HAD THOMAS STUART FERGUSON ONLY KNOWN

THE DALES' STATISTICAL "PROOF" OF A MESOAMERICAN SETTING FOR THE BOOK OF MORMON

 Critical review in blue by W. Vincent Coon (MS Physics).

Dr. Bruce E Dale, and his son Dr. Brian Dale, recently published an article in Interpreter, A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, titled, "JOSEPH SMITH: THE WORLDS GREATEST GUESSER (A BAYESIAN STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF POSITITVE AND NEGATIVE CORRESPONDENCES BETWEEN THE BOOK OF MORMON AND THE MAYA" (breath). The article claims to produce statistical proof that the Book of Mormon is a historical,  ancient Mesoamerican document. The Dales' credentials are impressive! But their biases, presumptions, and amateur comprehension of LDS scripture warrant scrutiny. Readers impressed with the Dales' article, should ask why such an analysis was not published years ago, and in a recognized scientific journal? Assuming that the Dales' work is on solid ground, surely, Thomas Ferguson's convictions could have been saved from Mesoamerican ruin!

JOSEPH SMITH: THE WORLD’S GREATEST GUESSER (A BAYESIAN STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE CORRESPONDENCES BETWEEN THE BOOK OF MORMON AND THE MAYA)

Bruce E. Dale and Brian Dale

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 32 (2019): 77-186

 

Abstract: Dr. Michael Coe is a prominent Mesoamerican scholar and author of a synthesis and review of ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures entitled The Maya.1 Dr. Coe is also a prominent skeptic of the Book of Mormon. However, there is in his book strong evidence that favors the Book of Mormon, which Dr. Coe has not taken into account. This article analyzes that evidence, using Bayesian statistics. We apply a strongly skeptical prior assumption that the Book of Mormon “has little to do with early Indian cultures,” as Dr. Coe claims. We then compare 131 separate positive correspondences or points of evidence between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe’s book. We also analyze negative points of evidence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, between the Book of Mormon and a 1973 Dialogue article written by Dr. Coe, and between the Book of Mormon and a series of Mormon Stories podcast interviews given by Dr. Coe to Dr. John Dehlin. After using the Bayesian methodology to analyze both positive and negative correspondences, we reach an enormously stronger and very positive conclusion. There is overwhelming evidence that the Book of Mormon has physical, political, geographical, religious, military, technological, and cultural roots in ancient Mesoamerica. As a control, we have also analyzed two other books dealing with ancient American Indians: View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. We compare both books with The Maya using the same statistical methodology and demonstrate that this methodology [Page 78] leads to rational conclusions about whether or not such books describe peoples and places similar to those described in The Maya.

The ancient American setting of the Book of Mormon is a subject of debate and discussion. The authentic literary setting of the Book of Mormon is not clearly set in Mesoamerica. Among the prominent skeptics of the Book of Mormon is Dr. Michael D. Coe, the Charles J. McCurdy Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University.2 In an article published in Dialogue in 1973, Dr. Coe summarized his opinion regarding an ancient American setting for the Book of Mormon in these words: “The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 bc and ad 421 presented in the book has little to do with early Indian cultures as we know them, in spite of much wishful thinking.”3

Beyond this article, Dr. Coe does not seem to have written anything else about the Book of Mormon. An extensive review of his published papers and books using Google Scholar found only this 1973 Dialogue article that deals with the Book of MormonHowever, in a series of three podcast interviews with John Dehlin in 2011, Dr. Coe strongly reinforced his essentially negative view of the historicity of the Book of Mormon.4 Dr. Coe gave three more podcast interviews to Dr. Dehlin in 2018 in which he repeated many of his earlier criticisms of the Book of Mormon and provided some new ones.5 According to Dr. Coe, “99% of everything that the Book of Mormon has as details is false.”6

Dr. Coe is obviously not a partisan advocate for the Book of Mormon. In fact, he cannot be. He doesn’t know enough about the Book of Mormon to offer a valid scholarly opinion one way or the other. He read the Book of Mormon only once, more than 45 years ago.7 On the other hand, one doesn't have to be very knowledgeable to be partisan.

The late Dr. Michael D. Coe claimed he researched the Book of Mormon enough to justify his 1973 Dialogue article, "MORMONS & ARCHAEOLOGY: AN OUTSIDE VIEW".

"Members of the faith", wrote Coe, "have often accused outside critics of ignorance, and often rightly so, on the grounds that almost none of them have ever read the Book of Mormon, and are unacquainted with Mormon history, values, and scholarship. While not myself a believer in the Mormon faith, I should warn readers that I have tried not to commit these sins of omission."

In preparing his Dialogue article, Coe consulted with secular authorities on the subject. But Coe added a curious disclaimer in the footnotes of his article, exonerating certain authorities from "errors of fact and opinion that might appear in it." If he knew there might be problems in his article, why didn't he have authorities make the needed prepublication corrections?

What possible errors could Coe have introduced?

For one thing, Coe repeatedly confused the original literary setting of the Book of Mormon (a limited geography, according to the text) with an exaggerated hemispheric geography (hear for instance 2011 Podcast Part 1 15:30 – 15:59; 18:01-18:46; 52:42-53:50), like the one foisted by Apostle Orson Pratt. Elder Pratt unjustifiably spread his Mound-builder geography over North and South America.

Coe knew perfectly well that mainstream American History and Literature authorities place the Book of Mormon in the North American Mound-builder milieu of Joseph Smith's own time and country. (Dialogue article, 2018 Podcast Part 3 38:30-42:57) This is why Coe never claimed that the original literary setting of the Book of Mormon (1830) was set in Mesoamerica.

Coe claimed that Mesoamerica was where Joseph Smith placed Nephite real-estate after reading John Lloyd Stephens' two volume bestseller, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán (1841). (2018 Podcast Part 1 30:47-34:25; 36:00-46:28, 2018 Podcast Part 3 15:26-16:27)

According to Coe, Joseph Smith changed his mind about Book of Mormon geography. In making this claim, Coe injected more "errors of fact and opinion", errors that mainstream American History and Literature authorities could take issue with.

"They weren't in South America, as he [allegedly Joseph Smith] originally thought;" said Coe in a PBS interview, "they were in Central America and neighboring Mexico."

But there is no verifiable statement by Joseph Smith placing Zarahemla, or any other Book of Mormon city, or land in Central or in South America.

Where did Coe get the idea that Joseph first claimed a South American setting for the Book of Mormon? Who first proposed a hemispheric geography for the Book of Mormon? The exuberant young missionary Orson Pratt certainly made this claim as early as 1832; but he did not attribute his geographic notion to Joseph Smith. (Roper, Matthew, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations”, BYU Maxwell Institute, 2004)

Other brethren, contemporaries of Orson, had other geographic ideas.

The Prophet Joseph once said that he could "keep a secret till Doomsday." (J.S. History 1834-1836, pg. 46) There were topics on which he did not directly inform his brethren. Joseph revealed enough in LDS scripture to settle the covenant land setting of the Book of Mormon. All that was required for members of the Church to get a clue, was for them to study and ponder their scriptures, giving weight to scripture above other published works and opinions - even above the opinions of church leaders.

But Joseph was surrounded by zealous, argumentative, wannabe authorities. He allowed his unstudied, speculating brethren, whose "minds" had been "darkened because" they had "treated lightly" the sacred things they had received (including "the Book of Mormon", LDS Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-59), to propose all sorts of contradictory, far flung geographies. This they did, with well meaning, opportunistic views to missionary work throughout the Americas.

Missionary minded Orson Pratt essentially admitted in 1872 that the South American landing (for the Book of Mormon patriarch Lehi and company) was supposition not revelation. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, pg. 325)

In 1879 Orson's speculative geography ideas were published as footnotes in an LDS edition of the Book of Mormon (removed from later editions).

By the late 1880s Church luminaries Franklin D. Richards, James A. Little, and George Q. Cannon published unsubstantiated claims that Joseph the Seer revealed various aspects of a South American setting.

President Cannon directed the following, well meaning piece of propaganda to the youth of the Church:

"... it is understood that the Prophet Joseph Smith communicated to some individual or individuals that it [the Book of Mormon's river Sidon] was the stream now known as the River Magdalena [of Colombia]. It is also known that the landing place of Lehi and his family was near what is now known as Valparaiso, in the Republic of Chili [Chile]" (George Q. Cannon, "Topics of the Times", Juvenile Instructor, July 15, 1887, Vol. 22, No. 14, pg. 221)

Yet Apostle Orson Pratt had earlier, in an 1879 LDS Edition footnote, indicated that it was only "Supposed" that the river Sidon was the Magdalena River. The Magdalena River idea is not clearly based on any revelation, or prophetic pronouncement by Joseph Smith:

Alma 2, 1879 Ed. footnotes

1879 LDS Edition footnote to Alma 2:15. Apostle Orson Pratt, and others supposed the Book of Mormon's "river Sidon" to be the Magdalena River of Colombia.

By the 1890s these claims were called into question by Elder B. H. Roberts, and further debunked in 1938 by Gospel Doctrine Committee Chairman and scientist Frederick J. Pack.

Though Coe emphatically denied that the Book of Mormon was a work of ancient American history, Coe appears to have been shrewdly partisan in ardently attributing to Joseph Smith a Mesoamerican setting (admittedly not the original setting of the Book of Mormon).

Coe probably recognized that Mormons have a hard time establishing an objective hierarchy of authority, when it comes to pitting their scriptures (which few study consistently) against the traditions and opinions of their leaders (which they are quick to think of as founts of continuing revelation).

Coe wanted very much to further the good archaeological work that came from Mormon participation and funding in Mesoamerica. He didn't care if archaeologists who were Mormons, eventually lost their faith, so long as they did good archaeology in a place where Coe said Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon took place. (2018 Podcast Part 3 48:08-52:00; 56:52-58:40)

Had Coe been less focused on his professional interests, he might have better seen, and said something about the difficulties of attributing to Joseph Smith a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon.

Coe instead plowed ahead, highlighting in his Dialogue article "Louse E. Hills of the Reorganized Church in Independence, a man whose contributions to the subject have been systematically ignored by Salt Lake City circles." Coe might have explained that Hills was the true father of the quasi-limited Mesoamerican setting, not Joseph Smith.

Hills studied the Book of Mormon enough to see that its principal American lands were quite localized, limited in scope - certainly not spread over the Western Hemisphere as less studied Mormon leaders had taught and forged into tradition.

The question Coe should have asked is, why did it take an RLDS scholar to first propose a quasi-limited Mesoamerican geography for the Book of Mormon?

The answer is that Hills, being RLDS, did not follow Joseph Smith's teachings on baptism for the dead. Baptism for the dead was not practiced in Hills' church. Baptism for the dead is the subject of LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128. This is the same section of LDS scripture in which the Prophet Joseph (rather "the Lord") reveals the location of Cumorah in western NY. Hills did not feel doctrinally obligated to accept Joseph Smith's 1842 revelatory epistle. Unlike LDS authorities, Hills felt free to place Cumorah closer to those sensational discoveries made by Stephens and Catherwood - those "wonderful ruins" - never mind that even Stephens had concluded, and urged that the ruins were relatively recent.

Truth is, Hills quasi-limited geography was not ignored by Salt Lake City circles. Hills' work was foolishly commandeered by Utah Mormons who saw fit not to publically credit Hills right away. The apostate Mesoamerican Cumorah idea, promulgated among LDS Mormons, in fact, drew the ire of some LDS General Authorities.

The term "quasi-limited" is more appropriate, because so called "limited" Central and South American geographic models still have the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni traveling thousands of miles (inconsistent with scripture) to bury the gold plates in Mound-builder country, western NY. (Mormon 6:4-5; see also 1837 Edition)

So where did Coe get the idea that Joseph Smith had later claimed a Central American setting for the Book of Mormon?

Lets look at a statement, ostensibly made by Joseph Smith, that appears in History of the Church, Volume 5, pg. 44. The entry, under Saturday, 25, 1842 reads:

"... Stephens and Catherwood have succeeded in collecting in the interior of America a large amount of relics of the Nephites, or the ancient inhabitants of America treated of in the Book of Mormon, which relics have recently been landed in New York."

Coe could have argued that this statement made his case. But there is a problem with the HC statement. Its not authentic. It was inserted by a well meaning, later-day somebody on a mission to improve (redact) Church History. There is no corresponding mention of Stephens, or his works in Joseph Smith's journal - none. The Prophet's epistle indicating the Finger Lakes location of Cumorah, on the other hand, is there in the Prophet's journal. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

What about those newspaper articles that Joseph Smith supposedly wrote on Stephens' discoveries? You mean the touted, unsigned Times and Seasons articles that were published during the Prophets public absence? Well, what you should really be interested in, is Joseph Smith's "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" article which he signed "- ED", and published prior to his public absence?

The "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" article clearly shows that Joseph Smith had a North American Mound-builder setting in mind for the Book of Mormon. Yes, Joseph appears to agree with Josiah Priest, Ethan Smith and other authors of his day, that mound building peoples (Book of Mormon peoples to Joseph) eventually migrated southward to Mexico, Central America and beyond. But Joseph Smith never actually said that Book of Mormon real-estate resides in these distant countries.

It just so happens that "the word of the Lord" epistle signed by the Prophet in hiding, revealing the NY location of Cumorah, was published in the same Times and Seasons newspaper edition which featured the sensational, unsigned "ZARAHEMLA" piece - a piece which Coe claimed shows that Joseph Smith changed his mind about Book of Mormon geography.

Coe made it sound like Joseph Smith unambiguously stated that Zarahemla was in Central America. Coe alleged that later leaders of the LDS, and RLDS churches "generally assumed that the locale of most of the cities in the Book of Mormon was to the south of the Isthmus of Panama, in contradiction to the stated belief of Joseph Smith ..." (Coe, Dialogue article)

But Coe's assertion has problems:

For one thing, the anonymous, October 1, 1842, "ZARAHEMLA" article does not mention Mexico's Isthmus of Tehuantepec. "Where was or where is Zarahemla?" writes Coe, "It's a land that is said to be right near a kind of isthmus, which has water on both sides" (PBS interview)

Also, the very apostles who were in charge of the Nauvoo printing establishment at the time the anonymous extract articles on Stephens' 1841 bestseller were published (articles including the unsigned, "ZARAHEMLA" piece); these same apostles were senior leaders of the LDS Church at the time the 1879 LDS Edition of the Book of Mormon came out (with its South American Zarahemla in the footnotes). These brethren knew who actually wrote the sensational newspaper articles doting on Stephens discoveries.

Orson Pratt had been excommunicated just before the unsigned T&S articles were published. Like Orson Pratt's model, the brethren who wrote the "ZARAHEMLA" piece had an exaggerated geography in mind. Like Pratt, they were unstudied enough in the Book of Mormon to miss any conflict between their far-flung geographic speculations and the revealed location of Cumorah in western NY.

Like Orson Pratt, the authors of the "ZARAHEMLA" piece considered Panama's "Isthmus of Darien" as the Book of Mormon's "small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward", and implied as much in their articles. But the publishing apostles in Nauvoo seem to have confused the Book of Mormon's "narrow strip of wilderness" south of Zarahemla, with the "small neck of land" north of Zarahemla, and thus saw no problem speculating that Zarahemla could be among the ruins documented by Stephens and Catherwood.

These brethren did not knowingly go against Joseph Smith's opinion later in life; for the simple fact that Joseph didn't write the "ZARAHEMLA" piece - they did. They were the ones in charge of the Nauvoo printing establishment during Joseph's absence in the fall of 1842. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 127:1) This is why when John Taylor later referenced Joseph Smith relative to John Lloyd Stephens' discoveries, he quoted from (paraphrased) Joseph's signed, July 1842, "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" editorial - and not any of the unsigned, Fall 1842 extracts on Incidents of Travel in Central America. (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, pg. 357; see also Journal of Discourses 5:240-241, September 13, 1857)

The brethren who wrote the "ZARAHEMLA" piece (adding a disclaimer that Coe fails to mention) were clearly ignorant at the time, of certain details in both the Book of Mormon and Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America.

