Smithsonian statement on Book of Mormon

PREPARED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY

STATEMENT REGARDING THE BOOK OF MORMON

  1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. The Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.

  2. The physical type of American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World – probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age – in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

  3. Present evidence indicates that the fist people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

  4. One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations, if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)

  5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

  6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asia and the Near East.

  7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt.

  8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.

  9. There are copies of the Book of Mormon in the library of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Did you type this all up yourself, or do you have a link?

In 1975, when the Mormon missionaries were teaching (read* lying to*) me, they told me that the Smithsonian Institution used the Book of Mormon for clues to find Meso-American archeological sites.

That has always been a deceptive tactic used by the LDS. Hence the need for a periodic disclaimer by the Smithsonian.

God forgive them,
Paul

I found it on an apologetics website. I don’t remember which one. But I thought it would be useful to have on here.

[quote=digitonomy]Did you type this all up yourself, or do you have a link?
[/quote]

I believe you can get to it from the Smithsonian website…not positive though.

[quote=tkdnick]I believe you can get to it from the Smithsonian website…not positive though.
[/quote]

The SI has updated the form letter the send in response to the Book of Mormon since '98. Now it just says something like:

“Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution’s alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in the Office of Communications. The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide, The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archeological research and any information that you have received to the contrary is incorrect.”

SI quit giving out their old response because 1) no one on their staff was qualified to make such an assessment, 2) members of Congress “questioned the Institution about the inappropriateness of a government agency taking a stand regarding a religious book”, and 3) the statement needed to be modified, anyway, because it wasn’t up-to-date scientifically.

Hope that helps.

I once encountered the theory that the Aztecs were descended from Phoenician sailors who were blown across the Atlantic and shipwrecked in Mexico.

I later encountered a disproof based on the silence noted by the Spanish Conquistadors in Mexico City. There were no wheeled vehicles.

It appears impossible that even the slightest encounter between Europe and the New World in the last 3+Millennia would not have transmitted the idea of the wheel.

I dug around, and your version of the letter dates from 1995 or earlier (the 1996 version leaves off point number 9). It cannot be found on the Smithsonian website, but many Mormon and non-Mormon sites include the statement, such as this Protestant site which has a photocopy of correspondence from the Smithsonian.

As noted here, the Smithsonian apparently does not use the statement anymore in responding to inquiries on the subject, although they stand by the statement (at least as of '99):

9 February 1999

Dear Ms. Lindbloom:

             Thank you for your letter. We still stand by our former statement on the *Book of Mormon.* It was a decision of the     Smithsonian's central Office of Public Affairs to simplify the statement to respond to general questions regarding the     Smithsonian's use of the *Book of Mormon.* Below is the statement we presently distribute for these general     inquiries.
           Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution's alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has       been received in the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology.                    The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in       archeological research and any information that you may have received to the contrary is incorrect.

I hope I have answered your question.

    Sincerely,
 (Signed) Ann Kaupp, Head
 Anthropology Outreach Office
 National Museum of Natural History

The bottom line is that the BOM is of no use as a historical document unlike the Bible. Archeologists have found many ruins because of info found in the Bible. In addition names, dates and other historical facts from the Bible have been and still are used to verify other historical events. The Bible is a verifiable historical record in addition to being a religious document.

I had heard that Mormon congressman had used their influence to try and tone down the Smithsonian statement. With apparently limited success.

[quote=PaulDupre]In 1975, when the Mormon missionaries were teaching (read* lying to*) me, they told me that the Smithsonian Institution used the Book of Mormon for clues to find Meso-American archeological sites.

That has always been a deceptive tactic used by the LDS. Hence the need for a periodic disclaimer by the Smithsonian.

God forgive them,
Paul
[/quote]

Ironically, this particular bit of data is widely disseminated by the LDS Church itself and missionaries are cautioned against exagerated claims about the BofM. However: there are vast numbers of LDS books about “Book of Mormon archaeology”, read almost exclusively by convinced Mormons. Such books may not contain any claims that the Smithsonian Institute ‘uses’ the BofM for archaeology, but the books tend to make the unwary Mormon ever-more convinced that solid ‘evidence’ for the Book of Mormon is being uncovered every day. Rumors abound that some latest round of archaeological work has ‘confirmed’ the Book of Mormon, and the rumor that the Smithsonian has reversed itself and is now using the BofM for ‘clues to early Americana’ circulates anew. It’s a long-standing urban legend among Mormons. They are usually NOT beng deliberately deceptive: they simply believe their faith very very intensely, and the LDS tend to lack an objective, rational faculty. They are convinced/converted by ‘subjective’ and emotive evidence, and often never get very serious about other forms of evidence. Again: far more charitable to assume they are since but mistaken than to attribute to them motives of deliberate duplicity. Spend any time among them and you’ll realise just how earnestly they believe their faith even in the face of flimsy pretext.

Roman Catholics cut their teeth on Aristotelian logic, at least indirectly by way of Aquinas. Every Catholic apologetics book I’ve ever read spends some time discussing the ‘proofs for the existence of God’, as if the average Roman Catholic starts out as an agnostic or atheist. They go on to establish the superiority of Christianity and the superiority of Catholicism over other forms of Christianity. Protestants start out by proving the reliability of the Scriptures. Most LDS apologists pre-suppose the existence of God, the truth of Christianity, and so forth: they assume that the seeker is being plagued by existential questions (“who am I? why am I here? where am I going?”) and pragmatic ones (“how can I have a happier family? how can I manage my problems more effectively?”). The whole approach is very different.

[quote=PaulDupre]In 1975, when the Mormon missionaries were teaching (read* lying to*) me, they told me that the Smithsonian Institution used the Book of Mormon for clues to find Meso-American archeological sites.

That has always been a deceptive tactic used by the LDS. Hence the need for a periodic disclaimer by the Smithsonian.

God forgive them,
Paul
[/quote]

The first time I took the LDS missionary discussions, we got into a little discussion about a similar subject and the missionaries told me that a cave had been discovered in Isreal that had some sort of written evidence of Lehi and his family escaping and heading out on their journey.

I had some other missionaries tell me that there was plenty of archeological evidence for the BoM, but they really couldn’t point out what that was.

As far as the archeology thing goes, many LDS think the evidence for the BoM is pouring in. The fact is that no city, person, piece of writing, or anything else specific to the Book of Mormon peoples in the America’s has ever been found. How is it that these people were able to produce a 600+ page work of scripture, yet we have never found one piece of writing from anyone in their entire civilization apart from the BoM itself? It’s not as if they’re not looking. The only logical explanation in favor of the LDS on this point is that God is intentionally preventing archeologists from finding this stuff. The difference here between the Bible and the BoM is staggering. I don’t require archeological evidence to make me believe the Bible is true, but nevertheless archeologists have discovered a lot of specific supportive evidence. You would think the same would be true for the BoM.

[quote=flameburns623]They are usually NOT beng deliberately deceptive: they simply believe their faith very very intensely, and the LDS tend to lack an objective, rational faculty. They are convinced/converted by ‘subjective’ and emotive evidence, and often never get very serious about other forms of evidence. Again: far more charitable to assume they are since but mistaken than to attribute to them motives of deliberate duplicity. Spend any time among them and you’ll realise just how earnestly they believe their faith even in the face of flimsy pretext.

[/quote]

Thanks, but I spent 11 years “among them” as a practicing Mormon. I encountered a culture built on deception, where children are taught to lie effectively almost from birth, and where missionaries are told to “bear their testimony” even if they don’t have one (that’s what my mission prez told us - I later found out that this is the norm).

I agree that many Mormons don’t consciously realize they are being deceptive, but rather have been trained to lie for so long that they don’t realize they are doing it. The missionaries who taught me told me that they had been sent to my house by revelation from God. I found out much later that my sister, who was away at college, had converted shortly before that and had sent them. One of those missionaries later married my sister.

When, years later, I confronted him about the lie, he just laughed it off and said “well it worked, didn’t it?” For people who always boast that they have “The Truth”, they sure don’t care much about truth.
Paul

[quote=PaulDupre]Thanks, but I spent 11 years “among them” as a practicing Mormon. I encountered a culture built on deception, where children are taught to lie effectively almost from birth, and where missionaries are told to “bear their testimony” even if they don’t have one (that’s what my mission prez told us - I later found out that this is the norm).

I agree that many Mormons don’t consciously realize they are being deceptive, but rather have been trained to lie for so long that they don’t realize they are doing it. The missionaries who taught me told me that they had been sent to my house by revelation from God. I found out much later that my sister, who was away at college, had converted shortly before that and had sent them. One of those missionaries later married my sister.

When, years later, I confronted him about the lie, he just laughed it off and said “well it worked, didn’t it?” For people who always boast that they have “The Truth”, they sure don’t care much about truth.
Paul
[/quote]

Paul:

You’ve got me beaten in terms of the number of years spent as a Mormon, but I too am an ex-Mormon. And I simply do not share your cynical view of the rank-and-file Latter-day Saint. I suspect something about Mormonism has wounded you and left you with a very jaded view of your former co-religionists. These folks live faithful, dedicated, consecrated lives. They sincerely pray daily, keep personal journals, read and study their Scriptures, abstain from immorality, perform their daily work as unto the Lord, worship regularly, give various sorts of public and church service on behalf of others, and are generally honorable and decent folk. To say that they are deliberately, consciously, engaged en masse in the regular practice of deception is to throw into doubt the sincerity of religious believers of any stripe.

Read their stuff; talk to them as human beings; and compare them dispassionately to Evangelicals or Roman Catholics. You will find them no less dedicated than the best among other Christians–using the term “Christian” broadly. One thing you can readily observe among them: a true blind-side when it comes to critical thinking about their own faith. They have come to believe, by whatever means, that one can only ‘know’ the truth of a religion by a subjective experience–and that such an experience ALONE truly validates a religion. Having granted that, anything in their lives which is faith-affirming is likely to be ‘true’; anything which disconfirms it, which ‘harms one’s testimony’, is almost certainly false. A faithful LDS would not ordinarily articulate things in quite this fashion–and of course, these are, objectively, a patently irrational and ultimately dishonest set of assumptions. But these assumptions so subtly underpin and undergird the framework of thought for a believing LDS that they are NOT–in my humble opinion–deliberately or willfully dishonest.

So far as your experience involving your sister and future brother-in-law: could you not think, as a Mormon might, that the ‘revelation from God’ might have come THROUGH your sister’s intervention? Or that–given your name and address by your sister–your brother-in-law may have prayed over and ‘received confirmation’ that you were one to whom he was being sent? I don’t want to engage in an apologetic over their motives and compulsions, but only remind you that a great deal of Mormon ‘inspiration’ does indeed come via various kinds of human instrumentality. Which seems every bit as mysterious, serendipidous, and supernatural to them as the Mass seems to Roman Catholics. It’s best not to oversimplify LDS religious motivation.

[quote=PaulDupre]Thanks, but I spent 11 years “among them” as a practicing Mormon. I encountered a culture built on deception, where children are taught to lie effectively almost from birth, and where missionaries are told to “bear their testimony” even if they don’t have one (that’s what my mission prez told us - I later found out that this is the norm).

I agree that many Mormons don’t consciously realize they are being deceptive, but rather have been trained to lie for so long that they don’t realize they are doing it. The missionaries who taught me told me that they had been sent to my house by revelation from God. I found out much later that my sister, who was away at college, had converted shortly before that and had sent them. One of those missionaries later married my sister.

When, years later, I confronted him about the lie, he just laughed it off and said “well it worked, didn’t it?” For people who always boast that they have “The Truth”, they sure don’t care much about truth.
Paul
[/quote]

Being a person who was born and raised LDS I can confirm much of what you’re saying. On the first Sunday of the month Mormon’s have a “fast and testimony” meeting as part of their regular sunday “sacrament” meeting. This meeting is where members stand up and bear their testimony. There will be, at some point in the meeting, a parade of children, even toddlers, heading up to the microphone telling everyone they “know” the church is true when in fact they can’t possibly know. I think that’s why most Mormons readily say they “know” their church is true. It’s just so common in the culture. I “knew” the LDS church was true for most of my life…then one day I realized it wasn’t true at all. When you hear a Mormon say that just realize they simply believe strongly in their faith. They don’t “know” anymore than I “know” the Catholic church is true. So, I do agree that there is an instilled deception there. Intended or not.

[quote=Tmaque]Being a person who was born and raised LDS I can confirm much of what you’re saying. On the first Sunday of the month Mormon’s have a “fast and testimony” meeting as part of their regular sunday “sacrament” meeting. This meeting is where members stand up and bear their testimony. There will be, at some point in the meeting, a parade of children, even toddlers, heading up to the microphone telling everyone they “know” the church is true when in fact they can’t possibly know. I think that’s why most Mormons readily say they “know” their church is true. It’s just so common in the culture. I “knew” the LDS church was true for most of my life…then one day I realized it wasn’t true at all. When you hear a Mormon say that just realize they simply believe strongly in their faith. They don’t “know” anymore than I “know” the Catholic church is true. So, I do agree that there is an instilled deception there. Intended or not.
[/quote]

One is not supposed to become a Mormon unless one receives a personal revelation from God that the LDS doctrines are true. The shorthand for confirming that such revelation in fact cmes from God is known as the ‘burning in the bosom’, described somewhere in this forum as ‘revelation as acid reflux’ or something like that. It is simply an inner certainty of truth, and it is supposed to be very much like childlike trust and credulity. Hence the great store set by the ‘testimonies’ of very very small children. It is NOT objective or deductive knowledge, as one would expect from how we ordinarily speak of ‘knowledge’ in the rationalistic, objectivistic worlds of science and academia. I would strong contend that if you cannot appreciate the subjectivity factor in Mormonism, you will find your ministry to them greatly hampered: you will tend to convert only those people who are already temperamentally unsuited to remain LDS, who likely as not would leave at some point on their own.

[quote=flameburns623] It is NOT objective or deductive knowledge, as one would expect from how we ordinarily speak of ‘knowledge’ in the rationalistic, objectivistic worlds of science and academia. .
[/quote]

Very true, but irrelevant. This is because the value they place on their subjective “knowledge” is higher than the value of they place on real knowledge. Please don’t try to tell a devout Mormon that they really don’t know that their church is true. Unless, of course, you want to offend them.

[quote=Tmaque]Being a person who was born and raised LDS I can confirm much of what you’re saying. On the first Sunday of the month Mormon’s have a “fast and testimony” meeting as part of their regular sunday “sacrament” meeting. This meeting is where members stand up and bear their testimony. There will be, at some point in the meeting, a parade of children, even toddlers, heading up to the microphone telling everyone they “know” the church is true when in fact they can’t possibly know.
[/quote]

Off topic here but I wanted to add to this my own experience. I have witnessed this also at their fast and testimony meetings many times. The mom brings up her todler, puts him on the microphone, then kneels down next to him and whispers into his ear the “testimony” he has her repeat to the congregation. This is how their kids learn about bearing testimonies. I can’t fathom why this is condoned. A testimony is a personal thing and cannot be dictated, and bearing one is certainly voluntary. Mormons don’t think twice about this practice. I’m not sure if this is also done with the kids at the primary classes.

One other thing about the bearing of testimonies at LDS sacrament meetings. I have never seen a Mormon get up and bear their testimony that they know the Bible is true. The most common testimony is that “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true.” That testimony gets more mic time than any other. What affect to you think this has on children after hearing that thousands of times by the time they’re old enough to think for themselves? The effect is eventually they assume it’s true without question and will base their entire belief system on it. That is one reason why I believe it’s so hard to talk reasonably with many LDS.

[quote=Tmaque]Very true, but irrelevant. This is because the value they place on their subjective “knowledge” is higher than the value of they place on real knowledge. Please don’t try to tell a devout Mormon that they really don’t know that their church is true. Unless, of course, you want to offend them.
[/quote]

The problem in Mormonism is that they have a different definition of just about every word we commonly use, so when you converse with a Mormon he can sound entirely reasonable. “True” is one of those words. When a Mormon says that something is “true”, he does not mean historically, objectively, scientifically, reproducably true. He means that the proposition under consideration has been confirmed by his own emotions.

It is very common for a Mormon to say (and I’ve even read it on these boards):

“I’ll pray about it. And if *my feelings * tell me it’s true, then I’ll know that it is.”

Ignore the evidence, damn the contradictions, it’s all about my feelings.

When I was at BYU, I was always amused at the number of times a young Mormon male who had a crush on a young lady received a “revelation” (in his feelings) that he and that young lady had “made a covenant in the pre-existence” to marry. The most attractive young women often had 10 or 12 would-be suitors declare to them similar revelations.
Bless their hearts,
Paul

[quote=PaulDupre] When a Mormon says that something is “true”, he does not mean historically, objectively, scientifically, reproducably true. He means that the proposition under consideration has been confirmed by his own emotions.

Paul
[/quote]

One of the best descriptions I’ve read. I’m glad you, and others like you that write with eloquence are here. Nice work.

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