Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lehi's Dream-Did Joseph Smith compose it?

Boyd K. Packer, who was acting president of the quorum of the 12 apostles at the time, gave a speech at a BYU Devotional on January 16, 2007. In his speech, he talks about how the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone to his testimony. He goes on to talk about Lehi's dream, as found in the Book of Mormon and how the symbolism of his dream can be applied to our lives. At one point, he asks a very important question regarding the origin of Lehi's dream. What I discovered shocked me to the very core.

Lehi's Dream In The Book Of Mormon
For those that are unfamiliar with Lehi's dream, it is a story of a prophet named Lehi that receives a vision in the form of a dream, during which time he was living in the desert and the year was around 600 B.C.. In 1 Nephi chapter 8, we read about Lehi's vision. In this chapter, Nephi describes his father's dream:
I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me...I beheld a large and spacious field...[I] beheld a tree... I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof...and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen...And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also...I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit...I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi...I did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit...And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood...on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth And it was filled with people... and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
Later in the Book of Mormon, Nephi records a similar vision in 1 Nephi 11, this time Nephi himself sees the vision of the tree of life. Eager to ask the spirit what the meaning of the vision is, Nephi is told that the field represents the world. The tree of life represents the love of God. The Iron rod represents the word of God, that leads up to the tree of life. We also learn that the great and spacious building represents the pride and materialism of the world.

Did Joseph Smith Compose Lehi's Dream?

In his recent speech, Boyd K. Packer goes on to talk about how we can apply the symbolism of Lehi's dream to our lives. Packer also brings up an interesting question in the middle of his speech, where he says: "Who wrote this incredible vision? There is nothing like it in the Bible. Did Joseph Smith compose it? Did he write the Book of Mormon? That is harder to believe than the account of angels and golden plates. Joseph Smith was only 24 years old when the Book of Mormon was published."

Joseph Smith Sr. Had A Similar Dream

Interestingly enough, Joseph Smith Jr.'s father, Joseph Smith Sr. had a very similar dream when Joseph Smith Jr. was about 5 years old. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith Sr.'s wife recounted her husbands experience in her narrative Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations:
In 1811, we moved from Royalton, Vermont, to the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Soon after arriving here, my husband received...[a] vision, which I will relate:

"...I (Referring to Joseph Smith Sr.)was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren...My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, 'This is the desolate world... Traveling a short distance farther, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west....I could see a rope running along the bank of it.

...beyond me was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree such as I had never seen bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible whiter...I drew near and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, 'I can not eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me'.

...I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded.

I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God...He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children...Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together.

...I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, 'It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God because of their humility.' I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy."
It appears that Joseph Smith Jr. was not the author of Lehi's dream, on that point, I can agree with Packer. If Lucy Mack Smith's story is true, It is reasonable to conclude that Joseph Jr. simply cribbed Lehi's dream from his own father's story.

Apologetic Responses

One apologetic response I have heard is that it was simply miraculous that Joseph Smith Sr. received the same dream as Lehi in preparation for the Book of Mormon. However, if they received the same dream, why are there subtle but key differences? For example, in Joseph Smith Sr.'s dream, instead of a rod of iron, it is a rope. The rod of iron is an important symbol of the firmness of God's word. If Joseph Smith received the same vision, why would God leave that part out of it?

The only other apologetic response I have heard contradicts the first apologetic response. I have heard the argument that since Lucy Mack Smith recounted her husbands dream after publication of the Book of Mormon, her recollection of her husband's dream was influenced by the text in the Book of Mormon. However, that still demonstrates that he did have a dream that was similar to Lehi's dream. So, Joseph Smith Jr. could have based Lehi's dream on Joseph Smith Sr.'s dream, then Lucy Mack Smith's recollection could have been influenced by the Book of Mormon text. Not only that, but if Joseph Smith Sr. had a dream that was similar to Lehi's in preparation for the Book of Mormon, why would it be similar, yet different? Wouldn't God give him the same exact dream as Lehi in preparation of the Book of Mormon?

Either way, Joseph Smith Sr. did receive a dream similar to Lehi's in the Book of Mormon in 1811, 19 years before publication of the Book of Mormon. It is possible and likely that Joseph Smith Jr.'s father recounted his dream to him.

Skeptical Mormon Read more!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Video: The Lost Book Of Abraham

The information in this video is what made me conclude that the Book of Abraham is a fraud. When I learned about the Book of Abraham, and the fraudulent claims made by the church, I lost complete faith in Mormonism.

The LDS church still includes the Book of Abraham as part of their canonized scripture. The only apologetic response for the Book of Abraham being translated from a common funerary text is that it wasn't a literal translation, but a "spiritual translation". I am sorry, but I just can not begin to wrap my brain around that argument.

The most important thing it demonstrates is that Joseph Smith had absolutely no clue how to translate Egyptian. The Book of Mormon was supposed to be translated from a form of Egyptian. Joseph Smith said he recognized the hieroglyphics on the papyri from the golden plates. Who is to say that the Book of Mormon wasn't also a "spiritual translation" and not a literal translation? Perhaps there never were any golden plates.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this video.

The big double-standard with the LDS church is that they lecture people about honesty and integrity, yet they have known that the Book of Abraham was a fraud since 1967 and have lied about it. Mormon leaders give interviews to members that question their worthiness. One of the questions they ask is if they are honest in their dealings with their fellow man. Maybe we should be interviewing the church leaders and asking them if the church is honest with its members.

The LDS church continues to assert its position that the Book of Abraham is a literal translation from a first-hand account of Abraham written on the ancient documents that went into the possession of the church in 1835. This article was written in the official LDS church publication The Ensign as recent as 1997 that re-asserts this position.

Skeptical Mormon
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Start Your Own Cult!

Enjoy this video on how to start your own cult. Read more!

Friday, June 22, 2007

How Do You Explain 4 Nephi 1:6?

Were The Plates Made From Gold?

If the plates were in fact made from gold, it is safe to say that it was a very scarce commodity. As mentioned in a previous post, there is no evidence of gold being used in Mesoamerica until at least 600 A.D., 200 years after the plates were buried. So, despite Nephi's exaggerations that gold and other metals were found in "great abundance"(2 Nephi 5:15), gold must have been pretty hard to come by.

Moroni said the plates were Gold

According to Joseph, the angel Moroni told him the plates were made out of gold.

When first I 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. . . . He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the sources from whence they sprang (History of the Church, vol. 1, by Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 1976, pp. 11-12).
Even if the plates were not made of actual gold, they were gold in appearance and retained enough value that the angel Moroni was worried Joseph would be tempted to make himself rich. The plates were heavy and they were made from a precious metal. If the prophet Mormon knew Moroni might have to carry metal plates 3,000 miles from Mesoamerica to upstate, NY on foot, he might want to keep the load as light as possible. Not only that, but I am sure etching characters was a very time-consuming activity. Therefore, every square inch on each golden plate was valuable real estate, so I am sure that everything written on them was very important and was only included after a rigorous selection process. Mormon wouldn't include a single verse in his abridgement unless it was worth taking up the time and space to write it, and it had some kind of profound purpose behind it.

How Do You Reconcile This Verse?

If every little bit of space on the plates were so carefully selected when making an abridgement from the large plates of Nephi, why would Mormon see it fit to include 4 Nephi 1:6?

4 Nephi 1:6
"And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away."

When this verse was pointed out to me, I laughed out loud. Of course this verse is referring to the years following the mass conversions when there was peace in all the land. No wars, no conflicts, no contentions, just everyone living in harmony and peace as Christians of a single unified church. These years are supposed to exemplify the perfect model of how God intends us to live our lives on this earth; The absolute pinnacle of what we can reach as a church here on earth.

Why Was This Time of Peace Glossed Over?

You would think that we could learn about how they were able to keep peace for so long and read about all the good things that they did for one another and how they helped their fellow man. How they fed the poor, clothed the naked and made sure everyone was taken care of. You would think we could learn from their example and apply their teachings to our lives on how to live in righteousness. However, since there are no conflicts, no wars and no contentions during this time period, it doesn't make good reading.

The entire 200 year period of peace and harmony is merely a hiccup, summarized in one chapter. However, in his abridgement, Mormon thought it was more important to dedicate countless chapters on battle strategies, or the story of how Nephi ended up decapitating a passed-out drunkard, stealing his brass collection, kidnapping his servant and skipping town, as long as the end justifies the mean.

A More likely Reason

I think it is more likely that 4 Nephi 1:6 was included because it was simply one of the many "filler" verses Joseph Smith used in writing the Book of Mormon. Perhaps he needed to think about what he was going to say next or just needed to keep thickening the book up.

Skeptical Mormon Read more!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Banana Testifies Of The Genius of God's Creation

Kirt Cameron says that a banana testifies of the genius of God's creation.

He talks about how a "well-made banana" is specifically designed by God to serve humans. I think his argument is cute, and I do think that a banana demonstrates the genius of God's creation, but not in the same way as this particular example.

What is a "well-made banana"?

Bananas come in all different shapes and sizes. Bananas have been cultivated and selected by humans to benefit humans. Say you have 50 different types of bananas. You would pick the one out of the 50 that best suits human interest and cultivate just that one. As time goes on, any time you come across a variation that benefits humans, you would select that one and cultivate it. If you run across a banana that is too big, or too small, you wouldn't cultivate that one and that gene dies off. The point is that the definition of a "well-made banana" is simply that by its own self-serving definition. The bananas that best serve humans are the ones that are selected and cultivated by humans themselves.

What about corn?

