The Nahom Follies

I wasn’t planning to write this piece, but so many of the comments on my earlier Book of Mormon posts have raised a particular point, and I don’t want it to seem that by ignoring it, I am conceding its value. The story also says much about how an authentic academic find metastasizes into popular religious folklore – a lesson for mainstream Christians, Jews and Muslims no less than Mormons.

I have been focusing entirely on the historicity of the Book of Mormon in its New World context. Despite that explicit goal, I keep getting questions on the lines of “What about Nahom?” which for many apologists seems to be the ultimate validation that yes, indeed, there is something in the Smith mythos. Supposedly, this is a site where Lehi stopped in the general area of Arabia, “the place which was called Nahom,” and in modern times, a related name with a NHM-stem has been found inscribed on some altars discovered in the region, in modern Yemen. The Book therefore (seemingly) reports something that Joseph Smith could not have known in 1830! Meridian Magazine breathlessly reports “Finding the First Verifiable Book of Mormon Site.” This is, literally, the only case where anyone still seriously pretends that they have some kind of archaeological support for the Book of Mormon, though they should be embarrassed to do so. “Book of Mormon Archaeology” is no longer an oxymoron!

Of course there is no such link.

Pure coincidence offers a more than adequate explanation for the supposed parallel – which, as I will show, is not even that close. When you actually look at the vaunted clincher evidence about Nahom, and understand how tenuous the alleged connections are, your response should properly be: when you get there, there’s no “there” there.

Just what exactly was found? Smith refers to a place called Nahom. The altar inscriptions, on the other hand, refer to a people or tribe. As a sober account in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies notes, one text commemorates Bi’athar, son of Sawdum, son of Naw’um, the Nihmite. Based on extensive analogies, that last name should refer to a family title, like Benjaminite, with no necessary suggestion that the ancestral family was linked to the burial site. Usually, such tribes did not construct places bearing their names, but that’s not an absolute.

And that’s it? THAT “is the First Verifiable Book of Mormon Site”?

To give the authors credit, they honestly cite the inscription word as Nihmite, without pretending it was “really” Nahom. Yet despite this precise quotation, the story morphs and expands in popular retelling, until it becomes something like “The Book of Mormon describes a place in Arabia called Nahom. And now scientists have discovered inscriptions using the same name at that very place! Whoa!” For Mormons, as for many other religious denominations, the Internet has vastly accelerated that process of folk-tale evolution, fueled by wishful thinking.

Even assuming that this was a close parallel, which it is not, there is no mystery about its origins. Smith was hugely inventive of names, even if he was pretty transparent about their origins. I have often walked by the Lehigh river, which likely gave its name to Lehi. Meanwhile, the region of Palestine/Israel is awash with inscriptions giving the names of people, tribes and places, into their many thousands. So also were the neighboring trading regions in the general region of Arabia – which were, incidentally, rich and fertile, and quite unlike the grim desert of the Book of Mormon accounts.

By the law of averages, the two lists of names – Smith and historical reality – had to coincide at some point. It would actually be far more astonishing if none of Smith’s invented names had a real life counterpart in the general region of the Middle East.

That correlation is all the more likely when you know how Semitic names work. Very often, peoples of the region used three consonants, without vowels marked, so DWD was the written form of what we call David. A name inscribed as NHM could be Nahom, Nuhem, Nahum, Nihim, Nehem, Nehim, Nihm, Nahm, Nihma, Nahma … I am making up the exact forms, but you get the point. The odds of some accidental correspondence are very high.

To quote John Hamer,

Although some apologists have described the odds of this Nahom/Nihm/”NHM” correlation as “astronomical,” it hardly even rises to the level of notable coincidence. The Book of Mormon derives its names from a book that has Semitic sources, i.e., the King James Bible. Many of the names in the Book of Mormon are just plucked directly from the Bible, e.g., “Lehi” (Judges 25:9), Laban (Gen. 24-30), Lemuel (Prov. 31:1-9). Other names, however, use the Bible as their inspiration with alterations, e.g., “Jarom” (“Joram” 2 Sam. 8:10), “Omni” (“Omri” 1 Kings 16:16), “Nehor” (“Nahor” Gen. 11:22). “Nahom” easily fits into the latter category: “Nahum” is actually a book of [the] Old Testament.

I will argue with him about the origins of “Lehi”!

You should read the funny analysis of the shifting apologist claims in these matters. It concludes, “To make this fit we have to make several assumptions: A linguistic assumption that Joseph’s English Nahom, which he allegedly translated from an unknown Reformed Egyptian language, is connected to the Nihm tribe in Yemen. An assumption that there was a place in 600 B.C. named after the Nihm tribe…. ”

One other critical point seems never to have been addressed, and the omission is amazing, and irresponsible. Apologists argue that it is remarkable that they have found a NHM inscription – in exactly the (inconceivably vast) area suggested by the Book of Mormon. What are the odds!

By the way, the Arabian Peninsular covers well over a million square miles.

Yes indeed, what are the odds? Actually, that last question can and must be answered before any significance can be accorded to this find. When you look at all the possible permutations of NHM – as the name of a person, place, city or tribe – how common was that element in inscriptions and texts in the Middle East in the long span of ancient history? As we have seen, apologists are using rock bottom evidentiary standards to claim significance – hey, it’s the name of a tribe rather than a place, so what?

How unusual or commonplace was NHM as a name element in inscriptions? In modern terms, was it equivalent to “Steve” or to “Benedict Cumberbatch”?

So were there five such NHM inscriptions in the region in this period? A thousand? Ten thousand? And that question is answerable, because we have so many databases of inscriptions and local texts, which are open to scholars. We would need figures that are precise, and not impressionistic. You might conceivably find, in fact, that between 1000 BC and 500 AD, NHM inscriptions occur every five miles in the Arabian peninsular, not to mention being scattered over Iraq and Syria, so that finding one in this particular place is random chance. Or else, the one that has attracted so much attention really is the only one in the whole region. I have no idea. But until someone actually goes out and does some quantitative analysis on this, you can say precisely nothing about how probable or not such a supposed correlation is.

And to make an obvious point once more: the burden of proof on this – and the chore of crunching the numbers – belongs to the people making the claims. Nobody has an obligation to disprove anything.

But the Nahom argument also has a second and separate component, which must be treated independently. Here, we go beyond mere coincidence to propose a more concrete argument for a direct Smith borrowing.

Evidence for an actual place called something like Nahom in Yemen/Southern Arabia appears in European maps from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, so that, unlike the altar inscriptions, these were clearly known in Smith’s lifetime. A form of NHM (Nehhm) shows up for instance in the travel narrative and maps of Carsten Niebuhr, of the 1761 Danish Arabia Expedition, marking a location in Yemen. An English translation of his writings appeared in 1792, and copies were available in US libraries in the early nineteenth century.  This Niebuhr parallel is noted by an impeccably Mormon source. Critics, meanwhile, point to the work’s presence in US libraries at the relevant time. Other European maps also show a related place-name in the area.

On the one hand, this fact confirms the existence of Nahom as a place, although only in modern times, not ancient. (There is that irritating little matter of the two thousand-plus year gap between the “Nihmites,” wherever they lived, and the Ottoman-era settlement of Nahom). For the apologist cause, though, this is also utterly damning. The map evidence makes it virtually certain that Smith encountered and appropriated such a reference, and added the name as local color in the Book of Mormon.

Some European maps certainly circulated in the US, and the ones we know about are presumably the tip of a substantial iceberg. I have not tried to survey of all the derivative British, French and US maps of Arabia and the Middle East that would have been available in the north-eastern US at this time, to check whether they included a NHM name in these parts of Arabia. Following the US involvement against North African states in the early nineteenth century, together with Napoleon’s wars in the Middle East, I would assume that publishers and mapmakers would produce works to respond to public demand and curiosity.

So might Joseph Smith have looked at a map in a bookstore, been given one by a friend, seen one in a neighbor’s house, discussed one with a traveler, or even bought one? After all, there is one thing we know for certain about the man, which is that he had a lifelong fascination with the “Oriental,” with Hebrew, with Egypt, with hieroglyphics, with his “Reformed Egyptian.” He would have sought out books and maps by any means possible …. No, no, I’m sorry to suggest anything so far-fetched. It’s far more likely, is it not, that he was visited by an angel, and discovered gold plates filled with total bogus misinformation in everything they say about the Americas, but with one vaguely plausible site in Arabia. Ockham’s Razor would demand that.

And yes, I’m joking.

The apologists’ stance on these matters involves some deep ironies. They go to inordinate lengths to stress the improbability or (allegedly) the impossibility of Smith having access to any such maps or other materials. Just to make this clear, then. Issues of plausibility, probability, evidence, good sense and conformity to logic and science are vitally important in analyzing any matters potentially harmful to the Book of Mormon: we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation. If applied by scholars attacking that book, though, then such criteria are unacceptable, because they ignore the faith on which it is based, and which is higher than mere reason. In fact, such critical methods are probably a clear symptom of anti-Mormon bigotry. Got that?

Wisely, the LDS church makes no statements either supporting or doubting the alleged Nahom connection.

Is there even the ghost of a case here that needs debating or answering? Obviously not. And this is the best the apologists can do?

I could ask a follow up question. If the Lehi folks were still erecting inscribed monuments while they were crossing Arabia, why did they give up the practice (together with all traces of their writing, technology, pottery-making, metallurgy, architecture etc) the moment they hit the New World? Making a fresh start? And if they did keep up those skills and customs, where are the archaeological remains?

I have now formulated the Nahom Rule. Whenever desperate Book of Mormon apologists realize that their New World claims have failed totally, they will cite Nahom. Sadly, this too is built on shifting desert sands.

 

 

God, Gotham, and Jon Butler
Fertility and Faith, Continued
Fertility, Faith and Islam
Fertility, Faith and Politics
About Philip Jenkins
  • verysoreloser

    Is it possible that everything you wrote in this article is wrong?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    It is much more possible that the bom is entirely fictitious. Oh the realms of possibilities.

  • Darren

    “You might conceivably find, in fact, that between 1000 BC and 500 AD, NHM inscriptions occur every five miles in the Arabian peninsular, not to mention being scattered over Iraq and Syria, so that finding one in this particular place is random chance. Or else, the one that has attracted so much attention really is the only one in the whole region. I have no idea. But until someone actually goes out and does some quantitative analysis on this, you can say precisely nothing about how probable or not such a supposed correlation is.”

    Then go for it.

    “And to make an obvious point once more: the burden of proof on this – and the chore of crunching the numbers – belongs to the people making the claims. Nobody has an obligation to disprove anything.”

    And yet, here’s Philip Jenkins doing just that.

    “Evidence for an actual place called something like Nahom in Yemen/Southern Arabia appears in European maps from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, so that, unlike the altar inscriptions, these were clearly known in Smith’s lifetime. A form of NHM (Nehhm) shows up for instance in the travel narrative and maps of Carsten Niebuhr, of the 1761 Danish Arabia Expedition, marking a location in Yemen. An English translation of his writings appeared in 1792, and copies were available in US libraries in the early nineteenth century.”

    So, not only was Joseph Smith a wilde story teller taking names from the Bible and altering the, slighly but he looked at Arabian maps as well at the nearest library? When did he go to the library? When did he see these maps? Who told him of
    Nahom? (In addition, when did Joseph Smith have the Bible in front of him while translating the golden plates into the Book of Mormon? Was his memory photographic to just copy so much from the Bible and create a new story from it?)

    “He would have sought out books and maps by any means possible …. No, no, I’m sorry to suggest anything so far-fetched. It’s far more likely, is it not, that he was visited by an angel, and discovered gold plates filled with total bogus misinformation in everything they say about the Americas, but with one vaguely plausible site in Arabia. Ockham’s Razor would demand that.”

    Joking or not, which is it? The best way to explain the Joseph Smith story is the Joseph Smith story. If not, when did he see European maps of the Orient? Whose house was it in. Who else new Joseph Smith ‘sought out books and maps by any means possible’? Did Emma make any mention of his obsession with books and maps? Any other of Smith’s scribes? Did Joseph Smith write the book of Mormon in less than three months with little to no revision, continuing precisely where he left off after breaks with no other material in front of him by stealing so much information from other sources and making no notes of them for the Book of Mormon? I’ll go with the angelic visitation. At least that correspeonds well to biblical stories as well as first dentury Jews and Christian beliefs.

  • philipjenkins

    Perhaps you can help me with a problem. We know that when he was writing the Book of Mormon, Smith was engaging in the mass plagiarism of several (at least) books, on which he based his compositions. Do records of the purchase or possession of those books show up in Smith’s writings? Did his wife refer to him owning or reading them? Did his scribes? No? Not even VIEW OF THE HEBREWS?

    Strange, that. It suggests that they either did not know what he was reading, or weren’t going to talk about it. So why do you think it would be useful to seek their opinions about the possession or reading of any other book or literary materials? Either they didn’t know, or they would lie.

    You perfectly illustrate my point:

    “The apologists’ stance on these matters involves some deep ironies. They go to inordinate lengths to stress the improbability or (allegedly) the impossibility of Smith having access to any such maps or other materials. Just to make this clear, then. Issues of plausibility, probability, evidence, good sense and conformity to logic and science are vitally important in analyzing any matters potentially harmful to the Book of Mormon: we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation. If applied by scholars attacking that book, though, then such criteria are unacceptable, because they ignore the faith on which it is based, and which is higher than mere reason. In fact, such critical methods are probably a clear symptom of anti-Mormon bigotry. Got that?”

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    “we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation.”

    Does this include making sure we have “precise documentation” for whether Joseph Smith owned and actively engaged in “mass plagiarism of several (at least) books”?

    If so, I’d love to see your “precise documentation” for this claim.

    Can you document *precisely* that Joseph Smith owned and read a copy of “View of the Hebrews” sometime before the publication of the Book of Mormon in March 1830?

    Also, following your own standards, could you please show me some peer reviewed academic articles (not ex-Mormon websites) that *precisely* document this?

    Thanks.

  • philipjenkins

    Do read B H Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon.

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    I have read it. It’s not a peer reviewed, academic article from a mainstream scholarly journal.

    It was written in the early 1920s and only published some decades after Roberts’ death.

    Also, Elder Roberts offers no *precise* historical documentation for Joseph Smith having owned and read a copy of “View of the Hebrews” before 1830 (because there is none) and instead drew from parallels between the two books for the basis of his exercise in playing devil’s advocate (which is what he was doing, by the way).

    Try again.

  • philipjenkins

    You deliberately miss the point. Why do I cite Roberts? The book originated from a confidential study that the LDS church ordered when they were so spooked by the obvious resemblances between VIEW OF THE HEBREWS and the Book of Mormon, and this is a summary of his findings.

    The parallels between the two books are in fact overwhelming, certainly in structure. So close in fact as to make irrelevant the question of proving that Smith owned it at a precise point in the 1820s.

    You are very good at reading books and drawing exactly the wrong conclusions from them.

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    I haven’t missed any point. You said, “we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation.” I asked you for “precise documentation” for the claim you made that Joseph Smith plagiarized “View of the Hebrews.” Following your own standard, I also asked for a source from a peer reviewed, mainstream, non-Mormon academic journal to support your claim. You cited B. H. Roberts’ unpublished 1920s (can’t remember the exact year, though I want to say 1922) manuscript that was *never* peer reviewed and offers no “precise documentation” for the claim that Joseph Smith owned and read “View of the Hebrews” before 1830.

    So, on both of your points of criteria, Roberts doesn’t work.

    I’ll ask again, citing your own standard: can you please show me a peer reviewed, mainstream, non-Mormon academic journal that gives “precise documentation” for your claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized “View of the Hebrews”?

  • philipjenkins

    I’m not going to try Book of Mormon trivia with a fanboy. You know the standard literature on the making of the Book of Mormon. Find it yourself. And look up the words “obsessive compulsive” in a dictionary.

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    In other words, no, you can’t.

    Okay, that’s all I was wondering.

    Cheers!

  • Darren

    ” with a fanboy”
    Then why tango with the anti-Mormons? Aren’t they equal fans just on a different end of the spectrum?

  • philipjenkins

    It took me a while to figure out what this anti-Mormon stuff was. Let me elucidate.

    I reiterate: “I cite an article to demonstrate its existence, and that I have drawn material from it, whether or not I agree with it. Hence, I refer freely to LDS and anti-Mormon sites, to show for instance that, eg “One view holds X, another view holds Y”. This is normal scholarly practice. You are as wrong to assume that my opinions rely on anti-Mormon sites any more than they do on LDS sites. The worst scholarly sin is to draw material from any source without acknowledgment.”

  • Darren

    Exactly, you want to dance with the anti-Mormons but not a Book of Mormon “fan boy”. This makes you objective and Book of Mormon truth believers naively arrogant.

  • James or Not

    Arguing with apologists is like squeezing Jello – if you get them in one area they just shift to another and then call you the disingenuous one. As I’ve tried to warn you before, they hold to a completely different epistemology and only reach tentatively into science or scholarship if it looks like it might help their faith. I’m pretty sure when they refer you to FARMS/Maxwell Institute stuff for “peer-reviewed” material, they mean material reviewed by “peers”at FARMS/MI. Not exactly the same thing you mean.

    I have to admire your tenacity, and you may actually have a positive effect on some Mormon who isn’t quite so sure or so blinded to reality, but this handful of responders you deal with don’t realize just how far down the rabbit hole they are, so don’t see any problems with their thinking.

    By the way, it seems the new and improved MI at BYU has chosen to not pursue the discredited FARMS methodologies but are instead seeking some more credible avenues, much to the dismay of the old guard who seems to think that protecting the faith of the Saints was far more important than seeking real truth.

  • Darren
  • James or Not

    No lime with carrots? How non-traditional.

  • Darren

    LOL!

  • Darren

    “I have to admire your tenacity, and you may actually have a positive effect on some Mormon who isn’t quite so sure or so blinded to reality”

    Am I blinded to reality, James? Am I, am I, am I?

  • James or Not

    You sound as though you might be, Darren.

  • James or Not

    Hamblin just proved me right about “peer review” and FARMS over on Enigmatic Mirror and his “Jenkins Response #5”. I’m not particularly happy about it, I’d actually hoped for something, anything substantive, but he kept to the script.

  • philipjenkins

    Please note that technical glitches are slowing the appearance of my responses to his posts. He is doing his best on this, but the delays are frustrating.

    STOP PRESS My first comment is now up, but not the second.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/06/19/jenkins-response-5-peer-review/

  • James or Not

    Excellent rejoinder to Hamblin, but one I think he cannot directly respond to. He’s playing debate games instead.

    A few days ago I had written (above) my guess as to how he and his supporters might respond to your initial challenge concerning peer review, that their definition of peer review would be that the “peers” all belonged to FARMS.

    That he did so gives me no pleasure in having predicted it, instead just a sense of sadness that this handful of otherwise very bright men have appropriated and distorted meanings and practices like peer review and scholarship to fit their own ends. You and he are not talking the same language.

    As far as corroborated evidence goes, to put it crudely His gun aint got no bullets. He’s shooting blanks.

  • philipjenkins

    You said, “we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation.” Nope. Read the column accurately. (New idea for you!)

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    “The parallels between the two books are in fact overwhelming, certainly in structure.”

    Except that, you know, they aren’t:

    http://bit.ly/1IExauP

    “You are very good at reading books and drawing exactly the wrong conclusions from them.”

    And you are very good at ignoring your own standards for admissible evidence. So I’ll ask again: can you please show me a peer reviewed, mainstream, non-Mormon academic journal that gives “precise documentation” for your claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized “View of the Hebrews”?

  • cynth

    standards for admissible evidence do not require disproving imaginary events that you assert, that is your job : YOU have to prove what you assert.

  • philipjenkins

    See comment above about your misunderstanding, possibly wilful, of what I wrote about “we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation.”

    So yeah, “You are very good at reading books and drawing exactly the wrong conclusions from them.”

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    Yep. That was my bad. Should’ve been more careful.

    All the same, can you please show me a peer reviewed, mainstream, non-Mormon academic journal that . . . oh nevermind. You’ve already answered that.

  • philipjenkins

    Mr Smoot:

    How rare to see any admission of error on these boards! May I also be as honest as occasion arises.

    As I might have mentioned, you are high on my “good” list because you actually post under your real name. We can chat like civilized people (kind of).

  • philipjenkins

    I missed this. You quote “we need to be hyper-cautious, hyper-critical, and eschew any speculation not grounded in precise documentation.” as if it is something that I am expressing as my own view. Nope, if you read the article, you’ll see that this was a view I was attributing to Mormon apologists in certain circumstances. In other words, no, you genuinely do read things only in the way you want. Should I use flashcards?

  • Darren

    Philip;

    According to others who have read View of the Hebrews (I have not read it though I am familiar with some of the arguments of Smith using it to write the Book of Mormon) it is nothing like the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, recent analysis on the use of the “do command” from Early Modern English shows the writing “fingerprint” (if you will) to be distincly different from View of the Hebrews, the King James Version of the Bible, The Late War, etc.

    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/carmack-v14-2015-pp119-186-PDF.pdf

    Now, there is a problem and it is on your side. When did Joseph Smith gain knowledge of these literary sources? Who told him? When did he read these books? Whay library(ies) did he frequent? You made the claim that the proof of proving rests with those who make the initial claim. Well if external literature sources were Joseph Smith’s fountain of inspriation, why not engage in answering these questions? Your argument is nothing new, nor have they not been answered many times before. But at least be consistant and back up your claim as you exert others to do.

    As forvthe “plagiarizing” in the Book of Mormon, what are you talking about? Isaiah is quoted at length but he is acredited for the citations used, no? Now, how did Joseph Smith get all that Isaiah stuff into the Book of Mormon and *never* was there a remark by anyone, not even his scribes, that he had an other materials with him when translating the Golden Plates? An angelic vistation sounds much more plausible than him copying so much information from so other sources to creat the Book of Mormon.

    By the way, wasn’t one of your primary arguments against Nahom that NHM would be a common word throughout the Arabian peninsula, about one inscription every 5 miles or so I believe you said? Yet, here you are embracing the very thing you cite as fallacious proof for the Book of Mormon. Of course with all the maps and books available in Joseph Smith’s time, similarities will pop up. How do tou both condemn and approve the use of an approach at thecsame time?

    What you have not done (nor anyone else who have made your same arguments is place these sources in Joseph Smith’s hands. When did he get them? When and how did he learn of them? Again. The best way to explain the Joseph Smith story, including the reality of the Book of Mormon, is the Joseph Smith story.

    “Strange, that. It suggests that they either did not know what he was reading, or weren’t going to talk about that.”

    Or, he had no other reading materials with him. For such a fraud to be pulled off would require all who scribed for him to tell of just one moment when Joseph Smith faked the translation. But there is not one single claim from any of his scribes. None that I know of. How is a fraud kep as such a secret from a variety of people?

  • philipjenkins

    Nope, read the column. I never said that the name occurs every X miles anywhere. I said that as we have no quantitative evidence, we have no idea how frequent it is. It might be vastly common, or close to non-existent.

  • Darren

    Here’s what tou wrote: “So were there five such NHM inscriptions in the region in this period? A thousand? Ten thousand? And that question is answerable, because we have so many databases of inscriptions and local texts, which are open to scholars. We would need figures that are precise, and not impressionistic. You might conceivably find, in fact, that between 1000 BC and 500 AD, NHM inscriptions occur every five miles in the Arabian peninsular, not to mention being scattered over Iraq and Syria, so that finding one in this particular place is random chance. Or else, the one that has attracted so much attention really is the only one in the whole region”

  • Jack44M

    “I am familiar with some of the arguments of Smith using it to write the Book of Mormon) it is nothing like the Book of Mormon.”
    ….*nothing* like the Book of Mormon?
    The framework of the View of the Hebrews includes:
    Extensive quotation from the prophecies of Isaiah in the Old Testament

    Preaching of the gospel in ancient America

    Israelite origin of the American Indian

    Future gathering of Israel and restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes

    Peopling of the New World from the Old via a long journey northward which encountered seas of many waters

    Religious motive for the migration

    Division of the migrants into civilized and uncivilized groups with long wars between them and the eventual
    destruction of the civilized by the uncivilized

    Assumption that all native peoples were descended from Israelites and their languages from Hebrew

    Burial of a lost book with yellow leaves

    Description of extensive military fortifications with military observatories or “watch towers” overlooking them

    Change from monarchy to republican forms of government

    Sound familiar?

    “Can such numerous and startling points of resemblance and suggestive contact be merely coincidence?”
    (B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, (University of Illinois Press, 1985), p. 242)

    The View of the Hebrews was written, in 1823 by Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph), who was the pastor for the Cowdery family; and was widely distributed in the area. That’s a pretty strong connection to the author and the timeline and the content.

    If someone produced a photo of the View of the Hebrews sitting on Joseph Smith’s desk prior to the Book of Mormon, I would imagine you’d have some excuse to dismiss it.

  • Darren

    Early Midern English was a dead language by the time of Joseph Smith. How did he fake that?

  • philipjenkins

    Guessing that you mean “Modern”, he might even have had a source to hand, from which he plagiarized much of the text. Let’s make up a name for it. How about the “King James Bible”?

    Also, did you ever read Twain’s Shakespearean parodies in HUCK FINN? Brilliant stuff.

  • Darren

    No, read the link I provided. The Early Modern English language used for the Book of Mormon is distincly different than that of the King James Bible and anything Shakespere wrote. Its writing dates back much earlier than those sources. So, if Joseph smith copied a dead language from a source then what was his source? It is virtually impossible for the KJV or anything Shakespere wrote.

  • Neal Rappleye

    Dr. Jenkins,

    As a dreaded “Mormon apologist,” I have quietly paid attention to your various blog posts on the Book of Mormon, but have not felt a need to comment or respond. Frankly, your lack of engagement with the actual literature on these topics have made your comments so unrelated to the what is actually going on that it has seemed entirely unnecessary to respond. I understand why you do not really care to spend a lot of time dealing with Mormon apologetic claims, but I hope you will likewise understand why I therefore do not see a need to respond to you. It is not because I cannot withstand the scrutiny or because I do not want to be rigorous. It is simply because your critique is against a straw man, pure and simple.

    In this post alone, you make a number of assertions that are not only incorrect in terms of LDS apologetic claims, but they are simply factually wrong about NHM in Arabia. Perhaps it would suite you well to keep to the same standards you demand of the LDS apologists and stick to using peer-reviewed sources, since the ex-Mormon sources you lean on here (Mormon Heritic, Recovery from Mormonism, and Mormon Handbook) all make erroneous claims. For scholarly, peer-reviewed literature on the subject, you could start with Warren Aston, “The Origins of the Nihm Tribe in Yemen: A Window into Arabia’s Past,” in the Journal of Arabian Studies, vol. 4, no. 1 (2014): 134-148. Aston is, incidentally, a Mormon, but the journal he published in has no connections whatsoever to Mormonism. There are other related treatments, but you can find those through Aston’s footnotes, if you so choose. To my knowledge, Aston’s article is the most recent treatment of the subject in a mainstream scholarly venue.

    Or, you could pursue the work of LDS scholars on this subject. Their footnotes, too, will lead you to the most important sources in Arabian archaeology and anthropology on the matter, if you so desire to check them. I have a bibliography available on my blog, linked here for your convenience:

    http://www.studioetquoquefide.com/2014/01/an-lds-bibliogrphy-on-nahom.html

    Many of the issues you raise here, as if they had never been addressed, are in fact discussed in this body of literature, including: NHM as a tribal name vs. a toponym, the vowels in NHM and transliteration, whether it is a common vs. a rare name in Arabia, and whether Joseph Smith could have seen one of the maps by Niebuhr or others (and whether that is a likely source for the information in the text re: Nahom).

