Evaluating Book of Mormon Claims: Where Do We Stand after 187 Years?

After 187 years of critics poking fun at the Book of Mormon and exposing its weaknesses, today it seems to be the established view of numerous highly educated elites that there is “not a scrap of evidence” supporting the Book of Mormon. That is the consensus, at least, among those who are rather unfamiliar with the text and the associated evidence related to Book of Mormon claims. But for those who are willing to look a little deeper, a much different world emerges. The non-existent scraps of evidence are forming a hefty pile that demands a little attention.

No, we are not able to prove that angels exist and Jesus visited the Americas based on undeniable evidence. We don’t even have the original gold plates for scientific analysis. Faith is still an essential and merciful ingredient, as intended by the Lord, for accepting the Book of Mormon as the word of God and as a testament of Jesus Christ. For those not interested in faith, there are plenty of reasons one can pick for ignoring Christ, the scriptures, and especially Mormonism. But for those with a particle of faith, there are also many notable particles of intellectually satisfying evidences that can strengthen faith or help overcome challenges to faith. So let’s look at the big picture of where we are in terms of Book of Mormon evidence.

The testable claims from the Book of Mormon began with the declaration that a sacred record had been preserved on metal plates and buried in a stone box by people from an ancient literate civilization with Old World roots. That story featured numerous hilarious concepts when it was presented. Today, we know that stone boxes were used by ancient Native Americans to preserve sacred objects, especially in Mesoamerica, where most LDS scholars believe is the only plausible location for the New World Book of Mormon events. You can see multiple examples of sacred stone boxes in the National Archaeological Museum in Mexico City, as I have reported here earlier. We know that writing sacred record on metal plates was a known practice in the ancient Middle East, making the existence of the brass and gold plates less hilarious today than it was in 1830. We know that there were advanced writing systems in ancient Mesoamerica. Things that were laughable among the general public and unknown or not well known in 1830 have become more established today.

That’s just a beginning of numerous issues where once ridiculous Book of Mormon claims now have at least some evidence in their support. And as for the possibility of Joseph’s gold plates actually existing, we now have detailed scholarship on the statements and activities of numerous witnesses providing a compelling case that the gold plates were real. Laughable details such as the impossibility of Joseph carrying a 200-pound block of gold have become more plausible in light of analysis regarding what real hand-made metal plates would actually weigh, especially if made from the Mesoamerican gold-copper alloy known as tumbaga. A figure of 60 pounds, consistent with estimates from witnesses, is entirely reasonable. The whole idea of metal plates is less laughable than it was initially, and not only because examples of writing on metal plates in the Old World have been found.

Many other issues of this kind could be mentioned, such as Book of Mormon claims of ancient temples, ancient highways, practices of warfare, and, say, the idea of an older civilization that gave way to a newer civilization with dates that could correspond with the Olmecs and the later groups in Mesoamerica such as the Mayans. The correspondences are not just the big picture stuff, but get down into many interesting details such as the hundreds of correspondences from many disciplines examines by John Sorenson in Mormon’s Codex and the linkages to Mesoamerica examined by Brant Gardner in Traditions of the Fathers.

While there have been many exciting finds and remarkable publications in the past decade, including the two books I just mentioned, there is still a great deal of value in a 2005 presentation given by Mesoamerican archaeologist John Clark about the state of evidence relating to the Book of Mormon. If that presentation were redone today, one might wish to add many details regarding the Arabian Peninsula evidence, new linguistic evidence both relating to the miraculous translation of the Book of Mormon and the presence of significant Old World influence in Uto-Aztercan languages, and abundant evidence of Semitic word plays in the Book of Mormon that point to ancient origins, but the 2005 summary of John Clark is still highly informative.

The presentation, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: The Book of Mormon and Archaeology” by John E. Clark, Wade Ardern, and Matthew Roper, was made at the August 2005 FAIRMormon Conference. The transcript is available at FAIRMormon.org. The video is just a 7-minute segment that begins a couple minutes into John’s presentation (skipping his hat tip to the Tanners for their helpful anti-Mormon work, which John feels has actually helped strengthen the case for the Book of Mormon). You can also see the full nearly-hour-long video on Youtube.

