King Benjamin’s Speech and Parallels to Ancient Farewell Addresses

In my last post, I made reference to King Benjamin’s speech, and just had to follow up with some more information. One excellent source providing possible evidence for ancient origins of the Book of Mormon is King Benjamin’s Speech, edited by John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998, 661 pages). The book is an impressive collection of essays with extensive references and documentation exploring the richness of King Benjamin’s dramatic farewell address in the early chapters of Mosiah.

In King Benjamin’s Speech, Chapter 4, “Benjamin’s Sermon as Traditional Ancient Farewell Address,” John W. Welch and Daryl R. Hague show that King Benjamin’s farewell address may qualify as the best existing example of an ancient farewell speech rooted in early biblical tradition. Non-LDS scholar William S. Kurz has examined numerous ancient farewell speeches and identified 20 elements that appear commonly (no one speech has all 20). Sixteen of the elements are directly present in Benjamin’s speech, and two others are implied. No other ancient farewell speech has a greater number of these elements. Further, Benjamin’s speech is well focused on the most important elements typical of Old Testament traditions. For details, see William S. Kurz, “Luke 22:14-38 and Greco-Roman Biblical Farewell Traditions,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 104: 251-268 (1985); also see William S. Kurz, Farewell Addresses in the New Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1990), both as cited by Welch and Ricks, p. 115).

According to Kurz, as summarized by Welch and Ricks (pp. 91-94), the 20 common elements from ancient farewell addresses are:

  1. The summons. The speaker calls people together to here his last instructions.
  2. The speaker’s own mission or example. The speaker reviews his life and what he has done, and urges his listeners to follow his example.
  3. Innocence and discharge of duty.
  4. Impending death. The speaker states that death is near, but shows courage rather than fear, sometimes commending his soul to God.
  5. Exhortation. Listeners are urged to follow commandments they have been given by the speaker, to be courageous, etc.
  6. Warnings and injunctions. Consequences of sin are discussed to help the people.
  7. Blessings. In conjunction with the warnings, blessings are also offered (e.g., for obedience).
  8. Farewell gestures. Though more common in Greco-Roman literature, acts such as kneeling can be farewell gestures.
  9. Tasks for successors. Final orders given to the listeners, often conferring specific responsibilities.
  10. Theological review of history. Reviewing the past to show the works of God (e.g., the Creation, delivery from captivity, etc.).
  11. Revelation of the future.
  12. Promises. Biblical farewell speeches commonly include reference to eternal glory (e.g., Christ in Luke 22 and Mattathias in 1 Maccabees 2).
  13. Appointment or reference to a successor.
  14. Bewailing the loss. Friends and followers may mourn the speaker.
  15. Future degeneration. Warnings about the disobedience of future generations are made. The speaker is not responsible for this, however.
  16. Covenant renewal and sacrifices.
  17. Providing for those who will survive. Instructions are given to maintain guidance and comfort for people after the death of the aging leader.
  18. Consolation to the inner circle. The speaker comforts his closest associates.
  19. Didactic speech. Review of principles to teach listeners what to do.
  20. Ars moriendi or the approach to death. Dealing with the approach of the leader to death itself, this element is less common and is found only in a writing of Plato and perhaps implicitly in Josephus.

More of these elements are present in King Benjamin’s speech than in any other Biblical farewell address, making it arguably the best example on record of an ancient farewell speech in the ancient Jewish style.

Welch and Hague also point out that Benjamin’s speech is soundly aligned with the most important aspects of ancient biblical farewell speeches:

Kurz has singled out four of his twenty elements as fundamentally characteristic of addresses in the Old Testament and the Old Testament Apocrypha, as opposed to the Greco-Roman tradition: (1) the speaker’s assertion of innocence and fulfillment of mission, (2) the designation of tasks for successors, (3) a theological review of history, and (4) the revelation of future events. All four of these characteristically Israelite elements appear prominently in Benjamin’s speech. Furthermore, Benjamin emphasizes the covenant relationship between God and man, and his text ends with an express covenant renewal. No preoccupation with death occurs here, as it does in the Greco-Roman texts. Benjamin’s speech is not only one of the most complete ancient farewell addresses known anywhere, but it also strongly manifests those elements that are most deeply rooted in early biblical tradition.

For Benjamin’s assertion of innocence, see Mos. 2:15 (cf. Mos. 2:12-14 and 2:27-28). For tasks for successors, see Mos. 1:15-16, 2:31, and 6:3. A theological review of history is found in Benjamin’s review of his administration (Mos. 2, such as verses 11, 20, 31, 34, 35) and his references to Moses and the Israelites (Mos. 3:13-15). Future events are prophesied in Mos. 3: 1,2,5-11, where the coming of Christ is foretold.

Other farewell speeches in the Book of Mormon were given by Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, Mormon, and Moroni. Adding King Benjamin’s makes seven total. Each of them have over half of the 20 elements identified by Kurz, though King Benjamin’s speech is the most complete, more complete than any single biblical speech. I find that impressive.

As is shown in other chapters in Welch and Ricks, the speech also offers beautiful chiasms, follows patterns from ancient Jewish festivals, follows ancient patterns of assembly and atonement symbolism, etc. These elements add intellectual plausibility to the claim that the Book of Mormon is an ancient Semitic document, written by ancient prophets with Hebraic roots. None of this “proves” that the Book of Mormon is true, but does make it even more difficult to explain the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith’s fabrication.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

50 thoughts on “King Benjamin’s Speech and Parallels to Ancient Farewell Addresses

  1. Dear Jeff,

    Please forgive that I am new to all this. I have hardly had time to read the scriptures that the Missionaries have assigned me, much less, well, everything else that I know I’ll need to tackle as time permits.

