Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, August 22

“A Critique of the Book of Mormon Article ‘Gasping for Breath Without a Head – The Story of Coriantumr and Shiz’ By Bill McKeever” by grego

“A Critique of the Book of Mormon Article ‘Gasping for Breath Without a Head – The Story of Coriantumr and Shiz’ By Bill McKeever”

grego
(c) 2010

In this article trying to prove the Book of Mormon wrong (found at www.mrm.org/coriantumr-and-shiz ), Bill McKeever provides some research, references, and makes a few good points (kudos for doing much more than the average anti-Mormon article writer!). He does a good analysis of “smite” (and its forms) in the Book of Mormon.

McKeever writes: “Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, a colleague of Welch, offered what would seem to be a plausible suggestion. He wrote, “The most reliable way to determine what a given phrase means in the Book of Mormon, therefore, is to look at the Book of Mormon” (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5:73).” I agree with that statement, too. However, while using that as a guideline, it is never a rule that can’t be broken, especially in certain contexts. It is a guideline.

But McKeever misses on a few other points while chasing red herrings and straw-men (perhaps unintentionally).
Is “smote off” the best translation for Judges 5:26-27, or not? McKeever seems to put the Mormon apologists between a rock and a hard place in that discussion, but never answers the question himself—somewhat of a safe game to play, eh?
Is it possible that Jael smote off the head of the king? As in, beat the neck to pieces so that the head decapitated? I think so. I don’t think McKeever discusses that.
When Gary Hadfield et. al. (Mormon apologists) talk about an incomplete severing: “Moreover, linguistic analysis sustains the foregoing clinical analysis by confirming that the words smote off need not mean that Shiz’s head was completely severed by Coriantumr”—what does “not mean that shiz’s head was completely severed”? Does that mean that the head was still on? Or that Shiz was decapitated, but not at 100%? I think it means the latter.
Does the Book of Mormon have anything to say about that, either way?

Most importantly, McKeever seems to miss the big main point. See, whether Coriantumr smote off *all* of Shiz’s head or just most of it, the apologetics covers it either way. His article contains much about cutting off part of the head, and then there’s this, from http://mormonscholarstestify.org/841/m-gary-hadfield :
“Gary Hadfield writes: At the end of my thirty-three-year career as a medical school professor of neuropathology, I decided to attend one last scientific conference: the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in New Orleans, 2003. I had felt impressed to go at the last minute, though I had not submitted an abstract. Consider my wonder and surprise when I encountered a poster presentation, mounted by Canadian neuroscientists, which recounted the history of a French priest who had been guillotined some two centuries ago, but who got up and walked a few steps after losing his head (9). Just imagine the consternation and fear this produced in the spectators! This exotic case bolsters the account of Shiz, of coordinated muscular activity after decapitation, though the priest was obviously relying on spinal cord reflexes rather than brainstem control”.

On the other hand, regarding complete instantaneous (as one stroke would do) decapitation:
The website www.en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Anachronisms/Shiz_struggles_to_breathe says:
“This criticism has long been answered. In 1900, the Millennial Star described a case in which similar behavior was observed:
It is claimed that the rising on the hands after decapitation is an impossibility.
The following from a dispatch to the Liverpool Daily Post of February 1, 1900, on the occasion of the seizure of Spion Kop, in Natal, should effectually silence all criticism on that passage:
‘There was an extraordinary incident in Wednesday’s battle. One of the Lancaster men, while in the act of firing in a prone position, had his head taken clean off by a large shell. To the astonishment of his comrades, the headless body quietly rose, stood upright for a few seconds, and then fell.’”[3]

From http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/qa/bom_shiz.htm :
“One instance which we have noticed is referred to in the Popular Science Monthly, 1). 1 16 for June, 1892. The writer, Geo. L. Kilmer, says:
On the 17th if June, (1864?) in the charge of the Ninth Corps on the Confederate works east of Petersburg, a sargeant of the Fifty-Seventh Massachusetts leaped upon the parapet, and with his cap in his left hand and his musket in his right, stood cheering and gesturing with his arms to incite his comrades to come on. Suddenly a shell took off his head as completely as a knife could have done, but the tall form continued erect for some seconds, the arms still waving frantically but with ever-lessening sweep and power, until the forces of the body collapsed, when the headless trunk toppled over to the ground.

