Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Seventies Hall

(by Kenneth Mays 8-13-14)
Of the many historic buildings to visit while in Nauvoo, Illinois, one not to miss is the Seventies Hall. This structure is located on Parley Street about a block west of Granger Street. It is situated at the beginning of the Trail of Hope.

The original building was constructed as a place where members of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could assemble to conduct quorum business. It was used as a training center of sorts to improve the effectiveness of Nauvoo's numerous quorums of Seventy. The hall was used for other purposes as well, including as a chapel, lecture hall and library.

It was dedicated after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith by President Brigham Young in late 1844 but had been used for several months before that. This rebuilt hall is situated on the site of the original structure.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

From Jewish peasant girl to 'Mother of God'

(by William Hamblin and Daniel Peterson 10-10-14)

After Jesus himself, his mother, Mary, is the most venerated figure in Christian history. In both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the adoration of Mary forms an integral part of religious life. The importance of Mary for Christians begins in the New Testament, with the Annunciation (see Luke 1) and the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus. Still, although Mary is highly honored in the New Testament, she is never venerated. Rather, veneration is reserved solely for Jesus.

By the mid-second century, however, Christian beliefs regarding Mary had begun to expand, as reflected in the “Infancy Gospel of James” (sometimes also known as the “Protoevangelium of James”), which describes the miraculous birth of Mary to Anna, her dedication to service in the temple and expanded details on the Annunciation and birth of her Son. The stories in the “Infancy Gospel of James” were accepted as authentic by Catholics and Orthodox, and they remain a crucial source of beliefs and art about Mary still today.

A fundamental transformation in the understanding of Mary occurred in the early fifth century. First, a great theological debate erupted about whether Mary was only the mother of the human Jesus or the mother of the divine Christ as well. The issue was resolved in 431, at the third ecumenical Council of Ephesus, where Mary received the title of “theotokos” (“God-bearer”), or the “Mother of God.”

Those Christians who rejected this idea as a heretical innovation became known as Nestorians (or the “Assyrian Church of the East”); to a large degree, it is their successors who are now being persecuted by Islamist extremists in Iraq.

The idea of the virgin birth of Jesus was eventually expanded to include belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity. The brothers of Jesus in the New Testament came to be understood as his half-brothers, as Joseph’s children by an earlier wife. Finally, the “woman clothed with the sun” who gives birth to a son in Revelation 12 came to be regarded as Mary. Widespread artistic depictions of Mary as gloriously enthroned in Heaven with her son on her lap derive from this chapter in Revelation.

By the sixth century, the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven was commonly accepted. Like Enoch and Elijah, it was said, Mary did not die, but “fell asleep.” Although her body was laid in the Tomb of the Virgin in the Kidron Valley at Jerusalem, she ascended bodily into heaven, where she was crowned and enthroned beside Christ. (In Mormon terms, we would call this “translation.”) As such, she is the greatest of all the saints and will intercede with Christ and the Father on behalf of those who pray to her.

Today, the adoration of the Virgin has become one of the leading forms of popular piety among both Catholics and Orthodox. Artistic representations of Mary enthroned in heaven and her coronation by the Son are widespread. Most Catholic and Orthodox churches contain icons or statues of the Virgin and Child, to which miracles are often attributed. The “Hail Mary” prayer (based on Luke 1:28, 42), has become the most widespread Christian prayer after “Our Father.” Churches and shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary, such as Lourdes in France and Guadalupe in Mexico, are major centers of pilgrimage and devotion to Mary.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception — not to be confused with the virgin birth of Jesus — maintains that Mary was born untainted by original sin, making her an appropriately pure vessel to bear the Son of God. Disputed among Catholics for centuries, it was not formally adopted as doctrine until 1854 and is rejected by both Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism.

To most Protestants, such veneration of Mary has passed from appropriate honor for the mother of Jesus to Mariolatry: ascribing quasi-divinity to Mary and worshipping her. Some modern historians claim that pagan beliefs and practices regarding mother goddesses in late antiquity were slowly transferred to Mary, making her, in a sense, a syncretized survival of ancient goddess worship.

