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Nephite Coins

Unlike such as the 'white and delightsome' issue, where apologists tried to defend their leaders' recent change to the text of the Book of Mormon, FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) has produced a video that actually attacks an 'inspired' header to the Book of Mormon and claims a text regarding coinage does not mean what it has clearly been perceived as by millions of Mormons and their leaders for one-hundred-and-eighty years. With no apparent mandate from the First Presidency and no change of text or header, they claim; through historical Old World data, common sense and reason; that the Nephites did not have coinage as declared by the book and header. Without a First Presidency mandate, this act undermines and discredits not just the Church and its current leaders but many previous leaders and their 'inspired' writings. They seem to be agreeing with detractors through sheer logic - a refreshing change, but of significant damage to their leaders' credibility.

The following notes were posted on 'Exmormon Forums' 11 March 2010 and also appeared on 'RfM' 13 March 2010. They are followed here by a section from TMD Vol 2 which covers Nephite coinage in more detail:

FAIR concedes Nephites did NOT have coins, dig themselves a hole and jump right in!  

I just came across this video clip from FAIR so it is new to me, but it may well have been available for some time. As I have written on this subject myself, I felt it worth relaying this absurd claim made by FAIR.

Until the 2005 film “The Bible v. The Book of Mormon” was released; no one ever seemed to question the concept of Nephite coins in the Book of Mormon. Everyone knew and accepted that the Nephites developed and used their own currency system.


Subsequent to the film, in a remarkable turn-around concerning all that Mormons previously understood about coins from reading the Book of Mormon,  FAIR claimed the heading to Alma 11 is “almost certainly wrong” and that the Nephites did not have coins after all.

It is notable that as ever there has been no official response from the First Presidency or Quorum of Twelve who are the ones (rather than mere apologists) who are supposed to actually represent God. Apologists stir up a hornets nest and the big fifteen keep quiet.

In a three minute clip, entitled “The Book of Mormon and Coins”, John Welch, founder of FARMS (The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies),  introduces what is news (to them, but not the rest of the world) that “sometimes people criticise the Book of Mormon saying that it talks about coins; and coinage wasn’t really invented until after Lehi has left Jerusalem.”

Daniel C. Peterson, PhD – Middle Eastern Studies; makes this astounding confession:

“There have been no coins found in Ancient America because they didn’t exist – and they don’t exist in the Book of Mormon.”

He adds: “The header note to Alma 11 which describes Nephite coinage is almost certainly wrong.

Brant Gardner, Scholar, Mesoamerican Studies claims:

“The header is a modern addition. It has nothing to do with the text. It certainly isn’t unusual that people will read that section of the Book of Mormon and assume that it’s coins but we do that with the Bible too. We will read ourselves back into it and make assumptions about the early culture based on what we believe, so we read these things and say it must have been coins.”

Kerry Shirts, Contributing Researcher, Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research then says:

“But those headings were not on the plates. From our understanding, some of the modern brethren put those headings to try to give us kind of a guide but the actual text itself describes different weights.” 

Peterson then confirms his view:

“It describes pieces of metal; it says nothing about them being stamped or minted which is what makes a piece of metal a coin. There is no reason to expect to find Nephite coins because I don’t think they ever existed and the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim they do.”

Kerry Shirts:

“The actual idea of the differing weights being used as a weight system in the monetary system is actually in the Mesopotamian, the Arcadian – and the old Babylonian, come to think of it. This is how they used their money was through weight.

John Tvedtnes, Senior Scholar chimes in:

“In fact even the Israelites used weights initially. The Bible mentions some. The most common was called the shekel which comes from the verb ‘to weigh’ – actually it is the verb meaning to weigh.

Back to Peterson:

“We know that coinage first appeared apparently in Libya, in modern Turkey or Anatolia and you see in some burials clearly the transition that occurs after Lehi’s departure by about a century or so from the new world. You see mixed hoards of stamped minted coins and also specific weights of metal that are not shaped, minted or stamped. So, there was an evolution there in a sense. People went from fixed weights of metal to actual coins. Lehi left just before that change took place.

John Welch concludes:

“And that’s what we have in this weights and measures section of chapter eleven. It’s part of a big picture of the legal reforms that explains why those weights and measures were initiated at that time and they conform with what one would have expected from the ancient world.”


“We always have the problem of trying to impose on the text our own imagination of things. If you read the text very carefully and try to filter out your own cultural presupposition the ancient people didn’t necessarily live, think or act exactly the same way we do.”