    I feel like I have been guided here to your blog because the Missionaires, while ardent and well intentioned do not have answers for all my questions. As you suggest, they just tell me to read and pray.

    And I’m sure that every one who learns about this gospel asks these questions at first but I just have to know a few more things about the ancient origins.

    The Missionaries have told me of enormous battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Millions of people. Millions of swords and shields all clashing and slashing and stabbing until all but one of the Nephites was destroyed.

    I can’t stop thinking about all those swords and shields. The battle that they have told me of would have been enormous. There would have had to be a support staff for such an army that must have been almost as big as the army itself just to make sure that everyone was fed and had water when needed. And aparently this was happening 300 or 400 AD, which in the grand scheme of things is not really too long ago. So my question is, what happened to all those millions of swords and shields?


  2. Good question. Just one thought: the Civil War involved huge numbers of warriors. If you walk through the woods where these battles took place, almost yesterday, how many Civil War rifles, canons, and shells can you find? If it weren’t for museums, would you be able to recognize that battles had been fought there?

    It was long thought that Mesoamerica was a peaceful place anciently. Now we know there were many battles and wars fought, with weapons such as swords made of wooden clubs and obsidian, for example (the Spaniards called these swords). But many significant events are hard to verify or discover just relying on what we can find after many centuries, unless we know right where to look and what to look for.

    One page that might provide some further help is

  3. Which is it now, Brother Cory? Are you pretending to be a new member or an investigator? Most of the pages from the RfM playbook have been done here. Please try to come up with something new, or that hasn’t been tried recently.

  4. You’ll have to excuse me that I don’t know what “RfM playbook” means. Whoever Anonymous is he sounds a little bit defensive and perhaps even antagonistical. I am an ardent searcher after the truth of this gospel and I apologize if I asked the wrong question but I would truly like to know the answer. Could someome please now tell me what RfM means?

    And Jeff — thanks for mentioning about the civil war artificacts — the millions of them that have been collected are either all in museums are being sold today on Ebay. Of course we can’t find them in the fields of battle (although just recently guns have been unearthed from those very battlefields).

    You make an interesting point here:
    “But many significant events are hard to verify or discover just relying on what we can find after many centuries” — And yet archaeologists have been able to trace the migration routes of ancient peoples using little more than the waste products and soil composition found near firepits. Swords and shields described in the Book Of Mormon should be a piece of cake, no? And every depiction from Mormon sources of these artifacts points to the fact that they are metal.

    I think the migration and war of over two million people might be even larger than a significant event.

    But now I’m thinking of erasing what I have written because of the obvious attack on my motives that Anonymous left. I did not come here to be attacked or to make anyone feel defensive. Joining this church is a momentous decision that I have to face alone — I have to live with my decision — I’ve already been ridiculed by friends and relatives for even taking any of this seriously. I’ll be darned if I am going to suffer abuse when I feel like I am earnestly asking a question that I don’t feel has been answered to my satisfaction.

    If you wish to hear from me no more just say so. If you choose not to discuss these issues with me please send me to a link where I might be accepted when asking this question.

  5. Don’t worry about it Cory. That guy is just being a jerk.

    I’d say any and all earnest questions are welcome here, or atleast I haven’t read anything to demonstraight otherwise.

    As for my $0.02 on your inquiry, these battles were most likely taking place in mesmoamerica (central america). Much of this is tropical, and in tropical areas there is a huge turnover of what’s on the ground. Trees are decaying everywhere, and all this other stuff so that old stuff is always getting burried (I think). As such, after more than 1000 years, I find it reasonable to belive that the weapons and armour and all that stuff is under a lot of dirt or even decayed to some greater degree. A lot can change in the jungle after even just 100 years.

    Further, somethings you just have to take on faith. Science can’t answer all the questions, and the Book of Mormon even says this. There is a lot of fluff that can surround the issue, the end it’s all about what you belive deep down.

    A lot of little things used to get in the way for me too, but I took a step back and saw there was a lot more I liked about the Church than I didn’t.

    Regardless, best of luck to you on your quest for the truth.

  6. Cory is not what he’s pretending to be. He’s a little too manipulative to be either an investigator (as he’s putting forth on this thread) or a new member as he stated on the previous thread about Kevin Christensen. If this were the Rush Limbaugh show, Cory would be a Seminar Caller.

  7. I’m discouraged by the attitudes of two people posting on this blog and I will take my questions and also probably my faith elsewhere. I will continue praying to learn whether the Church of Latter Day Saints is the One True Church. One thing that I’m certain of here is that two of the people who have left comments regarding my questions seem to be afraid of people asking sincere questions.

    I call that sad…

    Keep up the good work Jeff. I may continue to read but when I get attacked with each time I open my mouth this isn’t a safe place. Bye.

  8. Corey’s question does not seem like the kind one would naturally ask as an investigator or reader of the Book of Mormon. It is clearly influenced by critical sources, but that does not mean he is not sincere.

    The more interesting question is what one might logically ask in 1830: Where are the great cities and civilizations in the Americas like those in the Book of Mormon? Where is the evidence of ancient temples, cities, fortifications, markets, roads, prisons, and political systems with kings, priests, lawyers, and judges? Where were ancient peoples with written records? Of course, we all know today that Mesoamerica broadly fits, but that was not well recognized in 1830, when the Book of Mormon seemed far more preposterous than it is today.

  9. It is true that some critics like to pose as members of the Church, especially new members, or as sincere investigators. For some of them, the purpose is to undermine the faith of others by working up to what they feel are killer questions. So when someone comes along claiming to be a new member but showing suspicious behavior, well, I can understand the doubts that were raised here.

