Myth-History and Real History

Myth-History and Real History June 1, 2015

Over the past few weeks, I have been posting about the Book of Mormon, and you can check out those various items as you wish.

Not surprisingly, my posts called forth a sizable number of comments and reactions, many quite intense, and a small number abusive and obscene. Here, though, I would like to react to some of the more substantial arguments, as I think they say a lot about modes of religious thinking and argument generally, rather than anything specific to Mormons. Many of these comments apply just as strongly to debates over (for instance) wacky claims about alternative gospels.

In no particular order:

*Most non-academics have a thorough lack of understanding about how academics work, or how to judge whether particular argument is bizarre and flaky, as opposed to credible. There is no sense, for instance, of why issues like peer review matter so much. Academics can and must do a much better job of explaining these things. That is all the more important given the efflorescence of junk science and junk history on the Internet and on cable channels offering breathless documentaries. My comments in these posts have been an attempt to begin to supply this need.

*Specifically, most non-academics have a very poor idea of how history and archaeology actually work as disciplines, and here is why that matters in the Mormon context. There are many fields about which I know nothing – say, the biology of bees – but that does not matter, as I never attempt to write or speak on those issues. Generally, apologists writing about the Book of Mormon know as little about authentic historical or archaeological methodology as I do about bees, but that does not prevent them making statements about history and archaeology.

It’s hard to explain to anyone with an academic background just how fundamental that ignorance is. Clearly, some commenters were mystified when I referred to pottery as a crucial material gauge by which cultures might be traced and observed. That is something you encounter on day one of a college course in archaeology.

*That comment applies with special force to genetics. Commenters again have made statements that demonstrate total ignorance about this issue, which is central to any attempt to understanding migrations or the history of ethnic groups.

The Book of Mormon describes the movement of Middle Eastern populations to the pre-Columbian Americas – and not just one wave, but repeated movements. If such an event had ever occurred, even if each were on a numerically tiny scale, it would have left a Middle East-related genetic signature traceable among modern native populations in North or South America, or both. No such trace has ever been found. And no, the genes of a small minority population do not get washed out of the system over time to the point where they can no longer be detected. (Sorry to make such an obvious point, but I have seen that view expressed).

Genetic evidence destroys the Book of Mormon’s claims to literal historicity so totally as to make any other debates irrelevant and unnecessary.

If you don’t think that’s correct, then please give me the genetic evidence you find convincing, drawing (of course) only from refereed journals. I make one plea. Before wasting my time and yours digging up discredited theories about mitochondrial haplogroup X, you might want to review the story of the Mal’ta finds here, or the summary from Nature here.

I give you an example for testing. Over the past decade or two, we have found strong genetic evidence for the identity of Jewish families, including the so-called Kohen gene that indicates descent from the ancient Temple priesthood (the “Cohen Modal Haplotype”). If the Book of Mormon structure is correct, wouldn’t we find those traces all over the native Americas? So why don’t we?

The LDS church’s official site has a page on The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies, which is filled with countless holes, contradictions, and wiggles. For instance “Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples,” except that, surely, they were from the Middle East and would share the general patterns of that region? I love the second part of the sentence in question, “and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected.” No there aren’t.

I also like this one: “It is possible that each member of the emigrating parties described in the Book of Mormon had DNA typical of the Near East, but it is likewise possible that some of them carried DNA more typical of other regions…. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples.” Getting desperate, here?

The biggest single problem with this page, though, is that it simply ignores the way in which limited populations groups leave their enduring genetic footprint in a wider population. As it says, “What seems clear is that the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples likely represented only a fraction of all DNA in ancient America.” That’s fair enough, but even so, it would be indelible, and would have been found long since.

I also like this sentence: “a 2013 study states that as much as one-third of Native American DNA originated anciently in Europe or West Asia and was likely introduced into the gene pool before the earliest migration to the Americas. This study paints a more complex picture than is suggested by the prevailing opinion that all Native American DNA is essentially East Asian.” Ooh, that sounds promising, until you check the study in question, which shows that the DNA in question was carried by the earliest settlers over ten thousand years ago, traveling through Siberia across Eastern Asia. The implication that it came direct from Europe or West Asia is not permissible, and it should not have been written thus.

There is a huge amount written on the genetic bases of archaeology, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you want to break into this literature, and see how it applies to studying past population movements, you might start with Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith and K. Ann Horsburgh, DNA for Archaeologists (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2012), or with Jean Manco’s highly accessible Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling Of Europe From The First Venturers To The Vikings (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013).  Much more heavy-duty, indeed off-putting, is Terry Brown and Keri Brown, Biomolecular Archaeology (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). Those are of course just a few illustrative samples.

No-one is required to know this literature, or the broad issues it covers, and there won’t be a pop quiz. If you don’t know it, though, and don’t understand why its implications are so ruinous for the apologists, you have zero basis on which to comment on anything relating to the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

*Christians and Jews are on infinitely far better grounds when they look at the historical claims of their scriptures. Most non-specialists, though, have not the slightest idea why that is, or could explain why. They thus are open to any number of academic scams.

*The whole issue raises interesting questions of belief and literalism. What do we mean when we say we believe a religious or mythological story?

For example, long before Joseph Smith, William Blake developed a wonderful mythology about Christ visiting Britain, and London actually being Jerusalem:

The fields from Islington to Marybone,

To Primrose Hill and Saint Johns Wood:

Were builded over with pillars of gold,

And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood.

Or, to take a still more famous text:

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

As a Brit, do I believe Blake’s myth? Absolutely, unquestioningly, and with total conviction, as a visionary statement of poetic truth. “All things Begin & End in Albion’s Ancient Druid Rocky Shore.” I believe it as a myth, “something that is true on the inside, but false on the outside.” Put another way, “All societies create myths to justify their values; once created, these myths become forces that shape subsequent history.” That Jerusalem myth, with its associated rhetoric, has driven more social movements in British history than all the texts of socialism and Marxism combined.

Do I believe it as literal, archaeological, historical truth? Obviously not, and I am not going to hunt out spurious archaeological connections between first century Palestine and Western England.

*Going back to the Book of Mormon, nobody answered one pressing question I asked. Does the Book of Mormon say that when the various tribes arrived in the Americas from the Middle East, they had the land to themselves, or were there other people here first? And does it say anything about where they came from? That has little bearing on the overall issue of Book of Mormon historicity, which is a settled issue (it contains zero pre-Columbian history), but the question is interesting. If in fact the claim is that all pre-Columbian populations are descended from those Middle Eastern folks, the apologists are in deep trouble on genetic grounds. But I am prepared to be corrected on that. What does the Book actually say on that issue?

*The biggest conflict that strikes me about Mormon debates is, simply, where? Smith himself was clearly placing his mythological world in North America, as a means of justifying sacred claims about the United States. More recent apologists turn their attention to Central America, which is multiply silly, mainly on genetic grounds.

Also interesting is the question of how large a population we are supposedly talking about. You can argue that the Book of Mormon is claiming great cities like those of the Maya for its mythical races, but that’s impossible, because we know those people were not related to Middle Eastern populations. You can I suppose argue that Nephites and the rest were not in those great cities at all, and there were just a few of them on a mountain top somewhere, not impinging on the historical or archaeological record, and never inter-breeding, but doesn’t that argument just get ridiculous?

At some point, surely Occam’s Razor must come into play. Isn’t the simplest, most economic, argument that the Book of Mormon is a wholly non-historical myth, “a visionary statement of poetic truth”?

*People do very badly on what I might call the Rule of One – that is, don’t give me generalities about the virtues of the Book of Mormon, just give me one convincing piece of data to confirm its literal authenticity. In my first post in this series, I raised a question:

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

If you ask me, for instance, for evidence that the Norse reached North America, my answer is simple: L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland. And the equivalent Nephite site is … non-existent. Or at least, I am still waiting for an answer. Just one site, or object, or piece of evidence, supported by a peer-reviewed study. All the apologetics of decades have failed to supply one convincing candidate, anywhere in the Americas. I know why that is, of course, because there aren’t any, but it is startling that the apologetic industry still thrives.

By the way, it’s funny that we can locate the very tiny and remote North American settlement of the Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows – possibly the only one of its kind on the continent – but nothing at all of the supposedly much larger presence of Nephites et al. Even more striking, the Norse site was only occupied for a few years, or at most a couple of decades, in contrast to the long centuries attributed to the Nephites.

Why do you think we find that difference? Might it be that one existed as a literal historical reality, and the other didn’t?

*The scariest single idea I found in the various comments was from the people who resorted to absolute subjectivism and the radical denial of objective truth. Sure, they said, you can’t find proof of the Book of Mormon, but the Bible is just as subjective and made up, and so indeed is all history, and all archaeology. It’s all a consensus illusion. I know apologists get desperate, but really … I am not exaggerating when I say that’s a denial of all science, of objectivity, and ultimately of all forms of civilization. At some point we move from radical post-Modernism to personality disorder.

We are not living in a Philip K. Dick novel.

That gets to the idea that accepting the literal reality of the Book of Mormon depends on willing faith and prayer. Let me offer an analogy. Someone might indeed argue that Christ’s Resurrection can only be accepted by an act of faith, without any support from external evidence. But the Mormon equivalent would suggest that you also need faith to accept the reality of the city of Jerusalem, or the Roman Empire, or the Roman occupation of Palestine, or indeed the physical existence of a land variously called Israel and Palestine, and that none would actually exist until you prayed over it. That takes us into the realm not of faith, but of delusion.

William of Ockham, please come back! You are needed now more than ever.

 

ADDENDUM

I wrote this as a comment, but it seems germane to the main argument.

THE DENISOVANS.

They existed about 41,000 years ago and represented a human species distinct from humans and Neandertals. All we know about them is their DNA. But we do know that they interbred with humans, and their genes show up in human populations today, in Pacific territories such as Melanesia, and probably parts of China and Tibet. That’s forty thousand years later.

Tell me again about DNA traces of tiny minority groups washing out of the population over time? About the idea of “dilution”?

Even better. The Denisovans first came to scholarly attention in 2010. Within two to three years, we had the genetic data and matches from Melanesia and East Asia. Not difficult to find, see?

If you look at enough samples, you’ll find them. And we now have a VERY large range of genetic samples from all over the world.

How is your hunt for Nephite and Lamanite DNA going right now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Who says we are a secular nation? You and atheists? Where did you get that? ..."

Evangelical Silence and Trump: A Reformation ..."
"Personal attack. Once you run out of reason fuel and facts, you engage in personal ..."

Evangelical Silence and Trump: A Reformation ..."
">>>"Read your responses to my comment and see whom is truly the one making 'personal ..."

Evangelical Silence and Trump: A Reformation ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • James O’Hara

    Qwerty, if that’s all you have to go on, then your faith truly is in vain. If you show me the bones of Jesus, I would see no reason to follow Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 15; we are fools if Christ did not rise.

  • SneakyJimmy

    I think he makes a very good point. Mormon’s have professed the literal, real existence of the BofM people from the very beginning. If you choose to believe the book, then you should know that there is not one shred of evidence to support it. I can accept your spiritual witness but you also have to accept that historically you are on shaky ground.

  • Zampona

    All I get out of this is that the author thinks he is so much smarter than everybody else, and that unless you have the same credentials he has, you are unfit to argue. He ignores that people better qualified on genetics have concluded that, no, you cannot prove or disprove a pair of families existed by taking samples of a much larger population cebturies later. (By the way, the author mischaracterizes the Book of Mormon’s claims by describing multiple waves of immigration, when the Book of Mormon describes two small groups coming from the Middle East. The origin of the Jaredites is much less clear.)

    To answer the question that the author has apparently posed without getting an answer, the Book of Mormon says nothing one way or the other about other populations being on the continent. Apparently there was an open space large enough for Lehi and his family to settle, but there is no explicit mention of other peoples, nor is there any claim that the land was entirely vacant.

  • philipjenkins

    On the contrary, there are plenty of examples where the presence of a handful of people in one era will produce plenty of discernible genetic traces centuries or millennia later. Look at many examples from the ethnic history of contemporary Europe, which is as I say a thriving field. Even one extraneous person can import such identifiable traces, and I am assuming that the supposed Book of Mormon folks were far more numerous.

    There is a classic recent study which shows how one man (likely a freed slave in eighteenth century England) left West African genetic traces that have persisted through some well established Yorkshire families and their kin – none of whom had thought they had any non-white ancestry. The further back in time you go, the more widely those traces disseminate through populations.

    And as I stressed the need to cite sources, let me do so:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11018-genes-reveal-west-african-heritage-of-white-brits.html

    So why don’t you see Middle Eastern traces in modern Native peoples in the Americas?

    Oh, and thanks for answering my settlement question.

  • Zampona

    John Butler, a geneticist who admittedly does not focus on population studies, but does have quite a bit of expertise in forensic DNA analysis, points to a study of populations in Iceland showing markers from only a handful of ancestors despite a historical record of other ancestors in the genealogical line. (Unfortunately, I’m not in a place to specifically cite this source, but I’m sure you have a search engine)

    I think you are confusing the question. The question is not could a small population leave its genetic mark after mixing with a much larger population, but rather does that necessarily always occur.

    You make the same mistake with respect to archeology. Again, just because you can find an example of a single Norse colony in the archeological record does not lead to the conclusion that this is always the case. Before any big archeological discovery, the location or people are completely unknown to the world. To conclude that the lack of evidence is evidence of lack seems both ill-advised and a little arrogant.

    As a side note, if you have to ask the community such a basic, well-covered question about the Book of Mormon, I have to question your qualifications to really discuss it.

  • philipjenkins

    As to the settlement question, I ask because I have seen so many diverse and irreconcilable views on that issue! I just wanted to get a consensus.

    You write: “The question is not could a small population leave its genetic mark after mixing with a much larger population, but rather does that necessarily always occur.” If we were dealing with a scattered handful of people, say a couple of individuals, you would be dead right. But as I am reading the Book of Mormon mythology, it is referring to large tribes, kingdoms, states, and families active over centuries. They would assuredly leave a massive genetic footprint.

    Through much of Mormon history, also, most Mormons surely understood the Native Americans to be Lamanites, and therefore Middle Eastern-descended. When we look at the present apologist theories, we are looking at one transient phase of theorizing.

  • philipjenkins

    I am glad by the way that you mention Iceland, an area in which I have been interested for over forty years. This is a classic example where subordinate populations lost to the mainstream historical or linguistic record survive powerfully in the genetic record, specifically the enormous Celtic/Irish presence that would have been quite invisible otherwise. You offer a fine example of the survival of genetic traits as a means of tracing ancient population movements.

    Just the kind of thing we do not see with the alleged Book of Mormon populations in the New World.

  • Zampona

    Your argument assumes that these massive populations share the genetic traits of the ancestor in question. This wouldn’t necessarily be the case if that small group mixed with a larger population. That’s not an assumption you can safely make with the Book of Mormon, which barely explains what happened between Nephi and Mosiah hundreds of years later.

    And great, Mormons used to believe that Native Americans were direct lineal descendants of Lehi. And Christians used to believe the Eartg was 6,000 years old. People change their beliefs in light of new evidence. I fail to see your point.

  • Zampona

    You’ll have to discuss that issue with a geneticist, as I am not a geneticist. However, if you feel good about lording your vast knowledge of genetics over the heads of non-geneticists, bully for you. All I can say is there are people with yours or better qualifications who disagree with your conclusions.

  • philipjenkins

    I genuinely don’t understand this remark, sorry. “Your argument assumes that these massive populations share the genetic traits of the ancestor in question.” Well, if you mean that they are supposedly Middle Eastern derived, yes.

    Am I wrong about this? I thought the LDS church officially taught that the Lamanites were the main ancestors of Native Americans till quite recently, like the last decade. Please advise.

  • Zampona

    Sure, church leaders taught that, and most of the church assumed that. The question of what the Church taught in the past is as irrelevant as what the Catholic Church said in the past about heleocentrism. The real question is what the Book of Mormon has to say. Any crticism of the text has to stick to the text.

  • philipjenkins

    My, what an inaccurate analogy.

    The Christian churches had some rows over heliocentricity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now let’s look at the interesting story of the Lamanites, which I found in the Salt Lake Tribune of November 8, 2007.

    “The LDS Church has changed a single word in its introduction to the Book of Mormon, a change observers say has serious implications for commonly held LDS beliefs about the ancestry of American Indians. …The book’s current introduction, added by the late LDS apostle, Bruce R. McConkie in 1981, includes this statement: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” The new version, seen first in Doubleday’s revised edition, reads, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.” LDS leaders instructed Doubleday to make the change, said senior editor Andrew Corbin, so it “would be in accordance with future editions the church is printing.”

    http://www.sltrib.com/lds/ci_7403990

    Put another way: Up till **2007** (that is, in the later
    Dark Ages, shortly before the invention of printing and flush toilets) the church still held that totally bizarro doctrine that most Native Americans were descended from those ancient Hebrews, and changed their belief only within the past eight years. That kind of makes nonsense of your suggestion that this is some ancient mythology that wise Mormons have long since outgrown, doesn’t it?

    And you think that such a recent story, from yesterday more or less, is irrelevant? Gosh. And you don’t see that as an enormous doctrinal revolution?

    Come back in ten years, and I assume they will have changed their statement to a frank admission that “Nothing in the following book should be taken literally. It is a visionary and poetic narrative account of the love of God and His Son.”

    Mormons are very pragmatic people.

    Or as I said earlier, When we look at the present apologist theories, we are looking at one transient phase of theorizing.

  • Zampona

    How does the recency of a change rebut the proposition that as religions are confronted with evidence, they have to rethink how they look at their scripture? You have totally failed to address the actual concern.

  • Chris

    You write as one who feels wronged by Mormonism. What have they done that ultimately hurts you personally? I think you are a member of a much larger Christian faith and feel that bullying this much smaller Christian faith makes you feel good. Or maybe you are making money off the attention you are getting. You don’t reach out in love and you fain neutrality on the subject. Do you feel that this small branch of Christianity threatens your way of living your day, week, month, year or life in some way? If you feel you must be contrary to exist then at least be constructive to faith promoting subjects. How about addressing the many instances around the world where a Christian group was persecuted, hurt, kidnapped, raped, killed or otherwise denigrated?
    Your many posts against BoM historicity are growing old and tired. You have beat a dead horse till you’re senseless. MOVE ON ALREADY! Does it really matter what path other people take to Christ as long as they get there? My observations of the Mormons I know is that they very much want you to practice your freedom of religion. If that means your Road to Damascus is different then theirs then they will love you for your choice and allow you that freedom. I have even been told that they make a point not to denigrate other religions because (in their belief) those other Christians have at least part of the truth and may eventually choose their path. Until such time they do not win points by attacking your religion.
    A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. You’re only hurting your cause by reiterating the point you made in the first (and every) post. You don’t believe it is historical. So noted. Move on.

  • philipjenkins

    Now here’s an interesting question.

    Why do some members of particular faiths (not just Mormons) get so irate and threatened by the application of objective scholarship to any aspect of their beliefs? Or to go further, why is any such attempt met by charges that if such scholarship is at all critical, it must be founded on prejudice or animus, and therefore can’t be objective, or scholarly?

    I think for instance of the incredibly violent and irrational responses to some scholarly works on Hinduism by first rate writers like Wendy Doniger.

    Judging by some (not all) responses to my recent posts on the Book of Mormon, scholars have two options:

    1. Present views that wholly support fundamentalist conclusions, or

    2. Be accused of bias and prejudice.

    Such responses suggest a real culture of paranoia.

  • philipjenkins

    You think I am saying that I, personally, “don’t believe [the Book of Mormon] is historical.” That is correct, but I go much further. I am saying that nobody who understands and applies historical or archaeological methodology CAN think it is historical.

    You present my views as a matter of personal subjective opinion. They are not.

    If you have understood that, feel free to move on.

  • Chris

    My point is that you have dedicated no less than 6 out of your last 7 posts to this subject when one would have done just fine. Your effort is extraordinary and therefore (in my view) amounts to beating a dead horse. We get it. You think that anyone who believes that the BoM is a book of history is daft. Dully noted. You have made your point now move on. There are better, more worthy subjects to hypothesize on. Pick one and let this one go.
    You are like that kid who got the new walkman and has not stopped telling everyone on the block about how you’re so much the better than they because you can now finally play CDs. Ugh.

  • Chris

    Their genetic footprint would be small if the genes were mixed very early on. The very large populations that followed would only include a very small trace of the handful of people who immigrated to join a much larger group already there.
    Like a drop of food coloring in a large swimming pool.

    I like the point made earlier … lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

  • philipjenkins

    You really do know nothing about the topic, then?

  • philipjenkins

    I had actually decided to stop posting on the topic, but your enthusiastic response has persuaded me to carry on!

  • Chris

    I will not be reading any of your future posts then.

  • philipjenkins

    On a different topic, may I recommend that you move to a different email system? You might be the last person on the planet still using compuserve.

  • philipjenkins

    In case I was not clear: you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • Zampona

    I know it was probably a typo, but I’m going to start using “dully noted” to acknowledge a now tiresome and repetitive argument.

  • philipjenkins

    On those specific issues, no there aren’t

  • philipjenkins

    I was politely ignoring it.

