Mind-Brain Dualism, Rocks in Upstate New York, and Two New Scriptural Editions

Mind-Brain Dualism, Rocks in Upstate New York, and Two New Scriptural Editions November 23, 2018


A well-groomed Cumorah
The Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York (LDS.org)


The latest installment of the biweekly Hamblin-Peterson column has been published in the Deseret News.  It’s not entirely coincidental that the article has something of an Australian connection:


“Two knights, the self and its brain”




The newest article in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture — yes, yes, as soon as I can get to it I’ll make the final decision and we’ll change that subtitle! — has also now appeared.  In it, Benjamin Jordan and Warren Aston (an Australian from Brisbane, by the way) consider


“The Geology of Moroni’s Stone Box: Examining the Setting and Resources of Palmyra”


Here’s the article’s abstract:


The story of Joseph Smith retrieving gold plates from a stone box on a hillside in upstate New York and translating them into the foundational text of the Restoration is well known among Latter-day Saints. While countless retellings have examined these events in considerable detail, very few have explored the geological aspects involved in this story. In particular, none have discussed in detail the geological materials that would have been required by the Nephite prophet Moroni ca. ad 421 to construct a sealed container able to protect the gold plates from the elements and from premature discovery for some fourteen centuries. This paper reports the outcomes from a field investigation into what resources would have been available to Moroni in the Palmyra area. It was conducted by the authors in New York state in October 2017.




The 18 November 2018 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show is now available online for your listening convenience.  In this episode — which I didn’t hear live as it was broadcast because I was in the air over the Pacific at roughly that time — Bruce Webster and Mike Parker apparently discuss BYU professor Thomas Wayment’s newly published annotated translation of the New Testament and the FIRM Foundation’s newly published annotated edition of the Book of Mormon.


Interpreter Radio Show — November 18, 2018




On a quite distinct topic:


I’m occasionally mystified not only by the obsessive fascination among a few of my critics with my personal finances — arguably, I don’t pay enough attention to my own finances, and I certainly pay far less to anybody else’s — but by the inside knowledge that at least a few claim to have regarding my income, and so forth.


The issue of my supposedly “all-expenses paid” junket here in Australia continues to intrigue a few, so here goes again with an explanation that should be (more than enough) for anybody who is actually concerned and who isn’t just playing vacuous games.  I don’t want honest people to be misled on this:


I earn no money from public lectures — well, that’s not quite fully accurate since, over the past three decades or so, I’ve actually, each time to my surprise, received a grand total of a few hundred dollars in such cases — but I don’t typically fly across North America or internationally in order to deliver lectures without somebody else picking up my expenses for the trip.  I can’t afford to do so.  Alas, I wasn’t born wealthy and I can’t simply jet continually off to distant states and foreign countries on my own tab in order to deliver speeches at the request of others.    Accordingly, to the indignant horror of decent people everywhere, my airfare to and from Australia, along with one bit of domestic airfare and small portions of my lodging, is being covered for me.  However, the leisure portions of this Australian trip come out of my own pocket, as do all of my wife’s expenses.  How immoral!


The latest puzzlement, though, comes from a podcast interview that I haven’t heard but to which my attention has been called by someone who has.  In it, the interviewee rather oddly announces that half of my salary continues to come from BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.  (I’m not sure why this should be a topic in such an interview.  I can only guess that it might be intended to demonstrate that my well-known pose of victimized martyrdom at the hands of the Maxwell Institute is bogus.  Or something like that.)




I was hired at Brigham Young University in 1985 to teach Arabic and Islamic studies in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages.  That’s what I still do.  For several years, though, I was on loan to what is now called the Maxwell Institute, with my salary coming through the Institute but, as I understand it, from the same Department that has always been my campus home.


Technically, as I understand it, my faculty “slot” (to use BYU parlance) belongs to the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.  When that building was moving toward completion, the University hired a small handful of additional faculty to provide an expanded curriculum, in both Provo and Jerusalem, that would support that overseas campus and its programs.  I was a beneficiary of that expansion.


Why somebody who has never even — so far as I know — held a full-time position at Brigham Young University would feel moved or qualified to comment on the details of its salary-accounting as they pertain to me is, from my perspective, rather mysterious.  Anyway, I have no connection whatever with the current leadership or staff of the Maxwell Institute.  Since 2012, I haven’t so much as crossed the threshold of the essentially off-campus and out-of-the-way building where the Maxwell Institute is housed.  My yearly salary is set by my department and my college in connection with the office of BYU’s Academic Vice President.  As it has always been.


Good grief, folks.


Posted from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia



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