Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Book of Mormon; is it based on evidence?

When I began studying comparative religion back in 1991, one of my first interests was the matter of confirming whether or not the rumors I had heard about fake geography in the Book of Mormon (BoM) were true. Part of the process I used in investigating BoM geography was finding out what official position the Mormon Church had taken on this subject, not only from a theological concept, but more specifically what was fundamentally taught on any kind of LDS academic level.

I began by sending a hand-written letter of inquiry to LDS Religious Studies, c/o Archaeological Studies, 144 Joseph Smith Building, BYU, Provo, UT, 84602.

Here is the letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/myletter21291.jpg

Within a few days I received a reply from the BYU Religious Studies Center located in Provo, Utah. The letter confirmed the rumors I had heard: There are no archaeological or geographical facts known about any of the cities mentioned in the BoM. This was definitely the beginning of answers from the academic level of the Mormon Church that I had hoped for.

Here is the letter I received:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/theirletter21591.jpg

-

In 1997, six years after my first letter to BYU, I sent another letter to the BYU Religious Studies Center asking about BoM geography and if there is any known corroborating archeological support.

Here is the letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/myletter12497.jpg

The reply that I received was a bit different from the one I had received six years earlier, nonetheless, the answers were from LDS sources and were essentially the same as the previous letter. And once again, this official correspondence from BYU religious personnel confirmed to me that there are no geographical or archeological facts known about any of the cities, people groups, or the stories found within the pages of the BoM.

Here is the letter I received:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/theirletter13097.jpg

Enclosed with the letter from Donald Q. Cannon, Associate Dean of Religious Education at BYU, were copies of pages from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. These particular pages were laced with words like "assumptions," "speculations," "attempts have been made," "locations unknown," "conjectures," "not yet revealed," etc.

Here are the pages I received:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia1.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia2.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia3.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia4.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia5.jpg

-

In 2006, nearly 10 years after my second letter to BYU, I sent yet another inquiry to BYU asking for any kind of evidence in any known field of study that would verify the lands spoken of in the BoM. This time I sent the letter to the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

Here is my letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/myletter61906.jpg

The response I received was a one-page reply from Director S. Kent Brown of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. His answer was that "no archaeological 'home run' has been found in the Americas, but much circumstantial evidence has appeared." He then proceeded to cite four LDS references in regard to evaluating BoM geography.

Here is his letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/theirletter122006.jpg

-

The above correspondence between myself and BYU undeniably confirmed to me the academic position of the Mormon Church concerning geographical and archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon.

There is none. It is all speculation.

The only response BYU had to offer was by referring me to further LDS studies. It is noteworthy to add that BYU never referred me to anything outside of LDS academia; each reference was given toward circular LDS sources.

In the introductory page to the BoM the claim is made that it is a volume of scripture comparable to the Bible and that it is a history of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Joseph Smith has asserted through the BoM story that there were at least 38 major cities and places in the ancient Americas that must be part of history, yet to this day no geographic evidence of these areas has been found.

Likewise, Smith has asserted that there were tens of millions of Jewish people groups living in the ancient Americas from 2600 BC to 421 AD. These people would have created, used, and left behind specific-era items, yet no archeological evidence in support of any of these things or supposed people groups have been found.

Since Joseph Smith claimed the BoM was "the most correct of any book on earth" (November 28, 1841, History of the Church, vol. 4, pg. 461), what shall we do then, with the Book of Mormon? Where is truth to be found in the claims of Joseph Smith? Either the BoM is 100% true - as Smith bragged about in 1841 - and we can rely upon every word written in it, or if it is false in even one instance it must be considered fictitious and Joseph Smith must be regarded as a false prophet.

In conclusion, I believe that because of the advancement of knowledge in every known scientific field in this postmodern world - a world that Joseph Smith could not possibly foresee - it can easily be shown that Joseph Smith was a religious fraud and that the BoM is a historical and geographical ruse that was produced in order to deceive his followers and promote his self-interests.


- Wesley Norris 4.3.13


© Copyright 2002 Mormon Missions Midwest Outreach, Inc. All Rights Reserved. —Permission is granted to reproduce, provided content is not changed and this copyright notice is included.

Photo: When I began studying comparative religion back in 1991, one of my first interests was the matter of confirming whether or not the rumors I had heard about fake geography in the Book of Mormon (BoM) were true. Part of the process I used in investigating BoM geography was finding out what official position the Mormon Church had taken on this subject, not only from a theological concept, but more specifically what was fundamentally taught on any kind of LDS academic level.

I began by sending a hand-written letter of inquiry to LDS Religious Studies, c/o Archaeological Studies, 144 Joseph Smith Building, BYU, Provo, UT, 84602.

Here is the letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/myletter21291.jpg

Within a few days I received a reply from the BYU Religious Studies Center located in Provo, Utah. The letter confirmed the rumors I had heard: There are no archaeological or geographical facts known about any of the cities mentioned in the BoM. This was definitely the beginning of answers from the academic level of the Mormon Church that I had hoped for.

Here is the letter I received:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/theirletter21591.jpg

-

In 1997, six years after my first letter to BYU, I sent another letter to the BYU Religious Studies Center asking about BoM geography and if there is any known corroborating archeological support.

Here is the letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/myletter12497.jpg

The reply that I received was a bit different from the one I had received six years earlier, nonetheless, the answers were from LDS sources and were essentially the same as the previous letter. And once again, this official correspondence from BYU religious personnel confirmed to me that there are no geographical or archeological facts known about any of the cities, people groups, or the stories found within the pages of the BoM.

Here is the letter I received:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/theirletter13097.jpg

Enclosed with the letter from Donald Q. Cannon, Associate Dean of Religious Education at BYU, were copies of pages from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. These particular pages were laced with words like "assumptions," "speculations," "attempts have been made," "locations unknown," "conjectures," "not yet revealed," etc.

Here are the pages I received:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia1.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia2.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia3.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia4.jpg
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/encyclopedia5.jpg

-

In 2006, nearly 10 years after my second letter to BYU, I sent yet another inquiry to BYU asking for any kind of evidence in any known field of study that would verify the lands spoken of in the BoM. This time I sent the letter to the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

Here is my letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/myletter61906.jpg

The response I received was a one-page reply from Director S. Kent Brown of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. His answer was that "no archaeological 'home run' has been found in the Americas, but much circumstantial evidence has appeared." He then proceeded to cite four LDS references in regard to evaluating BoM geography.

Here is his letter:
http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj196/blazius/theirletter122006.jpg

-

The above correspondence between myself and BYU undeniably confirmed to me the academic position of the Mormon Church concerning geographical and archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon.

There is none. It is all speculation.

The only response BYU had to offer was by referring me to further LDS studies. It is noteworthy to add that BYU never referred me to anything outside of LDS academia; each reference was given toward circular LDS sources.

In the introductory page to the BoM the claim is made that it is a volume of scripture comparable to the Bible and that it is a history of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Joseph Smith has asserted through the BoM story that there were at least 38 major cities and places in the ancient Americas that must be part of history, yet to this day no geographic evidence of these areas has been found.

Likewise, Smith has asserted that there were tens of millions of Jewish people groups living in the ancient Americas from 2600 BC to 421 AD. These people would have created, used, and left behind specific-era items, yet no archeological evidence in support of any of these things or supposed people groups have been found.

Since Joseph Smith claimed the BoM was "the most correct of any book on earth" (November 28, 1841, History of the Church, vol. 4, pg. 461), what shall we do then, with the Book of Mormon? Where is truth to be found in the claims of Joseph Smith? Either the BoM is 100% true - as Smith bragged about in 1841 - and we can rely upon every word written in it, or if it is false in even one instance it must be considered fictitious and Joseph Smith must be regarded as a false prophet.

In conclusion, I believe that because of the advancement of knowledge in every known scientific field in this postmodern world - a world that Joseph Smith could not possibly foresee - it can easily be shown that Joseph Smith was a religious fraud and that the BoM is a historical and geographical ruse that was produced in order to deceive his followers and promote his self-interests.


- Wesley Norris 4.3.13

6 comments:

  1. Funny, whenever I asked evangelicals for archaeological evidence of the Exodus in Sinai, they only ever refered me to works by evangelicals...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Perhaps reading the Bible will help you and hopefully you won't find it funny.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I read the Bible for a living and I agree with Calba. Evangelicals have no choice but to appeal to uniquely Evangelical scholarship (and highly conservative Evangelical scholarship at that!) if they wish to find academic support for things like the Exodus. This post absolutely unquestionably appeals to a flagrant double standard. The Book of Mormon is wrong because the archaeology doesn't support it, but you will never be able to produce a word of actual archaeological evidence for the exodus, Abraham, the flood, the garden of Eden, or any one of a number of other events from the Bible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In response to the claims above that there is no evidence for the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, I would like you to consider this. The fact that you mention the deficiency of evidence for Israel's 40-year wanderings in the desert reveals your lack of understanding of what you are disputing here. Do you realize that the Exodus occurred 3,500 years ago and the Jews at that time were nomads on a trek to the Promised Land?

      These Jews lived in tents, not in houses or buildings or cities. Even their temple (tabernacle) at that time was a portable unit designed to be taken down and assembled again in a brief moment of time. The Israelites never built a permanent structure during their desert wanderings and yet you demand evidence for their Exodus?

      What then, do you want from the Exodus, footprints, ashes from campfires, and discarded bones? Come on, the Jews were nomadic for 40 years; one can't even trace the movements of desert nomads from a mere two or three hundred years ago and you want archeological evidence of desert wanderers from 3,500 years ago?!

      However, if you really want evidence of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, I'll establish it for you here. The evidence that proves the Exodus was real is the Jewish Passover; that's all the proof one needs. The argument is simple and it is ironclad. Whenever there is an event in history that was witnessed by a multitude of people and was immediately memorialized by some national observance, we have absolute proof that it actually occurred. The Passover is such an event. The Exodus happened; it is provable by the Passover memorial that occurred the night before the Exodus, and continues to be celebrated to this day.

      Now, if you can't point to any archeological or geographical evidence in support of the Book of Mormon storyline, show me one memorial that was established in a Book of Mormon story that continues to be celebrated today, and maybe, just maybe we'll have something to talk about.

      - Wesley Norris

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wesley, Archaeologists have uncovered literally thousands of settlements in the Sinai peninsula dating to centuries before and after the conservative dating of the exodus, including small nomadic encampments of just a couple dozen people. Nomads leave behind all kinds of traces, from petroglyphs to sandals to grave sites to animal bones to cultic constructions to pottery to metallurgical remains, even when they number in the single figures. See the following studies for examples:

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1357468?uid=3739928&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101985157761

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1357210?uid=3739928&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101985157761

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1357469?uid=3739928&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101985157761

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/lev/1992/00000024/00000001/art00006

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2743471?uid=3739928&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101985157761

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1356875?uid=3739928&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101985157761

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/tav/2008/00000035/00000001/art00004

    There is simply no possible way for anywhere near even 100,000 people to have spent forty years wandering around in the Sinai without leaving so much as a trace. With a group in the millions, it's even more ludicrous. That's just a simple fact.

    Next, no the Passover does not serve as proof in any sense of the word. You do not at all know when the Passover was first observed, and so you do not at all know whether it reflects actual memory or constructed communal memory. I suggest you look at the scholarship on the topic before making wildly speculative and amateur guesses about what does and does not constitute evidence.

    Finally, the Book of Mormon narrates a story about a culture that was completely destroyed, to the last man. How would traditional celebrations be preserved in such a situation?

    ReplyDelete

Rocky and Helen Hulse

Rocky and Helen Hulse
Defending Christianity From Mormon Doctrine