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.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Is the English Book of Mormon written in Joseph Smith's language?

(by Daniel Peterson 6-22-17)

Theories of the origin of the Book of Mormon abound. (See my 2004 essay “‘In the Hope That Something Will Stick': Changing Explanations for the Book of Mormon,” online at Those who reject it typically say that the translator Joseph Smith wrote it himself, or that he plagiarized it from the work of some other roughly contemporary person or persons.

Such theories have recently been challenged by the extraordinary ongoing research of linguists Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack, which seems to demonstrate the existence in the Book of Mormon elements of Early Modern English that cannot be fully explained even by borrowing from the King James Bible, let alone by referring to the 19th-century English spoken by Joseph and his contemporaries. Skeptics who dismiss the Book of Mormon’s style as “just Joseph, trying to sound scriptural,” now face a bigger hurdle than they had realized.

Even believers in the Book of Mormon differ in their views of its translation and of the relationship between the Prophet Joseph Smith and the original text. A common explanation offered by faithful scholars has held that Joseph came via revelation to a miraculous understanding of the content of the golden plates; he then expressed that understanding in his own language, albeit in a manner heavily affected by the grand, archaic style of King James’ early-17th-century Bible translators.

However, in a new article published in “Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture” — full disclosure: I’m the Interpreter Foundation’s chairman and president — under the title “How Joseph Smith’s Grammar Differed from Book of Mormon Grammar: Evidence from the 1832 History” (online at, Carmack presents further evidence suggesting that the language of the Book of Mormon is not that of the Prophet Joseph.

He compares the Book of Mormon to one of our earliest specimens of Joseph Smith’s style, his 1832 autobiographical “History.” (The document, nearly 2,000 words long, is available for reading online at A third of it was written by Frederick G. Williams at Joseph’s dictation; the rest is in Joseph’s own hand. Carmack concentrates on three archaic and nonbiblical linguistic features that occur quite frequently in the Book of Mormon, concluding that, although there was ample opportunity for their use in the 1832 “History,” they don’t occur in it.

The “History,” says Carmack, manifests linguistic features that we would expect to see in a text coming from its background in the early American Republic. Thus, it differs substantially from the Book of Mormon. In Carmack’s judgment, “This provides support for the view that English words were actually transmitted in some way to Joseph in 1829, words that he then dictated to scribes” — and, if true, counts as evidence against not only the skeptical claim that the Book of Mormon was altogether composed by Joseph Smith or some rather obscure contemporary or group of contemporaries, but also against the notion that Joseph clothed a divinely delivered understanding of the contents of the golden plates in his own language.

Carmack acknowledges that further study of Joseph’s language, based upon larger samples of it, would be helpful, and hints that this may yet be done. Nonetheless, he argues, the 1832 “History” offers a very useful glance into Joseph’s linguistic preferences and habits, and specifically into his grammar, at a time not too far removed from the dictation of the Book of Mormon, which makes comparison between the two texts meaningful and significant.

With this article, Carmack deepens and solidifies one of the arguments that he and Skousen have been making with meticulous care, on the basis of objectively “observable, descriptive linguistic facts: the earliest text of the Book of Mormon contains a large amount of archaic language — vocabulary, syntax and morphology — that is not found, either systematically or at all, in 19th-century American dialect or in the King James Bible. Massively represented syntax supports independent instances of archaic, extra-biblical vocabulary. Obsolete lexical usage supports the descriptive linguistic conclusion that there is archaic, extra-biblical syntax and morphology.”

All of which, among other things, comes together to suggest, in a manner nobody had imagined even a few years ago, that neither Joseph Smith nor any of his contemporaries wrote the Book of Mormon.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Faithful Young Family: The Parents, Brothers and Sisters of Brigham


Brigham Young—organizer, pioneer, inspired prophet of God. We revere him as an energetic, fearless man of action who helped establish the kingdom of God on earth and helped ensure its nonstop proliferation through the best and worst of times.
Yet Brigham Young’s story is hardly one of auspicious beginnings or easy circumstances. And it is not the history of his life alone. Rather, his story commences with a family portrait. Father, mother, brothers, and sisters formed an intimate, cherished nucleus where Brigham was nourished in Christian principles and thereby prepared to embrace the restored gospel. All living members of his immediate family joined the Church, became stalwarts in the faith, and set spiritual precedents for future generations.      

