Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mummy discovered in Indiana-- 4 days ago

Last Friday, June 26, land surveyors in Indiana were working at a planned quarry when they discovered a mummy that could be 2,000 years old.
In the 1800s, mummies were found in Kentucky, but of course they've all disappeared. When the Kennewick Man was discovered in Washington State in 1996, the Army Corps of Engineers buried the site under tons of rock and dirt to prevent further exploration.
Let's hope this time that archaeologists will be able to do a complete examination of the site.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Guide to geography

A common misperception about the Book of Mormon was expressed by Jeff Lindsay on his blog:

The Book of Mormon is not intended to be a history book or a guide to geography, science, or any other secular topic. 

While the main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bear witness of Christ ("to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations"), it is also most definitely also intended as both a history book and a guide to geography. The introduction explains the history component and its purpose:

Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites... An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever

The book is a "guide to geography" because Mormon, the main editor, wanted his readers to know where these things took place. Alma 22 is the main geography chapter. It has been confusing because of its chiastic structure, but once it is reformatted, the geography is fairly straightforward (looking at it from the perspective of someone on the ground, not looking at Google Earth).

One thread of Book of Mormon criticism is that Joseph Smith wrote the book himself, using local surroundings (such as Vernon Holly's map). I've had people tell me that one motivation for the Mesoamerican geography theories is to refute this attack. But it's a nonsensical attack when we realize that when Joseph was in Illinois--far from the areas Vernon Holly mapped--he wrote to Emma that he was crossing the plains of the Nephites.

So while the Mesoamerican theory, both in 1842 and currently, was intended to refute anti-Mormon attacks, that motivation is misplaced. The Mesoamerican theory has done more to undermine the Book of Mormon than the faulty anti-Mormon attacks based on North America.

Instead of asserting the Book of Mormon is not intended as a history book or a guide to geography, how about we read what the book itself says and use it as both a history book and a geography guide? If we do, we can bypass the Mesoamerican theory and refocus where we should have been looking the whole time: North America.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hamblin vs. Jenkins concludes

[NOTE: When I wrote this, it appeared Jenkins had given up. But instead, the discussion continued until Jenkins wrote a summary in which he declared victory, here]

Jenkins gave up in frustration. I don't blame him; it's the same problem anyone has when looking in Mesoamerica for evidence of the Book of Mormon. 

Here's what Jenkins wrote: [Note: Hamblin responded by accusing Jenkins of being unwilling to read LDS material, to which Jenkins responded again by characterizing Hamblin's post as "unbelievably rude behavior." Jenkins restated his request for one piece of evidence, and followed up by writing this: "Nor do I see how even the most excruciatingly detailed knowledge of the Book of Mormon itself would change that picture. I have indeed read the book, which is as I say an inestimable goldmine for early nineteenth century US history. But please guide me. Where in its pages do I find any hint that might contradict the statements above, or help us find the errant evidence? By your admission, Ancient Book of Mormon studies has been what you call a thriving and highly active discipline for some thirty years now, with many publications. Surely these people have combed the Book of Mormon backwards and forwards in search of every clue. So why can’t they, and you, give me Instance One to contradict what I say here? Are there chapters of the book that they have not yet found in their searches?" Hambin responded by taking personal offense, which is usually what happens with Mesoamerican proponents. Ultimately, Hamblin ends by explaining why there are no inscriptions: "The reality is, most ancient peoples, even most ancient peoples in the Near East, left no inscriptional evidence of their existence." This directly contradicts Sorenson's insistence that the Nephite/Lamanite culture had extensive writing. So maybe Hamblin is coming around to realizing why North America is the setting for the Book of Mormon?] 

