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Debunking the CES Letter
“The Idiot’s Guide to Using Critical Reasoning Against Anti-Mormon Material”
The Internet has changed the way we view information. We can search and find just about anything now (including anti-Mormon material), but much of what we find is boiled-down blurbs of meme’s and buzzwords. And, in a big way, it has changed people’s ability to question the accuracy of, or at least the circumstances surrounding, those facts and details.
That was what I found in reading the CES Letter by Jeremy Runnels. I actually engaged with Jeremy briefly through a mutual acquaintance on Facebook. I think he was a very smart guy putting it all together, but there are blatant errors and issues that continue to exist even in his 2nd edition. He told me that if I could prove him wrong, that he would remove those items from his letter.
He seemed rather confident because FARMS tried to answer some things, but somehow, FARMS misses the point on some basic issues. It’s like they are trying too hard, or “looking beyond the mark”. Anyway, after I’m done, and if Jeremy keeps his word, the CES Letter will be a very short document. Although, he is too heavily invested in his belief system and will likely use moving the goalpost tactics and presenting red herrings to rejustify his position, as he did when responding to the FAIR Mormon rebuttal. But, we will see if he keeps his word.
Before we start, though, it’s important to understand choice. The “ability to choose” is fundamentally the most important aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was this foundation that caused the War in Heaven. Lucifer wanted to take away man’s ability to choose. But, it’s simply not possible to remove choice and allow mankind to learn and grow. Our Will is our own. It is truly the only thing that we do own. It’s also the only truly thing that God asks us to give up.
Having said that, there must be evidence on both sides in order to justify our choices. If God were to prove the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith beyond any reasonable doubt, it would remove choice. We would have to follow Him, because there would be no other way. If we didn’t follow it would be open rebellion, because we had knowledge and proof. Therefore, there could be no Mercy, and only Justice could have claim. This would thwart the entire need for the Atonement and the frustrate the Plan of Salvation. It follows that faith, without proof, provides access to both Justice and Mercy.
To continue, there is sufficient evidence to support the Book of Mormon as scripture and Joseph Smith as a prophet. There is also evidence to reject them. One way will lead closer to God and the other leads away. So, we have a choice. It is up to you which way you will decide.
This document was created to provide sufficient evidence that the Mormon Church is true. And that the evidence on the other side is not as sufficient as what anti-Mormons want everyone to believe. So, let’s jump right in and start answering these questions:
1. What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? A purported ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?
When I first read that, my mind went, “Huh? What errors are unique to the 1769 edition of the King James Version?” After all, the King James Version is just a reprint of the 1611 Authorized Version that King James of England requested. (One of the first things I did was to compare editions between the 1611 Authorized Version and the 1769 King James Version. Nope, these versions matched verse for verse with no changes, therefore there is nothing “unique” about the 1769 edition.)
When you click on the link for errors, it takes you to Jeremy’s website that contains a list of “errors” and the supposedly “correct translation”. However, just glancing over the list I immediately detected several “errors” that were not actual errors. Now I was curious as to who was declaring these actual errors “correct” and correct translations as “errors” found in the King James Version.
I didn’t have to look far, by clicking on another link, it shows that the “errors” come from comparing modern English versions (specifically the RSV and ISV) against the King James Version. However, there is a glaring issue here as there is a reason there is a huge King James Only Movement among Christians today. Understanding this issue is important for Mormons as to why we still use the KJV of the Bible today.
Around 1560 AD, Queen Elizabeth broke from the Papal Authority of the Catholic Church and started the Church of England as a Protestant religion. The Church of England was a state religion and she tried to specifically stamp out Catholicism (rather ruthlessly I might add). But, as a consequence, she also suppressed other Protestant sects like Calvinism as well. The Church of England had a liturgy (written structure) and had retained a priesthood (structured clergy), similar to the Catholic Church that their Reformed counterpart did not.
In 1603, the Queen died having no heir. Her grandfather, King Henry VII, was also the great grandfather of King James IV of Scotland, and so James had claim to the English throne. In that same year he became King James I of England, and in doing so, he also became The Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
During this time there were several competing Bibles by Catholics and Reformed theologians. In 1604 King James sought to legitimize the Church of England and authorized an English translation that still had ties to priesthood authority while rejecting Catholicism. It was a unique translation favoring neither Catholicism or Reformed. In other words, it lacked bias in either extreme.
Today’s modern Bibles have no such restraint and are distinctly Reformed in their bias. And not just a small one, a huge bias. One example is since they have no “priesthood”, they have simply removed anything to do with priesthood authority in modern Bibles.
There is a second major reason to NOT trust modern Bibles. The idea of modern translations is the use of “older texts”. They say the older the text, the closer it gets us to the original text, therefore the more accurate it must be. While that might be true in other cases, it is not with Biblical texts. What they fail to realize is just how quickly the ancient texts of the Bible became corrupt.
The codices of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are some of the oldest known manuscripts, written around 330 AD. However, they have at least 40 verses missing from manuscripts that the KJV is based on. One section of verses that are missing from these manuscripts is Mark 16:9-20. Yet, 150 years earlier, Irenaeus quotes a verse from that missing text and places it distinctly in the Gospel of Mark. Irenaeus writes, “Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says,” and then he quotes Mark 16:19 almost word for word. Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 10) Tatian also quotes almost every verse in The Diatessaron over a dozen years before Irenaeus (see Section 53 and Section 55). And Justin Martyr quotes it even earlier than that.