Early Years

Brigham Young was the third youngest of eleven children born to John and Abigail (“Nabby”) Howe Young between 1786 and 1807. John, a veteran of three Revolutionary War campaigns under George Washington, married Nabby in 1785. The young couple settled on a farm in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. John, a “small, nimble, wiry man,”   toiled unceasingly to support his rapidly growing family. But he never lost sight of his moral and religious convictions. “He was very circumspect, exemplary and religious,” wrote Brigham, “and was, from an early period of his life, a member of the Methodist Church.” 3
Nabby was one of the five popular Howe sisters of Shrewsbury, near Hopkinton—“pretty girls, vivacious, musical. … All were very devout and deeply concerned with Puritan religious life.” Physically, Nabby was “a little above medium height. She had blue eyes, with yellowish brown hair, folded in natural waves and ringlets across her shapely brow.” And the nineteen-year-old was “exceedingly methodical and orderly in her temperament.”   
She had innate medical ability, as her son Phinehas testified:
“My earliest recollection of the scenes of life are relating to myself and my brother Joseph. A short time before I was two years old, he cut off my right hand, except a small portion of my little finger, with an ax, while we were at play. My mother doctored it and saved it.”   
The first eight Young children were Nancy, born in 1786; Fanny (1787); Rhoda (1789); John, Jr. (1791); Nabby, her mother’s namesake (1793); Susannah (1795); Joseph (1797); and Phinehas Howe (1799).
After sixteen years in Hopkinton (with a brief interlude in Platauva District, New York), John moved his family into a log cabin on the outskirts of Whitingham, Windham County, Vermont, in the bitter New England cold of January 1801. Here, five months later, Brigham was born on 1 June 1801. The family remained in Whitingham for about three years while John cleared timber to render the land suitable for farming.
Another promising land enterprise took the Youngs to Sherburn, Chenango County, New York, in 1804, where John “followed farming, clearing new land, and enduring many hardships, with his family, incidental to new settlements in a heavy timbered country as New York was in those days.”       Here the last two children were born, Louisa in 1804 and Lorenzo Dow in 1807.
Despite John’s industry, Nabby’s thrift, and occasional prospects for economic improvement, the Youngs never had material success. Sacrifice, illness, and poverty were constant, unremitting companions. Brigham reflected years later on the discrepancies between his father’s dreams and the disheartening reality:
“My father was a poor, honest, hard-working man; and his mind seemingly stretched from east to west, from north to south; and to the day of his death he wanted to command worlds” (Journal of Discourses, 9:104).
By the time baby Lorenzo Dow joined the family in 1807, two of his sisters had already married and left home. Nancy married Daniel Kent in 1803; the same year Fanny, then sixteen, married Robert Carr.
Joseph Young recalled that when baby Brigham was a few months old, “my father bought a cow … and it is worthy of note that the cow gave more milk than any one I have ever seen since that time. … The animal would suffer no one to come near her, except my sister Fanny, who with the infant Brigham in her arms performed this service of milking twice each day during the summer; this was in consequence of the sickness of my mother, and the child had to be nursed from the bottle, and no one could pacify him but my sister Fanny.”   
Daughter Nabby, then fourteen, died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1807. The illness had ravaged the frail constitution of her mother for several years and would ultimately prove fatal to her, also. It was a prolonged, agonizing death, common among frontier families of the day.
In 1813 two more of John and Nabby’s children left the nest. In February Rhoda, then twenty-three, married John Pourtenous Greene; later that year John, Jr., married Theodocia Kimball. Susannah married James Little in 1814. By this time the family had moved again—to Cayuga County, New York.
When in June of 1815 Nabby Young finally lost the long and painful battle against consumption, five of her children—Joseph, Phinehas, Brigham, Louisa, and Lorenzo—ages just under eight to eighteen, were living at home. Fanny, separated from her unfaithful husband, had returned to the household during Nabby’s final days, and for a while kept the family together. Within three years of Nabby’s death, however, father and children had gone separate ways, though strong family ties still united them in many respects. Joseph had been apprenticed out to a brother-in-law, James Little (Susannah’s husband), for miscellaneous “service”; Lorenzo lived for a while with a sister, Rhoda Greene, and later joined the Littles to learn gardening and tree raising.
Phinehas married Clarissa Hamilton at age nineteen in 1818. Father Young meanwhile moved to Tyrone, New York, and in 1817 married Hannah Brown, a widow with several children. She and John would have a son, Edward. Brigham, apprenticed to a carpenter in Auburn (near Tyrone), in a short time became an expert carpenter, painter, and glazier. Louisa probably lived with her father and stepmother until she married Joel Sanford in 1825.
(for more, click on the link bellow)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Documents tell of Joseph Smith's dog

