Hindsight on a Book of Mormon Historicity Critique

Review of William D. Russell. “A Further Inquiry into the
Historicity of the Book of Mormon.” Sunstone,
September–October 1982, 20–27.

Hindsight on a Book of Mormon Historicity Critique

Reviewed by Kevin Christensen

Every problem
that normal science sees as a puzzle can be seen, from another viewpoint, as a
counterinstance and thus as a source of crisis.1

Book of Mormon historicity remains a hot topic in Latter-day
Saint circles, as it should, given the implications one way or the other. One
useful way to gain perspective on the current state and ongoing stakes of the
debate is to look back at earlier phases and results. Doing this provides an
opportunity to reevaluate past arguments in light of subsequent developments
and also to consider the effect that those arguments had on the communities and
individuals involved.

In this light I will comment on William D. Russell’s 1982
article, “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon.” 2 Russell begins by claiming that “historians of Mormonism have avoided
considering in any depth the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon”
(p. 20). He observes that the topic is important and therefore deserves
consideration. He then offers an entire paragraph on the importance of honesty,
including the following:

The Book of Mormon is a fundamental part of our heritage,
but we are content to slide over evidence that runs counter to the traditional
generalizations that are repeated without question from generation to
generation. We seem to shy away from honest research for fear that
uncomfortable conclusions will result. I think it is time we subject the Book
of Mormon to serious inquiry and revise our assertions about the book if our
findings require it. (p. 20)

By explicitly associating honesty with a willingness to
boldly state the bad news, he makes a willingness to bring bad news a measure
of academic integrity. But there is a danger here that he does not address. In
my own first contribution to Mormon letters, an essay in Dialogue in 1991, I called attention to a phenomenon that I called “spiritual
masochism.” 3 This happens when scholars become so fixed on demonstrating their ability to
deliver bad news that they lose perspective. When facing problems publicly
becomes desirable in itself, facing solutions to those problems is seen as

Russell insists that we should be “willing to revise
our conclusions about the book if our findings require it” (p. 20). This
is a logical extension of his discussion about the importance of honesty. I
presume Russell would agree that honest scholars should welcome new information
that might require revision of their own earlier findings, including those
offered in his 1982 paper.

The tricky bit comes in
deciding when, at any given moment in time, our findings require that we revise
our conclusions, not just at the level of a specific detail or of a secondary
assumption but of the paradigms that guide our overall approach and that define
the communities in which we participate.4 Russell
presents his assertions as though they are unopposed by any other notions. He
seems unaware that he might not correctly interpret what he has found. It is
not just a matter of facing problems honestly—one must be mindful of the
perspective used to decide whether to treat a problem as a potentially productive
puzzle or as a decisive counterinstance. The way to compensate for our
inevitable shortcomings at any given moment is to keep as broad a perspective
as possible and to not let particular details or issues overshadow the big
picture. And this is where Russell has trouble.

Establishing Perspective?

Russell begins by briefly reviewing some essays written by
scholars of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now
Community of Christ) in the two previous decades. He cites a 1962 paper by
James E. Lancaster on historical accounts of the Book of Mormon translation5 that can now be supplemented and corrected by more recent work, including Royal
Skousen’s ongoing study of the original and printer’s manuscripts.6 Russell is much exercised by the “face in hat” reports of how the
Book of Mormon was translated and makes much of the suggestion that the
translation should be thought of as conceptual, leaving room for Joseph to
express himself in the translation even if one assumes historicity. He then
cites works by Leland Negaard and Wayne Ham,7 two RLDS
scholars who raise the specter of the so-called Second Isaiah, typically dated
to after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. Ham’s paper summarizes “problems
in interpreting the Book of Mormon as history, such as: difficulties in
identifying the book’s narrative with a particular setting in time and space,
its propensity for reflecting in detail the religious concerns of the American
frontier, its anachronisms, and the use of biblical scriptures and ideas as
sources, particularly the use of Second Isaiah” (p. 21). Russell also
cites a 1977 paper by Susan Curtis Mernitz that sees the Book of Mormon as reflecting
early nineteenth-century American thought, though she never addresses the
question of whether ancient contexts might provide comparable or superior
illumination.8 He mentions an unpublished student paper by Larry W. Conrad that observes that
while “the Book of Mormon assumes the story of the Tower of Babel to be
historical, biblical scholars hold it to be mythological.” With this brief
survey of scholarship 9 sufficing as background, Russell launches into his own take on two additional
issues: apparent disparity between certain ideas in 1 and 2 Nephi and the
thought of preexilic Israel and, second, the supposed problematic inclusion of
Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi.

Other Book of Mormon scholarship that Russell mentions in
his essay includes Wesley P. Walters’s 1981 master’s thesis from Covenant
Theological Seminary in St. Louis, “The Use of the Old Testament in the
Book of Mormon”; 10 Robert N. Hullinger’s 1980 book, Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph
Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon
; 11 and Thomas
F. O’Dea’s book, The Mormons, published by the University of Chicago
in 1957. And that is it—the state of the art on Book of Mormon scholarship
as of 1982, sufficient to guide individuals and faith communities through time
and into eternity. Or is it?

The Neglected Voices of 1982

Before considering how Russell’s arguments have fared in light
of subsequent developments, we should ask if, even in 1982, Russell’s survey of
Book of Mormon scholarship addressing the question of historicity was adequate.

The most conspicuous absence is any mention of Hugh Nibley.
In three volumes and several important essays, Nibley had discussed the Book of
Mormon in its Old World context. In 1967 he directly addressed the Second
Isaiah question in Since Cumorah, making a fresh argument that the Book
of Mormon could be compatible with many findings proceeding from Isaiah
scholarship.12 Sidney B. Sperry had addressed the same question from another perspective as
early as 1939.13 In 1974 BYU
published “A Computer Analysis of the Isaiah Authorship
Problem.” 14 Avraham Gileadi in 1981 published his dissertation, “A Holistic Structure
of the Book of Isaiah,” 15 followed by
his first book, The Apocalyptic Book of Isaiah, in 1982.16

Nibley’s The World of the Jaredites,
originally published in serialized form in the Improvement Era in
1951 and 1952, had directly addressed the question of the Tower of Babel:

Think back, my good man, to the first act of recorded history.
What meets our gaze as the curtain rises? People everywhere building towers.
And why are they building towers? To get to heaven. . . . That goes not only
for Babylonia but also for the whole ancient world. . . . The towers were artificial
mountains, . . . and no temple-complex could be complete without one.17

Nibley had also dealt extensively with the question of the
best method for testing historical documents.18 He explored
charges that the Book of Mormon merely reflected Joseph Smith’s environment and
discussed in detail the inadequacies of such an approach as a valid test and
sufficient explanation.

Most of the essays reprinted in Noel B. Reynolds’s Book of Mormon
Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins
19 in
1982 had already appeared in various Latter-day Saint journals. For example,
John W. Welch published on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon in 1969 and 1970, and
Richard L. Bushman published in 1976 “The Book of Mormon and the American
Revolution,” showing how the Book of Mormon failed to fit the
nineteenth-century context.20 Lynn and Hope Hilton published In Search of Lehi’s Trail in

Aside from Nibley’s Old World approach, in 1975 John L. Sorenson
began circulating the manuscript of what became An Ancient American Setting for
the Book of Mormon
, published in 1985.22 While
Russell may not have been aware of that manuscript, Sorenson’s essay “The
Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Codex” was available in 1976.23 David A. Palmer’s In Search of Cumorah: New Evidence for the Book of Mormon from
Ancient Mexico
appeared in 1981.24 Publishing
in 1982, Russell neglects all of these sources. He assumes that it is obvious
that the Book of Mormon is not an authentic history. This conspicuous neglect
of important, readily available material leads me to read his essay as an
example of spiritual masochism. Russell congratulates himself for having the
integrity to publicly deliver the bad news. His focus is completely negative,
citing only those scholars and issues that he can use to support his case. He
fails to mention, let alone address, the most important and most conspicuous
work arguing in favor of historicity. He never spells out the implications of
his own assumptions, nor does he specify his standards of judgment.

