Tuesday, August 07, 2007

FAIR: Friday Morning

Friday started off again with another hot topic: the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Richard Turley, who is working on a book on the subject, spent his time with us talking mostly about the psychology of mass killings. He drew heavily on the research of of someone named Staub(sp?) on mass killings and then applied those principles to Mountain Meadows.

Monolithic societies, like frontier Utah, are much more prone to this sort of problem. (That really gives interesting legs to popular political arguments for "diversity" in our own day.) The Mormons had exaggerated fears about a lot of stuff that was going on at the time. When the wagon train showed up, it provided a tangible entity upon with to pin all their fears. One fear led to another and suddenly people were willing to do something they would never consider under normal circumstances. This doesn't excuse in any way what was done, but it helps us to understand how it could happen.

Turley argues that Brigham Young was not responsible for the massacre. He makes the point about "proximate causes" to note that the local leaders are the only ones that can really bear the ultimate responsibility for what was done. We can't blame Haun's Mill, or fiery sermons, or anything else.

I'm betting that Turley's forthcoming book will be quite a read.

Craig Foster and Steve Mayfield put together a highly entertaining presentation filled with photos of protesters throughout the years at General Conference and other venues. The most recent photos were the most entertaining and I hope they put up a lot of the photos with the transcript of their talk. The crowd really cracked up seeing the signs held by the people protesting against the protesters. One guy came up to General Conference dressed as the devil and held up a big sign that said, "Hi, my name is Satan, and these street preachers are my missionaries."

Oddly enough, the street preachers became so cartoonish in their protests (with correspondingly silly counter-protests) that they became their own worst enemy because nobody took them seriously--including the city leaders. The preachers wanted so badly to have the right to protest on the Main Street Plaza, for example, but when they started screaming at brides through the fence, everyone lost sympathy for the preachers. Now I think they are banned from that area.

Just before lunch we heard from David Bokovoy. He shared some interesting research and ideas about Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Bokovoy believes the prevailing scholarly opinion of multiple authors for the book of Isaiah. Latter-day Saints have traditionally rejected this notion because the Book of Mormon quotes liberally from all over the place in Isaiah. If Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., he would have left before the later Isaiahs has written.

Bokovoy postulates that Joseph may have been inspired to insert additional chapters of Isaiah into the Book of Mormon than those which were actually engraved on the plates. This is an interesting theory and I'll be interested to see how it plays out with other Mormon scholars.

We also get a glimpse of some of the words that Nephi liked to use which were also commonly used throughout the book of Isaiah. David used the word "delight" as an example. Nephi repeatedly claims that he delights in the words of Isaiah. It turns out the the root word of delight appears 7.7 times for every 100 verses of Isaiah--second only in frequency to the book of Psalms.


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