Monday, June 25, 2007

A Book of Mormon Population Problem Solved

Royal Skousen's "Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon" doesn't sound like the kind of book I'd want to pick up for some light summer reading. Fortunately, there are other people willing to digest it all for me and give me the interesting bits. :)

In the newsletter Insights, they published a small excerpt from the forthcoming volume 4 of the series. Skousen compares the original text of Alma 43:14 to what is currently published.

Here is what we have currently:
Now those descendants were as numerous, nearly, as were the Nephites;

It seems to be saying that the descendants of King Noah were, in a generation or two, as numerous as the whole Nephite nation. This is a tough claim to swallow. The original text reads
now those desenters were as numerous nearly as were the Nephites

The printer's manuscript changed "desenters" to "desendants" and all subsequent manuscripts changed it to "descendants." Skousen concludes:
Here we have a clear example where the current text states a highly improbable increase in population. It is at most only a couple of generations since the priests of Noah (the Amulonites) got their start, yet the current text states that by this time their descendants were nearly as numerous as the Nephites! On the other hand, the original manuscript makes perfectly good sense when it claims that there had been so many dissenters over the years that now these Nephite dissenters had become nearly as populous as the remaining Nephites. The original, correct reading thus shows how precarious the situation had become for the Nephites.
You'll have to check out the verses in context to see how the change works out in practice, but I'm pretty convinced. Thanks to Bro. Skousen and Insights for the tip!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Mildness and in Meekness

In dealing with my own children, I find myself very tempted to employ tactics of compulsion. I demand that they comply rather than helping them understand why compliance will help them and make them happy. This tactic works in the short term while they are little, but it cannot succeed as they grow older.

In online discourse, I see people who demean and belittle others who do not hold their positions. This is equally fruitless. The rest of this post is a quote from Gerald Lund that teaches an important lesson that I needed to hear.


Let me share with you another experience that I think illustrates the balance between raising the warning voice and doing it with mildness. When I was a junior in high school, our teachers held a dance as part of gym. ...I was deathly afraid of stepping on the girl's toes and making a fool of myself because I did not know how to dance. So during the dance I took my chemistry book and went to the top row of bleachers and started studying chemistry.

About halfway through the dance, they announced a girls' choice, at which point I promptly buried my head deeper in my book. Then I heard footsteps coming up the bleachers. I can remember refusing to look up and thinking, Oh no! Don't do this to me! But finally there were a pair of legs and a skirt standing before me. I looked up, and she said, "Jerry, would you dance with me?"

I said, "I'm sorry, but I just can't."

Well, you can imagine how she felt. ...The girl's gym teacher, who had been watching the whole thing, came over.... She said, "Jerry, this young lady has come all the way up the bleachers to ask you to dance. Now you're not really going to tell her no, are you?"

I said, "Yes, I am. I do not dance."

She said, "I know how you feel, but you can't tell this young lady no."

"Oh yes, I can."

"You won't tell this young lady no."

"Oh yes, I will."

She started to get angry and said, "You will dance with her.

I said, "No, I won't."

So she took the girl and went down the bleachers. Of course, the girl was flaming red by now--and as I think of this now, I cringe to think of what it must have meant for her. But I was so wrapped up in my own worry and low self esteem, I could think of nothing but myself.

The teacher dropped the girl off at the bottom of the bleachers and went straight across the gym floor to the coach, who was also my gym teacher. He looked up; she talked. He looked up again. He motioned me to come down, and I shook my head no. It was at that point he decided to teach without mildness and meekness.

The coach turned the record player off, went to the microphone, and said, "Could I have your attention please." The gym immediately quieted down. "Sandra," he said, "has just walked all the way up to the top of the bleachers to ask Jerry Lund to dance. Jerry Lund said no. How do you feel about that?"

Well, you know what the kids did. "Hey, Jerry," they shouted. "Come on!"

I just shook my head, and then my coach, who was famous for his temper, got angry. He said, over the microphone, "You will be off those bleachers in thirty seconds or you will take an F in this class." And I said, "Coach, flunk away!"

I took an F in gym that term. You see, I would rather have taken an F than face the pain of being a fool. And when the coach backed me into a corner, there was no way I was going to come out.

...I think of that experience now when I read, "Let your preaching be with warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness." I believe in the power of warning, but I also believe in the power of love.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

LDS ad on Drudge

In light of the recent controversy over Dick Cheney's appearance at BYU, I wonder if it is wise for the Church to purchase ad space on the Drudge Report. The following screen shot is from a few minutes ago.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

God Gains a Mortal Perspective

My children experience pain that is, for them, very real. A toy taken away during meals. A video game ended for bedtime. Permission denied for a favorite treat. While I know how silly the pain and the tantrum are, I can't deny the reality of the emotion for them. From my perspective as a father, I know that the pain will pass quickly and will ultimately mold them into better, more disciplined adults.

What was it like for the mortal Jesus? He lived many aspects of the mortal existence, and yet he seemed to have the vast perspective of a god. He could understand men's thoughts. He could perceive events in distant locations. It seems he went through mortality without really experiencing the temporary despair that is such a normal part of life for the rest of us.

Until Gethsemane.

In that place, he had an opportunity to feel total despair and aloneness. I wonder if he finally had an opportunity to temporarily lose his eternal perspective and feel totally "in the moment" the way the rest of us do when we are in pain. Because of what he suffered, he truly understands us and knows how to help and lift us. I don't understand how the atonement works, but I'm grateful for its effects.

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