The three minute clip from which the above text is drawn is available here:


The question is, after a long succession of Mormon ‘Prophets’ who have been aware of the header, if it is wrong; when the headers were first introduced, somewhere around 1920 it seems; why did the prophet of the day (Heber J. Grant) allow such an error to be included in the heading or why hasn’t the Mormon God revealed the supposed error to a later prophet and had him ‘clarify’ it. Clearly, Church authorities have no idea what the truth is and do not appear to venture an explanation – or even an opinion. It is left to apologists to make such statements, presumably in some kind of attempt to escape the inevitable alternative conclusion that Nephite ‘coinage’ is yet another evidence of the Joseph Smith hoax.

The heading to Alma Chapter 11 includes the words: Nephite coinage set forth… v.4 confirms they had actual coins (imprinted or not) and such manufactured ‘pieces’ do not decompose over time. If they existed in any form, some should (and would) have been found decades ago. The word ‘pieces’ in this context, in Joseph Smith’s day, meant coins – that’s a fundamental; and previous to an apologetic need for such fanciful conjecture; completely accepted, fact. It was in common usage in reference to such earlier coinage as ‘pieces of eight’; and ‘pieces of gold’ would have been readily understood to represent coins rather than ingots as such by early Mormons. Smith was also obsessed with the idea of finding Captain Kidd's treasure in some of his money digging exploits, which he no doubt considered contained many ‘pieces’.

Alma 11:4. “Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value.” 

This verse is not just a header to be discarded, it is the actual text and clearly states that the pieces each had an individual value – and were not just part of a weight system. The word value does not mean or equal the word weight. Coins may indeed be of equal weight but the text uses the words "according to their value" which is indicative of the purchasing power of actual coins (or pieces) that would not need to first be weighed. FAIR completely ignores this obvious textual problem. If they claim that it needs 'clarification', thus completely altering the entire meaning from what everyone previously clearly understood to be the case, then once again they make their God look foolish and incompetent when it comes to an initial plain and simple explanation of the actual case. Knowing such confusion would one day exist, why did the Mormon God not dictate the words "according to their weights" into Smith's hat?


FAIR claims that the word ‘pieces’ of gold or silver doesn’t mean they were imprinted –  which would only then make them ‘coins’. The notion that they would need imprinting to qualify as currency is absurd when you consider the many different early forms of currency, metallic and otherwise, that have existed around the world without imprinting. However, they seem to think that such pieces would only be found if they were imprinted. Since when did refined pieces gold or silver decompose, imprinted or not?

Peterson says later burials contained “mixed hoards of stamped minted coins and also specific weights of metal that are not shaped, minted or stamped.” So, in the Americas let’s not expect to find imprinted coins and just settle for “hoards” of “specific weights of metal that are not shaped, minted or stamped” instead. Where in all the Americas have any of the millions of these pieces of any size, shape or weight ever been discovered? The Americas have seen more archaeological research than anywhere else on the planet and there is not a single Nephite ‘piece’.

References to weights and measures of the Old World do no more than verify the fact that Smith made up the idea of Nephite coinage in the first place as they would have had no knowledge of such things – just as detractors have long argued. Now apologists play their usual mind games, meant to capture the faithful before they lose faith, and exploit their delusion further by explaining away the inexplicable in a new idea that the header was wrong all along misleading everyone and only they as academics can ‘clarify’ matters and now explain everything away satisfactorily.

These pieces can hardly be considered just measures of ‘weight’ by any stretch of the imagination. Joseph Smith clearly recorded what God supposedly told him via his seer stone in his hat. No pieces have been found, any more than coins have; and no other gold or silver usage in any such complex refined form has ever been found in the Americas. Gold dust was used (in quills) by the Aztecs and Maya who also used measures of 24,000 cocoa beans as ‘currency’. Despite the FAIR claim that they used weights, most used no form of currency at all and using 24,000 cocoa beans has little to do with weight and everything to do with simple numbers.

The ‘pieces’ of precious metal were equal to, or multiples of, other specific values. Therefore each ‘piece’ had to be of equal weight. Such pieces are therefore effectively coins – minted and / or stamped or not; each piece would have had to have weighed the same and perhaps (if they were real) could have been shaped in order to easily recognise the differences.

