Is the Book of Mormon
really an ancient book?

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Updated 3/17/97

  1. If the Book of Mormon really were an ancient book, what would it matter?
  2. How can you identify an actual ancient book?
  3. The Book of Mormon and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  4. The Book of Mormon and John Barleycorn.
  5. Authentic non-Biblical ancient ceremony recorded in Book of Mormon.
  6. Ancient Book of Enoch text quoted in Book of Mormon.
  7. Ancient Arabian geographical naming conventions used in the Book of Mormon.
  8. Ancient non-Biblical Hebrew poetic style used in the Book Mormon.
  9. Ancient non-Biblical Hebrew idiom used in Book of Mormon - critics humiliated!
  10. Biblical literary structure, undiscovered until 1950s, found in Book of Mormon.
  11. Authentication of dozens of non-Biblical Book of Mormon names.
  12. Statistical analysis gives 1000 to 1 odds against the "one author theory."
  13. Book of Mormon anticipates modern mesoamerican archeology
  14. Gold plates.
  15. Temple Building.
  16. Open questions.
  17. If you were offered "a billion to one odds - in your favor" would you take it?
  18. Non-Book of Mormon items
  19. Free lecture offer / A personal testimony.

If the Book of Mormon really were an ancient book, at would it matter?

If the Book of Mormon can be demonstrated to know many, many things about the ancient world that no living person knew in the early eighteen hundreds; furthermore if it can be proven that the Book of Mormon repeatedly flies in the face of the best knowledge and belief of that period, only to be proven exactly right by subsequent discoveries; then a rational person must admit that the Book of Mormon probably is an ancient book.

But the Book of Mormon was translated, according to Joseph Smith, "by the gift and power of God." So it can't be an ancient book unless God lives and Jesus is the Christ. In fact, the Book of Mormon says it was written anciently for the express purpose of convincing us of these truths. If the Book of Mormon is an ancient book, then it's translator was, in fact, a prophet of God.

And if the Book of Mormon is an ancient scripture, recorded by prophets, translated by inspiration, and revealed by God to our day and time, then we would be wise heed it's message and follow the movement it inaugurated, for in so doing we follow Jesus the Christ.

A final comment: isn't it wonderful of our Father in Heaven, at last, to answer the cry of the centuries and provide real evidence of his existence without being so heavy handed as to crush our free agency? The evidence presented below is impressive in the extreme, yet it leaves people free to choose for themselves whether they will believe or not. One who chooses not to believe is not constrained to believe by the evidence presented here, but the honest in heart, who feel that the true Kingdom of God ought to have special and powerful credentials, and not just be another voice in the crowd, will not go away disappointed from an examination of the claims and evidences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Book of rmon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

How can you identify an actual ancient book?

NOTE: Dr. Hugh Nibley is the number one Mormon scholar in the area of ancient texts and Mormonism. We'll be quoting him frequently and at some length. Detailed references and documentation are available on request.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.6, Part.1, Ch.1)

Anyone who attempts to read a historical source with an eye to being critical will naturally refer everything in it to his own experience. In so doing he will quickly discover in the document the most obvious parallels to the world in which he lives. This stuff, he decides, could have been written yesterday, and therefore must have been. If the document is an ancient one, however, he will also run into absurd and unfamiliar things so foreign to his experience or that of his fellows as to prove beyond a doubt that the document is a wild fabrication. This is the normal method and result of Book of Mormon criticism, which always finds proof for fraud in two kinds of matter: (1) that which is obvious and commonplace and therefore shows that Joseph Smith was simply writing from his own experience, and (2) that which is not obvious an commonplace and therefore shows that Joseph Smith was making it up. The critics, putting their trust in the easy generalizations of our shallow modern education, are apparently unaware that any authentic history of human beings is bound to contain much that is common and familiar, while on the other hand any genuine ancient record of any length is bound to contain much that is strange and unfamiliar to modern readers.

The Only Valid Approach

According to Blass, the first thing to do in examining any ancient text is to consider it in the light of the origin and background that is claimed for it. If it fits into that background there is no need to look further, since historical forgery is virtually impossible. Five hundred years of textual criticism have shown the futility of trying to judge ancient writings by the standards of modern taste, or of assuming that any ancient document is a forgery before it has been tested. Yet today the literary condemn the Book of Mormon as not being up to the standards of English literature that appeal to them, social scientists condemn it because it fails to display an evolutionary pattern of history, and the exponents of pure thought are disgusted with it because it entirely ignores the heritage of medieval scholasticism and fails to display the Victorian meliorism which should be the mark of any nineteenth century history of humanity.

Today some critics are fond of pointing out that the Book of Mormon is written in the very language of Joseph Smith's own society. That is as if a professor of French literature were to prove Champollion a fraud by showing after patient years of study that his translation of the Rosetta Stone was not in Egyptian at all but in the very type of French that Champollion and his friends were wont to use! The discovery is totally without significance, of course, because Champollion never claimed to be writing Egyptian, but to be rendering it into his own language. To test his Egyptian claims we would have to go back not to Grenoble but to Egypt; and for the same reason, to test the claims of the Book of Mormon to antiquity we do not go back to the town of Manchester but to the world from which it purports to come. There is only one direction from which any ancient writing may be profitably approached. It must be considered in its original ancient setting and in no other. Only there, if it is a forgery, will its weakness be revealed, and only there, if it is true, can its claims be vindicated.

