Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jenkins' understandable perspective

In the ongoing discussion between Jenkins and Hamblin, Jenkins (the non-Mormon) posted some comments about historicity that I found especially interesting, demonstrating his perspective about the history of the Book of Mormon. Ironically, the gist of his perspective (that Joseph changed his mind about BoM geography) is shared by many LDS scholars, including every Mesoamerican proponent. The history of the Mesoamerican theory is one of the topics of a book I'm working on, tentatively titled Mormon's History.

Here is the exchange, with my comments in red.

philipjenkins ... I know that work is done in the Maxwell Institute, which publishes several journals, but unless I am mistaken, that is not an academic or teaching department. Am I wrong? Do you offer degrees of any kind in ABMS, where undergraduate or graduate? Where would I find the webpages? If not, why not?
In other words, if I am right, even BYU does not seem to give great weight to ABMS. Do they not take the subject seriously? And if they don’t, why should anyone else?
Any thoughts?

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      The reality of ABMS is that there is no exact place given to study the Book of Mormon peoples. Unlike your comparative parallels given in your first post here, time stamped three hours previous to this one, there is no specific place given ever for where the Book of Mormon events unfolded. All that is given as a point of reference is tha Americas. [where in the Book of Mormon does it give this point of reference? It was Joseph Smith who placed it in the Americas--but he placed it in North America, not Mesoamerica.] That's a big place.
      When the Book of Mormon was first published it spoke of a people who inhabited this continent in ancient times. Reading the narrative one can easily conclude that there were written records kept, had roads, buildings of cement, well organized and large militaries, a priestly society, and kings. Much of this, if not all, were laughed by scholars during in Joseph Smith's time. All these things today. However, are well known within the scholar community. And, by the way, they all point to a Mesoamerican setting. [Except not. This is a prime example of the ignorance of the Mesoamerican proponents.] But, we have not known this until well after Joseph Smith's death. [This is flat out false; during Joseph's lifetime, people such as Benjamin Winchester were making this very connection.]
      When we speak of Mesoamerican research, do not assume it's at par with research of the Old World. Even as I type this there's a gold mine of new information literally waiting to be explored in Honduras. Three years ago the City of the Monkey God was discovered and it points to a currently unknown ancient American civilization. Artifacts are literally sitting on the ground to be excavated. Why has it been three years and nothing has been done? I really do not know but it is one example of how New World exploration is not as thorough as the Old World may be. That plus lots of jungle to cut through make research in the New World a bit challenging as compared to the Old World.

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        I'm reluctant to go through this every few days, but for one last and final time.
        "Reading the narrative one can easily conclude that there were written records kept, had roads, buildings of cement, well organized and large militaries , a priestly society, and kings" That pretty perfectly describes the Old Testament world that Joseph Smith read about in the Old Testament, and on which he entirely based his imaginary New World communities. [Here Jenkins exposes his bias and ignorance, as I'm detailing in my book; but maybe he reconsidered this because he contradicts this point in his next post below.]
        "Much of this, if not all, were laughed by scholars during in Joseph Smith's time." No they were not. Look at the books available on the conquest of Mexico in this era. [Jenkins is correct here. Cortez certainly was not oblivious to these attributes of Mesoamerican society.]
        And new finds are also turning up in the Old World all the time as well. You gravely and grossly understate the sophistication of New World archaeology.
        Your argument boils down to this: somewhere over the rainbow, in Honduras maybe, there is one lost city where these folks lived, kept to themselves, and never interbred with anyone. And there they stayed for a thousand years until they all upped one day and traveled to Upper New York state to be massacred. What a long strange trip it must have been. [This is Sorenson's argument for the two Cumorah theory, which most of not all Mesoamerican proponents accept. Surely Jenkins knows this, so he's just poking fun here--or maybe he is ignorant of the two Cumorah concept. As I've explained, the two Cumorah theory is both essential to the Mesoamerican theory and contradictory to Joseph's own account.]
        And as I remarked in an earlier comment,
        If I were a Mormon believer, I would accept that Joseph Smith was quoting an angel personally when he said that the Indians were “the literal descendants of Abraham.” [As a believer, I do accept that.] Was he in error on that? [Mesoamerican theorists think he was speculating.] In that case, might his translation activities have been flawed? [Mesoamerican theorists do think the translation was flawed because it doesn't line up with what they find in Mesoamerica.] In the context, Smith's remark surely means the Indians of what became the continental US, rather than “Indians from some mysterious region thousands of miles away in South America, from a realm we shall call Nibleystan.” [I agree with this, but Mesoamerican proponents don't. They insist the Nephites disappeared in Nibleystan.] 

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          I have one addition to my earlier post. For whatever reason, Mormon apologists have in recent years focused on Central America to find their lands. As I argued in an earlier post, Smith was undoubtedly thinking of North America, where there was so much evidence of great cities and urban complexes available across the Midwest, and especially along the Mississippi and Ohio. Think Cahokia, Chillicothe... [Here Jenkins makes a major blunder. The "evidence of great cities and urban complexes across the Midwest" was not well known, apart from a few notable sites, until the Squier and Davis book was published in 1848. It was the Smithsonian Institution's first publication. Even today it remains the primary source of information on those mounds. But it was published 18 years after the Book of Mormon. There is zero evidence that Joseph Smith knew anything about these great cities and urban complexes in 1829. That they were also not known to his family is shown by Lucy Mack Smith's account, wherein Joseph was telling the family what he learned from Moroni about the ancient civilizations--things they didn't know otherwise.]
          [Jenkins' blog post notes that "During Smith's childhood, US expansion into the Ohio country produced countless reports of the discovery of quite vast remains from the ancient mound-builder cultures.... These stories circulated through newspapers, prints, and of course travelers' tales." Jenkins asserts that "the Book of Mormon is summarizing the standard knowledge and commonplaces of the US in the 1820s." Again, this is the topic of my forthcoming book, but I'll summarize the point here. The Book of Mormon contradicts the "standard knowledge and commonplaces of the US in the 1820s." The "core racist theme" Jenkins refers to is rejected in the Book of Mormon, which explains that the ancient inhabitants became one people with no "ites" and lived in harmony before society disintegrated by division and warfare. There is no strand of "Moundbuilder mythology" comparable to that. Jenkins even admits that Joseph Smith didn't see these sites until 1834, well after the Book of Mormon was published. The Book of Mormon includes details about the mounds that were not known until the last decade, as I detail in my book.]  Once you knew there were cities there, you simply used the Old Testament to populate them with a pseudo-ancient society. That is why the Book of Mormon worlds look as they do. [Jenkins' argument is one of the motivations that led Benjamin Winchester in the 1840s, and LDS Mesoamericans today, to try to place Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica. But the effort is ultimately futile because those events could not have taken place in Mesoamerica. It's time to return the focus to the North American setting, where there is abundant evidence that corroborates the Book of Mormon text.]
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            Also from your webpost:
            "he passed the mound burial of one he identified as Zelph, a “white Lamanite” of the Book of Mormon era"
            Careful there. The story of Zelph as we have it today is a hodgepodge of collections from various people and something Joseph Smith himself never reviewed.
   [Any reference to fairmormon is surely an anti-North American geography diatribe, and this one is no different. Even the comparison of the various accounts, which fairmormon labels as "instructive," is misleading. It modified Wilford Woodruff's journal to say "Known Atlantic to Rockies." Woodruff actually wrote "known from the Hill Cumorah or east sea," both Book of Mormon geographical terms. Hamblin's comments there (notice the incestuous citations) point out that Woodruff's journal mentions the ruins and bones were "probably [related to] the Nephites and Lamanites." Hamblin inserted the "related to" and implies that the ruins and bones might not be Nephite or Lamanites, avoiding the obvious inference that they could have been Jaredite. And, inevitably, fairmormon claims Joseph Smith wrote the Bernhisel letter and the Times and Seasons articles. Darren's comments here are typical of the arguments Mesoamerican proponents are making to the world; i.e., even when people such as Heber C. Kimball and Wilford Woodruff wrote about Joseph Smith's vision, neither he nor they really knew what was going on, Joseph Smith was merely speculating, etc. No wonder Jenkins dismisses their arguments so readily.]

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