The significance and role of Mary continue to be debated among Catholics. New feminist views about the “divine feminine” have led some to call for an expanded understanding of the role of Mary in the church, including titles such as the “Mediator of all the Graces” and “Co-Redemptrix” (with Christ). The transformation of Mary from an obscure young Jewish woman to a semidivine figure is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of religion.

The very surprising language of the Book of Mormon

(by Daniel Peterson 8-21-14)

Seeming “errors in grammar and diction,” particularly in the earliest manuscripts and first printed edition of the English Book of Mormon, have provided merriment for mocking critics since at least 1830.

Recent scholarly study of the book’s textual history, however, suggests that such derisive criticism is fundamentally misguided. Indeed, it may even demonstrate that, here as elsewhere, apparently “weak things” can “become strong” for those who believe (see Ether 12:27).

The pioneering research of Royal Skousen, a professor of English language and linguistics at Brigham Young University, for example, extending now over nearly three decades, provides arresting evidence that significant portions of the vocabulary of the Book of Mormon derive from the 1500s and the 1600s, and not, as one might expect, from the 1800s. Further, his latest studies have refined those dates even more exactly, showing that the vocabulary and meanings of many words in the text date from the 1540s up to about 1740. To put it another way, some Book of Mormon vocabulary reflects a period not only prior to the birth of Joseph Smith but also prior to the publication of the King James Bible in 1611.

Arguing along parallel lines, an important new article entitled “A Look at Some ‘Nonstandard’ Book of Mormon Grammar” has just appeared in “Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture” (online at Linguist Stanford Carmack builds upon Skousen’s work, and, indeed, bases his analysis upon Skousen’s 2009 Yale University Press edition of “The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text,” but focuses on grammar and syntax rather than on vocabulary.

Carmack shows that much of what has been dismissed as incorrect in the language of the Book of Mormon isn’t actually wrong. To the contrary (while considering dozens of such “obvious” grammatical “howlers” as “in them days,” “I had smote” versus “I had smitten” and “they was yet wroth”), he maintains that the book’s language is “excellent and even sophisticated.”
It simply isn’t the Modern English that we typically use today.

And this, for my present purposes, is the crucial point: “It’s important and helpful to bear in mind,” Carmack writes, “that the original Book of Mormon language is, generally speaking, only nonstandard from our standpoint, centuries after the Elizabethan era, which appears to be the epicenter of the book’s syntax.”

Now, think about that statement. Let it sink in, because its implications are stunning.

Carmack argues that, especially when the textual “corrections” of the past nearly two centuries have been stripped away — emendations and “improvements” intended to bring the published Book of Mormon into conformity with modern standards of usage — the grammar found in the book offers extensive evidence of its Early Modern English character. The original English Book of Mormon is, he says, “in large part” an Early Modern English text, “even reaching back in time to the transition period” from late Middle English into Early Modern English. “The correspondences are plentiful and plain.”

Let me translate those terms into readily comprehensible dates: Some scholars assign Early Modern English to the period between A.D. 1470 and 1670, while others prefer the rounder, neater 1500-1700. As for late Middle English, it’s typically said to have begun in the early 1300s and to have reached its end sometime in the late 1400s. (Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the famous “Canterbury Tales,” was born in 1343 and died in 1400.) Some grammatical features of the Book of Mormon, Carmack contends, reach back to that time. The “Elizabethan era,” which Carmack says “appears to be the epicenter” of English Book of Mormon syntax and which is often viewed as a “golden age’ in English history and literature — for the most part, it’s also the age of Shakespeare — covers the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, from 1558 to 1603.

“Therefore,” Carmack writes, “in view of the totality of the evidence adduced here, I would assert that it is no longer possible to argue that the earliest text of the Book of Mormon is defective and substandard in its grammar. … It clearly draws on a wide array of … language forms and syntax from the Early Modern English period, some of them obscure and inaccessible to virtually everyone 200 years ago. Only now are we beginning to appreciate the book’s surprising linguistic depth and breadth.”

What does this all mean? If Skousen and Carmack are right, believers in the Book of Mormon’s miraculous origin have solid grounds for surprise. Those who regard Joseph Smith as the book’s author, however, should feel challenged and deeply perplexed.