This is a long post and some people don't like long posts, so I'll give the twitter version here:
Contemporary Mesomania-inspired LDS scholarship is impeding long-promised revelation.
Monte S. Nyman wrote an important article for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in 2001 that I want to comment on. It's online here.
At the outset, Brother Nyman is awesome. I'm not criticizing him at all. His article is a valuable explanation of the records I'm talking about. However, as you'll see, he is operating under long-held assumptions that, IMO, are driven by Mesomania.
Here is the abstract:
"Many critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that there cannot be any scripture added to the Bible, thus making the Book of Mormon blasphemous. However, many scriptures refer to other books of scriptures, including the Book of Mormon and other records that are not currently available to the world. Monte S. Nyman discusses here the plausibility of receiving modern revelation and scripture from God. He also suggests that by studying the Book of Mormon and other scriptures in conjunction with the Bible, Latter-day Saints can better prepare for the day when lost records are restored." (emphasis added)
It is this essential preparation that I want to focus on in this post.
[This post isn't about the problems in the painting, but I don't want people to think I consider this an accurate representation. First, it shows just one set of plates on the table, presumably depicting the plates Joseph translated in the Book of Mormon. But there were really two sets of plates. The abridgments (Harmony plates) were separate from the plates of Nephi (Fayette plates). The sealed portion was not 2/3 of the set of plates. The room was not a natural cave but a man-made room with walls of cut stone, etc.]
I like the painting because it depicts the many records in the repository as described by Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, etc. It's also pleasing artistically.
Best of all, the painting does not depict Mormon's repository of records with Mayan glyphs on it, which is a huge improvement over the depiction in the North Visitors' Center on Temple Square.
Nyman cites Brigham Young's description and notes this:
"Some of the records that the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw in the cave [room] were undoubtedly among those that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon."
Nyman then lists the records he analyzes in his article:
(1) the plates of brass,
(2) the plates of Nephi,
(3) the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon plates,
(4) the record of the lost ten tribes,
(5) the 24 Jaredite gold plates,
(6) the Lamanite records, and
(7) other Jaredite records.
I'll discuss each in turn, but first, I note the record Nyman doesn't mention: the lost 116 pages. That is a topic of an upcoming post, but for now, I note that by tradition, people think the lost pages were destroyed (burned). However, the D&C 10 explains the pages were not destroyed. The Book of Lehi was part of the record Nephi prophesied would go to the world, so we would expect that to happen someday.
1. The plates of brass. Nyman notes that "the plates of brass will serve as a third witness to the Bible and also will testify that the Book of Mormon is a witness to the Bible.... the actual ancient records of such prophets as Zenos, Zenoch, and Neum will be restored." David Whitmer said he saw the plates of brass. As I've suggested elsewhere, I think he saw them in the repository in Cumorah but knew he wasn't supposed to talk about that publicly, so he said he saw them with Oliver and Joseph during the 3 witnesses event. LDS scholars don't know what to make of David's statement because, according to them, the repository was merely a vision of a hill somewhere in Mexico. That's what Mesomania does for you. But if we accept Joseph and Oliver and their successors, the Hill Cumorah, including Mormon's repository (Mormon 6:6) is in New York, so we can expect the plates of brass to still be there. Not in Cumorah itself, but not far from there, as David Whitmer explained.
2. The plates of Nephi. Nyman cites 3 Nephi 26:7-8 and writes, "highly valuable contents of the larger plates of Nephi will come forth when a certain portion of the Lamanites, as they are known today, and other church members accept the fulness of the gospel as found in the Book of Mormon."
Nyman writes "larger plates of Nephi" because of his assumption that the so-called "small plates of Nephi" were included in the record Joseph originally received from Moroni, which was the common understanding until we realized there were two sets of plates. D&C 10 refers only to "the plates of Nephi," which Joseph didn't have when he was in Harmony. Nephi himself refers to both sets of plates he created as "the plates of Nephi." The smaller/larger distinction is not made in the text but by scholars who sought a way to distinguish between the two sets of plates. The important thing here is that we don't have the full record of either set of the plates of Nephi because even when the messenger brought the "small" plates of Nephi to Fayette, Joseph translated only until he came to the reign of king Benjamin (D&C 10:41). So we expect to receive both sets of the plates of Nephi in the future.
A key to receiving these plates is that, as Nyman explains, "The abridgment of Nephi’s record was to try the faith of the Lamanites and, more broadly, the Lord’s people in the latter days."
Thanks to Mesomania, we have the major problem of not knowing who the Lamanites are. The Church History Museum and the Joseph Smith Papers tell us that "Early church members viewed contemporary American Indian tribes as the descendants of the Lamanites."
A lot of people don't believe me when I quote this, but you can see it yourself here:
http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/topic/lamanites. You can also see it on display at the Church History Museum. Some members of the Church--including me--think that it was the Lord who designated these tribes as Lamanites in D&C 28, 30, and 32. Because of Mesomania, however, the scholars have convinced themselves that this was merely a quaint folk belief among "early church members."
Look at the next sentence in the Joseph Smith Papers: "Since the Book of Mormon was written in part “to the Lamanites,” some of the first missionaries were sent to preach the gospel and establish the church among the American Indians."
The scholars use the passive voice to avoid saying that the Lord sent the missionaries to the Lamanites.
Just for fun, look at the actual revelation in D&C 28:8. "8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them." Next, go to D&C 30 and 32.
Now, we have a choice to make. We can believe A or B.
A. The Lord sent the missionaries to the Lamanites (D&C 28, 30 and 32).
B. "Some of the first missionaries were sent to preach the gospel and establish the church among the American Indians" because "early church members viewed contemporary American Indian tribes as the descendants of the Lamanites." (Joseph Smith Papers)
In my opinion, B is nothing but Mesomania-inspired scholarly interpretation that outright contradicts the scriptures.
As long as alternative B prevails, we can hardly expect the Lamanites to "believe these things" as the Lord said in 3 Nephi.
I'm unclear on something Nyman wrote here, but since Journal of Book of Mormon Studies published his article, I assume this sentence is also inspired by Mesomania (and may have been added by the editor): "This suggests that highly valuable contents of the larger plates of Nephi will come forth when a certain portion of the Lamanites, as they are known today, and other church members accept the fulness of the gospel as found in the Book of Mormon."
The clause "as they are known today" seems to fit with the Joseph Smith Papers spin; i.e., not the Lamanites as "early church members" believed (as taught in D&C 28, 30 and 32), but the Lamanites "as the scholars teach are in Mesoamerica."
Fortunately, IMO, this scholarly gloss is being dissolved. How long it will take to fix the Joseph Smith Papers and the Church History museum and the Visitors' Center and all the artwork, etc., I don't know, but the prophecies can't be fulfilled in terms of additional scripture until all of this is fixed, IMO.
3. The Sealed Portion. I'll do a separate post on the sealed portion (I think both the Harmony and the Fayette plates contained separate sealed portions), but for now, note how the current thinking among scholars seems to be that Joseph didn't need the plates to translate. They sat on the table covered up as a sort of token of antiquity while all Joseph did was look at a stone in a hat to translate. IMO, this is pure spin that is not supported by either the historical record, simple logic, or the text of the revelations. One example. Nephi told the future translator “touch not the things which are sealed, for I [the Lord] will bring them forth in mine own due time” (2 Nephi 27:21). If Joseph wasn't using the plates to translate, then why would Nephi care if Joseph "touched" that portion? Same with Moroni's comments. There was no point to even having a "sealed portion" if Joseph wasn't actually translating the plates themselves. It would have been up to the stone to tell him what to "translate" and what to leave alone. More later.
4. The Record of the Ten Tribes. 2 Nephi 29 explains this. Nyman writes, "While these treasures could refer to the records of the lost tribes, they could also include the genealogical records that will be brought to the temples of Ephraim and enable the lost tribes to receive their ordinances, the crowning ones being their endowments and sealings for themselves and their dead ancestors."
I fully agree with this description. I'm going to discuss this in an upcoming book, but like all the other records, we have to exercise faith in what we have first.
5. The 24 Gold Plates. Nyman's description here is excellent. David Whitmer already saw these plates; as with the brass plates, I think he, Joseph, Oliver and probably Don Carlos and Hyrum saw these when they were moving them out of the Cumorah room. Like the other records, we won't get them until we have sufficient faith in what we already have.
6. Lamanite Records. I'll just quote Nyman here: "In commenting upon his recording only a hundredth part of what he had available to him, Mormon wrote that there were many other particular and very large records of every kind that had been kept chiefly by the Nephites (see Helaman 3:13–15). The word chiefly indicates that the Lamanites also kept some records and implies that they were known to Mormon at the time he abridged the Nephite records. It is not stated how he knew of them or whether they were in his possession and had “been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites” (Helaman 3:16). The context of Mormon’s comments does not rule out that possibility. His description of those records is certainly compatible with what the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery saw: “more plates than probably many wagon loads,” referred to earlier. There is no promise that these records will come forth, but if Mormon knew of them or had them and they were written on plates, that would be a possibility. The future possession of these records and their translation would give us another view of Lamanite history and perhaps help us understand why the Lamanites were the victims of the traditions of their fathers (see Alma 9:16–17)."
According to Mormon, it was the Nephites who were the main record keepers.
From a Mesomania perspective, of course, the "Lamanites" (read Mayans) kept far more records than the Nephites. Even after the Spanish destroyed all they could find, archaeologists are continuing to find extensive Mayan records. This is the source of the illusory "correspondences" the Mesoamerican advocates like to claim.
IMO, every new record uncovered in Mesoamerica is additional evidence that the Mayans were not Lamanites or Nephites.
That said, it seems likely that some day we will get some of the records of the actual Lamanites as identified in D&C 28, 30 and 32.
7. Other Jaredite Records. I like what Nyman says here: "The daughter of Jared referred to “the record which our fathers brought across the great deep[.] Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?” (Ether 8:9). This record does not seem to be the same as the 24 plates of gold translated into what Moroni called the book of Ether (see Ether 1:2), although the first part of Ether does speak of the creation and the time from Adam to the great tower (Ether 1:3). There is no mention that this record would be preserved for the last days, but it was durable enough to be available in the fifth generation of the Jaredites. Since the Jaredites kept records on metallic plates, it is possible that the record that the daughter of Jared spoke of is still in existence and will come forth and be translated at some future day. It is even possible that Giddianhi, the leader of the Gadianton robbers, had in mind some version of that record when he said that his secret society had information “of ancient date” that had been “handed down unto us” (3 Nephi 3:9). The subject of this article would be incomplete if these records were not at least mentioned as a possibility."
In addition to these Jaredite records, I wouldn't be surprised if records from the old world--meaning Asia in this case--come forth to corroborate the record of Ether.
I'll end with Nyman's awesome conclusion:
"Thus, the beginning point for the Latter-day Saints today is to accept and use the Book of Mormon and other records (the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Joseph Smith Translation) that the Lord has given us as companion volumes to the Bible. The Lord has promised that when we make full use of the records we now have, he will give us many more records that will greatly benefit us individually and collectively. These records will be consistent with the Book of Mormon in neither adding to nor diminishing from the doctrine and messages of the Revelation of John or of other scriptures."
The sooner we accept the scriptures we have, the sooner we'll get additional records. This means ceasing the effort by Mesoamerican scholars to sow disbelief in what Joseph and Oliver taught; ceasing the effort to "see" Mesoamerica in the text by redefining terms; and ceasing the effort to establish the two-Cumorahs theory that causes members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith.