Full Text of Series — My Search for Truth by Wes Trexler

Inter­est­ed in a PDF of this essay — find it here.

Why I No Longer Believe

This essay was writ­ten in Fall 2012, dur­ing my inves­ti­ga­tion into my faith. Read about how I began to doubt in my post How I Lost my Faith by Defend­ing it.

Please see the table of con­tents to this series in the right side­bar, or if you pre­fer to see the full series in one page, head to the Full Text of Series — My Search for Truth, or get the PDF.

I am com­pos­ing this doc­u­ment in order to be able to clear­ly explain why I no longer believe that, as the Lord stat­ed in Doc­trine and Covenants (D&C) 1:29–30 (my empha­sis added):

D&C 1:29–30
And after hav­ing received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my ser­vant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have pow­er to trans­late through the mer­cy of God, by the pow­er of God, the Book of Mor­mon. And also those to whom these com­mand­ments were giv­en, might have pow­er to lay the foun­da­tion of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscu­ri­ty and out of dark­ness, the only true and liv­ing church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speak­ing unto the church col­lec­tive­ly and not indi­vid­u­al­ly.

I want some­thing to be very clear: there is no oth­er rea­son for my los­ing the faith in the LDS church oth­er than an earnest and hon­est search for truth. There is no sin or desire to sin; there has been no offense or embar­rass­ment from a broth­er or sis­ter — only the need to be hon­est with myself and accept truth wher­ev­er it leads me. I want the church to be true. It has gen­er­al­ly been a pos­i­tive force in my life. I still attend at times and enjoy the asso­ci­a­tion with the good peo­ple of my ward. I am still very open to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that I am wrong, and I would appre­ci­ate dis­cussing this with any­one who reads through this doc­u­ment.

In Search of Truth

I have always appre­ci­at­ed that LDS mem­bers are taught to val­ue intel­li­gence and truth. As D&C 93 describes, the Glo­ry of God is light and truth:

D&C 93:36,24
The glo­ry of God is intel­li­gence, or, in oth­er words, light and truth.
And truth is knowl­edge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;

Brigham Young expound­ed that:

Our reli­gion is sim­ply the truth. It is all said in this one expression—it embraces all truth, wher­ev­er found, in all the works of God and man that are vis­i­ble or invis­i­ble to mor­tal eye (Dis­cours­es of Brigham Young, p2).

It is our duty and call­ing, as min­is­ters of the same sal­va­tion and Gospel, to gath­er every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with pro­fessed infi­dels, or with the Uni­ver­sal­ists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of Eng­land, the Pres­by­te­ri­ans, the Bap­tists, the Quak­ers, the Shak­ers, or any oth­er of the var­i­ous and numer­ous dif­fer­ent sects and par­ties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the busi­ness of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their Elder Broth­er, being at their head) to gath­er up all the truths in the world per­tain­ing to life and sal­va­tion, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sci­ences, and to phi­los­o­phy, wher­ev­er it may be found in every nation, kin­dred, tongue, and peo­ple and bring it to Zion (Dis­cours­es of Brigham Young, p248).

The God we wor­ship in the church is the God of all truth, what­ev­er the source. We are taught that we must even­tu­al­ly know all things in order to become like him. I feel that as church mem­bers we must seek out truth and hold on to it, because it is the way we get to know God.

There are two approach­es when you are pre­sent­ed with new or con­flict­ing evi­dence — either discard/ignore it or eval­u­ate it for its mer­its. For me, I trust­ed that upon eval­u­at­ing poten­tial issues with the church, the church would be vin­di­cat­ed because “our reli­gion is sim­ply the truth.” How­ev­er, I also rec­og­nized that if the LDS church was not true, I would want to know. In my view, truth out­weighs belief, habit and con­ven­tion. I val­ue truth above the famil­iar and com­fort­able. In this doc­u­ment I will be explain­ing the issues that trou­ble me. While it is not my inten­tion to per­suade any­one either way, read­ing through my issues may prompt some of doubts. If your answer is that you are not inter­est­ed in hear­ing things con­trary to what you believe, then you may not want to pro­ceed.

The LDS church mem­ber­ship is about 0.2% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. Effec­tive­ly, we are pro­claim­ing that 99.8% of the world places their faith in false reli­gion. We work to help them rec­og­nize their false faith, and join the LDS church. Shouldn’t we also be will­ing to turn the spot­light on our own reli­gion to make sure it holds up to rea­son­able scruti­ny?

Please con­tin­ue read­ing the next part of this series, “Should we avoid doubts and ques­tions?

Post­ed in Fea­tured Essay, Ques­tion­ing, Series, Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty | Leave a com­ment

Should We Avoid Doubts and Questions?

There is a real fear among the some faith­ful that ques­tion­ing the verac­i­ty of the church or the Book of Mor­mon is a sure way to lose your soul to the dev­il. I think this mind­set is at odds with the more cen­tral, key teach­ing of the LDS church, which is even taught as the dri­ver behind the foun­da­tion of the church. Joseph received his first vision after being struck by the promise of James:

James 1:5
If any of you lack wis­dom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men lib­er­al­ly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be giv­en him.

The Book of Mor­mon sim­i­lar­ly teach­es:

Moroni 10:4–5
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eter­nal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sin­cere heart, with real intent, hav­ing faith in Christ, he will man­i­fest the truth of it unto you, by the pow­er of the Holy Ghost. And by the pow­er of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

When Oliv­er Cow­dery want­ed to be able to trans­late, the Lord through Joseph Smith, Jr said:

D&C 9:8
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn with­in you; there­fore, you shall feel that it is right.

In our church, we believe in per­son­al rev­e­la­tion. We believe that we can and should ques­tion any­thing and every­thing, and God will give us the wis­dom we lack. We clear­ly teach that in order to receive that answer, we must first do the leg­work — we “must study it out in [our] mind” and then bring our con­clu­sion to God for con­fir­ma­tion. I see no prob­lem, in fact I think it should be expect­ed for us to do the same with any doubt or ques­tion we have, espe­cial­ly con­cern­ing God and his church.

Inter­est­ing­ly, through­out time church lead­ers have pro­claimed that because the LDS church is the true church of God, that the church should with­stand any inves­ti­ga­tion or exam­i­na­tion into the truth claims. Here some of the sup­port­ing quotes (my empha­sis added):

The nature of the mes­sage in the Book of Mor­mon is such that, if true, no one can pos­si­bly be saved and reject it, if false, no one can pos­si­bly be saved and receive it. There­fore, every soul in all the world is equal­ly inter­est­ed in ascer­tain­ing its truth or fal­si­ty. In a mat­ter of such infi­nite impor­tance, no per­son should rest sat­is­fied with the con­jec­tures or opin­ions of oth­ers. He should use every exer­tion him­self to become acquaint­ed with the nature of the mes­sage; he should care­ful­ly exam­ine the evi­dences of which it is offered to the world; he should, with all patience and per­se­ver­ance, seek to acquire a cer­tain knowl­edge whether it be of God or not. If, after a rigid exam­i­na­tion, it be found an impo­si­tion, it should be exten­sive­ly pub­lished to the world as such. The evi­dence and argu­ments upon which the impos­ture was detect­ed should be clear­ly and log­i­cal­ly stat­ed, that those who have been sin­cere­ly, yet unfor­tu­nate­ly, deceived may per­ceive the nature of the decep­tion, and be reclaimed, and that those who con­tin­ue to pub­lish the delu­sion may be exposed and silenced.” Orson Pratt; 1850, Intro­duc­tion to Divine Authen­tic­i­ty of the Book of Mor­mon.

If faith will not bear to be inves­ti­gat­ed; if its preach­ers and pro­fes­sors are afraid to have it exam­ined, their foun­da­tion must be very weak.” — George A. Smith; 1871, Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es, Vol. 14, pg. 216

Mor­monism must stand or fall on the sto­ry of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God, divine­ly called, prop­er­ly appoint­ed and com­mis­sioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no mid­dle ground. If Joseph was a deceiv­er, who will­ful­ly attempt­ed to mis­lead peo­ple, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refut­ed, and his doc­trines shown to be false...” (Prophet Joseph Field­ing Smith, Doc­trines of Sal­va­tion (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), vol. 1 pp 188–189)

If we have the truth, it can­not be harmed by inves­ti­ga­tion. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” — Apos­tle J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Pro­vo, Utah: Brigham Young Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1983, p. 24.

Well, we have noth­ing to hide. Our his­to­ry is an open book. They may find what they are look­ing for, but the fact is the his­to­ry of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.” — Prophet Gor­don B. Hinck­ley, Dec. 25, 2005 inter­view with The Asso­ci­at­ed Press

Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most impor­tant thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole pic­ture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraud­u­lent or true. And that’s exact­ly where we stand, with a con­vic­tion in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mor­mon was trans­lat­ed from the plates; that the priest­hood was restored by those who held it ancient­ly. That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.” — Prophet Gor­don B. Hinck­ley, Inter­view “The Mor­mons”; PBS Doc­u­men­tary, April 2007

This book [The Book of Mor­mon] is enti­tled to the most thor­ough and impar­tial exam­i­na­tion. Not only does the Book of Mor­mon mer­it such con­sid­er­a­tion, its claims even demand the same.” — Apos­tle James E. Tal­mage, Arti­cles of Faith, pg. 273

So does a “most thor­ough and impar­tial exam­i­na­tion” mean we should read the Book of Mor­mon and see if it makes us feel good? That is any­thing but thor­ough or impar­tial. Still, if we do read it and pray and feel good about the book, does that mean that it is from God?

Post­ed in Ques­tion­ing, Series | Tagged , | 3 Com­ments

Nature of Spiritual Confirmation

I would first also address hope­ful­ly briefly why I don’t just rely on a spir­i­tu­al inspi­ra­tion as the con­fir­ma­tion of the true­ness of Book of Mor­mon or any oth­er church teach­ing, as most mem­bers do. As I stat­ed ear­li­er, we believe that the Holy Ghost will con­firm the truth of it to us by a burn­ing in the bosom or a feel­ing of com­fort and peace. Here are some real descrip­tions of indi­vid­u­als describ­ing these feel­ings:

The first time the mis­sion­ar­ies gave me a copy of the Book of Mor­mon, it was like a jolt of elec­tric­i­ty went through my body. From that moment, I knew that the Book of Mor­mon was the word of God. How­ev­er, it was through study, prayer, and a con­fir­ma­tion from the Holy Ghost that I knew for cer­tain this was true.”

But what can I say? How can I describe an expe­ri­ence so pro­found and so beau­ti­ful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed expe­ri­ence of my life? Shall I say that [God] touched my heart and gave me a feel­ing of peace I had not known before? Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirm­ing my […] faith, as I […] beg[ged] [God’s] bless­ings for myself and for those I love?”

As I read these books […], I felt a burn­ing in my heart that I should come and inves­ti­gate. My wife and I at that time had two chil­dren, and we made a deci­sion that we should pray and fast for the four days that I would be gone […] I am read­ing now the writ­ings […] regard­ing prophe­cy and pri­vate rev­e­la­tion. You find a beau­ti­ful bond between a prop­er cau­tion regard­ing a report­ed mes­sage, and also open­ness to the Holy Spir­it, and to prophe­cy and mirac­u­lous inter­ven­tion.”

With­out under­stand­ing much […], he was attract­ed to tem­ples. There he often felt a strong feel­ing of peace flow­ing through his body.”

While on my jour­ney, I was ask­ing God what the truth was. I mean I was angry and I tru­ly want­ed to know. After a few weeks, I stum­bled onto a web­site that talked about the very things I was curi­ous about. It answered my ques­tions in a way that I had not heard of before. I read every­thing on the web site and I even tried the exper­i­ment of ask­ing God […]. After about 6 weeks, I felt a burn­ing in my chest and a sen­sa­tion that was unlike any­thing I had ever felt.”

Only the first one was an LDS mem­ber. The rest were a Mus­lim, a Catholic, a Hin­du, and a New Age each speak­ing about their spir­i­tu­al con­fir­ma­tion of their own reli­gion. The peace or burn­ing and con­vic­tion of the truth that each of these peo­ple felt was real. All of these mem­bers of dif­fer­ent reli­gions are all feel­ing spir­i­tu­al prompt­ings that they are in the right reli­gion. How could they all be right, when all of these reli­gions teach very dif­fer­ent doc­trines?

As I believe the LDS approach goes, all church­es have some truth, so they will all feel the Spir­it in some way. But is that real­ly what’s going on here?

This is the sit­u­a­tion of the reli­gious world:

  • There are thou­sands of reli­gions, Chris­t­ian and non-Chris­t­ian, all with con­flict­ing doc­trines.
  • Each one of them has many mem­bers in it who claim to know that their church is the right one.
  • They “know” they are right based on spir­i­tu­al prompt­ings dur­ing prayer or med­i­ta­tion.