  • Zampona

    Again with the attitude that you simply know better. As I have pointed out, there are geneticists that disagree with you. Perhaps Chris’s explanation is simplistic and inaccurate, but there is evidence that genetic markers simply get lost with generations. Your only argument against this point has been based on your interpretation of the Book of Mormon rather than in the text itself (which I have to wonder if you have actually read)

  • Zampona

    I already gave you the name of one: John Butler. According to his interpretation, Iceland provides a classic example of how genetic markers can be entirely lost over just a few generations. That some genetic markers might survive despite a relatively small drop in the genetic bucket says nothing about whether one might always expect that to happen.

  • philipjenkins

    Oh, I see what you mean! No, Butler is dead right, genetic
    markers of families can be lost. (I haven’t read the study, but I will take your word for his conclusion). When you are dealing with sizable populations like in the Book of Mormon mythos, that is far, far too large to be treated in the same way.

    Sorry, I couldn’t think you were raising that as a serious objection. Silly me.

  • philipjenkins

    OK, I read the Butler piece. Interesting, and draws on some good Icelandic studies that he is reporting and summarizing. I now see where you are having a problem. The main study in question talks about survival of genetic traces of INDIVIDUALS, and Butler is dead right on that. That is completely separate from the survival of ethnic traits among larger populations.

    Individuals versus populations – critical.

    Do I need to explain why that is such a critical issue when we are looking at mitochondrial studies and female descent?

    I am amused by the way to see how in very short order,
    claims about settlement in the New World have gone from
    1. the ancestors of all Native Americans, to
    2. a selected few, to,
    3. well, maybe there was a boatload or two, and they kept pretty much to themselves, and certainly never built any cities or empires or anything like that. No, sir, they just lived in this backyard here, never talked to the neighbors, never hung out with their womenfolk.

    What a fall was there. Joseph Smith must be rotating in his grave.

    Mr. Ockham, please come back?

  • Zampona

    Again, you presume that there was no mixing early in the history, and that both Nephites and Lamanites remained genetically Middle Eastern. If instead you allow for the possibility that Lehi’s genetic information (which is the only person, other than Mulek, about whom we can draw any solid inferences) quickly mixed with others, including Sariah, Ishmael, his wife, and any native populations that may have been present, then you cannot presume that Lehi’s middle eastern genetic markers would persist. The people of Zarahemla are even easier to account for, since they could have intermixed with native populations from the beginning. As for the Jaredites, there is no reason to believe their genes would Middle Eastern.

  • philipjenkins

    Mr. Ockham? Please pick up. It’s really quite urgent.

  • Zampona

    Oh great. A “scholar” has descended into sarcasm. I’m glad to see you so easily sacrifice your dignity.

    Two questions: 1) Do you hold to the historicity of the Exodus? 2) Have you actually read the Book of Mormon?

  • philipjenkins

    I made a dead serious comment in flippant form. You are multiplying speculations and fantasies to a extent that is ludicrous, and often humorous. Your only basis for so doing is a fictitious book written around 1830, and unavailable for scholarly examination. The only solution to this is Ockham’s Razor – do you know the concept?

    I actually have read the Book of Mormon on two occasions, in preparing different books of mine. It is an incredibly rich (if appallingly written) historical source for American religious sectarianism in the 1820s.

    Serious answer again about the Exodus. No, in the sense that there was an event in which all Israelites participated. Yes in the sense that there was a population movement from Egypt, some of whom joined an emerging “Israel” in the land of Canaan.

    I hope that is precise enough for you?

  • J. Inglis

    Shouldn’t the DNA of N.A. Indians be !00% Jewish”

    Joseph Smith recorded several accounts of his visitations from angels. When he was 17 he was visited by the angel Moroni who told him about the origins of Indians in North America. In that visitation Moroni told Smith, “I am a messenger sent from God.”

    Smith writes, “He told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham.” (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Diary 1835-1836, pg. 76).

    OK, so it’s God’s own truth that all North American Indians are 100% descendants of Abraham. Given that the Indians were isolated by oceans from other peoples, while Jews were in the thick of things, and constantly had to be reminded to stop intermarrying (Ezra, Nehemiah anyone?), it would actually be the Indians who are more pure blooded than contemporary Jews. Jewish blood has bee “corrupted” many many times by intermarriage with gentiles, whereas the North American Indians were preserved and thus have a purer bloodline.

    [cough, cough]

  • J. Inglis

    “Does it really matter what path other people take to Christ as long as they get there?”

    Do you get the difference between faith and history? between the practice of love and the practice of archaeology?

    Jenkins makes that distinction. He is not arguing that Mormons are awful people, nor that they do not have a valid faith experience, nor that they cannot practice love.

    All he is saying is that Mormons cannot find any support in any modern science for the historical claims in their religious books.

    Mormonism may well be right, but it would be right in spite of the historical fictions in its scriptures.

    If the Mormon apologetic is, “believe in Jesus because Mormons are very loving faithful people who have been changed by Jesus and have the spiritual experience in their bosom”, well that’s something that can neither be proved nor disproved by historical investigations and archaeology.

    However, if part of the Mormon apologetic is “our scriptures speak of the historical presence of Nephites and Lamanites in North America, and we find that to be historically true” then, well, fail.

  • philipjenkins

    *Cough* indeed.

    You may recall the wonderful scene in the film CAT BALLOU where the cranky old rancher keeps trying to trap the young Indian lad into admitting that he really knows Hebrew, but just won’t come out and speak it.

  • J. Inglis

    ” amounts to beating a dead horse. ”

    The horse can’t be dead if Mormons still believe that there were actual Nephites in the historical North America. If you have been convinced by Jenkins, then great, we can move on to other horses.

    Furthermore, his posts have not just been about the false historical claims in the Book of Mormon, and so it has taken several posts to articulate his full argument (if done as one literary piece then it might have been called an essay, or a chapter in a book–there are times when it takes more than a paragraph to make a point).

  • J. Inglis

    A little harsh, and definitely unscholarly, to ridicule someone’s email server.

  • J. Inglis

    “the Book of Mormon says nothing one way or the other about other populations being on the continent. ”

    The Book of Mormon might not, but Joseph Smith sure did–see my post above where he claims that Moroni, and angel from God, told him that the Indians are descended from Abraham.

    ***

    Also, on genetic traces: There are those who claim to have found genetic traces of Neanderthal DNA in that of contemporary homo sapiens–that is, from rare joint offspring, 10s of thousands of years ago. If that is detectable, surely Nephite DNA would be detectable.

  • J. Inglis

    How is simply stating facts as he understands them “lording over”?

  • J. Inglis

    “then you cannot presume that Lehi’s middle eastern genetic markers would persist.”

    Yes you can, because that is simply how genetics works.

  • J. Inglis

    “The very large populations that followed would only include a very small trace of the handful of people ”

    What very large population that followed?

    If (a) it was a large population descended from that mix, then the entire mix of DNA would be perpetuated–just in larger numbers of people. That is, instead of 1,000 people with genetic marker ‘S’, you’d have 10,000,000. The markers would spread throughout the population as each generation of descendents had children. DNA does not winkle out of existence, it’s rather persistent–especially mitochondrial DNA.

    On the other hand, if (b) there was a new influx of a new very large population, well that could cause dilution. The question then is, who is the new very large population that diluted the existing DNA markers?

  • J. Inglis

    “there are geneticists that disagree with you”

    There are none. If you claim there are some, then produce them. And Butler does not disagree with the separate issue that large populations would leave genetic markers that would not disappear. Butler was researching and addressing a different question.

  • J. Inglis

    Except the Bible does not explicitly claim that the earth is 6,000 years old, but Joseph Smith did explicitly claim that Indians were descendants of Abraham.

    Moreover, there is a long long tradition in Biblical interpretation that the earth was not created in six 24 hour days. No such tradition in Mormonism vis a vis Indians and middle eastern DNA.

  • J. Inglis

    No, not irrelevant.

    A. The bible nowhere makes the cosmological claim that the solar system is geocentric (though it does use common phenomenological language to describe the sun’s apparent travel across the sky.).

    B. The Catholic church, even at the time of Galileo, had scholars that believed in heliocentrism.

    Lastly, the real question is not just what the Book of Mormon says, but also what Joseph Smith said about his other revelations.

  • J. Inglis

    So, then, you agree with Jenkins that Lamanite ancestry of Indians is a complete myth, without any basis in history or archaeology, and thus as a result of your confrontation with the evidence you have rethought how you look at scripture.

    The implication is that as a result of your “rethink” you agree that the Book of Mormon is a myth vis a vis Indian DNA.

  • Zampona

    Again, the analogy to Christianity generally is apt. Addressing the evidence that the earth was not created in six literal days does not invariably lead to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist, it changes changes the lens the through which you interpret the account. Neither does a conclusion that the Lamanites are not the only or even predominant ancestors of Native Americans necessitate a conclusion that the Book of Mormon is fiction. It just changes what we assume about it.

  • Zampona

    The actual text of the Book of Mormon makes no claims about the ancestry of Native Americans. And it is not problematic to Mormonism to alter our understanding of what Joseph Smith said or even outright reject sayings that were not presented as revelation.

    By the way, there have been Mormon scholars arguing for a limited geography model since long before the church started moving that direction as an institution.

  • Zampona

    I don’t disagree on the issue of large populations. I’m arguing that markers of middle eastern ancestry might have disappeared long before there were large populations of Book of Mormon peoples.

  • Zampona

    Check your logic. Just because genetic traces of a population CAN show up much later, that’s no guarantee that they will.

  • Zampona

    That’s not what he’s doing. He’s saying that if you don’t have the scholarly rigor, don’t bother. Of course, he could have addressed the Maxwell Institute or even FAIR, which has addressed these concerns on multiple occasions, but that does not appear to be what he is doing.

  • Zampona

    Any defense of the literal truth of any religious claim defies Occam’s Razor. Which claim makes fewer assumptions: that Jesus was resurrected, based solely on the claims of His disciples, or that, given that we do not observe resurrection today, that the story was made up by His disciples? Unless you’re arguing from an atheist standpoint, every believer starts with some assumptions that defy simplistic explanation. If you accept something as miraculous as resurrection, then to fit a plausible interpretation of the Book of Mormon into what we know about genetics now seems like a pretty minor leap.

  • Clarke Morledge

    Dr. Jenkins: Do you have any particular recommendations of scholarly or popular works that compare the historicity problems concerning the Book of Mormon with particular concerns of historicity in the Old and/or New Testaments; such as historical issues with the Exodus, the Canaanite conquest, etc.? I accept the last full paragraph of your blog posting, but from my observation, when more than a few Mormons begin to question the historicity of Joseph Smith’s “revelation” they often then proceed to question historical claims within the Bible. Where would you point someone to go who is wrestling with these issues? Thanks.

  • philipjenkins

    You honestly don’t know what you are talking about in anything concerning DNA or genetics, and from my point of view, this conversation closes now. I am done offering remedial genetics.

    I just offer two closing remarks.

    1. JAREDITES.

    I want to be careful how I phrase this as they were fictitious and non-existent, so it’s a bit like discussing the DNA of Bruce Wayne. But assume they did exist. They came from somewhere outside the Americas, right? So they had extraneous non-American DNA, right?

    So that would show up as recognizable extraneous traces in the Native American record (unless God sneakily gave them American Indian DNA before they arrived. Presumably when he took a day off from planting dinosaur bones to fool paleontologists).

    2. DENISOVANS.

    Do read this story.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denisovan

    They existed about 41,000 years ago and represented a human species distinct from humans and Neandertals. All we know about them is their DNA. But we do know that they interbred with humans, and their genes show up in human populations today, in Pacific territories such as Melanesia, and probably parts of China and Tibet. That’s forty thousand years later.

    Tell me again about DNA traces of tiny minority groups washing out of the population over time?

    AND A BONUS STORY FOR YOU! The Denisovans first came to scholarly attention in 2010. Within two to three years, we had the genetic data and matches from Melanesia and East Asia. Not difficult to find, see?

    If you look at enough samples, you’ll find them. And we now have a VERY large range of genetic samples from all over the world.

  • philipjenkins

    You ask a terrific question and I wish I knew of such a direct comparison. Might any other reader help here? It actually would be a great project.

    Thinking more – if you specifically want books on the Bible and historicity, there are just so many, but one I like is Amy Dockser Marcus, THE VIEW FROM NEBO. The problem is that really, people almost universally accept the broad outlines of the social and cultural arrangements of the world depicted in the Bible, Old or New Testaments, although they differ on political and religious interpretations. So, nobody really tries to “prove” those worlds existed as they do with the Book of Mormon.

    Another good one is Michael Coogan’s OXFORD HISTORY OF THE BIBLICAL WORLD.

    A direct comparison would be a fine idea

  • philipjenkins

    Thanks, seriously, for referring me to the Butler study. His argument is not defensible, but he tackled the topic honestly and responsibly.

  • philipjenkins

    And a plus! You don’t understand Occam’s Razor either.

  • philipjenkins

    I humbly apologize for advocating or praising scholarly rigor. It will never happen again. Out, demon rigor!

  • Zampona

    And you, sir, honestly don’t understand the text you are criticizing. Having read the Book of Mormon only twice and apparently seriously lacking any real experience in Mormon studies, you have and continue to argue right past others.

    Hugh Nibley, long before the mapping of the human genome, theorized convincingly that the Jaredites were related to modern day Asians. That is fully accounted for.

    I’m no expert on genetics, but I do know a thing or two about logic and basic scientific method. For the last time, providing examples of something that has happened is not sufficient evidence to prove that it always happens.

  • Zampona

    Oh, I think I do.

  • Zampona

    You can ask for scholarly rigor in published periodicals. Don’t be surprised when you don’t get it in the comments section of your little blog.

  • philipjenkins

    Fair comment, but I was also trying to be helpful. I speak as a recovering compuserve user, vintage 1983. But Gmail is so much better.

  • Wayne Dequer

    In spring of 1956, Hugh Nibley published the cleverly titled “Victoriosa
    Loquacitas: The Rise of Rhetoric and the Decline of Everything Else” (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1115&index=8 ) in an academic journal entitled, Western Speech. It documented how the techniques of persuasion came to dominate western law and business, ruining classical education and contributing to the destruction of Greco-Roman Culture. It is well worth the read even with its 188 footnotes.

    Professor Jenkins has spent 4 articles attacking the Book of Mormon without quoting from it even once. To be fair he often attacks what he see as faulty Book of Mormon “apologetics” using various forms of that word 24 times. “Apologetics is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. Early Christian writers . . . who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologetics ). I personally see it as a positive label that has become somewhat of a term of derision in popular culture. It can be carried out in a careful, thoughtful and/or honest manner as opposed to a sloppy, calculating and/or deceptive manner. I simply don’t believe the end justifies the means and I’ve certainly seen examples of various types of apologetics by Mormons.

    What Professor Jenkins doesn’t mention is “polemics.” “A polemic is a contentious argument that is intended to affirm a specific understanding via attacks on a contrary position . . . Polemic theology is the branch of theological argumentation devoted to the history or conduct of controversy over religious matters. It is distinguished from apologetics, the intellectual defense of faith” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polemic ). Of course it is the form of written persuasion in which Professor Jenkins is engaging. I find the focus on attack within the polemic style and the language of derision to be a matter of significant concern. I see parallels to negative campaigning in politics. My faith tradition emphasizes civility and constructive engagement (see http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/the-mormon-ethic-of-civility ).

    I have further comments to make about the Professor’s specific comments, but I felt it would be useful to begin by clarifying the style of communication being used as we discuss the points he is making.

  • dh

    Phil,

    I understand and apply historical and archaeological methodology and I think the Book of Mormon is exactly what it claims to be. Your arguments are full of logical fallacies.

  • philipjenkins

    Great – so list them.

    And if you understand those arguments, you will easily be able to answer this 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.

  • philipjenkins

    The comical Hugh Nibley was a master of shrieking polemic, and it is amusing to see him presenting himself as an expert on the topic

    Please tell me the polemical content of the following 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.

    Then answer it

  • Alice Blue

    Where does the Book of Mormon mention that the immigrants to the new world intermarried with indigenous people and to what extent? Solomon Spaulding’s story has this sort of intermarriage, btw. You would think that significant intermarriage, with the cultural and racial contrasts, would rate more of a mention in a book that was so concerned with a person’s color and lineage.

  • Alice Blue

    Dr. Jenkins: Your understanding is correct. As a former Gospel Doctrine (adult Sunday school teacher) I can back you up on this.

  • Alice Blue

    The Book of Mormon fails to mention encountering any indigenous civilizations not of middle eastern origin. The limited geography model is a theory developed in an attempt to explain this but has never been truly canonical.

  • Alice Blue

    This is the Mormon version of “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Dr. Jenkins should take this screed as a compliment – culturally, they often resort to ad hominem allegations and complaints about being attacked when they become aware that they are under the lens and losing an argument.

  • janeway

    This writer deems the Book of Mormon nonsense so why does he care and taking such pains to refute it? Spending ones time and resources on disproving something that does not effect him I find strange. Very much stranger than the Book of Mormon. There must be an underlying agenda and he needs to express it what it is.

  • Zampona

    The Book of Mormon fails to mention a lot of things. That’s because it wasn’t written as a history textbook, but as a spiritual text that happens to include some history. And the limited geography model has been around in one form or another since at least the 1920s, and it’s not clear that early Mormons made the assumption that a hemispherical model applied.

  • Mike

    A more honest and thorough view of DNA studies. https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies?lang=eng

  • Alice Blue

    So, why no mention of indigenous people when race, color, lineage, and cultural heritage was so important to them?

  • Touma

    Awesome post. Thanks!

  • EngineerSenseHere

    In general, it is not wise to trust the opinions of others (even experts) when they have a conflict of interest. In studies about the BoM, both groups that study it (Momons and non) have an inherent conflict of interest in the outcomes of their study.

    Because of that, it is important to examine the facts and data, not the opinions of the researchers. So, I ask again, what actual evidence from these DNA studies (not the interpretations/theories) disproves the BoM? I’ve looked at both sides, and as a scientist would conclude that the evidence is inconclusive.

  • Alice Blue

    Uh, we nearly got a Mormon president and still might some day. Way more members of the government at all levels than you realize are Mormon. It’s not just a Utah thing. And, by your logic, nobody needs to investigate or debunk anything unless they, personally, bark their shins on it. No such thing as the public good, huh?

  • Dear Philip,

    “The scariest single idea I found in the various comments was from the people who resorted to absolute subjectivism and the radical denial of objective truth. Sure, they said, you can’t find proof of the Book of Mormon, but the Bible is just as subjective and made up, and so indeed is all history, and all archaeology.”

    My friend and I (both of us are converts to Eastern Orthodox Christianity from the Mormon faith) were discussing this phenomenon recently, and we have encountered it several times, both within and outside of our academic environments.

    I once invited a Christian speaker to my university to talk about what archaeological and manuscript evidence tell us about it first and second century Christianity. A Mormon graduate student, agitated because the speaker’s explanation of early Christianity sounded very different than his “restored” faith, tried desperately, but ultimately unsuccessfully, to undermine the evidences upon which the speaker established his case. Having failed at his attempt to undermine the speaker’s arguments objectively, the Mormon graduate student exclaimed that the interpretations of such evidences are inconclusive because each individual scholar interprets material evidence subjectively since their perspectives are shaped by unique environments.

    I love my Mormon brothers and sisters. Many of them put me to shame by their Christ-like examples, but their faith tradition has no objective basis and must continually be a moving target to persevere. Eventually, though, they are going to run out of prospective locations on the North and South American continents,

  • James Stagg

    That is simply silly.

  • Tucker

    I understand there are many LDS scholars who would make the same case you are making but are afraid to do so. Is that true—–or have you already said as much and I’ve missed it?

  • Zampona

    John Sorensen addresses this in a paper from a while back, but basically anything that would have seemed obvious to the author and did not directly affect the spiritual narrative (and the political narrative to the extent it was relevant) would not make the cut. The racial narrative was apparently relevant given several discourses early on, but apparently had much less effect later (there is no mention of race after 3 Nephi).

  • FredWAnson

    Well I DO have experience in Mormon Studies and I AM familiar with the work of Hugh Nibley. Two things:

    First, since you didn’t specify sources or cite from Nibley I’m going assume that you’re referring to the Hugh Nibley books “There were Jaredites” and “The World of the Jaredites” in which he asserted that the Jaredites were Asian. Of course, he also did so in several articles and innumerable lectures but those are the key works that typically get cited here.

    Never the less, in the end it really doesn’t matter because both books are clearly an attempt by Nibley to reconcile the Book of Mormon with the prevailing view at the time (which DNA evidence has since proven conclusively) that the American aboriginals were of northeastern Asia descent and not from the Middle East (where the events of the book of Genesis – including the Tower of Babel – allegedly transpire).

    In other words, Nibley’s work in this area fits the classic model of partisan Latter-day Saint scholarship in which the conclusion is decided first and then the facts are bent to fit it.

    Non-Mormon scholars saw through it then just as they see through it now. It packs about the same wallop as a sports fan claiming that their team is #1 because the underlying scholastic methodology is the same: A conclusion derived from confirmation bias not evidence.

