Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, March 31

“Critique of Book of Mormon Critique Article: ‘HOW DO YOU LOSE A STEEL MILL?’ by Frank R. Zindler” by grego

“Critique of Book of Mormon Critique Article: ‘HOW DO YOU LOSE A STEEL MILL?’ by Frank R. Zindler” by grego

The introduction to Mr. Zindler reads thus:
“FRANK ZINDLER … has a distinguished academic career as a former biology and geology professor, science writer, linguist and bible-era historian.” With such an introduction, it really rubs in the irony that some of those who criticize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the grounds of science either lack reading comprehension skills or use faulty reasoning in their criticisms. One such critique is here: , entitled: “HOW DO YOU LOSE A STEEL MILL?” By Frank R. Zindler.

I won’t go through the whole thing, because it’s pretty much different verses of the same batty song; I’ll just critique a few points.


“When Smith published his “golden bible ” in 1830, he gave elephants to his Jaredite actors, along with asses, cows, oxen, and horses. While this may seem startling to readers today, in upstate New York in the 1930s there was nothing odd about this. Thomas Jefferson had discovered the remains of an extinct mammoth, and it was probably widely assumed that ancient Amerindians had domesticated elephants in the way that modern Indians have done. I doubt that many rural New Yorkers then knew that the Amerindians had had no horses or cows until they got them from the Spaniards.
Although horses originated in North America, they – along with the various American species of “elephants” – went extinct many thousands of years before anything that could be called civilization had evolved in Central or South America.”

grego: Is there a source or reference material for “it was probably widely assumed” or “I doubt”? Probably not, huh? I would expect more from a true scientist.

Oh, elephants. From
The Gomphotheres are a diverse group of extinct elephant-like animals (proboscideans) that were widespread in North America during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, 12-1.6 million years ago… From about 5 million years ago onwards, they were slowly replaced by modern elephants, but the last South American species did not finally become extinct until possibly as recently as 400 CE.[1] Gomphotheres also survived in Mexico and Central America until the end of the Pleistocene.[2]
That’s actual current scientific understanding…

As for the presence of cows (comments by Zindler above and below), note what Charles Darwin (yes, “the”) wrote:
“It is, however, far from being an isolated one; for, during the late tertiary deposits of Britain, an elephant, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus co-existed with many recent land and fresh-water shells; and in North America, we have the best evidence that a mastodon, elephant, megatherium, megalonyx, mylodon, an extinct horse and
ox, likewise co-existed with numerous land, fresh-water, and marine recent shells” (Darwin, C. R. 1846. Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836. London: Smith Elder and Co.)
Elephants, horses, and oxen–all living together in North America!


Zindler has quite a lot to say about cows, horses, chariots, linguistics–and it sounds so good!

grego: Unfortunately, anyone reading this article–based on actual science and a much more proper methodology in action–will see that he lacks needed understanding on the topic:


“At no time were cows present before the advent ofHispanic culture. No certain remains of preColumbian horses, asses, or cows have ever been found in the Americas.
…it is an archaeological certainty that no horses ever pulled the chariots of Jewish Aztecs or Babylonian Mayas – or should it be Babylonian Aztecs and Jewish Mayas?”
No animal-drawn wheeled vehicles were ever used in pre-Columbian America.”

grego: See the comment above by Charles Darwin.


“If millions and millions of people made and used weapons and tools of steel for a period spanning more than three millennia, not only should archaeologists find plentiful remains of swords, chariot axles, anvils, sickles, and many other iron-based artifacts, they should be finding the remains of steel mills all over the territory covered by Smith’s cast of characters! It is perfectly conceivable that one might lose a steel sword. But how in hell can you lose a steel mill?!”

grego: I assume that someone talking about sicence will use facts as a main basis; yet I can’t find, from the Book of Mormon, the facts from the first phrase in the sentence. If Mr. Zindler could kindly provide a reference or even a logical argument for “millions and millions”, “[using] weapons and tools of steel”, and “for a period spanning more than three millennia”, that would be helpful to his argument. I have no idea why those who claim science as their God must make such blatant assumptions to lay the groundwork for their arguments. Also, any references to “chariot axles, anvils,” and “sickles” would be appreciated, too. And which archaeologists are they, and why should archaeologists be finding these things all the time? (By the way, does the Book of Mormon mention “stainless steel that never rusts”, too?) And which “territory” would that be? So, what size would a steel mill be in those cultures? And how many of them would there be?


“Now, of course, the defenders of the Mormon kingdom might say we just haven’t been looking in the right place. Alas for the apologists, the Book of Mormon tells us precisely where to look for such artifacts. It claims that between one-half and one million steel-owning people died all at once, in one spot, around the year 400 C.E., in a climactic battle at “Hill Cumorah.” According to Mormon tradition, Hill Cumorah is a glacial drumlin situated near the upstate New York town of Palmyra. It is the site of an annual “Mormon Pageant.” Mormon revisionist geographers, however, place the hill in the Tuxtla Mountains, in the Mexican state of Veracruz.”

grego: Mr. Zindler seems to be very much an “only A or B” reasoner. (“It must be A or B!” “What about C?” “C??”) Unless Mr. Zindler can show use how the “Book of Mormon tells us precisely where to look for such artifacts” is not a misleading statement, I will have to accept it as such, because while the Book of Mormon does say “hill Cumorah”, I have yet to find in the Book of Mormon a note or clear map as to where the Hill Cumorah is. Revisionist (as if that were a dirty word–I imagine anyone trying to get beyond Newtonian phsyics was a “revisionist”, correct?) geographers are many, and Mr. Zindler mentions one of many sites postulated for the “Hill Cumorah”. (And yes, some have tried to dig, but are still waiting for approval–not from the Mormon Church, but from the governments of the respective areas.)


“During that period, many millions of people possessed of steel and brass technology are alleged to have lived and died somewhere in the Americas. It is strange, therefore, to note that no one has ever found any steel artifact datable to Pre-Columbian times.”

grego: I suggest starting at the section “Presence of metal prior to A.D. 900” here: , then going here: , then going here: .

(Do I agree with all of the explanations, etc., or give equal weight to each? Absolutely not. However, there’s much in these articles that counters many of Mr. Zindler’s comments.)


I’ll sum it all up with comments from an article found now at :
“Much to the surprise of archaeologists, one of the earliest civilizations in the Americas already knew how to hammer metals by 1000 B.C., centuries earlier than had been thought.
“We were shocked. I was shocked,” says Richard Burger, director of Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Mina Perdida translates as “Lost Mine” and local residents had asked the researchers if they were looking for the area’s legendary hidden treasures of gold. Burger told them no, they were just studying the ancient cultures. They were confident the people of the area hadn’t done any metalworking back then.
“To be able to hammer it to that level of thinness requires an incredible amount of technique,” Burger says… “It shows a certain degree of metallurgical knowledge.”
Some foils were gold gilded onto copper and some show signs of annealing—heating to make them more malleable—but not smelting. That technique of melting metals to separate them from ore didn’t appear until about 100 B.C. (grego: according to current finds.)
Based on the dating of carbon atoms attached to the foils, they appear to have been created between 1410 and 1090 B.C., roughly the period when Moses led the Jews from Egypt and the era of such pharaohs as Amenhotep III, Tutankhamen and Ramses.
“It shows once again how little we know about the past and how there are surprises under every rock,” comments Jeffrey Quilter, director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, a Harvard University research institute in Washington, D.C.”


I could continue, but like I said, nothing really new.

Critics seem to scream and squeal when pro-LDS use all kinds of ways to get out of problems and difficult situations, inventing all sorts of “specious” answers, etc. Yet, to find a logical countering of these pro-Mormon arguments is rare or even impossible, though critics have tried. On the other hand, con-LDS seem quite apt at coming up with similar situations; yet, the reasoning falls under logical countering. Mr. Zindler provided evidence after evidence that… our current understanding doesn’t know some things yet; in fact, most all of his evidence is only evidence that no hard evidence yet exists. Does it make it harder for a skeptic to believe? It might. Does this damn any argument? Hardly.

In fact, from the beginning to now, “fact” after “fact” has been scratched off the “Problems with the Book of Mormon” list because they were based on the same thing Mr. Zindler bases his criticisms on–lack of evidence. And as the last section shows, even Harvard archeologists admit we know very little, and there are still many suprises. Who knows, maybe one day, after researching more than the .5% or so of Mesoamerica that has been researched up to now (such a staggering amount of data to draw conclusions from, eh?), they’ll even find… a steel mill.

It seems Mr. Zindler’s real purpose was to write something funny for those who were already decided against the Book of Mormon to enjoy. Ironically, at the bottom of the page is an ad: “What does it feel like to suddenly understand everything? God’s Debris isn’t the final answer to the Big Questions. But it might be the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read. The thought experiment is this: Try to figure out what’s wrong with the old man’s explanation of reality. Share the book with your smart friends for FREE, then discuss it later while enjoying a beverage.”

I have an idea for better fun, a new thought experiment: print out Mr. Zindler’s article and discuss it with your friends (if you have some that know how to use a little logic and a search engine) while enjoying a beverage. Try to figure out what’s wrong with his criticisms, and how many are actually based on substance. It’s sure to cause much more of a hoot.

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2008, November 28

Critique | The Lamanites’ Bones (from Brant Gardner’s “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message”)

Critique | The Lamanites’ Bones (from Brant Gardner’s “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message”)
by grego


Brant Gardner:
“Similarly, early in the book of Alma the Nephites beat back an invasion by Lamanites which supported Amlici’s internal rebellion. Mormon describes the aftermath of the battle:

36 And they fled before the Nephites towards the wilderness which was west and north, away beyond the borders of the land; and the Nephites did pursue them with their might, and did slay them.
37 Yea, they were met on every hand, and slain and driven, until they were scattered on the west, and on the north, until they had reached the wilderness, which was called Hermounts; and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts.
38 And it came to pass that many died in the wilderness of their wounds, and were devoured by those beasts and also the vultures of the air; and their bones have been found, and have been heaped up on the earth. (Alma 2:36 – 38)

We can comfortably accept the historical information that the Nephites were victorious and drove the Lamanites out of their land. However, the final description is the interesting one. Mormon suggests that the Lamanites were lost in the wilderness and had been attached by wild animals. His evidence is that “their bones have been found.” The fact that they found bones and not bodies is also probable history. However, that the bones were of those particular Lamanites is most likely an invention after the fact, a historical “just-so” story made to fit the available facts.

Does any of this mean that Mormon was less than a prophet? Absolutely not. What it means is that his understanding of his task was appropriately ancient. He wrote with the historical sensibilities of the ancient world, which necessarily saw all events as they fit into and supported their religious understanding.”

grego: First, Mormon does not suggest that “the Lamanites were lost in the wilderness”; if someone can see that in the text, explicit or implied, please share.

Second, we are completely unknowing of what Mormon’s source said, and to draw assumptions only from what he wrote is to… well, assume.

I believe that Gardner assumes that Mormon is talking about his current state of affairs when he comments on the bones–that Mormon is himself aware of the bones, and drew the assumption about what happened and whose bones they were; but in fact, it is just as likely that Mormon is not adding his knowledge here, but is taking this from an earlier source. Or, that Nephites know the history of that spot, similar to asking natives/ long-time residents about a historical spot–they weren’t there and didn’t personally see what happened 400 years ago, BUT history says that… I believe everyone has had that experience.

Nevertheless: no human bones in wilderness *infested* with *wild and ravenous beasts* (especially in large number) –} many Lamanites go there, most already wounded –} Nephites hear cries of Lamanites and roars of beasts (imagine that!) and see vultures circling down and landing –} all Nephites know people don’t go there, and never have/ no record of other humans going there –} human bones are found there, likely with arrowheads found in/ near them (like with Zelph) and their weapons right nearby.

Does that sound like an “invention” or a “just-so story made to fit”? Or, can one draw a logical and probable conclusion from those simple facts? Here’s mine–Lamanite bones!

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2008, October 13

Critique of Edwin Firmage, Jr.’s “HISTORICAL CRITICISM AND THE BOOK OF MORMON: A Personal Encounter” (from “Apocryphal America”), by grego

Critique of Edwin Firmage, Jr.’s “HISTORICAL CRITICISM AND THE BOOK OF MORMON: A Personal Encounter” (from “Apocryphal America”), by grego

Site of original article:
(I’ve taken out the “ff”, etc. from scriptural references.)


Nephi, the first and most important of the putative writers whose compositions make up the Book of Mormon, tells us that his work was written “in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Ne. 1:2).l The plain sense of this statement is that the Book of Mormon was written in Egyptian while its theology derived from Judaism.2″

(grego) ~~Wait… That’s a big jump there. Already the author has a problem with giving “authoritative” yet faulty interpretions of the text. Does Nephi say he wrote in Egyptian? No. Did any other prophet say that, has any other prophet said that? No. Does speaking a language mean it’s connected to theology? No. So how did Firmage come up with that interpretation? “Plain sense” to whom? (And if you don’t agree, what does that make you?) Is this something we get to look forward to for the rest of the article?
Here’s from Webster’s 1828:
“Learning: Gaining knowledge by instruction or reading, by study, by experience or observation; acquiring skill by practice.
LEARNING, n. lern’ing.
1. The knowledge of principles or facts received by instruction or study; acquired knowledge or ideas in any branch of science or literature; erudition; literature; science. The Scaligers were men of great learning.
[This is the proper sense of the word.]
2. Knowledge acquired by experience, experiment or observation.
3. Skill in anything good or bad.”

(Firmage) “That Lehi’s family read and wrote Egyptian is also evident in the fact that the “plates of brass,” which had been kept by Lehi’s kin, are also said to have been written in Egyptian (Mos. 1:4).

(grego) ~~How much, and how close, “Lehi’s family” was to him, is open to full debate.

(Firmage) “Lehi is at pains to preserve this linguistic heritage (and anyone who has ever had to learn Egyptian can sympathize). Soon after leaving Jerusalem, Lehi asks his sons to return and get the plates of brass from Laban “to preserve unto our children the language of our fathers; and also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets … since the world began, even down unto this present time” (1 Ne. 3:19; emphasis added). Both the brass plates and the Book of Mormon were written, according to Lehi, in the Egyptian language and not just Egyptian characters.”

~~Where does Lehi make that distinction? Because I can’t find it; can anyone?

“Despite Hugh Nibley’s efforts to make this extraordinary notion palatable, it is wildly improbable. Is one seriously to believe that for several generations Lehi’s family was at home in the Egyptian language?”

~~Why not? What argument does Firmage have against it?
And where does it say “several generations” in the text?
Hey, how about this other interpretation: “the language of our fathers” does not mean “the spoken and written language of our ancestors”, but maybe one of these (from Webster’s 1828 dictionary, numbered accordingly):
2. Words duly arranged in sentences, written, printed or engraved, and exhibited to the eye.
3. The speech or expression of ideas peculiar to a particular nation. Men had originally one and the same language, but the tribes or families of men, since their dispersion, have distinct languages.
4. Style; manner of expression.
Others for language all their care express.
5. The inarticulate sounds by which irrational animals express their feelings and wants. Each species of animals has peculiar sounds, which are uttered instinctively, and are understood by its own species, and its own species only.
6. Any manner of expressing thoughts. Thus we speak of the language of the eye, a language very expressive and intelligible.
7. A nation, as distinguished by their speech. Dan. 3.
Wow, suddenly Lehi didn’t necessarily mean what Firmage claims he meant, huh?

What about “father”? Absolutely, it could and maybe should be thought of in the usual way; or, as one Bible author wrote: “figurative and remote application:–chief, (fore-)father(-less), X patrimony, principal” (from .
Once more, perhaps Lehi didn’t necessarily mean what Firmage claims he meant, huh?

“Moreover, are we to believe that centuries before the Old Testament was translated into Greek (Septuagint), Lehi’s kin had privately sponsored the translation of the entire Hebrew canon into Egyptian?”

~~”Lehi’s kin”? “…privately sponsored”? “…into Egyptian”? References, evidence, please?
Are there very good reasons we cannot believe it? I’ve heard that those with money can do things that others can’t, and it seems Lehi himself was quite a wealthy man; is there anything saying his family/ ancestors were poor, unlike him? If it was important to them, why not?

“This, of course, presupposes that a sacred canon of scripture existed in the sixth century CE, which few biblical scholars believe.”

~~Does the Book of Mormon say the brass plates was a copy of the Bible? No.
(Well, if only a “few biblical sholars” believe it, that’s better odds than LDS get most of them time, so that’s not bad!)