Does corn testify of the genius of God's creation? Of all the varieties of corn in the world today, not one is wild. The reason is simply because the plant we call corn today is physically incapable of regenerating itself without the active assistance of man. To the left you can see a picture of teosinte, an ancestor of modern-day corn. Teosinte is not edible and still exists today in Mesoamerica. It is a grass and has tiny little cobs inside of little pods about 4 cm small and they do grow naturally. Compared to modern day corn, It is practically useless, and I would not consider it "well-made" in the context of describing a plant that is beneficial to humans.

Why Can't Corn Reproduce Naturally?

In my research into the cultures of pre-Colombian Mesoamerica, I learned about how they cultivated maize from a grass-like plant to modern corn. During this research, I came across an interesting tidbit on how modern corn had to have been manipulated genetically by humans and by no other means. In Reader's Digest Mysteries of the Ancient Americas, it says:

Modern corn's strength and its weakness lie in its unique grain-bearing "ear," a highly specialized flower cluster whose hundreds of seeds are compactly arranged along a rigid cob, the lot enclosed in tight-fitting, multi-layered husks. These husks prevent the seed kernels from dispersing on their own either on the stalk or when the ear falls to the ground. in fact, only when the ear is shucked and the kernels are forcibly freed can the seeds go fourth to start another season's growth...corn had somehow been manipulated genetically, from varieties that were less satisfactory in size and productivity to varieties that were large and yielding more food value.

What is a "well-made" ear of corn?

When defining a "well-made" ear of corn(as in beneficial to humans), you would consider the food value, the size fits well in your hands, not too big, not too small, it tastes good, etc.

The paradox, if you are to consider intelligent design, is that corn doesn't grow naturally. What you would consider a "well-made" ear of corn has been cultivated by humans over time to benefit humans. This is evident in the fact that there is no such thing as wild corn. Corn has been cultivated over time and the variations that benefit humans the best have been singled out, selected and cultivated. The ancestors to corn like tripsacum and teosinte are of little use to humans, and when compared to corn, they would in no way be considered "well-made" in this context. There did exist wild corn some 7,000 years ago, but it was very similar to teosinte in that it was very small and grass-like. Wild corn doesn't exist anymore today and the only corn that exists is what has been cultivated and selected by humans.

I don't dispute that God has given us this wonderful thing called nature in all its splendid beauty. After all, without teosinte, we wouldn't have corn, so for that I do thank God. However, I do dispute the argument that everything is designed perfectly by God to benefit man as defined and explained in the video. Now, I have to be careful, because I am not saying that God didn't design everything perfectly, I am saying that the definition of intelligent design that I have heard is not congruent with what one can see simply by looking at an ear of corn. God has given us the tools and means to cultivate our agriculture to our benefit by our own liking, or own choosing and by our own definition. It is almost as if we are given some kind of "free agency" in this selection process. The true intelligent design is the fact that God has provided us with plants and animals that can change and adapt to the environment as well as what we consider "well-made". It seems to me that the most intelligent design is something that can change and go through a selection process.

If there is such a thing as "intelligent design" as defined by many, I think the banana is a very poor example to use. The ability of obtaining the most beneficial banana to humans through the selection process is really what testifies of the genius of God's creation.

Skeptical Mormon
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who was Quetzalcoatl?

The story of Quetzalcoatl is very compelling and many LDS members have pointed to the legend of Quetzalcoatl as evidence to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Who is Quetzalcoatl?

In case you are unfamiliar with pre-Colombian deities, Quetzalcoatl is the most well known Aztec god and is believed by many to be the principal Aztec God. The name itself is a compound formed from the Nahuatl terms for the emerald plumed quetzal and the serpent, or coatl. In other words, Quetzalcoatl means feathered serpent.

Was Quetzalcoatl a Resurrected Jesus?

The crowning event in the Book of Mormon is the story of Jesus Christ himself as a resurrected being visiting the people on the American Continent just after his crucifixion. Many Mormons believe that this event was the basis for Quetzalcoatl and other Native American pre-Colombian deities. But how does a flying snake relate to the same Jesus Christ that walked in Palestine?

Bruce R. McConkie writes in his book Mormon Doctrine regarding Quetzalcoatl:

Lamanitish tradition has preserved the account of the ministry among the ancient inhabitants off America of a white God called Quetzalcoatl...Quetzalcoatl was a favorably disposed man, of grave aspect, white and bearded. His dress was a long tunic...He told them that in time to come,...he would return, and then his doctrine would be received. Almost without exception Latter-day Saints have associated these traditions with the ministry of the resurrected Christ among the Nephites. President John Taylor, for instance, has written: 'The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source, which has sadly disfigured and perverted the original incidents and teachings of the Savior's life and ministry.'
First, let me start off by saying that I find it confusing that the early prophets and apostles called the pre-Columbian Native Americans "Lamanitish" when most LDS apologists today are saying that the general population of Native Americans are not Lamanites, but that is another topic for another day. If anything, it demonstrates how un-inspired early chruch leaders were.