Again, Hawthorne relates that a sea captain once told him of an incident which was said to have occurred during the action between the Constitution and the Macedonia which was fought during the war of 1812, between Great Britain and the United States. The captain was, at tile time, powder-monkey aboard the Constitution, and saw a cannon shot come through the ship’s side. A seaman’s head was struck off, probably by a splinter, for it was done, he said, a.; clean as by a razor, without bruising the head or body. The unfortunate man, at the time of the Occurrence, was walking pretty briskly, and the captain affirmed that he kept walking onward at the same pace, with two jets of blood gushing from his headless trunk, till, after going about twenty feet without a head, he sank down at once with his legs under him.”

So, either way, the problem is adequately answered.

The most important part that McKeever leaves out of his article is this: is there any evidence, especially scientific, that disallows/ proves false the account of Shiz’s decapitation? I wonder why McKeever never touches that…?

And while McKeever gets into detail about how much of Shiz’s head got cut off—really, if someone cuts off 9/10 of someone’s head, does that count as “smiting off” their head? What about 3/4? 5/7? 3/5? Where is the point that you say, “Ok, stop, that’s not smiting off his head anymore”? McKeever doesn’t go there, and until he does, his points are pretty much a display of, at best, rearranging the chairs on the decks a little better—on the Titanic. He certainly needs much more to draw clearer conclusions that are more to his critical liking.

Here’s the article, which appears at Mormon Research Ministry’s website: www.mrm.org/coriantumr-and-shiz:

“Can a decapitated body lift itself up and gasp for breath? A story in the Book of Mormon seems to say so. The story is found in the Book of Ether and recounts a sword fight between a Jaredite king named Coriantumr (Ether 12:1) and Shiz, the brother of Lib (Ether 14:17)…

Ether 15:29 states that in the course of the battle, “Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood.” Taking advantage of the situation, Coriantumr took his sword and “smote off the head of Shiz.” But that isn’t the end. Verse 31 reports that “after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised upon (grego: this should be “up on”) his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.” The question is, how can a man without a head raise himself and also struggle for breath?

Mormon apologists have offered many suggestions. In volume 3, page 556 of his book New Witnesses for God, LDS Seventy B.H. Roberts defended the notion that “a man with his head stricken off rising upon his hands” was not impossible. He then related a story told by a survivor from the charge at Balaclava. This soldier gives two incidences of men who were supposedly decapitated yet their bodies remained in the saddle. If this is possible, Roberts surmised that the story of Shiz must also be plausible.

Roberts isn’t the only one who has concluded that Shiz literally lost his head in this fight. Volume 2 of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (JAREDITES) states, “An exhausted Coriantumr culminated his victory over Shiz by decapitating him. Near Eastern examples of decapitation of enemies are evident in early art and literature, as on the Narmer palette; and decapitation of captured kings is represented in ancient Mesoamerica.”

The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) has taken a different approach, one that is similar to that offered by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl in their Commentary on the Book of Mormon (6:201). They wrote, “May we not rather suppose that the fatal wound which he inflicted on his enemy was a ghastly gash in the head, or the neck, causing Shiz to struggle for breath, as stated? Moroni could properly say: “He smote his head off,” borrowing that expression from popular, colloquial language and using it in a figurative rather than strictly literal sense.”

In an article entitled The ‘Decapitation’ of Shiz (Insights, 11/94, p.2), FARMS’ writers Gary Hadfield and John Welch conclude that Coriantumr failed to cut the head of Shiz completely off. “Coriantumr was obviously too exhausted to do a clean job,” writes Dr. Hadfield. “He must have cut off Shiz’s head through the base of the skull, at the level of the midbrain, instead of through the cervical spine in the curvature of the neck.” Hadfield and Welch conclude that “fifty or sixty percent off would easily have been enough to get the job done, leaving Shiz to reflex and die.”

The writers attempt to explain the Book of Mormon phrase “smote off” by saying it doesn’t really mean to completely sever. In defense of this position, they refer to the biblical account of Jael and Sisera in Judges 5:26-27. In the King James Version this passage reads, “She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down; at her feet he bowed, there he fell down dead.”

