The canon of Scripture is a settled issue, isn’t it? You’ve got your 66 books total, 39 in the Old Testament (24 by the Jewish counting) and 27 in the New Testament. However, when you do the research, things are not so simple. There are many “other” books claiming to be Scripture, a number of them accepted by various denominations and/or included in various Bibles over the years. Are they Scripture? Or just heretical additions?
Previous installments in this series:
- Part 1: The Apocrypha
- Part 2: Enoch and Jubilees
- Part 3: Jasher
- Part 4: The Other Books of Baruch
- Part 5: The Other Books of Enoch
- Part 6: The Lost Book of Ezekiel
- Part 7: The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
(What? I’m trying to be as thorough as possible!)
Now, after a 4 month break, I’m covering the Book of Mormon, published by Joseph Smith (founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in the 1800s, who claimed to have translated it from golden tablets shown him by a dead man-turned-angel named Moroni. It is considered inspired Scripture by the LDS (or Mormon) church and its offshoots. It claims to detail ancient North American history, up until the 4th century AD (i.e. long after the Biblical canon had closed).
You’ve probably already guessed which direction I’m going here; it’s a fake.
The biggest problem: Smith’s “golden plates” don’t exist. There are a select few – mainly close friends and family – who swore that they saw them. But at least one of them – Martin Harris – admitted that they never actually saw the plates; they only saw a vision of them, not with their eyes, but in their mind.
(It’s also notable that these “Christian” men engaged in witchcraft practices including seer stones and divining rods, rendering their “testimony” even more suspect.)
In fact, if you carefully read the testimony of Smith and others, you’ll find that Smith didn’t “translate” the Book of Mormon at all, but rather was dictated it by a spirit speaking to him through a hat.
This is, in short, THE biggest problem for the Book of Mormon and Mormonism: their “holy” book was dictated by a spirit in modern times with no evidence for its antiquity or that it existed before Smith was dictated it, but Mormons expect us to believe that it is 1700-year-old inspired Scripture that is even more perfect than the Bible (yes, they actually believe that blasphemy).
The dictation was very specific: Smith would stare into the depths of the hat, ensuring no light got in, and would soon see words appearing before him. They would appear in “Reformed Egyptian”, the language the book was supposedly written in – one word at a time – and it would then transform into an English word. Smith would dictate that word to Martin Harris, and only after it was transcribed perfectly – down to the exact letter – would the spirit move on to the next word. Thus, the original text of the Book of Mormon is supposed to be an absolutely perfect book with no blemishes; no mistranslations or misspellings. Smith and the other early Mormon founders really dug themselves into a hole there; there is no room for error or mistranslation, or the ENTIRE BOOK has to be thrown out! Which would then rip out the entire foundation of Mormonism and all of its unique (and strange) doctrines, along with their other unBiblical “scriptures”.
And that is the problem for Mormons. It proves their cherished word a hoax.
For one thing, the Book of Mormon copies a number of passages almost word-for-word from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. In fact at least some passages ARE exact word-for-word translations. So, an entirely separate book not known about by the Biblical authors or the KJV translators, was dictated word-for-word by God to exactly copy the KJV translation of an entirely separate work?
Aside from that, Mormon plagiarises the KJV to the point that not only are the KJV’s italicised words (WHICH THE KJV TRANSLATORS ADDED AND ARE NOT IN THE ORIGINAL TEXTS) are copied without italics, and actually copies TRANSLATIONAL ERRORS from the KJV. The following chart gives some examples:
(Note that “dragons” is the correct translation in Isaiah 13:22, and “satyrs” isn’t necessarily inaccurate in 13:21.)
This says a lot. The god of Mormonism supposedly dictated a perfect translation of an ancient book that not only copied word-for-word from a centuries-later translation of an entirely separate ancient book, but actually dictated direct errors into the text.
Some perfect book.
Mormons contradict themselves in trying to respond to these facts; for more:
1 Nephi (one of the books that constitute the Book of Mormon) chapter 22 directly quotes the prophet Malachi; there’s one problem: the alleged author of that book lived 140 years before Malachi. Similarly, at one point Mormon claims that the Red Sea is east of Israel, rather than south.
In reading the following, remember that the very spelling of the words was supposedly inspired by God.