    As it stands, your ex-Mormon sources have led you painfully astray. For example, ex-Mormons are the only ones who seriously question whether Nihm was a place name in the mid-1st millenium BC. If you read Aston’s article in the Journal of Arabian Studies you’ll see that it is taken for granted there. Dr. St. John Simpson, senior curator of pre-Islamic archaeological materials at the British Museum in London, says the donor of the altars at Bar’an was from “the Nihm region, west of Mārib” (see St. John Simpson, ed., Queen of Sheba: Treasures from Ancient Yemen [London: British Museum Press, 2002], 166). Surely, this is an opinion that should be takne more seriously than John Hamer’s (who has exactly what qualifications, again?)

    The S. Kent Brown article you yourself cite explains, “the work of Christian Robin both on ancient tribal names that are noted in inscriptions, and on the relationship of these names to geographical places, indicates that the tribal name NHM (and others) has remained basically in the same place since it first appeared in inscriptions in the first millennium B.C. (Les Hautes-Terres du Nord-Yemen avant l’Islam I: Recherches sur la geographie tribale et religieuse de awl~n Qu~‘a et du pays de Hamd~n [Istanbul: Nederlands historisch-archaeologisch Instituut, 1982], 27, 72-74).” You don’t seem to realize that the NHM tribe and location are linked, and the place name came from the tribe. Since the tribe is generally believe to have been in that same place since at least the 9th century BC, it is generally assumed, by LDS and non-LDS scholars, that the place was known as NHM just as long. Reading the actual scholarship on both the Arabian place and tribe Nihm (also variously spelled Nehhm, Nehem, Nahm, etc.), as well as the work of Latter-day Saints applying this information to the Book of Mormon Nahom, instead of online rants for disgrunted ex-Mormons, could have helped you get a better handle on the facts.

    Similar problems persist in your other blog posts on the Book of Mormon. As I indicated above, I am hardly interested in going through them all. Nor am interested in having a long debate with you about it here. So, while you are welcome to make whatever comments in response you feel so inclined to make, don’t hold your breath waiting for a response. But I would like to extend an invitation. Latter-day Saint apologists are not afraid of critique from outsiders, but we would appreciate it if such critiques actually engaged our work. In August, a new book on the historicity of the Book of Mormon will be coming out by Brant Gardner. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the book, and I think it will be the best treatment of the subject yet. Gardner makes a diligent effort to pay attention to the issues of scholarly method, and to adhere to such standards throughout the volume. If you are willing to seriously review the volume and publish your review on this blog or elsewhere, I will personally have a copy sent to you as soon as it is available, free of charge. You can contact me through the contact form on my blog (linked to above) for more information, if you are interested.

    Cheers!

  • philipjenkins

    You make a reasonable offer, and your invitation to debate is well phrased.

    Really, though, this is not an area I want to pursue. I really have said what I want to say on the topic, and I believe there really is nothing else I wish to add. I engaged in this process to make points about history and pseudo-history, and I believe I have done so. My views are out there for anyone who wishes to read them. In my view, what I have said about the total and absolute lack of evidence in the New World utterly destroys any vestige of plausibility the Book of Mormon may claim as a historical or archaeological source. What else is there to say? If anyone makes any claims about vaguely plausible new evidence, linguistic, archaeological or genetic, I’m happy to respond. I am just not going round the same circles endlessly.

    There comes a point of frustration dealing with these issues where it really becomes hopeless. Either you enter the obsessions of the true believers, or you make your point, and leave it. I had planned to finish with these columns last week, but the frequent resort to Nahomism just called forth this last one.

    I see and acknowledge the credible sources you cite for Nihm possibly representing a place-name or region. I actually did leave that option open in my column, so I am easily open to persuasion.

    I did not cite Mr. Hamer on this placename/demonym point. His comments on names, though, seem to me indisputable.

    Journal of Arabian Studies certainly carries much weight with me, and I look forward to reading it. I am having problems accessing the Aston 2014 article tonight (my fault not yours), and won’t be able to get it till tomorrow. So can you help me: based on the title, this seems to be a straightforward history of the tribe, without reference to the alleged Book of Mormon material, correct? If in fact the JAS is publishing an article citing or stressing that Book of Mormon link, I will be impressed and surprised. But is it? Do you have access to the article? As I say, I will check it tomorrow.

    Reading what I have on the subject from Mormon sources on Nahom (eg in the FARMS publications), I have been repeatedly appalled to see how assumptions about Book of Mormon veracity have so dominated their interpretations that it is difficult to extract anything of value or plausibility. Even when they are trying for something like academic objectivity, they can’t let go.

    My coincidence argument stands, as do my comments about later maps.

    Nor do I see anything that affects my basic point that Nahom is an unbelievably weak resource on which to build any defense of Book of Mormon archaeology. If I was a true believer, I am sure I would find those arguments deeply convincing.

  • Neal Rappleye

    Dr. Jenkins,

    I will resist to urge to respond to other various assertions and simply answer your questions about the Aston article. I am also surprised that the Penn State library does not subscribe to it. Yes, I do have access to it and have a read it a number of times, including once today as a refresher before commenting. You are correct in your assessment that it is a history of the tribe and makes no reference to the Book of Mormon. My point, though, is that it was a means for getting accurate information about NHM, not that it is about the Book of Mormon. I will add, however, much of the information in it is salient to applications to the Book of Mormon, and virtually all the arguments he makes in that article were made first by Aston in relation to the Book of Mormon, as in his 2012 BYU Studies article.

    Also, for what it is worth, in a presentation at the Seminar for Arabian Studies, July 22, 1995, held at Cambridge University, Aston did mention the Book of Mormon reference when presenting a history of the tribe. I do not have direct access to that presentation, and learned of it through a personal communication from Aston.

    Best of luck in getting a hold of the article.

  • philipjenkins

    Well, this is startling. In his JAS article, then, Dr. Aston is tacking a very poorly documented period, where actual contemporary texts are as precious as diamonds. And here he has what he believes to be a strictly contemporary narrative text (a scripture, in fact) referring to the tribe’s territory and presumed capital. If genuine, this would throw huge light on the site in context, and offer invaluable evidence of long term trading and/or communication routes. It would also provide irresistible color to the narrative. I can’t imagine a scholar acting thus with a document he knew to be genuine. And as you point out, he could easily support the authenticity of the Nahom passage by referring to the lengthy list of supporting publications you yourself have collected at your website, lest the journal editors be in any doubt about the weight of the claim.

    Why on earth would he be so restrained? It is almost as if he was aware that the text in question is pretty universally recognized as a nineteenth century American fiction, and he should not attempt to cite it as a serious source in a scholarly journal, or he would instantly destroy his credibility. But let me not put words in anyone’s mouth. Perhaps Dr. Aston had other grounds for his discretion. Which would they be?

    Some other points. I looked at your bibliography, and groaned when I saw how many of them were from the basically worthless source of FARMS. Really? Of the 40-plus sources on your list, the vast majority are from hard core apologist outlets, and all but a handful are Mormon journals or publishers. I do see Terryl Givens’ book, which I recall is an epitome of the argument, rather than a detailed exposition (I don’t have it to hand, so correct me on that if I am wrong). Also the Aston 1995 paper, and Tvedtnes, which I have not read.

    I have seen several of the sources claiming to address Smith’s possible knowledge of the maps (and trying to show why he didn’t know them). They have all, happily, been superseded by the very recent apologist publications which delight in showing just how many European maps featured Nahom in the eighteenth century – aren’t we up over twenty now? With so sense of irony, they seem to regard this as a sign that even the best map-makers of the day recognized the importance of the place, and therefore they support the Book of Mormon! Of course, they shoot themselves in the foot, because they vastly increase the chance that Smith had indeed seen a relevant map. This is in fact by far the weakest part of the apologist case, and that is saying something.

    And you will have to help me here. I asked for a serious quantitative analysis of the prevalence of NHM related names in Arabia and the Levant. You say that your sources address the issue of “whether it is a common vs. a rare name in Arabia”? You mean that such a quantitative analysis has been done? Oh happy day! Where?

    By the by, my core argument – that there is NOTHING in the New World to support the Book of Mormon, and a very great deal running against it – has been floating around this blog for a month now, and nobody has seen fit to respond to my simple request for a piece of convincing evidence. Why do you think that is? Are all the apologists lying low because they are so confident in their findings? This point is critical to approaching the Nahom “debate”.

    Just as a refresher, here is my original 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.”

    Cue: deafening silence, tumbleweeds blowing through the empty streets, coyote in the background ….

    Let me offer a follow up. Assume for the sake of argument that the Nahom link is genuine, and this is a verifiable Book of Mormon site. (It’s not, but let’s pretend). So why do all, absolutely all, the Book’s claims for New World materials fail so totally? So we have an oasis’s worth of verification and a continent worth of falsehood. What do you think of a book with a thousand demonstrably false statements and one conceivably true?

    If the Nahom link was more substantial, I would tend to dismiss it as a lucky guess, but it isn’t even that, is it?

  • Neal Rappleye

    Dr. Jenkins,

    I believe I already made myself clear. I’m happy to have a serious conversation on the subject, but based not only on your unwillingness to read the writings of Mormon scholars, but also your utter disdain and contempt for them, and your well-poisoning against them, it is clear you are not. Now, again, I understand why you do not care to have a serious discussion of the nitty-gritty details of such a fringe subject (and I am more than willing to admit it is quite fringe). If I were you, I probably would not either. But given those circumstances, you and I cannot have productive conversation, pure and simple. You can, of course, keep polemically pounding away a single note which to me sounds terribly off-key, but please do not expect me to be impressed by your incessant and obnoxious pounding. (Since when was strident polemics “what scholars do” anyway?)

    You have my offer, which still stands and will remain a standing offer. I am happy to provide you with a copy of Brant Gardner’s book as soon as it is available in early August on the basis that you will write a serious review. Again, for convenience, I link to my blog.

    http://www.studioetquoquefide.com/

    You can reach me through the comments section if at any point you change your mind and want a copy of Gardner’s book. If not, well, okay then. Again, I totally understand. Why read and review a long book which will count for nothing to your employer, etc.? I get it. Really, I do. But then there is nothing productive left for you or I to say. Incedentically, you may be interested to know that Dr. William J. Hamblin, retired BYU history professor, has committed to responding to you.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/06/14/response-to-jenkins-1/

    Perhaps you’ll care to follow his response.

  • Ruben

    Hello Professor Jenkins:

    You write: “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.”

    Interesting question, worth investigating.

    Addressing a related issue, but not really directly addressing your question, I would like to inquire: Can you assume, for the sake of a thought experiment, that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be? Namely a book brought forth by the power of God that is a record of a people that actually existed?

    If you can assume that much, just for a moment, I would ask, what would you see to be the impact on humanity of the discovery of archaeological evidence that every non-Mormon archaeologist agrees establishes, without question, for example, the historical existence of a city having the name of Zarahemla in Meso-America, that fits descriptions in the Book of Mormon? Would such a discovery serve as a mandate that every single person in the world, not only believe in God, but believe in the Book of Mormon, and in Joseph Smith?

    If your answer to that last question is no, why would you answer so?

  • philipjenkins

    Let me give you an honest answer.

    If really credible evidence supporting the claims of Book of Mormon started showing up – in the form of, say, archaeological sites, inscriptions etc – I would have no obligation but to take the LDS very seriously indeed. If you assume a case (again as a thought experiment) where such claims became simply irrefutable, then I would approach that church as a very serious option. I can’t speak for the whole world, just for myself.

    The thought of joining the LDS church itself does not appall or terrify me, and I observe many people living very well and happily under its auspices, and leading excellent lives.

    I have already said that if a member of my family joined the church, I would wish them well.

    I might ask for an exemption about coffee…

    But here is my problem. After many years of digging and seeking, nobody has ever made what I consider a vaguely plausible case for a single aspect of the Book of Mormon, or the claims of that church. That gives me terminal doubts about its claims.

  • Ruben

    Thanks for the response. I appreciate your fastidious responses to the many visitors on your blog.

    Begging your indulgence again, in the thought experiment I proposed, if the archaeological claims for the existence of say, Zarahemla, were simply irrefutable, how could belief in the Book of Mormon be only “a very serious option”? What is the rationale for there being room for any doubt from anyone, anywhere?

  • philipjenkins

    In the scenario you offer, there would be no doubt.

  • Ruben

    Yes, I would agree with your take on that.

    Again, thanks for your indulgence.

    Continuing along that line of thought experiment (Book of Mormon is what it claims to be) — Believing what you do about the nature of God, and God’s ways and purposes and expectations with respect to the events and human experience on this earth, what would you think (I understand it is speculative) would be the will of God with respect to mankind’s discovery of irrefutable archaeological evidence unquestionably establishing the existence of, for example, Zarahemla? Would you say that God would be neutral on that issue? Or, that such a discovery would actually be contrary to his will? Or, rather, that God would want such discoveries to be made? What would be the reason(s) for your choice?

  • philipjenkins

    My final word here: I believe that Reason and inquiry are divinely inspired, and we are here to discover the Creation.

  • Ruben

    Okay, thanks for that thought, I think it worthy of consideration. However, I don’t see it as an answer to my questions. I assume that you don’t contend that it is, and I take it that you are not interested in answering the questions. Correct me if I am wrong on those points.

  • philipjenkins

    I did answer. My answer means that I think God does not mean there to be insoluble mysteries out there.

  • Ruben

    While you did answer, I do not see your answer to be a response to the questions I posed. I also do not see a general principle stated that, if applied, could suggest an answer to the questions I posed.

    As I understand your statement, to say that God does not mean for there to be insoluble mysteries, is to indicate your position about whether God desires for it to be impossible for mankind to come to knowledge of mysteries.

