Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why Was 1st Century Reformed Egyptian Translated into 17th Century King James English in 19th Century America?

Why Was 1st Century Reformed Egyptian Translated into 17th Century King James English in 19th Century America?

Was it really necessary for the Book of Mormon to be translated into 17th Century King James English? It seems that there is a perception that for something to be scripture, it must be translated into late middle/early modern English, as if that is some kind of God given perfect language. Who knew?

Perhaps people during that time period would be more susceptible to believing that the Book of Mormon is holy writ if it was translated into 17th century King James English. It also attempts to incorporate the Book of Mormon as part of the Bible as advertised as the stick of Joseph as referenced in the Bible, and therefore should have the same language. However, this view demonstrates a naïveness to what the Bible is and where it came from.

Book of Mormon For Our Time

If we are to believe that the Book of Mormon was written for our time, it is more likely that it would have been translated into Modern English so that people that read it could have understood it. Modern English had existed at least 80 years before publication of the Book of Mormon. So why wasn't the Book of Mormon translated into Modern English? Why isn't the Book of Mormon now translated into Modern English? The Book of Mormon has been translated from 17th century English into hundreds of different languages, and it is still considered 'scripture' in those other languages. However, if you translate it from 17th century English into modern English it would no longer become 'scripture', it would just be a personal 'explanation' and could not be used to replace 'scripture'. Why is that? It seems that God is obsessed with 17th century English as if that is the only proper way for him to communicate to English speakers. If that is the case, why aren't other revelations and church declarations that we consider 'doctrine' also written in 17th century English?

17th Century English and the Bible

17th century English has nothing to do with the original writings of the Bible. The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew texts and the books in the New Testament were mostly translated from Greek. King James ordered the translation of the collection of books that we call the Bible into the language of the time so that people could best understand it. So why wasn't the Book of Mormon held to the same standard? Why can't we modernize the language of the Book of Mormon? Why does it have to be in antiquated text?

We Believe the (Church Leadership Approved) Bible To Be The Word of God

We say we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, yet we use the King James version of the Bible, which is not the most correctly translated Bible by any stretch of the imagination. There are tons of translational errors in the King James version. There are many better and more accurate translations written in modern English that are much easier to understand, yet the church is insistent on keeping the King James version as the sole version to use in English. It seems that any other translation is 'heretical'. I guess our article of faith should read "we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is church approved".

Other English Translations of the Bible

The King James version of the Bible was not the first Bible to be translated into English. The Anglo-Saxons had very early translations of some of the books in the Bible in Old English as early as 600 A.D. English translations that occurred in the 14th century were translated into Middle English, as this is what people spoke at the time. There were several translations into Late Middle/Early modern English, including King James, and they were all written in Early Modern English because that is the language that people could best understand at the time. There have been many Biblical translations since King James, and the most modern versions are translated into Modern English because that can be best understood today. Yet for some reason some people are stuck with King James when he is just one of a long procession of English translations.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Was Joseph Smith Nearsighted?

Translation of the Book of Mormon

In a previous post, I talked about the method that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon. Any reputable historian on the subject LDS or non-LDS will tell you that Joseph Smith did not use the gold plates, or the urim and thummim for the translation of the Book of Mormon. Instead, he used a seer stone that he found in the ground while digging a well in 1822, a year before the angel Moroni ever appeared to him. For the majority of the translation of the Book of Mormon, he would put the seer stone into a hat and put his head into the hat and dictate the words that would appear to him.

This is a very odd, but historically more accurate depiction of the method that gave us the Book of Mormon. A question has been raised, and I believe it is a good question; Was Joseph Smith incredibly near-sighted, or did he make himself go cross-eyed for the entire translation process?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Enos' Mighty Prayer and His Desire

In the Book of Mormon, there is a book by Enos called "The Book of Enos". It is a short book, only one chapter and in it, Enos tells the story of how he prayed mightily for a day and night. Because of his faith, his sins were forgiven. In fact, the lord himself tells Enos he will grant him one wish.

Enos 1:12

And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.

