Investigating the Evidence for Mormonism In Six Steps

Investigating the Evidence for Mormonism In Six StepsI became a Christian at the same time I became a “Not Mormon”. By taking an investigative approach to the Christian and Mormon scripture (as I’ve described in Cold-Case Christianity), I was able to verify the truth claims of Christianity, even as I falsified the truth claims of Mormonism. This lengthy article describes some of what I discovered about Mormonism.

Evidence Related to Motive
I’ve often described three motives common to every suspect I have investigated as a detective. All crimes, from simple thefts to gruesome homicides, are motivated by one of these three evil desires: sexual lust, financial greed, and the pursuit of power. Mormonism hinges on the truth claims of Joseph Smith. If he is telling the truth, Mormonism is the restoration of Christianity. If he is lying, Mormonism is simply another man-made religious system. Did Joseph Smith have a good reason to lie? Were any of the three motives we’ve described present in the life of Joseph Smith?

Sexual Lust
Joseph Smith took over 30 wives for himself, claiming God revealed polygamy to be a holy practice. Emma, his first wife, was never fully accepting of this practice and remained skeptical about Joseph’s divine revelations related to polygamy. In addition, many of the founding members of Mormonism left the group when Smith started this practice.

Financial Greed
As the prophet of the new religious system, Smith relied largely on the support of his followers. Smith repeatedly sought the financial support of members of the church who worked in one manner or another. Over the years while Smith lived with the group, hundreds of members contributed to projects initiate by Joseph, and Smith’s writings included divine commandments for the Prophet to be sustained by his people. At one early point in Mormon history, Smith claimed to have a revelation from God to establish a bank in Kirtland Ohio. He became the cashier for the bank (which was never licensed by the state of Ohio) and told his followers God promised him the bank would never fail. It ultimately did fail, however, bankrupting many members of the church who lost everything they had and ultimately walked away from Mormonism.

The Pursuit of Power
Smith acted as the singular spokesperson for God. He initiated activity within the Mormon community by divine command. His personal power and influence was staggering considering the number of times he tested the will of his people. His followers grew in number and provided a power base possessed by few others. In 1843, Joseph even announced his candidacy for President of the United States, and in 1844 he organized a secret “Council of Fifty”. Smith tried to establish what he called a “Theodemocracy” and this council was to act as a policy making body within the new government. Smith even used this council to send ambassadors to England, France, Russia and the Republic of Texas. The Council immediately ordained Joseph as “King of the Kingdom of God”, and Smith predicted the United States would be overthrown in just a few years.

The First Point of Evaluation: What Should We Conclude So Far?
As we examine the truth claims of Joseph Smith, we need to recognize Smith clearly had something to gain by fabricating a lie. These motives do not, in and of themselves, prove Joseph Smith lied about the Book of Mormon, however. Christianity and Mormonism are similar in the sense that both faith systems claim to be rooted in history; the Bible in the ancient history of the Middle East, the Book of Mormon in the ancient history of the North American continent. Both sets of writings claim to be written by men who were eyewitnesses to the events they recorded. Both sets of scripture claim to testify about the truth of an ancient record of events.

For this reason, it’s fair to submit Christian and Mormon scriptures to the same critical evidential examination we might use to examine other eyewitness accounts. If Christianity is true, it ought to hold up to this examination; if Mormonism is true, it should also pass the evidential test of critical investigation. As a cold-case detective, I’ve become familiar with the critical examination of evidence and I’ve applied investigative techniques such as forensic statement analysis to the Christian Gospels to evaluate their value as eyewitness accounts. While Christianity withstands the careful scrutiny of such an investigation, Mormonism does not. In fact, Mormon scripture such as the Book of Abraham, fails the evidential test completely. To demonstrate what I mean in this regard, let’s critically examine the evidence related to the Book of Mormon.

Evidence Related to the Timing of the Writing
Mormons believe God the young Joseph Smith to accomplish a restoration of Christianity at a specific time in history. The timing of this work of God is of interest to those of us who want to examine Smith as an eyewitness (and the Book of Mormon as an eyewitness account). Why would God choose to restore the Church in the early 19th century? Why would he wait over 1800 years to restore Christians to the truth? And why would he choose a boy in Palmyra, New York? Perhaps God just knew that it was the right time and wanted to demonstrate His power through a humble, seemingly incapable young man. Or perhaps there were other, less divine forces at work in New York at the time. Let’s look at the evidence related to the location from which Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon emerged:

The Second Great Awakening Swept Through New York
The famous “Second Great Awakening” occurred here in America from 1790 to approximately 1845 (the first “Great Awakening” occurred approximately 50 years prior). The Second Great Awakening was facilitated by a number of charismatic preachers (Charles Finney being perhaps the most famous), and resulted in tremendous religious excitement throughout New England, including the area of Palmyra, New York. Church attendance and conversion records in the area reflect strong growth starting in 1824. Joseph Smith was born in this area on December 23rd, 1805 and grew up in the midst of this religious revival.

The Great Preachers of the Awakening Left Little Guidance
The preachers of the Second Great Awakening were excellent communicators and their camp style revivals were designed to solicit responses from the people they reached. These same preachers, however, were less than effective in establishing a discipleship process for the new converts to Christianity. In the wake of the revival meetings, new converts were left largely on their own as the local church systems were not established well enough to help teach and mentor those who were now interested in learning the truth about Jesus. As a result, a number of unorthodox and variant forms of Christianity emerged in the area; Mormonism was only one movement among many. In addition to Mormonism, the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church also emerged as a result of the unguided response to the Second Great Awakening.

The Culture Was Fascinated With the Origin of Native Americans
Another interest was developing among the people living in America in the early 1800’s. The Native American Indians of the northeast were of particular interest to settlers in the area and many Indian burial grounds and mounds were uncovered at the time. People were fascinated by the fact another culture had settled in the area prior to the arrival of Europeans. Several authors speculated as to the origin of the Native Americans. In 1823, Ethan Smith (no relationship to Joseph Smith) wrote a book called View of the Hebrews, arguing the Native Americans were actually descendents of the Hebrews (from the Ten Lost Tribes) who migrated to the North American continent after the Assyrian captivity in the 8th Century BC. A second edition of the book was published in 1825 (five years prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon). Ethan Smith was not alone in this speculation. Many theologians and believers at the time speculated about the Jewish roots of the Native Americans, and Smith called these believers to restore the Native American Indians to the faith of their forefathers.

