December 12, 2008

Resurrection as an Ordinance?

In a lecture at Calvary Chapel in Chino, California, counter-cultist Kurt Van Gorden noted that Mormon men have the option of resurrecting their wives (or not resurrecting them). Daniel C. Peterson described the exchange:
Naturally, as Rev. Van Gorden explained, this puts LDS women in a "precarious position," for if a wife does not treat her husband well enough, he may be inclined to simply let her "lay in her grave and rot." Now, I really liked this. I immediately announced to my wife that I was never going to eat cooked carrots again. I don't like them, I'm tired of them, and she had better not put them on my plate.1
Some of the more bizarre criticisms of the Church aren't created from whole cloth; perhaps Van Gorden was referring to speculations or statements from past church leaders who said resurrection will be an ordinance of sorts (or at least requiring priesthood keys in order to occur). Bearing in mind that not all statements of General Authorities carry the weight of revelation or scripture,2 Brigham Young tied "keys" to resurrection:
When the angel who holds the keys of the resurrection shall sound his trumpet, then the peculiar fundamental particles that organized our bodies here, if we do honor to them, though they be deposited in the depths of the sea, and though one particle is in the north, another in the south, another in the east, and another in the west, will be brought together again in the twinkling of an eye, and our spirits will take possession of them.3
In 1872 he stated his belief that there are some ordinances the Church does not currently practice, one being resurrection:
It is supposed by this people that we have all the ordinances in our possession for life and salvation, and exaltation, and that we are administering in these ordinances. This is not the case.

We are in possession of all the ordinances that can be administered in the flesh; but there are other ordinances and administrations that must be administered beyond this world. I know you would ask what they are.

I will mention one. We have not, neither can we receive here, the ordinance and the keys of the resurrection. They will be given to those who have passed off this stage of action and have received their bodies again, as many have already done and many more will. They will be ordained, by those who hold the keys of the resurrection, to go forth and resurrect the Saints, just as we receive the ordinance of baptism, then the keys of authority to baptize others for the remission of their sins. This is one of the ordinances we can not receive here, and there are many more."4
Additionally, Wilford Woodruff's journal contains the following:
Who will resurrect Joseph's Body? It will be Peter, James, John, Moroni, or someone who has or will receive the keys of the resurrection. It will probably be one of those who hold the keys of this dispensation and has delivered them to Joseph and you will see Jesus and he will eat peaches and apples with you.5 But the world will not see it or know it for wickedness will increase. Joseph and Jesus will be there. They will walk and talk with them at times and no man mistrusts who they are. Joseph will lead the Armies of Israel whether He is seen or no, whether visible or invisible as seemeth him good.

Joseph has got to receive the keys of the resurrection for you and I. After he is resurrected he will go and resurrect Brother Brigham, Brother Heber, and Brother Carloss, and when that is done then He will say, "now go Brother Brigham and resurrect your wives and children and gather them together. While this is done, the wicked will know nothing of it, though they will be in our midst and they will be struck with fear. This is the way the resurrection will be. All will not be raised at once but will continue in this way until all the righteous are resurrected.

After Joseph comes to us in his resurrected body, He will more fully instruct us concerning the baptism for the dead and the sealing ordinances. He will say, be baptized for this man and that man and that man be sealed to that such a man to such a man, and connect the Priesthood together. I tell you their will not be much of this done until Joseph comes.... Our hearts are already turned to him and his to us.6 
Perhaps there is some speculation in connection with a portion of the temple ceremony before a husband and wife are sealed.7 Hugh Nibley has made connections between ordinances and resurrection in Egyptian ritual, for example.8 The closest contemporary reference I could find dealt not with the resurrection as an ordinance, but with the priesthood keys playing a part in the final judgment as stated in Matthew 19:27-28 (see footnote 3 below). The Encyclopedia of Mormonism makes no mention of it in the Resurrection article but makes an oblique reference to priesthood power directing raising of the dead, which is considered temporal (such as in the raising of Lazarus) contrasted with the eternal resurrection.9

Daniel C. Peterson, "Easier than Research, More Inflammatory than Truth," 2000 FAIR Conference address.
The picture is adapted from Aaron Brown's "I never planned on falling in love with you," Exploding Dog Comics, Sept. 10, 2008.

