1. DNA Evi­dence Dis­proves BOM Claims: DNA analy­sis under­mines the premise of the Book of Mor­mon. Specif­i­cal­ly, DNA evi­dence estab­lish­es that Native Amer­i­can Indi­ans orig­i­nate from Asia and not from the Mid­dle East or from Israel as claimed by the Book of Mor­mon and var­i­ous prophets. The thou­sands of DNA sam­ples from every known Native Amer­i­can tribe indi­cate an Asi­at­ic ori­gin (rather than Semit­ic ori­gin, as LDS lead­ers have spec­u­lat­ed) and wide­ly sup­port the the­o­ry of a pre­his­toric Asi­at­ic migra­tion across the Bear­ing Strait over 50,000 years ago. This evi­dence refutes the Church’s claim that Amer­i­can Natives are the descen­dants of Semit­ic migrants who arrived in Amer­i­ca in 590 B.C. Even LDS researchers, such as anthro­pol­o­gist Thomas W. Mur­phy, have con­clud­ed that the sub­stan­tial col­lec­tion of Native Amer­i­can genet­ic mark­ers now avail­able are not con­sis­tent with any detectable pres­ence of ances­tors from ancient Mid­dle East. This DNA evi­dence like­ly con­tributed to the Church chang­ing the intro­duc­tion page of the 2006 edi­tion Book of Mor­mon from “[the Laman­ites] are the prin­ci­pal ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans” to “[the Laman­ites] are among the ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.”

LDS defend­ers attempt to rebut this damn­ing DNA evi­dence by claim­ing that it may not be reli­able due to “genet­ic drift,” “swamp effect,” and “bot­tle­neck effect” upon the ini­tial migrant pop­u­la­tion of the Book of Mor­mon. Notably, none of these defens­es pro­vide a cohe­sive hypoth­e­sis rec­on­cil­ing cur­rent DNA evi­dence with Book of Mor­mon claims. Rather, these large­ly unsup­port­ed defens­es focus instead upon push­ing the Book of Mor­mon text out­side the realm of sci­en­tif­ic prov­abil­i­ty.

Per­haps the most com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of the DNA evi­dence under­min­ing the Book of Mor­mon is a book writ­ten by mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist and for­mer LDS bish­op Simon G. Souther­ton, Los­ing a Lost Tribe: Native Amer­i­cans, DNA, and the Mor­mon Church (which is excerpt­ed here). Souther­ton has also writ­ten a com­pre­hen­sive arti­cle in response to LDS crit­i­cisms of his book.

Recent­ly, the Church pub­lished an essay enti­tled, Book of Mor­mon and DNA stud­ies. Many of the the­o­ries and much of the infor­ma­tion con­tained in the essay con­tra­dicts 170 years of Church teach­ings on the sub­ject. Souther­ton recent­ly pub­lished a response essay expos­ing some of the Church’s “cor­po­rate dou­ble­think.” More­over, buried in the lengthy essay, the Church con­cedes that Laman­ite DNA has not been found and that most Native Amer­i­cans are descend­ed from Asians. Addi­tion­al­ly, Southerton’s arti­cle, “Could Gen­er­a­tions of Laman­ite DNA just dis­ap­pear?” thor­ough­ly refutes the idea that Laman­ite DNA could have sim­ply dis­ap­peared, as the Church sug­gests. The fol­low­ing para­graphs from the arti­cle illus­trate some of the recent DNA devel­op­ments impli­cat­ing the Book of Mor­mon.

The research on Nean­derthals and Deniso­vans clear­ly illus­trates that if ances­tors of oth­er eth­nic back­grounds are hid­ing unno­ticed in our fam­i­ly trees, traces of their DNA can be found in our genomes. Even after tens of thou­sands of years. It is no longer rea­son­able to claim that Laman­ite DNA can­not be found. The recent advances in whole genome sequenc­ing and analy­sis have changed the research land­scape. Genet­ic tests are now so sen­si­tive, that it is pos­si­ble to detect a tiny frac­tion of a per­cent of mixed ances­try in a person’s DNA.”

Let’s sus­pend dis­be­lief for a moment and con­sid­er that the apol­o­gists are on to some­thing, and all the prophets have been mis­guid­ed. Lehi and his small band col­o­nize a restrict­ed region of the Amer­i­c­as. The Book of Mor­mon records that Lehi’s descen­dants mul­ti­plied exceed­ing­ly and spread upon the face of the land. Their Mid­dle East­ern nuclear DNA would have spread, over the last 3,000 years, through­out adja­cent pop­u­la­tions like a drop of ink in a buck­et of water. At the very least their genes would have spread over many hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres. It would be exceed­ing­ly unlike­ly that their genom­ic DNA would go extinct and sci­en­tists explor­ing the genomes of Native Amer­i­cans would stum­ble on it if it was there. But appar­ent­ly the Laman­ite gen­er­a­tion, along with their genes, are nowhere to be found beyond the pages of the Book of Mor­mon.”

The main idea is this: DNA evi­dence has defin­i­tive­ly estab­lished that Native Amer­i­can Indi­ans orig­i­nate from Asia and not from the Mid­dle East or from Israelites as the Book of Mor­mon claims.

2. Errors and Anachro­nisms: The Book of Mor­mon con­tains numer­ous errors, includ­ing many anachro­nisms, in that it refers to words, phras­es, ani­mals, etc. that sim­ply did not exist dur­ing the Book of Mor­mon time­line. For exam­ple:

  • Hors­es are referred to in Alma 18: 9, Alma 18: 12, Alma 20: 6, and 3 Né. 3: 22, but did not exist dur­ing Book of Mor­mon times. Hors­es evolved in North Amer­i­ca, but became extinct at the end of the Pleis­tocene (2.5 mil­lion to 12,000 years ago) peri­od. Hors­es did not reap­pear until the Spaniards brought them from Europe in 1519.
  • Ele­phants are men­tioned (Ether 9:19) in the Jared­ite era (2500 BC). There is no fos­sil evi­dence to sup­port this place­ment. Mas­ta­dons and Mam­moths lived dur­ing the Pleis­tocene in the New World, how­ev­er, the fos­sil record indi­cates that they became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago).
  • Domes­ti­cat­ed cat­tle are men­tioned in Ether 9:18, but no evi­dence has been recov­ered sug­gest­ing that Old World cat­tle inhab­it­ed the New World pri­or to Euro­pean con­tact in the 16th Cen­tu­ry AD.
  • Goats and swine (Ether 9:8) are referred to as though they are domes­ti­cat­ed. There is evi­dence that some wild vari­eties of goats and pigs were present in pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca, but there is no evi­dence that these ani­mals were domes­ti­cat­ed. There is no art­work por­tray­ing either of these types of ani­mals. Fur­ther­more, ani­mals that did exist are not men­tioned, such as deer, sloth, mon­keys and jaguars.
  • Bar­ley and wheat are men­tioned numer­ous times. How­ev­er, domes­ti­cat­ed forms of these grains were not intro­duced until a thou­sand years after the end of the Book of Mor­mon era.
  • Char­i­ots are men­tioned numer­ous times in the Book of Mor­mon (Alma 18:9–10, 12, Alma 20:6, 3 Nephi 3:22). There is no arche­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port the use of wheeled vehi­cles in the pre-Columbian Mesoamer­i­ca. This is prob­a­bly because there were no large domes­ti­cat­ed ani­mals to pull wag­ons, carts, plows, or char­i­ots.
  • Steel and iron are men­tioned sev­er­al times (1 Nephi 16:18, 2 Nephi 5:15, Jarom 1:8, Ether 7:9). There is no evi­dence for hard­ened steel in the pre-Columbian Amer­i­c­as. The Book of Mor­mon also refers to “swords,” stat­ing that “the blades there­of were cankered with rust” (Mosi­ah 8:11). This ref­er­ence is in con­text of the dis­cov­ery of the Jared­ites’ final bat­tle­field where an esti­mat­ed 250,000 war­riors were killed. No such bat­tle­field has ever been found in arche­o­log­i­cal study, nor has any “sword” as we know them.
  • Cimiters” (pre­sum­ably scim­i­tars) are men­tioned numer­ous times in the BOM. A scim­i­tar is a long, curved sword used by the Per­sians and Turks. These weapons did not exist in the Amer­i­c­as (or any­where else) until 450 AD, approx­i­mat­ing the close of the BOM peri­od. Fur­ther­more, the word was not used by the Hebrews (a lin­guis­tic anachro­nism).
  • The Book of Mor­mon refers to a type of mon­e­tary sys­tem based on weights of pre­cious met­als (Alma 11). Such a sys­tem, how­ev­er, has not been dis­cov­ered in Mesoamer­i­ca.
  • Silk is men­tioned six times (1 Nephi 13:7,8, Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17, Ether 10:24), but is a prod­uct of the Ori­ent and was unknown in the pre-Columbian Amer­i­c­as.
  • The BOM describes cul­tures whose lan­guage and writ­ing was root­ed in Hebrew and Egypt­ian. Archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence shows that the only peo­ple who ever devel­oped a writ­ten lan­guage in Amer­i­ca were the Mayans. The Mayan lan­guage has no resem­blance to Hebrew or Egypt­ian.

The Book of Mor­mon men­tions numer­ous ani­mals, objects, etc. that did not exist in the Amer­i­c­as between 2200 BC and 421 AD. Unless the Book of Mor­mon is a work of fic­tion, how does one account for the numer­ous errors, mis­takes, and anachro­nisms?

3. Archae­ol­o­gy: There is no archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to direct­ly sup­port the Book of Mor­mon or the Nephites, Laman­ites, or Jared­ites who pur­port­ed­ly num­bered in the mil­lions.

The Book of Mor­mon is pur­port­ed­ly a record of two great civ­i­liza­tions that lived on the Amer­i­can con­ti­nents span­ning a peri­od of over 2,600 years from approx­i­mate­ly 2,200 BC to 480 AD. Dur­ing this time frame, the Book of Mor­mon describes high­ly-pop­u­lat­ed cul­tures devel­op­ing from extreme­ly small col­o­niza­tion groups. This presents at least two prob­lems. First, the mil­lions of peo­ple referred to in the Book of Mor­mon could have only come about if the pop­u­la­tion grew at a rate many times greater than what was ever achieved in ancient his­to­ry. Sec­ond, if the Book of Mor­mon peo­ple grew as large and as sophis­ti­cat­ed as the depict­ed in the book’s text, there should be some arche­o­log­i­cal evi­dence of their exis­tence.

