The Mormons







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Chapter 1 -

The book of Mormon





When we begin to study the teachings of the Mormons, a good idea is certainly to start with their holy books which are, in addition to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and The pearl of great price. These three books that cannot be found in any other Christian group are the most important ones to the Mormons, besides the Bible.

   In this chapter, we are going to take a look especially at the Book of Mormon which is the best known and most significant of these three books. Joseph Smith, the Prophet of Mormons, made this book especially known. He namely found golden plates from the ground which contained the story of the Book of Mormon in the reformed Egyptian language. With these plates, he also found a breastplate and the Urim and the Thummim which he could use as assistance when translating this book into English. He received help also from other people when translating.

   The Book of Mormon tells a story about how the ancient tribes of Israel wandered to America, increased there, and how Jesus, after his death, appeared to them and established a church amongst them. The present-day native Americans are believed to be descendants of these ancient Israelites.

   However if we look at the background and contents of the Book of Mormon, there are numerous problems and contradictions in it. We can mention at least the following:


The reformed Egyptian language. Firstly, when considering the text on the golden plates, Smith claimed that it was written in reformed Egyptian. However, why would Jews have used Egyptian and written in this language when they had their own language, Hebrew (they could have also used Aramaic). Why would they have, therefore, used a strange language among themselves which they generally have not been able to speak? It is unlikely that anything like this were to happen.

   On the other hand, when the text that Joseph Smith copied from the golden plates was studied, it was observed that this language never existed. This refers to the possibility of deceit. For example, professor Charles Anthon – the same man whom Smith claims to have been convinced of the genuineness of the hieroglyphic text – explained in his letter dated 17 February1834 to E.D. Howe, who examined the origins of the Book of Mormon that he deemed the whole reformed Egyptian language a hoax:


The whole claim that I had said the Book of Mormon to be reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics is completely unfounded. I soon came to the conclusion that it was a pure swindle. (…) The paper included everything else but Egyptian hieroglyphs. (1)


Also Uuras Saarnivaara had an expert look at a specimen of the text on the golden plates. The expert was not familiar with this reformed "Egyptian language":


The writer of this sent a copy of the text (Finnish Mormon magazine Valkeus, May 1956, p. 153) that Smith claimed to have come from the golden plates to the British Museum of London in the latter part of the year 1960, so that an expert in the field of ancient Egypt could study it, and asked if he could get a statement about whether or not the claims of Joseph Smith about this were right. An answer dated 9 January 1961 came where the head of the department (Keeper), I. E. S. Edwards writes, "I can only say that during my 25 years of experience in the Egyptian language, I have never seen any of these graphic characters anywhere in Egyptian memorials or papyrus documents. If this text is what Joseph Smith claimed it to be, "the reformed Egyptian language", it has been reformed in such a way that there is no possibility whatsoever to mistake it as being Egyptian.”(2)


The Breastplate, the Urim and the Thummim. When Smith was translating, he believed that he was using the breastplate and in it the Urim and Thummim as assistance. But we can ask how could Smith have gotten hold of those objects, since they belonged to the High Priest of Israel? How could these important objects have ended up in another continent? In other words, it would have been a huge accident if someone found these objects several thousand years later from another continent, in the ground, and more than 10,000 kilometers (6,213.7119224 miles) from Israel.


- (Exo 28:30) And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel on his heart before the LORD continually.


The amount of text fitting on the golden plates. The size of the gold plates and how much text would fit on them remains a mystery. If the total volume of the golden plates was about 15 x 18 x 20 cm (5.9 x 7 x 7.8 inches) and from this eventually only a third formed the text of the Book of Mormon, it is a mystery how the whole text could fit in such a small pile of plates. Should this not be impossible, since there are hundreds of pages of dense text in the present Book of Mormon? Uuras Saarnivaara has explained this mystery and problem:


The question of the weight and size of the plates of the Book of Mormon is handled in the Finnish Mormon Magazine (Valkeus, June 1960). According to Smith, the dimensions of the plate book were about 15 x 20 x 15 cm (5.9 x 7 x 7.8 inches). If the plates were eight-carat gold, they would have weighed more than 53 kilograms (116.8 pounds): a heavy load even for a man! The Finnish Book of Mormon has 545 pages and the pages are about 12.5 x 18 cm (4.9 x 7 inches). The English version contains 522 pages. According to Smith, the Book of Mormon includes about 1/3 from the whole text of the gold plate book. The whole weight of the gold plate book would have, therefore, been more than 150 kilos (330 pounds). How could Smith have carried it? And would it have been possible to engrave the text of the Book of Mormon on a pile of metal plates about 15 cm (5.9 inches) thick? When printed on paper, this book is almost 2 cm (0.7 inch) thick. When we take into account the facts that inscribing requires considerably larger characters and that the metal plates are considerably thicker than paper and do not fit together so well, it is apparent that inscribing the text of a book this size even on a pile of metal plates two times thicker is impossible in practice. (…)

   Even though we cannot say exactly how much space the same text in the Egypt language would require, it is sure that the text of the Book of Mormon would have needed about 300–400 metal plates. Lifting up a "book" like that would have called for an elephant! (Let alone the entire book which, according to Smith, was three times larger, since 2/3 of it was "sealed" and he was not allowed to translate it).(3)


Seeing the gold plates and eyewitnesses. Many peculiarities are connected with the gold plates and eyewitnesses.


Revelation. Firstly, according to Smith, he dug the plates from the ground in 1827 and held them to himself until the year 1838 when he gave them to a messenger called Moron. In this respect, it is indeed strange that in 1829, when Smith had to show the gold plates to the first three eyewitnesses in the forest, he did not have them with him but instead, they all had to pray in order to get a revelation about this from God. Does this praying for a revelation not prove that it was, after all, only a hallucination and that the gold plates were not real?


Joseph asked the Lord and then informed these three that if they were to humble themselves, they would get the right to see the ancient chronicle and have the responsibility to testify to the world what they had seen.

   In the summer of 1829, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer retired to a forest close to the home of Whitmer in the southern part of the state of New York. In the bright daylight, they knelt to pray; Joseph prayed first and others followed him and prayed but even though all of them had prayed, no answer was received. They repeated their prayers but again without result. After the second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he should leave the group, for he thought he was an obstacle to receiving the revelation. With the consent of Joseph, he left.

   The other three knelt again to pray, and at that very moment they saw a light in the air above them, and an angel stood before them. He had the plates in his hand, and he slowly turned the pages before their eyes, so that they could see the engraving on the plates. Then they heard a voice above them say, "These plates have been informed by the power of God and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation which you have seen is right, and I command you to testify what you now are seeing and hearing."   (Gordon B. Hinckley, Mitδ on sanottava mormoneista?, p.65)


The witnesses left. As comes to the plates and eyewitnesses, the testimony of Joseph Smith mentions two different groups of eyewitnesses who signed the testimony. First, there is the account of the three men and then the account of eight men about seeing the golden plates. Both of these groups got – according to their own statement – to testify the revelation of God and one of the most remarkable events in world history.

   But were these men very strong in their faith? Each one of the first three witnesses walked away, although two of them returned later; this does not give a very convincing view of the issue. On top of this, three of the eight witnesses gave up the church completely and never came back.

   Therefore, if the gold plates were real and were God's revelation, how come the eyewitnesses sacrificed their own eternity and their hope of salvation because of some small contradictions? Does this not strike you as odd and should the eyewitnesses not, instead, have had the strongest faith of them all? This abandonment and indifference of the key witnesses is a mystery that is connected to the gold plates, and it is difficult to explain if the plates really were genuine.


Style. Since the Book of Mormon is supposed to have been written over the course of many centuries and by separate writers (more than ten of them), the style of several writers should also be seen in it, as is seen in the Bible. However, we can see a problem: this is not the case. The Book of Mormon seems to be, in its entirety, a text which has been written by one and the same author. How could this be possible if it had come from the pens of several individuals? Why have each of them used the same style?


Quotes from the King James translation. Another peculiarity in the Book of Mormon is that it uses the very same wording as the King James translation of the Bible that was published in the 1600s. It has been estimated that there are about 25,000 words which are exactly the same as in the King James version. In addition, there are direct quotes from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt, chapters 5-7/ 3. Nefi, chapters 12-14) and the charisma catalogue written by Paul (1 Cor 12:8-11 / Moron 10:8-16).

   A good question is, therefore, how the ancient writers in the continent of America could have used exactly the same words as Matthew and Paul and which appear in a Bible translated centuries later? How could they have used exactly the same wording centuries earlier? Should this not be impossible, since the New Testament did not come to America until more than a thousand years after these people had died?


People who have studied the origins of the Book of Mormon have different opinions regarding the sources from which the story frame of the book has been received. However, one thing is sure: the most important source is the Bible. The Book of Mormon contains many direct quotes from the Bible, and many accounts in the Bible are found also in the Book of Mormon, only in a modified format. The Book of Mormon translated by Joseph Smith contains quotes from the English language Bible, the King James version. It is interesting that men of ancient times, who are claimed to have written on golden plates in Egyptian, used same expressions that appear in the King James version hundreds of years later. (…)

  In addition to this, there are hundreds of verses in the Book of Mormon that are almost direct quotes from the King James version that was in use in the beginning of the 1600s. Joseph Smith has also included a large variety of theological and practical matters of the life of a congregation that were common in the 19th century America . (4)


"Manuscript found". Even though the Book of Mormon claims that some tribes of Israel once wandered to America and that the native Americans were their descendants, one should note that a story like this is not in any way unique: many similar stories date back to the same time.

   For example, Solomon Spaulding's (1761–1816) Manuscript Found tells a similar story, in which he even uses names that also appear in the Book of Mormon – such as men called Lehi, Nefi, and Moron as well as the Lamanites.

   On grounds of the previous and on grounds of these names, people have generally reached the conclusion that Manuscript Found served as the basis for the Book of Mormon. At least, the widow of Solomon Spaulding and many of his friends claimed to remember how Solomon had, at the end of his life, read to them a manuscript about the very same issues as the current Book of Mormon. Is it, therefore, possible that Joseph Smith got hold of this piece of writing and wrote the Book of Mormon based on it? This is always a possibility.


The American Indians. According to the book of Mormon present-day American Indians are the descendants of Jews but it is difficult to find any evidence supporting this idea.

   Firstly, anthropologists generally think that the American Indians belong to the Mongol race and that they have no physical features in common with the Semites. In addition to their appearance, their customs are very different from the customs of the Jews. No synagogues or other objects and customs that were common in Judaism have been found amongst the Indians, nor have any Christian churches been found amongst them. Therefore, if the claims of the Book of Mormon are true, should not a great deal of relics like these be found? Why can we not find any, or does it disprove the book of Mormon?


Jesus in America. One thought that is brought out in the open by the Book of Mormon is that Jesus preached also in America after his resurrection, and established a church there – he did it because he did not want to let people know of him only in one country, Israel.

   We may ask, however, why would God in that case have disregarded other continents, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia, and chosen only America as the subject of his announcement. And did Jesus Himself not say that He was sent only to Israel and to preach only there? (The doctrine and covenants that is composed mainly of the visions of Joseph Smith, also claims that Adam did not live in the Middle East at all, like the Bible indicates, but in America! Cf. 107:53 and 116:1.) Why would He have changed His own words in this issue?


- (Matt 15:24) But he answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


Another issue worth noting is that Christian history does not know of any Christian churches having been established in any other way than through missionary work carried out by Christians – this has always been the order prescribed by God. In the same way, Jesus gave His disciples a task to preach the Gospel, and there are no examples of He himself, after His resurrection, carrying it out. So, the Book of Mormon goes against how God has generally worked in the world:


- (Mark 16:15) And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.


The names of places. Many excavations and archaeological findings have confirmed that the places mentioned in the Bible really existed and that the references to historical events are real.

   Instead, it is a different matter altogether as comes to the Book of Mormon. From the regions where people should have lived, no names of rivers, towns, lakes, or mountains have been found which even resembled the names mentioned in the Book of Mormon, even though names generally remain unchanged for many centuries. Neither have relics of Christian churches been found, although they too should have been there according to the Book of Mormon. So, when pointed out, points like this are powerful evidence against the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon.














Jari Iivanainen



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