The Truth About


Illumination or Deception?

Chapter 4

Archaeological Dilemmas

     Archaeologists have yet to unearth any evidence supporting the claims of the Book of Mormon. In Ether 7:8-9, we read of steel and breakable windows (2:23) in Abraham’s time. Try to explain that to an archaeologist! Steel was not developed until about 3,000 years later.

     At the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni tells about a great battle that took place on the Hill Cumorah. More than 200,000 people, armed to their teeth, were killed on that hill. The story tells about their weapons, breastplates, helmets, swords, etc. Nothing like that has ever been found on that hill or anywhere else on this continent. Metal helmets, swords, etc., do not just disappear in a mere 1,400 years.

     Before the LDS Church purchased the Hill Cumorah, it was literally dug full of deep holes and even caves, but nothing was ever found. (Brigham Young told about the caves inside of Hill Cumorah and how Joseph and Oliver went in and out of them. Supposedly there were wagon loads of gold plates, Laban’s sword, and other items—J of D, 19:38).

     When people simply “dig for worms” in the Holy Land, they make amazing archaeological discoveries that confirm the Bible as an accurate historical record. By contrast, after painstaking expeditions and excavations, archaeologists have yet to discover even a single city, place, coin, sword, or artifact of any kind that is mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

     There are still people in the LDS Church who believe that archaeology has proven, at least to a degree, the Book of Mormon. Some LDS teachers are using video and picture-presentations of ruins from Guatemala, Mexico, and South America, implying that they prove the Book of Mormon, even though they are from an entirely different time period than the Book of Mormon and most are ruins built by idol worshipers who offered human sacrifices.

     “Mormon scholars” are directing their historic location research efforts and tours in these lands, which implies that Mayans and others were the peoples that the Book of Mormon talks about—even though what is known about Mayans and their religion does not match what the Book of Mormon says. These assumptions that come from BYU go directly against what the leaders of the Church have said and taught about Book of Mormon locations from Joseph Smith to current leaders. “From all the evidence in the Book of Mormon, augmented by the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, these final battles took place in the territory known as the United States and in the neighborhood of the Great Lakes and hills of Western New York” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 240-41, emphasis in original).

     The professors of BYU say that even the Hill Cumorah (where Joseph Smith found the gold plates) is in Guatemala, or maybe in Mexico. The First Presidency’s office, however, continues to state that the Hill Cumorah is in Western New York State, not in Guatemala or Mexico. (For more about what the prophets and apostles of the Church have taught about Book of Mormon locations, go to Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 232-43, written by Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the LDS Church.)

     Another interesting detail found in the Book of Mormon is that it puts Nephi’s Tower near the city of Zarahemla (Helaman 7:10). The LDS Church has located the Tower of Nephi in Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri, the place identified as valley of “Adam-ondi-Ahman,” where Joseph Smith said that Adam and his posterity lived until the time of Noah.

     There is another “pile of stones,” besides the remnant of the stones of Nephi’s Tower, that Joseph Smith had identified as a remnant of an altar Adam had built some 5,000 years before (D&C 107:52-56; 116; Mormon Doctrine, p. 21). Based on this, it would be logical that the researchers for Book of Mormon locations would go by what their scriptures say and what their prophet-leaders have revealed, and look for Zarahemla and Manti and perhaps even other places in Missouri and the Great Lakes area instead of Guatemala or Mexico.

     LDS Professor Dee Green, in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, summer of 1969, pp. 74-78, wrote,

     The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists. Titles of books full of archaeological half-truths, dilettanti on peripheries of American archaeology calling themselves Book of Mormon archaeologists regardless of their education, and a Department of Archaeology at BYU devoted to the production of Book of Mormon archaeologists do not insure that Book of Mormon archaeology really exists… no Book of Mormon location is known….Biblical archaeology can be studied, because we know where Jerusalem and Jericho were and are, but we do not know where Zarahemla and Bountiful (nor any location for that matter) were or are….

     Many Mormon scholars have faced the truth and fully agree with Professor Green but, sadly enough, this “myth of the Book of Mormon archaeology” still surfaces from the general membership who are not updated on these issues.

     Thomas S. Ferguson was a firm believer and was sure that archaeology would prove the Book of Mormon. He was an attorney and believed that he knew how to weigh the evidence once it was found, and a lot of “evidence” was found; but unfortunately for the LDS Church, the “evidence” did not have any connection to the Book of Mormon. Ferguson spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and 25 years of his life as head of the “New World Archaeological Foundation,” funded by the Church. In spite of all his efforts, by 1970 he had come to the conclusion that all had been in vain—that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, and that Mormonism was not true.

     Here was a man who had devoted his entire life, even before starting this foundation, to Mormonism. He had written a book called One Fold and One Shepherd in defense of Mormonism, but he later had to admit that the case against Joseph Smith was absolutely devastating and could not be explained away. Finding out that the Book of Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price (an LDS scripture) was not a translation of the papyri, as Joseph Smith had claimed, was perhaps the final straw for him, as well as for many others who were more aware of the problems in Mormonism.

External Sources

     Another example is B. H. Roberts, noted historian and a General Authority in the Mormon Church, whose secret manuscript, Book of Mormon Difficulties, was published in 1985 by the title Studies of the Book of Mormon. Roberts had come to question the Book of Mormon quite some time before Ferguson did. His typewritten manuscript of more than 400 pages was written between 1922 and 1933. In this manuscript, he admitted that the Book of Mormon is in conflict with what is now known from twentieth-century archaeological investigation about the early inhabitants of America. After going into a lengthy explanation on impossibilities in the Book of Mormon, he also says that he has come to discover things he didn’t know earlier in his life—for instance, that Joseph Smith did have access to a number of books that could have assisted him and given him ideas for the Book of Mormon. Roberts tells how Joseph’s mother wrote in her book, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that long before Joseph had received the gold plates, he gave…

     Most amusing recitals….He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare, and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them. (B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 243)

     Roberts goes on to say that Joseph could have gotten his information from “knowledge” that existed in the community because of books like Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, published nearby in 1823, and Josiah Priest’s The Wonders of Nature and Providence, published only 20 miles away about one year later. The latter had lots to say about the Hebrew origin of American Indians and their advanced culture
and civilization. Roberts then asks,

     Whence comes the young prophet’s ability to give these descriptions “with as much ease as if he had spent his whole life” with these ancient inhabitants of America? Not from the Book of Mormon, which is as yet, a sealed book to him….These evening recitals could come from no other source than the vivid, constructive imagination of Joseph Smith, a remarkable power which attended him through all his life. It was as strong and varied as Shakespeare’s and no more to be accounted for than the English Bard’s. (B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 244)

     Prior to publication of Studies of the Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts was known as a great defender of Mormonism, and he is still considered to be one of the greatest scholars the LDS Church has ever had. He wrote the six-volume Comprehensive History of the Church and many other works as well. There is much, much more to say as to why the Book of Mormon is not an ancient record but an obvious production of a very intelligent and creative person, Joseph Smith, who “borrowed” from a number of books (including the Bible) to create it.

Trouble in the Family Tree
Doctrinal Contradictions