Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: John Sorenson's 'Mormon's Codex' examines Book of Mormon geography’

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Published: Thursday, June 5 2014 8:00 a.m. MDT

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Cinci Man

John Sorenson is one of the most educated persons on earth about evidences of the Book of Mormon's authenticity and facts about early American civilizations. This should be an excellent read for those interested in the incredible evidences that exist. For critics and non-believers, this is an excellent book to show how little educated, little read, little studied on the subject they are. Daniel Peterson is correct that to say that there is 'no evidence' is simply wrong when the truth is that there is 'no evidence that they believe'. Some of the evidence is so strong that to ignore it completely or to deny that it exists is simply a display of ignorance. Thank you Dr. Sorenson for your incredible life's work.

Tooele, UT

Re: ". . . to announce that there’s no supporting evidence at all is to go too far."

And, of course, no genuine, informed scholar would ever make such a statement.

It's sad that, while mainline archaeologists still hold long, boring seminars and engage in endless argument over matters such as whether biblical Ai ever existed, or whether it may be located at the et-Tell site, or at some other, like Khirbet el-Maqatir, discussion of serious Book of Mormon geography still gets lumped together with topics like the distribution and feeding habits of unicorns.

So much solid, unassailable research has been done by scholars like Dr. Sorenson, you'd think he and his body of research would at least pose a challenge to the dismissive haters. That they continue with snarky ad hominem, rather than serious review and debate, speaks volumes about what they actually fear.

Somewhere in Time, UT

I read Dr. Sorensen's book years ago and it opened up a whole new world for me. This is a fascinating subject. There are literally mountains of evidence to support the B of M--especially the Mesoamerican theory. I appreciate Dr. Petersen's work as well and have read a lot of his stuff.

To those who attack and criticize the B of M my response is, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

clearfield, UT

That's always been one of the things about the history part of the Book of Mormon that I wondered about. Could even the most learned scholars of the day have contrived to write the Book of Mormon? We know for sure that Joseph Smith had little or no access to any library where he could have found archelogical and historical events of that period in that area of America. But could the best scholars of the day at Harvard or Yale have done it? I've always assumed no, and this further makes that case. Even though our faith is not supposed to be based upon the factual evidence of the Book of Mormon, these things like the Mormon Codex do make the Book of Mormons very existence almost supernal. Which I guess it is.

Cinci Man

Isn't it interesting that those who oppose, deny, or choose not to believe the research and writings of professionals, such as Dr. Sorenson, are not able to publish their own books that refute the 400+ evidences written about in Dr. Sorenson's book? Think of the money they could make and the name they could make for themselves if they could offer credible rebuttal material equal in stature to the works of Dr. Sorenson. As their best alternative, they simply take a position that they don't believe that a single stitch of evidence exists. Wow, that makes a statement. I'm impressed.

West Columbia, TX

It is also true that there is mountains of logic from evidence to disprove. From my own experience, God ensures neutrality with respect to evidence. Were it not so, we could not choose, the choices would have been made for us. If you want to know, you have to ask.

But Brigham Young once wrote that the days would come that the evidence would be so strong that those who chose not to accept would be kindly moved to their respective glory. Whether that was his own opinion or otherwise, I do not remember. Until then, neutrality will continue that we might be ensured of keeping that powerful and wonderful gift of choice.


The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

Happy, Joseph Smith actually did have access to a pretty good library and used it. And yes several people wrote similar stories to the Book of Mormon. The idea that the Native Americans came from a lost European or Middle Eastern group of people was actually very popular during Joseph Smiths day. There were books written with this theme he undoubtedly had access to (whether he read them or not no one will know) and some he wouldn't have. But the ideas underlying the BofM were very much a part of the culture in America at that time.

This is why so much of the BofM cultures seems to be Roman in nature. Chariots, steel swords, metal armor, shields and so on. Not much was known about what actual Native American life was like at the time, so Smith simply wrote about it in the way people were familiar with. Then time moved on and the evidence became overwhelming that Native peoples were of Asian ancestry and their culture was radically different than the "roman" ideas of the past those old ideas were abandoned.

Orem, UT

I would love to learn more about this excellent library, Mr. Wraith, and about the evidence demonstrating that Joseph Smith used it. Can you share some references?

