CES Letter – Question 4.
DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia. Why did the Church change the following section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition Book of Mormon, shortly after the DNA results were released?
“…the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians”
“…the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians”
(UPDATE: The Church conceded in its January 2014 Book of Mormon and DNA Studies essay that the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA . The Church, through this essay, makes a major shift in narrative from its past dominant narrative and claims of the origins of the Native American Indians.)”
In my “The CES Letter” section above I refer to the CES Letter as “poorly researched”. This question is just one example of why I say that. He makes the definitive statement “DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia“. My first thought when reading this was “what DNA analysis and who has concluded?” So I went to his link.
The only source that Jeremy is linking to is this Wikipedia article. A Wikipedia article, really? Well here is the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints’ 2014 DNA Studies essay Jeremy mentioned above “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies“. The conclusion of this essay reads as follows:
“Much as critics and defenders of the Book of Mormon would like to use DNA studies to support their views, the evidence is simply inconclusive. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples. Even if such information were known, processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration from West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed, “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”
I take the official church position because I am not a genetic scientist. And because it seems that scientific “facts” are really just theories; they are always changing. However here are some interesting sources other CES Letter responders have found regarding DNA evidence:
In 2013 National Geographic came out with this article entitled “Great Surprise”—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins“.
The Epoch Times came out with this article in 2014 “Anomalous Native American DNA: New Tests Show Middle East Origins?“. And that article links to this one on DNA Consultants “Old World Roots of the Cherokee by Donald N. Yates“.
Here is an article about the North American Hopewell culture. This article is focused on the Ohio area Hopewell and is called “Ancient DNA from Hopewell Ohio“. The Hopewell in general existed from about 550 BC (in the Florida area) all the way to about 400 AD in the Ohio New York areas.
Church Sinister Intent
One thing that I have found to be typical of critics of the church is that they always assume the most sinister intent behind everything the church does. They just know there is some giant cabal within the church who’s whole purpose is to deceive the people. Everything is a giant conspiracy with these guys. You will notice this kind of mistrust over and over as we progress through Jeremy’s CES Letter. Every accusation assumes the worst possible intent.
For example in this question Jeremy uses words like “conceded”, and points out a one word 2006 change to a non-scriptural introduction page originally added to the Book of Mormon in 1981. Again Jeremy has caught the great LDS Cabal in action trying to deceive! This is so silly.
Book Of Mormon Lands
The truth is the church officials have been all over the map in trying to figure out where the Book of Mormon events took place. In Joseph Smith’s day Joseph made reference to a few Indian tribes in the eastern part of the United States, and said that they were descendants of the Book of Mormon Lamanites. But most of these were not well documented statements, only being recorded by church members in their private records.
As time went on most of the leaders of the church adopted the theory that perhaps Joseph was mistaken about this, and that maybe the Book of Mormon lands were in Central or South America. And as I will show later there is evidence that even Joseph Smith contemplated these areas as possibly being at least part of the overall Book of Mormon lands. Here is a video by two men, Ryan Fisher and Wayne May Wayne May. Ryan is an investigative journalist who looks at the question “where is the Book of Mormon promised land? They focus on the Hopewell similar to my link about them above when talking about DNA. This is not that long of a video and is very well put together.
Horses, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheels, chariots, wheat, silk, steel, and iron did not exist in pre-Columbian America
during Book of Mormon times. Why are these things mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being made available in the Americas between 2200 BC – 421 AD?
Unofficial apologists claim victories in some of these items but closer inspection reveals significant problems. It has been documented that apologists have manipulated wording so that steel is not steel, sheep become never-domesticated bighorn sheep, horses become tapirs, etc.“
I know this particular question is one that really troubles some people, and I am not sure why. Scientists used to think things like horses, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, and elephants never existed on America at all prior to Columbus. Now they know at least horses and elephants were here up to about 10,000 years ago.
Prior to this discovery it was just as ridiculous to believe horses and elephants ever lived on the American continent at all. To me it just seems logical that if they could have made that mistake about horses and elephants, someday we may discover that horses and elephants were here during Book of Mormon times too. And the same is true about everything else on Jeremy’s list! (cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, wheels, chariots, wheat, silk, steel, and iron.)
They actually already have evidence for some of these things. Just to prove my point check out this article entitled “New Evidence for Horses in America” from 2018 on the Book of Mormon Central website. There is a recent study discussed in this article from Mexico where they carbon dated horses here 2,500 years ago during Nephi’s time.
And in the “Jaredites” video down a couple of videos below, as well as in the “Wayne May Fireside” video below, Wayne May shows archaeological evidence of elephants, horses, sheep and cattle, not only during Book of Mormon times, but in the part of the United States where Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon people lived.
There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to directly support the Book of Mormon or the Nephites and Lamanites, who were supposed to have numbered in the millions.
Okay lets pause this question right there for a moment and address what has been said so far. That is a pretty definitive statement again. Yet Jeremy could not be more wrong. There is archaeological evidence that directly supports the Book of Mormon; very good evidence. But before we get into the new world evidence, lets start with some really good old world geographical evidence. Please take a quick moment and watch this short video showing many of the actual locations that the Book of Mormon describes in the old world that Lehi and his family encountered on their journey out of Jerusalem.