Climbing the Sermon on the Mount

It turns out that Russell is one-sided not only in his
survey of Book of Mormon scholarship but also in his recourse to New Testament
scholarship. In 1984 Latter-day Saint scholar A. Don Sorensen pointed out that
Russell’s critique of the Sermon at the Temple in 3 Nephi assumes that a “fluid
tradition” theory of the New Testament is valid and that Russell fails to
mention the existence of a “controlled tradition” stream of
scholarship that is more congenial to the 3 Nephi account. Sorenson reports
that “the fact is that the fluid-tradition theory is not the
well-established view that Russell wants his readers to think it is.” 25 Sorenson also notes that “question-begging occurs inasmuch as the conclusion that Jesus did not deliver the sermon, on which Russell’s challenge to the Book
of Mormon depends, results from assuming a naturalism, assuming the
fluid-tradition theory rather than some version of the controlled-tradition
theory.” 26

Subsequent to Sorensen’s paper, John W. Welch produced Illuminating
the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount
. Where Russell
asks, “Wouldn’t Jesus have shaped his sermon to the cultural setting of
his hearers in the New World?” Welch discusses how “the change in
setting from Palestine to Bountiful accounts for several differences between
the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple.” 27 Where Russell asserts almost no difference, Welch sees telling differences,
devoting an entire chapter to the topic.28 Where
Russell sees clumsy, anachronistic borrowing by Joseph Smith, Welch argues that
“the Sermon at the Temple enhances our understanding of the masterful
Sermon on the Mount as much or more than any other source I know. The Sermon at
the Temple does this primarily by disclosing the context in which
Jesus spoke these words on that occasion.” 29 For example,
Welch, drawing on the work of New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias, notes
that “five things are presupposed by the Sermon on the Mount: it assumes
that its audience is already familiar with (1) the light of Christ, (2) the
coming of the new age, (3) the expiration of the old law, (4) the unbounded
goodness of God, and (5) the designation of the disciples as successors of the
prophetic mission. These must be taken as givens for the Sermon on the Mount to
make sense. Strikingly, these are among the main themes explicitly stated in 3
Nephi 9:19 and 11:3–12:2 as a prologue leading up to the Sermon in 3
Nephi 12–14.” 30 On these and many other points relevant to Russell’s claims, Welch’s book
is an important contribution to Book of Mormon (and New Testament) scholarship,
demonstrating how the temple context of the Sermon at the Temple “offers
answers to questions about why the Sermon was given, what was being said, what
kind of sermon it was, how all of its parts fit together, and what it all

The Book of Mormon Settings

Russell refers to Wayne Ham’s short discussion of the
difficulty of matching the Book of Mormon narrative with a particular
real-world setting (p. 21). Yet today we can plausibly trace Lehi’s travels
from Jerusalem to a good candidate for the Valley of Lemuel, then south through
various staging points to Nahom, and then east to impressive candidates for
Nephi’s Bountiful.32 But even before 1982, Nibley and, later, the Hiltons had already begun this
process of exploring intriguing cultural and geographic settings in the Old
World. Subsequent work has extended and refined their observations.

What about the New World? Russell offers nothing specific,
but let’s consider the most recent critique of Book of Mormon historicity by
Mayanist Michael Coe. In the PBS series The Mormons, Coe first puts
Joseph Smith in a category consistent with Russell’s judgment: “I really
think that Joseph Smith, like shamans everywhere, started out faking it. I have
to believe this—that he didn’t believe this at all, that he was out to
impress, but he got caught up in the mythology that he created.” 33

The point of placing Joseph Smith in a category is that it
can provide predictions and explanations for his actions. Yet as Coe describes
Joseph’s accomplishment, his chosen category fails: “He made it up and
dictated it nonstop. It’s very long, the Book of Mormon. . . . I mean, if it’s
a work of fiction, nobody has ever done anything like this before. And I think
it is fiction, but he really carried it through, and my respect for him is
unbounded.” If no one in or out of the “fraud” category has done
anything like the Book of Mormon, what good is the category? It becomes a mere
label that explains nothing. And we still have to correlate the content
predicted by Coe’s theory with Joseph Smith and the actual text.

Coe continues:

In 1841—after the Book of Mormon,
actually—there was a publication in New York and London of a wonderful
two-volume work called Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan by John Lloyd Stephens, an American diplomat, and his artist-companion, the
British topographical artist Frederick Catherwood, with wonderful illustrations
by Catherwood of the Maya ruins. This was the beginning of Maya archaeology, .
. . and we who worked with the Maya civilization consider Stephens and
Catherwood the kind of patron saints of the whole thing.

Well, Joseph Smith read these two volumes, and he was
flabbergasted, because what he had dictated about the ancient cities in his
mind, these were the ancient cities that he was talking about. They weren’t in
South America, as he originally thought; they were in Central America and neighboring

Notice that Coe has
a consciously fraudulent Joseph Smith composing his text with a hemispheric
setting in mind, and not even imagining a
limited setting
until the Nauvoo
period, when he encounters the Stephens and Catherwood volume. Here we can test
the claim. What New World physical setting does the Book of Mormon describe, if

Lawrence Poulsen recently examined all of the passages 34 in the Book of Mormon that describe the river Sidon, the axis for most of the
action in the Book of Mormon, and extracted the salient characteristics of that
river. He then performed a computer search of a 3-D satellite map of the entire
Western Hemisphere to find candidates that matched the description. For a
real-world river that begins in a narrow strip of wilderness that reaches from
a sea west to a sea east, that begins flowing from east to west, then turns
north, and then empties into an eastern sea, he found exactly one candidate.
This turns out to be the Grijalva, which several Latter-day Saint models,
including John L. Sorenson’s, put forward as a candidate for the Sidon. For
those who mistrust computers, just look at the passages that Poulsen uses and
the details the Sidon requires. The Grijalva is the only viable candidate that
meets the demands of the text. Notice that Coe’s model of Book of Mormon
composition requires that this precise match happened in direct violation of
the conscious conception of the author.

Think about how likely it
is to spread such an accident across thirty-seven direct mentions distributed
across twenty-eight verses of rapid dictation. And that amid all the complex
story lines and discourses in the Book of Mormon. Then, along with that happy
accident, consider the interlocking interrelations with the seven hundred other
passages with geographic information on distances, coastlines, marches and
tactics, the ups and downs, a massive volcanic event. Then add the numerous cultural
details.35 If accidentally getting just the river Sidon in Mesoamerica while imagining an
undisclosed location in South America seems unreasonable, how about getting the
rest of the text to fit around the Grijalva by accident as well? Coe’s approach
fails as soon as we look closely at the text, which suggests that, for all his
expertise in things Mayan, he has not looked closely at our text.

Coe dismisses arguments by Sorenson, John E. Clark, and
Brant A. Gardner regarding how the Mesoamerican setting supports the Book of
Mormon account of the rise and fall of the two major civilizations.36 Tellingly, Coe makes much of the disappointments of Thomas Ferguson relative to
the Book of Mormon, but he does not seem to have grasped the implications of
the very different approach taken by better trained, more disciplined
Latter-day Saint archaeologists. Brant Gardner provides a particularly striking
example of the difference that a change in perspective can bring to the
questions one asks and the evidence, or lack thereof, that one finds:

The rather interesting discovery made just a few years back
was that I, and many other Mesoamericanists, had simply made some incorrect
assumptions about the [Book of Mormon] text. The attempts of LDS archaeological
apologetics [were] for years focused on finding the Christian or the Hebrew—or
who knows what—in Mesoamerican archaeology.

The difference came when I started looking for Mesoamerica
in the Book of Mormon instead of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. Oddly
enough, there is a huge difference, and the nature and the quality of the
correlations [have] changed with that single shift in perspective.37

When people ask for one
thing that is the most important correlation, I have a hard time coming up with
one, because it isn’t a single thing. It is that the entire text of the Book of
Mormon works better in a Mesoamerican context. Speeches suddenly have a context
that makes them relevant instead of just preachy.38 The
pressures leading to wars are understandable. The wars themselves have an
explanation for their peculiar features.39 All of those
things happen with a single interpretive framework that is in the right place
at the right time. Even the demise of the Nephites happens at “the right
time.” 40

Against Sorenson’s correlations, Coe raises questions
about horses, metal, scripts, and the disappointments of Thomas Ferguson. He
claims that there is a stage but no actors for the Book of Mormon story. Yet
that conclusion seems to be based on the same kind of assumptions that led to
Ferguson’s disillusionment, and not on those held by Latter-day Saint
archaeologists whose fieldwork Coe praises. While Latter-day Saint
archaeologists produce archaeology that Coe respects, yet they see their
findings in a different relation to the Book of Mormon text than Coe
does—because they have different expectations of the text than he does.

Science historian and
philosopher Thomas Kuhn observed that paradigm choice always involves deciding
which problems are more significant to have solved.41 Suppose that
in the ongoing Book of Mormon historicity debate we could swap currently
plausible solutions for current problems. That is, suppose we had better
evidence for metals and horses, a scrap of recognizably reformed Egyptian
script, and even some profoundly unlikely DNA that somehow pointed directly to
600 BC Jerusalem. At the same
time, suppose we did not have a unique fit for the river Sidon, nor an
archaeologically suitable Cumorah, nor the rise and fall of major cultures at
the right time (Olmec and Preclassic), nor a Zarahemla candidate that explained
various circumstances in the text (physical, geographic, and linguistic), nor
evidence of a major volcanic eruption at the right time, nor fortifications of
the right kind, nor a candidate for the Waters of Mormon complete with a
submerged city, nor a good candidate for the Gadianton movement, nor the other
abundant cultural details that Sorenson, Gardner, Clark, and others have
detailed. Suppose that Clark had demonstrated that the trend for Book of Mormon
criticisms was moving consistently away from resolution of questions rather
than toward it. And then for good measure, toss out all of the ancient Near
Eastern correlations from Jerusalem through the Arabian desert to Nahom and
Bountiful as well. Given that exchange of current solutions for current
puzzles, would the present case for New World Book of Mormon historicity be
stronger or weaker?