Enos is asked what he desires, and he responds:

Enos 1:13

And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him—that if it should so be, that my people, the Nephites, should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed, and the Lamanites should not be destroyed, that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites; even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation—

This is what I find a little odd. Why isn't the desire of Enos that the people of the Nephites would not fall into transgression? Or why wasn't his desire that the Lamanites might be brought unto salvation today and they can live in peace and harmony with the Nephites? I understand that God can not take away the free agency of others, but that wasn't the question. The question was what was it that Enos desired, and his desire is 'just in case' the Nephites fall into transgression, and the Nephites happen to be wiped out by the Lamanites or by any other means, then preserve the record for the Lamanites in a future time. That is what he desires most? It sounds to me more like a postdiction, or just literary foreshadowing at best. I find it rather suspect that Enos' ultimate desire is a "what if" scenario.

The covenant that Enos makes with the lord is based on an "if, then" agreement. IF the Nephites fall into transgression, THEN the lord will preserve the record. So by strict letter of the covenant, if the Nephites ultimately did not fall into transgression, or were not destroyed by the Lamanites, then the lord would not have any contractual obligation to assist the preservation the record. The Nephites would be on their own. The covenant only works with the assumption that the Nephites will be wiped out at a later date. Maybe Enos didn't have much faith in his fellow Nephites and knew that inevitably they would be wiped out? But that doesn't explain why his ultimate desire wouldn't be for the lord to protect his people, but instead 'if' they happen to be destroyed, 'then' preserve the record for the descendants of the people that destroyed his people.

That would be like the lord asking me what I desire the most for my 2 year old, and my response is "what I desire most for my 2 year old is if she ever gets kidnapped, preserve her Sesame Street DVDs so that the future generations of her kidnappers can one day learn the importance of education".

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Kind of Mormon Are You?

This is a one question quiz that is directed at members, ex-members or even investigators of the LDS community, not limited to members of the mainstream LDS church. Of course this is in no way scientific and is just for fun.

Which one most closely matches your belief?

1. Believe that the gospel truths as restored by Joseph Smith are eternal and can never change and ought to be taught the same way regardless of the church leadership.

2.Believe that the gospel is true and eternal, does not change, but the emphasis can change depending on church leadership. However, this change is not based on outside influence and comes from top down (i.e. direct revelation from God to the prophet), not from bottom up.

3.Believe that the gospel is true, but can evolve and be refined over time as we gain a better understanding. The changes in the church doctrine or practice like polygamy and the priesthood ban on blacks came from bottom up, not top down. Principals like polygamy and the priesthood ban on blacks were mistakes made by the church and is now trying to correct those mistakes. You believe that the church has many aspects it can improve on like treatment of women, or women being given the priesthood, or treatment of homosexuals, etc. These changes will come from bottom up, not top down in the church.

4.Believe that if the church is true, then the historicity of the Book of Mormon can and should be explained by a very scientific, secular and non-religious explanation. You believe that one day DNA and archeology will eventually 'vindicate' the claims made by the church and you are certain that scientists will accept the Book of Mormon as a historical document, even if they don't believe in the story of angels. The "burning in the bosom" is a nice spiritual confirmation, but not sufficient in today's scientific age.

5.Believe that the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction and Joseph Smith simply used a median he understood well (he was well known for being a good storyteller) to best communicate the message and principals that were revealed to him from God. Much like how Jesus taught in parables so that people could understand his teachings.

6.Believe that the whole church is completely made up and fabricated by Joseph Smith, it was not inspired by God, but you still believe it is a good organization trying to make the world a better place and/or has a benefit to society. The LDS church is another man-made church, perhaps with a little more imagination.

7.Believe that the church is a fraud and has no benefit to society

Do you have your number? Scroll down to find out the answer

Are you sure you have your number? If you don't, then you are #8, a cheating Mormon. Seriously, scroll back up and get your number first before seeing the answers.


1. Fundamentalist Mormon-Your ideals are consistent with the teachings of Mormon Fundamentalists

2. Orthodox Mormon-This is the common understanding in the mainstream LDS church

3.Progressive Mormon/Liberal Mormon-While certainly not in the majority, there is a growing movement within the church towards a more liberal approach to the gospel.

