Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

More from the Yucatan

In a recent post, I discussed the sixteenth century Spanish account of Friar Diego de Landa about his experiences with the inhabitants of Mesoamerica shortly after the Spanish arrived and conquered the land. His description of a ritual much like Christian baptism is certainly an intriguing hint at possible ties to ancient Book of Mormon peoples. But in addition to that dramatic section, there are many other passages of possible interest. Here are some I've noted in my reading, followed by my comments.

These islands [in a large lagoon] with their shores and sandy beaches have . . . deer, hare, the wild pigs of that country, monkeys as well, which are not found in Yucatan. (pp. 2-3)
Some critics have mocked the Book of Mormon for referring to swine, claiming that they were unknown in the New World. The Book of Mormon does not say that the Nephites had swine or ate swine (which would have been a violation of the law of Moses), though one verse indicates that the earlier Jaredites did (Ether 9:18) - but the Jaredites were not under the law of Moses. Does "swine" necessarily refer to the type of animal we think of today? Perhaps not. I suspect that the "pigs" of de Landa and the "swine" of the Jaredites refers to peccaries, which are common in Mesoamerica and look very much like domesticated pigs.
Some of men of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the East, whom God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea. If this is true, all of the inhabitants of the Indies must be of Jewish descent. . . . (p. 8).
Other Spaniards and other American and European writers, including Solomon Spaulding, had speculated about a possible link between the lost tribes and the Jews, as one of many theories that had been circulating in Joseph Smith's day. But the fact the de Landa heard a legend from the natives hinting at a transoceanic voyage from the east should not be dismissed lightly.
The most important thing that the chiefs who stripped Mayapan took away to their own countries were the books of their sciences, for they were always very subject to the counsels of their priests, for which reason there are so many temples in those provinces. . . . (p. 17)
The passage above is in the context of describing large stone monuments with engraved writing, now largely worn away, pertaining to a destroyed city, Mayapan, that was abandoned about 120 years before de Landa came on the scene (p. 16). De Landa's quote indicates the importance of books, priests, and temples to the ancient Mesoamericans, in harmony with what we read in the Book of Mormon. The use of stone engravings and monuments is also found in the Book of Mormon (e.g., Coriantumr's Jaredite engraving known by the Nephites.)
They say that among the twelve priests of Mayapan was one of great wisdom who had an only daughter, whom he married to a young nobleman named Ah-Chel. This one had sons who were called the same as their father, according to the custom of the country. (p. 17)
Twelve priests may relate to the tradition of twelve disciples. Though present in many other cultures as well, the Book of Mormon certainly shows a tendency for prophets and priests to name their sons after themselves (Nephi, Helaman, and Alma, for example). And the role of priests in making prophecies is fully at harmony with the Book of Mormon.
The successor of the Cocoms, called Don Juan Cocom after he became a Christian, was a man of great reputation and very learned in matters and affairs of the country, very wise and well informed. He was on familiar terms with the author of this book, Fray Diego de Landa, recounting to him many ancient things, and showing him a book which had belonged to his grandfather, the son of the Cocom whom they killed in Mayapan. In this was painted a deer, and his grandfather had told him that when there should come into the land large deer (for so they called the cows), the worship of the gods would cease, and this had been fulfilled, because the Spaniards brought along large cows. (p. 19)
This passage again shows the importance of prophecy and books among the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica. In fact, the prophecy pertaining to the arrival of "large deer" and the change in religion of the people is not too remote from prophecies among the Nephites about the future scattering of the descendants of the Lamanites on this land by the Gentiles in the Book of Mormon. But I think the most interesting thing about this passage is demonstration of the practice of naming foreign animal species with familiar terms, such as calling cows "deer." Such tendencies need to be considered in evaluating alleged problems about missing plants and animals in the Book of Mormon.
The Indians are very dissolute in drinking and becoming intoxicated, and many ills follow their excesses in this way. . . . Their wine they make of honey and water and the root of a certain tree they grow for the purpose, and which gives the wine strength and a very disagreeable odor. After eating the cup-bearers, who have had to remain sober, help themselves from great jars until they are overcome, and their wives have great trouble in getting their drunken husbands home. (p. 35)
Many critics have pounced upon the Book of Mormon for its references to wine and to honey. Both were clearly known in the Americas. The Book of Mormon actually does not say that there was honey in the New World, only that the Jaredites had the honeybee with them as they were traveling in the Old World, making the anti-Mormon attack on honey an argument that truly lacks any sting. Nevertheless, at least one anti-Mormon site I've seen lists it as one of two primary reasons for rejecting the Book of Mormon. Well, I suppose it is as valid as any other reason for rejecting the divine text of the Book of Mormon.
The Yucatecans naturally know when they had done wrong, and they believed that death, disease and torments would come on them because of evil-doing and sin, and thus they had the custom of confessing to their priests when such was the case. (p. 46)
The role of priests and the practice of confession is an interesting one.

