Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Studies of the Book of Mormon/Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study/Origin

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Response to Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study- Origin of Native American Races and Their Culture

A FairMormon Analysis of: Criticism of Mormonism/Books, a work by author: B.H. Roberts, edited by Brigham D. Madsen

Response to Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study- Origin of Native American Races and Their Culture

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Can we successfully maintain the Book of Mormon’s comparatively recent advent of man in America and the existence of his iron and steel and domestic animal, and written language stage of culture against the deduction of our late American writers upon these themes? If we cannot, what is to be the effect of it all upon the minds of our youth? What is to be our general standing before the enlightened opinion of mankind? Is silence to be our answer?...Silence in an age of free inquiry is impossible…Most humbly, but also most anxiously, I await the further development of knowledge that will make it possible for us to give a reasonable answer to those who question us concerning the matters herein discussed.
—B.H. Roberts, “Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study,” ‘’Studies of the Book of Mormon’’, p. 143
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Response to hypothesis: 116-117 - the Book of Mormon “postulates those lands as uninhabited” for the entirety of the North and South American continents

The author(s) of Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study present(s) the following hypothesis:

*Roberts presents the following questions regarding the origin of Native Americans compared to what might be assumed from the Book of Mormon:
  • Roberts notes that the Book of Mormon “tells of the origin of American peoples."
  • According to Roberts, the Book of Mormon “postulates those lands as uninhabited” when the Jaredites arrived. ("yea, into that quarter where never had man been.”

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Roberts associates the lands that are uninhabited with the entirety of the North and South American continents (hemispheric geography), however, an close reading of the Book of Mormon indicates that the civilizations described existed in a much more limited geographical area.

Question: Why have Church leaders taught a hemispheric geography for the Book of Mormon rather than a limited one?

"Traditional" interpretations of the Book of Mormon assume a hemispheric geography

Latter-day Saint anthropologist John L. Sorenson specifically notes that there is a difference between the "traditional" interpretation of the Book of Mormon versus what it actually says,

One problem some Latter-day Saint writers and lecturers have had is confusing the actual text of the Book of Mormon with the traditional interpretation of it. For example, a commonly heard statement is that the Book of Mormon is “the history of the American Indians.” This statement contains a number of unexamined assumptions—that the scripture is a history in the common sense—a systematic, chronological account of the main events in the past of a nation or territory; that “the” American Indians are a unitary population; and that the approximately one hundred pages of text containing historical and cultural material in the scripture could conceivably tell the entire history of a hemisphere. When unexamined assumptions like these are made, critics respond in kind, criticizing not the ancient text itself, but the assumptions we have made about it. [1]

Sorenson notes that critics make the same assumptions about traditional interpretations as Latter-day saints,

Among the criticisms of the Book of Mormon by archaeologists, the two most widely circulated statements (the late Robert Wauchope’s book and Michael Coe’s article nearly a decade ago) suffer from similar limitations. Both of these eminent scholars based their reactions to the Book of Mormon on the same unfortunate assumption that the Book of Mormon account is about events involving American Indians throughout the entire New World. Their conclusions were as flawed as those arrived at by some Latter-day Saints. [1]


Response to hypothesis: 119 - "according to the Book of Mormon; they speak of no other with whom they came in contact"

The author(s) of Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study present(s) the following hypothesis:

*Roberts states that the Nephites and Jaredites,

…are the only peoples that occupied the American continents, up to 420 A.D., according to the Book of Mormon; they speak of no other with whom they came in contact, or who immigrated into the land during their occupancy of it.

(Author's sources:
  1. 2 Nephi 1:8-9)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Roberts associates the lands that are uninhabited with the entirety of the North and South American continents (hemispheric geography), however, an close reading of the Book of Mormon indicates that the civilizations described existed in a much more limited geographical area.

Response to hypothesis: 142 - the Book of Mormon requires “an empty America” in 3000 years B.C.

The author(s) of Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study present(s) the following hypothesis:

Roberts states that the Book of Mormon requires “an empty America” in 3000 years B.C., the establishment of an iron age culture (the Jaredites), following by a total destruction which leaves “the American continents again without human inhabitants.”

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Roberts associates the lands that are uninhabited with the entirety of the North and South American continents (hemispheric geography), however, an close reading of the Book of Mormon indicates that the civilizations described existed in a much more limited geographical area.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 John L. Sorenson, "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient America and Its Scripture" (Part 1), Ensign (September 1984) off-site