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Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon



Over the years, critics have stated that the use of the word steel in the Book of Mormon demonstrates that it is a fraud.  Elder Janne M. Sjodahl addressed this issue in his publication, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon*

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The success of Shule as a warrior is attributed to his superior arms.  The historian notes:  "Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn with him." (Eth. 7:9.)

Steel!  The Jaredites, in all probability, did not know iron in the particular form which we call "steel," but from the earliest days of history the people had a metal which in the Old Testament Hebrew

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is called nechushah and nechushet, and which our Bible translators have rendered "steel" in four places, and "brass" twice.  In Genesis 4:22 we read that Tubalcain, a descendant of Cain, was an expert in "brass" (nechushah), and Job says of this metal that it is "molten" out of the stone, using an expression almost identical with that of Ether.  In 2 Sam. 32:35, Job 20:24, Ps 18:34 and Jer 15:12 the same word has been rendered "steel."  It means, in fact, neither.  According to Gesenius it means copper, "mostly as hardened and tempered in the manner of steel and used for arms and other cutting instruments."  That was the kind of "steel" that Tubalcain converted into implements, and may also have been the kind that Shule used in making swords.10

The question of as to what extent hardened metal tools were used among the ancient Americans is not settled by scientists.  Mr. Earl H. Morris, who has spent many years in archaeological research in New Mexico and Southern Colorado, in a letter to the author, dated Aztec, N. M., Dec. 27, 1920, kindly answers an inquiry thus:

I have found but three examples of worked metal.  These were small sub-spherical copper hawk bells such as were in common use among certain Old Mexican tribes in pre-Columbian periods.  These bells undoubtedly were brought by trade together with parrot and macaw feathers from the distant south.  Objects of iron, hammered or cast, have not been found in 

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any ruins upon our continent.  The aborigines of the area in which I have worked used hematite and similar oxides of iron for ornaments and for pigments.  In the manufacture of the former, the natural pebble was reduced to the desired form by abrasion, a gritty sandstone being the usual abrading implement employed. 

I recall that two or three copper beads were also found in the great ruin at this place--Axtec, N. Mex.

On the other hand, Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill, who is connected with the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, and who has discovered remarkable ruins in Panama, reports in an article in World's Work for January, 1927, that he is convinced that the people who built there, as well as many other prehistoric races, possessed iron or steel tools.  How, he asks, can one explain the evidence of tool marks on much of the stone work?  Not the irregular indentations which have been, and very likely were, made by pecking with a stone hammer, but clearly cut, delicate lines and chisel marks?

He further says:

Indeed, less than two years ago, I was scoffed at for suggesting that an entirely new and unknown culture of great antiquity had existed in Panama, but we now have undeniable proofs of the fact.  Moreover, at a depth of five and one-half feet below the surface, at the temple site, among broken pottery and embedded in charcoal, I found a steel or hardened iron implement.  The greater portion is almost completely destroyed by corrosion, but the chisel-shaped end is in good condition.  It is so hard that it is scarcely touched by a file and will scratch glass, and with such an implement it would be a simple matter to cut and carve the hardest stone.

We can, it seems to me, safely accept the state-

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ments in the Book of Mormon on this subject and wait for further scientific discoveries.

10. This narrative takes us back to the beginning of the bronze age.  How far back the use of iron can be traced in this country is another question.  J. W. Foster says that in shell heaps at Grand Lake on the Teche have been found "unique specimens of axes of hematite iron ore," and that they were found in mounds covered with soil in which large oaks were growing and had been growing for centuries.--Prehist. Races of the United States, p. 159.

*J. M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, (The Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, UT:1927).