There are 5 thoughts on “A Rejoinder to Jonathan Neville’s “Response to Recent Reviews””.

  1. Neville’s reasoning is pure, he is good with his citations, and he provides context. When he does speculate or make assumptions he informs the reader/audience that he is speculating “this is what I think happened..”. I have no problem with it.

  2. Here is an extract from one of my books on “molten” in the BOM and the interpreters being crystals extracted from a rock matrix.

    “Before an attempt can be made to identify the geologic source of the stones, it is necessary to evaluate the word molten. The word molten that is found in current editions of the Book of Mormon had a different spelling in the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon (we don’t have the Original Manuscript for this portion of Ether). The word was spelled “moulton” and appeared in various earlier editions of the Book of Mormon. Royal Skousen (2009) has evaluated this word, noting the spelling is not an error, and observes that the exact verb is not listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Through some biblical comparisons, he indicates that an appropriate meaning is “to cast (metal)” (3754). However, the text in the Book of Mormon is not necessarily supportive of such a narrow definition.
    In a previous publication Ziff, Magic Goggles , and Golden Plates (2016), I evaluated the word ore in the Book of Mormon, determining that it was used interchangeably with the final metal product, indicating that complex smelting is not required to be taking place in the Book of Mormon but could be limited to just hot working and forming of an existing metal.
    While Nephi was still in the Old World, the word “moulton” was used twice involving the production of iron tools used to make a ship (1 Nephi 17:9, 17:16). In one instance, he sought “ore to moulton that I may make tools,” and in the second he “did make tools of the ore which I did moulton out of the rock.” In one case, Nephi’s intent was to moulton the ore, and in the other, he apparently moultoned the rock. It is not known where or in what fashion he obtained the “ore”—whether it was through trading or finding it himself. He definitely used heat in the process since the text mentions he made “bellows wherewith to blow the fire.”
    Iron has a melting point too high for primitive furnaces to have extracted it in pure form from its ore. The best that could have been achieved is a cluster of globules of iron mixed with sludgy impurities. This unpromising substance can be turned into a useful metal by repeated heating and hammering, until the impurities are literally forced out, making what is referred to as “wrought iron.” This was the state of metallurgy at the time of Nephi; furnace designs capable of melting pure iron were not achieved until 513 BC by the Chinese. The addition of carbon to iron could sometimes lower its melting point to just the upper temperature limits of the primitive furnaces but would also make the final product brittle.
    The meaning of moulton, based on Nephi’s metallurgical use of the term, would not be “casting metal” from a liquid form, but would be what is better described as hot working (pounding and removal of gangue material) from softened metal.
    In fact, the word “moult” as a verb is found in the Oxford English Dictionary with one definition and attestation of the metallurgical use of the word applied to metalworking, specifically ironworking:

    1612 S. STURTEVANT Metallica xiii. 94 Freestone . . . in
    continuance of time . . . moulteth, or crometh away.

    According to the OED, a freestone is a “stone that can be sawn in any direction and readily shaped with a chisel, such as fine-grained sandstone or limestone.” And crome means to remove with a hook.
    The full title for the metalworking treatise Metallica indicates the scope of the book:

    Briefly comprehending the doctrine of diverse new metallical inventions, but especially how to neale, melt and worke all kinde of mettle ores, irons and steeles with sea-coale, pit-coale, earth-coale and brush sewell. (Sturtevant 1612)

    In a metallurgical context, the more exact meaning of moulton in the Book of Mormon derives not from molt, meaning to cast (metal), but from moult, involving the working of metal (or other material) typically in the presence of heat. When one moultons “out of a rock,” it means that the rock is worked to cause the removal or shedding of impurities or gangue material with the assistance of heat.
    Some have supposed that the “stones” must be glass, criticizing the description based on the premise that the technical ability to make transparent glass did not occur until the first century AD, not recognizing that; non-transparent glass, however, was made as early as 3500 BC in Mesopotamia.
    The description given in Ether says the objects were “stones” and were “as transparent glass,” not that they were actually glass. The stones were taken out of the rock by removing the gangue material around the “stones.” The removal process could have involved heat in the form of heating and quenching the rock, which was a known and ancient technique to crack or break rocks. Some may object that “transparent glass” was not a type of material that would have been recognized; however, there actually was transparent glass anciently, and it…

  3. Both Kraus and Neville continue to insist on using the exclusively biblical term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to a melange of translation tools, unfortunately leading to further confusion as to what they are talking about. Unscholarly use of that term should have no place in Interpreter, and the editors should have demanded accuracy of terminology.

