Friday, June 22, 2012

Beware of the Experts—They Often Have an Axe to Grind Part VIII

Continuing with Sorenson’s presentation to students at Brigham Young University at the Second Biennial Willes Center Book of Mormon Lecture, Sept 8, 2011, in the BYU Hinckley Center Assembly Hall, Sorenson’s statements follow his name, and our comments follow “Response."

Sorenson: “Source of information (the person reporting) always unidentified."

Response:  It is hard to imagine what is meant by this. Nephi, Jacob and Enos, through Amaleki in Omni and the Words of Mormon, are all written by the first person who is completely identified. From that point on, the record is written in the third person since it is the abridgement made by Mormon. On the other hand, the record is shown to be the record of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, the Disciple Nephi, and Ether. Mormon and Moroni, of course, are in the first person again and completely identified.

On occasion, like with the Disciple Nephi, those years following his death are not that clear, though Mormon does inject himself into that part of the record, and on a few occasions injects his words into his abridgement, as Moroni did a few times when abridging Ether. But in almost all cases, the person being covered is completely identified, such as Alma and Helaman and most of Mosiah. In the Ether record, the beginning is quite clearly taken from the writings of the Brother of Jared. The rest of Ether is not known, it may have been written by other prophets during that time and abridged by Ether later on, but the record does not tell us.

Sorenson: “Lamanites didn't keep many records."

Response:  We are unaware of any records kept by the Lamanites, though they were once taught to keep one (Mosiah 24:6). We do know that their hatred of the Nephites and what Laman and Lemuel claimed they did to them was handed down through traditions from generation to generation (Mosiah 10:17; Alma 60:32; Helaman 5:51) and that if they ever got their hands on the Nephite records they would destroy them (Mormon 2:17; 6:6).

We have only one instance where the Lamanites wrote anything at all as a people and that is in the period where Amulon, the chief priest of King Noah, taught them how to read and write the Nephite language (Mosiah 24:4,6-7). Also on a smaller scale, those converted Lamanites, called the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and no more Lamanites (Alma 23:17) opened up a correspondence with the Nephites (Alma 23:18; 24:8-9).

Sorenson: “Some records were on perishable materials."

Response:  This was likely true—Helaman wrote: “there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites” (Helaman 3:15), and it is hard to image these numerous records and books would have all been on metal plates—however, there is no record or mention of perishable materials used for writing and the word papyrus does not appear in the entire record. On the other hand, certainly no sacred records would have been on perishable materials or they would not have survived, and since they were buried by Ammaron and Mormon to keep them from being destroyed, they obviously were meant to last over time.

Sorenson: “Mormon had limited time." 

Response:  We do not know this. Mormon was not always in command of the army, and there were some years when there was no war. Plus there was a time when he says he was among them, but constrained from preaching (Mormon 1:17). About 23 years before his death, Mormon refused to lead the Nephite army, and did not take up the leadership again for thirteen years. He lived until the age of 75. Surely, Mormon had time to abridge the entire record.

Sorenson:  “Some data has no sources that can be identified."

Response:  Another unsupportable statement that was answered above in the material he drew upon to write his abridgement.

It should be kept in mind in reading or hearing all that Sorenson says about the Book of Mormon, that Mormon himself wrote what the Lord and Spirit commanded him, and was restrained occasionally from writing or preaching more. In his words, “Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me” (3 Nephi 26:12).

There can certainly be no occasion to say, as Sorenson often does, that there were mistakes in the record, or that those who wrote did so from their tiny perspective, or that it was anything other than the word of the Lord. There is also no occasion where the Book of Mormon writing can be compared with layman writing now or anciently.                 

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