Saturday, October 23, 2010

Iron in the Book of Mormon

Have you ever thought it strange that iron is mentioned as a “precious thing” in the Book of Mormon? Mosiah 11:8 says “King Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper…” Why is iron mentioned alongside copper, gold and silver as precious metals?

An article by Alan Millard in the Bible Review talks about how iron was used anciently to decorate royal beds, thrones, bracelets and other jewelry. The article explains how iron was “highly prized” just like other precious metals and was considered a treasure.

I am fairly confident that if I tried to give my wife an elegant pair of iron ear rings, she would not hold them in as high regard as gold or even silver ones. I am also confident that Joseph Smith would not have considered iron a precious metal. He would not have included iron in the same class as gold, silver and copper if he were writing the Book of Mormon based on his own experiences.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

King Benjamin's Address

In 1985, William Kurz wrote an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature that compares famous farewell speeches throughout history. He focused on Greco-Roman and biblical speeches and, in total, compared twenty-two such speeches. Kurz has developed a list of twenty elements that are common to the farewell addresses he used in his study. None of the speeches contain all twenty of these elements but all contain at least a few. For example, Moses’ farewell address contains 16 of these elements, while Socrates’ has eleven.

The Book of Mormon contains some stirring farewell speeches, one of which is King Benjamin’s farewell address to his people at the temple. When compared to the twenty elements from Kurz’s study, King Benjamin’s speech tops the chart with sixteen that are explicitly stated, while three others could be implied. This means that this speech follows the pattern of Greco-Roman and biblical farewell speeches as well as the ancient speeches do! Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I won’t list all twenty of the elements because that would take too long, but some of my favorites are “He states his innocence and the fact that he fulfilled his duty”, “He refers to his impending death”, and “He cites his own mission as an example.”

Sunday, October 3, 2010


1 Nephi 13:12 says that the Spirit of God “came down and wrought upon the man” and that he crossed the waters and came to the descendants of the Lamanites. We generally tend to think that this scripture is a prophesy relating to the discovery of the America’s by Christopher Columbus. While past scholarship has focused on the “strong working of his vigorous mind” as the reason for his voyage, more modern research has pointed to spiritual reasons as his main motivation.

Pauline Watts’ article in 1985 gives us evidence that the Spirit really did help guide Columbus’ decision to come to the new world. Columbus believed himself to be a fulfiller of biblical prophecy such as in Isaiah 11:11 that those from the “islands of the sea” would be recovered. He also paid particular attention to John 10:16 which says, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold…” This scripture is particularly important to members of the Church, since Christ said it referred to the inhabitants of the America’s when he visited the continent after his resurrection.

We now know that many of these prophecies were indeed fulfilled, at least in part, to the voyage that Columbus started over 500 years ago. The discovery of America opened the doors to the eventual restoration of the gospel that would enable to whole Earth to be of “one fold and one shepherd.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Translation

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a modern day miracle. In fact, Rexxploring the Book of Mormon explains that “a marvelous work and a wonder” in the original Hebrew translates as “a miraculous miracle and a miracle.” Redundant? Maybe. Powerful? Definitely. One amazing fact that contributes to this miracle is the small length of time it took to translate the book.

Joseph Smith began to seriously work on the translation a few days after meeting Oliver Cowdery on April 5, 1829. (This of course is after the 116 pages transcribed by Martin Harris were lost.) The translating finished sometime in late June and Joseph and Oliver finally found someone to print the manuscript in August. By my calculation, that means that the entire 530 page (at least in the current edition) book was translated in between 70 and 80 days. Using 75 days as the estimate, my calculator says that Joseph and Oliver translated about seven pages per day. I wonder how many other 500 page books were written that quickly. Probably not many.

Another thing to think about is that during this time, they were not translating all day, every day. They went to Colesville, NY a couple times, received some sections in the D&C, did missionary work, and did many other things during that time. This just adds to the fact that they translated the record very quickly. Much quicker than someone making it up as they go along, and much more complex and historically correct as well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reexploring the Book of Mormon

I am starting to read the book entitled, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch. This book is a collection of brief outlines addressing various aspects of Book of Mormon research. It was published in 1992, so it might be a bit dated, but I still feel that it will be worthwhile to read. Hopefully I will read some interesting things in this book that will enhance by understanding of Book of Mormon culture that I can share here on my blog.

Though books like these can be interesting to read and discuss, they cannot replace the actual scriptures themselves in our library of helpful books. In Elder Holland’s book about the Book of Mormon he says the following: “…this book is emphatically not a substitute for reading the Book of Mormon itself. In fact, one could make a persuasive argument that no book should be written about the Book of Mormon, particularly if reading such a secondary work became an alternative for becoming immersed in the scripture firsthand.”

So studying books about the Book of Mormon should never trump our study of the Book of Mormon. However, reading books about the Book of Mormon can supplement our study and can help increase our desire to study the Book of Mormon. That is what I hope comes about as I study this book.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Beginning

So, I had a random thought today to start a blog about my thoughts on the Book of Mormon. I hope that this blog will help me be consistent in my study and force me to think more about what I am studying. Learning is more effective when you write it down and share what you learn with others, right? As a sub-reason for why I decided to start this blog, maybe someone will read it and learn something new.

I hope that by studying, pondering, and writing I will gain a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon and of my Savior. In fact, one of the major reasons the Book of Mormon was written was to convince all people that Jesus is the Christ (see the title page). I have seen that happen in my life and in the lives of many others.

This is a little awkward writing to myself, but if you are reading this, welcome to my blog and I hope you enjoy it.