The Book of Mormon: Fact, fiction or fading away?

Last Wednesday, Rod Meldrum visited Nauvoo and gave a presentation on DNA and the Book of Mormon.  His attempt was to make the case that DNA studies do indeed prove the validity, accuracy, and historicity of the Book of Mormon.  The videos arguing that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon have been circulating for many years now, and he was offering his response.  The presentation was interesting, if tragically unorganized and disconnected, but he made some valid points.  I did not agree with all of his conclusions, nor did I disagree with them all.

If for no other reason, his presenation did get me thinking.  Meldrum’s claim, a part of which I’d never heard before, was that:

(1) The Book of Mormon is an historic document, detailing people, locations, and events which really took place

(2) The Hopewell moundbuilders are the closest descendants to the Lamanites

(3) DNA proves (through his understanding of Haplogroup X) that Native Americans have genetics from the Israel region

(4) Joseph Smith believed the Book of Mormon to have occurred in the United States

(5) The events and locations in the Book of Mormon are mostly throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.  Particularly, he emphasized his belief that the city of Zarahemla was directly across the river from Nauvoo’s present location. Continue reading

Joseph Smith, Jr. as a Warrior Prophet: Messianic Warlordism in Times of State Fragmentation, Economic Disruption and Religious Upheaval

In 1986, in the midst of a violent conflict between the newly installed Museveni government and remnants of the former regime, Alice Auma, a spirit-diviner in northern Uganda believed she was commanded by a Christian spirit called ‘Lakwena’ to lead a military-religious rebellion on behalf of the northern Acholi people and bring about heaven on earth. She claimed:

The good Lord who had sent the Lakwena decided to change his work from that of a doctor to that of a military commander for one simple reason: it is useless to cure a man today only that he be killed the next. So it became an obligation on his part to stop the bloodshed before continuing his work as a doctor.

Alice Auma, assuming the name Alice Lakwena, led a insurgency against the new government, known as the Holy Spirit Movement, which had several early victories before being defeated by the new Ugandan Army. (For more information on Alice Auma/Lakwena and the Holy Spirit Movement, see this book or this article).

Alice Lakwena, as a religio-military commander, stands in a long tradition of Warrior Prophets that extend as far back as Joan of Arc, Guru Gobind SinghMohammed and King David. Warrior Prophets have been particularly prominant in modern Sub-Saharan Africa, associated with guerilla movements in, for example, Zimbabwe and Sudan. In areas of the world where political authority is fragmented and the state does not have a monopoly on the use of violence, savvy and consummate ‘political entrepreneurs’ take advantage of their ability to wield violence to rise to power (and often prosperity) by offering security to people willing to accept their authority and punishing those who are unwilling to do so (For further information, see this book on warlordism in Africa, or this one on Afghanistan). Likewise, Paul Gifford, a scholar of African Christianity, has argued that charismatic and dogmatic religion provides believers with a sense of stability as Africa faces great social, political and economic upheavals in its encounter with modernity.  Warrior Prophets are thus able to capitalize on the dual opportunities created by chaos — people’s perceived needs for 1) a powerful, paternalistic protector and 2) a charismatic diviner who is able to provide assurance of cosmic certainty. They offer the promise of both physical and spiritual security.

It may be enlightening to understand Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of both the Mormon and Community of Christ churches, as having played a similar role in mid-19th century America. His time was one of great political, social and economic upheaval.

Continue reading