Jenkins Rejoinder 8: Farewell

I received this from Prof. Jenkins.
Dr. Hamblin,
If you are a chess player, you know the concept of stalemate. IThis is what we have here, and we should recognize the fact and move on. We both have lives, careers, research agendas, and families. And priorities.
We appear to be at fourteen or so posts by yourself and seven rejoinders by me, not to mention various comments. Good grief.
Here is a summary of the circle we are in. I have asked or some basic proofs that the Book of Mormon is an authentic historical source for the period it purports to describe. I have specifically asked a question that reads…oh, you know it by heart. You suggest that, before you are prepared to go in that direction, you wish to establish other ground rules that are unacceptable to me. Without receiving some kind of proof that the Book of Mormon has some kind of authentic core, I am clearly not going off to read my way through a whole apologist library.
You say “Prof. Jenkins needs to start answering questions, not just asking them. Football games aren’t fair if one team is always on the defensive.” I immediately plead that I am sports impaired, but my point is that you have not answered my questions. Not just the “one piece of evidence” thing, of which you are heartily sick, but others in the course of the exchanges. I am tired of hammering at this; you are tired of being hammered with it. Barring one of us having a sudden conversion experience, this situation is not going to change.
I intend to withdraw from these exchanges as of now – I won’t say debate, because we do not have sufficient common ground on which to debate. We are rather firing shots past each other.
I do not intend to post more on your site, unless something appears on it that directly concerns myself or my writings in a significant way. In that case, I assume you will act with your customary courtesy, and notify me so that I can respond. (I am not referring to brief passing comments of the “Jenkins is the Antichrist!” variety). Nor will I respond to comments posted at your site. 
In all sincerity, I will wish you well with your career and your research, and in your faith and your church. You also have the good fortune to live in one of my favorite corners of the world. 
All good wishes,


Hamblin had summarized the debate so far here:

Hamblin 17: The Debate Thus Far

A parody of the debate thus far:
J: Show me evidence for the Book of Mormon!
H: I think we first need to discuss questions of presuppositions, methodology and epistemology in order to understand what would constitute evidence and how it can be interpreted properly.
J: No!  Show me evidence for the Book of Mormon!  Now!
H: Well, there’s lots of evidence and analysis presented in books and articles by LDS scholars.  Like Sorenson’s Mormon’s Codex.  Will you read them?
J: No!  All Mormon “scholars” are cranks and hacks!  I refuse to read anything they have to say!  Show me evidence for the Book of Mormon!  Now!
H: Well, I’m a Mormon scholars; if you won’t read books or articles from Mormon scholars why should I think you’d accept what I have to say?
J: You’re stalling!  There is no evidence for the Book of Mormon or you’d show it to me.
H: Well, I pointed to evidence in Sorenson’s Mormon’s Codex.
J:  That book is by a Mormon.  I want evidence, not pseudo-scientific crap!
H: Alright, you asked for examples of Nephite pottery; Before we can deal with that issue, we need to try to understand what pottery can and can’t tell us about the past.
J: No!  You’ve shown me no evidence!  I’ve won!
H: Sigh.
My comments (since Hamblin isn't taking comments on his blog):
I didn't see where Jenkins refused to read Sorenson's book, but it's over 800 pages. Most of it is organized by types of "Correspondences," which consists of adding and/or changing the text to fit Sorenson's preferred geography. As such, Mormon's Codex follows the methodology of the Zarahemla article in the Oct 1, 1842, Times and Seasons (although Sorenson doesn't accept Zarahemla in Quirigua). I'm not aware of a single site, artifact, engraving, etc. that Sorenson cites that is evidence of the Book of Mormon. If Hamblin is, he ought to point it out.
So ultimately, Hamblin's parody of the debate is really a parody of Hamblin's position. Both Hamblin and Jenkins know there is no evidence of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica; everyone knows that. 
The tragedy is that Mesoamerican proponents insist Mesoamerica is the only possible setting for the Book of Mormon.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Just for fun

The Hitler video has been used for just about everything, but this version is one of the best I've seen.


Here's another version:


John E. Clark and the Times and Seasons

I'm still hearing, occasionally, that the Times and Seasons articles don't matter to Book of Mormon archaeology because the archaeology in Mesoamerica supports the Book of Mormon.

