No, the Strangite Witnesses Are Not Strong Parallels to the Book of Mormon Witnesses

In my last post, Lawyers, Inc. vs. Faith, some folks suggested that the import of the Book of Mormon witnesses is lessened by the imitative adventure of James Strang and his witnesses who observed the non-miraculous existence of some much less valuable non-precious metal plates. Ironically, it’s a fitting comparison to make since Strang himself was a lawyer and his exploits illustrate some of the things that skilled lawyers or other highly educated people can do when they seek to affect (as in misdirect) the faith of others.

Strang claimed that Joseph Smith had appointed him to be his successor, and showed some people a letter that he claimed was a letter of appointment from Joseph. There’s no evidence I know of that Joseph ever said or advocated this, apart from Strang’s letter. If the letter was a forgery, as seems highly probable, the tiny low-value plates lack evidence of being anything more than that. But wait, he had witnesses! Just like the witnesses to the gold plates, right? No, not like those witnesses.

Strang’s witnesses first saw tiny plates that had been buried and dug out of the ground by the witnesses at a spot where Strang prophesied they would be found. But no one doubts that some metal plates existed, for they were not clearly miraculous and not beyond the abilities of that educated man to fabricate or hire out. Gold plates in the hands of Joseph Smith are quite a different matter, and it was gold that the witnesses saw, not the same common metal used in teaware and other items of his day. What the Eight Witnesses experienced already trumps Strang’s imitative work, but nothing in his portfolio can even begin to compare with the sheer miraculous power of what the Three Witnesses experienced and affirmed throughout their lives: gold plates and other sacred relics, shown by a majestic angel, his feet not touching the ground, and then the voice of God adding to the witness of divinity. The witnesses of the gold plates testify to the physical tangible reality of the plates under ordinary light and also under miraculous circumstances. Both settings are important. 

For Strang, seeking to obtain the same credentials as Joseph, imitating the discovery of plates was a “smart move” for this lawyer, but for Joseph, announcing the discovery of ancient writings on metal plates was ridiculous. Remember, Joseph showed his witnesses the gold plates many decades before the Darius plates and other ancient records on gold and other metal plates would be found. This was decades before the Mesoamerican practice of using stone boxes to preserve sacred items would be known. This was over a decade before the reality of ancient civilization in Mesoamerica would become widely known to the public (Humboldt and a few others notwithstanding). Strang was the imitator, Joseph was the groundbreaker, and importantly, what the witnesses testified to was quite different and has remarkably different meaning.

Strang’s witnesses can be taken at face value, at least regarding the existence of the plates, though unlike Joseph’s witnesses, not all would remain convinced that the story of the find was something grander than a man-made fraud. Yes, they saw something. Yes, it was made out of metal–apparently a common metal. Yes, there were some writings on the plates. Tiny plates, much smaller than the gold plates. But taking their witnesses at face value does not imply a divine origin for the plates or a divine call for Strang.

Strang, the educated lawyer, having impressed his witnesses with the buried plates, proceeded to “translate” them. The translation took roughly a decade–not bad, but that’s a pace that pales with Joseph’s rapid work of dictating the translation, unaided by other resources according to his scribes and others.

Strang, a lawyer seeking to provide evidence that he should be revered as a leader like Joseph, would translate his plates and strive to gain followers. But the story dwindles after that, while the evidences for the reality and plausibility of the Book of Mormon continue to grow in many ways. Those evidences include many witnesses who experienced both miraculous manifestations and mundane evidence for the tangible reality and divine origins of the sacred record, an ancient, Semitic record engraved on gold plates (or, more likely, a gold alloy such as the gold-copper alloy known as tumbaga that was widely used in ancient Mesoamerica, much lighter than gold itself, and which would give a stack of thin plates with Book of Mormon dimensions weighing about 60 pounds, as one of the witnesses recorded regarding their weight).