For exam­ple, the Book of Mor­mon depicts two major bat­tles that took place at the Hill Cumorah (Ramah to the Jared­ites). Approx­i­mate­ly 230,000 Nephites and Laman­ites were slain in the 5th Cen­tu­ry AD, and 2 mil­lion Jared­ites were killed in 600 BC in the same place. (Ether 15:2.) To com­pare how big these bat­tles were, the Amer­i­can Civ­il War claimed the lives of 620,000 sol­diers over a four-year peri­od. These Book of Mor­mon bat­tles claimed over three times as many lives and in a much more local­ized area and in a much short­er time frame. How­ev­er, no evi­dence (includ­ing steel swords, armor, hors­es and char­i­ots) has been found to sub­stan­ti­ate these cat­a­clysmic bat­tles.

As not­ed by Jere­my Run­nells, “com­pare this to the Roman occu­pa­tion of Britain and oth­er coun­tries. There are abun­dant evi­dences of their pres­ence dur­ing the first 400 years AD such as vil­las, mosa­ic floors, pub­lic baths, armor, weapons, writ­ings, art, pot­tery, and so on. Even the major road sys­tems used today in some of these occu­pied coun­tries were built by the Romans. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is ample evi­dence of the Mayan and Aztec civ­i­liza­tions as well as a civ­i­liza­tion in cur­rent day Texas that dates back 15,000 years. Where are the Nephite or Laman­ite build­ings, roads, armors, swords, pot­tery, art, etc.?”

The lack of archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence sup­port­ing is one of the rea­sons why some church mem­bers now push the “Lim­it­ed Geog­ra­phy Mod­el” (i.e., the Nephites and Laman­ites lived in a lim­it­ed area in Cen­tral or South Amer­i­ca, etc.) and that the real Hill Cumorah is not in Palmyra, New York but in Mesoamer­i­ca. This the­o­ry, how­ev­er, con­tra­dicts what Joseph Smith and oth­er prophets repeat­ed­ly taught. The fol­low­ing link pro­vides numer­ous state­ments from church lead­ers link­ing the Hill Cumorah to Palmyra, New York.

http://exposingmormonism.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Watson_1st_Cumorah_Letter.jpg

In fact, as late as Octo­ber 16, 1990, the First Pres­i­den­cy reit­er­at­ed that the Hill Cumorah ref­er­enced in the Book of Mor­mon is locat­ed in Palmyra, New York. Above is a copy of a let­ter issued by the First Pres­i­den­cy to an LDS bish­op relat­ing to the loca­tion of the Hill Cumorah. Aside from the loca­tion of Cumorah, the Book of Mor­mon con­tains many oth­er arche­o­log­i­cal prob­lems. Con­sid­er the wheel. Accord­ing to the Book of Mor­mon, Lehi’s fam­i­ly brought one of the world’s inven­tions with them, the wheel, which they used to make char­i­ots. Yet no char­i­ots or oth­er large wheeled objects have been found in ancient Amer­i­ca. That would mean that all knowl­edge of this most use­ful inten­tion was lost and not used by the Nephite and Laman­ite descen­dants, which is high­ly unlike­ly. Sim­ply stat­ed, arche­ol­o­gists have been unable to find any arche­o­log­i­cal evi­dence of Book of Mor­mon events. Lat­ter-day Saint Thomas Stu­art Fer­gu­son was BYU’s archae­ol­o­gy divi­sion (New World Archae­o­log­i­cal Fund­ing) founder, which was financed by the Church. NWAF and Fer­gu­son were tasked by BYU and the Church in the 1950s and 1960s to find archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port the Book of Mor­mon. After 17 years of work, Fer­gu­son con­clud­ed as fol­lows:

[Y]ou 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

Addi­tion­al­ly, in 1973, Michael Coe, one of the best known author­i­ties on New World archae­ol­o­gy, pub­lished a paper on Book of Mor­mon arche­ol­o­gy. In so doing, he stat­ed:

Mor­mon archae­ol­o­gists over the years have almost unan­i­mous­ly accept­ed the Book of Mor­mon as an accu­rate, his­tor­i­cal account of the New World peo­ples.… Let me now state uncat­e­gor­i­cal­ly that as far as I know there is not one pro­fes­sion­al­ly trained archae­ol­o­gist, who is not a Mor­mon, who sees any sci­en­tif­ic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for believ­ing the fore­go­ing to be true, and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mor­mon archae­ol­o­gists who join this group.…

The bare facts of the mat­ter are that noth­ing, absolute­ly noth­ing, has even shown up in any New World exca­va­tion which would sug­gest to a dis­pas­sion­ate observ­er that the Book of Mor­mon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment relat­ing to the his­to­ry of ear­ly migrants to our hemi­sphere.” (Dia­logue: A Jour­nal of Mor­mon Thought, Sum­mer 1973, pp. 41, 42 & 46)

Fer­gu­son and Coe’s con­clu­sions are uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed with­in the arche­o­log­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty. For exam­ple, in August 2013, a 17-year-old named Zachary emailed 60 col­lege pro­fes­sors spe­cial­iz­ing in Pre-Columbian Mesoamer­i­ca Archae­ol­o­gy, Pre-Columbian Mesoamer­i­ca Anthro­pol­o­gy, and/or Egyp­tol­ogy. Zachary sought their pro­fes­sion­al opin­ion on the his­toric­i­ty of the Book of Mor­mon and Book of Abra­ham. Of the 60 pro­fes­sors Zachary emailed, 25 respond­ed, and 14 gave Zachary per­mis­sion to pub­lish their names and com­ments. The con­sen­sus from these experts is that nei­ther the Book of Mor­mon nor the Book of Abra­ham is his­tor­i­cal, fac­tu­al, or con­gru­ent to the cur­rent and exist­ing data and evi­dence. The respons­es from these pro­fes­sors and experts can be read here.

