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2002 ©Robert F. Smith Wunderli proceeds with his analysis in a proudly anti- or non-academic Protestant fundamentalist manner, i.e., presentist/ahistorical (“poor English grammar” pp. 6-8), synchronic, unreflective surface analysis, without citation or peer review, leading to a probably unintended reliance on interpretation of the supposedly holy canon as literal and inerrant (pp. 11-12). He tries to have his cake and eat it too, but in the process largely misses the point in the various comments he makes on (1) chiasmus, (2) Hebraisms, and (3) geography. Moreover, his “facts” are so error-ridden that one wonders whether he is a post-modernist who believes that a text can mean anything one wishes it to mean, and that assertion requires intuition rather than sophisticated, hard evidence. In these respects, it matters little whether Wunderli is defending or attacking the Mormon canon, and I come away with the impression that he and the late Tom Ferguson unintentionally wreaked the same havoc on the texts they sought to deal with by their legal training (Ferguson first defending the texts and much later attacking them via the same methodology) to make a case as systematically and narrowly as possible, marshaling evidence without respect to balance or context in order to fulfill the expectations of the legal guild through which they owe fealty to a medieval tradition of ordeal by combat known as the “adversary system of justice.” The hidebound rules of that system have little to do with “justice” or truth, and more to do with, on the one hand (1) winning by whatever means necessary, and walking away in pride, or, on the other hand (2) getting a decision, any decision, in order to avoid a blood feud. We are so “civilized” now that we simply walk away with our heads down, accepting the inevitable and costly injustice for the sake of peace. However, in an atmosphere in which FARMS research has been carefully ignored for so long in certain circles, perhaps Wunderli has done the organization a favor. In the spirit of John Stuart Mill, perhaps FARMS needs more of this sort of thing to keep it on its toes (Nibley has also stated his preference for such normal give-and-take, and B. H. Roberts never shunned a good fight). Perhaps Wunderli is correct to suggest that apologetics is not a good thing for FARMS to pursue. Particularly triumphalist, polemic apologetics. When apologists spend too much time talking mainly to each other, they begin to get arrogant, lazy, and careless – as happened to christian fundamentalists. That doesn’t obviate Wunderli’s need for a reality check, but the recent criticisms by him, Dan Vogel, and John Hatch should be the least of FARMS’ worries. Basic research should be the foremost objective of FARMS. Done in a pluralistic, expansive, and good-humored atmosphere, it could be satisfying and fun for everybody – even for those who come up on the short end of objective reality. Making new discoveries and throwing back the darkness are endeavors which nearly everyone would like to identify with, even though some unwashed, Philistine efforts mean little in the long term. My own response to questions about chiasmus is to create an ever more sophisticated and extensive index and bibliography of the full range of that literary feature, while noting that it is merely one of a number of tools by which to wrest meaning from texts. Any texts where it can be realistically applied. 1
2 Wunderli and Vogel need to understand first that chiastic analysis is standard procedure in biblical studies, even if they want to make the assertion that Joseph Smith might have read a book on the figure and frequently applied it – however improperly or inexactly. Second, it should be pointed out that Book of Mormon chiasms show no more asymmetry than those found in the Bible. Third, in any case, the call to perfection is a fallacy, and the Book of Mormon cannot be required to perform chiastically better even than the Bible. Fourth, it is as important to note where chiasmus does not appear as it is to catalog its appearance elsewhere. Fifth, it is not enough to read Welch on chiasmus to understand the figure and its breadth of application. One must read broadly in academic journals and books in order to get the proper perspective. This can take years and require the acquisition of special linguistic and analytical skills. Sixth, Yehuda Radday’s statistical analysis of chiasmus cannot be ignored. Finally, there is the matter of temperament: Research motivated by extreme a priori assumptions can be skewed unintentionally. And one must not underestimate the dangers of incestuous research, i.e., friends telling friends what they want to hear without real peer review before publication. FARMS associates and their programs ought to be more broadly based than simply enjoying mutual approbation in Happy Valley. This is every bit as true for those to the north at Signature Book and Sunstone. FARMS should systematically develop close relationships with a far flung and powerful group of scholars outside Utah. No project should proceed without non-Utah and nonMormon participation, which may have to be recruited. Specific criticisms of the application of chiasmus ought to be taken seriously, however, and refined, accurate presentations developed. In the matter of the entire book of Mosiah, for example, Royal Skousen’s argument that we lack part of the beginning of Mosiah1 might be used to account for the fifteen verses which continue beyond the final A’ element, about which Wunderli complains. That might, after all, help us reconstruct the content or main themes of the beginning of Mosiah, which otherwise cannot be recovered, although -- according to Gary Sturgess2 -- Mosiah’s consecration as king of a dual kingdom in chapters 1 - 6 is paralleled by the end of that kingdom in chapters 28 - 29. In addition, the twenty-four gold plates in chapters 8 & 21, along with the centering on the Decalogue in chapters 12 & 13 and Isa 53:1-12 in chapter 14, flanked by Isa 52:7-10 & 52:8-10 in chapters 12&15, and lift(ed) up and God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in 7:19 & 23:22-23, are impressive parallel components. If they and similar elements do not repeat elsewhere in Mosiah, that ought to count for something. One might well go to symposia (Sunstone included) prepared with overhead projections to make the point as vividly and solidly as possible. Somehow, I just can’t imagine B. H. Roberts or Brigham Young being afraid to wade into the midst of the “enemy” in order to say their piece. Another issue might be the functioning of a multistructural array of features at various levels, perhaps imposed by the final editor(s), which might interfere with perfect symmetry at certain levels. For example, taking our cue from David Noel Freedman’s audacious attempts to
Skousen, “History of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon,” in M. G. Bradford & A. V. P. Couts, eds, Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon (Provo: FARMS, 2002), 20-21. Sturgess, “The Book of Mosiah: Thoughts About Its Structure, Purposes, Themes, and Authorship,” JBMS, 4/2 (Fall 1995), 111.
