Monday, September 3, 2018

Abraham - Prophet, Priest, and King

Marvin Sweeney's essay on form criticism provides an interesting perspective on Genesis 15 and specifically, the various forms or genres present in the chapter depicting Abraham as a prophet, priest, and king. Looking at the literary markers in the chapter and the "comparative identification of typical language forms in the text that appear elsewhere in biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature," certain genres can be discerned which aide in the interpretation (or exegesis) of the text. Sweeney cautions, however, that attempts to "reconstruct genres are constrained by the limited surviving textual base for ancient Near Eastern cultures." Accordingly, the form-critical hermeneutic isn't entirely definitive, however, sufficient evidence within the text and the ancient Near East provides for a high degree of reliable interpretation. 

A discussion of certain "generic forms" that "function within the narrative context," are highlighted below:

The first is the formula "the word of YHWH was unto Abram, saying . . ." in verse 1. This formula is known technically as the Prophetic Word Formula. It appears frequently in narrative and prophetic literature as a typical means of introducing and identifying a prophetic word or oracle. . . .The presence of this formula in Genesis 15 is particularly striking in that it presents Abram as a prophet or at least an individual who experiences a prophetic vision. This, of course, ties to the notice that Abram experiences the word of YHWH "in a vision" (v. 1). 
[Another] generic form in Genesis 15 involves the self-identification formula in verse 7, "I am YHWH who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldees to give to you this land to possess it". . . .the self-identification formula also relates to language pertaining to a fifth genre in Genesis 15. The expression in verse 18 reads literally, "On that day, YHWH cut with Abram a covenant." The expression "to cut a covenant" is a standard idiomatic form for expressing the making of a treaty in ancient Israel and the Near East. The expression derives from the practice of sacrificing animals as part of the process of ratifying a treaty between two nations. Parties to a treaty walked between the halves of severed animals as a graphic portrayal of what would happen to them if they did not abide by the terms of the treaty. . . .This practice apparently stands behind YHWH's instructions to Abram to cut several sacrificial animals in half so that YHWH, represented by the smoking fire pot and flaming torch can pass between the pieces. In effect, YHWH "signs" or "affirms" the treaty, which validates YHWH's promises. . . .Abram is portrayed vaguely in priestly terms here, insofar as he receives oracular communication and prepares the sacrificial animals for the making of a treaty. . ."
There are royal connotations in Abram's presentation, however, that must be considered. Throughout the Genesis narrative, Abram is closely associated with the city of Hebron - indeed he is buried there - a city that served as the capital of the tribe of Judah and the seat of David's first kingdom (2 Samuel 2-5). Abram acts in a manner analogous to that of a king. He walks the length of his land founds cultic sites (Genesis 12), allocates land to family members (Genesis 13), goes to war to protect them (Genesis 14), decides the fate of family members under his authority (Genesis 16; 21), stands up even to YHWH in order to maintain justice within his sphere (Genesis 18), arranges a marriage for his son with a foreign principal (Genesis 24), and enters into covenants (Genesis 15; 17). The language pertaining to covenant making likewise points to a royal setting. As noted in the previous discussion of genre, the assignment of land, the ritual of passing through the pieces of slain animals, and YHWH's self-identification formula all derive from the sphere of ancient Near Eastern treaty making. The social setting, then, is that of international relations in the ancient world, and this again points to the monarchy as the principal party involved in the making of such treaties. Indeed, the most telling aspect of Abram's royal presentation is the definition of the land YHWH promises him as "this land from the River of Egypt to the great River, the River Euphrates," for this is also the definition of the land claimed for David in 2 Samuel 8 (cf. Numbers 34; Ezek. 47:13-20). The royal context is confirmed by the portrayal of the land as Abram's "reward," or spoil of war, and by the assignment of the land to Abram's "seed," a designation that also appears int he language of YHWH's promise to David of an eternal dynasty. . . .Genesis 15 portrays Abram in Davidic terms as the founder of a dynasty that will possess a land."

