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Book of Mormon Inconsistencies

October 10, 2011

For more exhaustive analyses of this matter, I recommend looking here, here, here, here, here and here.

Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:461:

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Oliver B. Huntington recorded in his journal:

“Heard Joseph F. Smith describe the manner of translating the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith the Prophet and Seer, which was as follows as near as I can recollect the substance of his description. Joseph did not render the writing on the gold plates into the English language in his own style of language as many people believe. But every word and every letter was given him by the gift and power of God. So it is the work of God and not of Joseph Smith, and it was done in this way . The Lord caused each word spelled as it is in the book to appear on the stones in short sentences or words, and when Joseph had uttered the sentence or word before him and the scribe had written it properly, that sentence would disappear and another appear. And if there was a word wrongly written or even a letter incorrect the writing on the stone would remain there.”

There have been 3,913 changes to the original edition of the Book of Mormon.  The majority were corrections to grammar and spelling, but there also a number of significant changes to the doctrine and characters involved. But perhaps more importantly, there are a large number of inconsistencies and anachronisms in the text itself.

In 1998, the National Geographic Society stated:

“Archaeologists and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere’s past and the society does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon.”

Additionally, the study of archaeology, linguistics and historians has made the following Book of Mormon references unlikely if not impossible:

Technology problems

  • Transparent windows were not invented until about 1100 AD
  • Silk, which is created by an Asian moth that could not have been on the American continent
  • Chariots, though there has been no evidence of any type of wheeled vehicles on the American continent
  • Various metals, and specifically dross, which there is no evidence of
  • Metal currency, which could not have been common enough to use as currency, and would have likely been cocoa beans instead
  • Steel, which involves smelting
  • Swords made of steel and other materials, and specifically rust, of which there is no evidence as obsidian was used and cannot rust
  • “Cimiters” or scimitars, a word not used until 450 AD and could not have been known to Nephites
  • Cement, which has only been discovered in pre-Colombian groups

Flora and fauna that did not exist in that time and place

  • Cattle, which there is no evidence of prior to the Europeans arriving much later
  • Domesticated goats
  • Swine
  • Horses
  • Elephants
  • Honey bees
  • Figs
  • Wheat
  • Barley

Linguistic problems

For a full list of linguistic problems with the Book of Mormon as well as other aspects of Mormonism, I can’t recommend enough Packham’s research in this regard.

  • “Bible”, used in the Book of Mormon ten times, was not referred to by that term until the Council of Nicaea
  • “Isabel” is a name that only came into use  during the late Middle Ages
  • “Adieu”
  • Isaiah chapters 40-66 are heavily quoted in the Book of Mormon, but modern scholars believe those chapters were not written by Isaiah and were not written at all until after Lehi and Nephi left

Additional evidence

  • Nephite calendars are at odds with everything we know about Native American calendars, 11 months vs 13 months
  • There is no archeological evidence that individual Native American groups ever numbered in the hundreds of thousands as depicted in the Book of Mormon
  • There is no archeological evidence of the gigantic battles depicted
  • Incredibly implausible to build submersible sailing vessels in 2200 B.C. capable of a year-long voyage out of wood with herds of animals onboard
  • Evidence that Joseph Smith used the King James version of the Bible when quoting the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon
  • No evidence in history of a groups changing skin color rapidly as depicted in the Book of Mormon numerous times
  • Listing of future events in the past tense
  • Doctrine that is now very different to modern church teachings post-Joseph Smith
  • DNA evidence shows that Native Americans came from central Asia
  • Archeological, anthropological, and linguistic evidence also point to the origin being central Asia

Church members have a habit of applying the name “Anti-Mormon” to anyone who does any research into the church and comes up with evidence that refutes church claims.  But archaeologists, historians, anthropologists and scholars with no ties to the Mormon church, for or against, have universally refuted the story contained in the Book of Mormon.

Elder B.H. Roberts

Leonard J. Arrington, the official church historian for many years and often called the “Father of Mormon History,” once remarked that Elder B.H. Roberts, himself assistant church historian for 21 years and author of a gigantic six-volume history of the church, was “the intellectual leader of the Mormon people in the era of Mormonism’s finest intellectual attainment.”  Despite being a president of the Seventy and assistant church historian, Elder Roberts struggled with the veracity of the Book of Mormon.  He wrote a 400-page volume, unpublished until after his death, called A Study of the Book of Mormon that made a number of startling claims from a prominent church leader and historian.

“There were other Anti-Christs among the Nephites, but they were more military leaders than religious innovators… they are all of one breed and brand; so nearly alike that one mind is the author of them, and that a young and underdeveloped, but piously inclined mind.  The evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator.  It is difficult to believe that they are a product of history, that they came upon the scene separated by long periods of time, and among a race which was the ancestral race of the red man of America.”

“If from all that has gone before in Part 1, the view be taken that the Book of Mormon is merely of human origin… if it be assumed that he is the author of it, then it could be said there is much internal evidence in the book itself to sustain such a view.  In the first place there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an underdeveloped mind as their origin.  The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency.”

“One other subject remains to be considered in this division… viz. – was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the proceeding chapters… That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question….In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are found in the ‘common knowledge’ of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews [published in Palmyra in 1825], it would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is.”

It is fascinating to look at Elder Roberts’ attempts to reason with the other church leaders at the time.  As recorded in Wesley P. Lloyd’s private journal on August 7th, 1933:

“Richard Lyman spoke up and ask[ed] if there were things that would help our prestige and when Bro. Roberts answered no, he said then why discuss them.  This attitude was too much for the historically minded Roberts…After this Bro. Roberts made a special Book of Mormon study; treated the problem systematically and historically and in a 400 type written page thesis set forth a revolutionary article on the origin of the Book of Mormon and sent it to Pres. Grant.  It’s an article far too strong for the average Church member but for the intellectual group he considers it a contribution to assist in explaining Mormonism.  He swings to a psychological explanation of the Book of Mormon and shows that the plates were not objective but subjective with Joseph Smith, that his exceptional imagination qualified him psychologically for the experience which he had in presenting to the world the Book of Mormon and that the plates with the Urim and Thummim were not objective.  He explained certain literary difficulties in the Book….Instead of regarding it as the strongest evidence we have of Church Divinity, he regards it as the one which needs the most bolstering.  His greatest claim for the divinity of the Prophet Joseph Smith lies in the Doctrine and Covenants.”

Next step: Interracial Marriage

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