Despite Mormonisms rise as a major world religion, screams that it is a “cult” have only increased over the years. Why? While a Mormon missionary in Germany, I often heard: “You are a sect”–synonymous with being called a “cult.” Of course, I took great offense to this, but the best response I think of was to simply explain what a “sect” actually is and how the Mormon church did not splinter from any previous religious group and therefore is not a sect. They quickly became bored by this.
But definitions matter. ‘Cult’ is defined as an act of revering a god or performing religious worship as opposed to passive belief. In ancient times, this meant performing some kind of sacrifice, ritual, or prayer. So any kind of cultivation or culture of religious devotion makes you a cult. That’s where the words cultivate and culture come from; they have the root cult-. Of course, this is something everyone does, even atheists. We all perform some kind of action that reflects and reinforces moral or spiritual beliefs. The question is what kind of religion it is.
I would say the first sign of a dangerous cult is if it claims to be the exclusive possessor of truth or salvation. This can be tricky when it comes to religion, because all religions claim to have more truth and salvation than other religions. Otherwise why would you join that religion? Well, the danger is when you cross the line from “other religions have less salvation” to “other religions have no salvation.” That’s when it becomes dangerous.
I find it ironic that the Evangelicals and Antimormons who scream the loudest “Mormons are a cult” also scream “Mormons aren’t Christian.” Isn’t the exclusion of Mormonism from Christianity a trait of a cultist? Huffington Post lists “Denial of essential Christian teachings” such as “Trinity” as the number two trait of a cult. So everybody is a cult unless they agree with a modern prescribed interpretation based on the Nicene Creed? Why? Isn’t that a cult-like view? It is extremely troubling that half of Americans say Mormons aren’t Christian.
With the thick blanket of media rhetoric about Mormons in the West, I can see why an average person would think Mormons are exclusionary. The media all agrees we are intolerant.
All Churches Have Some Truth – This is why Antimormons incorrectly portray Mormons as thinking only we have truth. But Mormons don’t claim to have a monopoly on truth. Salvation is open to people who do not join the Mormon church. The celestial kingdom is for those who receive ordinances from the Mormon priesthood, yes, but those who don’t receive those ordinances are not condemned to outer darkness. People get what they merit. There is also possibilities for progression in the afterlife. Being a Mormon is not a free pass to heaven.
Intolerance Of Opinions? – Don’t Mormons exclude people from the church? Disagreement with a behavior is not intolerance for a person, and this is a very important distinction. I see many groups out there that castigate and eject people for having different opinions or speech. Pro-Mormons are frequently down-voted on Ex-mormon discussion boards until they have negative karma and are thus banned from speaking, for example. Ideologues shout down or censor speech rather than focusing on behavior, and this is what I believe is the biggest difference other groups and Mormons. Mormons do not castigate or demean people because of speech, and when it comes to apostate behavior it is about helping the sinful, and we are all sinful. You don’t go to a hospital to be told you are accepted for your sickness; you go there to be healed.
Well, what about that 12 year old girl that got asked to sit down during her testimony? The Bishop correctly let her stand up there and talk about her opinions (or rather read from her script) for quite a while. Giving an opinion isn’t the problem, it is when someone starts advocating directly for doctrine that directly opposes teachings of the church, such as calling for gay marriage. The church’s definition of marriage is fundamental doctrine–it is set in stone–and agitating to the entire congregation for the complete opposite of that is apostasy. Can I go to a pro-life group and stand up and tell everybody they are going to hell? What will happen then? Can I stand in front of the NRA and call for a gun ban, or stand in front of the Democratic National Committee and call for a Christian theocracy in America? Will they let me stand up there and go on and on about it? There is a difference between advocating for personal opinions and advocating for the direct opposite of a group’s core beliefs.
Ideologues encompass all opinions and all speech within the ideology, so that you are a sinner if your choice of breakfast cereals falls outside the group’s decision. With ideologues, all opinions must be the same. They hiss and scream at you for thinking differently. Nobody screamed or berated that 12 year old girl did they? What about the Antimormon protesters at temple square who scream at Mormons?
Intolerance For Discussion Or Debate – Okay fine, but what about having some open discussion? Isn’t there room for debate? Well again, it would be nice if Antimormons and others would allow for open discussion in their spaces as well, and I think open discussion is important. But we need to be careful that the church not become dependent on the results of that discussion, because we don’t decide what the church’s articles of faith are. Dialectic does not run the church. We are not the “People’s Democratic Republic Of Latter-Day Saints”. Antimormons have exploited our value for open discussion and camouflaged themselves as open discussion. It appears that way to me, anyway, because I see only an apostate perspective represented or the faithful Mormon perspective is a hackneyed strawman caricature. By all means, let’s have a healthy debate, but let’s not misrepresent the other side, stifle their conversation, or debate dishonestly.
Socialism does not tolerate open discussion. It is all about purging anything that conflicts with the ideology, and this must not become the purpose of dialectic and debate, because this shuts down constructive discussion. There are many who have blocked me on social media because they couldn’t tolerate my opinions.
Stereotyping Outsiders – Another trait I’ve noticed of cults is that they paint a broad stroke of anyone not in their group. This is an easy trap to fall into for any group, and particularly a group with such unique differences as Mormons have. I guess I do it a little myself, we all do. But I don’t really see it as a problem among Mormons. Conversely, however, we are one of the most falsely-stereotyped groups in America.
A third sign of a dangerous cult is secret beliefs that are not shared with nonmembers or given with a vow of silence. Now, this is where Antimormons quickly point to the Mormon temple ceremonies. Secret beliefs right? And then Antimormons go on about things Mormons “actually” believe but won’t admit.
The Mormon temple ceremonies are easily found on Youtube. Transcriptions have been easy to find for centuries. It’s hardly secret. The church could have copyrighted the material to make publishing it illegal, or installed metal detectors to make video-taping by trespassing Antimormons impossible. We do not talk about temple ceremonies due to the sacredness of the context, but the point is not to have a “secret belief.” Members are encouraged to share all beliefs with family members and friends in a honest and frank way. You never hear a Mormon leader say: “Don’t tell anyone about this.” I find it ironic that the Evangelicals and Antimormons who allege secret beliefs also complain that Mormon missionaries won’t stop showing up at their door talking about their Mormon beliefs.
Here’s how they make Mormons appear secretive: Antimormons dig up some early 19th century quote–probably fake–snip it out of context, and make it look like there is some crazy belief that Mormons “actually” have. “Adam-God” or “Blood-atonement.” This is a strawman tactic that bigots have used since the beginning of time. Extreme atheists today say ‘If Christians actually followed the bible, they would be sacrificing animals and burning witches.’ Same tactic. When it comes to Mormons, the big lie comes down to the insistence that church policies are equivalent with doctrine and never change. The truth is doctrine is unchanging but policies change all the time. We do not “actually” believe in polygamy or anything like that. And I have never feared to talk about something or felt a desire to keep anything secret about the church.
One snippet of quote that Antimormons like to take completely out of context is: “When the prophet speaks the debate is over.” Eldon Tanner was talking about prophets settling age old theological questions, but Antimormons twist this to mean Mormon leaders demand rigid conformity in every way. Not true. This is an easy to mischaracterize Mormons because we are so unique and you see the same kind of church buildings and practices anywhere you go in the world.
Continued Revelation vs. Strict Dogma – A church with a hierarchical priesthood leadership based on continued revelation requires a high level of respect for its leaders. Otherwise a local leader could decide to do whatever he wants “from God” and everything falls apart. Mainstream Christians don’t have to worry about this so much because they have an unchanged canon that people can’t deviate from and no continued revelation. The “people” can’t change things because they stick by the bible and nothing more. Mainstream Christianity demands strict obedience to the bible as Mormonism demands obedience to priesthood offices. Without this respect for offices, local Mormon congregations splinter and you get polygamous cults and splinter groups, because everybody can say they receive authoritative revelation.
The obvious danger here is when priesthood leaders step outside the bounds and start directing the breakfast cereal you eat in the morning. How far can they go? A Bishop is responsible for his congregation, a Stake President for his group of congregations, and the Prophet for everybody. This hierarchal structure allows for higher leaders to correct local leaders– much like in the Catholic church–and prevent domineering or inappropriate leadership.
Authoritarian Personalities – Something I’ve noticed about some Antimormons is that even though they accuse Mormons of being authoritarian, they themselves have an authoritarian mindset. An authoritarian personality revels in absolute submission to authority, and I see hints of this in Antimormon rhetoric of how things should be. They often sound like the Pharasees in the New Testament who measured everything by the letter of the law. They complain that the church doesn’t answer every single question definitively, with expectations of an “official answer” for every tiny thing instead of researching it themselves. They lift themselves as superior by tearing Mormons down, push a culture of fear, and they focus on narrative over truth because they are in constant attack mode. I have noticed that Mormons avoid doing this. We don’t push an all-encompassing ideology that answers all questions and pushes the same formula on each person. We don’t tear people down or seek to dominate them. We treat people on an individual basis and we seek to alleviate all fear.
Well, what about Mormons who won’t let their children consort with non-members? Isn’t that authoritarian? Sometimes. If the non-members are bad influences then they are just being protective parents. But if the children are being excluded from all non-members or arbitrarily or unfairly, then I agree that is cultlike behavior. A co-worker once told me that her son hung out with a Mormon friend until the friend’s mother saw my co-worker walking down the street smoking a cigarette, and then the mother wouldn’t let them hang out anymore. I find that disgraceful. Yes, that is cultlike and unacceptable. It is unreasonable to think a friend’s mother smoking a cigarette somewhere will lead to a bad influence on her son. But I haven’t seen the church promote this kind of behavior. There are some overprotective parents that do this, but not because of church teachings. If you consider the level of depravity in modern culture and the amount of persecution that Mormons receive from mainstream media, and how easy it is for a young person to be swayed against the church, it makes sense why some parents would be overprotective. There are so many children who turn against their family and culture because of a bad influence at school, because the parents weren’t paying attention enough. It is hard to find a right balance. A good parent pays attention to influences on their children.
Denying Human Needs? – The church has some very unusual teachings that demand self-control, such as abstinence from alcohol and no premarital sex. But does abstaining from alcohol make you a cult? It’s easy for a Hollywood script-writer to portray someone as a cultist because of demanding and unique beliefs, but from what I have seen mainstream culture’s beliefs can be very demanding as well. I think demanding and unique beliefs are a virtue, and they only cross the line into authoritarianism when they mortify a person’s basic human needs, such as extreme periods of fasting or lifelong abstinence from sexual relations. Cults can use self-torture as a method for control, but in no way does Mormonism do this. And I can definitely see this method at work in various social groups, not just religions; shaming racial groups because their ancestors owning slaves, for example.
5. Blind Faith
Unnecessary Complex Questions – Another common sign of a cult is simplistic solutions for complex questions, or vis-versa: complex solutions for simplistic problems. This is very common in many groups, in fact “complexity” itself has become a virtue in post-modernism. The reason it is so frequent is because it isn’t always easy to find a simple solution for a simple problem.
A great example of this is found at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, where Nephi explained the meaning of Moses’ brazen serpent. Antimormons complain that the brazen serpent story shows an angry and homicidal god who sends snakes to kill people for not sounding grateful enough. But Nephi explained the point was to provide a simple solution to a simple problem, and that God’s laws may be restrictive but they are strait, while false solutions may appear unrestrictive but are convoluted. I am reminded of this when skeptics accuse me of having “blind faith” yet they build a complicated narrative about Joseph Smith translating with seer stones based on extremely unreliable quotes–he started with a white stone, then used the Urim and Thummim, then used a chocolate-covered stone, then nobody said anything about it until forty years later, etc.
Universal Salvation – Universal salvation is an indicator of blind faith. It is easy to throw your hands in the air and declare yourself saved by the blood of Christ, but then how do you really know what you are putting your faith in? Evangelicals urge me to accept Christ into my life (as if I haven’t already done that, being a Mormon) and I picture in my head somebody going down to the river to be baptized without really knowing about what they are doing. Mormons don’t do this. We are very careful to know what we believe, and we believe salvation is through merit, not universal for just throwing your hands in the air. How many people are more knowledgeable about their beliefs than are Mormons?
Apostate Christians of the Dark Ages promoted blind faith so that the masses would be profitable economic producers for them. Salvation was universal for all feudal serfs who plowed their masters’ fields and had holy water poured on their foreheads as babies. In much the same way as those feudal Lords, modern-day Socialists promote blind faith and attack meritocracy. Their fanatical focus on equality of outcome looks to me like a big controlling central power that retaisn all responsibility and all fitness, and all we have to do is wave our hands in the air and put our trust in them–be dutiful serfs on their fields. You don’t get there because you worked hard to be a strong and virtuous person.
So we Mormons don’t believe in going to heaven based entirely on simple rituals, and we don’t believe in crazy convoluted paths either. You don’t have to climb a mountain, pick a certain flower, memorize and repeat these lines of scripture, and pray for this many hours of the day. I think the biggest reason apostates and fake Mormons complain about the three-hour church schedule on Sundays is to give an impression of unnecessary complexity. But really, three hours is too much to ask? The yoke is easy and the burden is light, but it doesn’t just ignore the problems either.
Focus On Optics – Many cults are so image-crazed that they throw anyone under the bus who reveals the dark underside, such as a whistle-blower or even a true believer who accidentally lets the mask slip. Lenin famously killed anyone who informed him of bad results from his Soviet policies. He didn’t want any bad news. Cultists try to convince themselves and everyone else that everything is swell by maintaining a flawless image.
It is easy to accuse anyone of doing this, as it is important for any group to have a favorable image. But what about that MTC director that erupted in scandal not long ago for sexual abuse? Was he thrown under the bus? Or what about Ammon Bundy and his people who so many people were complaining about? I saw endless ridicule against the church because Ammon was a Mormon, yet he didn’t get excommunicated by the church. The same skeptics and Antimormons who accuse the Mormon church of being image-obsessed also called for the MTC director to be crucified by the church for what he did. It’s one or the other, you can’t have both.
Separating Families? – I think the tell-tale sign of a cult is if it separates people from their family who aren’t members of the cult. Dangerous cults alienate people from their personal support group so that it is easier to indoctrinate them. As a missionary, I recall being frustrated when people in the church talked to Antimormon friends and family and then lost interest in the church. But I didn’t ever seek to split them from their friends and family. Family is one of the most important things we have in life and it would be foolish to throw it away because of some religious differences.
Why Are Mormons Called A Cult?
So when I look at the traits of a dangerous cult I don’t see Mormonism. In fact, I see quite the opposite. So why the heavy media rhetoric? Why the opposition and disdain? Is it because Mormonism indoctrinates deep-set beliefs to control the masses? Or is actually because Mormonism disrupts mass indoctrination? I find those who label us a cult tend to display the most extreme cult-like behavior themselves.
Many atheists say religion follows a mimetic pattern, where things we think we know and think we have faith in are just what has been passed down by parents and society, like an urban legend. But then I see secular and “progressive” media doing just that, the same headlines, the same narrative, the same ideas. Cultists blindly mimic the narrative and repeat media hysteria, and it isn’t fair to accuse someone of this just because they hold a certain set of articles of faith. But it is fair to accuse someone of this if they mimic the narrative for all issues and all opinions, and this is what I often see skeptics and Antimormons do.
So again, why are Mormons called cultists?
When I looked at religion books in local bookstores, they agreed Mormonism is a “sect” but didn’t explain why. When I looked at Antimormon websites, I saw the typical drivel about polygamy history and blood-atonement hoaxes. When I asked students of theology, they told me Mormonism’s origins were cultish, and I suppose some aspects do sound cultish. For example, polygamy and the United Order, which redistributed everybody’s income evenly across church membership. But aren’t these things we read about in the bible?Abraham was a polygamist and Jesus told the rich man to sell everything he owns. When I ask hard-core atheists, they typically say Mormonism is not worse than any other religion; all religions are bad. When I ask social justice proponents, they are upset that we don’t follow the latest “equality” cause or “progressive” trend. We are a cult to the extent that we unrelentingly cling to the doctrine that they are so offended by.
Helen Mar Kimball was reportedly sealed to Joseph Smith in 1843, when she was almost 15 years old. She was married “for eternity alone,” for the after-life only. There were no sexual relations. Historians agree, dynastic relations between families was the motivating factor for the sealing.
Antimormons incorrectly equate the eternal sealings with “marriage” to imply sexual relationships, but the truth is Helen continued to live with her parents after the sealing. Joseph Smith was arrested just days later on June 13, 1843 and was martyred in jail the next year. Clearly, they did not have physical relations.
Helen described suffering due to her “married life,” but this all happened while Joseph was either in jail or after he was dead. She suffered not because of Joseph Smith, but because of the pressure from her peers and the cultural restrictions placed on married women. Helen said she resented being kept from dances and other events meant for girls her age. She said her “youthful friends” became “shy and cold.” She said “poisonous darts from slanderous tongues were hurled” from jealous women. Helen resented being treated like a wife, when she actually had no husband around to speak of.
But despite her angst, Helen described her summer of 1843 as “of an exciting nature.” She learned to “bear the stigmas” of it all and enjoy the rest of her early life. She said “all their cruelties and whippings could not crush out nor subdue that spirit, nor make a ‘Mormon’ feel that he was conquered.” (Helen Mar Whitney, Life Incidents)
In 1892, Joseph Smith’s polygamous “wives” were called to testify in the court of law about their relationship with Joseph Smith, after a splinter sect sued another splinter sect to claim the Missouri temple site for themselves. They wanted to prove that Joseph Smith was polygamous. But they did not call Helen Mar Kimball as a witness in this “Temple Lot Case.” The attorney sought for only wives who they thought had sexual relations with Joseph Smith. Everybody knew Helen had not.
Helen said the purpose of the marriage was for her family “to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph.” A leading historian explains: “The prophet’s marriage to her seems to have been largely dynastic–a union arranged by Joseph and Heber to seal the Kimball family to a seer, church president, and presiding patriarchal figure of the dispensation of the fullness of times.” (Compton, 1997, p.486) Indeed, Helen’s father, Heber C. Kimball, went on to become the first counselor to the president of the church.
Joseph gave Helen twenty-four hours to herself to consider the request, without compulsion. She was not forced or pressured into it. There is a phony quote attributed to Helen Kimball floating around:
“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than a ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”
Helen did not say this. This quote comes from Antimormon Catherine Lewis in 1848. Catherine Lewis apparently did have some insight into Helen’s sealing, as Helen herself wrote that Joseph Smith had told her the principle of eternal sealings would “ensure your eternal salvation and that of your father’s household.” He didn’t say Helen’s sealing would save his father’s family, but the principle of sealings would save them. Also, Helen said Joseph Smith had fully explained what celestial union meant, that it was much more than just a ceremony. So she certainly knew it was “more than a ceremony.” Finally, Helen left Nauvoo in 1845, which means she was 16 years old at the most when Catherine would have heard this. Would she really have called herself a young and naïve person just a year and a half earlier?
Catherine Lewis was a hateful vindictive apostate, and her book made all kinds of spurious false claims. She played to the racist sentiment of pro-slavery opponents of the church, spreading racist rumors that Indians were “all ready to go through, avenge, and destroy the people of Carthage; they only waited for the word of command from the Church.”
We know Helen must have told her peers about the sealing, otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten blow-back from it. If she knew Helen at all, Catherine was certainly one of the spiteful girls who bullied Helen and made her early life difficult.
Helen Defended Polygamy
Helen wrote that polygamous marriage turned out to be a great blessing for her:
“I did not try to conceal the fact of its having been a trial, but confessed that it had been one of the severest of my life; but that it had also proven one of the greatest of blessings. I could truly say it had done the most towards making me a Saint and a free woman, in every sense of the word; and I knew many others who could say the same, and to whom it had proven one of the greatest boons–a “blessing in disguise.”
(Helen Mar Kimball, Why We Practice Plural Marriage)
Helen Kimball became the nation’s strongest defenders of polygamy.
“I have encouraged and sustained my husband in the celestial order of marriage because I knew it was right. At various times I have been healed by the washing and annointing, administered by the mothers in Israel. I am still spared to testify to the truth and Godliness of this work; and though my happiness once consisted in laboring for those I love, the Lord has seen fit to deprive me of bodily strength, and taught me to ‘cast my bread upon the waters’ and after many days my longing spirit was cheered with the knowledge that He had a work for me to do, and with Him, I know that all things are possible.”
(quoted in Augusta Joyce Crocheron, Representative Women of Deseret)
Like that catty Antimormon Catherine Lewis, Antimormons today exploit the polygamy issue to shame women in the church, and then they turn around and attack the church in the name of “defending women’s rights.” Mormon women face immense social shame because of the constant headlines in the media that incorrectly label polygamous cultists “Mormon.” How dare you be part of such a misogynist group? How could you as a women defend toxic patriarchy?
As for men in the church, this is the most shameful kind of association to accuse someone of.
Antimormons use Helen Kimball to attack the church in order to embarrass and exploit sexual shame. Who wants to be associated with a man like this? It is a pure attack of character. What makes it worse is there are splinter sects today that really do sexually exploit girls, which makes it easier for Antimormons to make this kind of association. The media simply calls the splinter sects “Mormons.”
It is not coincidence that church defends traditional marriage and condemns sexual perversions such as homosexual behavior. If Antimormons can make Mormons look sexually perverted it ruins their credibility in matters of family and marriage. The LDS church is a stalwart supporter of masculinity and positive patriarchy. Feminists frequently use this issue to attack marriage, patriarchy, and men in the church. If someone uses this attack, you can bet his motivation is to shame men, pervert the family unit, and destroy patriarchy.
Any half-reasonable person would not judge centuries-old events through a modern lens. This was the early 1800’s. Women married much younger in those days. Fourteen-years old wasn’t normal, but it wasn’t unusual either. Marriageability was a matter of a woman’s physical and mental readiness. Most historians agree Mother Mary was only 15 years old when Jesus was born. Girls were marrying at that age all the time, and marriages were often motivated by dynastic relations and other such reasons. A ceremony for a relationship that didn’t take effect until the afterlife is hardly something to worry about for the early 1800’s.
These days are different. Polygamy doesn’t work today, and women should not marry young because their emotional and mental maturity is not yet developed. This is why the Mormon church long ago banned polygamy and no longer offers sealings for “eternity only,” with no civil marriage involved.
The Egyptian lion couch scene derives from an old ritual called the Sed-festival. The king ritually “died” on the New Years festival and was “resurrected” to reclaim his kingship upon a lion couch. Researchers have discovered animals and even humans were sacrificed as substitutes for the king’s ritual “death.” Abraham was one of these substitute sacrifices, which is how he figures into Facsimile 1. This was the same sacrificial ritual that Abraham talked about in the Book of Abraham.
The lion couch scene in Facsimile 1 is not a funeral. There are plenty of lion couch scenes that are funeral, yes, but not this one. There are lion couch scenes of a child being born, of the king holding his royal scepter as if sitting on a throne, of the king turning around, of the king kicking upwards and moving his hands–all kinds of lion couch scenes!
They show different steps in the resurrection of the king as the god Osiris. First he dies, a horrible violent death. Then he is buried. Then he is revived, and reborn.
Egyptians portrayed their king “as a god from the lion bed” in the typical lion couch scene, says expert Jeremy Naydler. The purpose of the lion couch scenes were to show “the birth of a god…. re-membering of the dismembered Osiris.” It starts with the king being overcome by his enemies and being violently torn apart limb from limb. The priests and gods then try to help him restore to life and regain his throne. The figures under the lion bed symbolized by canopic jars, says Naydler, pay “homage to the newborn god-man.” They aid in the “healing and revivification of Osiris.”
Naydler says it goes back to the Sed festivel ritual on New Years day. This lion couch “phase in the rites was the supreme moment of the Sed fevistal.” The king was “dressed in a shroudlike garment, such as was used by the king during his entombment in the Sed festival, stretched out on a lion bed.” It was all about re-establishing the king’s rulership: “The Sed festival… was a true renewal of the kingly potency, a rejuvenation of ruler ship.”
The lion couch was typically an altar formed as a stone lion bed. The king went into the temple to be placed on this altar. The inner temple chamber was “the place where Osiris is begotten… where he dies to be reborn.”
Was it Osiris on the altar or the Egyptian king?
Osiris in the lion couch scene symbolized the Egyptian king.
In Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts, Jeremy Naydler explains:
“Within Egyptology, the standard funerary interpretation of the relationship between Osiris and Horus is that the two gods correspond to two different kings: the deceased king and his successor, the living king who occupies the throne… one and the same king… The king is going to enter the realm of death, he himself going to experience death. But although he is to journey into the realm of the dead, it is explicitly stated that he journeys into it alive. The death, then, is a ‘voluntary death.'”
King Tutankhamen’s tomb included lion couches for this ritual to take place in the afterlife. Alexandre Piankoff (via John Anthony West) explained: “Thus the dead one comes as Osiris into his tomb, where a cycle of transformation is going to begin: the dead god will be born again, Osiris will appear as a new Re, a new sun god… the birth of the sun god out of the watery abyss, and his exaltation and ascension into heaven.”
These “rites of rebirth” were shown in vignettes from the Book of the Dead, one of which is Facsimile 1 in the Book of Abraham. Interestingly, Facsimile 1 is the only lion couch scene in Egyptian literature–and there are a lot of them–that shows the watery expanse of the sky and pillars of heaven, below a sacrificial lotus offering table. Clearly, the Facsimile illustrated the ritual of exaltation and sacrifice.
Ritual Substitute Killing
In order to regain his kingdom and be exalted in heaven, Egypt’s king needed to merit this glory by overcoming his enemies. Similarly to the LDS temple drama, the king took part in the premortal struggle between God and Lucifer. The Egyptian God Osiris gained exaltation by killing the Egyptian version of the devil, Set, which was often illustrated by the sun’s (Re) overcoming the darkness of night. E.A. Wallis Budge explained:
“The ‘smiting’ of the statue is one of the most important acts of this ceremony, which was intended to commemorate the murder of Osiris by Set and his companions… the smiting of the statue symbolized the smiting of the body of the god, and also the smiting of the mummy of the deceased, whereby each was made a divine victim.”
“For the dead spirits or gods are described as swarming through the horizon in crowds. They gather for the battle of the Sun and the Apophis… ‘I am the sun coming forth from the horizon against my enemies. My enemies have not made me to fall… strangle ye the enemies of the sun. I put forth blows against the Apophis… The sun is that great god, the greatest of smiters, the most powerful of terrifiers; he washes in your blood, he dips in your gore.” (Massey)
The Sed ritual played out this victory within the king’s own self. The evil nature needed to die. M. Alexandre Moret explained (via James Frazer) that Egyptians made human sacrifices in the ritual
“In most of the temples of Egypt, of all periods, pictures set forth for us the principal scenes of a solemn festival called ‘festival of the tail,’ the Sed festival. It consisted essentially in a representation of the ritual death of the king followed by his rebirth. In this case the king is identified with Osiris, the god who in historical times is the hero of the sacred drama of humanity, he who guides us through the three stages of life, death, and rebirth in the other world. Hence, clad in the funeral costume of Osiris, which the tight-fitting garment clinging to him like a shroud, Pharoah is conducted to the tomb; and from it he returns rejuvenated and reborn like Osiris emerging from the dead. How was this fiction carried out? how was this miracle performed? By the sacrifice of human or animal victims.”
In the “mysteries of the rebirth of Osiris” we know several “cows are sacrificed.” But not just cows. Alberto Ravinell Green says it started out with the king as the sacrificial victim, and then moved on to substitute victims:
“…these Seth sacrifices were burned at the New Year’s annual fertility celebration. Initially… the king himself was burned alive as the earthly incarnation of Seth. Next, in the late Old Kingdom, a human substitute was chosen for the king. On such occasions as the Sed Festival, which was a fertility rite, Seth sacrifices would take place.”
At the Temple of the goddess Opet at Karnak, we see a lion couch scene very similar to Facsimile 1. But notice on the bottom left, just before the narrative of this chamber walls gets to the lion couch resurrection, we see hawk-headed Re, representing the sun, clubbing a little Seth figure, representing Apophis the devil. This violent killing was the sacrifice offering that expunged evil and allowed the king’s resurrection. Alexandre Moret explained: “A victim was sacrificed and its life taken, in order that this life escaping from the body of the victim might enter the body of Osiris.”
Egyptologists have found other temple reliefs which show “the sed-festival celebrated by Osorkon II,” showing how “the king entered his tomb” and “a priest holding a knife” conducted the sacrifice. Eric Uphill compares this relief illustration to a cenotaph of Seti I showing the king “stretched out prone on a lion couch attired in a robe… Above Seti is the single glyph commanding him to ‘wake.'”
The sacrifice was often performed with a knife, as shown in Facsimile 1. But there is also evidence of sacrifice by fire, which we read of in similar Abraham sacrifice accounts. At the tomb of Amenhotep II, “three human bodies were found, but though there is no actual proof that these were the victims of sacrifice yet from their position it seems likely that they had been immolated in honour of the dead king.”
Spread To Mesopotamia
The human sacrifice in Egypt was brief and limited compared to Mesopotamia, where the Book of Abraham claims it took place.
Herodotus mentioned that the Scynthians in northern Iran performed “human sacrifice” to “all other gods.” Herodotus said “they used to offer human sacrifices” at a ritual “when their king died.” It sounds like this ritual served the same purpose as the Sed festival, of renewing the king’s ruler ship. These human sacrifices were literally made “on their kings’ tomb… an immense sacrifice (fifty people are strangled)… members of the king’s household.”
The Taurians, in modern-day Turkey, performed a similar “human sacrifice” where they would “strike the victim’s head with a club.” Herodotus recorded (via Linday De Pow) “the priestesses killed all men who landed in their territory and nailed their heads to crosses. At Heirapolis artificial trees in Artemis’s temple were hung with the corpses of her sacrificial victims.” But later on the ritual softened to only “drops of blood drawn from a man’s neck with a sword.”
Origins For Book Of Breathing Vignette
The Book of Breathings adopted the lion couch scene from the Sed sacrifice ritual to affect the same exaltation for Egyptian elites. It was the same ritual adopted for the masses in later times. Looking at the Joseph Smith Papyri, it does not appear as if the figure in Facsimile 1 is drawn to be Abraham specifically… or maybe it was and that part is just missing from the papyrus fragment. It wouldn’t be surprising, considering the Leiden I 384 papyrus names Abraham in bold letters right below a similar lion couch scene.
But the fragment from the Joseph Smith papyri we have does not name Abraham explicitly. That’s because it is not the original illustration that Abraham makes reference to in the Book of Abraham. There are some key differences between the Facsimiles and what Abraham describes:
Facsimiles 2 is a Hypocephalus and that would never be in a Book of Breathings scroll, which is where Facsimile 1 can be found. So either each facsimile was also on the lost Amenhotep Scroll, or Joseph took the facsimiles from different scrolls.
The Hypocephalus in Facsimile 2 mentions a guy named Sheshonq, and none of the four mummies had this name. This strengthens the conclusion that Joseph took the facsimiles from different sources.
Fragments from all four rolls were placed under glass in the same collection as the Abraham sheets. Apparently they were important too, as they contained facsimiles that Joseph could use to explain derivative diagrams relating to Abraham.
Test is much easier to reproduce than illustrations. If this scroll was passed down over many generations from the days of Abraham, it is likely that they gave up copying the facsimiles along the way, and this is why Joseph used images in the other scrolls to derive Abrahamic concepts, as these Egyptian images were based on Abrahamic diagrams.
Only one facsimile was referenced in the Abraham text, yet Joseph produced three facsimiles. This strengthens the disassociation of the facsimiles with the Abraham text.”
Text from the facsimiles received lengthy consideration in the Grammar and Alphabet booklet, yet no hieroglyphs in any of the scrolls’ text are to be found.
The Abraham text describes the facsimile differently than the papyrus fragment shows it. Abraham describes the bedstead as standing “before” the idol gods. The facsimile shows the bed over the idols, but we don’t get a point of perspective whether they are in front of behind them. The priest’s foot is in front of the jars, so it looks to me like the jars are under the bed. Abraham’s text reads: “I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is… hieroglyphics.” There are no hieroglyphics in this Facsimile, and there is nothing to explain anything about this idols.
If the author of the Abraham text had had this same facsimile in front of them, they would have described it to match how it actually showed. This indicates Joseph Smith did not write it and the facsimiles we have today are not what Abraham originally wrote in his book.
The most likely explanation is that the Amenhotep roll which contained the Book of Abraham did not contain any facsimiles at all, only contained text, and Joseph Smith took the Facsimiles from the other scrolls. It showed the same ritual event, with the same lion couch and four supporting idol gods, very similar to how Abraham described them.
Abraham 1:12-14 makes direct reference to one of the Facsimiles, but does that mean the Facsimile was actually drawn in that roll to reference? No. Ancient books omitted illustrations that were referenced in the text all the time. The Roman Ten Book on Architecture makes references to many illustrations, but none of those illustrations have survived over time, because the book has been transcribed many times. Text is much easier to transcribe than illustrations. It is likely that the Amenhotep roll contained a copy of the original Book of Abrhaam, not the actual document written by Abraham himself, and that the illustration had been long ago lost.
But that’s fine, because the lion couch scene from the Book of Breathings scroll was an illustration of the same ritual sacrifice that Abraham meant to describe.
Complete answers to CES Letter questions about Mormons:
The obscure Spanish explorer account Yucatan Before and After the Conquest was only recently discovered and translated into English. Yet Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon bears striking resemblances to Diego de Landa’s descriptions of early America. Joseph Smith had no access to Friar Diego de Landa’s records. a
Friar Diego de Landa (1566)
Book of Mormon
1. Prophesy Of Foreign Rulers Bringing Gospel
“As the Mexican people had signs and prophecies of the coming of the Spaniards and the end of their power and religion, so also did those of Yucatan some years before they were conquered… An Indian named Ah-cambal (a spiritual leader of the people)…told publicly that they would soon be ruled by a foreign race who would preach a God and the virtue of a wood which in their tongue he called vahom-che, meaning a tree lifted up…” (19)
“…then shall the fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed…they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree.” (1 Ne. 15:13-16)
2. Origins From East
“Some old men of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the East, whom God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea. If this is true, all the inhabitants of the Indies must be of Jewish descent…” (8)
“…after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land… we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem.” (1 Ne. 18:23-24)
3. City Planning & Vineyards
“Before the Spanish subdued the country, the Indians lived together in well ordered communities… in the center of the town were the temples, with beautiful plazas, and around the temples stood the houses of the chiefs and the priests, and next those of the leading men. Closest to these came the houses of those who were wealthiest and most esteemed, and at the borders of the town were the houses of the common people… their plantations were set out in the trees for making wine.” (26)
“And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things.” (2 Ne. 5:16)
“And it came to pass that [King Noah] planted vineyards round about in the land; and he built wine-presses, and made wine in abundance;” (Mos. 11:15)
4. Yucatan Mistaken As Island
“Yucatan Is not an island, nor a point entering the sea, as some thought, but mainland.”
“…we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.” (2 Ne. 10:20)
5. Baptism & Sacrament
“Baptism is… with a word meaning to be born anew or a second time, the same as the Latin renascer. Thus in the language of Yucatan sihil means ‘to be born anew’ or a second time but only however in composition, thus caput-sihil means to be reborn [Note from author: The specific term for baptism is distinct from caput-cuxtal, ‘to come to life a second time’].
It’s origins have been unable to learn, but it is something they have always used and for which they have such devotion that no one fails to receive it; they had such reverence for it that those guilty of sins, or those who knew they were about to sin, were obliged to confess to the priest, in order to receive it; and they had such faith in it that in no manner did they ever take it a second time. They believed that in receiving it they acquired a predisposition to good conduct and habits, protection against being harmed by devils in their earthly affairs, and that through it and living a good life they would attain a beatitude hereafter which, like that of Mahomet, consisted of eating and drinking.”
“Ye must repent and be born again… He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost.” (2 Ne. 31:11-12)
“…blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized… by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled.” (Alma 32:16,42)
“…they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance…” (Hel. 5:17)
6. Saying Amen
“They have the custom of assisting one who delivers a message by responding with a cadence of the voice, a sort of aspirate in the throat as if to say ‘it is well’ or‘be is so’“
“And thus it is. Amen.” (1 Ne. 9: 6, 14: 30, 22: 31, Hel. 12: 26, see also Alma 6: 8, 7: 27, 3 Ne. 5: 26, Ether 4: 19)
Mormon congregations say in union ‘Amen’ at the end of each sermon
7. Patriarchal Priesthood Structure
“The people of Yucatan were as attentive to matters of religion as of government, and had a High Priest… He was succeeded in office by his son or closest kin. In him lay the key to their sciences, to which they most devoted themselves… He and his disciples appointed the priests for the towns, examining them in their sciences, and ceremonies, put on their charge the affairs of their office, and the setting of a good example to the people, he provided their books (scripture) and sent them forth.
They in turn attended to the service of the temples, teaching their sciences they taught here… the administering of their sacraments, the omens of the days, their methods of divination and prophecies events, remedies for sicknesses, antiquities, and the art of reading and writing.”
“And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted unto [High Priest] Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers over every church… every church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma.” (Mos. 25:19-21)
8. Confessing Sins Avoids Sickness
“The Yucatecans naturally knew when they had done something wrong, and they believed that death, disease, and torments would come on them because of evildoing, and sin, and thus they had the custom of confessing to their priests when such was the case. In this way, when for sickness or other cause they found themselves in danger of death, they made confession of their sins… the sins of which they commonly accused themselves were theft, homicide of the flesh, and false testimony.”
“…they went in unto the house unto Zeezrom; and they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities; and when he saw them he stretched forth his hand, and besought them that they would heal him.” (Alma 15: 3-5)
9. Punishment For Adultery
“They had laws against delinquents which they executed rigorously, such as against an adulterer, whom they turned over to the injured party that he might either put him to death by throwing a great stone upon his head… For the adulteress there was no penalty save the infamy, which was very serious thing to them. One who ravished a maiden was stoned to death.”
“But if he murdered he was punished unto death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished.” (Alma 30: 10)
(See the rules on stoning in the Bible, and Jacob 2:28-35 regarding mercy for women and death penalty for ravishing a woman.)
10. Polygamy Outlawed
“The Yucatan never took more than one single wife, although in other places they frequently took a number together.”
“….for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.” (Jac. 2: 24,27)
11. Title Of Liberty
“…he met certain Indian fisherfolk whom he asked what country this was, and who answered Catoch, which means ‘our houses, our homeland,’for which reason he gave that name to the cape. When he asked by signs how the land was theirs, they replied Ci uthan, meaning ‘they say it.”
“…they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church: And they were doing that which they felt was the aduty which they owed to their God.” (Alma 43:45-46)
12. Divorce Condemned
“Even though divorce was so common and familiar a thing, the old people and those of better customs condemned it, and there were many who never had but a single wife; nor did they ever marry one bearing their own name on the father’s side, for this was considered a very bad thing. Equally wrong was it held that a man should marry his sister in law, the widow of a brother.”
“It hath been written, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery.” (3 Ne. 12: 31-32 )
13. Marriages Given To Unworthy
“In olden times they married at the age of twenty, but now at that of twelve or thirteen. For this reason they divorce more easily because they marry without love and ignorant of a married life and the duties of married people; and if their parents could not persuade them to return to their wives, they hunted them another and others and others.”
“And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed… [later] they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.” (4 Ne. 1:11, 27)
14. Genealogy Important
“They make much of knowledge of the origins of their lineages, especially if they come from one of the houses of Mayapan; this they learn from their priests, it being one of their sciences, and they boast much about one of their lineage who has distinguished himself. The name of the father is transmitted to his son, but not to his daughters”
“I am the son of Mormon, and my father was a descendant of Nephi.” (Morm. 8:13)
(Hebrew people commonly kept their lineage sacred and handed their name down to their son, especially in the Book of Mormon.)
15. Child Baptism / Preparation
“Their custom of preparing for baptism was as follows: the Indian women raised the children to the age of three… the priest proceeded in the purification of the house, expelling the demon…
They asked the largest [children] whether they had done anything bad, or obscene conduct, and if any had done so they confessed them and separated them from the others, and began to bless the children with long prayers… went to the children and menaced each one with a bone on the forehead [Lehi, the father of the Nephi/Lamanite people, means bone of the forehead] nine times. After this, he wet the bone in a jar of water he carried, and with it anointed them on the forehead, the face, and between the fingers of their hands and the bones of their feet…
after this the priest rose, removed the white cloths from their heads, as well as others they wore suspended from the shoulders containing a few feathers… The fiesta then ended with long eating and drinking; and this fiesta was called em-ku, which means, ‘the descent of the god.”
(See the Mormon baptism and other ordinances. Child baptism was condemned in the Book of Mormon, showing that it was indeed practiced among those people).
“And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.” (Moroni 8:20)
16. Fair-Skinned Women
“Those who are beautiful are quite vain about it, and indeed they are not bad looking; they are dark-skinned, caused more by their constant bathing and by the sun, than naturally.”
“…caused that their fair daughters should stand forth and plead with the Lamanites.” (Mos. 19:13)
17. Scripture In Paper Books
“the most learned of the priests opened a book, and observed the predictions for that year, declared them to those present, [and] preached to them a little enjoining the necessary observances… These people also used certain characters or letters, with which they wrote in their books about the antiquities and their sciences; with these, and with figures, and certain signs in the figures, they understood their matters, made them known, and taught them. We found a great number of books in these letters”
“And now it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he said unto them again, after he had expounded all the scriptures unto them which they had received, he said unto them: Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not… And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them.” (3 Nephi 23:6,14)
18. Tree Of Life
Diego Landa calls the tree of life in the Mayan heaven: “a refreshing and shady tree called Yaxché, the Ceiba tree, beneath whose branches and shade they might rest and be in peace forever.”
“And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy… And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy.” (1 Nephi 8:10, 12)
19. Temple Courts Exclusive For Men Vs. Women
“When the New Year came, all the men gathered, alone, in the court of the temple, since none of the women were present at any of the temple ceremonies, except the old women who performed the dances. The women were admitted to the festivals held in other places.”
“At death they shrouded the body, filled the mouth with ground maize and a drink they call koyem, and with this certain stones they used for money, that food might not be lacking to him in the other life… if a sorcerer his divining stones and other instruments of his office.”
“Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates” (Joseph Smith Testimony)
21. Paradise After Death
“They believed that after death there was another life better than this, which the soul enjoyed after leaving the body. This future life they said was divided into good and evil, into pains and delights. The evil life of suffering they said was for the vicious, and the good and delectable for those whose mode of life had been good.”
“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
“Then they removed them from the hut and set them in another enclosure of branches for them in the court, where the priest blessed them with great solemnity, and an abundance of devout prayers; but first the priest and the artisans removed the soot with which they had covered themselves during their fasting.”
“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” (Helaman 3:35)
23. Belief In Immortal Soul
“These people have always believed in the immortality of the soul, in greater degree than many other nations, even though they were not so civilized; and they believed that after death there was another life better than this, which the soul enjoyed after leaving the body.”
“I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God.” (Mosiah 2:28)
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the conquistadors claim that the Natives had a legend of foreign invaders bringing a gospel, as this would give them justification for what they were doing to them. But if Friar Landa made it up, why would he mention the “virtue of a wood which in their tongue he called vahom-che, meaning a tree lifted up”? This couldn’t be referring to the brazen serpent, which is the only thing being “lifted up” I know of in the bible, so what is it talking about? In the Book of Mormon we find the answer. There is plentiful imagery of branches being lifted and grafted into the tree of Israel, as a symbol for the gathering of Israel and specifically referring to the gospel being preached to the Natives.
That’s how it is with each of these parallels. Friar Landa had no motive to introduce such a specific detail.
You would think that Friar Diego de Landa (1524-1579) would try to justify Spain’s invasion and make up evidence that Spain was delivering Christianity to a forgotten branch of Israel. But Friar Diego de Landa did not call Native Americans a branch of Israel. He never attempted to portray them as anything more than depraved primitives.
The writings of Diego de Landa about life in the Yucatan before the Spanish conquest indicate that the people of Mesoamerica lived in a manner consistent with the Book of Mormon.
Book of Mormon DNA evidence is the Holy Grail for Mormons and Antimormons alike. CES Letter claims: “DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia.”
But they give no evidence or explanation of the DNA and the Book of Mormon DNA evidence, as if it is a self-evident argument, as if the science is settled.
Is the science settled?
Newsweek says evidence proves the Bering Strait theory: natives of North and South America are descended only from Asians who traveled over the Bering Strait.
Wikipedia‘s article on America’s settlement does not even bother mentioning other theories.
The co-author of a 2014 article in Nature boasts that they have “the final shovelful of dirt” to prove the the Bering Strait theory.
The atheists often treat science as the be-all-end-all truth, yet they are curiously quick to jump to conclusions and ignore the complexities of science. The evidence actually finds evidence for a large number of ancient immigration into America. If you look at these complexities, you actually find stunning Book of Mormon DNA evidence to support the Book of Mormon model.
