Plain Reasoning and Empirical Findings That Support
the Book of Mormon

by Jeff Lindsay and David C. Coles

This is a condensed and consolidated version of
Jeff Lindsay's very thorough and scholarly web pages
Book of Mormon Evidences
Book of Mormon Nuggets.
It also includes a similar treatment of
David C. Coles' excellent web page,
Is the Book of Mormon Really an Ancient Book?

"The Holy Ghost must ever be the chief source of evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary to this. No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered, can ever take its place; for this witness of the Holy Spirit is God's evidence to the truth." - B. H. Roberts

There are extensive and impressive evidences
for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon
as an ancient document
that deals with real people and places.
Here is just a sampling of such evidence:


1. Introduction

2. Circumstantial Evidence

3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

4. Writing on Metal Plates

5. The Buried Plates:
Evidence of Authenticity

6. The Lachish Letters

7. The Dead Sea Scrolls
and Other Ancient Writings

8. Mulek, Son of King Zedekiah?

9. Bountiful and Nahom
in the Arabian Peninsula

10. Even More Evidence
for the Ancient Place Nahom

11. The Valley of Lemuel: Another “Blunder”
Becomes Evidence FOR the Book of Mormon

12. The Place Shazer in the Arabian Peninsula

13. Of Arrows and Sticks

14. Finding Ore Near Bountiful

15. What Could Joseph Smith Have Known?
About Mesoamerica?

16. The Great Catastrophe: Volcanism
in Book of Mormon Lands

17. Mesoamerican Fortifications

18. The Use of Cement in Ancient America

19. Legends of Quetzalcoatl
and Ties to the Book of Mormon

20. Wars in Winter?

21. Olive Culture

22. More from Mesoamerica

23. Writing in Reformed Egyptian?

24. Linguists Provide Possible Evidence
Consistent with Book of Mormon Claims

25. Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon

26. Numerous Hebraic Language Structures

27. Names in the Book of Mormon

28. King Benjamin's Farewell Address:
An Ancient Semitic Discourse

29. Abinadi's Use of
Ancient Near Eastern Concepts
in His Testimony of Christ

30. Mosiah and Ether: The Internal Consistency
of the Book of Mormon

31. "The Land of Jerusalem" –
a Fatal Blunder??

32. Weights and Measures
in the Book of Mormon

33. DNA Linking
Eurasians and Native Americans

34. Friar Diego de Landa's
Observations on the Yucatan -
Possible Echoes from the Book of Mormon?

35. Excellent Publications to Consider

"Is the Book of Mormon Really an Ancient Book?"

36. If the Book of Mormon Really Were
an Ancient Book, What Would it Matter?

37. How Can You Identify an Actual
Ancient Book?

38. The Book of Mormon and Barley

39. Authentic Non-Biblical Ancient Ceremony
Recorded in Book of Mormon

40. Authentic Non-Biblical Ancient Legend
Recorded in Book of Mormon

41. Ancient Book of Enoch Text
quoted in Book of Mormon

42. Ancient Arabian Geographical Naming Conventions
Used in the Book of Mormon

43. Ancient Non-Biblical Hebrew Poetic Style

44. Statistical Analysis Gives 1000 to 1 Odds
Against the "One Author Theory"

45. "A Billion to One Odds"

46. Hugh Nibley's Book of Mormon Challenge

1. Introduction

Intellectual evidences of the Book of Mormon on their own do not change lives and bring souls to Christ - that requires a spiritual witness through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Nevertheless, they can be valuable in opening minds and strengthening one's spiritual testimony of the truth.

Things in the Book of Mormon that critics thought were laughable in 1830 have now become powerful witnesses that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be - an authentic ancient document that Joseph Smith DID NOT write. He translated it through the power of God.

2. Circumstantial Evidence

Hugh Nibley makes an excellent observation about indirect, circumstantial evidence for Book of Mormon authenticity: 2-1
Entirely apart from the contents of the Book of Mormon and the external evidences that might support it, there are certain circumstances attending its production which cannot be explained on grounds other than those given by Joseph Smith. These may be listed briefly:

1. The testimonies of witnesses who saw and handled the gold plates.

2. The absence of notes or external sources as Joseph dictated the translation.

3. The short time of production for such a large and complex book.

4. The unhesitating and unchanging position of Joseph Smith regarding the book. From the day the Book of Mormon came from the press, Joseph Smith never ceased to spread it abroad, and he never changed his attitude toward it.

What impostor would not lie awake nights worrying about possible slips and errors in such a massive and pretentious product of his youth?

Moreover, since the Prophet was having revelations all along, nothing would have been easier, had he the slightest shadow of a misgiving, than to issue a new, revised, and improved edition, or to back down and say it should be interpreted only in a symbolic or "religious" sense, or to supersede it with some new “revelation.”
3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

Three witnesses saw an angel and the plates; eight others handled the plates and bore formal witness. Thus eleven people, besides Joseph Smith, saw and handled the plates and remained loyal to that witness to the end of their lives, even though many of these witnesses became unhappy with Joseph or the Church. A handful of others were witnesses to the physical reality of the gold plates and the divinity of the Book of Mormon.

The reliability and consistency of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon exceed every legal standard for reliable testimony. The witnesses were not rogues of ill repute in their communities, but were respected men 3-1 who risked and lost much by their support of the Book of Mormon. They all suffered great persecution, made no money and gained no power, but in spite of everything, never denied their witness.

If it was all a hoax, how could the forger get his accomplices to keep repeating the lie - even after they had become angry and bitter with the source of the lie?

What forger could afford to alienate his fellow conspirators, when, with abundant motivation to expose him, all they had to do was admit what everyone already suspected, that he was a fraud? That this could have been a fraud simply defies logic.

4. Writing on Metal Plates

Absolutely laughable in 1830. Now, not only well established as an ancient practice, but as a particularly significant ancient practice in the Middle East in the era of 600 B.C. - especially for religious documents.

Most significant, perhaps, is the ancient practice of "scriptorio" - putting the title page at the END of the book, something which is a hallmark of ancient writings on plates from the Middle East, and which is also strong evidence of authenticity for the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith could not have known of "scriptorio" when he translated the gold plates and noted that the title page was at the end, on the last page.

From David C. Coles'
"Is the Book of Mormon Really Ancient?"

Gold Plates 4-1

It is hard for us to realize today that for many years the idea of writing a sacred record on gold plates was considered just too funny for words and that the mere mention of the "Golden Bible" was enough to shock and scandalize the world.

Today at least a hundred examples of ancient writing on metal plates are available, the latest discoveries being three gold plaques found in 1964 near an ancient shrine on the coast of Italy; they are covered with Punic and Etruscan writing and date from about 500 B.C.

Punic, it will be recalled, is Phoenician, a language and script that flourished in Lehi's day a few miles from Jerusalem.

It was also in 1964 that the writing on a thin gold plate from Sicily was identified as Hebrew; though the plate has been known since 1876, Hebrew was the last thing anybody expected.

The golden plates of Darius, discovered in 1938, which in their form and the manner of their preservation so strikingly resemble the plates described by Joseph Smith, were augmented by new findings in the 1950s; the contents of the latter plates, a pious mixture of religious declamation and history, are as suggestive of the Book of Mormon as their outward appearance is of its plates.

We have already spoken of the Copper Scrolls, riveted metal sheets, and noted how the purpose and spirit as well as the method of their production and concealment matches the record-keeping practices of the Nephites in every particular.

5. The Buried Plates:
Evidence of Authenticity


The "ridiculous" things that critics of the Book of Mormon mock today seemed even more ridiculous in Joseph Smith's day.

After all, when that young, unschooled farm boy on the American frontier announced to the world in the late 1820s that an angel had directed him to ancient golden plates, hidden in a stone box buried in a hill, and that he had translated the sacred record by the power of God, well, what could be more bizarre? For the typical person of that day, the story was simply outrageous.

But what was "too funny for words" in 1830, as Hugh Nibley has put it, has become much more plausible today, now that we know of numerous examples of ancient sacred records having been buried and preserved for future times, including records written on metal, and records buried in stone boxes.

Of course, none of this proves that Joseph really did translate the gold plates by the power of God, but it certainly puts his account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon on a solid foundation with other ancient practices.

Almost everything about Joseph's claims for the Book of Mormon were utterly ridiculous in the context of his own time. But they are remarkably consistent with writings and practices from the ancient world that he could not have known about, and which have become much better known in our day.

The whole idea of ancient preserving and hiding of sacred records for future times suddenly seemed a lot less ridiculous after the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

Dead Sea Scrolls

While there were some pre-1830 publications, the Bible included, that mentioned ancient writing on metal, 5-1 consider the learned response of a prominent anti-Mormon critic, Reverend Martin Thomas Lamb, in the late nineteenth century: "No such records were ever engraved upon golden plates, or any other plates, in the early ages." 5-2

But as the nineteenth century void in knowledge of the ancient world has begun to be filled by modern discoveries, M.T. Lamb's attack has become completely "M.T." itself.

The community at Qumran took careful steps to "embalm" their records before they were buried, seeking to preserve hidden sacred records for future generations.

One noteworthy example from Qumran is the Copper Scroll 3Q15, which provides a list of temple treasures. As William Hamblin points out, "it is a clear example of an attempt to preserve an important sacred record by writing on copper/bronze plates and then hiding the document." 5-3

Other Metalic Records

H. Curtis Wright, in "Metal Documents in Stone Boxes," 5-4 documents the use of metals for writing in the ancient near East and among the Greeks.

The Romans also had examples of writings preserved on metal tablets, such as those found in Pyrgi, north of Rome, where metal leaves of gold and a sheet of bronze with inscriptions were found in a rectangular niche between two temples, where the engravings had been carefully placed to preserve them.

Further, Wright documents the repeated discoveries of ancient metal documents buried or sealed in stone boxes, such as the 1926 discovery of an inscription of Darius on gold and silver plates in a foundation between square hewn stones, or the 1933 discovery at Persepolis of stone boxes with square inscribed plates of gold and silver sunk into the bedrock beneath the corners of a building.

Those plates were probably deposited in 516-515 B.C., and were in perfect condition when discovered 2,500 years later.

One of the first examples of the ancient writing system of the Hittites was found on lead scrolls found at Assur. 5-5

Interestingly, versions of Hittite were written both in cuneiform and hieroglyphs. 5-6 Royal seals 5-7 were "written in hieroglyphs, sometimes accompanied by a cuneiform version." 5-8

It is important to note that an ancient language, appearing as this does, in two different written forms, including one using hieroglyphs, is analogous to the known later practice of writing Hebrew not only in its original alphabetic form, but also the "reformed Egyptian" version mentioned as a second system in the Book of Mormon.

Still More Discoveries

There is one source that I feel must be considered by anyone seeking to understand the relationship between the Book of Mormon and ancient practices of writing on metal and preserving sacred records.

I refer to John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books. 5-9 This 266-page book demonstrates thorough scholarship as it explores and documents numerous ancient practices that show Joseph Smith's account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to be on remarkably solid - if not sacred - ground.

In his chapter, "Hiding Records in Stone Boxes," Tvedtnes discusses many examples, which include a granite box in Alexandria, Egypt, which held writings of a Greek author, a scroll found in a stone box in western Peloponnesus of Greece, a marble chest in Mesenia, Greece, that an archeologist suggested could have been "a library box," and documents in an unknown script from an ancient stone chest inside a tomb. 5-10

Ancient writing on metal is also mentioned in Arab lore. According to Tvedtnes: 5-11

Arab traditions also speak of documents written on metallic plates. The eleventh-century historian al-Tha'labi wrote of a book sent to David from heaven. The book was sealed with gold and contained thirteen questions to be asked Solomon. 5-12

Al-Tha'labi also mentioned gold tablets containing the history of a vanished empire. These tablets were found in a cave in the Hadramaut region of southern Arabia.

Writing about A.D. 1226, the Arab writer Idrisi noted a treasure-hunting expedition in which a group of Arabs dug into the pyramid of Mycerinus at Giza, Egypt.

After six months of hard labor, they found the decayed remains of a man with some golden tablets inscribed in a language none of them understood. The tablets were taken for their gold content, suggesting that they were probably melted down. 5-13

Ancient inscribed plates of gold, silver, copper, and lead have been found in such diverse places as China, Java, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Crete, and Korea. A list of sixty-two such discoveries was compiled by Franklin S. Harris Jr. and published in 1957. 5-14
There are also hints in legends from Mesoamerican Indians regarding hidden sacred writings.

In one case, an early Spanish friar learned from an Otami Indian about a sacred book that had been buried, which allegedly spoke of God and Christ. 5-15

The Mayan Indians also may have had a tradition about a "Golden Book" that has been hidden away, said to have been written on fifty-two gold plates. 5-16

Finally, here is one of many interesting excerpts from Tvedtnes, 5-17 providing a few more of many examples:
Ancient metal records being buried in tombs is well attested.

For example, in 1980 archaeologists opened an ancient tomb adjacent to the Scottish Presbyterian church of St. Andrew in Jerusalem. There they discovered two small rolled-up strips of silver with a Hebrew inscription. 5-18

Using paleographic evidence, they dated the rolls to the precise time of Lehi. Both plates include quotations of the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.
The parallels between the Book of Mormon and the ancient world in this area have not escaped at least a few raised eyebrows from non-LDS scholars.

The eminent Jewish scholar, Raphael Patai, in discussing a reference to the Book of Abraham observes:
The idea of sacred texts originally inscribed in metal tablets recurs in the Mormon belief that the Book of Mormon came down inscribed on gold plates.

Important documents were in fact preserved on metal tablets and preserved in stone or marble boxes in Mesopotamia, Egypt, etc. 5-19
Could Joseph Smith have known in 1830 that his account of sealed sacred records on thin metal plates, stored in a stone box and buried, would one day be validated by many significant finds from the ancient world?

Moreover, if he were a fraud, it's puzzling that the case for authenticity of the Book of Mormon would keep getting stronger over time.

6. The Lachish Letters

In 1935, some of the most important documents ever found relating to Old Testament history were discovered. They are also star witnesses for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

These ancient Hebrew writings from the time of Jeremiah and Lehi reveal point after point about their historical time that is consistent with Nephi's writings.

Hugh W. Nibley discusses many of these points in his article, "Two Shots in the Dark." 6-1 Many significant features of the Lachish letters that were important in Nibley's report were brought to light by the scholar Harry Torczyner. 6-2

Issues of interest include the practice of preserving ancient records, the tensions and intrigues associated with a transition in government in the days of Zedekiah, the adoption of Egyptian ways of writing documents in the days of Zedekiah, the presence of other prophets [like Lehi] besides Jeremiah preaching unpopular messages, and so forth.

7. The Dead Sea Scrolls
and Other Ancient Writings


The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has had a major impact on Bible studies. It has changed many views about religion in ancient Palestine and has given credibility to many Book of Mormon claims.

LDS scholars have been an important part of the academic community dealing with the texts.

Fascinating insight into the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Book of Mormon, and LDS religion in general, is offered by two non-LDS writers, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, 7-1 who warned the evangelical community about the impressive efforts of LDS scholars.

Their article, "Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?", 7-2 is one of the most intriguing non-LDS articles I've ever encountered from critics of the Church.

It warns anti-LDS writers that they have ignored the significant work of respected LDS scholars who are providing "robust defenses" of the LDS faith.

Mosser and Owen make note of the many evidences that LDS scholars have uncovered which give plausibility to the Book of Mormon as an ancient Semitic text.

Speaking in particular of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient Jewish texts, they write the following:
Hugh Nibley says: "Now with the discovery and acceptance that typical New Testament expressions, doctrines, and ordinances existed well before the time of Christ, the one otherwise effective argument against the Book of Mormon collapses." 7-3

Stephen E. Robinson points to numerous similarities between the Qumran community and the Latter-day Saints.

He notes that the Qumranites wrote important information on metal, they believed in baptism by immersion, their community was led by a council of twelve men with three governing priests, they had sacred meals of bread and wine administered by priests, and they believed in continuing revelation through a prophetic leader. 7-4

All of this, coming from a time before the New Testament, supports the Book of Mormon by showing it not to have blundered into anacronisms, as its critics have been charging all along.

As with most defenses of the Book of Mormon, more examples could be listed. In light of the growing participation of LDS scholars in Scrolls research we can be sure that many more will be brought to our attention.
Mosser and Owen go on to discuss other Jewish writings (the pseudepigrapha) that have more specific similarities with LDS scriptures. These writings are used by LDS scholars to establish an ancient milieu for the Book of Mormon.

Among several examples, they cite work of Stephen E. Robinson on the Narrative of Zosimus (or History of the Rechabites)
"which contains an interesting tradition about Jews leaving Jerusalem in Jeremiah's time, and traveling across the ocean to a land of promise."
There are impressive parallels between LDS scriptures and ancient Semitic writings that were generally unknown in Joseph Smith's day.

Yale's Harold Bloom is perplexed as how to explain the many parallels between Joseph Smith's writings and ancient apocalyptic, pseudepigraphal, and kabbalistic literature.

He writes,
"Smith's religious genius always manifested itself though what might be termed his charismatic accuracy, his sure sense of relevance that governed biblical and Mormon parallels.

I can only attribute [to the supernatural] his uncanny recovery of elements in ancient Jewish theurgy that, having ceased to be available, and survived only in esoteric traditions were unlikely to have touched Smith directly." 7-5
The case for the Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient text is becoming strong enough to attract the notice of thoughtful evangelical critics of the Church. We look forward to further discoveries!

After all, we already know what the answer will be, for our knowledge of the TRUTH of the Book of Mormon is not based on what scholars say, but on what the Spirit shows those who read it sincerely and pray.

But learning about the impressive evidences for the Book of Mormon helps us better appreciate the book - and makes life even more fun.

8. Mulek, Son of King Zedekiah?

Re-exploring the Book of Mormon ed. John Welch, 8-1 presents the evidence - from non-LDS sources, yet - that tentatively confirms something that has long been attacked in the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon indicates that Mulek was a surviving son of King Zedekiah (after the royal household was destroyed in the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem).

Mulek somehow (perhaps using a boat from the Phoenicians?) made it to the American continent, where his people the "Mulekites" were later absorbed by the Nephites.

The survival of a royal son at first glance seems to contradict the Biblical account and has long been attacked.

But new evidence suggests that there was a survivor with a name similar to Mulek (MalkiYahu, which could be shortened to a form such as Mulek.)

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 40 of Re-exploring the Book of Mormon, a section based on research primarily by Robert F. Smith, and supplemented by Benjamin Urrutia:
Was this MalkiYahu the same person as Mulek? Study of these names tells us he may very well be.

For example, in the case of Baruch, scribe of Jeremiah, the long form of his name, BerekYahu, has been discovered on a seal impression by Nahman Avigad of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem [Avigad, 1979]. The full name has been shortened in Jeremiah's record to Baruch.

In view of this shortening, as in many other biblical names, there is no reason why a short form such as Mulek might not be possible.
More recently, an ancient seal was discovered in Jerusalem bearing the title, "Malkiyahu the son of the king." This may very well be a seal from Mulek, the son of King Zedekiah. This is entirely plausible based on what we know of ancient Israel and the information in the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

Details of this discovery are provided by Jeffrey R. Chadwick, "Has the Seal of Mulek Been Found?" 8-2 Though the entire article should be read carefully to appreciate the possible significance of the find, here are the concluding remarks of Chadwick:
So was Mulek the "Malkiyahu the son of the king" mentioned in Jeremiah 38:6? Nothing in the Bible or the Book of Mormon negates this identification. And the evidence lends significant support to it.

The m-l-k basis of both Hebrew names is clear, and there is precedent for a person being called both Malkiyahu and Mulek - the one a longer, more formal version of the name with a yahu ending, and the other a shorter form featuring a different vowel vocalization.

Malkiyahu/Mulek would not have been killed by the Babylonians before Zedekiah's eyes, as were his brothers (all younger than himself), because as the king's oldest son and heir to the throne, he was likely sent to Egypt by his father well before the fall of Jerusalem and the capture of the royal family.

Whether Mulek was sent to Egypt as a royal messenger or ambassador or simply to ensure his safety, it is unlikely that he could have taken all of his possessions with him to Egypt. It would have been easy for him to have left one of his stamp seals behind.

Some 2,570 years later, that seal was found by someone digging in Jerusalem and was surreptitiously sold. The stamp seal of "Malkiyahu son of the king" now in the London collection of Shlomo Moussaieff seems to be authentic.

In answer to the question posed at the outset of this article - and the significance of this can hardly be overstated - it is quite possible that an archaeological artifact of a Book of Mormon personality has been identified.
However, other possibilities remain open. Scholars now recognize the possibility that someone could be called "son of the king" in the Bible without necessarily being a real biological son. 8-3

It may be possible that Mulek's description as a "son" of King Zedekiah in Helaman 6:10 and 8:21 might not refer to a direct biological relationship. If so, the report of the execution of Zedekiah's sons in 2 Kings 25:7 could refer to his "blood sons," and not whatever kind of "son" Mulek was.

Further, such a scenario might explain why the Mulekites were so willing to accept unification with the Nephites under the rule of King Mosiah even though they were apparently more numerous than the Nephites.

If Mulek did not have a genuine claim to the throne of Judah, it might have been easier for his descendants to accept the rule of the impressive King Mosiah with all the trappings of real kingship (sacred relics like the Liahona, the plates of Nephi and Laban, the sword of Laban, and a high level of literacy and education that was missing among the Mulekites, who came to the New World without written records.)

By the way, The Lachish Letters (cited above) also raise an intriguing possibility, discussed by Hugh W. Nibley. 8-4

One important aspect of the Lachish Letters involves the apparent use of a little boy, apparently a descendent of Zedekiah, to carry confidential letters. Nibley suggests that this little boy could have been the one that escaped and was named Mulek - "little king" in Hebrew. 8-5 And such a boy could have been a true biological son of the king, or a "son" in another sense.

Regardless of this and other possibilities, one thing is clear: the Book of Mormon account is highly plausible, and offers details consistent with modern scholarship in ways that seem to make Joseph Smith either a miraculously lucky guesser, or a prophet who translated a genuine ancient record by the power of God.

9. Bountiful and Nahom
in the Arabian Peninsula


(This section is based largely on the book In the Footsteps of Lehi by Warren P. Aston and Michaela K. Aston.) 9-1

The Book of Mormon begins in Jerusalem, in 600 B.C. The book of 1 Nephi describes Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem before its destruction and wandering through the wilderness for several years before embarking on a transoceanic voyage.

The text provides information about the journey through the Arabian Peninsula which stands as powerful evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Lehi's Journey

Following the exodus of Lehi and his group from Jerusalem, they passed near the Red Sea, traveled "south-southeast", 9-2 roughly parallel to the Red Sea or near its borders, 9-3 until they reached Nahom, 9-4 where Ishmael was buried. (Ishmael was the father of a family that fled Jerusalem with Lehi's family, whose daughters became wives to Lehi's sons.)

