Is Decrypting the Genetic Legacy of America’s Indigenous Populations Key to the Historicity of the Book of Mormon?

Abstract: The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient record containing a summary of a now-disappeared civilization that once lived in the American continent but originated in the Middle East. DNA studies focusing on the ancient migration of world populations support a North-East Asian origin of modern Native American populations arriving through the now-submerged land-bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska during the last Ice Age, approximately 15,000 years ago. The apparent discrepancy between the Book of Mormon narrative and the published genetic data must be addressed in lieu of generally accepted population genetic principles that are efficient in large-scale population studies, but are somewhat weak and limitative in detecting genetic signals from the introgression of DNA by small groups of outsiders into a large, and well-established population. Therefore, while DNA can definitely provide clues about the ancient history of a people or civilization, it fails to provide conclusive proofs to support or dismiss the Book of Mormon as a true historical narrative. Continue reading

A Response to Grant Palmer’s “Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo”

Abstract: Grant H. Palmer, former LDS seminary instructor turned critic, has recently posted an essay, “Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo,” on MormonThink.com. In it, Palmer isolates ten interactions between women and Joseph Smith that Palmer alleges were inappropriate and, “have at least some plausibility of being true.” In this paper, Palmer’s analysis of these ten interactions is reviewed, revealing how poorly Palmer has represented the historical data by advancing factual inaccuracies, quoting sources without establishing their credibility, ignoring contradictory evidences, and manifesting superficial research techniques that fail to account for the latest scholarship on the topics he is discussing. Other accusations put forth by Palmer are also evaluated for correctness, showing, once again, his propensity for inadequate scholarship. Continue reading

Job: An LDS Reading

Editor’s Note: This article is drawn from a chapter in a volume edited by David R. Seely and William J. Hamblin entitled Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference “The Temple on Mount Zion,” 22 September 2012 (Provo, UT: The Interpreter Foundation/Eborn Books, 2014). The book will be available online (e.g., Amazon, FairMormon Bookstore) and in selected bookstores in October 2014.

In response to questions arising within God, Job, described as blameless and upright, is thrust from idyllic circumstances into a dark realm of bitter experience. Three “friends” unwittingly press Satan’s case, attempting to convince Job to admit guilt. Job, however, holds on, searching for God’s face and progressing toward a transformed understanding of God and man, which is brought to strongest expression in four great revelatory insights received by Job. Finally, Job commits himself to God and man with self-imprecating oaths. After withstanding a final challenge from Elihu/Satan, Job speaks with God at the veil and enters God’s presence. Many points of contact with the temple support the thesis that the book of Job is a literary analogue of the endowment ritual. Continue reading

“What Thank They the Jews”?
(2 Nephi 29:4): A Note on the Name “Judah” and Antisemitism

The Hebrew Bible explains the meaning of the personal and tribal name “Judah”—from which the term “Jews” derives—in terms of “praising” or “thanking” (*ydy/ydh). In other words, the “Jews” are those who are to be “praised out of a feeling of gratitude.” This has important implications for the Lord’s words to Nephi regarding Gentile ingratitude and antisemitism: “And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?” (2 Nephi 29:4). Gentile Christian antisemitism, like the concomitant doctrine of supersessionism, can be traced (in part) to widespread misunderstanding and misapplication of Paul’s words regarding Jews and “praise” (Romans 2:28-29). Moreover, the strongest scriptural warnings against antisemitism are to be found in the Book of Mormon, which also offers the reassurance that the Jews are still “mine ancient covenant people” (2 Nephi 29:4-5) and testifies of the Lord’s love and special concern for them. Continue reading

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