Middle Eastern DNA In North America
CES Letter ridicules the LDS church for pulling back on their claim that Lamanites were the “principal ancestors” of the “American Indians.” That claim was based on Joseph Smith’s >Wentworth Letter which said the Lamanites are the principal ancestors of “this country”:
“In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era.
We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people… The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.”
Indeed, DNA evidence does show this is correct. Remnants of that “principal” race have been found “in this country.”
Haplogroup HgX – Hg “x” haplogroup shows up in ancient Middle East and North America, exactly where Lehi originated and where Joseph Smith lived. When Joseph Smith wrote “this country,” was he referring to Mexico, or Brazil, or the plains that hadn’t been added to the United States yet? No, he was referring to New England.
Wikipedia omitted this map of DNA distribution from their Settlement of the Americas page, for some reason:
Hg “x” accounts for a quarter or the mtDNA of the Algonquian people in North America. This haplogroup is found throughout North America, the Middle East, and Europe, and is proof for a genetic relationship. Still, the spread of haplogroup Hg “x” in the Middle East (including among Jews) and North America was isolated, and thus easily tracked. Scientists note that the difference between haplogroup X in America and Middle East indicates “an early origin ‘likely at the very beginning of their expansion and spread from the Near East.’
An isolated group from an early expansion point… isn’t that what the Tower of Babel was, the very beginning of expansion from the Near East? The upper East Coast is a suitable spot for the Jaradites to have landed, from what we read of them.
Scientists conclude Asia was “not intermediate between Native American clades and that of Europeans” for this DNA HgX. It isn’t found in Asia. So how did it get in America? Scientists say early peoples somehow traveled over the Bering Strait without leaving DNA traces for many thousands of miles. But the sea-faring model of the Jaradites makes much more sense to me.
And yes, this haplogroup could be the oldest DNA in this area of North America.
There is the question of timing. Theologists date the Tower of Babel to 2,500 B.C. and scientists say Hg “x” was introduced much earlier than that. But the reliability of radioactive dating and what we assume about the time table of the bible is a totally different issue. Fact is, the DNA is there.
Haplogroup R – The other haplogroup that we find in both the Middle East and North America I find to be less conclusive: Haplogroup R.
Wikipedia omits the Haplogroup R map from their page as well, and on their Haplogroup R page they replaced it with an image that omits North and South America. Why did they remove information about distribution of Haplogroup R around the world? But here is what the map shows:
This shows a far-spread genetic marker across Europe, West Asia, and North America, with spots showing up many other places. The oldest remains of R are found are “mal’ta boy” in Siberia.
Besides these two haplogroups, DNA evidence shows plenty of other groups of migrations. As Newsweek notes, there are also human remains found in America from before the Clovis people traveled over the Bering Strait. Where did they come from?
One important study, largely ignored, found African DNA in pre-Columbian America–“Indigenous Mexican- African admixture occurred prior to the European discovery of America. The date for the African skeletons indicate that there were several waves of West Africans who probably introduced African haplotypes into the Americas. The 25,000 Malians who sailed to America in 1310 probably had a major influence on the exchange of African genes in the Americas.”
DNA evidence shows a variety of immigration events to America, including from the Middle East.
Why Don’t Modern Indians Have Israelite DNA?
So we have Book of Mormon DNA evidence for the Jaradites. Oh, but what about the Nephites? If the Nephites came from Israel, why don’t modern Native Americans have Israelite DNA?
Maybe because the Nephites got killed off? Remember that? Joseph Smith said the principal ancestors fell in battle and left today’s American ancestors from the “remnants.”
The Book of Mormon says the Lamanites developed a dark skin that was different than the Nephites. How did that happen? Well, either their DNA mutated or they interbred with other civilizations–civilizations that apparently came over the Bering strait. Either way, the Book of Mormon tells us that the Israelite original genetics were to some degree bred out. So it’s no wonder that we don’t see obvious archaeological genetic similarities when it comes to the descendants of Lehi.
The Jaradites were not all killed off like the Nephites. Their civilization of millions collapsed in a great final battle, yes, but there is no indication that everybody got wiped out. So their genetic markers lived on. Their “remnant”, as Joseph Smith said, inhabited “this country”, the northern New England states.
Imagine a family of Israelites shows up in a totally foreign land, a family which looks totally different than everyone else. Imagine that some of this group interbreeds with the natives and tries to kill off the other part of the group that does not interbreed so much. It would not be hard for the Lamanites to visually identify Nephites and wipe them out. So the Israelite DNA got wiped out. Simple as that.
Why Haven’t We Found Israelite DNA In Archaeology?
Oh, but shouldn’t we at least find some Israelite DNA in buried remains?
Well that depends how many buried remains scientists have sampled. It would take many thousands of samples from all over North and South America to reliably give us an idea. How many samples are scientists using?
Nope. Sorry. It’s going to take a lot more digging to come across Nephite DNA markers. If you look closely at the map of DNA samples you see that there are zero samples from the great plains, where Joseph Smith came across some bones that he said was a general among the Nephites. Zero samples. Maybe try digging around Ohio? There is only one sample on the Yucatan Peninsula, where many Mormons place the Book of Mormon civilization. Just one. and this sample is 12,000 years old, far outside the time frame of the Book of Mormon, and found at the bottom of a water pit where no Israelite would ever bury his dead. Nephites did not discard their dead bodies in shallow graves or sacrificial pits, where scientists are finding their remains.
The Nephites and Lamanites were fanatical about burying their dead in well-sealed chambers, so their remains won’t be found except by widespread excavation. Even if remains are found, Israelites did not embalm their dead like the Egyptians did, so the DNA might not be preserved. Finally, the Nephites were not a large population. It would be very lucky indeed to stumble across one of their human remains.
So the reason Nephite DNA has not been found by archaeologists is because they have not come across evidence that is likely to prove or disprove the Nephite model.
There are other studies that use more local samples. One study of the Mayan populations found a “complex demographic history” with all kinds of gene flow. Yet they discovered that there were “founder events in the different ethnic groups or relative isolation.” These were often isolated communities. Scientists would have to find plentiful ancient samples within the time frame for every single Mayan tribe individually to prove or get at all close to disproving that one of the tribes was the Nephites. This hasn’t been done and probably never will.
Isolated Communities, Wiped Out – Another study found that lots of DNA markers simply got wiped out, exactly like the Book of Mormon indicates:
“While that doesn’t necessarily mean that the genetic diversity of the pre-Columbian era has been completely wiped out – other lineages not traced in this study may exist… But the find demonstrates what the researchers bluntly term the ‘high extinction rate’ for indigenous American people.”
Hebrew DNA In Cherokees – The best evidence for Nephite DNA is found in a study on Cherokee Indians. John Adair wrote in the 18th century that some Cherokees were known to speak a kind of Jewish language. A recent study found an ancient Cherokee princess with Jewish DNA, or rather DNA markers from Middle Eastern-North Africa. This branch of Cherokee is “genetically more likely to be Jewish than the typical American Jew of European ancestry.” They were more genetically Jewish than the Jews in America today!
One very important part of this study finds that the Cherokee experienced the same kind of complex gene flow and isolation as the Mayans. In fact, Cherokee communities “often carried Maya DNA.” So perhaps some of the Nephites who moved north mixed with these Cherokee communities and carried on the genetic markers.
Book of Mormon DNA Evidence Is Poor Either Way
Archaeology is very shaky science to begin with, and when you add to that the difficulty of mapping DNA–sporatic mutations, poor preservation, few samples, post-Columbian DNA mixture–it becomes a nightmare.
The title of this article is misleading. I did that on purpose, to ridicule the Antimormons who think DNA evidence proves anything. Book of Mormon DNA evidence doesn’t prove the Book of Mormon model. It doesn’t disprove it. Archeological DNA can’t prove anything either way.
All we know is some skeleton with similar genetics to another skeleton somehow ended up somewhere. That doesn’t tell us much.
The science of human origin locations is rapidly changing. Just recently, an important study came out that found humans originated in Europe, not Africa. Maybe next year a study will find humans originated in Australia? Or in Missouri, perhaps?
Actually I am glad that we do not have more Book of Mormon DNA evidence either way. The Catholic church has all of their ancient relics that supposedly provide physical proof of bible stories. They tried to definitely reconcile science and religion, and it didn’t end well for them. After all, what is the purpose of faith? Flimsy scientific evidence is just superstition.
If tomorrow a scientist dug up Laban’s sword, or a rock with the inscription on it “Hi! My name is Nephi and I wrote the Book of Mormon,” we would descend into a narrative of physical evidence and the role of faith would diminish. The LDS church has always been careful to never provide physical objects as “proof” of Mormon claims, never to give us relics. I think this keeps our belief in the Book of Mormon grounded on faith.
To look at a tiny sample of ancient bones as the basis for your belief in the Book of Mormon, either way, is a stunning display of superstition.
The history books say Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his plural wives. Even dedicated Mormon apologists say the matter is settled. But they fail to consider the evidence in its entire context. Careful investigation reveals a much more skeptical picture.Evidence is flimsy that Joseph Smith’s polygamy was anything that involved physical earthly relations.
DNA Testing Disproves
Researchers have carefully investigated claims of Joseph Smith’s paternity by descendants of Joseph Smith’s wives, and each one has been thoroughly debunked by DNA testing: “DNA analysis ultimately disproved the paternity claim.” Joseph Smith did not have children from any of them.
Sylvia Sessions told her daughter that she was Joseph Smith’s child:
“Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret fro me and from others until no but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon had was out of fellowship with the Church.”
But DNA testing has since proven this is false. DNA researcher Ugo. A. Perego found Sylvia Sesson’s husband Windsor Lyon, who she was married to “for time” while she was sealed to Joseph Smith “for eternity,” was Josephine’s father. The “eternity” sealing did not involve physical relations.
It is not like Joseph Smith was infertile either. He had five children with Emma in a short length of time. Yet none of these other women that Joseph Smith allegedly had sexual relations with had any children? Why not?
Three of Joseph Smith’s plural wives made direct allegations of physical relationships:
“Did you ever have carnal intercourse with Joseph Smith?” “Yes sir,”
Second-hand witnesses also allege cohabitation:
“Right straight across the river at my house they slept together.” (Louisa Beaman)
Benjamin F. Johnson
“occupied the Same Room & Bed” (Emily or Eliza Partridge)
Benjamin F. Johnson
“The first plural wife brought to my house with whom the Prophet stayed, was Eliza Partridge.”
Benjamin F. Johnson
“I saw one of my sisters [Almera] married to him and know that with her he occupied my house on May 16 and 17, 1843.”
Lucy Walker (according to D. H. Morris via Vesta P. Crawford)
I “married Joseph Smith as a plural wife and lived and cohabited with him as such.”
Theodocia Frances Walker Davis
Lucy Walker told her that she lived with Joseph Smith as a wife.
William Law (bitter apostate)
Lived “in an open state of adultery” with Maria Lawrence.
Lucy Walker (according to Robert B. Neal)
“I know that [Emma] gave her consent to the marriage of at least four women to her husband as plural wives, and she was well aware that he associated and cohabited with them as wives.”
Other than these three, the wives either suggested they did not have sexual relations with Joseph Smith, or they dodged the question. Of the three, the only clear indication that there was sexual intercourse comes from Emily Partridge in the Temple Lot court case (p.484). The others only said they lived or roomed together.
But Emily Partridge’s allegation came only after lengthy badgering from the examining lawyer. During the lengthy hearing, the lawyer asked her about it over a dozen times, and ridiculed her for dodging the question. Emily Partridge was under pressure to prove her relationship with Joseph Smith as legitimate marriage, because a splinter sect was trying to claim ownership of temple grounds based on the claim that polygamy never actually happened. The LDS church eventually won the case on the grounds that they were the true successor to Joseph Smith, because they practiced polygamy.
Emily Partridge said her marriage to Joseph Smith was for time and eternity, which meant it was a physical “earth” marriage as well as a spiritual marriage for the afterlife. Therefore, the type of relationship allowed every opportunity for children. Her subsequent marriage to Brigham Young after Joseph Smith had died was only for time, a physical “earth” marriage.
How many children did you have by Joseph Smith?
None at all. I have told you two or three times I had none….
You had children by Brigham Young?
The the law of proxy–marriage by the law of proxy–will raise children, while marriage by the law of the church will not? Is that it?
I don’t understand your question….
Then you were sealed to Joseph Smith at the same time that you were married to Brigham Young, were you now?
Yes sir, I was sealed to him on that day….
Well how were you married to Brigham Young? Were you sealed to him also?
Yes sir, but I was sealed to him for time.
You were not sealed to him then for both time and eternity?
No sir. Of course I was not sealed to Joseph Smith then for he was dead when I married Brigham Young, but I had been sealed to him before that….
That you were sealed to Brigham Young during your natural life that day?
And eternity you were to be the wife of Joseph Smith?
But you never had any children by Joseph Smith?
Now Mrs. Young, don’t you know that you were just simpl[y] sealed to him for eternity? Don’t you know that that was all that was done Mrs. Young–that you were simply sealed to him for eternity?
I know that I was sealed to him for time and eternity.
Emily Partridge claimed that she and the other wives were not allowed to live with Joseph Smith, yet the other women claimed they lived with Joseph Smith
Emily Partridge claimed she had “carnal intercourse” and the other wives didn’t.
Emily Partridge claimed she only slept with Joseph Smith one time, yet she didn’t know to what extent she had carnal intercourse? Wouldn’t that be once? If she didn’t know because the number of times was too great, why was there no pregnancy, considering they were both very fertile?
With the shifting and the contradictions, it seems like Emily Partridge exaggerated her relationship. Yes, the marriage was for time and eternity, but did the “carnal” relations involve a peck on the cheek or much more? What exactly did she consider carnal intercourse?
Just Going Through The Motions?
Joseph Smith claimed that he was uneasy about the new plural marriage doctrine. It took an angel threatening him with a sword to finally take it seriously. Many roll their eyes when they hear this. Yeah, sure he wasn’t into it!… But, well, maybe he actually wasn’t into it. This would explain Emily’s behavior. Think about it. By the time of her court testimony, Emily Partridge and the other women were old ladies, surrounded by polygamy, and were roundly admired for being Joseph Smith’s wives. They had every reason to boast about deeply intimate relationships with Joseph Smith. But instead they didn’t want to talk about the details.
It reminds me of the wedding of Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones. In the show, 17-year old Sansa is arranged to be married to a snarky middle-aged little-person named Tyrion. Tyrion smartly keeps up appearances by going through the motions, but when they are alone in the bed chamber he sleeps on the floor. They both would be dishonored if they showed disgust for the arrangement. Sansa admires Tyrion and is grateful for his respect, so she puts on a happy public face and goes through the motions.
As prophet, Joseph Smith was tasked with introducing polygamy to a very puritan Christian society. Not an easy thing to do, especially since lots of people were already trying to kill him. He had to introduce things gradually. He had to show enthusiastic support and insist on everyone adopting the policy, and he had to set the example.
Cultists like Jeff Warrens escalate their perversions, but Joseph Smith did not go on to be sealed to ever younger girls, but old widows. He barely spent any time with any of his wives.
When they got older and once he was dead, none of the women denounced Joseph Smith, but instead they always spoke highly of him, with deep respect and admiration, as Sana Stark would have spoken of Tyrion Lannister. In the court testimonies, they don’t sound like women who are being pressured to say nice things about their abusers. They have no problem criticizing Joseph Smith in other ways. For example, Emily Partridge makes it clear that she wish he had told her more about the technicalities of plural marriage arrangements. But really, they sound more like chummy old friends recounting old times than abuse victims recounting trauma. It all just does not fit the picture of a perverted relationship. With many of the wives, Joseph Smith was married only for “eternity,” which meant no physical relations in any case. But evidence suggests he didn’t have relations with women he married “for time” either.
Burden Of Proof
Some of the sealings included “for time,” which meant he had every opportunity to assume sexual relationships. The circumstances of a religious leader introducing polygamy certainly gives the appearance of this intent. But there is little evidence that this is actually what happened. There is only a few mentions of sharing a bed from a few of the women. If he really had intercourse with 34 women, wouldn’t some of them have been a little more descriptive? Wouldn’t at least one of them have said something about it or complained about Joseph Smith? Why did all the women have nice things to say about him?
And besides, there is no direct evidence for this narrative, just innuendo and circumstance. Even if he did have physical relationships with them, so what? What does that prove? Well, the Antimormon narrative is that Joseph Smith got caught having an affair with Fanny Alger, so he came up with polygamous sealings as a cover to excuse himself. But that seems like an awfully elaborate and unnecessary cover story. Why not just deny the affair instead? Or some kind of “holy nudity” excuse like Catholic priest abusers have done? Why a big elaborate mess about polygamy that you know is just going to get you in more trouble?
From what I could tell, Joseph Smith probably did his best to make the women feel comfortable in such an awkward situation, but that he wasn’t really into having physical relations with them. Maybe some of them he felt more comfortable with so he went so far as to kiss them or hug them? Maybe that’s what happened with Emily Partridge? But it is fairly certain that he did not marry them just so he could take advantage of them and move on to the next girl. There would be DNA evidence, more incriminating witness testimony, and some kind of complaint from the women.
Civil marriage and sealings were totally different things. One could be sealed “for eternity” to one person and married “for time” to another, because a sealing for eternal cohabitation in the afterlife did not involve sexual or earthly relations. The “new and everlasting covenant” of eternal marriage would nullify civil marriage in the afterlife: “All old covenants have I caused to be done away.” If the marriage was an “eternal sealing” that did not include a civil union “for time,” then it did not involve a physical relationship/ earthly married relationship. It was literally a matter of Joseph Smith and the woman speaking some words in a ceremony and then not having any kind of affiliation until the afterlife. That is not polyandry by any stretch of the definition. Two totally different institutions.
Ancient Americans & Egyptians Used Hieroglyphs – Hieroglyphic script is found among both ancient American cultures and Egyptians. The Book of Mormon was translated from reformed Egyptian on gold plates.
Divine Sacrifice Required – Ancient Americans commonly believed that a divine sacrifice of a god or several gods was required to keep the cosmos in order. They believed the “gods were saviors (Christ figures) who died so humanity could live.” The Book of Mormon likewise claims divine sacrifice is required to keep the cosmos in order, and that this was performed by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Resurrection – Mesoamericans believed in rebirth and resurrection from the dead. They buried their dead with divine symbols in “hope for rebirth and the resurrection of the deceased.” The Book of Mormon teaches the same thing about resurrection.
Pre-Earth Life – Similar to Mormon teachings, Mesoamericans believed gods existed before the world was created: “The Mayan gods gathered under the Tree of Life to hold a council… all the gods had taken part in the creation of the Earth.”
The Book of Mormon teaches that the redemption of Christ was planned “before the world began,” and the Mayans likewise believed in gods who “could perform mythological actions before his own birth… who took two forms: pre-birth and post-birth.”
God As A Serpent – Christ is called a “brazen serpent” in the Book of Mormon and he descends from the sky. Mesoamericans also believe the “feathered serpent” god Quetzalcoatl descended from the sky.
Quetzalcoatl’s mother is named Suchiquetzl, which means “lifting up Roses,” similar to the “lifting up” of the brazen serpent described in the Book of Mormon. Quetzalcoatl’s mother was also a virgin, like the Book of Mormon describes. He was called “Son of the Lord of High Heavens,” and died and was resurrected. He “returned to the world of the living” after he had “dwelled four days in the land of the dead,” now “enthroned as Lord.” He appeared to the Mesoamerican people en masse and brought great learning, and promised that one day he would “return to his people at a future date.” He was fair skinned and had a beard.
Baptism – Mayans and other Mesoamericans applied a washing ritual with water that early explorers like Diego Landa recognized as a “baptism.” The ritual was a spirutal rebirth or being born anew, and involved confession of sins, an ordinance prayer, and sometimes included full immersion in water. The baptism was often given to children, which correlates with reports in the Book of Mormon.
Origins Across East Ocean – The idea that Native Americans arrived by ship from the East may not be widely accepted by archaeologists, however, this is the consensus among ancient American legends. Early explorer Diego Landa reported:
“Some old men of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the East, whom God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea. If this is true, all the inhabitants of the Indies must be of Jewish descent…” a
Rafique Ali Jairazbhoy wrote: “The native reports that speak of the first ancestors coming across the seas from the East.”
“We are foreigners and came here from very remote parts. We possess information that our lineage was led to this land by a lord to whom we all owed allegiance… but we have ever believed that his descendants would surely come here to subjugate this land and us who are, by rights, their servants. Because of what you say concerning the region whence you came, which is where the sun rises.”b
Early explorer Bernardino de Sahagun wrote: “It has been innumerable years since the first settlers arrived in these parts of New Spain which is almost another world, and they came in ships by sea, landing at the port which is to the north.”c
“This is the story
the old men used to tell:
In a certain time
which no one can now describe,
which no one can now remember,
those who came here to sow,
our grandfathers and grandmothers
landed here, arrived here,
following the way,
and came at last to govern
here in this land,
which was known by a single name,
as if it were a little world of its own.
They came in ships across the sea
in many companies,
and arrived there on the seashore,
on the northern coast,
and the place where they left their ships
is now called Panutla
which means, “Where one crosses the water.”
They followed the coast,
they sought the mountains,
and some of them found
the mountains capped with snow,
and the smoking mountains,
and arrived at Quauhtemalla [Guatemala],
following the coast.
The journey was not made
at their own pleasure:
the priests led them,
and their god showed them the way.
They came at last
to the place called Tamoanchan,
which means, “We seek our house.”c
Metal Plate Records – Nobody knew about metal records in Joseph Smith’s time. Everybody thought the idea of ancient records on metal pages was crazy, but now it turns out metal plates were a common method for keeping records in Lehi’s time, and many gold plate books have since been uncovered, as well as stone boxes to preserve them. A few examples:
Plates of Darius – “Two tablets, one of gold and one of silver” in stone boxes, “each box buried at the four corners of his palace.” They date to 518 BC.
Ballana Tomb 2 Charm – A “very curious love-charm, invoking Isis, written in barbaric Greek impressed on a strip of gold foil which had been rolled up and thrown in the tomb.”
Khorsabad Plates of Sargon – “Sargon buried tablets… of gold, silver, lead, abar (magnesite), lapis lazuli and alabaster… in its foundation walls.” They date to 714 BC.
Qumran Copper Scrolls – Two of the Dead Sea Scrolls were made of copper. They appear to be records of Temple-related materials. Nearby was found “metal vessels which could be the ‘amphora,’ ‘book,’ and ‘forty-two talents’ mentioned in the Copper Scroll.”
Plates of Persepolis – “Gold and silver plates from Persepolis” were each “sunk into the bedrock.” In each of these stone boxes contained “a square bronze plate and two tiny scraps, one of sheet gold, the other of silver.” They date to the 6th century BC.
Santa Marinella sheet – A “lead sheet found in fragments” near Santa Marinella, “evidently a religious document.” Dates to 5th century BC.
Magnliano plaque – A “lead plaque found at Magliano, in the Albegna river valley.” Dates to the fifth century BC, and speaks of gods and death.
Natural Catastrophes At Christ’s Coming – The Book of Rolls describes catastrophes that accompany the death of Jesus Christ after his mortal life, catastrophes that the Bible makes no mention of but the Book of Mormon does:
“I will come down to thee, and in thy house will I dwell and with thy body will I be clothed. For thy sake, O Adam, I will become a child… for thy sake, O Adam will fast forty days; for thy sake, O Adam I will receive baptism; for thy sake, O Adam I will be lifted up on the cross; for thy sake, O Adam I will endure lies; for thy sake, O Adam I will be beaten with the whip;for thy sake, O Adam I will taste vinegar; for thy sake, O Adam my hands will be nailed; for thy sake, O Adam I will be pierced with a spear; for thy sake, O Adam I will thunder in the height; for thy sake, O Adam I will darken the sun; for thy sake, O Adam I will cleave the rocks… and after three days, which I have spent in the grave, I will raise up the body which I took from thee.”e
The Book of Mormon describes the same events: “darkness upon the face of the land… thunderings… rocks that they rent”, though there is no hint of any of this in the bible.
Spanish explorer Mariano Veytia described a native legend of similar catastrophic events before the appearance of Quetzalcoatl in the 1st century AD, and associated them with the death of Jesus in Jerusalem:
“These natives indicate another singular event in their histories with great exactness, which later served them as a fixed era for their chronological calculations. They say that 166 years after the correction of their calendar, at the beginning of the year that was indicated with the hieroglyph of the House in the number ten, being a full moon, the sun was eclipsed at midday, the solar body being totally covered, such that the earth became darkened so much that the stars appeared and it seemed like night, and at the same time an earthquake was felt as horrible as they had ever experienced, because the stones crashing against one another were broken into pieces, and the earth opened up in many parts. Confused and bewildered, they believed that the end of the third age of the world had already arrived, which, according to the predictions of their wise men in Huehuetlapallan, should end in strong earthquakes, in whose violence many living people would perish, and mankind would suffer the third calamity; but the earthquake ceasing entirely and the sun once again being uncovered perfectly, everyone was found to be whole, without any living persons having perished, and this caused them such great wonder that they noted it in their histories with singular care.
Following these calculations, and adjusted to the comparison of the tables, this event should be placed in the year 4066 of the world, which was indicated with this character as can be seen in the tables, and precisely 166 years after the adjustment of the calendar; and because of the circumstances surrounding this eclipse and earthquake, it was impossible for it to be any other than that which was observed at the death of Jesus Christ Our Lord, having suffered it in the thirty-third year of his age, and so it seems that the incarnation of the Word should be placed in the year 4034 of the world, which the Indians indicated with the same hieroglyph of the House in the number 4, and I have noted it that way in the tables, and with this calculation following the chronological order that they observed, counting the years from one memorable event to another with the assignment of the hieroglyph of the year in which they fell, I have been able to coordinate it perfectly with our years in the year 1519, in which Cortez landed at Veracruz, as will be seen in the discourse of this history.”f
Catastrophes in the 1st Century AD – Mesoamerica experienced a devastating volcanic eruption and other natural disasters in the 1st century AD, which was followed by a period of great peace and economic prosperity.
“But why was there a rapid increase in monumental building in Cholula during the second century A.D.?… Our tentative answer is that the first-century volcanic eruption led to dramic changes in western Puebla–community displacement and territorial reorganization–and some of the resulting sociopolitical adjustments must have contributed to the constructive program of the Great Pyramid.”g
Archaeologists have found that several volcanoes erupted, with the same effects described in the Book of Mormon:
“Archaeology provides evidence for such volcanic activity in the Valley of Mexico, where the volcano Xitle is believed to have erupted anciently… scholars now know that this disaster occurred nearly 2,000 years ago… Additional evidence for volcanic activity in Mesoamerica near the time of Christ can be found further south in the Tuxtlas region of southern Veracruz.”h
Children Who Die Go To Heaven – Mayans believed infants who died in childbirth went straight to heaven. “Children who died young, before being weaned, went to the thirteenth heaven.” A lot like the Book of Mormon teaches.
Three Degrees Of Glory – Mesoamericans divided the universe into three levels of glory: the underworld (telestial), the earth (terrestrial), and heaven (celestial)–the “three cosmic levels of earth, heavens, and underworld”, exactly as modern Mormon scripture describes in detail, and alluded to in the Book of Mormon.
Paper Books Of Scripture – Friar Landa recorded that there were “books” about “ancient matters and their sciences” among the Maya. The Book of Mormon likewise describes paper books.
Priests taught out of scriptures, such as the Popol Vuh, and prophesied out of them during religious festivals. Diego Landa said:
“the most learned of the priests opened a book, and observed the predictions for that year, declared them to those present, [and] preached to them a little enjoining the necessary observances… These people also used certain characters or letters, with which they wrote in their books about the antiquities and their sciences; with these, and with figures, and certain signs in the figures, they understood their matters, made them known, and taught them. We found a great number of books in these letters” a
Scripture From Across The Sea – Like the brass plates, the Popul Vuh was said to be inspired from scripture that came from across the Sea to the east.
“Although the highland Maya have lived in this area for more than two thousand years, the Popol Vuh suggests that they came to be dominated by a militaristic group of relative newcomers, led by the Cavec-Quiché lineage, who claimed to have come from somewhere in the East where the sun rises… In the preamble to the Popol Vuh, its Quiché authors wrote that the contents were based on an ancient book from across the sea. In a later passage, the source of these writings is identified as Tulan, which they located across the sea to the east… The Quiché lords held these ‘writings of Tulan’ in great reverence and consulted them often.”i
The Book of Mormon claims the Nephites sailed from the East, brought sacred records, and settled the lowlands and did battle with inhabitants of the highlands.
Four Corners of the Earth – Mesoamericans believed the earth had four corners, “comprised of four quarters associated with the four cardinal directions.”
Exactly as described in the Book of Mormon: “He will gather in from the four quarters of the earth.”
At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Lehi sees in a vision God descend from heaven as “the sun at noon-day,” out of the “stars in the firmament” to “the face of the earth.” This fits the Mayan cosmology:
“The Popol Vuh also says that the sun’s motion defines the four quarters of the universe, but they actually were set in place before the sun was created, when a cord was stretched in the sky and on earth at the time of creation. This cord seems to symbolize the four corners of the cosmos representing the extreme horizon positions of the sun at the solstices.”j
Calling A Son “Younger” Rather Than “Jr.” – Alma in the Book of Mormon called his son “Alma the younger” rather than “Alma junior.” This seems totally random, but Mesoamericans likewise used “the younger,” a term unheard of anywhere else and which Joseph Smith could not have known about. Juan de Guzman, governor of Coyocan, gave rulership to his son “Guzman the younger” when he died in 1569. Aztec leader Xocoyotzin gave rulership to his son “Xocoyotzin the younger” in 1502.
Fall Of The First Man – The Mayan of the fall of the first man, Head-Apu, is similar to the fall and redemption of Adam in the Book of Mormon. He is called the “first father.” Like Adam’s confrontation with Satan, Head-Apu (or Hunahpu) confronted the dark lords of the underworld and then with First-Mother “gave life to humanity” through his fall.
Tree of Life – The Book of Mormon compares the tree of life to happiness awaiting us in the afterlife, much like Diego Landa’s report of the tree of life in the Mayan heaven: “a refreshing and shady tree called Yaxché, the Ceiba tree, beneath whose branches and shade they might rest and be in peace forever.”a
The Mayan “World Tree” connected the terrestrial earth with the celestial level heaven. This matches Daniel 4: “The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.”
The Book of Mormon compares the tree with Mary, the mother of Jesus as well as with Jesus. This also alludes to Adonis or the Egyptian God Osiris being born out of a tree through Isis. The Mayans also used this kind of imagery:
“Numerous pre-Columbian painted books such as Nuttall depict people being born from ‘birth trees’… just as a child looks as it emerges from the uterus… The Balams describe the tree of life as ‘the life god,’ signifying Iztamna in the Maya or Quetzalcoatl.”k
Solar Disk As Royalty Symbol – The solar disk of the sun was a symbol of kingship and divine royalty for the Mesopotamians as well as Mesoamericans: “…a solar disk, a common ancient Mesoamerican symbol often associated with rulership.”
White skin – Early explorers described some natives as “white” like Europeans. Legends tell of people with white skin who were wiped out. “Several Native American tribes have passed down legends of a race of white giants who were wiped out.” This contrast of skin color corresponds to the Book of Mormon, where some groups had skin more white and fair than others, and the light-skinned Nephites were wiped out. Though scientists attribute tales of White skinned mound-builders to racism, mummies have been found from North America to Peru with white skin.
Fair-Skinned Women – Friar Diego Landa remarked Mesoamerican women were beautiful and fair-skinned if they avoided bathing and sun exposure. The Book of Mormon also specified the women as fair skinned. “Those who are beautiful are quite vain about it, and indeed they are not bad looking; they are dark-skinned, caused more by their constant bathing and by the sun, than naturally.” The Book of Mormon also tells of “fair daughters” who were very beautiful.
Bearded Men – Native art often shows bearded men, such as in the famous Izapa Stela 5 and the Olmec god Xolotl. Natives did not grow long beards, but the Book of Mormon people likely did. Quetzalcoatl was said to be bearded. The two-horned god was bearded for both the Mayans and Aztecs.
“The existence of battle standards is well attested for the Aztecs… where insignias were constructed of feathers over a light wicker frame that was worn on the unit leader’s back.”l
Diego Landa described the battle standard:
“…he met certain Indian fisherfolk whom he asked what country this was, and who answered Catoch, which means ‘our houses, our homeland,’for which reason he gave that name to the cape. When he asked by signs how the land was theirs, they replied Ci uthan, meaning ‘they say it.”a
Ditch & Wood Fence Fortifications – Fortifications with artificial earth slopes, large ditches, and defensive timberwork have been found in the Valley of Mexico and across the Midwestern United States, exactly as described in the Book of Mormon.
“The weapon system of the time… made the height and steepness of such building a formidable advantage… Dry moats of formidable length protected Tikal… A very large moat and ramparts encircled Becan… log palisades.” m
Sacred Towers – Mesoamericans used tall towers, called kivas, for religious preaching and sacred ceremonies to Quetzalcoatl, the same way as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
The coatepetl tower, or “serpent tower” was “an Aztec Tower of Babel with its base on earth and its summit connecting the earth to the sky.” This matches the Book of Mormon description of the tower of Babel: “a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven.”
Jubilees 8 called the Temple of Solomon the “navel of the earth.” At the Mayan El Castillo temple, the passageway between the upper temple and lower tomb act like a navel for the dead. Mayans considered the navel “cosmic communicators from the sky beings to the human world.”
The Mayans used the trefoil arch, similar to the Christian foiled arch.
Separate Temple Spaces For Men & Women – Mayans followed the Old World custom of holding temple ceremonies on the New Year, and they divided temple spaces for men and women, the same practice as the Hebrews. Diego Landa wrote:
“When the New Year came, all the men gathered, alone, in the court of the temple, since none of the women were present at any of the temple ceremonies, except the old women who performed the dances. The women were admitted to the festivals held in other places.”a
New Years Omens – In the Book of Mormon, Teancum snuck in and assassinated Amalickiah on New Years eve. The timing of this assassination was significant, because the New Year was considered a time of omens. This assassination played on the Mesoamerican belief that New Year events were ominous for the rest of the year: “The day on which a new year begins will determine what may happen during the year.”
Stone Oracles – Mesoamerican priests looked into sacred stones or rock statues as oracles, similar to what’s described in the Book of Mormon. Diego Landa mentioned “divining stones” among the “sorcerers.” They used quartz crystal for their divination: “magnifying glasses or spectacles, by which things may be seen more clearly.”
This sounds exactly like the instrument Joseph Smith claimed he found to translate the Book of Mormon: “stones, describing them as white or clear in appearance, set in silver bows or rims like modern eyeglasses or spectacles.”
“The rain falls from the clouds accompanied by thunder and lightning–the sumbols of the divine serpent… the ‘feathered serpent’ combined the images of the airborn (and thus birdlike) ‘feathery’ clouds bearing rain and of the zigzag, serpent-like strokes of lightning.”n
Thunder and lighting was also evidence of Christ’s arrival in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith remarked of his vision of God: “his countenance truly like lightning.”
Wine – Ancient Americans made wine from vineyards (of fruits other than grapes), such as Cochinital pibil, sometimes with great potency. They were located in regions around the cities, exactly as recorded in the Book of Mormon. Diego Landa:
“Before the Spanish subdued the country, the Indians lived together in well ordered communities… in the center of the town were the temples, with beautiful plazas, and around the temples stood the houses of the chiefs and the priests, and next those of the leading men. Closest to these came the houses of those who were wealthiest and most esteemed, and at the borders of the town were the houses of the common people… their plantations were set out in the trees for making wine.”a
Mayan rituals included honey, called balche, which the Book of Mormon also mentions being important.
Cement Buildings – Cement was used for building because of a lack of wood in Mexico:
“By the Middle Formative, buildings were being made of cut limestone masonry covered with a strong stucco plaster to protect the structure from rains… The limestone walls often–especially later in the Classic period–formed a sort of veneer over the rough hearting… the ultimate structural strength of a Maya building is really that of a concrete building tied together by the mortar and rubble mass.”o
The Book of Mormon records: “…the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell.”
Gardens Surrounding Houses – All around Mesoamerica, houses were commonly surrounded by gardens.
“House lots are large bounded areas that contain: 1) a dwelling area or structural core, 2)a swept patio or clear area, 3) an intermediary zone or ring midden at the edge of the patio, and 4) a garden area or toft zone.”p
Helaman 7:10 mentions a garden surrounding his home, at the edge of his property: “Nephi had bowed himself upon the tower which was in his garden, which tower was also near unto the garden gate by which led the highway.”
Raised Highways – The Book of Mormon claims there were “many highways cast up” “from city to city” and that the highways were made “smooth.” In Mesoamerica and South America, a vast network of “cast up” roadways connected cities. For example, there are “raised roads of roughly shaped stone” at Coba. The roads spread across the lands and are formally built:
“They tend to be straight in nature and are engineered to overcome natural obstacles in order to improve transportation and communication… From a remote sensing perspective, the Mayan roadways tell us how the cities were connected and to some degree suggest the level of sophistication of the city responsible for their construction and maintenance.”q
Drinking Blood – Lamanite leaders in the Book of Mormon threatened to drink the blood of their enemies. Likewise, Mesoamerican warriors drank blood of their defeated enemies: “Nearly all the art forms abound in representation of warriors, eagles eating hearts or drinking blood.”
Houses were blessed by priests by smearing blood on the corner posts to keep away ill fortune, similar to the Passover custom of the Hebrews.
Afterlife Judgement From Earthly Sins – The Mayan concept of an afterlife was which was a “system of rewards and punishments that depend on one’s behavior while alive,” exactly like the merit-based concept of heaven in the Book of Mormon.
Paradise Heaven – Mesoamericans believed heaven was a joyful paradise filled with delights. Tialocan, the heaven for Teaotihuacans, was portrayed as abundant and happy. Diego Landa reported:
“They believed that after death there was another life better than this, which the soul enjoyed after leaving the body. This future life they said was divided into good and evil, into pains and delights. The evil life of suffering they said was for the vicious, and the good and delectable for those whose mode of life had been good.”a
Ritual Sacrament – Mayan rituals included sacred drinks and food, like the sacrament in the Book of Mormon, administered by priests. “Ritual drinking” took place with gods present at Mayan ball game courts. Cannibalism was sometimes practiced, because “by eating the victims the participants were able to ingest the very substance of the god whom they worshipped.” This matches reports of cannibalism in the Book of Mormon, and resembles the logic behind the Christian sacrament.
Mesoamericans shaped corn dough into the shape of their gods, to represent their gods, and ate them as a communion ceremony, where dough was “formed into tamales (dumplings steamed in cornhusks) or shaped as idols and eaten in communion with the corn gods.”
Ritual Executions – The Book of Mormon records ritual executions due to acts of warfare, such as the hanging of Zemnarihah from a tree and the Lamanite’s systematic killing Nephite prisoners. Mesoamericans likewise practiced ritual executions and warfare, the “presentation, mutilation, and sacrifice of prisoners.”
The Book of Mormon tells of King Noah being executed for crimes in a lengthy ceremony similar to the Mayan execution ritual.
Ritual Sacrifice – Both “human sacrifice” and “animal sacrifices” occurred in ancient America. The Book of Mormon describes both within the time frame in accordance with the Law of Moses.
Elite Priests – Religious priests were at the top of the social hierarchy and taught traditional doctrines that reinforced this social structure, and often repressed the lower class, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. The “elite power rested in esoteric ritual knowledge.” In the Book of Mormon, the apostate Nehor spread elitism in a class of priests who held keys of redemption at the expense of monetary gain.
Palaces – The ruling class “nobles lived in palaces.” Rulers lived in a large palace at the center of the city, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. For example, Noah in the Book of Mormon built “elegant and spacious buildings” in the middle of the city.
Temporary Imprisonment – Prison was usually temporary, and usually ended quickly with some other punishment, such as slavery. “Captives taken in war were occasionally enslaved, but they usually were dedicated to sacrifice and did not last long.” The Book of Mormon indicates the same kind of judicial system.
Jaguar Symbolized Hunting – The jaguar altar at El Castillo showed incredible similarity to the Facsimile 1 Lion couch. The Book of Mormons speak of lions in the same fashion as jaguars. The jaguar was an important anthropomorphism of hunting and dominion, a figure that humans could embody: “Master of the Species, a concept characteristic of hunting cultures… rooted in the equivalence of man and wild animals.”
The Book of Mormon speaks of lions in the same way: “A lion among the beasts of the forest… treadeth down and teareth into pieces, and none can deliver” (3 Nephi 21:12), “they fought like lions for their prey” (Mosiah 20:10), “they were struck with great fear and fled… as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions.”
Owl Associated With Death – Owls were thought by Mayans to inhabit the underworld and signify death and desolation. The god Yum Cimil “is painted as half-owl, half-human.” Yum Cimil sought to “devastate and destroy all that he came in contact with… plagues and wars and many other forms of violence.”
The Book of Mormon associates the owl with destruction and desolation as well: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in… their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there.”
Fine Clothing – The Book of Mormon claims Lehi’s people from Mesopotamia wore silks and fine linens, and describes the dress in terms of robes.
Torguemada described the foreigners who arrived in America long ago on boats:
“Certain nations came from toward the north, who landed at the port of Panuco. These people were well dressed, and adorned in long clothing, after the style of the Turks.”r
Multiple Marketplaces In A City – Helaman 7:10 mentions a “chief market” and suggests smaller markets existed. This matches the Mesoamerican market system, where central markets were principal and local small markets were spread around neighborhoods: “…on multiple scales, from neighborhood-level interaction to large, principal marketplaces like those known from the Postclassic Basin.”
High Density Urban Centers – The idea of large native cities with high density populations seemed laughable in Joseph Smith’s time, but now we know there were very dense ancient cities. The size of these cities required local representatives within a larger government framework, exactly as the Book of Mormon portrays:
“It was not possible for the leaders of individual compounds to interact directly with the bureaucracy of the Teotihuacan city, because of the city’s large population and its more diverse, complex, and specialized economy… Instead, the economic, political, and perhaps religious interests of the compounds in the larger Teotihuacan city-state had to be represented by leaders and priests drawn from various districts.”s
Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer said: “When we [the Witnesses] were first told to publish our statement, we felt sure that the people would not believe it, for the Book told of a people who were refined and dwelt in large cities.” Who would have thought that the Native Americans even had a representative government? That it became necessary with the population influx of new immigrants under King Mosiah?
Monetary System – No coins from ancient America have been found, however this is not a problem because the monetary system mentioned in Alma 11 never speaks of coins, just weights of different metals, and comparisons of what they are worth. This standardization fits the ancient method of coinage. Read more…
Cutting Off Arms For Trophies – In the Book of Mormon, Ammon cut off the arms of plunderers attempting to steal from him, and the arms were displayed to the king as a trophy. This follows an Aztec practice of cutting off the arms of enemies in combat and displaying them as trophies. Read more…
Cities Submerged In Water – Advanced cities have been found submerged under water and covered in landslides: “…’underwater city’ found on a large plateau… ‘clear manmade architectural designs’ that when seen from above ‘resemble pyramids, roads and buildings.'”
The Book of Mormon describes cities being submerged completely in the ocean.
Garden of Eden – Mesoamericans believed that Quetzalcoatl gave man life and the ability to choose good or evil, and previously mankind was in a childlike state.
“Mesoamericans believed that until Quetzalcoatl’s appearance on earth only the beasts inhabited the world. Through Quetzalcoatl’s spiritual essence, humankind was created… man had existed before Quetzalcoatl’s appearance but in a collective sense without individual though, man was similar to a machine. Through Quetzalcoatl, man became free to make choices of good and evil and to become true individuals.” t
Communal Society – Like in 4 Nephi, archaeologists have noticed unranked societies in Maya that eventually split into classes and ranks.
Sudden Depopulation – There was a “general abandonment of most settlements in western Chiapas,” during the Late Classic era (250 AD) “which finally dwindled to nothing.” This correlates with the extinction of the Nephites around the same time.
Migration Northward – Experts believed, even in Joseph Smith’s time, that Natives migrated south from the Bering Strait. But new evidence shows there were actually migrations northward, as claimed in the Book of Mormon: “…the speakers of these languages would seem likely to have migrated northward from in or near what is now Oaxaca a matter of millenia ago.”
Fasting With Sackcloth and Ashes – Diego Landa described Mayans entering their temple “cleansed of the black soot they put on while fasting,” and then being purified with incense, much like the Hebrew customs of fasting.a
Armor – Many assume Native Americans had no armor, but early explorers reported soldiers who “wore protective jackets of cotton, quilted in double thickness, which were very strong.” “Some of the chiefs and captains wore helmets of wood.”
Spiritual Growth Like Plant – Talamancans described spiritual renewal and resurrection as the growth of a plant growing inside a person, like faith is described in the Book of Mormon. Corn meal symbolizes “renewal in death… temporal expressions promising spiritual continuity despite the death of the body.'”
Immortal Soul – Mesoamericans believed in an immortal soul because of the spirit, as described in the Book of Mormon. Diego Landa reported: “These people have always believed in the immortality of the soul.”a
Genealogy Proves Right To Rulership – Mesoamerican writings, such as the Maya stelae, recorded a ruler’s lineage as proof of his right to rule: “It is now generally accepted that many of these monuments functioned as status validation documents.” The Book of Mormon mentions the same kind of validation of kingship. Diego Landa:
“They make much of knowledge of the origins of their lineages, especially if they come from one of the houses of Mayapan; this they learn from their priests, it being one of their sciences, and they boast much about one of their lineage who has distinguished himself. The name of the father is transmitted to his son, but not to his daughters.”a
Hierarchy Of Judges – The ancient American king often was supreme judge, with a structure of lower district courts below him, as with the Aztec Tlatoani. The halach uinic high council of judges presided over the batab local judges. The batab could consult the halach but held jurisdiction for all local matters. The batab was a separate office than “town council” or voice of the people. They were financially compensated and specialized lawyers.
Broken Heart & Contrite Spirit – Mesoamericans believed the gods were to be approached with humility, begging, and weeping prayer. “…prayers were accompanied by humbling behavior, wailing, or gentle weeping… to ‘wake up’ the divinity.”
Teachers Over The People – The Book of Mormon clarifies that one of the important and influential roles of priests was to be teachers over the people. Diego Landa said: “It was the office of the priests to discourse and teach their sciences, to indicate calamities and the means of remedying them, preaching during the festivals, celebrating the sacrifices and administering their sacraments.”
Prophesy of Foreign Conquerors – Diego Landa:
“As the Mexican people had signs and prophecies of the coming of the Spaniards and the end of their power and religion, so also did those of Yucatan some years before they were conquered… An Indian named Ah-cambal (a spiritual leader of the people)…told publicly that they would soon be ruled by a foreign race who would preach a God and the virtue of a wood which in their tongue he called vahom-che, meaning a tree lifted up…”a
The Book of Mormon prophesies of the Gentile conquering the American Natives, who would introduce them to the Bible, which would teach them about Jesus being “lifted up” on the wood cross.
Patriarchal Priesthood Under High Priest – Diego Landa:
“The people of Yucatan were as attentive to matters of religion as of government, and had a High Priest… He was succeeded in office by his son or closest kin. In him lay the key to their sciences, to which they most devoted themselves… He and his disciples appointed the priests for the towns, examining them in their sciences, and ceremonies, put on their charge the affairs of their office, and the setting of a good example to the people, he provided their books (scripture) and sent them forth.”a
Confessing Sins – Mayans confessed their sins to a priest to avoid sickness, like Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon. Diego Landa said:
“The Yucatecans naturally knew when they had done something wrong, and they believed that death, disease, and torments would come on them because of evildoing, and sin, and thus they had the custom of confessing to their priests when such was the case. In this way, when for sickness or other cause they found themselves in danger of death, they made confession of their sins… the sins of which they commonly accused themselves were theft, homicide of the flesh, and false testimony.”a
Societies Departing From Jerusalem – The Dead Sea Scrolls revealed a civilization at Qumran that departed from Jerusalem into the wilderness due to wickedness in the city and impending doom, like Lehi’s family in the Book of Mormon. They wrote scripture on metal and practiced devout religious ordinances, including baptism by immersion, that are unique to Mormons. Also, around the same time period. Read more…
Scripture Records Kept In A Treasury – Like Nephi’s account, non-Hebrew records were kept in a treasury, called “genizah”, a store room in synagogues. The genizah was specifically called a treasury: ” In Tractate Pesachim 118b, bet genizah is a treasury.”
Steel Bow – The Book of Mormon claim that Nephi had a “steel bow” for hunting. This sounds like a ridiculous anachronism to skeptics. A steel bow in ancient times? But the ancient Visnudharmottara mentions metal bows, and the Agnipurana mentions steel bows. Mughal paintings show them in use in battles, and they are believed to date back to the 4th century B.C.
Interestingly, Nephi created new arrows for his new bow, even though he already had arrows. Why did he need new arrows if only his bow broke? Nowadays, we wouldn’t think to do this, but in ancient times arrows had to be made specific for each bow. Different arrows were certainly needed for a quick wood bow than a fine steel bow.
Multiple Hebrew Temples – The Book of Mormon claims Nephi built a temple in the new world. The notion that the Hebrews would have permitted multiple temples was inconceivable in Joseph Smith’s time, but since then, a Jewish temples have been found in Elephantine and Leontopolis, where the Hebrews did not “shut down the Elephantine temple itself, despite the fact that its existence was contrary to the law of Deuteronomy.”
Hebrew Name ‘Sariah’ – The Hebrew name Sariah was not known of in Joseph Smith’s time, and its appearance in the Book of Mormon seems random. But recently the name has been found written in the Elephantine Papyri: “Sariah daughter of Hoshea son of Harman.”
Mulek Son of King Zedekiah – It has always been assumed that Zedekiah did not have a son named Mulek, even though the Book of Mormon claims he did. But an ancient seal was discovered in Jerusalem that reads: “Malkiyahu the son of the king.” This is likely Mulek. Read more…
Male Use Of The Name ‘Alma’ – The Book of Mormon applies the name Alma to men, even though it is a female name. But a land deed from the 2nd century AD in Palestine mentions “Alma the son of Judah,” which proves it is male and Hebrew.
Hebrew Names– The Book of Mormon uses words that match up to the meanings in Hebrew and related languages, even though Joseph Smith did not know Hebrew. For example, Jershon means “place of inheritance” in Hebrew, and in the Book of Mormon, a land is given by Nephites to Lamanite converts “for an inheritance” which is called Jershon.
The Book of Mormon records Lehi’s family was educated “in the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.”
Chiasmus – The Hebrew literary device of chiasmus, unusual for English but common in Hebrew and the Bible, has been found extensively in the Book of Mormon, in complex structures, both within sentences and at a macro-level forming entire chapters.
Hebrew Grammar – Besides the chiasmus, there are distinctive Hebrew grammar devices in the Book of Mormon that sound clumsy in English but fit perfect for Hebrew. The list includes the Hebrew construct slate, adverbials, cognates, compound prepositions, conjunctions, subordinate causes, relative clauses, extrapositional mouns, interchangeable pronouns, and naming conventions.
At least one Hebrew devices–parallelism–shows up in the Popul Vul as well. It sounds terrible in English but makes sense in Hebrew. Native American languages have similar grammar to Hebrew. See more…
Reformed Egyptian – The Book of Mormon’s claim of reformed-Egyptian was silly in the 19th century, but now we have discovered Demotic and Hieratic variations of Egyptian. Translations of Hebrew scripture into other languages have also been found.
Continually Running River Into Red Sea – Antimormons have long claimed there are no rivers on the Arabian Peninsula that empty in to the Red Sea. But actually a continually flowing river has been found eight miles north of Maqna, where a suitable spot for the Valley of Lemuel has also been found.
‘Shazer’ Discovered on Lehi’s Route – Nephi described a fertile location in the Arabian desert where they found animals to hunt, which they called Shazer. This word matches the ancient Palestinian term for water holes, shajer, pronounced shazher. A fitting location has been found 75 miles from the Valley of Lemuel location at the Gulf of Aqaba.
‘Nahom’ Discovered On Lehi’s Route – Altar inscriptions of the name “Nahom” have been discovered along the route Lehi took in southern Arabia, dating to the time he was supposed to have been there.
Word for ‘Amen’ – Diego Landa: “They have the custom of assisting one who delivers a message by responding with a cadence of the voice, a sort of aspirate in the throat as if to say ‘it is well’ or‘be is so.’” a
The Book of Mormon uses the word “amen” in this fashion. Also, the Book of Mormon is structured with a colophon “amen” at the end of each part. The Egyptian colophon literally means “this (means) that it comes,” just like Diego Landa said the Mayans ended messages with, and the colophon likewise marks the end of books and chapters.
Idol Statues – Mesoamericans worshipped stone idol statues and graven images, as told in the Book of Mormon. Early explorers remarked that “greater emphasis on the worship” of physical idols grew due to leadership change, and that early on the people didn’t worship idols at all.
Priestcraft – The Book of Mormon tells of a class of religious leaders who exploit the people for financial gain and political power. This also describes priests in Mesoamerica as an “elite class and the management of religious matters that reinforced and supported their elevated status.”
Local Militia – Warriors were mustered from local sources rather than a national standing army, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. It was the role of the local Batab to gather military forces.
Multiple Writing Systems – Native Americans were considered illiterate in Joseph Smith’s time, yet the Book of Mormon claims a variety of writing systems. Many distinct scripts have been found in Mesoamerican cultures dating back to ancient times.
Similar Uses For Writing – Mesoamericans used writing for 14 purposes that are also mentioned in in the Book of American, according to John L. Sorenson. This included recording history, correspondence, recording mythology, warfare, and genealogy. While ancient writing typically evolves from accounting in business, Mesoamerican writing is rather unique in that it came from religious, political, and historical needs–which is how the Book of Mormon describes writing.
Governance By Divine Right – Governorship was conferred by right and often by divine decree in ancient America, with multiple rulers rather than one single king over everyone, the same as indicated in the Book of Mormon: “Classic Maya rulers claimed a kind of divine right to rule, similar to the supernatural identity enjoyed by kings” in the Eastern continent.
History Treated As Political Weapon – In the Book of Mormon, civilizations sought historical records to gain political advantage over each other. Mesoamericans did likewise, for example with the sacred petamuti narrative.
Lineage Predicted Future – Both Mesoamerican writings and the Book of Mormon predict future events based on genealogical lineages, national history, and dreams. A family could “trace its historical lineage back to a particularly important” historical character and “shape the future” accordingly. In the Book of Mormon, people indicated future events based on lineage from an important figure.
Family-Based Rulership – Kingship was usually based on family descendancy, usually through males descendants, like how the Book of Mormon describes. Rulership “had always passed from father to son.”
Emeritus Rulership – Rulership sometimes changed before the previous ruler was dead, like Mosiah who passed on the throne before his death in the Book of Mormon.
Taxes – Just as recorded in the Book of Mormon, Mesoamerican rulers gained power through taxes. These were lump-sum tributes, “regularly scheduled, recorded in official documents, and collected by teams of professional tax collectors.”
Frequent Upheaval – Factions within a nation often shifted sides overthrew the government or took over other societies, as indicated in the Book of Mormon: “Local alliances shifted frequently, contributing to political unrest and resulting in a boundary that fluctuated over time.”
Despite being considered peaceful for many years, archaeologists now recognize Mesoamericans were embroiled in warfare: “The Maya warred because their religion compelled it.” The Book of Mormon likewise records frequent overthrows.
Divisions By Relocation – Factions often created independent macro-regional civilizations during times of upheaval, as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Warfare Due To Religion – Religion was often a major reason for attacking other societies through warfare, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. Not only was war waged for religious dominance in theocracies, it was seen as necessary to please the gods, like the Lamanite concept of war.
Religious Circumcision – Aztec warriors punctured their foreskins in a solemn sacrificial ritual, similar to the Hebrew circumcision: “Their brothers and husbands drew thongs through the foreskins of their penises. The blood they shed was sopped up in strips of fiber that were burned, dispatching the sacrifices in smoke to the heavens.”v
Battles By Agriculture Season – Battles and troop movements were timed to not interfere with the harvest season and when it wasn’t too hot, as indicated in the Book of Mormon. Wars were fought in the winter, which does not make sense in Joseph Smith’s location but does in Central America.
Nuclear Family – The small traditional family provided moral instruction to the youth, as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Polygamy – Polygamous marriages were practiced by the elites:
“Polygamy was advantageous in part because it created more opportunities for intermarriage among elites… and the nobility practiced polygamy so enthusiastically that by the early 16th century there were not enough bureaucratic jobs for all their offspring.”t
The Book of Mormon also records polygamy taking place:
“For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife… ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.”
Herds and Flocks – John L. Sorenson points out, ancient Americans utilized birds and animals as described in the Book of Mormon, though it is unclear whether they were domesticated or merely slaughtered.
Elephants – Contrary to Antimormon claims, there were elephants in North America, such as the mastodon, perhaps as late as 2,000 B.C. This corresponds to the mention of an elephant in the third millenia B.C. in the Book of Mormon.
Metal – Contrary to popular belief and Antimormon claims, metallurgy was known to ancient Americans, including smelting and working with alloys, as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
“…more than 100 objects excavated at Lamanai have anchored some alloy types… plain-walled bells cast from metal smelted from copper oxide ores.”u
Silk – It sounds odd to claim Mesoamericans had silk, since we all know silk came from Asia. But contrary to Antimormon claims, fabrics that could be considered silk and “fine linen” were created by ancient Americans, from animal hair and fine weaving: “…feathers and rabbit fur may have been dyed with cochineal and applied to or woven into textiles.”
Oracles for Warfare – Oracles or priestly intervention was used before battle, as indicated in the Book of Mormon: “…the help of diviners to know when to travel, and warriors to know when to go to battle.”
Intergenerational Wars – Mesoamerican conflicts often stretched out feuds for many years and generations, as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Punishment for Adultry – In Alma 30:10, adulterers were punished per the Law of Moses. Diego Landa:
“They had laws against delinquents which they executed rigorously, such as against an adulterer, whom they turned over to the injured party that he might either put him to death by throwing a great stone upon his head… For the adulteress there was no penalty save the infamy, which was very serious thing to them. One who ravished a maiden was stoned to death.”a
Divorce Condemned – Diego Landa:
“Even though divorce was so common and familiar a thing, the old people and those of better customs condemned it, and there were many who never had but a single wife; nor did they ever marry one bearing their own name on the father’s side, for this was considered a very bad thing. Equally wrong was it held that a man should marry his sister in law, the widow of a brother.”a
Cultural Rot Due To Unworthy Marriages – Diego Landa:
“In olden times they married at the age of twenty, but now at that of twelve or thirteen. For this reason they divorce more easily because they marry without love and ignorant of a married life and the duties of married people; and if their parents could not persuade them to return to their wives, they hunted them another and others and others.”a
Stone Stalae – Great stones with writing have been found throughout America. The Book of Mormon likewise describes writings on large stones like the stelae found in ancient America.
Hopis Prophesied Of ‘Book Of Truth’ –
Hopi legends spoke of the god Bahana who would return to his people, much like the Quenzecoatl god, bearing a religious book of truth.
“All this time the Hopi seemed to know that the real Bahana was coming, but they were warned to be careful and patient, for fear it might not be the true Bahana who would come after the Spaniard or Castilian. So if he ever did come they must be sure to ask him about his books, which they thought would contain his secrets, and it was said that the book of truth would not be on top, but at the very bottom, after all the other books. If he asked the Hopi for the privilege of teaching them his language and taught them how to write, they must be sure to ask that they would like to be taught in the book of truth, because if he was a true Bahana he would quickly consent to teach them of this book. For their belief is, that if he is not the one they are looking for he will refuse to teach them his religion. Now if they learned his religion they would compare it with their religion and ceremonies, and if these were alike they would know that the Bahana had been with them in the beginning.”
Chapter Headings, No Chapter Or Verse Numbreing – One peculiarity with the Book of Mormon manuscript was that it had no chapter or verse numbers. Joseph Smith broke the text up into chapters based on where-ever seemed good to keep chapters from running on too long, and spaces on the gold plates between bodies of text. He had a hard time telling the difference between chapters, verses, and books of scripture because they werne’t titled or numbered but instead had long chapter headings. That seems rather odd for a book of scripture.
But it turns out Egyptian is the same way. No chapter numbers or division of verses and books, but long chapter headings.
Title Page On Last Page – Another peculiarity of the Book of Mormon is that the title page was originally on the last page of the gold plates. Joseph Smith said: “the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates.” Not only did Joseph Smith correctly identify an Egyptian book as reading right to left instead of the typical English left to right, but the Egyptian colophon acts as a title page at the end of a document identifying the author.
Vision Of A Garden & Building Of Pride –
The Apophthegmata Patrum (Saying #120) tells of a vision that very closely parallels Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. The Apophthegmata Patrum was only in Latin until the 20th and there is no way Joseph Smith could have known about it.
Book Of Mormon Characters Resemble Egyptian
Pre-19th Century English in the Book of Mormon Translation – Studies find ancient English grammar in Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon translation which pre-dates the 1800s and is not found in the bible. How did Joseph Smith know pre-19th century language and grammar?
Quote Of Isaiah 9:1 Correctly Changes ‘Way Of The Sea’ To ‘Way Of The Red Sea’ – The Book of Mormon quotes several chapters from Isaiah. Why does it change “way of the sea” in Isaiah 9:1 to “way of the Red Sea”? The ‘Way of the Red Sea’ was a trade route that ran south and east of Israel and then north to Galilee. Isaiah 9:1 talks about “the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.” But the road known as “Way of the Sea” doesn’t go “beyond Jordan east of Israel. The “Way of the Red Sea” does.
The First Vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820 commenced the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith prayed about which church to join, and God told him to join none. God called Joseph Smith to be prophet and restore God’s true church.
Opponents say Joseph Smith gave multiple contradictory accounts of his first vision of God the Father and Jesus. Why are there discrepancies of such an important event? But these opponents are distorting the facts. There there are no real discrepancies, but there is a persistent attempt by Antimormons to unfairly smear Joseph Smith.
Each time someone talks about a childhood event, we should expect them to include different details.
Actually A Dream?
Skeptics say it is unclear whether the First Vision was a “real, physical event.” Or “was this a vision in the same sense that Lehi saw a vision of the tree of life, in a dream?” Orson Pratt explained very clearly:
“When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately, his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision”
But Orson Pratt made it perfectly clear that he was talking about Joseph Smith’s state of mind. He was not talking about the physical manner of his vision, which you can tell when you look at the entire context of that quote:
“…he continued to seek for deliverance until darkness gave way from his mind, and he was enabled to pray in fervency of the spirit and in faith… He was also informed upon the subjects which had for some time previously agitated his mind… his mind was drawn out in fervent prayer… This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation that extended to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind…”
Joseph Smith said his vision was not a dream or out of body experience. It was a real physical event:
“I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”
“When he first penned the account, Joseph only mentioned one person visiting him, which is no small detail to be mistaken about,” claim skeptics.
Joseph Smith said in his 1832 account that “The Lord” spoke to him. Yes, but he never said “only” the Lord spoke to him. He simply didn’t mention that the Lord was introduced by God the Father. So what? There is no mistake here.
When a person includes extra details of an event in later accounts, that means they are creating “false memories about those events,” says Antimormon website MormonThink. “We consistently spin the stories of our lives rather than recall events correctly. And the confabulations always are designed to make ourselves look better. These are established facts.” So if Joseph Smith included more detail in later descriptions of the First Vision, doesn’t that mean he could have been grossly exaggerating? Did Joseph Smith add details of the event over time to make it sound better?
This is really begging the question. Anybody who repeatedly recalls an event earlier in their life is going to talk about different details than before. Over time, Joseph Smith included some details and excluded some details. Joseph Smith wasn’t exactly making himself look good in his later accounts, with his descriptions of youthful weakness and being overcome by the power of Satan. And there were details in his earlier accounts that he didn’t talk about later on, such as multiple angels.
Smith said that there were many things in the vision that he didn’t write about. “…many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.” (JSH 1:20) Smith told about parts of the vision according to whatever he was talking about in the context of that particular account, and these accounts were many years apart. So there were details left out or included in different accounts, but not any major discrepancies. The only thing is the question of his age, and that appears to be Fredrick G. Williams just marking it in later incorrectly.
Skeptics claim that there are “nine different accounts given by Joseph Smith relating the First Vision with varying degrees of changes and circumstances.”
Not true. There are four accounts attributed directly to Joseph Smith, and the 1832 account from Joseph Smith’s Letterbook is the only account we have written by Joseph Smith. He didn’t write much during his life. The other accounts were written down by others. Some were recorded with closer supervision by Joseph Smith than others.
The skeptics make it seem like Joseph Smith gave plenty of accounts later in his life and that few other people wrote about it. But actually the opposite is true! There are many accounts written by others but only this one account written by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith closely oversaw the 1842 account from the Times and Seasons, as it went on to become part of the official History of the Church.
“Joseph Smith described a different first vision story when he oversaw the first church history published in 1835,” claims MormonThink. Not true. In fact, they hadn’t published the church history yet in 1835! It was published years later. The 1835 account, written by Warren Parrish, and based on Joseph Smith’s discussion with Robert Matthews, had nothing to do with the church history volume. And it shows no differences with the other accounts. Comparison charts incorrectly claim that this account describes only one personage appearing. Actually it clearly describes two personages: “…a personage appeard… another personage soon appeard…”
No discrepancies there. The Antimormons are lying about the First Vision account.
Discrepancy: 14 Years Old?
The only real descrepency anyone can find is one account that claims Joseph Smith was 15 years old instead of 14 when the First Vision happened. This is important because all the other accounts say he was 14 years old. Why this discrepancy?
The Letterbook account was written by Joseph Smith, but it turns out others added things later. Frederick G. Williams added later on: “in the 16th year of my age,” (aka 15 years old).
They were recalling events that took place many years before. It’s easy to forget exactly how old you were when something happened as a child.
Joseph Smith’s poor education prevented him from keeping good records.
“Joseph wrote, “we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading and writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic which constuted my whole literary acquirements.”
Although the portion of Joseph’s 1832 history is in his own handwriting, the text insertion of “in the 16th year of my age” was in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, Joseph’s scribe. It is likely that Joseph’s dating schemes were slightly off when he dictated his age to Williams, many years after-the-fact….
Once the date of the First Vision was correctly established it remained steady throughout all subsequent recitals as the “15th year” or “age 14.””
There are always going to be some minor inconsistencies with second-hand history.
All other accounts say Joseph Smith was 14 years old.
When Did Joseph Smith Learn All Churches Were Wrong?
In the 1832 account, Joseph Smith says he “already knew all other churches were false before he prayed,” points outMormon Think.
“…by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ…”
They are taking these snippets out of context, effectively misquoting this passage. Here is the entire quote. It is clear that Joseph Smith was worried about his own personal sins and apostasy, and was frustrated that he couldn’t find a correct church. He was talking about personal apostasy, not organized churches:
“…my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mand did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins…”
Joseph Smith never said that he concluded that every church on earth was wrong. Just that he could not find a church that built on the true gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no contradiction in the 1842 account of the First Vision when it says Joseph Smith didn’t know yet that “all the sects” on earth were wrong.
“I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join.”
Mormon Thinkcomplains that the “first written version of the account by Joseph was not given until 12 years after it supposedly took place.” Why wasn’t such an important event written about for over a decade?
The church and Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon in 1830. As Mormon Think points out, “The first regular periodical to be published by the Church was The Evening and Morning Star” (Dialogue, James Allen). That was started in 1832, the same year as Smith’s first writing about his First Vision.
So the First Vision is actually one of the first writings produced by Joseph Smith and the church.
Joseph Smith did not write much because of his poor education, as he mentioned. He didn’t write about anything much at all. Mormon Think says, “As far as Mormon literature is concerned, there was apparently no reference to Joseph Smith’s First Vision in any published material in the 1830’s.” That’s because there was little Mormon literature published at that time. Printing was tough to do in those days. The Book of Commandments was printed in a small number in 1833, until Antimormons destroyed the printing press. It wasn’t until years later that much could be printed at all.
Included In Church History
Mormon Think claims the First Vision “was left out of the first publication of the Church’s history written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.” Completely false. The First Vision was included in the Church History publication under BH Roberts in 1902, from the Wentworth Letter account.
Previously, only small excerpts were published in the Times and Seasons, as it was a very massive library of literature and was still being prepared. The First Vision account that appeared in the Church History was published in this newspaper in March 1842 and April 182. Another account was printed in this newspaper on March 1, 1842.
Not Included In Book of Commandments?
Mormon Think also complains that the First Vision was “also left out of the Book of Commandments,” which was the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Of course it was left out! The Book of Commandments was a book of commandments, not of Joseph Smith’s diary accounts of his experiences. Only direct accounts of revelation from God, with God giving commandments in first person language was included in this book. The First Vision record did not fit that qualification. This is why the First Vision does not appear in D&C today, but in the Pearl of Great Price, which was included in scripture in 1880.
Mormon Thinkclaims “no reference was made to Joseph’s first vision in Book of Commandments.”False. References to the First Vision were indeed in the Book of Commandments. In D&C 20:5, God reminded Joseph Smith that the Lord told him in the First Vision that his sins were forgiven him. This section of D&C was delivered in 1829, only 9 years after the First Vision event took place.
Mormon Thinkclaims “the general church membership did not receive information about the First Vision until the 1840’s.” But that can’t be true. Joseph Smith talked about it all the time. Why do you think there are so many second-hand accounts about it? Wikipedia is lying when it says Joseph Smith was “reluctant to talk about his vision.” He just didn’t publish it until 1842.
Threat Of Violence
“Most assume that the most important news about God and Christ would be written and published immediately to the world.” saysMormon Think.
That’s a pretty stupid thing to assume. Joseph Smith was violently attacked by Antimormon persecutors because he taught a different Christian doctrine. They destroyed the church’s printing press for printing different religious ideas. They murdered and raped Mormons and stole their property. The U.S. government issued a genocidal extermination order of Mormons, ordering them wiped off the face of the earth.
How would those murderous 19th century Antimormons have reacted if the church started spreading literature of God the Father and Jesus Christ (two different personages) telling everyone that all their churches were corrupt and evil? It would have made the persecution worse. It is a good thing Joseph Smith made better assumptions than Mormon Think. His decision saved lives. Joseph Smith explained:
“In the meantime we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the Priesthood and our having been baptized, owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood.We had been threatened with being mobbed, from time to time, and this, too, by professors of religion.”
Besides, why would Joseph Smith delay publishing his account of the vision? Wouldn’t he be better off spreading it right away and attracting followers?
Well, why didn’t Jesus immediately publish an account of His life? It wasn’t till many decades later that the first accounts of Jesus’ life were written and spread around. And the four accounts of Jesus had many major discrepancies, didn’t they? An examination and comparison of the four gospels in the New Testament shows more discrepancies than between the nine accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision.
Did Later Mormon Leaders Give Contradictory Accounts?
Later statements by LDS prophets and apostles contradict Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision, claims Mormon Think. Why isn’t there a consistent narrative about this foundational event?
Well first of all, these statements were all given many years after the first vision was published. So why would they contradict a well known and well established account? Antimormons have a talent for taking quotes out of context and twisting them to fit an Antimormon frame. Let’s take a look at each statement:
“Some one may say, “If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?” Because to the angels was committed the power of reaping the earth, and it was committed to none else. And after the mighty champions that hold the keys of this dispensation came and brought the intelligence that the time of harvest was now—that the time of the end was drawing nigh,—when this proclamation was made, and the announcement saluted the ears of the children of men, what was to be done next? Behold, the gathering of the Saints begins.”
(1854, Orson Hyde)
This is not even about the first vision. Orson Hyde was talking about the “grand harvest” of missionary work in D&C chapter 110, not about the restoration of the gospel in general. That is why he speaks of angels and not the Savior himself making the proclamation.
“The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith Jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.”
Brigham Young was comparing the restoration through Joseph Smith with the Jews’ expectation of a militant Messiah in Jesus’ time. The point he was making was that the restoration of the gospel did not come with armies of angels destroying the earth, but through the restoration of priesthood keys. He was talking about the vision of angels through which priesthood keys were delivered:
“It is because the keys of the dispensation were committed by messengers sent from the Celestial world unto Joseph Smith, and are now held on the earth by his people.” He wasn’t even talking about the First Vision!
Mormon Think says: “It is certain Young is speaking of the First Vision for he says the angel told Smith to join no church for they were all wrong. This is the very question the official version of the story states Smith asked of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove.”
Antimormons have a difficult time reading plain English, apparently. He didn’t say the angel told Joseph Smith not to join any church. Look again at what Brigham Young said: “But [God] did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith Jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects…” God sent his angel and also informed him not to join any of the religions. Get it now?
“That same organization and Gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God,… The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world;… He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world,… This man to whom the angel appeared obeyed the Gospel;…”
“The gospel has gone forth in our day in its true glory, power, order, and light, as it always did when God had a people among men that He acknowledged. That same organization and gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy ANGEL from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world, and unfolded unto him the gross darkness that surrounded the nations, those scenes that should take place in this generation, and would follow each other in quick succession, even unto the coming of the Messiah. The ANGEL taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world; and THE LORD gave him commandments, and sealed upon him the Priesthood, and gave him power to administer the ordinances of the house of the Lord. HE told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of HIS kingdom in the world, that the people had turned away from HIS true order, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant, and inherited lies and things wherein their was no profit. HE told him the time had come to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom of God among men for the last time, preparatory to the winding up scene”
“Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come himself and call, but he sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates.”
(1857, Heber C. Kimball)
This was not about the First Vision or Restoration in general. It was specifically about the gift of the tools that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon. This is clear if you look at Kimball’s entire quote:
“If God confers gifts, and blessings, and promises, and glories, and immortality, and eternal lives, and you receive them and treasure them up, then our Father and our God has joy in that man. . . . Do you not see [that] God is not pleased with any man except those that receive the gifts, and treasure them up, and practice upon those gifts? And He gives those gifts, and confers them upon you, and will have us to practice upon them. Now, these principles to me are plain and simple.
Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come Himself and call, but He sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates. Did God come Himself? No: He sent Moroni and told him there was a record, and says he, “That record is [a] matter that pertains to the Lamanites, and it tells when their fathers came out of Jerusalem, and how they came, and all about it; and, says he, “If you will do as I tell you, I will confer a gift upon you.” Well, he conferred it upon him, because Joseph said he would do as he told him. “I want you to go to work and take the Urim and Thummim, and translate this book, and have it published, that this nation may read it.” Do you not see, by Joseph receiving the gift that was conferred upon him, you and I have that record?”
(1857, Heber C. Kimball)
“How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view.”
(1863, John Taylor)
Same out of context tactic as with the Heber C. Kimball quote. He was talking about the restoration of the priesthood. Out of the many hundreds of First Vision accounts from later general authorities, only a handful mentioned the angels in the First Vision account, and they did so because they were talking about the series of angelic visions necessary for that to happen. Antimormons take these quotes out of context.
George A. Smith:
“When Joseph Smith was about fourteen or fifteen years old,…he went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong,…”
The reason George Smith emphasizes the angels and not God the Father and Son is because he was talking about the restoration of the priesthood, and he was tying this message to subsequent visions regarding the priesthood keys. Joseph Smith wrote that there were angels present at the First Vision. The message of these angels in this and subsequent visions brought about the restoration of the priesthood. This is why George A. Smith’s quote goes on: “But the vision was repeated several times…” Angels repeatedly arrived to restore the priesthood.
Mormon Think distorts another George A. Smith quote:
“He sought the Lord by day and by night, and was enlightened by the vision of an holy angel. When this personage appeared to him, of his first inquiries was, ‘Which of the denominations of Christians in the vicinity was right?”
(1863, George A. Smith)
Again, look at the entire quote. This was about restoring the priesthood. George Smith was emphasizing the restoration of the priesthood by angels, and the angel Moroni repeated God’s assertion that none of the denominations of churches were true because none had the true priesthood authority. Moroni explained in several visions following the First Vision why true church was not on the earth: because the keys of the priesthood were not on the earth.
Joseph Smith’s Mother:
“Joseph’s mother, was unacquainted with a vision of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove. In her unpublished history, she traced the origin of Mormonism to a late-night bedroom visit by an angel. According to her, the angel told him “there is not a true church on Earth, No, not one””
The entire quote makes it clear that she was talking about the priesthood, about Moroni’s visit.
“After we ceased conversation, he went to bed but he had not laid there long till a bright enter the room where he lay. He looked up and saw an angel of the Lord by him. The angel spoke, I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church. There is not a true church on Earth. No, not one, has not been since Peter took the Keys into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Again, the angel Moroni repeated God’s assertion that no true church was on the earth, as part of his explanation for why he was restoring priesthood keys.
Dishonest Antimormons – So who are the skeptics and Antimormons pushing the false narratives about the First Vision. Mormon Think managing editor Tom Phillips tried to get the LDS prophet Thomas S. Monson arrested for fraud in a frivolous criminal court, because Tom Phillips disagreed with Mormon teachings, according to reports.
Those are the kind of Antimormons we are dealing with here. It’s no wonder they are dishonest and deceitful about Mormon doctrine.
Ever since the discovery of eleven papyrus fragments in 1966, critics of the Mormon church have claimed that these fragments were the basis for Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham. They actually contain text from the ancient Book of Breathing, a funeral ritual, and critics say this proves the Book of Abraham to be a fraud.
But while these tiny fragments survived, most of Joseph Smith’s Egyptian collection perished in the Chicago fire of 1871. These fragments are a small part of Joseph Smith’s original collection, which included at least four scrolls of considerable size. Evidence shows Joseph Smith had used a large scroll that perished in the fire to produce the Book of Abraham. Nothing leads us to believe the recovered papyri fragments were ever claimed to be involved in creating the Book of Abraham.
Are These Recovered Fragments Actually From Joseph Smith’s Collection? – Probably, yes. There are maps of Kirtand drawn on the back. An affidavit with Emma Smith’s signature accompanied the artifacts. Also, the Hor Book of Breathings scroll does contain a vignette that matches the Book of Abraham Facsimile 1.
But then again, these documents passed through at least ten people before being rediscovered. Are we sure that is has been perfectly preserved over this time?
Which Scroll Was The Book of Abraham Source?
The recovered fragments match up to three of the four scrolls from Joseph Smith’s collection we know of. There was a fourth scroll, of which no fragments survive but a short transcription was made. By investigating witness accounts from 1835, we can piece together clues about which of the scrolls Joseph Smith said contained the Book of Abraham text.
Tsemminis Book of Breathing scroll:
Black Scroll vs. Long Scroll – Witnesses describe one of Joseph Smith’s Egyptian scrolls as black, with fragments that were pasted into a book:
“[Lucy Mack Smith] produced a black looking roll (which she told us was papyrus) found on the breast of the King, part of which the prophet had unrolled and read; and she had pasted the deciphered sheets on the leaves of a book which she showed us.”
(1846, Friends’ Weekly Intelligencer)
A few sheets from this roll were pasted into pages of a book. These pasted pages were apparently later put under glass, but the sheets under glass must not have been very large, as they had first come from pages of a book.
But then, witnesses described a different kind of scroll. After the black scroll, Lucy Smith “opened a long roll of manuscript, saying it was ‘the writing of Abraham and Isaac.'” So the short black roll mounted on book-sized sheets was not the Book of Abraham source.
Witnesses said there were lots of scrolls, “a number of glazed slides, like picture frames containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics.” The lengthy sheets of papyrus under glass could have come from the “long roll of manuscript” which “contained the Book of Abraham.” The Tsemminis scroll is the longest one recovered, but still it is only 6 small fragemtns. The Book of Abraham text likely came from longer and larger sheets of papyrus.
The recovered papyri we have today contain only a few tiny fragments on book-sized paper. The Hor Book of Breathings fragment, which skeptics usually attribute to the Book of Abraham, contains only 18 characters. But witnesses described the Book of Abraham source as being “entire sheets of parchment” under glass:
“From this he drew forth a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics. These had been unrolled from four mummies, which the prophet had purchased at a cost of twenty-four hundred dollars. By some inexplicable mode, as the storekeeper informed me, Mr. Smith had discovered that these sheets contained the writings of Abraham, written with his own hand while in Egypt.”
(Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons 1842)
“Some parchments inscribed with hieroglyphics were then offered us. They were preserved under glass and handled with great respect. ‘That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful,’ said the prophet.”
(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past, 1883)
Red Ink – A witness says the source for the Book of Abraham contained red and black ink, in perfect preservation:
“Upon the subject of the Egyptian records, or rather the writings of Abraham and Joseph… This record is beautifully written in papyrus with black, and a small part, red ink or paint, in perfect preservation.”
But the Hor Book of Breathings fragment with the Facsimile 1 vignette contains no red ink. The only fragments we have with red ink come from the Tsemminis scroll, but these fragments are small, contain no facsimiles, and are poorly preserved.
Handwriting & Preservation – The fragments we have today include messy handwriting. They are in very poor preservation. But Oliver Cowdery described the Book of Abraham scrolls as beautifully written and in great preservation:
“The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is beautifully written in papyrus with black, and a small part, red ink or paint, in perfect preservation.”
William I. Appleby likewise made it clear in his journal account that there multiple scrolls in Joseph Smith’s collection and that there was significant difference between the quality of preservation in the scrolls.
Hebrew Writing – Some of the writing on the Book of Abraham scroll appeared to be in Hebrew, Appleby said. Well, Joseph Smith had lessons in Hebrew so he should have been able to recognize it. Hebrew looks very different from hieroglyphics to anyone. The rediscovered fragments contain nothing that resembles Hebrew.
“Saw the Rolls of Papyrus and the writings thereon, taken from off the bosom of the Male Mummy, having some of the writings of ancient Abraham and of Joseph that was sold into Egypt. The writings are chiefly in the Egyptian language, with the exception of a little Hebrew. I believe they give a description of some of the scenes in Ancient Egypt, of their worship, their Idol gods, etc. The writings are beautiful and plain, composed of red, and black inks. There is a perceptible difference, between the writings. Joseph, appears to have been the best scribe.”
(William I. Appleby Journal)
From Male Mummy – As Joseph Smith said in that quote above, the Book of Abraham source came from a male mummy. The scroll in Appleby’s description couldn’t be from the Book of Breathings roll on the chest of the Hor mummy. The other two mummies were female. So whose scroll was it? There was a second male mummy in Joseph Smith’s collection which contained the Amenhotep Roll, identified based on transcriptions in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. These transcriptions are not decipherable as any known Egyptian text, and no fragments or sheets from this roll have been recovered.
Based on witness descriptions, the source of the Book of Abraham was the Amenhotep Roll, not the rediscovered papyri we have today. It probably was written with black and red ink, was in good preservation, contained some Hebrew, and contained large sheets from a lengthy scroll.
This leaves the question, why would Facsimile 1 come from the Hor scroll and the Book of Abraham text from a completely different source? Hor is mentioned in our Facsimile 1 so that must be where Facsimile 1 came from, right?
Facsimiles 2 and 3 do not appear in any recovered fragments, but Egyptologists agree that Facsimile 2 likely came from the Hypocephalus document for yet another person named Sheshonq. It could not have been part of the Hor Book of Breatherings scroll, so if Joseph Smith took the vignette from a different document to produce Facsimile 2, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume he got Facsimiles 1 and 3 from different sources as well? All three came from different sources.
We already have four scrolls for four mummies, so who was this Sheshonq? Why was a Hypocephalus for a different person included with one of the mummies?
One possibility is that Joseph Smith translated these Facsimiles from the Book of Abraham scroll, and that Facsimile 1 happened to also appear on the Book of Breathings scroll as well, relating to a different context. This leaves the question unanswered, why was Hor mentioned in Facsimile 1?
Not Abraham’s Facsimiles – The most likely explanation is that the Amenhotep roll which contained the Book of Abraham text did not contain any facsimiles at all–only contained text–and Joseph Smith took the Facsimiles from the other scrolls. This would also explain why the fragments of the other scrolls were placed under glass in the same collection as the Abraham sheets, why they were considered so important.
Abraham 1:12-14 makes direct reference to one of the Facsimiles, but that does that mean the Facsimile was actually drawn in that roll to reference. Copies of ancient books omitted illustrations that were referenced in the text all the time. The Roman Ten Book on Architecture makes references to many illustrations, but none of those illustrations have survived over time, because the book has been transcribed many times. It is much easier to transcribe text than illustrations.
It is likely that the Amenhotep roll contained a copy of the original Book of Abrhaam text. It was not the actual document written by Abraham himself, just a copy, and the illustration had been long ago lost. Yes, Joseph Smith said that the writing was written by Abraham’s “own hand,” but does that mean the ink on that parchment was actually put there by Abraham, or just that the words were originally from Abraham’s hand? Ancient documents frequently claimed to be from someone’s “own hand,” while they were actually from transcriptions of the original writing. Many ancient religious documents were copied like this.
Why would Joseph Smith have handled multiple scrolls at all if only one of them contained the Abraham text? Why, to get the Facsimiles. They were presented in the other scrolls’ different contexts and repuurposed, but maybe they were similar enough to be useful, to discern an Abrahamic meaning and context. This theory has several supporting pieces of evidence:
Facsimiles Translated Separately – The Grammar and Alphabet from 1835 reveals that the Facsimiles were all considered separately from the Book of Abraham. Elements of the facsimiles were carefully examined, with a side-by-side definition for each character. None of the Book of Abraham text was included in this examination. The Grammar and Alphabet had to do with the Facsimiles. Why?
The Facsimiles apparently required extra consideration, because they were not direct transcriptions like the Abraham text. Joseph Smith likely had to delve deeper into their meanings because they were descendants of a much older book in a different context. Maybe the rediscovered parchments had been taken from an older Abrahamic source and used in a different context: the Book of Breathings. This would also explain why these side-by-side definitions do not always correspond to Egyptian definitions language we now have available today. They were deciphering a different context of those diagrams. Facsimile 1 shows Abraham in the Egyptian Sed-festival sacrifice, which was also the basis for the Book of Breathings context in the Hor scroll.
Book Of Abraham Describes Facsimile Differently – Abraham 1:12 describes a different Facsimile than what we see in the Hor Book of Breathings roll.
Abraham describes the bedstead as standing “before” the idol gods. The Facsimile shows the bed over the idols, but we don’t get a point of perspective whether they are in front of behind them. The priest’s foot is in front of the jars, so it looks to me like the jars are under the bed. And indeed, in the Egyptian context they do sit under the bed to support the figure lying on the lion couch.
Abraham’s text reads: “I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is… hieroglyphics.” There are no hieroglyphics in this Facsimile, and there is nothing to explain anything about this idols.
I don’t think this diagram is what Abraham originally drew, but they are similar. The Facsimiles we have today, which do somewhat match the rediscovered fragments, were not in the Book of Abraham scroll, but were taken by Joseph Smith from the Hor Book of Breathings document and other documents. Maybe whoever drew the lion couch scene had taken the original Abrahamic diagram and fit it into the context of an Egyptian funeral document.
Book of Breathings Relates To Abraham As An Endowment
If indeed the original Abrahamic facsimiles were taken and used in Egyptian funeral documents, those Egyptian documents ought to relate at least somewhat to Abraham, right? Well it turns out they do.
The Book of Breathings is a condensed version of the Book of the Dead, which was a guide for the deceased to reach exaltation. It is one of the oldest religious writings in history, and it was one of the first Egyptian books to be translated into English, as it was greatly revered by 19th century Theosophists. It provided “spells” and direction for an initiate in the Egyptian temple to pass through the gates of heaven and achieve rejuvenation.
Before anyone could translate Egyptian into English, Joseph Smith had said that some writing in the scrolls “was pertaining to the Priesthood.” (Warren Foote) He also said that some of the writings in the Facsimiles: “Contains writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God.” That is exactly what the Book of Breathings was all about.
If Joseph Smith had translated the word-by-word meaning of the Book of Breathings, it still would not have “revealed unto the world” the true meaning behind them. The literal translation of these writings translate to commands, such as: “Grant that the soul of Osiris Sheshonk may live!” What does that sound like? They are keys and tokens of the priesthood, for use in the temple. Abraham makes many references to temple priesthood.
Were Book of Breathings & Abraham On The Same Scroll? – The Book of Breathings is a guide for the temple. Considering the Book of Abraham credits Abraham as the author of astronomy and religious elements of Egypt, it makes sense that the vignette in this temple book descend from Abraham. It also makes sense that a transcription from some of Abraham’s text accompany this important book. Appleby clarified that the mummy only had “some of the writings” of Abraham. Maybe this Book of Breathings descended from another book of Abraham? Or maybe the Abraham text actually was on the same scroll as the recovered Book of Breathings, in a part that didn’t survive the Chicago fire? Maybe it was just an excerpt to be included with other temple literature for the deceased mummy. This would explain why we only have a small portion of The Book of Abraham translated.
Possibly, but remember Appleby wrote that “a genealogy of the mummies, and the epitaphs and their deaths, etc., etc., are also distinctly represented on the Papyrus which is called the ‘Book of Abraham.'” Why would a scroll written by Abraham contain such funeral information about a totally different person? Joseph Smith never claimed that any of these mummies were the mummy of Abraham. Appleby’s account therefore confirms that Joseph Smith knew these were funeral documents, that the mummy was not Abraham himself, and that they were not the original Book of Abraham document. It also provides further evidence that the Book of Breathings scroll was not the Book of Abraham scroll. There is nothing on the recovered fragments, or in any other Book of Breathings scrolls in Egypt, that would appear to contain genealogy or epitaphs of mummies, even to those unfamiliar with Egyptian.
Only Part Of Abraham’s Text – The Book of Abraham ends very abruptly. Abraham mentions that he moved to Egypt, he starts to talk about the Creation, and then… suddenly it ends. Why?
So the scroll apparently only had part of the Book of Abraham text, or Joseph Smith translated only a portion of it and left the rest, which may have contained the genealogy and epitaph of the deceased. Consider just what it was that Joseph Smith translated. Most of it speaks of foreordination and the creation of the world. These are temple themes that are perfectly appropriate alongside temple initiation writings found in the Book of Breathings. It speaks of an “appointment to the priesthood,” and a “right belonging to the fathers” to “possess a greater knowledge,” which is what the Book of Breathings was provided for.
The Book of Abraham text could have very well have been on the same scroll as the Book of Breathings. My guess is that the scroll started with the Egyptian endowment, started with Abraham’s text, and then continued deeper into temple themes, and Joseph Smith held back translating those parts. That would explain why the Abraham text ends so abruptly. It’s like Joseph Smith cut it off just as it started getting really interesting. Either that or the scroll was simply damaged.
But Abraham does record that God said:
“I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father… and in thee (that is, thy Priesthood)… even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.”
What is this Gospel of life eternal? In the Book of Breathings we find it:
“The hearts of the gods are content with all that he has done. He has given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked. He has given offerings to the gods and invocation offerings to the blessed dead. There is no accusation against him before any of the gods. Let him enter into the afterlife without being turned away.”
Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked… Exactly what the New and Old Testament talks about. Jesus provides this same list of behaviors that lead to “life eternal.” “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt 25:46) The Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham talk about the same thing.
Why Did Joseph Smith Compare Book of Breathings Character To Abraham Text?
The most incriminating evidence that the Book of Abraham came from the Book of Breathings fragments can be found in early church documents that line up some hieroglyphs from the recovered fragments with text from the Book of Abraham. In the first column, we see characters from the rediscovered fragments, and in the other column paragraphs from the Book of Abraham.
Is this the smoking gun? Does this prove that these surviving fragments were involved in its translation, and that it’s therefore phony?
No. If this document was the source of the Book of Abraham, why did they only get to chapter 2 in this comparison? There are several chapters that are unaccounted for. It therefore could not have been used to produce the Book of Abraham
Each single hieroglyph character matches up to long paragraphs of text. Why would Joseph Smith claim he was translating paragraphs from a single character?
The hieroglyphs overlap the page’s columns, while the English text does not. This suggests that the English was written first, and that it therefore came from a previous source.
These hieroglyphs do not appear in the Grammar and Alphabet list, so their definitions were apparently not explored like the facsimiles were. Why not? Both documents were written around the same time, after all.
Joseph Smith wrote that he commenced translation immediately after he got the scrolls in 1833. But these documents were started 2 years later. What was Joseph doing that whole time?
Why were there three separate documents with this exact same alignment of hieroglyph vs. text?
How could someone make up a book of scripture this way? How could a person make up a text by lining up random paragraphs to random glyphs?
These documents are simply comparing the Abraham text with the Book of Breathings character. For some reason, characters from the Book of Breathings were aligned with a paragraph each from the Book of Abraham.
Acted Alone? – Dr. Hugh Nibley suggests that Joseph Smith’s scribes acted on their own. The handwriting is not Joseph’s, but belongs to W.W. Phelps, Warren Parish, Oliver Cowdery, and Fredrick Williams. All these men happened to turn against Joseph Smith at least two or three years later. Phelps testified for Joseph’s arrest in 1838 and Parish pointed a pistol to his head in the Kirtland temple. Nibley’s theory is that they had each lost faith in Joseph Smith by 1835 and tried to reverse-engineer the Egyptian language from his revelations.
Or maybe, considering the scroll relates to the priesthood and temple endowment, the scribes were trying to decipher secrets about the temple with this comparison? Maybe they were working on a further project and gave up? But it can’t as simple as saying they acted alone. One of the Grammar and Alphabet documents is in Joseph Smith’s handwriting himself. So we know at least the Grammar and Alphabet effort was sanctioned by Joseph Smith.
Paragraph Translated From Single Character? – There is also Appleby’s description of a mummy as a daughter or an Egyptian priest, which he apparently got from Joseph Smith. That matches another document written by these scribes in the Egyptian Alphabet book. This document, written by Oliver Cowdery, lines up two hieroglyphs with two paragraphs of English text, much like the Abraham text comparisons:
“Katamin, Princess, daughter of Onitas of Egypt, who began to reign in the year of the world 2962. Katumin was born in the 30th year of the reign of her father, and died when she was 28 years old, which was the year 3020.”
If Joseph Smith translated this, it seems to indicate that he did indeed get an entire paragraph from one single hieroglyph. But curiously we have almost the exact same translation in a document by W.W.W.Phelps, but this time these two paragraphs are aligned with 26 hieroglyphs. So which is it? Did Joseph Smith translate a whole paragraph from a single hieroglyph character, or from a lot of characters?
Well here is the answer: The Phelps document flat-out claims it is “a translation” while the Cowdery document does not. So apparently Joseph Smith did not translate paragraphs of text from a single characters, as the Book of Abraham comparisons would lead you to believe.
We also have evidence that the Phelps translation of the 26 characters is true. A recent archeologist translation of Cowdery’s characters speaks of a “mistress” daughter of the name “Ta-shert-min.” Ta-shert-min vs. Katamin? The fragments dated later in history than ancient Egypt, remember, so it would make sense that we get a more Hellenistic-sounding version of an Egyptian name. Katamin is pretty similar to Tashertmin. So the translation written by Cowdery sounds plausible.
The only problem is that it takes 10 characters just to say the woman’s name. How could Joseph Smith get all that from the rest of the 26 characters? Either Cowdrey did not write down all the characters that he translated from, or the translation was not literal word-for-word, but a deeper description based somewhat on what the text said. This is likely the case, if you also consider that this translation does not correlate with the Egyptian counting method indicated in the Grammar and Alphabet.
Or maybe it didn’t come from Joseph Smith at all. In any case, it proves that the comparison documents that Antimormons typically point to as the “smoking gun” were not a translation effort.
Reverse Engineering The Egyptian Language?
If you compare the three documents that compare Book of Breathings characters next to Book of Abraham text, you find that two of the documents have the exact same mistakes crossed out and corrected. This suggests that they were written down as someone dictated aloud. The speaker apparently messed up what he was saying and corrected himself. Another clue is that the third, and probably earliest, document does not contain these mistakes but does contain something the others don’t: Abraham 1:1-3, which is the only portion of the written by W.W.Phelps.
Maybe Phelps began his comparison of the characters, and the other two scribes later filled in after he was gone, and then his document was filled in with what they later produced. But why?
My guess is Joseph Smith recognized that the Hor Book of Breathings scroll must have been important, because it contained a Facsimile that was based on an earlier diagram of Abraham. So after he had dictated the Abraham text from the Amenhotep roll, he asked his scribes to try to compare it to the Hor scroll to see if maybe they were chapter headings, temple prompts during rituals, or something of a similar nature. But the Book of Breathings scroll was much shorter, so they had to try to match up paragraphs with each character. After they got through a few chapters they realized there was no way it could match up, so they gave up.
This is a puzzle that frankly cannot be solved with such few clues. Maybe Joseph Smith intended to discover the temple endowment text inside. Or maybe it was an attempt at reverse-engineering the Egyptian language. But one other thing I will point out is that the characters are taken from the Book of Breathings right to left. How did Joseph Smith know that most Egyptian is written right to left?
his has become literally a whole field of study, trying to figure it all out, and entire libraries have been written. If the Book of Abraham were a fraud and a phony, Joseph Smith sure went to a lot of effort to transcribe and write things down for no reason. Verified ancient writings corroborate much of what Joseph Smith claimed, writings that Joseph Smith did not have access to.
A cursory comparison of witness accounts about the Joseph Smith collection suggests that the Hor Book of Breathings scroll was not the source of the Book of Abraham text that we have today. The Book of Breathings was an important temple text, and it would make sense that be included with Abraham text and Facsimiles about Abraham. These Facsimile vignettes in the scrolls were likely derivatives of much older vignettes, and required extra work to decipher. Some early church documents show the work they put into these Facsimile “translations,” and they also suggest that the Book of Breathings was not the source of the Abraham text.
I don’t assume to know how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. It could be that there was no direct writing source at all for the book, that it was pure inspiration. Elder Henry Eyring said: “If the only function of the scrolls was to awaken the Prophet to the idea of receiving such inspiration, they would have fulfilled their purpose.” But the evidence shows that the text was found in the Amenhotep which perished in the Chicago fire.
This spell invokes Abraham and refers to this lion couch scene in a plea to “inflame” (burn). Abraham is written inside a cartouche, denoting royalty.
This is a copy of Facsimile 1 that invokes Abraham as a royal figure and talks about burning or inflaming in a spell ritual. Coincidence?
Book Of Abraham Name ‘Olishem’ Discovered
An inscription by Akkadian ruler Naram Sin gives the name of a field called Ulišim in Northwest Syria, where today stands a city Oylum, near Ebla. This name Ulišim perfectly matches Olishem from the Book of Abraham. It sounds exactly the same and is in the right spot.
Execration texts from Sesostris III also name Ulišim near Ebla.
Joseph Smith’s Interpretation Of ‘Heaven’ Symbol Correct
Joseph Smith interpreted these zi-zag lines in Facsimile 1: “expanse, or the firmament over our heads; but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens.” The zig-zag lines indeed referenced waters of the sky. Joseph Smith interpreted this symbol correctly, though there was no way he could have known it.
Egyptologists agree figure 12 shows: “Above the firmament were the waters, the ‘ocean of heaven’… The Babylonian name for this ocean was anum or anun, and in a still shorter form nun.” But as Egyptians meant it: “If now we turn back again to Egypt we shall find that in the early pyramid texts there were three chief gods venerated: Nun, heaven’s ocean…” (Gerald Massey)
The vertical serekh lines below indeed referenced the “pillars of heaven” as Joseph Smith interpreted them:
“It is always assumed that the flat slab of iron which formed the sky, and therefore the floor of the abode of the gods, was rectangular, and that each corner of it rested upon a pillar. That this is a very ancient view concerning the sky is proved by the hieroglyphic which is used in texts to determine the words for rain, storm, and the like; here we have a picture of the sky falling and being pierced by the four pillars of heaven.”
Joseph Smith’s Interpretation Of ‘Pharaoh’ Symbol Correct
King Unas of Egypt is referred to as the crocodile god in Egyptian text. Joseph Smith likewise interpreted the crocodile in Facsimile 1 as a “god of Pharaoh.” Utterance 317: “Unas has come today from the overflowing flood, Unas is Sobk [crocodile god], green-plumed, wakeful, alert… Unas has come to his streams.”
A Papyrus Associates Abraham With The 3 Figures In Facsimile 2
‘Apocalypse of Abraham’ Associates Abraham With Facsimile 2 Hypocephalus
The diagram in Facsimile 2 is what is known as a Hypocephalus, a circle that “represented all that the sun encircles—the world of the living, over which it passed during the day, was depicted in the upper half, and that of the dead, which it crossed during the night.” The recently discovered Apocalypse of Abraham references this world circle, and gives the same interpretation that Joseph Smith gave for Facsimile 2:
“…you may be able to see in heaven, and upon earth, and in the sea, and in the abyss, and in the under-world, and in the Garden of Eden, and in its rivers, and in the fullness of the whole world and its circle… Look now beneath your feet at the firmaments and understand the creation represented and foreshadowed in this expanse.”
The Apocalypse of Abraham is recently discovered and Joseph Smith could not have known about it.
Papyrus Associates Abraham With Facsimile 2 ‘Pupil Of The Eye’
Book of the Dead 162-63called the hypocephalus “the pupil of the wedjat-eye.” In Facsimile 2, Joseph Smith interpreted the wedjat-eye symbol in the hypocephalus: “the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to… Abraham, and all to whom the priesthood was revealed.” He said it is all about creation.
A recently-discovered Egyptian papyrus associates Abraham with the wedjat eye. It describes much of the same interpretation as Facsimile 2: four-fold gods and creation, and mentions Abraham:
“O Khopr-Khopri-Khopr [creator god], Abraham, the pupil of the wedjat-eye, four-fold Qmr 8, creator of the mouth, who created creation, great verdant creation.”
Abraham Ended Human Sacrifice, As Claimed In Book Of Abraham
Egyptologists had long thought human sacrifice did not happen where Abraham lived. We now know that Egyptians practiced human sacrifice, which involved funerary vessels as shown in Facsimile 1:
“An intact assemblage from the Middle Kingdom fortress of Mirgissa contained the body of an executed man buried in a shallow pit along with a number of broken red clay vessels and several limestone and clay figurines of prisoners and associated images. The deposit appears to reveal the conjunction of three events: (1) a ritual called ‘breaking the red vessels,’ well attested in representations of Egyptian funerary practice; (2) an execration ritual in which certain individuals, both Egyptian and foreign, are ritually damned; (3) finally, the actual execution of a human.”
Egypt ended the practice of human sacrifice during Abraham’s lifetime, which suggests Abraham indeed had something to do with it:
“Something fundamentally changed in relation to man’s attitude toward human sacrifice, together with the elaboration of the notion that it could be replaced by animal sacrifice; just when and why this change took place cannot be answered satisfactorily in Egypt or elsewhere. Our strongest textual evidence that something had indeed changed in Egypt dates to the Middle Kingdom (beginning c. 2055 BC).”
Book Of Mormon Verses Similar To Text In Facsimile 3
The text at the bottom of Facsimile 3 reads:
“O gods of the necropolis, gods of the caverns, gods of the south, north, west, and east, grant salvation to the Osiris Hor, the justified, born by Talkhibit.”
Nobody was able to translate Egyptian in the time of Joseph Smith, yet this matches very closely to a scripture about Abraham in 2 Nephi 29.
“I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath… For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south… I will judge the world every man according to their works, according to that which is written… I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.”
( 2 Nephi 29)
Both Facsimile 3 and this Book of Mormon chapter are judgement scenes.
This Book of Mormon chapter mentions the covenant of Abraham, and Joseph Smith interpreted Facsimile 3 as involving Abraham.
The order of cardinal directions are the same (flipped backwards): south, north, west, east, versus in Nephi: east, west, north, south.
Egyptian Papyrus References Abraham & Book Of Abraham Teachings
Papyrus GM 5.459-489 references Abraham and several teachings found in the Book of Abraham:
“I call upon thee who hath created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who hath established the sea and nailed the heavens, who separated the light from the darkness [compare Abr. 4:4], the Supreme Intelligence, who lawfully governs all things [compare Facsimile 2 figures 1,3,7], Eternal Eye, daimon of daimons [guide of guides], god of gods, the lord of the spirits, the unerring aion iao oyei [fixed planet, Jehovah–compare Facsimile 2 figure 5] –hear my voice.
I call upon thee, master of the gods, high-thundering Zeus… in Hebrew: ablanathanalba abrasiloa! For I am silthachoouch lailal blasaloth iao ieo barouch adonai eloai abraam barbarauo nausiph [‘Blessed is my Lord, the God of Abraham‘], high-minded one, immortal, who possess the crown of the whole world.”
‘Book Of Jubilees’ Verifies Unique Details In Book Of Abraham
There are at least 23 significant differences between the Book of Abraham and Genesis from the bible which are verified by recently-discovered Abraham texts. Recently discovered ancient documents back up the Book of Abraham on each of these differences. Joseph Smith did not have access to any of these sources.
The Book of Jubilees from the Dead Sea Scrolls includes 15 striking parallels not found in the bible:
Idolatry was prevalent in Ur, caused the people to sin
Abraham’s fathers were idolatrous and learned astrology
Learned to write from his father
Rejected his father’s worship of idols
Prayed for God’s help to be saved from evil, and sought God in prayer
(Jubilees 11:17, 12:17-20)
Turned back a famine
Preached to his father against idolatry
Abraham’s father warned he would die for preaching against idolatry
Destroyd idols (Monotheism spread in Abraham’s lifetime, as pointed out in detail in the book The Eighth Day, The Hidden History of the Jewish Contribution to Civiliation.)
Observed the “hand of the Lord” in astronomy
Copied his father’s book of knowledge and obtained books of his forefathers
Taught his children to reject idols
Referred to idols as “gods of wood or stone”
(Jubilees 22:18, compare Abr. 1:11)
Warned Jacob not to marry Canaanites because of the “sin of Ham”
Many Books Written By Abraham, As Book Of Abraham Claims
Many books written by or about Abraham have been discovered. The Book of Abraham claims Abraham wrote books, even though this detail is not found in the bible or anything Joseph Smith had access to. Archaeologists once thought Abraham was not literate. But now archaeologists have found many books that claim to have been written by Abraham:
Apocalypse of Abraham
Testament of Abraham
Book of Jashar
10 Books of Abraham (mentioned by al-Masudi)
Book of Abraham (mentioned by Fimicus Maternus)
Abraham’s treatise on astronomy (mentioned by Vettius Valens)
Ancient Texts Verify Attempted Human Sacrifice Of Abraham, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims an attempt was made to sacrifice young Abraham on an altar. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by many multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
The Tanna debe Eliyahutells of Abraham being put in bonds and the attempt to kill him by fire because he refused to worship idols
Targum Jonathan: “It came to pass, when Nimrod cast Abram into the furnace of fire because he would not worship his idol, the fire had no power to burn him.”
Targum Neofiti: “They went out from the furance of fire of the Chaldeans’…
Genesis Rabban: “He (Terah) took him (Abraham) and gave him over to Nimrod. (Nimrod) said to him: Let us worship the fire!… I shall therefore cast you in it, and let your God to whom you bow come and save you from it!”
Midrash Rabbah explains Nirmod cast Barham into the fire because of his opposition to idolatry.
Book of Jashar: “And they brought them both, Abram and Haran his brother, to cast them into the fire; and all the inhabitants of the land and the king’s servants and princes and all the women and little ones were there, standing that day over them. And the king’s servants took Abram and his brother, and they stripped them of all their clothes excepting their lower garments which were upon them. [See Figure 2 in Facsimile 1.] And they bound their hands and feet with linen cords, and the servants of the king lifted them up and cast them both into the furnace. And the Lord loved Abram and he had compassion over him, and the Lord came down and delivered Abram from the fire and he was not burned. But all the cords with which they bound him were burned, while Abram remained and walked about in the fire.”
The Story of Abraham our Father from What Happened to Him with Nimrod says king Nimrod attempted to kill Abraham several times, and finally catapulted him into the fire. (See pp. 164-174)
Venerable Bede: Abraham was thrown in the fire for refusing to worship idols but was rescued by the Lord. “…among the Hebrews, truly, Ur means fire. They tell that he would have been consumed in the fire of the Chaldeans because it seemed that when Abraham, knowing the true God more than his brother, he refused to worship the fire, which they worship; and therefore both were cast into the fire by the Chaldeans…”
Jerome: “Abraham was sent to the fire because he did not want to worship the fire that the Chaldeans worshiped, and being rescued by the help of God, escaped the fire of idolatry.” Commentarium in Genesim repeats this account. Alcun adds: “the tradition of the Hebrews is true that Thare (sic) and his sons came out of the fire of the Chaldeans…”
Al-Nisaburi: “When he was in the securely in the midst of the fire, the King, may He be exalted, made the fire cool for him.”
Exposito super septem visiones libri apocalypsis: “…as gold is known to be tried in the furnace: so Abraham, who was brought out of the fire of the Chaldees.”
Christian Chronicle: “And Nemrod threw Abraham into a fiery furnace because he did not approve the worship of idols, but he flame of the furnace was changed into pleasant dew.”
Rabanus Maurus: “..from when he was rescued from the fire of the Chaldeans into the which was cast to burn because he did not want to worship the fire.”
Catena Severi: “Abraham took fire in his zeal and burnt that famous temple of Qainan, the graven image of the Chaldeans… When the Chaldeans realized what Abraham had done, they were compelling Terah to hand over his son Abraham to them to death. …he began his flight then with all his household, and they left Ur of the Chaldeans…”
De Trinitate ed operibus ejus : “Concerning Abraham, who (as the majority assert) by the help of God was rescued from Ur of the Chaldeans, that is, from fire.”
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham’s Deliverence By An Angel, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims young Abraham was delivered by an angel from being sacrificed. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by many multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. These accounts correlate the delivering angel shown in Facsimile 1. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Biblical Antiquities: “And they took him and built a furnace and kindled it with fire… But God stirred up a great earthquake, and the fire gushed forth from the furnace and brake out into flames and sparks of fire and consumed all them that stood round about in sight of the furnace; 83,500. But upon Abram was there not any the least hurt by the burning of the fire. And Abram arose out of the furnace, and the fiery furnace fell down, and Abram was saved.”
Tanna debe Eliyahu: “And at that time the entire household of Terah were idolaters; not one of them acknowledged his Creator. And so all of Terah’s neighbor came and jeeringly tapped him on the head, saying to him: ‘You have been put to bitter shame! That son of yours, of whom you have been saying that he was to be heir of this world and of the world-to-come, Nimrod is having him consumed by fire!’ At once the compassion of the Holy One welled up , and the holiness of His great name came down from the upper heaven of heavens [See the concept of heave in Facsimile 2], from the place of His glory, His grandeur, and His beauty and delivered our father Abraham from the taunts and jeers and from the fiery furnace.”
Midrash Rabbah says the angel Michael and Gabriel offered to go down to rescue Abraham from the fire, but “God came down and delivered him” instead.
Babyloanian Talmud: “…because it was said that when Nimrod the wicked threw Abraham our father into the fiery furnace, the angel Gabriel said to the Lord: ‘Permit me to go and make the furnace cold, that it may do no harm to Abraham,’ and the Holy One, blessed be He, replied: ‘Abraham is now the only one who has forsaken idolatry and believes in God, and I am the only One in the world, hence it would be but fair that the only One should rescue the other exception,’ and as the Holy One, blessed be He, would not deprive any one creature of the reward due, He said to Gabriel: ‘Thou shalt have an opportunity to rescue thee of his children from the fiery furnace, while I Myself shall rescue him.”
The Story of Abraham our Father from What Appended to Him with Nimrod says God sent the angel Gabriel to save Abraham from Nimrod because of Abraham’s prayer and opposition to idolatry. (see pp.167-174)
A Study (Midrash) of Abraham our Father says God sent the angel Michael to save Abraham from the furnace, declaring “My glory shall rescue him.”
Alcuin says Abraham “surrounded by the conflagration in Babylon because he did not want to worship it, was freed by the help of God.”
Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir said Abraham was bound for breaking the idols, catapulted into the fire, and delivered by God with the assistance of the angel Jibril (Gabriel) and other angels. Jibril later initiated Abraham through sacred ordinances.
Islamic legends: “The star that would rob king Namrud of his glory was to be the Prophet Abraham… Abraham said that his God could do anything, the king led the way to the royal cemetery. Here, Abraham knelt down in prayer and lo (…) the tomb opened and there rose up the old king and still clinging to his shroud but his eyes looking fiercely at his son, whom he addressed in a hollow but recognizable voice: ‘Peace be upon you; listen to this young man and follow his advice for he is the chosen prophet of the One God. Do not heed the priests and their useless idols… the king ordered that it must be kept burning for a week. An angel descended from Heaven with a sharp knife and quickly cut the ropes that tied Abraham, but he would not go away. ‘My Lord placed me here. he will take me away.'”
Muslim scholar Rawandi says Abraham was “unharmed and untied from his shackled” after being thrown in the fire. “Nimrud remained for a few days not doubting that the fire had consumed Ibrahim. So he looked as if he watched the fire while it was burning furiously, and Ibrahim was sitting next to a man in his likeness.”
Ancient Texts Verify Idolatry Of Abraham’s Father, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims young Abraham’s father was idolatrous. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by many multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Damascus Document: “And not to go about in the thoughts of an evil imagination… By them went astray the sons of Noah and their families. Because of them they were cut off Abraham did not walk in them, And he was (recorded) friend because he kept the commandments of God.”
Pirkei Avot: “There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham, to show how great was His patience, for every one of those generations provoked Him continually until Abraham, our father, came and received the reward of them all.”
Apocalypse of Abraham: “I Abraham, at the time when my lot came, when I was completing my services of my father Terah that he had given me, and I was preparing his sacrifice to his gods of wood, of stone, of gold, of silver, of copper, and of iron, and it was about this time I began to wonder, which of the gods were in truth the strongest.”
Eliyahu Rabbah 27: “Keep in mind that the household of Abraham’s father, idolaters all, used to make idols and go out and sell them in the marketplace.”
Book of Jasher: “And the king and all his servants, and Terah with all his household were then the first of those that served gods of wood and stone. And Terah had twelve gods of large size, made of wood and stone, after the twelve months of the year, and served each one monthly, and every month Terah would bring his meat offering and drink offering to his gods; thus did Terah all the days. And all that generation were wicked in the sight of the Lord, and they thus made every man his god, but they forsook the Lord who had created them.”
George Hamartolos: “Terah lived 135 years… And he was a sculptor, molding and selling gods from stone and wood.”
Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan: “Ut, the son of Kesed, built a city which he called Ara, where he set up the worship of a host of heaven and idols, and taught men to worship them…. Terah, who was the first to make idols of clay.”
Michael Patriarch of the Syrians: “Serug taught Nahor the Chaldean doctrine of sorcery and
divination by the star signs… [Ninus] fashioned large idols of silver and gold for his father Belus’ [statues], and had him worshipped… Abraham burned the idol house of his father which was in Edessa (Ur’ha).”
Michael Glycas says Abraham’s great-grandfather Serug (Serouch) promoted idolatry.
Epiphanius: “Serug, which means ‘provoked,’ from whom idolatry and Hellenism began among men (as the knowledge which has come to me has it.)”
Georgius Cedrenus says Terah and his family had idols.
Kebra Nagast: “I Terah… had a son whose name was Abram… his father sent him off to sell idols.”
George Syncellus says Terah worshiped idols and Abraham destroyed them.
Al-Tabari says Terah made idols and gave them to his sons to sell.
Ibn Kathir: “He (the father) said: ‘Do you revile my gods, O Ibrahim [Abraham]? If you stop not (this), I will La’arjumannak. So get away from me Maliyan.”
Pesikta Rabbati: “He, saw all the generations that worshipped idols, (saw) Abraham rise up and separate himself form the generations because he would not be like them; (saw) that while they worshipped idols, Abraham rose up and learned wisdom by himself so that he came to worship the Holy One, blessed be He.”
Book of Jasher: “… and all the sons of the earth in those days greatly transgressed against the Lord, and they rebelled against him and they served other gods… and the inhabitants of the earth made unto themselves, at that time, every man his god, gods of wood and stone.”
Book of the Cave of Treasures: “Some of them through their error adored the heavens, and some of them worshipped the sun, and moon and stars, and some of them the earth, and wild beasts, and birds, and creeping thigs, and trees, and stones, and the creatures of the sea, and the waters, and the winds… And error having been sown broadcast in all the earth, and the land became filled with idols in the form of men and women.”
Michael Glycas says crocodiles were specifically worshiped.
Book of the Rolls says earthquakes and winds destroyed idols, and child sacrifice was practiced.
Symeon Logothetes: “He alone, of those everywhere suffering from the errors of idols, recognized the true God.”
Michael the Syrian says God destroyed idols with a great storm after Abraham burned his father’s idols.
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham’s Father Tried To Kill Him, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims young Abraham’s father was the one who offered Abraham to be human sacrifice. Terah’s attempt to kill his son Abraham is not found in the bible, but it is verified by many multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Rashi: “Terah had complained of Abram his son before Nimrod that he had broken his images, and he cast him into a furnace of fire.”
Chronicles of Jerahmeel: “When Terah arrived home and found his idols burnt, he went to Abraham… Thereupon Terah took Abraham, our ancestor, and went with him to Nimrod. And Terah said to Nimrod, ‘O my lord the king, judge this my son who has burned my gods.”
Surah 19: “Do you hate my gods, O Ibrahim [Abraham]? If you do not forbear, I will indeed stone you to death.”
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham’s Father Repented, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims young Abraham’s father repented after trying to offer Abraham as human sacrifice. Terah’s repentence is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Tanna debe Eliyahu: “[After Abraham’s deliverance], Terah, for the sake of Heaven, proceeded to quit his dwelling place.”
Chronicles of Jerahmeel: “Abram, who did not worship, and who did not bow down to the idol, was saved from the fire of the Chaldeans and was not burnt…. When Terah saw that God delivered Abram, he deserted his former faith, and went forth with him (Abram) to dwell in a foreign country.”
Ibn Al-Tayyib: “Terah had already started for the promised land, and yet he remained at Haran, because his intention was not pure like that of Abraham, who was the first to turn away from the cultic objects, that is, the idols. Neither Nahor nor Bethuel nor Laban converted perfectly, even after having learned that God had helped Abraham so magnificently.”
The Story of Abraham our Father from What Appended to Him with Nimrod says Abraham urged his father to reject idolatry.
Ancient Texts Verify Child Sacrifice Was Practiced, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims child sacrifice was regularly practiced by these people. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Kebra Nagast: “…and after him Tara (Terah) reigned. And these are they who made magical images… and a devil used to hold converse with that out of each of the images of their fathers, and say unto them, ‘O my son So-and-so, offer up unto me as a sacrifice the son whom thou lovest.’ And they slaughtered their sons and their daughters to the devils.”
Book of the Cave of Treasures: “And behold, from that time the children of men began to sacrifice their sons to devils and to worship idols, for the devils entered into the images, and took up their abodes therein.”
Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan: “Then in the hundredth year of Nahor, God looked down upon the children of men [and saw] that they sacrificed their children to idols. Then God commanded the stores of winds to open, and to send forth the whirlwind, and gales, and darkness upon the whole face of the earth.”
Al-Biruni: “But after having done it, he repented and wished to sacrifice his son to the planet Saturn, it being their custom to sacrifice their children, as that author maintains.”
Chronicles of Jerahmeel: “The Chaldeans came to dip both Haran and Abram in the fire, for they were accustomed to dip them in the fire, just as some nations dip their sons in the water… As soon as the astrologers saw Abraham they recognised him at once, and said to Nimrod, ‘O lord the king, this is the child of whom we spoke on the day of his birth, and whom thou didst desire to slay. If it be thy will, we shall bring thee wood and burn him to death.”
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham Kept His Forefather’s Records, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Abraham possessed records of his forefathers. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Genesis Apocryphon: Abraham reads “the [Book] of the Words of Enoch and …the words of Noah.”
Book of Noah says Abraham received a book of wisdom passed down all the way back to Adam.
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham Received The Priesthood, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Abraham received the priesthood from his fathers. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Pesikta Rabbati: “Abraham said to God: ‘Master of the universes, am I fit to offer Isaac up? Am I a priest? Shem is High Priest. Let him come and take Isaac from me for the offering.’ God replied: When thou reachest the place, I will consecrate thee and make thee a priest. Accordingly, the term Moriah suggests that Abraham was to be a substitute for Shem, his replacement.”
Al-Biruni says “Henana says that Abraham was a high priest and son of a high priest.”
Midrash Rabbah: “Now, Abraham said HERE AM I–ready for priesthood, ready for kingship, and he attained priesthood and kingship. He attained priesthood, as is says, The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou are a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek; kingship: Thou art a mighty prince among us.”
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham Converted Souls To God, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Abraham as a missionary converted souls to the true God. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Rabbi Nathan says Abraham decided to “devote himself to converting his fellow creatures,” as indicated in Genesis 12:5 which says there were people Abraham “had gotten in Haran.”
Midrash Rabbah: “‘And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the person that they had gotten in Haran’… what is meant is the helping of people to convert to Judaism… Abraham our father used to bring them [people] into his house and give them food and drink and be friendly to them and attract them and covert them and bring them under the wings of the Shechinah.”
Al-Kisai: “Abraham travelling from Mesopotamia to convert the people of Palestine.”
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham Taught Astronomy In Egypt, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Abraham taught astronomy to the king of Egypt. This detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by many multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Artapanus: “Abraham… came to Egypt with all his household to the Egyptian king Pharethothes and taught him astrology.”
Eupolemus: “Abraham excelled all in nobility and wisdom; he sought and obtained the knowledge of astrology and the Chaldean craft, and pleased God… [He taught] the Phoenicians the cycles of the sun and moon… He explained astrology and the other sciences to [the Egyptian priests], saying that the Babylonians and he himself had obtained this knowledge… Enoch first discovered astrology, not the Egyptians.”
Babylonian Talmud: “Abraham possessed a power of reading the stars for which he was much sought after by the potentates of East and West… He possessed an astrological instrument.”
Chronicles of Jerahmeel: “Abram was able to foretell the future by the observance of the stars, and was very wise in astrology. He taught his magic science to Zoroastres, the philosopher, and he saw from the planets that the order of the world was not as before, for the order of creation was changed… Abraham was exceedingly great in magic, so much so that all the kings of the East and West waited upon him.”
George Syncellus said from Abraham, “the Egyptians learned the place of the stars and their movements and the mathematical science.”
Pseudo-Clementine Recognitionsdescribes Abraham as “the culture-hero and teacher of the Egyptians; and Abraham the astrologer (or astronomer), who discovers the one true God through observation of the orderly motions of the stars.”
Ioannes Zonaras said the Egyptians “marveled over his understanding, he taught the Egyptians mathematics and astronomy.”
Vettius Valens said Abraham wrote “books about this subject” of astrology (astronomy).
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham Possessed Great Knowledge, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Abraham desired to possess great knowledge. This specific detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Philo of Alexandria: “Of the number of these men is Abraham, who attained to great progress and improvement in the comprehension of complete knowledge.”
Clementine Recognitions: “Therefore Abraham, when he was desirous to learn the causes of things, and was intently pondering upon what had been told him [by an angel], the true Prophet appeared to him, who alone knows the hearts and purpose of men, and disclosed to him all things which he desired. He taught him the knowledge of the Divinity; intimated the origin of the world and likewise its end; showed him the immortality of the soul and the manner of life which was pleasing to God; declared also the resurrection of the dead, the future judgment, the reward of the good, the punishment of the evil, – all to be regulated by righteous judgment: and having given him all this information plainly and sufficiently, He departed again to the invisible abodes.”
Ancient Texts Verify God Warned Abraham About Sarah, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims God warned Abraham that the Egyptians would steal his beautiful wife. This incident is told differently in the bible, but the Book of Abraham is actually verified by ancient texts which were only recently discovered, with striking parallel details.
The Genesis Apocryphonsays “Abraham’s idea to deliver Sara is motivated by a dream… After waking up from this dream, Abraham concludes the following: the dream refers to a situation in which Abraham shall be killed but Sara shall be spared.”
Ancient Texts Verify God Showed Abraham Pre-Mortal Souls, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims God showed Abraham the heavens and pre-mortal souls of men. This specific detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Sefer Yetzirah: “When Abraham our father understood, formed, permuted, probed, thought and was successful, the Blessed Holy One revealed Himself to him, declaring to him, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before and emerged form the womb, I sanctified you.'”
Apocalypse of Abraham: “And I saw there a multitude of spiritual angels, incorporeal, carrying out the orders of the fiery angels who were on the eighth firmament… And he said to me, ‘Look now beneath your feet at the firmament and understand the creation that was depicted of old on this example, (and) the creatures which are in it and the age prepared after it… And (I saw) there the earth and its fruit, and its moving things and its things that had souls, and its host of men… Sit and write all the souls of mankind, however many of them are born, and the places prepared for them to eternity, for all souls are prepared to eternity, before the formation of the world… Those on the right side of the picture are the people set apart for me of the people with Azazel; these are the ones I have prepared to be born of you and to be called my people.”
Ancient Texts Verify The King Honored Abraham In His Court, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims kings of nations honored Abraham on a throne. Facsimile 3 illustrates this with Abraham sitting in the court of Egypt’s king. This specific detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Book of Jasher: “It is incumbent upon us to make him great, to elevate him and to do unto him all the good which thou shalt command us; and at that time the king sent to Abram silver and gold and precious stones in abundance, together with cattle, men servants and maid servants; and the king ordered Abram to be brought, and he sat in the court of the king’s house, and the king greatly exalted Abram on that night.”
Midrash Rabbah says Abraham was seated up high on a platform as “king of the world.”
Chronicles of Jerahmeel: “Now, it came to pass, when Abram came from Babylon–i.e.,Ur of the Chaldees–he betook himself to Damascus, he and his household, and he was made king over that city… all the kings of the East and West waited upon him.”
Ancient Texts Verify Famine In Chaldea, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Chaldea experienced a famine. This specific detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by multiple ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details:
Bar Hebraeus: “And when Abraham was fifteen years of age he entreated God and drove away the karkase (ravens? locusts?) which were destroying the country of the Chaldeans and eating up their crops.”
Jacob of Edessa says there was a “great famine over the earth in the time of Terah, and the people were barely able to save any of the seed that was sown in the ground because of the multitude of the ravens and birds that God sent upon the land.”
Qisas al-anbiya: “Then God took away the rain from them, and Nimrod was left in dire straits.”
Book Of Abraham Name ‘Libnah’ Discovered
In the Story of Abraham, young Abraham worshiped the moon god Levanah. This name Levanah is very close to the name of the idolatrous god “Libnah” from the Book of Abraham. The name Levanah also relates to the name “Olea” in the Book of Abraham. Levanah derives from the male Canaanite god Yerah. In Egyptian the “L” and “R” are identical, so this could be “Yelah”, which similar to the moon god “Olea” mentioned in the Book of Abraham.
Ancient Texts Verify Urim and Thummim, As Book Of Abraham Claims
Babylonian Talmud: “Abraham had a precious stone hung round his neck which brought immediate healing to any sick person who looked on it, and when Abraham our father left this world, the Blessed Holy One hung it from the wheel of the sun.” This description matches the Urim and Thummim stone that the Book of Abraham claims Abraham possessed. The name Urim and Thummim possibly derives from “complete sun.”
Ancient Texts Verify Abraham Learned About The Creation, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims Abraham learned about the Creation of the world. This specific detail is not found in the bible, but it is verified by ancient texts which were only recently discovered. There are striking parallel details to the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith could not have known about any of these texts or details.
Clementine Recognitions: “He (Abraham), when the whole world was again subject to various errors… having studied astronomy, was able from the logic and order of the starts to perceive the creator and understood that everything that was governed by his providence.” It reports God revealed details of the Creation to Abraham, which matches the creation explanation given to Abraham in the Book of Abraham.
Ancient Texts Verify A Descendant Of Ham Became King, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The ancient text Question: “The sons of Ham made a king for themselves out of their own number, whose name was Pontipus,” the king of Egypt. A descendant of Ham founded Egypt, according to the Book of Abraham. Muslim tradition is that a son of Ham founded Africa as king of Egypt, and was not idolatrous.
Ancient texts verify the Book of Abraham’s title “Pharaoh” for the king of Egypt in Abraham’s time. Artapinus calls the king of Egypt “Pharethothes.” Question calls the first king of Egypt “Pontipus,” a Greek version of whatever it really was. The Book of Abraham just calls them both “Pharaoh.” Bar Hebraeus likewise just calls him Pharaoh.
Ancient Texts Verify Egyptian Influence On Chaldea, As Book Of Abraham Claims
The Book of Abraham claims the Chaldeans performed the Egyptian sacrifice ritual and it involved a priest of Egypt. We now know Chaldea involved Egyptian influences.
Bar Hebraeus: “And there rose up also a sixth king in Egypt, Pharaoh Apintos; [he reigned] thirty and two years. This king sent to Kasaronos, the Parthian king, and he brought the writings and the doctrine (religion?) of the Chaldees to Egypt.” The “Egyptians learned Chaldeeism, and they made an image of gold in honour of Kinos, the idol.” This proves the Egyptian influence over Chaldea, a claim which archaeologists long scorned from the Book of Abraham.”
Ancient Texts Verify Book Of Abraham’s Geocentric Cosmology
Apocalypse of Abraham says God’s throne is at the eighth and highest firmament of heaven, which matches the Book of Abraham‘s geocentric perspective of the universe, with the earth in the center rather than the sun.
‘Book Of Breathings’ Verifies Priesthood Keys Go With Law Of The Gospel
The Book of Abraham claims priesthood keys of authority go along with the Gospel of Abraham:
“I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father… and in thee (that is, thy Priesthood)… even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.”
The Egyptian Book of Breathings, which was discovered alongside Joseph Smith’s source for the Book of Abraham, lays out the biblical Gospel as a requirement for priesthood power and eternal life:
“The hearts of the gods are content with all that he has done. He has given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked. He has given offerings to the gods and invocation offerings to the blessed dead. There is no accusation against him before any of the gods. Let him enter into the afterlife without being turned away.”
This gospel is the same list of principles that we see in the Old Testament: give bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the needy. Obedience to these principles are required for eternal life, just like in the Book Of Abraham
‘Katamin’ Similar To Translation Of Recovered Joseph Smith Egyptian Text
“Katamin, Princess, daughter of Onitas of Egypt, who began to reign in the year of the world 2962. Katumin was born in the 30th year of the reign of her father, and died when she was 28 years old, which was the year 3020.”
A recent archeologist translation of the characters speaks of a “mistress” daughter of the name “Ta-shert-min.” Ta-shert-min vs. Katamin? This fragment dated later in history than ancient Egypt, remember, so it would make sense that we get a more Hellenistic-sounding version of an Egyptian name. Katamin is pretty similar to Tashertmin.
Other Book Of Abraham Parallels With Ancient Dcouments
Some other unique claims about Abraham in the Book of Abraham that have been found in other recently-discovered documents:
Wrote the account in first-person (see Apocalypse of Abraham)
Claimed religious authority based on his genealogy.
Converted people in Haran to the true God.
Went to Egypt to teach astronomy.
Joseph Smith Interpretations Of Facsmile 1 Correct
We would expect some discrepancy with the Egyptian meaning in the Book of Breathings to exist, as Joseph Smith only explained how the Sed-festival ritual being portrayed related to Abraham in a different context. But we can see a clear relationship in each Figure in the Facsimile with what Joseph Smith said and what Egyptologists say. For example:
Figure 1 – The falcon shown above the lying figure on the couch is also a symbol of Horus, a god similar to Jehovah in Egyptian theology (a star in the East heralded his birth, baptized in the River Jordan, walked on water, healed the sick, etc.). But this falcon was also a messenger bird sent from Horus in Ptolemaic Memphis. In one story, the falcon-god Nectanebo “thoughtfully sends a falcon as a dream messenger.”
In this particular lion couch vignette, the falcon is a messenger Horus. In the Book of the Dead, which is where Facsimile 1 and the Book of Breathings derives: “The messenger quotes the command of Horus: Horus as command of Horus: Horus has commanded: Lift up your faces and look at him; he has made his appearance as a divine falcon.” Egyptian texts peak of the Horus falcon as an angelic messenger: “The messenger speaks: I grew and waxed mightily… and appeared as a divine Falcon.” The Egyptian falcon is an angel of Horus, just like it is the angel of the Lord in the Abrahamic context, as Joseph Smith explained.
Joseph Smith Interpretations Of Facsmile 2 Correct
We would expect some discrepancy with the commonly-understood Egyptian meaning to exist, as Joseph Smith only explained related Near Eastern symbolism that was familiar to Abraham. But there is a close relationship in each Figure in the Facsimile with what Joseph Smith said and what Egyptologists say. For example:
Figure 1 – This central figure in hyphocephali is typically the four-headed god Knum-Re: “the creator god in its most powerful manifestation… the moment of sunrise in the morning.” Typically, this area of the hypocephalus shows the “evening and morning barques of the sun gods,” and it later became this figure Knum Re. So, “first creation” is a correct interpretation by Joseph Smith. “First in government” and “last in measurement of time” also makes sense. The evening boat moves west to east and the morning boat moves from east to west.
Joseph Smith Interpretations Of Facsmile 3 Correct
We would expect some discrepancy with the commonly-understood Egyptian meaning to exist, as Joseph Smith only talked about Abraham going through a judgement ritual, a ritual that also appears in Egyptian funerary literature. But we can see relationship in each Figure in the Facsimile with what Joseph Smith said and what Egyptologists say. For example:
Figure 1 – This is Osiris sitting as judge. Abraham assumed this role of Osiris for the initiation ritual. The crown on his head represented divine authority of the heavenly grand presidency just as Joseph Smith said: “His head is adorned with the atef crown, symbol of supreme authority… Ra, the sun god, originally wore the crown.” He says, look at “my great atef crowns, which Ra has given me, which Atum (has established for) me.” The feather in the crown represents justice and the ram’s horns power, as Joseph Smith said. Osiris declares “Ra has give me” the crown, as a “visible emblem of his legitimate rule and authority; it represents his rule over earth as well as the Netherworld.” The crook in his hand indeed represents “justice and judgement” like Joseph Smith said. The Osiris crook and flail are “emblems of majesty and dominion” that allow Osiris to judge the deceased against the truth found in his crown’s feather. This tells us why Abraham as Osiris was “reasoning” on astronomy. It was all about justice, judgement, and holding the keys of dominion, which is also what this judgement scene is all about in the Egyptian context. The shepherd’s crook represented the king “who secures food, protection, and justice for the people under his care… representation of authority.”