Sunday, August 21, 2016

Know Why and Knowing my FAIR Presentation

Greetings everybody. Heaven knows I stressed over this for a long time, but I presented at FAIR earlier this month and its been posted online at their website. Its a paper that examines the causes of Gadianton conflict in greater detail. Most intriguingly, it looks at specific and under studied scriptures to argue the robbers were social bandits closer to Robin Hood with legitimate grievances about land reform and Nephite excess. And suggests people like Nephi were closer to the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Its a provocative argument that I was excited to make. And it fits some of the ides about a more nuanced study of the text suggested by others at the conference such as Grant Hardy

I'm also proud to say I found myself in another footnote, and then featured in the body of the text with several more footnotes. Book of Mormon Central is a great spot that archives the research on the Book of Mormon and then provides easy to access summaries of research concerning important topics.  The first discusses the war chapters in general, and why there are so many of them.  The second includes a quote from me in the body, and then several footnotes. This includes a good summary of how the Book of Mormon exhibits many authentic strategies from of ancient warfare. I took a good deal of time, but its good to see that I'm taking part in a wider conversation and influencing the way people think about the text. I hope to bring you much more exciting research in the future that will bring you additional insight into the text. Thanks for reading. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Blog Wars

Edit:  You might notice I had briefly posted this and then took it down. Geoff Biddulph performed a stand up and peacemaking gesture to try and smooth things over. I appreciate his outreach and would like to count him as a friend. Unfortunately, his email did not show a hint of self awareness. The only problem in his mind was my "stalking" of him.  (Which in itself is insulting. Geoff isn't that important, but I do peruse the bloggernacle, and by extension his blog, the same way I read the daily newspaper.) Because he showed no hint of self awareness, and a bit of self righteousness even in his peaceful gesture, it is likely that he will do the same things that bothered so many people in the first place. In fact, he insulted me as a war monger before my post had even made it through moderation. Even though I really hate drama, and even posted on facebook how little attention I get because I avoid it, I felt I had to repost this. If you don't like drama you can go ahead and skip to the last paragraph.

I generally don't participate a great deal in online conversations.  But I do like to make my thoughtful opinions known. I like to participate even less in needless flame wars. Its why I walked away from this comments of this thread for example, where I am called everything in the book for literally a month. (Look for Irven Hill and Gary Hunt's comments. One of them said he is only rude to people he believes are "complete pricks" like me, and he was so bad that even his wife agreed he was a pig.)

Two posts at the group blog, Millennial Star, have been deleted and got me banned from the site (?!?!lol?!?!).

First Post: 

On this post, Ivan Wolfe asked if the new Mormon candidate, Evan McMullin would get my vote.

This was my reply:

I’m glad you asked because I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days. I’ve never thought Hillary and democratic policies would be a good choice. And I can’t believe that Trump has a single vote, let alone has actually become the nominee. I could spend another thousand words describing how he makes my skin crawl and how I’m ashamed of the Republican party over his candidacy. I won’t because I’ve already said it since day one. I was a breath away from quitting the party, but I realized its my party too. So I’m sticking around because somebody has to rebuild a principled conservative movement.

That left me in the position of many. But I just can’t vote for Gary Johnson either. I’ve been dealing with annoying, trollish libertarians for pretty close to ten years (since Ron Paul's campaigns where he tried his hardest to seem like that drunk crazy uncle I never want to talk to but I’m stuck sitting next to every thanksgiving). And I’ve found their ignorance is only matched by the arrogance and pugnaciousness with which they state their opinions. [edit to add: remember the trolls linked in the first paragraph and Geoff's response. Notice how many times I am called a liar, sophist, disingenuous (another word for liar, ), rude, a war monger, and idiotic.] Needless to say, I’m already not very inclined to vote for Johnson to begin with, and every interview I’ve seen he doesn’t give answers that are very coherent let alone resonate with me.

That’s my long way of saying I’m really wondering what I’m going to do. For a long time I thought I would just leave it blank and vote on the rest of the ticket, or write in Mitt Romney. And here comes McMullin. I like his resume and the policy positions he advances. Of course since I’ve interviewed with the CIA and I now work with a major think tank on foreign policy, I’m somewhat partial to a national security hawk. Its been very sad to realize that this strange feeling I have listening to McMullin actually comes from having a choice I can at least somewhat believe in.

