My other site:
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My other site:
If link doesn’t work, Google it.
A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance
when the need for illusion is great.
I preface this reaffirming my love and respect for Mormon people.
The corpus of rationale pointing to fallacies and dearth of artifacts supporting the Book of Mormon, throws validity of Joseph Smith Jr.’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints into serious question. Given this, I’m puzzled that Ph.D.s, M.D.s, MBAs and LLDs., really smart folks, and even a handful who aren’t that smart, choose not to consider these facts.
All I can come up with—and it troubles me—is the personal consequence of, in Ex-Mormon Social Media vernacular “Going down the rabbit hole” are so huge and far-reaching. Like “Coming Out” LGBTQ,will I alienate family and friends? Will I lose my job, career, BYU Professorship? In “Too Big To Fail,” I considered the larger cultural and economic devastation that formal dissolution of The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter Day Saints would trigger. Personally, I’m sorry not feeling free dispassionately to discuss, with Mormons, issues which seem to question LDS precepts.
For those in the Closet, but feeling curiosity and courage to glance toward the Rabbit Hole, you’re not alone. Googling “exmormon” can prove bewildering. Going to paper and ink, historian and niece of Church President David O. McKay, Faun Brodi’s No Man Knows My History is seminal. A Brigham Young M.A. with 34 years in the Church Education System (CES), former Director of the LDS Institute of Religion in Whittier, California and Historian Grant H. Palmer’s An Insider View of Mormon Origins is carefully documented and meticulous. Covering all the bases with photos and illustrations, former missionary Jeremy Runnells’ CES letter is instructive and entertaining.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are fine people. I love my Mormon family and friends.
During this fractious and divisive Presidential election, through Facebook it became evident a majority of my LDS family and friends support President Trump. I wonder, does their Church influence members politics and vote?
No doubt most would answer, “No.” Certainly, politics is never promoted from the pulpit nor in the myriad of Church organization, meeting and publications. Nonetheless, it seem to me impossible to extricate religion, any religion, from politics.
Caveat: “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.” I see that of Utah’s 3.2 million residents, 2.1 million, 66%, are LDS. The current U.S. electoral map gives 58.4% of Utah’s votes to Trump.
With two of three Utah residents being LDS and six of ten voting for Trump, I wonder? Given the Church’s billions-of-dollars invested in Capitalism it will never happen, but, if word trickled down that the Prophet’s political course had turned hard Left, might Utah’s (and Idaho’s) electoral map colors transform from red to blue?
I am puzzled that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints General Authorities, Stake Presidents, Bishops, Ph. D.s, LL. D.s, M.D.s, professors and members, folks I admire and love, refuse to consider the plethora of troublesome “facts” and blatant impossibilities in The Book of Mormon.
For a young man who tagged behind his father through the woods and across the fields of upstate New York, search for buried treasure, Joseph Smith Jr.’s choice of gold as material for his book is understandable but lousy writing material. If bullion and doubloons lay secreted in the hills south of Lake Ontario—not that Dad found any—why not a gold book?
Gold is hard to come by, fragile in thin sheets, and heavy! Each page of The Book of Mormon had to be hammered smooth and trimmed to a uniform size. According to the LDS website, witnesses described the book resembling a three-ring binder with pages about 6 by 8 inches, stacked 5 inches high. At 640 cubic inches and 0.7 pounds per cubic inch, Joseph’s Book would tip the scale at 168 pounds! The pages would not have been as dense as a gold brick. Nevertheless, it seems fair to assume the volume would tip the scales upward of 100 pounds. In transferring this burden from the Hill Cumorah to home, Joseph does not mention a conveyance such wheel borrow or wagon. As an adult Joseph Jr. was a larger than average man. Toting this load, like Heliman’s soldiers young Joe must have been a “stripling” lad. (Borrow a pair of 50 pound hand weights from the gym; lug them around the block. You get the idea.)
Without considering the type size and word count of today’s Book of Mormon, “printing” of the gold pages raises challenges. Even with five or six times the volume of today’s Book, crowding the text into available space would demand scribes with the craftsmanship and precision of a jeweler. This is especially astonishing when viewed alongside the only other known native North American “writing,” pictographs and petro glyphs. How were the plates inscribed? Were the characters scratched, embossed, stamped, stenciled? Regarding “books,” prior to Columbus none of the form recognized in Europe and Asia after Gutenberg has been found in the Western Hemisphere.