The Book of Mormon and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7, Ch.10)

Since it is normal procedure to list parallels between Qumran and this or that book or society, and since the significance of such parallels is greatly enhanced by their cumulative effect, the following list needs no apology or explanation.

(1) First of all, the Book of Mormon opens with a group of pious separatists from Jerusalem moving into the refuge of the Judaean wilderness in the hopes of making a permanent settlement where they could live their religion in its purity free from the persecution of "the Jews at Jerusalem." This we pointed out in Lehi in the Desert before the publication of any of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The parallel needs no comment. (2) These people, like those at Qumran, have a passion for writing and reading which seems to be a long-standing family tradition; they make records of everything, and (3) they know of an ancient tradition of the sealing up and burying of holy books in time of danger, to come forth "in their purity" at a later time. (4) They themselves engage in the practice, in which they even employ for their most valuable records copper and gold sheets on which they laboriously engrave their message in a cramped and abbreviated script. (5) Both peoples apply all the scriptures to themselves in a special way and never tire of presenting and discussing "proof-texts." (6) Both societies held a peculiarly "open-ended" view of scriptures and revelation and knew of no canon of the Old Testament but accepted some of the "Apocrypha" as inspired writings. This attitude appears commonplace today, but we must remember that it has been quite alien to conventional Christianity and Jewish thinking and has been the one aspect of the Book of Mormon which has been most loudly denounced and ridiculed for over a century.

(7) In both the Book of Mormon and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the peculiar and until now quite unfamiliar concept of a "church of anticipation" is very conspicuous. (8) The religious communities in both hemispheres strove to keep the Law of Moses in all its perfection and were cool towards "the Jews in Jerusalem," who they felt had been false to the covenant by their worldliness. (9) They felt themselves in both cases to be the real Elect of God, the true Israel, chosen to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. (10) Specifically, they both think of themselves as Israel in the wilderness and consciously preserve the camp life of the desert. (11) Both have suffered persecution and expect to suffer more, being repeatedly required to seek refuge by moving from one place to another. (12) Both societies are under the leadership of inspired men (designated in both traditions as "stars")--prophets and martyrs (13) whose in message is the coming of the Messiah and (14) whose exhortation is to "righteousness" and repentance--Israel must turn away from her sins and return to the covenant. (15) In both cases sign of the return to the covenant and to purity was baptism with water.

(16) Both societies were headed by twelve chiefs from whom were chosen a special presidency of three, and (17) both were formed into groups of fifty for instructional and administrative purposes, each group being under the direction of a priest (Mosiah 18:18), (18) for in both societies the old priesthood was still respected and the leaders had to be legitimate priests. (19) In both societies the chief priest or leader of the whole church travel about among the congregations giving instructions and exhortations. (20) Both societies were secret and exclusive but would admit to membership anyone in Israel who sought to live the covenant in righteousness. (21) Both societies were strict observers of the Sabbath, but set aside another day of the week for their special meetings. (22) Those who joined either group were required to share their earthly wealth with all their fellow members, and (23) though both groups were hierarchical and strictly authoritarian, a feeling of perfect equality prevailed. (24) All devoted their lives to religious activity (study, preaching, discussion, prayer, and the singing and composing of hymns and to physical labor, even the leaders working for their own support. (25) The headquarters of the societies seem to have looked remarkably alike: both were at special watering places in the desert with sheltering clumps of trees. (26) Since Alma's church shared all things in common, they probably had communal meals, like the Essenes. When Alma says to his followers: "Come unto me and . . . ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely" (Alma 5:34), it was plainly imagery that his hearers understood.

(27) As strict observers of the Law of Moses, both groups respected the Temple and anticipated its perfect restoration. One of the first things Nephi's community did when they went out by themselves was to build a replica of the Temple. Such an idea has been thought utterly preposterous by the critics until the discovery in the present century of other Jewish colonies in distant lands building just such duplicates of the Temple. (28) Both groups, like the Jews at Jerusalem, regarded the Law of Moses only as a preparation, albeit an indispensable preparation, for more light to come, it "pointing their minds forward" to a fuller revelation of salvation.

(29) Doctrinally, a fundamental teaching of both societies was the idea of a divine plan laid down in the heavens at the foundation of the world, each individual having a aim or "lot" in the knowledge and the fruits of the plan. (30) Historically this plan is unfolded apocalyptically in a series of dispensations, each divine visitation being followed by the apostacy and punishment of the people, necessitating a later restoration of the covenant. (31) This restoration is brought about through the righteous Remnant, the few who remain faithful in Israel and continue to look for the Messiah and the signs of his coming. (32) The series of visitations and "ends" will be consummated with a final destruction of the wicked by fire.

(33) Meanwhile, all men are being tested: both teachings lay great stress on the dualistic nature of this time of probation in which there "must needs be . . . an opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11). (34) In this and other things both bodies of scripture show a peculiar affinity for the writings of John. (35) Both groups persistently designate themselves as "the poor," emphasizing thereby their position as outcasts. This is strikingly illustrated in the Book of Mormon in an episode from the mission of Alma: When a large crowd gathered on a hillside outside a certain city to hear Alma preach, one of their leaders told Alma that these people were largely social outcasts, "for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do?" (Alma 32:5). It is among such people that Alma gathers recruits for his society, meeting with total rebuff at the hands of the upper classes and the priests.

NOTE: In addition to the items Nibley mentions above, my own research has uncovered the following parallels between the Scrolls and the Book of Mormon:

The Book of Mormon and John Barleycorn.

The Book of Mormon says that the Nephite civilization had and used barley as one of their basic grains (see Book of Mormon, Mosiah 7:22, Mosiah 9:9, Alma 11:7). Since domesticated barley had never been found in the New World, the critics duly noted the apparent mistake and concluded that they'd caught Joseph Smith in a lie. In the December 1983 issue of "Science '83" the article "Last Ditch Archeology", by Daniel B. Adams reports the discovery in southern Arizona of "domesticated barley, the first ever discovered in the New World."

The Book of Mormon had been right to say that domesticated barley existed in pre-Columbian times, and the critics had been wrong, for more than 150 years. But the proof took 150 years to dig up. Literally dig up. And the apparent mistake in the Book of Mormon, and the apparent scientific validity of the critics (however false) stood in peoples minds for all those years. It hardly seems fair to the Book of Mormon, does it?

Though it seems a small point, the question is, how many times does this sort of thing have to happen before we conclude that there really is something strange going on in The Book of Mormon? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred?

Authentic non-Biblical ancient ceremony recorded in Book of Mormon.

NOTE: The text discoveries and J. Z. Smith's analysis took place in this century. The Book of Mormon describes the ceremony in 1830. If the author of the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historian, how did he know this?

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7, Ch.9, Pg.243)

In a very recent study J.Z. Smith considers under the title of "Treading upon the Garments" an ancient ritual practice attested in the newly discovered early Christian Coptic texts in which a person upon becoming a member of the church would take off his garment and trample on it "in token" of having cast away an old way of life and as a symbol of trampling his old sins underfoot, with "curses placed on the inciter" to sin. Heretofore the custom has been traced to Hellenistic sources, but it now appears from the newly found documents that it is an original and very old Jewish rite "probably to be traced back to Jewish exegesis of Genesis 3:21." It has all the marks of being archaic and shows that peculiar blend of ritual and real-life behavior which at first made the understanding of the Battle Scroll so difficult and which puts such a distinctive stamp upon some of the historical events in the Book of Mormon.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.8, Ch.17, Pg.335 - Pg.336

[In the Book of Mormon] The people who answered Moroni's summons come girding on their armor and "rending their garments in token, or as a covenant that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, . . . the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments" (Alma 46:21). "And they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: . . . We shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward [the Jaredites], if we shall fall into transgression; yea, [God] may cast us at the feet of our enemies, . . . to be trodden underfoot, if we shall fall into transgression" (Alma 46:22). Recent studies have called attention to the forgotten but peculiar old Jewish rite of treading on one's garments while making a covenant. Moroni, in addressing the people on the occasion, sheds more light on the subject: "Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised . . . shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions" (Alma 46:18).

Ancient Book of Enoch text quoted in Book of Mormon.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.2, Ch.1, Pg.8)

A quotation from an Enoch text occurs in the thirteenth chapter of Helaman. "Ye have trusted in your riches," Enoch tells the people. "Ye have not remembered the Lord in the day he gave you your riches." (Cf. Helaman 13:33.) This is also Samuel the Lamanite speaking, an expert in the scriptures; he knew all about these things. He had access to the plates of brass and other records. And here Enoch speaks in a writing not discovered until 1888: "Ye have not remembered the Lord in the days he gave you your riches; ye have gone astray that your riches shall not remain, because you have done evil in everything. Cursed are you and cursed are your riches."

NOTE: Nibley's citation, above, raises three interesting issues:

1. The text discovery took place in 1888. The Book of Mormon provides the citation in 1830. If the author of the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historian, how did know this?

2. The Book of Mormon has been criticized for using New Testament language before New Testament times. But the New Testament abounds with quotations from Enoch and other ancient writers. When the New Testament and the Book of Mormon both quote (without attribution, in the ancient style) from lost, ancient writings, it's going to look like the Book of Mormon is (to quote mark Twain) "smouched from the New Testament, and no credit given."

3. I claimed earlier that it can be proven that the Book of Mormon repeatedly flies in the face of the best knowledge and belief of the 1800s, only to be proven exactly right by subsequent discoveries. This is a prime example. No one would be so stupid in an 1800's forgery as to expect a Bible-reading public not to recognize Bible phrases. But the ancient author of the Book of Mormon blythly cites his ancient sources (as Enoch, above) without attribution, thus ignorantly putting Joseph Smith's reputation in jeopardy.

