BoM IV: Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Part 1

After so many assurances that Joseph Smith did receive revelation from God, we might expect to hear from Smith himself.

The Prophet Joseph Smith’s own words about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon are: “On the evening of the . . . twenty-first of September [1823] . . . I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God . . . . “While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. “He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrists; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom. “Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. “He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; “Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted Seers in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

At last, a question from the Introduction is answered: Moroni is an angel. Yet none mentioned in the Bible. One would think that, if God were going to reveal something through an angel almost two thousand years after his last revelation, that he would set things up in advance, at least mentioning the angel.

Gabriel, Michael, Lucifer — we get these names. Milton gives us others.

And from Smith, Moroni.

DNA and Descendants

“He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.” Famously, DNA evidence has cast some doubt on Mormonism’s claims. Jeff Lindsay, a Mormon apologist, writes,

The issue of DNA and the Book of Mormon has raised many questions and some inappropriately harsh attacks by critics. Sadly, I even know of one person who claims to have left the Church because the preliminary DNA evidence did not square with his expectations. Still in its infancy, the application of DNA analysis to ancient history has posed tough new questions for those who believe in the Book of Mormon, just as it poses tough new questions for those who believe in the Bible–and for those who “believe” in linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences. DNA evidence is forcing many old assumptions to be reevaluated, but is also causing genuine head-scratching as it sometimes seems at odds with reasonable conclusions drawn from other fields. (Source)

Those “who ‘believe’ in linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences”? My initial reaction: so much for thoughtful apologetics. “Hey, it’s a belief, just like linguistics!” Lindsay continues,

DNA analysis of multiple Native American tribes generally points to Asian origins. Native American DNA does not appear to have distinctly “Jewish” traits. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed only along maternal lines, primarily falls into four groups — haplogroups — that are termed A, B, C, and D — and these same groups are typical of Asian DNA. Initial studies comparing the mtDNA of Native Americans and other peoples of the world pointed to a definite Asian origin. Latter-day Saints pointed out that Lehi’s tiny group might have had negligible impact on the genes that would persist on the continent if the New World already had thousands or millions of people upon his arrival, as it almost certainly did.

So the argument is, “Well, there were too few to have an impact on the Native American gene pool.” Yet the LDS argument might be stronger than that:

Then it was noticed that 3 or 4 percent of northern Native Americans had a fifth haplogroup called the X haplogroup, which was unknown in Asia but common in Europe and especially the Middle East. Some of us Latter-day Saints pointed to the non-Asian X haplogroup as evidence for possible transoceanic contact with Europe or the Middle East, though probably not as evidence for Lehi’s migration since the estimated date of entry into the New World for haplogroup X was thousands of years before Lehi. But we would emphasize the complete absence of haplogroup X in Asia and its relative abundance in Europe and the Middle East, including Israel.

You see, there is another haplogroups in Native American genes, but even though it would have been present long before Lehi (still not sure who that is — could Google it, but I’ll just keep reading the Book of Mormon and find out like a good, patient reader) migrated. It shows it’s possible, though.

The bottom line, though, is that these criticism of Mormonism are based on a misunderstanding of what the Book of Mormon actually claims: “The Book of Mormon does not claim to explain the primary genetic origins of all Native Americans.”

It explains their geographic origins, but not their genetic origins.

Cognitive dissonance at its finest.

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2 thoughts on “BoM IV: Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Part 1

  1. Thud says:

    Those “who ‘believe’ in linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences”? My initial reaction: so much for thoughtful apologetics. “Hey, it’s a belief, just like linguistics!”

    Well, to be fair DNA evidence is reshaping a lot of these theories and, I would imagine, casting a little more doubt on the older methodologies. But as near as I can tell the superiority of DNA evidence is generally acknowledged. Lindsay makes it sound like DNA evidence is a threat to these disciplines when I suspect it’s just going to be accepted as a reliable data point and shift some methodologies around to accommodate it. It’s not a problem for these fields any more than it is a better tool.

  2. G. Scott says:

    And to be even more fair to Lindsay, there are social scientists who cling stubbornly to their theories in the face of overwhelming evidence — often from “hard” sciences — to the contrary. Dr. John Money and his sexual reassignment of Brenda/David Thiessen are an excellent example of this.

    Still, Lindsay’s word choice — “believe” — amused me…

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