Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Hopewell in Illinois

If you're not following Greg Little on Twitter (X), you're missing lots of interesting posts. Here's another one:

The Gramercy Park Mounds in East Dubuque, IL, AKA "Dunleith Mounds." There were 26 Hopewell Culture mounds in this 3-acre park. The 5th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (1887) devoted several pages to their excavation. A skeleton over 7' in height was found along with other oddities.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Thruston tablet

The Thruston Tablet, found in Tennessee, is subject to a variety of interpretations.

Illustration of the Thruston Tablet. It is a (paraphrasing) "19 inch long, 15 inch wide, 1 inch thick slab of stone" found at Rocky Creek in Sumner County, Tennessee around 1878. From: Holmes 1891.

(click to enlarge)

Little is known about the dating of this piece, but here is one discussion of the various issues.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Daniel H. Ludlow and the 2 sets of plates

An article by Daniel H. Ludlow reminded me of another evidence that Joseph translated two separate sets of plates.

To summarize:

1. The abridged plates which Joseph took from Moroni's stone box and translated in Harmony. Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the abridged plates to the divine messenger who took those plates back to the Hill Cumorah. Joseph identified the messenger as one of the Three Nephites.

2. The small plates of Nephi which Joseph translated in Fayette after the messenger brought those plates from the repository in Cumorah. This messenger also showed those plates to Mary Whitmer, introducing himself as "Brother Nephi." 

[Unfortunately, Andrew Jensen, who compiled early Church history, assumed Mary was wrong and changed the narrative to read that it was Moroni who showed Mary the plates. Apparently Jensen didn't know that Joseph had identified the individual as one of the Three Nephites, or that David Whitmer had a conversation with both the messenger and with the actual Moroni and knew they were separate individuals. Nevertheless, to accommodate M2C which claims Cumorah is in southern Mexico, LDS scholars prefer the Jensen narrative, which is not only contrary to the historical records but also highly problematic from a doctrinal standpoint as it promotes the idea that resurrected beings (such as Moroni) can change their shape, age, and overall appearance to mislead mortals (such as by appearing as an old, short, overweight man).]


Back to Ludlow.

In his article, Ludlow reminds us that Joseph Smith explained that "the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf... and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition."

Far from being words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH), the title page is "a literal translation" taken from a specific leaf of the plates.

Years ago at BYU Education Week, I head one of the educators discuss Church history and actually say, "We don't know how Joseph knew the Title Page was on the last leaf because he didn't even use the plates. They were covered by a cloth when he read the words off the stone in the hat."

That's how absurd the SITH narrative has become.

Ludlow also reminds us that the copyright application of 11 June 1829, and the setting of the type for the title page in "the forepart of June 1829" by Gilbert, both occurred while Joseph was still translating the plates of Nephi in Fayette. Because the Title Page was the last leaf of the plates Joseph had in Harmony, the plates he was translating in Fayette had to be a different set of plates; i.e., the small plates of Nephi that he did not have in Harmony.

The alternative view--that Joseph had the plates of Nephi all along--would require that Joseph did not translate the plates in sequence, that the directions in D&C 10 to translate the "plates of Nephi" were superfluous because he already had the plates, and that the discrepancies in the descriptions of the plates and the different accounts of how Joseph returned them will forever remain a mystery.

But people can believe whatever they want to believe.


See the diagram of the two sets of plates here:

Monday, January 8, 2024

Lehi's route

Readers of the Book of Mormon want to know how Lehi came to America. This little animation shows the most plausible route, which happens to also be the only one validated by an actual crossing using technology from 600 BC.

The Book of Mormon is a simple, direct narrative that is easy to understand when we heed the text, the teachings of the prophets, and the extrinsic evidence.

Monday, January 1, 2024

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon

The title of this blog, Letter VII, refers to the seventh of eight essays about Church history written by Oliver Cowdery in 1835 when he was the Assistant President of the Church (an office that ranked higher than the counselors in the First Presidency).

In Joseph Smith's day, these 8 essays were the best-known history of the Church. Oliver wrote from personal knowledge, with the assistance of Joseph Smith. He published them over several months as letters in the Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland in 1834-5. Joseph had his scribes copy the essays into his own journal as part of his life story. (See link below.)

Oliver wrote the essays with the express assistance of Joseph Smith. For example, Oliver mentioned that Joseph couldn't tell him exactly what time it was when Moroni first visited, but it was after everyone had gone to bed. Oliver described Moroni's appearance, Joseph's frame of mind when he first went to the Hill Cumorah, how the stone box was constructed, and many more important details.

In 1840, Joseph asked his brother Don Carlos to re-publish the essays in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. He gave Benjamin Winchester permission to re-publish them in the Gospel Reflector, which was Winchester's newspaper in Philadelphia. Parley P. Pratt also re-published them in the Millennial Star in England. Also in England, the essays were published as a separate pamphlet that sold thousands of copies.

An excerpt from Letter I was canonized as the note to JS-History in the Pearl of Great Price.

In Utah, Joseph F. Smith republished the essays in the Improvement Era.

However, most modern Latter-day Saints have never even heard of these important essays. Few have read them. 


Latter-day Saints frequently ask why they haven't heard of these essays before. It is easy to understand why certain prominent LDS scholars downplay these essays. Oliver Cowdery explicitly reaffirmed the dual facts that (i) Joseph Smith translated the record with the Urim and Thummim and (ii) the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill where Joseph found the plates. 

Readers of this blog recognize the implications. In these essays, Joseph and Oliver explicitly repudiated both SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory of translation) and M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of geography).

Consequently, those who promote SITH and M2C prefer that Latter-day Saints don't even know about these essays, let alone read them.

I find it ridiculous and counterproductive to suppress authentic, accurate Church historical documents, especially documents written by Joseph and Oliver that were so widely published at Joseph's direction. But modern LDS scholars have somehow rationalized their censorship.

Fortunately, the Joseph Smith Papers have preserved Joseph's journals so we can all read them there. 


Letter IV relates the visit of Moroni. It's well worth reading in full, but here's an excerpt from this link:

Notice that Moroni told Joseph from the outset that the record was "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home in Palmyra. IOW, we've known all along that it was not written in Mesoamerica and transported thousands of miles to western New York.

"written and deposited not far from that place"
(click to enlarge)

This should be a given, but our M2C scholars have managed to obfuscate and confuse people by suppressing this account of what Moroni said.

Therefore, marvle not if your name is made a derission, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people.”

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

Because this fits so well with the first week of Come Follow Me, be sure to share it with everyone you know.