Two new articles went up today on the website of the Interpreter Foundation. I’m very pleased to be able to call them to your attention:
Abstract: This paper brings contemporary Ancient Near East (ANE) scholarship in several fields together with the ancient scriptures restored through Joseph Smith to construct a new starting point for interpretation of the teachings of the Book of Mormon. It assembles findings from studies of ancient scribal culture, historical linguistics and epigraphy, and the history and archaeology of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Levant, together with the traditions of ancient Israel and the ancient scriptures restored to Joseph Smith, to construct a contextualized perspective for understanding Lehi, Nephi, and the Brass Plates as they would have been understood by their contemporaries — as prominent bearers of the Josephite textual tradition. This essay offers a hypothetical, but comprehensive backstory for the Brass Plates. Because of its hypothetical character, it cannot be claimed that it is the true account. Rather it is an attempt to build a plausible backstory given the current state of knowledge in the relevant fields of academic research and the facts provided in the ancient scriptures restored through Joseph Smith.
This post is a summary of the article “A Backstory for the Brass Plates” by Noel B. Reynolds in Volume 53 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreting-interpreter-on-abstracting-thought/.
The Takeaway: Reynolds provides detailed background for scholarly views of ancient Israelite scribal practices, showing how these practices can inform our perspective on the Brass Plates, and arguing that a Josephite scribal tradition could have both furnished the content of those plates and provided the impetus for their creation.
Continuing on the theme of the Book of Mormon, I want to call attention to three brief but interesting articles that have recently appeared on the website of the Interpreter Foundation’s sister organization, Book of Mormon Central, and to a related brief but interesting article that appeared all the way back in 2018, before any of us had ever even heard of COVID-19:
Yesterday, on Thursday, 20 October 2022, an unfortunate fellow who evidently goes by the name of Bill Lockwood managed to expose his lack of knowledge about the witnesses of the Book of Mormon in a short but abundantly error-ridden piece called “The Continuing Saga of J.K. Rowling versus the Mormons.”
Mr. Lockwood had already dipped his toe into the waters of historically-uneducated criticism of the Restoration with a piece two weeks before, on 5 October 2022, that was titled “The Church of Diversity, J. K. Rowling and the Golden Plates of Joseph Smith.” It was misguided, but relatively modest. Yesterday, though, he decided to throw all caution to the wind and to fully unveil his ignorance of the subject.
Mr. Lockwood could have saved himself considerable public embarrassment had he taken time to read the late Richard Lloyd Anderson’s classic and fundamental work Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses as well, perhaps, as additional material such as Professor Anderson’s important article “Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses.”
One of the subsidiary goals of the Interpreter Foundation’s overall “Witnesses” project is to help folks like poor Mr. Lockwood to avoid painful public humiliation of the kind that he has just incurred. To this end, we’ve produced not only the Witnesses theatrical film but the two-part docudrama Undaunted: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. (Fortunately for the remedial education of good but uninformed people like Bill Lockwood, both Witnesses and Undaunted are now available for streaming on several platforms, as well as on DVD and, in the case of Witnesses, in BluRay.) Moreover, beyond the dramatic film and the documentary, we’re also issuing a continuing series of short, free, online videos relating to the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon — the twenty-seventh (27th) video in the series will go public on Saturday evening — and we’re slowly constructing a website that provides background information on Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
For some reason, poor Mr. Lockwood seems to imagine that the Latter-day Saints have essentially abandoned the Book of Mormon witnesses and, furthermore, that they have done so because the witnesses to the Book of Mormon are pretty much indefensible. He even, at one point, implies that he’s telling “the truth.” Plainly, he is mistaken.
I confess that, when I found a photograph of Bill Lockwood online, having just finished reading the, umm, rather too confident articles in which he purports to “educate” his readers about a subject of which he clearly knows very, very little, a classic put-down immediately occurred to me: “All hat and no cattle.” Sadly, I also thought of the aphorism “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt” (which has often, but falsely, been ascribed to both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain). But applying those sayings to him would probably be unfair to Mr. Lockwood. I’m sure that he’s a fine man, and quite well intentioned. But he earned himself no credit with this weirdly confident little expedition of his into the (to him, clearly) Unknown. And, as he’s evidently a teacher for the Wichita Falls Independent School District in Texas, he’s caused me to worry about the quality of the instruction that is possibly being given to the pupils in his classroom. What other kinds of gross misinformation might he be inflicting upon them?
Posted from Marco Island, Florida