I believe the Book of Mormon is fiction because the Tower of Babel is a myth.

As the story goes in the Book of Mormon, the Brother of Jared and his people were spared when the God confounded the languages of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Jaredites were led to America and spawned a 1,700 year civilization that numbered in the millions. The last survivor of the Jaredites was Coriantumr, who was discovered by the people of Zarahemla. The record of the Jaredites was discovered by King Limhi’s people in the wilderness,1 translated by Mosiah,2 and abridged and inserted into the Book of Mormon by Moroni.3

The problem is this: The Tower of Babel is a myth. It isn’t real. There is no archaeological evidence that there was a real tower that people built to try to get to heaven. There is no linguistic evidence that languages evolved from one language like the Bible says. It is a mythical event. Many cultures have myths about the origin of language. The Tower of Babel is one such myth. A mythical event cannot spawn a real Jaredite people and real plates containing their records. It just can’t happen.

The story of the Tower of Babel doesn’t make sense anyway. Here is the entire account of the Tower of Babel from the Bible:4

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Which parts of this story make sense?

How could people actually believe they could build a tower to get to heaven?

With all of our modern technology, the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa tower5 in Dubai which is 2,717 feet tall. That’s slightly more than a 1/2 mile tall. Primitive people looked up to the stars the same as we do today. Wherever primitive people thought heaven was, is it reasonable to think that people could actually believe they could build a tower to get to heaven? That makes no sense to me.

Even though that makes no sense, let’s pretend that a group of primitive people really did try to build a tower to get to heaven. In this scenario, why would God need to confuse their languages? Why didn’t God just let them fail and let them learn they were attempting the impossible? In verse 6, it says that God had to do something otherwise they would have succeeded. Does that make any sense? Of course not.

What makes the most sense is this: it’s just a story. A myth. Fiction. I have no problem with myths, as long as they aren’t confused with reality. Myths can be cool. I like the Tower of Babel myth. I think it’s a neat story about the evolution of language and man’s propensity for folly. But it’s a myth, not reality.

The Book of Mormon depends upon the Tower of Babel being actual history. If the Tower of Babel is not rooted in actual history, this means the Book of Mormon isn’t either.


1 Mosiah 8:9

2 Mosiah 28:10-17

3 Ether 1:1-6

4 Genesis 11:1-9

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa

I believe the Book of Mormon is fiction because it’s full of anachronisms.

An anachronism is a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place. It’s something that doesn’t fit with the time and place. If I showed you a letter I wrote to Santa Claus in 1985 asking for an iPhone for Christmas, you’d know with absolute certainty that the letter was not written in 1985, even if I promised you that it was. The iPhone didn’t exist in 1985. The term “iPhone” in my letter to Santa Claus would be out of place chronologically because the iPhone didn’t exist until 2012. How could I have asked for an iPhone in 1985? It’s impossible. It would be a dead giveaway that my letter was not written in 1985.

The Book of Mormon claims to be an authentic record of people that existed in the Americas for a period of about 1,000 years from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. This is the time and place of the Book of Mormon. And yet, it contains many anachronisms that do not fit with this time and place.

Here are some of the anachronisms in the Book of Mormon that lead me to believe it is fiction:

  • Deutero-Isaiah

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi obtains the Brass Plates from Laban so his people would have the scriptures with them when they travelled to America. The Book of Mormon contains many chapters taken from these Brass Plates, particularly in 2nd Nephi where several chapters from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament are quoted.

Here’s the problem: Not all of the chapters in Isaiah existed when Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. Biblical scholars divide Isaiah into three sections:

  1. Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1-39)—These chapters would have existed when Nephi obtained the Brass Plates.
  2. Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40-55)—These chapters did not exist when Nephi obtained the Brass Plates from Laban and were written later by an anonymous author, not Isaiah.
  3. Trito-Isaiah (chapters 55-66)—Written at a later period of time than deutero-Isaiah by unknown authors.

