With my study of plural marriage demographics completed, I have returned to studying early Christian church leadership. I like to type in search terms in library subscription databases and skim the articles that pop up. I figure some might be interested in my research notes. I welcome any discussion about issues that are raised. [Read more…] about Article Notes: Seixas, James, and the Rock
An enduring folk apologetic for 19th century plural marriage has been to assert that it was justified because a shortage of men. Looking at raw Census data, John Widtsoe  debunked that notion, but did not end its popular appeal. Widtsoe’s conclusions have been embraced by critics  who wish to create cognitive dissonance for members who may have put too much weight on that folk rationale for plural marriage. On the other end of the spectrum, Brian C. Hales , a speaker at this year’s FAIR conference, also dismissed the folk apologetic and concentrated on rebutting critics’ plural marriage rationale (primarily as lust fulfillment) and supporting theological rationales (primarily as part of the restoration and preparation for conditions in the next life).
Richard Lyman Bushman is an award-winning American historian, currently serving as the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University and Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University. He is also a general editor of the ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project. Bushman sat down with host Blair Hodges for an extended two-part interview. Part one discusses Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. We discuss polygamy, seer stones, gold plates, and other Joseph Smith-related questions.
Questions about this episode and ideas for future episodes can be added to the comments section here, or emailed to “[email protected].”
FAIR relies on contributions from readers and listeners. To help support FAIR, make a donation today.
The FAIR Podcast is now available for free download at iTunes. Check out the first two episodes, featuring Gregory L. Smith and Terryl L. Givens, respectively. Later this week part one of a special two-part episode featuring historian Richard L. Bushman will be published. As you can see, one important criterion for our podcast interviewees has been the middle initial of “L.”
Questions about these episodes and ideas for participants in future episodes can be emailed to [email protected].
FAIR relies on contributions from readers and listeners. To help support FAIR, make a donation today.
An anonymous blog that provides out-of-context and embarrassing quotes from Brigham Young has manufactured a quote it attributes to the second president of the Church. On the “About” page, the blog owner says about himself:
I am a Prophet of God in this dispensation. I carry on the work that began with Joseph Smith. I led the Saints to the barren Salt Lake Valley and it is where we built Zion, even though Joseph Smith taught the Savior would return in Jackson County Missouri. Monogamous marriage is not the order of heaven, for it is only through polygamy that a man may achieve exaltation. The government should stay out of the lives of the Saints and let us worship and practice our religion according to the dictates of our own conscience. If there ever comes a day when the Saints interfere with the rights of others to live as they see fit, you can know with assurance that the Church is no longer led by a Prophet, but a mere man. The doctrines of this Church are eternal, for they were ordained before the world was and any man who changes these doctrines such as the temple ceremony, or the man who abandons polygamy, or allows blacks the Priesthood of God, is a fallen prophet.
I am Brother Brigham. And I am the voice of God.
The blog does not provide a citation for the quote. This is nothing more than a clumsy mashup of virtually every controversial subject on which Brigham ever spoke: Zion, polygamy, church and state, authoritarianism, the temple, and blacks and priesthood. And there’s an oblique reference to Proposition 8, too.
Normally this kind of juvenile prank would be ignored, but the quote was posted to a high-traffic discussion site for ex-Mormons, and now is being blogged and shared through Facebook.
FAIR volunteers have searched electronic databases of all of Brigham Young’s recorded sermons — the Journal of Discourses, the Deseret News, the 6-volume Brigham Young Addresses, and early Church newspapers — and have not found anything like this coming from Brigham’s mouth.
This quote is a hoax. Please pass the word.
For more, see the FAIR wiki:
Update: The original blog owner has admitted that the quote is a fake, but that it is “merely words that sum up [Brigham’s] doctrine and [Brigham’s] teachings.”
