Mormons and New World History

Recently, I have been posting on fringe and mainstream ideas in scholarship, and have identified a number of working principles. Today I am going to illustrate these themes through one particular religious text, namely the Book of Mormon. This story also has lessons for mainstream Christians, who to varying degrees also have to face the dilemma of how they teach or preach scriptures that are hard to support as literally historical.

I have a lot of sympathy for Mormonism and the LDS tradition, for multiple reasons. So many of their ideas and principles appeal to me, and my personal dealings with Mormons have been overwhelmingly positive. The church’s phenomenal social ministries fill me with awe. As to whether the church was founded by an authentic prophet: with all humility, I say, God knows. On the academic side of things, if you don’t know Mormon history, you are missing a huge amount of American religious history. If a member of my family announced an intention to join the LDS church, I would disagree with their decision, but I would wish them all success.

But here’s the problem. If I look at the Book of Mormon as a historical text, as opposed to a spiritual document, it is simply not factually correct in any particular. In some controversial exchanges, I have been surprised to find how many clearly educated and literate Mormons think that the work can be defended as a work of history and archaeology. It can’t. The reason mainstream historians and scholars do not point out that fact more often is either that they are unaware of the book’s claims, or that they simply see no need to waste time on something so blatantly fictitious. This really is not debatable.

Let me begin with a basic principle of using evidence. I have no obligation to disprove the Book of Mormon, or indeed any religious text, because logically, nobody can prove a negative. I do not need to pick through the book and highlight every anachronism or error, sparking trench warfare with apologists who have built up elaborate defenses against every charge and cavil. Rather, it is up to anyone who believes in that Book to justify its authenticity, by producing positive arguments in its favor. If you are basing statements on the evidence of mystical gold plates that are not available for scholarly examination because they were taken up to Heaven, then you are making utterly extraordinary claims that demand extraordinary evidence. I am open to the concept of miracle, but the burden of proof clearly rests with the person making the claims.

Let me draw an important distinction here. The LDS church obviously believes in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but today, that does not feature prominently in their public statements or materials. To find the aggressive and really outlandish defenses of the Book and its literal historicity, you have to go to one of the several free-standing apologist groups, which have a very strong Internet presence, and produce a quite astonishing body of convincing-looking materials.

The story closely reflects trends in other areas of American religion. Although many Mormons had long hoped to find support for “scriptural archaeology,” a new trend began in 1979-1980, at exactly the same time that conservatives were on the upswing in other denominations, including the Southern Baptists. A new generation of Mormon scholars tried to use more sophisticated archaeological and historical methods to support the apologist cause – in my view, with a total lack of success. The relationship of the official church to the more literal-minded apologists is long and controversial. You can get a sense of the whole saga by tracing the history of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), which over the past decade has been subsumed into the highly respectable Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University.

The apologists make what they believe to be the best case for the Book, and I will show why it does not begin to stand up.

While I say little here about any alleged events that the Book reports as having taken place in Palestine, I have a great deal to say about the extensive stories set in the New World. Most of the Book of Mormon is set in these continents, which were reportedly the setting for mighty kingdoms and empires over several centuries. That conflicts starkly with the received mainstream opinion, which holds that there was no migration whatever from the Middle East to the Americas in pre-Columbian times. That mainstream view is, or should be, easily falsified, in the sense that it could be overturned overnight by just one reliably dated find of extraneous Middle Eastern goods or possessions in the New World, in an unquestionably ancient context.

New World archaeology is a rich and flourishing academic field, as sophisticated in its methodologies as that in any part of the world. Scholars have ranged widely over both continents, and read widely in the texts of particular areas. They have done a magnificent job of finding and interrogating sites that do not depend on the survival of stone remains. After nearly two centuries, though, nobody has ever produced a single site, object, or document that in any way supports any single line of the Book of Mormon. To use a phrase I coined in a recent post, there is no candidate for a “Monte Verde” site that overthrows existing paradigms, and demands us to take the Book seriously as historical truth (Need I add again – as history, as apart from religious truth).

In 1972, esteemed Meso-American archaeologist Michael Coe gave his opinion that “The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.” We are now forty years on from that statement, with vastly more evidence at our disposal, not least the translation of extensive Maya texts and inscriptions. The last twenty years, indeed, have been a Golden Age of New World archaeology. Nothing, though, has come to light to change Coe’s assessment.

Let me give a specific. We have a really excellent idea of what the material culture of the Middle East looked like around, say, 1500BC or 500BC, or 200BC, whichever point you like around that era. If there had been a population movement of any sort to the Americas, that assemblage would be reproduced in whole or in part, and there would be inscriptions. Where are they in the New World? Where is one single example?

To cite a close comparison, look at how archaeology has validated claims that Phoenician peoples from the Levant colonized North Africa and the Western Mediterranean, and incidentally at just the same time of the supposed Book of Mormon settlements. The Phoenician/Carthaginian evidence is concrete, massive, and undeniable.

To return to the New World, these thriving archaeological disciplines are also supported by very substantial scholarship in linguistics and, more recently, genetics. No scholar working in those fields has ever found any reason to treat seriously any claims whatever made in the Book of Mormon, leave alone claimed to find any substantiation. Where those claims can be tested – for instance, in genetic linkages with Middle Eastern populations – they have fallen flat. (Before citing claims about Middle Eastern genetic patterns in the Americas, you might want to review the story of the Mal’ta finds here, or the summary from Nature here. I don’t have a paid subscription to Nature, and I assume most readers here won’t either).

It is not the case that there are a few or a handful of such remains or clues that pose nagging questions for mainstream archaeologists. There are none whatever. It’s not a case of “there’s no smoke without fire.” There isn’t even smoke.

I offer a question. Can anyone cite any single credible fact, object, site, or inscription from the New World that supports any one story found in the Book of Mormon? One sherd of pottery? One tool of bronze or iron? One carved stone? One piece of genetic data? And by credible, I mean drawn from a reputable scholarly study, an academic book or refereed journal, not some cranky piece of pseudo-science.

Or, to reframe the question. Does the Book of Mormon contain a statement or idea about the New World that Joseph Smith could not have known at the time, but which has subsequently been validated by archaeological or historical research?

Trying to explain the lack of archaeological corroboration, modern apologists argue that the Book’s settings are in a part of the Americas not yet investigated by science, but I have no idea where that extremely large unexplored region must be. One convenient defense of at least some apologists is that the doings in the Book of Mormon need only have taken place in a small area, some odd corner of Central America (say), rather than being spread over the continent. That contradicts the claims of other defenders of the Book, who see Middle Eastern influences all over the place, including for instance among the Olmecs. It also demands some explanation as to how those “localized” immigrant tribes found their way to upstate New York to fight in the Battle of Cumorah. Upper New York state is a very well investigated region that assuredly has not produced any evidence of ancient civilizations of the kind Smith imagined.

As I say, though, it is not my responsibility to come up with the coordinates of such a lost Mormonia. Advocates must identify it themselves, and suggest why archaeologists have failed to explore it to their satisfaction. (More on that topic tomorrow).

We might compare the world described in the New Testament. Archaeology and history cannot substantiate the details of Christ’s ministry, or the supernatural claims surrounding him. But they provide indisputable evidence that a society of that general kind existed in Palestine and the Levant around that time, speaking those languages and following those cultural and religious practices. In order to falsify that story, you would have to discard how many tens of thousands of objects, archaeological digs, inscriptions, and historical texts. You can’t dig a hole in Jerusalem without finding something to indicate that something like the world portrayed in the Bible existed there thousands of years ago.

The contrast with the Mormon scenario is evident.

Despite those fatal historical problems, Mormonism will survive and grow, and even to boom. Shortly, I will suggest what that implies for the relationship between religion and history.

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About Philip Jenkins
  • Just Sayin’

    Very interesting!

  • John Turner

    As Philip notes, apologetic defenses of the Book of Mormon’s historicity are found largely outside of official church publications (though see the discussion at

    Of course, Mormon missionaries do not ask prospective converts (and Mormon parents and ward leaders do not ask children and teenagers) to decide whether the BOM is true by investigating archaeology or DNA. Instead, investigators are to imitate Joseph Smith and ask God. God will then “manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

  • JohnH2

    The same is true in Christianity; You/we may know where Jerusalem is, but that doesn’t say anything about the Resurrection being real: “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness;
    ” 1 Corinthians 1:22.

  • John Turner

    Obviously, Christianity as a whole asks its adherents to accept all sorts of supernatural claims that sound similarly ludicrous to non-believers.

    I think in terms of scripture though, the Bible and the BOM present some rather different questions. No one reads the Bible and asks, “Is this an ancient record?” It’s obviously an ancient record (one could quibble about exactly how ancient certain bits are). Instead, one asks, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” and such questions.

    The Book of Mormon, essentially, poses a question of authenticity prior to those other hard questions.

  • JohnH2
  • philipjenkins

    Read it again. Obviously there is bronze, and stone, and pottery. I said, give me an item that supports the B of Mormon, eg “One sherd of pottery? One tool of bronze or iron? One carved stone?” There are tons of pottery sherds and stone inscriptions too. I am asking for one that supports something in the Book. The piece you cite is genuine, but has nothing whatever to do with the Mormon story.

  • Ferdinand5

    But how do you know that it has nothing to do with the Mormon story? It’s like you expect the knife that JohnH2 shared to have the words “The knife of Moroni” inscribed on it or something.

    Of course it can never be proved that it was a Nephite knife, but I reject your assertion of knowing that it wasn’t.

  • philipjenkins

    You misunderstand. The commenter thought I was just challenging him to produce a New World bronze object, which I was not. He never suggested the object depicted had anything to do with Mormon stuff. If he had, I would have debated it with him.

  • Ferdinand5

    Aah…Answer me this question:

    How would one be able to tell the difference between a bronze object that was used by the Book of Mormon people, and a bronze object that was used by non-Book of Mormon people?

  • laineypc

    The point is that no bronze object discovered shows evidence that Book of Mormon people used it. The point is that no positive evidence has been put forward that a Book of Mormon person or event occurred. If you make a claim (the Book of Mormon account actually happened as written) then you need to show evidence that it did. The burden is on the claimant to show why they had good reason to say it happened. You can say “well it COULD have happened, it just hasn’t been discovered yet”, but that is not evidence and so far no historical reason to think it happened has been produced

  • uranophobiac

    I don’t remember a “Tumi” being described in the Book of Mormon (It’s name or it’s shape, or it’s use). According to the description below the picture, this tumi (that you posted the link to) was used for trepanning. If you could find a reference to this in Scripture, then you would score one point for the Book of Mormon.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Easy enough. If the culture associated with the bronze knife also has in their midden heaps indications of:

    goat domestication
    barley and wheat and/or their pollen
    silk clothing
    horses used as draft animals
    horse tackle
    steel sword production

    you have a likely candidate.

    Add to that; their hebrew derived literature contains tales of a visiting Jesus, and demonstrate a culture derivation from pre exile Jewish customs, later drifting towards practices common in christianity, and you will have one hell of a case for a nephite artifact.

  • uranophobiac

    One important aspect of the Book of Mormon debate that needs to be highlighted in the seemingly endless back and forth argument. It is the folly that if Mormons can just give enough archaeological evidence to clear up the anachronism problem, then the Book of Mormon can be believed. If I give you (Mormons) the evidence for horses, chariots, swords, BoM names in stone, parades of elephants, Jesus fish bumper stickers on the chariots, plates of gold with strange writing that looks like some sort of Egyption that has been reformed, fossilized little tiny cups and broken bits of bread, DNA science that shows a direct lineage to whoever the flip you want it to. I give you it all. With all of this, you would have only crossed the hurdle of plausibility. As of now, not only is the Book of Mormon not believable, it isn’t even plausible.

  • JohnH2

    In peoples zeal to discount the Book of Mormon they often also discount New World Archaeology saying that there weren’t bees or metallurgy to give two excessively common examples that happen to be completely false; or to also discount the voyages of the Polynesians and the settlement of Australia, as others, even if you don’t believe in the Book of Mormon there is no reason to imply a lack of metallurgy in the New World; I realize that wasn’t your intent and I may be overly sensitive on the subject.

  • Paul White

    Reaching for different locations to prove the BOM isn’t going to make it any more real. There were steel swords in the BOM – something Joseph Smith would have known about in his day, but was not educated enough to know didn’t exist in the BOM “era.” That’s just one example amongst many. Mormonism is just another religion started in a time when everybody claimed to speak to god. That doesn’t make it unique and it certainly lowers the chance of it being right or true.

  • David Lloyd-Jones


    And Xenu didn’t have H-bombs, either.

    What you’ve got to keep straight is that founding myths are myths.

    Like resurrection after three days of being dead. Get it?


  • Wayne Dequer

    What is steel? Iron alloyed with carbon and various other trace elements. My time spent around a charcoal fired blacksmith shop indicates that technically quite a bit of primitive iron is, in fact, steel of one sort or another.

    Steel swords are rare in the Book of Mormon being mentioned only twice. However, steel making existed in the ancient world at least back to the 10th century B.C.E. which predates most of the Book of Mormon (see ). For more information see and Be sure to check references for accuracy, applicability and reliability. For information on other supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms see and (which contains a handy chart as to which supposed anachronisms are still really perplexing).

    Of course if one believes there is no god, than communication with God would be impossible. Note: The idea that there is no god is a belief as is the idea that there is God. They can neither be proved or disproved. If God exists, the possibility of communication is reasonable. Mormons believe that ongoing communication with God should indeed be robust.

  • David

    Your statement about how steel is produced is not correct. The link below explains the basic difference between steel and iron. To produce steel, the carbon content must be brought below 2% which takes much more energy, time and expertise to accomplish than it does to smelt iron.

    Furthermore, the Book of Mormon talks about epic battles involving armies that dwarf the size of the entire Roman army even at Rome’s peak. We have found plenty of swords and armor artifacts of Roman soldiers and no sign of steel in ancient America. It is strange that this enormous amount of evidence is simply missing yet we are able to find the evidence of a small group of ancient Vikings.

    There is evidence that people mined iron ore in ancient America for use as a pigment in paints but there is not evidence for the smelting of iron.

  • Wayne Dequer


    I made at least two errors in my comments about steel. 1) I indicated observation at a charcoal fired blacksmith shop when it was, in fact, a coal fired blacksmith shop. 2) I oversimplified my definition of steel. I apologize and thank you for your informative links hoping you are also open-mindedly studying those I provide. I further apologize if I gave the impression that there is only one reasonable position on these complex topics. Finally, thank you for the encouragement to try to clarify by elaborating.

    Archaeologically, steel in the Middle East dates back to at least 1800 BCE, well before most of the Book of Mormon time period. Ancient steel-making was an inconsistent art. Mass production of steel is certainly a relative recent development (see and other sources on ancient steel production at ). The sources you provided write of small scale iron production in Africa going back 40,000 years and hardened iron weapons going back to 1000 BCE thus predating the 1 Nephi reference by hundreds of years.

    One of the two mentions of steel swords in the Book of Mormon is in an Old World setting in 1 Nephi 4:9 and it is referred to as “most precious steel”, implying it was a rarity. The Book of Mormon also refers to Nephi’s steel bow which may well have been a steel backed bow. It speaks of it as been of “fine steel” (1 Nephi 16:18). None of the other bows are steel so once again rarity is implied. I note that the Old Testament refers to steel bows 3 times (Job 20:24, 2 Samuel 22:35 and Psalms 18:34). Presumably bows are going to flex and therefore cannot be brittle, although Biblical references could be due to translation anomalies (see and other sources at ).

    The other mention of a steel sword is during the Jaredite era in Ether 7:9. It reads: “. . . [Shule] 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 . . .” It is obviously talking about significantly more than one steel sword but gives no real indication as to how many. It is difficult to know when the events in this passage might have happened. There are some interesting suppositions on steel swords in this passage at . We don’t have all the answers, nor should we expect to be able to insist upon them.

    As to Book of Mormon epic battles (with metal swords implied), the actual text does not support such an interpretation although artists’ conceptions may and sometimes do (see and previously linked )! I note that the somewhat well preserved evidence of a Roman Battle you cite is found in Germany and not in a warmer and wetter climate. Finding archaeological evidence of ancient epic battles is not frequent [“Certainly, violence in the biblical era is legion – from battles between local tribes to wholesale, shattering war between civilizations, which culminated among other things in the Jewish exile from the land of Israel. Archaeological evidence of this millennia-long carnage is oddly lacking, however.”( see and other sources at ).

    Iron and steel rust and many other substances corrode and/or
    deteriorate. The factors that increase the rate of rust are moisture, acidity, exposure to oxygen, temperature, and atmospheric pressure. If the Book of Mormon was set in Central America we should expect relative rapid deterioration of many remains.

    A source you provide certainly shows the mining of iron ore in ancient South America. Another limited source of iron is meteoric. There is evidence it was used for paint but there is also evidence of the use of limited use of iron in making ancient implements including weapons in Mesoamerica [see (I encourage the checking of notes and sources for accuracy, applicability and reliability)].

    Being successful in archaeological searches is somewhat random. There are lots of issues in locating useful sites, finding key artifacts that have not been contaminated and/or that have not deteriorated beyond the state of identification (if not completely), gaining sufficient funding, and in proper interpretation and reporting of results. Evidence of pre-Columbian Viking habitation at L’Anse aux Meadows found in 1960 was a wonderfully useful and somewhat fortuitous find.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  • gapaul

    I’m wondering what this means. Mainstream Christians might not care if Adam and Eve were historical, or Noah and the ark, or every miracle attributed to Jesus went down just as described. But they do think there was a historical Jesus, and maybe that the resurrection happened. They just don’t have to be literalists on every point.
    Are there Mormons who think the stories in the BOM are true in that same way –that they teach symbolic or metaphorical truths without being factually true? Maybe this will be covered in part 2.

  • Dave Carter

    Yes, there are many people that see the BoM as a figurative tool and not a literal one.

  • Paul Anthony

    …but you will never hold a calling of any significance if you state your ‘figurative’ position.

  • Dave Carter


  • gapaul

    Really? Can you point me towards a Mormon resource which allows something other than a literal reading of the BOM.I can point that out in the literature of Roman Catholics or Mainline Protestants — but I’d be gobsmocked if this was an acceptable way to read the BOM.

  • Dave Carter

    Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have said “many.” I should have said there are people, not many people. Honestly, you can’t nail down the church on any solid doctrine. They keep to the basics, but they will never actually back anything that might come back to blow up in their face. Growing up in the church, I was encouraged to read it literally, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s full of shit from the first page. Many of the more educated members choose to view it as an allegory, much in the same way that the ark and the tower of babel are.

    I left that shit a long time ago, and I know this is about the worst proof I can give you. I can tell you you’re never going to find any church approved or sanctioned source that looks at it as anything but pure historical fact. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t members that don’t view it that way.

    Sorry man, I don’t have solid proof for you. I wish I did. Take it as you will.

  • gapaul

    Okay, that makes sense. I didn’t think the Mormon missionaries would be pleased if I said I think Joseph Smith made it all up to teach some sort of eternal truths.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Well, they *might* be pleased — depends upon the missionary. Whether they exhibit openly their pleased-ness…well, that’s another issue entirely.

  • Joshua

    “Are there Mormons who think the stories in the BOM are true in that [symbolic or metaphorical] way?”

    Yes, of course. Just like in any ideology, there are Mormons who go against the grain and believe in their own arbitrary way. But Mormons who believe this cannot teach this and would be told by leaders it is false and wrong. And I can’t say I disagree with that conclusion, given the fundamental doctrines. Mormonism is far more explicit in its demand for obedience than mainstream Christianity. Mormon leaders have always taught a literal and non-figurative belief.

    If a Mormon desires to go with the figurative route, that person violates one of the most basic notions of the faith by ignoring what is considered to be prophetic decree. That person is also in violation of some of the more stringent laws required to attend Mormon temples, because these all require literal belief.

  • borninamsterdam

    I would like to ask anyone to write a to dismiss all other documents found made of hammered copper, sink, iron and even gold during the last 100 years. Further, according to Simon Greenleaf, co-founder of the Harvard school of Law (1783-1853), who wrote the three-volume legal masterpiece A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which has been called the “greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system today still relies on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf. Three witnesses, having personal problems in later life, NEVER recanted their testimonies (as witnesses to having seen the Gold Plates, and the writings by Joseph Smith of the BOM. I is a fact that very little has been found in the jungles of Mexico, Central America, and South America BEFORE 200-400 AD. However, can someone explain what tablets, containing early Hebrew writings on small stones (Keystone and Dealogue found in 1860)) found around Newark, Ohio depicting a figure of Moses, and writings that translated in “Holy of Holies, King of the Earth, The Law of God, and the Word of God” in Hebrew, estimated to be dated to around 200 AD. Naturally, “scientists” dismissed the stones to be fraudulent – like any scientist that will never accept the possibility that Middle Eastern characters could have migrated to other parts of the world. There is no proof that the Bible is actually written by the authors who’s name each “Book” is recognized by, but billions of people believe it to be true (always to be in conflict with scientists and self proclaimed do-gooders.

  • philipjenkins

    I am not interested here in the defenses of the existence of the golden plates. What I am asking for is material remains in the New World that support the Book. The Newark “Holy Stones” are a comical forgery. Very much like the Book of Mormon itself, they were put together in support of various debates and theories on the fringes of nineteenth century religion and scholarship. The Ohio Archaeological Council calls them “one of the most infamous frauds in Ohio archaeology…. The principal Newark “Holy Stones,” when considered in their historic context, may deserve the sobriquet “Holy,” but they were hastily conceived and rather sloppily executed scientific forgeries. It is surprising, but revealing, that they were taken so seriously by so many in the 19th century. It is even more surprising, and correspondingly more revealing, that some today still take them seriously as supposed relics of an ancient Israelite presence in Ohio.”

  • laineypc

    Wow, so according to borninamsterdam, the Ohio Archaeological Council consists of “scientists” who are biased against the idea that “Middle Eastern characters could have migrated to other parts of the world”. And I suppose LDS archeo-apologists are completely objective in their assessment of evidence (or lack thereof).

