19 November 2011

Back from the conference and other good news

The morning of the conference started out with a veritable blizzard in Salt Lake City. But Daniel and Derek made it anyway, set up a table, and sold the book to attendees. It was a very interesting conference this year. The keynote speaker was Jack Welch, who gave some fascinating insights into legal procedures and possible Hebrew traditions hidden within Book of Mormon accounts.

Another high point of this year was speaker Royal Skousen, who for years has been in charge of the Critical Text Project, which attempted to recreate the most accurate original text of the Book of Mormon, using the original and printer's manuscripts. This peek into the process that resulted in our modern book of scripture brought to light the many difficulties in translation, transcription, and later editing that were required to transform this ancient record into a modern text that could be understood by us today. The conference ended with a panel of authors, discussing their opinions on whether the River Sidon is the Grijalva or the Usumacinta. It was interesting and slightly amusing to see how dogmatic and argumentative the experts can be. We hope it was all in good fun. Perhaps the best comment in the panel came from our friend Jerry Ainsworth, who ended his remarks by saying that it really didn't matter to him which river it was, since he knew the Book of Mormon was true anyway. We remain fairly open on the issue, although we have been down the Usumacinta twice and have never made it to the Grijalva yet.

Many people who attend have already purchased our book, so it's hard to keep sales up after a few years. But we did let everyone know about An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica in 2012. Many people signed our e-mail list, so we welcome all of our new fans and invite you to follow along with the blog and check out all our articles.

In other news, Daniel and Derek worked together over the weekend and were able to download all the video from our last trips to Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras. Some technical glitches had been getting in the way, so this was quite the success for us. Now that the videos are on our hard drives, we will be able to prepare them to share, so stay tuned for new uploads to YouTube. Currently, Daniel has been studying the Maya Long Count calendar and what is supposed to happen next year. That information will be contained in its own chapter in our next book, so that's another reason to be excited about it. Using qualified Maya experts as his source, Daniel has found some surprising elements in the calendar that are probably not known to many people and has been looking for evidences of its use by Book of Mormon cultures.

02 November 2011

More book news at the BMAF annual conference

Daniel will be attending the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum's annual conference again this year. It will be this Saturday at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. He had a great time as one of the speakers last year, and served double duty as he also manned a table to sell the books. This year, he will be selling the books again and telling everyone about our new book.

We have signed a contract to deliver a new manuscript to Cedar Fort next spring, so we are working on it now and looking forward to seeing it come out as an eBook next year. We have already found new information to add to sites we visited years ago, so we are excited to let everyone know that An LDS Guide to the Yucatán will be available!

19 September 2011

Daniel's response to horses in the Book of Mormon

In July of this year, Ted Stoddard, a member of the board of advisers for the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, wrote a rebuttal to an article in the Mormon Times written by Linda and Richard Eyre. In that original article, they inferred that the use of the verb "bridle" in the Book of Mormon was simply an indication that Nephites had horses and used bridles. Bro. Stoddard called such a perspective "illogical, unfounded, and even deceptive."

The issue of horses in the Book of Mormon is a tricky one. It is accepted that no known Ancient American culture had horses or other draft animals. But does this extend back into Book of Mormon times? If Nephites and Lamanites did not have horses, then what animal is being described? If they did, then is there any evidence that such large animals existed on this hemisphere before Europeans 'discovered' it? Daniel has written a paper supporting the idea of actual horses in the Book of Mormon and shows evidence that modern horses did live on this continent anciently. He wrote a response to Bro. Stoddard's article that was also published by the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum.

Click here to read Ted Stoddard's article on the BMAF website.
Click here to read Daniel's response on the BMAF website.

24 August 2011

An LDS Guide to the Yucatán

We are extremely pleased to announce that Cedar Fort, after many discussions initiated by Daniel, has agreed to publish our next book, albeit electronically. The current information we have is that it will be available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble for their e-readers, Kindle and Nook, respectively. It should also be available from our publisher as a direct download for those that don't have e-readers, but this could be a good reason to get one. As more formats become available, we will get the word out.

