BOOK OF MORMON PROBLEMS
Its Historicity and Theology Examined
by Dean Maurice Helland
The writing of this paper is the fulfillment of a desire the author has had ever since he studied his way out of the Book of Mormon over 20 years ago. Many of the things which appear here in documented form he already had discovered on his own. Finding out to what extent others had studied and come to the same conclusion he did was a great source of comfort and inner healing.
Two organizations claim to be the only true follower of Joseph Smith [Ed. In fact there are over 150]. To distinguish between them, this paper will use the initials of LDS (Latter-day Saints) and RLDS (Reorganized Latter Day Saints). The first organization has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the second, in Independence, Missouri. Both groups publish the Book of Mormon, but with different chapters and verses. All comments in this paper apply equally to both versions unless special reference is made to one specific version.
RLDS members are asked to forgive the inclusion of them in the term "Mormon" in this paper. Also, the number at the end of the entries in the bibliography section indicates the pages read for this paper rather than the total number of pages in that source.
BOOK OF MORMON PROBLEMS
The author of this paper was born into a family which belonged to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with headquarters in Independence, Missouri. This organization, as did the much larger Utah Mormon Church and many smaller divisions, developed as a direct result of the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Despite their differences, all these groups believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God in addition to the Bible.
The author also believed this until he was a young minister just twenty-two years old. At that time, he decided to write a book proving to the Christian world that the Book of Mormon is indeed the Word of God, and should be accepted in addition to the Bible in order for one to be a real Christian. However, upon researching the subject, he was soon overwhelmed by the great amount of evidence that the Book of Mormon is full of plagiarisms and many other problems which in fact demonstrate the very opposite.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be. The author has read books and pamphlets on this subject which have been written over the past one hundred seventy-five years and many of their best arguments are presented here. Also, he has investigated the findings of modern archaeology.
Since the LDS Book of Mormon has different chapter divisions than the RLDS Book of Mormon, the LDS references will be given first and the RLDS references afterwards following a semicolon. When referring to the original 1830 edition, the page number will be given since the versification had not yet been added. Only the King James Version of the Bible will be used. Both Bible and Book of Mormon references will be included in the text, as will a limited number of other references.
The Book of Mormon is still the baited hook by which Mormons lure thousands of new converts into their ranks every year. Prospective converts are urged to read it and then pray to ask God if it is true. Only upon reading it do they learn of its threats of eternal condemnation to all who reject it (2 Nephi 33:10-15; 15:11-18; Mormon 8:16-17; 4:21-22).1
Obviously, accepting it would seem safer than rejecting it under those circumstances, and this is undoubtedly one of the reasons for its success.
The Book of Mormon claims to be superior to the Bible. The first hundred pages are spent laying the groundwork for this position. Its basic presupposition is that the Bible has been altered by unscrupulous clergy in centuries past and no longer contains all the truth which God wants man to have. This, then, creates a need for the Book of Mormon, which claims to restore those "plain and precious things" which are necessary for the salvation of mankind (I Nephi 13:26-40; 3:166-193).2
It claims to be a record written on golden plates by prophets of a white race who lived in the Americas for about 1,000 years. This race was exterminated in A.D. 421. The indigenous race inhabiting the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 is portrayed by the Book of Mormon to be the cousins of that white race, cursed with a dark skin for having rejected God (2 Nephi 5:21; 4:33-35).
It teaches that the American Indians are actually Israelites of the tribes of Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh.3 Their skin curse is to be removed within a few generations after being converted to Jesus Christ through the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 30:6'versions before 1981; 12:84).4 This change in skin color from black to white has supposedly taken place several times in the past, whenever they turned to the Lord (Alma 23:18; 14:20; 3 Nephi 2:14-16; 1:52-53).
Perhaps its greatest claim is that it is preparing the way for the second coming of Jesus. Christ's second coming is to be preceded by a massive conversion of the American Indians to Christ through the Book of Mormon. These converted Indians will then exterminate those gentiles in the Americas who will not accept it.5 After that, the believing Indians and the Mormons will build the New Jerusalem where Christ will return to live (3 Nephi 16:11-16;7:35-42;3 Nephi 21:24-25;9:98-100). Subsequent revelation by Joseph Smith revealed this site to be in Independence, Missouri.6 Faith in the Book of Mormon thus becomes an added condition for salvation besides faith in Jesus Christ.
In reality, the Book of Mormon contains very little original information. Rather, Joseph Smith apparently reworked information which he had assimilated and then presented it as a "translation" from the golden plates. This can be demonstrated by comparing the Book of Mormon with other sources which were available to him. Also, he probably had some unpublished manuscripts from Solomon Spaulding which he used.
Material in the Book of Mormon will be examined which appears to be plagiarized from The Maccabees, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Josephus' Wars of the Jews, Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found, Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews and the King James Version of the Bible. Then other kinds of difficulties with the Book of Mormon will be scrutinized.