The 'shekel' reference does not mention the fact that shekels were definitely NOT ‘pieces’ that each weighed the same. A shekel was indeed a measurement of the weight of any number of sizes from dust to ingots, making up an appropriate weight. This has always been perfectly clear and understood by anyone who has studied it. The Nephite system; whatever you conceive it to be; must be admitted as being ‘pieces’ of precious metal and therefore should still be locatable and dateable – with or without any imprints. Gold and silver doesn’t miraculously deteriorate just because it has no imprint! They had to have had millions of these so-called ‘pieces’ and none have been found at all. Also, in the case of Biblical shekels, which are mentioned in the video clip, archaeological digs have not only located evidence of such
in the form of gold, silver and bronze ingots; but also evidence of the methods of weighing them; naturally, dating to before the time Lehi supposedly left Jerusalem, just as apologists (only now) admit. So; where in all of the Americas is the archaeological evidence for methods of weighing these millions of missing Nephite ‘pieces’ of metal – or at least ingots of gold and silver – which were manufactured later than those found in the Holy Land, to substantiate the claim?

Measures of barley (Alma 11:7 & 15) could not have been used against the value of Nephite coins or ‘pieces’ as claimed, even as weights, as there never was domesticated barley in the Americas. Pathetically, apologists cling to the idea that a few grains of a type of small barley of some description may have been found in one or two minor locations dating to the BOM time period. Unfortunately, Arizona does not help problematic geography associated with the BOM, so one problem always leads to another. Additionally, it is completely different to the species of domesticated barley claimed to have been introduced from the Near East by BOM characters. Remember, Smith claims they brought it with them and that it was a staple that had to feed millions of people. It is a conclusive fact that this was not the case. Of course, devious apologists may next claim that ‘barley’ may have meant some other type of grain of convenience, just as tapirs once suddenly seemed to have been able to act as horses in order to pull fictitious BOM chariots; another fanciful and ludicrous apologetic notion, which has hopefully (and sensibly) now faded out of apologetic fashion.

The reality is that the Spanish introduced barley to South America in the 16th century. British and Dutch settlers introduced it to the United States in the 17th century. Soil core samples from across the continent show nothing prior to that and according to the BOM it was a staple and used against the coinage (or now suddenly the ‘weight’) system they employed. Barley is a pollen producing crop and no soil core samples have located domesticated barley in the Americas prior to the later colonisation. So, coins or weights – it makes no difference, the whole concept is outrageous and a study of all Native American tribes and civilisations proves beyond doubt that no such system as described in the BOM (whether coins or weights) was ever employed by any of them.

I have copied below, the section on Nephite currency from The Mormon Delusion Volume 2, so anyone who cares to revue the absurdity of Joseph Smith’s Nephite currency ideas can do so.  If you want to substitute the word ‘coin’ with the word ‘weight’ regarding Nephite currency, everywhere in my work – which is quite a stretch for FAIR to now claim – nevertheless, all the problems still remain. It solves nothing and questions everything – including this:

FAIR claims that the chapter ‘headings’ (which mention coinage system) were “a modern addition” and “It has nothing to do with the text”. They claim “some of the modern brethren put those headings” with the “wrong” assumption that it relates to coins. They didn’t bother to consider two things.

Firstly; headings seem to have been introduced around 1920. They were approved by the First Presidency or they would never have appeared. It clearly states “COINAGE” which was always accepted as the case. There have been dozens of members of the ‘big fifteen’ since that time. Each one of them is sustained as a prophet, seer and revelator. How is it that the Mormon God has not seen fit to ‘inspire’, let alone ‘reveal’, the truth regarding this matter to any of those leaders (including TEN actual prophets) in all those years – and still chooses not to do so – to avoid such a problematic situation arising? Recognising that actual coinage is an impossibility in supposed Nephite times, but accepting the Book of Mormon must still be shown to be true at any cost – what authority from that God do mere apologists claim in order to decry their own leaders (and their God) who permitted such an (obvious only to them) error in the first instance? Do the Mormon leaders and their God now rely on academics to explain what is really meant in the “most correct book ever written”? If the First Presidency are still happy with the header, then, as they reign supreme in the Church, apologists should accept that it does mean coins – unless and until the First Presidency concede otherwise and declare it on behalf of their God. The fact that it is still there affirms that – either they accept Nephites supposedly had coins or – the only alternative (thanks to apologists who pointed it out) is they accept apologists are correct but are quite content for the headers not to be ‘corrected’ and thus perpetuate yet another lie? Which is it? Either apologists are wrong and they should say so; or Church leaders persist in publishing yet another conceded deception.

Secondly; B.H. Roberts seemed quite satisfied to believe they had coins – not just weights, when he wrote, “we have also a number of names of Nephite coins and the names of fractional values of coins…” Roberts ‘explains’ the coinage system and their relative values and then states “there is stated a system of relative values in these coins that bears evidence of its being genuine”. (A New Witness for God. 3:145. Italics added). So; apologists are now also disrespecting Roberts’ explanation which was clearly accepted by the whole Church, leaders and members alike, until this very day. No one I know locally has any more doubt about the 'coin' system than they have any idea that apologists decry it.