Addi­tion­al­ly, con­sid­er the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Society’s let­ter on the mat­ter, which states in per­ti­nent part: “Archae­ol­o­gists and oth­er schol­ars have long probed the hemisphere’s past, and the Soci­ety does not know of any­thing found so far that has sub­stan­ti­at­ed the Book of Mor­mon.” The let­ter went on to state:

[S]tudents of pre­his­toric Amer­i­can by and large con­clude that the New World’s ear­li­est inhab­i­tants arrived from Asia via the Bering “land bridge.” (Low­er sea lev­els dur­ing ice ages exposed the con­ti­nen­tal shelf beneath Bering Strait, allow­ing gen­er­a­tions of ancient Siberi­ans to migrate east.)

Not only did the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Soci­ety con­clude that there is no evi­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate the Book of Mor­mon, it also endorsed the fol­low­ing state­ment, from the Smith­son­ian Insti­tute.

73

4. Book of Mor­mon Con­tains KJV Text: The Book of Mor­mon con­tains numer­ous errors found in the 1769 KJV edi­tion of the Bible, which Joseph Smith owned. These errors sug­gest that Joseph copied por­tions of the Bible and insert­ed them into the Book of Mor­mon.

As not­ed by Jere­my Run­nells: “When King James trans­la­tors were trans­lat­ing the KJV bible into Eng­lish between 1604 and 1611, they would occa­sion­al­ly insert their own words into the text to make it more read­able.” They did so because word mean­ings and idioms change slight­ly when trans­lat­ing from one lan­guage to anoth­er. We know which words they added because they are ital­i­cized in the KJV Bible. The prob­lem is that the Book of Mor­mon, in quot­ing pas­sages from the Bible, con­tains the iden­ti­cal ital­i­cized words, which could not be unless Joseph copied the KJV text to con­struct the Book of Mor­mon. The fol­low­ing are two exam­ples iden­ti­fied by Run­nells:

Isa­iah 9:1 (KJV) 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. 2 Nephi 19:1 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.

Run­nells: “The above exam­ple, 2 Nephi 19:1, dat­ed in the Book of Mor­mon to be around 550 BC, quotes near­ly ver­ba­tim from the 1611 AD trans­la­tion of Isa­iah 9:1 KJV – includ­ing the trans­la­tors’ ital­i­cized words. Addi­tion­al­ly, Joseph qual­i­fied the sea as the Red Sea. The prob­lem with this is that (a) Christ quot­ed Isa­iah in Matt. 4:14–15 and did not men­tion the Red Sea; (b) ‘Red’ sea is not found in any source man­u­scripts; and © the Red Sea is 250 miles away.”

Malachi 3:10 (KJV) … and pour you out a bless­ing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 3 Nephi 24:10 … and pour you out a bless­ing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Run­nells: “In the above exam­ple, the KJV trans­la­tors added sev­en ital­i­cized words not found in the source Hebrew man­u­scripts to its Eng­lish trans­la­tion. Why does the Book of Mor­mon, com­plet­ed 1,200 years pri­or, con­tain the exact iden­ti­cal sev­en ital­i­cized words of 17th cen­tu­ry trans­la­tors?”

5. Book of Mor­mon Con­tains KJV Trans­la­tion Errors: Run­nells not­ed that “the Book of Mor­mon con­tains mis­trans­lat­ed bib­li­cal pas­sages that were lat­er changed in Joseph Smith’s trans­la­tion of the Bible. These Book of Mor­mon vers­es should match the inspired JST ver­sion instead of the KJV ver­sion that Joseph lat­er fixed.” The fol­low­ing is an exam­ple iden­ti­fied by Run­nels as to the dif­fer­ences between the KJV, the BOM, and the JST:

3 Nephi 13:25–27:

25: There­fore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than rai­ment?

26: Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, nei­ther do they reap nor gath­er into barns; yet your heav­en­ly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much bet­ter than they?

27: Which of you by tak­ing thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

Matthew 6:25–27 (from the King James Ver­sion bible – not the JST):

25: There­fore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than rai­ment?

26: Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, nei­ther do they reap, nor gath­er into barns; yet your heav­en­ly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much bet­ter than they?

27: Which of you by tak­ing thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

Run­nells: “The above pas­sages are iden­ti­cal, which is under­stand­able as Christ may have said the same thing to both groups of peo­ple in the Old World as well as the New World. Let’s look at the JST ver­sion of the above iden­ti­cal pas­sages:”

Joseph Smith Trans­la­tion of the same pas­sages in the LDS bible for Matthew 6:25–27:

25: And, again, I say unto you, Go ye into the world, and care not for the world: for the world will hate you, and will per­se­cute you, and will turn you out of their syn­a­gogues.

