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BOOK OF MORMON THEOLOGIES

A THUMBNAIL SKETCH
by
8Robert F. Smith
September 2012
As suggested for this year=s annual SMPT meeting, I thought it might be helpful to provide
a brief, thumbnail sketch of the theologies of the Book of Mormon. This I do despite misgivings
in some quarters about the possibility of doing theology of any sort in a Mormon context,1 and
despite the dismissive view of my late friend, the Reverend Mr. Wesley P. Walters, that Book of
Mormon Atheology has been largely discarded by the Mormon church.@2 In fact, however, we are
confronted by more than one theology within the Book of Mormon B the same problem which
confronts us in the Bible.
I. Biblical Theologies: Perception is Everything
A. Indeed, even beyond the standard division into Old Testament theology and New Testament
theology, there is no agreement among scholars (1) on the true nature of biblical theology, (2) as to
whether it should be analyzed diachronically (sequential) or synchronically (canonical), (3) via
harmonization, (4) via tradition (sola fide), or (5) via the common sense, self-evident reading of
proof texts (dicta probantia and sola scriptura), etc.
B. The Hebrew Bible reflects a variety of Israelite religions, 3 as do the Judaisms of late antiquity
(of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, as reflected in intertestamental literature, Dead Sea
Scrolls, New Testament, talmud, etc.4). To take the Old Testament alone, questions continue to
1

Matthew Bowman, ACan Mormonism Have a Systematic Theology?@ review of Charles R.


Harrell, AThis Is My Doctrine@: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford, 2011), in Dialogue,
44/4 (Winter 2011), 207ff; Bowman, AWhy Is It So Hard to Figure Out What Mormons Believe?@
Patheos, April 4, 2012; Gary Bergera, AWhat Is Official Doctrine?@ Seventh East Press, 1/1 (Oct 6, 1981),
6; Blake Ostler, AThe Challenges of (Non-existent?) Mormon Theology,@ Patheos, Aug 9, 2010.
2

Walters, AThe Book of Mormon Today@ (Institute for Religious Research/Fundamental


Evangelist Association, n.d.), online at http://www.biblebelievers.net/cults/mormonism/kjcmorm2.htm ,
arguing falsely there that the Book of Mormon teaches a strict monotheism (one God, who is a spirit, and is
Aunchangeable from eternity to all eternity@), which is supposedly rejected in later Mormonism, in favor of
multiple gods, who are embodied, and who are men who achieved apotheosis. Cf. Esther Hamori, "When
Gods Were Men": The Embodied God in Biblical and Near Eastern Literature (de Gruyter, 2008).
3

Ziony Zevit, The Religions of Ancient Israel (Continuum, 2001); Richard Hess, Israelite
Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey (Baker Academic, 2007).
4

Matthew Grey, AJewish Sectarianism at the Time of Jesus,@ BYU Education Week lectures,
August 14-17, 2012; Gabriele Boccacini, AMultiple Judaisms,@ Bible Review, 11/1 (Feb 1995), 38-41,46;
Diana Edelman, ed., The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms (Eerdmans, 1995); Jonathan
Smith, Drudgery Divine: On The Comparisons of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity

be asked about the possibility of even doing biblical theology,5 since


the OT does not present a systematic theology, but rather a rich diversity of writings
addressing various historical, ethical, and social problems from theological perspectives
often quite different from one another. These writings arose over a period of more than
one thousand years, and in many cases subsequent generations altered and amplified the
received material so as to apply it to their changed circumstances. The task of OT
theology is to present the origin, nature, and history of transmission of these writings as
accurately as possible so as to give a clear delineation of the beliefs to which they give
witness and of the communities within which they arose.6

C. The upshot, of course, is that the Bible is subject to the very same types of analysis and
delineation of Aproblems@ or Adifficulties@ (aporias)7 as are frequently applied to the Book of
Mormon B often with malice aforethought B Terryl Givens pointing out that the question of the
historicity of the Book of Mormon raises the same sort of discomfiting issues for Mormons as does
the question of the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus for normative Christianity.8
D. Moreover, the Book of Mormon entails a whole range of theological issues, e.g., Grant Hardy
frankly addresses Ahow Nephi fits into the evolving tradition of prophecy at the time of the Exile,
when there was increased emphasis on repentance, hope in the face of disaster, eschatology,
apocalypticism, written communication, and an established canon,@9 while his father Lehi, citing
that canon (the Bronze Plates), noted how the writings of the descendants of Joseph would be
united with the writings of those of Judah Aunto the confounding of false doctrines . . . and bringing
them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my
covenants, saith the Lord@ (II Nephi 3:12).10 At the same time, Joseph Spencer strongly
(Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990).
5

John Collins, AIs a Critical Biblical Theology Possible?@ in W. Propp, B. Halpern, and D.
Freedman, eds., The Hebrew Bible and Its Interpreters (Eisenbrauns, 1990), 1-18.
6

Paul Hanson, ATheology, Old Testament,@ in P. J. Achtemeier, ed., Harper=s Bible Dictionary
(SBL/HarperSanFrancisco, 1985), 1058.
7

Robert Segal, ed., Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Myth (Garland, 1996), in which theories of
myth are applied to the Bible, Classical, and ancient Near Eastern examples.
8

Terryl Givens, AThe Book of Mormon and the Future(s) of Mormonism,@ presented at the March
27-29, 2003, conference on AGod, Humanity, and Revelation: Perspectives from Mormon Philosophy and
History,@ at the Yale Divinity School; Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of
Nazareth (HarperOne, 2012).
9

Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader=s Guide (Oxford Univ. Press, 2010),
74, citing J. Barton, AProphecy,@ in Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary, V:489-495.
10

Cf. Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 77-78.

differentiates the theologies of Nephi (the higher, covenantal law) and Abinadi (the lower,
soteriological law),11 which are only reconciled in Third Nephi.12
II. The Keystone: First Principles
A. Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is Athe keystone of our religion, and@ that Aa man
would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.@13 But what are those
Aprecepts,@ and why is the Book of Mormon the Akeystone@ of Mormonism? And is the Book of
Mormon really significantly different than the Bible? These are the very questions we come to
grips with herein.
B. Observations and opinions about theological material in the Book of Mormon run the gamut,
from representing traditional Christianity14 (and nothing more), or containing the complete LDS
Plan of Salvation,15 through ancient Jewish festivals16 and esoteric Israelite temple liturgy,17 to
11

Joseph Spencer, An Other Testament: On Typology (Salt Press, 2012), xii-xiii, 96, 107, 164-169,

173-175.
12

Spencer, An Other Testament, 108-109.

13

Quotation in AIntroduction@ of the 1981 LDS edition of the Book of Mormon = in B. H. Roberts,
ed., History of the Church, IV:461 (Nov 1841); cf. James E. Faust, AThe Keystone of Our Religion.@ Ensign,
Nov. 1983, p. 9.
14

Matt Slick, AA Quick Look at the Book of Mormon,@ CARM, online at http://carm.org/
quick-look-at-book-of-mormon .
15

Spencer, An Other Testament, 42-57; Andrew Whitesides laid the Plan out in detail in his
Sacrament Meeting talk at the Harbor First Ward in San Pedro, California, on August 17, 2008, as complete
within the Small Plates of Nephi.
16

John Tvedtnes, AKing Benjamin and the Feast of Tabernacles,@ in J. Lundquist & S. Ricks,
eds., By Study and Also By Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth
Birthday, 27 March 1990, 2 vols. (Deseret/FARMS, 1990), II:197-237; Gordon Thomasson, ASummary of
FARMS >Festivals Found=,@ Oct 19, 1984; Thomasson, ANephite Observance of the Performances and
Ordinances of God: Pre-Exilic Israelite Religous Patterns in the Book of Mormon@ (Vestal, NY, 1997) B
the latter two forthcoming in G. Thomasson & R. Smith, Ethnology of the Book of Mormon.
17

John Welch, Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount (FARMS, 1999);
LeGrand Baker & Stephen Ricks, Who Shall Ascend Into the Hill of the Lord: The Psalms in Israel=s
Temple Worship in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon (Eborn Books, 2010); David Bokovoy,
"Temple Imagery in the Book of Mormon," BYU Education Week lectures, Aug 16 - 19, 2011; David John
Butler, Plain and Precious Things: The Temple Religion of the Book of Mormon (eBook, 2012); Spencer,
An Other Testament, 42-57; John Welch, ASeeing 3 Nephi as the Holy of Holies of the Book of Mormon,@
in A. Skinner & G. Strathearn, eds., Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture (BYU Maxwell
Institute/Deseret Book, 2012), 1-33.

the espousal of remnant theology18 and of liberation theology.19 Nothing is off the table, and, as
we shall see, much has been found that was entirely unexpected.
III. Knowledge: Epistemologies and Historicity
A. Of the greatest importance among those precepts or theological principles is epistemology.
John-Charles Duffy ties epistemology and historicity together by arguing that belief in the Book of
Mormon as an ancient document depends on socialization into the LDS Church, i.e.,
how someone assesses the evidence for and against Book of Mormon historicity is
fundamentally a question of how well socialized that person is into the Church. In other
words, belief or disbelief in Book of Mormon historicity has less to do with intellectual
issues per se than with the quality of a person's relationships with Latter-day Saints as
compared to investments in other social groups.20

Not only does this conveniently relativize all discussion a priori by both proponents and detractors
on the historicity question, but likely includes Duffy himself in his regressive socio-psychological
dynamic. Which is to say that it ducks the primary question and leaves us with little else than a
vicious cycle (a circular epistemology for everyone).
B. On the other hand, whether faced with existential Ametaphysical horror,@21 or dealing with the
inherent weaknesses of traditional Christian biblical epistemology as a cognitive foundation (sola
scriptura), Fernando Canale offers what he calls a Anew model@ of revelatory inspiration for
formulating theological knowledge22 B which is not Anew@ at all, and is a well-known feature of a
Book of Mormon epistemology (Moroni 10:3-5). As evangelical scholar William Lane Craig
himself observes of his own personal saving experience, his teenage Aspiritual rebirth,@
I still think this experiential approach to the resurrection is a perfectly valid way to
18

Joseph Spencer, AFinally: An Outline of a Book of Mormon Remnant Theology,@ online at


http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2010/05/07/finally-an-outline-of-a-book-of-mormon-remnant-theology/.
19

Dennis Potter, ALiberation Theology in the Book of Mormon,@ in J. McLachlan & L. Ericson,
eds., Discourses in Mormon Theology: Philosophical &Theological Possibilities (Kofford, 2007), 175-192,
online at http://research.uvu.edu/potter/bomliberation.pdf ; cf. Robert Mesle, Process Theology: A Basic
Introduction (Chalice Press, 1993), 65-68, 75-80.
20

John-Charles Duffy, AMapping Book of Mormon Historicity Debates: Historical and Social
Perspectives,@ paper delivered Aug 6, 2008, at the Sunstone Symposium, and published in two parts in
Sunstone, # 151 (Oct 2008), 36-62, and #152 (Dec 2008), 46-61.
21

Leszek Kolakowski, Metaphysical Horror, trans. & ed. A. Kolakowska (Penguin Books/Univ.
of Chicago Press, 2001). Radical uncertainty, despite the best efforts of philosophy.
22

Fernando Canale, Back to Revelation-Inspiration: Searching for the Cognitive Foundation of


Christian Theology in a Postmodern World (Univ. Press of America, 2001).

knowing that Christ has risen. It=s the way that most Christians today know that Jesus is
risen and alive.23

Would that other evangelicals were as honest and frank.


C. However, the Book of Mormon also offers a very this-worldly and experiential mode of
finding truth (Alma 32), which is compatible with the much vaunted experimental method of
science,24 while likewise being a commonsensical matter of practical application.25 It turns out,
however, that the horticultural metaphor is not the only vehicle employed in Alma 32. As Jenny
Webb26 and David Bokovoy27 point out, that chapter is shot through with deliberate echoes and
allusions to the Creation and Garden of Eden story.
D. Grant Hardy suggests Athat Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni are presenting theological ideas in
the guise of history,@ according to Atheir individual, prophetic agendas,@ e.g., Nephi gives more
weight Ato visions of the distant future@ than to history, while Moroni gives more weight to Athe
witness of the Spirit@28; AMormon organizes his material to provide a rational, evidentiary basis for
faith,@ but Athen . . . Moroni comes to reject that model of belief.@29 Finally, Hardy also
demonstrates the very different foci and epistemological preferences of Nephi and Mormon:30

23

AIs There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?@ A Debate between William Lane
Craig and Bart Ehrman at College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, March 28, 2006, online at
http://www.bartdehrman.com/pdf/resurrection_debate.pdf .
24

Adam Miller, ed., An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32 (Salt Press, 2011).

25

John L. McKenzie described the biblical "knowledge of God" as "a vital union with the
traditional morality which qualified the whole human life; one knows this morality by having it, by living
it" (McKenzie, "Knowledge of God in Hosea," Journal of Biblical Literature, 74/1 [March 1955], 27).
My thanks to Walker Wright for providing this citation.
26

Webb, AIt is Well that Ye are Cast Out: Alma 32 and Eden,@ in Adam Miller, ed., An Experiment
on the Word: Reading Alma 32 (Salem, OR: Salt Press, 2011), 43-56.
27

Bokovoy, AIn Principio Creavit Deus: The Theological Use of Creation Imagery in the Book of
Mormon,@ paper delivered Sept 20, 2012, at that annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and
Theology (SMPT) at USU in Logan, Utah.
28

Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 92.

29

Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 28.

30

Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 84.

NEPHI

MORMON

focus on own life

(never)

contextless sermons

(never)

focus on House of Israel

(very little)

focus on last days

(very little)

creative interpretation of Scripture

(never)

visionary

(never)

E. In any case, asserts Hardy, the Book of Mormon does supply a twofold method for
determining whether a revelation is authentic: (1) multiple attestation / multiple witnesses, and (2)
the Aargument from fulfilled prophecy,@31 which are both well-known Deuteronomic standards
(13:1-5, 18:22, 19:15, Jeremiah 28:9).
F. As formulated by Joe Spencer, the epistemological discussion of temporal versus spiritual
knowledge in Alma 36 is of another sort entirely, suggesting as it does the Thomistic question &
answer approach typical of the systematic theology in the Summa Theologiae,32 but which also
looks very much like typical Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Mormon catechism.33 For
example:
Q 1 Can you know the following propositions? If you keep God=s commandments, you
will prosper. Only God can overcome the captivity of the fathers. If you trust in God, He
will support you in all your trials. You will know this of yourself. Alma 36:1-3 27-30.
Q 2 Is such knowledge impossible by temporal (historical) means? Alma 36:4-5 36:26
37:43

31

Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 81-82; II Nephi 3:12, 29:8.

