Friday, April 24, 2015

BYU's 2015 Commencement

Robert P. George delivered these remarks at the BYU Commencement yesterday. They are a good diagnosis of the situation facing religious institutions of higher education today. I am glad that he delivered them at BYU. They deserve to be read and pondered.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Becoming More Catholic?

In his recent book on Catholic higher education, Christian Smith praises the mission statement of Notre Dame, where he now teaches. He notes that at Notre Dame the ideal is to
seek to combine excellence in undergraduate education with maintaining a serious Catholic identity, character, and mission . . . [and] to engage in the highest quality original research, scholarship, and publishing in the sciences and humanities in an attempt to become a great research university.
(Christian Smith and John C. Cavadini, Building Catholic Higher Education [Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014], xv.)
Smith notes that, "Realizing these three goals together is nearly impossible, though I refuse to say absolutely hopeless." (ibid.) Why? Smith explains:
Strong, almost irresistible sociological forces cause most religious colleges and universities to either (a) secularize on matters of faith (and prioritize research achievements--not that that necessarily leads to impressive results, as often it leads to mediocrity) or (b) become religiously sectarian (and sacrifice research achievements). Notre Dame can look to no successful existing models for realizing its combined goals in research, undergraduate education, and Catholic character.
(Smith and Cavadini, Building Catholic Higher Education, 39-40)
Smith thinks that this can only be done "by growing the Catholicism of both its academic programs and its faculty" (ibid., 28).

Smith garners hope from Notre Dame's recent(?) mission statement (ibid., 1-37). I wish Notre Dame the best and hope that Smith succeeds in his aspirations. There is reason to be somewhat dubious about the prospects though.

James T. Burtchaell in his impressive survey of seventeen representative Christian colleges that abandoned their faiths noted the following:
Almost without exception a rhetoric of concern began on these campuses just as the critical turn had been made. When the covenants and statements of purpose and conferences on the church relationship were produced, they served as a distraction from the fact that the turn had already passed the point of no return. It was common for educators and church executives to express their concern that their college could, or might, follow others into secularity, a decade or so after such misgivings had become useless. From another point of view they were not quite useless, because their real function was to provide cover and time for the new commitment to take hold. Also, these vision statements and preambles to bylaws invariably addressed outcomes instead of causes. For instance, they easily spoke of the college persevering in its offer of Christian values, but never of hiring those who could and would do the offering. While working on the menu they declined to hire a cook.
(James Tunstead Burtchaell, The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from their Christian Churches [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998], 833-34.)
I wish Notre Dame the best in keeping their university Catholic. Notre Dame deserves neither mediocrity nor secularism.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Some Thoughts from Some Authorities

The following counsel is older and most comes from a time when the "New Mormon History" was the intellectual fad of the day. The name of the fad may have changed but the sagacity of the counsel has not.

In the April 1989 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks mapped the terrain of those who spoke about Mormon things:
My remarks will refer to those voices that speak of God, of his commandments, and of the doctrines, ordinances, and practices of his church. Some of those who speak on these subjects have been called and given divine authority to do so. Others, whom I choose to call alternate voices, speak on these subjects without calling or authority.

In the five years since I was called as a General Authority, I have seen many instances where Church leaders and members have been troubled by things said by these alternate voices. I am convinced that some members are confused about the Church’s relationship to the alternate voices. As a result, members can be misled in their personal choices, and the work of the Lord can suffer.

Some alternate voices are those of well-motivated men and women who are merely trying to serve their brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion. Their efforts fit within the Lord’s teaching that his servants should not have to be commanded in all things, but “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27.)

Other alternate voices are pursuing selfish personal interests, such as property, pride, prominence, or power. Other voices are the bleatings of lost souls who cannot hear the voice of the Shepherd and trot about trying to find their way without his guidance. Some of these voices call out guidance for others—the lost leading the lost.

Some alternate voices are of those whose avowed or secret object is to deceive and devour the flock. The Good Shepherd warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15; see also 3 Ne. 14:15.) In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon the Savior charged his shepherds to watch over and protect the flock from such wolves. (See Acts 20:28–29; Alma 5:59.)

There have always been alternate voices whose purpose or effect is to deceive. Their existence is part of the Plan. The prophet Lehi taught that there “must needs be … an opposition in all things.” (2 Ne. 2:11; italics added.) And there have always been other alternate voices whose purpose or effect is unselfish and wholesome.
(Dallin H. Oaks, "Alternate Voices," Ensign [May 1989] .)

Some eight year earlier, in August of 1981, Elder Boyd K. Packer addressed the Church Education Symposium:
I have come to believe that it is the tendency for many members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and leadership, present and past, by the principles of their own profession. Ofttimes this is done unwittingly, and some of it, perhaps, is not harmful.

It is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic training to measure the Church using the principles he has been taught in his professional training as his standard. In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extensive academic studies, to judge the professions of man against the revealed word of the Lord.

Many disciplines are subject to this danger. Over the years I have seen many members of the church lose their testimonies and yield their faith as the price for academic achievement. Many others have been sorely tested.
(Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," BYU Studies 21/3 [Summer 1981]: 259.)
Elder Oaks seconded this:
I have seen some persons attempt to understand or undertake to criticize the gospel or the Church by the method of reason alone, unaccompanied by the use or recognition of revelation. When reason is adopted as the only—or even the principal—method of judging the gospel, the outcome is predetermined. One cannot find God or understand his doctrines and ordinances by closing the door on the means He has prescribed for receiving the truths of his gospel. That is why gospel truths have been corrupted and gospel ordinances have been lost when left to the interpretation and sponsorship of scholars who lack the authority and reject the revelations of God.
(Dallin H. Oaks, "Alternate Voices.")
Elder Packer told the story of the struggle one young Latter-day Saint scholar had getting a doctorate and doing a dissertation on a Mormon topic, whose non-Mormon professors insisted could not address the topic taking into account the Latter-day Saint point of view.
I must not be too critical of those professors. They do not know of the things of the Spirit. One can understand their position. It is another thing, however, when we consider members of the Church, particularly those who hold the priesthood and have made covenants in the temple. Many . . . capitulate, cross over the line, and forsake the things of the Spirit. Thereafter they judge the Church, the doctrine, and the leadership by the standards of their academic profession.

This problem has affected some of those who have taught and have written about the history of the Church. These professors say of themselves that religious faith has little influence on Mormon scholars. They say this because, obviously, they are not simply Latter-day Saints but are also intellectuals trained, for the most part, in secular institutions. They would that some historians who are Latter-day Saints write history as they were taught in graduate school, rather than as Mormons.