Daniel Peterson summarizes the case of the Strang witnesses in his 2006 FAIR Conference presentation on the tangible nature of the Restoration (an important essay – please read it):

The first set, the three “Voree” or “Rajah Manchou” plates, were dug up by four “witnesses” whom Strang had brought to the appropriate site. Inscribed on both sides with illustrations and “writing,” the Rajah Manchou plates were roughly 1.5 by 2.75 inches in size–small enough to fit in the palm of a hand or to carry in a pocket. Among the many who saw them was Stephen Post, who reported that they were brass and, indeed, that they resembled the French brass used in familiar kitchen kettles. “With all the faith & confidence that I could exercise,” he wrote, “all that I could realize was that Strang made the plates himself, or at least that it was possible that he made them.” One not altogether reliable source reports that most of the four witnesses to the Rajah Manchou plates ultimately repudiated their testimonies. The eighteen “Plates of Laban,” likewise of brass and each about 7 3/8 by 9 inches, were first mentioned in 1849 and, in 1851, were seen by seven witnesses. Their testimony appeared at the front of The Book of the Law of the Lord, which Strang said he translated from the “Plates of Laban.” (Work on the translation seems to have begun at least as early as April 1849. An 84-page version appeared in 1851; by 1856, it had reached 350 pages .) The statement of Strang’s witnesses speaks of seeing the plates, but mentions nothing of any miraculous character. Nor did Strang supply any second set of corroborating testimony comparable to that of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. One of the witnesses to the “Plates of Laban,” Samuel P. Bacon, eventually denied the inspiration of Strang’s movement and denounced it as mere “human invention.” Another, Samuel Graham, later claimed that he had assisted Strang in the fabrication of the “Plates of Laban.” The well-read Strang had been an editor and lawyer before his brief affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his subsequent career as a schismatic leader. Thus, Strang’s plates were much less numerous than those associated with Joseph Smith, his witnesses saw nothing supernatural, his translation required the better part of a decade rather than a little more than two months, and, unlike the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Strang’s witnesses did not remain faithful to their testimonies. [footnotes omitted]

Whatever you think of James Strang and his plates, he and his witnesses do not lessen the evidence provided by the Three Witnesses nor that from the Eight Witnesses and others for the reality of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon.

Unfortunately, the critics can’t see a difference. As one put it in the comments section on my last post,

Oh, the Strangite one is my favorite. Has nearly the exact same arguments for its validity as Mormonism, but we can dismiss Strangite testimonies because, well, for all the reasons we can dismiss Mormon testimonies.

I’m sure Jeff is 100% aware of it, too. It just doesn’t click. The brain doesn’t work on logic when there are huge emotional barriers.

This is not a difficult issue, IMHO. The reasons for not accepting James Strang’s work as divine based on the weak evidence from the Strangite witnesses have little bearing on the Book of Mormon. The two cases do not involve “the exact same arguments.” The Strangite witnesses are not parallels to the miraculous evidence from Book of Mormon witnesses. They do not provide the consistent, passionate, and lifelong credibility we have with the gold plates from men who often had much to lose and nothing to gain by standing as witnesses, even after falling away from the institutional Church. The Strangite witnesses are much more easily understood as men who actually saw real, fabricated plates, having been duped for a while by a skilled and well-read lawyer with a scheme to imitate Joseph. This does nothing to explain the origins of what Strang sought to imitate. Emotional barriers are not the issue here.

It’s one thing to show some people a little set of plates carefully buried in the ground. It’s quite another thing to have a majestic angel present them, and then, to remove all doubts from religious hysteria and frenzied minds, to have men under ordinary light see and handle actual gold plates that Joseph could not plausibly have fabricated. Joseph the uneducated farmboy wins this round against the skilled lawyer, and so do his witnesses.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

79 thoughts on “No, the Strangite Witnesses Are Not Strong Parallels to the Book of Mormon Witnesses

  1. "unaided by other resources according to his scribes and others"

    FALSE. The fact that the 1604-1611 translators of the King James Bible ADDED words to make the English more readable are ALSO used in the BOM proves Smith used a KJV Bible.

