Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bleached Bones Available in Paperback, Early Reviews

Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon is now available in paperback. (You can click the Kindle version to see the cover art.) There are not any reviews posted on Amazon, but this is what others are saying about the book, my research, and contributions I've made elsewhere that are a part of this book:

 “…an absolute must for anyone studying the Book of Mormon... [ties] wide ranging examples from the ancient world in remarkable efficiency. Deane's personal experience also gives a strong eye to military aspects so often neglected... This is a book that will be talked about for years to come by any serious student of the Book of Mormon...” David West, award winning author of Heroes of the Fallen

“Deane is an excellent scholar with fresh ideas and is always worth reading.” Matthew Roper, research associate at the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies

“A valuable contribution…” Brant Gardner, author of Second Witness: An Analytical and Textual Commentary on the Book of Mormon

“With a sigh of relief, one might say balance is restored to discourse on application of military lessons in the Book of Mormon to current conflicts. His work draws interesting, scholastically grounded parallels, placing [the war] narrative [and even] seldom plumbed verses on a…true to life description.” Kristopher Swenson

“[Deane helps provide] a fitting springboard for robust and lively debates.” Robert Wood, Chester M. Nimitz Chair Emeritus, U.S. Naval War College.

“Good insights…both engaging and provocative.” Harlow Clark, Association of Mormon Letters

If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy today! If you already have a copy, feel free to add your comments below! I'll be sure to add them to the master list I keep; and who knows, they might be included on the back page of future editions!  (Unfortunately I found several glaring typos, in particular I mangled the dates of the fall of Rome with the Battle of Adrianople. I know that most of you won't notice, but to me, mistakes such as those glow like a neon sign. So I want a second edition to fix those typos.)  Typos aside I'm still very happy with the book, and I would love to hear what you think! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Undissected War

I just finished another draft of a chapter for my second book. (By the way, my first book is now available in paperback as well.)  The new chapter is based on the abstract linked to below, though I've made significant modifications that I think enhanced the chapter.  I found this as I was researching which went very well with the ideas that inspired my chapter. In fact, it is rather nice to know that I noticed the same principles described by one of the best modern strategists.  (The author's book on Roman strategy  still dominates the field.) It tends to give me even more confidence that my second book will be even better than the first.

Here is from page twenty of Edward Luttwack's Strategy:

...critical faculties are certainly more likely to be sharpened by failure; and if remedies are offered to improve performance, they are less likely to be resisted by inert conservatism because the hierarchical defenders of the status quo, will have been undermined by defeat...With victory, all of the army’s habits, procedures, structural arrangements, tactics, and methods, will indiscriminately be confirmed as valid or even brilliant-including those that were positively harmful, but with all of their harm concealed by undissected experience of success...

Here is the last paragraph of my abstract that inspired the chapter: 

Battlefield losses often inspire great soul searching and political, military, and cultural reform, while winning a war brings a whole new set of problems.  From Rome to Britain, to American policy after World War II, the burden of hegemonic leadership is often assumed vigorously after outstanding military victory, but often unravels from within due to the demands of money and men and a slow decay of society’s ability, and desire, to furnish them.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Vandal Wars, Evil Gangs, and the Fall of Chang'an: Three Untold Stories in the Book of Mormon

[The following is the introduction to a paper I've completed and I'm now editing. I hope you enjoy the preview.]

          There are many military history topics that recall events in the Book of Mormon. The comparisons are intriguing and initially seem superficial, and they rarely argue for any dependence between the text, but teasing out additional insights through the use of judicious comparisons can bring clarity and power to the scriptures.  The following three stories are examples of comparisons started by a basic hook, which, upon closer examination reveal important insights in the text of the Book of Mormon. In the first example, Moroni employed tactics that Belisarius faced during the Vandal War.  Each editor of the history, Mormon and Procopius placed their respective generals, Moroni and Belisarius, in a narrative that highlighted their worthiness. But Belisarius invading the Vandals led to another discussion of offensive war, and suggests we reconsider our understanding of the dissensions listed in the war chapters.  The akuto in medieval Japan reinforces the idea that Nephite power shifted and was contested by rival forces in the book of Helaman. It looks at the myriad ways that akuto and robbers are seen in society, from the traditional idea of a mere bandit, to a more complicated power struggle between competing centers, economic collusion, and guerrilla warfare.  Finally, the quick fall of the capital in Helaman one, compared to the fall of Chang’an in medieval China, suggested that Nephite society was not as powerful as they seemed after winning the great war at the end of Alma. So what begin as three stories actually turn into three untold stories embedded in the text that can be teased out through intriguing comparisons from a wide variety of sources.
 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peace, PR Statements, and Connor Boyack Attacks


Connor Boyack is a computer programmer and frequent political commenter in the state of Utah. I’ve previously critiqued his fallacious and unsound positions. In this article Boyack incorrectly attacks the church's PR statement based on the bias produced by his political leaning. This causes him, among other things, to sound an uncertain trumpet, seemingly sets himself as the church spokesmen, and violate Godwin’s Law.  (All quotes from Boyack's article)

“The events of 9/11 served as a catalyst for the neocolonial interventionist power brokers in government to advance their agenda.”