If Nephi really got Brass Plates from Laban only Isaiah chapters 1-39 should appear in the Book of Mormon. These were the only chapters of Isaiah that existed at the time. But…

  • 1st Nephi 20 quotes Isaiah 48
  • 1st Nephi 21 quotes Isaiah 49
  • 2nd Nephi 7 quotes Isaiah 50
  • 2nd Nephi 8 quotes Isaiah 51 and 52:1-2
  • 3rd Nephi 20 quotes Isaiah 52:1-3, 7-8, 11
  • Mosiah 14 quotes Isaiah 53, and
  • 3rd Nephi 22 quotes Isaiah 54

None of this makes any sense. These chapters of Isaiah did not exist when Nephi obtained the Brass Plates from Laban. Either virtually all Biblical scholars are wrong about when Isaiah was written or there’s no way these chapters should be in the Book of Mormon. But there they are. How is Nephi quoting chapters of Isaiah before they existed any different from me saying I asked Santa Claus for an iPhone in 1985?

  • Horses and Chariots

In Alma 18, Ammon prepared horses and chariots for King Lamoni. In Alma 20, King Lamoni tells his servants to make ready his horses and chariots. In 3rd Nephi 3, the people took their horses and chariots so they could gather together to defend themselves against their enemies.

The problem is that there were no horses or chariots anywhere in America at the time. Horses didn’t exist anywhere in America until the Spanish brought them in late 15th century, over 1,000 years after the Book of Mormon ends.

Chariots have never existed as a means of transportation anywhere in the Americas. The native people of the America’s didn’t even use wheels for transportation until Europeans arrived. Chariots have wheels. Without wheels in America, there could be no chariots. If no horses or chariots existed in the Americas at the time, they should not appear in the Book of Mormon.

  • Goats

In the Book of Ether, it says the Jaredites had goats. In 1st Nephi, it says that Lehi and his family found goats and wild goats when they arrived in America. In the Book of Enos, it mentions the Nephites had goats and wild goats. The context of these verses implies they had domesticated goats. Why mention “goats and wild goats” if all the goats were wild?

But there were no domesticated goats in America during any of these times. Domesticated goats did not exist in America until Europeans arrived in America. The Book of Mormon should not mention them.

  • Windows

In the Book of Ether, when the Brother of Jared built the barges to cross the ocean, he asked the Lord if they would have to cross the ocean in darkness. In response, the Lord basically said, “What do you want me to do? You can’t have windows, because they will get shattered.”

Windows? Why would the Lord mention windows to the Brother of Jared? Windows didn’t exist when the Brother of Jared would have lived. Transparent glass windows did not exist until the 11th Century A.D., thousands of years later. Why would the Lord mention a technology that would not exist for thousands of years? If the Lord said to the Brother of Jared, “you can’t have windows,” this would have made no sense to the Brother of Jared. He didn’t know what a window was. There was no such thing at the time.

There are several other anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. I’ve only listed a few of the ones that  stand out to me.

At the end of the day, how can the Book of Mormon be riddled with so many anachronisms and yet be an authentic record of people that really existed in the Americas? I don’t believe that it can be.

I believe the Book of Mormon is fiction because Joseph Smith falsely claimed to translate it using the Urim and Thummim.

The Old Testament describes something called the Urim and Thummim a few times. In Exodus, it says that the High Priest of Israel would insert the Urim and Thummim into a breastplate.1 It’s not entirely clear from the text of the Bible what the Urim and Thummim was or its purpose, but scholars believe that it was two small objects used by the High Priest to judge whether someone was innocent or guilty of an offense. To me, it sounds like an ancient way of flipping a coin but instead of deciding something by heads or tails, it was decided in some way with these two small objects.

Whatever the Urim and Thummim actually was anciently, in Mormonism the Urim and Thummim plays a central role in the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon. In the Pearl of Great Price, when Moroni showed Joseph Smith the plates in the Hill Cumorah, the Urim and Thummim and a breastplate was there too. It also says that Joseph Smith took the Urim and Thummim with him when he received the plates and that he used the Urim and Thummim to translate some characters on the plates.2

Despite all the descriptions about using the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon, in other places the church explains that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.3

Which is it? Did he use the seer stone? Or did he use the Urim and Thummim? Or both? It can be difficult to determine the truth because it involves reading several old church records, some of which have been edited over time, but this is the conclusion I have come to:

Everything that says Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate to translate the Book of Mormon is misleading.

Let me explain.

In 1833, Joseph Smith published a book called the Book of Commandments. This book contained the text of many revelations received by Joseph Smith. This was the first time any of Joseph Smith’s revelations had been published. In 1835, the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published. This edition of the Doctrine and Covenants contained the same revelations that were in the Book of Commandments and also contained new revelations that had been received since 1833. Over time, many editions of the Doctrine and Covenants have been published, most notably in 1844, 1876, and 1981.