Update: In a related presentation, Dr. John E. Clark as Professor of Anthropology at BYU gave a speech entitled “Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief” on May 25, 2004 in the de Jong Concert Hall at BYU. The link has a recording of the audio only, but an unofficial transcript is available online. His comments on guessing unguessable things should be applied, in my opinion, to the burgeoning evidence we have from the Arabian Peninsula, which has not been the focus of his research but is where we have perhaps the most easily identifiable and verifiable evidences. Here is an excerpt from his speech that I have previously shared but find still relevant today:

In the past fifty years, friends and foes have adopted Joseph’s plan of comparing ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon. Both sides believe archaeology is on their side. Consider the argument against the Book of Mormon circulated recently by an evangelical group. “The Bible is supported in its truth claims by the corroborating evidence of geography and archaeology. That assertion cannot be said for the Book of Mormon. Several decades of archaeological research funded by LDS institutions concentrating in Central America and Mexico have yielded nothing that corroborates the historical events described in the Book of Mormon.” The only things wrong with this clever argument are that its claims are false and its logic faulty.

Archaeology and geography support the Book of Mormon to the same degree and for the same reasons that they support the Bible. Both books present the same challenges for empirical confirmation and both are in good shape. Many things have been verified for each but many have not. Anti-Mormon arguments specialize in listing things mentioned in the Book of Mormon that archaeology has not found. Rather than cry over missing evidence, I will tell you about evidence that has been found.

The pamphlet lists eight deficiencies. First, that no Book of Mormon cities have been located, and last, that no artifact of any kind that demonstrates the Book of Mormon is true has been found. This last assertion is overly optimistic in suggesting that such material proof is even possible. No artifact imaginable, or even a roomful, could ever convince critics that the Book of Mormon is true. The implied claim that the right relic could prove the book’s truth beyond all doubt is too strong and underestimates human cussedness. Moroni could appear before Congress tomorrow with the golden plates, the Sword of Laban, and the Liahona in hand, and this would not satisfy public demands for more proofs.

The logical challenges with the first assertion, that no cities have been located, are more subtle. Book of Mormon cities have been found, they are well known, and their artifacts grace the finest museums. They are merely masked by archaeological labels such as “Maya,” “Olmec,” and so on. The problem, then, is not that Book of Mormon artifacts have not been found, only that they have not been recognized for what they are. Again, if you stumbled onto Zarahemla, how would you know?

One last point about significant evidence. The hypothesis of human authorship demands that truth claims in the Book of Mormon be judged by what was believed, known, or knowable in Joseph’s backyard in the 1820s. The book’s description of ancient peoples differs greatly from the notions of rude savages held by nineteenth-century Americans. The book’s claim of city-societies was laughable at the time, but no one is laughing now. As the city example shows, the lower the probability that Joseph Smith could have guessed a future fact, the stronger the likelihood that he received the information from a divine source. Consequently, the most compelling evidence of authenticity is that which verifies unguessable things recorded in the Book of Mormon, the more outlandish, the better. Confirmation of such things would eliminate any residual probability of human authorship and go a long way in demonstrating that Joseph Smith could not have written the book. This is precisely what a century of archaeology has done.

I will consider a few items in the time remaining. The one requirement for making comparisons between archaeology and the Book of Mormon is to be in the right place. For reasons I will explore in a few minutes, Mesoamerica is the right place. The first archaeological claims related to the Book of Mormon concern the facts of September 22, 1827, the actuality of metal plates preserved in a stone box. This used to be considered a monstrous tale, but concealing metal records in stone boxes is now a documented Old World practice. Stone offering boxes have also been discovered in Mesoamerica, but so far the golden plates are still at large, as we would expect them to be. Another fact obvious that September morning was that ancient peoples of the Americas knew how to write, a ludicrous claim for anyone to make in 1827. We now know of at least six Mesoamerican writing systems that predate the Christian era. This should count for something, but it is not enough for dedicated skeptics. They demand to see reformed Egyptian, preferably on gold pages, and to find traces of the Hebrew language. There are promising leads on both, but nothing conclusive yet. New scripts are still being discovered, and many texts remain undeciphered. The example shown here was recovered 56 years ago and qualifies as America’s earliest writing sample, but so far nothing much has been made of it and most scholars have forgotten that it exists.