    Corey’s response seems to confirm some of those doubts – sorry, Corey, if you are for real – for he seems IMHO to use the discussion as a springboard to launch attacks on the Book of Mormon, not quite in the spirit of a sincere seeker who feels the Spirit of the Lord led him to this blog, as he stated in previous post. Further, I think someone who is a new member seeking to gain further insight into the Book of Mormon would be unlikely to make Corey’s statement: “Swords and shields described in the Book Of Mormon should be a piece of cake, no? And every depiction from Mormon sources of these artifacts points to the fact that they are metal.” That’s pure RFM spin (“recovery from Mormonism” – anti-Mormons). Every LDS source on the Book of Mormon most certainly does not state that the swords and shields were metal, nor does the Book of Mormon – though some metal swords are mentioned. But the typical sword in the battles of the Book of Mormon is much more likely to be one the basic weapons that we know the ancient Mesoamericans did use: swords of wooden handles with obsidian blades. Yes, Corey, lots have been found, they are in museums, and they actually fit the description in the Book of Mormon reasonably well (e.g., the concern about swords being “stained with blood” in Alma 24 – something that easily happens with wood, not with metal). For example, see my previous post, Swords and the Book of Mormon, and The Atlatl and the Book of Mormon.

  10. If you read the Iliad or The Odyssey you will see many references to swords stained with blood.

    I’m sorry I came off to everyone as insincere. I’m simply a person who is grappling with difficult new concepts.

    You seem to believe that the Ancient populations of the Mayans or The Aztecs are Nephites and The Lamanites in the Book Of Mormon? It seems like this is a place where Mormon Archaeology would dovatail perfectly with South American archeology? Does it?

    Oh no… I asked a question… and somehow asking questions make people around this blog suspicious of you. Sadly, even you, Jeff. I’m sure you have a college education Jeff. You’ve got some critical thinking behind you. The heart of all critical thinking and inquiry is the open minded asking of questions.

    That’s all I’m doing.

    And yet now that you’ve used to word preposterous, I’m somewhat crestfallen. I truly believed everyone in theis church actually believed all this. Clearly, if you believed, you would have lowered your own doubt level to a place that you would not be using words like preposterous.

    Here’s a question: Why does it feel to me like you ALL want to believe and want to sound like you believe and yet somewhere deep inside you harbour the notion that this all is in fact deeply preposterous.

    Before I go through the temple I am going to ask the critical questions I need to so that I’m not just, as one ward member jokingly recommended that I do, “fake it till I make it.”

    But an even deeper question is: If you know this church is true, why do questions seem to frighted you and Detroit Philly Brown?

    These were knee jerk condemnations.

    The missionaries can knocking on my door and I came to you folks for thoughtful answer but have been attacked.

    Well, in words you are all familiar with, shame on you.

  11. Why did you join if you dont know that the church is true? The way I found out is long and complicated, but it boiled down to one thing. I humbled myself and tried obeying the comandments and began praying. You know what happened? I got my answer, and it didn’t only come with a good feeling, it came as an immediate answer when I opened the scriptures randomly and began reading. My life also seemed easier, my relationship with my wife has improved greatly. I have had so many experiences that there is no way it is just by chance. Humble yourself if you truly do want to learn, and you will get your answer.

  12. Parenthetical remark: Why the casual slurs against people who live in Utah, “Indy”? Why the need for things like this: “Not all of us are innocent namby-pamby goody-two-shoes Utah-bred weenies. . . I was only in Utah for 8 weeks, and you have to put up with them almost full time.”

    I was born in California, grew up there, finished graduate school there, have lived in Switzerland, Israel, and Egypt, and have traveled and continue to travel just about everywhere else, but I’m now based in Utah, and I find Latter-day Saints here to be pretty much like Latter-day Saints in every place I’ve ever been. They shouldn’t be tarred with broad brushes like that above.

    Other comment: How did you figure out how to find “Cory Brenner’s” blog? I’m quite curious to see it. Can you give a hint? Anti-Mormon duplicity fascinates me; I collect specimens of it, and this sounds as if it really may be one.

  13. Wow… I have gone from being someone who felt safe in asking a question to being some sort of duplicitous anti-mormon crusader. Yikes… no wonder people never feel safe in this church asking even the most simple questions. What kind of thoughtful environment attacks even simple questions? Clearly, this whole deal has nothing to do with thought. Thank you all with that clarification.

    “Other comment: How did you figure out how to find “Cory Brenner’s” blog? I’m quite curious to see it. Can you give a hint? Anti-Mormon duplicity fascinates me; I collect specimens of it, and this sounds as if it really may be one.”

    I have a blog?? Now this is perfect. Has someone gone and created the Cory Brenner Blog or soemthing? I am so busy that I haven’t even had time to create a proper blogger account — and I have no interest in spouting words — because as you have seen me admit: ALL I HAVE IS QUESTIONS — no answers. Looks like Indy deleted the URL to my blog but it wouldn’t surprise me if Indy has become so threatened by my questioning of the “facts” he accepts so “humbly” that he has created a blog in my name to defame me. Have any of you read Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland… you guys top the Mad Hatter and the Gryphon for fun and surprise. In short, Daniel Petersen, when Indy gives you the blog URL, please do post because I’d love a look at my blog too. [Note for the slow: I have no blog. I’m not even a registered user.]

    Just one more comment I would like to respond to:

    Humble yourself if you truly do want to learn, and you will get your answer.

