The LDS Restorationist movement,
including Mormon denominations
The Restorationist movement's
view of Native American origins
"There are extensive and impressive evidences for the
authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient document dealing with
real people and places, contrary to the endlessly and mindlessly
repeated mantras of anti-Mormons." Statement by Jef
"Archeologists and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere's
past and the society does not know of anything found so far that has
substantiated the Book of Mormon." Statement by the National Geographic
"...faith in the scriptureswhether the Bible or the Book of
Mormonmust rest upon something other than scholarly consensus and
archaeological evidence... Ultimately, God will reveal what is true in such
matters and we must trust him for our answers." The
Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
"It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between
the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of
Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archeological sites and
cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the
Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical
value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World."
F.H.H. Roberts, Jr, Smithsonian Institution, 1951
"As long as Mormons generally are willing to be fooled by (and pay for)
the uninformed, uncritical drivel about archaeology and the scriptures which
predominates, the few L.D.S. experts are reluctant even to be identified
with the topic." J.L. Sorenson, Brigham Young University,
The Book of Mormon describes migrations of people from the
Middle East to Central America, and further describes some features of their
civilizations in the New World. If the Book is accurate, archaeologists would expect to find
numerous pieces of hard evidence in Central America that confirm the presence of these
societies: metal objects; writing in Hebrew and Egyptian, remains of
old-world plants, animals from Palestine, etc. Some hard evidence has been found in the
past. However, they have all been subsequently shown to be pious forgeries. To date, no actual
evidence to confirm the Book of Mormon has been found, although
many LDS believers have faith that it will be uncovered in the future. A popular saying
in the field of archaeology is that no evidence of existence is not
evidence of non-existence.
The Book of Mormon and its archaeology
The Book of Mormon describes three migrations of people
from the Middle East to America. 1The
first occurred circa 2247 BCE, at approximately the
time of the Tower of Babel as described in Genesis 11:1-10. 2At
that time, God "confused the language of all the [peoples of the]
earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all
the earth." [RSV] "All the earth" would
presumably include the Americas. These people, the Jaredites, eventually
died out circa 600 BCE with a massive battle at Hill Comorah in what is
now upper New York State.
The second and third migrations occurred circa 600 BCE,
between the times of the Assyrian and Babylonian victories over the
Israelites. The immigrants:
"established huge civilizations that stretched from sea to
wrote extensively using Hebrew and Egyptian,
domesticated horses and cattle,
cultivated many Old World plants,
traveled in chariots, and
smelted many metals, including iron and steel." 1
The Book of Mormon also discusses:
Gold and silver coins used by
the Nephites. Their monetary system was based on the value of barley.
Domesticated species of animals: cattle, oxen, sheep, swine
and goats. 5
Fighting with bows, arrows, and
Temples, synagogues and sanctuaries for worship.
One group, the Nephites, kept the Law of Moses. The other group, the Lamanites abandoned the beliefs of the
Israelites. Because of their unbelief and idolatry, the "Lord God
did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them." (2 Nephi 5:21).
A major battle occurred between the Nephites and Lamanites at the
Hill Comorah in 385 CE.
If the Book of Mormon is true, then there would be certain logical
Studies of the blood types, facial shape, and genetic makeup of
modern-day Native Americans would show that they were related closely
to the ancient Israelites, and thus to present-day Jews. Some DNA
evidence among a minority of Native Americans has been found that shows the likelihood
of a migration of individuals from Europe and Asia Minor to America.
However, their arrival date in the new world was about 10,000 BCE or
earlier. Thus, the migration is unrelated to activities in the Book
of Mormon. No evidence has been found for a migration during the
time span that the Book discusses. 18
Archaeologists could go to the remains of ancient Native American
towns, excavate down to the levels that were active between 600 BCE
and 385 CE, and
uncover evidences of Nephite or Lamanite writings, domesticated horses, old world plants,
chariots, inscriptions, metal objects, etc.
Excavating the Hill Comorah should reveal countless artifacts left
hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died there in two major battles.
