long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meridian Magazine and Book of Mormon Central do it again

For a while, I commented on the blatant Mesomania that shows up in the daily KnoWhys from Book of Mormon Central. They steadfastly refuse to offer alternatives to their obsession with Mesoamerica, even when they have to contort and retranslate the text to make it fit in Central America. My favorite example was their discussion of wine, here.

And, of course, the editors at Meridian Magazine, (which should be renamed Mesomania Magazine), reprint the KnoWhys to magnify the devastating impact Book of Mormon Central is having.

Yesterday Meridian published a KnoWhy on Cumorah. You have to see this to believe it. Here's the link.

Before you read that, though, you should know two things.

First, the underlying context for this article is the two-Cumorahs theory; i.e., the Mesoamerican advocates have long said the hill in New York cannot be the scene of the final battles because it's too small and insignificant. That's what leads them to discredit Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, who wrote and endorsed Letter VII.

Second, the text does not say that 230,000 people were killed at Cumorah. Read Mormon 6 here. Mormon says his ten thousand were hewn down, leaving 24 survivors. The next day, he and Moroni and the 22 others made it to the top of the hill Cumorah and looked out to see the ten thousand he, Mormon, had led.They also beheld the ten thousand who were led by Moroni.

But those are the only two groups of ten thousand Mormon said they saw from the top of the hill.

This is an important point. The other groups of ten thousand, starting in verse 13, "had fallen" but Mormon does not say he saw them from the top of the hill.

In Chapter 5, Mormon described the "scene of blood and carnage" that preceded the final battle at Cumorah. The Lamanites "did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet." It was only "the remainder of our people" who gathered unto the land of Cumorah (Mormon 6:5).

When we realize that Mormon, from the top of Cumorah, only claimed to see 20,000 people slaughtered before him, the context is much different from the common assumption that he was looking at 230,000 people. It's no wonder that his people awaited with "that awful fear of death" when they were merely 20,000 making a last stand against the Lamanite armies.

People reasonably infer that this final slaughter occurred on a single day because in Mormon 6:11, Mormon says they beheld the dead "on the morrow." (I think this refers to the day after the battles finished and does not mean the final slaughter took only one day, but I'm fine with either interpretation.) The idea that 230,000 people were killed in one day is often cited as another rationale for questioning the reliability and credibility of the text. By contrast, as horrific as the slaughter of 20,000 people is, it's not unrealistic to think it could happen in a single day.

I bring this up because the inference that 230,000 men (and more women and children) were killed on a single day around the hill Cumorah has led to all kinds of mischief in the analysis of the text. In my view, Mormon makes it clear he could see 20,000 dead from the top of Cumorah, while the rest were killed earlier. 20,000 is still tragic and horrible enough.

[BTW, in Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery wrote "In this vale lie commingled, in one mass of ruin, the ashes of thousands, and in this vale were destined to be consumed the fair forms and vigorous systems of tens of thousands of the human race—blood mixed with blood, flesh with flesh, bones with bones, and dust with dust!" Notice, he did not distinguish between Nephites and Lamanites; he included dead Lamanites as well as the dead Nephites. And yet, he does not write "hundreds of thousands." So as early as 1835, it was well-known that it was tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands, who died at Cumorah.]

I fully admit I might be missing something. If so, please advise and we'll correct it.

Because I have a tee time coming up, I'm not going to go through the entire Meridian article, but you'll get the flavor. My comments in red.

The Know
In the final battle at the Hill Cumorah, the Lamanites completely decimated  the Nephites. [not sure how you can "completely decimate" anything. Decimate means "to kill one in every ten" or to kill or destroy "a large percentage." The Lamanites didn't "decimate" the Nephites; they annihilated them.] Mormon stated that the Lamanites killed roughly 230,000 of his people.[1] Yet this number may, at first, seem impossibly large. [Here we go. The standard methodology of Mesoamerican proponents is to retranslate the text, or change the plain meaning to fit the Mesoamerican setting. You see it in many of the KnoWhys (which explains why people call these "no-wise"] One wonders how an army of 230,000 people could exist during a time when the entire population of the world was probably only around 206 million.[2] It is impossible to know exactly why these numbers are so high, but there are a few possibilities.
1. Mormon May Have Exaggerated [See?]
The first thing to consider is that ancient texts often exaggerate population sizes. In the Old Testament for example, 600,000 Israelite males are said to have left Egypt (Exodus 12:37).[4]When one considers the women and children that left at the same time, this would mean that 2.5 million Israelites likely left Egypt at the same time. Seeing that the entire population of Egypt at the time was likely only 2.8 million, these numbers seem to be clearly exaggerated.[5] It is therefore possible that Mormon, like other ancient historians, simply exaggerated when talking about numbers this large.[6] [So not only is the Book of Mormon unreliable, but the Bible is too. You'll see this a lot once you start paying attention to what LDS scholars and educators are teaching, as I'll be showing in the next few months.]
2. A Thousand May Not Actually Mean a Thousand [See again? To fit the text into Mesoamerica, it is standard practice to claim the text doesn't mean what it says. A "horse" is actually a "tapir," etc.]
It is also possible that “ten thousand” represents a military unit and not an exact number of soldiers. In Hebrew, the word eleph can mean the literal number 1,000, but it can also mean a military squad.[7] If this is the case, each military commander could simply have been in charge of 10 “squads” of unknown numbers, putting the number of casualties much lower than they might seem at first.[8] [If the squad is of unknown numbers, the number of casualties could be higher as well as lower.]


  1. Surprised me to see that so many claims made in the Book of Mormon itself were questioned as to accuracy in this article- while the location- which was NOT mentioned, was just assumed to be in Mesoamerica without any proof at all.

    1. A lot of LDS people are surprised when they see what has been going on, but this has been standard operating procedure for Book of Mormon Central, BMAF, FairMormon, the Interpreter, and the rest (including the old FARMS). None of the material in these no-wise is new. The more they distribute it, though, the more members of the Church will see what they've been up to.

  2. Frankly, the "elef" comment is actually a very useful way to understand the underlying Hebrew and probably the correct way to interpret the text whenever "1,000s" are involved, both in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible. This does not show that either text was translated inaccurately--far from it; this apparent Hebraism is very good evidence that the texts were both (a) translated from Hebrew and (b) translated closely (i.e., not re-imagined using modern phrases).

    If the underlying text of the Book of Mormon from which Joseph translated the plates was a form of Hebrew (though in Egyptian characters), which I believe, then I would expect the term "thousands" to keep its Hebrew meaning of "squads" ("divisions" is, I think, the better translation, but whatever, "squads"). It makes more sense how they could get such an accurate count when surveying the field of co-mingled carnage (you would have had bodies bathed in dried blood, missing limbs, heads, torsos, etc.)--they knew they had begun the day with 10 divisions each. Now only 24 survived, minus the few who escaped south and other possible deserters. Therefore, they knew they were looking over 20 slaughtered divisions, without needing to number out 20,000, less 24 or so.

    1. That's a fair interpretation that makes sense. Thanks for the observation.

  3. 12 And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni.
    13 And behold, the ten thousand of Gidgiddonah had fallen, and he also in the midst.

    You have to really torture the written word to read this and make the claims that you just did.

    Not a meso-believer, but in my estimation, you're not doing the BOM a whole lot of favors with nonsense like this, either.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify. Actually, you have to torture the written word to read it to mean Mormon saw the other groups from the top of the hill.

      This is the grammatical difference between the past tense of the transitive verb "behold" meaning "to look upon or view" when Mormon wrote "we beheld" and "we did behold" as a statement of what they actually saw, vs. the imperative "Behold" which is used as an interjection to call attention (which the Oxford English Dictionary explains is a synonym for "Lo").
      Look at 6:18 as another example of the interjection. Mormon and Moroni use "Behold" this way about 70 times in Mormon alone. Look at Mormon 8:1. Moroni writes "Behold I, Moroni, do finish..." He's not saying he is seeing himself. He's calling the reader's attention to the fact that it is he who is finishing the record. Mormon did the same in 6:13, calling our attention to the fact that these other men and their 10,000 had fallen. More examples in chapter 8, verses 6, 8, 9, 13, 23, 25, 33, 35, etc.
      We find this same dual usage throughout the Bible.
      BTW, I think it's also significant that Mormon uses the past tense (past simple) for his men (they "were hewn down"), but he uses the past perfect ("Lamah had fallen," etc.) for the people who had died previously. We use past perfect to refer to something that happened before another action in the past; i.e., the 10,000 of Mormon and Moroni died that day (past simple), but the other groups of 10,000 had died previously (past perfect).
      I just think if Mormon had seen these 230,000 from the top of the hill, verses 13-15 would read like verse 12.
      Anyway, that's my interpretation. Feel free to differ.