Marvin A. Sweeney, "Form-Criticism," To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Applications, eds. Steven L. McKenzie and Stephen R. Haynes (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999), 75-80

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hugh Nibley grew up with our children. We were always Uncle LeGrand and Aunt Ina to him.
His mother told me that he read the Book of Mormon eleven times by the time he was twelve years old, and then commenced studying it. He says it is the greatest book in the world.
While he was teaching at the Brigham Young University, I asked President Wilkinson how he got along with the other faculty members. His reply was: "Oh they never bother Dr, Nibley; he knows too much."
His mother told us that when he went to Berkeley to get his Doctorate, one of the Professors asked the Doctor who was examining him, what he was going to do with the young man Nibley. His reply was: "I am going to let him go right through without any argument. I am not going to let him make a fool out of me."
While visiting with Dr. Hugh's mother July 3, 1957, she permitted me to copy a paragraph from his Christmas letter to her for Xmas 1956. He was telling of his work in writing the Priesthood manual for the Melchizedek Priesthood. I quote:
"This is a strange state of things - always thinking of you but never writing! The same things happen day after day, and the same thoughts night after night. It has been a steady diet of Book of Mormon, and no other food is so invigorating - it is the bread of life in the most digestible form."
LeGrand Richards, Just To Illustrate (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1973), 81

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ancient Near Eastern Metallurgy

Dan Levene and Beno Rothenberg wrote about "Tin and Tin-Lead Alloys in Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic,"1 which may have some indirect relevance to the plates of the Book of Mormon. They write that tin, in its metallic, unalloyed form was traded as early as the middle of the third millennium BCE. They then mention archival material from Anatolia recording "a flourishing trade in tin ingots and ore between the Assyrians and Karum Kanesh in the second millennium BCE," to the tune of roughly 100 tons of tin traded during a forty to fifty year window over one particular route. The authors quote Numbers 31:22, which mentions gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead. They note that these were the six most commonly used metals in antiquity. The KJV translates copper as brass, and Levene and Rothernberg note that the term נְחשֶׁת "is used indiscriminately in pre-modern Hebrew as a designation for copper and a variety of its alloys." Citing Ezekiel 22:18-22, the authors observe that this passage could be understood to describe silver smelting and cupellation. Referring to Isaiah 1:25, they suggest that, "pure tin was only obtained by smelting tin ore and could not be obtained from other metals at the time. As tin was primarily used to produce bronze by alloying with copper, or as solders and pewters when alloyed with lead, it might equally well have meant 'alloy', for this would have been its most frequent use, and the refining process referred to in Isa. 1.25 would have included removal of 'alloys' . . . as well as of the 'dross'."

The authors move into post-Biblical Rabbinic literature, which is not relevant to our concerns here, but they conclude by asserting that, "Tin is a metal that is not usually used on its own in the manufacture of objects owing to the poor combinations of properties of the pure metal. Its most frequent use is in the production of bronze: copper alloyed with tin has greatly enhanced properties." They note that Ezekiel 27:12 tells us that tin was imported from Tarshish. 

This has some relevance to Nephi's story when he states that prior to manufacturing plates (1 Nephi 19:1), Nephi's group found "all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper" (1 Nephi 18:25). Others have written about Nephite metallurgy before,2 but I just want to point out something that has been called to attention before, and that is the nature of the "gold plates" as well as the Brass Plates of Laban.

1 Dan Levene and Beno Rothenberg, "Tin and Tin-Lead Alloys in Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic," Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Texts: Essays in Memory of Michael P. Weitzman, eds. Ada Rapoport-Albert and Gillian Greenberg, JSOT Supplement Series 333, The Hebrew Bible and its Versions 2 (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001):101-112
2 John L. Sorenson, "Out of the Dust: Steel in Early Metallurgy," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15/2 (2006):108-109, 127; Neal Rappleye, "Lehi the Smelter: New Light on Lehi's Profession," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 14 (2015):223-225

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Allusive Soundplay in the Hebrew Bible

