I was seriously tempted to call this segment, “All the Viable Evidence for Book of Mormon Archeology,” then leave the rest blank. I guess that’s my sarcastic side rearing its ugly head. Since we are trying to maintain a higher level of scholarship and integrity than were are humor... we will actually take an honest look at the issue. Keeping in mind, most Mormons will not accept the evidence unless it comes from one of their own, so that is exactly what we will do.
We will be soliciting the conclusions of three of the most qualified LDS members in their fields of study. Firstly, we will examine the conclusions of official LDS historian and apologist, B. H. Roberts. Next, Thomas Stuart Ferguson, the founder of the Archeology Department at the LDS Brigham Young University (BYU). Lastly, we will look at the extensive research of Thomas W. Murphy. Murphy is Chair, Department of Anthropology at Edmonds Community College (EdCC) in Lynnwood, WA.
If you are LDS, please keep in mind, these three men are not “anti-mormon” researchers, they are extremely well known, and well respected, within your church.
In case you are totally unfamilar with the Book of Mormon, it is an account of the American indians, supposedly written by several Hebrew prophets and scholars. This historical record was claimed to have been preserved upon gold plates (written in “Reformed Egytian”) whose whereabouts was revealed to a young man by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr., in upstate New York, in the ealy 1800’s by an “angel” named Moroni. The theme of the Book of Mormon is that the American Indians are of Hebrew ancestory, and that Jesus Christ, Himself, came to America (after the ressurection) and preached the Gospel to them. The two main tribes were the righteous Nephites (who had white skin) and the evil Lamanites (who used to be white, but because of their iniquity, the LDS God cursed them with a skin of blackness - II Nephi 5:21). By the time the Pilgrims arrived, the evil Lamanites had killed off all of the righteous Nephites, thereby leaving only the evil dark skinned Indians.
With this as the background, we will solicite the thoroughly researched conclusions of these three Mormon scholars, about the afore mentioned archeological and historical claims of the book of Mormon.
In order to visually organize this HUGE file, our comments will be in navy blue.
B.H. Roberts' " of "A Book of Mormon Study" will be in maroon, and his comparison of the Book of Mormon with Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews" will be in bright blue.
The report on Thomas Stuart Ferguson will be in purple.
And Thomas W. Murphy's report will be in teal.
Brigham Henry Roberts
B. H. Roberts (1869-1965)
Brigham H. Roberts was a facinating man with a keen intellect and a fervant hunger for spiritual truth. He has also been the LDS Church's most staunch defender and most prolific writer to date. He is the author and editor of the exhaustive seven volume “History of the Church,” along with scores of other theological and doctrinal books on a multitue of issues of spiritual importance. His writings are still referred to regularly in LDS apologetic materials to this day. This is rather unfortunate (disingenuous?), because in his later days, B.H. Roberts had a crisis of faith. The “crisis” being at the intersection of his deeply held religious beliefs, and the increasing amount of evidence that militated against his faith. In the end, his hunger for truth won out, and he finally admitted that there simply was no evidence to back up the claims of Joseph Smith, regarding the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. In a last ditch effort to rescue some remnant of his faith, he went to the leaders of the LDS church and asked for divine guidance to assertain the answers that he so earnesty desired. Unfortunately, the LDS Prophet and Apostles didn’t have a clue. Not only did they not have any answers, most didn’t even understand the questions, thus the afore mentioned “crisis” grew more grave. His conclusions were obvious: “If the Prophet and Apostles don’t know the answers, then maybe it is because the answers don’t exist. If the very men who claim to be God’s sole representatives on Earth don’t have answers, then they, too, must be as natural and fallible as Joseph Smith and all of his writings, including the Book of Mormon.”
To document his conclusions, we will be examining two of his most troubling writings:
(1) “A Book of Mormon Study” (2) “A Parallel”
When we say “two of his most troubling writings,” we are referring to two of his writings that most reflect his troubled heart and his sincere struggle to reconcile his faith... with the irrefutable facts. Many LDS accuse Roberts of loosing faith because he became a “sign seeker.” But I must ask, “If Roberts was a ‘sign seeker,’ what does that make your church?” The LDS church spends mutiple millions of dollars every year, seeking signs (evidence) to back up the claims of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Not only do they have an Archeology Department at the official LDS university (BYU), they have even started an apologetics division for all things Mormon called F.A.R.M.S. (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies). Every single member of these BYU departments are responsible for “seeking signs.”
(1) “A Book of Mormon Study”
In 1922, B. H. Roberts wrote a manuscript of 284 typed pages entitled, "A Book of Mormon Study." The manuscript was never published and remained in the family after his death.
In Part I, Chapter 14, of his study B. H. Roberts summarized:
"...was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters--from such common knowledge as was extant in the communities where he lived in his boyhood and young manhood; from the Bible, and more especially from the 'View of the Hebrews', by Ethan Smith? That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question.... "A superabundance of evidence of Joseph Smith's power of imagination exists outside of the Book of Mormon. If the Book of Mormon be regarded as of merely human origin, then, of course, to those so regarding it, the rest of Joseph Smith's work falls to the same plane.... "In the light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are to be found in the 'common knowledge' of accepted American Antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews', would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is."
In Part II, Chapter 1, of B. H. Roberts' manuscript "A Book of Mormon Study," we find this surprising observation:
"If from all that has gone before in part I, the view be taken that the Book of Mormon is merely of human origin; that a person of Joseph Smith's limitations in experience and in education; who was of the vicinage and of the period that produced the book--if it be assumed that he is the author of it, then it could be said that there is much internal evidence in the book itself to sustain such a view. "In the first place there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book 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."
Keep in mind, these are the words of B. H. Roberts, the greatest historian and apologist the LDS Church has ever known.
The following is found in Part II, Chapter 2, of Roberts' manuscript: "The same lack of perspective and of consistency is also manifest in the early movements of both Jaredite and Nephite colonies after arriving 'to the promised land'. Also the same tendency to parallel incidents and characteristics as we have noted in the formation of the two colonies, and the incidents of their wilderness journey and sea voyage. It may be asked, what of this parallelism? What does it amount to? If such a question should be asked the opponent of the Book of Mormon would answer with emphasis--'This of it. It supplies the evidence that the Book of Mormon is the product of one mind, and that, a very limited mind, unconsciously reproducing with only slight variation its visions'. And the answer will be accepted as significant at least, if not conclusive."
In Part II, Chapter 3, Roberts writes: "There were other anti-Christs among the Nephites, but they were more military leaders than religious innovators, yet much of the same character in spirit with these dissenters here passed in review; but I shall hold that what is here presented illustrates sufficiently the matter taken in hand by referring to them, namely that they are all of one breed and brand; so nearly alike that one mind is the author of them, and that a young and undeveloped, but piously inclined mind. The evidence, I sorrowfully submit, points some will contend to Joseph Smith as their creator. It is difficult to believe that they are the product of history, that they come upon the scene separated by long periods of time, and among a race which was the ancestral race of the red man of America."
In the next chapter Roberts states, "The allusions here to absurdities of expressions and incidents in the Book of Mormon, are not made for the purpose of ridiculing the book, or casting any aspersions upon it; but they are made to indicate what may be fairly regarded as just objects of criticism under the assumption that the Book of Mormon is of human origin, and that Joseph Smith is its author. For these absurdities in expression; these miraculous incidents in warfare; these almost mock--and certainly extravagant--heroics;...are certainly just such absurdities and lapses as would be looked for if a person of such limitations as bounded Joseph Smith undertook to put forth a book dealing with the history and civilization of ancient and unknown peoples."
“A number of years ago in my treaties on the Book of Mormon under the general title 'A New Witness for God,.' I discussed the subject 'Did the Book of Mormon antedate works in English on American antiquities, accessible to Joseph Smith and his associates.'...it was insisted upon that books sufficient for a ground plan of the Book of Mormon, and accessible to Joseph Smith, did not exist.... "The writer at the time being considered did not take sufficiently into account the work of Josiah Priest's...Priest himself, indeed, published a book...'The Wonders of Nature and Providence,' copyrighted by him June 2nd, 1824, and printed soon afterwards in Rochester, New York, only some twenty miles distant from Palmyra, near which place the Smith family then began to reside. It will be observed that this book preceded the publication of the Book of Mormon by about six years. At the time I made for my 'New Witnesses' the survey of the literature on American Antiquities, traditions, origins, etc., available to Joseph Smith and his associates, this work of Priest's was unknown to me; as was also the work by Ethan Smith, 'View of the Hebrews'--except by report of it, and as being in my hands but a few minutes.
"In this book 'The wonders of Nature and Providence',...Mr. Priest begins to argue at length that the Indians may be descendant of the Israelites....he quotes in all about forty writers,...who advocated in one way or another, that the American Indians are Israelites....it is altogether probable that these two books, Priest's 'Wonders of Nature and Providence', 1824; and Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews'...were either possessed by Joseph Smith or certainly known by him, for they were surely available to him, and of course, with all the collection of quoted matter...some forty or fifty earlier authors in all being quoted....
"Moreover, on subjects widely discussed,...there is built up in course of years, a community knowledge of such subjects, usually referred to as 'matters of common knowledge'...Such 'common' knowledge existed throughout New England and New York...the prevailing ideas respecting the American Indians throughout the regions named, were favorable to the notion that they were of Hebrew origin,...And with the existence of such a body of knowledge, or that which was accepted as 'knowledge', and a person of vivid and constructive imaginative power in contact with it, there is little room for doubt but that it might be possible for Joseph Smith to construct 'a theory of origin for his Book of Mormon, in harmony with these prevailing notions; and more especially since this common knowledge' is set forth in almost hand-book form in the little work of Ethan Smith,...It will appear in what is to follow that such 'common knowledge' did exist in New England; that Joseph Smith was in contact with it; that one book, at least, with which he was most likely acquainted, could well have furnished structural outlines for the Book of Mormon; and that Joseph Smith was possessed of such creative imaginative powers as would make it quite within the lines of possibility that the Book of Mormon could have been produced in that way." ("A Book of Mormon Study," Part I, Chapter 1)
In Part I, Chapter 7, of the same manuscript Roberts asks: "Could an investigator of the Book of Mormon be much blamed if he were to decide that Ethan Smith's book with its suggestion as to the division of his Israelites into two peoples; with its suggestion of 'tremendous wars' between them; and of the savages overcoming the civilized division--led to the fashioning of these same chief things in the Book of Mormon?"
Roberts comments in Part I, Chapter 13: "As to the first consideration, in this case, priority of production of Ethan Smith's book, and priority of sufficient duration for it to become generally known in the vicinity where both books were produced--there is absolute certainty. For Ethan Smith's book ran through two editions in New England before the Book of Mormon was published. As to the second consideration, in this case, the likelihood of Joseph Smith coming in contact with Ethan Smith's book is not only very great, but amounts to a very close certainty. For being published in an adjoining county to the one in which their home had been for so long, and the interest in the subject being very general, not only in New England but in New York also, it would be little short of miraculous if they did not know of Ethan Smith's book."
Later in the same chapter, Roberts made these observations: "But now to return from this momentary divergence to the main theme of this writing--viz, did Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews' furnish structural material for Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or a half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them, that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith's story of the Book of Mormon's origin... "The material in Ethan Smith's book is of a character and quantity to make a ground plan for the Book of Mormon:... "Can such numerous and startling points of resemblance and suggestive contact, be merely coincidence?."
(2) “A Parallel”
This next segment is so large that it really deserves its own website! As B. H. Roberts explained to Richard R. Lyman in his letter of October 24, 1927, he was sending Lyman a "Parallel between some main outline facts pertaining to the Book of Mormon and matter that was published in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews," but which was "not one fourth part of what can be presented in this form." But it was this abbreviated version of his longer "A Book of Mormon Study" that became known to a small circle of interested Mormons during the late 1920s and the 1930s until his son, Ben E. Roberts, decided to distribute copies during a dinner address at the Timpanogos Club in 1946. Because it became so well known and the subject of analysis by both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars, it is being produced here as it appears in the typescript copy in the B. H. Roberts Papers in the Marriott Library.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (1) Place: Sharon, Windsor Co., Vermont: And Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) County, New York.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (1) Place: Poultney, Rutland Co. Vermont (adjoining county on the west from Windsor County, Vermont, where Smith family lived).
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (2) Title: "Book of Mormon," by the hand of Mormon," ascribing Origin of American Indians to certain Tribes of the Hebrews. Translated by Joseph Smith.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (2) Title: "View of the Hebrews" or "The Tribes of Israel in America" written by Ethan Smith, Minister.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (3) Revealed Existence of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith September 22, 1823.
Gold Plates of Book of Mormon given into custody of Joseph Smith for translation, September 22, 1827.
Book of Mormon published the latter part of March, 1830. "To the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ." (Preface Title page)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (3) "View of the Hebrews" published (1st Ed.) 1823.
Second Edition published 1825; considerably enlarged by quotations from Baron Humbolt's "New Spain" (Black's translation) American Edition, 1811. Copious quotations on ruined cities of America, Temples, and the story of Quetzalcoatl -- Reminiscent of Moses "as a type of the Christ."
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (4) Origin of Am Indians It is often represented by Mormon speakers and writers, that the Book of Mormon was the first to represent the American Indians as descendants of the Hebrews: holding that the Book of Mormon is unique in this. The claim is sometimes still ignorantly made.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (4) Origin of Am Indians In his index to the "View of the Hebrews"? (p. 10) Mr. Ethan Smith informs us that from page 114 to page 225 (111 pages) will be devoted "to promiscuous testimonies:" to the main fact for which his book stands, viz. the Hebrew origin of the American Indians. He brings together a very long list of writers and published books to show that this view very generally obtained throughout New England. One hundred and eleven pages devoted to evidence alone of the fact of such Hebrew origin gives space for much proof. Referring to Adair's testimonies on the subject, the "View of the Hebrews" lists twenty-three arguments to prove such origin. (pp. 147-8)
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (5) The Hidden Book Revealed: On finding of the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith states that the Angel Moroni said that there was a book deposited written upon gold plates giving an account of the former Inhabitants of this continent and the source whence they sprang- - -Convenient to the village of Manchester- - -stands a hill of considerable size- - -On the west side of the hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side and thinner toward the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth. Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up.*- - -The box in which they (the plates) lay, was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were hid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.- - -I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates. (P.G.P. 89, 93)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (5) The Lost Book: Dr. West of Stockbridge gave the following information: "An old Indian informed him that his fathers in this country had not long since had a book which they had for a long time preserved. But having lost the knowledge of reading it, they concluded it would be of no further use to them; and they buried it with an Indian chief." It was spoken of "as a matter of fact." (View of the Hebrews p. 223)
"Some readers have said: If the Indians are of the Tribes of Israel, some decisive evidence of that fact will ere long be exhibited. This may be the case. Would evidence like the following be deemed as verging toward what would be satisfactory? Suppose a leading character in Israel - where ever they are-should be found to have in his possession some Biblical fragment of ancient Hebrew writing. This man dies and it is buried with him in such manner as to be long preserved. Some people afterwards removing that earth, discover this fragment, and ascertain that it is an article of ancient Israel. Would such an incident -be esteemed of weight! Something like this may probably have occurred in favor of our Indians being of Israel." (p. 217)
Finding the Pittsfield Parchment: (Hebrew). Mr. Merrick gave the following account: That in 1815, he was leveling some ground under and near an old wood-shed standing on a place of his, situated on Indian Hill (a place in Pittsfield so called, and lying, as the writer was afterwards informed, at some distance from the middle of the town where Mr. Merrick is now living)- - -he plowed and conveyed away old chips and earth. After the work was done he discovered near where the earth had been dug the deepest a kind of black strap about six inches in length- - -He found it was formed of pieces of thick raw hide- - -and in the fold it contained four folded leaves of old parchment. These leaves were of a dark yellow (suggesting gold color!) and contained some kind of writing. (they turned out to be Bible quotations) They were written in Hebrew with a pen, in plain and intelligible writing.
(Query: Could all this have supplied structural work for the Book of Mormon?)
Has your attention ever been called to at least one striking passage in the Solomon Spaulding Book as published by our Church, which suggests something of a parallel. The description given above of this stone box as found by our Prophet, it is given by Spaulding in connection with his finding the manuscript of his book and is as follows:
"As I was walking and forming various conjectures respecting the character, situation, and numbers of those people who far exceeded the present race of Indians in works of art and ingenuity, I happened to tread on a Bat stone. This was at a small distance from the fort: and it lay on the top of a small mound of earth exactly horizontal, the face of it had a singular appearance. I discovered a number of characters which appeared to me to be letters--but so much effaced by the ravages of time, that I could not read the inscription. With the assistance of a lever I raised the stone, but you may easily conjecture my astonishment when I discovered that its ends and sides rested on stones and that it was designed as a cover to an artificial cave. I found on examining that its sides were lined with- - -build in a conical form with- - -down- -and that it was about eight feet deep.
This opening led to the cave. "within the cavity I found an earthen box with a cover which shut it perfectly tight--the box was two feet in length, one & half in breadth and one and three inches in diameter.- - - -When I had removed the cover I found that it contained twenty-eight sheets of parchment and that when- - -appeared to be manuscripts written in anelegant hand with Roman letters and in the Latin language. (Mss. Found p 1-2)
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (6) Inspired Seers and Prophets: Ammon to King Limhi of the Jaredite records: "I can assuredly tell thee O King, of a man that can translate the records; for he hath that wherein he can look, and translate all records;- - -and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded.- - -And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called SEER."
"And the King said that a Seer is greater than a Prophet. And Ammon said that a Seer is a Revelator and a Prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have except he possess this the Power of God which no man can,- - -But a Seer can know of things which have past and also of things that which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed:' (Mosiah Ch. 9)
"And now Urim and Thummim he [Mosiah] translated them [the records of the Jaredites] by the means of the two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow. Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages- - -And whosoever has these things is called SEER after the manner of Old Times (Mosiah ch. 28)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (6) Inspired Prophets -- Spirit Gifts. "The Indian tradition says, that their fathers were possessed of an extraordinary divine spirit, by which they foretold things future, and controlled the common course of nature: and this they transmitted to their offspring provided they obeyed the sacred laws annexed to it."
"Ishtoallo (Mr. Adair says of those Indians) is the name of their priestly order: And their pontifical office descends by inheritance to the Eldest."
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (7) Urim & Thummim & Breast Plate: "I looked in and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the Breast Plate as stated by the messenger (i.e. Moroni) P. of G.P. 53.
"With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called "Urim & Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in the brim of a bow fastened to a breast plate.
Through the medium of the Urim and Thummin I translated the record by the gift and power of God." (Wentworth Letter, History of the Church, Vol. 4, p. 537)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (7) Urim & Thummim & Breast Plate: "The Indian Archimagus (the High Priest) officiates in making the supposed holy fire for the yearly atonement for sin, the Sagan (Waiter upon the High Priest) clothes him with a white Ephod, which is a waist-coast without sleeves. In resemblance of the Urim and Thummim, the American Archimagus wears a breast plate made of a white conch shell, with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buckhorn white button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim (View of the Hebrews p. 150).
The dress of the High Priest of the Osage Indians: "His cap was very high.- - -His robe was a buffalo skin decorated with various colored feathers.- - -And he wore on his breast suspended from his neck a dressed beaver skin stretched on sticks, on which were painted various hieroglyphic figures in different colors. The Indians speak of similar characters being among other tribes. Here as in Mr. Adair's account is their High Priest and breast plate." (View of the Hebrews p.166)- - -"The official dress of their High Priest, and his resemblance of the breast plate and other things," The "View of the Hebrews" urges as evidence of Hebrews origin. (p. 167)
Describing a buried chieftain in one of the Ohio Mounds:
"On the breast lay a piece of copper; also a curious stone five inches in length, two in breadth, with two perforations through it. Containing a string of sinews of some animal. On this string were many beads of ivory, or bone. The whole appeared to have been designed to wear upon the neck as a kind of breastplate. (View of the Hebrews p. 195)
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (8) Characters in Which Book of Mormon was Engraved on Gold Plates: "These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of Gold- - -they were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole.- - -The characters on the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving." (Jos. Smith Wentworth Letter, Church History Vol. 4 p. 537) The first Nephi speaking of the record he was making of events of his times says: "Yea, I make a record in the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make is true; And I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge." (6th Cent. B.C. I Nephi, ch. 1)
This strange manner of making record continued through the whole Nephite period: for Mormon in the 4th Century A.D. says: And now behold we have written this record [meaning the whole abridgment of the Book of Mormon] according to our knowledge in the characters, which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us according to our manner of speech.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (8) Evidence of Mexican Indians anciently in contact with "Egyptian Hieroglyphics:" (View of the Hebrews on Authority of Humbolt) "On the northwest coast between Nootka and Cook river- -the natives display a decided taste for hieroglyphical paintings - - -A harp (says Humbolt) represented in the hieroglyphical paintings of the northwest coast of America, is an object at least as remarkable, as the famous harp on the tombs of the kings of Thebes." Humbolt is cited as giving it as his opinion "that these more improved tribes in New Mexico came from the north west coast and left some of their half civilized brethren there. Among the hieroglyphical paintings of the latter, it seems, the harp was found. Was not this a noted Israelitish musical instrument! How should the American Indians be led to paint the Jewish harp! The Jews in Babylon "hung their harps upon willows." And it is as natural an event that their brethren, in the wilds of America should place them in their silent hieroglyphical paintings. Whence could have been derived the knowledge of the accurate hieroglyphical paintings, which this most learned author (meaning Humbolt) exhibits as found among some of the Indians unless they had learned them from people to whom the knowledge of hieroglyphics had been transmitted from Egypt, its original source." (View of the Hebrews pp 184-5)
Was this sufficient to suggest the strange manner of writing the Book of Mormon in the "learning of the Jews, and the language of the Egyptian? But in an altered Egyptian.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (9) Accounting for two classes of people in America, one barbarous the other civilized: The descendants of Lehi, sometime after his death were divided by the withdrawal of the younger son I Nephi, and those he persuaded to follow him, from the elder sons of Lehi, Laman and Lemuel and their sympathizers, and this was the beginning of the establishment of civilized and barbarous peoples in America. Nephi describes both.
Of those who went with him he said:
"We did observe to keep the judgments and the statutes and the commandments of the Lord in all things according to the law of Moses. And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; and we did sow seed and we did reap again in abundance and we began to raise flocks and herds and animals of every kind- - -And I did teach my people to build buildings and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores which were in great abundance." "And I Nephi did build a temple and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon safe it were not build of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land. Wherefore, it could not be build like unto Solomon's temple, but the manner of the construction was like unto the Temple of Solomon and the workmanship thereof was exceeding fine. And it came to pass that I Nephi did cause my people to be industrious and to labor with their hands" (and Nephi became their king) (II Nephi 5:6-18) In relation to the other part of the Colony from whom Nephi and his following had withdrawn, called henceforth Lamanites, this is recorded of the same period. He [God] had caused the cursing to come upon them. Yea, even a sore cursing because of their iniquity, for behold they had hardened their hearts against Him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore as they were white and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them and thus said the Lord God: I shall cause that they shall be loathsome to thy people safe they shall repent of their iniquity- - -And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people full of mischief and subtility and did seek in the wildemess for beasts of prey." II Nephi 5:20-24. This occurred thirty years after the Colony of Lehi left Jerusalem.
The Nephites are again described two hundred years later as follows: "We, [Nephites] multiplied exceedingly and spread upon the face of the land and became exceeding rich in gold and in silver and in precious things and in the workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery and also in iron, and copper, and brass, and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground and weapons of war--yea, the sharp-pointed arrow and the quiver and dart and the javolin and all preparations for war." Of the Lamanites of this period this same writer Uarom) says that the Lamanites were "scattered upon much of the face of the land:' "And they were exceeding more numerous than were they of the Nephites and they loved murder and did drink the blood of beasts. And it came to pass that they came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle. But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord.- - -wherefore we withstood the Lamanites and swept them away of our land and began to fortify our cities or whatsoever place of our inheritance. Uarom 1:5-8) Three hundred years later, the following is the description of this savage division of the people in America: They are spoken of as a wild and a hardened and a iealous people: A people who delighted in murdering the Nephites [the civilized branch of America's population] and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches or upon gold and silver or precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering that they might not labor for them with their own hands, and thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols and the curse of God had fallen upon them because of the traditions of their fathers:" (Alma 17:14-15)This parallel between these two peoples continues until finally about 400 A.D. the Lamanites entirely destroyed the Nephites at Cumorah, where dreadful battles were fought, where no quarter was asked or given between the parties. Description of the final battles are given where armies perished in groups of tens of thousands. (Mormon, Chapter 6)--Mormon was the leader of the Nephite division.
The complete destruction of the Nephites is witnessed by Moroni, son of above Mormon. A few Nephites had escaped from Cumorah and of these Moroni said:
"Now it came to pass that after the great tremendeous battles of Cumorah behold the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites until they were all destroyed." (Moroni 8:2) He alone was left of his people. It will be remembered that the same thing happend in the destruction of the Jaredite nation which preceded the Nephite and Lamanite occupation of the land, annihilation to the very last man.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (9) Accounting for an Overthrown Civilization in America as witnessed by the Ruined Monuments of it; and the existence of barbarous peoples occupying America at the advent of Europeans: Mr. Ethan Smith found opposition to his views growing out of the supposition that if the American Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, then they would have been a civilized rather than a barbarous people when discovered. Of this he says: "Some have felt a difficulty arising against the Indians being the ten tribes from their ignorance of the mechanic arts of writing and of navigation. Ancient Israel knew something of these, and some imagin, that these arts being once known could never be lost. But no objection is hence furnished against our scheme. The knowledge of mechanic arts possessed in early times has been lost by many nations.- - -And Israel, in an outcast state, might as well have lost it. It seems a fact that Israel have lost it, let them be who or where they may, otherwise they must have been known in the civilized world. But the people who migrated to this western world did possess some knowledge of the mechanic arts (as much doubtless, as was possessed by Israel when they disappeared in the East) appears from incontestable facts which are furnished in Baron Humbolt's "New Spain" and the "American Archeology" such as the finding of brick, earthenware, sculptures, some implements of iron, as well as other metals and other tokens of considerable improvements which furnishes an argument in favor of the Indians having descended from the ten tribes.- - "The probability then is this; that the ten tribes arriving in this continent with some knowledge of the arts of civilized life, finding themselves in the vast wilderness filled with the best of game inviting them to the chase, most of them fell into a wandering idle hunting life. Different clans parted from each other, lost each other, and formed the separate tribes. Most of them formed a habit of this idle form of living and were pleased with it. More sensible parts of this people associated together to improve their knowledge of the arts and probably continued thus for ages. From these the noted relies of civilization discovered in the west and south were furnished. But the savage tribes prevailed; and in process of time their savage jealousies and rage annihilated their more civilized brethren. And thus as a wholly vindictive providence would have it, and according to ancient denunciations all were left in an 'outcast' state. This accounts for their loss of their knowledge of letters, of the art of navigation and of the use of iron, and such a loss can no more operate against their being the ten tribes, then against their being of any other origin. It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel after they settled in America became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries, that tremendeous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren until the former became extinct. (!) This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures as well as tokens of a good degree of civil government which are manifestly very ancient and for centuries before Columbus discovered America. These partially civilized people became extinct and what account can be given of this, but that the savages extripated them after long and dismal wars? And nothing appears more probable than that they were the better part of the Israelites who came to this continent who for a long time retained their knowledge of the mechanic and civil arts, while the greater part of their brethren became savage and wild." Then he adds this in conclusion of the theme: "But however vindictive the savages must have been;--however cruel and horrid in extripating their own civilized brethren, yet it is a fact that there are many excellent traits in their original character. (View of the Hebrews pp 171-173)
Let it be remembered that the work from which the above is quoted existed from three to five years before the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the two editions of the work flooded the New England states and New York.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (10) Jerusalem: The destruction of Jerusalem pending and actual features largely and early in the Book of Mormon. Although Lehi and his colony left Jerusalem some years before its destruction, yet by vision to this Prophet its destruction was made known.