    Is humble a synonym in this situation for closing your eyes for “faking it till you make it”

    In my short time with this church I can not tell you guys how many times I have heard people say to me, “Oh, don’t worry about “that” — no one really takes that part very seriously.” I have heard MANY people tell me exactly the SAME thing. These are ward members that I talk with after church. I can’t find three people who believe exactly the same stuff about this religion. One tells me “this is the important thing” the other tell me “oh, that’s not important, the important thing is this.”

    I like that this church gives us a lot of leeway to interpret things, but where is the core. What one thing is help immutable among all members?

    Again, sorry to disapoint but I’m not a member of these RfMs or whever you all think is out to get you. I’m just a guy who showed up hoping to find some answers but what I found was fear, accusation and confusion.

    Not a very welcoming fellowship.

    I know, we’re only human.

    Thanks for the links Jeff. I read them. I was disapointed by one of the last comments on one that obviously held a great deal of hatred… so because I have read that I now know why you all are so touchy… but I’m no babtist here to damn you to hell or something… I simply still have questions and mindless belief with a “humble” attitude will not cut it for me. The book really does say steel. It does not say “easily degrading ore” — in this way I will be a literalist with this text.

  14. Daniel, Sorry. Imprecise writing. I was trying to address Cory’s perceptions as displayed on his blog, (and how he is addressing people here) not meaning to imply all or most Utah LDS fit that perception, just that _some_ do.

  15. Cory (or whatever your name may be):

    I haven’t attacked you. I haven’t taken a position on whether you’re a sincere questioner or a duplicitious sneak. The simple fact is that I encounter both, pretty much every week. I’m delighted to try to help the former, but I’m not very surprised when certain people turn out to be the latter.

    If “Indy” is right, though, and you do have a blog such as he describes, I would be interested in seeing it. I have to admit, as an experienced reader of anti-Mormon materials, that some of the concerns you’ve expressed here do indeed seem, to me also, to have a “coached” quality to them.

    If, however, you are a sincere seeker, then I truly do apologize for rough reception you’ve gotten here. However, you should know that the web is perhaps not the best environment for sincere spiritual seekers to get answers to their questions. It surely isn’t a wholesome environment for the giving and receiving of spiritual counsel. It is far too cynical and contentious a place for that.

  16. ….no that’s not what I meant at all…… Being humble has nothing to do with faking anything it has to do wiht trusting god… if you are patient you will get a clear answer.

    As for the problems you have… I’m sure you did not formulate them your self, but rather read them from anti publications. I too have read some of them, but have found plasuabe answers for all of the problems…..that along with the the prayers that I have had answered in obvious ways tells me to not wory about those things…. I know that God knows and cares about us all he has sheon many times that he is watching over me.

  17. Cory, I’m sorry that you went through real hell in your life. But please stop trying to tear down the faith of others.

    I read some of the November 2004 archive of your blog (begins with “my”), and I can’t imagine myself surviving what you went through. My trials have been extremely puny in comparison to your’s. I admire you for surviving all you did, and the fact you aren’t in prison, or living in a crack house, or sucked on the muzzle of a gun because of it all.

    If you want to use an alias here, that’s fine, cuz Jeff lets people use aliases for privacy sake. But at least be the real you and stop the manipulation. It takes one to know one, and you can’t BS a BS-er. I’m currently an ex-mormon. I was away from the church for 15 years due to the bitterness I harbored, and due to some personal problems of my own.

    There are some really rotten Mormons. They affect people much more than the average Mormon, so it seems like there’s more of them than there actually are. But so what? Whether they are “bad” people or well-intentioned people who do “bad” things, they will have to answer for their deeds. And God does not hold victims liable for the sins of the sinners. There have been “bad” people in the same body as the “true-believers” ever since Cain slew Abel. The gospel and the church are still true.

    I went through some persecution as a child and as an adult, and combined with some personal problems, it was a real whammy. But nothing compared to your story. But I learned that the more I focus on controlling and fixing up my own life, the less the sins of others bother me.

    I’ve seen Jeff politely respond to criticism from people who are openly anti-mormon. So you don’t have to play the investigator/convert game. The contradictions in your first two comments gave you away.

    “Andy” posted comments on my blog the same day you posted here, with a similar modus operandi. I noticed, went looking for the connection, and found it.

    You’re certainly entitled to your beliefs and opinions and the right to express them. Just please be honest.

    I also understand that people who have suffered abuse and misfortune are reluctant to be completely open. I’ve been there and done that.

    Severe abuse leads to lots of life-long suffering in the victims. I’ve recently learned that my mother was abused as a child, and that helped me finally understand why she married and stayed with my abusive father. I did not cry when my father died.

    I re-read my comments towards or about you, and I don’t think I’ve been antagonistic, but maybe a little snide and condescending. I have a tendency toward that that I need to work on.

    But, if you’ll excuse a little self-indulgence, you’re the one who first called Jeff and I “very stupid” and called me a “moron” on your blog. You’re entitled to your opinion, and you certainly have the right to express it on your own blog.

  18. hey books, what happened to your blog? …. currently ex? I read your blog a while ago and I thought you were a member???

  19. I clicked the wrong button after clicking the wrong link, and the blog went bye-bye. My fault for running on auto-pilot.

    Yup, haven’t been re-baptized yet, but getting closer. I’ve mentioned it at least once here on Mormanity, but didn’t feel the need to mention it on my blog. The blog is not about me, but Book of Mormon placements.

