"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Parallels to today: "So much difficulty"

Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth president of the Church, said of the Book of Mormon's prophetic value, "The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 3; or Ensign, May 1987, 4).

I believe we're experiencing one such parallel right now. As many have observed, the U.S. Congress is operatingor rather, not operatingat near historic levels of dysfunction, culminating in the current "fiscal cliff" debacle. (Today, three days before the cliff, the Capitol is empty. Really?) If no deal is struck, as the Economist notes, the ensuing spending cuts and tax increases could easily push a weak economy back into recession.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Statutes, judgments, and commandments

In an earlier post, I proposed an example of how language used by both Old World Israelites and the Nephites appeared and disappeared (or evolved) within similar timeframes. Here's another example: 

The words 'statutes, judgments and commandments' (not necessarily in that order) appear together in a cluster fifteen times in the Old Testament, beginning with the book of Leviticus (keep that in mind), and seven times in the Book of Mormon. This cluster does not at appear all in the New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants (two out of three words do appear together in a few places) or Pearl of Great Price.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paul vs Alma the Younger

Those who find the Book of Mormon to be merely a pastiche of Biblical narratives and other literature may well cite as 'Exhibit A' the conversion story of Alma the Younger and its similarities with Paul's experience on the road to Damascus, as well as their subsequent journeys defending the faith they had persecuted earlier. Indeed, even Mormon academic Terry Givens notes, "Alma’s account reads more like the Book of Acts than Kings or Chronicles, detailing missionary journeys, the growth of the church, and miraculous conversion stories." [1] 

While there are many similarities between the two accounts, there are also some interesting—and sometimes very precisecontrasts as well. The following comparison is by no means comprehensive (expect an update or two to this chart). Contrasting elements are highlighted in gray: 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chiasmus: Something I forgot to mention before...

To review, a chiasmus is a passage in (usually ancient) literature in which a series of ideas, expressions, or statements are given in a particular order, then again in reverse order, with the central component serving as its salient theme. The presence of chiasmus throughout the Book of Mormon is seen by many believers as compelling evidence of its authenticity as a work of antiquity.

There are two important characteristics of chiastic structure I failed to note in previous posts (one because I didn't know about it before): Elements in the second half of a chiasmus aren't always mere repetitions of their earlier counterparts, but may instead contrast, extend, or complete them. Second-half elements will also often be more intense, emphatic, or precise, with the passage as a whole often building to a sort of crescendo. As John Welch, the father of Book of Mormon chiastic analysis, explains: 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Verily, verily..."

Many extended passages of the Bible are repeated in the Book of Mormon, though not entirely verbatim. Here's one very subtle and, at least to me, interesting example of variation between the two volumes: 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Influencing Voices: Isaiah, Nephi and Jacob

In a previous post, I proposed an example of how the vocabularies of God's servants influence one another, and evolve and change over time. In particular, expressions often used by one of God's servants will appear in the lexicon of his contemporaries, as well as the next few generations, then decline and disappear in the centuries that follow. 

In another post, I noted Nephi's man-crush on Isaiah. Here's a conflation of the two posts:   

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chiasmus: 3 Nephi 10:4-7

Does chiasmus appear in the Book of Mormon with such frequency as it does because it just happened to be part of the language and culture of the book's subjects, or was it included by divine design? If the latter, is its inclusion merely meant to increase faith by evincing the Book of Mormon's authenticity as a work of antiquity, or is there a still greater purpose for it?

In considering this question, particular regard should be given to a chiasmus appearing at a very important hour in the Book of Mormon timeline. In between the time of the great destruction that befell the Nephites following Christ's death and His postmortal appearance and ministry among them, this chiasmus comes by His own voice:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prophets as symbols of Christ: Nephi

As with Ether and Nephi, the son of Helaman, an event in the life of Nephi (the first one--the son of Lehi) bears particular resemblance to one in the Savior's, making Nephi a "type" of Christ.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prophets as symbols of Christ: Nephi (son of Helaman)

In a recent post, I proposed how Ether serves as a 'type' or 'shadow' of Christ. I submit that Nephi, the son of Helaman, does as well, perhaps more extensively so: 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Unique Voices: King Benjamin, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, and the Zoramites