26: Nev­er­the­less, ye shall go forth from house to house, teach­ing the peo­ple; and I will go before you.

27: And your heav­en­ly Father will pro­vide for you, what­so­ev­er things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for rai­ment, what ye shall wear or put on.

Joseph Smith claimed to have cor­rect­ed the Bible because it had been cor­rupt­ed. How­ev­er, accord­ing to Joseph, the Book of Mor­mon is “the most cor­rect book” and did not need to be cor­rect­ed. Why, then, does the Book of Mor­mon still con­tain the same cor­rupt­ed lan­guage as its Bib­li­cal coun­ter­part, and why doesn’t the Book of Mor­mon match the JST?

6. Sim­i­lar­i­ties with View of the Hebrews: Run­nells not­ed that in 1825, Rev­erend Ethan Smith pub­lished a book enti­tled View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pas­tor in Poult­ney, Ver­mont when he wrote the book. Oliv­er Cow­dery, also a Poult­ney res­i­dent, was a mem­ber of Ethan’s con­gre­ga­tion pri­or to join­ing his cousin, Joseph Smith, in New York. Cow­dery lat­er played an instru­men­tal role in bring­ing forth the Book of Mor­mon.

Over the years, numer­ous schol­ars have not­ed strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties between the Book of Mor­mon and View of the Hebrews. (The full text of the book can be found here.) LDS Gen­er­al Author­i­ty and schol­ar Elder B.H. Roberts con­duct­ed a thor­ough exam­i­na­tion of View of the Hebrews to deter­mine whether there were any links to the Book of Mor­mon. In so doing, Elder Roberts ana­lyzed infor­ma­tion that was avail­able to Joseph Smith, Oliv­er Cow­dery, Mar­tin Har­ris and oth­ers pri­or to the pub­li­ca­tion of the Book of Mor­mon. Roberts’ work has been doc­u­ment­ed in Stud­ies of the Book of Mor­mon. The fol­low­ing are some of the sim­i­lar­i­ties not­ed by Elder Roberts between the first edi­tion (1823) of the View of the Hebrews (Online Source) and the first edi­tion (1830) of the Book of Mor­mon (Online Source):

  • The destruc­tion of Jerusalem
  • The scat­ter­ing of Israel
  • The restora­tion of the Ten Tribes
  • Hebrews leave the Old World for the New World
  • Reli­gion a moti­vat­ing fac­tor
  • Migra­tions a long jour­ney
  • Encounter “seas” of “many waters”
  • The Amer­i­c­as an unin­hab­it­ed land
  • Set­tlers jour­ney north­ward
  • Encounter a val­ley of a great riv­er
  • A uni­ty of race (Hebrew) set­tle the land and are the ances­tral ori­gin of Amer­i­can Indi­ans
  • Hebrew the ori­gin of Indi­an lan­guage
  • Egypt­ian hiero­glyph­ics
  • Lost Indi­an records (the View of the Hebrews depicts a set of “yel­low leaves” buried in “Indi­an Hill,” where­as Joseph Smith described gold plates buried in Hill Cumorah
  • Breast­plate, Urim & Thum­mim
  • A man stand­ing on a wall warn­ing the peo­ple say­ing, “Wo, wo to this city…to this peo­ple” while sub­se­quent­ly being attacked. For exam­ple, View of Hebrews, p.20 describes Jesus, son of Ananus, stand­ing on the wall cry­ing, “Wo, wo to this city, this tem­ple, and this peo­ple.” View of the Hebrews also states that Jesus (a) preached for many days; (b) went upon a wall; © cried with a loud voice; (d) proph­e­sied the destruc­tion of Jerusalem; and (e) had stones cast at him. Mean­while, Hela­man 13 — 16 of the Book of Mor­mon describes Samuel the Laman­ite stand­ing on the wall cry­ing, “Wo, wo to this city” or “this peo­ple.” Addi­tion­al­ly, the Book of Mor­mon states that Samuel (a) preached for many days; (b) went upon a wall; © cried with a loud voice; (d) proph­e­sied the destruc­tion of the Nephites; and (e) had stones cast at him.
  • Prophets, spir­i­tu­al­ly gift­ed men trans­mit gen­er­a­tional records
  • The Gospel preached in the Amer­i­c­as
  • Quotes whole chap­ters of Isa­iah
  • Good and bad are a nec­es­sary oppo­si­tion
  • Pride denounced
  • Polygamy denounced
  • Sacred tow­ers and high places
  • Mes­si­ah vis­its the Amer­i­c­as
  • Idol­a­try and human sac­ri­fice
  • Hebrews divide into two class­es, civ­i­lized and bar­barous
  • Exten­sive mil­i­tary for­ti­fi­ca­tions, obser­va­tions, “watch tow­ers”
  • Bar­barous exter­mi­nate the civ­i­lized
  • Dis­cuss­es the Unit­ed States

Source: B.H. Roberts, Stud­ies of the Book of Mor­mon, p.240–242,324–344

After com­plet­ing his analy­sis of the BOM and View of the Hebrews, B.H. Roberts con­clud­ed that the two books were strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar. He stat­ed

7. Sim­i­lar­i­ties with The Late War: As not­ed by Run­nells, the Book of Mor­mon bears strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties with The Late War between the Unit­ed States and Great Britain. The Late War was an 1819 text­book writ­ten in King James Ver­sion-style lan­guage for New York school chil­dren, one of them like­ly being Joseph Smith. The first chap­ter alone is stun­ning in its resem­blance to the Book of Mor­mon:

1. Now it came to pass, in the one thou­sand eight hun­dred and twelfth year of the Chris­t­ian era, and in the thir­ty and sixth year after the peo­ple of the provinces of Colum­bia had declared them­selves a free and inde­pen­dent nation;

2. That in the sixth month of the same year, on the first day of the month, the chief Gov­er­nor, whom the peo­ple had cho­sen to rule over the land of Colum­bia;

3. Even James, whose sir-name was Madi­son, deliv­ered a writ­ten paper to the Great Sannhedrim of the peo­ple, who were assem­bled togeth­er.