Radical libertarians have had many years to perfect their anti-Bush screeds, I’m fairly educated but I have little idea what this gobbledy gook means. I'm a big fan of using plain English with as few specialized terms and jargon as possible. This helps you stay clear and concise while being accessible to non specialists.  Jargon like this actually obscures more than it clarifies.  To borrow a phrase from scriptures about the importance of clarity, “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?" First Corinthians 14:18-9  Ironically, the subject of Boyack’s attacks is the church PR statement and editorial in the church paper that clarified a talk from Elder Nelson.  I tend to think that God’s church has a right to clarify its statements, especially in a time of 24 hour news cycles and internet echo chambers that didn’t exist in Christ’s day. 

“The Church was quick to respond—perhaps anticipating a PR nightmare like the one that happened just five months later to the Dixie Chicks.”

Here Boyack mind reads.  As I stated above, most likely the church didn’t want false or misleading information to be spread about the church. Given that the church just recently invited a PR nightmare by excommunicating Kate Kelly and possible John Dehlin and Rock Waterman; and they faced massive protests, vandalism, and even anthrax scares at the temples over the marriage proposition in California, I don’t think the church is worried about a little blowback.  Instead, I think Boyack is projecting his interpretation onto the church to advance his political agenda at the expense of appointed church spokesmen.  

“I can’t help but feel that this was a missed opportunity to boldly stand on some of the most important doctrine we have.  Did Jesus back down when challenged? Charged with blasphemy—a “crime” for which capital punishment was mandated—the high priest demanded of him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus’ response: “I am.” There was no mincing words here, nor walking back of Christ’s claims.”

Here Boyack is claiming to interpret what Jesus would do…for Christ’s chosen mouth pieces on this Earth.  While every member should be an active thinker that tries to faithfully apply the Spirit in their lives, I find this interpretation by Boyack rather unseemly, and an attempt to place himself ahead of the prophets and appointed church personnel that issued the clarifying statements.  As I stated above, I trust the appointed church spokesmen to sound the trumpet more than radical libertarians that claim that honor for themselves.  While many might complain that PR statements are not “official” doctrine, I happen to think that church newspapers and church issues are fairly authoritative, and that I don’t get to pick and choose which ideas I like (let alone insert what I would say instead) based on my political leanings as though I’m at a buffet.

“Of course, this was merely a successful implementation of a long-known strategy perhaps summed up best by Hermann Goering, one of the highest ranking Nazis who survived the war and who was well versed in propaganda. The people ‘can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders,’ he remarked. ‘That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.’”

No radical libertarian screed is complete with the violation of Godwin's Law.  To show how shallow this comparison is I want to briefly compare the leadership of Bush and Obama.  Sometimes a good leader has to drag the country along with them. They have to use their bully pulpit (a phrase first inspired by Teddy Roosevelt and his dynamic use of the presidency to accomplish his agenda), to change public opinion.  Bush did so. He presented evidence (though maligned by critics it was a fair assessment agreed upon by Clinton and British officials).  And he got authorization for the use of force from Congress. Obama on the other hand, leads from behind.  He makes tough sounding statements about red lines or bringing people to justice, even as dictators ignore those lines or those escaping justice live out in the open.  So instead of comparing Bush’s case for war to Nazi propaganda, you could simply call it leadership from a man that tried to convince the country of what he knew was just and necessary.  Of course many people have different interpretations and assessments of Bush's actions, but to immediately jump to Nazi propaganda is fallacious and insulting.

 “I suppose what I’m saying is that rather than shying away from the substance of what Elder Nelson said, it would have been great if the PR department doubled down, positioning Christ’s church as the leading voice of peace amid a cacophony of conspiring warmongers.”

This is heart of Boyack’s message. He may think he is sounding like a great peace advocate.  Yet I believe this reveals his duplicity. In fact, as I was reading my previous post on the matter, I think my analysis completely applies here. As I stated in September of 2012:

“A short time ago I wrote about the duplicity [in a different article than above] of the antiwar critic. I argued that when the prophet agrees with their political views the critics mistakenly attach too much weight to that statement. Then they use those words as a cudgel with which to beat their opponents. When a prophet does not agree with them, they use various qualifiers to negate their words. These include things such as speaking as a man, speaking under the cultural influence of the day, or simply giving their non-binding opinion. While this sounds disrespectful towards a prophet, the last reason is actually the correct one as outlined by the church. So critics proof text their favorite quotes which agree with their political leanings, and then apply an inappropriate amount of weight to them. They take their cherry picked arguments and beat their opponents over the head with them. And they cast aside their words when they don't."
 
I think we see that here. Boyack latched onto Nelson’s words because they fit his political agenda. Then he castigates approved means of church communications which places Nelson’s talk within the context of Mormon doctrine, both of which support just wars.  This is supremely ironic, because Nelson talked about renouncing war and proclaiming peace. In order to advance his agenda, Boayck lobbed grenades towards everything from the Deseret News to this author, by indirectly calling them Nazis, cowardly, and un Christ like (not to mention his use of Gadianton Robbers to describe his opponents elsewhere.)  I think if we were to start applying Elder Nelson's talk, we could start with our political discourse. I would add, we could also place more trust in the words of our leaders, even when it disagrees with our deeply held political beliefs.  And it doesn't take a PR statement to understand and apply those ideas.