I’m not completely sold yet. He might bomb in some future interviews and turn out to be kind of a joke, but he can’t give as bad of answers as Trump. I mean from mocking McCain’s captivity and Megan Kelley’s menstrual cycle all the way to suggesting second amendment supporters would “take care of” Hillary, I can’t see McMullin saying anything that would make a vote for him any worse than a vote for Trump. But the whole reason I’m not voting for Trump is because I need to say with a clear conscience that I’m still a solid, principled conservative, and I don’t vote for any clown just because he’s got an R next to his name. So we’ll see. If McMullin keeps it together and sounds credible he’s got my vote. [end reply]

As you can see I was clearly out of control.  I only responded because Ivan Wolfe asked the question. He is generally one of the more fair moderators [though even he added a rude comment after my post]. But I was deleted and Geoff responded by attacking neocons, and by implication me.  I reject the term since Ronald Reagan provided the blue print for the modern Republican party by opposing the Evil Empire with military force. But since I support the selected use of military force isolationists like to use that term.

Second Post:

The next comment responded to attacks on other people's prayers. I was going to sit this out, but Geoff made a comment that was so spectacularly mean and hypocritical I felt I had to respond.  Several people defended the prayers at the Democratic convention and Geoff said this:

"Dave K and K, thank you for being so self-righteous. I wrote this post knowing that we would get a few commenters of your ilk. The Murmurnacle is filled with the most self-righteous people around, and I knew I could count on a few commenters to confirm that."

I responded:

The irony was just too much for me to stay silent. I think its pretty easy to praise the worship of those who are like you, and negatively judge those that are different, and who infuse their prayers with requests based on different politics. Personally, I didn't enjoy the second prayer, but I've been to enough worship services that I can forgive the style. The content of the prayer was a bit off putting as well, but most likely its driven by my dislike for liberal politics more than anything else. I don't know for sure because I didn't think about it that much, but its a possibility any conservative or holier than thou libertarian should consider. I think David K and K made great points. I didn't find them unrighteous or members of the "murmunacle" for saying so because one of the basics of comparing religions is to avoid the tendency to compare your best with their worst. (Literally, this is in the first lesson at BYU-I when the class includes a study of another faith.) Instead of selective comparisons that make ourselves look better we should strive to posses "holy envy" where we find what we can admire and praise from other religions and prayers. I really enjoyed Corey Booker's speech for example. I still think can't stand the democratic platform, but I could find good in that speech at least.

You posted awhile ago how you can't understand why apologists are hated, and perhaps that they should be given a break. I agree that we shouldn't hate and those that do should give the objects of their hatred a break. (As Corey Booker said in quoting Lincoln, with malice towards none but charity towards all.) But we should also take a hard look in the mirror and consider how being smugly self righteous might contribute to that hatred. I'm duplicating this post elsewhere in case your moderating policies are as fair as your assessment of prayers. [end quote]

My assessment: 

As you can see, that is bad enough, full of atrocities and horrible rhetoric.  I'm being sarcastic, I disagreed with a person, pointed out some self righteous behavior, and included some principles that would make them more charitable. Its never easy to tell a person they are wrong, nor does it feel good to be told you're wrong. But I've been in enough cat fights that I know how to chill out and produce a thoughtful rebuttal. (And its why I don't participate in most online discussions. As the movie War Games would say, sometimes the only winning move is not to play.)

I didn't question anybody reading comprehension, which is a favorite tactic of Geoff's.  I didn't call use any loaded language to insult him.  I simply offered thoughtful pertinent points. Unlike Geoff I won't bully people off of my blog and then complain about bullies. (I do moderate unreasonable personal attacks, which, in seven years of blogging, have only come from radical libertarians.) I don't pontificate on why people might hate me, and then question somebodies reading comprehension a short time later. A place that is charitable would give space to those that disagree, they would try to see other points of view and try to avoid the use of loaded language.  That is why I say the Millennial Star is devoid of much thought or charity, and its mostly a vanity project for its perma bloggers like Geoff Biddulph. To see a good example of a post that shows charity and understanding, check out the landing instructions from Boyd Peterson. They can quote lots of scripture and defend a kind of right wing orthodoxy.  But if you stop by there on any given day you will notice how mean some people can become in defending the church.