According to The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummmim . . . were what constituted ‘seer’ stones in ancient or former times . . . for the purpose of translating the book.” Today I’m told Joseph translated from a “peep stone” in the crown of his hat, like a “crawler” at the bottom of a TV screen? Which was it Joe, Urim and Thummmim, peep stone or keen intellect and florid imagination?
The book of “Mormon” 9:32: “We have written this record . . . in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian.” Nephi 1:2, “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the language of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” (My emphasis) According to Wikipedia “Reformed Egyptian” does not appear in standard ancient languages references. The language which was Romanized as “Hebrew” was “historically the language of the Israelites and their ancestors.”
So, Father Lehi’s native tongue was Hebrew, one of humankind’s most ancient and sophisticated spoken and written languages. How and why he wrote in Egyptian is a puzzle. Moreover, how and why, a mere forty generations after Lehi, was all memory of his native Hebrew forgotten?
Historian Fawn M. Brodie’s No Man Knows My History may offer a clue. A niece of Church President David O. McKay’s, who was excommunicated after the fact, Historian Brodie writes, “Joseph told Josiah Quincy in 1844 that his mother purchased them (four Egyptian mummies and several papyri) ‘with her own money at the cost of six thousand dollars.’” These, even the Church must concede, Joseph erroneously “translated” as the Book of Abraham. (Divine inspiration?)
It is argued that, without divine guidance a poor upstate New York farm kid could not have written the book of Mormon. Youthful writers are a dime a dozen. At twenty-three we hit our mental and physical peak. Right now a million fifteen to twenty-five-year-old, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dickinson, Eliot, Poe and Shakespeares wannabe are scratching away with ballpoint pens or, today, tapping on keyboards, composing the novel, story, poem, essay, play and screen play certain to be shelved beside the classics. Only the tiniest fraction of one percent of these will receive an editor’s blessing and be stacked on Barnes and Noble’s tables.
Young Joseph’s book went to press because Martin Harris mortgaged and later sold 151 acres of his farm to pay for publication. My guess is that Book of Mormon sales (Amazon paperback $18.98) are predominately to Church members and organizations.
According to Church’s website, Maroni buried the Book of Mormon in 421 A.D. Between the third and eighth centuries A.D., councils of Nicea consolidated Near and Middle East writings into the Christian Bible which was divided by chapters in the thirteenth and verses in the sixteenth century.
1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John: It is beyond curious that the Book of Mormon is arranged by book, chapter and verse and in idiom identical—For me idiom really tips the scale!—to Joseph Smith Jr.’s King James Bible, composed on the obverse side of Earth beginning around the time Moroni buried his Book. Grand H. Palmer cites ten instances where excerpts from the Book of Mormon and young Joe’s Bible are identical or paraphrased. Palmer’s scholarship in examining the BOM must be read to be appreciated.
Other issues which question the Book of Mormon’s veracity include the absolute dearth of physical items explicit in its text: Iron Age implements, the wheel, horses, writing and money—Yes money! BOM includes 14 references!—and proof the genetic signature of folks who greeted Columbus was written not in the Near East but Asia!
I hypothesize that, born into mysticism, superstition, spirituality, buried treasure and things Egyptian, swept up in a religious revival, experiencing the power of loquacious preaching, young Joseph harnessed a keen intellect and robust libido, conflating Mom’s artifacts, Dad’s treasure hunting and mounting evidence pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere were not ignorant savages into The Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I considered titling this “Too Big to Fail?” But no, with billions in assets, millions tithing ten percent, and catastrophic cultural implications, like Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sacks, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is too big to fail.
While fiscal failure of the Mormon church portends economic shockwaves beyond reckoning, such a collapse would be dollars in the pockets of rank-and-file members: No more ten percent to the Prophet. No more $10,000 to bankroll offspring on two-year missions. No more thousands for Church-related programs.
Nevertheless, for millions of faithful, collapse of their Church would trigger emotional and cultural devastation to beggar economics. Hearing their “Prophet Seer and Revelator” denounce Joseph Smith’s story and Book as frauds, Mormons and Mormonism would experience personal and societal shockwaves akin to Catholics hearing the Pope denounce God.
Despite disastrous economic and cultural implications, twenty-first century technology and inquiry throw Church validity into serious question. Historical research, absence of any artifact to support the Book of Mormon–metal implements, the wheel, a scrap parchment, a rusty pin–and genetic proof Native American roots lie not in the Near East but Asia, convince “Ex-Mos” and others that Joseph Smith’s Church is bogus as the clichéd three-dollar bill. Challenged by fact and social media what stratagem might the General Authorities employ to preclude a meltdown of Mormonism?
