Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-seven: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 4: Keeping the Commandments and Prospering in the Land

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet

Evidence Forty-seven:
“Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 4:
“Keeping the Commandments and Prospering in the Land”© 
(Revised 23 February 2016)

The Book of Mormon rewards close and careful attention every time we read it, even when reading passages, ideas, concepts, and doctrines which we may feel quite comfortable with. One such expression which provides significant insight when examined carefully is the common phrase to “prosper in the land.” It appears about thirty-five times in the Book of Mormon.(1) The refrain is frequent enough, and often in nearly the same language, so that it becomes easy to assume that we understand its meaning. Recently in my personal reading I came across a brief assessment of this expression that suggested the importance of taking a closer look.(2)

To begin with, it is useful to ask ourselves how we and perhaps the church generally understand this idea. It first appeared in the Book of Mormon in a revelation to Nephi found in 1 Nephi 2:
19) And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. 20) And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. 21) And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.  And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
The refrain which is more or less constant in the entire book is the following in 2 Nephi 4:4.
For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
The common understanding of this expression is that “prosper in the land” implies material success. That is consistent with the most prominent and used definitions of the word prosper. Checking several dictionaries one encounters most frequently that the term means to “succeed in material terms, to be financially successful” and I believe many Church members understand this statement in those terms. LeGrand Baker in the analysis referred to above has looked more carefully at several of the passages in the Book of Mormon which contain this phrase and suggests that it may have a much deeper meaning. For example, in the 1 Nephi 2 passage above he noticed the fact that the promise of prosperity comes prior to arrival in the promised land(3), and in fact seems to be involved in being led to that land. Here is the language of verse 20 once again: “And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.” Another thing which interests Baker is found in Helaman 3:20:
Nevertheless Helaman did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land.
Here we have the phrase “prosper in the land” in the context of a description of the spiritual strengths of Helaman. This leads Baker to write:
Even a casual reader must admit that after such a list of spiritual superlatives, it would be rather anticlimactic to suggest, as their conclusion, that the king also made a lot of money that year. It says that, of course, if one wishes to read it that way.  But it also says something much more important and much more consistent with the spiritual crescendo to which the early part of the verse is building.(4)
Both of the above passages appear to be suggesting that prospering is associated with enjoying an abundance of spiritual blessings.

Another matter Baker alerted me to is how this idea--obedience to the commandments and the promise of prospering in the land–is contrasted with those who are disobedient and told they will be cut off from the presence of the Lord. The opposite of prosper in many passages is to be cut off from the presence of the Lord.(5) To me it seems incongruous to say the obedient will become materially successful but the disobedient will be cut off from the presence of the Lord. A more nearly correct parallel would be that the obedient will enjoy access to the presence of the Lord and the disobedient will not. In this respect then Baker concludes that in the Book of Mormon sometimes the statement “prosper in the land:” 
....means to come unto Christ–either the process of doing so, or to actually have already done so.  Mormon’s narrative and the prophets he quotes use that phrase both ways.  He tells one story about what happened when the ideas of the law of consecration began to take hold in the church under king Mosiah. The people became rich in worldly things. After that, as their adherence to the law of consecration matured, “the Lord did visit them and did prosper them” (Mosiah 27:3-7; see also Alma 9:13, 38:1, 50:20).(6)
Additional uses of the phrase are connected to yet other important spiritual blessings. For example, twice  the promise of prospering in the land is linked with the blessings of having Laban’s “plates of brass” with them. The first is in 1 Ne. 4:14-16:
14) And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise. 15) Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law. 16) And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.
Here the sequence of ideas is that Nephi remembers he was told that if his family kept the commandments they would prosper in the land of promise, but in order to do that they needed to have a written record of the Lord’s commandments. Thus their need to take with them Laban’s plates. The linkage is more direct in Mosiah 1:7:
And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them [the plates of brass] diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.
Here two words normally understood as economic terms–profit and prosper–are applied in a spiritual context to the spiritual benefit of searching the scriptures diligently. So it appears that having the scriptures and studying them is not only a necessary prerequisite to prospering in the land, but one of the forms that prosperity takes as well.

Yet other passages connect prospering in the land with enjoying the protection of the Lord in the land of promise. This important aspect of prospering is found in at least three passages.  The first is in Mosiah 2:31. I will highlight the relevant ideas with various forms of emphasis to facilitate grasping the connections under consideration.
And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you
The second is in Alma 48:15:
And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger
Our last example is found in Alma 50:20-22:
20) Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. 21) And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions. 22) And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites.
In these instances prospering involves receiving guidance from the Lord which resulted in their protection and/or deliverance from their enemies.  Peace is a corollary to these ideas as is found in Mosiah 10:5:
And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the landthus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.
Prospering in the land always depends upon keeping the commandments of God and it appears from our analysis so far that the prospering meant enjoying the Spirit of the Lord and the spiritual blessings it brings to individuals and societies. I wondered if any of the brethren had commented on the meaning of this important phrase and I was pleased to discover when I did a Google search to find that in May of 2014 Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife addressed the annual BYU Women’s Conference. The title of their address was “The Rewards of Righteousness,” and one of the main rewards they discussed was “prospering in the land.” The address was later reprinted in the July 2015 Ensign, under Elder Cook’s name alone.  In this talk Elder Cook addressed the meaning of the phrase “prosper in the land” twice. The fact that he repeated himself on the matter may suggest the importance he placed on this issue.  He said, 
Fourth is the reward of prospering in the land. The question here is: Our family is not achieving significant material success. Is that because we are not righteous enough? Let me assure you that prospering in the land is not defined by the size of your bank account. It has a much fuller meaning than that.The scriptures are clear that living the commandments allows us to prosper in the land. The prophet Alma, speaking to his son Helaman, teaches, “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.”Accordingly, having the Spirit in our lives is the primary ingredient in prospering in the land.(7)
And again:
In a conversation I had with President Gordon B. Hinckley on a flight to a temple dedication, he joyfully reported that the Church had the funds to increase the number of temples because the Latter-day Saints had prospered in the land. As faithful tithe payers, they had provided the resources to build temples where sacred ordinances could be performed. Prospering and being wealthy are not necessarily synonymous. A much better gospel definition of prospering in the land is having sufficient for our needs while having the abundant blessing of the Spirit in our lives. When we provide for our families and love and serve the Savior, we will enjoy the reward of having the Spirit and prospering in the land.(8)
A point about material prosperity should be made however. It is inevitable when the Saints of God keep his commandments that material prosperity accompany spiritual prosperity. But there is a danger that lurks in temporal prosperity and especially in our day. Six months before the Stock Market crashed in October 1929, in the April General Conference of that year, Elder Melvin J. Ballard uttered a prediction which must have appeared just six months later very wide of the mark. He said:
I recognize, however, with my brethren, that the sorest trials that have ever come to the Church in any age of the world are the trials of peace and prosperity.  But we are to do a new thing, a thing that never has before been done–We are to take the Church of Christ not only through the age of persecution and mob violence, but through the age of peace and prosperity.  For we must learn to endure faithfully even in peace and prosperity. 
I am not praying for the return of persecution and poverty; I am praying for peace and prosperity; but above all things for strength and power to endure this test.  For it was not the design and the intention of the Lord to have this people always in suffering in bondage and distress.  They shall come to peace and prosperity, but it is the sorest trial that will come to them.”(9)
The Great Depression was devastating and followed on hard by World War II then Korea, Viet Nam, and other conflicts. Amid it all the United States has continued to grow and prosper and along with it the Saints have also enjoyed unprecedented wealth and prosperity. But the Book of Mormon warns us that such prosperity can lead to pride which can lead to a monumental fall. So when the Washington, D.C. Temple was dedicated in November 1974, just 45 years after Elder Ballard spoke, President Spencer W. Kimball made a remarkable statement in his prayer at the dedication ceremony. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Twelve, related what he said and draws his own lesson from it:
I am reminded of what President Spencer W. Kimball said at the dedication of the Washington Temple:
“Bless all people, our Father, that they may prosper, but not more than their faith can stand.... Our Father, in blessing Thy people with prosperity, we pray that they may not be surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth which could bring them to worship these false gods.” 
Taking freedom with President Kimball’s admonition, may I, for our purpose today, say, “Oh God, do not bless us with more stocks, bonds, properties, automobiles, or credit cards than our faith can stand or more than our parents can bear.” A worthy prayer, fellow students: “Dear God, in all the days ahead, please bless me with what I need and can stand, not with what I want.” 
“Bless us, O God, that we may not have more success than we can stand.” I know some say, “I would sure like to have that challenge”; but, believe me, it is real and difficult. Knowing how to cope with what happens to us, good or bad, is a continuing challenge.”(10)
I will conclude as I began. Careful study of the Book of Mormon, especially some of those things which are most familiar to us and which we may be tempted to take for granted, is always rewarded with new and important insights, light, and truth. As we have seen in this case, the phrase “prosper in the land” might be considered one of those little zingers which when studied carefully shows the Book of Mormon to be more rich and complex and profound than may at first appear. In this case we see at least four important ideas consistently connected to the phrase, each appearing more than once and sometimes from the hands of different authors. This phenomenon is difficult to explain by saying that Joseph Smith was the book’s author. Because in addition to all the matters of historical chronology, story line, and plot development not to mention thousands of details relative to culture, politics, war, religion, and theology that he would have had to track carefully; yet in the midst of all this he subtly weaves this important concept into more than thirty various contexts many of which almost imperceptibly elaborate its meaning beyond what appears to be the obvious. More importantly, that meaning is largely spiritual. And I remind the reader that this is all in a text that was produced in a single draft, without significant editing, rewriting, or polishing. I find myself frequently asking, “How did he do that?”  Of course the answer is that he didn’t do that, except as the Lord’s instrument in translating this sacred ancient record.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  The distribution of the phrase “prosper in the land” or variants in the Book of Mormon is interesting.  It is found five times in the writings of Nephi and two more in the remainder of the small plates.  The large plates have twenty-eight or nine instances; seven in Mosiah, eleven in Alma, two in Helaman, one in 4 Nephi, and at least two and perhaps as many as four in Ether.

2.  LeGrand L. Baker, The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Israelite Temple: Nineteen Classic Temple Characteristics of the Book of Mormon.  Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2012, pp. 112-119.  Although I do not fully endorse the thesis of this book I would say that one of Baker’s  main strengths is that he  generally shows himself to be an attentive and close reader of the Book of Mormon text and this yields some thought provoking ideas and insights.

3.  Ibid, p. 113.  Note that all extra emphasis in scriptural passages is added by me.

4.  Ibid., p. 119.

5. Ibid., p. 114.  Several passages make this same contrast: 2 Ne. 1:20; 4:4; Al. 9:13-14; 36:30; 38:1; 50:20.

6.  Baker, The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Israelite Temple..., p. 115, emphasis added.

7.  Quentin L. and Mary G. Cook, “The Rewards of Righteousness,” address 2 May 2014, BYU Women’s Conference, internet edition, p. 9, emphasis added.  It may be accessed at:
http://womensconference.ce.byu.edu/sites/womensconference.ce.byu.edu/files/quentin_l_and_mary_cook.pdf   See also Quentin L. Cook, "Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness," Ensign (July 2015):33-39, especially 38-39.

8.  Quentin L. and Mary G. Cook, “The Rewards of Righteousness,” p. 10, emphasis added.   See also Quentin L. Cook, "Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness," Ensign (July 2015):33-39, especially 38-39.

9.  Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, April 1929, p. 66, emphasis added.

10.  Marvin J. Ashton, “What Shall We Do Then?” BYU Speeches of the Year: BYU Centennial Devotional and Fireside Addresses 1975, (Provo: BYU Press, 1976), p. 23.

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs, National Geographic, January 1993

The last time I looked at an old issue of National Geographic, it was from 1978, when the ideas put forward in the Dinosaur Renaissance were starting to take hold in the popular imagination. Fifteen years later, and Vol. 183, No. 1 shows just how much progress had been made. What's especially fascinating about this issue of Nat Geo is that it not only looks at the current state of the science, but also how dinosaurs were enjoying a resurgence in popularity among the general public at the time, in turn offering an insight into contemporary trends in palaeoart. Which means John Gurche. Lots of John Gurche.

Although not the only artist to partake in this Dinosaur Special (more on the others next time), Gurche's stupefyingly detailed paintings accompany the main magazine article, and his nesting Saurolophus stares out from the cover. From a technical standpoint, Gurche's work often remains mind-boggling - his paintings frequently resemble elaborately staged photographs of scale models, such is his mastery of light and shadow. Of course, his dinosaurs are also very much products of their time, just as much as anything from 1978. The Saurolophus remains gorgeously painted, but is quite hideously shrink-wrapped by modern standards - particularly around its face, which would give Rameses II a run for his money in the spine-chilling dessication stakes.

Gurche's typical aesthetic is very well known among dinosaur art enthusiasts, and he seems to have a tendency to paint hyper-detailed brown wrinkly things in dustbowl environments, such as these pachycephalosaurs. It's obvious that the 'Gurche look' was virtually lifted wholesale for many of Jurassic Park's creatures, especially the brachiosaur; his website states that he worked on the movie, in a role that other online sources describe as 'consultant'. (Unfortunately, the Jurassic franchise's unwarranted conservatism led to '90s-era Gurche-o-saurs hitting the big screen again last year, but Gurche can hardly be blamed for that. And I digress.) All these years later, this work still looks extremely convincing, even if a great many of the animals portrayed probably didn't have quite such elephantine, leathery skin.

While the pachycephalosaur painting might be the most stereotypically Gurchesque among those featured here, the aforementioned Saurolophus scene does also feature rather uniformly brown creatures in a largely arid environment, albeit with some absolutely spectacular lighting going on back there. But that's far from all he can do.

In the above scene, we are invited to adopt the perspective of a clutch of small cynodonts as they scarper to avoid the gaze of Herrerasaurus. From their point of view, this relatively small dinosaur - shorter than an adult human - becomes an enormous, looming, and terrifying threat. It's fantastically effective. Here, the dinosaur enjoys its (literal) day in the sun, bathed in light, while the proto-mammals are reduced to cowering in the shadows.

The article covers the usual narrative of the dinosaurs' rise, fall, and rediscovery ("I am Ozymandosaurus," and all that), while also shedding light on remarkable recent discoveries, many of which have overturned old notions about what dinosaurs were like. As such, Gurche here illustrates an Arctic scene from the Late Cretaceous - juvenile edmontosaurs are stalked from the trees by a fascinatingly sinister tyrannosaur. The crisp wrinkles on the hadrosaurs are none-more-'90s, but for my money the tyrannosaur remains a wonderful piece of work. It can be difficult to imagine how such large animals were able to conceal themselves from their prey, but Gurche brings the scenario to life in an utterly believable way through a superb use of perspective, shadow, and cryptic camouflage on the creature. Aspiring palaeoartists may also like to note how having a predator calmly contemplating its strike is actually far more exciting (not to mention realistic) than having it roaring and slobbering like an idiot. Less is more, and all that. (Oh, and beautiful backdrop, too.)

Something more on that 'pop culture resurgence', now. The article features a glimpse into the workshop of Kokoro, a Japanese manufacturer of robo-saurians. And bloody hell but if they aren't quite uncommonly beautiful to look at. Why can't we have more exhibits with robots like these? I mean, apart from the fact that I'd go broke. The Deinonychus gang resemble those that, sadly, still hang around the NHM (London)'s dinosaur gallery in an increasingly dilapidated state; I can only imagine that Kokoro supplied them back in the day. Incidentally, Kokoro are still going, and now have an operation in America - unfortunately, it would appear that the Deinonychus gang is still going, too.

There's no word on who made this model, but never mind - that's an awesome photo. Shot 'somewhere near Alburquerque', apparently, a city that I still can't envisage as being a real place that exists outside of Looney Tunes. The model being transported here has actually aged rather well, too, mostly thanks to its correct forelimb orientation. It also reminded me of a dinosaur park I'd heard about over in the States, which reminded me that it's in trouble (red tape, it would seem) - it's a shame, as it's reliant entirely on donations, has increasingly well-researched models, and has clearly brought a lot of joy to local kids. Go and buy owner Chris a beer, why not.

And finally...it wouldn't be a '90s article about dinosaurs without that photo of Bob Bakker posing next to that Tyrannosaurus mount (in Denver). Which looks really cool from this angle, but a little silly from others. Hello ma baby, hello ma honey...

Dinosaur Hearts button sets now available!

Over at the Mammoth is Mopey website, we're running a promotion through Valentine's Day. Every book comes with a free set of five "Dinosaur Heart" buttons, mounted on a glossy "I Heart You and Dinosaurs Too" Valentine card. If you already own the book but would still like to pick up a button set, not to worry. They're available separately, as well!

Mammoth is Mopey and the Dinosaur Hearts button set

Jennie and I assemble every set ourselves, and they look terrific, if I do say so myself. If you'd like to place an order for Valentine's day, international orders should be placed by January 31 and domestic (U.S) orders by February 9.

Guest Post: Yes, Your Velociraptors Must Have Feathers and Other Concessions to Reality

In this guest post, we hand the microphone to Daniel Bensen, who is here to bring a novelist's perspective to the topic of accuracy in media portrayals of extinct animals.

Let's talk about the giant lizards in Jurassic World. Their tails droop like noodles, their skins are scaly and wrinkled, hanging off prominent bones. Their hands curl in front of them as if ready to dribble basketballs. They hiss and spit, and glare at the world through slit-pupiled eyes, their skulls as bony and gnarled as dragons'. Jurassic World's lizards are scary. They're distinctive (and copyrightable) on the screen and in toy stores. They're lucrative as hell. And they're wrong. They are less similar to real Velociraptor than the ones in the original Jurassic Park movie 20 years ago.

Universal Studios had a good reason for using giant lizards rather than real dinosaurs in Jurassic World. They didn't want to make just any old dinosaur movie, they wanted to continue the Jurassic Park franchise, and Jurassic Park raptors look like this. If the special effects people made raptors that look like that, they would have been off-brand—unrecognizable to the public, and (since you can't copyright what a real animal looks like) terrifyingly public domain. Even worse, a real Velociraptor wouldn't have worked symbolically. The movie doesn't need a real animal. It needs a key to the lock in your brain that opens a door marked "here be dragons."

If Jurassic World was called "Dragon World," that would be the end of this essay. Why not give the public what they want, after all? What does it matter what symbol we use to denote "dinosaur" in our brains? Well, none. We don't have time machines. We're not going to meet real dinosaurs, so the question of what they really looked like will only ever be academic. There is a bigger problem, though, and that's the fact that movies play just as fast and loose with real, present day reality.

The angry "hey, that's not accurate!" feeling I get when I watch Jurassic World hits me at other times too. The female CIA agent who helped track down Osama Bin Laden looks like this, but in the movie based on her work, she's played by an actress who looks like this. Why did the casting director make that decision? Because Alfreda Frances Bikowsky's face doesn't press the "pretty, tough-girl" button as hard as Jessica Chastain. In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, there's a small Eastern European country where people write in Cyrillic, but speak accented English to each other. No such country comes even close to existing, but if they spoke Serbian, how could we sympathize with them? If they wrote in English, how would we know they were foreign? In Interstellar, climate change has made human life on Earth impossible, except the main character still tends crops growing in the soil under an open sky, because if he didn't, the movie wouldn't press button in our rains marked "farmer." When we watch movies, we aren't actually seeing CIA agents or Eastern European countries or climate change, any more than we're watching anything like real dinosaurs. Instead, we're seeing symbols.

Except we are very bad at remembering the difference between symbols and reality. Doctor-turned-statistician Hans Rosling put together a quiz about the state of the world. Who's rich and who's poor? Who's peaceful and who's violent? What countries are better to live in than what other countries? He gave the quiz to people on the street and found that the answers they gave describe a world in which the US and a handful of western European countries huddle at the center of a vast wasteland of desperate, dangerous, funny-talking foreigners. That's a world that exists only in movies, and yet most of the people Rosling quizzed mistake it for reality. What happens when these misinformed people vote? What happens when they march off to war?

