A More Specific Reply to
Book of Mormon "Problems"
1374 E. Main St.
Lehi, UT 84043
From: PSCF 42 (December 1990): 270-271.
This letter is in response to an article titled "A Biologist Examines the Book of Mormon" by Thomas Key which appeared in the June 1985 edition of this journal.1 The December 1985 issue included a short response by Ellis Davis,2 a Mormon, and a brief rebuttal by Key.3 Key listed, by my count, some 131 specific examples of what he called "a few of the numerous scientific problems in the Book of Mormon."4 Davis' reply commented on some 24 of Key's "problems" in an anecdotal and vague manner, with no citations to the relevant secular or Mormon literature. Key was unimpressed, replying "as I see it, all of the [scientific problems] not discussed and practically all of the ones discussed still stand."5
For my own benefit, I prepared a list of Key's 131 so-called problems and began assessing his argument. The results were striking. Key's "problems" divide rather neatly, in my opinion, into four categories.
The first of these consists of some 42 instances where the Book of Mormon clearly does not say what Key alleged, making his "problem" non-existent. Included in this category is Key's first charge, that "1 Nephi 1:2 and Mosiah 1:4 assert that the native language of the Hebrews between 600 B.C. and 91 B.C. was Egyptian."6 The Book of Mormon says no such thing: all it says is that the authors of the book knew how to write and read Egyptian and it is clear that Hebrew was the language of choice-"And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew..." (Mormon 9:33).7
The second category consists of 17 instances where Key has made a double error-attributing to the book something it does not say, and then presenting a "problem" that examination of the evidence reveals not to be a problem anyway! An example of this is when Key alleged that the Book of Mormon tells of "the ample timber of Arabia"-it doesn't say that-and Key is blithely ignorant of the fact that there are areas of the Arabian peninsula with timber suitable for shipbuilding and used as such for millennia, such as Salalah in the Dhofar region of southernmost Oman, among others.8
The third category comprises another 38 instances where Key is at least partially or possibly wrong based on the evidence. For example, Key contends that there were no bees in the pre-Columbian Americas, when in fact there were several types of bees present, and honey was prized and an important article of trade. 9
Into the fourth category fall some 33 instances where the issues are not "proven" at all, but are subject to debate and uncertainty as in the issue of whether silk was present in the pre-Columbian Americas.10 While these unsettled issues do not confirm the book, neither do they disprove it, any more than the multitude of unsettled issues regarding the Bible prove or disprove it.
It is ironic that this journal, committed to defending the Bible as truth, chose to print Key's ill-informed attack on the Book of Mormon, inasmuch as his work is so akin in spirit to similar works attacking the Bible that have plagued Christians for years.11 Despite his protestations of love for his Mormon friends,12" Key's article shows all the signs of being merely a recitation of items culled from some anti-Mormon publication. I will gladly provide a copy of my fully documented and extensively footnoted study, which runs about 50 pages, to anyone interested enough to contact me.
In conclusion, I have carefully examined every single one of Key's 132 so-called "problems," and find none of them to be significant. In fact, I found that the exercise strongly confirmed my testimony of the Book of Mormon's truthfulness, based in part on previously unknown evidence that has come forth to support the book only after Joseph Smith produced it in 1830. I and many other informed Mormons, including hundreds of Christian ministers who have joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,13 have come to the conclusion that the only plausible explanation for the Book of Mormon is that told by Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is a large and complex volume intended to present edifying spiritual and historical lessons for our day. Intriguing as its historical and cultural circumstances are, the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, is above all a religious testament, another witness to God's concern for his children, and a testimony of his intimate proximity to all who will accept the atonement of Jesus Christ our Savior.
1Key, Thomas D.S. "A Biologist Examines the Book
of Mormon." Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 37 (June
2Davis, Ellis. "Reply to `A Biologist Examines the Book of Mormon.' JASA37 (December 1985): 254-256.
3Key, Thomas D.S. "Dr. Key Replies." JASA" 37 (December 1985): 256.
4Key, (June 1985): 97.
5Key, (December 1985).
6Key, (June 1985): 97.
8Thomas, Bertram. Arabia Felix. New York: Scribner, 1932; pp. 48-49.
9Thompson, J. Eric. Maya History and Religion. Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970 (1976), pp. 152-277. Also see Bernal, Ignacio. The Olmec World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, p. 20.
10Sorenson, John. An Ancient American Setting for the Book Of Mormon Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985. pp. 232.
11Haley, Rev. John W. An Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible 1988. See also Gleason L. Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982.
12Key, (June 1985): 96-97. to Convert." Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1983.