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What are scholarly objections to the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon? Answers backed up with sources will be appreciated.

Note: this question is asked in good faith, with the intention of having a balanced perspective of a non-trivial discussion. The counterpart question can be found at According to LDS, what are the strongest apologetic arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon?

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  • 4
    It's going to be really hard to list the reasons - and there are hundreds - without any Mormons present feeling insulted. Jul 7 at 16:10
  • 6
    @DJClayworth If so, then those people need to grow thicker skins. People aren't Mormons for reasons - what are they? Jul 7 at 16:18
  • 9
    That's not the normal definition of belief. Russell was being sarcastic. Rational debate is very much relevant to belief. Jul 9 at 13:08
  • 3
    @OneGodtheFather Why must they grow thicker skins? Perhaps a less callous approach would serve?
    – chiggsy
    Jul 10 at 2:54
  • 2
    Apologetics is the defense of a doctrine, not the defense against a doctrine.
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 10 at 20:03
34

The arguments against the authenticity and veracity of the Book of Mormon are multiple. To name a few:

  1. Convenient absence of the original 'golden plates' According to Joseph Smith the golden plates from which the current translation was made were taken back to heaven by the Angel Moroni, leaving only Joseph Smith's 'translation'. It is similarly convenient that nobody saw Joseph Smith doing his translation, and only very few said they saw the "golden plates".
  2. Copied sections. Several sections of the BoM are exact copies of passages from the King James version of the Bible. This despite the fact that the BoM translation was supposed to be written in contemporary 19th century American English (and based on thousand year old documents), while the KJV was written in 16th century British English. The copied passages include some translations that are now known to be wrong.
  3. Huge numbers of historical anachronisms. Horses, cows, goats, elephants, barley, wheat, silk, steel, and much more are mentioned extensively and regarded as commonplace in the BoM, but were unknown in pre-Columbian America where the books are set.
  4. Lack of genetic and linguistic connections between pre-Columbian America and ancient Israel. Historical accuracy of the BoM would indicate genetic and linguistic links between Biblical Hebrews and native Americans. No such links exist.
  5. Almost total absence of corroborating archaeological evidence. Virtually none of the places, peoples or events of the BoM have been identified. These peoples, places and events are described as spanning much of the American continents, yet no traces of them have been found. The only relevant archaeology is a single place in the Middle East, which may correspond with a similarly named town mentioned in passing in the early part of the BoM. By contrast many of the people, places and events of the Bible are extremely well supported by historical evidence, and many places exist today.
  6. Reformed Egyptian. Smith claims to have translated the book from "Reformed Egyptian", but no such language exists, and the characters Smith provides as an example of the writing are described as "Smith's invention" by Egyptologists.
  7. Inaccuracy of Smith's other 'translations'. Joseph Smith also translated the "Book of Abraham" based on Egyptian papyri he had bought from a travelling exhibition, and which still exist. The meaning of those papayri is not consistent with Smith's 'translation', and the 'translation' shows other historical inaccuracies.
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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 8 at 19:30
  • Typo in #2: "known to wrong" should be "known to be wrong"
    – Cullub
    Jul 9 at 21:00
  • I know it's a proving-a-negative issue but do you have a source for #4? I've met people that think one of the Lost Tribes could be one of the Native American tribes. Jul 10 at 6:35
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    @DJClayworth thank you for the respectful approach you take in this post, I know that's hard to do. Much appreciated. A response to these 7 points is offered in section 1 of this post on the parallel question Jul 10 at 20:15
  • 3
    Another response with rebuttals to the 7 points can be found in this post. Jul 11 at 14:16
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Reformed Egyptian and archeology

Only a select few ever claimed to have seen the golden plates Smith said contained the records of the Book of Mormon. The plates were said to have been written in reformed Egyptian.

The Book of Mormon uses the term "reformed Egyptian" in only one verse, Mormon 9:32, which says that "the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, [were] handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech" and that "none other people knoweth our language."

Thomas Ferguson, a devout Mormon at the time, undertook a significant archeological effort to prove The Book of Mormon

Ferguson realized, however, that colonial sources represented circumstantial evidence at best. Nor was it enough to find ruins of past civilizations in more or less the right location, as he had done in Campeche. To persuade and convert outsiders—a priority for Mormons—he sought objects mentioned in the Book of Mormon that archaeologists hadn't found in Mesoamerica: horses, wheeled chariots, steel swords, and, most important, Hebrew or Egyptian script. "The final test of our views of Book of Mormon geography will be archaeological work in the ground itself," Ferguson wrote in 1951 to his friend J. Willard Marriott, the wealthy founder of the Marriott hospitality chain and a powerful figure in the church.

Ferguson never found any African(Egyptian) or European things to prove the Book of Mormon. What shook Ferguson's faith was the finding of the scrolls Joseph Smith used to write Book of Abraham. Ferguson obtained photos and sent them to Egyptologists (who had the Rosetta Stone to help translate) who concluded

"I believe that all of these are spells from the Egyptian Book of the Dead," UC Berkeley Egyptologist Leonard Lesko wrote to Ferguson. Three other scholars independently gave Ferguson the same result: The texts were authentic ancient Egyptian, but represented one of the most common documents in that culture.

After decades of stressing the importance of the scientific method and using it to shore up his own faith, Ferguson now found himself at its mercy. "I must conclude that Joseph Smith had not the remotest skill in things Egyptian-hieroglyphics," he wrote to a fellow doubting Mormon in 1971. What's more, he wrote to another, "Right now I am inclined to think that all of those who claim to be ‘prophets’, including Moses, were without a means of communication with deity."

This casts significant doubt that Smith had found some new form of Egyptian writing.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 9 at 19:43
  • just FYI John Ferguson never studied archaeology, he was a lawyer. If you want to see an apologist view on him here
    – depperm
    Jul 9 at 19:57
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Why should we believe Mormonism's one and only source? The content of the Bible enjoys the benefit of what historians call "multiple independent attestation." that is, the events, people and places recorded in the Bible very often are represented in multiple and frequently unrelated sources, (literary, physical artifacts, verified locations, etc.).

What this means is that even if the bible were never written, many of the people, places and events recorded in its pages would still be documented or represented for us in the plethora of diverse types of evidence from history.

The simple fact is, many of the people, places and events recorded in the Bible are deeply and inexorably woven into the fabric of history itself and thus, as one might expect, those people, places and events were observed, recorded and represented in many places from many different points of view. I mention this here to provide an example of commonly recognized reality that stands in strong, even stark, glaring CONTRAST to the claims of Mormonism.

So what is different about the claims of Mormonism?

The entire body of Mormonism, 100% of its "scriptural" content (apart from its borrowings from the Bible) is fully and exclusively traceable to and or dependent upon exactly and only one source; the claims of one man--Joseph Smith, and Joseph Smith ALONE.

He is the single, sole source of the Mormon "revelation." That means that if Joseph Smith had never been born, we would have no knowledge of any portion of the LDS "revelation," its "scripture" and its supposed "restoration." We would have no reason nor any other source from which to derive any reason to think that any portion of the "Mormon" scriptures, (such as the Book of Mormon, the so-called "Book of Abraham," or the D&C) would have ever even existed let alone have any reason to believe their content.

Therefore it is reasonable to ask, why should we believe him since there is exactly nothing in Mormonism's unique claims that would have ever been even mentioned on earth if Smith had never been born.

For example.

1.) If the BoM civilizations really did at least exist, where are the multiple lines of evidence that would necessarily indicate this? Why should we not expect to see multiple lines of evidence supporting the simple existence of these vast civilizations? It is certainly true that all other large ancient civilizations left an abundance of diverse evidence of themselves. It's even true of MANY tiny little tribes. Why do the claims of Mormonism require or deserve special pleading?

2.) What is the evidence to suggest, much less confirm that the Egyptians buried their dead with copies of the "Book of Abraham?" Why would 1st Century Egyptians bury their dead with tomes by and about the Jewish patriarch Abraham instead of burying their dead with the funeral documents and magical incantations of the afterlife in accordance with the tenets of their OWN Kemite religion? Where is there any evidence to suggest that they did so?

I want to know if there is any reason to actually think the man was simply telling the TRUTH, since he alone is the one and only source for all of the claims that distinguish the LDS religion from historically orthodox, biblical Christianity.

I am asking you to show me some lines of evidence that connect the historical, linguistic and supposedly prophetic claims of Joseph Smith to the real world. Without some of that evidence, other Christians will see no grounds for even considering the Book of Mormon and other LDS texts to possibly be divinely inspired.

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    @TKoL Please, you have no right to "assume" I have animosity for the LDS people. Animosity, "a strong feeling of dislike or hatred; ill will or resentment tending toward active hostility. Do not presume to know the operation of one's mind. What I say about Mormonism and how I feel about Mormons are two different things. I've dealt with Mormons for over 58 years now, confronted hundreds of them on their bicycles and had formal debates with their elders. It's not my job to convert them, it's Gods job. I am commissioned to open my mouth per Matthew 28:19. I love them for Christ's sake.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jul 8 at 14:29
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 12 at 0:19

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