(by R. Scott Lloyd 6-4-17)

Among the companions of the Prophet Joseph Smith was a faithful and protective dog. At a session of the Mormon History Association Conference June 2, scholar Alexander L. Baugh presented sources that tell more about the dog, including documents recently discovered in Iowa.

“The very first reference we have to Joseph Smith’s dog is from George A. Smith on Zion’s Camp,” Baugh said, referring to the expedition led by the Prophet from Kirtland, Ohio, to Clay County, Missouri, to regain land from which the Saints had been driven.

According to George A. Smith’s reminiscence, an 80-year-old member of the camp know as Father Baker gave the dog to the Prophet for protection, fearing that spies who were watching the camp would seek Joseph’s life.

“The dog was greatly attached to Joseph and was generally by his side, keeping watch over everything that approached the camp,” George A. Smith wrote.

The reminiscence describes an altercation between Joseph and a dissenter in the camp named Sylvester Smith, who was angered when the dog threatened to attack him with the intent of protecting Joseph.

Baugh, a professor and chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, cited another reference to the dog, this one from a reminiscence by Joseph Smith III, son of the prophet. He remembered at the age of 6 some excitement going on outside the house.

“I remember Father starting away from the house and our white dog Major jumping from an upper window in a platform below to follow him off,” Joseph III wrote.

From this, it can be learned that the dog’s name was Major.

Another reference to the dog was in the Times and Seasons newspaper of Oct. 15, 1841.

“Joseph Smith was accused of getting rich off the Church, and the Quourm of the Twelve issued this epistle and mentioned in there what Joseph owned,” Baugh said. The items were his horse, two pet deer, two old turkeys, four young ones, an cow, “his old Major dog,” his wife, children and a little household furniture.

Inez Smith Davis, great-granddaugther of the Prophet recounted some family lore in a book she wrote describing Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s departure for Carthage from Nauvoo: “All seemed to sense an approaching tragedy, at least those nearest and dearest to Joseph and Hyrum felt impending calamity. Even Joseph’s great mastiff, Major, for the first time in his faithful life, refused to obey orders to ‘go back home’ and insisted on staying close to his master.”

“Now we know what kind of dog he was,” Baugh commented.

He quoted a source describing an English mastiff as having a lifespan of 10-12 years, weighing up to 230 pounds, and being affectionate, courageous, protective, good natured, dignified and calm.

“So that tells another reason why Joseph loved this dog and obviously used old Major as a protection for himself,” Baugh said.

In the collection of Iowa documents recently found by Baugh’s colleague at BYU, John W. Welch, are two letters written by Aaron W. Harlan to the Keokuk Daily Post in Keokuk, Iowa, dated Feb. 17 and March 2, 1888. In the letters, Harlan recalls numerous experiences with Joseph Smith.