When they finally came to realize that the "small neck of land" is north, not south of Zarahemla, they gave their support to reinstated Apostle Orson Pratt's exaggerated geography. Hence the 1879 LDS Edition footnotes. These  brethren would not have knowingly contradicted Joseph Smith. They were simply members, and leaders of a Church "under condemnation" for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously enough.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, in fact, a hybrid or compound church. (2 Nephi 2:11) The Church of Christ part was restored to earth in 1830. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 20:1, 61, 70-71, 80-81) The Church of the Latter-day Saints was named years later. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4)

The Church of Jesus Christ is an eternal family consisting of an innumerable company of divine beings, and including a finite number of mortals on earth. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 78:14, 21; 88:4-5, Hebrews 12:22-23)

The Church of the Latter-day Saints is an earth based organization having divine authority, but, as its title implies, it is limited in time, and much of its organization is temporal. (Ephesians 4:12-13) It should be obvious, that aside from its divine authority, the Church of the Latter-day Saints tends to be as true as the latter-day saints. (Helaman 3:33; 4:11) Hence the Lord's favorable statement towards "the church" in LDS Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 (1831), does not contradict the statement of "condemnation" of "the whole church" in LDS Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-57 (1832).

Strictly speaking, a "Latter-day Saint", who is not a "Mormon", can be defined as one whose religion is solely based on revealed LDS scripture. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 68:4) Just calling yourself a "Latter-day Saint" doesn't necessarily make you one.

Sadly, church leaders still got things wrong in going along with Orson Pratt's exaggerated geography:

Omni, 1879 Ed. footnotes

Omni 1:12-13, 1879 LDS Edition footnotes

Alma 22, 1879 Ed. footnotes

Alma 22:31, 1879 LDS Edition footnotes

In his 1841 bestseller, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, John Lloyd Stephens actually discussed Mound-builder antiquities discovered in his own country. Stephens' didn't just deal with the "comparative modern" ruins of Central America, he briefly elucidated on the history and antiquities of temperate North America as well. Stephens wrote:

"…a new flood of light has poured upon the world, and the field of American antiquities has been opened…In our own country, the opening of forests and the discovery of tumuli or mounds and fortifications, extending in ranges from the lakes through the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, mummies in a cave in Kentucky, the inscription on the rock at Dighton…the ruins of walls and a great city in Arkansas and Wisconsin Territory, had suggested…the strong belief that powerful and populous nations had occupied it and had passed away, whose histories are entirely unknown." (Incidents of Travel in Central America, 97-98)

Unlike the mysterious Mound-builder antiquities of North America, the Central American ruins which Stephens and Catherwood documented, were not, according to Stephens, the work of a vanished people, or very ancient.

Stephens' conclusions that the Mesoamerican ruins were relatively recent, in fact, agreed with what Ethan Smith and Josiah Priest had already published about the age of Mesoamerican ruins they knew about. Stephens devoted an entire chapter in Incidents of Travel in Central America to the conclusion that the hewn stone ruins were relatively recent works – not truly ancient, and that they were built by native Central Americans, not some lost race:

"…they are not the works of people who have passed away, and whose history has become unknown;" wrote Stephens, "but…they were constructed by the races who occupied the country at the time of the invasion by the Spaniards, or of some not very distant progenitors." (Incidents of Travel in Central America, Vol. II, Chapter XXVI, “COMPARATIVE MODERN DATE OF RUINS”, pp. 442-443)

Joseph Smith thoroughly read Stephens two-volume bestseller. Joseph could not have missed Stephens’ conclusions that the Central American stone ruins were not very old, and that they were not the work of an extinct people.

There is no indication that Joseph Smith thought Stephens was wrong.

In a letter to John M. Bernhisel dated November 16, 1841, in the handwriting of John Taylor, the Prophet praised Stephens' book saying that it "corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprehensive."

Joseph Smith's reference to "this country" (in his letter of appreciation for Stephens' book) in all likelihood refers to his own country, and not Central America; in as much as Stephens’ book discusses "a new flood of light" pertaining to "American antiquities" found in his "own country" (the United States of America).

It would have been inconsistent of Joseph Smith to have alleged that the Mesoamerican stone ruins, documented by Stephens and Catherwood, were from Book of Mormon times; that they were the works of extinct Nephites, that Stephens was incorrect in his conclusions about their age, and who built them. But this is what the less studied brethren running the Nauvoo printing establishment were in essence saying in their sensational, unsigned articles.

Some months after reading Stephens' bestseller, Joseph Smith published several signed editorials (Spring and Summer of 1842) on North American evidence for the Book of Mormon. These articles followed the topics highlighted in Stephens' brief but accurate historical outline of "American antiquities" – antiquities found in what Stephens referred to as "our own country" (the United States). Stephens' list would guide Joseph Smith's signed editorials drawing from details in Josiah Priest's American Antiquities and Discoveries in the West:

Coe's "errors of fact and opinion" make me wonder if he actually read the unsigned "ZARAHEMLA" piece, or if he just relied on others (including Central American setting propagandists) to make the case for him. Is that why Coe matter-of-factly stated in his PBS interview that "Joseph Smith was absolutely certain from his reading of Stephens and Catherwood that Maya cities were where Zarahemla was, ... and he flatly states it."

Fact is, the anonymous authors of the "ZARAHEMLA" piece (misattributed to Joseph Smith) added this disclaimer:

"We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon."

The Dales want readers to believe that Coe was ignorant in regards to the Book of Mormon, and intellectually non-partisan. But a closer look reveals that for those involved in placing the Book of Mormon's setting anywhere but near scriptural Cumorah, there is partisan ignorance all around, and not just on the part of the infidel.

Whether couched in an obtuse hemispheric geography, or confined to a more distilled geography like Hills', Mesoamerican "Book of Mormon geography" is a Mormon misadventure born out of treating the Book of Mormon "lightly", trying to ride the coattail of a 19th century bestseller.

Dr. Coe’s synthesis and review of Mesoamerican archaeology thus provides an excellent test of the Book of Mormon. Dr. Coe’s book The Maya makes a number of factual statements about the physical, political, [Page 79]geographical, religious, and cultural aspects of ancient Mesoamerica. Given his very negative view of the Book of Mormon, it is impossible to claim that the facts Dr. Coe selected might intentionally favor the Book of Mormon.

There are strong reasons for suspecting ancient Mesoamerica as the physical location of Book of Mormon events in the New World.8 The Dales do not cite a mainstream academic authority to back up their "strong reasons for suspecting" a Mesoamerican setting. Dr. Thomas S. Garlinghouse is one of many objective authorities who recognize that the Book of Mormon fits the North American Mound-builder literary genre. See "Revisiting The Mound-Builder Controversy". If so (if the Mesoamerica suspicion is true), Dr. Coe’s book should correspond with at least some of the statements asserted as fact in the Book of Mormon, taking into account that the objective of the Book of Mormon is to testify of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is not primarily about the history, wars, geography, culture, etc., of Book of Mormon peoples, although it nonetheless manages to tell us a great deal about these topics. Likewise, we do not expect a ;book about Italian cuisine to tell us much about Italian architecture or the politics of the Roman Empire, although it may incidentally contain a good bit of such information in context.

It is common to suggest that information in the Book of Mormon about its American setting is merely incidental. Its common to use the non-scriptural term "geography" in describing Book of Mormon lands, hence, so called "Book of Mormon geography". But scripture describes a covenant "land of liberty", "choice above all other lands" to God; a land whose general location, attendant blessing and curse, were never intended to be controversial, or uncertain to heirs and occupants of the land, to those who would come to know, and believe the scripture. (2 Nephi 1:5-7; 10:10-15, 19-20, Ether 2:7-12, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 10:45-51)

If the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be, then it is a work of fiction. It is simply false, as Dr. Coe obviously believes it to be. There are no other rational options. If the Book of Mormon is a piece of fiction, then some person or persons in the early 1800s made it up. Given their simplistic dichotomy that the book is either true or fiction, one wonders if the Dales are liable to lose their faith in the Bible, should they someday become convinced that the book of Daniel, and the book of Job, for instance, are not entirely historical, and that these books were composed later than their respective literary settings. If the Book of Mormon is fiction, then its author was guessing every time he wrote as fact something about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. The Dales' generalization that "its author was guessing every time" is false. The Book of Mormon includes many facts about the ancient Mound-builders, and facts about ancient peoples of the Bible that were known, or believed before the Book of Mormon's publication. The point is, there was a milieu of information to draw upon by artifice, or inspiration. This means we can compare reasonably these “guesses” in the Book of Mormon with the facts presented by Dr. Coe in The Maya.

Thus we take the statements of fact in The Maya as essentially true, and we compare the “guesses” in the Book of Mormon with these statements of fact. To repeat, for purposes of our Bayesian statistical analysis, we accept the universe of facts summarized by Dr. Coe in The Maya as essentially true. We then rate the value of each “guess” in the Book of Mormon (or statement of fact) as evidence using three criteria:

1.     Is it specific? Is it clear that the guess in the Book of Mormon is directly comparable to a statement of fact in The Maya?

2.     Is it specific and detailed? Are there important details in each guess in the Book of Mormon that correspond to at least some of the details given in The Maya?

3.     Is it specific, detailed, and unusual? Is the statement of fact in the Book of Mormon (or “guess”) unusual in the sense that someone writing the book in the early 1800s would probably not have the background or knowledge to include [Page 80]this statement of fact in his work of “fiction,” that is, the Book of Mormon?

We assign a number to the quality or strength of the evidence for (or against) the hypothesis as follows: The numbers 2, 10, and 50 are the strength of the evidence for the hypothesis, that is, the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. The numbers 0.5, 0.1, and 0.02 are the corresponding strength of the evidence against the hypothesis; that is, these are points of evidence that support the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Illustrative examples are given below following a brief introduction to statistics in general and Bayesian statistics in particular.

The Dales have here conflated two issues which I recommend testing separately. The issues they have fused together are:

(1) The literary setting of the Book of Mormon - where do the best sources (e.g. LDS scripture, and verifiable statements by Joseph Smith) place Book of Mormon events?

(2) The historicity of the Book of Mormon - is the book historically true?

The Dales have set out to prove by a singular statistical feat that the Book of Mormon is not only set in Mesoamerica, but that it is historical to boot. They seem to have convinced themselves that conflating the two issues is justified. We should keep in mind, however, that a work of literature can have a real geographic setting, and not be entirely historical. In fact, this is what some scholars say about the Bible. The Dales may be relying on seemingly impressive end results to justify their initial premise that the two issues can be conflated. The concern is, that this ends justifies the means approach is a set up for self deception.

Insights from Basic Statistics

Statistics describes the probability (likelihood) of events occurring within a given population. A population is a set of related items or events of interest for some test we wish to perform. In this case, the population we wish to test is the factual statements in the Book of Mormon and corresponding factual statements in the book The Maya. We wish to determine whether or not the Book of Mormon agrees or disagrees in a statistically significant way with what is known about ancient Mesoamerica as summarized in Dr. Coe’s book The Maya.

One of the simplest illustrations of probability is given by rolling dice. The statistical population of interest here is the possible values (1 through 6) on the six sides of the die. Since a die has six possible values, then there is a one in six chance (16.66666% of the time) that the value 1 will turn up when the die is cast, and the same probability exists for each of the other values 2 through 6. If two dice are thrown, then each die is independent of the other, and there is still only a one in six chance that any given value will turn up for that die when it is rolled.

Here is a key point for statistical analysis: probabilities of individual, statistically independent events must be multiplied together to calculate the probability of all the individual events occurring simultaneously.

The probability of each individual die coming up with a 1 is 16.666 … %, but the probability of rolling “snake eyes,” or two dice coming up with a 1 on the same roll (simultaneously), is not 16.6%. It is 16.6% (0.166) times 16.6% (0.166), which is about 0.02756, or approximately 2.76% of the time. So, roughly three times out of a hundred times, snake eyes will result when two dice are rolled simultaneously. Further, if we roll three dice at the same time, what will be the probability of rolling three 1s? By the formula, it is 0.166 x 0.166 x 0.166, which is about 0.00457, or about five times in a thousand rolls of the dice.

[Page 81]How about three different events, each with different individual probabilities, all occurring together? Let’s say the first event has a probability of 1 in a hundred (0.01), the probability of the second event is one in a thousand (0.001), and the third is one in ten (0.1). What is the probability of all three of these events occurring simultaneously if they are part of the same population? It is 0.01 x 0.001 x 0.1 = 0.000001 or 1 in a million. The probability that all these events will not occur together is 1.0 minus the probability that they all will occur together. In this example, it is 1.0 minus 0.000001 or 0.999999, or 99.9999%, or 999,999 to 1.

In the real world, we usually don’t experience the mathematically well-defined probabilities that rolling dice offers. Instead, we usually deal with “odds” or “likelihoods,” many of which are somewhat subjective. By subjective, we mean the person performing the test must decide for him or herself what constitutes strong evidence, what evidence is positive, and what evidence is supportive but not particularly strong. These are the three relative strengths of evidence summarized above: (1) specific (Bayesian “supportive”), (2) specific and detailed, (Bayesian “positive”) and (3) specific, detailed, and unusual (Bayesian “strong”).

Bayesian Statistics: A Rational, Scientific Approach to Weighing Evidence

Bayesian statistics provides one approach to the situation in which mathematically well-defined probabilities do not exist.9 In fact, Dr. Coe’s book refers to the use of Bayesian statistics to weight and thereby includes or excludes specific pieces of archaeological data.10 In the Bayesian approach, the strength of each piece of evidence is the likelihood ratio, which is the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.

The Bayesian approach is a powerful and general tool for evaluating hypotheses and then rationally updating one’s prior beliefs in the face of the new evidence. The Bayesian approach has been applied to diverse topics [Page 82]ranging from astronomy11 to zoology.12 Of particular interest here, Bayesian methods have been applied to analyze historical document collections,13 to historical and biblical archaeology,14 and to the detection of fraud and deception.15

We can assign a likelihood ratio or “Bayes factor” to each statement of fact given in the Book of Mormon and compare these statements with corresponding statements of fact in The Maya. This likelihood ratio is the strength of each individual statement of fact as a piece of evidence. It is calculated as the probability that the statement is true if whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing divided by the probability that the statement is true if instead the Book of Mormon is fact-based and essentially historical. The likelihood ratio expressed in this way therefore represents the strength of the evidence in support of the hypothesis, that is, against the factual nature of the Book of Mormon.

Note: only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis; on statements of fact where one or the other book is silent, we cannot factually assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so.

At first glance this method may appear similar to the discredited method of parallels; however, the Bayesian approach overcomes the weaknesses of the method of parallels. First, the Bayes factor specifically accounts for the possibility that the evidence may have occurred under the other hypotheses. This is accomplished in the denominator of the Bayes factor. Second, by using a numerical Bayes factor, the person performing the analysis explicitly estimates the strength of [Page 83]any given piece of evidence. Ultimately, the Bayes method resembles similarity- based techniques for detecting deception in online reviews.16

Once we have chosen the likelihood of guessing correctly about each individual fact, we then multiply the likelihoods of guessing right about each of these specific facts. The number obtained by multiplying all the individual likelihoods together is the strength of the total body of evidence that whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing about these fact claims.

Thus the overall Bayes factor or likelihood ratio is the weighted strength of the evidence, and it tells us how much we should change our prior beliefs based on the new evidence. We start with some prior odds, representing our beliefs about the hypothesis before seeing the evidence. In order to be rational and intellectually honest, once we have seen the new evidence, we must update our beliefs accordingly to obtain our posterior odds, or the odds that the hypothesis is true after accounting for the strength of the new evidence, both pro and con, and our previous beliefs expressed as the prior odds.

The Bayesian approach to data analysis is frequently used in medical tests.17 For example, if a disease is somewhat rare, then a randomly selected individual might have “skeptical prior odds” of 1:1000 against them having the disease. If the test has a likelihood ratio of 100 (a good medical test for screening), then our posterior odds following a positive test for the disease would be 1:1000 x 100 = 1:10 against the person actually having the disease. In other words, the individual piece of evidence given by the test changed our minds substantially (from 1:1000 against to 1:10 against); but because we were initially quite skeptical (1:1000) that the person had that particular rare disease, we still think it is more likely they do not have the disease (1:10). A rational doctor would then call for a more definitive test to give additional information, and we would continue to update our opinion as we received new information.

[Page 84]Bayesian Analysis of the Facts Given in the Book of Mormon and The Maya

For the subject of this article — the factual nature of the Book of Mormon — we choose to start with extremely large “skeptical prior odds” against the book. We allow only a 1:1,000,000,000 (one in a billion) prior odds that the Book of Mormon is a historical document. Here the Dales pull a number out of the air which may seem to generously favor the initial belief that the Book of Mormon is fiction. Thus we start with odds of 1,000,000,000:1 (a billion to one) that the statements of fact in the Book of Mormon are just guesses made by whoever wrote the book.

With a wave of the hand, the Dales tacitly treat the Mesoamerican setting presumption as a foregone conclusion. It is not.

Based on travel times and other related facts in the book, we may conclude that the principal lands of the Book of Mormon are proximal, limited in size, relatively near to each other, certainly not spread over the Western Hemisphere as some Mormon (LDS and RLDS) traditions posited. The Book of Mormon land Cumorah could not have been many hundred of miles removed from the land of Zarahemla, certainly not thousands of miles. Don't forget about the search party of forty three sent out from the land of Nephi in the south. They thought they had found the ruin of Zarahemla when they were in the region of Cumorah. (Mormon 6:4-6, Ether 9:3; 15:8-11, Mosiah 8:7-8; 22:25-26, )

We should ask what the prior odds are that the authentic literary setting of the Book of Mormon is not set in Mesoamerica.

The case can be made that the prior odds that the literary setting is actually placed in Joseph Smith's own country, is higher than a billion to one, because LDS scripture out right gives us the general location of the Book of Mormon land Cumorah. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20, Mormon 6:4-5, See also 1837 Edition) LDS scripture indicates that the covenant land of the Book of Mormon includes parts of what is now Pennsylvania. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 10:45-51) Moreover, LDS scripture actually identifies certain native Americans living near the Great Lakes (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 32:1-2; History of the Church 1:118-120), and others in the North American Heartland, as Book of Mormon people. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 28:8-9; 84:2-3, Ether 13:6, 8)

No explicit mention is made in LDS scripture of Mesoamerican or South American peoples, though Joseph Smith appears to have agreed with Josiah Priest and Ethan Smith that migrations from the north occurred in more recent centuries.

This means that even before we look at the new evidence, we are very confident that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. We would require cumulative supporting evidence with a likelihood of 0.000000001 (one in a billion) in order to change our beliefs to the point where we would consider “even odds” (1:1) that the book is fact-based. We would require evidence even stronger than that to consider it likely or be confident that the Book of Mormon is not a work of fiction, that is, that it is an accurate historical record, based substantially on facts.

It is a common error (deliberate or otherwise) to consider only a few pieces of evidence when examining the truth or falsity of a given hypothesis. In the extreme, this practice is called cherry-picking. In cherry-picking, evidence against one’s existing hypothesis is deliberately excluded from consideration. This practice is, of course, dishonest. Yet the Dales exclusively pick a quasi-limited Mesoamerican setting. They omit key references to LDS scripture, and statements by Joseph Smith which conflict with their paradigm. It is another common error to consider some pieces of relevant evidence as having infinite weight or having zero weight compared to other pieces of evidence. This practice is irrational and unscientific.

These practices of cherry-picking or overweighting/underweighting evidence cannot be allowed in scientific enquiry. They are neither rational nor honest. We must consider all relevant evidence if we hope to make honest, rational decisions. Also, no piece of evidence has infinite weight. There are always limitations on the strength of any individual piece of evidence. Assuming a piece of evidence has infinite weight is equivalent to saying the question is already decided and is therefore beyond the scope of further rational, honest enquiry.

The value of Bayesian statistics is that it provides a disciplined, formal way of bringing available evidence to bear on a given question. The evidence is weighted according to its probative value and the cumulative strength of the evidence for and against the hypothesis being tested. The hypothesis (the question of interest to us) in this analysis is the factual nature of the Book of Mormon. The question of interest is: “Is the Book of Mormon a work of fiction, or is it a factual, historical document according to the cumulative, relevant evidence summarized in The Maya?”

[Page 85]To perform our analysis, we assign one of three likelihood ratios to testable facts or “correspondences” between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe’s book. The facts, taken from Dr. Coe’s book, are compared with statements of fact in the Book of Mormon. Recall that the hypothesis we are testing is that the Book of Mormon is false, and we assume a billion to one prior odds in favor of the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is indeed false.

Pieces of evidence in favor of the hypothesis, that is, that the Book of Mormon is false, are weighted by their “likelihood ratio,” which is a positive value greater than one (either 50, 10 or 2). This likelihood ratio is multiplied by the skeptical prior of a billion to one to increase the weight of the evidence against the Book of Mormon.

Points of evidence in favor of the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon (called the converse hypothesis) are weighted by their likelihood ratio, a positive decimal fraction (0.5, 0.1 or 0.02). These fractions are multiplied by the skeptical prior of a billion to one to decrease the weight of the evidence against the Book of Mormon, in other words, to provide evidence for the factual nature of the Book of Mormon.

We should statistically test for the authentic literary setting of the Book of Mormon separate from testing its historicity:

Numerical evidentiary weights against a Mesoamerican literary setting for the Book of Mormon:

STRONG = 50

Positive = 10

Supportive = 2

 

Numerical evidentiary weights in favor of a Mesoamerican literary setting for the Book of Mormon:

Supportive = ½ = 0.5

Positive = 1/10 = 0.1

STRONG = 1/50 = 0.02

 

It is better to divide the problem into two separate statistical tests. These tests do not have to be confined to a comparison between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. For evidence, its ok to reference LDS Scripture and works from the Mound-builder genre etc:

Bayesian Weights

 

To illustrate, here are three examples, one for each likelihood ratio, in favor of the converse hypothesis; that is, in favor of the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon.

Specific correspondences: 0.5 (Bayesian supportive evidence for the converse hypothesis). The author of the Book of Mormon might have learned this fact by study or experience, but it is not obvious: for example, the fact that people eat food. We aren’t impressed by the fact that someone ate dinner, but if we know they ate a specific kind of food on a specific day as a religious observance, that has value as evidence. For example we learn that the Book of Mormon's American Israelites grew barley, wheat and grapes (for wine). This promised land produce was essential to keeping the seasonal ordinances of Torah (the Law of Moses). Ancient Israelite ordinances were set in particular seasons of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. Moreover, it was claimed that Vikings discovered grapes and self-sown wheat growing in Vinland (North America). None of these claims support ancient Mesoamerica. All of these claims fit a near Cumorah setting for the principle lands of the Book of Mormon. These considerations deserve at least a weight of 10 in the authentic literary setting test, if not more. As for the historicity test, its less clear to me that these considerations support either a fictional or a historical case. It seems that arguments can be made either way. One example is the practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities described in Dr. Coe’s book and also in the Book of Mormon. Such evidence acts against the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fiction, but it is not particularly strong evidence. Instead, such evidence is considered to be merely “supportive.”18

Works of the 19th century Mound-builder literary genre routinely draw upon, and make comparisons with the Bible. The theme of repopulating lands and cities is certainly a biblical topic (e.g. Jeremiah 6:12; 8:10; 32:36-37, 41-44, Isaiah 49:18-21, also 1 Nephi 21:18-21, Isaiah 54:3, also 3 Nephi 22:3). These facts do not uniquely point to Mesoamerica. What is more, 19th Century colonists populating western NY realized that they were occupying lands that had once been settled by peoples who built earth and timber palisade villages, and forts; not unlike those described in the Book of Mormon. (E. G. Squier, ABORIGINAL MONUMENTS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, 1849) We may in this case consider a likelihood of 2 in support of the near Cumorah literary setting in Joseph Smith's own country. This easily cancels out the Dales' alleged 0.5 Bayesian Statistical (BS) weight for a Mesoamerican setting.

Its hard to definitively see what repopulating previously abandoned towns has to do with the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Yes, it is a historical fact that ancient peoples repopulated lands and cities that had been abandoned. No, it doesn't clearly help prove, or disprove the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient American history.

Specific and detailed correspondences: 0.10 (Bayesian positive evidence for the converse hypothesis). Facts assigned a likelihood of 0.1 are details in the Book of Mormon that agree with details in The Maya. The author of the Book of Mormon might have been able to reason out such details, given time, study, or expert knowledge, but we think it would have been very difficult for the writer to have guessed correctly. Thus these correspondences are quite specific and also provide some important details.

[Page 86]One example is the existence of highlands and lowlands within the relevant geography. Mesoamerica is not clearly relevant. Dr. Coe’s book repeatedly emphasizes the highland and lowland populations of Native American peoples in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon also repeatedly uses the words “go up” and “go down” when traveling. From its very beginning, the Book of Mormon likewise employs going “up” and going “down” when traveling to and from Jerusalem. Jerusalem sits at a higher elevation than most of the surrounding geography. Thus we assume that the phrases “go up” or “go down” mean to ascend or descend in elevation while traveling. Such evidence is considered to be Bayesian “positive.”19

Ancient populations distinguished by inhabiting highlands or lowlands is not unique to Mesoamerica. Consider the geography of the Malay Peninsula, which in some ways presents a more compelling, specious geography for the Book of Mormon than Mesoamerica. The Dales' argument that populations existing in highlands and lowlands gives some positive support for the historicity of the Book of Mormon, again seems to muddle claims of the book's literary setting, with claims of the book's historicity.

The Book of Mormon's use of "up" and "down" in describing travel, agrees with the Bible (e.g. Psalm 104:8; 107:23, Isaiah 2:2-3, thus 2 Nephi 12:2-3). The principle lands of the Book of Mormon near scriptural Cumorah, positively match the general southward rise in elevation described in the book. Studying the Bible really can help clarify the terminology of the Book of Mormon.

The land Cumorah with its hill Ramah, truly situates southward of "the waters of Ripliancum" (Ancient Lake Iroquois / Ontario), which is an inland sea larger than any of the nearby Finger Lakes. As in the Bible, inland bodies of water qualify as seas. Scriptural amateurs, reading the Book of Mormon tend to immediately suppose that all the seas described in the scripture are oceans. They overlook the fact that the scripture states that Lehi's company crossed "the large waters into the promised land ...", and that the people of Zarahemla were later "brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters into the land ..."

There truly was an inland seashore eastward from Cumorah (Now Montezuma Marsh / Lake Cayuga, Ether 9:3). Unlike pathetically skewed Mesoamerican models, the authentic freshwater "west sea" of the Book of Mormon (Lake Erie), according to biblical directions, really is west. From its shore, American Israelites spread out to reoccupy abandoned lands after a drought. (Helaman 11:20)

There really is a northern isthmus divided by an inland sea (Niagara River) near the site of a great city (now Buffalo, Ether 10:20). There really was a "narrow pass" (Batavia Moraine) with an inland sea on the west, and on the east of the land-bridge. This land-bridge was known and used in the time of George Washington. Makes sense, right? Nephi saw in vision the American War of Independence upon “the land of their inheritance”. (1 Nephi 13:14-19, 30)

These positive geographic fits easily qualify for a likelihood of 10, or better in the literary setting test. We therefore have positive, to strong evidence that the literary setting for the Book of Mormon is real, and set in Joseph Smith's own country.

The historicity of the setting is a different matter. Determining whether or not there really was a great city anciently, near the site of Buffalo NY, requires different evidence.

Southward "up", Northward "down"

Divided Niagara Isthmus, Southward Rise in Elevation, Northward Flowing Rivers, and Northern Plains

Specific, detailed and unusual correspondences: 0.02 (Bayesian strong evidence for the converse hypothesis). We believe that facts with a 2% likelihood (one in 50 chance) are essentially impossible to guess correctly, given any amount of knowledge or study reasonably available to the writer of the Book of Mormon. But in order to rigorously test the Book of Mormon’s claims as a fact-based record, we assume that the writer had a one in 50 chance of guessing these correspondences correctly. A one in 50 or 2% chance (0.02) is the maximum weight we will allow for evidence supporting the Book of Mormon’s claims to being fact-based, even if we think the odds are more like one in a million or less. Such evidence is considered to be Bayesian “strong” evidence.20

Now comes the Dales showcase example of Bayesian Strong evidence for the historicity of a Mesoamerican based Book of Mormon setting:

One example of Bayesian “strong” evidence is the remarkably detailed description of a volcanic eruption and associated earthquakes given in 3 Nephi 8. Mesoamerica is earthquake and volcano country, but upstate New York, Western New York where the Book of Mormon came forth, is not. Western New York is in fact earthquake country with no active volcanoes. If the Book of Mormon is fictional, how could the writer of the Book of Mormon correctly describe a volcanic eruption and earthquakes from the viewpoint of the person experiencing the event? The Book of Mormon does not describe a volcanic eruption. There is no mention of a volcano, or even a description like "fire mountain", in the Book of Mormon. We rate the evidentiary value of that correspondence as 0.02. Overrated. 0.1 is fair. We assume a piece of evidence is “unusual” if it gives facts that very probably were not known to the writer, someone living in upstate New York in the early 19th century, when virtually nothing of ancient Mesoamerica was known. Again, the presumption is made that the geographic setting for the Book of Mormon must be in Mesoamerica, and this presumption is spun with an argument for the historicity of the book.

Neither Mesoamerican volcanoes, or Malaysian volcanoes, are needed to account for earthquakes, and days of appalling darkness in the Book of Mormon's setting. There is historic precedence for such things in a limited region of Canada, New England and New York. The historical facts fits the authentic limited setting of the Book of Mormon. Unlike the claim the Dales want to make, the historical precedence for earthquakes and dark days in the Book of Mormon's authentic American setting, does not prove, or disprove the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient American history. It only strongly corroborates the authentic literary setting. The likelihood, or evidentiary weight deserves a 50.

The fallacy of the Dales conflated effort, is revealed: See EARTHQUAKES AND DARK DAYS IN CANADA, AND THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES.

We can also conceive of correspondences that are specific and unusual but not given in sufficient detail to assign them a weight of 0.02. One such specific and unusual correspondence is the existence of an arcane sacred or prestige language as mentioned in Coe’s book and in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 3:19 and Mosiah 1:2). However, insufficient details about this language are given to regard the correspondence as [Page 87]specific, detailed, and unusual, for a weight of 0.02. Instead it is assigned a weight of 0.10, for specific and unusual only.

The uncertainty one feels toward any particular correspondence can also be reflected in the assigned likelihood ratio. For example, if a correspondence seems specific and somewhat detailed but is believed to lack enough detail to warrant the higher evidentiary weight, it can be assigned a likelihood ratio of 0.5 rather than 0.1.

We assume the writer’s religious knowledge came from the Bible; his cultural/social knowledge came from his (and his family’s) own cultural/ social experiences as relatively poor, less-educated working farmers typical of their time; his political knowledge from American and British political institutions existing in the early 19th century, and his knowledge of Native Americans from his own knowledge of Native Americans of his time and place (northeastern North America). Facts that could not have been obtained from those sources in the early 19th century could only have been guesses by the writer of the “fictional” Book of Mormon.

The author’s general knowledge of the ancient Mayan Indians and their area was exactly zero — which was the case for everyone in the world in 1830. It is not entirely correct. to suggest that nothing was known about peoples and ruins in Mexico or Mesoamerica in 1830. Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith) announced that almost all native peoples of North and South America descended from "out cast" Israelites. The view was expressed in the 1825 edition of A View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America, that peoples of Mexico and South America had migrated to these countries from the north. It was concluded that these migrations commenced centuries into the Christian era. Ethan Smith speculated that possibly the Israelites had mingled with Asiatic peoples. Wondrous hewn stone "pyramids" and temples of Mesoamerica were recognized by Smith, and others, to be relatively recent works, built between the 6th and 12th centuries A.D. Such views were published before the Book of Mormon came forth. A straightforward explanation for why the Book of Mormon never mentions hewn stone pyramids is that it is not set in Mesoamerica. See 1825 excerpts from A View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America in "Ethan Smith and the Authentic Literary Setting of the Book of Mormon". As Dr. Coe says in one of his podcast interviews, “until [Stephens and Catherwood] went to the Maya area no one knew anything about it.”21 Stephens and Catherwood visited the Mayan area twice between 1839 and 1842. Their book “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan” was published in 1841, eleven years after the Book of Mormon was published.22 Yet Coe seems to agree that at a minimum, the word would have gotten back to New York by the early 1800s, that there were civilizations with ruins all throughout Central and South America. (2018 Podcast Part 1 44:00 - 45:30)  

Therefore, it was impossible for the work of Stephens and Catherwood to have directly influenced the Book of Mormon. In contrast, Reverend Ethan Smith’s book, View of the Hebrews, has some very limited information on Indians in Mexico, primarily the Aztecs and Toltecs, and might have influenced the writer of the Book of Mormon. We account for this fact in our analysis as described in Appendix A. It is best to actually read A View of the Hebrew (recommend Second Edition, 1825) and see for yourself what it says, rather than to trust the Dales' handling of the subject. Again the Dales seem to only be interested in what Ethan Smith's work has to say about ancient Mesoamericans. There is so much more to consider.