LDS mem­bers claim to have access to a spe­cial and unique expe­ri­ence that oth­er peo­ple in oth­er reli­gions don’t expe­ri­ence. But that is just not true. The LDS church isn’t spe­cial in its use of spir­i­tu­al prompt­ings as “proof” of the truth. That’s the method every­one uses in every reli­gion.

Let me give a poor but hope­ful­ly suf­fi­cient exam­ple. An old friend who had strug­gled with drugs invites you to his house to share to won­der­ful news that he has over­come the addic­tion with the help of his LDS bish­op. Your friend explains after reread­ing the teach­ings and exam­ples of Alma and Enos, in the Book of Mor­mon, he felt hope for the first time. He prayed and fast­ed, met reg­u­lar­ly with his bish­op, and he was giv­en the strength he lacked on his own. As your friend speaks and then the bish­op shares his tes­ti­mo­ny of repen­tance and for­give­ness, you feel joy and a warmth all over. What do these feel­ings mean? Well, we would say it is con­fir­ma­tion of the truth of our friend’s tes­ti­mo­ny and of the Book of Mor­mon and church that helped him change

Now, what if instead of the LDS bish­op, it was the Catholic priest? You friend read from the bible and found help at the Catholic church. The priest deliv­ers a beau­ti­ful mes­sage at this gath­er­ing about change and mer­cy. You feel joy and a nice warm feel­ing as he speaks. What does this mean? If you ask the priest, what would he say? It isn’t hard to imag­ine the answer being some­thing to the effect that he is a mes­sen­ger of God deliv­er­ing the truth, and you should join him at mass on Sun­day.

Being LDS, you might ratio­nal­ize that the Catholic priest has some truth and the change was good, and so the mes­sage reached you through the Holy Ghost, but it didn’t mean any­thing else oth­er than that the mes­sage was good.

Now, what if instead of the LDS or Catholic church, your friend found help through the local Hin­du tem­ple, the local Hin­du pujari was shar­ing the mes­sage, and you feel the same burn­ing in your bosom. Does it mean that the Hin­dus have the truth? Or does it just mean that the mes­sage was an uplift­ing and inspir­ing mes­sage which touched you deeply?

Last exam­ple. I love the Lion King movie, as many peo­ple do. Every time I watch it, I have intense feel­ings when Sim­ba speaks to his father in the stars. I felt that it was the Holy Ghost. Why did I feel that way? Did it mean that the Lion King movie actu­al­ly hap­pened? Did it mean that our ances­tors are real­ly the stars we see? Or just a won­der­ful­ly touch­ing mes­sage?

I give these exam­ples to show:

  1. There are very pos­si­ble and real sit­u­a­tions out­side of church/prayer where you could feel these spe­cial feel­ings,
  2. and what we take those feel­ings to mean is per­son­al — it depends great­ly on our past expe­ri­ences and our per­spec­tive in that moment.

What does it mean if we feel the burn­ing in the bosom upon read­ing the Bible, or the Book of Mor­mon, or the Quran, or the Bud­dhist Kangyur, or the Sikh Guru Granth Sahib? I pro­pose that it means that what we read is a beau­ti­ful, uplift­ing mes­sage. I love many of the teach­ings of the Book of Mor­mon and find it to be a won­der­ful­ly inspir­ing book. The issue is that the LDS church holds up the Book of Mor­mon as proof that Joseph Smith, Jr saw what he said he saw, received what he said he received, and did what he said he did.

As Joseph Smith, Jr and many oth­er prophets and apos­tles have sim­i­lar­ly said, “… the Book of Mor­mon [is] the most cor­rect of any book on earth, and the key­stone of our reli­gion…” I hung my faith on this, just as we are taught to do — if the Book of Mor­mon is an actu­al his­tor­i­cal book as it pur­ports, then Joseph Smith, Jr was the cho­sen prophet of our dis­pen­sa­tion to restore the true gospel of Christ and with it the legit­i­mate church of Christ. If not, then under the best pos­si­ble light, he was an inspir­ing leader who either pur­pose­ly with good inten­tions or unin­ten­tion­al­ly con­vinced oth­ers to believe in beau­ti­ful but untrue doc­trines. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that would also mean he was a fraud, as Pres­i­dent Hinck­ley stat­ed in the ear­li­er quote. If that be the case, and the Book of Mor­mon is not the tru­ly his­tor­i­cal book as claimed, the key­stone is gone and the LDS reli­gion is should not con­tin­ue to be held up by unfound­ed faith and hope alone.

Post­ed in Series, Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty | Leave a com­ment

The Book of Mormon: Keystone

I will be pre­sent­ing and explain­ing what issues have most trou­bled me as I inves­ti­gat­ed the truth­ful­ness of the Book of Mor­mon. Inter­est­ing­ly enough, most of the issues that fol­low may not be new to any­one who reads this, as they were not for me, either. The dif­fer­ence is that before, I nev­er gave any real cred­i­bil­i­ty to the claims because, well, I ratio­nal­ized that we know by the Spir­it that the Book of Mor­mon is true, so doubters must be wrong, and, hon­est­ly, how much can real­ly be known about what there was and wasn’t in the Amer­i­c­as pri­or to Colum­bus?

The answer to that ques­tion is: very lit­tle can be known, but much can be deter­mined to be high­ly, high­ly prob­a­ble. Thanks to sci­ence, smart peo­ple who are not try­ing to prove or dis­prove any Book of Mor­mon claims have done the work to deter­mine with a high lev­el of con­fi­dence many impor­tant things about the pre-Columbian Amer­i­c­as. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the Book of Mor­mon, very lit­tle infor­ma­tion about pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca (espe­cial­ly Mesoamer­i­ca, which is the cur­rent­ly claimed loca­tion of the events in the Book of Mor­mon) was known in Joseph Smith, Jr’s time. Based on my assess­ment, he did not score a pass­ing mark com­pared to the infor­ma­tion that is now avail­able. It is intrigu­ing to con­sid­er the tes­ta­ment the Book of Mor­mon could have been, had it aligned with all the Mesoamer­i­can dis­cov­er­ies that were unknown yet forth­com­ing at Joseph Smith, Jr’s time.

I think a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion among mem­bers of the church is that the ideas pre­sent­ed in the Book of Mor­mon were very nov­el for their time. The thought is that no one could have invent­ed up such a com­plex sto­ry, so it must be inspired. The real­i­ty is not as favor­able. In the peri­od just pri­or to the dis­cov­ery and trans­la­tion of the Book of Mor­mon, one of the the­o­ries float­ing around in Amer­i­can cul­ture was that the indi­ans were descen­dants of Hebrews, in fact part of the lost 10 tribes of Israel. There was a book writ­ten by a pas­tor named Ethan Smith, pub­lished in 1823, called View of the Hebrews which pre­sent­ed this hypoth­e­sis. There is no proof that Joseph Smith, Jr had access to this book, but it is high­ly like­ly that Oliv­er Cow­dery did. Oliv­er Cowdery’s moth­er and half-sis­ters were mem­bers of Ethan Smith’s con­gre­ga­tion which would mean Oliv­er had like­ly at least heard the gen­er­al sto­ry of Ethan’s book, if he didn’t have an actu­al copy. Many have even pro­posed that View of the Hebrews was a source for the Book of Mor­mon due to this poten­tial access and the par­al­lels found in the two books. In the 1920’s, Gen­er­al Author­i­ty B.H. Roberts stud­ied the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the books at the request of the First Pres­i­den­cy. In his response he out­lined 18 points of sim­i­lar­i­ty, includ­ing:

  • exten­sive quo­ta­tion from the prophe­cies of Isa­iah in the Old Tes­ta­ment;
  • the Israelite ori­gin of the Amer­i­can Indi­an;
  • the future gath­er­ing of Israel and restora­tion of the Ten Lost Tribes;
  • the peo­pling of the New World from the Old via a long jour­ney north­ward which encoun­tered “seas” of “many waters;”
  • a reli­gious motive for the migra­tion;
  • the divi­sion of the migrants into civ­i­lized and unciv­i­lized groups with long wars between them and the even­tu­al destruc­tion of the civ­i­lized by the unciv­i­lized;
  • the assump­tion that all native peo­ples were descend­ed from Israelites and their lan­guages from Hebrew;
  • the bur­ial of a “lost book” with “yel­low leaves;”
  • the descrip­tion of exten­sive mil­i­tary for­ti­fi­ca­tions with mil­i­tary obser­va­to­ries or “watch tow­ers” over­look­ing them;
  • a change from monar­chy to repub­li­can forms of gov­ern­ment; and
  • the preach­ing of the gospel in ancient Amer­i­ca.

Accord­ing to BYU pro­fes­sor Mar­vin S. Hill, Roberts “main­tained that the Book of Mormon’s claims that the Indi­ans were derived sole­ly from three migra­tions of Hebrews to the new world over a span of three thou­sand years was entire­ly unten­able.” And Roberts con­clud­ed that the “evi­dence I sor­row­ful­ly sub­mit” point­ed to Joseph Smith as the Book’s cre­ator.

I have no incred­i­ble insight into the real source of the Book of Mor­mon. It may have been adapt­ed from View of the Hebrews, trans­lat­ed from gold­en plates, or just cre­at­ed in Joseph’s head based on all the ideas float­ing around at the time — I don’t know. I have includ­ed this infor­ma­tion to con­test the argu­ment that the Book of Mor­mon is true because there is no way Joseph could have writ­ten the book. I argue that the ideas of the Book of Mor­mon were not new, and in fact were like­ly famil­iar to and accept­ed by many peo­ple at that time. If you are inter­est­ed in hear­ing of oth­er incred­i­bly curi­ous insights into oth­er poten­tial sources for the Book of Mor­mon, please let me know — I’d love to dis­cuss them.

Post­ed in Book of Mor­mon, Series, Trans­la­tion | Leave a com­ment

Book of Mormon Issue 1: Animals

The Book of Mor­mon is very clear that there were par­tic­u­lar ani­mals among the Nephites and Laman­ites. Thanks to pale­on­tol­o­gists and oth­er researchers, we now know which ani­mals actu­al­ly did live in the Amer­i­c­as dur­ing the Book of Mor­mon peri­od of his­to­ry.

Here are good sum­ma­ry vers­es from the Book of Mor­mon:

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. And we did find all man­ner of ore, both of gold, and of sil­ver, and of cop­per.

Ether 9:18–19
And also all man­ner of cat­tle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many oth­er kinds of ani­mals which were use­ful for the food of man.
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.

To get right to the point — cows, oxen, ass­es, hors­es, domes­ti­cat­ed goats (as opposed to wild goats as men­tioned), swine, and ele­phants were not present in any part of the amer­i­c­as dur­ing any time even close to around the the Book of Mor­mon his­to­ry (2500 BC to 400 AD, rough­ly). And this isn’t just a guess, it is well under­stood which ani­mals were are were not present dur­ing that time.

Apolo­get­ics (which are defend­ers of the faith, not apol­o­giz­ers) respond that the cows, oxen, ass­es, hors­es, goats, swine, and ele­phants were not real­ly cows, oxen, ass­es, hors­es, goats, swine, or ele­phants. Instead, Joseph Smith, Jr used those more famil­iar words to refer to what­ev­er oth­er ani­mal was actu­al­ly around in the Book of Mor­mon time, such as bison, deer, tapirs (see pic­ture), or lla­mas.

I just am unable to accept this answer. First, there is no evi­dence of domes­ti­ca­tion of bison, deer, or tapirs — there is only evi­dence of the lla­ma being domes­ti­cat­ed in pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca. The Book of Mor­mon vers­es above and oth­ers clear­ly demon­strate that the ani­mals were com­plete­ly domes­ti­cat­ed.

Sec­ond­ly, and I think maybe more impor­tant­ly, based on how we under­stand the trans­la­tion process, Joseph Smith would basi­cal­ly read the words that would appear in front of him. He start­ed with the Urim and Thum­mim, then he switched and trans­lat­ed most of the Book of Mor­mon by read­ing the words off the peep stone he found in his youth, while putting his head and peep stone inside a hat. See Mar­tin Harris’s and David Whitmer’s descrip­tions of it here. If he was being shown the words to say, would he be shown the word “horse” for some­thing that wasn’t horse? Why would oth­er times unknown names appear, like the “cureloms” and “cumoms”, or “ziff” (an unknown met­al) and “senine” (a mea­sure­ment)? If it wasn’t refer­ring to a known ani­mal, shouldn’t he have read some oth­er word like “cureloms” when he read “horse” or “cow” or “swine”?

Let’s dig into a few of these some more.

Horse and Chariot

From wikipedia:

Hors­es are men­tioned four­teen times in the Book of Mor­mon, and are por­trayed as an inte­gral part of the cul­tures described. There is no evi­dence that hors­es exist­ed on the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent dur­ing the 2500–3000 year his­to­ry of the Book of Mor­mon (2500 BC–400 AD). Hors­es evolved in North Amer­i­ca, but are believed to have become extinct on the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent at the end of the Pleis­tocene. Hors­es did not reap­pear in the Amer­i­c­as until the Spaniards brought them from Europe.They were brought to the Caribbean by Christo­pher Colum­bus in 1493, and to the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent by Cortés in 1519.

