professors of Near Eastern languages and literature.
These people are the most credible of all biblical experts and do not let religious views get in the way of the truth. This is why a lot of them consider themselves to be nonbelievers in the modern Christian and Jewish faiths. Their reputation and standing in the academic community is very important to them. This causes them to be cautious and not rashly declare statements upon any subject without presenting verifiable proof for their claims. It is to them that encyclopedias, journals and universities go to for information. Their community is very small, but extremely influential in the secular world. One distinctive feature of this group is the difficulty outsiders face when reading their writings which causes them to be a fairly closed society.
The second group of biblical experts are those who have legitimate degrees and may have initially been in the first group but were spurned by the first group for being unreliable because they disregard demonstrable proof simply because their religious convictions teach otherwise. For them, their religion's teaching overrides real biblical research. Very few of them can be considered Fundamentalists.
The third group of biblical experts are the "biblical experts." These people disregard the works and conclusions of the first group, and view the second group as their mentors. Nearly all anti-Mormons who produce anti-Mormon paraphernalia fall into this group. Their views are purely theological and display ignorance of legitimate biblical studies. Their arguments are non-rational and are frequently sensational hype and empty rhetoric. These people are very vocal and constantly parade their "expertise" upon the unknowing masses by giving seminars in various churches and religious schools. Nearly all of them are Fundamentalists.
The fourth group of "biblical experts" are those who have never read the Bible completely and do not even know the history and contents of the Bible. They are completely reliant upon materials produced by the third group and may have five verses in the Bible memorized to quote at people they encounter (in nearly every instance John 3:16 and John 14:6 are included in these five verses) to give the impression they are experts in the Bible. They usually need the Table of Contents to find various biblical books and are extremely vocal in their condemnation of Mormonism. They personify the wise adage:
The less knowledge a man has, the more vocal he is about his expertise.
They read an anti-Mormon book and suddenly they're experts on Mormonism:
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
The remainder of Christians are those who believe in the Bible but never read it. The Bible is a very complex book for most Christians and seems to possess a power that intimidates them. This is why a normal Christian is impressed whenever he or she encounters an individual who can quote scripture. It is this ignorance of the Bible that causes some to proclaim themselves "biblical experts."
I am not aware of anyone in the first group of biblical experts who are anti-Mormon. If anything, real biblical scholars who know Mormon theology have a profound sense of admiration for it and are usually astonished that so many facets of Mormonism reflect authentic biblical teachings.
They are frequently puzzled at how Joseph Smith could find out the real biblical teaching since modern Judaism and Christianity abandoned them thousands of years ago. Uniquely Mormon doctrines such as the anthropomorphic nature of God, the divine nature and deification potential of man, the plurality of deities, the divine sanction of polygamy, the fallacy of sola scriptura, the superiority of the charismatic leaders over the ecclesiastical leaders and their importance, the inconsequence of Original Sin because of the Atonement of Christ, the importance of contemporary revelation, and so forth are all original Jewish and Christian thought before they were abandoned mainly due to Greek philosophical influence.
Mormonism to these scholars is the only faith that preserves the characteristics of the early chosen people. This doesnt mean these scholars believe Mormonism is the true religion, since their studies are on an intellectual level instead of a spiritual one.
On the other hand, the leaders of the anti-Mormon movement are nearly all in the third category with a couple in the second. Real biblical experts (who arent Mormon) and are in the first category normally refer to the biblical experts in the third group as the know-nothings or the Fundamentalist know-nothings. These terms arent completely derogatory, but are accurate descriptions of the knowledge of the biblical experts in the third group. Ed Watson - Mormonism: Faith of the 21st Century
he copyrighted the Book of Mormon,
Didn't know that..............
Amazing what one can do by plagerising whole text! Joseph Smith was probably one of the most genius con artist ever to be born, but not without those peeping stones!
Yes I heard it all but...
....could you your self write a book between all your chores and incidental in life in such a short of time making no editorial and be unlearned as well!
Nothing more than feelings....
Ever heard of Leo Tolstoy?
I am an evangelical Christian who, for the past six years, has worked in a company based in Salt Lake City. The company is primarily comprised of members of the LDS church. I count many of these people among my dearest and closest friends.
However, I wish to respectfully disagree with Dr. Nibley on several points. (And since this is not a devotional thread, I assume that discussion is okay?)
