“An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Coe”



In August, 2011, John Dehlin conducted a three-part interview with famed Mesoamericanist Michael Coe, an emeritus professor at Yale University.  Dehlin operates the podcast series “Mormon Stories,” which features interviews discussing the faith and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


In the latest article published by Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, Professor John L. Sorenson examines a large number of dubious claims made in that interview, providing clarifications, responses, and references to numerous sources dealing with the issues raised in it.




Much more detail will appear in Dr. Sorenson’s forthcoming Maxwell Institute book, Mormon’s Codex.


Posted from Istanbul.



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  • Fred Kratz

    I listened to the interview with Dr. Coe and read the rebuttal letter. And while I’m no expert in anything to do with The Book of Mormon, one statement did stand out. I posted a comment on that site which was not accepted by the moderator for whatever reason. I thought I’d put it here and would appreciate any thoughts.

    In the interview Dr. Coe said:
    Joseph Smith “sees the incredible people like the Comanche and the Sioux and Cheyenne and people like that. . . . That probably would have influenced him a lot. He had to have horses.” [Part 1, 37:30]

    Dr. Sorenson responded:
    Patently impossible. Nothing was known in the eastern United States about horse-using Plains Indians in Joseph’s day, the 1820s. In any case, the Book of Mormon never suggests that horses were ridden by anybody.

    My comment:
    With all due respect, you must have forgotten about Lewis and Clark and their Journey of Discovery in 1804-1805 and that the record of their journey would have been available to Joseph Smith 15 years later. It was, after all, a newsworthy subject. Lewis and Clark and others wrote extensively about the Plains Indian cultures which included writing about their horses. A critical part of the success of their journey was trading with the Shoshoni and Nez Perce for their horses, which Lewis and Clark desperately needed once they left “Three Forks” in Montana. Sacagawea, their guide and of the Shoshoni people, was critical in helping Lewis and Clark acquire the horses needed.

    The Book of Mormon discusses horses on 14 different occasions (PDF search), and usually in the same sentence with chariots.

    2 Nephi 12:7
    7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there
    any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses,
    neither is there any end of their chariots.

    I don’t believe Dr. Coe mentioned anything about riding them, just that they had to be in the story.