apologetics, Current Events, Mormonism

The Book of Mormon: Introduction and Importance

Mormonism is growing with great speed. There are few, however, who understand the limits of Mormonism’s truth claims. Mormon apologists have frequently made assertions which are either false or ungrounded. I have therefore decided to write a series of posts on the Book of Mormon, followed by a critique of Mormonism’s philosophical stances. This post will introduce the book of Mormon.

A man was born on December 23, 1805 in Vermont. He was known for digging for imagined buried treasure with his father and others.[1] He was also known for being a mystic,[2] for his conviction for disorderly conduct in a scam in which he tried to convince locals he had found treasure underground,[3] and for being the translator of golden plates: The Book of Mormon.[4] The man was Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Mormon faith, “The Prophet.”[5] The Book of Mormon, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church), is “another witness that Jesus Christ… was and is God’s Son… It supports and verifies the Bible.”[6] If this is true, then the Book of Mormon is as much the Word of God as the Bible. However, the Book of Mormon’s validity as the Word of God is strongly undercut by scientific and historical evidence which contradicts its claims.

The Mormon Articles of Faith describe the Book of Mormon as “a volume of sacred scripture which, like the Bible, embodies the word of God.”[7] The Book of Mormon is supposed to record other prophecies about Jesus.[8] Perhaps the most striking enunciation of the contents of the Book of Mormon is found later in the Articles:

The Book of Mormon is a divinely inspired record, made by the prophets of the ancient peoples who inhabited the American continent for centuries before and after the time of Christ, which record has been translated in the present generation through the gift of God and by His special appointment. The authorized and inspired translator of these sacred scriptures… is Joseph Smith.[9]

Furthermore, the arguments for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon often parallel those arguments used to justify the Bible: it is said to be “internally consistent,”[10] prophetically fulfilled,[11] and supported by archaeology.[12] Yet there are also arguments unique to the Book: it was certified as genuine by three men who signed a statement confirming they witnessed the translation of the Book,[13] eight other witnesses claimed to have seen the gold plates from which the Book was purportedly translated,[14] and the ethnic background of Native Americans is said to be Israelite, which would demonstrate the Book’s truth.[15] It is clear that the Book of Mormon is the absolute bedrock of Mormon faith. If the evidences for the Book do not hold the evidential weight required to confirm its truth, then Mormon faith is undone.

The Book of Mormon’s veracity hinges on the claim that the lost tribes of Israel came to America, settled there, and wrote their history on gold plates which Joseph Smith later translated. Such claims at the time of Joseph Smith seemed irrefutable; they simply couldn’t conceive of technology which could test such ideas. Today, however, such technology is available. Unfortunately for Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church, the evidence runs contrary to what the Book of Mormon claims.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll investigate each of these claims in turn, while finding them wanting. The next post will demonstrate that the Book of Mormon cannot be true based upon a genetic analysis of Native Americans. Future posts will argue that the Book of Mormon does not reflect ancient near eastern writing and that the Mormon concept of God is philosophically untenable.

[1] Walter Martin. The Kingdom of the Cults (Bloomington, MN: Bethany, 2003), 197; Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, UT: Modern Microfilm Company, 1972), 32.

[2] Martin, Kingdom, 197

[3] Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick, Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon: The Spalding Enigma (St. Louis: Concordia, 2005), 395f.

[4] Martin, Kingdom, 201.

[5] Ibid., 197f.

[6] The Mormon Church, “Frequently Asked Questions,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, http://www.mormon.org/faq/#Book+of+Mormon|question=/faq/what-is-book-of-mormon/ (accessed October 14, 2010).

[7] James Talmage. A Study of the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976), 251.

[8] Talmage, Articles of Faith, 252.

[9] Talmage, Articles of Faith, 255.

[10] Ibid, 278-279.

[11] Ibid, 274-275.

[12] Ibid, 283-293.

[13] Ibid, 270.

[14] Ibid, 271.

[15] Ibid, 283.

Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Slc_mormon_tempel.jpg

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Advertisements

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

25 thoughts on “The Book of Mormon: Introduction and Importance

  1. I challenge you to read the entire Book of Mormon and blog about it as you go. That’s something I’ve never seen anti-Mormon bloggers do. You’d be the very first. Ever. It’d bring a lot of traffic to your blog if you put out there that you’re the very first to do this. It would also give you more credibility in your critique.

    Posted by Rob | October 17, 2011, 6:16 PM
    • Rob,

      Thanks for the comment and challenge. I will think on it, though having read significant portions of the Book of Mormon, I don’t know how I would blog on much of it.

      This series is intended to inform Christians about the lack of evidence and philosophical, biological, and theological difficulties with the Book of Mormon and Mormonism in general. To be completely honest, it would be much more interesting to go through the whole book and refute it piece by piece if there were actually any evidence for any of it. If that were the case, I could engage the evidence on a scholarly level and either point out its truths or rebut it. But as it stands, I have yet to find a shred of archaeological, genetic, or philosophical evidence which favors the Book of Mormon. Perhaps you have compelling evidence you’d be willing to share.

      But again, going through a text piece by piece and blogging on it would imply that there is some kind of factual basis in it. But the Book of Mormon talks about elephants, which were only brought to the Americas over a thousand years after the purported events took place, it references massive civilizations with fortified cities–none of which exist, it talks about metallurgy, which was not in use, tools which did not exist, etc, etc. I don’t think it justifies a point-by-point rebuttal.

      Again, thanks for the challenge, and I hope you do not take my answer in the wrong way. I just don’t know what substance I would have to debate.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 17, 2011, 8:28 PM
      • And of course this is not to mention the anachronisms, the chariots (no evidence of which exists in the Americas), the misuse of Hebraic idioms, the non-existant language of “reformed Egyptian,” and other major factual difficulties.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 17, 2011, 8:30 PM
    • Rob, no, he wouldn’t be the first ever. I did that a couple of years ago. Here’s my blog: http://philochristos.blogspot.com/2009/05/book-of-mormon-118.html

      Posted by Sam | October 18, 2011, 7:15 PM
      • Thanks for the link, Sam. I’ll be reading through your series now!

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 19, 2011, 12:17 PM
      • Hi Sam,

        I’m having a bit of trouble finding a post-by-post sequence of how you read, studied, and wrote notes about the Book of Mormon. I do see a lot of back-and-forth in the comments of this first post that echoes a lot of the copy/paste criticisms from Witnessing to Mormons pamphlets I’ve read in the last 20 years. I also note that when Fern RL made some very good and logical arguments for the LDS side of the story, and then challenged you to use prayer as a way to gain a witness of whether the Book of Mormon is true scripture, you didn’t respond. Did you accept her invitation to do so, and if you did, what was the result?

        As for the blogging of your reading the Book of Mormon, do you have a summary conclusion post, or can you also point out to me where you made your conclusions and which posts your conclusion’s individual points relate to?

        Thanks.

        Posted by American Testament (@atbom) | October 31, 2011, 2:32 PM
  2. This is going to be a great series! Very well-timed…

    Posted by "No Apologies Allowed" Weekly Apologetics Cartoons | October 17, 2011, 10:58 PM
  3. Another paranoid schizophrenic..do you realize there is no honor in regurgitating the demands of the blind? First off, (assuming you believe in the Bible) have you attacked the Bible with the same demands? Answer: course not. Am I wrong?

    Secondly, do you know what gaping holes exist in the Bible and why most college going Christians become atheist?

    Thirdly, did you know that Mormonism is not based on the Book of Mormon?

    Fourth, if you became a follower of the teachings in the scary Book of Mormon, how would your life change? What’s so scary in it?????

    Because it has more references to Jesus than the Bible, and because it confirms the resurrection (which the spirit of anit-Christ WILL NOT do), pray tell, can you discern truth at all? Instead of disparaging the ONLY book that confirms the virgin birth, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, judge it how YOU want to be judged!

    Posted by Alma | October 18, 2011, 9:12 AM
    • Alma,

      First, ad hominem attacks do not become us. Please refrain from personal attacks in the future, or you will not be allowed to post comments.