“Nevertheless, besides Nibley, no serious historian of the ancient Near East would credit the idea that a Jewish family had gone to the trouble and expense of translating or having others translate the canon into Egyptian and of engraving this enormous translation on brass plates.
How, then, is one to explain the Book of Mormon’s Egyptian connection? The answer lies in an incident in the early history of the translation.”

~~Recent news/ discoveries notwithstanding? ;)
No serious historian would credit the idea that the Maya were violent. (Only the Aztecs were violent–everyone knew that.)
No serious nutritionist would ever believe that 4432 was off-base. Or that the current food pyramid is off. (Take your pick.)
No serious astronomer would believe that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe. Not just improbable, but impossible, eh.
Is there really a need to continue?

“In February 1828 Joseph Smith had permitted Martin Harris, his scribe, to take a transcription of some characters and their “translation” to have their accuracy verified. Harris chose to take the transcription to Professor Charles Anthon, a noted classicist at Columbia University. In Smith’s 1838 history, the professor is reported to have identified the characters as “Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic” (Joseph Smith-H 2:64).3 According to this account, Anthon also certified the correctness of the translation. While we may well doubt this latter claim, Anthon may have ventured to identify the nature of the characters.4″

~~Was this event for Joseph or for Martin?
Why doubt the latter claim, but believe the first? just because it fits with Firmage’s hypothesis? We can just as well doubt none, both, either/or.
So where did Joseph Smith get those characters?

“The Book of Mormon itself, in an interesting case of prophecy after the fact, suggests that Anthon ventured no translation (2 Ne. 27:9-20). Harris, perhaps willfully, seems to have taken Anthon’s remarks on the transcription as a vindication of Smith’s translation. In any event, what Anthon may have said off-the-cuff, Harris took as gospel truth.”

~~I guess Harris got what he was looking for–justification to mortgage his farm for the printing… Huh?
“[P]rophecy after the fact”? Um, has Firmage taken a look at Isaiah 29 yet? Just curious…

“A leading scholar had identified these characters as Egyptian, and therefore, that is what they had to be. Smith, though he probably knew better, undoubtedly found this identification useful.”

~~Ok, something’s not working here for me. Firmage does not doubt the account that the characters are “Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic”. The second account, that the translation was more or less correct, is doubted. So from where did Joseph Smith copy the characters? Is the author actually suggesting that there *were* plates, and that Joseph Smith copied some characters, but made up a fictional book from the real plates? (You know, critics, a little Book of Abraham stuff going on here?) If not, then where did the characters come from, why would Charles Anthon say they were four different types of characters, then Joseph Smith misunderstood from an excited Martin Harris that they were Egyptian only; then Joseph Smith says all the Book of Mormon is Egyptian, when in fact he had copied the characters himself? Was there a book that had all four languages mixed, and was labled as “a mysterious language” or something like that that Joseph Smith copied from? If Joseph Smith even *had* access to a book in those languages, and could copy well, why would he mix all four? To make the story even *more* believable?? To mix them, then choose just one? To get an endorsement from a famous person, that the product was one thing, then claim in the product itself that it was actually something else?

“Perhaps already wondering what he should call his Book of Mormon language, he now had a credible response for the curious. Henceforth, if anyone should ask what language the Book of Mormon had been translated from, Smith could say Egyptian and could cite Anthon’s expert testimony to that effect.”

~~Why not call it, “a mixture of four languages”, as Anthon had stated?
Wait, does Joseph Smith call it “Egyptian”, or *”reformed Egyptian”*? Would anyone other than an expert in Near East languages (other than the expert Joseph Smith) even know what “reformed Egyptian” or similar was, or that it could even exist?

“Indeed, he could parry all such questions by having the Book of Mormon itself proclaim its Egyptian origin.”

~~Ah, like he parried *all* such questions on other topics by using that same method… Not.

“It is no accident that at each of the two beginning points in the translation (1 Nephi and Mosiah, explained later), the Book of Mormon advertises itself as a translation from Egyptian. The Egyptian connection, born in an off-hand remark by Charles Anthon, thus proves to be explainable by reference to Smith’s experience as author.”

~~No, of course it was “no accident”, Joseph Smith perfectly planned it that way, just as he perfectly planned so many other things in the book. ;(
And, wouldn’t that lead to *more* questions, not less?

“The Egyptian connection is of course incidental to the basic story of the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith already knew by the time Harris visited Anthon. Still, it has important implications for our assessment of the authenticity of the book and also for our understanding of what was involved in Smith’s “translation.” At the very least, the Egyptian angle illustrates that the translation was susceptible to suggestion, even of the most extravagant kind.”

~~If it were “incidental”, why bother to mess it up all with a stupid mistake and have a smart person like Firmage come and find it out?
How did Joseph Smith already know the “basic story” of the Book of Mormon?
And I really don’t know what that last sentence is meant to mean.

“More importantly, it indicates that Book of Mormon problems can reasonably be explained by reference to Joseph Smith’s own experience.”

~~Oh, critics, if that were only the case!

The Book of Mormon is a collection of three distinct compositions: the so-called “small plates” of Nephi (1 Nephi-Words of Mormon), Mormon’s abridged history of the Nephites (Mosiah-Mormon), and the history of the Jaredites (Ether). ”

~~Well, you could also add: the Brass Plates, the plates of Zeniff, and Moroni’s writings. And even those three “compositions” weren’t really compositions.

“It is from the second of these that the Book of Mormon gets its name.”

~~That statement sounds quite sure, yet pretty unique–any reference/ source for this?
I thought the title “Book of Mormon” might have been from the actual *title page*, or the “waters of Mormon”, or maybe because Mormon was the abridger…

“Mormon, we are told, chose to include Nephi’s record with his abridgment in order to preserve Nephi’s extensive prophecies about the coming of Christ (Words of Mormon 4). In 1 Nephi 11, for example, Nephi foretells Jesus’ birth to a virgin in Nazareth, his miracles, the appearance of John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and Jesus’ death. Nephi reveals that the Messiah’s name will be Jesus Christ (2 Ne. 25:19), that he will be crucified and rise after three days (v. 13). He predicts the natural disasters preceding the coming of the resurrected Christ to America, as described in 3 Nephi. He sees Jesus’ visit to the survivors of the cataclysms in America and to the twelve new-world apostles whom Jesus selects (1 Ne. 12; 2 Ne. 26). These last prophecies are of special importance. There could be no doubt for anyone who read Nephi’s record that the resurrected Jesus would appear in America.
It is therefore surprising that in the early part of Mormon’s abridged history, prophecies about the coming of Jesus say nothing about the latter’s coming to America (see Mos. 3:5; 7:27; 15; Al. 4:13; 5:50; 6:8; 7:7). Not until Alma 16:20 is it clearly stated that Christ would appear there. “Many of the people did inquire concerning the place where the Son of God should come; and they were taught that he would appear unto them after his resurrection” (italics mine).5 The people’s uncertainty, shared significantly by Alma himself (Alma 7), implies that nothing was known about Christ’s promise to visit America, as described in such detail by Nephi. The discrepancy between the prophetic material in 1-2 Nephi and that in Mosiah-Alma 16 calls for explanation.”

~~Yes! Simplistic explanations are always right! One of my favorites being, “The reason you can’t see a ship past the horizon, is because it falls off the edge of our flat earth.”
But is there really any discepancy? What is it? Or is it lack of something that Firmage thinks should be in there, but isn’t?
And in fact, doesn’t Mormon say that the prophecies of the coming of Christ–which one could also easiliy understand as the lack of prophecies concerning Christ’s coming on the big plates/ what Mormon has already written–are the reason that Mormon felt to include the small plates? In other words, what seems like a discrepancy, is actually a consistency.
How about something like this: ? Wonderful–yet very simple–explanation for not only Christ visiting America, but the 600-year prophecy problem.

“As in the case of the Egyptian connection, the explanation is found in the story of how the Book of Mormon was translated.”

~~A-ha! *Is* found, or *could* be found?