The golden plates and other relics ended up in New York in the final instance because the Nephites were exterminated in a cataclysmic battle. The Book of Mormon brims with warfare and nasty people. Until twenty years ago, the book’s claims on this matter were pooh-poohed by the famous scholars. Now that Maya writing is being read, warfare appears to have been a Mesoamerican pastime. The information on warfare in the Book of Mormon is particularly rich and provides ample opportunity to check Joseph Smith’s luck in getting the details right. The warfare described in the book differs from what Joseph could have known or imagined. In the book, one reads of fortified cities with ditches, walls, and palisades. Mesoamerican cities dated to Nephite times have been found with all these features. The Book of Mormon mentions bows and arrows, swords, slings, scimitars, clubs, spears, shields, breastplates, helmets, and cotton armor–all items documented from Mesoamerica. Aztec swords were of wood, sometimes edged with stone knives. There are indications of wooden swords in the Book of Mormon. How else could swords become stained with blood? Wooden swords could sever heads and limbs and were lethal. The practice of taking detached arms as battle trophies, as in the story of Ammon, is also documented from Mesoamerica.

Another precise correspondence is the practice of fleeing to the summits of pyramids as places of last defense and consequently, of eventual surrender. Conquered cities were depicted in Mesoamerica by symbols for broken towers or burning pyramids. Mormon records this practice. Other practices of his day were human sacrifice and cannibalism, vile behaviors well-attested for Mesoamerica. The final battle at Cumorah involved staggering numbers of troops and of Nephite battle units of 10,000. Aztec documents described armies of over 200,000 warriors, also divided into command units of 10,000. The Aztec ciphers appear to be propagandistic exaggeration. I do not know whether this applies to Book of Mormon numbers or not.

In summary, the practices and instruments of war described in the Book of Mormon display multiple and precise correspondences with Mesoamerican practices and in ways unimaginable to nineteenth-century Americans.

Mesoamerica is a land of decomposing cities with their pyramids or towers, temples, and palaces–all items mentioned in the Book of Mormon but foreign to the gossip along the Erie Canal in Joseph Smith’s day. Cities show up in all the right places and for the predicted times. One of the more unusual and specific claims in the Book of Mormon is that houses and cities of cement were built by 49 B.C. in the land northward, a claim considered ridiculous in 1830. As it turns out, it receives remarkable confirmation at Teotihuacan, the largest pre-Columbian city ever built in the Americas. Teotihuacan is still covered with ancient cement that has lasted over 1500 years.

All Book of Mormon peoples had kings who ruled cities and territories. American prejudices of native tribes in Joseph’s day had no room for kings or their tyrannies. These were crazy claims. The last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, carved his history on a stone about 300 B.C., an event in line with Mesoamerican practices at that time. A particular gem in the book is that King Benjamin labored with his own hands, an outrageous thing for Joseph Smith to claim for a king. It was not until the 1960s that anthropology caught up to the idea of working kings and validated it among world cultures. Even more specific, consider Riplakish, the tenth Jaredite king, an oppressive tyrant who forced slaves to construct buildings and produce fancy goods. Among the items he commissioned about 1200 B.C. was an exceedingly beautiful throne. The earliest civilization in Mesoamerica is known for its elaborate stone thrones. How did Joseph Smith get this detail right?

Not all evidence concerns material goods. A striking correspondence is this drawing from the Dresden Codex, one of four surviving pre-Columbian Maya books. It shows a sacrificial victim with a tree growing from his heart, a literal portrayal of the metaphor preached in Alma chapter 32. Other images depict the Tree of Life. The book’s metaphors make sense in the Mesoamerican world. We are just beginning to study these metaphors, so stay tuned for future developments.

A correspondence that has always impressed me involves prophecies in 400-year blocks.

