Thursday, December 31, 2009


I love the coincidence that Zelph appears as Zelf in Dr. Seuss's nonsense story A Wocket in my Pocket.

"And that Zelf up on the shelf, I have talked to her myself."

Zelph, for the unaware, was the name Joseph Smith gave to a skeleton he found in Southern Illinois, claiming the remains belonged to one Zelph, a Lamanite warrior.

I find it implausible that the skeleton belonged to a Lamanite and not just because I don't believe the Lamanites ever existed except in JS's imagination.

Has more excavation been done to see if there are other Lamanites buried there?

What are the odds of JS finding the remains of a Book of Mormon character at a random site? Probably about the same as him finding papyri written by the hand of Abraham. Which is to say, slim to none.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Isaiah authorship

One of the more troubling aspects of higher criticism was the dates of the book of Isaiah, which may have had two or three authors. In short, the writings hadn't been written before Lehi left for the Americas.

Here's a defense offered by a writer at the Maxwell Institute: He says, channeling BH Roberts, such critics show the "unwillingness of modern scholars to accept the possibility of miracles, including foreknowledge of the future by prophets."

To me, this is a tacit admission that there probably were multiple writers of Isaiah, and the dates are problematic for the BOM, so the answer must be that Lehi or Nephi were given them before the fact by an act of God.

This does not strike me as a satisfactory answer. Miracles can be used to explain away anything. It's seen as a trump card when I view it as fallacious. Which Isaiah was Jesus referring to, then, when he said "Great are the words of Isaiah?" And why didn't Nephi tell us those sections were obtained via a miracle?

Or maybe the answer is because the BOM was written by Joseph Smith and this is one of several anachronistic elements.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Here is an example of a thought that put a crack in my faith: Is our God one who does things by fiat, that is, by command ("Let their be light") or one who is hands-on?

In Genesis, both types of a deity are described. There is the god I have described as above, and the one who, in Genesis 3, walks about the Garden, seemingly doesn't know where Adam is, and fashions our first parents a pair of clothes by his own hands.

Now, the Mormon answer may be that Elohim does the ordering, Jehovah does the acting. But does that jive with textual criticism? I don't think so.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


"The playwright who wrote the folio of this world wrote it badly (He gave us light first and the sun two days later)." - james joyce's Ulysses.

Do Mormons have an explanation or a conjecture as to what that first light might refer to? All my days in the fold I never got an answer. In my hope to maintain my membership, I used to tell myself it was the light of the intelligences, congregating on the moment of the creation.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Among other words, the Tetragrammaton appeared on a cup of some kind (it was thought to be priestly) recently discovered in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is thought to be 2,000 years old.

Once again it gave me reason to pause and marvel at such a wonderful find (I get a real charge out of history you can stare in the face) as well as have reconfirmed the implausibility of JS finding a complete ancient book of records near his home in New York. Especially one that had so much to say about the ministry of Jesus Christ and not YHWH or some other ancient deity.

Has there been a strong argument put forth why Jesus didn't mind being called Jehovah when recent scholarship has shown his name was probably Yahweh? Something besides "Well, that's the learning JS had at the time." Surely JC would correct his name...

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Continuing down a ways in Hebrews 6, the author (maybe Paul, maybe not) has a striking piece of doctrine: no repentance after baptism for those who have "fallen away." The text does not specify what acts constitute this type of apostasy.

It's a little hard to unpack, so I recommend a translation other than the King James Version. I'd post the verses here, but I want to keep these posts short and readable.

For a person in my position, once full of belief, now full of unbelief, it strikes a chord. The God of this author wouldn't let me back in the fold even if I so desired.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

JST: Hebrews 6

Joseph Smith attempted a translation of the Bible. He, like many interpreters before him, sought to iron out the parts that didn't quite make sense.

So in Hebrews 6:1, he changed "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection..." to read "Therefore not leaving the principles of Christ, let us go on unto perfection..."

Now, I'm not 100% sure what the author intended to say with this verse (it seems to me he was saying "let's not talk about the stuff we already know about Jesus, the basic stuff"), but it seems pretty clear Joseph slapping the word "not" in there as a means to fix what he perceived was a contradiction raises more issues than it fixes, and shows to me he didn't know exactly what the verse was saying, either.

One issue it raises was how inspired Joseph was when he did his translations. If he was wrong or misguided in translating the Letter to the Hebrews, it opens up questions regarding his other translations.

The Mormon footnote in the King James Version doesn't seem to agree with the Prophet, either.


Mormons regard the Old Testament figure Melchizedek with great admiration. Their highest priesthood bears his name. They teach that his name means "king of righteousness," something they get from the New Testament's Letter to the Hebrews.

My HarperCollins Bible tells me the name actually means "Zedek [a Canaanite deity] is my king," though they say the king of righteousness label is understandable, just technically incorrect.