When I perused the Mormon Scholars Testify website, I found that virtually all of the scholars' testimonies were simply people bearing their testimonies and not providing much scholarly reasoning to their statements. Although the point of their website is to show that there are many intelligent people out there that believe the Mormon Church is true, the fact is that there are many more intelligent people that do not believe that the Mormon Church is true. Few members know the disturbing details of actual church history. When Mormons find out the full, unaltered, non-sugar-coated history of the Mormon Church origins, many members, particularly the more educated members, begin to accept a more plausible explanation of the events they use to believe as unquestionably factual.
The testimonies of the Mormon scholars, or anybody else, doesn't really mean anything. I've never heard a good argument to explain how a testimony is different than emotion. People of all religions have testimonies of their own religions. The Mormon testimonies are not unique. A Mormon scholar testimony means no more than a Scientologist or Jehovah's Witness' testimony.
I no longer have a testimony of the Mormon Church. I think a testimony should be in harmony with facts and science and a testimony shouldn't have to override external evidences. After objectively studying the disturbing Mormon Church issues, that aren't taught in Church, I sincerely prayed every day for years if the Church was still somehow true and I never got any answer to let me know that it was. Instead I just have a persistent thought that it isn't God's true church.
I have a Jehovah's Witness friend that I discuss religion with. I would bring up the ‘errors' in her church like the many false ‘end of the world' prophecies. To which she would reply that she had a ‘testimony' that her church was still true despite the evidence against it. People in religions all over the world say the same thing. Look at the testimonies of the followers of Warren Jeffs (former prophet of the FLDS Church). They all have testimonies too. Why is a Latter-day Saint testimony true and testimonies of other religions false?
Why I generally distrust Mormon scholars
When I was growing up in the Mormon Church, I liked the Church but didn't really have a testimony of it. I wanted to really know if the Church was true. I prayed about it after reading the BofM and didn't receive any confirmation either way. I went to the LDS bookstore and bought several books written by Mormon scholars. One that had a profound impact on me was the book The Book of Mormon on Trial by Jack West. It gave some pretty convincing evidence that the BofM was true. It showed all these big statues in Central and South America that were Egyptian as evidence that people had come across the ocean like the BofM said. It recounted conversations with Native Americans, who when asked what the name of a local mountain was, they said “Nephihah” and when asked what the name of a river was, they said “Moronihah”. That was proof to me as these are the very names given as cities and lands in the BofM. There was no way Joseph could have known that. Books like this one really helped give me a testimony that the Church was true. Why would I even think to question that a book I bought at the Church Bookstore, written by a Mormon scholar would be anything less than truthful?
In wasn't until many years later that I tried to verify the claims of the book to find out that the author, Jack West, made this stuff up. There are no Native Americans that knew those places as Nephihah and Moronihah. Those pictures of ancient statues that he said were Egyptian were actually Aztec. I was pretty unnerved to find out I had bolstered my testimony on lies made up by a Mormon scholar that seemed to believe that ‘the ends justifies the means'. Get people to believe any way you can seemed to be his philosophy. Or maybe he just wanted to sell books and made up stuff to make his case for the BofM stronger than it really was. Current LDS apologists like Kerry Shirts candidly admit Jack West and other zealous LDS authors made stuff up in their books Ida.net/Graphics
Furthermore, for almost 140 years Mormon scholars maintained that six metal plates found in Illinois, known as the Kinderhook Plates, were real Ancient American artifacts that Joseph Smith started to translate. In the book History of the Church by Joseph Smith, some eight pages are devoted to the matter: "I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook... I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his Kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth." Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 5, p. 372
Mormon scholars cited this as additional evidence that Joseph was a prophet and that he could indeed translate ancient writings. The Kinderhook Plates and Joseph's translation of them were believed by Mormon historians to be real until they scientifically tested one of the re-discovered plates in 1980. In his book Rough Stone Rolling, LDS scholar Richard Bushman states:
“Church historians continued to insist on the authenticity of the Kinderhook plates until 1980 when an examination conducted by the Chicago Historical Society, possessor of one plate, proved it was a nineteenth-century creation. “ Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman, p 490.
Now that science has proved that the Kinderhook Plates were fake, even though Mormon historians believed them to be real and used them as evidence in favor of the Church, why should we not be skeptical of other claims by Mormon scholars, especially since non-Mormon scholars totally reject the BofM as a real, historical history?
Misleading claims trying to promote the BofM as true are not confined to the Mormon scholars of the past. Rodney Meldrum, author, researcher and president of the Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism (FIRM) is gaining a following by hosting conferences, tours and cruises where he unleashes a never-ending supply of evidence that the BofM took place in North America like the early church taught. Most Mormon scholars strongly disagree with Brother Meldrum and his evidence and of his personal testimony, yet more and more Mormons are bearing testimony of Brother Meldrum's false evidences. Book of Mormon Evidences
With that bias, I would caution any Mormon from blindly believing Mormon scholars' tales that show evidence for the BofM without thoroughly investigating those claims. On the other hand, some of the Mormon scholars, like Richard Bushman, seem to be pretty honorable in their approach to church history.
I'd like to address a couple of the things that the Mormon scholars testified about:
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is basically about two groups of peoples that lived in the Americas some 1,000 years apart. They were steel-smelting, chariot-driving, temple-building people that grew so numerous that 2 Million people died in a single battle. Yet there is absolutely no evidence that any of these people ever existed. The BofM is not backed up by any archeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence. There is no evidence of any Hebrew culture in the Americas as you would expect from descendants of Israel as is the premise of the BofM. DNA evidence indicate that the natives of the Americas originated from Siberia, and probably came across the Bering Strait, just as scientists have thought for decades and not from the Middle East.
Isn't it strange that we have found much evidence of many other cultures that existed in the Americas like the Aztecs, Mayans,Toltecs, etc. yet not a single Nephite coin, steel sword, armor, or ‘Reformed Egyptian‘ writing has ever been found which is unbelievable considering the span of Jaredites, Nephites & Lamanites which numbered in the millions over the almost 3,000 years that these various peoples reportedly flourished.
There are so many anachronisms in the BofM such as the numerous animals, plants, metals, and cultural artifacts mentioned in the BofM like horses, elephants, wheat, barley, steel, silk, etc. that it seems inconceivable that the BofM could be historically accurate. According to the BofM, the travelers from the Old World of course brought the greatest invention of all time with them – the wheel, which they used to make chariots as mentioned many times in the BofM. There have never been any chariots or other wheeled objects found in Ancient America except for perhaps some small toys. Also, they used this knowledge to make chariots, and presumably other wheeled inventions, but somehow the entire knowledge of this most useful invention was lost and not used by their descendants. This is very improbable.
The list of reasons why the BofM is not really a historical document is very long and well-researched. I encourage serious believers in the BofM to review them.
Arabian Peninsula Evidence for the BofM?
In Jeff Lindsay's testimony he states “many impressive evidences for plausibility have been found (I will simply mention the Arabian Peninsula evidence as a starting point for those interested)”. He apparently is referring to a stone found in Yemen with the letters NHM on it which some Mormons are touting as the first real archeological evidence in support of the BofM. This is really grasping at straws to say this single stone found in Yemen, with three letters on it (which could mean anything), validates the millions of BofM people that reportedly lived in the Americas for which there is no evidence for. Surprisingly, this isn't making headlines as you would expect for evidence that some over-zealous Mormons say proves the BofM true.
The Book of Abraham
Despite what LDS Egyptologist John Gee claims, the Book of Abraham is extremely damaging to the Mormon faith. The fact is that the canonized title page of the BOA said it was translated from Egyptian papyri. Much of that papyri was found in 1966 and it has nothing to do with Abraham. We know it was used in the translation of the BOA because the characters match up with Joseph Smith's Book of Alphabet and Grammar. Also, these papyri fragments were connected directly to the facsimiles in the BOA so isn't it logical that they refer to them instead of being about a totally different subject?
There simply is no reasonable explanation for Joseph's mistranslation of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham proposed by the Mormon scholars that makes any sense at all. There isn't one non-Mormon Egyptologist that gives any credence to the Mormon scholars' wild theories to explain this severe problem. Joseph was very specific in identifying the very Egyptian characters in the facsimiles that he gave translations for such as:
Facsimile#3, explanation of figure 2, Joseph writes: "King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head." What those characters above his head really say is: "The great Isis, mother of the god."
Facsimile 3, explanation 4 reads: "Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand." Above the hand it actually says "Ma'at, Lady of the West."
Facsimile 3, explanation 5 reads: "Shulem, one of the King's principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand." What those characters actually say is "Osiris Hor, the justified forever."
How can anyone say Joseph was right on these specific translations when he identifies the very Egyptian characters that he is translating? Egyptologists are in total agreement that they mean something totally different than what Joseph Smith claimed.
Regarding Mormon Scholar John Gee's interpretations, I read his former professor's analysis of it – Robert Ritner. Ritner states of Gee's writings ”Such interpretations are uninspired fantasies and are defended only with the forfeiture of scholarly judgement and credibility."Link is here.
Note the footnotes on the first page where he goes into detail explaining why Gee is wrong. I'm no Egyptologist and certainly any of these guys can BS me but they can't BS each other. I'm inclined to believe Ritner and every other Egyptologist in the world over the two Egyptologists that are on the Church's payroll.
Professor Ritner's interpretation of the papyri is typical of what every nonMormon Egyptologist that has been asked to look at the papyri has stated. There are no nonMormon Egyptologists that agree with Joseph Smith's interpretations of the papyri. Not one of the nonMormon Egyptologists agree with any of the LDS scholars' reasoning either.
A question for John Gee: Do you really think if they found the rest of the papyri that it would support Joseph's translations? None of the existing fragments mention Abraham at all and I doubt any missing ones do either. And this still wouldn't explain Joseph's incorrect explanations of the facsimiles.
Mormon vs non-Mormon Scholars
Which makes more sense to you? Should you believe the 99.99% of Egyptologists in the world that would say Joseph Smith incorrectly translated the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham or the two Mormon Egyptologists that try to come up with wild, absurd explanations to show that somehow Joseph was correct in his Egyptian facsimile translations?
Should you believe non-Mormon historians that believe the Mormon temple ceremonies originated from Masonry in the Middle Ages with no specific ties to ancient ceremonies or Mormon Scholars who claim, with only speculation, that the Masonry and Temple rituals are directly descended from some ancient ceremonies practiced by the Jews and early Christians that they apparently got directly from God?
Should you believe the non-Mormon scientists that explain how the early Native Americans likely came to America from Siberia by crossing the Bering Strait long ago or Mormon scholars that support the BofM account that Israelites crossed the ocean in submarines lit by magic stones?
There are so many, many, many more serious problems with Mormonism that the church leaders refuse to address and they let these Mormon scholars attempt to answer them presumably so the Church can't be held accountable for the answers if they are later proved wrong. Examples would be when the early leaders said blacks were cursed in the pre-existence or that the American Indians were the principle ancestors of the Lamanites (The Church recently has reworded the introduction in future editions of the BofM to accommodate the correction).
Many LDS members, that trust the answers provided by the Mormon scholars, don't realize that often the scholars give answers that are in direct opposition to what the General Authorities have said. Members are then tasked with the difficult dilemma of whether to support their leaders or trust the scholars. For example, Mormon scholar Jeff Lindsay doesn't believe that Noah's flood was global yet the prophets have stated that clearly in conference talks. For example Donald Parry boldly declared in the January 1998 Ensign “we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God's prophets.” So who are you going to believe – the church leaders and Mormon scriptures or Mormon scholars?
If you support the scholars and ignore the General Authorities on various subjects like Noah's Flood, Adam and Eve, Tower of Babel, Age of the Earth, BofM geography, Book of Abraham origins, etc. then perhaps you should consider that maybe the LDS prophets are wrong about other things fundamental to the Mormon Church?
There are so many issues that most members don't know about that may change their view of the church's claims of being the one, true church. Like why did Joseph Smith marry 11 women that were already married? Even the Mormon scholars admit that he likely had sex with them. How can that be justified? Why does the LDS temple ceremony have the same signs and tokens (and many other similarities) as the Masonry rituals? The Mormon scholars admit that the often-told church response that the Masons had the original ceremony from Solomon's time is not true and that the Masons originated in the Middle Ages and their ceremonies have nothing in common with Solomon's temple rituals.
The Kinderhook Plates clearly show that Joseph Smith wasn't above deceiving people to get people to believe he was a prophet. This is only the tip of the iceberg about things that should be taught to investigators before they join the Church. There are about 20 significant, very disturbing issues in the Mormon Church that every member should look at before accepting the Church's claims as being God's one, true church.
I would encourage every Latter-day Saint to study at least some of the true details of the Church history for themselves to see how it compares to what they've been taught in Church and what seems more likely. A good place to begin is using the links provided on this website. You'll be amazed at just how many serious problems there are with Mormonism and how the Church responds if you bring them up.
Stephen Jones has both a Master's degree and Bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University. He is a successful businessman with a wife and two children. Stephen and his family live in the Park City area of Utah where he is an avid reader of all things Mormon. In his many church callings, Stephen went above and beyond what most gospel doctrine teachers do when they prepare for lessons. His research of Mormonism's beginnings is what led to his unbelief in the LDS Church. When he was still an active member of the LDS Church, Stephen compiled much information on two areas of Mormon study that he was very interested in - The Book of Abraham and the Kinderhook Plates. He authored most of those two sections of the MormonThink website.