    Second, Nibley was notorious for this very thing (coming to the conclusion first and then bending the facts to it). This isn’t just my assessment, please consider those of NIbley’s Mormon (yes, that’s right Latter-day Saint not outsider) peers:

    “The number of parallels that Nibley has been able to uncover from amazingly disparate and arcane sources is truly staggering. Unfortunately, there seems to be a neglect of any methodological reflection or articulation in this endeavor”

    (Douglas F. Salmon, “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Saint Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?”, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Volume 33, Number 2, Summer 2000, pg. 129; http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/doc_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=10936&CISOBOX=0)

    “If we define an artificial collection like this–which spans hundreds of years, thousands of miles, and widely diverse societies and religions–as all being the same (they were “all teaching very much the same thing,”), we can bring forth proof that “the ancients” believed anything we want them to believe.

    This kind of method seems to work from the conclusions to the evidence–instead of the other way around. And too often it necessitates giving the sources an interpretation for which little support can be found elsewhere.”
    (Kent P. Jackson, “Review of Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies,” BYU Studies 28 no. 4 (1988), pp.115-17; also see http://lds-mormon.com/nibley1.shtml)

    “…Nibley often uses his secondary sources the same way he uses his primary sources–taking phrases out of context to establish points with which those whom he quotes would likely not agree. I asked myself frequently what some authors would think if they knew that someone were using their words the way Nibley does…”
    (Kent P. Jackson, “Review of Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies,” BYU Studies 28 no. 4 (1988), pp.115-17; also see http://lds-mormon.com/nibley1.shtml)

    “As a former BYU history professor observed in 1984, ‘[Nibley] has been a security blanket for Latter-day Saints to whom dissonance is intolerable….His contribution to dissonance management is not so much what he has written, but that he has written. After knowing Hugh Nibley for forty years, I am of the opinion that he has been playing games with his readers all along….Relatively few Latter-day Saints read the Nibley books that they give one another, or the copiously annotated articles that he has contributed to church publications. It is enough for most of us that they are there.'”
    (Bergera and Priddis, “BYU:A House of Faith”, p.362)

    So if you were wondering why citing Nibley as a source has fallen out of vogue now you now.

    BTW, just a tip friend, your arguments would be more cogent and persuasive and if you would argue to evidence with evidence and forgo the fallacious and irrelevant ad-hominem arguments.

    In other words, stop attacking Mr. Jenkins, address the evidence he’s presented with counting evidence – not THAT’s persuasive. And it would be a welcome change from what we’ve seen from the Mormon side of the divide thus far in this conversation.

    Thanks.

  • FredWAnson

    Did you even read Mr. Jenkins’ article? If so, then why are you pointing to the very dishonest, spin doctored, partisan Gospel Topics article that he has deconstructed and discredited point by point as “more honest and thorough”?

    It’s a silly assertion and even sillier argument given the facts and evidence that’s been presented.

  • FredWAnson

    Another ad-hominem argument? Again, if you have credible countering evidence to present please do so.

    Personal attacks on the author prove nothing.

  • FredWAnson

    Qwerty, you completely miss the point. When it comes to knowing Christ the Book of Mormon brings nothing new to the table. Stated simply: We don’t need the Book of Mormon to know Christ, the Bible is quite sufficient.

    Rather the Book of Mormon is, and always has been, used as proof of Joseph Smith’s credentials as a true prophet of God. Even Mormon Apologist Daniel C. Peterson largely agrees with this:

    “Studies of Latter-day Saint sermons and curriculum from the earliest period of church history well into the 20th century demonstrate surprisingly little use of the Book of Mormon to establish doctrines or as a text from which to preach. Many Saints were converted by reading it, but, thereafter, they tended to overlook its specific content. Early members, mostly converts, knew the Bible well and used it extensively in their teaching and missionary efforts, but the Book of Mormon served mainly as a kind of talisman, its sheer existence pointing to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.

    Even Joseph Smith used the Bible far more than he used the Book of Mormon in his sermons.”
    — Dan Peterson, “Embracing the power of the Book of Mormon”; The Deseret News, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012; http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700212348/Embracing-the-power-of-the-Book-of-Mormon.html?pg=all

    Your argument is spurious, fallacious, and irrelevant. In short, it’s a non-sequitur.

    The issue with the Book of Mormon is Joseph Smith, not Jesus Christ. Always has been, always will be.

  • FredWAnson

    Well, Bart said it, I believe it, that settles it!
    (NOT!)

    As with all things scholarly there are two sides to the story and Richard Bauckham has argued persuasively that that the gospels are clearly eye witness accounts using the same evidence that Ehrman cites: The internal evidence of the text itself.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=292NTf1cCNw

    Further, Ehrman himself has argued against the claims of neo-Atheists that Jesus Christ wasn’t a historical figure in his book, “Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” (see http://smile.amazon.com/Did-Jesus-Exist-Historical-Argument/dp/0062206443)

  • MormonForever

    Excellent response

  • MormonForever

    Wonderful post!

  • MormonForever

    You are never on shaky ground when you follow God and Jesus Christ. The BoM is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. You do not have to believe it that is your choice. i choose to believe it on faith and through the Holy Ghost. It is a true book.

  • MormonForever

    This country would be a heck of lot better off now had the Mormon won. Instead we got a mess of a president in the white house and he has made a mess of this country

  • Zampona

    This is the comments section of a blog. I neither have time nor interest in tracking down multiple sources for something few will ever see. The original author would do well to take that advice. For example, he responds dismissively to the idea that we cannot know the genetic profile of Lehi or his family, despite well-researched and well-reasoned responses to the claim (see Michael F. Whiting, DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective). The author’s response to contrary claims amounts to little more than “nuh-uh.” He points to few sources, and does not actually address the arguments that have been made by the Church, the Maxwell Institute, FAIR, and others. Keep in mind, the author implies that if you don’t have the training, stay out of the conversation, this despite the author’s background in history and anthropology, not genetics.

    To address the Nibley issue, I cite it only to point out that the claim has been around for a while, and the nature of the Jaredite narrative presents no problems in terms of DNA.

    To address your other concerns generally: following the scientific method alone will not lead you to the conclusion that any religion is true. There is no tangible evidence that the story of the Exodus is anything more than a myth. There is no tangible evidence of an afterlife. Resurrection is among the most implausible ideas imaginable given the evidence. When defending religious truths, one always starts with the conclusion. No one is claiming that the physical evidence points inescapably to the truths of the Book of Mormon. The role of an apologist is to demonstrate that the idea is plausible. As with any idea, we have to adjust our ideas when presented with the evidence, rejecting the incompatible and retaining the rest. If that means adjusting assumptions about where the Jaredites came from or even the scope of the Book of Mormon narrative, then I see no problem.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    The burden falls upon the adherents of BOM historicity to evidence that it is historical. Until said evidence materializes, due to a rash of strong anachronisms in the text, the scholarly approach is to view BOM historicity as highly implausible.

    Now produce objective hard evidence and you might have something. .mm

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    And now we fray into stupid partisan politics…. wheeeeee

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Jesus might be historical. Divine and the son of god, are totally different topics.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I asked god. He said the BOM is bad bible fan fiction, and false.

    What now?

  • France93

    Hi Philip,

    What is your view of the DNA evidence for a historical Adam? Or a historical Eve? Or a historical Noah? Or young-earth creationist theories?

    Do you think DNA evidence largely supports, or refutes, the evangelical worldview?

    Do you consider the evangelical worldview to be “real history” or “myth history?”

    Thanks in advance.

  • Alice Blue

    Are we arguing whether the Mormon religion is true, or whether its archeological claims are true? Those are two different arguments. One is not amenable to scientific methodology, but the second one definitely is.

  • Zampona

    To an extent, yes. But science never starts with the conclusion, and accepts only the simplest explanation given the evidence. That method cannot lead to the conclusion that something is true without physical evidence to back it up. When the original source of a claim is supernatural or otherwise religious, an apologist starts with that assumption, and demonstrates that the claim is plausible. The apologist need not demonstrate that all of the evidence or the best evidence supports his claim, only that the available evidence is not contradictory.

  • Philip, of course the conclusion comes first. That’s called “having a faith.” People are already resorting to ad hominem attacks, insulting you in various ways. That’s what happens if they have no real counter-arguments.

    You are entering the rarefied zone of such demonized figures as Dawkins and Spong. Notice whenever those two names come up on religious blogs, their arguments or evidence are never mentioned! Instead, they are called angry, sarcastic, mean, nasty, arrogant, or, if nothing else, deluded enemies of the church. What else can their opponents say? If you have no real counter-arguments, you are reduced to ad hominems.

    Anyway, thanks for making this discussion happen. It is a great example of what it is (so to speak!). Priceless. For archive purposes, both the article and long comment section can be saved as a pdf.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    You don’t need a rash of strong anachronisms. You just need one. So, which is it? Because if that horse argument was the best you have, then you should rethink your position.

  • JCL

    One respected commentator in his book on Joseph Smith Jr. pointed out that if you carefully map out all the distances and directions from each other of the locations described in the Book of Mormon, you will develop a map that overlays the area around Manchester, NY, quite well, including the local lakes, etc. I keep pondering why this would be. (Not really, because I know.)

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    The existence of anachronisms in a document is one of the primary indicators that historians use to detect fraud. The bom anachronism are the same as me producing a document that I claimed to have translated from ancient shoshone, describing how George Franklin defeated the Chinese at the Alamo in 1776 by mowing them down from an M1a1 Abrams tank.

    Would you believe it as historical?

    Remember my absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    No, but I don’t value your word too highly. However, there are many Mormons who I know to be honest, that know the BoM is true.

  • EngineerSenseHere

    Really? And running around in loin cloths is very common in New York I suppose as well.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I am honest. God told me the bom is false. The power of testimony!

    But when it comes to anachronisms, the bom has dozens of them. The horse, chariots and steel swords are as out of place for the time and place of the bom narrative, as a m1a1 Abrams would be in 1776. There is no such thing as ancient shoshone, just as there is no reformed egyptian. The Chinese at the Alamo is no more nonsensical than a literate Hebrew based society with iron smelting capabilities in the Americas during the bom time frame. The story I proposed is highly implausible, but no more implausible than the bom.

    Remember absence of evidence is not evidence off absence. George drove that m1 at the alamo!

  • EC

    I think that this is an unfortunate article on several levels, but the argument that DNA evidence disproves the historicity of the Book of Mormon is just incorrect. For a more complete discussion of this topic, I would recommend Dr. Ugo Perego’s article on this subject:
    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/is-decrypting-the-genetic-legacy-of-americas-indigenous-populations-key-to-the-historicity-of-the-book-of-mormon/

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Surely now you can point us to one of these peer reviewed articles and produce one piece of objectively verifiable hard evidence for bom historicity. We eagerly await.

  • FredWAnson

    “Jesus might be historical.”

    As Ehrman has stated clearly a number of times (even writing an entire book on the subject) the consensus among both minimalist and maximalist scholars is that Jesus Christ was a historical figure.

    “Divine and the son of god, are totally different topics.”

    Perhaps in some theological schools (such as modern LdS Theology and various and sundry school leaning to the liberal side of the spectrum) however there is no such dichotomy in the biblical narrative as Robert Bowman, J. Ed Komoszewski, and Darrell L. Bock argue in this work, “Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ”
    http://smile.amazon.com/Putting-Jesus-His-Place-Christ-ebook/dp/B001QOGJVI

  • FredWAnson

    Well so much for civil discourse!

    Why should we consider your ad-hominem arguments any more credible than the Mormon ad-hominems on this page? Likewise, for your dismissive attitude toward any evidence that doesn’t support your preconceived conclusions.

    Even scholars who ultimately disagree with Mr. Bauckham’s conclusions applaud him for his scholarship, methodology, and body of evidence. Bart Ehrman is one of them. Mr. Ehrman took the time to give his work serious consider, have you?

    As for a love/hate relationship with Mr. Ehrman, you delude yourself sir, there is nothing of the kind. Bart Ehrman is an excellent scholarship who is adding much value to the conversation. I have yet to read any of his word and not walk away admiring his scholarship and methodology even if I disagree with his final conclusions.

    I have considered both sets of evidence and come to my own conclusions. What I object to is those who zealously refuse to consider what the other side has to say while treating their side with the same type of dogmatic passion that they accuse the other side with. When that happens BOTH sides are equally wrong and blind.

    This is just scholarship, nothing more and your rude, disrespectful behavior isn’t appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • FredWAnson

    Well, ignoring the fact that this is yet another irrelevant non-sequitur relative to the article . . . a rabbit hole if you will.

    “That’s something to take up with God.”

    Really? Have you taken the up the matter of the Quran with God? Dianetics? Christopher Nemelka’s translation of “The Sealed Portion”?

    Just because someone CLAIMS that a work is divinely inspired doesn’t make it a matter to be taken up with God. This is nothing more than a Special Pleading fallacy – it’s just silly.

    “The Bible teaches us that he proves his word by the mouth of 2 or more witnesses.”

    Here is precisely what the Bible states on this point:

    John 8 (Joseph Smith Translation)
    12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

    13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

    14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true; for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

    15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.

    16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

    17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.

    18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

    19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father; if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

    Hmmm . . . no mention of the Book of Mormon. I believe sir that you are inserting words into the text that aren’t there.

    “Both the Old and New Testament give the illusion that God is only the God of the Middle East, that he ignored the rest of his creation.”

    Nonsense. Both the Old and New Testament declare boldly that God is sovereign over ALL of creation. Examples (caps added for emphasis):

    “THE EARTH is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; THE WORLD, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.”
    — Psalm 24:1&2 (JST)

    “That WHOSOEVER believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved THE WORLD, that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish; but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn THE WORLD; but that THE WORLD through him might be saved.”
    — John 3:15-17 (JST)

    As for the Old Testament it contains prophecies – even entire books – that directly address the Gentiles nations. It has stories of those from Gentiles being converted to the only true God. The Old Testament is FILLED with references to nations and peoples who are outside of Israel and outside of the Middle East.

    Further, the majority of the New Testament was written for a GENTILE, non-Jewish, non-Middle Eastern audience.

    This argument is simply wrong.

    “The Book of Mormon is that second witness proving that he is the God of the whole Earth and not another god made up by man.”

    The Bible says otherwise see above.

    “If God didn’t want another testimony of himself, why does the Book of Mormon exist?”

    Excellent use of confirmation bias driven circular logic! Well done!

    As stated previously, God didn’t want or need the Book of Mormon. Key question: What doctrine or truth is there in the Book of Mormon that isn’t already in the Bible – and frankly said better in the Bible?

    “It doesn’t lead souls away from Christ, but to him.”

    And the Bible wasn’t ALREADY doing this – and I might add, doing it BETTER than the BoM does?

    “If the Book of Mormon is not true, there can be no God as God would be another idol made by man in the Middle East.”

    Again, nonsense. See above, or better yet, read the Bible. Your assertions are utterly discredited by the Bible itself.

    Respectfully, based on your arguments I could easily conclude that you’ve never read the Bible from cover to cover. May I suggest that you do so?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Read them. Am not impressed. Generic cultural parallels, and tenuous linguistic similarities, quoted by others in Mormon studies, but whose methodologies and conclusions have not been repeatedly and indepently verified do little for objective hard evidence.

    Are you familiar with Pons and Fleischmann?

  • FredWAnson

    “I neither have time nor interest in tracking down multiple sources for something few will ever see.”

    I see so basically, what you’ve just said there is this: “I’m a lazy, irresponsible scholar and have no intention in being a respected, credible one.”

    You will notice, for example, that I didn’t ask you to track down any sources for my second point: I cited directly from them and when possible even give you live links so you could double check them.

    And, then of course, you proceed into yet another string of ad-hominem arguments on the author even going so far as to continue in the same lazy, irresponsible model of scholarship (love the vague references to outside sources that don’t actually cite from them – nice touch!) that you’ve demonstrated so nicely throughout your comments.

    As others have noted well on Facebook regarding the Mormon comments on this page, the Mormons are doing a MARVELOUS job of demonstrating and proving the author’s thesis for him.

    Well done!

  • FredWAnson

    “When defending religious truths, one always starts with the conclusion.”

    With that statement alone by his most vocal Mormon critic on this page the author could simply say, “I rest my case!” and the thesis of his article would be proven. You have just essentially said, “All of our arguments are driven by confirmation bias irrespective of reality.”

    Again, well done!

  • FredWAnson

    Where did I say that you should?

    Father Thyme, I’m getting the distinct impression that you’re not at all interested in civil discourse – you’re only looking for a fight.

    So I’m going to walk away. I’m not interested.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Sorry I did not state that clearly, did not intend to split those apart, but rather note that the discussions about the historicity of Jesus and the supernatural Jesus are two entirely different topics. That Jesus likely existed does not necessarily make him god.

  • Kirk Bolas

    @Zampona…who would these equally or eminently better qualified academics be that disagree? Seriously, I’d like to know to be able to compare their methodology and findings to the author’s of this discussion.

  • James or Not

    Same argument, same need, same lack of result: Show one piece of objective evidence that indeed Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven. One piece. And by the way eyewitness testimony does not count, as it has been demonstrated to be some of the least reliable or credible of all evidences, and the Book of Mormon that you and I heartily discount also has recorded eyewitness testimony.

    The silence of evidence for the BoM is deafening, but so is the silence concerning the divinity of Jesus. Belief in either requires faith beyond evidence, and I would be very careful in throwing stones at others glass houses.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I’ll see your Ugo Prego and raise you a Simon Southerton. http://simonsoutherton.blogspot.com/?m=1

  • Tucker

    Dr. Jenkins, Do you know LDS scholars who agree with what you’re writing but are afraid to speak publicly? I understand there are quite a few.

  • FredWAnson

    “That Jesus likely existed does not necessarily make him god.”

    I concur.

  • France93

    I didn’t know they were involved in mormon studies. But while you are dishing out blame, you might as well blame cold fusion on some mormon apologetic conspiracy. Nice.

  • France93

    Don’t DNA studies also falsify Evangelical Christianity and all other religions that espouse Biblical literalism? Or to paraphrase the author of this article, how is the Evangelical gene hunt for Adam, Eve, Noah, and a 6,000 year old earth going right now?

  • FredWAnson

    “And by the way eyewitness testimony does not count, as it has been demonstrated to be some of the least reliable or credible of all evidences, and the Book of Mormon that you and I heartily discount also has recorded eyewitness testimony.”

    And? The question isn’t “Does the book claim to have eyewitness testimony?” The question is, “Does that eyewitness testimony bear the marks of being authentic?

    Richard Bauckham’s work demonstrates that the gospel narratives bear the marks of the time, culture, and historical record that they claim to be reporting.

    They also bears the standard marks of the type of genuine eyewitness testimony that one sees in legal and historical contexts. Therefore, there is a high probability that the gospel do in fact represent actual eyewitness accounts.

    The alleged Book of Mormon eyewitness accounts lack these marks of authenticity. Therefore, there is a very low probability that they do in fact represent actual eyewitness accounts.

    For a start, they’re anachronistic reflecting 19th Century American Protestantism rather than the ancient peoples that they claim to have originated from.

  • FredWAnson

    However, assuming that the gospels were in fact contrived I’m puzzled over how and why the Apostles would be willing to suffer and die for such a fiction?

    And why would the people in the region where this “fiction” was supposed to have occurred fall for such a ruse that could have been easily discredited by talking to the people named in the gospel account – many whom were adversarial to Early Christianity and not supporters.

    Further, it seems strange that those who were proselyting via this fiction would even include the names of alleged eye witnesses of the event if those people could easily be hunted down for confirmation. Rather they went to lengths to “name names” AND encouraged their readers to confirm that what they were writing was true.

    After all, the canonical gospels were written at the very most forty to sixty years after Christ’s death and Paul’s letter just 15-25 years after His death (see F.F. Bruce, “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?”[1] or Paul Barnett, “Is The New Testament Reliable?”[2]) that means that those names in these works would have most likely still be living and available for first hand verification of the author’s claims.

    Here are some examples and discussion points that Timothy Keller cites in his book, “The Reason For God”; http://www.amazon.com/Reason-God-Belief-Age-Skepticism/dp/0525950494 that I find to be particularly good:

    “Mark, for example, says that the man who helped Jesus carry his cross to Calvary ‘was the father of Alexander and Rufus’ (Mark 15:21). There is no reason to include such names unless the readers know or could have access to them. Mark is saying, ‘Alexander and Rufus vouch for the truth of what I am telling you, if you want to go ask them.'”
    (p. 101)

    “Paul also appeals to readers to check with living eyewitnesses if they want to establish the truth of what he is saying about the events of Jesus’s life (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). Paul refers to a body of five hundred eyewitnesses who saw the risen Christ at once. You can’t write that in a document designed for public reading unless there really were surviving witnesses whose testimony agreed and who could confirm what the author said.”
    (pp. 101&102)

    “It was not only Christ’s supporters who were still alive. Also still alive were many bystanders, officials, and opponents who had actually heard him teach, seen his actions, and watched him die. They would have been especially ready to challenge any accounts that were fabricated.”
    (p. 102)

    “For a highly altered, fictionalized account of an event to take hold in the public imagination it is necessary that the eyewitnesses (and their children and grandchildren) all be long dead. They must be off the scene so they cannot contradict or debunk the embellishments and falsehoods of the story. The gospels were written far too soon for this to occur.”
    (p. 102)

    “It would have been impossible, then, for this new faith to spread as it did had Jesus never said or done the things mentioned in the gospel accounts. Paul could confidently assert to government officials that the events of Jesus’s life were public knowledge: ‘These things were not done in a corner, ” he said to King Agrippa (Acts 26:26).”
    (p. 102)

    “The New Testament documents could not say that Jesus was crucified when thousands of people were still alive who knew whether he was or not. If there had not been appearances after his death, if there had not been an empty tomb, if he had not made these claims, and these public documents claimed they happened, Christianity would never have gotten off the ground. The hearers would have simply laughed at the accounts.”
    (p. 102)

    Thank you.

    NOTES
    [1] See http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Documents-They-Reliable/dp/0802822193

    [2] See http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Reliable-Paul-Barnett/dp/0830827684/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

  • GP

    Wow – you pretty much nailed it and left very little wiggle room for apologists. Great article with specific substance – something clearly absent from apologist arguments. I just don’t understand why the LDS church doesn’t admit to the obvious fact that the BoM is fiction and instead change the message to the spiritual realm. It would save a lot of members from cognitive dissonance and wasted research in trying to find something that doesn’t exist.

  • James or Not

    I’m not questioning any of that. I’m questioning your willingness to cast aspersions on another persons faith when your own rests on the same lack of evidence. Historical authenticity does nothing to support your belief in Jesus as divine, only that he existed. The divine part is as well attested as the BoM testimony of mormon faithful, again not on evidence, but by a mystical experience that may well be the exact same thing for both of you.

  • philipjenkins

    If any of those writers want to produce one credible piece of evidence, they should go ahead and do so. They never have yet, and they certainly spend their time evading the genetic evidence. What is a site, or object, or piece of data, that supports one aspect of the Book of Mormon story? One?

    Obviously you are right to say that in itself, peer review does not validate research of any kind. But it does set a floor below which you cannot and should not reasonably go.

  • philipjenkins

    Here is an example. An archaeological site from, say the early centuries ad, in meso America, containing insciptions or pottery or genetic traces characteristic of the Middle East. The genetic traces would be an easy giveaway. Please list for me the ten leading sites that you think fit that criterion?

  • GP

    Your reply offers nothing of substance to this argument. If you have specific claims that refute Mr. Jenkins, then please state them.

    I have read FARMS and FAIR extensively and in every single case of BoM “evidence” they bend something or another to meet their needs. They inappropriately conflate unrelated items, change the meaning of words, sprinkle liberal amounts of their own speculation, etc.

    Here’s a concept – why don’t the prophets and apostles ask God where the evidence is? Oh yeah, Joseph Smith already did that… and he identified the American Indians and geography around him as being tied to the BoM. Ever since him, these so-called “prophets” have become increasingly silent on this subject as science has time and again refuted earlier claims with the apex being a dial-down of claims in the BoM title page made a few years ago.

    Let me just close with this. Regardless of what the church culture has told you, scientists are not all conspiring together to hide evidence supporting the BoM. They are using the scientific method to try to piece together the historical puzzle. And in all scientific disciplines, the evidence points to Asiatic migrations with ZERO evidence of a Middle Eastern introduction a few thousand years ago. Beyond that, the dating for all of this evidence clearly exceeds 7,000 years which contradicts D&C 77. I’m quite sure that I won’t convince you of anything since it sounds like you’ve made up your mind and aren’t interested in hearing about this evidence. But hopefully another reader will benefit and do his/her own study and see where the evidence leads.

    I was in your shoes once. I wanted to believe and jumped through the hoops necessary to make it work. But the evidence simply didn’t support my own conclusion of the BoM historicity (or the church being “true” for that matter). Once I finally allowed myself to ask myself these questions with an open mind and real intent on knowing the actual truth, everything else fell into place. Intellectual honesty is quite liberating. I wish you the best on your spiritual journey.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Talk about missing the point……

    Without repeated verification of methodologies and data sets to control for vagaries….. One off, unvetted publications and claims are just…. dubious at best. There is more to academia then just being published in peer reviewed journals.

    That scholars who are mormon produce good academic work is not a question, they do. But publishing in the “peer reviewed” (by their fellow momrons) niche Mormon study mags, articles that would get no traction in an academic venue of anthropology, archaeology, meso amercian studies, yada yada, serves little beside for apologetic purposes. The Interpreter, Journal of BOMS etc are not “peer reviewed” in the terms of any field outside of mormon studies. The authors noted have produced scholarly work in many of the journals of their individual fields, the mormon stuff published in the Interpreter, JOBOMS, etc, are not these venues.

  • Zampona

    John Butler and Michael Whiting, to just name the two I have cited in this forum.

  • Zampona

    Every Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim in the world does the same thing. You cannot get to religious truth through science.

  • GP

    “By the way, there have been Mormon scholars arguing for a limited
    geography model since long before the church started moving that
    direction as an institution.”

    Please state your earliest source.

  • GP

    How is your claim more authentic than that of members of other religions?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycUvC9s4VYA

  • FredWAnson

    So in other words, you’re not interested in having an on-topic discussion. You want to go down a rabbit trail of your own choosing.

    The topic of this thread was clearly stated: “The Gospels don’t seem any more historical than the Mormon holy book. Can you apply the same standard to Jesus?”

    And the answer is, “Yes.” And while there is no evidence for the Book of Mormon historicity there IS clearly some evidence to support the historicity of Christ and the gospels.

    I have made no claims regarding the divine claims of Christ or the Bible to the positive or the negative – why should I since that’s not the topic of this discussion thread?

    I have stayed on topic. That’s what one does in civil discussion.

    Thanks.

  • Zampona

    I never claimed to be a scholar, and although I have done scholarly work, I don’t think the Comments section of a blog is worth the time or the energy.

    There is plenty of scholarship on the issue. I cited to one prominent example. The author has not addressed the defenses made in the Whiting article.

  • GP

    The silence on your repeated request for this is quite telling.

    Wayne? Qwerty? MormonForever? Zampona? Bueller? Anyone?

  • Zampona

    Are you Christian?

  • GP

    Is this a dead horse? The last I checked, the LDS church still claims BoM historicity. So long as they claim that, then why would you request silence on dissenting views?

  • philipjenkins

    If they ever produce one solid and convincing and credible piece of evidence, archaeological or credible or genetic, I’m happy to listen. So far, they have been wasting their time.

  • philipjenkins

    I don’t accept the historical Adam, eve, or young earth. I know lots of evangelicals who do not believe in those things, but if they do, then I disagree. My reasons for doing so are very similar to my criticisms of the Book of Mormon. I did actually refer to those creationist debates a couple of columns back.

    I firmly believe in the divine guidance of creation, through the process of evolution.

  • GP

    “Are you Christian?”

    I’m not sure how that is relevant to my comment and I’m curious as to how my answer will influence your response.

    But to answer your question (even indirectly), let’s just say that I have a lot of “trust” issues with religions after my world fell apart when I discovered the hidden real history of the LDS church… nearly all of those “anti-Mormon lies” I had been told about were actually true once I looked into them myself using original sources.

  • Zampona

    I’m not interested in rebutting every point based on the evidence, because I myself am not an expert in genetics. I can refer to a well-sourced and well thought out article, which contains a number of points that rebut Jenkins claims. Michael F. Whiting, DNA and the Book of Mormon: A Phylogenetic Perspective. I compared Jenkins article to Whitings, and I am satisfied that Jenkins has provided nothing that hasn’t already been well addressed.

  • Zampona

    From the Wikipedia article on the Limited Geography model (you can follow that article’s sources from there) In 1927, Janne M. Sjödahl stated that “students of the Book of Mormon should be cautioned against the error of supposing that all the American Indians are the descendants of Lehi, Mulek and their companions.”[13][14]
    In 1938 a church study guide for the Book of Mormon stated that “the Book of Mormon deals only with the history and expansion of three small colonies which came to America, and it does not deny or disprove the possibility of other immigrations, which probably would be unknown to its writers.”[13][15]

  • Zampona

    It matters in that I can take shortcuts in responding if I know if we have shared assumptions.

  • GP

    I don’t think about religion much anymore. To quote a movie you probably have seen, I find them to be “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture”.

    I think that Christ existed historically and his teachings are a good template to follow. That said, the same principles can be found elsewhere too. There are grand claims made by many religions… I see no reason (outside of using circular logic) to prove that Christ was any more divine than God/gods/goddesses in other religions.

  • GP

    Thanks for the reference. This was clearly already after questions arose about BoM historicity, but this is a much earlier timeframe than what I would have expected.

  • Zampona

    I think questions about the Book of Mormon’s historicity arose the moment it was published.

  • GP

    Sure… but far less than it is today with the science that we now have. The thinking at the time the BoM was dictated was in-line with the BoM claims (see “View of the Hebrews” – Joseph’s account of the Native Americans was not original, but in fact the thinking of the day).

  • James or Not

    You are welcome. Feeling quite superior today? GlaD I could help.

    I see that you are not willing to engage on a question that indeed is on topic: are You willing to apply the same standard to the divine claim of Jesus, or just disparage others who are only more obviously wrong?

  • FredWAnson

    I’m thinking you haven’t known many Christians, Buddhists, or Muslims. Those I’ve known have been able to cite empirical evidence to support their belief systems.

    In fact, the Muslim contribution to the development of scientific method is pronounced. It was drawn out of their worldview. Ditto for Christianity. Ditto for Judaism. Simply put, it was believed that because God was a God of order, He could be revealed throughthrough objectively investigating and exploring His creation.

    So why is it that Mormonism requires a confirmation bias driven epistemology while other belief systems can accommodate empiricism?

    Granted some degree of faith is always required in all these systems but it seems to be more “facts, faith, feelings” in those systems rather than the opposite that seems to be the case with Mormonism.

    It’s interesting. And indeed, it seems to prove the author’s thesis.

  • FredWAnson

    Well I’m sorry you feel that way James or Not.

    Have a wonderful evening.

  • Zampona

    You think that empirical evidence supports these belief systems? There is no empirical evidence that an Exodus of Hebrews from Egypt ever took place, or that a great deluge covered the entire earth, or that Amitabha was born from a flower, or that ogres existed in Tibet before Amitabha sent a monkey to create people who could become Buddhists, or that Mohammed was carried to the Al-Aqsa Mosque (or that the mosque even existed at the time)? These are supported by empirical evidence? Or how about after life, or resurrection? A belief in any of these things requires that you suspend logic and scientific inquiry and replace it with faith.

    If your response is that these groups can point to some part of their belief systems with some empirical evidence, then so what? I can prove empirically that Joseph Smith existed, and that Nauvoo was a real city. I can even provide evidence that the places in the Old World mentioned in the Book of Mormon existed (Jerusalem, Nahom, Bountiful). Judaism is not empirically supported by proving that Isaiah was a real person if there is no empirical evidence that Moses or Abraham or King David ever existed. That Mohammed was a historical figure is irrelevant to the many scientifically weird claims made in the Quran (sperm comes from between the backbones and the ribs? Qur’an 86:6-7).

    The claim that adherents to these other religions have contributed to scientific knowledge is likewise irrelevant. Henry Eyring made headway in applying quantum mechanics to chemistry. Norman Tolk pioneered the free electron laser. A number of Mormons have contributed to the world of science.

    You have not demonstrated that adherents of other religious traditions act any differently. As biblical claims have come under greater scrutiny, Christians and Jews have had to adjust their view of their scripture. And that’s what Mormons have done and continue to do: try to align truth wherever it comes from, but that understanding comes with the notion that some truth is revealed through human inquiry and some truth is revealed by God. Where the two seem to conflict, it is better to see if there is an explanation that accommodates both. DNA evidence has not disproven the Book of Mormon (address the arguments made in the Whiting article if you disagree), and so there is no conflict.

  • James or Not

    I will, Fred, and thank you for deepening my understanding of the tendency for faithful people to deny to others what they reserve to themselves.

  • Wayne Dequer

    Touche! Indeed, Nibley certainly engaged in “shrieking polemic[s]”. I’m not putting him forward as an example of perfection, nor did he.

    As to the content of your “question”: I find your rhetorical pattern to be, shall we say, somewhat less than respectful and civil: e.g. “Show me just one single credible fact . . . that is not some cranky piece of pseudo-science.”

    Further, I already answered your demand for one credible fact once before, but will do so again. Here are several evidences:

    1) The existence of written language in the Americas as described in the Book of Mormon in 1830. You’ve suggested this would have been common knowledge and Smith would have assumed that the mound builders had a written language, which they did not. I suggested it was not common knowledge. In support of my opinion I now suggest “A Survey of Pre-1830 Historical Sources Relating to the Book of Mormon” Author(s): David A. Palmer Source: Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Autumn 1976), pp. 101-107 Published by: Brigham Young University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43042727 .

    BYU Studies IS an academic peer reviewed journal (see https://byustudies.byu.edu/NewsAndEvents/AuthorSubmissions.aspx ) available through JSTOR.

    2) The existence of hundreds of sound and meaning correlations between ancient Near Eastern Languages and Uto-Aztecan. You attacked the source I provided for shameless self publication. I suggest a Possible other source from JSTOR which you justifiably attacked since I hadn’t been able to access it. You said it had nothing to do with the Book of Mormon, however, when I checked, the source certainly established Stubbs’ credentials in Uto-Aztecan, etc. which along with his PhD in Ancient Languages is evidence that he is a serious scholar. There are a number of scholarly articles by Brian Stubbs listed through the JSTOR index. I then provided the following reference: “Looking Over vs. Overlooking:Native American Languages:Let’s Void the Void” in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/1 (1996) at http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1390&index=1 . I noted that the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies is a academic peer reviewed journal using a blind peer review process (http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/periodicals/jbms/jbmsguidelines/ ).

    In addition I will add the following based on your list of demands:

    3) There is certainly evidence of pre-Columbian pottery (see
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_ceramics ). It was common and pretty wide spread. Perhaps you meant pottery that could be linked directly to the Book of Mormon, which has not yet been found, but you said “One sherd of pottery?”

    4) There is certainly evidence of bronze and/or iron use in the Ancient Americas. Here are some sources:
    a) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallurgy_in_pre-Columbian_America and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallurgy_in_pre-Columbian_Mesoamerica
    b) see the JSTOR index for many articles at http://www.jstor.org/action/doAdvancedSearch?f3=all&q0=bronze&c3=AND&c2=AND&f4=all&f6=all&q3=&wc=on&group=none&f2=all&c6=AND&c1=AND&isbn=&q5=&pt=&acc=off&c4=AND&q2=ancient&q4=&q6=&f5=all&f1=all&ed=&q1=mesoamerica&la=&c5=AND&sd=&f0=all . Note most of the best sounding articles were not available through my subscription; however these two were: -The Postclassic Mesoamerican World System Michael E. Smith, Frances F. Berdan Current Anthropology, Vol. 41, No. 2 (April 2000), pp. 283-286 and -Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy: A Technological Chronology Dorothy Hosler Journal of Field Archaeology Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 1988), pp. 191-217.

    The literature indicates there are some tools made of copper alloys that are called bronze by some scholars (see definition of bronze at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze ). There are many more art objects than tools but the metallurgic technology existed. I note that many of these objects and particularly tools apparently date to a period after the Book of Mormon although pre-Columbian. Perhaps you meant tools that could be linked directly to the Book of Mormon, which have not yet been found, but what you said was: “One tool of bronze or iron?”

    Finally, beyond the strictly New World links there are a number of
    parallels to practices and locations in the Ancient Near East that would probably have been unknown to Joseph Smith. Here is one:

    5) The many examples of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon (see
    Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon John W. Welch Brigham Young University Studies Vol. 10, No. 1 (AUTUMN 1969), pp. 69-84 Published by: Brigham Young University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43041878 and “Does Chiasmus Appear in the Book of Mormon by Chance?” Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards Brigham Young University Studies Vol. 43, No. 2 (2004), pp. 103-130 Published by: Brigham Young University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43044379

    I certainly do not claim that any of this evidence proves the Book of Mormon. Proof is something rarely found, especially in archaeology. My position is that the Book of Mormon has neither been proved nor disproved by scholarly evidence, nor do I expect it to be.

    For those wanting to examine the range of these arguments further, I would suggest essays with sharply divergent viewpoints: 1) the current article entitled “Archaeology and the Book of Mormon” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology_and_the_Book_of_Mormon and 2) “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon” at http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1382&index=11 . Neither article is flawless, but together they do a good job of outlining reasonable thought on these topics.

  • FredWAnson

    Well, it’s refreshing to finally see some cogent arguments and evidence isn’t it?

    Welcome to the discussion! Where have you been all this time?

    😉

  • FredWAnson

    Well, it’s just good to know that the position of superiority that I’ve been accused of appears to contain some that aren’t those awful “faithful people” as well!

    And I’m sorry, James nor Not that it seems to so frustrate you that I won’t be bullied or shamed into lopping down the rabbit trail of your personal agenda.

    As I stated previously, there seem to be some in this thread more interested in picking a fight via off-topic personal agendas than engaging in on topic civil discourse.

    Not interested buddy. And you can draw whatever smug, superior conclusions and presumptions from that that suits your fancy.

  • FredWAnson

    That said . . .

    “I can prove empirically that Joseph Smith existed, and that Nauvoo was a real city.”

    Really Joseph Smith was a historical BoM person and Nauvoo was a Book of Mormon city? No one is disputing the 19th Century Joseph Smith or Nauvoo. This is another non-sequitur.

    “I can even provide evidence that the places in the Old World mentioned in the Book of Mormon existed (Jerusalem, Nahom, Bountiful).”

    No one is disputing Jerusalem. Let’s see the evidence for Nahom and Bountiful from credible, non-Mormon Apologist sources.

    “You have not demonstrated that adherents of other religious traditions act any differently.”

    True in matters of pure faith that can’t be proven or disproven empirically – I haven’t even tried.

    However, that’s not at issue here. What IS at issue here is what CAN be proven or disproven empirically.

    If you have credible, peer-reviewed, empirical evidence from non-Mormon Apologist sources that supports the Book of Mormon then let’s see it. I have yet to see any and I’ve been in Mormon Studies since the mid-1980’s. It would be refreshing to actually see some for a change.

  • dillet

    I question the validity of your “original sources”, since most non-LDS things I’ve seen from that time period which could be considered original sources are clear examples of those “anti-Mormon lies.” But this could also sound like circular reasoning, couldn’t it?

    Bottom line is that the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel can only be known for certain through personal divine revelation. God is real, Christ is real, the Holy Ghost is real, revelation is real and we really are the children of God. When you really Know these truths, then the rest sorts itself out.

  • FredWAnson

    And, yes, I DO believe that empirical evidence supports these belief systems to varying degrees. You have been rather selective in your arguments choosing to focus on the areas where empirical evidence doesn’t exist in support of those belief systems. The fact remains that empirical evidence can be produced in other areas in support of them.

    I wish that could be said of Mormonism as well but, as this article articulates so well, quite the opposite is true.

  • dillet

    One might also consider the matter of written “voice prints” in the Book of Mormon as evidence that Joseph Smith was not the author.

  • dillet

    Silence? ? If all these people have actually failed to say anything of value, then please repeat the request,

  • dillet

    There are explanations for the apparent anachronisms. I’ll get them for you tomorrow, it’s late and I need to go to sleep.

  • dillet

    I looked up your supposed Diary statement and it is Not There. Perhaps you are quoting from another source which makes this claim. If so, that source is fraudulent. (I’m beginning to notice the appearance of such websites, which have “doctored” their “quotes”.) I’m coughing too.

  • philipjenkins

    Yes, what I mean is not just pottery as such, of course, but relevant pottery that confirms the Book of Mormon. I hoped the context made that clear. Ditto for bronze. That certainly does not need demonstrating.

  • philipjenkins

    I say again, Stubbs may well be a serious linguistic scholar. He has never though presented his views in any form of refereed or mainstream publication. Hence all my remarks stand. As I remarked, even Hugh Nibley had a solid reputation in some fields, which did not prevent him writing nonsense about new world archaeology.

  • philipjenkins

    Just a quick comment on book of Mormon trivial pursuit.

    I get comments suggesting that, woe unto me, I need to read all these various Mormon books and treatises, and that I allegedly mistake the details of Mormon claims. Let me say this again. The Book of Mormon makes silly and impossible claims about a movement to the Americas for which they produce no single piece of credible evidence. The lack of the slightest trace of evidence, coupled with the overwhelming genetic realities, closes that issue.

    Given that fundamental and easily grasped point, the whole book is fiction, and discussing any precise details of it is a waste of time and effort. It is not history, and can never be treated as such. Nor should you waste time with modern day cranks who use it as the basis for pseudo history or pseudo geology, or pseudo anything. Such an effort is good clean fun and keeps them off the streets, but it is irrelevant, unless and until they try to prove the new world connection.

    It is rather like meeting a cult that believes the Harry Potter books are an authentic scripture that reveal God’s ultimate truth. In response, I cite JK Rowling proving that she made it all up as entertaining fiction, and they are therefore totally wrong. That should, we think, settle the issue once and for all.

    However, enraged Potterites denounce me for failing to understand what happens on page 224 of one book, and not having read their classic text in seventeen volumes, The authentic confessions of Voldemort, now released to the world!

    Nor have I read several recent studies in the Journal of Syncretic Potterism.

    Nor do I follow the breakaway feminist theological journal, Hermione.

    I even get the rules of quidditch wrong! Do I not follow Quidditch Illustrated?

    I cannot be a true scholar!

    Or, you might say, these are non debates by non scholars about non subjects.

    Focus on the core, folks. If the new world link is bogus, as it is, everything else follows.

    I apologize to any actual Potterites out there.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    I am familiar with all of the FAIR “explanations”. They are mental gymnastics and wordmangling to the nth degree. You mention horse = tapir and I will mock you unmercifully. A rusting steel sword = dirty obsidian laced war club will get you a ” I blow my nose at you. Your father was a hamster and your mother smells of elderberry wine”.

    You have been warned.

  • France93

    Ok – so you basically admit that evangelical *doctrine* is FALSE. This is a bombshell. Not just false, but full of lies. All those precious sermons of Paul and others comparing Adam and Christ… All the evangelical arguments for Biblical literalism and you earth creationism…

    All utterly, utterly, false.

    All those theological seminary courses, commentaries by protestant writers….pure “myth history,” none of it “real history.”

    You all heard it right here, courtesy of Dr. Phil Jenkins. Thank you, Dr. Phil, for exposing Evangelical Christianity…

  • France93

    See below for where Dr. Phil basically admits that Evangelical doctrine is FALSE. Biblical literalism is in shambles, thanks to DNA and Dr. Phil, the geneticist.

    Dr. Philip now has much, much bigger problems on his hands than where to find Lamanites. He’s ransacked all of fundamentalist Christianity and denied the truth of the Holy Bible. Good luck, friend.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    So this just drips with contempt, doesn’t it? You realize that these exact same arguments and metaphors get used by atheists all the time to denigrate conventional Christian belief. They’re more likely to use Tolkien’s as the fictional world rather than Rowling’s, but that may be because they have more respect for the literacy of their audience.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    You realize that’s not a rebuttal, right?

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball
  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Yep. When it comes to historicity and rational, all religions fall flat. The argument is again akin to pointing to ancient Athens as evidence of Athena. She is real and her powers unequaled!

  • trytoseeitmyway

    If you just want to point me to where Southerton discusses Prego’s argument, that would be fine. I don’t see that the first link does that and on a quick peek at the first of the three new links, I didn’t see that earlier. I see arguments along the lines that Jenkins is making here, but that’s not a rebuttal to Prego if you see what I mean.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Whereas I think that there are good reasons to make distinctions. But those are beside the point in the context of Jenkins’ rant here. Still, I kinda like that you and I have points of agreement even where we disagree on much else.

  • philipjenkins

    You have cited journals. Now, I repeat my earlier question. Please take from them a specific site or an object or a piece of genetic data that you think supports the Book of Mormon, so that we can examine and discuss it. If it is convincing, you can suggest that it be published in a mainstream journal. So go ahead, which site or object or piece of genetic data from those journals do you find convincing and compelling? Reasonable question, I think.

    Sorry, it’s the same question as mr kimball below, but I am just reiterating it.

  • philipjenkins

    Hard to believe but yes… There are indeed Mormons who believe that, other people are fundamentalists as simplistic as the crudest apologists of that church No, really, there are. They are living in the intellectual world of 1850, but there they are.

  • philipjenkins

    As your academic area of expertise is Marketing, aren’t you going a bit far afield going into historical methodology? Not to understate the intellectual character of that discipline, but it does involve a very different set of methods and assumptions, right?

  • GP

    Your last paragraph is a perfect example of the circular reasoning to which I refer. Replace it with words that affirm another belief system and it would be no different.

    If you are happy with your belief system, then great. But you don’t “know” any of what you stated – not in a literal sense. You feel and believe those things, but you absolutely have no proof beyond your own beliefs and feelings (which are constructed upon circular reasoning – what you’ve been told by others). I understand why you feel the need to say “know” because of the LDS culture that promotes using it to help “strengthen” the impact of a testimony, but let’s keep it real here.

  • GP

    Do I really need to repeat it one more time? I counted more than a half dozen times Mr. Jenkins made the request. If you want to come up to bat, then answer his question – give the proof.

  • EC

    Except it’s not just Dr. Perego is it? When other respected geneticists urge caution on making finalized claims (such as “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.”) I think to make the claim that current genetic and DNA studies can give us 100% certainty that Lehi’s party could not have existed go well beyond the mark.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    It is the combination of factors that make BOM historicity highly implausible. I will not say 100% could not have existed. But the anachronisms, coupled with the lack of DNA, coupled with the lack of any culture that fits, coupled with the supernatural religious baggage…. Highly implausible.

  • koseighty

    Hugh Nibley, long before the mapping of the human genome, theorized convincingly that the Jaredites were related to modern day Asians.

    And this is relevant to the discussion how?

    The Book of Mormon clearly states that the Jaredites were completely wiped out before the arrival of the Nephites. The lone survivor living just long enough to hand off his people’s plates to the new arrivals.

    So, unlike the Nephites and Lamanites, the Jaredites would not be expected to leave any descendants with DNA to trace.

  • Zampona

    Few Mormons who seriously study these things believe that literally every last descendant of the Jaredites was killed. First, you have to allow for some hyperbole. Second, the Jaredite history is long enough (in terms of years) that people would have separated and dispersed many times during their history. So even if you took that Ether was the lone survivor of the Jadeites literally, there would have been many of their descendants who were no longer considered Jaredites.

  • EC

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. But my original intent in posting was not to argue for the general plausibility of the case for the Book of Mormon, but to simply point out that the claim in the above article that DNA studies give us such a certain history regarding the ancient inhabitants of America that there is no possibility of the story of Lehi’s family’s migration to America being true is simply not supported by the conclusions actual geneticists are making about their research, and Dr. Perego’s article makes this case persuasively.

  • philipjenkins

    Actually, no investigation is needed beyond a simple google search. I know the actual identities of most ofthe major posters in these debates, not through data mining (!) but by a simple search usually taking about 30 seconds in each instance. It’s really hard NOT to know.

    The comment about privilege is interesting. I am the only person in these exchanges who has no alternative but to give full name and affiliation. I would do so anyway as I do not believe in anonymity online, but by definition, I lack that “privilege”

    In principle, I really object to the use of pseudonyms on these boards, and that strikes me as far creepier. Why do people do this in the first place? In your instance, your posts are cogent, courteous and well thought out, not to mention knowledgeable about the academic world. … Not surprising as you hold exactly double the number of doctorates that I do. You have nothing to hide, it seems to me. So why a pseudonym in the first place?

    NOT referring to you, but it’s the whole pseudonym culture that contributes to the atmosphere of offensive personal attacks on boards in general.

    Anyway, a general thought.

  • philipjenkins

    Persuasively to someone who is already a true believer despite all the evidence, possibly.

    Let’s play “Ask the geneticist!”

    Let’s look at a case where an intrusive migrant community with a radically different genetic origin migrated to an area on the other side of the world, and survived there for perhaps a thousand years. Their initial population might have been tiny. Over the following centuries, their population ran into many thousands, at least, at any given time. (Actually, according to the prophet, they would have been the ancestors of all Native peoples, but let that pass). Their population at least was sufficient to build great kingdoms, cities and fight major wars.

    We know, from the LDS church, that these peoples are “among” the ancestors of modern day Native peoples.

    So, what are the odds that this community would leave
    precisely zero trace of that genetic makeup in the surviving Native population a couple of thousand years later?

    Is the answer

    a. Nil
    b. None
    c. Zero
    d. Somewhat less than that?

    Which is it?

    Or did the laws of genetics get repealed?

    I am actually embarrassed to frame the question.

  • philipjenkins

    and nothing would be left of them except their genetic traces in the larger Native American population, as we find today! Oh wait…. we actually don’t find traces of any possible candidates for such intrusive populations, do we?

  • Zampona

    Let’s back it up a bit. You claimed that other faith systems can empirically back up their claims, presumably historicity of their scripture. But this simply is not true. There is no physical evidence that the Exodus ever occurred. So right there you have one example of another religious tradition whose founding story is not empirically supported. Just because other scriptures are historically supported is just as irrelevant as the historicity of Joseph Smith. The lack of historical evidence for the Book of Mormon is no more condemning to Mormonism than is the lack of historical evidence for the Exodus to Judaism.

  • Zampona

    You missed my point entirely (or I failed to communicate it). See my explanation in my other post. I could say the same thing about your criticism: you have selected the Book of Mormon to criticize when you ignore the historical foundations for other of Mormon claims, namely that Joseph Smith was a real person and Nauvoo and Kirtland are real places. That some empirically provable aspect of a tradition exists does not provide empirical evidence for the truth of the entire tradition.

  • Zampona

    Come on Jenkins, get your head in the game! This branch of discussion goes back to a claim that the Jaredites are genetically related to East Asians, just like, wait for it, Native Americans.

  • philipjenkins

    My, my.

    And you even think that because these non-existent people are supposedly Asian, then they would be genetically indistinguishable from the populations who make up Native Americans! (You know, all Asians being basically, well, Asian)

    Oh sancta simplicitas.

    They wouldn’t.

    And even if they had passed through the same regions that the historic proto-Americans went, they did so about ten or fifteen thousand years later, and their genetic markers would be easily distinguishable.

    We can btw spot different levels of peoples arriving via East Asia into the Americas, from original Native American stock, through NaDene/Athabascan, and Inuit. None vaguely correspond to your non-existent Jaredites.

    Should I use flashcards?

    My problem with you is that I can’t start at a basic enough level to accommodate your state of knowledge.

  • philipjenkins

    And you seriously compare the following:

    1. There is no evidence that any of the supposed peoples of the Book of Mormon ever existed

    2. The peoples of the Biblical world (Israel/Palestine) emphatically existed, spoke the languages attributed to them, many individual people and most individual places can be easily identified. We can date many of the major events of the story with varying degrees of reliability.

    Let it never be said you don’t have a sense of humor.

  • Zampona

    Are you seriously criticizing the Book of Mormon for lack of evidence but for some reason giving a pass to foundational stories of Judaism (and therefore Christianity)?

    Yes, I am making that comparison. You don’t get to say that. The Bible in its entirety must be true just because some later portion of it has empirically provable basis. There is exactly the same amount of evidence for Ancient Hebrews in Egypt as there is for Ancient Israelites in the Americas.

  • philipjenkins

    Also – Which of us has his head in the game… the one fantasizing about non existent lost races unknown to the whole of history or archaeology, or the one who places the whole fantasy on the level of Harry Potter?

    Do take your time before answering.

  • philipjenkins

    There is actually plenty of evidence for Semites in Egypt at the appropriate time, but we don’t know the names by which they termed themselves. So your final statement is nonsense.

    Good attempt though – when your argument about the New World collapses, raise a distraction about the Exodus.

    Meanwhile, try this 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.

    I can name just HUNDREDS about the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible alone. And that’s just off the top of my head without visiting a library.

  • Zampona

    Where is your degree in phylogenetics from?

    I think you place far more confidence in our ability to trace ancestry through DNA than any real geneticist does. Read the Whiting article on the limits of genetics and tracking world populations and get back to me. Pay attention to a couple of facts: First, we need to know something about the genetics of two groups in order to compare them. Without knowing anything about the other group, you simply can’t make the comparison. Models based on DNA compare known variables and make phylogenetic models based on what we know. Any number of variables might and will change those models in the future.

  • philipjenkins

    I should make this clear, obviously I am NOT a geneticist, and do not claim to be so.

    I do however have a reasonable background going back a fair way. I taught university courses on genetics, inheritance and criminality in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, I developed one of the first university courses on violent crime investigation to take account of DNA testing. More recently, though, I have become increasingly aware that you cannot study history (my main field) without a more developed knowledge of genetics, and have pursued the topic since.

    I am btw amused that the Jaredite speculations actually do something I only joked about, namely fantasized that these non-existent folks had Native American DNA even before they arrived! There is no accounting for the deviousness of Mormon apologists when they think they can get away with it.

    Now, go pursue that question of two populations arriving 15,000 years apart and their genetic markers being indistinguishable.

  • Zampona

    I’m sorry, are those hundreds of pieces of evidence for Hebrews in Egypt? Or Noah? You don’t just get to pick your favorite period of biblical history, point to some evidence and proclaim them entire collection of records valid. Which, of course, was my point.

    How is that any different than New Wold archeology. We know of lots of people’s in the New World at the appropriate time and place, but we don’t know what they called themselves. We could have found Nephite pottery, but we wouldn’t necessarily know it. Without another frame of reference, we don’t know what to look for in terms of pottery.

  • Zampona

    What DNA should they have? And I’m not saying that they already had Native American DNA, but that they could have had DNA consistent with what we see in current populations.

  • philipjenkins

    What an astonishing comment. First, you misquote me grossly. As anyone can read, I said I could find hundreds of pieces of evidence relating to the OT, not for any specific story. Do you not read, or was that deliberate? You write, “You don’t just get to pick your favorite period of biblical history, point to some evidence and proclaim them entire collection of records valid.“ I never said that the whole collection is valid, what an idiotic comment.

    I do not claim the whole OT is valid in terms of history and archaeology, and I know virtually no-one who does. The fact you believe that demonstrates an astonishing depth of ignorance and/or prejudice. Do I believe in a historical Adam or Noah? No. Nor do the vast majority of Old Testament scholars. And you don’t know that?

    When you are dealing with the period from about 800 BC on, though, the overwhelming majority of scholars accept that something very much like the society and world depicted in the Biblical record actually existed.

    “How is that any different than New Wold archeology. We know of lots of people’s in the New World at the appropriate time and place, but we don’t know what they called themselves. We could have found Nephite pottery, but we wouldn’t necessarily know it. Without another frame of reference, we don’t know what to look for in terms of pottery.”

    Oh, let’s get to that shall we? First we’d find the DNA. Then we’d find linguistic evidence. Then we’d find archaeological continuities in eg pottery, technology (The Book of Mormon suggests such, a very pseudo-biblical world). We have very substantial written records, none of which correspond in any particular to any name or detail in the Hebrew record

    So what we have in the New World is this: many peoples, all belonging to one of three basic genetic and linguistic groupings. None correspond to Middle East origin. They betray not the slightest trace of resemblance or continuity in terms of technology, writing, language, pottery… you name it.

    But they might be Nephites!

    Pathetic.

  • philipjenkins

    Or as we call it “DNA that just miraculously happens to look like Native American DNA”

  • philipjenkins

    I’m done, and I can’t argue at this level. This is embarrassing.

    My one hope is that this commenter is actually doing some kind of improv performance art, pretending to hold all these ridiculous views. If so, he is going to go far.

    As far as I am concerned, argument ends here.

  • Zampona

    East out.

  • Zampona

    No, DNA that is consistent with being among the ancestors of modern native Americans.

  • FredWAnson

    I fully understand that and didn’t miss it at all. Respectfully, you flatter yourself without cause.

    That said, which has a greater probability of being true: The religion that has produced such a rich, empirical trove of historical, archaeological, and scientific evidence in support of its claims that it’s resulted in entire disciplines (Biblical Archaeology, Biblical Manuscript Studies, Manuscript Criticism, etc.) that are practiced and studied by believers and unbelievers alike, or the one that not only has produced nothing, is discredited by what’s produced, and on a few unbelieving scholars show any interest in because it’s so empirically bankrupt (among other things)?

    Simply reason suggests that one of these religions has a far greater probability of veracity than the other. Neither need be fully proven or disproven for this to be the case.

  • FredWAnson

    As stated previously, you are cherry picking areas where there is no empirical evidence for the historicity of the Bible and ignoring the myriad of areas where there IS such evidence. There is so much, in fact, that entire disciplines have arisen – Biblical Archaeology for example.

    So let’s talk about just one the areas where there IS empirical evidence: The biblical cities that have been attested to archaeologically shall we?

    “In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives; otherwise, the specificity regarding these urban sites would have been replaced by “Once upon a time” narratives with only hazy geographical parameters, if any.

    Israel’s enemies in the Hebrew Bible likewise are not contrived but solidly historical. Among the most dangerous of these were the Philistines, the people after whom Palestine itself would be named. Their earliest depiction is on the Temple of Rameses III at Thebes, c. 1150 BC, as “peoples of the sea” who invaded the Delta area and later the coastal plain of Canaan. The Pentapolis (five cities) they established — namely Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Gath, and Ekron — have all been excavated, at least in part, and some remain cities to this day. Such precise urban evidence measures favorably when compared with the geographical sites claimed in the holy books of other religious systems, which often have no basis whatever in reality.”
    (see http://www.equip.org/article/biblical-archaeology-factual-evidence-to-support-the-historicity-of-the-bible/)

    And if you would like to see more: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/

    Now, as I have asked repeatedly throughout this conversation, could you please show equivalent evidence for the Book of Mormon?

    Thanks.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Paul does not serve as a witness to the details of the life of Jesus. He was simply not there. The gospels are tertiary accounts, written 30-60 years after the fact, and there are obvious sub elements that were added well after the fact (woman taken in adultery story for example). There are 0 primary sources for a historical Jesus, but he may have existed. Resurrected from the dead, son of god, and savior to the world? Meh. Just another mythological figure to add to the heap.

  • FredWAnson

    Keller doesn’t state that Paul was an eyewitness. Your objection is in error – you’ve misread or misunderstand what he wrote. As Keller states, Paul refers his readers to living eyewitnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, he didn’t claim to be one himself. Here is the passage in question (NKJV):

    “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.”

    Thank you.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    So now I am supposed to give weight to Paul’s hearsay? Joseph smith got 8 and 3 folks to “sign their names as a witness”. Paul points to the 12 and then 500 anonymous individuals that he never met. None of this serves as primary evidence of a resurrected Jesus. There isn’t any primary evidence. This is where comparative religion gets fun, because when it comes to support for supernatural claims, there is no way to verify any of them. When you understand why you do not believe in the BOM, you will begin to understand why I dismiss the supernatural claims of the bible.

    Now my own relationship with god, and the talks we have, now those I believe in.

  • FredWAnson

    “So now I am supposed to give weight to Paul’s hearsay?”

    No. Paul didn’t write 1 Corinthians to you. The people that we wrote too were alive at the time of the living eyewitnesses.

    “Paul points to the 12 and then 500 anonymous individuals that he never met.”

    That’s speculation on your part. Since they were LIVING eyewitnesses it’s reasonable to infer that they were known by the primitive Christians. The fact that Paul didn’t have to give names as he did elsewhere when he points the reader to living eyewitnesses is an indication that their identities were commonly known.

    “None of this serves as primary evidence of a resurrected Jesus.”

    Today, no. But back then they did. Richard Bauckham points out in “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” that giving the names of living witnesses to historical events was the ancient equivalent of today’s footnoting.

    “Joseph smith got 8 and 3 folks to “sign their names as a witness”.’

    True, and those eyewitnesses later reneged on and contradicted their written testimony when the going got tough and then tried to renege their reneging when then heat was off.
    (see http://mormonthink.com/witnessesweb.htm)

    The biblical authors who were eyewitnesses were tortured and martyred without reneging.

    Not apples to oranges from my vantage point.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    The target audience does not change the fact that it is hearsay. Paul simply wasn’t there. He does not serve as a primary source for the life nor resurrection of Jesus. He is repeating a story that he heard.

    The gospels are not hsitorical. They are not consistent with the chronology of the time, contain anachronisms, are not consistent with one another, and were not written at the time of the events. They are not primary sources. I understand that they were not written as histories, then why try use them as evidence of historicity?

    This is why I love watching religious debates. Everyone so sure of their beliefs and all of them sitting on foundations made of nothing but vapour.

    Yes Christians and Jews can point to the Holy lands and at least have a historical reference point. No, this does not make the supernatural parts of their religious claims any more plausible than any other. The rest of the religions in the world can point to their holy lands. So what?

    Persecuted and died for the cause. Talk about taking a play out of the mormon playbook. People have died for all kinds of religious causes… Waco TX ring a bell?

    Yeah! The mormons don’t have a leg to stand on… But then again, once you analyze the actual evidece, neither does anyone else. But the adherents of the faith I belong to….. We have actual eyewitness today now of the veracity of our religion.

  • philipjenkins

    A non-argumentative comment. I am sure that if Mr. Zampona and I argued this in person, we would have a much more amicable and productive exchange. The
    Internet format so encourages furor, as does the anonymity principle. I wish him very well in his work, and in his sincere faith.

    It is a great consolation to me that I never succumb to intemperate remarks.

  • Zampona

    I was right there with you until the last one. Remember your sarcasm bit?

  • Zampona

    All your evidence demonstrates is that those traditions have been around longer. And remember that Biblical history is just as important and just as much a part of Mormon culture as it is for any other branch of Christianity.

    But even despite that, you do have plenty of studies of both the Book of Mormon and the Mormon tradition generally. Multiple universities have Mormon Studies departments (yes, they are small, but they are serious). You have multiple journals exploring Mormon history and thought with varying degrees of allegiance to the Church.

    Reason does not dictate that any of these have a higher probability of being true. When it comes to religion, only faith gets you there.

  • philipjenkins

    No, that was self deprecating irony. Self mockery if you prefer. But the target was me, not you.

  • philipjenkins

    Not to incite controversy, but may I suggest that you check out the state of mainstream research on the Old Testament, and debates over its historicity? I think you would find striking points of comparison to your areas of interest, for instance in matters of methodology. One book I enjoy, and from a critical perspective, is Amy Dockser Marcus, *The View From Nebo*.

    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/amy-dockser-marcus/the-view-from-nebo/

    Suggestion meant helpfully.

  • Zampona

    You’re following a completely irrelevant line of thought. I don’t know how I can demonstrate that irrelevance any clearer than I already have. Just because some aspect of a religious tradition has empirical backing does not say much for the entire tradition. You are the one who is cherry picking. By saying that there are cities which were long known to ancient peoples and pointing to that as evidence for the entire tradition is ludicrous. It is precisely like my example of pointing to the existence of the city of Nauvoo or Far West or Independence as evidence for Mormonism. Great, so there is evidence of something. That doesn’t account for the giant gaping hole in the historical record. In the case of what is uniquely Mormonism, that is the Book of Mormon. In the case of Judaism or Christianity or any tradition that holds to the truth of the Old Testament (which, incidentally, includes Mormonism) that’s the first few books. Saying that Jericho was a real city does not somehow make up for the complete lack of evidence of the Exodus. And let’s not kid ourselves, the Exodus is pretty important to Judaism and Christianity. So much of belief and practice hinges on Moses as the receiver of the law.

    So let me be clear about what I’m trying to say. You claimed that other religious traditions have empirical evidence in their histories to back them up. That is true. So does Mormonism. Then you point to the Book of Mormon to say that there is no empirical evidence for its historicity. I am simply pointing out that this is also true for major parts of other traditions. To criticize the one without equally criticizing the other is hypocritical.

    And as a side note, yes, there is some (not much, but some) equivalent evidence for the Book of Mormon. Nahom has been as conclusively identified as you could ask for. With Nahom you have a place precisely matching the textual description with inscriptions associated with the name given in the Book of Mormon from the time period described in the Book of Mormon. It’s a similar story for Bountiful. It is interesting to me that the Old World locations mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where we know where to look, have yielded much better results than the New World, where frankly we have no idea where to be looking.

  • Zampona

    Admittedly, I may have mixed up my responses and was responding a bit to Fred. I know (and knew) that your historical view of the Old Testament is not literal for much of it. The point of my comments this branch of the thread is to rebut the argument that the lack of evidence for a volume of Mormonism’s scripture is somehow more damning than the lack of evidence for other traditions’ scripture.

  • EC

    I don’t claim to be a professional geneticist, but even a layman as myself can understand that in addition to your scenario that

    1) The gene pool of the population you are describing is rapidly reduced because of disease and war to an estimated 4 to 33% of what is was previous to the arrival of Columbus

    2) The only record of these people explicitly states that especially for the first four centuries of their existence the only historical details that will be recorded are the ones important to the spiritual teachings they are passing on, so that we cannot say with certainty how long they were in isolation among the other native populations

    3) The gene flow goes between resident and colonizing populations generally goes far more in the direction of the colonizers, so that there are proven multiple instances where colonizers have left no genetic trace in the resident population

    4) That the field of DNA studies is still making important discoveries such as this: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/ , and that undoubtedly there are many important discoveries yet to be made.

    And finally, as noted above by the actual researchers in this field, and who are unrelated to Book of Mormon research, if they can say that it is unlikely that current DNA studies can provide a complete picture of early migrations to America because of the laws of genetics, and not their repeal, I think your claims that we can say with certainty there is a zero percent chance of Lehi’s immigration are unreasonable.

  • Zampona

    Not the way it came out, but I’ll take your word for it.

  • Zampona

    Thanks. I may not pick up that particular book (reviews say it is unfocused, which I have little patience for in a book), but I may peruse a library to pick up something in depth on Old Testament archeology and history.

  • philipjenkins

    I am not going to bang my head against a wall on this one. You totally misunderstand the science, and your comments are just inaccurate on every point. The gene pool argument you make in (1) is especially irrelevant.

    To understand why, check out my posts and comments over the past two weeks. I’m not going to repeat myself endlessly.

    Your only accurate point is that genetic science is indeed advancing, and improving its ability to pick up stray minority populations. Yet even the vastly improved systems we have today still are not picking up Mideast genetic markers in Native American populations. The reason? They aren’t there, and never were.

    To use a legal analogy, if you take the argument that Mormon apologists make in this area and imagine them presented in a court, they would be kicked out as frivolous litigation and the judge would start penalizing plaintiffs and their lawyers.

    There isn’t even the ghost of a case.

  • FredWAnson

    YOU WROTE
    All your evidence demonstrates is that those traditions have been around longer.

    RESPONSE
    Another non-sequitur. The age of the religious traditions is meaningless. The body of historical, archaeological, and scientific evidence that supports the Bible didn’t appear because of faith traditions, it was already there regardless.

    And the body of historical, archaeological, and scientific evidence that discredits Mormon scripture didn’t appear because of faith traditions. Nor did evidence disappear in the 19th Century with the appearance of the Golden Plates.

    They were already starting work on the archaeology of pre-Columbian America before the advent of the Book of Mormon and it has only accelerated since then. We now have a mountain of archaeological and scientific data regarding what occurred during the alleged BoM period and it is NOTHING like the BoM describes.

    I would, for example, refer you to Charles Mann’s award winning, best selling book “1491” as an excellent primer on this (see http://smile.amazon.com/1491-Second-Revelations-Americas-Columbus-ebook/dp/B000JMKVE4)

    This argument is just silly.

    YOU WROTE
    And remember that Biblical history is just as important and just as much a part of Mormon culture as it is for any other branch of Christianity.

    RESPONSE
    Nonsense. If the Tower of Babel wasn’t a historic event and was ancient folklore it doesn’t undo core Jewish or Christian theology or unravel the rest of the Biblical narrative. However, it completely unravels the BoM Jaredite narrative.

    If the flood of Noah wasn’t literally a worldwide flood it doesn’t unravel Jew or Christian theology. However, it unravels the following Mormon dogma: “During Noah’s time the earth was completely covered with water. This was the baptism of the earth and symbolized a cleansing.” (see https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/flood-at-noahs-time)

    It is Mormonism that REQUIRES a literal reading of the ENTIRE Bible not Judaism or Christianity. Your statement is in error.

    YOU WROTE
    But even despite that, you do have plenty of studies of both the Book of Mormon…

    RESPONSE
    Sure, but non-Mormons limit their studies to the period that starts at 1820’s and with Joseph Smith. Before that there’s nothing to study.

    The only people who have any interest in the Book of Mormon times that Mr. Jenkin’s article (the one that started all these long discussion threads) addressed are Mormon Apologists.

    Scholars like to work from evidence not “what if” speculation – but not Mormon Apologists apparently.

    YOU WROTE
    … and the Mormon tradition generally. Multiple universities have Mormon Studies departments (yes, they are small, but they are serious). You have multiple journals exploring Mormon history and thought with varying degrees of allegiance to the Church.

    RESPONSE
    Yes, I know. I’m one of those scholars. Again, all these studies start at the 1820’s and after. This is another non-sequitur.

    We already know what was happening here on the American Continent during the alleged Book of Mormon period and it completely discredits the Book of Mormon.

    YOU WROTE
    Reason does not dictate that any of these have a higher probability of being true. When it comes to religion, only faith gets you there.

    RESPONSE
    I see so if that’s the case what did you find when you read Dianetics and prayed about it to see if it was true or not? The Quran? Christopher Nekelma’s translation of The Sealed Portion? Warren Jeff’s Message to all Nations? Jame Strang’s Book of the Law of the Lord? The RLDS/Community of Christ’s version of D&C? Etc., etc., etc. And of course any evidence that discredits any of these works can be ignored right? After all, “When it comes to religion, only faith gets you there.”

    After all, if the ONLY things that matter when it comes to religious faith are subjective revelations and feelings how do you know that your subjective feelings and faith aren’t misguided?

  • FredWAnson

    YOU WROTE
    You’re following a completely irrelevant line of thought.

    RESPONSE
    Really? Exactly, how is comparing and contrasting the body of credible empirical evidence that supports the Bible v. the lack of said evidence for the Book of Mormon irrelevant? After all, the latter was the whole point of Mr. Jenkins’ article and it was YOU started attacking other faiths in order to defend Mormonism. I’ve simply responded directly to those attacks.

    YOU WROTE
    I don’t know how I can demonstrate that irrelevance any clearer than I already have.

    RESPONSE
    Well as others have noted your logic and reason on this discussion board has been hardly cogent or persuasive. I’ve seen more arguing AROUND the points and evidence that others have presented than anything else. I haven’t really seen you “demonstrate” anything yet other than the mental gymnastics and leaps into the irrational that are required to defend the Book of Mormon and Mormonism. It’s actually quite interesting!

    YOU WROTE
    Just because some aspect of a religious tradition has empirical backing does not say much for the entire tradition.

    RESPONSE
    Again, I haven’t said that it does. Nice straw man.

    YOU WROTE
    You are the one who is cherry picking. By saying that there are cities which were long known to ancient peoples and pointing to that as evidence for the entire tradition is ludicrous.

    RESPONSE
    Actually no. Your pattern here is that you only count the misses when it comes to the empirical evidence that supports the historical claims of other religions. On the hits you either ignore them, try to declare them “irrelevant”, or start another rabbit trail. Like I said, this is dancing AROUND the evidence rather than addressing.

    YOU WROTE
    It is precisely like my example of pointing to the existence of the city of Nauvoo or Far West or Independence as evidence for Mormonism. Great, so there is evidence of something.

    RESPONSE
    No. As stated repeatedly now, cities that are a part of 19th Century Mormon History are irrelevant to the pre-Columbian period that the BoM takes place in. How many times do I have to repeat this?

    YOU WROTE
    That doesn’t account for the giant gaping hole in the historical record.

    RESPONSE
    However, as Mr. Jenkins has been stating again, again, again, and again in his comments, Ockham’s Razor does: They simply don’t exist and never did. THAT is what Ockham’s Razor suggests.

    YOU WROTE
    In the case of what is uniquely Mormonism, that is the Book of Mormon. In the case of Judaism or Christianity or any tradition that holds to the truth of the Old Testament (which, incidentally, includes Mormonism) that’s the first few books.

    RESPONSE
    Let me help you out here: Here’s a PARTIAL list of Biblical cities that been excavated via archaelogy: https://carm.org/questions/archaeological-evidence-verifying-biblical-cities

    OK, now let’s see the list of equivalent Book of Mormon cities. Thanks.

    YOU WROTE
    Saying that Jericho was a real city does not somehow make up for the complete lack of evidence of the Exodus.

    RESPONSE
    Yet, the fact remains that Jericho DOES exist AND, more importantly, existed in the time and largely in the way described in the Bible. Here’s an interesting documentary on that fact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYT1Rb2wkQw

    – CONTINUED IN NEXT POST –

  • FredWAnson

    YOU WROTE
    And let’s not kid ourselves, the Exodus is pretty important to Judaism and Christianity. So much of belief and practice hinges on Moses as the receiver of the law.

    RESPONSE
    Maybe, maybe not. As stated in my other post to you this morning, a literal reading of the Bible isn’t as critical to Judaism or Christianity as it is in Mormonism. You presume falsely.

    YOU WROTE
    So let me be clear about what I’m trying to say. You claimed that other religious traditions have empirical evidence in their histories to back them up. That is true. So does Mormonism. Then you point to the Book of Mormon to say that there is no empirical evidence for its historicity. I am simply pointing out that this is also true for major parts of other traditions. To criticize the one without equally criticizing the other is hypocritical.

    RESPONSE
    An unrelenting offense doesn’t compensation for a non-existence defense. You’re very good at attacking Mormon Critics with empty rhetoric. I’ve produced supporting evidence to back up my claims, where’s yours?

    YOU WROTE
    And as a side note, yes, there is some (not much, but some) equivalent evidence for the Book of Mormon. Nahom has been as conclusively identified as you could ask for. With Nahom you have a place precisely matching the textual description with inscriptions associated with the name given in the Book of Mormon from the time period described in the Book of Mormon.

    RESPONSE
    Since you first started hinted at the whole Nahom I’ve been patiently waiting for you to actually use it as evidence – while at the same time knowing that you would be foolish to do so since it’s been discredited.

    Actually, “discredited” may be too strong a word since NO ONE outside of Brighamite Mormonism takes Mormon Apologist claims regarding NHM seriously. This is from Mormon Historian John Hamer (who is a member of the Community of Christ):

    “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 Old Testament.. .”
    (see http://mormonheretic.org/2009/01/28/nahom-archeaological-evidence-of-book-of-mormon/#comment-12845)

    And as Mormon Researcher, Bill McKeever notes:

    “First of all, it needs to be pointed out that the inscription does not confirm that Nahom was an actual place or that this particular stone validates 1 Nephi 16:34. The inscription on the stone merely provides three consonants – NHM. This undisputable fact also exposes the misleading caption in the article that the word Nahom was written on the stone altar, which is not true.

    In an article found at http://www.lehistrail.com, Warren Aston notes, “The recent discovery by a German archaeological team of a stone altar in Yemen referring to the tribal name NIHM was announced in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in 1999.(1) Perfectly preserved under centuries of sand, the altar had been dated by its excavators to about 600-700 BC, thus placing it squarely in the time frame of the Book of Mormon ‘Nahom’ (1 Nephi 16:34) where Ishmael was buried. Unlike most places mentioned in the account of the journey from Jerusalem, Nephi’s wording makes it clear that Nahom was already called such by the local population.”

    Can we assume that Mr. Aston is not letting his presuppositions get the best of him? After all, to say that “Nephi’s wording makes it clear that Nahom was already called such by the local population” would carry no weight to someone not yet convinced that a person named Nephi ever existed. Let us not forget that the LDS Church has provided no historical or archaeological evidence that Nephi or any of the unique characters mentioned in the Book of Mormon actually lived.

    It is also important to note that NIHM is believed to be a tribal name, not a place name, and that the three consonants can have a variety of spellings when vowels are inserted. Aston notes in the web site article that references to NHM are “usually given as NiHM, NeHeM, NaHaM etc.” The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies reports that this can also be spelled “NaHM” (7:1, 1998, p. 7).”
    (see http://www.mrm.org/nhm)

    – CONTINUED IN NEXT POST –

  • FredWAnson

    YOU WROTE
    It’s a similar story for Bountiful.

    MY RESPONSE
    And I’m ready for that one too whenever you choose to produce it. Fire away!

    YOU WROTE
    It is interesting to me that the Old World locations mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where we know where to look, have yielded much better results than the New World, where frankly we have no idea where to be looking.

    RESPONSE
    Well if you find out then chances are good that it’s already been excavated. As mentioned previously, there just isn’t an awful lot about the Americas during the alleged Book of Mormon that we don’t know about and it’s NOTHING like what’s described in the BoM. Again, I would refer you to Charles Mann’s excellent book “1491” if you have any questions on this. Or, if you prefer, here’s a brief abstract of the book that he published in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/03/1491/302445/

  • FredWAnson

    And, and BTW, I published an article a while back that includes images of letters from BYU professors and other Mormon Scholarly sources that state clearly that thus far NO credible Book or Mormon archaeological evidence exists. Here’s the link: http://beggarsbread.org/2013/04/29/my-search-for-book-of-mormon-geography/

    So apparently I’m not the ONLY unenlightened and ignorant luddite out there – you have them in the Mormon Church too.

  • Zampona

    I neither have time nor interest in rebutting this point by point, so let me get to the heart of the matter and address a few of the more salient and/or ridiculous points you’ve made. I have never claimed, nor do I claim now, that the Book of Mormon can be empirically proven. I have simply tried to rebut your claim that the fact that some aspects of other religious traditions (the cities they took place in, etc.) makes these religions somehow more plausible.

    “If the Tower of Babel wasn’t a historic event and was ancient folklore it doesn’t undo core Jewish or Christian theology or unravel the rest of the Biblical narrative.” Yes, but if Abraham and Moses were not historical people, then it does undo the core of Judaism. If there was no Abraham, there was no Abrahamic covenant. If no Moses, then God did not give the Law through His prophet. These are not peripheral matters; they are at the core. And they have the same level of empirical evidence supporting them as does the Book of Mormon.

    “Yes, I know. I’m one of those scholars. Again, all these studies start at the 1820’s and after. This is another non-sequitur.” I’m glad we’re in agreement, but you seemed to think that it was relevant when you claimed that the fact that a religion has produced branches of study by believers and non-believers alike somehow makes the probability of its truth greater. But, as you said, it’s a non-sequitur.

    You keep claiming that my citing Nauvoo, Independence, etc. is irrelevant, and that is precisely my point. Just because you can point to the existence of a city mentioned in a text doesn’t mean that the rest of the text has historical merit. Jericho’s existence does little to prove the historicity of the Book of Joshua.

    You repeatedly apply a different standard to Mormonism than you do to other traditions. You say that Mormonism requires a literal reading of its scripture, but I don’t think this is any more true for Mormonism than it is for any other tradition. There are plenty of Biblical literalists in modern Christianity, and there are Mormons who argue that the Book of Mormon is an allegory. I don’t see how these are different in any meaningful way.

  • Zampona

    “Yet, the fact remains that Jericho DOES exist AND, more importantly, existed in the time and largely in the way described in the Bible.”

    I do not know how many times I have to say that this simply doesn’t matter. Jericho existed at the time described in the Book of Joshua. Fantastic. However, there is no empirical evidence that Joshua ever conquered Jericho. If I’m going to look at this from a skeptics point of view, I would say that the explanation that requires fewer assumptions to explain the Book of Joshua is that hundreds of years after the time described, a group of people who came to be known as Israelites invented a myth set in a place with which they had some familiarity. It does nothing to empirically prove the Bible.

  • FredWAnson

    YOU WROTE
    I have never claimed, nor do I claim now, that the Book of Mormon can be empirically proven. I have simply tried to rebut your claim that the fact that some aspects of other religious traditions (the cities they took place in, etc.) makes these religions somehow more plausible.

    RESPONSE
    So the religions can produce at least SOME empirical support in support of their claims aren’t any more plausible than those than can’t? Really?

    If that’s that case, then please send me your mailing address so I can send you a copy of Dianetics for you to read and pray over. Would you really have us believe that Scientology is more credible than Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?

    If so, that is some “interesting” logic there!

    YOU WROTE
    Yes, but if Abraham and Moses were not historical people, then it does undo the core of Judaism. If there was no Abraham, there was no Abrahamic covenant. If no Moses, then God did not give the Law through His prophet. These are not peripheral matters; they are at the core.

    RESPONSE
    Yes, on those points that’s true. However, yet again, you are cherry picking the “misses” and ignoring the hits. There is enough archaeological evidence for “Ur of the Chaldees” and the other places in the biblical Abraham narrative to give the Abraham story SOME credibility. Ditto for the story of Moses in terms of Egypt, Mount Sinai, the Red Sea, etc.

    YOU WROTE
    And they have the same level of empirical evidence supporting them as does the Book of Mormon.

    RESPONSE
    Nonsense. Even Mormon Scholars don’t make this claim about the BoM – it’s ridiculous.

    YOU WROTE
    I’m glad we’re in agreement, but you seemed to think that it was relevant when you claimed that the fact that a religion has produced branches of study by believers and non-believers alike somehow makes the probability of its truth greater. But, as you said, it’s a non-sequitur.

    RESPONSE
    You’re very good at twisting the words to create straw man arguments. Once again from the top: Yes, there ARE disciplines in Mormon Studies that study the Joseph Smith and later era that are practiced by people like myself who aren’t believers.

    But NO, there are NO “Book of Mormon Archaeology” type disciplines that are practiced by unbelievers. Why? Because the archaeological evidence in the Americas leads AWAY from the Book of Mormon not to it.

    THAT was my point. Care to try to twist that one into a straw man? That’s what you seem to like best!

    YOU WROTE
    You keep claiming that my citing Nauvoo, Independence, etc. is irrelevant, and that is precisely my point. Just because you can point to the existence of a city mentioned in a text doesn’t mean that the rest of the text has historical merit.

    RESPONSE
    And, again, it’s a non-sequitur. Neither Nauvoo, Illinois or Independence, MO are Book of Mormon cities. Jericho is a Biblical city. Yet another straw man.

    YOU WROTE
    Jericho’s existence does little to prove the historicity of the Book of Joshua.

    RESPONSE
    Then apparently you’re ignorant of the archaeological record from Jericho. I have provided you with the link to a documentary on the subject. I suggest that you watch it.

    Further, here’s another link that discusses OTHER Biblical Archaeology that supports the Bible – and includes interviews from unbelievers that acknowledge this fact.

    http://smile.amazon.com/Bible-VS-Joseph-Smith/dp/B007S1EKAA

    YOU WROTE
    You repeatedly apply a different standard to Mormonism than you do to other traditions.

    RESPONSE
    Why? Because I annoying and repeatedly point out that other religions have at least SOME empirical evidence to support their scripture and Mormonism has none? Sir, that’s a fact that has nothing to do with any inequitable or subjective evaluation. It just is.

    If I were to die in my chair right now that fact would remain. I’m not the problem here.

    YOU WROTE
    You say that Mormonism requires a literal reading of its scripture, but I don’t think this is any more true for Mormonism than it is for any other tradition.

    RESPONSE
    And official church sources and authorities disagree with you. Who should we believe: Official Church sources or you?

    YOU WROTE
    There are plenty of Biblical literalists in modern Christianity…

    RESPONSE
    Well God bless ’em! A literal interpretation of the bible isn’t a requirement for orthodoxy in Christianity. Another non-sequitur. Or if you prefer, “Apples to Oranges”.

    YOU WROTE
    …and there are Mormons who argue that the Book of Mormon is an allegory. I don’t see how these are different in any meaningful way.

    RESPONSE
    And these non-literalist Mormons are leading the Mormon Church, including these non-literal interpretations in official Church publications, and teaching this non-literal view of scripture in General Conference?

    The only place I’m seeing non-literal interpretations of LdS Scripture are from the people that the Brethren are excommunicating. Denver Snuffer, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman being a few of the more notable and most recent.

    So what we have here is yet another non-sequitur.

    A definite pattern has emerged.

  • FredWAnson

    YOU WROTE
    I do not know how many times I have to say that this simply doesn’t matter. Jericho existed at the time described in the Book of Joshua. Fantastic. However, there is no empirical evidence that Joshua ever conquered Jericho.

    RESPONSE
    And, as stated, elsewhere these assertions simply demonstrate that you are unfamiliar with the most current research in Jericho. Nothing more.

    Ignorance isn’t an empirical evidence of anything.

    YOU WROTE
    If I’m going to look at this from a skeptics point of view, I would say that the explanation that requires fewer assumptions to explain the Book of Joshua is that hundreds of years after the time described, a group of people who came to be known as Israelites invented a myth set in a place with which they had some familiarity. It does nothing to empirically prove the Bible.

    RESPONSE
    Again, this response simply demonstrates that you really don’t know about the latest research at Jericho. Since you seem to be reluctant to watch the video perhaps this will help: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx#Article

  • Zampona

    You will apparently continue to apply a double standard and refuse to recognize that is what you are doing. That’s fine. I do find it interesting that, after criticizing the apologetic approach, you send me to an apologetic site. As far as I can tell perusing other sources, recent findings have not changed the academic consensus that the Israelites never conquered Canaan. And so, to assert that claim, you go back to apologetics. Which is fine. But I do relish the double standard.

  • Zampona

    You seem to be under the impression that the Bible is a single book, the truth of which stands on the other books. That is simply not the case. The truth of one book (especially a later one) has no bearing on the truth of an earlier book. I don’t understand why you can’t seem to grasp this.

  • FredWAnson

    Zampona, I conceded the lack of empirical evidence on the Exodus several posts ago. OK, yet you: a) Keep harping on it, and; b) Continue to ignore all the hits that I have posted.

    This is exactly has I have stated previously.

    “I do find it interesting that, after criticizing the apologetic approach, you send me to an apologetic site.”

    Another straw man. I was critical of Hugh Nibley’s flawed apologetics not apologetics in general.

    “As far as I can tell perusing other sources, recent findings have not changed the academic consensus that the Israelites never conquered Canaan.”

    Actually, the jury is still out. You have stated the consensus position of the minimalists but not the consensus position of the maximalists that it was a combination of military incursion and slow assimilation.

    “Which is fine. But I do relish the double standard.”

    As stated, the only double standard here is the fictional one that you’re constantly trying to create via word twisting and straw man arguments.

    It’s getting old Zampora.

  • FredWAnson

    “You seem to be under the impression that the Bible is a single book, the truth of which stands on the other books.”

    Yet another straw man – and an insulting and presumptive one to boot. I have said no such thing.

    However, since the older books build on the earlier ones it’s certainly fair to say that there’s an interdependency between books.

    ” That is simply not the case. The truth of one book (especially a later one) has no bearing on the truth of an earlier book. I don’t understand why you can’t seem to grasp this.”

    I have no idea what argument – or for that matter, what these bizarre and presumptive accusations in general – has to do with anything.

    Zampona, I find your logic, reasoning, and rhetorical style very odd. Irrational in fact.

    It could easily be labeled, “The Gentle Art of the Irrational Non-Sequitur”.

  • Zampona

    I find your argument that the later writings have any bearing on the earlier totally unperauasive. You seem to be clinging on to some irrational logic that I don’t know how to cure.

  • Zampona

    Maximalism is not much more than apologetics, which starts with the conclusion that the Bible is basically a reliable source. You were quite critical of that approach several posts ago.

  • FredWAnson

    And minimalism is not much more than skepticism, which starts with the conclusion that the Bible is basically an unreliable source.

    And your point is?

    It’s well known that both stances represent competing consensus positions in Biblical Archaeological which accounts for the constant bickering and acrimony in the discipline.

    There’s no mystery here. I simply stated a fact and acknowledged both stances – something that you refused to do since it doesn’t suit your clearly partisan agenda.

    “You were quite critical of that approach several posts ago.”

    No. Once again you’re created straw men arguments via presumption.

    Since you’re first post until now your preferred tactic seems to have been to attempt to cast aspersions on your debating opponent’s evidence via straw man arguments and ad-hominems.

    It’s getting old.

  • FredWAnson

    Then apparently you haven’t been paying attention in Gospel Doctrine class when the focus is on the Bible. This isn’t my opinion, or some unique or aberrant position – all you have to do is read the Bible from cover to cover to see that this is the case.

    It’s kind of a given.

    And the only irrational logic that I’m seeing is coming from you. And I’m not the first to say so on this page. Again, there’s a pattern here.

    And Zampona, I’m getting tired of going in circles with you. This is getting old.

  • dillet

    As I said, these things are only known for certain through personal divine revelation, which totally transcends LDS culture and “what you’ve been told by others.” Your sense of what’s Real demands proofs that can be transmitted to others, but spiritual “knowing” doesn’t work that way–it requires faith that God knows, loves and teaches those who are willing to learn. Then repentance, fasting and prayer, obedience to God’s commandments, humility (i.e. being teachable), and responsiveness to the spiritual promptings you may receive along the way. No wonder so few people seem to understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is so much easier to criticize and mock than to take it seriously. I wish you well.

  • philipjenkins

    Quite a few of the exchanges here have concerned the (non-)survival of genetic markers of Middle Eastern populations among American Indian populations. One explanation of this embarrassing absence is that perhaps those populations were small and localized, and out of the main current of things. Yet I do find this interesting comment from Joseph Smith, quoted at Fairmormon.org :

    “a great and a mighty people had inhabited this continent-that the arts sciences and religion, had prevailed to a very great extent, and that there was as great and mighty cities on this continent as on the continent of Asia. Babylon, Ninevah, nor any of the ruins of the Levant could boast of more perfect sculpture, better architectural designs, and more imperishable ruins, than what are found on this continent. Stephens and Catherwood’s researches in Central America abundantly testify of this thing. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatemala, and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people-men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormon unfolds their history.”

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/Statements/Nineteenth_century/Joseph_Smith%27s_lifetime_1829-1840/Joseph_Smith

    I know it’s a famous quote, but it does read interestingly in light of the discussions of population size.

    And yet those peoples disappeared without genetic trace. Uh-huh.

  • GP

    Criticizing and mocking are two very different things. I do not mock – that is an ad hominem and doesn’t constructively contribute to the dialogue.

    Now, anyone making claims needs to be able to stand up to the critics. There is a place in my heart for the people of the LDS church… most folks are good people trying to e better. However, their intellectual honesty can be inversely proportional to how much they have studied on church history (see FairMormon for examples) due to cognitive dissonance. I suffered from this for several years trying to make it all work. While serving in a leadership calling and fielding difficult questions from members, I found myself holding back information in my answers to them, because the real answers weren’t faith promoting. I eventually decided to stop running away from the problems and confront them. When I lost my testimony, everything instantly made sense. In some ways, I would have like to have stayed, but I couldn’t stay any longer, because it was not true. I actually prayed about it, and I felt “the spirit” bear confirmation to me that the church was NOT true.

    So that brings me back to my original question (which remains unanswered). Without circular reasoning, how is your spiritual witness more authentic and real than the witness given to those of other faiths who claim the same way of “knowing”? How is your witness about the church being true better than my witness about the church being not true? Will you label me as being deceived by Satan simply because I didn’t get the same answer you got?

    Here is a great video that researches how so many folks can get different answers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycUvC9s4VYA

    I also wish you well.

  • cynth

    and yet you said in a previous post: “In general, it is not wise to trust the opinions of others (even experts) when they have a conflict of interest.” So what is the relevance here in noting your completely unscientific conclusion that because you know an honest Mormon, the BoM is true? Surely you are not stating this as a form of proof in this discussion.

  • Wayne Dequer

    Professor Jenkins makes some pretty strong and authoritative comments about DNA and the Book of Mormon and specifically about the essay at lds.org entitled “The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies.” I’ve checked his academic credentials at Wikipedia and his list of scholarly publications with JSTOR and I find no evidence of particular expertise in population genetics, general genetics, or any other areas of biological science. I believe Jenkins does Not have the credentials to evaluate the DNA evidence, and to do so would need help from experts which he should reference if he want to claim academic authority. Instead he continues to engage in hostile polemics.

    I have a general reading knowledge about DNA and genetics. My wife has a degree in Biology. The article entitled Book of Mormon and DNA Studies at lds.org looks good to me, but I don’t claim the expertise to authoritatively evaluate it. However, I have a son-in-law who does. My son-in-law has a BS from BYU with majors in Zoology and Physics and a minor in Math. Further he has a PhD in Molecular Genetics from The Ohio State University with several years of postdoctoral studies.

    I phoned him a few days ago and asked about the article at lds.org. He hadn’t read it and was in the midst of grading finals for the Genetics class he teaches (at a non-LDS college in the mid-west). I asked him to read and evaluate its quality for me. When he called back he said it was superb and he had checked a number of the footnotes and found them to be excellent. He said he wished he had read it before this semester, because he would have used some of its wording for explaining genetic drift and bottle-necks.

    I then asked for specific problems. He listed two.

    1) The comment about the 2013 study on European and West Asian DNA being anciently introduced into the gene-pool.

    He said the characterization of the point was accurate given the source because it certainly said “ancient” and “before the earliest migration to the Americas.” Of course such migrations happened over 10,000 years ago so Jenkins’ complaint is smoke and mirrors unless one thinks the Nephites were the first inhabitants in the Americas. The Book of Mormon makes no such claim. The Jaredites certainly came well before the Nephites although we do not have exact dates.

    Biblical literalists are constrained by an approximate date for the creation of the earth in about 4004 B.C. with the Tower of Babel in 2242 B.C. and Abraham receiving his call about 1921 B.C. Some Mormons certainly believe this relative frame of time, but certainly not all. Most believe the days of creation represent creative time periods of at least a thousand years and not 24 hour days. There are certainly devout members who are also paleontologists, geologists, etc., who believe the earth is billions of years old. The Book of Mormon notes in Helamen 8:18 that people were taught of Christ “a great many thousand years before his coming.” How long is a “great many thousand”? I suspect Much more than 2 or 4 thousand years! My religion teaches me that Eventually there will be no conflict with truths found through both science and religion.

    My son-in-law said this comment ancient European and West Asian DNA did little to advance understanding of genetics involved. He would have left it out. Thus, Jenkins has correctly identified the weakest thesis presented in the essay at lds.org.

    2) The other academic weakness of the essay on DNA at lds.org is that it doesn’t really advance the argument either for or against DNA as a proof of the Book of Mormon. It is didactic, educational, rather than forwarding a testable thesis. Academia wants to have a vigorous debate more than simply educate. Of course I see this as one of the strengths of this and other scholarly essays on lds.org since I see accurate information and education as more important than scoring points.

    Of course my comments cite a second-hand oral source so take them for what they are, an informed opinion. This is not a scholarly academic journal so I see no overwhelming reason to cite peer review journals.

  • philipjenkins

    You are dead right on your first point. As I have said more than once in these pages, I make no claim whatever to training or special qualifications in genetics or related areas. I have read widely in the area for over thirty years, and have taught courses relating to DNA and inheritance, but that does not constitute qualifications. I have indeed said that I have a decent working knowledge of the topic, which I do.

    Let me put this issue in terms as simple and non-polemical as I can. The Book of Mormon claim is that radically different population groups from the Middle East appeared in the Americas. One at least of those groups lived there for a thousand years, and formed a large community at least many thousands strong at any given time, and probably millions. Moreover, church doctrine dating back to the time of Joseph Smith explicitly says that “the Indians are literal descendants of Abraham,” although that has very recently been modified to state that they do not absolutely ALL claim Middle Eastern descent. I stress Joseph Smith’s word “literal.”

    Putting those circumstances together, it should be quite impossible for modern Native Americans NOT to show the well-known genetic markers characteristic of the Middle East. Jewish genetic markers are particularly well studied. Yet none of those markers has ever been traced. Nor, in fact, has anyone ever claimed to find any anomalous genetic evidence that might suggest a Middle East or otherwise extraneous origin for Native populations, with the (incorrect) exception of claims about the X haplotype. We know who Native Americans are and where they come from.

    Based on the very extensive research that has been done in recent years on populations in many parts of the world, that kind of genetic non-survival is utterly baffling, if in fact those Middle Eastern populations were there in the first place. There honestly is no vaguely plausible explanation for that absence.

    I put it to you that the only explanation of these findings is that the whole Book of Mormon account is false, as a literal, archaeological or non-symbolic account. Those are the problems that are sidestepped, elided, ignored or distorted at the lds.org page.

    If someone wishes to explain that gargantuan anomaly, I invite them to produce the evidence.

    By the way, the photo you incorporated in your post seems to be appearing in mine also. I mean no satirical intent by this!

  • Andrew Dowling

    Well, a lot of different things can be thrown under the banner of “conventional Christian beliefs.” If you’re talking about creationists/fundamentalists (and a pretty good chunk of Christianity falls under that umbrella IMO) I’d agree. But if you’re talking mainline/standard Catholic orthodoxy, you run into some issues regarding certain historical claims, but not even CLOSE to the extent the Book of Mormon does. If there was no such thing as the Jewish race/people, that’s the kind of correlation we’d be talking about.

  • Andrew Dowling

    They are reviewed by fellow Mormons who share their presuppositions, not independent historians/scholars. I’m sure one can find peer-reviewed articles on the historicity of the Bell Witch in “Poltergeist Quarterly” . . . .

  • Andrew Dowling

    Because exposing the claims of the Book of Mormon is an excellent case-study of historical-critical study and how it’s useful.

  • Andrew Dowling

    You know the unemployment rate dropped BELOW where Mitt said HE could get it, right?

  • trytoseeitmyway

    When I said conventional Christian beliefs, that’s pretty much what I meant. I wasn’t getting down to the level of granularity that would require the use of a “/” mark. The point I was making stands on its own, and it seems as though it escaped you entirely, since your reply is orthogonal to it.

  • philipjenkins

    I take your words very much to heart. I do wonder why even well educated Mormon apologists go to such extravagant and ludicrous extremes to defend the absurd case they have to make, which flies in the face of all historical, genetic and archaeological realities, and why they reject even the most potent new evidence that continues to assail those beliefs. But you say it exactly. “We always assimilate new information within a horizon of existing beliefs. … Evidence can affect thinking on the margins but only on the margins. Presuppositions are the principal drivers of conclusions.” Indeed.

    Or as Gadamer never said, If I hadn’t believed it, I never would have seen it with my own eyes.

  • philipjenkins

    “There may be dimensions of experience that escape your ken but that are available to others who engage the world with a different horizon of beliefs and experiences.” And that is exactly the logical conclusion of your argument: irrationalism, extreme subjectivism, and contempt for objective scientific reality.

    In the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

    I have repeatedly asked this 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.

    When everyone fails to answer this question, as they conspicuously have, they seem to move on to Phase II, which is “Well, nothing is actually credible, or objective, or scientific. Nothing is true, nothing is factual. What is truth?”

    I am not, in fact, an anthropologist, but I take no offense at the suggestion.

  • philipjenkins

    And at the risk of starting a cycle we have been round many times before: and I can point to a great many honest, sincere, good people who are equally confident in their belief in Islam. Your “evidence” would not convince anyone aged over eight.

    You are in the realm of total, naive, subjectivity.

  • philipjenkins

    Sleazy and unacceptable!

    What a crude and insulting rhetorical tactic to assume that the fact that I do not accept a position means that I do not know it and am not familiar with the literature. If a graduate student did that to a fellow student in a seminar, he would be out on his ear.

    The only excuse for such a pathetic subterfuge is to shift attention from the fact that you, and your bizarre apologist friends, cannot produce a single piece of factual evidence to support your case. Time to produce a red herring!

  • philipjenkins

    Neil Armstrong did walk on the moon.

    Nephites and Lamanites did not walk on the Americas.

    Got the distinction?

  • philipjenkins

    No, I am not caricaturing “other intelligent people’s beliefs.” I am accurately describing the warped, self-deceptive, and nihilistic views that you are expressing ever more fully in every post.

    It would be funny, if it were not so sad, to see someone like yourself cite E. H. Carr, a real historian, in support of a view that rejects any factual content in history.

  • cynth

    You first paragraph is a complete nonsequiter, where did that even come from?
    Your second paragraph concludes that “strong evidence” comes from hearsay, your personal assumption about whether the people you meet are “honest,” your “sample size” based on how many people you have met who tell you something you have no way of verifying, as well as your conclusion about those you have not met, and the use of the word “know” when describing a belief. These are so far from constituting any sort of scientific discourse! Just talk about your beliefs, it is ridiculous that you think there is any sort of scientific validity in these comments.

  • Wayne Dequer

    Professor Jenkins,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. There seem to be three main issues: 1) the genetics, 2) the doctrine, 3) your claim that the Book of Mormon is obviously false.

    1) The genetics:

    I have not found where you said: “I have indeed said that I have [only] a decent working knowledge of the topic [genetics].”

    The essay entitled “The Book of Mormon and DNA Studies” at lds.org does Not claim there is genetic evidence supporting the Book of Mormon. It does make the case for the DNA evidence still being inconclusive. The essay is a summary of existing credible scholarly opinion. One of those opinions belongs to Ugo A. Perego who holds a PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Pavia, Italy, with an emphasis on mitochondrial DNA analysis applied to the study of populations. Yes, he is a Mormon. Below is a well referenced recent article that deals with the topic at hand including the problems with X haplotype evidence: “The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint” at http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/22/1/S00008-5176a14033e278Pergo.pdf . It makes the point that DNA studies of ancient populations are subject to numerous limitations. Of course one can argue that it is not in a mainstream academic publication. However, it is peer reviewed by those with appropriate academic credentials (see footnote 1 to the version of this article published at http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/the-book-of-mormon-and-the-origin-of-native-americans-from-a-maternally-inherited-dna-standpoint ). The fact that these are scholars who happen to be Mormon should not negate their opinion since they have correct academic credentials from secular universities in the fields under discussion. Should scholars who happen to be Catholics be disbelieved in technical fields within their expertise as pertains to matters involving the Roman Catholic Church? Mormons do not seek to exclude non-Mormon scholars from doing serious research about their beliefs. Non-Mormon, Jan Shipps was elected President of the Mormon History Association in 1979. Ronald Romig, a Community of Christ Archivist, served as President in 2009-2010.

    You make a reasonable point that the Book of Mormon indicates that there were many thousands, if not millions, of Nephites and Lamanites of at least partial Israelite descent at one time. However, the Book of Mormon also records cataclysmic events of natural and genocidal destruction that should certainly have created one or more genetic bottle-necks before 500 CE. Of course others could have occurred after 500 CE.

    2) The doctrine:
    Mormons believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and Joseph Smith to have been a prophet of God. We should not consider either to be infallible, because both these sources specifically encourage us not to do so.

    Joseph Smith probably said something very like “the Indians are literal descendants of Abraham.” However, he never wrote this exact statement nor has it ever been canonized. [See Joseph Smith Papers at http://josephsmithpapers.org/searchNew?query=literal%20descendants%20of%20Abraham&sort=relevance&page=1&perpage=10&startdate=&enddate=&transcripts=false&issuggestion=false&types=documents-papers|documents-papers-documents|documents-papers-histories|documents-papers-journals|related-materials|biographical-directory|geographical-directory|glossary . It should further be noted that the reference frequently given on the internet (The Papers of Joseph Smith, Vol. 2, Journal, 1832-1842, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, copyright 1992 Corporation of the President, pp. 69-70) may well be in error.] Joseph Smith’s Mormon contemporaries certainly believed that the American Indians, as Lamanites, were literal descendents from Israel. So did President Spencer W. Kimball.

    You say this view has only “very recently been modified.” What is very recently? LDS General Authorities were discussing New World populations other than those mentioned in the Book of Mormon as early as 1937. Once we get to 1947 and beyond, Nibley is repeatedly writing about other groups. There is a thoughtful and well researched article on the history of this topic at http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Lamanites/Relationship_to_Amerindians/Who_are_the_Lamanites that all who are interested can consider.

    The bottom line is that just because Joseph Smith once said it and many prominent Mormons believed it does NOT make it unchangeable LDS doctrine. Joseph Smith was a prophet and he was fallible just as was Jonah of the Old Testament and Peter of the New Testament.

    3) Your claim that the Book of Mormon is obviously false

    You write: “. . . the whole Book of Mormon account is false, as a literal, archaeological or non-symbolic account. Those are the problems that are sidestepped, . . . , ignored or distorted at the lds.org page.” Of course we disagree about your characterization. The essays frankly address the issues, discussing what is and isn’t known. LDS.org does Not claim archaeological or genetic proof. You are the one claiming there is proof of falsehood, but you have not proved your claim beyond a reasonable doubt given the variety of opinions still held by your readers. Of course your readers are not a neutral jury because few are truly neutral on Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon.

    You make a point in this essay “Myth-History and Real History” that: “. . . most non-academics have a very poor idea of how history and archaeology actually work as disciplines” wrapping yourself in the cloak of academic expertise. You than go on to discuss DNA where you now concede you have No real expertise. As I study your biography and publications I can clearly see your expertise in history and criminology, but not in archaeology. I studied archaeology under Brian Fagan and Roger C. Owen, doing some fascinating dirt-archeology under the latter. What are your credentials?