One would expect names from the Book of Mormon to be present in
inscriptions left by the Nephites or Lamanites. Thomas Ferguson wrote:
"The important thing now is to continue the digging at an
accelerated pace in order to find more inscriptions dating to
Book-of-Mormon times. Eventually we should find decipherable
inscriptions ... referring to some unique person, place or event in the
Book of Mormon." 16
Quite a few pious forgeries have been planted and "discovered." However, no convincing evidence was ever found that has been accepted by non-Mormon
Thomas Stuart Ferguson:
In 1952-OCT, Ferguson, a lawyer, organized the New World Archaeological
Foundation (NWAF). He was a devout believer in the LDS faith, and thus
in the validity of the Book of Mormon. He
reasoned that if the validity of the Book could be proven, then countless
individuals would flock to the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (LDS), as the true Christian church. He was convinced that the Book of Mormon was
an accurate historical document and that it would be relatively easy to
uncover artifacts to prove its validity. The NWAF was initially funded
directly by the LDS. As each year passed, the Foundation's scientists were
unable to find any evidence that would support the Book of Mormon.
The LDS church reorganized the NWAF under Brigham Young University in
1960. As of 1999, it consists only of a director and assistant, active in
only one excavation. 14
In a book review, Duwayne Anderson commented:
"In 1993 Michael D. Coe, professor of anthropology at Yale
University, summarized the situation by saying: 'I have seen no
archaeological evidence before or since that  date which would
convince me that it [the Book of Mormon] is anything but a fanciful creation
by an unusually gifted individual living in upstate New York in the early
Ferguson eeventually became convinced that the Book of Mormon is a work of
fiction, whose contents bear no relationship to the reality of Native
American civilization prior to 385 CE. The NWAF "failed to
find evidence to prove the Book of Mormon, and the man who organized
it...ended up losing his faith in the church." 17
Other observations skeptical of the Book of Mormon:
DNA evidence: Genetic and blood testing studies have found that Native Americans are
related closely to the inhabitants of Siberia and not to the ancient
Israelites, as the Book of Mormon states. Thomas W. Murphy, 35, is chairperson of the anthropology
department at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA. He wrote a
chapter in the anthology "American Apocrypha" in which he uses genetic
data to discredit the Book of Mormon's claim that American Natives are
heathen descendents of ancient Israelites. The essay is taken from his doctoral
dissertation at the University of Washington. He faced a church
disciplinary council on 2002-DEC-8 at which he might have been excommunicated for his
beliefs. It was cancelled shortly before it was to have been taken place. More information. 19,20
Finding of artifacts: "No unusual artifacts have ever been found at or
around Hill Comorah." 4 No evidence of the
remains of domesticated animals have been found prior to the European
invasion in the late 15th century. Similarly, there is no evidence of
barley or any other old world plants in North America at that time. "...Bows
and arrows...were not invented in America until A.D. 1000."
Although there are remains of Natives who made use of meteoric iron and
native copper, there are no indications that Natives smelted metals during
the time interval covered by the Book of Mormon. There are no indications of the
remains of sanctuaries, temples or synagogues. One would not expect to find synagogues,
because none are known to have existed in the Middle East until after the
Babylonian exile - decades after after the second emigration, as described in the Book of
Inscriptions: Some Mormons have promoted some records and inscriptions such as the
"Bat Creek Stone, the Kinderhook Plates, the Newark Stones and the
Phoenician Ten Commandments." All were pious forgeries. 5
No names of individuals mentioned in the Book of Mormon have every been found in
Comments by scientific groups:
The National Geographic Society maintained in 1998 that:
and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere's past and the society
does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of
The Smithsonian Institution prepared a form letter in 1996. It
seems to have been in response to a rumor that the Smithsonian had used
the Book of Mormon as an archaeological guide book. Their letter
says, in part:
"Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between
the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book [of
"The physical type of the American Indian is basically
Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of
eastern, central and northeastern Asia."
"...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
"Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew and other
Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have
frequently appeared...None of these claims has stood up to
examination by reputable scholars."
Material in support of the Book of Mormon
Many devout Mormons reject the findings of skeptics; they believe that
the Book of Mormon is an accurate portrayal of life in the New
World prior to 385 CE. 9,10,18Some writers have found
indicators of its validity:
With his limited education, the Mormon founder Joseph Smith could not have written the
Book of Mormon because its extensive use of Hebraic names and
expressions would have been beyond his ability to write.
Some LDS researchers see bodily features among Amerindians that agree
with inhabitants of Palestine.
"The Book of Mormon [sic] patterns of seasonal
warfare, festival celebrations at certain times of the year, religious
gatherings, travels, kingship coronations, political turmoil as well
as warfare, the keeping of records, natural calamities" all
agree with the archaeological record. 11
Some examples exist that prove the existence of the horse in North
America during the pre-Columbian period.
Some native languages in ancient times had a word for "metal."
It is reasonable to assume that they actually used metal if they had a
word for it.
"...horned incense burners, models of house types,
wheel-made pottery, cement, the true arch, and the use of stone boxes"
have been found both in Mesoamerica and the ancient Near East. These
might indicate some form of contact between people in the two areas.
Some LDS researchers believe that:
The city of Nephi, mentioned in the Book of Mormon, might have
been the ancient city of Kaminaljuyu -- the location of the modern
city of Guatemala City.
El Cerro Vigia, a hill in southern Mexico, may be the Hill
Some authors have commented about the missing data in the archaeological
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because no
artifacts have been found that support the Book of Mormon, that is no
proof that future artifacts will not be found which verify the book.
The term "horse" in the Book might really have referred to
a deer that people rode.
The Book of Mormon does not say that all the natives in the New World were
either Lamanites or Nephites. There may have been many more natives
who entered America via the Bearing Strait, and left records in
their blood type, facial characteristics and genes -- perhaps swamping
the contributions of the Lamanites and Nephites.
A one-word change to the Book of Mormon's introduction:
The late LDS Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, contributed an introduction to the
Book of Mormon in 1981. It includes the statement:
"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and
they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."
A new revised version published by Doubleday has been revised to say:
"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and
they are among the ancestors of the American Indians." 21
A senior editor at Doubleday, Andrew Corbin, said that LDS leaders instructed
his company to make the change so that it "would be in accordance with future
editions the church is printing."
This change appears to show that the LDS church is moving away from their
earlier belief that the Americas were populated by completely by Hebrew
immigrants. This was expressed by their President Spencer W. Kimball who said in
1971 that Lehi was:
"... the ancestor of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and
South and Central America and in the islands of the sea."
Simon Southerton, an ex-Mormon and author of "Losing a Lost Tribe"
22 said that this change
shows that the church is:
"... conceding that mainstream scientific theories about the colonization
of the Americas have significant elements of truth in them. ... DNA has
revealed very clearly how closely related American Indians are to their
Siberian ancestors. The Lamanites are invisible, not principal ancestors."
The DNA evidence is based on tests performed on more than 12,000 North
Some anti-Mormon web sites have questioned how the Book of Mormon can be
considered inerrant if the church feels free to change it in response to
modern-day scientific discoveries. This is an invalid criticism, since only the
introduction to the Book of Mormon was changed, not its actual text. The
introduction was written only a little more than a generation ago by a Mormon
leader. It is just what it says it is: an introduction.
J.R. Farkas & D.A. Reed, "Mormonism: changes, Contradictions
and Errors," Baker Books, (1995), Page 155. (Out of print).
L.C. Scott, "The Mormon Mirage," Zondervan, (1979), Pages
77 to 85.(Out of print).
National Geographic Society, letter to Luke Wilson, Institute for
Religious Research, 1998-AUG-12. Available online at: http://www.irr.org/
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, letter to the
Institute for Religious Research, 1997-SEP-28
B.L. Metcalfe, Ed., "New approaches to the Book of Mormon:
Explorations in Critical Methodology," Signature Books, (1993),
Page 131 to 132. A series of essays by Mormon scholars into whether the Book
of Mormon is ancient religious scripture or a 19th century
writing by Joseph Smith, Read
reviews or order this book
Kerry A. Shirts, "Mormonism Researched" at: http://www.cyberhighway.net/
This is an enormous list of articles which support the validity of the Book of Mormon.
Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, (FARMS)
The publish a newsletter, and have a selected annotated bibliography on
publications dealing with the Book of Mormon.