    "uneducated farmboy"

    FALSE. The "uneducated farmboy" spin needs to stop. You would have us to believe Smith was illiterate. The fact is Smith grew up in a family of often-employed school teachers. He was well read and a quick examination of his journals and letters reveals an accomplished writer:

    "We are under necessity to disappoint you this time for reasons which I shall mention hereafter, but trusting that your meeting may not be an unprofitable one May you all realize the necessity of getting together often to pray"

    http://josephsmithpapers.org

    Are these the musing of an "uneducated farm boy"? What uneducated farm boy keeps a journal? Did he suddenly become educated after the finding of the gold plates?

  2. Fascinating post, Jeff. Thanks for the comparisons.

    As for the KJV Bible, I do believe that it was used as an aid during the translation of Book of Mormon chapters that mirrored Bible teachings (e.g., 2 Nephi and 3 Nephi chapters). But those are only a few chapters in the book–so it wasn't that big of a resource.

    I also must say that it's rare for me to hear someone refer to Joseph Smith as "an accomplished writer." Most writings from his time period used the complex sentence structure and vocabulary given in the example above. Have you ever tried to read some of his journals? It can be a nightmare. And what's more, a lot of his 'writings' were dictated, and the scribe would mercifully correct many of his errors, I'm sure.

  3. "I do believe that it was used as an aid during the translation of Book of Mormon"

    While I appreciate your admission to Smith's obvious use of the KJV Bible, what does this say to the reliability of Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery's testimony of Smith's translation process?
    Did they lie? Were they misled? Either he used a Bible or he didn't

  4. "a lot of his 'writings' were dictated, and the scribe would mercifully correct many of his errors, I'm sure"

    These same scribes would correct early version of the BOM, wouldn't they?

  5. Love the anti Mormons grasping at straws here.

    Truth is, no one knows about the KJV language. There's a lot of it. There's also a lot of stuff that is NOT in the KJV. See the Ships of Tarshish stuff, and see Welch's analysis of the Sermon on the Mount language, which pretty clearly demonstrates that Third Nephi is not a slavish copy of the KJV. That's a fact conveniently ignored by the antis.

    As for Joseph Smith's now not being an uneducated farm boy? It is to laugh! That has been one of the main drivers behind entire schools of anti mormon thought–That the Book of Momron is copied from Solomon Spaulding, or Sidney Rigdon–because Joseph Smith was clearly intellectually incapable of writing it. Now, suddenly, he's a professor or something.

    Truth is–Joseph Smith started out uneducated. Up until after the Book of Mormon, he was pretty illiterate. But he rapidly got educated; indeed he learned Hebrew and many other subjects. His scientific writings are only now being shown to be accurate (his description of Spirit as "refined matter" unable to be seen is about a good description of modern day "Dark Matter" as you'll find)

    In general, early 1800's era writers wrote much more complex than today. Read some of Edgar Allen Poe, and you will see that he writes at a very high level–even in his general commentary, such as critiques of other authors. Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well. Try reading the Federalist Papers, and many, many more. Basic English education was a lot more advanced than we do now.

    But hey, the challenge that Joseph Smith issued still stands. Go write something that stands up to one of his revelations. See if you can beat God at writing. William E McLellin couldn't do it. Maybe you are smarter…..

  6. Mormanity,

    Ohh, the BoM 8 witnesses are completely different because Strangites witnessed plates made out of different a material than the plates of the BoM 8 witnesses. The BoM 8 witnessed gold plates, well, … may be some different alloy because their testimonies unwittingly contradict gold dimensions, may be tumbaga, well we don’t really know what they were made out of. FACT: We do not know what either set of metallic plates was made out of, only that the Strangites openly put theirs on display for all to see until lost, while the BoM plates were not made available for any sort of serious inspection. But really? Do you even hear yourself? The unknown material of each set of plates makes the difference?

    The constant contradictions are astounding. A supernatural vision is required. Again, you run away from explaining why the BoM 8 is valid being when there was no supernatural vision claim, despite mistaking an unknown alloy for gold.

    You state that unauthenticated/unfounded rumors invalidate the Strangite plates, but unauthenticated/unfound rumors do not invalidate the BoM plates? Again, the double standard of your stuff smells different boggles objective minds. This behavior is probably best described as denial. Merely repeating what has already been exposed as contradictory does not a rejoinder make. What was your rejoinder to Anne Lee, Sacred Roll and Book, modern examples of mass apparitions, etc, I missed it.

    With every choir preach we witness mounting evidence of incorrigible patterns of either self-hate (disdain for your own lawyer behavior) and denial (your stuff smells different (it doesn’t)) or blatant lawyer attempts at deception.

    The choir and preacher are starting to lose their entertainment value and are rapidly deteriorating into an inane cacophony.

  7. Oh and btw Mormanity, Why do you habor so much hate, hostility, and animosity towards the Strangites?

  8. to Anon 1:34

    Grasping at straws? Let's cut through your dismissive "anti" label, name-calling and discuss this.

    I'm not talking about language style of Poe or Hawthorne. There are actual SPECIFIC side by side examples of the KJV and BOM.

    Between 1604 and 1611 Translators, for reasons of English clarity, ADDED words to the King James Bible. These ADDED words were italicized to distinguish from the original manuscripts.

    Among others, 2 Nephi 19:1, (supposedly written around 550 BC)
    quotes the 1611 King James Bible Isaiah 9:1 – INCLUDING the
    translators’ ADDED italicized words!

    Please explain how Joseph Smith could translate an ancient BOM text WORD FOR WORD from a stone in a hat and INCLUDE these ADDED King James words?

  9. " Ironically, it's a fitting comparison to make since Strang himself was a lawyer and his exploits illustrate some of the things that skilled lawyers or other highly educated people can do when they seek to affect (as in misdirect) the faith of others."

    This is hilarious. Lawyers–so exploitative in their ways. Glass looking money diggers who convince people they've found buried treasure, however–gosh, so much more credible!

  10. Anonymous 3:10 – Reference Elder Eyring's explanation for why it doesn't matter what the Book of Abraham papyri actually said – as a prophet, JS could receive revelation at any time, no reference material was necessary.

    Based on that explanation, all this talk about plates and witnesses is entirely irrelevant.

    Strang had 10,000 people follow him to Michigan, which I would consider pretty strong evidence that the spirit told many people that Strang was a prophet. The rest of the peripheral issues are completely pointless.

  11. It seems to me that you are clearly correct that the presence of the angel is a very different experience than finding some metal plates where Strang said that they would be.

    In addition, the visit of the angel with plates and the physical-only manifestation both corroborate that Joseph had plates — and the voice of God to which the 3 witnesses testified are rather convincing. It is obvious that Strang is a copy cat. In addition, the statement of Samuel Graham that he assisted Strang to make the plates is very convincing that Strang fraudulently created the plates. There is nothing remotely like that with any of the Book of Mormon witnesses.

    Anonymous is off-base to try to make Joseph more learned than he was — as if he read the entire Palmyra library and memorized the entire KJV. He could read and write, but anyone who has read his own handwritten journals can see just how unschooled and unlearned he really was. He could hardly structure a sentence.

    And anonymous must be unaware of article like the Expansion Theory that fully explains the use of the KJV word for word. Further, the purpose of the plates is quite clear — there cannot be a revelation of what is on the plates without plates and the plates serve as a link to the historically physical record that shows it took place in real time and space.