In the last letter, he said of Joseph Smith: “I have ate with him at his table and played with his dog, and on noticing the dog was getting old, I said to Mr. Smith, ‘Your dog is unusually fat.’ ‘Yes,’ said Mr. Smith, ‘he lives as I do and shall as long as we both live,’ and then added that when he was prisoner in Missouri, that dog could not be separated from him and for months when he slept that dog always remained awake by his side.”

Baugh referred to a letter Joseph wrote to his wife Emma from Liberty Jail mentioning the dog, indicating the dog was not with him at that time. “I think we can probably conclude the dog was with him,” Baugh said, “until at least late January 1839, because that’s the last time Emma visits Joseph Smith, and perhaps now that she’s getting ready to go to exit Missouri and go to Quincy, Joseph or somebody gave the dog to her to go to Quincy with her.”
He summarized: “Old Major was a large, white, English mastiff. There is evidence old Major was given to Joseph Smith by Samuel Baker while en route to Missouri with Zions Camp in June 1834. Mastiffs are characteristically loyal, courageous and protective. And it appears that old Major served to protect Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was permitted to have Old Major with him in Liberty Jail. The dog did not remain with him during the entire incarceration.

“At some point the dog was probably taken back to Far West, possibly by Emma during her last visit to the jail on Jan. 21, 1839, and the fact that the Liberty prisoners made an attempt to escape the jail on Feb. 7 suggests that Old Major was no longer there. While in Liberty Jail, Joseph clearly missed Old Major as evidenced by the fact that Joseph inquired about him in his March 21 and April 4 letters to Emma. Old Major was still alive by the time Joseph was murdered and would have been about 10 years old if he was a young dog at the time he got him in 1834.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

LDS Perspectives: "Mere Christians?" with Robert Millet

I fell hard for the Book of Mormon but did not convert to the LDS Church

(by Grant Sheve 5-30-17)

When I first picked up the Book of Mormon in preparation for a dissertation on religion and the rise of the American novel, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it. But I did fall — and hard — although not into the arms of the church. I did not, in other words, become a Latter-day Saint.

Mine was an aesthetic experience, not a religious one. The Book of Mormon gripped me in the same way Herman Melville’s "Moby-Dick" and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s "Dred" had years earlier. I’m a sucker for books that go against the grain, and the Book of Mormon went against just about every grain I knew. Its strangeness, its audacity, its rebuke to the tacit creeds structuring everyday life in antebellum (and contemporary) America, utterly thrilled me. In it, I felt I had discovered a singularly penetrative and searching intelligence. “How does such a book exist?,” I thought. And why isn’t everyone talking about it?

Encounters with the Book of Mormon like mine have been rare, historically speaking. From its inception, the book has more often been a tool for conversion and spiritual edification than an object of belletristic appreciation. Because of its inextricable attachment to a living, thriving, but often marginalized religious community, the Book of Mormon’s place within the academic humanities has been complicated, to say the least.

English departments, especially, have simply pretended it doesn’t exist, quietly building a wall of separation between literary studies and the Book of Mormon that, even though it never threatened the book’s status as a religious text, ultimately denied it its power as a literary one. In the past several years, however, scholars of American literature have become increasingly receptive to teaching and writing about the Book of Mormon as an essential part of American literary history, marking a momentous turning point in the respective histories of both the book and literary studies.

It’s hard to overstate how remarkable this seachange is. As I argued recently in an essay for Religion & Politics, American literature studies’ historical silence surrounding the Book of Mormon has been deafening. Aside from its surprising inclusion in the “Popular Bibles” section of the first edition of the Cambridge History of American Literature, published in 1921, the Book of Mormon was absent from all major histories of American literature until 2009, when "A New Literary History of America" included an entry on the Book of Mormon written by Terryl Givens. In the interim, the Book of Mormon hardly ever received even passing mention in scholarly publications on American literature. And what nods it did receive were rarely favorable.

