Arguments For and Against the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon and the Seer Stone

Book of Mormon and the Seer Stone

Neutral Arguments

-the arguments concerning animal anachronisms and metal anachronisms aren’t very good in my opinion.  They really could go either way. On one hand they seem anachronistic because you might think Joseph “didn’t know” that there weren’t horses or cows or swords in ancient America. On the other hand, many of the supposed anachronism ARE things a 17th century author likely would have known about ancient America, and yet they put them in there anyway–only to be later proven correct (copper, ziff, swords, early transoceanic travel, migration from the pacific coast, etc). Either way, the majority of these can mostly be explained by a loose translation. Overall the anachronism arguments seem to cancel each other out and be a neutral proof–unconvincing either for or against authenticity.

Crappy Arguments

-the idea that the Book was written so fast is proof of its truthfulness is a horrible argument. Many channeled texts which Mormon’s would have issue with, were written with incredible speed. Oahspe (supposedly channeled from light beings in 1850) is a great example. Over 1000  pages channeled in a number of weeks. The Urantia Bible and the writings of other people like Ellen White are other great examples. The aquarian gospel of Jesus Christ and many other exist as well. People who use this argument are unfamiliar with channeled literature.

Arguments Against

-CES letter issues such as word-for-word King James Bible language, and the mistakes in the King James Isaiah being propagated in the Book of Mormon are a pretty solid argument against authenticity—  There is little doubt the B.O.M. Isaiah chapters were copied straight from the King James, with only a couple changes made by the “translator as he went”. The chances of these being the originals are slim–if they were originals we would expect significant differences. The Dead Sea Scrolls version of Isaiah contains 2600 textual variants when compared with the Masoretic codex.[2]  We would expect at least as many, if not more in the Book of Mormon were it truly a 600BC text. The only viable explanation I can fathom is that the B.O.M. is an incredibly “loose” translation, where Joseph was required to come up with most of the words himself, getting only ideas psychically–with the exception of names and places which had to be spelled out in a very time consuming and difficult channeling process. Thus for simplicity and brevity, the Spiritual channels, passing the information to Joseph pulled the KJV text out of his mind (because Joseph had read it previously, and it existed in his sub-conscious). Note: The channeled work, The Law of One explains in more detail how this channeling works, and tediously “spells out” numbers.

-See Dan Vogel’s stuff on anti-universalism in the B.O.M.  The similarity in phraseology to other literature in Joseph’s day, makes it seem an awful lot like a product of his times.  At the same time however, is seems unlikely that Joseph would have been reading very much of the theological literature of his day… let alone be able to reproduce it.  Could this be evidence of some kind of ‘group consciousness’ aspect of channeling?  At any rate, the anit-universalism and Christology do NOT seem like anything that would have existed in an ancient text.  Could the Book of Mormon (like many channelings) be a mixture of things in Joseph’s mind, with things in the cultural ‘group mind’ of New England mixed perhaps with a true true history of ancient America?   (Note the similarities in Oahspe’s channeled account of ancient America, or the Law of One’s channeled accounts of the past, and the Book of Mormons.)

-The New Testament allusions in the Book of Mormon are incredibly suspect. Whether it be Moroni’s sermon on charity in Mor. 7:x, which shares exact phraseology with Paul, or whether it be the shared Pauline phraseology concerning “dead works” and baptism in Moroni 3-6.  There is a lot of the New Testament in the Book of Mormon.  These references seem to be obviously influenced by someone who had read the New Testament and was brought up in Anglo-Christian culture.  And they flow just like the Old Testament allusions. Really what are the chances that was written by chance in 400 AD Mesoamerica?  Find something in India or China like that… very unlikely. Frankly, the text reads incredibly like many of the Spanish Codices where true historical mexican histories and myth are being translated and transcribed into sixteenth century european Christianized language, format & culture.

-Verses that predict the three witnesses, and Anthon translation are crazy suspect.  Why would someone in 500 BC prophesy about that?  Its so inconsequential and asinine, it just fits the King James reading of Isaiah, why even put it in there?  I guess its possible, but seems lamely unprobable.