We live in a complicated world, more complicated than we can probably understand. It's tempting to wallpaper over variegated reality and lump all changes, exceptions, and shades of meaning into a monolithic symbol. Young woman = pretty, Eastern Europe = war crimes, farmer = dirt, dinosaur = lizard-monster. I urge you storytellers out there to resist the temptation of symbols, however. We ignore reality at our peril; like a Velociraptor, reality is most likely to attack when you're not looking.

Daniel M Bensen is an English teacher and author. His new book, Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen, is about accurate dinosaurs and what happens when you forget that other people are real. It also has particle beams and tyrannosaur hunts and a wedding!

Attenborough and the Boyish Grin

Mostly thanks to pesky time constraints, I won't go in to too much detail about the BBC's latest dino-docu, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur. Examining the discovery of what might just be the largest titanosaur (and therefore dinosaur, and therefore land animal) yet, it briskly chronicles the discovery, excavation, analysis, and reconstruction in a way that's made all the more compelling by the lack of sensationalism and CGI bullshit. (OK, there's a little CGI, including a brief clip recycled from a Walking With Dinosaurs spin-off. But really, it only enhances the tale.) Our companion through this wonderful voyage of discovery is David Attenborough, a man for whom the word 'venerable' was invented, and who is so likeable that he comes close to single-handedly redeeming the British people. (But not quite. Sorry, everyone.)

The second best thing about the programme is that it's about bones. So many dinosaur documentaries in the last couple of decades have shied away from focussing on the bare bones, even though that's (largely) what we know Mesozoic dinosaurs from. This is a reminder that the fossils can be the stars of the show by themselves, and not just the spectacularly huge thigh bones, bigger than men, but everything down to the tiniest eggshell fragments.

I've seen it mentioned that the show doesn't quite go far enough in linking modern birds with Mesozoic dinosaurs, and that's quite true. They're described as the "closest living relatives", which is true, but too little is made of their evolutionary kinship. On the other hand, I was just grateful for all the marvellous anatomical adaptations of sauropods to huge size were being carefully explained to a lay audience.

The best thing about the show, of course, was when Attenborough walked in on the fully reconstructed titanosaur skeleton in a warehouse, and grinned and giggled like a wee lad in a sweet shop.

Copyright The Beeb.


Mesozoic Miscellany 82

So... this was supposed to go up on December 18, and life junk kept me from wrapping it up (the intended date of publication will be meaningful in terms of some of the seeming non sequiturs in the descriptions, which I don't feel like cutting). So forgive the slightly older than usual linkage here. Still, stuff well worth checking out. I'll try to have another, fresher round-em-up soon. Been a bonkers end-of-2015 and start-of-2016, work wise.

In the News

A barfed-up pterosaur! Presumably it was not digested over 10,000 years, finding a new meaning of pain and suffering. Andy Farke and Brian Switek have the rest of the story.

With a name like Hensonbatrachus kermiti, think you could guess what kind of critter it was? Hint: it's not a Kowakian Monkey Lizard. Royal Tyrrell Museum has the tale.

New species of ankylosaur from Australia? This deal keeps getting better all the time!

Azendohsaurus had an interesting change in phylogenetic placement; more from Jaime Headden at The Bite Stuff.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

"You seen that new garish Velociraptor?" "Yeah, the Dino Toy Blog was telling me about it... they say it's quite a thing to see."

Pixar's The Good Dinosaur came out at the end of November, and Marc Vincent and Jaime Headden offered reviews.

Luis Rey took a look at a new CollectA Spinosaur which seems to be inspired by one of his recent depictions of the beast - at least in the wrist.

Look mammals so old to young eyes? Guardian science blogger Elsa Panciroli examines the debate over the phylogenetic placement of the haramiyidans.

Heinrich Mallison paid a visit to Juramuseum Eichstätt and how is it? Well, it's certainly no wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Mark Witton followed up his first wonderful Tanystropheus article with a second, exploring what sort of lifestyle the sum total of the protorosaur's anatomy seems to add up to.

At SV-POW, Mike Taylor has written a touching personal tribute to Jack McIntosh, a legend in the study of sauropods who passed away last month at the age of 92. Abydosaurus mcintoshi and Brontomerus mcintoshi are both named in honor of Mr. McIntosh.

Paleoart Pick

I love Franxurio's work; I feel like we chase similar muses, but in our own ways. Check out this beautiful poster wrapping up his #Dinovember illustrations. Love the use of hand lettering, too.

Dinovember without Dinosaurs by Franxurio, available at Redbubble.

The Cohesiveness of Makeup

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog.*

By now if you have, read some of my Definitive Guides or have any inkling of this blog, you know I am the weird beauty blogger. I don’t look at colors of makeup at their face value or pretty little packaging. I look at colors as extensions of lighting. This is probably the reason why I am addicted to television.
I beg you, click to read more »

A trip that changed my life

A trip that changed my life

During my stint with IBM in 2012, I got an opportunity to visit Lima for a business meeting with Peru’s leading Bank. It was so ironical that I started my journey on my birthday and ended when my birthday was still on, despite a long 30 hours journey changing 2 flights with 2 stopovers covering about 12,000 miles.  This trip was destined to change my life from the time I boarded a cab from my home to the Bengaluru Airport.

While conversing with the cabbie, I was surprised to learn, that he joined an airport taxi company after he struggled to make a mark in his chosen profession. Shastri was a Hindu Priest offering ritual services but could not earn enough money to feed his extended family thanks to declining patronage and his inability to gain a strong foothold in a profession that is already controlled by few senior Priests. Being a junior in the fold, he had to depend on his seniors to earn his income and perform odd jobs to keep his home fires burning. This led him to become a taxi driver, to earn an extra income to feed his family.  Only if he had a platform to offer ritual services to his clientele, he would have just focused on being a Priest, a profession that is at a risk of extinction for the next generation of Hindus. 

The Bangalore to Dubai leg of my journey was nothing much to write about since the destination was covered in barely 3.5 hours and I slept most of the time. However the real challenge was the Dubai – Sao Paulo leg consuming close to 15 hours, which still remains my longest nonstop flight ever undertaken. During this journey I was seated next to 2 young Asian looking guys, one of whom was meditating most of the time while the other was watching only American channels on his personal TV screen.  The moment I saw the “meditating” guy come back to the real world, I struck up a conversation with him. Ali seemed to be a follower of Sri Sri Ravishankar and showed lot of interest in the ancient culture and temples of India. He slowly brought out a talisman kept close to his heart and showed it to me with great devotion. Since outbound flights from Dubai normally carry passengers from various South Asian countries with majority being from Indian cities, I asked him which place he belonged to. I was shocked as well as surprised when he told me that he belonged to Lahore in Pakistan. I was stunned for a minute before I could continue any further conversation with him.  It was sad to hear from him, that due to visa issues he could never attend the Art of Living courses normally held at Bengaluru or the temples he wished to visit in India. I wished then, that he had access to a digital platform to offer Puja at a Temple in India, from anywhere in the world.

