DO THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RUINS OF THE AMERICAS VALIDATE THE BOOK OF MORMON?*
Years ago, as a Mormon, I constantly devoured Mormon publications about archaeological finds. I was convinced beyond a doubt that South American ruins validated the Book of Mormon. I even helped perpetuate the rumor that the Smithsonian Institute used the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide.
Now, I know better. The following information should convince you, too.
WHAT MORMON MISSIONARIES AND MEMBERS TELL POTENTIAL CONVERTS
Despite the fact that LDS Church leaders warn members not to use South American ruins as proof of the Book of Mormon, Mormons persist in doing so.
Both missionaries and lay members state to potential converts that the Book of Mormon is a record of the American Indian's ancestors who built the great pyramid-like structures in Central and South America. This story has particularly proved effective in Latin America, where in 1980, there were only 700,000 Mormons.(1) The twelve countries in South America now boast an increase in 16 years of over 2 million (as of June 1996)!(2)
They may tell of carbon datings, and Mayan calendars corresponding closely to the time of the Jaredites and Nephites. They will call attention to the "Tree of Life" stone found in Mexico, claiming it was carved in memory of Lehi's dream as recorded in the Book of Mormon. They further boast, "No one has been able to discover the origin of the Indians, until the Book of Mormon was translated."
For the final hook, they reiterate the Indian legend of Quetzalcoatl--the bearded white god who once ruled the Indians' ancestors. Their logic is that since the Indians are dark-skinned, Quetzalcoatl could only be Jesus who visited this continent, the account of which can be found in Third Nephi of the Book of Mormon.
All this sounds pretty convincing. Can the missionaries' claims be refuted? To provide answers, the following archeological subjects will be covered:
1. Language of the Book of Mormon. Is there any archaeological evidence of Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics found in the Americas?
2. The "Tree of Life" stone. Does it validate Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon?
3. Book of Mormon cities. Have any Book of Mormon cities been unearthed?
4. The origin of American Indians. Could they possibly have come from Jerusalem as the Book of Mormon claims?
5. Racial Connections between America and Israel. Can any racial connection between the American Indians and Jews be scientifically proved?
6. Quetzalcoatl. Could Quetzalcoatl, the white bearded god of the Aztecs, actually be Jesus Christ as depicted in the Book of Mormon?
7. Artifacts. Have any artifacts been found to verify the Book of Mormon's mention of silk, carriages, wheels, chariots, compasses, cement, and glass; or elephants, chickens, pigs, dogs, cattle, donkeys, sheep, oxen; or brass, copper, gold, iron; or cuneiform, Hebrew, or Egyptian language, etc.?
8. Jewish artifacts? Is there any evidence that Jewish worship was practiced by the ancient Indians as claimed by the Book of Mormon?
9. Joseph Smith's usage of Old Testament terms. Was Joseph Smith accurate in his use of Biblical terms in the Book of Mormon?
LANGUAGE OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
If Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon characters were from Jerusalem and wrote in "Reformed Egyptian", wouldn't it make more sense if they would have written in Hebrew?(3)
Of course! This is a major weakness in Smith's book. When Lehi supposedly left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to migrate to the Americas, no Jew spoke Egyptian! One author points out how preposterous it would have been for Lehi and his family to use Egyptian in any form. They were pure Hebrews, lived in Jerusalem all their lives, were surrounded by people who only spoke Hebrew, and their people hadn't spoken Egyptian since they left Egypt under Moses.(4)
If Moses, trained to speak in Egyptian, chose to speak and write in Hebrew--as well as the whole nation of Israel--after living in Egypt for 400 years, why then, as author Anthony Hoekema asks, "should Lehi or his son Nephi, who apparently had never lived in Egypt, write in Egyptian?"(5) Further, since the Jews hated the Egyptians, it would have been an insult for Lehi to use that language.
Further, the Book of Mormon says Lehi's family brought brass plates with them containing the Holy Scriptures; also, the words of the prophets, the Law, the books of Moses, the history of the Jews down to the reign of Zedekiah, and the writings of Isaiah.(6) But, in Egyptian? This truly staggers the imagination!(7) Who would have written them in Egyptian in the first place? Certainly, no self-respecting Jew. Further, considering that Egyptian script is non-alphabetic, Hebrew writing, which is alphabetic, would have offered a higher capacity to convey shades of meaning.
This raises the question of why Smith decided to say the Book of Mormon was written in Reformed Egyptian?
Some believe that it was a precaution he took to avoid being proved wrong. Since there was no such thing as Reformed Egyptian, no one would be able to check his translation. But, without realizing it, he actually compounded the problem, as seen in the following:
Martin Harris took a sample of the alleged Reformed Egyptian characters to Professor Anthon in New York City. Harris claimed that Anthon said they were a combination of four languages: Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic. That's quite a combination--four different languages rolled into one! Anthony A. Hoekema makes an excellent observation:
If we assume, now, that "Assyriac" stands for Assyrian, and that "Chaldaic" stands for some form of Aramaic, we may note that the professor [Anthon] is reported as saying that characters representing four different languages would provide a readable kind of writing!