4. And the name of the city where the peo­ple were gath­ered togeth­er was called after the name of the chief cap­tain of the land of Colum­bia, whose fame exten­deth to the utter­most parts of the earth; albeit, he had slept with his fathers .…

Along with the above KJV-style lan­guage used through­out the book, Run­nells noticed that The Late War (pub­lished a mere decade before the Book of Mor­mon) con­tains the fol­low­ing Book of Mor­mon phras­es, themes, and sto­ry­lines:

  • 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
  • Com­pare The Late War: “And it came to pass, that a great mul­ti­tude flocked to the ban­ners of the great San­hedrim” with 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. The 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 attack­ers flee into the wilderness/forest.
  • Cat­a­clysmic earth­quake fol­lowed by great dark­ness
  • Elephants/mammoths in Amer­i­ca
  • Lit­er­ary Hebraisms/Chiasmus
  • Boats and barges built from trees and fash­ioned after the ark
  • The phrase “it came to pass” is used repeat­ed­ly
  • Numer­ous oth­er par­al­lels

The sim­i­lar­i­ties between The Late War and the Book of Mor­mon are astound­ing. This web page out­lines just how dev­as­tat­ing The Late War is to the Book of Mor­mon and its claims. Rick Grun­der states in his paper: “The pres­ence of Hebraisms and oth­er strik­ing par­al­lels in a pop­u­lar children’s text­book (Late War), on the oth­er hand – so close to Joseph Smith in his youth – must sober our per­spec­tive.” (Grun­der, pg. 770.)

8. Sim­i­lar­i­ties with The First Book of Napoleon: As not­ed by Run­nells, the Book of Mor­mon is also strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar to The First Book of Napoleon, which was pub­lished in 1809. The first chap­ter:

1. 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.

2. And this spir­it seized upon, and spread amongst the peo­ple who dwell in the land of Gaul.

3. 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 imag­ines of their hearts, and in the prac­tices of their lives.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Now it came to pass, that the nation of the Gauls con­tin­ued to be sore­ly trou­bled and vexed, and the evil spir­it whis­pered unto the peo­ple, even unto the mean­est and vilest there­of …

The First Book of Napoleon, pub­lished only two decades before Book of Mor­mon, con­tains many of the­mat­ic sim­i­lar­i­ties to the BOM. The fol­low­ing is a side-by-side com­par­i­son of the begin­ning of The First Book of Napoleon with the begin­ning of the Book of Mor­mon as iden­ti­fied by Run­nells.

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.

9. Ear­ly BOM Edi­tion Teach­es Trin­i­ty: Ear­ly edi­tions of the Book of Mor­mon taught a Trini­tar­i­an view of the God­head before sub­se­quent revi­sions altered the text. Joseph Smith’s ear­ly the­ol­o­gy (even after the First Vision) also sub­scribed to the doc­trine of the Trin­i­ty. Includ­ing minor gram­mat­i­cal changes, the Book of Mor­mon has under­gone over 100,000 changes and at least 3,913 sub­stan­tive changes. How­ev­er, some of those changes were quite sig­nif­i­cant and made to reflect Joseph’s evolv­ing view of the God­head. Here are sev­er­al exam­ples iden­ti­fied by Run­nells:

Orig­i­nal 1830 Edi­tion Text

View Online

Cur­rent, Altered Text

View Online

1 Nephi 3 (p.25):

And he said unto me, Behold, the vir­gin whom thou seest, is the moth­er of God, after the man­ner of the flesh.

1 Nephi 11:18:

And he said unto me: Behold, the vir­gin whom thou seest is the moth­er of the Son of God, after the man­ner of the flesh.

1 Nephi 3 (p.25):

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eter­nal Father!

1 Nephi 11:21:

And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eter­nal Father!

1 Nephi 3 (p.26):

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;

1 Nephi 11:32:

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;

1 Nephi 3 (p.32):

These last records…shall make known to all kin­dreds, tongues, and peo­ple, that the Lamb of God is the Eter­nal Father and the Sav­ior of the world;

1 Nephi 13:40:

These last records…shall make known to all kin­dreds, tongues, and peo­ple, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eter­nal Father, and the Sav­ior of the world;

As not­ed by Run­nells, the fol­low­ing vers­es are among the many vers­es still in the Book of Mor­mon that hold a Trini­tar­i­an view of the God­head:

Alma 11:38–39:

38: Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eter­nal Father?

39: 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;

Mosi­ah 15:1–4:

1: And now Abi­na­di said unto them: I would that ye should under­stand that God him­self shall come down among the chil­dren of men, and shall redeem his peo­ple.

2: And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and hav­ing sub­ject­ed the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son –

3: The Father, because he was con­ceived by the pow­er of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becom­ing the Father and Son –

4: And they are one God, yea, the very Eter­nal Father of heav­en and of earth.

Mosi­ah 16:15:

15: Teach them that redemp­tion cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eter­nal Father. Amen.”

LDS schol­ar, Boyd Kirk­land, made the fol­low­ing obser­va­tion:

The Book of Mor­mon and ear­ly rev­e­la­tions of Joseph Smith do indeed vivid­ly por­tray a pic­ture of the Father and Son as the same God… Why is it that the Book of Mor­mon not only doesn’t clear up ques­tions about the God­head which have raged in Chris­tian­i­ty for cen­turies, but on the con­trary just adds to the con­fu­sion? This seems par­tic­u­lar­ly iron­ic, since a major avowed pur­pose of the book was to restore lost truths and end doc­tri­nal con­tro­ver­sies caused by the “great and abom­inable Church’s” cor­rup­tion of the Bible… In lat­er years he [Joseph] reversed his ear­li­er efforts to com­plete­ly ‘monotheise’ the god­head and instead ‘tritheised’ it.” (LDS schol­ar, Boyd Kirk­land, “An Evolv­ing God”)

10. Con­flict with First Vision: The doc­u­ment­ed changes to the Book of Mor­mon relat­ing to the God­head are par­tic­u­lar­ly trou­bling, as they occurred long after Joseph Smith claimed to have seen God the Father and Jesus Christ. Run­nells asks: “Assum­ing that the offi­cial 1838 First Vision account is truth­ful and accu­rate, why would Joseph Smith hold a Trini­tar­i­an view of the God­head if he per­son­al­ly saw God and Jesus Christ as sep­a­rate and embod­ied beings a few years ear­li­er in the Sacred Grove?” Why did ear­ly edi­tions of the Book of Mor­mon (which, accord­ing to Joseph, was the most cor­rect book on earth) per­pet­u­ate a Trini­tar­i­an doc­trine?

11. Implau­si­bil­i­ty of Jared­ite Sto­ry: There are many implau­si­ble sto­ries con­tained with­in the Book of Mor­mon. For exam­ple, Joseph Smith said the first group of Book of Mor­mon peo­ple, the Jared­ites, came to Amer­i­ca in eight barges that resem­bled sub­marines. They were sealed all the way around except for two air holes. One air hole was locat­ed at the top and one on the bot­tom of the barges so as the barges rolled upside down in the water they could occa­sion­al­ly unstop one of the two air holes. These eight, air­tight, rolling, rotat­ing barges con­tained flocks of ani­mals, swarms of bees, and enough pro­vi­sions to enable them to trav­el to the New World over a peri­od of 344 days. All eight ships mirac­u­lous­ly land­ed at the same place even though they had no way to steer them.

12. Author­ship: Most Church mem­bers claim that it would have been impos­si­ble for Joseph Smith (or Syd­ney Rig­don or Oliv­er Cow­dery) to write the Book of Mor­mon. B.H. Roberts, how­ev­er, casts doubt on that assump­tion. Roberts served as the Pres­i­dent of the First quo­rum of the Sev­en­ty and the Assis­tant Church His­to­ri­an. Though B.H. Roberts remained faith­ful to the Church and was a Book of Mor­mon defend­er, he was hon­est and bold enough to declare in his writ­ings that Joseph Smith was indeed capa­ble of cre­at­ing the Book of Mor­mon. Roberts said:

In light of this evi­dence, there can be no doubt as to the pos­ses­sion of a vivid­ly strong, cre­ative imag­i­na­tion by Joseph Smith, the Prophet. An imag­i­na­tion, it could with rea­son be urged, which, giv­en the sug­ges­tions that are to be found in the ‘com­mon knowl­edge’ of accept­ed Amer­i­can antiq­ui­ties of the times, sup­ple­ment­ed by such work as Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, would make it pos­si­ble for him to cre­ate a book such as the Book of Mor­mon is.”

There are many amaz­ing mys­ter­ies that we can­not explain, but the first response is not to claim that the mys­ter­ies must have some super­nat­ur­al ori­gins. For exam­ple, how did Beethoven write sym­phonies when he was deaf? We still do not know exact­ly how the Egypt­ian pyra­mids were built. How did Ein­stein come up with the The­o­ry of Rel­a­tiv­i­ty? And how did Mozart com­pose remark­able music as a mere child? Mil­lions of books have been writ­ten by mil­lions of authors. It seems that the vast major­i­ty out­side of the LDS com­mu­ni­ty do not believe the Book of Mor­mon to be a work of a genius or a lit­er­ary mas­ter­piece. Accom­plished authors like Mark Twain read the Book of Mor­mon and found noth­ing in it to be divine. Twain actu­al­ly referred to it as chlo­ro­form in print. If you exam­ine a first edi­tion Book of Mor­mon writ­ten in para­graph form, with­out the bib­li­cal-like chap­ters and vers­es, you would dis­cov­er thou­sands of gram­mat­i­cal errors.