The most common masculine name in the Book of Mormon and the title of four of its fifteen books is "Nephi." Most Mormons are surprised to learn that this name is found in 2 Maccabees 1:36. Here it is a place name, however, and not the name of a person.7
The play Hamlet has been popular ever since written by William Shakespeare. In the Book of Mormon, a paraphrase from Shakespeare is considered by many to be evidence of plagiarism.8 Here the Book of Mormon represents Lehi, who supposedly lived about 600 B.C., as saying, "the cold and silent gravefrom whence no traveler can return." (2 Nephi 1:14; 1:28). The Shakespearian play, Hamlet, written during the 16th century after Christ, reads, "...death, the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns" (Act 3, Scene 1).9 The similarity in the two passages is undeniable.
Then there is the the strange event in the Book of Mormon where Nephi is ordered by the "Spirit" to kill his uncle. This is uncannily similar to the scene in "Hamlet" where Hamlet's father's ghost appears to him and orders him to kill his uncle (Act 1, Scene 5)10 The primary difference between the two is that the "ghost" that appeared to Hamlet with these orders becomes the "Spirit" in the Book of Mormon; in fact, none other than the "Holy Spirit" (I Nephi 4:10-12; 1:110-113).
Interestingly enough, righteous Nephi is much more easily convinced that this is actually the will of God than is Hamlet. Not only does Nephi show no remorse after killing his drunken uncle, but he apparently cuts off his head without getting any blood on his uncle's clothes, for he is able to undress him, put his uncle's clothes on himself, and then impersonate him. Since the normal-sized person has about five quarts of blood in his body, this is a miracle in itself.
Nephi then proceeds to deceive his uncle's servant, steal the sacred brass plates, kidnap the servant, and take both them and him to America. The justification for these actions is explained very simply by the "Spirit:" Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief" (I Nephi 4:13; 1:114-115).
This rationale strangely echoes the prophecy of the high priest as to why Jesus should be put to death in John 11:49-50: "Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." Thus the importance of Laban's death is perversely placed on a similar plane as Jesus", even though Nephi violates several of the ten commandments while bringing it about (Ex. 20:13, 15, 17). This and similar types of distortion of Biblical phraseology and theology are found throughout the Book of Mormon.
Critics have also long wondered why the French word "adieu" appears in the Book of Mormon, when it was supposed to have been translated from the golden plates into English.(Jacob 7:27; 5:48).11 This expression is very common throughout Shakespeare's writings.
Ever since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, it has been accused of being a plagiarism from unpublished manuscripts by Solomon Spaulding.12 For many years the Spaulding manuscripts could not be located to verify this. When one named Manuscript Found finally was located, both the LDS and the RLDS published it, giving the impression that there was no resemblance between it and the Book of Mormon and that its publication would end this speculation.13
A superficial reading makes it obvious that the Book of Mormon was not copied from it as such. Still, there have been mixed feelings about this matter. Walter Martin, a cult specialist, even published a book, Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?, explaining that Spaulding had written a later manuscript which was in fact. the basis for the Book of Mormon.14 The evidence presented by Martin has been challenged by both the Church and some of the its primary critics, but the theory itself has not been laid to rest.15
Recently, Vernal Holley put the controversy in another light by minutely comparing parallels between the Book of Mormon and the existing Spaulding manuscript.16 The following are his documented conclusions, with which the author concurs after a personal analysis of Manuscript Found.17
1. The outlines of the Book of Mormon and the Spaulding text are "essentially the same."18
2. Both records claim to have been found in "the same way."
3. Both were "written for the same purpose."
4. Both "tell the story of the same ancient American inhabitants."
5. Both "have the same sea voyage."
6. Both "have light-skinned and dark-skinned people.
7. Both "tell of the same arts and sciences."
8. Both "have a comparable Christian theology."
9. Both "present a white God person."
10. Both "involve use of seer stones."
11. Both claim to "contain an abridged history of the extinct inhabitants of ancient America."19
12. Both describe how the record was deposited, protected supernaturally, and how its finder made a translation of it.
13. Both state that it "will come forth . . .when the Europeans (gentiles) inhabit this land (M.F., 3-4; I Nephi 13:35; 3:184-185).
14. Both "translators" testify of the truthfulness of the work and request that the readers read it "with a pure heart" (M.F., 2-3; Moroni 10:4-5; 10:4-5).20
15. Both have the earth revolving about the sun-something unknown until 1543 A.D. (M.F., 16; Helaman 12:13-15; 4:61-62).21
16. A theological address by an Indian chief in Spaulding's manuscript contains "the same thoughts" and they are "in the same order" as in a similar address in the Book of Mormon by King Benjamin (M.F., 26-32; Mosiah 1-4; 1-2).
