Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Deane's List

The Deane’s List, September 22nd through 27th

One of the arguments about tariffs is that China has the advantage. I'm considering starting some kind of newsletter. What follows would be a list of major events, mainly concerning foreign policy, accompanied by brief commentary. This is still in the formative, development stage so please let me know if you would like to receive something like this in your mailbox every week, what you would like to see, and if you would consider paying one dollar for a subscription. 

More problems than Hong Kong…

One of the arguments about tariffs is that China has the advantage. They are a dictatorship that doesn’t respond to an electorate like Trump and American congressmen must. But there is growing evidence that Chinese people are suffering. Since they don’t have to answer the electorate, they often disregard safeguards that correct damaging policies.

For example, they have increased government spending so that the Chinese housing bubble is much larger than the one that popped in America, and the consequences will be dire. In regards to tariffs, the Chinese have instituted rationing and price controls that harm small businesses. Pork suppliers say that they lose as much as 28 dollars per pig sold, which will end up hurting these businesses in the long run. Government policy and strong authoritarian policies can cover up the damage their polices are doing, and they seem like a difficult nut to crack in the tariff battle. But those policies are masking serious discontent. 

Climate Change and Hunger Games

I once mentioned as a joke on social media that my favorite character in the Hunger Games was Haymitch. He was a previous winner of the Hunger Games for district 12. As a result, he was often drunk and forced to be in close contact with the district 12 tributes like Katniss Everdeen, the teenage hero of the series.

My joke was that if I had to listen to a whiny, screeching 15-year-old girl who was so self-important she thought she could save the world, I would probably drink my self into a stupor as well. So……we’re gonna need more booze.

When You Need the Hawk

John Bolton disagreed with much of Trump’s approach to foreign policy. Given Iran has bombed or facilitated a bombing it seems like Bolton’s tough guy deterrence strategy should have been heeded. Given that we are in a state of near constant crisis with Iran, it seems that somebody who knows how to use the threat of war as leverage might be useful in the White House.

Saudi Arabia Missile Defenses

American missile defenses have been criticized during the recent attack. But blaming a single system like the Patriot Missiles ignores the need for robust, inter layered defenses and a trained force that can properly use those weapon systems. In fact, the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came out later to say that multi layered defenses were necessary.

Uncaring Trump America?

CNN posted a new article that the US has set a new historic low limit for refugees. The subtext made it seem like the US can only be loving and compassionate if they accept the amount of refugees that you deem necessary and of course that Trump is horrible and anti-immigrant. But that doesn't consider the example America sets in helping nations become free and prosperous, nor the many aid programs America has and it’s a facile, down river complaint that doesn’t address the root causes of refugees.

Thanks for reading. Providing ad free research over the last ten years takes time and effort. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button below, or you can buy one of my books using the link in the top left. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Myth and Miracles in History of the Franks and the Book of Mormon

As part of a continuing series of reading ancient histories and then showing their insights into the Book of Mormon, I’ve read History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours. Unlike other entries this one is a bit focused as most of the pertinent insights come from a portion of the text being in the same genre as the Book of Mormon. I call this genre mythic history. This doesn’t mean the Book of Mormon is a fairy tale fiction, but that in the same way that Americans talk about how God has blessed and intervened in the history of this country, or church members focus on selective events like the seagulls to show how God intervenes in their history, the Book of Mormon and History of the Franks show the same time of events and intervention.  

I focused on book II because it recounted the history of the Franks before Gregory’s personal lifetime, so it helps to make the comparisons to the Book of Mormon even stronger. Like Mormon, Gregory was recounting events, and trying to show their spiritual importance from a time outside of his personal knowledge. What follows are a series of historical vignettes that Gregory uses to illustrate principles we also find in the Book of Mormon.

ii.30 Clovis the king of the Franks had a wife that was Christian, “But he could not be influenced in any way to this belief, until at last a war arose with the Alamanni, in which he was driven by necessity to confess what before he had of his free will denied.” This of course recalls Alma’s speech where he discussed the difference between choosing and being compelled to be humble (Alma 32:15-16). Gregory noticed this principles when he remarked that external motivations like war finally brought the change that gentle persuasion from his wife couldn’t.

ii.33 Again recalling the mission of Alma to the Zoramites, a city during this war was beset with famine and thus cast out their lower classes. Instead of finding God, they were led by one of the artisans who knew about the aqueducts into the city and the leaders promptly faced execution and exile. 

ii.37 [Part One] After Clovis converted he gained a powerful justification for war against a heretical sect: “I take it very hard that these Arians hold part of the Gauls. Let us go with God's help and conquer them and bring the land under our control.” 

This strongly recalls my analysis of the Lamanite conversion and conversions to Christianity. In a post not too long ago I described the advantages a country historically gained by converting. They gain various tools of statecraft, increased trade, and increased diplomatic and military advantages by being part of the Christian club of nations. The Lamanites in Helaman 6 show many of these traits.

Particularly noteworthy was the Lamanite campaign against the Gadianton Robbers.  When the Lamanites are not part of the club they were described as a wild, ferocious, and bloodthirsty people (Mosiah 10:11-12). This narrative is consistent throughout the Book of Mormon.  Except after their conversion Mormon actually praised them for using “every means” to “destroy” the Gadianton Robbers (Helaman 6:20). A part of this was preaching, but the other part was “hunting” (Helaman 6:37) which likely included the search and destroy missions that the Nephites found so difficult (Helaman 11:28).

ii.37 [Part Two] During his suddenly justified war against the Arians in Gaul he faced a particularly difficult point. “When [Clovis] came to the river Vienne with his army, he did not know where he ought to cross. For the river had swollen from the rains. When he had prayed to the Lord in the night to show him a ford where he could cross, in the morning by God's will a hind of wonderful size entered the river before them, and when it passed over the people saw where they could cross.”

The exact opposite of this occurred during early church history and I remember watching the video about it. Zion’s Camp marched towards Missouri and a delegation from a large posse rode up to them and promised that their much larger group was riding towards Zions Camp to kill them.(Check out the video, the acting is hilarious.) Instead the camp bivouacked in a church while a sudden storm swelled the river and protected them. In the video, its very dramatic with the actor portraying Joseph Smith making a prophetic pronouncement, storm clouds coming out of nowhere, and the saints singing and praising God interspersed with scenes of the posse being destroyed by the storm.

You can see for yourself starting at the 10-minute mark here:

I’m not an expert on religion and don’t have any fancy terms to describe it, but it’s obvious these kinds of stories were important in building a sense of community, a shared history of miracles, and important for the faithful to see God’s hand in their lives. I often say that the fundamentals of human nature remain the same regardless of time period or culture, and I see Gregory of Tours writing a history that included an event very similar to Zion’s Camp.

ii.27 [Part Three] The Abbot Maxentius is recorded as: hasten[ing] boldly to meet the enemy to ask for peace. And one of them drew out his sword to launch a stroke at his head, and when he had raised his hand to his ear it became rigid and the sword fell. And he threw himself at the feet of the blessed man, asking pardon.

This resembles the Book of Mormon in two ways. First, it recalls how the People of Limhi used “their fair daughters” to go and plead before the invading Lamanites (Mosiah 19:13). More important is the failed strike from the leader of the soldier. This recalls the story of the Ammon, the king and his wife who all passed out. One of the Lamanites lost a relative to Ammon and tried to strike him with his sword, at which point he was stricken dead (Alma 19:22). And this became part of the miraculous conversion of so many of them (Alma 19:35). 

Again, historians might doubt these stories as the translator of my edition of Gregory’s history did. The stories about divine intervention in the History of the Franks is a remarkable text that helps us gain insight into important building blocks of faith, a foundation of the church, and a shared history among their people. I find it remarkable that the Book of Mormon contains the same kind of miracles.

Thanks for reading. Providing high quality, ad free research and insights over the last decade is a tough and time consuming activity. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button below, or buy some of research using the research link in the top left. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Whats Going On?

Most of you have probably noticed its been almost two full months since I posted which is quite awhile for me on this blog. That is due to several specific reasons:

Beyond Sun- Tzu: This is the newest book I've been working on. I discussed the project here as well as some applications it might have for my Book of Mormon research. Much of the free time I have for writing has been taken up with this project. I've finished a draft* and I've started making edits. I have some interest from Routledge Press so lets hope that bears fruit as well.

*There are two sections that aren't done that are a glossary and conclusion. Both of those don't include analysis and are mostly summary so I don't count those.

I forgot to mention one important way this effects my Book of Mormon research. If you have a passionate belief for or against military action with verses or prophetic statements to support it then you already know that there are a variety of conflicting statements on the matter. Those that supported the war in Iraq pointed to Captain Moroni, those against it quoted Mormon.  My project took 30 classic Chinese texts and through thousands of pages to see how they agree, disagree, debate, and interact with each other about warfare. This makes me uniquely qualified to do the same thing with Mormon scriptures and prophetic statements. I hope to start on this soon after my current book is published and situation stabilized (see below).

Life: This category is somewhat vague but extensive because life took over. Shortly after I published my last post my computer fried. I heard a zap and smelled some burning and my computer was dead. Despite several technicians assuring me that it was an easy fix, it took me almost a month before I got a new computer. I was able to keep up with my work on an ancient laptop that works surprisingly well for its age, but I didn't have my notes on my latest blog post. This post is the latest of a series on ancient historians and covered Gregory of Tours and the History of the Franks. I thought this was fitting since the cover of my last monograph on the Book of Mormon was the baptism of Clovis. That post is coming in the next couple of weeks hopefully.

Even though I finally got my computer back during that epic saga of fixing it the free lance outfit for which I write closed down, so essentially I lost my job. I've been spending most of the time I normally spend writing now applying for jobs and going to interviews.  On top of that, I have leaking water from my bathroom to my bedroom which suggests potential leaks, water damage, and expensive cleanup. 

New Buttons: All of this mental energy expended trying to pay the bills and handle one crisis after another (such as spending several hours getting my flat tire repaired yesterday) makes it tough to write about somewhat obscure and at this point less important topics like ancient history. That is why I added two things to the blog. I added a email subscription box, so you can get these posts more often and as soon as they are published. Adding your name to this list might be a springboard to my offering a paid subscription newsletter service that highlights political and military analysis I previously wrote for my last job. I occasionally posted samples here like this piece on China's Peace Disease and I if the business model is viable I hope to offer several pieces like that per week.

I also re-added the pay pal donation button at the bottom of the page. Researching and writing pieces about ancient history and the Book of Mormon is time and energy consuming. I love to do it but often don't have the energy after working three jobs, or now the stress of job hunting.  This has been an add free space for over ten years(!) that provides valuable and unique analysis on the Book of Mormon. If you value this work and wish to see it continued then please consider donating. It will be a valuable contribution that helps me continue this work. If you don't feel like contributing, you might also considering buying one of my books to my newly linked author page at Amazon. I have to run to an interview so I hope to provide more quality work for you shortly. Thanks and have a great day.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Sharpening Swords and Sharpening Oneself- Applying Research

I’m working on new project tentatively titled, A Soldier in Armor Does not Bow: Classical Debates on War and Government Beyond Sun-Tzu.  Sunzi (Sun-Tzu) tends to overshadow the rest of the commentary on classic Chinese military theory. The translations are too many to count and just the famous ones include Giles, Griffith, Cleary and Sawyer. And this is before getting into various proliferating boutique editions sold at major book stores.

But this focus on Sunzi borders on obsession and it blinds the general public to the many more works in existences, hinders those with academic training in military theory from the rich potential of the rest of the corpus, and the texts beyond Sunzi are often ignored by the majority of scholars who specialize in these texts and instead focus their research on the ethical, metaphysical, and literary qualities inside them. Xunzi is an excellent example of this trend. He was one of the most influential and sophisticated philosophers in pre imperial China and is the subject of dozens of books and essays. Yet there is no work that devotes significant attention to Xunzi's military theories, despite the fact he thought the topic of armed conflict enough important to devote an entire treatise to it.

The project will take advantage of my academic study in Chinese military history, an extensive background in general military thought including both ancient and modern thinkers, and the increasing number of English translations of seminal volumes that remained to be studied.  These include new translations of the Mozi, the Dao De Jing, the Analects of Confucious (Kong Fuzi), Seven Military Classics, Huainanzi, Sun Bin’s Art of War, Shizi, Guanzi, Mencius, Xunzi, Yi Zhou Shu, the Pheasant Cap Master of Heguanzi and the so called "lost classics" of the Yellow Emperor. When combined with the existing the Book of Lord Shang, Han Feizi and fragments or excerpts from the works of thinkers like Shen Puhai and Jia Yi this becomes a sold corpus. Taken together they cover a broad spectrum of Chinese thought and debate among Confucianists, Legalists, Daoists, the methods of Shen Pu Hai and their various combinations and synthesis.

Despite being publicly available, some of them for close to 100 years, very little has been done to systematically assess and evaluate these texts. Focusing on Sunzi to the detriment of the rest of the military thought is a tragedy. That misplaced focus fails to recognize that moral questions that governments wrestled with. Sunzi’s focus on purely rational calculation obscures the debate around moral matters that many writers contend strengthened both the government and soldiers. In some places, Sunzi’s advice directly contradicts sound commands regarding the conducts of army towards civilians, and the treatment of soldiers. Important concepts such as shih and weighing (quan) are elaborated much more fully in other texts.  The misplaced focus also ignores the history of the China and its application. Many leaders such as those that unified China in the 2nd century BC and the Kaangxi Emperor of the late 18th century AD respectively used other theories and called the classics like Sunzi “worthless.”

As part of that project I’ve seen a good deal of material that can be applied to the Book of Mormon and our study of it.
      Why Study? This quote supplies advice about the role of knowledge in sharpening oneself and its relationship to warfare.

Learning is like sharpening. Suppose fine copper from Mount Kunwu and excellent tin from zhufu are worked by the famous blacksmiths of Gan and Yue and forged into a sword. Yet if they do not use both fine and course whetstones on it, then when using it to stab it will not enter, and when using it to slash, it will not cut…Nowadays, people all know to sharpen swords, but no one knows to sharpen themselves. Learning is the sharpening of the self.[1]

If you change sharpen swords to being a jerk on social media it is even more insightful. Now that I think about it, this quote, “Nowadays, people all know how to be a jerk, but no one knows how to learn” sounds like something that would be posted on the archways at facebook.

2      The authorship of historic texts: The man named Guanzi is thought to have lived in the 7th century BC. But his writings weren’t complied until about 26BC and his writings contain a great deal of material that responds to contemporary debates in the late warring states period. This has led to debates among different theories that are repeated in some measure in regards to almost every text.

The two extremes range from it being written by Guanzi or entirely written by somebody else. The middle views are more nuanced and include a corpus of older material that was added by later scholars or disciples. Another theory is that writings from a certain school were written in Guanzi’s name or attributed to him by the editor of his works in 26BC. This means that different authors wrote texts that discussed good ministry, authoritative Confucianism, and good policies towards the people and the unknown authors sought more authority for their works by invoking Guanzi’s name, or it was a way to classify them and the Guanzi School simply became Guanzi.

This has the most application regarding the Book of Abraham. I’m basically familiar with the issues regarding the Book of Abraham though I can’t say exactly how much of the above about Guanzi applies to this. The LDS gospel topics essays says, “[Abraham] is the author not the copyist” which implies that the line, “by my own hand,” in the introduction is a bit more nuanced. This might inspire critics to say that apologists are stretching or twisting to explain away uncomfortable facts when I can read the same debate about almost 30 different ancient texts. So I can say it’s really pretty normal to assume that ancient writings have rather complicated provenance and the Book of Abraham, as an assumed ancient writing, is no different.

3       Anachronisms: This is a favorite hobby horse (or Tapir) of critics but it’s similarly flawed when viewed from a historical perspective. The one that popped out to me the most was an argument from Tai Kong. This text was supposedly written in the later Zhou Dynasty around the 10th century BC. But then this ancient Tai Kong directly addresses a specific problem to the latter Warring States Period:

“When the people are not engaged in agriculture and sericulture but instead give rein to their tempers and travel about as bravados, disdaining and transgressing the laws and prohibitions, not following the instructions of officials, it harms the king’s transforming influence.”[2]

These are the same types of individuals that legalists like Han Feizi criticized.[3] They were viewed as honorable people but they didn’t fight for the state and actually undermined it so they were often criticized by government officials.

The response to this isn’t that the book is a clear forgery that now has no use. Going back to point one the explanation depends on who you ask. But it could very well be that later writers added things to a core text which introduced the anachronisms. Most anti Mormon critics tend to move the book quickly into the total fraud category, but an alternate explanation is that this represents the long provenance of the book going through the hands of difference editors (such as Joseph Smith translating Mormon’s translation of Ether.) 

4       Related to the anachronisms was the moral outrage over violence and how it contribution to the texts and how people viewed the authenticity of them:  Confucians such as Mencius were quick to disqualify texts like the Tai Kong over their anachronisms because its depiction of brutal violence, spy craft like corrupting with women, and revolutionary nature made it unsalable for Confucians. Sunzi was often criticized because he didn’t seem to care about morality like Confucians did. Guanzi, the good Confucian minister advocated for proper treatment of the people, Sunzi said cast them into hopeless situations in order to stimulate the greatest effort. Sunzi said that warfare was the greatest affair of state but many others would argue that it was the altars of state that was most important.[4]  To the utter horror of Confucian historians the Yi Zhou Shu included how a conquering ruler cut off over 1 million ears and captured another 3 million.[5]

The point is that editors tell the stories they want to and often make judgements about the veracity of documents based on their personal beliefs. These judgements can be seen by carefully looking at what is included and how it’s included. Before you start to say there I go again, this is the same methodology that Grant Hardy employed when he pointed out the long digression after Nephi comes back with the plates and similar inferences that can be made about Nephi’s actions.

Hardy discussed how Nephi came back from killing Laban and obtaining the plates. Instead of recording Lehi’s reactions it does something really unusual, it details the words of Sariah, and then it says how Lehi made an offering for sacrifice. By reading the text critically and looking at what was included and not included we might tentatively believe, according to Hardy, that Lehi did not approve of Nephi’s actions. The larger point is that a careful reading of the text suggests possible unintended consequences and actions that Mormon (once we leave the plates of Nephi) often tried to massage away from the text. This doesn’t hurt the text but should increase our appreciation of it.

5       Answering Questions that Weren’t Asked: One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is finding that the Book of Mormon actually answers great questions that I never asked until I started reading these Chinese texts. I’ve posted these previously on my blog so I won’t repeat them here. But you can find much more about battlefield morality and the role of ritual in camp.  I’ve got a paper based on this submitted for an upcoming conference so I hope I can present this to a larger audience.

Those are the major factors that apply to the Book of Mormon. My extensive readings and specific examples I provide are reasons why I find the criticisms of both anti Mormons and fundamentalists rather shallow. They often stem from a lack of knowledge and inappropriate use of the limited knowledge they do have. Its too often scholarship warped into a narrow pursuit, which is why I’m so excited about this book that will bring classical Chinese military theory to a much wider audience.  

Thanks for reading. I work as a freelance author so if found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button below or buying one of my books. It will help me continue my research so I can bring you more of these. Thank you! 

[1] Shizi: China’s First Syncretist, Paul Fischer trans., (Columbia University Press, 2012,) 58.
[2] The Six Secret Teachings of Tai Kong, in The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, Ralph Sawyer trans., (Westview Press, 1993), 48.
[3] Han Feizi Basic Writings, Burton Watson trans., (Columbia University Press, 2003,) 106.
[4] Tai Kong, Seven Military Classics, 64; Sun Pin Military Methods, Ralph Sawyer trans., Westview Press, 1995. 84; Five Lost Classics: Tao, Huanglao, and YingYang in Han China, Robin Yates trans., (New York City, Ballantine Books, 1997) 57; Han, Watson, 50; Basic Writings of Xunzi, Burton Watson trans., (Columbia University Press, 1963,) 71, Wuzi, Seven Classics, 206.
[5] Robine McNeal, To Conquer and Govern: Early Chinese Military Texts from the Yi Zho Shu, (University of Hawaii Press, 2012), 94.