MISSPELLED WORDS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
The original edition of the Book of Mormon contained dozens of misspelled words, documenting that the writer had a very poor knowledge of the English language. How could these misspelled words get into a translation allegedly being overseen by the “power of God”? Just a few such errors are listed below.
- “journied” (for journeyed; 1 Nephi 4:38; 5:6; 7:6; 18:25; 2 Nephi 5:7; Omni 1:16)
- “bellowses” (for bellows; 1 Nephi 17:11)
- “feading” (for feeding; Enos 1:20) •“sayeth” (for saith; Mosiah 12:21)
- “bablings” (for babblings; Alma 1:32)
- “tempels” (for temples; Alma 16:13)
- “yars” (for years; Alma 19:16)
- “phrensied” (for frenzied; Alma 30:16)
- “eigth” (for eighth; Alma 53:23)
- “adhear” (for adhere; Alma 60:34)
- “eatheth” (for eateth; 3 Nephi 20:8)
- “rereward” (for rearward; 3 Nephi 20:42; 21:29)
That this book is promoted as inspired by God is a reflection on God’s wisdom, and on His ability to produce a volume containing marks of inspiration. Would God inspire a translation in which corrections would have to be made in later editions? It should be remembered that Joseph Smith himself said that any mistakes were corrected as they were detected. The misspelled words alone show any claim of inspira-tion for the Book of Mormon is fraudulent.
ERRORS IN GRAMMAR
There are literally thousands of grammatical errors in the original edition of the Book of Mormon—errors that gradually have been changed in later editions. These take the form of such things as double negatives, incorrect adverbs and adjectives, and incorrect tenses. Note the following examples.
- “Behold, for none of these I cannot hope” (2 Nephi 33:9).
- “And Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could not understand them” (Omni 1:17).
- “And now behold the Lamanites could not retreat neither way” (Helaman 1:31).
- Yea, if my days could have been in them days” (Helaman 7:8).
- “And it came to pass that there was certain men passing by” (Helaman 7:11).
- “That all might see the writing which he had wrote” (Alma 46:19).
- “I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord gave these commandments” (Alma 13:1). [still exists in recent editions]
- “They did not fight against God no more” (Alma 23:7).
- “I have wrote to them” (3 Nephi 26:8).
- “I were about to write to them” (3 Nephi 26:11).
- “…the gates of hell is…” (3 Nephi 18:13).
- “…the multitude had all eat” (3 Nephi 20:9).
- “I Moroni have written the words which was commanded” (Ether 5:1).
- “The law had ought to be done away” (2 Nephi 25:27).
- “…which was wrote upon the plates…” (Alma 44:24).
- “Adam and Eve, which was our first parents…,” (1 Nephi 5:11).
- “…who was the most foremost among them” (Alma 32:5).
- “…that there might not be no more sorrow” (Alma 29:2).
- “And this he done” (Alma 2:10).
- In the first chapter alone of the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 1, which has only 20 verses), there are no less than four such errors. Two examples are: “My father had read and saw,” and “the tender mercies of the Lord is….”
The Mormon claim of accurate and precise translation for the Book of Mormon cannot be harmonized with errors such as these. A divinely guided book would not contain these kinds (or numbers) of grammatical mistakes, and to claim inspiration for such a book is to cast reproach upon God Himself.
The use of colloquial terms is apparent in the Book of Mormon. The frequent use of “a” with various participles is noticeable in such phrases as: “a journeying,” “a preaching,” “a marching,” “a point-ing,” “a preparing” “a coming.” Such terminology betrays the influence of the vernacular of the 1800s, and is not the language one would expect to find in writings of ancient times.
The writer of the Book of Mormon not only misspelled many words, but also had a practice of in-venting new, contrived words, or simply using words incorrectly. The following provide examples of such instances.