Russell and the Thought of Preexilic Israel

After granting that a few themes in 1 and 2 Nephi fit with
preexilic Israel, Russell itemizes ten major complaints on this theme. “The
first is that the Book of Mormon anticipates the division of the chosen people
into contending sects, much like modern Protestantism. It seems inconceivable
that the Israelites would divide into warring sects” (p. 22). Few scholars
discover what they consider to be inconceivable. Consider the division of the
northern kingdom from the southern and the creation of rival shrines in the
north. Consider the rivalries between different priestly families in Israel and
how their fortunes and influence depended on which group received royal endorsements.42 Look at the priestly opponents faced by prophets such as Jeremiah (Jeremiah
23:21–22) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 22:25–26). Look at the upheaval
caused by the reforms of Josiah during Lehi’s time in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:20).
Look at the contradictory passages within the Bible itself on such topics as
whether Moses saw God (Exodus 24:9–11 vs. Deuteronomy 4:12) and whether
the sacred calendar includes the Day of Atonement (Leviticus
16:29–30 vs. Deuteronomy 16, which mentions only Passover, Pentacost, and
Tabernacles). Look at the sectarianism implied by the existence of the Samaritans
and also at the differences between Dead Sea Scrolls Judaism and that which
emerged from the Roman wars. I find the Book of Mormon description of the rise
of contending sects in general to be quite characteristic of religious people
in every age and time.

With regard to specific issues in context, I find that
Sherem’s arguments against Jacob (Jacob 7) correspond neatly to the Deuteronomist
arguments against the first temple. Jacob 4 exactly specifies first temple
attitudes that the reformers targeted. Jacob 4:14 points directly at the Jerusalem
reformers, whose explicit rejection of revelation explains the “blindness”
that Jacob refers to and whose removal of the Day of Atonement from the sacred
calendar shows that they were looking beyond the “mark” that both
designated and named the anointed high priests. The debates in Jacob, far from
reflecting Joseph Smith’s background, make good sense as emerging from the
conflicts that raged in Lehi’s Jerusalem.43

Russell complains that Nephi refers to “the Jews”
as though he is talking about a people other than his own (p. 22). Nibley had
dealt with this question in his 1953 Improvement Era series, “New
Approaches to Book of Mormon Study”: “Throughout history, the determining
factor of what makes one a Jew has always been some association with the
geographical area of Judaea, and since ‘Lehi. . . dwelt at Jerusalem in all his
days’ (1 Nephi 1:4), the best possible designation for him is Jew,
regardless of his ancestry. . . . The Lachish letters distinguish between the
Jews of the country and the Jews of the city, and this distinction is also
found in Nephi’s account.” 44

Russell also complains that “in the Book of Mormon the ‘Gentiles’
become part of the House of Israel by belief. It wasn’t until long
after the Diaspora that the Jewish people began allowing the incorporation of
persons not Jewish by birth into the Jewish community by proselyte baptism. The
Book of Mormon notion of Gentiles becoming part of the House of Israel by belief
seems to be a Pauline concept found in the New Testament” (p. 22). This
argument overlooks this famous passage: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or
to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and
where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my
God” (Ruth 1:16). Further, Brant Gardner recently observed that Jacob’s
discourse in 2 Nephi 6 and 10 deals with adoption into the covenant and is
based on Isaiah’s prophecies on the topic.45

The next element on Russell’s list of issues is this: “The
Messianic expectation in the Book of Mormon is another problem.”

. . . This notion of the Messiah as Saviour of the world
is foreign to Israel. . . . The Messiah would save Israel, restore the Davidic
kingdom—not wash away the world’s sins. . . .

Christians have often read the Messianic expectation
passages in the Old Testament as referring to the future career of Jesus. Yet
the Old Testament passages in question, such as the Suffering Servant passages
in the Second Isaiah, are quite vague and have to be interpreted with
considerable imagination by Christians who would apply them to Jesus. (p. 22)

As a student of the scholarship of the eminent British Bible
scholar Margaret Barker, I find in Russell’s complaints here more evidence of
Joseph Smith’s inspiration. Barker herself is impressed with how the Book of
Mormon matches the thought of preexilic Israel, particularly in its depiction
of the Messiah as understood at the time of the first temple.46 My essay “The Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament”
shows how the Book of Mormon treatment of the Messiah fits with this more
recent research.47 Brant Gardner’s Book of Mormon commentary also observes how Barker’s model
challenges Russell on this point.48

Russell’s 1982 article makes much of the Isaiah problem
while ignoring all thoughtful Latter-day Saint perspectives to that time. The
Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University published Isaiah and
the Prophets
in 1984, a scholarly work that reprinted the
statistical study of Isaiah authorship as well as John A. Tvedtnes’s
illuminating essay on the Isaiah variations in the Book of Mormon. In 1998
FARMS produced the important volume Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. The
Isaiah question remains open, but Isaiah scholarship has not remained static.

Margaret Barker is an important authority on Isaiah who
authored the Isaiah commentary in Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible,
which was published in 2003. She accepts the contemporary consensus that divides
Isaiah into an original Isaiah writing at the times of Ahaz and Hezekiah, a
second Isaiah writing during the Exile, and a third Isaiah writing during the
period of the return. In “Paradigms Regained,” I wrote a summary of
Latter-day Saint scholarship on Isaiah and the Book of Mormon up to 1999 and
offered some suggestions for how open issues could be reconciled. I noted that
the specific chapters in which the Second Isaiah reinterprets Israelite
theology (40–47), fusing Yahweh and El Elyon, do not appear in the Book
of Mormon. I also referred to John S. Thompson’s essay on Isaiah 50–51 in
relation to the preexlic autumn festival, observing that in the Book of Mormon
narrative those chapters appear to be quoted in the context of that festival.49 While all issues could not be said to be resolved, I found the situation quite

When I wrote “Paradigms Regained,” I had not read
Barker’s essay on the original background of the Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah
53, which Abinadi quotes in Mosiah 14). Her abstract states the following:

Hezekiah had a potentially fatal boil which suggests that he
had bubonic plague. This also destroyed the Assyrian army threatening
Jerusalem. The king made a miraculous recovery. Isaiah first predicted that the
king would die for his sin (of destroying the high places) but he then promised
recovery. The prophet’s two explanations of the king’s suffering inspired the
Fourth Servant Song, which depicted the suffering servant first as a sinner and
then as the sin bearer. This is evidence for a sin-bearing priest-king, and for
Isaiah’s hostility to the so-called ‘reforms’ of the cult. Evidence from Lachish
and ancient eclipses supports this reconstruction, and so calls into question
the suggestion that it was a later fiction.50

While not written with the Book of Mormon in mind, and
not solving all questions about a Second Isaiah, Barker’s case that Isaiah 53
was written about Hezekiah suggests that it was originally composed by Isaiah
of Jerusalem. Serendipitously, this makes the text available to Abinadi via the
brass plates and thus improves the case for the Book of Mormon. Furthermore,
the same essay answers some of Russell’s objections about Christian use of the
Fourth Servant Song as a prophecy of Jesus. Barker shows the relationship
between Hezekiah’s illness and the role of the high priest on the Day of

“How, then,” she asks, “could Hezekiah’s
affliction, which had first been interpreted as punishment, be seen instead as
a sign of salvation?” She cites the stories in Numbers 16:46 and Numbers
25:13, where in both cases “atonement protected against the wrath of
plague, and the ritual was performed by the high priest.

Hezekiah’s illness and recovery, together with Isaiah’s
interpretations of the affliction, are recorded in the Fourth Servant Song.
Hezekiah’s illness did not give rise to the idea of a ‘suffering servant’, a
sin bearer, a wrath interceptor like Aaron, but rather Isaiah’s second interpretation
of the king’s illness was understood in the light of such a belief. In other
words, the suffering figure, the wrath interceptor, was part of the ancient
understanding of atonement and the role of the king. The Fourth Servant Song
contains not only elements of the underlying ideology which enabled Isaiah to
make the second interpretation of the king’s illness but also elements which
reflect the actual circumstances of Hezekiah’s situation.

The clearest link between the Hezekiah incident and the Fourth
Servant Song is the fact that Isaiah gave two interpretations of the suffering.
At first he deemed the plague a punishment and then he saw it as the sign of
salvation. In the Song the suffering figure is at first despised because he is
deemed to be punished by God, ‘smitten by God and afflicted’, ‘a man of pain
and sickness’ (Isa. 53.3–4). Then the poet realizes that the suffering
figure is not being punished for his own sins, but for the sins of others ‘has
borne our sicknesses and pains’. The change in the Song is exactly the change
in Isaiah’s interpretation of Hezekiah’s illness

Is this reconstruction,
seeing Hezekiah having the bubonic plague, historically plausible?

There is evidence outside the texts themselves to make what
I propose a possibility. The strange story of the reversing shadow could be
linked to a dateable eclipse of the sun, the mass burials at Lachish are most
likely to have been plague victims, and the Lachish Letters just might have
been written in this time of distress. Apart from this, there are enough details
in the texts themselves which are inexplicable if Hezekiah did not have the
bubonic plague. All the rest of what I propose could then follow.

On the other hand, if the story of the king’s sickness was a
later addition to the story of the deliverance of Jerusalem, and that story in
itself was a pious fiction, it was all very skillfully done, with plenty of
false clues left in the text, and we need to find another explanation for the
mass burials at Lachish.52

The Fourth Servant Song, then, is tied to the role of the
high priest on the Day of Atonement. Barker has elsewhere shown how Jesus came
to see himself in that role. Regarding Christian use of Isaiah, Barker

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained to the two disciples
that it was necessary for the Anointed One to suffer and enter his glory (Luke
24:26); this must refer to the Qumran version of the fourth Servant Song
[Isaiah 53], since there is no other passage in the Hebrew Scriptures which
speaks of a suffering Anointed One

This is but one example of Barker’s demonstration that the Hebrew
scriptures that the Christians knew were different than the Masoretic Hebrew
that we have now. Some of the vagueness that Russell sees in the Hebrew
scripture appears to have been put there by Jewish editors in response to the
rise of Christianity. The story that Barker tells about how the text and the
context of Hebrew scriptures changed after the rise of Christianity, and at
whose hands, is remarkably like the prophecy in 1 Nephi 13.54 She observes

the distribution of unreadable Hebrew texts is not random;
they are texts which bear upon the Christian tradition. Add to these examples
the variants in Isaiah about the Messiah, the variants in Deuteronomy 32 about
the sons of God, and there is a case to answer. These are instances where
traces remain. We can never know what has completely disappeared.55

Barker shows how Jerome successfully pushed for the
Christian adoption of this altered Hebrew canon. She also observes that “all
the texts in the chosen canon would have had an original context, which
presupposed a certain pattern of shared beliefs within which the text was set.
The context was as much as part of the meaning as the words themselves. Set in
a new context, the same text would soon acquire a new meaning.” 56 The lost texts and lost context that Barker explores point to the world of the
first temple, Lehi’s world of 600 BC.