The writers contend that the words smote off “need not refer to a total decapitation, for surely Jael did not cleanly chop off Sisera’s head using a hammer. Instead, the English words smote off here simply mean that Jael struck Sisera extremely hard…both Hebrew and Greek words translated as smote off mean ‘to hammer’ or ‘to strike down with a hammer or stamp,’ but not generally to smite off.” This explanation is odd since most Mormons pride themselves in believing the Bible “as far as it is translated correctly” (Article Eight, Articles of Faith). It is curious that the writers insist on defending the Ether passage by referring to the biblical book of Judges since they seem to already acknowledge that the passage in Judges could have been better translated. By doing so, they really haven’t vindicated Joseph Smith’s use of the phrase “smote off” at all. Instead they compel us to ask why they would use what they admit is an inferior translation to bolster their position. It is interesting that while other translations use the more common crushed, pierced, split, struck, or smashed, Joseph Smith copied the King James usage of “smote off” in his so-called Inspired Version.

Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, a colleague of Welch, offered what would seem to be a plausible suggestion. He wrote, “The most reliable way to determine what a given phrase means in the Book of Mormon, therefore, is to look at the Book of Mormon” (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5:73). The problem is, when we follow this guideline, we don’t see justification for the Hadfield/Welch explanation.

For instance, 1 Nephi 4:18 the Book of Mormon records how Nephi smote off the head of Laban. Dr. Hugh Nibley explained Laban’s demise by writing, “Laban was wearing armor, so the only chance of dispatching him quickly, painlessly, and safely was to cut off his head–the conventional treatment of criminals in the East, where beheading has always been by the sword, and where an executioner would be fined for failing to decapitate his victim at one clean stroke” (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.5, p.101 – p.102, emphasis mine).

In Alma 17:37-38, Ammon was being attacked by men armed with clubs, and he “smote off their arms with his sword…he smote off as many of their arms as were lifted against him, and they were not a few.” FARMS’ researcher John Tvedtnes doesn’t deny that this also refers to a complete severing when he wrote, “There are other similarities as well. For example, just as King Mosiah’s son Ammon smote off the arms of a number of men who attacked him with clubs (Alma 17:27-39; 18:16), during the Trojan War King Menelaus cut off the arm of Hippolochus at the shoulder with a single sword-stroke” (Iliad 11.145-47). (FARMS, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol.4, Number 2, p.149.)

It could be that Mr. Tvedtnes is confusing Menelaus with King Agamemnon. Book 11 of Samuel Butler’s translation of the Iliad states that it was Agamemnon, not Menelaus, who “felled Pisander from his chariot to the earth, smiting him on the chest with his spear, so that he lay face uppermost upon the ground. Hippolochus fled, but him too did Agamemnon smite; he cut off his hands and his head-which he sent rolling in among the crowd as though it were a ball.” If this is the story to which Tvedtnes refers, it is a reference to a clean severing.

There is still one more Book of Mormon passage where the phrase smote off is used that leaves no doubt to a complete severing. Alma 44:13 reports the scalping of a Lamanite general named Zerahemnah. It reads, “And it came to pass that the soldier who stood by, who smote off the scalp of Zerahemnah, took up the scalp from off the ground by the hair, and laid it upon the point of his sword.” We know in this case it must mean a complete severing since the soldier had to pick the scalp up from off the ground.

In order to embrace this theory offered by Hadfield and Welch, are we to now assume that perhaps Nephi didn’t really cut off Laban’s head or that Ammon didn’t really cut off the arms of his attackers? Are we to also assume that perhaps Zerahemnah’s scalp was not cut completely off? To draw such a conclusion is to introduce an interpretation that ignores an accepted pattern for similar phrases in other portions of the Book of Mormon. In order to save Joseph Smith’s credibility, both Hadfield and Welch must inject a different interpretation for this one single verse. It is apparent that both Hadfield and Welch seem to be fully aware that a decapitated human has no ability to raise up nor gasp for breath. It is for this reason that they must offer what is certainly a strained excuse.

2010, May 29

“Book of Mormon | “Are the Disputations about Infant Baptism Truly ‘Puzzling’ in Moroni 8?: An Additional Response to Edwin J. Firmage, Jr.” by grego

Book of Mormon | “Are the Disputations about Infant Baptism Truly ‘Puzzling’ in Moroni 8?: An Additional Critique of Edwin J. Firmage, Jr.”

grego
(c) 2010

Edwin Firmage, Jr., commented on the “puzzling” need, after hundreds of years of baptism, for help from Jesus about whether infants should be baptized in “American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon“:

“The matter of infant baptism, which heads up Campbell’s list, is broached for the first and only time in Moroni 8:4ff–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. 18:10ff). How is it that only at the end of the history does the question arise? 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.