-Also the prophesy by “Joseph” saying another “Joseph” who is the son of Joseph will restore his words…. totally crazy. Joseph didn’t even prophesy about Christ or David or Moses… and yet he prophesies about Joseph Smith?  Not likely. These would have to be transcription injections by Joseph.

-Southpark’s ‘dum, da, dum, dum’ bit on why Joseph couldn’t just retranslate the ‘lost 116 pages’ is a really good point. The explanation given in the D&C that others changed these pages and were going to accuse Joseph that they didn’t match makes little sense.  The fact that he couldn’t reproduce the same pages is FAR more damning against the “translation’s” legitimacy than any “changed” text that Harris’s wives friends could have produced.

The only believable explanation I can find with these is the idea of a mixed “social memory complex” given in ‘The Law of One’.  (Essentially a group-consciousness of spirits or resurrected beings living in higher planes of existence or the shared mental realm of humanity itself).  Because there is such notable Anglo-Christian and Mesoamerican influence I could conceive that if a social memory complex existed in the heavens which was composed of both European/Anglo Christians and Mesoamericans (perhaps groups of deceased Mesoamericans who were taught by Spanish Bishops in the period between the Spanish Conquest of Mexico and Joseph Smith), and that if this group had an agenda wanting to publish their records and story and allowed both Joseph’s and their own ideas to be injected into the channeling.

-why didn’t Joseph just show people the actual plates? All the secrecy and the accounts that the 3 & 11 witnesses only saw the plates with an “eye of faith” or “spiritual vision”, is suspect. It makes me suspect Joseph also only saw the plates “in vision”.  Also the fact that he seems to have purposefully deceived people by using the hat and a “cover” to obscure the plates. Either this is the higher plane group trying to preserve the “free will distortion” spoken of in the Law of One, or there really was deceit going on here, which doesn’t speak well for the BOM’s authenticity.  The idea that “God took the plates” after Joseph was done is completely ridiculous.  If that was a possibility, then why didn’t god just take them from Moroni?  Then he could have given them to anyone, anytime in history afterwards. No need to wait until 1830 in New York; he could have done it in Mexico City in 1620 or Missouri in 1860, and avoided all the persecution and issues which came from Joseph supposedly digging them up only to constantly hide them. I think the Ankalan channeling is a perfect analog. Joseph really believed all his visions were real. But in order to get others to believe him, he constantly stretched the truth and used nebulous language to obscure the difference between visionary experiences and objectively real experiences.

Of course its also possible he wrote the B.O.M. and all his other “revelations” with a few friends from pure imagination. And made up the church and “kingdom” as he went. However, given that Xong Xiuquan “coincidentally” did almost the same thing in China in the same decade, with his “heavenly kingdom” and continental Taiping Rebellion seems even more implausible even with the above issues.

Arguments For

-the Book of Mormon’s allusion in the Bible are amazing. Whoever wrote it, knew the bible like a champ. Really in an almost impossible way. Nephi’s allusions to the cities of refuge in Leviticus, as a justification for why it was OK for him to slay Laban are so subtle.. who would have ever thought about that? And thats just one example of many.

-The mention of “elephants, curloms and cumoms” could be a pro (or neutral) argument to me. Mammoths were written about as early as 1722 by John Bell who explored the Ob River in Russia. Mammoths were first popularly described by German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenback in 1799. And were well known enough that Thomas Jefferson used the world ‘Mammoth’ as an adjective in 1802. But it seems like a stretch that he would have decided to put them in the book as being “especially useful for the food of man”.  What are the chances that he knew that they (as well as other extinct megafauna) were a major food staple in the paleoindian diet, and that their extinction seems to be related to climate change (a dearth) and over hunting?  Why did he call them ‘Elephants’ instead of ‘Mammoths?’  Why invent these other crazy words ‘curelom and cumom’ to describe other animals that were ‘especially useful for the food of man’.

-The idea that Nephi sailed accross the pacific from the Indian Ocean instead of across the Atlantic like the pilgrims doesn’t fit what you’d expect a New Englander who was making up a novel would write.

-The fact that the arrival of true writing in Mesoamerica with the Zapotec script matches so well with my model for the Nephites is  a huge proof. (and that earlier Olmec script is so different).  And that it coincides so well with class stratification and and new system of government and stratified priestly ruling system in Monte Alban, with a two columned temple like Soloman’s.  Seriously crazy coincidences.

-The archaeological evidence concerning how Teotihuacahn was founded matches incredibly well with the story of Pahoran assembling all the people to one location in the Land of Zarahemla to defend against the Gandianton Robbers.

-The general fit of cultures in the Book of Mormon fits crazy well with the Zapotec, Highland Cultures and Mayan.  You couldn’t ask for a better fit.  The continental collapse of each culture from the Maya to the Toltec to the Anasazi and Mississippian between 700AD & 1400AD is an amazing coincidence. The Book of Mormon’s narrative for these downfalls it far better than the narrative believed by archaeologists currently. Only time will tell if the Carbon Dates could actually be skewed in the way they’d have to be— but I think the evidence sides better with the Book of Mormon (especially with the Anasazi rise and disappearance).

-The River Sidon the the Rio Balsas is an amazing fit… I don’t think Joseph would have been able to imagine anything but New England or Yucatan type rivers (far to large to cross without boats).  Yet his descriptions of the River Sidon fit perfectly with the arid, seasonal flow of Balsas as well as it being a major geographical boundary between the Nephite & Lamanite lands.

-If Joseph or some New Englander wrote the Book of Mormon with Mesoamerica in mind, (as the ‘Narrow Neck’ suggests) why didn’t they mention pyramids?  Why call them towers? The ‘tower’ and building project of King Noah fits so perfectly with Monte Alban, its uncanny.  But why not call them pyramids to better capture the imagination of his readers. He throws in the phrase ‘reformed Egyptian’, (which I think all New Englanders were captivated by the ‘Egyptian-like’ writing of Mesoamerica), why not call the towers what they undoubtedly would have been… pyramids?

-Why have two different groups coming to America (the Jaredites and Lehites). If you were making it up, wouldn’t you just have the Jaredites already be here? (like Oahspe does)  Why make them come from the ‘tower of Babel’? I guess I could see it either way on that one, but seems strange for anyone to have the Jaredites come in tight ‘dish-like’ boats and take so much longer than the Lehites and interact with elephants (mammoths), when all of that strongly contradicts the modern and ancient prevailing views.    And what are the chances that so much (circumstantial?) evidence of cuneiform would surface in North America? The Chief Joseph Tablet from 1877 and the Georgia (Hearn) Tablet from 1963 made from lead. The Shawnee Creek Stone from Oklahoma also seems to bare a resemblance to middle-eastern culture.


-In my opinion, because of these issues, if one is to have faith in any sort of divinity concerning the text, you’ve got to see it as a ‘channeled text’ instead of a revealed or translated text.  It needs to go in the same genre as other channeled texts like Oahspe, Urantia, D&C, or A Course in Miracles.  Joseph channeled it through his own mind or subconscious from some unknown source. He saw the ‘plates’ in vision just like the author of The Aklatan did. (see Did the Eleven Witnesses Actually See the Gold Plates?) He continually stretched the truth and led people to believe that his visions or both the plates and god were objective experiences, because he wanted people to believe them (as he thoroughly believed them). But like those other channeled texts, it has so many great truths that one could be justified as building a faith around the idea of there being divinity in the book (like the Bible, Koran, writings of Ellen White, or other religious texts with form a basis for a faith community). It seems entirely possible that it actually loosely depicts a true history of North America.  But one must accept it’s major issues and come to terms with the likelyhood that it is not a historical translation of an ancient text. I could see some ancient native religious/military leader converting to Western Christianity in the Spirit World and then working through Joseph’s subconscious to create something that put ancient religious ideas into 17th century Christian religious terms—in addition to adding a bunch of sermons on 17th century contemporary issues, but even that seems like a stretch.  More likely Joseph (likely with Spirit being helpers, pulled ancient American historical events and concepts out of the ‘Akashic records‘ and mixed it with sermons answering contemporary Christian theological problems. It could possibly be largely true. But certainly not as a translated ancient text.  The concepts are far to westernized and biblically derived to be legit.