  12. Jeff noted that Joseph Smith's translation was accomplished "unaided without other resources." All the witnesses who served as scribes–even unbelievers–noted that Joseph Smith had no other resources and that he dictated for hours at a time. The fact that KJV quotations (ver batim 50% of the time) is even more astounding. Why don't some of you try quoting several chapters of the sermon on the mount without any notes. I submit that the doctrinal revisions in the slight modifications alone add to the miraculous nature of Joseph Smith's feat.

    And no, his scribes did not correct the text. Joseph Smith did; but the corrections are inconsequential. I have a red lined comparison between the 1830 and 1980 editions that show thousands of revisions–which clarify but leave the original meaning mostly intact.

    Additionally, the BoM witnesses said the plates had the "appearance of gold."

  13. BTW, I forgot to mention that I offer the comparison of the 1830/1980 BoM to anyone who would like it.

  14. Ostler's Expansion Theory admits:

    "At least one modern source was indisputably used in the Book of Mormon — the King James Version of the Bible"
    "Joseph Smith clearly used the KJV Old Testament to render the Book of Mormon translation"

    https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V20N01_68.pdf

    Again, what does this say to the reliability of Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery's testimony of Smith's translation process?
    Did they lie? Were they misled? Either he used a Bible or he didn't

    Jeff also states Smith's translation was "unaided by other resources according to his scribes and others"

  15. It seems pretty clear that the KJV language was used in the translation. It seems that the KJV language was closely followed whenever it was "good enough" or close enough, as if the goal was to stick to the language of scripture when possible. The many differences, though, are subtle, sometimes major, and often interesting. Still, the KJV was used as the baseline. But how it was used is unclear. The witnesses consistently report Joseph dictating the record without using notes or other resources. We don't know how Joseph obtained the words he dictated. We do have portions of the original manuscript and the printers manuscript, and the detailed scholarship of Royal Skousen on these records provides abundant support for the claims that it was verbally dictated and written by scribes. The process they observed is already suggestive of something remarkable taking place, even without considering the truly remarkable evidence that the record was on gold plates and for 3 of the witnesses, had divine origins confirmed by an angel. The difference between the original and the imitator here is profound, though impossible to see for some people. Maybe it's just those emotional barriers in the way, I don't know.

  16. And in spite of the KJV language being used and the process being rather miraculous, I do not expect perfection. Some real mistakes are possible and inevitable. But I don't have a good explanation for the presence of what appear to be KJV errors. Would be great if errors did not enter in the process. The "without cause" error in the Sermon on the Mount is corrected, FYI, but I'm not sure about the state of others.

  17. Okay, so someone is arguing that the BofM is what, I don't know… wrong, or made up, I guess, since the KJV translators invented words that they used in translation that, sho nuff, ended up in the BofM when the same text was translated.

    An immediate answer occurs: if English didn't have the appropriate words, so the earlier translators invented them to more accurately convey the original intent–then shouldn't we expect them to show up?

    Let's say I'm translating some ancient text, and it refers to a large animal with antlers, lives in the forest. I have no words, so I call it a "Moose." Three hundred years later, someone else uses "Moose" to describe a large animal with antlers.

    Is it evidence that the second translator is wrong, and just made it up? Or did they use the word "Moose" because that is what was meant, and now the English language has the word "Moose?"

    Perhaps the KJV just set the standard.

    But I totally understand the problems some of you anti-Mormons have. It's a good thing you aren't believers in Christ, because I'm sure that Christ when He was on the Earth used the scriptures as generally accepted–not as He had dictated them. So Jesus did the same thing: used the generally accepted text when necessary.

    You may now disclaim Jesus as a false prophet, and inspired of the devil.

    By the way, our host discusses this issue at some length here on his site. You can cry plagiarism all you want, but it's clearly not.

  18. Jeff, the New Testament did the same thing when citing the Old Testament. Some errors from the LXX ended up in the New Testament–even the words of an angel–Rev. 2:27. I personally like the BoM disclaimer that if there are mistakes, they're the mistakes of men.

  19. Jeff, you write that you "don't have a good explanation for the presence of what appear to be KJV errors" in the BoM.