    Good thing the Distribution Center doesn’t require you to be a member before selling you books. 🙂 So it’s then a matter of giving away my own property, a “Freedom of Speech” thing. The Bishop and the Stake Presidency don’t seem to have a problem with it. So technically, I’m not a member-missionary, I’m an ex-member-missionary. Just a technicality, right? 🙂

    Lesson: Don’t ever leave the church if you have one of those “burned-in” testimonies. The truth will gnaw at you from the inside out like a cancer, until you get your life in line with that truth.

    I have sympathy for those who have been hurt by other church members, and I can understand why people get bitter towards the church and its leaders. In order to quench or explain away a testimony, people have to convince themselves that the church can’t be true. But I found out there are answers to the challenges and offenses. It can be really hard to put up with offenses. It can be really hard to repent of one’s sins. But I found it’s even harder to face the ultimate consequence of unrepented sin. I got “Section 19-ed”, specifically verse 20. I feel sort of like the sons of Mosiah. I got my butt kicked so badly, then experienced the extreme mercy of the Lord, that I don’t want to see others live in darkness.

    I have “burned in” testimonies of: 1) the existence of God, 2)the existence of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and his atonement, 3) Joseph Smith as a prophet, and 4) the Book of Mormon. I lost faith in about everything else, but I couldn’t shake those four things, because they are in my very being, as described on page 38 of Gospel Principles manual.

    Those four things were my anchor. Those, along with the butt-kicking, and some miracles, got me back.

    Jeff and others have very good explanations of what is a sword (could be wood with obsidian blade), and what is or was steel which could be any alloyed metal as per the dictionary of Joseph’s day, or as was commonly used in King James English.

    Jeff, and FARMS and FAIR all have logical explanations or plausible lines of reasoning for all the antis’ attacks. But, I don’t care if God miraculous intervened or whether there are mundane explanations. A God who can create planets, raise the dead, part the sea, multiple loaves and fishes, rise from the dead himself, etc, can also alter DNA and make things disappear!

    The Book of Mormon is TRUE! God told me, God made me know, God POURED that knowledge into me and BURNED it into every part of me with holy fire. And whether I’m a baptized member, or an unworthy ex-member, I have that testimony in me, and it demands to be let out.

    Like Jeremiah said “But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forebearing and I could not stay” chapter 20 verse 9, KJV. Or as the NIV says: “I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

    I have felt inspired, and at some times compelled, in this project. Who or what is prompting me to give out books? The adversary? Can’t be. The hundreds of “divine coincidences” and dozens of little miracles have convinced me that something is going on. Is giving out the Book of Mormon to immigrants a “good thing” or a “bad thing”? If it’s a “good thing”, Moroni said all good things come from Christ.

    Distributing foreign language Books of Mormon may be part of the prophecy in Alma 37:4; “Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.”

    Verses 6 and 7 seem appropriate: “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. 7: And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”

    Throughout the scriptures, and in this dispensation, certain non-members have been priviledged to help along the work, from Cyrus and Darius of the Persians and Medes, to General Doniphan of Missouri. I too feel honored to be a simple messenger-boy when offering people “a free church book in their native language.”

  20. Cory,

    It’s too bad you’ve gotten the responses that you have. Frankly, nobody has yet given a good explanation to you IMO.

    Spread throughout America are finds of what are called “Clovis Points,” a particular design of stone spearhead that dates back past 10,000 ago. Those are found in abundance. It shouldn’t be hard to find swords.

    Also, to this day you can find lead balls on the field of Gettysburg, and that’s just on the surface. My buddy brought me one back that he had found when he visited Pennsylvania some years ago.

    Also, you should realize that your experience is not new. Somewhat like your situation, everyone thought they “had me pinned” when someone from a different blog (named Brenden McPherson)posted some comments of mine without crediting me. The posters here immediately jumped on it and accused me of misrepresentation.

    You can read it for yourself on the “facing the Shotgun,” topic.

    I will say however, and I say this as one you should consider as an “exmo,” your inquiry doesn’t smack of a neophyte investigator.

    At a minimum you’ve spent some time studying alternate takes on Mormonism.

    It’s no reason to go to all the fuss about you posting on the board. If it were me I’d answer your question and move on. But your question IMO has no good answer, at least not one thats going to be entertained in this forum.

  21. BYU,

    I thought the steel sword thing has been addressed. There are several possibilities:

    1. “Steel” could be any alloyed metal, not necessarily carbonized iron, as per the dictionary of JS’s day, and common King James usage.

    2. “Steel” could also mean any hardened metal.

    3. “Steel” could be iron taken from meteoric deposits, and then carbonized in a crude blacksmith shop.

    4. Since the great Jaredite battle took place some time prior to 600 BC, there were about 2100 years from that time until the arrival of the Europeans for the steel swords to either disintegrate from rust or be picked up and gleaned and recycled into whatever by subsequent civilizations. What does happen to “carbonized iron” over a period of 2100 years?

    5. It’s been shown that the Olmecs did indeed have carbonized iron implements.

    6. The Cumorah of the Jaredite battle might not be the same Cumorah of Mormon/Moroni’s battle. Those swords might be buried under the jungle floor somewhere in Central or South America, if they haven’t disintegrated between 600 BC and today.

    7. They could have been buried or swallowed up by earthquakes during the “great upheavals” preceeding the Lord’s death.

    8. And my “pet theory”, is since our God can create planets, raise the dead, heal the sick, part the sea, multiply loaves and fishes, and rise up from the dead himself, he certainly has the ability to alter someone’s DNA and cause objects to disintegrate into atoms or dissipate entirely.

    As others have said, accepting the Book of Mormon is a matter of faith and testimony. Physical evidence giving absolute proof of it is not required. Assuming the existance of a God who uses both small means and grand miracles to achieve his purposes (among which is to “confound the wise”), literally anything is possible. And people who seek faith don’t have to let the lack of physical proof negate their faith.