32

See, for example, Question 12 in the Summa, online at http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/


aquinas/summa/index.htm
33

Davis Bitton, AMormon Cathechisms,@ in D. Parry, D. Peterson, and S. Ricks, eds., Revelation,
Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen (FARMS, 2002), 407-432; see the 1835 LDS
Lectures on Faith, authored primarily by Sidney Rigdon, as noted in Larry Dahl & Charles Tate, eds., The
Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective (BYU Religious Studies Center, 1990); Wayne Larsen, Alvin
Rencher, and Tim Layton, "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints," BYU Studies,
24/9 (Spring 1980), 20, Appendix E: ALectures on Faith.@

A Yes, such knowledge is impossible by temporal means, because historical knowledge


is ordinarily closed and irretrievable. But via sincere repentance, spiritual rebirth, and the
ministration of the Holy Ghost or an angel, you may know the spiritual (typological) truth,
i.e., by grace the finality of history can be Aruptured.@ Alma 36:6-25 (the central section,
by the way, of a magnificent chiasm).34
The Q&A approach is most appropriate in this case since it occurs in the context of standard
questions for a Passover celebration (questions at the seder meal).35
G. Another classic approach found in the Book of Mormon is the proof of the existence of God
based on the grandeur and wonderfully designed natural world in which we live (Alma 30:44; cf.
Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20), suggesting that, as with Goldilocks, everything was Ajust right@ and
fine-tuned for human habitation.36 Indeed, a physicist might argue that, with 200 billion galaxies
and 200 billion stars in each galaxy, the odds are that something will be Ajust right@ somewhere in
the universe. In fact AGoldilocks planets@ are now being found with great regularity, and it is
estimated that there may be tens of billions of such worlds in our Milky Way Galaxy alone.37
H. The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses as to the blatant physicality of the Plates, 38 along with
offhand observations of others who had physical contact with the Plates, is also of prime
epistemological importance,39 leading Terryl L. Givens to observe that
I can see no reason to compel a non-literal reading of the Testimony of the Eight, other than
sheer reluctance to accept supernaturalism. And that is a reluctance I cannot argue with.
That is why the only alternative to a literal reading that I do not think is easily dismissible is
34

See the charts and dialectical discussion in Joseph Spencer, An Other Testament: On Typology
(Salt Press, 2012), 10-25. Cf. the conversion experience of Saul-Paul.
35

Gordon Thomasson & John Welch, AThe Sons of the Passover,@ FARMS Update, Aug 1984,
reprinted in Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon (FARMS/Deseret, 1992), 196-198.
36

Richard Deem, AEvidence for the Fine Tuning of the Universe,@ Evidence for God blog, online at
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html .
37

X. Delfosse1, et al., AThe HARPS Search for Southern Extra-Solar planets. XXXV.
Super-Earths around the M-Dwarf Neighbors Gl 433 and Gl 667C*,@ Astronomy & Astrophysics, Feb 14,
2012, online at http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1214/eso1214b.pdf ; cf.
Bonfils, et al., AThe HARPS Search for Southern Extra-Solar Planets.* XXXI. The M-Dwarf Sample,@
Astronomy & Astrophysics, Nov 24, 2011, online at http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/
sciencepapers/eso1214/eso1214a.pdf .
38

Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion
(Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 4, 12, 40.
Robert Smith, ATranslation of Languages (hermniea glssn I Cor 12:10)@ (Independence, MO:
June 1980), online at http://www.scribd.com/lighthorseharry/d/ 46307834-Translation-of-Languages .
39

Hume=s more general argument against miracles: the reliability of witnesses is more easily
impugned than the reliability of natural laws.40

To that extent at least, the Book of Mormon thus provides us with a scientific-technical
epistemological approach dependent upon multiple witnesses from our own era.41 However, it
simultaneously suggests the relevance of arguments based on probability.
IV. Implausibility & Bayesian Probability
[When the missionaries came I was 39 years old.] They came in and told me the most
preposterous story I have ever heard in my life: about this white boy, a dead angel and
some gold plates. And I thought, mmm, AI wonder what they're on?@
Betty Stevenson, Oakland, California42

A. Since the origin story of the Book of Mormon is by its very nature Apreposterous,@43 all the
more reason for an affirmation of its authenticity to be taken seriously, to wit: Strangely enough,
by the canons of historical inquiry, it is the Book of Mormon which is in a more favorable position
to be evaluated and proven true or false, i.e., that it has no apparently natural continuity with the
past as a transmitted document (no plates, no ancient text, etc.) means that it is highly improbable
that it could accurately describe New World civilizations or that it could contain other complex,
systematic data which have only been discovered in modern times B and are seen to be accurate.
Indeed, it is so absurd and improbable that the Book of Mormon could be true that strong evidence
that it is authentic from archeology, linguistics, literary topoi, and the like, all the more strongly
confirm its historical authenticity!! The Bible, on the other hand, has been transmitted by natural,
historical means down to our own day so that any historically improbable claims contained within
it will have to be defended by faith alone B since the civilizations of the ancient Near East certainly
existed and have been closely studied. There is nothing improbable in the transmission of the
biblical text, unless we interpose unnecessary claims of miraculous preservation of an inerrant text
(a theological preference in some quarters). As Blake Ostler has pointed out:
Assertions such as AGod exists,@ or AGod caused this earthquake,@ or Athe Holy
Spirit inspires me@ are not subject to empirical falsification. However, such assertions as
Aa civilization descended from Israelites existed in ancient America,@ or Athis book is a
translation of an ancient record,@ or Aa person named Jesus lived in Galilee@ are empirical
40

Givens in Times and Seasons, Jan 31, 2005, reply to Question 6, online at
http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2005/01/12-questions-for-terryl-givens/ .
41

Cf. Robert Smith, AThe >Golden= Plates,@ FARMS Update, Oct 1984, reprinted in J. Welch, ed.,
Reexploring the Book of Mormon (FARMS/Deseret, 1992), 275-278.
42

http://www.pbs.org/mormons/themes/whyiam.html . Stevenson later became a faithful


Mormon, and has served as the Relief Society President of her branch and then ward.
43

So Philip Barlow, AQuestions at the Veil,@ paper delivered Sept 20, 2012, at the annual meeting
of the SMPT at USU, Logan, Utah.

and are subject to empirical investigation. [Stephen] Robinson has made a logical category
mistake to the same extent as one who assumes that all questions are scrutable by empirical
methodologies; he assumes that no assertions related to faith are empirical. The assertion
that the Book of Mormon is an historical work by Israelite descendants can be investigated
by the methodologies of biblical scholarship used in the article. Robinson argues that
such methodologies Aby definition@ preclude God. Though empirical methodologies
cannot show either that God was or was not involved in the production of the Book of
Mormon, they can investigate whether the evidence is consistent with the claim that the
book is a translation of an ancient work.44

