In this episode, I am going to take you through the Book of Mormon and examine its claims and contents.  I will use history, archeology, genetics and criticism to lay bare the truth about the Book of Mormon and its divine inspiration.  This is C-Webb’s Sunday School.

I have a certain affinity for Mormons.  I grew up around several Mormon families and had two Mormon friends that I played basketball with in High School.  A few years later, my bunk mate in Army Basic Training was a Mormon and we became friends.  I started attending church with him and his wife (mostly because she brought us candy we weren’t allowed to have).  Later that year, I was baptized as a Mormon and I am sure my name is still on some list of church members somewhere.  Shortly after leaving basic, I lost contact with this friend and never again attended a Mormon service, mostly because my now ex-wife was an evangelical and she had a problem with it.  If you’re a podcast junkie like me, you may know of several atheist podcast that have ex-Mormons as their host such as Church of Awesome and Thank God I’m Atheist, now I was never deeply involved with the Church so some my experience is lacking but I find it fascinating that when people leave the Mormon Church, the usually become atheist and not some of other type of Christian.  I think this has to do with the idea that the Mormon Church stresses that it is the only true church and constantly drives home the notion of how other Christian denominations get it wrong.  So when ex-Mormons see the Book of Mormon and the Church for what it is, they already know that other Christian sects are wrong and they typically turn to agnosticism or atheism.  My de-conversion wasn’t as dramatic and I’ve told it in earlier episodes of this podcast, mostly because I was not raised in the church but I still do hold a special place in my heart for the Mormon religion.  Now with all that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this episode, examining the claims of the Book of Mormon!

I want you to sit down, relax and let me tell you a story.  It is a story about a man, a man that is not much different from you or me.  A simple man who wants what’s best for his family, he works hard and because of his hard work, he has collected a considerable amount of wealth.  You see, this man lived over twenty seven hundred years ago in the ancient faraway lands of Israel.  This man’s name is Lehi, a faithful Israelite of the tribe Manasseh.  A follower of the prophets and having heard the Prophet Jeremiah personally, Lehi prayed for God to send him a sign.  God does so in the form of a vision.  He tells Lehi to take his family and flee into the wilderness because Jerusalem is about to be destroyed.  God promises Lehi that he will lead him to a promised land.

Lehi took his wife Sarah and his children and fled into the wilderness, southward.  He sent his four oldest sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi back into Jerusalem to grab some of the Hebrew Scriptures and some other writings.  They also stopped by his Brother Ishmael’s house and told him and his family to join them on their journey.  This small band of people travel south into what is now Saudi Arabia and then they headed east to the shore of the Arabian Sea.  Here, they waited for God’s commands and eventually, Lehi has another vision and he is told to build boats.  God has brought them this far, so they abide and built the boats.  Once these boats were built and with no knowledge of sailing or navigation equipment, they set sail and eventually wind up in the western hemisphere.  Let’s just assume they have enough supplies for this long trip.

Soon after landing in the Americas, Lehi dies and the family splits into two factions: the Lamanites which follow the eldest son Laman and the Nephites which follow the younger, more righteous son Nephi.  The Lamanites, for some reason, quickly fell into idolatry and rejected the religious heritage of their father.  The Nephites, however, continue to follow the traditions of Abraham and Moses but from time to time, they fall victim to idolatry, materialism and other sins.  To keep the Nephites on point, a series of prophets are sent to remind them to be faithful to God and to the teachings of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.  Also, these same prophets tell of the forthcoming Messiah that will be sent to the Israelites and after his crucifixion, he will appear to the Nephites, in the Americas.

The two groups constantly fight, engaging in epic battles with weapons such as iron swords, chariots and horses.  Outnumbered by the Lamanites, the Nephites flee north until in the 3rd century BC they run into a group of people descended from Jews that fled Jerusalem at the time of its destruction.  These people are called the Mulekites.  They combine with the Nephites to fight the Lamanites hoards.  This war rages for years to a point that nearly all people, from both sides are wiped out until the crucifixion of Jesus.  Beaten, bloody and dying, the Lamanites and Nephites await their Messiah.  Jesus finally appears and establishes a church for the surviving people and he brings with him most of the teachings of the New Testament.  200 years of peace follows until the people split back into two warring groups, this time both groups reject Jesus’s teachings and an epic battle erupts in 385 AD.  With nearly all the Nephites destroyed, the Prophet Mormon and his son Moroni write an abridged version of the story of both civilizations on golden tablets.  The final book is written in 421 AD by Moroni and in it, he indicates that God instructed him to bury the golden tablets and that in the future, they will be found and translated.  This was fulfilled by Joseph Smith in 1827 when he found the plates buried in upstate New York.

There is also mention of an additional civilization.  A group from the Old World, around the time of the Tower of Babel, was led by God to the Americas.  This grouped called themselves the Jaredites.  This culture lasted from about 2200 BC until about the 4th or 5th century BC.  The Mulekites had met some surviving members of this group and the histories of that people were written by the Jaredite prophet Ether [Link].

And that, my good friends, is the basic plot of the Book of Mormon.  There is a lot of information in this book.  A lot of historical commentaries are presented.  Names and places are told including the migration patterns and habits of ancient Mid-East peoples.  All of this information was lost to history until Joseph Smith found the golden tablets and translated the Book of Mormon in the 19th century.  Of course, after the translation was complete, the angel Moroni took the gold tablets back to heaven.  There are some rather dubious claims made by the Joseph Smith that I will look at.  The Book of Mormon makes very specific claims about the native peoples of the Americas, claims that can be verified with archeology and DNA.  How does the Book of Mormon stack up against this evidence?  Continue on and you will soon find out!

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The Book of Mormon is centered on two groups of people, the Lamanites and Nephites.  It is said they lived in the Americas from 600 BC to about 400 AD.  We can expand that even further to 2500 BC because the Book of Mormon also has mentions the Jaredite people from that period.  The claims are specific and detailed.  If these groups of people were as large as is claimed in the Book of Mormon, they would have left plenty of archeological evidence but mainstream historians and archeologist say that the Book of Mormon makes many mistakes when talking about animals, plants and technologies of that period.  To start things off, I am going to look at some of the animals that the Book of Mormon says existed during the time of the Lamanite and Nephite peoples.  Reputable historians say these claims are are anachronistic, meaning they don’t match the established mainstream historical timelines.

“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.”  Ether 9:18-19

Horses:

First, cureloms and cumoms are only mentioned in the Book of Mormon and nowhere else.  Even adherents to the faith don’t know what they are [link].  In the Book of Mormon, horses are mentioned eleven times but horses weren’t introduced in the Americas until the 15th and 16th centuries.  Horses were brought over by the Europeans when Columbus first introduced them in the Caribbean in 1493.  Cortez, in 1519, was the first to introduce horses on the American continent.  This doesn’t mean horses didn’t exist in the America’s.  They did, some 10,000 years ago roughly between 12,500 BC and 10,000 BC.  However, these horses went extinct during the Quaternary extinction event which took out such animals as the Western camel, North American Llamas, Saber-tooth cat, American cheetah, Dire wolf, the Mammoth and the American mastodon.  Apologist will say that horse are mentioned in the past tense but the Book of Mormon does not mention horses in past tense; they mention horses as living breathing animals to were used by Lamanites and the Nephites during the period of 2500 BC and 400 AD.

Elephants:

Looking back at the Ether verse, elephants are clearly and distinctly mentioned twice.  We know that modern elephants exist in Africa and Asia and we have archeological evidence of elephants of different sizes having existed, mostly in the south pacific but were there ever elephants in the Americas?  The closet thing we had here were the mammoth and the mastodon.  Could these be the elephants that the Book of Ether was talking about?  Not even close because both mastodons and elephants were extinct at the time of the Book of Mormon.  They likely went extinct because of human predation and significant climate change.  Like the rest of the megafauna, they didn’t make it past 10,000 BC.  However, there was a very small population of mammoths that lived on St. Paul Island, Alaska up until 3700 BC.  Even accounting for this, the Book of Mormon still falls well short of the mainstream timeline.

 

Cattle, Cows, Sheep and Goats:

Cattle are mentioned six times in the Book of Mormon and it does follow the biblical tradition of referring to all domesticated animals as cattle.  The verbiage used in the Book of Mormon suggests that cattle were domesticated.  Sheep are also mentioned as being raised by the Jaredites between 2500 BC and 600 BC.  There are verses mentioning people wearing “lamb-skin” clothing as well.  This evidence implies that the sheep mentioned were domesticated.  Goats are mentioned three times and are placed among the Jaredites and Nephites which would date them between 2500 BC and 400 AD.  The Book of Mormon mentions two types of goats with one type being referred to as “wild-goats” implying the other type was domesticated.

Cattle and Cows were not introduced until the Europeans brought them over in the 16th century.  Apologists say that Bison were used and domesticated and that when the Book of Mormon mentions cattle and cows, they were talking about Bison.  This could be true but to date, we have no evidence of Bison’s ever being domesticated.  One of the only large native mammals to the Americas to have been domesticated during this time was the llama and yet, it gets no mention.  Sheep were first introduced by Columbus in the late 15th century.  Apologist claim that the Book of Mormon was referring to the llama or the big horn sheep.  As I just stated, we have evidence of llama’s being domesticated but no evidence of big horn sheep being domesticated.  Finally, goats, which were introduced in the 15th century by the Europeans, 1000 years after the end of the Book of Mormon and 2000 years after goats were actually first mentioned in the Book of Mormon.   The aggressive mountain goat has been used as a possibility but just like cattle, cows and sheep, there is no evidence that these goats were ever domesticated.  Also, apologist claim that the Mesoamerican brocket deer could be the mysterious goat the Book of Mormon was talking about because a 16th century Spanish friar used the word goat when referring to this deer.  Now this may be true but I fail to see how that substantiates the claim that the Jaredite people domesticated goats?

Swine, Barely, Wheat and Silk:

Pigs are said to have been domesticated by the Jaredites but what are the chances of this being true?  To date, there have been no, and I repeat, no remains, references, artwork or tools to show that swine were present before their introduction by the Europeans.  Barley and wheat are also mentioned in the Book of Mormon narrative which would date it to around the 1st and 2nd century BC.  Do you want to guess when the introduction of modern domesticated barley and wheat occurred?  If you guessed the Europeans in the 15th century, go grab yourself a cookie, I’ll wait….

 

 

 

 

Silk also gets a mention.  Silk was a product so in demand that Europeans traveled thousands of miles to obtain it from India and even from the heart of China, were silk was produced and was even more valuable than gold.  The Book of Mormon mentions silk six times.  Silk was first introduced in the Americas in the 1600’s by King James the first.  He wanted to discourage the growth of tobacco in the new American colonies and setup a massive silk industry [link], wanna bet how that turned out? Apologist claim that the silk mentioned referred to the fur of a rabbit, the pods of the ceiba tree or an unidentified wild silkworm.  There are wild silk worms that thrive in Africa and South America but the use of silk as a garment is widely accredited to the Chinese.  There is no other mention of silk in the Americas outside of the Book of Mormon.

I have shown that the Book of Mormon makes several huge mistakes when it comes to animal and plant life in pre-Columbian America.  Now let’s turn our attention to some manmade items such as chariots, wheels, iron and a few others I’ll throw in for good measure.

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Chariots:

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 3:22

There are more passages that mention chariots and not in the metaphorical sense like what are found in Isaiah.  The reference to chariots in this verse clearly shows that chariots were used in battle and for transportation. Chariots were used in other parts of the ancient world at this time, specifically in the Ancient Middle East.  With so much fighting and war, one would assume that some remnants would be left behind?  This is where we run into problems.

Although chariots were not unknown at this point in history, there is just no evidence that Native Americans used chariots or even wheels for that matter.  The terrains of most Mesoamerican civilizations were just too rough to make this mode of transportation suitable.  Clark Wissler, the Curator of Ethnography at the American Museum of Natural History stated the following:

“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.”

The same can be said of the Inca civilization of South America.  The Inca’s did have a vast system of roads and bridges but the roads were steep, narrow and rough and were used as foot paths, not smooth or wide enough of wheeled vehicles.  The bridges the Inca’s used and are still in use to this day are no wider than 2-3 feet and are made up of straw-rope.  A wheeled vehicle would not be able to pass, especially chariots.

Apologists have a hard time with this one.  They point to a few findings of children toys found in Mexican graves that had wheels attached to them.  The dating of these toys show they were not from the time of the Book of Mormon and brass bells were also found in the same layer as these toys.  Brass was not used at the time of the Book of Mormon either.  Apologist will also point out that chariots are mentioned in the Bible but very few remnants have been found dating to biblical times.  This is a strange argument because it points to the lack of evidence as actual evidence.  They say: If we are to believe the biblical account (which there is a lot of debate on this topic as well) then why don’t we believe the Book of Mormon account?  There is a good reason to discount the Book of Mormon account; we have pottery and paintings dating to biblical times depicting chariots.  We have a few remnants that date to biblical times.  We have not one of these in the Americas.  We have no painting and not one artifact.  I think it’s pretty clear that the Book of Mormon once again fails in historical accuracy [link].

Iron and Steel:

The Book of Mormon mentions iron and steel on several occasions and it mentions them in the context of weaponry.  However, there is no evidence to support the claim of steel production in the Americas.  This is not stay primitive metallurgy did not exist; we have ample evidence of natives using metallurgy to create exquisite jewelry and adornments.  The earliest known evidence of metallurgy dates to 200 AD to the Moche culture of Peru [link].  This date places the first know metallurgy thousands of years after the so-called Jadeite civilization and 800 years after the alleged beginning of the Nephite civilization.  By 800 AD, metallurgy spread to Central America.  A 2000 year old hematite mine was found near Nazca, Peru.  Hematite is used today as an iron ore but according to Kevin J. Vaughn of Purdue University:

“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 elite.”

Mormon apologist will say that the steel mentioned referred to other hardened metals.  They claim that in the King James Version of the Bible, the steel mentioned actually refers to hardened cooper.  The Book of Mormon is known to barrow heavily from the KJV Bible.  So, even if this was the case that the steel mentioned referred any hardened alloy, we should still see some evidence of their existence in the Americas but we don’t.  The ancient mound building cultures of North America are known to have worked with harden metals such as cooper, silver, gold and meteoric iron but there is no evidence to that they used these metals as weapons as the Book of Mormon suggest.

The Book of Mormon also mentions the last stand of the Jaredite culture and the subsequent finding of swords that have been “cankered with rust.”  Such a large cache of weapons have yet to be discovered but maybe the early Mormon people threw them down a very deep well and are just waiting to be found?  Cooper and other alloys do have the ability to rust but like I pointed out before, there is no evidence that such alloys were used as weapons.  Apologist claim that obsidian blades were used such as the Macuahuitl which is a wooden club embedded with prismatic blades made of obsidian [link].  This club would cause a tremendous amount of damage and was used by Mesoamerican cultures however, obsidian is volcanic glass and extremely sharp but its stone and last time I checked, stone can’t rust.

Continuing on with weapons and swords, the Book of Mormon mentions scimitars which are a curved sabre sword that was popular throughout the Muslim world during the Ottoman Empire with the earliest one dating back to the 9th [link].  The contradiction is the fact that this term was never used by Hebrews or any civilization prior to 450 AD.  To compound this issue even further, we still have to contend with the fact that there is no evidence of any type of swords amongst the Native Americans.  Apologist will claim that Joseph Smith translated using the most workable English word for the type of weapons that the Nephites used.  Even if we grant them that, we still have the problem of not have any archeological evidence of any types of swords of any type of metal [link].

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Linguistic Trickery:

The Book of Mormon refers to various groups of literate people that used a language similar in roots to Hebrew and Egyptian.  To date, archeologist have found five or six different Mesoamerican scripts and a significant portion of the documented scripts have not been deciphered but we do know that they have no relation to Hebrew or Egyptian.  The Olmecs and Mayans had a pretty robust written language that used pictures as a language tool but the evidence shows they have no basis in Egyptian or Hebrew.  The Book of Mormon claims that it was written in an unknown language called Reformed Egyptian.  There survives a document called the Anthon Transcript that claims to contain some of the words from the Golden Tablets that were found by Joseph Smith.  These characters are said to be Reformed Egyptian.  Klaus Baer, Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, called the characters nothing more than “doodlings” with no connection to any know Egyptian writings.  The Smithsonian Institution noted the following about the reports of findings of Egyptian and Hebrew in the Old World of Mesoamerica [link]:

“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 [link].”

So we have Joseph Smith translating an unknown language that was not spoken by any know peoples of Mesoamerica at the time the Book of Mormon was written.  The inconsistency are mounting but wait, there is more.

The Book of Abraham [link]:

This topic is covered extensively in episode 168 of Skeptoid but let me summarize it here.  In 1835, the Mormon Church came into possession of some Egyptian papyri said to have been translated by Joseph Smith by divine guidance.  It is said that this papyri contained the writings of Abraham during his stay in Egypt and that it reveals the nature of the universe and order of all things including knowledge of the planet Kolob, which is close to where God lives.

In the 1800’s, an antiquities dealer traveled across America with some Egyptian artifacts including some mummies and ancient papyri.  In 1835, it stopped in Kirkland Ohio, the then headquarters of the Mormon Church.  The proprietor of the exhibit knew that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, which was written in Reformed Egyptian, and wanted Smith to look over the documents.   Eventually the church bought this collection and Joseph Smith went into seclusion to translate them.  When he finished, the translation consisted of five short chapters of less than 6,000 words.  This Book of Abraham is now included in the Pearl of Great Price, which is part of Mormon Scripture.

Thomas Stuart Ferguson, an attorney and amateur archaeologist, photographed the original Book of Abraham documents and sent them to the following people:  Klaus Baer, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, an unaccredited amateur D.J. Nelson and a pair of Egyptologists at U.C. Berkley a Professor Henry Lutz and Leonard Lesko.  They were provided with no information of their origin or purpose.  They all came back with the same conclusion and quickly identified the documents.  They were simple burial texts that were placed under that head of the deceased.  They contained text from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Nothing contained within these documents remotely resemble what Joseph Smith translated.  To further drive home the point, these papyri were dated around first century BC, almost 1,500 years after Abraham was allegedly in Egypt.  This evidence calls into question all of the translations brought forth by Joseph Smith.  The crushing weight of history is collapsing the flimsy foundation of the Book of Mormon.

Genetics:

This last part, I believe, definitively puts the final nail in the coffin of the Book of Mormon.  The sequencing of the human genome, DNA research and genetic markers allows us to unravel our past like never before.  It allows us to see into the past and pinpoint with great accuracy the migration and heritage of peoples from all over the world.  The Book of Mormon makes very specific claims about native Americas and how they came from the Middle East and that a large portion of them came from ancient Israel.  However, since the late 1990’s, the pioneering work of geneticist have developed techniques to find certain genetic markers that help pinpoint ethnic origins and histories.  With these techniques and the data obtained from these studies, they show that Native Americans have very distinct genetic markers and that they are likely associated with the ancient people of the Altay Mountains of central Asia.  These mountains are located where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan join together [link].  Combine all this with the overwhelming amount of archeological, anthropological and linguistic evidence; genetics all but confirms that the Native American ancestors migrated to the Americas from Asia between 13,000 and 16,500 years ago.  This is the mainstream scientific consensus and it’s directly at odds with the Book of Mormon.

History is not on the side of the Book of Mormon.  As I have pointed out in great length, every mainstream consensus is directly at odds with it.  It fails to hold up against close scrutiny.  One can easily conclude that the Book of Mormon is simply the fabrication of an imaginative and opportunistic con-man of the19th century.

Now that I have thoroughly dissected the historical record of the Book of Mormon, let’s take a closer look at the Mormon Church’s founder, Joseph Smith.  A lot can be said about the character of Joseph Smith but I don’t want to engage in ad hominem attacks.  I want to look at the content of what he produced and let that stand on its own merits.

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Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon:

There are many hypotheses on how the book of Mormon came to be.  The first one I am going to examine is the one that is accepted by the Mormon Church.

The original Book of Mormon was engraved on thin, malleable sheets of metal with the appearance of gold.  They were bound by three rings and each sheet was engraved with Reformed Egyptian.  The Prophet/Historian Mormon wrote the account of the local civilizations on the Americas.  He passed these on to his son Moroni who added some additional elements.  At the end of Moroni’ ministry, he concealed the plates in a stone box and buried them in a hillside near Palmyra, New York around 421 AD.

On September 21, 1823, Moroni, now an angel, came to Joseph Smith and told him about the golden plates and their location.  He instructed Joseph Smith that the time has come for them to be translated into English but Smith had to prove he was worthy so, after four years of instruction, Moroni allowed Smith to remove the golden plates as well as the Urim and Thummim, which were ancient seeing stones, and he began to translate the plates into English [link].

Through the help of some friends and some investors, Smith translated the golden plates into English and compiled the Book of Mormon.  This is the divinely inspired account of the Book of Mormon and this is what is taught to adherents to the Mormon faith.

Given that this book was translated from an unknown language and only seen by 11 people, all of which had some connection to the Smith family, one can reason that the claim of its divinity is questionable and this is the view of most critics of the Book of Mormon.

There are four sources said to be in the inspiration of the Book of Mormon and they are: View of the Hebrews, The Wonders of Nature, The King James Bible and the Apocrypha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View of the Hebrews:

The View of the Hebrews was written by Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith) and was first published in 1823, seven years before the Book of Mormon.  The book argues that Native Americans were descendants from the ten lost tribes of Israel.  Given the questionable historical accounts in the Book of Mormon, on the surface, it appears that Ethan Smith’s book played a foundational role in its content [link].  In the early part of the 20th century, a LDS general authority, B.H. Roberts authored a manuscript titled Studies of the Book of Mormon.  Here, he critically examined the claims and origins of the Book of Mormon.  He compared the Book of Mormon with View of the Hebrews and concluded that sufficient parallels existed and that future critics could claim that View of the Hebrews could have provided a structural foundation for the Book of Mormon.  David Persuitte in his book Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, presented a large number of parallels between the two books but he says there was no direct copying.  According to Persuitte, the ideas found in View of the Hebrews are sufficient enough to have inspired Joseph Smith.  In an article published in the Times and Seasons in June of 1842, Joseph Smith himself mentioned Ethan Smith and cited passages from the View of the Hebrews.  Here are a few verses from the View of the Hebrews that are similar to verse from the Book of Mormon.

“Those for distant savages have (as have all other tribes) their Great Spirit, who made everything” – View of the Hebrews, page 103

“Believest thou that this Great Spirit which is God, created all things…An he saith, Yea, I believe that he created all things.” – Alma 18:28-29

“The places…are noted; among which are ‘the isles of the sea.” – View of the Hebrews, page 232

“We have been led to a better land,…We are upon an isle of the sea.” – 2 Nephi 10:20

“’I will hiss for them’ God is represented as hissing for a people… To behold the banner of salvation now erected for his ancient people…this standard of salvation.” – View of the Hebrews, page 235 and 241-242

“My words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the House of Israel.” – 2 Nephi 29:2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Nature:

The second book that Joseph Smith has been said to plagiarize is The Wonders of Nature by Josiah Priest which was published in 1825, five years before the Book of Mormon.  The main contents of this book centered on God being the creator of all of nature and are broken down into four sections: religious, nature, accounts and travel, and phenomena.  The part of the book that is relevant to the Book of Mormon debate is the chapter titled “Northern and Western Indians, Proofs that the Indians of North America were lineally descended from the ancient Hebrews [link].”  This book arouses suspicion on two levels: one because of the close connection in content and: two because Priest was close friends with Oliver Cowdery, who later assisted Joseph Smith with the production of the Book of Mormon.  Here are some parallels between The Wonders of Nature and the Book of Mormon:

“a narrow neck of land is interposed betwixt two vast oceans.” – The Wonders of Nature, page 598

“the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.” – Ether 10:20

“From whence no traveler returns.” – The Wonders of Nature, page 469

“from whence no traveler can return.” – 2 Nephi 1:14

“Darkness which may be felt…vapours…so thick as to prevent the rays of the sun from penetrating an extraordinary thick mist…no artificial light could be procured…vapours would prevent lamps, etc. from burring…The darkness lasted for three days.” – The Wonders of Nature, page 524

“They could feel the vapour of darkness, and there could be no light…neither candles, neither torches,…neither the sun…for so great were the mists of darkness…It did last for the space of three days.” – 3 Nephi 8:20-23

Biblical Apocrypha:

The Biblical Apocrypha is a collection of ancient books that are found in some editions for the Bible.  They are usually in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments or as an appendix after the New Testament.  The first know publication of these Apocrypha was done by Martin Luther in 1534 [link].  Critics claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized from these books and that this is where the term Nephi was found.  Here are some verses that draw parallels with the Book of Mormon:

“We will assay to abridge in one volume…laboring to follow the rules of an abridgement…But to use brevity…is to be granted to him that will make an abridgement.” – 2 Maccabees 2:25-31

“I make an abridgement of the record … after I have abridged the record…. I had made an abridgement from the plates of Nephi…. I write a small abridgement.” – 1 Nephi 1:17, Words of Mormon 3 and 5:9

“They commanded that this writing should be put in tables of brass, and that they should be set … in a conspicuous place; Also that the copies thereof should be laid up in the treasury.” – 1 Maccabees 14:48-49

“And I commanded him … that he should go with me into the treasury … I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass.” – 1 Nephi 4:20 and 24

“Then the king, in closing the place, made it holy … many men call it Nephi.” – 2 Maccabees 1:34 and 36

“And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore we did call it Nephi.” – 2 Nephi 5:8

The King James Bible:

Lastly we have the King James Bible which was the most widely published Bible during the time of Joseph Smith.  It would not be unusual for Smith to quote from the KJV but he is not quoting, he is plagiarizing by attributing verses from the KJV to other authors. In total, there exist 478 verses in the Book of Mormon which are quoted from the King James Version of the Book of Isaiah.  201 of these verses match the KJV word for word and 207 show some variations.  To further drive home the nail in the coffin of the Book of Mormon, errors that are in the KJV make it into the Book of Mormon.  The reason this is a problem is because the Book of Mormon is said to have been written 1100 years prior to the KJV.  At the time of publication of the Book of Mormon, the KJV was the most widely used and most accurate translation of the Bible.  However, history has shown that with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Alexandrian text-type, the source material for the KJV was not the earliest manuscripts.  This rears its ugly head when looking at Mark 16:15-18 which is quoted nearly word-for-word in Mormon 9:22-24.  This is the famous snake handling and poison drinking passage but it does not appear in manuscripts dated to before the 2nd century.  Other issues include linguistic and literary styles that are unique to the KJV.  Here are a few examples:

“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up.” – Malachi 4:1

“For behold, saith the prophet, … the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned.” – 1 Nephi 22:15

“The axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” – Matthew 3:10

“The ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire” – Alma 5:52

“Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” – Mosiah 5:15

 

 

It appears we have sufficient evidence to conclude that the Book of Mormon was not divinely inspired but a collection of thoughts, sayings and writings of the early 19th century.  We can speculate on what Joseph Smith’s motives were for creating the Book of Mormon but the fact that we have some much evidence against the claims of the Book of Mormon allows us to definitively say that is not an accurate portrayal of history.  This book may have been inspired but not by a god, it appears to be the creation of a group of men living in the early 19th century using contemporary sources and 19th century thinking, hardly divinely inspired.

Conclusion:

I have supplied you with a lot of information.  What does all this mean?  Is the Book of Mormon an accurate portrayal of history?  Obviously not.  Not only is it not accurate, it is blatantly wrong.  We are not talking about a few minor mistakes here and there; we are talking about wholly contradictory claims that do not stand up against conventional archeology and history.  The Book of Mormon stands on very shaky ground and apologist bend over backwards to make their doctrine fit the standard timeline.  The Book of Mormon is surrounded by controversy and I bet that if you show this evidence to mainstream Christians, they would outright reject the Book of Mormon and the Mormon faith but why?  Is it because of the evidence against it?  Probably but what if that same critical eye is focused on the Bible?  What would they say to the numerous historical inaccuracies and contradictions found in the Bible?  They would probably ignore them and continue believing.  When faced with evidence against claims that you don’t believe in, you easily accept those claims but when faced with evidence against your own beliefs, cognitive dissonance kicks in.  The Book of Mormon was unique in that it is a recent phenomenon in America but just because something happened thousands of years ago, doesn’t make it truer.  If you want to be intellectually honest, you have to look at your own beliefs as if you were an outsider.  If more people did this, we would have a lot less Bible believing Christians and more critical thinkers [link].