This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists have developed the Limited Geography Model (it happened in Central or South America)…
The idea that Central and South America might be part of the Book of Mormon lands dates back to Joseph Smith’s time in 1841 (although as discussed above Joseph believed the eastern parts of the United States was, or at least was part of, Book of Mormon lands). It was in that year that Joseph Smith was given a book called “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan”. It was given to him from an member named John Bernhisel. See “John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon”
“On November 16, 1841, Joseph Smith responded to Bernhisel, thanking him for the gift:
I received your kind present by the hand of Er [Elder] Woodruff & feel myself under many obligations for this mark of your esteem & friendship which to me is the more [Page 213]interesting as it unfolds & developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprihensive.” (Joseph Smith’s original spelling and punctuation included.)
Also in 1842 The Times And Seasons, a church newspaper edited by Joseph Smith, published 3 unsigned editorials detailing theories of Book of Mormon peoples being in Mesoamerica. However, Mr Wayne May (see video below) claims that at least one of these unsigned editorials were done when Joseph Smith was not in Nauvoo.
…and claim that the Hill Cumorah mentioned as the final battle of the Nephites is not in Palmyra, New York but is elsewhere. This is in direct contradiction to what Joseph Smith and other prophets have taught. It also makes little sense in light of the Church’s visitor’s center near the Hill Cumorah in New York and the annual Church-sponsored Hill Cumorah pageants.
We read about two major war battles that took place at the Hill Cumorah (Ramah to the Jaredites) with deaths numbering in the tens of thousands – the last battle between Lamanites and Nephites around 400 AD claimed at least 230,000 deaths on the Nephite side alone. No bones, hair, chariots, swords, armor, or any other evidence of a battle whatsoever has been found at this site. John E. Clark, director of BYU’s archaeological organization, wrote in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies:
“In accord with these general observations about New York and Pennsylvania, we come to our principal object – the Hill Cumorah. Archaeologically speaking, it is a clean hill. No artifacts, no walls, no trenches, no arrowheads. The area immediately surrounding the hill is similarly clean. Pre-Columbian people did not settle or build here. This is not the place of Mormon’s last stand. We must look elsewhere for that hill.”
Compare this with the archaeological evidence of other hillside battle sites. Caerau Hillfort, in the Wales capital of Cardiff, was found to have abundant archaeological evidence of inhabitants and weapons of war dating as far back as 3600 BC in the form of stone arrowheads, tools, and pottery.
Compare the absent evidence of Book of Mormon civilizations to the archaeological remains of other past civilizations such as the Roman occupation of Britain and other countries. There are abundant evidences of their presence during the first 400 years AD such as villas, mosaic floors, public baths, armor, weapons, writings, art, pottery, and so on. Even the major road systems used today in some of these occupied countries were built by the Romans. Additionally, there is ample evidence of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations as well as a civilization in current day Texas that dates back at least 15,000 years . Another recent discovery has been made of a 14,000-year-old village in Canada.
Admittedly, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but where are the Nephite or Lamanite buildings, roads, armors, swords, pottery, art, etc.? How can these great civilizations just vanish without a trace? Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson was the founder of BYU’s archaeology division (New World Archaeological Foundation). NWAF was financed by the LDS Church. NWAF and Ferguson were tasked by BYU and the Church in the 1950s and 1960s to find archaeological evidence
to support the Book of Mormon. After 17 years of diligent effort, this is what Ferguson wrote in a February 20, 1976 letter about trying to dig up evidence for the Book of Mormon:
“…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archaeology. I should say – what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.”“
The statement of Ferguson’s letter that Jeremy quotes saying “…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archaeology. I should say – what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.” is simply incorrect (I will discuss Ferguson more in a moment). Here is a great video by Mr May about Book of Mormon archaeology evidence found in the eastern United States.
Between this video and some others of him I show below, Wayne May shows pictures of mounds all over Ohio and other parts of the eastern United States that contain archaeological evidence. He shows pictures of swords, knives and other items found in these areas and gives his reasons why he believes these to be Nephite & Lamanite artifacts.
He also shows earth walls with wooden post holes that he believes fit the description in the Book of Mormon of Captain Moroni’s fortifications around cities. It is very interesting.
Here is another one of Wayne May’s videos specifically about the Jaredites. In this video Wayne also shows archaeological evidence of elephants, horses, sheep and cattle, during Book of Mormon times.
I tend to lean toward the views of Wayne May and his “one Hill Cumorah theory”, but I know there are many who still believe that these things really happened down in Mesoamerica. So because of this I want to show a bit of evidence for that area as well. In February of 2018 the National Geographic published this article entitled “Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya “Megalopolis” Below Guatemalan Jungle“. Below are some pictures from this article.
The article reads in part:
“In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.
Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.
The project mapped more than 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala, producing the largest LiDAR data set ever obtained for archaeological research.
The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.”
Thomas Stuart Ferguson
Mr Ferguson is not someone I had ever heard about before until hearing about him in Jeremy’s letter. Upon doing some research about him (and I mean no disrespect to Mr Ferguson), but on this topic he is about as credible as the many Wikipedia articles Jeremy keep citing as sources. From what I have been able to find out about him he is a lawyer, not any kind of archaeologist or scientist of any kind.