First, the reason why it is not so astonishing that a supposedly inexperienced and uneducated Joseph Smith might have produced such a work as the Book of Mormom is, quite probably, because he did not produce it.
There is a considerable body of evidence that suggests that the text of the Book of Mormon was, in fact, a sort of composite of several books from the same period. Among those books are "A View of the Hebrews" by Ethan Smith, "A View of Nature" by Josiah Priest and an unpublished manuscript entitled "A Manuscript Found" by Solomon Spaulding. Side by side textual comparisons of the first two books with the BOM clearly raise some serious questions to the objective reader.
Consider what might have happened if Dan Brown had come forward with his book the DaVinci Code and claimed that the contents had been delivered to him on golden plates. Given the current cultural desire for anything which would cast doubt on the truth of the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, Brown himself might have wound up as the founder of a new religion. And with 40 million copies sold, plus movie rights he would certainly have the money to finance such a cult.
It is a curiosity to me that much of what is truly inconsistent with orthodox Christian doctrine in Mormonism does not come from the Book of Mormon itself (though a case can be made for its lack of adherence to orthodox principle). Instead those things which are heretical tend to come from later works of Smith (and others). That these writings are inspired by God is demonstrated on the face of it by it's contradiction with the Old and New Testament as well as significant internal contradictions.
Still, the Mormon church clearly inspires incredible loyalty among its adherents, many of whom I have found know very little about the real doctrines of the church. They are taught practically from birth not to question information that comes to them from up the chain of the command. They have a certain peace (naivete?) about that. I on the other hand was taught to test all things and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
I agree with Dr. Nibley that reading one anti-Mormon book does not make one an expert. However, I would strongly suggest that even Mormons take the time to explore some of the contrarian literature. Most of it (though sadly not all) is written with the utmost respect for Mormon individuals. consider the works of Richard Abanes, Wayne Cowdrey, or Francis J. Beckwith. These are serious works of scholarship and as I said, they are very respectful. They simply conclude that the historical evidence would suggest that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God.
Having said all of that, I think it is important to state one more thing. As I mentioned above, I count many practicing Mormons among my close friends. It is not my place to question their salvation. I am convinced that one is saved by the work of Jesus on the cross and not based on one's correct understanding of doctrine. These people (though clearly not all) Mormons do indeed trust Jesus as their Savior. When he returns, he will sort out the doctrinal problems once and for all.
Bottom line is that there is no need to explain the BoM nor was there a need for any restoration. The Gospel was never lost. Our Lord established the Catholic Church, built upon Peter the Rock, and promised that the gates of Hell would never prevail. And they haven't!
...Whoa, whoa, whoa....
Trying to forget my.....(bum bum bum)
feelings of LUUUUUUUUUVVVV...
That's a diminish 5th
Thank you for your cordail appoarch but I am familar with all those you have mention and more and more and more and more and.....
There is not one rock I have not turn over!:)
"there is not one rock I have not turn over! :)
I understand. Just be sure that The Rock does not turn into a stumbling block for you. He has the name above all names and I do not believe the Father intends for him to share his throne with anyone. Every knee shall bow. There is only one God and there will ever be only one. In this universe or any other.
The two remaining tribes in Judea, under the influence of the Romans, of course would be, Judah and Benjamin and a portion of Levi. As Josephus writes.....the Ten tribes are yet beyond the Euphrates....and a number not to be estimated. Sounds to me like that pretty much accounts for most of the Lost Tribes.
The Apostles were given the commission to go to the Lost Tribes and Jesus himself says, He was sent only to the Lost Tribes and Peter also says that's exactly where he is writing from (beyond the Euphrates) and writing to another contingent of Israelites along the shores of the Black Sea. Notice these folks have a "Foreknowledge of God"....they are not just your average Gentile as most folks portray and believe them to be.
***The Apostles were given the commission to go to the Lost Tribes and Jesus himself says, He was sent only to the Lost Tribes ***
Actually it was to the LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.
Go ye not in the way of the Gentiles nor enter the houses of the Samaratans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Sending forth the 70)
To the Syro-Phoniecian woman he said, "I am sent to none but ONLY the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
We must also remember that there were quite a few from the other tribes in Israel at that time such as Anna of the tribe of ASHER.
And Paul said Christ was a minister to the circumcision to confirm the promises made unto the Fathers.
Christ did not go to Northern Europe or any other place esxcept Israel.