    Actually, you do have a good explanation, a very good one: The BoM was written in the 19th century, after the KJV and not before.

    Problem solved.

  20. Something to take into account in all of this: money. Joseph and others sunk a lot of money into this venture, and they wanted to make it back. When the time came to sell the book, their stories had to be straight if they wanted to make back their investments (each of the witnesses was a material investor in the writing of the book).
    It is easy to believe that Joseph had help creating the book from others in his family, including Oliver Cowdery, the most obvious candidate.
    When the whole venture went to Joseph's head and subsequently off the rails (polygamy, banking schemes, and, oh, destroying the presses in Nauvoo thereby throwing any respect for the US constitution out the window), it's no wonder the witnesses scattered/started their own off shoots.

  21. Uh? Actually the presence of the KJV in the Book of Mormon is fully explained by the fact that Joseph used his own vocabulary and resources — as explained in the Expansion Theory. What cannot be explained are Hebrew Covenant renewal festivals that actually meet with exactness no less than three places in the text the form of the ancient festival that were unknown until 1945 when Mendenhall first wrote about them; prophetic call forms followed exactly in the Book of Mormon that were not discussed until the early 1980s; the Hebrew legal procedures first discussed in the 1950s and a pretty darn exact account of where to find the way to Nahom.

  22. Anonymous 9:12, why is it exactly that the number of non-LDS scholars who accept any of these apologetic claims is exactly zero?

    There are thousands of scholars, among them Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists, who agree on a wide range of scholarship about the Bible. They agree on innumerable points concerning the textual scholarship, they agree on innumerable points on the archaeology.

    Yet where is the non-Mormon scholar who buys the Expansion Theory? Who agrees that Joseph's odd "caractors" have anything remotely to do with either Hebrew, Egyptian, or anything in between? Who believe that the Book of Abraham papyrus is anything but an ordinary funerary document?

    Why is it that after all this time, after all this effort by really smart guys like Welch and the rest, you guys can't convince the outside scholars?

    Can it really be that all the others are wrong and you alone are right? Can it really be that all the world is blinded by prejudice, and Mormons alone can see clearly?

    You want me to believe? Show me some evidence. I mean REAL evidence. (Sorry, Jeff, but 180-year-old statements that involve angels and divine apparitions don't count as "evidence." If you don't believe me, just try it on a jury sometime. Or ask yourself why you don't believe in the myriads of non-LDS, non-Christian miracles attested to through the ages. Because your miracles are so special?)

    Show me the ruins of Zarahemla, confirmed by independent archaeologists. Show me the Middle Eastern DNA traces in Native American genes. Show me the linguistic traces of Hebrew in New World native languages.

    Show me one instance of widespread, non-Mormon agreement on evidence for the authenticity of the BoM as an ancient text.

  23. "Actually the presence of the KJV in the Book of Mormon is fully explained by the fact that Joseph used his own vocabulary and resources — as explained in the Expansion Theory"

    The problem is the it's not Smith's random vocabulary, as the Expansion theory and Jeff admit, Smith clearly used the KJV as source material along with the specific added words and errors to translate the BOM.

  24. To Anon 7:13
    "Perhaps the KJV just set the standard"

    I agree with you there. The problem is that the KJV standard you mention shows up in a text that is claimed to be many hundreds of years older. And neither the Expansion theory or Jeff can explain it away.

    "It's a good thing you aren't believers in Christ, because I'm sure that Christ when He was on the Earth used the scriptures as generally accepted"

    Huh?? What does that have to do with the fact that Smith copied erroneous 1611 texts and used them in the BOM that was supposedly written hundreds of years earlier.

    To Alma,

    "the New Testament did the same thing when citing the Old Testament. Some errors from the LXX ended up in the New Testament"

    Not only is this beside the point, the New Testament does not claim too be written BEFORE the Old Testament while containing the same errors. The BOM does exactly that in regards to the KJV.

