The Theory of Evolution is Compatible with Both Belief and Unbelief in a Supreme Being

Abstract: The crux of the creation–evolution conflict is a futile desire to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of God. The conflict is manifest in the common belief that creation means a divine, supernatural process and that evolution denotes an atheistic, accidental event. Evolution involves a random change in an inherited trait followed by selection for or against the altered trait. If humans use this principle to design machines, solve complex mathematical problems, engineer proteins, and manipulate living organisms, then certainly a super-intelligent being could have used evolution to create life on earth. This reasoning indicates that evolution does not prove atheism and that evolution is a constructive process. The theory of evolution is a mechanistic description and therefore, like all other scientific principles, is neutral on the question of God’s existence. Evolution is compatible with the simple scriptural accounts of creation. Consequently, belief or unbelief in God is put back where it should be — on individual choice. Continue reading

John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The claim that God revealed the details of Book of Mormon geography is not new, but the recent argument that there was a conspiracy while the Prophet was still alive to oppose a revealed geography is a novel innovation. A recent theory argues that the “Mesoamerican theory” or “limited Mesoamerican geography” originated in 1841 with Benjamin Winchester, an early Mormon missionary, writer, and dissident, who rejected the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve after 1844. This theory also claims that three unsigned editorials on Central America and the Book of Mormon published in the Times and Seasons on September 15 and October 1, 1842, were written by Benjamin Winchester, who successfully conspired with other dissidents to publish them against the will of the Prophet. Three articles address these claims. The first article addressed two questions: Did Joseph Smith, as some have claimed, know the details of and put forth a revealed Book of Mormon geography? Second, what is a Mesoamerican geography and does it constitute a believable motive for a proposed Winchester conspiracy? This second article provides additional historical background on the question of Joseph Smith’s thinking on the Book of Mormon by examining the influence of John L. Stephen’s 1841 work, Incidents of Travel in Central America, upon early Latter-day Saints, including Joseph Smith. Continue reading

The Treason of the Geographers: Mythical “Mesoamerican” Conspiracy and the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The claim that God revealed the details of Book of Mormon geography is not new, but the recent argument that there was a conspiracy while the Prophet was still alive to oppose a revealed geography is a novel innovation. A recent theory argues that the “Mesoamerican theory” or “limited Mesoamerican geography” originated in 1841 with Benjamin Winchester, an early Mormon missionary, writer, and dissident, who rejected the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve after 1844. This theory also claims that three unsigned editorials on Central America and the Book of Mormon published in the Times and Seasons on September 15 and October 1, 1842 were written by Benjamin Winchester, who successfully conspired with other dissidents to publish them against the will of the Prophet. Three articles address these claims. This first article addresses two questions: Did Joseph Smith, as some have claimed, know the details of and put forth a revealed Book of Mormon geography? Second, what is a Mesoamerican geography and does it constitute a believable motive for a proposed Winchester conspiracy? Continue reading

Learning Nephi’s Language: Creating a Context for 1 Nephi 1:2

Nephi’s Language Without Context: An Enigma

It was not long after the Book of Mormon was published before Nephi’s statement that he wrote using “the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2) started raising eyebrows.1 It has continued to perplex even the best LDS scholars, who have put forward no fewer than five different interpretations of the passage.2 Some have even pointed out that there seems to be no logical reason for Nephi’s statement, since anyone who could read the text would know what language it was written in.3 Continue reading

The Doctrine of Resurrection in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The doctrine of resurrection was taught by Lehi and Jacob among the first Nephites but was not mentioned again in the record until the time of Abinadi, perhaps 350 years later. In the court of King Noah that doctrine and the idea of a suffering Messiah who would bear the sins of his people and redeem them, were heresies and Abinadi paid for them with his life. While Abinadi’s testimony converted Alma1 and the doctrine of the resurrection inspired Alma2 after his conversion, it was a source of schism in the church at Zarahemla along lines that remind us of the Sadducees at Jerusalem. The doctrine of the resurrection taught in the Book of Mormon is a precursor to the doctrine now understood by the Latter-day Saints in the light of modern revelation. One example is that the Nephite prophets used the term first resurrection differently than we do. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the way that the doctrine of resurrection develops in the Book of Mormon, is that it develops consistently. That consistency bears further testimony to the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith. He could not have done that by himself. Continue reading