So, either these early Church theologians created all the text missing in Mark and added it very early on (unlikely due to the context, they were quoting Mark, not making commentary), or these men copied the verses as they received them and they were then removed before those earliest codices were written (more likely removed by using Occam’s Razor).
Almost all modern English of the Bible versions (including versions the CES Letter compares with the KJV) are based on these particular codices, and therefore all those “modern” Bibles are corrupt. Not a good start for an opening attack on the Mormon Church, Jeremy.
As I went down through the list of “errors” and compared the original Hebrew, in almost every case, the true error was the modern translation. I also engaged briefly with the author of the list of so-called “errors”, and asked him specifically why certain words were “wrong”. He replied that because there is a “better word” that fits. “Huh?” Just because there is a “better word” doesn’t make the existing word “wrong”. As long as the word conveys the proper meaning, especially in a translation, it cannot be “wrong”. He refused to engage further on why they were “wrong”, but it demonstrated the mentality of these people that criticize Mormonism. They think if it’s not perfect, it’s “wrong”. This creates a fallacy called a false dilemma through a form of equivocation (saying their definition is the only correct one).
To see a point-for-point refutation of each “error” on the list you can click here: http://www.ldschristian.org/1769errors
2. When King James translators were translating the KJV Bible between 1604 and 1611, they would occasionally put in their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV Bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record? (emphasis added)
Again, “Huh?” Or, I should say, “Duh!” Of course the translators are going to put their own words into the text to make it more readable. Otherwise the translation of Isaiah 9:1 would look like this:
There not the dimness for her who in her vexation to when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali and afterward did more grievously afflict the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations.
Malachi 3:10 would likewise read:
… and pour you out to a blessing that not enough.
So, Jeremy, you answered your own question. During the translation process any translator is going to put into their own words the meaning of the original text. The translators of the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible were inspired by God to convey the meaning from Hebrew into English.
Likewise, 200 years later, God inspired Joseph Smith to convey the same meaning from Hebrew into English (remember, the characters on the Golden Plates were Reformed Egyptian but the language was Hebrew). Note that Oliver Cowdery, as his scribe, did not write any words in italics (is that even possible?), he just wrote the translation as Joseph dictated it.
There is no mystery here, move along…
3. The Book of Mormon includes mistranslated biblical passages that were later changed in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. These Book of Mormon verses should match the inspired JST version instead of the incorrect KJV version that Joseph later fixed. A typical example of the differences between the BOM, the KJV, and the JST: (proceeds to quote Matthew 6:25-27)
“Mistranslated? Huh?” Where are you getting the idea that the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) “fixed” Matthew 6:25-27 as a “mistranslation” in the Bible. The JST didn’t “fix” anything, it was just made “better”, clearer, and increased our understanding of the subject. It does NOT invalidate the original translation. This comes back to the same issue above where the critic claimed if there was a “better word” that the existing translation must be “wrong”. This is a fallacy. It creates a false dilemma. And, it is completely untrue. Just because there is “something better”, it does not make the original wrong.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in the Bible and the Book of Mormon are identical. But Joseph Smith later corrected the Bible. In doing so, he also contradicted the same identical Sermon on the Mount passage in the Book of Mormon. (Emphasis added)
In addition, the JST does not “contradict” anything in the Book of Mormon. Again, false dichotomy thinking is not logical reasoning, but based on cognitive bias. So, I will put it back on the author. Prove that the JST says the opposite of (“contradicts”) what is found in the BoM anywhere or remove it from the Letter.
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?
“Has concluded …” I really hate that statement. The argument it tries to create is that, “the science has been settled”, which is more of a political affirmation than a scientific one. If DNA analysis has settled the issue, then how does science explain Haplogroup R1, and the following map? DNA patterns found in Native Americans skip East Asia completely.
Note from the wikipedia: Haplogroup R1 is the second most predominant Y haplotype found among indigenous Amerindians after Q. Haplogroup Q is seen all over Asia and Siberia, and is the one Jeremy is using to make his fallacious argument. That doesn’t mean there are not other haplogroups.
Another DNA grouping, to a lesser extent, is Haplogroup X? While this is a smaller haplogroup, it doesn’t even come near Asia. These are DNA sequences common in Native Americans. Here’s the map:
As we can see from the previous two maps, there is DNA from many Native Americans that have high concentrations in the the American continents and Middle East (Israel). What is conspicuously missing is anything in Asia.
It follows then that Jeremy’s statement, “DNA analysis has concluded,” that Native Americans originate only from Asia is just an idiotic claim. It should be removed from the Letter. In addition, there is evidence was no “migration” over some “land bridge”. There are a number of interesting scientific papers that say that the founding population of the New World is closer to 70 people, with some saying as few as six founding mothers.
While Haplogroup X and R1 are not used as an effort to prove that Native Americans are descended from Lehi (since he came by boat), it is positive evidence for the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith uniquely brought together multiple “founding populations” that actually matches DNA models. Mulek and the people of Zarahemla are a likely source for Haplogroup X and R1 as they may have come through Europe.
The problem is, we do not have any of the source DNA from any of the men or women named in the Book of Mormon, so whatever DNA “proof” anti-Mormons have against that is simply a fallacy called argument from ignorance, and makes for a very weak argument.