The authors at Chichén Itzá in 2006
Now you can read all about our experiences and adventures from our first-ever Mesoamerican trek through Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. This book will contain detailed information about sites like Ek Balam, Chichén, Itzá, Uxmal, the Caves of Loltún, Kabah, Xpujil, Becán, Calakmul, and Cobá. Thought-provoking evidence of gold plates, metal tools, unknown written languages, and indigenous horses will be presented as they pertain to these sites. Daniel had been discussing with the acquisitions editor at Cedar For on ways to cut costs on this next book. Initially, we were hoping for an actual hardcopy version to be published, but at least this way, the information gets out there and all of our color design, photos, and illustrations remain intact. If sales are good enough, they will consider publishing a physical book, so we are hopeful for that as well. We have also been told that our first book, An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica, is being prepared for release electronically.

Look for An LDS Guide to the Yucatán next year, in 2012. We feel that this could be just the right time for it. Not only will the Book of Mormon be the topic in Gospel Doctrine classes, but as everyone knows, it is the end of the Maya long count calendar, an event that has a lot of speculation flying back and forth. Our plan is to address this topic as well in the book, so it should be a worthwhile purchase. We will keep our followers updated on its progress.

11 July 2011

The latest book news.

While things have currently been quiet in the area of firesides, Daniel has been working on updating chapters on what we hope to be our book on the Yucatán. We haven't heard much from our publisher lately, so he has been contacting them to find out just how things are going. Specifically, we are trying to convince them that publishing An LDS Guide to the Yucatán would be a worthwhile endeavor, especially if it came out in 2012. The current sales numbers we have from them state that over 2700 copies of our book have been sold. We know it has actually been more than that, because Daniel has purchased many boxes to sell at events he has attended, and those don't count toward sales. These numbers look good to us, but we don't really know how they look to professionals in the book publishing industry. Cedar Fort and some LDS bookstores have been offering drastically reduced prices on our book recently, so if you still haven't picked up your copy of An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica, now might be the time.

Some original Yucatán chapters have been revised already, and we are pleased to be able to offer a PDF of our chapter on Chichén Itzá. It is perhaps the best known ancient site in Mexico, and probably the most visited. The Book of Mormon comparisons from this site include Quetzalcoatl, Human Sacrifice, Bearded Toltecs, Warfare, the Underworld, Metal Weapons and Tools, Rule by Councils and Judges, Indigenous Horses, Plates of Gold, and Writing of Unknown Origin. This should be an interesting read, so please read it and let us know what you think. Chichén has been in the news lately because, much to our amazement, new excavation work has been done there since we last visited and  earlier structures have been found under the plaza around the Pyramid of Kukulcan. Also in the works is a new museum dedicated to ancient Maya culture of the area and officials are planning to feature some gold plates found at the Sacred Cenote. It just goes to show that there is always some new mystery to uncover here.

Click here to download the PDF.
Website for Cedar Fort, our publisher

04 July 2011

Article on metal plates up at the BMAF website

The Book of Mormon Archaeological Foundation has published Daniel's latest article on ancient metal plates. Originally, he was asked by a representative of the BMAF to write an article responding to the announcement a few months ago of various ancient books or codices made from bound lead plates that were supposedly discovered in Jordan.

This seemed like a fascinating find, but the more he looked into it, the more suspicious these artifacts became. Most experts denounced them on many grounds and while there is no final word on the matter, it does appear that they are probably modern forgeries. But if they are, it means that the idea of ancient metal books is now widely supported. Daniel's article also includes many examples of non-controversial genuine ancient plates, mainly from the Mediterranean area, made from gold and other precious metals.

Click here to read Daniel's article on the BMAF website.
Click here to download a multi-page, formatted PDF of the article.

05 June 2011

Successful Chilean fireside

Daniel had been contacted by a bishop in Chile about doing an online fireside for his ward in Chile. The original date was postponed due to a funeral that same evening. Luckily, the event was rescheduled for last month and completed using a video call through Skype.

The fireside was eventually held on Sunday 29 May. Daniel had to rush home after church because of the time difference. A few technical glitches later and everything was up and running. For about an hour, Daniel used a webcam and microphone to give our latest presentation in Spanish. On the other side of the connection was the El Libertador ward in Chillán, Chile. Attendees could watch and hear Daniel on a laptop and see slides from the presentation projected up on a wall. The fireside was organized and presided over by Álvaro Rodrigo, Figueroa Zapata, bishop of the ward. We are told that all who attended had a good time and learned a lot about archaeology and the Book of Mormon. According to Bishop Figueroa, there aren't many Spanish resources for this kind of information on Book of Mormon scholarship.