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). 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. 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. 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. 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.” (http://207.224.220.202/excerpts/apocrypha.htm#criticism)

I responded to many of his other points in his article in American Apocrypha in a previous article, here on the blog. This is an addition, as I (finally) realized that there is a reason for “anticipation” of the disputations, which I will now explain.

First, Firmage is quite forceful in his desire to make things appear as he would; in other words, he wrests the scriptures to his liking. Let’s look at the verses that are being talked about:
Moroni 8:1 An epistle of my father Mormon, written to me, Moroni; and it was written unto me soon after my calling to the ministry. And on this wise did he write unto me, saying:
2 My beloved son, Moroni, I rejoice exceedingly that your Lord Jesus Christ hath been mindful of you, and hath called you to his ministry, and to his holy work.
3 I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.
4 And now, my son, I speak unto you concerning that which grieveth me exceedingly; for it grieveth me that there should disputations rise among you.
5 For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.
6 And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle.
7 For immediately after I had learned these things of you I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying:
8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!
13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
17 And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.
18 For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.
19 Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.
20 And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.
21 Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
24 Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.
25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;
26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

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So: “The matter of infant baptism, which heads up Campbell’s list, is broached for the first and only time in Moroni 8:4ff–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. 18:10ff).”

grego: First, please remember:

not written about in the Book of Mormon =/= it didn’t happen!

How many times do the Book of Mormon writers/ editors write something like this:
Mormon 5:9 …therefore I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen, because of the commandment which I have received, and also that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people.
Jacob 3:13 And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings.
Words of Mormon 1:5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
Helaman 3:14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.
3 Nephi 5: 8 And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years;
3 Nephi 26: 6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;
Ether 15: 33 And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth. And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written) and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.

Ok, now that that is hopefully out of the way… Did anyone read “infant baptism” or even “infant” in any part of Moroni 8? You didn’t? Neither did I! Firmage makes a beginning critic’s mistake of mistaking the chapter heading for the actual content. The disputation might be over “infant baptism”, but it’s over baptism of little children. Well, grego, infants are little children! Yes, but they’re infants. Most languages distinguish that. And not all little children are infants. (This is basic subset logic.) It is possible that “little children” in the Book of Mormon might mean very young children, or even infants (well…); but always? No. For example, note that in the following Book of Mormon verse, king Benjamin is obviously not speaking of infants when he says “little children”:
Mosiah 2:40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

Alma also says:
Alma 32: 23 And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.
Unles there are many examples of infants speaking that confound the wise and the learned many times, I think Alma is on the same level as king Benjamin here. It’s Firmage that needs to join them.

Next, Firmage’s statement about children and baptism is only partially correct. See these verses:
Mosiah 3:16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.
18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
21 And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.

Mosiah 6:2 And it came to pass that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ. (See this verse in light of: Mosiah 2:40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.
So, even though king Benjamin knows some of the little children understand his words, nevertheless, they are not allowed to enter into covenant.)

Mosiah 15:25 And little children also have eternal life.

Note that all of these references are not just before Moroni 8 in the Book of Mormon and in the translation process, but even before Mosiah 18!

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“How is it that only at the end of the history does the question arise?”

grego: How come some couples are married for years and years, but only after 40 years do they argue about _? I mean, that’s never happened, right? ;)
This is also a special time (which is explained later in this article).

-=
“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.”

grego: So, just because in the Bible and at Jerusalem X happened, then X had to happen anywhere else too? Faulty logic.
But, as shown, it wasn’t. Though, like shown, there’s no reason it might have been avoided until then.
Could the Nephite problem have been the same reasoning as mentioned by Tertullian? And is it widespread, or is perhaps it a local practice, as mentioned by Irenaeus (Moroni 8:5-6)?

-=
“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).”

grego: Moroni does not imply; Firmage infers. “Initally at a loss for a response”? I guess one could see it that way… though I don’t. “Mormon *has* to go to God”, or “Mormon goes to God”? Is the meaning of those two sentences the same? What does the scripture say? Though it’s funny, because one could use that very sentence to say, “Even with his thorough knowledge of Book of Mormon and Mormon history, Firmage _”. Oh, grego, but Firmage isn’t a prophet like Mormon!” Ok, that might be true… But does going to God denote a complete absence of knowledge? Or, once more, is that something that Firmage seems to infer? I think so.