    Kraus and Neville likewise erred in talking about translation tools as “miraculous,” “supernatural,” and “mystical,” even though neither of them would presumably refer to a smartphone with such adjectives. Not only is LDS theology not based on supernaturalism, but Brigham Young wisely observed that the false notion of the miraculous is based on ignorance, and Apostle Russell Ballard even compared the Liahona to his personal digital GPS device (“That the Lost May be Found.” Ensign, May 2012). Thus, Joseph Smith’s seerstone may be seen as no more than a crystalline virtual-state transducer with a light-emitting diode (LED) display, i.e., a solid-state semi-conductor which emits visible electromagnetic radiation in response to stimulating voltage. Indeed, the Nephite “Interpreters” are originally two stones molten from rock (Ether 3:1-6,22-24,28, 4:5), so that it might be well to note the recent development of solid state batteries, using solid glass electrolytes.

    • Robert, there appears to be confusion on your part as to why I use the term Urim and Thummim. Neville insists this phrase is exclusively referring to the Nephite Interpreters, so I demonstrate in my first review how early Latter-day Saints used that term;  namely,  they applied the phrase to multiple divine tools of translation. There is nothing “unscholarly” in using a term with which an audience will be familiar after explaining how to understand that term based on its original context. This is a key term, after all, that appears in the historical sources regarding the translating – it would truly be unscholarly if I did NOT discuss the term. 

      I also find your second paragraph interesting. I believe that this latter argument is a matter of semantics. While you take issue with my use of “miraculous” (among other synonyms) to describe the translation of the Book of Mormon, I do not believe this is an issue. President Nelson, among other prophets, have described the translation as “miraculous” on multiple occasions (e.g. Yes, apostles have compared these miraculous instruments to technology we can understand (Elder Uchtdorf once even compared the seer stone to his smart phone). That doesn’t mean, however, that they would not consider the translation to be a miracle nonetheless (and I presume you do not mean to say that President Nelson is ignorant on the matter).

      You are correct in saying I would not describe a smart phone as running by a miracle – but those do not operate by “the gift and power of God” (I would say, however, that it is a miracle we have been given the ability and knowledge to create and use them to spread the gospel).

    • I agree that the use of the term urim and thummim relative to the translation of the Book of Mormon tends to obscure rather than clarify. It can be difficult to completely avoid the term when addressing its use by others, but it’s usually easy enough to use the term interpreters instead, when that is what is clearly meant. Sometimes the meaning of the term urim and thummim is clear, for example, in Emma Smith’s letter to Emma Pilgrim, which is one of the best sources of information on instruments used in the translation since it mentions both and is in a personal letter written by a person very familiar with the activities:

      “Now the first part my husband translated, was translated by the use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color.”

      The idea that the two interpreter stones were molten like glass is an interesting one since it would contradict the idea that the interpreters were crystals. But I’m not seeing how this conclusion can be arrived based on the discussion in Ether.

      In Ether 3:1-6 the brother of Jared melts 16 stones out of rock and takes them to the mount where the Lord touches them to make them shine. After showing himself to the Brother of Jared, the Lord tells him to write a record of the things he just saw but to seal it up to the time when the Lord would choose to reveal it (Ether 3:22,27). The Lord gives the brother of Jared two stones (the interpreters) and commands him to “shew them not” but to seal them up with his record (Ether 12:23, 28). The Lord then commands him to descend the mount and write the record (Ether 4:1). The brother of Jared presumably did as he was commanded – wrote the record and sealed it up with the interpreter stones. We also read that, upon descending the mount, the brother of Jared took the 16 molten stones and placed them in the 8 barges, “one in each end thereof” for interior lighting (Ether 6:2, 3:1).

      Although I’m not seeing a physical connection between the interpreters and the 16 molten stones, there may be a literary one (Ether 6:3; 2 Nephi 19:2; Alma 37:23-24).

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