From a more modern source, LDS apologist John L. Sorenson writes in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon:
Many Latter-day Saints know a little about the ancient Mesoamerican figure known by the name Quetzalcoatl...who bears some striking resemblances to Christ as reported in the Book of Mormon...By some accounts, Quetzalcoatl wore a long white robe...traditional native accounts written down by the Spaniards...document a widely held belief...[of] a sacred being, described as a bearded white man, appeared long ago, taught a demanding set of spiritual principals, then departed mysteriously with the promise that he would return someday.

Problems With a White God in Pre-Columbian America

In the Reader's Digest book Mysteries of the Ancient Americas, it brings up some of the serious problems with placing a white God in Mesoamerica. When talking about Quetzalcoatl as a white God, it says:

There is, however, a serious flaw in the theories of the white-god...It is only after the Spanish Conquest that Quetzalcoatl is depicted as having a white skin, and then only in accounts provided by the Spaniards themselves. In local Aztec art, he is usually depicted as a feathered serpent or as a human wearing a mask or shown to have a black face, sometimes with yellow stripes and a red mouth...Nothing known of Aztec legend, though, implies that he had been a white his human form on earth.

So if we are to believe that Quetzalcoatl was indeed a white God, the only evidence we have to go on is the word of the Spaniards. Quetzalcoatl was never depicted as a white bearded robed man until after the Spaniards came, and only by the Spaniards accounts. All of the local artwork and murals that pre-date Columbus depict him as either a feathered serpent or a dark-skinned man.

Mysteries of the Ancient Americas continues: the lights of native believers, had [not] been expected to "return". These promises were noted, long after the fact, by the Spanish chroniclers with wit enough to see the advantages of being taken as actors in the fulfillment of prophecy...The Spaniards with their cannon and horses and ships...may at first have appeared like supernatural beings...But there is little evidence that the Aztec ruler or anyone else in the land thought that the Spanish invasion was a promised Second Coming of the God Quetzalcoatl.

It appears that all these accounts of a white God promising to return one day were nothing more than Spanish political propaganda. Hernán Cortés was a white bearded man that arrived to the Americas. It was very self-fulfilling for the Spanish chroniclers to portray the Native American deities in a manner that conveniently puts the Spanish in a godlike position over the Native Americans. The only illustrations that depict Quetzalcoatl as a bearded white man are from European documents, like the one to the right taken from a 16th century Spanish manuscript. Notice similar features to Cortés himself.

Chronological Disparity

Another problem when comparing the account of the resurrected Jesus in the Book of Mormon and the legend of Quetzalcoatl is trying to place them on earth during the same time period. The earliest date that Quetzalcoatl could have appeared-as a man- was at least 300 A.D. Biasil C. Hedrick, Director of the University Museum Southern Illinois University said regarding the time period of Quetzalcoatl appearing as a man:
adjusted calendars would suggest a time sometime about 900+ years subsequent to the Crucifixion. It frankly appears to me to be poppycock that the Mormons attempt to tout. They take advantage of similarities and seemingly logical comparisons to support a stand which they wish to take but choose to ignore all types of other information which would lead them to quite the opposite conclusion, if they were totally objective in their approach.

The similarities between Quetzalcoatl and the account of Jesus Christ in America are easily explained as combining early European influence, muddling of the evidence by Spanish chroniclers, coincidence and ignoring facts that conflict with the pre-conceived conclusion.

It is easy for Mormons to simply say that many aspects of the true history of Quetzalcoatl has been disfigured and perverted over time. After all, the name Quetzalcoatl has been confused and often mingled with the historical Aztec high priest Ce Acatltopiltzin Quetzalcoatl. However, this argument has serious flaws. If Quetzalcoatl is in fact the same person as Jesus in the Book of Mormon, then you would see more similarities the further back in time you go. However, we find just the opposite. We find much more similarities in accounts that were only produced post-Columbus, and by Europeans. When we look at pre-Colombian ancient murals and artwork, we see less and less similarities. If anything, the characteristics of Quetzalcoatl that resemble Jesus the most are the parts of the legend that have been disfigured and perverted.

Skeptical Mormon Read more!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

LDS Priesthood Leadership Training Video

A condensed version of the LDS priesthood leadership training video has been leaked on the internet. It outlines the new media campaign and is obviously not intended for view by the general membership or the general public for that matter. I give it a few days until it will be taken down. However, the entire production can be viewed on the church's public website:

I warn you that it takes a long time to upload the entire thing, and watching it will take a good hour. However, I also think it is a good insight as to what goes on in the priesthood meetings. After seeing the video, it seems that the bretheren are more interested in marketing a corporate product than teaching the gospel.

Skeptical Mormon
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nightline- The Life Of Gay Mormons

An interesting video on gay Mormons Read more!

Nephite and Mayan Calendars

I am going to talk about the Nephite Calendar as described in the Book of Mormon and compare it with the Mayan Calendar that was used in Mesoamerica during this time period. I will not talk about the Aztec Calendar, because it was created after the Book of Mormon times. However, the Aztec calendar was based on the Mayan Calendar.

Nephite Calendar

It is not entirely clear how many months there are in the Nephite calendar. However, a 12 month calendar is consistent from Book of Mormon descriptions. In Alma 46:37, it says it was "nearly the end of the nineteenth year..." then 3 chapters later in Alma 49:1, it says they were in the "eleventh month of the nineteenth year, on the tenth day of the month". It is reasonable to assume that there are either 11 or 12 Months in the Nephite calendar, since they were near the end of the year. However, there isn't any mention of a month higher than the 11th. However, when looking at our own calendar, if someone were to say on November 10th that the year was wrapping up, I would say that is a reasonable statement.

The Book of Mormon also mentions the Mosaic law, including the 7 day week. (Mosaih 13:18)

The Nephites counted and numbered the solar years. In this example, they mentioned it was "the nineteenth year" of the reign of the judges, indicating that they kept track of what year it was. The Nephite calendar included days, months and they kept track of solar years.

Mayan Calendar

The Mayan calendar consisted of 2 separate counting systems that worked together. One system called the Haab, or vague year, consisted of 18 months of 20 days each, with 5 extra "unlucky" days added on at the end of their year to make 365 days. Since the Mayans didn't use fractions, they did not compensate for the 1/4 day. So their calendar drifted against the actual solar year by a day every 4 years.

The other system called the tzolkin, or Sacred Round, consisted of 13 periods of 20 days. They would mix these 2 counting systems together to get the Maya Calendar Round.

So they had one calendar system of 18 months of 20 days and 5 extra days that had 365 days in it. However, this calendar didn't include the year, it just provided a name for the month and day. The other counting system didn't provide years or months, only 13 consecutive periods of 20 days each, resulting in a 260-day cycle. The 260-day counting cycle was used in conjunction with the 365-day counting cycle.

Confused yet? I know I was. Let me give you an example of how it would work. Let's say it is January 1st, of the first year. The Mayan vague year calendar would indicate the first day of the first month, but would not indicate the year. The Sacred Round would also indicate the first day of the first period. Each day would match until the Sacred Round ends on day 260. On day 261, the Sacred Round starts over on day one of the first period, whereas the vague year would indicate the first day of the 14th month. This would continue throughout the remainder of the first year until all 18 months go by and the leftover 5 days pass.

January 1st of the second year, the vague year calender would be identical to the previous year(the first day of the first month), because it only indicates the day and the month. However, the Sacred Round would indicate the 6th day of the 5th period, so when you compare the 2 day-counting systems together, you would know it wasn't the first year. Think of it like 2 gears of different sizes rotating together.

This same sequence returns every 52 years. So, in addition to the 2 counting systems, they also included a long count date to indicate time periods. This long count included 5 divisions which included multiples of days. Here are the multiples used in addition to the 2 counting systems:

1 day = kin
20 kins = 1 uninal (20 days)
18 uinals = 1 tun (360 days)
20 tuns = 1 katun (7,200 days)
20 katuns = 1 baktun (144,000 days)

The Mayan calendar did not consist of a 7 day week. The smallest unit of multiple consecutive days was the uninal, being 20 days long.

As you can see, the Mayan calendar and dating system was extremely complex and involved all kinds of calculations.

Comparing Nephite and Mayan Calendars

I see no relationship between the dating system used by the Mayans and the Nephites. The Book of Mormon describes a single calendar system with days, months and years that is consistent with our own 12 month Gregorian calendar system. The Mayans used 2 counting systems in conjunction with each other along with a long date divided into 5 multiples . The Mayan vague year calendar had 18 months with 5 leftover days and the Nephite calender had around 11 or 12 months. The Mayans didn't count or number the solar years, they counted in day-cycles with complex calculations. The Nephites counted and numbered the solar years. The Nephites had 7 days in their week, whereas the Mayans had 20 days.

It is safe to say that the Nephite calendar is not closely related to the Mayan calendar. However, the Nephite calendar and system of counting solar years is very similar to the dating system we use today.

Skeptical Mormon
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Saturday, June 9, 2007

LDS Scholars find parallels between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica

What does it mean when LDS scholars find circumstantial parallels between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica? For example, as John L. Sorenson points out in his book entitled An ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, he says:

we have no reason to expect scholars to find traces of Egyptian speech in the New World...But as we have seen , the glyphic is identical in principle to Egyptian writing.
Identical in principal to Egyptian writing? Identical in what way? If we compared the Mesoamerican glyphic writing to other scripts besides Egyptian, like Chinese for example, could we find the same similarities?

Other circumstantial parallels

Another parallel that most LDS scholars like to bring up is Quetzalcoatl. Most of the parallels between Jesus and Quetzalcoatl are circumstantial as well. I will talk into more detail about my findings of Quetzalcoatl and how I don't think it is the same person as described in the Book of Mormon in a later post.

Another perfect example of circumstantial parallels is the discovery of temples in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon speaks of temples, but none of the Mayan or Aztec temples are closely related to what is described in the Book of Mormon. They might find a temple that was destroyed around the birth of Christ, like the one in Chiapa de Corzo, however when you take a closer look, there is no way it could be a Nephite City because the city was first occupied in 1,400 B.C. and the writing script they used in that temple was based on a late Olmec script.

They also say that an Elephant as described in the Book of Mormon could be a Mammoth as found in Mesoamerica. However, the Mammoth became extinct in that region around 10,000 B.C.

They will mention that the Book of Mormon describes secret societies, and there is evidence to support secret societies within the Aztecs called the "nahualistas". I would venture out to say that you could find secret societies in just about ANY society.

New World Order Archaeological Foundation

It got me thinking: The LDS church has spent millions of dollars funded through BYU and the NWAF as well as countless man-hours searching through archaeological digs trying to find any evidence to support the Book of Mormon, but the best they can come up with is a few circumstantial parallels.

What about control groups?

It makes me wonder if the only reason that LDS scholars find parallels from the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica is because that is the only place they look for them. In other words, to find out just how relevant and meaningful those parallels are, we could have a couple of "control groups". We would take a couple of completely unrelated cultures, say Chinese and Africans for example. We would then send out archaeologists and anthropologists to specifically search and look for ancient literary forms, ancient names, records made on tablets, any Hebrew origins, metal swords and overall ancient cultures of these areas. Their specific goal is to search for anything that could be considered evidence that would support the Book of Mormon.

We would then look at the data after years of research and determine if Mesoamerica has substantially more, less, or an equal number of parallels than the other "control groups" with the Book of Mormon culture. If the other cultures have equal or more parallels between them and the Book of Mormon, it would seriously question just how meaningful the parallels are between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica. It would also give us an idea of how many "coincidental" parallels one could expect when trying to place the Book of Mormon with ANY culture.

It is unlikely such a study will ever be done

Such "control" studies have not been performed because obviously such an undertaking would require a lot of money, and most importantly, there is no incentive for anyone to take on such a huge task. The LDS church has a vested interest in Mesoamerica, but would have absolutely no interest in looking at other cultures. Not only that, but the LDS church has been actively looking since the 1950's. It is doubtful that anyone would spend that kind of manpower and money just to prove a point.

Parallels Between Other Cultures and the Book of Mormon

Regardless of the fact that this kind of study will never be done, I can already see more parallels between Chinese and African cultures and the Book of Mormon simply with what we know already.

We know that the Chinese started using cast Iron during the Zhou Dynasty of the 6th
century B.C. The Native Americans didn't use metal until 600 A.D. and only gold and silver for artwork. pre-Colombian Native Americans didn't use metal weapons.

The word "Mormon" is used in the ancient Chinese language for various meanings (pronounced mo-man) . There could be other similar names to ancient Chinese words. There aren't any names in the Book of Mormon that are similar at all to any Native American script.

There are some African tribes of Hebrew origin, whereas there is not a single Native American to be found of Middle Eastern decent.

What this demonstrates to me is that one could find parallels between the Book of Mormon and ANY diverse culture. In fact, I see more parallels between Chinese and African cultures than any Native American culture. It just demonstrates to me how readily parallels occur strictly by chance alone.

Skeptical Mormon.
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Friday, June 8, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

In the simplest explanation, cognitive dissonance is having 2 different and contradicting beliefs in your brain at the same time. Cognitive- a mental awareness, Dissonance- a clash or disharmony. Cognitive Dissonance makes people feel uncomfortable, but this feeling of discomfort is the reason why people make changes in their lives. For example, if you have a strong belief that the Book of Mormon is a literal history, but keep seeing more and more evidence that disproves it, you have cognitive dissonance. In your mind, you know that the Book of Mormon is true, but you also believe that DNA evidence is reliable. How can you reconcile the 2 contradictory beliefs?

The reason our minds feel uncomfortable is because our brain can not function with contradictory beliefs. Our minds are conditioned to reason and make sense of everything. In my experience in dealing with tough issues, the way people respond to cognitive dissonance is the most predictable of all human behavior.

How do people deal with cognitive dissonance? I will look at the 6 ways people deal with facing information that conflicts with their belief system:

1. Selective exposure- avoid information that conflicts with your view point
2.Selective retention-only remember things that reinforce your viewpoint
3.Selective perception- "that quote is taken out of context..", "what that passage of scripture really means is..." etc.
4.Attack the source of the conflicting information-'shoot the messenger', discredit the person giving you the information, "they are just an apostate group that is out to get us"
5.Rationalize- "everybody was racist back then", "he was just a product of his time", etc.
6.Change belief pattern to conform with new information- "The Book of Mormon is really a brief history of a small family that had very little, or no impact on the overall society whatsoever, that is why there is no evidence to support it"

Cognitive dissonance is what drives people to change. I think cogitive dissonance is a good thing because without it, people wouldn't change.

Skeptical Mormon
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Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Gospel Is Like Sin

Sin is a Gradual Process

I remember a gospel lesson when we learned the dangers of sin. We were told that sin doesn't happen all at once, but it happens little by little. We are given the metaphor of a frog. If placed in hot water, the frog will jump out. However, if the frog is placed in cool water and you slowly turn up the temperature a few degrees at a time, the frog will just sit there and boil to death. The lesson is that sin is the same way. It happens slowly and gradually, and we are tempted by small seemingly insignificant things. We aren't going to wake up one day and decide we are going to be mass-murderers, but we might watch a movie that has too much violence. Because we don't see too much danger, we just sit and allow ourselves to sin just a few degrees at a time while our spirit is slowly cooked to death a few degrees at at time.

The Gospel is a Gradual Process

We are also taught that the gospel works the same way. We are told that a new member of the church might not understand some of our core doctrines and beliefs, so it is best to teach them little by little and not all at once. We are given the example of a "milk diet" before a "meat diet". For example, a recent convert or someone investigating the church should only learn about the basic principals of the gospel before learning about the deeper doctrines. This is in the same way that you wouldn't give an infant a meat diet before giving them a milk diet. A recent convert or investigator is considered a spiritual infant that should only be on a spiritual milk diet. If you give the spiritual infant meat, they might have a hard time swallowing your spiritual steak. They might think your core doctrines, beliefs and rituals are kooky and weird. Once they have digested the milk diet for a few years, then they can move on to other selections like grains, fruits and veggies, spiritually speaking of course.

So if we are talking about a shift towards sin, we are talking about a frog being gradually boiled to death. However, if we are talking about learning the gospel, we use the example of milk gradually changed to meat. This tells me more about human behavior more than anything else. What this tells me is that people don't like to change their habits and will only accept change gradually over time. What this also tells me is that we use way too many metaphors in church. Jesus taught in parables, but a metaphor can also be like a rubber band-you stretch it too far and it breaks.

Skeptical Mormon
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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

God's Love Is Conditional

Russel M. Nelson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, one of the top leaders of the church, says that God's love cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. So apparently God's love is conditional. I will let you read the article for yourself so that you can see I am not taking anything out of context. This article is found in the February 2003 Ensign, an LDS church magazine publication. Read more!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Plant-Life Test and the Book of Mormon

I would like to get back onto the topic of the geography, geology, archaeology and overall culture of the Book of Mormon and how it compares to what we find in ancient America. Today I will talk about the plants that are described in the Book of Mormon and how they compare with what is found in the real world.

Plants Described in the Book of Mormon:

  • Barley (Mosiah 7:22, Mosiah 9:9, Alma 11:7, Alma 11:15)
  • Corn (Mosiah 9:9, Mosiah 9:14, Mosiah 7:22)
  • Figs (3 Nephi 14:16)
  • Grapes (2 Nephi 15:2, 2 Nephi 15:4, 3 Nephi 14:16)
  • Neas (Mosiah 9:9)
  • Sheum (Mosiah 9:9)
  • Wheat (Mosiah 9:9, 3 Nephi 18:18)

First of all, you might be wondering what the heck are neas and sheums. Well, you are not alone, because according to the Book of Mormon index, they are unidentified plants. Since we have no idea what these plants are, there is no way to compare them with the real world. They could be turnips and green beans for all we know.

Book of Mormon Plant Test with Ancient America

When comparing the known plants with ancient American plant life, we see the following results:

Barley: None found.
Corn: Maize is found.
Figs: None found.
Grapes: None found.
Wheat: None found.

There is evidence for 1 out of the 5 known plants as described in the Book of Mormon. Some people say that maize is not corn, but that is silly and I think a little dishonest. That would be like saying a plantain isn't a banana. Technically they are different species, but when translating something like maize to English, it would be reasonable to use the word corn. However, barley, figs, grapes and wheat are not found in ancient America.

Significance of lack of evidence

It is important to note that these plants did exist in other regions of the world during this time period such as places mentioned in the Bible. Those areas have abundant evidence to demonstrate that these plants existed in those areas of the world in ancient times. Also, you can see plenty of evidence in archaeological findings for other non-Book of Mormon plants that did exist in ancient America, such as lima beans, tomatoes, squash, etc.

Even if the plants described in the Book of Mormon disappeared off the face of the earth, archaeologists have uncovered numerous art renderings in murals and stone sculptures that depict ancient plant life. Artwork containing plant life of that time is commonly found. In the mural above(click to enlarge), you can see a typical mural found in ancient America. It accurately depicts maize plants as found in ancient America. However, none of the other Book of Mormon plants are depicted anywhere on any of the artwork that has been discovered.

Unfortunately for the Book of Mormon plant-life test, the major plants of ancient America can be identified all the way back to 5,000 B.C. and there is no sign of barley, figs, grapes or wheat.

How often are these plants mentioned in the Bible?

I am convinced that Joseph Smith used the bible as a source when writing the Book of Mormon. All of the known plants from the Book of Mormon are mentioned numerous times in the bible.

Barley:(Ruth 3: 2, 15, 17,2 Kgs. 7: 1, 16, 18, Ex. 9: 31, Ruth 2: 17, 23, 2 Chr. 2: 10, 15, Ezek. 4: 9, 12, Hosea 3: 2, John 6: 9, 13, Lev. 27: 16, Num. 5: 15, Deut. 8: 8, Judg. 7: 13, Ruth 1: 22, 2 Sam. 14: 30, 2 Sam. 17: 28, 2 Sam. 21: 9, 1 Kgs. 4: 28, 2 Kgs. 4: 42, 1 Chr. 11: 13, 2 Chr. 27: 5, Job 31: 40, Isa. 28: 25, Jer. 41: 8, Ezek. 13: 19, Ezek. 45: 13, Joel 1: 11, Rev. 6: 6)

Corn:(Gen. 42: 1-3, 5, 19, 25-26, Gen. 41: 5, 35, 49, 57, Neh. 5: 2-3, 10-11, Lev. 2: 14, 16, Josh. 5: 11-12, Hosea 2: 8-9, 22, Gen. 27: 28, 37, Ex. 22: 6, Deut. 16: 9, 13, Deut. 23: 25, Ruth 2: 2, 14, 2 Sam. 17: 19, 28, Neh. 13: 5, 12, Job 24: 6, 24, Ps. 65: 9, 13, Joel 1: 10, 17, Matt. 12: 1, Mark 2: 23, Luke 6: 1, Judg. 15: 5, )

Figs:(Jer. 24: 1-3, 5, 8, Matt. 21: 19-21, Mark 11: 13, 20-21, Judg. 9: 10-11, Song. 2: 13, Isa. 34: 4,Jer. 8: 13,Joel 1: 7, 12,Nahum 3: 12,Luke 13: 6-7, John 1: 48, 50, James 3: 12, Rev. 6: 13,Gen. 3: 7, Num. 13: 23, Num. 20: 5, Deut. 8: 8, 1 Sam. 25: 18, 1 Sam. 30: 12, 1 Kgs. 4: 25,2 Kgs. 18: 31, 2 Kgs. 20: 7,1 Chr. 12: 40,Neh. 13: 15, Ps. 105: 33, Prov. 27: 18,Isa. 36: 16)

Grapes:(Isa. 5: 2, 4, Num. 13: 20, 23-24, Deut. 32: 14, 32, Gen. 40: 10-11, Lev. 25: 5, 11, Num. 6: 3, Deut. 28: 30, 39, Song. 2: 13, 15, Song. 7: 7, 12, Jer. 31: 29-30, Gen. 49: 11, Lev. 19: 10, Deut. 23: 24, Judg. 8: 2, Judg. 9: 27, Neh. 13: 15, Job 15: 33, Isa. 17: 6, Jer. 25: 30, Ezek. 18: 2,
Hosea 9: 10, Amos 9: 13, Obad. 1: 5, Matt. 7: 16, Luke 6: 44, Rev. 14: 18)

Wheat:(Matt. 13: 25, 29-30, 1 Chr. 21: 20, 23, 2 Chr. 2: 10, 15, Amos 8: 5-6, Gen. 30: 14, Ex. 9: 32, Ex. 34: 22, Num. 18: 12, Deut. 8: 8, Deut. 32: 14, Judg. 6: 11, Judg. 15: 1, Ruth 2: 23, 1 Sam. 12: 17, 2 Sam. 4: 6, 1 Kgs. 5: 11, 2 Chr. 27: 5, Ezra 6: 9, Job 31: 40, Prov. 27: 22, Song. 7: 2, Isa. 28: 25, Jer. 12: 13, Jer. 23: 28, Ezek. 4: 9, Joel 1: 11)

I think it is very likely that Joseph Smith noticed that the plants were specifically referenced in the bible and decided to include it as a way of making the historicity of the Book of Mormon seem more believable. However, the difference is that the missing plants in ancient America can be found in the regions of the bible.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

It's A Great Big Universe

A clip from the animated series "The Animaniacs". This was one of my favorite cartoons growing up and I wish they still made cartoons like this today. Just something to contemplate. Read more!