In our 5-part conversation with Brant Gardner about his new book entitled “The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon,” we discuss most of the major issues with the Book of Mormon including: Joseph Smith’s use of folk magic, the Book of Mormon translation process (including the peep stone in the hat), Book of Mormon anachronisms, DNA and race.  This interview attempts to address many of the issues discussed in our interviews with Grant Palmer and Dr. Michael Coe.

For a limited time Greg Kofford Books is offering The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon at a 20% discount.  To get the discount, type in “MSTORIES” (all in caps) as the discount code.

Brant A. Gardner earned his M.S. in anthropology (specializing in Mesoamerican ethnohistory) from the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of the six-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon. He has presented papers at the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), the Book of Mormon Archaeological Symposium, and Sunstone. His other published works include chapters in Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl and Symbol and Meaning beyond the Closed Community: Essays in Mesoamerican Ideas, and articles in the FARMS Review, Sunstone, and Meridian Magazine. Brant and his wife, Valerie, have four children and eleven grandchildren.


  1. Anonymous December 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Interesting. I need to reserve some time to listen to this. Does it address the problem with the BOM quoting nearly word-for-word the KING JAMES version of the Bible?

    • Anonymous December 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Scott – We definitely discuss that point.

    • UnPfhorgiven September 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      *All* that evidence? What you stated is not “evidence”, bless your little heart. If you look at the historical context of Joseph’s life and also listen to some other podcasts you will find that the few “evidences” you provided, particularly to the translation, it was not an unbelievable and miraculous story that couldn’t have been staged. And to you we might ask the same question on the flip side of the coin… what about all the evidence against Joseph and the BoM? Ignore it? Apparently so.

  2. Sean T December 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    As usual, great stuff.  Excellent job on both ends.  

  3. Nellie Chung December 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Do all G Kofford books support Mstories?

    • Nellie Chung December 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      if you use the code?

  4. Betsy L December 28, 2011 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Am I the only one having trouble downloading?  I haven’t been having any trouble and then today I seem to be experiencing “technical difficulties”.  I click on download and I am directed to the page where the podcast plays and I have to right click on that page and select “save as”.  I normally don’t have any problem.  I was having trouble from my Kindle (nothing would happen, or I would get a message “page not available) and so I came to the computer and I am able to download in that really annoying way that I just described.

    • Anonymous December 28, 2011 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      Sometimes the first day things are overloaded. Let me know if it’s not better by tomorrow, k?

  5. […] Gardner Interview Dec28 by Hamblin of Jerusalem A five hour podcast interview on Brant Gardner’s book Gift and Power of God: Translating the Book of Mormon (Kofford, […]

  6. Brooke R. December 29, 2011 at 12:28 am - Reply

    Non-topic curiosity question. It’s common to put if someone has a family in bios. Question: does this give the person more credibility, even if family status has nothing to do with the topic? If so, if someone is single with no family, does a PhD, especially one in the topic area being covered, make up for the lost credibility earned by family status?

  7. Jeff December 29, 2011 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Towards the end of hour four the author tries to use Einstein’s theory of relativity as an example of something that was reluctantly and belatedly accepted by the scientific community.  There were two theories (the special and the general) with the special theory published in 1905 and the general theory published in 1915.  Here you will find a description of One Hundred Authors Against Einstein:

    The general theory immediately explained anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury, and was experimentally confirmed in a famous expedition by Eddington three years later.

    “The predicted curvature of light around a massive object was dramatically verified by the British astrophysicist, Sir Arthur Eddington in 1919. Observations made by his teams in Brazil and West Africa measured the apparent shift in light from a star close to the Sun during a solar eclipse, fitting Einstein’s predictions. This successful confirmation was largely responsible for the rapid acceptance of Einstein’s work and his global fame.”

  8. Jeff December 29, 2011 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Here is the relevant part of the wikipedia entry concerning criticism of relativity:

    “A collection of various criticisms can be found in the book “Hundert Autoren gegen Einstein” (Hundred authors against Einstein), published in 1931. It contains very short texts from 28 authors, and excerpts of publications from other 19 authors. The rest consists of a list that also includes people who only for some time were opposed to relativity. Besides philosophic objections (mostly based on Kantianism), also some alleged elementary failures of the theory were included, however, as some commented, those failures were due to the misunderstand of the relativity by the authors. For example, Hans Reichenbach described the book as an “accumulation of naive errors”, and as “unintentionally funny”. Albert von Brunn interpreted the book as a backward step to the 16th and 17th century, and Einstein is reported to have said with irony, that one author alone would have been sufficient to refute him.”If I were wrong, it would only have taken one.” –Albert Einstein, commenting on the book 100 Authors Against Einstein[citation needed]According to Goenner, the contributions to the book are a mixture of mathematical-physical incompetence, hubris, and the feelings of the critics of being suppressed by the modern physicists. The compilation of the authors show, Goenner continues, that this was not a reaction within the physics community – only one physicist (Karl Strehl) and three mathematicians (Jean-Marie Le Roux, Emanuel Lasker and Hjalmar Mellin) were present – but an inadequate reaction of the academic educated citizenship, which didn’t know what to do with relativity. As regards the average age of the authors: 57% were substantially older than Einstein, one third was around the same age, and only two persons were substantially younger. Two authors (Reuterdahl, von Mitis) were antisemitic and four others were possibly connected to the Nazi movement. On the other hand, no antisemitic expression can be found in the book, and it also included contributions of some authors of Jewish ancestry (Salomo Friedländer, Ludwig Goldschmidt, Hans Israel, Emanuel Lasker, Oskar Kraus, Menyhért Palágyi).[A 50][A 51][C 34]

  9. ReelLDS December 29, 2011 at 10:07 am - Reply


           First – love your podcasts and appreciate all you do here.  I am an active mormon who struggles from time to time working my way through these trials of faith. 

          My question is this – Do you ever find yourself listening to your interviews with Bushman, Givens, Peterson, Gardner and overcoming some of your issues and find yourslef coming back into the realm of the LDS faith being completely believable? 

          I have read the smae things you have and my story is very similar yet I find myself just on falling on the other side of the fence.  As with any of us who encounter these issues we have to change our ideal and allow for the frailities of humans and their imperfections but do you ever find these interviews causing you think twice and re-evaluate whether there might have actually been metal plates and a translation by the gift and power of God?

    • Jennifer December 30, 2011 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      I’m interested in your response to this, also, John.  Also from others if they’re so inclined.

      • Lvuitton5 February 9, 2012 at 10:03 am - Reply

        I just listened to the first part of this podcast and it actually convinced me further that the Church is not what it pretends to be. The fact that the Church doesn’t portray the BOM translating process truthfully. Who has seen Church illustrations depicting Joseph Smith translating the plates with the Urim and Thummim with the plates nearby?
        And Joseph F. Smith claiming that Joseph Smith would have never used a seerstone. Man isn’t perfect but Jesus is. I know that the Lord would not support and inspire a man who lies on His behalf.

      • Zelph August 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm - Reply

        Although, Brant makes the best possible case for his position, I personally find it weak and not credible, especially when considering the cumulative effect of so many unlikely explanations on various issues.

  10. Michael H December 29, 2011 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Made it through the first 3 hours and I am struck by the similarity of translating to how philip pulman describes translating with the alethometer in his dark materials. Despite the novels being pushed as antireligion it helped strengthen my testimony and understanding of the book of mormon and other subsequent “translations”/revelations of joseph smith at the time.

    I appreciate gardner’s analysis and a few years ago this would have been much more heartening to my testimony and understanding of revelation.

    PS listening to part 4 look forward to a podcast on competing mormon land theories.

  11. Joe Geisner December 29, 2011 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Thank you John for providing the podcast of your interview with Brant Gardner. You are an amazing person and very kind in your interview. Excellent work.

    After listening to Gardner’s interview, I had quite a startling experience. A vicar from the Church of England knocked on my door last night and informed me that because of my Irish ancestry, I was a chosen race. He explained that because my early Irish ancestors had fallen from grace and became Catholic, they had turned to savage and cruel ways. But if I would repent and become Anglican, I might be a pure and delight-some person and bring great joy to my family. He explained that the Catholic Irish had degraded themselves and that the potato famines had been God’s punishment for falling away from the Church of England. Even the economic downturn in Ireland today is part of God’s punishment.

    I am serious considering the vicars comments. I had always thought my Irish ancestry had pre-dated the Church of England, but the vicar explained that this was all a miss reading of the translations that had been done previously. He also explained that “translation” can be tricky and I should be careful what has been written about the Irish culture. I thanked him for his help in these matters and told him I would continue reading his literature.

    I am convinced Gardner’s podcast came at the right time to help me through these issues.

  12. Pedro A Olavarria December 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    “If you got 100 archaeologists and asked them if the BoM is historical, what would they say?” 

    Obviously, unless they are Mormon, they are going to say “no”.The problem with this question is that: 1)it supposes archaeologists and archaeology are capable of discerning everything that ever happened. 2)that the standard of evidence and religious faith is the same3)that 100 people, of any profession, can be objective about a text that came to us through a boy wizard, who eventually became a polygamist and his angel friends.4)that the Book of Mormon can be divorced from its provenance(see above)

    1) Archaeology is great when it comes to populations and material culture, it’s weak when it comes to historical personalities. To test whether or not someone like Nephi, Benjamin or Mormon existed you would need written texts from that period or later that would allow us to reconstruct some kind of history, outside the BoM.

    “[O]ur knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’).” (Michael D. Coe, The Maya, London: Thames and Hudson, 4th ed., 1987, p. 161.)

    Here is a nice experiment to try, most Mormon scholars put Nephite cities in the central depression of Chiapas(200bc – 400ad). What were the original names of sites like Santa Rosa and Chiapa de Corzo? What are the names of the people who lived there, kings, priests?   In other words, mesoamerican archaeology and ancient near eastern archaeology are two different animals. If Santa Rosa is Zarahemla and someone like Alma lived there, how would we know?

    2) For an archaeologist to say: “yes, the Book of Mormon is historical but I’m going to stay Episcopalian” we would have to find at least two unmolested tombs in the central depression, with a translatable text saying: “Mosiah, son of Benjamin, son of Mosiah, translator of the plates of Ether”, dating to about 100BC and another tomb in the Olmec area, dating to around 1200 bc, saying: “Lib, son of  Kish, hunter and city builder”.  The problem is: when does this happen for anyone in that region, from the time period? We don’t know the name of one Olmec king, so why should we expect to find Jaredites?  

    What Gardner, Sorenson, Wright and Clark do with the BoM is not archaeology; it’s apologetics and they admit as much. There is enough evidence for the Book of Mormon, from mesoamerica, to be Mormon and not be brain dead. There isn’t enough to compel belief.  The kind of evidence that compels belief is required for science, not for religion. 

    3)No one would have a problem with the Book of Mormon if it was discovered and translated by ordinary means. If the book was discovered in a dig by Yale archaeologists and translated hundreds of different times by scholars around the world, it would be hailed as the greatest discovery in religion and would lead to a spike in Christian baptisms, at least for a while. 

    4)The challenge of the BoM is that it was brought to us by a  boy wizard and his angel friends.  There is no way, absolutely no way, anyone can objectively look at the book and not have strong opinions as to whether or not the God of the Bible is real and that he sends angels to talk to boy wizards. Most people would say: seer stones, later polygamist, angels, Jesus…..FRAUD.  It wouldn’t matter if the book were historical or not, just those things alone, how the book came to us would be enough to reject it. And yet, how the book came to us should say nothing about it’s historicity.  Yet, the question of  whether or not a man named Nephi and his small clan of 30 Judeans reached Guatemala and established a ruling lineage, who’s last members produced a book, CANNOT be separated from the discovery and translation of that book.  You can’t pick up one end of that stick without picking up the other end also.  That is why it’s impossible for someone to accept the historicity of the book without becoming some kind of Mormon. 

    The fact that most archaeologists reject the book actually says more about their theological views and the justifiably correct standards of evidence required in archaeology than it does about whether or not Jesus Christ visited a site in Mexico and that this visitation was recorded by a prophet-historian who descended from an Israelite , in about 34AD. That’s just something that can’t be tested.

     What can be tested is the movements of people and the rise and decline of populations within the BoM’s internal map and compare that with the movements of people and the rise and decline of populations within the areas proposed by  Sorenson as Book of Mormon lands.  The Book of Mormon gets more than passing marks in that area. 

    • Pedro A Olavarria December 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      Sorry if my post is kinda long and disjointed. It’s a first draft and I typed it kinda fast. Thanks for having Brant on. I have more to say but I gotta bail.

      • N Chung January 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm - Reply

         enjoy your posts, pedro.

    • Jacob Brown January 1, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      Let me do a point-by-point injection of comments.

      1) Do we even need to go to the detailed level of “historical personalities” when at the more general level of “populations and material culture” there are already plenty of conflicts between the BoM narrative and the picture put together by current archeology?

      2) Totally agree that what these guys are doing is apologetics, but I don’t think this means they aren’t doing archeology. Are the two necessarily exclusive? I would say there’s plenty of archeology built into Sorenson’s argument for the limited Tehuantepec geography.

      3) Interesting speculation, but I would go a completely different direction with it. I agree that if the gold plates were discovered by a Yale archeologist it would be hailed as a great discovery. However, the archeologists would write it off as ancient religious tradition just the same and not an ancient history. The same way experts address the Bible which is widely accepted as an ancient document and is assumed to have come to us by un-supernatural means.

      You see, I think it really doesn’t matter that the BoM is come to us by supernatural means. The real problem experts have with the BoM is the substance and comments. The fact that it came by such unusual ways just makes it easier for them to dismiss. (You point this out in your #4.)

      4) You claim that how the book came to us is immaterial to its authenticity. Then you say its impossible to accept the historicity without becoming some sort of Mormon. I can’t tell what side of the argument you are on.

      Experts accept ancient documents as ancient all the time without adopting the propositional truths contained in them. I believe the two great epic poems, the Iliad and Odyssey, were written thousands of years ago, but I’m not about to adopt the ancient Greek religion.

      So what does it say about the theological views of a Mormon archeologist if he rejects the BoM as historical? There is an alternative non-literal perspective that works equally well for believers and non-believers. Some 19th-century author(s) could have made up the BoM. Still believers may find truth in it while others don’t find truth. So is all this archeology pointless or not?

  13. Sophia December 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    I am shocked Brother Gardner is shocked that people like me are disturbed to find out details about things I have been learning in church for years everywhere BUT church. Sure, people like me go look into it and dig in but when we find these things and come back to share in class we are ostracized! I am 100% with Johns prodding’s that learning about disturbing things should be presented by church early on. What better place?? I mean, that is why I am no longer a member because I was presented and prayed about and KNEW things were true that weren’t and the LDS church choses to perpetuate this process. Changing things would add integrity to the organization beyond anything but a business. I could never go back even if it all were redone to my satisfactory due to the life long indoctinization I endured and endorsed whole heartedly! It’s 2011 and honesty is still the best policy. I agree with Brother Gardner, “its all in the presentation.” I appreciate and value his work and hope members like him continue to write, and influence change for these Latter Days. As for me and my house, we will remain studying the freethinking secular heretics curriculum for now that encompasses all world religious influences. 

  14. flackerman December 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Same old apologetics. Words don’t mean what they say or how they are used. Translation does not mean translation, horse does mean horse, elephant does not mean elpehant, etc… Evidence, eh, who cares. Being honest about the translation process with the youth, eh. they don’t really care about history. Those paintings hanging in visitor centers and printed in the Ensign were not painted by a GA so who cares if they are accurate or not.

    Integrity, isn’t it about time for some?

