A Weighty Tome Indeed

I am puzzled that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints General Authorities, Stake Presidents, Bishops, Ph. D.s, LL. D.s, M.D.s, professors and members, folks I admire and love, refuse to consider the plethora of troublesome “facts” and blatant impossibilities in The Book of Mormon.

For a young man who tagged behind his father through the woods and across the fields of upstate New York, search for buried treasure, Joseph Smith Jr.’s choice of gold as material for his book is understandable but lousy writing material.  If bullion and doubloons lay secreted in the hills south of Lake Ontario—not that Dad found any—why not a gold book?

Gold is hard to come by, fragile in thin sheets, and heavy!  Each page of The Book of Mormon had to be hammered smooth and trimmed to a uniform size.  According to the LDS website, witnesses described the book resembling a three-ring binder with pages about 6 by 8 inches, stacked 5 inches high.  At 640 cubic inches and 0.7 pounds per cubic inch, Joseph’s Book would tip the scale at 168 pounds!  The pages would not have been as dense as a gold brick.  Nevertheless, it seems fair to assume the volume would tip the scales upward of 100 pounds.  In transferring this burden from the Hill Cumorah to home, Joseph does not mention a  conveyance such wheel borrow or wagon.  As an adult Joseph Jr. was a larger than average man.  Toting this load, like Heliman’s soldiers young Joe must have  been a “stripling” lad.  (Borrow a pair of 50 pound hand weights from the gym; lug them around the block.  You get the idea.)

Without considering the type size and word count of today’s Book of Mormon, “printing” of the gold pages raises challenges.  Even with five or six times the volume of today’s Book, crowding the text into available space would demand scribes with the craftsmanship and precision of a jeweler.  This is especially astonishing when viewed alongside the only other known native North American “writing,” pictographs and petro glyphs.  How were the plates inscribed?  Were the characters scratched, embossed, stamped, stenciled?  Regarding “books,” prior to Columbus none of the form recognized in Europe and Asia after Gutenberg has been found in the Western Hemisphere.

According to The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummmim  .  .  .  were what constituted ‘seer’ stones in ancient or former times  .  .  .  for the purpose of translating the book.”  Today I’m told Joseph translated from a “peep stone” in the crown of his hat, like a “crawler” at the bottom of a TV screen?  Which was it Joe, Urim and Thummmim, peep stone or keen intellect and florid imagination?

The book of “Mormon” 9:32: “We have written this record  .  .  .  in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian.”  Nephi 1:2, “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the language of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” (My emphasis)  According to Wikipedia “Reformed Egyptian” does not appear in standard ancient languages references.  The language which was Romanized as “Hebrew” was “historically the language of the Israelites and their ancestors.”

So, Father Lehi’s native tongue was Hebrew, one of humankind’s most ancient and sophisticated spoken and written languages.  How and why he wrote in Egyptian is a puzzle.  Moreover, how and why, a mere forty generations after Lehi, was all memory of his native Hebrew forgotten?

Historian Fawn M. Brodie’s No Man Knows My History may offer a clue.  A niece of Church President David O. McKay’s, who was excommunicated after the fact, Historian Brodie writes, “Joseph told Josiah Quincy in 1844 that his mother purchased them (four Egyptian mummies and several papyri) ‘with her own money at the cost of six thousand dollars.’”  These, even the Church must concede, Joseph erroneously “translated” as the Book of Abraham.  (Divine inspiration?)

It is argued that, without divine guidance a poor upstate New York farm kid could not have written the book of Mormon.  Youthful writers are a dime a dozen.  At twenty-three we hit our mental and physical peak.  Right now a million fifteen to twenty-five-year-old, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dickinson, Eliot, Poe and Shakespeares wannabe are scratching away with ballpoint pens or, today, tapping on keyboards, composing the novel, story, poem, essay, play and screen play certain to be shelved beside the classics.  Only the tiniest fraction of one percent of these will receive an editor’s blessing and be stacked on Barnes and Noble’s tables.

Young Joseph’s book went to press because Martin Harris mortgaged and later sold 151 acres of his farm to pay for publication.  My guess is that Book of Mormon sales (Amazon paperback $18.98) are predominately to Church members and organizations.

According to Church’s website, Maroni buried the Book of Mormon in 421 A.D.  Between the third and eighth centuries A.D., councils of Nicea consolidated Near and Middle East writings into the Christian Bible which was divided by chapters in the thirteenth and verses in the sixteenth century.

1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John:  It is beyond curious that the Book of Mormon is arranged by book, chapter and verse and in idiom identical—For me idiom really tips the scale!—to Joseph Smith Jr.’s King James Bible, composed on the obverse side of Earth beginning around the time Moroni buried his Book.  Grand H. Palmer cites ten instances where excerpts from the Book of Mormon and young Joe’s Bible are identical or paraphrased.  Palmer’s scholarship in examining the BOM must be read to be appreciated.

Other issues which question the Book of Mormon’s veracity include the absolute dearth of physical items explicit in its text: Iron Age implements, the wheel, horses, writing and money—Yes money!  BOM includes 14 references!—and proof the genetic signature of folks who greeted Columbus was written not in the Near East but Asia!

I hypothesize that, born into mysticism, superstition, spirituality, buried treasure and things Egyptian, swept up in a religious revival, experiencing the power of loquacious preaching, young Joseph harnessed a keen intellect and robust libido, conflating Mom’s artifacts, Dad’s treasure hunting and mounting evidence pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere were not ignorant savages into The Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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