Here are the vers­es in the Book of Mor­mon:

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. And we did find all man­ner of ore, both of gold, and of sil­ver, and of cop­per.

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.

Alma 18:9
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; for there had been a great feast appoint­ed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lam­oni, who was king over all the land.

Alma 18:10
Now when king Lam­oni heard that Ammon was prepar­ing his hors­es and his char­i­ots he was more aston­ished, because of the faith­ful­ness of Ammon, say­ing: Sure­ly there has not been any ser­vant among all my ser­vants that has been so faith­ful as this man; for even he doth remem­ber all my com­mand­ments to exe­cute them.

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, he went in unto the king, and he saw that the coun­te­nance of the king was changed; there­fore he was about to return out of his pres­ence.

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.

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, in the which time they did hope to destroy the rob­bers from off the face of the land; and thus the eigh­teenth year did pass away.

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, and all things what­so­ev­er did belong unto them.

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;

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.

As chil­dren, we were all taught in Amer­i­can His­to­ry class­es about the pro­found impact that hors­es had on the Indi­ans once they were intro­duced to the New World by the Euro­peans. I have a hard time believ­ing that all the his­to­ry books, sci­en­tists, Indi­an records, etc. are all wrong about some­thing that would have been so impor­tant to the Native Amer­i­cans.

The char­i­ots are a huge prob­lem as well. As stat­ed in wikipedia:

The Book of Mor­mon men­tions the use of char­i­ots as a mode of trans­porta­tion five times. There is no archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port the use of wheeled vehi­cles in Mesoamer­i­ca.
Many parts of ancient Mesoamer­i­ca were not suit­able for wheeled trans­port. Clark Wissler, the Cura­tor of Ethnog­ra­phy at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in New York City, not­ed: “we see that the pre­vail­ing mode of land trans­port in the New World was by human car­ri­er. The wheel was unknown in pre-Columbian times.”

A com­par­i­son of the South Amer­i­can Inca civ­i­liza­tion to Mesoamer­i­can civ­i­liza­tions shows the same lack of wheeled vehi­cles. Although the Incas used a vast net­work of paved roads, these roads are so rough, steep and nar­row that they appear to be unsuit­able for wheeled use. Bridges that the Inca peo­ple built, and even con­tin­ue to use and main­tain today in some remote areas, are straw-rope bridges so nar­row (about 2–3 feet wide) that no wheeled vehi­cle can fit (see image and tech­nol­o­gy at Inca rope bridges). Inca roads were used main­ly by chas­ki mes­sage run­ners and lla­ma car­a­vans.

The pic­ture shown here is also from wikipedia. It is a typ­i­cal Inca road, as described in the pri­or para­graph. The use of the char­i­ot behind a horse as a mode of trans­porta­tion between cities is clear in the Book of Mor­mon vers­es. This is just not pos­si­ble. There was no horse, there was no wheel, and there was no suit­able road.

Cattle and Cows

Here are the rel­e­vant vers­es:

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. And we did find all man­ner of ore, both of gold, and of sil­ver, and of cop­per.

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.

Mosi­ah 13:18
But the sev­enth day, the sab­bath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daugh­ter, thy man-ser­­vant, nor thy maid-ser­­vant, nor thy cat­tle, nor thy stranger that is with­in thy gates;

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.

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, in the which time they did hope to destroy the rob­bers from off the face of the land; and thus the eigh­teenth year did pass away.

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, and all things what­so­ev­er did belong unto them.

Ether 9:18
And also all man­ner of cat­tle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many oth­er kinds of ani­mals which were use­ful for the food of man.

Here is the wikipedia infor­ma­tion:

There are six ref­er­ences to cat­tle made in the Book of Mor­mon, includ­ing ver­biage sug­gest­ing they were domes­ti­cat­ed. There has been no evi­dence recov­ered that Old World cat­tle (mem­bers of the genus Bos) inhab­it­ed the New World pri­or to Euro­pean con­tact in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry AD.

Apol­o­gists argue that the term “cat­tle” may be more gener­ic that sug­gest­ing mem­bers of the genus Bos, and may have referred to bison, moun­tain goats, lla­mas, or oth­er Amer­i­can species. Accord­ing to the Book of Mor­mon, vari­eties of “cat­tle” (includ­ing goats and sheep) could be found in ancient Amer­i­ca. With­out these the Nephites could not have kept the Law of Moses, as direct­ed.

Lat­ter Day Saint apol­o­gists note that the word “cat­tle” may refer to the ances­tor of the Amer­i­can bison, Bison antiqu­us (of the sub­fam­i­ly Bov­inae). Bison antiqu­us, some­times called the ancient bison, was the most com­mon large her­bi­vore of the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent for over ten thou­sand years, and is a direct ances­tor of the liv­ing Amer­i­can bison.

How­ev­er, no species of bison is known to have been domes­ti­cat­ed as the “cat­tle” in the Book of Mor­mon are sug­gest­ed to have been. Fur­ther­more, it is wide­ly accept­ed that the only large mam­mal to be domes­ti­cat­ed in the Amer­i­c­as was the lla­ma; no species of goats, deer, sheep, or oth­er “cat­tle” were domes­ti­cat­ed before the arrival of the Euro­peans to the con­ti­nent. Apol­o­gists counter that the word­ing in the Book of Mor­mon does not require the “cat­tle” to have been domes­ti­cat­ed in the strictest sense.

There isn’t much else to say here. There had to be domes­ti­cat­ed cows, sheep, and goats as claimed in the Book of Mor­mon in order to keep the Law of Moses, as claimed in the text. There were none in pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca.

Elephants and Swine

From wikipedia:

Ele­phants are men­tioned twice in a sin­gle verse in the Book of Ether. Mastodons and mam­moths lived in the New World dur­ing the Pleis­tocene; how­ev­er, as with the pre­his­toric horse, the fos­sil record indi­cates that they became extinct along with most of the megafau­na towards the end of the last ice age. The source of this extinc­tion is spec­u­lat­ed to be the result of human pre­da­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant cli­mate change, or a com­bi­na­tion of both fac­tors. It is known that a small pop­u­la­tion of mam­moths sur­vived on St. Paul Island, Alas­ka up until 8,000 B.P., but even this date is thou­sands of years before the Jared­ite record in the Book of Mor­mon begins.

Swine are referred to twice in the Book of Mor­mon, and the nar­ra­tive of the Book of Mor­mon sug­gests that the swine were domes­ti­cat­ed by the Jared­ites. There have not been any remains, ref­er­ences, art­work, tools, or any oth­er evi­dence sug­gest­ing that swine were ever present in the pre-entra­­da New World.

Sim­i­lar to the pri­or sec­tions, these ani­mals were not here in Book of Mor­mon times, and fur­ther­more there is no evi­dence of domes­ti­ca­tion of any even vague­ly sim­i­lar ani­mals.

Post­ed in Book of Mor­mon, Series, Trans­la­tion | Leave a com­ment

Book of Mormon Issue 2: Agriculture

Zeniff records some of the Book of Mor­mon seeds:

Mosi­ah 9:9
And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all man­ner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of bar­ley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all man­ner of fruits; and we did begin to mul­ti­ply and pros­per in the land.

From wikipedia:

Grains are men­tioned twen­­ty-eight times in the Book of Mor­mon, includ­ing bar­ley and wheat. The intro­duc­tion of domes­ti­cat­ed mod­ern bar­ley and wheat to the New World was made by Euro­peans some­time after 1492, many cen­turies after the time in which the Book of Mor­mon is set.

Tak­en from a Book of Mor­mon critic’s view­point:

When Joseph Smith con­coct­ed the Book of Mor­mon, he just assumed that the ancient Amerindi­ans had the same kind of agri­cul­ture as that which he knew in upstate New York. Con­se­quent­ly, he had his ancient char­ac­ters grow­ing wheat, bar­ley, corn, and flax, and plant­i­ng vine­yards for wine, and being able to under­stand the sym­bol­ism of the olive and trees. Now, of course, Smith was right about the corn — that is, maize. But is there any­one of Smith’s day who had not heard of “Indi­an corn,” or did not know that corn had come from the Indi­ans? What Smith did not know, how­ev­er, was that corn was but one of three sta­ple crops raised by the Indi­ans of Cen­tral Amer­i­ca — the region in which the dis­cov­ery of ruined civ­i­liza­tions had trig­gered enor­mous amounts of spec­u­la­tion in the time of Smith’s youth. The oth­er two major crops were squash and beans. These were sup­ple­ment­ed by such things as avo­ca­dos, ama­ranth, etc. You can search all you want in the Book of Mor­mon, but you won’t find any men­tion, apart from corn, of the crops actu­al­ly raised in ancient Amer­i­ca. Inci­den­tal­ly, we have numer­ous cas­es where these crops have been pre­served in archae­o­log­i­cal sites and are eas­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able.

What does archae­ol­o­gy tell us of the pres­ence or absence of the crops Smith claimed were the sta­ples of ancient Amer­i­ca? No remains of wheat or domes­ti­cat­ed bar­ley have ever been found. In fact, the one pos­si­ble pre-Columbian spec­i­men of bar­ley dis­cov­ered at a site in Ari­zona is of a species dif­fer­ent from the species of domes­ti­cat­ed bar­ley alleged­ly brought from the Near East. And what of flax? No dice, again. For­tu­nate­ly for lovers of truth, the Mor­mon apol­o­gists can­not sim­ply say we haven’t been look­ing in the right place, or that the remains of these plants have all per­ished with the pas­sage of time. The rea­son for our good for­tune is the fact that these domes­tic plants are all flow­er­ing plants. As such, they pro­duce pollen — in great abun­dance. If the so-called Mor­mon­ic civ­i­liza­tions had been grow­ing these crops for even a few decades — let alone the thou­sands of years alleged­ly chron­i­cled by the Book of Mor­mon — every soil cor­ing tak­en in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca should show traces of wheat, bar­ley, and flax pollen. Pollen is one of the most inde­struc­tible nat­ur­al objects known.

An exam­ple of the type of research that shows Book of Mor­mon agri­cul­ture to be nine­teenth cen­tu­ry phan­ta­sy is David J. Rue’s 1987 paper in Nature titled “Ear­ly Agri­cul­ture and Ear­ly Post­clas­sic Maya Occu­pa­tion in West­ern Hon­duras.” By study­ing soil cor­ings from Lake Yojoa and Petap­i­da Swamp, both in west­ern Hon­duras, Rue was able to recon­struct the agri­cul­tur­al his­to­ry of the area from a time 4770 years before the present up to modem times. He could tell from pollen when the region was forest­ed, when the for­est was cut and burned for agri­cul­ture, what crops were grown and for how long. Although he found clear records of pollen from corn (maize) and ama­ranth — two Amerindi­an sta­ples — he makes no men­tion of wheat, bar­ley, or flax pollen. Per­haps the Mor­mon Church would like to pay him to go through his cores again, look­ing more care­ful­ly for the myth­i­cal motes that should be in them if the Book of Mor­mon be true!

There was no wheat or bar­ley, and we have no idea what neas or sheum are. Again, if wheat or bar­ley was not wheat or bar­ley, then Joseph Smith, Jr would have used some oth­er name like neas or sheum.

Post­ed in Book of Mor­mon, Series, Trans­la­tion | Leave a com­ment

Book of Mormon Issue 3: Technology

We already dis­cussed the char­i­ots which I think is a huge prob­lem. Sev­er­al addi­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy advances are com­plete­ly out of place. I’ll go through these more briefly than the pre­vi­ous sec­tions, but I am hap­py to dis­cuss any of these in depth if you have any ques­tions.


The Book of Mor­mon men­tions the use of silk six times. Silk is a mate­r­i­al that is cre­at­ed from the cocoon of the Asian moth “Bom­byx mori”, and was unknown to the pre-Columbian Amer­i­c­as.


The Book of Mor­mon also states that a “com­pass” or “Lia­hona” was used by Nephi around 600 BC. The com­pass is wide­ly rec­og­nized to have been invent­ed in Chi­na around 1100 AD, and remains of a com­pass have nev­er been found in Amer­i­ca. In the Book of Alma when Alma, speak­ing to his son Hela­man, explains “the thing which our fathers call a ball, or direc­tor — or our fathers called it Lia­hona, which is, being inter­pret­ed, a com­pass” (Alma 37:38). Alma tells his son that “it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ … to eter­nal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this com­pass … to the promised land” (Alma 37:44).

Joseph Smith, Jr would have been famil­iar with the use of the word “com­pass” in his King James Bible in the books of Exo­dus, Num­bers, Joshua, Proverbs, and Acts. So adding it to the Book of Mor­mon seemed rea­son­able, except that the Bible uses “com­pass” in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent way. All uses in the Bible are refer­ring to some­thing round or some­thing which moved in a curved fash­ion. This def­i­n­i­tion is con­sis­tent with one of the mean­ings of “com­pass” as found in any dic­tio­nary.

The Book of Mor­mon ref­er­ences “com­pass” to refer to, as Alma 37:38 states, a “direc­tor”. The impor­tant part of each ref­er­ence to the Lia­hona is the fact that it directs. Here are the oth­er ref­er­ences to this, with my empha­sis added:

1 Nephi 16:10
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 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 with­er we should go into the wilder­ness.

1 Nephi 16:30
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the moun­tain, accord­ing to the direc­tions which were giv­en upon the ball.

It makes sense that the name of the device, “Lia­hona, which is, being inter­pret­ed, a com­pass,” comes from the fact that it is a “direc­tor” which had “two spin­dles; and the one point­ed the way.” There­fore this use pre­dates the inven­tion of a direct­ing com­pass by more than 1500 years.

Submarines and Windows

The Book of Mor­mon describes that the Jared­ite peo­ple built sub­mersible boats, and they were famil­iar with the con­cept of “win­dows” near the time of the Bib­li­cal Tow­er of Babel (around 2000 BC), and that they specif­i­cal­ly avoid­ed craft­ing win­dows for light­ing in their cov­ered seago­ing ves­sels, because the win­dows would be “dashed in pieces” dur­ing the ocean voy­age. Trans­par­ent win­dow panes are a more recent invention—dating to the 11th cen­tu­ry AD in Ger­many.

I’d like to dig in a lit­tle deep­er about the sto­ry:

First, for a water voy­age pri­or to the ocean cross­ing itself, the Lord had instruct­ed Jared and his broth­er to build boats in which, accord­ing to the account, their fam­i­lies and friends “did cross many waters,” (2:6) car­ry­ing with them “seeds of every kind,” flocks (“male and female, of every kind”), “fowls of the air”, “swarms of bees,” and “fish of the waters.” (2:1–3) Accord­ing to the account, this boat trip was accom­plished suc­cess­ful­ly.

Next, four years lat­er, the Lord again ordered the men to build sim­i­lar boats “after the man­ner of barges which ye have hith­er­to built” (2:16), this time for an ocean cross­ing of near­ly one year’s dura­tion. These boats, sim­i­lar to the ones built four years ear­li­er, are described as “small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the light­ness of a fowl upon the water” (2:16), with struc­tur­al integri­ty such that they were “exceed­ing­ly tight,” top and bot­tom, entire­ly leak proof and air-tight (“tight like unto a dish”) (2:17) because they were going to be “many times buried in the depths of the sea” (6:6) by “moun­tain waves” (2:24) dur­ing many vio­lent storms. To be both (a) light (“like a fowl upon the water”), and (b) able to car­ry flocks and herds with food sup­plies for a year, the con­struc­tion would obvi­ous­ly have to be care­ful­ly planned and orga­nized because of the known chal­lenges of com­bin­ing light­ness with strength even today.

Fol­low­ing the Lord’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the work­men built each boat with just one tight-fit­t­ing door, and no win­dow or oth­er open­ing. Con­struc­tion of all eight boats was com­plet­ed, per the Lord’s per­son­al instruc­tions (“I have made the barges accord­ing as thou [the Lord] hast direct­ed me.” 2:18).

Next, the Broth­er of Jared looked at the fin­ished boats and won­dered, Whoa! How will we breathe in these things? Specif­i­cal­ly, quot­ing him: “… I have made the barges as thou hast direct­ed me. And behold, O Lord, we shall per­ish, for in them we can­not breathe, save it is the air which is in them; there­fore we shall per­ish.” (2:19) It was only then, that is, that he noticed that the boats were air-tight. He also noticed they were total­ly dark inside: “O Lord, in them there is no light; whith­er shall we steer?” (2:19)

As we are all like­ly aware, in Ether 2:20 the Lord answers that “Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bot­tom; and when thou shalt suf­fer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not per­ish in the flood,” and for light they have two glow­ing rocks in each ship (6:2).

So, the group had already built ships in the same way four years ear­li­er and suc­cess­ful­ly crossed waters with­out wor­ry­ing about light or air. For some rea­son with this longer trip, these issues final­ly come up.

Regard­ing that air, I want to pro­pose a few real issues with the plau­si­bil­i­ty:

  • If you were tak­ing your fam­i­ly on a car trip in a car that for some rea­son was com­plete­ly air­tight, would you tell them, “Wait until you notice you’re suf­fer­ing for lack of air, then open the win­dow.” Isn’t it the case that peo­ple who need air often don’t notice it until too late, because oxy­gen short­age has caused them to pass out? Don’t we read that peo­ple who suf­fo­cate often don’t know it’s hap­pen­ing? Pilots at alti­tude under­go­ing oxy­gen depri­va­tion expe­ri­ence the same haz­ard. Their aware­ness drops below the lev­el need­ed to know they lack “air.”
  • How would air enter and exit the same sin­gle hole sup­ply­ing the entire barge/boat? With one air hole (which was small enough to not weak­en the struc­ture of the barge) open only a frac­tion of the time, how did any of the air cir­cu­late through­out the ship? Air does not read­i­ly enter a closed space.
  • They had seeds of every kind, flocks of every kind, fowls of the air, swarms of bees, and fish of the waters, all inside the boats with them, for one year, with­out any open air cir­cu­la­tion. Based on some rough cal­cu­la­tions, one goat eats rough­ly 2–3 pounds of food a day, times 365 days is over 1,000 pounds of food per mam­mal. Plus they would need huge amounts of fresh water for each per­son and ani­mal since they couldn’t drink ocean water. All this food, water, and ani­mals were inside barges with­out fresh air, being “tossed upon the waves” (6:5) and “buried in the depths of the sea” (6:6) in a ship designed specif­i­cal­ly to be able to rotate upside down at will.

I could go on in look­ing at this trip with even a lit­tle com­mon sense. As you do this, it becomes hard­er to argue that it is any­thing more than a com­plete­ly fic­ti­tious sto­ry. As B.H. Roberts stat­ed in Stud­ies of the Book of Mor­mon, page 251, “… there is a cer­tain lack of per­spec­tive in the things the book [of Mor­mon] relates as his­to­ry that points quite clear­ly to an under­de­vel­oped mind as their ori­gin. The nar­ra­tive pro­ceeds in char­ac­ter­is­tic dis­re­gard of con­di­tions nec­es­sary to its rea­son­able­ness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter dis­re­gard for con­sis­ten­cy.”

Last point about the Jared­ites. The sto­ry starts with Jared and his fam­i­ly leav­ing the Tow­er of Babel (Ether 1). In the book of Ether, the Tow­er of Babel is a real event. With­out it being a real event, noth­ing real­ly makes sense. The prob­lem is that the sto­ry of the Tow­er of Babel in the book of Gen­e­sis (11:1–9) is a typ­i­cal “eti­o­log­i­cal” myth. This is a sto­ry invent­ed to explain why some­thing is so, much like children’s sto­ries called “How the leop­ard got his spots,” “Why the sea is salty,” “Why the sky is blue,” etc. There are a num­ber of oth­er eti­o­log­i­cal tales in the Bible, such as the tales to explain why a snake has no legs (Gen. 3), or why we see a rain­bow after a storm (Gen.9:13–16). There nev­er was a Tow­er of Babel, but it had to exist for the sto­ry of the Jared­ites to make any sense. So, which is it? Was the Tow­er of Babel a real event, or is the book of Ether a com­plete­ly fab­ri­cat­ed sto­ry? I have to lean toward the fab­ri­ca­tion, in agree­ment with B.H. Roberts.

Uses of metal

Here are some of the vers­es in the Book of Mor­mon that ref­er­ence met­als:

2 Nephi 5:15
And I did teach my peo­ple to build build­ings, and to 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, which were in great abun­dance.

Jarom 1:8
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.

Mosi­ah 8:10
And behold, also, they have brought breast­plates, which are large, and they are of brass and of cop­per, and are per­fect­ly sound.

Mosi­ah 11:8
And it came to pass that king Noah built many ele­gant and spa­cious build­ings; and he orna­ment­ed them with fine work of wood, and of all man­ner of pre­cious things, of gold, and of sil­ver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of cop­per;

Mosi­ah 11:10
And he also caused that his work­men should work all man­ner of fine work with­in the walls of the tem­ple, of fine wood, and of cop­per, and of brass.

Ether 7:9
Where­fore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor, and gave bat­tle unto his broth­er Cori­hor, by which means he obtained the king­dom and restored it unto his father Kib.

Ether 10:23
And they did work in all man­ner of ore, and they did make gold, and sil­ver, and iron, and brass, and all man­ner of met­als; and they did dig it out of the earth; where­fore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of sil­ver, and of iron, and of cop­per. And they did work all man­ner of fine work.

Some stud­ies have shown that met­al­lur­gy did exist in a prim­i­tive state in Mesoamer­i­ca dur­ing the Preclassic/Formative and Clas­sic peri­ods (which cor­re­sponds to the time peri­od in the Book of Mor­mon). These met­als include brass, iron ore, cop­per, sil­ver, and gold. How­ev­er, the met­als were nev­er used to make swords or armor.

Between 2004 and 2007, a Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty archae­ol­o­gist, Kevin J. Vaughn, dis­cov­ered a 2000-year-old iron ore mine near Naz­ca, Peru, how­ev­er there is no evi­dence of smelt­ing, and the ore (hematite) was appar­ent­ly used to make pig­ments. There are oth­er numer­ous exca­va­tions that includ­ed iron ore. He not­ed:

Even though ancient Andean peo­ple smelt­ed some met­als, such as cop­per, they nev­er smelt­ed iron like they did in the Old World…Metals were used for a vari­ety of tools in the Old World, such as weapons, while in the Amer­i­c­as, met­als were used as pres­tige goods for the wealthy élite.”

This is anoth­er real­ly big deal. There is no evi­dence of steel (hard­ened iron) pro­duc­tion in North, Cen­tral, or South Amer­i­ca. Mak­ing steel is a big process, which would leave big evi­dence, most­ly in the form of large ovens that can reach the very high tem­per­a­tures need­ed to puri­fy and then hard­en the iron, and the waste prod­ucts of steel­mak­ing. Nei­ther of these evi­dences would just dis­ap­pear over time. They would be eas­i­ly exca­vat­ed, and the pur­pose would be eas­i­ly under­stood. Yet, no evi­dence of steel­mak­ing in pre-Columbian Amer­i­c­as has ever been uncov­ered.

The word “dross” (mean­ing a by-prod­uct of this high-tem­per­a­­ture smelt­ing need­ed to make steel) appears twice in the Book of Alma. Accord­ing to Brent Lee Met­calfe:

The impor­tance of met­al­lur­gy sug­gest­ed by these fre­quent ref­er­ences to the met­als them­selves is con­firmed by Nephite use of metaphors about met­al­lur­gi­cal process­es. For exam­ple, the word ‘dross’ is employed metaphor­i­cal­ly. Dross is the waste prod­uct of smelt­ing, the impu­ri­ties which rise to the sur­face above the heav­ier molten met­al. When cool, dross is a new­ly formed rock con­sist­ing of oxides, sil­i­cas, and oth­er com­po­nents of the ore in which the metal­lic min­er­al occurred. Dross has the usu­al qual­i­ties of a hard rock in that it resists ero­sion and dete­ri­o­ra­tion unless sub­ject to mechan­i­cal and/or chem­i­cal break­down. The con­text for the word ‘dross’ in two pas­sages in the Book of Mor­mon record sug­gests that the speak­er and audi­ence under­stood the met­al­lur­gi­cal process the metaphor implies (cf. Ps. 119:119; Prov. 25:4; 26:23; Isa. 1:22, 25; Ezek. 22:18–19). ‘There­fore they were not per­mit­ted to enter into their syn­a­gogues to wor­ship God, being esteemed as filth­i­ness,’ the text explains. ‘There­fore they were poor; yea, they were esteemed by their brethren as dross; there­fore they were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart’ (Alma 32:3). Lat­er it is explained, ‘[T]herefore, if ye do not remem­ber to be char­i­ta­ble, ye are as dross, which the refin­ers do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trod­den under foot of men’ (34:29). Such apt metaphors sug­gest that met­al­lur­gi­cal process­es were an impor­tant and gen­er­al­ly under­stood fea­ture of Nephite life.”

Addi­tion­al­ly, the Book of Mor­mon details a sys­tem of met­al weights and mea­sures used by the soci­eties described there­in for com­merce. How­ev­er, the over­all use of met­al in ancient Amer­i­ca seems to have been extreme­ly lim­it­ed. A more com­mon exchange medi­um in Mesoamer­i­ca were cacao beans.