      Have I attacked the Bible with the same demands? Absolutely, I have. I seek the truth, not blind faith. The thing is, the Bible has archaeological evidence, philological, and manuscript evidence to support it. Not only that, but the God of the Bible stands up to philosophical scrutiny. I am unimpressed by your insinuations that I have not investigated the evidence.

      You asked about the gaping holes in the Bible. I have done a huge amount of investigation into the Bible, and was essentially agnostic for a time. Yet , time and again, I’ve found answers and evidence to support the Bible. Again, I think it takes some serious gall to accuse someone you don’t know of not looking at the evidence.

      You say Mormonism is not based on the Book of Mormon. Interesting, given the citation I made in this post. The Mormon church officially declares the Book of Mormon to be another testament. Perhaps it is not “based on” the Book of Mormon, but it seems the Book must be pretty central, if it is indeed another testament.

      You wrote, “if you became a follower of the teachings in the scary Book of Mormon, how would your life change? What’s so scary in it?”

      Again, this is unbecoming. Where did I state it was scary? I argue that it is false, not scary.

      “can you discern truth at all?”

      This is a pretty weighty philosophical question. I’m no expert in epistemology but I tend to agree with Plantinga’s ideas of properly basic beliefs. However, as an evidentialist, I think the beliefs must be evidenced. Given that the book of Mormon has no evidence, I see no reason to accept it.

      Finally, you wrote, ” the ONLY book that confirms the virgin birth, death, and resurrection of the Son of God,”

      I am not sure what Bible you’re reading, but the Bible does indeed confirm the virgin birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ too.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 18, 2011, 4:54 PM
  4. We, both secular and LDS archaeologist/anthropologists alike, have only had about 20-30 years of having decoded the Mayan language. Consequently, we’ve had even less time yet in truly understanding the ancient Mayan languages, cultural trappings, and political/economic systems. The amount of time left over is comparatively tiny in terms of that space of time for _scientifically_ digging up the thousands of structures we’ve yet to uncover in Mesoamerica (only a tiny fraction of the total has been uncovered simply due to cost and logistics). I and my writing associate, Steve Smoot, have multiple articles on my blog at http://americantestament.blogspot.com which we believe persuasively argue that the amount of evidence that _has_ been found is enough to establish an increased probability of the events described in the Book of Mormon. Here is the short list.

    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/06/three-types-of-book-of-mormon-evidence.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/06/three-types-of-book-of-mormon-evidence_20.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/06/three-types-of-book-of-mormon-evidence_21.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2008/08/why-i-rob-am-book-of-mormon-apologist.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/01/linguistic-evidence-for-book-of-mormon.html (I speak some of the Quiché dialect that descended from Uto-Aztecan. There are direct transliterations of words from ancient Hebrew to Quiché, such as the word “Balam” (heb. Baalam) meaning lord, king, or god.)
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/07/popol-vuh-creation-of-world.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/08/popol-vuh-creation-of-man.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2008/09/amaranth-grain-honey-and.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/07/response-to-comments.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/07/tis-enough-mine-eyes-have-beheld.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/07/and-it-came-to-pass-that-phrase-and-it.html
    http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2009/06/lehi-and-throne-theophany-in-1-nephi.html

    But all of this misses the point entirely. The Book of Mormon itself contains no claim whatsoever to providing authentication based on physical evidences we may or may not find today or in the future. It very clearly states on its title page that it is a spiritual account meant to convince both the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God. It is only by the Holy Ghost that the words can be understood and made use of. It is only by the witness of the Spirit of God that it can be found to be true.

    Further, if only one person can be found to know that it is true by the Spirit of God (admittedly a subjective experience, but stay with me on the logic here) then it has to be true. For will God say it is true to one man and say it is false to another? If one verse in the book is true, shouldn’t the others be true as well? Just as Christ was accused, falsely, of healing and casting out devils by Beelzebub, this book is often found “guilty” of leading people away from Christ when, ostensibly, it does nothing but speak with uttermost reverence and worshipfulness of Christ.

    No evidences? No proof? http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2008/07/no-evidence-for-book-of-mormon.html

    We’ve done our homework. http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2008/09/winning-battle-and-not-knowing-it.html

    The burden of proof is now on anti-Mormons to demonstrate that a) clearly and undeniably the Book of Mormon teaches readers to not worship God and Christ, b) it is a work of the devil, and c) to provide a coherent, common sense, fully documented, Occam’s Razor explanation for the book’s very existence.

    Posted by American Testament (@atbom) | October 18, 2011, 4:25 PM
    • Thanks for the comment once more. I appreciate the comments.

      I appreciate the depth of argumentation which you’re doing on your site. It shows a commitment to scholarship that is laudable.

      That said, however, the methodology underscores the points I’ve made in this post. Consider your argument in the “No evidence” post, for example. To quote, “I must confess that I have little patience for this claim or for those who advocate it [the no evidence claim]. Over the years, scholars (primarily LDS but also with some non-LDS researchers as well) have written literally thousands of pages on evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient Near Eastern and Mesoamerican record. From the early works of B. H. Roberts, John Widstoe, Janne Sjodahl, George Reynolds and James Talmage to the pioneering and groundbreaking research of Hugh Nibley, to the recent work of scholars from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute (including Daniel C. Peterson, John Sorenson, John Welch, Brant Gardner, S. Kent Brown, Donald W. Perry, John Gee, John Tvedtnes and many more) dozens upon dozens of books, articles, essays, etc. have been written on this subject, documenting evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient record.”

      Fair enough, but just because people have written thousands of pages on a topic does not mean there is evidence for it. Atheists have written thousands (millions?) of pages claiming God does not exist. That does not constitute evidence. It just means there are people who think God does not exist.

      Consider the “Internal Evidence” argument: ” The mere existence of the book, to follow Blass, is a powerful argument in favor of its authenticity.”

      This of course does not follow at all. It is the type of argument that proves too much. One could equally claim that the mere existence of the Qur’an, Upanishads, etc. means they are authentic.

      I confess I did not read every link, but suppose we could find transliterations of words from Hebrew to Quiche. How would that evidence the book of Mormon? Granting what you wrote here, that it is descended from Uto-Aztecan. Well, the dates of the Aztec peoples do not line up with the dates from the Book of Mormon, which has events dating back over a thousand years before the Aztecs arose. So even were I to grant that we could find transliterations in Quiche, this is hardly a convincing argument, considering that language family did not exist at the time of the events purportedly occurring in the Book of Mormon.

      But you get to the main point very quickly, and I appreciate that. You say, “The Book of Mormon itself contains no claim whatsoever to providing authentication based on physical evidences we may or may not find today or in the future. It very clearly states on its title page that it is a spiritual account meant to convince both the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God. It is only by the Holy Ghost that the words can be understood and made use of. It is only by the witness of the Spirit of God that it can be found to be true.”

      So according to this, we should not expect to find physical evidence. That seems to provide exactly the type of argument I’m saying is correct: there is none. You literally say “It is only by the witness of the Spirit of God that it can be found to be true.” Thus, I see little reason to take whatever purported evidence might be suggested seriously, considering that the strategy of argument presented here is that the evidence cannot possibly justify the belief. In other words, it is a tacit admission that the evidence is incapable of sustaining the burden of proof.

      You also wrote, “Further, if only one person can be found to know that it is true by the Spirit of God (admittedly a subjective experience, but stay with me on the logic here) then it has to be true.”

      This is true. If that experience is of God, then it is true. Yet Paul warned Christians that any other Gospel should not be believed, because it was not the truth. To whit, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” Galatians 1:9b. Yet the Book of Mormon explicitly claims to be “Another Testament.” Thus, if the Bible is true, the Book of Mormon is false. Given that after your attempts to provide some kind of evidence for the Book of Mormon, you collapse into admitting that the evidence is incapable of sustaining the Book, I see no reason to accept it.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 18, 2011, 5:13 PM
      • “I appreciate the depth of argumentation which you’re doing on your site. It shows a commitment to scholarship that is laudable.”

        Thank you. It’s not often we get compliments from the other side of the argument.

        “Fair enough, but just because people have written thousands of pages on a topic does not mean there is evidence for it. Atheists have written thousands (millions?) of pages claiming God does not exist. That does not constitute evidence. It just means there are people who think God does not exist.”

        And just because someone claims there is no evidence for something does not mean it doesn’t exist. Most anti-Mormons I’ve encountered over the past 20 years (read: a LOT of anti-Mormons) will never pick up a single pro-Mormon book to blow the dust off it, much less read it. I hope you’ll prove me wrong.

        “This of course does not follow at all. It is the type of argument that proves too much. One could equally claim that the mere existence of the Qur’an, Upanishads, etc. means they are authentic.”

        It proves a lot, in fact, when you consider that we know relatively little about the editorial process around the Qur’an, etc. when compared to what we know about the translation of the Book of Mormon. Most anti-Mormons are loathe to admit that they cannot refute the 75 days in which it was documented to have been transcribed. How did that happen? You have to either attribute it to some inborn genius, or you have to attribute it to God. You cannot attribute it to the devil because Satan would never dictate a book that so glowingly speaks of Christ on every page. A house divided cannot stand.

        “Well, the dates of the Aztec peoples do not line up with the dates from the Book of Mormon, which has events dating back over a thousand years before the Aztecs arose. So even were I to grant that we could find transliterations in Quiche, this is hardly a convincing argument, considering that language family did not exist at the time of the events purportedly occurring in the Book of Mormon.”

        The Book of Mormon is incorrectly attributed with arguing the notion that when Lehi’s family arrived, there was no one else on the entire continent. The BoM says no such thing, and even Mormons who believe it does are incorrect in that belief. To the contrary, there are various passages that indicate that when Lehi arrived, their people merged with others already there. Indeed, the passages about Mosiah and Coriantumr, who was of the even more ancient Jaredite people that had been there several thousands of years before Lehi, prove that there were indeed other inhabitants. What of their languages and cultures and calendars? Anti-Mormons never want to take those into account, but those who actually read the Book of Mormon cover to cover are more inclined to do so.

        Read more of our analyses, not just on American Testament, but on fair-lds.org et. al. and you will see what we mean.

        “So according to this, we should not expect to find physical evidence. That seems to provide exactly the type of argument I’m saying is correct: there is none.”

        That is not what I’m saying and it provides no such argument that what you’re saying is correct. There IS evidence. We just don’t put all our faith in it. Do you put all your faith in the Bible’s teachings based on whether we know the exact location of Solomon’s Temple, or supposed knowledge of the exact places where the events of Christ’s life and ministry occurred? Of course not. You believe it because you’ve lived its true principles and have built a relationship with Jesus Christ. We claim the same privilege with the Bible and with the Book of Mormon.

        “You literally say “It is only by the witness of the Spirit of God that it can be found to be true.” Thus, I see little reason to take whatever purported evidence might be suggested seriously, considering that the strategy of argument presented here is that the evidence cannot possibly justify the belief. In other words, it is a tacit admission that the evidence is incapable of sustaining the burden of proof.”

        For a long time, too many Mormons believed that the narrow neck of land mentioned in the Book of Mormon was the Panama Canal and that Nephites and Lamanites went galavanting between North and South America in a couple of days to fight battles with each other. That was a general assumption made by people ignorant of geography and who had very little understanding of Mesoamerican archaeology, geography, history, culture, or linguistics. During the past 50 years, the understanding has been refined in our scholarship circles to recognize that the whole-hemisphere argument was baseless and really quite ridiculous. Now that we have narrowed down the geography to Mesoamerica, the evidence has begun to reveal itself more and more.

        Because of these shifts in thinking, you shouldn’t be too surprised that Mormons today put more faith in what the Spirit tells them than in what supposed evidence there is. They keep an eye on the evidences out of natural interest in the topic, but ask nearly any Mormon what he bases his testimony of the Bible and Book of Mormon on and you’ll find it’s the same thing that Christians base their testimony on for the Bible…living its principles, observing the fruits and blessings of living those principles, and prayer leading to a strong spiritual witness (it’s all right there in James 1:5-6, as Joseph Smith found).

        “To whit, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” Galatians 1:9b. Yet the Book of Mormon explicitly claims to be “Another Testament.””

        Don’t forget verse 6, which reveals that he’s not speaking to some future audience reading a future Bible (nothing indicates that he or any of the apostles even knew there would be a book of books called a Bible), but to an audience of Galatians. This scripture is an injunction against any future preaching of the Gospel by anyone other than Paul, if taken so literally. Put another way, what you appear to be claiming by this is that Paul, speaking to his audience of Galatians, is telling them, “Even if an angel from heaven comes to teach you something after you read this letter, you should reject that angel’s teaching.” That’s absurd. Paul was fighting not other apostles preaching after him or angels. He was fighting heresy that was making its way into the church _at that specific point in time_ and using hyperbole and rhetoric (he was a brilliant rhetorician) to send his point home.

        I will grant that these words can be extrapolated to our time, but not as literally as anti-Mormons are insistent on making them. If that were so, then any church group that developed a doctrine different from what Paul taught would automatically fall under condemnation. That would mean the Catholic church, and all others that proceeded from the Catholic church, taking with them various doctrines and practices and traditions provided by her, would also fall under condemnation. This quickly invalidates every church group that ever had a difference of opinion on doctrine. I don’t think you want to argue that given that there are hundreds if not thousands of evangelical and protestant sects, groupings, and cottage chapels that all teach variant doctrines.

        It is the same as with the contradictory passages in Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18. We wouldn’t have anything beyond Deut. 4:2 if it were taken so literally as that. And Revelation 22:18 was not chronologically the last book written (which was 3 John). The Bible, as the book we know it to be, wasn’t fully canonized until the early 1600s with the translation of the KJV, and at times included such books as are now typically called apocrypha simply because there were people who believed strongly enough that those books should be included. Therefore, there has been a LOT of messing around with scripture in the history of the Christian churches that precludes throwing any stones while living in glass houses.

        “Also, to be fair, even were there direct transliterations, that would not prove that Uto-Aztecan were derived from Hebrew. First, the grammar would have to be related.”

        See my earlier paragraph about extant peoples. Languages mix and intermingle and evolve. I’m not arguing that Uto-Aztecan is a direct derivative at all. No linguist, LDS or not, would argue that it could be given the cycles of pre-Columbian civilizations it would have had to go through. But some words can and do survive such linguistic tumult, as evidenced by Indo-European languages sharing various forms of individual alphanumerics in common.

        “Fourth, supposedly the written language used was not Hebrew but Reformed Egyptian, so there’s no reason to think that Hebrew parallels should occur.”

        Mormon 9:32-33
        32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, _according to our manner of speech_ [Hebrew…they were writing Hebrew sounds using reformed Egyptian characters as shorthand].

        33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large _we should have written in Hebrew_; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also [natural progression of linguistic evolution, same as occurred in the Old World]; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record [try translating a stenographer’s work back into normal English and you’ll understand what he’s getting at here].

        “Fifth, the positive evidence from genetics which shows conclusively that the Native Americans are related not to Hebrews but to Asians undermines any possible random linguistic connections.”

        There are plenty of articles to disprove this supposed disconnect as well as debunk the so-called “science” used to come to the conclusion that there were definitively NO entrants from the Old World into the New. Such evidence is not expected to exist at all, if one understands macrogenetics. There is no equivalent genetic patrilineal identification in ancient archaeology for what you see on CSI.

        Posted by American Testament (@atbom) | October 18, 2011, 10:53 PM
      • Thanks again for the thoughtful comment, despite our disagreements.

        You wrote, “Most anti-Mormons are loathe to admit that they cannot refute the 75 days in which it was documented to have been transcribed. How did that happen? You have to either attribute it to some inborn genius, or you have to attribute it to God. You cannot attribute it to the devil because Satan would never dictate a book that so glowingly speaks of Christ on every page. A house divided cannot stand.”

        I really think you’re overstating the weight of this argument. Someone writing a book quickly does not imply divine intervention. It simply does not follow.

        You wrote, “The Book of Mormon is incorrectly attributed with arguing the notion that when Lehi’s family arrived, there was no one else on the entire continent. The BoM says no such thing, and even Mormons who believe it does are incorrect in that belief. To the contrary, there are various passages that indicate that when Lehi arrived, their people merged with others already there. Indeed, the passages about Mosiah and Coriantumr, who was of the even more ancient Jaredite people that had been there several thousands of years before Lehi, prove that there were indeed other inhabitants. What of their languages and cultures and calendars?”

        This still does not do anything to show that “Reformed Egyptian”–a language undocumented in history apart from the Book of Mormon, or Hebrew showed up in Mesoamerica. In fact, they have found written language in Mesoamerica dating back to 650 B.C., in Olmec. This date is before any of the purported migrations to the Americas from the Middle East occurred. Yet there is no evidence for the sudden appearance of a new language or the change of language. If a huge civilization had suddenly popped out of nowhere in the midst of Mesoamerica, something would have happened to the language.

        Not only that, but where are the fortified cities? Where are the swords? Where are the elephants? Where were the horses?

        “You believe it because you’ve lived its true principles and have built a relationship with Jesus Christ. We claim the same privilege with the Bible and with the Book of Mormon.”

        This is the first time in our conversation where I have had to marvel at the audacity of a comment. How do you know why or how I believe? I am a firm evidentialist. I believe because of evidence I have seen and read. I don’t base my faith upon subjective feelings. Are feelings involved? Absolutely, but if evidence turned up that showed a belief of mine were false, I’d drop it.

        “During the past 50 years, the understanding has been refined in our scholarship circles to recognize that the whole-hemisphere argument was baseless and really quite ridiculous. Now that we have narrowed down the geography to Mesoamerica, the evidence has begun to reveal itself more and more.”

        How then did a huge battle occur in New York?

        “Because of these shifts in thinking, you shouldn’t be too surprised that Mormons today put more faith in what the Spirit tells them than in what supposed evidence there is. They keep an eye on the evidences out of natural interest in the topic, but ask nearly any Mormon what he bases his testimony of the Bible and Book of Mormon on and you’ll find it’s the same thing that Christians base their testimony on for the Bible…living its principles, observing the fruits and blessings of living those principles, and prayer leading to a strong spiritual witness (it’s all right there in James 1:5-6, as Joseph Smith found).”

        Again, this smacks of fideism. Once the evidence has pointed to the Book of Mormon needing serious modification, once Mormonism has been shown to be wrong, the faith is put not in the book, which is testable, but in subjective feelings from a “Spirit.” Again, this goes directly against the Bible. 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

        Whatever we believe, according to the Bible, will be found true. Nature and history has left a testimony which we can find. Yet Mormonism freely shifts its beliefs away from the past… not just minor beliefs (such as geocentrism in Christianity), but major beliefs–such as where the people in the Book of Mormon lived. And this is based, not upon evidence, but upon living it as though it were true. Again, this looks to me like a tacit admission that the evidence simply is not there.

        “I will grant that these words can be extrapolated to our time, but not as literally as anti-Mormons are insistent on making them. If that were so, then any church group that developed a doctrine different from what Paul taught would automatically fall under condemnation.”

        I’ll note first that the exgesis you’ve provided of these verses is highly questionable, but I do believe that if a church develops a doctrine different from what Paul teaches, they are teaching a false doctrine. That does not mean that the doctrines not found in Pauline teaching are false, because they reflect development of the Bible, but it does mean that if someone literally contradicts him, they are wrong. So I don’t think this argument holds weight. The exegesis is poor, and the passage still applies directly to Mormonism. If Paul is correct, Mormonism is false.

        The superficiality of your reading Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18 as contradictory again shows the lack of depth of exegesis that some are willing to do. But I won’t get into an argument about exegesis here. I’m going to continue arguing facts.

        “See my earlier paragraph about extant peoples. Languages mix and intermingle and evolve. I’m not arguing that Uto-Aztecan is a direct derivative at all. No linguist, LDS or not, would argue that it could be given the cycles of pre-Columbian civilizations it would have had to go through. But some words can and do survive such linguistic tumult, as evidenced by Indo-European languages sharing various forms of individual alphanumerics in common.”

        Again, we do not have evidence for the sudden arrival of a new or changed language. Thus, I see no reason to accept this argument.

        Your citation of passages just back up what I said! I said that the written language would have been Reformed Egyptian, which is exactly what those passages write up. If they wrote in Reformed Egyptian, then there’s no reason that a Hebrew parallel would be helpful. And again, even if this argument doesn’t hold up, there’s still the problem that no sui generis language shows up in Mesoamerica.

        As far as the genetic argument is concerned, I find this a very disingenuous way to argue against it. You say, “Plenty of articles” “disprove” the genetic research. Okay, so basically if we just deny the positive identification and tracing back of mitochondrial data, we can disprove it. I am wholly unconvinced. It sounds like Young Earth Creationists arguing that the data used to date the universe is false.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 19, 2011, 9:07 AM
      • Most anti-Mormons I’ve encountered over the past 20 years (read: a LOT of anti-Mormons) will never pick up a single pro-Mormon book to blow the dust off it, much less read it.

        Can you recommend some books that defend Mormonism?

        Posted by Sam | October 19, 2011, 12:45 PM
    • Also, to be fair, even were there direct transliterations, that would not prove that Uto-Aztecan were derived from Hebrew. First, the grammar would have to be related. Second, a simple sound-to-sound or letter-to-letter similarity can occur randomly. An example of this would be the English word “she” which has the same meaning and phonological shape as the Akkadian word. Yet English and Akkadian are not related. Third, vestiges of languages being related should be expected, given the tower of Babel. Fourth, supposedly the written language used was not Hebrew but Reformed Egyptian, so there’s no reason to think that Hebrew parallels should occur. Fifth, the positive evidence from genetics which shows conclusively that the Native Americans are related not to Hebrews but to Asians undermines any possible random linguistic connections.

      So I don’t think that this extremely small piece of supposed evidence has any merit. It’s circumstantial, in the wrong language, from the wrong time, could be explained by randomness, and is rebutted by genetic evidence.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 18, 2011, 9:22 PM
      • Sorry I took so long to respond. I wanted to be sure to cover your counter-arguments well.

        Before reading the below, read the blog post at http://www.fairblog.org/2011/11/02/the-book-of-mormon-the-doctrine-and-covenants-and-the-archaeology-question/ which illustrates and summarizes the fallacy of archaeological verification = theological verification arguments. The first comment at the end is a good one as well as the huge number of archaeology and evidence-of-authenticity articles linked in the footnotes.

        Now, to respond to your other points…

        You wrote: “This is the first time in our conversation where I have had to marvel at the audacity of a comment. How do you know why or how I believe? I am a firm evidentialist. I believe because of evidence I have seen and read. I don’t base my faith upon subjective feelings. Are feelings involved? Absolutely, but if evidence turned up that showed a belief of mine were false, I’d drop it.”

        I humbly beg pardon on that one. I was in a hurry as I was writing that day as my kids were getting ready (or not) for bed. It’s actually so very rare that people come at Mormonism from a scholarly point of view (now that I have had more time to read your posts) that I’m always taken by surprise when I find someone like you who actually takes time to examine points of view from the perspective of those who hold them. Most of my 20 years being an apologist has been spent addressing Gospel hackery from people who have a brand new “How to Witness to Mormons” tract and are itching to put it to use on anyone they can find. I’m glad you don’t fit in that category. It means we can have a civilized and mature discussion.

        You wrote: “I really think you’re overstating the weight of this argument. Someone writing a book quickly does not imply divine intervention. It simply does not follow.”

        See the post I just wrote addressing this question entitled “Did Joseph REALLY translate the Book of Mormon?” http://americantestament.blogspot.com/2011/10/book-of-mormon-month-days-29-and-30-did.html. There is a lot of research into this topic, all the way down to tracking down every shred of original BoM manuscript. The conclusions of that study are noted in this post. Compare all the research I’m quoting (there is much more out there) and it should be clear that Joseph Smith simply couldn’t have accomplished the miracle of the Book of Mormon without Divine Help.

        You wrote: “This still does not do anything to show that “Reformed Egyptian”–a language undocumented in history apart from the Book of Mormon, or Hebrew showed up in Mesoamerica.” and you wrote “Your citation of passages just back up what I said! I said that the written language would have been Reformed Egyptian, which is exactly what those passages write up. If they wrote in Reformed Egyptian, then there’s no reason that a Hebrew parallel would be helpful. And again, even if this argument doesn’t hold up, there’s still the problem that no sui generis language shows up in Mesoamerica.”

        Reformed egyptian isn’t a language. It’s a system of writing. There were three basic forms of Egyptian writing: the original hieroglyphic, a Greek variant that developed lated called hieratic, and a third form in use around 700 BC called demotic. The latter two represent a shorthand form of hieroglyphic, each symbol standing for a concept rather than a lone consonant or vowel, allowing a scribe to compress a large amount of ideas into a small space. For more background on these systems of writing relative to Book of Mormon scholarship, study http://maxwellinstitute.com/publications/jbms/?vol=5&num=1&id=120 and http://maxwellinstitute.com/publications/jbms/?vol=5&num=2&id=128.

        Just like I can go to the web site http://www.quizland.com/hiero.htm and type in any word, phrase, or sentence, and get its approximate phonetic spelling in egyptian hieroglyphics, if I had a similar decoding/encoding system for Reformed Egyptian, I could do the very same thing with translating Hebrew sounds and conepts to a hieratic or (more likely) a demotic writing form. See http://maxwellinstitute.com/publications/jbms/?vol=5&num=2&id=128

        Is it Joseph Smith’s lucky guess that such a writing system would be perfect for engraving a book as large as the Book of Mormon onto plates of metal that would be difficult to produce, carry, and preserve, in large quantities as opposed to “longhand” script like Hebrew?

        You wrote: “In fact, they have found written language in Mesoamerica dating back to 650 B.C., in Olmec. This date is before any of the purported migrations to the Americas from the Middle East occurred. Yet there is no evidence for the sudden appearance of a new language or the change of language. If a huge civilization had suddenly popped out of nowhere in the midst of Mesoamerica, something would have happened to the language.”

        One of the biggest puzzles about the Olmecs that remains unsolved to this very day is where did they come from and how did they develop written language and art so immediately. The Book of Mormon offers at least a partial explanation for this question in the story of the Jaredites. The estimated timeline of the arrival and decline of the Jaredites and the carbon-dated development of the Olmec civilization are an uncanny match. Further, there are numerous articles that address the “disappearance” of the Olmec and the Maya by contending that Mayans are really a later instance of Olmec culture, just as the people of the Yucatan, Guatemala, and Honduras are considered the “lost Mayans” today. They never really went anywhere. Their culture just shifted to a new paradigm and continued. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takalik_Abaj for a textbook example of this (I’ve visited the outskirts of this site. It’s amazing!).

        See for more about the huge amount we have yet to discover in Mesoamerica (and that is being lost to development every waking moment) and about the Olmec influences on the later Mayan cultures at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070126-mexico-olmec.html

        You wrote: “Not only that, but where are the fortified cities? Where are the swords? Where are the elephants? Where were the horses?”

        Horses — http://maxwellinstitute.com/publications/transcripts/?id=129

        Fortification — I’ve seen several fortified cities. Just go on any Yucatan penninsula or Guatemalan ruins tour and you’ll see fortifications, or what is left of them. For example, I visited the ruins of Zacaleu which dates back to between AD 250–600 and is just outside of Huehuetenango in Guatemala. The very first thing that impressed me about it was the defensive earthworks in the form of a gigantic moat dug around the entire complex. It was definitely not a natural formation for that area and it would have been a formidable obstacle to invaders. The entire site was once fortified with walls. It was so fortified that it caused Spanish conquistador Gonzalo de Alvarado y Chávez to need to lay seige to it for months, having to wait for its occupants to starve to death.

        Bishop Las Casas, when in Mesoamerica, reported in his Apologéitca Historia that he saw “towns enclosed by very deep moats…with marvelous buildings of stone masonry of which I saw many.” In that one statement, he described both the earthworks AND the masonry (which inevitably involves some kind of cement).

        The Popol Vuh describes the palisades, much like what we find in the Book of Mormon:

        “…having talked together, they built a wall at the edge of the town and enclosed it with boards and thorns. Then they made figures in the form of men, and put them in rows on the wall, armed them with shields and arrows and adorned them, putting metal crowns on their heads. These they put on the simple wooden figures, they adorned them with the metal which they had taken from the tribes on the road and with them they decorated the figures.”

        “They made a moat around the town, and then they asked advice of Tohil [their god]: ‘Shall they kill us? Shall they overcome us?’ their hearts said to Tohil [prayer for revelatory guidance before a battle being a common theme of the Book of Mormon].” See The Popol Vuh, pg. 157. http://www.scribd.com/doc/1019117/The-Popol-Vuh-English

        Excavations at Zaculeu have turned up metalwork, including tumbaga (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumbaga), which is a gold/copper alloy that, when worked into thin sheets, almost perfectly matches the description of the metal the gold plates were made of and is excellent for engraving and was, in fact, used extensively in pre-Columbian America for making religious objects meant to be preserved for ages.

        Again, I ask, given that none of this knowledge was available to him at the time, is it just Joseph Smith’s lucky guess that Moroni would use metal plates, made of non-corrosive and microbe-resistant metal with a low melting point that is easily pounded and shaped (and even easier to re-shape) into thin, foil-like leaves for engraving?

        More sources:
        http://library.brown.edu/find/Record/b1069567
        http://mayaruins.com/becan/aerial2.html
        http://www.penn.museum/documents/publications/expedition/PDFs/9-3/Defensive.pdf (it’s nearly identical to BoM descriptions of moats and hills where large wooden palisades were also constructed to deter invaders.)

        Swords (and shields and bees) — Tohil reminds them of wasps and bumblebees they could put inside gourds and use to surprise their enemies by breaking the gourds full of bees and wasps on their enemies shields and swords, thus angering the bees (who would think that the enemy was the person whose sword just broke their gourd) and driving their enemies away.

        So much for the idea that no type of swords or bees existed in the Americas in pre-Columbian times.

        You wrote: “How then did a huge battle occur in New York?”

        That one, in retrospect, has baffled some LDS folks as well. When the theory of pan-American Nephite and Lamanite societies persisted, it made perfect sense that the battle and where Moroni buried the plates were one and the same. One thing that didn’t make sense was the fact that Moroni had wandered after the Nephite genocide. He was a Nephite and the Lamanites killed every Nephite they saw, so he naturally had to “get outta Dodge” indefinitely. Why, then, would he risk a) returning to the battle site and being killed before even having a chance to bury the plates and b) having the plates discovered and destroyed by Lamanites (who, the BoM states, wanted to erase Nephite records from their history, just as pharaohs did to each other in Egypt).

        That pan-American theory wasn’t held by everyone, though. We do have an editorial in the Times and Seasons, from the pen of Joseph Smith:

        Central America, or Guatimala [the whole of what we now call Central America was then known as Guatemala], is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien [Panama] and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south. The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land.

        When the Mesoamerican model was proposed by Mormon scholars in the latter half of the 20th century, it started to make more sense. One very strong clue is that there are multiple descriptions in the Book of Mormon of travels between areas near the battlefield hill Cumorah (a.k.a. Ramah) that are decidedly Mesoamerican in context and do not support a 3,000 mile detour north to present-day New York and back. Rather, those on-foot journeys happen in a matter of a few days.

        So, it appears Moroni REALLY “got outta Dodge” by going so far north, and that fits with his own description of having to wander for a very long time. It also makes sense in terms of God seeing far enough ahead to know that the plates would lay completely undiscovered and undisturbed in an area so sparsely populated for so long until Europeans began to homestead there.

        Another clue, when you read more closely, is that Moroni never actually claims to have returned to the battle site, nor does he claim to be burying the _final_ plates in a hill called Cumorah. He just says he’s “sealing up these records” (Moroni 10:2). However, Moroni’s father, Mormon, _does_ hide _his_ set of plates in the hill Cumorah near the battlefield Cumorah (Mormon 6:6). There is no evidence to suggest that Moroni’s set of final plates, the ones he would turn over to Joseph over 1400 years later were hid in the same hill. Those are all interpretations that were overlaid on that narrative by those of us reading it in _our_ day. We members of the LDS Church and other commentators gave the name “Cumorah” to the hill where Joseph found the plates under our own assumption that it was the very same Cumorah, near the battlefield, in which Mormon had hid his records. Moroni never wrote that his own hiding place was called “Cumorah”, nor claimed to have buried it in the same place as the battle.

        This, of course, is a common misunderstanding about the book by “Witnessers”. You can’t be blamed for repeating it since it is difficult sometimes, even for faithful and knowlegable members of the church, to separate LDS lore from what our texts actually say. And it all fits perfectly with Hugh Nibley’s pointed analysis and observation that people love to attack the Book of Mormon by first attributing to it something that it does not actually say, then attacking those points.

        For more extensive commentary and analysis, see
        http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=4&num=1&id=98
        http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=6&num=2&id=153

        You wrote: “Again, this smacks of fideism. Once the evidence has pointed to the Book of Mormon needing serious modification, once Mormonism has been shown to be wrong, the faith is put not in the book, which is testable, but in subjective feelings from a “Spirit.” Again, this goes directly against the Bible. 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.””

        Isn’t it contradictory to say “do not ask God for an answer from His Spirit when you should just take it at face value” and then quote a scripture which explicitly commands us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”? I don’t follow your logic. And why would 1 John 4:1 conflict with James 1:5-6 and other scriptures which say “ask and ye shall receive” and “knock and it shall be opened to you”? Which doctrine, then, is true?

        You wrote: “Whatever we believe, according to the Bible, will be found true. Nature and history has left a testimony which we can find. Yet Mormonism freely shifts its beliefs away from the past… not just minor beliefs (such as geocentrism in Christianity), but major beliefs–such as where the people in the Book of Mormon lived. And this is based, not upon evidence, but upon living it as though it were true. Again, this looks to me like a tacit admission that the evidence simply is not there.”

        Again, neither the Bible or the Book of Mormon have ever claimed to be primarily texts that can be physically verifiable by physical evidences. Both have the cause of converting people to the Gospel, not proving or disproving this or that archeaological or anthropological theory.

        The fact that historical places of the Bible have been more adequately preserved while the Book of Mormon’s have not is not evidence that the Book of Mormon is false. Lots of civilizations and their records have been lost to history. I’m sure there are plenty of subcultures in, say, Mongolia or China or Indonesia that we’ll never know about because of the tendency of time and human activity to erase those evidences.

        Central America is quite well regarded by archaeologists as a place where evidence of past civilizations is in rapid decay because of three factors: 1) climate (jungle rot being a key result), 2) foliage (huge trees with enormous root systems that overtake and pulverize mounds of rock placed by humans), and 3) human activity (later cultures overtaking and erasing the history of earlier cultures).

        Here are some well-known examples of these three factors:
        1) Anything carbon-based or organic (i.e. that isn’t rock) will either disintegrate in a few months to a few years, or it will grow. With the exception of gold, this is true of metal as well. Iron or copper implements will simply cease to exist in a couple hundred years due to high humidity, heavy rain, and acidic soils. The iron and copper weapons that were preserved in Mesoamerica were the extreme exceptions or were found in more arid areas.
        2) Guatemalans erect high fences by simply cutting the limb off of a tree, sticking the newly cut ends of the limbs into the ground, and then waiting a few years. That’s how quickly foliage can grow there. Huge rainforest trees have massive root systems that hold the soil together, but also displace any solid objects in their path of growth.
        3) Pyramids built by earlier Mayan and pre-Mayan inhabitants were “repurposed” and built upon to create ever larger pyramids. In fact, a very familiar sounding name is given to some ruins in Belize that features this “stacking”. The name the city’s ancient inhabitants gave it was Lamanai (Lam’an’ain), which is identical to the Hebrew pronunciation for Laman (minus the suffix). We have only uncovered a few of these but there are many more out there we’ve not yet explored. In each one we’ve explored, we’ve been astonished at the amount of knowledge about preveious cultures through inscriptions and other evidences hidden in the layers.

        I have personally witnessed the effects all three of the above phenomena. I saw #2 and #3 in the then-recently discovered Abaj Takalik dig near Coatepeque, Guatemala. In terms of uncovered ruins, I’ve personally seen dozens of pyramid-shaped mounds, and hiked on a few, that were completely out of character with the surrounding landscape. They were absolutely human-made but were covered by tons of earth and vegetation all around before the trees covering them were cut down as cattle farmers took over the area in recent history.

        The conditions under which the Nephites were exterminated in 420 A.D., with Lamanites spitefully and simultaneously erasing every part of Nephite culture and history, then what is the likelihood that we would find a remnant of their culture nearly 1600 years later? We’re lucky to have what we have about ancient Mayans and their evidences more closely align with the decline of the Lamanites after the Nephite genocide.

        You wrote: “I’ll note first that the exgesis you’ve provided of these verses is highly questionable, but I do believe that if a church develops a doctrine different from what Paul teaches, they are teaching a false doctrine. That does not mean that the doctrines not found in Pauline teaching are false, because they reflect development of the Bible, but it does mean that if someone literally contradicts him, they are wrong. So I don’t think this argument holds weight. The exegesis is poor, and the passage still applies directly to Mormonism. If Paul is correct, Mormonism is false.”

        Did Paul give specific criteria in his injunction so that others could objectively judge what was a new gospel altogether vs. a previously unheard teaching of the Gospel he taught? If so, what in the Book of Mormon fits Paul’s actual criteria (and not your or my interpretation of that criteria)?

        You wrote: “The superficiality of your reading Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18 as contradictory again shows the lack of depth of exegesis that some are willing to do. But I won’t get into an argument about exegesis here. I’m going to continue arguing facts.”

        What in these two verses does not serve to contradict the other by your reading of Revelation 22:18 (that it is the last book…even though chronologically it really wasn’t)?

        You wrote: “Again, we do not have evidence for the sudden arrival of a new or changed language. Thus, I see no reason to accept this argument.”

        Michael D. Coe, 1989:82 “… the Olmec mental system, the Olmec art style, and Olmec engineering ability suddenly appeared in full-fledged form about 1200 B.C.” and “There is now little doubt that all later civilizations in Mesoamerica, whether Mexican or Maya, ultimately rest on an Olmec base.”

        You wrote: “As far as the genetic argument is concerned, I find this a very disingenuous way to argue against it. You say, “Plenty of articles” “disprove” the genetic research. Okay, so basically if we just deny the positive identification and tracing back of mitochondrial data, we can disprove it. I am wholly unconvinced. It sounds like Young Earth Creationists arguing that the data used to date the universe is false.”

        Read all your opposition’s research, then synthesize with your own research and form your conclusion. Start here http://maxwellinstitute.com/display/topical.php?cat_id=488 and then go to http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ai195.html for even more.

        Posted by American Testament (@atbom) | November 3, 2011, 7:02 PM
      • Thanks for your in-depth and courteous response. Before I proceed I have to say that there’s no way I can adequately go with you point by point. So my apologies if I’m too brief on any part.

        First, I read the article you recommended before the discussion begins, and it reflects the kind of perplexity within Mormon epistemology I continue to note. Case in point: “Therefore, the sectarian argument that archaeological verification = theological verification needs to be put to rest.”

        But this is obviously not the argument detractors of Mormonism make. I mean it’s not even the argument that the author of the article presents at the beginning. To whit, “The authenticity of the Book of Mormon has been repeatedly assailed by critics of the LDS Church on the grounds that is lacks any confirmatory archaeological evidence that supports its claimed historicity as an ancient record.”

        Clearly, these are different arguments. If I make the argument “The Book of Mormon is untrue because it lacks archaeological evidence” that is not at all the same argument as “If something is archaeologically verified, it is theologically verified.”

        Therefore it appears the author is, at best, accidentally setting up a straw man, or at worst they’re totally unfamiliar with historical criticism. Historical critics take a document at face value unless its proven otherwise. The difficulty with the Book of Mormon is that we don’t have the original manuscripts which are purportedly written upon plates of metal. Thus, if there is no document, there’s nothing to treat with face value. So the burden of proof for the Book of Mormon lies in the claims it makes. The Book we have is supposedly a modern translation of an ancient text, but without the documentary trail, we can only use that which we have. What we have therefore, is a text that claims all kinds of historical places and events which we do not see evidenced. There is therefore no reason to treat it as a historical book. We don’t have the documents to show that it has a historical basis, nor do we have the historical studies.

        So, in conclusion on this article, the author presents a different argument than they knock down later, so they’ve straw manned it. Furthermore, there argument is quite weak on its own.

        Your argument for the speed of Joseph Smith’s translation is utterly unconvincing to me. Why? Mostly because the speed with which a document is written has no connection to its truth value. For example, a Catholic friend of mine participates regularly in a challenge to write a novel in a month. To do so, she writes 5000 words a day! But that doesn’t mean what she writes is more authentic or historical than other works. Of course she uses a word processor. But then there are others who participate in the challenge via handwritten manuscripts. I therefore remain totally unimpressed by this reasoning. Just today, for example, I completed 6 homework assignments, for a total of 10,000 words of written material along with reading 400 pages of text from 3 different books. Does that mean my assignments are divinely inspired? Hardly. I suggest you drop this line of argumentation. Perhaps it is impressive within the Mormon community, but as an argument to substantiate the Book of Mormon, it’s totally illegitimate.

        I admit I’m baffled by the line of reasoning you used for Reformed Egyptian. Could you perhaps outline it differently? Ultimately, my argument is that we have no evidence for a new sui generis language popping up in the Americas. Furthermore, there are numerous linguists and Egyptologists who agree there simply is no such language. Why should I believe there is one?

        You wrote, “The estimated timeline of the arrival and decline of the Jaredites and the carbon-dated development of the Olmec civilization are an uncanny match.”

        Actually, as I already noted, the dates of the Olmec civilization predate the Jaredites. Their language also predates the Jaredites. They do not match.

        With horses, I find that article interesting, but it’s clearly an ad hoc interpretation of the evidence to save the Book of Mormon from factual error. Take the following, “A parallel example from the Bible is instructive. The biblical narrative mentions lions, yet it was not until very recently that the only other evidence for lions in Palestine was pictographic or literary. Before the announcement in a 1988 publication of two bone samples, there was no archaeological evidence to confirm the existence of lions in that region. Thus there is often a gap between what historical records such as the Book of Mormon claim existed and what the limited archaeological record may yield. In addition, archaeological excavations in Bible lands have been under way for decades longer and on a much larger scale than those in proposed Book of Mormon lands.”

        This is an appeal to the future. The evidence we have now says that the Book of Mormon is wrong on horses. Appealing to the thought that “well, maybe one day…” does not help the situation.

        You wrote, “Again, I ask, given that none of this knowledge [of Mesoamerica] was available to him at the time, is it just Joseph Smith’s lucky guess…?”

        Well no, because Smith was utilizing imagery readily available from the Bible and Europe. I don’t see any reason this could justify belief in the Book of Mormon.

        Again, with swords it’s not whether analogous weapons existed—it’s whether steel swords existed. We have yet to find a single one. Where humans are, they leave evidence. Where there are battles, they leave remains. Where are the steel swords?

        Regarding Cumorah, it seems that the location is wrong then?

        Regarding your comments on the Bible. I think that you’re only giving a face reading of the text without any serious exegesis. For example, you asked “What in these two verses [Dt. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18] does not serve to contradict the other by your reading of Revelation 22:18 (that it is the last book…even though chronologically it really wasn’t)?”

        First of all, you’ve applied an anachronistic view to the Bible, which underscores my comments about improper exegesis. When Revelation was written, there was no “book” to begin with. There was no canon or Bible of all the collected books. So there was no “last book” of the Bible. This kind of back-reading into the text is something I’ve found quite common in Mormonism (cf. your comment about ‘gods’ in Jesus’ discussion in John in the genetics post).

        Second, it reflects a lack of understanding of the context (once again!). Take the Greek word used in Revelation 22:18 for “this”- toutou—masculine/neuter singular. It’s talking about “this [one]” book—Revelation. So if people try to use that to say that no other books of the Bible can be written after Revelation, they’ve misunderstood my first point and also can’t read Greek.

        Third, Deuteronomy 4:2 is, as I’ve already shown is typical in our interaction, ripped out of context. Simply by reading the verse in its context it would be quite simple to discover that the text is talking about how we should not add commandments to those already revealed by God. In fact, this is something for which Jesus strongly condemned the Pharisees!

        I must admit that so far your usage of Biblical texts displays a capacity to wantonly edit for the purpose of putting Mormonism forth as true. That’s not surprising, but it doesn’t reflect sound exegesis. As I’ve shown in your use of Dt. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18, one needs to take the chronological and textual context into consideration, they also must regard the words used in the passages as important, and finally one should not just pull random verses out of the Bible and view them without any historical or textual background. You’ve done all of these more than once (again, cf. the discussion of John 10 elsewhere).

        Finally, regarding genetic evidence, I’ll let the data speak for itself. Furthermore, the data we have is from Mormon scholars to begin with (Simon Southerton—and his book is published by a Mormon publisher!). So it’s not like I’m even citing examples from critical scholars—I’m citing a study from a Mormon who is deeply disturbed by the divide between truth and Mormonism.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 7, 2011, 7:28 PM
  5. Quick notes:

    1) I like these interactions here!

    2) Of course, the Book of Mormon is an interesting piece of literary history. I’ll give it that much (and no more). It’s a book reportedly originally written in a non-existent language, about a non-existent people involved in events that never happened at places that don’t exist with not a word of it physically written by Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith — and that’s a nice estimation of it.

    Posted by "No Apologies Allowed" Weekly Apologetics Cartoons | November 3, 2011, 8:50 AM
  6. To Y AMERICAN TESTAMENT (@ATBOM):

    I am sorry, I see that I am coming in at the end of this but I need to comment.

    Reading through your apologetic for reformed egyptian, it stands out to me that all you are doing here is assuming that reformed egyptian does exist, and that some of these hieroglyphics are possible evidence of such. I know this is a quick summary, but I see not one shred of evidence that shows that we have evidence of any reformed egyptian writings. Am I missing the “smoking gun”?

    You then assume these temples built are proof for mormonism, but why? Where is the reason or the smoking gun?

    Mormonism, in my years and years of study, does one thing particularly well, which is to come in and take over what was already there and established, and claim it for itself. It does this through plagerism of the KJV Bible, Christian words, etc. There is no reason offered or given that these temples absolutely must be built by the mormon people. Not one name is found on any of these temples to my knowledge of any book of mormon character.

    What we do see as far as a smoking gun is concerned, is exactly what happens when Joseph Smith attempts to translate an actual text written in another language. The Book of Abraham. This is universally recognized as a fraudulent work by Smith, and shows his complete inability to be able to translate anything. The man took a pagan funerary document and made an entire book out of it, which missed literally everything contained in the original papyrus.

    Not only this, Smith actually contradicts himself! From my own blog:

    “The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote: “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light, and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principle scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man” (Apostle Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, July 1993, p. 61. Citing David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ p
    12).

    The story regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon as we have just read, is from a first hand account of what happened. And in this account of the translation process, there are several things to notice.

    Joseph Smith used his seer stone in part during the translation process
    In the darkness of his hat, a “spiritual light” would shine, and something like parchment would appear
    On the parchment would appear the character, and underneath that was the English translation
    The translation was told to Oliver Cowdery who would write it down
    Oliver Cowdery would then repeat what was written back to Joseph to see if it was correct
    Then, and only then, would the character disappear, and the next character appear

    Those six points are not a disputed fact, they are not presented from a source that is biased against mormons, but from a mormon apostle, and recently. This was then published in the mormon magazine, “Ensign” and distributed.

    So, since we read that Joseph Smith would see the reformed Egyptian character in his hat (which as a side note, no reformed Egyptian has ever been found to date), he would get the English translation underneath the character, and he would then tell Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, and it was then repeated back, and since we read that this was by the power of God, the translation process of the Book of Mormon should be the most accurate translation process for any sacred book. This account indicates strongly that this was very much a word for word translation.

    One more item to note is, while the writers of the Bible were moved by the Holy Spirit to write the words which they were given down, Joseph Smith was simply translating a record that was already there, and God Himself was supposed to be giving Joseph Smith a word for word translation. Remember, only when the word was written down by Smith’s chief scribe, Oliver Cowdery, and repeated back to Joseph to ensure its accuracy, was the character to disappear, and the next one to appear.

    If we couple this account, with the statement made: “”I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion,…” — Joseph Smith (as quoted in HC 4:461)”, we can see that this should absolutely be true. In fact, this account leaves no room for error in the translation process.

    So if we take this account seriously, and take Joseph Smith at his word, what is it that we find?

    1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    1 Nephi 11:18
    “And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin which
    thou seest, is the mother of [. . . . ] God, after
    the manner of the flesh

    1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou
    seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

    1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    1 Nephi 11:21
    “And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the [. . . . ] Eternal Father!…”

    1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    “And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!…”

    1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    Mosiah 21:28 changed in 1964 ed.
    “…king Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings;…”

    1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    “…king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings;…”

    1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    3 Nephi 22:4
    “…for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, [. . . . ] and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.”

    1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    “…for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.”

    1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    3 Nephi 16:10
    “and thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you at that day, When the Gentiles shall sin against my Gospel, and shall subject the fulness of my Gospel, and shall be lifted up…”

    1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    “And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel,[. . . . ] and shall be lifted up…”

    1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    1 Nephi 13:40
    “…and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is [. . . . ] the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world…”

    1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon
    “…and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the World…”

    This is but a small number of over 3,900 changes that have been recorded in the Book of Mormon. As you can see, these changes made by the church later, begs the question: Was it God who got it wrong when He was telling Joseph Smith the translation process? Or was it Joseph who got it wrong during the translation process?

    The problem is, either of these two answers present huge problems for mormonism. If it was God who got the story wrong, then God is a God who is full of error, and mistake. A God who cant get even the simplest of details correct, and a God who contradicts His own nature which is to be perfection.And a god who is imperfect, is not all powerful, or all knowing, otherwise he would know he was making a mistake.

    If it is Joseph who got it wrong, then how is it that the characters disappeared after being written down and repeated by his scribe, Oliver Cowdery? And if Joseph got these wrong, where did he get them wrong from? It cant be God if He is perfect, and if it is Joseph, this is the work of a man, and not of the power of God. So, which is it?

    It also cannot be explained away that this account is not accurate, as it has been promoted by the apostles of the mormon church as a, “precious insight” into the translation process. Remember also, this has been published into mormon publications, such as the “Ensign” church magazine.

    In conclusion, the mormon is faced with a serious dilemma. Do they trust an imperfect God? Or a man who obviously did not translate anything by the power of God, as he demonstrably is shown to have made numerous errors? Either conclusion is devastating, and no doubt a painful choice. Perhaps, this is the first time you have questioned anything from your church, or maybe for you this is just another inconsistency that you cannot answer.
    (changes taken from utlm 3,913 changes)

    In summary, the Book of Mormon is not historically accurate, not theologically correct, it is inconsistent with the Bible, and even inconsistent with itself.

    Jamie

    Posted by answeringmormons | November 8, 2011, 9:47 PM
  7. Hi, you refer to Joseph Smith’s ‘conviction for disorderly conduct in a scam in which he tried to convince locals he had found treasure underground.’

    I’ve meditated on where you’re coming from, here. You want to spread an understanding of Mormonism’s truth claims. You point out, that: ‘Mormon apologists have frequently made assertions which are either false or ungrounded.’ Keeping this in mind, I think you’ll be dismayed to learn that you have been misled about this notion that Smith has some kind of criminal conviction for disorderly conduct or something. There was an arrest in 1826, I believe that he spent a few days in custody, and went before a judge. It’s virtually inevitable, that the account of this which one encounters in antiMormon sources, is that there was a trial and conviction. I note, that Smith was arrested many times, there were many charges, he spent time in jail on multiple occasions, he died in jail.

    And, he was arrested in 1826, and furthermore, he was involved in treasure-hunting, and had a seer stone, and discussed this in court. Don’t get me wrong, he made fantastic claims, which I don’t believe. This is my position. Howver, he wasn’t convicted of any criminal charge on this occasion, or ever. The documentation of his early life is less adequate, and I feel that this is part of the reason why there is so much focus on his 1826 arrest–there’s more freedom for speculation. You have a lot of anxiety about truth claims. You will therefore slow your roll–Smith was not convicted of a criminal charge on this occasion, or any other, and you may use this embarrassing mistake of yours, as a yardstick for measuring the reliability of your sources. Meanwhile, I suppose you can advise me on whether I can use the alacrity with which you slow your roll on this matter, as a yardstick of your own sincerity about the importance of the truth. Right now, you are confident that you can win a debate about this, but you have encountered somebody who knows more than you. I expect you to be overjoyed, then?

    I also note, that your real interest is not this, but the Book of Mormon, and a critique of Mormonism’s philosophical stances. I don’t intend to molest your efforts in this your main focus, I’m being pretty posturingish, just to get your attention, but I don’t believe in Mormonism. I think you’ve got an interesting subject, but I know that your scholarship can improve, and you will be pleased that I can help. You have two choices. You may debate this point about Joseph Smith’s biography with me, I will attend to your level of interest in getting to the bottom of this, or you will allow that you probably did err, and fine, you stipulate my point, fine. It’s ancillary to your main focus.

    But it’s not entirely ancillary, is it, when you commence by falsely slandering the author the the book that you intend to analyze, though of course you are only depending on sources which you trust. This will bite you again. Don’t be a fool, I’m trying to help. I’m not trying to convert you to Mormonsim, I’m about 99% atheist..but plenty interested in philosophy and these very subjects that you are tackling, you can perhaps do better than having readers like me?

    Posted by DannyBoy | January 18, 2013, 3:55 AM
  8. Smith wasn’t convicted of any criminal charge in his life, you’re thinking of an 1826 appearance before of judge, there was no trial, you need to slow your roll on this. Ask yourself, did he have an attorney? Was there a jury? If he was convicted, what was the sentence? What questions were asked? Was he sworn?

    I’m not a Mormon Apologist, but I know a lot about this, and you can’t speak of ‘truth claims’ and muddy your point w/such bad scholarship you’re welcome.

    Posted by danlanglois | January 18, 2013, 3:59 AM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Can we evaluate worldviews? How to navigate the sea of ideas. « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - October 24, 2011

  2. Pingback: Genetic Evidence and the Book of Mormon: Did any Native Americans come from the Middle East? « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - November 1, 2011

  3. Pingback: Mormonism and God: A Philosophical Challenge to Mormonism « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - January 16, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,221 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
%d bloggers like this: