About J. Max Wilson

J. Max Wilson is one of the founders of the Millennial Star. You can visit his personal blog at http://sixteensmallstones.org.

An Outline of the New Testament

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

It’s been nearly a year since I posted the outline of the Old Testament that had come about through my work with Daniel Bartholomew on our open source ScriptureLog project. We had previously released an outline of the textual structure of the Book of Mormon, and I had intended to move on immediately to making the New Testament available for ScriptureLog and to produce an accompanying outline for it.

However, other projects and responsibilities soon pushed the New Testament work to the back-burner.

With the adult Sunday school curriculum in the LDS church shifting to study the New Testament during 2011, I made an extra effort to get something finished by the end of 2010.

While the update to add the New Testament to the Scripturelog plugin for WordPress might not be available for another week or two,  the outline of the New Testament is available for download immediately in PDF format so it can be used and printed by anyone:

An Outline of the New Testament

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Good Tidings of Great Joy: Pictures from Nazareth and Bethlehem

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

In September and October of 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Israel with my wife and children. I am preparing a series of posts detailing our adventures.  Since they are not yet ready, for Christmas I wanted to post a few pictures from our visits to the Nazareth and Bethlehem.

We visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  The basilica is where the Roman Catholic church believes that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel.  It was built in 1969 on the site of older Crusader era and even older Byzantine churches, the ruins of which are still visible, where originally a shrine had been erected in the 4th century in the cave where Mary had supposedly lived.  The basilica features depictions of Mary from many different cultures and nations that celebrate the mother of the Son of God. Continue reading

For Good and Evil: Joseph Smith and Google’s Book Ngram Viewer

[Cross posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

You may have heard about the cool new Book Ngram Viewer from Google Labs. The result of a joint effort by Harvard University, some traditional book publishers, and Google Books, the project uses a sample of 5 million books published between 1500 and the present to identify word and phrase frequencies relative to the number of words published each year. They call these phrase frequencies Ngrams.

While the sample size only represents 4% of books ever published, and the approach is often limited by the complexity of language usage, the project offers a fascinating (not to mention fun!) look not just into language, but into comparative cultural trends, historical events, fads, celebrity, and influence.

And best of all, Google has provided a free web-based interface so that anyone can play around with Ngram searches.

For instance, the Ngram Viewer can be used to compare the usage of the terms Mormon vs LDS:

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A One Cent Coin From Nauvoo

[Cross posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

A couple of weeks ago we were helping my parents move a lot of their stuff into storage.   In the last decade, they have moved at least ten times, and, as I’m sure you know if you have moved frequently, there are some boxes that just get shuffled from one home to the next without ever getting unpacked or sorted.  As we were sorting stuff and stacking boxes, I ran across a box of apparently random stuff.  In it there was a small metallic container. I picked it out and opened it up to see what it held. Inside there were two old plastic bags, one containing some kind of white stuff and the other a yellow substance, and tucked in with them was an old coin.

My father said that he believed that the white and yellow stuffs were frankincense and myrrh that some friends had brought them back from the Middle East.   The coin I vaguely remembered from a family vacation we had taken many years before.  It was a road trip from Utah to New York and Washington D. C. and back, stopping along the way to visit sites from U. S. and LDS Church history.

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Book Review: “Heroes of the Fallen” by David J. West

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

I don’t typically read LDS Fiction.  A lot of it just doesn’t appeal much to me.  Those few books that do draw my attention are often either, in my estimation, much too preachy, superficial, and emotionally manipulative on the one hand or on the other veer off into apostasy in order to be edgy, artistic, intellectual, and morally nuanced. Blech.

However, contrary to my usual interests, last month I picked up a newly released book by David J. West entitled Heroes of the Fallen.  I had run across West’s blog a few months earlier, and I had been following his posts.  I knew that he was an aspiring LDS author, but I hadn’t followed his blog closely enough to realize that he had a book about to be published.  When he announced it’s release, I was intrigued by what I had already gathered from his blog.  So I headed over to the local bookstore where he was doing a book signing and purchased an author-signed copy. I finished Heroes of the Fallen in about a week.

The book is set in the ancient America of the Book of Mormon, around 320 or so years A.D.  This setting is both a benefit and a challenge for the author.  West benefits from a pre-existing setting, complete with unusual names and places, a history, language, political system, and religious beliefs.  My favorite fantasy writers, like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander, drew upon the histories, myths, and legends of the ancient civilizations with which they were familiar, borrowing names, plots, archetypes, and themes in order to lend weight and coherence to their works.  In some ways, Heroes of the Fallen benefits similarly from the Book of Mormon.  By adapting and extrapolating from the Book of Mormon, West is able to concentrate on filling in the details and bringing to life a fully-realized, exotic, ancient civilization without having to invent it whole-cloth.

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