Is the Book of Mormon a Hoax? Part III
In our previous two installments examining the credibility of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, we presented readers with convincing evidence which seems to substantiate the popular belief among scholars that the Mormon religion is built upon a foundation of fraud and deceit.
In Part I of our examination, we explored the Spalding-Rigdon theory, which casts serious doubts on the "divine" origin of the Book of Mormon. There are numerous credible sources which offer compelling proof that the Book of Mormon was, in essence, plagiarized by an earlier work of fiction by an obscure author named Solomon Spalding.
In Part II, we examined dozens of depositions, testimonials and affidavits, sworn before respected judges, written by Smith's contemporaries. These men and women, who were neighbors and acquaintances of the Smith family, told their stories to 19th century newspaper editor and author Eber Howe, who published them in a 1834 book entitled "Mormonism Unvailed" [sic]. According to these witnesses, Joseph Smith, along with early Mormon leaders Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery, were devious con artists, drunkards and frauds whose sole intent behind the Book of Mormon was to make money.
In this, the third installment of "Is the Book of Mormon a Hoax?", we will turn our attention away from eyewitness testimony and explore whether or not there exists any archaeological or scientific evidence which supports the Book of Mormon.
The Animal and Plant Species of the Book of Mormon
The events described in the Book of Mormon coincides with a time period beginning around 2500 BC and ending around 400 AD. By comparing the book with fossil records of the animals mention within the Book of Mormon, a pattern of anachronisms begins to emerge.
For instance, elephants are mentioned twice in the Book of Ether. While mastodons and mammoths existed in the New World, they became extinct toward the end of the last ice age, which occurred around 10,000 BC, or roughly seventy-five centuries before the events in the Book of Mormon even begin.
New World horses are mentioned eleven times in the Book of Mormon, yet there is no evidence that horses existed on the American continent during the time which the Book of Mormon takes place. The earliest evidence of horses in the New World dates to between 12,500 and 10,000 BC. Horses didn't appear in North America again until Cortés introduced them in 1519, some eleven centuries after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon.
Domesticated sheep and goats are also mentioned; yet sheep weren't introduced to the Americas until the second voyage of Columbus in 1493, and goats also didn't appear until the 15th century. Similar anachronisms also appear in the Book of Mormon pertaining to pigs and cattle. Barley is mentioned three times in the Book of Mormon, and wheat is mentioned once, yet the introduction of barley and wheat to the New World didn't occur until 1492.
Artifacts and Relics
The Book of Mormon contains two accounts of chariots being used in the New World, yet the wheel was unknown to inhabitants of the Americas until the age of Columbus.
Scimitars are mentioned ten times in the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, the word "scimitar" wasn't even coined until around 450 AD. Steel swords are also mentioned numerous times. To date, no remnants of these weapons have been discovered by archaeologists in the New World.
The Book of Mormon also states that a compass was used by Nephi around 600 BC; yet, the compass was invented in China around 1100 AD. Like steel swords and scimitars, ancient compasses have never been found in the Americas.
In the Book of Mormon, it is stated that the Jaredites specifically avoided windows for lighting in their ships because the windows would be "dashed in pieces" during the ocean voyage [Book of Ether 2:22-23]. However, transparent glass wasn't invented until the 11th century AD.
Genetics and DNA
Mormon apologists point to the above anachronisms and argue that the archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon may still be out there, it just hasn't been found. There may be some merit in this explanation since, after all, nobody believed that the legendary ancient city of Troy existed until it was dug up in 1866. However, these Mormon archaeologists can put their shovels and maps aside because modern science has provided us with the definitive answer whether or not the Book of Mormon is true- in the form of DNA testing.
The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon rests on one central claim, which is that the Hebrews came to the New World, where they later became the indigenous peoples we have labeled Native Americans. The book claims that the Native American populations are descended from the Lamanites, who lived in ancient Israel 2,600 years ago. If this is so, then people of both Hebrew and Native American ancestry should share certain genetic traits.
Studies have shown that Native Americans share genetic Y-chromosome polymorphisms with Siberian Asians. One such study examined the C→T transition at nucleotide position 181 of the DYS199 locus- a genetic "signature" found in all five Native American populations that were studied. The same polymorphism was found in two of nine native Siberian populations, the Siberian Eskimo and the Asian Chukchi. As a control, researchers examined the DYS287 Y Alu polymorphic element insertion and an A→G transition at DYS271, both commonly found in Africans, but found neither African allele in any of the Native American or native Siberian populations. Thus, we can rule out the possibility that indigenous Americans originated in Africa.
A subsequent study examined major groups of Native American founding populations. Haplotype M3 accounted for 66% of male Y-chromosomes and was also found associated with native populations from the Chukotka Peninsula of Siberia, located across the Bering Strait from Alaska. The second major group of Native American Y-chromosomes, haplotype M45, accounted for approximately 25% of male lineages. This haplotype is also found in the Lower Amur River and Sea of Okhotsk regions of eastern Siberia. The remaining 5% of Native American Y-chromosomes were of haplotype RPS4Y-T, which is also found in the Lower Amur River region of Siberia. These data suggested that virtually all Native American male lineages are the result of one or two major Siberian migrations.
Dozens of similar studies have reached the same conclusion: Native Americans can trace their lineage back to east Asia; thus no Native Americans share genetic markers with Hebrews or Jews.
As a result of these inaccuracies and anachronisms, most reputable scientific bodies have distanced themselves from the Book of Mormon. in a 1998 letter to the Institute for Religious Research, the National Geographic Society wrote that "society does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon". A similar stance was taken more than a decade earlier by the Smithsonian; in the 1980s, rumors began to circulate in the LDS movement that the Smithsonian was looking to the Book of Mormon to guide archaeological research. The Smithsonian fired back with a scathing letter which not only refuted these claims, but listed several reasons why they believed that the Book of Mormon was "historically unlikely". The letter, in part, read:
"The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book." ("Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon," Smithsonian Institution, Spring 1986)
If we were to examine Mormonism in the same manner which the judicial system examines defendants, a jury would have to conclude that, based on the evidence, the entire religion is guilty of being a sham. Part I of our examination presented circumstantial evidence which insinuates that the Book of Mormon was likely based upon an earlier work of fiction by Solomon Spalding. Part II presented witness affidavits from 80 individuals who were acquaintances of Joseph Smith, all of whom swore before a judge in good standing that Smith and his partners were, in essence, nothing more than 19th century con artists and flim-flammers. And finally, Part III of our examination presented DNA evidence as well as historical evidence which argues against the validity of the Book of Mormon. To use a chess analogy, not only has Mormonism been put in check, but in checkmate as well.