The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Friday, April 29, 2016

BOMC KnoWhy misses another opportunity

Vitis riparia, one of several indigenous
grapes of North America
As I've said many times, I like BOMC and the work they do. However, their Mesoamerican lenses continue to blind them to some obvious points. All I ask is that they give readers information about the North American setting as an optional alternative to Mesoamerica.

I don't have time to look at every one of the KnoWhys posted by Book of Mormon Central, but I'll try to point out the ones where BOMC misses the biggest opportunities to offer readers some important information.

On April 28, they posted a KnoWhy about wine, here. "Why Does The Book Of Mormon Mention Wine, Vineyards, And Wine-Presses?"

It's a good question, and the answer is easy in the North American setting. Grapes are indigenous to North America, particularly the Eastern U.S. They were part of the diet of pre-Columbian Native Americans there.

By contrast, there are no indigenous grapes in Mesoamerica. Consequently, BOMC suggests the Book of Mormon is referring to "wine" made from bananas, pineapples, and agave. How's that for an answer?

Currently, the BOMC staff consists exclusively of Mesoamerican advocates who see everything through Mesoamerican lenses. They can't unsee Mesoamerica. They only allow Mesoamerican input, and everything they publish is intended to support their unilateral perspective. So long as this is the case, the effort at BOMC is wasted on anyone who is not already wearing Mesoamerican lenses.

Look at this wine issue from the perspective of a non-member, an LDS person who questions the Mesoamerican setting, or someone who already believes an alternative to Mesoamerica. What are the chances you are going to accept an answer that the "wine" in the Book of Mormon was made from bananas, pineapples, and agave because there were no grapes anciently in Mesoamerica?

The chances are low to zero.

Especially when you know the truth about native grapes. Google tells you all you need to know. For example, indigenous grapes from the Midwestern U.S. saved the wine industry in Europe. Europe has one variety of wine-producing grape, but North America has six.

The references to wine in the Book of Mormon text make perfect sense in North America.

To force the text into Mesoamerica, you have to come up with convoluted explanations.


Because they insist on forcing the text into Mesoamerica, the BOMC KnoWhy is schizophrenic. First, they acknowledge the Hebrew background of the Nephites (language, Law of Moses, etc.) but then they impose a Mesoamerican interpretation on the plain words. Look:

"Because there is a wide variety of different wines, “made from fermented grapes or other fruits,”2 it is impossible to be certain what kind of drink is meant, beyond assuming it’s a fermented fruit juice. [The common definition of the term is a beverage made from grapes, as it's used in the Bible. This isn't really so difficult.] Moreover, the Hebrew word for “vineyard” can mean an oil orchard. So these terms are broader in meaning than modern English readers might think.3 [Surely BOMC is not proposing that "wine" in the Book of Mormon means olive oil, but at least they do recognize the Hebrew influence on the Nephite language. The term "wine" is used throughout the Bible, always in reference to grapes (or pomegranate if you accept the Song of Solomon). Grape wine is also related to the Feast of Tabernacles and is symbolic of the Lord's blood.]

"Alcoholic beverages were made from a variety of fruits in the Americas before Columbus. These include bananas, pineapple, and agave, among others. Natives also used palm sap and tree bark with honey to make alcoholic beverages in pre-Columbian times. All of these were called “wine” by the Spaniards who first mentioned them in their writings. Spanish sources also spoke of “vineyards” of agave plants.4" [Of course, nothing in the Bible suggests this type of alcoholic beverage, but what else can you do if you're insisting on Mesoamerica? Anyone not wearing the Mesoamerican lenses won't buy this. I'll skip the rest of this speculation and get to the conclusion, the inevitable quotation from Brother Sorenson: "Sorenson then concluded, “Thus the Book of Mormon statements about wine could turn out to refer either to that drink in the usual European sense or to alternative Mesoamerican intoxicants that were based on other fruits.”9 [Notice, they exclude the most probable and obvious alternative: wine made from grapes indigenous to the Eastern U.S., right where the land of Nephi is in the North American model.]

As if the Know part wasn't bad enough, the Why section is even more convoluted. Look:

"[B]eing aware of the different possibilities invites questions perhaps never before considered. [Mainly because most people don't envision Mesoamerica when they read the text, unless they've been indoctrinated for years and never exposed to a simpler, more logical alternative in North America that also happens to fit with what Joseph and Oliver said in the first place.] For example, visualize that sacred moment when the risen Lord asked the disciples to retrieve both bread and wine for the sacremant [sic] (3 Nephi 18:1–3, 8), and then shortly thereafter Lord Himself miraculously provided wine and bread for a second performance of that sacred ritual (3 Nephi 20:5–8). Was the miraculous wine from the Savior the same variety of wine the disciples brought? If not, why not?

"The deep red wine that comes from grapes strongly symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ in the administration of the sacrament. image via

"Although speculative, one possible answer is that perhaps the available native wine did not strongly enough symbolize the blood of Christ.10 [Not only speculative, but contrary to Hebrew experience, terminology, and practice. Before Christ came, the Nephites taught about the "blood of the Lamb" (Alma 13:11; 1 Ne. 12:10). Under the law of Moses, wine was consumed by the Priests and at feasts. Would drinking banana wine help them look forward unto Christ?] While accepting the disciples' humble offer the first time, for the second occasion Christ may have chosen to miraculously produce traditional red wine from the Old World in order to more strongly convey to them His important teaching, “he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled” (3 Nephi 20:8). [Or, given the destruction, maybe they just ran out after the first sacrament?]

"This could have provided a powerful visual for Nephites accustomed to drinking yellowish colored wines. Even if this is not the case, being aware of the different possible types of wine allows readers to better visualize Book of Mormon life. [How does it help people "better visualize" when you leave them with such uncertainty and confusion? Put this in the North American context and you have wine made of grapes, just as anyone reading the text would expect, given the Hebrew background and terminology.] This is especially insightful with wine, since it is so frequently mentioned within the text of the Book of Mormon.

BTW, the video is even more unbelievable and could have been fixed so easily.

I have no problem with BOMC presenting this convoluted Mesoamerican spin, but please also give people a concurrent alternative based on the North American setting. It's so much easier to understand.


  1. And here I was hoping that BOMC would be a great resource. Their treatment of wine in the Book of Mormon is simply abysmal. And you're right, the video was even worse.

    Their "can't not see" eyeglasses makes it impossible for them to see a more rational and believable view. Sheesh, it makes me want to steer people away from BOMC instead of the opposite.

  2. What surprises me is how completely blind they are to what should be their audience. This one was written by Mesos to Mesos. No one outside the citation cartel would find this in the least persuasive. It's the kind of thing that fulfills what Joseph Fielding Smith said: the Mesoamerican theory leads members of the Church to become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith of the Book of Mormon.

  3. It's a shame that they missed that the miraculous provision of the sacrament is reminiscent of the miraculous feedings in the gospels (all of which - especially in John 6 with the "bread of life" sermon, have what biblical scholars describe as "eucharistic overtones"). Thinking it's about the colour of the wine seems to be missing the point.

  4. I disagree with you slightly on your characterization/metaphor of the Mesos. It's not a matter of if not being *able* to see outside meso, it's pride and hubris. They "know" they're right. They choose to ignore everything else.