In John Lunds book “Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?”, he discusses Geology and The Book of Mormon. He notes that gold, silver and copper are mentioned several times in The Book of Mormon being found in abundance in the land. 1 If there are proposed Book of Mormon geographical theories that do not have all of these in abundance, then they would fail the test of being a possible site. Lund explains “Four separate mining areas possessing gold, silver and copper are required in order to qualify as the lands of the primary events in The Book of Mormon. Where are those criteria met? The answer is Mesoamerica, Southwestern United States, the Northern Rockies, and Western Canada. However, there is no single place east of the Mississippi River, including all twenty-six states, where one can find gold, silver, and copper together in one locale in abundance, much less four separate locations. This single fact alone is a nail in the coffin of Great Lakes advocates.” 2
Mesoamerica is known for its “abundance” in precious ores 3, which is why it was an area of such focus of the conquistadors. They raided and conquered entire civilizations in order to get gold and silver. “When Cortes reached Mexico with his army in March, the gold and silver he saw led him to conclude that ‘it is entirely possible that this country has everything which existed in that land from which Solomon is said to have brought gold for the Temple.’” 4
David, in preparing the Temple of the Lord, gathered 100,000 talents of gold, and a million talents of silver among many other valuable metals 5. A talent is roughly 75 lbs, which would make about 7.5 million pounds of gold and 75 million pounds of silver. I doubt that Cortes did the math, but he did know that he was finding A LOT of gold and silver.
Mesoamerican Indians also used a gold and copper (and sometimes silver) alloy called “tumbaga”. This mixture makes a strong product, but is still malleable, and is a much lighter weight than pure gold. Some scholars believe this is what the Gold plates were made out of 6. This was a common metal alloy that Mesoamericans used. When the conquistadors stole gold items from the natives, they would melt them down into bars and ship them back to their homeland. One of these ships was sunk in the Bahamas, and 200, 5.66 lb. tumbaga bars were found in the sunken ship 7. In order to make large amounts of tumbaga, there must be an abundance of both gold and copper in the area.
What about the Great Lakes? Well, it does not stand up to the test as well as Mesoamerica does. Lund writes “An exhaustive search of all twenty-six states east of the Mississippi found copper in Michigan, Wisconsin and one unproductive copper mine in New Jersey. Gold was found in South Carolina, Georgia and Maryland, and only trace amounts of gold in the Adirondacks and trace quantities of silver in the Appalachians. This hardly qualifies as abundance. Furthermore, these areas are separated by distances so great as to exclude the possibility of being in the five hundred to six hundred and fifty mile limitation imposed by the internal restrictions of The Book of Mormon.” 8
Mesoamerica also fits The Book of Mormon description of having Precious stones 9. The Maya had turquoise, emeralds, obsidian 10, and a quality of jade 11 that surpassed that of the Chinese jade 12. Earthquakes 13 are also mentioned several times within the text, so one would expect to find seismic activity in Book of Mormon lands. This is exactly what we find in Mesoamerica. The Motagua fault line runs through several Central American countries and has been active since the Mayan times, as well as the Chixoy-Polochic fault line. Volcanoes, a result of seismic activity, are also found throughout Mesoamerica. Lund finds that “There are sixteen active volcanoes in Mesoamerica and none east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Current scientific evidence for the past three thousand years has not found in the Great Lakes area the kind of seismic activity reported in The Book of Mormon.”14. He also notes that the Book of Mormon peoples would have a written language 15, and vultures 16 to fit the description in The Book of Mormon. Both of which, are found in Mesoamerica.
1. Nephi 18:25, 2 Nephi 5:15, Jacob 2:12, Jarom 1:8, Helaman 6:9-11, Ether :17, Ether 10:23
2 . John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg 128
3 . Elizabeth H. Paris, Metallurgy, Mayapan, and the Postclassic Mesoamerican World System, Ancient Mesoamerica, 19 (Cambridge University Press , 2008), 43–66
4. Jayne A. Sokolow, The Great Encounter: Native Peoples and European Settlers in the Americas, 1492-1800, (M.E. Sharpe, December 2002), pg 74
5. 1 Chronicles 22:14
6. “Of What Material Were the Plates?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume – 10, Issue – 1, (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2001) pg. 21
7. Warren Tucker, HWCA World NY Coin Auction 425 Catalog Vol. 2 (New York, New York, RSM Press, 2006) pg 251
8. John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg. 132
9. Alma 17:14
10. Sharer, The Ancient Maya, pgs. 454-455, 730
11. John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg 132
12. Mosiah 27:11, Helaman 5:27-31, 3 Nephi 8:6-19
13. Mosiah 27:11, Helaman 5:27-31, 3 Nephi 8:6-19
14. John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg 135
15. The Book of Mormon people had a written hieroglyphic language (Mormon 9:32) as well did the Mayan. The Hopewell culture had no written language.
16. Alma 2:37-38, The Turkey vulture, a native to the Americas lives year round in Mesoamerica, but only in the Great Lakes area between May and August. Odds are the vultures mentioned were in Mesoamerica, John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg. 135-136
I recently listened to a podcast by John Dehlin where he interviewed Richard Packham. According to John’s write-up of the podcast, part of his purpose is to “explore 3 ways in which the LDS Church creates unnecessary enemies.” The second episode focuses on how the Church makes by “breaking up families (when one no longer believes).” It is this particular point of John’s (and many who are critical of the Church) that I wanted to comment upon, although I will also provide a few comments on the podcast episodes with Richard as a whole.
[Read more…] about The Church Breaks Up Families
A popular argument among Great Lake theorists, is the Promised Land theory. The Book of Mormon states several times that the land which they were led to, was the “promised land”, or a “choice land”. According to The Book of Mormon, the Promised Land shall be a land of liberty, with no kings upon the land , and be discovered by a Gentile whom the Spirit of God wrought, to cross “many waters”  in order to find, among many others.
The “Gentile” who discovered the Americas is generally thought to be Christopher Columbus. In the 1879 Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt added the footnote to 1 Nephi 13:12 which named this “gentile” as Christopher Columbus. Columbus began writing a book called “Book of Prophecies” and in this book
“set forth views on himself as the fulfiller of biblical prophecies! Columbus saw himself as fulfilling the ‘islands of the sea’ passages from Isaiah and another group of verses concerning the conversion of the heathen. Watts reports that Columbus was preoccupied with ‘the final conversion of all races on the eve of the end of the world,’ paying particular attention to John 10:16: ‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold’ (see also 3 Nephi 16:3). He took his mission of spreading the gospel of Christ seriously. ‘made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth. . . . He showed me the spot where to find it,’ Columbus wrote in 1500.” 
As the scripture says, the Spirit led the gentile to the Promised land, the Spirit also led Columbus to the Americas.
Snow is only mentioned once in The Book of Mormon, and that is only when the Lehites were still in the Old World 1. This is very indicative of where The Book of Mormon took place. If they lived in an area that was cold, such as the area around the Great Lakes, surely the bitter winters known in that area would have been mentioned. Other than the one reference , there is no mention of snow at all where the primary events of The Book of Mormon took place. John Lund states “The pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 often referenced the cold and the snow. If the major events of The Book of Mormon all happened around the New York Hill Cumorah, one would expect to hear about snow.” 2
However, the cold is not what we hear about. Instead, we hear phrases like “heat of the day” 3, without any indication of a cold climate one would expect to see if The Book of Mormon took place in the North Eastern United States. The Lehites came from the Middle East, travelled years through the vast Saudi Arabian deserts, and then we only hear about the heat of the new land. If it were a new, colder climate, it would most certainly be mentioned.
There are several events in The Book of Mormon that just could not have happened in the Great Lakes region. In Alma14, Alma and Amulek were stripped naked and suffered “many days” 4. It has been stated that Amulek set the date as the ‘fourth day of the seventh month’ 5. The 7th month and the 4th day on a lunar calendar of twenty-nine or thirty days per month would be around September 27th. The day they were delivered from prison was ‘on the twelfth day of the tenth month’ 6. This would have been approximately ninety-six days later. This date corresponds to around the first week of January. The minimum amount of time they would have spent in that condition would have been five days 7. The average temperature in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the area where some place Zarahemla which is by the Genesee and Niagra rivers, two rivers some interpret to be the river Sidon, has an average temperature of 31 degrees F during the day, with a nighttime average of 19 degrees F. This is hardly an area that would sustain life for someone cast into a cold prison without any clothing or blankets for “many days”. However, the average temperature in the Mesoamerican lowlands is in the mid-sixties. This temperature would make it much more plausible for someone to survive in extreme conditions. 8
Also, the clothing mentioned in The Book of Mormon is not consistent with the climate of North America. To the contrary, we read about them wearing “loincloths”, “leathern girdles”, etc… This kind of clothing would not be conducive to the cold climate of the Great Lakes region. The Lamanites would not have survived, or even thought about wearing a loincloth in battle, in an area that is known for it’s freezing winters, and copious amounts of snow. Enos describes the Lamanites as “wandering about the wilderness with a short girdle about their loins.” 9 Zeniff portrayed the Lamanites as having “their heads shaved and they were naked; and they were girded with a leathern girdle about their loins.”10 Alma said the Amlicites “had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites. Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins.” 11. Zarahemnahs army is described as being “naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins, yea all were naked save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites.” 12
Because of this “nakedness”, the Lamanites were exposed and had a higher death rate than the Nephites 13. Moroni said this of speaking about the Nephites:
“Behold, their naked skins and their bare heads were exposed to the sharp swords of the Nephites.” 14
Giddianhi, the leader of the Gadianton robbers, and his army wore “…lamb-skin about their loins, and they were dyed in blood, and their heads were shorn…” 15
These wars were not seasonal, but sometimes lasted for years as one continuous war 16. In one particular war, the Lamanites came to war in the sixth month 17, in the commencement of the year 18, and at the end of the year 19. In the “second month”, the fathers of the stripling warriors brought them provisions 20 before a commencement of a battle in the “seventh month” 21.
The only mention of heavier clothing is as a form of armor in battle. Alma calls this “thick clothing” 22, and “very thick garments” 23. However, this is not common clothing worn by the Nephites and Lamanites, and is only mentioned in context of warfare as a protection. This may seem out of place in a warm climate, but “thick clothing” was used as a type of armor among the Mayan 24, and matches The Book of Mormons definition.
1. 1 Nephi 11:8 , “It should be noted too that many Old Testament scriptures which pre-date the Lehi colony’s departure also use the term “snow,” (the Hebrew word sheleg appears 20 times in our Old Testament” This means it is not surprising that Lehi and Nephi (who knew Israelite scripture well) would use the term.” http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Snow accessed May 20, 2009)
2. John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007) pg 205
3. Alma 51:33
4. Alma 14:21,23
5. Alma 10:6
6. Alma 14:23
7. Alma 14:18, 20, 23-28
8. John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg 207
9. Enos 1:20
10. Mosiah 10:8
11. Alma 3:4-5
12. Alma 43:20
13. Alma 43:37
14. Alma 44:18
15. 3 Nephi 4:7
16. Alma 51-62
17. 3 Nephi 4:7, September according to the Hebrew calendar
18. 3 Nephi 2:17 April according to the Hebrew calendar
19. 3 Nephi 4:1; 3 Nephi 2:17; Alma 56:20; March, according to the Hebrew calendar
20. Alma 56:27
21. Alma 56:42
22. Alma 43:19
23. Alma 49:6
24. William J. Hamblin, “Armor in the Book of Mormon”, p. 413; in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, edited by Stephen D. Ricks & William J. Hamblin, (Provo, Utah: Deseret Book Co. and FARMS, 1990); This article can be read online at: http://www.farmsresearch.com/publications/books/?bookid=66&chapid=738 accessed 5/25/09
Chapter 16 discusses the church set up by Jesus both in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, and the apostasy that followed. Here are some related resources: