Sunday, February 06, 2005

Is the Book of Mormon the Inspired Word of God? Part 1

As you’ve come to know by now, I am a firm believer in going straight to a religion’s holy text as the best way to determine whether or not a religion is true. This series on Mormonism is no different. In fact, there is so much to say on this topic that I’ve divided it up into 3 posts. The first post will cover the history and nature of the Book of Mormon. The second post will look at some of the changes made to the Book of Mormon over the past 150 years. The third post will look at some of the ethical problems I have with the Book of Mormon. As always, I will do my best, when possible, to provide as much citation for you as possible.

According to Mormonism, the true church was lost from the earth and God saw a need for its restoration. (Ironically enough, the Bible claims the exact opposite in Matthew 16:18, Click Here). God recorded an account of His dealings with the original inhabitants of the American continent between the years 2247 BC and 421 AD. Mormons claim this account was originally engraved on gold plates by ancient prophets, written in “reformed Egyptian,” deposited in a stone box and buried in New York. Joseph Smith was led to these plates and translated them through a “seer stone.” Smith was so confident of his find that he said “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth” (History of the Church Vol. 4 page 461).

The first issue I want to look at is whether or not these gold plates actually existed. The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold plates were eleven close friends of Joseph Smith (many of them were related to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. However, curiously enough, no neutral third party was ever allowed to examine them. On top of that most of these witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. In response to their abandoning him, Smith called them “liars.” Now I don’t know about you, but I personally find these circumstances rather suspicious and would be curious to see how the case for divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon would stand up under modern day courtroom cross-examination of these witnesses. For more information about these gold plates and the witnesses that later changed their minds about actually seeing them you can Click Here or for a list of resources Click Here.

Perhaps even more interesting than the lack of evidence for the gold tablets is the lack of any archeological evidence supporting the claims of the Book of Mormon. Interestingly enough, the detailed history and civilization described in the Book of Mormon does not correspond to anything found by archaeologists anywhere in the Americas. The Book of Mormon describes a civilization lasting for a thousand years, covering both North and South America, which was familiar with horses, elephants, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, steel, wheeled vehicles, shipbuilding, sails, coins, and other elements of the Old World culture. However, no trace of any of these supposedly very common things has ever been found in the Americas from that period and many of the features of the civilizations which really did exist at that time in the Americas are never mentioned in the book. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Book of Mormon presents the picture of a relatively homogeneous people, with a single language and communication between distant parts of the Americas. However scientists tell us that the history of the Americas actually shows the opposite: widely disparate racial types (almost entirely East Asian - definitely not Semitic [which the Book of Mormon states], as proven by recent DNA studies), and many unrelated native languages, none of which are even remotely related to Hebrew or Egyptian.

Friends, this isn’t looking good for a God who is supposedly trying to restore his lost church. However the ever zealous leaders of the Mormon Church have also noticed this problem. Instead of recognizing the obvious lack of divinity for their book they have spent millions of dollars on archeological excavations with the hope that science will back up their claims. Well those digs have been conducted time and time again and the news is not what they were hoping for. The Bureau of American Ethnology, National Geographical Society and the Smithsonian Institute have all issued statements very clearly stating their views on the Book of Mormon. All three unequivocally believe the Book of Mormon has absolutely no basis as scientific fact. The Smithsonian Institute even went so far as to say

“…Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.”

Now remember, the Smithsonian is only interested in scientific fact. They have no bias one way or the other, religious document or not. If you would like to read the entire statement by the world- renowned Smithsonian Institution regarding the Book of Mormon, Click Here.

I could go on and on about the archeological problems of the Book of Mormon but space won’t allow for it. If you would like some more information or to do your own research about the archeological problems with the Book of Mormon, you can Click Here. If you would like to read a fascinating article regarding the problems with the metals mentioned in the Book of Mormon you can Click Here.

So let me give a quick recap of what we have seen so far. We have a book that was supposedly inspired by God, seen by only a handful of people and several of which later recanted and said they made the story up. On top of that, three of the world’s leading archeological organizations have stated that there is absolutely no scientific correlation between the Book of Mormon and any archeological evidence whatsoever? And we haven’t even gotten into what the text says yet!

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