Real­ly, though, even if no evi­dence of the actu­al mak­ing of the steel or oth­er met­als were found, the big­ger mys­tery for me is how no actu­al swords, breast­plates, “all man­ner of tools of every kind to till the ground”, and oth­er “weapons of war” that were sup­pos­ed­ly made in abun­dance for at least a thou­sand years have been found. There are bat­tles in the Book of Mor­mon where mil­lions died. A bat­tle of that mag­ni­tude would have left piles and piles of swords and breast­plates, all oth­er types of arti­facts. Again, noth­ing sup­port­ing any of this has been found.

Post­ed in Book of Mor­mon, Series, Trans­la­tion | Leave a com­ment

Book of Mormon Issue 4: Language

The text of the Book of Mor­mon indi­cates that the peo­ples with­in the nar­ra­tive took great care to pre­serve their lan­guage from evolv­ing or frac­tur­ing into dif­fer­ent dialects. They wrote in Reformed Egypt­ian to sup­pos­ed­ly “save space” and spoke and read Hebrew. In 1st Nephi, Nephi is com­mand­ed to get the brass plates from Jerusalem to pre­serve “unto our chil­dren the lan­guage of our fathers” (1 Nephi 3:19). Lat­er in the text, the Nephite nation encoun­ters a sec­ond group of Hebrew migrants and finds that their “lan­guage had become cor­rupt­ed; and they had brought no records with them”. As a result, Mosi­ah (the Nephite leader) found it nec­es­sary that they should be taught in his (Hebrew) lan­guage (Omni 1:17–18). For the dura­tion of the Book of Mor­mon nar­ra­tive, there is no indi­ca­tion that the prin­ci­ple nar­ra­tive groups ever devi­at­ed from their lan­guage of ori­gin (spo­ken or writ­ten) for 1000 years. To the con­trary, the cur­rent body of evi­dence indi­cates that there were many dif­fer­ent spo­ken and writ­ten lan­guages uti­lized among the var­i­ous peo­ples of Ancient Amer­i­ca that have no resem­blance to Hebrew or Egypt­ian texts or lan­guages.

Due to the phys­i­cal absence of the gold plates, there is no body of Ancient Amer­i­can evi­dence with which to com­pare Joseph Smith’s claim that Ancient Amer­i­cans wrote Reformed Egypt­ian. Except — the famous ‘Anthon Tran­script’ which was tak­en to Pro­fes­sor Charles Anthon for a cer­tifi­cate of authen­tic­i­ty may still exist.

Anthon Transcript

See http://​mor​mon​think​.com/​b​o​o​k​—​o​f​—​m​o​r​m​o​n​—​p​r​o​b​l​e​m​s​.​h​t​m​#​a​n​t​hon for an in depth analy­sis of the whole ‘Anthon Tran­script’ expe­ri­ence. What I found inter­est­ing is that the Com­mu­ni­ty of Christ has what is pur­port­ed to be part of the doc­u­ment brought to Pro­fes­sor Anthon:

What gives this paper more cred­i­bil­i­ty is that twice in late 1844, por­tions of these sym­bols were again pub­lished as char­ac­ters that Joseph Smith, Jr had copied from the gold plates. Char­ac­ters appeared in the Decem­ber 21 issue of the Mor­mon news­pa­per The Prophet. Also, in 1844 the Lat­ter-day Saints pub­lished a broad­side (see below) with the title “Stick of Joseph” which con­tained sup­posed char­ac­ters copied from the plates. The char­ac­ters are basi­cal­ly the same as those from the Anthon tran­script.

And again in 1980, The LDS church print­ed an edi­tion of the Book of Mor­mon that fea­tured the same char­ac­ters from the Anthon Tran­script on the front and back cov­ers of a Book of Mor­mon made with gold cov­ers to sim­u­late what the gold plates may have looked like. The pho­to below is of one of these 1980 edi­tions.

Based on these uses, I con­clude that the LDS church trusts that these are the char­ac­ters from the Anthon Tran­script or at least char­ac­ters that Joseph Smith, Jr copied from the plates for some oth­er rea­son. So, what do the char­ac­ters say? Noth­ing. Sev­er­al schol­ars, LDS and not LDS, have tried to make any sense of the lines, with no real luck. What I gath­er as being one of the more accept­ed con­clu­sions among non-LDS schol­ars is that the paper was writ­ten by some­one who had a book con­tain­ing var­i­ous alpha­bets from which to copy or adapt. Here is one analy­sis com­par­ing many of the marks to a Latin short­hand called Tiron­ian notes. The pho­to below shows the com­par­i­son with the Anthon char­ac­ters on the left and the short­hand on the right:

It is dif­fi­cult to believe that the char­ac­ters are reformed egypt­ian after this per­spec­tive is pre­sent­ed.

Greek and Other Language Issues

For a very detailed analy­sis of many of the lan­guage issues in the Book of Mor­mon, please see http://​pack​ham​.n4m​.org/​l​i​n​g​u​i​s​t​.​htm. I’ll sum­ma­rize a few of what I think are the biggest prob­lems here, but go there for more detail if any of this is inter­est­ing.

Joseph Smith, Jr. stat­ed that “There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of the Lord, trans­lat­ed the Book of Mor­mon.” (Times and Sea­sons, Vol.4, No.13, May 15, 1843, p.194). How­ev­er there are sev­er­al places that have no mean­ing with­out Greek or Latin being found on the plates.

Christ the Messiah”

The Hebrew word which gives us the term “mes­si­ah” is ‘mashiach,’ mean­ing lit­er­al­ly “[the] anoint­ed [one].” It is used in the Hebrew Old Tes­ta­ment 47 times in ref­er­ence to all anoint­ed per­sons such as priests and kings. It is only rel­a­tive­ly late in Hebrew lit­er­a­ture that it came to have the addi­tion­al spe­cial mean­ing of the yet-to-come anoint­ed king of the house of David who was expect­ed to appear and free the Jews from for­eign dom­i­na­tion and estab­lish God’s king­dom for­ev­er on earth.

Usu­al­ly in the New Tes­ta­ment, which was writ­ten in Greek, the Hebrew word ‘mashiach’ is trans­lat­ed into Greek with the Greek word which means “anoint­ed”: ‘chris­tos’, and that Greek word is usu­al­ly not trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish, but only translit­er­at­ed (angli­cized), as “Christ,” with a cap­i­tal let­ter.

In the Greek of the New Tes­ta­ment, of course, he was referred to as “Jesus the Anoint­ed One” (‘Iesous ho chris­tos’), which in Hebrew or Ara­ma­ic would be some­thing like “Ieshua ha mashiach.”

Now, when we look at the Book of Mor­mon (sup­pos­ed­ly trans­lat­ed from Hebrew writ­ten in Reformed Egypt­ian), we find that the term “Mes­si­ah” occurs about 25 times. The term “Christ” occurs about 317 times.

Joseph Smith, Jr insist­ed that there was no Greek on the plates. So how could some­times “the Anoint­ed One” be trans­lat­ed as “Mes­si­ah” while oth­er times it is trans­lat­ed as “Christ”?

Espe­cial­ly trou­bling are vers­es like:

2 Nephi 25:19
For accord­ing to the words of the prophets, the Mes­si­ah cometh in six hun­dred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and accord­ing to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So first, I’m com­fort­able stat­ing that no schol­ar believes that Jesus’s name was “Jesus Christ”, being the son of “Joseph Christ” and “Mary Christ”. Addi­tion­al­ly, this would mean that the angel of God spoke to the hebrews in Greek at times, instead of their own lan­guage. That doesn’t work.


Alma 16:13
And Alma and Amulek went forth preach­ing repen­tance to the peo­ple in their tem­ples, and in their sanc­tu­ar­ies, and also in their syn­a­gogues, which were built after the man­ner of the Jews.

Schol­ars of Jew­ish reli­gious his­to­ry are almost unan­i­mous in the view that the syn­a­gogue, which we think of as so typ­i­cal of Jew­ish reli­gious life, did not exist before the destruc­tion of the tem­ple and the Baby­lon­ian Cap­tiv­i­ty, which was defin­i­tive­ly after Lehi and the fam­i­ly left. So how could any Nephite know about “syn­a­gogues … after the man­ner of the Jews”? It may or may not be sur­pris­ing at this point that the word “syn­a­gogue” is also Greek (from ‘syn-’ “togeth­er” and ‘ag-’ “bring, lead”).

Bible” and more Greek words

Our Eng­lish word “Bible” is an angli­ciza­tion of the Greek word ‘bib­lia’, which means “books,” and is sim­ply the plur­al of the Greek word ‘bib­lion’ mean­ing “book.” The chap­ter of 2 Nephi 29 is odd for many rea­sons in itself, but the Greek words writ­ten by a Hebrew speak­ing, Reformed Egypt­ian writ­ing peo­ple adds addi­tion­al dif­fi­cul­ty.

The fol­low­ing names from the Book of Mor­mon are also Greek in ori­gin:

Antipas, Anti­pus, Archean­tus, Ezias, Jonas, Judea, Alpha and Omega, Tim­o­thy, Zenos, Ango­la

The Book of Mor­mon men­tions a har­lot named Isabel (Alma 39:3). “Isabel” is a name that only came into use in France and Italy dur­ing the late Mid­dle Ages. Except, the Nephites invent­ed it first, by over 1,000 years.

Post­ed in Book of Mor­mon, Series, Trans­la­tion | 1 Com­ment

Book of Mormon Issue 5: Hebrew DNA

I will go into this in more depth at some time, but until just recent­ly (2006), the intro­duc­tion page in the Book of Mor­mon said all of the peo­ple chron­i­cled in the book “were destroyed, except the Laman­ites, and they are the prin­ci­pal ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.” The new intro­duc­tion reads much the same, but says the Laman­ites “are among the ances­tors of the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.”

This change does not agree with the Book of Mor­mon or what has been taught by most Church lead­ers since Joseph Smith, Jr. The Church lead­ers have affirmed until very recent­ly that the Amer­i­can Indi­ans are the direct descen­dants of Lehi and Mulek and their fam­i­lies — who were all of the House of Israel (Jews). No oth­er groups of peo­ple are dis­cussed as being encoun­tered in the Book of Mor­mon oth­er than the Jared­ites, who all died in a mas­sive bat­tle. I think the word­ing change in the Book of Mor­mon title page is in direct response to the devel­op­ing body of DNA and oth­er evi­dence that show the Amer­i­can Indi­ans are not Israelites.

The Book of Mor­mon is a record of the fore­fa­thers of our west­ern tribes of Indi­ans; hav­ing been found through the min­is­tra­tion of an holy angel, and trans­lat­ed into our own lan­guage by the gift and pow­er of God, after hav­ing been hid up in the earth for the last four­teen hun­dred years, con­tain­ing the word of God which was deliv­ered unto them. By it we learn that our west­ern tribes of Indi­ans are descen­dants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt.” — Joseph Smith, Jr, Teach­ings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 17

It has been said by many of the learned and wise men, or his­to­ri­ans, that the Indi­ans or abo­rig­ines of this con­ti­nent, are of the scat­tered tribes of Israel. It has been con­jec­tured by many oth­ers, that the abo­rig­ines of this con­ti­nent are not of the tribes of Israel, but the ten tribes have been led away into some unknown regions of the north. Let this be as it may, the prophe­cy I have just quot­ed ‘will fetch them,’ in the last days, and place them in the land which their fathers pos­sessed.” — Joseph Smith, Jr, Teach­ings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 85

The Nephites suf­fered extinc­tion about 400 A.D., but the Laman­ites lived on in their degrad­ed course, and are today extant upon the land as the Amer­i­can Indi­ans.” — Apos­tle James Tal­mage, Jesus the Christ, 23rd ed., p. 49

Not only in the Book of Mor­mon are the descen­dants of Lehi called Jews, but also in the Doc­trine and Covenants. In sec­tion 19, this is found: ‘Which is my word to the Gen­tile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of whom the Laman­ites [Native Amer­i­cans] are a rem­nant, that they may believe the gospel, and, look not for a Mes­si­ah to come who has already come.’ ” — Prophet Joseph Field­ing Smith, Doc­trines of Sal­va­tion, v. 3, p. 264

Laman­ites share a roy­al her­itage. I should like to address my remarks to you, our kins­men of the isles of the sea and the Amer­i­c­as. Mil­lions of you have blood rel­a­tive­ly unmixed with gen­tile nations.” — Prophet Spencer W. Kim­ball, The Teach­ings of Spencer W. Kim­ball, p. 596

So, what does the DNA evi­dence say? DNA evi­dence indi­cates Amer­i­can Amer­i­cans descend­ed from Asia, not Israel as the church teach­es. Asian migrants have pop­u­lat­ed this con­ti­nent for over 50,000 years. The thou­sands of DNA sam­ples from every known tribe of Native Amer­i­cans indi­cate an Asi­at­ic rather than Semit­ic ori­gin and give greater sup­port to the the­o­ry of a pre­his­toric Asi­at­ic migra­tion across the Bear­ing Strait. Here are a few quotes about the DNA evi­dence.