Not to worry. Facing a growing cacophony of inquiry and challenge, with bottomless pockets, and a legion of attorneys, bankers, and MBA’s minding the store, the Board of Directors will never allow LDS Inc. to go under. So how might The Elders keep Mormonism afloat?
With past as prolog, query and critique from outside The Fold receive a boiler-plate response: Silence.
Members with questions–members in general–are nurtured like mushrooms: Feed ’em manure and keep ’em in the dark. Those stubborn or foolhardy enough to persist with pesky questions are called before a Bishop, preferably head bowed hat in hand, like a truant third grader. When intimidation fails, Mormons who refuse to recant are booted out!
No Man Knows My History, a researched inquiry into Joseph Smith’s and the Book of Mormon‘s roots led to–an historian and niece of Church President David O. McKay–Fawn Brodie’s excommunicated. Recently, for An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins a member with impeccable credentials Grant H. Palmer was likewise sanctioned. With Ex-Mo presses rolling and shelves of heretical publications expanding, excommunication tribunals would seem at hazard of becoming overtaxed.
Surely General Authorities, Stake Presidents, Bishops, and BYU professors, see the writing on their desk- and lap-tops. But how to respond? Can nineteenth century stonewalling and intimidation hold against twenty-fist century technology and inquiry?
Religions change over time. Mormonism not excepted. From incremental grassroots shifts to stunning reversal of Doctrine, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints adapts and adjusts.
At the prosaic level, when I was a lad face-cards in Mormon households were anathema. The Sabbath was for Sunday School , Sacrament Meeting, and Fireside Chats. Apart from “Sunday Funnies” in the Salt Lake Tribune Sunday entertainment was verboten. My observation is, today, except for the most straight-laced Saints, face-cards, Sunday movies and TV watching are far from uncommon in LDS homes.
The Word of Wisdom counsels members to avoid strong drinks. For decades this sanction extended to cola drinks, on the assumption I presume that caffeine is the culprit. Recently this restriction lifted. Did Coke and Pepsi stocks find their way into the Church’s portfolio?
At the institutional level, folks who have been “through the Temple” report ceremonies sacrosanct since the Prophet Joseph’s time have changed or been dropped.
Dramatic shifts in doctrine are documented in Church canon:
Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132, Verse 4, recorded July 12, 1843,
“For behold , I (God) reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (my emphasis)
After exhaustive rambling, Verse 61 gets to the “covenant”: “if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another . . . he cannot commit adultery.”
While Verse 62 extends the number of virgins to ten. With the Prophet leading, Mormon Elders expanded their priestly prerogative to as many virgins (non-virgins?) as practicality allowed.
Fast forward 47 years: When Utah’s statehood hinged on the issue of polygamy, Doctrine and Covenants, “Official Declaration I” reversed course:
“After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church”
Further on the President fesses up. Persisting with plural marriage would lead to,
“imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people.” Did The Big Guy Up Stairs change His mind? Or, did the Elders trade being “damned” and barred from “my glory” for political clout and to dodge the Slammer?
In any case, January 4, 1896 Utah became the 45th State. The “everlasting covenant” lasted less than a half-century.
A second surprising instance of Mormonism adapting and adjusting revolves on the Church’s view of dark-skinned people. From its inception black men were barred from the Priesthood. In Sunday School I was taught black people are descendents of Cain and/or angels who straddled the fence in a celestial war between God and Satan.
The Book and of Mormon‘s and hence the Church’s position regarding dark-skinned folks is unequivocal:
1 Nephi 12/23,
“they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.”
“And the skins of the Lamanites (Native Americans) were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren . . .”
“for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people . . .”
Do such scurrilous indictments reflect Divine wisdom or nineteenth century American ignorance and bigotry?
According to its Introduction, The Book of Mormon:
“is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas . . . written by ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation . . . on plates (which) were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated by the gift and power of God.” (my emphasis)
Further on, “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
Such assurance, backed by references to “Jesus Christ,” “God, the Eternal Father,” and “the Holy Ghost,” make it clear Nephi, Alma, and Mormon speak for Almighty God Himself!
Fast forward again: Doctrine and Covenants “Official Declaration 2” announces:
“(a) revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978 (which) removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.
Did God again change his mind? Or, with Civil Rights hounds at their heels, did the Elders make another politically savvy call?