From Jonathan Kline, "What ultimately underlies the biblical writers' use of allusive paronomasia to express their conceptions about God and his relationship to humanity is a belief in the power of language that permeated the world in which the Bible arose. On the broadest level, then, by focusing on the way the biblical writers used allusive paronomasia to harness language to great exegetical effect, my intention has been to draw attention to how language was conceived of in ancient Israel. In particular, the examples I have discussed in this book--which reflect the ancient Israelite scribes' view that sounds, the smallest units of linguistic expression, have the power to reveal the significance of the past, present, and future--suggest that at least some of the biblical writers viewed language per se not as a merely human phenomenon but as expressive of the character, an indeed the voice, of God, as well as of the destiny of humanity. They apparently also considered the voice of God to be able to express itself in terms of an ever-evolving tradition, one that was always rooted in the past but that could develop fresh insights (that might be more or less continuous with early ones) in response to new circumstances."

Jonathan G. Kline, Allusive Soundplay in the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Israel and Its Literature 28 (Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2016), 126-127

Monday, May 22, 2017

Centralized Temple Worship in Israel?

It is often argued that "temple worship" outside of Jerusalem was beyond the boundaries allowed by the Torah (or Pentateuch). H.L. Ellison, however, argues that this argument is relative:
The dominant view both in Jewish and Christian circles that passages like Deut. 12:5-7, 11-14; 16:2; 26:2 demand one exclusive central sanctuary is probably incorrect. A comparison of Deut. 12:14 and 23:16 (Heb. 23:17) will show that the language used need not be given a purely exclusive interpretation. Josiah' s action in leaving Jerusalem as the only operative shrine may just as well have been motivated by his feeling that only so could he finally stamp out idolatry and corrupt religion. It is far more likely that though there was a central sanctuary at which the Ark of the Covenant was lodged, there were a limited number of other lawful sanctuaries, which had been marked out by Divine appearances or theophanies. In addition there were the many illegitimate "high places". Though we know of no such theophany at Shiloh or Gibeon, we need not doubt that there had been one. It should be noted that while there was doubtless a sanctuary at Samaria itself, in the absence of any well-authenticated theophany it was never able to displace Bethel as the leading shrine of the Northern kingdom. 
It was not the building, or even the ritual furniture, at a sanctuary that made the place holy, but the appearance of God or of the angel of the Lord (Jdg. 6:11, 2 Sam. 24:16-18) had left a virtually indelible quality of holiness there--natural phenomena would normally account for the choice of "high places". This holiness persisted whether or not men continued to worship there, so the Israelites after the conquest of Canaan could restart their worship in the places where the Patriarchs had left off centuries before. This holiness was not affected by the destruction of buildings and altar, cf. 1 Ki. 18:30. The story of Josiah at Bethel and the other sanctuaries of Samaria (2 Ki. 23:15-20) shows how a holy place could be profaned, i.e. made common ground once more. 

H.L. Ellison, From Babylon to Bethlehem: The Jewish People From the Exile to the Messiah (London: Paternoster Press, 1976), 63

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reading Scripture in Context

"When we study God's word, over time we realize that the intent of the author may be different from what we intuitively understand in a contemporary context. The more we learn about the ancient Near East, the more we are confronted with the perspective of the original audience. We learn to reflect on how God spoke to a specific people in a specific time according to their understanding and presuppositions, with their language, culture, and history in view. We come to understand that we cannot hear the Word from the perspective of the original audience if we don't explore their world--or at least have someone share that world with us. It takes work to find out the original context of a document that is thousands of years old. And then, when we do get a glimpse into the original setting, we start to see the literature and the world as the ancient audience would have. Even then, sometimes we still do not have enough information about the original context to assert a particular interpretation dogmatically."