  25. Anon above me, you don't get it, do you? The problem is the same: The KJV translators were faced with translating the ancient text into English. English did not have the necessary words to properly convey the message. So they invented the words necessary to properly translate the passage.

    Hundreds of years later, Joseph Smith is faced with the same or similar text (Heck, it is Isaiah! It's explicitly labeled as such. Why, pray tell, is it a surprise that it will look similar–it IS similar?) So, same or nearly the same original text. Same problem–but the solution already exists: The KJV translators have supplied the appropriate new words. Why the heck WOULDN'T it be almost identical? If two translators translate Lewis Carrol's poem "Jabberwocky" into German, aren't they going to come up with almost the same thing? If they don't, then one of them did a piss poor job, right?

    In fact, that is a good example of what happened. Jabberwocky is filled with impossible to translate words, because German (or indeed, any language) doesn't have those words. So the first person to translate the poem into German had to make up some words. Are you accusing every translator since then of plagiarism, if their translations of the poem resemble the first–down to and including the made up words the first guy used? Does that automatically destroy their credentials as translators? According to you, it does. Once translated once, it can never, ever, ever happen again, right?

  26. Anon 9:09

    So what you're telling me is Joseph Smith translated the ancient text and added the exact same "clarifying" words AND errors used the KJV Bible?

    Is this just an amazing coincidence?

    Maybe not. You said "The KJV translators have supplied the appropriate new words"

    So Smith copied the KJV while translating?

    What does this do to the reliability of Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith and everyone else who say Joseph sealed his face into a hat and dictated "appearing words" to scribes with no Bible as reference?

    Did they lie? Were they misled?

  27. I'll bite. If you look at the link I provided earlier (which you clearly have not), you will see that, in fact, the exact same words were not used. Only similar words were. It's not a cut and paste job, despite your claims.

    I'll ask you this: If you are correct, and Joseph Smith just copied straight out of the Bible, then how did he get ships of Tarshish verse correct? Did he have the Greek Septuagint lying around? And, of course, he spoke Greek that early in his life too, right?

    This is one of those discussions that always ends up the same way: what looks like a weakness of the Book of Mormon ("Alma is a female name! Joseph Smith was an idiot to have a man named that! Or "Land of Jerusalem–any fool knows Jesus was born in Bethlehem! Ha ha, what an idiot!) turns out to be a strength of the Book of Mormon. Those two parentheticals used to be strong attacks; not so much anymore.

    Someone mentioned non Mormon scholars who believe. Good question. Why would a non Mormon scholar believe in the Book of Mormon, etc and not get baptized. I ask you–where are the Non Christian scholars who believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, started God's church, died, was resurrected the third day, and ascended to heaven as God the Son?

    There are not any, right? If they believe all of that, they become a Christian.

    What you are demanding is to find scientists who believe all the LDS claims…. but do not convert. In short, you want to find scientists who are, what? Cowards who cannot follow their convictions?

    I'm sorry, but I think higher of most scientists than you do. In any case, the number of scientists who 1) have been exposed to detailed LDS claims and 2) have expertise in the field is small. Of that group, most of them are probably associated with FARMS, so of course you reject them out of hand.

  28. Meosamerican archeology is far more difficult to study in large part because of the environmental conditions. The humidity and jungle have swallowed up the vast majority of any remnants of those that lived during the time of the Nephites. The Near East doesn't suffer this problem nearly as much because of how dry it is there, preserving far more for far longer.

    The city of Chactun is a really great candidate for Zarahemla and until only a few years ago, was competely unknown. The location is in an extremely remote part of the Yucatan peninsula and hard to research, but the foundations of the main temple pyramid structures are said to be far larger than anything previously discovered.