If we are not careful, very careful, and if we are not wise, very wise, we first leave out of our professional study the things of the Spirit. The next step soon follows: we leave the spiritual things out of our lives.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 261.)
As a result he gave this piece of advice:
If we do not keep this constantly in mind--that the Lord directs this Church--we may lose our way in the world of intellectual and scholarly research.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 261.)
Elder Packer warned that the problems were more prevalent in some disciplines than in others:
Those of us who are extensively engaged in researching the wisdom of man, including those who write and those who teach Church history, are not immune from these dangers. I have walked that road of scholarly research and study and know something of the dangers. If anything, we are more vulnerable than those in some of the other disciplines. Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught it may be a faith destroyer.
 (Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 261-62.)
There is always a temptation to write for a worldly audience.
If we who research, write, and teach the history of the Church ignore the spiritual on the pretext that the world may not understand it, our work will not be objective. And if, for the same reason, we keep it quite secular, we will produce a history that is not accurate and not scholarly--this, in spite of the extent of research or the nature of the individual statements or the incidents which are included as part of it, and notwithstanding the training or scholarly reputation of the one who writes or teaches it. We would end up with a history with the one most essential ingredient left out.
Those who have the spirit can recognize very quickly whether something is missing in a written Church history--this in spite of the fact that the author may be a highly trained historian and the reader is not.
 (Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 263.)
But what about addressing an audience of scholars?
Some historians write and speak as though the only ones to read or listen are mature, experienced historians. They write and speak to a very narrow audience. Unfortunately, many of the things they tell one another are not uplifting, go far beyond the audience they may have intended, and destroy faith.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 263.)
Elder Packer gives this warning:
A destroyer of faith--particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith--places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities.
One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession, regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for "advanced history," is himself in spiritual jeopardy. If that one is a member of the Church he has broken his covenants and will be accountable.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 266.)
Can't we be neutral?
The idea that we must be neutral and argue quite as much in favor of the adversary as we do in favor of righteousness is neither reasonable nor safe.
In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is a war going on and we are engaged in it. It is the war between good and evil, and we are belligerents defending the good. We are therefore obliged to give preference to and protect all that is represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ and we have made covenants to do it.
Some of our scholars establish for themselves a posture of neutrality. They call it "sympathetic detachment." Historians are particularly wont to do that. If they make a complimentary statement about the Church, they seem to have to counter it with something that is uncomplimentary.
Some of them, since they are members of the Church, are quite embarrassed with the thought that they might be accused of being partial. They care very much what the world thinks and are very careful to include in their writings criticism of the Church leaders of the past.
They particularly strive to be acclaimed as historians as measured by the worlds standard.
. . .
And I want to say in all seriousness that there is a limit to the patience of the Lord with respect to those who are under covenant to bless and protect His Church and kingdom upon the earth but do not do it.
Particularly are we in danger if we are out to make a name for ourselves.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 267-68.)
In a 1993 talk to the BYU faculty, Elder Maxwell reminded the faculty that,
There will be no puffed vitas circulating in the next world. They stay here—in the files.
(Neal A. Maxwell, "Out of the Best Faculty")

There are those who are interested in the Mormon things that are not Mormons. So what do we do about those of other faiths? Elder Maxwell answers that question:
What, however, of our responsibilities to those beyond our communities of Saints? Church members should be good neighbors to all, cooperating with others regarding shared concerns in larger communities. This can be done, if we are thoughtful, without subordinating gospel principles or our spiritual integrity.
(Neal A. Maxwell, If Thou Endure It Well, )
So we cooperate if there are shared concerns. These might be issues of religious freedom, morality, the integrity of the family, and many others. In another talk, he illustrated these concerns:
Teaching about history’s major apostasies has long been one of the restored gospel’s “givens,” but it is not always given much attention. My aim, therefore, is internal instruction, not external persuasion, since we fully understand that certain of our beliefs are not shared by others and vice versa. But goodwill can still prevail. In fact, with you, brothers and sisters, I rejoice in the good works and the voices of faith of many in other religions. For instance, recent papal pronouncements on chastity are both appropriate and courageous, and I applaud them. So many honorable individuals in the world do so much without what we, as members, call gospel fulness, while some of us, unfortunately, do so little with so much!
(‎Neal A. Maxwell, “From the Beginning,” Ensign [November 1993])

On some issues, however, there are clear lines drawn:
I feel sorry for the few who seek to redefine the Book of Mormon in order to believe in it. But we do not invite these few to rewrite the Church’s curriculum.
(Neal A. Maxwell, "Out of the Best Faculty")
There are many good people of other faiths or no faith who are honest and fair-minded, but not all are so. Elder Packer spells out our obligations:
There is much in the scriptures and in our church literature to convince us that we are at war with the adversary. We are not obliged as a church, nor are we as members obliged, to accommodate the enemy in this battle.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 268.)
Elder Packer cites, as an analogy, an attorney hired to protect a business firm.
Can you imagine that attorney, under contract to protect the company having fixed in his mind that he must not really take sides, that he must be impartial.
. . .
Do you not recognize a breach of ethics, or integrity, or morality?
I think you can see the point I am making. Those of you who are employed by the church have a special responsibility to build faith, not destroy it. If you do not do that, but in fact accommodate the enemy, who is the destroyer of faith, you become in that sense a traitor to the cause you have made covenants to protect.
Those who have carefully purged their work of any religious faith in the name of academic freedom or so-called honesty ought not expect to be accommodated in their researches or to be paid by the Church to do it.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 269.)
Elder Packer is not the only one to view such matters in such a light. Hugh Nibley observed two decades before that:
When books and articles against the Church and its teachings have come out in the past, no matter how patently false and unfair they have been, none of the Church's army of professional scholars has shown any inclination to rush to the defense of the faith, though even a mercenary should show some measure of loyalty to his employer.
(Hugh Nibley, "Nobody to Blame," CWHN 17:131.)
Things may have improved slightly in the intervening half century, but proportionately they have not improved that much.

Elder Packer gives some practical advice:
I would not contribute to publications, nor would I belong to organizations that by spirit or inclination are faith destroying. There are plenty of scholars in the world determined to find all secular truth. There are so few of us, relatively speaking, striving to convey the spiritual truths, who are protecting the Church. We cannot safely be neutral.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 270.)
When it comes to publishing and publicizing the ideas of critics of the Church, Elder Packer was blunt:
Do not spread disease germs!
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 271.)
Elder Oaks also noted where the Church stood on this:
Of course, the Church does have a responsibility to point out what is the voice of the Church and what is not. This is especially necessary when some alternate voice, deliberately or inadvertently, communicates a message in a way that implies Church sponsorship or acquiescence. . . .

Leaders must do all they can to avoid expressed or implied Church endorsement for teachings that are not orthodox or for teachers who will use their Church position or prominence to promote something other than gospel truth.

Scholarship that supports the Church may come at a price, and Elder Packer realized that:
It may be that you will lay your scholarly reputation and the acclaim of your colleagues in the world as a sacrifice upon the altar of service.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 275-76.)
Nevertheless, he counseled:
Do not yield your faith in payment for an advanced degree or for the recognition and acclaim of the world.
(Packer, "The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," 275.)
There are hidden costs associated with hopping on the latest scholarly fad. Elder Maxwell pointed out that
A real university does not oscillate in response to all the political, social, and educational trends and fashions of a particular time. Six decades ago, though there were a few notable exceptions, German universities failed as providers of perspective. They were too concerned with becoming “politically correct.”

(Neal A. Maxwell, "Out of the Best Faculty")
Elder Oaks concluded his analysis with the following promise and warning:
In an inspired utterance, the Prophet Joseph Smith described the Lord’s “pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 121:33.) This will not happen for those whose “hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men.” (D&C 121:35.) Those who fail to learn and use “principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36) will be left to themselves to kick against those in authority, “to persecute the saints, and to fight against God” (D&C 121:38).
(Dallin H. Oaks, "Alternate Voices," Ensign [May 1989] .)

I have been studying apostasy for at least thirty-five years and been able to watch it at close hand in academic settings for at least thirty years. I have seen first-hand over and over that everything these apostles have said is true. Their warnings should be strictly heeded.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

William W. Hallo (1928-2015)

I just learned (a day after the funeral) that William W. Hallo died last Friday.

I took Sumerian and Old Assyrian from Professor Hallo while at Yale. He sat in on my oral exams and was probably the kindest one there. Professor Hallo (his friends called him Bill but I always respected him too much to be on a first name basis with him) was a kind, gracious, and generous teacher. I considered (and still consider) it a great privilege to study under him, and I learned a great deal from him. He had an encyclopedic knowledge and was interested in a wide variety of things. He always encouraged me in Assyriology and it seemed to me that he wished I would have switched to that discipline. I was touched that at the end of my time at Yale, he consulted me on an Egyptological matter even though he could easily have consulted one of the more senior Egyptologists.

One of the things that most impressed me about Professor Hallo was his faith. He never talked about it explicitly but you never had any reason to question it. It was not a blind faith; he knew what the issues were and he tried to deal with them. He published a thoughtful and important article on the topic called "The Limits of Skepticism."

I feel blessed to have studied with Professor Hallo Z''L.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Thought From President Monson

I really liked President Monson's April 2015 First Presidency Message that appeared in the Ensign. Unfortunately, I do not have it at hand and it has not appeared on the Church website yet. So here are some similar quotes of his from President Monson's talk in the Priesthood Session of General Conference last April:
In order for us to make the correct decisions, courage is needed—the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right.

Inasmuch as the trend in society today is rapidly moving away from the values and principles the Lord has given us, we will almost certainly be called upon to defend that which we believe. Will we have the courage to do so?
There is also this:
Courage comes in many forms. Wrote the Christian author Charles Swindoll: “Courage is not limited to the battlefield … or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are inner tests, like remaining faithful when no one’s looking, … like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.” I would add that this inner courage also includes doing the right thing even though we may be afraid, defending our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintaining those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status. He who stands steadfastly for that which is right must risk becoming at times disapproved and unpopular.
As a friend reminded me yesterday, "Your actions do have real consequences with real people." Yes, they do. When we need it the most, courage is not an abstract virtue. The prices paid are sadly very real as those who actually pay them know best.

President Monson also said this:
Not all acts of courage bring . . . spectacular or immediate results, and yet all of them do bring peace of mind and a knowledge that right and truth have been defended.

It is impossible to stand upright when one plants his roots in the shifting sands of popular opinion and approval. Needed is the courage of a Daniel, an Abinadi, a Moroni, or a Joseph Smith in order for us to hold strong and fast to that which we know is right. They had the courage to do not that which was easy but that which was right.

We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us—all of us—have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval.
He concluded his message with this exhortation:
May each one leave here tonight with the determination and the courage to say, with Job of old, “While my breath is in me, … I will not remove mine integrity from me.”
If the prophet says it in General Conference and repeats it in the First Presidency Message to go out to every home as the home teaching message a year later, perhaps we might be so bold as to conclude that it is important and perhaps even relevant.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the Latest Anti-Mormon Attack on the Book of Mormon II

The Unparallels

In a previous post I noted some significant problems with one point of Paul Owen's latest attack on the Book of Mormon. The substance of Owen's argument is actually a series of nine parallels that he claims to find between 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 14 and 1 Nephi 13-14. Although he references his parallels, he does not actually quote them.

Sometimes it might be necessary for space constraints or because the passages are so well known to simply list the references but often failure to do so in a journal article or book is a sign that the parallels are not really that parallel.

I have had research notes on these parallels since mid-December last year but have puzzled with how to present them given the limited formatting possible on the internet. I think I have a solution (which will probably flop with those reading this on a smart phone). My comments will be flush with the left margin. Quotations of Paul Owen will be indented once. Quotations of the King James Version of 2 Esdras will be indented twice. Quotations of the Book of Mormon will be indented three times.

Here are Owen's ten points:

Paul Owen sets the following texts as parallel:

“1. The background of the theophanic epiphany to Ezra is the destruction of the Bible (the books of the Old Testament) and the necessity of its restoration (2 Esdras 14:21-22; cf. 1 Nephi 13:26, 28).” (Paul Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture: A Thematic Analysis of 1 Nephi 13-14," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (?!) 23 [2014]: 92)
“For thy law is burnt, therefore no man knoweth the things that are done of thee, or the work that shall begin. But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter days may live.” (‎4 Ezra 14:21-22)
“And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. . . . Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.” (1 Nephi 13:26–28)
Owen’s argument cannot possibly hold. The Book of Mormon explicitly states that the corruption of the scriptures would occur “after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Ezra lived about five centuries earlier.

Furthermore, in the case of 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras the law has been burned. In the Book of Mormon, “they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” So in the Book of Mormon the scriptures are still in existence whereas in 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras the scriptures are no longer in existence.

Owen has not read the Book of Mormon very carefully. 

  “2. This destruction of scripture has caused God's people to lose their way (2 Esdras 14:22; cf. 1 Nephi 13:27, 29).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter days may live.” (‎4 Ezra 14:22)
“And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
. . .
And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (1 Nephi 13:27, 29)
In 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras Ezra offers to write the scriptures again so that they will exist “that men may find thy path.” According to Nephi, the scriptures still existed but they had been perverted so that “an exceedingly great many do stumble.” The whole question is whether a record of any kind survives. In 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras it has been burned and so does not survive in any form. In Nephi it survives but in a corrupted form.

