My Testimony


     I believe that the Book of Mormon is all that it says it is, all that Joseph Smith said it is. I believe this for many reasons. Here is one.
     I'm going to go around the block here, so bear with me, and don't let me lose you.
     Having worked professionally as a German-English/English-German translator (mostly of American television shows, like Starsky and Hutch, into German) (my innate understanding of the nuances of Americanisms lending me an 'unfair' advantage in that highly competitive field), Joseph Smith's struggles with translational issues, especially the now well-documented corruption of the Bible, has always not only rung true to me, but has also been a daily, even constant companion. Thus, although I speak only two major languages (each in various dialects), along with several computer languages (and, of course, the typical smattering of words and phrases from various languages that Europeans generally grow up with), the complexities of language and communication have been among my foremost concerns.
     An example? What does 'knock it off' really mean? Where did that come from? I mean, some odd-sounding phrases, such as, 'shut up', seem obvious enough. You're meant to 'shut' your mandible 'up' to your maxilla. You can practically visualize it even if you've never heard it before. But, knock it off? Knock what off from what? How did that come to be used in such situations? How did it acquire the meaning of 'cease and desist'?
     And don't think this is just an English thing. Germans do it, too. The German imperative, 'Hör auf!', is meant to express one's desire for someone else to cease whatever they're currently engaged in, but what it actually means is, 'Listen up!' Well, ok, shutting one's jaw upward makes at least some sense, but how on earth does one listen upwards? And just how did that command come to mean 'cease and desist'? And how would both English and German adopt, for the very same situation, expressions which are both oddly misplaced, and yet tangentially related, AND connected? Connected? In English, we address talking, while, in German, we address listening. They're connected: I'm talking. You should listen.
     These are the kinds of things I study. And it's no mere idle academic exercise. There are many such baffling words and phrases handed down to us from antiquity which far too often escape the depth of scrutiny they warrant, passing under our incredulous eyes almost unnoticed as we file them away in a mental folder for possible later review, or dismissal down the memory-hole. And, because of this, 'something [often important] is lost in translation'.
     It's become fashionable of late to view Christopher Columbus through far more critical eyes than he was subjected to, say, a century or so ago. Unfortunately, few, if any, of those critics have ever actually read the man's writings, and fewer still in the original Spanish. As a result, his motivations and actions are now being judged through distorted lenses, and from too great a distance to allow his modern critics to view him in context. Take, for example, this English translation of an excerpt from Columbus' personal journal: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."
     Slavery?! In the name of the Holy Trinity?! Surely not! But, in fact, this is not the only co-mingling of religion and slavery in Columbus' writings, and they're all very baffling. But, upon closer examination, we find that slavery had already been introduced to Spain, not by the Spanish, but by the invading Moors. And that, right there, forever co-mingled religion and slavery for Columbus, and all of Europe, too.
     About the year 960 CE, Nubian Muslims from further south in Africa journeyed north to 'Andalusia' to see how the conquest of Espania was going. Upon finding that their Arab comrades had settled into a fairly comfortable arrangement with the Visigoths (western Germans), the more militant Nubians immediately set about cleaning house, reigniting a war that had pretty much settled down to a tacit truce, opening old wounds, getting a lot of people killed, and generally making themselves unwelcome by both sides.
     It was actually the Arabs who originally enslaved the Nubians, at least in Spain (in Africa, they had been enslaving each other for untold millennia), and the practice spread to the Visigoths in the north as Moors sent them slaves as gifts in overtures of peace in a sort of 'Here are the trouble-makers' kind of gesture. This pretty quickly escalated into a full-scale trade in slaves when the sub-Saharan Africans learned of this new, more expansive market for their captives.
     The less well-known aspect of all of this is that the Visigoths, and all the other Europeans, too, who were now also under attack (and had been for over 200 years by this time), were also already being sold all over the Arab world as slaves in a practice that continues even today, albeit it at a far, far lower rate than even just back during the founding of this country. But it does continue.
     So, to hear Columbus contemplating the enslavement of the much darker native Americans doesn't really seem so remarkable. It's what he grew up with. Moreover, seeing the amoral, warlike nature of the natives naturally placed them in the same category, in Columbus' mind, as the slaves back in Spain. Or even worse. He described them as barely distinguishable from animals.
     And when I say amoral, remember how Columbus must have felt, his devout, religious sentimentality suddenly confronted with a people who were almost entirely naked, had utterly no concept of marriage or fidelity, and whose women would, on occasion, abort their own children, via a potion, should they decide that their current companion was unworthy of a child.
     This was a truly R-selected bunch.
     But back to Columbus' mixing of slavery and religion.
     The prophets have repeatedly referred to themselves as servants of God. Paul went so far as to refer to himself as the captive of Christ. Christ himself tells us that his yoke is light. And it is. But it is, nonetheless, a yoke. We all are, or, at least, we hope to be Christ's captives, and not Satan's, and that Christ will carry us off, victorious, on 'that' day.
     And this will have been the tradition from which the ever-devout Christopher Columbus will have come. It's in his very name: The Carrier of Christ. This is his life's mission: Not only to win for himself and his descendants a rightful place in this world, but to do so by adequately expanding both the kingdom of the royalty of Spain, and the kingdom of God upon this earth, as he knew it, in the form of the Catholic church.
     Christopher Columbus was more interested in saving souls (after the manner to which he was accustomed) than he was in cheap labor.
     But what has this to do with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon?
     You will see. This strikes not only at the very heart of our faith, but even the very basis of this entire web-site.
     The apostle, Paul (or Paulus) at least twice appealed to Greek 'poets'. We'll get into that 'poet' designation later, because it's hugely important, but, for now, we'll just focus on their works. Now, while Paul more directly appealed to Epimenides, Aratus, and Cleanthes, he was ultimately referencing Homer.
     But why Homer?
     You really must take the time to read this article.
     And this one, too.
     And, now, for the missing piece which will reveal this enigmatic character ... or characters.
     It's in his name: Homer.
     You really have to hand it to the Greeks. Unlike almost any other people before, they had a number of firsts, they made huge leaps. I know it's currently fashionable to 'appreciate' almost any other culture besides the western, but I can find no other example even remotely like the Greek. They were the first to develop a bi-cameral script, the first to formalize rules of logic, and then to use those laws to divine the very nature of matter, the first to recognize their somewhat diverse origins, and the resulting evolution of their language, making them, again, the first to trace the origins of their words, wherever they could.
     They even gave us the very word, etymology.
     And the name, Homer, was one of those that could be traced.
     We take our names for granted today. It's even become (here's that word again) fashionable to play fast and loose with alternative spellings, even entirely fabricated names, such as Le-A. But names actually have meaning, sometimes quite profound meanings, especially, as in the case of Abraham, where the name has been deliberately taken or given later in life. My name, for instance, means, as pretentious as it may sound, golden warrior. But Homer, ... his name meant hostage, a servant, ... a captive.
     So what can the signifigance of that be?
     Just read Homer's works, the great Iliad and Odyssey.
     One who has spent enough time reading ancient writings quickly comes to recognize in the Iliad and the Odyssey the classic style of religious writing, like the epic of Gilgamesh. This is underscored, in the Odyssey, by the episode of Odysseus vs. the cyclops, Polyphemus, and that story's curious harmonies with the Egyptian tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, a story which is now also generally accepted to be some sort of sacred instruction, having been found only in Egyptian temples.
     So, these men, who all went by the name of Homer, who all took upon themselves the name, servant, captive, hostage, were clearly holy men, holy men who wrote scripture. In fact, they wrote scripture in a very peculiar style, a style which the brilliant Greeks themselves somehow either failed to notice, define, and name for us, as they did practically everything else that they did, even naming, in yet another world's first, every conceivable pattern of rhythm in a rhyme (iambic pentameter, anyone?), or they deliberately omitted any mention of it outside the examples of its use, which they then successfully, and accurately, transmitted, in tact, to us, their heirs. Either way, this curious structure for sacred texts appears to have gone unnoticed and unnamed for about 2,500 years, just waiting for someone to discover it.
     And someone did.
     A German Jesuit priest by the name of Paul Gaechter had noticed this curious coupling and inverting of expressions, not in Homer's works, but in the New Testament. And what he noticed was not only that these 'closed forms' were embedded in the writings of Matthew, but that they had somehow survived the ravages of translation into Greek from the Hebrew, but only because the Greek was written by a Hebrew, Matthew.

     And this can only mean that the reason the Greeks failed to notice, name, and define this style of writing is because they did not invent it. It passed under their eyes unnoticed just as it passed unnoticed under ours. Until about 1870.
     I haven't been able to determine who, where, why, or how, but the reference works suggest that the word, chiasmus, was first used in either 1850 or 1871. And this is significant to us here, now.