3 demonstrate overarching and astonishing biblical structures,3 we could approach the entire Book of Mormon likewise and with similar results:
I Nephi II Nephi WORD-COUNT SYMMETRY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON 22,655 27,318 ----27,318 ----} 58,3574
Jacob 8,384 ---------------------------------------------Enos 989 Jarom Omni 659 1,372
----} 62,101 ÷ 2 = 31,050 (470 u years)
Wds of Mormon 824 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------Mosiah 28,613 ----28,613 ---------------------------------------------Alma 77,315 Helaman 18,652 ---------------------------------------------III Nephi 26,706 IV Nephi 1,790 ---------------------------------------------Mormon 8,666 Ether 14,837 ----} 29,179
----} 124,634 ÷ 4 = 31,158 (121 u years)
------------------------} 28,496 ----} 57,947 ÷ 2 = 28,973 (417 u years)
Moroni 5,676 ---------------------------------------------Title Page 272 [Sealed] [4,154?][would raise the total for the final section to 62,101 ÷ 2 = 31,050]
Taken together with Terryl Givens’ notion that the entire Book of Mormon is framed by the “near perfect symmetry” of Nephi’s testimony/rebuke and Moroni’s rebuke/testimony,5 and of
Freedman, “The Undiscovered Symmetry of the Bible,” Bible Review, X/1 (Feb 1994), 34-39; Freedman, “The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible,” in John R. Huddleston, ed., Divine Commitment and Human Obligation, I (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 496-520; Freedman, The Unity of the Hebrew Bible (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan, 1991/1993).
58,357 ÷ 2 = 29,178, identical to the number of words in Mormon - Moroni. Givens in JBMS, 10/2:23-25; note also the parallel of I Nephi 15:8-11 to Moroni 10:4-5.
4 Stephen Olsen’s observation that the Small Plates of Nephi exhibit the same 1st person narrative that is found in Mormon & Moroni, both of which envelope the 3rd person narrative of the remainder of the book (ABA) – not to mention the Vision 2Fulfillment sequence at beginning and end6 – all of which reminds one of nothing so much as Freedman’s analysis of the Bible via his biblical word-count structures cited above. As for Tvedtnes’ (and Crowell’s) Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon, things probably need tightening up. My response to Tvedtnes thirty years ago was to write my own analysis based on Egyptianisms in the Book of Mormon. After all, many Hebraisms are also good Egyptianisms. But I also believe (like Nibley) that the book was written in Egyptian language and script. So I naturally take another tack. Then too I have always felt that the obvious KJVisms (along with Jacobean and Elizabethan English generally) must be jettisoned from analysis. They are too easily acquired and used in nineteenth century English and thus lose any analytic value for verification of the antiquity of the text.7 Wunderli has done FARMS and Tvedtnes a favor here. Now it is time to retool and rewrite based on more rigorous standards. As for the geography and population questions, it is easy for Wunderli to call into question anything which his homespun notions cannot absorb, whether it is the common tendency of ancient writers to engage in bluster and oversimplification, or to claim victory when defeated. He hasn’t any notion of exaggeration-for-effect (hyperbole), or the actual directional usage of the Conquistadores or of the native populations (which Sorenson cites and Wunderli ignores). I have encountered the same sort of razzmatazz in the past from several of the same people who are still at it. They can’t seem to address anthropological reality from a wide array of very old documents. The brittle fundamentalist mind simply can’t accept sophisticated nuances or shades of gray, much less actual ethnography. It breaks before it bends to reality, which is why the hard line fundamentalists are by far the most likely to apostatize (from any religion). Indeed, Wunderli is under the blatantly false impression that the so-called “new historians” of Mormonism are not involved in apologetics!! (p. 11) I would have thought that if anything was obvious it would be that the polarized atmosphere in Utah is hardly conducive to objective reflection on anything religious by anybody. Wunderli cannot have read FARMS literature as widely and thoroughly as he claims (p. 1) since he ignores or is unaware of so many central points which have been repeatedly made by FARMS writers. He needs to go back over the entire issue and make a more candid and selfcritical appraisal – and maybe cite some sources which show what he has in fact read.
S. Olsen JBMS 15/1:18-29.
Just as the search for the historical Jesus often begins by excluding all the quotidian stuff (in addition to the Sitz im Leben der Kirche), opting instead for the unique.
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