“In June 1828 some 116 pages of translation, virtually everything that had been completed up to that point, mysteriously disappeared after being lent to Martin Harris. For some time thereafter, Joseph Smith was forbidden to translate, and though perfunctory efforts began again in the autumn, nothing substantial was produced until the arrival of Oliver Cowdery in April 1829. When translation began again in earnest, instead of re-doing what had been lost, Smith continued from the point where the 1828 translation had stopped–with Mosiah–and then translated 1 Nephi to Words of Mormon last of all. This reconstruction of the order of translation is confirmed by the handwriting analysis carried out by Dean Jessee.6 Jessee tentatively identified the handwriting of John Whitmer and of an additional unknown scribe in the first fifteen chapters of 1 Nephi where, had Smith and his scribe at the time (Oliver Cowdery) begun there, we should have expected to find Cowdery’s handwriting. However, we know that towards the end of the translation in June 1829, John Whitmer briefly acted as scribe. Mosiah and Alma, then, antedate 1-2 Nephi in order of dictation.
With this in mind, it is not difficult to explain why prophecies of Jesus in Mosiah and Alma 1-16 evidence no awareness of Nephi’s prophecies of Jesus’ American ministry. The explanation is simply that during the initial stages of the new 1829 translation (Mosiah to Alma 16), Joseph Smith himself had not yet conceived the notion of Christ’s visit to America.”

~~Without knowing the content of the lost pages, how would one arrive at that conclusion? Ahhh, another argument from silence?
Brilliant Joseph had not yet conceived the notion? Inconceivable!

“The ignorance of Nephi’s prophecies manifested by the characters in Mosiah and Alma 1-16 reflects the fact that Smith, the creator-translator, did not yet himself know the turn his narrative was to take. Nephi’s unambiguous prophecies reflect the fact that they were translated, or as I would now prefer to say, composed, after the events they claimed to foretell.
This is not the only instance where the order of translation affected the content.”

~~Or so Firmage asserts. No need for it to be that way.

“One striking aspect of 1 and 2 Nephi is the relative dearth of prophecies relating to the immediate history of the Nephites and Lamanites. Thus, for example, 1 and 2 Nephi predict the European discovery of America, the persecution of the American Indians, the translation of the Book of Mormon itself, the loss of the 116 pages, the Charles Anthon incident, and the three witnesses of the divinity of the Book of Mormon.”

~~If that would be the reason for prophecies, then yes, it would be striking; as it’s never mentioned, no, it’s not striking–unless, once more, you wished it were there, or assumed that it should be there.
Which would make the “failed” prophecy in 2 Nephi 27 even *more* “interesting”.

“From the perspective of subject matter, therefore, 1 and 2 Nephi continue the narrative left off in Mormon. The disproportionate attention these books bestow on prophecy, and especially on prophecy relating to modern events, contrasts with their disinterest in more immediate issues and suggests that the purpose of 1 and 2 Nephi was to outline God’s continuing influence in American history after the close of the Book of Mormon era. In other words, having finished the story of the Book of Mormon as he had originally conceived it, Smith decided to address topics of subsequent modern history when he faced the gap left in the book by the loss of the 116 pages.”

~~What, did Joseph Smith have a certain number of pages his authoring contract required him to have?
So, Firmage proposes that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon like this: 116 pages, then Mosiah-Mormon, then Ether, then 1 and 2 Nephi, then Words of Mormon. What, do most authors, having written themselves into a corner, then have to go back to start and write the beginning, instead of just cleaning it up in a ? No! Yet Firmage claims this is exactly what Joseph Smith did. Why wouldn’t Joseph Smith have just rewritten some parts, or put much of this in the ending–where those prophecies should have gone, according to Firmage? If nothing else, have Mormon and Moroni quote prophecies of Nephi and others. Nope. Instead, the mapping out of the Book of Mormon is, according to Firmage, like a goose hunt. Which would be harder to keep track of?
Did Martin Harris, even after leaving the church and going along with excommunicating Joseph Smith, ever bring up or mention that the 116 lost pages that he wrote down contradicted or were even very different or even problematic to the “new” beginning someone else wrote down? Never? Hmmm… What about when Harris parted from The Church of Christ over the Book of Mormon? Might there have been a reason, like he felt it was true?

“The resulting text was necessarily prophetic rather than historical in nature.”

~~Why “necessarily”?
And yet we have some history and facts, such as Lehi and his family in Arabia and crossing the ocean, the new land, kings and warfare, etc.

“LDS readers who have noticed the two different genres that characterize 1 Nephi-Words of Mormon and Mosiah-Ether will perhaps observe that one need not resort to historical criticism to explain the difference; the Book of Mormon itself tells us that the so-called “small plates” of Nephi were deliberately written to preserve prophetic rather than historical detail (cf. 1 Ne. 9:1). But this only indicates that the early Book of Mormon’s turn to prophecy was intentional.”

~~So, what is being implied here? “We don’t need to accept Firmage’s view, because the Book of Mormon states the situation clearly; but this only indicates the Book of Mormon states the situation clearly.” I don’t understand what this means…

“The existence of a separate set of plates devoted to matters prophetic is, I think, demonstrably a fictional explanation of how new source material turned up to replace the lost 116 pages and why this new material focused on prophecy at the expense of history. The Book of Mormon itself provides the strongest reason for regarding the small plates as a fiction: nowhere in Mosiah to Mormon is reference ever made to a separate set of small plates.”

~~If it is “demonstrably a fictional explanation”, Firmage sure needs a whole lot more than that. *Especially* when Firmage relies on… once more, an argument of silence! And of course, assumption. Assumption that someone had to mention it, otherwise it couldn’t exist.
But what does Mormon say? In Words of Mormon 1:3, Mormon tells us that he searched and found the records. May one surmise, then, that prior to finding the small plates, Mormon was unaware of their existence? Is it also possible that others, such as Benjamin and Alma, were also unaware? Think: when do most things of value get lost? Might it have been in the move from Nephi to Zarahemla that this “losing” took place? Wow, luckily Joseph Smith planned and wrote that in the Book of Mormon! Conveniently at the end of the small plates, too.
Anything similar in the Bible? Why, Josiah and the lost book! And this was no ordinary book, either. And its whereabouts was certain–it was in the temple, because it had to be there. Just that it had been… forgotten, misplaced, lost, something? Here’s a comment about it:
“One day while men worked on the temple, Hilkiah the high priest made an important discovery. There… he found the temple copy of the Book of the Law God gave Moses. Scrolls of God’s law were scarce in those days–a copy was supposed to be kept in the temple at all times. The priests were to read it all the way through to the people every seven years. However, it seems this precious book had been lost for a long time–so long that probably many people didn’t know what it said! Hilkiah the priest took the Book of the Law to Shaphan the scribe, saying, “I have found the book of the Law!” What do you think Shaphan the scribe thought? He must have been excited to ‘think they had the temple copy again after so many years. Shaphan the scribe showed the book to King Josiah, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” Then Shaphan the scribe read the law to the king.” (from
And which would also fits in perfectly as an excellent explanation Firmage talks about–the problems with the gap between knowledge of Christ going to the Americas and the 600 year prophetcy, etc. Kind of ironic how the arguments Firmage brings up as evidence against the Book of Mormon, also fully support it, eh?

“What the record keepers pass from generation to generation is called simply the plates of Nephi without ever a hint of a separate prophetic collection. There is a single set of plates called the plates of Nephi which is maintained to the end of Book of Mormon history (e.g., Mos. 28:11, 20; Al. 37:2; 44:24; 3 Ne. 5:10; 26:11; 4 Ne. 19, 21; Morm. 1:4; 2:17, 18) and which is valued for its sacred as well as historical content (Mos. 1:2 with w. 6-7; Al. 37:2; 3 Ne. 26:7, 11).”

~~Well, *all* the plates of Nephi were called, “the plates of Nephi”. And it was not a “single set”, and was never referred to as such; in fact, the opposite. Not only that, for a while the Nephite kings were all called “Nephi”, and the plates of Nephi were *not* just from Nephi1, but from the kings after him–from Nephi on down, and then to other kings with other names.

“Another reason for regarding the existence of the small plates as literary fiction is the peculiar way in which they are linked via the Words of Mormon to the rest of the Book of Mormon. The most striking thing about the Words of Mormon is that it is supposed to be Mormon’s last words: “And now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni … wherefore, I chose these things to finish my record upon them. … And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record … ” (1, 5, 9). What, then, is this editorial intrusion doing in the middle of the Book of Mormon?”

~~Well, that’s not quite in the middle, it’s more like nearer the beginning… (At least one time when Firmage could be more honest to help his argument, he passes it up…)
I imagine it’s there because Joseph Smith moved it there for publishing/ reading purposes, though I could be wrong.