The Yucatecans had a great number of temples, sumptuous in style; besides these temples in common the chiefs, priests and principal men also had their oratories and idols in their houses for their private offerings and prayers. They held Cozumel and the well at Chichen Itza in great veneration as we have in our pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome; they visited them to offer gifts, especially at Cozumel, as we do at our holy places; and when they did not visit they sent offerings. When traveling also, and passing an abandoned temple, it was their custom to enter for prayers and burn incense. (pp. 46-47)
The existence of ancient temples and the significant role they played in Mesoamerica is consistent with the Book of Mormon, and a far cry from anything in Joseph Smith's environment.
So many idols did they have that their gods did not suffice for them, there being no animal or reptile of which they did not make images, and these in the form of gods and goddesses. They had idols of stone (though few in number), others more numerous of wood, but the greatest number of terra cotta. . . .

The most idolatrous of them were the priests, the chilanes, the sorcerers, the physicians, the chacs and the nacones. It was the office of the priests to discourse and teach their sciences, to indicate calamities and the means of remedying them, preaching during the festivals, celebrating the sacrifices and administering their sacraments. (p. 47)
Here we see priests in the role of teachers and prophets, though idolatrous - but that's consistent with the Book of Mormon, which teaches that the land fell into idolatry.
At times they sacrificed their own blood, cutting all around the ears in strips which they let remain as a sign. At other times they perforated their cheeks or lower lip; again they made cuts in parts of the body, or pierced the tongue crossways and passed stalks through, causing extreme pain; again they cut away the superfluous parts of the member, leaving the flesh in the form of ears. It was this custom which led the historian of the Indies to say that they practiced circumcision. (p. 47)
Ouch. I don't think their body piercing practices were inspired of God, though could it be that the circumcision-like practice had ancient Old World roots? In any case, it sounds like those ancient body piercers would fit right in to some segments of modern American society.

On pages 47-49, de Landa describes the horror of Mesoamerican human sacrifice, something that is, unfortunately, consistent with the practices of the Lamanites at the end of the Book of Mormon.

On pages 49-50, de Landa describes weaponry and some military practices. In addition to bows and arrows, lances, hatchets, including "hatchets of a certain metal . . . fastened in a handle of wood" (p. 50) - undoubtedly copper. They also had shields and "wore protective jackets of cotton, quilted in double thickness, which were very strong" (p. 50). "Some of the chiefs and captains wore helmets of wood, but these were not common" (p. 50). He also refers to defensive fortifications that bring to mind the structures described in Alma 50:1-4 (also see my page on Mesoamerican Fortifications and the Book of Mormon): "On the roads and passages the enemy set defenses manned by archers, barricades of stakes and trees, and more often of stone" (p. 51).
When the children were born, . . . they took them to the priest that he might cast their fate, declare the office a child was to fill, and give him the name he was to retain during his childhood; because they were accustomed to call the children by different names until they were baptized or somewhat grown up; afterwards they dropped these and called themselves after their fathers until they were married. Then they took the names of both father and mother.
The role of the priest in blessing children and making prophetic statements is again indicated.
At death they shrouded the body, filled with mouth with ground maize and a drink they call koyem, and with certain stones they used for money, that food might not be lacking to him in the other life. They buried them in their houses or the vicinity, throwing in some of their idols into the grave; if he was a priest they threw in some of his books; if a sorcerer his divining stones and other instruments of his office. (p. 57)
The reference to divining stones reminds one of the Urim and Thummim or Gazelem mentioned in the Book of Mormon. And again we see the importance of books for the priestly class.
The people have always believed in the immortality of the soul, in greater degree than in other nations, even though they were not so civilized; they believed that after death there was another life better than this, which the soul enjoyed after leaving the body. This future life they said was divided into good and evil, into pains and delights. The evil life of suffering they said was for the vicious, and the good and delectable for those whose mode of life had been good. The delights they said would come into if they had been of good conduct, were by entering a place where nothing would give pain, where there would be abundance of food and delicious drinks, and a refreshing and shady tree called Yaxché, the Ceiba tree, beneath whose branches and shade they might rest and be in peace forever.

The torments of the evil life which they said awaited the wicked, lay in going to a place below the other, and which they called Mitnal, meaning hell, where they were tormented by demons, by great pains of cold and hunger and weariness and sadness. They said there was in this place a chief demon whom all the rest obeyed and whom in their language they called Hunhau; also they said that these good and evil after-lives had no end, because the soul itself had none. (pp. 57-58)
These beliefs regarding the afterlife resonate strongly with teachings in the Book of Mormon, not just about the afterlife, but also in its use of a tree as a central symbol, much like the tree of life symbol in Lehi's vision (1 Nephi 8, 11).