Regarding gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transvestites, the Church’s position is clear–think California Proposition 8. At least one in twenty-five Americans–probably many more–experience non-heterosexual feelings. If Mormons fall in the range of normal, with a reported fifteen-million-plus members, over half-a-million do not have heterosexual feelings. With twenty-nine thousand Wards (congregations), at the average Sunday School, Priesthood, and Relief Society meeting straight men, women, and children sit, sing, and pray alongside twenty family and friends who do not share their sexual proclivities.
With Civil Rights and sexual closet doors bursting, legislators, jurists, and the grass-roots recognize the injustice in forcing second-class citizenship to folks who, through no fault of their own, experience–some would argue God given–minority sexual interests. In America, pressure for moral and legal change regarding attitudes around personal sexual preference can only increase. Faced with this ground-swell, will the Church continue forcing men and women to choose between acting on their feelings and excommunication?
With the Elders seeking more politically favorable ground could “Official Declaration III” be in the offing? Out of the question! Like the notion a few decades back of black men blessing the sacrament.
Pragmatic implications demand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints not fail. A the same time twenty-first century technology, investigation, and communication pose dilemmas for the General Authorities to cross Solomon’s eyes:
A cosmos of investigation refutes the black hole of physical evidence to support the Book of Mormon. Science proves that Lamanite or Native America genes derive not from the Near East but Asia! A growing chorus of argument challenges the validity of “Church History” and Doctrine.
In short, evidence and rationale that Joseph Smith’s story and Book are a lie seem irrefutable.
What to do? Stonewall? Doublespeak? Adjust? Adapt? Retire Shepherd Joe while somehow keeping his flock penned? Grant H. Palmer suggests that Mormonism might morph into a less problematic Christian model. Not ’til the old guard dies off!
For the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ours are interesting times.
I face a dilemma. As you know, a dilemma involves choice between undesirable options. Mine: Hold my tongue regarding certainty that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is bogus, or speak up and risk hurting and loosing the love and respect of people I love and respect. Despite LDS and Constitutional precepts guarantying freedom of religion and speech.
I love my Mormon family and friends and respect their right to believe as they do. At the same time, I hold my tongue out of fear that, hearing my conviction that the LDS Church was fabricated by the most successful Con Man in American history, people I love and respect would cease to reciprocate.
It’s not fair. The First Amendment to The Constitution of the Untied States of America states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free expression thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech . . .” The Eleventh Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints affords this same guarantee: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. ” (My emphasis.) Implicit here is the understanding what while I may disagree profoundly with what you say, I respect you as a person.
Officially, of course, the Church must support these guarantees. In practice, questioning Church doctrine is heresy–excommunication! The most cursory glance at anything which might threaten that faith is anathema, forbidden! To survive, Mormonism demands blind faith.
Faith isn’t a problem. Blind faith is. Even science depends on faith. Faith is one thing, fact another. My friend Kathleen points out, it seems better that investigation and fact precede, or at the very least proceed hand-in-hand with faith. Blind faith opens the door to snake-oil peddlers like young Joe Smith.
Over a decade I’ve been hung-up on the dearth of physical evidence, particularly Iron Age artifacts, supporting the Book of Mormon. Recently I had a mini-enlightenment: swords and spears do not grow on trees; they do not fall as manna from Heaven. Swords and spears are made, by men.
Without pretending to know more than I do about mining and metallurgy, as I understand, iron implements are the product of a complex, labor-intensive process. Their genesis lies in rock, hard rock, hematite, magnetite, picked, hacked, gouged, blasted from the earth. Picture a Pittsburg, Pennsylvania or Gary Indiana steel mill. Iron ore was crushed and dumped into a furnace. Around 2282° Fahrenheit iron melts. The dross or slag is skimmed and molten iron poured into molds or ingots.
Lacking advanced metallurgy, in Book of Mormon times, after mining and smelting, raw iron would be shaped and pounded into spear points and arrow heads, sharpened and fitted to wooden shafts. Swords and knives might have been formed in molds or wrought, reheated and reshaped, annealed, sharpened, polished and fitted to iron, wood, or bone handles.
Over five centuries, from the Rockies to the Appalachians, from the Gulf to the Arctic, virtually every square meter has been denuded, tilled, plowed, planted and harvested a hundred times over. And not just the Midwest. Pacific to Atlantic, Mexico to Canada, earth has been drilled down, dug up, built on, and paved over. Five centuries of exploration and exploitation leave museums and warehouses overrun with millennias-old Stone Age artifacts, but not one single Iron Age implement–Copper or Bronze Age for that matter!