I grew up in the heavily Mormon Las Vegas, where there is a Mormon Church across the street from nearly every middle and high school. I had a bunch of Mormon friends. And I know nothing about Mormonism. A crying shame since they are a really family values bunch.
What is the Mormon position on the 4th Commandment? I think they are Sunday keepers, which makes the whole "tribe of Israel" thing really hard to take.
Regarding Smith "making it up", just because something doesn't come from God doesn't mean it came from man:
2Co 11:13 For such ones are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 2Co 11:14 Did not even Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light? 2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.
I'm not saying Mormonism is Satanic, I'm just saying that something miraculous happening doesn't necessarily mean God did it.
I didn't know you were from Vegas! Any relation to "Harry Reid Kerry"?
My Dad used to know Harry Reid. Harry asked him to work on one of his campaigns back in the day and my dad turned him down.
An Astonishing AchievementReference for the above excerpt is from BYU Study, Faith, and the Book of Mormon. The same material can be found at the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was published in the Ensign in 1988 in the I have a questions section in the Ensign. How long did it take Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon?. It looks like the Ensign answer was fleshed out and presented as a speech at BYU a few months later.
First, some history--the year 1829. Only recently have I come to appreciate what a staggering achievement it was for Joseph Smith to bring forth the Book of Mormon at all. The mere fact that it exists is more of a miracle than many of us realize. Consider, for example, the simple question of how long it took Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon. Many solid and independent historical documents written by people like Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Knight, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and even public records like the mortgage on Martin Harris' farm, thoroughly corroborate the details and reveal an amazing story. After the setbacks of 1828, the translation of the Book of Mormon finally began on April 7, 1829, two days after Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania, guided by a personal revelation from the Lord to come and serve as Joseph's scribe. A short five weeks later, by May 15, they had already reached the account of Christ's ministry among the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11. By June 11, we know they had translated the last of the plates of Mormon, for Joseph used the words from the title page as the legal description on the copyright application he filed that day. By June 30, the job was finished at the Whitmer farmhouse in Fayette, New York. From start to finish--no more than eighty-five total days. But even from that must be subtracted some time and disruption when Joseph and Oliver moved the first week in June in a buckboard from Harmony to Fayette, some 120 miles away; time for trips to Colesville for supplies (sixty miles round trip); time to receive and record thirteen sections now contained in the Doctrine and Covenants; time to restore the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods; time to convert and baptize Samuel and Hyrum Smith and several others; time to experience manifestations with the three and the eight witnesses; and I suppose a little time to eat and sleep. (For a full discussion, see John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information," F.A.R.M.S. W&R86; John W. Welch, "How Long Did It Take Joseph Smith to Translate the Book of Mormon?" Ensign, January 1988, pp. 4647)
This leaves only about sixty to sixty-five days on which the Prophet could have worked on the translation--that's about the length of this spring term. This works out to a phenomenal average of eight or nine finished pages per day--day in, day out. Only a week to produce 1 Nephi, with all its subtle religious and cultural baggage that Hugh Nibley has taken volumes to unpack! (see Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites; An Approach to the Book of Mormon; Since Cumorah [Deseret Book (Salt Lake City, Utah) and F.A.R.M.S. (Provo, Utah), 1988]; volumes 5, 6, and 7 of The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley)
It took a day and a half to translate King Benjamin's speech, one of the most masterful texts anywhere in religious literature. Besides teaching doctrines about the Atonement, service, humility, conversion, and covenants, the speech also reflects ancient Israelite piety infused with the true gospel of Jesus Christ! Yet there was no time for Joseph to consult at libraries (even if there had been a library in Harmony, Pennsylvania--which there was not). There was no time to study the Mishnah to find out how, in fact, Israelite kings delivered covenant renewal speeches, like Benjamin's, from towers to their people, who gathered by families in tents around their temple (see John W. Welch, "King Benjamin's Speech in the Context of Ancient Israelite Festivals," F.A.R.M.S. Wel85c). There was no time to revise and refine, no time to cross-check entangled dates and interwoven details. Instead, the text came, as Oliver recorded five years later, "day after day . . . , uninterrupted," as the words fell "from his mouth" (see JS--H 1:71n).
As an aside, I was reading the other questions and answers, and ran across the name of a neighbor, and a colleague of my father's in their work. He is affectionately known as Mr Church History in our family, he is so well versed in early LDS church history and the life of Jesus Christ.