If Church leaders did one day alter the header to read that it was purely a system of measurement by weight, none of the surrounding problems disappear. It would just add even more complications for the Church, as it would show a reliance on academic postulations based on delusional reasoning rather than revelation from God. What a way to run a railroad that would be!

The apologists may have been better advised to leave well alone as they look increasingly foolish in trying to be clever about things which are already complete nonsense and they just make matters worse. Why would a God dictate the most ‘correct’ book into Smith’s hat and at the same time leave such ambiguity about what has become; due to meddling apologists who want to look the part and appear clever enough to explain the inexplicable; yet another monumental problem for the Church? I can’t help but wonder how such delusion still prevails in people who can see the truth and yet instead of facing it, spend their lives searching for and publishing supposed plausible but unfounded alternative postulations in response to evidence against, not just this, but all the claims made by the Church.


Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. (Aldous Huxley). 


Jim Whitefield. Copyright © March 2010. All rights reserved.


Suppose the First Presidency are still quite happy that Nephites did develop a currency system of coins, just as explained in the BOM; and suppose they always were and still are comfortable with the header; and suppose they still agree with B. H. Roberts that it was indeed used by the Nephites? Does it matter that coins as such had not been invented prior to Lehi leaving Jerusalem? Why could they not have developed the coinage simultaneously to other cultures, just as all Mormons previously assumed and accepted? After all, the Book of Mormon also claims the Jaredites developed submersible vessels and were told they could not use glass windows, many centuries before either concept ever existed. The question is, has the First Presidency ever questioned coins?

What gives mere apologists the right to question what everyone else, including their leaders, accepts as factual? Surely this represents; not a required explanation; for it is already clearly explained and accepted – no; surely this represents a lack of faith to believe what has been published for years by those in authority who should know far better than apologists who are just academics and not prophets or seers (let alone revelators), with no 'God given' authority whatsoever. Surely; unless they can confirm the First Presidency have their own doubts and have asked them to make up an alternative theory - and they also now change the header to read 'weights' system; this claim is actually the equivalent of the ‘philosophies of men, mingled with scripture’ as Satan would say during the Temple endowment; and they are on the road to apostasy. If they have been given no such mandate, then shame on them for their lack of faith and such an egotistical attitude as to decry the work and view of their God given leaders as incorrect. They have no right and they have no case.  

Apologists have three choices.

1. Produce a mandate from the First Presidency authorising their work.

2. Renounce it and retract it, as, if they have no mandate, then it is a heresy.


3. Go one step further and apply the same logic, common sense and reason to the hundreds of other BOM problems and come to the only possible conclusion. Not only did coins not exist, neither did the Nephites. The book is demonstrably no more than fiction in every way. 


The following is an interesting note, posted to my thread on RfM by my friend ‘Cricket’ from the Salamander Society. If there is any truth to such a claim, perhaps the First Presidency would care to enlighten the world by producing said coins and submitting them for independent analysis and dating – oh, and at the same time, perhaps slap the wrists of the apologists who have disrespected the Church's clear position as stated in the BOM header.

Cricket posted:

The following post I got years ago from Sandra Tanner's Messenger Magazine:

"I did have the opportunity of taking the testimony of two persons from my home town, a man and his wife, Brother and Sister Robinson, who brought what was reported to be a Nephite coin to the offices of the First Presidency around the turn of the century.

He had served in the Southern States as a missionary. He came back from the Southern States with what he believed to be a Nephite coin. His mission president, Ben E. Rich, had so identified it.

I do not know the means by which the mission president made the identification. But Brother Robinson was told that it was a Nephite coin. He was told also by his mission president to take it to the First Presidency when he returned home.

He did so. I took the testimony from him and from his wife, had it recorded and then read it to them and had them sign it. They testify that such a coin was delivered to the Church. I was also told in that interview that they were shown a bag of coins of similar nature, by members of the First Presidency. This, as I say, happened around the turn of the century, around 1890". (James R. Clark, Book of Mormon Institute, BYU, December 5,1959, p.55).

Posted at the Salamander here:


A friend recently interested me in foreign language translations of the Book of Mormon regarding Alma. Did Mormon Church leaders have coins or weights represented in foreign language editions? John Bleazard pointed out the text of the German version used while on his mission in 1961 and also Spanish editions.
The following are from official Mormon Church internet versions (hard copies where shown) of the Book of Mormon. Each translation is by machine so they are a guide rather than definitive.

Danish. No heading.

v.4: Her er navnene på de forskellige guld-og sølvmønter efter værdi. 

 Here are the names of the various gold and silver coins by value. 