Jonny V. Miller and John M. Soden, In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publicaitons, 2012), 68

Monday, November 14, 2016

Holiness and the Temple

Thomas King's study of the priestly literature in the Pentateuch includes discussion of holiness and the temple. His description of ancient Israelite belief and practice resonates strongly with the restored Gospel teachings, including latter-day temple worship. He writes:
Another foundational theme implicit in P is the concern for personal holiness, especially reflected in relationship to God and neighbor. In relationship to God, P describes this concern as the need for cleansing from sin and impurity. Based on the same rationale regarding the tabernacle (i.e., God cannot abide impurity), the children of Israel must also be cleansed. The purity regulations and sacrificial cult provide for such cleansing. As a result, God abides in the cleansed sanctuary, and among a clean people. The purification offering is the primary means by which contamination from sin and impurity is purged. Thus, the relationship with the Divine is sustained.
The relationship between God and persons is not simply one of preserving the Divine presence through cleansing and purity. The sacrificial cult includes the communication of positive expressions such as giving thanks, conveying satisfaction in the accomplishment of a vow, and the spontaneous giving of a free-will offering. All of these are expressed through the well-being offerings. In P, these offerings are presented in response to joyous motivations. Thus, contact with God through the sacrificial cult is understood as truly relational.1
1 Thomas J. King, The Realignment of The Priestly Literature: The Priestly Narrative in Genesis and Its Relation to Priestly Legislation and the Holiness School, Princeton Theological Monograph Series, 102 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications [Wipf and Stock], 2015), 69-70

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Noah and the Flood - Elder Mark E. Petersen

A number of years ago I had made a goal that I would obtain every book written by or about the Apostles and Prophets. This is still mostly true. There are some books, however, that I'm okay reading once and clearing out of my library, including Elder Mark E. Petersen's set of books on individual prophets and other Biblical and Book of Mormon figures.  

Noah and the Flood is a short book at just ninety-three pages (published by Deseret Book in 1982). A good portion of the book is comprised of all of the relevant quotations from the scriptures regarding Noah, as well as the flood, and includes quotations from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The book is primarily apologetic in terms of defending the historicity of Noah and a global flood. This is partially in response to the idea that Noah has been considered a "mythical figure created only in legend" (1), and that the "flood was strictly a local tragedy covering only a small area of the earth" (45). Elder Petersen's approach in dealing with these assertions is to affirm that, "We do not argue with scientists or scholars over their defensive views. We tell the story of scripture, and scripture is the word of God, verified by modern revelation over and over again" (45). The majority of his discussion focuses upon reaffirming the truth of Noah's reality and a global flood by citing revelation as the definitive conclusion on the matter. He does acknowledge some scriptural limitations in studying the flood in particular, especially as it relates to reconciling some of the difficulties of the flood story: "We must realize that we do not have the full account of the flood and the ark and its inhabitants. The few hundred words in the Bible on the entire life of Noah are sketchy at most. On thing we must remember is that God was at the helm--and He is a God of miracles!" (58). His conclusion on these topics can best be summarized in his assertion that "It all comes back again to the matter of faith in the scriptures as against the rationale of the critics. Of course, the wisdom of God seems like foolishness to men who ridicule these accounts of miracles in transportation that literally defy all the logic of the scholars" (83).

Monday, June 27, 2016

"When Joseph Smith Saw a Vision of Heavenly Mother" Corrected

LDS Living posted an article claiming that Joseph Smith saw a vision of Heavenly Mother. The same problematic information was related by Fiona Givens (as posted by Jana Riess) at Flunking Sainthood (with Religion News Service). I worry that this little "discovery" will make its rounds throughout the Bloggernacle and be received uncritically. The problem with the assertion, at least in the evidence provided, is that it simply isn't true...not without some unwanted baggage anyways. Both articles provide a quotation from the journal of Abraham H. Cannon (of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 1889-1896). Both articles neglect to provide the context for the quotation provided and both authors were apparently unaware of the other accounts of the same event that contradict the details in Cannon's journal. The event described is provided from Zebedee Coltrin, that took place following a conference in New Portage, Ohio, on May 7, 1834 (see HC 2:64). 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Book of Mormon "Pride Cycle" and Deuteronomy 8