“As [Professor] John Sorensen, who worked with Ferguson, recalled:
[Stan] Larson implies that Ferguson was one of the “scholars and intellectuals in the Church” and that “his study” was conducted along the lines of reliable scholarship in the “field of archaeology.” Those of us with personal experience with Ferguson and his thinking knew differently. He held an undergraduate law degree but never studied archaeology or related disciplines at a professional level, although he was self-educated in some of the literature of American archaeology. He held a naive view of “proof,” perhaps related to his law practice where one either “proved” his case or lost the decision; compare the approach he used in his simplistic lawyerly book One Fold and One Shepherd. His associates with scientific training and thus more sophistication in the pitfalls involving intellectual matters could never draw him away from his narrow view of “research.” (For example, in April 1953, when he and I did the first archaeological reconnaissance of central Chiapas, which defined the Foundation’s work for the next twenty years, his concern was to ask if local people had found any figurines of “horses,” rather than to document the scores of sites we discovered and put on record for the first time.) His role in “Mormon scholarship” was largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst.
Ferguson was never an expert on archaeology and the Book of Mormon (let alone on the book of Abraham, about which his knowledge was superficial). He was not one whose careful “study” led him to see greater light, light that would free him from Latter-day Saint dogma, as Larson represents. Instead he was just a layman, initially enthusiastic and hopeful but eventually trapped by his unjustified expectations, flawed logic, limited information, perhaps offended pride, and lack of faith in the tedious research that real scholarship requires. The negative arguments he used against the Latter-day Saint scriptures in his last years display all these weaknesses.” (See “A Tragedy of Errors“)
Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to many local names and places of the region where Joseph Smith lived.“
In speaking about above statement from the CES Letter Jim Bennett, the author of “A Faithful Reply To The CES Letter” said on page 43 of his CES Letter reply:
“I’m genuinely surprised this section is still in your letter. You have frequently admitted online that this is the weakest of all your arguments, and when you were crowdsourcing the writing of your document on Reddit, you said three years ago that you were “about 90-95% on removing the entire Book of Mormon Geography/Vernal Holley Maps out of the CES Letter.” Looks like the 5% prevailed, which is too bad. Even in a document riddled with sloppy scholarship, what follows is an exceptionally flimsy argument on your part.“
“The following two maps show Book of Mormon geography compared to Joseph Smith’s geography.
The first map is the “proposed map,” constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon.
Throughout the Book of Mormon we read of such features as “The Narrow Neck of Land” which was a day and a half’s journey (roughly 30 miles) separating two great seas. We also read about the Hill Onidah and the Hill Ramah – all place names in the land of Joseph Smith’s youth.
We read in the Book of Mormon of the city of Teancum named for a warrior named Teancum who helped General Moroni fight in the Land of Desolation. In Joseph’s era, an Indian Chief named Tecumseh fought and died near the narrow neck of land in helping the British in the War of 1812. Today, the city Tecumseh (near the narrow neck of land) is named after this Chief.
We see the Book of Mormon city Kishkumen located near an area named, on modern maps, as Kiskiminetas. There are more than a dozen Book of Mormon names that are the same as or nearly the same as modern geographical locations.
|Modern Geographic Place||Book of Mormon Name|
|Alma||Alma, Valley of|
|Noah Lakes||Noah, Land of|
|Oneida Castle||Onidah, Hill|
|Ripple Lake||Ripliancum, Waters of|
Source: Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look, Vernal Holley
Why are there so many names similar to Book of Mormon names in the region where Joseph Smith lived? Is this really all just a coincidence?
I find myself struggling to know what to say right here. I don’t want to be insulting to Jeremy. So I guess I will say this: If I believed the Book of Mormon lands were primarily down in Mesoamerica, would the similarities listed above make me believe Joseph Smith used towns around him to write the Book of Mormon? No, absolutely not.
As has already been discussed in this response, there is so much evidence that Joseph Smith did not write the text of the Book of Mormon, that Jeremy’s accusation “becomes as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”, (to use Paul’s words).
But given the work of people like Wayne May, native American names (or towns named after native American words) that are similar to Book of Mormon names, are faith promoting, not faith destroying. If you have watched the above video by Wayne May you already know what I mean.
But here is another one of his videos specifically on (you guessed it) Book of Mormon Geography. This video just destroys Jeremy’s claim, while at the same time building a great case for the Book of Mormon lands being in the area where Joseph Smith lived. Please watch it and see for yourself.
Here is an article about the North American Hopewell culture. This article is focused on the Ohio area Hopewell and is called “Ancient DNA from Hopewell Ohio“. The Hopewell in general existed from about 550 BC (in the Florida area) all the way to about 400 AD in the Ohio New York areas.
For this section I am just going to put my answers in between Jeremy’s comments:
Off the eastern coast of Mozambique in Africa is an island country called “Comoros.” Prior to its French occupation in 1841, the islands were known by its Arabic name, “Camora.” There is an 1808 map of Africa that refers to the islands as “Camora.”
The largest city and capital of Comoros (formerly “Camora”)? Moroni. “Camora” and settlement “Moroni” were names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd (a pirate and treasure hunter) which many 19th century New Englanders – especially treasure hunters – were familiar with.
This topic is not something I had ever heard about until reading this article. This Captain Kidd theory did not come out until 2013 when a man by the name of Grant Palmer wrote an article on it. The article was on the Mormon Think website, a website critical of the church at this url: mormonthink.com/grant11.htm. However as you can see if you click on the link it is no longer a good link. So I cannot read the article.
In fact, the uniform spelling for Hill Cumorah in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon is spelled “Camorah .”
Pomeroy Tucker was born in Palmyra, New York in 1802, three years before Joseph Smith. He is considered to be a contemporary source. This is what he said about Joseph Smith:
Joseph … had learned to read comprehensively … [reading] works of fiction and records of criminality, such for instance as would be classed with the ‘dime novels’ of the present day. The stories of Stephen Buroughs and Captain Kidd, and the like, presented the highest charms for his expanding mental perceptions
Some apologists say that Tucker’s Mormonism: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress is “anti- Mormon” and thus anything in the book cannot be trusted. If this is true, why then did LDS scholar and Church History compiler B.H. Roberts quote Tucker for background information on Joseph Smith? Also, FairMormon has an article in which they quote Tucker’s book 4 times as support for Joseph, and they even refer to Tucker as an “eyewitness” to Joseph and his family. Is Tucker’s peripheral information only useful and accurate when it shows Joseph and the Church in a positive and favorable light?
We are sorry to observe, even in this enlightened age, so prevalent a disposition to credit the accounts of the marvellous. Even the frightful stories of money being hid under the surface of the earth, and enchanted by the Devil or Robert Kidd [Captain Kidd], are received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths.
Notice that this is considered “prevalent” and “received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths.” The above contemporary newspaper quote from Palmyra, New York, in 1825 was not tainted by any desire to damage Joseph Smith. This article provides a snapshot of the worldview of 1825 New England.
The Hill Cumorah and Moroni have absolutely nothing to do with Camora and Moroni from Captain Kidd stories? Stories that Joseph and his treasure hunting family, friends, and community were familiar with? The original 1830 Book of Mormon just happens to have the uniform “Camorah” spelling? This is all just a mere coincidence?
UPDATE: Additional information and analysis can be found at cesletter.org/cumorah.”
What seems odd to me, if this is true, is why did nobody think of this theory until 2013? Joseph’s enemies in his day hated him so much that they killed him. Some of the men in the mob that killed Joseph had served very close to him in some of the highest positions of the church. Surely by the time they left the church they would have heard about Joseph getting these names from Captain Kidd.
The treasure hunting for Captain Kidd’s treasure in Palmyra was well known as shown above in the Palmyra newspaper. Enemies of the church in Joseph’s day knew about this because Joseph was always accused of being a treasure digger.
And yet nobody came up with this theory until Grant Palmer did in 2013? Does this seem reasonable to anyone reading this response? Please lay any biases aside you may have for a moment and just think about how unlikely this is. His enemies would have been all over this if there was any way for this to be true.
Jeremy Runnells said ““Camora” and settlement “Moroni” were names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd…which many 19th century New Englanders – especially treasure hunters – were familiar with.”
Oh my goodness. This is an out and out fabrication. None of the books about Captain Kid mentioned these two names. Even Captain Kidd himself in his letters only names nearby islands of Madagascar, Johanna, and Mahala. And so who cares if Pomerov Tucker’s book is correct and Joseph read stories about Captain Kidd. The books never mention the names Camora or Moroni.
From what I have been able to find out online about Grant Palmer, the best Palmer was able to actually say is that Kidd talked about hunting “in the vicinity” of the Camora islands. Again the Kidd books don’t mention the names Camora or Moroni. Palmer means Madagascar, Johanna, and Mahala, when he says “in the vicinity”.
And none of the maps that were available in Joseph Smith’s day had the city name of Moroni on the map. They had the name Camora on them, but not Moroni. They probably did not have Moroni on the map because the town was so small and did not become the capital of the Camora until 1876. So there was no way for Joseph Smith to have even heard the name of Moroni. It is unbelievable to me that critics of the church fabricate like they do.
Here is another really good Wayne May video called “Quick Start to Cumorah”.
“View of the Hebrews”
There was a book published in 1823 Vermont entitled View of the Hebrews. Below is a chart comparing the View of the Hebrews to the Book of Mormon:
View of the Hebrews
Book of Mormon
|1823, first edition
1825, second edition
|1830, first edition|
Poultney, Rutland County NOTE: Oliver Cowdery, oneof the Book of Mormon witnesses,lived in Poutlney whenView of the Hebrews waspublished.
Sharon, Windsor County NOTE: Windor County isadjacent to Rutland County.
|The destruction of Jerusalem|
|The scattering of Israel|
|The restoration of the Ten Tribes|
|Hebrews leave the Old World for the New World|
|Religion a motivating factor|
|Migrations a long journey|
|Encounter “seas” of “many waters”|
|The Americas an uninhabited land|
|Settlers journey northward|
|Encounter a valley of a great river|
|A unity of race (Hebrew) settle
the land and are the ancestral
origin of American Indians
|Hebrew the origin of Indian language|
|Lost Indian records|
A set of “yellow leaves” buried
in Indian hill. Elder B.H. Roberts
noted the “leaves” may be gold.