Chinese. Heading: 說明​尼腓​人​的​幣制

Translates ‘currency’.

v.4: 以下是他們按照不同價值的金幣、銀幣

The following is their different values in accordance with gold and silver coins  

Dutch. No heading.

v.4: Dit nu zijn de waarden van de verschillende goud- en zilverstukken volgens hun waarde. 

And these are the values of the various gold and silver coins according to their value. 

Finnish. No heading.

v.4: Nyt nämä ovat heidän erilaisten kulta- ja hopearahojensa nimet, niiden arvojen mukaisesti. 

Now these are their various gold and silver monies and the names of their values.   

French. No heading.

v.4: Or, voici les noms des différentes pièces de leur or et de leur argent, selon leur valeur. 

Now, here are the names of different parts of their gold and money, according to their value.


German. No heading.

v.4: Das folgende nun sind die Namen ihrer verschiedenen Stücke Gold und Silber, gemäß ihrem Wert. 

The following are now the names of their various pieces of gold and silver, according to their Value.

Added information from my friend: John Bleazard.

From a 1961 German copy of the Book of Mormon. 

Heading: Nephitische Münzen und Mäße
Translates: Nephite Coins
and Measures.

v.4: Dies sind die Namen ihrer verschiedenen Gold- und Silbermünzen nach ihrem Wert. 

These are the names of their various gold and silver coins according to their value.

John explains: “In German there is no ambiguity over the German word for “piece” or “coin.”  The German word for “piece” is “Stück” and its plural “Stücke.”  While the totally unambiguous word for coin is “Münze,” plural “Münzen.”  That word can only mean coin.”  

Hungarian. Heading: A nefita pénzrendszer leírása 

The description of the monetary system nefita (Nephite).

 v.4:  Most, ezek aranyuk és ezüstjük különböző darabjainak a nevei, azok értéke szerint. 

Now, their gold and silver pieces of different names, according to their value.

Italian. No heading.

v.4: Ora, questi sono i nomi dei loro vari pezzi d'oro e d'argento, secondo il loro valore. 

Now, those are the names of their pieces of gold and silver, according to their value.  

Korean. Heading: 니파이인의 화폐 체계가 설명됨

Nephite monetary system explained...

v.4: 이제 이는 값어치를 따라 그들의 금과 그들의 은의 각기 다른 조각의 명칭이니

Now, according to which the worth of their different pieces of gold and silver in their name are you

Portuguese. No heading.

v.4: Ora, estes são os nomes das diversas moedas de ouro e de prata, segundo seu valor.

Now these are the names of several gold and silver, according to its value.

Norwegian. No heading.

v.4: Nå, dette er navnene på deres forskjellige gull og sølvmynter etter den verdi de hadde.

Now, these are the names of their various gold and silver coins for the value they had

Spanish. No heading.

v.4: Y éstos son los nombres de las diferentes monedas de su oro y de su plata según su valor

And these are the names of the currencies of its gold and its silver by value

Added information from John Bleazard.

From a 1980 Spanish edition.

Heading:  Los jueces y su compensación.  Monedas y medidas de los nefitas. 

The judges and their compensation.  Coins and measures of the Nephites.

v.4: Reads the same as the internet version above.

From a 1992 Spanish edition.

Heading:  Se describe el sistema monetario de los nefitas

The monetary system of the Nephites described

v.4: Reads the same as the internet version above. 


Swedish. Heading: Nephiternas myntsystem förklaras     

Nephite coin system explained

v.4:  4 Och detta är namnen på deras olika guldstycken och deras silverstycken efter deras värde. 

And these are the names of their various pieces of gold and their silver pieces for their value.

Tagalog (Filipino). No heading.

v.4: Ngayon, ito ang mga katawagan ng iba't ibang piraso ng kanilang ginto, at ng kanilang pilak, alinsunod sa halaga nito.

Now, these are the names of different pieces of their gold and their silver, according to its value.

Despite translations into various languages, no one has yet been 'inspired' to read anything other than coins into Alma 11:4. To date, everyone seems to be happy with the concepts of pieces, coins and values. The concept of weights is still conspicuous by its absence.


Joseph Smith’s Flights of Fantasy

Anachronisms – Impossible Book of Mormon Claims

Extract: Pp. 232-238. 


A complete monetary system, consisting of silver and gold coinage, is described in detail in the Book of Mormon. (Alma 11:3-20). Alma declared they made up their own system and adjusted it, generation by generation, to suit their needs. Smith clearly had no idea about any monetary system that would have been used in Jerusalem when Lehi and his family supposedly left there around 600 BCE. With no knowledge of Judean currency, he decided to invent his own complex (and completely unnecessary) monetary system instead. He didn’t even glean and use the words: shekel; (tribute) penny; (widows) mite; talent of silver etc., from the Bible. That may have landed him in trouble, had he got some of the multiples or usage dates wrong.

      Had Smith known the system, the three most important weights in the Bible were the talent, shekel and gerah. According to the Jewish Virtual Library; Weights, Measures and Coins (available at www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org); the talent (kikkar) was the largest unit of weight in the Bible. A talent was 3000 shekels (3,600 in Mesopotamia). ‘1000 silver’ means 1000 shekels (of silver) in Genesis 20:16, but the name of the weight is omitted as it is self explanatory. The shekel was bartering material, not a minted coin. It was weighed out. (Jer. 32:9). A ‘beka’ was a half shekel (Gen. 24:22; Ex. 38:26) and the ‘gerah’ a 20th of the shekel. (Ex. 30:13). In turn, the shekel was a 50th part of the ‘maneh’ and the maneh was the 60th part of the talent. The maneh and the talent were only units of account and remained so during the Second Temple period when the shekel became a coin denomination.

      In short, this highly workable system consisted of:  

            Talent                     = 60 maneh or 3,000 shekels.             

                Maneh                   = 50 shekels or 100 beka or 1,000 gerahs. 

      Note the differential between the talent and gerah. (60,000-1). Scales and weights of the shekel unit have been found in excavations; as have gold, silver and bronze ingots; predating BOM claims for currency in the Americas (seventh to sixth centuries BCE). One would therefore expect BOM gold and silver coins, which are claimed to have been minted in abundance, over many generations; to likewise, have been discovered - somewhere.

      This is the substance of the value system which Smith claims to have been in existence in America in 82 BCE. Strangely, sets of four silver and four gold coins are equal in value, meaning eight coins with four values. In a real setting, this bizarre coinage would have to be very carefully manufactured to ensure the correct silver and gold content was maintained for each corresponding value.

Silver Coins

                Senum    = a Senine of gold and for a measure of barley or any other grain.

                Amnor     = 2 Senums (therefore also equal to a Seon of gold).

                Ezrom      = 4 Senums (therefore also equal to 2 Amnors; also a Shum of gold.

                Onti          = as great as them all (presumably worth 7 Senums)?

Gold Coins

                Senine     = to a Senum of silver and for a measure of barley or any other grain.

                Seon         = 2 Senines (and also equal to an Amnor of silver).

                Shum        = 2 Seons (and also equal to an Ezrom of silver).

                Limnah     = the value of them all (presumably worth 7 Senines)?

Lesser Coins (no mention of the metal used in manufacture).

                Shiblon                  = half a Senum and for half a measure of barley.

                Shiblum                 = half a Shiblon.

                Leah                       = half a Shiblum

                Antion (of gold)   = 3 Shiblons.

      That is more or less how the currency is listed in the Book of Mormon. When you read it as written, you quickly get confused and just gloss over it, accepting that it was their currency, giving it no further thought. It is only when you stop to question it and decide to look more closely, that once again the truth shines through like a torch in the darkness. It may be easier to rank the coins in value to show how confusingly useless such a ‘doubling up’ and gold and silver ‘equal value’ coinage system would be in practice:

Leah                            = lowest denomination.

Shiblum                       = 2 Leahs.

Shiblon                       = 2 Shiblums (4 Leahs) or half a measure of barley.  

Senum or Senine        = 2 Shiblons (4 Shiblums or 8 Leahs).

Antion                         = 3 Shiblons (6 Shiblums or 12 Leah).

Amnor or Seon          = 2 Senum/Senine (4 Shiblons, 8 Shiblums, or 16 Leah).

Ezrom or Shum           = 2 Amnor/Seon (4 Senum/Senine, 8 Shiblons, 16 Shiblums, or 32 Leah).

                           Onti or Limnah            = “as great as them all” or “the value of them all”. 

      The four silver and four gold coins, being identical in value, make the point of the system silly, as the only difference in eight gold and silver coins of four equal values would have to have been in size, weight and percentage purity; rather than purpose. There is no logic to it and the refining and manufacturing requirements far too complex to undertake in such a society. The lesser coins also all double in value, with the exception of the strange Antion coin. Smith’s problem with his currency is that it is a ludicrous system which would not work at all well in a real setting; but he also has other, far more difficult problems that we will come back to. There has never been a system that doubles five or six times, sufficing for everything, for one very good reason; it is completely impractical.