We are pleased that information from our book and studies are being appreciated in other parts of the world. Bishop Figueroa has translated some of Daniel's BMAF presentation and other papers into Spanish on his own blog. We have also become aware of a blog that has translated this content into Portuguese. Maybe one day we will be able to actually travel to these countries to meet members and give presentations in person there.

Visit the El Libertador ward's Facebook page.

14 May 2011

Another fireside down and content on Deseret News

Jared and Daniel gave their fireside in Santa Rosa, CA on the first of May. At first, it seemed that not many were going to show up, but before long, more people arrived and kept arriving, so that several more rows of chairs had to be set out to accommodate them all. It had been a while since Jared and Daniel had been able to give a fireside together, so they had a great time and wish to thank those responsible for organizing this event.

Those attending enjoyed it and many stayed afterward to ask about the book and talk about what we had discussed. We are always interested in giving more firesides, so anyone who would like to put on a fireside or other presentation can get in touch with any of the authors to plan the event. Daniel is still interested in doing firesides in Spanish. It looks like his online fireside to Chile is being rescheduled for later this month.

The last post mentioned Daniel's article for Mormon Times about Maya gold plates from Chichén Itzá. That article was also picked up by the Deseret News website and appears on there as well. For a while, there was a link to it on the homepage. The article has received many comments, both positive and negative. Some see it as nothing but PR spin for the Book of Mormon; others see it as important evidence to be considered. Many of the comments touched more on the authenticity of Mormon scripture and why it is important. The information has been shared before, but we are pleased to share it again with a wider audience.

Mormon Times has also completed a review of An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica in its book reviews section. Our book was reviewed by Jarrod Hiatt, who gives a concise overview and says many positive things about it, writing that it is a compelling read for anyone traveling to or interested in Mesoamerica.

Click here to read Daniel's article on gold plates at Deseret News.
Click here to read the Mormon Times review of our book.

01 May 2011

Fireside updates and an article on MormonTimes.com

Sadly, the Chilean fireside was canceled at the last minute. Daniel got a message last Sunday from their bishop that a member of that ward had died and the chapel would be used for funeral services. They are still anxiously looking forward to having it, so plans are underway to do it later this month.

Our fireside in Santa Rosa today is still going on, so please stop by the Yulupa chapel if you are in the area and have time, starting at 7:00 this evening. It has been a while since both Daniel and Jared presented one together, so it should be a good time.

In other news, MormonTimes has published an article written by Daniel. It was adapted from his paper and presentation on gold plates in Mesoamerica, so there is nothing really new there, but we are excited to have something on the MormonTimes website and share our findings with a wider audience. Hopefully, this will be the first of many.

Click here to read Daniel's article on MormonTimes.com.

22 April 2011

New firesides coming up and Brazilian fans

A lot has been going on behind the scenes these days. Daniel is putting the final touches on his fireside for the ward in Chile. He has done them in Spanish before, but this time, it will also be done over the Internet, using Skype to video-conference. It's scheduled for this Sunday afternoon. Bishop Alvaro Figueroa is our contact in Chile, and he is putting it together. Absent any technical difficulties that could understandably arise, we are looking forward to this one.

In other South American news, we have been sent a site that has Daniel's Metals and Gold Plates online presentation translated into Portuguese. It looks like there is a connection with our Chilean friends. Elson C. Ferreira translated our content into Portuguese for a post on the From Jerusalem to the Americas blog. Like the Spanish one, this was a surprise to us, but we are always pleased with more opportunities to share our research and the book.

Closer to home, Daniel and Jared have a fireside on Sunday, the 1st of May. It will be at 7:00 pm at the Yulupa chapel in Santa Rosa, CA. This is near the area where Jared grew up, so he has friends and family there. We gave a presentation at this chapel a couple of years ago, so it will be nice to get back there. As usual, if you are in the area, drop in and see us.