So far, DNA research has lent no sup­port to the tra­di­tion­al Mor­mon beliefs about the ori­gins of Native Amer­i­cans. Instead, genet­ic data have con­firmed that migra­tions from Asia are the pri­ma­ry source of Amer­i­can Indi­an ori­gins… While DNA shows that ulti­mate­ly all human pop­u­la­tions are close­ly relat­ed, to date no inti­mate genet­ic link has been found between ancient Israelites and indige­nous Amer­i­cans, much less with­in the time frame sug­gest­ed in the Book of Mor­mon.” — Thomas Mur­phy, Mor­mon anthro­pol­o­gist, Amer­i­can Apoc­rypha, 2002, p. 47–48

I don’t think there is one iota of evi­dence that sug­gests a lost tribe from Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great sto­ry, slain by ugly fact.” — Michael Craw­ford, anthro­pol­o­gist at Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas.

Post­ed in Book of Mor­mon, Series, Trans­la­tion | Leave a com­ment

Book of Mormon Issue 6+: Everything else

Quoted Isaiah Scriptures

Schol­ars divide the book of Isa­iah into three parts. There is very lit­tle dis­agree­ment about this fact. Here are the three parts and when they were writ­ten:

  • Chap­ters 1 to 39 (First Isa­iah, Pro­­to-Isa­i­ah or Orig­i­nal Isa­iah): the work of the orig­i­nal prophet Isa­iah, who worked in Jerusalem between 740 and 687 BCE.
  • Chap­ters 40 to 55 (Sec­ond Isa­iah or Deutero-Isa­i­ah): by an anony­mous author who lived in Baby­lon near the end of the Baby­lon­ian cap­tiv­i­ty.
  • Chap­ters 56 to 66 (Third Isa­iah or Tri­­to-Isa­i­ah): the work of anony­mous dis­ci­ples com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing Isaiah’s work in the years imme­di­ate­ly after the return from Baby­lon.

This presents a mas­sive prob­lem for the Book of Mor­mon. Nephi is sup­pos­ed­ly copy­ing Isa­iah 48–52 into 1 Nephi 21–22 and 2 Nephi 7−8,17. Those chap­ters of Isa­iah were writ­ten after Israel was car­ried away into Baby­lon, which was after Lehi and his fam­i­ly left Jerusalem. Nephi could not have had those chap­ters on his brass plates, yet there they are in the Book of Mor­mon. What alter­na­tive expla­na­tion is there for this, oth­er than the Book of Mor­mon being a 19th cen­tu­ry cre­ation?

There was Death Prior to the Fall of Adam (4000 BC)

The Book of Mor­mon teach­es that, pri­or to the fall of Adam, there was no death any­where on the plan­et. Church lead­ers have taught that organ­ic evo­lu­tion is not a law of nature, but a faulty teach­ing of man, and the earth is not mil­lions of years old — only around 6000. The evi­dence against both of these claims is moun­tain­ous. This is an impor­tant issue, how­ev­er I will not be going into the depth it may deserve. Please ask me if you have ques­tions about this.

2 Nephi 2:22
And now, behold, if Adam had not trans­gressed he would not have fall­en, but he would have remained in the gar­den of Eden. And all things which were cre­at­ed must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were cre­at­ed; and they must have remained for­ev­er, and had no end.

Alma 12:23
And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been pos­si­ble for Adam to have par­tak­en of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, mak­ing God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt sure­ly die.

D&C 77:6
Q. What are we to under­stand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with sev­en seals?
A. We are to under­stand that it con­tains the revealed will, mys­ter­ies, and the works of God; the hid­den things of his econ­o­my con­cern­ing this earth dur­ing the sev­en thou­sand years of its con­tin­u­ance, or its tem­po­ral exis­tence.

No Supportive Archaeological Evidence has been Found

The Book of Mor­mon gives so many details about cities, waters, a tem­ple, and oth­er land­marks. Sev­er­al LDS mem­bers have tak­en those details and tried to locate the actu­al land­marks. It makes sense that with a detailed guide such as the Book of Mor­mon, locat­ing these places should not be over­ly com­pli­cat­ed, and it would be a tes­ta­ment to the truth­ful­ness of the book. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the Church, to date no sol­id sup­port­ive evi­dence has been found.

Thomas Stu­art Fer­gu­son was a ded­i­cat­ed believ­er in the authen­tic­i­ty of the Book of Mor­mon at the time he found­ed the New World Archae­ol­o­gy Foun­da­tion. He real­ly believed that archae­ol­o­gy would prove the Book of Mor­mon. Read his whole sto­ry here. He peti­tioned Pres­i­dent David O. McK­ay to give him a grant to be able to trav­el to Mesoamer­i­ca and look for evi­dence that the Book of Mor­mon is true. McK­ay grant­ed him $250,000 of tithing funds to do his research.

In a let­ter dat­ed April 23, 1952, Mr. Fer­gu­son said the “the archae­o­log­i­cal data now avail­able is entire­ly inad­e­quate” for test­ing the Book of Mor­mon. He pre­dict­ed, how­ev­er, that the “next ten years of exca­va­tions in Mex­i­co and Guatemala should enable us to make the archae­o­log­i­cal tests.” For a num­ber of years he was very excit­ed about the progress of the work and seemed cer­tain that the Book of Mor­mon would be vin­di­cat­ed soon. In his book, One Fold And One Shep­herd, p. 263, he stat­ed: “The impor­tant thing now is to con­tin­ue the dig­ging at an accel­er­at­ed pace in order to find more inscrip­tions dat­ing to Book-of-Mor­­mon times. Even­tu­al­ly we should find deci­pher­able inscrip­tions… refer­ring to some unique per­son, place or event in the Book of Mor­mon.” In 1962 Mr. Fer­gu­son said that “Pow­er­ful evi­dences sus­tain­ing the book are accu­mu­lat­ing.”

Although many impor­tant archae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies were made, the evi­dence he had desired to find to sup­port the Book of Mor­mon did not turn up. In response to a let­ter Hal Hougey wrote in 1972 which remind­ed him that he had pre­dict­ed in 1961 that Book of Mor­mon cities would be found with­in 10 years, Mr. Fer­gu­son sad­ly wrote: “Ten years have passed… I sin­cere­ly antic­i­pat­ed that Book-of-Mor­­mon cities would be pos­i­tive­ly iden­ti­fied with­in 10 years–and time has proved me wrong in my antic­i­pa­tion.”

He nev­er found any­thing, and addi­tion­al­ly, the dis­cov­ery of the Book of Abraham’s papyri and the sub­se­quent actu­al trans­lat­ing of it destroyed his tes­ti­mo­ny. Below, I’ll go into that some. In 1975, Fer­gu­son wrote about the addi­tion­al archae­o­log­i­cal work that had been done, “With all of these great efforts, it can­not be estab­lished fac­tu­al­ly that any­one, from Joseph Smith to the present day, has put his fin­ger on a sin­gle point of ter­rain that was a Book-of-Mor­­mon geo­graph­i­cal place. And the hemi­sphere has been pret­ty well checked out by com­pe­tent peo­ple. Thou­sands of sites have been exca­vat­ed.” Fer­gu­son point­ed out in his paper that the text of the Book of Mor­mon makes it very clear that cer­tain items should be found in archae­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tions and that these items are not present in the sites pro­posed. He not­ed, for instance, that “Thou­sands of archae­o­log­i­cal holes in the area pro­posed have giv­en us not a frag­ment of evi­dence of the pres­ence of the plants men­tioned in the Book of Mor­mon…” (p. 7) On page 29 he con­clud­ed by say­ing: “I’m afraid that up to this point, I must agree with Dee Green, who has told us that to date there is no Book-of-Mor­­mon geog­ra­phy.”

Non-LDS Scholars

Arche­ol­o­gists 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.” State­ment by the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Soci­ety

It can be stat­ed def­i­nite­ly that there is no con­nec­tion between the arche­ol­o­gy of the New World and the sub­ject mat­ter of the Book of Mor­mon. There is no cor­re­spon­dence what­ev­er between arche­o­log­i­cal sites and cul­tures as revealed by sci­en­tif­ic inves­ti­ga­tions and as record­ed in the Book of Mor­mon, hence the book can­not be regard­ed as hav­ing any his­tor­i­cal val­ue from the stand­point of the abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples of the New World.” F.H.H. Roberts, Jr, Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion, 1951

There is an inher­ent improb­a­bil­i­ty in spe­cif­ic items that are men­tioned in the Book of Mor­mon as hav­ing been brought to the New World by…Nephites. Among these are the horse, the char­i­ot, wheat, bar­ley, and [true] met­al­lur­gy. The pic­ture of this hemisphere…presented in the book has lit­tle to do with the ear­ly Indi­an cul­tures as we know them.” Michael Coe, arche­ol­o­gist at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty.

The Smithsonian Letter

The Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion is one of the most (if not the most) pres­ti­gious research insti­tute on archae­o­log­i­cal research in the world. They have his­tor­i­cal­ly received let­ters from Mor­mons ask­ing for evi­dence that the Book of Mor­mon sto­ries are true. Here is the response they give:

Pre­pared by


1. The Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion has nev­er used the Book of Mor­mon in any way as a sci­en­tif­ic guide. Smith­son­ian archae­ol­o­gists see no direct con­nec­tion between the archae­ol­o­gy of the New World and the sub­ject mat­ter of the book.

2. The phys­i­cal type of the Amer­i­can Indi­an is basi­cal­ly Mon­goloid, being most close­ly relat­ed to that of the peo­ples of east­ern, cen­tral, and north­east­ern Asia. Archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence indi­cates that the ances­tors of the present Indi­ans came into the New World–probably over a land bridge known to have exist­ed in the Bering Strait region dur­ing the last Ice Age–in a con­tin­u­ing series of small migra­tions begin­ning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

3. Present evi­dence indi­cates that the first peo­ple to reach this con­ti­nent from the East were the Norse­men, who briefly vis­it­ed the north­east­ern part of North Amer­i­ca around 1000 A.D. and then set­tled in Green­land. There is no evi­dence to show that they reached Mex­i­co or Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.

4. None of the prin­ci­pal Old World domes­ti­cat­ed food plants or ani­mals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre- Columbian times. This is one of the main lines of evi­dence sup­port­ing the sci­en­tif­ic premise that con­tacts with Old World civ­i­liza­tions, if they occurred, were of very lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance for the devel­op­ment of Amer­i­can Indi­an civ­i­liza­tions. Amer­i­can Indi­ans had no wheat, bar­ley, oats, mil­let, rice, cat­tle, pigs, chick­ens, hors­es, don­keys, or camels before 1492. (Camels and hors­es were in the Amer­i­c­as, along with the bison, mam­moth, and mastodon, but all these ani­mals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time the ear­ly big game hunters trav­eled across the Amer­i­c­as.)

5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occa­sion­al use of unsmelt­ed meteroic iron). Native cop­per was worked in var­i­ous loca­tions in pre- Columbian times, but true met­al­lur­gy was lim­it­ed to south­ern Mex­i­co and the Andean region, where its occur­rence in late pre­his­toric times involved gold, sil­ver, cop­per, and their alloys, but not iron.

6. There is a pos­si­bil­i­ty that the spread of cul­tur­al traits across the Pacif­ic to Mesoamer­i­ca and the north­west­ern coast of South Amer­i­ca began sev­er­al hun­dred years before the Chris­t­ian era. How­ev­er, any such inter-hemi­­spher­ic con­tacts appear to have been the results of acci­den­tal voy­ages orig­i­nat­ing in east­ern and south­ern Asia. It is by no means cer­tain that even such con­tacts occurred with the ancient Egyp­tians, Hebrews, or oth­er peo­ples of West­ern Asia and the Near East.

7. No rep­utable Egyp­tol­o­gist or oth­er spe­cial­ist on Old World arche­ol­o­gy, and no expert on New World pre­his­to­ry, has dis­cov­ered or con­firmed any rela­tion­ship between arche­o­log­i­cal remains in Mex­i­co and arche­o­log­i­cal remains in Egypt.

8. Reports of find­ings of ancient Egypt­ian, Hebrew, and oth­er Old World writ­ings in the New World in pre-Columbian con­texts have fre­quent­ly appeared in news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and sen­sa­tion­al books. None of these claims has stood up to exam­i­na­tion by rep­utable schol­ars. No inscrip­tions using Old World forms of writ­ing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Amer­i­c­as before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Green­land.

9. There are copies of the Book of Mor­mon in the library of the Nation­al Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion.

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Book of Abraham

The major­i­ty of mem­bers don’t know where the Book of Abra­ham (found in the Pearl of Great Price) comes from. Here is a brief his­to­ry from Wikipedia:

Sev­er­al papyri and eleven mum­mies were dis­cov­ered in Thebes by Anto­nio Lebo­lo between 1818 and 1822. Some­time between 1822 and his death on Feb­ru­ary 19, 1830, Lebo­lo arranged to have them sold. The mum­mies were shipped to New York, where they were pur­chased by Michael Chan­dler in 1833. Over the next two years Chan­dler toured the east­ern Unit­ed States, dis­play­ing and sell­ing some of the mum­mies.

In July 1835, Chan­dler brought the remain­ing four mum­mies and asso­ci­at­ed papyri to Kirt­land, Ohio, the then home of the Lat­ter-Day Saints. Although the Roset­ta Stone had been dis­cov­ered in 1799, the abil­i­ty to read Egypt­ian wasn’t well devel­oped until the 1850s. Chan­dler asked Joseph Smith to look at the scrolls and give some insight into what was writ­ten on them, due to Smith’s noto­ri­ety and claim to have trans­lat­ed the gold­en plates of the Book of Mor­mon. After exam­in­ing the scrolls, Smith, Joseph Coe and Sime­on Andrews pur­chased the four mum­mies and at least five papyrus doc­u­ments for $2,400.

After Joseph died and Brigham Young went west with a large por­tion of the Saints, Emma Smith didn’t like Brigham so she chose to stay behind, and with her remained the papyri Joseph had said he trans­lat­ed to pro­duce the Book of Abra­ham. She even­tu­al­ly sold them along with a cer­tifi­cate of authen­tic­i­ty to a muse­um in Chica­go.

In 1871 was the Great Chica­go Fire and the papyri were thought to have been burnt and gone. How­ev­er, in 1966, the papyri sur­faced in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art in New York. They had luck­i­ly sur­vived the fire most­ly in tact. They were giv­en to the Church as a gift from the muse­um.

The ques­tion on everyone’s minds at this point was “Does Joseph Smith’s trans­la­tion match?” After Egyp­tol­o­gists trans­lat­ed the papyri, the answer was unan­i­mous: no. The papyri were stan­dard Egypt­ian funer­ary texts dat­ing to around 100 BC, some 2000 years after Abra­ham had already died. Abra­ham isn’t men­tioned once in any of the papyri. Many Egyp­tol­o­gists have looked at the papyri, and their trans­la­tions are schol­ar­ly.

This is quite a heat­ed top­ic among Mor­mon apol­o­gists, which I have spent a lot of time study­ing. They come up with lots of excus­es why the papyri don’t talk about Abra­ham. I find all of their rea­son­ing very weak.

Let’s take a clos­er look at parts of the papyri and how they don’t coin­cide at all with Joseph’s inter­pre­ta­tion of them. Much of this analy­sis was com­piled from oth­er sources.

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Book of Abraham: Facsimile 1

This is Fac­sim­i­le 1, locat­ed at the front of the Book of Abra­ham in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith described this scene as “The idol­a­trous priest of Elke­nah attempt­ing to offer up Abra­ham as a sac­ri­fice,” mean­ing, the man with the knife is a priest of Elke­nah and the man on the altar is Abra­ham.

But is that real­ly what’s going on here?

Let’s look at the orig­i­nal. Here is a pho­to­graph:

There are a cou­ple things a casu­al observ­er would prob­a­bly notice. First, there are some sec­tions miss­ing (which I will dis­cuss lat­er). Sec­ond, there are hiero­glyph­ics on the papyrus that weren’t includ­ed in Joseph Smith’s pub­li­ca­tion.

Let’s take a look at what the hiero­glyph­ics say.

The fol­low­ing trans­la­tion is based on Dr. Robert K. Ritner’s (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go) trans­la­tion pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Near East Stud­ies, Sep­tem­ber 2003, pp. 161–180. Miss­ing sec­tions are indi­cat­ed with [brack­ets].

(I/1) [“Osiris, the god’s father], prophet of Amon-Re, King of the Gods, prophet of Min who slaugh­ters his ene­mies, prophet of Khon­su, the [one who exer­cis­es] author­i­ty in Thebes, (I/2) […] … Hor, the jus­ti­fied, son of the sim­i­lar­ly titled over­seer of secrets and puri­fi­er of the god, Osor­w­er, the jus­ti­fied, born by the [house­wife and sistrum-play­er of ] (I/3) [Amon]-Re, Taikhib­it, the jus­ti­fied! May your ba-spir­it live among them, and may you be buried on the west [of Thebes].” (I/4) [“O Anubis(?),51 …] jus­ti­fi­ca­tion(?). (I/5) [May you give to him] a good and splen­did bur­ial on the west of Thebes as on the moun­tains of Ma[nu](?).” (Empha­sis added.)

As I high­light­ed above, there’s a very impor­tant piece of infor­ma­tion described in the Egypt­ian writ­ing.

This isn’t the attempt­ed sac­ri­fice of Abra­ham, but rather the embalm­ing of a man named Hor. Fac­sim­i­le 1 has absolute­ly noth­ing to do with Abra­ham. One might ask, if this is mere­ly an embalm­ing of an already dead man, why is the priest hold­ing a knife?

I now would like to dis­cuss a point I addressed ear­li­er: the miss­ing sec­tions.

Before the miss­ing papyri were found, Egyp­tol­o­gists were always very con­fused about cer­tain aspects of Fac­sim­i­le 1.

  1. Prob­lem 1: Human sac­ri­fice was nev­er prac­ticed in Ancient Egypt, so it seemed very odd that an Egypt­ian vignette would fea­ture such a dis­play. The knife seemed com­plete­ly out of place.
  2. Prob­lem 2: The man with the man’s head (the “priest”) should almost cer­tain­ly have a jack­al head, since it was always Anu­bis, the Egypt­ian God of the Dead, who did the embalm­ing.
  3. Prob­lem 3: The bird up and to the right was almost cer­tain­ly the soul of Osiris, which is the God of the After­life to Egyp­tians. He always has a human head and not a bird head.

Here are some exam­ples of Egypt­ian art that show the scene the prop­er way:

Here are a cou­ple more that show the soul of Osiris (the bird with the human head) as well:

This last one is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing. Look at the stripe on Anu­bis, and Joseph Smith’s “priest”:

Also notice that Anu­bis always has a black body. So does Joseph Smith’s priest all the way down to his feet except his head. The priest’s head looks very sim­i­lar to the head of the man on the altar (which wasn’t miss­ing on the orig­i­nal papyrus):

The left are the areas that Egyp­tol­o­gists ques­tioned before the papyri were dis­cov­ered; the right is the papyrus as it was found with the miss­ing areas cir­cled. It all makes sense now:

Of course some­one who knows noth­ing about Egypt­ian his­to­ry would assume that a man’s body should have a man’s head and a bird body should have a bird’s head. That only makes sense, which is why Joseph Smith filled them in that way. But it’s sim­ply com­plete­ly wrong.


  1. If Joseph Smith could read hiero­glyph­ics, why would he avoid read­ing the hiero­glyph­ics that were clear­ly to the left and right of what he includ­ed as Fac­sim­i­le 1? He would have quick­ly learned that this was scene depict­ing the embalm­ing of Hor, not the sac­ri­fice of Abra­ham.
  2. If Joseph Smith was a prophet (and just didn’t notice the hiero­glyph­ics, let’s say), why didn’t God tell him that this was an embalm­ing cer­e­mo­ny, and that the man should have a jack­al head, and shouldn’t hold a knife, and the bird should have a human head?
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Book of Abraham: Facsimile 2

Fac­sim­i­le 2 is actu­al­ly a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a “hypocephalus”. Egyp­tians would put these under the head of mum­mies, like a pil­low.

Here are lots of real hypocephali as they are in abun­dance:

You’ll notice that I’ve cir­cled cer­tain sec­tions. Go back and study what’s inside the red cir­cle first. Four ram heads, right? Now go back and study what’s in the green cir­cle. Two boats with a bee­tle in the bot­tom one. Now the blue cir­cle. A lizard hold­ing some­thing.

Let’s look at Fac­sim­i­le 2 again, with the same areas cir­cled.

  1. Red cir­cle: No ram heads, now there’s a strange fig­ure stand­ing there instead.
  2. Green cir­cle: Just one boat, and in the boat is noth­ing we’ve seen before in any hypocephali. There’s no bee­tle.
  3. Blue cir­cle: The lizard now has what looks like a bird body. There’s also a strange stick fig­ure below him with his hands in the air.

While Joseph Smith was trans­lat­ing the Book of Abra­ham, he kept a col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments in what is now known as the Kirt­land Egypt­ian Papers. In it, he includ­ed a rough copy of what would lat­er become Fac­sim­i­le 2:

Obvi­ous to the read­er are the miss­ing sec­tions. Although we don’t have the orig­i­nal hypocephalus Joseph Smith used to cre­ate Fac­sim­i­le 2, this draw­ing leads us to believe that it was copied into the Kirt­land Egypt­ian Papers and that the orig­i­nal hypocephalus had sec­tions that were miss­ing or hard to read.

Remem­ber the parts in Fac­sim­i­le 2 that were dif­fer­ent than real hypocephali? Let’s com­pare those sec­tions with the ear­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Kirt­land Egypt­ian Papers:

As in Fac­sim­i­le 1, the strange sec­tions match the miss­ing sec­tions from the orig­i­nal. Let’s focus on just one hypocephalus along side Fac­sim­i­le 2:

The only sec­tion that seems that he got slight­ly right is the one with­in the green cir­cle. He has the boat cor­rect, but noth­ing inside the boat (or that there should be two). Remem­ber, the draw­ing of Fac­sim­i­le 2 in the Kirt­land Egypt­ian Papers in dig­i­tal for­mat only shows black and white, not faint lines that may have exist­ed on the actu­al hypocephalus Joseph Smith had. We can spec­u­late that there was a faint out­line of a boat.

As far as where he got the actu­al draw­ing inside the boat, it is found else­where in the papyri dis­cov­ered in 1966. It appears that Joseph filled in that part from this oth­er sec­tion:

And he got the head in the red cir­cle from the sec­tion just above it:


  1. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why wasn’t he able to prop­er­ly repro­duce the miss­ing sec­tions?
  2. If he was being inspired by God to repro­duce the miss­ing sec­tions, why did he copy from oth­er sec­tions to fill in the miss­ing parts?
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Book of Abraham: Facsimile 3

Fac­sim­i­le 3 is described by Joseph Smith as

Abra­ham sit­ting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the polite­ness of the king, with a crown upon his head, rep­re­sent­ing the Priest­hood, as emblem­at­i­cal of the grand Pres­i­den­cy in Heav­en; with the scepter of jus­tice and judg­ment in his hand.”

Once again, this is not about Abra­ham at all, but is about Hor. And we don’t need the orig­i­nal to show this, since Joseph Smith includ­ed the hiero­glyph­ics right in the Fac­sim­i­le this time.

And that’s not all, there are plen­ty of oth­er hiero­glyph­ics in this one. What’s more is that Joseph spec­i­fies what the hiero­glyph­ics mean. This is a rare occur­rence that Joseph Smith pub­lished some­thing where he pro­vid­ed both the source and the trans­la­tion.

Below I have cir­cled the sec­tions that Joseph Smith attempt­ed to trans­late, with the trans­lat­ed parts col­or-coör­di­­nat­ed in the “Expla­na­tion” sec­tion (which is includ­ed in the Book of Abra­ham). Make sure and match the col­ored words below with the cir­cle of the same col­or in Fac­sim­i­le 3:

Joseph’s Expla­na­tion (from the PoGP):

  1. Abra­ham sit­ting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the polite­ness of the king, with a crown upon his head, rep­re­sent­ing the Priest­hood, as emblem­at­i­cal of the grand Pres­i­den­cy in Heav­en; with the scepter of jus­tice and judg­ment in his hand.
  2. King Pharaoh, whose name is giv­en in the char­ac­ters above his head. [look in the red cir­cle above]
  3. Sig­ni­fies Abra­ham in Egypt as giv­en also in Fig­ure 10 of Fac­sim­i­le No. 1.
  4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as writ­ten above the hand. [look in the green cir­cle above]
  5. Shulem, one of the king’s prin­ci­pal wait­ers, as rep­re­sent­ed by the char­ac­ters above his hand. [look in the blue cir­cle above]
  6. Olim­lah, a slave belong­ing to the prince.

