Arguments For and Against the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon
Despite the Book of Mormon being the source of the strongest spiritual awakening of my life, I likely would believe the Book of Mormon to be a non-historical or mythical spiritualist channeling instead of an actual history –were it not for this model and a few of the key evidences offered in this section. I’ve found that the predominate Heartland and limited Mesoamerican models out there seem to conflict with the overall impression, scope and internal model of the book (as I’ve delineated in this article). However, this unique continental geography model overcomes those limiting issues as it essentially matches every major Book of Mormon city and culture with essentially the biggest and most influential archaeological sites, cultures, migrations and societal collapses on the ancient North American continent (in the way the book seems to portray). It also explains many of the cultural anachronisms, 19th century religious overtones, and KJV biblical quotes by comparing the translation process to other forms of spiritual mediumship used in many other American religious works of the 1800’s. (See Oahspe, Urantia Bible, or the other texts featured in our channeled texts section. Also see the Kolbrin and Ixtlilxochitl’s translations of Aztec Codices for amazing analogs to the Book of Mormon translation).
Still though… As a scientist and analytical thinker I continually weigh the arguments for and against Book of Mormon authenticity against each other, in the same way that I weigh the Egyptian chronologies of Menetho or Herodotus against archaeological evidence to determine how much weight to give those supposed historical accounts.
-the arguments concerning animal anachronisms and metal anachronisms aren’t very good in my opinion. They really could go either way. On one hand they seem anachronistic because you might think Joseph “didn’t know” that there weren’t horses or cows or swords in ancient America. On the other hand, many of the supposed anachronism ARE things a 17th century author likely would have known about ancient America, and yet they put them in there anyway–only to be later proven correct (copper, ziff, swords, early transoceanic travel, migration from the pacific coast, etc). Either way, the majority of these can mostly be explained by a loose translation. Overall the anachronism arguments seem to cancel each other out and be a neutral proof–unconvincing either for or against authenticity.
-the idea that the Book was written so fast is proof of its truthfulness is a horrible argument. Many channeled texts which Mormon’s would have issue with, were written with incredible speed. Oahspe (supposedly channeled from light beings in 1850) is a great example. Over 1000 pages channeled in a number of weeks. The Urantia Bible and the writings of other people like Ellen White are other great examples. The Aquarian gospel of Jesus Christ and many other exist as well. People who use this argument are unfamiliar with channeled literature.
Arguments Against Authenticity
-CES letter issues such as word-for-word King James Bible language, and the mistakes in the King James Isaiah being propagated in the Book of Mormon are a pretty solid argument against authenticity— There is little doubt the B.O.M. Isaiah chapters were copied straight from the King James, with only a couple changes made by the “translator as he went”. The chances of these being the originals are slim–if they were originals we would expect significant differences. The Dead Sea Scrolls version of Isaiah contains 2600 textual variants when compared with the Masoretic codex. We would expect at least as many, if not more in the Book of Mormon were it truly a 600BC text. The only viable explanation I can fathom is that the B.O.M. is an incredibly “loose” translation, where Joseph was required to come up with most of the words himself, getting only ideas psychically–with the exception of names and places which had to be spelled out in a very time consuming and difficult channeling process. Thus for simplicity and brevity, the Spiritual channels, passing the information to Joseph pulled the KJV text out of his mind (because Joseph had read it previously, and it existed in his sub-conscious). Note: The channeled work, The Law of One explains in more detail how this channeling works, and tediously “spells out” numbers.
-See Dan Vogel’s stuff on anti-universalism in the B.O.M. The similarity in phraseology to other literature in Joseph’s day, makes it seem an awful lot like a product of his times. At the same time however, is seems unlikely that Joseph would have been reading very much of the theological literature of his day… let alone be able to reproduce it. Could this be evidence of some kind of ‘group consciousness’ aspect of channeling? At any rate, the anti-universalism and Christology do NOT seem like anything that would have existed in an ancient text. Could the Book of Mormon (like many channelings) be a mixture of things in Joseph’s mind, with things in the cultural ‘group mind’ of New England mixed perhaps with a true true history of ancient America? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm7t7pNUWAM (Note the similarities in Oahspe’s channeled account of ancient America, or the Law of One’s channeled accounts of the past, and the Book of Mormons.)