A fair ques­tion to ask is this: exact­ly what parts of the Book of Mor­mon could not have been writ­ten by Joseph Smith? Is there any phrase so pro­found, any idea so unique that some­one who stud­ied the Bible, attend­ed reli­gious ser­vices, exhort­ed at his local church, and had an excel­lent imag­i­na­tion could not have writ­ten or copied from anoth­er source? Church mem­bers do not ques­tion that the prin­ci­pal ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans wrote the orig­i­nal Book of Mor­mon on gold plates, but they reject the idea that a 19th Cen­tu­ry man could have done the same.

13. Sources Joseph Smith Like­ly Used in Com­pos­ing the Book of Mor­mon: The major­i­ty of the Book of Mor­mon can be account­ed for in var­i­ous texts that were avail­able in Joseph Smith’s time. Accord­ing to his­to­ri­an and for­mer CES edu­ca­tor Grant Palmer, 75 per­cent of the book’s con­tent is account­ed for by Joseph Smith’s use of six 19th Cen­tu­ry sources of which he was very famil­iar. Twen­ty-five per­cent came from the Bible and anoth­er 25 per­cent came from the Methodist reli­gion. The remain­ing 25 per­cent came from three oth­er sources. Most of this evi­dence is detailed in, An Insider’s View of Mor­mon Ori­gins, chap­ters 2–4. For exam­ple:

  • Out­line: The Book of Mormon’s gen­er­al sto­ry line may have come from Ethan Smith’s, 1823 New York nov­el, View of the Hebrews. In fact, B. H. Roberts con­clud­ed there was “a great prob­a­bil­i­ty” that the Smith’s read or were famil­iar with View of the Hebrews. The book told of a small colony of Israelites that left a Euro­pean city about 600 BC, crossed the ocean, and arrived in the Amer­i­c­as. They divid­ed into two class­es (an indus­tri­ous and an idle group) and engaged in many wars. The gospel was preached and a Christ fig­ure was empha­sized through­out the book. Final­ly, the bar­bar­ic divi­sion exter­mi­nat­ed the civ­i­lized group.
  • 1, 2 Nephi: Bible pas­sages dom­i­nate the text in these two books. Over half of the chap­ters in 2 Nephi are from the 1769 KJV edi­tion of the Bible. We know this because the Book of Mor­mon con­tains the spe­cif­ic errors of that Bible trans­la­tion. (Addi­tion­al­ly, in 1 Nephi, two 1811 dreams of Joseph Smith Sr. are seen in Lehi’s first dream and Lehi’s tree of life dream. A num­ber of oth­er fam­i­ly bio­graph­i­cal facts were used by Joseph in the Book of Mor­mon).
  • Jacob, Enos, Mosi­ah, Alma 1–42: These books are dom­i­nat­ed by evan­gel­i­cal Methodist Camp Meet­ing, terms, prac­tices, pat­terns, and doc­trines of which Joseph Smith was famil­iar. The 11 main Book of Mor­mon preach­ers between Jacob and Alma reflect, in vir­tu­al­ly every way, what one would expect to find when mak­ing a study of the Sec­ond Great Awak­en­ing preach­ers of Joseph’s era.
  • Alma 43–63: These war chap­ters reflect the strate­gies of the Amer­i­can Indi­an Wars and the War of 1812, espe­cial­ly the British/Indian com­bat strate­gies used against the Amer­i­can sol­diers in the War of 1812. Joseph heard his rel­a­tives and neigh­bors recount these sto­ries.
  • For some of this evi­dence, see Mer­cy Otis Warren’s 1805 book, His­to­ry of the Rise, Progress, and Ter­mi­na­tion of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion; and David Ramsey’s 1789 book, His­to­ry of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion.
  • Hela­man; 3 Nephi 1–7: The text of these (“Gadianton”) chap­ters reveals strong influ­ences from the anti-Mason­ic terms/rhetoric/methodology/practice/fears and sen­ti­ment report­ed dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 1828–29. They flood­ed the news­pa­pers (the Smith’s sub­scribed to a news­pa­per) and the talk of the day. Andrew Jack­son was a Mason, and the papers had a field day spec­u­lat­ing on what Jack­son would do to the Exec­u­tive and Judi­cial branch­es of gov­ern­ment if elect­ed. Many of these anti-Mason­ic terms, con­cepts and pre­dic­tions, are seen in this sec­tion of the Book of Mor­mon.
  • 3 Nephi 11–28: Again, Bible pas­sages dom­i­nate this sec­tion of the Book of Mor­mon, specif­i­cal­ly a 1769 edi­tion or lat­er print­ing of the KJV, includ­ing its errors. Of the 490 vers­es in these chap­ters, 246, or 50 per­cent con­tain, rec­og­niz­able KJV quo­ta­tions or phras­es.
  • Ether: This book appears to be Joseph Smith’s essay on the cen­tral mes­sage of the Book of Mor­mon. The first half of Ether describes what hap­pens to the Jared­ites when they fol­low Christ and the sec­ond half explains what hap­pens when they do not. In many ways, Ether is a minia­ture Book of Mor­mon sto­ry of the Nephites and Laman­ites, includ­ing the extreme anni­hi­la­tion of both the Jared­ites and Nephites down to the last man.
Series Nav­i­ga­tion: Leav­ing the Church — Eric Nel­son« Leav­ing the Church, Part 4 — Book of Mor­mon Trans­la­tionLeav­ing the Church, Part 6 — First Vision »

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