The Book of Mormon suggests that the original Native Americans descended from a small band of Israelites. The entire LDS narrative, countless official references and the Church’s long history of missionary efforts support the belief, as did Joseph Smith and every Prophet since.
There exists no credible evidence to support the notion of The Book of Mormon being a record of people that actually lived. It’s as though it has no basis in fact whatsoever, as a mountain of accepted history and hard evidence deny the totally unique claims. Both National Geographic and The Smithsonian Institute state that no archaeological evidence supports the belief.
Church apologists suggest that a lack of evidence is not valid reason for doubt and does not disprove anything – they accept it on faith. It is worth noting that while tackling such thorny issues as race ban and polygamy, the LDS Church entirely avoided the topic of archaeology in its Gospel Topics Essays.
The expanding body of evidence against The Book of Mormon being a literal record is so overwhelming, even apologists now struggle to refute it. If the book is a factual account of ancient Americans, then everything we think we know about the pre-Columbian history is wrong; the truth within the pages would make nonsense of entire academic disciplines. Not just one branch of science, but anthropology, archeology, biology, genetics, linguistics, Egyptology and more. All agree; no Lamanites anywhere.
The Church stopped looking for evidence generations ago and discourages attempts to align the narrative with actual locations. Michael Coe, a Mesoamerican Archaeologist from Yale concludes, “As far as I know, there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing.”
A hundred years ago, B.H. Roberts queried, “Shall we boldly acknowledge the difficulties in the case, confess that the evidences and conclusions of the authorities are against us, but notwithstanding all that, we take our position on The Book of Mormon and place its revealed truths against the declarations of men, however learned, and await the vindication of the revealed truth? Is there any other course than this? And yet the difficulties to this position are very grave. Truly we may ask who will believe our report? …Again I ask, is silence our best answer?” (Studies of Book of Mormon p. 115)
The LDS Church has made countless statements over the decades attempting to lend credibility to the Book of Mormon as a record of early Americans. National Geographic responded that it “does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon.”
The Smithsonian Institute issued a formal statement in May 1980 detailing their complete disavowal of the work as anything but fiction. They “…see no direct connection between archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book... No reputable Egyptologist or other expert on Old World archaeology, and no expert on New World prehistory has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt.”
The Smithsonian Statement
THOMAS STUART FERGUSON
As we begin to explore Mormon archaeology, or lack thereof, it seems appropriate to introduce the fascinating history of Thomas Ferguson, an amateur Mormon archeologist who dedicated decades of his life to the faithful search for Book of Mormon evidence. Though previously denied in 1951, the Church agreed in 1953 to fund a $15,000 “private donation” so long as no publicity connected the Church to Ferguson’s search. In 1955, the Church committed an additional $200,000 to fund four years of search. His explorations and writings were most active between 1946 -60’s, but ceased when the Book of Abraham papyri were found in 1967 and proven not to be authentic.
The disillusioned Ferguson concluded, “The day will probably come, but it is far off, when the leadership of the Church will change the excommunication rules and delete as grounds non-belief in the 2 books mentioned (Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham) and in Joseph Smith as a prophet…but if you wait for that day you will probably have died. It would tend to devastate the Church if a top leader were to announce the facts.” He suggested that Mormonism was the “best available brand of man made religion.”
Ferguson wrote a 1976 letter in which he stated: “The real implication of the paper is that you can’t set the Book of Mormon geography down anywhere, because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt archeology. I should say, what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.”
• Dialogue: Odyssey of Thomas Ferguson, Stan Larson
• Science: How a Mormon lawyer transformed archaeology in Mexico
No entity outside of the Mormon Church has ever referred to Reformed Egyptian as being a thing. Despite the translation of Egyptian and numerous American Indian languages, Reformed Egyptian simply does not exist. (Mormon 9:32-34) The known hostility of Egyptians toward every other nation, particularly the Hebrews, renders it improbable that the Egyptians had sufficient interaction with the Jews so as to have them adopt their language and literature in 600 BC
No unequivocally ancient inscriptions have been found in Hebrew or anything remotely Egyptian in the Americas. There is no such language – not in Old World; certainly not anywhere in the Americas. Philologic studies have divided the Indian languages into 5 distinct linguistic stocks which show very little relationship to each other. It strongly indicates that the division of the Indians into separate stocks occurred long before their language developed beyond the most primitive articulation.