Among myriad uses, the value of metal to an army can’t be overstated. In “Heleman Leads an Army of 2060 Ammonite Youth” artist Arnold Friberg makes this apparent. At the painting’s center, amid a forest of metal-tipped spears, pointed skyward in the grip of 2060 “stripling” warriors, in polished metal helmet and full war regalia, commander Heleman strides a steed with Spartan-like, polished-metal, head-piece–Paleontologists tell us in the Miocene Era, three-quarters of a millennia before Columbus, Hipparion, the last American stallion, kicked up his hooves.
With admiration for his skill and appreciation for artistic license, besides metal implements Mr. Friberg’s painting points to the immensity and complexity of equipping an army: shields, headgear, clothing, shoes, boots by the thousand. Not to mention logistics: workers, wagons, tents, bedding! Imagine feeding this gang three squares a day!
The Book of Mormon mentions “sword” 157 times; “brass,” “iron,” “copper,” even “steel” 68 times. But no metal implement–of war or otherwise–predating Columbus has ever been unearthed in the Western Hemisphere, not one rusty pin!
Where is the evidence? Where are the mines, mills, foundries, furnaces, slag heaps, blacksmith shops, forges, anvils, hammers and tongs? After the battles, where are the swords, spears and armor, all the equipment? After the “slewing” where are the corpses, the skeletons?
Regarding the Book of Mormon, I’m compelled to look at facts, evidence–or absence thereof.
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This site (https://myex-mo.com) is limited to thoughts on The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints. Mormons are wonderful people. I love my Mormon family and friends. There are, however, Church history and doctrine which I find troubling, even impossible to believe. If you have no interest in Mormonism or are not okay with having LDS precepts examined, don’t go here. If it’s worth a read please tell your friends.
August 30, 2003
153 Canemah Way
Oregon City, OR 97045
President Gordon B. Hinckley
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
50 East North Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Dear President Hinckley:
I have questions regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ doctrine and history. While even science must fall back on faith—axioms not verifiable by empirical means—“worldly” matters are subject to rational examination. Objective investigation of nuts-and-bolts religions issues remains as valid as teasing out the atoms in a DNA molecule.
While I am neither sage nor scientist, mine could be questions Socrates, René Descartes, or Isaac Newton, might pose; neither jurist nor sleuth, they could be questions Justice Holmes, Clarence Darrow, or TV’s Colombo would ask. Legitimate, fair-minded, factually-based questions like, Why only one book—gold no less? And what about the wheel?
Be assured my inquiry is meant in no way to detract from your exemplary moral guidance, other church leaders, or members. Indeed much of today’s “gentile” world would do well to emulate the virtues espoused and exemplified by a majority of LDS people. Nor are my questions about theology, God’s role in the universe, but rather man’s role in the genesis and history of a sect.
I sometimes brood over matters others have long since laid to rest. Likely you have addressed my questions. If this is so, please forgive my ignorance and bring me “up to speed.”
Circa 600 B.C.: According to the Latter Day Saint website, Lehi’s group, a handful of Jews who never before sailed more than a stones throw from shore, built seaworthy vessels, left the Promised Land—the Land God Himself gave them—navigated four thousand miles of open ocean, and founded a new home in the Western Hemisphere.
1492 A.D.: Three Spanish vessels drop anchor off a Caribbean islet where Christopher Columbus reports sighting Stone Age people “naked as the day their mother bore them.”
The early nineteenth century: Joseph Smith, a New England teenager, talks with God, Jesus Christ, and angels. In time the lad is guided to a book of gold tablets buried in a hill within walking distance of his home. The book is purported to chronicle human history in the Western World from Lehi’s arrival ‘til his final righteous heirs, the Nephites, were wiped out by depraved cousins, the Lamanites. Joseph translates the Book of Mormon from the gold plates and founds The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The twentieth century: Researchers unearth artifacts and anthropological evidence that humans migrated from northeast Siberia to the Western Hemisphere at the end of the last Ice Age. The Asian look and manner of Eskimos and Aleuts renders these findings indisputable. Less pronounced, hints of Asian roots remain evident in North, Central, and South America indigenous people today. Consistent with archaeological findings, carbon fourteen dating proves humankind first inhabited the Western Hemisphere more than ten millennia before Lehi’s purported arrival.