Among the multitude of gods worshipped by these people were four whom they called by the name Bacab. These were, they say, four brothers placed by God when he created the world, as its four corners to sustain the heavens lest they fall. They also say that these Bacabs escaped when the world was destroyed by deluge. (p. 60)
This is an interesting reference to Mesoamerican belief in divine creation and a deluge that destroyed the world. The Mesoamerican concept of the four corners of the earth or the four quarter of the earth also is consistent with Old World views. (See the footnote on p. 13 discussing the four colors attached to the four directions.
When the New Year came, all the men gathered, alone, in the court of the temple, since none of the women were present at any of the temple ceremonies, except the old women who performed the dances. The women were admitted to the festivals held in other places. Here all clean and gay with their red-colored ointments, but cleansed of the black soot they put on while fasting, they came. When all were congregated, with the many presents of food and drink they had brought, and much wine they had made, the priest purified the temple, seated in pontifical garments in the middle of the court, at his side a brazier and the tablets of incense. The chacs seated themselves in the four corners, and stretched one to the other a new rope, inside of which all who had fasted had to enter, in order to drive out the evil spirit, as I related in chapter 96 (Sec. XXVI). When the evil one had been driven out, all began their devout prayers, and the chacs made new fire and lit the brazier, because in the festivals celebrated by the whole community new fire was made wherewith the light the brazier. The priest began to throw in incense, all came in their order, commencing with the chiefs, to receive incense from the hands of the priest, which he gave them with as much gravity as if he were giving them relics; then they threw it a little at a time into the brazier, waiting until it ceased to burn.
In the Old World, New Year rites were extremely important, and were often associated with temples. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin's speech at the Temple has been viewed by some as a classic Old World New Year's and coronation rite (e.g., see Kerry Shirts' article, "Jewish Festivals in the Book of Mormon"). The gathering of the people in Bountiful at the temple shortly before the visitation of Jesus Christ may have been a New Year's festival. And now we see New Year's festivals at the temples of Mesoamerica as well. Further significant details include fasting marked with soot - as in the sackcloth and ashes practice of the Jews - and the use of incense in a brazier in the temple, reminiscent of the use of incense in the ancient Jewish temple. (See also p. 77 of de Landa, discussing the Oc-na festival whose name means "renovation of the temple." Incense was again involved. See also p. 78, where incense is said to exorcise the evil spirit.)
In the month of Uo [beginning about August 6] the priest and the physicians and sorcerers (who were one ) [amazing how modern the Mesoamericans were!] began, with fasting and the rest, to prepare to celebrate another festival. The hunters and fishermen began to celebrate on the 7th of Sip, each celebrating for himself on his own day. First the priests celebrated their fete, which was called Pocam ['the washing']; gather in their regalia in the house of the chief, they first cast out the evil spirit as was their custom; after that they brought out their books and spread them upon the fresh leaves they had prepared to receive them. Then with many prayers and very devoutly they invoked an idol they called Kinch-ahau Itzamná, who they said was the first priest, offered him their gifts and burned the pellets of incense upon new fire; meanwhile they dissolved in a vase a little verdigris and virgin water which they say was brought from the forests where no woman had been; and anointed with it the tablets of the books for their purification. After this had been done, the most learned of the priests opened a book, and observed the predictions for that year, declared them to those present, [and] preached to them a little enjoining the necessary observances. . . . (p. 71)
Priests, sacred books, anointing with holy water, prophecy, casting out the evil one - all interesting concepts from Mesoamerica.
They ended it [the Tzec festival] with wine as usual, in plenty, the hive owners giving honey for it in abundance. (p. 73)
Again, wine and honey were important elements of ancient Mesoamerican society.
The second of the chief ancient structures, such that there is no record of their builders, are those at Tiho, thirteen leagues from those at Izamal, and like them eight leagues from the sea; and their are traces of there having been a fine paved road from one to the other. . . . (p. 86)

Around this structure [now he refers to Chichen Itza] there were, and still today are, many others, well built and large; all the ground about them was paved, traces being still visible, so strong was the cement of which they were made. . . .

From the court in front of these theatres there goes a beautiful broad paved way, leading to a well two stone-throws across. (p. 91)
The Book of Mormon also speaks of highways being built in Book of Mormon lands. There is also a reference to construction with cement in the north part of the land. Again, this was not something Joseph would have experienced among Native Americans in his area.
There are two kinds of bees, both being much smaller than ours; the larger of these are raised in very small hives, and do not form a comb as do ours, but instead certain small sacs like wax-nuts, all close together and full of honey. . . .

The others live in the woods, in the hollows of trees and rocks, where one must hunt the wax. With this and the honey the country abounds, the honey being most excellent save for the fact that it is somewhat watery. . . . These bees do not sting, even when the honey is gathered. (p. 101)
Again, the reality of honey is affirmed.
In the country there are certain wild vines bearing edible grapes. . . . Another fresh and beautiful tree holds its leaves without falling, and bears a small fig they call ox. (p. 105)
Just a helpful reminder for those who challenge the Book of Mormon for a mention of grapes and figs when Christ repeats the sermon on the mount: "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (3 Nephi 14:16). However, the translated passage does not require that such things be found in the New World - presumably Christ would have referred to plants known by the locals in his actual statement, which would then be appropriately translated into the "grapes" and "figs" language understandable by modern readers.