The Maya were obsessed with time, and they carved precise dates on their stone monuments that began with a count of 400 years, an interval called a bactun. Each bactun was made up of twenty katuns, an extremely important twenty-year interval. If you will permit me some liberties with the text, Samuel the Lamanite warned the Nephites that one bactun shall not pass away before they would be smitten. Nephi and Alma uttered the same bactun prophecy, and Moroni recorded its fulfillment. Moroni bids us farewell just after the first katun of this final bactun, or 420 years since the sign was given of the coming of Christ. What are the chances of Joseph Smith guessing correctly the vigesimal system of timekeeping and prophesying among the Maya. The list of unusual items corresponding to Book of Mormon claims could be extended.

The Latter-day Saint tendency to get absorbed in specifics has been characterized as a method for distracting attention from large problems by engaging critics with endless irrelevant details, much as a mosquito swarm distracts from the rhinoceros in the kitchen. Let’s take up the dare to consider big issues, namely geography and cycles of civilization and population. As is clear from the Cluff expedition, if the geography is not right, one can waste years searching for Zarahemla and never get there. Book of Mormon geography presents a serious challenge because the only city location known with certitude is Old World Jerusalem, and this does not help us with locations in the promised land.

However, it is marvelous for the Old World portion of the narrative. As Kent Brown and others have shown, the geography of the Arabian peninsula described in First Nephi is precise down to its place names. The remarkable geographic fit includes numerous details unknown in Joseph Smith’s day. For the New World, dealing with geography is a two-step exercise. An internal geography must first be deduced from clues in the book, and this deduction must then become the standard for identifying a real world setting. John Sorenson has done the best work on this matter, and this is his internal map of physical features and cities. The Book of Mormon account is remarkably consistent throughout. Nephite lands included a narrow neck between two seas and lands northward and southward of this neck. The land southward could be traversed on foot with children and animals in tow in about thirty days, so it could not have been much longer than 300 miles. The 3000 miles required for the traditional geography is off by one order of magnitude. Nephite lands were small and did not include all of the Americas or their peoples.

The principal corollary of a limited geography is that Book of Mormon peoples were not alone on the continent. Therefore, to check for correspondences we must find the right place and peoples. It is worth noticing that anti-Mormons lament the demise of traditional, continental geography because it was so easy to ridicule. The limited geography is giving them fits. . . .

Author: Jeff Lindsay

112 thoughts on “Evaluating Book of Mormon Claims: Where Do We Stand after 187 Years?

  1. For belief in the BoM, confirmation basis is required (see Wikipedia confirmation basis). Faith in the BoM is not possible because faith believes in things without evidence. It does not believe in things contrary to evidence, that is the job of confirmation basis.

    There is a mountain of evidence contrary to the BoM hypothesis. So much evidence in fact, we see here the least painful option cognitive dissonance offers. Create a blog to intelligently play dumb: gradually diverge the hypothesis to something so thoroughly reimagined that it is no longer the same thing and then act like the new thing was always the hypothesis.

    For those not interested in integrity there are plenty of reasons to ignore reason, facts, and especially science. Those with a particle of integrity would never deceitfully redefine faith, claim untestable items are testable, deceitfully present "laughable”/”hilarious” strawmen claims and then claim them defeated.

    The Atlantis theory and the BoM theory were similar theories in their time. Both are much more “laughable” today than in their time. Resorting to a persecution complex (ex: “After 187 years of critics poking fun at the Book of Mormon”) is a classically strong reaction to cognitive dissonance, an indication of the intensity of the pain it causes.

  2. I am no expert on BoM evidence, but I did have a mission companion from a tribe in El Salvador who joined the church in part because of the similarities he saw between the Book of Mormon and some tribal traditions and stories. I thought that was pretty cool.

  3. We have a lot more LDS apologetics than we did 187 years ago, but that doesn't mean we have a lot more actual evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Thanks to advances in linguistics, DNA science, history, and archaeology, however, we have many, many more reasons to doubt that historicity.

    When it comes to evidence for BoM historicity that has actually managed to survive secular-academic peer review, we have exactly as much today as we had 187 years ago: none.