As I understand LDS doctrine, the indigenous folks Columbus found—Atlantic to Pacific, Point Barrow to Tierra del Fuego, Tlingit, Paiute, Iroquois, Seminole, Apache, Maya, Inca, hundreds of tribes—descend from Lehi’s group. If the Book of Mormon is correct the first residents of the Western Hemisphere are heirs to an Old World people embodying one of the most sophisticated, enlightened, highly-ritualized, religious and cultural civilizations in world history. Smoke Jaguar and Quetzal Macaw, kings who worshiped animal gods and gloried in human sacrifice, are the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Solomon. Today’s North, Central, and South American native people, a hundred generations removed, descend from Jews!
If Lehi’s group were first to populate the Western Hemisphere—forgetting for the moment the Jaredites—the timing is way off. Even BYU archeologists would be hard pressed to refute tangible proof humankind began inhabiting what became the Americas eons before 600 B.C. This fact has troubling implications for the Book of Mormon.
While not contemplating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ doctrine, a website summarizes facts seemingly critical with regard to LDS belief. Referring to the Mayas—whose roots extend back seven millennia—One World Journeys Where People and the Planet Connect (copyright 2000-2002 FusionSpark Media, Inc.) points out, “Without benefit of metal tools, beasts of burden, or even the wheel, (my emphasis) they were still masters of architectures, building elaborate pyramids and sprawling cities.” This total absence of metal other than ornamental gold, draft animals, and the wheel—common throughout the seventh century B.C. Eastern Hemisphere—holds true for the entire Western Hemisphere before 1492. The earliest New World citizens were Stone Age people, not the eastern Mediterranean, Iron Age culture of Lehi’s time!
Nonetheless, a search of the Book of Mormon reveals the following words in the numbers indicated: sword 157, brass 37, iron 18, copper 8, steel 5, wheel 1. In 2 Nephi, chapter 5, verse 15, the writer boasts of teaching his people in uses of iron, copper, brass, gold, silver, and steel. With two hundred and twenty-five textural references to metal in the pre-Columbian Western Hemisphere, surely over the past five centuries someone somewhere in the Americas would have unearthed one brass, iron, copper, or steel implement: a blade, hammer, hoe, nail, needle. We haven’t.
Steel? First Nephi verse 16 refers to a bow of “fine steel.” Apart from an extremely rare—if ever—instance where iron ore and pure carbon were accidentally heated to nearly sixteen hundred degrees Celsius and the ancient metallurgist had no clue what he’d accomplished, decent quality steel was virtually unheard of ‘til the mid-nineteenth century. While “fine” is subjective, producing high quality steel was a hit and miss—much more often miss than hit—operation until Henry Bessemer perfected the science in 1856, half a century after Joseph Smith’s birth.
What’s more, there is no hint these folks regressed from iron to stone tools. To the contrary, implements and cultural clues show Western World aboriginals progressed, slowly to be sure, from cobblestone choppers and spear points to meticulously crafted stone and bone tools. Over millennia they perfected the atlatl, bow, arrow, needle, awl, cordage, more serviceable clothing, sandals, and pottery. Over the past five centuries tens- if not hundreds-of- thousands of such artifacts have been found, but not one Iron Age implement.
In what became the Americas, human shelters evolved from caves, stick houses, and mud huts to tents, long-houses, and multistory adobe and stone dwellings. Current consensus is the people who built and inhabiting the structures of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon are indeed ancestors of today’s America Indians. Current Hopi pueblos bear testimony to this continuum. There is, however, no hint these folks’ ancestors migrated from the eastern Mediterranean.
To brush off the dearth of Iron Age implements in what would become the Americans as a consequence of moral decay is indefensible. Sadly the moral backsliding of civilizations is all too familiar. To abandon the material benefits of civil development is not. To forget or reject the obvious advantage of an iron axe for a stone chopper, leaving no tangible evidence the axe ever existed, defies reason. It is inconceivable—no matter how depraved—descendants of seventh century B.C. Jews could reject or forget, not only Iron Age implements and housing, but millennia of rituals, traditions, language, writing, art, music, the Old Testament, irrevocably, totally, without a trace!
Where else in the ladder of recorded—indeed unrecorded—human history has a culture descended from the Iron to the Stone Age? Barring famine, draught, and pestilence, for people to regress from animal husbandry and olive groves to hunting and gathering, to descend from the temples, shops, and homes of Jerusalem to caves, sagebrush shelters, and mud huts is unprecedented.