    The whole cycle of anti/pro LDS argument seems like this:

    1. A doubter/accuser says: “Explain this!”

    2. Farms/Fair/et al do one of 5 things:
    a) Show that the accusation is a half truth, or taken out of context.
    b) Show that the accusation is an outright lie.
    c) Agree that the accusation is true, but show how it’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
    d) Agree that the accusation is true, that it was a bad thing, that it shouldn’t have happened. But it was the fault, sin, mistake, error of that individual; and that either further light and knowledge has been received (line upon line, precept upon precept), or that steps have been taken to prevent the bad thing from happening again.
    e) Illustrate that other evidence, not in consideration by the accusers, demonstrates plausibility or brings resolution to the conflict; or that a different interpretion of the scriptures can satisfy the accusation.

    The pattern just keeps getting repeated. The new accusations and new responses keep following the pattern of all the old accusations/responses that have been put to bed, such as ancient writing on metal plates, barley, horses, etc. Just as all the old accusations have been answered to my satisfaction, I have faith that the new ones will too.

    I like Jeff’s answers on his FAQ and Book of Mormon Evidence pages. He links to good stuff, a lot from non-LDS sources.

    The fact that you and others don’t accept FARMS/FAIR/Lindsay/et al’s responses doesn’t bother me.

    The fact that FARMS/FAIR/Lindsay/et al haven’t yet addressed every nit-picking accusation does bother me either. I’m content to say “Gee, I don’t know” every once in a while.

    I don’t know why, but Egyptologists have found ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE that Hebrews were ever slaves in Egypt. No record of a Jospeh. No record of a Moses being a son or adopted son of a Pharoah. The Egyptians were fastidious record keepers but there’s no record of the Hebrews being there or their leaving. Should we go around denouncing Judaism and Christianity over it?

    The miraculous experiences and testimonies upon which I base my faith don’t require me to know how to respond to every challenge.

    There are four things that I mention in a previous comment that I should say I don’t have faith in because I know them. But it’s a subjective knowledge, it’s not something I can put on a plate and serve to others. But that’s the nature of spiritual matters. We can’t detect, measure, or record them with physical devices as they are spiritually discerned.

    By the way, I would suggest not requesting name-removal unless you intend on publicly working or widely speaking against the church. Something does happen upon name-removal and one tends to sink faster, at least I did. And unlike in the past, one gets only one rebaptism now.

  22. Thanks, BYU Gestapo, for your comments and analysis, and the helpful tone. I think there is a risk that we can mistake identities and judge incorrectly, and I’m sorry if someone really looking for answers has been offended by my comments and by the comments of others. We aren’t trying to shout down questions, but sometimes we do have to distinguish between sincere and insincere queries – dealing with the latter can just be a futile exercise.

    So if Corey is a real member confused over the great Nephite battle, let me make a couple minor comments. Some of Corey’s description appears to be confusing the much earlier Jaredite civil war with the Nephite battle. Tens of thousands were killed in the Nephite battle, possibly in Veracruz State in Mexico, where the large hill named Vigia is a popular and plausible canidate for ancient Cumorah. If a battle did occur there with ancient clubs and wooden swords and other weapons, what should we find there now? Can we frame a reasonable hypothesis and test it? Based on benchmarking from other known battle sites of that era, and considering the possibilities of ancient looting of the dead (recycling weapons), etc., how many obsidian blades should we expect to find per acre? How many tooth or bone remnants?

    I’m all for doing extensive testing of the Vigia hypothesis. But given the paucity of archaeological investigations in that region and Mesoamerica in general, it seems dangerous to leave the Church because the issue is unsettled. And it’s also dangerous to leave because we can’t find support for a mental image we might have of Roman-style armies clashing with stainless steel swords and leaving their imperishable metal weapons all over the ground as an obvious memorial to a great battle.

    Make sure you’re testing a reasonable hypothesis based on the actual text, not the paintings of Arnold Friberg that tend to color the imagination of many members of the Church. (But I love those paintings anyway! Wish I had arms like Nephi’s.)

    Corey, keep reading and studying.

  23. BYU Gestapo: “Spread throughout America are finds of what are called ‘Clovis Points,’ a particular design of stone spearhead that dates back past 10,000 ago.”

    It kind of makes you wonder why they’re called “Clovis points,” doesn’t it? Named after a particular town in New Mexico? Maybe it’s an advertising gimmick.

    BYU Gestapo: “Those are found in abundance. It shouldn’t be hard to find swords.”

    That depends. If you insist on these swords being exactly like the ones you’ve seen in the movies, none have been found. On the other hand, if they’re like the swords that the professional swordsmen known as the Conquistadors encountered and described, made out of wood, with blades of obsidian, they were widely reported but tend not to survive in a very wet climate. It depends upon your expectations.

    BYU Gestapo: “everyone thought they ‘had me pinned’ when someone from a different blog (named Brenden McPherson)posted some comments of mine without crediting me. The posters here immediately jumped on it and accused me of misrepresentation.”

    On perfectly reasonable grounds, it must be said. The inference was logically justifiable, though it turned out that one of its premises was false.


  24. It kind of makes you wonder why they’re called “Clovis points,” doesn’t it? Named after a particular town in New Mexico? Maybe it’s an advertising gimmick.

    That could actually make sense because you also have “Folsom [New Mexico] points” and “Plano (Texas?) Points.”

    The Southwest regions must be competing for sure… 😛

    Of course Clovis points are found all over North America, not just in New Mexico. They have been found even as far south as Panama.