Joseph Smith claimed the gold
plates were buried in Hill Cumorah.
|Breastplate, Urim & Thummim|
|Prophets, spiritually gifted men
transmit generational records
|A man standing on a wall warning
the people saying, “Wo, wo to this
city…to this people” while
subsequently being attacked.
Jesus, son of Ananus, stood on
the wall saying “Wo, wo to this
city, this temple, and this people.”
Samuel the Lamanite stood on
the wall saying “Wo, wo to this city”
or “this people”.
|The Gospel preached in the
|Quotes whole chapters of Isaiah|
|Good and bad are a necessary
|Sacred towers and high places|
|Messiah visits the Americas|
Quetzalcoatl, the white
bearded “Mexican Messiah”
|Idolatry and human sacrifice|
|Hebrews divide into two classes,
civilized and barbarous
|Civilized thrive in art, written
language, metallurgy, navigation
|Government changes from
monarchy to republic
|Civil and ecclesiastical power
is united in the same person
|Long wars break out between
the civilized and barbarous
|Extensive military fortifications,
observations, “watch towers”
|Barbarous exterminate the
|Discusses the United States|
Elder B.H. Roberts noted:
“Ethan is prominently connected
with the recording of the matter
in the one case, and Ether in the
Source: Source: B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p.240-242,324-344
Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation during this time and before he went to New York to join his distant cousin
Joseph Smith. As you know, Oliver Cowdery played an instrumental role in the production of the Book of Mormon.
This direct link between Joseph and Oliver and View of the Hebrews demonstrates that Joseph is very likely to have been aware of the theme and content of that book. It gives weight to all the similarities described in the preceding comparison chart. Apologists may point out that the Book of Mormon is not a direct, word-for-word plagiarism of View of the Hebrews, and indeed that is not the claim. Rather, the similarities should give any reader pause that two books so similar in theme and content would coincidentally be connected by Oliver Cowdery.
LDS General Authority and scholar Elder B.H. Roberts
privately researched the link between the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews, Joseph’s father having the same dream in 1811 as Lehi’s dream , and other sources that were available to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and others before the publication of the Book of Mormon. Elder Roberts’ private research was meant only for the eyes of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and was never intended to be available to the public. However, Roberts’ work was later published in 1985 as Studies of the Book of Mormon
. Based upon his research, Elder B.H. Roberts came to the following conclusion on the View of the Hebrews:
Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or a half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.
While this does not prove that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from the View of the Hebrews, it does demonstrate that key elements of the story of the Book of Mormon – i.e. Native Americans as Hebrew descendants, ancient records of natives preserved, scattering and gathering of Israel, Hebrew origin of Native American language, etc. pre-dated the Book of Mormon and were already among the ideas circulating among New England protestant Americans.
With these ideas already existing and the previously cited issues with KJV plagiarism, errors, anachronisms, geography problems, and more issues to come, is it unreasonable to question Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon origins as Church Historian B.H. Roberts did?
This question falls into that category I referred to earlier as being “complete fabrication”. Anyone who thinks the Book of Mormon was even inspired by the “View of the Hebrews”, simply has not read any of it. Did Jeremy Runnells even bother to read any of the View of the Hebrews before making this claim? I sincerely wonder.
I challenge any reader of this response to go back up to where Jeremy links to the “View of the Hebrews” above, (I included Jeremy’s links) and read from the book for yourself. The book “View of the Hebrews” is not at all like the Book of Mormon.
I have not had time to read the whole book, but I have read quite a few pages. I read much of the first chapter of the book, as well as a bunch of pages scattered throughout. I made particular effort to read the sections that Jeremy sites and links to. I am left in disbelief that Jeremy would risk his credibility making such obviously false claims. But as we progress you will see that fabrications are standard operating procedure for Jeremy and his CES Letter. It is this kind of stuff that has caused Jeremy to get “all of the insane barage of abuse, character assassinations, hassles and attacks that I’ve experienced” that he complains about.
Nobody in Joseph Smith’s time accused him of taking anything from the book View of the Hebrews. And yet it was well known enough at the time that Joseph Smith quoted from the book in 1842 as evidence of the validity of the Book of Mormon. Think logically on this point for a moment. Does a fraud quote from his source in support of his fraud? That would not make any sense. See this next quote talking about this from Fair Mormon:
“There was, however, a reference to View of the Hebrews within Joseph Smith’s lifetime, but it came from the prophet himself. In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph quoted View of the Hebrews in support of the Book of Mormon:
If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt., who relates as follows: “Joseph Merrick, Esq., a highly respectable character in the church at Pittsfield, gave the following account: That in 1815, he was leveling some ground under and near an old wood shed, standing on a place of his, situated on (Indian Hill)… [Joseph then discusses the supposed phylacteries found among Amerindians, citing View of the Hebrews p. 220, 223.]
It strains credulity to claim that Joseph drew attention to the work from which he derived most of his ideas. Why would he call attention to the source of his forgery? ” (see Fairmormon.org)
To me this is such an obviously phony claim that all anyone needs to do to disprove it is read some of the View of the Hebrews, and then read some of the Book of Mormon. I don’t see any reason to respond point by point. But if you are looking for a response point by point, a man named Jim Bennett who did A Faithful Reply To The CES Letter, does a point by point response to it here: View of the Hebrews – A Faithful Response.