There was considerable mourning at Nahom. After a while, they traveled eastward 9-5 until they reached a place they called Bountiful 9-6 on the coast of the Arabian peninsula, described as rich, green garden spot with trees, abundant fruit, water, honey, and a mountain.

At this wonderful site they stayed at least long enough to construct a ship from the abundant timber.

Metal obtained from ore was also used to make tools.


The description of Lehi's journey has long been attacked in anti-Mormon literature.

Finding a garden spot on the coast of the Arabian peninsula was laughable and indeed was laughed at in the 1800s, because nobody knew of a place that could come anywhere close to being a candidate for Lehi's Bountiful.

"The Arabian desert does not have luscious garden spots: Joseph Smith blew it. Case closed."

But today,the many details in the story have gained solid intellectual plausibility based on modern discoveries.

For example, an analysis of the ways of desert Arabs shows remarkable consistency with the actions taken by Lehi's group and with the language and metaphors used by Lehi as he spoke to his family.

His general path along the Red Sea also corresponds with what are now known to be the ancient frankincense trails in Arabia, which were major trade routes.

And an excellent candidate location for the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laman has been found - so excellent and amazing, that critics will be ignoring this issue for years to come.

There is indeed an ancient site called Nehem that is south-southeast of Jerusalem which was on the frankincense trail and has an ancient tradition of being a place for burial and mourning. Ancient tombs are still abundant in that area.


The name Nehem/Nahom (it is the consonants and not the vowels that carry the meaning in Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Arabic) is a rare place name - with the only known site in the Arabian peninsula being in the right place to agree with the Book of Mormon description of Nahom.

The existence of this site was not known to LDS scholars until a few years ago and certainly could not have been known to Joseph Smith.

(By the way, the Semitic name Nahom can refer to mourning and consolation, and may also refer to groaning and complaining, giving it special significance in Nephi's account.) 9-7

There is simply no question that "Nahom" in the Book of Mormon now has solid support - a direct hit in terms of Book of Mormon evidence.


As one travels south-southeast of Jerusalem along the major trunk of the ancient Arabian trade route, the route branches east toward the southeastern coast at only one point: in the Jawf valley (Wadi Jawf) just a few miles from Nehem.

From there the eastern branch of the trade route goes toward the ancient port of Qana - modern Bir Ali - on the Hadhramaut coast, where most of the incense was shipped.

This eastern branch was the major route - the pathways to the south were less used.

Now if Nehem is the Book of Mormon site Nahom, then is there a Bountiful to the east of it on the coast?

Amazingly, we have an excellent candidate site that lies roughly due east of Nehem on the Oman coast. Wadi Sayq is a most unusual seashore site which appears to offer marvelous, even stunning evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon - meeting virtually every criterion for the site Bountiful.

The Astons' Assessment

Among other Book of Mormon criteria for the place Bountiful, the Astons list the following:
The journey from Nahom must have provided reasonable access from the interior to the coast (not a trivial requirement given the difficult obstacles posed by mountains along much of the coast).

Bountiful was on the coast, offering a place suitable for camping on the shore 9-8 and for launching a ship. 9-9

It was very fertile, with much fruit and honey, and possibly game. 9-10

Enough timber existed to build a durable ship. 9-11

Freshwater was available year-round to enable a prolonged stay.

There was a nearby mountain that Nephi described as "the mount." 9-12

Cliffs were available from which Nephi's brothers could threaten to cast him into the sea. 9-13

Flint and suitable ore were available. 9-14

The winds and ocean currents there could permit travel out into the ocean.
How It Fits

Wadi Sayq appears to be a most compelling fit.

The mountain at Wadi Sayq, for example, is close enough to overlook the depths of the sea as required in 1 Nephi.

Ore which would be suitable for use as described in the Book of Mormon has been found there, though it had not been found when the Astons published their findings in 1994. Furthermore, abundant and usable iron ore has also since been found at nearby Dhofar.

Incidentally, the recent discovery of the unusual type of iron ore suitable for tool making using lower temperature wood-fired furnaces in the region of Bountiful is a far more impressive find than one might realize, for there are very few places in the Arabian Peninsula that have such ore.

Wadi Sayq offers the largest body of coastal fresh water on the Arabian peninsula, with a beautiful freshwater lagoon.

Wadi Sayq has dates, honey, and several species of trees, such as the sycamore fig and tamarind, that may be suitable for ship building.

The site has coastal areas ideal for an encampment on the seashore, and it is accessible from the interior desert.

The very existence of anything even close to a plausible candidate flies in the face of what critics of the Book of Mormon claim.

10. Even More Evidence
For the Ancient Place Nahom


Critics could still ask if this ancient burial place was actually known in 600 B.C. by the name Nahom or an equivalent.

Well, there was a report of an ancient altar from that time and place with an inscription about the tribe NIHM. (Only the consonants NHM would have been written in Arabic or Hebrew, so a word written NHM could be pronounced as Nahom, Nihm, Nehhem, etc.)

Critics could still nitpick over even this, saying that a tribal name does not necessarily give support for an ancient place name.

But now even this fragment of an argument against Nahom crumbles away in the light of further evidence reported in 2003 by Dr. S. Kent Brown: 10-1
The recent finding of inscriptions on three limestone altars in the ancient temple of Bar'an in Marib, Yemen, demonstrates as firmly as is possible by archaeological means the existence of the tribal name NHM in that part of Arabia in the seventh-sixth centuries B.C. Those are the general dates assigned to the carving of the altars by the excavators and other scholars. 10-2

It is important to emphasize that in the world of archeology, written inscriptions are the evidence most sought after, for they often establish key components for interpreting the past.

These inscriptions mentioning the NHM tribe prove beyond doubt the existence of this name in the first half of the first millennium B.C.

Tribes, of course, have to live somewhere. These altars also make it plainly evident that the NHM tribe has resided in its current territory for millennia.

In this light, we can safely conclude that the tribal name and the territorial name have been joined for that long.

There is more. 10-3

Tied to this territorial and tribal name, which Nephi spells as Nahom, is his mention of an adjustment from the generally southward journey of his traveling party to an "eastward" direction through this part of Arabia. 10-4
This adjustment, not incidentally, shows that Nephi and his party were following the incense trail that offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. For, in fact, all roads turned east in the region of the NHM tribal territory, including the incense road and its shortcuts.

What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn in Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia.

No one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it.

Another point may shed light on the length of time that would be required, and was actually taken, by Nephi's party to reach the area of NHM.

The NHM tribal territory lies 1,150 miles south of their first camp south of Jerusalem. 10-5 In this connection, two observations are significant.

(1) Nephi writes about the marriages of himself and his brothers at the first camp 10-6 and later, after noting the arrival at Nahom, mentions the births of the first children from these marriages. 10-7

It seems apparent, then, that within the first months of marriage two or more of the brides became pregnant and, after reaching Nahom, gave birth to their first children, thus setting a time parameter of a year or less for the trek from the first camp to the tribal territory of NHM.

That Nephi's party could have reached this area within a year is also demonstrated by another account.

(2) According to the ancient geographer Strabo (ca. 64 B.C. - A.D. 19), in 25 B.C. a Roman military force under general Aelius Gallus marched through roughly the same territory, taking six months to do so.

Because Gallus' army became decimated by disease, he led his men back under forced march in two months to where they began. 10-8 Thus, the plausibility that Nephi's party could have reached the NHM territory in less than a year is high.
Could Joseph Smith
Have Made All of This Up?

Here is a brief quote from the Astons' book, page 29:
By describing in such precise detail a fertile Arabian coastal location, as well as the route to get there from Jerusalem (complete with directions and even a place-name en route), Joseph Smith put his prophetic credibility very much on the line.

Could this young, untraveled farmer in rural New York somehow have known about such an unlikely thing as a fertile site on the coast of Arabia?

Long after the 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon, maps of Arabia continued to show the eastern coastline and interior as unknown, unexplored territory.

In fact, right up until the advent of satellite mapping in recent decades, even quite modern maps have misplaced toponyms and ignored or distorted major features of the terrain.

If I asked you to write about a journey across Tasmania or through Bhutan or some other place about which you knew little, could you possibly describe a journey and its course in a way that would gain credibility with time?

Is there any chance that you could even describe a reasonable general direction to travel? Could you pick a route that would later comply with routes used by others in the area?

Could you name a site, and more than a century later have others find a map with a similar name for that place?

Could you describe a very unlikely place that seems entirely out of line with what little you and others knew about the area, only to have others later discover an excellent candidate for that location in a place entirely consistent with the course you describe?

I have asked many critics of the Book of Mormon to explain how Joseph Smith could have fabricated something so "laughable" yet so amazingly accurate as the place Bountiful and the burial place Nahom. No one so far has attempted a serious explanation.

These details could not have been fabricated based on what was known in 1830 - even today, a typically educated writer with "general knowledge" of the Arabian peninsula would not think or dare to include such specific geographic details as these in the Book of Mormon.

The only plausible explanation is that the author of 1 Nephi, which gives the account of the ancient Arabian trek, actually made that trek. That would be Nephi, not Joseph Smith.

11. The Valley of Lemuel: Another "Blunder"
Becomes Evidence FOR the Book of Mormon


While the once-frequent jabs at Nephi's tale of finding Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula have lost their punch with these new discoveries in Oman, other aspects of Nephi's story continue to draw anti-Mormon fire.

One of the most prominent targets is the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laman. Anti-Mormons proclaim that no such river exists - a "slam-dunk" argument against the entire Book of Mormon.
1 Nephi 2:
2 ... the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness. ...

5 And he … traveled in the wilderness … near the Red Sea ….

6 And when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.

8 And … he called the name of the river, Laman, and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof.

9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!

10 And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!
The critics chuckle that there are NO RIVERS flowing into the Red Sea, at least not anything that could be said to be "continually" flowing. Sure, a few wadis might get a momentary trickle during a rainstorm, but nothing that could be the basis for Lehi's lecture to his son Laman.

Yet the Book of Mormon has Lehi and his family stopping in an impressive valley with a river that continually (year round?) flows into the Red Sea. Slam dunk for the antis? No way!

An excellent candidate for the River of Laman and the Valley of Lemuel has been found in an entirely plausible location. Photographic evidence and other documentation is provided in George D. Potter's article, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel." 11-1

Potter reports that in looking for a well in Arabia, about 8 miles north of Maqna on the Gulf of Aqaba, he stumbled across a magnificent narrow canyon that ended in a palm-lined cove on the coast of the Red Sea. The canyon actually has a small stream that flows continually, throughout the entire year, and is surrounded by very tall mountain walls. This valley is known as Wadi Tayyib al-Ism ("Valley of the Good Name").

Potter shows, for example, that following Nephi's directions almost inevitably would lead one to encounter the oasis and the spring that is the source of the "River Laman" at the beginning of the Valley of Lemuel, and that this is just where the Book of Mormon says it is.

It is there - and no one in the Americas knew of it in Joseph Smith's day. Few experts know of it in this day. But there it is, an incredibly rare perennial stream in Arabia.

One can understand why Lehi would have been impressed with the setting and would have referred to the valley as a symbol of strength and firmness. There are also grains, dates, and other edible plants available in the area, along with clear evidence that the stream flows all year round.

Potter also shows pottery fragments and remnants of possible altars dating to the first millennium B.C. that have been found there, adding to the plausibility of the Book of Mormon account.

Could Potter's small stream, shallow and just a few feet wide, at most, qualify as a river? In the article, Potter notes that there are several Hebrew words which could qualify as the "river" of 1 Nephi 2, most of which refer to any running stream. The small stream which he found keeps vegetation green and healthy even when there has been no rain for months. It flows continuously, in spite of being reduced in volume by pumping upstream for use at a coast guard post and by many motor-driven pumps in the area tapping into the aquifer that is the source of the spring.

In fact, it appears that the stream once had much greater flow, for there is heavy erosion of the lower canyon walls and water-laid calcite deposits on the valley floor that can be as wide as 15 to 20 feet, much wider than the stream.

The river currently descends into rocky rubble as it approaches the Red Sea. According to Dr. Wes Garner, a retired geologist from King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, movement of the continental plates has caused the canyon to rise significantly since Lehi's time - the rocky place where the stream disappears as it approaches the Red Sea was previously submerged. Lehi probably would have faced a larger river that visibly flowed into the Red Sea.

The shady canyon and the stream of fresh water, originating from a spring, would have provided welcome relief to the travelers and undoubtedly would have been a place where the voyagers would camp and recharge. They may have stayed here long enough to learn that the river really does flow continuously, though they may have inferred that based on the green vegetation supported by the river.

And how about the location? The Book of Mormon says that Lehi and his family traveled for three days in the wilderness after they reached the Red Sea. So is the candidate for the Valley of Lemuel in a reasonable location to match the text?

Yes – it is 70 miles south of Aqaba - that's the land distance that must be traveled by foot (or by camel), not the distance along a straight line. That's a plausible but challenging distance on foot for three days travel, and a piece of cake by camel.

Potter provides photos, a map, and detailed directions on how to get there. This amazing site must be regarded as another powerful and verifiable piece of evidence supporting the plausibility of the Book of Mormon.

An anti-Mormon laughingstock has again become one more piece of evidence for them to ignore.

Arguments of Silence

Most of the arguments against the Book of Mormon are arguments of silence.

According to the critics, if something in the Book of Mormon has not (yet) been found, it must not exist, making the book false.

But these arguments of silence keep crumbling before the voice of emerging data. Old ignorance about remote places and ancient peoples continues to erode, leaving the foundation of the Book of Mormon exposed as a solid fortress rising above the plains of doubt.

12. The Place Shazer in the Arabian Peninsula

Much attention has been called to the finding of an ancient burial place, Nahom, in the only region where it could be, according to the description in 1 Nephi.

Much attention has also been directed to the existence of an excellent candidate for the place Bountiful on the coast of Oman, "nearly due east" of Nahom, as the Book of Mormon indicates.

More recently, many Latter-day Saints have rejoiced over the discovery of an ideal candidate for the Valley of Lemuel and the River Laman near the Red Sea, in an entirely plausible location.

But all these finds are only part of the surprising evidence that is coming from the Arabian Peninsula.

Some of the most impressive evidences were just published in 2003 by George Potter and Richard Wellington in their book, Lehi in the Wilderness. 12-1

One significant issue is their discovery of an excellent candidate for another place in the Arabian Peninsula mentioned by Nephi, the place Shazer.

Shazer is introduced in 1 Nephi 16:12-14, as Nephi's group departs from the hospitable Valley of Lemuel:
12 ... we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman.

13 And ... we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer.

14 And ... we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and ... we did return again to our families in the wilderness, to the place of Shazer. And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea.
The Name

Regarding the place name Shazer, Nigel Groom's Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Placenames 12-2 contains an entry for a similar word, "shajir," giving the meaning: "A valley or area abounding with trees and shrubs."

Regarding the name "Shazer," Hugh Nibley wrote:
The first important stop after Lehi's party had left their base camp was at a place they called Shazer. The name is intriguing.

[Throughout the area, and over the centuries, the name has appeared as] Shihor, Shaghur, Sajur, Saghir, Segor, Shajar, Sozura, Shisur, and Shisar, all connected somehow or other, and denoting either seepage - a weak but reliable water supply - or a clump of trees.

Whichever one prefers, Lehi's people could hardly have picked a better name for their first suitable stopping place than Shazer. 12-3
Again, the Book of Mormon text provides a highly plausible name that accurately corresponds to the place described. But is there such a place in the area as required by the Book of Mormon?

Before going any further, let us note that Shazer is introduced in the Book of Mormon within a classic Hebraism: "we did call the name of the place Shazer".

In normal English we would say that we called the place Shazer or named the place Shazer, but in Hebrew one would say that he called the name of the place, for it is the name that is called, not the place itself. 12-4

The Place

But, again, what of the place itself?

It turns out that there is a perfect fit for Shazer, a large, extensive oasis region with what is said to be the best hunting in all of Arabia, and it is in the right location to have been a four-days' journey south-southeast of the established location for the Valley of Lemuel, near a branch of the ancient frankincense trail and in the region of Arabia near the Red Sea called the Hijaz. This oasis is in the wadi Agharr.

In Lehi in the Wilderness, Potter and Wellington explain that they started out thinking Shazer would be easy to find, knowing that Nephi's group traveled 75 miles from the Gulf of Aqaba to the now-located Valley of Lemuel in three days. 12-5 They concluded that the four-day journey from the Valley of Lemuel to Shazer required simply finding an oasis within 100 miles south-southeast of the Valley of Lemuel.

However, many challenges stood in their way, and it would require three more field trips in their spare time over the next two years before they knew for sure that they had found Shazer. The following excerpt from Potter and Wellington describes the process of locating Shazer: 12-6
Our first attempts at finding Shazer took us to places that turned out not to fit the description of a valley with trees. In fact, they were down- right inhospitable.

It wasn't until the summer of 2000 that the whereabouts of Shazer became apparent.

We realized that Lehi's first camp after the valley had to have been at an authorized halt along the Gaza branch of the Frankincense Trail [the Valley of Lemuel was along this branch]. He would not have been allowed to stop anywhere else, and it had to be at a well site.

That spring, Richard had been reading the works of Alois Musil, a Bohemian academic and explorer who doubled as a German spy before World War I. One piece of his record stood out to Richard.

Musil described a fertile valley with an oasis over fifteen miles long which was approximately south-southeast from the Valley of Lemuel and was crossed by the old pilgrim route that followed the Gaza arm of the old Frankincense Trail that was an active trade route in Nephi's time.

We found Musil's description of Agharr most interesting because on a prior trip to Midian we had been told by the Police General at al-Bada that the best hunting in the entire area was in the mountains of Agharr.

Here at last was the solid clue we had been looking for.

[The authors then discuss evidence from old Arab geographers that the first rest stop after Midian appears to be the wadi Agharr.]

Nephi recorded that their first halting place after leaving the Valley of Lemuel was a place of trees where they stopped to hunt.

Now we had evidence from independent sources that the first rest stop after Midian on the ancient Gaza branch of the Frankincense Trail was in a fertile valley with trees, wadi Agharr, and that the surrounding mountains presented the best hunting opportunities along the trail. The next step was to visit Al-Agharr.

We headed the sixty miles south southeast to wadi Agharr and our potential location for Shazer.

To our right the Red Sea glittered in the bright noon light, to our left the mountains of the Hijaz towered over us, purple in the midday sun. Along the way to wadi Agharr we found a few small scattered farms and a few old wells.

Here, where the water table was higher, there may well have been halts anciently where the families could have rested each evening as they headed southeast.

As we reached wadi Agharr there was a gap in the mountains where the trail led. Through the gap we could see some palm trees in the wadi. Entering the wadi we were amazed to find an oasis that ran as far as the eye could see both to our left and to our right.

Wadi Agharr was exactly as Musil had described - fields of vegetables and plantations of palms stretching for miles. It is a narrow valley, perhaps one hundred yards across, bounded on each side by high walls stretching up a few hundred feet.

"Shazer" was certainly an apt description for this location - a valley with trees, set amid the barren landscape of Midian.

Here, after three years of fruitless searching, systematically visiting all the wells in a seventy-five mile radius, we had finally found Shazer.

[The authors then discuss the presence of "Midianite" archaeological sites in the region, dating to the late second to mid-first millennium B.C., suggesting that the valley had also been fertile anciently.]

Here at wadi Agharr is a site that perfectly matches Nephi's Shazer. It probably has the best hunting along the entire Frankincense Trail.

It is the first place travelers would have been allowed to stop and pitch tents south of Midian, and as the Book of Mormon states, it is a four days' journey from the Valley of Lemuel. 12-7
Potter and Wellington offer much more as they retrace Nephi's journey. For example, after Shazer, Nephi writes that they traveled through the "most fertile parts" and then subsequently through "more fertile parts" that can be understood to be less fertile than the "most fertile" parts.

These fertile regions were encountered before they turned due east, which began the most difficult part of their journey.

Along the ancient incense trail, continuing just after Shazer until Medina, one encounters a region described by Arabs as the "fertile parts" of the land. It is the part of the trail with the highest concentration of farms and rest stops for caravans, and truly fits the Book of Mormon description.

After Medina, there are fewer farms, but still enough fertile places to be called "the more fertile parts." 12-8

Knowledge of these many fertile regions in the midst of the barren Arabian Peninsula was largely hidden from the west until recently. These are rare and unusual places in the Arabian Peninsula.

What It All Means

Just consider what we have here, with the finding of a plausible candidate for Shazer, and the many other "direct hits" the Book of Mormon provides regarding the Arabian Peninsula.

There is no way Joseph Smith could have made up this kind of thing. Nothing in the information available to him in 1829 could have guided him in providing so many correct details of Nephi's voyage to the sea through the Arabian Peninsula.

Nothing would have enabled him to describe the Valley of Lemuel, the River of Laman, or the place Shazer, a four-day journey (by camel) south-southeast of the Valley of Lemuel, with the best hunting in the entire area and an abundance of trees, corresponding well with the Semitic meaning of the name Shazer.

Joseph knew nothing of Hebrew or Arabic at the time, and the western world knew precious little about the Arabian Peninsula. Attempting to describe details of the voyage would have been foolhardy in the extreme.

If Joseph or anyone else had made up the story, it would have been important to be as vague as possible, not giving specific directions, distances, and descriptions. The only way such an account could be done with any hope of being plausible would be if the account were written by someone who actually made the trip.

And that's exactly what happened: Nephi was real, his voyage through Arabia was real, and Joseph translated his words through the power of God. Frankly, that's the most plausible explanation for the Book of Mormon.

13. Of Arrows and Sticks

The Book of Mormon is filled with many small, subtle details that suggest its authenticity. The passing treatment of arrows is one example.

During the journey out of Jerusalem toward Bountiful, three times Nephi writes that he had broken his bow, but never says that any of his arrows were damaged. Yet in 1 Nephi 16:23, Nephi says that he "did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow."

Why would he need to make a new arrow this time if his old ones were still intact?

Those familiar with archery understand that arrows must be suited for a particular bow in terms of length, weight, and stiffness. The difference between a powerful steel bow and Nephi's later wooden bow would certainly require different arrows.

Was this part of Joseph Smith's knowledge bank as a farm boy in the 1820s?

Here's a quote from "Nephi's Bows and Arrows," Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John Welch: 13-1

One doubts that such information was known to Joseph Smith or to many, if any, of his contemporaries. Archery, for self-defense, hunting or warfare went out of vogue among Europeans many years before the time of Joseph Smith.

On the other hand, archery as a sport did not emerge until the latter half of the nineteenth century.

David Fox [an experienced archer] concludes:
"Nephi's statement that he made an arrow out of a straight stick is an additional subtle but significant example of internal consistency within the Book of Mormon. Anyone unfamiliar with the field of archery would have almost certainly omitted such a statement."
Another bull's-eye for the Book of Mormon.
14. Finding Ore Near Bountiful

In the online Meridian Magazine article, "Geologists Discover Iron Ore in the Region of Nephi's Bountiful," 14-1 geologist Ron Harris of BYU describes the fascinating confirmation of a very specific Book of Mormon claim about the presence of iron ore near the place Bountiful on the western shore of the Arabian Peninsula.

