Five problems with the Book of Mormon

These are five serious problems with the Book of Mormon. In the 1820s, a man named Joseph Smith living in New York began claiming that an angel had directed to him towards secret golden plates and on these golden plates there are written ancient records of people who had left Israel and who had come into the Americas and written a testimony of Jesus Christ. And this then became the basis of the Book of Mormon, which is the foundational scriptural text for the Mormon Church today both in the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints as well as various other Mormon break-off fundamentalist groups that exist today. And today we’re going to be looking at some issues with the Book of Mormon and some problematic things which is why we can doubt that these things are indeed from God. In fact not only can we doubt that they are from God but we can know for sure that what Joseph Smith has given us in the Book of Mormon Doctrine and Covenants as well as the Pearl of Great Price are not revealed from God. They are not ancient documents. They are documents that were created by Joseph Smith.

The first problem with the Book of Mormon is that it describes various ancient civilizations that lived in the Americas and these civilizations simply do not exist. If we’re looking at archaeological evidence for the Bible or other ancient texts, we have the civilizations, we have various pieces of archaeological evidence and when it comes to the Book of Mormon, it’s not just that we don’t have archaeological evidence for everything that happened in the Book of Mormon, we can’t even spot where the civilizations are at all. Even among Mormons themselves, there’s no agreement as to where the events in the Book of Mormon took place. But this book describes rather advanced civilizations. They’ve got chariots, they have swords, they have a pretty complicated writing system, they have a language known as reformed Egyptian and it’s simply that the culture simply doesn’t exist. We’ve never found any evidence that these cultures exist in any way whatsoever. And if there really were these hundreds of thousands of people, you think that we would find some kind of record of them somewhere. If they were here somewhere in the Americas. And some people argue that it was in Central America, Meso-america but we found no connection with the book of modern peoples and cultures as much as we’ve looked at the Aztec and the Mayan cultures and various other cultures in that area of the world. And we certainly haven’t found any connections between the Book of Mormon peoples and the Native Americans in this nation as we’ve examined the evidence.

The second major problem with the Book of Mormon is that it describes all sorts of things as existing in the Americas, whether that is in North or Central or South America, that simply weren’t there until European settlement. And this just demonstrates that Joseph Smith really didn’t have that much of a knowledge of what things were like before Europeans came and settled this country. So some examples are various sorts of animals such as sheep and goats and cows and horses and other animals that simply did not exist at this time in the Americas. Now Mormon apologists will argue that Joseph Smith really was just using those words to describe other animals that were similar to the animals that we knew today. But there really is no reason to doubt that Joseph Smith really just meant what we might think he meant in plain language. When he said horse, he knew what a horse was and he was thinking horse. When he saw goats and he said goats, he knew exactly what goats were. So there’s really no reason to doubt that. There also are several other things like iron and steel. We have swords, a specific kind of sword called a scimitar that are described explicitly in the Book of Mormon. There are great battles, great weapons, there are chariots of iron but we simply don’t have evidence that any of these things actually existed in the Americas at all. Wheat is another example. Now there have been some arguments that we have found barley, a little bit of evidence of barley, but for the most part, all of these things that we have seen as anachronistic in the Book of Mormon, we just don’t have evidence that they existed in this place at all. And you’d think that if there were these great civilizations with all these kinds of materials with advanced armor and advanced weaponry as well as chariots that we would have some kind of indication that these things existed at all.

The third major problem with the Book of Mormon it’s that we really can’t trust the man who translated this book. Joseph Smith was not exactly the most trustworthy fellow and we’ve seen examples today. If you look at various cults and groups around the world, there are people that will lie about being messengers from God and they will lie about messages that they have received from God. And so we have to ask the question: is Joseph Smith somebody that seems to be reliable? Does he seem like the kind of person that is telling the truth about his own experiences? And we just don’t see that throughout his life. Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter. He’s a kind of person who really liked telling tall tales. His mother speaks about to this. And Joseph Smith changed his mind about a number of things throughout his life, things that might be pretty important. So what’s known as the first vision is a time where Joseph Smith first encounters some kind of Messenger of God while he is praying and asking God where he should go, what religion he should be a part of. And this first vision was a really important turning point in Joseph Smith’s life according to his own testimony. The problem is we don’t have any evidence of the first vision actually having happened. It’s a very long time before he actually starts even writing about the first vision at all. And when he does, he speaks of it in totally contradictory ways. At first, he speaks about a messenger appearing to him, then he speaks about Jesus Christ appearing to him. Another time he speaks about two messengers – seemingly God the Father and God the Son – both speaking to him. At this time now, it’s really common to mix up your memories. For example, one time he says he was fifteen, then he says he was sixteen. Those kinds of details we can definitely forgive. We kind of mess things up sometimes, we don’t have perfect memories. Psychologists have proven this, our memories are the best when it’s some kind of significant event that impacts our lives. And those are the names that are going to be the clearest to us and we’re going to remember the most details. And what would be more significant than God the Father and God the Son coming to you and speaking to you personally? And if Joseph Smith can’t even remember those details right, it does lead us to question: is this really the kind of guy that we want to trust? We also see that he is not exactly the most honest person and that he lies to his wife Emma as he has taken another wife and was quite some time before she even found out that he had taken another wife. And when he was practicing polygamy, he denied it several times. And we see a pattern of dishonesty and we see a pattern of inconsistency in Joseph Smith’s testimony. So we can’t really trust Joseph Smith as the kind of person that would be honest about something like this.

The fourth problem with the Book of Mormon is simply that it very clearly addresses nineteenth-century concerns that were contemporary with Joseph Smith rather than the kinds of concerns that would be with the people in ancient Near East who would have supposedly been the people who began the writing of this book, who were then the ancestors of the Nephites and Lamanites. I’ll give you some examples of this. First one is that the Book of Mormon demonstrates several elements of Joseph Smith’s own life. The most obvious one of these is that there is a dream that’s depicted in the Book of Mormon that is actually a dream that Joseph Smith’s own father had and he states this rather clearly himself. And one of the most obvious points that people will often point to is the issue of race and the relation between various races. There was an idea especially on behalf of white European settlers in the Americas that they were superior to the Native Americans. They were superior culturally, racially, ethnically to the Native Americans. And it was believed by many that dark skin was something that was attributed to the fall, it was the mark that was given to Cain. And you see this kind of theology which is not biblical, which is not taught in historic Christian or Jewish theology, but this expresses itself in the Book of Mormon as the Lamanites become more wicked, they are cursed and certain Lamanites become white because they are better and more obedient. Also all of the various ideas about the Native Americans being descendants of the Jews, these ideas are not unique with the Book of Mormon either. There were several publications, many claiming to be fictional but other theories out there that stated that they must have been descendants of the Jews. And so these ideas very clearly reflect the 19th century even just the writing style, the kind of autobiographical writing style that Nephi uses, it’s really not reflective of the ancient Near East, it’s much more reflective of the 19th century.

The fifth problem with the Book of Mormon is that the genetics simply don’t match with what we know today from contemporary genetics. And it was claimed by Mormons for a very long time at least that the Native Americans were ancestors of the Lamanites. And the addition that was put out by the LDS Church of the Book of Mormon in the introduction for many years until the 1980s actually stated that they were the principal ancestors of the Lamanites. And you see this in Joseph Smith’s own time as he is traveling and writes to his right his wife Emma that if he comes across bones of Native Americans, they are bones of Lamanites. And it was very clear in the belief of the early missionaries as they’re evangelizing to Native Americans that they are speaking to them as if they were indeed Lamanites. Modern genetic studies have proven that there is no connection between Semitic people and the Native Americans. What’s happened today is that Mormon apologists, and they’ve done a lot of work on the subject of genetics, is that they have come up with a new theory and that theory is that they were a really relatively small portion of people, they were not ancestors of all of the Native Americans. In fact, they were in a small region of Mesoamerica, they weren’t even the most dominant culture in that particular area of the world. And then they argue that because it was such a small people group, they would have intermingled with others. Eventually their genetic trace would have been lost altogether. That makes plenty of good sense but the fact is Joseph Smith himself claimed to have revelation from God that the Native Americans in North America are descended from the Jews and if Joseph Smith really is a prophet and he really was telling the truth about what he received then we should have expected to find genetic connections that simply are not there.

This is only a small portion of the arguments against the Book of Mormon but I would ask you to critically examine these things. Examine these things, examine the history of these things, see if they line up to scrutiny because as the Bible has been criticized, there are answers for these questions. And I’m afraid that the Book of Mormon simply does not give the answers because it is a fictional account written by Joseph Smith. it is not an ancient document and it was not inspired by God.