4.Mormon Skeptic/Mormon Apologist- Skepticism is a method of obtaining knowledge through systematic doubt, continual testing and intellectual caution. Apologetics is simply a way to defend criticisms I believe the 2 go together. In order to be an apologist, you must practice intellectual caution. If you believe that the Book of Mormon can be proven through scientific explanations, that makes you a skeptic, because spiritual confirmation is not enough and falls short.

5.Unorthodox Mormon-Although your views are shared by many others, your view is in no way orthodox teachings or understanding.

6.Cultural Mormon/New Order Mormon-Perhaps you attend church so you don't hurt the feelings of family members. Or maybe you believe in the organization. I fall into this category.

7.Disaffected Mormon/Soon to be ex-Mormon/already ex-Mormon- Like you needed a quiz to tell you that.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mormon Biologists and Human Evolution

There was an interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune from Stephen L. Peck, associate professor in the Department of Biology at Brigham Young University. It is an editorial piece that gives the view of evolution from a faithful member of the church.

The article is more a slam on intelligent design, arguing that it is not science and therefore does not belong in the science classroom.

BYU has a number of faithful evolutionary biologists and evolutionary science is taught at Brigham Young University just as it is at any other accredited university. Intelligent Design has no place in BYU's science curriculum.
Let me be blunt. I find nothing of value in Intelligent Design for both scientific and religious reasons....

...My next complaint about the Intelligent Design fiasco is its pretence to science. Exactly what makes it a science is not clear. It offers no testable hypotheses. It has established no research program. The theory of evolution has offered testable hypotheses that have been confirmed again and again....

My last complaint about Intelligent Design is that it sets religion and science against each other. It puts forward a false dichotomy in students' minds that suggests that evolution and faith are incompatible

I find the subject of evolution absolutely fascinating. The idea that life evolves slowly over time and that we can see similarities between animals that share common ancestors is truly amazing.

A number of months ago, I wrote a blog about questioning why religious beliefs are so threatened by evolution. I feel that I now have a better understanding of why the stonewalling. However, I agree with the article in the tribune that intelligent design proponents are doing a dis-service by trying to pass it off as science and trying to force it into science class. First of all, it isn't science, it
is religion, and second, it forces children to think that they have to choose between the two, which is also more harmful to religion, as there is much more evidence to support evolution, if one HAS to choose between the two.

I do not believe there is anything wrong with believing in the theory of intelligent design, but I believe that it does not belong in biology class as it is not science.

I have seen Ben Stein's movie Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed and was extremely disappointed. What I saw was amateur cinematography, sloppy editing, boring footage, next to nothing of any scientific value and over all about 10 minutes worth of interesting footage. The only parts that were interesting to me at all were when Stein interviewed the atheists.

Nova did a program on evolution vs. intelligent design, which is available online. I found this show to be much more informative, scientific and I feel that after watching it, I gained a much greater understanding.

I believe that people of all faiths will have to come to terms with evolution. It seems that every new scientific study further confirms this idea. For example, just a few days ago, Australian scientists released a report on the gene sequence of a platypus. We already knew that the platypus has a bill and webbed feet like a duck, fur like a beaver, it lays eggs and has venom like a reptile, is semi-aquatic, and yet is classified as a mammal because it produces milk. The platypus certainly is the oddest creature in nature I can think of. We have just recently learned that the platypus is genetically part bird, part reptile and part mammal. This is just one example of how evolution is a much better explanation of how the platypus came to be as opposed to idea that different animals are created separately and independently of each other.

Of course, there are religious implications of evolution. It makes one question what we consider scripture and how literal we are to interpret stories like Adam and Eve.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Writing Style of the Bible VS. Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham

The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are both canonized scripture in the LDS church. Both are purported to be translated by Joseph Smith. Critics of Mormonism will point out that both books were written and not translated by Joseph Smith. If that were the case, you would see a similarity in writing style between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and this writing style would differ from the Bible.

Writing Style of the Old Testament

I am not a linguist or an expert by any stretch of the imagination on literary writing styles. However, as you read the books in the Bible it is clear that it is for the most part a narrative.

Genesis 1:1-7

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Even though the first 5 books of the old testament are called "the 5 books of Moses" it is clear that the books of Moses are not direct translations from writings of Moses. Moses is referred to in 3rd person by the narrator.

Exodus 18:7
And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent
And of course I am sure that Moses did not write his own funerary text after he died.

Deuteronomy 34:6-7
And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
Now, THAT would certainly be an amazing feat if Moses was able to write the words "and Moses died". Obviously there was a narrator. This has led me to believe that the 5 books of Moses were probably not written by Moses himself, but the books were a recount written by someone else later on. At the very least, it is certainly not a literal translation of an original document penned by Moses. Either way, at some point there was a narrator.

Writing Style of the New Testament

The New Testament is the same. The writings from each book in the new testament refer to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or Paul in third person.

Revelation 1:1
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John
Even the epistles open with a third person reference before reading off the actual epistle.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth...
This leads me to believe that the books in the Bible, both old and New Testament are not literal translations word for word of original writings from the original authors, but that whoever translated them injected narration. It does not say "I, Moses..."

Writing Style of the Book of Mormon

The writing style of the Book of Mormon is different than the Bible. Even though Mormon is a narrator, the actual books are written in 1st person. The book of Nephi is written in 1st person.

1 Nephi 1:1-3
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

Writing style of the Book of Abraham

If the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon both came from Joseph Smith, we would see a writing style similar in nature. Like the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham is written in 1st person.

Book of Abraham 1:1-2,31
In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence; And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers... But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.

It is interesting that both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are written in 1st person. The first verse in the Book of Mormon commences with the phrase "I, Nephi" and the first verse in the Book of Abraham starts with "I, Abraham". The bible refers to Moses, or Paul, or John in 3rd person. The first verse of the Book of Mormon and The Book of Abraham sound almost identical. And of course we have the little problem that the residence of Abraham's father, or the land of Chaldeans did not exist until hundreds of years after Abraham himself died. Oops. Add that to another list of anachronisms.

When I compared the opening verses between the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, it is apparent to me that they are both of the same author.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why do people believe in strange things?

LDS Beliefs Are Very Strange

As I take a step back, many of the things taught in the LDS church are very strange, especially to someone that has not been raised in the church. As a member all my life, many of the stories of Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, gold plates, and the Book of Mormon were normal to me, because it was the reality that I surrounded myself with.

However, we all grew up with some very strange beliefs that might seem normal to us if we grew up with these beliefs, since they are the reality in which we surround ourselves.

Many Other Beliefs Are Very Strange

Imagine if I told you to try to communicate telepathically with a floating zombie only after symbolically eating his flesh and drinking his blood. To people that have never grown up with Christianity, that is exactly how strange and twisted it sounds to them. The story of Jesus dying on the cross and coming back to life 3 days later, praying to God or taking part of the sacrament seems very normal when one is brought up in that kind of environment, because that is the reality we grow up in.

People look at the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they see a story about a white Jewish Native American that wrote something down on some gold tablets thousands of years ago and buried them in upstate, NY to give Joseph to translate only to take back possession of the plates after translation and magically float away forever along with the gold tablets. Many people that I have spoken with find this story to be utterly ridiculous and wonder how normal 'sane' people can believe in such nonsense. However, many of these same people have no problem with Jesus rising from the dead after 3 days and ascending into heaven.

Everyone Has Strange Beliefs

How is the story of Joseph Smith and Gold plates any less rational than magic trees, talking snakes, global floods, a man surviving inside a whale for 3 days, plants being created on earth before the sun existed or destroying fortified walls with trumpets?

Point is that let's face it, all these beliefs are very strange. I am not saying they are invalid, I am saying that if you try to explain these things to someone that has never heard of them before, they sound very strange if one has not been brought up with these beliefs.

This has led me to understand that we all have things we believe in that are very strange to other people. This is not intended to diminish one's faith, just accept that many of the beliefs are strange to other people. This will help you understand why other people believe in things like the Book of Mormon that might seem strange to you.

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