At the end of the Book of Mormon, the final chapter invites the reader to consider the content of the book and ask God a very specific question. Moroni 10:4 states: “I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;”. What an important invitation, which we should supplement with our own evaluation of the contents of the book. I have decided to go through ten issues that concern me with regard to the Book of Mormon.
Issue #1 DNA
In the recently published Gospel Topics Essay “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies” the Church admits:
The evidence assembled to date suggests that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA. Scientists theorize that in an era that predated Book of Mormon accounts, a relatively small group of people migrated from northeast Asia to the Americas by way of a land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska. These people, scientists say, spread rapidly to fill North and South America and were likely the primary ancestors of modern American Indians.
There are multiple problems with this realization:
- First, the party that migrated over the land bridge, did so around 15,000 years ago. This would mean they were arriving over 10,000 years before Adam and Eve were leaving the Garden of Eden near Jackson County Missouri.
- Second, the Book of Mormon clearly states that the purpose of the book is to teach the Lamanites that they are a remnant of the House of Israel. How can we know who the Lamanites are, if they were intermingled with ancient Asians?
- Third, the Book of Mormon never suggests the people integrated with any population NOT from the Middle-East.
In fact we have three distinct groups, the Jaredites who were from the Middle-East at the time of the tower of Babel, the Lehites, who were from Jerusalem around 600 BCE and the Mulekites who were from Jerusalem around 580BCE. Simon Southerton goes into much more detail on this topic, on his website linked here.
Issue #2 Archaeology
The Book of Mormon describes people, places, artifacts, cultures and many aspects of Nephite life. The reality of the objects described is absolute, and therefore the possibility of discovery should be considered real. However, after 185 years of searching, LDS and non-LDS scientists have yet to make a significant discovery of any item in the Book of Mormon. In fact the truth is quite the opposite in the sense of what has been discovered. Michael Coe, an emeritus professor at Yale and a virtual expert on the Maya has provided an excellent summary to John Dehlin at Mormon Stories. After listening to these podcasts, what becomes clear is not just the lack of discoveries for the items mentioned but the lack of detail in the Book of Mormon for what has been discovered.
A simple example is that the Book of Mormon frequently mentions wheat and barley, mentions corn just three times, and never mentions maize, which was the primary crop for the ancient Americans. As were potatoes (not mentioned), tomatoes (not mentioned), wild rice (not mentioned), pumpkins, squash, beans, chocolate, peanuts, cranberries, and quinoa (all of which are not mentioned). In fact, in reading the Book of Mormon, it appears that the Nephites subsisted on a European diet, which miraculously left no archaeological evidence.
The corn mentioned three times, is merely a word that indicates an unspecified grain, and is thus not an indication for the use of Native American crops in the era described by the Book of Mormon.
Other examples of failed archaeological evidence are the locations and proximity described, such as the narrow neck of land, the domesticated animals described, the monetary system, the weapons and armor, the mode of transportation, the list literally goes on and on.
Issue #3 Isaiah
I’ve written about this before, but the topic bears repeating, which is that the history of the book of Isaiah in the Bible has been discovered to be very different than what Nephi apparently understood. It’s almost as if Nephi were using an 1829 understanding of the Bible when he was writing about events in 600BCE. First, the Book of Isaiah was likely written by three or more authors. Additionally the book wasn’t included in the Jewish scriptures until after Babylonian captivity. This presents a problem since Nephi left before said captivity. Wikipedia provides a nice summary of this issue.
Issue #4 Micah, Malachi, Revelation, Matthew
Much of the Book of Mormon quotes biblical verses. Some of these verses have been explicitly called out by the Church, but many have not been. Regardless of whether or not current LDS leaders admit that the Bible is quoted in the Book of Mormon, this issue creates a few concerns when considered seriously. First, let’s look at my favorite example in 3 Nephi 21:12-18. Here is what is in the current LDS version of the Book of Mormon:
14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
16 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
17 Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
Now compare this to Micah 5:8-14 in the King James version of the Holy Bible:
8 ¶And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots:
11 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds:
12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:
13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.
14 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.
First the verses are nearly identical. Second they aren’t admitted by the Church. Third, why is God wasting precious space on golden plates with copies of a Bible that would be widely available in the latter-days? It seems that if the objective was to preserve the most precious information for golden plates, anything that is clearly available in the Bible should be left out. This goes for the quoted verses from Matthew (3 Nephi 12-14), Malachi (3 Nephi 24-25), Revelation (quoted throughout the Book of Mormon) and many other books in the New and Old Testament. Check it all out at www.bookofmormonorigins.org.
Issue #5 World History Up to 1829
The Book of Mormon provides very precise prophecy up until 1829. For example the Book details out the birth year, birth name, and mother’s name of Jesus Christ well before any other prophets were declaring this. In 2 Nephi 25 we see the first mention of Jesus Christ by name in verse 19:
19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The prophesying is especially interesting as done by Nephi in 1 Nephi 13-14 which details out the European migration to the Americas, including Christopher Columbus and others. Nephi is not bashful in sharing details about the Bible, voyages by sea, interactions of “Lamanite descendents”, and the formation of country where religious freedom could exist.
Considering Nephi is providing this detail 600 years before Christ would be born, how hard would it be for him to describe World War 1 or World War 2. Perhaps he could have spent some time describing the internet which would become a great stumbling block to faithful members of the Church. Why does the information seem to be lacking when we consider that we know what happens between 1829 and 2016?