If the Book of Mormon is of early 19th century origin, then, according to Dr. Coe, the author of that “fictional” work could not have known anything about the Mayan area. Thus, if we are rational and honest, we will not attribute to any hypothetical 19th century author of the Book of Mormon the same degree of knowledge and sophistication [Page 88]about cultural, social, physical, geographical, and other characteristics of the ancient Maya that only a few comparatively well-educated people have now in the early 21st century.

The purpose of this article is to rigorously test facts given in the Book of Mormon versus facts given by Dr. Coe in The Maya and in other venues, ignoring the most compelling literary setting near scriptural Cumorah. It is fortunate that our analysis will be naturally conservative, underweighting the evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. Even if we are trying hard to be rational and honest, we have a natural tendency to overestimate Joseph Smith’s likely knowledge of ancient Mesoamerica (or that possessed by anyone else of his time). Present-day educated individuals are likely to know much more about ancient Mesoamerica than did the (supposed) 19th century author(s) of the Book of Mormon.

To illustrate, we examine the three separate statements of fact in the Book of Mormon given above. The Book of Mormon claims to be a real historical record. Either these statements are just guesses [assuming a Mesoamerican setting], or indeed the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical book. There are no other choices open to us [not so]. Each of these statements supports the Book of Mormon’s claim to be a fact-based record. What is the overall likelihood of getting all three of these guesses right: (1) the practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities similarly described in the Bible (0.5 , 2 odds against Mesoamerica), (2) an accurate description of Mesoamerican, rather western NY geography as composed primarily of highlands and lowlands (0.1 , 10 odds against Mesoamerica), and (3) an accurate, quite detailed description of a simultaneous volcano/earthquake, rather, storm and tornadoes, thunder and lightning, quakes, inundations, fires, smoke (from fires), mist (water vapor), and finally profound daytime darkness like New England's historic "Dark Day" - no mention of a fire mountain (0.02 0.1, 50)? See 3 Nephi 8:5-20. The product of these three likelihoods is 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.02 0.1 = 0.001 .005 or likelihood of one five in a thousand. Rather, the product of these literary setting likelihoods is 2 x 10 x 50 = 1000, or a thousand to one odds against the literary setting being Mesoamerica (independent of the historicity of the Book of Mormon).

Again, the Book of Mormon does not have to be proven to be historical in order to have its authentic literary setting validated.

The Dales example thus far, of a strong argument, they claim is a "detailed description of a simultaneous volcano/earthquake". But, all of the agents of destruction impinging in the Book of Mormon's "great and terrible day" (3 Nephi 8:5-20) have historical precedence in western NY. As for speculating about a single natural cause instigating, and unleashing the various forms of destruction, the Book of Mormon does not mention a volcano or fire mountain, but fire from the sky. (3 Nephi 9:11, Helaman 13:13)

But that is not nearly enough. Our “skeptical prior” is a billion to one that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. And a billion to one (1,000,000,000) times one in a thousand (0.001) is still a million to one. So even after considering this evidence we are still quite confident that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction, but we are less confident than we were prior to examining the evidence, due to our rational, intellectually honest assessment of these new pieces of evidence.

However, many more facts are mentioned in Dr. Coe’s book The Maya that we can test against corresponding statements of fact in the Book of Mormon. Specifically, we have found 131 such correspondences. We divide these correspondences into six separate categories:

§  Political (33 correspondences)

§  Cultural/social (31 correspondences)

§  Religion (19 correspondences)

§  Military/warfare (12 correspondences)

§  Physical/geographical (13 correspondences)

§  [Page 89]Technological/miscellaneous (23 correspondences)

We have assigned one of three different likelihood ratios to each correspondence. The specific Bayes factor or likelihood assigned to each correspondence is based on our assessment as to whether the correspondence is (1) specific or “supportive” according to Bayesian nomenclature (0.5); (2) specific and detailed, or Bayesian “positive” (0.10); or (3) specific, detailed, and unusual, or Bayesian “strong” (0.02), as described above and given in the literature.23

Appendix A summarizes the reasons why we have assigned a specific likelihood ratio (0.5, 0.1 and 0.02) to each of the 131 supportive correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. For each correspondence, we first state Dr. Coe’s standard of fact as given in The Maya. Since the Book of Mormon is available to everyone to study and evaluate without cost,24 but Dr. Coe’s book is not, we provide direct quotations or summaries for each of the correspondences from Dr. Coe’s book. Following the quotations from Dr. Coe’s book, the specific book(s), chapter(s) and verse(s) from the Book of Mormon where the correspondence appears are cited. Finally, we provide a few sentences up to a few paragraphs that justify our choice of the assigned likelihood ratio.

Since the truth (or falsity) of the Book of Mormon is a supremely important question, we trust readers will exert themselves and make their own comparisons between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon. We hope they will honestly weigh each piece of evidence for themselves and decide what likelihood ratio, if any, to assign to that piece of evidence.

This is essentially what is demanded of jurors in trial situations. Jurors are to weigh honestly and carefully all the evidence, without prejudging the outcome, and then render a true verdict according to the evidence. But jurors (and honest readers of the Book of Mormon) must not prejudge the case before hearing all the evidence, must not take their duties lightly, and must not arbitrarily reject evidence for or against either side.

Results of the Analysis

We have compiled six different categories of evidence in Appendix A, as noted above. For example, the sixth category includes technological and miscellaneous correspondences. We found 23 specific technological and miscellaneous correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, three have a likelihood of 0.5, eight have a likelihood [Page 90]of 0.1, and twelve have a likelihood of 0.02 (3 + 8 + 12 = 23). Thus the overall likelihood of these 23 positive correspondences, taken as a whole for statistical analysis, is (0.5)3 x (0.1)8 x (0.02)12 = 5.12 x 10–30.

The overall likelihood of the positive correspondences in each of the six categories has been computed in this way. They are, respectively: 4.99 x 10–33, 3.21 x 10–35, 1.28 x 10–24, 2.0 x 10–13, 1.28 x 10–18 and 5.12 x 10–30. We then compute the overall likelihood of all six categories taken together by multiplying these six numerical values together. The result is 2.69 x 10–151.

We can confirm this calculation by noting that of these 131 correspondences, 23 have a likelihood of 0.5; 57 have a likelihood of 0.1; and 51 have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood can also be computed and confirmed as 0.523 x 0.157 x 0.0251 = 2.69 x 10–151 This product represents the likelihood (probability) that the positive correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya under the six categories of comparison are the result of a very, very long series of consistent lucky guesses by the author of the Book of Mormon.

Recall that according to Bayesian methods, our skeptical prior odds were a billion to one against the Book of Mormon being a historical document. Thus we started our analysis by assuming that the statements of fact in the Book of Mormon were just guesses. We must multiply one billion times 2.69 x 10–151 to determine the degree to which the evidence provided by the 131 positive correspondences changes our opinion. The result of this calculation is 2.69 x 10–142.

We have not yet considered the negative correspondences and their impact on our opinions, but will weigh these negative correspondences after briefly discussing sensitivity analysis.

Sensitivity Analysis

In statistics it is good scientific practice to do a “sensitivity analysis” by which the effects of changed assumptions or changed data on the results are determined. For example, if we assign the weakest likelihood ratio (Bayesian “supportive” or 0.5) to each of the 131 correspondences, the overall strength of the evidence is then 0.5131 equals 3.7 x 10–40. We then multiply this number by one billion (109) and find that the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction is less than one in a thousand billion, billion, billion, billion.

As another example of sensitivity analysis, we can choose to admit only half the 131 correspondences to evidence at the same evidentiary weights as given in Appendix A. If we do so, the cumulative likelihood [Page 91]of these correspondences is still about 1.0 x 10–65. When multiplied by the skeptical prior of one billion, we find the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is the result of guesswork is still less than about one in a hundred billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion.

A third sensitivity analysis is as follows. Of the 131 total correspondences, 23 have a likelihood of 0.5; 57 have a likelihood of 0.1; and 51 have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the ratio of the correspondences with respect to their relative strengths is roughly 1:2:2 (specific: specific and detailed: specific and detailed and unusual).

Thus the question is: “At this ratio of 1:2:2, how many total correspondences are required to shift our skeptical prior of a billion to one against the Book of Mormon to a billion to one in favor of the Book of Mormon?” The answer is about 17 total correspondences — only 17 out of 131 correspondences (13% or about one out of every eight) must be accepted at their assigned evidentiary strengths to shift the strong skeptical prior to a strong positive posterior.

Under all three sensitivity analyses, our strong skeptical prior hypothesis of a billion to one against the fact-based nature of the Book of Mormon still gives way to a much, much stronger posterior hypothesis in favor of the Book of Mormon. We conclude that the Book of Mormon is historical, and is based in fact, with odds of many, many billions to one that this statement is true.

Data in Support of the Hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a Work of Fiction

We started with a very strong skeptical prior hypothesis of a billion to one against the historicity of the Book of Mormon. However, to this point, we have considered only data in support of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, that is, in support of the converse hypothesis. What about data in support of the opposite hypothesis, that is, that the Book of Mormon is fictional? As before, the evidence considered here will be statements in The Maya which disagree with corresponding statements in The Book of Mormon.

Again, it is only rational and honest to compare statements of fact which are dealt with by both books. On statements of fact where one or the other books is silent, we cannot assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so because there is no evidence to support our choices.

Surprisingly few pieces of evidence cited in The Maya support the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. We were able [Page 92]to find six such points of disagreement between The Maya and the Book of Mormon, namely the existence of (1) horses, (2) elephants, (3) iron, (4) steel, (5) copper and (6) refined gold and silver. (We combine refined gold and refined silver instead of considering them individually because gold and silver are usually found together, and thus to refine gold is also to refine silver.)

These points of disagreement are summarized in Appendix B. As with Appendix A, we give citations and page numbers from The Maya to support these negative correspondences and citations from the Book of Mormon where the points of disagreement are found. Finally, we provide a brief analysis of each correspondence. We evaluate these six points as having a cumulative strength as evidence of 1.25 x 108.

However, given our own inherent bias on the topic, we choose to overcompensate and deliberately err on the side of skepticism by weighting all six points as strong evidence, with a Bayes factor of 50 for each point of disagreement. We do not think each of these points is actually Bayesian “strong” evidence, but we allow this sensitivity test to severely examine the Book of Mormon’s claims.

Weighting each piece as strong evidence, the strength of the total body of evidence from The Maya supporting the skeptical hypothesis is thus 506 = 1.56 x 1010. Therefore, the total body of evidence taken from The Maya, including the skeptical prior of a billion to one, is 2.69 x 10–142 x 1.56 x 1010 = 4.2 x 10–132.

If one is rational and carefully weighs the evidence, the authors believe that the initial strongly skeptical prior hypothesis of a billion to one that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction must change. It must give way to an enormously stronger posterior hypothesis, namely that the Book of Mormon is indeed fact-based: it has very strong political, cultural, social, military, physical, geographical, technological, and religious roots in ancient Mesoamerica as that world of ancient Mesoamerica is described by Dr. Coe in The Maya.

The Anti-Book of Mormon Hat Trick: Expanding the Body of Evidence

Now, suppose we are not content with this reversal of our skeptical prior and wish to try to maintain it unfairly while still appearing to be rational. One way to do so is to expand our body of evidence unfairly by including not only scholarly works like The Maya but also including purely skeptical, “cherry-picked” evidence gathered from nonscholarly sources.

[Page 93]For example, in his 1973 Dialogue article and in the 2011 and 2018 podcast interviews, Dr. Coe mentions twelve more specific facts to support the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is false. These include brass, chariots, sheep, goats, swine, wheat, barley, cattle, silk, asses, a hybrid Egyptian/Hebrew writing system, and the lack of Semitic DNA in the New World. Analyzing these twelve additional correspondences taken from the podcasts and from Dialogue, we estimate their cumulative weight as 3.13 x 1015 (see Appendix B, last part).

We do not accept Dr. Coe’s (or more accurately, John Dehlin’s) objection to “coins” or “week,” which were also raised as possible negative points of evidence in the podcasts. The revealed text of the Book of Mormon does not include the word coins in the Nephite monetary system described in Alma 11. The word coin, coins or coinage does not appear in the Book of Mormon text. These terms were inserted in the chapter heading to Alma 11 of various editions, by committees and well meaning General Authorities of the Church. (E.g. the 1986, and 1973 LDS printings) The Alma 11 chapter heading to a recent edition reads "The Nephite monetary system is set forth-". (See The Book of Mormon & Mound-builder America, 169, Money) While the word week does occur in the Book of Mormon, the book does not say that a Nephite week consisted of seven days. The Dales fail to recognize that faithful Nephites (American Israelites) kept "the law of Moses" in full. (2 Nephi 5:10) They thus observed a cycle of six days of labor, ending with a Sabbath on the seventh day. (Mosiah 13:16-19; 18:23-25) Even some apostates kept a one day in a week religious observance. (Alma 31:12; 32:11) The Hebrew word for "week", "shevua" (שבע ,שבוע), a word which the Nephites certainly had engraved upon their ancient records from Jerusalem (e.g. Genesis 29:27) is tied directly to the Hebrew word for "seven". Here the Dales appear to be as scripturally naive and amateur as they accuse Dr. Coe of being. Thus these two data points are not admitted to evidence; they are not facts actually asserted by the Book of Mormon.

Nephi killed a man at the LORD's command, so that his posterity might have the written Torah to keep it. Keeping the Law of Moses meant keeping the weekly, and seasonal ordinances as well. The idea that the LORD would then lead Nephi to a land where his posterity couldn't keep the Law in full, is a Gentile minded absurdity. (1 Nephi 4:12-15; 5:21-22)

Even though it doesn't fit with ancient Mayan society, the Dales really should reconsider the fact that the faithful American Israelites of the Book of Mormon observed "to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses" including observing the Sabbath day at the end of a seven day week (shevua, 2 Nephi 5:10).

Ethan Smith quotes a Dr. Boudinot:

"Among the Indians on the north west of the Ohio, the conduct of the women (continues the Doctor) seems perfectly agreeable (as far as circumstances will permit) to the law of Moses. A young woman, at the first change in her circumstances, immediately separates herself from the rest in a hut made at some distance from the dwelling houses, and remains there seven days. The female that brings her food, is careful not to touch her; and so cautious is she herself of touching her own food, that she makes use of a sharpened stick to take up her meat, and of a spoon for her other food. When the seven days are ended, she bathes herself in water, washes all her clothes, and changes the vessel she has made use of. She then returns to her father's house." (A View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America, Second Edition (1825), pg. 126)

To enable a very severe but nonetheless fact-based test of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, we grant to all 18 pieces of evidence cited by Dr. Coe a weight of 50 (“strong” evidence) against the historicity of the Book of Mormon. To be clear, we do not think these 18 pieces of evidence actually merit this weight nor that such biased and nonscholarly sources should be admitted to scholarly analysis. According to our evidence- weighting scheme, at most these 18 facts qualify as specific and detailed, for a weight of 10 each. But they are not particularly unusual. Evidence for their existence might not as yet have been found by archaeology, or evidence might be available but still scarce.

Nonetheless, for the sake of the most rigorous possible fact-based test of the Book of Mormon, we admit all 18 of them at the maximum evidentiary strength considered in this article. Thus we multiply 2.69 x 10–142 times 5018 to recalculate the odds of the hypothesis by accounting for the 18 data points provided by Dr. Coe and others. We find that the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is fictional is about 1.03 x 10–111, less than one in a thousand, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion.

Just how small a number is this? No easily grasped comparisons are possible. The mass of the smallest known particle, the neutrino, is about 10–36 kg, while the mass of the observable universe is about 1052 kg. Thus the ratio of the mass of the neutrino to the mass of the entire universe is approximately 10–88. This ratio, the mass of the neutrino to the mass of the [Page 94]universe, is still one hundred thousand, billion, billion times greater than the odds that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction.

Two Control Studies

As controls, we also analyzed two other books concerned with ancient American Indians written about the same time as the Book of Mormon. One book is View of the Hebrews by Reverend Ethan Smith, published in 1823.25 The other book is Reverend Solomon Spalding’s unpublished work titled Manuscript Found.26 We compared both books with The Maya using Bayesian statistics, again with a strongly skeptical prior assumption of a billion to one that these books have little to do with ancient Indian cultures. These comparisons are summarized in Appendix C for Manuscript Found and Appendix D for View of the Hebrews.

