Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Book of Mormon Concerns & Questions

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A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Claim Evaluation
Letter to a CES Director
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Responses to various revisions of the "Letter to a CES Director" and associated documents by the same author

Response to claim: "What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? An ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?

Provenance of this claim:
Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 10. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response



Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Some of the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages generally match the version of Isaiah found in the Bible of the time, however, not all of them do.

Question: If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible?

The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God"

The Book of Mormon incorporates text which seems to be taken from the Bible, including passages which are now considered to be mistranslations in the King James Version. If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible? [1]

We do not know the specific mechanism by which the biblical passages were included in the translation, therefore we cannot answer this question based upon current historical information. The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God," and that the translation was performed using the "Urim and Thummim." Joseph Smith stated the following in July 1838:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the book of Mormon. (Joseph Smith, (July 1838) Elders Journal 1:42-43.)

Witnesses to the translation process never reported that a Bible or any other book was present during the translation

Joseph performed most of the translation in the open using the stone and the hat. The stone, in addition to the Nephite interpreters, was also referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" several years after the translation was complete (See Church essay "Book of Mormon Translation' on LDS.org [2]). Witnesses to the translation process never reported that a Bible or any other book was present during the translation. Given this evidence, we could assume that the Biblical passages were revealed to Joseph during the translation process in a format almost identical with similar passages in the King James Bible.

Some Latter-day Saint scholars believe that Joseph may have simply consulted a Bible when these passages were translated

Although there is not a single witness that saw Joseph consult any books during the translation process, some scholars believe that it is still a possibility that he did consult a Bible. If so, then he could have copied the relevant passages whenever he reached a point in the translation which he knew matched material in the Bible.


Ensign (Sept. 1977): "If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible"

Richard Lloyd Anderson (Ensign, September 1977):

In fact, the language in the sections of the Book of Mormon that correspond to parts of the Bible is quite regularly selected by Joseph Smith, rather than obtained through independent translation. For instance, there are over 400 verses in which the Nephite prophets quote from Isaiah, and half of these appear precisely as the King James version renders them. Summarizing the view taken by Latter-day Saint scholars on this point, Daniel H. Ludlow emphasizes the inherent variety of independent translation and concludes: “There appears to be only one answer to explain the word-for-word similarities between the verses of Isaiah in the Bible and the same verses in the Book of Mormon.” That is simply that Joseph Smith must have opened Isaiah and tested each mentioned verse by the Spirit: “If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible.” [3] Thus the Old Testament passages from Isaiah display a particular choice of phraseology that suggests Joseph Smith’s general freedom throughout the Book of Mormon for optional wording. [4]


Question: Were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the King James Bible?

Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah

If a Christian is making an accusation of plagiarism, then they are, by the same logic, indicting the Bible which they share with us. Close examination of the Old Testament reveals many passages which are copied nearly word for word including grammatical errors. Micah, who lived hundreds of years after Isaiah, copies word for word in Micah 4:1-3 from Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:2-4 without once giving him credit.[5] We also find the genealogy from Genesis 5:10-11,36 repeated in 1 Chronicles, much of the history in Samuel and Kings is repeated in Chronicles, and Isaiah 36:2 through Isaiah 38:5 is the same as 2 Kings 18:17 through 2 Kings 20:6.

Although Old Testament scripture was often quoted by Old and New Testament writers without giving credit, Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Indeed, much of 2 Nephi may be seen as an Isaiah commentary. Of course, Nephi and Jacob do not specify chapter and verse, because these are modern additions to the text (as Joseph Smith somehow knew). It is ironic that critics of the Book of Mormon find fault with its "plagiarism," even though its authors typically mention their sources, while they do not condemn the Bible's authors when they do not.

Finally, it is obvious that the use of King James language for passages shared by the Bible and the Book of Mormon allows the Book of Mormon to highlight those areas in which the Book of Mormon's original texts were genuinely different from the textual tradition of the Old World which gave us the Holy Bible.

A closer look at these duplicate Isaiah texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity

Some critics question the presence of verses from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. They often assert that many Book of Mormon verses were copied from the King James Bible, which in their view, makes it a fraud. While this might appear to be true to the casual Book of Mormon reader, a closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.[6]

The 21 chapters of Isaiah which are quoted (Chapters 2-14, 29, and 48-54) either partially or completely, represent about one-third of the book of Isaiah, but less than two and one-half percent of the total Book of Mormon. We also find that more than half of all verses quoted from Isaiah (234 of 433) differ from the King James version available to Joseph Smith.[7] The Book of Mormon apparently follows the King James (Masoretic) text when it conveys the original meaning.

We often find differences in Book of Mormon Isaiah texts where modern texts disagree.[8] One verse (2 Nephi 12:16), is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson. [9] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[10]

It is also significant that the chapters of Isaiah actually quoted in the Book of Mormon (chapters 2-14 and 48-54) are those which modern scholars widely agree correspond closely to the original Isaiah collection and therefore would have been the most likely to have existed in Lehi's day.[11] Could Joseph Smith have known this? If Joseph or anyone else actually tried to plagiarize the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all similar texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce.


Question: Why does Isaiah in the Book of Mormon not match the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original Isaiah text

Mistranslations of the King James version of Isaiah have been corrected using the Isaiah version found with the Dead Sea scrolls. Why is it that the quotes from Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have the same translation errors contained in the King James version instead of matching the original ancient text?

The question makes some inaccurate assumptions:

  • It is not the case that the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa[a]) is the original text of Isaiah. It is an earlier witness to the text than we previously had before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), but it itself is centuries removed from the original(s).
  • The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original text either; that is an assumption that many LDS have brought to the text, but is not necessarily true.

These are basic issues of what is called "textual criticism," which is the science/art of trying to recover to the extent possible the text in its original form. Critical text scholars do not believe that the Great Isaiah Scroll matches exactly the original text of Isaiah. It is true that the masoretic scribal tradition has tried valiantly to copy texts as perfectly as possible. Various approaches have been used, such as counting the letters in a chapter and testing a copy against that, in order to ensure a high degree of accuracy in their work. However, the masoretic scribes did their work in the second half of the first millennium A.D. Prior to that time, many errors had already crept in the text.

The term "redaction" refers to a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined together in order to make it appear that they comprise a single text. The standard scholarly theory of the development of Isaiah is that it was redacted from two or three different texts. Yet none of this is reflected in the Great Isaiah Scroll, which is close to the canonical form of the text we have today. So if the scholars are correct there was substantial redaction of the text long before the scribes ever had a chance to practice their efforts at copying on the text.

The Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah: The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact

Even the Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah. The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact (with many copies intervening), and that was copied and recopied into Book of Mormon records, which was translated not in a scholarly fashion but instead by the gift and power of God through Joseph Smith. Therefore, it is a fallacy to assume that the Book of Mormon text ought to be the exact equivalent to the original text.


Question: Why are many of the quotes from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon identical to those in the King James Bible?

Witnesses to the translation process are unanimous that Joseph did not have any books, manuscripts, or notes to which he referred while translating

There are several problems with the idea that Joseph simply copied passages from the Holy Bible.

1) Witnesses to the translation process are unanimous that Joseph did not have any books, manuscripts, or notes to which he referred while translating. Recalled Emma, in a later interview:

I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for [Joseph] I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat , with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.[12]

Martin Harris also noted that Joseph would translate with his face buried in his hat in order to use the seer stone/urim and thummim. This would make referring to a Bible or notes virtually impossible:

Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine...[13]

2) It is not clear that Joseph even owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation. He and Oliver Cowdery later purchased a Bible, which suggests (given Joseph's straitened financial situation) that he did not already own one.[14]

3) It is not clear that Joseph's Biblical knowledge was at all broad during the Book of Mormon translation. It seems unlikely that he would have recognized, say, Isaiah, had he encountered it on the plates. Recalled Emma Smith:

When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. .?. . When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, "Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?" When I answered, "Yes," he replied, "Oh! I was afraid I had been deceived." He had such a limited knowledge of history at the time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.[15]

Emma also noted that

Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else.[16]

And, if Joseph was merely inventing the Book of Mormon story, he picked some of the more obscure and difficult Bible passages to include.

4) If Joseph was forging the Book of Mormon, why include Biblical passages at all? Clearly, Joseph was able to rapidly produce a vast and complex text that made no reference to Biblical citations at all. If Joseph was trying to perpetrate a fraud, why did he include near-verbatim quotations from the one book (the Holy Bible KJV) with which his target audience was sure to be familiar?

The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text

Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.[17]

Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the King James (or any other) translation represented a true difference in the DSS text, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve existing translations.

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, it is possible that most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in later Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Since there is no such thing as a "perfect" translation, this allows the reader to easily identify genuine differences between the Isaiah texts of the Old World and the Nephites.

Bible text itself quotes extensively from past scripture

When considering the presence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, it is also interesting to note that one Bible scholar has found that the four gospels attest to the fact that Jesus Christ and the apostles consistently quoted scripture. He calculated that over "ten percent of the daily conversation of Jesus consisted of Old Testament words quoted literally" and nearly 50% of the Lord's words as quoted by John were quotations from the Old Testament.[18]

When we consider the fact that Isaiah is the most quoted of all prophets, being more frequently quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John (in his Revelation) than any other Old Testament prophet, it should not surprise us that both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants also quote Isaiah more than any other prophet.[19] The Lord told the Nephites that "great are the words of Isaiah," and the prophet Nephi confessed, "my soul delighteth in his words... for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him" (2 Nephi 11:2).

New Testament writers literally quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah

It is clear that the writings of Isaiah held special significance for Jesus Christ and Nephi (see 2 Nephi 11:8, 2 Nephi 25:5; 3 Nephi 20:11; 3 Nephi 23:1-3). Isaiah's prophecies might also have been quoted frequently because they were largely concerned with latter-day events. The Saints understand Isaiah to have foretold the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith (see Isaiah 49:), the gathering of Israel in the last days (Isaiah 18:), the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (Isaiah 29:), wickedness in the last days (Isa. 33), and the Savior's second coming, and the millennium (Isaiah 13:, Isaiah 26:, Isaiah 27:). While he also wrote about the Savior's first coming (Isaiah 32:1-4) and events in his own time (Isaiah 20,23:), most of what he wrote about is yet to be fulfilled.[20]

When one considers that New Testament writers literally quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah[21] it should not surprise us that Book of Mormon writers did likewise. After all, these writings were part of the old world scriptures brought with them to the new world 1 Nephi 19:22-23). If the prophets of the Book of Mormon had not quoted Isaiah we might have questioned the authenticity of their words. That they did quote him extensively shows that they understood his writings as did Jesus and other apostles and prophets.

Paul has been cited as the most original of all New Testament writers but investigations of his epistles show that Paul often quoted from classical writers, orators, dramas, law courts, sports commentaries, and ancient religious rites. Even the well-known Pauline formula of "faith, hope, and charity," which appears also in the Book of Mormon, has been traced to Babylonian writings.[22]

Analysis of Specific Passages

2 Nephi 14:5

Walter Martin claims that Isaiah 4:5 is followed (mistakenly) by (2 Nephi 14:5). The phrase "For upon all the glory shall be a defense" should actually be "For over all the glory there will be a canopy."

Martin ignores that as translation literature, the Book of Mormon may well follow the KJV when the documents upon which the KJV is based match those of the Nephite text. Book of Mormon variants likely reflect only theologically significant changes not available in the Old World textual tradition.


2 Nephi 22:2

Some have questioned the use of the name JEHOVAH in 2 Nephi 22:2 and the use of some italicized King James Version words in the Book of Mormon. It seems clear that Joseph Smith was led to translate many passages as they appear in the King James Bible and made changes specifically by exception. Use of the proper name "Jehovah" which is an anglicized form of the Hebrew Yahweh, was common in the Bible[23] and was also in common use in Joseph Smith's day.[24] Although the name Jehovah is of more recent origin than the original Book of Mormon plates, it does not mean this name could not properly be used in translating a more ancient Hebrew title denoting the eternal I AM. Why should Joseph Smith be criticized for using the same name that King James scholars used?


Question: Do academic translators copy translations of other documents to use as a "base text"?

In some translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, approximately 90% is simply copied from the King James Bible

Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.[25]

The purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access

Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this. Here, for example, is how the first verses of Genesis are treated:

Dead Sea Scrolls Translation: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2 And] the earth [was] formless and void; and darkness was upon the fac[e of the dee]p: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," [and there was light. 4 And] God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light [from the darkness.] 5 And God called the light daytime, and the darkness he cal[led ni]ght. And there was evening [and there was morning,] one day.

KJV: 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

We can see that it generally follows that same King James language. In places, it has variant readings, and it footnotes what ancient texts caused these different readings. You can also see from the various punctuation marks that there is a system in place to help us understand what part of the text comes from which source. Why would a translation made in 1999 (170 years after the Book of Mormon gets published) generally follow the King James Version? It isn't because the King James Version is the best, or the easiest to understand. In 1830, it was the only mass produced translation (the next major translation wouldn't be published for another half century). And it remains today one of the most common translations of the Bible. You don't have to be a specialist to compare the two texts and see what the differences are. In this way, we can (as non-specialists) get a better feel for the various ancient versions of the biblical texts. The same is true for the Book of Mormon except perhaps in reverse. By using the KJV language, we are probably being clued in to the fact that the potential differences aren't the important parts of the Book of Mormon. Rather than focusing on how this or that word was changed, we can focus on what the passages are trying to teach us.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the KJV translation represented a true difference in the DSS, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve the KJV.

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Furthermore, using a KJV "base text" also helps us to identify the source of some scriptural citations that might be otherwise unclear. Consider this bit from Jacob 1:7:

Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.

This sounds nice, but its real impact on our reading Jacob occurs when we recognize that Jacob is alluding to Psalm 95:8-11:

8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Jacob wants us to understand what follows in the context of Israel being led in the wilderness by Moses. Drawing that connection is hard enough for people who don't have a lot of familiarity with the Old Testament. But had it followed language not found in the Bible they had (the KJV)—even if conceptually it was the same—it would have been far more difficult for readers to connect the two to understand the point Jacob was trying to make.

In this way, it makes a lot of sense for a translation—even a divinely inspired translation which is being read through revelation (from a seer stone) - to follow a conventional text where it duplicates the same original source material. It isn't just about trying to duplicate the source material, it is also about getting the reader who then reads the text to understand it.


Response to claim: "That the witnesses never reported Joseph looking at a 1769 KJV Bible during the translation process actually enhances the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is a fraud"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

That the witnesses never reported Joseph looking at a 1769 KJV Bible during the translation process actually enhances the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. Ignoring the possibility that God himself revealed the errors, at best Joseph was reciting from memory passages from the 1769 KJV Bible, rather than “dictating,” as FairMormon phrases it.

FairMormon Response


Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Nonsense. There is not one shred of evidence or witness statement indicating that Joseph had an eidetic memory. There are, however, observers to the process that state that he sat in the open, head in hat, dictating for hours in the presence of his scribe and other witnesses. Resorting to the "Joseph must have simply memorized passages from the Bible" argument is apparently the only way the author can rationalize the unexplainable, and one of his more egregious "failures to debunk."

Question: What did contemporary witnesses have to say about the Book of Mormon translation process?

Hostile news account 11 August 1829

and after penetrating “mother earth” a short distance, the [Golden] Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles! He had been directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, “under no less penalty” than instant death! They were therefore nicely wrapped up and excluded from the “vulgar gaze of poor wicked mortals!” It was said that the leaves of the bible were plates of gold, about 8 inches long, 6 wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hyeroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.[26]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: "Spectacles" (i.e., Nephite interpreters)
  • Method: Spectacles in hat

Martin Harris (eyewitness), paraphrased in the The Gem 5 September 1829

“In the autumn of 1827 a man named Joseph Smith of Manchester, in Ontario County, said that he had been visited by the spirit of the Almighty in a dream, and informed that in a certain hill in that town was deposited a Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of divine origin. He states that after the third visit from the same spirit in a dream he proceeded to the spot, removed earth, and there found the bible, together with a large pair of spectacles. He had also been directed to let no mortal see them under the penalty of immediate death, which injunction he steadfastly adheres to. The treasure consisted of a number of gold plates, about 8 inches long, 6 wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into it, Smith interprets the characters into the English language.[”][27]

  • Scribe: Martin Harris
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: "Spectacles"
  • Method: Spectacles in hat

Martin Harris (eyewitness), paraphrased and reprinted in New-York Telescope 20 Feb 1830

...he proceeded to the spot, and found the bible, with a huge pair of spectacles....He is said to have shown some of these characters to Professor Samuel L. Mitchell, of this city, who could not translate them. Martin Harris returned, and set Joseph Smith to the business of translating them: who, “by placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into them, Joseph Smith said he could interpret these characters.”[28]

  • Scribe: Martin Harris
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: "Spectacles"
  • Method: Spectacles in hat

Hostile news account 27 Feb 1830

The inspired man who wrote the “Gold Bible” on “plates of brass,” in the “reformed Egyptian” language, on account of its brevity, as we are informed, through the medium of one of these psuedo prophets, never had half the trouble that we experience in deciphering the unseemly scrolls of this dark representative of old Pluto’s dominions. His letters and communications are all written in heathen Greek, and the characters so fine and imperfect, that notwithstanding the great power of our editorial spectacles, we have in one instance burnt the scrawl in despair![29]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: "Spectacles"?
  • Method: Not specified

Hostile news account circa May 1830

A fellow by the name of Joseph Smith, who resides in the upper part of Susquehanna county, has been, for the last two years we are told, employed in dedicating as he says, by inspiration, a new bible. He pretended that he had been entrusted by God with a golden bible which had been always hidden from the world. Smith would put his face into a hat in which he had a white stone, and pretend to read from it, while his coadjutor transcribed.[30]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Stone
  • Method: In a hat

Hostile news account 2 June 1830

Now the rest of the acts of the magician [Walters], how his mantle fell upon the prophet Jo. Smith Jun. and how Jo. made a league with the spirit, who afterwards turned out to be an angel, and how he obtained the “Gold Bible,” Spectacles, and breast plate–will they not be faithfully recorded in the book of Pukei?”[31]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles and breast plate [Walters the magician is said to have had a "magic stone" which he took with him.]
  • Method: Not specified

Hostile news account 7 July 1830

BOOK OF PUKEI.—Chap. 2. Contents.—....8 spectacles-breastplate-Oliver, &c....[Joseph] art chosen to interpret the book, which Mormon has written, to wit, the gold Bible? 8. “And lo! I answered the spirit of the money diggers saying, how can these things be, as I can neither read nor write? And he said unto me” ‘I will give thee a breast plate, to keep thee from evil, and I will send thee an assistant, even Oliver, the pedagogue.’[32]

  • Scribe: Oliver Cowdery
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles and breast plate
  • Method: Not specified

Hostile news account 2 August 1830

the vices and follies of others, if rightly appreciated are full of instruction, & we only require JO SMITH’S Magic Spectacles, or some other powerful optical instrument to turn them to our own advantage.[33]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: "Spectacles" (i.e., Nephite interpreters)
  • Method: Not specified

Hostile news account 16 November 1830

...which is said to be translated from Egyptian Hieroglyphics, on metal plates, by one Smith, who was enabled to read the characters by instruction from Angels....[34]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Taught by angels

Oliver Cowdery in hostile news account 18 November 1830

According to the narrative given by one of these disciples—Oliver Cowdery—at their late exhibition in Kirtland, this pretended Revelation was written on golden plates, or something resembling golden plates, of the thickness of tin—7 inches in length, 6 inches in breadth, and a pile about 6 inches deep. None among the most learned in the United States could read, and interpret the hand-writing, (save one, and he could decipher but a few lines correctly,) excepting this ignoramus, Joseph Smith, Jr. To him, they say, was given the spirit of interpretation; but he was ignorant of the art of writing, he employed this Oliver Cowdery and others to write, while he read, interpreted, and translated this mighty Revelation.[35]

  • Scribe: Oliver Cowdery
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Spirit of inspiration

Hostile news account 20 November 1830

You have probably heard of the Gold Bible taken from the earth by Joseph Smith, the money-digger. This he has translated from the Egyptian reformed language to English, by a pair of stone spectacles (provided by an angel) and a dark hat before his eyes.[36]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Stone spectacles
  • Method: Hat before eyes

Hostile news account 4 December 1830

In the Fall of 1827, a man named Joseph Smith of Manchester, Ontario county, N.Y. reported that he had three times been visited in a dream, by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was a Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin. On going to the spot he found buried the Bible with a huge pair of spectacles: The leaves (he said, tho' he was not permitted to shew them) were plates of gold, about 8 inches long, 6 wide, and 1-8th of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphicks, which with the spectacles he could interpret. Martin Harris an industrious farmer, caught the contagion, took some of the characters to different learned men to translate, but without success. He returned, set Smith to work at translating it, and has had it printed.[37]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: Not specified

Hostile news account 8 December 1830

Some year or two since the crdulous [incredulous?] were amused with the tale that, guided by inspiration, some one had found many golden plates buried in the earth near Palmyra, Wayne county, in this state, upon which were revealed,in an unknown tongue, (an odd sort of revelation one would think) the whole duty of man. This the finder and comrade were enabled, by supernatural agency, to translate since which the book has been printed and travelling preachers have gone forth with it, to enlighten the world.[38]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Supernatural agency

Hostile news account 14 December 1830

This new Gospel they say was found in Ontario co. N.Y. and was discovered by an Angel of light, appearing in a dream to a man by the name of Smith, who, as directed, went to a certain place and dug from the earth a stone box, containing plates of gold, on which this gospel was engraved in characters unknown. The said Smith though a man so illiterate that he cannot write, was, by divine inspiration, enabled to give the true interpretation, and the man who wrote from the mouth of Smith, is one of the four mentioned above.[39]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: By divine inspiration

Hostile news account 18 December 1830

At a recent period, an angel appeared to a poor ignorant man residing in, or near Palmyra, in Ontario county, in the State of New-York, and directed him to open the earth at a place designated, where he would find the new revelation engraved on plates of metal. In obedience to the celestial messenger, Smith repaired to the spot, and on opening the ground, discovered an oblong stone box, tightly closed with cement. He opened the sacred depository, and found enclosed a bundle of plates resembling gold, carefully united at one edge with three silver wires, so that they opened like a book. The plates were about seven inches long and six broad, and the whole pile was about seven inches long and six broad, and was about six inches deep; each plate about the thickness of tin. They were engraved in a character unintelligible to the learned men of the United States, to many of whom it is said they have been presented. The angel afterwards appeared to the three individuals, and showed them the plates. To Smith was given to transcribe the character which he was enabled to do by looking through two semitransparent stones, but as he was ignorant of the writing, Cowdry and others wrote as Smith interpreted. They say, that part of the plates escaped from them in a supernatural manner, and are again to be revealed when the events of time shall require them.[40]

  • Scribe: Oliver Cowdery and others
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Two semitransparent stones [the Nephite interpreters?]
  • Method: "by looking through two semitransparent stones"; not otherwise characterized

Hostile news account 7 February 1831

He that touched these stones appeared unto the brother of Jared, and said: “Behold I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son.” Two of these stones were sealed up with the plates, and became the spectacles of Joseph Smith, according to a prediction uttered before Abraham was born....This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years....[it] is, without exaggeration, the meanest book in the English language: but it is a translation made through stone spectacles, in a dark room, and in the hat of the prophet Smith, from the reformed Egyptian!!![41]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles (two stones); "stone spectacles."
  • Method: In a dark room, in the hat

Hostile news account 7 March 1831

the surface of which was covered with hieroglyphic characters, unintelligible to Smith, the finder, who could [218] not read English. However the angel (ghost!) that discovered the plates to him, likewise informed him that he would be inspired to translate the inscriptions without looking at the plates, while an amanuensis would record his infallible reading....[42]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Inspired; results would be "infallible"
  • Plates: not necessary to look at while translating

Martin Harris (eyewitness), paraphrased in the Palmyra Reflector 19 March 1831

Harris declares, that when he acted as amanuenses, and wrote the translation, as Smith dictated, such was his fear of the Divine displeasure, that a screen (sheet) was suspended between the prophet and himself.... [43]

  • Scribe: Martin Harris
  • Curtain: Present
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Not specified

Oliver Cowdery (eyewitness), paraphrased in hostile press 9 April 1831

During the trial it was shown that the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures, &c. Oliver Cowdry, one of the three witnesses to the book, testified under oath, that said Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the formed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates.

So much for the gift and power of God. by which Smith says he translate his book. Two transparent stones, undoubtedly of the same properties, and the gift of the same spirit as the one in which he looked to find his neighbor’s goods.[44]
  • Scribe: Oliver Cowdery
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Two transparent stones with plates; distinguished from the seer stone or "peep" stone.
  • Method: Looking through the stones

Hostile press account circa May 1831

He [Joseph] has 10 year’s translating to do; he looks in a small stone he has, and there reads the will of the Lord and writes it for the good of his fellow men.[45]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: A stone; not clear if this is translation of Book of Mormon or other revelation
  • Method: Not specified

Ezra Booth (non-eyewitness) 27 Oct 1831

So also in translating.—The subject stands before his eyes in print, but it matters not whether his eyes are open or shut; he can see as well one way as the other....

These treasures were discovered several years since, by means of the dark glass, the same with which Smith says he translated most of the Book of Mormon.[46]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: "dark glass" (? "peep stone" variant)
  • Method: Eyes open or closed

Hostile news account 18 November 1831

The preacher said he [Joseph] found in the same place two stones, with which he was enabled by placing them over his eyes and putting his head in a dark corner, to decypher the hieroglyphics on the plates![47]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Two stones (Nephite interpreters)
  • Method: Place over eyes, in the dark

Nancy Towle - visiting critic 1832

He accordingly went; and was directed by the angel to a certain spot of ground, where was deposited a “Box”— [138] and in that box contained “Plates,” which resembled gold; also, a pair of “interpreters,” (as he called them,) that resembled spectacles; by looking into which, he could read a writing engraven upon the plates, though to himself, in a tongue unknown.[48]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Pair of interpreters/spectacles
  • Method: Able to read the writing engraven on plates

News report 7 Mar 1832

Smith with divine aid, was able to translate the plates...[49]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Divine aid

News report of LDS missionary [Lyman Johnson and Arson (Orson?) Pratt] teachings 14 April 1832

God by his goodness inspired Smith himself to translate the whole.—Smith, however, not being qualified to write, employed an amanuensis, who wrote for him....[50]
  • Scribe: Mentioned, but no individual
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: Divine inspiration

Hostile news report 10 October 1832

A slight excavation of the earth, enabled him to arrive at this new revelation, written in mysterious characters, upon gold plates. A pair of spectacles, of strange and peculiar construction were found with the plates, to aid the optics of the prophet....[51]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: Divine inspiration

Hostile book report 1833

he found a book with golden clasps and cover, and a pair of elegantly mounted spectacles, somewhat old-fashioned to be sure, but astonishing magnifiers, and possessing qualities which it might puzzle Sir David Brewster to explain on optical principles.

Smith had some difficulty in undoing the clasps of this precious volume, but on opening it, though his eyes were good, it appeared to contain nothing but blank paper. It then occurred to him to fit on his spectacles, when, lo! the whole volume was filled with certain figures and pothooks to him unintelligible. Delighted with his good fortune, Smith trudged home with the volume in his pocket and the spectacles on his nose, happy as bibliomaniac who has been lucky enough to purchase some rare Editio Princeps [first edition] “dog cheap” from the ignorant proprietor of an obscure book-stall. On reaching his own house, his first care was to secure his miraculous treasures from profane observation; his second, to copy out a page or two of the characters, and look about for an interpreter. His search was long fruitless, but, at length, he hit on precisely the two individuals who were qualified conjointly for the office. One of these gentlemen possessed the faculty of reading the hieroglyphics, and the other of interpreting....[52]
  • Scribe: Not specified—note that Joseph is not even said to be the translator
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: "Translation" by others


W.W. Phelps (1833): "through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles—(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)"

W.W. Phelps wrote the following in the January 1833 edition of The Evening and The Morning Star:

The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.-It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim) and while it unfolds the history of the first inhabitants that settled this continent, it, at the same time, brings a oneness to scripture, like the days of the apostles; and opens and explains the prophecies, that a child may understand the meaning of many of them; and shows how the Lord will gather his saints, even the children of Israel, that have been scattered over the face of the earth, more than two thousand years, in these last days, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion. [53]

It appears that the seer stone was also referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" after 1833, indicating that the name could be assigned to any device that was used for the purpose of translation.[54]

  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles/Interpreters—"perhaps" the teraphim or urim and thummim [first association of the Nephite stones with the urim and thummim?]
  • Method: By the gift and power of God

Joseph Smith (eyewitness) in American Revivalist and Rochester Observer - 2 Feb 1833

having been found through the ministration of an holy Angel, translated into our own language by the gift and power of God....[55]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: By the gift and power of God

Hostile press report 7 March 1833

the golden plates were said to be engraved in a language that none but Smith could read—and that an angel gave him a pair of spectacles which

he put in a hat and thus read and translated, while one of the witnesses wrote it down from his mouth....[56]
  • Scribe: Multiple; later identifies "Oliver Powdery" [sic] as "the scribe."
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: In the hat

Hostile press report May 1833

They have a revelation of their own, which, they affirm, was given to the people of this continent, (the Indians,) on plates, and deposited in the earth, and kept concealed in the earth of the Lord, till the fulfilment of its time, which has now been accomplished: and to prove that Joseph Smith is that wonderful prophet, to whom these marvellous plates and their profound mysteries [263] should be revealed, they recite the 29th chapter of Isaiah, saying that the prophet Smith is that unlearned man, to whom the book was given to read, and he said I cannot, for I am not learned! But this difficulty was soon removed by the spirit which came upon him, and blest him with the gift of tongues. The book then was clearly opened to his understanding, and he translated it to one of the witnesses, who wrote it in our language. [check spelling][57]
  • Scribe: "one of the witnesses"
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: "spirit...blest him with the gift of tongues"

Eber D. Howe (non-eyewitness), paraphrasing Martin Harris (eyewitness) in Mormonism Unvailed

[Martin Harris] says he wrote a considerable part of the book, as Smith dictated, and at one time the presence of the Lord was so great, that a screen was hung up between him and the Prophet; at other times the Prophet would sit in a different room, or up stairs, while the Lord was communicating to him the contents of the plates. He does not pretend that he ever saw the wonderful plates but once, although he and Smith were engaged for months in deciphering their contents.[58]:14 [59]

  • Scribe: Martin Harris
  • Curtain: present
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: not specified
  • Locations: Different room; Stairs
  • Plates: Not present

Charles Anthon (non-eyewitness), in Mormonism Unvailed

This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain, to those who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the plates having been decyphered "by the gift of God:' Every thing, in this way, was effected by the large pair of spectacles.[58]:270 [60]

  • Scribe: Martin Harris
  • Curtain: present
  • Instrument: Nephite interpreters ("spectacles"; "large pair of spectacles")
  • Method: "looked through one of the glasses"

Isaac Hale (eyewitness), Mormonism Unvailed

I told them, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it. The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods![58]:265

  • Scribe: Not identified
  • Curtain: Not mentioned
  • Instrument: stone
  • Method: placed stone in hat

Charles Anthon paraphrasing Martin Harris (eyewitness), Mormonism Unvailed

A “gold book,” consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of “gold spectacles” ! These spectacles were so large, that, if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned towards one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face. Whoever examined the plates through the spectacles, was enabled not only to read them, but fully to understand their meaning. All this knowledge, however, was confined at that time to a young man, who had the trunk containing the book and spectacles in his sole possession. This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm [270] house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain, to those who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the plates having been decyphered “by the gift of God.” Every thing, in this way, was effected by the large pair of spectacles.[58]:269 [61]

  • Scribe: Joseph Smith
  • Curtain: Present
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: Looking through spectacles, not a divine process

[Note that this comment would have derived from prior to the formal translation process, and likely reflects only Joseph's act of copying the characters so they could be taken to Harris accompanied by his interpretation.]

Mormonism Unvailed - 1834

They at the same time gave out that, along with the plates, was found a huge pair of silver spectacles, altogether too large for the present race of men, but which were to be used, nevertheless, in translating the plates. [17] The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed “reformed Egyptian characters.” The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old “peep stone,” which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book.[58]:16-17
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Seer stone
  • Method: Placed in hat or box
  • Plates: Not looked at directly
Another account they give of the transaction, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thumim mentioned in Exodus 28–30, and were brought away from Jerusalem by the heroes of the book, handed down from one generation to another, and finally buried up in Ontario county, some fifteen centuries since, to enable Smith to translate the plates without looking at them ![58]:17
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: Not specified
But Don Quixote told his squire Sancho, that great fortune was often very near when we least expected it ; thus it was with Smith in diging after hidden treasures—the famous brass plates, the gold spectacles and the interpreting stone were found, perhaps, when he least expected it[58]:54
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles and stone
  • Method: Not specified
We are informed that Smith used a stone in a hat, for the purpose of translating the plates. The spectacles and plates were found together, but were taken from him and hid up again before he had translated one word, and he has never seen them since—this is Smith’s own story. Let us ask, what use have the plates been or the spectacles, so long as they have in no sense been used ? or what does the testimony of Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer amount to?
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Stone; "spectacles" not used at all
  • Method: Stone in hat
  • Plates: Not present

Hostile news account Jan 1834

But, by the special power of the Spirit, Smith was enabled to translate them.[62]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Not specified
  • Method: "Special power of the Spirit"
  • Plates: Not specified

Hostile news account 4 June 1834

In the year 1828, one Joseph Smith, an illiterate young man, unable to read his own name, of Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, was reported to have found several golden plates, together with a pair of spectacles, relics of high antiquity. The spectacles were designed to aid mental vision, under rather peculiar circumstances. They were to be adjusted, and the visage thrust into a close hat. This done Smith could interpret the sacred mysteries of the plates, in which lay, by the hypothesis, in the top of the hat![63]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Spectacles
  • Method: Spectacles in the hat
  • Plates: Not specified

Oliver Cowdery (eyewitness) 7 September 1834

These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites whould have said, “Interpreters,” the history, or record, called “The book of Mormon.”[64]
  • Scribe: Not specified
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Urim and thummim ("interpreters")
  • Method: Not specified
  • Plates: Not specified

Hostile press account - 1834/35

This famous book, which its misguided followers regard as a second Bible, or more properly as the Mohammedans do the Koran, is said to be a translation from certain brass plates, found by one Joseph Smith, in the town of Palmyra, (N. Y.) in 1826. They were enclosed in a box, which had to all appearance been used for common sized window glass. Smith pretended to interpret them, with a stone in his hat, and this hat over his face, while one Martin Harris was employed to write down the contents at his dictation.[65]
  • Scribe: Martin Harris (later mentions Cowdery)
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Stone
  • Method: Stone in the hat
  • Plates: Presence not specified; plates' box implied to be of modern origin; plates said to be "brass"—this source is clearly garbling at least some of the story.

W.W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery - Feb 1835

The first one is where you sat day after day and wrote the history of the second race that inhabited this continent, as the words were repeated to you by the Lord’s prophet, through the aid of the “Urim and Thumim,” “Nephite Interpreters,” or Divine Spectacles. I mean when you wrote the book of Mormon, containing the fulness of the gospel to the world, and the covenant to gather Israel, for the last time, as well as the history of the Indians, who, till then, had neither origin among men, not records amid the light and knowledge of the great 19th century.[66]
  • Scribe: Oliver Cowdery
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Interpreters/Spectacles/Urim and Thummim
  • Method: Not specified
  • Plates: Not specified

Hostile press account March 1835

Smith pretended that he had found some golden or brass plates, like the leaves of a book, hid in a box in the earth, to which he was directed by an Angel, in 1827,—that the writing on them was in the “Reformed Egyptian language,”—that he was inspired to interpret the writing, or engraving, by putting a plate in his hat, putting two smooth flat stones, which he found in the box, in the hat, and putting his face therein—that he could not write, but as he translated, one Oliver Cowdry wrote it down.[67]
  • Scribe: Oliver Cowdery
  • Curtain: Not specified
  • Instrument: Two stones found with plates (interpreters?)
  • Method: Stones in the hat with a plate
  • Plates: In the hat


Response to claim: "At worst, Joseph waited until the witnesses weren't around to consult and copy from the 1769 KJV Bible"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

At worst, Joseph waited until the witnesses weren’t around to consult and copy from the 1769 KJV Bible

FairMormon Response


Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

So, where was his scribe when Joseph was supposedly consulting and copying (or did the author mean "memorizing") from the KJV Bible? Is the author suggesting that Joseph was copying passages from the Bible, and then later, during the "public" translation, sticking them in the bottom of his hat one at a time, while reading them off to the scribe that was sitting in plain view of Joseph? How does one read text in a hat which is used, as David Whitmer described, for the purpose of blocking out the ambient light?
Logical Fallacy: Argument from Silence
The author has formed a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements in historical documents, rather than on their actual presence.

None of the witnesses to the translation process ever reported Joseph consulting a Bible, or any other book.

Response to claim: "What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon?

Author's sources: The author copied his information from the anti-Mormon site "Mormon Handbook"

FairMormon Response



Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author implies that all of the Biblical passages quoted in the Book of Mormon are identical, including the italicized words. This is not the case. One author notes that, regarding the Isaiah passages, "46 percent are identical to those in the Bible, while 54 percent are modified to some extent." [68] When Joseph encountered an Isaiah passage whose structure closely matched the corresponding passage in the Bible, he appears to have simply used the Biblical translation. Whether it was revealed to him by God, or whether he somehow consulted a Bible, isn't really relevant. In other cases, however, he translated modified versions of the Biblical passages.

Question: What do the italicized words in the Bible represent, and why is it relevant to the Book of Mormon?

Italicized text is used in some Bible translations to indicate when a word has been "added" because of necessity of English grammar

Often, the italicized word is a word which is implied in the original Greek or Hebrew text, but must be explicitly used in English. It is claimed by some that Joseph Smith was aware of this, and while copying the KJV passages, tended to alter the italicized words to make it look more like a translation.

Some members accept the possibility that the italicized words are often altered "intentionally," but disagree with what this means about the translation. They do not see it as threatening Joseph's inspiration, the divine nature of the translation, or the reality of an ancient text on the plates. Others hold that there is no evidence that Joseph even had access to a Bible, nor that he was aware of the italics' meaning.

Either option is a viable response, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully more data will be forthcoming to help resolve the issue, that we might better understand the translation process of the Book of Mormon.


Question: Did Joseph know what the italics in the Bible meant?

Joseph didn't even know that Jerusalem had walls around it. His basic knowledge of the Bible was limited

Just as there is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible, there is even less that he had any knowledge of what the italicized words in the translation meant. Emma made Joseph's early ignorance crystal clear:

When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, ‘Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?’ When I answered, ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘Oh! [I didn’t know.] I was afraid I had been deceived.’ He had such a limited knowledge of history at that time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.[69]

If Joseph didn't know this, how do the critics expect that he knew what the italics in a Bible (which he likely did not own) meant? This is something which many modern Bible readers do not know. However, one cannot conclude with certainty that Joseph did not understand what the italicized words meant. Some LDS scholars believe that he did.

Furthermore, italicization patterns varied between Bibles, and an analysis of Joseph's Book of Mormon "changes" to the KJV concluded that changes to the italics were not a determining factor.[70]


Barney: "three types of evidence favoring the conclusion that Joseph understood the meaning of the italicized words"

Some LDS scholars do believe that Joseph may have understood the meaning italicized words. Kevin Barney: [71]

I think there are basically three types of evidence favoring the conclusion that Joseph understood the meaning of the italicized words. First, and most importantly, is the distribution of the variants in Joseph’s inspired translations, which show a clear (though by no means absolute) tendency to revolve around the italicized words. Skousen and Wright agree roughly on this distribution, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%, give or take, but they draw different conclusions from it. My experience spending a fair amount of time examining variants is that the italics were a significant factor.

Second is the practice of often crossing out italicized words in the “marked Bible” used as an aid in preparing the JST. Anyone with access to the critical text can see this phenomenon for herself, since they have actual pictures of the marked Bible text.

Third are near-contemporary statements from Joseph’s milieu evincing a familiarity with the purpose of the italics. A prominent example is this from a W.W. Phelps editorial in the Evening and Morning Star (January 1833):

The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.—It was translated by the gift and power of God.[72]


Response to claim: "Contrary to FairMormon’s assertion above that God himself revealed the 1769 KJV errors to Joseph, FairMormon is conceding here that Joseph copied KJV text over to the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Contrary to FairMormon’s assertion above that God himself revealed the 1769 KJV errors to Joseph, FairMormon is conceding here that Joseph copied KJV text over to the Book of Mormon.

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

FairMormon does not take a position that God revealed 1769 KJV errors to Joseph, nor does FairMormon "concede" that Joseph copied KJV text over to the Book of Mormon. What FairMormon does do is acknowledge that there is scholarship that supports either position. There is a difference of opinion among LDS scholars on the issue of "tight" versus "loose" translation, and the question is not settled. Some LDS scholars believe that Joseph copied Biblical passages over to the Book of Mormon, despite the lack of evidence that Joseph ever consulted any books during the translation process. Other scholars take the position that when Joseph reached a Biblical passage in the translation, that God, in most cases, simply gave him the ability to quote the verse as it existed in the currently available Bible. In addition, not all of the Biblical passages quoted in the Book of Mormon are identical to the versions quoted in the King James Bible - 54 percent of them were modified. [73]

Response to claim: "2 Nephi 19:1...Joseph qualified the sea as the Red Sea"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

2 Nephi 19:1...Joseph qualified the sea as the Red Sea

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Although the addition of the word "red" may be attributed to possible human error, there is no mention of the fact that the word "her" was omitted, making Joseph's translation actually match the original source text more closely.

Question: Why does 2 Nephi 19:1 change the word "sea" in Isaiah 9 to "Red Sea"?

Joseph deleted the word "her" and added the word "Red" to the quote of Isaiah 9 in the Book of Mormon

Although the King James Version of the bible contains the word "her" in Isaiah 9, the standard Masoretic Hebrew (MT) text from which the KJV derived does not contain this word. Therefore, this particular change by Joseph matches the original text more precisely than the KJV does. John Tvedtnes explains:

9:1 (MT 8:23) = 2 Ne. 19:1

KJV: "afflict her by the way of the sea"

BM: "afflict by the way of the Red Sea"

The deletion of italicized "her" is understandable, since it is not in MT. (I) However, BM [Book of Mormon] must be wrong in speaking of the "RED Sea", which is certainly not "beyond Jordan, in Galilee", nor near the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. This appears to be a case of scribal over-correction, due to prior mention of the Red Sea in the BM text.[74]

In other words, Tvedtnes suggests that the addition of the word "red" is an example of Oliver Cowdery "over-hearing" (hearing "sea" and adding "red" in error).

Jeff Lindsay: "there are a couple of reasonable possibilities consistent with the concept of the Book of Mormon being an authentic ancient text translated by divine aid (but still going through fallible human hands in the process)"

The following response is provided by Jeff Lindsay,

In the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 19:1 reads:

Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations. [emphasis added]

This verse is a quotation of Isaiah 9:1, which reads in the KJV as follows:

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

The Book of Mormon deletes "her" from the KJV and changes "sea" to "Red Sea." Based on verse 1 in light of verse 2 from Isaiah, many people conclude that the sea is the Sea of Galilee, not the Red Sea. The KJV for Isaiah 9:2 is:

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

So yes, these verses do appear to be a prophecy of the ministry of Christ, and the Sea of Galilee would make sense. So why does the Book of Mormon have the puzzling reference to the Red Sea? Here is a possible explanation offered by D. Charles Pyle in e-mail received June 2004:

There are those who say that this is an error. It is possible that it is a scribal error on the part of Oliver Cowdery in copying the printer's manuscript from the original manuscript. The problem is that this cannot be proven or disproven because this portion of the original manuscript no longer is extant. It also is possible that the Egyptian textual translation of the Hebrew is in error and that Joseph Smith translated it, error and all. On the other hand, it also is possible that it is not an error at all.

The King's Highway also was part of what was known in ancient times as the Way of the Red Sea, which led out of Egypt along the shores of the Red Sea, passed through Edom and changed direction after meeting with the Way of the Sea, in Galilee, to go into Mesopotamia. It is possible that Joseph journeyed this way, or at least part of this way, to avoid going through Judaea when he took Jesus into Nazareth as a young child. If so, it would be quite correct in that the light would pass into the region of Naphtali via the Way of the Red Sea. Joseph sought to avoid contact with Archelaus and a back route would be one of the best ways to avoid contact.

We also know that Jesus went into the wilderness for his temptation after being baptized in a region on the other side of the Jordan. The English Book of Mormon has Bethabara as do several versions of the Bible while [several other translations have] Bethany beyond Jordan. He would then have come down from Galilee to be baptized on the other side of the Jordan (east of the river; 'beyond Jordan' meant to the east of the Jordan River), and come down around the Way of the Red Sea and around the Dead Sea to the Wilderness of Judaea. Remember, Jesus' wandered the wilderness for forty days, plenty of time to travel around the Dead Sea in that manner, that region being one the most inhospitable in the main. There are possible hints that Jesus came through Edom or Idumea. One way that he could have done so is to travel the Way of the Red Sea, which passes through Edom. The records of Jesus' life and travels are scanty at best and it is impossible to know for certainty at this time. In any case, I am not willing to state without good evidence that this passage is in error with any degree of certainty, for in my opinion there is no certainty either way. I have sifted through much contradictory 'evidence' and have formed no solid conclusion on this textual matter.

Bottom line: we're not really sure, but there are a couple of reasonable possibilities consistent with the concept of the Book of Mormon being an authentic ancient text translated by divine aid (but still going through fallible human hands in the process). There is a plausible basis from the ancient world for referring to the sea as the Red Sea. On the other hand, if Joseph were relying on his knowledge of the Bible and fabricating the text, changing "sea" to "Red Sea" would make no sense. What would motivate a Bible literate fabricator to make such a change?[75]


Response to claim: "The Book of Mormon includes mistranslated biblical passages that were later changed in Joseph Smith’s translation of the bible."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon includes mistranslated biblical passages that were later changed in Joseph Smith’s translation of the bible.
....
Joseph Smith corrected the Bible. In doing so, he also corrected the same identical Sermon on the Mount passage in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is “the most correct book” and was translated a mere decade before the JST.


Author's source: MormonThink.com page "JST Bible Translation".

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Joseph did not go back and alter the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages when he performed his "inspired translation" of the Bible.

Question: If the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is Joseph Smith's 'correction' of Biblical errors, why do these corrections not match known Biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is better thought of as an "inspired commentary" rather than a "translation"

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is not a translation in the traditional sense. Joseph did not consider himself a "translator" in the academic sense. The JST is better thought of as a kind of "inspired commentary"--Joseph was not usually restoring 'lost text' (though in some few cases he may have). The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is not, as some members have presumed, simply a restoration of lost Biblical text or an improvement on the translation of known text. Rather, the JST also involves harmonization of doctrinal concepts, commentary and elaboration on the Biblical text, and explanations to clarify points of importance to the modern reader.

Some aspects of the JST may reflect a restoration of lost Biblical text. But, such restoration is likely in the minority. Joseph did not claim to be mechanically preserving some hypothetically 'perfect' Biblical text. Rather, Joseph used the extant King James text as a basis for commentary, expansion, and clarification based upon revelation, with particular attention to issues of doctrinal importance for the modern reader. Reading the JST is akin to having the prophet at your elbow as one studies—it allows Joseph to clarify, elaborate, and comment on the Biblical text in the light of modern revelation.

The JST comes from a more prophetically mature and sophisticated Joseph Smith, and provides doctrinal expansion based upon additional revelation, experience, and understanding.

Joseph Smith: "I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands"

It is important to remember that Joseph did not consider one 'translation' of anything to be perfect or 'the final word.' Joseph had indicated that Moroni quoted Malachi to him using different wording than the KJV (See Joseph Smith History 1:36–39). However, when Joseph quoted the same passage years later in a discussion about vicarious baptism for the dead, he said:

I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism. for the dead (DC 128:18). (emphasis added)

Thus, to Joseph, the adequacy of a translation depended upon the uses to which a given text will be employed. For one discussion, the KJV was adequate; for others, not. A key element of LDS theology is that living prophets are the primary instrument through which God continues to give knowledge and understanding to his children. Scriptures are neither inerrant, nor somehow "perfect," but are instead produced by fallible mortals. Despite this, because of current prophets and the revelation granted each individual, the writings of past prophets are sufficient to teach the principles essential for salvation. Additional revelation is sought and received as required.

Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a 'translation' as only the conversion of text in one language to another. But, Joseph used the term in a broader and more inclusive sense, which included explanation, commentary, and harmonization. The JST is probably best understood in this light.

An Example: The Lord's Prayer

There is a great example of this kind of difference in the Lord's prayer. Compare the following:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Book of Mormon).
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (KJV Bible).
And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil (JST Bible).

The JST changes the statement to passive voice whereas the KJV Bible and the Book of Mormon are in active voice. According to E. W. Bullinger, this particular scripture contains a Hebraism, namely, "active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said do." Consequently, Bullinger interprets the passage this way: "Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."[76]

Adam Clarke agrees with Bullinger. He wrote this scripture means "'Bring not in,' or 'lead us not into.' (This is a mere Hebraism. God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done)."[77]

In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament we read the same interpretation. "This phrase then must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God 'has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call on him."[78]

When properly considered, this passage is an example of where the JST reading and the KJV/Book of Mormon are both correct. The KJV and Book of Mormon are literal interpretations while the JST is an interpretive translation that is also correct. Given Joseph's relative inexperience in prophetic interpretation in 1829, he would be far more likely to render a verse literally than engage in interpretation.


Matthews: "To regard the New Translation...as a product of divine inspiration given to Joseph Smith does not necessarily assume that it be a restoration of the original Bible text"

In describing the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), the leading expert, Robert J. Matthews, said:

To regard the New Translation [i.e. JST] as a product of divine inspiration given to Joseph Smith does not necessarily assume that it be a restoration of the original Bible text. It seems probable that the New Translation could be many things. For example, the nature of the work may fall into at least four categories:

  1. Portions may amount to restorations of content material once written by the biblical authors but since deleted from the Bible.
  2. Portions may consist of a record of actual historical events that were not recorded, or were recorded but never included in the biblical collection
  3. Portions may consist of inspired commentary by the Prophet Joseph Smith, enlarged, elaborated, and even adapted to a latter-day situation. This may be similar to what Nephi meant by "Likening" the scriptures to himself and his people in their particular circumstance. (See 1 Nephi 19:23-24; 2 Nephi 11:8).
  4. Some items may be a harmonization of doctrinal concepts that were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith independently of his translation of the Bible, but by means of which he was able to discover that a biblical passage was inaccurate.

The most fundamental question seems to be whether or not one is disposed to accept the New Translation as a divinely inspired document.[79]

The same author later observed:

It would be informative to consider various meanings of the word translate. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives these definitions: "To turn from one language into another retaining the sense"; also, "To express in other words, to paraphrase." It gives another meaning as, "To interpret, explain, expound the significance of." Other dictionaries give approximately the same definitions as the OED. Although we generally think of translation as having to do with changing a word text from one language to another, that is not the only usage of the word. Translate equally means to express an idea or statement in other words, even in the same language. If people are unfamiliar with certain terminology in their own tongue, they will need an explanation. The explanation may be longer than the original, yet the original had all the meaning, either stated or implied. In common everyday discourse, when we hear something stated ambiguously or in highly technical terms, we ask the speaker to translate it for us. It is not expected that the response must come in another language, but only that the first statement be made clear. The speaker's new statement is a form of translation because it follows the basic purpose and intent of the word translation, which is to render something in understandable form…Every translation is an interpretation—a version. The translation of language cannot be a mechanical operation … Translation is a cognitive and functional process because there is not one word in every language to match with exact words in every other language. Gender, case, tense, terminology, idiom, word order, obsolete and archaic words, and shades of meaning—all make translation an interpretive process.[80]


Question: How is the Joseph Smith Translation best understood?

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is probably better understood as a kind of midrashic commentary on the text

Much of the JST is probably better understood as a kind of midrashic commentary on the text.

The JST for the opening of the Gospel of John is as follows:

1 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.

It seems more likely that the point of this revision is to avoid directly equating the Word (Greek: Logos) with Jesus Christ. This equation was based on Greek philosophical usage, in which the concept of a Logos as an intermediary agency between God and man was first articulated. So equating the Logos with the gospel and not Jesus directly seems to be a way of rejecting too great a reliance on Greek philosophy in articulating the premortal nature of Jesus Christ. This is likely not a return to some primitive purity of the text, but a helpful explanation or commentary provided by the Lord through Joseph Smith to prevent us from going too far down a theological "blind alley."


Response to claim: "If Joseph was trying to make the Bible more correct, he would not change something that was correct according to Isaiah"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

If the Bible verses were good enough for the "most correct book," there is no reason to change them in the JST of the Bible (other than to obfuscate the plagiarism). If Joseph was trying to make the Bible more correct, he would not change something that was correct according to Isaiah.

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author does not understand "plagiarism". The Book of Mormon clearly acknowledges that it is quoting Isaiah. Plagiarists, on the other hand, attempt to pass of the work of someone else as their own, without acknowledging the source. According to Webster: "the act of using another person's words or ideas without giving credit to that person."

We are also not dealing here with "something that was correct according to Isaiah." We are dealing with a English translation of something that was correct according to Isaiah. There is always latitude available in making a translation clearer. Joseph Smith acknowledged that he could have sometimes "rendered a plainer translation" to certain concepts.

The nature of the Joseph Smith Translation often represents an exposition of the underlying significance of a Bible text in a manner similar to the way that New Testament authors used the Old Testament. (e.g., Hebrews 1:8 [Psalms 45:6-7]; Matthew 2:14-15 [Hosea 11:1]).

Joseph Smith: "I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands"

Joseph Smith noted that his own translations can be improved,

I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. (DC 128:18).


Response to claim: "DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia.

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

To our knowledge, the DNA data has never been disputed by the Church or anyone else.

Gospel Topics: "The Book of Mormon...does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied"

"Book of Mormon and DNA Studies," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The Book of Mormon provides little direct information about cultural contact between the peoples it describes and others who may have lived nearby. Consequently, most early Latter-day Saints assumed that Near Easterners or West Asians like Jared, Lehi, Mulek, and their companions were the first or the largest or even the only groups to settle the Americas. Building upon this assumption, critics insist that the Book of Mormon does not allow for the presence of other large populations in the Americas and that, therefore, Near Eastern DNA should be easily identifiable among modern native groups.

The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied. In fact, cultural and demographic clues in its text hint at the presence of other groups.6 At the April 1929 general conference, President Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency cautioned: “We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them [the peoples it describes]. It does not tell us that people did not come after.[81]


Southerton (2008/2014): "It's true that if a small group (say 10 people) entered a massive population (say 1 million), that it would be hard to detect their mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA"

Dr. Simon Southerton is one of the most outspoken critics of the Church with regard to DNA and the Book of Mormon:

(2008) In case anyone from FAIR is unclear I will repeat what I wrote four years ago…“IF A SMALL GROUP OF ISRAELITES ENTERED SUCH A MASSIVE NATIVE POPULATION (SEVERAL MILLIONS) IT WOULD BE VERY, VERY HARD TO DETECT THEIR GENES.” Now that FAIR has finally conceded that American Indian DNA is essentially all derived from Asia, I also agree with them that the debate should be about the theology. [82]

(2014) I made the original statement at a time when whole genome sequence analysis was a long way off. It's true that if a small group (say 10 people) entered a massive population (say 1 million), that it would be hard to detect their mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA. Your odds would be roughly 1 in 100,000 (10 in 1 Million). But technology has moved very rapidly and whole genome studies are now almost routine. So, my original statement is no longer true. [83]


Question: Does the Church claim that Native Americans were the exclusive descendants of Lehi or Mulek?

LDS leaders have expressed a variety of opinions regarding whether or not all Amerindians are literal descendants of Lehi

LDS leaders have expressed a variety of opinions regarding whether or not all Amerindians are literal descendants of Lehi. Population genetics indicate that Lehi can likely be counted among the ancestors of all native Americans—a position that the Church reinforced in the 2006 edition by changing the Book of Mormon introduction originally introduced in 1981 from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors." (see Book of Mormon Introduction on lds.org)

Many Church leaders, most notably Spencer W. Kimball, have made clear statements regarding the belief that Lehi was the exclusive ancestor of all native Americans. However, contrary to the claims of critics who attempt to use DNA evidence to discredit the Book of Mormon, many readers and leaders have also noted that those in Lehi's group were not the exclusive progenitors of the inhabitants of the American continents. When asked about the Church’s official position on this matter by a writer, a Church spokesman said:

As to whether these were the first inhabitants…we don't have a position on that. Our scripture does not try to account for any other people who may have lived in the New World before, during or after the days of the Jaredites and the Nephites, and we don't have any official doctrine about who the descendants of the Nephites and the Jaredites are. Many Mormons believe that American Indians are descendants of the Lamanites [a division of the Nephites], but that's not in the scripture.[84]

In addition, apostles and seventies have made many statements which differ from critics’ understanding of the matter, taught them in General Conference, and the Church has published such perspectives in their magazines, study guides, and manuals. The Church’s university has passed them on to their students for generations. The Church’s official spokespeople disclaim the interpretation which critics insist we must hold. Why must we? Well, because critics’ DNA theory “disproving” the Book of Mormon is in deep trouble otherwise.


Response to claim: "Why did the Church change the following section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition Book of Mormon shortly after the DNA results were released?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Why did the Church change the following section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition Book of Mormon shortly after the DNA results were released?
“…the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians”
“…the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

FairMormon Response


Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The implication by the author is that the Church retreated from the definition of "Lamanite" by altering the introduction to the Book of Mormon that was added in the 1920's. This is incorrect. If Lehi's people intermarried with anyone from the existing New World population, then by definition they are certainly among the ancestors of every native American currently living, and thus qualify under the Church's definition of "Lamanite." The only way critics can make the DNA data to be a weapon against the Book of Mormon is to force a hemispheric interpretation of an empty North and South American continent at the time of arrival of the Book of Mormon people. This is why critics must at all costs negate the Limited Geography of the Book of Mormon.

Question: Why did the Church modify the introduction to the Book of Mormon from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors?"

The Church changed the wording to remove the assumption (inserted into the Book of Mormon in the 1920's) that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were exclusive descendants of Lehi

The Church made the change in wording to the introduction to the Book of Mormon to remove the assumption, which inserted into the Book of Mormon introduction in the 1920's and not part of the original text, that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were exclusive descendants of Lehi. This had been the generally held belief from the time that the Church was restored.

This change makes the Book of Mormon introduction compatible with current DNA evidence and acknowledges the fact that Lehi's group likely intermingled with the native inhabitants of the American continents based upon current knowledge of the DNA composition of the inhabitants of the New World. There is substantial scientific evidence of habitation in the Americas for thousands of years prior to Lehi's arrival.

If Lehi had any descendants among Amerindians, then after 2600 years all Amerindians would share Lehi as an ancestor. Even if (as is probable) the Lehite group was a small drop in a larger population 'ocean' of pre-Columbian inhabitants, Lehi would have been an ancestor of virtually all the modern-day Amerindians if he has any ancestors at all.


Olson (2004): "People may like to think that they're descended from some ancient group while other people are not. But human ancestry doesn't work that way, since we all share the same ancestors just a few millenniums ago"

Non LDS-writer Steve Olson (an expert in population genetics[85]) wrote:

If anyone living today is descended from Jesus, so are most of us on the planet. That absurd-sounding statement is an inevitable consequence of the strange and marvelous workings of human ancestry...Say you go back 120 generations, to about the year 1000 B.C. According to the results presented in our Nature paper, your ancestors then included everyone in the world who has descendants living today... If Jesus had children (a big if, of course) and if those children had children so that Jesus' lineage survived, then Jesus is today the ancestor of almost everyone living on Earth. True, Jesus lived two rather than three millenniums ago, but a person's descendants spread quickly from well-connected parts of the world like the Middle East...In addition to Jesus...we're also all descended from Julius Caesar, from Nefertiti, from Confucius...and from any other historical figure who left behind lines of descendants and lived earlier than a few thousand years ago. Genetic tests can't prove this, partly because current tests look at just a small fraction of our DNA. But if we're descended from someone, we have at least a chance—even if it's a very small chance—of having their DNA in our cells...People may like to think that they're descended from some ancient group while other people are not. But human ancestry doesn't work that way, since we all share the same ancestors just a few millenniums ago.[86]


Response to claim: "Horses...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Horses...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Ancient horses are believed to have vanished before the time of the Lehite's arrival, and modern horses were brought to the New World by the Spaniards. Yet there are a few pieces of circumstantial evidence of horses which are currently not accepted as valid by the scientific community. The idea that all defenders of the Church (e.g. "apologists") believe that New World horses are actually "tapirs" is a popular strawman put forth by the ex-Mormon community, and only represents a single suggestion offered by LDS anthropologist John L. Sorenson. Any others who mention tapirs as a possibility (such as Mike Ash), are simply citing Sorenson's work. The idea that Daniel C. Peterson promotes tapirs as horses is a popular meme within the ex-Mormon online community, however, at present we can find only a single quote attributable to Dr. Peterson, which also cites John L. Sorenson. Peterson, in fact, favors the idea that actual horses existed at the time, noting that "it remains possible that the term horse in the Book of Mormon-which, by the way, does not occur very often, and even then in rather puzzling contexts-refers simply to deer or tapirs or similar quadrupeds thought by the Nephites to be analogous to the horse....But there is archaeological reason to believe that horses may, in fact, have existed in the Americas during Book of Mormon times. The question remains very much open."[87] Peterson's footnote to this statement adds "Valuable discussions of the evidence can be found at John L. Sorenson, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: An Annotated Bibliography." In fact, every mention of a "loan-shift" of the name "horse" to "deer" or "tapir" cites John L. Sorenson's original work.

Question: Why are horses considered an anachronism in the Book of Mormon?

Horses existed in the New World anciently and spread to other parts of the world, however, it is currently believed that "The last prehistoric North American horses died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene." [88]

Modern horses did not arrive in the New World until they were brought by Spanish explorers. Thus, the mention of "horses" in the Americas during Book of Mormon times presents an anachronism--something that doesn't fit the time frame for which it is claimed.

There are at least two possible resolutions to the "horse" problem in the Book of Mormon:

  1. Horses were present but their remains have not been found.
  2. Definitions of the word "horse" were expanded to include new meanings.


Question: What is the origin of the modern horse in the New World?

Most scientists believe that the horse originated in the Americas and spread across land bridges from the Americas to Asia, eventually migrating into Africa and Europe. Over the course of millions of years the horse evolved from a smaller breed to the larger horses of today. Near the end of the Pleistocene period--about 10,000 years ago--the most recent ice-age came to an end. During this time many large mammals that once roamed the Americas became extinct. Among these were mammoths, camels, and the mid-sized horses that once lived in abundance in the New World. Scientists typically postulate that these animals died off due to climate changes and possible over-hunting. In other parts of the world, however, horses continued to thrive and eventually evolved into modern-day horses. When the Spaniards came to the New World in the early sixteenth century, they brought horses with them. Some horses eventually escaped and multiplied in the wild.

A horse skeleton from the La Brea Tarpits, in Los Angeles, California. The Museum notes that this is an example of the "extinct Western horse". Image taken from [1] on the La Brea Tarpits Museum website.



Verses in the Book of Mormon that talk about "horses"

Horses associated with travel and chariots

  • Alma 18:9-10
    And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi...Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished...
  • Alma 18:12
    And it came to pass that when Ammon had made ready the horses and the chariots for the king and his servants...
  • Alma 20:6
    Now when Lamoni had heard this he caused that his servants should make ready his horses and his chariots.
  • 3 Nephi 3:22
    And it came to pass in the *seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies.

(It should be noted that we are not told if these chariots served a purpose in riding, or if they were for transport of goods, or if they had a ceremonial function. One assumes some sort of practicality or ritual use in war, since they brought chariots to the siege in 3 Nephi.)

Horse mentioned in quotes of Old World scripture

  • 2 Nephi 12:7
    Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.
  • 2 Nephi 15:28
    Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.
  • 3 Nephi 21:14
    Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;

Wild horses

  • 1 Nephi 18:25
    And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men.

Domesticated horses

  • Enos 1:21
    And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses.

Horses as a potential source of food

  • 3 Nephi 4:4
    Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open battle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years...
  • 3 Nephi 6:1
    And now it came to pass that the people of the Nephites did all return to their own lands in the *twenty and sixth year, every man, with his family, his flocks and his herds, his horses and his cattle...
  • Ether 9:19
    And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

It is interesting that the horses are often grouped with cattle, and seem to have played a role in the diet (though this may have been under the exigencies of the siege of 3 Nephi.)


Question: What role do horses not play in the Book of Mormon?

Horses are never ridden or used in battle

Conspicuously absent is any role of the horse in the many journeys recorded in the Book of Mormon. Nor do horses or chariots play any role in the many Nephite wars; this is in stark contrast to the Biblical account, in which the chariots of Egypt, Babylon, and the Philistines are feared super-weapons upon the plains of Israel.

Nor do we see a role for the horse in gallant cavalry charges that were the romantic warrior ideal in Joseph Smith's day. Nor is there any sign of the rapid war of maneuver and skirmish favored by the cavalry of the western nations. These are not the horses of the nineteenth century's practical realities or fanciful dreams.

There are societies in which the horse was vital, such as among the Hun warriors of Asia and Eastern Europe, for whom horses were a sign of wealth and status, and for whom they were essential for food, clothing, and war. Yet, there is no known horse bone from this period in the archaeological record.[89]


Question: Have any ancient horse remains from the Nephite period been found in the New World?

A few non-Mormon scholars have proposed that real horses survived the New World extinction

Wild horses were present in ancient America during the Pleistocene period (Ice Age), yet were not present at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards. Horses thrived once they were re-introduced by the Spaniards into the New World. The question then is: "Why were horses missing when the Spaniards arrived?" Is it possible that real horses lived in the Americas during Book of Mormon times? And if so, why does there seem to be no archaeological support?

At least a few non-Mormon scholars believe that real horses (of a stature smaller than modern horses) may have survived New World extinction. The late British anthropologist, M.F. Ashley Montague, a non-LDS scholar who taught at Harvard, suggested that the horse never became extinct in America. According to Montague, the size of post-Columbian horses provides evidence that the European horses bred with early American horses.[90]

Non-LDS Canadian researcher, Yuri Kuchinsky, also believes that there were pre-Columbian horses. Kuchinsky, however, believes that horses (smaller than our modern horses) were reintroduced into the west coast of the Americas about 2000 years ago from Asians who came by ship. Among Kuchinsky's evidences for pre-Columbian horses are:

  1. Horse traditions among the Indians that may pre-date the arrival of the Spaniards.
  2. Supposedly pre-Columbian petroglyphs that appear to depict horses.
  3. Noticeable differences between the typical Spanish horse and the much smaller American Indian ponies.[91]


Question: Why don't potential pre-Columbian horse remains in the New World receive greater attention from scientists?

Theories that horses survived extinction after the Pleistocene extinction are viewed as fringe by mainstream scholars and are dismissed

Unfortunately for this solution for the Book of Mormon, however, such theories are typically seen as fringe among mainstream scholars. Due to the dearth of archaeological support, most scholars continue to believe that horses became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene period.

We know, for example, that the Norsemen probably introduced horses, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs into the Eastern North America in the eleventh century A.D., yet these animals didn't spread throughout the continent and they left no archeological remains.[92] According to one non-LDS authority on ancient American, the Olmecs had domesticated dogs and turkeys but the damp acidic Mesoamerican soil would have destroyed any remains and any archaeological evidence of such animal domestication.[93]

Even in areas of the world where animals lived in abundance, we sometimes have problems finding archaeological remains. The textual evidence for lions in Israel, for example, suggests that lions were present in Israel from ancient times until at least the sixteenth century AD. Robert R. Bennett of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute Of Religious Scholarship notes,

A parallel example from the Bible is instructive. The biblical narrative mentions lions, yet it was not until very recently that the only other evidence for lions in Palestine was pictographic or literary. Before the announcement in a 1988 publication of two bone samples, there was no archaeological evidence to confirm the existence of lions in that region.6 Thus there is often a gap between what historical records such as the Book of Mormon claim existed and what the limited archaeological record may yield. In addition, archaeological excavations in Bible lands have been under way for decades longer and on a much larger scale than those in proposed Book of Mormon lands.[94]

In the Bible we read that Abraham had camels while in Egypt, yet archaeologists used to believe that this was an anachronism because camels were supposedly unknown in Egypt until Greek and Roman times. More recently, however, some researchers have shown that camels were used in Egypt from pre-historic times until the present day.

The fact is, however, that there does appear to be archaeological support that horses existed in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. In 1957, for instance, at Mayapan (a site corresponding to Book of Mormon lands/times) horse remains were discovered at a depth considered to be pre-Columbian. Likewise, in southwest Yucatan, a non-Mormon archaeologist found what may likely be pre-Columbian horse remains in three caves. Excavations in a cave in the Mayan lowlands in 1978 also turned up horse remains.[95]

As an article for the Academy of Natural Science explains, such discoveries are typically "either dismissed or ignored by the European scientific community."[96] The problem may be one of pre-conceived paradigms. Dr. Sorenson recently related the story of a non-LDS archaeologist colleague who was digging at an archaeological dig in Tula and discovered a horse tooth. He took it to his supervisor--the chief archaeologist--who said, "Oh, that's a modern horse, throw it away" (which he did)--it was never dated.[97]

Dr. John Clark, director of the New World Archaeological Foundation has expressed similar concerns:

The problem is archaeologists get in the same hole that everybody else gets in. If you find a horse--if I'm digging a site and I find a horse bone--if I actually know enough to know that it is a horse bone, because that takes some expertise--my assumption would be that there's something wrong with my site. And so archaeologists who find a horse bone and say, "Ah! Somebody's screwing around with my archaeology." So we would never date it. Why am I going to throw away $600 to date the horse bone when I already know [that they're modern]? ...I think that hole's screwed up. If I dig a hole and I find plastic in the bottom, I'm not going to run the [radio]carbon, that's all there is to it. Because ...I don't want to waste the money.[98]


Question: Could ancient Americans have expanded the definition of "horse" to include new meanings?

Loan shifting: We must consider the possibility that the ancient author was applying familiar terms to unfamiliar animals that were encountered in the New World

Joseph Smith obviously knew what a "horse" looked like. It stands to reason, therefore, that when Joseph said "horse" that this is exactly what he meant. If we consider, however, that Joseph was receiving revelation that simply conveyed what was written by the ancient author, we must consider the possibility that the ancient author was applying familiar terms to unfamiliar animals that were encountered in the New World. It is important to remember that the Book of Mormon itself is not an ancient text—it is a nineteenth-century translation of an ancient text. Modern readers need to have an understanding of what the ancient author was attempting to convey. Some of the things that seem "plain" to us are not so "plain" upon further investigation or once we understand the culture that produced the text.

For a detailed response, see: Loan shifting: "Horses" as deer and tapirs


"Pottery and other cultural materials were found in levels VII and above. But in some of those artifact-bearing strata there were horse bones, even in level II."

The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: [99]

Publications from the late 1950s reported results from excavations by scientists working on the Yucatan Peninsula. Excavations at the site of Mayapan, which dates to a few centuries before the Spaniards arrived, yielded horse bones in four spots. (Two of the lots were from the surface, however, and might represent Spanish horses.) From another site, the Cenote (water hole) Ch'en Mul, came other traces, this time from a firm archaeological context. In the bottom stratum in a sequence of levels of unconsolidated earth almost two meters in thickness, two horse teeth were found. They were partially mineralized, indicating that they were definitely ancient and could not have come from any Spanish animal. The interesting thing is that Maya pottery was also found in the stratified soil where the teeth were located. [100]

Subsequent digging has expanded the evidence for an association of humans with horses. But the full story actually goes back to 1895, when American paleontologist Henry C. Mercer went to Yucatan hoping to find remains of Ice Age man. He visited 29 caves in the hill area—the Puuc—of the peninsula and tried stratigraphic excavation in 10 of them. But the results were confused, and he came away disillusioned. He did find horse bones in three caves (Actun Sayab, Actun Lara, and Chektalen). In terms of their visible characteristics, those bones should have been classified as from the Pleistocene American horse species, then called Equus occidentalis L. However, Mercer decided that since the remains were near the surface, they must actually be from the modern horse, Equus equus, that the Spaniards had brought with them to the New World, and so he reported them as such.[101] In 1947 Robert T. Hatt repeated Mercer's activities. He found within Actun Lara and one other cave more remains of the American horse (in his day it was called Equus conversidens), along with bones of other extinct animals. Hatt recommended that any future work concentrate on Loltun Cave, where abundant animal and cultural remains could be seen.[102]

It took until 1977 before that recommendation bore fruit. Two Mexican archaeologists carried out a project that included a complete survey of the complex system of subterranean cavities (made by underground water that had dissolved the subsurface limestone). They also did stratigraphic excavation in areas in the Loltun complex not previously visited. The pits they excavated revealed a sequence of 16 layers, which they numbered from the surface downward. Bones of extinct animals (including mammoth) appear in the lowest layers.

Pottery and other cultural materials were found in levels VII and above. But in some of those artifact-bearing strata there were horse bones, even in level II. A radiocarbon date for the beginning of VII turned out to be around 1800 BC. The pottery fragments above that would place some portions in the range of at least 900–400 BC and possibly later. The report on this work concludes with the observation that "something went on here that is still difficult to explain." Some archaeologists have suggested that the horse bones were stirred upward from lower to higher levels by the action of tunneling rodents, but they admit that this explanation is not easy to accept. The statement has also been made that paleontologists will not be pleased at the idea that horses survived to such a late date as to be involved with civilized or near-civilized people whose remains are seen in the ceramic-using levels.[103] Surprisingly, the Mexican researchers show no awareness of the horse teeth discovered in 1957 by Carnegie Institution scientists Pollock and Ray. (Some uncomfortable scientific facts seem to need rediscovering time and time again.)


Martin: "no theoretical reason why a herd of mastodons, horses, or ground sloths could not have survived in some small refuge until 8000 or even 4000 years ago"

Paul S. Martin:

Admittedly, there is no theoretical reason why a herd of mastodons, horses, or ground sloths could not have survived in some small refuge until 8000 or even 4000 years ago. But in the past two decades, concordant stratiagraphic, palynological, archeological, and radiocarbon evidence to demonstrate beyond doubt the post-glacial survival of an extinct large mammal has been confined to extinct species of Bison…No evidence of similar quality has been mustered to show that mammoths, mastodons, or any of the other 29 genera of extinct large mammals of North America were alive 10,000 years ago. The coincidence in time between massive extinction and the first arrival of big game hunters cannot be ignored.[104]


Grayson: "extinct North American mammals...losses began in Mexico and Alaska during the Pleistocene and ended in Florida perhaps as recently as 2000 years ago"

Grayson:

In the first thorough review of radiocarbon dates associated with the extinct North American mammals, Martin (1958) concluded that the losses began in Mexico and Alaska during the Pleistocene and ended in Florida perhaps as recently as 2000 years ago (1958:405). Soon after, however, Hester (1960:58) concluded that the great majority of herd animals seemed to have been lost swiftly and together around 8,000 years ago even if some, like the mastodon, may have lingered on beyond then. Hester was thus the first to suggest, based on radiocarbon evidence, that a significant number, if not all, of the North American extinctions were synchronous. [105]


Bernardino de Sahagun: "Fodder was provided the deer—horses—which the Spaniards rode"

Bernardino de Sahagun:

Fodder was provided the deer—horses—which the Spaniards rode....The horses—they looked like deer—neighed and whinnied. They were all sweating; water fell from their bodies....[106]


Sorenson: Horse bones in Yucatan "considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization"

John L. Sorenson: [107]

Excavations at the Post-Classic site of Mayapan in Yucatan in 1957 yielded remains of horses in four lots. Two of these specimens are from the surface and might have been remains of Spanish animals. Two other lots, however, were obtained from excavation in Cenote [water hole] Ch'en Mul "from the bottom stratum in a sequence of unconsolidated earth almost 2 meters in thickness." They were "considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization. Such mineralization was observed in no other bone or tooth in the collection although thousands were examined, some of which were found in close proximity to the horse teeth." Clayton E. Ray somewhat lamely suggests that the fossil teeth were of Pleistocene age and "could have been transported . . . as curios by the Mayans." [108]


Response to claim: "FairMormon considers a tapir to satisfy this requirement, I’m sorry but that just won’t work. Tapirs do not pull chariots. Especially chariots without wheels"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

FairMormon considers a tapir to satisfy this requirement, I’m sorry but that just won’t work. Tapirs do not pull chariots. Especially chariots without wheels.