President Ezra Taft Benson has been a strong influence upon the membership of the Church with respect to appreciation for the Book of Mormon. His enthusiasm for this book of scripture is encouraging and inspiring, and this enthusiasm is apparent in a number of his conference talks. One of his conference talks seems to have permeated Mormon consciousness more than others though and that is his talk, "Beware of Pride."  This particular talk is memorable for its emphasis upon the evils of pride and its cure, humility, and the dissemination of this talk seems to have found its way into just about every discussion regarding the so-called Book of Mormon "pride cycle" (correlated materialsbooks, sacrament talks, etc.). The "pride cycle" is a repeating pattern within the Book of Mormon, wherein, a humble community becomes faithful, is blessed with prosperity by the Lord, begins to develop pride, which culminates in being destroyed once their pride sufficiently separates them from the Lord. Their "destruction" may come in various forms, including war, bondage, famine, or other devastating effects upon the community that humbles them.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester Part 3

The previous Times and Seasons editorial provided a lengthy extract from Stephens and Catherwood's Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. The author of that editorial believed that the structures found in Palenque provided incontrovertible evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. In the same volume and issue of the Church-owned newspaper as the last editorial, this conclusion is continued in three additional paragraphs. I'm not primarily concerned with authorship of the editorials as of yet, so much as I'm concerned as to what the editorials actually assert regarding Book of Mormon geography, and specifically whether any limitations are imposed upon that geography. The previous two editorials allowed for the region from Central America up to Ohio to be considered Book of Mormon lands, with the last editorial providing emphasis upon the area of Palenque as being uniquely in support of Book of Mormon events (specifically citing 2 Nephi 5 as a corroborating text). The editorial below is further assessed for clarification and elaboration upon these previous assertions.

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester Part 2

In the previous post I discussed the first editorial in the Times and Seasons wherein Stephens and Catherwood's book was referenced as supporting the Book of Mormon. It was noted that the writer of the editorial actually understood Ohio, Tennessee, and Central America as locations supporting the Book of Mormon. Each of these locations seemed to contribute to the general term "this continent" used in describing Book of Mormon geography.  Additionally, if Benjamin Winchester wrote the editorial as asserted by Neville, then Winchester would have viewed both the "heartland" and Central America as providing corroborating evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. This post continues the exploration of the Times and Seasons editorials wherein Stephens and Catherwood's book is discussed. In this particular editorial, a lengthy quotation is provided, followed by some editorial commentary.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester

I've read the first several chapters in Moroni's America and there are several points raised that I'd like to address; however, I will be returning to most of those points in a separate post. In the meantime, I wanted to comment on the Times and Seasons editorials regarding John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood's book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. Neville refers to these editorials multiple times in Moroni's America and asserts that Benjamin Winchester conspired with William Smith to print these editorials in the Times and Seasons with the intent to change Mormon and non-Mormon conceptions of Book of Mormon geography. According to Neville, Winchester succeeded in this endeavor and the Church (including the prophets and apostles) have been off course regarding Book of Mormon geography for the last 170+ years. He argues that the collective Church has falsely believed Mesoamerica to be the location of the events described in the Book of Mormon,1 and refers the reader to his other book The Lost City of Zarahemla for a full discussion of the matter. Matt Roper has thoroughly responded to these issues, including Benjamin Winchester's personal geographic views,2 but I want to explore the editorials here further. I'm uncomfortable simply 'taking his [Neville's] word for it' and would rather explore whether his assertions have feasible plausibility based on the actual editorials in question.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Entering the Discussion