In the case of Manuscript Found, our posterior conclusion is much stronger than our prior assumption that this book has little to do with ancient Indian cultures. In other words, weighing the additional evidence, we are even more convinced than we were before the analysis that this book has very little in common with the ancient Indian cultures as described in Dr. Coe’s book. Since Manuscript Found is written as if it were a true account, we conclude that it is not true; it is fiction. (In fact, Manuscript Found is excruciatingly bad fiction.)

In the case of View of the Hebrews, weighing both the positive and negative points of evidence (correspondences) between this book and Coe’s book The Maya, we find that the positive evidences are essentially counterbalanced by the negative evidences. Thus the posterior conclusion is the same as skeptical prior assumption. View of the Hebrews has little in common with the ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures described in The Maya. This book is not written as fiction, but the universe of facts it cites do not agree well with the universe of facts cited in The Maya. This level of factual agreement could likely have been obtained by “guessing.”

View of the Hebrews was published in 1823, well before the Book of Mormon. Thus an important outcome of analyzing View of the Hebrews was to document what Joseph Smith might have known about [Page 95]the ancient Mesoamerican Indians. To make our analysis as rigorous as possible, we did not allow any fact claim in View of the Hebrews that corresponds to a specific fact stated in both The Maya and the Book of Mormon to be classified as “unusual” in our comparison of The Maya and the Book of Mormon (see Appendix D). We did this because Joseph Smith might have known about that fact from reading View of the Hebrews. Therefore, that particular fact could at most be specific and detailed (Bayesian positive) but not “unusual” (Bayesian strong).

Since View of the Hebrews also contains many fact claims that run contrary to facts in The Maya, this begs a question: “Why did Joseph Smith not include those erroneous fact claims from View of the Hebrews in his ‘guesses’ that supposedly form the basis for the Book of Mormon?”

Therefore, those individuals who believe Joseph Smith was strongly influenced by either View of the Hebrews or, more improbably yet, by Manuscript Found, have some serious explaining to do. They must explain why Joseph Smith took only the correct fact claims from View of the Hebrews and why he avoided including incorrect fact claims from Manuscript Found (see, for example, negative correspondences 4, 6, and 9 in Appendix C) or also incorrect fact claims from View of the Hebrews (see, for example, negative correspondences 1, 2, and 4 in Appendix D).

Dr. Coe seems to share the opinion that Joseph Smith was influenced by then-popular ideas such as those found in View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. He views the Book of Mormon as “an amalgamation of the rumors and myths, and understandings about Native Americans” existing at the time.27 Dr. Coe states that the Book of Mormon was “in the air” when it was published.

Well, if so, how did Joseph Smith avoid breathing in so much bad air? Wrong guesses about ancient Indian cultures abound in Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews. How did Joseph Smith manage to avoid making those wrong guesses? And how did Joseph Smith manage to “guess” so much that was overwhelmingly correct?

To name just a few of his correct “guesses,” how did Joseph Smith guess correctly that separate historical records were kept of the reigns of the kings, that large-scale public works were built, that the fundamental unit of political organization was the independent city-state, that the word “seating” meant accession to political power, that an ancient Mesoamerican culture declined steeply and then disappeared a few [Page 96]hundred years bc, that settled marketplaces existed, that large migrations took place toward the north, and so on for 124 more such examples?

Surely, Joseph Smith must be the greatest guesser of all time, succeeding with odds of many billions of billons of billions to one against him.

We prefer a more rational, more intellectually honest conclusion: The Book of Mormon is a real historical record. It is authentic.

The Dales' treatment of Ethan Smith's A View of the Hebrews (1823, 1825) is skewed to one side. They fixate on how Smith's book compares to Coe's book, as if by comparing Smith's work to Coe's this somehow adequately compares A View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America (1825) to the Book of Mormon (1830) - clever wave of the hand!

The Dales state, "View of the Hebrews has little in common with the ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures described in The Maya." No surprise there! Tribes of Israel in America mainly focuses on the mysterious Mound-builders of temperate North America. The Dales show their tunnel vision in writing, "Thus an important outcome of analyzing View of the Hebrews was to document what Joseph Smith might have known about the ancient Mesoamerican Indians."

The Dales have a lot of explaining to do: Joseph Smith seems to agree with Ethan Smith, and Josiah Priest about migrations from the north to Mexico, and the not so ancient age of ruins found there. Turns out these authors were right, and the apostles manning the Nauvoo printing office were presumptuously wrong about such matters.

The Mesoamerican pyramids mentioned by Ethan Smith fail to show up in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith (unlike some of his less informed contemporaries at work in the Nauvoo printing office) seemed to agree with Ethan Smith, Josiah Priest, John Lloyd Stephens and other authors of the day, about the relatively recent age of Mexican / Mesoamerican stone works. To these authors the more ancient and mysterious works were those of the Mound-builders in their own country. Thus Joseph  Smith's signed editorial, "American Antiquities", which places Book of Mormon events in ancient Mound-builder America. His article only briefly mentioning Stephens and Catherwoods discoveries at the end; and then in the tacit context of Alexander von Humboldt's opinion published in Josiah Priest's work, regarding more recent migrations from the "lake country of America" - home of the Book of Mormon.

An important objective should be to compare the Book of Mormon to Tribes of Israel in America directly.

Our first objective should not be to test the historicity of the Book of Mormon and Tribes of Israel in America, or to try and prove that Tribes of Israel in America influenced the Book of Mormon. The first test should simply be to see if the Book of Mormon, fictional or not, deserves to be classed in the Mound-builder genre alongside Tribes of Israel in America. In other words, by comparing the two works directly we should try to answer the question, is the Book of Mormon about the Mound-builders of temperate North America? Mainstream American History and Literature authorities say yes!

Here for example is a quote which the Dales failed to share with their readers:

"It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel, after they settled in America, became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren … that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.

This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil improvement, which are manifestly very ancient …" (Ethan Smith, A View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America, Second Edition (1825) , pp. 172-173)

Secondarily we can ask what Tribes of Israel in America (1825) has to say about societies and perhaps ruins of Mesoamerica, and South America.

In specific details, we may find that the works of Ethan Smith, Josiah Priest and John Lloyd Stephens do not support the idea that the Book of Mormon fits in Mesoamerica amidst monkeys, palm trees, and hewn stone pyramids for which there is no explicit mention in the scripture.

By actually studying LDS Scripture, and books like Ethan Smith's, one may come to clearly see that the Dales have blinders on. Their summary of the "facts" amounts to a sanctimonious, even hypocritical sermon, but at the onset they present a definition of prejudice that is worth considering:

Summary

Dr. J. B. S. Haldane, the great British biologist, once said that prejudice is an opinion arrived at without considering the evidence. Book of Mormon scholarly critics ignore a very large body of evidence. They fail to read the Book of Mormon carefully and objectively. In other words, they approach the Book of Mormon with deep preexisting prejudices.

Unfortunately, we know of no exceptions to this rule, including Dr. Coe, who read the Book of Mormon just once, about 45 years ago.28 He missed a few things during that one and only reading.

While Dr. Coe is undoubtedly a great Mayanist, his knowledge of the Book of Mormon is appallingly deficient. He has not paid the price that any scholar must pay in order to offer a credible opinion on a given topic. He doesn’t know his material. He doesn’t know the Book of Mormon more than superficially.

There are at least 131 correspondences between Dr. Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon. In this article, we have cited 151 separate pages of The Maya. Thus, well over half of the pages of Coe’s book contain facts that correspond to facts referred to in the Book of Mormon. Those who carefully read both Dr. Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon can scarcely avoid noticing the many correspondences between the two books.

Thus Dr. Coe’s opinion “The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 bc and ad 421 presented in the [B]ook [of Mormon] has little to do with early Indian cultures” is simply not supported by the evidence provided in his own book. Using Dr. Coe’s own book, we find that early Mesoamerica has a very great deal indeed to do with the Book of Mormon. The cumulative weight of these correspondences, analyzed using Bayesian statistics, provides overwhelming support for the historicity of the Book of Mormon as an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica.

[Page 97]Appendix A
Positive Correspondences between the
Book of Mormon and The Maya

A few comments must be made on the timing of events with regard to the evidence summarized below. Most of the events in the Book of Mormon took place from roughly 600 BC through AD 400, that is, mostly the Late Preclassic period through the first century or two of the Early Classic. The Book of Ether takes place very much earlier.

Dr. Coe’s book strongly focuses on the Classic (Early, Late and Terminal Classic), so it is fair to ask if the cultural, social, political, etc., information summarized in The Maya is relevant to the Book of Mormon. In other words, is it even valid, because of the differing time periods, to make many of the comparisons we have made?

[Page 98]We believe the answer is yes, for three important reasons:

1.     This extended quote from p. 61 of The Maya is critically important here: “The more we know about that period [the Late Preclassic], which lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to AD 250, the more complex and developed it seems. From the point of view of social and cultural evolution, the Late Preclassic really is a kind of ‘proto-Classic’ in which all of the traits usually ascribed to the Classic Maya are present, with the exception of vaulted stone architecture and a high elaboration of calendar and script on stone monuments.” Thus the Late Preclassic period, which corresponds to most of the Book of Mormon events, is certainly relevant to the Classic in terms of “social and cultural” features.

2.     Dr. Coe, in his Dialogue article and later in the podcast interviews, claims that based on his knowledge, the Book of Mormon is false. If Dr. Coe can make such an assertion based on his knowledge, then it is certainly reasonable and intellectually rigorous to use the knowledge summarized in Dr. Coe’s book to examine the opposing hypothesis, namely that the Book of Mormon is true.

3.     Correlations/congruencies/similarities that occur after the Book of Mormon period are certainly not invalid for that reason alone — far from it. We use an alphabet developed by the Phoenicians about 3,000 years ago. The major world religions that influence our culture so much today were founded millennia ago. Our code of laws comes from English common law, about a thousand years old, which was in turn based on still earlier Roman civil law and Roman Catholic canon law. Our numbering system, including the all-important zero, uses Arabic numerals, which were actually derived from Hindu mathematicians working about 1,500 years ago. Our division of the day into hours and minutes comes to us from ancient Babylon and Egypt. The foundations of the modern scientific method go back to the work of the Greek scientist Thales of Miletus, who was active about 2,500 years ago. Even our modern three- course meal structure goes back to the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, written 600 years ago.

Thus, older cultures and societies definitely leave important marks on subsequent societies. It is perfectly consistent with history that the [Page 99]Book of Mormon peoples in Preclassic times might have left significant marks on the Maya Classic period, which is the primary focus of Dr. Coe’s book.

1.     Political Correspondences

1.     Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state

Coe’s standard: “Sylvanus Morley had thought that there was once a single great political entity, which he called the ‘Old Empire,’ but once the full significance of Emblem Glyphs had been recognized, it was clear that there had never been any such thing. In its stead, Mayanists proposed a more Balkanized model, in which each ‘city state’ was essentially independent of all the others; the political power of even large entities like Tikal would have been confined to a relatively small area, the distance from the capital to the polity’s borders seldom exceeding a day’s march” (p. 274).

Book of Mormon correspondence: Throughout the Book of Mormon itself there is never a reference to “Nephite nation” or to a “Lamanite nation.” Interestingly, the word nation is used in reference to the Jaredites (Ether 1:43), a very different people culturally than the Lehites. The Book of Mormon uses this phrase: “nations, kindreds, tongues and people.” Compare the similar phrases of Revelation 5:9; 14:6. 1 Nephi 5:18 states, "That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his [Lehi's] seed." Thus "nations" were to exist consisting of Lehi's descendents. The Nephites and Lamanites were clearly kindreds.  The Hebrew word translated "kindreds", i.e. "kindreds of the nations)" (Psalm 22:27, KJV) is "mishpehot" (משפחות). This word simply means families or clans. The Hebrew expression "mishpehot goyim" (משפחות גוים) in Psalm 22:27, can also be translated "families of the Gentiles". In contrast, the word nation is used frequently in terms of the “nations of the Gentiles.” In fact the Hebrew word "goyim" (גוים) translated "Gentiles" means nations. This being the case, shouldn't the Book of Mormon expression "nations of the Gentiles" be regarded as redundant; in that it essentially means nations of the nations? This problem is solvable: Another Hebrew word that is translated "nation" is "am" (עם), meaning people. (Exodus 21:8, KJV) Thus "amim goyim" (עמים גוים) may be translated "peoples of the nations" or "nations of the Gentiles". But this also suggests that the oft repeated Book of Mormon expression "people of the Nephites" could be interpreted nation of the Nephites (e.g. Alma 43:4).  The noncanonical Guide to the Scriptures has eight references to “Nephite nation,” showing how deeply engrained this idea of nationhood is in modern readers. Here Dales appear to be imposing a modern definition on an ancient scriptural term translated "nation". 1 Nephi 5:18 makes it clear that Lehi's seed were to organized into "nations" (ancient meaning). But the Book of Mormon never puts those two words together for Nephite/Lamanite societies. The nation-state is not a political structure found anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Instead, the Book of Mormon peoples were organized politically in city-states. Often one city-state would dominate a group of other city-states. This dominance is the subject of the next correspondence

1 Nephi 6:2 makes is clear that the Lehites were descendents of Joseph. In particular, Lehi was a descendent of Manasseh son of Joseph (Alma 10:3). But LDS Doctrine and Covenants 27:5 connects the Book of Mormon to the covenant "record of the stick of Ephraim". (Ezekiel 37:19) How can that be, unless there were those in Lehi's company who were descendents of Ephraim, the brother of Manasseh. (See "7 Things We Now Know About the Lost 116 Pages of the Book of Mormon") The blessing of Ephraim clearly states that "his seed shall become a multitude of nations [goyim]" (Genesis 48:19-20, KJV); thus extending the covenant blessing of Abraham. (Genesis 17:6, Jeremiah 33:17-26)

If there is a reason why the expression nation of the Nephites is avoided in the English translation of the Book of Mormon, it is simply that the scriptural terms goy and goyim are so often used to refer to Gentile and Gentiles. (Genesis 10:5) When used to describe members of the house of Israel, "goy", "nation" can have a derogatory connotation. (Jeremiah 5:9, 29, 1 Nephi 5:18, Isaiah 10:6)

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. There is not a single reference in the text of the Book of Mormon to “Nephite nation” or “Lamanite nation.” Hold on! Reference to the posterity of Nephi, and possibly others, are described as "a nation" in 1 Nephi 4:13-15. As shown previously, there is reference to "nations ... of his [Lehi's] seed." (1 Nephi 5:18) Also, the oft repeated expression "people of the Nephites" is apt to be interpreted nation of the Nephites according to the ancient meanings of the scriptural terms "am" and "goy". These terms explicitly appear in the original Hebrew behind the translated Isaiah portions of the Book of Mormon, and are implicit elsewhere in the scripture. Here is a short list of occurrences of the Hebrew terms "am" (עם) and "goy" (גוי) in Nephite scripture: Note that the Hebrew word "le'umim" (לאמים) can also be translated "peoples" or "nations". (1 Nephi 21:1, Isaiah 49:1) Compare the rest of 1 Nephi 21 with Isaiah 49. Compare 2 Nephi 8 with Isaiah 51, 2 Nephi 12 with Isaiah 2, 2 Nephi 13 with Isaiah 3, 2 Nephi 15 with Isaiah 5, 2 Nephi 16 with Isaiah 6, 2 Nephi 17 with Isaiah 7, 2 Nephi 18 with Isaiah 8, 2 Nephi 19 with Isaiah 9, 2 Nephi 20 with Isaiah 10, 2 Nephi 21 with Isaiah 11, 2 Nephi 23 with Isaiah 13, 2 Nephi 24 with Isaiah 14, Mosiah 14:8 with Isaiah 53:8, and 3 Nephi 22 with Isaiah 54:3. It is also unusual. Joseph Smith was growing up in the new nation of America, with a great deal of pride and self-identity as an independent nation. How did he avoid identifying the Lamanite or Nephite peoples as “nations”? But he did avoid it. What a lucky “guess” — over and over again during the course of the Book of Mormon history. The Dales only seem to be thinking in terms of city versus national government. Like most members of the Church, they show little sign of having actually delved into scripture.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.5

The claim that the city-state represents strong evidence (0.02) that the Book of Mormon is historically based in ancient Mesoamerica is overrated. It does not deserve so strong a rating. Rather it should be seen as evidence of the Book of Mormon's biblical background; a background that fits well in the American Mound-builder genre set in Joseph Smith's own country.