I knew that iron ore had been found there, but in my geological ignorance I thought that this was not an especially unusual or impressive find. After all, isn't iron present just about everywhere?

Yes, but not actual iron ore, which is rare in Arabia. Even rarer is type of iron ore that can be processed using a wood-fired furnace. Many ores require higher temperatures than that.

There are very few places in the Arabian Peninsula that provide suitable iron ore, and one of them was just recently discovered near what appears to be the site of Nephi's Bountiful.

This is another impressive confirmation of a very specific "prediction" made in the Book of Mormon.

15. What Could Joseph Smith Have Known
About Mesoamerica?


Mesoamerica has become the focal point for understanding the Book of Mormon. John Sorenson's landmark work, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 15-1 ably demonstrates that there is a plausible geographic and cultural setting that can accommodate the Book of Mormon text - though not many of the critics' misconceptions about the scope of the Book of Mormon.

While the Book of Mormon makes sense in the light of modern knowledge about ancient Mesoamerican patterns of society, warfare, trade, literacy, temple building, and numerous other elements, and while the only plausible geographical setting for the Book of Mormon is centered in Mesoamerica, around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, it is important to understand that Joseph Smith did not have access to this knowledge.

He translated the book, but apparently did not know the scope of its geography.

Early Assumptions

Many early leaders of the Church simply assumed that the Book of Mormon dealt with all of North and South America and all of the ancestors of the Indians.

When information about Mesoamerica became available in the 1840s, more than ten years AFTER publication of the Book of Mormon, there was keen interest in that area as its possible location, but this interest faded as the Church faced more serious issues: the martyrdom of Joseph, crossing the plains, struggling for survival against pressures from the US government, etc.

Only well into the twentieth-century did many scholars and thinkers see that a careful reading of the text demands a more limited geography, with Mesoamerica as the prime candidate.

A World Apart

The civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon are a world apart from the tribes Joseph might have known of in New York. In fact, when the Book of Mormon was published, the idea of ancient advanced civilizations anywhere on this continent was utterly foreign and the subject of much ridicule.

So how can critics explain the many parallels between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica - the cities, temples, markets, highways, classes of society, literacy, patterns of warfare (including guerilla warfare), the existence of secret societies, the evil of human sacrifice, and so forth - that are so untypical of the Native Americans known anywhere in 1830?

16. The Great Catastrophe: Volcanism
in Book of Mormon Lands


The Book of Mormon records a number of unusual and dramatic events that occurred in the New World at the time when Christ was crucified in the Old World.

The description of the destruction is detailed, mentioning great storms, earthquakes, and risings and sinkings of the land. A terrible storm brought violent wind and whirlwinds, accompanied by unprecedented lightning and thunder.

The violent activity lasted about three hours, though it seemed longer to some. Afterwards, a "thick darkness" was present which could be "felt." "Vapor of smoke and darkness" choked or suffocated some, and thick "mists of darkness" prevented fires being lit for three days.

Many cities had been destroyed by burning, by sinking into the ocean, by being covered with earth, or by being covered with rising "waters". (Some cities remained, and basic geographical reference points were unchanged, so the great deformation of the land was largely superficial.)

The details about the destruction make excellent sense if volcanic activity was involved.

What It Can Do

Volcanic ash and fumes can result in thick, tangible, moist mists which can kill people, shut out light for days, and prevent the lighting of fires. (Those who experienced the Mount St. Helens eruption in the United States know about some of this.)

Strong volcanic activity can also be accompanied by seismic activity and the shifting of earth from lava flows, ash deposits, mudslides or landslides, from the raising and lowering of portions of the land and by changes in the water levels of nearby lakes.

Joseph Smith never experienced a volcano, but the Book of Mormon description is remarkably consistent with modern knowledge of volcanic activity.

Given that the Book of Mormon appears to be describing volcanic activity around 33 A.D. or so, we have an important and readily verifiable physical detail of great value in assessing the merits of any proposed geography for the Book of Mormon: if it is true history, it took place in a region where major volcanic activity occurred around 33 A.D.

So, is there any place on this continent where something like this destruction could have occurred?

The answer is YES.

Darkness and Seismic Events
When Christ Died:
Consistent with the Book of Mormon

Not only is there a location in the Americas where significant volcanic and seismic activity occurred near the time specified in the Book of Mormon, but it occurred in the only plausible location for the Book of Mormon based on many other considerations - Mesoamerica.

Major lava flows in that area have been dated to about 75 A.D. plus or minus 50 years (one non-LDS scholar, Payson Sheets, said it was at "about the time of Christ"), making the Book of Mormon account entirely plausible.

Some of the lava flows from this time buried Mesoamerican cities, such as the city at Cuicuilco in the Valley of Mexico.

In the area of Chiapas, which may be the land of Zarahemla according to John Sorenson, 16-1 important buildings in the major centers there, Santa Rosa and Chiapa de Corzo, were burned around 50 A.D. plus or minus a few decades. 16-2

Sorenson writes about the plausibility of the great catastrophe in terms of a proposed Mesoamerican setting: 16-3
The same types of natural destructive forces at work in 3 Nephi should be familiar in southern Mexico and thereabouts. After all, it was the intensity of nature's rampage that impressed the Nephite recorder, not the novelty of the phenomena. 16-4

Not surprisingly, the kinds of natural forces unleashed in that fateful three hours are indeed familiar on the Mesoamerican scene.

That area lies in a zone of intense earthquake activity. Scores of volcanoes are scattered along this particular zone of instability from north-central Mexico to Nicaragua. Many of them have been active within historical times. 16-5

Antigua, the former capital city of Guatemala, was utterly destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 and hit heavily again in 1917. The great damage done in Guatemala in 1976 by another series of earthquakes is typical of many previous experiences.

A description of the eruption of Conseguina volcano in Nicaragua in 1835 hints at the terror and destruction that resulted from the powerful disaster at the time of Christ.

A dense cloud first rose above the cone, and within a couple of hours it "enveloped everything in the greatest darkness, so that the nearest objects were imperceptible."

Fear-struck wild animals blundered into settlements, adding to the terror.

Then came quakes, "a perpetual undulation." Volcanic ash began to fall, like "fine powder-like flour."

The thunder and lightning "continued the whole night and the following day." Dust thrown up into the atmosphere combined with heat from the volcano to trigger the storms.

Still later the worst tremor of all hit, strong enough to throw people to the ground.

Darkness again came on and this time lasted forty-three hours. 16-6

These conditions, multiplied in both intensity and territory covered, sound much like 3 Nephi.

In chapter 3 of this description, citations were made to scientific literature reporting evidence of volcanism right around the time of Christ.

Probably the most spectacular was in El Salvador. Archaeologist and geologist Payson Sheets has worked to clarify the date and extent of the eruption there at "about the time of Christ."

One volcano apparently devastated a 3,000-square mile area; ash falls up to 40 feet deep buried settlement after settlement.
Sorenson goes on to explain, with ample documentation, how some more recent historical accounts of volcanic activity in Central America and southern Mexico are also consistent with Book of Mormon descriptions of great thunderings and storms that are triggered by or accompany volcanism, associated mudflows or ash deposits, etc.

Of special interest is the reported fate of the city of Jerusalem (the New World Nephite city), which Sorenson's analysis of Book of Mormon geography places in Guatemala on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Sorensen writes:
The level of this lake has fluctuated as much as 40 feet due to subterranean shifts in the volcanic material that plugs its exit, according to geologists.

Earthquakes and eruptions could have stirred the base of the lake to make water "come up in the stead" of Jerusalem. 16-7

The nearby land or valley of Middoni, today probably the location of Antigua, former capital of Guatemala, has been fiercely shaken many times. 16-8

The entire fault system and volcanic chain extending through highland El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chiapas 16-9 must have been involved simultaneously to create the vast havoc described in the scripture.
Sorenson concludes: 16-10
Unquestionably, the kinds of natural forces that produced the devastation reported in 3 Nephi are thoroughly characteristic of Mesoamerica.

Nothing is surprising about the story except the scale. That was unprecedented.

Our archaeological sources, meanwhile, provide us with some hints that a landmark disaster did in fact occur around the time of Christ.
Another good review of the volcanic evidence related to the Book of Mormon is available online at the FARMS Website in an article by Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars." 16-11 The section of this lengthy article relating to volcanoes is found on pages 112-114, from which the following excerpt is taken:
M. T. Lamb, a prominent anti-Mormon, called the disaster described in 3 Nephi one of the most "foolish and physically impossible" stories ever written. 16-12

But recent Book of Mormon scholarship suggests that it can all be explained and understood in the context of an ancient Mesoamerican volcanic disaster. 16-13

Archaeology provides evidence for such volcanic activity in the Valley of Mexico, where the volcano Xitle is believed to have erupted anciently, covering much of the southern portion of the valley. 16-14

Scholars place this disaster at nearly 2,000 years ago. 16-15

At that time the site of Copilco was buried under more than thirty feet of lava, as was much of the nearby site of Cuicuilco. Archaeological evidence from the sites indicates that the lava flow was preceded by a heavy rainfall of ash. 16-16

Both of these sites are located on the southwestern end of the Valley of Mexico. About thirty miles northeast is the massive site of Teotihuacan.

There a layer of volcanic ash, apparently blown from that eruption, covers structures from the Tzacualli phase (A.D. 1-150). Carbon-14 tests of material directly below the ash layer yielded a date of A.D. 30 ± 80. 16-17
Benjamin R. Jordan, in completing a Ph.D. at the University of Rhode Island involving research on volcanic ash layers in Central America, published an article 16-18 examining evidence for ancient volcanic activity around the time of the death of Christ.

Examining reputable, peer-reviewed publications of ice core data from Greenland and Antarctica, Jordan shows that there are spikes in sulfate content that are consistent with significant volcanic activity around the time of the death of Christ.

"There is evidence for large eruptions, within the margin of error, for the period of A.D. 30 to 40."

17. Mesoamerican Fortifications

There are many aspects of ancient warfare in the Book of Mormon that show strong evidences of authenticity.

For example, the several types of fortifications described in the Book of Mormon have been found in Mesoamerica dating to Book of Mormon times.

Especially interesting is the recently discovered use of earthen mounds or walls coupled with timber work on top, much as described in Alma 50: 1-6.

(This topic is discussed more fully in John Sorenson's article, "Fortifications in the Book of Mormon Account Compared with Mesoamerican Fortifications" in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, 17-1 - a book that abounds with other fascinating evidences. Other insights in this volume deal with the nature of guerrilla warfare and the Gadianton robbers, the use of weapons in the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica, military organization and strategy in the ancient world, legal aspects of war, and more.)

From David C. Coles'
"Is the Book of Mormon Really Ancient?"

Book of Mormon anticipates
modern Mesoamerican archeology

A prime example of a topic on which expert views have changed dramatically to be more in agreement with the Book of Mormon is armed conflict.

Until recently, the prevailing picture of Mesoamerica was that only peaceful societies existed in the the climatic Classic era, exemplified by the spectacular Maya and Teotihuacan ruins dating from about AD 300 to 800.

Mayan leaders were supposed to have spent their time peacefully contemplating and worshipping a complex set of gods, gazing at notable art, playing philosophical games with their calendar, and otherwise acting like "the Greeks of the New Worlds." Only after AD 1000 was militarism supposed to have played a role in Mesoamerican history.

In the 1950's and 1960's, a few voices - Armilles, Rands, Palerm - urged that this picture must be revised, but nobody listened.

The big shift came with the 1970 work by Tulane University at Becan in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The center of the site is surrounded by a ditch almost two kilometers in circumference and averaging 16 meters across. The makers had piled the earth to form a ridge on the inner side of the ditch. David Webster described the military effect of this fortification:
"To throw anything 'uphill' from the outside is almost impossible. Defenders, possibly screened by a palisade, could have rained long-distance missiles on approaching enemies using spearthrowers and slings."
From the Book of Mormon, Alma 49, we read:
18 Now behold, the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it were by the entrance.

19 And thus were the Nephites prepared to destroy all such as should attempt to climb up to enter the fort by any other way, by casting over stones and arrows at them.

20 Thus they were prepared, yea, a body of their strongest men, with their swords and their slings, to smite down all who should attempt to come into their place of security by the place of entrance; and thus were they prepared to defend themselves against the Lamanites.
18. The Use of Cement in Ancient America

A long-ridiculed "anachronism" in Book of Mormon is the reference in Helaman 3:9-11 to cement work among some of the people in the 1st century B.C. At this time, many Nephite people moved into the north lands (probably southern Mexico).

Trees were very scarce there, apparently because of environmental irresponsibility among a previous, fallen civilization (I refer to the "Jaredites," probably correlated with the Olmecs).

While taking care to protect and nurture trees for the future, the Nephites used other materials to build their cities. Buildings made from cement are specifically mentioned. For decades, this seemed like a mistake.

But today, tourists in Mesoamerica can find an abundance of cement work which dates to about the time when the Book of Mormon reports its development (46 B.C.).

John Welch provides further data in his article, "A Steady Stream of Significant Recognitions": 18-1
No one in the nineteenth century could have known that cement, in fact, was extensively used in Mesoamerica beginning largely at this time, the middle of the first century B.C.

One of the most notable uses of cement is in the temple complex at Teotihuacan, north of present-day Mexico City. According to David S. Hyman, the structural use of cement appears suddenly in the archaeological record. And yet its earliest sample "is a fully developed product."

The cement floor slabs at this site "were remarkably high in structural quality." Although exposed to the elements for nearly two thousand years, they still "exceed many present-day building code requirements."

This is consistent with the Book of Mormon record, which treats this invention as an important new development involving great skill and becoming something of a sensation.

After this important technological breakthrough, cement was used at many sites, including in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, which very well may have been close to the Nephite heartlands.
As to the possible importance of Teotihuacan itself, consider the following tentative suggestion from Michael J. Preece: 18-2
The Book of Mormon text often speaks of a mysterious land. It may be referred to as the "land which was northward" 18-3 or simply the "land northward." 18-4 In another place it is referred to as the "northernmost part of the land." 18-5

It is possible that this land is in the same location as the "great city of Jacobugath." 18-6

It has been suggested that this mysterious land might be the ancient city of Teotihuacan, built in the valley of Mexico, near where Mexico City lies today.... The ancient culture which inhabited this city had its beginnings about 150 B.C. and fell about A.D. 750.

The circumstantial evidence that Teotihuacan may indeed have been the "land northward" includes the fact that between 55 B.C. and A.D. 29, the Book of Mormon mentions several migrations into this land where large bodies of water were found.

This is the same period when Teotihuacan was experiencing a high growth rate.

The valley of Mexico contained many lakes, and in fact Mexico City is built on a dry lake bed.

The Book of Mormon speaks of the people in the land northward building houses out of cement because timber was scarce in the land. 18-7

The archaeological site of Teotihuacan contains many buildings made of cement, and timber is indeed scarce in the valley of Mexico....
On a related note, the Book of Mormon speaks of highways and roads. 18-8

Some LDS people have pointed to the discovery of cement roads among the Incas as supporting evidence, but the Inca empire was too far south to fit into a modern understanding of Book of Mormon geography.

However, lime-surfaced causeways (called sacbes) have been discovered in Central America, some dating to Book of Mormon times. Researchers at Tulane University found one from near 300 B.C. Another in Belize was used between 50 B.C. and 150 A.D. South of Mexico City are about two miles of ancient paved roads, while one roadway in Yucatan is over 50 miles long. 18-9

The mention of cement work and roadways in the Book of Mormon appears highly plausible today, but was implausible to experts of the past.

By the way, the ancient adobe pueblos that existed in Mexico as well as the US Southwest could also qualify as "cement" houses. The word "adobe" was not commonly used in Joseph Smith's day, was not in the 1830 Webster's Dictionary, and did not appear in print in English until 1834. 18-10

If Joseph did not have that word in his vocabulary, the word "cement" in the Book of Mormon could also include adobe. Perhaps the adobe builders were linked to Book of Mormon peoples.

19. Legends of Quetzalcoatl
and Ties to the Book of Mormon


I still remember the excitement I felt in fifth grade when we were shown a documentary film about Cortes and the Aztecs, describing how Cortes was greeted as the Great White God of legend who had once visited the Americas and promised to return.

I immediately saw the "obvious" connections to the Book of Mormon. Years later, I would read that these legends did not necessarily have any ties to the Book of Mormon, for some of them had been twisted by the Spaniards for their own purposes and may not have been reliable.

Further, I would read that some Native Americans may have made their own claims of Christ-like legends to impress their new lords.

And so, when critics would charge, "Why isn't there a scrap of evidence to support the Book of Mormon?", I would turn to the Arabian Peninsula evidence or other issues, rather than start with what once seemed like the most important issue of all: the visit by Christ to the Americas as preserved in the legends of Mesoamerica, the land of the Book of Mormon.

Yet while some legends have undoubtedly been given a Spanish-spin, there still is plenty of reason to believe that pre-Columbian Mesoamericans actually did have legends consistent with some key ideas in the Book of Mormon.

Most of the earliest documentation has been destroyed. It is tragic that only four Mesoamerican books survived out of the many thousands that the Mayans and others had when the Spaniards arrived. The wanton destruction of so many records by the superstitious Spaniards was a terrible loss.

But while great caution must be used, I think it's time to revisit those legends and traditions of Mesoamerica as tentative witnesses for a visit from Christ and the existence of the Gospel among the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica.

Diane E. Wirth in "The Bearded, White God Is Everywhere - or Is He?" 19-1 writes (citing pages 12-13):
Nonetheless, some who support the various accounts speak of the "return" of Quetzalcoatl, and although the original legend does have a late Spanish spin, the "return" myth may still have been derived from an older original and authentic belief among the natives.

One of the primary advocates of this opinion is David Carrasco of Princeton University. Carrasco writes,
"In the very earliest sources, there are a number of references to the expected return of Quetzalcoatl.

These references strongly suggest that the belief in Quetzalcoatl's return was a pre-Columbian attitude and not, as some have suggested, invented by the Spaniards." 19-2
In fact, on the basis of numerous legends among native peoples, one non-LDS writer, L. Taylor Hansen, became convinced that Christ was once in the Americas and compiled these accounts in a book, He Walked the Americas. 19-3

Hansen apparently had Masters Degrees in Archaeology, Anthropology and Geology from Stanford University and had spent significant time with Native Americans to better understand their traditions and legends.

Other students of Mesoamerica see an association between Quetzalcoatl and resurrection themes, as John Sorenson explains in Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life: 19-4
Michel Graulich in his "Afterlife in Ancient Mexican Thought" 19-5 insists that elements in Mexican myth that have been considered products of Spanish Christian influence nevertheless represent native, pre-Columbian beliefs.

He maintains that the sources tell of a divine creator couple who lived in a paradise from which they were expelled because of a transgression. They were rescued from their dismal state on earth by the self-sacrifice of the god Quetzalcoatl, and this allowed them to escape the underworld and provided a means by which humans who emulate their qualities may reach the lost paradise.
Wallace E. Hunt, Jr., in "Moses' Brazen Serpent as It Relates To Serpent Worship in Mesoamerica" 19-6 notes the evidence linking Quetzalcoatl with a Christlike-being. According to Hunt,
Although Quetzalcoatl's origin is clouded in obscurity, the legends, the few pre-Columbian writings extant today, and the early post-Conquest writings contain an abundance of material on this ancient and revered god.

These accounts vary widely both on the god's attributes and the details of how he was worshiped, undoubtedly due to a millennium of digressions from the original concept from the end of the Book of Mormon to the time of the Spanish Conquest.

However, through all this maze, we find that the Mesoamericans consistently endow Quetzalcoatl with many Christlike attributes, some of which are listed below:
- Quetzalcoatl was the creator of life. 19-7

- Quetzalcoatl taught virtue. 19-8

- Quetzalcoatl was the greatest Lord of all. 19-9

- Quetzalcoatl had a "long beard and the features of a white man." 19-10

- The Mesoamericans believed Quetzalcoatl would return. 19-11
And if the legends among the Aztecs, Mayans, and others really do refer to a visit from Jesus Christ, might we not expect traces of Christian rituals to have persisted, in spite of the great apostasy and persecution of Christians reported in the Book of Mormon from about 300 A.D. to 400 A.D.?

One such trace may be the practice of baptism, not of infants, but of older children.

The Mayan rituals encountered by the Spanish included concepts of being reborn, purified, and prepared for the next life, repenting of sins, confession to a priest, white cloth as a symbol, and a name that meant "the descent of the god."

These remarkable parallels with teachings in the Book of Mormon may be due to the teachings on baptism that Christ gave to his people in the Americas when he ministered to them after His Resurrection. 19-12

Others, finding the intriguing parallels between Mesoamerican traditions and Jesus Christ, are quick to dismiss the possible "Mormon" connection, but it's interesting that this is one issue they have to at least acknowledge.

One example is Bruce Lane's article, "The Making of 'The Tree Of Life,'" in Quaker Theology, 19-13 in which he notes interesting parallels between Mesoamerican traditions and Jesus Christ.

These were encountered in his work of making a film about the highly symbolic Mesoamerican ritual of the "Voladores" involving men who hang from a large tree of life as they spin in a circle. Bruce Lane says:
The Spanish priests brought with them statues of a white bearded god. They told the Totonacs that this god had sacrificed himself so that no further human sacrifice would be needed, and that they should accept him as their god, in place of all others.

Since Quetzalcoatl, already represented in their legends as white and bearded, and had prophesied his return, the Totonacs seem to have identified the white, bearded Christ image as Quetzalcoatl.
20. Wars in Winter?

A fascinating issue on climate is the seasons of war described in the Book of Mormon, mostly between Alma 9 and Alma 47.

In over 30 places, war action is described as taking place near the end or beginning of the year.

Sorenson has compiled information from the text about the month of the year various military skirmishes are mentioned. Almost all occur between the 11th and 3rd months, with a small number reported in the 4th, 5th, and 10th months, and none mentioned in the 6th through 9th months. Why this pattern?

Well, the text also makes reference to cultivation of food a number of times in the 4th through 9th months. The problem of getting food to the troops is mentioned as a concern mainly in the twelfth through 2nd months. Thus it seems that the harvest may have been in months 10 through 12.

(Summary: Nephite cultivation of fields: months 4-9; main harvest: months 10-12; time of warfare: mainly months 11-3).

Now several insights arise:
since the armies were largely made of ordinary citizens (like reservists) who were largely farmers, they were not available for warfare except after the harvest; 20-1

since an army moves on its stomach, fighting is most easily carried out when food supplies are most available, which would be after the harvest;

the Book of Mormon shows remarkable accuracy [and internal consistency] in dealing with the ancient relationship between agriculture and warfare.
But how do Nephite months correspond to ours?

In Mesoamerica, May though September is the best time for growing crops (heat and moisture available). October through April is fairly dry. We also know that before Columbus, military campaigns in Central America occurred mainly between late October and February (again, farmers were then free of agricultural duties and food could be gathered - or captured).

Likewise, soggy land from heavy rains was now drier and more passable (and made living in tents easier).

These considerations lead Sorenson and others to conclude that the Nephites may have begun their year in late December, perhaps with the winter solstice (Dec. 21/22), as did many other ancient peoples.

Now here comes an intriguing insight which bodes poorly for the critics' theory that Joseph Smith made the Book of Mormon up.

A significant battle scene (one in which the long-term survival of the Nephite nation might have been at stake) is described in Alma 51 at the end of the year - around December.

After heavy fighting and major marches, both sides were very tired because of their "labors and heat of the day." This takes place on the east coast, "in the borders on the beach by the seashore." 20-2

At this season, the rain-swollen rivers have subsided, but the east region (Isthmus of Tehuantepec area) is still rather wet, low, and hot. The hottest weather was still months away, but down on the coast it was hot and muggy enough to contribute to the fatigue of the rapidly traveling troops.

Alma 51 shows that the land of the Book of Mormon peoples was not a cold, snow-covered place in winter, as upstate New York was for young Joseph Smith. If he made up the book based on what he knew, he would have had fighting occur in the summer, not during winter.

The internal consistency of many passages dealing with war during the proper season of war for Mesoamerica is most remarkable.

Though it is treated as a minor point in the text, the geographic and climatic information fits and makes surprisingly perfect sense. It has to be considered as one of the many "mundane" but powerful evidences for authenticity.

Was Mesoamerica always
a peaceful, tranquil place?

Exciting and fairly recent discoveries in Mesoamerica have caused another complete paradigm shift in the thinking of scholars.

Until recently, experts believed ancient Central America and southern Mexico (Mesoamerica) to have been a peaceful, tranquil place during the times that the Book of Mormon speaks of frequent, large-scale wars.

But in recent years that view has been radically altered.

As Michael Coe now explains,
"The Maya were obsessed with war. The Annals of the Cakchiquels and the Popol Vuh speak of little but intertribal conflict among the highlanders, while the sixteen states of Yucatan were constantly battling with each other over boundaries and lineage honor." 20-3
21. Olive Culture

While the Book of Mormon does not say that the Nephites raised olive trees, Jacob 5 offers a detailed description of practices in the cultivation of olive trees, taken from a Jewish text that was on the brass plates that Lehi brought with him from Jerusalem.

These descriptions agree well with what is known of ancient olive cultivation in ways that were far beyond what Joseph Smith could have known.

The details in Jacob 5 appear to be a masterful and accurate representation of ancient horticultural practices regarding olive trees, including the art of grafting branches from one tree to another, which is still common for those caring for olive trees.

Below is an excerpt from John Gee and Daniel C. Peterson, "Graft and Corruption: On Olives and Olive Culture in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean": 21-1
Almost every detail in Jacob 5 about olive culture can be confirmed in four ancient classical authors [Theophrastus, Varro, Columella and Cato] whose authority on the subject can be traced back to Syro-Palestine.

For example, the placing of the villa above the vineyards 21-2 means that, when the master gives instructions to his servants, they have to "go down" into the vineyard. 21-3

It was also customary for the master of the vineyard to have several servants. 21-4 When only one servant is mentioned, the reference is most likely to the chief steward.

Likewise, mention of planting, 21-5 pruning, 21-6 grafting, 21-7 digging, 21-8, nourishing 21-9 and dunging, 21-10 as well as the fact that dunging occurs less frequently in the parable than the nourishing, all mark it as an authentic ancient work.

Even more striking, for Joseph Smith to have made up the parable from these classical authors, he would have had to read all four.

Theophrastus is the only one to discuss the differences between wild and tame olives, the tendency for wild olives to predominate, and prophetic use of the olive tree as a sign.

Varro and Columella are the only ones to acknowledge the Phoenician connections.

Cato and Varro are the only ones who discuss the servants' roles.

Cato and Columella alone note the placement of the villa above the groves.

Varro is the only author to discuss the "main top" in association with the "young and tender branches." 21-11

Yet Joseph Smith probably did not have access to these works. And even if he had, he could not read Latin and Greek in 1829.

Theophrastus's Historia Plantarum was first published in English in 1916, and no part of his De Causis Plantarum was available in English until 1927.

While English translations of Cato, Varro, and Columella were available to the British in 1803, 1800, and 1745 respectively, it is hardly likely that they were widely circulated in rural New York and Pennsylvania.

Joseph Smith could have known nothing about olives from personal experience, as they do not grow in Vermont and New York.

And even if he somehow managed to get the details from classical authors, how did he know to put it into the proper Hebrew narrative form? [The narrative of Jacob 5 follows the Hebrew narrative pattern as laid down by Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative.] 21-12

Even if Joseph Smith had somehow gathered the details of ancient olive culture from someone who knew it intimately, he would still have had no plot. [Jacob 5's plot is complicated.]
22. More from Mesoamerica...

While critics continue to chant their mantra, "No evidence, no evidence...," faithfully ignoring the impressive Book of Mormon evidence from the Old World, there are quite a few things from the New World that merit attention.

The best work on geography of the Book of Mormon puts its setting in a small area in Mesoamerica (southern Mexico, Guatemala), and that is where we can expect to find the most relevant evidence.

Beyond the long list of evidences I've already mentioned above, look at the many other things 22-1 that we know about this region that fit in with the Book of Mormon.

It's the only place in the New World with a long tradition of written language, as the Book of Mormon would require.

It's a place where significant cities suddenly sprang up, consistent with the concept of an immigration of a city-building people and roughly consistent with the times of the Jaredite and Nephite/Lamanite eras.

It's a place that anciently was filled with kings and kingdoms, wars and politics, trade and merchants, religious disputes and philosophical inquiry, all consistent with the cultural milieu presented in the Book of Mormon.

Consider, for example, the cultural implications of 3 Nephi 6:10-12:
10 But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;

11 For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.

12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
If Joseph Smith were describing what he knew of Native American culture in the frontier of upstate New York, why would he introduce such foreign ideas into his text?

Attributing merchants, officers, lawyers, costly learning, and so forth to ancient Americans was outlandish if he were using his own knowledge of the natives in the land. But these verses accurately describe aspects of Mesoamerican society that he couldn't have known about in his place and time.

Just another example of many, the political systems described in the Book of Mormon point to a hierarchy of cities as the organizing factor in Nephite and Lamanite government. 22-2 We even see Lamanite kings in cities being subject to higher kings.

As Gardner suggests, if Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon using what he knew, one might expect to see a federal system of government or divisions between city, county, state. Instead, we encounter a system foreign to Joseph Smith, a system based on a hierarchy of cities - just as we find in ancient Mesoamerica.

Mesoamerica is also a place with persistent legends of a Great White God who visited the people anciently and promised to return, just as the Book of Mormon reports.

And it's a place that had legends of ancient emigrations by boat. For example, a native American prince in the 1500s named Ixtlilxochitl wrote:
Those who possessed this new world in this third age were the Ulmecas and Xicalanas; and according to what is found in their histories, they came in ships or barques from the east to the land of Pontochan from which they began to settle." 22-3
That fits reasonably well with the Book of Mormon description of the Jaredites, who came from the old world in enclosed barges or boats, at a time that fits in well with the rise of the Olmec civilization.

Cortez reported that the Aztec king Montezuma, at the first meeting of white men with the natives of Texcoco, said:
"For a long time and by means of our writings, we have possessed a knowledge, transmitted from our ancestors, that neither I nor any of us who inhabit this land are of native origin.

We are foreigners and came here from very remote parts. We possess information that our lineage was led to this land by a lord to whom we all owed allegiance.

He afterward left this [land] for his native country ... but we have ever believed that his descendants would surely come here to subjugate this land and us who are, by rights, their servants. Because of what you say concerning the region whence you came, which is where the sun rises ... we believe and hold as certain that he must be our rightful lord." 22-4
Though one must be cautious to sort the authentic from the questionable when it comes to reports of ancient legends, there are numerous accounts that appear to have derived from the ancient visit of Christ to the Americas, as reported in the Book of Mormon.

The Mayan practice of baptism encountered by the Spaniards, for example, has numerous parallels with baptism as taught by Christ and His prophets in the Book of Mormon. 22-5

Combine that with early legends of the Great White God or related figures who were said to have visited peoples in Mesoamerica, and we've got something worth pondering.

In fact, on the basis of numerous legends among native peoples, one non-LDS writer became convinced that Christ was once in the Americas and compiled these accounts in a book, He Walked the Americas. 22-6 Though remnants of some inspired practices such as baptism may have persisted in Mesoamerica, there were also many forms of evil among the ancient Book of Mormon peoples whose Mesoamerican remnants are more easily discovered.

For example, the Book of Mormon describes human sacrifice as practiced by some of the most corrupt groups - an evil which is widely attested in ancient Mesoamerica.

"Secret combinations" - particularly secret mafia-like societies for gaining power and wealth - are described in detail in the Book of Mormon, and are also attested in Mesoamerican culture.

Cultural practices, the structure of society, the types of buildings and cities, patterns of warfare, roads and cement, patterns of trade, gardens and markets, etc., mentioned in the Book of Mormon can be found in ancient Mesoamerica, a place that must have been largely unknown to Joseph Smith when the Book of Mormon was translated.

Further, Joseph Smith and his peers almost certainly did not know about the great civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica when the Book of Mormon was published. In fact, the idea of ancient advanced civilizations on this continent was so utterly foreign at the time that the witnesses of the Book of Mormon worried that it would be rejected for that reason.

David Whitmer, in an 1883 interview with James H. Hart, said:
When we [the Witnesses] were first told to publish our statement, we felt sure that the people would not believe it, for the Book told of a people who were refined and dwelt in large cities; but the Lord told us that He would make it known to the people, and people should [in time] discover evidence of the truth of what is written in the Book. 22-7
23. Writing in Reformed Egyptian?

One of the most common attacks against the Book of Mormon focuses on the use of "Reformed Egyptian" as the writing system for the golden plates. 23-1

It is alleged that the no self-respecting Israelite would ever use Egyptian to write sacred scripture, and it is alleged that no such language as "Reformed Egyptian" has ever existed.

These arguments are typified in the anti-Mormon book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism by "Dr." John Ankerberg and "Dr. Dr." John Weldon (neither one of which appears to have a legitimate Ph.D.):
Mormonism has never explained how godly Jews [sic] of A.D. 400 allegedly knew Egyptian, nor why they would have written their sacred records entirely in the language of their pagan, idolatrous enemies. 23-2

How likely is it that the allegedly Jewish [sic] Nephites would have used the Egyptian language to write their sacred scriptures? Their strong antipathy to the Egyptians and their culture makes this difficult to accept.

When modern Jews copy their scripture, they use Hebrew. They do not use Egyptian or Arabic, the language of their historic enemies. 23-3

No such language [as reformed Egyptian] exists and Egyptologists declare this unequivocally. 23-4
Ankerberg and Weldon are wrong on several counts - grossly wrong, as shown by Daniel C. Peterson in a noteworthy book review. 23-5

Several modified or "reformed" Egyptian scripts are well known, including forms called Demotic and Hieratic. "Reformed Egyptian" is clearly an appropriate generic term for those writing systems.

However, the "Reformed Egyptian" used by the Nephites is described as a language system unique to them, 23-6 having evolved with their culture over a 1,000-year period. It was apparently used for sacred writings, and should have been almost wholly lost with the destruction of Nephite civilization.

How can we expect Egyptologists, with typically no training in Central American matters, to know whether such a language ever existed there?

Daniel Paterson gives further analysis: 23-7
Who says that the Nephites wrote in Egyptian?

That is certainly one possibility, but several scholars (e.g., Sidney Sperry, John Sorenson, and John Tvedtnes) suggest, rather, that the language of the Nephites was Hebrew, written in Egyptian characters.

The practice of representing one language in a script commonly associated with another language is very common.

Yiddish, for instance, which is basically a form of German, is routinely written in Hebrew characters.

Swahili can be written in either Roman or Arabic scripts.

In fact, almost any textbook of colloquial Arabic or Chinese or Japanese aimed at Western learners will use the Latin alphabet to represent those languages.

Language and script are essentially independent. Turkish, which used to be written in a modified Arabic script, has been written in Latin letters in Turkey since the 1920s. However, in the areas of the old Soviet Union, it is now usually written in Cyrillic (Russian) characters.

So this phenomenon of changing the script with which one writes a language is by no means unusual.

We have, in fact, an ancient illustration that comes remarkably close to the Book of Mormon itself.

Papyrus Amherst 63, a text from the second century B.C., seems to offer something very much like "reformed Egyptian." It is a papyrus scroll that contains Aramaic texts written in a demotic Egyptian script. (Aramaic is a language closely related to Hebrew. Incidentally, however, a Christian form of the language, Syriac, came to use an alphabet related to Arabic - again illustrating the independence of script and tongue.)
The FARMS publication, Insights, 23-8 reported on presentations at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, held Nov. 1997 in San Francisco.

Non-LDS scholar Nili S. Fox discussed the development of Egyptian elements used in Hebrew texts by Israelites during the ninth through seventh centuries B.C.

Fox noted that the Israelite scribes were acquainted with the Egyptian writing system and that there was a longer history of ties between Egypt and both Judah and Israel than previously thought.

Hebrews using an Egyptian writing system? The idea is a lot more plausible today that it was in Joseph Smith's time.

The anti-Mormon critics who dismiss the possibility ("Jews hated the Egyptians, their former slavemasters, and would never think of using anything from Egyptian culture!") continue to stand on a foundation of sand, and the sand is shifting again.

24. Linguists Provide Possible Evidence
Consistent with Book of Mormon Claims


Non-LDS scholar Dr. Mary Ritchie Key is a Professor Emeritus of Linguistics from the University of California at Irvine, and the author of 17 books during her five decades of linguistic research in more than a dozen languages.

In her article, "American Indian Languages before Columbus," 24-1 she proposed the idea that ancient Hittite and Sumerian from the Middle East found its way into some Native American (esp. South American) languages.

A recent contribution to the topic of Hebraic influence in the Book of Mormon is the work of Brian D. Stubbs, one of the few linguists working with Uto-Aztecan languages (covering the US Southwest down to southern Mexico).

He wrote a ground-breaking article, "Looking Over vs. Overlooking Native American Languages: Let's Void the Void," 24-2 which makes serious, systematic comparisons of ancient Hebrew words and forms to those of Uto-Aztecan languages.

Stubbs is among a small handful of people who know both Semitic languages and Uto-Aztecan languages.

Most linguists dealing with the Book of Mormon have approached it with backgrounds rich in Semitic languages but lacking in New World languages. Stubbs' pioneering work opens the door for further studies, pointing to some interesting possibilities.

Among his tentative conclusions, Stubbs finds that
"Uto-Aztecan, as a language family, exhibits more similarities with Hebrew than could be attributed to coincidence; nevertheless, that Hebrew element is obviously mixed with other language elements very different from Hebrew."
While no UA [Uto-Aztecan] language shows the same level of derivation from Hebrew as Spanish does from Latin, there are still many traces of similarity suggesting some degree of contact or derivation. Over 1,000 similarities have been derived, enough to merit further investigation.

Examples of similarities include the plural suffix "-im" in Northwest Semitic (the branch to which Hebrew belongs), and "-ima" in many UA languages; the passive prefix "ni-" in Northwest Semitic and the prefix "na-" in UA; Northwest Semitic "yasab" as the perfect form of the verb to sit or to dwell, compared to "yasipa" in UA; "adam" meaning man in Hebrew compared to "otam" in UA; Hebrew "katpa" for shoulder, compared to "kotpa" in UA; ya-'amin for "he believes" in Hebrew compared to "yawamin" in a northern UA language; etc.

Stubbs' article delves into 100 of the over 1,000 areas of similarity. It is technical but worth the read.

Stubbs shows that additional research has identified hundreds of possible links between Uto-Aztecan languages with the ancient Hebrew language. 24-3

Stubbs work has received the attention of other non-LDS scholars. For example, Roger Williams Westcott, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Linguistics at Drew University, New Jersey, 24-4 speaks positively of Stubbs' work in his article, "Early Eurasian Linguistic Links with North America." 24-5

Dr. Westcott writes:
Perhaps the most surprising of all Eurasian-American linguistic connections, at least in geographic terms, is that proposed by Brian Stubbs: a strong link between the Uto-Aztecan and Hamito-Semitic (or Afro-Asiatic) languages.

The Uto-Aztecan languages are, or have been, spoken in western North America from Idaho to El Salvador.

One would expect that, if Semites or their linguistic kinsmen from northern Africa were to reach the New World by water, their route would be trans-Altantic.

Indeed, the graphonomic evidence does indicate exactly that: Canaanite inscriptions are found in Georgia and Tennessee as well as in Brazil; and Mediterranean coins, some Hebrew and Moroccan Arabic, are found in Kentucky as well as Venezuela.

But we must follow the evidence wherever it leads. And lexically, at least, it points to the Pacific rather than the Atlantic coast. [This fits the Book of Mormon.]

Stubbs finds Semitic and (more rarely) Egyptian vocabulary in about 20 of 25 extant Uto-Aztecan languages.

Of the word-bases in these vernaculars, he finds about 40 percent to be derivable from nearly 500 Semitic stems. Despite this striking proportion, however, he does not regard Uto-Aztecan as a branch of Semitic or Afro-Asiatic.

Indeed, he treats Uto-Aztecan Semitisms as borrowings. But, because these borrowings are at once so numerous and so well "nativized," he prefers to regard them as an example of linguistic creolization - that is, of massive lexical adaptation of one language group to another.

(By way of analogy, . . . historical linguists regard the heavy importation of French vocabulary into Middle English as a process of creolization.)
The evidence for past linguistic contact between the Old World and the New is consistent with the Book of Mormon, particularly if we note the textual and external evidence pointing to other peoples and languages already being on the continent when Lehi and his family arrived.

25. Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon

A recent discovery is that ancient Middle Eastern poetry - including the Bible - often used a poetical form called chiasmus, a form of parallelism in which key ideas are structured in a mirror image reflective form such as A,B,C,C',B',A'.

Some of the most powerful and beautiful examples of this ancient form are found in the Book of Mormon (first discovered in 1967 by John Welch).

The importance of chiasmus in ancient Semitic writings has only been recognized in this century, and still today very few educated people have ever heard of it.

Its strong presence in the Book of Mormon is evidence that its writers possessed an ancient Semitic literary tradition, as the Book of Mormon claims, and (in my opinion) single-handedly refutes the claim that the Book of Mormon is the product of a 19th century writer (though there are numerous other factors that refute such a claim).

Alma 36 is a classic example.

From David C. Coles'
"Is the Book of Mormon Really Ancient?"

Biblical literary structure,
undiscovered until 1900s,
found in Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon contains chiasmus, an ancient Hebrew literary construction discovered in this [the 20th] century. In chiasmus, the first and last phrases of a section of text contain identical or closely related terms, as do the second and next-to-last phrases, and the third and third-to-last phrases, etc.

The "Popul Vuh" writings of the Mayas of Central America were recently found to also contain chiastic structures.

Bible, Book of Mormon and Mayan Chiasmus 25-1

In the Bible 25-2 we read this chiasm from a direct Herbrew translation:
{1}  SAVE me
{2}    O my GOD
{3}      For thou hast SMITTEN
{4}        All my ENEMIES
{5}          On the CHEEKBONE.
{5}          The TEETH
{4}        Of the WICKED
{3}      Thou hast BROKEN.
{2}    To YAHWEH
And in the Book of Mormon 25-3 we read this chiasm:
(Men will drink damnation to their souls unless)
{1}  They HUMBLE themselves
{2}    and become as little CHILDREN
{3}      believing that salvation is in the ATONING BLOOD OF CHRIST;
{4}        for the NATURAL MAN
{5}          is an enemy of GOD
{6}            and HAS BEEN from the fall of Adam
{6}            and WILL BE forever and ever
{5}          unless he yieldeth to the HOLY SPIRIT
{4}        and putteth off the NATURAL MAN
{3}      and becometh a saint through the ATONEMENT OF CHRIST
{2}    and becometh as a CHILD
{1}  submissive, meek and HUMBLE.
And in the Popul Vuh of the Mayans we read this chiasm:
{2}    and once it had been CREATED
{3}      the EARTH
{4}        the MOUNTAINS and valleys
{5}          the paths of the waters were DIVIDED
{6}            and they proceded to twist along among the hills.
{5}          So the rivers then became more DIVIDED
{4}        as the great MOUNTAINS were appearing.
{3}      And thus was the creation of the EARTH
{2}    when it was CREATED by him
{1}  who is the HEART OF HEAVEN.
There are many such chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon. Only an ancient author would have known to include them. The transmission of the ancient Hebrew form to the Maya may even be explained by the migrations documented in the Book of Mormon.

26. Numerous Hebraic Language Structures

Critics continue to mock the awkward grammar of the Book of Mormon and the many changes that had to be made in later editions to fix problems of punctuation and grammar.

But in so doing, they call attention to what are actually strong signs of authenticity.

Yes, punctuation was a problem in the original manuscript because it was dictated (translated) without punctuation. Punctuation had to be added and then further corrected.

That sounds crazy for anyone composing an English document - but ancient Hebrew and other Semitic languages were written without punctuation, and a relatively direct translation would likewise not have punctuation in it.

As for the grammar, there certainly were many strange and awkward structures in the original manuscript that needed improvement.

For example, instead of the normal "if ... then ..." construction, the Book of Mormon had multiple phrases with "if ... and ...." such as "if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, and he shall manifest the truth of it unto you." 26-1

That's completely unacceptable English - but it's very good Hebrew, known as the Hebraic conditional. 26-2

Another example is 1 Nephi 17:50, which Joseph Smith initially translated as "if he should command me that I should say unto this water be thou earth, and it shall be earth."

When Oliver Cowdery prepared the printer's manuscript from the original manuscript, he deleted the word and to improve the English.

Thirteen other examples printed in the 1830 edition were later changed by Joseph Smith for the 1837 edition, including Moroni 10:4. 26-3

Examination of the text and the original and printer's manuscripts suggests that this was no simple scribal error, and Joseph's own dialect of English did not include this awkward construction, nor does the King James Bible provide language that would motivate a forger to include Hebraic conditionals.

So why do they occur in the original Book of Mormon? Is any explanation more plausible than a somewhat literal translation of the Hebraic conditional from a Semitic text?

There are dozens of examples of other expressions and grammatical structures in the 1830 Book of Mormon, many of which survive in the current printing, that are unusual or awkward in English yet are natural and proper in Hebrew.

The simplest explanation is that the text was dictated as a translation from an ancient Semitic document.

Critics have been unable to explain away these and many other signs of authenticity. It's much easier to just mock the poor grammar and punctuation, or scream about the many minor changes that were needed to make the Book of Mormon text more properly comply with basic standards of spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

An outstanding article on the topic of Semitic influence in the Book of Mormon text is John A. Tvedtnes, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon: A Preliminary Survey". 26-4 There are several others, as well.

Tvedtnes shows that strong evidences of Hebraic language show through Joseph Smith's translation. It makes no sense if the book were a fraud. The language of the Book of Mormon cannot be explained as the English of Joseph Smith or the King James English of the Bible. It's more Semitic than either. 26-5

In addition to examining Uto-Aztecan languages, 26-6 Stubbs has another worthwhile article from the perspective of a linguist in "A Lengthier Treatment of Length". 26-7

He responds to attacks on the Book of Mormon which claim the long, awkward sentences found in so many Book of Mormon verses are much different from the short, concise sentences found in the Old Testament, supposedly showing that the Book of Mormon was not derived from Hebrew.

Stubbs shows that the short sentences alleged to be characteristic of Biblical Hebrew may be characteristic of the King James translation of the Old Testament, but are certainly not characteristic of the actual Hebrew.

In fact, numerous sentence structures in the Book of Mormon show much more in common with genuine Hebraic sentences than with the English of the King James Bible or with the English of Joseph Smith's day.

Many Book of Mormon verses have series of verbals introducing clauses, such as: "Zeniff . . . he being over-zealous, . . . therefore being deceived by . . . King Laman, who having entered into a treaty . . . and having yielded up [various cities], . . . ." 26-8

This type of structure is an ideal way of translating the typical Hebrew or circumstantial clause, which Stubbs discusses in detail.

Many English sentences in the Book of Mormon that an English editor would tear apart are perfectly acceptable Hebrew structures, appearing to be fairly literal translations.

The King James translation loses much of the literal flavor of such passages, but they are present in the original Hebrew.

Thus, we have the interesting situation of the Book of Mormon being more Hebraic in its use of complex sentences than the King James Bible - which not only strengthens the claim the Book of Mormon was derived from a Semitic text, but further undermines the long untenable claim that the Book of Mormon can be explained away as a derivative of the King James text.

The complex sentence structures of the Book of Mormon not only correspond with those of Hebrew, Arabic, and Egyptian, but also resonate with the structures of many Native American languages.

27. Names in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon introduces roughly 200 new names not found in the Bible. Many of these have been found to have genuine Semitic parallels in ancient times.

Take, for example, the name “Alma”. Alma was the name of two male prophets in the Book of Mormon (a father and a son). This name has been one of the most commonly attacked features of the Book of Mormon, for Alma is a female Latin name.

Critics have assumed that Joseph simply borrowed Alma from the term "alma mater," ignorant of its gender. The Tanners suggest that Joseph borrowed it from the name Shalmaneser in the Old Testament.

As usual, they overlook an important fact that has been discussed in LDS writings for decades.

In 1961, a prominent scholar in Israel, Professor Yigael Yadin, discovered an ancient document that proved to be a land deed from the time of the Bar Kokhba rebellion in Palestine, placing it in the general era of Lehi and Nephi.

Prof. Yadin translated one of the names as "Alma the son of Judah." 27-1

Alma proves to not only be a genuine Semitic name, but is a name of a Hebraic man. Finding the male name Alma in a record about descendants of 6th century B.C. Hebrews now must be viewed not as a reason for mocking the Book of Mormon, but as a reason to take it seriously, in spite of the Tanners and other professional critics.

Another novel Book of Mormon name is “Sariah”, the wife of Lehi who lived in Jerusalem in 600 B.C. Scholars did not know that Sariah was an authentic ancient Hebrew name for a woman until long after the time of Joseph Smith.

A small colony of Jews lived anciently on the island of Elephantine (also known as Yeb) in the Nile river, perhaps as early as the 8th century B.C.

In 1925, a considerable number of private and public ancient papyrus documents were discovered there.

The Elephantine Papyri provide interesting information about Jewish names around the time of Nephi and Lehi, showing that the ending -iah was very popular, confirming a pattern seen in Book of Mormon names - and also specifically confirming that the name Sariah was in fact an authentic Jewish female name in ancient times.

Consider also the prominent name “Mosiah”, which is the name of a book within the Book of Mormon and the name of two great kings, a father and his grandson. This name does not occur in English translations of the Bible.

The Tanners suggest that Joseph Smith made it up by combining Moses + Isaiah. A much better explanation exists! And this explanation gives profound insights into the Book of Mormon.

John Sawyer, a non-LDS biblical scholar, published an article in 1965 called "What Was a Mosi'a?" 27-2 It has important implications for the Book of Mormon.

"Mosi'a" does occur in the Hebrew scriptures, but is never transliterated as such in modern English translations of the Bible.

Sawyer found that the word is used in a characteristic manner to describe a "victor" or "savior" or "deliverer" appointed by God, to deliver oppressed people from injustice by nonviolent means.

There are fascinating parallels between Sawyer's description of a Mosi'a and the Book of Mormon accounts of both men called King Mosiah. The Book of Mosiah is about deliverance of oppressed people by mighty rulers appointed by God, often achieving deliverance by nonviolent means.

These heroes in the Book of Mormon include Benjamin, Zeniff, Alma, Gideon, Ammon, Mosiah II, and the sons of Mosiah. Nowhere else are there so many accounts of deliverance in the classical manner of the ancient "mosi'a". Many of the deliverers are kings or chief priests.

The sons of Mosiah would later go on to help save (deliver) many thousands of Lamanites.

The basic message of the book is not that humans can deliver oppressed and afflicted peoples, but that the Lord God is the true deliverer.

One may well wonder if the name Mosiah is really more of a title that was given to two great kings who delivered their people.

In any case, it is hard to believe that such an appropriate ancient name/title could have been guessed by chance.

More information on names is found in a paper accepted for presentation to an international body of scholars at the Thirteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, held in Jerusalem, August 2001. The paper by John A. Tvedtnes is entitled "Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon," which I recommend.

Extensive evidence is offered from ancient Hebraic sources to support Book of Mormon names that critics have long criticized.

Tvedtnes shows that ancient Hebrew inscriptions provide support for the authenticity and Hebraic origin of the following Book of Mormon names: Aha, Ammonihah, Chemish, Hagoth, Himni, Isabel, Jarom, Josh, Luram, Mathoni, Mathonihah, Muloki, and Sam, none of which are found in English Bibles.

Further support for the name “Aha” comes from a recent discovery. The May/June 1999 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review 27-3 has an article by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. of Johns Hopkins University that reports the discovery of three bronze arrowheads from the eleventh century B.C. bearing Hebrew inscriptions, one of which was inscribed with a steel instrument (yes, critics, steel as in use there long before Laban got his steel sword!).

This is according to Dr. R. Thomas Chase of the Freer Gallery of Art, a division of the Smithsonian Institution and an authority on ancient bronze artifacts.

He discovered that "the inscription had been incised with a steel [emphasized in the original] engraving tool." The name Aha occurs in one of the inscriptions, which McCarter translates as "The arrowhead of Aha son of Ashtart."

This appears to be the same as the name mentioned in the Book of Mormon in Alma 16:5, where we read of two sons of Zoram, chief captain of the Nephite army, whose names were Lehi and Aha.

Thus we have evidence authenticating another ancient Hebrew name found in the Book of Mormon but not the Bible.

There was also an early Egyptian king named Aha. 27-4

The name “sheum” appears in Mosiah 9:9 as a foodstuff in a list of grains.

Matthew Roper explains that sheum
"is a perfectly good Akkadian cereal name . . . dating to the third millennium B.C., which in ancient Assyria referred to wheat, but in other regions of the Near East could be applied to other grains." 27-5
Roper notes that this word was not known to scholars until at least 1857, long after the book of Mormon had been published.

How did Joseph Smith make up this ancient word from the Near East and properly treat it as a grain?

Roper also notes that the Book of Mormon name “Jershon” is linked to a Hebrew root meaning "to inherit."

In Alma 27:22, the land of Jershon is given to converted Lamanites "for an inheritance."

At the time the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph would not have known that Jershon is associated with "inheritance" in Hebrew.

Dozens of other Book of Mormon names have been treated by Nibley 27-6 and other authors.

The name "Irreantum," said to mean many waters, 27-7 was the name the Nephites called the ocean when they arrived at the shores of southeastern Arabia, apparently at Wadi Sayq.

Interestingly, the ancient Greeks called this very same ocean Errythraen.

That name can be found in the Apocrypha, but if that was the source of the idea, why the great difference in spelling?

Based on pre-Islamic South Semitic, a reasonable (though uncertain) hypothesis for its origin is "irre-an" (meaning "watering") plus the root "-tm" or "-tum," adding the sense of "wholeness" or "completeness." The combination "irre-an-tum" can convey the meaning of "watering of abundance" or, as the Book of Mormon puts it, "many waters."

Such a South Semitic construction from the region Lehi's group traversed makes sense as an introduced foreign word in the Hebrew text.

The authenticity of Book of Mormon names has begun to make a serious impression on non-LDS scholars.

As far back as 1966, before many of the most exciting discoveries about Book of Mormon names were made, Near Eastern scholar William F. Albright, though not a believer in the Book of Mormon, wrote a letter in response to an anti-Mormon critic, noting that Joseph Smith probably could not have learned Egyptian from scholars of his day, yet included some authentic Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon.
It is all the more surprising that there are two Egyptian names, Paanch[i] and Pahor[an] which appear in the Book of Mormon in close connection with a reference to the original language being 'Reformed Egyptian.' 27-8
He then implied that Joseph Smith might have been some kind of "religious genius."

But given today's impressive and growing list of proven authentic Semitic names in the Book of Mormon, it's doubtful that the "religious genius" theory can survive.

Joseph Smith was not a religious Einstein - he was a largely unschooled Prophet of God.

From David C. Coles'
"Is the Book of Mormon Really Ancient?"

Authentication of dozens of
non-Biblical Book of Mormon names

NOTE: Critics have zinged Joseph Smith for years for naming a male Nephite "Alma" with a female 'a' ending. Any 1800s forger would have known better.

But the ancient author of the Book of Mormon didn't know about that. And guess what the Judean desert turned up a few years ago.... 27-9

The more exotic proper names of the Book of Mormon have been matched up extensively with real Egyptian and Semitic names (which is what they claim to be).

Such an odd monicker as Paanchi (who ever heard of a double "a" in English?) not only turned up in the Egyptian records a generation after the Book of Mormon came out, but it turns out to be a rather prominent and important name in the bargain.

And such a very un-Egyptian, un-Oriental, indeed un-anything name as Hermounts was applied by the Book of Mormon Nephites to a region on the extremity of the land where wild animals abounded, a territory whose description perfectly matches that part of the world to which the Egyptians gave the name of Hermonthis.

But strangely enough, the name in the Book of Mormon that has brought the most derision on that book, and caused the greatest embarrassment to the Latter-day Saints, especially among those holders of the priesthood who have borne it among the children of men, is the simple and unpretentious Alma.

Roman priests have found in this obviously Latin and obviously feminine name - (who does not know that Alma Mater means "fostering mother"?) - gratifying evidence of the ignorance and naiveté of the youthful Joseph Smith - how could he have been simple enough to let such a thing get by? At least his more sophisticated followers should have known better!

It is therefore pleasing to announce that at the extreme end of the Cave of Letters, on the north side of the Nahal Hever, between three and four o'clock on the afternoon of 15 March 1961, Professor Yadin put his hand into a crevice in the floor of the cave and lifted out a goat-skin bag containing a woman's materials for mending her family's clothes on their sad and enforced vacation; and hidden away under the stuff, at the very bottom of the bag, was a bundle of papyrus rolls wrapped in a cloth. And among them was a deed to some land near En-Gedi (the nearest town to the cave) owned by four men, one of whom signed himself, or rather dictated his name since he was illiterate, as "Alma the son of Judah."

The deed is reproduced in color on page 177 of the book 27-10 and there at the end of the fourth line from the top, as large as life, is A-l-m-a ben Yehudah, which Professor Yadin sensibly renders "Alma" withno reservations. 27-11

There is a remarkable association between the names of Lehi and Ishmael which ties them both to the southern desert, where the legendary birthplace and central shrine of Ishmael was at a place called Be'er Lehai-ro'i. Wellhausen rendered the name "spring of the wild-ox jaw-bone," but Paul Haupt showed that Lehi (for so he reads the name) does not mean "jaw" but "cheek," which leaves the meaning of the strange compound still unclear.

One thing is certain, however: that Lehi is a personal name. Until recently this name was entirely unknown save as a place name, but now it has turned up at Elath and elsewhere in the south in a form that has been identified by Nelson Glueck with the name Lahai, which "occurs quite frequently either as a part of a compound, or as a separate name of a deity or a person, particularly in Minaean, Thamudic, and Arabic texts."

If the least be said of it, the name Lehi is thoroughly at home among the people of the desert and, so far as we know, nowhere else.

Strange Names

The stamp of Egypt on Lehi's people may be clearly discerned in the names of those people and their descendants. Hebrew and Egyptian names together make up the overwhelming majority of them and occur in about equal strength, which is exactly what one would expect from Mormon's claim that both languages were used among them (and which would certainly not be the case were Hebrew the only spoken language).

First, consider a few Egyptian names, setting off the Book of Mormon names (BM) against their Old World equivalents (OW).

Aha (BM), son of the Nephite commander in chief.
Aha (OW), a name of the first Pharaoh; it means "warrior" and is a common word.

Aminadab (BM), Nephite missionary in the time of the judges.
Amanathabi (OW), chief of a Canaanite city under Egyptian domination. The name is "reformed" Egyptian.

Ammon (BM), the commonest name in the Book of Mormon.
Ammon (Amon, Amun) (OW), the commonest name in the Egyptian Empire: the great universal God of the Empire.

Ammoni-hah (BM), name of a country and city.
Ammuni-ra (OW), prince of Beyrut under Egyptian rule. The above might stand the same relationship to this name as

Cameni-hah (BM), a Nephite general
Khamuni-ra (OW), Amarna personal name, perhaps equivalent of Ammuni-ra.

Cezoram (BM), Nephite chief judge.
Chiziri (OW), Egyptian governor of a Syrian city.

Giddonah (BM), a) high priest who judged Korihor, b) father of Amulek.
Dji-dw-na (OW), the Egyptian name for Sidon.

Gidgiddoni and Gidgiddonah (BM), Nephite generals. Djed-djhwt-iw-f and Djed-djhwti-iw-s plus ankh (OW), Egyptian proper names meaning "Thoth hath said: he shall live," and "Thoth hath said: she shall live," respectively.

On this pattern the two Nephite names mean "Thoth hath said I shall live," and "Thoth hath said: we shall live," respectively.

Giddianhi (BM), robber chief and general.
Djhwti-ankhi (OW), "Thoth is my life"; see above.

Gimgim-no (BM), city of Gimgim, compare Biblical No-Amon, "City of Amon."
Kenkeme (OW), Egyptian city, cf. Kipkip, seat of the Egyptian dynasty in Nubia.

Hem (BM), brother of the earlier Ammon.
Hem (OW), means "servant," specifically of Ammon, as in the title Hem tp n'Imn, "chief servant of Ammon" held by the high priest of Thebes.

Helaman (BM), great Nephite prophet.
Her-amon (OW), "in the presence of Amon," as in the Egyptian proper name Heri-i-her-imn. Semitic "l" is always written "r" in Egyptian, which has no "l." Conversely, the Egyptian "r" is often written "l" in Semitic languages.

Himni (BM), a son of King Mosiah.
Hmn (OW), a name of the Egyptian hawk-god, symbol of the emperor.

Korihor (BM), a political agitator who was seized by the people of Ammon.
Kherihor (also written Khurhor, etc.) (OW), great high priest of Ammon who seized the throne of Egypt at Thebes, cir. 1085 b.c.

Manti (BM), the name of a Nephite soldier, a land, a city, and a hill.
Manti (OW), Semitic form of an Egyptian proper name, e.g., Manti-mankhi, a prince in Upper Egypt cir. 650 b.c. It is a late form of Month, god of Hermonthis.

Mathoni (BM), a Nephite disciple.
Maitena, Mattenos, etc. (OW), two judges of Tyre, who at different times made themselves king, possibly under the Egyptian auspices.

Morianton (BM), the name of a Nephite city and its founder, cf. the Nephite province Moriantum.
Meriaton and Meriamon (OW), names of Egyptian princes, "Beloved of Aton" and "Beloved of Amon" respectively.

Nephi (BM), founder of the Nephite nation.
Nehi, Nehri (OW), famous Egyptian noblemen. Nfy was the name of an Egyptian captain. Since BM insists on "ph," Nephi is closer to Nihpi, original name of the god Pa-nepi, which may even have been Nephi.

Paanchi (BM), son of Pahoran, Sr., and pretender to the chief-judgeship.
Paanchi (OW), son of Kherihor, a) chief high priest of Amon, b) ruler of the south who conquered all of Egypt and was high priest of Amon at Thebes.

Pahoran (BM), a) great chief judge, b) son of the same.
Pa-her-an (OW), ambassador of Egypt in Palestine, where his name has the "reformed" reading Pahura; in Egyptian as Pa-her-y it means "the Syrian" or Asiatic.

Pacumeni (BM), son of Pahoran.
Pakamen (OW), Egyptian proper name meaning "blind man"; also Pamenches (Gk. Pachomios), commander of the south and high priest of Horus.

Pachus (BM), revolutionary leader and usurper of the throne.
Pa-ks and Pach-qs (OW), Egyptian proper name. Compare Pa-ches-i, "he is praised."

Sam (BM), brother of Nephi.
Sam Tawi (OW), Egyptian "uniter of the lands," title taken by the brother of Nehri upon mounting the throne.

Seezor-am and Zeezr-om (BM), a depraved judge, and a lawyer, resp., the latter also the name of a city.
Zoser, Zeser, etc. (OW), Third Dynasty ruler, one of the greatest Pharaohs.

Zemna-ri-hah (BM), robber chief.
Zmn-ha-re (OW), Egyptian proper name: the same elements as the above in different order--a common Egyptian practice.

Zeniff (BM), ruler of Nephite colony.
Znb, Snb (OW), very common elements in Egyptian proper names, cf. Senep-ta.

Zenoch (BM), according to various Nephite writers, an ancient Hebrew prophet.
Zenekh (OW), Egyptian proper name; once a serpent-god.

28. King Benjamin's Farewell Address:
An Ancient Semitic Discourse



Prior to 90 B.C., when a remarkable system of elected judges was established, the Nephites were led by kings who were descendants of Nephi. One of the last of the Nephite kings was King Benjamin, who worked with his own hands lest he be a burden on his people and was beloved of his people for his kindness and fairness. This king was also a prophet who knew of the future coming of the Messiah, even Jesus Christ.

In 124 B.C., according to date estimates printed in the Book of Mormon, as King Benjamin was becoming too old to function effectively as king, he called his people together - apparently as part of their annual New Year festival. 28-1

King Benjamin desired to give a farewell address to the people and to declare that his son Mosiah would now be king. The event follows some classic aspects of ancient Middle Eastern coronations occurring at New Year festivals.

His farewell address revealed his own great spiritual insights. His address was accompanied with a powerful outpouring of the Spirit of God upon those who heard, resulting in greatly increased peace throughout the land.

I want to discuss some of the evidence indicating that Benjamin's speech is a classic example of ancient Semitic rhetorical forms that only recently have been appreciated and published. In fact, it is so well rooted in ancient traditions and literary forms that it is difficult to imagine how anyone in the nineteenth century could have fabricated it.

An excellent source of information on these evidences is the book King Benjamin's Speech, edited by John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks. 28-2 The book is an impressive collection of essays with extensive references and documentation.

Non-LDS scholar William S. Kurz has examined numerous ancient farewell speeches and identified 20 elements that appear commonly (no one speech has all 20).

Sixteen of the elements are directly present in Benjamin's speech, and two others are implied. No other ancient farewell speech has a greater number of these elements.

Further, Benjamin's speech is well focused on the most important elements typical of Old Testament traditions. 28-3

According to Kurz, as summarized by Welch and Ricks, 28-4 the 20 common elements from ancient farewell addresses are:
1. Summons. The speaker calls people together to hear his last instructions.

2. Speaker's own mission or example. The speaker reviews his life and what he has done, and urges his listeners to follow his example.

3. Innocence and discharge of duty.

4. Impending death. The speaker states that death is near, but shows courage rather than fear, sometimes commending his soul to God.

5. Exhortation. Listeners are urged to follow commandments they have been given by the speaker, to be courageous, etc.

6. Warnings and injunctions. Consequences of sin are discussed to help the people.

7. Blessings. In conjunction with the warnings, blessings are also offered (e.g., for obedience).

8. Farewell gestures. Though more common in Greco-Roman literature, acts such as kneeling can be farewell gestures.

9. Tasks for successors. Final orders given to the listeners, often conferring specific responsibilities.

10. Theological review of history. Reviewing the past to show the works of God (e.g., the Creation, delivery from captivity, etc.).

11. Revelation of the future.

12. Promises. Biblical farewell speeches commonly include reference to eternal glory. 28-5

13. Appointment or reference to a successor.

14. Bewailing the loss. Friends and followers may mourn the speaker.

15. Future degeneration. Warnings about the disobedience of future generations are made. The speaker is not responsible for this, however.

16. Covenant renewal and sacrifices.

17. Providing for those who will survive. Instructions are given to maintain guidance and comfort for people after the death of the aging leader.

18. Consolation to the inner circle. The speaker comforts his closest associates.

19. Didactic speech. Review of principles to teach listeners what to do.

20. The approach to death. Dealing with the approach of the leader to death itself, this element is less common and is found only in a writing of Plato and perhaps implicitly in Josephus.
More of these elements are present in King Benjamin's speech than in any other Biblical farewell address, making it arguably the best example on record of an ancient farewell speech in the ancient Jewish style.

Welch and Hague also point out that Benjamin's speech is soundly aligned with the most important aspects of ancient biblical farewell speeches as opposed to the Greco-Roman tradition:
(1) the speaker's assertion of innocence and fulfillment of mission,

(2) the designation of tasks for successors,

(3) a theological review of history, and

(4) the revelation of future events.

Furthermore, Benjamin emphasizes the covenant relationship between God and man. No preoccupation with death occurs here, as it does in the Greco-Roman texts.

Benjamin's speech is not only one of the most complete ancient farewell addresses known anywhere, but it also strongly manifests those elements that are most deeply rooted in early biblical tradition. 28-6
Other farewell speeches in the Book of Mormon were given by Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, Mormon, and Moroni. Adding King Benjamin's makes seven total. Each of them have over half of the 20 elements identified by Kurz.

29. Abinadi's Use of
Ancient Near Eastern Concepts
in His Testimony of Christ


An outstanding book on the Book of Mormon is Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible. 29-1 Chapter 14 is "The Personification of Death and Hell."

The authors discuss the ancient Near Eastern patterns in treating death and hell that have strong parallels to the Book of Mormon.

In the ancient Near East, hell, or Sheol in Hebrew, was often personified with a demonic deity, the power behind death. Death also was often personified. The forces or monsters of death and hell often had to be overcome in battle.

This concept is found in the Book of Mormon. For example, Jacob calls death and hell a "monster" three times. 29-2

The use of the word "swallow" is especially interesting, for in ancient Canaanite mythology, death was depicted as the "swallower" - a monster with a limitless appetite.

This very concept, resonating with ancient Semitic concepts, is found in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 16:7-8:
7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.

8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
Similar language is used in Alma 22:14, which summarizes the basic teachings of Nephite missionaries teaching Lamanites:
14 . . . and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.
The same concept is repeated in Mormon 7:5:
5 . . . and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.
In the short passage of Mosiah 16:7-8, Abinadi employs several ancient Near Eastern concepts: personification of death, a battle of death to give victory, the imagery of swallowing death, and the concept of "the bands of death."

Reference to the "bands of death" occurs in several parts of Abinadi's discourse 29-3 and in other parts of the Book of Mormon. 29-4 However, this phrase does not occur in the King James Version, but is found in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

For one example, in Psalm 18:4-5, the King James Version has:
4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
The Hebrew word, hevel has been translated as "sorrows" in these verses, but it also has the meanings of "cord" or "band."

Thus, the "sorrows of death" might more clearly be translated as the "bands of death" or "cords of death" - phrases used in many modern translations.

As another example of Book of Mormon passages dealing with the bands of death, consider Abinadi's teachings in Mosiah 15:8,9:
8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; . . .

9 Having ascended into heaven, . . . having broken the bands of death. . . .
Again we see the themes of a victorious conquest, breaking the bands of death, and delivering fallen man.

Summarizing, I find it interesting that Abinadi would introduce the phrase "bands of death" which appears to be translated from an authentic Hebrew phrase yet never made it into the King James Version of the Bible.

And he uses this phrase in the context of a battle of deliverance between a divine hero, Jehovah, who would conquer the personified monster of death and thus "swallow up" death in victory. These concepts are solidly grounded in ancient Near Eastern concepts.

Bokovoy and Tvedtnes offer these remarks in conclusion: 29-5
The personification of Death and Hell, together with motifs such as bands of death, preparing an escape route, and swallowing up one's adversary, demonstrate an authentic core to the Book of Mormon's claims for ties with the ancient Near East.

Until quite recently, biblical scholars were unaware of these cosmological elements from the ancient Hebrew versions of the Old Testament. Yet Book of Mormon authors drew upon these archaic themes with poetic ease when presenting their testimonies that Christ was victorious over the grave.
30. Mosiah and Ether: The Internal Consistency
of the Book of Mormon


The Book of Mormon has an extremely high degree of internal consistency in ways that would be most unexpected if Joseph Smith were the author.

For example, in the Book of Mosiah, 30-1 less than halfway through the Book of Mormon, we read that King Mosiah translated the ancient record of the Jaredites written by Ether, but it is not until near the end of the Book of Mormon that we encounter the Book of Ether that gives a condensed account of the Jaredites.

But in Mosiah 29, as King Mosiah does away with the monarchy, he makes a variety of statements that show he has carefully studied and learned from the story of the Jaredites.

For example, Mosiah notes that his eldest son had declined the kingdom, and that there was the risk of contention in selecting a new king:
"And now, if there should be another appointed in his stead, behold I fear that there would rise contentions among you. And who knoweth but what my son, to whom the kingdom doth belong, should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you." 30-2
John Tvedtnes explains the significance of this statement: 30-3
Such a situation had never occurred among the Nephites, but it was common among the Jaredites for brother to rebel against brother or father and draw away part of the people to wage war. 30-4 Indeed, the idea in Mosiah [29:7] of "drawing away" supporters is known in the Book of Mormon only from the Jaredite record. 30-5
Mosiah also warned that the wickedness of King Noah had brought bondage to the people, 30-6 a common theme in the Book of Ether. 30-7

King Mosiah implemented a form of government responsive to the voice of the people, but warned that destruction would come if the people should ever fall into a state where the majority chose evil: 30-8
"...if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land."
Tvedtnes explains that "since the Nephites had not experienced such 'great destruction' on 'this land,' Mosiah must have had the destruction of the Jaredites in mind."

Since the Book of Ether was not dictated until long after the Book of Mosiah, the high level of agreement between the two books argues against the idea that Joseph Smith just made it all up.

31. "The Land of Jerusalem"
- A fatal blunder??


With 500 pages of detailed text to work with, it is surprising to see that critics of the Book of Mormon tend to focus their attacks on only a few tiny spots of the text.

I think no spot has received more vigorous attacks than Alma 7:10, which contains a prophecy about the birth of Christ.

This passage makes the enormous "blunder" of placing Christ's birth in the land of Jerusalem, rather than in Bethlehem.

Not only does everybody know that Christ was born in Bethlehem, but everybody knows that Jerusalem is a city, not a land. In fact, the phrase "land of Jerusalem," which is used dozens of times in the Book of Mormon, is never used in the Bible.

Critics have long concluded that referring to Jerusalem as a land is proof that Joseph Smith was making things up.

They further conclude that the blunder about Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem as the birth place of Christ is further evidence for fraud.

But as with most attacks on the Book of Mormon, an apparent weakness has become tremendous evidence for authenticity as advances mount in scholarship about the ancient world.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and other recently discovered ancient documents from Israel confirm that the phrase "land of Jerusalem" was an authentic term used to describe the area around Jerusalem - an area that includes nearby Bethlehem.

The documentation for this fascinating finding is provided in a F.A.R.M.S. update entitled “Revisiting the Land of Jerusalem via the Dead Sea Scrolls". That page was updated in 2001 with even more Dead Sea Scroll evidence.

Furthermore, two non-LDS scholars, Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, discuss the phrase "land of Jerusalem" being found in the Dead Sea Scrolls in a passage discussing the time of the prophet Jeremiah. 31-1

Jeremiah lived at the same time as Lehi, and in that time, what was called Judah, or the land of Judah, could appropriately be called "the land of Jerusalem," a term of especially great interest when found in a seperate document linked to Jeremiah's time.

There is no problem with the Book of Mormon saying that Lehi and his people left "the land of Jerusalem," in Jeremiah's day.

And now the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate that it would be perfectly logical for them to also refer to the place where Christ would be born as "the land of Jerusalem."

But it is important to note that the use of that term was utterly illogical for Joseph Smith, who published the Book of Mormon over a century before the Dead Sea Scrolls were even discovered.

Certainly Joseph Smith knew that Christ was born in Bethlehem. So, if he were making the Book of Mormon up, why on earth would he make such a terrible blunder, placing Christ's birth in Jerusalem?

The answer is that, far from a blunder, the use of the term "land of Jerusalem" in the Book of Mormon is consistent with usage in the Dead Sea Scrolls and can now be viewed as powerful evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

But in spite of the heavy evidence for authenticity provided by the phrase "land of Jerusalem," the absurd attack on Alma 7:10 remains as one of the most used weapons in the anti-Mormon arsenal against the Book of Mormon.

From David C. Coles'
"Is the Book of Mormon Really Ancient?"

Ancient Non-Biblical Hebrew Idiom
Used in Book of Mormon - Critics Humiliated!

Alma 7:
9 But behold, … the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. 10 And he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers ... .
NOTE: I claimed earlier that it can be proven that the Book of Mormon repeatedly flies in the face of the best knowledge and belief of the 1800s, only to be proven exactly right by subsequent discoveries. This is another prime example.

Any (Sunday) school child knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Anybody forging a prophetic book in the early 1800s is going to say it too.

But an ancient author might well use the ancient Hebrew idiom "the land of Jerusalem" (a geographic region encompassing Bethlehem) and never know that the English translation was going to fuel anti-Mormon scorn for more than a hundred years.

The Situation in Jerusalem 31-2

When we speak of Jerusalem, it is important to notice Nephi's preference for a non-Biblical expression, "the land of Jerusalem", 31-3 in designating his homeland.

While he and his brothers always regard "the land of Jerusalem" as their home, it is perfectly clear from a number of passages that "the land of our father's inheritance" 31-4 cannot possibly be within, or even very near, the city, even though Lehi had "dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days". 31-5

The terms seem confused, but they correctly reflect actual conditions, for in the Amarna letters we read of "the land of Jerusalem" as an area larger than the city itself, and even learn in one instance that "a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib, has been captured."

It was the rule in Palestine and Syria, as the same letters show, for a large area around a city and all the inhabitants of that area to bear the name of the city. This was a holdover from the times when the city and the land were a single political unit, comprising a city-state; when this was absorbed into a larger empire, the original identity was preserved, though it had lost its original political significance.

The same thing made it possible for Socrates to be an Athenian, and nothing else, even though he came from the village of Alopeke, at some distance from the city of Athens.

This arrangement deserves mention because many have pointed to the statement of Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers," as sure proof of fraud. But it is rather the opposite, faithfully preserving the ancient terminology to describe a system which has only been recently rediscovered.

Though he "dwelt at Jerusalem," Lehi did not live in the city, for it was after they had failed to get the plates in Jerusalem that his sons decided to "go down to the land of our father's inheritance," 31-6 and gather enough wealth to buy the plates from Laban. Loaded with the stuff, they "went up again unto the house of Laban" in Jerusalem. 31-7

The Book of Mormon employs the expressions "to go down" and "to go up" exactly as the Hebrews and Egyptians did with reference to the location of Jerusalem, and thus clearly establishes that Lehi's property lay somewhere in the country and not within the walls of Jerusalem.

32. Weights and Measures
in the Book of Mormon


In case after case, we watch once-laughable "errors" in the Book of Mormon become entirely plausible, or even become impressive "bull's eyes" in light of modern scholarship.

The issue of "coins" in the Book of Mormon is such a case.

Alma 11 in the Book of Mormon has long been attacked by critics for discussing Nephite coins, when there is no evidence that coins were used in the New World before Columbus.

But the actual text does not mention coins or even imply their use; it speaks of various measures - apparently weights - of gold and silver and their equivalents in grain.

(The modern chapter heading for Alma 11 in the 1981 printing of the Book of Mormon refers to Nephite "coinage," but that is an unjustified assumption.)

In a surprising development, it has been shown that the sophisticated system of weights mentioned in Alma 11, a system that was standardized under King Mosiah around 100 B.C., precisely fits an Egyptian system that Nephi and Lehi could have brought with them into the New World.

John Welch presents the evidence in "Weighing and measuring in the Worlds of the Book of Mormon." 32-1

He finds several parallels with ancient systems of weights and measures from the Old World that put the Book of Mormon system squarely in an ancient context:
Ancient kings typically implemented their economic progress by means of official decrees.

In this light it is interesting that King Mosiah's statute contains similarities to other ancient law codes earlier than the Nephite system.

For example, take the law code which was compiled about 1800 B.C. in the Babylonian city of Eshnunna that lay approximately 50 miles northeast of Baghdad in modern Iraq. The similarities are rather striking. First of all, the opening lines in the law code of Eshnunna set out an important equivalency that becomes the basis for commerce: "one kor of barley is equal to one shekel of silver." A similar conversion between silver and barley was also used among the Hittites.

Perhaps it is coincidental, but the law of Mosiah begins with a comparable ratio of value stated in similar phraseology: "a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold, . . . and either for a measure of barley." 32-2
There are also relationships between some Old World names and Book of Mormon names for units. But the parallel I found most intriguing involves the relative values of Nephite measures and those of an ancient Egyptian system:
Although the Egyptian system bears certain similarities to that of the Nephites - both are binary, both have six defined measures, and both feature an additional whole amount which is the sum of lesser parts - the two systems were not absolutely identical.

Such an observation agrees, of course, with Mormon's own recognition that his people had "altered their reckoning and their measure" from generation to generation. 32-3

However, the relative gradation of units found in Egypt and among Nephites of Alma's day match exactly.
Welch, in his typical style, provides extensive references to scholarly literature for his findings.

33. DNA Linking
Eurasians and Native Americans?


Contrary to wishful anti-Mormon claims, DNA evidence does not refute the Book of Mormon.

Even without all the discoveries made of positive evidence, a proper understanding of what the Book of Mormon actually says and what the scientific data actually say rapidly leads one to the conclusion that the DNA-based attacks on the Book of Mormon are without merit.

The scientific data may challenge some popular misinterpretations of the Book of Mormon, but they do not challenge the text itself.

Since the Book of Mormon allows for, and even implies, the presence of many others in the land when Lehi's small boat load of people landed in the Americas, we should not expect that genes from Lehi and Sariah should dominate the genetic makeup of Native Americans.

But even if the peoples mentioned in the Book of Mormon did happen to be the sole ancestors of the Native Americans, the Book of Mormon does not identify their genetic makeup. It does not even say whether all or even most of the settlers had Jewish ancestry.

A useful post on this topic was offered by Woody Brison on Dec. 13, 2002 on the USENET group, which is quoted in part below:
To test the Book of Mormon's claim that Israelite colonists arrived in America and their descendants survived as the Indians or native Americans, critics propose that we could just check the DNA of some of the local tribes and compare them to samples of DNA from modern Jews, and see if the Book is true or not. Simple, eh?

Yes, but as with many things in life, the real situation is just a bit more complex.

Let's consider exactly what the Book of Mormon says in terms of DNA contributors.

Following is a little worksheet listing the genetic contributors of the Lamanites. I will note the racial origin of all those we can identify [in square brackets], the rest I will indicate with three question marks [???]

the book of Ether:

[???] Jared [???] The Brother of Jared [???] Other individuals of the Jared party, about 22. 33-1

According to the Book of Ether, virtually all the Jaredites were killed. 33-2 However, that does not mean that many others could not have broken off earlier from the Jeradites, and we do find many Jaredite names still cropping up in later Book of Mormon times, showing that Jaredite influence indeed survived their destruction.

For example, between the time of Nephi and the time of Mosiah, individuals entered the Nephite community from outside, such as Sherem 33-3 and Korihor. 33-4 Where they came from we are not told, but their names are Jaredite names and they appeared long before the Nephites found any plates from the Jaredites.

Furthermore, the Book of Mormon has a long stretch - the early Nephite period - with all those short books detailing little but the handoff of the plates, but there are Jaredite names there, such as Jarom, Amaron, Chemish, Zeniff.

It was only later, during Mosiah's and Benjamin's and Mosiah's reigns that the Nephites found the plates of the Jaredites.

The Lamanites, whose doings are not in the Nephite records, were contemporary with the Jaredites. If there were survivors of the Jaredite holocaust they almost certainly mixed with the Lamanites. After all, the record of the last battles of the Jaredites shows that they were trampling cities and people everywhere they went – meaning other Jaredites who had not been gathered for the war.

the book of First Nephi:

[???] Lehi (some of his fathers were of the tribe of Manassah, but we don't know the genetic composition of the Tribe of Manassah in BC 600. The Israelites accepted strangers, even had laws for adopting them. 33-5 So what were the characteristics of Lehi's genes?

[???] Sariah [???] Ishmael [???] Wife of Ishmael [???] Wife of oldest son of Ishmael [???] Wife of second son of Ishmael [???] Zoram [???] Other individuals picked up by the Lehi party on the way thru Arabia and past Asia (not mentioned, but possible)

the people of Zarahemla in the book of Omni:

[Jewish] Mulek, son(?) of Zedekiah (installed) king of Judah. We don't know the genetic composition of the House of David in BC 600; Solomon and successors had had many political marriages from other nations since about BC 1000.

It seems entirely likely that the Kings of Judah had more cosmopolitan genes than the rest of the nation.

(We might note that all other known sons of Zedekiah were executed by Nebuchadnezzer, so his particular genetic line was terminated in the Old World, but that's almost irrelevant with so many tributaries to this stream. However, it illustrates the kinds of sudden turns genetics can take.)

[???] Other unnamed individuals of the Mulek party 33-6

[???] Other individuals picked up by the Mulek party on the way (possible, not mentioned) (route unknown)

[???] Other individuals landed on the shores. The last century has seen much interest in the work of Thor Heyerdahl et al, showing the possibility of oceanic crossing by ancient people.

Crossings like that would likely leave no historical record, only genetic mixing. The Lamanites controlled most of the coastline and should have integrated any ships crews that blew in; but there would be no record of any of this because the Lamanites kept no records.


The Book of Mormon specifically says that it chronicles less than “one hundredth” of all that happened among just the Nephites, and it says hardly anything at all about the doings of the Lamanites over the course of the same ten centuries, and it says NOTHING about what happened from 400 AD to the present, while it was cached in the earth (other than Nephi prophetically seeing our day, etc.).

So, note the prevalence of ??? marks.

Out of 32 known, listed individual DNA contributors, and probably at least an additional equal number, not mentioned or named, we have only ONE MALE that we can identify as being definitely Jewish.

It seems likely that some of the others were Jewish, but even for that one, we don't know his ancestry with any precision. It could easily have included non-Israelite nationalities.

The majority of this known list were definitely NOT Jewish; the Jaredites were from somewhere in Asia.

And, it should be mentioned, Jerusalem was a major trade center; there were always lots of nationalities rubbing shoulders.

So, if we want to hear the sound of two hands clapping, not just one, to compare modern native American DNA with modern Jewish DNA, we have to consider what we're comparing with what.

Do we really think
modern Lamanite DNA should look Jewish?

Maybe a more reasonable question would be, Why should it?

Some will say that the whole Book of Mormon is about the Nephites, who are Israelites lost from their parent nation!

But, Israel is a cultural, religious body, not usually a monogenetic body. Consider the original 12 tribes of Israel: fathered by 12 brothers - the sons of mothers from three different families.

But the 12 mens' wives? They were gathered from all over, including Egypt.

The Jews were one specific tribe among the 12 or 13 in Israel (and not the tribe of Lehi's people); after the Lehites left Jarusalem, the Jews were marched off to Babylon for a couple of generations, returned, mixed a bit with other nations which had been imported by Nebuchanezzer, lived in the land of Israel (again a trading hub) until the first century AD; were exiled by the Romans, scattered all over the face of the earth, and so lived for 1900 years.

In comparing Jewish DNA with that of some American Indians, a few samples anyway, no clear match has been found yet. No real surprise here, but it certainly doesn't BEGIN to disprove what the Book of Mormon really says.
What is Jewish DNA, anyway?

There is no scientifically acceptable standard for Jewish DNA.

Dr. Robert Pollack, a professor of biological sciences and director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University, after offering a lengthy technical explanation, makes the following important conclusion in his online article, "The Fallacy of Biological Judaism": 33-7
There are no DNA sequences common to all Jews and absent from all non-Jews. There is nothing in the human genome that makes or diagnoses a person as a Jew.
If there is no genetic marker that can identify a person as a Jew, I would ask Thomas Murphy and other critics of the Book of Mormon exactly what DNA evidence we should be looking for to test the hypothesis that a tiny handful of Hebrew people entered the Americas in 600 B.C.?

34. Friar Diego de Landa's
Observations on the Yucatan -
Possible Echoes from the Book of Mormon?


A famous early account of life in Mesoamerica just after the Spanish Conquest is the 1566 record of Friar Diego de Landa about his observations in the Yucatan.

At a used book sale, I recently acquired an English translation of his work, Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, translated by William Gates. 34-1 No English translation was available for study in Joseph Smith's time.

Much of what we know about Mayan culture - which is still precious little - derives from the writings of this friar, who, I'm sorry to report, persecuted the inhabitants of the Yucatan and burned many of their records that could have told us much more.

But from his descriptions, we do see a number of things that might make some sense as possible remnants from contact with ancient Book of Mormon peoples.

Mayan Rites

One of the most striking things is the existence of Mayan rites with close connections to the Book of Mormon concept of baptism.

Here is an excerpt from pages 42 to 45 of the English translation:
Sec. XXVI. Method of baptism in Yucatan; How it was celebrated

Baptism is not found anywhere in the [New World] Indies save here in Yucatan, and even with the word sihil which means to be born anew or a second time.

Its origin we have been unable to learn, but it is something they have always used and for which they have had such devotion that no one fails to receive it.

They had such reverence for it that those guilty of sins, or who knew they were about to sin, were obliged to confess to the priest, in order to receive it; and they had such faith in it that in no manner did they ever take it a second time.

They believed that in receiving it they acquired a predisposition to good conduct and habits, protection against being harmed by the devils in their earthly affairs, and that through it and living a good life they would attain a beatitude hereafter.
Fascinating! A major Mayan ritual associated with being born again, purification, cleansing from sin, confession of sins to a priest, changing one's nature to be a better person, and gaining salvation in the afterlife - all very LDS and Christian concepts (at least early Christianity - some of these concepts have been lost in some parts of modern Christianity).

Here are just a very few among many other excerpts from Diego de Landa's book on the Yucatan that I find interesting, followed by my comments:
These islands [in a large lagoon] with their shores and sandy beaches have . . . deer, hare, the wild pigs of that country, monkeys as well, which are not found in Yucatan. 34-2
Some critics have mocked the Book of Mormon for referring to swine, claiming that they were unknown in the New World. The Book of Mormon does not say that the Nephites had swine or ate swine (which would have been a violation of the law of Moses), though one verse indicates that the earlier Jaredites did 34-3 - but the Jaredites were not under the law of Moses. Does "swine" necessarily refer to the type of animal we think of today? Perhaps not. I suspect that the "pigs" of de Landa and the "swine" of the Jaredites refers to peccaries, which are common in Mesoamerica and look very much like domesticated pigs.
Some of men of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the East, whom God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea. 34-4
The fact the de Landa heard a legend from the natives hinting at a transoceanic voyage from the east should not be dismissed lightly.

On pages 47-49, de Landa describes the horror of Mesoamerican human sacrifice, something that is, unfortunately, consistent with the practices of the Lamanites at the end of the Book of Mormon.

On pages 49-50, de Landa describes weaponry and some military practices. He also refers to defensive fortifications that bring to mind the structures described in Alma 50:1-4.

Their beliefs about the afterlife resonate strongly with teachings in the Book of Mormon, and not just about the afterlife, but also in the use of a tree as a central symbol, much like the tree of life in Lehi's vision. 34-5

Mesoamerica - the best candidate for the setting of the Book of Mormon - was a very pagan and wicked place in the sixteenth century, with no help from the terrible cruelty of the Spanish conquerors.

But the native practices reflect many elements that could very well have derived from knowledge of ancient Christian ceremonies, though in a pagan and corrupt form.

If the Book of Mormon account is pure fiction, how do we explain that in the one region that can be a plausible candidate for Book of Mormon geography, we also find a culture that had baptism, legends of a Great White God who visited them and promised to return, the presence of sacred writing systems in a continent otherwise devoid of writing, elaborate temples, and many other elements consistent with the Book of Mormon?

35. Excellent Publications to Consider

In the Footsteps of Lehi
by Warren P. Aston and Michaela K. Aston 35-1
The Astons demonstrate that possible candidates for Nahom and Bountiful have been located in the right places and with the right characteristics, making the account of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon right on the money in ways that would have been impossible to fabricate in 1830.
Lehi in the Wilderness
by George Potter and Richard Wellington 35-2
An essential read for understanding some of the rich relationships between the Arabian Peninsula and the Book of Mormon. Potter and Wellington point to many details that could not have been written by anyone that had not actually made the journey.

However, for a better understanding of the possible errors in the work, please see "The Wrong Place for Lehi’s Trail and the Valley of Lemuel" by Jeffrey R. Chadwick. 35-3 Chadwick proposes that Bir Marsha, a place easily accessed from the coast of the Red Sea and not distant from Potter's candidate, may be more suitable for the Valley of Lemuel, though there may be several other good choices.

What a luxury, that we have two competing models for specific details of Lehi's trail that offer plausible, tangible evidence in accord with the Book of Mormon, while our critics would have you believe that there has never been a scrap of evidence for the book at all, much less specific ancient places like Nahom or Bountiful. The anti-Mormon response to the Arabian Peninsula evidence remains suspiciously silent.
An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,
by John L. Sorenson 35-4
Dr. Sorenson shows that a plausible setting for the Book of Mormon exists with the "narrow neck of land" being the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the Southern Mexico/Guatemala area.

Fascinating confirmations are considered in terms of climate, geography, the existence of written language, cultural issues, secret societies, the use of metal, etc.

One of the most powerful intellectual works on the Book of Mormon, by a reputable anthropologist who uses solid scholarly methods. Provides detailed maps of likely locations for cities, rivers, valleys, lakes, etc., mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

The fact that such a thing is possible is overwhelming evidence for authenticity, given that almost nothing was known about the area in Joseph Smith's day.
Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins,
edited by Noel Reynolds 35-5
This is on the MUST IGNORE list of all self-respecting anti-Mormon critics.

It's loaded with power essays that turn the tables on our critics, giving them what I see as insurmountable difficulties in defending their theories for the origins of the Book of Mormon.

This explores alternate theories of the Book of Mormon's origins, details of the translation of the book, summarizes key issues regarding evidence, and explores several key issues in depth, including chiasmus, wordprint analysis of the Book of Mormon, and explores the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican record.
The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books
by John A. Tvedtnes 35-6
A heavily researched and documented discussion showing that the Book of Mormon is very much like numerous other ancient texts. Writing sacred texts on metal plates, sealing them, preserving them in stone boxes or other containers, preserving them in caves or mountains, hiding them from the world, invoking divine protection of the record, and so forth, are elements that are part of well established ancient patterns, though these concepts have long been mocked as ludicrous by critics of the Book of Mormon.

Tvedtnes digs into the mounds of evidence supporting the plausibility of the Book of Mormon as an ancient hidden record - evidence which was largely unavailable to Joseph Smith and his peers.
King Benjamin's Speech,
edited by John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks 35-7
An impressive collection of essays with extensive references and documentation exploring the richness of King Benjamin's dramatic farewell address.

This episode from Mosiah chapters 1-6 provides striking evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Semitic text.

Non-LDS scholar William S. Kurz has examined numerous ancient farewell speeches and identified 20 elements that appear commonly (no one speech has all 20). Sixteen of the elements are directly present in Benjamin's speech, and two others are implied. No other ancient farewell speech has a greater number of these elements.

Other chapters that I especially like explore the powerful chiastic structures in Mosiah 2-6 and explore the many parallels to ancient Israelite festivals, where numerous authenticating features are found.

This book is packed with new insights into a small part of the Book of Mormon in a way that will pose excruciating difficulties for those who wish to explain away the text as a mere fabrication based on what Joseph gleaned from his environment in 1830.
36. If the Book of Mormon Really Were
an Ancient Book, What Would it Matter?


If the Book of Mormon can be demonstrated to know many, many things about the ancient world that no living person knew in the early eighteen hundreds; furthermore if it can be proven that the Book of Mormon repeatedly flies in the face of the best knowledge and belief of that period, only to be proven exactly right by subsequent discoveries; then a rational person must admit that the Book of Mormon probably is an ancient book.

Isn't it wonderful of our Father in Heaven, at last, to answer the cry of the centuries and provide real evidence of his existence without being so heavy handed as to crush our free agency? The evidence presented below is impressive in the extreme, yet it leaves people free to choose for themselves whether they will believe or not. One who chooses not to believe is not constrained to believe by the evidence presented here.

37. How Can You Identify an Actual Ancient Book? 37-1 [index]

Anyone who reads a historical source with an eye to being critical will naturally refer everything in it to his own experience. He quickly discovers the most obvious parallels to the world in which he lives, and he decides this stuff could have been written yesterday – and therefore must have been.

If the document is an ancient one, however, he will also run into absurd and unfamiliar things so foreign to his experience and culture as to prove beyond a doubt, at least to him, that the document is a wild fabrication.

This is the normal method and result of Book of Mormon criticism, which always finds “proof” for fraud in two kinds of matter: (1) that which is obvious and commonplace and therefore shows that Joseph Smith was simply writing from his own experience, and (2) that which is not obvious and commonplace and therefore shows that Joseph Smith was making it up.

The critics, putting their trust in the easy generalizations of our shallow modern education, are apparently unaware that any authentic history of human beings is bound to contain much that is common and familiar, while on the other hand any genuine ancient record of any length is bound to contain much that is strange and unfamiliar to modern readers.

The Only Valid Approach

The first thing to do in examining any ancient text is to consider it in the light of the origin and background that is claimed for it.

If it fits into that background there is no need to look further, since historical forgery is virtually impossible.

Five hundred years of textual criticism have shown the futility of trying to judge ancient writings by the standards of modern taste, or of assuming that any ancient document is a forgery before it has been tested.

Yet today, some literary folks the Book of Mormon as not being up to their own standards of English literature, social scientists condemn it because it fails to display an evolutionary pattern of history, and the exponents of pure thought are disgusted with it because it entirely ignores the heritage of medieval scholasticism and fails to display the Victorian meliorism which should be the mark of any nineteenth century history of humanity.

Some critics are fond of pointing out that the Book of Mormon is written in the very language of Joseph Smith's own society.

That's as if a professor of French literature were to prove Champollion a fraud by showing that his translation of the Rosetta Stone was not in Egyptian at all but in the very type of French that Champollion and his friends were wont to use! The discovery is totally without significance, of course, because Champollion never claimed to be writing Egyptian, but to be rendering it into his own language.

To test his Egyptian claims we would have to go back not to Grenoble but to Egypt; and for the same reason, to test the claims of the Book of Mormon to antiquity we should not go back to the town of Manchester but to the world from which it purports to come.

There is only one direction from which any ancient writing may be profitably approached. It must be considered in its original ancient setting and in no other. Only there, if it is a forgery, will its weakness be revealed, and only there, if it is true, can its claims be vindicated.

38. The Book of Mormon and Barley

The Book of Mormon says that the Nephite civilization had and used barley as one of their basic grains. 38-1

Since domesticated barley had never been found in the New World, the critics duly noted the apparent mistake and concluded that they'd caught Joseph Smith in a lie.

But in the December 1983 issue of "Science '83" the article "Last Ditch Archeology", by Daniel B. Adams, reported the discovery in southern Arizona of "domesticated barley, the first ever discovered in the New World."

The Book of Mormon had been right to say that domesticated barley existed in pre-Columbian times, and the critics had been wrong, for more than 150 years. But the proof took 150 years to dig up. Literally dig up.

Though it seems a small point, the question is, how many times does this sort of thing have to happen before we conclude that there really is something strange going on in the Book of Mormon?

39. Authentic Non-Biblical Ancient Ceremony
Recorded in Book of Mormon


NOTE: The text discoveries and J. Z. Smith's analysis took place in this [20th] century. The Book of Mormon describes the ceremony in 1830. If the author of the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historian, how did he know this?

In 39-1 a very recent study J.Z. Smith considers under the title of "Treading upon the Garments" an ancient ritual practice described in the newly discovered early Christian Coptic texts in which a person, upon becoming a member of the church, would take off his garment and trample on it "in token" of having cast away his old way of life and as a symbol of trampling his old sins underfoot.

Heretofore the custom had been traced to Hellenistic sources, but it now appears from the newly found documents that it is an original and very old Jewish rite. It shows that peculiar blend of ritual and real-life behavior which at first made the Battle Scroll [Dead Sea Scrolls] so difficult to understand, but which puts such a distinctive stamp upon some of the historical events in the Book of Mormon.

[In the Book of Mormon] the 39-2 people who answered Moroni's summons came girding on their armor and
"rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, . . . the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments." 39-3

"And they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: . . . We shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward [the Jaredites], if we shall fall into transgression; yea, [God] may cast us at the feet of our enemies, . . . to be trodden underfoot, if we shall fall into transgression." 39-4
40. Authentic Non-Biblical
Recorded in Book of Mormon


NOTE: This legend was unknown in the West in the 1800s. If the author of the Book of Mormon was Joseph Smith, how did he know this?

The Garment of Joseph

In Alma 46:23, Moroni reminded the multitude that they were actually "a remnant of the seed of Jacob," and also of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces, and if they should do wickedly "our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain."

Then Moroni told the story of how Jacob
"before his death . . . saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said - Even as this remnant of the garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved, . . . while the remainder . . . of [Joseph's] seed shall perish, even as the [remainder] of his garment." 40-1
One of the most remarkable aspects of the story is the manner in which Moroni sought to stir up patriotic fervor by appealing to ancient and traditional devices.

He connected the whole business of the rent garment with the story of their tribal ancestors Jacob and Joseph, and suggested that "those who have dissented from us" were the very "remnant of the seed of Joseph" to which the dying Jacob prophetically referred [as being preserved]. 40-2

Plainly the whole background and explanation of Moroni's “strange” behavior is to be sought in the Old World and among traditions not preserved in the Bible.

When Moroni begins his story by saying, "Let us remember the words of Jacob," he is plainly reminding his hearers of a tale that is familiar to them all.

Yet who in the West, in the 1800's, ever knew anything about the story in which the survival of Joseph's garment guarantees and typifies thesurvival of his seed. 40-3

Muhammad ibn-Ibrahim ath-Tha'labi

In the tenth century A.D., the greatest antiquarian of the Moslem world, Muhammad ibn-Ibrahim ath-Tha'labi, collected in Persia a great many old tales and legends about the prophets of Israel.

After the fall of Jerusalem, around the 70's A.D., and the scattering of the Jews, many of the sects, such as those that once lived around the Dead Sea, moved East to be under the protection of the Persians.

Thus groups of Jews representing various shades of belief were scattered all over central Asia by the Middle Ages, and it is from such, no doubt, that Tha'labi gets his amazing fund of information.

Among other things, Tha'labi tells a number of stories, which we have not found anywhere else, about Jacob and the garment of Joseph.

In one, Joseph's brethren bring his torn garment to their father as proof that he is dead, but Jacob after examining the garment ("and there were in the garment of Joseph three marks or tokens when they brought it to his father") declares that the way the cloth is torn shows him that their story is not true: "Behold, if the bear had eaten him he surely would have rent his garment, and since he would (naturally) have fled towards the gate, verily the garment should have been torn behind." But since this is not the case it may be that Joseph still lives.

Another account is the case of Potiphar, who by examining the tears in Joseph's garment, knew that he was innocent and spared his life, "for he knew that if he [Joseph] had attacked his wife the tear would have been in front." So again his torn garment declared that Joseph should live.

These interesting little details are typical variations on a single theme, and the theme is the one Moroni mentions; that the rent garment of Joseph is the symbol both of his suffering and his deliverance, misfortune and preservation.

Such things in the Book of Mormon illustrate the widespread ramifications of Book of Mormon culture, and the recent declaration of Albright and other scholars that the ancient Hebrews had cultural roots in every civilization of the Near East.

This is an acid test that no forgery could pass; it not only opens a window on a world we never dreamed of, but it brings to our unsuspecting and uninitiated minds a first glimmering suspicion of the true scope and vastness of a book the world hardly knows, the Book of Mormon.

41. Ancient Book of Enoch Text
Quoted in Book of Mormon

A quotation from an Enoch text occurs in the thirteenth chapter of Helaman. "Ye have trusted in your riches," Enoch tells the people. "Ye have not remembered the Lord in the day he gave you your riches." (Cf. Helaman 13:33) This is Samuel the Lamanite speaking, an expert in the scriptures; he knew all about these things. He had access to the plates of brass and other records.

And here Enoch is quoted in a writing not discovered by the world until 1888: "Ye have not remembered the Lord in the days he gave you your riches; ye have gone astray that your riches shall not remain, because you have done evil in everything. Cursed are you and cursed are your riches."

NOTE: Nibley's citation, above, raises three interesting issues:

1. The Enoch text was discovered in 1888. The Book of Mormon quotes that text in 1830. If the author of the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historian, how did he know this?

2. The Book of Mormon has long been criticized for using New Testament language before New Testament times. Yet the New Testament abounds with quotations from Enoch and other ancient writers. When the New Testament and the Book of Mormon both quote from lost, ancient writings, (as they do without attribution, in the ancient style) of course it's going to look like the Book of Mormon is (to quote mark Twain) "smouched from the New Testament, and no credit given."

3.I claimed earlier that it can be proven that the Book of Mormon repeatedly flies in the face of the best knowledge and belief of the 1800s, only to be proven exactly right by subsequent discoveries.

This is a prime example. No one would be so stupid in an 1800's forgery as to expect a Bible-reading public not to recognize Bible phrases. But the ancient author of the Book of Mormon blythly quotes his ancient sources (as Enoch, above) without attribution, thus ignorantly putting Joseph Smith's reputation in jeopardy.

42. Ancient Arabian Geographical Naming Conventions
Used in the Book of Mormon


From 1 Nephi 2 we read:
8 And … he called the name of the river, Laman ... .
9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
10 And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable … .
14 And … my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him.

Even 42-1 more whimsical and senseless to a westerner must appear the behavior of Lehi in naming a river after one son and its valley after another. But the Arabs don't think that way.

In the Mahra country, for example, as is commonly the case in those mountains, the water bears a different name from the wadi .

Now westerners might suppose that after Lehi had named the river after his first-born, the location of the camp beside its waters would be given with reference to the river.

But instead, the Book of Mormon follows the Arabic system of designating the camp not by the name of the river (which may easily dry up sometime), but by the name of the valley. 42-2

43. Ancient Non-Biblical Hebrew Poetic Style

According 43-1 to Richter, the best possible example of the primitive Arabic qasida (the name given to the oldest actual poetry of the desert) is furnished by those old poems in which one's beloved is compared to a land "in which abundant streams flow down . . . with rushing and swirling, so that the water overflows every evening continually."

Here the "continually flowing" water is compared to the person addressed, as in Lehi's "song" to Laman.

The original qasida was built around the beseeching motif, not necessarily erotic in origin, as was once thought, but dealing rather with praise of virtue in general.

The standard pattern is a simple one: (a) the poet's attention is arrested by some impressive natural phenomenon, usually running water; (b) this leads him to recite a few words in its praise, drawing it to the attention of a beloved companion, and (c) making it an object lesson for the latter, who is urged to be like it.

Burton gives a good example: at the sight of the Wady al-Akik the nomad poet is moved to exclaim,

O my friend, this is Akik, then stand by it,
Endeavoring to be distracted by love,
if not really a lover.

This seems to be some sort of love song, albeit a peculiar one, and some have claimed that all the old qasidas were such. But Burton and his Arabs know the real meaning, "the esoteric meaning of this couplet," as he calls it, which quite escapes the western reader and is to be interpreted:

Man! This is a lovely portion of God's creation:
Then stand by it, and here learn to love
the perfections of thy Supreme Friend.

Compare this with Lehi's appeal to Lemuel:

O that thou mightest be like unto this valley,
firm and steadfast,
And immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord! (1 Nephi 2:10).

Note the remarkable parallel. In each case the poet, wandering in the desert with his friends, is moved by the sight of a pleasant valley, a large wady with water in it; he calls the attention of his beloved companion to the view, and appeals to him to learn a lesson from the valley and "stand by it," firm and unshakable in the love of the ways of the Lord.

How could Joseph Smith have known about that?

44. Statistical Analysis Gives 1000 to 1 Odds
Against the "One Author Theory."


I've spoken frequently of the "author" of the Book of Mormon. In fact, Mormon was the editor and compiler of the book, as Joseph Smith was the translator. Many different ancient prophets and seers recorded the different parts of the Book of Mormon. As the Bible has different authors for different books and epistles within it, so does the Book of Mormon. John L. Hilton and his group have done detailed stylometic analyses of parts of the Book of Mormon "based on the somewhat surprising fact that every author studied thus far subconsciously uses sixty-five identifiable patterns, involving words like "and," "the," "of," and "that," at statistically significant different rates from others." 44-1 This statistical analysis estimates the odds of one person writing both the "Nephi" and "Alma" sections to be one in one thousand. Neither Joseph Smith nor any other single person could have written the Book of Mormon.
45. "A Billion to One Odds"

The whole mission of the Book of Mormon is to stand as a testament of Jesus Christ, the proof of which is based on one's faith and the life-changing witness of the Holy Ghost. Yet the book is neither allegory nor any other kind of fantasy, but an epic account of real-world places, people and events.

When first published in 1830, the only available testimony of its truthfulness was faith-based and spiritual because its worldly details appeared to be historically absurd.

But now, in the progress of time and technology, so much substantiating information is being discovered and brought to light that we must remind ourselves that a merely intellectual embrace of the Book of Mormon is not sufficient for the spiritual conversion it was written for.

Nevertheless, since it is a real-world history, we cannot just ignore what is being learned about the real world in which the story was set. By the same token, we should consider what was being put on the line by Joseph Smith when he presented the Book of Mormon to the world's hostile scrutiny.

If you were producing, as completely true, a book of complex history covering over 2,000 years in a time and place about which hardly anything was known when you wrote it, vast amounts of internal detail would form a sound basis for future generations to empirically assess whether your history was really true or simply made up.

Such exposure to the tests of time, and the easy discovery of whatever fraud you might have purpetrated, would surely have made the challenge paralyzingly daunting to anyone but a complete fool. Joseph Smith has been called many things, but never a fool.

We have presented here just a sampling from the ever-growing list of findings that actually support the Book of Mormon. Including just those from #36 through #44, we have:
41 Dead Sea Scrolls/Book of Mormon parallels

1 basket of domesticated New World barley

1 authenticated non-Biblical ancient ceremony recorded in Book of Mormon

1 authenticated non-Biblical ancient legend recorded in Book of Mormon

1 ancient Book of Enoch text quoted in Book of Mormon

1 counter-intuitive ancient Arabian geographical naming convention

1 ancient non-Biblical Hebrew poetic style used in the Book of Mormon

1 ancient non-Biblical Hebrew idiom used in Book of Mormon (there are many)

1 Biblical literary form, undiscovered until 1950s, found in the Book of Mormon

20 exact or near-exact names, non-Biblical, yet confirmed by finds in this century

1 statistical analysis of "wordprints"

1 Mesoamerican archeology paraphrase (but who is paraphrasing whom?)

1 verification of ancient religious writing on gold plates

1 verification of non-Jerusalem Temple building by ancient Hebrews
73 really good guesses in total

Some of the above items are so obscure and so exact that 50/50 odds of Joseph Smith getting them right are far too high. But still, lets just say that Joseph had a 50/50 chance of guessing each of these items correctly. What then are the odds against 73 good guesses?
1 consecutive guess at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 2

2 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 4

3 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 8

4 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 16

5 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 32

6 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 64

7 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 128

8 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 256

9 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 512

10 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 1024

11 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 2048

12 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 4096

13 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 8192

14 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 16,000+

15 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 32,000+

16 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 64,000+

17 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 128,000+

18 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 256,000+

19 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 512,000+

20 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 1 million+

21 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 2 million+

22 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 4 million+

23 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 8 million+

24 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 16 million+

25 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 32 million+

26 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 64 million+

27 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 128 million+

28 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 256 million+

29 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 512 million+

30 consecutive guesses at 50/50 odds
has a probability of 1 out of 1 billion+
We might as well stop here, just below the half-way point, where the odds are shown as a billion to one.

46. Hugh Nibley’s
Book of
Mormon Challenge

It appears that it only took some 63 to 70 working days, April through July, 1829, to complete the entire translation of the Book of Mormon, a complex religious history covering 2,000 years and more than five hundred pages.

To demonstrate how astounding this is, Hugh Nibley once asked his Book of Mormon class at Brigham Young University,
"Since Joseph was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well-educated as any of you at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of, say, five to six hundred pages in length.

Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history.
Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times;

Have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicissitudes;

Give them names - hundreds of them - pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 B.C.;

Be lavish with cultural and technical details - manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites and traditions,

Include long and complicated military and economic histories;

Have your narrative cover a thousand years without any large gaps;

Keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once;

Feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting;

Observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials.

Above all, do not ever contradict yourself!

For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up - we have our little joke - but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as a fiction or romance, but as a true history!

After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it (in this class we always use the first edition of the Book of Mormon);

what is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible.

If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim - they will love that!

Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel.
Now go to work and good luck!"


2-1. The Prophetic Book of Mormon: New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study, p. 71.  [back]

3-1. "Golden Bible," Rochester Advertiser and Telegraph, August 31, 1829, reprinting an article published in the Palmyra Freeman.

Leonard J. Arrington, "James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on 'The Mormonites," BYU Studies 10 (Spring 1970):355, 358 and Hillsborough Gazette (Ohio), October, 29, 1831.

Wayne Sentinel, May 27, 1831.

Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, pp. 69-71. For additional references that Martin Harris was "considered an honest, industrious citizen by his neighbors," see E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, p. 13 and the Palmyra Courier, May 24, 1872.

Rochester Daily Democrat, June 23, 1841.

Wayne Sentinel, May 27, 1831.

O. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase (Rochester, 1852), p. 215, as cited by R.L. Anderson, "Martin Harris: The Honorable New York Farmer," Improvement Era, Vol. 72, No. 2 (Feb. 1969), pp. 18-21.

Samuel Murdock to Editor of Dubuque Daily Times, April 13, 1893, cited in R. Etzenhouser, From Palmyra, New York, 1830, to Independence, Missouri, 1894 (Independence, Mo.: Ensign Publishing House, 1894), pp. 338-41.

W. Lang, History of Seneca County (Springfield, Ohio: Transcript Printing Co., 1880), pp. 364-65.

The Seneca Advertiser (Tiffin, Ohio), May 5, 1848, p. 2

Circuit Court Journal, Ray County, Missouri, March 5, 1850. For additional character references on Oliver Cowdery and his activities after he left the Church, see Richard L. Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981), pp. 38-44.

The Seneca Advertiser (Tiffin, Ohio), November 1, 1850, p. 2. Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, pp. 72-76, 131-33.

The statement regarding the character of David Whitmer signed by twenty-two leading citizens of Richmond, Missouri, was published in the Richmond Conservator, March 25, 1881, and in a pamphlet written by David Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, pp. 9-10. A photocopy of the document is located in the Church Archives and in Ebbie L. V. Richardson, "David Whitmer: A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon" (Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1952.) See also Appendix F of Backman.

Richmond Democrat, January 26, 1888, and reprinted February 2, 1888, in the same newspaper. See also Richmond Conservator, January 26, 1888. The Richmond Conservator reported that David Whitmer had lived in Richmond for forty-six years "without stain or blemish." He enjoys the "confidence and esteem of his fellow men," this report added and is considered "a good citizen."

Richmond Conservator, August 22, 1881.

Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, p. 79.

Chicago Tribune Correspondent, 23 January 1888, quoted in Lyndon W. Cook, David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Grandin Book Co., 1993), p. 220.

Richmond Conservator Report, 26 January 1888, quoted in Cook, p. 226; see also Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 vols, (Salt Lake City), p. 269.

For further impressive details, please see the following pages:

Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard L. Anderson.

Mike Ash's page on The Three Witnesses.

Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner by Matt Roper.

4-1. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7.  [back]

5-1. see my 2009 post on Mormanity, Those Implausible Plates and, for some additional information, see Book of Mormon Nugget #25.  [back]

5-2. M.T. Lamb, The Golden Bible, or, the Book of Mormon: Is It from God? (New York: Ward & Drummond, 1887), p. 11.  [back]

5-3. "Sacred Writing on Bronze Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean," FARMS Paper HAM-94, FARMS, Provo, Utah, 1994.  [back]

5-4. in John M. Lundquist and Stephen R. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, Vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990), pp. 273-334.  [back]

5-5. Cyrus H. Gordon, Forgotten Scripts, New York: Basic Books, 1968, p. 88.  [back]

5-6. Gordon, p. 95.  [back]

5-7. ca. 1400-1200 B.C.  [back]

5-8. Gordon, p. 95.  [back]

5-9. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000.  [back]

5-10. The documents were acquired by the Jordanian government in 1970. (see Tvedtnes, pp. 38-39).  [back]

5-11. p.150.  [back]

5-12. See al-Tha'labi, Qisas 'al-'Anbiya' (Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi wa-Awladuhu, A. H., 1340), p. 202.  [back]

5-13. The story is reported in Ernest A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead (New Hyde Park, N.Y: University Books, 1960), 15 n. 5.  [back]

5-14. See Franklin S. Harris Jr., "Others Kept Records on Metal Plates, Too," Instructor, October 1957, 318-21. The list was later reprinted in a pamphlet entitled "Gold Plates Used Anciently" (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1963); and in Mark E. Petersen, Those Gold Plates! (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1979), 4-5. See also Paul R. Cheesman, Ancient Writing on Metal Plates (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1985); and his "Ancient Writing on Metal Plates," Ensign, October 1979, pp. 42-47.  [back]

5-15. see Peter De Roo, America Before Columbus (New York: Lippincott, 1900) pp. 224-225, as cited by Paul R. Cheesman, Ancient Writing on Metal Plates: Archaeological Findings Support Mormon Claims (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1985), p. 52, as cited by Tvedtnes. p. 22.  [back]

5-16. see Hyatt Verril, America's Ancient Civilizations (New York: B.P. Putnam's Sons, 1953), pp. 23,42, as cited by Cheesman, p. 53, in Tvedtnes, p. 22.  [back]

5-17. pp. 23-24.  [back]

5-18. The finds were reported by Gabriel Barkay, "The Divine Name Found in Jerusalem," Biblical Archaeology Review 9/2 (1983): 14-19, and "Priestly Blessings on Silver Plates" (in Hebrew), Cathedra 52 (1989): 46-59.

The discoveries are discussed by William J. Adams Jr., "Lehi's Jerusalem and Writing on Metal Plates," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/1 (1994): 204-6, and "More on the Silver Plates from Lehi's Jerusalem," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/2 (1995): 136-37.

See the discussion in John Gee and John A. Tvedtnes, "Ancient Manuscripts Fit Book of Mormon Pattern," Insights, February 1999.

Also see the related online article, Oldest Scrolls Ever Found from

5-19. Raphael Patai, The Jewish Alchemists (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 573 n. 19, as cited by Tvedtnes, op. cit., p. 19.  [back]

6-1. Book of Mormon Authorship (Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1982), pp. 103-141.  [back]

6-2. Lachish I (Tell ed Duweir): The Lachish Letters (Oxford University Press, 1938).  [back]

7-1. They presented a paper at the 1997 Evangelical Theological Society Far West Annual Meeting, April 25, 1997.  [back]

7-2. later published in Trinity Journal, Fall 1998, pp. 179-205 and available on the Web at or Ben Spackman's Website.  [back]

7-3. Nibley, “More Voices,” p. 242.  [back]

7-4. see Stephen E. Robinson, "Background for the Testaments," The Ensign (December 1982).  [back]

7-5. Harold Bloom, The American Religion(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 101.  [back]

8-1. Deseret Book Comp., (Salt Lake City, UT, 1992).  [back]

8-2. Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2003, pp. 72-83.  [back]

8-3. H. Shanks, Jerusalem: An Archeaological Biography, 1995, pp. 107-108, as cited in the article "Was Mulek a 'Blood Son' of King Zedekiah?" in the FARMS publication Insights, Feb. 1999, p. 2.  [back]

8-4. "Two Shots in the Dark" in Book of Mormon Authorship, Noel B. Reynolds, ed., (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1982), pp. 103-141.  [back]

8-5. pp. 117-119.  [back]

9-1. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Comp.), 1994.  [back]

9-2. 1 Nephi 16:13.  [back]

9-3. 1 Nephi 2:5; 1 Nephi 16:14.  [back]

9-4. 1 Nephi 16:34.  [back]

9-5. 1 Nephi 17:1.  [back]

9-6. 1 Nephi 17:5.  [back]

9-7. See 1 Nephi 16:35.  [back]

9-8. 1 Nephi 17:5,6.  [back]

9-9. 1 Nephi 18:8.  [back]

9-10. 1 Nephi 17:5,6; 1 Nephi 18:6.  [back]

9-11. 1 Nephi 18:1,2,6.  [back]

9-12. 1 Nephi 17:7; 18:3.  [back]

9-13. 1 Nephi 17:48.  [back]

9-14. 1 Nephi 17:9-11,16.  [back]

10-1. S. Kent Brown, NAHOM/NIHM/NHM TODAY, 2003  [back]

10-2. see the summaries by S. Kent Brown, "'The Place That was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 66-68; and Warren P. Aston, "Newly Found Altars from Nahom," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/2 (2001): p. 56-61.  [back]

10-3. All of this material is reviewed in S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Donald W. Parry et al., eds., Evidences and Echoes of the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), pp. 55-12 5.  [back]

10-4. see 1 Nephi 17:1.  [back]

10-5. On the location of the first camp, consult George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 [1999]: pp. 54-63.  [back]

10-6. see 1 Nephi 16:7.  [back]

10-7. see 1 Nephi 17:1.  [back]

10-8. see Strabo, Geography 16.4.23-24; consult Michael L. Ingraham et al., "Saudi Arabian Comprehensive Survey Program: C. Preliminary Report on a Reconnaissance Survey of the Northwestern Province," ATLAL. The Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology 5 [1401 a.h. - 1981 a.d.]: pp. 59-84, especially 76-78.  [back]

11-1. Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1999, pp. 54-63.  [back]

12-1. Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003.  [back]

12-2. Beirut: Libraire du Liban; London: Longman, 1983; as cited by Potter and Wellington, p. 73.  [back]

12-3. Lehi in the Desert (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1952), p. 90.  [back]

12-4. This point is made by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, eds., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), p. 89.  [back]

12-5. p. 73.  [back]

12-6. pp. 74,76-78.  [back]

12-7. 1 Ne. 16:13.  [back]

12-8. See pages 82-92 of Potter and Wellington, including excellent photos and a satellite map.  [back]

13-1. (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1992), pp. 41-43.  [back]

14-1.  [back]

15-1. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985).  [back]

16-1 An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon.  [back]

16-2. Sorenson, p. 128.  [back]

16-3. Sorenson, pp. 320-322.  [back]

16-4. 3 Nephi 8:5,7.  [back]

16-5. Felix W. McBryde, “Cultural and Historical Geography of Southwest Guatemala,” Smithsonian Institution, Institute of Social Anthropology, Publications, Vol. 4, 1947, p. 6.  [back]

16-6. Payson D. Sheets, "An Ancient Natural Disaster," Expedition, 13 (Fall 1971) p. 27.  [back]

16-7. 3 Nephi 9:7.  [back]

16-8. Maldonado-Koerdell, Geohistory, pp. 25-26.  [back]

16-9. Robert C. West and John P. Augelli, Middle America: Its Lands and Peoples, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1976), p. 35.  [back]

16-10. p. 323  [back]

16-11. FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1997, pp. 87-145.  [back]

16-12. M. T. Lamb, The Golden Bible, or, the Book of Mormon: Is It from God? (New York: Ward & Drummond, 1887), p. 83.  [back]

16-13. [ John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, op. cit., pp. 318-23;

Russell H. Ball, "An Hypothesis Concerning the Three Days of Darkness among the Nephites," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993), pp. 107-23;

John A. Tvedtnes, "Historical Parallels to the Destruction at the Time of the Crucifixion," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/1 (1994), pp. 170-86;

James L. Baer, "The Third Nephi Disaster: A Geological View," Dialogue 19/1 (1986), pp. 129-32;

Bart J. Kowallis, "In the Thirty and Fourth Year: A Geologist's View of the Great Destruction in Third Nephi," forthcoming in BYU Studies.

16-14. Byron Cummings, "Cuicuilco and the Archaic Culture of Mexico," University of Arizona Bulletin (Social Science) 4/8 (15 November 1933), pp. 8-12.  [back]

16-15. Copilco-Cuicuilco: Official Guide del Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1959), pp. 8, 11-12.  [back]

16-16. Ibid., 12, 18. See also Paul B. Sears, "Pollen Profiles and Culture Horizons in the Basin of Mexico," in The Civilizations of Ancient America: Selected Papers of the XXIXth International Congress of Americanists, ed. Sol Tax (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), p 57.  [back]

16-17. René Millon and James Bennyhoff, "A Long Architectural Sequence at Teotihuacan," American Antiquity 26/4 (April 1961): p. 519.  [back]

16-18. "Volcanic Destruction in the Book of Mormon: Possible Evidence from Ice Cores," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2003, pp. 78-87.  [back]

17-1. Deseret Book, (SLC, UT, 1990).  [back]

17-2. From "The Ensign" magazine, September, 1984, pg. 33.  [back]

18-1. Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, ed. D.W. Parry, D.C. Peterson, and J.W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), pp. 372-374.  [back]

18-2. Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol.3, 1991, p. 38.  [back]

18-3. Alma 63:4.  [back]

18-4. Alma 63:5-8, 10; Helaman 3:3-4, 7, 10-11.  [back]

18-5. 3 Nephi 7:12.  [back]

18-6. 3 Nephi 9:9.  [back]

18-7. Helaman 3:7, 10-11.  [back]

18-8. 3 Nephi 6:8; 8:13.  [back]

18-9. cited by J. Sorenson, Ensign, Oct. 1984, pp. 18, 23.  [back]

18-10. B. Stubbs, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1996, p. 39.  [back]

19-1. FARMS Review of Books, vol. 12, no. 1, 2000, pp. 9-22.  [back]

19-2. David Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 192.  [back]

19-3. (Amherst, Wisconsin: Amherst Press, 1963).  [back]

19-4. (Provo, Utah: Research Press, 1998) p. 230.  [back]

19-5. Circumpacifica, Band I: Mittel- und Südamerika, Festschrift für Thomas S. Bartel, ed. Bruno Ilius and Matthias Laubscher (Frankfurt, Peter Lang, 1990), pp. 165-88.  [back]

19-6. FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, 1993, p. 122.  [back]

19-7. Roberta H. Markman and Peter Markman, The Flayed God: The Mesoamerican Mythological Tradition (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), p. 32; see also Delia Goetz and Sylvanus G. Morley, trans., Popol Vuh (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975), p. 83.  [back]

19-8. Charles Gallenkamp, The Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization: Maya, 3d ed. (New York: Penguin, 1987), p. 166.  [back]

19-9. David Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 43.  [back]

19-10. T. A. Willard, Kukulcan: The Bearded Conqueror (Los Angeles: Murray and Gee, 1941), p. 159.  [back]

19-11. Bernal Diaz, The Conquest of New Spain, trans. J. M. Cohen (London: Penguin, 1963); see also Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire, p. 48; and Brian M. Fagan, Kingdoms of Gold: Kingdoms of Jade (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991), p. 37; and Adrian Recinos and Delia Goetz, The Annals of the Cakchizuels (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, 1953), p. 40.  [back]

19-12. see 3 Nephi 11.  [back]

19-13. Vol. 4, No. 2, Issue 7, Autumn 2002.  [back]

20-1. see Alma 53:7.  [back]

20-2. Alma 51:32.  [back]

20-3. Michael D. Coe, The Maya, (London: Thames and Hudson, 4th ed., 1987), p. 160.  [back]

21-1.The Allegory of the Olive Tree, pp. 186-247, taken from pages 223-224.  [back]

21-2. Columella, Rei Rusticae I, pp. 5,7.  [back]

21-3. Jacob 5:15, 29, 38.  [back]

21-4. (cf. Jacob 5:7, 10-11, 15-16, 20-21, 25-30, 33-35, 38, 41, 48-50, 57, 61-62, 70-72, 75) Cato, De Agri Cultura 10; Varro, Rerum Rusticarum I, p. 18.  [back]

21-5. Jacob 5:23-25, 52, 54.  [back]

21-6. Jacob 5:11, 47, 76; 6:2.  [back]

21-7. Jacob 5:8, 9-10, 17-18, 30, 34, 52, 54-57, 60, 63-65, 67-68.  [back]

21-8. Jacob 5:4, 27, 63-64.  [back]

21-9. Jacob 5:4, 12, 27, 28, 58, 71; 6:2.  [back]

21-10. Jacob 5:47, 64, 76.  [back]

21-11. cf. Jacob 5:6.  [back]

21-12. (New York: Basic Books, 1981).  [back]

22-1. some of which are discussed in An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon by John L. Sorenson, Deseret Book Comp., Salt Lake City, UT, 1985).  [back]

22-2. (see Brant A. Gardner, FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2001, pp. 44-45, reviewing John L. Sorenson, Nephite Culture and Society, (Salt Lake City: New Sage Books, 1997).  [back]

22-3. Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de Alva "Obras Historicas," Editora Nacional, S.A. Mexico, 2 vols., 1950, p. 19, as cited by John K. Wise, "Clouds Without Water, Zeal Without Knowledge," Journal of Mormon Apologetics, Vol. 1, 1999, pp. 116-140.  [back]

22-4. Nuttal, Zelia, "Some Unsolved Problems in Mexican Archaeology," American Anthropologist, XIII, 1, 133-149, 1906, p. 135, as cited by Wise, op. cit., p. 129.  [back]

22-5. See Diego de Landa, Relación de las cosas de Yucatan, 1566, translated by William Gates and published as Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, (New York: Dover Books, 1978), pp. 42-45.  [back]

22-6. Amherst, Wisconsin: Amherst Press, 1963.

L. Taylor Hansen apparently had Masters Degrees in Archaeology, Anthropology and Geology from Stanford University and spent significant time with Native Americans to better understand their traditions and legends. The book is still in print and maybe available at your local library.

22-7. Interview with James H. Hart, Richmond, Mo., Aug. 21, 1883, as recorded in Hart's notebook, reprinted in Lyndon W. Cook, David Whitmer Interviews: A restoration Witness (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991), p. 76, as cited by Daniel C. Peterson, FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1997, p. xxvi.  [back]

23-1. Mormon 9:32-34.  [back]

23-2. p. 284.  [back]

23-3. pp. 294-95.  [back]

23-4. p. 294.  [back]

23-5. Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5, 1993, pp. 43-45 (available online). ef="#book review"> [back]

23-6. Mormon 9:32-34.  [back]

23-7. Peterson, pp. 44-45.  [back]

23-8. Feb. 1998.  [back]

24-1. Across Before Columbus?, ed. by Donald Y. Gilmore and Linda S. McElroy, Laconia, New Hampshire: New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), 1998.  [back]

24-2. Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1996, pp. 1-49.  [back]

24-3. Brian Stubbs, "Elements of Hebrew in Uto-Aztecan: A Summary of the Data," F.A.R.M.S. paper, 1988.  [back]

24-4. Ph.D. in linguistics from Princeton, a Rhodes scholar, founder of Drew's anthropology program and author of 500 publications, including 40 books, and past president of the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States.  [back]

24-5. Across Before Columbus?, ed. by Donald Y. Gilmore and Linda S. McElroy, Laconia, New Hampshire: New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), 1998, pp. 193-197.  [back]

25-1. See "Reexploring the Book of Mormon" John W. Welch, ed. Chapters 66 & 67 [back]

25-2. Psalms 3:7-8 in Hebrew transliteration  [back]

25-3. Mosiah 3:18-19  [back]

26-1. Moroni 10:4, 1830 edition.  [back]

26-2. see "Hebraic Conditionals in the Book of Mormon," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1999), pp. 201-203.  [back]

26-3. ibid., p. 202.  [back]

26-4. BYU Studies, Vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 50-61.  [back]

26-5. see also “Book of Mormon Authorship,” by D. Brent Anderson, in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  [back]

26-6. see “Linguists Provide Possible Evidence Consistent with Book of Mormon Claims” in this paper.  [back]

26-7. Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1996, pp. 82-97.  [back]

26-8. Mosiah 7:21-22.  [back]

27-1. see Bar Kokhba by Yigael Yadin, Random House, New York, 1971, p. 176.  [back]

27-2. (Vetus Testamentum, 15: 475-86, (1965).  [back]

27-3. pp. 42-43.  [back]

27-4. See the April 2005 issue of National Geographic.  [back]

27-5. FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1997, p. 120.  [back]

27-6. See his book Since Cumorah, for example.  [back]

27-7. 1 Nephi 17:5.  [back]

27-8. William F. Albright to Grant S. Heward, Baltimore, Maryland, July 25, 1966, as cited by Tvedtnes, 2001.  [back]

27-9. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.8, Ch.15.  [back]

27-10. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.2.  [back]

27-11. Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.8.  [back]

28-1. In pre-exilic Israel, this festival may have been grouped with the Day of Atonement and the Festival of Booths as part of an autumn complex of festivals, and elements from all parts of this complex are evident in King Benjamin's speech.  [back]

28-2. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998, 661 pages.  [back]

28-3. For details, see William S. Kurz, "Luke 22:14-38 and Greco-Roman Biblical Farewell Traditions," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 104: 251-268 (1985); also see William S. Kurz, Farewell Addresses in the New Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1990), both as cited by Welch and Ricks, p. 115.  [back]

28-4. pp. 91-94.  [back]

28-5. e.g., Christ in Luke 22 and Mattathias in 1 Maccabees 2.  [back]

28-6. For Benjamin's assertion of innocence, see Mos. 2:15 (cf. Mos. 2:12-14 and 2:27-28).

For tasks for successors, see Mos. 1:15-16, 2:31, and 6:3.

A theological review of history is found in Benjamin's review of his administration (Mos. 2, such as verses 11, 20, 31, 34, 35) and his references to Moses and the Israelites (Mos. 3:13-15).

Future events are prophesied in Mos. 3: 1,2,5-11, where the coming of Christ is foretold.

29-1. by David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes (Tooele, Utah: Heritage Press, 2003), 232 pages.  [back]

29-2. 2 Nephi 9: 10, 19, 26.  [back]

29-3. Mosiah 15:8-9, 20, 23, 16:7  [back]

29-4. Alma 4:14, 5:7, 9-10; 7:12; 11:41-42; 22:14.  [back]

29-5. p. 87.  [back]

30-1. Mosiah 28:11.  [back]

30-2. Mosiah 29:6-7.  [back]

30-3. "King Mosiah and the Judgeship," Insight, Nov. 2000 (FARMS), p. 2.  [back]

30-4. Ether 7:4-5, 15-17; 8:2-3; 9:11-12; 10:3, 8-10, 14, 32; 11:4, 15-18.  [back]

30-5. Ether 7:4, 15; 9:11; 10:32.  [back]

30-6. Mosiah 29:18-19.  [back]

30-7. see Ether 6:22-23, as well as the examples of kings conquered by family members to serve in captivity in Ether 7:5, 7, 17; 8:3-4; 10:14-15, 30-31; 11:9, 18-19, 23; 13:23.  [back]

30-8. Mosiah 29:26, 27.  [back]

31-1. The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992, p. 57, referring to a passage translated on p. 58.  [back]

31-2. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.1  [back]

31-3. 1 Nephi 3:10  [back]

31-4. 1 Nephi 3:16  [back]

31-5. 1 Nephi 1:4  [back]

31-6. 1 Nephi 3:16  [back]

31-7. 1 Nephi 3:23  [back]

32-1. Journal of Book of Mormon Studioes, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 37-47 (1999).  [back]

32-2. Alma 11:3, 7  [back]

32-3. Alma 11:4.  [back]

33-1. Ether 6:16.  [back]

33-2. Ether 15.  [back]

33-3. Jacob 7.  [back]

33-4. Alma 30.  [back]

33-5. for example Ezekiel 47:21-23.  [back]

33-6. Mos. 25:2.  [back]

33-7. Pollack, 2003.  [back]

34-1. (New York: Dover Books, 1978), originally published as Relación de las cosas de Yucatan, 1566, first published in English in 1937 as Publication No. 20 of the Maya Society, Baltimore.  [back]

34-2. pp. 2-3.  [back]

34-3. Ether 9:18.  [back]

34-4. p. 8.  [back]

34-5. 1 Nephi 8, 11.  [back]

35-1. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Comp., 1994).  [back]

35-2. (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003)  [back]

35-3. FARMS Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2005.  [back]

35-4. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Comp., 1985).  [back]

35-5. (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997).  [back]

35-6. (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000).  [back]

35-7. Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Provo, Utah, 1998.  [back]

37-1. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.6, Part.1, Ch.1.  [back]

38-1. See Book of Mormon, Mosiah 7:22, Mosiah 9:9, Alma 11:7, Alma 11:15  [back]

39-1. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7, Ch.9, Pg.243.  [back]

39-2. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.8, Ch.17, pp.335-36.  [back]

39-3. Alma 46:21  [back]

39-4. Alma 46:22  [back]

40-1. Alma 46:24  [back]

40-2. Alma 46:27  [back]

40-3. Alma 46:24  [back]

41-1. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.2, Ch.1, Pg.
42-1. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.4, Pg.76.  [back]

42-2. 1 Nephi 10:16; 16:6  [back]

43-1. From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.5.  [back]

44-1. Welch, "Reexploring the Book of Mormon" pg. 221.  [back]

46-1. from Hugh Nibley, "The Prophetic Book of Mormon" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,1989) pp. 220-21.  [back]

(edited by David Van Alstyne)

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