The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 7: Since Cumorah

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Once discovered, his innovative insights are so painfully obvious that it is hard for him to see why he had not noticed them before. He willingly describes himself as a buffoon and, from time to time, as a frustrated fiction writer, waiting for the real scholarship to begin. Popper is not a Mormon.

He probably knows very little about the church. But he is the most famous philosopher of science. If science tells us about the world, Popper tells us what it means. Karl Popper is best known for his statement that scientific discoveries are "forever tentative. It just suggests temporary theories that explain what we see. A good scientific theory will last only until something new and unexpected comes along to disprove it. In The Logic of Scientific Discovery ; trans. Proposing a criterion of testability, or falsifiability, for scientific validity, Popper emphasized the hypothetico-deductive character of science.

Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 7: Since Cumorah - Deseret Book

Scientific theories are hypotheses from which can be deduced statements testable by observation; if the appropriate experimental observations falsify these statements, the hypothesis is refuted. If a hypothesis survives efforts to falsify it, it may be tentatively accepted. No scientific theory, however, can be conclusively established. The remainder of this page quotes passages where Nibley refers to Popper.

This is not to say that Popper knew how he was being quoted. But I believe this exercise is useful in showing how mainstream LDS thought approaches science and the study of ancient scripture. All of these quotations are unavoidably taken out of context. For more detail, and cross-references, please consult the original texts. It is not difficult to get hold of Nibley's work.

Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. We have heard so often that "science" has disproved, nay "disemboweled," the Book of Mormon, that we are naturally curious to have a look at some of the more spectacular havoc. Where is it? We have tiptoed into the archaeology museum and there found nothing that could not be interpreted many ways.

We have entered the house of the anthropologists, and there found all in confusion--and the confusion is growing. We have consulted with the more exact or authentic scientists and found them surprisingly hesitant to commit themselves on the Book of Mormon. A definitive refutation must rest on definitive conclusions, and of such conclusions scientists are becoming increasingly wary. It is admittedly remarkably close in form and meaning to the Egyptian Hermonthis.

But therewith the problem is not solved but only introduced. The resemblance between the two words has to be explained, and so we invent a theory, namely, that Joseph Smith must have had access to authentic ancient sources.

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Joseph Smith described the Book of Mormon as "the history of ancient America" because, as he goes on to explain, it gives an account of its "first settlement" by the Jaredites as well as its resettlement by the Lehites. Joseph Smith was wrong when he said that the Jaredites were the first settlers of America. This denial is necessary to accommodate the earlier settlement of America by Mongolians via the Bering Straits. Christensen rejects the idea that the Jaredites repopulated America after the flood, arguing that "Ether says nothing about the New World being uninhabited, let alone barren of life" Knowledge of prior and continuous Mongolian settlement of America forces Christensen to reject the notion of a universal flood and to become minimalistic in his interpretation of Ether.

He questions whether the statement in Ether -- "that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land [of America] it became a choice land above all others" compare Gen. This prepares the ground for his rejection of the universal flood, which he bases on an erroneous interpretation of Moses In Smith's revelation, God promises Enoch that "a remnant of his seed should always be found among all nations" Moses From which Christensen asserts: "[a] remnant would hardly be described as 'found among all nations' if the remnant [i.

Thus Christensen sees the prediction as stating that after the flood Enoch's seed, through Noah, will become a remnant scattered among all nations, which implies that the flood was not universal. However, Christensen misreads this passage since the promise was made to Enoch many centuries before the flood. Enoch "saw Noah, and his family; that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation" ; he was moved to ask God, "that thou wilt have mercy upon Noah and his seed, that the earth might never more be covered by the floods" God covenanted with Enoch that "he would stay the floods," and promised him that "a remnant of his seed should always be found among all nations, while the earth should stand" , This promise simply states that among his numerous seed, only a remnant, Noah and his family, will survive the flood to repopulate the earth and become "many nations," and that this "remnant of his seed" will never be destroyed while the earth stands.

In fact, the prediction that Enoch's seed will " always be found among all nations" presupposes a universal flood since a partial flood would invalidate the prediction. In other words, if all nations did not trace their origin back to Noah, the prediction would be false. Thus in his attempt to escape the implications of a universal flood and the Jaredite repopulation of the New World, Christensen has found himself at the end of a dilemma. Either the flood was universal and the prediction true, or the flood was partial and the prediction false. Moreover, to make his interpretation of Moses meaningful, Christensen would have to show that the Amerindians were related to Enoch, which he does not do.

Rather than trying to contort the Book of Mormon and unrelated texts of Joseph Smith's revelations to fit current understandings, it would be much easier to simply admit that the receding waters of Ether refer to the flood and concede that Joseph Smith's statement that America was first settled by the Jaredites is consistent with the text.

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Christensen doubts that the animals gathered by the Jaredites were for repopulating the New World because it is not expressly stated, "Nowhere does Ether describe the animals on the Jaredite barges as necessary for repopulating an uninhabited world" While a story may not always complete itself or leave the obvious unexpressed, there are plenty of hints. Ether says that they prepared for their trip by gathering "male and female, of every kind" as well as "seeds of every kind.

To turn Christensen's argument on its head, the text says nothing about the Jaredites finding the New World teaming with animals, vegetables and fruits, let alone inhabited by other peoples. Christensen is not troubled by this silence, however, excusing it on grounds of the record's brevity. Thus Christensen gets himself into a precarious position when he demands that the text be more explicit about the purpose of carrying an enormous cargo of animals and seeds to the New World, and then within the same paragraph blames brevity for the record's silence with regard to non-Jaredite peoples.

Joseph Smith was wrong when he said the Jaredites "came from the tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages. He quotes Hugh Nibley's definition of "confound" as meaning "to pour together" or "to mix up together. But if he wishes to imply that either the Jaredites or Lehites "mixed" with the Mongolians, his use of Nibley is strained to say the least.


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The book of Ether states that the Jaredites were "not confounded" Eth. Ether refers to the last days after Native Americans had been scattered and "confounded" by European settlement see also 1 Ne. Lehi's blessing on his sons speaks of preserving America for his posterity and that the land would not be "overrun" by other nations until after his seed should "dwindle in unbelief" 2 Ne. Joseph Smith was wrong when he said ancient America was "inhabited by two distinct races of people.

Of course Smith was giving a one-paragraph summary of the Book of Mormon's contents, so it is understandable that he mentions only the Jaredite and Lehite migrations. The Mulekites, who also came from Jerusalem, may have been more numerous than the Nephites when discovered, but they play a minor role in the Book of Mormon's plot line.

Christensen wonders if the Mulekites were "exclusively Hebrew or of mixed ethnic background? This is a question for which there is no answer. However, the question only arises because of apologetic need to diminish the expectation of finding evidence of an Israelite presence in ancient America. Otherwise one would simply assume that a migration party originating in Jerusalem and headed by Mulek, one of king Zedekiah's sons, would be principally composed of Hebrews see Omni ; Hel.

Christensen does not hesitate to bring to the discussion Mormon speculations that the Mulekites may have sailed with Phoenicians. This speculation is based primarily on two names that appear in the Book of Mormon, Sidon, the main river running through Nephite lands, and Isabel, the name of a harlot. Regardless, place names are hardly indicators of origin. Should we assume that Lehi's group included people from England because they named one city Bountiful?

Was Nauvoo settled by Hebrews? Was Palmyra, New York, settled by Syrians? The Phoenician seaport was well known to Israelites see Gen. Place names might indicate influence, but not necessarily origin. The same principal applies to names of people. My name is Daniel, but I am not Hebrew. Nibley offers no proof that "Isabel," not an infrequently used name in Joseph Smith's day, originated with the Mulekites. Siron was south of Zarahemla "among the borders of the Lamanites" Al.

Nibley never explains how an actual harlot with whom Corianton commits fornication is related to Isabel, "Patroness of Harlots in the religion of the Phoenicians. Indeed, there is nothing compelling about such speculations. Christensen takes every opportunity to introduce non-Israelite populations into the account.


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Was Zoram a Greek? He does not explain the reason for this speculation, but it is probably an attempt to explain the presence of Greek and Greek-sounding names like Timothy, Teancum, and Lachoneus. He wonders if Ishmael's children all married Hebrews? Again, the only reason he is asking these questions is to minimize Hebrew impact on the New World and account for the lack of evidence for Israelite settlement. Moving from pure speculation to outright misinterpretation, Christensen tries to link Mongolian populations to two Book of Mormon passages.

Referring to the "many inhabitants who had before inherited the land" in Helaman , Christensen asks: "Must we assume Jaredites when they were not named and were not necessarily in the same location? The Jaredites are not named because they are nowhere named in the Nephite record before the book of Ether. Helaman makes it clear that the Jaredites are intended when it states that the land northward was called "desolate Christensen's "not necessarily in the same location" hints at a specialized interpretation of the new geographers.

Mosiah states that the Jaredite record had been found "in a land among many waters. Because the record had been found by a Nephite expedition party searching for the relatively close city of Zarahemla, the new theorists postulate the Jaredite destruction occurred a short distance north-west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Southern Mexico, perhaps near Tres Zapotes. However, Helaman says that the migrants traveled "an exceeding great distance" into the land northward until they came to "large bodies of water and many rivers. The new theorists therefore have attempted to escape the implications of Helaman by proposing two lands of many waters and lakes: one in the land of Cumorah -- which they say is the Papaloapan Lagoon System just west of the Isthums of Tehuantepec -- and another farther west and north in the Valley of Mexico.

The creation of two lands of many waters is entirely ad hoc.

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While Nephite survivors of Cumorah has never has been a secret, for Moroni mentions that the Lamanites "put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ" Moro. Rather God states in this revelation that "the knowledge of my people, the Nephites, and also the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites, [shall] come to the knowledge of the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites, which dwindled in unbelief, Finally, Christensen refers to Lehi's prediction that "many nations" would "overrun" the land after the Nephite fall 2 Ne.

First, Lehi states that America is "kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance" This cannot apply to the Mongolians, because they are already there. Next, Lehi then states that God has promised "that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves.

Lehi's words include the Mulekites, but not the Mongolians. Finally, Lehi states that "when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, This prediction very clearly refers to the coming of the European Gentiles.