    It might be instructive to go beyond the question of BoM evidences and make some other observations about the early Church and today's Church:

    — The early Church and its prophets believed wholeheartedly in the hemispheric model. Today's apologists throw these early leaders under the bus and argue for a Limited Geography model. And of course the Church's actual prophets, who, as seers and revelators, might be expected to be able to resolve such basic points, are instead completely silent on them. (And I do mean basic points. Given its history of missionary activity and outreach programs, doesn't the Church need to know whether Natve Americans really are Lamanites or not?)

    — The early prophets prophesied all the time. They articulated radical new ideas like exaltation and polygamy. Today's prophets don't prophesy at all, they just speak in banalities and manage the corporation. Compare the statements of Smith and Young with the treacly tweets of Monson. In keeping with the Church's current 1950s worldview, today's LDS apostle is basically the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. When I read the words of the prophets up to Joseph Fielding Smith, the experience is often bracing. After JFS it's soporific.

    — The early prophets spoke out boldly on the most radical aspects of LDS apologetics and doctrine. Today's prophets timidly maintain plausible deniability by letting FAIR and various bloggers like Jeff do all the heavy lifting.

    — Initially the followers of Joseph Smith constituted a single church. Today, after a history of schism that started almost immediately (thanks in part to Joseph's egomania and bombastic leadership style), there are several Mormon churches, ranging from the FLDS, which Brigham Young would probably find himself most comfortable in, to the Unitarian-ish Church of Christ.

    — OK

  4. The surmisings of anti-Mormons like OK are weak. The original manuscript indicates that the text was dictated. The witnesses of the dictation tell us no writings were dictated from. The form and structure of the English language tell us that Joseph Smith did not come up with the words himself. This foundational evidence trumps the fuzzier arguments that OK likes to make.

  5. Actually, Hiser, the evidence is overwhelming that Joseph Smith (or at least some other early 19th-century writer) did "come up with the words himself":

    The Book of Mormon rehashes theological issues being debated in Smith's time and place (issues totally anachronistic for the period 600 BCE to 400 AD). I mean, c'mon: a bunch of Jews leave Jerusalem for the New World, and within a generation they're suddenly discussing problems in 19th-century Protestant doctrine? Riiiiight….

    The book shows remarkable parallels with a book published nearby in 1825 by Oliver Cowdery's former minister. Coincidence? Riiiiiight…. As evidence against the Book of Mormon's antiquity, View of the Hebrews alone outweighs the entire corpus of LDS apologetics.

    The book weighs in on the question of Native American origins, also a hot topic in Smith's time and place, and answers that question in a way consistent with 19th-century American, rather than ancient, thinking.

    It includes errors unique to the King James Bible — errors the apologists have completely failed to explain away.

    Its putative author, Joseph Smith, was already known as, and would subsequently prove himself to be, a consummate bull-pookie artist (snookering people about his ability to find treasure with his seer stone, making up stuff on the fly about Zelph the white Lamanite, and making up the Book of Abraham out of whole cloth).

    The book was supposedly translated from metal plates that were oh-so-conveniently taken from us by an angel and thus made unavailable for our inspection.

    Then there's the Morgan Affair, the highly convoluted explanation for Joseph's inability to retranslate the missing 116 pages (how can anyone possibly believe that story?), etc., etc., etc.

    That anyone these days believes in Book of Mormon historicity is a testament to the amazing power of religious faith and indoctrination.

    — OK

  6. How Janus-ed Mormanity and ilk are. With one face they are open iconoclast and with another face apologist.

    They readily concede critical positions, such as Native Americans principal ancestors are not BoM characters, etc. Then immediately contradict themselves with posts such as this one, with imaginary claims of greater BoM evidence than before.

  7. To get back to the original post: Jeff gives the game away when he writes that "Faith is still an essential and merciful ingredient" in evaluating the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    In other words, in 187 years, the apologists haven't really gotten anywhere. Even after all this time, faith is still required. In all this time, they still don't have any evidence that can stand on its own.

    That's quite an admission when you think about it.

    Compare this to where things stand with the academic study of the Bible. A century ago, belief in the historicity of King David required the same kind of faith that belief in the BoM's King Josiah does today. But such faith is no longer required today. Nowadays we have fairly strong archaeological evidence — accepted as such by scholars of all faiths and of no faith, published in peer-reviewed academic journals — that supports the historicity of King David.

    After 187 years of searching, do we have anything comparable supporting the historicity of the Book of Mormon?*


    Let me repeat for emphasis:


    One more time:


    After 187 years, no peer review. (Carmack, Stubbs — we're still waiting….) After all this time, faith is still required. How utterly unlike the study of the Bible. What best explains the difference? The most obvious explanation is that the Bible is ancient and the Book of Mormon is not.

    — OK

    * Please, spare me the knee-jerk invocation of Nahom and Bountiful. The broad outlines of Lehi's journey could easily have been inspired by maps extant in 19th-century New England. Which is the more likely explanation: that Joseph (or a colleague like Cowdery) saw such a map? Or that an angel appeared to Joseph, turned him on to a set of gold plates engraved in an unknown tongue and containing stories chock-full of 19th-century theological disputes and 19th-century theories of Indain originas, that the angel then conveniently took the plates away, etc.?

    1. You quoted the historic proof of David- do you deny the supernatural claims associated with David, or just the Book of Mormon

  8. OK, your inability to deal with the most interesting evidence, draped in a demand that we spare you the "knee-jerk invocation" of such data, is a great demonstration of the knee-jerk reaction of one committed to not seeing evidence.

    Faith, by the way, is still required for accepting the Bible as scripture. We can't even prove that the most important structure in the history of the Jews and arguably in the history of the world, the First Temple, actually existed, although the very recent work at Khirbet Qeiyafa provides new support for its reality. But faith remains needed for many of the important claims of the text.

  9. We can't even prove that … the First Temple actually existed….

    Yes. But so what? No faith is required to know that the Bible is ancient. The evidence alone suffices. The Bible is demonstrably ancient, without recourse to faith; the Book of Mormon is not. That's the point. (That's also why there's no legitimate academic discipline of "Ancient Book of Mormon Studies.")

    — OK

  10. The portion of Clark's speech you have quoted above is remarkable in its vagueness. I'm hoping there was more of his speech that dealt in specifics.

    As usual I will share a couple of things that stood out to me as problematic.

    1) A laboring king was impossible for Joseph to have created? If I remember my anecdotal history from grade school correctly, after helping win the war of independence, many Americans wanted George Washington to be their king. He of course refused, and became president instead, while still working. In a sense, he was a working king. I would say in Joseph's time, the idea of a working king is a uniquely American one, and one not that out of place considering many of the other nineteenth century American themes grafted on to Book of Mormon characters. Remember that Joseph was creating his own civilization–he needed to explain some of the reasons for known native American practices (scalping, burying the hatchet), but he had a clean slate to integrate new world ideas and ideals with old world, biblical traditions.

    2)"The Book of Mormon brims with warfare and nasty people. Until twenty years ago, the book's claims on this matter were pooh-poohed by the famous scholars." Isn't he the one who said Joseph had to rely on the experience of his day? Wasn't it common knowledge in Joseph's day that Indian tribes warred with each other as much or more than they did with the new world settlers? I don't see this as much of a stretch.

    3) He discusses the idea of prophesy in the Book of Mormon. Anyone else find it interesting that the prophesies in the Book are oddly specific about known dates for events that would occur within the confines of the story, but extremely vague for anything prophesied to happen outside of the story (excepting the prophecy that Joseph would be the one to translate the book–how could they ever have known that one. . .)?

  11. Plausibility has become my buzz word in recent years regarding the Book of Mormon. I've read Ash, Givens, Bushman, and others, and truly, besides faith, plausibility is the most I've come to expect. And that's fine. I read the BoM and the Spirit is there; the very human, very real stories of righteous families struggling with difficult and wayward children, miraculous conversions, spiritual whisperings and heavenly directions, faithless trouble-makers, wars, human frailties, human triumphs, and every last bit of it wrapping around one central character: Jesus the Christ.

    I suppose I could put my faith in a greater farce, i.e. any book that makes no claims of divine origin, yet suggests that by following its tenants I will have greater peace… So says the guru who penned it. No, instead I believe I will take the risk of looking like a fool to the doubters and naysayers, to the atheists who only care to mock others, tear others down in order to build themselves up. There is evidence enough, plausibility enough, that despite the very human, very fallible men and women of the church, from Joseph Smith forward, there is way too much good within the pages of the BoM and within the Gospel itself for me to deny it and walk away. I guess we'll know who was right and who was wrong when we get on the other side of the vale. You know, if you believe in that sort of thing…

  12. Mormanity –

    “Faith, by the way, is still required for accepting the Bible as scripture."

    Of course, no one argued otherwise. Deflecting to arguments never asserted, you concede those asserted. Namely, faith in the BoM is impossible, however, confirmation bias is required to believe in it.

  13. For all of you critics who've posted here… this post is gross generalization if you willl… You do realize don’t you, you suffer from the same confirmation bias you claim believers in the Book of Mormon suffer from? I was about to write a small essay rebutting your assertions, but then I recalled the statement, “for the believer no proof is needed.” As someone who believes the Book of Mormon is a fraudulent work, you need no evidence for it… you know with certainty your position is true. Your confirmation bias will not allow you to accept any evidence to the contrary. You have “faith” in your rational thought processes and have come to what you think is the only possible conclusion. So be it. Enjoy your life.

    I admit to having a confirmation bias of sorts. I call it “faith.” You’re quite correct, there are somethings I can’t explain and those I do take on faith. Just as you do for your positions. The difference between you and those of us who believe, is we have asked ourselves and God about these very questions. We’ve prayed. Not only that, we’ve tested it’s claims in our personal day to day lives. The overwhelming evidence in countless small ways is it’s true. It works. Living the book’s principles has made my life meaningful and helped me weather devastating trials and storms. I can attest from hard won experience that no other self-help or history book could help me as the Book of Mormon has.

    I was about to ask you to keep your comments to yourself. But in reality, post away. In cases such as this it's a binary problem, there are only two valid views: it’s true or it’s false. Either you're right or I am. There is no common ground in the middle on this question, so just on Pascal’s Wager alone, I’ll take my position over yours any day. Reading your posts helps me keep that resolve fresh.

  14. Ken –

    Funny … I had a good laugh.

    "you suffer from the same confirmation bias you claim believers"

    Nope. Mormanity agrees with me. Numerous items, such as, BoM characters are not the principal ancestors and the BoM was not translated with the Urim and Thumin, but rather a confidence trick rock in hat are all now concede.

    I agree that there are many transcendental principles in the BoM that are true. This is also true of many works such as the Koran, etc.

    But seeing as you insist there is no middle ground, you are a bigger critic than me. I would not call the BoM a fraud the way you do.

  15. Ken, I trust that you and Mormography and I would all insist on applying certain secular standards of logic and evidence to claims about, say, the date of composition of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

    Suppose some member of the First Church of Hamlet claimed that Shakespeare's famous play was written in 421 AD, and you, Mormography, and I showed this person the voluminous evidence that it was actually written around 1600. Suppose further that, as the debate dragged on, this Hamletian kept failing, failing, failing to produce any solid evidence for his position and finally said, "Well, ultimately the truth of my claim depends on faith. It rests on the witness of the Holy Ghost of Hamlet the King."

    I trust you would say, as Mormography and I would, that such a reliance on faith would be inappropriate and, of course, utterly unpersuasive—that in fact it would make us even less likely to be convinced. I trust you would agree with me and Mormography that there's no reason whatsoever for Shakespeare scholars generally to give this kind of thing the time of day.

    I trust finally that you would not feel your own judgment in this case was flawed by confirmation bias. I mean, would you really say that your own bias was equivalent to that of the Hamletian?

    If not, why would it be any different when the text in question is the Book of Mormon?

    You're positing an equivalence were there isn't one. Mormography and I are applying the same standard across the board, whereas you are engaged in special pleading.

    — OK

  16. OK – Very patient of you to explain it to Ken, however, his initial emotional outburst demonstrates that he already knows he is in the wrong.