      The old British (Imperial) system of twelve pence to a shilling and twenty shillings to the pound (£), which survived until 1971; probably seems as complicated as any real currency to those only familiar with a decimal system. Early English coinage would break down a penny to a half-penny (pronounced HAYP-nee), a farthing (quarter-penny) and even a half-farthing. (In some British colonies, third and quarter farthings were circulated). There was once a ‘groat’ which was four-pence and also a half-groat. There was a three-penny piece (pronounced thruppence) and a sixpence. The shilling was also minted in multiples; the florin, (a two-shilling piece); half-crown (two shillings and six-pence); and a crown (five-shillings). Ten-shillings and upwards became notes when paper money was invented. An odd one out; the term ‘guinea’ (£1 and 1 shilling) was invented and used around the 1800s-1900s as a more gentlemanly term. Traders were paid in pounds but gentlemen paid in guineas. My own first suit was bought in guineas when I was fifteen, in 1961. However, larger values over £1, as with most currency, were and are still, multiplied in fives or tens. There is much more to this fascinating currency with which I was raised, but in the interests of not straying too far from the point, we must leave it there.

      Whilst the idea of 240 pence to £1 may seem strange, in reality it served for greater division than decimal currency which can only be divided into halves, quarters, fifths, tenths, twentieths, twenty-fifths and fiftieths. The English pre-decimal system could be exactly divided into halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths, eighths, tenths, twelfths, fifteenths, sixteenths, twentieths, twenty-fourths, thirtieths, fortieths, forty-eighths, sixtieths, eightieths and one-hundred-and-twentieths. It was extremely versatile.

      Smith’s currency system does not measure up to either standard. No one would invent and use a system that doubles five times, with an intermediate 3x coin and a top value equal to all the others; let alone one where the four sets of silver and gold coins were of equal value. It is completely absurd and far too narrow in value differentials.

      If we look then at Smith’s system and equate a measure of barley (although there was no such cereal as barley in the Americas, thus the ‘measure of barley’ idea is yet another anachronism) to a penny (for the sake of example), then we get the following. The silver Senum (or gold Senine) would be our ‘penny’; the Shiblon would be a half-penny; the Shiblum, a farthing and the Leah a half-farthing. That’s the base line and works so far, in line with the imperial system. However, we then have a problem - not just in the absurdity of four coins of gold and silver being identical in value - but that (in our comparison) they are only worth one penny (Senum or Senine), a penny-ha’penny (Antion), tuppence (Amnor or Seon), fourpece (Ezrom or Shum) and (seemingly) the highest value is just seven-pence (Onti or Limnah). There is no shilling or pound equivalent. There is nothing of at least ten times value, let alone a hundred times value, which is essential in any currency.

      If you increase the values, then there is no lower currency available to purchase what would have been very low value items. If we ignore that problem and assume people had to purchase things in multiples, needed or not (which in reality would never be the case), as there was no ‘small change’, you still only get up to fourteen pence or twenty-eight pence at best for the highest denomination. All currencies allow for coinage with a value low enough to be able to individually purchase the smallest of items available.

      A larger item, such as a (BOM claimed) chariot, in Smith’s currency terms would take thousands of these coins to even begin to buy one. Add a couple of (again, BOM claimed) horses to go with the new chariot and the figures become so astronomical as to be incredulous. I am sure apologists would quickly argue that there must have been some further unmentioned denominations, despite Smith’s seemingly complete coverage of the topic, but whatever they may say (or assume), to cover the lack of believability; not a single one of these millions of coins ever has been, nor I venture to suggest (with extreme confidence), ever will be - located.

      A Senine of gold was a days pay for a judge. Smith has the character Zeezrom try to persuade Amulek to deny the existence of a Supreme Being for six Onties of silver. That equates to just fourteen days pay for a judge and is therefore hardly a real temptation. (BOM Alma 11:22). Yet v.25 states that six Onties were ‘of great worth’. Smith did not think it through. The real problem lies within the multiples. Despite the imperial system being so versatile, there were only three denominations; the pound, the shilling and the penny. The ratios were 12-1, 20-1 and 240-1. The differential between the early low value coin (half-farthing) and £1 is a massive 1920-1. Today, British currency is decimal (a half-penny was used at first but demonitised due to inflation in 1984), with just the penny and the pound and a ratio of 100-1. Sensibly, intermediate coins are 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, and 50p. Most currencies are now established this way with just two denominations and an overall ratio of 100-1.

      Smith has a total of twelve denominations; although, as four are identical, there are really just eight. The differential between the lowest and the highest of these is only 56-1 with a pointless six denominations in between them. The highest valued coin was just fifty-six times the value of the cheapest thing that could be purchased. No one would create a system of twelve denominations containing an overall differential of just 56-1. It simply would not work. It gets worse, as the smallest denomination of gold and silver coins (Senum and Senine) were worth only eight times the Leah, which purchased the cheapest of items. It is not feasible that manufactured gold or silver coins could be worth so little and lesser metals would be used in a society that really could mint such a currency. 

      The Imperial system had a ‘silver’ thruppenny piece (it actually had a low silver content) and that was worth twelve times the farthing of its day. Smith’s system needed coins valued to at least ten, fifty or a hundred times the value of some lower denomination to work satisfactorily. Of course there could have been coins valued at higher numbers of Onti or Limnah but it would still leave a gaping hole in the workability of the system below that. There are no listed multiples of the highest denominations which would provide a workable monetary system; but if they existed, they appear to work in multiples of seven (the value of them all), making the whole idea preposterous and unworkable. 

      Smith’s bizarre currency has two major flaws, quite apart from considering the ability for early Native Americans to actually manufacture all the different coins, sizes and weights, each needing the correct percentage of purity (as they had to equally match each of four silver and gold values). There are two other complete impossibilities regarding his ideas.

      Firstly; it was set against (undetermined) ‘measures’ of barley. What Smith did not know was that domesticated barley was not in existence there at the time and was not a part of the diet at all. Whilst barley has been cultivated for over 10,000 years elsewhere, it was only introduced to South America by the Spanish in the 16th century and to the United States, by English and Dutch settlers in the 17th century. (See pages 239-241). 

      Secondly; currency, in the form of minted coins was never used within any Native American Indian tribe prior to them having the idea introduced to them by colonists. The earliest form of ‘currency’ used, which replaced bartering or trading, was ‘wampum’, first introduced many centuries after BOM times.

      Once well established, an invention or idea is not usually reversed unless a population is overrun or wiped out. It continues to be used until something better supercedes it. In terms of the invention of currency, it also evolves; it is unheard of to abandon the use of it completely once it has been successfully introduced. Smith claims his system of gold and silver currency was used for several centuries by his Book of Mormon characters. If that was the case, where is the cultural evidence of it?

      Smith ignores the fact that up until shortly before his own time, Wampum (beads) and shell pendants had been used for generations as gifts and currency; the only money used was minted by the United States. Apart from adorning themselves with jewelry, the wearing or presenting of it also had many social, political and religious implications in addition to sometimes signifying belonging to a particular group. This was the system of Native Americans when they were first discovered in the 1600s.

      Wampum (some originally from a particular type of clam shell) quickly evolved into a formal currency with which some European traders then exploited Native Americans. Metal coins were scarce, so wampum became the currency for colonists as well as Native Americans. The Dutch even mass produced wampum (a fathom of white beads was worth ten shillings and purple beads £1). Wampum remained in use right through until the American Revolution, which was not that long before Joseph Smith was born.

      The notion that any Native Americans reverted from a comprehensive currency system of gold and silver coins, to no currency at all and then later to wampum (beads of shell, glass and metal), seventeen centuries after such an advance in culture, is unthinkable. I have researched every known Native American tribe for the use of coins and there is no tribe with a history of the manufacture of such a currency.

      The Incas (Peru) reached their high level of civilization without any form of money whatsoever and the Aztecs and Maya (Mexico) used gold dust (kept in transparent quills) and also cocoa beans (in sacks of 24,000) as their ‘money’.

      Smith’s coins fit no known civilization, yet he claimed Native Americans are descendants of his BOM characters. (For a comprehensive study of the history of money, see Davies: 2002).

      The population Smith describes existing as Nephites and Lamanites consisted of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people over the centuries between 600 BCE and 425 CE. With the exception of a few old Spanish coins, lost after the Spanish arrived in the 1600s, not a single coin (or anything else related to the BOM for that matter) of any description has ever been located anywhere in the Americas. 

      I have not touched on the idea presented that as the judges handled law suits for a Senine a day, they stirred up riots and disturbances so people would sue and they would then get more employment. An early form of ‘ambulance chasing’ boldly appears in the Book of Mormon. 

      The following does not even deserve comment as it is so ludicrous. 

      20. Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people… (BOM Alma 11:20).  

      The reality is, the metallurgy that would have been required in order to manufacture many items described in the Book of Mormon, did not commence in the region until long after BOM times, somewhere around the 9th century CE. Even then, it was not used for the purposes that Smith described. Archeological evidence confirms the true history and it is not remotely as claimed by Joseph Smith. There never was such a monetary system as he describes; anywhere in the world, let alone in the Americas. It existed only in Smith’s imagination.

Extract: Jim Whitefield TMD Vol. 2. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved. 


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