Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ten Ancient Mistakes III

Continuing our series taken from a business article on ten mistakes not to make we look at:

#3 Terrible Money Management

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, provides an excellent example of bad management, and arguably of terrible money management. Rehoboam grew up as the spoiled son of an extravagant father. When his father died, Rehoboam became heir to Solomon's empire. His subjects came to him asking for relief from the heavy tax burden that they bore (1 Kings 12:4). The old men advised Rehoboam to listen to the people (1 Kings 12:6-7), but the young men advised him to live it up on luxuries that others had earned (1 Kings 12:10-11). Rehoboam rejected the advice of the old timers and listened instead to the young bucks (1 Kings 12:8). As a result, the ten tribes revolted against him and he lost the empire so carefully built up by his forefathers. He faced the prospect of greatly diminished revenues. This did not become clear to him until the tax-collector he sent to collect those revenues was stoned by the people to whom the tax-collector was sent (1 Kings 12:18). A move that cuts off one's prospect of future revenues is arguably a terrible management mistake.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "The Unsolved Loyalty Problem" CWHN 10:224:
Conformity can be had by bribery, flattery, or force, but one can no more legislate loyalty than one can legislate love, of which it is a part.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:

If Jesus had not rescued us from death, there would be ultimate misery. If his ministry is viewed as merely mortal, it is robbed of its real relevance. In the midst of such doctrinal disarray stands the church of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder there is such a sharp reaction from the forces of him who sought the Saviorship for himself.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today's Nibley Quote

From "Nobody to Blame" CWHN 17:125:
Seen in proper perspective, the doings of the learned are high comedy, and we who profess publicly and for a fee are fair game for any criticism, as Justice Learned Hand has noted in a significant decision: "It is indeed not true that all ridicule . . . or all disagreeable comment . . . is actionable; a man must not be too thin-skinned or a self important prig."

On Print and Digital

There are certain advantages which the various media have. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of the various media is necessary to know how best to use them. Many today are pushing the value of digital media, but I think it worthwhile to highlight one of the virtues of print.

For example, consider the book Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem. This book examines the cultural background of Jerusalem at the beginning of the sixth century BC. It thus provides a look at the world that was the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Although it available digitally, the digital version does not have the photo essay with the beautiful photographs. (Consequently all the chapter numbers after the second chapter are off by one.) One of the harder things to convey in words is what things actually looked like. So if you are interested in what life was like in the time of Jeremiah (or Lehi), you ought to obtain a copy of the print version of the book. (It is still in print and well worth the perusal.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Look Back at Sodom (1975), 33:
This small volume is dedicated to the decent people of the earth everywhere who have--
  • learned from human experience what happens when badness becomes a way of life . . .
  • shunned cleverness in favor of honesty . . .
  • developed a deep and practical morality that flashes warnings to them when something, or someone, is phony or bad . . .
  • been content to go unheralded, to make few demands of governments, and to abide (up to a point) the actions of others, thus making freedom possible for all, including the clever and the bad!

Integrity in Utopia

The word Utopia is a corruption of Greek οὖ τόπος "no place" with a suffix denoting place. It was supposed to mean something like "nowhere" because it does not exist.

Ronald Millet has a thought provoking piece on the necessity of integrity in a utopia.

I would actually extend his piece. One simply cannot have an ideal society without integrity. It is impossible to work with people who cannot be trusted.

For example, in a utopia one does not especially need to have anything in writing because the integrity of those involved will cause them to keep their agreements whether they were in writing or not. Without integrity verbal agreements are worthless because they are not honored. Instead they are a means by which people can be freely dishonest: Such individuals tell people what they think they want to hear to manipulate them for selfish purposes and then deny it later because they think there is no record of it. In this world, as opposed to utopia, an untrustworthy individual who insists on not putting anything in writing is being openly and deliberately dishonest.

An example of the havoc wrecked without integrity can be found by considering the case of Abdi-Ashirta, the ruler of Amurru, in the El-Amarna correspondence. The modern reader who sorts through the correspondence can see that other officials were constantly complaining to the Egyptian ruler of Abdi-Ashirta abuses of them and their people. Rib-Addi, the ruler of Byblos, complained of Adbi-Ashirta's use of murder and subversion. Abdi-Ashirta would then protest his innocence to his Egyptian overlords while falsely claiming his loyalty to Egypt and claiming to act in their interests and doing their bidding.

The late Bill Murnane describes it this way:
A strong and independent kingdom of Amurru was incompatible with its current status in the Egyptian empire—especially with its resident commissioner at Sumur, on the coast, within easy reach of Egypt by sea. The house of Abdi-Ashirta was thus committed to a dangerous double game: to dislodge the commissioner, but also to keep him out by constituting the kings of Amurru as defenders of imperial interests in the locality. (William J. Murnane, The Road to Kadesh, 2nd ed. [Chicago: Oriental Institute, ], 6.)
And so it was
when Abdi-Ashirta came to power in Amurru, . . . the Egyptians were already having trouble keeping possession of Sumur—the result, perhaps, of the unsettled conditions that Abdi-Ashirta's campaign of subversion had unleashed within Amurru? In any case, the commissioner had retired to Egypt, and Abdi-Ashirta could write to him (perhaps disingenuously) that the city had been virtually undefended when he had rescued it from marauding warrior bands. With Sumur thus under his control, Abdi-Ashirta could beleaguer meighboring city-states at his leisure, and at one point Rib-Addi even claimed that his territory was reduced to the very environs of Byblos. (Murnane, Road to Kadesh, 6.)
When Tushratta, the king of Mitanni (the neighboring super-power to the northeast) sent his armies in, Abdi-Ashirta immediately threw his lot in with Mitanni against Egypt.

One might make the case that Abdi-Ashirta was merely a canny administrator. That may be, but he did not have integrity. As a consequence, the Levant at the end of Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty was anything but a utopia.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ten Ancient Mistakes II

Continuing with our examination of the ancient versions of ten mistakes we look at:

#2 Corrupt Culture

In the modern form, it is summarized this way:
Organizations that mistreat employees and abuse customers are ripe for failure. Firms that base their philosophies on "win-lose" thinking, seeking to take advantage of relationships, can neither survive nor prosper. Such an approach generally begins with leadership that is arrogant and greedy. They in turn hire and promote mangers of the same attitude and behavior.
Two examples of this come to mind.

First, the annona was a Roman welfare institution. Taxes in the form of food were collected across the empire and distributed to the citizens of Rome. Roman citizens were entitled to a living provided by Roman subjects, but always found it insufficient for their wants. An immense amount of wealth was redistributed because of the annona. While Augustus initially hesitated to entrust such wealth to a single corruptible individual, he later did so by establishing the praefectus annonae. Under Tiberius, the praefectus annonae manipulated grain supplies and prices, almost completely ruining the grain merchants in Rome.

Apuleius (Metamorphoses 1.24-25) makes fun of the local curator of the annona, who runs into a friend in the marketplace, sees that he has a basket of fish, and immediately determines that his friend has been ripped off. He drags his friend, who was satisfied with the fish and the exchange, back to the merchant, berates the merchant and has the fish dumped out on the pavement and tramples them to pieces. So in the name of getting his friend better food, destroys the food that his friend has. The friend loses his fish and money in the bargain. The scene is played for ironic comedy but the corruption of the annona was well-known.