Slowly I turned my attention to the “Americanised” young fellow seated next to the aisle but it was difficult to grab his attention since he was glued to the TV screen most of the time. Somehow I managed to catch his attention when he returned to his seat from the toilet. I introduced myself as the guy from Bengaluru IT world and was not surprised when he introduced himself as an IT professional based out of my city but working for a competitor IT company. He was more interested in talking about American soaps, movies and their way of life and sounded more American than an American. I quickly remembered a young European guy, whom I had bumped into, at the Dubai airport terminal a couple of hours ago, clad in just a dhoti and kurta with a vermillion tilak on his forehead. He was travelling to Delhi to attend an ISKCON festival and was proud to showcase his look and attire to the world.  I was left wondering after this episode…where is our Indian younger generation heading. They are slowly drifting away from our rich culture and trying to ape the western world while people from western world are showing tremendous amount of interest in the Hindu culture and tradition. There are perhaps more younger people eager to learn Sanskrit and Vedism in Germany than in India. The Japanese have a culture and tradition of worshipping Hindu Gods, most of whom have been forgotten in India. If our younger generation is not made aware of our culture, tradition and importance of rituals then a day will come when there will not be any Priest at all. Most of the rituals will have to be conducted using DIY kits or through artificial means like running pre recorded videos of ritual services. No wonder Shastri de-risked himself by turning into a cab driver, realizing he has no future with our younger generation.

During my stay at Lima, I planned a trip to Machu Pichhu, which was on my bucket list of places to visit during my lifetime. Machu Pichhu was named one of the 7 new modern wonders of the world. No doubt I was left intrigued by this heritage site, which was very well managed by the Peruvian government. It was indeed treated like a proper UNESCO heritage site with barely any encroachment or eateries within a radius of 5 miles; restricted entry with a cap on number of people who could visit the site in a day etc. There were lots of tourists from all over the world enjoying themselves and having a great time, with absolutely no touts bothering them. Even the guides had to be pre booked at the entrance, who could speak almost all major international languages. I suddenly went back 8 years ago (circa 2004) to another UNESCO world heritage site called “Hampi”, located about 200 miles from Bengaluru. If someone was made to visit both these heritage sites, assuming similar infrastructure, I bet Hampi would win hands down as the most enthralling among the two. Unfortunately the infrastructure has let Hampi down very badly starting from bad approach roads to encroachments all over the place with touts, guides bothering you at every step. There is absolute chaos the way this site has been managed and you would want to quickly visit the place and just run away from there. Hampi, a wonderful heritage and cultural landmark, is sadly not marketed well especially in the world tourism circuit. Though there are few foreigners who have made Hampi their home, yet how many people outside India or even within India are aware of this historic site. The same is true for the famous Ellora and Ajanta caves. The Kailasa temple at Ellora was built out of one single rock from top to bottom. This is one of the biggest wonders of the world. But where is it languishing currently, in the honor list ? Are people even within India aware of this marvelous site, leave alone the foreigners? What if awareness was created about wonders like Hampi or Ellora, firstly among Indians themselves and then to the outside world? What if these places were marketed efficiently to the foreign tourists? Though we cannot change the infrastructure overnight, which is controlled by the Government, but what if the tourists were given the real taste of Indian cultural heritage sites by providing the best of facilities, that is well within private control? These were the thoughts running in my mind as I was returning back from Machu Pichhu to Cusco in a glass topped train offering me great view of the Andes mountain range and the heritage site we left far behind.

The long journey back to India from Peru was undertaken via a different route this time … Lima – New York – Dubai – Bengaluru.  This leg offered me enough time to think and come up with a solution to the problem statements.  The seeds of entrepreneurship were sown during this trip and I decided at that moment, that if I became an entrepreneur I should be focusing on creating a solution to the above stated problems and challenges leveraging on technology as an enabler.

Vydik as an idea and concept was born after 3 years and now I am a full time entrepreneur focused on creating a social impact in the Hindu ritual and culture space. Vydik brings together, the Hindu Priests (Purohits) and the Users (Patrons) on a common digital platform. The platform offers an opportunity to the junior Purohits to connect with the younger generation, who can book Hindu Ritual services (Puja) on fingertips using either their smartphone or their laptop. The platform also helps the younger IT generation to connect with Hindu culture and tradition and understand the importance of ritual services in their normal life. Vydik offers them quick access to the Purohits, who belong to their sect and can speak their language, to perform Puja at their home. The eBazaar offering allows Users to buy the Puja items online or buy any other item, that is of relevance to Hindu culture and tradition. 

Vydik also offers Puja @Temple service offering, wherein people like Ali can book a specific Puja at a Temple of his choice, sitting anywhere in the world, while the “Prasadam” will be delivered to his home within few days. 

The itinerary based niche Tour offering from Vydik, will attract the foreigners especially those coming for medical reasons (medical tourists) to visit places like Hampi and Ellora. The tourists will be given the real taste of Indian hospitality in terms of stay, local cuisine, friendly guides who can speak their language and overall a trouble-free travel experience from airport to airport.

In addition to above, Vydik also offers services like Book a Purohit in advance, at religious centers in India like Varanasi, Nashik, Allahabad, Haridwar etc. ; Book an Event wherein Vydik manages the event end to end, which is related to rituals in a human lifecycle that includes marriages etc. and last but not the least, managing the entire final rites related event for the bereaved customer.

To summarize and conclude the venture with a social cause is bound to create disruption in the most unorganized sector operating today in India. The venture, that offers a 360 degree solution in the Hindu ritual space, aims to bring is some method into the madness by streamlining the pricing mechanism which is currently not in vogue and a technology platform, that should automate most of the processes related to ritual services.

About the Author:

Arvind is a new entrant to the startup world and his entrepreneurial journey started only a few months ago. He has co founded a venture in a rather unusual but less crowded "Rituals & Religion" space. The flagship brand called "VYDIK" brings together the Hindu Priests and the Users on a digital platform (mobile and web based). The service offering ranges from rituals at home/temples to eCommerce to managing events and tours. Prior to this journey, he worked for companies like IBM, HP, Infosys, iGate, Ramco and Unisys over a period of 24 years in various roles ranging from Finance to IT. He has taken up the challenge by quitting the corporate world to enter the mad world of entrepreneurship, so that he can contribute something back to the society, using technology as the key enabler. He can be reached on arvind.kamath@appventure.in or arvindakamath@gmail.com

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-six: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 3: “Altars, Offerings, Sacrifices, and Thanksgiving.”