Also, here is a video regarding claims made by critics of the church about the View of the Hebrews:
Questions 9 & 10.
“The Late War & The First Book of Napoleon
These two questions are both so similar I am going to answer them together. The main accusation here by Jeremy Runnells is that Joseph Smith read through The Late War and The First Book Of Napoleon and stole biblical style words, phrases and themes to write a fake biblical sounding book people would think was scripture. Besides being completely provably untrue (which I will get to), such an accusation is illogical.
Does it make sense to anyone reading this response for a fraud, wanting to create a book that people would believe was scripture, to use as two of his sources, a school textbook about a recent war and a book about recent European history? How would that help him write something people would consider scripture? Are they his sources just because they imitate KJV biblical language?
Jeremy claims that these books are where Joseph Smith got his King James Version sounding language. But does this even make sense to anyone? Wouldn’t it make more sense to copy the KJV language directly from the bible itself?
And what about the “themes” that these two books share with the Book of Mormon? As we will show as we go through Jeremy’s questions point by point below, Jeremy is very deceptive and manipulative in the way he depicts his supposed similarities. But first before we get into that, take a quick few minutes and watch this short video. It does a brief highlight on The Late War compared to the Book of Mormon:
Okay here we go. We will start with the CES Letter’s question on the late war. I will respond to this in black text as we go through his question.
“The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain This book was an 1819 textbook written for New York state school children. The book depicted the events of the War of 1812 and it was specifically written in a Jacobean English style to imitate the King James Bible.”
Yes, and a KJV style language is the only similarity this book has to the Book of Mormon. None of the book’s stories resemble in any way the events of the Book of Mormon. There are no similar characters or religious content (other than a belief in Christ). The themes are even completely different.
“This affected scriptural style was calculated to elevate the moral themes, characters and events depicted in the narrative to inspire the readers to “patriotism and piety.” Readers already accustomed to revere scriptural sounding texts in the ancient Bible would be predisposed to revere this history book which employs the same linguistic style.”
So do other books from that time period. Jeremy has shown 3 himself so far in his CES Letter. Just because a book copies KJV Bible language, and was written before Joseph Smith’s time, does not make it one of his sources.
“The first chapter alone is stunning as it reads incredibly like the Book of Mormon:
1: Now it came to pass, in the one thousand eight hundred and twelfth year of the christian era, and in the thirty and sixth year after the people of the provinces of Columbia had declared themselves a free and independent nation;
2: That in the sixth month of the same year, on the first day of the month, the chief Governor, whom the people had chosen to rule over the land of Columbia;
3: Even James, whose sir-name was Madison, delivered a written paper to the Great Sannhedrim of the people, who were assembled together.
4: And the name of the city where the people were gathered together was called after the name of the chief captain of the land of Columbia, whose fame extendeth to the uttermost parts of the earth; albeit, he had slept with his fathers…”
No, it reads “incredibly like the” Bible. For example the phrase “and it came to pass”, or variations of that phrase, are found 526 times in the Old Testament and 87 times in the New Testament. Again does it make sense that a fraud would use a school textbook written about the war of 1812 in KJV English as a pattern to create a fake book of scripture? None of the themes or stories resemble the Book of Mormon at all. I left the links Jeremy included to The Late War. You can read the book for yourself, and then read from the Book of Mormon, and compare.
“In addition to the above KJV language style present throughout the book, what are the following Book of Mormon verbatim phrases, themes, and story-lines doing in a children’s school textbook that was used in Joseph Smith’s own time and backyard – all of this a mere decade before the publication of the Book of Mormon?”
I bet young Joseph Smith, when he read this textbook (which we do not know if he ever read) about the war of 1812, thought “my, these phrases are awesome! They would be great in a pretend book of scripture about the ancestors of the American Indians!” Okay Jeremy, let’s look at your “parallels“.
- “Devices of “curious workmanship” in relation to boats and weapons. – This phrase appears 4 times in this book, twice talking about a sword, once talking about some general “weapons of war” and once talking about fixtures on a steam boat. The bible uses the word curious describe objects. It even uses the words “curious works” in Exodus 35:32.
- A “stripling” soldier “with his “weapon of war in his hand.” – The Late War uses the word “stripling” twice. The first was describing a young random soldier who ran to his captain to ask if he could shoot one of the enemy with his gun (the weapon of war in his hand). The second makes reference to a commander, that he was a stripling. None of the story is similar to the stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon at all.
- “A certain chief captain…was given in trust a band of more than two thousand chosen men, to go forth to battle” and who “all gave their services freely for the good of their country.” – The certain chief captain spoken of here was “well stricken in years”. About the only similarity in the stories is that they both had armies of 2,000 men. The Late War is talking about battles in the war of 1812. The stories are not similar other than that they both use biblical type language.
- Fortifications: “the people began to fortify themselves and entrench the high Places round about the city.” – This is what armies do in war time defending cities. Fortifications is a KJV time English word. The stories are not similar.
- Objects made “partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball.” Jeremy should not have used this one as an example. This description sounds more like Daniel 2:33 in the bible talking about the prophesied image made “partly iron and partly clay”, than anything in the Book of Mormon. And as you can see it uses the words “curious works” just like the bible in Exodus 35:32. The object that is “partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball” is describing a “torpedo” which in The Late War is a floating bomb that sinks ships that run into them. I don’t remember any floating torpedo’s in the Book of Mormon. Just saying.
