Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-three: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 1.

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty-three:
“Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 1© 

To this point, I have not said a great deal about the Book of Mormon and the flood of evidences great and small which it provides to show that the Prophet Joseph Smith translated an authentic ancient document “by the gift and power of God.” But, since it is the subject of study in Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School in 2016, I figured it would be a good opportunity to share some of the things found in the Book of Mormon which are “evidence” to me of Joseph’s divine calling and that the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired scripture.

Many of the items I will share under this theme are seemingly small, even insignificant things that are often overlooked in reading the book. However with the benefit of modern scholarship, many of what I have come to call “zingers” jump off of the page and show themselves to be both interesting and which add to the evidentiary case I am building and which help explain why I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. And while many of these things have been brought to light, I am convinced that close reading, creative thinking, and dedicated research will bring yet more to light. Cumulatively, and they are certainly in the hundreds and maybe even in the thousands by now, they constitute a powerful collection of witnesses. I begin with a simple detail tucked into a description of the building activities of an apostate king sometime around 150 B.C.

A 1990 study by Alan R. Millard “documents archaeological evidence for the early use of iron to decorate beds (see Deuteronomy 3:11) and thrones, as well as bracelets and jewelry, weapons and royal swords” in ancient Israel.(1) “Although a person today would not normally think of using iron as a precious decoration, we can now see that this was actually done in antiquity.” Iron is grouped with other precious things because during this period it was hard to obtain, being manufactured by a difficult technique. The same was very likely true in the New World at the time of the Book of Mormon. John Welch tells us that “all New World references to iron in the book [of Mormon] mention it together with gold and silver and other precious things (see 2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Ether 10:23).” Welch also speculates, “Perhaps this metal was especially prized among the Nephites due to the great symbolic and spiritual value of the “rod of iron” in Lehi’s vision in 1 Nephi 8.”(2)

Therefore, it is with significant interest that we note a detail in the 11th chapter of Mosiah that might otherwise be overlooked, or which may become the object of criticism by Book of Mormon critics. Verse 8 describes how King Noah “built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper....”  Zing!

As I sit in my swivel-chair at my desk, I lean back and ask myself, “If Joseph Smith were making up the Book of Mormon to deceive the religious world, why in that world would he ever think of describing 150 B.C. buildings as being decorated with iron?” I don’t have a good answer for that question. Before the Millard article, however, critics may have answered it by saying, “Well, it is in the same category as the horse in the New World, he just missed it that’s all.”  Hugh Nibley referred to such things as “Howlers” for the critics. Today, we know that in both cases Joseph Smith did not miss it!  For the believers they simply bring a rye smile to the lips and a twinkle to the eye.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


*  The idea of calling these evidences "zingers" is not original with me.  I got it from my friend John Fowles, who I think, may have taken it from Reed Durham.

1.  Alan R. Millard, “King Og’s Iron Bed–Fact or Fancy?”  Bible Review 6 (April 1990): 16-20.

2.  John W. Welch, “Decorative Iron in Early Israel,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), pp. 133-34. 

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