The People of Palmyra Were Interested in Treasure-Digging
Many people in the northeast were engaged in treasure digging in the early 19th Century; this was particularly popular in the Palmyra area where Joseph Smith was raised. The local newspaper, the Palmyra Herald, printed the following remarks when Joseph was only 16 years of age:

“…digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing and in this state it is even considered as honorable and profitable employment”

“One gentleman…digging…ten to twelve years, found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a commodious house… another…dug up…fifty thousand dollars.”

The practice of treasure-digging (also known as “money-digging”) was a well accepted activity by many people in lower economic status at the time. In fact, many “diggers” were known to use mystical tools to assist them in their search for treasure. In 1825, the Wayne Sentinel reported that treasure was being recovered with the help of what became known as a “seer stone”:

“…by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it).”

The Second Point of Evaluation: What Should We Conclude So Far?
Before we move on and look at additional pieces of evidence, let’s stop and ask ourselves an important question. Which is more reasonable: God used an unlikely vessel like Joseph Smith in an unlikely place like the small town of Palmyra to restore Christianity to its original form, or Smith simply emerged from a region and time ripe for all kinds of spiritual activity (both true and false / legitimate and illegitimate)?

Joseph Smith was raised in the midst of this religiously charged environment in New York State. It’s really no wonder someone would appear in such an environment incorporating pre-existing ideas about Native Americans into a religious movement seeking to guide uneducated converts from the Great Awakening. Mormonism did not appear uniquely on the scene. Many other religious movements also emerged in response to the circumstances and influences of the day. It is also not surprising the Mormon movement might find its start in some sort of “digging” activity, considering the local interest in such treasure digging.

Given what we know so far about the environment from which Mormonism emerged, there is no evidential reason to accept the claims of Smith or the Book of Mormon.

Evidence Related to the Author of the Book
Mormon believers identify Joseph Smith as a humble, uneducated, devout young man who grew up in an environment of spiritual confusion in Palmyra New York. The LDS Church typically portrays Smith as virtuous and sincere in his search for spiritual truth; Mormons believe Smith was used by God in a unique way to restore the truth of Christianity. But evidence surrounding the early history of Joseph Smith highlights alternative motives and intentions:

Joseph was a Local Treasure-Digger
Joseph first learned about treasure digging from a traveling magician and diviner who visited Palmyra prior to 1825. This “diviner” claimed to be able to locate water and treasure using “magic stones” and he charged three dollars a day for his work in this regard. He was ultimately unsuccessful in the Palmyra area, but when he left, Smith decided to take up the activity for himself. He assisted a number of people over the next several years, attempting to find treasure of one sort or another.

Joseph Used a “Seer Stone”
Joseph imitated the “diviner” he met in his youth and utilized a number of “seer stones” over the course of his life. Those who watched Smith use the stones were amazed by his claims. One such observer, Joseph Capron, wrote Smith was able to use the stone to see “ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver.”

Joseph Was Charged with Fraud
Smith’s attempts to collect money from those who wanted assistance in locating buried treasure eventually landed him in trouble. A man named Josiah Stowel hired Smith to assist him in locating treasure on his property in eastern New York State. Smith travelled east with his father in order to do the work, and while there, they stayed with a friend of Stowel who also helped subsidize the work, Isaac Hale (interestingly, Hale’s daughter, Emma, eventually married Smith).

After repeated failures and excuses from Smith, both Stowel and Hale lost confidence in him and started to believe Smith was trying to swindle them out of their money. Later, Stowel would recall Smith was less than virtuous in his dealings with the two men: “His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man – not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father…Young Smith gave the ‘money-diggers’ great encouragement, at first, but when they arrived in digging to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found – he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825.”

Charges were eventually filed against Smith and he was brought to trial in Bainbridge, New York in March of 1826. He was formally charged with being “a disorderly person and an impostor.” In an account of the court proceedings described in “Fraser’s Magazine” we get a glimpse at some of the details:

“Prisoner brought before Court March 20,1826, Prisoner examined: says that he came from the town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel in Bainbridge most of time since; had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, but the major part had been employed by said Stowel on his farm, and going to school. That he had a certain stone which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times, and had informed him where he could find these treasures, and Mr. Stowel had been engaged in digging for them. That at Palmyra he pretended to tell by looking at this stone where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account of its injuring his health, especially his eyes, making them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.” (Fraser’s Magazine, Feb. 1873, p. 229 – there is identical court account in New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 2, p. 1576)

It appears Smith was found guilty of a misdemeanor in violation of the New York State vagrancy law as a result of this court hearing. It’s important to remember this charge of fraud was leveled at Smith when he was 20 years of age, approximately six years after Smith said that he had his first vision and during the time Smith said he was being visited by angels prior to the writing of the Book of Mormon.

The Third Point of Evaluation: What Should We Conclude So Far?
Once again, let’s stop and ask ourselves an important question. Which is more reasonable: God used an unlikely vessel like Joseph Smith, in spite of his personal background, to restore Christianity to its original form, or Smith simply continued his fraudulent activity and found a way to profit from the creation of the Book of Mormon?

The rather untrustworthy character of Joseph Smith is often dismissed by Mormon believers who site other men in the Bible who were also less than virtuous at one point in their lives (i.e. David or Paul) but were still utilized by God. But unlike the Biblical examples often cited, Joseph Smith was still involved in fraudulent activity at the very time he was making important claims related to his discovery of the Golden Plates, and these charges of fraud involved activities common to Smith’s claims about discovering the plates he later claimed he translated into the Book of Mormon.

Given what we know so far about the character and history of Joseph Smith, there is no evidential reason to accept the claims of Smith or the Book of Mormon.

Evidence Related to the Translation Process
Joseph claimed to retrieve Golden Plates buried in the ground near Palmyra, New York. He eventually translated these plates into what became the Book of Mormon. Few Mormon believers actually understand the manner in which these plates were translated, but the evidence related to the translation process will help us to understand if the plates truly existed and if their translation was, in fact, an act of God.

No One Ever Observed the Plates with Their Natural Eyes
While Smith claimed to discover a very large, heavy set of plates (estimated to weigh over 200 pounds), none of the people who helped him translate the plates appear to have ever actually seen the plates with their own eyes. When Smith moved to Pennsylvania with his wife, Emma, in October of 1827, they brought a wooden box Smith said contained the golden plates. They stayed with Emma’s parents at the time, but Joseph refused to show Emma or her parents the plates. As a result, Emma’s father refused to let Joseph store the box in his house. Smith then hid the box in the surrounding woods. Joseph claimed he could translate the plates without having them physically present, so this hidden location did not inhibit his activity in writing the Book of Mormon. Several people assisted Joseph in the translation process, including Emma, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery (Smith’s third cousin) and David Witmer, but no one appears to have actually seen the plates during this process.

In April of 1828, Martin Harris’ wife became suspicious of the fact that her husband had not yet seen the plates and she demanded to see them. Smith once again refused. This ultimately led to a loss of 116 pages of the original transcript (more on that later). Martin Harris demanded to see the plates in March of 1829, many months into the translation process; Harris had yet to see the plates he was supposedly helping translate. Smith told Harris he “would go into the wood where the Book of Plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his tracks in the snow, and find the Book, and examine it for himself”. Harris attempted to do this but never found the plates as Joseph had described. The next day, Smith coincidentally dictated a portion of the golden plates directed specifically at Harris. This new portion of the translation said Harris would eventually qualify to be one of three witnesses who would eventually see the plates. This prophecy from the plates seemed to pacify Harris for a time.

By June of 1829, Smith finally had to leave the town where he was staying with Emma’s parents. Local residents were becoming suspicious about Smith’s activity with the plates, so Joseph left to live with David Whitmer and his parents in Fayette, New York. Smith said the angel Moroni transported the plates to this new location and placed them in the Whitmer family garden; Joseph completed the translation at the Whitmer home. While here, Harris, Whitmer and Cowdery pressed Smith to see the plates and Joseph told them they would have to rely on God’s word and if they did this with a full purpose of heart they would have a “view of the plates, and also the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim… and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi.” In other words, Smith told these three men they would only see the plates if their faith was strong.

The three men then went out into the woods with Smith, stopped at some point and began to pray. When the plates were not revealed, they prayed harder. When this did not help, Martin Harris offered to leave the group, worried that his doubt was the reason the plates were not being revealed. As soon as he left, the remaining two men had a vision of an angel and the plates (but not the other items Joseph had described). Smith then left the men to find Harris and told Harris about their visions. Harris prayed again with Smith and Harris eventually cried out “’Tis enough, ‘tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld.” (All this according to Joseph Smith’s History of the Church).

While the Mormon Church often portrays these critical three witnesses as trustworthy and reliable, history seems to indicate something different. Oliver Cowdery was eventually excommunicated from the Church after exposing Smith’s first polygamous relationship to Fanny Alger. Smith described Cowdery as a thief, liar, perjurer, counterfeiter, adulterer and leader of “scoundrels of the deepest degree”. Cowdery later became a Methodist and denied the Book of Mormon altogether and publicly confessed his “sorrow and Shame” for having any connection with Mormonism.

Martin Harris was a member of 5 different religious groups before becoming a Mormon, and he was part of eight different groups after leaving Mormonism. He was also excommunicated from the Mormon Church and later reported that he did not see the plates as Smith described, but only saw the plates three days after Cowdery and Whitmer and then only in a spiritual sense:

“I never saw the gold plates, only in a visionary or entranced state. …In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates.” (Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, n.d., microfilm copy, p. 70-71).

David Whitmer was also excommunicated from the Church and later declared he was himself a prophet of the New Church of Christ. Joseph called him a “dumb beast to ride” and an “ass to bray out coursings instead of blessings”. Whitmer later admitted he saw the plates “by the eye of faith” rather than with his physical eyes and he waffled between three varying accounts of how he saw the plates.

Eventually, Smith decided this group of three “witnesses” was insufficient; he involved eight additional men and recruited them as potential eyewitnesses, forming a group of eleven total witnesses to the golden plates. Smith limited his choices to men who were close friends and relatives. He first involved four brothers of David Whitmer. Smith next recruited his own father, two of his brothers and Hiram Page (who was married to David Whitmer’s sister, Catherine). Even though Smith limited his choices to close friends and relatives, these men also had trouble staying true to the faith founded on the golden plates they claimed to see. Two of these eight men apostatized and left the Church altogether. Another was excommunicated. Of the eleven men who claimed to see the golden plates, only five remained faithful to Mormonism. Three of these five men were blood relatives of Joseph Smith. Martin Harris later reported these additional eight witnesses also observed the plates in a vision and never saw the plates with their “natural eyes”.

After the translation of the plates, Smith claimed they were returned to the angel and were no longer available for examination. For this reason, no other witnesses were ever present to authenticate the golden plates.

Joseph Translated Just As He Searched for Treasure
Most modern accounts of Smith’s translation process depict him reading from the plates and translating them word for word while a scribe carefully wrote down what Smith is saying. Mormon illustrations of this process generally place Joseph at a table with a scribe opposite him. Both have access to the plates and Joseph is clearly using the plates to translate one word at a time. But the real “translation” process was very different according to those who actually saw it:

Emma Hale Smith:
“In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.” (Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma;’ Saints’ Herald 26 (October 1, 1879), 289-90)

David Whitmer:
“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”(David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Missouri: 1887, p. 12)

“I, as well as all of my father’s family, Smith’s wife, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, were present during the translation …. He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation”(David Whitmer interview given to Kansas City Journal, June 5, 1881, reprinted in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Journal of History, vol. 8, (1910), pp. 299-300)

Martin Harris:
“Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say “Written,” and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.” (Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,” reprinted from Deseret News, 30 Nov. 1881 in Millennial Star, 44 (6 Feb. 1882), 86-87)

Oliver Cowdery:
“These were days never to be forgotten — to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom. Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history, or record, called ‘The Book of Mormon.” (Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, 1834, vol. 1, no. 1, p.14)

Isaac Hale (Emma’s Father):
The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with a stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods. (Affidavit of Isaac Hale dated March 20, 1834, cited in Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, Signature Books, 1990, pp. 126-128)

Michael Morse (Emma’s Brother-In-Law):
“When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon [I] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation. The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph’s placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes — Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down.”(Michael Morse interview with W.W. Blair, Saints’ Herald, vol. 26, no. 12, June 15, 1879, pp. 190-91)

Joseph Knight, Sr. (A Close Friend of Smith):
“Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and darkened his eyes then he would take a sentence and it would appear in brite roman letters then he would tell the writer and he would write it then that would go away the next sentence would come and so on. But if it was not spelt rite it would not go away till it was rite, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the hol [whole] translated.” (Joseph Knight Sr., Reminiscence, Circa 1835-1847 in Early Mormon Documents, 4, 17-18)

Smith relied not on the plates themselves, but on his hat and seer stone. The plates remained hidden throughout the translation process, and this explains why so many people became suspicious over the course of the translation. It is also interesting to note Smith relied on what he knew best, his past activity as a treasure digger. His translation process was identical to the manner in which he previously claimed to search for buried treasure, and we already know this treasure digging process was often less than successful and fraudulent in nature.

Joseph Was Unable to Duplicate the Lost 116 Pages
As mentioned earlier, Martin Harris’ wife, Lucy, eventually became suspicious of Smith’s “translation” activity. She had become an early believer and supporter of Smith and even financed the translation with some of her own money. She repeatedly asked to see the plates but Smith denied her. Lucy eventually suspected Smith was trying to defraud her husband. Lucy confronted Martin with the possibility and on a visit to Smith’s residence, Lucy attempted to locate the plates by searching his house and property. She was unable to locate them. Joseph claimed he did not need the plates to be present in order to translate them, and he maintained the plates were hidden in the woods where Lucy would not find them.

From April to June 1828, Martin Harris worked as Joseph’s scribe. Smith dictated approximately 116 pages of the manuscript to Harris, and during this time, Martin Harris began to have serious doubts about the authenticity of the work. He told Smith about Lucy’s concerns and asked Smith to allow him to take the 116 pages home to show his wife so her concerns could be alleviated. Smith refused the request twice but ultimately allowed Harris to take the transcript home. While at the Harris home, the transcript “disappeared”. Harris eventually told Smith that the 116 pages had been lost.

Curiously, Joseph refused to simply retranslate the lost pages, even though Smith reportedly still had access to the golden plates from which the translation first occurred. Instead, Smith claimed evil men might alter the original manuscript in an effort to discredit him. Smith said God redirected him to replace the lost material with Nephi’s account of the same events. Smith said God knew this theft would occur and therefore prepared a similar history of events in the “Small Plates of Nephi”. The fact Smith refused to try to reproduce the original 116 pages caused a great deal of suspicion from the very beginning. Lucy Harris may have stolen the pages to test Smith. She later said, “If this be a divine communication, the same being who revealed it to you can easily replace it.”

The Fourth Point of Evaluation: What Should We Conclude So Far?
This is yet another good place to stop and ask ourselves an important question. Which is more reasonable: Smith translated real plates utilizing the power of God, or Smith simply recited the Book of Mormon without any reference to plates at all?

Mormon history confirms Joseph Smith hid the golden plates from those who wanted to see them to verify what he was doing. He translated the plates not from a visual examination of the language on the plates, but from a mystical practice he learned from a travelling diviner several years prior. When a portion of the “translation” was lost, Joseph was unable to duplicate it.

Given what we know so far about the manner in which the “plates” were “translated”, there is no evidential reason to accept the claims of Smith or the Book of Mormon.

Evidence Related to the Book of Mormon Contents
Joseph eventually published the Book of Mormon in March, 1830. He claimed to translate the book from golden plates he discovered buried in the ground near Palmyra New York. He said these plates were the record of an ancient group of Jews who came to the Americas. The book begins in Jerusalem, circa 600BC. Joseph described a man named Lehi who fled the city along with members of his family just before the city fell to the Babylonians in 586BC; Lehi and his family ultimately journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean in a boat and arrived somewhere on the American Continent. Here in the Americas, Lehi and his family populated the continent, eventually dividing into two groups (the Nephites and the Lamanites). These two groups frequently fought with one another until the people of the Americas were visited by Jesus Himself, sometime after His resurrection and ascension.

Jesus supposedly taught these displaced Jews many of the doctrines he taught the people of Galilee and the result was a period of peace in the Americas. This peace was short-lived, however, and the Nepohites and Lamanites eventually began to war with one another again. A prophet named Mormon emerged, and he took the responsibility of caring for the record of his people; he eventually passed the plates down to his son, Moroni. Joseph Smith said that Moroni also included an “abridgement” recording the history of an even more ancient group of Hebrews who came to the Americas named the Jaredites. Smith said that a group of families came from the Tower of Babel to the Americas, led by a man named Jared and his brother. This group populated the Americas at approximately 2500BC, nearly 2000 years prior to the arrival of Lehi. This earlier civilization of Jared was supposedly far more developed than that of Lehi.

The Book of Mormon eventually records the destruction of the Nephites (after the departure of Jesus) and claims remaining the society became incredibly idolatrous, forming the Native American societies discovered when Europeans eventually arrived on the continent many centuries later. As we examine the narrative of the Book of Mormon, several important details emerge helping us to determine if the book is a truthful record of ancient events in America:

It Contains Formal King James Language
The Book of Mormon is written in King James English. Remember the original plates were allegedly written in the native language of the original authors. God then supposedly provided the translation to Joseph so the history and “scripture” could be read by the people of America in 1830. But if this was the case, why would God choose the archaic language of 16th Century England? Why wouldn’t God have given the Book of Mormon in the same version of English being spoken in America in the 19th Century? The only Bible circulating the Palmyra area at the time of Joseph’s translation activity was the King James Version; this was the only scripture with which Joseph was familiar and the source from which Smith drew much material for the Book of Mormon. But we now know the language used in the KJV is not the original language of the scripture. Modern translations of the Bible are fully capable of translating the ancient Greek and Hebrew into dialects and languages appropriate for the reader. Joseph was convinced, however, God’s language was the King James English with which he was so familiar. As a result, in a desire to produce something akin to the Bible, Smith decided to create a work of similar language.

It Contains Elements from View of the Hebrews
The Book of Mormon does not appear to be a completely unique work of literature. There are many significant parallels to View of the Hebrews we previously described. Even B.H. Roberts, a well known Mormon apologist and historian (1857–1933) described the parallels between the two books:

1. Both books utilize extensive quotations from the prophecies of Isaiah in the Old Testament
2. Both books describe an Israelite origin of the American Indian
3. Both books describe the future gathering of Israel and restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes
4. Both books describe the immigration to the New World from the Old via a long journey northward which encountered “seas” of “many waters”
5. Both books describe a religious motive for the migration
6. Both books describe the division of the migrants into civilized and uncivilized groups with long wars between them and the eventual destruction of the civilized by the uncivilized
7. Both books assume that all native peoples were descended from Israelites and their languages from Hebrew
8. Both books describe the burial of a “lost book” with “yellow leaves”
9. Both books describe extensive military fortifications with military observatories or “watch towers” overlooking them
10. Both books describe a shift from monarchy to republican forms of government
11. Both books describe the preaching of the gospel in ancient America.

The parallels between the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews simply cannot be denied or ignored.

It Contains Wholesale Passages from the King James Bible
The Book of Mormon frequently quotes (or nearly quotes) the KJV Bible as though the KJV was the original language of scripture. Remember Jewish and Christian Scripture was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek without chapter or verse divisions. But Joseph’s translation of the Book of Mormon includes verbatim quotes from the KJV with the verse and chapter divisions intact. Smith occasionally added a word here or there, but the chapter and verse divisions remain unchanged. In addition to this, the sheer size of each quotation is staggering. While New Testament authors would occasionally cite short Old Testament passages as a paraphrase, the Book of Mormon lifts entire passages from the Old Testament:

1. 1 Nephi Chapters 20 and 21 are the same as Isaiah Chapters 48 and 49
2. 2 Nephi Chapters 7 and 8 are the same as Isaiah Chapter 50 to Chapter 52:2
3. 2 Nephi Chapters 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 are the same as Isaiah Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14
4. Mosiah Chapter 14 is the same as Isaiah Chapter 53
5. 3 Nephi Chapter 24 and 25 is the same as Malachi Chapter 3 and 4

Over and over again, Smith appears to have inserted large sections of the Bible with the same chapter and verse divisions found in the archaic KJV translation.

It Contains Uncorrected King James Translation Errors
To make matters worse, we now know the KJV contained a number of translation errors when compared to the latest and most recent manuscript discoveries. The Book of Mormon lifts passages from the KJV without correcting these errors. Here are a few examples:

The KJV of Isaiah 9:1 reads “and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations” when more accurate translations now recognize that the text should read “honor” instead of “did more grievously afflict”. The Book of Mormon still contains the KJV error.

The KJV of Isaiah 2:16 reads “And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures” when more accurate translations now recognize that the text should read “ships” instead of “pictures”. The Book of Mormon still contains the KJV error.

The KJV of Isaiah 11:3 reads “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord…” when more accurate translations now recognize that the text should read “…and he will delight in the fear of the LORD…”. The Book of Mormon still contains the KJV error.

It Contains King James “Archaisms”
In addition to these translation errors, the KJV translators also had difficulty translating a number of animal titles. As a result, the KJV contains a number of archaic, mythological, inaccurate or awkward insertions based on the limits of the translators at the time. Words such as “dragons”, “unicorns” and “satyrs” have since been better researched and re-translated in our more modern translations (such as the NASB). Smith, however, was not privy to the latest research and translations, and as a result, he included a number of these archaic terms in the Book of Mormon when he transferred large passages from the KJV.

2 Nephi 23:21
“But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.” (This is a quotation from Isaiah; the word “satyrs” is translated “wild goats” in most modern translations)

2 Nephi 23:22
“And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces…” (This is also a quotation from Isaiah, and most modern translations have “jackals” for “dragons”, and “hyenas” for “wild beasts”)

It Contains Uniquely Outdated KJV Terminology
The KJV translators did their best to translate original words from the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into words understood by readers at the time of the KJV translation. One such example is found in Isaiah 3:18-23. The passage describes women’s jewelry in a manner extremely specific to the culture of England in 1611. This passage was lifted by Joseph Smith and inserted into the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 13:18-23
In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and cauls, and round tires like the moon; The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers; The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; The rings, and nose jewels; The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils.

The terms in this passage were largely obsolete by the time the Book of Mormon translation was supposedly given to Smith by God. The words were nonsensical to the readers of the Book of Mormon, but Smith inserted the passage when the “original language” of the Book of Mormon could easily have been translated into words understood by Americans in 1830. Modern translations, for example, have been faithful to the original translation but have utilized words understandable to the generation reading the translation:

Isaiah 3:18-23 (NIV)
In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.

It Contains Commonly Considered “Specious” Passages
There are a number of passages in the KJV translation now known to be late additions to the text. The latest discoveries of early Biblical manuscripts reveal these additions are not actually a part of the inspired scripture. Some of these “specious” passages were transferred by Smith into the Book of Mormon when he copied from the KJV:

Matthew 6:9-13
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

3 Nephi 13:9-13
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

The final line of the Lord’s Prayer is now known to be a late addition. It does not appear in the earliest and most trustworthy original manuscripts. For this reason, modern translations have removed the passage. Smith did not know this, and therefore included the specious passage as if it was part of the original text. In addition to this, Smith also included a larger specious passage from the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 16:16-18
…but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Mormon 9:23-24
…but he that believeth not shall be damned; And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover

Smith once again inserted a specious, late addition.

It Contains a Number of Anachronisms
Perhaps the biggest evidential problem related to the Book of Mormon is the issue of textual anachronisms. These are passages exposing their fallacious nature by including a detail or description “out of place” chronologically. In other words, there are many places in the Book of Mormon where Joseph Smith forgets he is supposedly translating the writing of an ancient author. Smith repeatedly forgets to place himself in the shoes of his ancient characters and, as a result, He writes about things the ancient characters should not know (because an event has not yet occurred in history, or an object has not yet been invented). The Book of Mormon anachronisms are vast and comprehensive. Let’s look at just a few:

Paraphrases from Jesus, Long Before His Earthly Life
Jesus is often quoted or paraphrased in the Book of Mormon, but Smith paraphrases Jesus long before Jesus ever lived to make the original statements. There are numerous examples of this throughout the Book of Mormon, here is one:

John 10:9, 14, 16 (Spoken by Jesus – c.32AD)
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture… I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

1 Nephi 22:25 (Supposedly Spoken by Nephi – c.588BC)
And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.

Over and over again, Jesus is either quoted or paraphrased by authors who preceded Jesus by decades or centuries.

New Testament Paraphrases, Before They Were Written
New Testament writers often quote the Old Testament. On closer examination, the New Testament quotations from the Old Testament sometimes appear to be different than the original Old Testament passage. Why? Many times, the New Testament writer is simply paraphrasing the Old Testament passage; sometimes the New Testament writers are quoting from the Greek Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Hebrew Old Testament. The Book of Mormon, when quoting an Old Testament passage, often quotes the New Testament paraphrase rather than returning to the Old Testament Scripture. This is a problem because the Book of Mormon is supposed to have been written before the New Testament was penned; the New Testament paraphrases should not have been available to the original Book of Mormon authors. Here is an example:

1 Nephi 22:20
And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.

This passage attempts to quote a verse from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 18:15, 19
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

The Book of Mormon quote, however, is less akin to the Deuteronomy passage than it is to the New Testament paraphrase found in the Book of Acts:

Acts 3:22-23
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.

Smith quoted the New Testament paraphrase rather than the Old Testament verse. The problem is this passage in 1 Nephi was supposed to have been written over 600 years prior to the New Testament paraphrase.

Quotes from the Greek New Testament, Long Before It Was Written
Smith wrote about characters in the Book of Mormon who lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born, yet these same characters use expressions derived from the New Testament, a book that was written after the life of Jesus. Smith repeatedly places an expression in the mouths of his characters that comes from the author of the Letter of the Hebrews:

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

This expression then appears in the Book of Mormon, approximately 600 years prior to its first use in the New Testament:

1Nephi 10:18
For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.

Smith also uses this expression in 2 Nephi 27:23, Alma 31:17, Mormon 9:9 and Moroni 10:19. In addition to this anachronistic New Testament expression, Smith also includes an expression from the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 15:53
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

This unique New Testament expression is inserted by Smith into the mouths of Book of Mormon characters:

Mosiah 16:10
Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption.

The expression is rewritten into a number of additional passages, including Alma 40:2 and 41:4. All of these Book of Mormon books are dated before Jesus and the New Testament.

Quotes from the New Testament Letters, Long Before They Were Penned
According to the Book of Mormon narrative, Jesus appeared to the people of North America after his resurrection and ascension in Palestine. He spoke to the people of North America and many of the Book of Mormon sermons attributed to Jesus are very similar to those found in the Gospels. But in addition to these sermons, the Book of Mormon also records a number of statements from Jesus quoted from the New Testament letters written years later. In one passage, Jesus appears to be quoting Peter from the Pentecost sermon that Peter was yet to deliver:

Acts 3:22-26
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

3 Nephi 20:23-26
Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people. Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me. And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant—

In other passages, the Book of Mormon has Jesus quoting lines Paul had not yet written:

1 Corinthians 11:29
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

3 Nephi 18:29
For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.

1 Corinthians 15:52-53
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

3 Nephi 28:8
And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.

The Gospel, Long Before It was Revealed
The Bible tells us the “Gospel” (the “good news” about salvation through Christ made for the Jew and gentile alike), was a mystery prior to the appearance of Jesus (and it’s full revelation after the Resurrection). Look at what Paul says about the mystery of the Gospel:

Ephesians 3:3-7
…by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister…

Paul again affirmed the Gospel was a mystery in Colossians 1:26, 1 Peter 1: 1-12 and Romans 16:25-26. Smith seems to have been unaware of these passages, however, as he penned the Book of Mormon. He reveals the Gospel out of sequence, approximately 570 years prior to its revelation according to the New Testament:.

2 Nephi 25:19, 23
For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh… his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. …For we labor… to persuade… our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

2 Nephi 26:12
And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus in the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God

2 Nephi 30:2
For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off

2 Nephi 31:17
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and the Holy Ghost.

All these New Testament Mormon descriptions of the Gospel are revealed nearly 600 years before Jesus was born, in direct contradiction to the statements of Paul. Worse than this, Smith has Book of Mormon characters crying out for salvation through Jesus over 100 years prior to his birth:

Mosiah 4:2 (Dated approximately 124BC)
“O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.”

Mosiah 3:13
“The Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins.”

The Book of Mormon repeatedly refers to the Gospel before it was ever revealed and depicts characters crying out for salvation in Jesus before he was ever born.

The Church, Long Before It Was Founded
The Bible tells us Jesus saw His Church as something non-existent prior to His arrival on Earth. Jesus repeatedly described the Church as something yet to come:

Matthew 16:18
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Book of Acts also records the first believers adding to their numbers, forming the Church in the first century:

Acts 2:47
And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

The Book of Mormon, however, denies this reality and claims the Church was already formed as early as 147BC, nearly two hundred years before it actually happened:

Mosiah 18:17
And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward.

Christians, Long Before They Were Named
The Bible is very clear about the circumstances surrounding the first time followers of Jesus were called Christians. This occurred in the first century in the city of Antioch:

Acts 11:26
And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

But the Book of Mormon seems to be unaware of this Biblical claim. Smith wrote people were being called Christians as early as 73BC, over one hundred years before it actually happened:

Alma 46:15
…yea, all those who were true believes in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.

The Holy Ghost Bestowed, Long Before Pentecost
Most Christians are aware the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus, and then bestowed upon the first believers on the day of Pentecost:

Luke 24:49
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father unto you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. … And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…

The Book of Mormon, however, places this occurrence out of order, describing people who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as early as 545BC:

2 Nephi 31:12-13
…the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me… Wherefore, my beloved brethren,… by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost…

Animals Described in the Americas, Long Before They Arrived There
While there are many anachronistic problems from the perspective of the Biblical Chronology, there are just as many anachronistic problems from a non-Biblical chronological perspective. Smith claimed to be chronicling the history of the American continent from approximately 3000BC to 400AD. From the perspective of paleontology, the Book of Mormon makes a number of anachronistic errors related to this period of time:

Horses
The Book of Mormon repeatedly mentions horses as part of the Mormon historical narrative (see Alma 18: 9, Alma 18: 12, Alma 20: 6, 3 Nephi 3: 22). But scientists and paleontologists have yet to find any evidence horses lived anywhere on the American continent at any time described by the nearly 3000 year history of the Book of Mormon. Here’s what we do know: Horses did exist at one time in North America, but became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene era. Horses didn’t reappear on the Americas until they were imported by the Spaniards in the 15th and 16th Century (many centuries after the period of time described in the Book of Mormon)

Elephants
In a similar way, Smith also errantly describes the presence of elephants here in the Americas (see Ether 9:19). We know mastodons and mammoths lived during the Pleistocene era (with the early horses), but once again, the fossil record shows they vanished from the continent by 8,000BC (many thousands of years prior to the period of time covered in the Book of Mormon)

Cows and Goats
In addition to horses and elephants, the Book of Mormon also describes cattle (Ether 9:18) and goats (1 Nephi 18:25, Enos 1:21, Ether 9:18) domesticated by the people of North America. There is no evidence to support the existence of such animals on the continent until Europeans brought them over in the 15th and 16th Century.

Pigs
Domesticated pigs are also described in the Book of Mormon (Ether 9:8 and Ether 9:17-18). Once again, however, there is no evidence to establish the existence of pigs on the continent during the period of time described in the Book of Mormon).

Food in the Americas, Long Before They Were Harvested
In addition to the anachronistic description of animals in the Book of Mormon, Smith also errantly described grains missing from the American continent during the period of time described by the Book of Mormon:

Barley and Wheat
Smith repeatedly describes the harvesting of wheat and barley in the Book of Mormon. We know, however, wheat and barley were not present in the Americas until they were introduced by the Europeans after Columbus.

Weapons Used By Native Americans, Long Before They Were Invented
The Book of Mormon repeatedly describes weapons of war supposedly used by the people described in the Book of Mormon. There is no archeological evidence, however, to support the existence of these weapons or articles of war:

Chariots
Chariots are often mentioned in the Book of Mormon, both as a method of transportation and as a wartime vehicle (see Alma 18:9-10,12, Alma 20:6, 3 Nephi 3:22). But as with other Book of Mormon anachronisms, there is no evidence to support any use of wheeled vehicles in the ancient Americas. The wheel was unknown to pre-Columbian cultures. Incan culture reflects a similar lack of wheeled vehicles.

Metal Swords
In addition to chariots, the Book of Mormon mentions the existence and repeated use of swords as instruments of war (see 2 Nephi 5:14 and Mosiah 8:11). While warriors in the ancient Americas were known to use wooden clubs and stone weapons, there is no evidence to suggest that they ever had access to, nor the ability to create, metal swords.

Cimiters
Smith described the use of “cimiters” by the characters in the Book of Mormon. Cimiters are small curved Persian or Turkish metal blades completely foreign to the Jewish people from whom the characters of the Book of Mormon are supposed to have come. In fact, the word “cimiter” was never used by the Hebrews or by any other people group until approximately 450AD.

Modern Innovations, Long Before They Had Been Innovated
Smith also inaccurately described the use of a number of inventions and innovations unavailable during the period of time described in the Book of Mormon:

Metal Based Exchange Systems
The Book of Mormon describes a monetary system utilized by the ancient inhabitants of the Americas based on a system of precious metals (see Alma 11). There is no archeological nor historical evidence to suggest any such system of exchange was ever used by the people of the ancient American continent. The most common exchange system in Mesoamerica was a system that utilized cacao beans.

Silk
The Book of Mormon also repeatedly describes the use of silk (see 1 Nephi 13:7,8 Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17 and Ether 10:24). While silk was common in Joseph Smith’s day, it was unknown to the pre-Columbian Americas.

The Compass
Another well known and often described Book of Mormon anachronism is the description of a compass called a “Liahona” (see 1 Nephi 16:10, 1 Nephi 18:12, 1 Nephi 18:27 and Alma 37:38). This compass was supposedly used by Nephi at approximately 600BC. The invention of the compass, however, occurred in China around 1100 AD, and no compass remains have ever been found in the Americas.

Windows
Even more errant and anachronistic is the Book of Mormon description of modern windows with glass panes. Smith attributed the use of windows (capable of being “dashed in pieces”) to the Jaredite people who lived at the time of the Tower of Babel (see Ether 2:22-23). While glass itself (in the form of beads) was invented in Egyptian times, glass windows came into existence and use in the 11th Century in Germany.

Words Used in the “Ancient” Text, Long Before They Ever Existed
In addition to all the inventions, weapons and animals described “out of time” in the Book of Mormon, the authors of the Book of Mormon use words unavailable to them at the time:

“Bible”
The Book of Mormon uses the word “Bible” many times, attributing the usage to authors who are supposedly writing between 559BC and 545BC (see 2 Nephi 29: 3-4, 6, and 10). The word “Bible”, however, was not invented until hundreds of years later as the Christian canon of scripture was being formed. The Greek word “biblia” was not used as a title for the scriptures until the 5th Century.

“Christ” / “Messiah”
Joseph Smith also repeatedly used the word “Christ” in the Book of Mormon in places dated hundreds of years before the coming of Christ and hundreds of years before the invention of the Greek term “Χριστός” (Christós) from which the English word “Christ” is transliterated.

Helaman 5:12 (545 years prior to the invention of the term)
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall”

“Synagogue”
In a similar way, Smith uses the term, “synagogue in the following passage:

Alma 16:13
“And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews”

By placing the word in this passage, Smith inadvertently used the term long before it was ever used by the Jews. Scholars now know that synagogues did not exist in their modern form before the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity.

“Adieu”
Smith was also unaware of the history of the French language. He used two French terms in the Book of Mormon. These were part of the common vernacular of Smith’s time, but would have been unavailable to characters in the Book of Mormon.

Jacob 7:27
And I, Jacob, saw that I must soon go down to my grave; wherefore, I said unto my son Enos: Take these plates. And I told him the things which my brother Nephi had commanded me, and he promised obedience unto the commands. And I make an end of my writing upon these plates, which writing has been small; and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu.

The word “Adieu” here is being used hundreds of years before the creation of the French term.

“Isabel”
In a similar way, Smith utilized a common French name of his time as the name of one of his Book of Mormon characters:

Alma 39: 3
And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.

The name “Isabel” came into use in France and Italy during the late Middle Ages, and is yet another anachronism.

Events Written in the Past Tense, Long Before They Occurred
Smith also slipped occasionally and wrote about events as if they had already occurred, even though they would not have yet occurred in the Book of Mormon chronology.

2 Nephi 31:6, 8
“Now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.”

These verses are talking about Jesus but are supposed to have been written sometime between 559BC and 545BC. They obviously refer to the baptism of Jesus as if it had already occurred, even though it was not yet to occur for another 600 years.

2 Nephi 33:6
“I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”

Once again, Smith put words in the mouth of a Book of Mormon character unavailable given the sequence of events. Here, Nephi speaks as if Christ has already died on the cross for his sins, even though Jesus would not enter the world for another five hundred years or more.

It Contains NO Archaeologically Verifiable Information
If we were intent on verifying the truth claims of the Book of Mormon, there is one way we might accomplish this task. Remember the Book of Mormon is supposedly an ancient text rooted in the history of the American continent. Like the Bible, it claims to be the true history of a vast population who lived and built cities, engaged in commerce, waged war and developed a complex culture. If this were actually true, it would be reasonable for us to uncover archaeological evidence of this vast civilization. After all, archaeologists have been able to verify the locations and many of the details of the Bible over the past two hundred years. Can the same thing be said for the Book of Mormon? No.

In fact, there is not a single archaeological discovery that has ever confirmed a specific detail from the Book of Mormon. Archaeologists have been scouring the American continent over the past century without any such finding. Nothing has ever been discovered to confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; not a single coin, not a single city, not a single artifact containing a Book of Mormon name, not a single weapon, wheel or harness, not a single skeleton. Given the vast “history” recorded in the Book of Mormon, we should expect to find thousands and thousands of artifacts and cities. Yet, during the same period of time in which archaeologists have made hundreds of stunning discoveries confirming the Biblical narrative, not a single discovery has been made to confirm the Book of Mormon narrative.

This is why the typical Bible contains a number of detailed maps of the Holy Land and the archeologically confirmed geography described in the Bible, but the Book of Mormon contains not a single map illustrating the geography it claims to describe. The best Mormon scholars can only produce rough sketches and diagrams of the American continent described in the Book of Mormon, and these diagrams lack any archaeological support.

The National Geographic Society long ago confirmed the fact there is no archaeological support for the claims of the Book of Mormon:

“I referred your inquiry to Dr. George Stuart, the Society’s staff archaeologist. He told me he knows of no archeological evidence that verifies the history of the early people of the Americas as presented in the Book of Mormon. Although many Mormon sources claim that the Book of Mormon has been substantiated by archeological findings, this claim has not been verified scientifically.”

In addition, the Smithsonian Institute formed the same conclusion:

“The Smithsonian Institute 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.”

The Fifth Point of Evaluation: What Should We Conclude So Far?
Let’s stop again and ourselves yet another important question. Which is more reasonable: The Book of Mormon is a true ancient text describing real events that occurred on the American continent, or a crude effort on the part of Joseph Smith to create what he hoped would pass for such an ancient text?

An internal textual examination of the Book of Mormon raises a number of legitimate and critical concerns. Over and over again, Smith borrowed from the View of the Hebrews outline and used archaic King James language to construct his own narrative. Along the way, he inadvertently inserted a number of King James Version errors and specious passages and included a vast number of anachronistic passages as well. To make matters worse, Smith constructed a narrative that has absolutely no archaeological support.

Given what we know so far about the content and construction of the text, there is no evidential reason to accept the claims of Smith or the Book of Mormon.

There’s More Than Just Circumstantial Evidence
If this strong circumstantial evidence is simply not enough to give us reason to doubt the truthfulness of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, there is an additional condemning piece of hard physical evidence exposing Smith as a fraud: it’s called the Book of Abraham.

While we don’t have the original Book of Mormon plates to examine and compare to the final text, this is not the case with the Book of Abraham. We do happen to have the original papyri from which Smith claimed to translate the Book of Abraham. Like the Book of Mormon, Smith claimed to have the God-given ability to translate yet another ancient document, an Egyptian papyrus he acquired from a travelling merchant of Egyptian antiquities. When Smith first saw the Papyri, he claimed it contained the writing of father Abraham when he was in Egypt. Smith then translated the papyri and the translation eventually became a part of the Mormon scripture, currently located in the Pearl of Great Price.

The original papyri was lost for a number of years but rediscovered in the 1960’s in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art basement. Finally, with the discovery of the lost Book of Abraham papyri, we have a piece of evidence that would either confirm Smith as a truthful translator and prophet, or expose him as a fraud. The papyri, when now translated by experts both in and outside of the Mormon Church, contained nothing remotely similar to what Smith claimed in his translation of the Book of Abraham. The papyri confirmed Smith was a fraud.

The Sixth Point of Evaluation: What Should We Conclude So Far?
We’ve taken time along the way to stop and ask the critical questions. Now it’s time to ask the most important questions of all: Is the Book of Mormon true and was Joseph Smith truly a prophet of God? The cumulative circumstantial and direct physical evidence demonstrates that Smith was not a prophet and the Book of Mormon is not Divine Scripture:

The Birth of Mormonism is the Result of Historical “Happenstance” Rather Than the Result of God’s Divine Intervention

The Second Great Awakening Swept Through New York and Set the Stage
The Great Preachers of the Awakening Left Little Guidance
The Culture of the Time Was Fascinated With the Origin of Native Americans
The People of Palmyra Were Also Fascinated in Treasure-Digging

Joseph Smith Had a History of Fraudulent Activity in the Area That He Incorporated Into His Claims Related to the Discovery of the Golden Plates

He was a Local Treasure-Digger
He Learned How to Use a “Seer Stone” from a Local Travelling “Diviner”
He Was Charged with Fraud When He Was Unable to Make Good on His Claims

Joseph Smith Fraudulently Utilized His Childhood Experience to Convince Others That He was Translating Ancient Plates

No One Ever Observed the Plates with Their Natural Eyes
Joseph Translated In a Manner Similar to His Technique for Finding Lost Treasure
Joseph Was Unable to Duplicate the Lost 116 Pages

Joseph Smith Dictated the Book of Mormon, Fraudulently Claiming That It was An Ancient Text

It Contains Formal King James Language
It Contains Elements from the “View of the Hebrews”
It Contains Wholesale Passages from the King James Bible
It Contains Uncorrected King James Translation Errors
It Contains King James “Archaisms”
It Contains Uniquely Outdated KJV Terminology
It Contains Commonly Considered “Specious” Passages
It Contains a Number of Anachronisms

Paraphrases from Jesus, Long Before His Earthly Life
New Testament Paraphrases, Before They Were Written
Quotes from the Greek New Testament, Long Before It Was Written
Quotes from the New Testament Letters, Long Before They Were Penned
The Gospel, Long Before It was Revealed
The Church, Long Before It Was Founded
Christians, Long Before They Were Named
The Holy Ghost Bestowed, Long Before Pentecost
Animals Described in the Americas, Long Before They Arrived There
Food in the Americas, Long Before They Were Harvested
Weapons Used By Native Americans, Long Before They Were Invented
Modern Innovations, Long Before They Had Been Innovated
Words Used in the “Ancient” Text, Long Before They Ever Existed
Events Written in the Past Tense, Long Before They Occurred

It Contains NO Archaeologically Verifiable Information

Joseph Smith Was Ultimately Exposed as a Fraudulent Author of a Text He Claimed was Scripture from God

The Book of Abraham Exposes Smith as a False Translator

Joseph Smith had more than enough reason to lie about the Book of Mormon. He benefited financially and used his position as founder and prophet to engage in polygamy and establish himself as a figure of authority in his community. Given the depth and breadth of the cumulative circumstantial and direct physical evidence related to the timing of the Mormon movement, the character and motive of Joseph Smith, the manner in which Smith claimed to find and translate the Book of Mormon, the errant and peculiar characteristics of the Book of Mormon and the true and contradictory translation of the Book of Abraham, there is more than enough reason to conclude Joseph Smith was a fraud and the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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