BH Roberts predicted that if church leaders did not address the historical problems of church origins and possible anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, these problems would eventually undermine “the faith of the Youth of the Church.
Increasingly teachers and church leaders at all levels are approached by Latter-day Saints who have lost confidence in Joseph Smith and the basic miraculous events of church history. They doubt the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, many of Joseph’s revelations, and much besides. Richard Bushman here
Roberts believed that Mormonism must “stand or fall” on the truth of Joseph Smith’s claim that the Book of Mormon was the history of an ancient people inscribed on golden plates and revealed to him by an angel.
The problems BH Roberts points out:
Origin of New World peoples
View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon claim that the Hebrews “occupied the whole extent of the American continents” and that this idea was “very generally obtained throughout New England.
Both View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon refer to a Migration of peoples to America. both journeys are religiously motivated, both groups enter valleys at the commencement of their journeys,· both apparently travel north between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, both cross water barriers, both trips take years, both groups travel to uninhabited lands.
Destruction of Jerusalem
‘’View of the Hebrews’’ describes the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The Book of Mormon, Lehi prophesies of the destruction of Jerusalem prior to his departure circa 600 B.C.E.
View of the Hebrews “an old Indian” said that his ancestors “had a book which they had for a long time preserved,” but that “having lost the knowledge of reading it…they buried it with an Indian chief.”· View of the Hebrews mentions a Jewish phylactery dug from the ground which “contained four folded leaves” of “dark yellow” parchment.
Compare this story with Joseph Smith’s retrieval of the golden plates in a New York hillock, and adds the question,· “Could all this have supplied structural work for the Book of Mormon?”
Breastplate and the Urim and Thummin
View of the Hebrews describes a breastplate “in resemblance of the Urim and Thummin” made of a white conch shell with two holes to which are fastened white buckhorn buttons “as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim.
Roberts compares this to the Urim and Thummin, which Joseph Smith said that he was given for the purpose of translating the plates.
View of the Hebrews describes hieroglyphic paintings found in the American southwest. Roberts ask, “Was this sufficient to suggest the strange manner of writing the Book of Mormon…in an altered Egyptian?”
Barbarous versus civilized New World people
View of the Hebrews argues that the Hebrews who arrived on the American continents divided into two classes, most of them fell into a wandering idle hunting life”· But that “more sensible parts of this people associated together to improve their knowledge of the arts.” The more civilized portion of this society separated from the more primitive group, who “lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family.”· As a result of “tremendous wars,” the civilized group “became extinct.
The Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites also split into two groups and have frequent wars, which ultimately result in the destruction of the more civilized Nephites.
In both View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon, part of the ancient inhabitants of America changed from monarchical governments to republican governments, and the civil and ecclesiastical power was united in the same person.
Prophecy about the scattering and gathering of Israel
Roberts notes that in both View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon there are extensive quotations from Isaiah regarding the scattering and future gathering of Israel. Roberts asks, “Did the Author of the Book of Mormon follow too closely the course of Ethan Smith in this use of Isaiah would be a legitimate query.”
White god in the New World
Ethan Smith suggests he could have been Moses. Roberts asks rhetorically if “this character spoken of in the View of the Hebrews,” furnished the suggestion of Christ in the New World in the Book of Mormon.
Church leaders have addressed these questions indirectly through FARMS, which doesn’t commit the Church to any one resolution of these problems and also means the membership can continue to be troubled by these questions, as there is no authoritative answer, only a variety of possible answers from BYU professors and the like.
Do you think Brother Roberts is reading too much into these anachronisms?
Are their more important historical problems to be looked at ie Richard Bushman’s statement?
Has BH Roberts prediction that if church leaders don’t address the historical problems of church origins and possible anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, these problems would eventually undermine “the faith of the Youth of the Church come true?
Mormonism must “stand or fall” on the truth of Joseph Smith’s claim that the Book of Mormon was the history of an ancient people inscribed on golden plates and revealed to him by an angel. Some active members may not believe the Book of Mormon is historical but inspired, do you think the statement “stand or fall” is to harsh of a phrase as their are a growing group who may not believe its historical put inspired?
Some apologists have claimed Roberts was merely playing devil’s advocate does that sum it up for you?