De Landa also indicates that the Mesoamericans planted gardens around their homes (e.g., p. 103 [I've lost track of the main reference - still searching]), consistent with the Book of Mormon account in Helaman 7:10 of Nephi praying on the tower in his garden that was next to a highway to the chief market. (See further discussion on my Book of Mormon Evidences pages.)

Now here is a sobering statement from de Landa:
These people also used certain characters or letters, with which they wrote in their books about the antiquities and their sciences; with these, and with figures, and certain signs in the figures, they understood their matters, made them known, and taught them. We found a great number of books in these letters, and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehood of the devil we burned them all, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain.(p. 82)
How horrible that so much knowledge would be destroyed. Only four codices have survived, out of what may have been tens of thousands. As a result of such crimes, much information about the ancient inhabitants of the New World has been lost. In general, our state of knowledge about ancient Mesoamerica is still in its infancy, many decades behind the studies done in Bible lands, but stay tuned for new insights as more is learned.

Mesoamerica - the best candidate for the setting of the Book of Mormon - was a very pagan and wicked place in the sixteenth century, with no help from the terrible cruelty of the Spanish conquerors. But the native practices reflect some elements that could very well have derived from knowledge of ancient Christian ceremonies such as baptism, though in a pagan and corrupt form.

If the Book of Mormon account is pure fiction, how do we explain that in the one region that can be a plausible candidate for Book of Mormon geography, we also find a culture that had baptism, legends of a Great White God who visited them and promised to return, the presence of sacred writing systems in a continent otherwise devoid of writing, elaborate temples, and many other elements consistent with the Book of Mormon?

And remember, de Landa's book was not available in English until long after Joseph Smith's death.

23 comments:

Bill said...

You have an amazing ability to cite evidence that has absolutely no relevance or connection to your conclusion.

You take the approach of throwing up numerous references and drawing the absolute opposite conclusion that any sane, rational individual would come to.

Deer, cows, tapirs, chariots, steel, it's all connected, the BofM is true!! Ancient priests had prophesies, just like the BofM! It's true!!

The sad thing is that you trivialize ancient mesoamerican civilization - the long, pre-historic origins and life story of the Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayans; in Peru the Incas and their ancient precursors. It is all so rich without having to overlay the BofM fable over the history as the evidence shows it.

Archaeology, Botany, Zoology, Paleontology, Immunology, Genetics - all these disciplines, where men and women have devoted their lives to arguing about conflicting evidences, digging deeper, sharing their findings, studying the hard evidence, including DNA and excavated sites, and hashing out an emerging storyline - all of them would say you're nuts. Add me to the list.

T said...

Very cool, Jeff! ^_^

Anonymous said...

The reason he brought up steel, honey, and the other "evidences" is because people have been attacking the book of mormon for those very reasons, and they are not valid..

Bookslinger said...

Bill,

Why waste your time reading/commenting on the blogs of "nuts" people?

Bookslinger said...

Bill,

Thanks for illustrating another page from the RfM playbook:

"Create a strawman by mischaracterizing what someone said, and attack the strawman."

Jeff never claimed the things he cited are smoking-guns that prove the validity of the Book of Mormon. In other posts he's claimed that it will never be proven by hard evidence. Perhaps God designed it that way.

However, the hard evidence does show that the Book of Mormon is plausible, especially when you take into account what it says, and what it doesn't say.

Of course we realize there is no smoking-gun evidence that forces people to accept the Book of Mormon. And it's a shallow and dishonest debate tactic for you to impute that claim to Jeff.

The ancient civilizations of Olmecs, Toltecs, etc. predating 600 BC do not disprove anything in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon does not claim to describe all civilizations on this hemisphere.

The Book of Mormon clearly states that other groups, in addition to the Jaredites, were led away from Israel at various times by the Lord.

The Book of Mormon leaves open the possibility of inhabitants being here when Lehi got here.

The Book of Mormon leaves open the possibility of immigrants, even Asian immigrants after Moroni's time at the end of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is completely silent on, and therefore leaves open, the possibility of pre-Nephite, concurrent, and post-Nephite immigration of Asian peoples. That alone negates all charges that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon.

Jeff's last two posts do well in refuting the "There's no evidence!" claims of the naysayers. Of course there's no slam-dunk evidence that forces people to accept the Book of Mormon. But there is plenty of evidence that illustrates the plausibility, and plenty of evidence that refutes the false charges about barley, writing on metal plates, stone boxes, horses, swine, honeybees, steel, DNA, etc.