Were Jaredites, Jews who the Book of Mormon says sailed to the Western Hemisphere prior to Lehi’s voyage, the earliest humans of the New World? As I understand it, the last of Jared’s people purportedly died some time after Lehi’s arrival. To suggest Jaredites as first to inhabit the North and South American continents falls short for the same reasons as Lehites. They came nine millennia or so after the last ice age, after the earliest evidence of human life in the New World. They were Iron Age folks sharing the aforementioned Jewish culture, history, traditions, and faith. Moreover, killing off every human resident of the Western Hemisphere, coast to coast, Arctic to Antarctic, before and about Lehi’s time calls for a gradual or sudden mass extinction to beggar imagination.
Beyond the merely physical however, first, last and above all, Lehite or Jaredite, we are talking about Jews, people with a compelling, thousands-of-years-old belief in one God, their God, the God who, over millennia, protected and guided His Chosen People from Ur of the Chaldee to the Promised Land. God, literally the key to Jewish survival from Abraham to Egypt to the Holocaust to today’s Israeli/Palestinian atrocities and heartaches. Could any Jew, however loathsome, however depraved, totally forget Him?
Regarding the Book of Mormon manuscript, after five hundred years occupation by those of us from across the Atlantic and Pacific, why in all the Americas has only one “book” predating 1492 A.D. been found. Over two millennia between Lehi’s and Columbus’ arrival, to culminate in a work of pure gold, volumes of more prosaic construction surely were written. Didn’t Lehi actually bring texts from the Holy Land? If millennia-old sandals, fabric, and coprolites are unearthed in the Americas some evidence of a book after the manner of Jewish writings, a scrap of papyrus, a tattered goat skin bearing characters reminiscent of Hebrew, Greek, even Egyptian hieroglyphics, must long since have been unearthed from a Mayan temple, an Adena mound, a Central Oregon cave, or New England potato patch. Such discovery has yet to be made.
And why Joseph Smith? What made this young man so special, so blessed as the sole mortal since Jesus Christ to chat face-to-face with God and angels? Over uncounted generations, perhaps a billion human beings, on planet Earth between the crucifixion and Joseph Smith’s birth, surely one or two truly pious souls must have pleaded for His enlightenment. Were there no such people? If there were, why were their prayers ignored?
Finally, the wheel. Returning to the Iron versus Stone Age business, there is no hint pre-Columbian inhabitants of what became the Americas developed or employed one of humankind’s most highly valued and serviceable inventions. If Lehi’s or Jared’s people were first to populate the Western Hemisphere why on Earth did they not bring along, if no other Old World device, the wheel, or build a pair right off the boat? Common throughout the Eastern Hemisphere millennia before 600 B.C., no hint, not even a drawing of a wheel has been discovered in the five centuries non-indigenous people have swarmed the Western Hemisphere. No matter how downfallen, ignorant, or ungodly, it is inconceivable folks fully familiar with chariots, carts, and wagons would in stead choose to lug goods on their shoulders, manhandle granite blocks up slopes of pyramids, and invent the travois for animals to drag their possessions across the prairie?
Frankly President Hinckley, the Book of Mormon’s purported origin troubles me a lot. Doubtless you have addressed this proposition, but it is fair to argue that, caught between the fervor of a religious revival and emerging awareness American Indians are not the ignorant, a-cultural, godless savages previously assumed, some early nineteenth century New Englander(s)—Joseph Smith or others—combined religions zeal with current affairs and wrote from imagination, not gold tablets. Along with the book’s alleged roots and character, as best I can determine wholly unique among all volumes ever written, at least half-a-dozen facts and observations support this hypothesis.
First, writing and books: The Olmecs, precursors to the Mayas and Incas, are credited with inventing writing in the Western Hemisphere around 650 B.C.. While the timing is right for Lehi’s group, the stylized symbols of the Olmec system hint at neither Hebrew nor any other Middle Eastern writing.
Whether on papyrus or wooden tablets, the only books approximating a form which seventh century B.C. Jews and early nineteenth century New England folk would recognize: bound volumes, covers, pages, seem to be the Mayas’ codex. To my understanding neither these nor any other New World writing prior to Columbus’ arrival—the Book of Mormon‘s purported manuscript excepted—reflect either the structure or content of an Hebrew text
Second, the form and organization of the Book of Mormon: Despite or perhaps because of its scriptural nature, the text is too Bible-like for comfort. Suddenly after a couple of millennia with no trace in the Americas of any book in the classic Middle Eastern or European sense, like Moses of old, Joseph Smith goes to the wilderness and is handed the inspired word of God: books, chapters, verses.