The Upside: 

 Luckily, most of my research is taking me away from petty bloglords. It took over seven years, but my research is starting to change the way we think about the text.  Please stay tuned for a collection of links to my research featured at Book of Mormon Central and my FAIR Mormon presentation. I have a great research agenda that includes the most comprehensive study of preemptive warfare in the Book of Mormon, and my research on the battle experience marches towards publication at the Interpreter. After hearing my presentation at the FAIR conference, Daniel Peterson wanted to take a look at my manuscript! Hopefully I'll have an announcement to make soon!! Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

To pull down their pride...

A long time ago I found a great reference from Book of Mormon warfare in Mesoamerican history. But then I couldn’t find it again. I thought I had it in my notes but didn’t seem to have the right reference and I didn't have the book in my library.  Recently I had to check some old sources for my upcoming publication, and there it was!!

Tikal is one of the most important classic Mesoamerican cities, but there is still significant disagreement and debate about how a ruler might maintain legitimacy if foreigners rulers were placed on the throne. Archaeologists have found a sitting man statue with its head cut off.  The statue likely represented the king and its head ritually cut off.  The most interesting part is on the back. There is a different script still undeciphered and “someone drilled a large jagged hole through it, ending in a deep, round socket in the back of the figure. If the desecrated Hombre de Tikal sculpture were laid prone (the typical pose for a Maya elite captive), the drilled hole would be suitable for insertion of the wooden shaft of a battle standard…We would suggest that even after Nuun Yax Ain and his allies took the Tikal throne from Toh chak Ich’ak, he carried out a series of magical acts designed to legitimate his insertion in the dynastic succession.”[1]   

I think this provides additional context to Moroni’s action against the King Men.  Alma 51 uses the verb “pull down” in verses 17 and 18. After being slain in battle and cast into prison the King Men were “compelled to hoist the Title of Liberty upon their towers and lands” (v.20). The Title of Liberty was an important symbolic reference in Nephite history that held both ritualistic and spiritual importance.[2] And the “pulling down” can refer to specific objects such as the statues that represent their authority. Its not exactly stated in the text, but I can’t help but see how a pulled down statue with a hole in the back could refer to the pride that Moroni “pulled down” and the Title of Liberty they were forced to fly. Its not directly stated, but I think given the possible location of Book of Mormon events and the political subjugation of the King Men combined with the unique phrase to "pull down" it makes this an intriguing idea.  

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[1] David Freidel, Barbara MacLeod, and Charles Suhler, “Early Classic Maya Conquest in Words and Deeds,” Mesoamerican Warfare, Kathryn Brown and Travis Stanton eds., (Oxford, Alta Mira Press: 2003), 195 (192-196).  
[2] See my book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon, pages 57-64 for more.  Many people seem to be impressed with Kerry Hull’s new article.  I was a bit frustrated because his article didn’t show me a great deal I didn’t already know. In fact, I could have written much of it, and as you see from the above, he missed at least one item that might have informed our understanding of the Book of Mormon. Kerry Hull,”War Banners: A Mesoamerican Context for the Title of Liberty”  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 24 (2015): 84–118.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gendered Violence in the Book of Mormon

I hope all of you are having a great summer. I came across a great article about gendered violence.  Most of modern academia is obsessed with the new holy trinity of race, class, and gender/ sexuality. In part, this is simply due to new approaches to history that ask questions and pursue lines of research that haven't been done before. But its also a highly politicized field, and it tends to crowd out military history studies. This is one reason why John Lynn says that military history has an embattled future. Yet John Lynn also mentioned that these studies, done right, can help military history. John Lynn uses the example of French aristocrats that raised armies at great personal cost to themselves out of a sense of masculinity. Its why I want to look at the Stripling Warriors discussion of their mothers, and how the feminized courage might change our understanding of the text. In this case, the author talks about how the women of the believers were burned alive.  (You can also see some of the politicization as well, as the author seems to almost pivot into an Ordain Women lecture.)

Keep your eye out for some of my future projects as well. My article on the battle experience is on the final stages of being edited.  I'm also working on my power point for the FAIR Conference. I'm writing about insurgency in the Book of Mormon.  I have some exciting ideas about the causes of the conflict that include the unintended consequences of Moroni's reforms in the war chapters, and a reconstruction of the Gadianton ideology. I hope to see you there!