There are 20 thoughts on “Jacob Did Not Make a False Prediction”.

  1. “Sherem makes a fatal Book of Mormon bad guy error:
    Jacob 7:13 …Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much.

    And Jacob answers:
    Jacob 7:14 …What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true? Yet thou wilt deny it, because thou art of the devil. Nevertheless, not my will be done; but if God shall smite thee, let that be a sign unto thee that he has power, both in heaven and in earth; and also, that Christ shall come. And thy will, O Lord, be done, and not mine.

    Jacob knows that Sherem is a liar and will deny a sign from the Holy Ghost, right? Hmm… What is a sign he wouldn’t be able to deny? It would no doubt have to be something clear, open, physically manifest; a taking away of Sherem’s power–to be smitten by God. And by doing so, not only would Sherem lose his power, but it would be a testimony of God’s power. But Jacob adds one more part, the most important part–the sign would prove that Christ would come. And of course, it’s God’s will, not Jacob’s.”

    • Jerry, it isn’t always on topics that I would have thought of, but it stimulates thought and requires perspectives that I hadn’t seen. That is valuable. That happens with articles in Interpreter as well. What stimulates thought and reconsideration is some of the best of what scholarship should do for us.

      • Brant, I’m glad you are stimulated by the Maxwell Institute. I’m not. Since the Maxwell Institute director and others of the staff don’t even believe the BOM is even historical, it is really hard to take much of their so called BOM scholarship seriously. Seems to be fairly slanted. That’s just my take. But they no doubt don’t read any of my research, which does support BOM historicity. Oh well.

  2. How about this: Your actions testify to what you actually believes far more than what you say you believe. So, if you believe what I just said then Sherem’s beliefs haven’t changed, because the Lord said the haven’t. Sherem can say that his beliefs have changed, but that doesn’t mean that they have. I choose to believe the Lord over Sherem.

  3. It seem to me that there is another way to look at that passage. “What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true? Yet thou wilt deny it,”

    Now what is the antecedent of that final “it”? There are actually two parts to Jacob’s preceding sentence. First, “to show unto thee a sign” Then comes, “the thing which thou knowest to be true”

    Was Jacob saying that Sherem would deny the sign, or that he would deny what he knew to be true? The second fits perfectly since Sherem was at that moment actively denying what he knew to be true. If we assume that the antecedent of “it” is “the thing which thou knowest to be true”, there is no problem.

  4. While I tend to agree with this article, I would also urge caution in conclusions about such historical episodes generally (especially conclusions that assume a false prediction by Jacob). Conversations such as these are rarely accurately reported (sometimes even in modern day courtrooms!). The specific words and way they were delivered cannot be ascertained with certainty from the translation. Even assuming it was recorded by a firsthand participant and then merely translated by Joseph Smith there are plenty of reasons to believe it is not a full account. People do not typically relate things very fully (hence the value of extensive questioning and cross examination to learning about events from a witness in court). There is undoubtedly more information that is not in the scriptural record about how these events unfolded and conclusions should be thus circumscribed. It’s not very exciting for arguing with each other, but I think it is a more honest approach to discussing historical events such as these. In the account of Jacob and Sherem, I believe we are given enough information here to understand valuable lessons about the enemies of Christ and the consequences of fighting against Christ. For those who were first hand observers and had more information than us, I think these lessons were probably powerfully reflected on them.

  5. Duane,

    Thank you for your inciteful and comprehensive article on the subject.

    There appears to be a growing tendency amongst Church scholars to seek out and devise criticism of the prophets. There have never been any infallible mortal prophets, but to seek out and promote their perceived imperfections is in itself a slippery slope to apostacy. The scriptures and Church history are replete with examples of such results.

  6. Dr. Boyce, do you think it possible that a prophet can err in any significant way on doctrinal issues? You concede that prophetic fallibility is possible, but only in theory. I have yet to see you acknowledge any specific instance where a prophet has made a mistake.

    Every Interpreter article you’ve written has aggressively criticized other faithful scholars who find even innocuous instances where a prophet could have been wrong. This strikes me as unnecessarily contentious, but, more importantly, I think it sets members up for huge disappointments down the road. So many who leave the Church report being taught to expect perfection from their prophets, and the inevitable discovery of error shatters their faith.

    I think your approach in these articles, while well-intentioned, ultimately does far more harm than good.

    • I completely disagree with your argument and conclusion. Boyce has addressed gross misreadings of Jacob 7 in this and his prior article. Misreadings that are so egregious, that it calls into question the intentions of those guilty of the misreadings. Are they doing this simply in a vain attempt to show their scholarly/worldly sophistication instead of promoting faith centered in the Restoration? My opinion is yes, they are! And further, I think it’s a symptom of the secular spirit that is taking hold of the NAMI as well as other scholars in the LDS community. Seeking out and promoting prophetic fallibility is a spiritually dangerous exercise that often leads to apostasy.

      • Sam Garner understands that Boyce seems to believe he needs to police Latter-day Saint scholars according to their perceived orthodoxy and that the Interpreter is thereby setting itself up as a judge of the faithfulness not of ideas, but of institutions and scholars.