Russell’s list of complaints

One historical problem might be labeled “piety vs. the
later apocalyptic world view. . . .” The eschewing of wealth in the Book of
Mormon is more consistent with the apocalyptic world view that did not
infiltrate Israel until after the Exile, rather than the earlier Deuteronomist
view which regards riches as Yahweh’s blessing.

In response to Russell’s charges, Sunstone soon published a letter by Robert L. Charles, who noted, “Curiously, three
of the Book of Mormon passages which are cited as exhibiting this anachronistic
post-exilic apocalyptic view are passages from First Isaiah. (II Nephi
13:18–26; II Nephi 15:11; II Nephi 23:12). Therefore, the Old Testament
is also inconsistent in its exhibiting post-exilic views in preexilic or exilic
times.” Charles also observed that “the Book of Mormon speaks
repeatedly of righteousness resulting in prosperity and the wealthy becoming
corrupt. However, wealth itself is not condemned as evil.” 57 It’s the inequality and pride that cause the trouble in the Book of Mormon.

Here again, Margaret Barker’s work provides an alternative approach
to the origins of apocalyptic. Her approach is based on writings that “would
have been lost but for the accidents of archeological discovery.” 58 Her first book, The Older Testament, summarizes its case on the
origins of apocalyptic this way:

The whole myth of the fallen angels which is already highly
developed in the earliest pseudepigrapha and continues in the Christian
literature is nowhere spelled out in the biblical writings. It was ancient. It
was fundamental. But where did it originate? These strange elements of the
non-canonical writings were indigenous to Israel, but we have failed to recognize
them as such because a major channel of that tradition has been dammed and
diverted, and because the non-canonical writings have themselves picked up a
quantity of débris along their way. It is not possible to follow them all to
their source, but the similarities between the opacities of the Old Testament
and the patterns of the non-canonical literature make a common origin likely.
The apocalyptic elements of the Old Testament are not insertions, but fossils.59

The Older Testament surveys key passages touching on
these themes and reflects on the condition of many of those texts within the Hebrew

Texts dealing with the Holy Ones and the Holy One have
significant elements in common: theophany, judgement, triumph for Yahweh,
triumph for this anointed son, ascent to a throne in heaven, conflict with
beasts and with angel princes caught up in the destinies of earthly kingdoms.
Many of these texts are corrupted; much of their subject matter is that of the ‘lost’
tradition thought to underlie the apocalyptic texts. The textual corruption and
the lost tradition are aspects of the same question.60

In other words, the themes of key noncanonical texts
and their corrupted state provide evidence that the content of the lost
preexilic traditions correspond to what we call apocalyptic and evidence that
this content was deliberately suppressed in the Hebrew canon.

Russell complains about the book of Revelation and the Book
of Mormon:

The greatest apocalyptic document—the Book of Revelation—is
exalted in the Book of Mormon. How Lehi’s group knew of the book and its author
seven centuries before it was written is a puzzle. Why they should revere a
book which has baffled so many Christians with the benefit of historical
hindsight is also bewildering. It is particularly problematic because the
apocalyptic world view of the Book of Revelation and the Book of Mormon is so
contrary to the thought of preexilic Israel in several ways. For example, the
Book of Revelation and the Book of Mormon believe in life after death. The
Israelites before the Exile had no such concept. God rewards the righteous in
this life. In preexilic Israelite thought there was also no cosmic struggle
between good and bad gods—called God and Satan or the devil or whatever.
Neither is there a hell for those who back the wrong god. There is no
resurrection of the body in the Old Testament. Yet all of these elements of the
apocalyptic Christian world view found in certain New Testament writings like
the Book of Revelation are alleged to have been held by the original Nephites
when they had just left an Israel which knew not such strange doctrines. (p.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi himself makes the
connection to the future apocalyptic revelation of John explicit (1 Nephi
14:27). Barker, coming from the other direction, connects the book of
Revelation back to a largely lost tradition that is well represented in the
writings of Lehi’s contemporary, Ezekiel:

The Book of Revelation has many similarities to the prophecies
of Ezekiel, not because there was a conscious imitation of the earlier prophet,
but because both books were the product of temple priests (Ezek. 1.3) and stood
in the same tradition. There is the heavenly throne (4.1–8, cf. Ezek.
1.4–28 [cf. 1 Nephi 1:8; Jacob 4:14; Moroni 9:26]); the sealing of the
faithful with the sign of the Lord (7.3, cf. Ezek. 9.4 [cf. Mosiah 5:15]); the
enthroned Lamb as the Shepherd (7.17, cf. Ezek. 34.23–24 [cf. 1 Nephi
13:41; Alma 5]); the coals thrown onto the wicked city (8.5, cf. Ezek. 10.2
[cf. 1 Nephi 14:15, 17; 3 Nephi 8:8, 24; 9:3, 8, 9, 11]); eating the scroll
(10.10, cf. Ezek. 3.1–3 [cf. 1 Nephi 1:11–12; 8:11–12]);
measuring the temple (11.1 and 21.15, cf. Ezek. 40.3 [cf. 2 Nephi 5:16]); the
seven angels of wrath (16.1–21, cf. Ezek. 9.1–11 [cf. 3 Nephi
9–10]); the harlot city (18.9, cf. Ezek. 26.17–18 [cf. 1 Nephi
14:17]); the riches of the wicked city (18.12–13, cf. Ezek. 27.1–36
[cf. 1 Nephi 13:5–8]); the fate of Gog (19.17–21 and 20.8, cf.
Ezek. 39.1–20 [cf. 1 Nephi 11:34–36]); the vision of Jerusalem
(21.9–27, cf. Ezek. 40.1–43.5 [cf. 1 Nephi 13:37; 3 Nephi 21:23]);
the river flowing from the temple and the tree of life (22.1–2, cf. Ezek.
47.1–12 [cf. 1 Nephi 8; 11]).61

At every point at which Barker shows the relationship
between Ezekiel and Revelation, I have noted a reference to the same themes in
the Book of Mormon, mostly in 1 Nephi. The most conspicuous theme in Lehi’s
vision in 1 Nephi 8—the tree of life—appears not as an isolated
parallel but as one element amid a constellation of related themes. The same
explanation for the relationship that Barker gives holds true—these
writers all stand in the same temple tradition.

Notice Russell’s complaints about a belief in life after
death in the Book of Mormon. In an essay published in 1992, I observed that the
teachings of the afterlife in the Book of Mormon come through Alma and that
Alma’s conversion comes from a near-death experience that matches modern
accounts. I’m also skeptical of his claim that a belief in life after death was
foreign to all of the ancient Israelites. The first Christian apologist, Justin
Martyr, claimed that the Jews had removed a prophecy from Jeremiah that the
Messiah would preach to the dead.62 This circumstance has several implications for Russell’s approach. Russell also
ignores the implications of texts like 1 Enoch that did not become part of the
Hebrew canon yet have deep roots in ancient Israel.

Back to Russell’s critique: “There is also a problem
with what might be called ‘institutional anachronism.’ Specific problems lie in
the references to ‘church’ and ‘synagogue’ ” (p. 23).

A church is simply an assembly of people, a “gathering.”
A synagogue is simply a meeting place, whether a city gate or a building. Both
words were part of Joseph Smith’s translation vocabulary. Both the social
gatherings of like-thinking people and the physical structures serving their
needs existed anciently. These are not serious problems. An essay by William
Adams Jr. highlights recent research indicating that synagogues existed in
Jerusalem before the exile.63

But Russell continues: “On the other hand, the lack of
awareness in the Book of Mormon of the priestly rituals of the Old Testament
seems remarkable. There are references to ‘priests’ but we see no evidence that
Nephite priests perform the Israelite priestly rituals such as the sacrifices”
(p. 23). Contemporary Latter-day Saint scholars point to the imposing FARMS
volume on King Benjamin’s discourse, particularly the essay by John W. Welch
and Terrence L. Szink showing that the discourse combines the priestly rituals
and sacrifices of the New Year, Day of Atonement, Sabbath, and Jubilee.64 William J. Hamblin has also gathered evidence that Jacob’s discourse in 2 Nephi
9 occurs on the Day of Atonement. And John Welch and I have highlighted the
priestly elements of 3 Nephi 8–28.65 There is
much more, leading me to conclude that Russell’s judgment regarding anachronistic
terminology was premature.