Second, over a millennium earlier (about 1500-1350 BC), in the town of Nuzi, just before its destruction, a series of indictments against the former mayor, Kushshiharpe, show just how corrupt the towns culture was. Graft was a way of life. Bribes were expected. One historian describes it this way:
Misappropriation of public funds, acceptance of bribes, aggravated acceptance of bribes ("aggravated" because the quid pro quo was never tendered), extortion, theft, aggravated theft (i.e., breaking and entering), kidnapping, abduction to rape, rape---all the usual crimes we associate with political corruption---are attested in these texts. (Maynard Paul Maidman, Nuzi Texts and Their Uses as Historical Evidence [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010], 7).
Of course, Kushshiharpe denied all the accusations. Lying was a way of life for a corrupt politician. Most intriguing is that this corruption was rife just before Nuzi was destroyed.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "The Unsolved Loyalty Problem" CWHN 10:224:
Loyalty is one of the few words in existence about whose meaning dispute is virtually impossible. Everyone knows what loyalty is, and what a desirable, nay indispensable thing it is to the survival of any community. Like honor and chastity, it is strongest when least talked about, and thrives only in a climate of uncritical acceptance. A virtuous investigation of loyalty is like a noisy oration in praise of silence, and the appearance of loyalty order and loyalty legislation such as are found in the Theodosian Code and elsewhere is a sign of lost confidence, a desperate groping in empty air for something which groping fingers only push father out of reach.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
The tests of obedience are always "to whom?" and "to what?" Obedience is not blind faith but following the glimpses we get when seeing with the eye of faith. Obedience is not shrinking from adventure and agency; it is an opening up. Obedience is not being glad to have someone else relieve us of our responsibility.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Today's Nibley Quote

From "Nobody to Blame" CWHN 17:127:
By its very nature the university is the rival of the Church; its historic mission has been to supply the guiding light which passed away with the loss of revelation, and it can make no concessions to its absolute authority without forfeiting that authority.

Ten Ancient Mistakes I

About a month ago, I mentioned a newspaper article about ten business mistakes never to make. While I applied it mainly to higher education, it also applies to the ancient world. So here are the mistakes looked at in an ancient context.

#1 Dishonesty

One of the more interesting examples of dishonesty is Ramses II. When Ramses II went up against the city of Qadesh, he was lucky to come back alive. The Hittites routed the Egyptians and plundered the camp. They almost killed Ramses II too. Fortunately for Ramses, he was able to snatch a stalemate out of the jaws of defeat. He retreated to Egypt but the Hittites followed him taking Egyptian territories behind him.

When he got back to Egypt, Ramses portrayed the battle as a great victory for Egypt and even had poetic verses praising his accomplishments composed. One wonders how many of the soldiers who were at the battle believed Ramses' account. These days, we do not believe Ramses because we also have the Hittite accounts of the battle. As a result, many wonder if he was really as brave as he claimed. Given that he never went on campaign again, one might be forgiven for having doubts.

Ramses II was dishonest in another way. He would take the monuments of earlier pharaohs and carve his name in place of theirs, thus giving the appearance that he was a more prolific builder than he actually was. He really did not need to do so because he was a prolific builder in his own right and because of his lengthy reign, he outbuilt most pharaohs. As a consequence, when scholars see Ramses' name on a monument, the first thing they ask is if he really built it.

In the long run, dishonesty disgraces those who engage in it and diminishes what might otherwise be significant accomplishments.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Whom the Lord Loveth (2003), 15-16:
The last days will be discouraging, with dizzying inversions of good being called evil, and evil good (Isaiah 5:20; 2 Nephi 2:5; 15:20; D&C 64:16). This form of vertigo produces worldly individuals who either have trouble drawing the line or holding the line against evil.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Lesson from Chrysophylax

This is a quote from one of Tolkien's lesser known works, Farmer Giles of Ham:
They were, of course, very foolish. For though the oaths he had taken should have burdened his conscience with sorrow and a great fear of disaster, he had, alas! no conscience at all.
 Chrysophylax today might be rather commonplace.

On Today's Mormon Odditorium

Today's Mormon Odditorium has a great feature on John B. Floyd, which is very good and very lengthy (for the Odditorium) and well worth the read. It is too lengthy, however, to post here.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "The Unsolved Loyalty Problem" CWHN 10:196-197:
To the Roman mind, fides, a sense of personal reciprocal obligation, was the key to peace and secutiry in life--the very essence of the social order.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
As the veil of unbelief thickens around the globe, nothing can rend "the dark veil of unbelief" (Alma 19:6) that is not sharp, piercing, bright, and true. Dull disciples will not light the way nor draw people to the kingdom. The philosophies of the world cannot do it, for so far as having some saving and consequential core to them, such philosophies are like peeling an onion. Perhaps that is why we cry when we peel onions.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A View from the Looking Glass

From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 4:
"The first thing I've got to do," said Alice to herself, as she wandered about in the wood, "is to grow to my right size again; and the second thing is to find my way into that lovely garden. I think that will be the best plan."
It sounded an excellent plan, no doubt, and very neatly and simply arranged: the only difficulty was, that she had not the smallest idea how to set about it.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "How to Get Rich" CWHN 9:198:
This is the Book of Mormon situation also, which is characteristic only of Israel to this degree; other nations have sinned and suffered, and they are still in existence, still sinning and suffering, after thousands of years; but in the Old World, and the New, Israel was smashed and scattered. Epidemics, war and drought will wipe you out.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A More Excellent Way (1967), 34:
One of the great qualities Jesus had was his ability to demand of his disciples quality in thought and action, which, while temporarily uncomfortable, finally produced a cohesive kind of loyalty based on a sense of accomplishment which all followers very much need to have. One wonders if the tolerance of unnecessary mediocrity in others isn't at some deep level of consciousness, a way of protecting ourselves or excusing ourselves for our own personal mediocrity.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mesoamerican Directions

Brant Gardner has a good discussion of Mesoamerican directions here.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "We Will Still Weep for Zion" CWHN 9:368:
It is the stubborn insistence on having it both ways, keeping parts of the law that content them while putting the rest on hold, that generates those crippling contradictions that mark our present condition.

Sorting Out the Ezras

The nomenclature of the various Ezras can be confusing. This is because the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate all use similar names in different ways to refer to the same set of texts.

From the Hebrew Bible point of view
Ezra is 2 Esdras 1-10 in the Septuagint and 1 Ezra in the Vulgate.
Nehemiah is 2 Esdras 11-23 in the Septuagint and 2 Ezra in the Vulgate.

From the Septuagint point of view
1 Esdras is 3 Ezra in the Vulgate.
2 Esdras 1-10 is Ezra in the Hebrew Bible and 1 Ezra in the Vulgate.
2 Esdras 11-23 is Nehemiah in the Hebrew Bible and 2 Ezra in the Vulgate.

From the Vulgate point of view
1 Ezra is Ezra in the Hebrew Bible and 2 Esdras 1-10 in the Septuagint.
2 Ezra is Nehemiah in the Hebrew Bible and 2 Esdras 11-12 in the Septuagint.
3 Ezra is 1 Esdras in the Septuagint.

Working among the Bible versions in Ezra is thus particularly confusing.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
The reactions to us will vary: there will be the almost Agrippas, the puzzled Pilates, the timid Van Burens, and the stout Colonel Kanes, and, of course, there will be some scorn and some rage. But deep within the rage and the scorn, if one listens closely, are the sounds of profound pain, hushed hope, and of doubt beginning to doubt itself.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today's Nibley Quote

From "Before Adam" CWHN 1:80:
Primitive man is the easiest thing in the world to imagine. Just look at your neighbor. . . . I have never found students the least hesitant to write papers on "A Day in the Life of Primitive Man." They know all about it. They don't have to look up a thing.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Whom the Lord Loveth (2003), 19:

In a time when "all things shall be in commotion" (D&C 88:91), it will take the anchoring rivets of the Restoration to keep things from buckling, bending, and sliding. When things slide, they always slide down, never up!

Unusual Marriage Arrangements

At the end of 1 Esdras is a remarkable passage. A group of people, including many priests, approaches Ezra and says:
We are sinning against the Lord and we have married foreign wives for the nations of the land (1 Esdras 8:89).
The problem is actually with the word I have translated as married in the quotation. The word is συνῳκίσαμεν which actually means to cohabit or to shack up.

Later Ezra tells them:
You have worked iniquity by cohabiting (συνῳκίσατε) with foreign wives and added sin to Israel (1 Esdras 9:7).
The author (I am not certain that 1 Esdras was translated) refuses to acknowledge that the individuals were married (although it slips through in 1 Esdras 9:12), and so uses the verb to cohabit instead in an effort to portray the relationship as illegitimate. The sin is having any sort of relationship with a Gentile rather than the nature of the relationship. The author of 1 Esdras views being a Gentile as a greater sin than having illegitimate sexual relations. The solution proposed is for the men to divorce the women and disown their children (1 Esdras 9:9, 17-36). Even the priests are pardoned if "they divorced them and their children" (1 Esdras 9:36).