First, there can be no doubt that Mesoamerican proponents looked to Mesoamerica because of those articles. For example, here is what John E. Clark wrote in an article titled "Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief" that is still on the web page of the Maxwell Institute:

An argument against the hemispheric model was provided by Joseph Smith. The year 1842 in Nauvoo had been hectic as the Prophet moved the work along on the Book of Abraham and the temple, all the while dodging false arrest. He even assumed editorial responsibility for the Times and Seasons, the Nauvoo newspaper.[10] (For a minute, I thought he was going to cite the Wentworth letter, which expressly repudiated the hemispheric model--including Mesoamerica! No such luck. Sigh.) Months earlier he received a copy of the recent best-seller by John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, the first popular English book to describe and illustrate Maya ruins.[11]
This book amazed the English-speaking world with evidence of an advanced civilization that no one imagined existed—no one, that is, except Latter-day Saints. The Prophet was thrilled, (zero evidence of this) and excerpts from the book were reprinted in the Times and Seasons with unsigned commentary, presumably his. (Except now we know it was not his commentary.) What Joseph recorded is significant for the issues at hand:
Since our "Extract" [from Stephens's book] was published . . . we have found another important fact relating to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Central America . . . is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south. The city of Zarahemla . . . stood upon this land. . . . It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens' ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon.[12]
As is evident in his comments, Joseph Smith believed Maya archaeology vindicated the Book of Mormon. (Here Clark goes from "presumably" to "definitely," which is bad enough, but he deceives his readers by omitting the placement of Zarahemla at Quirigua, a site that doesn't match the text. Not even Mesoamerican proponents accept that site. Plus, what "important fact" was "found" between September 15 and October 1, 1842? This article is so ridiculous it's difficult to understand why anyone would want to attribute it to Joseph in the first place, but afer Matt Roper's data proved Joseph didn't write it, no one should be perpetuating this claim.) His placement of Zarahemla in eastern Guatemala implied that the Land Southward described in the Book of Mormon was north of Darien, as Panama was then called; thus his commentary presupposed a smallish geography that excluded South America. The Prophet regarded the location of Book of Mormon lands as an open question, and one subject to archaeological confirmation. In the past 50 years, friends and foes have adopted Joseph's "plan" of comparing "ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon." Both sides believe archaeology is on their side.

Although this article is a decade old, I saw it cited on a blog just today, so there is still a lot of work to do.

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.
            http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_... [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.]

    Peer Review in FARMS

    I started this blog as a sort of peer review of articles on Book of Mormon historicity. As I've explained, one thing that prompted this was a comment made by a BYU history professor that he didn't see how the Maxwell Institute publication we were discussion could possibly have been peer-reviewed. The more FARMS/Maxwell Institute material I've read, the more I've come to wonder who could possibly have peer reviewed it. Hence my own peer reviews.

    Now I've come across an explanation. William Hamblin has discussed peer review in his blog on Patheos here.

    He starts out with a good definition/explanation:

    What is peer review?  It is a process by which recognized scholars in a field evaluate books or articles to determine if they meet academic standards for publication.  When a journal or a university press receives a manuscript, the editor will generally make an initial evaluation, and then pass it on to two or three other scholars for their judgment.  If everyone agrees that a paper should or should not be published, that evaluation is generally accepted by the editor.  If, however, a paper receives mixed reviews, an additional reviewer is sometimes requested.  In the end, the board of editors make the final decision about publication.  In a sense publication in a peer-reviewed journal means that a paper has achieved a minimum standard of academic rigor.  
    Peer reviewers will sometimes accept a paper even when they disagree with its conclusions, if the paper is well researched, reasoned, and written.  That a paper is rejected by peer reviewers does not necessarily mean its thesis is incorrect.  Likewise, that a paper is accepted by peer reviewers it doesn’t necessarily mean its thesis is correct.  This can be demonstrated by studying the phenomena of paradigm shifts that occasionally occur as once accepted academic dogmas are overthrown by new ideas.

    But then he gets defensive about Jenkins' criticism and, IMO, loses sight of the purpose of peer review:

    The reality is that until secular Mesoamericanists are willing to seriously study (not just superficially read) the Book of Mormon, and respectfully engage LDS scholarship on the Book of Mormon, their opinions are uninformed.  It is a prejudice rather than a critical judgment.  I don’t think its too much to ask for them to not make dogmatic uninformed assertions about the historicity of the Book of Mormon if they haven’t even read the book or engaged LDS scholarship on the matter.  
    Which brings us to peer review.  The peer review of manuscripts in ancient Book of Mormon studies cannot be undertaken by scholars who: 1- have not read the Book of Mormon at all, 2- are not familiar with the scholarly literature on the topic, and 3- do not have a publication track record in the field.  These are the standard minimal academic requirements when selecting a scholar to do a peer review.  No one would ever dream of asking a scholar who doesn’t know Italian and has never read Dante and to peer review an article on Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Imagine if someone claimed that only people who have never read Dante should be the gatekeepers of what is authentic Dante scholarship.  The academy would view such a position as utterly preposterous.  Yet this is exactly what Jenkins (and his supporters) are asking us to do in ancient Book of Mormon studies.  The vast majority of Mesoamericanists are not qualified to peer review papers field of ancient Book of Mormon studies.