See FAIRwiki, "Official Church doctrine and statements by Church leaders." The drift of this doctrinal stance has been mentioned by LDS leaders from Joseph Smith ("a prophet is a prophet only when he is acting as such" [History of the Church 5:265]) to the present. Also consider the recent statement from LDS Public Affairs:
Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church...Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines" (Approaching Mormon Doctrine," LDS Newsroom, May 4, 2007).
Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 372. Perhaps these keys involve the concept of judgment found in the New Testament, wherein Christ told the apostles "ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:27-28; see also Luke 22:28-30). Brigham and other early leaders taught this principle extended to whomever held the keys over a particular dispensation in which people live. For more, see "Priesthood: the chain that reaches from heaven to earth."

Brigham Young, Aug. 24, 1872, Journal of Discourses 15:137.

See "Priesthood: the chain that reaches from heaven to earth." It appears the concept of priesthood stewardship was part of Woodruff's reasoning as well.

Susan Staker, ed., Waiting for the World's End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, pp.168-169. For a review, see Matt W., "Initial Thoughts on “Waiting for Worlds End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff," New Cool Thang, Nov. 10, 2008.

W. John Walsh's statements appear to hint toward that interpretation, but asserts resurrection is the right of Christ:
Now, Latter-day Saints do believe that in some instances, a woman's husband will be given the privilege of performing the resurrection ordinance for and in behalf of the Savior. In cases where a woman does not have a worthy husband, the Savior may allow her father to do so. Likewise, a man's father will be given the privilege of resurrecting him. In such cases, the person performing the resurrection ordinance is simply performing the ordinance for and in behalf of the Savior (Walsh, "Do Husbands Resurrect Their Wives?" All About Mormons.)
The topics of spouse resurrection and the Temple are discussed by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson in Mormonism 101(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books). In a chapter on the Temple they state "Historically, Mormon leaders have taught that the husband has the ability to call his wife from the grave by her new name on resurrection day" (McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 209). In a review by FAIR, Ben McGuire counters the assertion. See McGuire, "Temple," Mormonism 201 (Review of McKeever, Johnson, Mormonism 101), FAIR.

Hugh Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed. For an overview see Bryce Hammond's "The Egyptian Ankh, 'Life! Health! Strength!'" on his Temple Study blog.

Douglas L. Callister, "Resurrection," pp.1222-1223, and Dennis D. Flake, "Raising the Dead," p. 1192, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

December 8, 2008

A New Book of Mormon Wordprint Analysis

Update: Check Jeff Lindsay's response here, which notes some benefits and drawbacks to the new wordprint analysis. 

Three scholars from Stanford recently completed another "wordprint analysis" of the Book of Mormon, the newest in a series of studies completed by various researchers over the past few decades. Matthew L. Jockers (Department of English), Daniela M. Witten (Department of Statistics) and Craig S. Criddle (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) published "Reassessing authorship of the Book of Mormon using delta and nearest shrunken centroid classification" in December 2008. The study can be found in the Oxford Journal of Literary and Linguistic Computing.

I note out the outset I am not a statistics or linguistic analysis expert. I have read the paper and reached a few preliminary conclusions, though others are currently dissecting the paper and checking the intricate details. I expect a full response by people who know much more than me in the very near future. Be that as it may, I offer my initial thoughts here.

First, it should be stated that other wordprint analysis studies have been said to demonstrate the Book of Mormon had more than one author, and that statistically, the odds of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon or Solomon Spalding (sometimes Spaulding) were found to be slim to none.1 Those who performed these earlier studies included believing Mormons and others unaffiliated with the Church. In the case of the current study, Craig Criddle has participated on the website "Recovery From Mormonism" (RFM) detailing his loss of faith and his leaving the Church, and written on his disbelief in the Book of Mormon in other venues. Thus, like the former studies supposedly used to bolster the claims of Joseph Smith, the new study (potentially used to contradict his claims) is not untainted by ideology or presuppositions.