The matter is further complicated when we observe that the cuneiform script used by the Assyrians, though it did employ syllabic signs and vowels, never became an alphabetic script, that none of the three types of Egyptian writing [hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic] were alphabetic scripts, and that both Aramaic and Arabic were written in alphabetic scripts.(8)
In other words, it soon becomes obvious that if you have four different languages rolled into one, two in alphabetic scripts and two in symbols, it wouldn't even be decipherable!
This is the exact point Hoekema makes:
[It] "would be like trying to write a sentence by putting letters from our own English alphabet next to some Hebrew consonants, some Japanese characters, and some Chinese characters!"(9)
Even Mormon Historian, B.H. Roberts questioned Reformed Egyptian. He looked at the varieties of dissimilar languages and dialects found in the New World, especially the time necessary for their development, and concluded there was no way they could have originated from the single Hebrew-based language Joseph Smith attributed to the Book of Mormon people.(10)
However, giving Smith the benefit of a doubt, let's say that Reformed Egyptian was indeed some kind of readable mixture of Egyptian and Hebrew. Since Smith portrayed it as being the universal language of North and South America, one would expect archaeologists to have uncovered something written in it. But, they haven't.
The three books of the ancient Mayas in existence, written during the same time period of the Nephites, have been closely checked. So also have carvings on ruins of the two oldest cities in Central America, Copan and Palenque. Absolutely no Reformed Egyptian--no Egyptian--and no Hebrew!
In addition, a comparison between pictures of Mayan inscriptions and Harris' characters of Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic show no match.(11) Therefore, the Smithsonian Institute continues to confirm that:
No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones, which have been found in Greenland.(12)
Richard A. Parker, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago emphatically states: "From our standpoint there is no such language as 'reformed Egyptian.'"(13)
TREE OF LIFE
Does it validate Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon?
Mormons boast of a comparatively recent find--the "Tree of Life" stone, also known as Stela 5, nicknamed by Mormons as the "Lehi stone".
Discovered in Izapa, Chiapas, Mexico, Mormons, more especially M. Wells Jakeman of BYU, claim it contains both Hebrew and Egyptian markings and a pictorial carving verifying the Book of Mormon's account of Lehi's dream in 1 Nephi 8.(14)
The carving portrays a large tree with fruit, two figures hovering in the air, and an old woman and man. The old man appears to be speaking to four younger men seated on the ground, one of which is holding a pointed object, which Mormons claim is a writing stylus. There is a wavy line and a narrow double line running straight to the tree.
Mr. Jakeman interprets the tree as the Tree of Life described in Lehi's dream;(15) the hovering figures as angelic; the old man as Lehi; the woman as Sariah his wife; and the other four, their sons Nephi, Sam, Laman and Lemuel. (He doesn't bother to explain why Lehi's two other sons, Jacob and Joseph, aren't in the picture.) The wavy line is supposed to be the river of water described in Lehi's dream, which the Book of Mormon signifies as the love of God. The narrow double line has two Mormon meanings. One line is the narrow path of righteousness; the other is the rod of iron, the handrail, depicting the word of God.
Surprisingly, Dr. Hugh Nibley of BYU says, "Mr. Jakeman's study is nothing but an elaborate syllogistic stew."(16)
Nevertheless, Jakeman's interpretation caused quite a stir in the LDS church.
Two Mormon missionaries, sincerely believing Jakeman's interpretation, submitted an article on Stela 5 to the El Paso Times, passing the interpretation off as factual:
"[the] three name glyphs on the carving have been translated as 'Lehi,' 'Sariah,' and 'Nephi,' prominent names in the Book of Mormon, and the study shows a detailed symbolization of a crucial scene in the book termed 'Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life.' It may be one of the most important finds in the history of archeology . . ."(17)
As teacher of the Ward Gospel Doctrine class, I was supplied with 35 mm color transparencies of the "Lehi stone," along with impressive lesson materials. I wrote to the BYU Department of Anthropology and Archaeology asking them to verify Mr. Jakeman's interpretation. This was their response:
"The glyph above the head of Lehi is the cipactli glyph, which identifies the person beneath it as Lehi. . . . Likewise the glyph above Nephi's head is the name glyph of the Egyptian grain god, Nepri."
Once again, Dr. Jakeman explains how this exactly identifies the person as Nephi.
"As for Sariah, the symbol, the headgear she wears could hardly be called a glyph. But since this headgear is such as was worn by royal Egyptian females, queens and princesses, it probably identifies her as Sariah, mother of Nephi the first king."(18)
After this response, I wrote to the Smithsonian Institute, enclosing a copy of the above response. I asked if someone could validate or invalidate BYU's interpretation. In addition, I asked if there was any Hebrew on the Tree of Life stone.
The Smithsonian responded:
"Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars."(19)
They then forwarded my inquiry to an expert on Meso-American archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin who said the language on the stone was probably an "early form of Mayan or of Mixe-Zoque, but it certainly was not Hebrew." She also added, referring to BYU's interpretation, that "the suggestions you sent to me in the quotation are not valid."(20)
Both the Smithsonian and an expert, repudiate the Mormon claim, as well as Dr. Hugh Nibley at BYU.
BOOK OF MORMON CITIES
Have the names of any Book of Mormon cities been discovered?
The answer is, no.