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty-six:
 “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 3: 
“Altars, Offerings, Sacrifices, and Thanksgiving”© 

Attacks on the Book of Mormon began before it actually came off of the press and have continued almost unabated since that time. One issue that arose early and continues to periodically surface is the matter of Lehi and Nephi, non-Levites, exercising the priesthood in temple related ways.  In 1832 Alexander Campbell a well-known leader of a “restoration” movement and founder of what became The Church of Christ wrote one of the earliest critiques of the Book of Mormon in a pamphlet entitled Delusions.(1) His first argument under the heading of “Internal Evidence” is that early in the story Lehi builds an altar whereupon he makes offerings, sacrifices, and gives thanks.  (See 1 Ne. 2:7; 5:9; and 7:22). Campbell asserts that Joseph erred when he made Lehi a descendant of Joseph rather than of Levi and goes to some length to show how in the Old Testament the priesthood was confined to the families of Levi and Aaron. The Book of Mormon he claims, errs when Lehi builds an altar and offers sacrifices and burnt offering to the Lord, and later to have Nephi build a temple in the new world. This is compounded later in the book when high priests are consecrated.  Campbell concludes:
Although God had promised in the law of Moses, that if any man not of the tribe and family of Levi and Aaron, should approach the office of priest, he would surely die; he is represented by Smith as blessing, approbating, and sustaining another family in this appropriated office. The God of Abraham or Joseph Smith must then be a liar!! And who will hesitate to pronounce him an impostor? This lie runs through his records for the first six hundred years of his story.(2)
Campbell’s argument is the first of two issues relating to the altar and ritual practices there in First Nephi. The second is the widely held belief that Deuteronomy 12 centralized Israelite worship at the temple in Jerusalem and sacrifices and other rituals associated with temple worship were not permitted outside of Jerusalem. So, what was Lehi doing with an altar in northwestern Arabia? Did Joseph Smith make two blunders that expose his authorship of the book?

Some interesting information which helps answer these two questions has been accumulating as Latter-day Saints try to understand and defend the Book of Mormon on these points. In a 2001 article entitled “Lehi’s Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness,” BYU professor David Rolph Seely has effectively summarized three possible answers to these questions.(3) The first is the possibility that “Deuteronomy 12 did not intend to eliminate all sacrifice away from the main sanctuary.” The provisions found in Deuteronomy 12 do not explicitly say sacrifice may not be made except at the Jerusalem sanctuary. It apparently took on this interpretation over time, but we know from both the Old Testament and archaeology that altars, sanctuaries, and temples existed in at least a dozen places during the Old Testament period.(4) Nevertheless, Seely reports, during the time of Lehi, King Josiah initiated reforms which did interpret Deuteronomy 12 as restricting sacrifice to the Jerusalem sanctuary. He and Hezekiah are credited with centralizing Israelite worship in Jerusalem..(5) So, this leads to the second possibility–that Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood was “not bound by the centralization of worship as prescribed by Deuteronomy 12.”(6)  

He quotes the Prophet Joseph Smith as saying, “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.”(7) Through a misreading of a Seely footnote at this point I encountered a happy accident. I thought the footnote was quoting Joseph Smith to the effect that Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood.(8) I was not familiar with such a statement from Joseph Smith though I have spent much of my adult life studying his teachings, so I was understandably interested in finding this quotation. I did a word search but could not come up with the quotation.  After several failures I reread the Seely footnote and realized my error. But the effort was not in vain because in my word search I came across a very nice statement from Oliver Cowdery. In early 1835 he was editor of the Church’s periodical The Latter-Day Saint Messenger and Advocate. In March of that year he responded to some of Alexander Campbell’s criticisms of the Book of Mormon found in Delusions. Happily for me, he took up the issue of Lehi’s priesthood.  Cowdery wrote:
Now, as it is, and very correctly too, Lehi and his sons were blessed with the high priesthood–the Melchesedek priesthood. They never made any pretence [sic] that they were descendants of Aaron, or ever received that priesthood which was conferred upon him by the hand of Moses, at the direction of the Lord. 
How did it happen that Moses had authority to consecrate Aaron a priest? Where did he get his authority to arrange the tabernacle, ark, &c.? Who laid hands upon him? Had he authority to "come near" when the Lord was entreated by sacrifice? He was Aaron's brother, to be sure, but Aaron was the high priest. 
Should Mr. C. [Alexander Campbell] finally learn, that Moses received the holy priesthood, after the order of Melchesedek, under the hand of Jethro, his father in-law, that clothed with this authority he set Israel in order, and by commandment ordained Aaron to a priesthood less than that, and that Lehi was a priest after this same order, perhaps he will not raise so flimsy an assertion, as he does when he says the validity of the book of Mormon is destroyed because Lehi offered sacrifice; and perhaps, also, he may not be quite so lavish with his familiar titles as he was when he called brother Smith "as impudent a knave as ever wrote a book!!"(9)
This fully agrees with the Prophet Joseph, and coming from the “second elder” of the Church and amanuensis for the Prophet in the translation of the bulk of the Book of Mormon, this is strong evidence that Joseph believed that Lehi and other Book of Mormon prophets held the Melchizedek Priesthood. Therefore, from a Latter-day Saint point of view, it was not inappropriate for Lehi to build an altar or Nephi to build a temple where their people could worship according to the law of Moses.  

Seely’s third defense of Lehi’s altar and rituals brings to light an interesting potential correlation with the First Nephi account in the Book of Mormon. He said, “Deuteronomy 12 may have been interpreted anciently as applying only to the land of Israel.”(10) He points out that the famous Temple Scroll which was recovered as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls possibly supplies another part of the puzzle.  Much of the Temple Scroll is devoted to interpreting the Torah related to the temple and twice it uses the expression “three days’ journey from the temple.” The second use is in context of the Deuteronomy 12 restrictions. He tells us that the standard interpretation of the passage in question is that the Scroll “prohibits all nonsacrifical slaughter within the boundaries of three days’ distance from Jerusalem.”(11) Given about an 18-mile daily travel in Israel, this would extend the restriction to the then extent of the land of Israel, reaching nearly to the southern tip of the Dead Sea.

But the standard interpretation about “nonsacrfical” killing has been questioned by Jewish scholar Aharon Shemish. He suggests the passage was an interpretation of Deut. 12:1-5. Shemish writes:
On this basis, we can then suggest that the author of the Temple Scroll embraced the opinion that the law of centralization of worship applied only in the land of Israel in line with Deuteronomy 12:1's opening declaration: ‘These are the laws and rules that you must carefully observe in the land.’”(12)
Seely continues, speculating that the Nephites may have held the same understanding of Deuteronomy 12 that “the injunction ... concerning altars, sacrifices, and temples” applied “only to the land of Israel....”(13) This then may explain why Nephi is particular to note that it was “when he [Lehi] had traveled three days in the wilderness ... that he built an altar....”(14)

Once again we find interesting details in the Book of Mormon which are often questioned and criticized but, when more throughly investigated actually become positive evidence for it’s authenticity.(15) Of course, these are evidences only and not proof. Evidence is the point of this series of essays and the author knows that though Joseph Smith is reported to have said to a colleague in the 19th Century “if you live into the next century you will see evidence for the Book of Mormon come forth in droves,”(16) it is not the Lord’s plan to provide so much evidence that our intellects and wills are overpowered by it to the  point that we cannot disbelieve. Faith and belief are always a choice, and there will always be those who interpret the evidence negatively. Nevertheless, the Prophet’s words are continuing to be fulfilled even into the 21st Century. Here is one more evidence why I believe.

Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Alexander Campbell.  Delusions.  An Analysis of the Book of Mormon: with an Examination of its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of its Pretences [sic] to Divine Authority.  Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1832.  Reproductions available several places on the internet.

2.  Ibid., pp. 11-12.

3.  David Rolph Seely, “Lehi’s Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness.”  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10, no. 1 (2001): 63-69, 80.

4.  Seely, “Lehi’s Altar...,” p. 65, citing Manachem Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (Ocford: C\larendon, 1978), pp. 459-64.

5.  Seely, “Lehi’s Altar...,” pp. 66-67, emphasis in original.

6.  Seeley, “Lehi’s Altar...,” p. 67.

7.  Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 181.

8.  It is footnote 6 on page 80.  It reads: “As a prophet, Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood and by that authority offered sacrifice (Teachings, p. 181)....”  As written I thought it was a quotation from Joseph Smith.  But unable to find it I reread it more carefully and realized that the quotation continued after the ellipses for a dozen more lines and came from a commentary on the Book of Mormon by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet!  It pays to read closely and carefully. However, I view the incident as one of the tender mercies of the Lord to bring to my attention the Cowdery quotation used in the article above. 

9.  Oliver Cowdery, “‘Delusion,’” Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 6 (March 1835): 91, spelling and grammar retained.

10.  Seeley, “Lehi’s Altar...,” p. 68.

11.  Ibid.

12.  Aharon Shemesh, “Three-Days’ Journey from the Temple’: The Use of this Expression in the Temple Scroll,” Dead Sea Discoveries 6/2 (1999): 126-38, cited in Seely, pp. 68-69, emphasis in the original.

13.  Ibid, p. 69.

14.  1 Ne. 2:6-7.

15.  Melvin Thorne has written, “Interestingly enough, many examples of arguments for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon based on such complexities are times that at first appeared to be evidences against the book, because they seemed so fantastic in Joseph’s day.”   “Complexity, Consistency, Ignorance, and Probabilities,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B Reynolds.  Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997, p. 191, n. 16.

16.  Truman G. Madsen, opening statement of the 2005 video, “Journey of Faith."

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Presenting Tyrannosaurus rex

While best known for her spectacular work with Dale Russell on An Odyssey in Time, the late, great Eleanor 'Ely' Kish remained active in palaeoart throughout the '80s and into the '90s, although many of the books she illustrated are now quite obscure. This would be one of those. In fact, this was one of those cases where I saw an intriguing-looking book appear on eBay for the first time, only to obtain it and realise that I had it as a kid. Given that, it unsurprisingly concerns everyone's favourite hungry hungry horror. May I present Presenting Tyrannosaurus rex.

Presenting T. rex was part of a series of wee dinosaur books, published in '93, that were bundled with model skeletons. As I recall, the T. rex skeleton was a very decent affair, albeit in a rather unlikely tripod pose for stability's sake. Unfortunately, this is the only book in the series that I've ever seen; I'd love to see more, especially if they were all illustrated by Kish. (That's a billboard-sized hint should you happen to own any, by the way.)

Given that we're going to be spending so much time with the most overexposed Mesozoic animal ever to resemble a huge angry maw with overgrown chicken legs, it's nice of the book to include a few other (lesser) dinosaurs to provide some context, or whatever it is they're doing here. (Other dinosaurs, pfft.) Unfortunately, some of these - including the Spinosaurus and Protoceratops - are quite transparent Sibbick copies, while the Euoplocephalus is a mash-up of different Sibbick ankylosaurs. It seems a bit odd for Kish to be copying other artists, but maybe time was short on this one...

So here's Sexy Rexy, illustrated participating in a Cretaceous hoedown (as you can see, both dancers are smiling joyously). Kish historians (Kishtorians? Nah, that just makes it sound like I'm drunk, which I'm definitely not) will note that the animals, while lean to a Paulian extent, are not the terribly emaciated 'zombiesaurs' of Kish's Odyssey-era work. Essentially, they meet '90s standards of mildly exaggerated athleticism. Having said that, and for all that they're rather on the skinny side, there's a convincing sense of reptilian enormity here, enhanced all the more by the excellent use of perspective, placing us more-or-less at ground level as these two titans dance the do-se-do.

Life wasn't one big dance party for T. rex, however, as it had to contend with a host of large and quite often very smelly neighbours. Here, a nice day at the beach hunting Ornithomimus is interrupted by a cheerful-looking alligator purporting to be Deinosuchus (although Rexy's sure he just has delusions of grandeur). Meanwhile, very Sibbickian head-nubbined Quetzalcoatlus fly overhead. For a very competently written and illustrated '93 book, there's an odd tendency for Rexy to adopt his very best Godzilla pose in this book, although it's probably just a result of the cramped format. Also: Nanotyrannus. Ha ha ha. HA HA HA.

Elsewhere, Rexy must contend with lumbering grey-o-pods and far more dapper hadrosaurs. Green striped with black - lovely. It's disappearing into the fold (which probably explains its lack of a label), but the Triceratops with semi-sprawling forelimbs recalls a much earlier Kish piece. Rexy's remains well drawn (particularly given the tricky perspective), but the head is a little off; the jaw adductor muscles are too far aft of the orbit, and it overall resembles that of a much more basal theropod. It's especially disconcerting as nothing else quite like it appears elsewhere in the book. [EDIT: As pointed out by Vladmimir Nikolov on Facebook, the T. rex is a dead ringer for an Albertosaurus by Bakker, so that'll explain that, while Pablo Lara has noted in the comments that the Alamosaurus is a Sibbick clone. Seriously, what gives?]

But never mind, for here is Tyrannosaurus chowing down on a live crocodile, which really should've been paying more attention. Slightly unlikely pose aside, this is, as Thomas Diehl noted over on the Fezbooks, "quite a nice change from the usual T. rex prey animals". Indeedy, Diehl. The idea of a T. rex/crocodilian face-off (no, confrontations between Albertosaurus/Gorgosaurus and MegaGator do not count) is so very awesomebro I'm not sure why it hasn't been illustrated more often. For whatever reason (probably the colouration), this one rather reminds me of the superb 'Young T. rex' toy in the original Jurassic Park action figure line. The trees are lovely, but I bet you didn't even notice the subtle realism of the slightly uneven, birdlike foot. It's something that not many people get right - for my money, a good recent example would be R J Palmer's work for Saurian.

The observant among you (including the palaeontologists, I hope, or else I'll be disappointed) will have noted that Kish seems to be painting Tyrannosaurus with two different colour schemes throughout the book. Here, both are quite cleverly brought into the same scene, suggesting perhaps a gender difference. The style is very typical of a decent palaeoartist in the early '90s, although the attempt at a juvenile tyrannosaur (before such things were well known) is noteworthy. The legginess is prescient, but the snub-nosed faced contradicts what we now know. A bit like that Young T. rex toy.

All dinosaurs must die, and so here we see a trio of tyrannosaurs witnessing the end of their world, or else just a Dutch town on New Year's Eve. The quite stylised, almost cartoony feel of this spread could easily have felt incongruous, but I feel it slots in the book quite nicely; besides, wanton scenes of terrifying dino-geddon would have terrified the kiddies. It's quite a sad scene, really, as the reader is forced to contemplate how they're never, ever, going to see one of these monstrosities appear from behind a clump of trees in front of them as they go out for a nice Sunday walk. Sniff.

And finally...it might be dead and gone, but Tyrannosaurus will be alive forever in our imaginations. A lovely sentiment, and a fitting illustration from Kish, as our highly carnivorous hero strides off into...if not the sunset, then at least the distance. Goodbye, Tyrannosaurus.

P.S. Goodbye Mr B, too. Let the children boogie.

Happy 2016 from LITC

LITC 2016
Ink on hot pressed watercolour paper, 150 x 150 mm.

A little late, but not yet too late. Happy New Year to our readers from David (Anatotitan/Edmontosaurus), Asher (Dilophosaurus), Marc (Deinonychus), and me (Diplodocus). 

I made very few contributions to the blog in 2015, owing largely to moving house and a number of rather personal issues, but I very much hope that this piece is a good beginning to a more fruitful year ahead (opening the image out in a new tab for a closer view is once again recommended, *cough*). Oh, and I just wanted to mention that the basis of the boat's design was purloined and adapted from an illustration by Franklin Booth.

Many thanks to Marc for holding off his first VDA post of 2016 (a cracking one featuring Ely Kish once again, hurrah!) to allow me to make this 'opener', so to speak!

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-five: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 2: “After this manner of language.”

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty-five:
“Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 2:
“After this manner of language”© 

There are many ways to come at the Book of Mormon; to examine its language, theology, history, culture, geography, and so forth. We can also look for its complexity and yet simplicity as well as its internal consistency. I am sure there are many others. One small but very interesting item combines language, complexity, and internal consistency.

Consider the rather unique expression found in 1 Nephi 1:15. Nephi is reporting an early spiritual experience of his father. Lehi had a vision in which he saw Christ and the Twelve Apostles who gave him a book to read which told of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the wickedness of the people which brought it about. He knew about the Babylonian captivity, but he also came to know of the Lord’s “power and goodness, and mercy ... over all the inhabitants of the earth.” [1:14] Then Nephi summarizes, “And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God....”  [Emphasis added.]

Nephi uses a similar expression six more times in his first book.   Here they are:
  1. 3:21: “...after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren...”
  2. 5:3: “And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.”
  3. 5:6: “And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother....”
  4. 5:8: “...  And after this manner of language did she speak.”
  5. 10:15: “And after this manner of language did my father prophesy....”
  6. 17:22: “ ... And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.”
Obviously Nephi was interested in the “manner of language” in which people spoke.  He attended to it carefully. Taking a closer look at the times he uses the phrase we come to understand that the phrase “manner of language” is intended to convey to the reader something of the attitude, feeling, and/or motive of the one using the language.  Nephi was not only interested in what people said, but the way they said it and why they said it. As Dennis and Sandra Packard have written, “Would that my children were as aware of the many voices they hear and as able to see them for what they are.”(1)

A very important fact accompanies this unique expression.It is used only seven times in the entire Book of Mormon, all in 1 Nephi. It is not in other personal accounts like this one, or in abridgments of other sources, which abridgment becomes a second or third person account.  Nor does this expression show up anywhere else in the other Standard Works. It is a totally unique expression in Mormon scripture.  

So what? Well, that is the issue isn’t it? When the implications are considered, it speaks not only to the internal consistency of Nephi’s own “manner of language,” but it must also be factored into the argument that many of the books were written by different authors, each with his unique manner of expression. Here is a clear example of linguistic phraseology absolutely unique to Nephi. How can one explain that if Joseph Smith was the author of the book? He was pretty sly to include such little “zingers” for one author only, never to be used beyond 1 Nephi. And even more remarkable, that he did it in one unedited draft.

Of course, Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon. He translated an ancient text by the gift and power of God. And the more we examine it for its complexity, simplicity, and consistency in just about any way imaginable and appropriate to textual studies, the Book of Mormon always surfaces bright and shiney. All the evidence--virtually all the evidence--points in one direction–God was behind the translation and production of the book which was to become the “keystone” of the restored Gospel in its fullness in this the last dispensation–the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Dennis and Sandra Packard, Feasting Upon the Word (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), p. 217. I should add that the Packards list six of the seven uses I have given above in their reference to this phrase. Reading their brief paragraph led me to ponder the significance of this unique expression and thus this blog article.  I checked Marilynne Linford’s new book, The Book of Mormon Is True: Evidences and Insights to Strengthen Your Testimony (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2015) which is a study of words and phrases used in the Book of Mormon. I could not find anything about this phrase in her discussion of the language of First and Second Nephi or the language of Nephi, but not having yet read the entire book it may be there somewhere else. Unfortunately, there is no scripture citation or reference index in the book, so it could not be searched in this manner.

An Interview with the Makeup Artist - Thomas Surprenant

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog.*


When it comes to makeup, the television and film industry probably has one of the most talented and almost secretive group of artists. You won’t find them regularly on YouTube because they are busy behind the camera changing imagination into reality. These artists create the beauty, fear, fantasy, and memories of some of your favorite actors. Who are these quiet talents? Meet Thomas Surprenant.

I beg you, click to read more »