So, I will offer my own theory here. What we do know is that Lehi’s lineage is from Manasseh and Ishmael was of Ephraim. Around 740 BC, those lines of ancestry were “carried away” into Assyria (modern-day Iraq). It follows that there would actually be a very low concentration of their DNA found in the Jerusalem area. We would expect to see their lines of DNA coming from Iraq/Iran and moving northward and eastward into Russia and China. Which happens to map Haplogroup Q quite nicely!
Around 600 BC, the families of Lehi and Ishmael departed from the Arabian Peninsula and traveled eastward across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas. They met up some 400 years later (around 200 BC) with the descendants of Mulek in the city of Zarahemla. Mulek was of Jewish royalty and was from the tribe of Judah. He and his people took the European route to America creating Haplogroups X and R1.
Around 60 BC, Hagoth and his group built several ships that sailed north from Bountiful into the “West Sea”. Corianton, the one that slept with the prostitute, left on one of the ships to the North (Alma 63:10). Note that these were big ships with lots of provisions, and they didn’t come back, so it wasn’t just a lake. They sailed north along the Pacific Coast through Alaska and the Bering Strait where they found and settled in the lands of Siberia, China, and Japan and intermarried with the people there. This reintroduced a more pure Haplogroup Q DNA as it moved from North American over the “land bridge” to Asia and combined with the diaspora from the Assyrian conquest. Therefore, it would be expected that Asians would share Native American DNA.
My theory matches the data better than anything scientists have come up with. So, prove my theory wrong. If you can’t, then DNA analysis has concluded that I am right, and that the science is settled. (Note the sarcasm).
I think now would be a good time to address an issue that will be recurring throughout this document. It affects a lot of questions brought up in the CES Letter by how we scientifically view history through the dating of artifacts and bones.
Critics of my theory about DNA are going to cite how North America was supposedly settled “thousands of years” before the Book of Mormon events were supposed to take place. Those “thousands of years” come from radiocarbon dating.
The fact is, radiocarbon dating of Carbon-14 (aka 14C) is not as reliable as scientists make the masses believe. I should clarify, the theory behind radiometric dating is solid, if we lived in a perfect world. However, we do not. There are too many unknowns, like the starting amounts of C-14, things that cause radioactive isotopes to decay faster than they normally would, and why errors in dating specimens do not match their known calendar dates.
Evolutionists are aware of some of these and try to explain away the reasons. They do have answers for why a freshly killed seal was C-14 dated 1,300 years old, living mollusk shells dated up to 2,300 years old, and shells from living snails dated 27,000 before present. This is due to the “reservoir effect” and is addressed by scientists. How? By simply no longer dating anything that has been subject to the “reservoir effect”.
But, they do not have any answers for others. For example, why do bones dating 30,000 years ago lay on top of wood that dates 16,000 years ago. Mortar from Oxford Castle in England gave an age of 7,270 years. The castle was built about 800 years ago. Dates from a city in Iraq have a 6,000 year spread, but the city was only occupied for 500 years. (See Carbon 14 Dating heading)
This quote from the same site is particularly damning to Jeremy’s theories here in America that will be addressed.
The last major glacial advance in America was long dated at about 25,000 years ago. C14 dates forced a revision down to 11,400 years. The United State Geological Survey carried out studies that gave a C14 date as recent as 3300 years ago, but no text treats such a puzzling find that falls well within historic times (Velikovsky, 1955, p.158-159; CRSQ , 1968, 5:2, p.67). Here is a remarkable example of C14 difficulties in a book published by Stanford University Press. Six C14 ages were determined from a core in an attempt to date the formation of the Bering Land Bridge. The dates ranged from 4390 to 15,500 Before Present.
This actually places Book of Mormon events within reach. The Jaredites came over 5,000 years ago, and if the Ice Age was 3,300 years ago…
The problem is, scientists have an agenda. If certain dates do not meet their agenda, they drop them:
Even more astonishing is this cynical statement made at a symposium of Nobel Prize winners in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1969: If a C14 date supports our theories, we put it in the main text. If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote. And if it is completely ‘out of date,’ we just drop it (Pensee , Winter 1973, p.44).
In conclusion, it is unknown how many Carbon-14 dates meet the Book of Mormon criteria, and are just dropped, simply because they did not meet the accepted theory of evolution criteria. It follows that any argument that relies on Carbon-14 dating is highly suspect.
Back to the CES Letter…
5. Anachronisms: 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?
“Did not exist?” And you know this how?? This argument is just bad as it uses the argument from ignorance and cherry picking fallacies. Ignorance because of lack of evidence proves nothing, and cherry picking because it suppresses the positive evidence found by archeologists. The problem is that these fallacies ignore one huge gaping hole. That hole is just how fast the evidence disappears on the American continents. We have a tough time finding certain things that disappeared 200 years ago, much less 2,000. I think it fitting what Hugh Nibley said about the subject. “People underestimate the capacity of things to disappear.”
The problem is anti-Mormons like to play word games. This is another fallacy known as equivocation. In the process of translation, the idea is to get the correct meaning across, not the exact definition of a word across. A “steel bow” is the perfect example as there are other books written in the 1800s that describe ancient Chaldean, Assyrian, and Babylonian hardened iron metals, or even bronze, as “steel”. “Steel” was a perfectly acceptable translation of “hardened metal” at that time, and should be today.