Have the Dales never heard of the Canaanite city-state? One Lamanite city was even named "Jerusalem". (Alma 21:2)

The fact that the English translation of the Book of Mormon avoids using Nephite nation or Lamanite nation has more to do with the predominant biblical use of the ancient word "goy" translated "nation" or "Gentile". The Jaredites better qualified as "goy". (Ether 1:43) For one thing, the Jaredites ate swine. (See The Book of Mormon & Mound-builder America, 71, 74, Sow, Swine; Ether 9:18) It makes perfect sense that the word "goyim" would be used infrequently in describing Israelite peoples.

The city-state argument, deserves perhaps a 2 as a biblical background, supporting a literary setting in Joseph Smith's own country.

As for supporting the historicity of the Book of Mormon, arguments could be made either way. Some would argue that a nineteenth century author (or authors) could have ascertained all this from the Bible, and available histories. Joseph Smith would have had to have been a scriptural genius. Dr. Coe would certainly agree!

I think the city-state argument deserves a 0.5 in support of the Book of Mormon containing real history, but the book's authentic literary setting is not set in Mesoamerica.

2.     “Capital” or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities

Coe’s standard: “Clusters of villages and communities were organized under a single polity, dominated by a large ‘capital’ village, which could have contained more than 1,000 people. (p. 51).” “Quirigua lies only 30 miles [Page 100](48 km) north of Copan; … that seems, on the basis of its inscriptions, to have periodically been one of the latter’s suzerainties” (p. 137). “Bonampak, politically important during the Early Classic, but by the Late Classic an otherwise insignificant center clearly under the cultural and political thumb of Yaxchilan” (p. 149). “These are Tamarindito, Arroyo de Piedras, Punta de Chimino, Aguateca, and Dos Pilas; the latter city seems to have dominated the rest” (p. 150). “We now know that not all Maya polities were equal: the kings of some lesser states were said to be ‘possessed’ by the rulers of more powerful ones (the phrase y-ajaw, ‘his king,’ specifies this relationship” (p. 275).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:12; Alma 61:8; Helaman 1:27Zarahemla is clearly the Nephite capital city in the Book of Mormon, with 140 mentions in the book. It is to Zarahemla that the other cities of the Nephites look to for leadership and supplies in their wars against the Lamanites. When the Lamanite chieftain Coriantumr invades the Nephite confederation, he makes straight for Zarahemla, “the capital city,” in the heart of the Nephite lands, and bypasses all the lesser cities. Later the city/land of Bountiful seems to become the Nephite capital city-state.

Analysis of correspondence: This political model was clearly part of Book of Mormon political arrangements, so it is specific and detailed in both books. It is also unusual. There is no corresponding political arrangement in Joseph Smith’s time which he might have used as a model. Dominant cities presiding over city-states is part of the Book of Mormon's biblical background. See for example (2 Nephi 17:8-9, Isaiah 7:8-9). City-states were not uncommon in ancient lands of the Bible. This does not prove that the American lands of the Book of Mormon were in Mesoamerica. Nor does it strongly suggest that the scripture is historical. Again, the Dales overrate their B.S. likelihood, asserting a strong 0.02, where it arguably might deserve a 0.5 weight.

In terms of the book's literary setting, I propose that the capital city argument actually deserves a 2, because of its biblical background, fitting the Mound-builder literary genre, and suggesting a setting in Joseph Smith's own country.

As for supporting the scripture's historicity, Coe would argue that Joseph Smith was a scriptural genius who knew his Bible! I choose to fairly give a likelihood of 0.5 in support of the Book of Mormon's historicity.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.5

3.     Some subordinate city-states shift their allegiance to a different “capital” city

Coe’s standard: “Dos Pilas; the latter city … [began] putting together a large-scale state as early as the seventh century AD, when a noble lineage arrived from Tikal and established a royal dynasty. The family was clearly adroit in its political maneuvers, switching from an allegiance to their cousins at Tikal to one with Calakmul, its arch-enemy” (p. 150).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 23:31 and Alma 43:4‒5. The Amalekites and later the Zoramites, both of whom are Nephites by birth but have dissented from the Nephites and built their own cities, go over to the Lamanites as a body.

Analysis of correspondence: The analysis is specific and detailed. In both cases, whole city-states changed their political allegiance to that of a former enemy. This does not seem unusual to a modern reader and probably would not have seemed unusual even to a country boy in the relatively innocent early 19th century.

Likelihood = 0.1 Possibly overrated!

READ YOUR BIBLE! Learn for instance about Hebron, Jerusalem, and the ancient city of Samaria. Though it risks being overrated, we may argue that the Book of Mormon's biblical parallels on the topic of shifting city-state allegiances, are specific enough to deserve a weight of 10, in favor of a literary setting fitting the America Mound-builder genre. This genre includes works which significantly draw from the Bible.

As for  the scripture's historicity, Coe would argue that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and did a remarkable job imitating it!

On the other hand, we may choose to assign a positive likelihood of 0.1 favoring the Book of Mormon as containing ancient history comparable to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

4.     Complex state institutions

Coe’s standard: “In art, in religion, in state complexity, and perhaps even in the calendar and astronomy, Olmec models were transferred to the Maya” [Page 101](p. 61). “Civilization … has certainly been achieved by the time that state institutions … have appeared” (p. 63). “By Classic times, full royal courts came into view” (p. 93). “closer to the heart of the city itself, where the dwellings of aristocrats and bureaucrats” (p. 126).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:1‒2; Alma 2:6‒7, 14‒16; Alma 27:21‒22; Alma 30:9; Alma 51:2‒7; Alma 60:7, 11, 21, 24. Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya clearly show societies that have large, complex state institutions. For example, the Nephites had (1) some form of elections, (2) armies supported by the state, (3) chief judges and lower judges, and (4) kings (at least part of the time). The Lamanites appear to have had kings at all times. Dr. Coe (p. 63) notes that state institutions were developed among the Maya by the Late Preclassic, consistent with Book of Mormon timing for the references provided. We should expect some coincidences, while coming to terms with the fact that the Maya are not Hebrew according to mainstream authorities. Complex government institutions described in Book of Mormon America, parallel complex government institutions in biblical history.

Analysis of correspondence: Both the British and American civil governments had large, complex state institutions, but the Native American societies certainly did not. Be that as it may, we should ask what do works of the Mound-builder genre suggest about the complexity of alleged civilized Israelite society in ancient America? This comparison is specific, has quite a bit of detail, and probably would not have been unusual to Joseph Smith considering his background.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! The Book of Mormon describes relatively complex governments with judges and kings somewhat similar to descriptions in the Bible. Complex institutions described in the Book of Mormon deserve a 2, supporting a literary setting that fits in the American Mound-builder genre - a genre that includes works that draw upon the Bible.

As for  the scripture's historicity, Coe would argue that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and did a remarkable job imitating and recasting its details.

On the other hand, we may choose to assign a likelihood of 0.5 supporting the Book of Mormon as ancient history comparable to biblical history. (Mormon 7:9)

5.     Many cities exist

Coe’s standard: To name just a few of the cities mentioned in The Maya we have Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, Acanceh, Ek’ Balam, Mayapan, Piedras Negras, Ceibal, Palenque, Naranjo, El Mirador, Bonampak, Uaxactun, Kaminaljuyu, Takalik Abaj, Tikal (p. 9). “the great Usumacinta … draining the northern highlands, … twisting to the northwest past many a ruined Maya city” (p. 16‒17). “More advanced cultural traits, … the construction of cities” (p. 26).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 51:20; Alma 59:5; 3 Nephi 9:3‒10. Many named cities are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

Analysis of correspondence: By 1830 America had many cities, but there were no cities on the frontier where Joseph Smith translated and published the Book of Mormon. The Native Americans with whom Joseph was familiar did not build cities, Remains of Native American earth and timber fortified towns and villages were discovered in western NY. Evidence of these remains were known in Joseph Smith's time. Many Native Americans living on the western "frontier" in Joseph Smith's day, had been pushed their by colonial expansion. The opinion that the abandoned earth and timber fortified towns and villages of western NY were the work of Hebrews, or some other ancient immigrants, was not uncommon. (E. G. Squier, ABORIGINAL MONUMENTS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, 1849)  although he might possibly have learned about some Native American cities by reading View of the Hebrews (See "Ethan Smith and the Authentic Literary Setting for the Book of Mormon"), so we do not count it as unusual. Nonetheless, the correspondence is specific and quite detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

References to many cities in the Book of Mormon deserves a 10, supporting a literary setting that fits in the American Mound-builder genre - a genre that includes works that draw upon the Bible. See Roger G. Kennedy, Hidden Cities - The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization

As for the scripture's historicity, Coe would argue that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and correlated it with the discoveries of mounds, ruins and relics commonly know and discussed in his day.

On the other hand, we may choose to assign a positive likelihood of 0.1 supporting the Book of Mormon as history, in somewhat the same vein as biblical history. (Mormon 7:9)

6.     City of Laman (Lamanai) “occupied from earliest times” - possibly going back long before 600 BC (time of Lehi and his son Laman).

Coe’s standard: “Far up the New River … is the important site of Lamanai, … occupied from earliest times right into the post-Conquest period” (p. 85).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 9:10. The strong tendency is for consonants to be preserved in pronouncing words and names. For example, Beirut (Lebanon) is one of the oldest cities in the world, settled 5,000 years ago. The name derives from Canaanite-Phoenician be’erot and [Page 102]has been known as “Biruta,” “Berytus” and now “Beirut,” while always retaining those three consonants “BRT” in the correct order, and with no intervening consonants.29

In the case of the city Lamanai (Laman), all three consonants, and only these three consonants, namely LMN, are found in the correct order and are the same consonants as given for the city of Laman mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This seems to be a “bullseye” for the Book of Mormon. Even so, the word "layman", or the name "Leman", or the name "Lehman", as in Lehman Caves, Nevada, all sound like the Book of Mormon name "Laman". We should also consider the similar sounding place-names "Raman" and "Lamaing" presented in the Malay Hypothesis. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” the correct consonants, and only the correct consonants in the correct order for the name of an important city “occupied from earliest times?” Similar sounding words with very different meanings are found in sundry languages. A good question to ask is, how early is the "earliest times" referred to by Coe? Could the origin of the word "lamanai" be older than the Book of Mormon "Laman" or "Lamoni"?

From the Isaiah portions of the Book of Mormon, we find evidence that the name "Laman" is Hebrew.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, detailed and statistically unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

"Laman" and "Lamoni" are names of persons in the Book of Mormon. While there is a city of Laman listed in 3 Nephi 9:10, there is no city, or land of Lamoni mentioned in scripture. "Laman" (e.g. brother of Lemuel) was ostensibly an Old World name (as is "Lemuel", Proverbs 31:1). The name "Lemuel" is Hebrew! Lamoni in the Book of Mormon was king over the land of Ishmael. How impressed should we be that there is a Mayan word that sounds like "Laman" or "Lamoni"?

The Hebrew word "lamaan" (למען) actually appears in the Hebrew of 1 Nephi 20:9 (Isaiah 48:9). It appears in the expression that is translated "for my name's sake". The name "Laman" could be short for "lemaanYah", meaning "for the sake of Jehovah", as in 1 Nephi 21:7 (Isaiah 49:7), or it could be short for "lemaanEl", "for God's sake". The Mayan word "Lamanai" has a very different meaning. See "LAMONI Didn't Mean CROCODILE".

Yes, there’s a place named “Lamanai” in Belize, Mesoamerica, but in Joseph Smith’s boyhood state of New York there’s "Oneida", just like the place name "Onidah" in the Book of Mormon. (Alma 32:4)

The Book of Mormon place-name "Onidah" could be seen as strong evidence for a literary setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America):

Likelihood = 50

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith was a scriptural genius, and was influenced by his environment. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood.

7.     Parts of the land were very densely settled

Coe’s standard: “A few cities, such as Chunchucmil in Yucatan, are amazingly dense” (p. 124). “At Tikal, within a little over 6 sq. miles … there are c. 3,000 structures” (p. 126). Recent work not reported in The Maya confirms that some Mayan cities were very densely populated.30

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 1:7.

Analysis of correspondence: The Native Americans ("Lamanites", descendents of Book of Mormon people) with whom Joseph Smith had direct contact did not have cities, let alone cities so densely settled. Their mound building relatives certainly had cities remarkably similar to those described in the Book of Mormon. (Roger G. Kennedy, Hidden Cities - The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization) Notice how carefully the Dales phrase the statement above, in  writing, "The Native Americans with whom Joseph Smith had direct contact did not have cities..." Do the Dales not know that the populations of whole settlements were wiped out by communicable diseases carried by Europeans. Harold Henderson in "The Rise and Fall of the Mound People", states that "When Europeans began settling the southeast and midwest, their diseases had already killed roughly four out of every five Native Americans." Irreversible discontinuities in cultural memory resulted. (Searching for the Great Hopewell Road, Pangea Productions Ltd, 1998) He may have learned about Native American cities from View of the Hebrews, but that book gives no information about how densely settled those cities were. Ethan Smith describes large fortified cities, and at least one lofty, venerable mound containing "many thousands (probably) of human skeletons". Instead, the Dales want to lay claim to large, dense Mayan populations as if these easily fit the bill for Book of Mormon Israelites; a thing which mainstream scholars, including Dr. Coe deny. Having a lot of people at a particular locale, is one thing. Proving that they are Book of Mormon people is quite another. So this correspondence is specific and detailed, but we do not count it as unusual, since Joseph Smith might have gotten the idea from View of the Hebrews.

Likelihood = 0.1

The Bible makes population claims for which there is still no archaeological support. (Numbers 1:45-47, 2 Samuel 24:9, 1 Chronicles 21:5) Despite a lack of archaeological support, the literary setting of the Bible is generally knowable, as is the Book of Mormon's authentic literary setting established by LDS Scripture.

Coe discouraged the idea that the Maya existed in dense populations. (2018 Podcast Part 2 16:46-22:17)

Joseph Smith's editorial on "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" promotes the views put forth in the writings of Ethan Smith, Josiah Priest, and John Lloyd Stephens that there were (in recent centuries) migrations from the Mound-builder north into Mexico, and that "populous nations", and "mighty cities" existed anciently in Mound-builder America and beyond. Don't forget the following:

"…In our own country, the opening of forests and the discovery of tumuli or mounds and fortifications, extending in ranges from the lakes through the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, mummies in a cave in Kentucky, the inscription on the rock at Dighton…the ruins of walls and a great city in Arkansas and Wisconsin Territory, had suggested…the strong belief that powerful and populous nations had occupied it and had passed away, whose histories are entirely unknown." (Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, 1841, pp. 97-98)

"If men, in their researches into the history of this country, in noticing the mounds, fortifications, statues, architecture, implements of war, of husbandry, and ornaments of silver, brass, &c. - were to examine the Book of Mormon, ... uncertainty and doubt would be changed into certainty and facts; and they would find that those things that they are anxiously prying into were matters of history, unfolded in that book. They would find ... -that a great and a mighty people had inhabited this continent-that the arts sciences and religion, had prevailed to a very great extent, and that there was as great and mighty cities on this continent as on the continent of Asia." ("AMERICAN ANTIQUITES", Times & Seasons, July 15, 1842, Joseph Smith ED)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America):

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith was a scriptural genius, and was influenced by his environment. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood.

8.     Large-scale public works

Coe’s standard: “Civilization … has certainly been achieved by the time that state institutions, large-scale public works … have appeared” (p. 63). Dr. Coe notes that city walls (certainly a public work) were built “when, in places, local conditions became hostile” (pp. 126, 194, 216).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:10; Mosiah 11:8‒13; Alma 14:27‒28; Alma 48:8; Helaman 1:22; 3 Nephi 6:7‒8; Ether 10:5‒6. The Book of Mormon speaks in some detail about the large-scale public works that its societies, particularly its more decadent societies, achieved.