FairMormon Response


Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

FairMormon does not take a position that the horses referred to in the Book of Mormon are tapirs, and does not consider the presence of tapirs to "satisfy this requirement." This is only one possibility that was presented by John Sorenson, but it does not represent FairMormon's position. The most common position taken (as is demonstrated by the references listed in the previous section) is that horses actually were present during these times and that there is some evidence that this is the case.
Logical Fallacy: Strawman
The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

FairMormon has never suggested that tapirs "pull chariots" or pull "chariots without wheels." Ex-Mormons take Sorenson's "tapir" suggestion of plausibility and promote it to the primary apologetic response. This is the CES Letter author's strawman:
  • He asserts that FairMormon's position is that horses in the Book of Mormon are actually tapirs (this is a false assertion).
  • He asserts that FairMormon's position is that horses in the Book of Mormon pulled chariots (this is a false assertion).
  • He asserts that FairMormon's position is the chariots in the Book of Mormon had wheels (this is a false assertion).
  • He then "debunks" his own assertion.
This is a massive "failure to debunk" on the part of the author.
Logical Fallacy: Appeal to Ridicule
The author is presenting the argument in such a way that it makes his or her subject look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or exaggerating it.


Question: Do Mormon apologists claim that the horse referred to in the Book of Mormon is actually a deer or tapir?

The origin of the suggestion that that name "horse" could have been "loan-shifted" or expanded to refer to "deer" or "tapir" was anthropologist John L. Sorenson

John L. Sorenson originally suggested the possibility of "loan-shifting" of the word "horse" to "deer" or "tapir" in 1984. Mormon apologists have never claimed that "horses were tapirs." It is a suggestion of plausibility only: They offer it as one possible loan-shift, however, many apologists generally favor the presence of true Equus horses for horses, and tapirs for asses.

The Maya called the Spanish horse tzimin ("beast") and the tapir tzimin che ("forest beast") in order to distinguish them

For example, the Maya used the word tzimin to refer to horses brought to the new world by the Spaniards. They used the word tzimin che ("forest beast" or "forest horse,") to refer to the tapir. Word changes over time. Horses are now quite common, and Maya languages have shifted the primary meaning of tzimin to mean horse. We North Americans use buffalo for bison. Words are reassigned often.

Composite expressions such as this were used in Lowland Maya nomenclature:

Composite expressions also occur for a few generic species when their names indicate an intermediate category. For example, the tapir, tzimin(+)che' ("forest beast"), forms an intermediate category tegether with horse, tzimin, which is optionally marked by the composite expression tzimin(+kaj)("village beast") or tzimin(+kastil) ("Spanish beast"). [109]

Prior to the arrival of the horse, tzimin had a different meaning, but with the shift to horse as the primary meaning, the "forest horse" was added to distinguish the use of the word for "tapir" from what has become the lesser usage. Still, the pre-contact meaning of tzimin was "beast" rather than "horse." It was a word reassigned to horse when they had to describe the new animal, and eventually the horse became the most important reference.

Anyone else who has mentioned the possibility of "horse" as "deer" or "tapir" has based it upon Sorenson's 1984 research

John L. Sorenson said in 1992,

Is "horse" in the Book of Mormon merely a matter of labeling by analogy some other quadruped with the name Equus, the true horse, or does the scripture's use of "horse" refer to the actual survival into very recent times of the American Pleistocene horse (Equus equus)? If, as most zoologists and paleontologists assume, Equus equus was absent from the New World during Book of Mormon times, could deer, tapir, or another quadruped have been termed "horse" by Joseph Smith in his translating?[110]

In 2000, the FARMS Research Department wrote,

Similarly, members of Lehi's family may have applied loanwords to certain animal species that they encountered for the first time in the New World, such as the Mesoamerican tapir. While some species of tapir are rather small, the Mesoamerican variety (tapiris bairdii) can grow to be nearly six and a half feet in length and can weigh more than six hundred pounds. Many zoologists and anthropologists have compared the tapir's features to those of a horse or a donkey. "Whenever I saw a tapir," notes zoologist Hans Krieg, "it reminded me of an animal similar to a horse or a donkey. The movements as well as the shape of the animal, especially the high neck with the small brush mane, even the expression on the face, are much more like a horse's than a pig's [to which some have compared the smaller species]. When watching a tapir on the alert . . . as he picks himself up when recognizing danger, taking off in a gallop, almost nothing remains of the similarity to a pig."[111]

Other zoologists have made similar observations. "At first glance," note Hans Frädrich and Erich Thenius, "the tapirs' movements also are not similar to those of their relatives, the rhinoceros and the horses. In a slow walk, they usually keep the head lowered." However, when a tapir runs, its movement becomes quite horselike: "In a trot, they lift their heads and move their legs in an elastic manner. The amazingly fast gallop is seen only when the animals are in flight, playing, or when they are extremely excited." In addition, tapirs can "climb quite well, even though one would not expect this because of their bulky figure. Even steep slopes do not present obstacles. They jump vertical fences or walls, rising on their hind legs and leaping up."[111] Tapirs can be domesticated quite easily if they are captured when young. Young tapirs who have lost their mothers are easily tamed and will eat from a bowl, and they like to be petted and will often allow children to ride on their backs.[111]

One could hardly fault Old World visitors to the New World for choosing to classify the Mesoamerican tapir as a horse or an ass, if that is what happened. Given the limitations of zoo-archaeology, and also those of other potentially helpful disciplines when probing many centuries into the forgotten past, it is unwise to dismiss the references in the Book of Mormon to horses as erroneous.[112]

John A. Tvedtnes cites Sorenson

John A. Tvedtnes refers to Sorenson's work in 1994 while responding to a criticism of the idea,

Hutchinson's criticism of John Sorenson's work on Book of Mormon geography is a gross oversimplification and the "problems" he claims to identify are mostly nonexistent. For example, he criticizes Sorenson's comment that the cows, asses, and swine of the Book of Mormon might be Mesoamerican animals such as deer, tapirs, and peccaries. "When is a cow not a cow?" he asks. I respond, "When it's a deer!" There are, in fact, many linguistic parallels to the kind of thing Sorenson discusses, wherein people have applied the names of known animals to newly discovered or newly introduced creatures. Thus, the Greeks named the huge beast encountered in the Nile River, hippopotamus, "river horse." The same kind of thing happens with both fauna and flora. For example, the term used for potatoes in a number of the languages of Europe (where the tuber is not indigenous) is "earth apple." When the Spanish introduced horses into the New World, some Amerindian tribes called them "deer." I agree with Hutchinson, however, that dogs are an unlikely explanation for the "flocks" of the Book of Mormon. The term more likely refers to herd animals meeting the requirements for cleanliness in the law of Moses.[113]

Daniel C. Peterson cites Sorenson

Daniel C. Peterson cites Sorenson here, as one theory among many (if anything, favoring actual Equus horses).

Even if one assumes that the true horse (Equus equus) was absent from the Americas during Book of Mormon times, it remains possible that the term horse in the Book of Mormon-which, by the way, does not occur very often, and even then in rather puzzling contexts-refers simply to deer or tapirs or similar quadrupeds thought by the Nephites to be analogous to the horse. (It should be noted, incidentally, that no Book of Mormon text speaks of people riding their "horses.") Both Mayan and Aztec texts, for instance, appear to refer to Spanish horses as "deer" and to their riders as "deer-riders." But there is archaeological reason to believe that horses may, in fact, have existed in the Americas during Book of Mormon times. The question remains very much open.[114]

Peterson's footnote states "Valuable discussions of the evidence can be found at John L. Sorenson, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: An Annotated Bibliography" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992); Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting, 295-6; Welch, "Finding Answers," 8; Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 98-100."

Matthew Roper cites Sorenson

Matthew Roper cites Sorenson's, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (1985), 288-99. in 1997:

Kiddle notes that "The first two naming procedures are hard to study because they require an intimate knowledge of the receiving languages in order to comprehend the thought processes of their speakers."118 This is, of course, extremely relevant in the case of Book of Mormon animal names, which may have similar complexities, since the book purports to be a document translated from another language and deals in part with Old World cultures encountering New World cultures for the first time. What, for example, would Nephi have called a Mesoamerican tapir if he had encountered one? Could he have called it a horse? The tapir is considered by zoologists to be a kind of horse in unevolved form.119 Although the Central American tapir, the largest of the New World species, can weigh up to 300 kilos,120 it can move rather quickly at a gallop and can jump vertical fences or walls by rising on its hind legs and leaping up.121 Zoologist Hans Krieg notes, "Whenever I saw a tapir, it reminded me of an animal similar to a horse or a donkey. The movements as well as the shape of the animal, especially the high neck with the small brush mane, even the expression on the face is much more like a horse's."122 The tapir can also be domesticated quite easily if captured when young.123 Young tapirs who have lost their mothers are easily tamed and can be fed from a bowl. They like to be petted and will often let children ride on their backs.124 When the Spanish arrived in the Yucatan, the Maya called European horses and donkeys tzimin, meaning "tapir," because, according to one early observer, "they say they resemble them greatly."125 After the spread of horses, tapir were still called tzimin-kaax, which means literally "forest horse."126 Some observers have felt that the tapir more accurately resembles an ass. In fact, among many native Americans today, the tapir is called anteburro, which means "once an ass."127 In Brazil some farmers have actually used the tapir to pull ploughs, suggesting potential as a draft animal.128 So tapirs could certainly have been used in ways similar to horses.[115]

Brant Gardner cites Sorenson

Brant Gardner cites Sorenson in 2005 (on tapirs, deer, and other options):

What, then, is the outrageous claim for horses, tapirs, and deer? From Sorenson:

True horses (Equus sp.) were present in the western hemisphere long ago, but it has been assumed that they did not survive to the time when settled peoples inhabited the New World. I recently summarized evidence suggesting that the issue is not settled. Actual horse bones have been found in a number of archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, in one case with artifacts six feet beneath the surface under circumstances that rule out their coming from Spanish horses. Still, other large animals might have functioned or looked enough like a horse that one of them was what was referred to by horse. A prehispanic figure modeled on the cover of an incense burner from Poptun, Guatemala, shows a man sitting on the back of a deer holding its ears or horns, and a stone monument dating to around a.d. 700 represents a woman astride the neck of a deer, grasping its horns. Then there is another figurine of a person riding an animal, this one from central Mexico. Possibly, then, the deer served as a sort of “horse” for riding. (That was a practice in Siberia until recently, so the idea is not as odd as moderns might think. Besides, in the Quiche languages of highland Guatemala we have expressions like keh, deer or horse, keheh, mount or ride, and so on.)[58][116]

Daniel C. Peterson and Matt Roper cite Sorenson here (indeed, it is an explicit defense of an attack on Sorenson's ideas):

Tapir as "Horse." As Professor Sorenson and others have repeatedly pointed out, the practice of naming flora and fauna is far more complicated than critics of the Book of Mormon have been willing to admit. For instance, people typically give the names of familiar animals to animals that have newly come to their attention. Think, for instance, of sea lions, sea cows, and sea horses. When the Romans, confronting the army of Pyrrhus of Epirus in 280 BC, first encountered the elephant, they called it a Lucca bos or "Lucanian cow." The Greeks' naming of the hippopotamus (the word means "horse of the river" or "river horse") is also a good example. (Some will recall that the hippopotamus is called a Nilpferd, a "Nile horse," in German.) When the Spanish first arrived in Central America, the natives called their horses and donkeys tzimin, meaning "tapir." The Arabs' labeling of the turkey as an Ethiopian or Roman rooster (dik al-abash or dik rumi), the Conquistadors' use of the terms lion and tiger to designate the jaguar, and the fact that several Amerindian groups called horses deer represent but a few more examples of a very well-attested global phenomenon. The Nephites too could easily have assigned familiar Old World names to the animals they discovered in the New.[117]

Peterson and Roper mention other possibilities

However, Peterson and Roper also mention other options offered like deer, and genuine Equus horse bones.

Incidentally, horse bones were also found in association with cultural remains at Loltun Cave in northern Yucatan. There, archaeologists identified a sequence of sixteen layers numbered from the surface downward and obtained a radiocarbon date of about 1800 BC from charcoal fragments found between layers VIII and VII.66 Significantly, forty-four fragments of horse remains were found in the layers VII, VI, V, and II—above all in association with pottery. But the earliest Maya ceramics in the region date no earlier than 900-400 BC.67 [118]


Question: What is "loan-shifting"?

The term "loan-shifting" or "semantic extension" refers to a change in the meaning of an established native word in order to extend the number of things to which it applies

Loan-shifting has occurred throughout history. For example, when the Greeks first encountered a large unfamiliar animal in the Nile, they named it hippopotamus, which in ancient Greek means "river horse."[119]:10 Anyone would agree that a hippo bears little resemblance to a horse, yet the Greeks chose to extend the use of the word "horse" to describe this new creature.

Likewise, when the conquistadors arrived in the New World, reintroducing the horse to the Americas, the natives had problems classifying these new animals. The reintroduced Spanish horse was unfamiliar to the Native Americans and so it became associated with either the deer or the tapir. When Cortes and his horses arrived,, the Aztecs simply called the unfamiliar horses "deer."[120]:10 One Aztec messenger reported to Montezuma:

"Their deer carry them on their backs wherever they wish to go. These deer, our lord, are as tall as the roof of a house."[121]

Some of the Maya called the European horses and donkeys "tapirs" because they looked so similar

Some of the Maya called the European horses and donkeys "tapirs" because, at least according to one observer, they looked so similar.[122]:134

The Spaniards likewise expanded the definition of some of their animal categories. They called the native tapir an "ass."[123]

If we find such loan-shifting in verifiable New World sources when the Native Americans and the Spaniards encountered unfamiliar animals, why do some critics think it is impossible that the Nephites would have acted any differently when they encountered unfamiliar items or had to identify different items with a limited written vocabulary? Perhaps the reformed Egyptian word for "horse" was expanded to include other animals that were in some way horse-like. The most likely animals to have been included in the expanded definition of the Book of Mormon "horse" are the deer and the tapir.

"Loan-shifting" simply means that the idea is plausible

This does not mean that loan-shifting must be the answer in this case. What it does mean, however, is that the idea is plausible, and most who mock it evidence little sign that they have understood the argument, or can represent it fairly. They resort, instead, to the logical fallacy of appeal to ridicule.

One of the items which some love to mock is the idea that the "horse" referred to in the Book of Mormon might have actually been another animal, such as a deer or tapir. It is important to remember that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient text--it's a nineteenth-century translation of an ancient text. When we, as modern readers, read texts from ancient or foreign cultures, we need to have an understanding of what the ancient or foreign author was attempting to convey. Some of the things that seem "plain" to us are not so "plain" upon further investigation or once we understand the culture that produced the text.

If 6th century B.C. Egyptians, or people who wrote with an Egyptian script, had lived in the Americas and had left records, they easily could have included the deer, tapir, and perhaps other animals into their expanded definition of the term "horse."

The Book of Mormon never mentions horses pulling chariots or being ridden

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • The Book of Mormon does not mention horses pulling chariots. The BOM does not mention horses being ridden. Horses are mentioned with chariots several times. Assuming that they were present in order to pull the chariots must be extrapolated.
  • The Old Testament and New Testament do mention horses being ridden. The D&C mentions that horses can be ridden.
  • Joseph knew much about horses yet in the Book of Mormon, they are not used in any way he was familiar with. They are not mentioned as being used for work, transportation or battle.
  • Joseph likely knew, as everyone did, that the European horse was introduced by the Spanish. Why, then, did he make such a clumsy error in his forgery?
  • Critics of the Church falsely attributes the possibility of the word "horse" as a description of a similar animal to Joseph mistranslating the text. No one claimed that Joseph "mistranslated" the term deer for horse. The accurate position is that early Nephites may have labeled deer "horses." This conjecture is based on the fact that The Amerindians called horses "deer" when they first saw them.


Response to claim: "cattle...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

cattle...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The current consensus is that ancient Americans did not keep herds of large animals for use as food. There is, however, some evidence to the contrary.

Sorenson: "The Miami Indians, for example, were unfamiliar with the buffalo and simply called them 'wild cows'"

John L. Sorenson:

As with many other animals in the Book of Mormon, it is likely that these Book of Mormon terms are the product of reassigning familiar labels to unfamiliar items...The Miami Indians, for example, were unfamiliar with the buffalo and simply called them “wild cows.” Likewise the “explorer DeSoto called the buffalo simply vaca, cow. The Delaware Indians named the cow after the deer, and the Miami tribe labeled sheep, when they first saw them, ‘looks-like-a-cow’”[124]


Miller and Roper: "Bones of domesticated cattle...have been reported from different caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper: [125]

Bones of domesticated cattle (Bos taurus – see Figure 2) have been reported from different caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.[126] In one instance these bones were found with those of an extinct horse, Equus conversidens. It is especially interesting that along with these cow and horse remains, human artifacts were found in association with them! The indication is that domesticated cattle and the horse coexisted with humans in pre-Columbian time. [127]

Image taken from Miller and Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.


Pietro Martire d'Anghiera (1912): "the Spaniards noticed herds of deer similar to our herds of cattle"

The current consensus is that ancient Americans did not keep herds of large animals for use as food. However, Pietro Martire d'Anghiera noted the following in 1912:

In all these regions they visited, the Spaniards noticed herds of deer similar to our herds of cattle. These deer bring forth and nourish their young in the houses of the natives. During the daytime they wander freely through the woods in search of their food, and in the evening they come back to their little ones, who have been cared for, allowing themselves to be shut up in the courtyards and even to be milked, when they have suckled their fawns. The only milk the natives know is that of the does, from which they make cheese.[128]


Response to claim: "sheep...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

sheep...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

Bighorn sheep are native to North America.

Miller and Roper: "there are sheep native to America. The most common type is the Mountain Sheep, Ovis canadensis"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper: [129]

Sheep were probably among the animals brought to America by the Jaredites, although they were not stated explicitly by name (Ether 6:4). They most likely are to be included in the term “flocks,” and are mentioned by name in Ether ( 9:18) several generations later. Sheep have been useful to man for many centuries and were probably man’s first domesticated animal [130] (along with the dog). They are useful for both food and clothing. In addition to Old World sheep, apparently brought to the New World by the Jaredites, there are sheep native to America. The most common type is the Mountain Sheep, Ovis canadensis. Their current geographic range extends south only to northern Mexico. However, their past range was more extensive, as was their habitat before human settlements expanded. [131] They are an animal that can be tamed or at least semi-domesticated. According to Geist , “It is hard to imagine a wild animal more readily tamed than mountain sheep.” [132] Sorenson noted the apparent recovery of sheep wool from a pre-Columbian burial site near Puebla (southeast of Mexico City). [133] Petroglyphs from Mexico and the southwestern United States show many prehistoric depictions of sheep. It appears certain that the association of sheep and man occurred in America before this animal was brought over beginning in 1493 with Columbus’ second voyage.


Wikipedia: Bighorn sheep "crossed to North America over the Bering land bridge"

Bighorn sheep were native to North America at the time the the Jaredites arrived. The following is from Wikipedia:

The bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)[134] is a species of sheep in North America [135] named for its large horns. These horns can weigh up to 30 lb (14 kg), while the sheep themselves weigh up to 300 lb (140 kg). [136] Recent genetic testing indicates three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: O. c. sierrae. Sheep originally crossed to North America over the Bering land bridge from Siberia: the population in North America peaked in the millions, and the bighorn sheep entered into the mythology of Native Americans. [137]


Response to claim: "swine...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

swine...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

Wikipedia says that there were: "A peccary (also javelina or skunk pig) is a medium-sized hoofed mammal of the family Tayassuidae (New World pigs) in the suborder Suina along with the Old World pigs, Suidae. They are found in the southwestern area of North America and throughout Central and South America....Although they are common in South America today, peccaries did not reach that continent until about three million years ago during the Great American Interchange, when the Isthmus of Panama formed, connecting North America and South America. At that time, many North American animals—including peccaries, llamas and tapirs—entered South America, while some South American species, such as the ground sloths, and opossums, migrated north."[138]

Sorenson: "There is an animal which they call chic, wonderfully active, as large as a small dog, with a snout like a sucking pig. The Indian women raise them"

John L. Sorenson:

A good example of the confusion is with the coatimundi (Nasua narica). Landa, the padre who favored us with a detailed description of Yucatan, wrote of the beast, "There is an animal which they call chic, wonderfully active, as large as a small dog, with a snout like a sucking pig. The Indian women raise them, and they leave nothing which they do not root over and turn upside down"...Another name, from the Aztecs, is pisote (Nahuatl pezotli), which means basically glutton. Yet pisote is sometimes applied also to the peccary or wild pig. In regard to the peccary, the Nahuatl terms quauhcoyametl and quahpizotl were developed after the conquest to distinguish the native species from the introduced Castilian pig, so by extension, the coati was sometimes termed quauhpezotli, tree-glutton, to distinguish it from the peccary, the ground-glutton.[139]


Miller and Roper: "two distinct species of peccary live in Mesoamerica....They were hunted and eaten as early as Olmec times"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper: [140]

Presently two distinct species of peccary live in Mesoamerica. These include the Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) and the White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari), both of which can be found in the tropical regions near the Tuxtlas Mountains of the Yucatan. [141] The Jaredites as they presumably established settlements in Mesoamerica no doubt would have encountered them. They were hunted and eaten as early as Olmec times. Remains of these animals have been found associated with man for several thousands of years. There is a paleo-Indian carving of an extinct camel sacrum in the shape of a peccary. A Picture of this bone is shown by Evans. [142] The bone of this extinct camel came from deposits in central Mexico, and shows ancient interaction between this extinct animal and Pre-columbian natives. Remains of Pre-Columbian peccary have been found finds in Loltún Cave in the Yucatan [143] and in several other caves in the region associated with human artifacts. [144] There is no question that peccaries (“wild pigs”) and man shared this area since prehistoric times.

Image taken from Miller and Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.


Response to claim: "goats...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

goats...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Modern goats were brought to the New World by the Spaniards in the same manner as modern horses. However, according to Wikipedia, "The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), also known as the Rocky Mountain goat, is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America." [145]

Miller and Roper: "Evidence of goats associated with pre-Columbian man also comes from caves in Yucatan"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper: [146]

Goats are mentioned among the animals once had by the Jaredites (Ether 9:18). Later, after their arrival in the land of promise Lehi’s family encountered “the goat and the wild goat” as they traveled in the wilderness in the land southward (1 Nephi 18:25). Sometime after the death of his father Jacob, Enos wrote that the Nephites raised “flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats” (Enos 1:21). During Alma and Amulek’s miraculous escape from the prison in Ammonihah, their terrified persecutors are said to have fled “even as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions” (Alma 14:29). There is no indication in the text that the Lehites brought goats with them to the land of promise; however, it is possible that they may have been included among those flocks and herds brought by the Jaredites in their journey over the sea (Ether 6:4). If so, it is possible that some of those encountered later by Lehi’s people were descendants of those had by the Jaredites. They would have been a useful animal to both the Jaredites and Nephites, just as they have been for man through the ages in the Old World. Evidence of goats associated with pre-Columbian man also comes from caves in Yucatan. [147] It was not made clear whether this was a wild or a domesticated type of goat.


Miller and Roper: "In post-biblical Jewish literature some Jewish writers distinguished between wild and domestic cattle such as goats"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper: [148]

Mention of the “wild goat” may at first seem peculiar. Biblical animals that could be eaten under the Law of Moses included the “goat” and the “wild goat” (Deuteronomy 14:4-5). In post-biblical Jewish literature some Jewish writers distinguished between wild and domestic cattle such as goats. Both were considered clean and could be eaten, but only the domestic variety was thought acceptable for sacrifice. [149] .... The only native wild goat in North America is the Mountain Goat, Oreamnos americanus. Its geographic range, though, currently only extends south from southwest Alaska down to the northwest United States. Even with a possible extended range for this animal during Book of Mormon time, it is extremely unlikely it got as far south as Mesoamerica. A closely related, but extinct, species is Oreamnos harringtoni. This goat did have a much more southerly distribution, extending into Mexico. While this goat might have survived much past the terminal Pleistocene along with other animals, there is not sufficient evidence yet for this.

It has already been indicated that a referenced animal in the Book of Mormon could actually be something somewhat different, but had a similar appearance. There is an animal now living in Mesoamerica that fits this description, the Red Brocket deer, Mazama americana. Unlike other deer it has but a single goat-like horn – which is really an antler that is shed and regrown annually like other cervids. [150]

Image taken from Miller and Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.


Response to claim: "elephants...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

elephants...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is substantial circumstantial evidence that New World natives were familiar with the elephant, and they only need to have existed during early Jaredite times since they are never mentioned by the Nephites.

Question: In what context are elephants mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

Elephants are only mentioned once in the Book of Mormon in connection with the Jaredites. They were noted as being among the most useful animals. The Jaredites are estimated to have arrived in the New World between 2600 and 2100 BC.

And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms. (Ether 9:19)

There is no mention in the Book of Mormon of elephants having existed in the New World during the Nephite period.


Wikipedia: Mammoths "were members of the family Elephantidae"

Mammoths could have easily been present in North America at the time of the Jaredites (the only time that elephants are mentioned in the Book of Mormon). The Wikipedia article "Mammoth" notes:

A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, proboscideans commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair. They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,500 years ago[1][2] in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. They were members of the family Elephantidae which contains, along with mammoths, the two genera of modern elephants and their ancestors. [151]


Johnson: "Probably it is safe to say that American Proboscidea have been extinct for a minimum of 3000 years"

The Elephant is only mentioned in the Book of Ether. If the elephants had died off at least 3000 years ago, they would still have been well within range of the Jaredite era. Ludwell Johnson wrote in 1952:

Discoveries of associations of human and proboscidean remains [Elephantine mammals, including, elephants, mammoths, and mastodons] are by no means uncommon. As of 1950, MacCowan listed no less than twenty-seven” including, as noted by Hugo Gross, a “partly burned mastodon skeleton and numerous potsherds at Alangasi, Ecuador...There can no longer be any doubt that man and elephant coexisted in America.... Probably it is safe to say that American Proboscidea have been extinct for a minimum of 3000 years." [152]


Miller and Roper: "This was long enough to bring [mammoths] to the time of the Jaredites"

Elephants are only mentioned in the Book of Ether. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper note that mammoths survived until the time of the Jaredites: [153]

Along with a number of large mammals thought to have become extinct about 10,000 years ago, it’s now known that the mammoth survived for a few thousand years longer. This was long enough to bring them to the time of the Jaredites. A date for a mammoth in northern North America was cited at 3,700 years before the present. [154] An Alaskan mammoth was dated at 5,720 years ago. [155] In the contiguous United States Mead and Meltzer provided an age of 4,885 years for a dated mammoth specimen. [156] As more mammoth (elephant) finds are made, even younger dates will no doubt arise. Generally, when animal species’ populations decrease, they survive longer in southern refugia. Small populations could well have survived in Mesoamerica well past the close of the Pleistocene. The fact that known dates of mammoths in Mesoamerica are numerous up to the end of this epoch helps support this view. It should be pointed out that the mammoth never did range as far south as South America.


Miller and Roper: "Evidence for the survival of the elephant can be found in Native American myths and traditions"

Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper note that "evidence for the survival of the elephant can be found in Native American myths and traditions": [157]

Gulf of Mexico: "giant beasts with long noses that could trample people and uproot trees"

Indigenous people along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico have traditions of giant beasts with long noses that could trample people and uproot trees.[158]

The Abenaki (New England region): "a kind of arm which grows out of his shoulder"

Abenaki tradition tells of a great “elk” that could easily walk through more than eight feet of snow, whose skin was said to be tough and had “a kind of arm which grows out of his shoulder, which he makes use of as we do ours.” [159]

The Naskapi (Quebec region): "large ears and a long nose with which he hit people"

The Naskapi people tell of a large monster that once trampled them and left deep tracks in the snow had large ears and a long nose with which he hit people. [159]

The Penobscot (Maine region): "huge animals with long teeth which drank water for half a day at a time"

The Penobscot culture hero Snow Owl is said to have gone on a long journey to a far valley in search of his missing wife. When he reached the valley he saw what appeared to be hills without vegetation moving slowly about. Upon closer inspection he found that these were the backs of huge animals with long teeth which drank water for half a day at a time and when they laid down could not get back up. Snow owl was able to trap the large beasts by making them fall on sharpened stakes where he then was able to shoot and kill them. [159]

Native American groups from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico

Similar traditions have been documented for Native American groups from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico persuading some scholars that they are based upon a core memory of actual historical encounters with elephant-like species who may have survived into the region as late as 3,000 years ago. [160]

Mexico: "long tapering arms and could tear up trees as if they were lettuce"

Pre-Columbian traditions from Mexico tell of monstrous ogre-like giants who once inhabited the region and were subsequently killed following the arrival of Aztec ancestors. These tales attribute some human characteristics to these legendary giants, while other ones seem less so. The giants were said to have long tapering arms and could tear up trees as if they were lettuce. [161]

Mexico: "a vague memory of prehensile trunks, something like the `extra arm’ of the Giant Elk in Abenaki and Iroquois myth"

These legends say, notes Adrienna Mayor, “… that the giants destroyed by the ancestors pulled down trees and ate grass, elephant-like behavior.” and she suggests that these stories may reflect “a vague memory of prehensile trunks, something like the `extra arm’ of the Giant Elk in Abenaki and Iroquois myth.” While this cannot be proven, she thinks it possible that “…localized mammoth species (and other large Pleistocene animals and birds) may have survived to later dates in the Valley of Mexico and the Southwestern United States.” … and also that “some aspects of the legendary giant-ogres may have originated in ancestral memories of Columbian mammoths and may have been later confirmed by discoveries of fossils.” [162]


Response to claim: "chariots...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

chariots...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Wheeled chariots pulled by draft animals did not exist during this period.

Question: In what context are chariots mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon mentions "chariots," which one assumes to be a wheeled vehicle. It is also claimed that no draft animals existed in the New World to pull such chariots. It should be remembered that chariots do not play a major role in the Book of Mormon. They are mentioned in the following contexts:

Quotations from Old World scriptures

Apocalyptic teachings in Old World style

  • 3 Nephi 21:14 - Jesus speaks of "horses and chariots" in a symbolic and apocalyptic address

Used in conjunction with horses

  • Alma 18:9 - Ammon feeds the Lamanite king's horses, which are associated with his "chariots."
  • Alma 20:6 - Lamanite king uses horses and chariot for visit to neighboring kingdom
  • 3 Nephi 3:22 - Nephites "had taken their horses, and their chariots" to a central fortified area for protection against robbers

(It should be noted that we are not told if these chariots served a purpose in riding, or if they were for transport of goods, or if they had a ceremonial function. One assumes some sort of practicality or ritual importance in war, since they brought chariots to the siege.)

Conspicuously absent is any role of the chariot in the many journeys recorded in the Book of Mormon. Nor do horses or chariots play any role in the many Nephite wars; this is in stark contrast to the Biblical account, in which the chariots of Egypt, Babylon, and the Philistines are feared super-weapons upon the plains of Israel.


Gardner: "a correct approach to a Mesoamerican battle required all three elements: king, litter, and battle beast"

Wrote Mesoamerican expert Brant Gardner, who believes the Book of Mormon was situated in Mesoamerica:

Regardless of the reason for the presence of "horse" and "chariot" in the text, we must still deal with the question of what the original text might have meant the animal and conveyance that Joseph translated as "horse" and "chariot" to be. From this point on, all is speculation—but speculation consistent with the Mesoamerican world.

The wording describing horses and chariots is at least suggestive that the king would be transported in connection with the horse and chariot: "they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth." "Conduct him" does not necessarily mean that Lamoni was conducted in the horse/chariot. Indeed, verse 9 mentions horses and chariots, but only the king is "conducted." It is possible that we are dealing with several ritual objects rather than a conveyance. Verse 12, however, does suggest that conveyances are available for the king and his servants; but if would be highly unusual for servants to ride in a culture where everyone walks. Riding would confer upon them the same social status as the king—not to be thought of unless chariots were so common that they were in universal use. And nothing in the text suggests that they were.

If we are dealing with a conveyance, there is a Mesoamerican possibility. A king might be conveyed in a litter, but the litters were carried by men, not pulled by animals. However, an interesting connection between the litter and an animal occurs on what has been termed a battle litter. Freidel, Schele, and Parker note:

Lintel 2 of Temple 1 shows Hasaw-Ka'an-K'awil wearing the balloon headdress of Tlaloc-Venus warfare adopted at the time of the Waxaktun conquest, and holding the bunched javelins and shield, the original metaphors for war imported from Teothuacan. He sits in majesty on the litter that carried him into battle, while above him hulks Waxkluha=un-Ubah-Kan, the great War serpent.... Graffiti drawings scratched on the walls of Tikal palaces, depicting the conjuring of supernatural beings from the Otherworld, prove that these scenes were more than imaginary events seen only by the kings. Several of these elaborate doodles show the great litters of the king with his protector beings hovering over him while he is participating in ritual. These images are not the propaganda of rulers, created in an effort to persuade the people of the reality of the supernatural events they were witnessing. They are the poorly drawn images of witnesses, perhaps minor members of lordly families, who scratched the wonders that they saw during moments of ritual into the walls of the places where they lived their lives.

Thus, Maya art represents the king riding on a litter. In battle, capturing the litter was tantamount to capturing that king's gods. However, the graffiti litters at least open the possibility that these were simply formal litters and not limited to battle context. These litters were accompanied by a "battle beast," or an animal alter ego, embodied in the regalia of the king and litter. Thus, a correct approach to a Mesoamerican battle required all three elements: king, litter, and battle beast.

If Joseph Smith, while translating, came upon an unfamiliar idea but which seemed to describe a kingly conveyance associated with an animal, would it not have seemed logical to him to describe it as a horses and chariot for the king? I see the plausible underlying conveyance as an elaborate royal litter, accompanied in peacetime by the spiritual animal associated with the king. This animal was a type of alter-ego for the king, and was called the way [pronounced like the letter "Y"]....[163]

Gardner's case may be strengthened by the mention of chariots being brought to the lengthy siege in 3 Nephi—suggesting again a possible ritual use associated with warfare.


Response to claim: "wheat...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

wheat...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Wheat as we know it today is not known to have been present during Book of Mormon times. However, amaranth was. According to Wikipedia, "Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, cereals, and ornamental plants".

Wikipedia: Amaranth and the Aztecs

Amaranth has a similar nutritional profile to grain (the Aztecs got up to 80% of the calories from it prior to the Spanish conquest), and it is even today termed a "pseudograin" because it can be ground into flour like wheat or other seed grains, which biologically are grasses.[164] Even today, Amaranth is used to replace wheat flour in gluten-intolerant patients (e.g., celiac disease) or to increase the nutritional content of standard whole-wheat flour.


The grain "Amaranth" in Mexico

John L. Sorenson: [165]

Amaranth, considered an Old World grain, was grown and used in Mexico at the time the Spaniards arrived. Botanist Jonathan Sauer thought its origin to be American, but he noted too that it was widely distributed in the Old World in pre-Columbian times. Its uses in the two hemispheres were strikingly similar also (it was popped and eaten as "popcorn balls" on special feast days); the similarities have suggested to some scholars that amaranth seed was carried across the ocean in ancient times.[166]


Response to claim: "silk...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

silk...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Materials classified as "silk" did exist in the New World during this period.

Armitage: "It is suggested by de Ávila Blomberg that wild silk was used in Oaxaca in pre-Columbian times"

The theory that "wild silk" was used anciently in Oaxaca, near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica, "has been greatly debated."

Wild silk was produced by the Gloveria paidii, a moth, and the Eucheira socialis, a butterfly, found in the Oaxaca area (de Ávila Blomberg, 1997). It is suggested by de Ávila Blomberg that wild silk was used in Oaxaca in pre-Columbian times, a theory that has been greatly debated. However, in a 1777 document, an excavation of a pre-Columbian burial site is described as containing wild silk.[167]

Oaxaca.jpg


Sorenson: Linen and silk textiles in ancient America

John L. Sorenson:[168]

Linen and silk are textiles mentioned in the Book of Mormon (Alma 4:6). Neither fabric as we now know them was found in Mesoamerica at the coming of the Spaniards. The problem might be no more than linguistic. The redoubtable Bernal Diaz, who served with Cortez in the initial wave of conquest, described native Mexican garments made of "henequen which is like linen." [169] The fiber of the maguey plant, from which henequen was manufactured, closely resembles the flax fiber used to make European linen. Several kinds of "silk," too, were reported by the conquerors. One kind was of thread spun from the fine hair on the bellies of rabbits. Padre Motolinia also reported the presence of a wild silkworm, although he thought the Indians did not make use of the cocoons. But other reports indicate that wild silk was spun and woven in certain areas of Mesoamerica. Another type came from the pod of the ceiba tree. [170] We may never discover actual remains of these fabrics, but at least the use of the words in the Book of Mormon now seems to offer no problem.


Response to claim: "steel...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

steel...did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Steel has been found in the Old World in the appropriate time period.

Question: What was known about steel in ancient America?

The steel of the Book of Mormon is probably not modern steel. Steel, as we understand today, had to be produced using a very cumbersome process and was extremely expensive until the development of puddling towards the end of the 18th century. Even in ancient times, however, experienced smiths could produce steel by heating and hammering pig-iron or, earlier still, the never-molten iron from a bloomery to loose the surplus of carbon to get something like elastic steel. Early smiths even knew that by quenching hot steel in water, oil, or a salt solution the surface could be hardened.

Any Mesoamerican production likely depended upon the first method, which requires lower temperatures and less sophistication. Laban's "steel sword" is not anachronistic; Middle Eastern smiths were making steel by the tenth century B.C.[171]


Madden et al.: "by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron"

Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly and Tamara S. Wheeler:

It seems evident that by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron. [172]


Roper: "For example, an iron knife was found in an eleventh century Philistine tomb showed evidence of deliberate carburization"

Matthew Roper:

Archaeologists, for example, have discovered evidence of sophisticated iron technology from the island of Cyprus. One interesting example was a curved iron knife found in an eleventh century tomb. Metallurgist Erik Tholander analyzed the weapon and found that it was made of “quench-hardened steel.” Other examples are known from Syro-Palestine. For example, an iron knife was found in an eleventh century Philistine tomb showed evidence of deliberate carburization. Another is an iron pick found at the ruins of an fortress on Mount Adir in northern Galilee and may date as early as the thirteenth century B.C. “The manufacturer of the pick had knowledge of the full range of iron-working skills associated with the production of quench hardened steel” (James D. Muhly, “How Iron technology changed the ancient world and gave the Philistines a military edge,” Biblical Archaeology Review 8/6 [November-December 1982]: 50). According to Amihai Mazar this implement was “made of real steel produced by carburizing, quenching and tempering.” (Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E. New York: Doubleday, 1990, 361).[173]


Roper: "archaeologists have discovered a carburized iron sword near Jericho"

Matthew Roper:

More significant, perhaps, in relation to the sword of Laban, archaeologists have discovered a carburized iron sword near Jericho. The sword which had a bronze haft, was one meter long and dates to the time of king Josiah, who would have been a contemporary of Lehi. This find has been described as “spectacular” since it is apparently “the only complete sword of its size and type from this period yet discovered in Israel.”(Hershall Shanks, “Antiquities director confronts problems and controversies,” Biblical Archaeology Review 12/4 [July-August 1986]: 33, 35).

Today the sword is displayed at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. For a photo of the sword see the pdf version of the article here.

The sign on the display reads:

This rare and exceptionally long sword, which was discovered on the floor of a building next to the skeleton of a man, dates to the end of the First Temple period. The sword is 1.05 m. long (!) and has a double edged blade, with a prominent central ridge running along its entire length.

The hilt was originally inlaid with a material that has not survived, most probably wood. Only the nails that once secured the inlays to the hilt can still be seen. The sword’s sheath was also made of wood, and all that remains of it is its bronze tip. Owing to the length and weight of the sword, it was probably necessary to hold it with two hands. The sword is made of iron hardened into steel, attesting to substantial metallurgical know-how. Over the years, it has become cracked, due to corrosion.

Such discoveries lend a greater sense of historicity to Nephi’s passing comment in the Book of Mormon.[174]


Sorenson: "By 1400 BC, smiths in Armenia had discovered how to carburize iron by prolonged heating in contact with carbon"

John L. Sorenson: [175]

Steel is "iron that has been combined with carbon atoms through a controlled treatment of heating and cooling." [176] Yet "the ancients possessed in the natural (meteoric) nickel-iron alloy a type of steel that was not manufactured by mankind before 1890." [177] (It has been estimated that 50,000 tons of meteoritic material falls on the earth each day, although only a fraction of that is recoverable.) [178] By 1400 BC, smiths in Armenia had discovered how to carburize iron by prolonged heating in contact with carbon (derived from the charcoal in their forges). This produced martensite, which forms a thin layer of steel on the exterior of the object (commonly a sword) being manufactured. [179] Iron/steel jewelry, weapons, and tools (including tempered steel) were definitely made as early as 1300 BC (and perhaps earlier), as attested by excavations in present-day Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and Jordan. [180] "Smiths were carburizing [i.e., making steel] intentionally on a fairly large scale by at least 1000 BC in the Eastern Mediterranean area." [181]


Hamblin: "there are no references to Nephite steel after 400 B.C."

William Hamblin: [182]

Steel is mentioned only five times in the Book of Mormon, once in the Book of Ether (7.9), and four times in the Nephite records (1 Ne 4.9, 1 Ne 16.18, 2 Ne 5.15 and Jar 1.8). Of these, two refer to Near Eastern weapons of the early sixth century B.C. 1 Ne 4.9 states that the blade of Laban’s sword was “of most precious steel.” Nephi’s Near Eastern bow was “made of fine steel” (1 Ne 16.18). The next two references are to steel among generic metal lists. The first is to the time of Nephi, around 580 B.C.:

“work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores” (2 Ne 5:15)

The second is from Jarom 1:8, around 400 B.C.:

“workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war–yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war”

Notice that these two texts are what is called a “literary topos,” meaning a stylized literary description which repeats the same ideas, events, or items in a standardized way in the same order and form.

Nephi: “wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel” Jarom: “wood, …iron and copper, and brass and steel” The use of literary topoi is a fairly common ancient literary device found extensively in the Book of Mormon (and, incidentally, an evidence for the antiquity of the text). Scholars are often skeptical about the actuality behind a literary topos; it is often unclear if it is merely a literary device or is intended to describe specific unique circumstances.

Note, also, that although Jarom mentions a number of “weapons of war,” this list notably leaves off swords. Rather, it includes “arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin.” If iron/steel swords were extensively used by Book of Mormon armies, why are they notably absent from this list of weapons, the only weapon-list that specifically mentions steel?

Significantly, there are no references to Nephite steel after 400 B.C.


Response to claim: "iron did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

iron did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times.

Author's source: Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Yes, iron did exist in pre-Columbian America.

Sorenson: "Iron use was documented in the statements of early Spaniards, who told of the Aztecs using iron-studded clubs"

John L. Sorenson:[183]

Iron use was documented in the statements of early Spaniards, who told of the Aztecs using iron-studded clubs. [184] A number of artifacts have been preserved that are unquestionably of iron; their considerable sophistication, in some cases, at least suggests interest in this metal [185]....Few of these specimens have been chemically analyzed to determine whether the iron used was from meteors or from smelted ore. The possibility that smelted iron either has been or may yet be found is enhanced by a find at Teotihuacan. A pottery vessel dating to about A.D. 300, and apparently used for smelting, contained a "metallic-looking" mass. Analyzed chemically, it proved to contain copper and iron. [186]


Sorenson: "Lumps of hematite, magnetite, and ilmenite were brought into Valley of Oaxaca"

John L. Sorenson:

Without even considering smelted iron, we find that peoples in Mesoamerica exploited iron minerals from early times. Lumps of hematite, magnetite, and ilmenite were brought into Valley of Oaxaca sites from some of the thirty-six ore exposures located near or in the valley. These were carried to a workshop section within the site of San Jose Mogote as early as 1200 B.C. There they were crafted into mirrors by sticking the fragments onto prepared mirror backs and polishing the surface highly. These objects, clearly of high value, were traded at considerable distances.[187]


Response to claim: "There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to directly support the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to directly support the Book of Mormon or the Nephites/Lamanites who numbered in the millions.

Provenance of this claim:
Wikipedia article "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon"; MormonThink article "Book of Mormon Difficulties"

FairMormon Response


Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

This is a popular statement made by ex-Mormons. The reality is that there is plenty of supporting evidence.
∗       ∗       ∗
Note that word “directly.” Archaeology very often doesn’t “directly” support claims. You often are having to draw inferences from the data. You know, the rocks in the foundations of buildings don’t speak for themselves usually, and there are relatively few inscriptions. I mean, even Jerusalem itself: we’ve known from tradition where is was located, but it was only relatively recently that an inscription was found actually identifying that city as Jerusalem. So, there are limits to archaeology. But again I mention John Sorenson, the writing of John Clark, Brant Gardner, Mark Wright. If the author of the letter has dealt with them there’s no sign of it. I don’t see any evidence that he’s engaged them.

—Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
∗       ∗       ∗

Question: How does archaeology in the Old World compare to the first chapters in the Book of Mormon?

There are recently discovered correlations between the early chapters of the Book of Mormon and the archaeological record of the Old World

Given the inherent advantages (cultural continuity, toponyms, environmental conditions which favor the preservation of artifacts, time and resources invested in archaeological and linguistic field-work, etc.) of Old World studies compared to New World studies, it is interesting to note some recently discovered correlations between the early chapters of the Book of Mormon and the archaeological record of the Old World in ways that would have been unknown at the time the book was translated. In other words, it is impossible that Joseph Smith could have known any of the Old World archaeological data that have come to light since his death—these finds do not contradict the Book of Mormon and, in many instances, are consistent with its stories.

Consider, for instance, a recently discovered altar in Yemen that is consistent with a story related in the Book of Mormon. This altar, discovered by non-LDS archaeologists, has the tribal name of NHM carved into it. The altar is located in the same vicinity in which the Book of Mormon describes the Lehites stopping in Nahom to bury Ishmael, and dates from the same time period.[188] One should here remember that the Hebrew language of Nephi's era has no written vowels, and thus NHM could very likely be “NaHoM.”[189] The name NHM does not just appear out of thin air either, but rather the location of an ancient NHM exists not only within the specific time of the Lehite journey, but also within a plausible location through which LDS scholars believe the Lehites traveled in Arabia before embarking on their voyage to the New World.

Main article: Nahom


Question: Why does "Nahom" constitute archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?

Written Hebrew does not employ vowels, therefore, Book of Mormon "Nahom" is NHM in Hebrew

The Book of Mormon name "Nahom" becomes NHM when written in Hebrew. This is a significant correlation in name and location.

Three altar inscriptions have been discovered containing the name "NHM" as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC

Three altar inscriptions have been discovered containing the name "NHM" as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC. This is roughly the time period when Lehi’s family was traveling though the same area.

S. Kent Brown: [190]

In one instance, however, Nephi does preserve a local name, that of Nahom, the burial place of Ishmael, his father-in-law. Nephi writes in the passive, "the place which was called Nahom," clearly indicating that local people had already named the place. That this area lay in southern Arabia has been certified by recent Journal publications that have featured three inscribed limestone altars discovered by a German archaeological team in the ruined temple of Bar'an in Marib, Yemen.[191] Here a person finds the tribal name NHM noted on all three altars, which were donated by a certain "Bicathar, son of Sawâd, son of Nawcân, the Nihmite." (In Semitic languages, one deals with consonants rather than vowels, in this case NHM.)

Such discoveries demonstrate as firmly as possible by archaeological means the existence of the tribal name NHM in that part of Arabia in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, the general dates assigned to the carving of the altars by the excavators.[192] In the view of one recent commentator, the discovery of the altars amounts to "the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon."[193]

Nhm altar 1.jpg

These altars are located in the area where the spice route makes an eastward turn to cross the Arabian desert

The spice route proceed southward from Jerusalem and then turns toward the east at the place where the NHM inscriptions were found. Lehi's group proceeded southward and then made an "eastward" change in direction after leaving the "place which was called Nahom."

1 Nephi 17:1:

And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth.

S. Kent Brown:

The case for Nahom, or NHM, in this area is made even more tight by recent study. It has become clearly apparent from Nephi's note—"we did travel nearly eastward" from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1)—that he and his party not only had stayed in the NHM tribal area, burying Ishmael there, but also were following or shadowing the incense trail, a trading road that by then offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. From the general region of the NHM tribe, all roads turned east. How so? Across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, east of this tribal region and east of Marib, lay the city of Shabwah, now in ruins. By ancient Arabian law, it was to this city that all incense harvested in the highlands of southern Arabia was carried for inventorying, weighing, and taxing. In addition, traders made gifts of incense to the temples at Shabwah.[194] After this process, traders loaded the incense and other goods onto camels and shipped them toward the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas, traveling at first westward and then, after reaching the edges of the region of the NHM tribe, turning northward (these directions are exactly opposite from those that Nephi and his party followed). Even the daunting shortcuts across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, which left travelers without water for 150 miles, ran generally east-west. What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn of Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia. In a word, no one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it or who lived in that territory. This kind of detail in the Book of Mormon narrative, combined with the reference to Nahom, is information that was unavailable in Joseph Smith's day and thus stands as compelling evidence of the antiquity of the text.[195]

Hiltonarabia1-captioned.jpg

The name NHM is associated with a burial site and mourning

Nephi indicated that their group had reached a "place which was called Nahom," indicating that the site was already named. Ismael was buried there, and his daughters mourned him there.

1 Nephi 16:34-35:

And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom. And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father...

Critical responses to NHM

Critics of the Church attempt to dismiss this correlation as simply "the willingness of LDS scholars to look anywhere in their despair to find a shred of validation for their erroneous beliefs." [196] However, given the high correlation of the data, it seems that the critics are the ones that have difficulty explaining the data.


Question: Did Joseph Smith have access to materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College?

At least two critical websites have asserted that Joseph could have accessed materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College because, they claim, it was only "50 miles from Harmony"

A 1782 map by Carsten Niebuhr shows "Nehem" in the proper location. (See the map at http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~31563~1150042:A-new-map-of-Arabia-divided-into-it) Could Joseph Smith have accessed a copy of this map?

1782 map by Carsten Niebuhr shows the name "Nehem". A copy of this map was located at Allegheny College, which was 320 miles away from Harmony Township, Pennsylvania, during the time that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon

Several websites that are critical of the Church have presented the following argument:[197]

This FAIR Link mentions Niebuhr's and d'Anville's books. It also says that neither were at Dartmouth when Joseph was a boy, nor were they available in Manchester, New York in the lending library.

Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. Its library began through donations from private individuals. In 1824, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he hoped his University of Virginia could someday possess the richness of Allegheny's library.

In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith. Here is an 1823 catalog:

D'Anville's book on ancient geography is on page 18
[Carsten] Niebuhr [1782 map] is on page 44

The critics conclude with the following assertion:

Both books were fifty miles away from where the translation was being done.

This is not, however, the case. These books were actually 320 miles from where Joseph Smith lived.

The "Harmony" located 50 miles from Allegheny College is not the same as the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith lived

Actually, the "Harmony" located 50 miles from Allegheny College is not the same as the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith lived. Indeed, if one simply types “Harmony, Pennsylvania” into Google Maps, it does indicate that a town called “Harmony” is located approximately 50 miles from Allegheny College in Meadville. However, the critics got it wrong. The Harmony Township in which Joseph lived is located 320 miles from Allegheny College. This is easily confirmed by typing “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps.

Allegheny College, at 320 miles distance, was too far from Harmony Township for Joseph to have seen the name “Nahom” on one of the maps located there

FairMormon has acknowledged that two books were available at Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania containing maps which showed the location of Nahom (alternatively spelled Nihm or Nehem). We concluded that even though these books were present, that they were not located close enough to Harmony Township for Joseph to have utilized them. The critics, however, appear to have utilized a faulty Google search to assert that these books were located close enough to where Joseph Smith lived for him to have used them. For example, the critical website MormonThink attempted to refute FairMormon's argument on their "Book of Mormon Problems" page. MormonThink stated in June 2014: "Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. ...In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith." However, after Neal Rappleye and Stephen Smoot pointed out in the paper "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel" that the critics had selected the wrong town of Harmony for their Google map search, MormonThink removed the claim and it no longer appears as of October 2014. The claim still appears on at least one other critical website.[198]

  • Harmony Township, Forest County, Pennsylvania is located 50 miles from Allegheny College, however, this is not the Harmony Township in which Joseph Smith lived.
  • The second possibility is Harmony Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, which is located 86 miles from Allegheny College. But this isn’t the location at which Joseph Smith lived either.
  • Finally, we have Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. This is where Joseph Smith lived and translated the Book of Mormon. The Harmony Township in which Joseph lived is located 320 miles from Allegheny College. This is easily confirmed by typing “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps.

FairMormon therefore stands by its assertion that Allegheny College, at 320 miles distance, was too far from Harmony Township for Joseph to have seen the name “Nahom” on one of the maps located there.

Distance from harmony township susquehanna PA to Allegheny College Meadville PA.png


Question: How does archaeology in the New World fit with the Book of Mormon?

There is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon

It is also worth noting that there is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon. Dr. John Clark of the New World Archaeological Foundation has compiled a list of sixty items mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The list includes items such as “steel swords,” “barley,” “cement,” “thrones,” and literacy. In 1842, only eight (or 13.3%) of those sixty items were confirmed by archaeological evidence. Thus, in the mid-nineteenth century, archaeology provided little support for the claims made by the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon text ran counter to both expert and popular ideas about ancient America in the early 1800s.

As the efforts of archaeology have shed light on the ancient New World, we find in 2005 that forty-five of those sixty items (75%) have been confirmed. Thirty-five of the items (58%) have been definitively confirmed by archaeological evidence and ten items (17%) have received possible—tentative, yet not fully verified—confirmation. Therefore, as things stand at the moment, current New World archaeological evidence tends to verify the claims made by the Book of Mormon.[199]

Status of Book of Mormon evidence in 1842. This chart includes both Old World and New World evidence.
Status of Book of Mormon evidence in 2005. This chart includes both Old World and New World evidence.


Question: What do we find in Mesoamerican archaeology with respect to place names, such as city names?

In Mesoamerica, toponyms often disappeared from one era to the next

What do we find in Mesoamerican archaeology with respect to toponyms [toponyms = place names, such as city names]? First, unlike the biblical lands where many toponyms survived due to a continuity of culture, there is no reason to assume that Maya languages and Nephite languages were related. Secondly, we find that toponyms often disappeared from one era to the next. Many of the Mesoamerican cities today have Spanish names such as San Lorenzo, La Venta, and El Mirador. The “collapse of the indigenous civilizations before the conquistadors created a sharp historical discontinuity. We have the names of almost none of the Classic Mayan and Olmec cities of two millennia ago, which is why they are known today under Spanish titles.”[200] Archaeologists simply don’t know what many of the original names for these Mayan cities were. If archaeologists don’t know the names of some cities they have discovered, how could one expect to provide English names for those cities, such as names provided in the Book of Mormon?[201]

Additionally, scholars are uncertain as to the pronunciation of Mesoamerican cities for which they do have names. This is because city-inscriptions are often iconographic, and not all scholars agree that such icons represent city names. These icons are not only rare (as noted above) but they are symbolic rather than phonetic. In other words, when archaeologists find an iconographic inscription designating a place as the Hill of the Jaguar, the pronunciation of this inscription would be dependent on the language of the speaker—be it a Zapotec, a Mixtec, or a Nephite.[202] The only way to identify an ancient site is by way of an inscription giving a phonetically intelligible name. Barring further discoveries, we may never know how the names of Mesoamerican cities were pronounced in Book of Mormon times.

If the epigraphic [e.g., inscriptions on stones or monuments] data from the Old World were as slim as the epigraphic data from the New World, scholars would be severely limited in their understanding of the Israelites or early Christianity. It would likely be impossible, using strictly non-epigraphic [i.e., non-written, non-language based] archaeological evidences, to distinguish between Canaanites and Israelites when they co-existed in the pre-Babylonian (pre-587 B.C.) Holy Land.[203] We find that the same problems would be apparent in the study of early Christianity if scholars were faced with the absence of epigraphic data. For instance, if Diocletian’s persecutions of Christianity had been successful, if Constantine had never converted, and if Christianity had disappeared around A.D. 300, it would be very difficult if not impossible to reconstruct the history of Christianity using nothing but archaeological artifacts and imperial Roman inscriptions.[204]

“It is quite possible,” notes Hamblin, “for a religion, especially an aniconic religion [a religion which does not use written, symbolic images], to simply disappear from the archaeological record. Despite the fact that there were several million Christians in the Roman [E]mpire in the late third century, it is very difficult to [discover] almost anything of substance about them from archaeology alone.”[205]

One of the very few ancient cities in Mesoamerica for which the pre-Columbian name is known is named "Lamanai"

Did you know that one of the very few ancient cities in Mesoamerica for which the pre-Columbian name is known is named "Lamanai"? It means "submerged crocodile." According to Wikipedia, "The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam'an'ain." Read about it in Wikipedia: Lamanai. We're not saying that this is a Book of Mormon city, but the name makes you think.

Wikipedia entry on the ancient city of Lamanai located on the Yucatan peninsula. The city of Lamani, unlike other Mesoamerican archaeological sites, retains its original name.


Question: How would Book of Mormon archaeology compare to that of the Bible?

There is a lack of readable New World inscriptions from Nephite times

Religious critics frequently like to compare the lack of archaeological support for the Book of Mormon with what they are certain is voluminous archaeological support for the Bible. There is a drastic difference, however, between the two worlds (Old and New) when it comes to epigraphic data, iconographic data, the continuity of culture, and toponyms.

We have already noted the dearth of readable New World inscriptions from Nephite times. From biblical lands, however, we know of thousands of contemporary inscriptions that have survived to modern times. We have pointed out that very few toponyms (place-names) can be read in the surviving few epigraphic fragments from the Nephite-era New World. In contrast, we find for the Bible lands not only scores of epigraphic records identifying ancient Mediterranean cities, but we also sometimes find a “continuity of culture” that preserves city names. In other words, many modern Near Eastern cities are known by the same name as they were known anciently (this is not the case for ancient America). Knowing the exact location of one city helps biblical archaeologists locate other cities, simply by calculating the distances.[206]

Even acknowledging the archaeological advantages for determining the location and historical actuality of biblical lands, we find that only slightly more than half of all place names mentioned in the Bible have been located and positively identified.[207] Most of these identifications are based on the preservation of the toponym. For biblical locations with no toponym preserved, only about 7% to 8% of them have been identified to a degree of certainty and about another 7% to 8% of them have been identified with some degree of conjectural certainty.[208] The identification of these locations without place names could not have been made were it not for the identification of locations with preserved toponyms. If few or no Biblical toponyms had survived in a continuous, unbroken "language chain" from the Bible's era to our own, the identification of biblical locations would be largely speculative.

Despite the identification of some biblical sites, many important Bible locations have not been identified. The location of Mt. Sinai, for example, is unknown, and there are over twenty possible candidates. Some scholars reject the claim that the city of Jericho existed at the time of Joshua. The exact route taken by the Israelites on their Exodus is unknown, and some scholars dispute the biblical claim that there ever was an Israelite conquest of Canaan.[209]


Question: What do we find when we turn to the records of the ancient (i.e. before A.D. 400) Americas?

Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World only the Mayan language can be fully read

Understanding that a written record (epigraphic or iconographic) is necessary for building archaeological context, what do we find when we turn to the records of the ancient (i.e. before A.D. 400) Americas?

Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World (all of which are located in Mesoamerica), only the Mayan language can be fully read with confidence. Scholars can understand some basic structure of some of the other languages, but they cannot fully understand what the ancients were saying. In other words, there is a problem with deciphering the epigraphic record. According to the experts, “the pronunciation of the actual names of the earliest Maya kings and other name-glyphs from other writing systems is not known with certainty.”[210]

For the time period in which the Nephites lived, scholars are aware of only a very limited number of inscriptions from the entire ancient New World that can be read with any degree of certainty. Even with these fragments, however, scholars are still uncertain from these inscriptions just how the ancients pronounced the proper names and place names (toponyms). Four of these readable inscriptions merely give dates or a king’s name—a very limited cultural context. Another five inscriptions contain historical information and proper names—the mention of the cities Tikal and Uaxactun (for which the ancient pronunciation remain uncertain) and five kings from these two cities (whom we know by iconographic symbols and whose ancient pronunciation remains uncertain).[211]

With such sparse epigraphic information, how could we possibly recognize—even if they we discovered archaeologically—that we had found the location of cities we know as Bountiful and Zarahemla, or if the religious rulers were actually named Nephi or Moroni? The critics like to claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, but the truth is that there is scant archaeological data to tell us anything about the names of ancient New World inhabitants or locations—and names are the only means by which we could archaeologically identify whether there were Nephites in ancient America.


Question: What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite scripture?

For critics, every time something is found that correlates with the Book of Mormon, it is considered a "lucky guess" and dismissed

A reasonable question for those suggesting that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon would be “What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite scripture?”

Some people might suggest that finding the existence of horses or chariots would constitute proof for the Book of Mormon. This is doubtful. Finding such items would merely demonstrate that such things existed in the ancient New World, and while such discoveries may be consistent with the Book of Mormon, they hardly amount to “proof.”

As an example, the Book of Mormon mentions barley which, until recently, was thought not to exist in the ancient Americas. Critics considered barley to be one of the things that “Joseph Smith got wrong.” However, pre-Columbian New World barley has now been verified, without people flocking to join the Church because of this discovery. For critics, finding such items are too often seen as “lucky guesses” on the part of Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon mentions cities, trade, warfare, towers, and the use of armor—all of which did exist in the ancient Americas—yet their existence has not convinced critics that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text.


Question: How would an archaeologist distinguish a Christian's pot from that of a non-Christian?

Physical evidence doesn’t provide much information unless it is placed within a context

When examining ancient evidence archaeologists work with a very fragmentary record. In general, they find physical evidence, but such evidence in and of itself doesn’t provide much information unless it is placed within a context—a framework by which it can be understood. For instance, if an archaeologist finds a pot (or, more likely, a fragment of a pot), it provides little evidence concerning the civilization that created or used the pot. Contextual clues—such as other artifacts uncovered near the pot—may provide some clues about the timeframe in which the pot was last used, but it certainly doesn’t provide conclusive evidence as to what the civilization, or the individuals in that civilization, were like.

Critics, for example, sometimes deride the idea that Nephites were, for much of their written history, “Christians.” In the critics' view, there should be archaeological remains indicating a Christian presence in the ancient New World. How, exactly, would an archaeologist distinguish a Christian's pot from that of a non-Christian? What would a Christian pot look like? One must also keep in mind that, according to the Book of Mormon, the New World “Christians” were a persecuted minority who were wiped out over fifteen hundred years ago. How much archaeological evidence would we really expect to have survived the intervening centuries?

For the archaeologist, the strongest contextual clues come from writing or markings that are sometimes found on the physical evidence. These are of two general types: epigraphic and iconographic. Epigraphic evidence consists of a written record, such as this text you are reading, while iconographic evidence consists of pictures, or icons. For instance, the word “cross” is epigraphic, but a picture of a cross is iconographic. Epigraphic evidence, providing it can be translated, provides a record of what people thought or did. Iconographic evidence is much more symbolic and its interpretation depends on the context in which the image is used.

The only way archaeologists can determine names is through written records

As noted by Dr. William Hamblin, "the only way archaeologists can determine the names of political kingdoms, people, ethnography, and religion of an ancient people is through written records."

"Iconography can be helpful, but must be understood in a particular cultural context which can only be fully understood through written records. (Thus, the existence of swastikas, for example, on late medieval mosques in Central Asia or on Tibetan Buddhist temples in Tibet does not demonstrate that Muslims and Buddhists are Nazis, nor, for that matter, that Nazis are Buddhists. Rather, medieval swastikas demonstrate that different symbolic meanings were applied to the same symbol in early twentieth century Germany, Muslim Central Asia, and in Tibet.)"[212]

Many ancient peoples, however, wrote on perishable materials that have deteriorated through the centuries. Egypt, for example, wrote on materials that have survived through the ages, whereas the kingdom of Judah generally did not.

"[F]rom archaeological data alone," notes Hamblin, "we would know almost nothing about the religion and kingdom of ancient Judah. Indeed, based on archaeological data alone we would assume the Jews were polytheists exactly like their neighbors. Judaism, as a unique religion, would simply disappear without the survival of the Bible and other Jewish written texts."

"...Methodologically speaking, does the absence of archaeologically discovered written records demonstrate that a certain kingdom does not exist? Or to put it another way, does the existence of an ancient kingdom depend on whether or not twenty-first century archaeologists have discovered written records of that kingdom? Or does the kingdom exist irrespective of whether or not it is part of the knowledge horizon of early twenty-first century archaeologists? Or, to state the principle more broadly, does absence of evidence equal evidence of absence?"[213]


Response to claim: "This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists are coming up with the Limited Geography Model"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists are coming up with the Limited Geography Model (it happened in Central or South America) and that the real Hill Cumorah is not in Palmyra, New York but is elsewhere and possibly somewhere down there instead. This is in direct contradiction to what Joseph Smith and other prophets have taught.

FairMormon Response


Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

The limited geography model of the Book of Mormon has been around since 1926. Matt Roper notes, "It is not known how much these studies influenced the interpretations of Latter-day Saints; their first versions of a fully limited Book of Mormon geography began to appear in the years from 1920 to 1926. In an article for the Improvement Era, Janne Sjodahl outlined the key features of these interpretations without criticism or condemnation. In addition to his own modified hemispheric view, which placed the narrow neck of land at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Sjodahl reviewed the approaches of George Reynolds and Joel Ricks,111 which generally followed those of Orson Pratt." [214]
∗       ∗       ∗
This [claim that the Limited Geography is a recent invention of apologists] is simply not true. The Limited Geography Model has been created because the Book of Mormon demands it. You can put together all the travel distances and travel times in the Book of Mormon and it’s very clear that they’re not going far in any direction. We’re not talking about Patagonia to the Aleutian Islands. It’s simply not possible. And so, the text forces this. This sort of thing has been in the works for a long time, before there was any talk about DNA, before the discovery of the DNA double-helix model. DNA was not an issue when this was being created. This is not controversial. This can easily be shown that the limited Mesoamerican model has been in the works for decades. It just wasn’t published until the 1980s, but it existed and was distributed in a kind of summarized underground form for a long time before it was actually published.

—Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
∗       ∗       ∗

Question: What is the Limited Geography Theory and model?

The Limited Geography Model is based upon an accurate reading the Book of Mormon text and limits geography to several hundred miles

The Limited Geography Theory (or LGT) is a non-traditional interpretation of the text, but one that has gained wide acceptance among the Book of Mormon scholars and readers over the last 60 years.[215] It is based on a close reading of the text, which indicates that the lands inhabited by the Lehites could be traversed on foot in only a few weeks, making the area no larger than present-day California.

Advantages of this model:

  • a limited model seems to match the textual information about distance with much greater accuracy
  • a limited model offers a more realistic fit for an ancient society, which would have had great difficulties travelling or communicating over the vast distances required by the Hemispheric Geography Theory
  • a limited model potentially restricts Book of Mormon peoples to an area which matches regions (e.g., such as Mesoamerica) known to have had high culture, city-building, written language, etc.

Disadvantages include:

  • many Church members are unfamiliar with the basis for this model, having not paid close attention to issues of distance and travel times, since they have been more focused on the spiritual details of the Book of Mormon instead of its mundane details.
  • most early members and leaders of the Church have, when they made geography explicit at all, tended to adopt a hemispheric model
  • being a "newer" model, some claim that advocates of the LGT are 'changing the Church's story' about the Book of Mormon, even though the Church has been clear that it had no official or revealed Book of Mormon geography.
  • placing the model exactly becomes more difficult, since a smaller geography can 'fit' more than one potential location.
  • critics of the theory maintain that it uses mental gymnastics to explain away the mention of an "exceedingly great distance" in the text. Traditionally, it had been believed that there was an exceedingly great distance between the core of the Nephite domain and the Hill Cumorah in the area where the Nephites and Jaredites were destroyed.


Question: Has the Church ever promoted a Limited Geography model for the Book of Mormon?

The Church produced materials showing a limited geography for the Book of Mormon in the 1970s and 1980s

Three frames from the Church-produced filmstrip "Ancient America Speaks." This filmstrip was used by missionaries in the late 1970s and early 80s. It clearly showed a Limited Geography for Book of Mormon lands with the "narrow neck" being the Isthmus of Panama.

Has the Church ever promoted a Limited Geography model for the Book of Mormon? The answer to that question is yes. The Church filmstrip "Ancient America Speaks" was heavily used by missionaries in the 1970s. It included a map which indicated that Nephite and Lamanite lands were distinct and separated by the Isthmus of Panama.

In September and October of 1984, the official Church magazine the Ensign printed a two-part series which outlined the limited geography model for the Book of Mormon. The articles were called "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture" and were written by Latter-day Saint anthropologist John L. Sorenson. Sorenson notes:

Many Latter-day Saints have not had access to sources which communicate how recent research has changed our understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient document. Many also are unaware of some rather surprising new discoveries supporting the Book of Mormon which have been brought about by the advanced methods of science. The purpose of this article and the one to follow is to sketch a few vivid examples of changes in how some Latter-day Saint scholars view the Book of Mormon in the light of new theories and discoveries about the past. These articles are not intended to be an expression of official Church teachings, but on the basis of my own research and study, I have thought this new information to be worth consideration. [216]


Question: Why have Church leaders taught a hemispheric geography for the Book of Mormon rather than a limited one?

"Traditional" interpretations of the Book of Mormon assume a hemispheric geography

Latter-day Saint anthropologist John L. Sorenson specifically notes that there is a difference between the "traditional" interpretation of the Book of Mormon versus what it actually says,

One problem some Latter-day Saint writers and lecturers have had is confusing the actual text of the Book of Mormon with the traditional interpretation of it. For example, a commonly heard statement is that the Book of Mormon is “the history of the American Indians.” This statement contains a number of unexamined assumptions—that the scripture is a history in the common sense—a systematic, chronological account of the main events in the past of a nation or territory; that “the” American Indians are a unitary population; and that the approximately one hundred pages of text containing historical and cultural material in the scripture could conceivably tell the entire history of a hemisphere. When unexamined assumptions like these are made, critics respond in kind, criticizing not the ancient text itself, but the assumptions we have made about it. [216]

Sorenson notes that critics make the same assumptions about traditional interpretations as Latter-day saints,

Among the criticisms of the Book of Mormon by archaeologists, the two most widely circulated statements (the late Robert Wauchope’s book and Michael Coe’s article nearly a decade ago) suffer from similar limitations. Both of these eminent scholars based their reactions to the Book of Mormon on the same unfortunate assumption that the Book of Mormon account is about events involving American Indians throughout the entire New World. Their conclusions were as flawed as those arrived at by some Latter-day Saints. [216]


Question: Did Joseph Smith teach a hemispheric, rather than a limited, geography model for the Book of Mormon?

It does not appear that the Angel Moroni identified the locations of places mentioned in the Book of Mormon

What did Joseph Smith believe and teach about Book of Mormon geography? How does it relate to the location where the plates were buried? Matthew Roper addresses this issue:

The Prophet Joseph Smith knew that the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated had been obtained from the hill near his home. Aside from this, however, it does not appear that the angel Moroni identified current locations for places mentioned in the book. It is noteworthy—but scarcely surprising—that the Book of Mormon itself does not identify the hill in which it was buried. Instead, the hill in which all the Nephite plates other than those of the Book of Mormon were buried is identified (Mormon 6:6).26 It is also unclear how much, if any, geography Moroni revealed to the Prophet—whose calling was that of translator, not geographer. In the absence of revelation on Book of Mormon geography, we must expect the Saints to express their own ideas. Revelation is one thing, while speculation is quite another. Joseph Smith said very little about the geography of the Book of Mormon. What little he did say suggests that he may have shared the view held by his associates, that the Book of Mormon narrative describes events occurring in North, Central, and South America. [217]

Latter-day Saint archaeologist John Clark "points out the dangers of uncritically accepting the opinions of Joseph Smith as authoritative on the issue of Book of Mormon geography." [218]

The dangerous area is where opinion is thought to clarify ambiguities in the text, of which there are many. The minimal fact that various statements are attributed to Joseph Smith that place cities in different lands suggests that he continued to be interested throughout [Page 80]his life in the location of Book of Mormon lands and, consequently, that it remained an open question for him. If he knew where they were, why did he continue guessing? Should we not be similarly open-minded today? Do we go with the Prophet’s early statements or his later statements? [219]

Joseph occasionally expressed ideas related to where the Book of Mormon occurred, which ranged from the area around New York to the lands of Central America

Joseph occasionally expressed ideas related to where the Book of Mormon occurred, which ranged from the area around New York to the lands of Central America. He never explicitly taught a specific geography, although he appears to have held a hemispheric view, just as many members today do. Joseph was as much an observer of the restoration as he was its principle player. When revelations were received, he had to use his physical faculties to interpret and understand them like the rest of us. And although he had a "front row seat" to many of the foundational events, he was often as astounded and surprised by the revelations he received as were those who received them from him, and he had to understand those things that were evidenced but not explicitly stated by revelation in the same way we all do. This includes of course the geographic setting for the Book of Mormon. A limited geography does not in any way contradict the revelations of Joseph Smith.


Roper: "Critics of the Book of Mormon have claimed that the limited geography is only a late, desperate attempt to defend the Book of Mormon"

Matthew Roper:

Recently, some critics of the Book of Mormon have claimed that the limited geography is only a late, desperate attempt to defend the Book of Mormon. It is, they assert, contrary "to the Book of Mormon text, early Mormon history, [and] Joseph Smith's divine edicts."2 In order to place the assertions of these critics in perspective, it is necessary to address several questions: What was the hemispheric geography based on? Granted that this early view was popular, was it based on revelation? Is there any authoritative interpretation of Book of Mormon geography? Is the localized geography some kind of debater's ploy or are there substantial reasons for this view? [220] —(Click here to continue)


Question: Was the Limited Geography model created in response to DNA claims?

The Limited Geography Model was introduced in 1927, many years before DNA claims

Was the Limited Geography model created in respond to DNA claims? The answer is no. The idea that Lehi's party entered a larger, pre-existing New World population was introduced as early as 1927, well before the Book of Mormon was being challenged on issues related to DNA. [221]

An examination of both Part 1 and Part 2 of Sorenson's 1984 Ensign articles quickly shows that they do not even contain the term "DNA". The articles focus on anthropological and geographical topics which support the Limited Geography model.

I have said repeatedly that the correspondences in geography, history, and cultural patterns—large scale or micro-scale—between Mesoamerican cultures and the Book of Mormon peoples do not “prove” anything conclusively. Still, the fact that large numbers of such correspondences exist ought to register in the minds of truth-loving people. With this in mind, it is clearly misleading for a scholar—one of our own—to imply that there is no “important archaeological evidence” to support the Book of Mormon story “of Indian origins,” or for another to find it amusing to think that anyone would seriously try to compare the Book of Mormon with objective facts of historical importance. [222]

The Sorenson map of Book of Mormon lands as it appeared in the September 1984 church magazine, the Ensign. This map may be viewed on the official Church website LDS.org


Response to claim: "Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson was BYU’s archaeology division (New World Archaeological Funding) founder"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson was BYU’s archaeology division (New World Archaeological Funding) founder. NWAF was financed by the Church. NWAF and Ferguson were tasked by BYU and the Church in the 1950’s and 1960’s to find archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon. This is what Ferguson wrote after 17 years of trying to dig up evidence for the Book of Mormon:“…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archaeology. I should say – what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.” – Letter dated February 2, 1976

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Ferguson was not in charge of the archaeology program at BYU. He wasn't even an archaeologist - he was a lawyer for whom archaeology was a hobby.
Logical Fallacy: Appeal to authority
The author claims that someone is an authority on a topic, and that because this authority made a statement regarding that topic, that he or she is probably correct.

Ferguson was not even an "authority" on this matter, and he had unrealistic expectations. The author, however, expects us to both accept Ferguson as an authority on this subject, and to accept his conclusions as valid.
∗       ∗       ∗
And the idea is, well, Ferguson failed and Ferguson lost his testimony, and this should discredit the Book of Mormon in the minds of alert, sentient Latter-day Saints. But that statement is wrong on multiple levels. Thomas Stuart Ferguson, for whatever virtues he had, was a lawyer and an amateur hobbyist. He was not the head of the archaeology program at BYU. And the NWAF, I’ve actually written an article on this, based on interviews with the founders and with early leaders and so on, and it’s been published. I mean, there’s no excuse for this. NWAF had non-Mormons on its board. It was mostly non-Mormons. It was specifically forbidden to seek to do explicit Book of Mormon research. It was tasked with working in an area where Latter-day Saints expected it would find evidence, but it was not its task to do that. This is just completely wrong, and Ferguson’s apostasy, whatever it was, his family disputes it. I don’t know exactly what the truth of his mindset was at the end of his life. It may be sad, but it has no significance. And, at the same time, M. Wells Jakeman was an archaeologist, the first trained archaeologist as far as I know in the Church, who specialized in Mesoamerican studies. Why doesn’t anybody write about his biography? He was fascinated…believed to his dying day that the Book of Mormon fit into Mesoamerica brilliantly well.

—Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
∗       ∗       ∗

Question: Was Thomas Stuart Ferguson an archaeologist?