“Another problem concerns the nature of scripture,”
Russell asserts. “In the Book of Mormon there is much talk about plates
and holy writings.” This is as it should be in an authentic text with roots
in Jerusalem in 600 BC.
Demonstrating that the Book of Mormon is quite at home in this regard are John
Tvedtnes’s The
Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books
and William Hamblin’s “Sacred
Writing on Metal Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean.” 66

Russell goes on with a revealing series of rhetorical
questions: “And if the law is so important, why do we find almost nothing
from the Pentateuch in the Book of Mormon? Where are all the dietary and ritual
laws? Where is the mass of legislation on matters we would consider trivial
today?” (p. 23). John Welch has shown that many stories in the Book of
Mormon demonstrate close attention to nuances of Hebrew legal practices.67 I find the Book of Mormon’s implicit awareness of the law in a wide range of
practical applications far more impressive than explicit block quoting of the
law. Russell seems not to consider the stated purpose of the Book of Mormon.
Why should an abridgment of the Nephite scriptural record designed
to “convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ” contain ritual
and dietary laws and masses of legislation that we would consider trivial
today? Must the Book of Mormon be irrelevant and incomprehensible to seem

Russell continues his questioning: “And while Isaiah is
quoted extensively in the Book of Mormon, why is there little or nothing from
the other prophets who lived prior to 600 B.C. such as Amos, Hosea, Micah,
Zephaniah, Habbakuk, and Jeremiah?” (p. 23). Isaiah is the single best
source on the priesthood of the first temple. He is quoted by Nephi, who knew
the first temple and who consecrated his younger brother Jacob as a temple
priest. In 3 Nephi 23:2–3, the Lord endorses Isaiah and explains that “he
spake as touching all things concerning my people. . . . And all things that he
spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.”
The Lord tells us to “search the prophets, for many there be that testify
of these things” (v. 5). We note that the Book of Mormon quotes Zenock and
Zenos, both northern kingdom priests. Rather than making arbitrary complaints
about what we don’t have, it is more productive to explore what we do have in
the Book of Mormon and to use that to outline as much as we can about the
origin and content of the brass plates. John L. Sorenson has made the case that
the brass plates reflect a northern kingdom source.68 My own
theory is that they were prepared during the reign of Jehoiakim (who had been
installed as a puppet king by the Egyptians) for much the same reason that a
later Egyptian king commissioned the Septuagint—that is, as an addition
to the Egyptian royal library for purposes of both prestige and diplomacy. The
shifting political situation, with Babylon deposing Jehoiakim and installing
Zedekiah, interrupted the original plans for the brass plates.

Although Russell claims that “it appears that no canon
of scripture existed yet in Israel in 600 B.C.”
(p. 23), we have writings from preexilic prophets that did not have to be
canonized in the way that later records were in order to be collected,
copied, distributed, and treated as holy. The word canon does not
appear in the Book of Mormon. Some of the Old Testament books seem to be
liturgical texts tied to public festival observances. Jeremiah’s account
describes the circulation of some of his own writings. Even those scholars who
date the current form of the Pentateuch to the postexilic period say that the
compilers and editors used older sources. For example, Richard E. Friedman
bases his argument for the antiquity of original source material used in a
postexilic redaction on the archaic style of the Hebrew.69 Jeremiah 8:8
charges someone with making a lying Torah, an accusation softened in the King
James translation. For the charge to make sense, there must also be a true
Torah as well.

Russell says of the Old Testament writings that “once
they were canonized, the process stopped. One does not tamper with a holy
writing” (p. 23). Yet the state of the texts tells a story of ongoing tampering.
Barker has made a good case that the present Masoretic
Text was defined and edited in response to the
rise of Christianity. She offers comparisons to the Greek Septuagint, the Dead
Sea Scrolls Hebrew, and the Babylonian and Palestinian Targums. She provides
quotations of variant texts and the charges and countercharges in early
Christian writings, rabbinic writings, 1 Enoch, and Muslim writings. All of
them witness the tampering, as does 1 Nephi 13.

The oldest existing Bible writing is on two silver scrolls
found in Jerusalem that date to 600 BC and contain priestly blessings from the book of Numbers. That is, the oldest
known Bible texts were written on metal in Jerusalem and quote from one of the
books of Moses.70 The brass plates of the Book of Mormon are in good company.

Russell further observes that “the problem of racism in
the Book of Mormon is well documented. . . . The skin color racism of the Book
of Mormon seems to be modern and American rather than Israelite” (p. 24).
Exactly. The “skin color racism” comes from a modern, presentist way
of reading the text, conditioned by the nineteenth-century American views of race,
rather than from reading the text the way the ancient authors actually wrote
it.71 Nibley has demonstrated the use of “black” and “white” in
ancient Egyptian texts that directly parallels the use in the Book of Mormon as
metaphors for moral behavior.72 For that matter, so does Lamentations 4:7–8. For a more rigorous approach
to the topic, see John Tvedtnes’s detailed essay “The Charge of Racism in
the Book of Mormon” 73 and Brant Gardner’s extended discussion in Second Witness.74

“Another problem” for Russell “concerns the
emerging monotheism of Israel in 600 B.C. . . . This monotheism is hard to
square with the Book of Mormon’s identification of Christ with God and of Mary
as the mother of God. It is hard to imagine an Israelite in 600 B.C. accepting
such identification of humans with divinity” (p. 24). The appearance of
Margaret Barker’s The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God in
1992 serendipitously dealt with these issues, and her 2005 paper on the Book of
Mormon and preexilic Israel did so directly, showing the Book of Mormon to be
astonishingly on the mark. For instance, she quoted the Dead Sea Scrolls
version of Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy: “Ask a sign,” said the
prophet, “from the mother of the LORD your God. . . . Behold the Virgin
shall conceive and bear a son and call his name Immanuel.” 75

More recently Alyson S. Von Feldt reviewed William G. Dever’s Did
God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel
Among her many fresh observations of the symbolism encoded on “an
elaborate terra-cotta rectangular pillar from tenth-century BC Taʿanach” 76 is this:

I have suggested that the Taʿanach offering stand
represents the throne of God. I have discussed its two Asherah icons and
possible Yahweh symbol. I have considered that the offerings associated with
this stand may have been invocation offerings rather than memorial offerings. I
infer that the men-cherubim wearing the Hathor wigs could be understood to be
mortals who have received wisdom and been transformed into angels. So, taken
all together and understood in light of the wisdom tradition, the Taʿanach
stand may well be physical evidence of a theology of apotheosis. In the
countryside of Israel in family shrines, ordinary men and perhaps women sought
heavenly wisdom. They may have believed they could become holy ones, ascend to
the throne of Yahweh, and receive cosmic knowledge. They may have understood
that the power to bestow this experience was in the hands of Asherah, and their
offerings of invocation were symbols of her life-giving essence. If we add a
Book of Mormon text to the interpretation, we can see that the stand, like others
of its kind, may also have encoded the incarnation of Yahweh. Because the Taʿanach
stand is so productively interpreted by Ezekiel’s vision, it is possible that
apocalyptic has found new roots—in the ancient religion of the countryside.77

Once again, the specific objections that Russell raises
have been resolved in favor of the Book of Mormon. I’m impressed that so many
separate issues raised by Russell find resolution in a single approach to
preexilic Israel.

Also problematic for Russell is the notion of unforgivable
sin appearing in 2 Nephi (p. 24). However, the closest thing to this concept
that appears on the page that he cites is in 2 Nephi 31:14, which states that “after
ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are
willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the
baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak . . . with the tongues of
angels, and after this should deny me,  it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.” It
might help if Russell had considered 1 Enoch 38:2, where Enoch asks, “Where
will be the dwelling place of the sinners, and where will be the resting place
of those who have denied the Lord of Spirits?” The answer is “It
would have been better for them, if they had not been born.” 78 According to the translators of my edition, the present form of the section
from which the quotation comes can be dated to 40 BC. However, it is important to remember that the Enoch
tradition associates itself with the first temple and that the mythos was known
to Isaiah of Jerusalem.79

Russell also complains about some anti-monarchy passages in
the Book of Mormon because postexilic Jews yearned for the monarchy. “In
II Nephi the Lord is quoted as saying, ‘There shall be no kings upon the land’ ”
(p. 24). Brant Gardner has observed of 2 Nephi 10:11 that Jacob’s statement
makes more sense if the comma in “ ’There shall be no kings upon
the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles’ is removed. The context is thus
one of conquering Gentile kings and the opposition that might rise up and
defeat them. In other words, Jacob is prophesying that no non-Gentile kings
will defeat the Gentiles, whose kings are the nursing fathers who will provide
salvation to this colony of Israelites. Verses 12–13 confirm this
context. In short, Jacob, in quoting this passage from Isaiah, is not saying
that there will be no kings. He cannot, for his brother is the king. His point
is that no other king will stand against the Nephites if they are righteous, for their true king is Yahweh, who
has promised to preserve them.” 80 Russell also
ignores Mosiah 29:13, where King Mosiah says, “If it were possible that
you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God,
. . . if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye
should always have kings to rule over you.”

Russell’s final complaint is that “it would be
difficult to find a passage in preexilic Israelite writings that approves of”
Lehi’s notion of opposition in all things in 2 Nephi 2. If it would be
difficult, why bother to look? And if the concept were original to Lehi, does
that make it more or less profound?

