Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon

Table of Contents

Response to "Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon"

Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon by Jerald and Sandra Tanner


Index of claims

Summary: Responses to specific critical or unsupported claims made in Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon indexed by page number.


Reviews of this work

Tom Nibley, "A Look at Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon"

Tom Nibley,  Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, (1993)
In Covering Up the Black Hole, the Tanners advance an argument regarding the time it took to translate, the conclusion being that the small plates would translate more quickly because of "extensive plagiarism" and "lack of details" (p. 43). (The details are so sparse, in fact, that Hugh Nibley has only been able to write two books, Lehi in the Desert and An Approach to the Book of Mormon, plus large portions of two others based on those few crumbs that remain, while many other authors have written from and about these meager leavings, but I'm afraid I haven't been able to read most of them. I'm not on their mailing lists.) The ending date of the translation the Tanners use is B. H. Roberts's nebulous "between the early part of June 1829, and August of the same year" (p. 43). Now if our super sleuths had taken the time to do a little elementary arithmetic they might have been canny enough to see that the translation was moving slower, not faster, at this time. The same conclusion is arrived at by John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone in the first chapter of Reexploring the Book of Mormon,4 where the time of translation is given a closer look. Now I certainly wouldn't want to accuse our learned mentors of the slightest taint of anything that might smack of duplicity, so I'll just call these things little "whoopsies."

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L. Ara Norwood, "Review of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon"

L. Ara Norwood,  Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, (1991)
In this review, I will enumerate a few of the examples I have found where additional evidence was avoided by the Tanners—evidence which, if taken into account, would more than cast doubt on their thesis.1


The Black Hole theory is not a new one, but only a detailed restatement of an old Fawn Brodie theory that attempts to explain away the Book of Mormon. Since the world simply cannot and will not accept the book on its own terms, critics from the earliest days of the restoration have sought to devise alternate explanations for its existence. The Tanners' act is not the newest and is sure to be followed by many more players, all seeking center stage where they can "take their brief bows in the secular spotlight."

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Matthew Roper, "Review of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon"

Matthew Roper,  Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, (1991)
The Tanners suggest that Martin Harris's loss of the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon left a serious void in Joseph Smith's work, which they call the "black hole." Having lost so much, Joseph feared that if he attempted to rewrite this portion of the manuscript he would be unable to remember all the details of the lost narrative. Therefore, to avoid being detected as a forger and a deceiver, Joseph was deliberately vague concerning matters of history in the small plates (pp. 12-14). This is why, according to the authors, the section 1 Nephi through Omni contains so few details concerning wars, names of kings, cities, women, etc. (pp.14-23). To replace what had been lost, Joseph plagiarized from the Bible with the hope that he would not be detected. Today, using the computerized scriptures of the Latter-day Saint Church itself, it is possible, the authors say, to detect where Joseph Smith plagiarized the Bible.

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John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon"

John A. Tvedtnes,  Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, (1991)
A common theme in many of the Tanners' publications is the idea that the "Mormon" Church is out to hoodwink people. Not content to charge Joseph Smith with fraud and forgery (as they term it) in the case of the Book of Mormon and the book of Abraham, they point out that the official History of the Church was not really written by Joseph Smith and that changes in the early records from third to first person have been made "to deceive the reader" (p. 3). They believe that this pattern of forgery is common to Latter-day Saint culture, and point not only to Mark Hofmann's work, but to the forged Howard Hughes will, leaving a sizeable portion of his estate to the Church, and to Ronald Vern Jackson's forgery of a document to support Joseph Smith's story. Having laid this foundation, the Tanners define the Book of Mormon as a "forgery," i.e., a book written by Joseph Smith and falsely claimed to have been written by ancient scribes.

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