Let’s look at what Egyp­tol­o­gists all con­firm as the trans­la­tion com­pared to Joseph Smith’s trans­la­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions:

Joseph Smith’s Expla­na­tion in the Pearl of Great Price Expla­na­tion by Egyp­tol­o­gists (quotes are from Robert K. Rit­ner)
Gen­er­al Com­ment Abra­ham is rea­son­ing upon the prin­ci­ples of Astron­o­my, in the king’s court. “Invo­ca­tion (text at bot­tom line below the illus­tra­tion): O gods of the necrop­o­lis, gods of the cav­erns, gods of the south, north, west, and east grant sal­va­tion to the Osiris Hor, the jus­ti­fied, born by Taikhib­it.”
Fig. 1 Abra­ham sit­ting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the polite­ness of the king, with a crown upon his head, rep­re­sent­ing the Priest­hood, as emblem­at­i­cal of the grand Pres­i­den­cy in Heav­en; with the scepter of jus­tice and judg­ment in his hand. “Label for Osiris (text to the right of fig­ure 1 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Recita­tion by Osiris, Fore­most of the West­ern­ers, Lord of Aby­dos(?), the great god for­ev­er and ever(?).”
Fig. 2 King Pharaoh, whose name is giv­en in the char­ac­ters above his head. “Label for Isis (text to the right of fig­ure 2 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Isis the great, the god’s moth­er.”
Fig. 3 Sig­ni­fies Abra­ham in Egypt as giv­en also in Fig­ure 10 of Fac­sim­i­le No. 1. “Altar, with the offer­ing of the deceased, sur­round­ed with lotus flow­ers, sig­ni­fy­ing the offer­ing of the defunct.” –Theo­d­ule Dev­e­ria
Fig. 4 Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as writ­ten above the hand. “Label for Maat (text to the left of fig­ure 4 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Maat, mis­tress of the gods.”
Fig. 5 Shulem, one of the king’s prin­ci­pal wait­ers, as rep­re­sent­ed by the char­ac­ters above his hand. “Label for Hor the deceased (text in front of fig­ure 5 of fac­sim­i­le 3): The Osiris Hor, jus­ti­fied for­ev­er.”
Fig. 6 Olim­lah, a slave belong­ing to the prince. “Label for Anu­bis (text in front of fig­ure 6 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Recita­tion by Anu­bis, who makes pro­tec­tion(?), fore­most of the embalm­ing booth,…”

I can under­stand hav­ing names dif­fer, but the trans­la­tions are not remote­ly sim­i­lar in con­tent or mean­ing. He thought Isis (a woman) was King Pharoah, Maat (anoth­er woman) was the Prince of Pharaoh, and Anu­bis was a slave (being black).

Let’s focus on Anu­bis, since it was pre­vi­ous­ly estab­lished that he should have a jack­al head. Keep in mind that we def­i­nite­ly know that this should be Anu­bis since it says it right above his head “Label for Anu­bis”. Why it doesn’t exact­ly look like Anu­bis we can only spec­u­late since we don’t have the orig­i­nal.

In Joseph Smith’s day, as you know, they didn’t have copy­ing machines. What we have for Fac­sim­i­le 3 is a trace of what the actu­al papyrus had. Judg­ing the prob­lems with sec­tions being miss­ing or hard to read for Fac­sim­i­le 1 and 2, we can spec­u­late that the source for Fac­sim­i­le 3 was sim­i­lar­ly dif­fi­cult to make out. Besides the fact that they are both black, the most inter­est­ing clue we can draw from this poor rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Anu­bis is the spike on the his head in Joseph Smith’s attempt to draw him. This is most like­ly a rem­nant of Anu­bis’ pointy ears.

Like I point­ed out in the first two fac­sim­i­les, the first is a com­mon embalm­ing scene depict­ing Anu­bis, and the sec­ond is a hypocephalus. What about this one? It is sim­ply a depic­tion of the judg­ment hall scene in the Egypt­ian after­life doc­trine. Here is just one exam­ple from the book of the dead of Hune­fer, 19th dynasty:

Let’s com­pare those left two fig­ures with the ones in Fac­sim­i­le 3:

A match! And who are they? Just as the hiero­glyph­ics indi­cate just above them in both depic­tions: these are Isis and Osiris, not King Pharaoh and Abra­ham.


  1. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why wasn’t he able to accu­rate­ly trans­late the hiero­glyph­ics?
  2. Even if he couldn’t read the hiero­glyph­ics, why didn’t the Spir­it tell him who the char­ac­ters in this scene were?
  3. If he was being inspired to fill in the miss­ing sec­tions, why didn’t he accu­rate­ly por­tray Anu­bis?

The actual text of the Book of Abraham

Since Joseph’s inter­pre­ta­tions of the fac­sim­i­les are demon­stra­bly incor­rect, it would make sense that the actu­al text in the Book of Abra­ham would be made up as well. I would like to demon­strate that in this sec­tion.

As Joseph was “trans­lat­ing” the papyri, he doc­u­ment­ed the trans­la­tion as a glos­sary in what is now known as the Kirt­land Egypt­ian Papers as I men­tioned ear­li­er (which I will call “KEP” from now on). If there’s any ques­tion if it was Joseph who was in charge of these papers (even if he wasn’t the scribe), he even kept track in his own jour­nal that he was mak­ing this glos­sary:

The remain­der of this month, I was con­tin­u­al­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing an alpha­bet to the Book of Abra­ham, and arrang­ing a gram­mar of the Egypt­ian lan­guage as prac­ticed by the ancients.” (His­to­ry of the Church 2:238)

The KEP are owned by the LDS Church and kept secret­ly in their vault, but a micro­film copy of them was leaked to the Tan­ner Light­house Min­istries. You will soon see why the Church did not want any­one to see these papers.

Here, for exam­ple, is page 3 from the KEP:

If you look close­ly, you’ll see that in the mar­gin on the left are Egypt­ian char­ac­ters and to the right are their trans­la­tions accord­ing to Joseph (which are also found in the Book of Abra­ham). When we look at these char­ac­ters in the mar­gins on this page and sub­se­quent pages, we can eas­i­ly find them in the orig­i­nal papyrus found in 1966:

Here is page 3 from the KEP, along with the cor­re­spond­ing char­ac­ters in the papyrus:

You’ll notice that he is look­ing at the papyrus and tak­ing the char­ac­ters from the top left of the char­ac­ters just to the left of what we now know as Fac­sim­i­le 1, copy­ing them into the KEP, and indi­cat­ing his pro­posed trans­la­tion. The words in his trans­la­tion on this page, for exam­ple, match up with Abra­ham 1:11–19.

You’ll also notice that his trans­la­tions are whole para­graphs for sin­gle char­ac­ters. This was a com­mon assump­tion of Joseph’s day that each hiero­glyph­ic stood for many words in Eng­lish. The Roset­ta Stone wasn’t trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish until 1858. Now we know that each hiero­glyph­ic usu­al­ly stands for just a sin­gle word in Eng­lish.

Joseph’s trans­la­tions are wrong. Here is an exam­ple below of his faulty trans­la­tions from the page above:

Sym­bol Num­ber From Papyrus From KEP Actu­al Trans­la­tion Joseph’s Attempt­ed Trans­la­tion in the KEP / Book of Abra­ham
1 * * “pool” “man­ner of the Egyp­tians. And it came to pass that the priests laid vio­lence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those vir­gins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowl­edge of this altar, I will refer you to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the com­mence­ment of this record.” (KEP page 3, para­graph 1 / Abra­ham 1:11–12)
2 * * “water” “It was made after the form of a bed­stead, such as was had among the Chaldeans, and it stood before the gods of Elke­nah, Lib­nah, Mah­mack­rah, Korash, and also a god like unto that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. That you may have an under­stand­ing of these gods, I have giv­en you the fash­ion of them in the fig­ures at the begin­ning, which man­ner of the fig­ures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which sig­ni­fies hiero­glyph­ics.” (KEP page 3, para­graph 2 / Abra­ham 1:13–14)
3 * * “great” “And as they lift­ed up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lift­ed up my voice unto my God, and the Lord hear­kened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his pres­ence stood by me, and imme­di­ate­ly unloosed my bands;” (KEP page 3, para­graph 3 / Abra­ham 1:15)
4 * * “Khon­su” (Egypt­ian moon god) “And his voice was unto me: Abra­ham, Abra­ham behold, my name is Jeho­vah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliv­er thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all the kins­folk, into a strange land which thou know­est not of; And this because they have turned their hearts away from me, to wor­ship the god of Elke­nah, and the god of Lib­nah, and the god of Mah­mack­rah, and the god of Korash, and the god of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; there­fore I have come down to destroy him who hath lift­ed up his hand against thee, Abra­ham, my son, to take away thy life. Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priest­hood of thy father, and my pow­er shall be over thee. And it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy min­istry my name shall be known in the earth for­ev­er, for I am thy God.” (KEP page 3, para­graph 4 / Abra­ham 1:16–19)

Final thoughts

There are a lot more details involved here that I didn’t touch on sim­ply to avoid mak­ing this essay any longer than it needs to be.

Fac­sim­i­les sim­i­lar to 1, 2, and 3 are stan­dard bur­ial doc­u­ments, not about Abra­ham. The text of the papyrus is not about Abra­ham either. The papers and fac­sim­i­les have been trans­lat­ed by egyp­tol­o­gists, and we know they are not what Joseph claimed. I believe this calls into ques­tion his abil­i­ty to trans­late any­thing cor­rect­ly, such as the Book of Mor­mon.

Post­ed in Book of Abra­ham, Series, Trans­la­tion | 1 Com­ment

Other translations by Joseph Smith, Jr

I had pre­vi­ous­ly been able to con­vince myself that the rea­son we don’t have the gold plates is because Joseph Smith, Jr would have been hunt­ed to an even ear­li­er death if he had kept them. Still, I, and I think every mem­ber, has a secret wish that the Lord would decide it was time to return the gold plates to the Church now that the threat is gone. But I con­vince myself that it unfor­tu­nate­ly wouldn’t real­ly ever hap­pen — since it would, of course, elim­i­nate the need for faith which is essen­tial to sal­va­tion.

So, we don’t have the gold plates as evi­dence of Joseph Smith, Jr’s heav­en­ly call­ing and gifts, but we do have the source mate­r­i­al of anoth­er trans­la­tion of his. If Joseph’s trans­la­tion of the oth­er sources are legit­i­mate, then we should have much more con­fi­dence that he real­ly did trans­late the Book of Mor­mon. The clear­est exam­ple of this is the Book of Abra­ham. There are two oth­er exam­ples where Joseph Smith was pre­sent­ed with what appeared to be ancient texts, and he claimed to know the source and con­tents of the doc­u­ment through rev­e­la­tion. Noth­ing end­ed up in our Stan­dard Works so they are less known than the Book of Abra­ham. They are the Kinder­hook plates and the Greek Psalter. I won’t go into the details of those texts here, but please fol­low the links if you would like to learn about them.

Post­ed in Series, Trans­la­tion | Leave a com­ment

Conclusion to Why I No Longer Believe

I’ve focused most­ly on the Book of Mor­mon, since I accept that it is the key­stone of the reli­gion, just as Joseph Smith, Jr stat­ed. The Book of Abra­ham and his oth­er trans­la­tions are close behind. Some of the oth­er top­ics that have affect­ed my tes­ti­mo­ny:

  • Polyg­a­mous mar­riages of Joseph Smith, use of coer­cion, sev­er­al already mar­ried
  • Coun­cil of the Fifty ordained as the gov­ern­ing body over the Earth, with Joseph as King
  • Destruc­tion of the Nau­voo Expos­i­tor press, which was the rea­son Joseph was in jail
  • Ques­tion­able restora­tion of the priest­hood, not men­tioned until five years after
  • Tem­ple ordi­nance source and changes, includ­ing death penal­ties and oath of vengeance
  • Lack of con­tin­ued rev­e­la­tion and lack of con­tin­u­ing “fruits of the spir­it”
  • Treat­ment of blacks
  • Treat­ment of women
  • Treat­ment of homo­sex­u­als

There is a sur­pris­ing amount of cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion avail­able on these top­ics that show a dif­fer­ent his­to­ry than many of us were taught. Please ask me about any of these or oth­er top­ics if you are inter­est­ed.

I’m not real­ly sure where I am head­ed from here. I rec­og­nize that regard­less of the truth­ful­ness of the events in the Book of Mor­mon, there are beau­ti­ful and uplift­ing teach­ings that we should all take to heart. I no longer take that fact as proof of authen­tic­i­ty, since every oth­er reli­gious and many sec­u­lar books also con­tain many beau­ti­ful and uplift­ing mes­sages that can enrich our lives.

Socrates is attrib­uted as say­ing, “The more I learn, the more I learn how lit­tle I know.” I find that applies here. I am no longer as cer­tain about any­thing as I once was. At first, this was a scary place to be. For my whole life, I had such con­fi­dence that I knew the answers to all of life’s impor­tant ques­tions. I knew where I came from, why I was here, and what I need­ed to do to be where I want­ed to be for all eter­ni­ty.

As I worked through this new real­i­ty, I came to terms with not being so sure about those ques­tions. I feel that I am now in even in a bet­ter place than I was when I had no doubt. It has opened my mind to see­ing my neigh­bors and co-work­ers not just as mem­bers or non-mem­bers, but as fel­low humans all stum­bling through this world, just try­ing to do our best. I have con­clud­ed that all I real­ly know is that we each have a chance in this short life to be good, hon­est peo­ple who help oth­ers, there­by leav­ing the world a lit­tle bet­ter than when we entered. I plan to keep my mind open to all truth, what­ev­er the source may be.

I would appre­ci­ate hear­ing any com­ments you may have had as you read this. You can either email me or use the “Com­ments” but­ton in the top right of this web page.

Post­ed in Ques­tion­ing, Series, Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty | Tagged , , | 4 Com­ments