05 April 2011

Ancient lead plates from Jordan...or not

The lead books have between 5-15 pages
Starting near the end of last month, news sites carried articles about the discovery of a group of ancient codices, or books of lead plates now in Israel, but possibly found in Jordan. Among LDS circles, mailing lists sent out notices of this fantastic find. The claim was that they were Christian writings from the first century AD, the earliest ever found. Since Daniel has written and lectured about various examples of authentic metal plates from antiquity, the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum asked him to write a review on these plates, which was sent out to their members on 1 April (maybe not the best choice of dates).

Some are about the size of a credit card
This does seem to be exciting news and the few photos that have surfaced on the web look convincing, at least to non-experts. But as Daniel researched the topic further, more doubts and questions appeared. Most experts are claiming them to be outright hoaxes, or at least, taking a very cautious position on the plates. Daniel's initial review sent out by the BMAF was quite positive, but he began to have concerns, so he wrote a follow-up article, which was sent out a few days later. He also performed a computer graphics image comparison of some images on the plates. The second BMAF newsletter sent out shows that even though we hope they are real, there may be good reason to be skeptical. You can read Daniel's comments and see his visual analysis below:

Recently, an announcement was sent out about a collection of supposedly ancient lead codices from the Middle East. They are being considered seriously by some as authentic ancient artifacts from that region, but they may be a clever forgery instead. The books have pages that are engraved with what appear to be simple images of Jewish and Christian iconography, as well as coded Hebrew writing that could be messianic in nature, according to those behind this announcement. However, only a handful of phrases have been ‘translated’ and few released photos show much actual text.

Beyond this tantalizing bit of information, however, many of the details and backstory of this discovery are questionable. The most popular news reports claim that they date to the first century of the Christian era, making them almost 2000 years old. Jewish supporters associate them with the Kabbalah, while New Testament enthusiasts believe these codices contain the earliest know examples of Christian literature. It is also possible that they are genuine, but date to a much later era.

But as more details become available, doubts and inconsistencies arise. More recent photos show various sizes of books, much larger than the initial credit card-size. Some reports list 70 codices found, others as few as 20. And the legal issue remains: were the books found only a few years ago in Jordan, or have they been passed down in an Israeli family for a century? The fact that many reports came out around the 1st of April added to the speculation that the whole incident was a hoax. As an example, one website had a quote from Jordanian expert Aloof Lirpah (read the name backwards).

Perhaps the most damaging evidence against the plates’ authenticity lies with their most vocal advocate, British scholar and author David Elkington, who spoke about them on the radio show Coast to Coast on 2 April. He has other such finds in his possession, including what purport to be ancient bronze plates from the same region. However, because of typos in the ancient Greek text they contain, they have been unequivocally denounced as fake by experts. Even worse, one of these bronze plates contains a palm tree image that very closely matches up with a palm tree motif on one of the lead plates, leading to the almost inescapable conclusion that they were cast from the same mold. If this one lead plate is a modern creation, are all the rest fakes as well? Not necessarily, but this is a strong mark against them. More seasoned and experienced experts are now taking sides against the plates.

On the overlay, the lighter background is the lead plate; the dark lines are the bronze plate.
Extreme caution is warranted, and only time will tell what the truth is behind these enigmatic artifacts. The Dead Sea Scrolls’ authenticity was doubted at first, and we could be looking at a similar situation with the lead codices. It is also very possible that they could be another in a continuing line of modern forgeries. That would be disappointing, but we are in no worse position for recognizing and accepting the truth. The validation of the lead codices as genuine artifacts would be encouraging for Book of Mormon supporters, but if they do turn out to be fakes, other legitimate examples of ancient records are widely known and accepted. Even if they are faked, what were those responsible trying to copy? Forgeries are usually patterned after known items. The very fact that hoaxers unconcerned with LDS issues might be creating these kinds of relics demonstrates a greater acceptance of ancient metal plates.

24 March 2011

Some bad news and some good news

First the bad news: it appears that our book did not win the LDS Reader poll at Goodreads. Spencer W. Kimball's Faith Precedes the Miracle won out. Well, being beaten by Pres. Kimball is not too bad. For the good news, Daniel was contacted recently by some interested LDS bishops from Chile, Israel González and Alvaro Figueroa.

They have a blog in Spanish for Book of Mormon evidences. Click here to view it. Somehow, they found Daniel's online presentation about metals and gold plates in Mesoamerica and created a Spanish version of it as a post in their blog. Daniel has been in contact with them, sharing ideas. It appears that there is not much information like this available for the Spanish-speaking world, so we are excited to help Israel and Alvaro in their goal to share these findings.