The Book of Mormon takes a different view of this sort of situation (Jacob 2:23-35; Alma 39:5).

From the apocryphal Ezra's point of view mass divorce was a better arrangement. Somehow I doubt that the wives and children thought so.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Costly Apparel

The insightful Ramsay MacMullen in his book, The Second Church (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), 107-108 talks about the struggle between the clergy and the laity in the early Christian Church:
Individual bishops forbade the adoption or advertising of martyrs unlicensed; new ones went on appearing. The authorities also showed their hostility to traditional forms of worship: you shouldn't dance, as only the heathen did; or you should do so, but only shuffling your feet a little; you shouldn't make it a party, or sing too loud, or throw happy glances about, and you certainly shouldn't have enough wine to affect your behavior. . . . If it was a dinner put on for religion, then--no interrupting, nor arguing or rude words, no reaching around the table, and always, modest portions. Leave a bit on the plate. A Christian also would be well advised to avoid memorial picnics for the dead--this, a real problem, given the universal importance of the rites and their deep roots in people's feelings and traditions. The proper manners were thus taught to you by your betters, whose manners at their own dinners were so different and whose clothes made you ashamed of your own.
Shades of 1 Nephi 13:8-9:
8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.

9 And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "The Way of the Church" CWHN 251-52:
The verses which a translator puts down in and under the name of a great poet can never be greater than his own verses would be. True, he may be working under the powerful and constant stimulation of the glorious page at his elbow; but the example and inspiration of the original, while they may give him the uncontrollable urge to compose matchless poetry, can, alas! never give him the ability to do so. If it could, America would have produced as many immortal bards as it has professors of English.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Let us be articulate, for while our defense of the kingdom may not stir all hearers, the absence of thoughtful response may cause fledglings among the faithful to falter. What we assert may not be accepted, but unasserted convictions soon become deserted convictions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Whom the Lord Loveth (2003), 25:
One less-noticed abuse of power occurs when some allow themselves to be intimidated or blinded by the persuasive skills and domineering sophistry of others. We have seen it on a gross scale in the consequences of the blood-drenched dictators of World War II. Surely, "when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn" (Proverbs 29:2). Being taken in also occurs subtly and in small ways, too, whereby we see how those whose thirst for dominion exceeds their regard for others, whom they use repetitively and unapologetically.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "Nobody to Blame" CWHN 17:139:
We respect our local Gelehrten for that knowledge and proficiency which they have demonstrated to the world, but when they go out of bounds and attack the Church with specious learning, they invite legitimate censure. They are like dentists who insist on performing delicate brain surgery because that is more interesting than filling teeth. Nice for them--but what about their patients?

Asking the Wrong Questions IV

Mr. Lauer's fourth question is:
I understand that Dr. Ritner’s view of the interpretation of the text differs material [sic] from your view. Are there other ancient Egyptian documents in such dispute?
Which text are you talking about? And what do you mean by interpretation?

If you mean the Book of Abraham, then yes, our view differs. This is a natural consequence of denominational affiliation or lack thereof.

If you mean the Joseph Smith Papyri, then it depends on what you mean by interpretation. If you mean interpretation of the signs, it would depend on which of Professor Ritner's editions you refer to because Professor Ritner's readings of the papyri differ between his editions. If you mean interpretation of the words, then you might find Egyptologists in vigorous debate about which grammar theories are being used and what shade of meaning is given to various terms where you might see slightly different ways of saying the same thing, much as you would experience comparing two different Bible translations. We might see a significant difference where you might not.

The biggest problem is that I have never published my interpretation (in the sense of translation) of either the Joseph Smith Papyri or the Book of Abraham. I simply have not seen any compelling need to publish my own interpretation of more than isolate passages from the Joseph Smith Papyri. As for the Book of Abraham, since I am not one of those who thinks that we currently have the original text of the Book of Abraham, it is pointless to try to make my own translation.

Now for the second part of the question:
Are there other ancient Egyptian documents in such dispute?
Absolutely! Two immediately come to mind. One is the dispute between Martin Stadler and Joachim Quack about the interpretation of a line in Papyrus Insinger. Another would be the disagreements between Joachim Spiegel, Hartwig Altenmuller, Jürgen Osing, James Allen, and Harold Hayes about the Pyramid Texts. One can also look at the long-running disputes between Professor Ritner and Christopher Faraone about the interpretation of one of the PGM, or between Professor Ritner and any of a number of his colleagues.

To see why this is a bad question, one need look only to the Bible. Is a Calvinist going to interpret Romans the same way a Catholic is? Does the fact that the Calvinist does not interpret the text the same way that the Catholic does make the Calvinist automatically wrong?

Same Sad News, More Details

More and more on the mess in Egyptology at Yale.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Today's Nibley Quote

From "How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book" CWHN 11:487:
The average reviewer is the last person in the world to be seriously critical of sources (why should he seek for trouble?) and will be only too glad to go along with a writer who is good enough to include real names from time to time among the usual harvest of "it is said," "it was reported," "it was believed," etc.

Asking the Wrong Questions III

Mr. Lauer's third question is:
Who has access to view/study the Joseph Smith papyri [sic] in the LDS church’s possession?
Those who can best answer this question are the owner's of the papyri. I have made some observations about the process here.

The question can further be asked what can one gain by looking at the original that one cannot observe from the high resolution photographs available in this publication. Unless one has some specialized training working with papyri, I cannot see what a typical person would get that they could not get in the already available material.

Hunkering Down

The Democratic political observer, Frank Pignanelli, makes the following insightful observation:
"Hunkering down" is no longer a viable tactic in 21st-century politics.
From what I have been able to observe, this seems correct. "Hunkering down" assumes that certain constituencies will either not find out about act or will forget about it. The former is unlikely in an age where sins are shouted from the housetops or over the internet. The latter is unlikely among constituency groups that have a big stake in the issue.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Let us not be dismayed if the critics of the kingdom exploit our personal errors and work on our individual weaknesses and pounce upon our failures. Let us not forget that the meridian-day saints also knew what it was like when "all hell is moved."

Sunday, January 20, 2013


The scribe Ezra (or Esdras in Greek) makes his first appearance in the Septuagint book bearing his name in the eighth or penultimate chapter. There is introduced as a "priest and reader of the law of the Lord" (1 Esdras 8:8).

The phrase "reader of the law of the Lord" is of some interest. The term translated here as reader is ἀναγνώστην. This same term is used hundreds of years later by the Christians as an ecclesiastical term for an office in the Church. The Latin word is the one used for the duty, lector. The lector then had very much the same task that Ezra himself had: to read scripture to the people.

So here is another early Christian institution that has its roots in the Old Testament.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Whom the Lord Loveth (2003), 3:
Laman and Lemuel didn't really understand God's dealings with His children (1 Nephi 2:12; Mosiah 10:14). Such inadequate understanding of God's plans and ways causes some to look elsewhere, erroneously, to alternative ways, "which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12).

Today's Nibley Quote

From The World and the Prophets CWHN 3:128-129:
A first-rate and very broad-minded scientist, J. B. S. Haldane, defines prejudice as "an opinion held without examining the evidence." Prejudice does not consist in having made up one's mind--in defending an opinion with fervor and determination--as too many liberals seem to think; it consists in forming an opinion before all the evidence has been considered.