    Finding archeological evidence can be pretty erratic and lack of evidence is sometimes ephemeral. Before publication about the evidence found in the 1961-1968 dig at L’Anse aux Meadows, there was No accepted evidence of any transoceanic contact between the old and new worlds. There was Norse “Myth History,” but Not a shred of archaeological evidence. Before 1990 there was No archaeological evidence that the Huns used horses although the historic evidence was well established. While many elements of the Trojan War remain mythical, before Schliemann, Troy was commonly believed to be totally mythical. The lack of current archaeological evidence is tentative and No more a “proof” than the many white swans in the northern hemisphere meaning black swans would not be discovered in Australia.

    Of course I think there is significant scholarly evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. It is not proof, nor do I ever expect scholarly proof this side of the Millennium. The evidence has been noticed and reasonably documented by a number of competent LDS scholars and independent researchers. There is also a significant number of shoddy claims by incompetent Mormon writers of faith promoting experiences. Those fallacious claims are now fairly rapidly exposed as false by the competent LDS sources.

    It remains academically unacceptable to take the Book of Mormon seriously outside of Mormon circles. Anti-Mormonism continues to be an acceptable prejudice, including in academic circles. The eminent Michael D. Coe attacked specifics in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith on a multi-part webcast in 2011. Of course he mischaracterized much listed in “An Open Letter” by John Sorenson (see http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/an-open-letter-to-dr-michael-coe ). There has been no reply by Coe to Sorenson’s rebuttal. Mainline scholarly publications continue to refuse to publish most evidence supporting the Book of Mormon, thus denying the opportunity for wider scholastic discussion.

    I invite you, Professor Jenkins, to rewrite these informal essays about your views on the Book of Mormon for scholarly publication and publish them in a main-stream academic journal. If they will publish it, that would provide a platform for further academic discussion.

  • philipjenkins

    Mr. Dequer,

    It’s a pleasure to read such a well-organized and thoughtful statement.

    Please don’t be offended if I do not reply to it at any length. 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.

    Three detailed points:

    1.Searching these comments is a beast, but I began one reply, “I should make this clear, obviously I am NOT a geneticist, and do not claim to be so.”

    2. For the change of doctrine being “recent”, I have already quoted the Salt Lake Tribune of November 8, 2007:

    “The LDS Church has changed a single word in its introduction to the Book of Mormon, a change observers say has serious implications for commonly held LDS beliefs about the ancestry of American Indians. …The book’s current introduction, added by the late LDS apostle, Bruce R. McConkie in 1981, includes this statement: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” The new version, seen first in Doubleday’s revised edition, reads, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.” LDS leaders instructed Doubleday to make the change, said senior editor Andrew Corbin, so it “would be in accordance with future editions the church is printing.”

    3. You write, “Of course I think there is significant scholarly evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. It is not proof, nor do I ever expect scholarly proof this side of the Millennium. The evidence has been noticed and reasonably documented by a number of competent LDS scholars and independent researchers.” That is a very difficult distinction for me to grasp. If we are dealing with a real phenomenon, and one on such a large scale as is claimed by the Book of Mormon, we would be unable to throw a stone without coming across a solid and indisputable piece of proof, such as an inscription, or pottery, or linguistic evidence, or genetic evidence. Yet as I have often remarked, there is not one that I have ever seen cited -not one. Evidence short of proof?

    As the phrase goes, the plural of anecdote is not data.

    Oh yes – and I am a huge fan of Brian Fagan!

  • cynth

    Hopefully you have looked them up, so you realize your statement depends on hearsay when you say you have proof/evidence that the BoM is true b/c someone TOLD you it was.
    I absolutely agree bad arguments can be based on bad assumptions, it’s one of the things you do that I find so unscientific.
    I don’t assume you don’t know something b/c I don’t think you do; rather I am waiting to hear a legitimate proof. If you can’t provide it, I have no obligation to believe you.
    You obviously have strong beliefs, I would much rather read those in the context of your feelings rather than the mangling of scientific thought and process in which you seem to engage. I don’t expect you to believe my beliefs, but if you say you have scientific proof and then you offer hearsay and nonscience, I will definitely call you on it.
    Yes, I guess I have repeated my opinions about your pseudo-scientific posturing, because I have seen you repeat this nonsense in various places I read! If you post publicly then be willing to engage in debate and support your statements.

  • cynth

    quote: “You assume I can’t verify the truth of the BoM for myself which is incorrect.” I have to comment on this separately (see rest of my comment below), because there are so many layers of scientific wrong in this statement. If I read this correctly, EngineerSenseHere is asserting (without proof!) that s/he can verify the truth of the BoM, and is asserting that I should believe s/he can do what apologists try and fail to do hourly? And that if I don’t concede that ridiculously unsupported assumption, I am ex post facto making a bad argument? I recognize this argument from my childhood, “because I SAID SO!!!”

  • EC

    You claim that I am inaccurate on every point above, but I have to say I am a little surprised as the second point is what I thought a pretty basic summary of the narrative of the book of Mormon. The record in the Book of Mormon of Lehi’s group arriving in the promised land until the meeting with the people of Zarahemla about four centuries later comes from the Small Plates of Nephi, not Mormon’s abridgement. This is significant, because Nephi is clear on multiple occasions that these small plates are meant to be a record of spiritual things (1 Nephi 19:6 is one example), the only history given is to give minimal context to the some of the sermons and prophecies given. If we were to separate the historical content of 2 Nephi and Jacob, from the pastoral content, those books would shrink down to just a couple of pages, each one being about the size of Jude for a biblical point of reference. Because the Nephite history until Zarahemla is very brief, questions as to whether Lehi’s party encountered natives early on and intermingled, the composition of the peoples of Zarahemla between Native Americans and Mulek and his followers, and the ratio of Nephites to the people of Zarahemla are all questions to which scholars have wondered about and because of the ambiguity of the text in these matters, it is impossible to say one way or the other. Obviously, the earlier the intermingling between Lehi and his descendants and Native Americans the greater the effect forces like genetic drift and bottlenecking (Points 1 and 3) will have on the ability to detect Middle Eastern signatures today.

    I have read in your previous statements that you clearly are taking the narrative the Book of Mormon peoples retained much of their Middle Eastern genetic identity which is why I am assuming you dismiss bottlenecking as irrelevant in your previous comment. However, in looking at your previous comments and articles it seems to me that you have based your view of the Book of Mormon peoples based off comments people have made about the text, and not the text itself. Certainly members and leaders of the LDS church have also had similar opinions as yours, but those are based around assumptions read into the Book of Mormon, rather than strictly the text itself. While you quote Joseph Smith several times, he obviously didn’t have the knowledge that we have today and so put the Book of Mormon narrative into the context of what was known of ancient America in his time. Thus, disputing what Joseph Smith said especially with regards to the geography and more secular history of the peoples of the book is not always the same as disputing the actual text of the book itself. Joseph Smith would be the first to say that he was not the author of the Book of Mormon, and never claimed to be aside from the legal procedure needed to obtain a copyright, since the copyright required someone be named as author.

    In previous articles you have stated that you do not wish to debate proving a negative and that you simply want physical evidence that would confirm the Book of Mormon in the new world. Fair enough. But in this article, you claim that genetics disproves the Book of Mormon so thoroughly that those who accept the book in faith are delusional. That sounds like you feel the negative has been proven, so to speak, and while you do not explicitly say so the tone of the article certainly gives the impression that you consider believers in the Book of Mormon to be at about the same level as members of the Flat Earth society. This gets to my main argument with this article and what I consider unfortunate. You take a particular reading of the text, stack it against the science, and then claim to have disproved the text and deride those who accept the Book of Mormon in faith as delusional while not engaging with other readings that provide scenarios that are more compatible with what we see scientifically today. (That is in addition to setting aside the Book of Mormon record in 1 Nephi and what it says about the journey through the Arabian peninsula, or the history of the translation of the book itself, which also provide unique challenges to ascertaining the true origin of the text).

    For what it is worth, in re-reading this article I am sorry to hear that some people who presumably accept the Book of Mormon have replied to you in profane ways. It would be comical if it wasn’t offensive that they answer a denial of the historical reality of the text in such a way as to essentially morally deny the text in a way. Shameful and undeserved.

  • philipjenkins

    Please note that I will be addressing the “Arabian” section of the text in a few days.

    Thank you for your remarks about the abusive comments. It all goes with the territory on internet boards, I fear.

  • cynth

    I agree please stop. Inexplicably, you continue to think that this “…most basic concept” you argue constitutes proof. You say “It is possible for me to know things that you don’t.”
    That is obviously a belief you hold strongly, but it has absolutely no value if you can’t provide evidence that scientifically constitutes a proof!
    If you know something, you can insist that you believe yourself, but you cannot insist others believe you, simply because YOU SAY SO.

  • noel

    Hello, just an aside. Have you read Israel Finkelstein’s book The Bible Unearthed where he argues that the exodus and conquest did not occur? I hope you post something in the future on violence in the Old Testament (eg Numbers 31).

  • philipjenkins

    I would post about it, but I actually wrote a whole book on the topic, called LAYING DOWN THE SWORD (2011). I use Finkelstein’s stuff extensively – how could you not? I don’t agree with him in large measure, but he is still eminently worth reading. A very smart guy.

  • noel

    Having spent part of my youth in the LDS faith I was devastated when I found the evidence of the lack of support for Smiths “translation” of some Egyptian papyri into what he claimed was the Book of Abraham. The same type of apologetic s used in defense of the Book of Mormon is use in defense of the Book of Abraham. 1 papyri still lost 2. the papyri was a catalyst for a revelation which inspired the contents of the Book of Abraham. FAIR and FARMS engaged in all kinds of defensive writing fo support its authenticity.Facsimile 3 can be read by Egyptologists and nothing of Smith’s interpretations match theirs. It is a judgement scene for a man called Hor. The figures are Isis, Osiris, Maat, Hor and Anubis not a Prince, Abraham, Prince, waiter and slave.

  • dillet

    One question–was your “the church is not true” experience accompanied by an overwhelming, inexpressible flood of Joy and Love?

  • FredWAnson

    OK, you have applied the same “Moroni 10 Challenge” to these books that you’ve used with the Book of Mormon? In other words, the exact same “formula” that Mormon Missionaries are using with investigators even as I type?

    Specifically, you have read each of these books and then prayed like this?

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

    You’ll have to excuse my skepticism Qwerty but my experience with a number of Mormons over a number of years is that they steadfastly refuse to pick up any religious work outside of the Standard Works of the LdS Church let alone apply the Moroni 10 Challenge to them in the same way they do the Book of Mormon.

    I know of exactly ZERO Mormons who have ever done so. So you would be the first if what you’re claiming is actually true.

  • FredWAnson

    Q: So, you can prove that God wasn’t created in the Middle East?

    A: Sure, that’s not hard at all.

    There’s an abundance of sociological and anthropological evidence that demonstrates that the type of monotheism inherent in Judeo-Christianity is in fact the “default setting” for human beings. It appears to be buried deeply in our “wiring”. As Paul C. Vitz, notes in his book, “Faith of the Fatherless”:

    “As a student of psychology, I was supported in my atheism by various general ideas. The argument-criticized here-that God is a projection of psychological needs, particularly childish needs, was one that I accepted. Supporting this psychological interpretation was a cultural or anthropological critique of belief as such. I am not sure where I learned it, though I do remember enjoying a course at the University of Michigan taught by an outspokenly atheistic professor of anthropology. I also believed in a rather simple form of “evolution”, including the evolution of world-views. It seemed to me that primitive man had gods, goddesses, and spirits of many types: in this animistic phase, deities inhabited many natural locales (springs, woods, impressive animals, large distinctive rocks, and the like). Somewhat more “advanced” cultures had fewer deities but were still polytheistic. By the time of the Greeks or the Egyptians, there were a relatively small number of gods and goddesses, with a fairly clear hierarchy; Judaism introduced monotheism as the natural conclusion of this progression from many to one. And of course the final answer for the “mature modern mind” was to do away with the divine altogether, to understand the whole process as a form of intellectual evolution or maturation. Thus, the evolution from many to few to one to none appeared to be both an historical and a logical progression.

    Of course, I never seriously investigated the evidence for this view or questioned it in any way It just seemed correct and obvious. If I had done my homework, even back then in the 1950s and 1960s, I would have found out that the “evolutionary” or “progressive” model simply does not fit the data and, if anything, should be reversed: that is, the evidence then and now supports the claim that the earliest humans were commonly monotheistic, since the religious beliefs of the most primitive tribes for which we have any information support this view.

    Andrew Lang, years before Freud’s religious theorizing, pointed out that highly primitive peoples such as the Au Han aborigines had a religion with a High God or Supreme Being who was not a ghost of the dead or some lower deity raised to a higher power. More recently, E. O. James, a distinguished scholar of early religion, has noted that Lang and, especially, Wilhelm Schmidt and his colleagues established that this kind of monotheistic High God is “a genuine feature of uncontaminated primitive religion”, recurring among the most primitive people such as “the native tribes of Australia, the Fuegians in South America, the Californian tribes in North America and certain negritos and other negroids in Africa and elsewhere”. In general, these tribes are found in the most unsatisfactory environments, having been driven there by their more aggressive and advanced neighbors-one sign of their primitiveness. These cultures are food-gatherers and have yet to develop the arts of agriculture; whatever hunting they do is very primitive.

    Schmidt reported that “the name ‘father’ is applied to the supreme being in every single area of the primitive culture when he is addressed or appealed to. . . . We find it in the form ‘father’ simply, also in the individual form (‘my father’) and the collective (‘our father’).” The name Creator is also applied, but is not always found. A third common name for the Supreme Being is Sky God or Sky Lord. In addition, this figure is reliably seen as utterly righteous, his only response to anything morally bad is to abhor and punish it. The moral life of these primitive tribes is largely determined by their understanding of the morally good Supreme Being who is seen as the author of rewards and punishments.

    Some ethnologists, like Schmidt, have claimed that all of the most primitive peoples of whom we have any knowledge exhibit some form of simple monotheism, though this point is debated. For our purposes, we need only observe the undisputed finding, which is that many-perhaps most-of the most primitive peoples are monotheistic in the preceding sense. Hence, no evolutionary model which makes monotheism a relatively late development can be considered acceptable on empirical grounds. In fact, many of the commentators of different backgrounds who have observed the primitive monotheism of these simple people have noted its great similarity to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in this regard.

    Polytheism and the proliferation of deities seem to have begun when cultures or tribes met and blended, especially when one group conquered another. And by extension, it would appear that as cultures turned into political empires, the number of divinities became still larger. We might call this the “Pantheon effect”: make peace with a neighboring tribe or one that you conquer by adding their important gods to your list.

    In the United States, something like this socially and politically motivated change has been taking place. We have moved from being a Protestant country, to a Christian nation (Protestant-Catholic), then to just God (Judeo-Christian), and now to many religions and worldviews, including Buddhism without God, and explicit atheism, in our public proclamations, all from the pressure of more and more divergent groups.

    From this perspective, religious historical change has generally been one of devolution or regression or dilution. That is, cultures have gone from one God to a few gods to many gods-and finally, in the modern period, to countless kinds of god, or to no god. This is something of an oversimplification, but it looks closer to the truth than my original, sophomoric, model.

    Within this context, the Hebrew people were a notable exception and can be understood as a return to the original state of simple monotheism-a state lost in more “advanced” cultures and from which the ancient Hebrews often fell. In fact, in the history of the Jews, we see many times how political, economic, and social relations with other cultures persistently undermined their monotheism by introducing new gods (such as Baal and Astarte). Again and again, in the face of social and political pressures, they had to return to monotheism in order to maintain their faith and cultural identity.

    — Paul C. Vitz, “Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism” (Kindle Locations 2089-2136), Kindle Edition; http://smile.amazon.com/Faith-Fatherless-Psychology-Paul-Vitz-ebook/dp/B00GB97UE8

  • FredWAnson

    Q: You can prove that there were others worshiping His anywhere else in the world? I’d like to see that.

    A: Again, sure. Both the Old and New Testaments contain stories of Gentiles worshiping the God of Israel outside of Judaism. Ever heard of Namaan (2 Kings 5), the Greek Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13 & Luke 7:1-10), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), the Assyrians worshiping the God of Israel after they repent in the Book of Jonah (Jonah 3), the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10), the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).

    And your argument is so myopic and fallacious that it ignores the fact that within 180-years Christianity had conquered the entire region west of the Middle East, most of the Near East and was rapidly moving into the Far East as well.
    (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Christian_missions)

    Once again, the Book of Mormon is completely and utterly redundant. It didn’t do ANY of the things that you claim it was required to do. They ALL existed well before the advent of the Book of Mormon.

    Qwerty, may I politely suggest that you read and consider some sources other than official, correlated, LdS Church sources? Your myopic Mormon indoctrination and bias is quite telling.

    Friend, there’s a whole new fresh exciting and enlightening world that can be found outside of Deseret Book that can be found nowhere in it.

    Check it out – it’s awesome!

    Thanks.

  • GP

    No, it was not accompanied by joy and love.

    Instead, I experienced a spectrum of other emotions. I was quite sad that the church was not true because I had really believed it with all of my heart and it meant a great deal to me. I was surprised at how much information had been hidden from me and other members of the church. I was disappointed in the current church leadership for failing to be open and honest with members of the church and instead opting to white-wash and withhold information. And I was a bit angry for a number of reasons… other than the dishonesty, another reason is seeing the church buy ~2% of land in Florida and building the City Creek Mall in SLC… and buying it with the widow’s mite (tithing collected from those who are struggling to make ends meet for their families). Actually, a better word than angry would be disgusted.

    Look, if believing in the church’s claims brings you joy and love, then great. But it’s not real. I’m really sorry to be so blunt with you because I was in your shoes just a little over a year ago, but it just isn’t real.

    I have since found joy and love in areas of my life that are real – like my family. My family relationship has increased significantly since we left the church. I know that you will find this really hard to believe, because when I was in your shoes, I could not comprehend this as being possible. But it really is. The only downside to leaving the church is the judgement that some members of the church give to me by assuming that I had been offended, wanted to sin, or was lazy. Other than the worldly judgement of some members of the church, things have been fine. I mean, if you think of it, there are over 6 billion people in the world who are able to find joy and love without the church… right?

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

  • dillet

    I have suggested reading “Mormon’s Codex” by John L. Sorenson. But since it is 800 pages long, and written by a Mormon, I am sure you will ignore it. A very brief synopsis can be found at .patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/08/mormons-codex-a-preview.html (Copy and paste and then add the http://www back in–I deleted it so as not to violate the no-links policy of this site).

  • dillet

    See my comment just above.

  • dillet

    Repeating a post many pages back, in case you missed it:

    I have suggested reading “Mormon’s Codex” by John L. Sorenson. But
    since it is 800 pages long, and written by a Mormon, I am sure you will
    ignore it. A very brief synopsis can be found at
    .patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/08/mormons-codex-a-preview.html
    (Copy and paste and then add the http://www back in–I deleted it so as not to violate the no-links policy of this site).

  • dillet

    GP– Thank you for your openness and honesty on this very personal issue. I’m almost sorry to be so blunt with You, but I need to explain that The Joy and Love I am talking about far exceeds the joy and love one finds in the world.

    I am telling you that the spiritual experience of having the Holy Ghost testify of the truthfulness of the LDS Church is accompanied by such God-given Joy and Love, creating the over-arching testimony of what it really means to be able to say, “I Know.” Then as one responds to that experience with faithfulness, the Holy Ghost repeatedly reaffirms its reality, as well as the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and numerous other points of doctrine. At least, this has been the case in my life, and of all of the most “real” Mormons I’ve ever met and read about.

    So all the arguments and scholarly discussions and even the foolish mockery of others (not you) cannot negate, erase, or overcome genuine spiritual experiences such as these. I think that the spectrum of disillusionment and subsequent abandonment of what one may once have Known can extinguish such a Testimony. Christ’s parable of the sower in Matthew 13 reveals more spiritual hazards, and I commend it to you.

    Best Wishes–dillet

  • philipjenkins

    This is an interesting and unexpected perspective, and I’m interested to read it. Thank you for sending it!

  • GP

    Thanks dillet for your respectful responses. There are a few of my close friends and family who know some of the church issues but are able to believe based on similar reasons listed in your response. I’ve felt what I had identified as “the HG” several times before in my life, but for me, maybe I’m just wired differently… the evidence seems conclusive to me, and although it was not the answer I wanted, I just can’t “feel” the church to be “true” if you will. Sorry if this comes across bluntly, but it was a several month ordeal where I struggled to try and make it work, but in the end, simply could not.

    Thanks again… and best regards.

  • Yes, the Book of Mormon proves it. God tells us the Scriptures are true and the Scriptures testify of Him. In philosophy, this doesn’t work. It is a religious principle that cannot be proven by man. This is why arguing theology is pointless. Even person lives their own religion.

  • Sorry, but I didn’t go on a mission like most Mormons. I spent 2+ years going to other churches and learning the truth for myself. I’m an odd duck, I know.

  • Moroni Fielding Kimball

    Sorenson’s codex? No hard evidence of the type requested there. Try again.

  • Hillary Spragg

    test comment