In his Sunstone reply, Robert Charles says that “Russell
interprets ‘opposition in all things’ to mean opposing opinions on every issue.
This interpretation supports his theory that ‘the ideas (of the Book of Mormon)
seem to fit the 19th century America more than preexilic Israel.’ However, this
interpretation is not supported by the phrase’s scriptural context. The
examples Lehi gives to describe ‘opposition in all things’ are pairs of
opposite abstract concepts or conditions of existence: for example,
righteousness/wickedness, good/bad, life/death, corruption/incorruption,
happiness/misery, sense/insensibility. What Israelite of any age would not
agree that those opposites exist?” 81 Demonstrating
that Lehi’s notion of opposition was neither anomalous nor anachronistic, John
Tvedtnes surveys several ancient Israelite texts that offer similar concepts.82

Finally, note that John Sorenson’s 1984 response to Russell
observed his arguments are “little more than bald assertions, or his reasoning
in support of them is truncated or obscure.” 83 This is
particularly the case with Russell’s last few complaints.

Historicity and Community History

From the perspective of this writing, nearly three decades
after Russell’s article, what lessons can we take from the subsequent events
affecting the RLDS and LDS communities? Much has changed.

The most drastic social changes have come in the
transformation of RLDS community life to the point of changing the organization’s
name to the Community of Christ. Thomas Kuhn observed that the choice “between
competing paradigms proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of
community life.” 84 The former name proved to be incompatible with the new mode of community life.
It has been clear that much of the change derived from the church leaders who
in the early 1960s began to formally distance themselves from a belief in the
historicity of the Book of Mormon, a shift that included the support of
policies directed against the Foundation for Research on Ancient America
(FRAA), an organization of RLDS historicists.85 The nature
of this shift in the RLDS religious community mirrors what Thomas Kuhn observed
in scientific communities: “When it repudiates a paradigm, a scientific
community simultaneously renounces, as a fit subject for professional scrutiny,
most of the books and articles in which that paradigm had been embodied.” 86

In contrast, Latter-day Saint institutions have been
undeterred in their commitment to the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
Indeed, following the invitations of President Ezra Taft Benson to read and
study the Book of Mormon, there has been a notable increase in the attention
given to the book. While the FRAA faced resistance from RLDS leadership,
Latter-day Saints have seen the rise and increasing success of the Foundation
for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), from its beginnings in 1979 to
President Gordon B. Hinckley’s formal invitation for it to join Brigham Young
University in 1997. More recently, the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints has links to apologetic work by FARMS and FAIR (Foundation
for Apologetic Information and Research) in addressing questions linked to the
issue of historicity.

Regardless of one’s current position on Book of Mormon historicity,
it seems clear to me that the arguments that Russell offered in 1982 were not
very good. Time has not been kind to them, either in the particulars given or
in the general approach. In his “Before Adam” talk in 1980, Hugh
Nibley commented that “it is sad to think how many of those telling points
that turned some of our best students away from the gospel have turned out to
be dead wrong!” 87

Why not just politely ignore such mistakes? After all, aren’t
there current controversies that deserve our attention? There are several
reasons not to do so. Because Russell’s arguments represent public statements
linked to a group of policy makers that had a profound effect on the course
taken by a religious community, his talk has been cited as influential by other
scholars who have also written against the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
Russell’s comments were not just abstract philosophical musings disconnected
from real-life consequences. They had a real impact in the institutional
direction taken by the RLDS and in the lives of individuals whose decisions he
affected. This effect on other people’s lives was by choice and design. And
remember that Russell himself called for honesty in these matters. Shouldn’t he
welcome new information, even if it calls for changes in his thinking?

In 1982 William Russell publicly called for Book of Mormon believers
to abandon belief in its historicity. Was his lack of faith in historicity
justified by the arguments he offered? I don’t think so. Time and time again,
his specific objections have been overturned. Where he could have seen puzzles
waiting for solution, he chose to see counterinstances calling for immediate
conclusion. Indeed, by ignoring Nibley and Sorenson and others, he missed many
existing solutions and much that could have broadened his perspective in
considering open questions. From my own perspective, I see his attempted counterinstances
as now providing me with strong cause to believe in the historicity of the Book
of Mormon.

From Seed to Tree via Nurturing

What lessons can we take from developments in debates about
Book of Mormon historicity since Russell’s talk in 1982? “But if ye
neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not
get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it
hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out” (Alma

Russell’s 1982 survey is notable for lacking any trace of
nourishment for the seed of historicity. Its strict focus on the negative
amounts to planting the seed on a rock where it cannot take root and then using
a magnifying glass narrowly focused on particular issues to deliberately scorch
it into oblivion. As a few others have done,88 he makes
some overtures towards finding something inspiring in a nonhistorical Book of
Mormon. But he has produced nothing significant in this direction in the years
since. Whereas in 1982 he suggested that we could treat the text as “an
exciting, readable adventure story” (p. 26),89 the highest
degree of excitement in his recent talks comes in his insistence that Nephi
should be condemned as a murderer and that the text should contain warning

Under his modes of nurture, the
seed has not responded well. Not surprisingly, he has cast it out. “Now,
this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit
thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye
will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof”
(Alma 32:39). In one community, the tree has been neglected by design and has
consequently withered at the institutional level, if not among all members. In
the Latter-day Saint community, the tree has been nourished by the hierarchy
and protected from predation by a cadre of enthusiastic scholars outside the
formal leadership. In the Latter-day Saint community, the tree has grown and
become fruitful.

It Personal

What justified my own belief in the Book of Mormon before
1982? Less than a decade before Russell’s indictment of the Book of Mormon, I
made my own personal decisions about the Book of Mormon with respect to its
spiritual truth and historicity. In anticipation of my mission at age nineteen,
I was reading the Book of Mormon through for the third time when I came upon
this passage in Ether 12:39: “And then shall ye know that I have seen
Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in
plain humility, even as a man telleth another in his own language, concerning
these things.”

I was profoundly
impressed that this event happened, almost as though I had glimpsed it. For me
this meant that Jesus lived and had been resurrected and that Moroni had lived
and that the record was real. The good environment that I had known throughout
my life to that point had nurtured me, but this conviction became something
inside of me, not derived from social nurturing. It went beyond the kinds of
personal experience with God that I had enjoyed, which do not demand ties
peculiar to any religious community. My sense of the reality of the stories in
the Book of Mormon and about it binds me to the community. One thing a
testimony should do is provide a context for valuing and exploring questions
that come up. Mine has done so. Nothing in my spiritual experience told me
anything about whether the translation was tight or loose, or where Zarahemla
or Cumorah was, or what the scale of the events was, or exactly who the
Lamanites were. Those open questions could be approached separately, and my
preconceptions were subject to change, based on new light and knowledge.

Before my mission, the only Latter-day Saint apologetic for
the Book of Mormon that I had encountered amounted to things like the old Christ in
film and Jack H. West’s 1967 cartoon book, The Trial of
the Stick of Joseph
. Frankly, they aren’t that good and haven’t held
up under scrutiny well. But the truth is that those things never did excite my
thinking and had nothing whatsoever to do with my testimony. In 1972 I read and
enjoyed John W. Welch’s New Era essay on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.91 Even that, though, was secondary to my personal witness. Chiasmus did not make
me believe, nor did it even serve to let me believe. Rather, I found
it enlightening and mind expanding in consequence of my belief. The
next really transforming scholarship that entered into my personal faith
arrived when a member in England loaned me a copy of Hugh Nibley’s 1957
priesthood manual, An Approach to the Book of Mormon.

Reading Nibley taught me how much more could be seen in a
text that I thought I knew well. The overall lesson was that answers were to be
found not by deciding to merely face problems, nor to avoid them, but by
constantly expanding my reading context and improving my ability to perceive as
I read. After my mission, my interest in Nibley’s scholarship eventually led me
to Sorenson’s “The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Codex,” 92 which was the first research on the New World side that touched me. After
educating myself further, and participating in FARMS almost from the beginning,
I also made an effort to keep up on arguments against Book of Mormon
historicity. While I’ve run across a few things I found puzzling for a time,
and a few things I find puzzling still, I’ve found nothing to rival or
challenge my own belief. My understanding has changed on many issues, but I
experience the changes as expansion and growth rather than as the destruction
of something static and brittle. Indeed, most of the essays that I have
published came about because I had come upon new information and insights that
resolved my existing questions. For example, part of the reason for my essay on
near-death experience research and the Book of Mormon came about because I had
questions about the similarity of the stories of Paul and of Alma’s conversion.93 But rather than treat my questions as counterinstances, I’ve treated them as
puzzles awaiting solution. And over time many solutions have come.

I’ve learned by experience that
Jesus spoke truth when he said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and
ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
Nowhere does he say, “Blessed are they who sit like lumps, uncritically
taking it all for granted, for they shall be spoon-fed, and never caught off
guard, and never, ever disappointed by anyone.”

All I had to do was keep my eyes open, reexamine my
assumptions now and then, and give things time. When I had questions, it never
occurred to me to ask a church leader or even my own parents. Those who had
wisdom with respect to scholarly issues had the best books. Hence, when I had
questions beyond the basic gospel teachings, I had no illusions about whom I
should ask. I never expected to get specialized academic questions answered by
ecclesiastical authorities. I went directly to the bookshelves at home and then
to bookstores and libraries on my own.

