Your Friday Firestorm: Analysis #1

Most commented Firestorm (before comments closed): #52, with 241 comments.

Least commented Firestorm: #36, with 33 comments.

Average no. of comments per Firestorm: 88.56



  1. Aaron Brown says:

    Moral: Odd sexual practices are much more interesting than text and translation issues. Who woulda thunk it?


  2. Randall says:

    Moral #2: Kevin Barney’s sincere stories can be a buzzkill to high falutin’ exegesis.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    I guess what is really curious to me is not that #52 was the most commented-on Firestorm, but rather that #36 would be the least. It’s still a terribly interesting topic (to me, anyways).

  4. One Mormon who apparently didn’t hold a grudge against the Professor about #36, Steve, was John M. Bernhisel. He selected a half dozen of the Professor’s works for the Utah Territorial Library.

  5. I think of the Friday Firestorm as something like the Mary Tyler Moore Show from the 70’s. The cast and writers had been doing the show for a long time and felt like it was time to wrap it up – they were feeling out of ideas. But then AFTER they wrapped it up, they were soon thinking wistfully that they should have gone for another year.

    I understand the desire to go out on a high note, but you haven’t jumped the shark yet, and there’s still plenty of material out there. Why cancel at the end of this season when you may have another good year in the making?

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s a start, Steve, but I think you need to sic Ziff on those numbers so we can get some charts and graphs going.

    FWIW, I really enjoyed the Friday Firestorm franchise and am sad to see it end.

  7. I completely agree with Steve that the topic of #36 is too fascinating for it to have generated the least commentary.

    Here’s my belated response to it. I think the timing of the Anthon/Harris episode is pretty critical to understanding it. A lot of the respondents in Firestorm #36 talk about Harris visiting Anthon, being satisfied, and then happily going off to mortgage his farm to print the Book of Mormon. But the Anthon episode takes place much earlier—in February of 1828, months even before the loss of the 116 pages in June of that year—i.e., long before any of the present Book of Mormon was written down.

    Therefore references in the Book of Mormon to “the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2) and “reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32) were written down after Anthon told Harris that some of the BoM Caractors resembled Egyptian writing. I don’t think there’s any idea in the minds of Joseph Smith or Martin Harris that the Caractors were Egyptian until after Anthon told Harris that some of them resembled Egyptian writing.

    By the same token, of course, the Book of Mormon’s reference to the Anthon affair in the “sealed book prophecy” (2 Nephi 27:15-18) were also written down after the Anthon affair, as Jared* pointed out on the Firestorm #36 thread.

    I envision the Harris/Anthon encounter like this. Harris brings the Caractors transcript (or a similar transcript) to Anthon, but Harris does not have an English translation of the transcription.

    Harris: Learned sir, can you translate these ancient Caractors for me?

    Anthon: Let us see what you have. [Anthon then takes out a reference book that has charts of ancient letters, symbols and hieroglyphs.]

    Anthon: Interesting, this character here, and this, and this, all resemble Egyptian writing.

    Harris: [thinks to himself: that doesn’t make sense, why would they be in Egyptian?] Does that mean the Caractors are genuine Egyptian?

    Anthon: The similarity is striking. See for yourself.

    Harris: Can you translate what it says?

    Anthon: The Egyptian language has not been deciphered. [He looks over his charts more.] This character appears more like Chaldaic or Arabic, and this one Syriac.

    Harris: Will you write a certificate to that effect.

    Anthon: Certainly. [As he writes it out, he asks] How did you come by this document, Mr. Harris?

    Harris: [Tells the Gold Plates story and about Joseph at some length].

    Anthon: [Takes the certificate back or refuses to give it and tries to convince Martin that Joseph is a confidence man. He concludes]: if you bring me the plates, I can authenticate them for you.

    Harris: The angel has forbidden any but Joseph to look upon them. I cannot bring them.

    Anthon: Then I cannot read them.