In contrast to the lack of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, the evidence unearthed for the Bible is impressive:
From Abraham's birthplace, over seventeen thousand written clay tablets were found.(21) Also, the Israelite/Caananite city of Lachish left inscriptions from 590 B.C. telling about the reign of Zedekiah, last King of Judah.
In Jerusalem, writings have been found validating the name of King David. In the Egyptian Museum at Cairo, the Merneptah stele dates to 1224-1214 B.C. confirming the name of "Israel".
There is also the 700 B.C. written account of eight military campaigns written by Sennacherib, King of Assyria. Also the famous Siloam Inscription of 700 B.C., confirming King Hezekiah's tunnel.(22) Then, of course, the Dead Sea discovery and especially the Isaiah Scroll--we could go on. Just look how much has been unearthed, verifying biblical names of cities and people!
Because of the lack of evidence for the Book of Mormon, Mormon scholars resort to rationalizations.
One explanation they give for the lack of evidence, is that God purposely prevented evidence from being uncovered because He wanted people to accept the Book of Mormon on faith.(23) Using this reasoning, one would wonder why God hasn't kept all Biblical evidence hidden?
Fletcher B. Hammond, a Mormon, adds another rationale. The reason nothing can be found, he says, is because "the entire face of the land of Central America [was] changed" due to the great destruction of earthquakes [at the time of the crucifixion], recorded in Third Nephi."(24)
This, however, is not so. Book of Mormon history continued 400 years more after the supposed crucifixion-destruction, providing archaeologists with stable strata. Thomas S. Ferguson, founder of BYU's New World Archaeological Foundation, confirms this:
Innumerable excavations . . . in the time span [of the Book of Mormon] (3000 B.C. to 400 A.D.) reveal great undisturbed architectural structures, extensive relatively undisturbed ancient strata . . . right through the time of the crucifixion.'(25)
ORIGIN OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS
Could they possibly have come from Jerusalem as the Book of Mormon claims?
The Smithsonian Institute states:
"The ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World--probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age--in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago."(26)
This is long before the Book of Mormon people arrived on the scene.
Mormon authors, however, still continue their attempt to establish a link to the Old World by compiling books with pictures of the South American ruins. Some have even gone so far as to photograph the tower at the palace at Palenque, giving the impression it is one of the very towers mentioned in the Book of Mormon.(27) They neglect to mention it was built in the seventh century A.D., 300 years after the Book of Mormon story ends.
The city of Macchu Picchu has also been pictured as a sample of Nephite workmanship. But, in reality, it's an Incan construction built during the late 1400's--one thousand years too late for the Book of Mormon.(28)
Some Mormon missionaries claim that archaeologists have verified that the ruins in Monte Alban, Yagul and Mitla, coincide with the time of the Jaredite and Nephite migrations.(29) But, again, this is not so. Even BYU anthropologist, Dr. Ross T. Christensen, admits that this is another invalid Mormon claim.(30) These cities were built after the Book of Mormon time period ended.(31)
Most Mormons readers don't bother to verify writers' claims, especially if they validate their beliefs. One such example is the author of an LDS book, Mormonism and Masonry.(32)
In this book the author presents a lengthy quote from an 1886 writer, Le Plongeon, giving the impression to the reader that Le Plongeon is a qualified archaeologist. (Actually, he was a writer of mysticism.)
Le Plongeon, trying to prove the Indians practiced Masonry, describes a Mayan ruin in which he claims to have found Masonic and Egyptian symbols, including a cornice with rings intended to hang curtains for a Holy of Holies. He also stated that the symbols were comparable to those found in the Old World:
Inscriptions in the Mayan language [are] identical with and [have] the same meaning and value as those carved on the temples of Egypt. . . . These symbols are precisely the same that we find in the temples of Egypt, Chaldea, India and Central America.'(33)
On the other hand, a highly skilled Egyptian scholar, Dr. James H. Breasted of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute (deceased), contradicted him. After Breasted laboriously researched the ruins, Frank H. H. Roberts of the Smithsonian, stated:
"I was at the Maya city of Chicen Itza in Yucatan in 1932 when Dr. Breasted spent two weeks studying the ruins and inscriptions at that location as well as at several other cities in the area, and at the end of the period he was very emphatic about the total lack of evidence for any Egyptian influence."(34)
Therefore, the Smithsonian Institute continues to state:
"No evidence has been found to corroborate any contact with ancient
Egyptians, Hebrews, or the Near East."
RACIAL CONNECTION BETWEEN JEWS AND INDIANS
If the Book of Mormon people came from Jerusalem, is there any evidence
that the American Indians are Jews?
A remarkable book is now available which took sixteen years to complete. As covered in Time Magazine (Jan. 16, 1995), the book, entitled The History and Geography of Human Genes, is written by three geneticists, one a Stanford professor.(35) Synthesizing fifty years of research, it is the first genetic atlas of the world. In other words, a global family tree.
The study's importance to the Book of Mormon is significant. First, it confines its research to only those groups that were in their present locations as of 1492. This, of course, includes the American Indians.
Secondly, the team probed deeper. Ignoring outer distinctions of racial factors such as skin color, they examined the genetic makeup of hundreds of thousands of these groups all over the world by testing their blood.