"Behold," said he, "I have seen a vision in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed, and had we remained in Jerusalem, we should have perished. (II Nephi 1:4) The same is repeated in II Nephi 6:8. It is a subject frequently referred to from pp 1-50.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (10) ]erusalem: In the "View of the Hebrews" the whole of chapter I, pages 1346 is devoted to the destruction of Jerusalem, the historical account of it.
Would this treatise of the destruction of Jerusalem suggest the theme to the Book of Mormon author is the legitimate query. Since the "View of the Hebrews" was published eight to five years before the Book of Mormon.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (11) Israel: The Book of Mormon has many references to both the scattering and the gathering of Israel in the last days. These references occurr more abundantly in the forepart of the Book of Mormon, especially in First Nephi, chapter 19, 20, 21, and Second Nephi, chapter 25.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (11) Israel: The "View of the Hebrews" has many references to both the scattering and gathering of Israel "in the last days." The second chapter of the "View of the Hebrews" is entitled "The certain Restoration ofludah and Israel," and in this section is quoted nearly all the references to Isaiah that are referred to but quoted more full in the Book of Mormon.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (12) Isaiah: Lehi's Colony brought with them from Jerusalem the Old Testament, (the whole Bible) down to the days of Jeremiah--about 600 BC; yet about the only books extensively quoted before the coming of Christ to America is Isaiah! Jacob, brother of First Nephi, quotes nearly all of 49, 50, and 5lst chapters; and Nephi quotes about thirteen full chapters from Isaiah (see "Synopsis of chapters" in current editions of B. of M. p 524)
The Hebrew records possessed by the Nephites on brass plates are spoken of as containing more matter more than the Old Testament had among the Gentiles (I Nephi 13-20-23) Then why are quotations and references to this great and rich Hebrew literature confined practically to Isaiah alone! (see opposite column)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (12) Isaiah: Ethan Smith's "View" quotes copiously and chiefly from Isaiah in relation to the scattering and gathering of Israel. In this second chapter on "the Certain Restoration of Israel" he quotes from six different chapters in Isaiah. In his fourth chapter and in the few pages he devotes to a "Conclusion" he returns to the subject of the "restoration of Israel," and here he quotes from twenty chapters of Isaiah! He quotes Isaiah 18th chapter complete, but verse by verse with comment, and makes of it an "Address" of Isaiah to the U.S. to save Israel.
Query: Did the Author of the Book of Mormon follow too closely the course of Ethan Smith in this use of Isaiah would be a legitimate query. The "View of the Hebrews" was published eight to five years before the Book of Mormon.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (13) A great Gentile Nation to be raised up in America, the promised land to save Israel in America, in the last days. "Following is the vision of Nephi on the founding of a great Gentile nation in the land of Promise, America: "Thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands (America) which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy Father (Lehi) that is said he should have for the land of his inheritance; - - -thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed which are among thy brethren, neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren. - - -I will be merciful unto the Gentiles under the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment. I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day insomuch that I will bring forth unto them in mine own power much of my Gospel, which shall be plain and precious saith the Lamb." I Nephi 13:30-34--I Nephi 21st chapter, the Prophet Nephi quotes the whole of Isaiah which relates largely to the building up and establishment of Israel in the last days. And then in chapter 22, Nephi is questioned by his brethren as to whether the prophecies of the 49th chapter of Isaiah which he has read are to be taken literally or are they spiritual or is a spiritual interpretation to be had of them. Nephi replies that they are both temporal and spiritual but in the main argues for a literal interpretation. In closing of which he refers to the mighty nation among the Gentiles whom God will raise up to bless Israel. He says 'and it [The Prophecy of Isaiah] meaneth that the time cometh that after all the House of Israel have been scattered and confounded that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles yea even upon the face of this land and by them shall our seed be scattered and after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore it is likened unto their being nursed by the Gentiles and their being carried upon their arms and upon their shoulders, and it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles and not only unto the Gentiles, but unto all the House of Israel. (I Nephi 22:7-9) Another Book of Mormon Prophet, Jacob, brother of Nephi, speaking of the gathering of Israel and their restoration to their lands, is represented as saying: "It shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long disbursion from the isles of the sea and from the four parts of the earth and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance, yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them and their queens shall become nursing mothers, wherefore the promises of the Lord are great unto the gentiles, for he hath spoken it and who can dispute. But behold this land, said God, shall be the land of thins inheritance and the gentiles shall be blessed upon the land- -I will afflict thy seed (meaning the American Indians) by the hand of the Gentiles, nevertheless I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the House of Israel." II Nephi 10:8-18 From all which it would appear that the great American nation, the Gentile nation is to take an important part in the gathering and establishment of Israel in their promised land, America. A Great Gentile Nation to be raised up in America, the promised land to save Israel in America, in the last days.
(See Preface on Title page of the Book of Mormon:)
"which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever. And also (the Book of Mormon was written and preserved) to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.
This the mission of the United States according to the Book of Mormon; (but the "View of the Hebrews" preceded the Book of Mormon by five years)!
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (13) The American Gentile Nation (U.S.) appealed to in the "View of the Hebrews" to become the savior of Israel in America. Ethan Smith's chapter four in the "View of the Hebrews" is devoted to an appeal to the Christian Nation of the United States to become the instrument for teaching the Gospel to the American Indians and restore them to the favor and blessing of God. The title of the fourth chapter is "An address of the Prophet Isaiah Relative to the Restoration of His People." The chapter is really an exposition of Isaiah 18, which he interprets to be an appeal of the ancient Prophet to this great nation of the West--"away over the mouths of the Nile. It will be remembered that Isaiah 18, opens with the exclamation "Woe to the land shadowing with wings" it would seem to be denunciation. This Ethan Smith changes to "He, lands shadowing with wings," saying that the best expositors agree on his interpretation and that the salutation is a friendly calling of attention instead of a denunciation, and what follows in the chapter is an invitation to the land shadowing with wings to participate in the bringing unto the Lord of Hosts as a present a "people scattered and peeled." The whole chapter must needs be read, we can only give a few excerpts "The duty of sending to them (the American Indians) the Gospel and of being at any expense to teach them Christianity and the blessings of civilized life is great and urgent on every principle of humanity and general benevolence and this duty peculiarly attaches to the people who are now in possession of the former inheritance of those natives; and from too many of whom that people have received insufferable injuries. - - -An address is found in the 18th chapter of the Prophet Isaiah, which is apprehended to be of deep interest to America. The writer- - -found it to be an address to some Christian people of the last days, just at the time of the final restoration of God's ancient people; An address to such a people beheld in vision away over the mouths of the Nile or in some region of the West; a call and solemn divine charge to them to awake and aid that final restoration." The call then must be to a people of the last days; a nation now on earth; and a nation to be peculiarly instrumental in the restoration of the Hebrews in the last days, for this is the very object of the address; to go and collect the ancient people of God; because in 'that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of Hosts of a people scattered and peeled (the very people of the ancient covenant in manifest description repeatedly given) to the place of the name of the Lord of Hots [sic!], the Mt. Zion.' Dealing with the prophecies of Isaiah 49 and other chapters of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ethan Smith argues as Nephi did on the 48th and 49th chapter of Isaiah, viz., that the prophecies are to be literally fulfilled and not treated as mystical passages and that the restoration spoken of "is to be in the latter days." As to the land addressed--this land shadowing with wings, he holds to be America, the continent of those two great wings shall be found at last most interesting in relation to your Hebrew brethren (addressing the people of those continents) and those two great wings shall prove but an emblem of a great nation then on that continent (i.e. in the last days); Far sequestered from the seat of anti-Christ and of tyranny and blood; and whose asylum is equal rights, liberty and religion shall be well represented by such a national coat of arms--the protecting wings of a great eagle; which nation in yonder setting of the sun (when in the last days judgments shall be thundering through the nations of the eastern continents) shall be found a realm of peaceful protection to all who fly from the abodes of despotism to its peaceful retreat, even as an eagle protects her nest from all harm, yea, a land, that when all other lands shall be found to have trampled on the Jews, shall be found to have protecting wings for them. Free from such cruelty and ready to aid them. - - - Ye friends of God in the land addressed (the land shadowing with wings-America) can you read this prophetic declaration of the ancient Prophet Isaiah without having your hearts burning within you Surely you can not, if you can view it as an address of the Most High to you. God here exalts you in the last days, the age of terror and blood, as high as the standard to be raised for the collection of the seed of Abraham on the mountains! - - -If these views be correct, Christians in our land may well praise God that it is their happy lot to live in this land shadowing with wings; this protecting realm, an asylum of liberty and religion; a land so distant [sic!] from the seat of anti-Christ and of the judgments to be thundered down upon all the corrupt establishments in the last days; and their devout gratitude to heaven ought to rise for the blessing of having their existence so near the period eluded to in this sublime prediction when this land of liberty is beginning to feel her distinction, immunities compared with the establishments of tyranny and corruption in the old continent. --- "Ho, thou nation of the last days shadowing with the wings of liberty and peace; pity, instruct, and save my ancient people and brethren; especially that outcast branch of them, who were the natives of this soil." Much more to the same effect-but this in conclusion)--and still addressing the Gentile Nation. "Tell them [the Indians] what their ancient fathers, the prophets, were inspired to predict in their behalf; and the charge here given for their restoration; assure them this talk of a prophet is for them, and they must listen to it, and obey it. That the great spirit above the clouds now calls them by you to come and receive his grace by Christ and the true staff, in Jacob, the Shilo who has come, and to whom the people must be gathered. Inform them that by embracing this true seed of Abraham, you and multitudes of other gentiles, have become the children of that ancient patriarch. And now that they must come back as your brother in the Lord. Unfold to them their superlative line of the entail of the covenant; that as touching this election they are beloved for the fathers' sakes; that they were for their sins excluded for this long period, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved. "Go thou nation (U.S.) highly distinguished in the last days, save the remnant of my people, bring me a present of them to the place of the Lord of Hots [sic!], the Mt. Zion." This is the Mission of the United States according to the "View of the Hebrews*
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (14) Love of Riches Among Nephites -- Pride: Jacob, son of Lehi on the Nephites says: "And they began to search much gold and silver, and began to be lifted up somewhat in pride." Jacob 1:15, 16)
And again to the Nephites:
"Many of you have begun to search for gold- - -that you have obtained many riches: and because some of you have obtained more abundantly then that of your brethren ye are lifted up in pride of your hearts. - - -Do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing! Nay!- - -The one being is as precious in his sight as the other." Jacob 2:12, 13, 21)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (14) Love of Riches--Pride:
"A Chief of the Delaware Indians - - -said he knew it to be wrong if a poor man came to his door naked to turn him away empty.- - -He believed God loved the poorest of men better than he did proud, rich men." ("View" p 104)
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (15) Polygamy: "The people of Nephi began to grow hard in their hearts, and indtrlged themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines: - - -
Jacob to the Nephites: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which are written concerning David and Solomon.- -David and Solomon had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me saith the Lord.- - -.Wherefore my brethren, hearken to the word of the Lord; for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife and concubines he shall have none. For I the Lord delight in the chastity of women" (Jacob, 2:27, 28)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (15) Polygamy: "Longtime ago" the Delaware Chief said, "It was a good custom among his people to take but one wife, and that for life. But now they [the Indians] had become so foolish, and so wicked that they would take a number of wives at a time and turn them away at pleasure." (View of the Hebrews p 104)
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (16) Lamanite Virtues: Jacob contrasts the Nephites with the Lamanites to the Nephites' disadvantage in respect of chastity and single marriages; and says of the Lamanites: "Behold their husbands love their wives, and the wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children." Jacob 3:7)
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (16) Indian Virtues: "They are just, honest, liberal, hospitable to strangers, considerate, loving, and affectionate to their wives and relations, fond of their children, frugal, and persevering; charitable- - -living in love, peace, and friendship." (View of the Hebrews p. 175)
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (17) Civilization in America: Broadly the Book of Mormon represents the Nephites and Jaredites as being civilized people, with National Governments, Kingdoms, Republics, with trade, and commerce, navigation, education, written culture, Religion; settled orders of living, cities, connected with highways, military establishments, etc., etc.. This idea of all this, however, is better obtained from general and incidental statements in the Book of Mormon rather than from any formal and elaborate and definite description of what their civilization consisted. The first allusion to the civilized status occurs at about thirty years after Lehi's Colony left Jerusalem. The first Nephi says: "I did teach my people to build buildings and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were of great abundance- -and it came to pass that I Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious and to labor with their hands, and it came to pass that they would that I should be their King." And he reluctantly accepted this office. Similar descriptions are several times given in the B. of M.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (17) Civilization in America: In the "View of the Hebrews" quite an elaborate account is given of the civilization that must have existed in Mexico and Central America in ancient times. This is summarized largely from Baron Humbolt's "New Spain" published first in Germany, 1808-9 and translated into English by John Black in 1811, and quoted copiously by Ethan Smith in his second edition of the "View of the Hebrews" 1825.
In these excerpts from Humbolt are descriptions of pyramids Temples, ruined cities, high-ways with some speculations as to their resemblances to the Egyptian pyramids. Ethan Smith quotes extensively from the Archaeologia Americana published at Worcester, Mass. 1820.
On these authorities Ethan Smith says:
"The people, however, who traversed Mexico, left behind them traces of cultivation and civilization- - -The Taultees introduced the cultivation of Maize and Cotton; they built cities made roads and constructed those great pyramids, which are yet admired, and the faces are very accurately laid out:' (p. 189) Some twenty pages are devoted to describing civilization traits as seen in Temples, pyramids and ruined cities.
BOOK OF MORMON - 1830 (18) The Messiah on the Western Continent: It may be said that the chief event, the greatest and most important of all events in the Book of Mormon, is the appearance of the Christ--the Hebrew Messiah-in the western world. He was anticipated in prophecy, and spoken of in expectation of His coming, and the purpose of that coming. Finally, in third Nephi, a magnificent description of His appearing to the Nephites is given, an account of His ministry among the Nephites. His stay was comparatively brief, and when he departed in light and glory, He promised at some future time to return. (See III Nephi ch. 11 et sq.
VIEW OF THE HEBREWS - 1823-25 (18) Quetzalcotle (So often called in literature "The Mexican Messiah"): The legends of Quetzalcotle are stated in the "View of the Hebrews" at some length, I greatly abbreviate. "The pyramids of Cholula was an altar dedicated to Quetzalcotle or the serpent of green feathers; as his name is said to imply. This is the most mysterious being of the whole Mexican mythology. He is said to be a white and bearded man. He was High Priest of Tula, legislator, chief of a religious sect, who inflicted on themselves the .most cruel penance-"he appeased by his pennance divine wrath, (In other words atonement). -- The reign of Quetzalcotle was a golden age of the people of Anahuac, he dwelt twenty years among them, ordered fasts and regulated the Taltic year. "He preached peace to men"- - He disappeared after he had declared to the Cholulans that he would return and govern them again and renew their happiness." Ethan Smith speaks of him as "appeasing divine wrath," "may have a striking allusion to the system of the Mosaic sacrifices including also the mediation of Moses, as a type of Christ, and Gods turning away his fierce wrath from Israel at his intercession as was repeatedly the case. ("View of the Hebrews" pp. 206--)
The legitimate query: did this character spoken of in the "View of the Hebrews," published five years before the Book of Mormon, furnish the suggestion of the Christ on the Western Continent?
Thomas Stuart Ferguson was the founder of the New World Archaeological Foundation, what basically is now the Archeology Department at BYU. He was an attorney by trade, but in his heart of hearts he was an archeologist. He spent 25 years searching the world over for archeological evidence to authenticate the Book of Mormon. His spiritual and archeological excursions led him to the unescapable conclusion that the Book of Mormon was the result of the overly- imaginative mind of Joseph Smith. Ferguson concluded that archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon was not only non-existant, but that all the evidence actually proved to be diametrically opposed to the Book of Mormon account of the history of the American Indians.
Stan Larson, who was a scriptural exegete for Translation Services of the LDS Church, published a book entitled, Quest for the Gold Plates: Thomas Stuart Ferguson's Archaeological Search for the Book of Mormon. In this book Dr. Larson dealt with the question of whether Thomas Stuart Ferguson, who organized the New World Archaeological Foundation and devoted himself to proving the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, had eventually lost faith in the Book of Mormon and in its author, Joseph Smith.
In the introduction to his book, pages XIII-XIV, Larson noted that, "In the fall of 1977 I (Larson) first heard from a fellow church employee in the LDS Translation Services Department in Salt Lake City that Ferguson no longer believed in the historicity of the Book of Mormon. To me this unfounded rumor -- for so I considered it -- seemed absolutely unbelievable, for I had over the years faithfully followed Ferguson's writings on the Book of Mormon.... I decided to verify or falsify this assertion by contacting Ferguson himself.... I first talked about my having read Cumorah -- Where?, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon and One Fold and One Shepherd -- and then I hesitantly mentioned that I had heard that he had reached some very critical conclusions concerning the Book of Mormon. With no bitterness but with a touch of disappointment, Ferguson agreed with this statement and openly discussed with me his present skepticism about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the lack of any Book of Mormon geography that relates to the real world, and the absence of the long-hoped-for archaeological confirmation of the Book of Mormon."
After Ferguson's death in 1983, a controversy developed with regard to whether he really lost faith in Joseph Smith's work. On page 4 of his book, Stan Larson reported:
"On the other side, Jerald and Sandra Tanner... presented a completely different image of Ferguson. First of all, the Tanners reproduced Ferguson's study of problems in Book of Mormon geography and archaeology that he had prepared for a written symposium on the subject. The Tanners entitled this 1988 publication Ferguson's Manuscript Unveiled. At the same time the Tanners published an article... in the September 1988 issue of their Salt Lake City Messenger.... the principal interest of the Tanners is in documenting his purported disillusionment and loss of faith by recounting his visit to their home in December 1970 and by quoting from seven letters which Ferguson allegedly wrote from 1968 to 1979."
One of the first indications that Mr. Ferguson was losing faith occurred almost a decade before Stan Larson wrote his book. This was just after Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri were rediscovered. In 1968 Ferguson wrote the Tanners a letter saying that they were "doing a great thing -- getting out some truth on the Book of Abraham." This, of course, was a significant statement since the Tanners were presenting hard evidence that Joseph Smith's Book of Abraham was not a correct translation of the papyri.
On December 2, 1970, Mr. Ferguson told the Tanners that he had not only given up the Book of Abraham, but that he had come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a prophet and that Mormonism was not true! Ferguson also said 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 taught him how to weigh evidence and that the case against Joseph Smith was absolutely devastating and could not be explained away. Speaking of Joseph Smith's First Vision, Ferguson commented that when Cheesman and Brigham Young University Studies made available the strange accounts of the vision (accounts coming from the lips of Joseph Smith that had been suppressed by the church for about 130 years) they completely destroyed his faith in Mormonism. He felt that instead of helping the cause, these contradictory accounts caused serious confusion. He stated that the Mormon scholars had shot the bird, plucked out its feathers and left it "dead and naked on the ground."
Ferguson referred to Dr. Hugh Nibley's defense of the Book of Abraham as "nonsense," and he said that just before coming to visit the Tanners he had discussed the Book of Abraham with Hugh B. Brown (Brown served as a member of the First Presidency under church president David O. McKay). According to Mr. Ferguson, Brown had also come to the conclusion that the Book of Abraham was false and was in favor of the church giving it up. A few years later Hugh B. Brown said he could "not recall" making the statements Ferguson attributed to him. Ferguson, however, was apparently referring to the same incident in a letter dated March 13, 1971, when he stated:
"I must conclude that Joseph Smith had not the remotest skill in things Egyptian-hieroglyphics. To my surprise one of the highest officials in the Mormon Church agreed with that conclusion... privately in one-to-one conversation."
About thirteen years after Thomas Stuart Ferguson claimed that Hugh B. Brown did not believe in the authenticity of the Book of Abraham, he told the same story to Ronald O. Barney who worked at the LDS Historical Department:
"Ferguson said that the thing that first led him to seriously question the church was the papyri purported to be the source of the Book of Abraham. He said he took a photograph of the papyri to a couple of friends of his that were scholars at Cal., Berkeley. They described the documents as funeral texts. This bothered Ferguson in a serious way! Later he said that he took the evidence to Hugh B. Brown.... After reviewing the evidence with Brother Brown he [Ferguson] said that Brother Brown agreed with him that it was not scripture. He did not say or infer [imply] that it was his evidence that convinced Brother Brown of this conclusion. But nevertheless, he did say that Hugh B. Brown did not believe the Book of Abraham was what the church said it was." (Quest for the Gold Plates, page 138)
On page 165, footnote 13, Stan Larson gave additional information regarding this matter: "Barney, interview with Ferguson, typed on 19 April 1984. Barney then recorded his own reaction to Ferguson's recounting of this episode with Brown: 'I felt as Ferguson was telling me this that he was not making up the story. It appeared that he really believed what he was telling me.’ "
Stan Larson recorded Ferguson’s resolve to expose his dicoveries to the general public:
"After going through all this internal turmoil, Ferguson decided to publish his new ideas concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon in a final book. A tantalizing string of evidence exists, showing that Ferguson had indeed researched and written another book-length manuscript and had decided to move ahead with publishing it. He had told Jerald and Sandra in December 1970 that 'he had been thinking of writing a book about the matter and that it would be a real "bombshell." ’ Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s Ferguson spent an immense amount of his spare time working on this new project. His basic assumption during this period was that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient document, but a product of the nineteenth century....
"In February 1983 Ferguson... told Pierre Agrinier Bach, a longtime friend and archaeologist, that 'he was working on a project, a manuscript which would (according to him) expose Joseph Smith as a fraud' and that his manuscript was almost completed. It would be a bombshell on the Book of Mormon, showing both positive and negative evidence from Mesoamerican archaeology, but concluding that the Book of Mormon was produced through Joseph Smith's own creative genius and through his use of contemporary sources, including Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews and Sidney Rigdon....
"Ferguson's unexpected death in 1983 stopped his efforts, and, inexplicably, his final manuscript has to date never surfaced.... Wishful thinking and fond memories do not change the way things had changed in Ferguson's thinking. The anecdotal theory of Ferguson's having faith, losing it, and regaining it is just not supported by any available evidence from Ferguson himself.... Two short sentences in Ferguson's last known letter illustrate his persisting inquisitiveness: 'I am continuing my research. It is fun and stimulating.'
"These final two letters, together with Barney's two journal entries, confirm Ferguson's critical views just two months before his death in 1983.... several of his friends -- who were aware of his change of attitude -- counseled him not to publish his 'Bombshell' manuscript which was strongly critical of the Book of Mormon." (Quest for the Gold Plates, pages 157-158, 160, 162-163)
There were individuals who did not want Ferguson’s “opinions” to come to light. Dr. Larson also wrote the following regarding Ferguson:
"Ferguson admitted that the problem that first made him 'seriously question the Church was the papyri purported to be the source of the Book of Abraham.' Like falling dominoes, his belief in the prophetic status of Joseph Smith and the historicity of the Book of Mormon also collapsed. At first Ferguson still believed that Joseph Smith had been a true prophet of God in 1829 when he translated the Book of Mormon, but he decided that Joseph Smith had become a fallen prophet by 1835 when the Egyptian scrolls and mummies arrived in Kirtland. However, Ferguson, the logical lawyer, continued thinking: since the English text of the Book of Abraham cannot be considered a translation of the Egyptian papyri, maybe the Book of Mormon is not a real translation of an ancient document. Ferguson's conviction concerning the Book of Mormon was devastated as the chain reaction continued." (Ibid., page 134)
"Ferguson's skepticism first became public... when the Tanners published an account of his visit with them in a revised edition of their Mormonism: Shadow or Reality:... Though this passage by the Tanners was pointed out to Ferguson many times, he never denied their account of his loss of faith." (Ibid., pages 139-140)
"He [Ferguson] then recommended to them [Mr. and Mrs. Harold W. Lawrence] a short reading list: an article about 'Joseph Smith's First Vision,' Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, The True Believer, and No Man Knows My History. Since these works significantly affected Ferguson, he evidently felt that they would be valuable for them to read." (Ibid., page 153)
"Likewise, Ferguson responded to Sorenson's earlier geographical study -- which was titled with the question 'Where in the World?' -- by answering that Book of Mormon geography exists nowhere in the real world. Describing his own 1975 study, Ferguson divulged that 'the real implications of the paper is that you can't set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere -- because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archaeology.' In his view the Book of Mormon is not a translated account of historical peoples, but a fictional story concocted by Joseph Smith, perhaps with the assistance of one or two others.... Ferguson found that the known archaeology of Mesoamerica does not fit the requirements of the Book of Mormon. This raised for him serious questions about the antiquity of the volume. From his youth he had assumed that the Book of Mormon was historical -- and had believed in it intensely -- but during the last thirteen years of his life Ferguson maintained that that assumption was wrong and the best explanation was found in Joseph Smith and his nineteenth century environment." (Ibid., pages 214-215)
On pages 251-52 of The Messiah in Ancient America, published in 1987, we read that "Tom Ferguson first approached the President of Brigham Young University, Howard S. McDonald, about establishing a Department of Archaeology.... Tom Ferguson was able to convince officials of BYU of the benefit to the University of having such a department."
Ferguson also worked very hard to get the Mormon Church interested in helping him with the organization he envisioned -- i.e., the New World Archaeological Foundation. At first church leaders were not excited about the project.
Although Ferguson apparently received no financial help from the church to begin with, he "scraped together $3,000, a painfully small sum but sufficient to fund the year's short field expedition." (Ibid., page 260) Later, however, the church began supporting the Foundation. On one occasion Ferguson asked President David O. McKay for "$250,000" and received it. (Ibid., page 264-65)
When Ferguson came to Gerald and Sandra Tanner's house in 1970, he indicated that he had been faced with a dilemma; he had just received a large grant from the church ($100,000 or more) to carry on the research of the New World Archaeological Foundation. Although he no longer believed in the Book of Mormon, he felt that the Foundation was doing legitimate archeological work. Consequently, he decided to accept the money and continue the work. He, of course, realized that the organization he had founded to confirm the authenticity of the Book of Mormon was now beginning to cast serious doubt upon the Book of Mormon because archeologists were unable to turn up anything relating to a Hebrew or Christian culture existing in Mesoamerica prior to the time of Columbus.
Eventually, the Mormon Church's Brigham Young University took over the New World Archaeological Foundation and Ferguson "became secretary of the board of directors and held that position until his death in 1983." (The Messiah in Ancient America, page 277)
The inescapable conclusion is that after weighing the evidence, Thomas Stuart Ferguson lost faith in "all things Mormon."
Thomas W. Murphy
This is where our study really gets interesting. This is where we delve into the scientific. I don’t mean the surface issues of genetic appearance, such as, “If the American Indians are Hebrew, then why can’t they grow beards?” No, in this chapter we are going to go deeper, clear down to the very foundation of humanity... DNA. BYU’s own Molecular Genealogy Department says, “The fact that DNA is inherited and that each individual is the product of his/her progenitors means that DNA can be used to not only create unique identifications, but also to identify members of the same family, the same clan or tribal group, or the same population.” So BYU admits that DNA can conclusively identify the American Indians as Hebrew... or conclusively identify them to NOT be of Hebrew decent.
Thomas W. Murphy is Chair, Department of Anthropology at Edmonds Community College (EdCC) in Lynnwood, WA. He is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Washington where he is currently completing a doctoral dissertation on Mormon uses of the Popol Vuh, a 16th century Quiché Mayan text. The following are exerpts from his study entitled,
“Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics”
In March 2000 Scott Woodward, Professor of Microbiology at Brigham Young University (BYU), launched a multi-million dollar human molecular genealogy study funded by philanthropists Ira Fulton and James Sorenson.The Molecular Genealogy Research Group (MGRG) uses DNA evidence to identify genealogical connections between present and past humans. Increasing interest in using DNA to trace family histories and linkages between human populations offers considerable promise to Latter-day Saint genealogical endeavors. It also constitutes a boost to broader scientific research into the history and geography of human genes as well as global migration and world population histories. While the embrace of human molecular research at a university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is likely a welcome development for most well-educated Mormons, this burgeoning interest may provoke some reconsideration of assumptions about human geography and history long held by many, if not most, Mormons.
Some Latter-day Saints have expressed optimism that DNA research would lead to a vindication of the BoMor as a translation of a genuine ancient document. The hope is that DNA research would link Native Americans to ancient Israelites, buttressing LDS beliefs in a way that has not been forthcoming from archaeological, linguistic, historical, or morphological research. The results, though, have been disappointing. So far, DNA research lends no support to traditional Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans. Genetic data repeatedly point to migrations from Asia between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago as the primary source of Native American origins. DNA research has substantiated the archaeological, cultural, linguistic, and biological evidence that also points overwhelmingly to an Asian origin for Native Americans. While DNA evidence shows that ultimately all human populations are rather closely related, to date no intimate genetic link has been found between ancient Israelites and the indigenous peoples of the Americas—much less within the time frame suggested by the BoMor. After considering recent research in molecular anthropology, summarized here, I have concluded that Latter-day Saints should not expect to find validation for the BoMor in genetics. My assessment echoes that of geneticist and former LDS Bishop Simon Southerton whose survey of the literature on Native American DNA also "failed to find anything that supported migration of Jewish people before Columbus." He concluded "the truth is that there is no reliable scientific evidence supporting migrations from the Middle East to the New World."
This essay outlines two significant insights into the geography and history of human genes and their implications for Mormon thought. If the new embrace of DNA research has an impact on Mormon views of the world, it will likely propel new approaches to scripture and history already underway in Mormon intellectual circles. First, the genealogical data inscribed in human genes suggest to current researchers that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor that lived in Africa between five and seven million years ago. This genetic data adds to the abundance of archaeological, fossil, and anatomical data pointing to ancient human origins in Africa and adds to difficulties in upholding scriptural literalism. Second, genealogical data inscribed in genes of modern humans and ancient American skeletons not only helps researchers to identify ultimate origins but also provides clues to ancient migration patterns. Current genetic data suggest that ancestors of Native Americans separated from their Asian neighbors about 40-50,000 years ago and from each other in what may have been three or more separate waves of migration by 7-15,000 years ago. No support for Mormon beliefs linking American Indians to ancient Israelites is evident in the data.
Molecular Anthropology and Native American Origins
Molecular anthropology offers no support for the BoMor as a history of ancient America. Non-LDS scientists have long held that the depiction of ancient America in the BoMor is inconsistent with the archaeological record. In 1973, Michael Coe, an archaeologist at Yale University, discredited Joseph Smith's ability to "read 'Reformed Egyptian' or any other kind of hieroglyphs," observing:
There is an inherent improbability in specific items that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon as having been brought to the New World by Jaredites and/or Nephites. Among these are the horse (extinct in the New World since about 7,000 B.C.), the chariot, wheat, barley, and metallurgy (true metallurgy based upon smelting and casting being no earlier in Mesoamerica than about 800 A.D.). The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 B.C. and A.D. 421 presented in the book has little to do with the early Indian cultures as we know them, in spite of much wishful thinking.
For similar reasons, Latter-day Saint archaeologists such as Dee F. Green and Deanne G. Matheny have been critical of naïve attempts by travel companies to link the BoMor to archaeological sites. Life long efforts by Latter-day Saint scholars such as Brigham H. Roberts and Thomas S. Ferguson to use archaeological evidence to corroborate the BoMor have proven disappointing. Genetic evidence appears to pose similar difficulties for linking the BoMor to ancient American populations. When asked about DNA evidence and the BoMor, Michael Crawford, a biological anthropologist at the University of Kansas, stated "I don't think there is one iota of evidence that suggests a lost tribe from Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great story, slain by ugly fact."
Michael Crawford's conclusions in The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics show why he so roundly rejects Mormon claims. Genetic similarities, morphological resemblance, craniometric affinities, and cultural similarities between Asians and New World populations lead Crawford to conclude:
This evidence indicates extremely strong biological and cultural affinities between New World and Asian populations and leaves no doubt that the first migrants into the Americas were Asians, possibly from Siberia.
Shortly following this statement, Crawford acknowledges that "[t]his evidence does not preclude the possibility of some small-scale cultural contacts between Amerindian societies and Asian or Oceanic seafarers." Crawford's work clearly shows that Amerisraelite Lamanites could not possibly have been the "principal ancestors of the American Indians," as claimed in the current introduction to the BoMor. Yet, he is cautious enough to note the possibility that genetic research may yet turn up evidence of small-scale contacts even though he has yet to see "one iota of evidence" linking lost Israelites to the Americas.
Current genetic evidence for the affinity of Native American and Asian populations is abundant. Crawford lists more than a dozen alleles for blood proteins unique to New World and Asian populations. He identifies several additional genetic systems which are not exclusive to Asians and American Indians but occur at different frequencies elsewhere. These include "the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system, the various blood groups, and even the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Asian haplotypes." Amerindian and Siberian populations may even "share a genetic predisposition to otitis media," a middle ear infection. The abundance of the genetic evidence is further substantiated by its general agreement with the archaeological, linguistic, anatomical, and physiological studies that also point to Asian origins of American Indians.
Ancient DNA (aDNA)
Most studies in molecular anthropology have been conducted on living populations. While these studies are valuable in helping us identify the migration patterns of ancestors of contemporary peoples, they only tell part of the story. Recent developments, including the invention of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in the mid-1980s, have also made it possible to extract and analyze DNA from some ancient fossil remains. Some of the most exciting recent developments in this emerging field have included the successful extraction of DNA from two Neandertal skeletons (discussed above). Another recent study has linked the prehistoric Anasazi of the southwest United States to modern populations of the Pueblo Indians. Studies of Anasazi, Fremont, and Oneota all show continuity between ancient and modern populations and continue to support Asian origins of Native Americans.
New genetic evidence adds to an overwhelming abundance of linguistic, archaeological, cultural, biological, anatomical, and psychoanalytic data that undermine traditional Latter-day Saint beliefs. Among those beliefs in question are the foundational claims that the BoMor was literally translated from an ancient record, that it contains the history of Israelite migrations to the Americas, and that the Lamanites described in the text are the "principal ancestors of the American Indians." Remarkably, most Latter-day Saints remain unaware of the multitude of reasons why the non-Mormon scientific community has roundly rejected the historical claims of their central sacred text.
An Ancient Record?
Challenges to the BoMor's historicity have plagued the text since its inception and continue to fuel internal debates among Mormon intellectuals who can be found on both sides of the issue. Some LDS scholars have proposed that the time is appropriate for new approaches to the BoMor that do not depend upon a belief in an ancient origin of the text. Even many faithful Mormon intellectuals have distanced themselves from traditional LDS assumptions about the BoMor and its relationship to ancient America. They express public doubt that the BoMor accounts for the origins of all or even most Native Americans and instead propose a limited geography in Central America. They also reject literal readings of the BoMor in their proposals that the people described in the text never actually rode horses, traveled in chariots, used steel swords, raised cattle, or ate wheat and oats.
The embrace of DNA research at BYU coupled with the increasing availability of scientific knowledge may continue to spur greater LDS investment in groups such as FARMS. FARMS has played and will likely continue to play a primary role in revisionist interpretations of Mormon scripture that may help questioning Latter-day Saints find new ways to reconcile their faith with a scientific world view. The DNA research may only make their efforts more difficult as the views of Mormon intellectuals and those of traditional Mormons continue to diverge.
Problems with linking the BoMor to ancient American populations have prompted LDS scholars, especially those associated with FARMS, to propose new interpretations of Lamanite identity in the latter part of the 20th century. Rejecting the hemispheric views of previous generations and most contemporary Mormons, LDS anthropologist John L. Sorenson has proposed a limited geography for the BoMor around the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Central America. He interprets the BoMor as a lineage history comparable to the Popol Vuh of the Quiché Maya rather than a hemispheric history as most Mormons have understood it. He explains that "the Book of Mormon is a partial record of events, emphasizing what happened to one group of people, put in their own ethnocentric terms, in the midst of other peoples each with its own version of events."
If the events described in the BoMor took place in a small setting in Central America, then where would an investigator look for genetic evidence of Israelites? FARMS historian William Hamblin claims that Lamanite simply means "non-Nephite," but clearly acknowledges that this is a cultural, not a biological designation. "Lamanite is not a genetic designator requiring us to insist that all inhabitants of the New World are genetically descended only from the Lehite colony." In this respect, he declares "all modern Native Americans can be accurately described as cultural or political Lamanites, since they are non-Nephites." By this logic, William Hamblin (a non-Nephite) would also be a Lamanite so one would need more specific criteria to distinguish genetic Lamanites from cultural non-Nephites. Sorenson, like Hamblin, is comfortable stating "all native peoples of the New World may be appropriately classified 'Lamanites'." He quickly notes, though, that this designation says nothing about "'literal' descent." Like Hamblin, Sorenson expresses some optimism that Lehite genes and ideas may have spread out from Central America but cautions that such diffusion would be "minor, culturally or biologically." Yet, he does identify several specific places where significant movements of Mesoamerican peoples and ideas took place. These include northern Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, and the southeastern United States. "Ecuador in the time of the Jaredites, and Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia at several later times, also felt the impress of Mesoamerican life and probably of the genes of its peoples."
The social and historical variability of the meanings of the term Lamanite requires careful attention to differences between biology and culture—the type of care that Sorenson and Hamblin have advocated and that is evident in studies of the Lemba, the African tribe with established linkages to ancient Hebrews. The meanings of the term Israelite, like that of Lamanite, are variable over time and place. Molecular anthropologists Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas had to exercise considerable caution in their attempts to tie cultural categories to biological markers. Ultimately, they identified the Lemba's heritage through a paternal priestly lineage with a distinctive genetic marker on the Y-chromosome found in only 11% of the living people they identified as Israelites. Quests for Lamanite DNA must overcome the same problems but are hampered by the blanket absence of any ancient historical sources that would substantiate or clarify the cultural classifications made in the BoMor.
While researchers at FARMS are careful to note the importance of cultural influences on the construction of categories like Lamanite, they do express confidence in an Israelite genetic presence in Central America and perhaps as far away as Arizona and Colombia. As we have seen, genetic studies of indigenous peoples throughout North, Central, and South America have failed to link any Native Americans from these locations or elsewhere to ancient Hebrews. Yet, careful genetic studies in the Old World have proven capable of linking the Lemba of southern Africa to ancient Hebrews.
Writing before the emergence of molecular anthropology, LDS anthropologist John L. Sorenson anticipated both the utility and futility of the types of molecular tests that are now available:
Should some investigator find new methods to pursue research on the 'blood lines' of a particular individual, family, or people, he or she might find that some native Americans are directly descended from Nephites of ancient times, that some are descended in part from others in Lehi's or Mulek's parties, that some are of Jaredite origin, and that still others have no discernible connection to any of those. Scientific, genealogical, or historical methods are not available; but more important, the scriptures indicate that the results would not matter as far as the Church and the gospel are concerned.
Quantitative scientific methods can now test the claims of an Israelite genetic presence in ancient America. So far, they have demonstrated that nearly all Native Americans can trace their lineages to migrations from Asia sometime between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago. Latter-day Saints who prematurely pointed to haplogroup X as the best hope to salvage Mormon claims were mistaken—indeed, the timing and destination of that migration is inconsistent with either a hemispheric or limited Mesoamerican geography for the BoMor. Moreover, the most recent studies have identified haplogroup X in Siberian populations which share a common ancestry with Native Americans. While molecular anthropologists have demonstrated a technological capability to use DNA to identify descendants of ancient Hebrews, no such evidence has turned up in Central America or elsewhere among Native Americans. Ultimately, as Sorenson has noted, these findings may not matter to Latter-day Saints who have a spiritual witness of the "truth" of the BoMor, yet they caution against confusing a spiritual witness with scientific evidence. Spiritual witnesses may reach beyond science but they should never be confused with it.
From a scientific perspective, the BoMor's origin is best situated in early 19th century America, not ancient America. There were no Lamanites prior to c. 1828 and dark skin is not a physical trait of God's malediction. Native Americans do not need to accept Christianity or the BoMor to know their own history. The BoMor emerged from Joseph Smith's own struggles with his God. Mormons need to look inward for spiritual validation and cease efforts to remake Native Americans in their own image. Avoid fruitless quests for Israelite DNA in ancient America—there is little more chance of finding genetic proof of Lehite civilization than there is of finding the BoMor gold plates.
Freedom Quest’s Conclusion
After hearing all three of these Mormon scholars singing their theme song (“Losing My Religion”) the conclusions are obvious. The overwhelming evidence points to the fictionality of the Book of Mormon. To add insult to injury, the official position of the Smithsonian Institute is, “No person, place or thing mentioned (exclusively) in the Book of Mormon has ever been found.” That is why there are no maps in the Book of Mormon. There is that sticky problem of finding a city before you can place its location on a map... and since no Book of Mormon city has ever been found, hense no maps.
Many LDS scholars will try to claim that the Book of Mormon happened on a small scale and that it doesn’t encompass “all” of the American Indians. The problem with that idea is that in the beginning of Second Nephi there is a scripture where Lehi is blessing his sons. He says, “It is wisdom in the Lord that this land should be kept from the knowledge of all other nations for if the Lord had not kept knowledge of this land from other nations, that other nations would overrun this land.” So why would we assume other native populations being here when Lehi says the exact opposite?
LDS scholars desperately want to claim that the Book of Mormon took place in some mysterious far off land. Why? Because they know that the archeological history of the North American continent simply will not support the “historical” account of the Book of Mormon. But according to Joseph Smith, in 1831, God instructed LDS missionary, Newel Knight to, “…take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites.” (D&C 54:7-8). If the Book of Mormon events took place in southern Mexico and Guatemala (as many LDS now claim), why would God send them to the western border of Missouri?
In 1842 Joseph Smith clearly identified the American Indians are the descendants of those who wrote the Book of Mormon:
“In this important and interesting book [the Book of Mormon], the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages, to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. . . . The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.” (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, 1976, vol. 4, p. 537).
In the book, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Smith is quoted as teaching:
“Much has been said and done of late by the general government in relation to the Indians (Lamanites) within the territorial limits of the United States. One of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, through the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, is the gathering of Israel (of whom the Lamanites constitute a part) that happy time when Jacob shall go up to the house of the Lord, to worship Him in spirit and in truth, . . . when He will turn to them a pure language, and the earth will be filled with sacred knowledge . . .
The Book of Mormon has made known who Israel is, upon this continent. And while we behold the government of the United States gathering the Indians, and locating them upon lands to be their own, how sweet it is to think that they may one day be gathered by the Gospel!” (pages 92-93)
For anyone who has “eyes to see and ears to hear,” Joseph Smith clearly taught that the Book of Mormon took place right here in North America. So where are the 38 Book of Mormon cities? The LDS “Jesus” destroyed 16 of those cities in III Nehpi 9:1-15, but that still leaves 22 cities, of 100,000s of people. Where are those cities? Why can’t they be found? Because they do not exist, because the Book of Mormon is fiction.