  “3. The restoration of scripture will be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Esdras 14:22, 40; cf. 1 Nephi 13:37, 39).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter days may live.” (‎4 Ezra 14:22)
“And I took it, and drank: and when I had drunk of it, my heart uttered understanding, and wisdom grew in my breast, for my spirit strengthened my memory:” (‎4 Ezra 14:40)
“And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be. . . .
And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.” (1 Nephi 13:37, 39)
There are significant differences between these passages. Ezra asks God to “send the Holy Ghost into me.” In response God tells Ezra to drink a potion and “my spirit strengthened my memory.” Ezra’s own spirit, not the Holy Ghost, strengthened his memory to recite the books as he had memorized them. Nephi, on the other hand, notes that “the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost” will be among those “who shall seek to bring forth my Zion.” Nephi sees that his own record will go among the people and that “other books” would come “forth by the power of the Lamb.” For the Book of Mormon, Jesus (the Lamb) and the Holy Ghost are not the same thing.  

“4. The books that are revealed to and dictated by Ezra are first written down on "writing tablets" (2 Esdras 14:24 NRSV; "box trees" KJV). So also the Book of Mormon ( cf. 1 Nephi 13:23; Mosiah 1:3).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“But look thou prepare thee many box trees, and take with thee Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ecanus, and Asiel, these five which are ready to write swiftly;” (‎4 Ezra 14:24)
“And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.” (1 Nephi 13:23)
“And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.” (Mosiah 1:3)
So, because the Book of Mormon mentions “plates of brass” Owen would see these as parallel to the writing tablets mentioned in the NRSV version 4 Ezra/2 Esdras. One can make a good case that plates of brass and writing tablets are two very different things (one being permanent and the other temporary). But in this case, Owen cannot really make that argument. The NRSV did not exist in Joseph Smith’s day and so Joseph Smith (or an associate) has somehow read about “box trees” and somehow transmuted them into brass plates. That is even more miraculous than being handed actual plates of gold and thinking of plates of brass. Owen’s argument does not even make any sense.

  “5. Ezra (the recipient of the revelation) is to dictate the contents of these books to chosen scribes (2 Esdras 14:24). So also Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (cf. 2 Nephi 3:17; 27:9-10).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“But look thou prepare thee many box trees, and take with thee Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ecanus, and Asiel, these five which are ready to write swiftly;” (‎4 Ezra 14:24)
“And the Lord hath said: I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him.” (2 Nephi 3:17)
“But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another;
But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof.” (2 Nephi 27:9–10)
Owen’s argument here does not work. While Ezra has a number of scribes to write for him, the passages cited from the Book of Mormon never mention scribes. In one of them Moses is provided with a spokesman because he could not speak well. The other has a book being given to a man but no scribe is mentioned. The two book of Mormon passages are connected with known biblical texts (Exodus and Isaiah). They did not develop out of apocryphal literature.

  “6. Only some of what is revealed to Ezra and written down is to be made public; the rest is reserved for the wise (2 Esdras 14:26, 45-46; cf. 1 Nephi 14:26, 28).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“And when thou hast done, some things shalt thou publish, and some things shalt thou shew secretly to the wise: to morrow this hour shalt thou begin to write.” (‎4 Ezra 14:26).
“In forty days they wrote two hundred and four books.
And it came to pass, when the forty days were filled, that the Highest spake, saying, The first that thou hast written publish openly, that the worthy and unworthy may read it:
But keep the seventy last, that thou mayest deliver them only to such as be wise among the people:” (‎4 Ezra 14:44-46)
“And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. . . .
Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.” (1 Nephi 13:26–28)
Ezra writes two hundred four books of which one hundred thirty-four can be published and seventy of which must be kept secret. Ezra is to hold back almost a third and the Book of Mormon says that two-thirds was kept back. The ratios are backwards. But the passage that Owen cites as parallel does not argue that. Nephi sees that the great and abominable church has taken away parts of the gospel. Is Owen trying to argue that God is the great and abominable church?

  “7. In order for God's people to have all the wisdom they need, they must have access both to the public and the esoteric texts dictated by Ezra: "For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the stream of knowledge" (2 Esdras 14:47; cf. 1 Nephi 13:40-41).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the stream of knowledge.” (‎4 Ezra 14:47)
“And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.” (1 Nephi 13:40–41)
The antecedent to “them” in the Ezra passage is “the seventy last” scrolls that Ezra may only deliver to the wise. The “last records” that the Book of Mormon refers to are those that God will bring forth in the latter days. While the scrolls that Ezra keeps are only delivered to the wise, the “last records” of the Book of Mormon are given “to all kindreds, tongues, and people.” There could not be a more stark contrast. Owen has misread 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras because God’s people (or at least the common people) have no need to “have access both to the public and the esoteric texts dictated by Ezra.”

“8. The scribes who wrote on the tablets "wrote what was dictated, using characters that they did not know" (2 Esdras 14:42 NRSV; "they wrote the wonderful visions of the night that were told, which they knew not" KJV). So also the Book of Mormon (cf. 1 Nephi 1:2; Mosiah 1:2; Mormon 9:32).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“The Highest gave understanding unto the five men, and they wrote the wonderful visions of the night that were told, which they knew not: and they sat forty days, and they wrote in the day, and at night they ate bread.” (‎4 Ezra 14:42)
“Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” (1 Nephi 1:2)
“And it came to pass that he had three sons; and he called their names Mosiah, and Helorum, and Helaman. And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.” (Mosiah 1:2)
“And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.” (Mormon 9:32)
Once again, Owen’s argument depends more upon the anachronistic NRSV than the KJV. The Book of Mormon passages that Owen cites fail to parallel the desired text in 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras in the KJV. (Was Joseph Smith a time traveler?) The Book of Mormon passages all deal with the language of the text, which is not discussed in the 4 Ezra / 2 Esdras passage as Joseph Smith (or one of his associates) would have known it. One crucial difference is that while Ezra’s scribes might not have known the characters they were using, the Book of Mormon scribes had all learned them the hard way.  

“9. There is a repeated emphasis on the mouth of Ezra (2 Esdras 14:38,39, 41; cf. 1 Nephi 13:23,24, 38; 14:23).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 92)
“And the next day, behold, a voice called me, saying, Esdras, open thy mouth, and drink that I give thee to drink. Then opened I my mouth, and, behold, he reached me a full cup, which was full as it were with water, but the colour of it was like fire.” (‎4 Ezra 14:38-39)
This is a silly argument. Owen teaches (or used to teach) Hebrew. He should recognize this Hebrew idiom (which is also used in other ancient languages).  

“10. What was previously revealed to Moses is now freshly disclosed to Ezra (2 Esdras 14:5-6, 21-22; cf. 1 Nephi 14:24-26, 29).” (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 93)
“And told him many wondrous things, and shewed him the secrets of the times, and the end; and commanded him, saying, These words shalt thou declare, and these shalt thou hide.” (‎4 Ezra 14:5-6)
“For thy law is burnt, therefore no man knoweth the things that are done of thee, or the work that shall begin. But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter days may live.” (‎4 Ezra 14:21-22)
“And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see. But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.” (1 Nephi 14:24–25)
“And I bear record that I saw the things which my father saw, and the angel of the Lord did make them known unto me.” (1 Nephi 14:29)
Owen does not tell his reader that the antecedent to “him” in 4 Ezra 14:5 is Moses (back in 4 Ezra 14:3). The Book of Mormon refers not to Moses but to John. Nephi refers to an angel, but Ezra never does.

Owen argument works only if one assumes his conclusion, which makes it a circular argument.

Owen realizes that his argument on point four is a little weak:
It should be noted, however, that even if these two features on the list of parallels are removed entirely from consideration, the remaining eight points still constitute a striking cluster of shared characteristics that tend to support a literary dependence on the text of 2 Esdras on the part of the author of 1 Nephi (whoever he was). (Owen, "Theological Apostasy and the Role of Canonical Scripture," 96.)
In reality though, none of his parallels are very strong or support a literary dependence of 1 Nephi on 2 Esdras / 4 Ezra.

Something in the editorial process clearly failed here. A good editor or peer reviewer should have been able to tell the difference between scholarship and sleight-of-hand.