My take-away from Professor Sorenson's book, by the way, is that, in his judgment, there's much in the Book of Mormon that points specifically and uniquely to ancient Mesoamerica. That seems directly to conflict with your claim. What do you make of Dr. Sorenson's evidence and arguments? Have you read his book?

Mark from Montana
Davis County, UT

I have never understood the need to find the exact setting of the Book of Mormon. You either take the book on faith or you disbelieve it. Trying to find the perfect setting for it is impossible. We have no solid understanding of how the land might have changed over the past 2000 years. Accept it, or deny it based on the doctrinal teachings it contains.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

Also for CinciMan there are plenty of books, thousands actually, that refute Dr. Sorenson's work - they are collectively known as every single book in modern Amerindian studies.

The reason no one else in the field directly refutes works by Mormon archaeologists, not because they can't but because they don't even look at it as serious scholarship. For people in the field I've spoken to they see themselves as researching the actual history of the Amerindians whereas "Mormon archaeologists" are busy trying to prove there was an actual Mount Olympus where Zeus lived. That's harsh I know but that's actually the way an archaeologist friend put it to me.

Dr. Sorenson and researchers like him have done an excellent job convincing members that there are "mountains and mountains" of unassailable evidence. But there isn't a single non member scientist in any field studying the Amerindians that agrees with them. No one is ignoring Dr. Sorenson's evidence or claiming it doesn't exists. They just disagree with his interpretation of what it means, and again most importantly not a single independent researcher agrees with any of the claims off Mormon archaeology.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT


I will soon run out of posts but oh well. It is a matter of historical fact that both Manchester and Palmyra had well stocked libraries for their time. While there is no evidence that Smith checked anything out (which is why I said we'll never know if he actually read them) Robert Paul writing for BYU has said that he used at least the Palmyra library. He goes on to talk about bookstores and auctions in the area providing ads from newspapers as evidence.

In May 26, 1819 there was a long article in the Palmyra Register about how the area had once been inhabited by an advanced civilization.

In the Wayne Sentinel on October 11, 1825 a long article appeared detailing how the Indians were descended from Israelites.

There is more of course but I believe this is enough to show that Smith didn't grow up in a vacuum. All of this is easily available from the BYU history department and books like Rough Stone Rolling, all Mormon sources. As I said we'll never know what Smith actually read or not, but it was available to him.

Newport Beach, CA

"Proof by parallels" will always be vulnerable to the answer that the method consists of painting a bulls-eye where the shots have already landed.

It would be an astonishing thing if a young Joseph Smith could have authored the Book of Mormon himself, or with the assistance of his acquaintances, in a manner reasonably consistent with the accounts of the book's production.

It would also be an astonishing thing for a sizeable Old World-derived civilization, with advanced technology and social institutions and Old World crops and animals, to have flourished for a thousand years without leaving a single unambiguous trace -- no archaeological relics, no linguistic traces, no identifiable genetic influence in the human population, no surviving Old World plant or animal species (or even fossil plant pollen), no survival of technologies like metal smelting or the wheel that, elsewhere, are typically too valuable to lose.

If your understanding of faith is such that you can declare belief in a thing by faith despite the weight of the evidence being contrary, then you can retain belief in the Book of Mormon as an ancient document by that kind of faith.

Louisville, KY

The Wraith,

I cannot recall (in my nearly 40 years in the church) any researchers, professors, or otherwise indicating that the evidence was unassailable. Simply that the fact that there is not corroboration is untrue.

Note that if physical evidence alone would convince anyone then I would place more of a priority on it. But there is good evidence for much of biblical history (at least the NT - note this was not always the case even in my lifetime). Yet how many are convinced by this? Why? Because the fact that the places and even people existed is not the same a proof they were led by God. If someday someone discovers an ancient city that translates to Bountiful with a history of great disruption circa the year 33 and then stories of divine visitation, I really don't think it would matter to most. A few? Sure. But most would look at it just as they do the NT or OT. Interesting that the places existed and that people thought God was interacting with them (but they were unsophisticated rubes).

"Men Occasionally Stumble Over the Truth, But They Pick Themselves Up and Hurry Off" (attributed to Winston Churchill)

Orem, UT

I've read Robert Paul's book, and, in my judgment, it doesn't really support your claim.

Furthermore, your references to casual comments from unnamed "archaeologists" and unidentified points from "thousands" of unnamed books don't actually engage a single claim made in Professor Sorenson's book.

Have you read Professor Sorenson's book?

Fred Vader
Oklahoma City, OK

"The idea that the Native Americans came from a lost European or Middle Eastern group of people was actually very popular during Joseph Smiths day." No it wasn't.

"There were books written with this theme he undoubtedly had access to (whether he read them or not no one will know)" No there wasn't. If one is referring to the Spaulding manuscript, the Spaulding story is not remotely similar to the BoM. It is simply a retelling of the Columbus story, with Romans inserted instead of Italians.

"This is why so much of the BofM cultures seems to be Roman in nature. Chariots, steel swords, metal armor, shields and so on." These items predated the Romans, and were available in the middle east during the time of the BoM story.

"But there isn't a single non member scientist in any field studying the Amerindians that agrees with them." There also isn't a single non member scientist that has even attempted to point out, with actual data, where he is wrong. Who cares if they dismiss it out of hand? If they have not attempted to review his claims from a scholarly perspective, their opinions mean nothing.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO


"....I would love to learn more about this excellent library, Mr. Wraith, and about the evidence demonstrating that Joseph Smith used it...."

Joseph Smith didn’t have access to much in the way of books. But Wraith does touch on a point historians have noted on the popular culture of Joseph Smith’s time regarding origins of indigenous peoples in the Americas. That native tribes might be a remnant of the legendary ten lost tribes of Israel was an oft-repeated albeit speculative theory going back into colonial America times. A popular book on the subject was Reverend Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews published in 1823, the same year as Joseph’s first visit from Moroni. Whether or not Joseph ever read View of the Hebrews or had access to it is not known.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

Yes Verdad I've read his book. I found his conclusions, methods, and evidence to be laughable. Pretty harsh but there you go.

Here's my challenge. If you can meet this challenge I'll give Sorenson a deeper look. Find me one, just one, accredited professional non-Mormon archaeologist, historian, or anthropologist, studying Amerindian culture or geography that agrees with Dr. Sorenson. Just one person in these fields of study who has produced a work supporting a single Book of Mormon claim even. Just one.

Farmington, UT

Vader: "No it wasn't"

All you have to do is read Rough Stone Rolling and you see the following:

Although not predominant, the lost tribes theory did appeal to religious thinkers eager to link Indians to the Bible. From the seventeenth century onward, both Christians and Jews had collected evidence that the Indians had Jewish origins. Jonathan Edwards Jr. noted the similarities between the Hebrew and Mohican languages. Such Indian practices as 'anointing their heads, paying a price for their wives, observing the feast of harvest' were cited as Jewish parallels. Besides Edwards, John Eliot, Samuel Sewall, Roger Williams, William Penn, James Adair, and Elias Boudinot expressed opinions or wrote treatises on the Israelite connection." Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 96.

Just to be clear, I never said it was dominant, just popular. And Bushman, a Mormon historian, backs that up here. I'm always surprised that most Mormons are completely ignorant of what their own historians teach. Just in Bushman's alone he talks about ideas of Jewish decent, information Smith would have access, and much more. Read your own historians.

Somewhere in Time, UT

Dear The Wraith:

Much of the information in the Book of Mormon couldn't have been accessed by anyone because it was completely unknown at that time.

The Spaulding theory and View of the Hebrews have both been totally discredited many years ago. They are nothing like the Book of Mormon. NO ONE in the early days EVER made the claim that Joseph wrote the book himself. Why? Because they knew him and they knew he was totally incapable of writing it. It wasn't until many years later that detractors began to make the claim that Joseph wrote it after other theories were totally debunked.

Joseph did not have access to all the materials you claim. These are claims made by detractors who are left with no other alternative than to make up a lot of bogus facts.

Joseph couldn't possibly have written it. In addition, statistical word print studies have proved that the Book of Mormon was written by multiple authors. The study is so well respected that it was publish in the statistical professional journal.

Again, there are none so blind as those who will not see!

Fred Vader
Oklahoma City, OK


Here's my challenge. If you meet this challenge, I will give your challenge a serious look. Find me one, just one, acredited professional non-Mormon archaeologist, historian, or anthropologist studying Amerindian culture or geogrpahy who has produced a work directly disproving a single Sorenson claim. Just one.

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