-The New Testament allusions in the Book of Mormon are incredibly suspect. Whether it be Moroni’s sermon on charity in Mor. 7:x, which shares exact phraseology with Paul, or whether it be the shared Pauline phraseology concerning “dead works” and baptism in Moroni 3-6. There is a lot of the New Testament in the Book of Mormon. These references seem to be obviously influenced by someone who had read the New Testament and was brought up in Anglo-Christian culture. And they flow just like the Old Testament allusions. Really what are the chances that was written by chance in 400 AD Mesoamerica? Find something in India or China like that… very unlikely. Frankly, the text reads incredibly like many of the Spanish Codices, where true historical mexican histories and myth are being translated and transcribed into sixteenth century European Christianized language, format & culture. Of course, much of this could be explained with a ‘loose translation’, where original concepts were translated into 19 century biblical wording, phrases and organization.
-Verses that predict the three witnesses, and Anthon translation are crazy suspect. Why would someone in 500 BC prophesy about that? Its so inconsequential and asinine, it just fits the King James reading of Isaiah, why even put it in there? I guess its possible, but seems lamely improbable. These are too improbable that the only redeeming explanation of these is that the entire 116 lost pages section (Ether, 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi) were re-channeled completely different than the original in way that wasn’t even a loose translation, but a modern summary attempting to capture some essence of the original text.
-Also the prophecy in Ether by “Joseph” saying another “Joseph” who is the son of Joseph will restore his words…. totally crazy. Joseph didn’t even prophecy about Christ or David or Moses… and yet he prophesies about Joseph Smith? Not likely. These would have to be transcription injections by Joseph. (see above reasoning)
-Southpark’s ‘dum, da, dum, dum’ bit on why Joseph couldn’t just retranslate the ‘lost 116 pages’ is a really good point. The explanation given in the D&C that others changed these pages and were going to accuse Joseph that they didn’t match makes little sense. The fact that he couldn’t reproduce the same pages is FAR more damning against the “translation’s” legitimacy than any “changed” text that Harris’s wive’s friends could have produced. Why not just retranslate it? A more possible explanation is the opposite of that given in D&C 12. That the Book of Mormon was loosely channeled, and that a second draft would have actually been SO different from the original that those who stole the pages would have accused Joseph of fraud, not because THEY changed things, but because the differences in Joseph’s second draft would have been significant (even if they were substantially similar in concept, but vastly different in wording, order and storyline).
The only believable explanation I can find with these is the idea of a mixed “social memory complex” given in ‘The Law of One’. (Essentially a group-consciousness of spirits or resurrected beings living in higher planes of existence or the shared mental realm of humanity itself). Because there is such notable Anglo-Christian and Mesoamerican influence I could conceive that if a social memory complex existed in the heavens which was composed of both European/Anglo Christians and Mesoamericans (perhaps groups of deceased Mesoamericans who were taught by Spanish Bishops in the period between the Spanish Conquest of Mexico and Joseph Smith), and that if this group had an agenda wanting to publish their records and story and allowed both Joseph’s and their own ideas to be injected into the channeling.
-why didn’t Joseph just show people the actual plates? All the secrecy and the accounts that the 3 & 11 witnesses only saw the plates with an “eye of faith” or “spiritual vision”, is suspect. (although there are conflicting accounts which attest to seeing them too). But given as a whole, it makes me think that even Joseph, also only saw the plates “in vision”. Also the fact that he seems to have purposefully deceived people by using the hat and a “cover” to obscure the plates. Either this is the higher plane group trying to preserve the “free will distortion” spoken of in the Law of One, or there really was deceit going on here, which doesn’t speak well for the BOM’s authenticity. The idea that “God took the plates” after Joseph was done is completely ridiculous. If that was a possibility, then why didn’t god just take them from Moroni? Then he could have given them to anyone, anytime in history afterwards. No need to wait until 1830 in New York; he could have done it in Mexico City in 1620 or Missouri in 1860, and avoided all the persecution and issues which came from Joseph supposedly digging them up only to constantly hide them. I think the Ankalan channeling is a perfect analog. Joseph really believed all his visions were real. But in order to get others to believe him, he constantly stretched the truth and used nebulous language to obscure the difference between visionary experiences and objectively real experiences.
Of course its also possible he wrote the B.O.M. and all his other “revelations” with a few friends from pure imagination. And made up the church and “kingdom” as he went. However, given the Kolbrin, and that Xong Xiuquan “coincidentally” did almost the same thing in China in the same decade, with his “heavenly kingdom” and continental Taiping Rebellion seems even more implausible even with the above issues.
Arguments For Authenticity
-the Book of Mormon’s allusion in the Bible are amazing. Whoever wrote it, knew the bible like a champ. Really in an almost impossible way. Nephi’s allusions to the cities of refuge in Leviticus, as a justification for why it was OK for him to slay Laban are so subtle.. who would have ever thought about that? And that’s just one example of many. Witnesses attest that he recited all the Isaiah and malachi sections in the plates without referencing other sources.
