Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, September 13

“A Short Response to Richard Packham’s ‘A Response to Orson Scott Card’s article: Book of Mormon: Artifact or Artifice?'” by grego

“A Short Response to Richard Packham’s ‘A Response to Orson Scott Card’s article: Book of Mormon: Artifact or Artifice?'”

by grego

Card’s article is at
Packham’s article can be found here:

Packham does have a few points, sure. And reading Card’s article, I did not get the impression that it was perfect or impeccable (see my previous post on it for an example). But if it isn’t, neither is Packham’s–but to a much lesser degree. In making his points, Packham also does a lot of what I’m going to do: refer readers to other writers/ authors. Unlike what Packham does, I’m going to refer you to writers who seem much more fair, honest, and scholarly. Packham also avoids many of the stronger points in Card’s argument; likewise, I’ve avoided some of the lengthy and more complex points of Packham’s article. But, I will show that the ones Packham actually does take on, are often done so in an elementary, illogical, and incomplete fashion.

Still, it would not be fair to extrapolate my judgment of these few, to the many points in Packham’s article that I haven’t answered here; yet it would be fair to keep this judgment of the few in mind, when considering the many.

Let’s start:

Packham: “…Card begins his analysis of its authenticity:
‘Either Joseph Smith’s account is true, or it isn’t. Either the witnesses who said they saw the plates lied, or they didn’t.’

These are false dilemmas. Two sentences and two logical fallacies. Smith’s account could be partly true and partly false.”

grego: And that would make Smith’s account… “isn’t true”. (I’ll agree with the second sentence, though.) Now, if Card had said “All true or all false”, I’d have agreed with Packham; but Card didn’t.

Packham: “Card then proceeds to show elements of the Book of Mormon which do not reflect the ideas of 1820s America. This is one of his principal arguments. His first example is when Amaleki turns over the records to King Benjamin. Card says:
“[Turning over records to a king] is something that would certainly not be a cultural idea available to Joseph Smith. You don’t turn ancient records over to kings in the world of the 1820s in America. Kings would have nothing to do with ancient records. You would turn ancient records over to a scholar. ”

Card overlooks the fact that the author of a fiction about times when there were kings will certainly realize that the fictional culture which he is creating would have different ideas and customs from his own. (grego: And yet, Card shows over and over in his article that this is not the case!) Smith’s notion of a king (especially a righteous king such as King Benjamin was supposed to be) having sacred records has an excellent model in the story of righteous King Josiah (2 Kings 22), to whom the priest Hilkiah delivered the sacred record which was found in the temple. Card’s argument makes Smith too stupid.”

grego: Here are two typical anti-Mormon methods at work: “‘it came from the Bible’ vs. ‘it came from 1820’ vs. ‘it came from Spalding’ and ‘it came from Ethan Smith’ (even though it more likely came from Frost’); and “‘Joseph Smith was very smart’ vs. ‘Joseph Smith was very stupid'”. Yes, I guess it’s ok, but in doing so, the reader is continually see-sawed up and down, and might, after getting dizzy, really start to wonder what the ride was all about. And often, the ride gets so dizzy, the same author forgot he just oxymoronically used one explanation in front of the other… If Joseph Smith sounds like the Bible, he plaigarized it; if he doesn’t, then either he consciously decided not to sound like the Bible, or else he got it from the devil. Guilty as charged every time–no matter what the charge!

Maybe it’s examples like this where I see the critics must admit that Joseph Smith had an “almost” divine ability to pilfer things. I mean, of all the things Joseph Smith *could* have pilfered, he happened to choose the right ones–every time so far. It’s like winning the grand lottery: he just happened to pick the right twenty two-digit numbers in order, when every “expert” was telling him he was stupid and the numbers were wrong–but when every digit starts showing up right, see, he was only very lucky or somehow very smart to have chosen that correct number. Or, the devil told him the numbers to pick…

So, an “excellent model”, eh? Let’s see: Hilkiah saw that the king was supposed to be doing some things he wasn’t doing, so he gave him the book that he found, so he could repent.
Amaleki had the sacred records/ scriptures; they were full; he handed them over to king Benjamin.
Ok, there’s a parallel, but is it that strong? Did Joseph Smith just strip this out from the Old Testament?

This is also different than other examples we see in the Book of Mormon, such as where the prophets (such as Abinadi) preach against the king.

Where is Huldah the prophetess (or Deborah or similar woman prophet) in the Book of Mormon, and in this story of the plates and their purpose? Oh, that’s right, I remember Packham saying: “…The principal themes of the Book of Mormon are the preaching of the gospel to sinners, and the many wars between the righteous and the wicked. Those are male-dominated areas, and they were also male-dominated in America of the 1820s. It is only males, in the Book of Mormon, and in Smith’s day, and in Smith’s church, who did the preaching and the fighting.” That’s why no women are in the Bible, also. Whoops…

Packham: “In doing so, he points out a difference between a science-fiction writer and Joseph Smith:
‘[When we write science fiction, o]ur name is on it as author, and we expect to get credit for our inventiveness.’
Card seems to be unaware that on the title page of the first edition of the Book of Mormon it said: ‘Joseph Smith, Author And Proprietor’, and he sent two of his followers to Toronto to try to sell the copyright. Apparently just like an author of science fiction would do.”

And so Joseph Smith was going to get credit for his inventiveness by selling the copyright?? Maybe it makes sense to some people… And with the money he was going to buy a house and live comfortably, or…? Yup, “…” is likely correct.
In this last article, Norwood writes:
“Persuitte makes much of the fact that the first edition of the Book of Mormon has Joseph Smith’s title listed as “author” rather than “translator” (see pp. 11, 114). Not only has it been demonstrated that the title “Author and Proprietor” conformed to the laws governing copyright in 1830,23 but another question must be raised: If Joseph Smith goofed by identifying himself as “author” – – if he made a blunder of that magnitude while trying to deceive the public, could it reasonably be said that such a harlequin could produce the Book of Mormon? Would a forger be so inept as to blow his cover in such a major way in producing the Book of Mormon?”

Let’s see, this last article was written in 1990; Packham’s article is from 2003, and in 2008, it’s still up… at least 18 years after being thrown in the garbage. That’s a long time to rot on the wall…

Well, what about selling that copyright? First, note that it is for Canada. Why would a US author try to sell a copyright in Canada, if he wanted to “get credit for his inventiveness” or money? (Was Canada greater then than it is today??) It seems Joseph and the church were in need of money, and this was something that might help. Oh, look, here’s another article:

Packham: “…the flood of written material exposing the Book of Mormon has hardly slowed in 170 years, and still continues, based partly on the inescapable evidence that the Book of Mormon is “deeply wrong” about the history of ancient America and the origin of the American Indians;”

grego: *Still* waiting for a true or even somewhat credible “exposing”; can Packham perhaps mention some that stand up to tests? Especially ones based on “deeply wrong” history of ancient America?

Packham: “…even after being exposed, Smith continued to be prominent and respected by many;”

grego: “Exposed?” Care to elaborate? Maybe, “falsely accused, lied about, slandered, libeled,” etc.?

Packham: “…only those who are ignorant of the facts are still deceived by the Book of Mormon. It is quite obvious that the overwhelming majority of people who have examined the Book of Mormon have recognized it as false. Only a very small number of those to whom the missionaries present its story end up as members of the Mormon church.”

grego: Yes, that’s why Mormon apologetics still uses thrown-out argument from 18 years ago… (Hint, hint.)
Any statistics? Reasons? Research? Evidence? Ah, “appeal to the majority”, wonderful logic. Since the majority of the peole on the earth don’t believe in the Bible, that makes it untrue, right? Right? Right??
By Packham’s reasoning, even though reading and believing the Book of Mormon is one small part of joining the LDS Church, those that don’t join don’t join because of the Book of Mormon, and they all *know* it’s a fake. Huh?

Packham: “Card says that a science fiction writer, no matter what era of past or future in which he sets his tale, will betray his own decade, its culture, its attitudes and its science. And what do we find in the Book of Mormon? The attitudes, culture, science, and burning issues of frontier America in the 1820s. For details, see the extensive examples listed in David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, Grant Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon edited by Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe, the earlier collection of essays edited by Metcalfe, New Approaches To The Book of Mormon, and many other works.”

grego: I would love to hear Packham’s responses to the responses of other scholars that heavily criticize the work in those books (which Packham heavily relies upon in his article)… Here are a few to start with, for any fair reader:
** (“Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon”; see footnote 5 for more critiques)
** (*Five* critiques of Palmer’s book)
** (“Magic”)

Here’s an example of the content from one of the links above: L. Ara Norwood writes:
“My analysis of Persuitte’s parallels reveals that, with one exception, no single book in the Book of Mormon received more than 8.09% influence from View of the Hebrews (see chart 1). According to Persuitte, two of the fifteen books in the Book of Mormon received no influence whatsoever from View of the Hebrews, and in one book (Moroni), only one out of 163 verses had some influence. After doing a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the Book of Mormon, I found that, according to Persuitte, less than 4.5% of the Book of Mormon was influenced by View of the Hebrews.11 I also discovered by doing a page-by-page analysis of View of the Hebrews that, again according to Persuitte, 111 out of 284 pages (39%) of View of the Hebrews had some influence on that 4.5% of the Book of Mormon.”

So, 4.5% makes it the source?? Where did the other 95.5% come from?

As Hugh Nibley wrote:
“The game is to look for some mysterious person or document from which Joseph Smith might have got the few simple and obvious ideas and then cry triumphantly, “At last we have it! Now we know where the Book of Mormon came from!”

“If only someone will show me how to draw a circle,” cries the youthful Joseph Smith, “I will make you a fine Swiss watch!” So Joachim or [Anselm] or Ethan Smith or Rabelais or somebody takes a stick and draws a circle in the sand, and forthwith the adroit and wily Joseph turns out a beautifully running mechanism that tells perfect time!”

I have only one suggestion: keep searching!

Packham: “Card attempts to deal with the “horse” problem as a linguistic problem:
” if in fact there were no horses in America at the time of the Book of Mormon, the Hebrew word for horse could still quite readily be applied to some other animal that functioned like a horse.”

One must immediately ask, “And what animal was that?” There was NO animal in ancient America that “functioned like a horse.” There were no draft animals. There were no animals which a man could mount and ride. There were no large domesticated animals at all (the only animals domesticated by the Maya were turkeys, ducks, bees, and dogs – see Gallenkamp, op. cit. p. 132). And then one must ask – since the translation of the Book of Mormon was supposedly done with divine assistance – if the Nephites were using a Hebrew word for “horse” for something that only reminded them of a horse, but was really a deer or a tapir or some other animal (which we can presume is not extinct), why did not God inspire Smith to translate it with the correct name, rather than one which would later (as God should have known) call into question the authenticity of this translation?”

Card comments:
“But no one in the Book of Mormon rides anywhere. How did Joseph Smith know to keep his made-up Nephites and Lamanites on foot — and how did he keep himself from ever pointing out the fact? ”

Card has not read his Book of Mormon very carefully: He should look up “chariots” in the index.”

grego: For an article that shows Card is absolutely correct and Packham assuming, see here: .

Packham: “Hoax detection is really just a matter of having sufficient facts and being sufficiently skeptical. The Book of Mormon stands out as a product of the 19th century. It incorporates the ideas and attitudes of that time, clothed in the pious-sounding language of the King James Bible, which makes up much of its content.”

grego: And thus, I detect Packham’s hoax.
How much does the King James Bible make up “much of its content”? “Much” = ?% 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20% or less? I’m guessing it’s not the first few…

Packham: “The Book of Mormon is a very clever combination of Joseph Smith’s imaginative tales of Indians, his familiarity with the King James Bible, his knowledge of popular ideas about the origin and culture of the American Indians, Campbellite theology, Ethan Smith’s ideas about the Indians as Israelites, and Smith’s own experience as a treasure-hunter.”

grego: Ah, to this list, Packham somehow forgot to add: Spalding, Cowdery, Rigdon, “The Gold Pot”, Josiah Priest, the Hebrew Bible, his knowledge of both Hebrew and Egyptian, his knowledge of Mesoamerican culture and history, his knowledge of the Pseudigraphia and the Apocrypha, maps of Arabia, the Masons, his unfamiliarity with the King James Bible, his familiarity with all the other church theology of all the other churches around him (especially the ones his family belonged to), his knowledge of a future map of the New York area with place names, necromancy, and a whole bunch more (we all know the key to a good fake document is eclecticism!)–all conveniently located at the local library or with a wandering mysterious stranger from out of town, if nowhere else.

I’ll close with this quote from Brigham Young:
“Do you understand the reason why such feelings exist against this people? Go to the United States, into Europe, or wherever you can come across men who have been in the midst of this people, and one will tell you that we are a poor, ignorant, deluded people; the next will tell you that we are the most industrious and intelligent people on the earth, and are destined to rise to eminence as a nation, and spread, and continue to spread, until we revolutionize the whole earth. If you pass on to the third man, and inquire what he thinks of the “Mormons,” he will say they are fools, duped and led astray by Joe Smith, who was a knave, a false Prophet, and a money digger. Why is all this? It is because there is a spirit in man. And when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached on the earth, and the kingdom of God is established, there is also a spirit in these things, and an Almighty spirit too. When these two spirits come in contact one with the other, the spirit of the Gospel reflects light upon the spirit which God has placed in man, and wakes him up to a consciousness of his true state, which makes him afraid he will be condemned, for he perceives at once that “Mormonism” is true. “Our craft is in danger,” is the first thought that strikes the wicked and dishonest of mankind, when the light of truth shines upon them. Say they, “If these people called Latter-day Saints are correct in their views, the whole world must be wrong, and what will become of our time-honoured institutions, and of our influence, which we have swayed successfully over the minds of the people for ages. This Mormonism must be put down.” So priestcraft presents a bold and extended front against the truth, and with this we have to contend, this is our deadliest foe.”

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