Issue #6 Lots of Plates: Brass and Gold
The Book of Mormon seems to use metal plates for all scriptural records. We have the Brass plates that contained most of the Hebrew Bible, the Gold Plates of the Jaredites, the plates of Nephi, the plates of Lehi, and the final compilation created by Mormon and finished by Moroni.
The creation of metal plates would require some serious craftsmanship. This would need to be taught from father-to-son for a 1000 years in order to survive from Nephi to Mormon. There is just one problem, there is absolutely zero evidence of substantial writing on any form of metal plates much less Gold or Brass. In fact this task is nearly impossible to do effectively while maintaining the legibility of the writing. Brass is extremely hard, and can be used as a weapon for a reason. Gold is really soft, but extremely heavy. I’d recommend learning some basics about the periodic table to understand why. So in both cases, lengthy discourses on these two metals would be incredibly inefficient.
The Reddit user Mithryn put together some very solid evidence to this effect in his ABCs of Science and Exmormonism, read the letters A and B to learn more.
Issue #7 Zelph
Some will suggest that this story doesn’t have enough historical support to be considered legitimate. However, there are 8 historical records that all agree on the core aspects of the story of Zelph. To me that is enough to consider the story serious. In fact, there is more evidence for Zelph than for the First Vision. The story of Zelph can be read on Wikipedia and in Mithryn’s ABCs, so I’ll just focus on why it matters.
The story of Zelph means that at a minimum, Joseph was teaching that the Lamanites existed in North America. He was also teaching that their civilization and communication abilities covered the land from the Rockies to New York. Additionally, Joseph was clearly teaching that the native Americans were all Lamanites. This becomes significant in the context of the DNA and Archaeological evidence mentioned above. Zelph is ultimately a lynch-pin to what Joseph was teaching about the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
Issue #8 Noah’s Flood
To believe in the Book of Mormon, one has to accept the flood as a historical account. The Book of Mormon was translated by the Gift and Power of God, and in some accounts was provided to Joseph word by word. Therefore God was explicitly dictating the Biblical flood in Alma 10:
22 Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction; yet it would not be by flood, as were the people in the days of Noah, but it would be by famine, and by pestilence, and the sword.
The problem with the flood narrative is that it’s fundamentally not true. Based upon the Biblical timeline, the flood would have occurred around 2400BCE. Meanwhile the ancient Chinese and Japanese were busy forming their kingdoms and dynasties. By the time of the flood the native Americans had been creating kingdoms, languages, and cultures for over 12,000 years. The flood seems to have missed Eastern Asia and all of the Americas.
Add to it there is absolutely no geological evidence of a world-wide flood. There is plenty of evidence of the last great ice-age. The Pacific Northwest is littered with evidence of a mini-deluge that occurred as a result of the icecaps melting. However, the pathway of the water is extremely clear and quite fascinating to learn about.
Issue #9 Wine and Alcohol
The Book of Mormon seems to be very familiar with alcohol. It’s almost as if the author had a father who was an alcoholic. We have the story at the beginning where Laban is passed out drunk. We also have the stories where the Nephites trick the Lamanites with exceptionally strong wine so they can pass entire populations through the gates. This happened not just once, but twice (people of Limhi in Mosiah, and during the war chapters). We have Laman and Lemuel who seem to enjoy becoming inebriated. In fact it’s clearly the common drink of the day.
The issue with wine and heavy drunkenness is that it requires distillation. The fermentation process actually causes the alcohol content to be limited without distillation. With limited alcohol levels, the probability of becoming so drunk that you can’t stay awake is extremely unlikely. So were there distillation techniques in the ancient Americas? No.
Issue #10 BH Roberts
Finally, we’re at the smoking gun. BH Roberts, was in the first council of the 70 and was considered the greatest Book of Mormon apologist of his time. If there was ever a challenge to the Book of Mormon, he would be called upon to solve it. It truly was his life’s work. However, he also kept his own personal journal with his thoughts, and things weren’t so clear in his own mind. In his book “Studies of the Book of Mormon” there are some fascinating quotes to consider regarding the Book of Mormon:
There is a certain lack of perspective in the things the (Book of Mormon) relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency. (BH Roberts, A Book of Mormon Study, p. 251 of Studies of the Book of Mormon)
In addition to the striking parallelism in these incidents of antichrists of the book of Mormon, with the strong implication that they have their origin in one mind, I call attention again to the fact of “rawness” in dealing with this question of unbelief, the evidence of “amateurishness” increasingly evident in this story of Korihor. Does it not carry with it the proof that it is the work of a pious youth dealing with the very common place stock arguments clumsily put together for the belief in the existence of God, with an awkward turning from the request for a special miracle, in proof of God’s existence, to the standing miracle of the creation and an orderly universe for that truth, rather than an adult appeal and argument on the great questions involved? And is not the vindication of God and his truth by a vindictive miracle on the person of the ranting blasphemer, rather the dream of a pious boy of what might very well have happened, rather then a matter of actual experience? (BH Roberts, A Book of Mormon Study. From page 271 of Studies of the Book of Mormon)
And now, I doubt not, at the conclusion of this review of the Nephite and Jaredite wars of extinction, some will be led to exclaim – and I will set it down for them – “Is all this sober history inspired written and true, representing things that actually happened? Or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history?” (BH Roberts, A Book of Mormon Study. Page 283 of Studies of the Book of Mormon)
These are all legitimate questions that should be considered seriously.
The Book of Mormon is a powerful book that has led many to believe Joseph Smith as a prophet, seer, and revelator. However, I believe the National Geographic said it best:
It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archaeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World. (F.H.H. Roberts, Jr, Smithsonian Institution, 1951)
Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a book of fables and fiction.