In a more recent publication, Russell has offered this

We glory in Moroni’s promise at the end of the Book of
Mormon. Yet do we really think we can accept or reject a book as “true”
or “false” based on a prayer in the form of a question to God? As the
late Roy Cheville, longtime religion professor, often asked students at
Graceland College, “Does God work like that?” If we answered yes, he
would then suggest that our God is “too small.” Shouldn’t we instead
evaluate the Book of Mormon based on our reading of it and our judgment as to
whether it teaches sound moral principles? In fact, isn’t that what we really do, despite Moroni’s promise? 94

Moroni’s promise
applies to those who have read the Book of Mormon and other scriptures and who
go on to “ponder it in your hearts” (Moroni 10:3). Alma 32, part of
the text we ought to read and ponder, encourages us to experiment upon the
word, to plant it in our hearts, and nurture it. This is not “despite
Moroni’s promise” but integral to it.

When B. H. Roberts presented his study of Book of Mormon
difficulties to the First Presidency, he reported being disappointed that all
the Brethren did to respond at the time was to bear their testimonies. As
frustrated as Roberts was, subsequent developments have shown that the Brethren
were right. They knew that they didn’t have answers to Roberts’s questions at
that time, but because of their testimonies of the truth of the Book of Mormon
they were willing to give things time. By 1985 John Welch could write a paper
that comprehensively answers the questions that Roberts raised.95 As it was with Roberts’s questions in 1922, so it has been with Russell’s from
1982. Those who have nurtured the seed have seen impressive growth. Those who
put the seed on poor ground, or who cast it out by doubt and unbelief, or for
fear of those pointing and mocking from the great and spacious consensus of a
particular moment, have missed out on the harvest.

Cafeteria or Covenant?

Some who have been shaken in their faith by information that
runs counter to their expectations have suggested a “cafeteria”
approach to help them stay in the Latter-day Saint community. To an extent, I
agree that this can be helpful for some. Alma talks about finding a particle of
belief, some portion of his words to start with, even if you can no more than
desire to believe. But the kind of nurturing people carry out is at least as
important as what they start with. A bad seed won’t grow, nor will a good seed
bear fruit without nurturing.

Russell’s 1982 article illustrates to me the dangers of a
well-meaning cafeteria approach that fails to properly nurture the seed. The
cafeteria can be a place to try things out, to talk to other patrons, to ask
questions, to share tips. But the pick-and-choose attitude that accepts only
what seems reasonable and desirable in the here and now inevitably conflicts
with the demands that Jesus makes upon his disciples to offer up the sacrifice
of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The sacrifice of a broken heart
involves putting at risk what we desire. The sacrifice of a contrite spirit
involves putting at risk what we think, what seems reasonable. These two
sacrifices correspond directly to the figures of Fear and Desire that
everywhere stand as temple guardians in the ancient world. Fear is what we
think. Desire is what we want. They represent the temptations of Buddha, the
illusions of this world. I once studied over seventy reasons that biblical peoples
gave to justify the rejection of biblical prophets. Eventually, I realized that
they all boil down to people saying, “It’s not what I want. It’s not what
I think.” That is, it is not what I desire and not what I fear. If we
refuse to even risk what we think and what we desire, via the experiment and
nurture process, we cannot pass by our own limits and illusions and thereby
enter the Real.

Some call for reading the Book of Mormon as a pious fiction.
But the thing that gives fiction and myth power is correspondence with the
Real. The eminent mythologist Joseph Campbell talks about how myth tells us how
to live a human life.96 However fantastic in the telling, the power in the stories comes because they
point to something real. Even the Harry Potter stories draw power from a
reality that they point towards. I once read an interview with J. K. Rowling in
which she stated that she’d been reluctant to talk about her personal beliefs
because doing so would give away the ending of the series. In the end, her fantastic fiction showed itself to be
one of those texts that are the typifying of Christ.

In a cafeteria one picks and chooses according to taste. But
there may be a conflict between our tastes and our real long-term nutritional
needs. If the discovery of the Real comes to one of us, so also comes
recognition that what is Real is binding. We reach a point where we cannot
progress just by picking and choosing according to human fear and desire. We
recognize the limits of our reason and the snares of our desires. When we find
ourselves bound to even a particle of the Real, we soon come to the issue of

Physicist and religion professor Ian G. Barbour explains

participation in a
religious tradition also demands a more total personal
than occurs in
science. Religious questions are of ultimate concern, since the meaning of one’s
existence is at stake. Religion asks about the final objects of a person’s
devotion and loyalty, for which he will sacrifice other interests if necessary.
Too detached an attitude may cut a person off from the very kinds of experience
which are religiously most significant. Reorientation and reconciliation are
transformations of life-pattern affecting all aspects of personality, not
intellect alone. Religious writings use the language of actors, not the
language of spectators. Religious commitment, then, is a self-involving
personal response, a serious decision implicating one’s whole life, a willingness
to act and suffer for what one believes in.97

Reorientation is a
change in one’s thinking, a change that comes only after one has offered up the
sacrifice of a contrite spirit. Reconciliation is a change in one’s feeling, a
change that comes only after one has offered up the sacrifice of a broken
heart. The changes in the intellectual landscape surrounding Book of Mormon
historicity have come through and to those who feel bound to the reality of its
claims. This belief does not mean that we ignore questions. It means that we
have chosen to treat them as puzzles rather than as counterinstances to our
belief system. In my personal experience, it has been my own awareness of open
questions that has allowed me to recognize the significance of new information
that has come my way. The difference, then, is not in being honest enough to
face problems. The difference is in having a broader perspective against which
to assess problems, and faith enough to give them the time and effort they
require to bring them to resolution.


1. Thomas Kuhn, The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions
, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1971), 79.

2. This paper was based on two
earlier presentations, “Russell’s 1977 Presidential Address to the John
Whitmer Historical Association on preexilic Israel and the Book of Mormon and a
paper on III Nephi and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, which he read at the 1982
Mormon History Association meetings.” Editor’s note to Russell, “Historicity
of the Book of Mormon,” 26.

3. Kevin Christensen, “New
Wine and New Bottles: Scriptural Scholarship as Sacrament,” Dialogue 24/3 (Fall 1991): 128–29.

4. I have been fascinated by
just how this process works and have published several detailed essays on the
topic, drawing heavily on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
For example, Kevin Christensen, “Paradigms Crossed,” Review of
Books on the Book of Mormon
7/2 (1995): 144–218.

5. Later published as James
Lancaster, “The Translation of the Book of Mormon,” in The Word of God:
Essays on Mormon Scripture
, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature
Books, 1990), 97–112.

6. See, for example, Royal
Skousen, “Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original
Manuscript,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient
, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997), 61–93.

7. Leland Negaard, “The
Problem of Second Isaiah in the Book of Mormon” (B.D. thesis, Union
Theological Seminary, 1961; Negaard, “Literary Issues and the Latter Day
Saint,” University Bulletin 18 (Spring 1966): 21–24; and
Wayne Ham, “Problems in Interpreting the Book Of Mormon as History,” Courage 1 (September 1970): 15–22.

8. See Louis Midgley, “More
Revisionist Legerdemain and the Book of Mormon,” Review of
Books on the Book of Mormon
3 (1991): 268–71; and Garth
Mangum, “The Economics of the Book of Mormon: Joseph Smith as Translator
or Commentator,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (Fall 1993):

9. For more on Russell and his
favored authorities, see Midgley, “More Revisionist Legerdemain,”

10. Jerald and Sandra Tanner
reprinted this study in 1990. In the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4 (1992): 220–50, both John Tvedtnes and Stephen D. Ricks offered
reviews. Many of the issues they raised have received further attention

11. Reprinted, with some of the
anti-Mormon rhetoric toned down, as Robert N. Hullinger, Joseph Smith’s
Response to Skepticism
(Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), and
reviewed by Gary F. Novak in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7/1 (1995): 139–54.

12. Hugh Nibley, Since
Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World
(Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book, 1967).

13. Sidney B. Sperry, “The ‘Isaiah
Problem’ in the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era, September 1939,
524–25, 564–69, October 1939, 594, 634, 636–37.

14. L. La Mar Adams and Alvin C.
Rencher, “A Computer Analysis of the Isaiah Authorship Problem,” BYU Studies 15/1 (Autumn 1974): 95–102. See also L. La Mar Adams, “A Scientific
Analysis of Isaiah Authorship,” in Isaiah and the Prophets: Inspired Voices
from the Old Testament
, ed. Monte S. Nyman (Provo, UT: Religious
Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 151–63.

15. Avraham Gileadi, “A
Holistic Structure of the Book of Isaiah” (PhD diss., Brigham Young
University, 1981).

16. Avraham Gileadi, The
Apocalyptic Book of Isaiah
(Provo, UT: Hebraeus Press, 1982).

17. Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the
Desert; The World of the Jaredites; There Were Jaredites
(Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 164.

18. Hugh Nibley, “New
Approaches to Book of Mormon Study,” had appeared in the Improvement
from November 1953 to July 1954 and was reprinted in volume 8 of
the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 54–126.

19. Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of
Mormon Authorship: New Lights on Ancient Origins
(Provo, UT: FARMS,

20. John W. Welch, “Chiasmus
in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10/1 (Autumn 1969):
69–84; Welch, “A Study Relating Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon to
Chiasmus in the Old Testament, Ugaritic Epics, Homer, and Selected Greek and
Latin Authors” (MA thesis, Brigham Young University, 1970); and Richard L.
Bushman, “The Book of Mormon and the American Revolution,” BYU Studies 17/1 (Autumn 1976): 3–20. 

21. Lynn M. and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976).

22. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient
Setting for the Book of Mormon
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985).

23. John L. Sorenson, “The
Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Codex,” Newsletter
and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A
(December 1976): 1–9.

24. David A. Palmer, In Search of
Cumorah: New Evidence for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico
(Bountiful, UT: Horizon, 1981).

25. A. Don Sorensen, “The
Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi,” FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 126. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Mormon
History Association meeting in Provo, Utah, on 11 May 1984.

26. Sorenson, “Problem of
the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi,” 137–38.

27. John W. Welch, Illuminating
the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount
(Provo, UT:
FARMS, 1999), 129. An earlier edition, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on
the Mount
, appeared in 1990.

28. John W. Welch, “The
Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount: The Differences,” in Illuminating
the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount
, 125–50.

29. Welch, Illuminating
the Sermon
, 15.

30. Welch, Illuminating
the Sermon
, 15–16.

31. Welch, Illuminating
the Sermon
, 14–15.

32. For a recent summary of this
research, see the entire issue of Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15/2 (2006).  Also, in general see
John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely, eds., Glimpses of
Lehi’s Jerusalem
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004).

33. “The Mormons. Interview:
Michael Coe,” accessed 20 October 2010,

34. “The river Sidon is
mentioned 37 times in 28 different verses with accompanying directional and
geographic information related to at least six different geographical locations.”
Lawrence Poulsen, “Lawrence  Poulsen’s Book of Mormon Geography,” accessed 20 October 2010, http://www.poulsenll.org/bom/index.html.

35. See chapters 5–7 in
John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Map (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000).

36. On this, see, for example,
John E. Clark, “Archaeological Trends and Book of Mormon Origins,” BYU Studies 44/4 (2005): 83–104.

37. This statement is a slightly
modified version of Brant Gardner’s post on Zion’s Lighthouse Message Board
(ZLMB), http://pub26.ezboard.com/bpacumenispages. Quoted in Kevin Christensen, “Truth
and Method: Reflections on Dan Vogel’s Approach to the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 309–10.

38. For example, Gardner’s
explanation of the reasons for Jacob’s discourse in “A Social History of
the Early Nephites,” accessed 13 November 2010,

39. For example, John L.
Sorenson, “The Seasonality of Warfare in the Book of Mormon,” in Nephite
Culture and Society: Selected Papers
(Salt Lake City: New Sage
Books, 1997), 155–72.

40. Brant Gardner, post on ZLMB,
http://pub26.ezboard.com/bpacumenispages. In an essay in FARMS Review 16/1, I quote Gardner on these specific correspondences at greater length. See
also Gardner’s six-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Textual Commentary on the Book
of Mormon
(Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007).

41. Thomas Kuhn, The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions
, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1971), 110.

42. See, for example, Richard
Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: Harper and Row, 1987),

43. See my study “The
Temple, the Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret
Barker,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed John W. Welch, David
Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004), 449–522.

44. High Nibley, The
Prophetic Book of Mormon
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989),

45. Gardner, Second
, 2:131, 134–35.

46. Margaret Barker, “Joseph
Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,” BYU Studies 44/4 (2005):

47. Kevin Christensen, “The
Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament,” FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 59–90.

48. Gardner, Second
, 1:40 n. 26.

49. Kevin Christensen, “Open
Questions and Suggestions regarding Isaiah in the Book of Mormon,” in Paradigms
Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Research and Its Significance for
Mormon Studies
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 2001), 77–81, referring to
John S. Thompson, “Isaiah 50–51, the Israelite Autumn Festivals, and
the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10,” in Isaiah in
the Book of Mormon
, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo,
UT: FARMS, 1998), 123–50.

50. This abstract for Margaret
Barker, “Hezekiah’s Boil,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 95 (2001), is found at http://jot.sagepub.com/content/26/1/31.abstract
(accessed 27 October 2010). Barker’s paper is accessible under a different
title, “The Original Setting of the Fourth Servant Song,” at
http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/FourthServantSong.pdf (accessed 27 October

51. Barker, “Hezekiah’s
Boil,” 38, emphasis in the original.

52. Barker, “Hezekiah’s
Boil,” 41–42.

53. Margaret Barker, The
Revelation of Jesus Christ
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 136,
emphasis in the original.

54. Margaret Barker, “Text
and Context,” in The Great High Priest (London: T&T Clark, 2003),

55. Barker, “Text and
Context,” 309.

56. Barker, “Text and
Context,” 294.

57. Robert Charles, Readers’
Forum letter in Sunstone, January–March 1983, 2–3.

58. Margaret Barker, The Older
Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian
Judaism and Early Christianity
(Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix
Press, 2005), 7.

59. Barker, Older
, 281–82.

60. Barker, Older
, 119.

61. Barker, Revelation
of Jesus Christ
, 67.

62. John A. Tvedtnes, “Jeremiah’s
Prophecies of Jesus Christ,” in The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book
of Mormon Scholar
(Bountiful, UT: Horizon, 2003), 99–101.

63. William Adams Jr., “Synagogues
in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 5–13.

64. Terrence L. Szink and John W.
Welch, “King Benjamin’s Speech in the Context of Ancient Israelite
Festivals,” in King Benjamin’s Speech: “That Ye May Learn Wisdom,” ed. John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 147–223.

65. John W. Welch, “Seeing
Third Nephi as the Holy of Holies of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of
Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture
19/1 (2010):

66. John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of
Mormon and Other Hidden Books: “Out of Darkness unto Light”
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000); William J. Hamblin, “Sacred Writing on Metal
Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean,” FARMS Review 19/1, (2007):

67. See, for instance, his paper “Theft
and Robbery in the Book of Mormon and in Ancient Near Eastern Law” (Provo,
UT: FARMS, 1985), and the chapter “Thieves and Robbers,” in Reexploring
the Book of Mormon
, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book
and FARMS, 1992). See also the section “Law in the Book of Mormon,”
in John W. Welch and Gregory J. Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), charts 114 to 127. For an in-depth study of legal
proceedings in the Book of Mormon and how they reflect ancient Near Eastern
legal practices, see John W. Welch, The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: BYU Press and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious
Scholarship, 2008).

68. For comparisons of the Book
of Mormon with the “E” source and northern kingdom traditions, see
John L. Sorenson, “The Brass Plates and Biblical Scholarship,” in Nephite
Culture and Society
(Salt Lake City: New Sage Books, 1997),

69. Richard E. Friedman, The Hidden
Book in the Bible
(San Francisco: Harper, 1998), appendixes 2 and 3.

70. See Hamblin, “Sacred
Writing on Metal Plates,” 40.

71. See, for example, in BYU Studies 44/1 (2005) the book reviews by Stirling Adams for David M. Goldberg’s The Curse of
Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
for Stephen R. Haynes’s Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery.

72. Hugh Nibley, Teachings of
the Book of Mormon: Semester 1
, lecture 18, 286–87.

73. John A. Tvedtnes, “The
Charge of ‘Racism’ in the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Review 15/2
(2003): 183–97.

74. Gardner, Second
, 2:110–23.

75. Barker, “Joseph Smith
and Preexilic Religion,” 76.

76. Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt, “Does
God Have a Wife?,” Review of Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk
Religion in Ancient Israel
, by William G. Dever, FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 100.

77. Von Feldt, “Does God
Have a Wife?,” 109–10.

78. George W. E. Nickelsburg and
James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: A New Translation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress
Press, 2004), 51.

79. See, for example, Margaret
Barker “The Enoch Tradition,” in The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God (London: SPCK, 2007).

80. Gardner, Second
, 2:188.

81. Charles, letter in Sunstone,

82. Tvedtnes, Most Correct
, 121–23.

83. Sorenson, Mormon’s Map,

84. Kuhn, Structure
of Scientific Revolutions
, 94.

85. See Louis Midgley, “The
Radical Reformation of the Reorganization of the Restoration: Recent Changes in
the RLDS Understanding of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon
2/2 (1993): 132–63.

86. Kuhn, Structure of
Scientific Revolutions
, 167.

87. Hugh W. Nibley, “Before
Adam,” accessed 1 November 2010,
http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=73. This essay is
the edited version of an address given at Brigham Young University on 1 April

88. Mark D. Thomas’s Digging in
Cumorah: Reclaiming Book of Mormon Narratives
(Salt Lake City:
Signature Books, 1999) is the most visible attempt to find something inspiring
in a fictional Book of Mormon. I agree with Alan Goff’s assessment of the
effort in FARMS
12/2 (2000): 51–82.

89. Russell is quoting Stanley B.
Kimball, Heber
C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer
(Champaign, IL: University
of Illinois Press, 1981), 16.

90. William D. Russell, “Let’s
Put Warning Labels on the Standard Works,” Sunstone, July 2004,

91. John W. Welch, “Chiasmus
in the Book of Mormon,” New Era, February 1972,

92. John L. Sorenson, “The
Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Codex,” Newsletter and Proceedings, Society for
Early Historic Archaeology
139 (1976): 1–9.

93. Kevin Christensen, “ ’Nigh
Unto Death': NDE Research and the Book of Mormon,” Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies
2/1 (1993): 1–20.

94. Russell, “Warning Labels
on the Standard Works,” 29, emphasis in original.

95. John W. Welch, “Finding
Answers to B. H. Roberts’s Questions and ‘An Unparallel,’ ”
FARMS Paper, 1985.

96. Joseph Campbell, The Power of
(New York: Doubleday, 1988) 31.

97. Ian G. Barbour, “Paradigms
in Religion,” in Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science and
(New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 135–36.