Ferguson never studied archaeology at a professional level - he was self-educated in that area

As John Sorensen, who worked with Ferguson, recalled:

[Stan] Larson implies that Ferguson was one of the "scholars and intellectuals in the Church" and that "his study" was conducted along the lines of reliable scholarship in the "field of archaeology." Those of us with personal experience with Ferguson and his thinking knew differently. He held an undergraduate law degree but never studied archaeology or related disciplines at a professional level, although he was self-educated in some of the literature of American archaeology. He held a naive view of "proof," perhaps related to his law practice where one either "proved" his case or lost the decision; compare the approach he used in his simplistic lawyerly book One Fold and One Shepherd. His associates with scientific training and thus more sophistication in the pitfalls involving intellectual matters could never draw him away from his narrow view of "research." (For example, in April 1953, when he and I did the first archaeological reconnaissance of central Chiapas, which defined the Foundation's work for the next twenty years, his concern was to ask if local people had found any figurines of "horses," rather than to document the scores of sites we discovered and put on record for the first time.) His role in "Mormon scholarship" was largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst.

Ferguson was never an expert on archaeology and the Book of Mormon (let alone on the book of Abraham, about which his knowledge was superficial). He was not one whose careful "study" led him to see greater light, light that would free him from Latter-day Saint dogma, as Larson represents. Instead he was just a layman, initially enthusiastic and hopeful but eventually trapped by his unjustified expectations, flawed logic, limited information, perhaps offended pride, and lack of faith in the tedious research that real scholarship requires. The negative arguments he used against the Latter-day Saint scriptures in his last years display all these weaknesses.

Larson, like others who now wave Ferguson's example before us as a case of emancipation from benighted Mormon thinking, never faces the question of which Tom Ferguson was the real one. Ought we to respect the hard-driving younger man whose faith-filled efforts led to a valuable major research program, or should we admire the double-acting cynic of later years, embittered because he never hit the jackpot on, as he seems to have considered it, the slot-machine of archaeological research? I personally prefer to recall my bright-eyed, believing friend, not the aging figure Larson recommends as somehow wiser. [223]


Peterson and Roper: "We know of no one who cites Ferguson as an authority, except countercultists"

Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper: [224]

"Thomas Stuart Ferguson," says Stan Larson in the opening chapter of Quest for the Gold Plates, "is best known among Mormons as a popular fireside lecturer on Book of Mormon archaeology, as well as the author of One Fold and One Shepherd, and coauthor of Ancient America and the Book of Mormon" (p. 1). Actually, though, Ferguson is very little known among Latter-day Saints. He died in 1983, after all, and "he published no new articles or books after 1967" (p. 135). The books that he did publish are long out of print. "His role in 'Mormon scholarship' was," as Professor John L. Sorenson puts it, "largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst." We know of no one who cites Ferguson as an authority, except countercultists, and we suspect that a poll of even those Latter-day Saints most interested in Book of Mormon studies would yield only a small percentage who recognize his name. Indeed, the radical discontinuity between Book of Mormon studies as done by Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson in the fifties and those practiced today by, say, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) could hardly be more striking. Ferguson's memory has been kept alive by Stan Larson and certain critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as much as by anyone, and it is tempting to ask why. Why, in fact, is such disproportionate attention being directed to Tom Ferguson, an amateur and a writer of popularizing books, rather than, say, to M. Wells Jakeman, a trained scholar of Mesoamerican studies who served as a member of the advisory committee for the New World Archaeological Foundation?5 Dr. Jakeman retained his faith in the Book of Mormon until his death in 1998, though the fruit of his decades-long work on Book of Mormon geography and archaeology remains unpublished.


Peterson: "Thomas Stuart Ferguson's biographer...makes every effort to portray Ferguson's apparent eventual loss of faith as a failure for 'LDS archaeology'"

Daniel C. Peterson: [225]

In the beginning NWAF was financed by private donations, and it was Thomas Ferguson's responsibility to secure these funds. Devoted to his task, he traveled throughout California, Utah, and Idaho; wrote hundreds of letters; and spoke at firesides, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, and wherever else he could. After a tremendous amount of dedicated work, he was able to raise about twenty-two thousand dollars, which was enough for the first season of fieldwork in Mexico.

Stan Larson, Thomas Stuart Ferguson's biographer, who himself makes every effort to portray Ferguson's apparent eventual loss of faith as a failure for "LDS archaeology,"22 agrees, saying that, despite Ferguson's own personal Book of Mormon enthusiasms, the policy set out by the professional archaeologists who actually ran the Foundation was quite different: "From its inception NWAF had a firm policy of objectivity. . . . that was the official position of NWAF. . . . all field directors and working archaeologists were explicitly instructed to do their work in a professional manner and make no reference to the Book of Mormon."


Gee: "Ferguson is largely unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints; his impact on Book of Mormon studies is minimal"

John Gee: [226]

Biographies like the book under review are deliberate, intentional acts; they do not occur by accident.4 Ferguson is largely unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints; his impact on Book of Mormon studies is minimal.5 So, of all the lives that could be celebrated, why hold up that of a "double-acting sourpuss?"6 Is there anything admirable, virtuous, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, or Christlike about Thomas Stuart Ferguson's apparent dishonesty or hypocrisy? Larson seems to think so: "I feel confident," Larson writes, "that Ferguson would want his intriguing story to be recounted as honestly and sympathetically as possible" (p. xiv). Why? Do we not have enough doubters? Yet Larson does not even intend to provide the reader with a full or complete biographical sketch of Ferguson's life, since he chose to include "almost nothing . . . concerning his professional career as a lawyer, his various real estate investments, his talent as a singer, his activities as a tennis player, or his family life" (p. xi). In his opening paragraph, Larson warns the reader that he is not interested in a well-rounded portrait of Ferguson. Nevertheless, he finds time to discourse on topics that do not deal with Ferguson's life and only tangentially with his research interest.


Response to claim: "Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to many local names and places of the region Joseph Smith lived"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to many local names and places of the region Joseph Smith lived


We read in the Book of Mormon of the Land of Desolation named for a warrior named Teancum who helped General Moroni fight in the Land of Desolation. In Smith’s era, an Indian Chief named Tecumseh fought and died near the narrow neck of land helping the British in the War of 1812. Today, the city Tecumseh (near the narrow neck of land) is named after him.


Author source: mazeministry.com (an anti-Mormon web site)

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The names aren't so striking when you realize just how many of them didn't exist at the time that Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, or how many don't show up on contemporary maps.
Logical Fallacy: Texas Sharpshooter
The author located some pattern in the data that he or she believes was the cause of something else, despite the lack of any supporting connection, and asserted that this was, in fact, the actual cause.

The author uses the work of Vernal Holley, who searched a large area using modern maps to find a few names which are similar. They then select those names as proof that there is a relationship to the Book of Mormon.
∗       ∗       ∗
[The author of the Letter to a CES Director] uses Vernal Holley, who relied on the Solomon Spalding theory of the Book of Mormon, which has been exploded, detonated so many times, that its exasperating to see it keep coming back. I’ve mentioned, I think, here before that Hamblin and I have wanted to do a film that we call tentatively, “Bill and Dan’s Excellent Adventure in Anti-Mormon Zombie Hell.” The idea is that these just keep coming back. I mean, you shoot them between the eyes and they don’t stop because there’s no brain in there, right? And, I see the Spalding manuscript theory just keep coming and coming, but the methodological problems with Vernal Holley’s maps are multitudinous..."

—Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference

Question: Could Joseph Smith have utilized place names and locations from the region in which he lived to create the Book of Mormon?

It is claimed that Joseph borrowed names from the surrounding regions

It is claimed that Joseph Smith is clearly the author of the Book of Mormon because many Book of Mormon place names supposedly have clear evidence of "borrowing" from geographic locations in the United States and Canada.

Examples of this include:

Book of Mormon City Claimed Source Book of Mormon City Claimed Source
Teancum Tecumseh Ramah Rama
Moron Morin Ogath Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec
Morianton Moraviantown Angola Angola
Onidah Oneida Kishkumen Kiskiminetas
Jacobugath Jacobsburg Jerusalem Jerusalem
Alma Alma Land of Lehi-Nephi Lehigh
Shilom Shiloh Ripliancum Ripple Lake, Ontario

Many of the names and places didn't exist in the late 1820s, and they are in the wrong locations relative to one another

The original idea behind this proposal was that Joseph picked up these place names and locations from a map in order to create his Book of Mormon geography. However, once it becomes apparent that the locations are in the wrong place, critics who support this proposal then fall back to the claim that the locations of the names are actually unimportant.

After the geography is thrown out, we are simply left with a list of names that Joseph supposedly found on a 19th-century map. However, once it also becomes obvious that many of the place names that were allegedly located on a 19th century map did not exist at the time that Joseph was dictating the Book of Mormon, the entire theory falls apart. Of the few that actually did exist, some of these names represent extremely small, distant sites about which Joseph almost certainly could have had no knowledge.

So critics rely on names which are in the wrong place, which didn't exist during Joseph's time, and which were too small and distant for him to be aware of. The final blow to this theory is that they also overlook the Biblical source for their American "parallels," which are far more likely and plausible than giving Joseph an encyclopedic knowledge of North American place names. Even if critics insist that Joseph forged the Book of Mormon, isn't the Bible a far more likely source for these names than obscure hamlets hundreds of miles away, which did not appear on a map, and most of which didn't even exist with those names at that time?


Question: How valid are the names used in the Holley Map?

When a comparison is made to maps available in the 1800s, it becomes evident that Holley has included names of places which didn't even exist in Joseph Smith's time

The Book of Mormon contains 345 names. The theory, proposed by Vernal Holley and posted by Mazeministries, is that 28 of these names were derived by Joseph Smith by looking at the names of places in the surrounding region, then altering the names slightly to create a map of Book of Mormon lands.

Rather than compare to "modern maps" and "modern place names" as Holley indicated that he did, we have made an attempt to locate these places on maps from the 1800s, which could have been available to Joseph Smith. When such a comparison is made, it becomes evident that Holley has included names of places which didn't even exist in Joseph Smith's time.

The following correspondences are listed. In order to obtain this list of parallels, a huge geographical area must be scanned: Five states and two Canadian provinces yield this list of parallels, and it gets even smaller when one actually tries to locate many of these places on a map. In the list below,

  • Names in red indicate places which either did not have that name until after 1830, or cannot be found on a map or in the Book of Mormon.
  • Names in blue indicate names that are found in the Bible.
  • Names in green indicate names that could potentially be a valid match.
  • Actual Place Names = Book of Mormon Place Names

Alma = Alma, Valley of

In the area indicated on the Holley map, modern maps show that there is a small, unincorporated community called Centerville, also known as Alma, in Tyler County, West Virginia, United States. Coordinates: 39°25′55″N 80°50′24″W. However, when we view the 1822 map of Virginia, we cannot find the name "Alma" anywhere.

Location.of.alma.jpg
Vernal.holley.name.list.jpg

Antrim = Antum

"Antrim Township" is located in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It was named after County Antrim in Northern Ireland. The township was organized in 1741.

Antioch = Anti-Anti

The name "Anti-Anti" doesn't even appear in the Book of Mormon, nor does the biblical name "Antioch."

Boaz = Boaz

The name "Boaz" is from the Bible. Joseph would not have needed to look at a map for this one, unless one accepts Holley's assertion that the Holley map is supposed to show the geographical locations of Book of Mormon places.

Conner = Comner

The name "Comner" doesn't appear in the Book of Mormon. The name "Comnor" does, in Ether 14:28. Of course, "Comnor" doesn't match "Conner" quite as closely in spelling. We cannot find "Connor" in either New York or Pennsylvania.

Ephrem, Saint = Ephraim, Hill

The actual name is "Saint-Éphrem-de-Beauce, Quebec." Wikipedia shows the town being established with that name in 1866. This is 36 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon name "Ephraim," of course, is easily found in the Bible.

Hellam = Helam

According to their website, Hellam Township, Pennsylvania, was established in 1739.

Jacobsburg = Jacobugath

Jacobsburg, Belmont Co., Ohio does not even show up on a 1822 map of Ohio. According to Wikipedia: "Jacobsburg was laid out in 1815. It was probably named for its founder, Jacob Calvert." Therefore, the town definitely existed prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, but was apparently too small to appear on the 1822 map seven years later. By 1833, three years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, Jacobsberg had grown to include "one tavern, two stores, a physician, sundry mechanics, and about 120 inhabitants." [227] Jacobsburg does indeed appear on an 1831 map of Ohio (one year after the Book of Mormon was published).

By 1831, Jacobsburg appeared on a map of Ohio

Jerusalem = Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Monroe Co., Ohio does not even show up on a 1822 map of Ohio, nor does it show up on a 1831 map of Ohio (one year after the Book of Mormon was published). Even today the village of Jerusalem occupies only 0.2 square miles. The Holley map shows "Jerusalem" in Ohio, but we went ahead and searched for other towns named "Jerusalem." It turns out that there is a Jerusalem, New York that was established in 1789, however, it does not appear on either the 1822 map or the 1831 maps of the state of New York. The town was named after the Biblical city of Jerusalem. Besides, the name "Jerusalem" is from the Bible. Joseph would not have needed to look at a map for this one, unless one accepts Holley's assertion that the Holley map is supposed to show the geographical locations of Book of Mormon places.

The town of Jerusalem, Ohio does not show up on a 1831 map of Ohio. According to Wikipedia, "Jerusalem is located at 39°51′8″N 81°5′43″W" " [228]
The town of Jerusalem, New York, although it was established in 1789, does not appear on the 1822 or the 1831 maps of the state of New York.

Jordan = Jordan

The village of Jordan, New York existed prior to 1819 and became an incorporated village in 1835. [229] The town of Jordan, New York was established prior to 1819, but does not appear on the 1822 map of New York. It does appear on the 1827 map (three years prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon) and the 1831 map of New York (one year after the publication of the Book of Mormon). The name "Jordan" is from the Bible. Joseph would not have needed to look at a map for this one, unless one accepts Holley's assertion that the Holley map is supposed to show the geographical locations of Book of Mormon places.

The town of Jordan, New York does was established prior to 1819, but does not appear on the 1822 map of New York. It does appear on the 1827 and 1831 maps of New York.

Kishkiminetas = Kishkumen

Vernal Holley relies upon "modern maps" when he speculates on the name Kishkumen,

The location of the Book of Mormon city of Kishkumen is not given in the text. However. there are names similar to Kishkumen, on modern maps, in the location of Spaulding's Manuscript Story setting. [230]

Kiskiminetas Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania was given that name in 1832, two years after the Book of Mormon was published. From History of Armstrong County Pennsylvania, written in 1883 by Robert Walter Smith, "The petition of sundry inhabitants of Allegheny township was presented December 22, 1831, to the court of quarter sessions of this county, asking that a new township be formed out of the upper end of Allegheny township, to be called Kiskiminetas. Philip Klingensmith, John Lafferty and John McKissen were appointed viewers, who, after one continuance of their order, presented their report recommending the organization of the new township, which was approved by the court June 19, 1832." off-site Kiskiminetas River in Pennsylvania does exist prior to the town, and one would assume that it would show up on a map. The Holley map, however, does not indicate that Kishkiminetas is a river, but rather a place.

Lehigh = Lehi

There is indeed a "Lehigh Valley" located in Pennsylvania.

Mantua = Manti

According to their website, Mantua Village, Ohio, was incorporated in 1898. This is 68 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Monroe = Moroni

There is a town "Monroe, New York" which was named in 1808. The town does not appear on either the 1822 or the 1831 maps of New York.

The town of Monroe, New York, named in 1808, does not appear on either the 1822 or the 1831 maps of New York.

Minoa = Minon

According to the Minoa town website, the town of Minoa, New York received that name in 1895. That is 60 years after the Book of Mormon was published.

Moraviantown = Morianton

Moravian Indian Reserve No. 47, Ontario, appears to have been established in 1782.

Morin = Moron

According to Wikipedia, Morin Township, Quebec, was formed in 1852. This would be 22 years after the Book of Mormon was published.

(Click to enlarge) Geography as proposed by Vernal Holley (1983). Z = proposed city of Zarahemla site. Bright blue line is the model's "River Sidon." Names in red represent towns not in existence at the time of the Book of Mormon's publication. Note that the maps available at Mazeministries contain the following errors: 1) Jerusalem and Jacobsburg are too far apart; 2) Alma is too far to the east; 3) Mount Ephrim should be north-east, not north-west of Sherbrooke.
(Click to enlarge) An illustration of some of the geographical errors present in the version of the Holley geography that is used in "A Letter to a CES Director"

Noah Lakes = Noah, Land of

The name "Noah" is from the Bible. Joseph would not have needed to look at a map for this one, unless one accepts Holley's assertion that the Holley map is supposed to show the geographical locations of Book of Mormon places.

Oneida = Onidah

See "Oneida Castle".

Oneida Castle = Onidah, Hill

Oneida Castle, New York is located at 43°4′42″N 75°38′0″W. The town has existed since the 18th century.

Omer = Omner

We cannot find "Omer" on any modern map of Pennsylvania, New York or Canada.

Rama = Ramah

Holley speculates that Joseph obtained the name "Rama" from the Rama Indian Reservation or Rama Township, noting that

"Today, south by southeast from Lake Superior (Waters of Ripliancum?), near Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada, is the Rama Indian Reservation, [61] located within the boundaries of Rama Township. [62] The Book of Mormon Ramah was [relatively near] the Waters of Ripliancum in the "land northward," and, similarly, the modern day Rama Indian Reservation is located [relatively near] several place names with a "Ripple" designation, in Canada (the north country)."[230]

However, the Rama Indian Reservation did not exist as such until 1836, when the Chippewas of Lake Simcoe and Huron were forced to move and purchased the land in Rama Township in 1836.

Known as the Chippewas of Lake Simcoe and Huron, our people are part of the Chippewa Tri-Council, an alliance of three First Nation communities now known as Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, the Chippewas of Georgina Island on Georgina Island, and Rama First Nation. Under the leadership of our hereditary Chief, Chief Musquakie(Yellowhead) who served his community from 1818 to 1844, the Chippewa Tri-Council First Nations continue their alliance today.

Well known for our hospitality, we shared our knowledge and medicines with early settlers which enabled them to survive their first difficult years in a sometimes harsh land.

Around 1830, our community was moved to the Coldwater Narrows area by the Crown, part of an “experiment” which shaped “Indian Reserves”. We continued on as industrious people, building a road for commerce which is known today as Highway 12, establishing farms, mills, and markets for selling produce, fish and game to settlers and travelers.

Forced to move again after our land was taken in what is now being termed an “illegal surrender”, we purchased land in Rama Township in 1836 and made a new beginning for our people. [231]

This is six years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. Moreover, the Rama Township, Ontario, itself was only "first surveyed in 1834." [232], four years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. [233]

Ripple Lake = Ripliancum, Waters of

Holley speculated that "Waters of Ripliancum may have been Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes. On or near the north shore of Lake Superior are Ripple Bay, Ripple Creek, Ripple Reef, and Ripple Lake -- names surprisingly similar to the "Waters of Ripliancum." [230] However, Ripple Lake is so small that it is difficult to locate on modern day maps, and it is one of more than 250,000 lakes in Ontario. Are we to assume that Joseph selected this one location amongst many, and then converted the name "Ripple Lake" to "Ripliancum?"

Sodom = Sidom

The name "Sodom," of course, is well known from the Bible. Joseph would not have needed to look at a map for this one, unless one accepts Holley's assertion that the Holley map is supposed to show the geographical locations of Book of Mormon places.

Shiloh = Shilom

There is a Shiloh, Pennsylvania on modern maps, however, it is a Census Designated Place (CDP) consisting of 4.2 square miles [234] that was established only for statistical purposes. As such, it does not appear on any maps. The name "Shiloh" is a biblical name.

Land of Midian = Land of Midian

The name "Land of Midian" is from the Bible and it is located in Egypt. Joseph would not have needed to look at a map for this one, unless one accepts Holley's assertion that the Holley map is supposed to show the geographical locations of Book of Mormon places. We are unable to locate a "Midian" or "Land of Midian" on any modern map of Pennsylvania.


Question: Are the names on the Holley Map in the correct locations relative to one another?

Not only are the names claimed to be similar to those in the Book of Mormon, but also that the locations of those names are similar. In addition, since some of these names could have easily been taken from the Bible instead of the surrounding region, one must assume that their inclusion on the map also implies that their geographical locations relative to one another are important.

Looking at the geography, it is clear from Holley's map that a number of locations have been selected to make the names match the existing geography. Some examples:

  • The map places Jacobugath, site of "King Jacob's" dissenters far in the land southward, when the Book of Mormon has it far in the land northward (3 Nephi 7:9-12; see also 3 Nephi 9:9).
  • The map places the land of first inheritance [land of Lehi-Nephi] is on the eastern coast of the United States, while the Book of Mormon is clear that Lehi and his group landed on the western coast.
  • The City of Morianton should be by the eastern seashore, near the city of Lehi (Alma 50:25).
  • "Ramah" is the Jaredite name for the Hill Cumorah (Ether 15:11). The Hill Cumorah is not in Canada.


Response to claim: "FairMormon’s strawman that these towns/cities were discovered only through maps may not be...how Holley found some of the towns"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Vernal Holley is dead. We can’t contact him to find out exactly where he got his sources. FairMormon’s strawman that these towns/cities were discovered only through maps may not be...how Holley found some of the towns. He may have used letters, newspapers, post office records, obituaries, local city/county library records, etc. in which records and books are not accessible online. We do not know.

FairMormon Response


Falsehood
The author has disseminated false information

The author's claim is false based upon Holley's own claims. Holley may be dead, but the book he wrote in which he proposed his theory is available online. Vernal Holley, in his book Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look[235], states explicitly that he does use modern maps to make his comparison. This is particularly evident in his comparisons of the names "Angola" and "Tecumseh," both of which Holley states he has taken from modern maps or locations, and neither of which existed under those names at the time that the Book of Mormon was published.
Logical Fallacy: Burden of Proof
The author assumes that the burden of proof is not his or her responsibility, but rather the responsibility of someone else who must disprove the claim.

This is a feeble attempt to "debunk" the FairMormon response to Holley by throwing in a list of possibilities with no supporting evidence.

Question: Does Vernal Holley rely on modern maps to create his comparison of actual place names with Book of Mormon names?

Holley claims to have obtained his names from gazetteers that were available in Joseph Smith's time, however he uses "modern maps" and "modern place names" as the basis for his comparison

One critic of Mormonism challenges the idea that Vernal Holley obtained his place names from modern maps:

Vernal Holley is dead. We can’t contact him to find out exactly where he got his sources. FairMormon’s strawman that these towns/cities were discovered only through maps may not be...how Holley found some of the towns. He may have used letters, newspapers, post office records, obituaries, local city/county library records, etc. in which records and books are not accessible online. We do not know.[236]

However, Holley himself claims to have used modern maps and modern place names in his comparison. Holley claims that "The following modern place names are actually located in the area of Spaulding's Manuscript Story setting. All but a few can be found in gazetteers published prior to the Book of Mormon." [230] Holley does not list the gazetteers that he used. Holley indicates that he is comparing "Modern Maps" against the "Book of Mormon."

An image of a transcription of Vernal Holley's book Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look hosted on Dale Broadhurst's site http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs2/vernP3.htm#pg6061

Holley states that he is using modern maps and locations in his comments regarding the cities of Angola and Tecumseh: both are names that weren't assigned to those locations until many years after the Book of Mormon was published

Holley points out that the present day city of Angola, New York is a possible match for a Book of Mormon location. He notes the location of the city on "modern maps". Holley states,

The present day city of Angola, New York, is located west of the Genesee (Sidon?) River and south ["in the borders"] of the proposed land of Zarahemla. This is another example of the many actual locations in the Great Lakes area that can be located on modern maps by following geographical information in the Book of Mormon. [230]

However, when one looks up the Wikipedia entry for Angola, New York, it becomes evident that the name "Angola" was not established until approximately 1854, twenty-four years after the Book of Mormon was published. Wikipedia notes,

The community was previously called "Evans Station." In 1854 or 1855, a post office was established there, bearing the name Angola. [237]

Holley makes the same error in relying on modern maps with the city of Tecumseh, Canada. In his book Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look, Holley claims,

Teancum, a Book of Mormon city located in a land called Desolation, within the north country, was "in the borders by the seashore" (Mormon 4:3). It was named after Teancum, who fought and died in the land Desolation while helping the Nephite military commander, Moroni, contain the Lamanites who were trying to gain access to the "land northward" (Alma, Chapters 50-62).

The modern city of Tecumseh [Tenecum] is located in Canada (the land to the north), by "the borders" of Canada and the United States, and by "the seashore." It was named after the great Shawnee Indian chief, who fought and died as a military commander under the British in the War of 1812, while helping their forces contain the Americans, who were trying to gain access to British territory in Canada. [230]

Once again, a check of the city's history on Wikipedia reveals that the name "Tecumseh" wasn't assigned to the area until 1912, eighty-two years after the Book of Mormon was published.

In 1792, Tecumseh, then known as Ryegate Postal Station, had only three families. In 1912. Ryegate Postal Station was renamed Tecumseh in honour of Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee Tribe who was killed at battle in the War of 1812. [238]


Response to claim: "The largest city and capital of Comoros (formerly 'Camora')? Moroni"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The largest city and capital of Comoros (formerly 'Camora')? Moroni.

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

In addition to the capital city "Moroni," one of the islands in the Comoros archipelago has an anchorage named "Meroni."

Question: Could Joseph Smith have acquired the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from a map of the Comoro archipelago off the coast of Africa?

Comoros is a small nation made up of three islands off the southeast coast of Africa. Its capital city is Moroni.

  • Some have claimed that Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon names Cumorah and Moroni by copying them from a map of the Comoros islands.
  • An alternative explanation offered by critics of the Book of Mormon is that Joseph Smith found the names Cumorah and Moroni in stories about Captain Kidd, who is said to have visited the island.

The settlement of "Moroni" did not become the capital city of the Comoros Islands until 1876 (32 years after Joseph's death and 47 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon). The possibility of Joseph seeing the names on a map is remote at best. It has not even been proved that Joseph ever saw the names, or that any source available to him linked them.

Those who propose that Joseph obtained the names "Cumorah" and "Moroni" from stories of Captain Kidd fail to cite any sources and then demonstrate that Joseph had access to them. For more detail on this claim, see: Joseph Smith, Captain Kidd and the Comoro archipelago.


Question: Were the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" available on maps accessible to Joseph Smith?

Modern map of the Comoros Islands

The Comoro archipelago consists of the islands of Grande Comore (Great Comoro), Anjouan (also known as Johanna), Mohilla (Mohely), and Mayotte (Mayotta). They are located at the head of the Mozambique Channel off the coast of Africa. The current capitol, shown on modern maps, is the city of Moroni.

This claim, like many efforts to explain away the Book of Mormon, commits the logical fallacy of the Appeal to probability. This fallacy argues that because something is even remotely possible, it must be true.

When the facts are examined, the possibility of Joseph seeing Comoros and Moroni recedes; the idea becomes unworkable. The following gazetteers from Joseph's era were consulted:

Title Relevant Contents
Mucullock's Universal Gazateer, 2 vols (1843-4)

2257 pages of double columned miniscule print, with no reference to Comoros Islands or Moroni.

Morris' Universal Gazateer (1821) 831 pages, no mention of Comoros or Moroni

Brookes Gazateer

  • 1794 edition


  • Comora on p. 400, no mention of Moroni
  • 1819 edition
  • Comora, no mention of Moroni
  • 1835 edition
  • Comoro on p. 214, no mention of Moroni
  • 1843 edition
  • Comoro, no mention of Moroni

There is no evidence that Joseph saw these maps, or any other, but if he had they would have provided little help.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that any source would have contained the name of "Moroni." That settlement did not become the capital city until 1876 (32 years after Joseph's death and 47 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon), when Sultan Sa'id Ali settled there. At that time it was only a small settlement. Even a century later, in 1958, its population was only 6500.

The name "Meroni" on the Comoros island of Anjouan

As previously noted, it is unlikely that any map of the Comoro Archiplego available to Joseph Smith would have contained the name of "Moroni." The capitol city of Moroni was unlikely to have been present on early maps of the Comoros Islands in the 1700's. However, the name "Meroni" actually did appear in a different location on one of the other Comoros Islands on maps dated to 1748, 1752 and 1755. The following 1748 map of the island of Anjouan (also known as Nzwani) has been noted by critics to contain the name "Meroni".[239]

Meroni and moroni on modern map.jpg

The following map of Anjouan, dated to 1752, also contains the name "Meroni."

1752 map of anjouan with meroni.jpg

It is unlikely that Joseph would have seen this, since the name "Comoro" on maps always appears to be associated with the main island "Grande Comore", while the settlement of "Meroni" on Anjoun is too small to appear on such maps showing all four islands. For example, the following 1749 maps of the Comoros clearly labels the main island as "Comore," but the scale of the island of Anjouan obscures the names of any settlements there. In order for Joseph to obtain the name "Meroni" from Anjouan, he would have been required to consult the Anjouan map directly make this connection, since it lists the name "Comore" at the top.

1749 map of comoros islands.jpg


McGuire: "Anjouan, one of the Comoro islands, with an indicated anchorage identified as Meroni"

Ben McGuire:

Additionally the capitol city Moroni has not yet been found on any early map showing the Comoro Islands. Grunder notes in his discussion of the first map that “the Encyclopædia Britannica records volcanic eruptions beginning in 1830 on the island of Great Comoro (Grande Comore) where Maroni, the capitol of this territory (not shown on the map discussed here or on other period maps which I have examined), is located (Encyclopædia Britannica eleventh ed., 6:794–95, ‘Comoro Islands’)” (2008, p. 63). More recently, Mike Reed located an eighteenth century map of Anjouan, one of the Comoro islands, with an indicated anchorage identified as Meroni. Although this is adjacent to an entirely different island than the one with the city Moroni, it does demonstrate that if all we are concerned with is identifying homonyms, eventually we will find what we are looking for.74

The interesting corollary is that while we find this rather small location indicated on this map, the present day capitol of Comoro, Moroni, has yet to be found on any maps contemporary with the publication of the Book of Mormon, and while this isn’t a guarantee that it won’t be found (it wouldn’t surprise me if it were), it does indicate that its importance was far less than it is today. [240]


Question: Could Joseph Smith have heard the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from American whalers?

There is another speculation put forth non-Mormons regarding how Joseph Smith might have heard the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" that is not related to Captain Kidd. The assumption made on one website is that he "heard about these exotic places from stories of American whalers." [241] The website notes that "The Comoro islands were visited by a large number of American whaling ships beginning before the appearance of The Book of Mormon. Sailors aboard these ships, when they returned to the whaling ports of New England, told of their adventures in the western Indian Ocean and by the time The Book of Mormon first appeared in the 1820s, both Moroni and Comoro were words known to some Americans living in the eastern United States."[241] One would have to assume, however, that Joseph came into contact with "some Americans living in the eastern United States" who were familiar with the names. Such a connection is simply pure conjecture.

On the other hand, the same website also provides a useful background on the meaning of the names:

It should be first noted that the word, 'moroni', has a meaning. The word is from the group of languages spoken in the Comoro Islands and found in Swahili, as well. Translating into English, it means "at the place of fire." It is constructed of the root 'moro,' which means "fire" or "heat" and the locative '-ni,' which has the meaning "at the place of". Thus, constructed from the morphemes of the local languages ‘Moroni’ reflects the fact that it is located at the base of one of the world’s largest active volcanos. It should also be noted that the name, 'Moroni', is found on European maps as early as the middle of the 18th century and noted by travelers as the capital of a Sultan on the island of Ngazidja. The name, 'Comoro', also has a similar meaning in the local languages. It is composed of an old Swahili locative 'ko-' and the word 'moro' meaning "the place of fire." This name has been around since ancient times and can be found on Arabic maps published over a thousand years ago. [241]

This supports the idea that the names "Moroni" and "Comoro" are of authentic ancient origin.


Response to claim: "the uniform spelling for Hill Cumorah in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon is spelled as 'Camorah'"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

the uniform spelling for Hill Cumorah in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon is spelled as 'Camorah'.

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Oliver Cowdery acknowledged this as a spelling error. Changing the spelling to "Cumorah" actually made the name consistent with other Book of Mormon names.

Question: Why was the name "Cumorah" originally spelled "Camorah" in the 1830 Book of Mormon?

Oliver Cowdery stated that this was a spelling error

1830 Book of Mormon showing the spelling "Camorah"

The 1830 Book of Mormon uses the spelling "Camorah." Oliver Cowdery stated that this was a spelling error in the July 1835 issue of the Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate. Oliver Cowdery states:

By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon you will read Mormon's account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. (It is printed Camorah, which is an error.)

The correction of "Camorah" to "Cumorah" made it consistent with other Nephite names with the suffix "-cum"

The spelling was corrected to "Cumorah" in the 1837 reprint of the Book of Mormon. This makes it consistent with other Nephite names with the suffix "-cum" (for example, Teancum). There are no Nephite names which contain the suffix "-cam."


Response to claim: "'Camora' and settlement 'Moroni' were common names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

'Camora' and settlement 'Moroni' were common names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd (a pirate and treasure hunter) which many 19th century New Englanders – especially treasure hunters – were familiar with.

FairMormon Response


Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Actually, the names "Camora" and "Moroni" and their variants do not appear to be accessible in pirate and treasure hunting stories about Captain Kidd. This connection is an extrapolation by critics based upon the known fact that Kidd operated in the vicinity of the Comoros archipelago.

Question: Could Joseph Smith have acquired the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from stories of Captain Kidd that he read in his youth?

Captain William Kidd is known to have operated in the vicinity of the Comoro archipelago. One author notes that "During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Comoros, and especially Anjouan, were popular as both a hunting ground and headquarters for Indian Ocean pirates." [242]

  • Ex-Mormon Grant Palmer asserts that Joseph Smith acquired the names "Cumorah" and "Moroni" by reading stories of Captain Kidd in his youth. Palmer concludes that it is "reasonable to assert that Joseph Smith's hill in the "land of Camorah" [Comorah/Cumorah], "city of Moroni," and "land of Moroni/Meroni," is connected with the ilhas [islands] de Comoro"/"Camora," the Moroni/Meroni settlements, and these pirate adventures. [243]
  • Critic Ronald V. Huggins asserts that Captain Kidd was "hanged for crimes allegedly committed in the vicinity of Moroni on Grand Comoro." [244]

The primary inspiration for stories about Captain Kidd, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, fails to mention the names "Comoro" and "Moroni/Meroni/Maroni"

The primary inspiration for Captain Kidd stories and legends, Charles Johnson's 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, fails to mention the names "Comoro" and "Moroni/Meroni/Maroni" in conjunction with Kidd's exploits. It is the responsibility of those who make this claim to produce some sort of documentary evidence that these names existed in stories that were available to Joseph Smith.


Question: What is the relationship between Captain Kidd and the Comoro archipelago?

Captain Kidd operated in the vicinity of the Comoro archipelago

One possibility advanced by critics is that Joseph learned the names "Comoro" and "Meroni" from stories of Captain Kidd. One author notes that "During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Comoros, and especially Anjouan, were popular as both a hunting ground and headquarters for Indian Ocean pirates." [242] The island of Anjouan contained an anchorage named "Meroni." Typically, those that that claim that Camora and Moroni were "common names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd," do not cite a single source supporting their assertion that can be checked.

Pomeroy Tucker: "The stories of Stephen Burroughs and Captain Kidd, and the like, presented the highest charms for his expanding mental perceptions"

References to Joseph Smith being interested in the adventures of Captain Kidd come from some of his contemporaries years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. For example, Pomeroy Tucker in his 1867 book Origin, rise, and progress of Mormonism (37 years after the Book of Mormon was published and 23 years after Joseph's death), portrayed the Smith family as an "illiterate, whiskey-drinking, shiftless, irreligious race of people" and Joseph Smith, Jr. as the "laziest and most worthless of the generation." [245]:16 Tucker offers this insight regarding the young Joseph Smith and Captain Kidd:

Joseph, moreover, as he grew in years, had learned to read comprehensively, in which qualification he was far in advance of his elder brother, and even of his father; and this talent was assiduously devoted, as he quitted or modified his idle habits, to the perusal of works of fiction and records of criminality, such for instance as would be classed with the "dime novels" of the present day.[246] The stories of Stephen Burroughs and Captain Kidd, and the like, presented the highest charms for his expanding mental perceptions. As he further advanced in reading and knowledge, he assumed a spiritual or religious turn of mind, and frequently perused the Bible...[245]:17

Given the common belief that Captain Kidd had hidden treasure somewhere on the east coast, it is not unreasonable to assume that Joseph was familiar with the stories

We would, of course, dispute Tucker's late portrayal of the Smith family as lazy and shiftless, as would the contemporaneous historical records (which are more reliable than late, hostile testimony obviously designed to discredit the Smiths).

However, knowing that Joseph was involved in treasure seeking, and that the great motivation for much of the treasure seeking being performed at the time was the result of a common belief that Captain Kidd had hidden treasure somewhere on the east coast of the United States, it is not unreasonable to assume that Joseph was familiar with the stories.

The legend of Captain Kidd and his buried treasure was, in great part, inspired by Charles Johnson's 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, which does not mention "Comoros" or "Moroni"

The legend of Captain Kidd and his buried treasure was, in great part, inspired by Charles Johnson's 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates.[247] The book recounted the exploits of a number of well known pirates, including Captain Kidd. Johnson's book is said to have contributed to a number of fictionalized stories about Captain Kidd that became popular during Joseph Smith's time. However, the section of this book dealing with Captain Kidd offers little information regarding Comoro or Meroni. In fact, when referring to Kidd's interaction with the Comoros, it only refers to the individual islands by name without mentioning the name "Meroni" or "Maroni" at all. For example,

It does not appear all this while that [Captain Kidd] had the least design of turning Pirate; for near Mahala and Joanna both he met with Indian ships richly laden, to which he did not offer the least violence.[248]

The name "Joanna" refers to one of the islands in the Comoros Archipelago. In fact, "Joanna" (or "Johanna") is the island of Anjouan, upon which the anchorage "Meroni" is located. Johnson's book, however, would not offer the reader this detail: The names "Comoro" and "Meroni" are never even mentioned. If Joseph Smith learned these names from fictional stories relating the tales of Captain Kidd recounted in novels inspired by Johnson's book, how would such stories even contain these names?


Question: Was Captain Kidd "hanged for crimes allegedly committed in the vicinity of Moroni on Grand Comoro?"