“If, indeed, the Words of Mormon is a valedictory, then it belongs at the end of Mormon’s abridgment and not in the plates of Nephi.”

~~Did the author mean at the end of the small plates of Nephi?
I imagine 1-2 Nephi was also after the WoM (which would be fine, but just doesn’t read as well, eh?), at the end. And then there is the book of Ether and Moroni’s writing. So, I assume that is exactly what Mormon did–write Words of Mormon at the end of his abridgement.
Where would *Firmage* put it so that the book read best? I imagine Joseph Smith printed it in a rearranged format for better understanding.
Either there were empty plates/ space at the end of the abridgement that Mormon left for Moroni, and the small plates were put in after that (the choice I favor); or he put the small plates in before the empty space. Either way, I see no problem with it being rearranged for better reading. (The translation and handwriting could have clued Joseph Smith in to this situation.)
Of course, I could be all wrong… it would be nice to know, eh?

“If, as Mormon says, his own abridgement had already been completed, what need was there for these transitional verses since they link not his abridgment of Lehi’s record but Nephi’s self-contained account to the beginning of Mosiah?”

~~Since this seems to the crux of a very important point that Firmage is trying to make, perhaps a little more elaboration here–at least to the point of understanding–could have been attempted. I’m not quite sure what this sentence means, and thus I completely miss its import.

“In my opinion, there seems little choice but to accept the “Words of Mormon” as Smith’s attempt to knit two parts of his translation together while explaining how he providentially happened to have something like a duplicate of the lost portion.”

~~Luckily for me, it’s “in [Firmage’s] opinion”, otherwise I might have to accept it as fact… I don’t see why there is “little choice”, and I don’t think Fimrage explained his case anywhere near as strongly as needed for one to come to that conclusion.

“Joseph Smith’s sensitivity to the problems connected with the lost pages is apparent in the preface to the 1830 (first) edition, which explains that he has substituted Nephi’s record for the lost material and implicitly therefore that no one should expect the translations to match exactly. He thus protects himself from the charge of fraud should the two translations ever be compared. (This fear is made explicit in Doctrine and Covenants 10:10.)”

~~That is one way to look at it, true. But it is also clearly true that there *were* 116 lost pages.

“Despite this caveat, one is entitled to suspect its motive. If Smith were ever confronted with the lost material and it failed to match up with the new translation, he could simply assert that it had been altered. Does he save face any better by coming up with an altogether different production? Is he not just as vulnerable to a charge of fraud on this account–that is, that he has deliberately avoided this test of his prophetic ability by translating a different work? It would be more logical for Smith’s critics to have left the manuscript untouched in order to see just how well he would do. These questions in themselves do not constitute an indictment, but it nevertheless seems only fair to admit that Smith’s reticence to retranslate is suspicious. It appears to me, at least, as if he feared he could not.”

~~I’m not sure how that fits in with this essay… Anyway, good thing it doesn’t appear to me that way.
Smith’s critics haven’t always been know for logic (cough, cough), so maybe it would have been better to leave it as it was. Of course, if they believed he would translate again, then it would have been utter condemnation if he had produced a similar copy. So either way, was there really a way for *them* to save face? Either way, *they* seem suspicious by the same count…

“So, 1 Nephi-Words of Mormon proves to be an epilogue to the Book of Mormon proper not only in terms of order of composition but also in terms of subject matter. It is implicitly recognized as such by the fact that a new set of records had to be created to explain its appearance.”

~~”implicitly recognized…the fact…had to be created”? Or maybe, it just happened as Mormon said?

“Much more could be said about the effect of the order of translation on the development of the Book of Mormon narrative, but I will limit myself to just one last example.”

~~Ok, this just sounds lame!! “I have tons of proof, but I’ll show you one little piece…” ;(
Nevertheless, I assume this means that Firmage will present his strongest case.

“The key to this case is the fact that nowhere in the Book of Mormon’s many detailed prophecies of the last days is anything ever said about the establishment of a new church. The nature of God’s work subsequent to the appearance of the Book of Mormon is very vague, particularly so after the detailed prophecies pertaining to Smith’s involvement in the translation.7”

~~I see this as a cool tangent to ponder, hardly a key point that centers on what Firmage is trying to prove.

“Not surprisingly then, while Nephi foresees the rise of a “great and abominable” church following the apostolic era, he says nothing of the Apostasy as Mormons understand that term today–that is, the utter elimination of the legitimate church of God.”

~~?? Ok, this is really starting to get loose…

“By the same token, nothing is said of the Restoration, as understood by Latter-day Saints today. The Book of Mormon portrays cases of apostasy and restorations in every era, but these are localized events.”

~~But, 3 Nephi seems to touch on this especially. Unless, of course, “understood by L-dS today” is different than what I’m thinking about.
Nevertheless, it might be helpful to remember that apostacy as such had never happened like that, from the time of Adam on down to Moses, from Moses to Isaiah and Jeremiah. There never had been an “utter elimination of the legitimate” gospel that Nephi knew.

“Joseph Smith, as he portrays himself in the Book of Mormon,”

~~Little biased slam there…

“is not the prophet of the Restoration but the translator of the Book of Mormon. ”

~~Mainly true. The Book of Mormon mainly deals with the Book of Mormon, not other things.
2 Nephi 3:9 And he shall be *great like unto Moses*, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.
2 Nephi 3:10 And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt.
2 Nephi 3:11 But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and *unto him will I give power to bring forth my word* unto the seed of thy loins–and *not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.*

2 Nephi 3:14 And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and *they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded*; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;
2 Nephi 3:15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And *he shall be like unto me*; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall *bring my people unto salvation*.

2 Nephi 3:24 And there shall rise up *one mighty* among them, who shall *do* much good, *both in word and in deed*, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to *work mighty wonders*, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.

So, it actually sounds like the Book of Mormon says Joseph Smith will be more than *just* a “translator of the Book of Mormon”, right?
And frankly, the Book of Mormon was Joseph Smith’s great contribution to the gathering, especially for Joseph’s seed.

“He is a seer rather than the first elder. Smith’s calling, as described in the Book of Mormon, is connected solely with the Book of Mormon. He will be a “Moses” (2 Ne. 3:6) in that his book will play an important role in the gathering of Israel.”

~~That’s one interpretation. Another could be, he would be a prophet like Moses. Another could be, he would bring God’s forth to the people, and they had to listen or be cut off. Another could be, as Moses delivered Israel from the Egyptians, Joseph Smith would deliver Joseph’s seed from ignorance and untruth. Another could be, as Moses fulfilled the covenants of the Lord with the house of Israel, so would Joseph Smith. Interesting how only one interpretation–the one that “fits” his argument–is taken as *the* interpretation, and all other interpretations are ignored/ dismissed.
Interestingly, in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah was also seen as “a seer rather than the first elder”, too; yet there’s no mistake that he was the first elder.

“The powers promised to Smith are those necessary for the book’s production (v. 11). ”

~~Interestingly, he received the promised powers, and all attempts by others to get the plates and stop the translation–even if one were to hold that the plates were “fake”–completely failed.

“Smith, in fact, used a seer stone during parts of the translation, thus the term seer.”

~~Actually, check the conversation between Limhi and Ammon in the Book of Mormon for the real reason he was called a seer.

“He is promised “judgment in writing” (v. 17). The “great and marvelous work and a wonder” (2 Ne. 27:26) to come about in the last days is the Book of Mormon–nothing more or less. The phrase has this same meaning in the early sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that preceded publication of the Book of Mormon (D&C 4:1; 6:1; 11:1; 12:1; 14:1). After that, and still almost a year before the church is founded, references to a “marvelous work” cease.”

~~References and explanations in 2 Nephi 27, 28, 29, and 30 (especially 30) seem to arrive at a different conclusion. The Book of Mormon *is* part of the “work and a wonder”; but Firmage left out the words reaching people, and their believing and rejoicing because of it, and the gathering and restoration, and the destruction of the wicked, and Jesus Christ’ coming, which are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. In particular, see 2 Nephi 25:17-18; 2 Nephi 27:1-6; 23-35; 29:1-2; 30:3-6, 7-18 (esp. 7,8). Others to look at: 3 Nephi 28:27-29, 31-32; 3 Nephi 29.
Luckily for Joseph Smith the Book of Mormon has fulfilled some future prophecies such as this! Right?