B. Although Stephen Robinson=s assertions about the limitations of normative biblical


scholarship are correct, he errs in applying that limitation to the Book of Mormon B for the reasons
just stated. Indeed, although it is easy to see that, in the case of Bayesian Probability theory, the
normally subjective application of the theory to the Bible suffers from a fatal confirmation bias, 45
no such limitation applies to serious application of such scholarship to the Book of Mormon.
That is, one does not have to Aprove@ the Book of Mormon true, but (due to its very improbable
origin) merely to provide a cumulative Abody of data@ which raises the level of likelihood to
Aprobable.@46 The preponderance of evidence willy-nilly carries the day.
V. Open Canon & Continuing Revelation
The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves
they find their own order, the continuous thread of revelation.
Eudora Welty47

A. The very existence of the Book of Mormon is an assault on the concept of a closed canon, and
John Welch and David Whittaker have discussed the implications of that central feature of
Mormonism.48 Moreover, the dialogic revelation which preceded and accompanied the
44

Blake Ostler, ACriticisms of the Expansion Theory of the Book of Mormon from the Scriptural
Fundamentalist=s Perspective,@ 10 B reply to criticisms by Stephen Robinson (BYU).
45

Cf. Stephen Unwin, The Probability of God: A Simple Calculation that Proves the Ultimate
Truth (Crown Forum, 2003) versus Herman Philipse, God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious
Reason (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012), part I.
46

James Joyce, ABayes' Theorem,@ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Sep 30, 2003, online at
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bayes-theorem/ ; David Howie, Interpreting Probability: Controversies
and Developments in the Early Twentieth Century, Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction and
Decision Theory (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002).
47

Welty, One Writer=s Beginnings (Harvard Univ. Press, 1984).

48

J. Welch & D. Whittaker, AMormonism@s Open Canon: Some Historical Perspectives on Its
Religious Limits and Potentials,@ paper presented Nov 24, 1986, at the annual AAR/SBL meeting in
Atlanta, in response to W. Davies, AReflections on the Mormon Canon,@ Harvard Theological Review, 79
(Jan-Jul 1986), 44-66.

coming forth of the Book of Mormon49 is of a piece with instances of revelation within that
book B a book which even contains revelations about itself (I Nephi 2:20, 13:30, II Nephi 1:5,
10:19, 26:15-16, Jacob 5:43, Ether 1:38-42, 2:7,10-15, 9:20, 10:28, 13:2) B still another reason to
consider it post-modern.
B. Moreover, modern Protestant theologians such as Paul Hanson frankly maintain that
As God was present to heal and restore creation and the human family in biblical times,
God is believed to be present now, and as an extension of the people of God in biblical
times communities of faith today are called to participate in God=s universal plan of
justice, compassion, and peace.50

Joseph Smith would smile to hear that.


C. Of course, the notion of an open canon and continuing revelation is compatible with, or
suggestive of an Aopen system@ of theology in the very unsystematic sense suggested by Alfred
North Whitehead, William James, Charles Hartshorne, and others, i.e., process theology51 B which
has also been somewhat popular with some LDS52 and RLDS (Community of Christ)
theologians.53
VI. Grace, Covenant & Works
A. In law a deal is sometimes spoken of as consisting of an offer, an acceptance, and a
consideration. However, just because you make a free offer doesn't mean that I accept it. So, is
faith required to accept the free gift of grace? And is faith a "work"? Is it a Aconsideration@?

49

Terryl Givens, "The Book of Mormon and Dialogic Revelation," Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies, 10/2 (2001), 16-27, 69-70.
50

Hanson, ATheology, Old Testament,@ in Achtemeier, ed., Harper=s Bible Dictionary, 1061.

51

Jacob Baker, "The Shadow of the Cathedral: On a Systematic Exposition of Mormon Theology,"
Element, 4/1 (Spring 2008), 2; Hanson, ATheology, Old Testament,@ in Achtemeier, ed., Harper=s Bible
Dictionary, 1060; cf. Helmer, Suchocki, Quiring, and Goetz, eds., Schleiermacher and Whitehead: Open
Systems in Dialogue (De Gruyter, 2004).
52

Blake Ostler, AIntelligence and Creativity: Ultimates in Mormonism and Process Theology,@
panel presentation August 12, 2004 at Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium; Philip Clayton, AGod Beyond
Orthodoxy: Process Theology for the 21st Century,@ paper presented May 21, 2009, at the SMPT
Conference at the Claremont Colleges; Dan Wotherspoon, AProcess Theology and MormonismB
Connections and Challenges,@ paper presented March 30, 2006, at UVSC Conference on AMormonism
and the Christian Tradition.@
53

Mesle, Process Theology; Garland E. Tickemyer, "Joseph Smith and Process Theology,"
Dialogue, 17 (Autumn 1984), 75-85.

10

How should we parse II Nephi 25:23?


. . . be reconciled unto God;
for we know that it is by grace we are saved,
after all we can do.

II Nephi 10:24
. . . reconcile yourselves to the will of God,
and not to the will of the devil and the flesh;
and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God,
that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

Alma 24:11
. . . it has been all that we could do . . .
to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed,
and to get God to take them away from our hearts,
for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God
that he would take away our stain . . . .

B. Should we follow Stephen Robinson here in his suggestion that Aafter@ is a preposition of
separation, suggesting that we are saved by grace Aapart@ from all we can do, while at the same
time requiring that we be faithful to the covenant.54 Or do we understand it according to Brant
Gardner's suggestion that the "after all we can do" refers to centuries of observance of the Law of
Moses, i,.e., "after" being sequential in time, with the Law of Moses being the type which looks
forward to the antitype which fulfills the Law.55
C. As Amy-Jill Levine points out, part of this quandary stems from disregard of Judaism and the
nature of Jewish law.
. . . the election of Israel is based on grace, not merit or works. Jews do not follow Torah
in order to Aearn@ divine love or salvation; the Mishnah (m. Sanh. 10.1) states that Aall Israel
has a share in the world to come@Bit is part of the covenant.56

VII. Protological / Premortal Existence


A. Not only was the Atonement (Hebrew kippr Areconciliation@ for breach of covenant = Greek
katallag) prepared from the foundation of the world (Mosiah 4:6-7, Alma 13:5), but the high
54

Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News (Deseret Book,
1992), 91-92; cf. Robert Millet, After All We Can Do . . . Grace Works (Deseret Book, 2001); both cited by
Spencer, An Other Testament, 94-95.
55

Spencer, An Other Testament, 94-95, citing Brant Gardner, Second Witness, I:343-344.

56

Levine, ACommon Errors Made about Judaism,@ in Levine & Brettler, eds., The Jewish
Annotated New Testament (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), 502; also quoted in Pirqei Abot superscription.

