The early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Vogue says the musical is hilarious and irreverent, but “it’s dirty little secret is its big heart.”
A few months ago, while at USU, I invited the missionaries over to my apartment for a discussion. I told them that I had several non-Mormon roommates who may be interested in learning about Mormonism, so we scheduled a meeting time. As soon as the missionaries arrived for the appointment, my roommates were all (suddenly and suspiciously) unavailable. That left me and another ex-Mormon friend alone with the missionaries.
Missionaries don’t typically meet with former members, because we are not the most receptive audience for the church’s message. But my friend and I were respectful, and we listened to them give their spiel and bear their testimonies. The junior missionary then asked if we’d pray about the Book of Mormon to find out whether it’s true. “Probably not.” was my terse reply.
That sounds closed-minded, I’m sure. Allow me to explain the reasons behind my answer.
I’ve written before that Book of Mormon geography is elusive. LDS scholars place the Book of Mormon in a Mesoamerican setting, but it’s not a comfortable fit. The most compelling—or at least the most curious—correspondence between the Book of Mormon and real world geography, though, isn’t found in the American continents at all, but Africa.
Now, the Mormon connection with the name Moroni is obvious, but the connection with Comoros is probably less so. Before the French colonized the islands in 1841, the Comoros Islands were known by its Arabic name “Camora.” And it’s this name that bears a resemblance to Cumorah, the hill where Moroni deposited the gold plates—a resemblance made all the more striking by the fact that in the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon, Cumorah was uniformly spelled “Camorah.”
I’ve had a series of recent posts in which I’ve been critical of the Book of Mormon. I make no apologies for those criticisms, but I also don’t want to give the impression that I find the Book of Mormon devoid of any value.
I don’t think it’s inspired. I don’t even think it’s a good read. But what the Book of Mormon says about poverty still resonates with me:
And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—but I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
The Book of Mormon is a purported history of several ancient American peoples. Foremost among them are the Nephites and the Lamanites. Their histories make up the bulk of the Book of Mormon. But Lehi and his group were not the first to discover America in 600 BC. That was accomplished by an earlier Book of Mormon peoples: the Jaredites.
The Jaredites are said to have existed between 2700 BC, when they traveled to America, and 600 BC, when they succumbed to civil war. This post, though, will only examine the Jaredites’ implausible journey to America, because its bizarre and anachronistic details are evidences against the Book of Mormon’s historicity.
Jared and his family lived during the time of the Tower of Babel, where Yahweh confounded the languages of every peoples and scattered them across the world. Because Jared and his family were righteous, god let them retain their language and promised to lead them to “a land which is choice above all the earth.” (Ether 2:7)
The Lord directed the brother of Jared to build barges to take him and his family on a year-long voyage to America. They would also take aboard a variety of creatures (sound familiar?)—”their flocks,” “fowls of the air,” “fish of the waters,” and even “swarms of bees.”
The barges were to be “small,” “light,” and “exceedingly tight…like unto a dish” (Ether 2:16-17). It was important for the barges to be watertight, because the Lord warned that they would often be “buried in the depths of the sea” (Ether 6:6). These Jaredite vessels, then, were effectively the first submersible vessels.
Informed by the comments, some revisions have been made to the original post.
This post begins my series-long critique of the Book of Mormon. And to kick-off the series, I’m going to focus on what I consider to be the most problematic part of the Book of Mormon: Third Nephi, chapters 8 and 9. These chapters record the events that immediately followed the crucifixion of Christ.
And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder. And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land. (3 Nephi 8: 5-7)
Whirlwinds, three days of darkness, and the wholesale destruction of many ancient American cities are described in 3 Nephi 8 as well. Amidst this chaos, the Nephites and Lamanites might well have asked, “Where is our god?” Well, we find out in 3 Nephi 9 that god was behind it all. Indeed, he seems to boast about it:
I haven’t written a new installment to my “Why I Don’t Believe” series since last year. The series demanded a lot of my time, and I quickly got burnt-out. For a while, I toyed with writing a “Why I Don’t Believe” post about the Book of Mormon. That, though, proved to be a rather daunting undertaking. There is so much that needs to be said about the Book of Mormon that I couldn’t possibly distill my thoughts into a single post. So I’ve decided to devote an entire series to the Book of Mormon.
In the October 2009 LDS General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said that those who leave the LDS Church must do so “by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit.” Holland argued that apostates have to ignore the Book of Mormon, because they cannot explain it.
Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.
I disagree with Elder Holland that the only available answer is that Joseph Smith translated an ancient American history by the power of god. That is a textbook example of an argument from ignorance. But I do actually agree with Elder Holland on this point: Some critics are too quick to dismiss the Book of Mormon. And while the burden of proof rests primarily with its believers, I nonetheless think we owe the Book of Mormon more than just an indifferent shrug or rolled eyes. That’s why I’m writing this series—to grapple honestly with the Book of Mormon.
I probably read more Mormon apologetics than I do critical ‘anti-Mormon’ literature. And as a debater, I cannot help but be impressed by some apologists. They are often very inventive with their arguments—talented mental gymnasts, if you will.
Hugh Nibley was notorious for selectively mining ancient cultures for parallels to Mormonism. John L. Sorenson argued that when the Book of Mormon anachronistically mentions horses and elephants, what is actually meant is ‘tapirs‘ and ‘mammoths,’ respectively. Others like Louis Midgley played the postmodernist trump card that objectivity is a fiction and thus all perspectives (Mormonism included) are valid.
But not all apologists are so clever. Enter Kerry “The Backyard Professor” Shirts. Shirts has been published in FARMS and is one of the creators of FAIR, an LDS apologetics website. Many of his arguments are just downright lazy. Consider this video, where Shirts argues that the phrase “and it came to pass” proves the Book of Mormon is true.