“Accordingly, it appeared that concrete plans to found a church occurred either after the translation of the Book of Mormon or during its last stages when the incorporation of additional prophecies may have proved too difficult.”

~~Nice speculation. Or maybe Joseph Smith didn’t even think that far ahead, which is why he didn’t get a revelation about it at that time. There are, however, hints of it with regards to the “marvelous work and a wonder”.

“Perhaps the thought surfaced during Smith’s intense involvement in prophesying of his own role in the Lord’s latter-day work.”

~~Which prophecies would those be?

“While one has to use arguments from silence with caution, the unusual detail of Book of Mormon prophecies concerning Smith’s life, foretelling as they do his name (2 Ne. 3:15) as well as every major event in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon,”

~~”every major event in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon”?? Hardly so! Quite a few things are missing. (A cursory look at Joseph Smith history will show that.)

“is the surest reason for regarding the silence as significant. On reflection, the silence makes sense. Little if anything in Smith’s experience up to 1829 would have led him to think about founding a church. One looks in vain, for example, in his 1832 and 1835 diaries for evidence that his first vision or interviews with Moroni led him to anticipate a subsequent role as a church leader. The same is true even of Smith’s 1838 manuscript history.”

~~Especially the parts about seeing God and Jesus and speaking to them and being told not to join any of the churches, because they were all wrong and all that… Ok, probably true, there wasn’t much about that then. The silence also makes sense because of timing, too.

“Given the Book of Mormon’s silence on the possibility of a new church, how can one explain what I like to call the handbook of church government found in Moroni 1-6 and 8?”

~~Gee, Batman, you have it!! There is *no* other answer!
Or… maybe because Moroni felt to write it??

“These chapters are the epitome of church government that tell how one is initiated as a member,”

~~Most all already shown earlier in the Book of Mormon.
Basically: nine lines about the gift of the Holy Ghost, eleven lines for ordaining, seventeen and fifteen lines for the sacrament, sixteen lines on baptism, four lines on receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, eight lines on new members, (seven plus nine) sixteen lines on meetings, and thirteen lines on discipline; and that is “epitome”? Interesting.

“how the eucharist is administered,”

~~Also shown earlier in the Book of Mormon.

“who governs the church,”

~~Actually, it’s about who teaches/ administers, not who governs; there is nothing about governing here.
Shown instead in 3 Nephi, and in much more detail.

“etc.–all basic issues of church administration conveniently gathered together as if to instruct would-be church builders. If, as suggested by the manuscript evidence, 1 and 2 Nephi were composed after the remainder of the Book of Mormon (including Moroni), why is nothing more said about the appearance of a new church, such as appears to be adumbrated in Moroni?”

~~Yes, amazing consistency, huh? No doubt Joseph Smith broke his teeth biting on the bit so hard… Or maybe, it might be because it was written as Joseph Smith said so, and that it really was written at the times said.

“One possibility is that while Moroni 1-6 and 8 do indeed look like a handbook, they were intended not as the basis for a new church but as a guide for reforming an existing institution.”

~~A little evidence/ references would be nice here. I see no reason why they were “intended” for either, especially for “reforming an existing institution”. Or is this just another speculation?

“If so, it was to have been the Book of Mormon, itself as much as anything else, that would have contributed to the reform. The Book of Mormon need not portray Joseph Smith as playing a pivotal role as a church reformer, much less a founder.”

~~Right, because that wasn’t its purpose.

“A more radical explanation would be that Smith in fact composed Moroni after 1 and 2 Nephi. While I do not necessarily favor this explanation, I offer the following pieces of evidence in its defense. First, it was toward the end of the translation (June 1829) that Oliver Cowdery began working on what we now call Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants, known to have been begun in 1829.8 This suggests that indeed the idea of a new church was beginning to exercise Smith’s mind. ”

~~Or that that’s when a revelation about church was given…
Of course, one could assume from a number of angles that a church was going to come.
It might be really good to look at the scribes’ handwriting and such and see if this lends any insight into the order of translation.

“If this is what motivated the collection of materials in Moroni,”

~~Why would Joseph Smith, with the D&C already filling the need, feel a need to write all that in Moroni, especially if it were a little different than the D&C? Why not fill up Moroni with prophecies about Joseph Smith being a great prophet, about the translator also founding a church, reforming/ restoring it, etc.? *Especially* if at that time, D&C 20 was being “work[ed] on”. If fake, why would Joseph Smith prophesy to limit himself, instead of writing fake prophecies that he’d already fulfilled? According to Firmage, Joseph Smith had already done that in 1 and 2 Nephi; why the change? And translating Moroni last would have put Joseph Smith further ahead in the future.

“and if Moroni had been composed before 1 and 2 Nephi, then we should expect some “foretelling” of the idea. Second, if we exclude from the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon and also Moroni, and if we restore the 116 pages of Mormon’s abridgement, the resulting book is in fact a book by Mormon–that is, the book as it was perhaps originally conceived in Smith’s mind–the work of a single author.”

~~No, not necessarily–though there might be.
So other than 2 Nephi 3, is there anything to fulfill [our expection]?
?? Sorry, I’m missing the point here. This is silly

“The loss of the 116 pages dealt this conception and Smith’s vision a blow.”

~~How? And why would it? It’s still “a book by Mormon” minus 116 pages. The point? This just seems really silly.

“While Smith was eventually able to recover his gift of translation, the structure of the Book of Mormon changed– above all, the 116 pages had to be replaced. The fact that Smith did not immediately move to provide a substitute suggests that he may have needed time to consider its ramifications.”

~~It could be seen like that, yes.
Remember what Firmage said about arguments from silence? I think it could be applied here.

“Best perhaps to finish the story as he had already conceived it and worry about the replacement later.”

~~As all good authors/ forgers/ con men do…
Seriously, this is a really contrived corner Firmage is painting himself into.

“All of the additions (Ether, 1 Nephi-Omni/Words of Mormon, and Moroni) in this scenario come toward the end of the translation process. The complex story of large and small plates and multiple authorship are thus explained as the consequence of an accident on the one hand and a theological development in Smith’s mind on the other. The succession of insignificant record keepers from Jacob down to the time of Mosiah is required only in order to fill up the chronological gap between the end of the founding family’s story and that of Mosiah, the two Almas, and the Nephite wars.

~~You know, simplicity is so nice and helpful when it comes to doing things, especially conning. Something the critics always love to use, you know, that Occam’s Razor thing… Which makes one wonder, why in the world would Joseph Smith–if he were making this up–make this so complicated, and make it easier to “get caught”? Just to “fix it after it was all done” instead of a much easier and simpler solution?
Might Nephi also have started at 400-100 BC instead of at 600 BC, and had to worry much less about space and time.
“is required only in order to fill up the chronological gap”–a limited point of view. Is that all that’s in there? I find much more.
So what about Helaman, Nephi, Nephi? Are they all figments of Moroni’s imagination, a figment of Joseph Smith’s imagination?

“Permit me a few more comments on the subject of Moroni’s church handbook. In saying that it is unique, I am not claiming that the concerns it treats are not addressed elsewhere in the Book of Mormon; some are, some are not. What is unique is the fact that the resulting guidelines are assembled in one location as an instruction manual. Each of the topics taken up were matters of debate in Smith’s time, which explains why they are treated at all.”

~~The spirit of prophecy is a mighty thing, eh?
Which are and aren’t?

“Many readers of this essay may recall Alexander Campbell’s dictum that the Book of Mormon includes “every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.”9 “He [Joseph Smith],” according to Campbell, “decides all the great controversies–infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man.”

~~Yeah, right! Besides, why would a religion talk about all that? Especially when none of the other religions do/ did? (Yes, that was sarcasm…)

“The matter of infant baptism, which heads up Campbell’s list, is broached for the first and only time in Moroni 8:4–part of what I have called the handbook. This is puzzling since the Nephites have been practicing baptism at least since Alma the Elder’s time (Mos. 18:10). How is it that only at the end of the history does the question arise?”

~~Are you saying that every matter of dispute has to have a precedent??

“By way of comparison, although there is no trace of it in the New Testament, infant baptism was nevertheless an established practice by the late second century when Tertullian advised against baptizing children for fear they would sin before they could be reasonably expected to act differently (On Baptism, xviii). Infant baptism is mentioned by Irenaeus and is an apparently normative albeit localized practice (II:xxii). The issue can scarcely have been avoided by the Nephite church.”

~~What is the logic behind this reasoning?: since the past was one way, every other future thing must be the same way? It has to do with more than just “as this way, so every way” thinking.
Anyway, let’s see… Division in the 231st year (4 Nephi 1:35), to 400 AD (?), is 169 years–seems to match up pretty well with “late second century”. Interesting point!

“Nevertheless, Moroni 8 implies that the issue is new: Mormon and Moroni are initially at a loss for a response. Even with his thorough knowledge of Nephite history, Mormon has to go to God himself for an answer (v. 7).”

~~Ah, revelation is such a bad, bad thing when history is so clear, and every problem is so alike in situation, context, and of course, its answer…
“At a loss for a response” and lacking a clear, direct communication from God on the matter are two different things. Can Firmage prove the first and not the second?

“Mormon’s justification (v. 8) is a pastiche of New Testament sentiments taken out of context in a manner not uncharacteristic of the rest of the Book of Mormon.”

~~?? Anyway… including where else?

“His quotation of Jesus to the effect that “the law of circumcision is done away in me” is the most peculiar. This Pauline sentiment makes sense in its original social setting: the struggle to establish the independence of the gentile church from Jewish ritual. But what relevance does it have to Moroni’s practical difficulty? In fact, the problem faced by Paul could scarcely have arisen among Nephite leaders who all along had championed the rejection of Jewish “Law” in terms that could be called anti-Jewish.”

~~”Nephite leaders who all along had championed the rejection of Jewish “Law” in terms that could be called anti-Jewish”. Any examples, especially ones that could balance out the many ones in articles at FARMS that show the opposite?

“The problem of infant baptism cannot realistically be located in the sort of world which the Book of Mormon itself would lead us to expect.”

~~Why not?
Firmage must not expect at least halfway-intelligent readers to so easily continue to accept, over and over, his unfounded/ unproved opinons as facts (unless of course, the reader is already of the same opinion).

“But in Joseph Smith’s world, the issue was very much alive. Presbyterians, the most popular group around Palmyra, New York, held with Calvinism that baptism as a sign of conversion was not necessary as a means to salvation. It was not administered to infants. Methodists, the next largest group in the area, required infant baptism. Baptists, also well represented, who felt that only believers should be baptized, excluded children from the rite. Universalists allowed baptism in any number of forms but held that it was not mandatory. The Friends did away with sacraments altogether. One could therefore find among major religious movements in the area just about every possible attitude toward baptism. The key to understanding Moroni 8, and many of the other passages discussed below, is the reference to Ancient American “disputations” (vv. 4-5), which these revelations are meant to quell. This is, in fact, the only hint of such disputations in the Book of Mormon. Reference to theological conflict makes great sense in the context of New York revivalism.”

~~Did Joseph Smith preach this to everyone? There was a big difference. In the Book of Mormon where this occurs, it is to put an end to disputation among members of *the same religion*. That’s kind of different than what was happening at the time of Joseph Smith, correct?
And no, that is not the only “hint of such disputations in the Book of Mormon”; in fact, there are clear *mentions* of disputations among them, over theological reasons. Searching “disputation” would be a start.

“How one sees infants is not the only controversial point about baptism, and we should therefore expect that if Smith set out to settle matters of controversy once and for all, he would address himself to other points of debate.”

~~Faulty logic. There are many controversial points about baptism and about every other gospel topic there is; should we therefore expect Joseph Smith to address all of them, especially in one book, especially one that implies that that is not its purpose? I don’t think so.

“The passage in 3 Nephi ll:22. does just that. It too is introduced by the key word “disputations” (v. 22, also 28.), which are again unanticipated. We often hear of political dissension in the Nephite camp, but nowhere previously is anything said about disagreements among the faithful about how baptism should be done. Nothing is left to speculation in 3 Nephi.”

~~Except to the speculation Firmage just mentioned… What would be the point of mentioning the disputations, if there were no solution to it?

“Every word and action is specified in detail. Christ himself–what better authority–makes clear its necessity and scope. This is important since the New Testament lacks such explicit divine instruction.”

~~Oh please.

“The uncertainty which this issue evoked in the minds of nineteenth-century seekers after the ‘primitive church’ could only thus be completely dispelled–with explicit instruction to fill the gap in the New Testament picture of the church.”

~~About this whole section on Infant Baptism:
I think the writer is having a hard time relating his personal life experience in the church to what happened in the Book of Mormon.
How about this: the Nephite church, under the law of Moses, circumcised, and thought nothing of it. When the law of Moses was done away, the new church believed no baptism for children was necessary (especially with the forcefulness of Jesus’ presence while teaching about children). Later, it comes up very strongly as a church issue, perhaps from influence of the past, from misunderstanding, from Jesus’ teachings being stretched, from another church, from wolves seeking to overthrow the doctrine, from culture, from philosophy. Pure revelation and prophecy was needed, and obtained. Take a look at this:
Helaman 11:22 And also they had peace in the seventy and eighth year, save it were a few contentions concerning the points of doctrine which had been laid down by the prophets.
Helaman 11:23 And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.
See that? When were revelations sought and received? When there began to be contentions and much strife.
Think about now: gender, whether progression between kingdoms after mortal life is possible, whether Jonah really got swallowed by a big fish, etc.–all with prophetic comment, but yet still debated by members, until the need to overcome serious contention or such, at which time a certain stand on doctrine is taken.

“Similarly missing from the New Testament are details about how to administer the eucharist (the Mormon “sacrament”), which are obligingly supplied by 3 Nephi 18. Verse 34 explains that this is, again, because of disputations. In this case, we should expect no disputes at all since the eucharist only comes into being with Jesus’ advent. Nevertheless, the exact significance of each act is, as in the earlier cases, carefully spelled out (w. 7, 11).”

~~Oh, I thought “the last supper” provided pretty good details. “we should expect no disputes at all since the eucharist only comes into being with Jesus’ advent”: references?

“Having chosen twelve disciples to govern his American church, Jesus gives the disciples power to bestow the Holy Ghost (v. 37).

~~I think that’s in the Bible, too. Whoops.

“This almost completes the rudimentary framework for church organization. All the church lacks is a name, which is providentially supplied in Chapter 27. Once more the motivation is “disputations” (w.4.), but again, mention of these squabbles comes out of nowhere. One wonders why, if there were debates, the church leader did not simply solicit a revelation on the matter and put an end to it as the Book of Mormon prophetic tradition would suggest.”

~~Well, that is exactly what they did… The only point here seems to be empty.

“Coming from Jesus’ mouth, the statement claims more authority and provides, in a New Testament tradition, what the New Testament does not: explicit details from Jesus himself for the organization of a church.”

~~Why would a revelation “from Jesus’ mouth” claim more authority? D&C 1 dismisses this claim, as do many other scriptures.
So why does the LDS Church have the D&C, and the CHI, with all those detailed and explicit directions and instructions in the Book of Mormon on organizing a Church “from Jesus himself”? How “explicit” really is all that?

“The reader may have noticed that these items–the ordination of the twelve, the mode of baptism, the eucharist, and the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost–constitute what we earlier called the handbook of the church in Moroni 1-6 and 8, which epitomizes the lengthier treatment in 3 Nephi. Unlike 3 Nephi, however, Moroni’s handbook is explicitly designed for “some future day.” ”

~~Um, the entire Book of Mormon is “explicitly designed for ‘some future day'”.
All right, it could be that Moroni wanted to explain more about the church; but yes, it seems more that way. If you had had a little more space on the plates, knowing what was going to come, what would you have written?

“With such perfect instruction, the primitive American church operates without any disputes at all (4 Ne. 2).”

Hold on! This is just very naive and wishful thinking. It’s because of conversion, humility, revelation, obedience, etc.–not “perfect instruction”. The “perfect instruction” in 3 Nephi is hardly that. It is noted in 3 Nephi especially that there was much more, but that it was left out. Also, it took a while to get to no disputes; and at what level, and according to whose criteria, does a “dispute” start? And was it the perfect instruction, or was there more to it? According to this argument, since Kirtland was more advanced in instruction than New York, etc., apostasy couldn’t have occurred at that time–yet it did, much more so than in New York. Also, note that it was those that *had* more “perfect instruction” that apostatized, than those that did not.

“This is an extreme form of what Robert Wilken calls the “myth of Christian beginnings.”10 Eusebius expresses it concisely: Until then [the early second century] the church had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted, since those who were trying to corrupt the wholesome standard of the saving message … lurked somewhere under cover of darkness. But when the sacred band of the apostles had in various ways reached the end of their life, and the generation of those privileged to listen with their own ears to the divine wisdom had passed on, then godless error began to take shape through the deceit of false teachers, who now that none of the apostles was left threw off the mask [and] attempted to counter the preaching of the truth by knowledge falsely so called. (Ecclesiastical History, 3.32.7-.
“Eusebius wrote a history,” writes Wilken, “in which there is no real history, for there is no place for change in his portrait of Christianity. The true church always remains the same from generation to generation. … There is no genuine history, for there can be no history … The history of the church is a history of an eternal conflict between the truth of God and its opponents.”11 Although they make different uses of it, this myth is basic to Protestants and Catholics alike; needless to say, it is important to Mormons. It is precisely this image of pristine Christianity under the apostles that underlies 4 Nephi. It is also the prototype for the primitivist model described in 3 Nephi and explicitly recommended for later implementation in Moroni 1-6, 8.”

~~Too overly simplistic thinking, much less a reading of the Book of Mormon. And what does all that really have to do with the Book of Mormon?
In the Book of Mormon, there was no one, “lurk[ing] somewhere under cover of darkness”. From Lehi on down to the 4 Nephi, there is continual apostacy. When the zionist society of 4 Nephi ended, it was not because of false teachings entering the church and corrupting it; it remained fine; but some left; then pride entered into the hearts of members; and after that, later, corrupt teachings. Then came death of the members; and finally, the death of the apostles. Not the same story as in the Bible! “Genuine history”? Absolutely. For Firmage, I guess a couple that doesn’t argue just doesn’t have a genuine marriage, eh?

“One consequence of this notion is the idea that diversity cannot be tolerated. In other words, the only way to explain differences is to say that divergent views contradict or oppose the true faith.”

~~Depends on what “diversity” and “differences” are. This is just really elementary, I think. Obvioulsy murderer–a diversity–“contradict[s] or oppose[s] the true faith”. And?
So what is Firmage trying to say, the Church doesn’t allow any changes or discussion of ideas? Any long-time member, especially with leadership experience, can tell you what a load of malarky that is. We should assume then, that no changes have been made in the LDS Church since it began? What about when different views come by revelation?

“If there can be only one way of doing things, then “disputations” are necessarily a sign of trouble.

~~That is a biggie which rarely exists: *IF* there can be only one way of doing things”.
And if so, disputations are likely a sign of trouble. Can Firmage show any other area where a clear (absolute) satndard exists, where disputations aren’t “necessarily a sign of trouble”? Probably meaning that the people are not one, that there is a lack of communication and/or that someone is either trying to unrightfully exert or unrightfully claim dominion; and that the Spirit (and its gifts) is not being enjoyed. I have a feeling that Firmage is somehow trying to gain a foothold for disputing ex-LDS…

“By attributing his handbook for church administration to Jesus, Joseph Smith established a form that should be beyond dispute.”

~~For whom? All the other denominations and churches?? Is Firmage really serious? That somehow this was going to unite all the churches in one in doctrine, yet keep them apart? You know, one faith, one baptism, one fold; many separate flocks? Or unite the churches not only in doctrine, but in body, and make this one new church holy? Notwithstanding all of Joseph Smith’s interactions with the preachers of those religions?
I thought Firmage said the church handbook was written by Moroni, not in 3 Nephi–or has it changed?

“The solution to sectarian squabbles, the one ultimately chosen by Joseph Smith, was to establish a church based on the unambiguous constitution of ancient American Christianity.”

~~Nope. It was to receive revelation.
Of course, since the Indians were so highly held, much more so than Peter, James, John, and Paul, no doubt everyone would have flocked to this new church… Great plan, Joe!

“As Eusebius demonstrates, the notion of a post-apostolic crisis need not lead to what Mormons would call the Apostasy. It is possible that Smith’s handbook of church government, while ultimately providing the basis for the new Church of Christ (Latter-day Saints), was initially intended as an epitome for emulation by existing institutions.”

~~Whether Eusebius demonstrated it or not, why would one assume that it *had* to lead to apostacy? Has anyone ever said that?
That which Firmage is saying is, Joseph Smith completely ignored/ forgot what Jesus Christ told him in the First Vision as he wrote the Book of Mormon… Not likely, I think.
Is there any evidence at all that Firmage would like to provide that it “ultimately provid[ed] the basis for the new Church of Christ” or that it was intended as a guide for other churches? Wait!… I thought that Joseph Smith was already planning a new church (remember the remarks about D&C 20 being written at about this time?) What happened to *that* contradictory line of thinking?

In the preceding pages, I have tried to show how a historical-critical view of the Book of Mormon illuminates some of its more interesting problems.”

~~This is a possible point of view, and some of the situations carried thoughtfulness and basically decent explanations. Outside of the presentation of the content, I actually enjoyed reading this paper, and found some of the thoughts interesting.

“Many questions remain, and many problems have yet to be discovered and analyzed.”

~~Such confidence that the hidden and the unknown are all negative!!

“I myself have questions about the Book of Mormon’s origins that I cannot yet answer.”

~~I think anyone who cared to think about it, would.

“However, that fact does not diminish the certainty of my conclusion that the Book of Mormon is a modern text.”

~~IOW: “And notwithstanding, I don’t know, I’m not going to ask those questions because someone might answer them, and even if all the answers showed that the Book of Mormon were a historical text, that wouldn’t change my mind anyway–I’ve already decided!!

~~I’ve seen stronger conclusions before.

~~My Conclusion: If these are the reasons for the author’s “deconversion”, then I have great hopes for the author’s “reconversion”.

1. Note that only in Mormon 9:32 is the Egyptian said to be “reformed.” Otherwise, the Book of Mormon’s designation is simply “Egyptian.”
2. The anachronistic reference to “Jews” is worth noting but remains tangential to the present discussion.
3. According to W. W. Phelps, probably quoting Harris in his 15 Jan. 1831 letter to Eber D. Howe (Mormonism Unvailed [Painesville, OH: the Author, 1836], 273), Anthon is said to have described the transcription as “short hand Egyptian.”
4. In the preface to his Classical Dictionary (1825), Anthon shows some acquaintance with Champollion’s treatise on Egyptian. Even so, his ability to translate anything must have been minimal, to say the least. It is doubtful that Anthon ventured a translation. Anthon himself denied having authenticated Smith’s translation. His two versions of the interview, occasionally at odds with each other, are discussed in Richard Kushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 88, where additional literature on the topic is also given. However, Anthon may have ventured to identify the provenance of the characters. The reason for thinking so is that Harris’s description of the figures as “short hand Egyptian” reflects a knowledge of current Egyptological terminology, of which Harris could not have been aware. Champollion (Precis du Systeme Hieroglyphique 1:18, 20, 355) describes hieratic as “tachygraphie,” which is rendered “short hand” in the American review of Champollion’s work (American Quarterly Review, June 1827, 450). The references to Champollion’s Precis and to Anthon’s reviews of this work derive from a helpful article published by FARMS (“What Did Charles Anthon Really Say,” FARMS Update, May 1985). Anthon is known to have been familiar with this work (Classical Dictionary [4th ed., 1845], 45) and is the only known source from which Harris could have learned this usage.
5. A general designation of the Nephite people is intended.
6. “The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript,” BYU Studies 10 (1970): 259-78.
7. The one post-translation event that does appear prominently is the gathering of Israel. But the gathering of Israel is seen not as the response to an institutionalized church but as the effect of the Book of Mormon gospel which was to prepare people for an imminent second coming. Cf. John A. dark: “[Martin] said he verily believed that an important epoch had arrived–that a great flood of light was about to burst upon the world … that a golden Bible had recently been dug from the earth … and that this would … settle all religious controversies and speedily bring on the glorious millennium” (Gleanings by the Way [Philadelphia, 1842], 223). Harris’s statement does not, of course, necessarily represent Smith’s point of view. But it is entirely consonant with the stated purpose of the Book of Mormon (cf. e.g., 1 Ne. 14:7; 2 Ne. 27:26ff.; 28; 29; 30).
8. Lyndon Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1981), 126n3.
9. Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon (Boston, 1832), 13.
10. Robert Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980).
11. Ibid., 73.”

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