  7. “Joseph Spencer of the Maxwell Institute…”

    Joseph Spencer is a professor in BYU’s department of ancient scripture, not a Maxwell Institute scholar, FWIW. Simple mistake.

    • Dr Joseph M. Spencer was editor with Jenny Webb, of Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah: 2 Nephi 26-27, 2nd ed. (Maxwell Institute, 2016). Dr. Spencer served as an associate editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies for three years, is now the editor (it is a Maxwell Institute publication), and is currently the associate director of the Mormon Theology Seminar. He is, with Adam Miller, editor of the Maxwell Institute book series Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture. .

      • The Maxwell Institute has a specific roster of scholars and Joe Spencer isn’t on it. You can see that on their website. He edits the journal of Book of Mormon Studies, so it seems “editor of JBMS” would be a fine appellation. The Mormon Theology Seminar is an independent outfit which receives some sponsorship money from places like the Maxwell Institute and BYU’s Wheatley Institution. The Groundwork series is a short series of books published by the Maxwell Institute, but again Joe is not an employee or scholar of the Institute. He is an employee of BYU’s Religious Education Department.

        Like I said, it’s a simple mistake. Because Joe does projects with the Institute. But when it comes to institutional affiliation he’s a member of BYU’s RelEd faculty. He should be recognized as a professor.

  8. Your review article reminds me of the petulance of the Prophet Jonah when his prophesied destruction of Nineveh did not take place. He took that failed prophecy personally and was clearly upset with God.

    Both you and Adam Miller miss the point that there is nothing at all wrong with a failed prophecy. In Jonah’s case, the people of Nineveh repented and God cancelled a coming destruction. King Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem likewise repented and avoided a prophesied destruction (2 Chron 32:26, 34:27, Isa 39:8, Jer 26:18-19).

    God is even willing to negotiate personally about what He will do (Gen 19).

    Sherem was smitten by God. He was ḥērem, a Hebrew word meaning “ban, taboo, consecrated for destruction,” which, with the Semito-Egyptian ś-causative prefi, would mean “condemn to death, destroy” (Jacob 7:14 “God shall smite thee”; 15 “the power of God came upon him”; Zechariah 14:11).

  9. The error Miller makes is the logical fallacy of “equivocation;” an error (or deception when done consciously and dishonestly) caused by the double meaning of a word. Boyce describes it well but doesn’t use the term: Treating a word that has different meanings in different contexts as if it has the same meaning in all contexts leads to misunderstanding, as is evident in this case. Critics of the church do it all the time, some consciously, sometimes not. Good job pointing it out in the case of Jacob and Sherem. Hopefully this will prevent others from being fooled.

  10. Dr. Boyce,

    Thanks for this article. It is important to be cautious when drawing such conclusions as you point out. I agree with you that Adam Miller, whose work I generally admire, has misread the passage, but for another reason.

    It seems to me that the punctuation in this passage, which was added by the printer, has confused the reading. It could be more simply punctuated thus (verse 14):
    And I said unto him, “What am I that I should tempt God to shew unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true yet thou wilt deny it because thou art of the devil?…”

    It seems that the “it” that Sherem denies doesn’t refer to “a sign” but more likely to “the thing which thou knowest to be true,” which is the Christ and his coming. As you point out, that is what Jacob and Sherem have been disputing. So Jacob honors Sherem’s request to be shown “a the which ye know so much” and gives him a sign that “Christ shall come” (v. 14). Sherem later admits (in verse 19) that he had “denied the Christ” (which he in fact did in verse 9). This parallels the account of Alma and Korihor, in which Korihor is not denying signs, but is rather denying the existence of God. Note that we don’t usually use “deny” in reference to signs. It is truths such as the existence of God that the scriptures usually associate with “deny,” not signs of those truths. Even in the Alma/Korihor story, Korihor does not deny the signs (“witnesses”) themselves; he denies the existence of God “AGAINST all these witnesses.”

    Miller must have also misunderstood the phrase “thou wilt deny” as referring to the future. Considering the language of the Book of Mormon, if Jacob were referring to a future action, he would have more likely said “thou SHALT deny.” And indeed, in the Alma/Korihor story, when Alma is explicitly referring to a future possibility, he says “Therefore if thou SHALT deny again, behold God shall smite thee.” What Jacob means by using “wilt” instead of “shalt” is that Sherem is disposed to deny the Christ. Such usage is still occasional today, but perhaps more common in the past (see the OED). We say, “I will admit that…” or “Men, by their nature, are prone to fight; they will fight for any cause, or for none.” Wilt is used this way also elsewhere in the Book of Mormon:
    Alma 36: 1 Helaman, behold thou art in thy youth and therefore I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me…
    Alma 36: 9 And he said unto me, If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed seek no more to destroy the church of God
    Ether 3:4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man.

    So yes, I think it was hasty to conclude that Jacob was wrong in what he said about Sherem, who was indeed disposed to denying the Christ.

    • I agree with your interpretation of the passage in question. I’ve always assumed that Jacob was speaking of Sherem’s denial of his innate testimony of Jesus Christ, not of a potential sign yet to be given. But I don’t deny that the other interpretation – Boyce/Miller – is reasonable, and may in fact be right.

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