The result? The whole world's population boiled down to four major ethnic groups: Africans, Caucasoids, Mongoloids and Australians. Which category did the Indians fall into? Mongoloid! Where did the Mongoloids come from? Not from Jerusalem!
All one has to do is look at the author's color-coded map, to see this. By comparing North and South America's color-code (pink for Mongoloid) to that of the Holy Land's (blue for Caucasoid), one can see that there is no way Indians could have migrated from Jerusalem. If they had, the genetic map would have color-coded North and South America blue, to match Jerusalem.
This study backs up what the Smithsonian Institute has been saying all along--that the Americas were populated by three migrations from Asia, coming across the Bering Strait . . .(36)
As it stands now, archaeological evidence is the only avenue through which the Book of Mormon can ever be substantiated--and it fails in all respects. Science has consistently presented disconfirming evidence for the Book of Mormon.(If only Joseph Smith hadn't given the plates back to the angel.)
How can the great white God, Quetzalcoatl be explained, if he is not Jesus?"
Smith capitalized on John 10:16: "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."(37) This was an ingenious way to get Jesus over to this continent.
Maybe, just maybe, some speculate, Jesus really did visit America after his resurrection. After all, since the Indians are a dark-skinned race, the Indian tradition of a white God seems to be a strong point in Mormonism's favor.
Although, this might sound credible, let's take Quetzalcoatl's whiteness. Was he really white? No. Tradition doesn't always show him as such.
He is usually portrayed with a dark-hued body emblematic of rain-clouds. On the Codices, "he is usually painted black"(38) This is because in many Indian traditions he is the God of rain and wind. However, when he is portrayed as white, it is because whiteness is a symbol of the sun and moon from which they believed all their gods came from. This may explains why the natives hailed Cortez as the returning Quetzalcoatl. They probably looked at Cortez and his men's shining white armor, and immediately concluded they must be deity.(39)
What is known about Quetzalcoatl is mostly mythical. He is described as an old man with a beard, whose companions were "dwarfs and hump-backs" who "died of the cold."(40) The beard, typical of other Mexican deities, is a symbol of descending rain, pollen, or fertilization. Since it is not unusual for a plumed serpent to also symbolize deity, in some traditions Quetzalcoatl is also called the feathered-serpent.(41)
Of significance is the fact that unlike Jesus, Quetzalcoatl was a penance-inflicting god and, according to Aztec tradition, approved of human sacrifice. He was the only god "who alone taught the correct way in which to tear out a heart for the offering."(42)
One popular tradition says Quetzalcoatl was ruler of the Kingdom of Tollan but eventually was driven away by evil magicians. Defeated, Quetzalcoatl departed across the eastern sea on his serpent-raft to Tlapallan, land of plenty, promising to return. After landing, Quetzalcoatl kills himself as a sacrifice "and from his ashes rose birds with shining feathers (symbols of warrior souls mounting to the sun)."(43)
The strongest argument against Quetzalcoatl being Jesus is the time frame. It doesn't match the 34 A.D. Book of Mormon appearance of Christ. The known period of worship of Quetzalcoatl is about 750 AD to 1500 AD. This was nearly 700 years after the Book of Mormon account of Christ's visit to the Nephites.(44)
The tradition of Quetzalcoatl should present no problem. Every culture creates its own gods, whether real or mythical. If real, Quetzalcoatl could even have been some visitor to the continent who had a beard. Scholars tell of sporadic visitors from other lands before Columbus. There were small Jewish colonies as well as Phoenicians, Japanese, Europeans, North Africans and Pacific Islanders who arrived by boat. Quetzalcoatl could easily have been one of them.
A point worth remembering is to note what the natives were expecting in Quetzalcoatl's return. They weren't looking for him to come down from the sky as one would expect of a deity. But, rather, in a boat. The legend said that after Quetzalcoatl's defeat by evil magicians, he left on a raft. Therefore, they naturally expected him to return in like manner. No wonder they revered Cortez and Captain Cook when they arrived in boats.
Therefore, the only way Quetzalcoatl could have been Jesus is if he left the Holy Land, after his resurrection, and sailed to America in a boat. After appearing to the Indians, he then left the same way--in a boat. A pretty primitive mode of transportation for a God!
Have any Nephite artifacts been found?
One may wonder how artifacts can prove or disprove the Book of Mormon, since all ancient races leave behind the same kind of pottery and tools. But, Joseph Smith mentioned such unique items that, if found, they would stand out like a sore thumb.
The Book of Mormon mentions linen, silk, carriages, wheels, chariots, compasses, cement and glass. None of the American ruins offer any evidence for these. The Smithsonian Institute states:
"Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492."(45)
(It should be noted that the "wheel" has been found in the Americas on small items resembling toys. But, experts note that the wheel was never used for transportation [as in Book of Mormon chariots], grinding mills, or for any common type of usage. They point out that this it was because the "circle" was sacred to the ancient Indians, so used only in ceremonial rituals.)
Of particular interest is BYU's Stuart Ferguson, who established four tests for the Book of Mormon. All failed: plant life, animal life, metallurgy, and script. (After spending twenty-five years trying to prove Mormonism, he said that the case against Joseph Smith was "absolutely devastating" and became convinced that Smith's book was fiction.)(46)
PLANT LIFE: The Book of Mormon mentions olives, figs, grapes and wheat. But, soil excavations, as well as an examination of artwork, carvings, murals and ceramics, have produced nothing. Even at the great cave at Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico, where diggings go down to the 5,000 B.C. level, nothing--no olives, no figs, no grapes, no wheat.(47)
ANIMAL LIFE: The Book of Mormon lists donkeys, cattle, sheep, goats, horses, oxen, pigs, elephants, chickens, dogs and others. Again, nothing in the time-frame of the Book of Mormon. Although horses, camels, bison, mammoths, and mastodons, were in the Americas, it was before 10,000 B.C., according to the Smithsonian Institute.(48) Cave petroglyphs of horses, which Mormons quickly say prove the Nephites in the Book of Mormon had horses, are unaware that these drawings located in Utah not Mexico, date "from at least 1000 A.D., if not later, long after the time mentioned in the Book of Mormon."(49)
METALLURGY: Smith's book lists bellows, brass, chains, copper, gold, iron, molten ore, plows, silver and swords. In the Book of Mormon region, none of this appears until the 9th century A.D.(50)
SCRIPT: The Jaredites in the Book of Mormon, who came over at the time of the Tower of Babel, would have used cuneiform.(51) The Nephites of 600 B.C. would have used Hebrew. But, no Cuneiform, Hebrew, or Egyptian has been found.
That is, except for two items. A seal with Egyptian script was found at Tlatilco, near Mexico City, containing the Hebrew name of Hiram. Also, in Chiapas, Mexico, a seal with three glyphs on it, supposedly Egyptian, but "seriously questioned by scholars." (52) Experts have indicated that these two items are too minute to use as proof of anything. Therefore, the Smithsonian continues to state:
No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archaeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archaeological remains in Mexico and archaeological remains in Egypt.(53)
JEWISH WORSHIP AMONG THE INDIANS?
Is there any evidence that Jewish worship was practiced by the ancient Indians?
The answer is no. But, from the Mormon view, there ought to be.
Why? Because the Book of Mormon, claiming to be a record of Jews who left Palestine, states they kept the Law of Moses:
And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses.(54) And they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the law of Moses.(55)
Obviously Smith was not well-versed on Israelite law. The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Sabbath observance, Jubilee years, tithing, circumcision, sacrifices, passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread or any of the other festivals. As noted by the Tanners, "there is not even one case where a Jewish feast or festival was celebrated . . .!"(56) Very strange for a people claiming to be strict Jews.(57) Neither does the Book of Mormon, with its appearance of Jesus, have Him explaining to the Nephites that the Law of Moses has been fulfilled and to stop sacrifices.
JOSEPH SMITH'S USAGE OF OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT TERMS
Does the Book of Mormon use any Old Testament terms that Joseph Smith could not possibly have known about? Did he use any incorrectly?
Similar to Smith's unnatural introduction into his story of artifacts like glass and linen, he introduced Greek words into the Book of Mormon, which the Nephites certainly could never have known about.
For example, he used the Greek name for Jesus, Jeshua, and the Greek word for anointed, Christ.(58) To make matters worse, he inserted a French word, Adieu, a language which didn't even exist until 700 A.D.!(59)
Smith also borrowed the term Alpha and Omega, the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, from the Book of Revelation.(60) All this, in spite of the fact that Smith stated: "There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I . . . translated the Book of Mormon."(61)
In addition, Smith borrowed heavily from the Bible in order to make his text sound more authentic. The Tanners note that "well over a hundred quotations from the New Testament have been found in the first two books of Nephi alone."(62) Another author counted 27,000 words copied from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, including italicized words added by the translators.(63) Moreover, a study shows that Smith, rather than quoting from the 1611 KJV, quoted from the 1769 KJV. (How can Nephites of 600 B.C. quote from an edition of the Bible that didn't exist until 1769!) He also borrowed from the Presbyterian's Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms; and the Apocrypha; even quoted from Malachi, a book written after 600 B.C., and copied 21 chapters of Isaiah.(64)
So, the obvious question should be, how can Book of Mormon characters, writing in approximately 600 B.C., be quoting from Bible sources which weren't written until centuries later?(65)
* If the Book of Mormon characters came from Jerusalem, the writers would have written in Hebrew, not Egyptian. No Jew at the time of 600 B.C., when Lehi and his family supposedly came to America, spoke in Egyptian. Further, since the Jews hated the Egyptians, it would have been an insult for Lehi to use Egyptian.
* The brass plates of Laban, which Lehi's family brought from Jerusalem, containing Old Testament scriptures, would also have been written in Hebrew, not Egyptian.
* According to Martin Harris, reformed Egyptian was a combination of four languages (Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic). This consisted of cuneiform script, hieroglyphics, and alphabetic script, which would have been unreadable.
* The Central and South American ruins have produced no Egyptian or Hebrew hieroglyphics, plus no reformed Egyptian. This is confirmed by the Smithsonian Institute: "No Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492.
* No cities with Book of Mormon names have been unearthed.
* Nothing indicating anything Jewish has been found. The Smithsonian Institute says: "No evidence has been found to corroborate any contact with ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or the Near East."
* According to The History and Geography of Human Genes, Jews are Caucasoids and American Indians are Mongoloids. Thus, the Book of Mormon's claim that Lehi and his family were Jews from Jerusalem, is destroyed.
* The Book of Mormon has failed four major scientific tests: Plant life, Animal life, Metallurgy, and Script.
* The strongest argument against Quetzalcoatl being Jesus is that the time frame doesn't match the AD 34 Book of Mormon appearance of Christ. The period of Quetzalcoatl's worship was AD 750 to AD 1500, seven hundred years after the Book of Mormon account. Further, Quetzalcoatl approved of human sacrifice and after he sailed away, committed suicide.
* The BYU interpretation of the Tree of Life Stone, claiming it contains Hebrew inscriptions and portrays Lehi, Sarah, and Nephi, has been refuted by Dr. Hugh Nibley of BYU, the Smithsonian Institute, and an expert in Meso-American archaeology.
* Absolutely nothing has been found confirming Book of Mormon language, cities, or geography; but, thousands of evidences exist to verify the Bible.
* The Book of Mormon says the Nephites were strict in keeping the Law of Moses (Alma 30:3). Yet, there is no account of their observing the Sabbath, Jubilee, tithing, circumcision, sacrifices, Passover, or any of the festivals.
* Smith used the Greek name for Jesus and Christ; copied Greek letters Alpha and Omega from the Book of Revelation; and also inserted a French word, a language that didn't even exist until A.D. 700. He used over a hundred quotations from the New Testament, copied 27,000 words from the KJV of the Bible, and quoted from Biblical writers whose writings weren't even in existence yet.(66)
*Copyright 2003. This article cannot be copied and used in a professional publication without express permission of the author.
1 The Seattle Times, December 11, 1994 (a reprint from the New York Times) This figure includes children of members.
2 The Evangel, January/February 1997 (Utah Missions, Inc., Marlow, OK), 7. Citing from the Provo Daily Herald, January 1, 1997 that, in turn, is citing Utah in the 1990's, A Demographic Perspective.
3 See Mosiah 1:4, 16; 1 Nephi 1:2; Mormon 9:32.
4 M.T. Lamb, The Golden Bible, 89-91. Cited in Tanner, Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?, 104.
5 Anthony A. Hoekema, The Four Major Cults (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans, 1963), 78.
6 See 1 Nephi 3:20; 5:11-14; 19:23; 4:14-15.
7 See Mormonism Shadow or Reality? by Jerald and Sandra Tanner (Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Salt Lake City, 1972), 104. (Hereinafter, Tanner.)
8 Hoekema, 86.
9 Ibid, 86.
10 Wesley P. Walters, The Human Origins of the Book of Mormon (Ex-Mormons for Jesus, Clearwater, FL), 2. A presentation of B.H. Robert's unpublished paper written in the early 1920's.
11 See M.T. Lamb's Golden Bible, cited in Tanner, 106-107.
12 The Department of Anthropology, "Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon" (Washington D.C.: National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, n.d.), 3. (Hereinafter, Smithsonian.)
13 Letter from Richard A. Parker, Deptartment of Egyptology at Brown University, to Marvin Cowan. See Tanner, 108. In a paper by Mormon writer, William J. Hamblin, entitled "Reformed Egyptian" (F.A.R.M.S. nd, 1) he states that:
"The fact that modern linguists and philologists don't know of a script known as reformed Egyptian is irrelevant, since Mormon tells us that the script was called reformed Egyptian "by us," that is, by the Nephites."
His point is that since there is no language formally called "reformed Egyptian", this is why archaeologists are not expected to find any evidence. But, the fact that the Egyptian language, (according to the writers of the Book of Mormon) was part of their "reformed" writing, would suggest that at least remants of Egyptian writing should be found somewhere in the Americas. Hamblin then tries to support the idea that even if a reformed language originally contained Egyptian, it wouldn't necessarily contain Egyptian by the time it was reformed and handed down. He then uses the example of Semitic speakers of the early second millennium B.C., (Canaanite/Phoenician) saying,
"(they) adopted reformed or modified versions of both Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform into syllabic and alphabetic systems of writing. Ultimately, this reformed Egyptian script became the basis for the Phoenician alphabet, from which nearly all subsequent alphabets derive. . . . Since the Canaanite/Phoenician syllabary formed the basis of the Greek alphabet, and the Greek in turn of the Latin, it means . . .the hieroglyphs live on, though in transmuted (or could we not say reformed?) form, within our own alphabet. In a very real sense, our own Latin alphabet is itself a type of reformed Egyptian, since the ultimate source of our characters is Egyptian hieroglyphics."
This rationalization isn't convincing. One can admittedly see how from as long ago as 2,000 B.C., a language could be reformed or altered until the original language is no longer detectable, considering the many hundreds of years of the mingling of nations. But, with the Book of Mormon people, the Jews (including Lehi's family) would have been meticulous about retaining their own language. They would never have incorporated Egyptian, the language of a people they hated, into their language. Secondly, why would Nephi suddenly change to a reformed version of Egyptian containing a mixture of Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic, thus making it more difficult to read--even for the Nephites? Hebrew writing, which is alphabetic, would have offered a higher capacity to convey shades of meaning. Hamblin's attempt to validate the Book of Mormon's language by trying to show that our modern alphabet, which contains no obvious Egyptian, is "a type of reformed Egyptian" stretches the imagination too much for it to be applicable to the Book of Mormon.
14 This common motif can be seen in another stone carving of the Tree of Life, explored in 1901 and mentioned in a 1924 paper by Dr. Max Uhle and edited by A.L. Kroeber, "Explorations at Chincha," University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. XXI, No. 2, pp 55-94 (Berkeley, 1924). This stone was carved out of a mountainside at Paracas Bay on the south coast of Peru, measuring 128 m. long and 74 m. wide (approximately 419' x 242') and could be seen 10 miles out to sea. Cited in The Tree of Life in Ancient America by Ross T. Christensen of BYU.
15 Admittedly, archaeologists do say the carving suggests a Tree of Life motif; but, this is a common symbol in many cultures. For example, in Central and South America, there is a popular belief in a "tree of nourishment and of life." (Hartley Burr Alexander, The Mythology of All Races [Boston, Marshall Jones Co., 1920], Vol. 11:70.) This is probably what the Stela 5 stone is replicating. For another legitimate interpretation from the mythologies of the Cuna' Indians of Panama, see Hal Hougey's The Truth About the "Lehi Tree-of-Life" Stone, 1963.
16 Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, p. 75.
17 "Chiapas Find of Relevance to Document," El Paso Times, July 4, 1965. Cited in Tanner, 116 (emphasis mine). The two missionaries apparently obtained their information from a printed sheet used by Maurice W. Connell of the University Archaeological Society who was lecturing in the area.
18 Letter to the author, dated March 27, 1980 from Arlene Robinson, Assistant to the Secretary and Treasurer at The Society for Early Historic Archaeology, Inc., Ms. Robinson's mention of Dr. Jakeman's explanation is referencing his publication: Stela 5, Isapa Chiapas, Mexico: A Major Archaeological Discovery of the New World.
19 Italics, mine (in Word format only.
20 Letter to the author, dated October 15, 1980, from Linda Schele.
21 Left by the Sumerians (c. 2800-2360 B.C.) An ancient civilization situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, later known as Babylonia. The Sumerians invented cuneiform writing. A major city was Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. It is in the southern part of what is now Iraq.
22 An article in the Biblical Archaeologist ("Was the Siloam Tunnel Built by Hezekiah?" by Rogerson & Davies, September 1996, p.138) makes the startling suggestion that this famous 1,750 foot long tunnel in Jerusalem (dated to 701 B.C.E.) believed to be King Hezekiah's defense against the Assyrian King Sennacherib, should be dated, rather, to the second century B.C.E., which would eliminate it being King Hezikiah's. However, in another magazine, the Biblical Archaeology Review ("Defusing Pseudo-Scholarship: The Siloam Inscription ain't Hasmonean" by Hackett, et al., March/April 1997, p. 41), Rogerson & Davies' article is clearly refuted by various experts in paleography, epigraphy, and orthography.
23 Statement of Fletcher B. Hammond and Antoine R. Ivins. Cited in Tanner, 124.
24 Fletcher B. Hammond, Geography of the Book of Mormon, 122-126. Cited in Tanner, 124.
25 Ferguson's Manuscript Unveiled with Introduction by Jerald & Sandra Tanner (Salt Lake City, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1988), 39. (Hereinafter Ferguson.)
26 Smithsonian statement.
27 Book of Mormon, Mosiah 2:7.
28 See Martin Raish, "All that Glitters: Uncovering Fool's Gold in Book of Mormon Archaeology." Sunstone 1981, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 13.
29 This claim usually pertains to archaeological periods III-V. An earlier period I and II, the preclassic period does, however, coincide with the time claimed for the Jaredites or Nephites. But, there is no evidence to link anything with the Jaredites or Nephites.
30 U.A.S. Newsletter, No. 64, January 30, 1960. Cited in Answering Mormons' Questions by Bill McKeever.
31 A paper by Clark S. Knowlton, presented at BYU at the Thirteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, April 1, 1961 at Brigham Young University. Cited in Tanner, 99.
32 E. Cecil McGavin, Mormonism and Masonry (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1949) 74-76. This book is out of print.
33 E. Cecil McGavin, Mormonism and Masonry (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1949) 74-76.
34 Fran H.H. Roberts of the Smithsonian Institute, a letter dated October 10, 1958. Cited in Tanner, 108.
35 See "The Story in Our Genes" by Sribala Subramanian, Time magazine, January 16, 1995, pp 54-55.
36 The Book of Mormon also says there were three migrations. Some Mormons may take advantage of the coincidental number three, claiming it parallels the three migrations of the Jaredites, Nephites and Mulekites. However, the study shows that the migrations to the Americas were by three genetically distinct groups, from Asia, classified as Mongoloid. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, claims the three migrations were Jews from Jerusalem, which would put them in the Caucasoid group.
37 The "other sheep" had reference to the Gentiles. Paul, in Acts 9:15, received a commission to preach to them and once converted, there would be neither Jew nor gentile, but one fold of Christians.
38 Dialogue, Spring 72, pg. 17). "Quetzalcoatl's body paint is black" (The Phoenix of the Western World: Quetzalcoatl and the Sky Religion, pg. 183).
39 Hartley Burr Alexander, The Mythology of All Races (Boston, Marshall Jones Co., 1920), Vol. 11:67-68.
40 One tradition tells how Quetzalcoatl decides to head for his ancient home so he burns his houses, buries his treasure, changes the cacao-trees into mesquite. On his journey, he encounters magicians "who demanded of him, before they would let him pass, the arts of refining silver, of working in wood, stone, and feathers, and of painting; and as he crossed the sierra, all his companions, who were dwarfs and hump-backs, died of the cold." (Alexander, 70.)
41 Quetzal means the long, green tail-plumes of Pharomacrus mocinno, and Coatl, means serpent. Altogether it means the Green-Feather Snake.
42 The Phoenix of the Western World, pg. 125.
43 According to the Annals of Quauhtitlan, cited in Alexander, The Mythology of All Races, 11:68. Other legends say Quetzalcoatl was defeated in a ball-play game by Tezcatlipoca. The latter "cast him out of the land into the east, where he encountered the sun and was burned. . ."(68)"a myth of the morning moon, driven back by night (the dark Tezcatlipoca) to be consumed by the rising sun."(69) Missionary priests tried to identify him with St. Thomas the Apostle.
44 Michael Jordan, Encyclopedia of Gods (N.Y.,Facts On File, Inc. 1993), 214-5. There was an historical figure, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, but he was born about 935 A.D.
45 The Smithsonian Institute states: "Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron." (Letter to author.)
46 The Tanners state: "He (Ferguson) told us that he had spent twenty-five years trying to prove Mormonism, but had finally come to the conclusion that all his work in this regard had been in vain. He said that his training in law had taught him how to weigh evidence and that the case against Joseph Smith was absolutely devastating and could not be explained away." Ferguson's Manuscript Unveiled (Salt Lake City, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1988) 3.
47 Ferguson, 16.
48 The Smithsonian Institute says that "horses were in the Americas, along with the 'camel . . .bison, mammoth, and mastodon [but] all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C." (Smithsonian, 2).
49 See Martin Raish, "All that Glitters: Uncovering Fool's Gold in Book of Mormon Archaeology" (Sunstone 1981, 12.)
50 Ferguson, 30.
51 Bruce R. McConkie said the Jaredites did not speak Egyptian, but "retained a tongue patterned after that of Adam." Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1958), 393.
52 Ferguson, 34.
53 Smithsonian, 3.
54 See Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:24, 29-30.
55 Book of Mormon, Alma 30:3.
56 M.T. Lamb, The Golden Bible, 109-110. Cited in Tanner, Salt Lake City Messenger, Issue 74, Feb. 1990, p. 10.
57 While, admittedly, there is one 'burnt offering,' they perform it incorrectly. Mosiah 2:3 says, "And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses." Quoting M.T. Lamb, the Tanners note: "According to the law of Moses the firstlings of their flocks were never offered as burnt offerings or sacrifices. All firstlings belonged to the Lord, de jure, and could not be counted as a man's personal property--whereas, all burnt offerings, or sacrifices for sin of every kind, must be selected from the man's own personal property, or be purchased with his own money for that purpose, while all firstlings of the flock, as the Lord's property, came into the hands of the high priest, and by him could be offered up as a peace offering, not as a burnt offering or a sin offering, himself and family eating the flesh. . . . This one little blunder, then, proves beyond the chance of question that the Book of Mormon could not have been inspired by the Holy Spirit or by an angel of the Lord." (Tanner, Salt Lake City Messenger, Issue 74, Feb. 1990, p. 11.)
58 In the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, Smith has his characters using the name of Jesus Christ before arriving in the new world.
59 See Jacob 7:27.
60 See 3 Nep. 9:18.
61 Times and Seasons, May 15, 1843 4:194.
62 Tanner, 79.
63 Hoekema, 85.
64 Tanner, 68, 72-73.
65 The Tanners use an excellent analogy as to what Smith does in the Book of Mormon:
"Suppose, for instance, someone were to come forth with a book which purported to be written by Moses entitled, The Only True Sayings of Moses, and in this book the following words were attributed to him: "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Or, having George Washington incorporate the following into his speech:
Four Score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent . . .
These are the kind of errors that soon make themselves evident. (Salt Lake City Messenger, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Salt Lake City, February 1990, 74:13.)
66 See Tanner, Mormonism - Shadow or Reality for more examples of Joseph Smith's plagerism.
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This is a great article. Thanks for the in-depth research from someone that was once a believing Mormon. God encourages us to dig into the Bible and when we do it holds up soundly. I know that Mormons are told that they need no empirical evidence to believe the Book of Mormon is true. So they are encouraged in the opposite direction that God encourage readers of the Bible. God is not afraid of what we will find. If I have a question or a doubt I dig into the evidence and the facts have always dispelled my doubts. I encourage people to do the same. Doubts left alone can grow and lead to the abandonment of the faith. The Bible is the entire word of God. Thanks again for the article. I am saving this one for future use. God Bless
You should contact CARM.org and Pleaseconvinceme.com about posting your article on their sites.
Wow! I absolutely loved this article, found the background to be comprehensible and appreciate the insight to the confusing world of Mormonism! Thank you!