As the study of American literature became more professionalized after 1930, literary critics learned reflexively to dismiss the Book of Mormon as biblical parody. In 1932, the critic Van Wyck Brooks, echoing a long line of 19th-century critiques, called the Book of Mormon a “solemn parody of the Bible.” Three decades later, in his seminal study of American literature’s arrested adolescence, "Love and Death in the American Novel," Leslie Fiedler parroted Brooks when he wrote that the Book of Mormon had “caricatured the Bible unawares.” Even today, it’s not hard to find scores of critics — professional and amateur, online and in print — who regurgitate this sentiment, whether or not they’ve ever read the book.

This history of dismissal underscores how significant it is that professors of American literature across the country are now assigning the Book of Mormon to students alongside such staples as "Leaves of Grass" and "The Scarlet Letter," and that reputable scholarly journals in the field have begun publishing essays on it after decades of either quietly rejecting articles about the Book of Mormon or never receiving them in the first place. Many factors have contributed to this reversal of the Book of Mormon’s fortunes within the academy, but two of the most important are the availability of editions of the book from reputable trade and academic presses as well as a renewed interest among literary critics in the relationship between religion and literature.

But just because many literature professors have embraced the Book of Mormon does not mean that they are all teaching it the same way. Indeed, its long exclusion from canons of American literature means that there doesn’t even exist a standard way to teach it in the modern secular classroom, as there does, say, with Henry James’s "Portrait of a Lady."

Besides becoming a more familiar presence in large introductory survey courses that familiarize undergraduates with the touchstones of American literary history, the Book of Mormon has also been appearing on syllabi for courses that situate it in some of the discipline’s most cutting-edge contexts. Both Princeton and Johns Hopkins now offer regular courses on American scriptures, which read the Book of Mormon in conjunction with other scriptural works published in the United States (like "Science and Health" and "Dianetics") as well as works that have scriptural aspirations (like "Moby-Dick" and "Ben-Hur").

At the University of California, Davis and the University of Illinois at Chicago, English faculty are teaching the Book of Mormon through the lenses of queer theory and temporality studies. And at the University of Vermont, graduate students were recently treated to a course singularly devoted to the Book of Mormon and the many possible contexts for reading it. In addition to this pedagogical renaissance, a forthcoming collection of essays from Oxford University Press titled "Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon" promises to be a culmination of recent literary engagements with the book.

For someone like me, whose interest in the Book of Mormon is entirely removed from any church affiliation, these reappropriations and novel interpretations of the book seem all for the good. But I also recognize that the recent embrace of the book by literature scholars radically alters the context in which many are encountering it. For nearly two centuries, the LDS Church has set the terms for the Book of Mormon’s reception and interpretation. But in the 21st-century literature classroom, the book’s spectacular origins and the questions surrounding its veracity are often altogether absent from the conversation. Instead, its narrative structure, its historical context, its textual history and its rhetorical power, have taken center stage. Under such conditions, the book is likely to grow in esteem but is unlikely to swell membership rolls.

It’s been disorienting to find myself on more than one occasion over the past several years sitting around the dinner table with family and friends ferociously defending the artistic merits of the Book of Mormon and repeating ad nauseam the old adage that the only thing guaranteed to keep a person in everlasting ignorance is “contempt prior to investigation.” Sometimes I feel like the old deacon who breathlessly reported to Parley Pratt that he had come into possession of a “strange book, a VERY STRANGE BOOK!”
I am a full-throated advocate for this very strange book but the conversations I long to have about it are best suited for the seminar table and the lecture hall. That they are happening more and more in college classrooms throughout the United States testifies to the truth of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s remark that great books endure once they have been “winnowed by all the winds of opinion.”


Friday, June 2, 2017

Near Eastern languages in ancient America?

(by Daniel Peterson 6-1-17)

Critics of the Book of Mormon often argue that no evidence exists for contact between the ancient Near East and the Americas. Accordingly, proof of such contact would demolish a principal objection to Joseph Smith’s prophetic claims.

If the thesis of Brian Stubbs’ "Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan" is correct, he has furnished precisely that proof.
I’ll draw here from two reviews of his difficult, complex book. The first was published in BYU Studies by Dirk Elzinga, who teaches linguistics at Brigham Young University and is online at Holder of a doctorate from the University of Arizona, his research focuses on Uto-Aztecan languages (specifically, Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute and Ute). The second, written by John Robertson, professor of linguistics emeritus at Brigham Young University, appeared in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture and online at Equipped with a Ph.D. from Harvard, Robertson's scholarly career has concentrated on language change, the reconstruction of proto-Mayan, and the grammar and sound system of Mayan hieroglyphs.

More than 30 years ago, Stubbs told Robertson he had found “a significant number of cognates that would link a New World language family (Uto-Aztecan) to an Old World language family (pre-exilic Hebrew and later others).” “Two words are cognate,” Elzinga explains, “if it can be demonstrated that they both have a common historical source and that their sound (and meaning) differences are due to normally occurring linguistic change.”

Robertson admits he was initially “suspicious” of “a wild claim.” After all, “the scholarly consensus was and is that among the thousands of languages spoken in the New World prior to European contact” none had Old World connections. (“It is something of a parlor trick among linguists,” observes Elzinga, “to find false cognates between any two arbitrarily chosen languages; it is surprisingly easy.”)

Since then, though, based on such works as his massive 2011 book “Uto-Aztecan: A Comparative Vocabulary,” Stubbs has become “a well-respected linguist” (Elzinga) and “one of the leading Uto-Aztecanists worldwide” (Robertson).

And now he’s published “his crowning work” (Robertson), “his magnum opus, a compendium of lexical, phonological, and grammatical data that provides evidence for infusions of ancient Near Eastern languages in Uto-Aztecan grammar and lexicon” (Elzinga).

“Of course,” Robertson points out, “it would not be difficult to dismiss the whole of his argument out of hand.” For one thing, “all previous attempts to connect any New World language to European or Middle Eastern languages have been amateurish, even laughable by credible linguistic standards,” and, for another, “because Stubbs is a Mormon, his scholarship would naturally be tainted and therefore untrustworthy.”

However, “It is an impressive follow-up to his earlier UA work,” writes Robertson. “His 2015 publication deserves the same assessment of the data that has been given to his earlier 2011 publication — even in the face of his unusual claim.”

“At first glance,” writes Elzinga, the book seems to belong to “linguistic crackpottery.” It’s “dense, self-published, and in sore need of careful editing — none of which immediately commends it to the serious reader.” But Stubbs “has … the training and experience, together with extensive accurate data, to back up his extraordinary claim.”

“As a practitioner of the comparative historical method for 40-plus years,” Robertson concludes, “I believe I can say what Stubbs’s scholarship does and does not deserve: It does not deserve aprioristic dismissal given the extensive data he presents. It does deserve authoritative consideration because, from my point of view, I cannot find an easy way to challenge the breadth and depth of the data.”

“The scholarship throughout is sound,” Elzinga declares. “Stubbs has a good track record of academic publication in Uto-Aztecan studies, and he is just as careful with his treatment of the present material as he is in his more traditional Uto-Aztecan work. … It is definitely worth the trouble to work through this book.”

So, has Stubbs proved the Book of Mormon true? No. But, as Elzinga perceptively observes, his data suggest that speakers of both Egyptian and a Semitic language came into contact with Uto-Aztecan speakers at roughly the same time, and that a distinct Semitic infusion occurred at a different point.

“To Latter-day Saints, a scenario immediately presents itself to explain two separate Semitic infusions, but Stubbs is careful to avoid this sort of speculation and to let the data speak for itself,” Elzinga writes.
Helpfully, Stubbs has also published a shorter, simpler and expressly Mormon-oriented version of his longer work, titled “Changes in Languages: From Nephi to Now.”