Second, I see a pretty big flaw in their method. It seems they decided to use the original text of the Book of Mormon as published in 1830 by E. B. Grandin rather than the original manuscript or printers manuscript. Thus additions made by Oliver Cowdery in editing/copying the manuscript for printing, as well as any changes made by the typesetters, are unaccounted for. More importantly, they decided to analyze the current chapter structure, rather than the original:

We opted to use the chapter structure currently recognized by modern Mormon Church editors to create our text samples. This results in a total of 239 text segments for testing. This approach yields texts that are generally of adequate size (verses are too small and books too large), recognizes natural breaks in the narrative, facilitates cross-referencing to online resources, and avoids the chance that we have imposed our own bias.2
The current chapter/verse structure is not original to the Book of Mormon. It was not created until 1879 when Orson Pratt published a new edition of the book under approval of the First Presidency. Brant Gardner's analysis of the Book of Mormon shows that Pratt follows a pretty consistent pattern in dividing chapters but actually did quite a bit of damage to the original structural patterns of the book. There are notable differences in chapter division style between the small plates of Nephi and the rest of the book, for example. He also divided chapters and verses to align with the structure of the King James Version of the Bible when a correlation was apparent. Like Pratt, Mormon also followed a consistent pattern in deciding when to begin new chapters and as Royal Skousen's work has shown, the original chapter divisions were a part of the original dictation manuscript.3 I believe this should have been taken into account. Were it shown that chapters overlap where different authors are said to have written the same chapter (now divided into separate chapters) the underlying assumption of the results is undermined. At any rate, I would have hoped that the group would stick to the original composition of the Book of Mormon as it was written.

Further, and I believe most damaging, the authors do not include Joseph Smith in the study. (Or did they include him, but not include the results in the published study?) Either way, that is a massively gaping hole. The study apparently shows that Rigdon and Spaulding are more likely than Pratt or Longfellow (a control subject) to have written the Book of Mormon. This says little about whether they did, only that it matches some better than others, and they did not include Joseph Smith himself. They also did not consider the nature of translation which is a fundamental aspect of approaching authorship of the Book of Mormon in my opinion. If it really is a translation we would expect it to reflect the knowledge or language of the translator. All the more reason Joseph Smith ought to be included in the results.

Finally, the study is premised on the shaky "Spaulding theory." I believe the historical foundation, as a result, is extremely tenuous.4 It also goes without saying that, despite Rigdon's falling out with the Church after Joseph Smith's death he never made a claim to have been involved with the Book of Mormon before his conversion.

Finally, as Ben McGuire pointed out to me, They do not claim to be able to assign a probability to each putative author. The authors of the study claim to be able to assign a relative probability to each putative author - that is, Solomon Spalding was 95% more likely to be the author of passage X than was Sidney Rigdon, and 99% more likely than Longfellow. In other words, it is not really proving any of the men wrote the book, only that some on their list are more likely to have done so, based on other writings, than the others. And again, Joseph is not in the mix. At best the study is a theory, though vastly far from hard proof. I remain unconvinced, just as before, in regards to wordprint analysis and the Book of Mormon.5 Now I wait to see what the experts have to say.

For a brief overview, check the article on FAIRwiki, "Book of Mormon wordprint studies." See especially the cited sources at the end of the page.

Criddle, et. al., p. 6.

While I do not follow all of Skousen's end conclusions, I believe his analysis of the Book of Mormon text itself is crucial and trustworthy. See Skousen, Translating the Book of Mormon, 85-86; Skousen, How Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon, 27-28. His overall study is The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text, edited by Royal Skousen (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001) and The Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts, edited by Royal Skousen (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001). Gardner's Second Witness series makes great use of Skousen's analysis.

See Wade Englund's response to the Spaulding theory here and Matthew Roper, "The Mythical 'Manuscript Found,'" FARMS Review (City Unknown: FARMS, 2005), 7-140.

In regards to wordprint analysis and the Book of Mormon, a good primer is John B. Archer, John L. Hilton, and G. Bruce Schaalje, "Comparative Power of Three Author-Attribution Techniques for Differentiating Authors," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6:1.