The Book of Mormon presents astonishing hurdles for pre-Columbian Indians. The record states that Mormon “wrote an epistle unto the King of the Lamanites” before the epic final battle, making it clear that both Nephites and Lamanites possessed the ability to read and record a shared, sophisticated language from Lehi’s landing to 400 AD Nephite prophets throughout the Book appeal to scriptures had among the people, as if they were widespread and numerous. The narrative suggests “…many books and many records of every kind…handed down from one generation to another…the scriptures are before you…search the scriptures…brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures and cast them into the fire…” Note that not one single of the 303 proper names found in the Book of Mormon has been discovered on the thousands of deciphered inscriptions in the New World. (See: Natural Born Seer p. 395, 1 Nephi 20-22, 2 Nephi 6-24, Helaman 3:13-16, Alma 13:20, 14:1, 14:8)
B.H. Roberts studied Native American Languages based on the idea that The Book of Mormon shows people all able to converse with one another. His findings were not supportive of the text. He noted that it would take much longer to develop such diverse dialects if they arose from a common origin, and that there exists no connection between the American languages and any of the Old World. The time limits named in The Book of Mormon were simply insufficient to account for vast divergences. (see Studies of Book of Mormon p. 91–92)
Only the Maya had a complete written language in Pre-Columbian Americas, and it’s not terribly sophisticated. We’ve now translated 20+ Mayan languages and found zero mention of similar history or Egyptian writing. The Olmecs also had limited language, not nearly as complete, and the geography is all wrong. Neither has any resemblance to Hebrew or Egyptian. The few attempts to link Jaredite names with Olmec language are total fantasy, not taken seriously by anyone except those who promote it.
Smoking Gun of Book of Mormon Geography
The Book of Mormon presents yet another totally unique claim, that plates of brass or any metal were regularly used in Middle East around 600 BC to record elaborately detailed histories. The only instance of writing on alloy, copper/lead turned out to be hoax – as similar metal plates were not used in the Americas or Jerusalem.
In addition to the unique notion of plates themselves, Laban’s brass plates would be the ONLY metallic writing of Demotic script in existence, the ONLY collection of the five books of Moses, and the ONLY book version of the five books of Moses at the time. In addition, it was written in Egyptian, not Hebrew – astonishingly unique attributes for one item. (See 1 Nephi 5: 11-15)
The Book of Mormon suggests that the Hebrews invented transoceanic navigation, twice, only to seemingly abandon the amazing technology upon reaching their destinations. There exists no evidence of people of the era possessing transoceanic navigation skills of such grand nature.
The first crossing involved eight submersible barges, built “tight like unto a dish” and loaded with farm animals and a copious volume of supplies. They miraculously bobbed and rolled across the ocean for 344 days, driven by a “furious wind”, conveniently landing in the same location.
We are later instructed that Nephi and his tiny clan built a large sailing ship. While all things are possible unto the Lord, obtaining sails for a vessel of the scale described is no small feat, as one must locate and shear hundreds of sheep, build a loom, make string and patching, etc. – sails do not magically appear from the dust. History instructs that a common Viking sail was 100 sq. meters and required 200 sheep. Every square meter of sail required at least 2 sheep fleeces. So we are talking about 200 sheep just to weave, not including the thread or anything else. Only sheer a sheep once a year – assuming of course that you have shears. During this purported effort, the population of Lehi’s entire clan was 25-30, including children.
Although the Book of Mormon twice mentions that Nephi moltened steel out of rock, only crude iron technology existed in 600 BC. Steel did not yet exist, as it required charcoal heated to 2,500-3,000 degrees. Charcoal wasn’t discovered until some 1,500 years later and required the laborious felling of acres of trees to create sufficient charcoal. Such an effort seems glorious indeed, from scratch, without infrastructure.
After wandering in the desert for 8 years, how would Nephi get iron out of the rock in the first place, much less build a large boat, lacking tools? We learn that Nephi went to find the iron to build the tools he did not have; but without tools how would he mine the iron out of the mountain? The effort must have occurred within just a few miles of the boat or Nephi’s small clan would also have been required to build extensive infrastructure to transport tons of rock. How many have attempted to move even one ton of rock, using the finest modern tools?
The rudder wasn’t invented until the 12th century, so this would be the first known use of rudder assisted navigation as well. Even the Vikings, Phoenicians, Greeks all bounced along the coasts, raiding and trading among villages for water/food. Abundant records expound upon those civilizations, because they actually existed. The biggest problem of transoceanic sailing would be fresh water. Where did Nephi store a rail car worth of water, unless he mastered water tight barrels too – lots and lots of them?
• Mormon Expressions Podcasts: How to Build a Transoceanic Vessel
• One Man’s 8 Year Effort to Build a Wooden Ship by Hand
The Book of Mormon clearly postulates the lands as uninhabited except for Jaredites, Mulek and Lehi’s clan. The land was “…preserved for a righteous people,” explicitly “kept from the knowledge of ALL other nations.” (Ether 2:7 / 2 Nephi 1:5-9) The Jaredites went “…into that quarter where there never had man been.” The urgent need to bring Ishmael’s daughters further reinforces the understanding that the clan would encounter no others upon reaching the promised land.
Elder Holland reiterated how, “Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfilment of God’s special purposes.” (A Promised Land, Ensign, June 1976)
The Book of Mormon narrative “…assumes throughout that there were no other inhabitants in all that land. There is no mention or assumption of coming in contact with any other people. They are sole possessors of it. …What is required is evidence of an empty America 3,000 BC, into which a colony from the Euphrates valley may establish a race and empire with an iron and steel culture, developed language…and then pass away, become extinct about 600 BC…leaving the American continents again without human inhabitants.” (see Studies of Book of Mormon p. 117-119, 142)
“PRINCIPAL” changed to “AMONG“
The 1842 Wentworth Letter was the first record of the Church officially stating that Native Americans are the primary descendants of the Lamanites. In 1981, facing increased scrutiny, the Church changed the preface of he Book from “they are the PRINCIPAL ancestors of the American Indians” to “AMONG the ancestors.” It left the word Principal in the Spanish versions, while encouraging missionaries to continuing telling the darker skinned crowd that they’re all Lamanites.
Mormons don’t seem to realize how much is at stake with regard to the literal claims. If the Book is a factual account of the ancient Americas, then everything we think we know about the pre-Columbian history of the Americas is wrong. A million data points which support our current understanding of the origins of Native peoples would suddenly become a baffling soup of inexplicable and contradictory observations.
PLACEMENT IN AMERICA
There is no room for argument that the Book is to have occurred in the U.S. mainland, later expanded to include all of the Americas. Virtually every Church leader from Joseph Smith to modern day has reiterated this interpretation.
- In the 1842 Wentworth letter, Smith stated that “the history of ancient America is unfolded” in the Book of Mormon. He added that the “Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country.” (History of the Church 4:537)
- On June 4, 1834, on his way to Missouri, Smith arrived at the Mississippi River and wrote a letter to Emma identifying the country as Nephite territory. “The whole of our journey…wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and bones, as proof of its divine authenticity.” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 324)
- On Sept 25, 1838, while Joseph Smith traveled through Missouri, “told the brethren that that place…was the ancient site of the Book of Mormon city of Manti.” (George Reynolds, Janne Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 2:324)
- In 1838, Smith named a place near Far West, MO Tower Hill “in consequence of the remains of an old Nephite altar or tower that stood there.” (History of the Church 3:35)
- See D&C 3, 10, 19, 28, 30, 32, 49, 54 – each chapter names American Indians as Lamanites.
- D&C 57’s heading makes it very clear that Joseph thought the people of Missouri were Lamanites
- As archaeological discoveries expanded throughout Central and South America, Smith expanded his geographic assertions to include those regions, even announcing that Lehi and his family landed at 30 degrees south latitude in Chile. (recorded by Frederick G. Williams, referred to by many others)
- The 1888 large-print Book of Mormon edition, printed in Salt Lake City, provided dates and specific geography references. The “sea south” was the “Atlantic, south of Cape Horn.” The “sea north” was explained to be the “Arctic, north of North America.” The “sea west” was the “Pacific,” and the “sea east” was the “Atlantic.” (Book of Mormon, 1888 Ed., p. 434)
- See Natural Born Seer p. 487-500 for an extensive listing of clearly identified locations across multiple continents.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT TO FIND?
The Book of Mormon is not about a small number of colonists tucked away in a corner of Mesoamerica, as “they did multiply and spread…to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south, to the sea north, from the sea west to the east sea.” (Helaman 3:6-16)
They grew until they were “as numerous almost as if were the sand of the sea.” (Mormon 1:7) “And the people…did dwell…in houses of cement…all manner of their buildings…did send forth much by way of shipping.” (Helaman 3:9-10 ) “And they build a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land…And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants…all manner of tools to till the earth, to plough.” (Ether 10:20-28)
Mormon claims that when he was 11 years old, he “was carried by my father into the land southward, to Zarahemla. “The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.” (Mormon 1:6-7)
The Nephites are said to have constructed a grand temple after the model of Solomon – simpler but of “exceedingly fine workmanship.” (2 Nephi 5:16 ) Is it not amazing how they accomplished it so soon upon the completion of their transatlantic voyage, with perhaps 50 -100 people, while also establishing everything needed to survive in undiscovered lands?