    (***Note*** I use Plano liberally there in jest, there isn’t an connection to Plano Texas, it’s to describe Plain dwelling peoples mostly located in what’s now Minnesota if I’m not mistaken.)

    To me the “blades of Obsidian” hypothesis is inadequate because the BOM speaks of Laban’s sword having a sheath at least, which was said to be the pattern at for swords at least in the beginning, as well as the scalping incident mentioned and that scalp being put on a “point.”

    I know those are arguments you’ve heard before Dr. Peterson, but I still align myself to the belief that what’s being described is the more commonly envisioned design for a sword.

    Besides, whether there are swords, scimitars, Clovis points on sticks… 😛 Cory’s question is why don’t we see any indication yet of a battle on the scale the BOM describes.

    Also, I don’t believe the text gives us any reason to believe that metal didn’t make up a signifigant portion of the weapons used.

    I’m sure we can all agree that they had a form of metallurgy technology back even to Nephi. I mean, the plates WERE golden right? Even if the metallic items used contributed to only 10% of the weaponry, it would be very signifigant.

    I DO give you that since we don’t know the exact location it’s conceivable that a site like that could still be found.

    But considering the extent of research done in Meso-America, if that is the location of the Book of Mormon, a battle of that size surely couldn’t have been missed at this point.

    Jeff, I know you argue the opposite. Perhaps LDS oriented studies are sparse, but anyone in the field would certainly be interested in a find like that, regardless of the interpretation of what it meant.

    Also Jeff, I wanted to bring up a couple of things about what you said: ” Tens of thousands were killed in the Nephite battle”

    The point may be moot despite the exact number, as long as we agree the number was large, but like you said, we need to “Make sure you’re testing a reasonable hypothesis based on the actual text.”

    Mormon describes himself and his ten thousand as well as other captains and their ten thousand. Gidgiddonah, Gidgiddonah, Gilgal and on to 21 total including Mormon’s group. That’s 210,000 just on the Nephite side. No number is mention for the Lamanites, but we can assume it was large, Mormon mentions that, “…every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.” Also the Lamanites won, so it’s a safe assumption that they were larger than the Nephites.

    Even the arrow that killed Zelph remained when Zion’s camp found him. So whatever the weapons used, it’s logical that we’d find something. (and yes…I have read the FARMS article on Zelph just to get that out of the way… :P)

  25. Whoops, I meant to write “Gidgiddonah, Lamah, Gilgal” in that last paragraph… it must be past my bedtime…lol

  26. BYU,
    Aren’t you still conflating the two big battles?

    It was the final Jaredite battle, circa 600 BC, that supposedly had the “steel” swords. And the reasoning goes that since everyone but one was killed, then everyone else’s swords should have remained in the field.

    However, that left another 1000 years of Nephite-Lamanite history (600 BC until 400 AD) for the Jaredite battle remains to be scavenged, and another 1100 years (400 AD to 1500 AD) before white Europeans arrived on the scene.

    I don’t think the final Nephite versus Lamanite battle specifically mentioned steel swords. There’s nothing in the Book of Mormon dictating that we accept that Mormon/Moroni’s battle was conducted with steel swords.

  27. (continued)

    And since the final Nephite-Lamanite battle did have a decisive winner, they could immediately scavenge the battlefield for all enemy weapons.

    It’s only been 142 years since the battle of Gettysburg. It’s been 2600 years since the Jaredite battle, and 1600 since the final Nephite-Lamanite battle. Plenty of time for things to be scavenged, buried over time, or decomposed.

  28. Actually, there were 23 “ten thousands” on the Nephite side at the final battle.

    So how many people really fought and died in those units?

    I don’t know. Nor do you.

    Ideally, a quorum of deacons contains twelve deacons, a quorum of teachers contains twenty-four teachers, a quorum of priests contains forty-eight priests, and a quorum of elders contains ninety-six elders (Doctrine and Covenants 107:85-89). Yet I’ve never, to my knowledge, lived in or visited a ward that had such numbers.

    A U.S. Army division, I’m told, can be as small as about 4,000 or as large as about 15,000. A Roman centurion commanded a “century” of soldiers, which means “one hundred.” But, as I recall, a “century” was seldom actually at full strength or anywhere near full strength.

    The “ten thousands” referred to by the Book of Mormon may have actually been ten thousand in strength or, if precedent holds, they could have been as small as fourth to a third of that. One can even easily imagine a commander wishing his enemy to believe that each claimed “ten thousand” was actually ten thousand when in fact it was much smaller, for the sake of “psychological warfare” (much the way various animals seek to make themselves look larger when confronted by a predator or a rival).

    Which means that the final battle might have involved 230,000 troops — surely all available men of even remotely military age, in a final battle to the death — or it may have involved somewhere around 60,000.

    Still a very large battle, but not as big as some might picture it.

    It’s possible, of course, that all the Nephite swords, or at least a substantial proportion of them, were metal. But I know of no reason to believe that. A report from very early history, about swords prepared by a person with demonstrated metallurgical skill for a small group of kinsmen, doesn’t go very far toward demonstrating mass production of such swords several centuries later. And even in the case of the scalping of Zerahemnah (Alma 44:12-15), it isn’t at all clear to me how the act of laying something upon the point of the weapon demonstrates that the weapon was made of metal or looked like a Hollywood sword. But even if we were to assume precisely that, the fact that the soldier who used the weapon was in such close proximity to a parlay between the supreme Nephite commander and the supreme Lamanite commander suggests that he was likely a person of elite status (possibly akin), so that his sword might have been atypical.

    We simply aren’t in a position to answer such questions. Shaky ground upon which to reject the Book of Mormon.