Ancient Arabian geographical naming conventions used in the Book of Mormon.

(From the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 2:8-14) Note the River Laman in verse 8 and the "Valley of Lemuel" in verse 14)

8 And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof.

9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!

10 And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!

11 Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.

12 And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their ther. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

13 Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem who sought to take away the life of my father.

14 And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.4, Pg.76)
Even more whimsical and senseless to a westerner must appear the behavior of Lehi in naming a river after one son and its valley after another. But the Arabs didn't think that way. In the Mahra country, for example, "as is commonly the case in these mountains, the water bears a different name from the wadi." Likewise we might suppose that after he had named the river after his first-born the location of the camp beside its waters would be given, as any westerner would give it, with reference to the river. Instead, the Book of Mormon follows the Arabic system of designating the camp not by the name of the river (which may easily dry up sometime), but by the name of the valley (1 Nephi 10:16; 16:6).

Ancient non-Biblical Hebrew poetic style

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.5)

According to Richter, the best possible example of the primitive Arabic qasida (the name given to the oldest actual poetry of the desert) is furnished by those old poems in which one's beloved is compared to a land "in which abundant streams flow down . . . with rushing and swirling, so that the water overflows every evening continually." Here the "continually flowing" water is compared to the person addressed, as in Lehi's "song" to Laman. The original qasida, the same authority avers, was built around the beseeching (werbenden, hence the name qasida) motif, not necessarily erotic in origin, as was once thought, but dealing rather with praise of virtue in general (Tugendlob). Ibn Qutayba even claims that the introductory love theme was merely a device to gain attention of male listeners and was not at all the real stuff of the poem. The standard pattern is a simple one: (a) the poet's attention is arrested by some impressive natural phenomenon, usually running water; (b) this leads him to recite a few words in its praise drawing it to the attention of a beloved companion of the way, and (c) making it an object lesson for the latter, who is urged to be like it. Burton gives a good example: at the sight of the Wadi al-Akik the nomad poet is moved to exclaim,

O my friend, this is Akik, then stand by it,
Endeavoring to be distracted by love,
if not really a lover.

This seems to be some sort of love song, albeit a peculiar one, and some have claimed that all the old qasidas were such. But Burton and his Arabs know the real meaning, "the esoteric meaning of this couplet," as he calls it, which quite escapes the western reader and is to be interpreted:

Man! This is a lovely portion of God's creation:
Then stand by it, and here learn to love
the perfections of thy Supreme Friend.

Compare this with Lehi's appeal to Lemuel:

O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast And immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord! (1 Nephi 2:10).

Note the remarkable parallel. In each case the poet, wandering in the desert with his friends, is moved by the sight of a pleasant valley, a large wady with water in it; he calls the attention of his beloved companion to the view, and appeals to him to learn a lesson from the valley and "stand by it," firm and unshakable in the love of the ways of the Lord. Let us briefly list the exacting conditions fulfilled by Nephi's account of his father's qasidas and demanded of the true and authentic poet of the earliest period: used in the Book of Mormon.

NOTE: FYI, here's the exact Book of Mormon quote again:

(From the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 2:8-10)

8 And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman, and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof.

9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!

10 And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!

How did the Book of Mormon's author know?

Ancient non-Biblical Hebrew idiom used in Book Mormon - critics humiliated!

(From the Book of Mormon, Alma 7:9-10)

9 But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying--Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

NOTE: I claimed earlier that it can be proven that the Book of Mormon repeatedly flies in the face of the best knowledge and belief of the 1800s, only to be proven exactly right by subsequent discoveries. This is another prime example. Any (Sunday) school child knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Anybody forging a prophetic book in the early 1800s is going to say it too. But an ancient author might well use the ancient Hebrew idiom "the land of Jerusalem" (a geographic region encompassing Bethlehem) and never know to the day of his death that the English translation was going to fuel anti-Mormon scorn for more than a hundred years. (PS - Anti-Mormon writers are still using this argument although they know it's invalid.)

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.1)

The Situation in Jerusalem

When we speak of Jerusalem, it is important to notice Nephi's preference for a non-Biblical expression, "the land of Jerusalem" (1 Nephi 3:10), in designating his homeland. While he and his brothers always regard "the land of Jerusalem" as their home it is perfectly clear from a number of passages that "the land of our father's inheritance" (1 Nephi 3:16) cannot possibly be within, or even very near, the city, even though Lehi had "dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days" (1 Nephi 1:4). The terms seem confused, but they correctly reflect actual conditions, for in the Amarna letters we read of "the land of Jerusalem" as an area larger than the city itself, and even learn in one instance that "a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib, has been captured." It was the rule in Palestine and Syria, as the same letters show, for a large area around a city and all the inhabitants of that area to bear the name of the city. This was a holdover from the times when the city and the land were a single political unit, comprising a city-state; when this was absorbed into a larger empire, the original identity was preserved, though it had lost its original political significance. The same conservatism made it possible for Socrates to be an Athenian, and nothing else, even though he came from the village of Alopeke, at some distance from the city. This arrangement deserves mention because many have pointed to the statement of Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers," as sure proof of fraud. It is rather the opposite, faithfully preserving the ancient terminology to describe a system which has only been recently rediscovered.

Though he "dwelt at Jerusalem," Lehi did not live in the city, for it was after they had failed to get the plates in Jerusalem that his sons decided to "go down to the land of our father's inheritance" (1 Nephi 3:16), and there gather enough wealth to buy the plates from Laban. Loaded with the stuff, they "went up again unto the house of Laban" in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 3:23). The Book of Mormon employs the expressions "to go down" and "to go up" exactly as the Hebrews and Egyptians did with reference to the location of Jerusalem, and thus clearly establishes that Lehi's property lay somewhere in the country and not within the walls of Jerusalem.

Biblical literary structure, undiscovered until late 1800s, found in Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon contains chiasmus (ky-AS-mus), an ancient Hebrew literary construction discovered in the late 1800s. In chiasmus, the first and last phrases of a section of text contain identical or closely related terms, as do the second and next-to-last phrases, and the third and third-to-last phrases, etc. The "Popul Vuh" writings of the Mayas of Central America were recently found to also contain chiastic structures.

(See "Reexploring the Book of Mormon" John W. Welch, ed. Chapters 66-67)


In the Bible we read this chiasm from a direct Herbrew translation:

{1}    SAVE me
{2}         O my GOD
{3}              For thou hast SMITTEN
{4}                   All my ENEMIES
{5}                        On the CHEEKBONE.
{5}                        The TEETH
{4}                  Of the WICKED
{3}             Thou hast BROKEN.
{2}         To YAHWEH
{1}  The SALVATION. 
(Psalms 3:7-8 in Hebrew transliteration)

And in the Book of Mormon we read this chiasm:

     (Men will drink damnation to their souls unless)
{1} They HUMBLE themselves
{2}    and become as little CHILDREN
{3}       believing that salvation is in the ATONING BLOOD OF CHRIST;
{4}          for the NATURAL MAN
{5}             is an enemy of GOD
{6}                and HAS BEEN from the fall of Adam
{6}                and WILL BE forever and ever
{5}             unless he yieldeth to the HOLY SPIRIT
{4}          and putteth off the NATURAL MAN
{3}      and becometh a saint through the ATONEMENT OF CHRIST
{2}    and becometh as a CHILD
{1} submissive, meek and HUMBLE.
(Mosiah 3:18-19)

And in the Popul Vuh of the Mayans we read this iasm:

{2}     and once it had been CREATED
{3}        the EARTH
{4}           the MOUNTAINS and valleys
{5}              the paths of the waters were DIVIDED
{6}                  and they proceded to twist along among the hills.
{5}              So the rivers then became more DIVIDED
{4}            as the great MOUNTAINS were appearing.
{3}        And thus was the creation of the EARTH
{2}     when it was CREATED by him
{1}  who is the HEART OF HEAVEN.

There are many such chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon. Only an ancient author would have known to include them. The transmission of the ancient Hebrew form to the Maya may even be explained by the migrations documented in the Book of Mormon.

Authentication of dozens of non-Biblical Book Mormon names.

NOTE: Critics have zinged Joseph Smith for years for naming a male Nephite "Alma" with a female 'a' ending. Any 1800s forger, familiar with the phrase "alma mater" (fostering mother) would have known better. But the ancient author of the Book of Mormon didn't know about that. And guess what the Judean desert turned up a few years ago....

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.8, Ch.15)

The story of Moroni's war of liberation with its liberty slogans taken from the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon, and this provides us with another tangible link to the Old World, namely, the name of Alma, which deserves a momentary digression. The more exotic proper names of the Book of Mormon have been matched up extensively and sometimes quite convincingly with real Egyptian and Semitic names (which is what they claim to be). Such an odd monicker as Paanchi (who ever heard of a double "a" in English?) not only turned up in the Egyptian records a generation after the Book of Mormon came out, but it turned out to be a rather prominent and important name in the bargain. And such a very un-Egyptian, un-Oriental, indeed un-anything name as "Hermounts" was applied by the Book of Mormon Nephites to a region on the extremity of the land where wild animals abounded, a territory whose description perfectly matches that part of the world to which the Egyptians gave the name of Hermonthis. But strangely enough, the name in the Book of Mormon that has brought the most derision on that book, and caused the greatest embarrassment to the Latter-day Saints, especially among those holders of the priesthood who have borne it among the children of men, is the simple and unpretentious Alma. Roman priests have found in this obviously Latin and obviously feminine name (who does not know that Alma Mater means "fostering mother"?)--gratifying evidence of the ignorance and naivety of the youthful Joseph Smith--how could he have been simple enough to let such a thing get by? At least his more sophisticated followers should have known better! It is therefore gratifying to announce that at the extreme end of the Cave of Letters, on the north side of the Nahal Hever, between three and four o'clock of the afternoon of 15 March 1961 Professor Yadin put his hand into a crevice in the floor of the cave and lifted out a goat-skin bag containing a woman's materials for mending her family's clothes on their sad and enforced vacation; and hidden away under the stuff, at the very bottom of the bag, was a bundle of papyrus rolls wrapped in a cloth. And among them was a deed to some land near En-Gedi (the nearest town to the cave) owned by four men, one of whom signed himself, or rather dictated his name since he was illiterate, as "Alma the son of Judah." The deed is reproduced in color on page 177 of the book, and there at the end of the fourth line from the top, as large as life, is A-l-m-a ben Yehudah, which Professor Yadin sensibly renders "Alma" with no reservations.
(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.2)
There is a remarkable association between the names of Lehi and Ishmael which ties them both to the southern desert, where the legendary birthplace and central shrine of Ishmael was at a place called Be'er Lehai-ro'i. Wellhausen rendered the name "spring of the wild-ox jaw-bone," but Paul Haupt showed that Lehi (for so he reads the name) does not mean "jaw but "cheek," which leaves the meaning of the strange compound still unclear. One thing is certain, however: that Lehi is a personal name. Until recently this name was entirely unknown save as a place name, but now it has turned up at Elath and elsewhere in the south in a form that has been identified by Nelson Glueck with the name Lahai, which "occurs quite frequently either as part of a compound, or as a separate name of a deity or a person, particularly in Minaean, Thamudic, and Arabic texts." There is a Beit Lahi, "House of Lahi," among the ancient place-names of the Arab country around Gaza, but the meaning of the name has here been lost. If the least be said of it, the name Lehi is thoroughly at home among the people of the desert and, so far as we know, nowhere else.
(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.1, Ch.2)
Strange Names

The stamp of Egypt on Lehi's people may be clearly discerned in the names those people and their descendants. Hebrew and Egyptian names together make up the overwhelming majority and occur in about equal strength, which is exactly what one would expect from Mormon's claim that both languages were used among them (and which would certainly not be the case were Hebrew the only spoken language), but Hittite, Arabic, and Ionian elements are not missing. First, consider a few Egyptian names, setting off the Book of Mormon names (BM) against their Old World equivalents (OW).

Aha (BM), son of the Nephite commander in chief.
Aha (OW), a name of the first Pharaoh; it means "warrior" and is a common word.

Aminadab (BM), Nephite missionary in the time of the judges.
Amanathabi (OW), chief of a Canaanite city under Egyptian domination. This name is "reformed" Egyptian.

Ammon (BM), the commonest name in the Book of Mormon.
Ammon (Amon, Amun) (OW), the commonest name in the Egyptian Empire: the great universal God of the Empire.

Ammoni-hah (BM), name of a country and city.
Ammuni-ra (OW), prince of Beyrut under Egyptian rule. The above might stand the same relationship to this name as

Cameni-hah (BM), a Nephite general
Khamuni-ra (OW), Amarna personal name, perhaps equivalent of Ammuni-ra.

Cezoram (BM), Nephite chief judge.
Chiziri (OW), Egyptian governor of a Syrian city.

Giddonah (BM), a) high priest who judged Korihor, b) father of Amulek.
Dji-dw-na (OW), the Egyptian name for Sidon.

Gidgiddoni and Gidgiddonah (BM), Nephite generals.
Djed-djhwt-iw-f and Djed-djhwti-iw-s plus ankh (OW), Egyptian proper name meaning "Thoth hath said: he shall live," and "Thoth hath said: she shall live," respectively. On this pattern the two Nephite names mean "Thoth hath said I shall live," and "Thoth hath said: we shall live," respectively.

Giddianhi (BM), robber chief and general.
Djhwti-ankhi (OW), "Thoth is my life"; see above.

Gimgim-no (BM), city of Gimgim, compare Biblical No-Amon, "City of Amon."
Kenkeme (OW), Egyptian city, cf. Kipkip, seat of the Egyptian dynasty in Nubia.

Hem (BM), brother of the earlier Ammon.
Hem (OW), means "servant," specifically of Ammon, as in the title Hem tp n 'Imn, "chief servant of Ammon" held by the high priest of Thebes.

Helaman (BM), great Nephite prophet.
Her-amon (OW), "in the presence of Amon," as in the Egyptian proper name Heri-i-her-imn. Semitic "l" is always written "r" in Egyptian, which has no "l." Conversely, e Egyptian "r" is often written "l" in Semitic languages.

Himni (BM), a son of King Mosiah.
Hmn (OW), a name of the Egyptian hawk-god, symbol of the emperor.

Korihor (BM), a political agitator who was seized by the people of Ammon.
Kherihor (also written Khurhor, etc.) (OW), great high priest of Ammon who seized the throne of Egypt at Thebes, cir. 1085 b.c.

Manti (BM), the name of a Nephite soldier, a land, a city, and a hill.
Manti (OW), Semitic form of an Egyptian proper name, e.g., Manti-mankhi, prince in Upper Egypt cir. 650 b.c. It is a late form of Month, god of Hermonthis.

Mathoni (BM), a Nephite disciple.
Maitena, Mattenos, etc. (OW), two judges of Tyre, who at different times made themselves king, possibly under the Egyptian auspices.

Morianton (BM), the name of a Nephite city and its founder, cf. the Nephite province Moriantum.
Meriaton and Meriamon (OW), names of Egyptian princes, "Beloved of Aton" and "Beloved of Amon" respectively.

Nephi (BM), founder of the Nephite nation.
Nehi, Nehri (OW), famous Egyptian noblemen. Nfy was the name of an Egyptian captain. Since BM insists on "ph," Nephi is closer to Nihpi, original name of the god Pa-nepi, which may even have been Nephi.

Paanchi (BM), son of Pahoran, Sr., and pretender to the chief-judgeship.
Paanchi (OW), son of Kherihor, a) chief high priest of Amon, b) ruler of the south who conquered all of Egypt and was high priest of Amon at Thebes.

Pahoran (BM), a) great chief judge, b) son of the same.
Pa-her-an (OW), ambassador of Egypt in Palestine, where his name has the "Reformed" reading Pahura; in Egyptian as Pa-her-y it means "the Syrian" or Asiatic.

Pacumeni (BM), son of Pahoran.
Pakamen (OW), Egyptian proper name meaning "blind man"; also Pamenches (Gk. Pachomios), commander of the south and high priest of Horus.

Pachus (BM), revolutionary leader and usurper of the throne.
Pa-ks and Pach-qs (OW), Egyptian proper name. Compare Pa-ches-i, "he is praised."

Sam (BM), brother of Nephi.
Sam Tawi (OW), Egyptian "uniter of the lands," title taken by the brother of Nehri upon mounting the throne.

Seezor-am and Zeezr-om (BM), a depraved judge, and a lawyer, resp., the latter also the name of a city.
Zoser, Zeser, etc. (OW), Third Dynasty ruler, one of the greatest Pharaohs.

Zemna-ri-hah (BM), robber chief.
Zmn-ha-re (OW), Egyptian proper name: the same elements as the above in different order--a common Egyptian practice.

Zeniff (BM), ruler of Nephite colony.
Znb, Snb (OW), very common elements in Egyptian proper names, cf. Senep-ta.

Zenoch (BM), according to various Nephite writers, an ancient Hebrew prophet.
Zenekh (OW), Egyptian proper name; once a serpent-god.

Statistical analysis gives 1000 to 1 odds against the "one author theory."

I've spoken frequently of the "author" of the Book of Mormon. In fact, Mormon was the editor and compiler of the book, as Joseph Smith was the translator. Many different ancient prophets and seers recorded the different parts of the Book of Mormon. As the Bible has different authors for different books and epistles within it, so does the Book of Mormon.

John L. Hilton and his group have done detailed stylometic analyses of parts of the Book of Mormon "based on the somewhat surprising fact that every author studied thus far subconsciously uses sixty-five identifiable patterns, involving words like "and," "the," "of," and "that," at a statistically significant different rates from others." (Welch, "Reexploring the Book of Mormon" pg. 221.)

This statistical analysis estimates the odds of one person writing the "Nephi" and "Alma" sections evaluated to be one in one thousand. Neither Joseph Smith nor any other single person could have written the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon anticipates modern Mesoamerican archeology.

(From 'The Ensign' magazine, September, 1984, pg. 33)

A prime example of a topic on which expert views have changed drastically to be more in agreement with the Book of Mormon is armed conflict. Until recently the prevailing picture of Mesoamerica was that only peaceful societies existed in the the climatic Classic era, exemplified by the spectacular Maya and Teotihuacan ruins dating from about AD 300 to 800.

Mayan leaders were supposed to have spent their time peacefully contemplating and worshipping a complex set of gods, gazing at notable art, playing philosophical games with their calendar, and otherwise acting like "the Greeks of the New World." Only after AD 1000 was militarism supposed to have played a role in Mesoamerican history.

In the 1950s and 1960s a few voices - Armilles, Rands, Palerm - urged that this picture must be revised, but nobody listened. The big shift came with the 1970 work by Tulane University at Becan in the Yucatan Peninsula. The center of the site is surrounded by a ditch almost two kilometers in circumference and averaging 16 meters across. The makers had piled the earth to form a ridge on the inner side of the ditch. David Webster described the military effect of this fortification:

"To throw 'uphill' from the outside is almost impossible. Defenders, possibly screened by a palisade, could have rained long-distance missiles on approaching enemies using spearthrowers and slings."

(From the Book of Mormon, Alma 49:18-20)

18 Now behold, the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it were by the entrance.

19 And thus were the Nephites prepared to destroy all such as should attempt to climb up to enter the fort by any other way, by casting over stones and arrows at them.

20 Thus they were prepared, yea, a body of their strongest men, with their swords and their slings, to smite down all who should attempt to come into their place of security by the place of entrance; and thus were they prepared to defend themselves against the Lamanites.