Archaeology is not complete. At best it puts together a few pieces of very big jig saw puzzles. Archaeologists have found plenty of things since 1830, which give plausibility to Joseph Smith and put to bed false charges. He was ridiculed over the idea of writing on metal plates. Then metal plates were found. He was ridiculed over barley, then barley was found. He was ridiculed over horses, then statues of horses from the BoM period were found. Oh, and the antis forget to mention that no horse remains have been found in the Hun empire, even though all historians acknowledge they had plenty of horses.

Joseph Smith was ridiculed over the steel issue, but then some steel items from Book of Mormon times have been found. And it's been pointed out that in 1830, "steel" also meant any hardened alloy, and not just carburized iron like we think of it today. Yet, carburized iron implements have been found in the Western Hemisphere and the Middle East dating from Book of Mormon times and earlier.

The problem is not that Jeff is trivializing anything. He's not.

The problem is that you assume you know everything there is to know about this hemisphere's past.

The problem is not that we have to overlay anything.

The problem is that you refuse to see how archaelogical finds do not refute what the Book of Mormon actually says. They only refute what you erroneously claim the Book of Mormon says.

And you refuse to see the many possibilities where Book of Mormon claims can co-exist quite nicely when all historical and archaeological evidence is taken into account.

So in addition to dishonesty about what the Book of Mormon says, and dishonesty about what Jeff says, you conveniently leave out evidence that does match up nicely with the Book of Mormon.

Jeff has pointed out some of the history and archaeology that you consistently ignore. Good for him.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, more evidence that the BOM is true. Did anyone expect Jeff to draw any other conclusion than that one? And if he did, would he post it? Don't think so. It's like praying to know if the BOM is true. If you did not get a yes answer, the problem is you. There is only one answer, it is true. Yeah, right.

Walker said...

Yeah right

Perhaps it's just my deluded senses (when the Mormons were deceiving me, they had a special course to make sure all of the senses only perceived the "Mormon way" ;), but where is this contempt for any Latter Day Saint who seeks to validate his/her faith? It's unfortunate that your experiences with Latter Day Saints have been exclusively of the wild-eyed apologist brand. Serious LDS scholars DO exist (I aim to be one of them eventually)

Do I have questions about my faith? Absolutely. But the point is that I do not let what I don't know get in the way of what I do. For me, as with any other historical inquiry, the evidence (both secular and spiritual) outweighs the doubts. As Henry Eyring, the acclaimed chemist noted (this is a paraphrase), people asked him why he did not give up religion due to contradiction with science. He responded that he always saw self-contradiction within science, but he hadn't given up on it yet.

Chill, friend. There's room for even-handed discussion on this w/o resorting to intellectual nail-spitting.

Mormanity said...

Looks like it's about time to start handing out the new Mormanity "Mist of Darkness Award" to recognize outstanding examples of anti-Mormon behavior. Two comments above are now vying for this honor.

My post on the Yucatan offered examples of several passages that were said to be "of interest" to Book of Mormon issues. Nothing close to a suggestion that anything had now been proven. But Bill thinks I'm claiming to have proved the Book of Mormon to be true by citing evidence with no relevance to my conclusion.

Even if we found a buried Mesoamerican with ancient Hebrew text and writings from a man named Nephi complaining about his brother Laman, this would not be proof that the Book of Mormon is true. It would weigh in favor of the plausibility of some parts of it, perhaps, but it would not "prove" the Book of Mormon to be true. And of course, if such evidence is found and I dare to mention it as being "interesting," I'm sure Bill will be there to say that the evidence is irrelevant and that any such discussion "trivializes Mesoamerican civilization."

But I think the better candidate for my first "Mist of Darkness Award" is the anonymous commenter who said, "Amazing, more evidence that the BOM is true. Did anyone expect Jeff to draw any other conclusion than that one?" This illustrates one of the most interesting arguments from the anti-Mormons. Any argument, any evidence, no matter what its source, that is offered in favor of the Book of Mormon can be instantly discounted solely because it has been discussed by a Mormon. The writings of Diego de Landa do not need to be studied -- they have been cited by a Mormon, you see, presenting only the pro-Mormon tidbits. In fact, all the evidence cited by Mormons has this problem, so we can safely conclude that all information in favor of Mormon views has been subject to Mormon bias and crafty Mormon manipulation. Ignore it all, close your eyes, take a nap, and rest secure in your bliss. Hey, isn't that what the antis accuse us of doing?

Samuel E said...

My nomination for the Funniest Apologist Post of the year:

from Books of Mormon in Indy:

"The Book of Mormon is completely silent on, and therefore leaves open, the possibility of pre-Nephite, concurrent, and post-Nephite immigration of Asian peoples. That alone negates all charges that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon."

Put another way: The Book of Mormon bears no semblance to the historical record, therefore you can't use facts to demonstrate otherwise.

Brilliant.

SIs B said...

Offendees du jour--gotta love 'em.

Mormanity said...

Hey Samuel, the point is that the Book of Mormon clearly does not purport to account for the origins of all peoples on this continent, contrary to the simple assumption that some LDS and non-LDS people have made. It describes a couple of groups in a small part of the continent. In fact, it has many internal clues about the presence of other peoples in the land. Given that, there is no reason to expect that Jewish DNA (whatever that is) should be the dominant DNA found in the Americas. In fact, if Lehi's group was a tiny drop in the bucket of genetic material on the continent in 600 B.C., how much of their genetic influence should we expect to find today?

Before one can apply science to examine the validity of a hypothesis, one must have a reasonable grasp about the hypothesis is and how it relates to the scientific tests at hand. The anti-Mormons of late have put great emphasis on the DNA argument, which goes lilke this: "Y-chromosome and mtDNA tests of Native Americans show that Asian haplotypes are dominant. Native Americans do not appear to be Jewish. Therefor the Book of Mormon is false." But this argument is based on many questionable assumptions and a serious misunderstanding of the text. The Book of Mormon does not exclude Asian entry into the New World. In fact, the oldest group entering the new World described in the Book of Mormon, the Jaredites, have long been thought to be Central Asian. The Lamanites may have had one Hebraic ancestor, but it seems clear that they mingled heavily with other locals, and there is no reason to expect that a Y-chromosome from Lehi would have survived.

So what does it mean when DNA testing points to Asian origins? It's an important piece of information about the peoples of the continent, but not one that can be used to prove or disprove the actual claims of the Book of Mormon. For details, see my page on DNA and the Book of Mormon (http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/DNA.shtml).

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the award. I didn't know I could win something for posting here. I am going to try my luck at some more awards. What else you got?
BTW, no one said that any thing about "Any argument, any evidence, no matter what its source, that is offered in favor of the Book of Mormon can be instantly discounted solely because it has been discussed by a Mormon." Sorry Jeff, you read between the lines and got it wrong. But I do sense some hostility there. You always characterize people who don't see things the same as you as anti? Accordong to a frequent poster here, an anti is "Antis" are those who attack the LDS church and its leaders or members with half truths, twisted or incomplete information, and sometimes outright lies." Don't think I did that. But thanks for making broad general statements with no supporting evidence.
In closing. I would like to share my award with you Jeff. I couldn't have done it without you. Thanks bud.

Steve C said...

Dear Samuel E.
Actually if one uses basic logic the apologist Book of Mormon in INDY's post was quite a good one.

Allow me to use an analogy.

Let's say I am somebody important (I'm not). A newspaper reporter states that "Today Steve drove to work, opened his office, and began to work." If another reporter later said that, in Steve's day (that's me by the way), he got out of bed at 4:58am, showered, and had breakfast, would that render the first reporter's rendition of my day incorrect? No, as the first reporter was SILENT as to what happened before I drove to work.
This odd analogy is akin to the apologetics of Book of Mormon in Indy. He stated that the Book of Mormon is not talking about other people's, that the Book of Mormon never says that NO ASIAN PEOPLE immigrated pre or post-Nephite period. If the BOM did emphatically say that NOBODY else was there then there could be an issue, but the BOM does not.
Similarly, the first reporter did NOT state that the first thing I did today was go to work, so the 2nd reporter's version pre my getting into my automobile does not negate the validity of the 2nd reporter's narrative.
It is much like the New Testament accounts of the morning at the tomb, where one record discusses two angels, and another "an angel". These are not difficult to reconcile, as the presence of two angels means at least one was there! However, if the records said "two angels" and "only one angel", then yes, that would be a logical contradiction.
Steve

Bookslinger said...

Sometimes I wonder if God intentionally changed the Lamanite's DNA when He changed their skin color, 2nd Nephi 5:21-23. I would be surprised if anyone today has DNA that has been unaltered since Adam, or even Noah.

But then that's another stumbling block to those who reject the Bible. The genetic diversity of humans leads many to conclude that we could not possibly be descended from one couple (Adam and Eve) or one family (Noah, his wife, his children, and his daughters-in-law.)

I believe that to accept the Genesis account (let alone the Nephite record), we must conclude that God somehow caused or allowed changes in human genetic makeup which brought about such genetic diversity.

The omniscience of God, and the fact He doesn't explain everything to us, leaves open many possibilities.

Here we are arguing over temporal things like the possibilities of genetics, migrations and the mixing of cultures. But once we grant the existance of an omniscient God who is not obligated to reveal to us all of human history, nor to explain any of His actions, then all things are possible.

And if "all things are possible" then arguing over disappearing steel swords and horse bones and whose DNA relates to whom, is pointless.

Science and religion contradict each other only when one side assumes they know everything there is to know.

Matt Witten said...

One interesting thing I saw reading the Book of Mormon last night is that Sherem is not a Nephite, as he came among the people grown, and is not a lamanite, as all lamanites are generally stereotyped such in the BOM. Sherem is other.

Sir Jon said...

From President Faust, "The Keystone of Our Religion" Ensign, Jan. 2004:
"President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), First Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “The Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities … is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work.” 6

What, then, is the Book of Mormon? It is confirming evidence of the birth, life, and Crucifixion of Jesus and of His work as the Messiah and the Redeemer."

I don't think that the argument here is the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. That is a worthwhile argument, but the truth of the Book of Mormon is validated by other means than historical or archaeological or geographical proof. These have never been the bases of determining the truth.

The intent of this post, I am sure, is for furthering one's testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. These wonderful details flavor and lighten what is already known. They simply point to things that are true.

If one does not have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, or believes it to be untrue, then these details point to nothing, and will not make sense. To use an earlier example from mormanity, "Even if we found a buried Mesoamerican with ancient Hebrew text and writings from a man named Nephi complaining about his brother Laman," is presented to one who does not believe, it will point to someone or something that never existed, at least in nothing but the "fictional" Book of Mormon.

The choice to believe or not to believe the Book of Mormon is true is a personal one. I do not find fault with people who do not believe it.

The wonderful archaeological details presented here, and elsewhere, are very pleasing and understood by those who hold the Book of Mormon to be true. I am delighted to read them.

These same details are empty and meaningless to those who do not believe. And they will remain that way until such a time that they gain a testimony. Just by reading this blog and participating, though, they are showing interest and are being exposed to the truth, and I am thankful for them and their posts.

May we all rejoice in the beauty and truth of the Book of Mormon. I hope we can all enjoy the interesting evidences that are coming forth and enjoy them as enriching details to what we already know. Let us not use them as the foundation of our belief, or contentious arguments. These evidences are gifts from our Heavenly Father, and are meant to be shared. Some will reject them, but that is their right.

Thank you for the discussion! I look forward to more.

Bill said...

Sir Jon says: "the truth of the Book of Mormon is validated by other means than historical or archaeological or geographical proof."

Agreed. That is why posts like this one, which casually pretend to offer evidence of "plausibility", grate on those of us who value the revealed evidences of science, history, archaeology, linguistics, botany, and biology.

If you want to believe in the historicity of the BofM, great, but posts that attempt to sneak in new hard evidences, or draw weak associations, from the scientific realm will continue to be met with opposition, particularly when the evidence doesn't meet the conclusion.

So faith and science needn't meet in one's belief system. Fair enough. But it also means that you can believe in Xenu, Body Thetans, Hale Bopp, and Men in the Moon. And I don't think that's what God is revealing to us.

God gave us rational minds to sort out the wonders of this world; fables selfishly created by individuals to promote their power over others is a thin reed to hold on to.

Anonymous said...

"fables selfishly created by individuals to promote their power over others is a thin reed to hold on to."

the book of mormon could not be created by a young man in 1820s upstate New York. moreover, joseph smith consistently gave to others MUCH MUCH more than he took. he had mobbers beating him and indirectly causing the death of his infant children. he was thrown in jail for months at a time unconstitutionally.

all so that what? so he could lead a small group of ragtag, dirt poor saints? so he could lead a militia or own a brick store from which he loses money for giving away goods to the needy?

yes, he concocted the book of mormon so that the great majority of the people he would come across would HATE him and eventually kill him. sounds like a great reason to make up the book of mormon. in fact, i think i'll write a sequel. you never know: 175 years down the road, people may love me for it.

Anonymous said...

I think the above poster needs to take a church history class at BYU. Most everything you said is right out of the Church PR handbook. A history class would show you that most of what you posted is Baloney.

Anonymous said...

Well it's all just a matter of time anyway, right? With the advent of the internet we Mormons now have the tool to access all kinds of 'scholarly' information about our faith. It shouldn't be too much longer and everyone will see the great deception for themselves. Or could it be that the strength of the LDS church comes from the faithfulness of its members, and not the deception of its leaders? But I guess faith and obedience is something you guys no nothing about because it is not scientific. But what do I know, I'm just a brainless, ignorant cookie cutter robot. Excuse me while I go put new batteries in my peep stone.

CS
Fort Worth, TX

Bookslinger said...

Bill said...
That is why posts like this one, which casually pretend to offer evidence of "plausibility", grate on those of us who value the revealed evidences of science, history, archaeology, linguistics, botany, and biology.
----

People who "value" the sciences often assume more and jump to conclusions more readily than the scientists themselves.

Example: most people whom I know who work in the sciences will readily point out or admit that evolution is a theory. Yet those who "believe in science" but do not work in the sciences ascribe factual status to the _theory_ of evolution. It's sad that so many people think it is a fact, when in reality it is merely a popular way to explain or interpret the evidences.

Those who hold evolution to be a _theory_ are the ones admitting "we don't know everything." Those who hold evolution to be "fact" are assuming more is known than actually is, or else they "value" science so much that they ignore the areas where the evidence is silent, or else they incorrectly assume that the interpretion (of evidence) that leads one to believe in evolution is the only possible interpretation.

Those who "value" sciences can end up _worshipping_ science and putting _faith_ in ideas that have consistently changed due to new discoveries.

I think it takes _more faith_ in as yet undiscovered evidences, and _leaps_ of faith across key segments that contain no evidence in order to believe in a Godless creation and evolution, than it does to believe that God created the Earth and man.

Global warming is another dubious conclusion that is held as fact by many of the unwashed masses. Some climatologists that I've heard, and a couple meteorologists that I know call global warming a bogus story, and point out facts that the global-warming crowd fails to include in their story.

There are 5 items of factual evidence _against_ global-warming that the global-warming crowd conveniently and consistently fails to point out.

Yet people who only get their news from the TV and have "faith" in the talking heads assume global warming to be a fact, when in reality it is not universally accepted, not even by a majority of climatologists. It's just that those scientists who disagree don't get the air time.

A claim that one "values" revealed evidences, merely puts the claimant in the sheepfold of a shepherd wearing a mantle of science. To actually believe their conclusions requires _faith_ in the methodologies, accuracy, fairness, and subjective interpretations of those who are actually doing the scientific work and those who are doing the interpretation thereof.

More important in my book are:

1. Realizing we don't have _all_ evidence, only a subset.

2. How to interpret the evidence.

3. Realzing that our assumptions color the way we interpret evidence.

(I'm reminded of the absence of steel implements in digs in Iceland(?) causing archeaologists to conclude they didn't have steel, and now they believe they did. The absence of artifacts was because they held steel so precious they didn't abandon or lose any of it.)

4. How to draw the correct assumptions or conclusions of the evidence.

So there you have four layers of variables in the handling of "revealed evidences of science" And in each layer, you have to put your trust in fallible men. Men who admit they know more than previous generations, and most of whom admit that future generations will know more.

Those who have attacked the plausibility of the Book of Mormon have consistently ignored much archealogical evidence in favor of it's plausibility. Plus, they have twisted what the Book of Mormon actually says, in order to create an impression that it contradicts archealogical evidence.

To look at "revealed evidences" and conclude that "The Book of Mormon _can't_ possibly be true" takes much more faith than to say "I _believe_ it _might_ be true."

Sir Jon said...

BOM in Indy makes some good points.

I think the coolest part of these evidences is the confirmation that we get from them. They are the rewards of faithfulness.

I will use an analogy to illustrate my point.

You are going on a trip. You have mapped the route and identified where you will be passing through and when. As you drive on your trip, you notice landmarks that were on the maps and information you had before your journey. When you come to an intersection you note that the road that is crossing your route matches the one on your map. It gives you the most satisfying feeling that you are on track, and, quite importantly, that your map is correct. You have faith that the next step of your journey will be in the right direction.

So it is with the Book of Mormon to those who believe it. We have already accepted it as truth. As we travel along through life, we find landmarks that match what we already have read and understand to be true. When I see new archaeological evidences revealed, I realize that it should not really be a huge surprise. For example, if they uncovered the City of Moroni at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, I would respond, "Great! what an amazing discovery! But we already knew it was there, we just didn't know its exact location."

There are other great landmarks in the Book of Mormon that you can confirm without your eyes and ears, and you don't have to wait for scientists to reveal them. I am referring to the spiritual truths that are readily available to those who ask to have them revealed. After all, the Book of Mormon is a spiritual book. Those who wish to know if it is true will receive a great confirmation directly from our Heavenly Father. That confirmation will be much more powerful, personal, and lasting than trying to gain a testimony by pulling together scientific scraps provided by man.

Thanks again, Jeff, for the great blog!!!

Walker said...

Anonymous said, "A history class would show that most of what you said is baloney."

A puzzling post, to say the least. The assumption seems to be that, as an esteemed BYU professor Neil York quipped (Dr. York is a history professor incidentally), BYU professors have their own religion. Don't tell anyone that he's right ;)

In seriousness, as a BYU student (a future history professor at that), frankness demands that BYU's academic program be portrayed in its correct light, as intellectually AND faith-promoting (this is blasphemy to the materialists of the materialists). All too often, as seems to be the case with our would -be anonymous historian (Anonymous), folks are far more interested in debunking than in understanding. OFten, such light requires a level of debunking but only the same way that a condemned house needs remodeling. How ridiculous would it be if a house builder just destroyed his work, only to let the gnats hover over it for the next generation! From personal experience (and if Anonymous's experience was difference, he/she was unfortunately cheated out of a quality historical education), BYU does an excellent job of bringing up the "prickly" issues of church history w/o undermining the value of faith.

How about dispensing with the Dasterdly Dan/Dudley Do-right version in this debate? It doesn't showcase the intelligence that I know y'all have.