- “preparator” (for preparer; 1 Nephi 15:35) [still exists in later editions]
- “arriven” (for arrived; Alma 20:30)
- “numerority” (for a vast number; Alma 56:10)
- “molten” (for melt; Ether 3:1) [still exists in recent editions]
- “flatter” (for allure and instigate; Alma 52:19 and Helaman 1:7)
- “enormity” (for enormous; Alma 52:5)
- “arrested” (for wrested; Alma 41:1)
- “consigned” (for convinced; Helaman 7:9)
- “repair” (for recompense; Alma 27:8) [still exists in later editions]
- “ezrom,” “senine,” and “limnah” (coins; Alma 11:6 and Alma 11:3)
- “cimeter” (a sword; Enos 1:20)
- “neas” (a plant; Mosiah 9:9)
- “sheum” (a crop; Mosiah 9:9)
- “deseret” (a bee; Ether 2:3)
- “curelom” and “cummons” (unidentified animals; Ether 9:19)
Obviously these are contrived and misused words, and do not bear marks of inspiration. Since God is “not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), He would not have allowed such words to be penned.
In the original edition of the Book of Mormon, there is much evidence of fraud—that is, the use of words, phrases, and sentences that reveal an obvious attempt to deceive. Instances of this are so numerous and so blatant they cannot be ignored. The following provide just a few examples.
- Alma 37:38, dated at 73 B.C., speaks of the people using a “compass.” However, such an instrument was not invented until about A.D. 1100. How could there be a divinely inspired translation of a word describing something that did not exist? This is a mark of fraud.
- 1 Nephi 18:25, dated at 589 B.C., speaks of “horses” and “asses.” But, these animals were unknown in the Western Hemisphere until the Spaniards introduced them about 450 years ago. Can anyone honestly believe that such a bungled mistake occurred as a result of divine revelation?
- Ether 9:19 speaks of “elephants” being in America when the Jaredites arrived, which was supposed to have been around 2250 B.C. However, it is a well-known fact that elephants were not native to America. To suggest that they were is absurd, and proves the Book of Mormon to be erroneous. If someone were to argue that elephants might possibly have been brought to America in the Jaredites’ boats, such an argument could be disproved easily since elephants were not native to Bible lands either.
- Surprising as it may seem, no less than six times the Book of Mormon employs the abbreviation “&c” (and so forth), a usage peculiar to the nineteenth century (subtitle of 2 Nephi; Jacob 1:11; Mosiah 8:8; 23:5; Alma 3:5). It can hardly be suggested that such a symbol is a “translation” from ancient writings. This kind of mistake is clear and compelling evidence of the recent origin of the book.
- In Jacob 7:27, the French word adieu occurs. But how could a modern French word have found its way into those ancient plates? This is additional evidence of fraud, and presents grounds for rejecting the Book of Mormon.
- In Jacob 3:11 and Mosiah 29:14, the word “faculties” appears. However, this is a term dating back no earlier than middle English. Strange, indeed, that it would be “translated” from a word on an ancient plate dating over 1,000 years earlier.
- 2 Nephi 29:3 reads, “A Bible, A Bible, we have got a Bible…” This statement is made in reference to the Jewish Old Testament, which is dated at about 550 B.C. However, the word “Bible” is the English transliteration of the Greek term “biblos,” which came into use over 1,500 years later. In using the word “Bible,” the writer of the Book of Mormon made a serious blunder that shows the book to be of recent origin and, hence, fraudulent in its claims.
- 3Nephi 15:21 is a word-for-word quote of John 10:16 (from the King James Version). However, this version is somewhat less than 400 years old. And, to make matters worse, the Book of Mormoneven quotes the italicized word “and” that was supplied by the King James translators. Here, the writer of the Book of Mormon unwittingly demonstrates his work to be plagiarism.
- The entire fourteenth chapter of Mosiah, made up of 12 verses, is a duplication of Isaiah 53:1-12. Interestingly, all eleven of the italicized words in the King James text are quoted, yet none is placed in italics, which indicates that the writer of the Book of Mormon apparently was unaware that the KJV translators used italics to highlight words that were not in the original manuscripts employed in the translation process. Thus, Mosiah 14 had to have been copied from the King James Bible.
- Moroni 7:45, which is a quotation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in the King James Version, is another ex-ample of fraud. In citing this verse, the writer included the italicized word “easily” (“…is not easily provoked”). However, the word “easily” is not in the original, but was placed there (incorrectly) by the King James translators. [It is omitted, correctly, from later versions.] That the writer included this word shows that Moroni 7:45 was copied from the KJV.
- In 2 Nephi 31:13 and other places, reference is made to the “Holy Ghost.” But, the term “ghost” did not come into use until many hundreds of years after the Book of Mormon was supposed to have been inscribed on ancient plates. That the writer borrowed this from the King James Bible is indis-putable.
- The word “baptism” is found in 2 Nephi 31:13 and other places. But this cannot be an actual translation of a word found on ancient plates, because “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma, and was peculiar to the King James Version. This word is clearly a copy of an early English term, demonstrating again the fraudulent nature of the Book of Mormon.
- The word “epistle” in 3 Nephi 3:5 is an obvious copy from the King James Version. Like baptism, the word “epistle” (epistolos) was left in its original Greek form, but given an English ending. This shows the writer of the Book of Mormon was not very careful in selecting his words.
- The words “alpha” and “omega” appear in 3 Nephi 9:18. These, of course, are the English spellings of Greek words found in the Bible (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Since the Book of Mormon was not recorded in Greek, why were these words used? The simple fact is, they were copied from the King James Version.
- 3 Nephi 20:23-26, dated at A.D. 34, refers to Moses’ prophecy about the Christ (Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19). However, the writer unwittingly used Peter’s New Testament paraphrase of this prophecy (Acts 2:22-26), which was not written until around A.D. 63. This was almost 30 years too soon, and thus proves the Book of Mormon is a hoax.
- In the Book of Mormon there are numerous instances where the writer uses words that were not relevant to his time. Rather, these are words peculiar to the English spoken in the early 1600s (“prayest,” “durst,” “thou,” “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” “hast,” “doth,” “knoweth,” “hearest,” “cometh,” “thirsteth,” etc.). Did God really select these words for the Book of Mormon? This obviously shows the writer’s exposure to King James terminology. [NOTE: Scores of passages in the Book of Mormon, either in part or whole, exact or paraphrased, have been taken directly from the King James Version. Some re-searchers have estimated that as much as 4% can be traced to this English translation.]
These examples, and others too numerous to list here, clearly illustrate that the Book of Mormon is not a translation from ancient plates, but is instead of rather recent origin and therefore fraudulent in its claims of antiquity.
CHANGES IN CONTEXT
The first edition of the Book of Mormon contains numerous instances of extremely poor sentence structure, which for obvious reasons, were changed in later editions. Also, it includes several doctrines now considered false by leaders within the present-day Mormon church. In such cases, the texts have been altered in order to conform to what is being taught currently. Notice the following examples.
- In Helaman 1:16, there is an incomplete sentence that shows the writer of the Book of Mormon to be unfamiliar with proper sentence structure. In an effort to correct this embarrassing problem, two words were removed from the text, and a period was changed to a comma. The original reads, “…who was the son of Ammoron. Now Tobiah supposing that….” The corrected edition, however, reads, “who was the son of Ammoron, supposing that….” Obviously, this is not merely a typographical change, but a change to correct bad sentence structure. Would God have allowed such a mistake to be penned under His oversight?
- Mosiah 21:28 contains a very serious mistake. In this passage, “king Benjamin” is spoken of as being alive. Apparently, however, the writer forgot that fifteen chapters earlier he recorded this man’s death. What he meant to write was “king Mosiah.” The second edition of the Book of Mormon made this change. How did such a conspicuous mistake slip into a translation being overseen by the power of God? In making this change, the Mormon church has admitted the error.
- 1 Nephi 11:18 says of Mary, “Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God.” This glaring error was changed in the second printing with the addition of three words. It now reads, “…the mother of the Son of God.” The question is, which version is to be believed—Smith’s original, or the later, corrected edition?
- 1 Nephi 11:21 reads, “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father.” Such an idea is contrary to current Mormon theology, yet, this is the concept the original Book of Mormon presents. Thus, in order to remove the problem, later editions have changed the text by adding three words—“even the Son of the Eternal Father.” Again, one must ask: which is to be believed—Smith’s original, or the later, corrected edition?
- In Alma 5:48 is found the phrase, “…yea, the Son of the only begotten of the Father.” That the writer of the Book of Mormon states that Jesus had a son is another example of bungled writing. Later editions replaced the word “of” with a comma, making it read, “yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father.” Can anyone imagine God making such an error?
These, and numerous other textual changes in the Book of Mormon, have been made to correct bad composition and faulty doctrine. However, if this book had been inspired by God, errors such as these never would have appeared in the first place.
One might wonder why such glaring mistakes were not caught by the printer. The fact is, they were. However, John H. Gilbert, printer of the first edition, when asking Joseph Smith about the mistakes, was told to make no corrections. According to Gilbert’s affidavit, Smith told him: “The Old Testament is un-grammatical, set it as it is written” (Memorandum, John H. Gilbert, Joseph Smith Begins His Work, con-taining a photocopy of the first printing of the Book of Mormon, Wilford C. Wood). Apparently, Smith used what he considered to be grammatical errors of the King James version as justification to leave in his own mistakes.
The Book of Mormon contains several stories that, to say the least, are absurd, and which involve tales that strain common sense. Here are a few such accounts.
- Ether 2:6-25 and Ether 6:6 relate the story of how the Jaredites came to America in eight boats called “barges.” They were said to be “the length of a tree,” whatever that may mean. These were strange barges, for they were “peaked” at the ends in the shape of footballs and were sealed “tight like unto a dish.” They were like submarines, for they were sometimes “buried in the depths of the sea” like “whales.” But the story is made even more absurd by the fact that God forgot to provide any ventila-tion for the boats. After having this pointed out to Him, He directed the people to put a hole in the top and bottom of each boat. This was commanded so they could alternate plugging and unplugging as they tumbled in the sea. But God also forgot to provide for light. After being reminded, He asked what to do. He was told to make sixteen illuminating stones, two for each boat. Such a story not only is foolish, but is an insult to God’s intelligence in that it portrays Him as completely inept.
- Ether 15:30-31 relates one of the most peculiar and bizarre stories in the Book of Mormon. It tells of a man named Coriantumr killing a man named Shiz. “And it came to pass when he had smitten off the head of Shiz, which Shiz raised upon his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.” This is amusing. Imagine, a decapitated man raising up and trying to breathe! Isn’t it a fact that decapitation brings immediate death? And one is made to wonder if this “struggle” to breathe was from the mouth or the neck?
- 1 Nephi 5:14-16 tells that Lehi, a devout Jew, did not know from whom he descended. However, after reading some long lost plates, he “did discover the genealogy of his fathers” and “knew that he was a descendant of Joseph.” Now, since it is well known that the Jews were very careful in ac-knowledging and recording their ancestry, can it be believed that a Jew who “dwelt in Jerusalem all his days” (1 Nephi 1:4) would not be aware that he was descended from Joseph? Yet, this is what the Book of Mormon reports. It is evident that the writer of this book was not familiar with Jewish cus-tom regarding ancestral records.
Stories like these, which are easily documented within the text and that are too ludicrous to accept, establish the fact that the composer of the Book of Mormon lacked credibility.
CONTRADICTS THE BIBLE
The Book of Mormon contains numerous passages that contradict the Bible. The following examples, which still appear in recent editions, are conspicuous instances of such contradictions.
- The Bible says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1). However, the Book of Mormonreads: “And behold, he shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem” (Alma 7:10). The writer of the Book of Mormon simply did not have his facts straight. The common Mormon explanation for this is that since Jerusalem was so close to Bethlehem, it could be said he was born there. However, in the Bible, prophets of God did not make it a practice of just being “close” in their predictions. God would not have made such a mistake.
- The Bible relates that at the crucifixion there were three hours of darkness (Luke 23:44). However, the Book of Mormon states there was darkness “for the space of three days” (Helaman 14:20,27). Of course, this is a big difference. Which one is true? Can God be responsible for conflicting statements such as these?
- The Book of Mormon relates that at the tower of Babel the Jaredites had their separate language(Esther 1:34-35). The Bible, however, plainly states that “the whole earth was of one language” (Genesis 11:1). Apparently, the writer of the Book of Mormon mistakenly thought there were many different languages and that God confounded them while sparing the language of the Jaredites. The fact is, there was only one language and God confounded the people by creating different languages.
- 3 Nephi 11:8-10 claims that after Jesus ascended to heaven, He appeared in America to the Lama-nites and Nephites in A.D. 34. However, this clearly contradicts the Bible. Of the ascension of Christ to heaven God said, “Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstools” (Acts 2:34-35). How long was He to be in heaven at God’s right hand? “For he must reign, until he hath put all ene-mies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Fur-thermore, in referring to the ascension, the Bible speaks of Christ as He “whom the heavens must re-ceive until the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). Christ did not come to America—because He has been in heaven since His ascension.
- The Bible teaches that the church was established on the Day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2), which would have been approximately A.D. 33. However, Mosiah 18:17, dated at 145 B.C., has the church already in existence. This represents quite a discrepancy, to say the least. Obviously, both cannot be correct. [NOTE: This same reference from Mosiah also mentions “baptism” as the means of being added to the church. However, according to the Bible the baptism taught by Christ did not begin until New Testament times (Matthew 28: 19).]
- The Bible clearly reveals that the disciples of Christ “were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). This was approximately A.D. 40. However, Alma 46:13,15, dated at 73 B.C., has people already wearing the name “Christian”—which represents a difference of over 100 years. Which account are people to believe?
- The Book of Mormon teaches that “Melchizedek…did reign under his father” (Alma 13:18). Yet the Bible reveals that Melchizedek was a priest under no one. His priesthood typified the priesthood of Christ, and therefore was unique. In contrast to the Book of Mormon, the Bible states that Melchize-dek was “without father, without mother, without descent”—emphasizing that he did not inherit his priesthood (Hebrews 7:3). The writer of the Book of Mormon did not know his Bible very well.
- Ether 3:8-9 speaks of God having “flesh and blood.” Yet the Bible states clearly that God is a “spirit,” and thus does not possess a material body (John 4:24). In Doctrine and Covenants, another allegedly inspired writing of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith wrote: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (section 130:22). The Bible and the Book of Mormon both cannot be correct on this point.
- Mosiah 2:3 states: “And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings, according to the law of Moses.” This represents a blatant contradiction with the Bible, because the firstlings of the flocks were to be reserved for the Lord and given to the priests. They were never used for sacrifice (see Exodus 13:2,12; 22:29-30; Numbers 3:13; 18:15-18; 2 Sam-uel 24:24).
- 3 Nephi 18:28-29 speaks of those who are “unworthy” to partake of the communion, and suggests that such people should be forbidden to partake. This is an obvious reference to Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (in fact, the Book of Mormon has a footnote to that effect). The application made here, however, shows that the writer of the Book of Mormon did not understand what Paul was saying, and as a result ended up with a serious misinterpretation. Paul was not discussing man’s personal worthiness, or lack thereof. Rather, he was discussing the manner in which the communion was being partaken. The context makes this clear. The word “unworthily” is an adverb of manner, and points to the way or manner in which a thing is done. The church at Corinth was abusing the communion in the manner they were observing it by turning it into a common meal. The American Standard Version evokes the correct idea by employing the phrase, “in an unworthy manner.” By misinterpreting the word “unworthy,” the writer unknowingly demonstrated that his work was man-made.
It makes sense that if the translator of the Book of Mormon was guided by God, the volume would not contain such conspicuous contradictions with the Bible. Modern Mormon leaders claim that in the translation process, all mistakes were corrected as they were detected. This implies, then, that God some-how must have failed to detect these mistakes—a position that impugns the nature and integrity of God.
NO HISTORICAL OR ARCHAEOLOGICAL VALUE
In the areas of history and archaeology, the accuracy of the Bible is flawless—so flawless, in fact, that for years researchers of the ancient middle east used it as a standard. Its record of cities, mountains, rivers, seas, and other locations is completely accurate. Likewise, its references to various nations are precise. Many biblical places and people, which for centuries were unknown to secular history (such as the great Hittite nation), now have been discovered. Archaeology consistently has verified the Bible record. Yet the same cannot be said of the Book of Mormon. It records people and places that never have been authenticated. In fact, when questioned about its historical and archaeological reliability, major research institutions (such as the Smithsonian) have stated that it has none. The Book of Mormon contains numerous references to unverifiable people and places. For example, the following groups of people are unverifiable: Nephites, Lamanites, Jaredites, Amulonites, Zoromites, and Amlicites. The following places likewise are unverifiable: Shazer, Jershon, Jashon, Helam, Heshlon, Manti, Middoni, and many more. All of these names apparently are fabricated and, hence, are unknown to history and archaeology. How could the many great cities and vast numbers of people portrayed in the Book of Mormon have gone completely undetected during millennia of research? The simple fact is, such people and places cannot be documented to have ever existed—a problem with which modern-day Mormons have struggled, and one that they have attempted to solve in a variety of ways. For example, a brochure published by the Mormon-sponsored Brigham Young University suggested: “Though we cannot speak authoritatively or precisely about the location of Book of Mormon sites, we can—by a visit to Mesoamerica—create a mental tapestry resembling the land and circumstances in which the story actually happened” (Travel Study Update, 1990). In other words, the events described within the pages of the Book of Mormon cannot be documented historically or archaeologically, but they can be imagined.
JOSEPH SMITH’S CLAIM TO BE “AUTHOR AND PROPRIETOR”
On the title page of the first edition of the Book of Mormon are found the following words: “By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor.” The words “by” and “author” indicate one who composes or originates. The word “proprietor” denotes one who owns or has legal right to something. These words convey Smith’s original concept of his book. Can it be believed that God would allow an inspired writer to make such a claim? In the second edition of the book, this was changed to read: “Translated by Joseph Smith, Jun.” Why was this change made? The truth of the matter is that Smith and his followers realized this expression detracted from the claim of inspiration they were attempting to make for the Book of Mormon. The original reading on the title page ought to cause even the most zealous Mormon to have very serious doubts.
JOSEPH SMITH’S CLAIM TO BE “TRANSLATOR”
The claim that Joseph Smith was the “translator” of the Book of Mormon is erroneous. According to Smith, and other early Mormon leaders, he merely read the words revealed on the magical stones. This means all he did was dictate to the transcribers what he saw. To claim that he was a “translator” is to make a false claim, and shows that Smith and his followers understood neither the function nor methodology of a translator.
“WITNESSES” NEEDED FOR REINFORCEMENT
One of the most incredible things about the Book of Mormon is the inclusion of human testimony to verify its alleged authenticity. Three men signed a statement to this effect—a statement that appears in the front of the book. Evidently the writer of the Book of Mormon anticipated people would not believe the book, and hence felt the need for reinforcement through such testimony. It is inconceivable that after giving an inspired writing, God then would need men to sign a written statement testifying to its inspiration. In their statement, the three men claimed to have seen some plates, and further suggested that God Him-self told them the plates had been translated correctly. Eventually, however, all three of these “witnesses” apostatized from the Mormon church. Joseph Smith himself remarked: “David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them” (History of the Church, 3:232). Of the testimony of Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses, John H. Gilbert, printer of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, wrote in a sworn affidavit: “Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses…. I said to him, ‘Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?’ Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, `No, I saw them with a spiritual eye’” (Memorandum, John H. Gilbert, Joseph Smith Begins His Work, containing a photocopy of the first printing of the Book of Mormon, Wilford C. Wood). As if this were not enough, Smith apparently felt it necessary to have a second group of men sign a statement to verify the Book of Mormon—a statement that also appears in the front of the volume. The second time there were eight men, but the only thing to which these men testified was that Joseph Smith showed them some plates. They made no claim that God spoke to them. It is of interest to note that all but one of these eight men were conveniently in the Smith and Whitmer families. In addition, the reading of the original statement of the eight has been changed. The original contained the words, “Joseph Smith, Jr., the Author and Proprietor.” However, it now simply reads, “Joseph Smith, Jr., Translator.” This change obviously was made for the same reason it was made on the title page. Imagine the epistles of Peter, Paul, or John having attached to them written statements signed by groups of men to confirm their authenticity. The idea that God would need a signed affidavit from men to authenticate His Word is offensive, and nothing short of blasphemy. As one writer expressed it, a small child who has drawn a crude picture of a cat, and fears it will not be recognized as such, may write below it, “This is a cat!” Such an illustration applies equally well to the Book of Mormon with its “witness” statements. On the other hand, the work of a great artist needs no such verification, for the work will stand on its own merits. Such is the case with the Bible.
I think we can state with absolute certainty that the Book of Mormon is a modern fake, with no spiritual or historical value, and that it absolutely CAN NOT be and absolutely IS NOT inspired “Scripture”.