The same principle exists for all the anachronisms listed. We find some of these anachronisms used for animals that are extinct. Using “accepted” scientific radiocarbon dating, man entered the Americas before their extinction. So, there is accepted proof these animals and man lived at the same time. They were hunted by man. They were likely domesticated by man. Considering that radiocarbon dating is not reliable, it’s not only possible, but probable that these animals were around for the people of the Book of Mormon.
With that in mind, I don’t have an answer for every single one, but we certainly can examine some of these:
- Horses – There were many breeds of horses that existed on the American continent. They were quite common and are members of the Equus family. Scott’s horse, the Western Horse, and the Yukon horse just to name a few. Note, these horses are horses, NOT tapirs. They could easily pull a chariot.
It is claimed that horses were killed off in the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. However, skeletal remains of these horses are found as far south as Chile, so any claimed ice age extinction would have to explain why the ice age covered both continents of North and South America.
It follows that scientists have proven the existence of horses in America and it should not only be removed from the list of negatives, but added to the list of positive evidence for the Book of Mormon. It is up to the critic to prove these horses became extinct before the Book of Mormon times. Or do they lack the evidence?
- Elephants – Proboscidea. Easy. This taxonomic family includes the wooly mammoth and the american mastodon. Both of these were hunted (and possibly domesticated) by humans in America. What is interesting is that only the Jaredites saw these animals. They are not mentioned by the Nephites. IF they did become extinct in the ice age at 1,300 B.C. (as timed by the USGS), this would match the Book of Mormon perfectly. I just gave proof they existed in America, and as with horses, it is up to the critic to prove these became extinct before the Book of Mormon times. Lack of evidence is not evidence they died out before then.
- Cattle/oxen – The American Bison. These are cattle. Let’s look at definitions from dictionary.com
A quote from the wiki, “bison is a Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while buffalo originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive beasts bœufs, meaning ox or bullock—so both names, bison and buffalo, have a similar meaning.” If you don’t believe bison can be domesticated, try watching them as pets here and here, or the series of a man riding a buffalo like a horse here. No evidence exists that these animals were not, or cannot be, domesticated.
- Wheels – Why would the ancient Mayan people have paved roads called Sacbe if they didn’t have wheels? These roads were way too wide (30 feet) for just walking. These roads were vast and long. How did they build their pyramids with large stone slabs if they did not have wheels? You honestly think they carried those heavy stones for their roads and buildings by hand?? Their calendar was a wheel. They drew petroglyphs of a spoked wheel. They had wheeled toys. And yet anti-Mormons believe that they were too stupid to see the principle used on a larger scale?
Paul Cheeseman found quite a bit of evidence for the wheel back in 1969 (see Article). In fact, there is so much evidence for a wheel that what Jeremy is asking us to believe is much harder to accept than not having a wheel. If they had a wheel, and they had horses, they also had chariots. At least Occam’s Razor says that they did.
- Iron – Iron was so ubiquitous in the Americas I am truly amazed this one is still on the list. Pre-Columbian iron mines have been identified. The Aztecs had knowledge of metalworking. They had knives, chisels, lance points, hatchets, needles, etc. made with an iron content, some greater than 1.5%, which exceeds the amount for an impurity. (see *.pdf The Metal Industry of the Aztecs by George B. Phillips) So, contrary to the claim, iron did exist. The Aztecs likely learned metalworking from their ancestors who used iron.
In addition, a book by David L. Browman called Cultural Continuity in Mesoamerica describes pages and pages of mesoamerican iron mines. It is also well known that the ancients had mirrors made of iron as early as 1000 BC (see Olmec Mirrors). How do you create an iron mirror without iron, and working with it? Hey, all I have to do is prove iron existed, not how it was used, because the Book of Mormon doesn’t specify its use, or are you going to move the goalpost?
- Steel – As stated at the beginning of this section, I’m not suggesting that Book of Mormon steel was the carbon fortified iron that we have today, but some kind of hardened metal that the word “steel” was used as the best way to describe it. This was a common translation in the 1800s. One possibility is tumbaga which was used to make many things, including armor. Regardless, it is now known that there was also steeled iron in the Palestine area around the time Lehi’s family left around 600 BC (see wootz steel).
The last chronological date “steel” is mentioned in the Book of Mormon is in Jarom, around 400 BC. It was only found in the “land of Nephi”. But, the Nephites were kicked out of the land of Nephi 200 years later. (see Omni) There is no mention of steel after they left the land of Nephi in the BoM. Maybe they did not have had access to the same mines after they moved. Their “steelsmiths” could have been killed off, or they found new techniques to make weapons and tools from other materials. Materials like obsidian and jade, were harder, lasted longer, and took less effort to make. “Steelmaking” likely became a long-lost art.
There is evidence for this from those who went back to the land of Nephi. Iron was taxed as a luxury item to build King Noah’s palaces. It was one of the “precious things” (iron mirrors maybe?) noted in Mosiah 11:3,8, but there was no mention of steel by this time (150 BC). More than 2,400 years is a long time to try to find much, if any, trace of this metal. Especially when you don’t know exactly what it is or where to look…
As we can see, there is archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon. And lack of it does not disprove the Book of Mormon.
6. Archaeology: 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. This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists have developed the Limited Geography Model (it happened in Central or South America) 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.
“Directly support.” Yes, there is the out. There is all kinds of support, but since it does not directly support the Book of Mormon someone can choose to ignore it all. This is nothing more than full demonstration of the cherry picking fallacy that lets them pick and choose among the evidence to support their cognitive bias.