  29. I’m not confusing the two battles. I know the Jaredite battle description says things like, “thousands fell by the sword,” and “And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword,” but that isn’t what I was referring to.

    I’m just speaking to the size of the NEPHITE/LAMANITE battle by the hill “Cumorah” (ie; Mormon 6)and that it’s size alone would make it unreasonable for us to find no evidence.

    A big caveat that I fully recognize is that no one would know exactly where to start looking.

    But with a battle that large, and if you adhere to the Meso-American geography concept, I find it unreasonable that we haven’t found even hints of an event like that.

    Also remember that before Cumorah there are many other battles alluded to, “[the Nephites] began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun.”

    So it is also fair to say we wouldn’t be confined to one hill, or a particular location. There should be evidence of war all throughout the territory were the Nephites resided.

    As far as the “after battle party” I’m hard pressed to believe that “scavenging” is enough to remove all trace of what happened.

    The Lamanites would have already had their own weapons to carry, so unless the Nephites had better weapons, they wouldn’t have had much motive. Gold, money, jewels etc… of course would be targets.

    But if you’re a footman, are you going to lay on a superflous 10-20 lb weapon on your back? I sure wouldn’t. Doesn’t matter if it was obsidian or steel, both are going to be relatively heavy. Think of carrying around multiple flakes of thick glass on a club.

    It’s true, that over time others who came to the scene might have more interest, I totally agree with that. But with hundreds of thousands of people you’re not going to get everything.

    In addition, and this is a point I haven’t really touched thus far, what about the bodies? Were they ALL burned? Buried? Who is going to touch bones, or decaying flesh?

    I would submit, that it would be very difficult indeed to remove all trace of hundreds and thousands of bodies. Besides, what motivation would exist to do so in the first place?

    One last note to Dr. Peterson, it’s interesting that you brought Obsidian, it made me remember a technique I had read about; Obsidian Hydration dating. Its a specialized technique that relies on the absorption of water into the surface of the obsidian after its been flaked.

    Not only does it accurately pinpoint time, but it also indicates conditions of climate such as humidity (obviously), as well as a geochemical analysis generally can show the source of the Obsidian.

    Has anyone thought to pinpoint the locations were these macuahuitl were made and perhaps connect those areas with Nephite territory?

    That’s really not a loaded question at all, I think it’d be an interesting bit of research.

  30. Final note, and then off to bed for me… hehe.

    The “point” of the sword is relevant because the macuahuitl , as they are depicted by the drawings the descriptions of the Spanish don’t have points. Small thing, I totally concede, but all of us here have argued over smaller… 😛

  31. Unstable and untrue accusations about my intentions, character and fiction about my history aside… this part of the conversation was the most illuminating.

    The silliest thing I read was of course: “[God might] alter someone’s DNA and cause objects to disintegrate into atoms or dissipate entirely.”

    And he would do this because…??

  32. One more thing: Corey challenged a minor point about swords in the Book of Mormon. The issue deals with the possible relationship between the reference to swords “stained” with blood in Alma 24 (when converted Lamanites bury their swords) and Mesoamerican swords with wooden shafts and obsidian blades, with wood being easily stained with blood, whereas metal swords aren’t likely to stain. Corey stated that the Iliad and Odyssey have abundant references to blood-stained swords (of metal). It’s a trivial issue, but when I went to an online search engine for the Iliad and searched for the term “stain”, I found references to blood-stained dust, blood-stained bodies, and blood-stained bounty, but not blood-stained swords. Turning to the Odyssey, the word “stain” does not have any hits at all using the full-text search engine for it. I also looked at hits for “sword” and saw nothing that corresponded with blood-stained swords. Now the term “blood-stained swords” is a popular one and it certainly could have come from other sources. I’m just puzzled over the reference to Homer, though I suppose it has been a popular “source” to explain away the epic nature of the Book of Mormon.

  33. BYU Gestapo: “There should be evidence of war all throughout the territory were the Nephites resided.”

    Leaving aside the question of the Nephites, there should be evidence of war throughout the territory where the Olmecs, the Maya, the Toltecs, and the Aztecs resided. Nobody maintains that Mesoamerica was uninhabited before the Conquest — there was a Conquest, after all, which suggests that somebody was conquered — and, for decades now, nobody has seriously maintained that these societies were not warlike to an unusual degree. (Archaeologists once actually thought of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as a kind of agrarian Quaker commune; they were literally overlooking massive quantities of evidence to the contrary.)

    I’m not a Mesoamericanist, but I’m unaware of any archaeological study of any battlefield in pre-Columbian America — Nephite, Toltec, Maya, Aztec, Zapotec, or other — nor even an identification of such a battlefield. Yet there is evidence (in artistic representations and in a relative few artifacts) of weapons, and considerable glyphic and circumstantial evidence for frequent extraordinarily violent and bloody wars. (See, for example, Linda Schele, Mary Ellen Miller, and Justin Miller, The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art.)

    But, as I say, I’m not a specialist. Perhaps there is an entire subdiscipline of Mesoamerican military history and battlefield studies of which I’m unaware. Perhaps BYU Gestapo can direct me to the relevant literature.

  34. Heaven forfend that you would actually read the books. Looks like the extent of your scholarship is limited to what a key word searches… again, disapointing.

    You want to do a keyword search on stains instead of reading the text? Can you imagine why I mentioned it? Thousands of people really believed every word of it. When Joseph Smith concocted the grand malarcky, he was equally influenced by the King James Bible and Homer…

    I know why you may never read the Iliad or the Odyssey… it would mean that your faith in the BOM would be smashed because you would see the influence immediately. You can not miss it.