Third, gold tablets: Forgive me, but it’s fair to suggest that if the book were actually conjured up by Joseph Smith or someone else, the author overplayed his hand in selecting the alleged medium. Heavy and fragile, gold plates were a lousy choice! Sufficiently serviceable gold tablets in a number commensurate with the size of the Book of Mormon would comprised a “weighty” tome indeed. The choice of gold seems far more to reflect the worldly values of a New Englander farmer than God the Father. Man, not God, cherishes gold.
Forth, human prejudice: While my knowledge of the Book of Mormon is indeed meager, at least one passage seems more to reflect the ignorance of an upstate New York Yankee than the wisdom of an omniscient, all-loving God. As I read it, regarding to Jews:
. . . for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry. (Mormon 5, verse 15)
One wonders how Jews and Native Americans (Lamanites), along with black, brown, and yellow people worldwide, view this damning, anti-Semitic, indeed anti-non-fair-skinned sentiment, this seeming blanket indictment of four-fifths of Earth’s population.
Fifth, Joseph Smith: I need not repeat my previous concern regarding this youth’s seeming exalted status among mortals.
Sixth, Iron Age artifacts: If Latter Day Saint doctrine is correct the previously elaborated absence throughout the Americas of tools and devices—in particular the wheel—common in the 600 B.C Eastern Hemisphere is inexplicable.
(1) Humankind roamed what became the Americas ten or so millennia before Lehi’s people arrived. (2) There seems no rationale for Iron Age;people, however decadent, to forget or turn their back on metals and everyday devices which make like easier and more efficient. (3) It is inconceivable that Jews, one of the great civilization of world history, would not only abandon their culture and God, but regress to ganan religion human sacrifice, and chipping dots, squares, circles, spirals, snakes, antelope, big-horn sheep, and hunters with dangling phalluses on sandstone ledges. (4) The fist true “writing” in the Western Hemisphere is clearly no of Jewish origin. If a book of gold tablets survived centuries, surely a faded page or tattered llama skin with inscriptions reminiscent of Hebrew, Greek, even Egyptian hieroglyphics would long since have turned up somewhere. (5) After eighteen centuries of humankind on planet Earth since the crucifixion, I am at a loss to understand why Joseph Smith as favored above all to converse with God, Jesus Christ, and angels and restore His church. (6) If no other artifact, surely evidence of the wheel should attest to the presence of Lehi’s people in the Western Hemisphere. (7) Argument can be mad that white-skinned, nineteenth century, New Englander(s) made up the Book of Mormon.
In view of these issues, please be so kind as to address a few questions.
It seems crucial The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints address the issues I raise. Given available wealth and resources—Brigham Young University, theologians, scholars, researchers, historians, lawyers—a credible response is certainly within your grasp.
The notion Lehi’s people were first to populate the Western Hemisphere flies in the face of fact. If you can provide evidence to refute scientific findings and rationale to explain the glaring discrepancies mentioned, converts might be advised to flock to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If not, the church along with the genesis and thesis of the Book of Mormon are seriously suspect.
I look forward to your response.
The Church of Jesus Christ or Latter-Day Saints*
OFFICE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY
47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-1000
September 4, 2003
153 Canemah Way
Oregon City, OR 97045
Dear Brother Conklin:
Thank you for you letter of August 30, 2003, addressed to President Gordon B. Hinckley. He has asked that I respond to your inquiry.
While it is certain that every detail surrounding he coming of the Nephites and other ancient people to the Americas is not known, and that reference to various archeological and historical matter are not fully explained in the Book of Mormon or by historians, it would indeed b unfortunate to set aside the gospel principles contain in the Book of Mormon because we do not have these answers. To prove every aspect of the Book of Mormon by artifact or geological feature wound remove the element to faith this required of the honest seeker of heavenly truth (see Ether 12:6).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints declares the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and a companion volume to the Bible in setting forth eh saving prici8ples of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Literally million o men, women, and children have gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon through the gift of the Holy Ghost, follow the patter as set forth on page 529 (Moroni 10:3-6)
You are encourage to set aside your concerns and sincerely a prayerfully consider the promises noted in the above-referenced passages.
I have been asked to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings with the Brethren who have asked that I extends to you the best wishes and warmest regards.
Michael Watson Secretary to the First Presidency