Improvement and Progression (and another edition of a book)

Last year I published the sixth edition of Reluctant Polygamist, and declared that I was done.

I figured that people had had three years to e-mail me and tell me I was wrong. What possibly could arise from the woodwork to cause me to face updating the index yet again?

And then I read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females. And Joseph Johnstun told me why Marietta Holmes could not have been killed as a direct result of mob attack. And a Taylor relative explained which great-grandchild of John Taylor had gotten involved in post-polygamy plural marriage. And Andrew Ehat told me about the account of Oliver Cowdery urging Joseph to practice plurality, apparently during translation of the Book of Mormon. And Johnny Stephenson made a fuss about Law’s river-side brick “house” not being his actual residence (though Law did own the big brick building on the river).

And other things.

None of this changes the core premise, that Joseph Smith was an honorable leader who used covenants to protect and save his people. But it eventually became worth updating the text.

This draft of the 7th edition of Reluctant Polygamist has the final text, with significant changes noted by being in blue text (added names are highlighted, darn the need to make the index correct…). This is a gift to you who have followed me since 2013, so you can see the changes without having to read the entire thing all over again.

You’ll know I’m really, truly, never going to come back to this when the audio book is released. So I think I’m good to promise that this version really is the final time I’ll update the book.

This Bud’s for You – Nauvoo’s Budweiser Sign

If you travel Mulholland Street in Nauvoo, you will see a large Budweiser sign near the Mormon temple.

At the 2018 Untold Stories Symposium, I was delighted to learn more about this surprising landmark.

The sign dates to the early 1950s, as can be determined by the early form of the red bow, the distinctive font, and the title “King of Beers” rather than “King of Bottled Beers.”

Locals tell that the sign came about from a deal cut by Nauvoo’s Mayor. Each fall Nauvoo hosts a Grape Festival, a fantastic event which brings people from all over the region. The mayor asked Budweiser to send the iconic Clydesdales to participate in the Grape Festival Parade for a certain number of years. In exchange, the Mayor arranged for a large brick wall to host the painted sign. Budweiser’s artists traveled to Nauvoo to create the sign according to exacting standards.

For over sixty years the sign has greeted Nauvoo’s predominantly Catholic and German residents. It has become a core element of Nauvoo’s identity.

Enter the Mormon return to Nauvoo, culminating in the reconstruction of the Nauvoo temple. Continue reading

Documentary Hypothesis: Indications of Multiple Authorship

I’m part of a very awesome FB group, Mormons Talk | OT Bible Scholarship (Old Testament / LDS / Mormon)

In it, we are using college level textbooks to discuss the OT. The main text is John Collins’ an Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, though we are referencing others. We are now in chapter 2, and I have written on the concept of multiple authors for the Pentateuch/Torah/5 Books of Moses. Here’s what I’ve written. You’ll want to read the comments at the FB site, as there are some interesting points in there, as well.

Indications of Multiple Authorship

For many Christians, the idea of multiple authorship of the Pentateuch/Torah is heresy. Yet, it is clearly illustrated, as they now exist, the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses but by later writers. And while there are many theories that scholars now have to argue against the Documentary Hypothesis, the idea of multiple authors isn’t questioned.

Continue reading

Scriptural historicity: not taking it too literal

In Gospel Doctrine and Essentials classes, we are discussing Creation, Falk, etc.

Fundamentalist Christians, which includes some Mormons, insist on literal historicity of all scripture,, including the early chapters of Genesis. This causes clashes with science on various issues, including creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing), evolution, and the age of the earth.

I have no problem with people have personal beliefs regarding any of this. For me, the problem lies in picking and choosing what will be taken literally/historically and what isn’t.

For example, many Young Earth Creationists (YEC) demand we believe in a 6000 year old earth, with dinosaurs dying in the Great Flood or a deception placed in the soil by Satan. Most of the YEC are not consistent, however. Genesis 1 is based on a flat earth, domed above by an expanse of water, with the lights (Sun, moon and stars) planted into the revolving dome. Surrounding the land are the oceans. Below or underneath, one finds another expanse of water and Sheol. All of this was supported on great pillars connecting earth and sky.

If we are to reject a 14 billion year old earth, evolution and other science because of a literalistic view of Genesis 1, should we not also reject a round earth that revolves around a Sun that revolves around a galaxy of 200 billion stars (many of them billions of years old), etc.?

Shouldn’t we question the claims that men have walked in space and on the moon, and sent Voyager I outside our solar system, beyond the thin expanse of sky and into the great waters above, according to ancient belief?

Do we ignore the consistent dating given by science via various methods of measurement? What about living trees that exceed 6000 years of life (ring counts) by thousands and even tens of thousands of years? Did Satan plant those trees, as well as dinosaur bones in order to deceive us? Where exactly in scripture does it teach us about such deceptions? Or is it all speculation based on a poorly understood teaching God gave to ancient peoples, not to teach them history and science, but to give them a symbolic beginning.

The Creation describes God’s creation of a cosmic temple. Ancient temples, whether Solomon’s, Baal’s, Zeus’, or of any other god, represented the cosmos and Creation. Many ancient cultures had a sacred Year Rite, where the king (sometimes also including his people) would be enthroned in the temple as a divine son of God. Some enthronement psalms suggest the Israelites also practiced the Year Rite.

The focus was not on a literal history, but on important symbols that connected man with God.

I believe much of the Bible to be based on historical peoples, though the stories may be based on myth and symbols, rather than actual history. I believe the same of the Book of Mormon, knowing Mormon was writing on things that occurred centuries before, and seeking to make sense of things unknown to him personally (would Mormon’s Book of Lehi contain many Hebrew culture ideas and views, vs Mesoamerican cultural understandings)?

It is good the LDS Church has no official position on evolution, creation, dinosaurs, etc. It allows each of us to determine for ourselves what we choose to believe. The scriptures can hold greater spiritual power for us, as we focus on what is spiritually important. And we don’t have to pick and choose on the exactness of historicity of scripture – forcing us to believe in a flat earth simply because ancient traditions held them.



Ancient Mayan cities uncovered with laser technology in Mesoamerica

Mesoamerica is a possible location for the Book of Mormon.   (Reminder:  the Book of Mormon does not say where in the Americas it takes place, and faith in the Book of Mormon should not depend on one physical location or another).  But, interestingly, scientists using laser technology have discovered massive networks of Mayan cities.

Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously suggested.

The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.

Archaeologists believe the cutting-edge technology will change the way the world will see the Maya civilisation.

“I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” said Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University.

Read the story and come to your own conclusions.