    You can do your own research on it, but here's an article from Huffington:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/mayan-city-chactun-discovered-mexico_n_3468502.html

    "Fire Is Born" is an even more interesting find by archeologists. His story is remarkable because it takes place precisely around the time of the final battles of the Nephites between 380 and 420 AD. I highly recommend reading this article by National Geographic on the whole story, but here are some excerpts:

    "Ancient inscriptions give the date as January 8, 378, and the stranger's name as Fire Is Born. He arrived in Waka, in present-day Guatemala, as an envoy from a great power in the highlands of Mexico."

    "News of the advancing column must have reached Tikal, and somewhere along the stretch of riverbank and roadway, perhaps at a break in the cliffs about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the city, Tikal's army tried to stop Fire Is Born's advance. Inscribed slabs, called stelae, later erected at Tikal suggest that the defenders were routed. Fire Is Born's forces continued their march on the city. By January 16, 378—barely a week after his arrival in Waka—the conqueror was in Tikal."

    "In 426, Tikal took over Copán, 170 miles (274 kilometers) to the south in present-day Honduras, and crowned its own king, Kinich Yax Kuk Mo, who became the founder of a new dynasty."

    You can go on reading the whole thing, but the entire episode matches the the last chapters of Mormon within just a few years and so precisely you'd think it was a story out of "Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites".

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/08/maya-rise-fall/gugliotta-text

  29. My main point is that Mesoamerican research is still in its infancy compared to Near Eastern research, partly because people have less interest in it, partly because a lack of tools to decipher language, and partly because of the remoteness and environment that has swallowed up so much.

    New finds are discovered all the time in Central America. To say that the case is closed on Mesoamerican archeology as evidence for the Book of Mormon is like saying that the case is closed on the possibility of finding microbial life in our solar system.

    The work has just barely begun.

  30. Is that the link written by the same Jeff Lindsay who above frankly admitted "I don't have a good explanation for the presence of what appear to be KJV errors"?

    Jeff doesn't know, but at least he can admit it

    "how did he get ships of Tarshish verse correct?"

    I personally believe he had help writing it. If Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery withheld the fact that Smith used the KJV Bible as proven by the errors found in both, they're testimony falls into question and most likely provided additional reference.

  31. I personally believe he had help writing it. If Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery withheld the fact that Smith used the KJV Bible as proven by the errors found in both, they're testimony falls into question and most likely provided additional reference.

    That's hard to believe since both Cowdery and Harris left the church (the latter being excommunicated). If they had helped create the fraud, I couldn't imagine anyone letting Smith get away with it after they left. But they're all on the record (including Whitmer who never did return) for never denying what they saw.

    A lot of people underplay that, but this lends incredible weight to the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

    I'm not too familiar with claim that mistakes from the KJV crept into the Book of Mormon passages, but I would like to see more specifics on it. If they are indeed true modern mistakes, my personal theory is that Joseph did use the Bible at times to help as a shortcut after he saw that Nephi was including entire passages from the Bible.

    While I would be disappointed in Joseph for taking such shortcuts, I can allow for such mistakes in the BoM because they were the mistakes of men, which the preface points out quite clearly.

    And for those who would say that I'm simply allowing for errors when its convenient, until I see someone give me a half decent explanation for how Joseph produced the entire thing with its chiasmus, hebraisms, and everything else in between at the "ripe and wizened" age of 24, the weight for the Book of Mormon being just what Joseph claimed it was far outweighs the claim of its critics.

  32. Joseph was also intimately familiar with the KJV. It's not hard to believe that at times he simply let his familiarity with the verses override what he was actually translating.

    But this doesn't explain all of the minor changes that crept in that make it MORE accurate than the KJV. The "Ships of Tarshish" example is just one example among many.

    Is it easier to believe that Joseph pulled the "correct" changes out of thin air, or easier to believe that Joseph accidentally put in things he was already familiar with from the KJV?

    I think it's pretty obvious which is more difficult to believe.

  33. @illuminated, an explanation that assumes miracles will, by definition, always be more difficult to belief. It will also be the most difficult thing to prove, because, again by definition, a miracle is "the thing least likely to have happened."