“Money and Prices in the Book of Mormon”

“Money and Prices in the Book of Mormon” October 1, 2022

 

In the Sacred Grove, somewhere
The Restoration began in the spring of 1820 in the Sacred Grove, near Palmyra, New York. (LDS.org)

 

But first, this new “Insights” video has just gone up on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:

“Witnesses of the Book of Mormon — Insights Episode 24: What was Joseph’s Witness?”

When we discuss the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, we often overlook the first witness of the plates: Joseph Smith himself. What were his experiences with the plates?

This is the twenty-fourth in a series compiled from the many interviews conducted during the course of the Witnesses film project. This series of mini-films is being released each Saturday at 7pm MDT. These additional resources are hosted by Camrey Bagley Fox, who played Emma Smith in Witnesses, as she introduces and visits with a variety of experts. These individuals answer questions or address accusations against the witnesses, also helping viewers understand the context of the times in which the witnesses lived. This week we feature Daniel C. Peterson, President of the Interpreter Foundation and Executive Producer of Witnesses. For more information, go to https://witnessesofthebookofmormon.org/ or watch the documentary movie Undaunted.

Short clips from this episode are also available on TikTok and Instagram.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel at https://youtube.interpreterfoundation.org/ and our other social media channels on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and TikTok.

 

Lo, on Cumorah's lofty hill
A view of the Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York, where the plates of the Book of Mormon were recovered (LDS.org)

 

On Thursday’s flight from Salt Lake City to New York City, among other things, I read Shinji Takagi, “Gold, Silver, and Grain: Money and Prices in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies Quarterly 61/2 (2022): 5-30.

This outline, created by the author or by his editors, should give you some idea of the general content of the article:

“In this paper,” Professor Takagi writes, “I discuss, from the perspective of a monetary economist, the operational aspects of the system of fixed prices for gold, silver, and all kinds of grain described in the Book of Mormon (Alma 11:3–19), based on internal evidence, economic logic, and historical precedents from antiquity.”

“Shinji Takagi, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Osaka University, is currently Distinguished Research Professor at the Asian Growth Research Institute in Kitakyushu. He has an MTS in Mediterranean and Near Eastern studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and a PhD in economics from the University of Rochester. Author or coauthor of nearly two hundred publications in international economics and related fields, he has a dozen or so publications in Mormon and biblical studies, including in Journal of Mormon History, Biblical Theology Bulletin, Journal of the Bible and Its Reception, and Christianity & Literature. His 2016 book, The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901–1968, received the 2017 Best International Book Award from the Mormon History Association. He divides his time between two homes in Ashburn, Virginia, and Fukuoka, Japan.”

What is my tentative conclusion, based on a cursory reading of Professor Takagi’s paper?  It is, simply, this:  The frontier yokel Joe Smith, if he really done made the whole Book of Mormon thang up, done created a surprisingly sophisticated system of currency pretty much on the fly.  Given the rate at which we know him to have dictated the entire Book of Mormon, Alma 11:3-19 can’t have occupied more than just a few minutes of his dictation time.  It shouldn’t be even remotely worth the attention of a serious monetary economist or economic historian.

 

You might be interested in reading the testimony that Shinji Takagi contributed to my Mormon Scholars Testify website — now, of course, Latter-day Saint Scholars Testify! — back in 2013:  Shinji Takagi.

 

Grandin interior
Inside the restored Grandin Print Shop in Palmyra, New York, where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

 

As I write, all of the sessions of General Conference for today (Saturday) have concluded.  But the Sabbath day remains, with two more Conference sessions to come.  So, with that fact in mind, it occurs to me that this thoughtful essay from Public Square Magazine might be helpful to you:

“The Deceptively Boring Adamant Notecard: Why is General Conference the way it is? Maybe because “the inner change that makes the outer Zion possible depends, first and finally, on our ability to accept and to apply the simple, basic principles of the gospel.””

 

Near Fayette NY, Whitmer log home
The reconstructed Peter Whitmer Sr. farm cabin in Fayette, New York.

It was here that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized.
(LDS.org)

 

By the way, based on the recommendation of an acquaintance here in New York — he even went ahead and made our reservation for us — we had dinner last night at Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse on West 37th, right across the street from where we’re staying.  Now, I’m not actually much of a steak-eater.  Left to my own devices, I never order a steak and really never even think of going to a steakhouse.  But I have to admit that our steaks ranked among the very best that I’ve ever tasted, that the mixed seafood appetizer that we enjoyed was definitely one of the best, and that, yes, just as our acquaintance had predicted, the creamed spinach was delicious.  Heartily recommended.  A bit expensive for peasants like ourselves, but really very good.

 

Moroni, in gold
A statue of the Angel Moroni by Torleif Knaphus stands atop the Hill Cumorah, just south of Palmyra, New York, commemorating the revelation and recovery of the Book of Mormon.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain photo).

 

Finally, here’s an article about something that I found today in the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©.  Coincidentally, perhaps, I came across it right at the very beginning of this morning’s opening session of General Conference:

“President Dallin H. Oaks: ‘Helping the Poor and Distressed’: ‘The Church of Jesus Christ is committed to serving those in need, and it is also committed to cooperating with others in that effort’”

 

Posted from New York City, New York

 

 

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