Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Places are made sacred through manifestations of the divine or ritual activity. The occurrence of a theophany or hierophany or the performance of particular rituals can conceptually transform a place into an axis mundi, or the center of the world. A variety of such axes mundi are known from the archaeological record of Mesoamerica and the text of the Book of Mormon. I compare and contrast several distinctive types of such ritual complexes from Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon and argue that they served functionally and ideologically similar purposes. Continue reading

Nephi: A Postmodernist Reading

Authors inevitably make assumptions about their readers as they write. Readers likewise make assumptions about authors and their intentions as they read. Using a postmodern framing, this essay illustrates how a close reading of the text of 1 and 2 Nephi can offer insight into the writing strategies of its author. This reading reveals how Nephi differentiates between his writing as an expression of his own intentions and desires, and the text as the product of divine instruction written for a “purpose I know not.” In order to help his audience understand the text in this context, Nephi as the author interacts with his audience through his rhetorical strategy, pointing towards his own intentions, and offering reading strategies to help them discover God’s purposes in the text. Continue reading

The Sibling Scandals of the Resurrection

I’ve recently picked Stephen T. Davis’s Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection up again.1 It’s an impressive book that had a pivotal effect on my thinking when it first appeared. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College in California, argues that “Christians are within their intellectual rights in believing that Jesus was raised from the dead.”2 “The thesis of the book,” he explains, “is that the two central Christian resurrection claims — namely, that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead and that we will all be raised from the dead — are defensible claims.”3 Continue reading

A Look at Some “Nonstandard” Book of Mormon Grammar

Abstract: Much of the earliest Book of Mormon language which has been regarded as nonstandard through the years is not. Furthermore, when 150 years’ worth of emendations are stripped away,1 the grammar presents extensive evidence of its Early Modern English character, independent in many cases from the King James Bible. This paper argues that this character stems from its divine translation. Continue reading

Changes in The Book of Mormon

Author’s preface: I originally gave this presentation in August 2002 at the LDS FAIR conference held in Orem, Utah. A transcript of this paper, based on the 2002 version, appears online at www.fairmormon.org. Since then I have published updated versions of the first half of that original presentation. The most recent history of the Book of Mormon critical text project can be found in my article “The Original Text of the Book of Mormon and its Publication by Yale University Press”, published in 2013 in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, volume 7, pages 57-96. Until now, I have not published a printed version of the second half of my original presentation, “Changes in the Book of Mormon”.

Abstract: In that part of the original article (here presented with some minor editing), I first describe the different kinds of changes that have occurred in the Book of Mormon text over the years and provide a fairly accurate number for how many places the text shows textual variation. Then I turn to five changes in the text (“the five chestnuts”) that critics of the Book of Mormon continually refer to. At the conclusion of the original article, I provide some specific numbers for the different types of changes in the history of the Book of Mormon text, including the number of changes introduced in The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, the definitive scholarly edition of the Book of Mormon, published in 2009 by Yale University Press. Continue reading