The first time the Urim and Thummim was ever mentioned in connection with the Book of Mormon was in 1833, when an account of the origins of the Book of Mormon was given by Joseph Smith’s close associate W. W. Phelps in the Evening and Morning Star.4 He wrote:

It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of Interpreters, or spectacles—(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim or Urim and Thummim)

Prior to this mention in 1833, no one had ever heard that the Urim and Thummim was used in the translation of the Book of Mormon, even though Joseph Smith supposedly saw the Urim and Thummim in the Hill Cumorah for the first time in 1823. If the Urim and Thummim was real, why was it never mentioned until 10 years after he supposedly first saw it? Also, if it was real, why did W. W. Phelps say “perhaps?”

This is where things start to get a little tricky. If you turn to D&C 10, the section heading says this revelation was written by Joseph Smith in 1828 or 1829.5 Verse 1 says:

Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.

Wait a minute. I just claimed that the first mention that the Urim and Thummim was used to translate the Book of Mormon was in 1833 but D&C 10 clearly mentions the Urim and Thummim in a revelation written in 1828 or 1829. With is it? 1833 or 1828/29?

Here’s what’s going on:

When D&C 10 was originally published in the 1833 Book of Commandments, this is what the first sentence of verse 1 looked like:6

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Pay attention to third line where it says “power to translate, into the hands of a wicked man.” In 1835, the first edition of Doctrine and Covenants republished this revelation. Here is the first sentence of this revelation when it was republished in 1835:7

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Clearly, the phrase “by the means of the Urim and Thummim” was inserted in 1835.

Once the puzzle is put together, here is a brief timeline of the Urim and Thummim:

  • Joseph Smith receives revelation that later becomes D&C 10 in 1828 or 1829. No mention of the Urim and Thummim.
  • The Book of Mormon is published in 1830. It mentions “interpreters” but contains no mention of the Urim and Thummim. Currently, the church interprets “interpreters” to mean “Urim and Thummim” but in 1830 no one would have made this connection because up to this time the Urim and Thummim had never been mentioned in connection with the Book of Mormon.
  • The Book of Commandments is published in 1833. It contains what is now D&C 10. No mention of the Urim and Thummim.
  • In an edition of the Evening and Morning Star published in 1833, W. W. Phelps writes that perhaps  the “interpreters” Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon was the Urim and Thummim mentioned in the Bible.
  • In 1835, the Doctrine and Covenants is first published. It reprints what is now D&C 10 and changes the text to say Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon.
  • The Urim and Thummim becomes the dominant story in the church for how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.

Why did the story change from the seer stone to the Urim and Thummim?

I believe there are a few reasons.

Remember in my last post where I described how Joseph Smith had been convicted of a defrauding people out of money using the same seer stone he used to translate the Book of Mormon? Well, as people converted to the church, some of them would have heard about this aspect of Joseph Smith’s past and this would likely cause them to question the church itself. Moving away from the seer stone and towards the Urim and Thummim was a way to distance the seer stone from Joseph Smith’s past.

Also, as the church grew I believe Joseph Smith wanted to move away from the magical roots of the Book of Mormon so he changed the story to something that sounded more biblical and less magical. The original story was the magical seer stone. The new story was the biblical Urim and Thummim.

While there have been a few times during church history that the seer stone has been mentioned, the Urim and Thummim has become such a dominant story in church culture that many people have never even heard of the seer stone or understand it’s history or role in creating the Book of Mormon.

At the end of the day, inserting the Urim and Thummim into the story at a much later date and making that story become the dominant story in the church is one reason I believe that the Book of Mormon was all a made-up story from the very beginning.


1 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/ex/28.30?lang=eng#29

2 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1.52-62?lang=eng

3 https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng

4 https://archive.org/stream/EveningAndMorningStarReprint/Evening%20and%20Morning%20Star%20Reprint#page/n117/mode/2up (see page 116, near top of right column)

5 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/10?lang=eng

6 http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-spring-1829-dc-10/1

7 http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/doctrine-and-covenants-1835/179

I believe the Book of Mormon is fiction because it was created the same way that Joseph Smith used to defraud people out of money.

In his young life, Joseph Smith was known as “seer” in his community. A seer is someone who could “see” things by looking into crystal ball, a stone, a bowl of water, fire, or other objects. Joseph Smith had a few seer stones that he used to see things in the earth. His favorite seer stone was a brown stone that he found when he was a teenager while helping dig a well for a man named Willard Chase. To see things in this stone, he would place the stone in the bottom of a hat, put his face into the hat to block out the light, and then somehow he would be able to see things in the rock.

At least he said he could see things. What could he see? He saw different things. He said he could see where lost treasure was buried in the earth, lost money, and lost property. People paid him money to use his seer stone to find these things. But there’s no indication that he ever actually ever found anything.

In 1825, Josiah Stowell hired Joseph Smith to use his seer stone to help him find underground gold mines. The mines were never found and the result was that Joseph Smith to be brought to trial for the crime of “glass looking.” Essentially, this meant that Joseph Smith was accused of defrauding Josiah Stowell out of money by claiming he could see things by looking into his seer stone.

At the trial, Josiah Stowell testified that he believed in Joseph Smith’s abilities despite the fact that the mines were never found. Others testified against Joseph Smith.

In the end, Joseph Smith was found guilty of a misdemeanor and was required to pay a fine of $2.68.

The original transcripts from the trial have been lost, but a copy of them were published in the 19th Century.1 In addition to the transcripts, an original copy of the courts’ bill for Joseph Smith has been found which verifies the fee of $2.68.2

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================
same [i.e. The People]
vs.                                                                Misdemeanor
Joseph Smith
The Glass Looker
March 20, 1826
.                                                                   To my fees in examination
================                                     of the above cause                     2.68

It was one of these same seer stones that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon. To translate the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith used the same method that he used to “see” buried treasure in the earth. He put the stone in a hat, put his face into the hat to block out the light, and “saw” glowing words on the rock that became the text of the Book of Mormon.

If the text of the Book of Mormon came from Joseph Smith looking at a stone in a hat, why does church artwork depict images of Joseph Smith sitting at a table, looking at the Golden Plates, with a scribe sitting across the table?3

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joseph-translating-gold-plates-329346-wallpaper

While the church does acknowledge that the text of the Book of Mormon was produced by Joseph Smith looking at a rock in a hat,4 I believe the church doesn’t show this in artwork and doesn’t talk about it very much for two main reasons:

First, the church does not want to connect the text of the Book of Mormon with the same process Joseph Smith used to “see” buried treasure in the earth.

It just sounds crazy, doesn’t it? If someone today told me they looked at a special rock in a hat that showed them where treasure was buried in the earth, I would not believe them. If they tried to prove it to me, unless there was extraordinary evidence to back up their claim, I would expect that anything they might do would be a trick.

If this same person, using the same rock in the same way, said they produced the text of an ancient book, I would not believe it either. If I wouldn’t believe it if someone told me this today, why should I believe it when Joseph Smith did the same thing?

Second, the church does not want to connect the text of the Book of Mormon with the same technique Joseph Smith used to defraud people out of money.

Anything that reflects poorly on Joseph Smith’s character does not promote faith in the church. A conviction for glass looking reflects poorly on Joseph Smith’s character. So the church doesn’t talk about it much. In artwork, in writing, and in song, the church paints a saintly image of Joseph Smith. He’s revered like no other human being that ever lived. He is considered to have done more than anyone who has ever existed, except Jesus, for the salvation of mankind. Given the image the  church has built up around Joseph Smith, they don’t want much time spent on the fact that defrauded people out of money – especially when the fraud involved the same technique he used to create the Book of Mormon.


1 https://archive.org/stream/frasersmagazine08unkngoog#page/n243/mode/1up

2 http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/byustudies/id/227/rec/4 (see pages 223-233)

3 https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/translating-plates-82841?lang=eng&category=

4 https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng&_r=1

I believe the Book of Mormon is fiction because the narrow neck of land doesn’t exist.

There is a lot I like about the Book of Mormon. Many of its messages inspire me. I love the story of Abinadi. I love the message of King Benjamin. But despite all the things I like about the Book of Mormon, I don’t believe it’s a record of people that existed in the real world.

One of the key geographic features in the Book of Mormon is the narrow neck of land that separates the land northward from the land southward. Find the narrow neck, and you find the place where the Book of Mormon took place.

Growing up in the church, I’d been told that maybe the narrow neck of land was in the Great Lakes region of the United States. This seemed to match up the closest with what I learned about church history and what I read in the Doctrine and Covenants.

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Or maybe it was Panama. One time, I was shown a video that explained why this was the case.

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Or maybe it was the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico. This seemed to be the favored theory of Mormon academics.

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Later in life, I learned that some people claim that the narrow neck is on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

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Or the Isthmus of Rivas in Nicaragua.2

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When I first ran across the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in the Baja Peninsula, it was like a light bulb went off above my head. “Maybe,” I thought, “no one can find it because it doesn’t exist at all.”

All these theories can’t be right. There are only two options: (1) one of these theories is correct; or (2) all of them are wrong.

If one of these theories is correct, which one is it? Why is there so much uncertainty about it? Why do so many faithful members have such confident conclusions about places spanning the North American continent? Why couldn’t someone figure it out? Why couldn’t the prophet ask God where it was?

Growing up in the church, I was promised on a number of occasions that archaeology would prove the Book of Mormon true. The more time passed and the more I studied, the less this seemed to be happening. Instead, the more I searched and pondered, the more the Book of Mormon appeared to be a 19th century work of fiction.

Over time, it appeared that option (2) was the only one that made sense. It made a lot more sense that all these theories were wrong and that the people looking for the narrow neck of land were looking for a fictional place that never existed.

Inspiring though it can be, if the Book of Mormon is fiction, that’s a fatal flaw for the church. How can the church be true if the Book of Mormon is fiction? It can’t be. The elusiveness of the narrow neck of land is one of the reasons I believe the Book of Mormon is fiction.


1 http://www.achoiceland.com/home

2 http://mormongeography.com

I believe Joseph Smith was not a prophet because he claimed he could translate the fake Kinderhook Plates

On April 23, 1843, near the town of Kinderhook, Illinois, a man named Robert Wiley excavated a large mound of earth and discovered some ancient plates. In a letter to the May 1, 1843 edition of the Times and Seasons,1 the discovery was described like this:

“a bundle was found that consisted of six plates of brass, of a bell shape, each having a hole near the small end, and a ring through them all, and clasped with two clasps, the ring and clasps appeared to be of iron very much oxydated, the plates appeared first to be copper, and had the appearance of being covered with characters. It was agreed by the company that I should cleanse the plates: accordingly I took them to my house, washed them with soap and water, and a woolen cloth; but finding them not yet cleansed I treated them with dilute sulphuric acid which made them perfectly clean, on which it appeared that they were completely covered with hieroglyphics that none as yet have been able to read. Wishing that the world might know the hidden things as fast as they come to light, I was induced to state the facts, hoping that you would give it an insertion in your excellent, paper for we all feel anxious to know the true meaning of the plates, and publishing, the facts might lead to the true translation.”

Published in the Times and Seasons along with this letter was this declaration:

We the citizens of Kinderhook, whose names are annexed, do certify and declare that on the 23d April, 1843, while excavating a large mound, in this vicinity, Mr. R. Wiley took from said mound, six brass plates of a bell shape, covered with ancient characters. Said plates were very much oxidated–the bands and rings on said plates mouldered into dust on a slight pressure. The above described plates we have handed to Mr. Sharp for the purpose of taking them to Nauvoo.

Rob’t Wiley                W. P. Harris             G. W. F. Ward

W. Longnecker          Fayette Grubb          Ira S. Curtis

Geo. Deckenson        W. Fugate                 J. R. Sharp

As stated in the declaration, the plates were taken to Nauvoo and presented to Joseph Smith. Here is the front and back of the six plates:2

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In the official History of the Church published in 1856, it describes Joseph Smiths’ version of the events:3

Monday, May 1.—I rode out with Lucien Woodworth, and paid him £20 for the Nauvoo House, which I borrowed of William Allen.

I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.

I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth.

In 1879, Wilbur Fugate, one of the men who submitted the declaration that was published in the Times and Seasons, said that the plates were a hoax. In a letter to James T. Cobb in Salt Lake City, Mr. Fugate said:4

Mr. Cobb: —

I received your letter in regard to those plates, and will say in answer that they are a HUMBUG, gotten up by Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitton and myself. Whitton is dead. I do not know whether Wiley is or not. None of the nine persons who signed the certificate knew the secret, except, Wiley and I. We read in Pratt’s prophecy that “Truth is yet to spring up out of the earth.” We concluded to prove the prophecy by way of a joke. We soon made our plans and executed them, Bridge Whitton cut them (the plates) out of some pieces of copper; Wiley and I made the hieroglyphics by making impressions on beeswax and filling them with acid and putting it on the plates. When they were finished we put them together with rust made of nitric acid, old iron and lead, and bound them with a piece of hoop iron, covering them completely with the rust. Our plans worked admirably.

Despite Mr. Fugate’s claim and other evidence that suggested the Kinderhook Plates were a hoax, the church continued to stand by the claim that they were authentic. By this time, the plates had been lost, so at the time there was no way to analyze the plates themselves.

Then, in the 1960’s one of the plates was discovered by a member of the BYU faculty at the Chicago Historical Society Museum. When the plate was first discovered and analyzed, it was believed that the symbols had been engraved with a pointed instrument and not etched with acid as Mr. Fugate claimed. Based upon this observation, in the September 1962 edition of the Improvement Era (an official magazine of the church like the Ensign is today) an article stated that the discovery of this plate reaffirmed Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling and proved that Mr. Fugate lied when he said he etched the plates with acid.5

In 1980, the plate was analyzed again by Professor D. Lynn Johnson of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. Dr. Johnson used a scanning electron microscope and a scanning Auger microprobe to determine that the Kinderhook Plates were, as Mr. Fugate said, etched with acid. This proved conclusively that the plates were indeed fake.

In the August 1981 Ensign, the church admitted the Kinderhook Plates were a hoax.6 However, rather than admitting that Joseph Smith had been fooled, the church instead claimed that Joseph Smith never said he translated them.

How did the church explain Joseph Smith’s statement that he “translated a portion of them” and that it was written by “a descendant of Ham,” a character from the Old Testament? They said that this claim was actually written by Joseph Smith’s scribe William Clayton and that it was unknown where William Clayton got this information. In other words, after almost 140 years of claiming the Kinderhook Plates were evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling and ability to translate, the church then claimed that Joseph Smith never actually said he translated them.

Does that make any sense? William Clayton was Joseph Smith’s scribe. It makes the most sense that he wrote what Joseph Smith told him to write. Up until the tests in 1980 which proved the plates were fake, the church claimed they were authentic. It seems awfully convenient to then state, when they were proved fake, that Joseph Smith didn’t really translate them.

Keep in mind that Doctrine and Covenants sections 129, 130, and a few other sections were taken from William Clayton’s writings when he was Joseph Smith’s scribe. In other words, the words written on paper by William Clayton when he was a scribe for Joseph Smith have been canonized which means the church considers them the words of Christ. And yet, when it comes to the Kinderhook Plates, the church claims William Clayton is unreliable. How convenient. Why is William Clayton a good enough scribe to put his writings in the scriptures, but not a good enough scribe when he said Joseph Smith translated the Kinderhook Plates?

What makes the most sense is that Mr. Fugate was correct that the plates were a hoax and that Joseph Smith, rather than being able to translate them, fell for the hoax.

If Joseph Smith could be so easily fooled by such a hoax, that tells me he was not a prophet. Rather, it tells me he was a fraud.


1 https://archive.org/stream/TimesAndSeasonsVol4/Times_and_Seasons_Vol_4#page/n293/mode/2up

2 http://archive.org/stream/historyofchurcho05churrich#page/374/mode/2up

3 http://archive.org/stream/historyofchurcho05churrich#page/372/mode/2up (link goes to 1909 edition)

4 http://olivercowdery.com/smithhome/1886WWyl.htm#pg207a

5 http://archive.org/stream/improvementera6509unse#page/n21/mode/2up

6 https://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/08/kinderhook-plates-brought-to-joseph-smith-appear-to-be-a-nineteenth-century-hoax?lang=eng

I believe Joseph Smith was not a prophet because the Book of Abraham translation is wrong

The question of whether Joseph Smith was a prophet is the key question that the church hinges on. If Joseph Smith was truly a prophet, then maybe the church is true (or maybe another church that traces itself to Joseph Smith is true). But if Joseph Smith was not a prophet, there is no way the church can be true.

One of the reasons believe Joseph Smith was not a prophet is because the Book of Abraham translation is all wrong.

Sometime between 1818 and 1822, an archaeologist named Antonio Lebolo discovered 11 mummies in Thebes, Egypt. Some papyri (literally, papers) that contained ancient Egyptian writing and images were discovered along with the mummies.

By 1833, these mummies and papyri ended up in New York where they were purchased by a man named Michael Chandler who travelled around the eastern United States to display and sell the mummies.

At the time, no one could read ancient Egyptian. Although the Rosetta Stone (which eventually allowed ancient Egyptian writing to be understood) had been discovered in 1799, it took several decades before archaeologists and linguists could confidently read ancient Egyptian. In the United States in the 1830’s, no one was skilled at reading ancient Egyptian.

But wait! Joseph Smith claimed the golden plates were written in “reformed Egyptian” and that he translated this language into the Book of Mormon.

Because of this, in 1835, Michael Chandler travelled to Kirtland, Ohio in the hopes of selling the last 4 mummies and remaining 2 papyri to the church. Joseph Smith felt impressed to buy the papyri and did so.

Later, Joseph Smith inspected the papyri and declared that one of the papyri contained the writings of Abraham and the other contained the Book of Joseph (the character from the book of Genesis in the Bible). Joseph Smith said that he translated the papyrus into what is now known as the Book of Abraham contained in the Pearl of Great Price. For some reason, the papyrus containing the Book of Joseph was never translated.

The text of the Book of Abraham, and the explanation for the images contained in the Book of Abraham all come from Joseph Smith.

Over time, the papyri and mummies were lost and thought to be destroyed in a fire. Then, in the 1960’s, some of the papyri were discovered in a museum in New York City and given to the church. By the 1960’s, the knowledge gained from the Rosetta Stone had spread throughout the world and ancient Egyptian could be read. This meant the writing on the papyrus could be compared to text of the Book of Abraham to see if Joseph Smith translated the words correctly.

The result? Not a single thing was translated correctly.

The picture below1 is the part of the papyrus that was discovered in the museum in New York. As you’ll notice, the head and hand is missing from the character on the left and the middle of the body on the table is also missing.

Facsimile 1 from the Book of Abraham

Below is Facsimile No. 1, as originally published in the March 1, 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons,2 the official church publication at the time. This image was created from the papyrus above. The explanations were given by Joseph Smith. As you’ll notice, a human head and hand holding a knife was added to the character on the left.

Facs 1 copy

In reality, the image should have looked more like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 5.23.10 PM

Notice the head of the character on the left. It is not a human head. This character is the Egyptian god Anubis, who had the head of a jackal.

The scene being depicted is not an attempted sacrifice. The papyrus says the man on the table was named Hor, not Abraham. Hor is not being sacrificed. In ancient Egypt, Anubis was a god associated with mummification and the afterlife. In this scene, Anubis is preparing Hor’s body for the afterlife.

The jars beneath the table do not represent idolatrous gods as Joseph Smith claimed. These are called canopic jars. In the mummification process, the person’s stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver were removed and placed in these jars. The jars in this picture represent the canopic jars that would have held Hor’s organs.

The big picture is this: there is not a single part of this facsimile, or any of the others, or any text on the papyrus that Joseph Smith translated correctly.

Today, the church tries to make sense of the failed translation by changing the definition of translation. On LDS.org, it says that instead of literally translating the papyrus, the papyrus gave Joseph Smith and opportunity to meditate, reflect, and receive revelation.3 This doesn’t make any sense to me. Joseph Smith said he translated it. Translate means translate, not “translate.” It wasn’t a mystery to him. There are written records demonstrating that he was translating the papyrus. Plus, the very first words at the beginning of the Book of Abraham are:

“A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”

Joseph Smith claimed to receive a lot of revelation in his life. If the Book of Abraham came from revelation instead of a translation, why didn’t he ever say so? The plain meaning of “written by his own hand” means that Abraham supposedly put the ink on the papyrus himself. This was the common understanding of the church until recent decades when the church has tried to offer other explanations as the problems with the Book of Abraham became undeniable.

Here is what I believe: he made it up.


1 http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/egyptian-papyri

2 https://archive.org/stream/TimesAndSeasonsV3#page/n135/mode/2up

3 https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng