Archive for January, 2022

An artist’s interpretation of what downtown Cahokia would have looked like in the late Sterling period after the palisade wall had been built around Monk’s Mound and the Grand Plaza. credit: National Geographic (click to zoom)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common body of evidence that’s often presented by some Mormon faithful as the best evidence for The Book of Mormon is the Hopewell Mound Builder culture in general and the mount builder complex of Cahokia in particular. A well-known case in point is Rock Waterman’s article in which he attempts to make that very case, starting his lengthy treatise like this:

“What struck me when I first arrived in Cahokia was the incredible stink.

I had been called to serve in the Missouri-Independence Mission, but my first area, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, was far from any of the historic church locations I had expected to to see when I got my call. Now, near the end of 1973, I had been transferred to my second location. I would spend my first winter as a missionary in smelly Cahokia, Illinois; as far from Far West or Independence or Adam-Ondi-Ahman as a guy could possibly get.

The small town of Cahokia was located next to East St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, famous for its slaughterhouses. The smell of bovine death and gore hovered in the air long after slaughtering had ceased for the day, floating up and mixing with the rancid smoke spewed from the smokestacks of the nearby Monsanto chemical plant, then slowly settling down over the hapless town of Cahokia to choke its residents while they slept. “It’s something you just get used to,” my new companion told me.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have been delighted to find myself in Cahokia instead of dreading it. As it turns out, I had landed smack dab in the middle of Book of Mormon Central and never even knew it.”
(Rock Waterman, “Best Evidence For The Book of Mormon”, Pure Mormonism website, November 1, 2011)

Mr. Waterman then goes on to point to a long list of secular and Mormon Apologist sources, especially Heartland Apologists like Rod Meldrum, to support the case that Cahokia and the Hopewell Culture as stunning historical and archaeological support for The Book of Mormon. There’s only one problem: It’s been already been soundly discredited by both those inside and outside of Mormonism. Consider, for example, well-known RLDS/CoC scholar “Uncle” Dale Broadhurst, who concluded thusly:

“The Mississippian Culture was NOT a “civilization.” Its members did not live in cities.

Cahokia was NOT Teotihuacan nor Pekin nor Rome — it was a ceremonial center surrounded by farmers’ huts and connected by waterways to other, smaller villages.

We should not think of its residents as engaging in city life, with artisans, shops, government workers, city planning, etc.

If you want to look at a culture on the verge of becoming a civilization, look at the Valley of Mexico at the time Cortez arrived.

No reputable paleo-anthropologist will resort to exotic, transoceanic dispersions to account for the technology, social structure, language, etc., of American Indians associated with the Adena, Hopewell, or Mississippian cultures.

Take a minute to address letters of inquiry to the topmost cultural anthropologists at Brigham Young University, asking them what aspects of the Mississippian Culture necessarily depended upon importation from elsewhere — in other words, what parts of their society could not have been “home-grown” from the ground up.

The answer you will get back is: maize agriculture.

That, and perhaps some external “hints” on how to make better pottery, or weave better baskets, or better shape native copper into ornaments.”
(Dale Broadhurst, Mormon Discussions, Thu Feb 25, 2010 12:39 pm; link now dead)

And then there’s this from secular Science Journalist, Charles Mann, in his award-winning book, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”:

“The Hopewell apparently sought spiritual ecstasy by putting themselves into trances, perhaps aided by tobacco. In this enraptured state, the soul journeys to other worlds. As is usually the case, people with special abilities emerged to assist travelers through the portal to the numinous. Over time these shamans became gatekeepers, controlling access to the supernatural realm. They passed on their control and privileges to their children, creating a hereditary priesthood: counselors to kings, if not kings themselves. They acquired healing lore, mastered and invented ceremonies, learned the numerous divinities in the Hopewell pantheon. We know little of these gods today, because few of their images have endured to the present. Presumably shamans recounted their stories to attentive crowds; almost certainly, they explained when and where the gods wanted to build mounds. “There is a stunning vigor about the Ohio Hopewell …,” Silverberg wrote,

‘a flamboyance and fondness for excess that manifests itself not only in the intricate geometrical enclosures and the massive mounds, but in these gaudy displays of conspicuous consumption [in the tombs]. To envelop a corpse from head to feet in pearls, to weigh it down in many pounds of copper, to surround it with masterpieces of sculpture and pottery, and then to bury everything under tons of earth—this betokens a kind of cultural energy that numbs and awes those who follow after.’

Vibrant and elaborate, perhaps a little vulgar in its passion for display, Hopewell religion spread through most of the eastern United States in the first four centuries A.D. As with the expansion of Christianity, the new converts are unlikely to have understood the religion in the same way as its founders. Nonetheless, its impact was profound. In a mutated form, it may well have given impetus to the rise of Cahokia.”
(Charles C. Mann, “1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” (Kindle Locations 5242-5255). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

In regard to The Book of Mormon, Mann explains elsewhere in the same book:

“Contact with Indians caused Europeans considerably more consternation. Columbus went to his grave convinced that he had landed on the shores of Asia, near India. The inhabitants of this previously unseen land were therefore Asians—hence the unfortunate name “Indians.” As his successors discovered that the Americas were not part of Asia, Indians became a dire anthropogonical problem.

According to Genesis, all human beings and animals perished in the Flood except those on Noah’s ark, which landed “upon the mountains of Ararat,” thought to be in eastern Turkey. How, then, was it possible for humans and animals to have crossed the immense Pacific? Did the existence of Indians negate the Bible, and Christianity with it?

Among the first to grapple directly with this question was the Jesuit educator José de Acosta, who spent a quarter century in New Spain. Any explanation of Indians’ origins, he wrote in 1590, “cannot contradict Holy Writ, which clearly teaches that all men descend from Adam.” Because Adam had lived in the Middle East, Acosta was “forced” to conclude “that the men of the Indies traveled there from Europe or Asia.” For this to be possible, the Americas and Asia “must join somewhere.”

If this is true, as indeed it appears to me to be, … we would have to say that they crossed not by sailing on the sea, but by walking on land. And they followed this way quite unthinkingly, changing places and lands little by little, with some of them settling in the lands already discovered and others seeking new ones.

Acosta’s hypothesis was in basic form widely accepted for centuries. For his successors, in fact, the main task was not to discover whether Indians’ ancestors had walked over from Eurasia, but which Europeans or Asians had done the walking. Enthusiasts proposed a dozen groups as the ancestral stock: Phoenicians, Basques, Chinese, Scythians, Romans, Africans, “Hindoos,” ancient Greeks, ancient Assyrians, ancient Egyptians, the inhabitants of Atlantis, even straying bands of Welsh. But the most widely accepted candidates were the Lost Tribes of Israel. Tribes of Israel.

The story of the Lost Tribes is revealed mainly in the Second Book of Kings of the Old Testament and the apocryphal Second (or Fourth, depending on the type of Bible) Book of Esdras. At that time, according to scripture, the Hebrew tribes had split into two adjacent confederations, the southern kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria. After the southern tribes took to behaving sinfully, divine retribution came in the form of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V, who overran Israel and exiled its ten constituent tribes to Mesopotamia (today’s Syria and Iraq). Now repenting of their wickedness, the Bible explains, the tribes resolved to “go to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient to their laws.” True to their word, they walked away and were never seen again.

Because the Book of Ezekiel prophesizes that in the final days God “will take the children of Israel from among the heathen … and bring them into their own land,” Christian scholars believed that the Israelites’ descendants—Ezekiel’s “children of Israel”—must still be living in some remote place, waiting to be taken back to their homeland. Identifying Indians as these “lost tribes” solved two puzzles at once: where the Israelites had gone, and the origins of Native Americans.

Acosta weighed the Indians-as-Jews theory but eventually dismissed it because Indians were not circumcised. Besides, he blithely explained, Jews were cowardly and greedy, and Indians were not. Others did not find his refutation convincing. The Lost Tribes theory was endorsed by authorities from Bartolomé de Las Casas to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and the famed minister Cotton Mather. (In a variant, the Book of Mormon argued that some Indians were descended from Israelites though not necessarily the Lost Tribes.) In 1650 James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, calculated from Old Testament genealogical data that God created the universe on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. So august was Ussher’s reputation, wrote historian Andrew Dickson White, that “his dates were inserted in the margins of the authorized version of the English Bible, and were soon practically regarded as equally inspired with the sacred text itself.” According to Ussher’s chronology, the Lost Tribes left Israel in 721 B.C. Presumably they began walking to the Americas soon thereafter. Even allowing for a slow passage, the Israelites must have arrived by around 500 B.C. When Columbus landed, the Americas therefore had been settled for barely two thousand years.

The Lost Tribes theory held sway until the nineteenth century, when it was challenged by events. As Lund had in Brazil, British scientists discovered some strange-looking human skeletons jumbled up with the skeletons of extinct Pleistocene mammals. The find, quickly duplicated in France, caused a sensation. To supporters of Darwin’s recently published theory of evolution, the find proved that the ancestors of modern humans had lived during the Ice Ages, tens of thousands of years ago. Others attacked this conclusion, and the skeletons became one of the casus belli of the evolution wars. Indirectly, the discovery also stimulated argument about the settlement of the Americas. Evolutionists believed that the Eastern and Western Hemispheres had developed in concert. If early humans had inhabited Europe during the Ice Ages, they must also have lived in the Americas at the same time. Indians must therefore have arrived before 500 B.C. Ussher’s chronology and the Lost Tribes scenario were wrong.

The nineteenth century was the heyday of amateur science. In the United States as in Europe, many of Darwin’s most ardent backers were successful tradespeople whose hobby was butterfly or beetle collecting. When these amateurs heard that the ancestors of Indians must have come to the Americas thousands of years ago, a surprising number of them decided to hunt for the evidence that would prove it.”
(Charles C. Mann, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”, positions 331.0-334.2/1222 Kindle Edition)

Therefore, it should come as no surprise when modern amateur scientific voyeurs retread the same path trod by those after 1492 and prior to better, more complete evidence arising that discredits these now long-discredited American Lost Tribes theories. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In short, and in conclusion, the only way to turn Cahokia and the Hopewell Culture into evidence for The Book of Mormon is to come to the conclusion first and then both cherry-pick the body of evidence for “hits” while ignoring the far more numerous “misses”. In other words, this is yet another one where Mormon Confirmation Bias reigns supreme over logic and reason. Cahokia and the Hopewell Mount Builders are not only not a bull’s eye for The Book of Mormon, but they’re also not even in the same pub where the dartboard resides.

An artist’s recreation of downtown Cahokia, with Monk’s Mound at its center. (click to zoom)

 Artwork courtesy of ArsTechnica

… Read the Book of Mormon Without Proper Mormon Grooming!

Social Justice Warrior, Greta “How Dare You!” Thunberg, weighs in on the matter.

by Fred W. Anson
The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. I say this as someone who has read it cover-to-cover not just once but more than once and then only after studying it for decades prior to that. But hey, don’t take my word for it, take the word of the man who is considered by many to be one of America’s greatest authors and creator of some of the best American literature ever written, Mark Twain, who said of the book:

“All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, accourding to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason…

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is “smouched” from the New Testament and no credit given.”
(Mark Twain, “Roughing It”, Chapter 16)

Or how about the assessment of Charles H. Spurgeon, one of the most respected and influential preachers of the late 19th Century:

“One of the most modern pretenders to inspiration is the Book of Mormon. I could not blame you should you laugh outright while I read aloud a page from that farrago.”
(C.H. Spurgeon, “Our Manifesto”, April 25th, 1890)

And if you don’t believe Mark Twain, C.H. Spurgeon, or me, consider the words of Harold Bloom, American’s leading 20th Century Literary Critic:

“With the Book of Mormon, we arrive at the center of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission, but hardly at any center of Mormonism, because of Smith’s extraordinary capacity for speculative development in the fourteen years that remained to him after its publication. The Book of Mormon was not only his first work; it is the portrait of a self-educated, powerful mind at the untried age of twenty-four. It has bravura, but beyond question it is wholly tendentious and frequently tedious. If one compares it closely to Smith’s imaginings in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants, it seems the work of some other writer, and I don’t mean Mormon or Moroni.”
(Harold Bloom, “The American Religion”, Chu Hartley Publishers. Kindle Edition, Locations 1184-1189) 

And if you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not fair, you and Harold Bloom are critiquing a 19th Century literary style based on today’s modern standards”, consider this from Alexander Campbell, the founder, and leader of Campbellism, who said this of the book only two years after its publication:

“These are but as one drop out of a bucket compared with the amount of Smithisms in this book. It is patched up and cemented with “And it came to pass” — “I sayeth unto you” — “Ye saith unto him” — and all the King James’ haths, dids and doths; in the lowest imitation of the common version; and is, without exaggeration, the meanest book in the English language; but it is a translation made through stone spectacles, in a dark room, and in the hat of the prophet Smith from the reformed Egyptian!!! It has not one good sentence in it, save the profanation of those sentences quoted from the Oracles of the living God. I would as soon compare a bat to the American eagle, a mouse to a mammoth, or the deformities of a spectre to the beauty of Him whom John saw in Patmos, as to contrast it with a single chapter in all the writings of the Jewish or Christian prophets. It is as certainly Smith’s fabrication as Satan is the father of lies, or darkness the offspring of night. So much for the internal evidences of the Book of Mormon.”
(Alexander Campbell, “Delusions an analysis of the Book of Mormon…”, (1832), p.14) 

And if that’s still not enough, I would encourage you to speak to anyone who has read the book on its own merits without having Mormon Missionaries or any other Mormon influence hovering around them and telling them what a marvelous work and a wonder this insipid mess of mangled Elizabethan English combined with antiquated 19th Century ideas (such as American Restorationism and American Anglo-Israelism) it really is.

So the question remains, then how and why can millions of Mormons all over the world claim that this horrible book is some kind of inspired glory? Enter the power of suggestion. From the 2004 edition of the current, official LdS Church Missionary Manual:

“This message of the Restoration is either true or it is not. We can know that it is true by the Holy Ghost, as promised in Moroni 10:3–5. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must ask in prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true. In order to do this, we address our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for our blessings and ask to know that the message of the Book of Mormon is true. No one can know of spiritual truths without prayer.

In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts.

Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration.

Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him.”
(LdS Church, “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service” (2004 edition), p.39)

Not enough? Then how about this from former LdS Church President and “Living Prophet” Thomas S. Monson?

“This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.

We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.

If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.

My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. I so testify with all my heart in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon”, Spring General Conference 2017)

I mean, with over-the-top hyperbole and gushing like that how can it possibly be anything but one of the greatest, most powerful, stunningly inspired, incredible, works of English literature ever produced, right?

Two words in response: Read it. Yes, read it yourself so you can experience “inspired” prose like this, for yourself:

1 Nephi 14
23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.

25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

Wow, how can you argue with circular, over-blown, repetitious, grammar-challenged, gibberish like that?

Missionaries weigh in on the matter.

Back in December 2019, my Mormon Studies colleague, Kathy Petersen, had the brilliant idea of setting up a Book of Mormon daily reading program so non-Mormons could do just that – read it all in a year, cover-to-cover, just like many Bible reading programs out there do. And to do all that without any Mormon influence or interference, so the group could discuss the book honesty without being told (see above) what we should think and feel about it in advance, during, or after it was read. So she did. And, full disclosure here, I agreed to help her get it established, running and maintained because, candidly, I thought that the idea was pure, absolute, genius (still do!) Here’s how the group description, in part, reads:

“The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka “TOYBOM”) is specifically for Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so that we can openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense…

NO MORMONS ARE ALLOWED HERE
Mormons (that is, members of any Latter Day Saint group or denomination) are NOT allowed in this group. Period.

That’s so we can speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public.

Our goal here is to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.”
(see Facebook, The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year

The wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth that we got from Latter-day Saints in general, and Mormon Missionaries was swift and to the point: We were told that no one could possibly understand or appreciate this great, soaring, inspired, paradigm-changing work on its own without Latter-day Saints being in the room to explain it to them. We were told by virtue of the fact that Mormons could not be a part of the discussion and conversation the Book of Mormon would, no doubt, be completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by the non-Mormons in the group.

To all this, my Latter-day Friends and Mormon Missionary friends I just have one question: Why?

After all, if the Book of Mormon is truly everything that you all claim it is, shouldn’t it speak for itself? Shouldn’t its stunning inspiration and clear veracity be apparent simply by cracking its cover and reading it? Shouldn’t it be exactly as the Moroni 10 Challenge states?

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
— Moroni 10:3-5

Latter-day Saint friends, can you please show us where in the Moroni 10 Challenge it says, “Unless, of course, there are no Latter-day Saints around or present to groom and guide you, in which case, fuggedaboutit!”? I can’t seem to find it, and neither can anyone else.

So, back to the “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year” group. We started the daily readings and it didn’t take long before the wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth were soon coming from these intrepid non-Mormons who had committed to reading this overwhelmingly boring and dreadfully written book in a year. They were stunned, absolutely stunned from the front cover to the back cover that anyone could come to anything but the obvious conclusion that (to borrow and paraphrase from Lamoni’s queen in Alma 19:5): As for myself, to me it doth truly stink.

So I will end this article the way that I began it: The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. Or to put it another way, friends, the Emperor has no clothes! And if you doubt that, then just read it for yourself. With no one else around. It speaks for itself, and it says loudly, “These things are not true.”

(click to zoom)

I think that anyone who has actually done it can relate to this.