As Anti-Nephi-Lehi used language unique among Book of Mormon figures when referring to Deity, so did King Benjamin. Five times in the Book of Mormon is Christ identified as either the 'Lord Omnipotent' or the 'Lord God Omnipotent.' In four of those instances--all in Mosiah 3--King Benjamin is the speaker. The fifth instance comes from the unified voice of those who had just heard his sermon. (Recall my earlier post about how the vocabulary of one servant of God can influence those of his associates.) 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prophets as symbols of Christ: Ether

Latter Day Saints have often been taught in Sunday School and Institute classes that each Old Testament prophet had an event in his life that very closely mirrored an event in the life of the Savior [1]. Class members may even receive handouts like this one. (Seriously, check that out. Good stuff there.) These "types" or "shadows" are examples of how "all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of [Christ]" (2 Nephi 11:4)[2]. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chiasmus: Mosiah 5:9-12

Just a quick post before I jet off to work today. In my reading this morning, I noticed this chiasmus in Mosiah 5:9-12:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chiasmus: Alma 46:13-16

In a previous post, I cited Joseph and Blake Allen's usage of Alma 46:39-41 in their discussion of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon [1]. As it turns out, that's not even the only chiasmus in that chapter. 

Beginning partway into verse 13 through verse 16 (with emphases added): 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Influencing Voices: Abinadi, Alma the Younger, and Elder Bednar

Following Elder David A Bednar's already-classic April 2005 General Conference address, "The Tender Mercies of the Lord" (given when he was still a rookie apostle), you may have noticed the phrase "tender mercies" has figured much more prominently in the Saints' collective lexicon. (This is especially true among the Church's better half, the sisters.)

This has been reflected even in subsequent General Conferences. A search for the term "tender mercies" in all General Conference addresses dating back to 1970 yields hits in 18 talks. Eleven of those talks--including a few from more senior members of the Twelve--were given after Elder Bednar's. (Granted, one was another by Elder Bednar himself, but still...)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unique Voices: Nephi

My first post detailed two examples of minor figures in the Book of Mormon demonstrating distinct voices. Here's one example of a major figure's unique voice:

The phrase "my soul delighteth" appeareth eleven times--sorry, appears eleven times--in the Book of Mormon, all in 2 Nephi. In each case, Nephi is the speaker.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Burying talents vs burying weapons of war

I have an odd proclivity for comparing seemingly disparate scripture stories that share one common, but perhaps trivial, element. Sometimes this yields rather interesting parallels and contrasts, sometimes not. This time, it did--with one rather striking parallel in particular. 

The Savior's parable of the talents (should that be capitalized? 'The Parable of the Talents?') and the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, penitent Lamanites who chose death over returning to warfare, share one thing in common: objects of significance are buried "in the earth." In one story, this act was to the burier's eternal detriment (I think that's the first time in my life I've ever used the word 'burier'); in the other, it was to their everlasting salvation. Here's the comparison: 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Déjà vu: 1 Nephi 2 & 10

In a particular Sunday School lesson I vaguely remember from my early teens, our teacher, Brother Ruff (who was kindly filling in for our regular teachers), found himself defending the assertion that every verse in the Book of Mormon--every word, even--was important, there for a divinely appointed reason. The painstaking process of recording on metal plates and the limited amount of space thereon allowed for no throwaway passages. 

"So what about this verse here?" challenged one of my friends. He was referring to 1 Nephi 2:15, which reads, "And my father dwelt in a tent." "Why is that there? Why do we need to know he dwelt in a tent? So what?"

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chiasmus: Ether 10:23

The ubiquity in the Book of Mormon of chiasmus, a literary device in which a series of expressions or ideas are presented in a particular sequence, then again in reverse sequence, has long been cited by believers as evidence supporting the book's authenticity. Found throughout the Bible and the literature of many ancient cultures, its presence in the Book of Mormon bolsters the claim that Lehi and his family brought "the learning of the Jews" with them to the New World. 

Here's one short but very clear chiasmus I noticed a few days ago in Ether 10:23

Friday, August 17, 2012

Unique Voices: Anti-Nephi-Lehi and Giddianhi

If Joseph Smith, either alone or with the aid of conspirators, fabricated the Book of Mormon, he (or they) at least deserve credit for creating a remarkably intricate narrative consisting of numerous characters, each with a distinct persona, voice, and vocabulary. Words and phrases used repeatedly by one Book of Mormon figure, for instance, aren't used at all by any others. Two brief examples (with more to follow):