A Biologist Looks at the Book of Mormon
By by Dr. Thomas Key
I have thoroughly enjoyed my LDS friends. It is refreshing to be around people who live their convictions. So, it is not with malice, but with deep love and respect that I point out a few of the numerous scientific problems in the Book of Mormon.
1 Nephi 1:2 and Mosiah 1:4 assert that the native language of the Hebrews in 600-91 BC was Egyptian. Mormon 9:32 differs in saying that it was Reformed Egyptian around 400 AD. However, it is well established that in 600 BC the Hebrews spoke Hebrew. As a result of the Babylonian Captivity (560-538 BC) Hebrew was reduced to the language of the scribes, priests and rabbis. Aramaic became the language of the Hebrews. Then, in 70 AD, Titus forced the Hebrews out of Palestine, and they acquired the languages of the nations to which they were scattered. The Hebrews had not spoken Egyptian since Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt many centuries earlier.
In consulting with professors of Semitic languages at the University of California and elsewhere, I could find no evidence of the existence of "Reformed Egyptian", nor for the claim that the following words are Egyptian or Semitic at all: Shazar (1 Nephi 16:13-14), Irreantum (1 Nephi 17:5), deseret (for "bee' in Ether 2:3), Liahona (Alma 37:38), or other names that are unique to the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 5:15:16 is self-contradictory about the presence of minerals.
1 Nephi 17:5 is a description of Arabia which is "called Bountiful because of its much fruit and also wild honey." Arabia is bountiful in sunshine, petroleum, sand, heat and fresh air, but certainly not in "much fruit and also wild honey", nor has it been since creation times. 1 Nephi 18:1 indicates that the Jews made a ship from ample timber of Arabia. The same objection above applies here.
1 Nephi 2:6-9 speaks of an Arabian river named Laman that flows continually into the Red Sea! There has been no river whatever in Arabia in recorded history!
The numerous descriptions of the Nephite's new land cannot be correlated with any distinct geographic features of Meso-America such as lakes or rivers.
In 1 Nephi 18:24 (591 BC) we read that upon arrival, the Nephi and his followers planted the numerous seeds they had brought, and that the seeds "did grow exceedingly, wherefore we were blessed in abundance."
As is well known, the dominant crops of the Near East were grapes, olives, wheat, barley, figs, dates, flax, onions, leeks, garlic, beans, pomegranates, and sycamore figs, certain melons, various oranges, lemons and peaches. American crops such as potatoes, tobacco, blueberries, cranberries, eggplants and maize (our "corn") were unknown in the Old World until modern times.
There is no evidence whatever that the Near Eastern crops ever "did grow exceedingly ... in abundance" until modern Europeans brought them to the Americas. Admittedly, while modern European colonists did find grapes in the Americas, they are an entirely distinct species from that of the Old World.
Other problems are when 3 Nephi 18:18 speaks of wheat in the Americas in 34 AD. 1 Nephi 13:7, Alma 1:29, and 4:6, Helaman 6:13 and Ether 10:4 speak of linen (flax cloth). Barley is mentioned in Mosiah 9:9, figs in 3 Nephi 14:16 and olives in Jacob 5, 1 Nephi l7: 14, 15:7-16. None of these existed here at that time. "Neas" and "sheum" are mentioned in Mosiah 9:9 as two prominent and abundant plants. Yet, if they were so prominent and important, why are there no references to them in Old World literature, and why have they not survived?
Plant grafting is mentioned in 1 Nephi 15:16 and Jacob 5, yet there is no evidence that the Indians practiced this in 600 BC - 421 AD. Pruning is mentioned in 2 Nephi 15:6 and faces a similar problem. To describe seed and plant growth as "swelling" (Alma 32:28-34 and 33:23) is naive and grossly inaccurate. It reflects the error of preformationism (a discredited scientific hypothesis which held that the entire totality of the mature organism is contained in miniature in the seed).
Contrary to what 1 Nephi 18:25 asserts, North America had no cows, oxen, asses, horses or goats "for the use of man" between 600 BC and the time European colonists brought them.
2 Nephi 21:6-8 plagiarizes the KJV of Isaiah 11:6-8 and applies it to North America (see also 2 Nephi 30:12-14). But North America had no sheep, lions, leopards, or the two snakes (asps and cockatrices) mentioned at that time.
Ether 2:2-3 and 5:4 explain that Jared and his family captured the birds, fish and bees, and gathered seeds with which they populated North America. But American birds and fish are distinctly different from Old World species. Honeybees were first introduced by Europeans. Ether 6:1 claims that Jared and his small family kept alive all of the species of fish that now inhabit the Americas for 344 days in their aquaria!
Ether 9:18-19 contains several problems:
- First, it lists domestic cattle, oxen and cows as separate species!
- Second, these did not exist in the Americas at that time.
- Third, domestic swine did not exist here then.
- Fourth, horses, asses and elephants did not exist in America at that time. Prehistoric forms became extinct centuries earlier and were not "useful to man."
- Fifth, "cureloms" and "cumons!' are not identified by LIDS scholars. Yet, it would be most unlikely for such supposedly useful and common domestic animals to go extinct.
There are serious problems in the description of the behavior of poisonous snakes, etc. in Ether 9:30-34:
- First, the notion that snakes increase as a drought increases is contradicted by the fact that reptiles are particularly sensitive to heat and lack of water, and would die off faster than other animals.
- Second, even with the large population of modem America, only about twenty people die yearly by snakebite. It is certainly not realistic for Ether to claim that numerous people and animals were exterminated by snakes.
- Third, it is totally unlike sheep for all of them to flee in one direction.
- Fourth, it would not be realistic for sheep to be driven to the south by poisonous snakes, as there are many fewer snakes in the north.
- Fifth, snakes have never cooperated with one another in driving animals in any direction.
- Sixth, it would have been impossible for people to have eaten in such few days the countless animals that had been killed by the snakes.
- Seventh, Ether 10:21ff tells us that the land was densely covered with people, while Ether 10: 19 says that "the land was covered with animals of the forests." Ether 10: 12 speaks of raising much grain. All of this simply does not square with the idea of an epidemic of poisonous snakes. People, farming, and predatory animals will not allow snakes to become numerous.
Satyrs (2 Nephi 23:21) and dragons (2 Nephi 23:22,8:9) are mentioned as literal creatures. Chickens (3 Nephi 10:4-6) and dogs (Alma 16:10, Mosiah 12:2, and 3 Nephi 7:8) were non-existent here at the time. In 3 Nephi 20:16 and 21:12, lions are described as 'beasts of the forests." Contrary to popular opinion and the Book of Mormon, lions do not live in forests or jungles. They live in savannas and veldts (few scattered trees) and lions never inhabited the Americas.
Silk is erroneously mentioned as being produced in the Americas at that time (1 Nephi 13:7, Alma 4:6 and Ether 9:1 7 and 10:24). But silkworm moths had not yet been introduced from Asia. Clothes moths are mentioned in 3 Nephi 13:19-20 and 27:32, yet there were no woolen garments for moths to attack, as sheep had not yet been introduced. Needless to say, clothes moths had not yet been introduced to North America.
2 Nephi 17:15 lists two foods at that time; butter and honey. But Indians had no milk animals nor honeybees. Candies are made either of beeswax, beef tallow or paraffin, so that a reference to candies in 3 Nephi 8:21 is unacceptable.
Alma 46:40 attributes "the cause of disease to ... the nature of the climate," instead of to fifth, poor diet, or germs. Alma 16:1 tells us that the stench of those killed in one battle was so strong that "the people did not go in to possess the land of Ammonihah for many years ... and their lands remained desolate." Action of bacteria, fungi, worms, insects, vultures etc., would require no more than a few weeks at the very most to disposes of these carcasses and their odors-not "many years!" 3 Nephi 17:7 mentions leprosy in 34 AD, yet the first known case in the Americas was in 1758.
Ether 15:30:31 says that Shiz was beheaded and that "Shiz raised upon his hands and fell, and after that he had struggled for breath, he died." Obviously, without the brain to control the arms, legs, and breathing, all of this was totally impossible. Ether 14:2 specifically says that "every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand," and yet a distinct minority of Indians, and people in general, for that matter, are left-handed. Alma 57:25 asserts that all in an army of 2,060 received many wounds, yet none died.
The implied reproduction rate in the Book of Mormon is astronomical! The story starts in 600 BC and ends in 421 AD. It involves a handful of people who travel from "the land of Jerusalem" [sic] to the Promised Land of America. Every four or five years or so there are devastating wars that kill many thousands of people (Alma 28:2, etc.), or as Ether 15:2 says, "nearly two millions of mighty men" in addition to their wives and children. For this to be so, it would be necessary for each couple to have scores of children, and for them to reach maturity in three or so years throughout the supposed period between 600 BC and 421 AD.
The description of the resurrection body in Alma 40:23 is astounding to say the least. It says that nothing shall be lost, not even a hair. In light of the fact that we shed a few score body and head hairs every week, and we "decommission" countless blood, skin, and other cells weekly, it is unrealistic to assert that all of these lost parts will be restored to us.
PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL PROBLEMS
Ether 2:20 says that the Lord instructed Jared to make a hole in the top and one "in the bottom" of each barge. What was the hole "in the bottom" for-to let water and wastes out? Ether 2:23 explains that if windows were put in the barges, the barges would be dashed to pieces.
In describing Christ's crucifixion, 3 Nephi 8:20-23 says that the darkness was so great for three days that candles and torches could not give off light. Why not?
Alma 24:16 speaks of burying swords in the earth to keep them bright. On the contrary, this would speed their rusting. Even stainless steel would rust eventually under those conditions. Steel was unknown in the Americas prior to its being introduced by the Europeans, contrary to 1 Nephi 4:9; 16:18; 2 Nephi 5:15; Ether 7:9.
It is erroneous for a book supposedly written in North America at that time to mention bellows (1 Nephi 17:11), fine steel bow, (1 Nephi 16:18) swords (2 Nephi 1:1 8, etc.), scimitars (Alma 2:12), sackcloth (2 Nephi 13:24, carts (2 Nephi 15:18,28) chariots (Alma 18:12; 20:6; 3 Nephi 21:14), numerous large buildings (Ether 10:5, etc.), many highways (Helaman 14:24), cement (Helaman 3:7-9), forts (Alma 48:8), a javelin (Alma 51:34), bushel (3 Nephi 12:15), breastplates (Mosiah 8:10), head plate and armor for the loins (Alma 46:13), compass (Alma 37:38, 44), spindles and spinning (Alma 37:40), sickles (Alma 26:5), yoke (1 Nephi 13:5), strong cords (Alma 26:29) a trumpet (3 Nephi 13:2), street corners (3 Nephi 13:5), chains (2 Nephi 1: 13, etc.), hoe (Ether 10:25), harp, tabret and viol (2 Nephi 15:12), plow (Ether 10:25), fuller's soap (3 Nephi 24:2), barns (3 Nephi 13:26) and candles (3 Nephi 8:21).
The Book of Mormon was supposedly written during the period in question, but there is no evidence that the Indians had anything other than simply pictorial writing at that time. They wrote no books. It is not appropriate to find references to many official records (Helaman 3:15), jot and tittle (3 Nephi 12:18), scrolls (Mormon 5:23, 9:2) and Alpha and Omega (3 Nephi 9:18); especially since Joseph Smith declared that there was no Greek in the Book of Mormon!
Other cultural problems include references to mammon (a Greek god of wealth3 Nephi 13:24), lawyers and judges (Alma 10: 14-15 and 3 Nephi 6: 1), acre (an Anglo-Saxon word-2 Nephi 15:10), "south-southeast direction" (1 Nephi 16:13), synagogues (a Greek word not in use until during and after the Babylonian exile in 586 BC, twenty years too late to be in the Nephite writings-3 Nephi 24:2), Gentiles (a term also unknown until after 538 BC- 1 Nephi 13:19), etc.
The Book of Mormon consistently refers to the "heart' in the sense of soul, yet Indians varied in their terminology from lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, to heart.
The Book of Mormon divides humanity into "black and white" and "Jew and Gentile" - most unrealistic for the Americas at the time-especially since the term "Jew" was never used of the Israelite people until after the Babylonian captivity (cf. Ezra 4:12 in the Old Testament, c.538 BC) about 63 years after Lehi's family hopped the boat to the New World. The Mongoloid race is totally ignored, even though there were no black people in America until the coming of the European slave trade and the Indian people are Mongoloid!
The Book of Mormon teaches that Indians originated from Hebrew settlers in the Americas that wandered away from the Lord. 1 Nephi 12:11 says that as they wandered away in unbelief, "they became a dark, loathsome and filthy people." 1 Nephi 13:15 praises future Americans as being "white, exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain." But Palestinian Semites do not have pale skin like the Anglo-Saxon settlers of America. 1 Nephi 5:21, Jacob 3:3-9, and Mormon 5:15-17 say that God cursed the Indians with a dark skin. 2 Nephi 5:23 and Alma 3:6-10 say that anyone who marries an Indian "shall be cursed with the same cursing." If this were true, why do people who are only part Indian not look full Indian?
2 Nephi 30:5-7 predicts that when Indians accept the LDS gospel that they will again become a "white and delightsome people." 3 Nephi 2:15 gives supposed examples of this. 2 Nephi 13:4 says that punishment from sin shall include "instead of well set hair, baldness," yet baldness is much more common among Caucasians. In 1981, the LDS altered the Book of Mormon to read that the Indians will become "pure and delightsome." However, in its many contexts, the Book of Mormon is highly explicit about the curse of a dark skin.
Instead of Semitic origin, Indians are distinctly Mongoloid, having straight and black hair, brown eyes, little facial or body hair among men, high cheekbones, skin pigmentation, occasional Mongoloid blue spot, certain blood traits, etc. Most of these racial traits are utterly unlike the characteristics of Semitic people, who do not possess the Mongoloid blue spot or features, and who have copious facial hair among the men and wavy head hair. Dark skin, instead of being a curse, is a protection against skin cancer. And Indians are certainly not innately more filthy, loathsome, or ugly than any other people!
Numerous historical and archaeological problems exist. The first edition of the Book of Mormon contained numerous grammatical and spelling errors. There are many contradictions between the Book of Mormon and other Mormon writings. And the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible in many places. Lack of space prohibits a listing of examples of the above problems.
It is hoped that this paper will help my LDS friends and other seekers after truth, for as Moroni 10:4 well says:
"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 by the power of the Holy Ghost."
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT SALVATION
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." - Romans 3:23
"For the wages of sin is death; but the Gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord." - Romans 6:23
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
- John 3:16
"And they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,
and thy house." - Acts 1 6:31
This article is a Reprint:
Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, XXXVI 1, 2, June, 1985.
For further information, contact the author:
Dr. Thomas Key
E.C.C.C. Box 43
East Central Community College
Decatur MS 39227-0129
SAINTS ALIVE IN JESUS
P.O. BOX 1347
ISSAQUAH, WA 98027