I've never cared that much about Book of Mormon geography. I do care about Book of Mormon historicity though, and the concern about where the narrative in the Book of Mormon took place has immediate relevance to the concern that it did take place. Nevertheless, geography has always been tangential to my primary interests, and like many others I've been comfortable with the assumption that the narrative in the Book of Mormon described events that took place in Central America. I presume that most members in the Church have made similar assumptions. In recent years these assumptions have been challenged though. The assertion that Central America was the location of BoM activities has been denounced in strong terms by a small group of Latter-day Saints who advocate that the American "heartland" is where the Book of Mormon narrative really took place. I've sat on the sidelines for the past several years while these discussions have progressed, and probably would have happily stayed there, but a friend recently handed me a book written by Jonathan Neville, entitled Moroni's America, and I feel inclined to address some of the content of this book as I read through it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Richard Bennett on Oliver Cowdery's Return

"It is not without consequence that Oliver Cowdery, "the second elder" of the Church (D&C 20:3), fell away and was excommunicated from the Church during the dark and troubling days of Kirtland, Ohio, and Far West, Missouri, in 1838. The details of his disaffection and excommunication are perhaps not as important to this study as are his return and rebaptism. Thanks to the intrepid efforts of Phineas Young, brother to Brigham Young, Oliver was kept conversant with the affairs of the Saints. As a lawyer first in Ohio and then in Wisconsin, Oliver even offered his services to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he was incarcerated in Carthage Jail in June 1844. Plagued with tuberculosis and sensing that his health was declining, Oliver returned to the Saints at Kanesville, Iowa, in November 1848. When Brigham Young, then in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, heard of his return, he penned these memorable lines of sincere gratitude and earnest invitation:

Richard Bennett on Joseph Smith's "First Vision" Environment

"A close examination into the nature of the revivals near Palmyra in 1820 does reveal "a strife of words" and "a contest about opinions" (Joseph Smith-History 1:8); however, not all the revivals were of the circus variety, full of zealous sermonizing, converts barking up trees or baying like dogs, and women swooning in trancelike devotion. Most of the revivals took on the personality and character of the dominant minister. And in the spring of 1820, one such prominent Presbyterian divine was the respected Reverend Asahel Nettleton of Connecticut (assisted by the Reverend Halsey A. Wood), whose travels through the areas west of Albany in late 1819 took the form of a quiet religious reformation.

"Preaching in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Ballston, West Galway, Cooperstown, Utica, and rural areas perhaps as far west as Rochester, Nettleton directed his listeners to nearby groves to pray in faith and find hope of salvation. His revivals lasted several weeks and were also characterized by Sabbath sermon meetings in which he taught the awful condition of the fallen and unrepentant soul...."All the meetings were crowded and solemn. There was no tumult, no noise. Everything was still, though every mind seemed filled with the magnitude of the work....So profound was the stillness, that a recent death could have added nothing to it, in many families. Common conversation was rarely engaged in, and every ear was open to hear the gospel....The people seemed never weary of attending....They would flock together during all the inclemencies of the season, and listen, when met, with so deep and profound an attention, that in a room crowded to overflowing, it would almost seem you might hear a pin drop or the beating of a watch. The stillness, at times, seemed to have something like mystery about it; it was sublime, it was awful; you almost seemed to be in eternity....Some of the most signal convictions seem to have been wrought by the Spirit in these circumstances....Our evening meetings [February 1820] were still more thronged, and in the coldest evenings of an unusually severe winter, many assembled who were not able to obtain admittance to our school houses, and have been seen to raise the windows and stand without in devout attention to the word of God."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Richard Bennett on the Book of Mormon Translation

"It would appear that the process was less one of decoding or deciphering the precise meaning of the individual characters and inscriptions found on the plates, as Champollion had so painstakingly done with the Rosetta Stone, and more one of discerning the meanings conveyed thereon and then, in addition, transforming such meanings into acceptable King James Bible literary English. Consequently, the interpreters seem to have functioned on two levels: conveying meaning from the ancient text while simultaneously suggesting wording in biblical-sounding English beyond Joseph's limited ability at the time. Thus it would appear that Joseph Smith was not a decoder of ancient signs and symbols or a translator in the Champollion sense but rather a transmitter, translator, and writer who, with the aid of the interpreters, transcribed what he saw into exquisite English prose and poetry."1

1 Richard E. Bennett, School of the Prophet: Joseph Smith Learns the First Principles, 1820-1830 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 56

Sunday, February 28, 2016

No Greater Sacrifice - Steven Shields

This book by Steven L. Shields is a compilation of discourses by Latter-day Saint leaders on the atonement and plan of redemption. Since I'm trying to clear out some of my library, the purpose of this post is to basically reproduce his entire book here by linking to the articles and discourses that Shields' provides in No Greater Sacrifice:

Monday, February 22, 2016

Covenants and Salvation - Joseph F McConkie

Two quotations worth preserving from this book:
"President Harold B. Lee said, "That person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this Church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire." (CR, April 1972, p. 118)."1
"Significantly, there are no group ordinances in the Church. All covenants are made on a personal basis. It does not matter what others believe or do; we will be judged solely on the basis of what we believe and do."2
1 Joseph Fielding McConkie, Seeking the Spirit (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981) 
2 McConkie, Seeking the Spirit, 102

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Witnesses of the Book of Mormon - Preston Nibley

Preston Nibley's Witnesses of the Book of Mormon is primarily a compilation of information about the witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates. The book contains minimal narrative, thus its value is based on the depth of resources providing biographical and other information about the witnesses. Since scholarship over the last several decades has produced numerous sources on the witnesses, the value of this compilation has been somewhat relegated. Nevertheless, for reference purposes, the sources used in Nibley's compilation is provided below.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

First Temple vs. Second Temple: "Comparisons and Contrasts"

R.T. Beckwith provides a good summary of the some of the changes that took place from the First Temple to the Second Temple in terms of physical objects within the sanctuary:
The information  which we are given about the Second Temple is not sufficient to enable us to compare it in detail with Solomon's Temple, though a comparison of Ezra 6:3 with 1 Kings 6:2 indicates that it was twice as high, and other differences will appear later. At the same time, it did not have the idealistic dimensions of Ezekiel's Temple, nor did it have the magnificence of Solomon's Temple, to judge from the reactions it inspired (Ezra 3:12-13; Hag. 2:3; Zech. 4:10; cf. Tobit 14:5). The apparent inferiority was not simply one of adornment, for, as the rabbis were afterwards to point out: 'The Second Temple lacked five things which the First Temple possessed, namely, the fire, the ark, the Urim and Thummim, the oil of anointing and the Holy Spirit [of prophecy].' 
The 'fire' is the supernatural altar-fire, which fell from heaven (2 Chr. 7:1-3). In the version of the saying given by the Babylonian Talmud, the 'oil of anointing' is replaced by the 'Shekinah' (literally 'dwelling'), which means the visible manifestation of God's presence in Solomon's Temple by way of the glorious cloud (1 Kgs. 8:10-11; 2 Chr. 5:13-14; 7:1-3). The loss of the ark at the Babylonian exile was a calamity which the people naturally felt with especial acuteness, and many legends gathered round its fate (2 Macc. 2:4-8; 2 Baruch 6:3-9). Josephus states in so many words that the holy of holies was now empty (War V:219). So the Second Temple contained none of the visible tokens of God's presence that there were in Solomon's Temple: his presence was now purely a matter of faith.1
1 R.T. Beckwith, "The Temple Restored," Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, Eds. T. Desmond Alexander and Simon Gathercole (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2004), 72-73 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Let us go up": Nephi's Literary Allusion to the Exodus and the Temple

Several LDS authors have pointed out the prevalent usage of the Exodus motif in Book of Mormon texts. S. Kent Brown, for example, observed that "The memory of Israel's exodus from Egypt runs so deeply and clearly in the Book of Mormon that it has naturally drawn the attention of modern students."1 Joseph Spencer, citing George Tate, points out that the importance of this theme stands out, for example, when, "Alma draws not on the texts of Exodus, but on the tradition of the exodus--a tradition present in the Nephite consciousness long before Alma."2 This consciousness must have been inherited from their Israelite forebears, or possibly developed culturally through focused attention upon specific scriptures in the brass plates; or conversely, both factors could have affected this tradition to varying degrees at different periods in Nephite history. The fact that this emphasis exists, however, is worthy of noting. Jo Bailey Wells comments on the importance of this motif within the Hebrew Bible itself, which could speak to an inherited Nephite tradition:
"With regard to the rest of the Old Testament, the motifs of the book--of the exodus, the wilderness, of Sinai--are repeatedly echoed. In particular the escape from Egypt is viewed as the event of supreme religious significance. Even elsewhere in the Pentateuch it is no mere historical event of the past, but a permanent symbol that constantly imposes itself afresh on the collective memory. In the Psalms, in the historical books, and in the Prophets, the experience of the exodus is declared again and again--so that Amos, for example, can voice God saying to a generation at least five hundred years later, "I brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Amos 2:10).3

Monday, November 16, 2015

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, Part 2: Theological Exegesis on Leviticus

A superficial understanding of the Bible emphasizes the New Testament at the expense of the Old Testament by simply discounting these scriptures as having been superseded. The notion that Christ changed the law to effectively relegate the Hebrew Bible as though it no longer had relevancy is to assert ignorance regarding the Savior's exegesis on Psalms, Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and other scriptures. While Christ's teachings certainly superseded Israelite liturgical practices and, in some cases, He provided a higher order of doctrines and principles, still His teachings brought to surface principles and doctrines in other cases that were embedded in the Torah and elsewhere. One such example, is His reference to loving one another: "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. 19:18). Writing on the significance of this Israelite teaching, Joel N. Lohr, explains what this meant in terms of "corporate responsibility":

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Keeping the Faith

Elder Clayton’s General Conference address earlier this year in April summarized the story of Sailor Gutzler, a 7 year old girl who was the sole survivor of an airplane crash. Her family was on a small private airplane, returning home to Illinois from a vacation in Florida. The airplane, which was piloted by Sailor’s father, began having engine trouble as they crossed over from Tennessee into Kentucky, noting that the right engine had lost all power. Through air traffic control they were rerouted to a small landing strip in Kentucky, which was in sight as they descended. Then the radio signal was cut off. At about 6 PM on January 2, 2015, Sailor, her mom and dad, older sister, and cousin crashed near Kuttawa, Kentucky, about 10 miles away from the landing strip. Everybody died upon impact, except for Sailor who suffered a broken wrist. She called out to her parents and family without response. Worrying that they were dead, but hoping that they were just sleeping, while still wearing only her vacation clothes – consisting of a t-shirt and shorts and apparently only one sock on - she unbuckled and climbed out of the plane, which was now partly on fire.  

Temple Worship in Ancient Israel

With sacrifice playing such a large role in temple worship throughout the scriptures, one may wonder what other purposes the temple may have served. Certainly it served as a locus for prayer. Donald W. Parry wrote an article regarding a possible reference to a prayer circle in Psalm 24. In Psalm 27:4 reference is made to inquiring of the Lord within the temple. Robert Fyall, in speaking of the Jerusalem temple in 2 Kings 6-8, adds additional insight to certain aspects of temple worship:
After an introduction in 1 Kings 5 outlining Solomon's preparations for his building project, chapters 6-7 deal with Temple and palace and chapter 8 with the prayer of dedication. The details of building probably come from Temple archives now lost beyond trace and the account is marked by great clarity as the writer moves from structural design to interior furnishings. In chapters 6-7 four matters call for attention.
The first is that the project begins well: the Temple is 'for the LORD' (6:2) and the detail in verse 7 about dressed stone shows scrupulous obedience to the Torah (Exod. 20:25 and Deut. 27:5-6). This is reinforced by 6:11-13, where Yahweh himself underlines the words spoken by David in 2:2-4. Thus obedience, humility and gratitude rather than bricks and gold are to be the true fabric of the Temple.1
1 Robert Fyall, "A Curious Silence: The Temple in 1 and 2 Kings," Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Simon Gathercole (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2004), 50 (emphasis added)