I was asked why I don’t provide evidence against the Book of Mormon as well as for. Well, as part of what may be a more balanced approach, let me admit that there are many arguments that are used against the Book of Mormon. Certainly one of the most common, one that is viewed as a “slam dunk” argument by many critics, is the one based on Alma 7:10. Mormons, hold on to your testimony, or better yet, quit reading right now if your faith is weak, because I’m about to reveal one of the top 10 dirty little problems about the Book of Mormon, a problem that many critics say we Mormons don’t want others to know about. And frankly, Mormons rarely get up in testimony meeting and discuss this problem, seminary manuals are silent about it, and missionaries rarely tell it to their investigators. It’s like the whole Church is trying to hide a fatal flaw in the Book of Mormon that anybody with an IQ of about 40 or so could think of.
Still reading? Beware – because here it is. Alma 7:10 says that Christ was born in the land of Jerusalem, but the Bible teaches that He was born in Bethlehem. In fact, every school child knows that Christ was born in Bethlehem. Joseph Smith’s fraudulent work was so clumsy, so ignorant of the teachings of the Bible, so devoid of intelligence, so absent of thought and research, that he got messed up regarding one of the most basic facts in the whole Bible. Absolute idiocy, an obvious flaw, and exactly the kind of nonsense we would expect from an ignorant farmboy trying to make up scripture on his own.
So there you go! If you’re looking for a reason to reject the Book of Mormon, that’s about as good as any.
However, if you’re looking for understanding, you may want to ask yourself if there might be something more to this issue. It sure looks like a slam-dunk argument against the Book of Mormon, clear, logical, straightforward, undeniable. But many times the critics leave out some important information (often unintentional, I’m sure, at least at first). Could there be any possible answer to so powerful an argument? Perhaps. Take a look and judge for yourself. Actually, there is much more to be said on this issue than that link gives, but it’s one place to start.
Here’s a quick summary of the issues from the above links:
- Bethlehem is only 5 miles from Jerusalem, making it virtually a suburb of the city. Thus, referring to the birthplace of Christ as being in the land of Jerusalem is quite reasonable.
- For people long and far removed from Jerusalem, referring to Bethlehem as being in the land of Jerusalem actually makes more sense that referring to the tiny village itself, just like people from Brea, California or Sandy, Utah might tell Europeans that they are from Los Angeles or Salt Lake City, respectively.
- Ancient documents from Lehi’s era support the concept of Jerusalem being viewed of as more than just a city, but a region including outlying villages.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to the “land of Jerusalem” and a non-LDS scholar commenting on that passage notes how this phrase “greatly enhances the sense of historicity” of a document. It’s an authentic phrase.
Overall, rather than being a major flaw, Alma 7:10 is an entirely authentic touch that is perfectly consistent with the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is an ancient Semitic document. It strains credulity to think that Joseph would be so brilliant as to add that touch, when it is so obviously “wrong” to all the learned Bible scholars among anti-Mormon ranks.
And are we supposed to believe that the farmboy who was so ignorant of the Bible as to make the blunder of Alma 7:10 was at the same time so perceptive and such a great scholar of the Bible that he could detect and imitate Hebraic literary tools such as chiasmus or paired tricola long before they were well recognized by typical Bible scholars???