By comparison, Solomon’s Temple in the Bible required 180,000 workers over 7 years. No ancient structure has ever been found in the Americas remotely resembling the temples in Jerusalem with which Nephites would have been familiar. “Is it not pertinent to ask, is this statement from a great historical document, by one who knew Solomon’s temple through all his boyhood and young manhood, or is it the reckless statement of an undeveloped mind that knew not what he was saying – which?” (Studies of Book of Mormon p. 261)
The Book of Mormon describes concentrated populations of millions of people, spreading across the entire face of the land. This proposition would require a population growth orders of magnitude greater than anything possible until the agricultural, industrialized era of the 20th century altered the precarious human condition. Historical human population bases are well documented and small. Sickness and starvation were constant threats, early death the norm; life was “nasty, brutish and short.” The math is further complicated by the millions who were destroyed in almost constant battles throughout the narrative.
John C. Kunich elaborates on the myriad population growth challenges in Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes. He suggests “an understanding of historical demography may challenge this traditional interpretation.”
Spend just a moment to ponder the routine famines which have occurred around the globe – Africa, China, Russia – not very long ago, even during times of peace and with the benefit of irrigation and industrial machinery. It is simply not possible to feed millions using hunter-gatherer methods, much less without leaving any trace.
Are these numbers even possible?
ROMAN EMPIRE COMPARISON
The civilizations introduced in the Book of Mormon were purportedly similar in size to the Roman Empire, which reached its peak around 117 AD. You can’t turn over a rock in Europe without finding an old coin, road, structures, etc. Roman remnants linger in the language, DNA, culture, technology, fauna and flora. 177,000 Roman artifacts were found in just 12 miles of highway construction. Roman coins from 300 AD. have been found as far away as Japan and are so plentiful they can be purchased on eBay for $10.
So much is known of ancient Rome that intricate scale models have been constructed. Yet in the Americas, not a shred of similar evidence supports the existence of Lamanites.
This is what ancient Roman helmets look like today. We do not need to take it on faith; because stacks of them actually exist. Not a single piece of Lamanite armor has ever been found, anywhere.
Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world in 300 BC (contemporary with Moroni) with 40-80,000 troops. Countless items validating the existence of Alexander exist, yet not a single piece of Book of Mormon evidence anywhere.
Troop movement was not a minor obstacle prior to the 1700s. Provisions were incredibly difficult and camp-followers/camp-wives were large in number and are constantly a topic in actual historical novels.
In contrast, such daily challenges are never mentioned in the Book of Mormon. We have no alternate records, no discussion of troop movements, no details other than stated numbers of deaths; no evidence of battle in any location on this scale, nor mounds of skeletons to back it up. This is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence.
GEOGRAPHY / DISTANCES DEFINED
Many defined Book of Mormon distances are problematic. Nephi’s entire clan was apparently world class distance runners. The Book details how they traveled from Jerusalem to “near the shores of the Red Sea” in just three days, with family and provisions in tow. (1 Nephi 2:4-6) The nearest point from Jerusalem to the Red Sea is 175 miles.
The Book of Mormon conveniently provides additional definitions of distance, which one might think could enable the location of at least one Lamanite city. Alma, also with women and children in tow, traveled from Nephi to Zarahemla in 21 days, a journey of perhaps 300 miles at best. (Mosiah chapters 23-24) There exists a “narrow neck of land” (Alma 22: 31-33; 63:5) which required only a day and a half walk from east to west sea. (Helaman 4:7) Triangulation may be assisted by the existence of a Land Northward, Land Southward, Sea West, Sea East, even a fantastical Land of Desolation with many bones.
The official 2008 LDS Study Guide used in youth Seminary classes, contains a map titled Possible Book of Mormon Sites. It cautions the reader that, “No effort should be made to identify points on this map with any existing geographical location.” While doubling down on the notion of the Book being an actual record, the Church reminds members that any search for actual geography is a faith destroying exercise – “fruitless, no definitive results…undermines faith” (Deseret News, July 29, 1978)
LDS leaders, from Joseph Smith to modern times, have consistently made explicit statements identifying all North and South American Indians, as well as Polynesian Islanders, as Lamanites. This hemispheric theory suggests a Book of Mormon encompassing thousands of miles of geography stretching potentially from Canada to South America. Joseph Smith stated that ALL indigenous peoples of the Americas were literal descendants of the tribes of Israel. For 150 years, Smith’s statements were taught in earnest throughout the Church. LDS apologists have resorted to proffering implausible maps which contradict previous prophetic statements. See Map of Mormon Apologetics
Limited Geography Theory
A limited geography theory stemmed from the expanding discoveries of Central America and Mayan language. Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hugh Nibley and many others are on record as specifically identifying Mayan temples as Lamanite dwellings. Many have tried mightily and failed to make Mayans fit Mormonism’s unique narrative. Abundant LDS instruction manuals declare Lamanites to be everywhere – labeling almost everyone with darker than pink skin, who’s not black or Asian, a Lamanite.