A Reader's Comment

I received the following comment on this blog post:
I was going to comment (if comments weren't disabled for what are probably excellent reasons) that an even better analogy might be the number of evangelicals who are aware of the controversies over the authorship of certain Pauline epistles.
Outside of those who interact with Biblical scholarship, most evangelicals I doubt are aware that the authorship of several of Paul's epistles is hotly contested, and it's a given, even among many conservative scholars, that he didn't write the Pastorals.
Is the evangelical movement not true because most evangelicals have a mistaken view of the historical background of Ephesians or 2 Thessalonians?
I guess that I did not think of that analogy because I am skeptical of some of the arguments on the authorship of Paul's epistles. It also seems to me that Paul's epistles are much more central to Evangelical thought than the Joseph Smith Papyri are to Latter-day Saint thought. On the other hand, I cannot recall the last time I have seen the book of Nahum cited in evangelical literature. I know that evangelicals have written commentaries on it and I would not be surprised if I agreed with much that they might have to say on the subject, but Nahum does not seem to be on most Evangelical's radar screens. The same could be said of Habakkuk. The Joseph Smith Papyri are probably of less importance to most Latter-day Saints than the book of Nahum is to most Evangelicals because Latter-day Saints do not think of the Joseph Smith Papyri as being "God-breathed" the way that Evangelicals think of anything in the Bible (which presumably includes Nahum) as being "God-breathed."

It seems to me that one of the problems that appears in dialogues between Evangelicals and members of the Church of Jesus Christ is that Evangelicals have a view of scripture that does not allow for any mistakes or errors. They view scripture as "God-breathed" and perfect. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ, however, do not think that their scriptures are perfect. The Book of Mormon tells them that there are errors in the Bible and that the Book of Mormon is not perfect, and that neither is complete. Thus some Evangelicals think that if they can find even one error in the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ, that that error invalidates the entire scripture and the entire Church. We simply do not see it that way.

From Today's Mormon Odditorium

Today's quote from the Mormon Odditorium is:
I believe, if you will take the whole circle of the history of apostates from this church, that in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred you will find that the spirit of adultery or covetousness was the original cause. There was a man name John Smith came into the Church, and was somewhat prominent in the State of Indiana. He preached some little, and was considered quite zealous; but he said he had prove that the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was not true; "For it says," said he, "that if a man shall commit adultery, and not repent of it, he shall lose the Spirit of God, and shall deny the faith. Now, I have done it, and have not denied the faith; and so I have proved that the revelation in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants is not from God." The spirit of blindness had so taken possession of him that he could not see that when he was proclaiming that the revelations were not true, he was denying the faith. That spirit has such an effect over the human mind as totally to blind them in relation to their own acts and the spirit that governs them. (George A. Smith, January 1858, JD 7:114-115.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Asking the Wrong Questions II

The second of Dave Lauer's questions is:
What work (if any) is being done now in regards to the Joseph Smith papyri [sic]? If work is being done, by whom and with what objective?
I am the co-chair of a project dealing with research on the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith Papyri. There are a number of individuals doing research on those subjects. I know about their research but I leave them the right to announce their results for themselves. So I am not at liberty to discuss their work in public before they have a chance to do so themselves. To do so would not be fair to them. Nor am I in the habit of announcing my own work until it appears in print. I do have at least article dealing with one aspect of the Joseph Smith Papyri in press in a non-Mormon scholarly venue. I have a number that are already in print. You can find them here, here, here, here, and in a few other publications that do not even have any sort of internet link.

There are thirteen publications that purport to be Egyptological publications of the Joseph Smith Papyri. Thirteen in forty-six years, that is one every three and a half years! (For a list when there were only twelve, see note 42 in this article.) I can think of no other Egyptian papyrus that has been published so frequently. While I can think of fruitful lines of research on the papyri that have not yet been done, I think that most of the publications of the papyri themselves were probably unnecessary and whose main purpose appears to be to boost the egos of the authors rather than advance the understanding of the papyri. I have not felt the need to do my own edition because there are already good editions out there. Some of them even use legal photographs of the papyri with permission of the owners.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "Nobody to Blame" CWHN 17:135:
Forty sparrows do not make an eagle, forty house cats do not make a lion, and forty survey courses do not make a scholar. Moreover, if you bring together forty men, each of whom knows a little Latin or math, the result is not the equivalent of consulting just one person with a good knowledge of those subjects.
This, of course, is the problem with crowd sourcing.


I said here that E. Gordon Gee was my seventh cousin. I was mistaken. An avid genealogist has pointed out to me that he is my fourth cousin once removed. My apologies.

From the January 18th Mormon Odditorium

The editor of the Mormon Odditorium must have been inspired. Here is yesterday's entry:
I recollect when I first began to discern the operation of the spirit of apostacy [sic]. A small company of us started for Zion. One of the company (Norman A. Brown) lost a horse. This man had been baptized for the remission of sins, rejoiced in the light of truth, and started to gather with the Saints; but his horse died. "Now," said he, "is it possible that this is the work of God? If this had been the work of God, my horse would not have died when I was going to Zion." He apostatized, fought against the work of God, and died a miserable, lingering, and unhappy death; and all because of so great a trial as the loss of a horse. Joseph H. Wakefield, who baptized me, after having apostatized from the Church, announced to the astonished world the fact that, while he was a guest in the house of Joseph Smith, he had absolutely seen the Prophet come down from the room where he was engaged in translating the word of God, and actually go to playing with the children! This convinced him that the Prophet was not a man od God, and that the work was false, which, to me and hundreds of others, he had testified that he knew came from God. He afterwards headed a mob meeting, and took the lead in bringing about a persecution against the Saints in Kirtland and the regions around about. (George A. Smith, January 1858, JD 7:112-113.

From the January 17th Mormon Odditorium

I have been remiss in posting worthwhile quotes from the Mormon Odditorium. This one was for January 17th:
Why is it that our spirits are not always joyous? There may be many different reasons. One reason is that we do not always live our religion. We give way to vanity, frivolity, and nonsense too much, and sometimes to dishonesty and fraud; we do things that are not right and adopt practices that are not good; and when this is the case, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved, and it wanders from us, and we are left to grope in the dark; the visions of eternity are shut out from our minds, and we see through another medium than that of the Spirit of God. . . . We forget, sometimes, that we are the Saints of God; we forget that we have dedicated ourselves to the Lord, with all that we have; and we forget our high calling and our future destiny. We forget, sometimes, that we are engaged, with many others, in establishing righteousness and planting the kingdom of God upon the earth; and we condescend to little meannesses, and become forgetful of the great and glorious calling to which we are called. . . . We forget that God and angels are looking upon us; we forget that the spirits of just men made perfect and our ancient fathers, who are looking forward to the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth, are gazing upon us, and that our acts are open to the inspection of all the authorized agencies of the invisible world. And, forgetting these things sometimes, we act the part of fools, and the Spirit of God is grieved; it withdraws from us, and we are then lefft to grope our way in the dark. But if we could live our religion, fear God, be strictly honest, observe his laws and statues, and keep his commandments to do them, we should feel very different; we should feel comfortable and happy; our spirits would be peaceful and buoyant; and from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, our joys would increase. (John Taylor, January 17, 1858, JD 6:165.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
How can we expect to be a part of such momentous developments as these and yet expect to pass unnoticed so far as the people of the world are concerned? Surely we will not pass unnoticed in our righteous endeavors so far as the adversary is concerned. In 1820 he noticed an obscure teenage lad going into an obscure grove to pray—of all the prayers offered that day, why bother that boy? But it was sufficiently clear to Satan what was about to transpire.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Today's Nibley Quote

From "How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book" CWHN 11:479-80:
Rule 5: Proclaim your love for the Mormon people.  . . . On the same page on which she declares her undying love for the Mormon people, Mrs. Young issues the call: "Mormonism is entitled to no mercy; it invites fire and the sword. The American people must therefore continue their holy crusade against this antichristian system." But who could possibly be the victims of the fire and sword if not her beloved Mormon people?

Asking the Wrong Questions I

Dave Lauer may be a very nice man. I wouldn't know. What I do know is that (1) he works for Calvary Chapel in Boise, Idaho where he is developing a "Witnessing to Mormons" class called Grace Works, (2) that he misrepresented himself when he first contacted me in November, and (3) that he has been harassing the poor receptionists with his phone calls. (They do not deserve the harassment.)

He sent me a list of questions for me to answer. Given that he was willing to misrepresent himself I am certain that he would have little compunction about misrepresenting me so I have elected to make my answers public. So I am posting them in this forum.

The first question is
What do you believe is the relationship between the Joseph Smith papyri [sic] and the Book of Abraham and how have you come to this conclusion?
This is the problem of substituting opinion for evidence. It helps to set up a straw man argument. Drawing one opinion of a group may not be representative of a group. Remember Pauline Kael's famous remark after Nixon won by a landslide in 1972: "I only know one person who voted for Nixon." Pauline Kael's circle of acquaintance was obviously not representative of the larger population. I prefer to deal with the entire spectrum of views rather than the particular one I hold.

As I have discussed herehere, here, here, and here, and elsewhere, there is not one Latter-day Saint position on the relationship between the Joseph Smith Papyri and the Book of Abraham, but three and none of them are the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because there is no official position. I have laid them out as follows:
1. The text of the Book of Abraham was translated from papyri that we currently have. (Or, from the unbelieving perspective, Joseph Smith thought that the text of the Book of Abraham was on papyri that we currently have.)

2. The text of the Book of Abraham was translated from (or Joseph Smith thought the text of the Book of Abraham was on) papyri that we do not currently have.

3. The text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation independent of the papyri.

Of these three positions, the first seems to be a minority viewpoint espoused by few if any members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of the remaining two options, the last is preferred by a majority of the members of the church who care about this issue. Most members find the issue unimportant.
(I have a friend I respect very much who is involved in Mormon Studies and who questions my assertion that position 3 is the most popular; he thinks position 2 is. I agree that we need better and more recent data on this issue. Either way, it is clear that those who hold the last two position dwarf the number who hold the first.)

At this point, my personal beliefs are irrelevant because positions 2 and 3 are the positions most favored by believing Latter-day Saints. This has two implications. The easiest straw man to attack to attack is position 1 but few Latter-day Saints believe that position. So if one rails against position 1 then the typical Latter-day Saint who knows anything at all about the issue will simply shrug her shoulders and say: "So what?" One must deal with both positions 2 and 3 on the issue and the two points of view have very different assumptions and implications.

One implication of the two positions that poses a problem for Mr. Lauer and others who deal with this issue is that in neither case is the identification of the texts on the current fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri important. They happen to be a portion of the Book of the Dead and a portion of an abbreviated version of the so-called Document of Breathings made by Isis, but they could be Homer's Odyssey or the Instructions of Onchsheshonqy, or the Law Code of Hammurapi for all that it matters to Latter-day Saints. Most Latter-day Saints do not think that the Book of Abraham is or was on the current fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri and so it does not matter to them what text is there. Thus the opinions of Egyptologists and other experts about the identification of those texts is moot.

One does not see much debate between positions 2 and 3 among Latter-day Saints. This is because those who hold these views do not see it as significant enough a matter to debate. In fact, most Latter-day Saints do not care about this issue. It is unimportant to them.

An analogy might help Mr. Lauer here. It is a bit like saying that the Evangelical movement cannot be true because evangelicals have a mistaken view of the historical background of the book of Nahum. How many evangelicals care about the historical background of Nahum? How many could easily find it in their Bibles? Just because some outsider thinks that this should be a big issue for some religious group does not make it a big issue for that religious group. Most evangelicals that I know of care a whole lot more about Paul than Nahum; to me that is understandable. If an individual were developing a program for witnessing to evangelicals and kept harping on a non-issue like the historical date of Nahum and criticizing evangelicals for that, most of them would rightly think that that individual was nuts.

Note also that most members of the Church of Jesus Christ hold positions that are also held by those who are not members. So this issue is neither decisive for separating Latter-day Saints from non-Latter-day Saints, nor possible to attack without either sparing a large group of Latter-day Saints or attacking a sizable group of non-Latter-day Saints.

On Administrative Bloat

An astute reader points out an article on the rising cost of higher education in the Deseret News earlier this week. This is one of many articles that appear. One good site that tends to accumulate these things is I do not think I have seen the Deseret News piece appear there.

I notice that my seventh cousin [correction: fourth cousin once removed] is mentioned in the Deseret News in a derogatory way.  (I've never met him but I have seen very little positive press about him recently.) He happens to be the highest paid public university president in the United States, and that is simply the base salary, not the fringe benefits. As I say, I do not know him so I do not know if either the censure or the salary is deserved.

Today's Maxwell Quote

This is not exactly a Maxwell quote but a quote about him, from his biography, A Disciple's Life (2002), 458:
Elder Monte Brough worked with Neal from 1993 to 1998, when Monte was executive director of the Family History Department and Neal was chairman of his governing council. He said nobody is more loyal than is Elder Maxwell to the people both above him and below him on the organizational chart, which gives him "enormous credibility" with his associates.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Academic Money Pit

The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research has released a report that shows that for most universities, athletics are a drain on the university rather than a source of revenue. Some highlights:
In each of the six “power conferences” that form the Bowl Championship Series (BCS)—Southeastern (SEC), Big 12, Pacific-10, Atlantic Coast (ACC), Big Ten, and Big East—median athletic spending per athlete topped $100,000 in 2010. (p. 6)
This means that some of these schools were spending more on the student athletes than they were on some of their faculty. The SEC spends 12.2 times as much on student athletes as they do on regular students, a median of $163,931 per student athlete.

In fairness, the universities are not supposed to be paying the student athletes and most of the athletes do not see a dime of the funds. Some of that money goes to feed and house the athletes and for the travel to their games. A good deal of that money goes to pay the exorbitant salaries of the coaches.

Some of the money comes from television contracts, and some of the money comes from ticket sales. Yet
more than 70 percent of athletic budgets in the smaller FCS and DI-NF programs came from revenues “allocated” by the university; this athletic subsidy includes money from student fees, institutional support, and government appropriations. (pp. 8-9)
This means that the regular students are paying for the athletes. Given the massive increases in what students are being charged at most universities, that is sickening.

Today's Nibley Quote

From The World and the Prophets CWHN 3:129:
Those who have called themselves liberals in religion have accepted science with open arms precisely because they believe that excuses them from any toil at all. For them to have an open mind means to accept without question, and without any personal examination of the evidence, whatever the prevailing opinions of the experts may prescribe.

Once More Lewis Carroll

The Warden's description of the Professor from the first chapter of Sylvie and Bruno seems appropriate:
He's a wonderfully clever man, you know. Sometimes he says things that only the Other Professor can understand. Sometimes he says things that nobody can understand!
Of course, it should go without saying:  ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω (Matthew 11:15).

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Is it any wonder that those who resist the building of the latter-day kingdom will, from time to time (as described in Ether, chapter 8, or the 38th section of the Doctrine and Covenants), act in "combinations" against the kingdom? Everything in the arsenal of the adversary will eventually be used.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1972), 30-31:
Another demand of discipleship is to not only know there must be opposition in all things, but something about the nature of that opposition. So often cleverness seems to be a special attribute of those who are agnostic or flippant about sacred things. Perhaps this is because cause Satanic "salesmen" must try to make up in cleverness what they lack in content, while righteousness often has advocates who are, unintentionally, halting, even clumsy in their advocacy of that which is right.

A Little More Lewis Carroll

Apparently my citation of doggerel from Lewis Carroll proved extremely popular. On a similar theme, here is a quote from the first chapter of Sylvie and Bruno:
The 'march up' was a very curious sight: a straggling procession of men, marching two and two, began from the other side of the market-place, and advanced in an irregular zig-zag fashion towards the Palace, wildly tacking from side to side, like a sailing vessel making way against an unfavourable wind so that the head of the procession was often further from us at the end of one tack than it had been at the end of the previous one.

Yet it was evident that all was being done under orders, for I noticed that all eyes were fixed on the man who stood just under the window, and to whom the Chancellor was continually whispering. This man held his hat in one hand and a little green flag in the other: whenever he waved the flag the procession advanced a little nearer, when he dipped it they sidled a little farther off, and whenever he waved his hat they all raised a hoarse cheer. "Hoo-roah!" they cried, carefully keeping time with the hat as it bobbed up and down. "Hoo-roah! Noo! Consti! Tooshun! Less! Bread! More! Taxes!"

Today's Nibley Quote

From "How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book (A Handbook for Beginners)" CWHN 11:474-75:
Rule 2: A benign criticism of your predecessors will go far towards confirming your own preeminence in the field. Refer gently but firmly to the bias, prejudice, and inadequate research, however unconscious or understandable, of other books on the subject.

College Tyranny and Actual Tyranny

Harvey Silverglate has an interesting book review. Is it unbiased? Hardly! But it is still good. Some quotable items:
At the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities throughout the country, merely voicing an unpopular opinion (or being critical of the campus administration) can easily cause a student, or even a faculty member, serious difficulty with the campus disciplinary tribunals.
Silverglate also makes an interesting connection:
Students, who get accustomed to the administrative tyranny that marks the vast majority of colleges, universities and graduate schools today, don’t have much adjusting to do when they gain, and abuse, real power of their own in the nation at large, including in its legislative chambers, executive offices, and courts.
That may be so, but I am inclined to think that "it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." A bad environment might make it easier but most of us have a predisposition that way.

On "Teaching Generation Me"

I noted earlier a bad bit of journalism. This is a better bit on the same story (which does provide some links to the actual study). Two-thirds of college students think they will perform in the top twenty percent of their colleagues. Two-thirds of them are wrong.

For those interested in the actual study, it is Jean M. Twenge, "Teaching Generation Me," Teaching of Psychology 40 (2013): 66-69. It is available to those with EBSCO access.

An excerpt from the abstract:
Today’s college students are significantly different from previous generations. On average, they are overconfident, have high expectations, report higher narcissism, are lower in creativity, are less interested in civic issues, and are less inclined to read long passages of text. They are highly confident of their abilities and received higher grades in high school despite doing fewer hours of homework than previous generations.
Having read the actual article, it is best as a summary of previous studies rather than ground breaking research. Such are useful in providing a summary of the problem but not necessarily news to those who have been following the research.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From For the Power is in Them (1970), 49:
There are other reasons for craving complexity. One is our simple lack of courage in facing our own deficiencies. The Book of Mormon uses this terse phrase:
‎"... The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. (1 Nephi 16:2.)
Most of us don't like to be cut to the center, and when the gospel standards cut us it hurts. The tendency is to deal with the pain by rejecting the surgery.

Today's Nibley Quote

From The World and the Prophets CWHN 3:131:
I recall to mind certain professors of natural science who could not have a lecture without taking potshots at foolish and gullible people who accepted things on faith. These men with monotonous persistence fire millions of rounds at the opposition, but when the opposition proposes to present a few of their duds for our inspection, they instantly appeal to our humanity and insist that it is not sporting to advertise the chinks in their armor.

The Trials of Micaiah, son of Imlah

Pity poor Micaiah, the son of Imlah! One of about four hundred prophets of the Lord in Ancient Israel at the time of Ahab, he was not very popular. When Ahab, the king of Israel, got together with his son-in-law, Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, the two of them decided to embark on a military venture to seize Ramoth-Gilead from Syria (1 Kings 22:3-4). Jehoshaphat was willing to go with his father-in-law but first he wanted assurance that this was the right thing to do (1 Kings 22:4-5):
5 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to day.
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him?
8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
9 Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.
10 And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.
11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them. 12 And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the king’s hand.
13 And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.
14 And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.
15 ¶ So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
16 And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord?
17 And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace.
18 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? (1 Kings 22:5–18).
Micaiah was the only one of the prophets willing to speak the truth to the king. The king, in turn, hated him for telling the truth. So did the other prophets:
19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
20 And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.
22 And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
23 Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.
24 But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?
25 And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
26 And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son;
27 And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.
28 And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you. (1 Kings 22:19–28)
Of course, the whole military venture was a fiasco and Ahab died because of it (1 Kings 22:29-37) and Micaiah had told them so. Micaiah was thrown into prison because he dared speak the truth. We are never told if Micaiah was released from prison afterwards. Sometimes people just won't listen when their hearts are set on a bad idea.

Monday, January 14, 2013

On Mussorgsky

From the liner notes of the Naxos recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition:
Mussorgsky, when he left the army, became a monstrously incompetent and unreliable civil servant.
I suppose that not everyone can be a Borodin. At least Mussorgsky could compose music.

Today's Nibley Quote

From "Nobody to Blame" CWHN 17:136:
Perhaps I am being too naive, but the fact is that most of the troubles here stem from the fact that our faculty members are allowed to parade as scholars without being scholars. "Publish or perish" is too mechanical and unimaginative a rule to apply everywhere, but it is not too much to insist on the rule, "Publish or shut up!"

Today's Maxwell Quote

From "But for a Small Moment" (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986), 1:
The lonely, limestone Missouri jailhouse (twenty by twenty-two feet) was more a dungeon than a cell. Ironically, because of its location in that city it was known as the Liberty Jail. Herein, during his incarceration (December 1, 1838, through April 6, 1839) as a result of betrayals and distortions by some "friends" as well as enemies, the Prophet Joseph Smith received some of the most rich and remarkable revelations ever given to any prophet. The double walls, four feet thick, kept Joseph and his companions in, but they could not keep the Spirit and revelation out. Though Joseph's physical vision suffered from incessant gloom, the "choice seer" had that vision which mattered most.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Today's Nibley Quote

From The World and the Prophets, CWHN 3:13:
Before considering the test of a true prophet, we must make clear the fact that a prophet is a witness, not a reformer. Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet's message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world. Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest ones often know it best.

History of a Quote

Neal A. Maxwell was fond of a quote by Austin Farrar about C. S. Lewis:
Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.
Those of us who have heard him quote this the last couple of decades of his life, probably do not realize how much he used it throughout his life. Farrar published this statement in 1966. In his writing, Elder Maxwell was already quoting it in 1967 in his first book A More Excellent Way, 31:
The leader must also be articulate in presenting the cause and the case. Peter urged members of the Church in his generation to ". . . be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and in fear." (I Peter 3:15.) There are those who need only to hear to believe the message, but for others, the leader or teacher has an obligation to be articulate enough to build and to preserve a climate in which belief is possible.
Austin Farrer observed in writing praise about the late C. S. Lewis, "Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced: but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." To teach of immortality, for instance, is to deal with a doctrine which lies at the very center of men's chief concern. Is man "perchance, a prince in misfortune, whose speech at times betrays his birth?" The gospel helps us to know that men are princes in misfortune, and the good tidings we bear from the celestial castle are so important that we must not fail to develop our abilities to be believable, articulate bearers of that message.
Elder Maxwell also used it in his addresses, such as this one which was published in the New Era in 1971:
With such a great message, can we afford not to be articulate in our homes and wherever we are? Passivity and inarticulateness about this “marvelous work and a wonder” can diminish the faith of others, for as Austin Farrer observed, “Though argument does not create belief, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced, but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it nourishes a climate in which belief may flourish.”
Elder Maxwell used this quote again in his fifth book, That My Family Should Partake (1974), 27-28:
There is a reason for developing not only commitment but also capacity to spread and to defend the faith. George Macdonald warned that "it is often incapacity for defending the faith they love which turns men into persecutors." Even those, said Lehi, who have "tasted of the fruit" (the love of God) can yet fall away into forbidden paths and be lost. Why? Lehi says that some believers become "ashamed because of those" who scoff at them. Apparently the inability to defend the faith while under peer pressure may not only cost the soul of the uncertain onlooker, but the hesitant, inarticulate believer as well. No wonder Peter was desirous that believers "be ready always" to give answers to those who ask us reasons for our faith and hope. Austin Farrer counseled, "Though argument does not create conviction, . . . the lack of it destroys belief . . . what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create unbelief [sic], but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish."