17. Spaulding's leader teaches from a "sacred roll," while King Benjamin teaches from "plates of brass."
18. The religious section of Spaulding is written in the chiastic style, which is found throughout the Book of Mormon.22
19. Lobaska's rule over two empires and his golden age of peace parallels Christ's effect on the peoples in the Book of Mormon.23
20. Both include coins and fortifications.24
21. Both have similar scenes of bloodshed, even down to the final combats between enemy commanders.
22. Both depict a "little band" of warriors, 3,000 in M. F. and 2,000 Nephi-Lehis in the Book of Mormon.25
Besides these parallels, there are literally hundreds of identical or similar word combinations. In order to conserve space, only a few are listed below:26
- rights of their country (M.F., 31; 3 Nephi 6:30; 3:35)
- Crying with a loud voice (80; Alma 46:19; 21:48)
- He put forth his hand and (28; Alma 30:51; 16:63)
- An immense slaughter (101; Alma 49:21; 21:174)
- mourning and lamentation (84; Helaman 7:15; 3:16)
- according to their numbers (54; 3 Nephi 6:3; 3:4)
Even more surprising than these parallels, however, is the land area described in the two books. Holley emphasizes that Book of Mormon geography quite neatly matches the land described in Manuscript. Thus the "sea east" becomes Lake Ontario and the "sea west" becomes Lake Erie rather than, as Mormons have assumed, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Locating the River Sidon has always been a difficulty for Book of Mormon scholars.27 With this model, however, the River Sidon handily becomes the present-day Genesee River.28
Another problem has been the width of the "small neck of land" in the Book of Mormon, which is described as "a day and a half's journey" from sea to sea (Alma 22:32; 13:76). The distance of thirty-seven miles between these two lakes fits the description much better than the distance of over one hundred thirty miles at the Isthmus of Panama. 67 ancient fortified earthworks have been found at this location.29
Spaulding lived in this area and had first-hand knowledge of the earthworks, names and geographical locations that are portrayed in his writings. By imposing the Book of Mormon descriptions on maps of these areas, the following modern place names are found to coincide with the cities and lands in the Book of Mormon (see Figs. 1 & 2):30
Modern B of M
Angola - Angola
Boaz - Boaz
Jerusalem - Jerusalem
Jordan - Jordan
Lehigh - Lehi
Rama - Ramah
St. Agathe - Ogath
Alma - Valley of Alma
Antrim - Antum
Antioch - Anti-Anti
Conner - Comner
St. Ephrem - Hill Ephraim
Hellam - Helam
Jacobsburg - Jacobugath
Kishkiminetas - Kishkumen
Mantua - Manti
Monroe - Moroni
Minoa - Minon
Moraviantown - Morianton
Morin - Moron
Noah Lake - Land of Noah
Oneida - Onidah
Oneida Castle - Hill Onidah
Omer - Omner
Ripple Lake - Waters of Ripliancum
Sodom - Sidom
Shiloh - Shilom
Shurbrook - Shurr
Tenecum - Teancum
Holley bolsters his case for Spaulding authorship of the Book of Mormon with a quotation by Mormon archaeologist Joseph Vincent, who said:
“If a sincere student of the Book of Mormon will conscientiously read and study the book itself and will plot out all the locations mentioned,...he will find that all Book of Mormon lands lie within a five or six hundred mile radius, and that this area could not possibly extend from Chile to New York.”
In an unpublished article, Holley also compares Josephus' Wars of the Jews and the Book of Mormon showing remarkable parallels. While it is not likely that Joseph Smith, Jr. would have studied Josephus, Solomon Spaulding was a seminary graduate, and it is very likely that he would have known about Josephus' writings.32
One parallel is of particular interest. This is where a man named Jesus says things which are very similar to what Jesus Christ said in the Book of Mormon upon coming to America after his resurrection:
“A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people! Woe, woe to Jerusalem” (Book 6, Ch. 5, v. 1-3).
The parallel passage in the Book of Mormon reads:
“And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying: Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they repent” (3 Nephi 9:1-2; 4:26).
One of Spaulding's seminary classmates was Ethan Smith, author of View of the Hebrews.34 This book presented the position which was held by nearly all the clergy in America at the time, that the Indians were part of the lost tribes of Israel.35 It was published in 1823, the same year that Joseph Smith claimed to have his "First Vision." Much of the material in it was apparently incorporated into the Book of Mormon.