-The mention of “elephants, curloms and cumoms” could be a pro (or neutral) argument to me. Mammoths were written about as early as 1722 by John Bell who explored the Ob River in Russia. Mammoths were first popularly described by German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenback in 1799. And were well known enough that Thomas Jefferson used the world ‘Mammoth’ as an adjective in 1802. But it seems like a stretch that he would have decided to put them in the book as being “especially useful for the food of man”. What are the chances that he knew that they (as well as other extinct megafauna) were a major food staple in the Paleoindian diet, and that their extinction seems to be related to climate change (a dearth) and over hunting? Why did he call them ‘Elephants’ instead of ‘Mammoths?’ Why invent these other crazy words ‘curelom and cumom’ to describe other animals that were ‘especially useful for the food of man’.
-The idea that Nephi sailed across the pacific from the Indian Ocean instead of across the Atlantic like the pilgrims doesn’t fit what you’d expect a New Englander who was making up a novel would write.
-The fact that the arrival of true writing in Mesoamerica with the Zapotec script matches so well with my model for the Nephites is a huge proof. (and that earlier Olmec script is so different). And that it coincides so well with class stratification and and new system of government and stratified priestly ruling system in Monte Alban, with a two columned temple like Solomon’s. Seriously crazy coincidences.
-The general fit of cultures in the Book of Mormon fits crazy well with the Zapotec, Highland Cultures and Mayan. You couldn’t ask for a better fit. The continental collapse of each culture from the Maya to the Toltec to the Anasazi and Mississippian between 700AD & 1400AD is an amazing coincidence. The Book of Mormon’s narrative for these downfalls it far better than the narrative believed by archaeologists currently. Only time will tell if the Carbon Dates could actually be skewed in the way they’d have to be— but I think the evidence sides better with the Book of Mormon (especially with the Anasazi rise and disappearance).
-The River Sidon the the Rio Balsas is an amazing fit… I don’t think Joseph would have been able to imagine anything but New England or Yucatan type rivers (far too large to cross without boats). Yet his descriptions of the River Sidon fit perfectly with the arid, seasonal flow of Balsas as well as it being a major geographical boundary between the Nephite & Lamanite lands.
-If Joseph or some New Englander wrote the Book of Mormon with Mesoamerica in mind, (as the ‘Narrow Neck’ suggests) why didn’t they mention pyramids? Why call them towers? The ‘tower’ and building project of King Noah fits so perfectly with Monte Alban, its uncanny. But why not call them pyramids to better capture the imagination of his readers. He throws in the phrase ‘reformed Egyptian’, (which I think all New Englanders were captivated by the ‘Egyptian-like’ writing of Mesoamerica), why not call the towers what they undoubtedly would have been… pyramids? Why not make the narrow neck fit Panama if that’s what he was envisioning? Why not mention jungles? Or ANYTHING that made the location somewhat obvious. Why not make the land at least SOMEWHAT fit South America or Mexico? But it doesn’t. He would have had access to an accurate map of central and south America, so why does the VERY detailed geography of the Book of Mormon, NOT fit the known topography? This is far more likely of an actual ancient text written by people who had a non-modern distorted view of their own geography (much like herodotus and other legitimate ancient geographers).
-Seems strange for anyone to have the Jaredites come in tight ‘dish-like’ boats and take so much longer than the Lehites and kill of and eat the elephants (mammoths), when all of that strongly contradicts the 1820’s prevailing views. And what are the chances that so much (circumstantial?) evidence of cuneiform would surface in North America? The Chief Joseph Tablet from 1877 and the Georgia (Hearn) Tablet from 1963 made from lead. The Shawnee Creek Stone from Oklahoma also seems to bare a resemblance to middle-eastern culture. https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/where-did-chief-joseph-get-his-mesopotamian-tablet-JuItqhPUYkeYmvcooUO6kA/
-‘Description of Antiquities Discovered in the State of Ohio and other Western States’ by Caleb Atwater, gives an origin story for the native americans somewhat similar to the B.O.M. Alluding to them coming from ‘the tower of babel’ (p. xx). And in another part migrating from ‘Hindustan’ (p. 213) or ‘Tartarary’ (north Asia). James Adair in ‘History of the Indians (1775), also suggests the tower, and later the ’10 tribes’ or explorers sent from David’s kingdom, alluding to the Bering strait (Kamschatska, p. 219/20).
However, Rancesco Clavigero’s ‘History of Mexico’ (1806) give a FAR more modern view talking of how natives could have arrived here by sea or land, but most likely across the ice of the bering strait. He also speaks of elephants & Mammouts. (p. 106) As well as how there were NO horses, asses or bulls in America until Europeans brought them there. see http://olivercowdery.com/texts/bookindx.htm
OUTLINE OF GREAT CORRELATIONS IN ORDER
-Having barge-like boats (no sails) get the Jaredites to N.America instead of just walking across the Bering Strait was a bold and amazing call. He wouldn’t have known about the lack of an ‘ice free corridor’ debate that rages today. And I would suspect a boat voyage from Asia across the bering strait (which was a view of his day) would be incredibly short… so why did Joseph have them travel twice as long as the Nephites in crazy type raft-boats?
-Jaredites hunting mammoths to extinction is another great call. I’ve seen no evidence of this information being known in 1830
-The story of Omer and the Bull Brook Complex is an amazing fit! (what are the chances?)
-Having a lone Jaredite outpost by the narrow neck with architecture (mounds) like the north American heartland is an amazing fit with the Adena vs Olmec.
-Having the Nephites travel across Arabia, and then traverse the pacific the way they did seems very unintuitive for someone in 1830. did he have ANY clue of the south pacific islands that could be hopped?
-Nahom is a pretty fair match or ‘coincidence’. Just having the name be the same is a big deal, because Nahom is NOT in the bible. (but Nahum is). Likewise with the newly publicized Beit Lehi (cave in Israel). Lehi also isn’t a name in the Bible, its only a place mentioned only once in connection with David. So to find it as a common name all the way into the Greek period is a great evidence that Joseph picked a name very likely to have been in use. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDqIfI1Fwcg
–The match between some of the earliest writing in Monte Alban, and the City of Nephi is amazing. And really the correlation with pyramids and hieroglyphic writing in general is a pretty obvious match. Its kind of mind blowing that this similarity is so universally dismissed by academics. (even the Javan pyramid makes a great match with the story)
-The match with ___’s work in San Jose Migote with the new religion, and two room temple ‘men’s house’ and its introduction of complex social structure is an amazing fit.
-The match between Monte Alban and its ‘tower’, 2 room temple, alter and prison with BOM stories of the same is amazing. How could you ASK for better matches?
-The distinct Olmecean culture of Zarahemla and its correlation to the Kolbrin egyptian stories might be one of the biggest matches of all! (you need to write about this!) Included in that is how all the creation stories have them coming from the north! Near Sanora, just like the BOM says of the mulekites.
-The match of Captain Moroni’s line of defensive cities with the Miztec and East Coast cities is also a good match. I can’t really find ANY OTHER MODEL with a geographic match of those defensive lines!
-The story of the great gathering under Lachoneus (3 Ne 3) to defend against the Gadianton Robbers matching with the creation of Teotihuacan is so fantastic, that if it isn’t true… its better than the truth.
-The volcanism in the Mexican Highland and its proximity to the Nephite capital is also better than any other model.
-The Nephite destruction matching with the fall of every major empire in North America is a fantastic match.. once again, if it isn’t the truth… it makes a better story than whatever the truth is.
-Also the narrative of Racism built into the BOM of POGP, as an explanation of so little DNA is pretty believable. (utterly destroyed)
-The match of the gathering at desolation and the ‘Chacoan phenomena’ is fantastic, especially in its match to _____’s stories of migrating Toltecs going all the way to Cahokia.
CONCLUSION AND FINAL THOUGHTS
-In my opinion, because of these issues, if one is to have faith in any sort of divinity concerning the text, you’ve got to see it as a ‘channeled text’ instead of a revealed or translated text. It needs to go in the same genre as other channeled texts like Oahspe, Urantia, D&C, or A Course in Miracles. Joseph channeled it through his own mind or subconscious from some unknown source. He saw the ‘plates’ in vision just like the author of The Aklatan did. (see Did the Eleven Witnesses Actually See the Gold Plates?) He continually stretched the truth and led people to believe that his visions or both the plates and god were objective experiences, because he wanted people to believe them (as he thoroughly believed them). But like those other channeled texts, it has so many great truths that one could be justified as building a faith around the idea of there being divinity in the book (like the Bible, Koran, writings of Ellen White, or other religious texts with form a basis for a faith community). It seems entirely possible that it actually depicts a true history of certain regions of prehistoric North America. But one must also accept it’s major issues and come to terms with the possibility that it is not a historical translation of an ancient text. I could see some ancient native religious/military leader converting to Western Christianity in the Spirit World and then working through Joseph’s subconscious to create something that put ancient religious ideas into 17th century Christian religious terms—in addition to adding a bunch of sermons on 17th century contemporary issues.. More likely Joseph (likely with Spirit being helpers, pulled ancient American historical events and concepts out of the ‘Akashic records‘ and mixed it with sermons answering contemporary Christian theological problems. It could certainly be largely true. But certainly not as a translated ancient text without substantial addition and translation of ancient concepts into modern language, culture and ideology.