2 Nephi Chapter 5 of the Book of Mormon – Metals
By Eric Kettunen
I explain in my story (www.exmormon.org/whyileft.htm) that metallurgy in the Book of Mormon was one of the reasons I no longer believe the Book of Mormon to be a story of real people. Here is an article about the portion of the Book of Mormon relating to metallurgy.
In 2 Nephi 5:5 Nephi and his family and friends separate from the Lamanites 12-15 years after landing in the Americas. They quickly develop a complex metallurgical culture that other civilizations in history required centuries to create. Here are the cast of characters:
- Nephi and family – wife and possibly some children.
- Zoram and his family – wife and possibly some children.
- Sam and his family – again possibly some children.
- Jacob – a young man or boy. (Born in the wilderness).
- Joseph – an even younger man or boy. (Born in the wilderness).
- Others of Nephi’s sisters – perhaps as many as 3-4 women.
- “and all those who would go with me.”
That could at best be a few of Ishmael’s family. So let’s give some credit here to 4 more men, 4 more women and a few more children even though these extra people are never mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
These total to (again these are HIGHER estimates than the story allows):
- 8 men
- 10 women
- 15 children
Mormons could argue for slightly different numbers of people, but for the sake of the story it really does not matter. The numbers are small, very small. A few Mormons have written me and the highest number given me is 500 people. That 500 people could already exist as Nephites is a great leap of faith in Nephite procreation.
Now from the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 5:14-16.
 “And I Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords…
 And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, an of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.
 And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon…”
I have both a BS and MS in metallurgical engineering, so I think I can speak with some authority here.
How likely is it that 8 men, 15 children and 10 women, who just fled into the wilderness, would be able to do the following? Just for fun, is this any more plausible with a society of 500 people, most of them children?
- Steel making – this is complex all by itself – mixing iron with carbon
- Iron mining and manufacturing – the production of elemental iron from iron ore
- Coal mining – coal is required in the production of iron and is refined into coke
- Limestone mining – limestone is also required
- Tin or zinc mining – depending on the definition of “brass”
- Refining and manufacturing of tin or zinc since they do not occur in an elemental state in nature
- Roasting – to eliminate sulfur in copper, silver and some iron ores
- Copper mining
- Complex furnaces – to have reduction atmospheres to produce the metals
- Mining tools – where did the hardened tools come from to start with?
- Prospecting – how did they know how to identify ores?
- Gold mining
- Silver mining
- Complex wood working – a small replica of Solomon’s temple
How could a few people run a complex metallurgical culture in the wilderness and at the same time make shelters, get food and just plain survive? This is only a few years after coming to the American continent by boat. Some LDS apologists refer to meteoric iron as the raw material Nephites had used. This is quite unlikely as there is no archeological evidence that meteoric iron fragments were used beyond simple ornamental items like crude mirrors or decorations. The meteoric iron would have to be melted then mixed with correct percentages of carbon to make steel. That is as a complex of a technology as producing elemental iron, so which ever way you look at it, the possibility is incredibly remote that steel was manufactured.
Let us look at more claims.
They were working with copper!
This requires roasting (remove the sulfides with oxygen) and a completely different set of metallurgical processes than steel making. Native copper, which requires no processing, is quite rare. If Nephi were referring to native copper, there would have been no need to “train” in it as it is already in its elemental state and easily workable.
Some LDS apologists have written to me saying that the Nephites went all the way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to get their copper. They traveled thousands of miles for some metal? Mormons cannot have it both ways. LDS scholars claim Nephites lived in only a very small geographical area of South America. To also claim they traveled thousands of miles to do their mining is grossly straining credibility.
They developed brass!
They had to learn how to make alloys with copper. They would have had to then develop zinc and/or tin mines with these metallic elements each requiring different metallurgical processes to extract the metals from the ore. How bizarre can the story get? It gets worse….
They were working with precious ores. This adds gold and silver mining to the list and different metallurgical methods again are required for processing the ore.
This was all done with 8 men, 10 women and 15 or so children. How could I have ever believed it? But it gets even worse yet….
They then went and built a temple like Solomon’s. Solomon’s Temple was built by, according to the Bible, 180,000 men over a period of 7 years. Since Nephi would have been familiar with what that temple as like, how could he possibly even imagine that 8 men and 10 women, along with running their mining and manufacturing industries, build a temple that could be compared to it?
I could go on about the self contradictory statements in the verses like precious ores being in abundance and then not being there in the very next verse. The story is so absurd that it alone should keep a rational person from believing in the Book of Mormon.
And to top it off, no archeological evidence supports mining activity, which leaves indestructible evidence, during the Book of Mormon period in Central America where nearly all LDS apologists claim the Book of Mormon peoples lived. What is more likely – a handful of people developed an unprecedented and “yet to be discovered” complex metallurgical society or that the Book of Mormon is a fairy tale?
See associated article, Mathematics and The Book of Mormon.