Focus, focus, focus…
An article in the Deseret News the other day left me shaking my head and asking why.
I’m wondering why LDS members believe the propaganda panned out by the Church that absolutely defies logic. The title of the article is self explanatory so I’m going to just pull out a few remarks and highlight them here to see if they line up with what God and a history book says.
One concern I have with this article is its author. Mr. Halverson is a smart guy. He’s an alumni of Harvard, he has a PhD in biblical studies and works at BYU. However, with all that aside, his short article that’s filled to the brim with incorrect information makes me wonder if these guys are trained to confuse LDS members, or if they’re so confused themselves they don’t see the forest for the trees.
Let’s look at some of what he said –
‘Readers of the Book of Mormon often take for granted that it was written at all…Nephi was not only capable of reading and writing, he also was a brilliantly competent writer who created some of the finest literary beauty and artistry that the world has ever known.’
If plagiarism, exclusion of Hebraic Laws, and the inclusion of anachronistic problems in someone’s work are defined as ‘brilliantly competent’, I’ve been reading the wrong dictionary all these years. Since this man is trying to prove that Nephi was a reliable scribe, let’s take a quick look at what God says.
In biblical times there were two types of scribes who were distinguished by the era in which they lived.
Before the Babylonian takeover one type of scribes mentioned was primarily divided into two classes. One who acted as a secretary of state like we see in Judges 5:14; 2 Sam 8:17, 20:25; 1 Chron. 18:16; 1 Kings 4:3; and 2 Kings 12:9-11, 18:18-37.
The other was a subordinate class of scribes who typically belonged to the tribe of Levi, like Baruch who wrote for Jeremiah – Jer. 36:4, 32.
After the Captivity, when Israel had lost its independence, scribes turned their attention to the law and gained distinction in becoming intimately acquainted with it. Ezra is a great example of a scribe.
Their daily activities after the Captivity consisted of making multiple copies of the law and teaching it to other Israelites. Basically, they had become lawyers and their job was meticulous beyond imagination. One duty included the responsibility of counting the spaces between each letter and word. If the writing on the page didn’t match the paper they had copied from, the entire page was burned, rendering it useless and they’d start from the beginning. SeeBible.org, Nave’s Topical Bible Dictionary, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and Holman Bible Dictionary.
None of this sounds anything like Nephi or his life. In fact, Nephi wasn’t a member of the Levite tribe, nor is there any mention of his activities that included the position of being a secretary of state which should’ve taken place during the time of the next topic in this article. Here’s what Mr. Halverson said about an Assyrian king and literacy;
’Being a scribe was an entirely viable profession for the youngest son in a wealthy or elite family.
For example, one of the great Neo-Assyrian kings, Ashurbanipal (668 B.C. to 627 B.C.), himself the youngest son and therefore least likely to inherit the throne, was trained in the scribal arts of writing, reading and other educational pursuits.’
Why didn’t he tell readers the ‘other educational pursuits’ included oil divination which is a form of witchcraft? He went on by saying the following;
‘In fact, Ashurbanipal was so capable in and fond of beautiful and important literature that once he became king of the Assyrian Empire he collected one of the greatest libraries in the ancient world, the library of Nineveh….Similarly, without Nephi’s literary and cultural training, the words we so deeply appreciate in the Book of Mormon would likely never have been written.’
I’m not sure if he included this king to sound smart, or if he honestly believes this man was an acceptable example to use.
1.Ashurbanipal wasn’t great. In fact, he was one of the most vile, wicked kings Assyria had ever known. Considering the Assyrians weren’t known for their hospitality, it goes w/out saying this guy was a loser. He and his brothers who worshiped their evil god Marduk, followed in the footsteps of their father who was equally as wicked. At the end of this family’s tenure, the Assyrian Empire would come to a crushing end due to poor management, gluttony and inner strife. While he indeed had a vast library, using this guy as an example is a poor choice of those who were great scribes.
2.Comparing the evil king Ashurbanipal to Nephi should speak volumes. God says that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33).
‘So just what did it mean to be a scribe? Scribes often practiced their craft by impressing characters on wet clay with a reed stylus. Or they might use a form of ink to compose their texts on papyrus. (Incidentally, our modern word “paper” derives from the word “papyrus”) As they practiced writing…’
While all this sounds very nice and endearing, the problem in his statement is twofold. 1.Nephi didn’t use wet clay for his golden plates, nor did he use reeds to engrave ‘Reformed Egyptian’ symbols into the gold plates. 2.The BoM is completely silent on the use of reed material so this has absolutely nothing to do with the content of Nephi’s supposed writing skills.
The next problem we see is Mr. Halverson’s explanation of Hebrew culture. If Nephi was so well trained in wisdom literature, why was he writing in a language that God condemned?
‘Israelite scribes typically were taught and fully immersed in the principles found in the ancient wisdom tradition, copying passages from wisdom literature as a way to learn not only the language but the moral and cultural values as well. The Old Testament Book of Proverbs is a good example of the types of wisdom principles scribes would be expected to write, copy, know and live.’
His insight above is correct, although we know Nephi wasn’t a real person, and as I already mentioned why would Nephi immerse himself into the Egyptian culture if this was condemned by God?
In Nehemiah 13:24 we find the Lord chastising the Israelites for marrying those from Ashdod, Moab and Ammon. No one could speak Hebrew because of their intimate behavior in associating with other people and their false gods. If the Lord didn’t approve of that, why would He give a thumbs up to anyone speaking a form of Egyptian?
Nehemiah 13:24-25; “And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. 25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.”
The last example in our look at this article shows the complete craziness in his analysis at the onset this whole thing. As a reminder, he said Nephi was a brilliantly competent writer, but I’m wondering…just how did Nephi know what the apostle Paul was going to say more than 600 years before he wrote to the church in Ephesus?
‘As intriguing as these details are, perhaps the most important question to ask is, why did Nephi write? Nephi’s response?
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).”’
Here’s what Paul said 600 years later;
Ephesians 2:8-9; “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
How is plagiarism inspired, let alone brilliant?
Remember the first thing I mentioned in this article? I said, focus, focus, focus…
Where in this man’s article did he provide any substantial proof that Nephi was a scribe? Mentioning Assyrian kings, the job of scribes and the other peripheral info hasn’t addressed the core issue. Where’s the proof Nephi was a scribe?
Please, pray for those who might read this man’s article and that God would open their eyes to the fallacies they’re taught to believe.
You can read the article in full here.
With Love in Christ;
1 Cor 1:18