  • Joshua

    Not going to respond to most of your comment, but this part seemed like particularly juicy low-hanging fruit, so there:

    “Three witnesses, having personal problems in later life, NEVER recanted their testimonies (as witnesses to having seen the Gold Plates, and the writings by Joseph Smith of the BOM.”

    Ignoring the fact that we’re not really debating the existence of the plates (which we could if you’re game), there’s a decent article on MormonThink which discusses these “solemn” witnesses.

    I would normally provide a condensed version of the criticism presented in the linked article, but I’ve found most people don’t read my sources unless I compel them to do so. Have fun!

  • Stephen Smoot

    I’m just going to go on the record as saying the majority of MormonThink’s material is garbage, including its material on the Witnesses.

    But since I can anticipate what your response to me linking to FairMormon is going to be, I’ll also plug the new book “From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon” by Michael MacKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat. They have a chapter devoted to the witnesses that is a thousand times more rigorous than anything produced by the amateurs at MormonThink.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    So were the 3 witnesses experts on ancient records? Of what value is their testimony against a well crafted fake?

  • Stephen Smoot

    Well, for one thing, their testimony mitigates against the notion that the Book of Mormon is a “well crafted fake” in the first place. I thought that was rather obvious, which is why people have tried to undermine their testimony for so long, and which is why no antagonist account of the founding of Mormonism or the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is complete without trying to dismiss the witnesses in some manner.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    These guys were in no way experts on ancient objects. Their testimony to the plates being ancient in appearance isn’t worth the paper it is written on. What were they qualified to witness of again? That they saw some plates with their spiritual eyes? That they testify that the record was translated correctly (how would they even know)? That it contains a record of the various “ites” (how would they know)? The voice of god told them? Swell. What does that even mean? These testimonies are no more evidence than the testimonies of the Voree plates.

  • Joshua

    Well, far be it from me to argue with professional apologists whose livelihoods depend on perpetuating their truth claims. Let’s sing the the bias song! “Praise to the bias that affirms our emotions…”

    But seriously, folks like you never counter claims–y’all just send people on apologist reading hunts.

  • Stephen Smoot

    “Well, far be it from me to argue with professional apologists whose livelihoods depend on perpetuating their truth claims.”

    Who are these “professional apologists” of which you speak? MacKay and Dirkmaat? They make their livelihoods teaching history, not doing apologetics. FairMormon writers, perhaps? I have it on unimpeachable authority that the volunteers at FairMormon receive no compensation for their volunteerism (with the exception of the manager of the bookstore, which is a full-time job). So whom exactly do you have in mind with this comment?

    (This is also pretty funny coming from a guy who promotes MormonThink, a collection of, dare I say, “professional” anti-Mormon apologists if ever there was one.)

    “But seriously, folks like you never counter claims–y’all just send people on apologist reading hunts.”

    I’m sorry. I was under the impression that encouraging individuals to read a broad range of literature on a given topic was a good thing, so that, you know, they’d be able to create informed opinions and think critically about the topic. That’s my bad.

  • Joshua

    I’m not opposed to research. Funnily enough, I’m pretty certain I’m more well-read than you are on Mormon history. But you don’t have to take my word for it. I really don’t care what you think about me, and I would appreciate it if you left personal attacks (even subtle ones) apart from these discussions.

    MacKay and Dirkmaat work for the LDS Church as full-time employees. They are paid apologists. No one is obligating them to write apologetics, but they are direct beneficiaries of their own spin. FairMormon volunteers are unpaid. Good for them, but I was referencing the other two chaps.

    I know you aren’t interested in arguing any of the points made on, so that’s it for this delightful thread. It has been a real pleasure. Let’s do this again.

  • Qwerty

    I think the greatest myth about the Book of Mormon is the one that it is a perfect book or a perfect translation. That is just silly. There is no such thing. Divinely written and translated, sure – but so is the Bible. The Bible isn’t perfect either. They are both only as perfect as their writers, copyists and translators. The small plates are Nephi looking back, then others writing down what they “feel” is important. Most of the rest is one guy’s re-write of history through his own eyes, the final part being a cobination of the two written by himself – his story – and his son, Moroni. Then, Joseph Smith Jr. Translates it and of course his human frailties will be evident in the writing. Are there things in the book Smith didn’t know about? Yes. You can map Nephi’s journey pretty well through the Middle East and locations (not all, but too many to be coincidence) even though Smith didn’t have a map of the area. There are odd lineups with ancient people in central America and people in the Book of Mormon, though very imperfect. The reality is that Smith was bound to put his own perspective into the translation as much as Mormon and Moroni put their own world view into their writings. Why do you think the book is full of wars? Because Mormon and his son were warriors. Why is there so much about God’s threats to destroy the Nephites if they were wicked? Because that is what Mormon and Moroni both lived through. My favorite example of Smith’s poor translation skills is the words “captain” and “king” in the book of Mormon. Sure, Smith knew that all Nephite leaders were called Nephi, and Egyptian word that means captain, yet he kept calling Nephite leaders “king” in the book of Mosiah (and likely in the book of Lehi as well) and he called Captain Moroni Captian Moroni and the Kingsmen Kingsmen when in fact it should have read Nephi Moroni vs the Kingsmen. This would have had a greater effect as to the type of man this Moroni was, one that was a true Nephite leader, vs those trying to make a king. It would have also been Nephi Mosiah, Nephi Benjamin, etc. The Book of Mormon is true by being what it claims to be – a book written and translated for “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is theChrist, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” It never claims to be a perfect historical account.

  • philipjenkins

    Just to say: the fact that I am not dealing with Mormon claims about Arabia and the Old World certainly does not mean that I accept them, I am just focusing on New World stuff here.

  • Qwerty

    That’s fine, it’s just that more serious Mormons use the Middle East map as “proof” of the Book of Mormon archaeology as there are no maps in the book and, according to the book, all the land changed after 3rd Nephi. Even if there were descrpitions of the land in 4th Nephi, Mormon and Moroni, there has been almost no archaeology done in the Americas compared to the work done in the Middle East. Had all of the archaeology in the Americas been done only by Mormons there would be lots of “proof” that the Book of Mormon happened.

  • Lou

    Can you give some examples of how you “can map Nephi’s journey pretty well through the Middle East and locations”? Can you name even two locations given in the BoM that weren’t readily available in the Bible? Or are you claiming that Joseph Smith did not have access to or a working knowledge of the Bible?

    As for the wars, do you realize that the Battle of Cumorah (if it actually happened) claimed more lives than any A.D. battle in world history? There were supposedly 230,000 people slain just on one side (see Mormon 6:11-15). Yet, we have absolutely no evidence of this battle ever taking place….even though it was a mere 1,600 years ago! No bones (with Jewish DNA, of course), no swords, no chariot parts, no helmets….nothing. This was during the classical era of the Mayan civilization in the New World – a civilization for which we have thousands upon thousands of artifacts which somehow survived even though, unlike Nephite artifacts, they were NOT made of steel.

    The reason the BoM is full of wars is because that is what Joseph’s source material contained: The Late War and The First Book of Napoleon.

  • Qwerty

    For the first part:

    For the second, you are getting into Christian apologetic. As the Book of Mormon has no maps, we have no idea where any battles took place. It was Mormons that named the hill where Smith found the plates Cumorah, which may be the name Moroni gave it naming it after the hill where that battle took place. As it is a testimony of Jesus and not a tool for archaeologists, I have no clue where the real Cumorah is. You may want to check out

  • Lou

    Please at least admit that Nahom, Shazer, and Bountiful are a HUGE stretch. We have to assume many things in order to arrive at the conclusion that any of them are “proof” of anything in the BoM. Don’t you find it a little strange that Lehi’s travels through the Old World mention nothing of the populations that were surely residing in these places of “proof”?

    So the BoM is simply a tool to gain a testimony of Jesus and is not a literal history? This makes sense, actually. Nobody claims the BoM needs to be a tool for archaeologists. We would simply like to see ONE example of something described by the BoM. How did such a vast and storied population leave zero footprint?

  • brotheroflogan

    I do not admit they are a huge stretch. It’s a huge stretch to believe that Nahom was in the exact right place at the exact right time and had the exact correct significance (a cemetery) for the story and that Joseph Smith with his 3rd grade education knew about the tiny location in the middle of the Saudi Peninsula.
    Concerning “footprint” Dan Peterson points out that even Jerusalem may have been difficult to find if it hadn’t had a continuous history. It’s name was changed by the Muslims and if not for the crusades it would have still been called something else. Jesus’ tomb is unknown. Troy was considered a myth until it was discovered relatively recently. Archaelogical evidence of King David was lacking until recently as well. Doesn’t mean he didn’t exist.

  • Lou

    You are comparing apples to oranges with the Jerusalem/Jesus’ tomb/Troy/King David stuff. The article above is not asking for anyone to identify Zarahemla or Moroni or anything of the sort. It is merely asking for ANYTHING that would support the BoM narrative – swords, bones, DNA, locations, etc. I would be ecstatic to see anything listed in the CES Letter ( found and confirmed.

  • brotheroflogan
  • Dora B. Topham

    Interesting article, as is the follow-up, although I think you might be overstating Mormonism’s capacity to boom. The data indicate that Mormon growth rates peaked in the early 1960s and unless they reinvent themselves as a truly international movement (as opposed to an American church) they will shortly reach their maximum membership, if they haven’t done so already:

  • Kurt

    It’s funny, but usually I read a lot of articles like this: some guy’s comments about the Book of Mormon being false for this, and this, and this. Then I go to one of the mormon apologists sites, or even the church’s site itself, and the information presented is much less hostile, much more objective, and even persuasive. They never try to prove the Book of Mormon based on their facts, but they show how the usual arguments against the book do not disprove anything either. Then, of course, the interested reader is directed to read the Book of Mormon and pray to God to know if it is true.

    Pretty reasonable on the side of the mormons, I’d say.

  • MormonForever

    I agree!

  • Joshua

    Of course you do.

  • Joshua

    I don’t know why you believe the information presented here is hostile or lacking in objectivity. The problem with the official sources is that they never entertain the thought that their position could ever be wrong. That is not objective or scholarly. Mormon scholars work backward from a foregone conclusion (Mormonism is true), which always produces highly suspect results.

    Clearly, anyone who has learned about Mormonism and not converted disagreed in some way with Mormonism and could be argued to have at least a tiny bias, but I’m not seeing it here. It feels like anything that implies in any way that their religion is not absolutely true is immediately discarded as abject persecution. History does not align with Book of Mormon claims. This is not subjective. It’s possible we’re all just terrible at research and it’s possible God whisked all the evidence away in interest of testing his kiddos. But that’s not true in any measurable way. No bias needed for that.

  • brotheroflogan

    MesoAmerican archeology is way less developed than other fields, such as Egyptology. And yet we learn new things all the time in Egyptology.
    Concerning Israel, we did not discover inscriptions referring to David until relatively recently. There are hundreds of known archeological sites in Central America that are not even being excavated yet.
    Do you not think that a mainstream researcher might lose some of his credibility by suggesting the Book of mormon might be true? And where would he get his funding to research it?

  • Joshua

    “Do you not think that a mainstream researcher might lose some of his credibility by suggesting the Book of mormon might be true?”

    Yes, I do. Because assuming something is true without evidence breaks science. There’s such thing as a hypothesis, yes, but in order to expect anyone to pursue a hypothesis, we have some expectation of success. In the case of the Book of Mormon, we do not have to turn over every rock in North and South America to dismiss the Book of Mormon.

    For example, Hill Cumorah is located in Manchester, New York. Said hill was and has continued to be referenced by Mormon leaders as the site of two huge battles between fairly advanced civilizations (Jaredites and Lamanites). And we’re talking huge. The Jaredite slaughter took more than a year and featured over 1 million deaths. The Lamanite slaughter featured at least 230,000 deaths. These conflicts contained armed men with metal weapons. And bones. And clothing. The resulting archaeological evidence should be obvious and astounding. We have no evidence that any sort of conflict occurred. None. People have looked. We’ve used technology to image the interior of the area but there’s stone nothing.

    Cumorah’s of course just one example. But DNA evidence, lack of horses and elephants, etc. are all detrimental to the Book of Mormon as a historical document. We don’t have to dig up everything everywhere to determine that at least some of the Book of Mormon narrative is not historically factual.

    BYU has been funding its own archaeology for decades now and has failed to trump up anything substantial to validate the claims made in the Book of Mormon. It’s not a question of funding, because there should be something. Just some little thing. A steel sword. A modern horse skeleton. Anything battle-related around Cumorah. Etchings that reference Book of Mormon theology/narrative.

    But there’s nothing. It’s possible we’re all just really bad at this. You say we’re still figuring things out about Egyptology. That’s great, but we already have an amazing amount of evidence for the existence of Egypt. No one is doubting that. Our understanding of ancient Egypt is getting more refined, but we can find their artifacts all over the place. You can literally stumble upon evidence of the ancient Egyptian empire.

  • uranophobiac

    I believe the church owns the “Hill Cumorah”. Some people take the void of any real push by church leaders, to search for archaeological evidence, as evidence that those in the highest leadership know the truth and just keep perpetuating Mormonism because they think it is a force for good in people’s lives. Of course this is only conjecture by those who are biased toward disbelief.

  • laineypc

    Wasn’t there some recent disavowal that the Hill Cumorah may not actually be in New York?

  • philipjenkins

    And please don’t understate the extreme sophistication of Meso-American archaeology.

  • Lou

    What is funny is the fact that you are trying to come off like you aren’t a Mormon. I’ve seen other comments you have made and you are clearly a believer in all this crap. No need to try and deceive. “Lying for the Lord” is generally reserved for Mormon leadership.

  • Kurt

    You’re kind of making my point. Mormons aren’t usually the ones making angry comments online — though of course that happens. There are lots of haters commenting about mormons, though.

    And you’re right, I am a mormon. But I hope you can allow me a broader categorization, and not bigotedly generalize your accusation. You wouldn’t like it if I just called you an “anti-Mormon”, would you? “Look at the anti-mormon, Lou, commenting onlnie again. What a nerd!”

    It doesn’t really describe your whole self, does it? Neither does “Mormon” describe me entirely. Some people are okay with labels — maybe they want the world to know they are “gay”. That’s their choice. But I wouldn’t define a homosexual as “gay” — “gay”, “anti-mormon”, “mormon”, “white”, “black”, etc. They’re just labels for groups, but individuals are more complicated than any one group generalization. Maybe that’s why in the old days, we described ourselves by our heritage. You’re Lou, son of Frank, grandson of Joe, descended from French immigrants. That would be much better, wouldn’t it?

    And be careful. You’re making mormons look better by your hostility, and there are serious issues that need to be fixed. The church members need to treat gays better. Welcome single people better. Not deny mistakes in church history. Acknowledge flaws in church leaders. Expand humanitarian work.

    Also, I think your anger can find a better target. Maybe the rising cost of college? Growing income inequality due to bad policy set by elected and appointed officials? Nation building? National debt?

  • Lou

    None of this changes the fact that you worded your comment in such a way as to possibly make a reader think you were making your observations from an outsider’s perspective (which would give it more weight). I see I wasn’t the only one who noticed this either.

  • Kurt

    Can you really blame me? The second I say I’m mormon, I get the “you’re dumb and hate gays/blacks/women”. I’d love to have an honest conversation online, but it seems anonymity is the way to do it. I’ll continue to post murky wording until that changes. I’ve tried it the other way.

  • sfcanative

    There are over 1.5 BILLION Muslims in the world. Of those, surely 15 million (1%) would put down their life tomorrow for what they believe. Allah has spoken to them directly and through the Qur’an. How does that square with your burning witness?

  • Kurt

    Good for them. I’m fine with Muslims believing what they believe, they don’t have to be mormons for me to like them.

  • sfcanative

    I didn’t ask you if you like them. I was curious how you find your conviction MORE relevant than 1% of a different world faith who would die tomorrow for what they believe. Would you die tomorrow for what you believe? Would 1% of Mormons (150,000)?

  • Kurt

    Oh, sorry. I didn’t get that from your original question. My bad.

    I guess I consider my experience more relevant because it happened to me. I don’t know what others experienced, and would generally not consider their experiences as important as my own. Bias, I suppose. But we all have it. Your experiences are more important to you than my experiences are to you, right?

  • sfcanative

    That’s the basis of religious conviction. And one of the measures of conviction is one’s willingness to lay down their life for what they believe. I was merely asking whether your conviction about the Book of Mormon being sacred scripture versus the Qur’an being merely the ramblings of a false prophet, might give you pause. Especially in light of the fact that 1% of the believers in the ‘falsehood’ of Islam (amounting to 100% of the reported membership of the LDS church, active and inactive) would die tomorrow for what they believe.

    And even though Mormons promise in their temple endowment ceremony that they would lay down their life for the cause of Mormonism, I seriously doubt 150,000 (1%) of them would.

  • laineypc

    If I were to come up to you and say “there are pink fuzzy unicorns flying around my head” and you did not see them, and you said “I don’t see any unicorns”, and I said to you “well you are obviously hostile toward me because you are denying my unicorns”, ….what would you say to me? Would you say “of course I am not hostile, I am telling you what I see.”?

  • Kurt

    It’s fine to disagree with someone who believes something you do not. But if you disagree with someone, you don’t tell them their beliefs are as stupid. That would be hostile. If you told me you saw pink fuzzy unicorns, I’d say, “okay”, and probably walk away. I wouldn’t call you stupid.

    It’s the same problem we have with our politics — no civility. Religious people and non-religious people can get along, they just have to stop insulting each other. My beliefs are not the same as pink fuzzy unicorns, and for you to imply that they are similar is insulting. Don’t you see that?

  • laineypc

    OK, scratch “pink fuzzy unicorn”. It was not my intent to be insulting. This is simply an analogy, trying to turn the tables so you could maybe see it from another angle.

    Substitute this “there is a beautiful peregrine falcon flying above my head and I fear it is about to attack the chihuahua I am holding” and you said “I see no falcon nor chihuahua” and I said “the fact you deny them shows you are hostile to me and my belief. I am insulted! ” can you see that it is not necessarily hostile to point out what one sees as error? And to assume that ALL challenges to claims come from bias and hostility (as many Mormons do assume) is itself biased and unwilling to see evidence or lack thereof.

  • Kurt

    I appreciate your explanation, and I didn’t mean to take any kind of offense where none was meant. Maybe this is just the difficulty of communicating online. I really am okay with someone not believing in my religion, and questioning why I believe what I do. I’m not insulted, and don’t consider that hostile. But you have to admit, that online comments on any topic are frequently, “I’m right, you’re wrong and stupid.”

    When I say something like, “I prayed and believe I got an answer”, I’m usually met with ridicule or accusations of being deluded. Very hostile.

  • laineypc

    Respectfully, Kurt, what would you say to an engineer who based his bridge design on prayer? In the context of this article and the ensuing discussion, which is essentially about epistemology, prayer is not how we find out objective verifiable truth, and that is where the ridicule comes from.

    I have no problem whatsoever with the concept of prayer and using it as a way of guiding ones life, and that one can get to the heart of one’s truth through this method.

  • Kurt

    That would be foolish, of course. But I think we should pray about things we can’t know with certainty through analysis. I don’t believe the veracity of the Book of Mormon can be known without prayer — it isn’t as simple as a bridge. And when you honestly study the issue, weighing mormons’ and non-mormons’ arguments alike, you can see that there is no proof on either side. There are evidences for and against. I’m not an expert in all the fields relevant to the issue, so I could be misled by either side. The only way to know for sure is to act on the promise and pray.

  • laineypc

    You have the ability to comprehend and discern the standards of evidence. You have the ability as well as anyone else to notice that mainstream researchers have not substantively grasped onto any of the evidentiary leads provided to them by LDS apologists. (My personal bar is if a subject makes it into a NOVA episode :-). Wouldn’t that be wild, if NOVA did a thing on the Book of Mormon? It would certainly get my attention.) What do you make of the lack of peer-reviewed papers in the relevant mainstream journals? I am assuming this is correct per the author of this article.
    The Book of Mormon has two components, a spiritual component and a historical one. Prayer works for the spiritual side (for some people.) It doesn’t work to establish whether the historicity is true. I wish you could just acknowledge this. Otherwise you are saying you accept prayer as a method for discerning temporal truth, like diagnosing cancer or building bridges, which you have said yourself is foolish. There is a historical claim about the Book of Mormon that can be verified. The fact it has NOT been verified is because there is nothing there and your (and millions of other Mormons’ ) subjective experience as it relates to the HISTORICAL claim is simply irrelevant. It’s not about weighing different arguments. It is about saying given what the Book of Mormon said about the inhabitants of the Americas, and what they did and how many of them there were, their battles etc. there should have been something by now, based on the historical evidence that HAS been found in other places of the same time period, We should have found something.

    I get it, that a person who accepts this, connecting the dots, might feel they have to toss out their whole religion and that thought is just against every fiber of your being. That is not the only option. You don’t have to (although you could) toss out Joseph Smith as a fraud and become an apostate if you question or reject the literal claims of the Book of Mormon.

    I appreciate this conversation, as it has led me to think about a third way. What if the LDS church said something like “OK maybe the B of M didn’t literally happen. We know that a lot of Bible events didn’t literally happen either. Even Jesus made up instructive but fictional stories, through his parables. It didn’t matter if they actually happened. The important part is the message. It is that the message touches you in a real and significant way. Maybe that was why Joseph claimed it was literal. He felt that was the best way to impress the importance of the message on people, if they believed it literally happened. Your testimony is true. The messages of the Book of Mormon are powerful. Love God, follow Christ, stay true to your beliefs and values, power and wealth are corrupting, there must be opposition in all things, have courage, have faith…” . What do you think? Is this something you could countenance?

  • Kurt

    Well, sure — I could extend my tiny brain to contemplate such a thing. In all honesty, I’ve always assumed the million-man armies were exaggerations, just like the kingdoms in the Bible were not as grand as they were made to sound. I’d also be fine if there were no horses, elephants, or steel, and could easily say that Joseph mis-translated that part. I could even believe the years are off, the timeline is out of order, locations are mislabeled, some of the stories were more legend than fact, etc, etc. It really wouldn’t be too hard. The book of mormon says it isn’t really meant to be a history, but more a spiritual guide to lead people to Christ.

    So I guess I agree with your comment. Prayer worked for me on the spriritual side, but I’m open to alternatives regarding the history — just like with the Bible.

  • laineypc

    Really wasn’t implying your brain is tiny. I certainly don’t think that. My apologies for failing to convey respect again. Still practicing. Appreciate your helping me learn.

  • Kurt

    It’s probably just hypersensitivity on my part — sorry about that, and I appreciate the friendly dialogue.

  • laineypc

    Accidentally posted before finishing…
    I am really sorry that you are met with ridicule when professing deeply cherished beliefs. That creates barriers and it is a frequent element in online discussion.

    I will be honest, I find it really difficult when Mormons seem to make their testimonies equivalent to, or sometimes even superior to, the ways of understanding the world that have worked for humans. It’s better to have faith than to require evidence. That is what LDS/Abrahamic God wants of us, right? It angers me, this concept. I accept that many others embrace it, though. I understand where it comes from, and it’s part of our nature.

  • Kurt

    I love science, but you’re right — there are many Mormons who believe their beliefs somehow trump science. I’ve never understand why some have contempt for evolution, the big bang, or climate change. None of those “hot” issues bother me or disturb my faith.

    And I don’t believe God requires faith to the point that he expects us to believe with no evidence. But believe the evidence is generally supposed to be spiritual in nature. An answer to a prayer, not a cosmic sign from the sky.

    Maybe my belief stems from the idea of a “pre-existence”. We once lived with God. God gave a plan for how we could become like him. Some people rejected it (devil and followers), others accepted it. So we chose to follow God while in his presence. Now, the ones who followed God before are on earth. We’re supposed to choose to follow God while not in his presence. Can we be a good person without him right there? That’s the big test. And if we can, then maybe we can become like him after we die. Maybe now we’re trustworthy.

    And in the end, I believe science and religion will lead to the same place. A true understanding of the universe and everything in it.

  • AFBooks

    Actually, it is pretty unreasonable on the side of Mormons. Just to present something in a non-hostile manner does not establish its veracity. Besides, you have not shown how when they give their apologetics that they show that their opponents did not disprove anything. It is very easy to disprove the Book of Mormon. One way is historically. Besides, to show that one’s opponents do not disprove anything does not support an argument in support of a position.

  • Kurt

    AFBooks, I don’t mean to try to prove the Book of Mormon. I don’t think it can be done. All I meant was that I see a lot of people angrily trying to disprove mormonism, and then the mormon experts reasonably show why those people’s angry arguments don’t prove anything. But in the end, mormons only have faith and no proof. But that should be okay. It is religion, after all. If you don’t believe like I do, I’m not going to argue or attack or insult you. I’d just like reciprocation. The internet world makes that hard. Too many angry people fueling each other.

  • AFBooks


    Can’t you see that anger has nothing to do with proof or disproof just as Mormon “experts” cannot use the argument that others have not proven anything concerning their arguments. A person can be angry about a certain proposition and still be right. Anger has nothing to do with whether an argument is right or wrong.

    To state that someone has not proven someone wrong is not an argument for a position. Atheists attempt to use that argument all the time when they claim that Christians cannot prove God exists, and that proves atheism. That is a logical fallacy.

    Not only is that using proof in an incorrect fashion, but it is patently false. Christians use reason and logic to prove God exists all the time, and atheists never refute them but simply brush the arguments aside. That is anti-intellectualism. Furthermore, claiming that an opponent cannot prove something is not argument FOR one’s position. To argue FOR one’s position, one must show one’s premise cannot be refuted. Mormons have not done this, because they do not present arguments from evidence and truth.

    Mormons have no faith in the real biblical sense. Rather theirs is a leap of faith, because they have no evidence or substance to support it.

  • Kurt

    I think we’re talking past each other here. I’m not trying to prove the Book of Mormon. I just don’t like being insulted, and have always liked the phrase “contention is of the devil”.

    For you to say that “Mormons have no faith in the real biblical sense” just shows me you don’t respect my faith. If we met in person, I think it would be different. But the internet allows you to insult my faith, with anonymity to hide behind. I think you’re wrong to do that. I doubt your belief system supports you actions any more than mine would. Can’t you just accept me when I say I pray and have faith that what I am doing is right? I believe you are doing what you believe is best, and even if you’re not mormon, that’s okay.

  • AFBooks

    >>>””Mormons have no faith in the real biblical sense” just shows me you don’t respect my faith.”

    Not really. Respect has nothing to do with an argument. That is no more than a trump card to distract. My statement assumes objective truth and that the Bible discloses that objective truth. We cannot make any judgments about reality or morality unless there is objective truth, because all we would be doing is expressing personal opinion.

    “Respect” has nothing to do concerning whether something is true or not. Acceptance of you is also an irrelevant argument and another red herring fallacy. It also has nothing to do with whether something is true or not. You raise a red herring fallacy. I would say the same thing whether face to face or otherwise.

    >>>”Can’t you just accept me when I say I pray and have faith that what I am doing is right? I believe you are doing what you believe is best, and even if you’re not mormon, that’s okay.”

    In the above statement, you raise the argument of relativism. That is, “My truth may not be the same as your truth.” Do you really embrace that there is no objective truth, and that is OK with you?

    >>>”I doubt your belief system supports you actions any more than mine would.”

    This is also a red herring fallacy and chasing rabbits.

    >>>”But the internet allows you to insult my faith, with anonymity to hide behind.”

    Again, this is an irrelevant distraction and a rabbit trail. You wrongly assume an insult when none is given.

    If you really believe something, you must be able to defend it rather than play a victim role. If you cannot defend it, then it is not worth believing.

  • Kurt

    I don’t get you. You’re arguing about which “truth” is really true. I’m not even talking about that, and already stated so. But yes, I do believe there is one “objective truth”. But in my mind, science and religion are going for the same thing. In fact, all religions and all sciences are seeking for truth. But I don’t believe my religion is right and yours is wrong. I believe both our religions are still learning, as is science. Do you disagree with that? Maybe that’s just a mormon belief — sometimes we call it “continuing revelation”. The contention between religions and sciences are just in the minds of men. To God, there is simply truth.

  • David Lloyd-Jones


    I think that what you just said is, “I investigated this guy’s claims, and the Mormons don’t contradict a word of it.”



  • Zstur

    Couldn’t agree with you more. I research Book of Mormon Archaeology, and I can say this author makes some false claims and jumps to conclusions. To anyone interested I ask they do a lot more research than reading an obvious “lets make them look bad” article. Try Fairmormon, or even the LDS website essays

  • philipjenkins

    Now that’s interesting. So you “research Book of Mormon archaeology?” Can you give me a list of the top five or ten New World sites that would qualify under that label? I can’t think of a single one.

    In contrast, if someone said, for instance, that they research Canaanite or Etruscan or Toltec or Celtic archaeology, they would find a comparable question quite easy to answer.

    So why do you think we find such a difference?

  • philipjenkins

    Oh, I should add. If you are shy about naming sites, feel free to tell me your favorite New World artifacts or inscriptions that relate to the Book of Mormon. Once again, I seem to be coming up short.

    It’s almost as if there aren’t any to “research,” are there?

  • GP

    You’d think that if God were interested in proving the BoM, He would reveal it to his “prophets, seers, and revelators”. And of course the irony here is that so-called “prophets, seers, and revelators” have made several statements that the American Indians were the “Lamanites”, not the least of which is Joseph Smith himself. Now, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence proving different origins for the American Indians, the LDS church is dialing back their statements going so far as to change the title page in the BoM to significantly reduce the scope of the BoM region/people.

    There is no relief for the apologist on this topic, not from science or God so apologists turn to carefully picked out-of-context historical “snippets”, add their own speculation, improperly connect them as being interconnected, and call it “research”. Yet to the serious inquirer, their activities are (and will remain) only the philosophies of men.

    This is why Zstur of course cannot reply to you. There is zero evidence (and thus zero proof) directly connecting anything to the BoM. On the contrary, the evidence disproves it quite easily with DNA, linguistics, archeology, etc. I can’t see the LDS church holding onto BoM historicity beyond 20 years or so… in fact, I’m quite surprised that they continue to assert it even now.

  • Zstur

    Evidences and proof are different. If you want evidences, then I suggest reading “Mormons Codex” by John Sorenson for the top five cities, and a ton more. Remember, we are concerned with the Pre-Classic Maya, which little is known about them, and which you failed to mention in your article. Also remember, there are different theories…and the north american theory is different and faulty, which you also fail to mention. I’m not interested in a debate, especially in a comments section.

    If you want proof (that’s different than evidences) then I suggest you read the Book of Mormon with an open mind and heart, then ask God if it’s true. Proof only comes from God. Mormons say “Don’t take our word, take Gods word for its truth”. That’s why we believe in it. Evidences are there, but they don’t always lead to proof. I don’t like debates, so this is my last say, and I suggest others do some more reading.

  • philipjenkins

    I didn’t ask for proof. I asked for specific references to cities, artifacts or inscriptions. Don’t cite something that you think, for whatever reason, is an authority (though MORMON’S CODEX does not begin to qualify on that score). Please tell me a site or an object.

    If you were dealing with any real form of archaeology, you could do so instantly.

    OK, you refer to the pre-classic Maya sites, on the sound scholarly basis that “Hey, nobody knows anything about them, so we can make them whatever we want!” Pre-classic Maya give rise to Classic Maya, who are the ancestors of modern Mayan peoples. Those peoples are very well studied. They do not speak a language at all related to any Old World language, nor have they ever done so, nor do they have any genetic linkage to the Old World whatever.

    Does that cause you no problems?

    Now tell me again about the “research” you do?

  • MormonForever

    Anybody can know if Joseph Smith was a true Prophet not just God. I know that Joseph Smith was a True Prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is true. Study it and pray with an sincere heart and you can also know it is true.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I testify and witness that Joseph Smith is a fraud, and the book of Mormon, poorly written biblical fan fiction. Stalemate.

  • brotheroflogan

    Unless MormonForever has knowledge and you don’t.

  • Lou

    Which he doesn’t. Sorry. Knowledge does not = feelings. Just because Mormons use the phrase “I know” in place of “I believe” does not mean that they have any knowledge beyond a warm and fuzzy feeling (see elevation and frisson). It is the exact same experience that Muslims and any member of a high-demand religion or cult points to. See the following video for some good examples of members of other religions testifying of their “knowledge”:

  • brotheroflogan

    I don’t mind other people of other religions having religious experiences. If a muslim prays and has an experience with God, it does not mean that my church is untrue. I think that the Holy Ghost will confirm truth wherever it is found and Muslims share many beliefs with me. Maybe sometimes they are right and I am wrong. That “elevation and frisson” idea may just be the Holy Ghost confirming some, but not necessarily all, of their beliefs.

    Also, not all revelation is a feeling. Sometimes its much more. I won’t go into detail because you would merely mock it and insult me.

  • Lou

    Other people praying and receiving different answers through the same feelings shows that we cannot rely on feelings alone. I believe there is a D&C scripture about studying something out in your MIND and in your HEART. Therefore, to claim that you “know” something based on feelings (heart) alone is both non-doctrinal and nonsensical. It is better described as belief or even hope or faith, depending on how big of a logical stretch it is. I guess most ex-Mormons followed the D&C scripture a little too closely because when one actually studies the LDS truth claims out in his or her MIND, they fall apart rather quickly.

  • Stephen Smoot

    “Does the Book of Mormon contain a statement or idea about the New World that Joseph Smith could not have known at the time, but which has subsequently been validated by archaeological or historical research?”

    Yes it does. I’d recommend pursuing the work of John Sorenson (whom Coe has praised for his paradigm-changing work on pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts), Brant Gardner, Matt Roper, and Mark Alan Wright on convergences between the Book of Mormon and ancient Mesoamerica, including details found in the Book of Mormon that were openly mocked and ridiculed in Joseph Smith’s day, but which have found subsequent verification by archaeological investigation.

    Specifically, I’d recommend Sorenson’s “Mormon’s Codex” and “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” Roper’s and Wright’s work published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (available via the link to the Maxwell Institute provided above), and Gardner’s six-volume “Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon.”

    Any reader of these works, I believe, will at least see that the situation involving pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeology is much more complex than Mr. Jenkins portrays in this post. Take this piece by Wright, for example:

    Now, I myself (with a good friend of mine) have made a modest contribution to this discussion here:

    Although this deals with Old World geography and the Book of Mormon, I think it’s germane to the discussion, and would appreciate Mr. Jenkins’ thoughts on his reaction to the work Latter-day Saint writers have done situating the Book of Mormon in pre-Islamic Arabia

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Sorenson works to fit the data to his pre held conclusions, suffers from parrallelmania, and sharpshooter’s fallacies, and [the Mormon Codex] is not referenced in the academic circles of meso american studies . An interesting exercise in mental gymnastics, but hardly serves as evidence for a historical setting for the book of Mormon.

  • Stephen Smoot

    “is not referenced in the academic circles of meso american studies”

    Are you sure about that?

    In my experience, the charge of “mental gymnastics” by those who dismiss Latter-day Saint scholarship typically comes from those who (A) have never read the scholarship to begin with, (B) refuse to engage the scholarship in any meaningful way even if they have, (C) thus have no other way of countering said scholarship, and so (D) retreat with simple and cheap accusations of “mental gymnastics” and then call it a day.

    It’s a good method for winning Internet points, but it’s not very persuasive.

  • Rick

    A good method for winning scientific points is to get your stuff published in peer-reviewed journals. How many of the apologists have made their case in a way that passes muster with real experts in MesoAmerica. The Maxwell Institute would be a joke among such scholars … if they had ever heard of it.

  • philipjenkins

    Yup, I know those writers. And I repeat, not a word in any of their works comes close to meeting the criterion I suggested here. If you (or they) want to produce one example or one point, please go ahead.

  • Stephen Smoot

    Two things:

    1. If you’re familiar with their work, then you should know why your criterion is overly simplistic and unreasonable given the current status of Mesoamerican archaeology. This should be especially apparent upon reading Gardner and Wright (the latter of which, by the way, has a freshly minted PhD in Mesoamerican archaeology and anthropology, and who has more than enough fieldwork in Mesoamerica to qualify him as an expert).

    2. I provided a link to an article I co-wrote that does attempt to meet your criterion, albeit in an Old World setting. I am curious to hear your reaction. Granted, it’s not a New World example, but then again I am not academically trained in New World archaeology and anthropology. Nevertheless, if I may say so I think it’s still an important issue worth discussing.

  • philipjenkins

    Your comment about the archaeology is absolutely wrong.

    I am looking for one object, one place or one site that fits the Book of Mormon framework, and cannot be explained by the mainstream view. That is in no sense “overly simplistic and unreasonable” Give me one inscription, one object or place that the Book of Mormon describes, that Smith couldn’t have known about, and has subsequently been produced by scholarship. That is a minimal demand. How is it unreasonable? Could I state that any more simply?

    And yes, I was expecting what I see in the article. I am not getting here into the whole NHM farrago, but isn’t it interesting that the one ostensible object you produce is not even from the Americas?

  • brotheroflogan

    If you read Mormon’s Codex, you will have a better understanding of the arguments made there and you can criticize them in a more educated way. In my opinion he makes a good case for some specific cities being the location of Book of Mormon cities. He also makes good arguments for geological and cultural connections that Joseph Smith would not have known about. But I’m not going to go into the details before I think you might listen with an ounce of objectivity.

  • Rick

    If the case he makes is so good, he should make it in a peer reviewed journal. Not a book published by a church press.

  • philipjenkins

    At no point in that book does Sorenson write a statement or argument on the supposed Hebrew presence that would stand up in a refereed archaeological publication. If you think he does, which is it?
    Read me carefully there – Sorenson says lots of things that are published in fine reviewed places and excellent publishers. Not, though, on the core Hebrews-in-America myth.

  • brotheroflogan

    Mr. Jenkins,
    What is wrong with citing peer reviewed journals and making reasonable inferences from them? If you disagree with the arguments he makes, then you can address them directly. I do not think it is fair for you to declare the issue “undebatable” without even knowing the argument from one side. If you disagree with his arguments, fine. But do you know what they are?

  • philipjenkins

    Huh? I am not arguing with peer reviewed journals. Are you understanding me correctly here? I know the arguments, I just don’t accept them. Can you tell me what you mean here?

  • brotheroflogan

    I think you haven’t read Mormon’s Codex or you wouldn’t be asking for a “pottery shard.” There are many pottery shards in Mesoamerica. Would a Nephite pottery shard say, “This belonged to Nephi” on it?
    I could try listing the dozens of arguments that Sorensen makes, or you could just read the book before saying the issue is “undebatable.” If you don’t believe it, fine. But calling it “undebatable” is what I take issue with. Especially without knowing the argument. Maybe your next blog post can be about Sorensen’s linguistic argument or his geological history argument or some specific thing you take issue with.

  • philipjenkins

    This shows, regrettably, that you know nothing of archaeology. The size, form and manufacture of a pottery shard tells you much about the people who made it, and their cultures. Obviously, there are huge amounts of shards all over the Americas. None suggests any links with the Middle East. That really is decisive.

  • Stephen Smoot

    “Your comment about the archaeology is absolutely wrong.”

    So when George Stuart, director for the Center for Maya Research, says in 2013, “There’s about 6,000 known Maya sites and we’ve only researched about 5 percent of them,” and when Mark Wright says to me in 2014 that “out of those 6,000 or so known Maya sites, we only know the ancient names of about a dozen of them, which leaves roughly 5,988 sites whose names are simply lost to history. And that’s just from the Maya area, to say nothing of the rest of Mesoamerica,” they are simply “absolutely wrong”?

    My point is that you’re comparing apples to oranges. What I’ve read about the current state of Mesoamerican archaeology compared to Near Eastern or Syro-Palestinian archaeology paints an entirely different picture than what you’ve portrayed here. As such, when you demand, “Give me one inscription, one object or place that the Book of Mormon describes, that Smith couldn’t have known about, and has subsequently been produced by scholarship,” it seems somewhat misguided to me. Rather, we should be speaking about matters of convergence between the text and what we do know about ancient Mesoamerica, as opposed to direct verification, given what I’ve pointed out above.

    For instance: does the Book of Mormon paint an accurate portrayal of social life in ancient Mesoamerica, and if so, to what extent? This seems to me an eminently more interesting question to tackle than the sort you keep making.

    That being so, my main point is to say that the work of some very qualified LDS Mesoamericanists paints at least a plausible picture for an ancient New World setting for the Book of Mormon. It doesn’t prove anything, as I’m the first to admit, but it does inspire confidence (at least in me) for the book’s claims of being an ancient text.

    Again, I would defer to the works I cite above for specific examples of convergences between the Book of Mormon text and ancient Mesoamerica, as well as the trend in this sort of research since Joseph Smith’s day. Sorenson’s work here, for instance, is illuminating:

    As is John E. Clark’s 2005 contribution “Archaeological Trends and the Book of Mormon Origins”:

    Finally, Matt Roper’s “Howler’s Index” provides a glimpse at this trend:

    “I am not getting here into the whole NHM farrago, but isn’t it interesting that the one ostensible object you produce is not even from the Americas?”

    Not at all, given what I’ve outlined above.

    But allow me to ask: whence your reticence to touch the work done by LDS writers on the Book of Mormon and pre-Islamic Arabian geography and culture, as well as the Book of Mormon in a wider ancient Near Eastern context?

  • Rick

    Quote mining – check
    “Amazing parallels” – check
    Argument by analogy – check
    “One day we’ll uncover the evidence” – check

    Yup. I see the mopologists are out in force. But no one falls for their crrap.

  • philipjenkins

    And this gets me to knowledge of knowledge of the methods of archaeology. Look at concepts like sampling and area surveys, not to mention air photography. And let’s also explore the concept
    of “researched”. Do you think that means fully dug every square inch? Nope. Do we have an excellent idea of the size and pattern of the sites, their functions and cultural inheritance? You bet. Is there any sign of an intrusive presence that might fit the Nephite bill? No.

    So when we have excavated 99 percent of Maya sites, you will be holding your breath that a Reformed Egyptian text is going to turn up in the last one percent? Really?

    I also mention in my Monday column that the earliest Mormons assuredly favored a North American landscape for their mythos, and identified the lost cities with the Moundbuilder world, so not Mayan at all.

    I also get to the burden of proof, as mentioned in my

    The absence of a single convincing site is crucial. As I said elsewhere: “Did the Norse reach North America? Of course, see L’Anse aux Meadows. Did ancient Hebrews reach North America? Sure, just look at …. um…..”

    On a different matter, may I (seriously) thank Stephen Smoot for using a real name here rather than a pseudonym. I hope that someday we can sit down and chat these matters over. I would normally say in a coffee shop, but a juice bar would be fine. Let’s choose your home turf for the debate. How about the Ivie in Provo?

  • philipjenkins

    As to the Old World stuff, I wrote elsewhere,
    “That is a future post. At the moment, I am dealing with the New World
    section. I notice with no surprise that when people cannot produce a
    word to support the New World material, they resort to citing Old World
    material, which in fact is just as tenuous. Stick to the New World. Can
    you cite one concrete example from a reputable source to support your

  • wrapture

    Stephen – Interesting link indeed to Sorenson’s article, ‘The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record’, but probably not in the way that you intended. This article lists similarities between the Book of Mormon narrative and actual societies that are basic components of virtually every reasonably-scaled culture, given their loose definitions. This says nothing of the veracity of the Book of Mormon’s claimed history, as it lacks the specifics that would accomplish that task. Any attemots to do so are comically strained (mention of a 400-year gap between two particular events ‘proving’ similarity to the very different Mesoamerican timekeeping system, for example). Especially tragic for the cause is when Sorenson attempts to use lack of specificity or errors as confirmations (‘histories
    did not agree’, ‘ambiguity of script’, ‘context needed to interpret content’, ‘slanted reporting of events’, etc.).

    It is also interesting to note that one could find virtually every element on Sorenson’s list within the cultures and peoples contained within the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It subsequently ‘proves’ that the LotR trilogy is as historical as the Book of Mormon, at least.

  • Stephen Smoot

    A couple of things:

    1. Sorenson’s article that I linked to was to show *broadly* how the Book of Mormon fits in a Mesoamerican context, and to illustrate a recent trend in Book of Mormon scholarship. For more specifics, check out Sorenson’s 800+ pages in “Mormon’s Codex.”

    2. As for your comment about the Lord of the Rings, may I remind you that nobody expects historicity in the text, which purports to be nothing more than fiction. (Fiction written by an Oxford-trained linguist and historian, mind you.) This is different from the Book of Mormon, which does purport historicity, and which was produced by a man with no formal education in either linguistics or history. For the Book of Mormon to exhibit *any* signs of historicity in either the Old World or the New is important in how we approach the text and assess its nature. Your comparison between the two, while cute (and also unoriginal), is therefore pointless.

  • wrapture

    Stephen – on the contrary, the comparison is quite relevant. It aptly illustrates the problem with such a broadly based ‘criteria’ to judge authenticity, insasmuch as the criteria matches other work clearly identifiable as fiction as well as other real cultures. In fact, the Book of Mormon’s narrative attempts to match known cultures so closely that Smith is compelled to inadvertently introduce the troublesome elements that create that rather large and irritating (to apologists, anyway) list of anachronisms, once the *details* – as opposed to Sorenson’s amorphously broad concepts – of Mesoamerican cultures are examined.

    I might also point out that another ‘unoriginal’ claim bandied about often in these sorts of discussions is how Smith was too deficient, in some way or another, to produce a tale that matches in components to exceedingly familiar aspects of early Christian or Roman history. There was no need for formal training in linguistics or history for Smith to model his story and its key concepts after the one document that he had excellent knowledge of and access to – a Bible, which contains every item on Sorenson’s list.

    And, before you begin to tell me that Smith ‘didn’t own a Bible’, etc., you may want to instead save the effort. Not that such a thing can actually be asserted with confidence anyway, but a person need not ‘own’ their own particular copy of the Bible to read it and become thoroughly knowledgeable of its contents.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Replace meso America with Roman Italy…. Even better fit!

  • Renaissance Nerd

    In short, your demand is that scholars be neutral on the subject and follow the evidence wherever it leads, in other words to cut their own throats career-wise. Any scholar of any discipline who found the evidence you require would hide it, otherwise he would find himself out on his ear in a moment as a Mormon apologist. Objectivity is impossible in fields where the default worldview MUST conform to a preexisting ideology and philosophy. Even if such evidence were irrefutable, it would still take 30 years for it to become widely known in the mainstream; we’d have to wait until the current crop of professors died off before it could be accepted even in a limited way.

    When everybody agrees and nobody is allowed to disagree, demanding objective evidence is an exercise in futility. The mainstream beliefs about the origins of the populations of the Americas are still in flux, but there are those who cling to the Alaskan land bridge to this day, despite any and all evidence to the contrary.

    Show me an actual objective observer, and it might be possible to come up with objective evidence. Until then, it’s a waste of time both to demand it and attempt to produce it.

  • David Tiffany

    We can come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a prophet sent by God by giving him the test God told us to give him: Did Joseph Smith’s prophecies come to pass? No. Combine this with the Book of Mormon having no archaeological or historical proof to support its claims, the Egyptian papiri used to write the Book of Abraham being a funerary text having nothing to do with Abraham, and a “prophet” attempting to sell the rights to such a “sacred” book as the Book of Mormon…You ultimately have a “restored” gospel that is different from the Gospel that Paul the Apostle preached. A gospel that will not save a person from judgment. The fraud of Mormonism is a very serious issue. If there is any religious historical value to Mormonism, it is that it has led many to their destruction.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Oh boy, The believers of one set of unverifiable historicity coming to save the believers in some other. Fun.

  • Troy Hallewell

    That is what I call “religion”.

  • uranophobiac

    What apologists concerned with the Book of Mormon’s historicity, do at best, is show ways anachronisms can be made to be questionable. Like maybe horses could have actually been tapirs. Or, maybe the chariots were just a symbolic model they carried around with them. Maybe the millions who died in battle were just from a small secluded tribal area and that’s why we haven’t found proof of them. They go bit by bit, some apologies more deluded than others. As long as you hang onto the bits, and never look at the whole, the ‘already believer’ can quell their mind until the next contradiction pops up the proverbial, brainial, red flag.

    The reason we know Egyptians used chariots is because we found them buried with their owners and displayed wonderfully in art. The early people of North and South America have left behind extensive art and also memorialised their dead with possessions. Not only have we not found one sword, one chariot (or even a wheel), one bone of a horse or elephant, one patch of silk and probably the biggest void of all, not one hint of Christianity. No Jesus references, no baptismal fonts, no crosses, no Jesus fish. What we do find in the Americas are very rich cultures having evolved independently of any Abrahamic religious influence. In comparison, once Christianity first arrived on the continents, in a relatively short time, the missionary zeal of Christianity spread the religion like a virus across the land.

    As little bits of the Book of Mormon are proven to be remotely possible, trying to envision the story as a whole, in the Pre Columbian Americas as told in Mormon scripture, becomes literarily ridiculous. It is apologist folly.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You might want to check what claims you make. Elephants have been shown to have lived in the Americas anciently.

  • Dave Astle

    Yes, and they went extinct thousands of years before the time they made their appearance in the BoM.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    People drew them on cave walls. Do you want me to send you a link?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    At dates the predate the fall of Adam as contained in the scripture. Hardly makes a case for the BOM.

  • uranophobiac

    Big hairy elephants with outrageously long tusks thrived in North America. One tusk found in Texas was 16 feet long. The different species all went extinct around 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately, long before Lehi made his oceanic journey to the Americas. The mammoth was first classified as an extinct species of elephant in 1796 by Zoologist Georges Cuvier. That must have been an exciting time for naturalists to learn that elephants once roamed America.

    In 1806, the greatest curiosity on display was the 11 foot tall skeleton of a “mammoth.” The animal’s bones were a prize attraction at the Philadelphia Museum owned by artist and polymath Charles Peale. Peale’s American incognitum was famous throughout the land thanks to newspaper reports, museum exhibits, and President Thomas Jefferson´s well-publicized efforts to acquire its bones.

    Subsequently, thanks for the spark to look more into the Mammoth. It is an extraordinary animal with an extraordinary story.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Mammoths survived in North America until at least 5600 BCE:

  • philipjenkins

    I’ll be posting about elephants and mammoths next week.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Why does this author beat around the bush, pretending he is fine with someone he knows joining this church. It is logically obvious that if the BoM is not historically accurate then it was made up by Joseph Smith, that the entire religion is based on an absurd lie and crazy liars, and that it is abomination to other religious and non-religious alike. And somehow the author is fine with letting someone he know’s join it?

    Here is my question. What single piece of evidence do you have that the BoM is not historically true? And if some weak DNA evidence is all you have, then you make a pretty pathetic case. God specifically set the Book of Mormon in a way that it could not be directly scientifically provable. If he wanted concrete evidence he would have left the gold plates on the Earth. However, if it was scientifically disprovable, believe me, after almost 200 years of trying, the anti-Mormons would have disproven it by now. God has it exactly where he wants it; it is neither scientifically provable, nor disprovable. However, anyone can read it, and learn for themselves that it is true.

  • laineypc

    The Book of Mormon has been “disproven” in the same way that pink fuzzy flying unicorns have been “disproven”. In other words, to claim that something exists, you have to show evidence that it does. In the absence of evidence, that something remains a fantasy.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    There is plenty of evidence that it exists. Millions of people testify that it does.

    How do you know that Einstein was right about relativity? Probably less than a 100 people have directly proven that his theories were right. You just believe their claims that Einstein was right. You don’t actually know if Einstein was right, nor are you capable of understanding it, but that doesn’t mean its not true.

  • Lou

    Except there is not a mountain of contrary evidence stacked against Einstein’s theory of relativity. There are not hundreds of scholars scoffing at Einstein’s theories. Mormonism’s claims are simple compared to Einstein’s theory of relativity and are also very simple to debunk. Once you remove the psychology (read: brainwashing), it takes very little brain power and common sense to see through the Mormon delusion.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Lets see that mountain. Why do you anti-Mormons always claim there is a mountain? It only would take one solid evidence to prove it wrong. So which evidence is it? So far, anti-Mormon’s have tried for 200 years to disprove the BoM, and the strongest thing they have produced is some pretty weak DNA evidence against it. Is that the best you have?

  • philipjenkins

    Nope, no need to produce a single counter argument, never mind a mountain.

    “Let me begin with a basic principle of using evidence. I have no obligation to disprove
    the Book of Mormon, or indeed any religious text, because logically,
    nobody can prove a negative. I do not need to pick through the book and
    highlight every anachronism or error, sparking trench warfare with
    apologists who have built up elaborate defenses against every charge and
    cavil. Rather, it is up to anyone who believes in that Book to justify
    its authenticity, by producing positive arguments in its favor. If you
    are basing statements on the evidence of mystical gold plates that are
    not available for scholarly examination because they were taken up to
    Heaven, then you are making utterly extraordinary claims that demand
    extraordinary evidence. I am open to the concept of miracle, but the
    burden of proof clearly rests with the person making the claims.”

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I agree with you if you are stating the requirements to prove the Book of Mormon. However, I am talking about the requirements to disprove it, which is very different.

    I’m not making the claim that science has proven the BoM true. I am making the claim that science has not proven it false. Lou is making the claim that it is false. Therefore it is up to him to provide evidence.

    I cannot prove the BoM true scientifically, but no one on this Earth has been able to scientifically disprove it. So, it is dishonest to claim that it has been proven false.

    I know the BoM is true, not by scientific study (although I would say the science is pretty strong for it) but by reading and asking God if it is true. By verifying the promises made in it. That’s the difference. Unless you are saying you have received knowledge from some higher power that the BoM is false, you can only rely on scientific evidence which is inconclusive.

  • Lou

    If you truly want to see the mountain, read these three items:

    1. (this is a brief overview of the mountain)

    2. (this is the apologetics’ attempt to conceal the mountain)

    3. (this is the full view of the mountain)

    4. Also, here is the full list of the essays the Church released over the last 12 months in an attempt to give an “official” response to some of the more troubling evidence:

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I’ve already read through much of the CES letter. Some of the LDS history items are harder to understand. So, which evidences in the CES letter do you think disprove the BoM? Because the KJV translation issue is easily understood. Steel in the Americas, easily explained. The Hill Cumorah, a little confusing, but not hard to understand. Which evidence are you referring too?

  • Lou

    I’ve had two friends tell me they read through “most” of the CES Letter. Turns out, they only skimmed it until the cognitive dissonance kicked in and then closed it. One of them finally went back and actually read through it and it was all over. Reading FAIR’s attempt to debunk the Letter often seals the deal because it becomes clear how desperate their arguments are.

    Your conclusory statements mean nothing if you can’t actually explain them. Have you read or at least skimmed the Late War? How about First Book of Napoleon? Isn’t it disturbing that View of the Hebrews was such a likely inspiration for the idea to write a religious history of the American Indians and then try to sell it? You do know that JS tried to sell the BoM copyright, don’t you?

    Those establish a basis for the strong possibility that JS wrote the BoM himself. Add to that the fact that he used a rock in a hat to “translate” the BoM (rendering pointless all the trouble Nephi through Mormon went through to record a history and protect the plates). Of course, this was the same rock JS used for all of his con jobs (claiming to be able to locate lost items and/or treasure). Does it not bother you that JS was convicted of fraud by using that same rock?

    You’ve been duped, my friend. I was too. Fortunately, the truth is coming out faster and faster, which is why the Church growth is stagnating. Eventually, the numbers will begin to decline as more and more people wake up.

    The real questions you should ask your self are these:

    1. If the Church was NOT true, would I even want to know?
    2. If the Church was NOT true, HOW would I know?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Your two final questions are good ones. I would want to know if it wasn’t true. But honestly I know that the gospel that is taught has made me and my family happier. So it would be sad news.

    Your second question is also good. Is there scientific evidence that could convince me? Absolutely there is. However, you would have to believe that everyone in the LDS church leadership is lying. There is no way they could be fooled (you could maybe claim most members are). So, wouldn’t at least one of them maybe on his death bed claim it was all made up? And wouldn’t you expect there to be a way to disprove the BoM by now if it was false?

    I will look more thoroughly at the CES letter. So far, what I have read appears more like a bucket of sand that can easily dispersed than a mountain. But I give you credit for actually presenting real arguments against the LDS church.

  • Lou

    Finding out the Church is not true was indeed VERY sad. It was similar to losing a family member – I literally went through all the stages of grief. Now that I am on the other side of all that, I would never go back. However, I can see how it would really complicate someone’s life – especially if they live in Utah.

    I truly do not believe that everyone in the LDS Church leadership has to be lying. My mission president is now high up in the First Q of 70 and he is a very sincere believer. I think that these guys are simply too busy to stop and actually research the problems in Church history. Also, that research would go 100% against their best interests, so there really is no reason to do it. They have wonderful, fulfilling lives and there is no reason to screw that up. I do believe that there have to be some at the top who have at least an inkling that things are not as they’ve been taught. I mean, the whole Salamander Letter debacle is hard to dismiss – President Hinckley was willing to pay a lot of money for that thing and I strongly doubt his intentions were to publish it to the general membership.

    I admire the fact that you are confident enough in your testimony that you are willing to put it to the test by researching the issues. Nearly all of the members I have interacted with absolutely refuse to even touch the difficult issues. As Reuben Clark said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Honestly, I like your comments. Because you are one of the few ex-Mormons who presents legitimate arguments. And I am at a point in my life when I like to see both sides.

    But let me let you know a few things I have discovered in my research, that has included many classes at BYU, seminary, church, as well as personal study (and looking at anti-Mormon arguemnts). First, the complete Church history is a lot more complicated than is often presented in your average Sunday school class. No doubt about it; some doctrines and historical events seem very strange. Also, a prophet, especially Joseph Smith, was not perfect ever, and early on in his life many of the things he did weren’t what God wanted. He was learning. Imagine if God appeared to you. Do you think would be completely ready for the task?

    The LDS church really is true. I haven’t looked all the issues, but those that I have, while first appearing very bad and confusing, actually made sense once I really understood what was going on. The BoM really is true. Reread it if you doubt. You will be amazed at the power of that book.

  • David

    Let’s see, there are about 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, 376 million Buddhist’s that will all testify that their holy books are the truth.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Interesting comment. Most other religions do not make claims anything like the LDS. Muslims believe Muhammed was prophet and follow the Koran. That is not at all the same as claiming to know that a book is true. The Koran was not a book delivered to Muhammad. It was dictated by him.

  • David

    People from all religions believe in the truth claims of their church from a “spiritual” perspective just like you do. The stuff you believe in looks just as weird to an outsider as the beliefs of others do to you.

  • laineypc

    Millions of people testify on the Book of Mormon based on feelings in their hearts. There is nothing wrong with having good feelings in your heart. There is nothing wrong with having something good to believe in and to try to live a good life and do good things because of those good feelings. There _is_ something wrong with equating good feelings in your heart with factual evidence, something an engineer would understand, yes? The number of people who believe something does not prove its truth. That is a fallacy. Millions of people seek out some kind of fortune teller every year. Lots of people believe in astrology, healing crystals, wearing their lucky whatever at a football game, and that they are good singing at karaoke. That doesn’t make it true. I think the real question is: why does God require us to have faith in things that are unverifiable?
    Moving on….
    How do you know I am not capable of understanding relativity? :-) OK you got me, I have only a cursory lay person’s grasp of it. But I trust in the scientific process, and the people that stood on Einstein’s shoulders that helped validate and clarify relativity used observation and prediction to do so. That is fundamentally different than the faith people put in the Book of Mormon.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    The scientific method is the preferred method for determining truth, but when there is not enough evidence to either prove or disprove it isn’t enough. For example, a child could easily know that their mother loves them. However, it would be completely impossible for them to prove it scientifically.

    Having millions testify that they they know something to be true is strong evidence for it. There is very little scientific evidence that many events of the Holocaust took place, much of it is testimonies of witnesses. Is there any way to scientifically prove anything that has happened in history? All of it relies on the testimony of witnesses.

    Every person can test the BoM to know it is true.

  • philipjenkins

    No evidence for the Holocaust whatever apart from the testimonies of witnesses. Oh wait, except for thousands of documents, which are what historians use to write their accounts. Documents, written records, administrative records…..

    And the vast inscription evidence from Maya sites gives us the documentary evidence to show that they had nothing to do with the Middle East.

    “Is there any way to scientifically prove anything that has happened in history? All of it relies on the testimony of witnesses.” Nonsense. If you believe that, you know nothing of History.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You have a point, some of history can be verified by looking at historical sites. However, most documents are just written accounts of witnesses. Most of what we believe about history is based on written accounts by witnesses to it. Anyone who knows anything about history would be familiar with the phrase: The victors write the history. What do you think that means?

    Why do you assume that the culture of one Jewish family that came to the Americas over 2000 years ago would be much like the Middle East? And what is this vast evidence you speak of? I hear people say that all the time, and yet very few actually produce any evidence. Mostly they rely on opinions of non-religious “experts”. Sorry expert opinions aren’t enough. What evidence do you have that disproves the Book of Mormon?

  • philipjenkins

    Please read my post above for the issue of “disproving”. It’s pretty clear.

  • big fatty

    Just how many obvious contradictions would it take ?

  • brotheroflogan

    I know that is false. Even if the book of mormon were false, there is a lot of evidence of Phoenician and Persian contact with central american cultures.

  • philipjenkins

    “Phoenician and Persian contact with central american cultures.” That statement is, of course, ridiculous.

  • big fatty

    Just how many factual tests that will prove it false would you need to release the cog dis that affects you and others ?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Just one.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    A horse is a horse of course of course……..

  • EngineerSenseHere

    If you had to pick one factual test, that is what your going with? Don’t you think that if Joseph Smith was going to mention horses in the BoM that he would have used in them in the way they are almost always used by humans, as in riding them? Just so happens that he never says humans rode horses. Since most ancient horses were to small to ride, what are the odds that Joseph would have mentioned them without them being ridden if he were a conman?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Really? Do you have any idea what type of evidence exists for the domestication and employment of horses, whether to ride or pull in cultures that have horses?

    Too small to ride? These bom horses are so small you can’t find the damn beasties with a scanning electron microscope.

    First of all horse bones, then horse offal, and then all the associated tack.

    Regardless of the mode of use, there is 0 evidence for horses in the Americas during the bom time frame. This is why some of the apologists have forwarded the idea that horse was a loan shift word for tapir.

    And don’t get me started on chariots, and the associated infrastrucutre…

    Try again.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    First, of all there were horses in Ancient America. They have proof of that. And your saying because they haven’t yet found a horse bone only 2000 years old that that somehow proves that horses must have become extinct before then. Absence of proof, is not proof of absence.

    And really, this is the best argument you have against the BoM. Horses they never rode on, and chariots they never rode in? And if tomorrow they discovered horses that were in that time, would you suddenly become a believer again

    I can see right through your arguments. Some people don’t want the BoM to be true, and will go to great length saying there is proof it isn’t true. This is about the most pathetic proof I’ve ever seen. (The picture was funny though).

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Yes there were horses in the ancient Americas. They died off and went extinct well before the time of the BOM narrative.

    I offer no proof. I proffer that the absence of any evidence for horses makes the narrative implausible.

    Tell you what. Trot out evidence of horses in the Americas during the reasonable time frame for the book of mormon. This goes back to the heart of Philip’s arguments. Please produce the evidence.

    You make the claim that there were horses in the Americas during book of mormon times. Now supply evidence for this claim.

    I never said there was proof that the BOM isn’t true. I said the lack of any evidence makes BOM historicity highly implausible. Do you understand the distinction?

    There is an invisible pink dragon in my garage. Your absence of evidence for my pink dragon is not evidence of absence; therefore my invisible pink dragon is real.

    Now I challenge you to prove that my invisible pink dragon does not exist.

    On the unfalsifiable spiritual witness side of the house – God told me there were no horses in the Americas during the times supposedly accounted for in the BOM.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I would agree that is not proof that horses couldn’t exist. And if the BoM didn’t mention horses, I would say that from archaeological evidence horses most likely became extinct before those times.

    However, this is the point you are missing. There are hundreds of claims in the BoM. Only a few of the claims are outside what what historians think could have happened. In statistics this is called statistical cherry picking. If you look at hundreds of claims with a normal distribution of probability, some of those claims will fall out of what is considered probable. If that was the only claim made in the BoM, then the BoM would be improbable, but since it is only one of many historical claims it is normal.

    What seems improbable is that a man in his early 20’s could write a fictional book as complex as the BoM and convince millions that it isn’t fiction. What seems implausible, is that he would defend this fictional book, even to his own death. What is unbelievable is that hundreds of honest people I know, would be lying about it.

    And I’m not going into the invisible pink dragon discussion again, since I’ve already explained it 3 times

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    You obviously have no concept of the process historians use to determine if a document is a hoax. If I produce a document that as part of it says “Benjamin Washington cut down an apple tree with a light saber, and could not lie about it” is it cherry picking to note that the anachronism disqualifies the document as historical? No, it is in fact one of the elements one uses to determine if a document is historical.

    As the bom has not been established as a historical document, it is disqualified as serving as evidence for horses. Else:

    Mohammed was an uneducated man who produced the Qur’an. Billions attest to its veracity. Surely it is true?

    The pink invisible dragon example exist to emphasize the difficulty of disproving that something exists. Evidence must be presented that it does, not that it doesn’t else every critter and tale you and I can imagine must surely exist.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I’ve spoken with many anti-Mormons that make some pretty good arguments. You haven’t and you are repetitive in bad arguments.

    If the BoM said Nephi cut off Laban’s head with a lightsaber, and they rode dragons, then yes I would agree with you. Because those events aren’t just unlikely they are impossible. But the BoM DOESN”T SAY THAT. It says they had horses and Nephi used a sword, both which are certainly possible. So that argument makes no sense at all.

    And yes millions testify that Mohammad was a prophet and the Quran is true. Yes, I believe Mohammad was a real person and he did write the Quran. However, there is a complete and fundamental difference between the Quran and the BoM. Mohammad’s very existence does not mean Islam is God’s religion. But if Nephi even existed it proves without doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. So your Quran argument does not apply at all.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Steel swords, horses, and chariots are no more fantastical for the time and place (bom setting) than light sabers for a 1750’s story. That you fail to grasp this a personal problem.

    “But if Nephi even existed it proves without doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”

    Ok, now show that Nephi existed and you will have something.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    And that statement right there

    “Steel swords, horses, and chariots are no more fantastical for the time and place (bom setting) than light sabers for a 1750’s story”

    demonstrates the unreasonable attitude of your arguments. Its been entertaining (otherwise I would have stopped commenting a while ago), but with that I will have to end. Enjoy the weekend.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Really? There is no evidence for horses, chariots, or steel swords in the Americas during the time frame of the BOM, nor the infrastructure required to manufacture and maintain these items. The technology base did not exist, and the existing cultures technologically hundreds and hundreds of years away from developing these items. Hence no more fantastical than lightsabers.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    My arguments are repetitive and “bad” because I am trying to get through you obtuseness and lack of simple logic/reasoning skills.

  • laineypc

    Part of me wonders if I am being trolled, but I will take your words at face value. The kind of witness that the LDS faithful do of the Book of Mormon and the witnesses to the Holocaust are FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT (caps for emphasis, not yelling). Millions of Mormons do not claim to have been present and seen with their own eyes the events in the Book of Mormon, to have seen the plates or any other direct observation that counts as “witness testimony”. (Incidentally, the Nuremberg trials brought forth thousands of Nazi documents, as well as Nazi photographs and film reels and stolen Jewish property which demonstrated the extent of the Holocaust, so I am aghast that anyone but a Holocaust denier could say there was little scientific evidence of it.)

    A feeling in your heart simply doesn’t get to the truth of whether something factually exists or happened. Can you imagine accepting a “feeling” in a court of law? “Yes your honor, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my brother-in-law is guilty of the charges.” “How do you know this? What evidence do you have?” “A calm feeling of peace came over me when I prayed and asked the Lord, and I knew it was true.”
    If the difference between a spiritual testimony and eyewitness testimony is still not clear, I suggest taking a class in epistemology.
    There is scientific evidence for the presence of love. Google “oxytocin” for more info.
    History uses many methods besides eyewitness, such as archeology, anthropology, the study of art and documents, etc. No, we can’t travel back in time to confirm our findings.
    Whatever, the Book of Mormon “test” can help you decide if you have found a spiritual home in the Mormon faith, but it can’t tell you if the events in it really happened.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    To your point, there is a lot of scientific evidence to confirm the Holocaust, and I am by no means denying any of it. I’m just pointing out the fact that the testimony of witnesses is extremely important. If the Nazis had destroyed all the evidence would we not believe the accounts of the witnesses?

    And you keep acting like my testimony is based on some “feeling”. Why do anti-Mormon’s always assume this is the case? I’m a scientist. Part of my testimony is based on a spiritual witness that I have received. That is a lot more than just a “feeling”. However, most of it is based on living the teachings of the BoM to verify if it is true. I have studied the book thoroughly. And it is clear that it is true. It is clear that no con-man could write such a book. You can think otherwise, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

    You can’t seem to get over the fact that I can know things that you don’t understand. You think that if I can’t explain it the way you like it then it can’t be true. If you were blind, no number of words could describe what the color blue looks like. If you are unwilling to test the BoM for yourself no amount of evidence would convince you to follow its teaching.

  • laineypc

    First of all, I realize by the way you are gently attacking me (by saying you know things I don’t in a kind of put-down way) that my words to you have been critical and while I am trying my best to be respectful, I know I could have done better.
    What I am struggling with is how someone can view spiritual experience as equivalent way of knowing with how we understand historical evidence. That your subjective experience, your testimony is proof enough that the Book of Mormon historically happened as JS and the church claim, and that you and the LDS faithful seem to expect the world to just accept this, that a testimony is just as good as some archeologist finding a horse or geneticist finding Jewish DNA. If these things were found, don’t you think Mormons would be shouting it from the rooftops? Or would they say ‘meh, god values your testimony more, so it’s no big deal about the historical evidence’. If I am putting words in your mouth and not characterizing your view correctly, please do correct.

    I do not mean to imply disrespect of the concept of a testimony by using the word “feeling”. You might be surprised to learn that I have had powerful, moving experiences in my life that I felt as connecting with truth, truth that guides my decisions and helps me make meaning of life.. I categorize this experience of my personal truth as a feeling. It is subjective. It cannot be verified by anyone other than me, despite that power that I feel in me. That is what differentiates spiritual witness from other kinds of evidence.

    It is fine to believe in your faith, and to feel so certain of it that you have a direction and purpose to your life that works for you and makes you happy. That is, after all, one of the big things we humans struggle with, if we manage to feed and clothe ourselves and reasonably secure our safety. So if you can get to this place in your life, more power to you. I do worry about faith that requires us to discard or twist our normal ways of knowing and understanding the world. But there are always trade offs on these things and that’s another conversation anyway.

    I would accept evidence for the Book of Mormon if it were accepted by the mainstream scientific community. The fact that only Mormons seems to be sustaining a line of research on the Book of Mormon evidence is telling me there is no there there at this time, which the author of this article did a good job of explaining.

    I did take Moroni’s promise, many times. I was in the Hill Cumorah pageant as a youth. I have great-grandparents who were exiled into Canada for polygamy. I did not get the same answer you did. I got other answers that were equally as powerful as yours. I hope you can believe that.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Good comment. I could have been more respectful as well. My main point is that while many Mormons do mostly base their testimony on a witness or feeling, mine is not based only on that. I am a scientist/engineer. I like to see the actual physical evidence. I have studied many arguments against the church. Some issues are complicated. But believe me if you knew me outside of a religious commentary you would probably trust my judgment on any non-religious topic. I am not some religious nutcase (and I definitely agree there are some). I am a pretty normal guy in life. And I’m telling you there is more to the issues than what many ex-LDS realize. Joseph Smith wasn’t perfect, there were many things he did that seem odd to me in retrospect. But when you actually understand how things worked, it makes a lot more sense. If you are willing, I would highly recommend you reread the BoM. Ask yourself as you read, could a fraud/con man have written this?

  • Andrew Dowling

    Witness testimony is actually recognized as extremely unreliable.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Yeah that’s why they no longer allow witnesses in court cases. I forgot.

  • Andrew Dowling

    BILLIONS testify that the Quran is from God.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I think Muhammad was inspired of God. I would consider him more of a fallen prophet. But that in now way disproves anything I’ve stated.

  • Lou

    “God specifically set the Book of Mormon in a way that it could not be directly scientifically provable.”

    ….says who? Where are you getting this from? Why would God try to hide the truth from his children? Do you hear yourself? How is this any different than me saying that the Lord of the Rings is a true history, but God (through Tolkien) set it in a way that it could not be directly scientifically provable? Are you saying that all of the remnants of the Nephite and Lamanite populations (including their DNA) have been removed from the Earth? Like God took a big magnet and sucked everything up that could verify the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon in order to make it harder for his children to find the truth? If we are using this logic, then please prove to me that The Hobbit is NOT a true history. If you can’t provide direct proof which can withstand your statement at the top, then it must be true, right?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    So many straw men, so little time.

    So, lets ask a basic question, how many people have ever claimed that The Hobbit is true? Yet millions know that the BoM is true. How can that distinction escape your thinking?

    Has there ever been been someone in the history of the world who claimed to translate a historical book that was as complex in detail as the BoM that claimed to be true, but was proven to be fiction? Please, be my guest. Find me just one book in the history of the world that has done that.

  • Lou

    Here’s one: Book of Abraham, specifically the Facsimiles. Or are you going to tell me the gibberish that Joseph “translated” for the Facsimiles is actually correct and all of the world’s Egyptologists are wrong? If that is the case, then it is impossible to show you something that has been “proven to be fiction” because you cannot remove the brainwashing veil that has been placed over your eyes. Here is a visual aid to help you out:

    Again, you seem to misunderstand the meaning of the word “know”. It is not synonymous with “believe” – you know that, right? Feelings do not equal knowledge. If they did, then most every other religion on the planet would also be “true” (see my youtube link further down).

    I am claiming The Hobbit is true. So prove me wrong. Do you argue that there is safety in numbers? How many others would need to say The Hobbit is true before you give that idea credibility? If that is the case, you better start studying Islam immediately because Mormonism only accounts for roughly .2% of the world population.

    You never answered my question. Who says that “God specifically set the Book of Mormon in a way that it could not be directly scientifically provable”?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    God said it. We walk by faith not by sight. God has always kept himself hidden from people in general, until they come looking for him. If the seek they shall find.

    Your pretending you believe The Hobbit is true. If there were many who actually thought it was true, then it would be evidence that it could be true. However, since its author called it fiction its safe to assume it is. Millions believing the BoM to be true is not proof that it is. But it is strong evidence that it is, because if not it is extremely unlikely that millions of people who are honest in general are specifically lying about something in their life.

    For example, my mother has never lied to me my entire life (on anything I could verify). What are the odds that she would lie to me about the LDS church?

  • philipjenkins

    I believe there are a few people in the world who accept Islam. Maybe a billion or a billion and a half. Did their moms also lie to them?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I think you fundamentally misunderstand the distinction between the LDS and other religions. Which religion has mothers that claim to know that their religion is the one true religion. Most believe it is true and follow the traditions of their families. What religion out there has anything like the Book of Mormon that is literal evidence of the truthfulness of their religion. Maybe you haven’t talked to many of other faiths. None that I have ever talked to have received a witness from God saying their religion is the one true religion. Many know that God exists.

    I’m curious, do you personally know anyone from another religion that makes the same type of claim that LDS do. Not a claim of knowing God, or being very religious, but an actual claim to know their religion is the only one approved by God?

  • philipjenkins


  • EngineerSenseHere

    Who in Islam has made that claim?

  • philipjenkins

    I’m done arguing here. This is silly.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Seriously, I think most people don’t understand this. I used to think all religions were like Mormons and claimed there religion was true in the same way. But that is absolutely inaccurate. I have talked to many people of other faiths, and while they believe there is religion is true, I have yet to meet a single one who could bear testimony of its truthfulness like the LDS. So, I want to know, who in any other religion has made that claim?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    You act like the bearing of testimony actually means something…. It doesn’t. Anyone can make any claim about unverifiable internal spiritual experiences. Your testimony is no more valuable than that of an FLDS, a Moslem or a Hindu. Professions of spiritual experiences re-affirming religious belief are replete throughout all religions. That they don’t label it testimony does not mean it is not the same thing. You have been taught to believe that your testimony is a trump card. It isn’t.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    And that is where you are dead wrong. Its nice to see it written so clearly. You think that testimony is worthless. You think that someone’s word is worthless. I know many people who are completely honest. People who have never lied to me in any way, and yet you would have me believe that they are so psychotic that they are honest in everything else but lying to me about the BoM?

    Or you probably believe they are too dumb to know they have been fooled. I know many scientists and engineers that are extremely intelligent and honest and they also know it is true. So why would I possibly believe your opinion over theirs?

    And you are wrong on other religions as well. You find me a church where its members claim not only to believe but that will tell you they honestly know that they belong to the only church approved by God. Please, be my guest, find me a group that does that. I used to think other religions where that way too, until I actually spoke to their members.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    It is not a lie to testify of something that some one believes to be true. If that is their belief. I am not in any way saying that folks are lying. But, the interpretation of the stimulus causing the affirmation may be incorrect.

    As “spiritual witness” is completely subjective and completely internal there is no way to test it against controls. There is no way of knowing if your, or anyone else’s personal experience with the spirit was actually the spirit, the devil, internal feeling (frisson) or gas from a burrito.

    As anyone can make any kind of claim and attest to it with “spiritual witness” then all must be deemed of equal value. Your’s is of no more efficacy or weight than a Moslem’s, or a FLDS’s, a JW’s, a Scientologist’s, or a candomblistas.

    You come up with some control – a test by which we can validate spiritual witness, and you will have something, Till then, all are of equal value.

    “I am an Adventist because the Bible teaches us that ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ [James1:5 KJV] -I was lacking this wisdom and I asked God and He led me to the Adventist Church.”
    ~Nasralla Salib

    As to your criteria for a church that believes they are approved by god…. Who established this as a criteria for identifying the true church? Just because you are raising it as a standard, does not make it so. Regardless, the FLDS, and 7th day Adventists, are an obvious examples, but there are dozens and dozens of others; see for examples. Mormon claims of truth are not unique.

    Your criteria actually makes ZERO sense to most mainstream Christians, as they believe all christians who profess of christ will be saved; but there exist a variety of sub sects and religions that claim to be unique in having the truth, are approved by god, and this is affirmed to them “by the spirit”.

    “…I was finally discouraged, and decided to look into other faiths. I examined Catholicism, Buddhism, and even Native American Spirituality, and I was getting nowhere. I finally decided that I would just believe my own beliefs of a supreme and omnipotent God, and go my own way.
    I never even considered Islam until I met the man who was to later become my husband. I had previously always dismissed Islam as a violent religion, full of bloodshed, ‘holy wars’, and men who abused and oppressed women!
    …As the months went by, and as I studied more and more in depth about Islam, my conviction began to grow steadily that this was the true religion. It was so close in many ways to what I already believed!
    Then one day at a weekly women’s lesson on Islam that I had been attending, (even though I wasn’t a Muslim yet), one of the sisters was reading a verse of the Qur’an that really affected me. It was about the Jews and their questioning of God’s commands in sacrificing the heifer in Al-Baqarah.
    This verse suddenly affected me so much that, much to my embarrassment, I began to cry in the middle of the lesson. The sister who was reading comforted me by saying that the Qur’an – the Word of Allaah (Subhana Wa Ta’ala) – often affects people this way.
    That evening at home, as I was preparing for bed, I went through my usual routine of opening the Holy Qur’an at random and asking Allaah to select a passage for me to read. The verse that my eyes fell on as I opened the book read as follows: ‘And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth. They pray: ‘Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing as we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?’ And for this, their prayer has Allah rewarded them with Gardens, with rivers flowing underneath – their eternal Home. Such is the recompense of those who do good.’ (5:83-85)
    This was the final message to me from Allaah for me to revert to Islam! I was speechless. He (Allah) spoke to me through the glorious Qur’an. He showed me the straight path – the truth. I said Shahada (Testimony of faith) shortly after that. Shahada was a homecoming for me – I felt that my soul had been set free.
    …To this day, and always, it warms my heart and soul to go to a gathering of my sisters and brothers in Islam and hear the quiet murmuring of ‘Assalaamu Alaikum’, and see the warm smiles, hugs and handshakes, and the welcoming outstretched arms of my Ummah (community)! I will never stop thanking Allaah for guiding me to the light of Islam.” ~Carol

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You keep acting like you understand how God speaks to men and you clearly don’t. So why should I consider your opinion right on the topic? You keep assuming members are too stupid to understand the difference between their own thoughts and revelation from God. I suppose if you just think Mormons are dumb then that would be your thought process. But I know many very intelligent people in academics and business who also know the church is true.

    And your stories actually illustrate my point very well. Most people belong to their religion because it makes them a better person, because it leads to understanding and happiness. I’m not arguing with that. I think most non-LDS religions are good. What I’m saying, and what you have failed to disprove is that members in other religions do not claim to have received a a spiritual witness that theirs is the one and only church approved by God.

    You were right about other Christians not understanding the LDS. Most don’t think of any religion being the only church with God’s authority.

    And your reasoning in the odds of being in the right church are lacking. What are the odds that you were born into the United States, where only about 1% of people in the history of the world have been born? Not to good, but obviously it happened. Same thing with the LDS church.

  • philipjenkins

    “Members in other religions do not claim to have received a spiritual witness that theirs is the one and only church approved by God.” I don’t know how often I can make this point without yelling, but: absolutely and everything in that sentence is wholly applicable to other religions, especially Islam. They DO “claim to have received a spiritual witness that theirs is the one and only church approved by God.”
    Other posters have given you other examples that are just as clear and precise. Is there some reason why you are not hearing this?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You aren’t hearing what I’m saying. And it is a big deal, because I honestly used to think like you do. You keep answering a completely different question.

    First off is there any religion with a book like the BoM? Not in the sense of a religious book, but in that if the book ever even existed proves that their church is true? No there isn’t. But that is just one part.

    The other is that yes almost every religion believes their church is the most correct, and some believe it is the only correct. But you have not and seem to be unable to show me a church where in general its members claim not only to know God but to know that their religion is the only one approved by God.

    Now I’m sure you can find a few leaders in some religions that will claim this. But, please by my guest, show me the religion that makes claims the way the LDS do. If you think Islam does, then show me some evidence.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Religions using the BOM & making the claim that you seek:



    Hundreds of them in fact.

    All claiming to be the sole heirs of the true and correct legacy of Joseph smith, and all claiming to be the one and only true church.

    Obviously, they all can’t be the “one true” church. but, they all claim it.

    Ever heard of Denver Snuffer?

  • Andrew Dowling

    “but in that if the book ever even existed proves that their church is true? No there isn’t.”

    The Quran.

    “general its members claim not only to know God but to know that their religion is the only one approved by God”

    That’s a huge number of religions. Your ignorance is astounding.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Mirroring your condescension right back at you… You keep acting like you know how god speaks to men, when you clearly don’t. God and me, we talk all the time, so I am intimately familiar with the topic. So why should I consider your opinion on the topic?

    All of these claimed communications with god are unfalsifiable. As such, all are of the exact same value.

    You also keep holding up your criteria as meaningful. It isn’t. you haven’t demonstrated that it means anything to god. It is philosophies of men mingled with hot air.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    By their fruits you shall know them. You just illustrated the difference between me and you. I do know that the LDS church is true. And you can claim to speak to God, but you don’t. And in the end, one of us is lying. An outside observer only has to be concerned with which of us is honest. I am honest, and both members of the church and non-LDS know this. So they will gain more evidence based on my honesty and testimony. The testimony of a dishonest person is not of much value.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I said I talk to god every day. Your fruits are arrogance. Jesus’s was humility…. Hmmmm.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You would claim Jesus was arrogant. After all he did claim to be the Messiah. What kind of man would make such an arrogant claim?

    If you call arrogance boldly claiming what I know to be true, then so be it.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    No, I claimed you were arrogant. Are you Jesus?

    I boldly claim that what you know to be true, is false. God himself told me.

    Why is your claim any more valid than mine?

    I call arrogance this repeated profession that you know the truth. That your truth is correct, but mine based on the same methodology, isnt.

    Your professions are based on an unvetted epistemology, and using an unestablished criteria. You have no basis, your claims are made out of sand, and your criteria vapor.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    My claim is more valid than yours because it is more accurate than yours. If you said the sky was red and I said it was blue, how would we know who is right? Why would my claim be any more valid than yours.

    You seem to believe the completely unsubstantiated claim that all opinions/beliefs are equal. This never has been and never will be true. That doesn’t mean you aren’t entitle to your own opinion. A belief in what is true is much better in a belief in something that isn’t.

    You do realize this as devolved into an I’m right your wrong mentality. An outside observer cannot know which of us is right just by those comments. They have two options, they can either look at the facts and decide fore themselves, or they can rely on the testimony of the person they know to be honest.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Your claim is more valid? Again with the arrogance. Easy to claim… Can you do more than just assert this?

    All opinions are of equal value? All unsubstantiated proclamations of truth based on spiritual witness are unsubstantiated, and hence are of equal value. That you can not understand this, boggles.

    My claims are no more unsubstantiated than yours. Yours are not more accurate. They are of the same kind. Unfalsifiable.

    You have ZERO means of demonstrating your claims more accurate/true/reliable etc than mine.

    For example; you keep lifting up this criteria that the true church of god will testify that it is the true church, and that it’s members will come to this knowledge via spiritual witness by asking god.

    Where, when and by whom is this established as the true criteria for hallmarking the true church of god?

    Rely on the person the know to be honest? How can they know you are honest in this exchange? Are you honest Ed the car dealer?

    Much better they look at the evidences and decide for themselves, because when it comes to spiritual claims any one can assert absolutely anything.

    On that note – I asked god again with full sincerity and a deep intent of heart to know if the BOM is true. God replied ” it isn’t, and that mormons are listening to a deceiving spirit”.

    I just know I am more valid/accurate/truthful than you.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You still think that because you don’t know something that I can’t know it, that if you don’t understand something then it can’t be true.

    We could debate the historical evidences all day but that’s not going to convince you. God gave the world the gift of the BoM so that anyone could read it to know if it is true. Anyone willing to live its teachings and test it out can gain knowledge that it is true.

    If some crazy moon-landing conspiracy theorist went up to Neil Armstrong and said you didn’t land on the moon, what do you think he would say? He would say I know we landed on the moon, because I was there. You think any amount of conspiracy theories could convince him he wasn’t there? Do you think his opinion on the matter isn’t any more valid than the conspiracy theorist?

    There are only two options, I am either lying or I am telling the truth. The people who know me know that I am honest.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    You have an incorrect perception of what it means to lie, or to tell the truth. If you believe something to be true -> say you believe 2+2=5 to be true, and you state that 2+2=5 because you believe it. It is not a lie on your part. It is factually incorrect, but not a lie.

    So you can testify that you know the church is true till the cows come home. Because you belive what you are saying, you are not lying. It does not, however, add any validity to the claim that the church is true because it was witnessed to you by god. Your personal spiritual witness is unfalsifiable and hence it bears no import into the determination of the truthfulness of the church/bom. It is a nice claim. but holds no value to the world at large.

    What does the BOM is true even mean? Does it mean that is of god? That is unverifiable. Does it mean it is historically accurate? The evidence states that it is highly implausible. Despite whatever spiritual witness you want to claim. My spiritual witness says no. Both your profession and mine as evidences for it being of god are of equal validity. NONE.

    Then you claim to know what I think.

    “You still think that because you don’t know something that I can’t know it, that if you don’t understand something then it can’t be true.”

    I don’t think that at all. You can know something that I don’t know. I can know something that you don’t know. But whether the idea or thing that you know is correct is up to evaluation. You demonstrate a remarkable naivety and obtuseness in your understanding of what is being discussed here. That you do not grasp what it means to lie in the regards to belief, and the value of unsupported statements, is telling.

    When it comes to claims stemming from spiritual sources, the claim is unfalsifiable. No one can evaluate it for its authenticity. There is no valid test to evaluate such a claim.

    If you know of one please feel free to forward it.

    For example; you stated that god gave us the book of mormon.

    There is no way to verify this claim. Just as there is no way to verify the claim that god gave us the Qur’an. Both claims are unfalsifiable. And hence, are of equal value.

    Now the claim that the book of Mormon is historical, is testable. We can compare it with known cultures and their detritus. So far there is not one physical piece of evidence that supports the claim of book of Mormon historicity. So the reasonable conclusion is that the historicity of the boom of Mormon is highly implausible.

    Again, any one can make any kind of unfalsifiable claim. As the claim can not be vetted, all such claims are of equal weight.

    God just told me he did not give us the book of Mormon, that it is the product of deceivers and charlatans.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “And your reasoning in the odds of being in the right church are lacking.
    What are the odds that you were born into the United States, where only
    about 1% of people in the history of the world have been born? Not to
    good, but obviously it happened. Same thing with the LDS church.”

    And your point is . . . .

  • Andrew Dowling

    “People who have never lied to me in any way, and yet you would have me
    believe that they are so psychotic that they are honest in everything
    else but lying to me about the BoM?”

    Yes. That they believe in something false doesn’t mean they are “psychotic” . . it means they believe in something false.

    You are incredibly naive my young friend. I truly hope you do not despair too much when someone you trust with some much earnestness lets you down.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You reply with the typical response that they have been fooled. Most of the people I know (not all), are very intelligent . If they only were pretty sure it was true, would not say they actually knew, only that they believed it was true. There is a big difference.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I can tell you believe what your saying here, and I really do want to know what you think. I used to think the same way as you, and it was a evidence for me against the LDS church. I used to think that everybody claims there religion is the one true religion, and obviously not everybody can be lying, the LDS church couldn’t be true..

    However, when I actually asked people specifically that question, no other religion makes that claim the same way. Most other Christians say they know God, but I have yet to meet one that would testify that their church is the one true church.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    7th day adventist…. Never met one?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Yes, I have. Have you met one who makes claims the way the LDS do? What did they say?

  • David

    How about the FLDS? They pray about the same BoM that you do and they sincerely believe that God is telling them that their path is correct and that you are wrong. Many of these people sacrifice far more than you do.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I certainly agree that many there believe they are on the right path. However, that is different than honestly saying they have know there church is the one true church.

  • David
  • David
  • David
  • David
  • David
  • EngineerSenseHere

    Like I said, many believe they are on the right path, and a some like the Catholic church claim to be the only true church. However, where is the church where in general its members have received direct evidence (like the BoM) and testify that they know their church is the only one with God’s authority?

    You really do not seem to be understanding that concept. I know most people think their religion is the correct one, otherwise they would join another. None of your links show any religion like the LDS in that way.

  • David

    You just changed your argument. Before you were asserting that no other church claimed to be the one and only true church. You just changed to say that some like the Catholic church claim to be the only true church but that they don’t have evidence. You who are the one who is confused and not me. Furthermore, the Catholic church has huge vaults that are full of documents and artifacts that they believe support their truth claims and far more members that believe it is the one true church than Mormonism has. Maybe your ego is the problem, it is ok to admit that your assertion was not correct.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    That ego comment got a laugh.

    I didn’t change my argument. I’m not saying that they need an evidence like the BoM, and I’m not saying they don’t claim to be the true church. You keep missing my point and its obvious in your responses. What I’m saying is that their members do not say that I know for certain and have received a witness from God that my church is the only one approved by Him with His authority.

    Catholics are a perfect example to illustrate. I grew up with Catholics. Yes they believe they are in the one true church established by Christ, but no they do not claim in a way anywhere similar to the LDS to know their church is the one and only church with God’s authority and approval.

    So if that is your evidence, then I can assure that you are incorrect. Its possible there is a religion I don’t know about that makes that claim, but as far as I’ve seen they don’t.

  • David

    All that you just said is that you’re right because you grew up around Catholics and their belief is different because you say so.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Well, if your like typical anti-Mormons, you grew up in Utah in the LDS church, left it and are not familiar with many other religions. So, yes I don’t know all Catholics, but I do no many, and what I said is accurate. If you have evidence to the contrary, then I’l like to see it. Honestly, I’m interested to see if there is another religion that makes claims like the LDS do. So far, I haven’t seen it.

  • David

    You can’t support you’re assertion so now you resort to ad hominems. I actually work for a global Engineering company and work regularly with people from all around the world. India, South Africa, Mexico, South America etc. I also served a 2 year LDS mission in South Carolina and I have family in Texas, California, Italy and Germany. One thing that I have learned is that Mormonism is a tiny speck in a big world of human thought and belief.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I would agree that Mormonism is a tiny speck. And I’m glad you have interacted with people of other faiths. But to be honest, growing up I totally thought like you do that members of other religions had testimonies the same way we do. But growing up and going on a mission I learned that that is just not the case. LDS is unique in that. And its not a trivial matter. Because, if I knew honest people (who I knew well enough to know them) that told me they knew for certainty not only that their church had truth but it was the only church on earth with God’s authority that would be a game changer for me. If I knew they were honest would they all the sudden lie to me? But the reality is they don’t. I’ve met plenty of honest non-LDS. And they believe they are doing whats right (and for the most part are). But they don’t bear testimony the way we do.

  • Andrew Dowling

    As in they don’t rely on a fraudulent document from the 19th century, then yes . . .

  • David

    Are you sure you’re an Engineer? You sound more like a politician.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    That’s a good question. You seem to have trouble believing me when I talk about religious topics. Why don’t you ask me some engineering/science questions. Then you’ll be able to see that I am both competent and reasonable in an area where we would agree on.

  • David

    I think I just noticed your problem. It looks like you think I am supposed to simply believe you. This is a very Mormon idea “praise to the man” and “follow the prophet”. It isn’t very biblical though.

    Jeremiah 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

    I never simply trust other people especially when it relates to spirituality and religion.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    No, I think you partially missed my point. I do hope you believe me. And I think if you knew me personally you would. You don’t have to believe me. You only have to test God’s promise to see if the BoM is true. That is all that is needed. That’s why the BoM is so important to us. It is the key to a testimony.

  • David

    I have tested the BoM. I have read it five times and prayed about it sincerely. I also served a 2 year LDS mission in South Carolina. The more I read the BoM the more it sounded made up. The BoM simply does not hold up to scrutiny.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I don’t think 6th time is the charm is the answer your looking for. But I’ll end with this. There may come a time in your life when you are looking for answers that you can’t find anywhere else. While there are always a few nosy Mormons who would judge, the vast majority of us will always be ready to be there for you if you ever want to come back. I won’t go as far as saying I’ll pray for you (unless you want me to), but I sincerely wish you the best.

  • David

    You sound young and a little naive. I’m 43 years old, I’ve been married for 20 years and realized the LDS church is a fraud about 11 years ago in 2004. I have four great kids one of which was on chemo for eight years and is now fully recovered. Something that I have come to realize through experience is that God is always there and is able to help with no strings attached. The LDS church is just selling back to you that which is already yours. Someday if their sandy foundation falls apart under your feet as it did for me, try to remember that they don’t own God.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I’m happy that you have stayed with God. Most who leave the LDS church, leave him as well. You seem a decent fellow, one of the reasons I like to comment here is to better understand what ex-Mormons believe. My goal is to maybe get you to doubt your doubts about the Mormon church. I’m pretty sure if I knew you and you knew me outside of this forum we would agree with each other on most topics and you would find me an honest person. I have studied much of the “difficult” topics about LDS topics, I’m a well-educated scientist/engineer, and I can say confidently, I could look you in the eye without flinching, and tell you that I know the LDS church is true. I have never met anyone in any other faith that has ever said that to me, but I am saying it to you.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I could look you in the eye, and confidently say without flinching that I know the LDS church is not true. I am saying it to you now. It isn’t true.

    We must both be right.

  • Andrew Dowling

    You apparently haven’t met many Roman Catholics . . .

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Actually, I grew up with Catholics and probably know more of them than Mormons.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “hich religion has mothers that claim to know that their religion is the one true religion.”

    Are you for real?

  • David

    Did you believe in Santa as a child?

  • David

    You are the one that built the straw men. Don’t get too offended as we knock them down.

  • David

    That’s some interesting circular reasoning that you have there. The onus is on the church to prove the BoM true and not the other way around. Still, there is plenty of evidence against the truth claims of the BoM. Can you offer a reasonable answer to the question I have outlined below from

    What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned? When King James translators were translating the KJV Bible between 1604 and 1611, they would occasionally put their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what
    these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV Bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record?

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

    In the above example, the KJV translators added 7 italicized words not found in the source Hebrew manuscripts to its English translation. Why does the Book of Mormon, completed 1,200 years prior, contain the
    exact identical seven italicized words of 17th century translators?

    The Book of Mormon includes mistranslated biblical passages that were later changed in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. These Book of Mormon verses should match the inspired JST version instead of the incorrect KJV version that Joseph later fixed. A typical example of the differences between the BOM, the KJV, and the JST:

    3 Nephi 13:25-27:
    25: …Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26: Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    Matthew 6:25-27 (from the King James Version Bible – not the JST):
    25: Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26: Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    Joseph Smith Translation of the same passages in the LDS Bible for Matthew 6:25-27:
    25: And, again, I say unto you, Go ye into the world, and care not for the world: for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues.
    26: Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.
    27: And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    I’ve already answered this question a couple times but I will give the short version. The BoM was not written in English. It was translated. As someone who speaks a foreign language, there is no correct way to translate (anyone who speaks a foreign language can tell you that).

    So, if I’m a translating a talk and the speaker is quoting a scripture, I generally translate it the same way the scripture in in English. So, is that hard to imagine that Joseph Smith would have translated it the same way?

    The other is the most obvious. The anti-Mormons claim Joseph Smith was such a brilliant con-man that he made up 500 page book and was able to convince millions, but he was so stupid he forgot that he already copied parts of the New Testament into the BoM. That is their rationale.

  • David

    It does not make sense that as Joseph was translating the BoM with his head in a hat that the little pieces of parchment that he claimed to see would just happen to give him the exact wording including italicized words that we’re added later that just so happened to be in the exact edition of the bible that he had in his possession. It seems much more logical that he just copied from his bible.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Yep your right. He did copy those verses from the bible. There is no way the hundreds of verses in the BoM would exactly match that in the Bible if he didn’t. Who is arguing otherwise?

  • David

    It just means that Joseph lied. If you’re ok with it then that’s your business.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    So when did he lie? You forgot to explain that part.

  • David

    Oh, I thought you knew church history. This means Joseph lied because it doesn’t match the way that he claimed to have translated the plates.

    “By aid of the Seer Stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say ‘written;’ and if correctly written, the sentence would disappear and another appear in its place; but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used” (CHC 1:29)

    “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Yes that is how he translated some of the BoM. He didn’t say, this is the only way, and I never referenced the Bible in any way. Honestly, if that is one of your strongest arguments against the LDS church, it is weak and easily understood.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Yes, it does. Are you agreeing with me on this point? Yes he referenced the bible on verses that were the same to get the wording consistent.

  • David

    Why did Joseph need to get the wording consistent between the BoM and his particular copy of the Bible?

  • big fatty

    Do some simple research on the name ‘ Lucifer ‘ . It was a transliteration mistake that showed up in the KJV , and was perpetuated by J S in his BoM . That name simply does not exist . Then to top it off , it shows up in the D & C . The DSS disprove the BoM . Research any of the 11 copies of Isaiah known and translated .

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You bring up a point I haven’t heard before. Why don’t you send me some links to explain your argument. I’ll take a look.

  • Lou

    This is also covered in the #3 link I provided to you, by the way.

  • brotheroflogan
  • Fred Hedge

    “The relationship of the official church to the more literal-minded apologists is long and controversial. You can get a sense of the whole saga by tracing the history of theFoundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), which over the past decade has been subsumed into the highly respectable Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University.”

    Just as point of clarification, the Maxwell Institute divested itself of FARMS a few years ago and has taken a more academic approach since. They even replaced the FARMS REVIEW, what was the primary publishing outlet for Mormon apologetics, with the highly academic MORMON STUDIES REVIEW, which focuses on non-apologetic approaches and follows the general standards of academia.

    The Maxwell Institute still, in general, accepts the historicity of the Book of Mormon, so I’m sure they don’t escape your broader critique, but they do not support that same apologetic approach as they have in the past.

  • philipjenkins

    My comment was meant to be properly respectful of the Institute and its endeavors, and I thank you for the amendment.

  • Evan Law

    I understand that it is part of human nature to have tangible evidence, and I do not criticize you for wanting to do that. However, Jesus Christ taught the way to gain a testimony of Him, His gospel, and His workings among mankind, and obtaining physical evidence to lead one to that belief is not part of it. See John 20:25 in which Christ told Thomas that it is more important to believe without seeing the evidence.

    Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” As recorded in John 14:26, Christ taught that the Holy Ghost shall teach you all things. And as promised at the end of the Book of Mormon, those who read it and pray to God, the Eternal Father, with a sincere heart and real intent will receive a witness that the record is true by the power of the Holy Ghost. See Moroni 10:3-5.

    I invite you and all those who have commented here, to do an experiment of faith. Read the Book of Mormon … the entire Book of Mormon. Not with an intent to disprove it, but with a sincere heart and with real intent to discover if this record is true. A man named Alma in the Book of Mormon compared the word of God to a seed of a tree and said that if it be a true seed, and if you do not cast it out by your unbelief, but plant it in your heart, and nourish it by reading and pondering these words, you will begin to feel something within you and begin to say within yourself that it is good and that it has enlightened your understanding. See Alma 32:28-43. As you do this, you will see this seed sprout and grow. But if you neglect the seed (and do not read the words) the tree will not grow, not because the seed was not good, but because you would not nourish it. As Paul taught, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. Faith allows for an inner testimony to be obtained, which becomes a substance or evidence within you.

    If you do this experiment and read this book sincerely, and pray to God to ask in faith whether it is true, and I hope that you will, all other concerns you have about the authenticity of this historical record will leave your mind. Just as when Peter testified that he knew Jesus to be the Son of God, and Jesus said, “Blessed art thou … for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, by my Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 16:13-17. Similarly, you will be able to say that although historical evidence and artifacts have not revealed the truth of the Book of Mormon to you, your Father in Heaven has revealed that it is true by the power of the Holy Ghost within you. This has happened in my life. I invite you to discover it for yourself.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I read it. I asked god. He said “no, it is false”. Stalemate.

  • David

    That just means you weren’t sincere or that you don’t have enough faith. This is definitely not circular reasoning, the BoM says so.

  • Evan Law

    I am curious if you were once a member of the church. If so, what caused you to doubt?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    The methodology you proposed for knowing the truth of the BOM (as derived from the BOM) is wholly subjective, internal, built upon a chain of presuppositions and circular. It results in a conversion rate that is so low, that one might as well say it is not so much a methodology for knowing truth (as it results in such a myriad of outcomes), but rather a methodology for winnowing out the gullible, and willing.

    But when I follow it exactly as you describe, with full sincerity in knowing the truth of the book, god continually tells me “no, it is false… it’s anachronisms are of the same vein as someone producing a document dated 1776 about that time Benjamin Washington chopped down the cherry tree with a lightsaber”.

    God also tells me that the idea conveyed in the BOM, …”For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue” .. That chastity can be taken by force, is an abomination, a type of victorian victim blaming, of the slutshaming ilk.

    God is so knowledgeable, and she has a great sense of humor.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    I agree with the observation that the process is subjective. I think for the same reason we’re not required to credit your self-serving report of the process you followed.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Oh, but my results are real and true, I testify in the name of god most holy that they are .

    Why should anyone doubt my sincere and honest spiritual experience and witness?

  • brotheroflogan

    It’s pretty clear that you are merely trying to destroy people’s belief. Can we take it sincerely that your parents named you Moroni Fielding Kimball or perhaps you chose that as your screen name to mock Mormons?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    When I bear testimony it is to destroy others faith?… When you all do it, it isn’t… How convenient. I bear testimony of the truths god has revealed to me, nothing more.

  • David

    I’ll tell you what caused me to doubt. About 10 years ago, I was working on my genealogy as instructed and I came across one of my ancestors John W. Hess. John was a Colonel in the Mormon Militia as well as Stake President and Mayor of Davis County. He was also a polygamist. At the age of 51 he married the 15 year old niece of his first wife. She was bartered to John like chattel by her parents. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple by Wilford Woodruff. This information was shocking to me because I had always been taught that the men were just marrying the widowed women and the relationships were not sexual. John’s niece/wife had their first of seven kids at the age of 17. After I found this information, I started looking at Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s polygamous marriages and they were an even bigger mess. Women were cross married between Joseph, Brigham and Heber. There were also teen brides and they married other men’s wives. I felt like I was lied to because the church has always portrayed Joseph in church videos and manuals as living in a monogamous marriage with Emma. Once I realized that LDS leaders were not being honest about this, I realized that they are probably not being honest about other things.

  • Evan Law

    Thanks for letting me know your initial reasons to doubt. It most certainly has been a stumbling block for many people. More to follow later on.

  • David

    Polygamy has been a stumbling block for many people. It continues to be a stumbling block for those that still practice it. Of course, the FLDS and other polygamist groups are only following the directions of LDS leaders who they were taught would never lead them astray.

    “Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ It is the only popular religion there…”

    – Prophet Brigham Young, Deseret News, August 6, 1862

    “We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they envy our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow minded, pinch-backed race of man, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They aught to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices.”

    – Prophet George A. Smith, Apostle, Deseret News, April 16, 1856

    “… the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to people.”

    – Millennial Star, v. 15, p. 227

    “Yes, sir, President Woodruff, President Young, and President John Taylor, taught me and all the rest of the ladies here in Salt Lake that a man in order to be exalted in the Celestial Kingdom must have more than one wife, that having more than one wife was a means of exaltation.”

    – Temple Lot Case, p. 362

    “We, the first presidency and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beg to respectfully to Your Excellency the following facts: We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or Celestial Marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man’s highest exaltation in the life to come.”

    – Reed Smoot Case, v. 1, p. 18

    “And we… are believers in the principles of plural marriage or polygamy… as a principle revealed by God, underlying our every hope of eternal salvation and happiness in heaven… we cannot view plural marriage in any other light than as a vital principle of our religion.”

    – Millennial Star, v. 40, pp. 226-227

    “Damnation was the awful penalty affixed to a refusal to obey this law [polygamy]. It became an acknowledged doctrine of the Church; it was indissolubly interwoven in the minds of its members with their hopes of eternal salvation and exaltation in the presence of God…”

    – Millennial Star, v. 47, p. 711

    “… [Joseph Smith taught] the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in the celestial glory.”

    – William Clayton, Joseph Smith’s secretary, Historical Record, v. 6, p. 226

    “[If I] had not obeyed that command of God, concerning plural marriage, I believe that I would have been damned.”

    – Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, v. 23, p. 278

    “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.”

    – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 11, p. 269

  • Evan Law

    Regarding plural marriage, here’s a link from the church that provides additional information. See Some important points to consider: The old testament prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were commanded by the Lord to enter into this practice, but Christians throughout the world still consider them to be prophets.

    Here’s a quote from another link at (See “The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command [plural marriage]: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30). Plural marriage did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes. It also shaped 19th-century Mormon society in other ways: marriage became available to virtually all who desired it; per-capita inequality of wealth was diminished as economically disadvantaged women married into more financially stable households; and ethnic intermarriages were increased, which helped to unite a diverse immigrant population.”

    Ultimately, this is between you and your Father in Heaven as to whether, despite something as difficult to accept as this, you can receive a testimony that the Lord Jesus Christ called Joseph Smith to be the prophet to restore His church on the earth. This will require strong faith and prayer, but you had a testimony at one point that the restoration of the gospel was true. With time and through a return to deeply and prayerfully study the Book of Mormon, you may again rekindle that testimony.

    I’ll submit a separate post on the evidence of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel.

  • David

    God doesn’t command people to practice polygamy in the bible. People in the bible did all kinds of evil things. they murdered, practiced slavery, committed genocide and had multiple wives and concubines. Just because there are accounts of people doing these things does not mean God told them to. Also, the BoM an D&C are conflicted on the matter.

    Jacob 2:24
    Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

    D&C 132:1
    Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines.

  • David

    I might be fine without physical evidence to prove the BoM true. The problem is that there is abundant evidence to show that it is false.

  • brotheroflogan

    Evidence for the book of mormon can be found in this extensive playlist. Will you watch one of these videos? If not, how can you know that there isn’t any evidence that it is true?

  • David

    I changed my mind, you are going to need some very good evidence to get me to consider believing in your horribly racist book.

    “…after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” (I Nephi 12:23)

    “…Behold, they had hardened their hearts against him…wherefore, as they were white, and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their sins.” (2 Nephi 5:21-22)

    “And the skins of the Lamanites were dark…which was a curse upon them because of their transgression against their brethren…therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them. And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preservehis people…” (Alma 3:6,8)

    “And then shall they [Lamanites] rejoice…and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people” (2 Nephi 30:6, 1830, 1920, and 1977 editions)

  • David

    Please read a few pages from this book. Why does the BoM borrow from the wording and ideas of this and other 19th century books?

  • Evan Law

    I read through many pages of this book and it appears that any similarities are only basic phrases like “and it came to pass.” Do you think a court could compare these two books and find that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from this? In my view, this is an extreme stretch. Consider again the words of Jeffrey R. Holland:

    For 179 years [the Book of Mormon] has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon
    Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.

    Witnesses, even witnesses who were for a time hostile to Joseph, testified to their death that they had seen an angel and had handled the plates. “They have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man,” they declared. “Wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.

    I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it
    implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. I hope I have a few years left in my “last days,” but whether I do or do not, I want it
    absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days.

    –Jeffrey R. Holland, Safety for the Soul,

  • Evan Law

    What convinces men and women of truth? Watch this six minute video:

  • Evan Law

    Prophecies and evidence of the Book of Mormon:

    1. What is the book spoken of in Isaiah Chapter 29?

    2. Can you give me another account of a sealed book that was delivered to another who said, “I cannot read a sealed book?”

    3. Here is a link describing the fulfillment of that prophecy (and consider Joseph Smith’s own misspelled words establishing that he was an unlearned man):

  • Evan Law

    Three witnesses testified that the angel Moroni appeared to them and showed them the plates and the engravings on them. None of them denied that experience despite the fact that two of them fell away from the church.

    Eight witnesses saw and handled with their hands the gold plates and described the writings on them. None of them ever denied that experience.

  • Evan Law

    Jeffrey R. Holland:

    When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read these words to comfort the heart of his brother:

    “Thou hast been faithful; wherefore … thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place
    which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.

    “And now I, Moroni, bid farewell … until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.”

    A few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Before closing the book, Hyrum
    turned down the corner of the page from which he had read, marking it as part of the everlasting testimony for which these two brothers were about to die. I hold in my hand that book, the very copy from which Hyrum read, the same corner of the page turned down, still visible. Later, when actually incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore
    a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Shortly thereafter pistol and ball would take the lives of these two testators.

    As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth? … They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

  • Evan Law

    Which evidence would you view more as being more persuasive: direct testimony of those who handled the plates and the fulfillment of prophecy as noted above, or the assertion by others that the lack of evidence from around 1400 years ago means that it could not be true? In modern courts of law, the reason why we have statutes of limitations is because evidence becomes stale, unreliable and unavailable … 10 or 20 years later on … But over 1000 years has passed and we are seeking to disprove a book because of the lack of evidence from that long ago?

    In my view the evidence is overwhelming to lead anyone to have a desire to believe that the Book of Mormon could be true to lead them to make a diligent effort to find out whether it is true. Even with the evidence, a testimony of its truthfulness can only come through faith and the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.

    Paul taught that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3; 2:14). Before Christ ascended to heaven, he told his apostles that the Holy Ghost, or the “Spirit of truth,” would teach them all things, just as the “Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” John 14:26; 15:26; Romans 8:16.

    Ultimately, only study, prayer, an open heart and revelation from your Father in Heaven will allow you to gain a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true.

  • David

    First of all it is perfectly ok to look for and even demand evidence. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I also agree with this quote from LDS apostle J. Reuben Clark “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

    I have not seen any good evidence to support Book of Mormon truth claims. Quite the contrary in fact. The book is loaded with anachronisms. It talks about epic battles involving a half million or so people fighting with steel swords. Steel production alone on this scale would be impossible to miss. There is also an anachronism which I explain below that I am taking from . How do you explain this?

    What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned? When King James translators were translating the KJV Bible between 1604 and 1611, they would occasionally put in their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV Bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record?

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

    In the above example, the KJV translators added 7 italicized words not found in the source Hebrew manuscripts to its English translation.
    Why does the Book of Mormon, completed 1,200 years prior, contain the exact identical seven italicized words of 17th century translators?

    The Book of Mormon includes mistranslated biblical passages that were later changed in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. These Book of Mormon verses should match the inspired JST version instead of the incorrect KJV version that Joseph later fixed. A typical example of the differences between the BOM, the KJV, and the JST:

    3 Nephi 13:25-27:

    25: …Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26: Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

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

    25: Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26: Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    Joseph Smith Translation of the same passages in the LDS Bible for Matthew 6:25-27:

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

    26: Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.
    27: And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.

  • David

    Joseph showed a pattern of lying and covering up for his practice of polygamy. His testimony is not trustworthy.

    “…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411) Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday May 26, 1844. At the time he had secretly taken at over 25 plural wives.

  • David

    Holland is trying to build a case based on emotion in this talk and offers no real evidence. Joseph’s actions before Carthage did not demonstrate that he knew he would die because he brought a gun and fired it into the mob. Also, Joseph committed a crime that started this chain of events when he ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor because it was about to print a paper that would have exposed Joseph’s polygamy which he had been trying to keep hidden.

    “Elder Cyrus H. Wheelock came in to see us, and when he was about leaving, drew a small pistol, a six-shooter, from his pocket, remarking at the same time ‘Would any of you like to have this?’ Brother Joseph immediately replied, ‘Yes, give it to me,’ whereupon he took the pistol, and put it in his pantaloons pocket. The pistol was a six-shooting revolver, of Allen’s patent; it belonged to me, and was one that I furnished to Brother Wheelock when he talked of going with me to the east, previous to our coming to Carthage” (History of the Church 7:100. See also The Gospel Kingdom, p.358)

    Joseph and friends also drank wine prior to the shootout.

    “Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us. I think it was Captain Jones who went after it, but they would not suffer him to return. I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the prison guards. We all of us felt unusually dull and languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits. In consonance with those feelings I sang a song, that had lately been introduced into Nauvoo, entitled, ‘A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief’, etc.” (7:101)

    Joseph also fired shots into the mob.

    John Tahor wrote “I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum, and, leaning over him, exclaimed, `Oh! my poor, dear brother Hyrum!’ He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged. I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges, two of whom, I am informed, died.”

  • David

    There are quotes from the “witnesses” that admit that they saw the plates with “spiritual” eyes.

  • David

    Martin Harris and Charles Anthon offer different views on what happened when they met. Below is the account of the story from Charles Anthon.

    The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, and apparently simple-hearted farmer, called upon me… requesting me to decipher, if possible, a paper… Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax…

    The farmer added, that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money towards the publication of the “golden book,” the contents of which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm and handing over the amount received to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to come to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which he brought with him…

    On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money*, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving…

    …the paper contained any thing else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.”

    Professor Charles Anthon, Columbia University
    Letter to E.D. Howe

    Harris mortgaged (and lost) his farm and his wife after financing the first printing of the Book of Mormon

  • David

    Why in the world would anyone trust Brigham Young when his rhetoric on the doctrine of Blood Atonement which originated with Joseph Smith directly lead to the murder of 123 innocent men women and children at Mountain Meadows?

    During a tour of southern Utah Brigham Young, along with some 60 other Saints visited the massacre site in May 1861. After viewing the inscription on the cross, Wilford Woodruff recorded President Young as saying “it should be vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.” The cross was then torn down and the rocks of the cairn were dismantled, leaving little of the original marker.

    “I [am] opposed to hanging, even if a man kill another, I will shoot him, or cut off his head, spill his blood on the ground, and let the smoke thereof ascend up to God; and if ever I have the privilege of making a law on that subject, I will have it so.”

    – Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 5, p. 296, 1949

    “[My life was in danger] if I remained there, because of my protest against the doctrine of Blood Atonement and other new doctrines that were brought into the Church.”

    – Apostle William Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, Jr., Temple Lot Case, p. 98

    “I will tell you how much I love those characters. If they had any respect to their own welfare, they would come forth and say, whether Joseph Smith was a Prophet or not, ‘We shed his blood, and now let us atone for it;’ and they would be willing to have their heads chopped off, that their blood might run upon the ground, and the smoke of it rise before the Lord as an incense for their sins.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 2, p. 179, February 18, 1855

    “The time has been in Israel under the law of God, the celestial law, or that which pertains to the celestial law, for it is one of the laws of that kingdom where our Father dwells, that if a man was found guilty of adultery, he must have his blood shed, and that is near at hand.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 4, p. 219

    “Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant.”

    – Brigham Young, Deseret News, April 16, 1856

    “Any of you who understand the principles of eternity – if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death – would not be satisfied or rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain the salvation you desire. This is the way to love mankind.”

    – Brigham Young, Deseret News, April 16, 1856

    “I say, rather than that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath [sic] my bowie knife, and conquer or die [Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.]. Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet [Voices, generally, ‘go it, go it.’]. If you say it is right, raise your hands [All hands up.]. Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 1, p. 83

    “Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them. You would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the Kingdom of God. I would at once do so, in such a case; and under the circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands…. There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 1, pp. 108-109

    I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 4, p. 43

    “Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved… and suppose that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin and may be saved and exalted with the God, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say, ‘shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods?’”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 4, pp. 219-220

    “It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it [the blood of Christ] can never remit.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 4, p. 54

    “This is loving your neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.”

    – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 4, p. 220

  • David

    Why would I take Holland seriously when he is caught lying in this BBC interview

  • David

    I posted this question from to EngineeringSenseHere. Maybe you can provide a reasonable answer.

    What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned? When King James translators were translating the KJV Bible between 1604 and 1611, they would occasionally put their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what
    these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV Bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record?

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

    In the above example, the KJV translators added 7 italicized words not found in the source Hebrew manuscripts to its English translation. Why does the Book of Mormon, completed 1,200 years prior, contain the
    exact identical seven italicized words of 17th century translators?

    The Book of Mormon includes mistranslated biblical passages that were later changed in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. These Book of Mormon verses should match the inspired JST version instead of the incorrect KJV version that Joseph later fixed. A typical example of the differences between the BOM, the KJV, and the JST:

    3 Nephi 13:25-27:
    25: …Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26: Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    Matthew 6:25-27 (from the King James Version Bible – not the JST):
    25: Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26: Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    Joseph Smith Translation of the same passages in the LDS Bible for Matthew 6:25-27:
    25: And, again, I say unto you, Go ye into the world, and care not for the world: for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues.
    26: Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.
    27: And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.

  • David

    1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

    I also like the quote from J. Reuben Clark “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

  • Evan Law

    It appears from your questions that it will take a great deal of faith for you to put aside these thoughts for now. Study the doctrines on the atonement of Christ in Alma 34, Alma 42, 2 Nephi 9 and pray to know if what it contains is true. You may spend a lifetime trying to find ways to disprove the Book of Mormon, but you’ll someday find it more rewarding to open up your heart to the goodness it contains. That’s all I’ll say for now. Your brother in Christ.

  • David

    I have read the BoM five times and prayed about it sincerely. The more I read it, the more it sounded made up. I also served a full LDS mission. I believe I have given my due diligence to the BoM yet you will make no attempt to answer any of my perfectly reasonable questions. Having been a believing Mormon, I understand why, it is because you have been trained and conditioned to immediately reject all non faith promoting information.

  • Evan Law

    I appreciate your sincerity and I will respond to your questions in detail after spending some time going through them. I am quite busy and will need at least a week to get back to you. Until then, please watch this talk at

  • David

    I look forward to your response. I have watched this talk before but I will watch it again and I’ll give you my thoughts about it.

  • Evan Law

    Sounds good. Please email me your thoughts at I’d prefer answering your other questions by email if you don’t mind.

  • David

    Why have the discussion in private e-mails? Maybe others can benefit. I generally find that the more light that is shined on such discussions the better.

  • Evan Law

    That’s fine. It may get lengthy, but I will do my best to keep it readable.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “See John 20:25 in which Christ told Thomas that it is more important to believe without seeing the evidence.”

    Taking that passage as an exhortation for complete living would mean that you should believe the local witch doctor as much as your credentialed neighborhood MD . . .

  • Evan Law

    Do you have an answer for how someone is to gain a testimony the divinity of Jesus Christ? Is it through a study of evidence?

    This is not to say that the Lord doesn’t expect us to reason things for ourselves, but faith and prayer becomes the most important element to receiving a testimony of truth. In modern revelation through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “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.”

    As I quoted earlier, this is Christ’s response to Peter’s testimony that he knew Him to be the Son of God: “Blessed art thou … for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, by my Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 16:13-17.

  • David

    Why are Mormon’s always arguing against the use of evidence and recommending that we trust feelings and emotions instead? Maybe it is because the evidence contradicts their claims.

    Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

    1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

  • Evan Law

    The overarching question regarding how someone is to gain a testimony of the divinity of Christ and other truths about his gospel is key. So, again, how did Christ say Peter gained a testimony that he was the Son of God? It was revealed by his Father in Heaven through the Holy Ghost. Remember also the two men who walked with Christ and ultimately said, “did not our hearts burn within us?” Study John 14:26 as this contains the manner in which a testimony of all truth is obtained.

    This is my last post. Thank you for the conversation!

  • David

    If we are going to use the Bible to understand Mormonism I think Matthew 23:27 is more appropriate “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

    Early Mormon leaders were guilty of polygamy and polyandry and mass murder.

    The LDS population in Utah is as high as 81% in some areas yet Utah has the highest rates in the nation for prescription drug abuse, cosmetic surgery, suicide of people 25 and younger, suicide of gay people and Utah has the highest rates of online porn consumption.

    The focus on obtaining perfection that has been emphasized by LDS leaders and the creation of a never ending set of works that is unobtainable by many has resulted in a culture of shame.

  • Potbelly MacKraken

    “If you are basing statements on the evidence of mystical gold plates that are not available for scholarly examination because they were taken up to Heaven, then you are making utterly extraordinary claims that demand extraordinary evidence. I am open to the concept of miracle, but the burden of proof clearly rests with the person making the claims.”

    I could say the very same thing about the Dodo bird or some other form of extinct animal. There’s accounts that the Dodo existed, but does one disbelieve those accounts because the actual bird no longer exists to be examined? Dinosaurs: all we have are bones that paleontologist assure us are put together in the right order, and filled in with flesh and other features. But we don’t have a live dinosaur to examine. Does one disbelieve or is one skeptical of the existence of dinosaurs or how they looked or behaved based off of the theories of paleontologists who base their claims off of bones, with no live dinosaur to examine? Both belief in the Dodo bird and in dinosaurs requires faith in the claims of men, so why is faith in the words of men who say and never renounced their testimony of seeing the gold plates any different, especially since some of these men sealed their testimony with their own lives and blood? Why believe some over others? Evidence is there for the plate’s existence, further added upon by evidence from the Maxwell Institute:

    The fact of the matter remains: faith is required for everything, including in believing the claims and hypotheses of the different kinds of scientists and scholars. So why is faith in the Book of Mormon and its evidences held to a different standard?

  • philipjenkins

    You illustrate my argument perfectly. We have very extensive material, physical, remains of dinosaurs and the dodo, not to mention contemporary descriptions of the latter. They are so overwhelmingly convincing that no scientist doubts their reality. Not a jot of faith is required to support that fact. The physical reconstructions are based on well established scientific methodologies, defined and tested through the centuries, and published in respected refereed outlets.

    If you believe that this is a matter of “faith” then you do not understand the meaning of the concept.

    Now give me a single example of comparably documented material remains that support the reality of any one story in the Book of Mormon, or any character or place therein?

  • Potbelly MacKraken

    I don’t really have time to respond in detail to your counterarguments as I’m working on a dissertation, but I will say this:

    Ultimately, I, personally, have no need to prove anything to you, nor does any other Mormon. That’s not our job. Our job is simply to make you aware of the book, explain it as best as we can to you, and invite you to discover its truthfulness for yourself. This is because it’s not our book. We believe it’s God’s book, written by men, yes, but about God. Thus, it’s up to God, really, to prove it’s truthfulness and provide evidences for you. The burden of proof is not on me or the rest of the Mormon membership to provide you with evidence you seek. It’s on God, where it has always been and always will be. Try asking him. We’re just simple messengers; the converter is God, who persuades each man according to that man’s will/desire and the way he would best be persuaded. The Book of Mormon says so, and tells you exactly how you can gain evidence/testimony of it. See Moroni 10:3-5.

    ” 3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

    4 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.

    5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

    This is how you ask God of its truthfulness and gain the evidences you seek. Also see Alma 32 for further instruction on how to ask God of its truthfulness. Stop putting it on the Mormons to give you those evidences, and start asking and seeking for them yourself from what we believe to be the source of the Book, God.

    If you’d rather not belief the book for lack of evidence you find qualifying, then be my guest. That’s your right and agency. It’ll make no difference to me at the end of the day and to what I choose to believe and why.

  • Potbelly MacKraken

    I do understand the meaning of the concept of faith, only, I do likely understand it differently than you do, or rather, have a different semantic meaning for it. I take my definition of faith straight from the Book of Mormon, from Alma 32:21, which defines it as:

    “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

    To me, faith is a belief in things you have not seen for yourself with your own eyes, but which are still true or real. Notice this definition says nothing about evidence that one can base his/her faith on, for, if you knew an iota about the Book of Mormon, you would know that it teaches that God, while he asks us to rely on faith instead of a perfect knowledge (the reasons why are also detailed in Alma 32), also gives us evidences of various sorts to support that faith, after we have shown faith without evidence first as a sure testimony of our sincere desire to know of the truths of God-this is a means God uses to trust us with truth, just as one interviews a potential employee before hiring him/her or government requires a background check before one can purchase a firearm. Where’s the difference? Indeed, trust and faith are synonyms of each other, if you check a thesaurus.

    Using this definition of faith, you have neither seen in person, with your own eyes, a Dodo bird, nor a dinosaur; thus you do not have a perfect knowledge of their actual once existence, and therefore must place faith in their existence by means of the many evidences of their real once existence and in the scientists and other testifiers of their existence. This is faith, to me. The same goes for the Gold Plates. I’ve never seen them, but there are the testimonies of the witnesses that have seen them, plus plenty more evidences that they did/do actually exist. Therefore, I don’t have a perfect knowledge of their existence, but I have faith in their existence, just like I do the Dodo bird or Dinosaurs.

    You ask for further evidence of the truthfullness of the Book of Mormon and the likely existence of the Gold Plates. I gave you some already by citing FARMS/Maxwell Institute. I will cite it again:

    Here’s others:

    But, despite these many evidences (to quote the Book of Mormon in Alma 30:44 “thou hast had signs enough”), you and many others will likely still refuse to believe, no matter how much evidence you have, even if the Gold Plates were to fall on your lap this very moment, as the FairMormon source indicates. The fact of the matter is, you’re looking for the wrong evidence of the Book of Mormon’s truth, and you’re asking the wrong source. You should instead be asking God for evidence of the truthfulness of the *principles* in the Book of Mormon and of the real existence of its authors and their claims. The Book of Mormon is God’s book, as its His words to us about Him and His principles, and thus He is the source you should be asking, not me or any other Mormon, if you truly want to believe in its truth. This is made known in Moroni 10:3-5.

    Answer your questions?

  • Andrew Dowling

    “all we have are bones”

    Oh my God . . . .

  • Potbelly MacKraken

    If you wish to address your God, I recommend addressing Him in prayer and not me, for I am not your God.

  • Bill Fitzgerald

    Another weak attempt stacked up among the many since the plates were delivered to Joseph by Moroni. The scribes for Joseph sat and wrote as he dictated 500+ pages in 63 days. No notes or papers, only the plates. He never had to ask what were the previous words and he corrected the scribes spelling without looking at what they wrote. He knew what they wrote by the power of God. And consider this, nearly all 11 witnesses turned against Joseph at some point and some were excommunicated, but they never denied seeing the plates. Read Profile of a Prophet by Hugh B. Brown and The Authorship of The Book of Mormon by Noel B. Reynolds. And pray to get the answer from the Holy Ghost. But for those who need evidence go read about the Egyptian style temple found right here in the United States on the border of Illinois and Tennessee, or the stones with hebrew writing found in states including Ohio and the forts found with designs exactly as described in the Book of Mormon.

  • philipjenkins

    I have to know! Where exactly is this “Egyptian style temple found right here in the United States on the border of Illinois and Tennessee”????

  • Andrew Dowling

    It must cover all of Kentucky.

  • philipjenkins

    Well, Memphis is of course a good Egyptian place name. And it has a pyramid!

  • Lou

    “…and he corrected the scribes spelling without looking at what they wrote.”

    So this must mean that the book was perfect, therefore no spelling or grammatical changes would have ever been made, right?

    This would be cute if it wasn’t so sad.

  • sfcanative

    63 days? Hardly.

    In his personal history, Joseph Smith indicates that he was first visited by an angel (Nephi) in 1823 telling him in great detail about the gold plates and the story of the Nephites and Lamanites “and many other things did he tell me . . .” So Smith had over SIX YEARS to develop this story of his. Supposedly he was visited every year by an angel until 1829 when the buried plates were finally released to him for translation by using magic stones in his hat.

    Before you correct me to say it was Moroni who visited him, you best look up your church history. All accounts of this angel’s visit(s) to Joseph Smith, including writings in church history and the ORIGINAL Pearl of Great Price indicate it was NEPHI. Church leaders later changed the name to Moroni after Smith’s death. Mary Whitmer, mother to one of the Three Witnesses and four of the Eight Witnesses, said she had a vision of the golden plates, shown to her by an angel whom she always called “Brother Nephi”.

  • SKierkegaard

    “God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, not the God of the
    philosophers and the scholars.” Pascal

    Not sure what the point of the article is. Arguing that science or historical archaeological evidence proves faith in the old world or the new world is a rather difficult proposition. Consider Christ spitting on the ground, then taking the
    clay, placing it on the blind man’s eyes and telling him to wash in the pool of
    Siloam. Why would we give more credence to that miracle because we can locate the pool of Siloam? As Charles Taylor reflects: We are all Thomas now. Faith, as I understand it, including belief in Abraham or Christ, has never been demonstrated through such evidence and will never be. Elijah heard the voice of God, and it was not in the physical world. The more interesting discussion here may be why an article like this resonates with any believers. Why do believers including mormons search for evidence and are more comfortable in their faith when they find support in science or archaeology?

  • sfcanative

    Having served an LDS mission at the very cradle of Mormonism’s founding (Upstate NY), and reading the Book of Mormon many times, it helps to put the time and place in perspective.

    When reading the Book of Mormon with the understanding that Smith was living on the expanding western frontier (Louisiana Purchase), the origin of the native American Indian a mystery–with the American Indian issue centric to the War of 1812, heated discussion and preaching on the biblical ‘lost tribes’ and American Exceptionalism, the Second Great Awakening in and around Upstate New York and an overarching divine theory by many later titled, “Manifest Destiny”, it is abundantly clear where the stories and themes of the Book of Mormon originate.

    The Book of Mormon simply puts forward the arguments that:
    * North America is a divine land, set aside by God for European immigration
    * The ‘natives’ of America were a battle-hardened, savage and cursed people
    * The American Indian is a lost tribe of Israel
    * European immigrants shall inherit and establish a god-fearing nation based on Smith’s teachings.

  • laineypc

    Many Christians see the Bible as having both historical and fictional components. Jesus told parables, stories that could have happened, but whose value was not in whether they were historically true, but in the message. It has been ever thus. Humans love stories. We use them, fictionalized or not, to make sense of life and its mysteries and challenges.
    Similarly, I would love to imagine a third way of LDS understanding of the Book of Mormon. If the church leadership could let go of the literal story and treat it more as parable, many LDS faithful could go ahead and feel that their testimony of the book is solid, as it is the spiritual message that is most relevant to them. The church could say “We understand that there is currently not enough evidence to support the historical claims of Joseph Smith about the origins of the Book of Mormon. Despite our best efforts, we have not found it to the extent that mainstream researchers validate and find a line of inquiry to sustain further research. (Also, no NOVA episode. You know you are legit when you get a NOVA episode.)
    “We don’t know why Joseph claimed the B of M events literally occurred. Maybe he felt it was necessary for the important messages of its parables to get through to potential believers. Maybe he really believed he was translating through God’s power. Whatever the reason, we sustain that the scripture is inspired work, which, through prayerful study, can bring us closer to God, become more Christlike and certain in our path.”

  • MesKalamDug

    I used to compare the Mormons to the Shi’ites. Now I see I was wrong. The Mormons are way crazier.

    I guess it is too much to ask you to explain Scientology.

  • JT

    Dr. Jenkins,

    I am a fan of much of your scholarship and found this to be an interesting post. I am sure you are aware as a professor of religious history that your challenge here is nothing new. Mormons are quite aware of the lack of physical evidence linking the Book of Mormon to Mesoamerica. While comfortable with a lack of proof, most Mormons would challenge any disproofs. In other words, they are comfortable with the unknown, even the improbable, but are not ones to blindly disregard incontrovertible evidence. You say the burden is on the Mormons to posit proof for the Book of Mormon, as it is impossible to prove a negative. Mormons agree on both counts – most apologists are simply there to check those trying to prove the negative. But as the primary purpose of the book is as a revelation of God, Mormons aren’t waiting around to collect physical proofs of its historical setting before taking the Book of Mormon seriously; they try to cut strait to the chase on whether it has divine origins.

    With regard to the physical evidence you are looking for, I think Terryl Givens in By the Hand of Mormon (Oxford University Press, 2002) sums it up nicely:

    The conundrum of the Book of Mormon is that, on the one hand, as Mormons readily admit, not one single archaeological artifact has been found that conclusively establishes a direct connection between the record and any actual culture or civilization of the Western Hemisphere. On the other hand, as a researcher from FARMS, the organization praised by Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, points out, “there is mounting up a considerable body of analysis demonstrating that at least something of the strangeness of the Book of Mormon is due to the presence in it of other ancient and complex literary forms which Joseph Smith is highly unlikely to have discovered on his own, and showing as well that its contents are rich and subtle beyond the suspicions of even the vast majority of its most devout readers.” Or as one determined skeptic admits, it is hard to ignore the “striking coincidences between elements in the Book of Mormon and the ancient world and some notable matters of Book of Mormon style.” The naked implausibility of gold plates, seer stones, and warrior-angels finds little by way of scientific corroboration, but attributing to a young farmboy the 90-day dictated and unrevised production of a 500-page narrative that incorporates sophisticated literary structures, remarkable Old World parallels, and some 300 references to chronology and 700 to geography with virtually perfect self-consistency is problematic as well.

  • philipjenkins

    I have great respect for Terryl Givens, and in fact I blurbed one of his books. He is an excellent and highly responsible scholar. For reasons I listed in my post, though, I disagree with him on this issue. I do not see the compelling nature of the parallels and coincidences he describes.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Right, exactly, You don’t see them as compelling. As your comments (and others’) amply illustrate, this discussion reduces to a burden of proof argument. Lost in the debate – not lost on you, Dr. Jenkins, but on others it seems to me – is that the argument from scientific study known as the historicity argument which you level at the Book of Mormon will also, in similar but not entirely parallel ways, be leveled against more conventional Christian beliefs by those who will have none of them. Although the argument here centers on Mormon faith claims, self-proclaimed Bible-believing Christians can and do find the shoe on the other foot when facing similar arguments from outside. Your essay teases that you want to address similar issues for conventional Christians in the future, and I hope you do so.

    But in my view, all of us ought to reserve room for faith. I do not mean to approve mindless insistence on very specific factual assertions (e.g., the Earth is 6,000 years old) in the face of mountains (literally!) of recalcitrant evidence. But neither am I obligated to accept, with quasi-religious assurance, every bit of today’s consensus view in any particular field of study. True science is always humble; genuine scientists do not so much assert verities that they proclaim will stand all tests of time as they propose and affirm or dis-affirm hypothesis that they regard as testable and which they treat as eternal only until the next opportunity to find disproof. No less an authority than Paul tells us wisely that we see through a glass darkly; this is true for the discernment of matters distant in space, time and magnitude as it is for purely spiritual subjects.

    It isn’t particularly humble to declare that “there is no evidence to support thus-and-so” when it turns out you really MEAN that the evidence thought to support the proposition is ambiguous or falls short of the burden of proof you in your judgment wish to impose. I think that turns out to be an important point. You say “evidence,” but what you mean is unambiguous evidence, probative evidence, or compelling evidence.

    Mormon researchers – you say “apologists,” intending to be disparaging, I think – have done much to call attention to evidence which is *consistent* with Book of Mormon historicity. This is evidence, full stop. Your argument is that mere consistency is too weak a claim, given what you would expect should be found if every word of the English-language restatement of plates as declared by Joseph Smith is taken completely literally. (Someone who wants to adhere to a literal understanding of Noah’s Flood runs into similar problems, but I digress.) You don’t propose to be satisfied with mere consistency and demand much more – a demand you feel pretty confidently can’t be met.

    That’s fine, of course – but suppose your demand could be met. Suppose a new Mesoamerican dig next week turns up, let’s say, another copy of the plates which turn out on translation to read a lot like the document produced by Joseph Smith. What then, Dr. Jenkins? I think you’d pretty much have to join our Church, right?, because we’d’ve proven our case. And then where would be the role of faith? John 20:29.

    So I don’t accept your argument from burden of proof here. I say instead that where evidence of consistency is combined with the evidence of the spirit (1 Cor. 2:14), I can be justified in belief – at least in the absence of the disproof that you admit doesn’t exist. If you say, well, what about DNA or what about elephants or what about XYZ, my answer is, let me look at that and try to understand it. We can talk about it. I have no desire to turn a blind eye to scientific inquiry. But I’m not (like some!) going to cry in a loud voice, “Woe is me! I’ve been lied to by Church leaders from Joseph on down!” at the mere mention of some such issue. That’s its own kind of cop-out self-justifcation which, likewise, can find parallels within others’ responses to more conventional Christianity.

    I also find curious the oft-repeated idea that Mormons are fine people and they teach many good things, even if at its core there are many weird and false beliefs. We are told on good authority that good fruit doesn’t grow from a poisoned tree. Mormons are good people (by and large, of course – perhaps you know of exceptions) because of what they believe, not in spite of it.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “We are told on good authority that good fruit doesn’t grow from a
    poisoned tree. Mormons are good people (by and large, of course –
    perhaps you know of exceptions) because of what they believe, not in
    spite of it”

    The world is full of “good people” of many different religions . .do you honestly think Mormons have the market cornered on having generous communities/strong families? And who is saying “in spite of”? . . .Dr. Jenkins isn’t denigrating the overall values and ‘spirit’ of Mormonism, solely the historical claims. If you feel that the former depends on the latter, you will run into problems.

    “Lost in the debate – not lost on you, Dr. Jenkins, but on others it
    seems to me – is that the argument from scientific study known as the
    historicity argument which you level at the Book of Mormon will also, in
    similar but not entirely parallel ways, be leveled against more
    conventional Christian beliefs by those who will have none of them.”

    Yes, and there’s no problem with that. What is frustrating is that people do not treat the claims of their own upbringings as they would any other claims from anywhere else. That is called intellectual dishonesty and cognitive dissonance.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Interesting that you implicitly assume, wrongly, that I am speaking of “the claims of [my] own upbringing.” So you can stuff your snide remarks about intellectual dishonesty, you know?

    Oh, wait, maybe that was intended to be a *general* statement, having nothing to do with me? Well, that’s OK then. You probably just meant to refer to your own cognitive dissonance maybe.

    But, anyway, I guess you agree with the observation regarding historicity arguments with the Book of Mormon finding similar issues when the subject is the canonized Bible. Thanks.

    Getting back to good people, Dr. Jenkins said that “my personal dealings with Mormons have been overwhelmingly positive.” You hear similar things said by others. There was a study recently in which it was easier to identify Mormons by photographs than members of other religious groups. The researchers concluded that this could have something to do with other documented relationships between church membership and health. I think that there is general recognition that a random sampling of Mormons will have a higher percentage of individuals exhibiting virtues such as honesty, kindness and courtesy than a random sampling of other groups, including religious ones. You’re free to dispute as much of that as you wish, but overall Mormons have a good reputation. The point I was making – and snideness isn’t a refutation – is that there is an inherent problem with the observation which you see made over and over that Mormons are good people with goofy beliefs. I suggest that there is a disconnect there which deserves closer examination from those – who might not include you – who commonly offer such observations.

    Hope that helps.

  • Andrew Dowling


    “There was a study recently in which it was easier to identify Mormons by photographs than members of other religious groups.”

    I don’t know this “study’s” methodology, but if true, you don’t think it would have something to do with Mormonism being incredibly homogenous and regionalized (Utah-Nevada-Arizona region) religion, both ethnically and culturally, compared to its much larger and diverse religious neighbors?

    Guatemalan Catholics also have a reputation for being some of the kindest and most generous people in the world. So what? That doesn’t say anything about the historical truth claims of their particular brand of faith.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Not sure why you put scare quotes around the word study, but you can look it up and draw your own conclusions about methodology. “The Tufts study by Rule, Nalini Ambady, professor of psychology and Neubauer Faculty Fellow in the School of Arts and Sciences, and James V. Garrett found that both Mormon and non-Mormon subjects were able to identify who was a Mormon more often than would occur by chance.” So there you go. Maybe you learned something today.

    And, no, I don’t think that it had anything to do with geographical concentration, and you’re obviously grasping at straws. Cognitive dissonance, I guess.

    While I’m unaware of the reputation of Guatemalan Catholics, I am happy to take your word for it. I would make the same point with them as I made for Mormons, namely, that it is a mistake to denigrate the relationship between the benefits and value of belief system, on one hand, and the positive personal characteristics of group members overall, on the other hand. Guatemalan Catholics might not share the precise religious beliefs as Mormons, but there are enough similarities that I am not surprised to hear that there are similarities in reputation and the experience of those outside their group. My point – once again, because you don’t want to acknowledge this at all, do you – is that there is a disconnect between saying on one hand that these people have goofy belief systems and on the other hand that they are better than average in terms of admirable personal qualities.

  • AFBooks

    Philip, you stated, “nobody can prove a negative.”

    Yes everyone can prove a negative. Try some of the following:


    Your premise is a logical fallacy and folk logic. Then as you write, you began disproving one of the basic tenets of the Book of Mormon – its historicity. While I agree with your basic premise that Mormons lie to support their religion, to use the above premise is applying what atheists do all the time. I have called atheists out on this numerous times, and they are left dumbfounded.

    Consider the statement itself, “You cannot prove a negative.” It is a negative itself. If it is true, then it is false or self-contradictory; and it would be unprovable because it is meaningless. When atheists attempt this logic, they simply get their panties in a wad and lose all sense of reality.

    Now, the mathematical formulas are one realistic ways of proving a negative, but there are many philosophical ways, such as:

    a. There are no Buddhists in the Congress. I look up the open record and show that to be correct.
    b. I don’t have pennies in my pocket. I turn my pocket inside out, lo and behold, I find two pennies.

    Then there is the misuse of “prove.” Even scientists are careful in the use of the word, because of the realm of theory. What is a given theory is overturned? Ulp. Math uses proof, but in a very different manner than a geologist (Geologists are apt not to use the word again because of theory or hypotheses. Show me a scientist who can prove the Big Bang, and I will show you a philosopher.

    Mormonism is not only heretical but a lie, and that is the reason many are leaving it in droves. It is false theology from false prophets.

    Be careful with premises.

  • Gadianton P. Robbers


    “You can’t prove a negative” isn’t the best figure of speech, but Jenkins’s overall point is fine.

    As for your post:

    “You can’t prove a negative” isn’t a negative. If it were, the fact that you can’t prove it wouldn’t make it self-contradicting. And if its truth made it false, which it doesn’t, then it still wouldn’t be self-contradicting, it would be paradoxical. Also, a self-referencing statement that is paradoxical is not meaningless — “this statement is true” is meaningless, “this statement is false” is paradoxical.

    Your b. example refutes a negative, it doesn’t prove a negative. If you claim your pockets are empty, and you search them and discover two pennies, then you’ve refuted a negative. That’s like an atheist saying God doesn’t exist and then discovering God. That’s not proving a negative; proving a negative would be proving God doesn’t exist or that the pocket is empty. I’m not so sure you’re leaving folks dumbfounded with this stuff.

    But it gets worse, because you directly contradict yourself by saying proof is the realm of math, and that empirical investigation can’t prove anything. In other words, you’re saying you can’t prove a negative such as in your example a — the open record could be wrong, so it’s forever tentative.
    I think you’re getting confused in drawing from multiple sources without seeing the connections. Decide if you can extend the word “proof” to cover inductive reasoning/statistical reasoning. If yes, then you can prove a negative as well as a positive with the understanding it’s never black and white. If no, then don’t say you can prove a negative formally because that doesn’t address existential claims. You’re equivocating the word “negative” when you do that.

  • AFBooks

    Thanks for misquoting me several times and by doing so, you raise a straw man, “But it gets worse, because you directly contradict yourself by saying proof is the realm of math, and that empirical investigation can’t prove anything.”

    >>>””You can’t prove a negative” isn’t a negative.”

    Yes it is just as a square circle and married bachelors. The very fact that the statement is asserting a negative makes it a linguistic negative.

    >>>” the open record could be wrong, so it’s forever tentative.”

    Not when the open record is the primary source. Forever tentative? Oxymoron and contradiction. Oops. That contains a large part of Moroni’s name.

    >>>”If yes, then you can prove a negative as well as a positive with the understanding it’s never black and white.”

    And that is what I said except for the metaphor in your conditional statement in your final prepositional phrase. You do not define how you apply your metaphor, thereby making it a nebulous application to your premise and becoming a false analogy.

    >>>”If no, then don’t say you can prove a negative formally because that doesn’t address existential claims.”

    I never claimed this. You raise a straw man AND a false dichotomy. Just because you establish a yes or no claim does not mean that those claims are the only available options, especially when you raise nebulous terms you fail to define (i.e., “existential”) while not providing an antecedent to your pronoun (“that’). Next time, try not being so highfalutin. You might get a nosebleed up there.

  • dillet

    All you “enlightened” critics would do well to consider a different paradigm, such as those raised by “Mormon’s Codex” by John L. Sorenson, and the Old World evidences raised by Hugh Nibley in “World of the Jaredites” and “Lehi in the Desert”. For example, Brian Stubbs, a recognized expert in Uto-Aztecan language families, reported as long ago as 1996 that ” the similarities (lexical, morphological, and semantic combinations) between UA and Semitic number about 1000.” He’s done a lot more since then. Those of you who expect to be shown a road sign saying something like “Welcome to Zarahemla,” or Nephite coins–when the Book of Mormon clearly references a “monetary” system of weights and measures (and identical systems are still in use in parts of Latin America)–are expecting to force New World cultural evidences for the Book of Mormon into inappropriate pre-determined physical molds.

    Keep in mind that the over-riding purpose and greatest value of the Book of Mormon is not it’s archaeological context but the doctrinal and spiritual witness of vast and wonderful truths. As a second witness for Christ it is unparalleled. This book is not as easy to dismiss as you presume.

  • Gadianton P. Robbers


    Your apologists would flush all of their cultural parallels for a single coin if they could find one. You may recall the unrestrained celebration over the alleged discovery of the two-syllable word “Nahom”. Welcome to Nahom. That’s exactly the kind of road sign the apologists dream of while they work to keep expectations low citing parallels and testimony.

    The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain contains the most eye-popping potential literary influences on the Book of Mormon ever discovered. I don’t think there is a clear verdict on that influence but I will tell you one thing. That case is about 1000 x stronger than any of the alleged Near East influences on the Book of Mormon.

  • Wayne Dequer

    All books have some parallels. Having read both the Book of Mormon (see ) and “The Late Great War Between the United States and Great Britain” (see and/or,_between_the_United_States_and_Great_Britain,_from_June,_1812,_to_February,_1815 the parallels are only superficial similarities in wording.

    Almost since its publication, various theories as to the origin of the Book of Mormon have been suggested (see ). None of them stand up to serious scrutiny including “The Late Great War” (see,_between_the_United_States_and_Great_Britain,_from_June,_1812,_to_February,_1815%27%27%3F ). “The Late Great War” is one of the more recent suggestions and is based on computer analysis. The articles making this case are well presented at a number of internet sites including and . For those with confirmation bias toward disproving the LDS faith these may provide interesting ammunition.

    Dillet and I have an obvious confirmation bias toward taking the Book of Mormon seriously. Dillet has provided good references supporting an Ancient Near Eastern and God-given origin of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon itself says it may indeed contain the faults of men (see ). So, I simply invite all with serious questions about these supposed parallels to read substantial parts (preferably all) of both books and reach your own conclusions.

  • philipjenkins

    And can you give me a list of the refereed journals in which Mr. Stubbs’s startling findings were published?

  • Wayne Dequer

    It seems to me that “dillet” built a reasonable case that stands on several legs including: 1) “Mormon’s Codex” by John L. Sorenson, 2) Old World evidences raised by Hugh Nibley in “World of the Jaredites” and “Lehi in the Desert”, 3) the Stubbs contention that there are many sound and meaning similarities between Uto-Aztecan and Ancient Near Eastern Languages [see Reviewed Work: Uto-aztecan: a comparative vocabulary by Brian D. Stubbs Review by: Kenneth C. Hill International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 78, No. 4 (October 2012), pp. 591-592. Further Stubbs somewhat uniquely is very familiar with Navajo and Ancient Near Eastern Languages (see biographical notes on pg. 16 at], 4) Book of Mormon system of weights and measures (see including footnotes), 5) the concept that archaeological proofs are not necessary for the doctrinal and spiritually instructional issues of the Book of Mormon. Professor Jenkins has chosen to attack the credibility of one of those legs while “dillet’s” thesis is still supported without challenge by the other legs of the argument.

  • philipjenkins

    No, no, I utterly reject the credibility of all those five legs, none of which begins to put a vaguely plausible case.

    Now, here’s an interesting question. You cite an academic review from the International Journal of American Linguistics. Yet I just read the review, and it does not support Stubbs at all on the Semitic parallels, or even (more interestingly still) mentions that he holds those theories. Do you think it does? If not, why do you cite it thus? As I read the review, it simply reviews Stubbs as a scholar on Uto-Aztecan without mentioning the Semitic/Egyptian stuff, the alleged “similarities between Uto-Aztecan and Ancient Near Eastern Languages.”

    Don’t you think that’s an awfully misleading way of citing a text? Aren’t you trying to give the impression that Stubbs’s Semitic theories have some kind of support in a refereed journal? Which as far as I can see, they don’t – if I am wrong, please correct me.

    Explanation, please.

  • Wayne Dequer

    Professor Jenkins,

    Thank you for your interesting comment. I understand that you are “utterly reject[ing] the credibility of all those five legs, none of which begins to put a vaguely plausible case.” However, you have not explained why you reject them. On what basis are you rejecting each? It seems to me you are rejecting scholars who are well educated with appropriate degrees from secular Universities and you reject their work without dealing with their specific arguments and documentation. Was that what your professional training as a scholar has encouraged you to do? Is this scholarship or, perchance, pontification? Why should we consider your expertise and qualification as more credible than theirs?

    I have dealt with the Stubbs reference I provided elsewhere in a reply to you. It is difficult to access that source I provided for those of us who are not professional academics. What does the review say about Stubbs as “it simply reviews Stubbs as a scholar on Uto-Aztecan”? What are Kenneth C. Hill’s qualifications to make such comments? Is the Journal cited a refereed journal? Why or why not? What is your expertise in linguistics in rejecting the Stubbs’ findings and thesis?

    Hopefully I have provided some of your requested explanation. Again, thank you for your comment.

  • May flowers

    Here’s the truth of the matter, their Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible.

  • CW

    There are examples of Type II Mediterranean columns sitting in a little un-renowned archaeological museum in Venezuela. Found in the river, they’ve been there for decades and show an architectural and/or trade connection with the Mediterranean from ancient times. One thing archaeological scholars know best is that they don’t know everything, and there are plenty of discoveries to be made in the New World regarding archaeological finds, but not funds enough to find and catalog them. The columns are just one example. There are so many examples of trade and interaction with the Old World, and you can’t do a little Google search to find them, because this info is generally not hot on the Internet. It has also been around for a long time, so it is not new, and there aren’t exciting articles being posted about it.

    I’ve been in Central and South America and have seen these kinds artifacts there. You can reverse the research by visiting museums in Israel or other Near Asian/Mediterranean areas and see similarities in Mediterranean and Central American architectural ornamentation from 600 B.C. It’s sitting right there in the museums, which I have also visited. Many archaeologists have done and seen the same.

    I’m looking forward to seeing more work archaeological work being done in the northern half of South America especially. There is still so much to discover.

  • philipjenkins

    If you want to support any of those silly claims, find a cite in a real refereed journal. Otherwise, what you say is garbage. Nutty objects like this have been turning up in shady pseudo-museums for decades, waiting for gullible Americans.

  • Tom C

    You sound like the fellow who says the only reason we haven’t found horse fossils in pre-Columbian archeology, is that whenever archeologists find horse bones in their digs, the head archeologist asks: what’s that? If the colleague says: “It’s a horse bone….” Then the head archeologist says: “throw it away…it must be new!” How stupid Mormons must think every non-Mormon archaeologist must be!

  • Hillary Spragg

    test comment