To do so, Alvaro had an interesting suggestion for Daniel. He is the bishop of the Libertador ward in the Chillán stake. He would like Daniel to give a fireside to his stake next month. No, he won't provide airfare to Chile; his plan is for Daniel to do an online presentation using Skype and a webcam for a fireside that would be projected onto a screen at a chapel in Chile. Until that time, Daniel and Alvaro are communicating back and forth to figure out the technical details to make this happen. We will let you know how it turns out. This is an exciting opportunity to share our research with another part of the world.

Click here to see their post on gold plates with images and content translated from Daniel's BMAF presentation.

13 March 2011

The first presentations of the year

We have finally been able to confirm some new dates for firesides and presentations. This Wednesday the 16th, Daniel will be giving the lunchtime discussion at the LDS Institute at Santa Rosa Junior College. It starts at noon and will run for almost an hour.

Next Sunday on 20 March, Daniel and Jared will be giving their latest multimedia presentation as part of a missionary activity. It will be held at the Petaluma chapel at 7:00 in the evening. The president of the Santa Rosa Mission will also be speaking. This looks to be an interesting event. If you are in the area and have some time on either of those days, we invite you to come by.

Derek and Daniel are working on some events in Utah in the next month or so. We will keep you posted when we have more information.

23 February 2011

Vote for our book in an online poll

Daniel is a member of Goodreads.com, a site for authors and people who love to read. There are several groups of LDS readers that share their thoughts on the books they are reading. The LDS Reader group takes a poll of books to read and review each month, both doctrinal and fictional. Our book has been included in the doctrinal/non-fiction group to read for March. If you enjoy reading and are always looking for something else good to read, this is a good site to join. If you join, you can search books, see what people are reading, get reviews, and leave reviews on books you have read. We hope you join and leave a good review for our book and vote for it in the poll.

Click here to view the poll
Click here to see Daniel's author page on Goodreads.com

22 February 2011

Trailer for our Mesoamerican video

Hopefully, you've seen our videos from the Yucatán, but since the book is about Guatemala, southern Mexico and Honduras, you may be wondering if there is any video from that trip. Well, there is, but it has been locked away in Derek's camera for a while. He and Daniel are working through some technical difficulties to download it, but until that happens, we have put together a little trailer, sort of a taste of what is to come. We will post updates on its progress, but until it is out, take a look at this introduction.


For the full-size version of this and all of our Mesoamerican videos, visit Daniel's YouTube channel, TheIndianaJohnson.

04 February 2011

Daniel's 'misleading' presentation

Daniel's online presentation from the last BMAF conference has been getting a lot of attention, not all of it positive. There are many theories about where Book of Mormon events took place. Mesoamerica is the location eventually chosen after years of study by most LDS archaeologists and scholars on the subject, but not everyone agrees. Recently, we were forwarded a newsletter from the Nephi Project, a group that has picked Peru as the site of Book of Mormon lands. In a feature article entitled "Metals in Mesoamerica: a Misleading Book of Mormon Defense," George Potter took Daniel to task for faulty scholarship and unwarranted conclusions based on an open letter the BMAF sent out, in which Daniel further clarified some of the salient points from his presentation. Apparently, after ten years of writing articles for the Nephi Project, only Daniel's presentation was so misleading that George needed to set the record straight and respond to it in an open letter published on his site and e-mailed to subscribers. Click here to read his article on the Nephi Project website. The link is at the bottom of their page. 

What follows in san-serif type is a summary of that article.

At first the metal artifacts shown in Johnson's slides from Mesoamerica might seem impressive; however, the slides fail to explain that these artifacts are, without exception, from civilizations that existed long after the plates of the Book of Mormon were buried by Moroni. The only hint that the artifacts are not associated with Book of Mormon people is Slide #31 which notes: "Stela H at Copán, site of the earliest gold artifacts in Mesoamerica, dating to 730 AD."