B. H. Roberts, a General Authority of the Mormon Church, did an analysis of this book and its possible relation to the writing of the Book of Mormon in 1921 at the request of the leadership of the Mormon Church. His stated purpose was to review possible arguments by non-Mormons against the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. Interestingly enough, he came to the conclusion that View of the Hebrews could have been one of the human sources for the contents of the Book of Mormon, and that Joseph Smith was sufficiently intelligent to have written it with this book and other resources which were available to him.36
His studies only recently became available to the public. They were published by the Utah Lighthouse Ministry of Salt Lake City under the name Roberts' Manuscripts Revealed -- A Photographic Reproduction of Mormon Historian B.H. Roberts' Secret Studies on the Book of Mormon. Both it and the View of the Hebrews were closely examined by the author who confirms as valid the following conclusions which Roberts listed when comparing View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon:37
1. Both books begin with "the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel" at 600 B.C.38
2. Ethan Smith, the author, begins his second chapter by quoting from Isaiah to prove that Judah and Israel will be restored in the last days. "One of the passages quoted" is from Isaiah 11, and this is one of the quotes that Joseph Smith claimed the Angel Moroni made to him when it visited him the first time on September 23rd, 1823, telling him of the golden plates.39
3. Ethan Smith quotes from "20 chapters of Isaiah" in the fourth chapter of his book to prove his point. Joseph Smith quotes from "21 chapters of Isaiah" in the first one hundred pages of the Book of Mormon to make the same point. In both cases, they are quoted in the only version of the Bible in common use in that day, the King James Version. "Many of the passages quoted...are identical."40
4. Ethan Smith quotes from Isaiah 18, citing it as a call upon the Christian Church in the United States to convert the Indians to Christianity. While the Book of Mormon itself does not cite this chapter, it makes the same point repeatedly. (e.g., I Nephi 13:39; 3:191).41
5. Both reported the use of iron and steel by the ancient inhabitants of America.42
6. Both report vast multitudes once filled North America. 43
7. Both report use of the Urim and Thummim by the ancient Indians.44
8. Both are against polygamy.45
9. Both report that the Indians once had a holy book, but lost it and fell out of favor with God.46
10. Both speak of Egyptian hieroglyphics in America.47
11. Both have a division into two peoples -- one civilized and one barbarian. Both depict wars between them with the extinction of the civilized people.48
12. Both depict knowledge of the mechanical arts, written language and one God as typical of the ancient Americans.49
13. Both proclaim destruction of the disobedient gentiles by converted Indians. This prophecy is given three times in the Book of Mormon by Jesus Christ himself (3 Nephi 16:8-16; 7:32-42; 3 Nephi 20:14-17; 9:50-53; 3 Nephi 21:11-13; 9:98-100).50
Concerning this prophecy, Roberts makes the following observation:
“All this might have seemed possible to men living in the early decades of the 19th century, 1820-1830, when Indian tribes of unknown strength but well attested ferocity occupied the greater part of the land over which the United States now extends its jurisdiction, but it is scarcely possible now to entertain such conceptions of native race terror, triumph, and domination over the Gentile nation of the United States.All reasonable expectation of such an event has passed”.51
Here, Joseph Smith may have overstepped himself, for even this General Authority of the Mormon Church finds it difficult to believe that Jesus Christ would promote the Book of Mormon to that extent.
The LDS Church now concedes that Smith used the King James Bible as one of his primary sources when it came to extended quotes from the Bible.52 The long passages quoted from Isaiah as well as from Malachi and other books of the Bible have forced them to this admission. This causes a problem, because the official position of the Church for many years was that the Urim and Thummim which accompanied the golden plates was the exclusive means of translation and that every word of the Book of Mormon was divinely translated.53
1. The New Testament portion of the KJV is often quoted in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon. Words of Jesus quoted almost without change before Christ's birth in the Book of Mormon are as follows: "Ye must pray always, and not faint" (2 Ne. 32:9; 14:12/Luke 18:1); "everlasting fire prepared his angels" (Mosiah 26:27; 11:135/Mat. 25:41); "then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God" (Alma 40:25; 19:59/Mat. 13:43).54
2. Words of the Apostle Paul are nearly or exactly quoted supposedly long before St. Paul's birth in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon: "steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works" (Mosiah 5:15; 3:21/I Cor. 15:58); "mortal shall put on immortality" (Enos 27;46; I Cor.15:53); "the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Enos 1; l/Eph. 6:4).55
3. The books of Hebrews and Revelation are also quoted or closely paraphrased in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon: The Spirit is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (2 Ne. 2:4; 1:65/Heb. 13:8); believers "endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame" (2 Ne. 9:18; 6:42/Heb.12:2); "if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy" (I Ne. 15:33; 4:55/Rev. 22:11).56
4. Sometimes, the author forgets to change the tense from the past to the future tense when attempting to prophesy about the things to come: "the Lamb of God did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized by water?...after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him...he having set the example" (2 Ne. 31:5-10; 13:8-11).57 In Mosiah 16:6; 8:79, which was supposed to have been written about 148 B.C., such an error is made but then caught later: "now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they have already come..."58
5. Old Testament Book of Mormon characters were modeled after New Testament persons. Note the following comparison between Alma and Paul:59
1) Both tried to "destroy the Church" before their conversions.
2) -were on a "mission of persecution" the day they were converted.
3) In both cases, those "present fell to the earth."
4) In both cases, a voice spoke which others could not understand.
5) Both were asked by the voice why they were fighting against the work of God.
Sometimes, the author [of the Book of Mormon] forgets to change the tense from the past to the future tense when attempting to prophesy about the things to come:
6) -were helpless and "had to be helped by their friends."
7) -fasted as a result.
8) -preached after being converted.
9) -worked with their hands to support their ministries.
10) -healed a crippled man.
11) -"were put into prison."
12) -prayed in prison.
13) -experienced an earthquake while in prison.
14) -In both cases, "the prisoners' bonds were loosed."
15) -Both taught the same doctrines.
Examples of how the teachings and even the words of Alma and St. Paul closely resemble each other are as follows:60
- faith, hope and charity - Alma 7:24; 5:41/I Cor. 13:13
- the power of God unto salvation - Alma 15:6; 10:95/Rom.1:16
Besides its obvious plagiarisms, other serious problems plague the Book of Mormon. Those discussed here are grouped into 3 categories: unannotated changes, un-Biblical doctrines and misinformation about the American Indian's past.
Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book in the world, and that a man could get closer to God by reading it than any other book.64 The Mormon Church has had a policy of not annotating its changes in the Book of Mormon, thus its people are not generally aware that it has been changing the Book of Mormon. In fact, LDS leaders still use this quotation to impress its members with the book's accuracy.65
A look at the original 1830 edition will quickly disillusion anyone who believes this. As one critic put it, "the Book of Mormon, so far as examined, lets us down to the level of an ignorant, unlettered, unsophisticated youth."66
While the doctrinal and archaeological errors remain in their totality in present editions, literally hundreds of grammatical errors and misuses of the English language which appear in the original 1830 edition have been edited out.
Examples are: "as I was a journeying" (249; Alma 10:7; 8:10); "Lamanitish servants a going forth" (271; Alma 17:26; 12:38), "a preaching" (284; Alma 21:11; 13:15), "a begging" (309; Alma 30:56; 6:72), etc.67
This has resulted in the publication of another book by the Utah Lighthouse Mission which compares the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon with the 1964 LDS edition, noting all the changes. It is appropriately named 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon. Now, however, the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon has made it obsolete, for it has over two hundred additional changes.
An example of how the editing still does not go far enough may be found in Helaman 7:8, 9; 3:8-9. The 1830 edition reads, "Yea, if my days could have been in them days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren. But behold, I am consigned that these are my days . . . (p. 427)." The Mormon editors caught the first error and changed "them" to "these," but left "consigned," which should have been changed to "resigned."
When confronted by the fact that their own leaders have been editing the Book of Mormon, Mormons generally try to excuse them by saying that the changes are only superficial. Some of these changes go far beyond grammar. For example, the 1830 Book of Mormon tells of translating by King Benjamin which subsequent editions changed from King Benjamin to King Mosiah (200; Mosiah 21:28; 9:170). Why this change? Because closer examination of the text shows that King Benjamin had died by then and Mosiah was king.68
Mormons also defend editing by their church leaders on the grounds that they are led by the Holy Spirit in whatever corrections they may make.69 However, upon close examination of the changes, it becomes obvious that some of the editing is worse than the original text.
An example of this in the 1830 edition is found on page 87; (2 Ne. 12:8-9; 8:24-25). This is a passage of Isaiah and corresponds to Is. 2:8-9 in the Bible. The primary change in this verse is the addition of the word "not" in verse 9; 25. The 1830 edition added it once, causing confusion. Subsequent editing, apparently by Joseph Smith himself, added another "not" which compounded the confusion. The result is that this passage, which in Isaiah condemns idolatry, becomes, in the Book of Mormon, a command to commit idolatry:70
“Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not, therefore, forgive him not.”
Samples of other glaring errors which need to be edited are:71
Helaman 9:6; 3:73 “Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered'he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy, and he fled...”
Alma 43:38; 20:41 “While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their breastplates...”
Mormon General Authority B. H. Roberts wrote wearily about his frustration with Book of Mormon errors:72
Many errors, verbal and grammatical, have already been eliminated in the later English editions, and there is no valid reason why every one of those that remain should not be eliminated...There is just no good reason why we should not have just as good a Book of Mormon in the English language as they now have in the French, the German, the Swedish and the Danish.. The present writer hopes that he will live to see those verbal and grammatical changes authorized.
Despite Joseph Smith's declaration that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book, the Book of Mormon actually apologizes for being poorly written, yet practically in the same sentence, brazenly condemns all who refuse to believe it:
“...when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words. And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn”. (Ether 12:25-26; 5:26-27)
If the Book of Mormon is a fraudulent work as this paper contends, then doctrinal errors which are in conflict with the Bible should also be evident. This can be clearly demonstrated to the unbiased investigator. Un-Biblical doctrines selected to illustrate this are (1) the corruptibility of the Holy Scriptures, (2) the always-known gospel, (3) salvation by works and (4) the baptism of the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost.
Despite the insistence of the Book of Mormon that many parts have been taken away from the Bible (I Ne. 13:26-28; 3:167-171), the New Testament makes it very clear that this would never be permitted by God:
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”. (Mt. 5:18)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (I Pet. 1:23-25)
In the light of these passages, the Book of Mormon teaching of the corruptibility of the Holy Scriptures is contrary to the Bible. This is significant for Mormons, for the Book of Mormon also teaches that what little remains of the Bible is true (I Ne. 13:40-41; 3:192-197).
The Book of Mormon teaches that the gospel has been known by holy men throughout the ages. The New Testament, however, teaches that knowledge of the complete plan of salvation through Christ was a mystery which was not revealed to anyone before it was made known to the apostles after Christ's resurrection:73
“by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;...which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles by the Spirit;” (Eph. 3:3-5)
“...the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest...” (Rom.16:25-26)
“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:...which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:26-27)
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” (Eph.3:8-10)
This last Bible passage shows that even the very angels of heaven did not understand the gospel until after it was revealed to the apostles after Christ's resurrection. Since angels were constantly revealing the gospel to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, this demonstrates conclusively that the entire theological basis of the Book of Mormon is un-Biblical.
The Book of Mormon teaches that salvation is obtained by both faith and works. Mormons often quote James 2:26 '"faith without works is dead"to try to show that the Bible also teaches this and that Paul's teachings on salvation by faith alone is not properly understood by evangelical Christians.
St. Paul's most concise statement of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone reads "for by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Bible scholars generally agree that the great Pauline doctrine of salvation by faith alone does not disagree with James, which teaches that true saving faith must be accompanied by good works. They are quick to explain, however, that God sees our faith the instant it first appears, while man sees our faith only by seeing our good works. The Bible thus teaches that while we are saved by faith alone, our salvation produces works which are seen by all.74
The author of the Book of Mormon could not grasp this, but felt compelled to correct the Pauline concept, even though it was supposedly centuries before it had been revealed to St. Paul. The Book of Mormon "correction" for this is found in 2 Ne. 25:23; 11:44: ". . . for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." This is a good example of the Book of Mormon's attempt to restore "plain and precious things" to the Bible which end up in distorting the true gospel of Jesus. This is precisely the type of distortion of the gospel that brings to bear the anathemas of the New Testament (Gal. 1:6-9).75
According to the Book of Mormon, people were baptized with the Holy Spirit during Old Testament times, long before the day of Pentecost. The Bible plainly teaches that this could not take place in a general way until after Jesus had been crucified and ascended into heaven:76
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (Jn. 7:37-39)
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you”. (Jn. 16:7)
“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Lk. 24:49)
The constant recurrence of New Testament-like infillings of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon shows that the significance of the events on the day of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts were not understood by the author of the Book of Mormon. This is still another example of the un-Biblical doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon.
Misinformation about the American Indians' Past
The application of scientific investigation methods to the question of the history and origin of the American Indian did not begin until the latter part of the 19th Century. This should be of special interest to the LDS Church, for logically this should prove that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. The LDS Church has not welcomed the new discoveries, however, for instead, they show that he was a false prophet rather than a true one.77
Even today, Mormon missionaries cite as evidence out-moded ideas which are nearly 200 years out of date.78 When pressed to present modern evidence, they immediately turn from objective evidence to the subjective method of simply "asking God" if the Book of Mormon is true. They are taught that this is a surer way of confirming spiritual truth than testing it by objective investigation. This is especially surprising in light of their emphasis on education and their dictum, "The Glory of God is Intelligence."
The results of scientific inquiry may be divided into four categories: (1) racial, (2) linguistic, (3) cultural, and (4) religious. Scientists have determined that the American Indian has the physical characteristics of the Asian Mongolians. They believe that between 25,000 and 30,000 years ago, there was a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska over which Asian tribes migrated following the animals which they hunted for food.79
Five different linguistic stocks form the basis for all the languages of the American Indians. Each of these stocks are as completely unrelated as English and Hebrew, for example.80 These form the base for 169 related languages that are still as unintelligible as, say, English and German. Then these major languages are broken down into numerous dialects which are can be used with a certain amount of mutual understanding between them. None of the language stocks are related to any existing Old World languages.81
As far back as 9,000 B.C., bone was the material used for cutting. Identical bone pins and awls have been found in Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky, showing that trade was widespread by 5000 B.C.82 As early as 4,000 B.C., the Indians in America learned that by heating chert, it became hardened enough to provide a sharp cutting edge. While gold, silver and copper were used to make ornaments, the use of other metals was nearly unknown before Columbus. The highest level of civilization achieved in the Americas was the "polished stone" age.83
The bow and arrow came into use only about A.D. 800. This was very easy for archaeologists to confirm, because spear heads are 2-4 inches long, while the arrowheads are one-to-two inches long.84 Before that, the principal hunting weapon was the lance thrown with an "atuatl" to give it added thrust.
In North America, the inhabitants were nomadic, living off the abundant wildlife. Evidence shows that about A.D. 800, agriculture began in earnest as the population increased. Interestingly enough, tribal wars did not begin to any real degree until then. Apparently the investment of work in the land gave the feeling of proprietorship, and aroused feelings of competition between the different tribes.85
While different civilizations did rise and fall in Pre-Columbian, only the Mayas in Yucatan developed a written language.86 Thousands of their inscriptions are found on ancient temples and buildings, most notably in the ancient cities of Copan and Palenque.87
Especially in Central America, the Indians showed themselves to be notable astronomers. The Mayas divided the year into eighteen months of twenty days each. Five days were added at the end of the year, and a sixth day each four years.88 In other areas, however, the Indians were notably behind some other parts of the world. The sail and the rudder, for example were unknown to them.89 Also, the dog was their only domestic animal.90
The unbroken record of Indian religions is of a paganism which included idol worship, cannibalism and human sacrifice. Its animism and belief in witchcraft is well documented. No evidence exists indicating that this religion was ever changed or interrupted.91
When comparing these findings with the Book of Mormon, the great gulf between them immediately becomes apparent. The Book of Mormon presents 3 migrations to the Americas, all from the Middle East.92 The first was shortly before the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel (Eth. 2:5; 1:26), and there were no other immigrations until 600 B.C. The second and third were shortly after 600.B.C. Both of these latter migrations were composed of Israelites. One of them, the Mulekites, found one lone survivor of the previous inhabitants. Other than that, all three migrations found the Americas empty of inhabitants (2 Ne. 1:9-11; 1:19-24).93
Scientific findings agree, however, that the Americas have been inhabited without any sign of annihilations for at least 25,000 years.94 Evidence that a white race inhabited Pre-Columbian America is nonexistent.95 Furthermore, the body structure of the Indians is different than that of the Jewish race.96
The fact that there are 5 language stocks would seem to indicateat least 5 migrations to the Americas after the Tower of Babel. An ancient date for these would be necessary to explain the hundreds of kindred languages that have been formed from them.97 The Book of Mormon does not record any other migrations to America that would account for them.
The Book of Mormon teaches that both the white and the dark races inhabiting the Americas spoke and wrote a mutually intelligible language based on Hebrew as late as A.D. 400, and also that the knowledge of Egyptian writing was current, though it had been reformed (Mor. 9:32; 4:98-99). This militates against archaeological findings which state that neither Hebrew nor Egyptian writings existed in ancient America.98 The only script that existed in ancient America, the Mayan script in Yucatan, bears absolutely no resemblance to the letters copied from the golden plates by Joseph Smith.99
The Book of Mormon states that the inhabitants of ancient America had iron and steel tools and weapons (2 Ne. 5:15; 4:21), linen and silk clothes (Alma 1:29; 1:44), and nearly every kind of domesticated animal which we have today (1 Ne. 18:25; 5:216; 2 Ne.17:21; 9:34; 3 Ne.7:8; 3:43). It even states that the ox was found in America in A.D. 600 in a wild state (I Ne. 18:25; 5:216-217). Not only is there no evidence of the former, but the affirmation of the latter should definitely make the whole matter suspect, for the ox is a product of human surgical intervention nearly 100% of the time.100 The animals mentioned as domesticated in the Book of Mormon were unknown in Pre-Columbian America, as were some of the grains it mentions, such as barley and wheat (Mosiah 7:22; 5:35; 9:9; 6:12).101 Also, the Book of Mormon week was of seven days following the Jewish pattern.102
Mormons understand the Aztec legends of Quetzelcoatl to be an echo of Christ's visit to the Americas after his resurrection. Scientists have determined, however, that Quetzelcoatl's visit was about A.D. 1,000.103 The very fact that he was remembered as a bearded white man would seem to indicate that the Indians were not white at that time.104 No evidence at all exists which would indicate the existence of a Christian civilization in the Americas previous to the arrival of Columbus.105
During the summer of 1985, the author visited the archaeological center in Kampsville, Illinois. One of the archaeologists was a part-Cherokee Indian named John White. He affirmed to the author that he had read the Book of Mormon and that the results of the diggings there in no way resembled ancient Indian life as described in it.
This coincides with what Ross T. Christensen, a Mormon anthropologist at Brigham Young University, has admitted: "The statement that the Book of Mormon has already been proved by archeology is misleading."106
Due to the recurring claims of some Mormon missionaries that scientists use the Book of Mormon in their archaeological investigations, the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C., periodically puts out a letter clarifying its position. In one such letter dated "Summer 1979," they state clearly:
The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.107
If a person is not convinced of the fraudulent nature of the Book of Mormon by the internal textual evidence, then the scientific refutations should suffice.
The Book of Mormon, when examined closely, turns out to be full of plagiarisms, unannotated changes, un-Biblical doctrines and misinformation about the American Indian's past. It cannot be the Word of God.
A Mormon anthropologist at BYU admitted: "The statement that the Book of Mormon has already been proved by archeology is misleading."
1.E. D. Howe, MORMONISM UNVAILED (1834; photomechanical reprint, Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, n.d.), 89.
2.M. T. Lamb, THE GOLDEN BIBLE OR "THE BOOK OF MORMON." IS IT FROM GOD? (1887; photomechanical reprint, Salt Lake: Utah Lighthouse Ministry) 1-4.
3 Bruce R. McConkie, MORMON DOCTRINE, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake : Bookcraft, 1979) 33.
4 McConkie, 33.
5 Howe, 145-146.
6 Doctrine and Covenants. LDS, 84:2-3. RLDS, 83:1.
7 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, MORMONISM: SHADOW OR REALITY? (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1982), 72.
8 Lamb, 236-237.
9 William Shakespeare, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, (London: William Collins & Sons, 1899), 1145.
10 Shakespeare, 1134-1135.
11 Lamb, 227.
12 Howe, 288.
13 Jerald & Sandra Tanner, DID SPAULDING WRITE THE BOOK OF MORMON? (Salt Lake: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1977), 16.
14 Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard A. Davis and Donald R. Scales, WHO REALLY WROTE THE BOOK OF MORMON? (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House, 1977).