    However, my questions, in the context of the thought experiment I introduced, addressed the complete opposite extreme of the spectrum: whether God would desire or care about a scenario where it would be, in essence, impossible, considering the irrefutable archaeological evidence available, for mankind NOT to come to a knowledge of, in this case, the existence of Zarahemla.

  • philipjenkins

    I’ll do Inter-Library Loan, but it might take a few days

  • Magic_Stick

    If only one Mormon reads your articles and comes to the truth Dr. Jenkins, it will have been well worth the effort. The hold of this Mormon heresy is strong, and we know all heresies come from the Devil.

  • philipjenkins

    I am appalled to see that my Penn State library – where I am presently – does not carry Journal of Arabian Studies. I’ll gave to pressure them to order it, it’s a good journal.

  • Darren

    “I am appalled to see that my Penn State library – where I am presently – does not carry Journal of Arabian Studies. I’ll gave to pressure them to order it, it’s a good journal.”

    But, of course, Joseph Smiths local library in the puny populated Palmyra area of New Yourk had all the Arabian maps and literature to plagiarize. Yup, makes sense.

  • philipjenkins

    Read the column for several scenarios how he might have had access to a local knockoff of such a map.

    Save your skepticism for the Book itself.

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    Do you have “precise documentation” for any of these scenarios?

  • Darren

    Sir, when did he have access to maps or the information on those maps? We’re not talking scenarios. You yourself laid the burden of proof on those who make truth claims. You yourself place great faith on scientific, not speculative, claims to solidify the veracity of truth claims. Now, please, live up to your own standards.

  • ed2276

    Why is it that you demand absolute proof in support of the BOM, but you are quite willing to attack it, and Smith, relying on the likelihood of coincidence, “scenarios” and “might have” beens?

  • philipjenkins

    Seriously?

    Because proof and disproof are totally different things. I have zero obligation to disprove anything, it’s up to believers to prove. Different standards apply.

    In the case of the Nahom maps, believers have put a really weak case that depends on Smith not having access to the maps. I can’t categorically disprove that case, but I am showing that it’s pretty certain that he COULD have had access. Ockham’s Razor argues overwhelmingly that I am right..

  • ed2276

    The question that you raise as to the authenticity of the Book turns not on whether Joseph COULD have had access to the map, but whether he DID access the map, and ACTUALLY used information from it to create a fraudulent history. If he could have had access to the map, but didn’t actually access it and use Nahom from it all of your scenarios, etc. are irrelevant.

    As to who bears the burden of proof, you are the one implying that Joseph used the maps to conjure up the Nahom story. As the one raising the implication you bear the burden of proving that Joseph did use the map as the source for Nahom. Thusfar, all you have put forward to support your position are “scenarios”, “might have”, and “COULD” have. Those are nothing more than products of your imagination.

    When you come up with actual proof that Joseph DID access the map and DID use the information on it as his source for the BOM get back to me.

  • philipjenkins

    I have talked about this a good deal in posts, but here is a key point. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. If you are claiming historicity for the Book of Mormon, with all the attendant angels, visions, golden plates, etc, you had BETTER have something very, very solid to back it up. Hence, advocates and critics are working by different rules.

    Also, even if you discard the map idea, there really is no very substantial coincidence to explain – see earlier part of my column.

    Repeat after me: Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

    If you say, as most religious believers do, that this is a matter of faith, that is fine and perfectly supportable, indeed, beyond criticism. It is an internal and personal affair. The problem with Book of Mormon advocates though is that in order to support those claims, they have to make wide ranging statements about the known historical real world, and that is where the “extraordinary claims ” thing comes in.

    For example, I believe in Christ’s Resurrection. If I was to claim, though, that the Resurrection transformed Roman politics and caused the overthrow of the Emperor Tiberius, I had better be willing to substantiate that with very special and detailed claims.

    Do you know the phrase “non-overlapping magisteria”?

  • ed2276

    That doesn’t sound like scholarly methodology. He shouldn’t have skepticism about your scenarios and possibilities, which have not been confirmed, but he should be skeptical about the Book because its scenarios and possibilities have not been confirmed? You are a joke!

  • http://www.mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/ Dr. Shades

    Thank you, Neal, for responding to Dr. Jenkins by telling him, in your response, that you won’t be responding to him.

  • Endlesscircle12345678

    I love to see a peer-reviewed scientific journal article about resurrection and how a man who was crucified could be resurrected. I also like to see scientific articles on Jesus’s miracles, walking on water, healing the sick, angels, and revelation.

    Also, I think it’s obvious that the bible contains “mass plagiarism of several (at least) books/religions.” Now you might not care, but what kind of God plagiarizes the same stories that he then condemns.

    So based on science and not pseudo-science or Christian apologetics, or feelingsI would love to know how Phillip Jenkins can call himself an evangelical Christian. To me, based on his requirements, I understand why he would reject Mormonism, but can’t understand how he can still be a Christian who believes in his resurrection and divinity. I guess cognitive dissonance not only effects Mormons. A pot calling the kettle black.

    I think he needs to forget Mormonism, he has the burden of proof in his future posts to follow these same standards and explain why anyone based on science and reason should accept Christianity and a divine and resurrected Jesus.

    My guess he won’t try and will just try to attack low-hanging fruit, instead of defending his beliefs based on the criteria he has set out

  • philipjenkins

    And this has what to do with the Nahom Follies?

  • Endlesscircle12345678

    It has to do with your point in starting these series of essays. You have no scientific peer-reviewed journal backing up any important claims of your religion. It is like watching the emperor with no clothes on

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    By the way:

    “So also were the neighboring trading regions in the general region of Arabia – which were, incidentally, rich and fertile, and quite unlike the grim desert of the Book of Mormon accounts.”

    “If the Lehi folks were still erecting inscribed monuments while they were crossing Arabia”

    Have you even read 1 Nephi, or at least the part where Nephi and his family journey through Arabia? How *carefully* have you read it?

    It’s a serious question, because anyone who has read it carefully wouldn’t make these kind of statements about the narrative.

  • philipjenkins

    as to grim deserts: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    Keep reading (at least to chapter 17 where they hit Bountiful). What you referenced was a very specific part of their journey. (Probably around what is today called the Empty Quarter, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rub'_al_Khali)

    Again, if you’d bother to take the time to read the text carefully you’d see your mistake.

  • philipjenkins

    Hah! You got me. You know the arcane details of nineteenth century American forgeries better than I do. Why that’s a useful skill, I am not sure.

  • http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/ Stephen Smoot

    Well, call me naïve, but I typically like to actually know what I’m talking about before I make claims about things. Like, say, what a given text does and doesn’t actually claim in its narrative.

    Silly, I know. But can you blame me? I am a Mormon, after all.

  • philipjenkins

    I often make mistakes in details of Elvis Survival Studies. Possibly because the matter at issue is wholly bogus.

  • cynth

    no blame, Mormons are trained from birth to believe what they are told. Unfortunately, this training also extends to taking a conclusion as given and trying to twist every piece of information to support it.

  • Darren

    Are you so fortunate, cynth, to not have “been trained since birth” to believe what you do? You have no biases? By all means, do share your secret. Write a book and you’ll make millions, unless, of course, you have been “trained since birth” that making millions is bad.

  • cynth

    what relevance does your comment have to the discussion at hand? To return to the topic, starting with a conclusion that one is obligated to believe is true, and then being forced to twist every observation to match that makes for very bad science.

  • Wayne Dequer

    In 2003, Philip Jenkins published a book entitled “The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice.” Both scholastically and experiential, Jenkins has the background to write such a book. He has been a Distinguished Professor of History and Religious studies at Pennsylvania State University and Baylor University. He was a nominal Catholic until 1980 when he converted to the Episcopal Church. Baylor is a well regarded Baptist University. Of course I find the title of his 2003 book quite ironic, given this series of anti-Mormon articles in this publication, including the current one mockingly entitled “The Nahom Follies.”

    I do not use the term “anti-Mormon” lightly. I have no problem with probing questions and thoughtful criticism. I usually react rather mildly to even harsh and misleading statements because they are often made out of ignorance. However, there has been a significant body of anti-Mormon literature dating back before the formal establishment of the church (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Mormonism ). These sources regularly deny virtually all Mormon claims, quote and paraphrase each others’ misrepresentations non-critically, and circle-the-wagons to deny and mock any LDS scholarship.

    Professor Jenkins has repeated asked for evidence that supports LDS claims from mainstream peer-review academic journals such as found through JSTOR. Yet, in this article he has linked sources for his polemic attack is “Meridian Magazine” an informal pro-LDS on line magazine. One of his linked sources of counter-argument by John Hamar is another on-line site entitled “Mormon Heretic.” Another “source” he links to is “Mormon Handbook” which while trying looking like an LDS site is clearly an anti-Mormon source. Further he offers evidence from “Recovery from Mormonism.” These are weak sources indeed for any discussion of evidence supporting the Book of Mormon account in 1 Nephi of life in the Land of Jerusalem and the Arabian Desert.

    Jenkins criticism of the Nahom evidence fails on several level (probably because of his reliance on anti-Mormon sources):

    1) LDS scholars have consistently stated the NHM could have multiple translation given the way in which ancient written Semitic did not use vowels so his list of possible English translations is simply restating the obvious for those familiar with the literature.

    2) LDS scholars have frequently pointed out that a variation of NHM (or Nahom) was a historic location along the Arabian spice route and was shown on 1792 map in question (For instance: Jenkins cites the 2001 article at https://www.nephiproject.com/on__nahom.htm and John Gee in this 2008 article at https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/view/20243/18779 ). It isn’t secular scholars, or anti-Mormon sources, who have found the reference on the 1792 map. It’s the Mormons who find and discuss such information openly at LDS scholarly sites. The anti-Mormon sources then mockingly misrepresent LDS scholarly statements. This article is unfortunately continuing in that tradition.

    3) Did Joseph Smith find Nahom on 1792 map and choose to use it in the Book of Mormon? I don’t know for sure, but enlarging a facsimile of that map by 600% and knowing approximately where Nahom should be I had trouble finding in on the facsimile of the 1972 map! I find it quite improbable that Joseph Smith knew anything of the 1792 map or any of the other arcane information with which anti-Mormon sources have claimed he was familiar before the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 (see http://www.jstor.org/stable/43042727?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents and https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/…/7067/6716 ).

    4) Jenkins is “cherry picking” and then misrepresented information about Nahom to dismiss the many correlations between 1 Nephi and what we now know of geographic location and cultural details about Arabia and the area around Jerusalem in 600 B.C. He is also dodging the reality that there is archaeological evidence that NHM actually existed in the location portrayed in the Book of Mormon perchance because he has previously claimed so often that no such archaeological evidence exist [He does usually specify new world evidence. (see http://en.fairmormon.org/Question:_Why_does_%22Nahom%22_constitute_archaeological_evidence_for_the_Book_of_Mormon%3F )]. Many of these old world correlations have been clearly noted since the publication of “Lehi in the Desert” by Hugh Nibley in 1952. Nibley continued writing about those correlation in the 1957 “An Approach to the Book of Mormon” and “Since Cumorah” in 1967. The information about NHM is only one additional small piece in that substantial array of evidence. Most of this evidence seems to stand up well over times although a small percentage certainly does not.

    I have made a number of comments about these essays by Professor Jenkins. I appreciate him raising these topics and his unusual willingness to answer comments about his articles personally in spite of being frequently criticized. 5 days ago he commented: “I have already said all I really want to on the subject, and my remarks are in these posts for anyone who wishes to read them. I do not wish to hammer the same points again and again.” Clearly he has had more to say which is certainly his right. However, its scholarly value is slight given his approach and chosen sources. Unfortunately, in spite of his excellent scholarly credentials in some areas he has most clearly demonstrated that “Anti-Catholicism” is Not “The Last Acceptable Prejudice.”

    P.S. I am Not claiming that Anti-Mormonism is the last acceptable prejudice! Unfortunately socially acceptable prejudice and bigotry exists widely in our society on a variety of topics and beliefs, and too often especially in academia. Actually, The Book of Mormon describes this tendency pretty well in its discussion of the “great and spacious building” in 1 Nephi 8 and 12 as I have previously noted.

  • philipjenkins

    As I remarked, I thought I had said all I had to say, but the challenges of “What about Nahom?” kept on rolling in.

    You are in error on one thing. I cite an article to demonstrate its existence, and that I have drawn material from it, whether or not I agree with it. Hence, I refer freely to LDS and anti-Mormon sites, to show for instance that, eg “One view holds X, another view holds Y”. This is normal scholarly practice. You are as wrong to assume that my opinions rely on anti-Mormon sites any more than they do on LDS sites. The worst scholarly sin is to draw material from any source without acknowledgment.

    I also stress this. There is a great deal of anti-Mormon prejudice out there. I have in the past blacklisted and removed from sites stupid commenters of that kind. It is not acceptable to label my columns, which are founded on a scholarly approach to evidence, as anti-Mormon. That would be like denouncing a scholarly book as anti-Catholic because (say) it sought to present a radical and unorthodox view of the origins of the papacy.

    Your view, in fact, seems to suggest that any criticism, however grounded in scholarship, is of its nature bigoted or prejudiced. That is unacceptable for any creed. I have never written a single “anti-Mormon article,” ever, leave alone a “series of anti-Mormon articles.” That is a baffling and offensive characterization.

    You refer to my ANTICATHOLICISM book, in which I go to great lengths to draw a distinction between legitimate criticism and prejudice. I offer this sample: “it is quite legitimate to attack an individual or an institution, even if these are religious in nature. It is a quite different matter to say that some essential features of that religion give rise to evil or abuse, and that the evil cannot be prevented without fundamentally changing the beliefs or practices of the religion. It is not anti-Catholic to remark that Bishop A or Cardinal B is dishonest or criminal. It is more questionable to describe these actions as characteristic of a large body of Catholics, or to claim that the behavior arises from ideas and practices fundamental to Catholicism.”

    I have never imputed any kind of dishonesty or criminal behavior to Mormons as such, still less suggested that such behavior grows out of their religion. Nor have I attributed to them any other kinds of deviance, whether sexual misconduct, greed, superstition, nor ignorance. Nor, by definition, can I have attributed any such flaws to their faith. To the contrary, I have praised Mormon social programs, family values, and other features.

    Applying my definitions consistently, what I write nowhere comes close to anti-Mormon sentiment, and I want an apology.

    I absolutely reject any suggestion of anti-Mormon prejudice. Mormons are generally a good thing, and there should be more of them. (Obsessive Mormon apologists … not so much).

  • Wayne Dequer

    I’m happy to apologize for any offense I gave by discussing the similarity of your tactics and those used by virulently anti-Mormon critics. I already expressed appreciation to you for raising the topics under discussion and your unusual willingness to
    answer comments about your articles personally.

    I agree that you haven’t accused Mormons of criminal behavior or sexual deviancy as the worst of the anti-Mormons certainly do on occasion. However, you certainly do regularly accuse Mormons of general ignorance and by implication of superstition and dishonesty. Tossing an occasional bone of acceptance does not negate the generally mocking and patronizing polemic style you have chosen to use. While I have no problems with you raising the issues you have chosen and even your arguments, I have condemned your language of attack and academic arrogance when challenged.

    Further, the sources you cite in this article are generally not scholarly. Several of your sources are anti-Mormon, regularly carrying the types of attacks you say you would never countenance. The “Mormon Handbook” site to which you link is clearly designed to be deceptive about its purpose and viewpoint. Good scholarship would demand at least an acknowledgement of such obvious bias. I had hoped for better from you.

    Throughout your articles you have generally used pretty standard arguments prevalent now, and in the past, at anti-Mormon sites while wrapping yourself in the robes and authority of academia. Few of your arguments are available at truly academic sites, which generally ignore Book of Mormon topics. Since you regularly spout anti-Mormon positions while belittling and avoiding serious consideration of substantial LDS scholarship, what are we to conclude?

    I do see that you have followed your own code of fairness. Thank you for those efforts. I wish you well in your positive endeavors.

  • philipjenkins

    With respect to Mr. Dequer, no, I do not accuse Mormons of ignorance, superstition, dishonesty… (at least, no more than any other group of religious believers or secularists). Nor do I believe that they fit those patterns. As I have tried to say, mainstream Christians are on far better grounds with their scriptures, but most could do no better job of explaining why they should be so confident – they certainly don’t understand historical methodology. Many also succumb regularly to bogus claims about pseudo-scriptures and fads.

    “Dumb” transcends denominations.

    What intrigues me is that the LDS people with whom I have exchanges on this topic are, I assume, often highly educated professionals or academics, with unquestioned critical acumen. They are highly literate and widely read. It baffles me why they often present arguments that strike non-Mormons as naive and credulous (and that is in no sense a dig at Mr Dequer). This suggests a remarkable disconnect between attitudes to religious and “real world.” matters.

    And no, that is not an argument that “the world” does not understand religious faith. This is a much more sweeping refusal to apply critical standards to scripture, far beyond what you would get with any comparable group of mainstream Christians.

    As to a polemical tone, or arrogance … have you actually observed the normal tone of the great majority of Mormon apologists when anyone dares venture into the realm of Book of Mormon historicity? (NOT YOU). And what you see on the boards is what’s left after I have purged the shrieking obscenities from the list. It’s very hard indeed not to respond forcefully.

    So no, I don’t just differ from anti-Mormons in tactics. They are anti-Mormon. I’m not.

    As to specifics. You write “Further, the sources you cite in this article are generally not scholarly.” No. My approach throughout that piece is wholly scholarly, unlike the pro-Nahom claims I quote. I illustrate my argument with a couple of cites to pages you obviously don’t like, one for humor value, one because it makes a point I agree with very concisely. Do not imply that my argument there is non-scholarly.

  • Wayne Dequer

    I appreciate your thoughtful exclusion of me from blanket criticisms about what you often see in other religious zealots. I too see some of those general tendencies in many (but certainly not all) Mormon commenters. I believe that tendency is decreasing over the last couple of decades.

    If you are actually interested in a more scholarly discussion I suggest you respond in this on-line publication, “patheos,” to Professor William Hamblin’s essays at “Enigmatic Mirror” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Hamblin for Hamblin’s academic qualifications). He has specifically invited you to discuss the topics especially in his “Jenkins Response 3: Rules of Engagement” at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/06/15/jenkins-response-3-rules-of-engagement/ .

    His previous posts were an introductory one, entitled “Response to Jenkins 1” at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/06/14/response-to-jenkins-1/ , and a fairly clearly stated appraisal of your academic qualification entitled “Response to Jenkins 2: Expertise” at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/06/15/jenkins-response-2-expertise/ .

    I look forward to following what I hope will be a lively discussion, and continue to wish you well in all of your positive endeavors.

    P.S. For interesting comments on the problem of zeal without knowledge see Proverbs 19:2, Nibley’s comments on the topic at http://emp.byui.edu/ANDERSONKC/Zeal%20Without%20Knowledge.pdf and Kennan’s quotation from Gibbon at http://ytspar.tumblr.com/post/704974157/from-enthusiasm-to-imposture-the-step-is-perilous .

  • philipjenkins

    Thanks for the heads up about Dr. Hamblin. I just sent him a (non-ironic) note welcoming his series. He is a very good scholar of ancient warfare.

  • cynth

    quote: “However, you certainly do regularly accuse Mormons of general ignorance and by implication of superstition and dishonesty.”
    What I am reading is that the OP is responding to posts that represent non-scientific arguments; if by your quote you interpret that those non-scientific posters are all Mormon, there may be a conclusion for you to derive from that.

  • http://learnaboutchrist.info/ Qwerty

    Your argument still goes back to the problem of discrediting the Bible. There is no proof, archaeologically, for the first 5 books in the Old Testament. There is no proof of the garden of Eden, no flood, no Abraham, no time in Egypt, no Exodus from Egypt. Thus the foundations of the Old Testament break away leaving no proof of any of the rest of the Bible. We have no proof of the kings, etc. With the New Testament there is no proof that Jesus was born, no record outside the Bible of the Star of Bethlehem or the murder of Jewish children. The martyrdom of Stephen was suppose to be a big deal yet there is no proof he or Paul ever lived.

    I am not saying this to disprove the Bible but to point out that you can’t use science to prove things we have faith in. As I have stated before, even if archaeologists found gold plates with reformed Egyptian matching the letters Smith copied from the gold plates or they translated a sign that said “Zerahemla 5 miles north” that wouldn’t prove the Book of Mormon or the Bible true. I fear your arguments come from the vein of atheist thought more than Christian. If you want to say you’ve read the Book of Mormon and you don’t think they are scripture, I can’t argue with you. That’s faith – belief. I’ve read the Song of Solomon and I have no testimony of them as scripture on par with the rest of the Bible or the Book of Mormon. I have read the Quran and I didn’t feel God talking to me in them, so I get it if the Book of Mormon isn’t for you. But to pretend that your arguments are only against the Book of Mormon would be a fallacy as they work just as well against the Bible.

  • philipjenkins

    You say “But to pretend that your arguments are only against the Book of Mormon would be a fallacy as they work just as well against the Bible.” No, they don’t, they are utterly and diametrically opposed.

    I don’t wish to get into a point by point battle on this, but let me give you one massive fundamental difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. There is no doubt that between, say, the 13th century BC and the 5th (to take a random date) the region of Palestine was definitely inhabited by a range of people whose ethnic identities we are absolutely confident of. One among them was Hebrew, and we know the languages spoken at the time and place. (We also have a great idea of who the Canaanites, Philistines, etc were). This is all confirmed by extensive inscriptions, pottery evidence, etc. Also, those identities are thoroughly confirmed by texts and narratives from nearby societies, eg Assyrians, Egyptians, etc. In some cases, we can be quite sure of the individuals involved. We can be quite certain of the real identity of many of the places.

    As one example from a great many, check out the Moabite Stone

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesha_Stele

    Now, I would argue that we know a lot more than this, but I just offer that as a minimal floor. Your remarks about Jesus, Paul etc are simply not supportable, but let’s leave that aside right now.

    In contrast, the Book of Mormon depicts peoples, states, societies, ethnicities, languages, etc, none of which has ever received the slightest degree of confirmation, zero. None of the peoples, none of the places.

    So the difference is: we know that the peoples described by the Bible really were there. We have not the slightest shred of proof that the peoples described by the Book of Mormon were.

    If that does not seem to you a total and overwhelming night and day distinction, I fail to see how I can make that point clearer.

  • http://learnaboutchrist.info/ Qwerty

    The Book of Mormon states the Babylonians conquered Israel, so that makes it just as true as the Bible, by your logic.

  • philipjenkins

    Um, no it doesn’t, not vaguely.

  • http://learnaboutchrist.info/ Qwerty

    It’s the same logic. Lehi left the Old World around this time and others left the Old World after the Babylonians conquered Israel, so these facts DID happen and the Book of Mormon is true. I, of course think this is as ridiculous as your reason for rejecting the Book of Mormon. But, that’s my point.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Its always amazing how the most basic concepts can be entirely ignored by the anti-Mormon writers. Anyone who has studied Christianity even remotely should understand this basic concept reflected many times in the Bible as well as teaching. God wants us to walk by faith not by sight.

    Does it ever cross your mind that if an all powerful God wanted us to know he existed he could have figured out a way to prove it by now? If God wanted scientific proof that the BoM was true wouldn’t he just have left the Gold plates?

    The hypocrisy of this author is astounding. I really don’t know why RCR references his articles/blogs. He claims he has no obligation to prove the BoM is false, and yet he claims it is. Then he mocks those who claim it is true without showing him proof.

    And yet for all the so called evidence against the BoM, when you ask the anti-Mormon’s what disproves the BoM, they usually refer to some weak DNA evidence (which by their rationality also disproves all religions too).

    So for anyone interested in knowing if the BoM is true, please read it. Ask yourself if a 21 year old uneducated farm boy could have written it. Don’t take my word, and certainly don’t take this author’s word. Just read it, and learn for yourself.

  • philipjenkins

    The Book of Mormon reads to me exactly like the work of a self-educated rural young guy with a burning interest in religion and a magpie instinct for any and all weird and wonderful ideas he could lay his hands on. And everything in it shrieks that it was composed by someone deeply involved with the concerns and interests of the north eastern US in the 1820s.

    Stand up, Joseph Smith!

  • dillet

    A 21-year-old rural, uneducated farm boy simply would not have had access to the libraries and institutions and sources that Might have had materials he could have drawn from, let alone that obscure 1790 map. He would also have needed months, if not years, to locate and digest the volume of information that would have been required and he never even went near such places.

    And yet Smith produced the BoM in a remarkably short period of time.

  • Darren

    “A 21-year-old rural, uneducated farm boy simply would not have had access to the libraries and institutions and sources that Might have had materials he could have drawn from, let alone that obscure 1790 map.”
    You mean the Palmyran Public Library did not have that map on hand in Joseph Smith’s time? Perhaps they could have did an inter-library loan like Penn State Library does today.

  • philipjenkins

    How right you are, they did not have inter-library loan then. What they did have was very extensive and ingenious means of obtaining books, pamphlets and other published materials, through cheap reprints, networks of friends borrowing and lending items, people traveling to larger towns and bringing things back, encounters with travelers, and so on. You can easily read about this in many good books on the topic. America in the 1820s, in fact, was probably the world’s most bookish culture, with access to reading material reaching all parts of the country and, to varying degrees, all social groups.

  • Darren

    “What they did have was very extensive and ingenious means of obtaining books, pamphlets and other published materials, through cheap reprints, networks of friends borrowing and lending items, people traveling to larger towns and bringing things back, encounters with travelers, and so on.”

    That’s actually neat to know. Thanks for the heads up on that.

  • philipjenkins

    By far the best book on all this is Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, eds., An extensive republic : print, culture, and society in the new nation, 1790-1840 (Chapel Hill : Published in Association with the American Antiquarian Society by The University of North Carolina Press, 2010.)

    I quote:

    “Volume Two of A History of the Book in America documents the development of a distinctive culture of print in the new American republic. Between 1790 and 1840 printing and publishing expanded, and literate publics provided a ready market for novels, almanacs, newspapers, tracts, and periodicals. Government, business, and reform drove the dissemination of print. Through laws and subsidies, state and federal authorities promoted an informed citizenry. Entrepreneurs responded to rising demand by investing in new technologies and altering the conduct of publishing. Voluntary societies launched libraries, lyceums, and schools, and relied on print to spread religion, redeem morals, and advance benevolent goals. Out of all this ferment emerged new and diverse communities of citizens linked together in a decentralized print culture where citizenship meant literacy and print meant power. Yet in a diverse and far-flung nation, regional differences persisted, and older forms of oral and handwritten communication offered alternatives to print. The early republic was a world of mixed media.”

    Leaving aside any debates abut the book of Mormon itself, anyone interested in early Mormon history should be reading that EXTENSIVE REPUBLIC book, because it tells you everything you need to know about reading cultures in the 1830s, how people got books, printed books, circulated them…

    This mainly covers a later period, but you get a sense of all this too in Richard H. Brodhead, Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America.

  • philipjenkins

    There was a small typo in your comment. You spoke of “weak DNA evidence” when you should have written “massive, irrefutable, and utterly convincing DNA evidence”. An understandable error.

    And no, such DNA evidence is irrelevant to “disproving” other religions. In the Jewish case, eg, recent finds seem to confirm traditional claims to an astounding degree. So what are you talking about?

  • Darren

    Now I join with Jeff Lindsey and admonish others not to “get too excited” over this recent find but the DNA gap may be closer than you think, Mr. Jenkins:

    “Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.”

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

  • philipjenkins

    That was a great story! Your lack of excitement is very well advised though, as those ancient levels of non-East Asian DNA are easily distinguished from the kind of markers we would get from something dating back two or three thousand years, especially when connected with well-studied populations like ancient Jews and Levantines.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Its funny, because that is exactly what I was talking about. You claim that the non-East Asian DNA is not from the BoM because of DNA markers, which assume Eve lived 100,000 years ago. If she lived only 6-8,000 years ago then it makes sense with the BoM.

    So, what I don’t understand is this. Why do even bother trying to disprove the BoM? If you believe what you claim about DNA evidence, then why don’t you just try to prove that God doesn’t exist at all (also disproving the BoM)?

  • Darren

    Most likely but I strongly suspect you have no idea what those markers of 3,000 years ago would look like.

  • Darren

    And my main point stands: the gap purported in the DNA argument is not as wide as you previoulsy thought. If you use science including genetics and archeology as a rubric, then it is very safe to conclude that these will further vlaidate the Book of mormon over time. I for one do not need to wait for man’s science to catch up with God’s truths though. I already know it is true since God has told me it is true. As for man’s science, place your faith in it and absolute truths will most likely be placed on hold for you.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    God told me that the BOM is false. Bad bible fan fiction. What now?

  • Darren

    What now? Go with God. Follow the dictates of your own concience. You’re more than welcome to join me or pretty much and LDS member for church and other activities and I cannot nor will not deny what the Holy Spirit has told me numerous times that the Book of Mormon (and the Bible) are true but I cannot dictate to you the manifestations of the Holy Spirit to you personally.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball
  • Darren

    “There is no doubt that between, say, the 13th century BC and the 5th (to take a random date) the region of Palestine was definitely inhabited by a range of people whose ethnic identities we are absolutely confident of. ”

    You post to Qwerty on 6/15/15 around 12:30 PM

    Could you explain, even in the simplest form, what that would do to the gene pool, thus the DNA, of that part of the world? What about when a small distinct group of people suddenly injected itself into a much larger gene pool. What would the likelihood be of detecting DNA markers of that small group after thousands of years of intermixing and / or eventual extermination of that smaller group? What would you find, Philip Jenkins?

    I didn’t think you had any idea. Here’s some enlightenment:

    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/is-decrypting-the-genetic-legacy-of-americas-indigenous-populations-key-to-the-historicity-of-the-book-of-mormon/

  • philipjenkins

    Help me here. I don’t see the connection between the quote you use and the question that follows. Can you explain your question? What would what do to the gene pool?

    As to small populations and their genetic inheritance, I have discussed that frequently in the last few columns., See for instance my passage on the Denisovans, and the survival of their markers after 40,000 years.

  • Darren

    Interesting read it seems. Is there a link?

  • philipjenkins

    You mean on the Denisovans? I linked to this on an earlier post, but just hit the wikipedia site and follow references there
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denisovan

    There is a great article here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/the-other-neanderthal/375916/

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Have you seen the movie Jurassic Park? One thing i like about that movie is that it actually discusses science in a reasonable way. It talks about how they find ancient dinosaur DNA in blood from mosquitoes. However, since it is old DNA it has holes and gaps. They have to fill in the DNA gaps with modern DNA from frogs. That way they can (in theory) create a dinosaur.

    Even though Jurassic Park is not real, the concept is correct. Modern scientists have to make assumptions about DNA. They feed those assumption into their equipment as inputs that are used with archaeological samples to produce outputs (data). If those input assumptions are accurate then the output data will be accurate (and vice versa).

    For example, in MtDNA studies they often assume the mother of all living people today lived about 100,000 years ago. Because of that assumption the results show that it is unlikely that the BoM could be true. However, if the mother of all living was actually Eve who lived 6,000-8,000 years ago, then the results are much more in line with what the BoM states.

    So, if your going to argue that the BoM is false based on this DNA evidence then you must also argue that the God doesn’t exist. Because that is the underlying assumption in all archaeological research.

    And most importantly, if you a Christian who believes the bible that Adam and Eve were our first parents, then there is no reason to believe the anti-Mormon claims about DNA evidence either.

  • philipjenkins

    Those dates are a major problem for fundamentalists. I am not sure how large a portion of the Christian world that term covers, but it certainly does not apply to many millions, who are perfectly comfortable with long term evolutionary development.

  • W Kumar

    You assume that all Christians hold to young earth creationism. They do not and many see no problem with an old earth that had a human population that is at least 100,000 years old.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Interesting comment. I believe the earth to be billions of years old. However, I believe Adam and Eve left the garden 6-8,000 years ago according to the bible.

    What do yo believe in regards to the history of man and Adam and Eve?

  • philipjenkins

    Personally, I don’t believe in historical individuals called Adam and Eve. I believe that human beings evolved, as part of a divine plan under divine guidance, shaping and inspiration. The first modern humans emerged probably closer to 200,000 than 100,000 years ago, presumably in Africa, but I am open to debate on that.

    It’s also remarkable that the story of Adam and Eve makes virtually no appearance in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible after the first couple of chapters, suggesting that nobody at that time thought it was a terribly crucial idea.

  • W Kumar

    I am not sure. I believe that genetics prove that humanity is far older than 6,000-8,000 years old (a recent New York Times article was about the genetic evidence of various migrations into Europe during the Bronze Age. These migrations are far older then those dates).

    Adam and Eve are a mystery to me. I don’t know how understand them in light of genetics, evolution, and fossil evidence.

    How do you unite the belief of a Earth that is billions of years old to a literal Garden of Eden?

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Good question. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I certainly don’t understand everything, but I can tell you how I think it works.

    First, I don’t think God is magic. He can’t tell the elements “Form a human”, and then they magically know how they should form. I think he picked the design of what a human body should look like. From there he decided to create a world not only with humans but also with plants and animals. I believe he guided evolution to manufacture all types of plants, animals, and eventually the human body. I believe the human body did evolve from primates. However, what anthropologists are seeing of human evolution hundreds of thousands of years ago essentially is an animal in a human-like body. At some point God decided he liked the evolved human appearance and took a male and female human body and placed it in a literal Garden of Eden. There he placed a human spirit in it.

    One interesting thing to note. Long ago they hypothesized that modern humans have been intermixing for millions of years. Now from DNA testing they believe all humans descended from the same male and female roughly 100,000 years ago.

  • Bruce Dale

    Dr. Jenkins:

    The genetic data are by no means “massive, irrefutable and utterly convincing”.

    A key problem is that we do not have a “control group”. “Control group” is scientific language for the question: “What is the DNA endowment brought to the Americas by the three migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon against which we are to compare Native American DNA?” Let me provide some details from the Book of Mormon, not from your assumptions about the Book of Mormon, that outline the complexity of this control group problem.

    The Book of Mormon records three migrations from the Old World to the New World. But it certainly does not rule out other migrations not recorded in the Book of Mormon and it does not rule out survivors from one migration remaining even if their societies are destroyed. To say that a society is destroyed (a frequent occurrence in the many wars recorded in the Book of Mormon) does not require that every individual in that society perish. Many may have, and probably did live on, and perhaps lived to pass on their DNA.

    The three migrations referred to in the Book of Mormon include the Jaredites, the Mulekites and the Lehites. The Jaredites came from Central Asia about the time of the tower—a very long time ago. All we know about them is contained in less than 30 pages of the Book of Mormon and much of the 30 pages deals with their wars with each other. The Jaredite people were always fighting, splitting off and founding new colonies in the New World. So we can’t rule out the possibility that some of the colonies survived the war of mutual extinction that finally ended the only Jaredite colonies that we do have record of. If some such colonies survived, then we have Central Asian DNA in the original New
    World genetic material, not just “Israelite” DNA.

    We know even less about the Mulekites. Their own oral history said that they came from Jerusalem around 600 B.C. But we don’t know what the genetic makeup of the Mulekite immigrant group was, so we can’t even begin to tell what they might have contributed to genetic background of Native Americans, if they did. When these Mulekites mingled with a small portion of the Lehite group in about 130 BC in a city/area/land they called Zarahemla, they were much more numerous than the Lehites, thereby diluting the Lehite genetic inheritance.

    Finally, who were the Lehites? They were the principal record keepers who gave us the Book of Mormon. According to the Book of Mormon, in about 600 BC, a prophet named Lehi led his wife (Sariah) and sons (no mention of any daughters in that family) and another family headed by a man named Ishmael (mostly daughters, apparently) and a former servant/slave named Zoram out of Jerusalem. Israelites were forbidden by the Mosaic Law to make slaves of other Israelites, so it is likely that Zoram was not of Israelite descent. Thus Zoram probably had some other genetic
    background, but we don’t know what it was.

    Lehi was a descendant of Joseph through Manasseh. Manasseh was the son of Joseph, the husband of Asenath, the daughter of the high priest of On in Egypt. Asenath was therefore a
    full-blooded Egyptian and may have passed maternal mitochondrial DNA down to her descendants, including Lehi. We
    don’t know the ancestry of Lehi’s wife, Sariah. Presumably she was “Israelite”. But we don’t know that and we also don’t know what “Israelite” DNA was like in 600 BC. That is a really big
    problem for drawing any conclusions from DNA evidence. Also, we don’t know Ishmael’s ancestry, but his name strongly suggests at least some Arab/Bedouin progenitors. Ishmael is the father of the Arabs and therefore “Ishmael” is probably not a name that a good Jewish mama in 600 BC would have given her boy.

    The Lehite colony divided itself into two groups (called Nephites and Lamanites) shortly after arriving in the New World. These two groups were political/religious, not ethnic, and there was a lot of mixing and wars between them until the visit of Jesus Christ to the American continent ended their conflicts and gave whoever the Lehite descendants were at that time approximately two centuries of peace. After this peaceful interlude, the Lamanites and Nephite groups formed again along religious/political lines and started warring again. It was not an ethnic division. The Lamanite group destroyed the Nephite group about 400 AD, ending the record keeping that gave us the Book of Mormon.

    Again, “destroyed” means that Nephite society was unmade, it does not mean that all Nephites were killed. In fact, we are informed in the Book of Mormon that some of these Nephites deserted over to the Lamanites. Thus we have no idea what
    genetic lines were lost from the initial Lehite colony in almost a millennium of warring (600 BC to 400 AD). We also don’t know what happened to the surviving Lamanite group in the 1100 years between the end of Book of Mormon history and the arrival of the Europeans. We don’t know if they intermarried with subsequent migrations, or with previous migrations not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. We don’t know how much of their own DNA pool they destroyed in the small and large scale wars that we know were a prominent feature of aboriginal American life prior to the Conquest.

    We do know that the European conquest of the New World led to an enormous extermination of Native American peoples through “guns, germs and steel” as documented by Jared Diamond. It has been estimated that the population of the Native Americans was reduced by over 90% during the three centuries or so of the European conquest of the Americas. Genocide on a truly enormous scale and therefore loss of DNA on a huge scale.

    Okay, that’s it. That is what the Book of Mormon says about the genetic background of its three migratory groups and the
    possible survival of the DNA of such groups. We have the Jaredites (central Asian, unknown DNA survival), the Mulekites (unknown genetics, unknown DNA survival) and the Lehites (likely Arab, Egyptian, unknown DNA, Israelite DNA…whatever Israelite DNA was in 600 BC, and also unknown DNA survival) and Zoram (unknown genetics and unknown DNA survival).

    With this background, can anyone seriously claim to know what the genetic endowment is of the three groups of people
    mentioned in the Book of Mormon? And if we don’t know that initial endowment, we don’t know what to look for in the DNA
    of Native Americans.

    Making matters even more difficult, the Book of Mormon does not preclude other migrations to the New World and it does not preclude intermarriage between these three migratory groups (Jaredites, Mulekites and Lehites) and other groups not named in the Book of Mormon. Thus, among other problems, we simply don’t know what our “control group” is. “Control group” is scientific language for the question: “What is the DNA endowment brought to the Americas by the three migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon against which we are to compare Native American DNA?”

    After considering the evidence and the arguments, I think that current DNA evidence simply cannot be used to either confirm or deny the migrations described in the Book of Mormon. The data are not adequate to the task.

    This is the same conclusion that Dr. Ugo Perego and Ms. Jayne Ekins came to in their study of DNA and the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Here is the link to their study.

    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/is-decrypting-the-genetic-legacy-of-americas-indigenous-populations-key-to-the-historicity-of-the-book-of-mormon/

    Here are the qualifications of Dr. Perego
    and Ms. Ekins (pasted from their article).

    “Dr. Ugo A. Perego has a PhD in Genetics and Biomolecular Studies from the University of Pavia in Italy, where he studied under the mentorship of Professor Antonio Torroni, who was part of the team of scientists to first identify genetic diversity among
    Native American populations in the early 1990s. Dr. Perego was a senior esearcher for the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation for 12 years, where he contributed to the building of one of the world’s largest repositories of combined genealogical and genetic data. He has published and presented extensively on DNA and its application in populations, forensic, ancestry,
    historical, and genealogical studies. He currently resides in Italy, where he is the director of the Rome Institute Campus and a visiting scientist at the University of Perugia.

    Jayne Ekins has 15 years of experience in the field of genetic genealogy. She has lectured throughout the United States and international venues on the applications of molecular biology to elucidating ancient and recent genealogical connections. She has authored and co-authored several peer-reviewed scientific publications as well as general articles on genetic genealogy”.

    I recommend reading the whole paper to get a deeper understanding of the problems in using the DNA evidence to evaluate the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but if anyone wants
    to skip to the conclusions of the Perego and Ekins article, here they are. Please pay close attention to the remarks of
    Professor Meltzer and Dr. Crawford, non-Mormon scholars and forensic DNA experts.

    “Conclusions

    In commenting on a recent article published in the scientific journal Nature and dealing with the number of original migrations
    by Paleo-Indians, Professor David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University said, “Archaeologists who study Native American history are glad to have the genetic data but also have reservations, given that several of the geneticists’ conclusions have changed over time. This is a really important step forward but not the last word.” On the same occasion, molecular anthropologist Michael H. Crawford added, “The paucity of samples from North America and from coastal regions made it hard to claim a complete picture of early migrations has been attained.”

    These and other comments from experts in the field of ancient American history provide further evidence that DNA is a valid tool to study ancient and modern populations, but they also remind us to be careful about drawing absolute conclusions based on the genetic data. Can genetic testing and science honestly answer any of the following questions?

    What did the DNA of the Book of Mormon people look like?

    Was it the typical DNA found in the population of Jerusalem in 600 bc?

    Can their DNA be differentiated from that of Europeans arriving after 1492?

    Is the current molecular clock adequate to discern pre- from post-Columbian genetic contributions to the New World within the last three thousand years?

    What degree of mixture did the Nephites and/or Lamanites experienced with local natives?

    How long were the Nephites and/or the Lamanites an isolated population after their arrival to the American continent?

    Obtaining answers to these questions would enable the design of research that could contribute to our understanding of the Book of Mormon as a historical record from a scientific approach. Without such information, we risk forming conclusions based on personal interpretation and biased assumptions. As outlined in this paper, the problems and limitations with attempting such an investigative approach are significant and cannot be overlooked by those
    honestly seeking for answers about the Book of Mormon through DNA.

    ……

    As extensively explained herein, there are specific limitations that cannot be ignored when using the available genetic data to infer conclusions regarding the DNA of Book of Mormon people. Such conclusions are not founded on solid science but are the interpretation of a few, as genetic data fails to produce
    conclusive proof weighing credibly in favor of or against the historicity of the Book of Mormon.”

    OK, that’s the bottom line: “genetic data fails to produce conclusive proof weighing credibly in favor of or against the historicity of the Book of Mormon”. As a non-forensic DNA expert, but as someone who has done a lot of scholarship and reading myself, I had already come to that same conclusion.
    I have frequently noticed that non-scientists (I believe your academic background is history?) are much more likely than scientists to over-interpret scientific findings. Very few real scientists would be as absolute in their interpretation of existing evidence of aboriginal DNA as you are.

  • philipjenkins

    It’s sad to see a clearly well educated person enmired in these specious fantasies, and the systematic denial of reality.

    Let me put this very simply, and I do hope, for the last time. There are two options:

    1.From the time of Joseph Smith to 2007, the LDS church held that most American Indians were the descendants of Middle Eastern, Jewish, populations.

    They aren’t, and that indefensible position has now collapsed. Joseph Smith (the “prophet”) would be appalled and outraged to see how radically the modern church had backtracked on a point essential to his system.

    2.More recently, since 2007, the position is that there is some inheritance from Middle Eastern, Jewish, populations. The exact scale and size of that population (to say nothing of its location) shifts and shrinks according to the rhetorical needs of apologists. This appears to change according to the day of the week and the phase of the moon.

    If that partial inheritance idea were even partially true, there would be clear genetic markers. That presence would be overwhelming if, as the Book of Mormon clearly suggests, these people built great cities, and had a population of many hundreds of thousands or millions at any given time. Even if there were only a much smaller number, the genetic signature would still be there.

    So supposedly, we can’t identify exactly what the genetics of those supposed newcomers would be c.600BC? OK, great, if your argument is in fact that desperate – but the one thing I can tell you for certain sure is that they would not be Native American / Indian patterns. They would be clearly extraneous, from the general region of the Middle East, and thus detectable.

    Even if the Nephites supposedly vanished, the church explicitly states that the Lamanites are “among the ancestors” of modern Indians. If any of that farrago were true, we would see the genetic markers.

    We don’t.

    3.If you believe that these genetic markers are indeed present, please show me the evidence.

    Here we go again. If you want to believe these fantasies, then it’s your job to produce evidence. Over to you.

    Two final questions;

    A. Can you say “irrefutable”?

    B. Have you considered a more profitable use of your time and effort?

  • Bruce Dale

    It is likewise sad to see someone who simply refuses to engage in a real discussion but prefers instead to insult and walk away from the discussion.
    I pointed out the great genetic diversity that is possible in the Book of Mormon peoples and how little we know about that diversity and how much of it may have survived. You did not engage with that point.
    I pointed out that until we know what the control group is against which we are to compare aboriginal DNA, we really cannot draw any conclusions about DNA evidence for or against the Book of Mormon. You did not engage with that point.
    I provided the scholarly Perego and Ekins paper for you to consider. You obviously ignored that.
    So I am going to ask you one more time directly: where is the scientific study that tells me what Central Asian DNA was like around the time of the tower (Jaredite DNA)? Where is the scientific study that tells me what DNA was for the tribe of Manasseh about 600 BC (Lehi’s people)? Where is the study that tells me what the DNA of Ishmael’s people was like? Since the Ishmaelitish women contributed their mitochondrial maternal DNA to Lehi’s grandsons, that is a key point. Where is the scientific study that tells me what the Mulekite DNA was like? Oh…wait. We have no idea who the Mulekites were or what their DNA was like.
    Since we have no idea how much DNA these different groups contributed to the Native American DNA pool, we have no way of proving or disproving the Book of Mormon based on current DNA evidence.

    Finally, a quote from two non LDS scholars about DNA from Paleo-Indians (quoted in Perego and Ekins):
    “In commenting on a recent article published in the
    scientific journal Nature and dealing with the number of original migrations by Paleo-Indians, Professor David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University said, “Archaeologists who study Native American history are glad to have the genetic data but also have reservations, given that several of the geneticists’ conclusions have changed over time. This is a really important step forward but not the last word.” On the same occasion, molecular anthropologist Michael H. Crawford added, “The paucity of samples from North America and from coastal regions made it hard to claim a complete picture of early migrations has been attained.”
    No, Dr. Jenkins, not overwhelming at all.

  • philipjenkins

    I just looked up your webpage and I take back “clearly well-educated.” I should have said “person with a first class mind and superb academic record.”

    As one distinguished professor to another …

  • Bruce Dale

    Saying nice things about my academic record is not going to get you off the hook. :)
    Whether or not I believe in all the particulars of the tower story is irrelevant. (By the way, offering gratuitous insults is unbecoming in a scholar–we all believe things that might be proven wrong or at least incomplete in the future–you too.) We must evaluate any work on its own claims, not the claims we impute to it (straw man argumentation?) and then use as a cudgel against it.
    The Book of Mormon makes certain claims about the genealogical background of the three migrations it describes. One of those migrations was from the tower–therefore Central Asian DNA. If you want to discount that story then tell me if you believe there was a Manasseh, son of Joseph by Asenath? Can you tell me what Lehi’s DNA or Ishmael’s DNA or Zoram’s DNA or the Mulekite DNA was? Because if you can’t do that, you don’t know what DNA markers you are looking for in the New World. And therefore you have no way of disproving (or proving) the historicity of the Book of Mormon on DNA evidence.
    That is the “control group” problem that I have mentioned several times and that you continue to evade or avoid in your replies. The Perego and Akins article makes the same point, and other key points as well. The DNA evidence is simply not up to the burden of proof you are placing on it.
    As one distinguished professor to another. :)

  • philipjenkins

    See, this is the problem.

    You say “One of those migrations was from the tower–therefore Central Asian DNA.” So yes, you believe the Tower of Babel.

    This is utterly meaningless to me, as it assumes a literalist/fundamentalist reading of history which is from a parallel universe unconnected with any known reality. Seriously, it makes as much sense to me as invoking fairyland. So how can I address it, or anything you write on a related subject?

    I don’t think I’m the one on the hook here.

    I don’t want to get into a point by point argument about this, but I will answer the key control group question: Middle Eastern populations of Syro-Palestine and neighboring regions of the Levant and Arabia.

  • Bruce Dale

    Thank you, Dr. Jenkins.
    The control group DNA that you assume for the Book of Mormon peoples is not the control group DNA it claims for itself. Therefore, the reasoning and conclusions based on your assumption are not valid. I trust your integrity that you were not deliberately engaging in straw man argumentation.
    I have explained in my previous responses what the migrations described in the Book of Mormon were and what the genetic background of the peoples involved was. I won’t repeat those responses here. Mostly we do not know their genetic background–the Book of Mormon does not tell us–but I have outlined the difficulties in assuming that an “Israelite” DNA of 600 BC would show up in modern Native Americans or Paleo-Indians.

    As for the tower story, please do not assume that I have a Sunday School or childish understanding of that story. But the wanderings and dispersal of large human populations is very well attested by both science and our great writers such as Homer and Virgil. One would expect that the stories vary.
    The story of the Jaredite dispersal in the Book of Mormon is the story they told. But their description of an eastward migration crossing huge inland seas in barges is consistent with what we know of central Asia, where remnants of these seas still exist (eg, the Aral Sea, the Caspian Sea). Likewise their description of crossing (probably) the North Pacific in a time of huge storms is consistent with the awful weather that accompanied the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age as well as the presence of these inland seas. So there are a number of testable and consistent observations in the Jaredite record…but very few details about the tower.
    You have complimented me on having a first class mind. Not really. What I am is a compulsive and omnivorous reader. I also remember most of what I have read. Plus I do have some basic reasoning skills.
    If you want to encounter a truly first class Mormon mind, I again suggest you read some Hugh Nibley. I will be happy to make a gift to you of some of his works. I would especially recommend Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites to you. I truly think you will enjoy them.
    I have given seminars at Penn State twice over the last 15 years or so. If I am invited again, I would love to meet with you. Likewise, if you are ever at Michigan State, please look me up.
    It turns out that my 4th great grandfather Johann Christian Diehl (Dale) settled at Oak Hall near Lemont in about 1760, He and many of his family are buried on Mt. Nittany above Lemont. Dale’s Summit is named after him. So I have a lot of connections to the area.
    Best wishes,
    Bruce

  • philipjenkins

    Thanks for the family history! Truly interesting.

    Where I sit presently is about three miles from Dale’s Summit. You represent a family of early immigrants to the New World in whose existence I can place total confidence.

    You might wish to make the following the subject of a private communication: which cemetery? That is a genuine query by a local history enthusiast.

  • philipjenkins

    And at the risk of sounding like a broken record. “The story of the Jaredite dispersal in the Book of Mormon is the story they told.” No it isn’t. They never existed except as fictional characters in the mind of a genius/madman around 1830.

  • philipjenkins

    One follow up. You write about the Jaredites as (in your view) an authentic race of people, whatever their origin. Now, tell me if I am wrong on this point. As I understand the Jaredite story, it is associated with the Tower of Babel and the distribution of humans across the globe.

    “Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered. ”

    So am I right in saying that if you are a believing Mormon, you are required to believe literally not just in Nephites and Lamanites, but also the early stories of Genesis, including Adam and Eve, and the Tower of Babel, and all within the past few thousand years? That suggests a radical fundamentalism and/or Creationism far more profound than even I had supposed. If so, wow.

    Please correct me if I am wrong on this.

  • Blaine Johnson

    The Jaredites were the descendents of Jareh, one of the sons of Biblical Joktan. Moroni’s geneology of the Jaredites picks up right where Joktan’s line trails off in Genesis 10. At a time when the “earth was divided” half the House of Israel wandered east into the hills of Asia never to be heard from again. Until the Book of Mormon comes along.

    This is why an Asian setting for the Book of Mormon makes so much more sense than Mesoamerica. Especially when you consider that the leader of the Jaredites was Ophir, another son of Joktan. According to Josephus, the Land of Ophir is believed to be somewhere in Asia, around the Indian Ocean.

    Despite all this convergence, you won’t see the ABMS scholars engage with this theory. They’ll insist on the Jaredites floating in wooden submarines all the way to America rather than look at the historical record in the place where the Bible says those people should be, Asia.

  • philipjenkins

    You ask “where is the scientific study that tells me what Central Asian DNA was like around the time of the tower”. Um, you believe in the Tower of Babel, really? And you are asking me questions about science?

  • Fred Kratz

    If the Lamanite/Nephite cultures were distinct based on religious/political influence only, then why was one culture dark skinned and the other light skinned?

  • Bruce Dale

    Probably because one group (Lamanites) was a hunting culture and followed a more nomadic lifestyle that kept them outside more and thus more weather beaten and generally darker. The other group (Nephites) was more settled and agricultural, and therefore less weather beaten. Thus it was lifestyle and not genetics that determined the skin color.

  • Fred Kratz

    Or, you could have it exactly reversed. Swidden agriculture removes trees where hunting does not.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    They were doing hydroponic weed farming in underground caverns with artificial lights… as to avoid the local authorities. Leaving them White and delightsome.

  • bdlaacmm

    And of far greater interest – why, once they reached the New World, did the the Lehi folks forget everything they ever knew about the wheel?

  • philipjenkins

    indeed

  • SoundOn

    Are you asking this question because you choose not to read the Book of Mormon where the answer is so plainly written?

  • bdlaacmm

    I tried reading the thing more than once, but would always fall asleep after a page or two. I agree with Mark Twain, who said of it, “It is such a pretentious affair and yet so slow, so sleepy, such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.”

  • SoundOn

    Well I am sorry to hear that, but I can appreciate that you are willing to admit your ignorance.

  • Darren

    Also, don’t forget how stupid the Mayans were as to never use the wheel. Oh, wait, they did.

  • philipjenkins

    Oh wait, they didn’t.
    This is a quick response and I am open to correction here. I thought Mayans had the wheel but the only evidence for its use was on their children’s toys. Do you have a better source on that?

  • Darren

    “I thought Mayans had the wheel but the only evidence for its use was on their children’s toys.”

    Correct.

  • jeanbodie

    They had no horses to pull anything that had wheels. Native Canadians used the travois pulled by people until horses were brought to the continent by the Spanish. The wheel is such an obvious thing to us today. None of us has lived in a time when the wheel was not in use. We cannot use our completely ‘take wheels for granted’ attitude to decide how the ancient Maya would have used them.

  • philipjenkins

    Agreed. But the absence is a bit more surprising when you have a great and highly organized urban civilization like the Maya, rather than decentralized peoples living in smaller settlements.

  • jeanbodie

    It IS surprising but also another piece of ‘lightweight’ evidence for the absurd claims of the Book of Mormon in which ‘Horses and Chariots’ are prepared for King Lamoni, by his Nephite ‘servant’ Ammon who had just finished slicing off the arms of the thieves responsible for stealing Lamoni’s sheep.
    This is a fairy tale that apologists and educated people are discussing. They might just as well determine if Voldemort is actually Lucifer or merely one of his cohorts.
    I appreciate your blog Philip especially this regarding NHM.

  • Darren

    With the lack of evidence do you conclude that they likely did not use the wheel for anything else?

  • philipjenkins

    LIke I say, I am not claiming expertise on this. A couple of sources I looked at quickly suggest that, based on the comments of Spanish observers at the conquest, and the evidence of art. But if you know better, please share.

  • Darren

    No, I do not know of any other source than what you cited. I know only of evidence that wheels amongst the Mayans were used for children’s toys. It seems odd to me, though, that one would conclude that wheels were never used for anything else within the Mayan civilization. They were smart enough to create them for children but not for work?

  • philipjenkins

    I know, it’s odd, isn’t it? I assume that scholars have looked at the very substantial body of visual depictions we have over the centuries and argue from silence in that way. Seems odd to me too, but that’s the consensus. I have a colleague who is a Maya scholar and I will ask him.

    If you ever check it out, it’s even odder what the Inca did not have, and they built a superb civilization.

  • Darren

    I totally agree with you on the Unca civilization. That had a very impressive civilization with some pretty ingeneous ideas that developed but in terms of the wheel, there’s no evidence to be found. I do not doubt they used it as it seems quite unreasonable to me that they wouldn’t but the evidence is what it is (or absent as it were).

    Please let me know what tour Mayan soecialist says. I am curious as to how useful ancient Mesoamericans would have found the wheel. Perhpas we do not find. Uch evidence of it because they simply did not use it much and if they did not use it much, would it have been simply because it was not viewed as needed? Like the Ginsu knieves of today?

  • philipjenkins

    Will do, but be aware that it’s summer and many academics vanish for months at a time – including my Mayanist!

  • Jack44M

    “They were smart enough to create them for children but not for work?”
    The Aeolipile was invented in the 1st Century A.D. How many centuries did it take for the steam engine to be used for work?

    You make assumptions and speculations you can’t back up.

  • Magic_Stick

    It’s disheartening that so many are still led astray by Joseph Smith’s fraud. We can only pray for their conversion.

  • elvischannel

    Their conversion to what?

  • Darren

    Probably to Protestantism.

  • SoundOn

    Secularism

  • Magic_Stick

    Christianity.

  • disqus_9fhZYKUgbw

    By “pray for their conversion” do you mean Forcibly occupy their land, massacre as many as possible, and with the ones that remain ask if the would like to accept christianity or would they like their heads chopped off? Because thats what you people have done all over the Globe. Where ever christianity went it left no trace of the indigenous religions, nor people for that matter.

    Bartolome de las Casas, the priest who accompanied Columbus on his conquest of Cuba, detailed the abuse and murder of the native population:
    “And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them head first against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water,
    They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive.”

    Some may say these people are not acting like christians like they said about the Nazi who were firm catholics. But I say they are following chritianity exactly as their god commanded them to.
    What else would you expect form people who follow the bible, the most barbaric terrorist manual written in human history where Your God commands you to commit genocide, mass rape women, steal land and kill babies:

    1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    (Judges 21:10-24 NLT)
    So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

  • Magic_Stick

    You’re pretty clueless, lol.

  • Darren

    You gotta at least admire the fraud. If Joseph Smith was a fraud then he’s arguably the most successful fraud of all time. Just to gather information from the King James Bible, Arabian maps, European and American literature, and fake the resurrection of a dead language and have no one talk of such fraud is a great success so far as fraud goes. Then, in addition to all that, to compile all this information to invent a story perfectly aligned with the Bible, which speaks of four civilizations, never confounding any of them, nor place names, all without reviewing the story’s manuscripts before continuing on with the story after breaks, getting names such as Jershon, Heshlon, and Abbish correct in their most likely Hebrew meaning with their respective settings in the story is quite the remarkable accomplishment. I highly doubt neither you nor Philips Jenkins could come anywhere near such an accomplishment, even with the advantages of today’s technology.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Paul was a much better fraudster, he has impacted billions. Joseph is a couple of orders of magnitude shy….

  • Darren

    True in the numbers but Paul did not start a new sect of Christianity, Joseph Smith did.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Not a new sect…? It has been argued that Paul hijacked the whole movement.

  • Magic_Stick

    I’ve heard all these apologetics before and they’re not convincing, or true.

  • Darren

    They are quote true, convincing however is up to you. To be convinced though you need to ask God. Intellectual arguments alone are not very likely to convince you or anyone else on religious matters.

  • Magic_Stick

    Asked and answered my friend.

  • SoundOn

    Just a coincidence seems to be a common phrase used among those who disregard the spiritual things of God. I suppose it is also just a coincidence that Dr. Jenkins uses the same excuse to reject the Book of Mormon. Of course one doesn’t gain a testimony of Spiritual things with verifiable proof. Otherwise we could likely conclude that those types of Christians such as Dr. Jenkins only have a testimony that Jesus once lived because it is well documented, but that they must deny the miracles He performed for which there is no verifiable proof.

  • Allen Richardson

    So here is the thing about Philip Jenkins. He is by his own admission a Christian. His Christian beliefs are different from LDS Christian beliefs. Now he is motivated to show that the historicity of the Book of Mormon is false. So what is the basis of such motivation? He thinks Mormons are fine people and there ought to be more of them. Yet the fruits of his study of The Book of Mormon’s historicity would seem to convince otherwise faithful Mormon’s to realize Joseph Smith’s writing is a fraud in that it could not have been the result of divine translation of The Golden plates as described by Smith in various historical accounts. Matthew 7:20 reads: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” It is thus perplexing that Jenkins extols the fruits but castigates the tree. So when he states there ought to be more Mormons, one should doubt his sincerity.

    There is no doubt that Philip Jenkins is a well read scholar on the subject of Christianity. He writes clearly and with an economy of words. He being a Christian has a certain set of beliefs based upon tradition Christian literature he had read. He appears to have according to Wayne Dequer chosen to align himself with the Episcopal definition of being a Christian. Now the LDS definition of Christianity is quite different than the Episcopal version. The same thing could be said of nearly all other major Christian religions when compared to Mormons with respect to their differences in beliefs as to what defines being a Christian. Many members of other Christian sects go so far as to says Mormons aren’t Christians. It seems that what it means to be a Christian should be defined by how closely one comports to Christ’s teachings as opposed to a member of one Christian sect declaring that a member of a different Christian sect is not after all a Christian, because of a quibble over competing definitions of Christianity. This is where Philip Jenkins writings on the Book of Mormon’s historicity crumble into a meaningless exercise of futility.

    The Book of Mormon claims to be a testament of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the authenticity of the Book of Mormon can only be judged upon how closely its teachings comport with what Christ taught. Let us suppose there was an ancient book of scripture which claimed to be a testament of Christ but which was clearly at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Let us also suppose that the book contained historical facts about the people of that ancient time which could be verified through historical means. The historicity does not make such a book a testament of Jesus Christ. Likewise the lack of verifiable historicity does not prove that the Book of Mormon is not a testament of Jesus Christ. It only proves that no historical writings or artifacts have yet been found which are consistent with the history described by the Book of Mormon.

    May I ask if anyone knows any devout Christian who is so, based upon the historicity of the Bible? Are there those out there who would be devout Christians but for the lack of even more historicity than exists today? Mr. Jenkins argument is that since a+b does not=c, then a+d does not=c. His argument does not follow logically.

    Now let us suppose that all that Joseph Smith taught was consistent with Christ’s teachings in the Bible; that the gospel, the plan of salvation, baptism, the nature of God, etc. were completely consistent with the bible. Then we would know that Joseph Smith taught truth. We would know what he teaches is consistent with Jesus Christ’s teachings. From that consistency, we would know that if Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon was another testament of Christ, that we would have confidence the Book is what he claimed it to be. This could then be confirmed by reading the book. We could judge for ourselves by reading the book if it taught the same gospel as the New Testament teaches. We could compare it’s teachings with the teachings of the prophets concerning Jehovah in the Old Testament. We could see these consistencies and conclude that everything Joseph said about being visited by God, Jesus Christ and angels was true. These consistencies demonstrate a house undivided.

    Matthew 12:24-26, 28
    24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
    25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
    26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
    28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

    Now I have read the Old and New Testaments many times. I believe what they teach about the gospel, the plan of salvation, prophets, the nature of God etc. are consistent with what Joseph Smith taught about those same topics. When I read the Book of Mormon, it is also consistent. It is these consistencies and not pottery shards or a DNA link that provide the logical and tangible proofs I need as a skeptic to satisfy reason that what Joseph Smith said about these various religious topics is true. However, it is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost that what Joseph Smith said is true, is why I choose to be a Mormon.

  • noel

    Between Madagascar and the South African coast is a group of islands called the Comoros Islands and its chief town is Moroni. Off the Atlantic seaboard in the early 1800s were birds called Puffin birds, They were referred to in books on birds as Mormon Articus and Mormon Glacious. The word Mormon in Greek is an adjective and means “frightening”. The birds had black patches around their eyes and hence might be “frightening” There were local influences in books and local for Smith’s Book of Mormon.

  • James or Not

    Dr. Jenkins, I came across this discussion about YEC by a Christian scientist that seems to get at pretty clearly what you have been trying to say concerning BOM apologetics. The parallels (no pun intended) are striking.

    http://thenaturalhistorian.com/2015/06/15/reflections-on-a-creationist-approach-to-scientific-apologetics/

  • philipjenkins

    Thanks, I certainly would not have seen this one.

  • cynth

    quote: “the problem… is this: Anti-Mormon critics and mockers tend to draw almost exclusively on misconstrued and blatantly anti-Mormon sources, and then vigorously resist being referred to the most scholarly LDS authors and sources.”
    This is not correct, I have not yet run across a site opposing Mormonism that refuses to recognize and use the essays posted on the official LDS site. The information in the essays is more than enough to support the ideas that a site opposing Mormonism wants to propound.

  • philipjenkins

    BYU historian Bill Hamblin has begun a series at his blog Enigmatic Mirror in which he is discussing and debating my posts in this series. You can find it at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/. He is being generous with his space and allowing substantial comments from me, and we are in the midst of what is shaping up to be a civilized and grown up debate. Yes, it is possible on the Internet!

  • Ike Evans

    I want you to know that I appreciate your civility. When it comes to topics of religion, I often tend to lurk in the shadows because I have a strong distaste for the flame wars that erupt. Though I tend to be obnoxiously opinionated and bias, going out of my way to insult or be insulted is just not in my blood.
    Make no mistake: I totally disagree with you. That said, I sincerely wish you well, Mr. Jenkins.

  • philipjenkins

    Much appreciated!

  • Blaine Johnson

    I saw a post you made about the Denisovans and DNA evidence. The Malay Book of Mormon model has an explanation for this. This Malay model claims that the Denisovans migrated east from Africa/India. At some point they split, maybe around the time of the Toba event which would have pushed migrations north, away from Toba. However, at some point one Denisovan group went deeper and deeper into the dense rainforests of Sundaland. As later waves of human migration pushed slowly into Sundaland, they picked up more and more Denisovan genes along the way. So the humans living at the eastern edge of Sundaland, particularly in Borneo, have more Denisovan ancestry than their proto-Austronesian brothers to the west. As the ice caps melted and Sundaland flooded, those Denisovans on the east become trapped on the islands of Melanesia etc. while those on the west, with weaker concentrations of Denisovan DNA, were pushed north through the Malay Peninsula into southern Asia, with some influencing the Sumerian culture as renowned geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer suggests in his book East of Eden.

    Sundaland and the Book of Mormon

    Geneticists are suggesting that as the ice caps melted the resultant flooding pushed human migration out of Sundaland and north through the Malay Peninsula. These populations carried stories of massive flooding with them. This is why you’ll find more flood myths in the hills of Southeast Asia than anywhere else in the world.

    So to answer your question, the “Lamanite DNA” ABMS is looking for would likely show up in Malay Austronesian DNA because its most likely the Lehites couldn’t have gone beyond the Malay Peninsula in 600 BC. DNA testing shows that the Malay paternal lines have anemia mutations and Ashkenazi mutations originating in the Mediterranean. All other indications are that aboriginal Malay are not much different from other Austronesian groups further east of Sundaland, such as the Melanesians with their higher concentrations of Denisovan DNA. Evidence is mounting that these groups went west to the New World.

    The “Lamanite” remnant went east to west following the migrations of the Malay towards the New World, as linguists and geneticists have demonstrated repeatedly. The DNA of Native Americans is Asian, because that’s were they came from. Occam’s Razor. They did not magically appear as Hebrew/Mayans that moved west across the isles of the sea.

  • philipjenkins

    Mr Johnson, with great respect to you, I am not going to engage you on this. My own assumptions and beliefs are just too far removed to permit any real dialogue with you. I am happy though to have you use these comments as a platform for your ideas.

  • Blaine Johnson

    Well, this comment was mostly in response to your claim that DNA evidence doesn’t get washed out over time. The Denisovans are not an example of this, as argued above. Even Denisovan DNA gets diluted through admixture.

  • philipjenkins

    Let me be clear here. By “assumptions” I mean fundamental assumptions about academic methodology. I am reluctant to talk too much about this here and now as I have just sent a couple of major posts on the theme to Dr Hamblin, who will I hope have them up shortly. My views are laid out there at GREAT length and in considerable detail, and I don’t want to duplicate them.

  • Blaine Johnson

    Fair enough. I’ve enjoyed the discussion so far, and will follow there. Thanks.

  • Hillary Spragg

    test comment


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