Suggesting that the metal articles that have been discovered in Mesoamerica-all of which date to post-Book-of-Mormon times-are evidence for the Book of Mormon is nonsense. The Book of Mormon clearly states that the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations had advanced metallurgical technologies (Ether 10:23; Hel. 6:9… Further, archaeologists now believe that Central Americans did not discover how to work metals but that the technology was introduced to them from Peru long after the Book of Mormon period

Apparently I was not the only reader who understood the fallacy of Johnson's presentation. The Book of Mormon Archaeology Foundation's follow-up newsletter BMAF: 66 (Metals and Gold Plates in Mesoamerica controversy) notes that:
"We have received feedback that some have used Brother Johnson's material to bolster their Book of Mormon proposals in Panama and Peru."
In response, the foundation published an "open letter" from Johnson in which he wishes "to clarify the points I [he] was trying to make with my [his] presentation at the BMAF conference last year."
So misleading were Johnson's clarifications that I found myself compelled to respond to his open letter. Daniel's open-letter clarifications are in black font. 
DJ- Mesoamerica (specifically the Guatemalan highlands) contains all the necessary ores for the metals mentioned in the Book of Mormon.   
GP- Yes, however currently there is no evidence that anyone in Mesoamerica was smelting gold before the 8th century A.D. To imply that 8th-century smelting had something to do with the Book of Mormon Jaredites and Nephites-who both wrote on gold plates-is a historical misrepresentation akin to saying that the Romans invented the airplane or silicon chip.
DJ- Metals were apparently mainly used by the Nephites (as opposed to the Lamanites) and may not have been used as much or as late as we have supposed. The main component of Nephite armor appears to have been thick clothing. This agrees with the archaeological record and Spanish accounts of the Mesoamerican conquest.
GP- The notion that the later Nephites did not work metals is a personal supposition that is not supported by the text of the Book of Mormon. The latter part of his clarification is simply inconsistent with the description of Nephite armor and weapons. Only on one occasion does the Book of Mormon describe the Nephite armor being made of cloth, which is a better description of Inca armor than the linen armor of the Aztecs. The Incas' thick cloth armor was adopted by the Spanish.
DJ- The last mention of Nephite steel is in 400 B.C., and the last mention of iron is in 150 B.C. These metals are never mentioned among or used by the Lamanites. Incidentally, biblical Hebrew does not distinguish between iron and steel. All the Hebrew words in the Bible refer to pure metals, not to their alloys.
GP- There have been hundreds of Book of Mormon period Mayan excavations, yet none of them have provided evidence of iron, copper, silver or gold usage in Central America! On the other hand, the only known mining of iron in the Americas during Book of Mormon times has been discovered in Nazca, Peru.
DJ- Book of Mormon weapons for most of the record can all be deadly effective without being made of metal, including weapons the Spanish called 'swords.' There are numerous eyewitness accounts of this.
GP- Johnson seems to suggest that the metal weapons described in the Book of Mormon were not actually metal! More than support for the Book of Mormon, this seems to be more of an excuse for why no evidence of Book of Mormon period metal weapons has been excavated north of Panama.
DJ- My main suggestion is that any Nephite metal item can be traced directly back to Nephi and was not shared with other groups. The use of metal tools and items may have been discarded as Nephites moved away from their sources of ore and adapted to more indigenous ways. The only metal items we absolutely know of at the end of Nephite history are the plates and other unique items in Moroni's possession.
GP- Alma wrote in circa 90 B.C. "And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need-an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth" (Alma 1:29). …It should also be noted, that since the Book of Mormon defined the Nephite weapons as being made of metal, it would seem practical that in later periods the authors would not have had to use the precious space on the gold plates to repeatedly tell the reader that they were "still made of iron." It would be more logical that if the Nephites had changed to "wooden" weapons, a later author would note this fact.
p.s. Mormon (3 Ne. 5:10-11) and Moroni (Mormon 2:18; 8:1) wrote on plates. If the Nephites moved away from their source of metal, where did the last Nephite prophets obtain the metal for their plates.

DJ- The practice of writing on metal plates appears to be mainly an Old World practice, one that Nephi brought with him and passed on to specific record keepers. That said, the main feature of my presentation was Mayan gold plates from the cenote at Chichen Itza that had hieroglyphic writing on them. As far as I know, there is no other artifact of this kind from the Americas that is not extremely controversial (at the very least).
GP- The Mayan gold plate is interesting; however, it is of no relevance to the Book of Mormon since it is from a later era and is in a language not related to Hebrew or Egyptian.
DJ- While there are no serious claims linking Olmec, Epi-Olmec, or Mayan glyphs to Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian, Mesoamerica is the only ancient American setting that has extensive written languages. I am not aware of any written language (other than the quipu, which is not really writing) from the Andean region.
GP- When the Spanish arrived in Peru, they were told by the Incas that their ancestors had once had a written language like the Spanish, but that it was lost. This is consistent with Jacob's prophecy (Jacob 4:1-4).

It is obvious that George Potter and the Nephi Project have picked their area and look for supporting evidence there; he is merely propping up his own theory. Rod Meldrum and Wayne May have picked North America and look for evidence there, such as it is. LDS scholars and archaeologists, however, have picked Mesoamerica, believing that the weight of evidence leads there. Maybe this isn't the place; all models, including the Andean region, have their strengths and weaknesses, some more than others. Peru has some similarities with the Book of Mormon in terms of metallurgy and animals, but it fails in terms of geography. Daniel merely presented his opinions and gave supporting evidence. Unless disagreeing with George is inherently misleading, Daniel didn't do anything of the kind. Many scholars including Richard Bushman, Richard Hauck, and Diane Wirth have said positive things about his presentation, stressing its accurate information. Even esteemed LDS archaeologist John Sorenson, who was not too impressed with our book, wrote to Daniel, "What you have written on metal and plates in relation to the Book of Mormon indeed contains information of value. I am glad whenever correct and valid information is drawn to the attention of the Latter-day Saints. I encourage you to continue your related studies."

Instead of an open letter, Daniel wrote to George to address these issues directly. That letter has been adapted into the final response below.
Click here to read the text of the original open letter sent out by the BMAF.
Click here to download George Potter's full article.
Click here to read Daniel's response to it.

31 January 2011

Responses to Daniel's online presentation

We have been receiving some interesting response to Daniel's online presentation on metals and gold plates he gave at last year's BMAF conference. Richard Hauck, an LDS archaeologist who has presented at BMAF conferences and written about Book of Mormon geography, wrote Daniel to get some more information about the mineralogical maps he used to locate sites of ore in the Guatemalan Highlands. Dr. Hauck has been actively excavating ancient sites in Guatemala and is currently working at sites in the Salamá Valley, which he believes is a better candidate for the Land of Nephi than the currently-accepted location of Kaminaljuyú. Click here to read about Dr. Hauck and his work.

Daniel was also contacted by others who were interested in some of the slides from his presentation. Pat Simiskey and Doug Kiester asked questions and also shared information suggesting that they placed Book of Mormon events farther south in Central America, around modern-day Panama. You can look at maps based on this theory at a site they sent called Where was Mormon? It's a new take on the events and locations described in the scripture. Currently, we side with the BMAF in placing these areas in Mesoamerica, but we are always open to new ideas that have some good scholarship behind them. What do you think?

They also mentioned the idea that the stick of Joseph as referred to in Ezekiel chapter 37 is not specifically the Book of Mormon. Most members familiar with that verse have historically interpreted the stick of Judah to be the Bible and the stick of Joseph to be the Book of Mormon. Pat's claim is that this is no longer an official interpretation of the Church. Since the Old Testament was last year's topic in Gospel Doctrine classes, Daniel immediately recognized some inaccurate information here. Part of that lesson included a quote from Elder Packer at a General Conference in 1982, in which he stated that because of the Book of Mormon, Ezekiel's prophecy was now fulfilled. But because Hebrew prophecy may have many levels of meaning and fulfillment, their points are worth considering. Pat pointed to a quote from LDS scholar Daniel H. Ludlow to support this position  Here is the quote:

We as Latter-day Saints refer to the Book of Mormon as “the stick of Joseph,” but at best the Book of Mormon is an abridgment of the book of Joseph. The book of Joseph would be primarily the brass plates of Laban and the large plates of Nephi. Mormon testified on at least two occasions in the Book of Mormon that he did not write one-hundredth part in his record those things that were written on the large plates of Nephi. Even then, approximately two-thirds of the plates—at least according to Orson Pratt—were sealed. The Prophet Joseph Smith did not translate a single word from those portions, so certainly the Book of Mormon is not a complete book.

So there is more here to consider. Is there more yet to come to light in this "stick of Joseph?"