Book of Mormon Questions and other items related to Mormonism and Joseph Smith
“frankly state events as they occurred, in full consideration of all related circumstances, [and] allow the line of condemnation or justification to fall where it may… “
— B.H. Roberts from the epilogue in The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past
The following points and questions aren’t intended to be ‘anti-Mormon‘ although many believers in the Book of Mormon’s historicity take them that way. Rather, they are to help sort things out and help us come out ‘true Mormons‘ who receive truth from all sources. As you browse through them don’t forget the admonition of Mormon Historian and General Authority B.H. Roberts above. Likewise, you don’t want to miss out on the sublinks which help explain the questions and concerns raised. Reviews of this page have been made both online and via email in which the reviewers basically ignored the referential links.
If you aren’t already familiar with the term ‘Occam’s Razor’, you may wish to brush up on its meaning and usefulness before proceeding. Perhaps it can help us all do as Carl Sagan suggests and winnow deep thoughts from deep nonsense.
- Why does the Book of Mormon mention Silk (Alma 1:29)? LDS apologist John Welch cites several New World fabrics as possible matches for Linen and Silk (Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pg. 162). Agave fibers and fig bark for Linen? Ceiba fibers, pineapple fibers and rabbit hair for Silk? Welch concludes with the staggering claim that “Mesoamerica evidently exhibits almost an embarrassment of riches for the “silk” and “linen” of Alma 1:29. All but the most trivializing critics should be satisfied with the parallels.” (pg. 164) My response to Welch is simply that Rabbit hair still doesn’t equal silk in the minds of objective observers or scholars.
- What about Chariots (Alma 18:9)? There is no evidence of actual wheeled vehicle usage in the 2,000 BC to 400 AD time frame in Ancient America.
- Why does the Book of Mormon imply a seven day week (Mosiah 13:18) when it was not known to Ancient Americans? The Mesoamericans used a variety of calendars, none of which match the Old World calendar. The Maya seemed to be oversupplied in the calendar department. One calendar consisted of a 260-day cycle divided into 13 ‘months’ of twenty days. (This calendar was used by most of the ancient Mesoamericans). Each day was presided over by it’s own god. Another consists of a 365-day cycle, also divided into ‘months’ of twenty days, eighteen of them in fact. The five leftover days were called the ‘resting, or sleep of the year’. Another consists of a 3276-day cycle divided into four quadrants of 819 days (the product of 7*9*13, all sacred numbers to the Maya). And then, of course, there was the so-called ‘long count’ calendar, which simply counted days from the creation of the world (August 11, 3114 BC, if anyone wants to know). (Linda Schele, ‘A Forest of Kings‘, pg. 78).
- Why are Cimeters, an Old-World weapon of war, mentioned in Mosiah 9:16 and other verses when none have been found to exist in the New World? John Sorenson cites a Mesoamerican ‘maccuahuitl’ for a Cimiter (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pg. 262). The Maccuahuitl was a hardwood club with obsidian blades. A Cimiter is a heavy, two-handed steel blade. What’s wrong with this picture?
- Why have some (like Elder Peterson and Elder Brewerton used the Quetzalcoatl legend to “prove” the Book of Mormon’s Christ when the Quetzalcoatl (or feathered serpent) legend dates to 1,000 years before the Book of Mormon’s Christ? Also, Quetzalcoatl was never depicted as white until after the coming of the Spaniards, and then only in writings done by the Spaniards themselves. (see Readers Digest, Mysteries of the Ancient Americas: The New World before Columbus, 1986, 38) Click here for a picture of the “Great White God” described by Peterson. Orthodox LDS church member Brant Gardner has done the most research in the field and concludes that there is ‘no connection’ between Quetzalcoatl and the Book of Mormon’s Christ.
- When the Nephites landed in the Americas there were already millions of inhabitants in the land with large cities and infrastructure. Why are these people not mentioned? The Book of Mormon seems to indicate that the continent was empty at the time. 2 Nephi 1:8 One wonders if ‘knowledge’ of the land had been kept from the natives who had already been there for thirty thousand years?
- Why does the Book of Mormon include a very literal account of such things as Noah’s Ark (Ether 6:7), Adam & Eve, or the Garden of Eden (Alma 42:2)? If Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel story of the languages forming or many of the other things mentioned in the Bible aren’t literal (and they aren’t by any stretch of the imagination)–neither are the portions of Book of Mormon history relying on these items as literal. Similarly, why did Joseph Smith state that Adam and the Garden of Eden were literally located in Missouri?
“Like Roberts, James Talmage believed that the 5,931-year-old Adamic race had been preceded on earth by pre-Adamic life. The usually cautious father boasted to his son that in discussions among the Twelve he had been “bold enough to point out” some conclusive evidence against (Joseph Fielding) Smith’s position. He had personally inspected a pile of stones at Spring Hill, Missouri, declared by Joseph Smith to be part of “the altar on which Adam offered sacrifices,” and had seen that it contained fossilized animals. “If those stones be part of the first altar,” he reasoned, “Adam built it of stones containing corpses, and therefore death must have prevailed in the earth before Adam’s time.” (The original quote is from a letter written by James Talmage in 1931 to his son, Sterling Talmage, also a geologist. It is quoted in Ronald L. Numbers The Creationists. The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (Berkeley: University of California Press), 1992. The section on Creationism in Mormonism (pp. 308-14) is excellent. This quote is from page 311).
- Why didn’t Nephi compare and contrast the New World with Jerusalem? These were two vastly different places.
- Why does the Book of Mormon mention Bellows (1 Nephi 17:11), Brass (2 Nephi 5:15), Breast Plates & Copper (Mosiah 8:10), Gold and Silver currency (Alma 11), Silver (Jarom 1:8), and Steel Swords (Ether 7:9)? No evidence indicates that these items existed, in their Book of Mormon forms, during Book of Mormon times.
Tom Ferguson: “Metallurgy [as spoken of in the Book of Mormon] does not appear in the region until about the 9th century A.D.” [The Book of Mormon ends in the 5th century A.D.]
- Why doesn’t the art (which is abundant) of the supposed Book of Mormon cultures portray the existence of metallurgical products or metallurgical activity as described in the Book of Mormon?
- Why does the Book of Mormon mention the following animals: Ass, Bull, Calf, Cattle, Cow, domestic Goat (the Nephites claimed to have found the domestic goat!), Horse (the horse plays a major role in the Nephite and Lamanite societies), Ox, domestic Sheep, Sow, Swine, & Elephants? (contrary to the incorrect speculations and erroneous information provided by LDS sources and a very dated non-LDS source on this site, non-LDS experts indicate that there is no evidence of elephants in the New World and the mammoth and mastodon of North America have been extinct for over ten thousand years–see Stan Larson’s Quest for the Gold Plates pages 184-188 and Mammoth expert Larry D. Agenbroad’s article in the Oct. 1997 issue of Natural History in which he states that mammoths became extinct 11,000 years ago.) None of these animals existed in America during Book of Mormon times. The Book of Mormon claims to have domesticated sheep, goats, horses, cattle, and pigs. There were no such domesticated animals at the time in America. According to an expert in the field, the only domesticated animals in pre-Columbian America were llamas, alpacas, guinea pigs, and turkeys. None of these are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. (See Americans Before Columbus, 26-27) Even LDS apologist John Sorenson admits that
“The terms cattle, horses, sheep and so on are mentioned at several points in the Nephite record. And it is dismaying to some who wish to be dismayed, I believe and a few others who (honestly) wish an answer could be provided why there are not cows like we mean cows, horses like we mean horses, sheep like we mean sheep. The fact is that all the ancient studies say those animals simply were not present in the New World. Period. They were not here.”
(Note that FARMS now charges people to see the article this quote comes from. It could previously be accessed through a link on this page.)
- Why aren’t animals such as Coatimundis, Deer, Jaguars, Tapir, Monkeys, Sloths, Turkeys, etc.. mentioned when they were animals that existed?
- Why is plow agriculture such as Barley (Alma 11:7) and Wheat (Mosiah 9:9) included in the Book of Mormon when it didn’t exist during that time period? “There’s a whole system of production of wheat and barley . . . It’s a specialized production of food. You have to know something to make flax [the source of linen], and especially in tropical climates. Grapes and olives . . . all these are cultures that are highly developed and amount to systems, and so the Book of Mormon is saying that these systems existed here.” (BYU anthropology professor, Dr. Raymond T. Matheny, August 25, 1984 Sunstone conference in Salt Lake City). Welch claims barley existed in the Book of Mormon based on one find in Phoenix, Arizona! Arizona is hardly the setting of the Book of Mormon as both he and John Sorenson readily admit.
- Why aren’t the foods known to ancient America such as chocolate, lima beans, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, manioc, etc. included in the Book of Mormon?
- Why isn’t the terrain of Central America described?
- Why is it that numerous LDS books and papers describe proposed Book of Mormon locations for cities and the “narrow neck of land”? No city has been identified as being Nephite, Lamanite, Jaredite, etc. For example, Zarahemla was occupied for hundreds of years, but we still don’t have any real evidence of it ever existing. The Book of Mormon describes a time period from 2000 BC to 400 AD and millions of people. No city they occupied has yet to be found.
- Why didn’t any of the place names from the Book of Mormon still exist when Columbus arrived?
- Where was the Hill Cumorah? Was it in New York or Central America? If it was in Central America, why hasn’t it been found? If it was in New York, how did they move that quickly and where are all the remains?
- Why don’t significant gaps exist in the archeological record of Mesoamerica if these “missing” people existed?
- Did the Book of Mormon take place outside of Mesoamerica? The History of the Church records an incident from June, 1834 in which Joseph Smith identified a skeleton found in an Indian burial mound in Illinois: “. . . the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph . . . who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains.” (HOC 1948 ed., II: 79-80).
- Why don’t archeologists theorize Hebrew or Egyptian linkages or influences in Mesoamerica?
Items (such as the Book of Mormon) that have this many unanswered questions are difficult to have faith in. If as Joseph Smith says in Alma 32:21, we should only have faith in things which are true, we can easily rule out having faith in those things in life for which there is no evidence for or for which there is evidence against.
“Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction — faith in fiction is a damnable false hope.”
— Thomas Edison
For more on the subject of Book of Mormon historicity, see New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, the FARMS rebuttal (previously linked from this page) is no longer available for free on the internet.
For a response to the information presented above, see (page no longer on the internet) by Malcolm Ross. It doesn’t appear that Malcolm read anything on the site except portions of this page. He claims that your time would be better spent just reading FARMS publications rather than looking at the above questions. His final suggestion is to rely on the faulty methodology found in the Book of Mormon itself rather than tangible evidence. A site viewer’s comments on Ross’ response can be found here.