He used it again in his book A Time to Choose (1975), 80:
Passivity and inarticulateness about this "marvelous work and a wonder" can diminish the faith of others, for as Austin Farrer observed:
"Though argument does not create belief, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced, but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it nourishes a climate in which belief may flourish." (Light on C. S. Lewis.)
It is the task of this generation of articulate young members of the Church to know the implications of their beliefs so that they can communicate more effectively to others.
A decade later he started a chapter on "Attitudes towards Faith" in We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ (1985), 52, with this excerpt:
"Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. . . . What no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." (Austin Farrer, "The Christian Apologist," p. 26.)
The next year he used it in his historical examination of, "But for a Small Moment" (1986), 56:
The faithful who, through these "other books," possess such a treasure trove of truth—almost all of which came through the Prophet Joseph—have a basic challenge. Our challenge is not simply to shelve them but to delve into them, not alone to possess them, but to witness of them! A fundamental challenge was well described by Austin Farrer, who wrote of the need for articulate Christians: "Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." (Austin Farrer, Light on C. S. Lewis, Jocelyn Gibb, ed. [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1966], p. 26.)
We can and should be articulate believers. We can and should so proclaim, testify, and teach, readily and humbly, concerning these added books of scripture. Meanwhile, at the same time, we should honor and use the Holy Bible. Joseph Smith did both; apparently it never occurred to him to do otherwise.
On the next page (pp. 57-58), he paraphrased the quote applying it to the work of John Sorenson who had recently published his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (1985) with the then fledgling Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies:
What the "choice seer" translated is laden with significance. The work of several years by anthropologist John Sorenson of BYU and others in demonstrating more about possible "host" circumstances in ancient Meso-America is interesting. What is there described as plausible may not prove finally persuasive, but it creates a climate in which the interest can be quickened, as the portrait of a special people emerges in more striking color and intriguing detail.
Much of such scholarly research has occurred only in recent years. Such materials were simply not available in Joseph Smith's time, even had he been able to use them. Instead, Joseph, by his translating, was removing' major stumbling blocks strewn in the path of those who would believe.
So as soon as FARMS began publishing its material, Elder Maxwell was already applying this quote to their work. In his addresses to FARMS, Elder Maxwell often used this quote. This is noted in Bruce Hafen's biography of Elder Maxwell, A Disciple's Life (2002), 510-513:
To address the questions of the mid-1980s about the origins of the Book of Mormon, Neal especially encouraged the scholars at FARMS. Their approach to Book of Mormon research was different from that of most earlier LDS scholars, who had "focused heavily on external evidence for the veracity of the book," such as archeology. Rather, the FARMS people looked to Hugh Nibley as their model. He has long been engaged, as Noel Reynolds summarized, in studying parallels between the ancient world and the Book of Mormon:

The large majority of the parallels were drawn from texts and historical facts that have been uncovered since the Book of Mormon was first published. Nibley asks time after time, how is it that Joseph Smith in 1829 could throw some passing detail into the Book of Mormon . . . that squared with scholarly knowledge that would not be available for years or even decades?

This approach simply made sense to Neal, who had long known, as Truman Madsen said of him, that "there really are so many things about the Book of Mormon that make the notion that it was concocted in the nineteenth century just plain unscientific as a conclusion."

John W. (Jack) Welch had created FARMS as a private nonprofit research foundation in 1979, the year before he joined the law faculty at BYU. In 2000, FARMS officially became part of BYU. Jack had made a Nibley-like discovery about the Book of Mormon when he was on a mission in Germany in 1967. He heard in a university lecture there about a Hebrew literary form called chiasmus, which he intuitively believed would be in the Book of Mormon, because those who wrote the original text came out of a Hebrew culture. Neal loved hearing how Jack had gotten up in the early morning hours one day to find two unmistakable examples of chiasmus in King Benjamin's speech in the Book of Mormon. Citing this as an example of faithful scholarship, Neal would say, "It's because people believe that I think they're led to these things, not because they are skeptical."

Neal could see his own instincts at work here. Applying this model, said Jack, one begins his or her research "with gospel premises . . . with the mind [and scholarly research tools] still involved but not necessarily accepting premises from the non-LDS scholarly context." This was a very different approach from that of some Latter-day Saints who had studied at Protestant divinity schools and would sometimes begin religious research with the "secular vocabulary and viewpoint of non-LDS biblical scholars and import that into a Church setting." This believing approach was basically the same attitude to which Neal had come as a university student himself when he began to integrate secular and religious knowledge by looking to the gospel for the major premises in his reasoning.

As he met with faculty leaders in Religious Education, Church History, and FARMS, Neal conveyed his confidence in the Church's historical roots and urged the scholars to work at "historical contextualizing," such as grounding "the Book of Mormon in ancient history." Jack Welch later said that Elder Maxwell and Hugh Nibley were the two people who most influenced the direction and development of FARMS, although the FARMS scholars always knew that Neal's interest didn't equal Church endorsement.

Neal has occasionally reminded all of these scholars of the reason for his encouragement to them. He has no interest in trying to prove in some scientific way that the Book of Mormon is true. Neal looks to faithful scholarship as a source of defense, not offense, often quoting Austin Farrer's comment on C. S. Lewis: "Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." Or as Neal put it in 1983: "Science will not be able to prove or disprove holy writ. However, enough plausible evidence will come forth to prevent scoffers from having a field day, but not enough to remove the requirement of faith."

Good research can thus verify the plausibility of religious propositions, offsetting attacks that claim to be based on physical or logical evidence. Neutralizing those attacks what Lewis called using good philosophy to answer bad philosophy doesn't seek to prove the gospel's truth; it has the more modest but crucial purpose of nourishing a climate in which voluntary belief is free to take root and grow. Only when belief is not compelled, by external evidence or otherwise, can it produce the growth that is the promised fruit of faith.

What came "out of obscurity" from these efforts, which Neal encouraged rather than directed, is a growing body of sound LDS scholarship that has built enough of a track record that it gradually shifted the momentum of critical debate about many LDS issues. In 1996, for example, two rising Protestant scholars, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, presented a paper to their colleagues assessing "the state of the debate between believing Latter-day Saint scholars and anti-Mormons regarding the Book of Mormon and related matters." They concluded that it is a "myth" for scholars of other faiths to believe that few LDS scholars have adequate training in "historiography, biblical languages, theology, and philosophy." They found, through visiting BYU and reviewing the relevant literature, that there are indeed "legitimate Mormon scholars . . . 'skilled in intellectual investigation; trained in ancient languages'" who "are not an anti-intellectual group." Further, "Mormon scholars and apologists have . . . answered most of the usual evangelical criticisms." Of greater concern to Mosser and Owen was their finding that
currently there are (as far as we are aware) no books from an evangelical perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic writings. A survey of twenty recent evangelical books criticizing Mormonism reveals that none interacts with this growing body of literature. Only a handful demonstrate any awareness of pertinent works. Many of the authors promote criticisms that have long been refuted. A number of these books claim to be "the definitive" book on the matter. That they make no attempt to interact with contemporary LDS scholarship is a stain upon the authors' integrity and causes one to wonder about their credibility. . . .

At the academic level evangelicals are . . . losing the debate with the Mormons. In recent years the sophistication and erudition of LDS apologetics has risen considerably while evangelical responses have not.
Reading these conclusions and seeing similarly encouraging results in other academic arenas must have reinforced Neal's conviction about the value of "mobilizing the resources" of BYU's trained scholars.
Looking at the history of Elder Maxwell's use of this quote shows that he picked it up almost as soon as it was published, used it repeated throughout the rest of his life, and applied it to the work of the Institute that would one day bear his name. It used to serve as something of an unoffical motto.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
We are Christ's kingdom builders. Those who build the heavenly kingdom have always made nervous the people who are busy building worldly kingdoms.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From The Smallest Part (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973), 41:
In the war against evil, as in any other war, if the strategy is not sound, the tactics will matter little.

Today's Nibley Quote

From No Ma'am, That's Not History, CWHN 11:34:
When Joseph Smith faced Emma for the last time, "he knew that she thought him a coward." So Brodie knows that Emma knew that Joseph knew what Emma thought! Is this history? There might be some merit to this sort of thing if, like the invented speeches of the Greek historian, it took some skill to produce.

Rodney Stark on Religious Studies

Rodney Stark provides a great quote about Religious Studies in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, many in Religious Studies were predicting an end to religious denominations.
Perhaps the most remarkable fact was that all these assumptions about religious change were based on the impressions of "experts," none of whom had seen any data on what people in the churches did or didn't believe. Worse yet, these"experts" were mostly based in the elite, very liberal divinity schools, where they were isolated and insulated from ordinary believers. All they knew for certain was what they no longer believed. (Rodney Stark, What Americans Really Believe [Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008], 4.)
I have seen little to indicate that Religious Studies has changed much in the intervening half century.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Leaders to Managers Revisited

One of Hugh Nibley’s most controversial articles was the commencement address he gave at Brigham Young University in August 1983 entitled “Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift.”[1] It was so controversial that when an abridged version of this address was published in BYU’s alumni magazine, one of the editors was sacked.

In this address, Nibley makes a number of observations about the differences between leaders and managers:
Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. For the managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment.[2]

In war 
we think of great generals from David and Alexander on down, sharing their beans or matzah with their men, calling them by their first names, marching along with them in the heat, sleeping on the ground, and being first over the wall.[3] 
The men who delighted their superiors, i.e. the managers, got the high commands, while the men who delighted the lower ranks, i.e. the leaders, got reprimands.[4]

‘If you love me,’ said the greatest of all leaders, ‘you will keep my commandments.’ ‘If you know what is good for you,’ says the manager, ‘you will keep my commandments and not make waves.’ That is why the rise of management always marks the decline, alas, of culture.”[5] 

(One wonders what Nibley might say to the massive increase in administration and bureaucracy in higher education since he gave his speech.)

Nibley draws a long comparison from the Book of Mormon between Moroni, the leader, and Amalickiah, whom Nibley depicts as a manager.[6] The comparison between the two sides makes a convenient rhetorical juxtaposition with clear good guys and bad guys on opposite sides of a war. But it is the least convincing portion of Nibley’s argument because the point seems stretched.

The more interesting comparison is between Moroni, the leader, and Pahoran, the manager. As Nibley observes of the general situation the manager, Pahoran, had the higher command, not the leader, Moroni. These two men were on the same side and a key interchange between them is preserved. Moroni was not in possession of all the facts (“we know not . . .” Alma 60:18), but neither was Pahoran (“I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do” Alma 61:19).

Moroni’s correspondence is clearly angry and moves almost immediately to an attack on Pahoran: “great has been your neglect towards us” (Alma 60:5). “Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you?” (Alma 60:7), and ends with a threat of mutiny: “I will come unto you speedily” (Alma 60:35). “I will stir up insurrection among you” (Alma 60:27). Moroni does this, in part because of a lack of information, and in part from the covenants he has made: “I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God” (Alma 60:34).

This confrontation could have ended disastrously as the Nephites were in the midst of a war that was not going their way (Alma 59:5-8). If Pahoran had been a typical manager, he would have sacked Moroni immediately upon receipt of his mutinous letter. Instead, Pahoran musters his administrative skill to make amends: “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul” (Alma 61:2). “In your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry” (Alma 61:9). Pahoran appeals to Moroni’s principles in his response (‘stand fast in the liberty with which God hath made us free’ seems to have been a patriotic slogan of the time; Mosiah 23:13; Alma 58:40; 61:21). Pahoran proposes a slightly altered strategy that unites Moroni and Pahoran against common enemies.

The end of the book of Alma shows that leaders and managers do not have to be on opposite sides of the conflict.  There does have to be humility, trust, forgiveness, and recognition of the real enemy. Only when the leader and the manager are willing to put aside their differences and work toward a common goal is there real success.

Unfortunately, most managers typically are not as humble or forgiving as Pahoran was. Then again, most are not in as dire predicaments as Pahoran was. Given the typical management response resembles that of Amalickiah, perhaps Nibley was right after all.

[1] Hugh Nibley, “Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift,” in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, CWHN 13 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 491-508.
[2] Nibley, “Leaders to Managers,” 496.
[3] Nibley, “Leaders to Managers,” 496.
[4] Nibley, “Leaders to Managers,” 496.
[5] Nibley, “Leaders to Managers,” 497.
[6] Nibley, “Leaders to Managers,” 499-502.

Some Sad News

This is sad news. Sad not because of the punishment. The situation has been generally known among people in the field for years (as is noted in one of the comments here [update: the comment, indeed, all comments have been removed]). It is sad because this has been well-known in the field for years, known before the professor in question was granted tenure, known before the professor in question was hired into his current position, and known before the other faculty member mentioned was hired. I first heard about it years ago in Europe; a friend of mine first heard about it even earlier in Egypt. It is sad because the situation occurred at all. It is sad because of the harm done to at least three individuals. If anything, the punishment seems rather lenient. I am glad that Yale has finally done something about the situation.

Today's Nibley Quote

I have decided that I ought to include a daily Nibley quote to go along with the daily Maxwell quote. I begin with this one, from The World and the Prophets, CWHN 3:6:
A dead prophet the world dearly desires and warmly cherishes; he is a priceless tradition, a spiritual heritage, a beautiful memory. But woe to a living prophet! He shall be greeted with stones and catcalls even by pious people. The men who put the Apostles to death thought they were doing God a favor, and the Lord tells us with what reverence and devotion men adorn the tombs of the prophets whom they would kill if they were alive (Luke 11:47-48).

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time To Choose (1972), 27-28:

The boneyard of history is full of the debris of those who thought they could handle a little power, a little liquor, and a little adultery—of those who thought their particular adultery was somehow noble—of those who loved mankind but not their neighbor.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2949

If one reads Bart Ehrman's book, The Apocryphal Gospels (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 287, one can read an intriguing account of Pilate requesting Herod for permission for Joseph of Aramathea to bury the body of Jesus. There is only one small problem with this, revealed by the Greek of the facing page: Neither Herod nor Joseph is actually mentioned. They are both in lacunae and filled in by the editors.

One can check the original edition, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, volume XLI (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1972), 15-16. The editor restores one instance of Herod's name, and quotes the Gospel of Peter 2:3-5, which does have that account, in a footnote. Considering that if Herod's name does appear in P. Oxy. 2949, only the last letter is clearly preserved, it seems a stretch to say that Herod appears in the fragment at all.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Look Back at Sodom (1975), 34:
Where once the ungodly ate, drank, and made merry, now there is perpetual silence. But it is a special silence that shouts to those who have ears to hear!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Another Defective News Report

This is a very interesting news report claiming that narcissism is on the rise among young adults (something akin to what I noted here). Unfortunately it neglects to give a link to the study or say where it was published and other such minor details.

Ramses III and the Harem Conspiracy: Papyrus Lee

The second document dealing with the harem conspiracy under Ramses III is Papyrus Lee. The top of the papyrus is missing and so I will start with where the narrative picks up:

Column 1
] any [. . .] of the place where I am to any man on earth. When Penhuybin was the cattle chief and told him: Give me a scroll that will grant me fear and dread. He gave him a scroll of the collection of Ramses III, the great god, his master. It came to pass that a procession attracted  the people, and he reached the side of harem and this other deep sanctuary. It came to pass that he made wax figurines in order to have them taken inside by the agent Itaram for repelling one of the staff and overpowering the rest to steal some of the words inside and take others out. When he was interrogated about them, the truth of every crime and every evil that his heart had invented was discovered. Every one of them was true. He accomplished them all with the other great enemies. Every god and goddess abominated them all. The great capital punishments which the gods pronounced on him were done to him.
 Column 2
] of them. The truth of every crime and every evil that his heart had invented was discovered. [...] was true. [...] other great enemies. Every god and goddess abominated them all. Capital felonies and great abominations of [...] capital felonies that he had committed, he killed himself. When the officials assigned to him learned that he had killed himself [...] Re like him, which the hieroglyphic scrolls say to do.
 Unfortunately, this document is fragmentary and so we do not know the names or even the dysphemisms of the individuals involved in the conspiracy. Most of the action seems to have taken place during a public festival when most of the people were distracted elsewhere and few were left to guard the facilities.