Kidd was hanged for the murder of his ship's gunner...This act occurred at sea in the vicinity of the Comoro archipelago, not at "Moroni on Grand Comoro"

Was Captain Kidd, as Ronald Huggins asserts, "hanged for crimes allegedly committed in the vicinity of Moroni on Grand Comoro?" Technically, one could answer "yes" - he was certainly "in the vicinity" of the Comoros at the time. However, Kidd was hanged for the murder of his ship's gunner, William Moore, during a mutiny. Kidd was declared a pirate only after he seized the ship Quedah Merchant in 1698. This act occurred at sea in the vicinity of the Comoro archipelago, not at "Moroni on Grand Comoro." None of these actions related to the city of Moroni. The association of these events with "Moroni on Grand Comoro" is an unsupported assertion by the author Huggins, and these specific names have nothing to do with Kidd's execution. This seems to be an attempt by Huggins to more closely tie Kidd's execution with Joseph Smith and Mormonism.


Response to claim: "'View of the Hebrews' compared to the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

'View of the Hebrews' compared to the Book of Mormon

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The two books are so different that BYU actually republished it so that it could be made more widely available to those who wanted to compare them.

Question: Could Joseph Smith have used Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews as a guideline for creating the Book of Mormon?

Criticisms related to View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

  • It is claimed that a 19th century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith's construction of the Book of Mormon.
  • Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.

Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B. H. Roberts' list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon

The View of the Hebrews theory is yet another attempt to fit a secular origin to the Book of Mormon. Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B. H. Roberts' list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon. There are a significant number of differences between the two books, which are easily discovered upon reading Ethan Smith's work. Many points that Ethan Smith thought were important are not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon, and many of the "parallels" are no longer valid based upon current scholarship.[249]

Advocates of the Ethan Smith theory must also explain why Joseph, the ostensible forger, had the chutzpah to point out the source of his forgery. They must also explain why, if Joseph found this evidence so compelling, he did not exploit it for use in the Book of Mormon text itself, since the Book of Mormon contains no reference to the many "unparallels" that Ethan assured his readers virtually guaranteed a Hebrew connection to the Amerindians.


Question: Was the View of the Hebrews theory of Book of Mormon origin advanced during the lifetime of Joseph Smith?

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during Joseph Smith's lifetime

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during his lifetime. The prevailing theory of the day was the Spalding Theory, which quickly lost credibility upon the discovery of an actual Spalding manuscript in 1884 which bore no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. There are no records which indicate that Joseph Smith came into contact with the View of the Hebrews during the period of time that he was translating the Book of Mormon. The View of the Hebrews theory was in fact first proposed by I. Woodbridge Riley in 1902, 58 years after the death of the prophet.[250]

Joseph Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon

There was, however, a reference to View of the Hebrews within Joseph Smith's lifetime, but it came from the prophet himself. In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph quoted View of the Hebrews in support of the Book of Mormon:

If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt., who relates as follows: "Joseph Merrick, Esq., a highly respectable character in the church at Pittsfield, gave the following account: That in 1815, he was leveling some ground under and near an old wood shed, standing on a place of his, situated on (Indian Hill)... [Joseph then discusses the supposed phylacteries found among Amerindians, citing View of the Hebrews p. 220, 223.][251]

It strains credulity to claim that Joseph drew attention to the work from which he derived most of his ideas. Why would he call attention to the source of his forgery?


Question: What did B.H. Roberts say about View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon?

B.H. Roberts was playing "devil's advocate" when he examined View of the Hebrews, and showing what a critic might do

The View of the Hebrews theory was examined in detail by B. H. Roberts in 1921 and 1922. Roberts took the position of examining the Book of Mormon from a critical perspective in order to alert the General Authorities to possible future avenues of attack by critics. The resulting manuscripts were titled Book of Mormon Difficulties and A Parallel. Roberts, who believed in a hemispheric geography for the Book of Mormon, highlighted a number of parallels between View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon. Roberts stated,

[C]ould the people of Mulek and of Lehi...part of the time numbering and occupying the land at least from Yucatan to Cumorah...live and move and have their being in the land of America and not come in contact with other races and tribes of men, if such existed in the New World within Book of Mormon times? To make this seem possible the area occupied by the Nephites and Lamanites would have to be extremely limited, much more limited, I fear, than the Book of Mormon would admit our assuming.[252]

Roberts concluded that, if one assumed that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon himself, that View of the Hebrews could have provided him with a foundation for creating the book. In fact, many of the issues highlighted by Roberts vanish when a limited geography theory is considered. The acceptance of the View of the Hebrews theory is therefore contingent upon the acceptance of a hemispheric geography model for the Book of Mormon. In order to promote View of the Hebrews as a source, critics necessarily reject any limited geography theory proposal for the Book of Mormon.

Roberts rejected the idea that the Book of Mormon was not divine

In 1985, Roberts' manuscripts were published under the title Studies of the Book of Mormon. This book is used by critics to support their claim that B. H. Roberts lost his testimony after performing the study. Roberts, however, clearly continued to publicly support the Book of Mormon until his death, and reaffirmed his testimony both publicly and in print.


Question: What are the similarities and differences between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon?

Examples of parallels and differences

Some parallels do exist between the two books. For example, View of the Hebrews postulates the existence of a civilized and a barbarous nation who were constantly at war with one another, with the civilized society eventually being destroyed by their uncivilized brethren. This has obvious similarities to the story of the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon.

"Parallels" that actually aren't parallels

Many of the "parallels" that are discussed are not actually parallels at all once they are fully examined:

Both speak of... View of the Hebrews Book of Mormon
...the destruction of Jerusalem... ...by the Romans in A.D. 70. ...by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
...Israelites coming to the American continent... ...via dry land across the Bering Strait. ...via the ocean on board a ship.
...colonists spread out to fill the entire land... ...from the North to the South. ...from the South to the North.
...a great lawgiver (whom some assume to be associated with the legend of Quetzalcoatl)... ...who is identified as Moses. ...who is identified as Jesus Christ.
...an ancient book that was preserved for a long time and then buried... ...because they had lost the knowledge of reading it and it would be of no further use to them. [253] ...in order to preserve the writings of prophets for future generations.
...a buried book taken from the earth... ...in the form of four, dark yellow, folded leaves of old parchment.[254] ...in the form of a set of gold metal plates.
...the Egyptian language, since ...an Egyptian influence is present in hieroglyphic paintings made by native Americans.[255] ...a reformed Egyptian was used to record a sacred history.

Parallels that are everywhere

Some "parallels" between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews are actually parallels with the Bible as well:

The Book of Mormon View of the Hebrews The King James Bible
The Book of Mormon tells the story of inspired seers and prophets. View of the Hebrews talks of Indian traditions that state that their fathers were able to foretell the future and control nature. The Bible tells the story of inspired seers and prophets.
The Book of Mormon was translated by means of the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two stones fastened to a breastplate. View of the Hebrews describes a breastplate with two white buttons fastened to it as resembling the Urim and Thummim. The Bible describes the Urim and Thummim as being fastened to a breastplate (Exodus 28:30).

This highlights the fact that general parallels are likely to be found between works that treat the same types of subjects, such as ancient history. In what ancient conflict did one side not see themselves as representing light and civilization against the dark barbarism of their enemies?

"Unparallels"

Critics generally ignore the presence of many "unparallels"—these are elements of Ethan Smith's book which would have provided a rich source of material for Joseph to use in order to persuade his contemporaries that the Book of Mormon was an ancient history of the American Indians, and that they were descended from Israel. Yet, the Book of Mormon consistently ignores such supposed "bulls-eyes," which is good news for proponents of the Book of Mormon's authenticity, since virtually all of Ethan's "evidences" have been judged to be false or misleading.

The lack of such "unparallels" is bad news, however, for anyone wanting to claim that Joseph got his inspiration or information from Ethan Smith.

Scripture use in View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

If the View of the Hebrews served as the basis for the Book of Mormon, one would think that the Bible scriptures used by Ethan Smith would be mined by Joseph Smith for the Book of Mormon. Yet, this is not the case.

Why was this only discovered later?

No contemporary critic of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon pointed out the supposedly "obvious" connection to the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. It is only with the failure of the Spaulding theory that critics began seeking a new naturalistic explanation for Joseph's production of a 500+ book of scripture. As Stephen Ricks notes:

Beyond these "unparallels," there is a further question that must be answered by proponents of the View of the Hebrews hypothesis: why do none of the early critics of the Book of Mormon mention Ethan Smith in their attacks on it? If the parallels are so evident, why weren't they noticed by individuals who were not only acquainted with Ethan Smith's book, but were also existentially interested in its claims? Why wasn't it prominently mentioned as a source for the Book of Mormon until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the book itself had only an antiquarian interest and its contents were no longer so widely a part of popular discussion? My suspicion is that what appear today to be "distinctives" of View of the Hebrews, eschatological and otherwise, seemed less so in the early part of the nineteenth century, when these ideas flowed freely in published and unpublished forums.[256]


Question: Has the book View of the Hebrews been readily available?

Because availability was limited, BYU's Religious Studies Center re-published the 1825 edition of View of the Hebrews in 1996

The View of the Hebrews theory became more popular as the availability of the book itself diminished. The best evidence that argues against View of the Hebrews as the primary source for the Book of Mormon is a reading of the text itself, yet the ability to access that text had become more difficult over the years. In order to provide the interested reader with the ability to decide for themselves, BYU's Religious Studies Center re-published the 1825 edition of View of the Hebrews in 1996.[257] It is also available at wikisource.


Question: Is there a link between Ethan Smith, author of View of the Hebrews, and Oliver Cowdery?

Both Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended

Critics postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written. Beyond speculation based upon this circumstantial evidence, there is no indication of a connection between View of the Hebrews, Oliver Cowdery, and the Book of Mormon.


Response to claim: "Joseph’s father having the same dream in 1811 as Lehi’s dream"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph’s father having the same dream in 1811 as Lehi’s dream

FairMormon Response


Fact
The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The dream of Joseph Smith, Sr. was recorded only long after the Book of Mormon was published.

Question: Did Joseph Smith incorporate his father's dream of the tree of life into the Book of Mormon?

The details of Joseph's father's dream were written long after the Book of Mormon was published

Critics point to similarities between a dream Joseph Smith's father had and Lehi's dream of the tree of life as evidence that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon based on his own experiences. Significantly, none of Joseph's family regarded the similarities as evidence that Joseph Jr. was engaging in a forgery.

The details of the dream were written long after the Book of Mormon was published. Lucy's account is (at the very least) influenced in its verbiage by the Book of Mormon. Either Joseph Sr. had a remarkably similar dream, or Lucy used the material in the Book of Mormon to either bolster her memory, or it unwittingly influenced her memory.

There are three potential explanations for the similarities

  1. Joseph Smith plagiarized Joseph Sr.'s dream when he wrote the Book of Mormon. This is the stance adopted by the critics.
  2. Joseph Sr. had a dream that was similar to the dream experienced by Lehi, and this was a sign to the Prophet's family that he was translating a real record that came from God. This is certainly possible, though it is impossible to prove or disprove by historical techniques, and so will not be elaborated on. It remains, however, a viable option.
  3. Lucy Mack Smith's account of the dream (which she recorded many years after the fact, when the Book of Mormon account was well-known and published) may have influenced how she remembered and/or recorded her account of Joseph Sr's dream.

Details of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s dream of the tree of life

According to Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, Senior, the father of the Prophet, had the following dream in 1811 when the family was living in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Joseph Smith, Junior, would have been 5 years old at the time.

I thought...I was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus traveling, the thought suddenly came into my mind that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing, before I went any further. So I asked myself, "What motive can I have in traveling here, and what place can this be?" My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, "This is the desolate world; but travel on." The road was so broad and barren that I wondered why I should travel in it; for, said I to myself, "Broad is the road, and wide is the gate that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to everlasting' life, and few there be that go in there at."

Traveling a short distance farther, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the termination; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, "I can not eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me." Accordingly, I went and brought my family, which consisted of a wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed.

While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded.

I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. "No," he replied, "look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also." Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we ate, the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down upon our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfuls.

After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, "It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God because of their humility."

I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy.[258]

There are many obvious connections between this dream and Lehi's vision of the tree of life

There are many obvious connections between this dream and Lehi's vision of the tree of life recorded in 1 Nephi 8:

  • A desolate field representing the world (8:4).
  • A narrow path (8:20).
  • A river of water (8:13).
  • A rope running along the bank of the river (similar in function to the rod of iron in 8:19, 24).
  • A tree with dazzling white fruit (8:10–11).
  • Joseph, Sr. desires that his family should partake of the fruit also (8:12).
  • A spacious building filled with people who are mocking those who eat the fruit (8:26–27).
  • Joseph, Sr. and his family ignore the mocking (8:33).
  • The fruit represents the love of God (11:22).
  • The building represents the world (11:36; 12:18).

The source of the dream is Lucy's manuscript for which she dictated in the winter of 1844–45, 15 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon

The source of the dream is Lucy's manuscript for Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, which she dictated to Martha Jane Coray in the winter of 1844–45. Note the date of Lucy's dictation: more than 15 years after Joseph Smith, Junior, dictated the Book of Mormon.

Dreams are notoriously ephemeral. It is difficult for most people to remember the details of a dream, and those details quickly fade in the first few minutes after awaking.

The amount of detail Lucy records and the second-hand nature and late date of her testimony have led many to the conclusion that Lucy's recollection was strongly influenced by what she read in the Book of Mormon. That is, it is difficult to establish how much Joseph Sr.'s original dream had in common with the Book of Mormon, since the details which we have are only available after the fact, when Lucy's memory would have been affected by what she learned in the more detailed Book of Mormon account (even as it stands, the Book of Mormon account is far more detailed and lengthy than the material from 1844-45).

Thus, it seems plausible that there is a relationship between the Book of Mormon and Lucy's text--but, we cannot know in what direction(s) that influence moved.


Response to claim: "Elder B.H. Roberts came to the following conclusion: 'Did Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon?'"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Elder B.H. Roberts came to the following conclusion: 'Did Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon?'

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The critic fails to note what B.H. Roberts' actual conclusion was, as quoted in Studies of the Book of Mormon p. 58.

B.H. Roberts said the following about his examination of critical approaches to the Book of Mormon, later published under the name Studies of the Book of Mormon:

Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. This report [is] ... for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro and con, as well that which has been produced against it as that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.[259]

Question: Did B.H. Roberts state that it was possible for Joseph Smith to have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own?

B.H. Roberts was a believer in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, and talked of young Joseph Smith as he sat up late detailing to the family the wonderful conversations he had with the angel

B.H. Roberts retained his belief that the Book of Mormon was of divine origin up until the end of his life. Yet, according to one critical website, B.H. Roberts "postulated that it was certainly possible for Joseph Smith to have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own." [260] Roberts, however, believed that Joseph had conversations with the Angel Moroni.

B.H. Roberts, in his critical study of the Book of Mormon, pointed out how future critics might make use of this.

The face of it is first established by the testimony of the mother who bore him, Lucy Smith. Speaking of the days immediately following the revelation making known the existence of the Book of Mormon to her son...Lucy Smith in her History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, recounts how in the evening of that day, the young prophet sat up late detailing to the family the wonderful conversations he had with the angel;[261]


Truman Madsen: "Among readers who came to the Book of Mormon with hard, skeptical assumptions, B.H. Roberts is notable"

Truman G. Madsen:

Among readers who came to the Book of Mormon with hard, skeptical assumptions, B.H. Roberts is notable. He was capacitated by temperament and equipped by study for penetrating analysis. Moreover, at many junctures of his life he had profound personal reasons and emotional and spiritual stresses which might have led a man of lesser integrity to discard wholesale his religious heritage. But on his other side was his capacity for constant, patient study. This he brought (for more than a half century) to the Book of Mormon as he did to his work in history, never letting go, never fully satisfied with what he had written or said, and never unwilling to consider afresh the latest spate of difficulties.[262]


Question: Did B.H. Roberts lose his faith in the Church and the Book of Mormon?

An excellent argument against the claim that B.H. Roberts abandoned the Book of Mormon can be found in his last book, which he considered his masterwork

Critics charge that the 'problems' with the Book of Mormon made Brigham H. Roberts (an early LDS apologist and member of the First Quorum of Seventy) lose his faith in the its historicity. The primary source upon which this criticism is based originates with Roberts' manuscripts detailing his critical study of the Book of Mormon, which was published under the title Studies of the Book of Mormon years after his death.

An excellent argument against the claim that B.H. Roberts abandoned the Book of Mormon can be found in his last book, which he considered his masterwork. [B. H. Roberts, The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Studies, 1994).] Given Roberts' clear respect for the Book of Mormon in this volume, there can be little doubt that he continued to believe in and treasure it.

Ironically for the critics, many of the issues which drew Elder Roberts' attention have now been solved as more information about the ancient world has become available. He expressed faith that this would be the case, and has been vindicated:

We who accept [the Book of Mormon] as a revelation from God have every reason to believe that it will endure every test; and the more thoroughly it is investigated, the greater shall be its ultimate triumph.[263]

Roberts was an able scholar, and he was not afraid to play 'devil's advocate' to strengthen the Church's defenses against its enemies

In a presentation on some potential Book of Mormon 'problems' prepared for the General Authorities, Roberts wrote a caution that subsequent critics have seen fit to ignore:

Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. This report [is] ... for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro and con, as well that which has been produced against it as that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakeable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.[264]

Roberts felt that faith in the Book of Mormon was a given, and so did not consider any 'negative' points to be of ultimate concern

Roberts felt that faith in the Book of Mormon was a given, and so did not consider any 'negative' points to be of ultimate concern, though he did seek for better answers than he then had. The critics have often published his list of of "parallels" between the Book of Mormon and Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, without informing modern readers that Roberts did not consider the problems insoluable, or a true threat to faith in the Book of Mormon. They also do not generally cite the numerous other statements in which, to the end of his life, he declared the Book of Mormon to be a divine record.

Roberts' studies also made him willing to modify previous conceptions, such as when he concluded that the Book of Mormon was not a history of the only immigrants to the New World.

In 1930, he enthused about the Book of Mormon a century after the Church's organization:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for God hath spoken. ... The Record of Joseph in the hands of Ephraim, the Book of Mormon, has been revealed and translated by the power of God, and supplies the world with a new witness for the Christ, and the truth and the fulness of the Gospel.[265]

Other witnesses by B.H. Roberts of truth of the Church and the Gospel

The book Discourses of B.H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy, compiled by Ben R. Roberts (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company 1948) contains the last seven discourses delivered by Elder Roberts: four in Salt Lake City, one in San Francisco (on the radio), and the last two at the World Fellowship of Faith in Chicago, in August-September 1933. He died three weeks after the last discourse. Roberts had returned from a lengthy illness, which made him realize how precious life is. He determined to leave his testimony, especially for the youth of the church.

From the first of these addresses:[266]

It has always been a matter of pride with me, in my more than fifty years of ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that it was no trivial thing which called this Church of the New Dispensation into existence. It was not founded upon the idea that men differed in relation to how baptism should be administered, whether by sprinkling or pouring, or immersion; or whether it was for the remission of sins, or because sins had been forgiven. I always rejoice that it had a broader foundation than whether the form of church government and administration should be Episcopal or Congregational, or the Presbyterian form of government; or any other minor [23] difference of theologians. It went to the heart of things, and astonished the world, and at the same time, of course, aroused its opposition.

When the Prophet of the New Dispensation asked God for wisdom, and which of the many churches about him he should join, he was told to join none of them, for they were all wrong; their creeds were false; they drew near to the Lord with their lips, but their hearts were far removed from him; they had a form of godliness but denied the power thereof; that the Christian world, especially, had, in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and had broken the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 44), of which the blood of the Christ was the blood of that everlasting covenant. He promised the incoming of a New Dispensation of the Gospel of Christ, which would link together and unite all former dispensations, from Adam down to the present time, the great stream of events speeding on towards an immense ocean of truth in which it would be united with all truth. It was a world movement. To lay the foundations of a greater faith, it brought forth the American volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. In time the authority of God, the holy priesthood was restored, the minor phase of it, through John the Baptist; and later Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the kingdom of heaven, bestowed upon them by the Christ, appeared to the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, and the divine and supreme authority from God was conferred upon them. By this authority and under the power of it they organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, outlined its doctrines, and established it firmly in the earth.

That is how the New Dispensation began—not whether baptism should be by immersion, or for the forgiveness of sins. The rubbish of accumulated ages was swept aside, the rocks made bare, and the foundations relaid” (22-23).

Roberts then refers to a statement in David Whitmer, To All Believers in Christ, about the translation of the Book of Mormon being interrupted due to some problems between Joseph and Emma:

He [Joseph] took up the divine instrument, the Urim and Thummim, tried to translated but utterly failed. Things remained dark to his vision. David Whitmer tells how Joseph left the translating room and [26] went to the woodslot on the Whitmer farm, and there corrected himself, brought himself into a state of humiliation and of exaltation at the same time. He went back to the house, became reconciled to Emma, his wife, came up to the translating room, and again the visions were given and the translation went on. But he could translate only as he was in a state of exaltation of mind and in accord with the Spirit of God, which leads to the source of hidden treasures of knowledge” (25-6).

Roberts then refers to the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, which was revealed shortly after the Church was organized, in June 1830:

It goes further than we have come, this knowledge by faith. After the Prophet had translated the Book of Mormon he began to receive the revelations which today make up the Book of Moses, the translation of [27] which began to be published about six months after the Book of Mormon had been translated” (26-7).

I admire the achievements of the men of science and hold them in honor…. But what am I to think of the Prophet of God, who speaking a hundred years before him, and speaking by the knowledge that comes by faith, revealed the same truth—viz., that as one earth shall pass away, so shall another come, and there is no end to God’s work? This gives to the Church of the New Dispensation the right to voice her protest against a dying universe—its death blows to the immortality of man.

Oh, ye Elders of Israel, this is our mission, to withstand this theory of a dying universe and this destruction of the idea of the immortality and eternal life of man. We have this knowledge revealed of God, and it is for us to maintain the perpetuity of the universe and the immortal life of man. Such was the mission of the Christ, such is ours” (29).

I am one of the special witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, made so by the office I hold, and I want to begin a return to my ministry in this pulpit by exercising my duty as a special witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Here it is: Jesus Christ is the very Son of God, the incarnation of all that is divine, the revelation of God to man, the Redeemer of the world; for as in Adam all die, so shall they in Christ be brought forth alive. Also Jesus is the Savior of individual man, through him and him alone comes repentance and [30] forgiveness of sins, through which the possibility of unity with God comes. As his witness I stand before you on this occasion to proclaim these truths concerning the Christ, not from scientific knowledge or book learning, but from the knowledge that comes by faith” (29-30)

It is difficult to see these as the words of one who has lost his faith in the Church, the Book of Mormon, or Joseph Smith.


Response to claim: "The staggering parallels and similarities" of The Late War "to the Book of Mormon are astounding"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The staggering parallels and similarities to the Book of Mormon are astounding. This outstanding web page outlines very clearly and simply just how devastating the Late War is to the Book of Mormon and its claims....
  • Devices of “curious workmanship” in relation to boats and weapons.
  • A “stripling” soldier “with his “weapon of war in his hand.”
  • “A certain chief captain…was given in trust a band of more than two thousand chosen men, to go forth to battle” and who “all gave their services freely for the good of their country.”
  • Fortifications: “the people began to fortify themselves and entrench the high Places round about the city.”
  • Objects made “partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball.”
  • “Their polished steels of fine workmanship.”
  • “Nevertheless, it was so that the freeman came to the defence of the city, built strong holds and forts and raised up fortifications in abundance.”
  • Three Indian Prophets.
  • “Rod of iron.”
  • War between the wicked and righteous.
  • Maintaining the standard of liberty with righteousness.
  • Righteous Indians vs. savage Indians.
  • False Indian prophets.
  • Conversion of Indians.
  • Bands of robbers/pirates marauding the righteous protagonists.
  • Brass plates.
  • “And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the banners of the great Sanhedrim” compared to Alma 62:5: “And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in defense of their freedom…”
  • Worthiness of Christopher Columbus.
  • Ships crossing the ocean.
  • A battle at a fort where righteous white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives driven by a white military leader. White protagonists are prepared for battle and slaughter their opponents to such an extent that they fill the trenches surrounding the fort with dead bodies. The surviving elements flee into the wilderness/forest.
  • Cataclysmic earthquake followed by great darkness.
  • Elephants/mammoths in America.
  • Literary Hebraisms/Chiasmus.
  • Boats and barges built from trees after the fashion of the ark.
  • A bunch of “it came to pass”

FairMormon Response


Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The "staggering" parallels aren't so "astounding" once you take a closer look at them.
Logical Fallacy: Texas Sharpshooter
The author located some pattern in the data that he or she believes was the cause of something else, despite the lack of any supporting connection, and asserted that this was, in fact, the actual cause.

In this case, the critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

YouTube Video Response: "Letter to a CES Director: A Closer Look - CES Letter 15 to 17 Late War" by Brian Hales.

Question: Did Joseph Smith plagiarize passages from Gilbert Hunt's book The Late War, between the United States and Great Britain, from June, 1812, to February, 1815?

An assumption is being made that Joseph Smith must have read Gilbert Hunt's The Late War in the absence of any evidence to support it

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, in "A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," (http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/) propose a number of parallel sentence structures between Gilbert Hunt's book The Late War and the Book of Mormon. The authors conclude that Joseph Smith read Hunt's book while in school (without any actual evidence that Joseph ever actually saw the book). They base this conclusion upon the assumption that the book was widely available, and therefore Joseph must have read it. Hence, they conclude that Joseph constructed the Book of Mormon by using structural elements of The Late War. The evidence is presented as a series of comparisons between the Book of Mormon and The Late War.

Seventy-five of the parallels identified as significant between the two texts came from the Copyright statements of the two books

Seventy-five of the parallels identified as significant between the two texts came from the Copyright statement. Why? Because the copyright statement was a fill-in-the-blank form. It had a certain set of language that was standardized for the period. So books copyrighted in the same general area at the same general time, such at The Late War and the Book of Mormon, would have nearly identical copyright statements. And this study found 75 parallels between the two. This shouldn't surprise us, because of course, both books had copyright statements that were reliant on a common source. And we can see from this dense material that there is a relationship between the two. But anyone who actually looks at the texts will also see that this has nothing to do with what might be termed the creative content in each work.

Most of the similarities occur simply because both The Late War and the Book of Mormon use the language of the King James Bible

Most of the similarities occur because they both use the language of the King James Bible. For both, the language choice seems like a stylistic decision (and not determined by the content). And in fact, the Book of Mormon quotes from Isaiah a couple of dozen chapters. This creates a relationship between the Bible and both of these books. The computer model doesn't have a way of separating style or word choice from content and meaning (and both texts can use the same phrase in different ways). We have to read it to realize that while one is simply copying the Bible (mining it for phrases), the other is creating theological discussion by taking a passage and expanding on it. 2 Nephi 2 quotes from Genesis about Adam and Eve, and then goes from there to provide commentary and discussion about the theology involved. The Late War may use the language or even quote from the Old Testament, but it never goes through commentary and theological discussion. That isn't its purpose. Sometimes the same passages get used. The Late War makes references to a specific battle and describes it as a David versus Goliath encounter. The Book of Mormon uses the David and Goliath narrative in an allusion to the Old Testament. They are very, very different ways of using the Old Testament text - even if on the surface, they use the same bit of material. All of this is important because if The Late War served as a model, or lent its language, we would expect perhaps to see other things influenced by it as well. And, we don't. But the computer model isn't capable of judging the quality of the parallels being offered.

The authors employ a fallacy that is called the Texas Marksman (or the Texas Bulls Eye)

The authors of the study present us these lists of similarities. In presenting this list, we get presented with a fallacy that is called the Texas Marksman (or the Texas Bulls Eye). Essentially, the way the reference works is that you shoot a bunch of rounds into the side of your barn, and then you go up to the holes and paint your target around them (giving you the best and tightest clustering). Usually, the way these models work in accepted applications is that you start by testing the model in situations where you already know the outcome. That way, you can see how reliable your new model is. And if it is highly reliable in known cases, then you can start cautiously applying it to unknown models (you don't create your own target this way).

By intuiting that it must be right, this model used with The Late War simply skipped the testing part. But this created one of the biggest obvious problems with the theory. They didn't stop with the Book of Mormon. They ran a test on a Jane Austin novel, and found a source (a relatively unknown book from 1810). Why is this important? Austin was a prolific writer, sending thousands of letters during her lifetime detailing what she was reading, her influences, writing about her writing, and so on. We have a huge body of literature devoted to dealing with her writing (she was one of the most important writers of the period). So when you have a statistical model that produces a brand new source, not noticed by anyone previously, not mentioned in any of her letters, and so on - there ought to be a bit of a red flag raised. But there wasn't. Had this theory been introduced to academic literary theorists - this would have been the major point of dispute (since they don't really care about the Book of Mormon). Did this model really find a previously unknown and unidentified source of Jane Austin's work? Or did it simply create the illusion of doing this by painting a bulls eye after clustering its data? I am pretty confident it was the second option here. (As a side note, discovering a new source for Jane Austin would be a thesis significant sort of discovery).


Question: Does Gilbert Hunt's The Late War talk of 2000 "striplings" who go to war?

Critics' comparison: It is noted that both books talk of two thousand young men who went to war [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Book of Mormon, Alma 53:18-20: two thousand of those young men ... to defend their country. ... they took their weapons of war, ... were all young men, and they were exceeding valiant for courage, ...[268]
  • The Late War 35:5-6: two thousand hardy men, who ... fought freely for their country ... Now the men of war ... were ... men of dauntless courage.

The authors note that "The Late War does not include the phrase 'stripling soldiers' like the Book of Mormon; however, it does share the same context as the distinctive Book of Mormon story: striplings in battle, including a band of 2,000 courageous soldiers who volunteer in a desperate fight for the freedom of their country against an oppressive king (Amalickiah / King George III)."[267]

Full context comparison: "striplings" are not mentioned in connection with the Late War's "two thousand hardy men"

This passage from the Late War does not mention "striplings" or "stripling soldiers".

Alma 53:18-22:

18 Now behold, there were two thousand of those young men, who entered into this covenant and took their weapons of war to defend their country.

19 And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support; for they took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader.

20 And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.

21 Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.

22 And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea.

The Late War Chapter 35 (p.126):

5 Immediately Jackson took two thousand hardy men, who were called volunteers, because they had, unsolicited, offered their services to their country, and led them against the savages.

6 Now the men of war who followed after him were mostly from the state of Tennessee, and men of dauntless courage.

The 1828 Webster's dictionary definition for the word "stripling" simply means "a youth in the state of adolescence"

From Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary:

STRIPLING, n. [from strip, stripe; primarily a tall slender youth, one that shoots up suddenly. ] A youth in the state of adolescence, or just passing from

The word "stripling" has no particular association with war or warriors. It simply refers to an adolescent

In order to find the word "stripling," one must go to back to Chapter 19:32, or Chapter 28:2:

The Late War Chapter 19 (p. 69):

32 About this time, a stripling from the south, with his weapon of war in his hand, ran up to Zebulon, and spake unto him, saying

The Late War, Chapter 28 (p. 99):

2 And the vessels of war of Columbia that were upon the waters of the lake were not yet prepared for the battle; the name of their commander was M'Donough, a stripling.



Question: Are there similarities between the description of forts in the Book of Mormon and Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: Ditches, fortifications and strongholds

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Book of Mormon, Alma 49:20-25: [men] were prepared, with their swords and their slings, to smite ... with an immense slaughter ... ditches ...filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded.
  • The Late War 29:20-23: [men] were prepared ... and they let loose their weapons of war ... and smote ... with great slaughter. And the deep ditch that surrounded the fort was strewed with their slain and their wounded.

And

  • Book of Mormon, Alma 49,52: it came to pass ... on the tenth day of the month ... the Nephites had dug a ridge of earth ... so high [...] round about ... the city ... And ... built a strong hold ...
  • The Late War 51: it came to pass ... on the tenth day of the eighth month ... the people began to fortify ... and entrench the high places round about the city. And ... build their strong holds ...

One critic states that both books talk about "Fortifications: 'the people began to fortify themselves and entrench the high Places round about the city.'"[269]

Full context comparison of Alma 49:20-22 with The Late War 29:20-21

Alma 49:20-22

20 Thus they were prepared, yea, a body of their strongest men, with their swords and their slings, to smite down all who should attempt to come into their place of security by the place of entrance; and thus were they prepared to defend themselves against the Lamanites.

21 And it came to pass that the captains of the Lamanites brought up their armies before the place of entrance, and began to contend with the Nephites, to get into their place of security; but behold, they were driven back from time to time, insomuch that they were slain with an immense slaughter.

22 Now when they found that they could not obtain power over the Nephites by the pass, they began to dig down their banks of earth that they might obtain a pass to their armies, that they might have an equal chance to fight; but behold, in these attempts they were swept off by the stones and arrows which were thrown at them; and instead of filling up their ditches by pulling down the banks of earth, they were filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded bodies.

The Late War Chapter 29 (p. 104) off-site:

20 But the men of Croghan were prepared for them; and they let loose their weapons of war upon them, and set their destroying engine to work, and smote the men of Britain, hip and thigh, with great slaughter.

21 And the deep ditch that surrounded the fort was strewed with their slain and their wounded.

Alma 49: talks of the Nephites digging a "ridge of earth" to prevent stones and arrows from reaching them

1 And now it came to pass in the eleventh month of the nineteenth year, on the tenth day of the month, the armies of the Lamanites were seen approaching towards the land of Ammonihah.

2 ...Skipped

3 ...Skipped

4 But behold, how great was their disappointment; for behold, the Nephites had dug up a ridge of earth round about them, which was so high that the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them that they might take effect, neither could they come upon them save it was by their place of entrance.

5 ....Skipped

6 ....Skipped

7 ....Skipped

8 ....Skipped

9 ....Skipped

10 Now, if king Amalickiah had come down out of the land of Nephi, at the head of his army, perhaps he would have caused the Lamanites to have attacked the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah; for behold, he did care not for the blood of his people.

11 But behold, Amalickiah did not come down himself to battle. And behold, his chief captains durst not attack the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah, for Moroni had altered the management of affairs among the Nephites, insomuch that the Lamanites were disappointed in their places of retreat and they could not come upon them.

Alma 50 ...Skipped

Alma 51 ...Skipped

Alma 52 ...Skipped

Alma 53:6 talks of the Nephites building a "stronghold" to keep prisoners

6 And it came to pass that Moroni had thus gained a victory over one of the greatest of the armies of the Lamanites, and had obtained possession of the city of Mulek, which was one of the strongest holds of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi; and thus he had also built a stronghold to retain his prisoners.

The Late War 51 (p. 199-201) talks of "entrenching" the "high places" around the city and building "strong holds" off-site

3 So it came to pass, that the husbandmen from the surrounding country gathered together, and pitched their tents hard by the city.

4 ...Skipped

5 ...Skipped

6 ...Skipped

7 ...Skipped

8 Moreover, on the tenth day of the eighth month, in the eighteen hundred and fourteenth year, the inhabitants assembled together in the midst of the city, even in a place called the Park, where the Federal Hall, a superb edifice, rears its majestic front; within the walls of which the wise men, the expounders of the law, preside, and deliberate for the benefit of the people.

9 ...Skipped

10 ...Skipped

11 ...Skipped

12 ...Skipped

13 ...Skipped

14 So the people began to fortify themselves and entrench the high places round about the city.

15 And when they went out in its defence, to build their strong holds and to raise up their battlements; lo! the steam-boats of Fulton conveyed them thither, about a thousand at a time, even towards the heights of Brooklyn in the east, and the heights of Haerlem in the north.

Gilbert Hunt's The Late War, pages 199-201


Question: Was the Book of Mormon description of the Liahona derived from Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: Both books are said to describe a ball shaped object made of brass of "curious" workmanship[267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 16:10: a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles
  • The Late War 50:24: made partly of brass ... with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball.

One critic has interpreted this to mean that both books describe "Objects made 'partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball.'"[270]

1 Nephi 16:10 talks of a "round ball of curious workmanship made of fine brass" while The Late War 50:27 talks of "mighty evil things" called "torpedoes" like a "large ball" made "partly of brass" with "curious works" used for blowing up ships

1 Nephi 16:10

10 And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.

The Late War Chapter 50 (p. 195) off-site

27 Yea, these are mighty evil things, and they are called torpedoes, which may be said to signify sleeping devils; which come, as a thief in the night, to destroy the servants of the king; and were contrived by that arch fiend, whose name was Fulton.

28 Now these wonderful torpedoes were made partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball.

29 And, after they were prepared, and a great quantity of the black dust put therein, they were let down into the water, night unto the strong ships, with intent to destroy them;

Gilbert Hunt's The Late War page 195


Question: Does the Book of Mormon mention "polished steel" of "fine workmanship" as described in Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: It is noted that both books mention "steel" and "fine workmanship" in the same paragraph [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

One critic of the Church seems to find the phrase "“Their polished steels of fine workmanship" in The Late War to be somehow indicative that the Book of Mormon copied this concept, despite the fact that the Book of Mormon never mentions this.[271]

The Book of Mormon speaks of "fine workmanship of wood," while The Late War talks of "polished steels of fine workmanship"

Jarom 1:8:

8 And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war.

The Late War Chapter 54 (p. 216) off-site:

7 Their polished steels, of fine workmanship, glittered in the sun, and the movement of their sqadrons was as the waving of a wheat-field, when the south wind passeth gently over it.


Question: Does the Book of Mormon, like Gilbert Hunt's The Late War, talk of "freemen who came to the defence of the city, built strong holds and forts, and raised up fortifications in abundance"?

Critics' comparison: The word "freemen" appears in both books [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

Alma 51:6:

6 And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen; and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.

Alma 60:25:

25 And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold I will leave a part of my freemen to maintain this part of our land, and I will leave the strength and the blessings of God upon them, that none other power can operate against them—

The Late War 51 (p. 200) off-site

7 Nevertheless, it was so that the freemen who came to the defence of the city, built strong holds and forts, and raised up fortifications in abundance, inasmuch as the whole place was as it were one camp.

The Late War 38:26-27 (p. 141) off-site

26 Nevertheless, David said unto the captains of the king, Come singly, and not like cowards, upon me; then shall ye receive the thunders of the freemen of Columbia abundantly;

27 And her liberty shall not suffer, although in the contest ye may destroy my vessel upon the face of the waters.

The Late War 48:12 (p. 180) off-site:

With the spirit of freemen, they grasped their weapons of war in their hands, and went out to meet them without fear; resolved to conquer or to die.

The "freemen" of the Book of Mormon did not build fortifications

One critic of the Church notes the phrase “Nevertheless, it was so that the freeman came to the defence of the city, built strong holds and forts and raised up fortifications in abundance" as indicative of some connection to the Book of Mormon. [272] However, the Book of Mormon passages referring to "freemen" (as opposed to "king men") say nothing about them building fortifications.

The word "freemen" was used in Colonial times

Wikipedia "Freemen (Colonial)":

Freeman is a term which originated in 12th-century Europe and was common as an English or American Colonial expression in Puritan times. In the Bay Colony, a man had to be a member of the Church to be a freeman. In Colonial Plymouth, a man did not need to be a member of the Church, but he had to be elected to this privilege by the General Court. Being a freeman carried with it the right to vote, and by 1632 only freemen could vote in Plymouth.[1]


Question: Were the Three Nephites of the Book of Mormon based upon three of the "lying prophets among the savages" in Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: three "Indian prophets" are compared to the "three disciples of Jesus who should tarry [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

3 Nephi 28:4 talks of "the three disciples of Jesus" while The Late War talks of "three of the Indian prophets" who were among the "lying prophets among the savages"

3 Nephi 28:4:

4 And when he had spoken unto them, he turned himself unto the three, and said unto them: What will ye that I should do unto you, when I am gone unto the Father?

4 Nephi 1:37:

37 Therefore the true believers in Christ, and the true worshipers of Christ, (among whom were the three disciples of Jesus who should tarry) were called Nephites, and Jacobites, and Josephites, and Zoramites.

The Late War 35 (p. 128) off-site

19 And he marched with his army through the wilderness more than an hundred miles, to a town built upon a place called by the savages the Holy-Ground, where three of the Indian prophets dwelt.

20 Now there were lying prophets among the savages, even as there were in the days of old, among the children of Israel; and they prophesied according to their own wishes;

21 And those of shallow understanding believed them, and were led into a snare, whereby their whole tribe was night being destroyed.

It seems unlikely that Joseph Smith would base the idea of three righteous disciples on the story of three "lying prophets among the savages"

One critic of the Church points to the presence of "Three Indian Prophets" and "False Indian prophets" as evidence of similarity between the Book of Mormon and The Late War.[273]

It seems unlikely that Joseph Smith would base three righteous disciples of Jesus Christ, who would remain on earth until Christ's return in a manner similar to the Apostle John, on three "lying prophets among the savages" who "prophesied according to their own wishes."


Question: Is there significance to the fact that both the Book of Mormon and Gilbert Hunt's The Late War mention a "rod of iron"?

Critics' comparison, quoting John Tvedtnes, notes a possessive or descriptive relationship between two nouns[267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

The critics quote Latter-day Saint researcher John Tvedtnes:

When English shows a possessive or descriptive relationship between two nouns, it usually puts the possessive or descriptive noun first: the king's house or wood house. Hebrew, however, uses the opposite order: house the king (which would usually be translated house of the king) or house wood (house of wood). If the Hebrew word order is kept in the English translation, the word of must be added, even though it does not exist in the Hebrew. The Book of Mormon contains a large number of what appear to be translations from the Hebrew preserving the Hebrew word order: — The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon, by John A. Tvedtnes

1 Nephi 8:19:

19 And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.

The Late War 3 (p. 15) off-site

3 Then will we rule them with a rod of iron; and they shall be, unto us, hewers of wood and drawers of water.

The phrase "rule them with a rod of iron" actually comes from the Bible, and the phrasing of The Late War is intentionally biblical

Revelation 2:27

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

Revelation 12:5

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

Revelation 19:15

15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Psalms even talks of "breaking" someone with a rod of iron:

Psalms 2:9

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

Of course, the Book of Mormon's use of the phrase "rod of iron" has nothing to do with ruling over or "breaking" anyone.


Question: Do both the Book of Mormon and Gilbert Hunt's The Late War talk about people maintaining a "standard of liberty"?

Critics' comparison: It is claimed that the two books talk of people "flocking" to a "standard" [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Book of Mormon, Alma 61-62: sent a proclamation throughout ... the land; ... And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard [of liberty] ... they ... went down with their armies ... against the ...
  • The Late War 6-7: sent forth a Proclamation, ... abroad ... And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the ... standard of Columbia...they came in battle array against the ...

One critic interprets this to mean that both books speak of "Maintaining the standard of liberty with righteousness," and sees some sort of connection in "And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the banners of the great Sanhedrim" compared to Alma 62:5: "And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in defense of their freedom…" [274]

Full context comparison

Alma 61:6

6 And behold, I have sent a proclamation throughout this part of the land; and behold, they are flocking to us daily, to their arms, in the defence of their country and their freedom, and to avenge our wrongs.

7-21 ...Skipped

Alma 62:5

1-4 ...Skipped

5 And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in the defence of their freedom, that they might not come into bondage.

6 ...Skipped

7 And it came to pass that Moroni and Pahoran went down with their armies into the land of Zarahemla, and went forth against the city, and did meet the men of Pachus, insomuch that they did come to battle.

The Late War Chapter 6-7 (p. 24-25) off-site

11 From this place, he sent forth a proclamation, which the great Sanhedrim had prepared for him; and the wisdom thereof appeareth even unto this day.

12 ...Skipped

13 Now in the proclamation which Hull published abroad, he invited the people of the province of Canada to join themselves to the host of Columbia, who were come to drive the servants of the king from their borders.

14 And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the banners of the great Sanhedrim.

15 ...Skipped

16 ...Skipped

17 And when the husbandmen of the province of Canada, who had joined the standard of Columbia, learned those things, they wept bitterly; for they were left behind.

18 ...Skipped

19 ...Skipped

Chapter 7, 1 Now the host of the king were few in numbers; nevertheless, they came in battle array against the strong hold of William.

"that a great multitude flocked to the ... standard of Columbia" is actually "that a great multitude flocked to the banners of the great Sanhedrim"

One has to cover quite a bit of ground in order to make this comparison. Even so, the comparison of people "flocking" to a "standard" of liberty in The Late War is forced.

Pages 24 and 25 from Gilbert Hunt's The Late War


Question: Could Gilbert Hunt's The Late War have given Joseph Smith the idea of using brass plates as a way of recording information?

Critics' comparison: Both books mention engraving a record on metal [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

3 Nephi 10:17 talks of "plates of brass" while 'The Late War 31:33 talks of "imaginary evils" that are "graven in brass" and "good deeds" that are "graven in sand"

3 Nephi 10:17

17 Behold, our father Jacob also testified concerning a remnant of the seed of Joseph. And behold, are not we a remnant of the seed of Joseph? And these things which testify of us, are they not written upon the plates of brass which our father Lehi brought out of Jerusalem?

The Late War 36 (p. 134) off-site

26 But the imaginary evils which the children of men commit are oftentimes graven in brass, whilst their actual good deeds are written in sand.

1 Nephi 19:1 talks of "engraven" records and Mosiah 21:27 talks of records "engraven on plates of ore" while The Late War talks of a "silver plate" with "gravings thereon"

1 Nephi 19:1

1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.

Mosiah 21:27

27 And they brought a record with them, even a record of the people whose bones they had found; and it was engraven on plates of ore.

The Late War 31 (p. 112) off-site

33 Likewise, the people gave him much silver plate, with gravings thereon, mentioning his deeds.

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

The Late War does not speak of "brass plates"

One critic of the Church misinterprets this data to mean that both books talk about "Brass plates". [275] Although both books talk of "engraving" records, The Late War makes no mention of "brass plates".


Question: Was the Book of Mormon description of a cataclysm at the time of Christ's death derived from a similar description in Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: It is claimed that both books describe "cataclysms" [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 8: ...thunder, ... did shake the whole earth ... cities were sunk, and ... the face of the whole earth... could feel the vapor of darkness ... so that ... for the space of three days, that there was no light seen; ... great destruction had come upon them.
  • The Late War 19:37-44: ...thunders: ... as the mighty earthquake, which overturneth cities. And the whole face of the earth ... overshadowed with black smoke; so that, for a time, one man saw not another: ... sharp rocks had fallen upon them:

One critic claims that both books describe "cataclysmic earthquake followed by great darkness"[276]

Full context comparison: The critics' source material for this particular extraction of text from the Book of Mormon covers 17 verses

3 Nephi 8:6-23:

6 And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder.

7 And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.

8 And the city of Zarahemla did take fire.

9 And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned.

10 And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.

11 And there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward.

12 But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;

13 And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough.

14 And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate.

15 And there were some cities which remained; but the damage thereof was exceedingly great, and there were many in them who were slain.

16 And there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away.

17 And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.

18 And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.

19 And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.

20 And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.

The Late War Chapter 19 (p. 69-70) appears to describe the explosion of an ammunition magazine, which is compared to the effects of an earthquake

37 But as the young man returned to where the army stayed, behold! the black dust in the hold caught fire, and it rent the air with the noise of a thousand thunders:

38 And the whole army fell down upon their faces to the earth; and the stones, and the fragments of rocks, were lifted high; and the falling thereof was terrible even unto death.

39 Yea, it was dreadful as the mighty earthquake, which overturneth cities.

40 And the whole face of the earth round about, and the army of Zebulon, were overshadowed with black smoke; so that, for a time, one man saw not another:

41 But when the heavy clouds of smoke passed away towards the west, behold the earth was covered with the killed and the wounded.

42 Alas! the sight was shocking to behold; as the deed was ignoble.

43 About two hundred men rose not: the stones had bruised them; the sharp rocks had fallen upon them:

44 They were wedged into the earth: their weapons of war were beat down into the ground with them; their feet were turned towards heaven; their limbs were lopped off.


Question: Does the Book of Mormon phrase "curious workmanship" originate from Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: It is claimed that both books mention weapons of war of “curious workmanship” [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Book of Mormon, Ether 10:27: And ... weapons of war ... of exceedingly curious workmanship
  • The Late War 19:13: And ... weapons of war were of curious workmanship

Full context comparison: The Book of Mormon does not talk of weapons of war of curious workmanship

Ether 10:27:

27 And they did make all manner of weapons of war. And they did work all manner of work of exceedingly curious workmanship.

The Late War Chapter 19 (p. 67):

13 And their weapons of war were of curious workmanship, and they sent forth balls of lead; such as were unknown to Pharaoh when he followed the Children of Israel down into the red sea.

Note that the Book of Mormon mentions weapons, and then mentions additional objects that were of "curious workmanship." The Late War, on the other hand, is describing weapons of war (in this case guns that fire "balls of lead") as being perceived to be of "curious workmanship." The presentation of the Book of Mormon passage, however, is altered by the critics to make it appear that the Book of Mormon is talking about "weapons of war....of exceedingly curious workmanship." This is done in an attempt to enhance the perceived similarity of the passages.


Question: Is Gilbert Hunt's phrase "the fourth day of this seventh month" in The Late War a source for the Book of Mormon phrase "the fourth day of this seventh month" in Alma 10:6?

Critics' comparison: The "4th of July" appears in the Book of Mormon and the Late War, "the fourth day of the seventh month..." [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  • Alma 10:6: the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.
  • The Late War 26:1: the fourth day of the seventh month, which is the birth day of Columbian Liberty and Independence,

This is typical biblical phraseology, and it is not at all unique to The Late War

  • Zechariah 7:1: And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;
  • Nehemiah 9:1: Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
  • 2 Kings 25:3: And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.
  • 2 Chronicles 29:17: Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the Lord: so they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.
  • Ezra 7:9: For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
  • Exodus 40:2: On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
  • 2 Chronicles 3:2: And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign.
  • 2 Kings 25:3: And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.
  • Joshua 4:19: And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.
  • Leviticus 25:9: Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
  • Ezra 8:31: Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.

There is nothing unique about the "4th of July" in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon also mentions other dates in the same manner:

  • The 3rd of July is mentioned in Alma 56:42: But it came to pass that they did not pursue us far before they halted; and it was in the morning of the third day of the seventh month.
  • The 5th of February is mentioned in Alma 16:1: And it came to pass in the eleventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, on the fifth day of the second month, there having been much peace in the land of Zarahemla, there having been no wars nor contentions for a certain number of years, even until the fifth day of the second month in the eleventh year, there was a cry of war heard throughout the land.


Question: Does Gilbert Hunt's The Late War describe "Boats and barges built from trees after the fashion of the ark"?

Critics' comparison: The presence of the words "barges," "vessels," "windows," "whale," and "ark" are noted in both books [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

Ether 2:16-17 states that the Jaredite "barges" were "the length of a tree" while The Late War 52:4 talks of "the barges of the king's ship"

Ether 2:16-17

16 And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water. 17 And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.

The Late War 52:4, , (p. 206) off-site

4 Now they sat their engines to work with dreadful violence; but in about the third part of an hour the barges of the king's ship were overcome; and more than three score and ten of the men of Britian were slain and maimed: the loss in the privateer was six slain, and about a score wounded.

Ether 2:24 states that the boat shall be as a "whale in the midst of the sea" while The Late War 15:30 states that the "mighty whales" shall flee from "the noise of the explosion"

Ether 2:24

24 For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.

The Late War 15:30 (p. 54) off-site

30 And the fish of the sea, even the mighty whales, fled from the noise of the explosion.

Ether 6:7 states that the boats were "tight like unto the ark of Noah" while the The Late War, emulating Genesis, states that the boats were "pitched...within and without with pitch" similar to the ark

Ether 6:7

7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

The Late War 27 (p. 98) off-site

12 Howsoever, they cut down the tall trees of the forest, and hewed them, and built many more strong vessels; although they had no gophar-wood amongst them in these days.

13 And they made stories to them, even to the third story, and they put windows in them, and they pitched them within and without with pitch; after the fashion of the ark.

This passage in The Late War is obviously patterned after the account in Genesis 6:14, which talks of making the ark out of "gopher wood" and covering it "within and without with pitch":

Genesis 6:14

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

So does The Late War talk of "boats and barges built from trees after the fashion of the ark"?

One critic of the Church claims that The Late War and the Book of Mormon share a similarity in that both books mention "boats and barges built from trees after the fashion of the ark." [277] However, the account in The Late War is most definitely patterned after the account of Genesis, with the description of "pitching" the boats "within and without with pitch". The Book of Mormon states that the Jaredite barges were "tight" like the ark of Noah, but does not state how they were made "tight".

With regard to the boats being constructed out of trees, we would venture to say that practically all boats of that era were constructed out of wood. However, the Book of Mormon's mention of "trees" is simply an estimate of the boat's length rather than the material from which it was constructed. The Late War, on the other hand, deliberately uses the Biblical reference to "gopher-wood".


Question: Was the Book of Mormon phrase "it came to pass" derived from Gilbert Hunt's The Late War?

Critics' comparison: The phrase "it came to pass" is more common in the The Late War than in the Bible [267]

Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, ""A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

The density of the phrase "it came to pass" in the Book of Luke alone is higher than that of The Late War at 0.156% to 0.205%

One critic of the church believes that the presence of "A bunch of “it came to pass”" phrases in The Late War is evidence that Joseph used this phrase in the Book of Mormon. [278] There are 1297 occurrences of the phrase "it came to pass" in the Book of Mormon, while there are 387 occurrences of "it came to pass" in the Old Testament and 65 occurrences in the New Testament. In the Book of Luke alone there are 40 usages of the phrase "it came to pass" out of 19482 to 25600 words (depending upon the source of the figure). If one rejects the divine origin of the Book of Mormon and is looking for an external influence, the Book of Luke is much more likely than The Late War. Using the Johnsons' method of calculating the density of the phrase, the Book of Luke produces a density value of 0.156% to 0.205%, the upper value of which is almost twice as high as that of The Late War.

Moreover, Gilbert Hunt's The Late War was deliberately written in the "biblical style," and therefore purposely uses the phrase "it came to pass" frequently. There really isn't any reason to believe that Joseph, if he were actually the author of the Book of Mormon, would have been more likely to have picked up the phrase from The Late War than from the Bible itself. When translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph dictated in language that he was familiar with, and we certainly know that Joseph read the New Testament.


Response to claim: "Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon, is shocking"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (March 2015 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon, is shocking....The following are a side-by-side comparison of the beginning of The First Book of Napoleon with the beginning of the Book of Mormon:

The First Book of Napoleon:

Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem…because of the perverse wickedness of the people.

Book of Mormon:

Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people.

FairMormon Response


Propaganda/Spin
The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

It is only "shocking" if you look at the heavily edited paragraphs presented by the critic. One has to examine over 25 pages in The First Book of Napoleon in order to assemble these phrases, including pulling phrases from the Table of Contents and the first three chapters. This is hardly the "beginning" of the First Book of Napoleon.
Logical Fallacy: Texas Sharpshooter
The author located some pattern in the data that he or she believes was the cause of something else, despite the lack of any supporting connection, and asserted that this was, in fact, the actual cause.

In this case, the critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

Question: Was the beginning of the Book of Mormon derived from The First Book of Napoleon?

Some critics of Mormonism postulate that the first part of the Book of Mormon was derived from The First Book of Napoleon, a 19th century book that was written in Biblical style

One individual makes the following claim, [279]

Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon, is shocking....The following are a side-by-side comparison of the beginning of The First Book of Napoleon with the beginning of the Book of Mormon: The First Book of Napoleon:

Condemn not the (writing)...an account...the First Book of Napoleon...upon the face of the earth...it came to pass...the land...their inheritances their gold and silver and...the commandments of the Lord...the foolish imaginations of their hearts...small in stature...Jerusalem...because of the perverse wickedness of the people.

Book of Mormon:

Condemn not the (writing)...an account...the First Book of Nephi...upon the face of the earth...it came to pass...the land...his inheritance and his gold and his silver and...the commandments of the Lord...the foolish imaginations of his heart...large in stature...Jerusalem...because of the wickedness of the people.

Note 1: The rendition above of phrases from the First Book of Napoleon is incorrect. The correct version follows:

The First Book of Napoleon:

Condemn not the (writing)...an account...the First Book of Napoleon...upon the face of the earth...it came to pass...the land...their inheritances, their gold and silver...the commandments of the Lord...the foolish imaginations of their hearts...small in stature...Jerusalem...the wickedness and perverseness of the people

Note 2: The first phrase in the Book of Mormon list is not referring to "writing" as indicated above. The phrase is:
Book of Mormon:

wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

Not so "shocking": In order to make these paragraphs look similar, you have to go through the first 25 pages of The First Book of Napoleon (extracted text is highlighted in blue)

The locations in the First Book of Napoleon from which the critics extract their text in an attempt to make it appear similar to the Book of Mormon

ELIAKIM’S ADDRESS TO HIS READERS.

Charitable and Gentle Reader! To thee the Author of this book has little to say, thy attributes being the godlike virtues of meekness and charity. Pious and Religious Reader! Let not thy feelings be offended, and withhold thy censure, until thou shalt find in these pages a single sentiment inconsistent with the spirit and principles of that holy religion which thou professes; and condemn not the feebly imitative manner of writing therein occasionally employed, until thou canst point out a language more impressive, or more appropriate, than that in imitation whereof these chapters are framed.

Readers in general! Take warning from the awful examples, and profit by the whole-

Some admonitions therein contained, and believe that they are truly intended for you good and welfare. Napoleon if, peradventure, this little volume should ever reach thee, may its truths sink deep into thine heart, and remember in the midst of the torrents of blood thy guilty ambition is shedding, and the ruin and desolation it is spreading far and wide, that thou are a mortal man; and one day, perhaps ere long, thy soul shall be required of thee, and an account of all thy deeds, by that omnipotent, unerring, and upright Being, who, as he made and governeth, so in like manner shall he judge the world.

King of the Albions! Of whom mention is made in thee pages, be assured, that the effusions of loyalty to thy person, and admiration of thy virtues, which they contain, are those not of the author only, but of a brave, affectionate, and dutiful people.

ELIAKIM

Contents of The First Book of Napoleon.

Chap. I

1. Appearance of an Evil Spirit on the face of the earth, being the forerunner of the Tyrant.-2. It seizeth upon the inhabitants of the land of Gaul.-3. Its progress.-4. The Idolatry of the Gauls.=5. Description and signs of the Beast, or Idol, which this people worshipped. Page 1

Chap. II.

1. The Evil Spirit increaseth.-2. The corrupt tree, and its fruits.-3. It is a cumberer of the ground, and doth not prosper therein; but is cast down, and destroyed. 14 Chap. III.

1. The birth-place of the Tyrant Napoleon.-2. He professeth himself to be a worshipper of the idol.-3. He goeth into the land of Egypt, wageth war, and sojourneth for sometime there.-4. He threateneth Palestine and Jerusalem.-5. He returneth suddenly from thence, destroyeth the first Idol, and putteth himself at the head of the armies of the Gauls.-6. He becometh a mighty Conqueror, powerful in war, and overwhelmeth many of the Kings and Princes of the earth.-7. He is a punishment unto the nations for the wickedness of their ways.-8.- The oppressed cry aloud unto the Lord for relief from the oppressor; but for a season he listeneth not unto them, and hardeneth the Tyrant’s heart, because fo the perverse wickedness of the people. Page 19

Chap. IV.

Character of Napoleon 26

Chap V.

1. Description of the land of Albion, and of the good king that reigneth over the same. – 2. His Throne.-3. Description also of the Tree which had grown and flourished in this Land for many generations, and of the goodly fruits thereof 32

Chap VI.

1. How the people of Albion resisted the temptations of the idol.-2. Are hated by the Gauls, and the tyrant Napoleon, who plotteth their destruction, and sweareth vengeance against them, and their good king Albanus 39

Chap VII.

1. The threats of the Gauls, and of the Tyrant, come to the ears of the Albions, who accordingly make mighty preparations to resist their foes.-2. The people of Albion cleave to their King and native land, and rise as one man to oppose the Tyrant and his hosts, who dread the sea, and the valour of the Albions, by sea and land 46

Chap VIII.

1. The ships of war which carried the army of the Gauls into Egypt, are destroyed in a dreadful battle, by a captain of the navy of King Albanus.-2. The armies of the Albions thereafter defeat those of the Gauls wheresoever they meet.-3. The Albions rescue the land of Egypt from from the Gauls.-4. The chief of the army of the Albions falls in battle.-5. The Gauls are afterwards defeated by the Albions in the land of Calabria 52

Chap. IX.

1. The dominion of the Tyrant extendeth itself upon the face of the earth.-2. He continueth to deceive the Kings and Princes thereof, and the people over whom they reigned.-3. Some are overthrown by open force, others soothed and beguiled, until a convenient season arriveth for their complete and final destruction 56

Chap. X.

1. Wise Counsellors, and mighty Captains of host and of ships, with whom it pleased the Lord to bless King Albanus.-2. He is deprived of some of them by death.-3. Lamentations for their loss Page 65

Chap. XI.

1. The oak Albion.-2. He claimeth the sovereignty of the Wood and of the Flood 72

Chap. XII.

1. The kings and Princes of the earth are warned of the craft and subtleties of the Tyrant.-2. Virtue is recommended as the only secure foundation of the kingdoms of this earth.-3 The solidity of the Empire of Almighty God ascribed, amongst other things, to the sense felt by created existence of the purity and holiness of the Great Governor of all things 75

Chap. XIII.

1. The People of Albion are told of their increasing wickedness and licentiousness, and are admonished accordingly.-2. Their manners are inveighed against, and they are summoned to repentance and amendment of life 82

Chap. XIV.

1. A mighty storm ariseth.-2. The vessel of the State is in danger of perishin.-3. A wise and good Counsellor pilots the vessel and weathers the storm.-4. The vessel is brought into a safe harbor; but the pilot therof dieth, through his endeavours to save the vessel Page 90

Chap. XV.

1. Mode of reforming the Commonwealth recommended.-2. Warnings against violent and dangerous changes.-3. Admonitions to the people of Albion in regard thereto 95

Chap. XV.

1. Mode of reforming the Commonwealth recommended.-2. Warnings against violent and dangerous changes.-3. Admonitions to the people of Albion in regard thereto 95

Chap. XVI.

1. The parable of the Bear and the Monkey.-2. The Monkey is suddenly changed into a Tyger, which devoureth the Bear, and scattereth his flesh and his bones to the winds of heaven 100

Chap. XVII.

The Vision of Eliakim 104

Chap. XVIII.

The Vision Continued 108

Chap. XIX.

The End of the Vision 115

Chap XX.

The warnings and admonitions which the Angle gave in commission, to be delivered unto the King of Albion, and to his first born, and to all the sons and daughter of the King.-2. As also unto the Rulers and Counsellors of the land, and the Judges thereof, and unto all the people who dwell therein Page 120

Chap. XXI.

Admonitions and Warnings to the Priests and Nobles of the land.-2. To the Representatives and Counsellors of the people.-3 To Judges and Magistrates 127

Chap. XXI.

Admonitions to the Matrons and Daughters of Albion. 134

Chap. XXIII.

General admonitions to the people of Albion 140

Conclusion 145

NAPOLEON THE TYRANT BOOK I.

CHAP. I.

1. Appearance of an Evil Spirit on the face of the earth, being the forerunner of the Tyrant-2. It seizeth upon the inhabitants of the land of Gaul.-3. Its progress.-4. The idolatry of the Gauls.-5. Descripton and signs of the Beast, or Idol, which this people worshipped. And behold it came to pass, in these latter days, that an evil spirit arose on the face of the earth, and greatly troubled the sons of men.

And this spirit seized upon, and spread amongst the people who dwell in the land of Gaul. Now, in this people the fear of the Lord had not been for many generations, and they had become a corrupt and perverse people; and their chief priests, and the nobles of the land, and the learned men thereof, had become wicked in the imaginations of their hearts, and in the practices of their lives. And the evil spirit went abroad amongst the people, and they raged like unto the heathen, and they rose up against their lawful king, and slew him, and his queen also, and the prince their son; yea, verily, with a cruel and bloody death.

And they moreover smote, with mighty wrath, the king’s guards, and banished the priests, and nobles of the land, and seized upon, and took unto themselves, their inheritances, their gold and silver, corn and oil, and whatsoever belonged unto them. Now it came to pass, that the nation of the Gauls continue to be sorely troubled and vexed, and the evil spirit whispered unto the people, even unto the meanest and vilest thereof, that all men being born equal, were free to act, each one according to the imaginations and devices of his own heart, without the fear of God, or the control of the lawful rulers of the land.

And lo! This foolish and wicked counsel of evil designing men, being seemly, and well-pleasing in the sight of the multitude, they raged furiously against all principalities and powers; and having slain the good king whom the Lord had appointed to rule over them, and to administer justice unto them; they moreover sought to overthrow and destroy the kings and rulers over the other nations of the earth, and made war upon them; and stirred up the people of those nations in like manner to wage war against the lawful rulers of the lands, wherein they had been appointed to dwell.

Now, it so happened, that the evil spirit stirred up every one to seek his own exaltation, by humbling and debasing those whom God had made superior to him, in mind, body, and estate.

And while this spirit raged in Gaul, the curse of God was upon the land, and bloodshed, murder, and rapine, and all manner of blasphemy, wickedness, and uncleanness, prevailed amongst the people thereof.

And they not only despised the commandments of the Lord, but also blasphemed the name of the only true and living God, and they made idols and false gods to themselves, and fell down and worshipped them.

And lo and behold, the chief idol, which this wicked and perverse people set up and worshipped, was like unto a beast, although made somewhat after the image of a man.

And out of the head of the beast there arose three horns, and upon each of the horns there were written these words, SEDITION, PRIVY CONSPIRACY, and REBELLION; and on the forehead of the beast, and under the horns, there were written, in letters of blood, the words TREASONS and CRIMES.

And from the eyes of the beast there proceeded flashes of devouring fire, and its jaws and throat were like unto the mouth of hell, and from its tongue there issued cursings and blasphemings.

And upon the breast of the beast, there were written these words, IRRELIGION, INFIDELITY, and TUMULT.

And in its right hand, it held an emblem of fire and sword, and in its left, an emblem of rapine and murder.

And upon the feet of the beast, there were brazen sandals, like unto those worn by men, and upon the sandal of the right foot, there was engraven, in letters of brass, TERROR and DISMAY; and upon the sandal of the left foot, BLOOD and FAMINE, signifying, that wheresoever the beast established itself, or trode, those direful evils would afflict the land.

And behold, the name of the idol was called LICENTIOUSNESS.

And lo! A loud and warning voice, proceeding as it were from the heavens on high, was heard upon the earth beneath, saying, “Beware, O man, of the exceeding great vileness and abominations of the beast or idol herein described, for upon the followers and worshippers thereof, there shall descend justice, and divers and direful judgments.”

CHAP. II

1. The evil spirit increaseth.-2. The corrupt tree, and its fruits.-3. It is a cumberer of the ground, and doth not prosper therein: but is cast down, and destroyed.

And the evil spirit continued to spread itself amonst the nations of the earth, and they were sorely afflicted, and troubled therewith.

And the idolatry of the beast in like manner prevailed among the sons of men, and it pleased the Lord to deliver the worshippers thereof into the hands of the Gauls.

Now the Gaul continued to rage as heretofore, with mighty ire, and waged war against all nations, people, and languages.

And the kings and ruler of the earth, beheld the raging of the storm, and combined together to quell the fury thereof.

But the power of the evil spirit, and of the multitude which it moved, was mighty great, and from amongst them there arose valiant captains, and men of war, and they overthrew those that waged war against them.

And lo! The tillers of the ground, and the labourers thereof, together with mechanics, artificers, and all manner of handicraftmen, left their sundry and peaceful occupations, and became lawmakers and lawgivers, and sought to rule over their superiors.

Now, it had pleased the Lord to darken the understandings of those foolish men; for they vainly imagined, that the laws and institutions may be forthwith made, like unto things of cunning device, or built in a season, or by models, like unto earthly habitations; whereas, they grow naturally and gradually after the manner of trees, and, like them, require to be trained and pruned by the wary hand of age and time.

Now, as good and wholesome laws and institutions, or, as they are called in these latter days, good constitutions, after the manner of trees, do not take root and grow but in good soils, and where they are well watered and sheltered; so, in like manner, as is known unto all husbandmen, the tree that springeth and flourisheth in one, and a good soil, decayeth and dieth in another, or bad soil.

As the dew of heaven, and the sun-beams thereof, water and cherish the earthly tree, so als, do the spirits of the departed patriots of a land, and the blood of the warriors thereof, foster and support the political tree, or constitution of the state.

But the Gauls were altogether a wicked and perverse people, and the tree which they had planted in the midst of them was a blasted tree, and lo and behold, it brought forth nothing but bad and forbidden fruit, and all manner of unrighteousness, such as pertaineth unto the idol of whom it is before-write, and whom they, in the foolish imaginations of their hearts, had vainly worshipped.

And this evil tree was planted in many and divers places; but the leaves and branches thereof decayed, and were blasted, and its roots rotted; because the sap which was in the tree, was poison, and all those who tasted of its fruit perished thereby; yea, even with a cruel and bloody death.

And behold the tree partook of the nature of the beast, of which it is before-written; for it had sprung from the rottenness and corruption thereof.

And when the Lord looked down from heaven, and beheld the perverse wickedness of the Gauls, he said, yea, verily, I will punish this people for the wickedness of their ways.

So the Lord spake by his prophets, and said unto the people of Gaul, O foolish people, ye have cast down and slain, with a cruel and ignominious death, the king whom I had appointed to rule over you, and whose fathers had reigned in the land for many generations; and ye have destroyed all principalities and powers, and have despised all holy things, and have imagined vain and wicked conceits, and have moreover troubled the peace of the world, and sworn enmity to the kings and rulers of the earth; but I will punish you, O people, for these evil doings; and lo and behold, a mean born stranger shall come from afar, and ye shall pay obeisance to him, and fear him, and lick the dust under his feet, and tremble under his crown, which, unto you, shall be a crown of iron. And lo! The prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled, as will be made manifest from what is hereafter written in this book.

CHAP. III

1. The Birth-place of the Tyrant Napoleon.-2. He professeth himself to be a worshipper of the idol.-3. He goeth into the land of Egypt, wageth war, and sojourneth for some time there.-4. He threateneth Palestine and Jerusalem.-5. He returneth suddenly from thence, and destroyeth the first Idol, and putteth himself at the head of the armies of the Gauls.-6. He becometh a mighty Conqueror, powerful in war, and overwhelmeth many of the kings and princes of the earth.-7. He is a punishment unto the nations for the wickedness of their ways.-8. The oppressed cry aloud unto the Lord for relief from the oppressor; but for a season he listeneth not unto them, and hardeneth the Tyrant’s heart, because of the perverse wickedness of the people.

Now, in the land called Corsica, which is an island in the sea, there was a man born, and his name was NAPOLEON.

And this man, though small in stature, was nevertheless vast in spirit, and he not only conceived unto himself, great and marvelous designs, but was moreover wicked, and cunning in council, mighty in deeds, and powerful in war.

And he professed himself to be a true worshipper of the idol, and yet he hated the idol in his heart, and had made unto himself another idol, of the nature whereof it is hereafter written.

And he declared himself to be an enemy unto all principalities and powers, and the friend of freedom and equality amongst the sons of men, and he was appointed Captain over the armies of the worshippers of the idol.

And he commanded the hosts thereof, and went forth against the lawful rulers of the earth, and overthrew them, together with the mighty high priest, who for many generations had commanded the fear and veneration of men.

And lo this man went into the land of Egypt, with many ships and a mighty army; and having conquered the inhabitants thereof, he proceeded against Palestine, and threatened the city of Jerusalem.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how are the mighty fallen, and how nearly hadst thou been conquered, yet a second time, by the arm of an infidel.

But behold the progress of this man, in the land of Egypt, was stopped by a captain of the navy of good King Albanus, the King of the Albions, the history of whom is herein after written.

Now, this man Napoleon, after sojourning for many days in the land of Egypt, suddenly took his departure from thence, and returned unto the county of the Gauls, and overthrew like a whirlwind the rulers thereof, and put himself at the head of the armies of the multitude, and declared himself to be the governor of the nation, which he began to rule with a rod of iron.

And this man being a mighty man of war, and a great captain, put himself at the head of the host of the Gauls, and thirsted for glory, dominion, and power.

And he waged war against the surrounding nations, and overthrew one people after another.

And his hosts were in number like unto the sands of the sea, and in power to the thunders of the skies; for his deeds resembled in quickness the lightning of heaven, and in might they were likened unto the thunderbolts thereof.

And lo, the people of Gaul forgot their former idol, which is described in the beginning of this book, and fell down and worshipped this strange and new idol, the nature whereof differed from the former in manner and in kind.

For upon the crown of this idol, which being a man, was altogether after the likeness thereof, there were written DOMINION, PRINCIPALITIES, and POWER; and under the crown, which was an iron crown, and on the forehead of the man there was written AMBITION; and on his breastplate there were also written, COUNSEL, PROMPTITUDE, and DECEIT.

And the man Napoleon held in his right hand a sword of steel, whereon were engraven DEATH, VICTORY, and CONQUEST, and in his left a roll of parchment, and in the roll was written the DOMINION of the WORLD, and under the same the names of the nations which he had conquered, yea all people within the reach of his power.

And on the sandal of his right foot there was engraven, in letter of brass, OPPRESSION, and on that of his left, SLAVERY.

And his throne, which reached unto the clouds, was raised on the backs of fallen nations, once great and glorious, but now prostrate and humbled in the dust.

For he had overthrown, like a whirlwind, and in the twinkling of an eye, the armies of many of the kings and rulers of the nations of the earth; because they had become vile and polluted in all manner of sinful corruption, and would not be warned by the voice of wisdom, and combine firmly together, nor be true and faithful on to another; but listened to the suggestions of the evil spirit and of the idol, which had darkened their understandings, and prepared them for downfall and ruin.

Now, the sway of this man pervaded many lands, and many of the kings and princes of the earth were made tributary to him, and the nations thereof groaned under his feet.

And he now compelled the tillers of the ground, and the labourers thereof, and the husbandmen, and the handicraftmen, who, under the first idol, had met together to commune concerning superiorities and powers, and to make laws unto themselves, to leave their peaceful homes, their wives, children, and kindred, and their lawful occupations, and to go into distant lands, and there endure cold and hunger, and suffer long marches, and mix in direful and bloody battles, all to fill up the measure of this man’s boundless ambition.

And it pleased the Lord, as a punishment for the wickedness and perverseness of the people, to deliver into the hands of this man the dominion over many lands, that they might be ruled as with a rod of iron, and chastened for the iniquity and wickedness of their ways, and brought back from the paths of sin and licentiousness, and the idolatry of the beast, to those of justice, moderation, and truth, and the fear of the only true and living God.

And the people of the land of Gaul, and all the nations whom it had pleased the Lord to deliver into the hands of this strange man, groaned heavily, and cried unto the Lord in their hearts for freedom, forgiveness, and mercy. But having forgot and despised the Lord their God, in the pride and wickedness of their hearts, he left them to reap the fruits of their evil ways, and for a season listened not unto them in their sufferings and distress.

Now behold, all the nations within the reach of this man Napoleon, groaned under the dominion of his power, and were sore afflicted in mind, body, and estate, for his ruled over them with a scepter of iron.

CHAP. IV.


Response to claim: "The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead.

FairMormon Response


Mistakes/Errors
The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The theory put forth by critics is that Joseph altered the Book of Mormon to match his changing view of the Godhead. However, it is simply illogical to conclude that Joseph Smith changed only the four passages in 1 Nephi to conform to his supposed changing theological beliefs, but somehow forgot to change all the others.

Question: Does the Book of Mormon support trinitarianism?

Critics have given little attention to the theology represented by the original text, merely reading into the text modern ideas about trinitarianism

Some critics of Mormonism assert that the original Book of Mormon text supported trinitarianism, and that Joseph Smith's edits to the book were attempts to change this. While critics tend to focus on changes made by Joseph Smith to the Book of Mormon, they have given little attention to the theology represented by the original text, merely reading into the text modern ideas about trinitarianism. Brant Gardner has pointed out, “The problem is that when we focus on the fact of the change, we automatically ask the wrong questions.” [280] Gardner goes on to explain:

our first obligation [is] to understand what this passage tells us about Nephite theology. Before we worry about how to explain the Book of Mormon to make it fit our current descriptions of God, we really should understand how the Nephites described and understood God. To do this, we must approach the question not only critically, but historically. [281]

In the original text, Nephi speaks of a Messiah who is “God,” (1 Nephi 11:18), “the Eternal Father,” (1 Nephi 11:21), “the everlasting God,” yet is “the Son of the most high God” (1 Nephi 11:6). This Messiah-God/Son of God (Most High) becomes a man, suffers, and even dies “for the sins of the world” (1 Nephi 11:33). Later Nephi would summarize, “the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men” (1 Nephi 19:10). In approaching these concepts critically and historically, as Gardner recommends, we need to understand how they might have been understood by an Israelite around 600 BC.

As scholars have explored the origins of Christianity, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it is deeply rooted in the earliest forms of Israelite religion

According to Daniel Boyarin, a leading scholar of Judaism, that “in the very moments that we take to be most characteristically Christian as opposed to Jewish,” we actually find some of the earliest conceptions of Israelite religion. These include:

the notion of a dual godhead with a Father and a Son, the notion of a Redeemer who himself will be both God and man, and the notion that this Redeemer would suffer and die as part of the salvational process. At least some of these ideas, the Father/Son godhead and the suffering savior, have deep roots in the Hebrew Bible as well and may be among some of the most ancient ideas about God and the world the Israelite people ever held. [282]

These are, notably, the very ideas portrayed to Nephi in vision.

Margaret Barker has attempted to reconstruct the religion of the Israelites during the time-period before the Babylonian exile. According to her, Yahweh (Jehovah) was both the God of Israel, and also the son of the Most High God (El Elyon), and manifest on earth in human form as the Messiah. [283] Brant Gardner summarizes her reconstruction:

  • A Father-God, ’El who is also called el elyon or “Most High God.”
  • A heavenly council of the sons of God.
  • Yahweh as the son of God (El).
  • Yahweh as preeminent God of Israel.
  • Yahweh as Messiah. [284]

According to Barker, “The original temple tradition was that Yahweh, the Lord, was the Son of God Most High, and present on earth as the Messiah.” [285] Once again, these are the very concepts expressed in Nephi’s vision.

While being the son of El Elyon, Yahweh was the father of Israel through covenant. [286] This same kind of relationship is expressed in the Book of Mormon (e.g., Mosiah 3:7). As Brant Gardner explains, “Yahweh becomes the father as he acts in the vertical deity-to-mortal realm … the people’s covenant create a new relationship with God.” [287]

The explanation for this conflation of Father and Son cannot be found in post-Christian theologies of modalism or trinitarianism

The theological setting indicated by Boyarin, Barker, and Gardner provides a conceptual framework that explains how and why Nephi would refer to the Messiah both as God and as the son of the Most High God, and even as father. Gardner thus concludes:

The explanation for this conflation of Father and Son cannot be found in post-Christian theologies of modalism or trinitarianism. However, by reading these passages against the Nephite [i.e., ancient Israelite] cultural context, we can understand why Nephi could hold what appear, to modern readers, to be contradictory beliefs about God. [288]


Question: What changes were made to the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon?

Among the changes Joseph Smith made are these four in 1 Nephi 11 and 13

The earliest edition of the Book of Mormon referred to Jesus as "God." Joseph Smith later changed some, but not all, of these to "the Son of God." It is claimed by some that this is evidence that Joseph Smith changed the Book of Mormon to conform to his changing beliefs about the Trinity, claiming that Joseph was originally a solid Trinitarian (perhaps even a Modalist), and as he later began to teach that the Father and Son were two separate beings, he had to change the Book of Mormon to support his new doctrine. However, this change was a deliberate editorial insertion by Joseph Smith to clarify four verses in 1 Nephi.

The second edition of the Book of Mormon was published in 1837 at Kirtland, Ohio. The typesetting and printing were done during the winter of 1836–37, with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taking an active part in the editing process.

In this edition numerous corrections were made to the text of the 1830 (first) edition to bring it back to the reading in the original and printer's manuscripts. Joseph Smith also made a number of editorial changes to the text, as was his right as the translator of the text.

Among the changes he made are these four in 1 Nephi 11 and 13:

  Original manuscript Printer's manuscript 1830 edition 1837 edition
1 Nephi 11:18 behold the virgin which thou seest is the Mother of god after the manner of the flesh behold the virgin which <whom> thou seest is the Mother of <the son of> God after the manner of the flesh Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh. Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
1 Nephi 11:21 & the angel said unto me behold the lam of god yea even the eternal father knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw & the Angel said unto me behold the Lamb of God yea even the <God> Father knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
1 Nephi 11:32 & it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again saying look and i lookt & beheld the lam of god that he was taken By the People yea the ever lasting god was judgd of the world and i saw & bare record & it came to pass that the Angel spake unto me again saying look & I looked & behold the Lamb of God that he was taken by the People yea the everlasting God was Judged of the world & I saw &amp bear record And it came to pass the angel spake unto me again, saying, look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. And it came to pass the angel spake unto me again, saying, look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
1 Nephi 13:40 (Not extant.) & the Angel spake unto me saying these last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles shall establish the truth of the first which is <which are> of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb & shall make known the plain & precious things which have been taken away from them & shall make known unto all Kindreds Tongues & People that the Lamb of God is the <the son of> eternal Father & the saviour of the world & that all men must Come unto him or they cannot be saved 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 is of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain the 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 Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world; and that all men must come unto Him, or they cannot be saved; 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 the 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 Saviour of the world; and that all men must come unto Him, or they cannot be saved;

(The strikeouts and <insertions> in the printer's manuscript are in Joseph's hand, and were added by him during the preparation of the 1837 edition.)


Question: Why did Joseph Smith make changes to the Book of Mormon?

These changes were made for the purpose of clarification, not doctrinal modification

These changes are clarifications that the passages are speaking of Jesus, not God the Father.

The terms "God," "Everlasting God," and "Eternal Father" are ambiguous since they could properly refer to either the Father or the Son. For example, "Eternal Father" refers to God the Father in Moroni 4:3, Moroni 5:2, and Moroni 10:4, but to God the Son in Mosiah 16:15 and Alma 11:38-39.

The addition of "the Son of" to four passages in 1 Nephi does not change the Book of Mormon's teaching that Jesus Christ is the God of Old Testament Israel. This concept is taught in more than a dozen other passages whose readings remain unchanged from the original manuscripts. For example:

  • "And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself...as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up...and to be crucified...and to be buried in a sepulchre...." (1 Nephi 19:10)
  • "...he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth." (Mosiah 7:27)
  • "Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father." (Mosiah 16:15)
  • "Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Alma 11:38-39)

(See also 2 Nephi 25:12; Mosiah 3:8; Mosiah 13:28,33-34; Mosiah 15:1; Helaman 8:22-23; Helaman 14:12; Helaman 16:18; 3 Nephi 11:10,14; Mormon 9:12; Ether 3:14; Ether 4:7; Ether 4:12.)

It is simply illogical to conclude that Joseph Smith changed the four passages in 1 Nephi to conform to his supposed changing theological beliefs, but somehow forgot to change all the others.[289]


Question: Were any of the changes to the Book of Mormon made in reaction to sectarian criticism?

Some changes may have been made to eliminate the Catholic-sounding phrase "the mother of God"

Another reason "the Son of" was introduced into 1 Nephi 11:18 could have been to eliminate the Catholic-sounding phrase "the mother of God" that had been objected to by early critics of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery, responding to an article by Alexander Campbell in the Baptist newspaper The Pioneer, wrote in 1835:

Again, this writer [Campbell] says: "The name of Jesus Christ, was declared to Nephi, 545 years before it was announced to Mary, and she, in true Roman phraseology, is called 'the mother of God.'"

∗       ∗       ∗

This "friend of truth" says that Mary was "called the mother of God."—The reader will please turn to the 25th page of the book of Mormon, and read: "And he [the angel] said unto me, behold, the virgin which thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh."

Now, every man knows, who has read the New Testament, that Mary was called the Lord's mother; and beside we remember to have read a word or two of Paul's writings, where he says: "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now, the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not."—See Gal. 1. Here we have it—the Lord Jesus was born of a woman, had a brother, and yet had no mother according to the flesh!![290]

Since this criticism of the Book of Mormon was fresh on Oliver's mind, and he was involved in the editing of the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, it is possible that the change in 1 Nephi 11:18 was inserted at his prompting.


Notes

  1. Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 10, 83. ( Index of claims ); Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 205. ( Index of claims ); La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 7 (17 February 1838) off-site
  2. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics, LDS.org. off-site
  3. Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), p. 141.
  4. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (September 1977).
  5. See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 2004[1986]), 49. ISBN 188647253X.
  6. See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004),193–196. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786(Key source)
  7. See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12:2
  8. See also Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 70–72. ISBN 0937892068.
  9. The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 12–25. off-site wiki For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  10. "Thomson's Translation," Wikipedia (accessed 11 Feb 2015) off-site
  11. Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),142–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  12. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51
  13. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887), 12; cited frequently, including by Neal A. Maxwell, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (January 1997), 34–41. off-site
  14. John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha: Shadow or Reality? (Review of Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 326–372. off-site
  15. Emma Smith to Edmund C. Briggs, "A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856," Journal of History 9 (January 1916): 454.
  16. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51
  17. “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, (1 Oct. 1879): 290.
  18. Jay P. Green Sr., The Interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English (Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1995), 975. ISBN 1878442821. ISBN 1565639774.
  19. See LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "{{{article}}},", 707. off-site
  20. Bruce R. McConkie, "Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah," Ensign (October 1973), 78–83. off-site.
  21. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "{{{article}}},",756–759. off-site
  22. Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 128. ISBN 0875791395.
  23. See Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4.
  24. See such scriptural examples as DC 109:34,42,56,68; DC 110:1-3; DC 128:9. See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 220, 221, 250–251. off-site
  25. See, for example, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint, Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 2012). Other examples of similar choices in translation include: Robert H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), Theodor H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, 3rd ed. (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1976), and Robert Lisle Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (Jerusalem: Baptist House, n.d.).
  26. “Golden Bible,” Rochester Advertiser and Daily Telegraph (New York) (31 August 1829). Reprinted from Palmyra Freeman, 11 August 1829. off-site
  27. "Golden Bible," Rochester (NY) Gem 1 (5 September 1829): 70; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:272.
  28. C. C. Blatchley, “Caution Against the Golden Bible,” New-York Telescope 6, no. 38 (20 February 1830): 150. off-site
  29. “Diabolical,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) new series, no. 8 (27 February 1830): xxx. off-site
  30. Cincinnati Advertiser and Ohio Phoenix (2 June 1830). Reprinted from Wayne County Inquirer, Pennsylvania, circa May 1830. off-site
  31. The Book of Pukei.—Chap. I,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 3d series, no. 5 (12 June 1830): 36–37.
  32. The Book of Pukei.—Chap. 2,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 3d series, no. 8 (7 July 1830): 60.
  33. Every thing in this world . . .,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 3d series, no. 14 (28 August 1830): 108–9.
  34. The Golden Bible,” Painesville Telegraph (Ohio) (16 November 1830).
  35. A.S., “The Golden Bible, or, Campbellism Improved,” Observer and Telegraph (Hudson, Ohio) (18 November 1830).
  36. [citation needed] 20.nov.1830
  37. [citation needed] 4.dec.1830
  38. 8.dec.1830 [citation needed]
  39. [citation needed] 14.dec.1830
  40. Delusion,” The Jesuit or Catholic Sentinel (Boston, Massachusetts) (18 December 1830): 125. Reprinted from Geauga Gazette (Ohio) circa November 1830.
  41. Alexander Campbell, Delusions (Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1832), p. 89, 92, 94 of original; originally published in Millennial Harbinger 2 (7 February 1831): 85–96. off-site O. Cowdery reply #1 #2 Full title
  42. David S. Burnett, “Something New.—The Golden Bible,” Evangelical Inquirer (Dayton, Ohio) 1, no. 10 (7 March 1831): 217–19.
  43. “Gold Bible, No. 6,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 16 (19 March 1831), xxx. off-site
  44. A.W.B., “Mormonites,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2, no. 15 (9 April 1831): 120.
  45. The Mormon Delusion,” Baptist Chronicle and Literary Register (Georgetown, Kentucky) 2, no. 9 (September 1831): 135–36. Reprinted from Hampshire Gazette (circa May 1831), and the Vermont Chronicle.
  46. “Mormonism—No. III,” Ezra Booth to Rev. I. Eddy, 24 October 1831 Ohio Star (Ravenna, Ohio) (27 October 1831). off-site
  47. The Mormonites,” Christian Intelligencer and Eastern Chronicle (Gardiner, Maine) (18 November 1831): 184. Reprinted from Illinois Patriot (Jacksonville, Illinois) (16 September 1831).
  48. Nancy Towle, Vicissitudes Illustrated in the Experience of Nancy Towle in Europe and America(Charleston: For the Authoress, 1832), 137–47.
  49. “Mormonism,” Fredonia Censor (New York) (7 March 1832). Reprinted from the Franklin Democrat (Pennsylvania) circa March 1832. off-site
  50. “The Orators of Mormon,” Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, Ohio) 1 (14 April 1832): 204–5. Reprinted from Mercer Press (Pennsylvania), circa April 1832. off-site
  51. “Mormonism,” Boston Recorder (Boston, Massachusetts) 17, no. 41 (10 October 1832). Reprinted from Lockport Balance (New York), circa September 1832. off-site
  52. Thomas Hamilton, Men and Manners in America (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833), 364–65.
  53. W.W. Phelps, "The Book of Mormon," The Evening and The Morning Star 1:58 .
  54. Stephen D. Ricks, The Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, Featured Papers, Maxwell Institute, Provo UT. off-site
  55. [Communication from Joseph Smith, Jr.,] “Mormonism,” The American Revivalist and Rochester Observer (Rochester, New York) 7, no. 6 (2 February 1833). off-site]
    Only the last two paragraphs of Joseph’s letter to the newspaper were printed. The entire letter appeared eleven years later in the November 15, 1844 issue of the Times and Seasons.
  56. David Marks, [Untitled Remarks on Mormonism], Morning Star (Limerick, Maine) 7, no. 45 (7 March 1833): 177.
  57. Mormonites,” Gospel Luminary 6, no. 8 (May 1833): 263–65.
  58. 58.0 58.1 58.2 58.3 58.4 58.5 58.6 Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834). (Affidavits examined)
  59. Based on reports by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut.
  60. Here, Howe reprints a letter, dated February 17, 1834, written by Charles Anthon.
  61. Statement made by Isaac Hale, Joseph Smith's father-in-law.
  62. Jason Whitman, “The Book of Mormon,” The Unitarian (Boston) 1 (January 1834): 39.
  63. Mormonism,” Protestant Sentinel (Schenectady, New York) n.s. 5, no. 1 (4 June 1834): 4–5. Reprinted from New England Review, circa May 1834.
  64. "Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps, 7 September 1834," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 1 (October 1834), 13–16.
  65. J. Newton Brown, “Mormonites,” Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Boston: Shattuck & Company, 1835), xxx. Reprinted from Cross and Baptist Journal, Fall 1834. off-site
  66. W. W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery, Christmas 1834, "Letter No. 4," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 5 (February 1835), 65-67.
  67. “Mormonism,” New York Weekly Messenger and Young Men’s Advocate (29 April 1835). Reprinted from The Pioneer (Rock Springs, Illinois), March 1835. off-site
  68. Stephen R. Gibson, One Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions. off-site
  69. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51.
  70. See "Italics in the King James Bible," in Royal Skousen, "Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of Mormon (Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe)," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 121–144. off-site
  71. Kevin Barney, "KJV Italics," bycommonconsent.com (13 October 2007)
  72. W.W. Phelps, The Evening and the Morning Star (January 1833)
  73. Stephen R. Gibson, One Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions. off-site
  74. John Tvedtnes, "The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," FARMS Preliminary Reports (1981).
  75. Jeff Lindsay, "Why does 2 Nephi 19:1 incorrectly change 'sea' in Isaiah 9 to 'Red Sea'?", LDS FAQ: Mormon Answers.
  76. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated (London: Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1898), 819-824.
  77. Adam Clark, Commentary an the Bible, abridged by Ralph Earle, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1979), 778.
  78. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, edited by Ingram Cobbin, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 30.
  79. Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985), 253.
  80. Robert J. Matthews, "Joseph Smith as Translator," in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1993), 80, 84.
  81. "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (31 January 2014)
  82. Simon Southerton, "Finally, I agree with LDS scientists-apologists," posting to an ex-Mormon discussion board, Sept. 6, 2008. (emphasis in original)
  83. Simon Southerton, explaining his 2008 statement to FAIR, February 2014. Cited in updated Letter to a CES Director (2014).
  84. Stewart Reid, LDS Public Relations Staff, quoted by William J. Bennetta in The Textbook Letter (March-April 1997), published by The Textbook League (P.O. Box 51, Sausalito, California 94966).
  85. Olson is co-author of a letter to Nature, in which he discusses these ideas in a more technical format. See Douglas L. T. Rohde, Steve Olson, and Joseph T. Chang, "Modelling the recent common ancestry of all living humans," 431 Nature (30 September 2004): 562–566. off-site Olson provides a "semi-technical" description of his findings here.
  86. Steve Olson, "Why We're All Jesus' Children," slate.com (15 March 2006). Last accessed 12 October 2006 (emphasis added). off-site
  87. Daniel C. Peterson, "Yet More Abuse of B. H. Roberts (Review of The Disappointment of B. H. Roberts: Five Questions That Forced a Mormon General Authority to Abandon the Book of Mormon)," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997): 69–86. off-site
  88. Jay F. Kirkpatrick and Patricia M. Fazio, "The Surprising History of America's Wild Horses," LiveScience.com (July 24, 2008) off-site
  89. S. Bokonyi, History of Domestic Mammals in Central and Eastern Europe (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1974), 267.
  90. Paul R. Cheesman, The World of the Book of Mormon (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1984), 194, 181.
  91. http://www.strangeark.com/nabr/NABR5.pdf
  92. William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link
  93. John Tvedtnes, “The Nature of Prophets and Prophecy” (unpublished, 1994), 29-30 (copy in Mike Ash’s possession); Benjamin Urrutia, “Lack of Animal Remains at Bible and Book-of-Mormon Sites,” Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, 150 (August 1982), 3-4.
  94. "Horses in the Book of Mormon" (Provo: Utah, FARMS, 2000). off-site
  95. Clay E. Ray, “Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan,” Journal of Mammalogy 38:2 (1957), 278.
  96. http://www.ansp.org/museum/leidy/paleo/equus.php)
  97. Mike Ash notes that this story was told at the Q&A session following Dr. Sorenson’s presentation, “The Trajectory of Book of Mormon Studies,” 2 August 2007 at the 2007 FAIR Conference; audio and video in author’s possession.
  98. John Clark during Q&A session following Dr. Clark’s presentation, “Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” 25 May 2004 at BYU; audio of Q&A in author Mike Ash's possession.
  99. Anonymous, "Out of the Dust: Were Ancient Americans Familiar with Real Horses?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): N/A–N/A. off-site wiki
  100. See Harry E. D. Pollock and Clayton E. Ray, "Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan," Current Reports 41 (August 1957): 638; this publication is from the Department of Archaeology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. See also Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan," Journal of Mammalogy 38 (1957): 278.
  101. Henry C. Mercer, The Hill-Caves of Yucatan: A Search for Evidence of Man's Antiquity in the Caverns of Central America (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1896), 172.
  102. Robert T. Hatt, "Faunal and Archaeological Researches in Yucatan Caves," Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin 33, 1953. See Peter J. Schmidt, "La entrada del hombre a la peninsula de Yucatan," in Origines del Hombre Americano, comp. Alba Gonzalez Jacome (Mexico: Secretaria de Educacion Publica, 1988), 250.
  103. Schmidt, "La entrada," 254.
  104. Paul S. Martin, "The Discovery of America," Science 179 (1973): 974 n. 3.
  105. Donald K. Grayson (Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195), "Deciphering North American Pleistocene Extinctions," Journal of Anthropological Research, in press (2007 JAR Distinguished Lecture)
  106. Bernardino de Sahagun, The War of Conquest: How It Was Waged Here in Mexico: the Aztecs' own story (University of Utah Press, 1978).
  107. John L. Sorenson, "Once More: The Horse," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 10.
  108. Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan," Journal of Mammalology 38 (1957): 278; Harry E. D. Pollock and Clayton E. Ray, "Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan," Current Reports 41 (August 1957): 638 (Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C., Dept. of Archaeology).
  109. Folkbiology Douglas L. Medin, Scott Altran editors. MIT Press (1999) p. 131.
  110. John L. Sorenson, "Once More, The Horse," Reexploring the Book of Mormon (1992).
  111. 111.0 111.1 111.2 Quoted in Hans Frädrich and Erich Thenius, "Tapirs," Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, ed. Bernhard Grzimek (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company), 13:19—30.
  112. [Horses in the Book of Mormon "Horses in the Book of Mormon,"] Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
  113. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994).
  114. Daniel C. Peterson, "Yet More Abuse of B. H. Roberts," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997)
  115. Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997).
  116. Brant Gardner, "Behind the Mask, Behind the Curtain: Uncovering the Illusion," The FARMS Review 17/2 (2005).
  117. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16/1 (2004).
  118. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16/1 (2004).
  119. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 8–50. off-site
  120. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 8–50. off-site
  121. See http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/contact/text6/mexica_tlaxcala.pdf
  122. Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars (Review of Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism Raised by Mormon Defenders)," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997): 87–145. [ off-site]
  123. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 293-294.
  124. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 294.
  125. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  126. Robert T. Hatt, “Faunal and archaeological researches in Yucatan caves.” Cranbrook Institute of Science 33 (1953), 1-42.
  127. Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales and Oscar Polaco, “Caves and the Pleistocene vertebrate paleontology of Mexico.” In B. W. Schubert, J. I. Mead and R. W. Graham (eds.) Ice Age Faunas of North America (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2003), 273-291.
  128. Pietro Martire d'Anghiera, De Orbe Novo: The Eight Decades of Peter Martyr d'Anghera (1912), 2:259.
  129. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  130. C. Radulesco and P. Samson, Sur un centre de domestication du mouton dans le Mesolithique de grotte “La Adam, en Dobrogea,” Tierzüchlung und Züchtungsbiologic 76 (1962), 282-320.
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  132. Valerius Geist, “Mountain Sheep: A Study in Behavior and Evolution,” (Chicago and London: University of Chicago press, 1971), 41.
  133. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1985), 296-97.
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  137. "Bighorn sheep," Wikipedia (accessed 18 August 2014)
  138. Wikiepdia article "Peccary" (accessed 8 January 2015). off-site
  139. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 290.
  140. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  141. A. Starker Leopold, “Wildlife of Mexico: The Game Birds and Mammals,” (Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1959), 493-500.
  142. S. T. Evans, “Ancient Mexico & Central America: Archaeology and Culture History,” (London, Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 2004).
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  144. Robert T. Hatt, Faunal and Archaeological Researches in Yucatan Caves (1953), 1-42.
  145. Wikipedia article "Mountain goat" (accessed 8 January 2015) off-site
  146. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  147. Robert T. Hatt, “Faunal and archaeological researches in Yucatan caves.” Cranbrook Institute of Science 33 (1953),29.
  148. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  149. Jehuda. Felilks., “Animals of the Bible and Talmud,” Encyclopaedia Judaica (1996)3:8.
  150. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, (Ibid), 299; Roper, “Deer as `Goat’ and Pre-Columbian Domesticate,” Insights: An Ancient Window 26/6 (2006), 2-3.
  151. “Mammoth,” Wikipedia (accessed 24 Sept. 2014)
  152. Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.
  153. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  154. S. L. Vartanyan, V. E. Garutt, and A. V. Sher, “Holocene dwarf Mammoths from Wrangle Island in the Siberian Arctic,” Nature 362 (1993),337-340.
  155. David R. Yesner, Douglas W. Veltre, Kristine J. Crossen and Russell W. Graham, 5,700-year-old Mammoth Remains from Qagnax Cave, Pribilof Islands, Alaska. In L. D. Agenbroad and R. L. Symington (eds.), The World of Elepahants (Short Papers and Abstracts of the 2nd International Congress, 2005), 200-204.
  156. James I. Mead and David J. Meltzer, “North American late Quaternary extinctions and the radiocarbon record, In P. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds.) Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution, (Tucson, University of Arizona Press. 1984), 440-450.
  157. Wade E. Miller and Matthew Roper, "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives," Blog of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (April 21, 2014)
  158. John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911), 355.
  159. 159.0 159.1 159.2 W. D. Strong, “North American traditions suggesting a knowledge of the mammoth,” American Anthropologist 36 (1934), 81-88.
  160. Ludwell H. Johnson, “Men and Elephants in America,” The Scientific Monthly 75 (1952), 220-221.
  161. Juan de Torquemada, Monarchia Indiana (Mexico, 1943), 1:38; Jose de Acosta, Natural and Moral History of the Indies (2002), 384.
  162. Adrienne Mayor, Fossil Legends of the First Americans (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005), 97.
  163. Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 4:287–288. Footnotes and one obvious typographical error have been silently omitted. Italics added to the internal quotation.
  164. "Amaranth," and "Pseudograin," Wikipedia, accessed 28 June 2014.
  165. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 184-185.
  166. Jonathan D. Sauer, "The Grain Amaranths: A Survey of Their History and Classification," Missouri Botanical Garden Annals 37 (1950):561-632. George F. Carter, "Domesticates as Artifacts," in The Human Mirror: Material and Spatial images of Man, ed. Miles Richardson (Baton Rouge: Louisiana Stage University Press, 1974), pp. 212-13. (Sorenson, Chapter 5, endnote 65. Note: This is erroneously indicated in the text as endnote 64).
  167. Careyn Patricia Armitage, "Silk production and its impact on families and communities in Oaxaca, Mexico," Graduate Theses and Dissertations, Iowa State University (2008) off-site References de Ávila Blomberg, A. (1997). Threads of diversity: Oaxacan textiles in context. In K. Klein (Ed.) The unbroken thread: Conserving the textile traditions of Oaxaca (pp.87-151). Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.
  168. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 232. See also Sorenson, "Silk and Linen in the Book of Mormon," Ensign (April 1992): 62.
  169. A.P. Maudslay, trans. and ed. Bernal Diaz del Castillo: The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, 1517-1521 (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, 1956), p. 24. (Note: Sorenson p. 232 note 52 corresponds to endnote 52, p. 382).
  170. I.W. Johnson, "Basketry and Textiles," HMAI 10, part 1 (1971), p. 312. Matthew Wallrath in Excavations in the Tehuantepec Region, Mexico, American Philosophical Society Transactions, n.s. 57, part 2 (1967) p. 12, notes that wild silk was collected and spun in the isthmus area, and that the cloth had very high value. Clavigero also reported that fiber of the ceiba tree's pod was woven by Mexican Indians into fabric "as soft and delicate, and perhaps more so, than silk." C. Cullen, ed., The History of Mexico, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1817), p. 41. (Note: Sorenson p. 232 note 54 corresponds to endnote 53, p. 382)
  171. Matthew Roper, "Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon," FAIR Conference, 2001.
  172. Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly and Tamara S. Wheeler, “How the Iron Age Began,” Scientific American 237/4 [October 1977]:127. Cited by Matthew Roper, "Laban’s Sword of 'Most Precious Steel' (Howlers #5)," FairMormon Blog (17 June 2013)
  173. Matthew Roper, "Laban’s Sword of 'Most Precious Steel' (Howlers #5)," FairMormon Blog (17 June 2013)
  174. Matthew Roper, "Laban’s Sword of 'Most Precious Steel' (Howlers #5)," FairMormon Blog (17 June 2013)
  175. John L. Sorenson, "Steel in Early Metallurgy," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15/2 (2006): 108–109. off-site wiki
  176. Lenore O. Keene Congdon, "Steel in Antiquity: A Problem in Terminology," in Studies Presented to George M. A. Hanfmann, ed. David Gordon Mitten et al. (Cambridge: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1971), 18–19.
  177. Robert James Forbes, Metallurgy in Antiquity: A Notebook for Archaeologists and Technologists (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1950), 402.
  178. Harvey Harlow Nininger, Find a Falling Star (New York: Paul S. Erikson, 1972), 238.
  179. Congdon, "Steel in Antiquity," 24–25; D. Davis et al., "A Steel Pick from Mount Adir in Palestine," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 44/1 (1985): 42; and Muhly, "Mining and Metalwork," 3:1515.
  180. Patrick E. McGovern, "The Innovation of Steel in Transjordan," Journal of Metals 40/7 (1988): 50; Jane C. Waldbaum, From Bronze to Iron: The Transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean (Göteborg, Sweden: Paul Åström, 1978), 54; and Robert Maddin et al., "How the Iron Age Began," Scientific American 237 (1977): 122.
  181. Tamara S. Wheeler and Robert Maddin, "Metallurgy and Ancient Man," in Coming of the Age of Iron, ed. Wertime and Muhly, 116.
  182. William Hamblin, "Steel in the Book of Mormon," FairMormon Papers
  183. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 284.
  184. H.H. Bancroft, The Native Races (of the Pacific States), vol. 2 (San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft and Co., 1882), pp. 407-8.
  185. Rene Rebetez, Objetos Prehispanicos de Hierro Y Piedra (Mexico: Libreria Anticuaria, n.d.).
  186. Sigvald Linne, Mexican Highland Cultures, Ethnographical Museum of Sweden, Publication 7, n.s. (Stockholm, 1942), p. 132.
  187. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 285.
  188. 1 Nephi 16:3–4.
  189. S. Kent Brown, "New Light: "The Place That Was Called Nahom": New Light from Ancient Yemen," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 66–67. wiki
  190. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  191. See S. Kent Brown, "'The Place Which Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," JBMS 8/1 (1999): 66-68; and Warren P. Aston, "Newly Found Altars from Nahom," JBMS 10/2 (2001): 56-61.
  192. See Burkhard Vogt, "Les temples de Ma'rib," in Y émen: au pays de la reine de Saba (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), 144; see also the preliminary report by Burkhard Vogt et al., "Arsh Bilqis"—Der Temple des Almaqah von Bar'an in Marib (Sana'a, Yemen, 2000).
  193. Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 120.
  194. Brown: "On these ancient laws, see Nigel Groom, Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense Trade (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1981), 169–70, 181, 183–84. Concerning the taxation of incense and the gifts to the temples, see Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 12.32 ( §63)."
  195. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  196. MormonThink.com page "Book of Mormon Problems".
  197. MormonThink.com and Mormon Curtain (accessed 4 June 2014). As of 18 October 2014, MormonThink has removed it, while it is still present on Mormon Curtain.
  198. The claim still appears on Mormon Curtain as of 18 October 2014.
  199. John Clark, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon,” presentation at the 2005 FAIR Apologetics Conference (August 2005). Co-presenters, Wade Ardern and Matthew Roper.
  200. See Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems," 167.
  201. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems," 169–170.
  202. [citation needed]
  203. William J. Hamblin, message posted 20 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 2 BoM Challenge,” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005). See also follow-up: William Hamblin, message posted 28 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 3” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005).
  204. William J. Hamblin, message posted 20 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 2 BoM Challenge,” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005)
  205. William J. Hamblin, message posted 28 October 2004 in thread, “Not So Easy? 2 BoM Challenge,” on FAIRboards.org off-site (accessed 10 April 2005).
  206. William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link
  207. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems," 164.
  208. William G. Dever, “archaeology and the Bible: Understanding Their Special Relationship,” Biblical archaeology Review (May/June 1990) 16:3.
  209. Daniel C. Peterson, "Chattanooga Cheapshot, or The Gall of Bitterness (Review of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism by John Ankerberg and John Weldon)," FARMS Review of Books 5/1 (1993): 1–86. off-site
  210. Hamblin citing Joyce Marcus, Mesoamerican Writing Systems (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992), 212–220 and Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings (New York: William Marrow & Company, 1990), 440, n28.
  211. See Hamblin, posted 29 January 2004 in thread, “What Would Be Proof of the Book of Mormon,” on Zion’s Lighthouse Bulletin Board (ZLMB) off-site(accessed 10 April 2005).
  212. William J. Hamblin (posting under the screen-name, “MorgbotX”), posted 29 January 2004 in thread, “What Would Be Proof of the Book of Mormon,” on Zion’s Lighthouse Bulletin Board (ZLMB) off-site(accessed 10 April 2005).
  213. Hamblin, "What Would be Proof...."
  214. Matt Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," The FARMS Review 16/2 (2004)
  215. For the history of the LGT, see Matthew Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 225–276. off-site
  216. 216.0 216.1 216.2 John L. Sorenson, "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture" (Part 1), Ensign (September 1984) off-site
  217. Matthew Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," The FARMS Review 16/2 (2004)
  218. Neal Rappleye, "“War of Words and Tumult of Opinions”: The Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 11 (2014)79. off-site
  219. John E. Clark, “Evaluating the Case for a Limited Great Lakes Setting,” FARMS Review of Books 14/1–2 (2002): 28.
  220. Matthew Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 225–276. off-site
  221. Janne M Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, Deseret News Press (1927)
  222. John L. Sorenson, "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture, Part 2", Ensign (October 1984) off-site
  223. John L. Sorenson, "Addendum," to John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors (Review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 93–119. off-site
  224. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16:1 (2004)
  225. Daniel C. Peterson, [http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1458&index=12 "On the New World Archaeological Foundation," The FARMS Review 16:1 (2004).
  226. John Gee, "The Hagiography of Doubting Thomas," FARMS Review of Books 10:2 (1998).
  227. Wikipedia article "Jacobsburg, Ohio".
  228. Wikipedia, "Jerusalem, Ohio" off-site Image taken from the David Rumsey Map Collection.
  229. Wikipedia, "Jordan, New York." off-site
  230. 230.0 230.1 230.2 230.3 230.4 230.5 Vernal Holley, Book of Mormon Authorship
  231. Chippewas of Rama First Nation, "About Us"
  232. Reflections of the Past : the story of Rama Township : a joint project of the Township of Rama and the Orillia Public Library, off-site
  233. Holley has two footnotes in his book Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look related to the name "Rama": [61] According to G.H. Armstrong, in his The Origin and Meanings of Place Names in Canada, Toronto, 1972, "Rama is the Greek form of Ramah of the Bible, which is said to mean 'high place'"; [62] J.G. Farewell, History of the County of Ontario, 1907.
  234. Wikipedia, "Shiloh, York County, Pennsylvania" off-site
  235. available online at http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs2/2001vern.htm
  236. Jeremy Runnells, "Debunking FairMormon"
  237. "Angola, New York," Wikipedia (access 14 Mar 2015)
  238. "Tecumseh, Ontario," Wikipedia (accessed 14 Mar 2015)
  239. Map of Anjouan [Nzwani], one of the Comoro Islands[Bellin, Jacques Nicolas, 1703-1772]. Carte de L'Isle D'Anjouan / Kaart van 'T Eiland Anjuan. par le Cap. Cornwal. [Paris?: Bellin?, 1748?] Call number: G 9212 .A5 P5 1748 .B45 off-site
  240. Benjamin L. McGuire, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5 (2013): 1-59.
  241. 241.0 241.1 241.2 Martin and Harriet Ottenheimer, "COMORO ISLANDS" (website) off-site
  242. 242.0 242.1 Barbara Dubins, "Nineteenth-Century Travel Literature on the Comoro Islands: A Bibliographical Essay," African Studies Bulletin, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Sep., 1969), pp. 138-146
  243. Grant Palmer, John Whitmer Historical Association vol. 34 no. 1 Spring/Summer 2014
  244. Ronald V. Huggins, "From Captain Kidd's Treasure Ghost to Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought36 no. 4 (2003)
  245. 245.0 245.1 Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867).
  246. The first “dime novel” did not appear until 1860. See Wikipedia article "Dime novel" off-site
  247. The author's name is generally regarded as a pseudonym; some have credited Daniel Defoe as the actual author.
  248. Charles Johnson, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (London: C. Rivington, 1724). The second edition of same year is A General History of the Pyrates : from their first rise and settlement in the Island of Providence, to the present time, The second edition with considerable additions (London: T. Warner, 1724), but contains no mention of Kidd.
  249. John W. Welch, "View of the Hebrews: 'An Unparallel'," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 83–87.
  250. I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism (New York, 1902), 124–126.
  251. Joseph Smith, Jr., "From Priest's American Antiquities," (1 June 1842) Times and Seasons 3:813-815.
  252. Brigham H. Roberts, Brigham D. Madsen, ed., Studies of the Book of Mormon, (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1985) ISBN 0252010434 .
  253. View of the Hebrews: 1825 2nd Edition Complete Text by Ethan Smith, edited by Charles D. Tate Jr., (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1996), 223. ISBN 1570082472. off-site wikisource
  254. Ethan Smith, 220.
  255. Ethan Smith, 184-185.
  256. Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 235–250. off-site
  257. Andrew H. Hedges, "Review of: View of the Hebrews," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997): 63–68. off-site
  258. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, chapter 14
  259. B. H. Roberts to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, March 1923. (See Studies of the Book of Mormon (1992), p. 58. On page 33, note 65, the editor of this work states that the date on this letter should be 1922 rather than 1923.)
  260. "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?", MormonThink.com
  261. B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City, UT; Signature Books, 1992) 243. Some online ministries quote Roberts' use of Lucy's quote as "evidence" that Roberts lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon. They completely ignore Roberts's statements on the same page that Joseph was describing the "wonderful conversations he had with the angel."
  262. Truman G. Madsen, "B. H. Roberts and the Book of Mormon," Book of Mormon Authorship (1982).
  263. B. H. Roberts, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon," Improvement Era no. 9 (April 1906), 435–436.
  264. B. H. Roberts to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, March 1923. (See Studies of the Book of Mormon (1992), p. 58. On page 33, note 65, the editor of this work states that the date on this letter should be 1922 rather than 1923.)
  265. Brigham H. Roberts, Conference Report (April 1930), 47.
  266. B. H. Roberts, “Protest Against the Science-Thought of a ‘Dying Universe’ and no Immortality for Man: The Mission of the Church of the New Dispensation,” delivered SLC Tabernacle, Sunday, 23 January 1932; reproduced in Discourses of B.H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy, compiled by Ben E. Roberts (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company 1948), 11–30.
  267. 267.00 267.01 267.02 267.03 267.04 267.05 267.06 267.07 267.08 267.09 267.10 267.11 267.12 267.13 Chris Johnson, Duane Johnson, "A Comparison of The Book of Mormon and The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain," http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/
  268. Alma 53:18-20
  269. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision)
  270. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision)
  271. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision)
  272. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  273. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  274. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  275. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  276. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  277. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  278. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (October 2014 revision).
  279. Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director (March 2015 revision).
  280. Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2007–2008), 1:214, emphasis in original.
  281. Gardner, Second Witness, 1:214.
  282. Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (New York: The New Press, 2012), 158.
  283. See Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminister/John Knox Press, 1992).
  284. Gardner, Second Witness, 1:215.
  285. Margaret Barker, “Joseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,” in The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2006), 79.
  286. Barker, The Great Angel, 4–10; Gardner, Second Witness, 1: 217-222.
  287. Gardner, Second Witness, 1:221.
  288. Gardner, Second Witness, 1:218.
  289. Because of the significant number of Book of Mormon passages that speak of Jesus as God, the original readings in 1 Nephi are perfectly acceptable in their original form. Royal Skousen, editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, has recommended that they be restored to their original readings (Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon 4/1: 233).
  290. Oliver Cowdery, "Trouble in the West," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 1 (April 1835), 105. direct off-site

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