     About 50 years ago, a young missionary in Germany (Why is it always Germany? That might be something worth considering.), John W. Welch, surely following the promptings of the spirit, happened to attend a seminar presented by a Jesuit priest where he learned of these 'closed forms' he would only later learn were called chiasmus. And, where brother Gaechter had marvelled at Matthew's use of chiasmus, brother Welch would come to marvel at its use throughout the Book of Mormon.

     So, what then can be the connection? Matthew was a Hebrew. The Nephite authors of the Book of Mormon descended from the same tradition, and would have written in the same forms. Seeing as chiasmus wasn't even recognized until years after his death, such broad and beautiful use of chiasmus throughout the Book of Mormon can only further reinforce Joseph Smith's version of the Book of Mormon's provenance.
     But it does even more than that.
     Recall that I said that chiasmus must be more ancient than the Greeks, but that Homer used it. In fact, the Iliad and the Odyssey, being the story of a journey away to war, and then back home again, not only constitute a chiastic form, but represent propably the largest single chiasmus extant. Whoever these Homers were, they knew what they were doing, and they were deliberately writing to us using this form. And they weren't 'Greek'. They had to have come from an earlier time.
     But why chiasmus?
     Or, could it be that this pattern is yet another level of communication? One that survives translation. After all, the 'most correct of all books' clearly also uses chiasmus, so there's got to be some reason beyond mere habit or tradition.
     Now, we get into some of the more esoteric beliefs of our ancestors.
     One of the things everyone notices, and no one questions, but just accepts as the status quo of old is that everything the ancients made, said, did, or wrote, had to, in some way, mirror heaven and/or God. Entire cities, with their concentric circles, were so built because of the ancients' belief that this was how the city of God was built. Practically every pot and handle had to be adorned with an image of a (small g) god (angel) or some other deity in order to justify its very existence.
     And maybe there was a different reason.
     All peoples of the earth believe that they came from heaven, one way or another. Even your own genealogy, when you trace it far enough, will eventually dead-end in various mythological figures. We even see this in the New Testament, where Jesus' genealogy is recorded. He, the son of God, is traced all the way back to Adam, who is, himself, also declared to be ... the son of God.
     Never mind for now the questions this raises. All we need to take from this at this point is that, at some point in Christ's ancestry, his line leaves the earth. So does yours. So does mine.
     The interesting, and chiastic parallel to this is that, when you go forward in your line -- which, of course, none of us can, yet, but we can take prophecy as gospel, and that prophecy tells us that -- we leave the earth. Christ takes us up. We meet in the air. We fall on each other's necks. We weep tears of joy and relief.
     This is a cycle. We came from heaven, and we return to heaven. This earth represents the island in The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor, and in the the story of Odysseus and the cyclops. They arrived, and they returned home again.
     And that's not all.
     We read in scripture how God promised never to flood the earth again, and yet, we're also told that the seas will heave over their bounds on their way back to the north. And the sequence of events surrounding this is interesting, too.
     Brigham Young, surely echoing Joseph Smith, taught that, when Adam and Eve fell, the earth fell, too, but that, as Adam is restored to the garden, so, too, will the earth be restored to its original home.
     This is all a cycle, like the Iliad and the Odyssey, out and back again. And thus must the tale ever be told. But will only ever be correctly told by one who understands the whole story.
     But, until at least 1850, six years after his murder, only Joseph Smith knew that story.
     Mormon knew that story.
     Moroni, Alma, and Nephi ... They all knew the whole story.
     Moreover, they told us the story. But, as with so many other things in scripture, they didn't paint huge signs pointing out their cleverness. There is no 'X' to mark the spot where the treasure is buried. Where the Greeks, believing that the beginning of wisdom was to call everything by its proper name, dutifully described and named everything they observed, the authors of the Book of Mormon refrained. Where the Greeks named their 'tragic cycle', and even its five phases (Olbos, Hubris, Phthonis, Ate, Nemesis), the Book of Mormon left its 'pride cycle' unlabeled, like a treasure hidden in a field, for us to discover, and to marvel, not only at their genius, but at the story.
     In other words, it could also very well be that Joseph was fully aware of the chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, but, following Mormon's example, simply chose to leave it hidden in plain sight.
     Now, go back and read the home-page of this site.
     And this is, it is my contention, what Joseph Smith, the captive of Christ, the servant of the Lord, meant when he said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of all books.
     And so it is.

~~ Marcus Aurelius ~~