11

priesthood by which it is administered was also prepared from the foundation of the world, i.e.,
extant Afrom eternity to eternity,@ Awithout beginning of days or end of years@ (Alma 13:3-7) B
which suggests a meristic combination of static and dynamic eternity, describing the cosmic and
timeless nature of priesthood power qua power to act on behalf of God. This timelessness is
likewise suggested by Joseph Fitzmyer, saying of the Melchizedek text from Qumran cave 11:
If we had not recovered this text about Melchizedek . . , would we ever have understood
correctly what was meant by Heb 7:3 and its affirmation about him? If Melchizedek were
indeed thought of by pre-Christian Jews as a heavenly redemption figure who performed a
priestly function (expiation) for the men of his lot, then one can see how the author of the
Epistle to the Hebrews could depict Christ, . . as a Apriest according to the order of
Melchizedek.@57

Taken together with the Divine Council58 (on which more below at XIV), and the insistence of
Alma 13:3 that those priests prepared, called, and ordained from the foundation of the world in
accordance with their already having demonstrated Atheir exceeding faith and good works@ (in the
pre-mortal existence?), do these texts prove the doctrine of pre-mortal existence of man in the
Book of Mormon?59 No, but they are very suggestive, and Robert Hammerton-Kelly has
affirmed that interpretation in both Judaism and in the New Testament.60 In any case, by 1832
pre-mortal existence was certainly being taught by Joseph Smith in his Ahman revelation (D&C
78:20) B that and apotheosis being reflected in W. W. Phelps= tongue-singing AHymn of Enoch.@61
VIII. Free Agency: Theodicy and Opposition in All Things
A. Lehi=s Law of Opposition (II Nephi 2:11-29),62 is not only by far and away the best method of
57

Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (Eerdmans, 2000), 39.

58

David Bokovoy, A>If You Could Hie to Kolob=; The Council of the Gods in Modern Revelation
and the Ancient World,@ 4-part BYU Education Week lectures, August 14-17, 2012; Bokovoy, A>Thou
Knowest That I Believe=: Invoking The Spirit of the Lord as Council Witness in 1 Nephi 11,@ Interpreter,
1/1 (2012), 1-23.
59

Charles Harrell, "Foreordination, Foreknowledge, and Free Will: The Doctrine of Pre-existence
in Alma 13," paper presented Sept 21, 2012, at the annual SMPT meeting in Logan, Utah. Cf. Blake
Ostler, "The Idea of Pre-Existence in the Development of Mormon Thought," Dialogue, 15/1 (1982),
59-78.
60

Hammerton-Kelly, Pre-Existence, Wisdom and the Son of Man: A Study of the Idea of
Pre-existence in the New Testament, SNTSMS 21 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1973).
61

Terryl Givens, AThe Prophecy of Enoch as Restoration Blueprint,@ address delivered in the
Logan, Utah, Tabernacle, September 20, 2012. The Tongue-singing Hymn was discovered two years ago
in BYU Special Collections.
62

Cf. E. Horton, AKoheleth=s Concept of Opposites,@ Numen, 19 (1972), 1-21; A. Gileadi, Isaiah
Decoded (Hebraeus, 2002), presents a Abifid@ structure of the entire book of Isaiah, with seven parallel

12

teaching,63 but it is a fundamental law of the physical universe. It is also normative within
philosophy to demand that meaningful statements make a difference.64
B. Despite over a millennium of effort, normative Judeo-Christian-Muslim theology (including
evangelical theology) has not been able to successfully address the problem of evil.65 Indeed, the
biblical concept of God is quite different from that believed by either physicists on the one hand, or
by adherents of the traditional Judeo-Christian religion on the other.66 The Book of Mormon, on
the other hand, breaches the theological wall of theodicy via free agency and opposition in all
things. Judeo-Christian-Muslim theology offers no more hope than the irrational, absurd views of
existentialism,67 which (along with the Holocaust) is one of the primary reasons for the demise of
mainstream religious belief in the Western world and the concomitant Adeath of God.@68
IX. Apotheosis: Godhood
A. Ernst Benz has said of the Mormon doctrine of apotheosis:
Regardless of how one feels about the doctrine of progressive deification, one thing is
certain: Joseph Smith=s anthropology of man is closer to the concept of man in the
primitive church than that of the proponents of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin,
who considered the idea of such a fundamental and corporeal relationship between God

themes arranged chiastically in each half of the book, through a series of opposites (ruin & rebirth,
rebellion & compliance, etc.); cf. also Amos 5:14-15 in Andersen & Freedman, Amos, 506 (good & evil
evil & good), cited by Bartelt in A. Beck, ed., Fortunate the Eyes That See, 167-168, Atriple chiasm@ of
evil,good good,evil; darkness,light light,darkness; bitter,sweet sweet,bitter; I Nephi 8:10-35, 11:8-25,
15:22-36, II Nephi 2:15, 4:4, Alma 5:34,62, 12:23-26, 32:40, 42:2-6.
63

Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works (NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012); cf.
Janice Allred, AOpposition in All Things: The Book of Mormon View,@ paper given Sept 21, 2012, at the
annual meeting of the SMPT, Logan, Utah.
64

A. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (1936); 2nd ed. (Gollantz, 1946/ reprint Dover, 1952).

65

Ben Witherington, III, The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing Exegetical Foundations
of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Wesleyanism (Baylor Univ. Press, 2005); Richard Swinburne,
Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).
66

Gerald Schroeder, God According to God (HarperOne, 2010).

67

William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (Doubleday-Anchor, 1962);


Jean-Paul Sartre, ANo Exit@ [Huis Clos] (1944).
68

Richard Rubenstein, "God After the Death of God," in Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: History,
Theology, and Contemporary Judaism, 2nd ed (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1992), 293B306; Phillip Jenkins,
God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005); Gabriel
Vahanian, The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era (George Braziller, 1961).

13

and man as the quintessential heresy.69

The notion of deification as the ultimate objective of the early Christian believer is entirely
orthodox,70 and was also a fundamental belief of the ancient Egyptians.71 Both Bible and Book
of Mormon appear to contain this doctrine (Alma 5:19, III Nephi 28:10, Moroni 7:48 1 John
3:2), and it was common to the Ante-Nicene Fathers,72 and to pre-Christian Judaism.73 Both
likewise focus on what Dietrich Wildung suggests are Acontemporary events as the setting of
God=s ongoing salvation drama.@74
X. Spiritus Sanctus
A. Nephi beholds the Holy Spirit (Athe Spirit of the Lord@) Ain the form of a man@ who could
speak Aas a man@ (1 Nephi 11:11).75 That same Holy Spirit is personified as Wisdom in Proverbs
8, Wisdom of Solomon 7 - 8, and Ecclesiasticus 24 (Ben Sira).76
B. Although she is led astray by the feminine gender of the Hebrew & Greek words for AWisdom@
(so in Mosiah 8:20b), Amy-Jill Levine correctly points out that
69

ADer Mensch als Imago Dei,@ in Eranos Jahrbuch 40 (1971), and also published in Urbild und
Abbild: Der Mensch und die mythische Welt: gesammelte Eranos-Beitrage (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 326,
Man mag zu dieser Lehre von der progressiven Vergottung stehen wie man will, eines ist
sicher, Joseph Smith steht mit dieser seiner Anthropologie der altkirchlichen Anschauung
vom Menschen nher als die Vorkmpfer der augustinischen Erbsndenlehre, die den
Gedanken an einen so wesenhaften Zusammenhang zwischen Gott und Mensch als die
eigentliche Haeresie betrachtet haben.
English version in Benz, AImagio Dei: Man in the Image of God,@ in T. Madsen, ed., Reflections on
Mormonism (Provo, 1978), 201-219.
70

Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov, eds., Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology,
Princeton Theological Monograph Series (Pickwick Publ./Wipf & Stock, 2006).
71

Dietrich Wildung, Egyptian Saints: Deification in Pharaonic Egypt (NYU Press, 1977).

