Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Missing epigraphic evidence in the New World’

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Published: Monday, May 16 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Scottsbluff, NE

It is fun to wonder what might be found. But consider what is happening here. Instead of the known ancient American writing being from the BofM people, it is understood that these were from "other" people. So the hope has become "what hasn't been found yet?" It might be a good reality check to understand a little better what is known about those "others". Here are three useful writings that can be found online:

Archaeology and religion: a comparison of the Zapotec and Maya, 1978

Ancient Zapotec ritual and religion: an application of the direct historical approach, 1994

The Archaeological Evidence for Social Evolution, 2008

Miami Area, Fl

"Of all known ancient New World inscriptions, very few survived from Book of Mormon times, and most come from cities that are not considered by Latter-day Saint scholars to have been Nephite."

So, if I understand the premise of the article....

1) The cities that have been found contained very few inscriptions.

2) most lds scholars agree that the cities that have been found were not related to LDS history.

Brings us back to square one.

And I may sound like a broken record, but

Why have the great cities and civilizations that WERE Nephite, not been found?

Every article seems to focus on why there is no archeological evidence. And somehow this lack of evidence is made out to support the BOM claims.

I commend Mr Ash for pointed out that "LDS scholars" do not believe those civilizations that have been found, were related to LDS historicity.

Hopefully we can at least put that notion to rest.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"Epigraphic evidence consists of a written record...Egyptians, for example, wrote on materials that survived to modern times."

Agreed...there may indeed be "sparse" epigraphic information about the BoM because the plates are ostensibly unavailable for review. But there is certainly available evidence that can be used to evaluate Joseph Smith's ability to have translated BoM epigraphic records.

For example, Egyptian scholars have determined that the "epigraphic evidence" used in the creation of the Book of Abraham conclusively demonstrates that it's nothing more than a common Egyptian funerary text dating back to about the first century BC, far from Abraham's time.

It stands to reason that such glaring evidence against Joseph's ability to translate "epigraphic evidence" certainly brings into question his credibility with respect to any alleged BoM claims.

Old Scarecrow
Brigham City, UT

Joe, your last two observations jump to predictable conclusions just as much as many LDS assume the ancient cities found in Meso-America are Nephite in origin. The point of the article is that little "written" evidence exists of any civilizations in the New World, which disproves or proves nothing. We'll all keep watching for new evidence that may never come. I don't think that the LDS were given any promises that such evidence will ever exist, it's ultimately always a matter of faith. That works for me. There were people and civilizations in the Americas throughout the Book of Mormon time frame. We know little about any of them. Perhaps we will eventually learn more, but it probably won't change people's minds. The existence of Romans, various sects of Jews, and other societies in the Palestine area is well documented, but billions doubt the Resurrection story. Yet some believe.

Walt Nicholes
Orem, UT

Haplotype X2 - That should be 'nuff said.

Unfortunately it looks like some commentators are not keeping up with the current scholarship. There is evidence of a whole new geography for the Book of Mormon - one that more closely agrees with the statements of Joseph Smith about the Lamanites.

We who say we are willing to accept truth from any source are remarkably resistant to truths and evidences that contradict our established notions. If an early LDS scholar made a particular statement we are prone to examine all new findings in light of that statement, even if when made it was declared to be a "judgement" and not any kind of revelation.

Hence we are not willing to listen to new possibilities about the locations of the Nephites, or the three days and three nights in the tomb.

Too bad for us. The knowledge is out there, but because it does not carry the imprimatur of a prophet it is utterly ignored.

Phoenix, AZ

It almost sounds like what Mr. Ash is telling us is; that because there is no archeologic evidence of the Book of Mormon people, that proves that they are real and historical. This non-scientific approach of Mr. Ash can be applied to insinuate most any work of fiction as real and historical.

Murray, UT

I don't really buy the argument about the swastika being used by both the nazis and the people of Tibet with regards to this subject matter. We know the culture the Nephites came from, as well as there iconography (This being Jerusalem, during the reign of Zedekiah). Given that data, we should have reasonally be able to see some similarities between the Nephites and the Isrealites.

Also, Nephi had a temple built according the the dimension and arcitecture use in King Solomon's temple. Any building found in the new world that is the same footprint as King Solomon's temple would indicate the presence of the Nephites in the new world.

Provo, Ut

In the introduction to the Book of Mormon is a small addendum to assist the reader, titled "A Brief Explanation About The Book of Mormon". Here the reader is given a short explanation about the various plates mentioned in the BoM. We learn that Nephi kept two sets of metal records, referred to as the Large and Small plates of Nephi. One set was dedicated to the spiritual details of Nephite life, whereas the other plates were more of a secular record. Then we have the plates of Limhi (admittedly, I've always been sort of confused about the whole Zeniff, Mulekite thing), which eventually included 24 gold plates about Jaredite history. These 24 plates become the Book of Ether in the BoM. Lastly, we have the Brass Plates - which were actually forged and written in the Middle East, and was just a hard copy (pun intended) of the Old Testament (more or less) containing at least the torah, and writings of Isaiah.

Given the above, it would seem that each of the various BoM peoples set an early precedent for writing on metal. Yet Ash would have us believe that Nephite history was lost because of perishable records??

Bountiful, UT

"Does the existence of an ancient kingdom depend on whether or not twenty-first century archaeologists have discovered written records of that kingdom?"

Of course not. Obviously, the lack of evidence doesn't prove definitively that an ancient kingdom did not exist, it just makes it less likely as we discover more and more evidence pointing to something other than a Nephite civilization. We also cannot say definitively that aliens did not colonize meso-America or that there were not cities there inhabited by large communities of sasquatch.

However, in the mean time, I think it's fair for critical thinking people to assume that Aliens or bigfoot or Nephite civilizations did not exist in meso-America absent evidence of their existence. We should start with the most likely scenarios and the less likley ones should be viewed with extreme skepticism until we find convincing evidence otherwise. If a modern day man claims to have found and translated through supernatural means a record of ancient existence, and if the claimed record is hidden from public inspection, and if the man has a history of making false claims of supernatural ability, then we should be very skeptical of suchclaims.

Lehi, UT

@LDS (real and posed). Critics sometimes arent as foolish as seem. Jumping to conclusions is required exercise but they know their claims are false eg: they know Mike isnt saying all the known epigraphic evidence is from non-BoM peoples; lw they probably knew theres abundant evidence for upheavals in Mesoamerica (abundant 1st Century ash, Smithsonian estimates of simultaneous volcanic eruptions etc); and previously, when they claimed hundreds of translated inscriptions from BoM times proving the BoM false, they probably knew that wasnt true also. They do this weekly. They also know that of few known possible ancient names several are similiar to BoM: Kix (pronounced "Kish" and same timeframe); Lamani (Laman, of unknown meaning, "loosely" translated as "submerged" and the crocodile symbol ain);Itzabel (and other Baal names), etc. And these are just a few of the on topic subjects. Off topic they really get going ; ).

But IC, Im not saying all critics "stink," but those who intentionally lie to lead people from known good and promote hatred are stinky in the best way ; ).

KC Mormon
Edgerton, KS

Weber State Graduate
When speaking of the Book of Abraham it helps to look at what Joseph Smith really said about the scrolls he had. First he listed four different books, The Book of Abraham, The Book of Joseph, The Book of Breathing and the Book of the Dead. While everyone focuses on the Book of Abraham they ignore the last two. How did Joseph get those last two right knowing nothing of Egyptian? Next Joseph did not actually say that the scroll that contained the Book of Abraham was written by Abraham himself but purportedly written by Abraham. In Other Words the actual scroll was a copy of a copy of a copy likely translated into another language. Third as mentioned in the article often times items are borrowed from one culture to another with a different meaning. This can be shown with the depictions anciently by Jews, Christians and Egyptians of the last judgment. All three have a a depiction of a persons heart being weighed against a feather. The depiction is very similar yet to all three it has a different meaning. An Egyptian Jew very easily could have simply used imagery he was familiar with.

Weston Jurney
West Jordan, UT

Epigraphic evidence HAS been found of the "place that was called Nahom" in modern-day Yemen.

I think we all know how convincing that has been to the skeptics.

Scottsdale, AZ

I agree with Weber State Grad. We already have all of the epigraphic evidence we need to make a decision on the veracity of Joseph Smith's claims. The Book of Abraham shows conclusively that all of this is a hoax. If only Smith knew that one day people would discover how to read Egyptian . . .

As far as the Book of Mormon, I think the best way of determining its veracity is just to read the book itself. The more I read from it, the more I'm convinced that its origin is of the 19th century. There is virtually no chapter in the whole book without anachronism (this is easy to determine, because of the dates that are conveniently printed at the bottom of each page). The allusions to and plagiarisms from the KJV of Smith's day compound the problem many times over. Anyone even acquainted with translation work will recognize the impossibilities involved. Finally, throw in the fact that the Book of Mormon deals with theological controversies that were prominent in the 19th century, and you have a very strong case for the book's inauthenticity.

Lehi, UT

One interesting thing about the metal records is that they were kept and preserved for special purposes only. Clearly most BoM records were not written on metal. And since Lamanites sought to destroy anything supportive of Nephite Christianity (Mesoamerican specialists explain that many cities were intentionally destroyed, so thoroughly that they dont know who lived there), any metal plates not hidden and kept would be destroyed.

Aaazz, I didnt recall reading the measurements in the BoM. But certainly ancient American temples are found after the manner of the temple of Solomon.

The similarities between Indigenous Peoples, Nephites, Lamanites, and Israelites, are so many that critical "chance" is ruled out, it's mathematically impossible.
There are too many detailed, mountainous relationships.

Critics should be able to explain these without dishonesty, but they fail, thus they resort to fabricating, distracting, and repeating known false claims (eg plagiarism, anachronisms, 19Centrury, BofAbraham (its proven miraculously translated, whatever the source, and we all know it wasnt the Breathing endowment text, which, as KC points out, doesnt fit the OC/JS description of the source for the BoA (rubrics, well preserved etc). The Kirtland papers were written after, and explained as not a translation.)

BYE : )

Huntsville, UT

JM | 10:05 a.m. May 16, 2011
Lehi, UT
"Im not saying all critics "stink," but those who intentionally lie to lead people from known good and promote hatred are stinky in the best way".


One could include the author of this article in that statement. He's trying to deceive people by leading them to conclude that lack of evidence for the existence of BOM peoples, is evidence that they *might* have existed.

One could also include the missionaries in that statement. There are verifiable untruths in the missionary discussions (I still have my copy from back in the early 80's). So, intentionally lying to people to get them to convert from their own truths to your's falls into the stinky category, imo.

Santa Rosa, Ca

Where are the horse bones, wagons and wheels and ironworks mentioned in the Book of Mormon? Iron would last thousands of years in the desert kingdoms, so don't tell me it all rusted away. Bones fossilize and last millions of years. So where is it?

Where are the DNA markers pointing to Middle Eastern tribes in the New World? The x2 haplogroup is 20,000 years too old to be part of the story.

True, the absence of evidence is not proof it never existed. But faith doesn't require proof. If religions around the world had proof, they wouldn't have to work so hard to convert people. They wouldn't need to grab children away from their parents (as our Bureau of Indian Affairs did) to teach them to ignore the evidence of their own senses in favor of some ancient book. They could just point to the evidence of their living god and laugh at anyone too blind or crazy to see it.

Their frantic efforts to convert/exterminate atheists are most telling. Fundamentalist Muslims execute apostates. Scientologists shun and harass those who quit the church. Coming to your senses in a madhouse is dangerous.

Murray, UT

I do not cosider myself a critic of the LDS faith. I do consider myself a critic of some of the logic that Mike has used in these articles. As of late, each article seems to spend some effort saying that there is no reason to expect historical evidence of the Book of Mormon.

In 2 Nephi 5:16, Nephi talks about building a temple like unto Solomon's. I am not sure we will find one anywhere, and I feel secure in my testimony without one. I was merely pointing out that there are some kind of archelogical evidence that would indicate the presence of the Nephites that could be included in these articles.

I would love to see evidence of a building like this, just as I think it would be great to find any other evidence.

Lehi, UT

Tmaxr hi, regardless of assumptions, weve oft discussed: American Iron, horse bones, wheels, Manassehs DNA (later appearing in Asia), Israelite and Polynesian morphology, etc, are all found.

AAzzz, after the manner of Solomons temple doesnt imply size or shape, probably function. LDS temples are after the manner of Solomons in my opinion, and Mayan are an altered form. Ive posted many examples of this. They are far too many to be by chance, and I still haven't posted most of them. Still, those who honestly and diligently seek, find. Nothing else changes anyone.

Forgot to mention that critics still claim that Isabel was another JS blunder, they assert Isabel came from Queen Elisabeth. Apparently ; ) theyre unaware that one meaning of ancient Isabel/Jezebel is harlot of Baal, she helped bring Sidon baal worship to Israel with its bloodletting, human sacrifices, and ritual prostitution.

Ranchhand- funny ; ), or interesting. Are you using a dishonest claim that others lie to justify intentionally lying to lead others from known good? Even if you could provide quotes from Mikes article and 80s missionary discussions showing intentional lies to lead people from good, and you cant, still, other lies dont make yours ok.

KC Mormon
Edgerton, KS

Let me ask you something, where are the horse bones from the Hun's? Archaeologists all agree that the horse was extremely important to the Hun's yet they have not found any horse bones related to the Hun's. Also it is very possible that Joseph simply translated the word that the Nephites used for an animal they called a horse by the same name they used. Calling an animal by a name that it is not is actually very common when a people enter a new area. After all just look at the American Bison still called to day a buffalo by a great many people yet it in fact is not a buffalo at all. Another example of this is the American Pronghorn again it is called by a great many an antelope yet it in fact is not. Even the early Spaniards called many American animals by names that came from their old world even though they were not really the same kind of animal.

Sacramento, CA

The fact that some thing does not exist does not imply that it doesn't exist, but merely that there may not be something to instantiate its existence. When you look at the sky on a clear night there is all kinds of stuff out there that is constantly being discovered. Regardless of the discoveries, they don't take away the fact that we still have a moon, sun, planets that not only are observable to us but to Galileo, the Greeks, and persons before them.

Prior to the telescope, there was little knowledge of the existence of many planets, orbits, and so on. In addition, we now we know certain elements exist that no one ever thought of, math to calculate them, and newer technologies to make viable experiments.

Thus, we have to be careful about determining what does not exist, such that sometime down the road we don't make ourselves out to look like fools.

It is perfectly conceivable to me, that in the areas south of North America, when the Europeans came in the 1500s, they not only destroyed written texts but also physical structures and symbols which were not compatible with their beliefs.

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