Gold plates.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7)

The Plates

It is hard for us to realize today that for many years the idea of writing a sacred record on gold plates was considered just too funny for words and that the mere mention of the "Golden Bible" was enough to shock and scandalize the world. Today at least a hundred examples of ancient writing on metal plates are available, the latest discoveries being three gold plaques found in 1964 near an ancient shrine on the coast of Italy; they are covered with Punic and Etruscan writing and date from about 500 b.c. Punic, it will be recalled, is Phoenician, a language and script that flourished in Lehi's day a few miles from Jerusalem. It was also in 1964 that the writings on a thin gold plate from Sicily was identified as Hebrew; though the plate has been known since 1876, Hebrew was the last thing anybody expected. The golden plates of Darius, discovered in 1938, which in their form and the manner of their preservation so strikingly resemble the plates described by Joseph Smith, were augmented by new findings in the 1950s; the contents of the latter plates, a pious mixture of religious declamation and history, are as suggestive of the Book of Mormon as their outward appearance is of the plates. We have already spoken of the Copper Scrolls, riveted metal sheets, and noted how the purpose and spirit as well as the method of their production and concealment matches the record-keeping practices of the Nephites in every particular. Especially interesting is the provision that treasures "must be hidden away," that such treasures "would never be desecrated by profane use, "since" to use such goods for nonreligious purposes was a heinous sin," and it was "dangerous for any but priests to handle." For this is a lesson that Samuel the Lamanite drives home: "For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land . . . [I] will hide up their treasures when they shall flee before their enemies; because they will not hide them up unto me, cursed be they and also their treasure" (Helaman 13:19-20).

Temple Building.

NOTE: Once again, an 1800s forger would have gotten this wrong, by following the best knowledge of the time. The ancient authors of the Book of Mormon knew better.

(From the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7, Ch.2)

It is interesting that the Hebrew remains, though not scarce, do not have the impact that the foreign materials do. The Lachish Letters, containing eyewitness accounts of the desperate state of things in the land of Jerusalem in Lehi's day, have excited far less comment than the Elephantine Papyri which show us a Jewish community living far up the Nile, whither they had fled for safety, possibly at the destruction of Jerusalem in Lehi's day. In 1954 some of these records, the Brooklyn Aramaic Papyri, were discovered in a trunk, where they had been overlooked for fifty years. Perhaps the most surprising discovery about the Jews settled so far from home, was their program for building a temple in their new home. Not long ago, learned divines were fond of pointing out that Nephi's idea of building a temple in the New World was quite sufficient in itself to prove once and for all the fraudulence of the Book of Mormon, since, it was argued, no real Jew would ever dream of having a temple anywhere but in Jerusalem. So the Elephantine Papyri score another point for the Book of Mormon.

Open questions.

As the above evidence shows, every archeological criticism of the Book of Mormon ought to be prefaced by the phrase, "As far as we know at this time..." because there is an awful lot we don't know about the ancient world and new evidence is coming in all the time. Second, while archeological objections to the Book of Mormon must always be considered tentative, it's a one-way street. A confirmed assertion (such as domesticated barley) is a confirmed assertion and deserves credit as such.

There remain unanswered questions about the Book of Mormon. But based on what we've shown here, who would be willing to bet that no further discoveries will be coming forth to support opinions about the ancient world that the Book of Mormon first expressed in 1830?

And as the evidence continues to mount, how high does the mountain have to get before we are willing to admit that something very strange is going on here? And if we're willing to admit that, and if we love God and the truth of God, then we should find out for ourselves whether these things are true or not. The way to do that is given in the Book of Mormon, which says, in the last chapter:

"And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

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 unto 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 10:2-5)

If you fulfill the conditions of this promise, it will be kept by the Lord.

"If I offered you literally "a billion to one odds - in your favor" would you take it?

We have presented:

72 really good guesses in total

Some of the above items are so obscure and so exact that 50/50 odds are laughable. But lets assume that the author(s) of the Book of Mormon had a 50/50 chance of guessing each of these items correctly. What then are the odds against 72 such guesses?


Might as well stop here. The odds against 72 good guesses would strain your credulity.

If you love truth, if you respect evidence, won't you ask God in honest prayer to manifest to you by the Holy Spirit whether the Book of Mormon is His Holy Word or not?

Free lectures and a Testimony

I'm willing to travel to any congregation of any faith within about three hours of Martinsburg, West Virginia if you would like me to present a talk on this topic at no charge (but maybe you could serve refreshments :-) afterwards. Just I-mail me, and we'll see if we can make arrangements.

Finally, I want you know that I have a witness from the Holy Ghost that God our Heavenly Father lives, and that his only begotten Son in the flesh, Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. I know the Gift of the Holy Ghost, as administered through the Priesthood restored by angels to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery is real - I have felt it's power fill me like fire from head to toe, and I've told people secrets known only to God and themselves in the course of giving sacred Priesthood blessings. The Book of Mormon is God's challenge to an unbelieving world, and the mounting evidence for it is his challenge to the unbelieving mind - a fulfilment of the Book of Mormon prophecy which says (1 Nephi 13:39) "... I beheld other books which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true." I bear this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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