- “Their polished steels of fine workmanship.” – Remember the “polished steels” mentioned in The Late War are weapons from the early 1800’s, not Book of Mormon times. Again the stories are completely different, only the KJV biblical verbiage is similar.
- “Nevertheless, it was so that the freeman came to the defense of the city, built strong holds and forts and raised up fortifications in abundance.” – This is only more KJV biblical language. The language is all that is similar to BofM. Stories, themes etc. completely different.
- Three Indian Prophets. – In this reference in The Late War, the title “prophets” is used loosely. These were Indian tribe members making predictions about their battles with Americans in the war, and all their predictions were wrong, and the Indians were wiped out. This is the kind of rubbish Jeremy uses over and over again. By saying “Three Indian Prophets” one familiar with the Book of Mormon thinks of characters like the Three Nephites; total deception.
- “Rod of iron.” – Again a total deception. When someone familiar with the Book of Mormon hears the words “rod of iron” in a book as a “parallel” to the Book of Mormon, we think of Lehi’s dream. In the Book of Mormon the rod of iron was the word of God to lead people back to him. In The Late War the term is used as a description of British (enemies to America) thoughts of what they wanted to do to the Americans. The exact quote is “Then will we rule them with a rod of iron; and they shall be, unto us, hewers of wood and drawers of water.”
- War between the wicked and righteous. – From the author of The Late War’s view, the Americans were the “righteous” and their enemies were the “wicked”. Again not applicable at all in the way that the CES Letter portrays it.
- Maintaining the standard of liberty with righteousness. – The phrase “standard of liberty” is not used at all in The Late War. In fact the word “standard” is not used. Phrases like “sons of liberty”, “cause of liberty”, “land of liberty” and the like are used. But isn’t that what you would expect from an American patriot in the early 1800’s? There is no story similar to captain Moroni rallying his troops to go against the king men. There are American patriots rallying their men to defend against the British. Again Jeremy’s depiction here is deceptive.
- Righteous Indians vs. savage Indians. – As we all know from our early American history, some of the American Indian tribes were taught Christianity. Joseph would not have had to read The Late War to be aware of this fact. In the late war some of these sided with the Americans and fought with them. Other tribes sided with the British.
- False Indian prophets. – This is a duplicate. The only Indian prophets The Late War talks about were the “Three Indian Prophets” we already discussed above.
- Conversion of Indians. – As we all know from our early American history, some of the American Indian tribes were taught Christianity. Joseph would not have had to read The Late War to be aware of this fact.
- Bands of robbers/pirates marauding the righteous protagonists. – Jeremy’s intended link to the Book of Mormon here is the words “bands of robbers”. It kind of sounds like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon. These were merely pirates who were on the side of the British. Other than their theft and corruption, there is nothing similar to the Gadianton robbers. It does not talk of secret oaths or anything like that.
- Engraving records. – The word engraving is not mentioned at all in The Late War. The word “gravings” is mentioned one time. The context is a Commander Perry who won a battle was given medals and silver plates (dishes, not tablets) with writing on them honoring his victory. This is completely different than the golden or brass plates mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
- “And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the banners of the great Sanhedrim” compared to Alma 62:5: “And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in defense of their freedom…” – Again this is nothing but similar KJV language of things done in war time. The stories and context are completely different and do not relate.
- Worthiness of Christopher Columbus. – Early American history taught that Columbus was a righteous man. Joseph would have learned about it as he learned American history. He would not have had to read The Late War to be taught this.
- Ships crossing the ocean. – It is a good thing that The Late War spoke about ships crossing the ocean so that Joseph could use that idea for the Book of Mormon.
- A battle at a fort where righteous white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives driven by a white military leader. White protagonists are prepared for battle and slaughter their opponents to such an extent that they fill the trenches surrounding the fort with dead bodies. The surviving elements flee into the wilderness/forest. – Yes this doesn’t ever happen when an army is attacking a fortified structure.
- Cataclysmic earthquake followed by great darkness. – I could only find the word earthquake in The Late War 3 times. Twice it was talking about explosions that sounded like an earthquake, and once it referenced an earthquake that had happened ten years prior. One of the explosions that sounded like an earthquake was also followed by a tremendous black smoke that made it dark for a while. Again a lot different than the story in 3rd Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
- Elephants/mammoths in America. – I answered this above in Question 5.
- Literary Hebraisms/Chiasmus. – I have not been able to find anything on this point. If the author of The Late War did his book in a chiasmus then good for him. The Book of Mormon is full of complex Hebrew parallelisms such as chiasmus. A typical American in Joseph Smith’s day would not have even known what a chiasmus was (very few in our day do). There is evidence Joseph had no idea what they were because he divided Book of Mormon chapters in the middle of them, which is something someone knowing Hebrew would never do. (See Avraham Giliadi Interview.)
- Boats and barges built from trees after the fashion of the ark. – These were boats built in the 1800’s.
- A bunch of “it came to pass.” – Again, that phrase is mentioned 526 times in the Old Testament and 87 times in the New Testament.
- Many, many more parallels.” 75 “parallels” mention on this link come from a copyright statement many books (including the Book of Mormon) used during this time period. See here.
“The parallels and similarities to the Book of Mormon are astounding.”
I am very astounded at what Jeremy is calling “parallels“.
“This web page outlines very clearly and simply just how phenomenally unlikely it is that so many common rare phrases and themes could be found between these books without the Late War having had some influence on the Book of Mormon.”
The web page Jeremy links to here is filled with the same quality of “parallels” as I just went through for you point by point above. And here is a web page that shows why that web page is rubbish.
“Former BYU Library Bibliographic Dept. Chairman and antique book specialist Rick Grunder states in his analysis of The Late War (p.770):”
The presence of Hebraisms and other striking parallels in a popular children’s textbook (Late War), on the other hand – so close to Joseph Smith in his youth – must sober our perspective
Jim Bennett responded to this in his “A Faithful Reply To The CES Letter” by saying the following:
“When you offered this quote from the good Mr. Grunder in your previous version of your reply, you didn’t provide his credentials, and it was clear that he was the sole author of this deeply flawed study and the only source for this accusation against the Book of Mormon.
Here, you slather on the BYU cred and imply that “his analysis” is something other than the website and analysis upon which you’ve based this entire accusation. You seem to be making an attempt to hold up Grunder as a faithful, Church-approved source verifying someone else’s conclusions. That’s misleading, and it gives the illusion that more people than just this one guy think that these weak Late War parallels merit any concern whatsoever. Which, you know, they don’t.”
“The First Book of Napoleon
Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon:
The first chapter:
1. And behold it came to pass, in these latter days, that an evil spirit arose on the face of the earth, and greatly troubled the sons of men.
2. And this spirit seized upon, and spread amongst the people who dwell in the land of Gaul.
3. Now, in this people the fear of the Lord had not been for many generations, and they had become a corrupt and perverse people; and their chief priests, and the nobles of the land, and the learned men thereof, had become wicked in the imagines of their hearts, and in the practices of their lives.
4. And the evil spirit went abroad amongst the people, and they raged like unto the heathen, and they rose up against their lawful king, and slew him, and his queen also, and the prince their son; yea, verily, with a cruel and bloody death.
5. And they moreover smote, with mighty wrath, the king’s guards, and banished the priests, and nobles of the land, and seized upon, and took unto themselves, their inheritances, their gold and silver, corn and oil, and whatsoever belonged unto them.
6. Now it came to pass, that the nation of the Gauls continued to be sorely troubled and vexed, and the evil spirit whispered unto the people, even unto the meanest and vilest thereof…
…and it continues on. It’s like reading from the Book of Mormon.”
I wonder which book Joseph Smith plagiarized more of his KJV biblical language from, View of the Hebrews, The Late War or The First Book of Napoleon? Gosh, all three use some KJV biblical style verbiage, especially The Late War and The First Book of Napoleon, so it is hard to tell. Or, since The First Book of Napoleon was written first (in 1809), maybe The Late War (published in 1816) plagiarized The First Book of Napoleon! But wait, View of the Hebrews wasn’t published until 1823. I wonder how much of it’s KJV language was taken from these other two books!
“When I first read this along with other passages from The First Book of Napoleon, I was floored.”
Hmm, Jeremy was “stunned” and “astounded” by The Late War so called “parallels“. His arguments must hold water then right?
“Here we have two early 19th century contemporary books written at least a decade before the Book of Mormon that not only read and sound like the Book of Mormon but also contain so many of the Book of Mormon’s parallels and themes as well.”
No. What Jeremy has shown us almost exclusively is hand picked words selected in a way that makes them sound on the surface as similar to the Book of Mormon. But when you read those words in their actual context, they show no parallel or similarities at all. Neither are the themes or stories in either book similar to the Book of Mormon.
“The following is a side-by-side comparison of selected phrases the Book of Mormon is known for from the beginning portion of the Book of Mormon with the same order in the beginning portion of The First Book of Napoleon (note: these are not direct paragraphs):
THE FIRST BOOK OF NAPOLEON
Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon… upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem…because of the perverse wickedness of the people.
BOOK OF MORMON
Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi… upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people.“
These above two quotes (and I use the word “quotes” very very loosely), are about as intentionally deceptive as one can get. I just don’t understand how anyone can trust anything that comes out of Jeremy’s mouth, once he does something like this.
Here is what I am talking about. Read the above two quotes, one from The First Book of Napoleon, and one from the Book of Mormon. Now notice that I put all of the ellipses (three dots) in both of the above quotes in red to make them stand out more. An ellipsis means that words are missing there.
Both of these two quotes are put together by Jeremy Runnells to look like they are paragraphs, very similar paragraphs. Right? Isn’t that his whole point? And yet if you search both books you will never find paragraphs that read like this, because they do not exist. In each of the ellipsis you won’t just find one or two words not included, but whole paragraphs and pages; sometimes multiple pages. Jeremy literally skimmed pages and pages of text until he found words he could group together like this to look like they were similar.
In case my description was not totally clear I include the following video. In this video (later in the video) they show how far apart these words are from each other on the pages of both books. It is unreal how intentionally deceptive the CES Letter author is being with the above two quotes.
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