To prove my point, one must know exactly what “archaeological evidence” they would accept that would “directly support” the Book of Mormon. As an example, Jeremy lists evidence that old civilizations like the Mayan, Aztec, Clovis, and other aboriginal groups existed, but implicitly denied that anything found from them would “directly support” the Book of Mormon.
Therefore, he have set up an impossible task, also known as the Nirvana fallacy, which is a variant of the false dichotomy fallacy. It does not matter what evidence is used, demonstrated, or shown, it will never be good enough to be listed as “direct support”.
That being said, I would refer you to a book called Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace. He is a Los Angeles County homicide detective and former atheist who investigates cold-case homicides. In the book, he illustrates how you do not need “direct support” to solve a homicide. Many cases are solved, and the murderers found guilty with “inferential support” only. Inferences are steps in reasoning, moving from premises to conclusions.
Therefore, we can use evidence from the very same peoples Jeremy rejected to provide sufficient “inferential support” for the Book of Mormon.
Consider the DNA argument above and X and R1 haplogroups of Native Americans that completely bypass Asia. Consider the DNA evidence that shows a small founding population. The Book of Mormon is the one theory that best accounts for Native American DNA.
Consider the Aztecs and their journey from Aztlán as described in the Boturini Codex (see figure). They were “guided by a priest” and they came by boat. The people they left were “fair skinned” (not colored in). In the Book of Mormon, they left Jerusalem, and were guided by a “visionary man” as they traveled by boat to the promised land.
The number “seven” was very important in Aztlán, which just happens to be the most sacred number to the Jews.
There happens to be seven tribes of the Nahua people that left Aztlán: the Xochimilca, Tlahuica, Acolhua, Tlaxcalteca, Tepaneca, Chalca, and Mexica. In the Book of Mormon, there just happen to be seven “tribes” as well: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites. (Jacob 1:13 and Mormon 1:8-9) Coincidence?
Consider white, bearded god Quetzalcoatl whom the Aztecs believe “was a creator deity having contributed essentially to the creation of Mankind.” When Emperor Moctezuma II met Hernán Cortés he greeted him as a god and said to him:
You have graciously come on earth, you have graciously approached your water, your high place of Mexico, you have come down to your mat, your throne, which I have briefly kept for you, I who used to keep it for you…
You have graciously arrived, you have known pain, you have known weariness, now come on earth, take your rest, enter into your palace, rest your limbs; may our lords come on earth. (found in the Florentine Codex)
The story of Jesus visiting the New World after His ascension matches the myths of Quetzalcoatl and provides the best reason the Aztecs would treat Cortés like a returning deity.
There are many other inferential evidences that exist, too many to list here. I have just listed a few to get the idea across. There are dozens of websites that provide more evidences. If using inferential evidences are good enough to convict a murderer of killing someone, they should be good enough to “support” the Book of Mormon.
The other problem for “direct support” is that we have no idea where to look. Sometimes a homicide case has been cleaned. That doesn’t mean a homicide didn’t happen. These lines of thinking create false assumptions and fallacies, again using arguments from ignorance. Here are a few assumptions that should be addressed concerning the “last battle” in the Book of Mormon:
- No geographic markers– There is one thing that most people seem to be forgetting; the last battle occurred northward, past the “land of Desolation”. We can throw all of our maps away, because we have no geographic markers north of the “narrow neck of land”. There are a few names of fortified cities, but no relation, direction, or distance with any other known marker.
What we do know is that in 350 AD the Nephites gave all the land south of the narrow neck, the land used and described in the vast majority of the Book of Mormon, to the Lamanites. (Mormon 2:29) They fortified the city of Desolation, which was later overrun. The Nephites were then pursued north from city to city until at last they gathered in the “land of Cumorah … with many waters, rivers, and fountains”. (Mormon 6:4) That’s all we have to go on, and while it was north of the “narrow neck” and north of Desolation, we don’t know how far north it was.
- Survivors likely cleared battlefield – There were many who survived the last battle around the Hill Cumorah. The survivors were called “Lamanites”. Even though they had intermarried for 400 years, it was primarily a racial war. Only the “Nephites” were destroyed. The Lamanites who survived would not likely have just left bodies, weapons, and other valuables lying around the battlefield, even numbering in millions. If the area were cleared of these evidences, there would be no way of finding this last battle. There was a precedent for clearing the battlefield by the armies throwing bodies into a river or the sea to be carried away. (see Alma 2:34 and Mormon 3:8) Since Cumorah was a land of “many waters, rivers, and fountains”, this is likely what happened. It follows that there would be nothing left to find 1600 years later.
- Looking for the wrong evidence – As was stated while answering the previous question, “steel” and “iron” were likely not used for the last battle. There is no mention of these metals past 400 BC and 150 BC respectively. The Book of Mormon does not say what their weapons and armor were made of from. We know nothing about their weapons and armor except that they used them. We would expect these weapons and armor are likely to be more similar to those used by the Aztecs and Mayans by this time.
As evidence of this, how much metal in any form was found from Caerau Hillfort? (A known “Iron Age” digsite from around the same timeframe that Jeremy provides as evidence.) Please provide metal analysis, because, no, flint is not a metal…
So, we have no idea where the battlefield was. There is no “thus sayeth the Lord” revelation concerning its location. And, after the battle, Moroni ran from the peoples hunting him for 20 years. It’s unlikely he would have survived that long if he stayed near the battlefield to bury the plates.
We can begin to see exactly what is wrong with using fallacies in these anti-Mormon arguments, including cherry picking, argument from ignorance, false dichotomy, and Nirvana fallacies. When you start with wrong assumptions, you end with wrong conclusions.
7. Book of Mormon Geography: Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to many local names and places of the region where Joseph Smith lived. (emphasis added)
There are a few fallacies involved here. The first is with the maps provided in the CES Letter and on Jeremy’s website. The Holley map is based on the begging the question fallacy. In other words, from the Letter:
The first map is the “proposed map,” constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon.
So, who “proposed” this map? Certainly not any official LDS scholar. On the contrary, it appears that when Vernal Holley constructed this map he did it in reverse. He took the city names that existed in the area and reverse engineered it to create the Book of Mormon map shown here.
As an example, the BoM Jerusalem had been sunk and could not be rebuilt. (see 3 Nephi 9:7 and 4 Nephi 1:9) It could not exist on a modern-day map. Jacobugath was settled in the “northernmost part of the land”, not the “south-westernmost” part. (3 Nephi 7:12) Bountiful (not shown) was on the coast of the West Sea near the “narrow neck of land” when Hagoth built a large ship filled with “much provisions… and they took their course northward”. (Alma 63:5-6). That would be completely unnecessary, if not impossible, to go north based on this map’s “Sea West”.
So, the map “begs the question” as to where it gets its support. As the map doesn’t look anything like an “internal comparison”, it follows that the map was reverse engineered from existing maps and therefore is a flat out lie that it was “constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon”.
Next, concerning names that are strikingly similar? This fallacy here is known as the false analogy. Perceived similarities in names is not evidence Joseph Smith got those names from nearby cities. Nearly all are not spelled the same, or these are not even “strikingly” similar in the least. “Ripple Lake” and “Ripliancum”? “Antioch” and “Ani-Anti”? “Moraviantown” and “Morianton”? Really?
It seems that many places in New England and Canada near where Joseph lived are “strikingly similar” to names found in the Bible (a pretty common book), or common Hebrew words. Alma (Hebrew: young woman), Shiloh (Hebrew: place of peace), Noah, Boaz, and Sodom. Other city names in the region bear a “striking similarity” to other city names found in Europe from which they were named after; Moravia (Czech Republic), Hallamshire (England), Mantua (Italy), Antioch (ancient Greece), Jerusalem and Jordan (Israel). One city resembles the name of its founder; Jacobsburg. Wow, what a coincidence! Why don’t anti-Mormons just claim Joseph Smith copied it from those “strikingly similar” names? Because it’s a false analogy and their argument is weak.
The false analogy fallacy continues with the suggestion that “Moroni” and “Cumorah” came from the tales of Captain Kidd. Neither of these words, nor any variation of these words are found in the books Joseph Smith would have read. If I am proven wrong, I will revise this. While they were on maps, they were on obscure maps and in an obscure place on the map.
Regardless of that, while many cities in the New England area got their names from somewhere else, the city “Moroni” and island of “Comoros” did also. They are Arabic names: موروني (Mūrūnī) and جزر القمر (Qamarī). Arabic is a Semitic language. Hebrew is a Semitic language. Both languages read from right to left (opposite English) and have the same roots for their words, for example “Eloah” and “Allah” both mean “God”. It has been known that “Moroni” and “Cumorah” have ancient Hebrew equivalents, but this confirms it further. This provides positive evidence that the Book of Mormon was based on Hebrew.
So, we now have anti-Mormons saying that not only did Joseph memorize and plagiarize a sizable portion of Isaiah, but he also knew obscure translations of the Septuagint, and he also knew of many tiny obscure towns hundreds of miles from where he lived, AND he was a proliferate map reader memorizing obscure geography. We will continue to keep a running total of what anti-Mormons think of him.
8. There was a book published in 1823 Vermont entitled View of the Hebrews. [see the chart] comparing the View of the Hebrews to the Book of Mormon:
Have you actually read View of the Hebrews? I have. The main fallacy here is called appeal to authority. The chart uses B.H. Roberts, a LDS Church historian, and a memo he wrote in 1921 as the “authority” rather than the actual book itself when criticizing Joseph Smith as plagiarizing the Book of Mormon.
The first thing in the chart I noticed was the “Location” listed for publishing the Book of Mormon. It says Sharon, Vermont. Huh? That’s where Joseph Smith was born, not where the Book of Mormon was published. The Book of Mormon was published by Grandin Press in Palmyra, New York, more than 300 miles away. That was the first tipoff.
Another clue was “Urim and Thummim”. The Book of Mormon doesn’t use those words, instead calling them interpreters. Therefore, that is an invalid comparison. With those two blatant errors, I decided to read the original book itself, intentionally looking for the comparisons.
Jesus, son of Ananns, didn’t prophesy or predict anything. He was a madman who said the same thing over and over for seven years. He went up on the wall after the siege of Rome started and was killed. Read the account for yourself on pg 20.
Other terms in the comparison simply do not exist. One of alleged similarities was “yellow leaves” that was supposed to be paired with the “golden plates”. The only time that “leaves” are mentioned at all are concerning the craftsmanship of “gold vines and leaves” adorning the Temple in Jerusalem. Has nothing to do with records written on golden plates.
How about Quetzalcoatl, or the “Mexican messiah”? Nope, not there. Egyptian hieroglyphics? Missing. You can do your own searches comparing the chart with the text version of the View of the Hebrews.
That being said, the rest of View of the Hebrews is nothing like what anti-Mormons say it is, which leads us to the conclusion that B.H. Roberts may have made his comparison just to make anti-Mormons look like idiots.
The book is a scholarly history and intellectual in nature. It quotes Josephus (an ancient Jewish historian) about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It also quotes several people, including a Mr. Adair who lived among Native Americans for 40 years, and describes what they learned from them.
The problem for critics is that View of the Hebrews make several claims that are inconsistent with the Book of Mormon; the most important being the claim that Native Americans are the actual lost ten tribes of Israel… All of them! It’s one of the main themes of the book. If Joseph Smith plagiarized from this book, he would not have written about a small “remnant of the seed of Joseph” (Ephraim and Manasseh). (Alma 46:23) That’s a huge difference.
The really interesting thing, however, is that View of the Hebrews supports the Book of Mormon far more than it harms it. I got excited reading it and I recommend it to others, especially chapter three. I will share some of the more exciting positive evidences.
The author of the book, Ethan Smith, makes the claim that “Indians” (Native Americans) are from the ancient Israelite area of the Middle East. He provides the following list:
- The American natives have one origin.
- Their language appears to have been Hebrew.
- They have had their imitation of the ark of the covenant in ancient Israel.
- They have been in the practice of circumcision.
- They have acknowledged one and only one God.
- Their variety of traditions, historical and religion, go to evince that they are the ten tribes of Israel.
- The celebrated William Penn gives accounts of the natives of Pennsylvania, which go to corroborate the same point.
- Their having a tribe, answering in various respects to the tribe of Levi, sheds further light on this subject.
- Several prophetic traits of character given of the Hebrews do accurately apply to the aborigines of America.
- The Indians being in tribes, with their heads and names of tribes, affords further light upon this subject.
- Their having an imitation of the ancient city of refuge, evinces the truth of our subject.
- Other Indian rites, and various other considerations, go to evince the fact, that this people are the ten tribes of Israel.
The author then goes on to provide evidence for each of these listed claims. For number one, Ethan actually claims that Native Americans came over on the Alaskan-Siberian landbridge. If Joseph Smith plagiarized Ethan’s work, he literally “missed the boat” on that one as the Book of Mormon makes a different claim entirely. (pun intended)
Positive evidence for the Book of Mormon comes in other forms, including the similarities between Native American (in particular Algoaquin and Huron) and Hebrew. Here is a list of similar words:
|English||Indian (Native American)||Hebrew|
|Jah (First Cause)||Yah||Jah|
|Shiloh (Place of peace)||Shilu||Shiloh|
|Roof of a house||Taubana-ora||Debonaour|
|Ararat, or high mount||Ararat||Ararat|
|English||Indian (Native American)||Hebrew|
|Very hot||Heru hara or hala||Hara hara|
|Praise to the First Cause||Halleluwah||Hallelujah|
|Give me food||Natoni boman||Natoui bamen|
|Go thy way||Bayou boorkaa||Boua bouak|
|Good be to you||Halea tibou||Ye hali ettouboa|
|My necklace||Yene hali||Vongali|
|I am sick||Nane guaete||Nance heti|
“Who can doubt but the above Indian words and phrases were from their corresponding Hebrew? To be otherwise, their adoption by savages must be miraculous. And if they be from the Hebrew, surely these Indians must be the very ten tribes of Israel.” (View of the Hebrews, pg 90)
More evidences include the fact that Native Americans had three “feasts” which they had to make a pilgrimage to their “temple”. These coincide with three feasts the Jews celebrate (Pesach – Passover, Shavuot – Pentecost, and Sukkot – Tabernacles). Their temples had a “holy of holies”, into which it was death for a common person to enter, same as Jewish temples. During these feasts, the bones of the animal must not be broken (symbolizing crucifixion of Jesus in which he had no broken bones). And, they ate bitter vegetables to cleanse themselves from sin (symbolizing the bitterness of their persecutions during their captivity in Egypt). Other similarities with Jewish tradition include a flood myth, they washed and anointed their dead, and had circumcision (which had been practiced at one time, but had been done away with).
The Book of Mormon mentions none of these evidences. This then begs the question as to why Joseph Smith would plagiarize the book, but then use none of the evidences found in the book. Why?
One more very exciting find was a tradition that Native Americans had, “A book which God gave, was once theirs; and then things went well with them. But other people got it from them, and they fell under the displeasure of the Great Spirit; but that they shall, at some point, regain it.” This sounds like the brass plates they took with them, and they would regain the again once again as the Book of Mormon.
In conclusion, the anti-Mormon reliance on B.H. Roberts fails. Their appeal to authority falls far short when reading the original material. While similarities in concepts might be similar, the details are vastly different. This one is thoroughly debunked.
9. 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.
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word: וַיְהִ֣י (wayhî) appears 781 times in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament. It is translated “it came to pass” 387 times, more than half the time. When you plug the Hebrew word in to Google Translate is says “it came to pass”. Why does Google Translate use Jacobean English? Maybe because it’s the most proper English translation?
It’s also proper English to translate the Hebrew in the long form with dating. Why do modern Bibles written in our day use Jacobean English for their dating? When we read Genesis 6:13 in the modern-day NIV translation it says, “By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth.” Well, then, modern-day translators of the Bible must have gotten their wording from The Late War, right? Pshh. That’s the way the Hebrew reads.
This is obviously Jeremy’s continued attempt at using the argument from analogy fallacy. Of course they say Joseph Smith couldn’t get these words from the Bible, when they exist all over the place in the Old Testament. Nope, he could have only gotten them from The Late War. Right? Double Pshh.
Well, let’s use this same fallacy and see how the author of The Late War plagiarized his book from the Bible. Note that there are many references to the following list, I just use the closest example.
- Curious works – Exodus 39:5
- Stripling – 1 Samuel 17:56
- Weapons of war – Judges 18:11
- Chief captain – Genesis 21:22
- Fortify themselves – Nehemiah 4:2
- Part of iron and part of clay – Daniel 2:33
- Polished brass – Daniel 10:6
- Rod of iron – Psalm 2:9
- Standard of liberty – Isaiah 62:10; Leviticus 25:10
- Engraving records – Exodus 28:11
- Den of robbers – Jeremiah 7:11
- Earthquake and darkness – Matthew 27:54; Matthew 27:45
- Wars between wicked and righteous
- False prophets
- Conversion of Gentiles
- Literary Hebraisms/Chiasmus
- A bunch of “it came to pass” (used 387 times in the OT)
- Many, many more parallels.
The presence of Hebraisms and other striking parallels in a popular religious textbook (the Bible), on the other hand – so close to Gilbert Hunt in his youth – must sober our perspective (concerning the writing of the Great War). – Me, the author.
Therefore, we can see evidence that Gilbert J. Hunt plagiarized the Bible when creating The Late War Between the United States And Great Britain. Right? Or is this just a full demonstration of using the false analogy fallacy that Jeremy and other anti-Mormons use? Here is the full-text (searchable) version of The Late War that you can compare for yourself.
The Bible preceded both the The Late War and the Book of Mormon. However, Hebrew preceded the Bible. The Hebrew writing style had a great effect on all translations of the Bible, even modern versions, as well as our English today. So, if the Book of Mormon came from Hebrew as claimed, it would use Hebrew like phrases and writing style.
10. Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon:
While I admit, at first glance it’s quite the coincidence, but when examining it closely, looks can be deceiving. The answer to this one is similar to the preceding question and The Late War, but there is more. Jeremy quotes the comparison between the two books:
|The First Book of Napoleon||The Book of Mormon|
|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.||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.|
So, let’s start with the very first sentence. The Book of Mormon does not say (writing), that is an insertion by anti-Mormons and shows their dishonesty. Jeremy does say that these are not direct paragraphs. Indeed, they are spread over a vast number of pages. So, what’s in between?
|The First Book of Napoleon||The Book of Mormon|
|Forward: condemn not the feebly imitative manner of writing therein occasionally employed, until thou canst point out a language more impressive,||condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ. (Title Page)|
|Forward: and one day, perhaps ere long, thy soul shall be required of thee, and an account of all thy deeds,||The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. (Introduction)|
|THE FIRST BOOK OF NAPOLEON||THE FIRST BOOK OF NEPHI|
|Pg 1 Appearance of an Evil Spirit on the face of the earth, being the forerunner of the Tyrant.||And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.|
|(Out of order)||And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord! (1 Nephi 2:10)|
|Pg 10: and nobles of the land, and seized upon, and took unto themselves, their inheritances, their gold and silver, corn and oil, and whatsoever belonged||and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart. (1 Nephi 2:11)|
|Pg 12: And they not only despised the commandments of the Lord, but also blasphemed the name of the only true and living God,|
|Pg 17: such as pertaineth unto the idol of whom it is before- written, and whom they, in the foolish imaginations of their hearts, had vainly worshipped.|
|Pg 19: He threateneth Palestine and Jerusalem.||(Out of order)|
|Pg 20: And this man, though small in stature, was nevertheless vast in spirit||I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature (1 Nephi 2:16)|
|Pg 25: And it pleased the Lord, as a punishment for the wickedness and perverseness of the people, to deliver into the hands of this man the dominion over many lands,||For he knew that Jerusalem must be destroyed, because of the wickedness of the people. (1 Nephi 3:17)|
In addition to there being several obvious things wrong here, including several things being out of order, the Title Page and Introduction of the Book of Mormon were written completely separately from the First Book of Nephi, and there are more than a few common Hebrew phrases that are also found in the Bible. One of the big fallacies here is the fallacy known as equivocation. Equivocation is using words, or contexts, that have more than one meaning. The entire text of The First Book of Napoleon uses the same words, but they mean something completely different.
Here’s a list of common phrases that the Bible uses as well.
- and it came to pass (see Google Translate this one) – a lot
- upon the face of the earth (Exodus 33:16) – Lots of these
- commandments of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:17) – Quite a few
- great stature (2 Samuel 21:20) – a few
- the wickedness of my people (Jeremiah 7:12)
The last fallacy is that Jeremy doesn’t even make a statement or draw a conclusion in his question. He links it to the previous question and leaves the reader to make their own conclusion, but implying that the Book of Mormon is false because of coincidence. Looking closely, we can see the deception. You can read text version (searchable) of The First Book of Napoleon and find out for yourself.
11. The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead. Joseph Smith’s early theology also held this view. As part of the over 100,000 changes to the Book of Mormon, there were major changes made to reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.
This is as far as I’ve gotten so far. I am continuing to work on this and assure you there is an answer for this question, and ALL of Jeremy’s questions. As you can see so far, anti-Mormons do NOT have as strong a case as it first appears.
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