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BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 58 (2019)
The question at the heart of the exchange between Korihor and Alma in the Book of Mormon concerns knowledge, what Alma calls the real. This essay probes Korihor’s appraisal of the Nephite’s Christian devotion, sorting out the basic stakes of his argument, and then looks at how Alma slowly and belatedly develops a full response to Korihor. Deviating from traditional interpretations of the parable of the seed of faith, Spencer illustrates that Alma effectively displaces knowledge as a core value, arguing that faith not only is not lesser than knowledge but also goes beyond knowledge and produces something of infinitely more value. Although one can know the truth of Christ and know it perfectly, faith continues beyond knowledge because faith aims not at acquiring knowledge, but at eternal life.
Joseph Smith and his followers declared the Book of Mormon’s supernatural origin—that it was a divinely inspired translation of an ancient-American record, acquired by Joseph through visions and the help of an angel. This explanation, however, was widely rejected by outsiders from the outset. Within weeks after the Book of Mormon’s first pages came off the press, critics promoted “naturalistic explanations”—so called because they are based on scientific observation or natural phenomena—that rejected the possibility of a divine, supernatural origin of the Book of Mormon. To varying degrees, these naturalistic theories continue to be perpetuated today. This article examines the most popular naturalistic explanations for the Book of Mormon longitudinally, which will enable readers to better understand them and why they have waxed and waned in popularity over time.
Moroni reports receiving a revelation in which the Lord told him, “If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them” (Alma 60:33). Because Pahoran, the chief governor of the Nephites at the time, turns out to be innocent of the charges contained in Moroni’s revelation, it is easy to think that Moroni’s revelation is mistaken in some way. Textual clues, however, suggest the revelation and its accompanying epistle were directed not only to Pahoran but also to many other generals, who were likely guilty of the sins mentioned by Moroni. Thus, contrary to previous thinking, Moroni’s revelation may have, in fact, been accurate.
Thomas Wayment, classics professor at Brigham Young University, has earned a reputation as one of the most capable and reliable Latter-day Saint scholars of the New Testament and the ancient classical world in which Christianity arose. Educated at the Claremont Graduate School of Religion, Wayment generally addresses Latter-day Saint audiences, whose faith he shares. His writing includes credible work on New Testament manuscript traditions, Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, and the historical lives of Jesus and Paul. Wayment has now accomplished his most ambitious project to date: a fresh translation, based on the best available Greek manuscripts, of the entire New Testament into a modern, lucid English. Wayment’s translation seeks to serve the perceived needs of English-speaking members of the Church. This goal is evident in both the translation proper and the supplementary material. Wayment explains the need for a New Testament in readily understood modern prose: “Jesus did not speak using archaic English terms and phrases. His speech was quite ordinary [for its time and place]. . . . As language evolves, so too translations need to evolve” (viii). A student of scripture, for example, can with Wayment’s translation conveniently read Jesus’s parable of the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13 without having to look at a footnote to learn what tares are (31–32). But more than mere convenience is at stake in this translation. In many passages, Wayment’s modern English can save a hapless reader from being stumped by intricate Pauline arguments that are entangled in the half-foreign tongue of Jacobian English. Wayment’s modernizing service to us is important. His text is readable and intelligible, hence inviting.
In his introduction to Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States, author Seth Perry of Princeton University writes of “a shared set of symbols, types, behaviors, and vocabulary” that derive from or were influenced by the King James Bible (2). The book discusses the interaction of this shared set with early American society, asserting that the Bible and biblical language were resources that individuals in the nineteenth century used to create legitimacy—that is, authority in their relationships with others. Scripturalization is the term Perry employs to describe how people, language, rhetoric, and other aspects of society obtained this authority by drawing from the stories and texts of the Bible. That the Bible played a major role in the early history of the United States is well known. Margaret Hills documented over fourteen hundred editions of the Bible that were printed in the United States between 1776 and 1850, the vast majority of which were Protestant editions. Perry sees the proliferation of Bibles not only as a reflection of America’s unique culture but also, rightly, as a contributor to that culture.