Joseph Vincent, editor of California Archaeologist, explained at a 1963 BYU symposium that “all Book of Mormon lands lie within a five or six hundred mile radius…and could not possibly extend from Chile to New York.” Apologists who espouse limited geography directly contradict numerous clear statements and practices of Mormon prophets. The notion directly contradicts the Church’s claims of epic battles at Cumorah, N.Y., as well as Smith’s revelation of a white Lamanite named Zelph. Joseph Fielding Smith went so far as to unequivocally reject the limited geography theory.
“Although some have suggested a number of alternative geographies which reduce the size of Nephite lands, none fulfills the orientation requirements for the Book of Mormon’s isthmus without serious manipulation of text and terrain.” (Joseph Smith, The Making of a Prophet, Vogel, p. 230)
“Stephens and Catherwood’s researches in Central America abundantly testify of this thing. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatemala, and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people – men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormon unfolds their history.” (Times and Seasons, July 15, 1842, Joseph Smith, Editor)
Prophet John Taylor said “The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source, which has sadly disfigured and perverted the original incidents and teachings of the Savior’s life and ministry.” (Mediation and Atonement, p. 194)
Unfortunately, the Mayans left us their accurate calendar with various dates etched in stone, enabling us to firmly establish their chronology. Their culture does not fit Book of Mormon timeline at all. Nevertheless, various Mormon leaders, including Joseph Smith, have suggested Mayans as Lamanites. Although Quetzalcoatl turned out to mean “feathered serpent,” many Mormons still believe the LDS perpetuated myth that Mayans were Lamanites. Even apologetic Church supporters have disavowed the Quetzalcoatl myth.
Proposed Book of Mormon Geological Settings
The Church aggressively proselytized Pacific Islanders, preaching the message that their heritage too is contained in The Book of Mormon. There are countless official references spanning generations.
In a talk to Samoans in 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball instructs that Nephite explorer Hagoth is the common ancestor to all of the Polynesians – they are children of Lehi. “I thought to read to you a sacred scripture which pertains especially to you the islanders of the Pacific. It is in the sixty-third chapter of Alma [He then read the account of Hagoth.] And so it seems to me rather clear that your ancestors moved northward and crossed a part of the South Pacific. You did not bring your records with you, but you brought much food and provisions. And so we have a great congregation of people in the South seas who came from the Nephites, and who came from the land southward and went to the land northward, which could have been Hawaii. And then the further settlement could have been a move southward again to all of these islands and even to New Zealand. The Lord knows what he is doing when he sends his people from one place to another. That was the scattering of Israel. Some of them remained in America and went from Alaska to the southern point. And others of you came this direction.”
Never one to let facts interfere with a great story, President Kimball continued by quoting former President Joseph F. Smith, who was very definite on the matter, saying: “I would like to say to you brethren and sisters from New Zealand, you are some of Hagoth’s people, and there is no perhaps about it!”
The main problem is that DNA and other studies conclusively demonstrate that Polynesians originated from the West, not from Peru in East. The LDS owned Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii now confirms the westward migration in their narrative. The awkward aspect is how everyone participating in the Center’s dances and events is a Polynesian student from BYU Hawaii next door.
Mound Builders / Olmec / Cliff Dweller Lamanites
Even the mound builders and Olmecs have been offered as Lamanites, despite the fact that many items of European provenance are found in the mounds, establishing post-Columbian construction. Most who attempt this theory (Olmec) have no idea how poor a fit this group is – no steel swords, no gold workings; they lived in Southern Mexico, played Mayan ball and are believed to have originated around 1400 BC. “A fallacy similar to that regarding the mound builders fastened itself upon the ancient cliff dwellers…” (Studies of Book of Mormon p. 77) “The Mound builders actually resemble the Book of Mormon people not at all. Who said they did? The Book of Mormon tells of a people ages removed from the Mound-builders and very far away.” (Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, Hugh Nibley)
An Anachronisms is an item or idea belonging to a period other than that in which it is referenced. For example, the Jaredites’ concern about glass windows as they constructed their barges is a very clear (pun intended) anachronism, as they could not possibly have known of glass in their day. The existence of anachronisms in text raises red flags and authenticity hurdles.
Domesticated Animals: In the New World, except in Peru, the dog was the only domesticated animal. B.H. Roberts observed that “The Book of Mormon thoroughly commits us to (animals) presence in America….” Jaredites around 2,247 BC find cattle, ox, cows, sheep, swine, goats, horses, asses, elephants. (Ether 9:16-20) Lehi’s colony finds cow, ox, horse, ore, gold, silver, copper around 589 BC (1Nephi 18:25) Simply saying animals existed that semi-match the description is not what is claimed in the text, but rather, domesticated animals that can be driven and maintained in captivity. Proof of domestic animals has not appeared in any form, physical or artistic. This unique claim goes without answer to this day. Roberts realized that even in his day, the Museum of Natural History was against us. (See Studies of Book of Mormon p. 98; also Natural Born Seer p. 403)
Cattle: The domestication of animals is a non-trivial item. Cattle are mentioned 6 times, with verbiage suggesting they were domesticated; yet there is no evidence of cattle (domesticated or otherwise) existing on the American continent during Book of Mormon times. “The Nephites did all return to their own lands…with his family, his flocks and his herds, his horses and his cattle….” (3 Nephi 6:1, also Enos 1:21) “We had supposed that oxen were the result of a surgical operation on bulls, changing their natures in order to render them docile and useful to man.” (Mormonism Unvailed)
Goats & Sheep: Goats and sheep did not exist on the American continent during Book of Mormon times. Some apologist suggest that deer might have been a plausible translation alternative. Anyone who’s actually seen goat and deer struggles with such a comparison.
Pigs: Hernando De Soto founded the American pork industry when he brought America’s first 13 pigs to Tampa Bay, Florida in 1539. Swine are referenced twice in the Book of Mormon, with the suggestion of domestication. Though native javelinas existed, much smaller and somewhat resembling a pig, there is no evidence of them having ever been domesticated.
Horses / Wheel / Chariot: Perhaps the most fantastic anachronism is the existence of domesticated horses, mentioned 13 times, in association with chariots. Though horses originally existed on the American continent, they were extinct by 7,000 BC, not resurfacing until 15th Century Spanish colonization. Horses are particularly problematic because they would have revolutionized agriculture, transportation, human expansion and technology in countless ways, leaving indelible marks on the Native American society.
Alma 18:9-12 instructs, “Now when Lamoni had heard this he caused that his servants should make ready his horses and his chariots…” “And it came to pass that when Ammon had made ready the horses and the chariots for the king and his servants… Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi.” (see also: Alma 20:6, 3 Nephi 3:22)
Elephants: Mentioned in Ether, mastodons and mammoths lived in North America during the Pleistocene era, yet became extinct on this continent towards the end of the last ice age, predating the Book of Mormon by thousands of years. America’s first elephant arrived in 1796 on Captain Jacob Crowninshield’s boat from India.
Honey Bees: The Jaradites are described in Ether as having carried honey bees to the New World, while ignoring the improbability of transporting bees in a totally enclosed submarine for a year. The honey bee is not native to North America.
Fiery Flying Serpents: Though not technically an anachronism, let us not forget Joseph’s introduction of flying dragons, in the form of fiery flying serpents which bit people. (Nephi 17:41, Isaiah 14:29; 30:6) To date, flying serpent remains limited to fairy tales.
Dogs: In sharp contrast to the numerous non-existent animals specifically referenced throughout the Book of Mormon, there is absolutely no mention of dogs, which were abundant.
Steel / Iron / Metals: The Book of Mormon introduces us to iron, copper, brass, steel, gold and silver, which were in “great abundance.” Smelting and casting became known around 800 AD Copper, even gold, doesn’t appear until 600-800 AD, except in the Andes Mountains far to the south. (1 Nephi 18:25, 2 Nephi 5:15) Nephi’s bow of “fine steel” is a unique and important claim, mentioned very early in the text (1 Nephi 16:18 ). You can not make a bow out of iron, because a bow must have spring to be usable. Steel bows were first invented in India in 269-237 BC, 450 years after Nephi. Jerusalem had no knowledge of steel in 600 BC, nor has any been found among the extensive excavation sites. It’s also known that the Maya built sculpture and buildings with stone tools, lacking metal. Though mentioned 20 times, there is no evidence of any hardened metal production in pre-Columbian America
Dr. William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible says “copper” is the true rendering of word “steel” in the Bible context. Alexander the Great, who lived 300 years after the period, employed iron (iron is not steel) for points of his implements, and “complained that his weapons were so easily blunted…”
Sword: The sword is mentioned 140 times. Not only are both steel and swords anachronistic to the pre-Columbian American continent, there were supposed great battles fought with millions of casualties (greater than even the Civil War), yet not a single artifact has ever been found. Even Mormonism Unvailed in 1834 recognized the steel problem, citing “This is the earliest account of steel to be found in history.” 2 Nephi 5:14-15. suggests they “…did make many swords…” Apologists offer the Macahuitl, a wooden sword with sharpened obsidian inserts, but even that simple device did not appear until much later. And how exactly would Ammon smite arms off with a wood sword?
Cimeter: The curved, bladed weapon, mentioned 3 times in the Book of Mormon, originated with the Ottoman empire in the 9th Century. Not only is it an Asian word for blade, it’s also made of anachronistic steel. It remains unknown how Lehi would be aware of it, as the word was unused in any contemporary Hebrew literature.
Armor: The Book of Mormon describes Roman style armor of the New Testament. Despite such armor not existing in America, Church sponsored art has depicted it for generations.
Even more problematic is how armor appears to come and go in the Book. In Mosiah 21:7, Nephites had armor, as did Lamanites in Alma 3:5. Yet by Alma 43:21, Moroni somehow re-invents armor against Lamanites that lacked it. How does that work exactly? Once a superior weapon is invented and known by all, it is not simply ignored or provided only to the story’s main character. Along this line, Nephi’s sole ownership of the steel bow is not just anachronistic, it implies that Jerusalem lost this technology for all their later, well documented wars. For if Jerusalem actually possessed steel bows, one would have been found by now, and it wouldn’t have fallen to bronze-age conquerors.
Chariot: While mentioned 5 times, often in relation to horses (another anachronism), there is no evidence to support the use of chariots or any wheeled vehicle in pre-Columbian America. Though the concept of a circular wheel wasn’t unknown, a wheeled vehicle, such as a chariot, would require a usable beast of burden, of which there were none. Numerous astonishingly well preserved chariots, many still hitched to their horses, have been uncovered around the world, yet not a single horse or chariot has ever been found in the Americas.
Chinese Chariots Revealed
Window: The Jaradite barges, reported to have been constructed around 2,200 BC, explicitly mention not having “windows” for “they will be dashed to pieces.” Given that transparent glass was invented in Germany in the 11th century AD, how would Jaradites possess any notion of windows? The scriptural context – that ye may have light in your vessels” – is clearly referring to the window as a source of light. Apologists have suggested wood windows…in a submarine-like vessel. Good luck with that.
Coins: Before the Church changed the chapter heading in 2015, Alma 11 stated “Nephite coinage set forth.” As evidence compounds against Book of Mormon veracity, “Nephite coins and measures” was also replaced with “Nephite monetary system.” Yet the Book of Mormon does not make a passing reference to coins, rather, it details what a “man owed,” “compelled to pay,” “received for his wages,” “pieces of their gold, silver, according to their value.” There are numerous verses clarifying the specific denominations and relative values of the senine, seon, shum, simnah, antion and shubloom. The text very clearly refers to gold and silver coins. Not one single Lamanite coin of any type has ever been found.
The Week: Referenced as the “seventh day” or the Sabbath day in Mosiah, the concept of a 7 day week didn’t originate until well after Lehi left Jerusalem.
Silk: Silk is mentioned 6 times, yet it is made from the cocoon of an Asian moth and did not exist in Pre-Columbian Americas. (Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17, 10:24, 1 Nephi 13:7-8)
Barley / Wheat / Figs: Various grains are mentioned 28 times in the Book of Mormon. Wheat, figs, grapes and barley, even tilling of the ground, are mentioned as primary food sources. (Mosiah 7:22, 9:9. 18:18; Alma 11:7, 15; Helaman 11:17; 3 Nephi 14:16). Domesticated barley and wheat were introduced by the Europeans after colonization in the 15th Century; no botanical remains of these old world staples have ever been discovered in the Americas. Pollen from wheat and barley is uniquely identifiable by collecting pollen and lake bed samples, yet both remain non existent. Nor were figs native to the Americas during the time.
Michael Ash, one of FAIR’s most dedicated and flexible apologists, has repeatedly attempted to claim otherwise. It is a ridiculous notion in the context of the purportedly millions of hungry Lamanites. He also delivers gems like this one regarding Joseph’s lying about polygamy: “Unfortunately, a public acknowledgement of plural marriage could have brought the death of the Prophet and/or the Church in Joseph’s day.
While lying is typically regarded as dishonest, some circumstances of survival have necessitated altering the truth. In WWII Europe, some Germans protected the lives of Jews whom they harbored in their homes—and then lied about harboring them to the German authorities. Was it okay to lie to save their lives?” …So we take comfort in the knowledge that the holy Prophet’s lies and resulting devastation were akin to saving Jews during the Holocaust.
It is accepted by nearly all scholars as scientific fact that the first Americans originated in Northeast Asia. There is a 99% DNA match for women, 90% match for men for Asian ancestry, not Hebrew. The Church’s essay questioning this can only be described as an appeal to ignorance, reliant upon non-expert sources and unaccepted theories.
“Genetic research, particularly that using mitochondrial and Y chromosome markers, provide quite emphatic refutation of any such relationship between Jews and Native Americans.” (Dr. David Glenn Smith/U.C.-Davis molecular anthropologist, Sunstone Symposium, 2002)
What is desired from an archaeological standpoint is to have the actual ancient remains themselves genetically sequenced, rather than working backward from the DNA of modern populations. Such methods confirm the actual DNA of the ancient population. The work is progressing and there is no denying the results, unless one simply chooses to deny accepted science. Mormonism simply will not be able to question the DNA of actual ancient populations from 500 BCE to 500 CE.
The Lenba are a group of 80,000 South Africans who claim Jewish heritage, practice many Jewish rituals, and claimed to be descended from small group of Middle Eastern men (perhaps as small as seven) who migrated to South East Africa 2,500 years ago and intermarried with the local women. Surprisingly, modern science says that their claims are true.
More than 50% of the Lemba Y-chromosomes are West Asian in origin. The DNA evidence suggests a migration date between 2,670 and 3,200 years ago, not far from their claim of 2,500. A study in 2000 found that a substantial number of Lemba men carry a particular haplotype of the Y-chromosome known as the Cohen modal haplotype (CMH), as well as a haplogroup of Y-DNA Haplogroup J found among some Jews, but also in other populations across the Middle East and Arabia. The genetic studies have found no Semitic female contribution to the Lemba gene pool. This indicates that Israelite men migrated to Africa in ancient times and took wives from among the local people while settling in new communities, just as their origin story suggests.
The similarities to the Book of Mormon premise are striking. The migrations took place at the same time, the groups were of similar size, both had Israelite DNA, and intermarried with the locals (if we accept the current apologetic narrative). The big difference – abundant DNA evidence vs. no DNA evidence, and preserved Jewish culture and ritual vs. no preservation of Jewish culture or ritual. The Lemba are just one more damning illustration of the problem of disappearing Lamanite DNA.
ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS FOUND
There are plenty of examples worldwide of other more ancient peoples, their bones, dwellings and weapons. We find remnants of countless ancient civilizations if they actually existed. Here are but a few interesting examples.
Easter Island: Archaeologists used DNA to determine that Polynesians, not people from Peru, populated the island approximately 700-1000 CE. Plant seeds, extinct plant remains, obsidian weapons, remnants of stone buildings, bones and carbon dating helped confirm that no large animals, pigs or dogs existed there…basically they figured it all out using established science. They also confirmed that the islanders never figured out the wheel, yet rolled massive stones on logs. Their civilization went extinct because of deforestation and an inability to support large populations. (National Geographic)
Q: If we accept that Nephi’s sailing vessel actually existed in 600 BC, which no non-Mormon does, how do we then rationalize the complete abandonment of the revolutionary technology upon arrival in America; and not just once, but twice, as The Book instructs that the people of Zarahemla traveled separately to America near same time, presumably in same manner? Are we to believe that two distinct civilizations abandoned such valuable technology?
Q: Does the Mormon narrative stand alone in arrogant opposition to every branch of scientific study?
Q: Even if American Indians actually possessed a phonetic language, recording their history on numerous metal plates, why hasn’t a single set of plates ever been found in the old or new world?
Q: Is it reasonable to expect that some minimum degree of credible evidence would appear after two centuries of world exploration and scientific advancement?
Q: How do the purported vast civilizations described in the Book of Mormon compare to the abundant evidence of the Roman empire, Alexander the Great, and many similar known, even older societies?
Q: Why are clearly described distances, locations and geographies so irreconcilable and contradictory?
Q: Are the Church’s explanations of the numerous anachronisms, particularly horses, chariots, domesticated livestock and exquisite metal works credible? Is a tapir a substitute horse?
Q: Given that Lamanites and Nephites possessed the same written language at the termination of Book of Mormon, consistently maintained even by the savages, is it possible that all traces of such knowledge were completely lost?
Q: Is it reasonable to believe that one single language could be sustained for 1,000 years between separate and differing clans, while simultaneously proposing that those same peoples subsequently fractured their language into the hundreds of diverse languages encountered by Spaniards?
Q: Is the Church’s position on DNA’s fallibility and uncertainty credible? Does a single non-apologetic geneticist support the narrative?
Q: Even if the Lamanites were merely “among” the major inhabitants, despite specific references to the contrary in Book of Mormon, would not the scope of their vast civilizations contribute significant Hebrew DNA to the surviving population?
LDS Gospel Topics Essay – Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
(Archived DNA essay copy)
Response to LDS DNA Essay, Dr. Simon Southerton
Mormon Archeology, Dr. Michael Coe
Nature: Alaska genome reveals founding population of Native American
Ancient Ruins and the Book of Mormon
Natural Born Seer, Van Wagoner
Mormon Stories: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon Anachronisms
Debating the Book of Mormon – numerous interesting links
How to Build a Trans Oceanic Vessels (podcast)