-=
“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.”

grego: At least, so a few critics say…

-=
“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. 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.”

grego: I wonder when readers (including critics, sometimes) will realize that it *is* often the “most peculiar” things in the Book of Mormon that are insightful?
First, let’s understand that the Nephite leaders never once “championed the rejection of the law of Moses (Jewish “Law”)”. (If anyone could point out which verse exactly, I’d be happy to reconsider.)
Second, consider that two things are addressed: “original sin” and circumcision. Both are related to child baptism, and the feeling of the need to baptize children to save them.
Third, while many might be confused and think that the law of circumcision is part of the law of Moses, let’s understand that it is *not* under the law of Moses. It was instituted as a covenant practice earlier, with Abraham (Genesis 17:9-12, etc.):
9 ¶ And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you;

What was the significance of 8 days old? Was it lost over time? Or was it just lost to a small group of some Nephite members who were uncharitable, as seems to be the case in the Book of Mormon?

Abraham and Moses obeyed it, before the law of Moses was instituted. It was not followed in the wilderness, but was restarted with Joshua (Joshua 5). (It was correct for Mormon to talk about circumcision in his revelation, and not the law of Moses–the latter having been fulfilled and done away with, and the first being a separate covenant. Nice job, Joseph Smith!)

Jesus said the law of Moses was done away with him; but what about the other laws? Did some members lump the law of circumcision in with the law of Moses? Was the meaning forgotten? Did some members, in the environment of fear of death surrounding them, fear for their little children and their eternal life? Did some members also perform baptisms along with the circumcisions (yes, then this would be “infant baptism”)? Did some members believe that children needed baptism to be saved? But even if not, were some members unclear about exactly when was a child “responsible” and needed to be baptized? Was it a case of “better earlier than never”?

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And what were the physical and spiritual conditions that this group of Nephites were under? Let’s look at Mormon 4, Mormon 5, and Moroni 9 to get a taste of what was going on near the time. It was not a pleasant scene:
Mormon 4:11 And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.
14 And they did also march forward against the city Teancum, and did drive the inhabitants forth out of her, and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods.
21 And when they had come the second time, the Nephites were driven and slaughtered with an exceedingly great slaughter; their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols.
22 And it came to pass that the Nephites did again flee from before them, taking all the inhabitants with them, both in towns and villages.

Mormon 5:5 But it came to pass that whatsoever lands we had passed by, and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire…
7 And it came to pass that we did again take to flight, and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites’ did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites’ were swept down and destroyed.

Moroni 9:4 Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.
5 For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually.
7 … behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children.
8 And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them.

Moroni 8:27 Behold, my son, I will write unto you again if I go not out soon against the Lamanites. Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.
28 Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them. But behold, I fear lest the Spirit hath ceased striving with them; and in this part of the land they are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; and they are denying the Holy Ghost.

The Nephites were wicked, life was in a constant state of disarray and move-quickly-or-die, the Nephites were denying the all power and authority from God, including the Holy Ghost; they had lost their love; bloodshed and revenge—not mercy and forgiveness—were in their constant thoughts; there was dread over the entire land. In addition, children were dying everywhere, in awful circumstances; people were likely concerned about their children. What other time in Book of Mormon history had these conditions?
Is it impossible to imagine that at this time, there might have been disputations concerning infant baptism?

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And is that the real reason for Mormon’s lengthy revelation on infant baptism? ;) Note that the revelation does not just talk about children; it talks a lot about the connection between infant baptism and the lack of charity/ love of the church members (no, this was not written to/ for non-members! These were members who should have already had a firm grasp on the atonement of Jesus Christ).

Let’s connect the dots further. Note the placement of Moroni 8—right after Moroni 7, which is Mormon’s discourse on faith, hope, and… charity and love. And, amazingly, right before Moroni 9, which talks about the lack of love and charity among the people, and the resulting downfall from that.

There really is relevancy and purpose in content and placement in Book of Mormon—though many might not see it, for whatever reason.

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“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.”

grego: Wow, religions and churches differed in their doctrine and beliefs?!?! Shocking!! As they would have differed about many other tenets of the Gospel.
Maybe it’s in there because the Book of Mormon was written for them, maybe?

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“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.” (http://207.224.220.202/excerpts/apocrypha.htm#criticism)

grego: I disagree; I believe that the key to understanding those passages is actually to more fully understand the Book of Mormon.

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