15 Tanner, SPAULDING, 17.
16 Vernal Holley, BOOK OF MORMON AUTHORSHIP: A CLOSER LOOK, (Ogden: Zenos, 1983).
17 Solomon Spaulding, THE "MANUSCRIPT FOUND" MANUSCRIPT STORY (1910; reprinted as Part 2 of DID SPAULDING WRITE THE BOOK OF MORMON?, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1977).
18 Holley, 10.
19 Holley, 11.
20 Holley, 12.
21 Holley, 14.
22 Holley, 16.
23 Holley, 17.
24 Holley, 18.
25 Holley, 20-24.
26 Holley, 28-30.
27 Holley, 31-32.
28 Holley, 35.
29 Holley, 34.
30 Holley, 39-42.
31 Holley, 33.
32 Vernal Holley, "A Study of the Similarities Between the Works of Flavius Josephus and the Book of Mormon: 1981" Photocopy, 3800 S. 1900 W. 188, Roy, Utah 84067, 41.
33 Holley, "Josephus," 33.
35 Wesley P. Walters, THE HUMAN ORIGINS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON (Safety Harbor, FL: Ex-Mormons for Jesus, 1979), 4.
36 Brigham H. Roberts, ROBERTS' MANUSCRIPT REVEAL. A PHOTOGRAPHIC REPRODUCTION OF MORMON HISTORIAN B.H. ROBERTS' SECRET STUDIES ON THE BOOK OF MORMON.(Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1980), 123, 155.
37 Ethan Smith, VIEW OF THE HEBREWS, 2nd ed. (1825: Photomechanical Reprint., Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, n.d.).
38 Roberts, 156.
39 Roberts, 156-157.
40 Roberts, 159-161.
41 Walters, 12.
42 Roberts, 203-204.
43 Roberts, 207.
44 Roberts, 220.
45 Roberts, 229-230.
46 Roberts, 232.
47 Roberts, 237.
48 Roberts, 276.
49 Roberts, 275-276.
50 Roberts, 175.
51 Roberts, 177.
52 Sidney B. Sperry, BOOK OF MORMON COMPENDIUM (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 507.
53 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, 3,913 CHANGES IN THE BOOK OF MORMON, (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, n.d.), Intro., 3.
54 H. Michael Marquardt, THE USE OF THE BIBLE IN THE BOOK OF MORMON, (1979: reprint, Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, n.d.), 96.
55 Marquardt, 96-97.
56 Marquardt, 97.
58 Marquardt, 100.
59 Marquardt, 102-104.
60 Marquardt, 105.
61 Marquardt, 106.
62 Marquardt, 111.
63 Marquardt, 107-108.
64 Joseph Smith, Jr., HISTORY OF THE CHURCH (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1978), 4:461.
65 Tanner, 3.913 g, Intro., 1.
66 Lamb, 59.
67 LaMar Petersen, PROBLEMS IN THE MORMON TEXT (Concord, CA: Pacific Publishing, n.d.), 13.
68 Tanner, 3,913 CHANGES, Intro., 5.
70 Ed Decker, SAINTS ALIVE IN JESUS NEWSLETTER. (Issaquah, WA: Ex-Mormons for Jesus, June 1985), n.p.
71 Lamb, 56.
72 Tanner, 3,913 CHANGES, Intro., 5.
73 Lamb, 149-151.
74 Matthew Henry, MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961) 21st Amer. printing, 1934.
75 James M. Tolle, IS THE BOOK OF MORMON FROM GOD? (San Fernando, CA: Tolle Pub., 1957) 27.
76 Howe, 29.
77 Walters, 4.
78 John W. Rich, compiler, THE BOOK OF MORMON ON TRIAL (Salt Lake City: Sounds of Zion, 1971), 169-245.
79. Wally Tope, ON THE FRONTLINES WITNESSING TO MORMONS (La Cañada Flintridge, CA: Wally Tope Frontlines Ministries, 1984), 65.
80 Roberts, 31-33.
81 Wesley, 4.
82 Stuart Struever and Felicia Antonelli Holton, KOSTER'AMERICANS IN SEARCH OF THEIR PREHISTORIC PAST, (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979), 192.
83 Struever, 189-192.
84 Struever, 185.
85 Struever, 163.
86 Lamb, 272.
87 Lamb, 260-269.
88 Lamb, 294.
89 Walters, 6.
90 Tope, 65.
91 Lamb, 285-288.
92 McConkie, 98.
93 Walters, 3.
94 Tope, 65.
95 Tope, 65.
96 Lamb, 294.
97 Roberts, 77-78.
98 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BOOK OF MORMON, (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1969), 2.
99 Lamb, 265.
100 Howe, 35.
101 Tope, 64-65.
102 Lamb, 294.
103 Walters, 22.
104 Lamb, 295.
105 Walters, 6-7.
106 Tanner, SHADOW, 98.
107 Tope, 65.
Dean Helland is a former member of the RLDS Church. This article was originally a research paper presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology and Missions, Oral Roberts University, September 28, 1987.
All the views expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by this site. New Covenant Christians do not regard the Book of Mormon as an historical document and do not accept the religious claims of its author.
The maps in this article are adaptions of originals © 1983 and 1989 by Vernal Holley.
This page was created on 9 October 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 New Covenant Ministries