  15. Michael H December 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Just finished all 5 parts. My hat is off to Brant with his well thought out and empathetic answers. He also did well in avoiding some of the traps you laid out to him with your some of your questions. He did so politely acknowledging the merits and set out to answer as best he could on his own terms. My big lament is that there are not more people like him or that we had an atmosphere across the church that would allow such tolerance and a more rational approach.

    I did appreciate the hard questions asked and more that you allowed brant the freedom and time to answer those questions fully.

    I am grateful for an online community though I would love some more stats on disaffection. Best I heard was greg prince extrapolating that we only keep 1 in 10 of new converts.

    Here in calgary with so many mormons last year the institute director lamented on diminishing enrollment at institute. There’s also fewer missionaries and fewer teens it seems. Eg. My brother’s scout troop is made up of 3 wards to have less boys than when I was his age.

  16. Anonymous December 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    I am trying figure out how the following propositions might be harmonized.

    1.  The literal change in skin color is not the proper interpretation of the Book of Mormon passages mentioned.

    2.  Joseph Smith’s translation was functional and therefore not beholden to ancient metaphors that contemporary readers would misinterpret as literal.

    To this may be added the apparent conflict between following related propositions.

    3.  God’s divine interventions in these latter days included micromanaging the construction of a boarding house in Nauvoo (D&C 124).

    4.  God’s latter day interventions did not include the preventing or ending the racist “policy” that denied His most sacred ordinances to generations of African Americans – a policy perpetuated in large part by scriptural misinterpretation. 

    Any suggestions?

    • Mark July 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Check out or better yet get Marvin Perkins to interview on this site for the best answers I have ever heard about the meaning of “skin of blackness” and other phrases we have interpreted as racial that he claims never meant what we thought they did. He is black in skin color, a believing Latter-day Saint and one of the best speakers I have ever heard.

    • Cesare Becarria April 1, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      brilliant comment

  17. Pedro A Olavarria December 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Here is a short example of how the BoM does well with the bigger issues of that can be tested by archaeology. The following is not the result of any original scholarship on my part. It’s more of a mental exercise to relieve bordedom. So, here we go. The Jaredites are a dynastic lineage described in the Book of Mormon and not a unique nation or civilization. In my view, the Jaredites were “Olmec”; but almost no Olmec were Jaredites. I believe this is the case because, in my mind, Jaredite history and Olmec archeology seem to converge upon each other.

    To know when the Jaredites lived we must first deduce an end date for the dynastic lineage, look at the Jaredite lineage history and then count backward, from Ether to Lib. If Ether’s ominus prophesy to Coriantmr, recorded in Ether 11:20-21, was declared just before the arrival of Lehi’s group then the last Jaredite king, Coriantumr would have died at around 600 B.C. If Coriantmr died just one day before Mosiah’s group arrived, then he could not have lived later than 200bc. This gives us an end date for the dynastic lineage at 400bc, plus or minus 200 years. The following, are the generations of a Jaredite dynastic lineage, from Ether down to Lib, as found in Ether 1:17-30.


    Now, some Jaredite kings lived very long lives. Several kings are described as being “exceedingly old” and having children in their old age, with at least one king living past 100 years(Ether 7:7 and 9:23,24). So, how many years were in 14 generations? We don’t know; we will have to approximate about 65 years(3). Our safest bets end at the 14th generation mark because Morianton does not seem to be a son of Riplakish. He might have been a son, but he also might have been a grand son, or even great-grand son(4). After counting back 14 generations, 65 years for each generation, we get the following major dates for the Jaredite dynastic lineage, followed by corresponding dates in Olmec archaeology:

    JAREDITE DATES(+/- 200 Years)
    2350BC:Jaredites land in New World(5).
    1310BC:King Lib builds a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.Jaredites continue to avoid settlement south of the narrow neck of land, but now begin to enter sporadically in search of game(Ether 10:19-21).
    855BC:There began to be wars and contentions in all the land, and also many famines and pestilences, insomuch that there was a great destruction, such an one as never had been known upon the face of the earth; and all this came to pass in the days of Shiblom(Ether 11:5-7).
    400BC:End of the Jaredite ruling lineage.

    2500-1500BC:The first farming villages in Mesoamerica appear. Settlers raise maize, chili peppers, squash and cotton.
    1500-1200BC:Olmec build San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo was excavated by a Yale expedition between 1966 and 1969, “fully developed Olmec culture, represented typically by gigantic basalt sculptures fashioned in a distinctive style, proved to date back to 1400BC”(7).
    1100BC:By this time, La Venta becomes a major Olmec site.
    900BC:The Olmec site of San Lorenzo is destroyed. Olmec monuments are attacked, defaced and buried(8).
    900BC:Olmec settlement spreads into areas east of Tehuantepec(9).
    400 BC:The Olmec site of La Venta is destroyed(10).

    (1)Ether 11: 23, “And it came to pass that Coriantor begat Ether, and he died, having dwelt in captivity all his days.”

    (2)Ether 10:29-31, “And he begat Heth, and Heth lived in captivity all his days. And Heth begat Aaron, and Aaron dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Amnigaddah, and Amnigaddah also dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Coriantum, and Coriantum dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Com.”

    Assuming the Jaredite ruling lineage arrived at 2500bc and died out at 400bc. Take 2100years and divide it my 30 listed kings, giving us an average generation of 70 years. 
    (4)Ether 10:8-9, “And when he had reigned for the space of forty and two years the people did rise up in rebellion against him; and there began to be war again in the land, insomuch that Riplakish was killed, and his descendants were driven out of the land. And it came to pass after the space of many years, Morianton, (he being a descendant of Riplakish) gathered together an army of outcasts, and went forth and gave battle unto the people; and he gained power over many cities; and the war became exceedingly sore, and did last for the space of many years; and he did gain power over all the land, and did establish himself king over all the land.”(5)We have a minimum of 23 Jaredite kings, maybe more.(6)Charles Phillips, Complete Illustrated History of the Aztec and Maya; Lorenz Books (June 25, 2007), pg 24(7)Michael Coe, The Maya 7th Edition, pg 50.(8)Charles Phillips, Complete Illustrated History of the Aztec and Maya; Lorenz Books (June 25, 2007), pg 29.(9)John Clark has noted:”Given what little is known of Jaredite settlement, we need to be careful not to imagine that we know more than we do. Second, the text states that the land southward was opened up during the days of King Lib. It is worth pointing out that the explosion of Olmec influence east of Tehuantepec (Sorenson’s land southward) occurred after 900 BC, with only spotty influence before. I think the text can be read as indicating that the south lands opened up at this time, with colonization being part of the package.”…?…um=2&id=545(10)Charles Phillips, Complete Illustrated History of the Aztec and Maya; Lorenz Books (June 25, 2007), pg 292. 

    • Iffywicky February 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm - Reply


      I read

    • Scott February 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm - Reply


      Read Gardner’s “Second Witness” BoM commentary specifically on the dating of Ether.  Brant forwards the theory that the “tower” that the Jaredites came from is NOT the same tower as the tower of Babel.  He postulates that Mosiah1, while translating the book of Ether that the Nephites had, added in the detail the the tower was specifically the Tower of Babel in order to link the book into the Nephite Brass Plates tradition.  His theory is that the Jaredites came from a ziggurat “tower” in the Near East, but not the Tower of Babel.  I was blown away by this new thinking- I emailed Brant about it and he told me that I was the first person to react to that. That makes a Jaredite migration date of 1200BC with Coriantumr dying with the Mulekites shortly before Mosiah1 arrives.  It fits the text better, for sure, but it is speculative.  In light of Grant Hardy’s idea that Moroni “christianized” the book of Ether to make it fit the BoM theme better, this is a fascinating line of inquiry.  This all suggests that Ether might have originally been much more alien to our Judea-christian canon than we realize.

  18. Verminpants December 30, 2011 at 5:07 am - Reply

    I’m afraid I found some of Brant’s claims very hard to swallow. He over stretches the text of the Book of Mormon to fit his sense of reality.

    • Quickmere Graham January 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      I didn’t find many of Brant’s claims very hard to swallow. I don’t think, given the constraints of the data under consideration, he over-stretches the text of the Book of Mormon to fit his sense of reality anymore than you or I do, and he’s quite explicit as to the rules governing his methodology. I’d rather hear criticisms of his methodology than easy dismissals of individual (and unmentioned) points. 

  19. Michael Johnson December 30, 2011 at 8:31 am - Reply

    I downloaded the first podcast but I don’t feel I could sit through another believer who knows far more then the average Mormon, so has to compartmentalize his beliefs and knowledge in a way that they never have to conflict. 

    Only 12 minutes passed before the first intimation that church leaders made mistakes because they were speaking as men at the time. I’m sorry, but if my boss – an individual who claims far less authority than these church leaders – makes a statement even once in a public fora where he speaks in his appointed capacity, I can assume he isn’t making flippant remarks, joking, or speaking in some other capacity. Why are we expected to believe church leaders who make public statements in their capacity as leaders of a church led by Christ are always just making off-the-cuff small talk when they err? This is such a lazy apologist excuse.

    Even if one leader made a remark that could be considered to be him speaking “just as a man” (as if men never make any great and profound statements themselves), you simply can’t apply that same excuse across all leaders who make the same statement. To do so is to claim each of them did not have the presence of mind, inspiration, or connection with God to identify the original statement as one just made by a man, and to oppose that statement. The apologist only derides the men he/she claims to defend. 

    Such apologist excuses are an insult to my intelligence and I refuse to accept them. It is a juvenile and pathetic as stating “he really didn’t mean it”. Adults in leadership roles just don’t make important statements about fundamental beliefs – in public! – if they are just bouncing ideas around. There are no modifiers used such as ‘perhaps’ in the statements attributed to men speaking alone. These statements are often quite adamant, which is why those who heard them in person believed they were inspired of God.

    To say these leaders were just speaking as men speaks far more truth than the apologists think. If the adamant and authoritative statements made by church leaders are considered to be them speaking as men every time these statements are discovered to be false, through science, true history and any other discovery of truth, then it appears more and more that the leaders of the church ALWAYS speak just as men and have no contact with deity at all. Apologists should be careful not to overuse this sad excuse.

    • Zack Tacorin December 30, 2011 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Well said Michael,

      If we are to excuse the prophets as constantly making mistakes on a grand scale regarding things that are taught to be critically important, like the priesthood, and rarely receiving divine correction, what is the value of having phrophets? It seems to me thier dogma is as dangerous as the dogma of any other Chuch which LDS prophets have taught are just organizations of men.



  20. Zack Tacorin December 30, 2011 at 9:00 am - Reply

    The main reason I listen to Mormon Stories is because John Dehlin tries to present both sides of the story on Mormon issues, and he usually tries to provide a positive perspective on the Church. A positive perspective of the Church is important to me because I no longer believe in the Church, but my family is still part of the Church. I’ve listened to other LDS apologists on Mormon Stories recently and found their interviews very helpful in maintaining a positive view of the Church. I almost didn’t listen to Daniel Peterson because he usually comes across to me in his writing as arrogant and mean spirited. I enjoyed Dr. Peterson’s Mormon Stories interview because he seemed genuine and kind-hearted. Terryl Givens was also very helpful because he seemed so sincere and Christ-like.
    Brant Gardner’s interview was not so helpful. At about 11:55 into the third segment of the podcast, the following exchange takes place:
    John Dehlin
    Whenever the Church depicts the translation [of the Book of Mormon], they . . I’ve never once seen the Church depict a picture with Joseph with his head in a hat.
    Brant Gardner
    Well, let’s just make sure that we understand that it’s artists that are depicting it and not the Church.
    [My observation inserted]
    I think it’s very pedantic of Mr. Gardner to point out that technically it is the artists making the depiction. I think it is disingenuous of Mr. Gardner because I believe he knows that John is trying to communicate that the Church chooses to use these depictions even though they could have artists portray the translation in a much more historically accurate way.
    John Dehlin
    They publish the Church’s . . . the artists’ renderings.
    Brant Gardner
    Well, and they published Arnold Friberg and believe me there are very few men that look like those guys.
    [My observation inserted]
    Perhaps some small children misunderstand Arnold Friberg’s portrayal of Book of Mormon men as realistic, but I think it’s safe to assume that the rest of us did not believe the men of the Book of Mormon had the physiques of body builders. I think this comparison is a disingenuous week analogy.
    John Dehlin
    No no, I know, I know. But, but we know that, we know that the translation happened in a way different than the way the Church is choosing to depict it and the Church at any time could commission an artist to do a more accurate depiction in a way that’s historically accurate and they choose not to.

    I stopped listening at this point. I refuse to listen to what I consider to be a dishonest approach to the Church. This is the kind of dishonest in the Church in and in LDS apologetics that I find so repugnant.

    I do not see this as a reflection of the work of John Dehlin or Mormon Stories. John – Please keep doing the great work you’re doing!Thanks,Zack

    • Allen D. Lee December 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      What is “repugnant” is YOUR lying and misrepresentation of the Church.

      The “translation method” didn’t ONLY occur with a head in the hat.  It included many methods, including with nothing at all.  The purpose of the Church showing the Translation the way it does is to show a “general” image that imply’s translation.  That is showing Plates, Joseph, etc. sitting at a table.  That’s the most common sense way to show what is trying to be shown.

      Don’t blame the Church for YOUR OWN ignorance and stupidity of both the history AND how Artists generally portray events.

      • Resinchrist December 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm - Reply


        I understand your point.  However, do you think there is a way to make it without belittling Zack?

      • why me December 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm - Reply

        The artists usually take Oliver’s discription of the translation process with as him sitting side by side with Joseph.

        According to Samuel W. Richards, Oliver Cowdery gave him the following description of the translation of the Book of Mormon:

        He represented Joseph as sitting at a table with the plates before
        him, translating them by means of the Urim and Thummim, while he
        (Oliver) sat beside him writing every word as Joseph spoke them to him.
        This was done by holding the “translators” over the hieroglyphics, the
        translation appearing distinctly on the instrument, which had been
        touched by the finger of God and dedicated and consecrated for the
        express purpose of translating languages. Every word was distinctly
        visible even to every letter; and if Oliver omitted a word or failed to
        spell a word correctly, the translation remained on the “interpreter”
        until it was copied correctly.3

        This comes from the maxwell institute. And this interpretation is missed by the critics or by those who leave the church because of an artist depiction of the event.

      • Zack Tacorin December 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm - Reply

        Hi Allen,

        You have me at a bit of a disadvantage in that I’m not sure what you think I lied about or misrepresented. It seems that you think I’ve been dishonest in something I said about the translation of the Book of Mormon. Sorry for being slow on the pick-up on this, but could you tell me exactly what it is that I said or implied that you believe is a lie or misrepresentation?



      • jg December 31, 2011 at 7:52 am - Reply

        Allen, I think you could accuse Zach of being petty, but I think you’re way out of line to accuse him of “lying and misrepresenting.”  The church has not been honest or accurate on this point of history. 

        Zach is right. 

      • Jonah January 4, 2012 at 12:24 am - Reply

        You mentioned a “common sense” way of depicting a translation that never happened, so I had to laugh. How should the church depict the translation of the Book of Abraham?  What is the common sense way of depicting a lie?

        In what universe do you think “common sense” means presenting church members with a picture of golden plates that never existed?

        In what universe does “common sense” mean lying about the three and eight witnesses accounts of those gold plates? Lying about the fact that not a single one of the witnesses ever touched, felt, or hefted the plates except in a spiritual vision with “spiritual eyes” looking through peep stones.  How does “common sense” mean lying about what kind of people the witnesses were and hiding the story of the religions they went off to create (peep stones, plates, translations, and all).

        In what universe does “common sense” mean hiding the fact that those plates (according to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and nearly every witness) came from a large cave (not a small box) in the side of the hill Cummorah where was found the plates, along with records, swords, urim and thumim, and historical artifacts–a large cave that has never been and cannot be substantiated.

        How does “common sense” mean lying about nearly every single aspect about the plates?

        How “common sense” is the Book of Mormon language where sword does not mean sword, horse does not mean horse, chariot does not mean chariot, elephant does not mean elephant?  What does elephant mean in the BoM?  Is it an anteater? Is that “common sense?” Maybe we should paint a picture of a “common sense” anteater and put it in the Book of Mormon along with Ammon tending the King’s stable of fine “common sense” llamas.

        Why don’t you tell us the “common sense” way to describe how Joseph Smith had sexual relations with wives that lawfully belonged to other faithful members of the church (one of them an apostle on his mission to Israel).  Tell me please the “common sense” way of presenting that.  I would like to see what “common sense” adultery looks like?  Is it like real adultery? A picture is worth a thousand words.

        How should we present the “translation” of the Book of Abraham in a common sense way?  If common sense means lying, then we’ll just continue to say that Joseph translated the Book of Abraham even though we know that to be false in light of the actual translation done by real egyptologists.

        These are just a few of the many “common sense” problems that so many people can’t make sense of.

      • Joe S January 4, 2012 at 11:11 am - Reply

        I agree Allen. You tell them. After all, there are a lot of different ways Joe S translated those plates.

        But I think the LDS Church should depict the translation when Joe S was up in the loft John Whitmer home. You remember… the part where Joe S dictated text down from the loft to the scribe below. Of course, since Joe S couldn’t be seen, we don’t know what hat or stone he was using. So that might be a bit tricky to depict?It do find it interesting that this is where a lot of the Isaiah stuff comes from. But I am sure Joe S wan’t dictating scripture right out of his KJV of the Bible.

      • Zelph August 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm - Reply

        I, like many members, have attended church weekly for 30+ years, took about 8 religion classes at BYU (and got As in all of them), regularly read church magazines, attended seminary daily for four years, read several books written by church leaders and prominent members, watched many church videos, have done personal study, etc., etc., etc. I ALWAYS got the impression that the translation was through the urim and thumim and gold plates. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s did I discover that Joseph Smith used a seer stone looking into his hat.

        It is insulting to many members like me to say that it is our own ignorance and stupidty that we did not know about some very bizarre aspects of church history. It is not because we are ignorant or stupid or didn’t study. It’s because the church portrays its history in a specific way that is not completely accurate. I can accept that people have a different opinion on whether the Church is justified in doing so, but I cannot accept that it is the members’ ignorance and stupidty that causes them to misunderstand church history.

    • Joe S January 4, 2012 at 11:00 am - Reply


      Let’s back up a bit.You are saying Friberg’s interpretations aren’t historical? Nephi wasn’t all ripped and built and tough?

    • IcarusArts January 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm - Reply

      It’s too bad you stopped listening because, though rigid in his ability to grant opposing viewpoints the time of day, I found Gardner ultimately FAR more compelling and credible that D. Petersen.

      I’ll also mention, as an LDS artist with many, many LDS artist friends: 1) Most of the artists are no more educated than the average church member. 2) It takes a certain type of person to even want to paint something like the Joseph Smith translation. 3) The church rarely commissions any of the art they publish nowadays. 4) Most of the art is selected from already completed, popular work, or from pieces that have won some church-sponsored contest. 5) The judges of these contests are not General Authorities 6) Further, I’d go out on a limb to say that many church leaders aren’t completely familiar with the history 7) Let alone those who are in charge of aggregating art.

      It’s a shame and it would be awesome if someone like Elder Jensen would pass the idea of the church commissioning a more honest portrayal of church history, but it would almost take something of that magnitude. Otherwise, you have to find an artist that is aware of all the complexities of LDS history and is still interested in painting it. I don’t think you’ll find an active ember like that. May an anti-Mormon.

      the closest thing I’ve seen recently was when active LDS filmmaker Christian Vuissa consulted with Richard Bushman on his new Joseph Smith movie “Plates of Gold” to try to get some of the details right. To my knowledge you never see Joseph simply dictating from the plates. You don’t see a hat either…but you do see the plates covered by a cloth and Joseph looking out the window as he dictates. You also see an attempt at a seer stone and urim and thummim. Got to hand it to Vuissa for going outside the box when his audience is almost exclusively TBM. You’re just not going to see much of that around.

  21. Michael Johnson December 30, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply

    OK, I’m further into the first podcast. I am astounded that Mr Gardner believes Joseph Smith’s actions as a user of a seer stone simply represented a normal and popular method for finding stuff. He was a con artist – and was found as such by the courts who labeled him an impostor, or someone pretending to be something he is not. Smith must have been reported to the authorities by someone who was defrauded of money. You don’t find people are required to stand before a judge for engaging in old rituals that are fading out of use. Does Mr Gardner really believe Smith’s fraudulent actions were part of a frontier community’s self reliance? Really?

    As for Smith not engaging in occult practices, I would think sacrificing a black dog and bleeding it in a circle would be considered occultism then as it would be now.

    “Joseph [Smith] never solicited business with a seer stone”. He also, as far as we know, never refused business from those who were led to believe he could do what he claimed. Smith was a fraud. If someone comes to me and asks me to find something with a seer stone, and I agree, I am a fraud. This is NO talent Mr Garder. Seer stones are not something you learn like building a house. It is however a method of stealing from the gullible – people such as Martin Harris.

    I really can’t listen any more. I have too much self respect now I have left the church to sit here and put up with such nonsense.

    • PEDRO A OLAVARRIA December 31, 2011 at 11:30 am - Reply

      There is a difference between being a sincere believer in, what we might today call, folk magic and intentionally deceiving people. It may be hard for modern, net surfing, sophisticants to imagine how someone not far removed from our time and culture could believe in such things, but they actually did. Some people back then actually believed you could find lost objects with seer stones and water with rods. 

      If people are going to level the charge that Joseph thought seer stones were bunk, but used them to hustle people out of time and money then they need to back it up with evidence. If Joseph really did believe seer stones could be used effectively for such purposes then that doesn’t make him a con man. Call him hokey, naive, backward, superstitious; but to level the charge of con-artist requires  proof of criminal intent. 

      • Michael Johnson January 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm - Reply

        Smith claimed that each time he came close to retrieving buried treasure the items that were just outside his grasp slipped away into the earth. That’s some very cavernous country around the Smith farm. Do you believe this is what happened each time – the earth inexplicably opened up and the treasure fell away? A rational explanation would be that Smith lied about the falling treasure. That’s criminal intent.

        Smith took money for a service he had never delivered on. Smith was fined and a conviction recorded for taking money for his treasure seeking activities. Smith continued to engage in his fraudulent scam even when he could never deliver. Do you really believe Smith was such a fool?

        Smith’s father-in-law asked Smith to stop his seer stone cons. Obviously this man could see the disreputable nature of what Smith was doing. Smith promised to end his activities but lied and continued them. The fact Smith never delivered but took payment just for pretending to try is criminal, which is why he was convicted as an impostor – literally a person pretending to be someone he is not. In this case he was pretending to be someone who could find lost or hidden objects. 

        Joseph Smith was not stupid or naive. He knew he could not do what he claimed to be able to do. History showed him he could not, yet he continued to take money for this activity. Many people around him saw what he was doing as a fraud, including his future father-in-law and the State of New York. Smith was not fined for being hokey or superstitious. He was fined for being a fraud, so he must have taken money. People don’t get sent to court for wild goose chases.

  22. Pedro A Olavarria December 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    As I listen to this podcast and read posts, the problem isn’t Joseph’s belief in folk magic or any other historical fact, the problem is fundamentalist assumptions that are taught in family home evenings, Primary etc.  When I say fundamentalism, I don’t mean polygamous sects.  I mean religious fundamentalism in the broader context of all religions. These fundamentalist assumptions all center around the idea of PERFECTION.

    – perfect prophets
    -perfect scripture
    -perfect founders
    -perfect interpretations
    -perfect conference talks
    -perfect organizations
    -perfect rituals

    The only thing or beings that are perfect are the Gods.  Everything else is in need of change. So if people are thought from an early age that the Church, it’s scriptures, it’s Presidents, it’s structures, it’s rituals or anything else besides God is perfect, we are setting people up for possible intellectual apostasy, we might also be engaging in a soft idolatry. 


    • Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      It’s easy to dismiss perfection as an unreasonable standard.  

      It’s tougher to set standards of misbehavior.

      It seems that some believers can indefinitely reset the bar for Joseph Smith at lower and lower levels.

      How low can you go?

      Your are right that the Church mythologizes its leaders and its past … but don’t forget what we are dealing with here… it’s a religion.

      It will only keep it as real as it has to.

      • PEDRO A OLAVARRIA December 31, 2011 at 11:34 am - Reply

        “It’s easy to dismiss perfection as an unreasonable standard.”

        The scriptures actually demand that we do. The Bible and Book of Mormon are filled with flawed, yet heroic, people. Setting up a standard of perfection is contrary to scripture.  

        • Anonymous December 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm - Reply


          I think you missed the point I was making.

          Tell me how bad Joseph Smith’s behavior could have been (imagine some new credible evidence turned up), before you would count that as evidence that he either was a fraud from the beginning or was a “fallen” prophet.

          For those who are convinced that the Book of Mormon is authentic, I think a very good case could be made that Joseph Smith “went off the rails” shortly afterwards.

          Perhaps it was the day he changed that revelation that restricted his calling to translating scripture.

          Perhaps it was the day he rolled in the hay with Fanny

          Perhaps ….

          On the other hand, it’s hard to put boundaries on bad behavior when you have God telling Nephi to cut the head off an drunk and  incapacitated Laban – or a God who brutally destroys women and children just before his arrival in the New world. 

  23. Pedro A Olavarria December 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    From my point of view, I’m kind of  encouraged to hear that prophets can be superstitious, racist, ignorant, arrogant or ______(insert your human failing here).  I look up to these men for their good qualities and their humanity reminds me that I still have a shot at being useful to God despite my own crazy imperfections.  

  24. Dude from the south December 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I’m tired of the “blame the victim” attitude from the apologist corner. The “members should take responsibility for what they learn in church” is extremely irritating.

    • Kevin December 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      I’m not even sure what is meant by the expression “members should take responsibility for what they learn in church.” Shouldn’t teachers acknowledge responsibility for what they teach, and shouldn’t everyone acknowledge responsbility for what he or she believes?

      • PEDRO A OLAVARRIA December 31, 2011 at 11:37 am - Reply

        “Members should take responsibility for what they learn in church.”
        Maybe it means that members shouldn’t allow themselves to be spoon fed and uncritically accept as true everything they hear in Church but rather should “search, ponder and pray” and come to their own conclusions. 

  25. Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    One hour into the fourth part (Episode 310) Mr. Gardner says the following to support the absence of Hebraic language residue in Mesoamerica: 

    “You’re putting really really heavy weight on some really thin threads if you are expecting 20 people to have material and linguistic influence that’s going to last that long.”

    This feels to me like a misdirection that looks past the central claim of the Book of Mormon. This can be made apparent by simply changing two words in this statement:

    You’re putting really really heavy weight on some really thin threads if you are expecting 20 people to have RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL influence that is going to last that long.

    Heavy weight on thin threads indeed.

    I’d be genuinely interested in his or anyone else’s apologetic response


    • PEDRO A OLAVARRIA December 31, 2011 at 10:47 am - Reply

      Like all ancient histories, the BoM isn’t the comprehensive history of a nation but rather the history of one particular royal/priestly lineage that dominated a population in antiquity. The prophets and rulers the history centers around are all direct descendants of Nephi and keep the sacred bundle of sword, plates, liahona within that dynasty. 

      Their political and religious influence waned from strong to weak at various times and was maintained precisely because Nephi’s descendants were the priestly/royal lineage that ruled those populations. Like the House of Saud, they were numerically a minority, but a powerful minority. There was no such thing as a separation of Church and State in antiquity, so whoever controlled the state controlled the state religion.    

      When it comes to language, John brought up the example of French words in English, approximately 40% of our vocabulary, because of William the Conqueror. The problem with that example is that France and England are only separated by a channel and have had constant intercourse with each other for the past 1000 years, through war and trade. 

      To expect some kind of spoken Hebrew to survive the 2600 years since Lehi’s arrival is to expect that this initial population of 30-60 Hebrews could not only rule but changed the spoken language of the host population, and that a hypothetical  patois existed despite a complete disconnect from Judea and it’s environs. 

      I guess what I’m trying to say in my own, long winded, way is that there is a difference between having a mesoamerican ruling lineage who’s founders originated in Judea  AND expecting that same ruling lineage change the linguistic landscape of the area they rule, despite being completely disconnected from the source of the language you expect to find, Hebrew. 

      If mesoamerica were somehow connected to the near east geographically, this would be a reasonable assumption, but since it isn’t I don’t see why Hebrew as a spoken language would not have been dropped within one or two generations. 

      • Anonymous December 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm - Reply

        You missed my point again.  

        The language issue is a red herring.  

        Have you read the Book of Mormon?  The Nephite and Lamanite Religious and Political cultures impacted and influenced the entire population.

        • Anonymous January 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm - Reply

          I have a feeling if we read our own Mormon history of all the wars since the founding of Mormonism they would be told from the view point that God did such and such to spread the gospel etc…  Think how many times you’ve heard that the Berlin wall came down to spread the gospel there etc…

          People of faith have a way of interpreting the events through their own prism

          • Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 10:34 am

            Yes, good thought

            Gets me thinking … religious solipsism … a Wiki-riff

            Metaphysical solipsism is the “strongest” variety of
            solipsism. Based on a philosophy of subjective idealism, metaphysical solipsists maintain that the self is the only existing reality and that all other reality, including the external world and other persons, are representations of that self, and have no independent existence.

            Switching in a few words …

            RELIGIOUS solipsism is the “strongest” variety of SOCIAL solipsism. Based on an INTUITION of THEOLOGICAL idealism, RELGIOUS solipsists maintain that THEIR OWN THEOLOGY is the only existing FRAMEWORK FOR INTERPRETING reality
            and that all other reality, including the external world and other persons, are representations of that THEOLOGY, and have no independent MEANING.


      • JT December 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm - Reply


        “Their political and religious influence waned from strong to weak … Like the House of Saud, they were numerically a minority, but a powerful minority… state religion.”

        Even if this were not a groundless and implausible ad hoc explanation that strains to fill gaping holes in the Book of Mormon narrative, it doesn’t explain why the pervasive Religious and Political cultural influences of the Nephites disappeared.

        Did 20 members of the Saud family immigrate to the Middle East from another continent and take political and religious control of that kingdom.  Do they secretly write in a different language?

    • Zelph August 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      AMEN. On one hand Brant is saying the Nephites and Lamanites are quickly subsumed into the larger, then-existing population, which explains the lack of evidence regarding DNA, hebrew language, materials, etc., etc. BUT, in the Book of Mormon text, the Nephites and Lamanites have massive wars, prophets, kings, missions amongst each other, cities, cities destroyed at Christ’s death, judges, courts, voyages, expeditions causing the loss of populations, etc., etc. All without ever once mentioning the existence of an outside culture.

      Plus, you have the problem that the Book of Mormon used to say that lamanites are the “principal ancestors” of native americans. Although that has recently been changed, you still have the fact that one of the main stated purposes of the Book of Mormon is to bring the gospel to the Lamanites. It seems like that purpose is impossible to achieve if the Lamanites were subsumed into the mesoamerican society shortly after Nephi’s boat lands in America.

  26. Terrytreq December 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Just finished listening. Very interesting perspectives. I agree with Pedro’s general sentiment (and John pointed this out In the podcast). When compared to the correlated LDS view, Brant takes huge liberties in what “translation” means, what JS taught the BoM to be, what words actually mean (ie skin color), what “prophets, seers and revelators” have told us about the to the BoM, and what we learn in the standard curriculum. That’s all fine. I might not agree with everything Brant said, but he has at least thought very thoroughly through this stuff. The problem I have is that starting on Sunday, for the next year and beyond, the BoM will be portrayed in church as a near perfect book, brought forth by a near perfect prophet, looking at gold plates through spectacles. An essentially false representation of the way the BoM came to be will be taught – and people will develop a spiritual foundation on these historical representations. That’s why getting this stuff right is important, and I tire of the cop outs of why we can’t do better. Better history exists – more thoughtful approaches are available, but the church continues – whether through art, manuals or formalized instruction – to blast horses*%#, where maybe they should leave open the possibility that it was actually tapirs*#%. And then I’ll hear in conference about how I must be a jackass to believe that there are any issues with the BoM at all (ala Elder Holland).

    • why me December 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      According to Samuel W. Richards, Oliver Cowdery gave him the following description of the translation of the Book of Mormon:

      He represented Joseph as sitting at a table with the plates before
      him, translating them by means of the Urim and Thummim, while he
      (Oliver) sat beside him writing every word as Joseph spoke them to him.
      This was done by holding the “translators” over the hieroglyphics, the
      translation appearing distinctly on the instrument, which had been
      touched by the finger of God and dedicated and consecrated for the
      express purpose of translating languages. Every word was distinctly
      visible even to every letter; and if Oliver omitted a word or failed to
      spell a word correctly, the translation remained on the “interpreter”
      until it was copied correctly.

      This is usually the artists interpretation of the book of mormon. It just wasn’t done with a head in a hat. But very few people know of this description by oliver cowdery. The antimormons refuse to acknowledge this statement by oliver.

      • Brian P. December 30, 2011 at 10:35 pm - Reply

        Thanks for providing this… twice actually in this thread.  I’ve always asked for a reference to supper the standard artwork, but never could get it.  

        This quote of course does go against the type of translation talked about by Gardner and if used as the way the translation happened, then it pretty much refutes most all of the conclusions presented in the podcast.  This quote is a VERY literal translation with every letter being provided by God.

        • why me December 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm - Reply

          I think that the translation process happened in various of ways. However, the critics usually like to focus on the head in the hat and why there are no artist rendition of it. Most haven’t seen the description given by oliver. And if they have seen it, they tend to ignore it because it no longer fits into their new belief system.

      • Ella Menno December 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm - Reply

        You have posted this quote twice, but you have failed to provide a reference.  I’m not saying you are wrong, I’ve heard the quote before, but a reference or a link would be helpful. 

        • Ella Menno December 31, 2011 at 12:15 am - Reply

          I found a citation that may be the one of which you speak.

          Personal statement of Samuel W. Richards, 25 May 1907, in Harold B. Lee
          Library, BYU, Special Collections, cited in Anderson, “By the Gift and
          Power of God,” 85.

          If this is the one, I don’t doubt Samuel Richards did remember being told this by Oliver Cowdery, but there are a few problems with it.  First, it is a statement given in 1907, nearly 80 years after the events took place.  Second, it is a second hand account.  I would put far more faith in this quote if it was by Oliver himself, or in a contemporaneous journal or record. 

          I do not think anti-Mormons, or Mormon historians the likes of Richard Bushman in “Rough Stone Rolling”, fail to use this quotation as a primary reference because they don’t know about it, but because it is weak.

          • Brian P. December 31, 2011 at 12:30 am

            My thoughts exactly Ella.  When it comes to this point I am often frustrated because those defending the use of the art do it with weak evidence and don’t acknowledge that while there may be various accounts of the translation, that doesn’t mean that all should be treated as if they all have the same amount of supporting evidence.

            Example:  A crime is committed in front of a 20 person crowd.  Police investigate 10 people who witnessed a crime and ask what color the criminal’s shirt was:

            6 say it was red
            2 say it was blue
            1 says it was green

            A reporter then asks 6 people a week later.

            3 said it was red
            2 said it was blue
            1 said it was yellow

            Then 20 years later a reporter asks the son’s and daughters of 5 of the witnesses what color their parents said his shirt was.

            2 said red
            2 said yellow
            1 said orange

            In this example, while there are accounts or various different color shirts, you cannot tell me that Orange or Yellow are JUST AS VALID, in terms of evidence, as Red.

          • jg December 31, 2011 at 8:09 am

            I agree with your point that the citation is weak, but it the church uses these quotes all the time.  I did a search on to and my first click was on an article by elder maxwell:

            “Sight and Power to Translate”

            Prophet Joseph alone knew the full process, and he was deliberately
            reluctant to describe details. We take passing notice of the words of
            David Whitmer, Joseph Knight, and Martin Harris, who were observers, not
            translators. David Whitmer indicated that as the Prophet used the
            divine instrumentalities provided to help him, “the hieroglyphics would
            appear, and also the translation in the English language … in bright
            luminous letters.” Then Joseph would read the words to Oliver (quoted in
            James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News,
            25 Mar. 1884, 2). Martin Harris related of the seer stone: “Sentences
            would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin” (quoted
            in Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses: Incidents in the Life
            of Martin Harris,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star,
            6 Feb. 1882, 86–87). Joseph Knight made similar observations (see Dean
            Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies 17 [Autumn 1976]: 35).

            Oliver Cowdery is reported to have testified in court that the Urim and Thummim enabled Joseph “to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates” (“Mormonites,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate,
            9 Apr. 1831). If these reports are accurate, they suggest a process
            indicative of God’s having given Joseph “sight and power to translate” (D&C 3:12).The church promotes the idea of a much more tight translation. 

          • Ella Menno December 31, 2011 at 11:23 am

            I agree, JG.  The church uses quotes such as this one all the time.  The problem is not that they use them, per se, but that no one bothers to recognize the weakness.  I am a person who doesn’t take every  purported piece of evidence at face value, but that takes a lot of work on my part.  How many gospel doctrine teachers will go track down the references given in the lesson manual and only teach those that are strong?  How many believing members will question an apostle’s sources in a conference talk?  I dare say, most will gloss over them and then refer to that quote as gospel when teaching to other members.  This, I believe, is part of the reason the membership stays in the dark so long regarding some of these issues.  The evidences of all the stranger stuff is buried in footnotes that no one bothers to check.  When they do finally check and are disillusioned those in charge can blame the members for not taking the time to research the obscure reference.

            I have not read the book yet so i don’t know if Mr. Gardner promotes this kind of scholarship, but he comes across as someone genuinely interested in the stronger evidences.  That being said, it seems that he does some pretty amazing mental gymnastics when confronted with some of the questions asked by John.

          • why me December 31, 2011 at 1:37 pm

            It makes no difference if one thinks that the citation is weak. It is out there in the public domain. And that is the point. The artist can use that interpretation freely and no one can say that it is misleading the members. An artist can use any decription that he or she wants to to depict the event. And so can the church.

          • Ella Menno December 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm

            The strength or weakness of a reference does make a difference in terms of scholarship and evidence.  They chose to use this one and perpetuate an inaccurate depiction of the events because they liked it better.  Fine.  They can do that if they want to.  Should they?  Probably not.  If they have better evidence they should use that and damn the consequences.

          • IcarusArts January 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm

            I mentioned this elsewhere, but I wanted to join your conversation.

            I am an LDS artist myself and I know many others.

            1) Most of the artists are no more educated than the average church member. 2) It takes a certain type of person to even want to paint something like the Joseph Smith translation. 3) The church rarely commissions any of the art they publish nowadays. 4) Most of the art is selected from already completed, popular work, or from pieces that have won some church-sponsored contest. 5) The judges of these contests are not General Authorities. 6) I’d go out on a limb to say that many church leaders aren’t completely familiar with the history–let alone those who are in charge of aggregating art.

            It’s a shame and it would be awesome if someone like Elder Jensen would pass the idea of the church commissioning a more honest portrayal of church history, but it would almost take something of that magnitude to see a change. Otherwise, you have to find an artist that is aware of all the complexities of LDS history and is still interested in painting it. I don’t think you’ll find an active member like that. Maybe an anti-Mormon.

            The closest thing I’ve seen recently was when active LDS filmmaker Christian Vuissa consulted with Richard Bushman on his new Joseph Smith movie “Plates of Gold” to try to get some of the details right. To my knowledge you never see Joseph simply dictating from the plates. You don’t see a hat either…but you do see the plates covered by a cloth and Joseph looking out the window as he dictates. You also see an attempt at a seer stone and urim and thummim. Got to hand it to Vuissa for going outside the box when his audience is almost exclusively TBM.

            Unless you all want to learn to paint at a professional level (and can remain in good standing with the church), you’re never going to see this happen. That, or introduce an artist friend to the MS podcast!

          • Ella Menno January 5, 2012 at 10:15 pm

            You make some very valid points.  It would be difficult to find a TBM artist who both knows the issues and would be willing to paint something the Church may or may not agree with.  It is a conundrum.

          • why me December 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

            I am refering to how artist draw the translation process. Critics say that the artist and the church  are misleading the members. However, if an artist wishes to use this interpretation he or she is free to do so. And that was my point. The church tells of the urim and thummin every chance they get. Nothing is hidden. But the artists usually use Richards interpretation of the event.

          • Brian P. December 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm

            Yes,  artist can do whatever they want, but the Church chooses what art to use to represent it… So don’t pass off the buck to the artist like Gardner did in the podcast.  The church chooses what art to use/commission, so they are the one we are talking about, they are responsible.

            Has an image like this ever been used in church publications/manuals/art kits?


            Because this is the process by which MOST of the evidence points to in how the translation happened.  The

          • why me January 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

            Since the translation process occured in various of ways and Joseph Smith himself did not give much detail, it is rather difficult to choose which translation process should be the dominant choice. For the lds church when it comes to an artist depiction they choose what Richard’s decribes. For after all, Oliver was a scribe. Martin had a curtin between him and Joseph.

            The hat description was in the ensign several years ago as were the other descriptions. However the common denominator is that the translation process was done by the power of god.

            And that is where the debate should be.

          • Ella Menno January 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

            I don’t think one can really debate “the power of god”.  That is not in the realm of scholarly inquiry, it is a matter of faith which cannot be validated or invalidated by scientific examination.  You either “believe” it was “the power of god” or not.  Until god actually comes down and says it was done that way it cannot be proven.  So we are left with what we have by way of evidence.  Real evidence not “belief”.  That is where the debate really should be.  Without it, the debate goes nowhere.

          • Ella Menno December 31, 2011 at 4:00 pm

            I agree.  An artist is free to use any interpretation they want.  A church can use whatever references they want.  Neither claims to be a scholarly interpretation based on evidence, really.  Unfortunately, that interpretation is used in semi historical discussion in church classes and by missionaries attempting to convert people. 

            So, the bretheren like this interpretation the best, despite there being much better and more historically accurate references that could be used.  Those references are knowingly hidden in plain sight.  The bretheren and apologists can say the average member should have known this is only an interpretation.  They should have studied the real history more, then they wouldn’t be confused when the real evidence points away from the preferred story.

            We should hold the church responsible for what it teaches as historically accurate when there are questionable bits.  When we know there are misleading quotations being used we should correct those misinterpretations.  There is no reason we should allow a church that claims to have the truth to teach shoddy history.  That starts with people being willing to stand up in favor of real scholarship.

          • why me January 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

            I think that the problem has much to do with the confusion that exists in the translation process. Who to believe? For example, here is an article from the ensign in 1977.


            In this article the hat is mentioned.

            I typed in how the book of mormon was translated in the search engine from And got quite a few articles.

          • Ella Menno January 1, 2012 at 11:45 am

            True.  Who to believe, indeed.  They sure didn’t leave much by way of solid evidences, did they.  Oliver and Joseph were rather tight lipped and we have been left with little by way of tangible items to examine.  As for me, I prefer the more scholarly evidence as provided by those close in time and proximity to the actual process while the church appears to prefer a more aesthetically pleasing vision.  Scholars and apologists will likely continue sparring over the issue for years to come.

          • Brian P. December 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm

            Even when the artists use Richards interpretation of the event, they don’t use ALL of the information of Richard’s account.  The artwork the church uses does NOT have a Urim & Thummin in it as I can see.  Only a note on the artwork that the Urim & Thummin was used.

            So… not only are they using a “weak” account of the process, they aren’t even really using that account, but a further simplified version of that account with is “less weird” to the viewer.  If the church wants to use Richard’s account, that’s their choice, but at least include the Urim & Thummin.

  27. Brian P. December 30, 2011 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    This is what I seemed to be hearing over and over in the podcast:

    Gardner:  Let’s keep it to the text.  It’s all about the text.  Don’t add anything that’s not there in the text itself.

    Dehlin: Okay.  Let’s look at the text.

    Gardner:  Well… we can’t really know what the text means.  

    Dehlin: uuhhh.  Excuse me?

    Seriously, how can Gardner believe in anything about the BOM because by his standard ANYTHING can be argued as credible.

    • Kevin December 31, 2011 at 9:22 am - Reply

      As always, thanks to John for this interesting discussion. But I heard the same thing as you, Brian.

      If Mr. Gardner brings anything new, it is a sort of postmodern view of Mormonism. Rather than trying to reconcile Mormonism’s truth claims with the world we experience, he tries to reinvent (a postmodernist might say “reconstruct” or “reinterpret”) the world to be consistent with Mormonism.

      I don’t mean to be too harsh, but the essence of Mr. Gardner’s approach is not historical documentation or reasoned argument. He relies instead on misdirection (banks sometimes go under, so the Kirtland Bank failure must not have been due to any fraud on Joseph’s part), dismissal (those unsophisticated people in the pews simply don’t understand what they’re hearing), and redefinition of terms to the point at which they become meaningless (prophets speak for God, except when they don’t).

      The conceit of postmodernism is its implicit premise that objective reality does not exist, or that it at least doesn’t matter, and that we can somehow become dominant over reality by “deconstructing” it intellectually. The polite word for this is sophistry. The more common word for it is nonsense.

  28. Drewskione December 31, 2011 at 12:38 am - Reply

    Just finished all of them.  Brilliant journey as always.  Heated and interesting conversation.  

  29. jg December 31, 2011 at 8:20 am - Reply

    John Dehlin, you are an amazing interviewer.  You did a great Job.  Pressing constantly and respectful always.  That balance is not usually done well by most.   Thanks. 

    Brant, Thanks for coming on.  Your approach and style is refreshing after Dan Peterson. 

    I think it is fair to say that Brant makes a case that is as compelling as one possibly can be, if one is compelled to acknowledge and honor the historical record.   However, I find that case unbelievable. 

    I leave this and most FAIR/FARMS apologetics thinking: if Mormonism and its founding stories are true,  God is either very cruel or very funny. 

  30. jg December 31, 2011 at 8:37 am - Reply

    BTW, for future ref by all apologists: those that struggle to believe are often turned off by some of the standard apologetic tactics.   Three of the especially irritating ones that that come to mind that Brant used in these podcasts were:

    1.  It isn’t the churches fault you bought into their false and/or inaccurate teachings.

    2.  In response to a reasonable and sincere question: “You’re not asking the right question.  The real question is…”

    3.  The shell game.  Early on you mentioned that reformed egyptian was used as the langauge of the BOM because lehi started  writing in that language and it is reasonable to assume it would be preserved.  Then later, you mention that no hebrew remnants are to be expected because a language of a new minority will be subsumed by the already established majority.    This is a small example, but found myself thinking in several places that Brant was talking out both sides of his mouth.  That said, Brant did a better job than most apologists at being consistent. 

    • PEDRO A OLAVARRIA December 31, 2011 at 11:01 am - Reply

      1) Reductio ad absurdum.  

      2) Sometimes the wrong question is asked because it is based on a factually wrong set of assumptions. 

      3) On the issue of language, there is a difference between having a spoken language and a liturgical language. Coptic Christians in Egypt retain Coptic(Egyptian) as a liturgical language but speak Arabic in their homes and in the street. The same goes for Jews with Hebrew and Latin for Roman Catholics, wherever they live. 
      Liturgical languages are less susceptible to change and abandonment than spoken languages are. 

      • Sean January 4, 2012 at 9:43 pm - Reply

        Sorry to pick on you Pedro, but there is one itch that I finally must scratch.  Number one on your list is not “reductio ad absurdum.”  I keep hearing on MS and ME and reading it in comments of both podcasts, and it is being used to describe any comment that a person considers, for whatever reason, to be absurd.  Reductio ad absurdum is a perfectly valid technique of logical deduction, not a logical fallacy (like ad hominem).  In fact, it is useful in establishing the logical soundness (or not) of a contention.  Thank you and goodnight. 

    • Nelson Chung January 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      Linguistic links take generations to establish, but I think Brian Stubbs will get a Hebrew/Egyptian-Uto Aztecan link documented. It’ll be submitted to a refereed journal. I won’t go into it too much lest ex-Mormons piss on it.

  31. PEDRO A OLAVARRIA December 31, 2011 at 11:18 am - Reply

    After reading these posts, there seems to be an insistence by ex-believers that believers retain the flawed fundamentalists assumptions the ex-believers themselves have abandoned.  This seems to be because the ex-believers confused the fundamentalist assumptions to be part and parcel with the thing they abandoned.

    In other words, the non-believers throw the baby out with the bath water and insist that the believers do the same. There also seems to be an unwillingness to separate the institutional Church from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Church is not the Gospel. The Church is like a deserted island in the middle of shark infested waters; the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ that was revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith is like a beautiful, 20 star, resort on that island.  The island maybe filled with sand and fiddler crabs, but you can’t enjoy the beautiful resort without it. It seems that some people gave up on the resort because the island sand wasn’t replaced by grass and the crabs weren’t replaced by bunnies.. 

    • Ella Menno December 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Interesting visual.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do a disbeliever’s plight justice.  In order for it to work, one would have to divorce the institutional church from the gospel.  I don’t know if that can really be done.  For example, is the temple part of the gospel?  If it isn’t, fine.  One can live a worthy life without attending the temple.  If it is, though, the institutional church is the gatekeeper making sure to keep the rabble out.  So, good people who are trying to live the gospel but who may not believe everything the institutional church trys to tell them will never be able to live the whole gospel.

    • jg December 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      The church is the bath water. 

    • Anonymous January 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Oh my!  “The Church is not the Gospel.”

      Please check out this: 

  32. Anthony Browning December 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    I have never added a comment before but feel I must say it is my opinion that this guest goes to incredible lengths to find evidence to support what he obviously wants to be true. This is a good example of the mental gymnastics one can engage in when trying to find evidence to support a hypothesis instead of applying the scientific method. 

    • why me December 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm - Reply

      This would be the case when it comes to the any religious experience. For catholics it would be contained in the visitations of Mary. And for mormons, it is the book of mormon and how it came to be. However, what we do have in mormonism is a book called the book of mormon. It was created by someone. Someone had to write it. The 11 witnesses claim to have either seen it in a vision or felt the book with their hands, turning the leafs over as they looked at the letterings. And then we have the Whitmers mother claiming to have seen the plates too.

      This is quite compelling evidence in favor of Joseph Smith having a devine experience. Plus, the fact that no witness ever denied their testimony of their experience.

      • Anonymous January 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm - Reply

        There is more to the story of the eleven witnesses than their statements in the Book of Mormon.

        Please read this:

        • Nelson Chung January 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm - Reply

          the “spiritual eyes” thing again, how lame.

          • Ella Menno January 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm

            If it is, as you say, lame, please provide a better point of view.  A drive by defamation without explanation is also pretty lame.

          • N Chung January 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

            “Spiritual eyes” has been discussed ad nauseum in the Bushman and Givens podcasts.

  33. Anonymous December 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    Mr. Gardner argues that Book of Mormon “horses” are not actual horses because the text does not explicitly show them “doing what horses do.”

    The following pairing of horses and chariots strongly suggest that horses pulled chariots.  To imagine they are unrelated is absurd.

    *  Alma 18:12  …when Ammon had made ready the horses and the chariots for the king…
    *  Alma 20:6 … make ready his horses and his chariots.
    *  3 Nephi 3:22  …and they had taken their horses, and their chariots…
    *  3 Nephi 21:14 ….saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;

    Note that the pairing of “horse(s)” and “chariot(s)” are paired in the same verse 51 times in the Old Testament (OT) using similar language.

    Note also that horse “rider(s)” and “horsemen” appear in the OT about 60 times (and never in the Book of Mormon). 

    So, score one point for Mr. Gardner.

    But how many points score against thim?  Here are some.

    1.  We cannot ignore the chariots!  Something was pulling something!
        At least John Sorenson accepts the burden of accounting for
        these things (via tapirs pulling litters?)  Mr. Gardner uses “vocabulary problem”
        as a dodge. Remember, the burden is on Book of Mormon defenders to
        account for Joseph’s textual impositions.

    2.  What can “make ready” mean?  Butcher and cook? I don’t think so.

    3.  Joseph Smith imagination simply did not generate horseback riders. Perhaps because the local “Lamanites” did not have a horse culture.

    4.  Gardner wants to dismiss Book of Mormon problems with false assertion that we should not project our expectations onto the text. This is a ridiculous narrowing of the argument-space.  Granted, not all expectations are reasonable.  But developing expectations based on relevant evidence/experience is at the very heart of rational analysis.

    What Mr. Gardner is doing is delimiting/creating a context that discounts and cuts off relevant information. He is leveraging the human tendency to settle on simple narratives bolstered by the “What You See is All Their Is” cognitive illusion.  These likely unconscious moves that serve his own faith as much as those for whom this works. 

    Daniel Kahneman (2002 Nobel Prize in Economics) recently authored “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

    Its illuminating, humbling, empowering and relevant to how we arrive at our beliefs. An extraordinary work by an extraordinary person.

    A review/summary of the book is here:

    Kahneman’s Nobel Prize Lecture, is here:

    • Nellie Chung January 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm - Reply
      • Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply


        Thanks for the reference.

        Let the research continue!

        Perhaps they will discover that the aboriginal Americans use the horses to pull chariots.

        I wonder whether evidence of indigenous peoples riding horses would pose a problem for the Book of Mormon given that only speaks of chariots.

        I wonder if there is evidence of ancient horses being eaten rather than used for riding.  Perhaps this accounts for their extinction.

        Does their being the size of a donkey (12-13 hands) alter the conception of how these horses may have served these people?


      • Brian D January 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm - Reply

        I read that report and did not find it convincing.  The chief arguments were

        1. Native Americans say they had horses earlier. (Based on oral history)
        2. This tribe was really good at riding horses (that had been genetically preselected over millenia to be good riding animals)
        3.  There shouldn’t be any evidence anyway.

        On the other hand, there isn’t any evidence besides these old stories.  The technology apparently wasn’t transferred to other groups over the 11500 years since the archealogically accepted extinction, despite the apparent advantages of doing so and the speed, skill, and permanance with which the Native Americans adapted to the horse when it was introduced.  When the archeological evidence for something should be massive if it occurred, and is non-existent. . . yah. 

  34. Nellie Chung January 1, 2012 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Can we use the code for all Greg Kofford books or just this one?

    • Anonymous January 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm - Reply


      My understanding is that the code will work for any Kofford book.


      • N Chung January 3, 2012 at 8:42 am - Reply


  35. Ryan Rebalkin January 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Mr Gardner mentions that steel was only mentioned by Nephi as having a steel sword and the Brother Jared, thus it is possible that they were only a select few who had steel, thus steel was not used in war, thus we don’t have the mounds of metal deposits we could expect to find through archeology. I don’t know where I read it in the BoM, and maybe its only a false memory, but I seem to recall that the Nephites had an edge ( excuse the pun) in battle due to their steel and armor as opposed to the lamanites who weren’t as well equipped. Does this ring a bell?

    • KC January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      maybe this,

      Alma 43:2121 But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites.

    • D. Charles Pyle May 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      The Book of Mormon says nothing about the composition of the armor. Ancient Maya and Azteca used armor made of skins filled with sand or salt. This armor could withstand their weapons, which were composed of wood edged with obsidian. These same weapons could decapitate a horse with one good, direct blow but the armor made of skins and filled would protect from these weapons.

      Come to thinnk of it, one description of the kind of armor used in the Book of Mormon did involve use of “thick clothing.”

      And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that the people of Nephi, or that Moroni, had aprepared his people with bbreastplates and with arm–shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing—

      (Book of Mormon, Alma 43:19)

      Yet, there is nothing that would imply the use of steel technology in the armor. Yax K’uk Mo’ used an arm-shield. Notwithstanding this individual came many years after Book of Mormon times, his weapons and armor technology was so superior that the king married off his daughter to him and he ended up becoming the legendary ruler of a Maya city. Yet, steel was not part of said technology.

  36. Simon Southerton January 2, 2012 at 6:00 am - Reply

    I’m afraid a horse is a horse of course of course.  

    Alma 18:99 And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land.So Ammom was preparing the horses (which weren’t horses) and chariots (which weren’t chariots because there were no horses to pull them) so the king could be conducted to the land of Nephi via some other means?  So the words “horse” and “chariot” appearing right next to each other in the sentence are giving lazy readers the false impression that Ammon was preparing the horses and chariots to carry the king?.

    If a person can be so easily misled by this simple paragraph what hope is there that they can understand anything in the Book of Mormon?  

    • Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply


      Let me explain.

      First let’s carefully consider what the text actually says.   I capitalize the key words for clarity.

      “And they said unto him: Behold, he is FEEDING thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the WATERING THEIR FLOCKS, that they should PREPARE HIS HORSES and chariots, and CONDUCT him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a GREAT FEAST appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land.”

      The meaning is quite clear. 

      Watering the flocks and preparing the horses refer to cooking ’em!   These animals were to be the main dishes at the feast.  The king’s servants CARRIED (conducted) the chariot to the feast.


      P.S.  I appreciate your book

      • Paul Bohman January 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm - Reply

        Horses pull chariots to feasts.

        Then again, maybe you would like to argue that they were preparing his horses AND chariots to be eaten at the feast? Yum, chariots.

        • Charles Carnevale January 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm - Reply

          Today Salami is made up of a large amount of horse meat so if horses are eaten today, and Salami tast good I can assure you, then there is no reason to not believe that horses wheren’t a food source back then for the Nephites.

        • Paul Belfiglio January 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm - Reply

          I don’t think you really get it.  When Brother Joseph used the word(s) “chariots” he really meant “platters”!  Go figure: There were no ‘chariots’ in Brother Joseph’s environment, otherwise he would have used a transliterated word such as ‘buggy’.   Hence, the true meaning is “PREPARE HIS HORSES (horse roasts) and PLATTERS”. And you must know that the humble potato came from the Americas.  Hence, again, came the common notion of ‘meat and potatoes’ served together on a platter. Or we can reflect further on the imagery of  this scripture to discern that the king was just a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of fellow, i.e., not puffed up in pride.  You really do begin to see how rich in meaning these inspired scriptures are!  You just have to know how to read them with the correct spirit of interpretation like Brother Gardner.

      • Brian P. January 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm - Reply

        If we are considering the text as you are doing, you have to also say, like Paul says, that they are preparing the chariots to eat.

        You say “Watering the flocks and preparing the horses refer to cooking ’em”

        IF “preparing” refers to cooking them, then you can’t simply ignore that chariots is in that same sentence right after the “and”.

        “prepare his horse and chariots, …”

        If just looking at the text is what you want, and if you deduct “prepare” means “cook” then you can’t simply IGNORE that chariots are also being “prepared.”

        Unless you are trying to tell me that the verb “prepare” means one thing when acting on the “horses” and another thing when acting on the “chariots”.  A claim that would be a stunning feat of grammatical gymnastics.

        • JTurn January 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm - Reply

          Thank you for the compliment!


          P. S. My above horse comment was supposed to be a joke. But perhaps it was actually too close to real apologetics.

          I posted a serious response to Mr. Gardner’s horse argument

          • JTurn January 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm


          • Brian P. January 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

            HA.  Yeah.  Your response felt like a real apologetic answer.  Funny how a real apologetic response and a joke can sound so similar.

      • Charles Carnevale January 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm - Reply

        For me if the BoM says horse then it probably was a ‘horse’, maybe a small type and not a thoroughbread however it was probably some type for Equus ferus caballus….Also horses where known to midleestestern people from about 3000BC so it is to be expected that Lehi and family knew what a horse was.

  37. Christie January 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    The deep dark secret of the homosexual community is the high percentage of its members that seek out sex with underage boys. Consider the following:

    ” * The Gay Report, published by homosexual researchers Jay and Young in 1979, revealed that 73 percent of homosexuals surveyed had at some time had sex with boys 16 to 19 years of age or younger.

    * Although homosexuals account for less than two percent of the population. they constitute about a third of child molesters.  Further, as noted by the Encino, Calif.-based National Association for research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), “since homosexual pedophiles victimize far more children than do heterosexual pedophiles, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent or pedophile victims are boys who have been molested by adult males.

    * A nationwide investigation of child molestation in the Boy Scouts from 1971 to 1991 revealed that more than 2,000 boys reported molestations by adult Scout leader.

    * A study of Canadian pedophiles has shown that 30 percent of those studied admitted to having engaged In homosexual acts as adults, and 91 percent of the molesters of non-familial boys admitted to no lifetime sexual contact other than homosexual!” (Source)

  38. Angry Santa January 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    those horses in the BoM were perhaps reindeers. in Joseph Smith times the idea that something is pulled by reindeers was not common knowledge (the propapility is not high that he heard of the reindees sleighs in russia, norway and maybe canada). even Santa was not travelling in a sleigh (that story started with a poem in 1823). so Joe had to use horses instead of reindeers. it was the only carriage drive he was familiar with. moreover during the last ice age reindeers were even found on the mexican border. it’s possible that some survived and got caught by some Lamanite guy.

    so the text actually says:
    “And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy reindeers. Now the king
    had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his reindeers and (Santa’s sleigh) chariots, and conduct
    him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast
    appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king
    over all the land.”

    now I also understand why the Lamanites and Nephites had so many wars. they argued over who brings the christmas gifts. 

    Santa won!

  39. Erico January 3, 2012 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Paid subscriber here.

    Thank you John and Brant for the podcast.  I appreciate the civil discourse as well as the tough questioning.
    Brant’s positions may be philosophically sound on each point.  But it’s the combination of adding up all of those alternative explanations that reduces the over all probability of its truth to almost zero.  I can take a strained alternative explanation here and there, but when such explanations are compounded and add up, things turn absurd very quickly.  There’s no way that I can see any other reading of the BofM to read that a horse is not a horse, that a chariot is not a chariot, and that dark skins are not referring to pigmentation without my internal b.s.-meter going crazy.  When viewing the totality of the evidence, including the fact that 19th century Americans were trying to figure out the origin of dark-skinned natives in the context of Biblical creationism as well as having little to no knowledge of pre-Columbian flora and fauna, BY FAR, the most reasonable conclusion is that the BofM is of 19th century origin and not historical.

    Would it be too much to ask for church leaders and apologists to drop the requirement that the BofM be historical and instead focus on its spiritual value?  At this point, since so many things that Joseph said or did was obviously not quite on the mark concerning the traditional narrative (as conceded by apologists), wouldn’t it be just one small additional step in that general direction to admit that in all likelihood the BofM is not historical?  It certainly would solve a huge number of problems and dispose of the necessity of coming up with a multitude of seemingly-bizarre explanations.  If God channeled the BofM to Joseph through inspiration, why can’t it just be viewed as a fictional parable in a sense and call it good?  Does that in any way undermine the truthfulness of the spiritual message?

    • Paul Bohman January 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      “If God channeled the BofM to Joseph through inspiration, why can’t it
      just be viewed as a fictional parable in a sense and call it good?  Does
      that in any way undermine the truthfulness of the spiritual message?”

      Well, yes and no.

      It would in no way undermine any truths within the story if the Book of Mormon is fiction (inspired or not). The fictional story “Les Miserables” has plenty of truths in it, and the fact that it is fictional poses no threat to any of the truths that it conveys.

      The Book of Mormon is different though. If it is fiction, and Joseph knew so, even if it was inspired fiction dictated by God, then Joseph deceived his followers, telling them it was an historical record, when it was not.

      And if it is fiction and inspired by God, and Joseph did NOT know so, then it is either 1) purposeful deception by God, or 2) incompetence on the part of Joseph to recognize it as fiction. If the second option is true, it also means that God has so far been powerless or unwilling to correct Joseph’s original error.

      None of those options paint Joseph or God in a very good light.

    • Brian P. January 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      I think Paul is right.  Not having it historical but still from God get’s tricky… at least while trying to maintain a position that the Restoration of God’s true church and God’s true Priesthood authority also happened. 

      The implications of a non-historical BOM causes a LOT of hard questions:
      – Why where there Golden Plates?
      – Who was Angel Moroni?
      – Why did Joseph lie about it origins? (If Joseph did know it was non-historical)
      – Why did God let Joseph think it was historical, and lead him down that path with plates, Angel Moroni, Etc? (If Joseph did believe it was historical)
      – If it is non-historical, with no Jesus visitation, how it is a second witness?  Is Jesus historical?

      Having a non-historical BOM can definitely help in the problems a historical BOM has.  But a non-historical BOM brings up a whole new set of problem (that are in my mind more overpowering than the problems of a historical BOM)

    • Kevin January 4, 2012 at 7:00 am - Reply

      Paul and Brian make very good points. Also, any backpedaling on the historicity of the BoM would require the prophets, seers, and revelators to say the one thing that would fatally undermine the church: “We were wrong.”

      I’ve heard many TBMs say that the church’s main strength is its living prophet. But I think that the church’s claim to have a living prophet is its principal weakness. And it is a weakness that grows weaker over time.

      More errors pile up that must be either buried, painfully and embarrassingly explained away (as Mr. Gardner tries to do), or put on the infamous “shelf.” But the errors cannot be corrected, because they cannot be acknowledged to be erroneous. Eventually the structure must come tumbling down.

  40. Jonah January 3, 2012 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    These types of apologetic podcasts are becoming little more than amusing.  If you enjoy watching a guilty convict do an interview from prison, providing amusing confabulations to fabricate a story of innocence, then these podcasts may be your cup of tea because that’s exactly what they’ve become—a bunch of really creative fabrications. Amusing, but mostly a waste of time. 

    LDS Scholarship is currently in a phase of denial and refutation—a phase of refuting its own historical facts and refuting the conclusions to be drawn from those facts.  Every mode of intellectual dishonesty has been employed to turn our heads away from the frightening reality that the Book of Mormon is a counterfeit. Rilke said, “Religion is a direction of the heart.”  This may be the case with Mormonism, and if so, its direction is away from the truth; toward belief, yes, but most certainly away from the truth.  Eventually, Mormon scholarship and an attendant cultural awareness will move past this phase of denial and refutation and into a period of authenticity and honesty.  Unfortunately for Mormonism, the rest of the world, and many Mormons as well, have already moved into the age of authenticity, and the church, as with most other cultural movements, is always 10-20 years behind.

    • Anonymous January 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply


      You say: “These types of apologetic broadcasts are becoming little more than amusing.  [Like] guilty convict[s] do an interview from prison… every mode of intellectual dishonesty has been employed …”

      I understand … but I do not share this feeling.  Perhaps it is precisely because I do NOT perceive apologists as expressing dishonesty that I am very interested in listening.

      I try to separate the evidence and analysis from the person.  This is not to say that I do not respond emotionally to what I see as strained arguments.  But that’s what motivates me to try to counter them with intellectually honest and more plausible rebuttals.

      And I can also think about the person – about what people are capable of – about how much alike we may be, or in what ways different.  I assume we are more alike than not because we are both human beings.  I might learn something from that.

      You quoted Rilke: “Religion is a direction of the heart.”  

      And you say: “its direction is away from the truth; toward belief, yes, but most certainly away from the truth.”

      Is the direction of the heart untrue?  Isn’t apostasy a direction of the heart too?

      Can one’s means of moving toward the heart (or preserving what is most heartfelt) involve appropriating and defending false propositions? 

      One thing that is “true” is the extraordinary motivation and effort that Mr. Gardner applies in “the direction of his heart.” 

      This is worth stepping back and appreciating.  

      But I also understand the damage it can do.  So I am torn … I remember the crazy claims about Lamanite archeology that misinformed my life-changing decisions as a naive teenager.  

      But if a person can successfully counter arguments generated by such motivation and energy that Mr. Gardner brings to Mormon apologetics, she can be all that more confident in her own “honestly” held approximation of truth (or at least untruth).  I personally want to earn my disbelief – cheap disbelief is no better than cheap belief. 

      You say: “Eventually, Mormon scholarship and an attendant cultural awareness will move past this phase of denial and refutation and into a period of authenticity and honesty.”

      I agree … but it will only happen when Mormon apologetics works itself to death.  

      I personally wish it will do so sooner than later.  My guess is it will take it will be later … certainly after I’m dead and gone. But maybe not. So let them work as hard and fast as they can to that hoped for eventuality.


      • Jonah January 5, 2012 at 11:31 am - Reply

        Not all dishonesty implies an explicit intent to deceive. Apologists may be unaware of their dishonesty. So what makes them dishonest?  It is precisely the direction of the heart—and that direction is inward.  They value what belongs to them, to their group, and to their theological system. They devalue what is outside their belief system, and consequently, they cannot esteem the external world it for what it truly is.  This is a form of concealment, a form of blinding oneself to the world and to the frightening realities it unfolds.  It is as if the apologist’s eyes were inverted inward upon the skull to a view only of what is inside, what is personal, what belongs to their belief system, but blind to the world around them.  This grotesque disfigurement is a concealment that prevents external realities from threatening the inner world of the belief system. The problem is that this grotesque disfigurement–the eyes turned inward, the inverted vision, the vacant gaze–is an unbearable price to pay, for the apologist walks around like a zombie, bumbling and stumbling in broad daylight, bruising himself, threatening his life, and falling into grotesque errors of judgment and perception. But ask him a question of doctrine and listen to the subtle nuances of his perception! To the apologist, this voluntary disfigurement is a small price to pay for the promise of the inner world asks the question: “what is at stake?”  Everything! If the belief system is everything—salvation, eternal life—then everything is at stake.  What is to be feared? The admission of despair, the abandonment of hope, the destruction of faith, the uprooting of the personal paradise, one’s inner Garden of Eden.  The overvaluation of what is inward, what is private, means that the belief system is more important than reality and this is dishonest.

        • Anonymous January 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm - Reply

          I think I understand your points and they are philosophically attractive – sounds like Plato’s cave, etc.

          And there seems to be some valid psychology here, though the language is hardly technical.

          I feel I have benefitted from moving toward a more outward looking life stance – one that does not “overvalue” what is inward – what is delineated by dogma.   And this movement seems to be accompanied by an evaporation of existential fears and worldly ambitions.  

          These are my first impressions of what  you wrote.  They are worth more refection.  I appreciate you sharing them.



          • Jonah February 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

            Yes! That’s the irony of it, right?  The external world is not frightening. It may threaten the belief system, but it cannot harm the great soul.  A great soul seeks to understand the world as it really is and finds joy in it. There is more joy outside the false constructs of our theology.  Our decrepit towers of babel will ultimately fall–ironically, as we witness the apologists climbing and cloistering themselves inside.

            Mark my word, time will not bear them out.  They are killing their cause in the long run.

            To be clear, I believe the Mormon religion will survive, but we must ask ourselves, what will survive?  The apologists are unwittingly reinventing the Mormon religion in their creative defenses of it.  The tragedy: never trust an apologist to create anything. They are the lawyers; they are not the creators.  Their creation will crumble.

        • Eddie January 8, 2012 at 3:35 am - Reply

          When it comes to the science of the Book of Mormon, the apologists are so far in left field.  I always wonder why we don’t call them out on this stuff.  They get asked the questions and then they get a ton of time to ramble on nonsensically.

    • Eddie January 8, 2012 at 3:30 am - Reply

      I would like to continue to see the apologist come on, but I would like to see more of a debate setting.  I feel like the counterpoints need to be made while the apologists are saying the stuff that should be questioned and proven wrong.

  41. Jason January 4, 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

    John/Brant,  This is quite a marathon to listen to, let alone produce.  I appreciate both of your time.  I’m listening to # 4 and the exchange about Hill Cumorah, plates, etc.  Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about “Cave Cumorah”?  I’m scratching my head a bit as to your “spins” regarding the plates, and where they are.  Give me a large piece of excavation equipment, a couple of hours, and a permit from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to dig, (good luck with the last one) and I can put all this plate business to rest.  I normally don’t do this, but here is the source:

    JOD 19:40, Brigham Young, June 17, 1877

    You hear a great deal said about finding money. There is no
    difficulty at all in finding money, but there are a great many people
    who do not know what to do with it when they do find it. This is the
    great defect with the human family. I could relate many very singular
    circumstances. I lived right in the country where the plates were found
    from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many
    things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to
    tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything
    can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did
    not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell
    these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry
    them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also,
    that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be
    entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the
    Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate
    all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can
    learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the
    plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah,
    which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the
    hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and
    spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had
    the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light
    as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood
    in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two
    feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than
    probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along
    the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon
    the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon
    the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was
    written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the
    kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.” I
    tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who
    were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we
    understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we
    separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering
    some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to
    you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring
    to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. Carlos
    Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and
    he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum
    saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.
    Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things,
    thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is
    not my mind. I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to
    understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings
    of the Lord with his people here upon the earth. I could relate to you a
    great many more, all of which are familiar to many of our brethren and

    Bring this one up in Sunday School next week as we talk about the origins of the Book of Mormon!!!  My grandfather had no idea I would actually read the set of JOD’s that he bequeathed to me.  Thanks grandpa, your gift was more valuable than you know!!!

    • Jonah January 4, 2012 at 9:58 am - Reply

      Funny, I just mentioned it last night in response to Allen D. Lee’s comment (see below).  I’ve often wondered why more people don’t bring that up. It was one of the more salient inconsistencies I found in my studies because a cave full of artifacts could be found–unless it was taken to heaven!

  42. Johnboy January 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    John –

    He was the best apologist you have had on yet.  Maybe I am accustomed to far-fetched explanations, but the only time I found myself wincing (as opposed to being amused) was when Brant stated that his belief was based on the evidence as opposed to faith.  Before that, I assumed that his goal was to present reasonable doubt I enjoy the issues that you bring up, but I wonder why you don’t delve into evolution more like you did with Peterson.  Specifically, how does Book of Mormon doctrine about the fall of Adam and Eve jive with modern evolutionary and geological evidence in the mind of an apologist?  If it is allegorical, how do you explain modern prophets like Joseph Fielding Smith stating that the doctrine is incompatible with evolution?  If they are just men with opinions as Brant says, what do we do with the teachings that God will never allow the prophet to lead us astray?  How does Brant view the Jaredite story of descending from the tower of Babel?  Was that just a local event like the flood or something allegorical?  If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why doesn’t he speak to his prophets today like he did with Joseph (“thus saith the Lord”), why don’t we have miracles like the Book of Mormon, etc.  Another question was how do you explain Samuel the Lamanite who was by all measure more righteous than the Nephites, but still classified as a Lamanite if he skin wasn’t dark?  

    I enjoy hearing the best the apologists have to offer because my priesthood leaders and wife would never even acknowledge the issues, much less discuss them.  Kudos to Brant for coming on Mormon stories and subjecting his views to scrutiny.  After being bored to death week after week at church, it is nice to hear a stimulating conversation about the issues.

    • Anonymous January 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks Johnboy,

      Just a quick thought prompted by your comments – they probably won’t “multiply” up to much – but here goes.

      There are layers of evidentiary support required for Mormon propositional beliefs to be rationally warranted. Each has an independent probability.  Because they are independent they multiply to give an over probability of its objective truth.

      With regard to the Book of Mormon alone these layers of evidence are:

      Textual (literary and historical criticism)
      Biblical (literary and higher criticism)
      Biological (Evolution)

      Assigning a 10% chance (in my mind generous) of each of these levels supporting the objective truth of the Book of Mormon, we must take the cumulative probability to be.

      0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 = 0,00001 or one 1/1000th of 1% probability of being true.

      Note that I may not be 100% correct about the “independence” claim. Either way, as I said, they don’t multiply up to much :)

      Of course, personal revelation makes all this moot… at least for those who experience it.

      • Eddie Argos July 18, 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

        I think this is a somewhat rational approach. Of course *your* weighting is completely arbitrary as well as your scores. And the whole point of this interview is a unification of 3 or 4 of those. Not certain where the cosmology fits in. I certainly add a lot more variables to my odds-making.

        Spirituality certainly can and i believe ought to be one of those variables for every rational person at points in their lives. I think it’s a very much to create a straw man to state that believers are .0001% rational and 99.999% spiritual. Also, with such an extreme tilt you create a false dichotomy of effectively forcing a choice to be a “spiritual” person or a “rational” person.

        I also think there are literally billions of examples in the history of the universe where it has been wrong to dismiss the highly improbable as impossible. As I understand it, under some models, the very existence of the universe is mathematically extremely improbable (as in billions of a fraction of a %) – which has necessitated for many the creation of a multiverse.

        That’s also one reason why the overemphasis on occam’s razor as “the ultimate argument settler” by the both the lay and paid atheist bothers me. It’s such a relatively lightweight (doesn’t mean it’s not useful at all) and often lazy tool – it certain never has been an end in and of itself. Think of all of the legal injustice and medical misery is causes, for example.

  43. Brian P. January 5, 2012 at 3:24 am - Reply

    I keep thinking about the podcast even though I finished it days ago.  Great work.

    One of the problems I keep coming back to is how Gardner isn’t really applying his own standards to his analysis.  He keeps saying over and over to not apply our modern mindset of what we would expect and to just look at the text for what it is.  

    Then he goes on about how “horses” aren’t horses and many other things where he discounts the text.  And why does he do this?  Because he’s applying his modern mindset of what he would expect to see…

    There isn’t good evidence for horses in BOM times, but he believes the BOM to be true, so he applies that bias and looks at the text of horses in a way to see if there is a way that these “horses” were not actually “horses.” 

    He’s NOT just looking at the text.

    If he did his textual analysis of the BOM and had NO knowledge of archeological evidence (or lack thereof),  if he was completely unaware of what modern day scientists believe and know about BOM time Mesoamerica, and he was just looking at the text… wouldn’t he think a horse is a horse?  Why wouldn’t he?

    The only reason he’s seeing the text of a horse not being a horse is because he is applying his own modern perspective (the lack of evidences of horses) onto the text.  This is something he keeps warning about over and over throughout the podcast.

  44. IcarusArts January 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Though Gardner does some of the usual strained apologetic stretching (especially around topics like peep stones) and is a little rigid (for my taste) on what leeway he is willing to grant opposing viewpoints, I thought he made some EXTREMELY interesting and valuable points–particularly in the last two episodes.

    Gardner largely lays waste to a lot of Grant Palmer and Michael Coe’s criticisms. He also has some major divergences from Givens, Bushman, Hardy, and FAIR. 

    No matter your views on horses or gold plates or Spalding, I love the way that Gardner always refers dispassionately back to the historical record and/or text of the Book of Mormon and makes some pretty compelling arguments for DNA, reformed Eqyptian, etc.

    Being willing to step into Gardner’s world and take the Book of Mormon on it’s own terms just for the sake of argument opens up a lot of interesting possibilities that will continue to stump you once you return to a secular way of thinking.

    I was also glad to hear someone else mention that the mound we call Cumorah is clearly not the Book of Mormon Cumorah. That detail has bothered me since my mission. I can’t believe how many people use the modern name of that hill as an argument against the church and limited geography when it is just one of those dumb cultural things that we has survived due to intellectual laziness. It’s the equivalent of demanding that Bountiful Utah is the Book of Mormon’s Land Bountiful.

    It’s nice to see an apologist who so values intellectual honesty. I just blew my entire book budget at Christmas, but this gives me some new things to add to my birthday wish list. 

    Thanks, John!

  45. Charles Carnevale January 5, 2012 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Re: skin colour and pigmentation.

    What Brant says made sense to me especially considering what happens here in Argentina and some other  latin american countries.

    For example, people who live in shanty towns, or ‘villas’ , are generally the same race as working class people however they are universally referred to as “Negros” -even though they aren’t African at all. They are called ‘negros’, in a derogatory way, because of cultural biases and the fact that they don’t have access to running water and usually work in the sun all day so their skin is darker than the average working class person. 

    However, once they leave the shanty towns and start having access to running water and showers etc, they soon become like most working class people who are mainly italian and spanish decent. Then they are racially white southern european race but people will simply refer to them as white.

    So, in a way, they become now “white and delitesome’ as the BoM states but all they have done is left a shanty town, obtained access to running water and modern facilities, like washing machines etc, but they haven’t changed pigmentation or race per sa just changed their social environmnet and living standards.

    Maybe that is what the BoM, and Brant, was trying to get to, ie, not a change in race or pigmentation but in living standards which simply result in a ‘becoming white and delighsome’ stage once you have access to better facilities. In BoM itmes it meant going from Lamanite culture of just a rag around their privates, in the bush all day, under the sun etc etc to living in a city which was, relatively speaking, modern and had baths and clean running water through canals and that.

    just my opinion though.

    • Michael Johnson January 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      I disagree. The Book of Mormon referred to a physical change in the appearance of skin colour. This was never a metaphor. It was literal. 

      To claim a metaphoric change from dark and loathesome to white and delightful  is inconsistent.

  46. James January 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Since there were no wheels or horses in the New World during the time that the Nephites were riding around in chariots waging warfare, FAIR has the ultimate explanation . . .

    . . . turn language on its head, as FAIR’s Michael R. Ash) attempts to do 

    First, redefine a “chariot” as a “sled,” thus removing the need for wheels:

    “The Arabic cognate of one of the Hebrew terms for ‘chariot’ refers not to any kind of wheeled vehicle, but can refer to a ship or a boat. In most instances, the word refers to a device that can move a person or object, but not necessarily a wheeled device. The Welsh cognate to the English ‘chariot,’ signifies, among other things, a ‘dray’–which Webster’s defines as ‘any of several wheelless land vehicles used for haulage,’ and for which it gives as a synonym nothing less than ‘travois’; ‘dray’ is obviously cognate with the verb ‘to drag’–or a ‘sledge’ (which term is, itself, related to words like ‘sleigh’ and ‘sled’–which also plainly denote wheelless vehicles).”

    Next, redefine a “horse” as a “deer,” thus removing the need for, well, horses:

    ” . . . [I]f Nephite chariots were not wheeled . . ., why are chariots mentioned in conjunction with Nephite ‘horses’? First, Nephite chariots (wheeled or not) may have been pulled by deer or tapirs (which may have been included in the Nephite term ‘horse’). Several ancient Eastern and Near Eastern pieces of art and petroglyphs depict chariots drawn by deer. Early Hindus had chariots pulled by deer. We find deer-pulling chariots in Asian art. The Greek goddess Artemis supposedly rode a chariot pulled by deer.”

    (Michael R. Ash, “Horses in the Book of Mormon,” paper based on talk and PowerPoint presentation given by Ash to Book of Mormon Lands Conference, 20 October 2007, at:

    In other words (so to speak), take the wheels off the “chariots” in order to turn them into “sleds,” then change a “horse” into a “deer” and–behold!–you have the true order of battle as it gloriously unfolded in the Book of Mormon: Nephites sledding around the theater of combat operations being pulled by deer

  47. Zelph January 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    IcarusArt:  You posted: “I was also glad to hear someone else mention that the mound we call
    Cumorah is clearly not the Book of Mormon Cumorah. That detail has
    bothered me since my mission. I can’t believe how many people use the
    modern name of that hill as an argument against the church and limited
    geography when it is just one of those dumb cultural things that we has
    survived due to intellectual laziness. It’s the equivalent of demanding
    that Bountiful Utah is the Book of Mormon’s Land Bountiful.”

    Unfortunately, if this is what Brant Gardner asserts, he is at odds with quite a few prophets, seers and revelators, who unequivocally indicated that the Cumorah near Palmyra is the same as the BOM Cumorah / Ramah:

    “The great and last battle, in which several hundred thousand

    Nephites perished was on the hill Cumorah, the same hill from which

    the plates were taken by Joseph Smith, the boy about whom I spoke

    to you the other evening.” (Talk given by Apostle Orson Pratt, Feb.

    11, 1872 Journal of Discourses Vol. 14, pg. 331)

    “Thirty-six years prior to this time his nation was destroyed

    in in what we term the State of New York, around about a hill, called

    by that people the Hill of Cumorah, when many hundreds of thousands

    of the Nephites-men, women and children, fell, during the greatest battle

    that they had had with the Lamanites.” (Talk given by Apostle Orson

    Pratt, Aug. 25, 1878 Journal of Discourses Vol. 20, pg. 62)

    “It will be, next Thursday night, 54 years since the Prophet

    Joseph Smith, then but a lad, was permitted by the angel of the Lord

    to take the gold plates of the Book of Mormon from the hill Cumorah,

    as it was called in ancient times, located in the State of New York.

    ” (Talk given by Apostle Orson Pratt, Sept. 18, 1881 Journal of Discourses

    Vol. 22, pg. 224)

    “Finally, they became so utterly wicked, so fully ripened for

    destruction, that one branch of the nation, called the Nephites, gathered

    their entire people around the hill Cumorah, in the State of New

    York , in Ontario County; and the Lamanites, the opposite army,

    gathered by millions in the same region.  The two nations were four

    years in gathering their forces, during which no fighting took place;

    but at the end of that time, having marshalled all their hosts, the fighting

    commenced, the Lamanites coming upon the Nephites, and destroying all

    of them, except a very few, who had previously deserted over to the Lamanites.”

    (Talk given by Apostle Orson Pratt, April 6, 1874 Journal of Discourses

    Vol. 17, pg. 24)

    “The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon

    and the more extended discussion of this subject by Elder B. H. Roberts

    which was published in The Deseret News of March 3, 1928, definitely

    establish the following facts: That the Hill Cumorah, and the Hill Ramah

    are identical; that it was around this hill that the armies of both the

    Jaredites and Nephites, fought their great last battles; that it was

    in this hill that Mormon deposited all of the sacred records which had been

    entrusted to his care by Ammaron, except the abridgment which he had made

    from the plates of Nephi, which were delivered into the hands of his’ son,

    Moroni. We know positively that it was in this hill that Moroni deposited

    the abridgment made by his father, and his own abridgment of the record

    of the Jaredites, and that it was from this hill that Joseph Smith obtained

    possession of them. ” (President Anthony W. Ivins, Conference Report,

    April 1928-Morning Session)

    “The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples

    as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the

    State of New York .” (Apostle James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith

    , chapter 14)

    “It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were

    destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed. 

    This hill was known to the Jaredites as Rama. It was approximately near

    to the waters of Ripliancum, which the Book of Ether says, “by interpretation,

    is large, or to exceed all.”  Mormon adds: “And it came to pass

    that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents

    round about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers,

    and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.  It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly

    the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation

    of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity

    of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. 

    Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely

    declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken

    of in the Book of Mormon.  Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning

    down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni

    hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable

    person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley

    P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently

    of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill

    Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. 

    That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this

    definite manner is an established record of history….” (Joseph Fielding

    Smith, Doctrines of Salvation , Vol.3, Bookcraft, 1956, p.232-43.)

    Perhaps they were speaking as men and not as prophets, seers and revelators?


  48. Anonymous January 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    This is a very intresting interview. I give Bro. Gardner credit for his extensive work on the subject and have a measure of respect for what he is trying to accomplish. While I would like to comment on many aspects of the interview, I will keep my comments to a few brief points. The first item that caught my attention was the comment that members of the church should not feel lied to or betrayed by the Church’s lack of disclosure of the actual historical facts conncernng foundational events such as the first vision or the traslation of the Book of Mormon. He indicated that it was the member’s responsibility to search out the truth. I must admit that I lost my cool when I heard this. Wow! After my initial reaction, it suddenly made sense. Under no circumstances was Bro. Gardner EVER going to admit that the prophet or church were wrong on any non-trivial matter. I suddenly felt sorry for him and lost a great measure of respect. He seems to feel that determining actual historical accuracy of the founding events is mutually exclusive from whether the church is true or Joseph Smith is a prophet. They are each different spheres on a never -ntersecting venn diagram. While this approach seems to work for him, I doubt that the masses would ever buy it if given the facts. The only hope the church has is that they will continue to be successfull in keeping the masses from the knowledge of the truth. Why would I care if I had ben taught an accurate account of church history?

  49. Anonymous January 8, 2012 at 12:07 am - Reply

    (continued from previous post)
    Why would I want to have been taught an accurate version of church history? Why would I feel betrayed or lied to if I found out that what I was taught was not accurate? Because I taught the lies as a full-time missionary! I spent two years of my life misrepresenting the truth to hundreds of people. Bro. Gardner, how should I feel about that? Should I be upset at all that I was purposely given false information to preach to other people? Should it bother me that I boldly stood in front of a young lady and told her that what I was telling her was true? She and her mother became estranged because of her joining the church. We ruined a family relationship by teaching falsehoods! The church has a duty to tell the truth about it’s history.

  50. brokenshelf January 9, 2012 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Ancient America Speaks…(around the 10 minute mark) so the professors at BYU used to sit around laughing about this and considered it comedy because of all its errors.  As Brant Gardner explains, this was not disconcerting to him because of his view of revelation allowing for human error and “real human beings doing the best they can”.   Fair enough.  The film isn’t shown anymore and it has been replaced with better scholarship.  
    Yet I can still go to the church website and do a search on Quetzalcoatl and read all sorts of articles that link the Great White God and Christ.  Where can I find on the church website a correction for all these clearly misleading ideas?  

  51. Ed Goble January 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm - Reply


    I am astounded that you say that you are entirely objective, and that you are not subjective.  I, as a “fellow believer” say you are not objective, and that you should not be claiming such a thing.  I think this hurts the case of apologetics, and you have absolutely no basis for this claim.  You are biased just as I am.  I am also astounded that you say that there is no conceivable way to interpret the skin color text the original, traditional way.  I agree with your reading of the text on that issue, but I disagree that there is absolutely no chance that it could mean what traditionally it has been read to say.  Similarly, you already know my take on Cumorah in the text, and you already know that I think the Mesoamericanist reading for Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is strained.  Not that it is not a plausible reading of the text.  It is ideologically based, without acknowledgement of other plausible options, and that it is not a “careful” or parsimonious examination of the parts of the text dealing with the Land Northward as if it is something that can be sustained without question, as if scrutinity of the text would not yeild any other possible explanation on that point.  I appreciate what you have said in these interviews.  But I think that on several points such as these, you are very off base, and are ideologically led.  An apologist should acknowledge his subjectivity, and I am sad that you did not acknowledge your biases.  Similarly, I disagree and have always disagreed on the point that Quetzalcoatl is not reasonably interpreted as a survival of the memory of Jesus Christ.  Your reductionist interpretation of that, dispensing with accounts from Catholic Fathers is just that.  Reductionist.

    Your Friend,
    Ed Goble

  52. Anonymous January 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    If Mr. Gardner’s “functional translation” theory was credible in the slightest, he wouldn’t be so hesitant to put the Book of Mormon to the test with trained anthropologists and linguists.  Surely those trained in understanding translations of ancient documents would be just as aware of  “functional translation” and the considerations one must make when dealing with them.

    Furthermore, if this “functional translation” theory is correct, then Mr. Gardner should have no problem identifying what animals and plants Joseph Smith was referring to now that we have a complete understanding of the Americas.  Mr. Gardner claims that a parcel of land in Meso-America is the location of the Book of Mormon events.  So please show me the animal that lived/lives in that part of the Americas that Joseph Smith and/or the general population of the US at the time didn’t know existed when the Book of Mormon was translated, leading Joseph to call an it an elephant when saw it during the translation process.  What indigenous plant was Joseph unable to identify when he decided to use the term “wheat”?  Yams?  Chilis?  Cocoa Beans?  What I’m getting at is now that we have a clear understanding of the indigenous plants and animals of the Americas, we should be able to find plausible correlations to understand what Joseph saw / learned about while he was “translating” the Book of Mormon.

    Lastly, I was shocked at Mr. Gardner’s claims about horses and wheels in the Book of Mormon.  Those claims make him lose all credibility in my mind.  At that point I began to question whether or not he actually believes what comes out of his mouth.  Show me another animal that is A) indigenous to Meso-America, B) capable of pulling chariots (that apparently don’t have wheels) and C) Joseph Smith wouldn’t have been able to identify based on his understanding of the animals of the Americas — leading him to call them horses.  It strains credulity.  Surely Mr. Gardner can’t look at himself in the eyes in the mirror and claim to believe a undiscovered phantom animal pulled wheel-less chariots in ancient American battles.

    • D. Charles Pyle July 18, 2012 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      “Surely those trained in understanding translations of ancient documents would be just as aware of “functional translation” and the considerations one must make when dealing with them.”

      They are aware of them–if they indeed do work on translations regularly. Many translations of ancient texts are functional translations. How to represent an animal unknown to us in a text? One way is to transliterate. Another is to provide a functional translation. In some translations both methods are used. In others it is one or the other. In either case it is a “functional translation” process.

  53. Zelph January 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Mr. Gardner asserts that JS made use of his “idetic” / photographic memory in the process of translating the Book of Mormon (3rd podcast at 42:00 or so), yet in the 1st podcast he attributes the variation in Josephs different accounts of the “First Vision” to a faulty memory. So the same person who has outstanding memory skills in 1828-29 with regard to 20 words or so appearing in the seer stone at a time can’t remember from year to year whether he saw one personage or two personages or other details of a visit from Deity? I guess, as Gardner says, the science of memory is inexact at best.

  54. Ben January 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    I haven’t read any of the comments, as I’m still listening, but I wanted to get this concern out there while it’s fresh on my mind.  I don’t know that I can buy the “functional translation” model when I consider that Joseph wasn’t really translating — he was dictating what appeared to him.  The word choice clearly wasn’t up to him.  So to say that Joseph used the word “horse” for something that would have been ridden on, but really wasn’t a horse as we know it, doesn’t seem to work at all.  It would have been God himself, working through the seer stone, choosing that word.

  55. I like to have it both ways! January 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Revelation = Communication from God (Mind and Will of God to guide the church)

    What is our pattern for receiving revelation in the modern church?  The D&C provides the pattern, God spoke the prophet Joseph in absolute clarity….mentions names, times, locations, and then says “I am Jesus Christ”….our LDS model of receiving revelation through Prophets.  Clear and Distinct!!  Black and White…right?  

    How are we as members of Gods true church suppose to receive the Prophets Word?

    Here is the definition of prophets off

    Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God’s will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. At times, they may be inspired to prophesy of future events for our benefit.We can “always” trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord, who declared: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).Our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. The Lord warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets will fall (see D&C 1:14-16). He promises great blessings to those who follow the President of the Church:“Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
    There we have it!!!  Spoken on the churches website.  We must give heed to all the prophets words…  THAT IS REVELATION!!  End of discussion…according to the church.  

    The only problem with this view on revelation is….LDS history does not support that this is the way God speaks….which makes me wonder if God really “spoke” like that to Joseph Smith in the DC…why would God set a precedent that he would not follow with later prophets leaving them in the dark to grovel to find the modern truth.  David O McKay had to form a committee to see if our African brothers was really a curse (Per Brigham Young) or just a social curse (racism)  Why did God just not provide the answer?  After all the prophets are speaking the “will” of God or is it just really the will of a man?

    A few quotes from Prophet Young:
    “Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner!  When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him.  He helped to make and organize this world.  He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days!  about whom holy men have written and spoken — He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.  Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50). 

    Here is another quote from a prophet of God that we can trust and lean on for our spiritual safety
    “There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it . . . ” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247; see also, vol. 4, p. 53-54, 219-220). 

    Yet when I listen to Brant speak about revelation, he, as mormon scholar treats revelation as a subjective, can always be reversed when needed type of process.  Not the the cut and dry revelation in the D&C.  I guess I just dont know the meaning “fullness of the gospel”, or restored in its fullness…

    It is clear to me as I have studied the history of the church that religion is a power grabbing influence on people.  There is safety in living a good life, but it does not come any more by following “revelation” of the quorum of the 12 than by any other path that leads people to peace and happiness in this life.

    This guy wants to have it both ways, revelation from God….but subjective enough for mans weakness and frailties to reverse it if needs be!!

    If you made it through my rant, congrats….I am I feel in the final stages of mental separation from the church mind control machine and needed to rant.  Good luck all of you that are healing from the “church is true, no matter what” mentality.  It takes a while to get through.

  56. Anonymous January 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    I was suprised that John was so surprised that Lamanites were classified as political groups and not racial groups.  In 1975, Hugh Nibley published SINCE CUMORAH and made the same point.  I thought before and during my mission that they were political groups.  So I was surprised after my mission when I went to an Institute class.  The  Institute instructor showed an ancient meso-american picture of light and dark skinned people as proof for the Book of Mormon.

    • Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 11:28 am - Reply

      John keeps talking about Occams Razor.  What I see is the historian who doesn’t believe in the divine/supernatural for him Occams Razor is to look for the simplest naturalistic way to explain the Book of Mormon.  For believing historians Occams Razor means the simplest way to explain the Book of Mormon is based on what the witnesses and people closest to the translation process say.   Those close to the translation process say Joseph Smith had actual metal plates which he translated from through divine power, without any hidden manuscripts.  Of course if you don’t believe in the divine/supernatural you will never accept this explanation as Occams Razor. 

      • Quickmere Graham January 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm - Reply


      • D. Charles Pyle July 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm - Reply

        Occam’s Razor does not always work as expected when it comes to religious matters, either. Yet, people work feverishly to use it to try to explain certain elements connected with religious faith and as the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The problem is that it often either breaks down under closer scrutiny or points another direction and people often do not realize it. Here is an example of such a breakdown or otherwise.

        People notice that substantial portions of the Book of Mormon contain entire sections of King James Bible text, “translation errors” and all. Thus, they conclude, one of two things:

        1. That Joseph Smith copied verbatim from a KJV Bible in “crafting” his Book of Mormon.

        2. That Joseph Smith had a Bible sitting nearby, which he consulted while translating portions of the gold plates and decided in the interest of time to use either because it was easier than translating the passages anew or because it was to retain some degree of respectibility for the Book of Mormon scriptural passages because the verbiage of the KJV was used in the passages as is.

        Here is where that breaks down or points another direction:

        1. Some so-called “translation errors” are not translation errors at all, but rather they are legitimate alternative renderings of the same words. A prime example of this is the use of the word “Lucifer” in both the Book of Mormon and KJV texts. In Joseph Smith’s time–and until just after the 1920s–the word Lucifer actually was a Latin name given to the planet Venus, and that was the primary definition in English for the word. Over time that changed for us. Yet, Hebrew hyll and Latin/English Lucifer BOTH refer to the planet Venus in the Hebrew text. Joseph Smith may have chosen to use the common KJV rendering but in both cases the translation was at the time correct. There are other examples of this kind of situation.

        2. Worse for this use of Occam’s Razor, a host of eyewitnesses must be ignored that all state that Joseph Smith never had books, other manuscripts, or other papers with or near him during translation and dictation of the Book of Mormon text.

        3. Worse still for this use of Occam’s Razor, Joseph Smith did not even have a Bible of his own during that time in Harmony, Pennsylvania, so he did not have one to consult easily during the translation process. Both eyewitnesses and the evidence of the fact that he did not take the family Bible with him when he moved to Harmony, and the fact that he had to send someone down the road to borrow a Bible during a period when they had stopped translating the Book of Mormon to settle an argument that occurred between Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, when Joseph Smith had dictated the portion of 3 Nephi that mentioned John and the three Nephites and had paused the translation. All of these indicate that he had no Bible of his own at the time, later buying one for himself and Oliver Cowdery in October 1829, months after the Book of Mormon was finished in translating and was being printed at that time.

        No record exists, no eyewitness testimony exists, that Joseph Smith was using a Bible except to borrow one from down the road to settle an argument while pausing the translation process. Joseph Smith did not own a Bible at the time, buying one AFTER the Book of Mormon already was finished and was being printed. The evidence of the purchase of the Bible after the Book of Mormon was finished is on the flyleaf of the Bible itself.

        So, how does Occam’s Razor explain the existence of KJV passages in the Book of Mormon when it breaks down or points elsewhere on that point? It doesn’t really work the way that critics and adherents of the Book of Mormon claim that it does. In fact, the claim that he was using a KJV during that time is NOT the simplest explanation for the coming forth of those portions of the Book of Mormon, and it either breaks down or it points in another direction that some may not want to go.

        An alternative explanation that is simpler is necessitated, and the simplest explanation is NOT that he used a KJV while translating and dictating the Book of Mormon.

  57. Jim Catlin February 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    I find Brant’s offhand dismissal of the value of  “parallels” between the BofM and “View of the Hebrews” troubling. For instance, when I was a teaching assistant in graduate school (electrical engineering) one of my jobs was grading the exams of undergraduates. There were two reasons for “parallels” in the answers on the tests. When their answer was correct, they paralleled the other students because, well, it was true. When their answer was incorrect and yet matched someone else’s answer, it raised suspicions of copying. The complexity of engineering derivations on tests made coincidence an unlikely explanation for  “parallel” errors. Referencing the seating chart from the exam would reveal necessary corroboration for the copying. 

    So with that understanding in mind I ask myself, and wished that John had thought to ask, just why then is the “View of the Hebrews” so parallel to the BofM at all? Is it because they both have their origin in “truth”? Or is it because the BofM copied its plot structure from the “View of the Hebrews”? I can see no other reasonable explanation. Since the author of the “View of the Hebrews” admits that he invented the story, I can’t accept the former explanation. I am left with the latter. And since the  logistics of the circumstance supports the opportunity for the latter (eg. date of publishing, geography of circulation, connection through the Cowdery family) I would reluctantly have to  indict Smith of structural plagiarism from an avowed fictional piece. B.H.Roberts admitted to the same troubling conclusion in “A Book of Mormon Study”.

    It was this logic that resulted in my student being officially disciplined by the university once I revealed his wrong answer. By the way, his error matched the wrong answer of the student seated in the row in front of him. Theirs were the only two answers that erred in the same, identically convoluted  fashion. And due to their “geography”, it was the guy in back who took the heat. As should Joseph Smith.

    • D. Charles Pyle July 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Have you actually read “View of the Hebrews” all the way through from cover to cover? I have. While there were, in my opinion, some interesting parallels of a few ideas on first glance there is far, far more at variance with the Book of Mormon in that book. I also have copies of B.H. Roberts’ notes which I consulted while reading the book.

      There is, in fact, no plot in “View of the Hebrews” from which to draw the plot of the Book of Mormon text. “View of the Hebrews” is not the source of the Book of Mormon and the arguments made in that book actually are contradicted at many turns by the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon hews its own course, in the main.

      If Joseph Smith were merely cribbing the text of “View of the Hebrews”, one would expect far more parallels and exact matches than appear on first glance. It’s just my opinion but that is the way I see it after having read “View of the Hebrews” twice from cover to cover.

  58. Scott March 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    I love the podcasts and I love what you are doing, John.  But you completely flubbed up this interview.  I think if you had read Brant’s stuff, you would have been a much better interviewer.  Brant thinks and approaches the BoM differently than most LDS scholars and you have to read him to “get” his angle.  But I’m a huge fan of his and I’m very biased- I feel his Second Witness books are the best ever written on the BoM. 

  59. Living and Learning June 23, 2012 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Brant, I was fully intrigued and stirred by your in-depth interview. I’m inspired by your perspective and scholarship.

    My question regarding most responders on this site is, “at what point does faith, personal revelation, and confirmed testimony prevail over speculative conjecture?” For me, the more I exercise faith, the more the mysteries are revealed. If God presented all the facts, without question, knowledge would replace faith. Was that not the Adversaries plan?

  60. GiveCreditWhereDue July 12, 2012 at 2:02 am - Reply

    Well said Living and Learning. The longer I live and the more I experience I gain through trial, Faith is not just believing in things that are not seen, it is a deistic language. It is a concept – a noun. It is a gift which some construe as naiivity and cannot handle. It has become blatantly clear through my recent trial of faith, that faith and love are very probably one and the same.

    The comments on this podcast are testament to that. I am shocked by the lack of love by some commenters. Those with faith are accepting of others views and are generally kind, and those who are angry have faith proportionate to their anger. You test it. It works in all forums. It is as if they are pointing and mocking, with no consideration when they should otherwise be trying to empathically help those who are taken to be deluded. It is this that has been a real tell-tale sign to me which way to go. You really do loose the spirit when you are angry and open yourself to all sorts of other attacks on character. I don’t want to be like that.

    For a few moments here and there in my trial of faith, I have felt a little decieved by the church, but when I get over myself, I find it easy to let it go. I conclude, ‘How else is the church supposed to deal with it? How would I do it, not just thinking of myself but the vast impact it will have on millions of families now and into the future?’ There are so many would-be leaders who simply do not know how to lead.

    Given that it is not clear how the BOM came to be, the church has to depict it somehow. Why not take the clean cut of all images painted by Oliver, Joseph, Lucy etc. Why put an ambiguous foot forward? We have not been decieved by depictions of Joseph reading the plates. That’s how Oliver said it happened. It is only those who live a literal life who have trouble with it and become enangered. Perhaps those who have to continually be told what is right and wrong.

  61. Eddie Argos July 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I don’t understand the whole history behind “occam’s razor” but I think it’s used very poorly by atheists.

  62. Rebecca July 28, 2012 at 11:45 am - Reply

    I approach the “translation” of the Book of Mormon as not a translation at all. I see it as a collaboration between Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon (and others?) that was several months, if not a year or two in the making.

    Joseph, with his charisma, along with Sidney and Oliver, who had the brains and education, created it together. The drama and staging of the translating was just the culmination of their collaboration, not a spontaneous translation at all.

  63. Ariel July 28, 2012 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Brant Gardner argues that the Book of Mormon translation was functional but then proceeds to argue that “horse” doesn’t mean “horse” because the animal doesn’t function as a horse within the text. He thereby refutes his own thesis that the translation was functional. Another example: he says that “dark skins” don’t literally mean “darks skins,” but rather this is a Hebrew idiom meaning something else (he was a little vague as to what it meant). If that’s true, then this is an example of a literal rather than a functional translation which led to confusion on the part of most of the readers who don’t recognize the idiomatic meaning. So, Brant Gardner’s work could benefit from taking a more consistent approach. Is the translation literal or functional? Does he have any criteria for determining which, other than to choose the one that best accommodates his faith and evidence external to the Book of Mormon?

    Here’s a way to recast the question that John kept asking Brant Gardner. Suppose we were to revise the Book of Mormon by deleting the title and all the supernatural parts (including prophecies about America), so as to minimize induction of prejudice. If we were to give this revised version to 100 scholars and ask them to tell us where and when the story probably takes place, what would most of them say? Does anyone really think that any of them would say Mesoamerica?

  64. Alonso Menjivar August 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    From listening and reading Brant Gardner’s works, I have come to the conclusion that his scholarship is very poor. The man needs a few courses on formal logic. I find him making many logical fallacies that it is hard to take him seriously.

  65. Zelph August 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Brant makes some really creative points but there are just way, way too many “horse doesn’t really mean horse” arguments to take him too seriously.

    Thanks John for another great podcast. I really admire the work you create.

  66. Jamie September 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Great interview and I enjoyed listening to a different perspective. There is so much that could be discussed and reading other comments there are some interestingcomments. However i am going to basic and focus on one thought. Brant suggested that the translation of horses was not a literal translation because the bom does not portray them doing horses things, other than eating grass. But in Alma chap 18 and 20it states getting the horses and chariots ready or preparing them. What are the horses being preapered for if it is not to pull the I chariots, which is what horses carried out as a task . in the 19th centuary the word would have been wagon not chariot. if they weren’t being preapered to pull the chariots then what were they being prepared for?

  67. Charles Pettibone December 27, 2018 at 6:05 am - Reply

    As a preface, I’m not a Latter-day Saint and I do not believe the Book of Mormon to be an historical text. John, I appreciate that you gave Brant the opportunity to talk about his work. But I can see why other LDS scholars don’t want to come on- you were pretty aggressive at times, even approaching outright rudeness. I’m sure this isn’t what you intended but the contrast between your interviewing style with someone like Brant and someone like Michael Coe is clear. I really enjoyed your recent interview with Dr. Coe, but you would have never let a believing Mormon get away with saying what he did in his comparison between Islamist terrorism and his interlocutors. In this case, there were times when it was clear that Brant had a reasonably coherent argument but that you simply differed in your considered judgment as to its strength- but you repeatedly pressed him to call it a weak argument, which he obviously did not think it was. I have no problem with this kind of stuff in a debating context, but here when the forum is meant to be reasonably neutral, I think it was out of place.

  68. Robert Jem December 27, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

    BRANT A. GARDNER earned his M.S. in anthropology (specializing in Mesoamerican ethnohistory) from the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of the six-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Kofford Books, 2007). He has presented papers at the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), the Book of Mormon Archaeological Symposium, and Sunstone. His other published works include chapters in Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl and Symbol and Meaning beyond the Closed Community: Essays in Mesoamerican Ideas, and articles in the FARMS Review, Sunstone, and Meridian Magazine. Brant and his wife, Valerie, have four children and eleven grandchildren.
    By the way! The best essay writing service –
    And Happy New Year!

  69. John Holley February 4, 2023 at 5:47 am - Reply

    In Kirtland, Joseph did purposely defraud others by filling chests with wrought iron, then covering them with a 2″ layer of fifty cent coin, to give the appearance their anti-bank was solvent.

    This and land fraud led to such public rage that when discovered, he and Sidney Rigdon fled by night on horseback to Missouri.

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