A Response to
The above paper by B. A.
Robinson appears on the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance web
In one of their documents, entitled "Opposition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," OCRT indicates that "the LDS church is in an unusual predicament over the Book of Mormon," which is considered to be "a direct revelation from God that has been preserved without error." While denouncing some unwarranted attacks against the LDS Church, the author then lists "some criticisms which appear valid."
Let's first note that the Book of Mormon has no claim to being "without error" and that, in fact, in several places the authors of that book indicate that they may have made mistakes. Even the Preface or Title Page, written by Moroni, acknowledges the possibility of errors.
Here are the specific criticisms and my [John Tvedtnes'] response to each:
The LDS church believes that the Book of Mormon was translated literally from the inscriptions on the golden tablets which were made about 600 CE. But the Book contains many passages identical to those found in the King James version of the Bible which was completed in 1611 CE (a millennium later). This shows that portions of the Book of Mormon were copied from the Bible, not translated from the tablets.
Except for the first few books, the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated were prepared by Mormon in the fourth century. The author has mixed up the arrival of the Lehi colony in 600 BC (or, as he prefers, BCE). The use of the King James language merely shows that this was the style Joseph Smith used for the translation, not that he "copied from the Bible."
There are several instances where forgeries by Christian scribes which appear in the King James version of the Bible also appear in the Book of Mormon. Two examples are:
1 John 5:7 which appears in 3 Nephi 11:27,36
Neither verse in 3 Nephi really quotes the Johannine Comma of 1 John 5:7.
That the members of the Godhead bear witness of
There are several instances where mistranslations in the King James Version of the Bible are copied over into the Book of Mormon:
Isaiah 4:5 and 2 Nephi 14:5 refer to a "defense"; it should read
The word "defense" in KJV English refers to any kind of shelter, including a canopy. Read as a noun with a prefixed preposition, the Hebrew word in Isaiah 5:25 would mean "as offal," but read as a verb, as the KJV translators did, it means "cut off" or "torn off." The author has opted for one of two possible renderings, probably because some modern translators have done so. It appears that he does not know Hebrew.
There are several anachronisms in the Book of Mormon: Nephi is described as having a compass when they made the trip to America circa 600 BCE. Compasses were not invented at that time. Nephi is also described as having a steel bow. Laban is described in 1 Nephi 4:9 as using a steel sword. Steel was not invented until after the bronze age.
The Book of Mormon doesn't claim that Nephi had a magnetic compass. The word "compass" existed long before the magnetic compass came to Europe, and referred to anything round, which is how the Book of Mormon describes the instrument (1 Nephi 16:10). Our magnetic compass got its name from the fact the 360-degree circle by which the earth is defined.
Yes, steel was not invented until after the bronze age, but Nephi didn't live in the bronze age; he lived in the sixth century BCE, which is the Iron II age. And need I remind the author that the KJV Bible uses the term "bow of steel" (2 Samuel 22:35; Job 20:24; Psalms 18:34)? I should also draw attention to the fact that he, like other critics, is too "hung up" on the meaning of words in twentieth-century English. The term "steel" existed long before the iron-carbon alloy to which we give that name. It refers to anything that is "hard." In fact, we still speak of a man being "steeled" or hardened. The biblical term "bow of steel" refers to bronze implements. I presume that Nephi's bow falls into the same category.
The Book of Ether (15:29-31) describes a battle in which Shiz was wounded and fainted from loss of blood. An opponent cut off the Shiz' head. Shiz then raised up upon his hands, fell, struggled for breath and died. Both the act of raising himself and breathing requires a working connection to a brain, which had previously been severed. The passage is obviously in error.
Just once I'd like to see what a physician might say about this. We always get this criticism from amateurs who know nothing about the autonomic nervous system (located in the spine) and who believe that all body actions originate in the brain. I don't know what was going on here; all I know is that Ether--who described the event from afar--thought that Shiz was raising himself up and attempting to breathe. That doesn't prove that the Book of Mormon is false. [For more detail click here.]
An American, James Adair, wrote a book A history of the American Indians in 1775. It attempted to prove that natives had descended from the ancient Israelites. This theme is also found in the Book of Mormon. On P. 377-378 of Adair's book, there is a series of phrases describing Indian fortifications. These are identical to the phrases which describe the construction of defensive forts in Chapters 48-50 and 53 of the Book of Alma. (The Book of Alma is one part of the Book of Mormon.) This would indicate that a part of the Book of Mormon was derived from Adair's book.
Since the Nephite fortifications also match the description of Israelite and Mesoamerican fortifications that have been excavated only since the publication of the Book of Mormon, there is no reason to suspect that Joseph Smith copied from Adair, any more than we should believe that Adair traveled into the future to read archaeological reports from sites such as Becan, Megiddo, Gezer, or Hazor.
Mormon researchers at Brigham Young University completed a computer analysis of the Book of Mormon which concluded that the book was written by at least 24 individual authors. But a multivariate analysis technique conducted by a group of British non-Mormons (1) revealed no such evidence. They concluded that the author of Doctrine and Covenants and of The Book of Mormon was the same person, Joseph Smith. Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, an Evangelical group known for its opposition to the LDS church, performed their own computer study. (2) They searched through the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price and concluded that they "were all the product of one mind", Joseph Smith.
I concur with the author's hesitance at accepting the "wordprint" computer studies, but for totally different reasons. I would also not view with favor the work done by the "British non-Mormons." And as for the Tanners, they did a totally different thing, having neither the computer expertise nor the linguistic skills necessary for such a study. By singling out the Tanners as authorities on the subject, when they merely looked up words using the Infobases database, and then used their own brains (and not computer programs) to analyze the material they found, the author does great damage to his credibility. This is particularly true since the Tanners are notable anti-Mormon critics who have openly acknowledged that even an artifact bearing the name of "Nephi," found in Mesoamerica by non-LDS archaeologists (should such ever happen) would not be sufficient as evidence for the Book of Mormon.
Smith visited the site of the plates on the Autumn Equinox, an important pagan seasonal day of celebration.
The author seems oblivious to the fact that pagans were not the only ones to celebrate the autumn equinox. In ancient Israel, Passover fell at the spring equinox and the feast of Tabernacles at the autumn equinox. A little more research and a lot less demagogic assertion would go a long way in making this web page more credible.
The Hill Cumorah where the plates were found does not appear to be a defensive fortification, but rather an Indian burial mound similar to many others in the area.
Right, the hill is not a "defensive fortification," but neither is it "an Indian burial mound." It is a lateral moraine, laid down anciently by a glacier. But since the New York hill is only the place where Moroni buried the plates and not where the great battle described in the Book of Mormon took place, who cares? From internal Book of Mormon evidence, the last great Nephite- Lamanite battle took place in southern Mexico.
Joseph Smith was once tried in Bainbridge NY in 1826 for fraud associated with a treasure hunt for Spanish silver. Court records are ambiguous; the trial was either concluded with a decision that Smith was an impostor or that he should be ushered out of town.
A lot of guesswork here! As it turns out, independent non-LDS witnesses indicate that Joseph was not found guilty and that, in fact, some of the witnesses testified that he was able to help them find lost objects by using the stone. I.e., the testimony presented at the hearing (not a trial) was favorable. [For more detailed information see, An Analysis of Wesley Walters' "Joseph Smith's Bainbridge, N.Y., Court Trials" by Malin L. Jacobs]
The technique that he used to translate the golden plates strongly resemble a popular divinitory method at the time, in which seer stones were placed in a hat and gazed upon. Smith is known to have possessed a Seer stone.
Again, I ask, so what? The biblical urim and thummim were stones used for divination by the high priest in ancient Israel. Is the author unaware of that masterful book on the subject by the non- LDS scholar Cornelius Van Dam, or the material on the urim and thummim and other divinatory objects in ancient Israel written by Ann Jeffers? Both are renowned biblical scholars.
Some people believe that if Smith had not been a fraud he would have retranslated the Book of Lehi from the original tablets.
Who cares what "some people believe"? The Flat Earth Society is alive and well in Great Britain, but the fact of their existence does not compel me to believe that the earth is flat. Why not look at the evidence instead of taking a public opinion poll?
Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans do not agree with findings by archeologists and genetic researchers. There are no signs of ancient civilizations in North America which did metalworking. Native Americans are most closely related (in terms of both blood factors and physical characteristics) to the peoples of Mongolia and elsewhere in Asia. Their ancestors did not come from the Middle East.
Since the Book of Mormon story takes place in Mesoamerica, not North America, these comments are essentially irrelevant. A number of prominent non-LDS scholars believe that there were migrations to Mesoamerica from both Asia and the ancient Near East. Their beliefs are not proof, but neither are the beliefs of those who think there were no such migrations. Genetic studies are, in fact, incomplete, and none have been reported for the area where the Nephites and Lamanites lived. Nor would they account for intermarriage with other native groups. Nowhere does the Book of Mormon say that all Amerindians came from the Middle East.
The racist revelation received from Moroni that blacks have been cursed by God with the "mark of Ham" appears incompatible with the rest of the Christian scriptures.
A strange assertion. The term "mark of Ham" not only does not appear in the Book of Mormon (in the writings of Moroni or other of that book's authors), it does not appear in any other LDS scriptures. This criticism is sheer invention. How seriously can we take these people when they have to make up lies about LDS scriptures?
Some Mormon ceremonies have strong similarities to rituals of the Masonic Lodge and were probably derived from the Masons. The use of ritual handshakes; their images of square, compass and rule; signs, etc. are either identical or virtually identical. The aprons are physically very similar. However, the Masonic apron is a symbol of protection, whereas the Mormon temple apron is symbolic of the apron of fig leaves that Adam and Eve fashioned for themselves.
The similarities are not "strong," as the author implies, and there are many more differences than similarities. The closest ties to the LDS ceremonies are found in early Christian documents, which describe both ritual handclasps and accompanying passwords. Some of these texts indicate that one must use these to pass through the veils or gates of the various heavens, where angelic sentinels are posted. Ritual aprons are also very old and were part of Old Testament priestly garb and are still worn by clergy in the oldest Christian churches. The square and compass and other such symbols are also rather old, with the earliest examples being found in medieval churches. The masonic tradition is that their rites descend from the temple of Solomon; if true, then Joseph Smith would be more suspect as a prophet had he not restored these. It should also be noted that a journal entry from April 1841, some eleven months before Joseph Smith became a mason, speaks of the signs and key-words of the priesthood, so Joseph did not have to borrow the idea from the Masons.
A common concept within the LDS church is that God is married to a person called "Heavenly Mother." This belief is rejected by many Christians who cite the Old Testament verse of Jeremiah 7:18. God expressed his anger at some of the people of Judah who "make cakes for the Queen of Heaven." The implication is that there is no such person, and that the people are worshiping a Pagan Goddess. In Jeremiah 44:24-28, Jeremiah prophesized [sic] that God would exterminate the people of Judah in Egypt because they promised to "burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven."
It may be a common concept, but no LDS scripture discusses the concept. Moreover, Jeremiah's discussion need not have implied "that there is no such person," only that she should not be worshiped. The author is only guessing here.
B. A. Robinson, Coordinator,
John A. Tvedtnes, Brigham Young University