72

Daniel Graham, AFree Will in the Early Church,@ paper delivered Sept 21, 2012, at the annual
meeting of SMPT at USU, Logan, Utah.
John J. Collins, A Throne in the Heavens: Apotheosis in Pre-Christian Judaism, in J. J. Collins
& M. Fishbane, eds., Death, Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys (N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1995), 43-58.
73

74

Paul Hanson in Harper=s Bible Dictionary, 1062.

75

Cf. Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004).

76

P. Skehan in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 41:371n.

14

the texts make sense in their own historical context. Early Jewish sources speak of Wisdom
(Greek: Sophia; Hebrew: Chochmah) or the Shekinah as manifestations of God on earth.
Even more striking, these manifestations are feminine. For example, Proverbs 8:22B31
depicts Wisdom as created at the beginning of God=s work and as Abeside him, like a master
worker@; Wisdom=s hymn in Sirach 24:1B34 reads like a paean to a goddess; Wisdom of
Solomon 7:22B10:21 follows suit, as does Philo of Alexandria=s On the Creation. The
Targums, early Aramaic translations of the Jewish Scriptures, sound very much like John
1:1 in referring to the Word (the Aramaic term is Memre) as a divine agent of creation.77

XI. Nature of God


A. Based on the anthropomorphic descriptions of God in the Bible, Yohanan Muffs insists that
A[T]he biblical God is anthropomorphic. Whoever strips God of his personal quality distorts the
true meaning of Scripture.@78 However, it must be added, Aonly the most holy people are spared
death in the presence of God.@79 Just so, the Book of Mormon speaks of God with the same sort of
flesh and blood anthropomorphisms (Ether 2:4-5,14, 3:4-19).
XII. Gottheit: A Social Network
A. The word Atrinity@ does not occur in the Bible or Book of Mormon, and the concept is a later
dogmatic christian theological retrojection upon texts which describe a paradoxically close
relationship among God, his Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the NT exhibits no more than
Atriadic coordination@ rather than a divine unity of three-in-one,80 which some take to be tritheism.
Jan Assmann and the late Klaus Baer (among others) have, moreover, maintained that the
Christian Trinity and the notion of hypostasis were taken from ancient Egyptian religion.81
77

Levine, AWhat Jews (and Christians too) Should Know About the New Testament,@ Biblical
Archaeology Review, 38/2 (Mar-Apr 2012), 59-61, 64; see also A.-J. Levine & M. Brettler, eds., The Jewish
Annotated New Testament (Oxford Univ. Press, 2010), 157n, 546-549.
78

Muffs, Bible Review, XVIII/6 (Dec 2002), 23; cf. Ronald Hendel, AAniconism and
Anthropomorphism in Ancient Israel,@ in K. van der Toorn, ed., The Image and the Book (Leuven:
Peeters, 1997), 205-228; Benjamin Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel
(Cambridge University Press, 2009); Esther J. Hamori, "When Gods Were Men": The Embodied God in
Biblical and Near Eastern Literature (de Gruyter, 2008), reviewed in RBL, Feb 2012, online at
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=8190 .
79

R. Hendel, AAniconism,@ in van der Toorn, ed., The Image and the Book, 222.

80

J. Bassler, AGod (NT),@ in D. Freedman, ed., ABD, II:1055.

81

Klaus Baer (then of the Oriental Institute, Univ. of Chicago) said that Amon-Re-Ptah subsume
all gods and that all gods are three, and three are one. According to him, the Christian Trinity was
developed at Alexandria (Harry Wolfson agreed on the place, but maintained that the Christians got the idea
more immediately from Philo Judaeus [Philo: Foundation of Religious Philosophy in Judaism ,
Christianity, and Islam]). Moreover, Ptah the Creator God/ Chaos (Memphis), is both male & female.

15

B. We have already seen how both God and the Holy Spirit are described anthropomorphically in
the Book of Mormon. In that context, it is not possible to formulate a doctrine of hypostatic union
among the members of the Gottheit, but rather no more than a full unity of purpose and love among
perfect beings, with God the Father at their head B one God (II Nephi 31:21, Jacob 4:5, Alma
11:44, III Nephi 11:32, 35-36, Mormon 7:7, Ether 12:41, Moroni 10:34). Formal language of
cross-identification (Mosiah 13:28, 15:1-5) is, therefore, only to be taken as metaphorical, so that
Athe will of the Son@ is Aswallowed up in the will of the Father@ (Mosiah 15:7). In fact, David
Paulsen and Ari Bruening argue for a social trinity in III Nephi.82
XIII. Prophetic Call Motif
A. As part of his early work on the FARMS Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, Grant
Hardy noted that I Nephi 1 contains the pillar of fire, heavenly book, mystery of God, and
prophecy (in an angelic vision), which are likewise to be found in Revelation 10:1-11.83
However useful such parallels may be, as noted by John W. Welch in a BYU Book of Mormon
Symposium paper, the motifs in both I Nephi 1 and Revelation 10 are among the normal items to
be expected as part of a prophetic call in the Classical Israelite period,84 and later.85
B. Portions of the visions recounted in I Nephi 8 - 14 and in Alma 36 can likewise be
All the gods arose from him, are joined to him, and are him. AThe divine@ is a monophysite substance and
could be seen as one god, as in Coptic Christianity. My personal notes of Baer lecture at BYU (Provo,
Utah), Aug 20, 1974. However, J. Assmann argues for the expression of the Egyptian trinity or Atriunity@
at least as early as the Middle Kingdom, Search for God, 177-180,238-239.
82

Paulsen & Bruening, AThe Social Model of the Trinity in 3 Nephi,@ in Skinner & Strathearn, eds.,
Third Nephi, 191-233.
83

See FARMS= Book of Mormon Critical Text, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (1986-87), which contains by far the
most comprehensive listing of biblical parallels available in any published source.
84

Welch, "The Calling of a Prophet," paper presented Oct 10, 1986, at the BYU Second Annual
Book of Mormon Symposium , and published in BYU Religious Studies Center Monograph Series: M.
Nyman & C. Tate, eds., First Nephi: The Doctrinal Foundation (1988), 35-54. Cf. Samuel Meier, The
Messenger in the Ancient Semitic World, HSSM 45 (Harvard, 1988).
85

Cf. Blake Ostler, "The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi," FARMS
Preliminary Report OST-82, published in BYU Studies, 26/4 (Winter 1986), 67-95. See in particular
Geo Widengren, Ascension of the Apostle and the Heavenly Book (King and Saviour III) (1950), for a
look at these motifs throughout the ancient Near East; similarly, non-Mormon scholar Willis Barnstone,
ed., The Other Bible (1984), 537, was quite taken with the strong parallels he adduced in comparison of
the Apocalypse of Paul and the story of Joseph=s obtaining the Book of Mormon (cited by Kevin Barney
in FARMS Review of Books, 13/1 [2001], 16, in review of John Tvedtnes= The Book of Mormon and Other
Hidden Books [2000], 39,99-100, and Appendix I B in turn dependent upon an expanded analysis by
Steven Booras).

16

compared with the book of Revelation, though undoubtedly for the same reasons as just
mentioned (the chiastic manner in which the visions are laid out is another pattern of rhetorical
importance). This motif is an integral part of the Council in Heaven.
XIV. Council in Heaven
A. Isaiah chapter 6 throughout, and 14:12-14 (II Ne 16, 24:12-14) each utilize the familiar
image of the Council of Yahweh.86 For the Council in Heaven is not merely one event, but a
continuing phenomenon of divine governance, which we find exhibited in Lehi=s First Vision (I
Nephi 1:8-14 Alma 36:22),87 and alluded to elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (I Nephi 11,
Mosiah 2:28, Helaman 10:6-7, III Nephi 17:24, 19:14-15, Mormon 7:7, Ether 3),88 and in the
Bible (Deuteronomy 33:2, I Kings 2:19, Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6, Isaiah 40:1-8, Jeremiah 23:18, Amos
3:7, Zechariah 3:1-7, 6:1-8, Ecclesiasticus 1:8, Luke 2:13-14, Revelation 4:1-11, 5:1-14, 10:1-11).
B. Moreover, much of this entails the prophetic call motif B a call which necessarily comes from
the Council.
XV. Messianism & Apocalyptic
A. Joseph Spencer says that Athe Nephites embrace not only an explicitly messianic but also a
fully apocalyptic theology.@89 Which takes us to the apocalyptic fulfillment of the covenant,
following the Ahiatus@ during the unspecified and indeterminate times of the Gentiles and of the
Great and Abominable Church:
XVI. Remnant Theology & Covenant
A. That very fulfillment Areintroduces and centralizes the concept of the remnant,@ taken
particularly from Isaiah through the process of Alikening.@ Indeed, Athe Book of Mormon itself

86

Frank Cross, AThe Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,@ JNES, 12/4 (Oct 1953), 275-276;
Brevard Childs, Isaiah (Westminster John Knox, 2001), 295-296; both cited by Spencer, An Other
Testament, 73.
87

John Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon (FARMS/Deseret, 1992), 24-25 = Welch,
ALehi's Council Vision and the Mysteries of God,@ FARMS Newsletter, Fall 1986, citing Theodore Mullen,
The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature (Scholars Press, 1980); Welch, "The Calling
of a Prophet," in M. Nyman and C. Tate, eds., First Nephi: The Doctrinal Foundation, 35-54.
88

David Bokovoy, ANephi=s Use of Old Testament Temple Imagery,@ BYU Education Week
lecture, Aug 16, 2011; Bokovoy, ADivine Council Imagery in the Book of Mormon,@ BYU Education Week
lecture, August 17, 2012.
89

Joseph Spencer, AFinally: An Outline of a Book of Mormon Remnant Theology,@ online at


http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2010/05/07/finally-an-outline-of-a-book-of-mormon-remnant-theology/ .

17

will be the mobilizer of the construction of the eschatological remnant.@90


B. While it is true that the covenant theology of Joseph Smith may profitably be compared and
contrasted with Puritan covenant theology (in both the role of covenant is central),91 the
treaty-covenant pattern well-known from the ancient Near East is a far more significant and
remarkable parallel with the Book of Mormon,92 particularly in Mosiah 1 - 6.
XVII. Qumran, Jesus, and the AChurches of Anticipation@93
A. Even if Robert Eisenman has been far too extreme in his conclusions,94 the facts themselves
led reviewer Robert A. Price to say that Eisenman
does make his case that there is an inescapable commonality of terminology and
conceptuality, sometimes used ironically or satirically, between a mass of texts which need
to be placed together on a mental map if one is to grasp the shape of the religious world in
which they all float as continents. And the first achievement of The New Testament Code
hard won through this methodology, is the realization that the Dead Sea Scrolls stem from
the mid to late first century CE (equivocal Carbon dating results no longer even being
relevant), and that they represent the sectarian baptizing Schwrmerei known variously as
the Essenes, Zealots, Nasoreans, Masbotheans, Sabaeans and Jewish Christians headed by
James the Just. Endless references to the armies of the Kittim and >the kings of the Peoples=
make the date clear even before we get to the catalogue of terminological and conceptual
links between the Scrolls, the New Testament, and the Pseudo- Clementines. I should say
that in all these comparisons Eisenman has established a system of correspondences fully
as convincing, and for the same reasons, as the Preterist interpretation of the Book of
90

Spencer, AFinally: An Outline.@

91

Thomas Alexander, A>That He Will Yet Reveal=: An Approach to the Theology of Joseph Smith,@
paper presented December 5, 1981, at the Colloquium on Joseph Smith & Mormonism, sponsored by the
Dept. of Religious Studies at Indiana University (Bloomington).
92

Stephen Ricks, AKingship, Coronation, and Covenant in Mosiah 1 - 6,@ in J. Welch and S.
Ricks, eds., King Benjamin=s Speech: AThat Ye May Learn Wisdom@ (FARMS, 1998), 233-275; Ricks,
AThe Treaty/Covenant Pattern in King Benjamin's Address (Mosiah 1- 6)," BYU Studies, 24/2 (Spring
1984), 151-162; George Mendenhall, AThe Suzerainty Treaty Structure: Thirty Years Later,@ in E. Firmage,
Sr., B. Weiss III, and J. Welch, eds., Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives, papers
presented March 5-8, 1985, at the Univ. of Utah and Brigham Young Univ. (Eisenbrauns, 1990), 85-100;
Mendenhall and Gary Herion. ACovenant,@ in D. Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday,
1992), I:1179-1202.
93

F. M. Cross termed the Qumran community a Achurch of anticipation,@ as noted by Hugh Nibley,
An Approach to the Book of Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1957), chapter 15; 3rd ed.
(FARMS/ Deseret, 1988), CWHN VI:183-193.
94

Robert Eisenman, The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and
the Blood of Christ (Watkins, 2006).

18

Revelation by R.H. Charles and others. I just do not see any room for serious doubt any
more. Teichner was right; Eisenman is right: the Scrolls are the legacy of the Jerusalem
Christians led by the Heirs of Jesus: James the Just, Simeon bar Cleophas, and Judas
Thomas.95

XVIII. Egypticity
A. Not only is the Egypticity of ancient preexilic Israel96 obvious in the Book of Mormon
(language of Bronze Plates and Plates of Mormon, primary source of weights & measures, literary
topoi, etc.),97 but the religion and implicit and explicit theologies of ancient Egypt likewise have
much in common with Mormon religion and theology.98
XIX. Nephi & Midrash
A. Grant Hardy explains how and why Nephi quoted whole chapters of Isaiah,
but in slightly modified form, sometimes with glosses or interpolations directly related to
Nephi=s characteristic concerns. Indeed, Nephi deliberately rereads the Bible with his
own situation in mind, and he finds himself in Isaiah=s ancient prophecies. He introduces
extrabiblical writings of Joseph [who-was-sold-into-Egypt], and he follows that material
(more than twenty chapters later) with specific allusions and prophetic reworkings of those
prophecies. He believes that his own writings are scriptural, and eventually he comes to
realize that his work will someday stand alongside the Bible when it reaches its ultimate
audience of Gentiles and descendants of Israel in the last days. All the while, Nephi is
using these scriptural interpretations to assuage deep personal frustrations and resolve
theological difficulties that he only hints at in his narrative.99
95

Review at Robert Eisenman website, http://www.roberteisenman.com/ntc_review.htm .

96

Bernd Schipper, Israel und gypten in der Knigszeit: Die kulturellen Kontakte von Salomo bis
zum Fall Jerusalems (Freiburg/Gttingen, 1999); Gregory Mumford, "International Relations Between
Egypt, Sinai, and Syria-Palestine in the LB Age to Early Persian Period (Dynasties 18-26; cf. 1950-525
B.C.): A Spatial and Temporal Analysis of the Distribution and Proportions of Egyptian(izing) Artefacts
and Pottery in Sinai and Selected Sites in Syria-Palestine," 4 vols., doctoral dissertation (University of
Toronto, 1998); Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton, 1992); Yoshiyuki
Muchiki, Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords in North-West Semitic (Scholars Press, 1999); cf. Mia
Rikala, ASacred Marriage in the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: Circumstantial Evidence for a Ritual
Interpretation,@ in M. Nissinen & R. Uro, eds., Sacred Marriages: The Divine-Human Sexual Metaphor
from Sumer to Early Christianity (Eisenbrauns, 2008), 115B144.
97

See my forthcoming AEgyptianisms in the Book of Mormon,@ 2012 draft.

98

See my forthcoming AOur Egyptian Heritage,@ 2012 draft; cf. Jan Assmann, The Search for God
in Ancient Egypt (Cornell Univ. Press, 2001).
99

Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 84; cf. Robert Cloward, AIsaiah 29 and the Book of
Mormon,@ in D. Parry & J. Welch, eds., Isaiah in the Book of Mormon (FARMS, 1998), 302-305; Grant
Hardy, A2 Nephi 26 and 27 as Midrash,@ FARMS Update #173, in Insights, 24/5 (2004), 2-3.

19

XX. Polygyny
A. Despite strong, even abusive denunciations of polygyny in the Book of Mormon (Jacob 1:15,
2:24,27, Mosiah 11:2, Ether 10:5), and the clear instruction to Father Lehi (Jacob 3:5 Athe
commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our fatherBthat they should have save it be one
wife@), it is also clear from Jacob 2:30 that the Lord can command polygyny where and when He
pleases:
For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people;
otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

XXI. Blatant Christianity Already?


Nowhere does Christianity betray its indebtedness to Judaism more than in its
supersessionism.
Jon D. Levenson 100

A. Among scholars, there has always been some disquiet with the Christianization of the Old
Testament by normative Christianity. Not only Jesus himself, but his immediate followers
regularly interpreted everything done by him as the direct fulfillment of OT prophecy, and later
Christian theology was formulated in that specific light. However, not only is early Christian
literature shot through with direct quotations and allusions to the OT, but those same early Jewish
Christians B even as they eventually separated from normative Judaism B carried on with their
Jewish liturgy (including temple symbolism in their cathedrals), and saw their Church as the true
Israel. Even without supersession (it is not present in the Book of Mormon),101 is this fair to
Judaism? Robert Morgan says that
there is nothing unreasonable about a Christian biblical theology which selects OT material
and interprets it in the light of the event to which Christians believe it ultimately bears
witness.102

B. Indeed, Werner Lemke goes even further:


Because of Christianity=s origin in a specifically Jewish milieu, an understanding of the OT
is essential for a proper understanding of the NT and of the gospel. The history of the
early Church is incomprehensible apart from Jewish antecedents, and the literature of the
100

Levenson, Death and Resurrection, x.

101

Steven Epperson, ASome Problems with Supersessionism in Mormon Thought: A Review


Essay,@ BYU Studies, 34/4 (1994-95), 125-136; Epperson, Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies
of Israel (SLC: Signature, 1992); Seymour Cain, AJudaism and Mormonism: Paradigm and Supersession,@
Dialogue, 25/3 (1992), 57-65.
102

Morgan, ATheology (NT),@ in D. Freedman, ed., ABD, VI:482, citing F. Mussner, Tractate on
the Jews (1984).

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NT presupposes knowledge of the language and thought-world of the OT.103

C. Given that we now know that such early Christian symbolism and interpretation (as well as
organization) was likewise characteristic of earlier Jewish sectarian groups,104 it is now widely
accepted that one cannot understand Jesus Christ or Christianity without a thorough grounding in
Judaism.105
D. Some have suggested that the Book of Mormon not only exhibits the same tendencies, but that
it goes much too far, presenting blatant, in-your-face Christianity in what should be the OT section
of the book.106 Others, following Margaret Barker,107 have taken the opposite tack, suggesting
that the Deuteronomistic revision of the Hebrew Canon removed what would later become
authentic Christian elements and which was already present on the Bronze Plates of Laban.108
This is clearly a result of the use of different terminologies, and not from differences of substance.
I have dealt with this matter in detail elsewhere.
103

Lemke, ATheology (OT),@ in D. Freedman, ed., ABD, VI:471.

104

Michael O. Wise, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ (S.F.: Harper
SanFrancisco, 1999); Israel Knohl, The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea
Scrolls (Berkeley: U.C. Press, 2000).
105

Walter P. Weaver, "Introduction," in J. H. Charlesworth and W. P. Weaver, eds., The Old and
the New Testaments: Their Relationship and the "Intertestamental" Literature, Faith and Scholarship
Colloquies (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 1993), 3-4,13-14,17, and n. 1, citing James
Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism (Doubleday, 1988), and E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Phila.:
Fortress Press, 1985); cf. Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews: A Jewish Life and the
Emergence of Christianity (N.Y.: Knopf, 1999); Amy-Jill Levine, Jesus Who? Moment, 27/4 (Aug 2002),
48-54,74-75.
106

Melodie M. Charles, AThe Mormon Christianizing of the Old Testament,@ Sunstone, 5/6
(Nov-Dec 1980), 35-39, with response from Lowell Bennion on p. 40 = reprinted in D. Vogel, ed., The
Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Signature Books, 1990), 131-142, but with the Bennion
response removed. Reviewed by Kevin Christensen in FARMS Review, 16/2 (2004), 59-90, online at
http://farms.byu.edu/publications/review/ ?vol=16&num=2&id=547 .
107

Margaret Barker, AWhat Did King Josiah Reform?@ in J. Welch, D. Seely, and A. Seely, eds.,
Glimpses of Lehi=s Jerusalem (FARMS, 2004), 523-542; Barker, The Older Testament: The Survival of
Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity (SPCK, 1987), reviewed
by G. Nicklesburg in JBL, 109 (1990), 335-337.
108

Kevin Christensen, AThe Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament,@ FARMS


Review, 16/2 (2004), 59-90, online at http://farms.byu.edu/publications/review/ ?vol=16&num=2&id=547
; M. Barker, AJoseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,@ paper delivered in 2005, at Library of
Congress in Washington, DC., published in J. Welch, ed., The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial
Conference at the Library of Congress (Provo: BYU Press, 2006), 69-82, saying re Book of Mormon, AThis
revelation to Joseph Smith is the ancient wisdom symbolism, intact, and almost certainly as it was known in
600 BCE.@

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