    There are several problems with Hamblin's analysis. First, he already admitted that some Mesoamericanists have read the Book of Mormon. Second, the only "scholarly literature on the topic" is that which Hamblin accepts; i.e., what he refers to as "classic FARMS." Third, the only "publication track record" is also "classic FARMS." So Hamblin would only accept peer reviews by those who have published in FARMS--which is exactly what happens!

    His analogy to a paper on Dante's Divine Comedy is revealing. The "know Italian" requirement is equivalent to "know English" for the Book of Mormon, a criterion most scholars can satisfy. A prospective peer reviewer of the Dante paper would be highly qualified if that reviewer was expert in classical literature and the historical allusions Dante uses, even if he/she were not an expert on the Divine Comedy. So why couldn't a Mesoamericanist do a peer review of a paper claiming connections between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica? Such an expert would be effective in assessing whether the paper's claimed links are valid in the context of what is known about Mesoamerica.

    But of course, there are no Mesoamericanists (other than LDS) who agree that anything in Mesoamerica lines up with or supports the Book of Mormon claims.

    Hamblin writes:

    Paradoxically, the only journals in the field of ancient Book of Mormon studies which actually do authentic and rigorous peer review were published by classic FARMS: The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon.  To them can now be added Interpreter.  I know this because I have occasionally served as editor and peer reviewer for those publications.  They use precisely the same process used by any other academic journal.  

    I don't characterize this as a paradox, nor do I characterize the peer review in these journals as "authentic and rigorous." As I've shown in every article I've peer reviewed myself, these journals are incestuous and engage primarily in confirmation bias. They resist alternative viewpoints, even when offered by believers in the Book of Mormon. They overlook logical and factual errors. They focus exclusively on linking the Book of Mormon to Mesoamerica. So I have to agree with Jenkins' approach, to the extent he is referring to Mesoamerica:

    1.My basic concern is this. You speak of a discipline called Ancient Book of Mormon Studies, which for the sake of convenience I will abbreviate to ABMS. In my view, no scholars outside that area (eg Mesoamericanists) need to know anything about it, because it is not a genuine discipline.
    If it is Book of Mormon, it is not ancient.
    If it is Ancient, it is not Book of Mormon.
    Therefore, there is no such thing as Ancient Book of Mormon Studies.
    Is that view wrong and dismissive? Very well then – it is up to you to prove it.
    2. I will make a statement, and if I am wrong, you can easily disprove it. You say that ABMS is a real and significant discipline, that demands the attention of other scholars, who need to be qualified in that area in order to evaluate publications. So where is this discipline taught or practiced in universities or colleges? The impact of the Book of Mormon itself in modern literature and history certainly is taught and researched in many schools, in departments of English, History, Religious Studies etc, as it demands to be. I would love to teach a course like that myself. But what about what the supposed ancient aspects?
    He also writes:
    You write “The vast majority of Mesoamericanists are not qualified to peer review papers field of ancient Book of Mormon studies.” This is baffling, and somewhat circuitous. (I mean to say “wrong” but I am being polite). The whole question is whether such an animal as “ancient Book of Mormon studies” exists. If I thought it did, I wouldn't be raising the basic issues of historicity.
    You remark that “Mesoamericanists are not qualified to pass a scholarly judgment on the Book of Mormon.” That is unfair. Virtually all scholars who deal with pre-Columbian American history believe that the Book of Mormon was written around 1830, so that therefore it is irrelevant to their disciplines. They believe that not out of prejudice, but because they have never seen or encountered a report of an object or piece of evidence that gives them the slightest grounds for belief to the contrary. If such an object or fact or site exists, then it is your responsibility (or that of other experts) to say what it is, and publicize it, that its credentials can be examined. Then, we can speak of issues of scholarly judgment.
    I say again - the burden of proof is on the claimants, and the apologists, not the critics.
    However, Jenkins makes a major blunder, which I'll address in my next post.