    Martin returns to Joseph dejected and still filled with doubts. However, as Martin tells the story, Joseph helps him reinterpret it. This is not a rejection but an affirmation. Isaiah predicted that the learned would be given a book and the learned scholar would say he could not read it. (I think it’s unlikely Anthon actually said anything about the book being “sealed”—that’s added to the narrative when the story is remembered by Martin and Joseph in light of Isaiah.) Another confirmation, however, is that learned scholar confirmed that the Caractors were genuinely Egyptian. Harris asks why they would be written in Egyptian and Joseph either then or later gave the answer consciously provided in 1 Nephi 1:2. After this, Martin’s dejection turns to elation once more, and he continues to support the effort financially and as a scribe, although he continues to have episodes of serious doubts and continues to seek further assurances.

    I think this synthesis fits both Anthon’s and Harris’s accounts without anyone having to be a villain.

  8. The least commented firestorm must have been because there was no video with it.

  9. Cynthia says:

    Steve, with this little analysis per post, it’s going to take you 52 YFF analysis posts to tell the whole story! (or is that the point? :-) ) Where are the graphs? Where are the standard deviations?

    Here’s some Excel data to get you started:

    	OT	NT	PGP/JSH	D&C	BoM	Other
    Count	11	12	4	8	10	7
    Average 83.64	56.08	42.5	104.25	95.3	150.71
    Median	72	55	39.5	99.5	75.5	155
    Stdev	43.4	14.82	11.15	60.71	56.1	45.55

    “Other” consists of contemporary GA quotes (Ensign, general conference).

    I’m surprised that NT was the most fertile territory in terms of number of YFFs. Contemporary GAs handily defeat all when it comes to controversy, it seems.

    –sister blah 2

  10. Eric Russell says:

    FF jumped the shark back in week 5.

  11. John says (to revive FF #36) –

    Therefore references in the Book of Mormon to “the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2) and “reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32) were written down after Anthon told Harris that some of the BoM Caractors resembled Egyptian writing. I don’t think there’s any idea in the minds of Joseph Smith or Martin Harris that the Caractors were Egyptian until after Anthon told Harris that some of them resembled Egyptian writing.

    I like your scenario John. Don’t forget that Mormon 9:32 and 1 Ne 1:2 are pretty close together in the chronology of translation, with 1 Ne being written down after Mormon. Thus allowing two verses, separated in Josephs consciousness by a couple weeks, to be separated by a millennium in BoM chronology. With this period of translation being a year or so after Harris visited Anton.

  12. Eric Russell (#10): You’re probably trying to be cute with your jumping the shark comment, but clearly when YFF #52 garners the greatest number of comments, it clearly *hasn’t* jumped any aquatic animal yet. I would be interested in seeing more firestorms in the future.

  13. Maybe YFF will be like Doctor Who, with a gap of 20 years between new episodes (not counting the YFF movie, which will garner disappointingly low ratings). An avid fan base whose passion and persistence in the face of a soulless, bureaucratic network/blog win the hearts and minds of a new generation of producers/blog admins, who reintroduce YFF to top ratings and excellent reviews.

  14. I’m a hard one to impress, and I too often think I know things, but John Hamer’s Anthon transcript scenario (#7) just took my breath away. Stunning. And thanks for the excellent follow-up observation, Kari (#11)! Wait . . . today is 7/11 . . . even better.

  15. Bro. Jones says:

    I would certainly love to see more firestorms, and more “You Make the Call” too! I never get to have these kinds of discussions at church, and rarely even among friends, so the bloggernaccle serves a great purpose for me in this regard.

  16. Is this going to be the Brett Favre of blog series? Wait, that would mean it would have to continue on another blog. Never mind.

  17. StillConfused says:

    Discussing Friday Firestorms? You tease!!!!

  18. Steve, I’ve loved this series, and have to agree with Ann that I would like to see it continue. How about Saturday Smackdowns next?

    That said, I love to see more stats about comment counts and such being thrown around. Cynthia (#9), great analysis! I agree that it’s surprising that the New Testament supplied so many. I would have guessed that the D&C alone would supply enough controversial topics for several years’ worth of firestorms. And isn’t it fortunate that with ongoing council, there’s always new firestorm fodder available? :)

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