[Page 103]Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is both specific and detailed. It would also seem unusual. The Native Americans of Joseph Smith’s time and place did not build public works or temples. Why would Joseph Smith have written a book that clearly claimed that “the Indians” did so? Brings to mind Ephraim George Squier's, ABORIGINAL MONUMENTS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK. It was well known in Joseph Smith's time that the Mound-builders built impressive, defensive walls of earth and timber, and sometimes of stone (rock). Read Joseph Smith's editorial on "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" (Times & Seasons, July 15, 1842) to get an idea of what the Prophet knew relative to walls and fortified towns built by the Mound-builders. Joseph positively identifies ancient works of the Mound-builders with things described in the Book of Mormon. At the end of his article, the Prophet appears to agree with Alexander Humboldt via Josiah Priest, that peoples from the "regions of the now United States ... lake country" eventual migrated southward into Mexico, and there build impressive stone works in more recent centuries. (Priest, American Antiquities, "Traits of the Mosaic History found among the Azteca Nations") Here is where the discoveries of Stephens and Catherwood fit into Joseph's editorial: Joseph knows from John Lloyd Stephens, Josiah Priest and quite probably Ethan Smith, that the stone works in Mexico and Central America are relatively recent. All these authors suggest migrations from Mound-builder America to Mexico in more recent centuries. Joseph believes that Book of Mormon peoples migrated to Mesoamerica, but he never says that Book of Mormon lands are there. There is no explicit mention of walls, or buildings made of hewn stone in the Book of Mormon's American setting. See the scriptural citations above, to which the Dales should pay better attention. Wood and metal working are specifically mentioned. No mention of stonemasonry in wall or building construction. Nephi was divinely instructed on how to work timbers to build a ship. (1 Nephi 19:1) He knew how to work metals. (1 Nephi 17:9) Even his construction of an American temple in fashion like the Jerusalem temple, mentions only wood and metal working. (2 Nephi 5:15-16) Even prison walls were made of timber that could potentially catch fire. (Helaman 5:44) However, since  View of the Hebrews references temples and walled towns (not in any detail - Don't take the Dale's word for it. See for yourself), and Joseph Smith might have gotten the idea from that book, we will only count this correspondence as specific and detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America):

Likelihood = 50

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith was influenced by curious talk of town's folk, and published works of his day. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood.

9.     Some rulers live in luxury

Coe’s standard: “The excavation of two tombs from this period has thrown much light on the luxury to which these rulers were accustomed” (p. 74).

Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 11:3‒15. There is nothing in this topic, or the cited scripture that exclusively points to Mesoamerica. On the contrary, there are things listed in the scripture cited by the Dales, which correlated with Joseph Smith's own country, and a Mound-builder literary setting.

In the list of things taxed by the ensconced Nephite king Noah (נח meaning "comfort", "rest") - taxed at the same rate as mandated by Joseph of Egypt on behalf of Pharaoh (Genesis 47:23-26), is the Nephite metal "ziff". (See The Book of Mormon & Mound-builder America, 239, Ziff)

The mysterious metal "ziff" is listed between silver and copper in Mosiah 11:3. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon lists the following for the Hebrew word "zaphah" or "tsaphah" (צפה):

Ziff

Metal plating is "ziphui" (צפוי). (Isaiah 30:22) Nephite "ziff" could therefore be plated metal (i.e. silver plated onto copper) assuming it is related to the Hebrew word "zaphah" found in scripture.

Joseph Smith's editorial on "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" (Times & Seasons, July 15, 1842) cites "Silver very well plated on copper, has been found in several mounds ..." as material evidence in support of the Book of Mormon saga in the Prophet's own country.

Mosiah 11:3‒15 lists several other things not consistent with an ancient Mesoamerican setting: See The Book of Mormon & Mound-builder America, 103, Brass; 121, Copper; 145, Gold; 156, Iron; 203, Silver; 26, Fatling; 38, Grain; 108, Building; 88, Wood; 82, Vineyard; 86, Wine.

Note that notwithstanding mention of "buildings", "temple", and "a tower", only wood and metal working are mentioned, not stonemasonry.

Analysis of correspondence: Joseph probably knew that the British royal court lived in luxury, but the chiefs of the Indian tribes did not. Why would Joseph have assumed that the ancestors of the Indians had kings who lived in luxury? (Shows the Dales bias, and lack or research on the subject. In terms of biblical background, King Solomon comes to mind, 2 Nephi 5:16, 1 Kings 10:22-23) The Book of Mormon contrasts the reign of King Benjamin, who deliberately did not live in luxury, with decadent rulers who did. So Joseph was correct that some decadent rulers did live in luxury, but there are few details, and this is not particularly unusual.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE!

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America):

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith was a scriptural genius who knew his Bible incredibly well, and that he was also familiar with things reportedly found in the mounds. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood, indicating that the Book of Mormon is historically tied to the Bible, and to Mound-builder America.

10.                                                Elaborate thrones

Coe’s standard: “Its superstructure’s chambers contain a stone throne in the form of a snarling jaguar, painted red, with eyes and spots of jade and fangs of shell; atop the throne rested a Toltec circular back-shield in turquoise mosaic” (p. 206).

Book of Mormon correspondence:  Mosiah 11:9; Ether 10:6.

Analysis of correspondence: Again, Joseph might have known about the elaborate throne of the British royal family (The Dales appear to be ignorant of what's in the Bible. The description of King Solomon's throne and glory, doubtless had some influence on European royalty and society. King David and Solomon, as scriptural examples of rulers, definitely influence the Nephites. Jacob 2:23-26), so it was perhaps not unusual, but what Native Americans was Joseph familiar with that had thrones, let alone elaborate thrones? How did he “guess” this one correctly? To be conservative, however, we will classify this as a specific and detailed correspondence, but perhaps not an unusual one.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read about the throne of Solomon in particular: 1 Kings 7:7; 10:18-21.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith read and knew his Bible (arguably better than the Dales), and was also influenced by things discussed in his colonial American society. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood, suggesting that the Book of Mormon could be history, comparable to the Bible.

11.                                                Royalty exists, with attendant palaces, courts and nobles

Coe’s standard: “We now know a great deal about … Maya societies as the seats of royal courts” (p. 7). “By Classic times, full royal courts came into view” (p. 93). See also pp. 7, 93, 95, 126, and 209.

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:1‒2; Alma 22:2 ; Alma 51:7‒8, 21‒8.

Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya refer repeatedly to these institutions of royalty. So the correspondence is both specific and detailed. However, it may be a stretch to call it unusual. While there were no Indian kings, though the "Great Sun" chiefs of the Mississippian Mound-builders qualify as kings. It should be pointed out that in his American Heritage article, "... and the Mound-builders Vanished Form The Earth", Robert Silverberg remarked, "In this way was born a legend that dominated the American imagination throughout the nineteenth century. It was the myth of the Mound Builders, ... men spun tales of lost kings and demolished cities; a new religion even sprang from the legends. What was the truth behind all this supposition?" Joseph certainly knew about British royalty, and [Page 104]might have been influenced thereby to put it into the Book of Mormon. The Dales again underwhelm us with their inexcusable ignorance, or avoidance of topics tied to the American Mound-builder milieu. (See Richard Dewhurst, GRAHAM HANCOCK, "The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America") Indeed. what could Joseph Smith have understood about Mound-builder monarchs? In his "AMERICAN ANTIQUITES" editorial (Times & Seasons, July 15, 1842) on the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith quotes from Josiah Priest's work: "On the shores of the Mississippi , some miles below Lake Pepin, on a fine plain, exists an artificial elevation of about four feet high, extending a full mile, in somewhat of a circular form. It is sufficiently capacious to have covered 5000 men. Every angle of the breast work is yet traceable, though much defaced by time. Here, it is likely, conflicting realms as great as those of the ancient Greeks and Persians, decided the fate of ambitious Monarchs, of the Chinese, Mongol descent." So to be conservative, we will not classify this one as unusual, although it is specific and detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! In the expression, "... the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea." (Jeremiah 25:22), the Hebrew word translated "isle" means coast, or habitable land. It is clear from scriptural context, that the Hebrew word does not exclusively mean a small landmass entirely surrounded by water. (Isaiah 20:5-6; 23:2, 6; 42:15) Consider also Ezekiel 27:35, 1 Neph1 19:12, and 2 Neph1 10:20-22.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith read and knew his Bible (evidently better than the Dales), and was also influenced by things discussed in 19th Century American society. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as history, comparable to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

12.                                                Royal or elite marriages for political purposes

Coe’s standard: “Where such stratagems typically played out was in royal or noble marriages” (p. 97). “An elite class consisting of central Mexican foreigners, and the local nobility with whom they had marriage ties” (p. 103).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:24; Alma 47:35.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific but not particularly detailed in the case of the Book of Mormon. Joseph might also have been aware of the political marriages in the royal houses of England and Europe. So we rate this one as specific but not detailed or unusual. What about the Bible? Consider Pharaoh giving to Joseph, Asenath daughter of Potipherah priest of On. (Genesis 41:44-45) Consider Solomon's marriages to foreign princesses. (1 Kings 11:1-9, Jacob 2:23-24) Consider Ahab, king of Israel's marriage to the Phoenician princess Jezebel (Izebel, איזבל). Consider the possible figurative use of the wicked princess's name in Revelation 2:20, and Alma 39:3. Consider the marriage of Athaliah to Jehoram king of Judah.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE!

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

13.                                                Feasting for political purposes

Coe’s standard: “In courts, feasts and gifts helped to bind alliances and keep underlings happy, with effects across the kingdom” (p. 97).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 18:9; Alma 20:9.

Analysis of correspondence: Neither book offers a lot of distinguishing detail, although the references are specific. The practice seems unusual in Joseph’s frontier setting in democratic America. Why would Joseph Smith attribute this practice (unusual for him) to the ancestors of the Indians? Could Joseph Smith have possibly heard tell of peacemaking feasts attended by Indians and early settlers? 1 Nephi 13:10-20 obviously describes pilgrims, and early American colonists upon the Book of Mormon land of Lehi's inheritance (1 Nephi 13:30); whereon a free, and mighty nation, above all other nations would be raised up in the Latter-days. This correspondence is therefore ranked as specific and unusual but not detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1.

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read about the feast which Isaac held with Abimelech, Ahuzzath, and Phichol. (Genesis 26:26-31) Read about the feast which David held with Abner and his men. (2 Samuel 3:20-21) Read about the celebration which Adonijah conducted to set himself up as king in the stead of his father David. (1 Kings 1:24-26) Read about a feast made by king Ahasuerus. (Esther 1:2-4)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

14.                                                Gifts to the king for political advantage

Coe’s standard: The Maya refers clearly to this practice: “In courts, feasts and gifts helped to bind alliances and keep underlings happy, with effects across the kingdom” (p. 97).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 2:12.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon reference to political gifts is less specific but strongly suggestive. Again, the practice seems unusual in Joseph’s frontier setting in democratic America. The Dale's argument is nonsense! Why would Joseph Smith attribute this practice (unusual for him) to the ancestors of the Indians? How about common sense, and precedence in the Bible! This correspondence is therefore ranked as only somewhat specific and unusual. The overall likelihood is downgraded from specific and unusual to only specific.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! Abram understood the political and religious ramifications of accepting gifts. (Genesis 14:21-24) As for giving, or refusing to give gifts to kings, see 1 Samuel 10:26-27, 1 Kings 4:21, 2 Kings 17:3, 2 Chronicles 17:5, 11; 32:23.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

15.                                                Political factions organize around a member of the elite

Coe’s standard: “courts did not operate by individual actions alone. They worked instead through factions pivoting around a high ranking courtier or member of the royal family” (p. 97).

[Page 105]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 1:2‒9.

Analysis of correspondence: In America in the early 19th century, the party system had already been born, and the party often pivoted around a key political figure like Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, so this idea was not unusual to Joseph. However, it is both specific and quite detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read, for instance, about Absalom the son of David. (2 Samuel 15:6-10)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

16.                                                Foreigners move in and take over government, often as family dynasties

Coe’s standard: “[The Founder of Copan] was another stranger coming in from the west, perhaps from Teotihuacan” (p. 118). “[At Dos Pilas] … a noble lineage arrived from Tikal and established a royal dynasty” (p. 150). “Uxmal … was the seat of the Xiu family, but this was a late lineage of Mexican origin that could not possibly have built the site” (p. 180).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:19; Alma 47:35; Helaman 1:16.

Analysis of correspondence: Again, both the Book of Mormon and The Maya specifically refer to this practice and in considerable detail. However, Joseph Smith might have been aware of the change in family dynasties in England about a century earlier when the House of Hanover succeeded the House of Stuart as kings of Great Britain, and used this as his model (however unlikely). So the correspondence is specific and detailed, but perhaps not unusual. To be conservative, we assign this a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read, for instance, Exodus 1:8-11. Read Judges 3-14. Note for example times when the lords of the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

17.                                                City administrative area with bureaucrats and aristocrats

Coe’s standard: At Tikal “closer to the heart of the city itself, [were] the dwellings of aristocrats and bureaucrats” (p. 126), “the palaces were the administrative centers of the city” (p. 128). At Aguateca the archaeologist was able “to identify specialized areas, such as a house which was probably that of the chief scribe of the city” (p. 151). “The House of the Governor was built, probably to serve as his administrative headquarters” (p. 182).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 60:19, 22; Helaman 9:1‒7.

Analysis of correspondence: Both books are quite specific on this point, but the Book of Mormon does not provide a lot of detail. However, Joseph Smith never saw a state or national capital city with its administrative center and nearby houses for officials until well after the the Book of Mormon was published; though there are certainly inferences to this in the Bible. So this is unusual and specific.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read for example Nehemiah chapter 3. Also Esther 1:5; 2:11; 4:11; 5:1; 6:12; 8:2.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

18.                                                Records kept specifically of the reigns of the kings

Coe’s standard: “the ‘stela cult’ — the inscribed glorification of royal lineages and their achievements” (p. 177). “The text is completely historical, recounting the king’s descent from Pakal the Great” (p. 264n169). “The figures that appear in Classic reliefs are not gods and priests, but dynastic autocrats and their spouses, children, and subordinates” (p. 273).

[Page 106]Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 9:4; Jacob 3:13; Jarom 1:14.

Analysis of correspondence: Like The Maya, the Book of Mormon is very specific and detailed about separate records being kept of the reigns of the kings. We know of no reason or existing historical model that would have led Joseph Smith to have correctly “guessed” that the doings of the kings were kept separately from the rest of the history of a people. (1 Kings 14:19, 29; 15:17, 23, 31; 16:5 etc.) This is a specific, detailed and unusual (rather, biblically evident) correspondence.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Books of Kings.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

19.                                                Native leaders incorporated in power structure after subjugation

Coe’s standard: “Mesoamerican ’empires’ such as Teotihuacan’s were probably not organized along Roman lines; … rather, they were ‘hegemonic,’ in the sense that conquered bureaucracies were largely in place” (p. 100). “it seems obvious that many of the native princes were incorporated into the new power structure” (p. 206). “Or perhaps Calakmul found it easier … to rule through local authorities” (p. 276).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 19:26‒27; Mosiah 24:1‒2.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya are both specific and detailed about this practice. As Dr. Coe suggests, the only model Joseph Smith might conceivably have heard about for control of subjugated peoples was the Roman one, which was the opposite of the system used among the Maya, and also the opposite of the system used in the Book of Mormon. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that one correctly? Specific, detailed and unusual (rather, biblical). Kings of Judea were subject to other rulers.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! E.g. read about Zedekiah, king of Judah. Read Jeremiah 27:12-14, and 1 Nephi 1:4.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)  

20.                                                Tribute required of subjects

Coe’s standard: “the ruler took in tax or tribute” (p. 93). “Scenes with food, drink, and tribute” (p. 97). “displays of captives or tribute” (p. 124). “On what did the population live? One answer is tribute” (p. 216).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:15, 22; Mosiah 19:15, 22, 26, 28; Mosiah 22:7, 10. Also Alma 23:38‒39; Alma 7:22; Alma 24:9.

Analysis of correspondence: Once again, the Book of Mormon and The Maya are both specific and detailed about the practice of tribute. However, it is possible that Joseph had heard about this practice either through the Bible or other sources. Finally the Dales appear willing to consider a possible correlation with the Bible. The taxation parallel between Genesis 47:23-26 and Mosiah 11:3‒15 (which the Dales skip over in their long list of scriptural citations above) was discussed previously in the critical commentary on 9. So we will classify this correspondence as specific and detailed, but not unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

Considering the Bible further on the subject of taxes and tribute: Genesis 49:14-15, Joshua 16:10, 1 Kings 9:21, 2 Kings 23:33-34, 2 Chronicles 8:7-8; 17:11, Matthew 17:24-27.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

21.                                                Limited number of important patrilineages

Coe’s standard: “There were 24 ‘principal’ lineages in Utatlan” (p. 225). “There were approximately 250 patrilineages in Yucatan at the time of the Conquest, and we know from Landa how important they were” (p. 234).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob: 1:13; Alma 47:35; 4 Nephi 1:36‒38; Mormon 1:8‒9.

Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya are very specific and detailed about how important it was to belong to a leading patrilineage. While Joseph Smith might have picked up this idea from reading the Bible (that is, the tribes of Israel) we think this is very unlikely. So we regard this correspondence as specific, detailed and unusual. The Dale's allegation that because the Maya placed importance on a select patrilineality, that this constitutes strong evidence that the Book of Mormon is ancient Mesoamerican history, is nonsense! It makes the Dales look desperate for "strong" evidence.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

Consider the Bible and the Book of Mormon further on the subject: 1 Chronicles 5:2, 1 Nephi 5:14-16, 2 Nephi 3:4, Alma 10:3, 1 Chronicles 9:3, 2 Chronicles 30:1, 10-12, 18-20. Consider also LDS Doctrine and Covenants 27:5, and the lineage of Ephraim in Lehi's company. ("7 Things We Now Know About the Lost 116 Pages of the Book of Mormon")

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

22.                                                King and “king elect”

Coe’s standard: “The K’iche’ state was headed by a king, a king-elect, and two ‘captains'” (p. 226). “royal youths … or the ‘great youth,’ … perhaps the heir-designate” (p. 278).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 1:10; Mosiah 6:3.

[Page 107]Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon also refers to the practice of an heir-designate, so this is a specific correspondence, but it is not particularly detailed. Also, Joseph may have been aware of the practice of having heirs to the throne of Great Britain. To be conservative, we will assign this correspondence a likelihood of 0.5, although it may perhaps merit a greater evidentiary strength.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! E.g. 1 Kings 1:29-30, 32-35, 38-48, 1 Chronicles 23:1.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

23.                                                There are captains serving kings

Coe’s standard: “The K’ iche’ state was headed by a king, a king-elect and two ‘captains'” (p. 226).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 22:3.

Analysis of correspondence: Gideon clearly serves in the capacity of a captain to King Limhi, so the idea is specific or highly suggestive. It also seems unusual. Where would Joseph Smith have come up with this idea? Because of lack of detail, we will assign this correspondence a likelihood of 0.5, although it probably merits a greater strength.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! E.g. Exodus 15:4, 2 Samuel 4:2; 18:1, 5; 23:8; 24:4, 1 Kings 2:5; 22:31, Nehemiah 2:9, Daniel 3:2.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

24.                                                Political power is exercised by family dynasties

Coe’s standard: “[Spearthrower Owl installed his own son] … as the tenth ruler of Tikal” (p. 109). “King of the great city of Palenque [was] the second son of the renowned Palenque [ruler Pakal the Great]” (p. 161). “There were 24 ‘principal’ lineages in Utatlan, closely identified with the buildings … in which the lords carried out their affairs” (p. 225). “The ancient Maya realm was … a class society with political power … in the hands of an hereditary elite” (p. 234). “the names of the cities themselves or of the dynasties that ruled over them” (p. 271). “dynastic record of all Palenque rulers” (p. 274).

Book of Mormon correspondence: From the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the key political question was which of sons of Lehi had the right to exercise political power over the rest of Lehi’s descendants; in other words, who would be the leader of an hereditary elite? See Mosiah 1:9; Mosiah 11:1[Page 108]Mosiah 19:16, 26; Mosiah 28:10 ; Alma 17:6; Alma 20:8; Alma 24:3‒4; Alma 50:40; Helaman 1:4‒5; Helaman 2:2; Ether 6:24.

Analysis of correspondence: Both books very clearly attest to the central importance of family dynasties. The Lamanite political model was clearly that of hereditary kings. Even among the supposedly more democratic Nephites, following the political reforms of King Mosiah, the office of chief judge (an elected position) often descended from father to son, for example, Alma to his son Alma, Pahoran to his son Pahoran, etc. Obviously, there was a de facto hereditary elite even during a time of popular elections.

Likewise, The Maya provides many examples of continuing conflict over the question of which lineage would exercise political leadership. So this correspondence is specific and quite detailed. However, it is not unusual. Joseph might have been aware of the various family dynasties in Europe and Great Britain, and their unending conflicts. This correspondence is thus assigned a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read 1 Chronicles 23:1, and consider the Davidic dynasty: 2 Samuel 2:10-11, Jeremiah 33:16-22.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

25.                                                Kings rule over subordinate provincial or territorial rulers, some of noble blood (subkings)

Coe’s standard: “The wily K’uk’ulkan II populated his city with provincial rulers and their families” (p. 216). “At the head of each statelet in Yucatan was the … the territorial ruler who had inherited his post in the male line” (p. 236). “The kings of some lesser states were said to be ‘possessed’ by the rulers of more powerful ones” (p. 275).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:2‒3; Alma 17:21; Alma 20:4, 8.

Analysis of correspondence: This pattern is clearly evident among the Lamanite kings in the Book of Mormon and also as detailed by Dr. Coe in The Maya. So the correspondence is specific and quite detailed in both books. We know of no political model in his time on which Joseph Smith might have relied to correctly “guess” this correspondence. The kings of Great Britain did not have provincial rulers of royal blood. Thus this correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual. However, because of its overlap with correspondence 1.2, we assign only a likelihood of 0.5 to this correspondence. This choice is due to the specific additional information that sometimes these provincial rulers were of royal blood.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider 2 Samuel 10:19, 1 Kings 20:14-19, Esther 1:3, Jeremiah 27:6-7, 12-14, Ezekiel 26:7, Daniel 2:37.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

26.                                                “Seating” means accession to political power

Coe’s standard: “Epigraphers conclude that pectoral reverse records the ‘seating’ or accession to power, of the ruler in question” (p. 91). “Important glyphs now known to relate to dynastic affairs include … inauguration or ‘seating’ in office” (p. 274).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 8:12; Helaman 7:4; 3 Nephi 6:19.

[Page 109]Analysis of correspondence: On three separate occasions, the Book of Mormon uses exactly this word seating or seat to describe the holding of or accession to political power. So the correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual. It seems very unlikely that Joseph Smith would have correctly “guessed” this particular word.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1 The Dales seem to have a propensity for trying to make a "strong" correspondence out of a correspondence that only deserves to be ranked as "positive".

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider Deuteronomy 33:20-21, 2 Samuel 23:8, 1 Kings 2:19, 10:19, Esther 3:1-2, Job 23:3, Ezekiel 28:2, Matthew 23:1-3.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

27.                                                Separation of civil and religious authority

Coe’s standard: “a hereditary Chief Priest resided in that city, … but in no source do we find his authority or that of the priests superseding civil power” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 4:16‒18.

Analysis of correspondence: Under the leadership of Alma the Younger, the role of the head of state and the head of the church were separated, while they had previously been combined. It appears that this was the pattern afterwards among the Nephites, but we do not know what the pattern was among the Lamanites. So this correspondence is specific, but not detailed. Also, this pattern of “separation of church and state” as practiced in America would not have been unusual to Joseph Smith.

Likelihood = 0.5

The Book of Mormon makes it clear that in Nephite America under the rule of the Judges "... there was no law against a man's belief ..." (Alma 30:7-11) This freedom of religious belief was tied to Hebrew scripture, e.g. Joshua 24:15. A separation of political and priesthood authority is evident in places in the Bible. See for example 2 Chronicles 26:18, Jeremiah 33:17-21.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

28.                                                Those of noble birth aspire to power

Coe’s standard: “Several courtiers were so mighty as to be magnates, perhaps descended from collateral royal lines. They needed to be co-opted and watched, lest their pretensions got out of hand” (p. 93).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma: 51:5, 8.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Alma describes a continuing conflict in the Nephite confederation between those who desired a freely chosen government and those who were of “high birth” and sought to be kings. So the correspondence is specific, but not very detailed in either book and probably not unusual to Joseph, since seeking after power seems to be part of human nature.

Likelihood = 0.5

Biblical examples have been given in previous citations. Read for example about Korah, Absalom and Jeroboam.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

29.                                                Royal courts imitate their enemies

Coe’s standard: “Courts were often imitative. Through a curious form of standardization, they emulated each other, even those of enemies” (p. 95).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 47:23.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon likewise refers to a specific custom of Lamanite royalty which had been taken from their Nephite enemies. Dr. Coe himself regards this imitative feature as “curious”; so we will agree to that point. It is indeed unusual. However, there is not a lot of detail in either The Maya or the Book of Mormon about these imitative practices, so we will classify this correspondence as specific and unusual, but not detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1Biblical examples include the imitations of Jeroboam. See 1 Kings 12:26-33. Consider also 1 Samuel 8:5, 10-22, and Exodus 7:8-12.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

30.                                                [Page 110]Royal courts function as “great households”

Coe’s standard: “A final observation is that courts functioned as ‘great households'” (p. 97).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma Chap. 19 (the whole chapter)

Analysis of correspondence: Alma Chapter 19 describes a somewhat unusual scene in which many of King Lamoni’s subjects gather to Lamoni’s “house” (not his palace) in quite a familiar, quasi-democratic way and are apparently able to bring their swords along with them. This would certainly not be the case in the court of Great Britain. So the practice is definitely unusual, but there is not a lot of detail, and Dr. Coe is not very specific about what he means by “great households.”

However, there is enough specificity in the concept of royal courts as households and the idea that King Lamoni had a house, rather than a palace, to warrant identifying this as a correspondence. While this may not be a detailed correspondence or a particularly specific one, it is very unusual. Therefore, we assign this correspondence a likelihood of 0.5.

Likelihood = 0.5

The Hebrew word translated "household" in 2 Samuel 15:16 (referring to King David's court, or household) is "bet" (בית). This word can mean family or court, but is also the word simply translated "house" at the end of 2 Samuel 15:16. See also 1 Kings 16:18, and Jeremiah 52:13. The Book of Mormon use of the word "household" and "house" matches biblical use. (Alma 22:23; 23:3)

Native NY Long House

Native American Long House - Western NY

 

Seneca Council House

 

 

Seneca Council House Marker

Restored Seneca Council House - Western NY (Alma 19:18)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

31.                                                Candidates for high office had to possess hidden knowledge

Coe’s standard: Any candidate for high office had to pass an occult catechism known as the ‘Language of Zuywa.'” (p. 236).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Enos 1:1; Mosiah 1:2.

Analysis of correspondence: King Benjamin “caused that [his sons] should be taught in the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding.” Later, his son Mosiah became the ruler of the people. Likewise, Enos (a prince of sorts) was also taught in the “language” of his father. One is led to ask: “Was the regular course of education not sufficient for these young men; was their common language not enough to qualify them to lead?” Apparently not. This correspondence has some detail, and while it is specific enough to get our attention, and is definitely unusual, we do not think it merits a likelihood of 0.02; instead it is assigned a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

Its not too surprising that those holding high office would possess language skills beyond that of a commoner. See 2 Kings 18:26-28.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

32.                                                Abrupt breaks in dynasties

Coe’s standard: “Thus, we can expect a good deal of local cultural continuity even in those regions taken over by the great city; but in the case of the lowland Maya, we shall also see outright interference in dynastic matters, with profound implications for the course of Maya history. (p. 100). “there are signs of … profound breaks in the dynasty” (p. 116).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:1‒19; Alma 24:1‒2.

Analysis of correspondence: The Maya also describes numerous other instances in which one Maya kingdom invaded another and abruptly changed the ruling dynasty. The same thing also occurs in the Book of Mormon, [Page 111]when King Mosiah replaces (peacefully) the ruler(s) of Zarahemla; and later in Alma 24 when the rebellious Lamanites depose their hereditary king. So this correspondence is specific and detailed in both books, but it probably does not qualify as unusual. Joseph might well have known about the many European wars, with multiple rulers bent on deposing each other.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider other mentions in scripture of abrupt dynastic breaks: Exodus 1:8-11, Daniel 9:1-2; 10:1.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

33.                                                Subservient peoples are said to “possess” the land while ruled by a dominant power

Coe’s standard: “The kings of some lesser states were said to be ‘possessed’ by the rulers of more powerful ones” (p. 275). Coe seems to be saying that Mayan kings of lesser states were considered the property of ('possessed' by) Mayan rulers of more dominant states. It is not clear that this is exactly the same thing that the Book of Mormon is saying in regards to possessing a land under a dominant power, divine or human:

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 19:15. This scripture which the Dales cite, alleging correspondence, is saying that the Lamanites, who captured certain Nephites, allowed those Nephites to "possess" the "land of Nephi" as long as certain conditions were met, which included paying tribute to the Lamanites.

Analysis of correspondence: It is interesting that this specific word possess is the one used by the Maya to describe subservient rulership. Likewise the Lehites (for example, 2 Nephi 1:9) and the Jaredites (for example, Ether 2:8) were instructed that theirs was a “promised land” and that they would “possess” it as long as they kept their covenants with their heavenly king. That same word possess was the relationship the Israelites were to have with their lands of promise, under God’s rule (for example, Deuteronomy 11:8, 2 Nephi 24:2)The wording here is highly specific, and unusual, but may not be detailed enough in the case of the Maya to warrant a likelihood of 0.02, but it does warrant a likelihood of 0.1. How would Joseph Smith have guessed how appropriate that particular word was to describe this relationship between a more powerful king and his subservient kings among the Maya?

Joseph Smith did not have to divinely know, or guess this detail about Mayan rulers. There is no definite correspondence here. The exact expression "posses the land" is a scriptural expression repeated over and over in the Bible: e.g. Deuteronomy 3:20; 4:1; 8:1; 9:4, 23; 10:11 ... The Hebrew root of the word translated "possess" in Deuteronomy 11:8 (cited by the Dales) is "yaresh" (ירש). This oft repeated Hebrew root doesn't just mean to take possession, it means to inherit by driving out previous owners, to dispossess, to occupy by conquest, to make poor one's enemy. This is somewhat the antithesis of the meaning that the Dales want to spin. Do the Dales mean to say that the Lamanites possessed the land of Nephi, and the Nephites in the land? This is not exactly what Mosiah 19:15 is saying.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider Jeremiah 30:3; 32:9-15. The Hebrew root of the word translated "possessed" in Jeremiah 32:15 is "qanah" (קנה), meaning to get, acquire, buy, purchase, redeem.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

2.     Calculation of overall likelihood for political correspondences

3.                 There are 33 separate political correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, nine have a likelihood of 0.5, 16 have a likelihood of 0.1 and eight have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 33 positive correspondences is 0.59 x 0.116 x 0.028 =

4. 4.99 x 10–33. Rather, 0.512 x 0.120 x 0.02  4.88 x 10–26, given corrections in blue.

Thus far the Dales have failed to show any correspondence that unambiguously ties the Book of Mormon to ancient Mesoamerica.

Overall likelihood of literary setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

212 x 1020 x 502 = 1.024 x 1027

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain, except in the category of sacred history tied to the Bible:

 0.514 x 0.119 x 0.020 
6.10 x 10–24

5.     Cultural and Social Correspondences

1.     Possible ancient origin of Mesoamerican cultures

Coe’s standard: “Given the similarities among the diverse cultures of Mesoamerica, … its peoples must share a common origin, so far back in time that it may never be brought to light by archaeology” (p. 14).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See the Book of Ether. The Book of Ether is a Nephite edited record of the more ancient Jaredite nation.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon specifically refers to a much earlier migration, the “Jaredites,” from the Old World to the New World thousands of years before the Lehite migration. However, the Book of Mormon does not say, as Coe strongly implies above, that the earlier [Page 112]culture was the common origin of subsequent cultures. Those details are lacking in the Book of Mormon. Because the authentic literary setting of the Book of Mormon is not set in Mexico and Central America. Unlike the more ancient Olmec culture of Mesoamerica, the Book of Mormon explains that the Jaredite nation was utterly destroyed from off the face of the covenant land. (Ether 11:12, 20-21) The same "choice land" of liberty on which the Lord would raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles - a nation without emperors or kings, above all other nations. A nation that "shall be free from bondage, and captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land ..." (Ether 2:10-12) The pattern is, however, unusual. It is one thing for Joseph Smith to have “guessed” the existence of the Lehite colony, but to correctly guess another much, much earlier culture/migration is quite unusual. We rate this specific and unusual for a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

Actually, there was little guesswork involved. Read Genesis 11:2-8. The Book of Mormon touches on, and parallels archaic to less ancient biblical history. In fact the abridged Nephite version of the Book of Ether admits to omitting an antediluvian history kept by the Jaredites, because it "is had among the Jews" i.e. in the Bible. (Ether 1:3-4) So the Book of Ether simply fills in ancient American sacred history from the time just after the great tower until just before the arrival of Israelites in the land (time period of the Babylonian captivity).

In their zealous efforts to prove the Book of Mormon to be Mesoamerican history, the Dales often make too much of this or that correspondence. Their misguided, overdone arguments can actually detract from instances in which the Book of Mormon has something remarkable to say about its history that is not easily refuted!

Though it doesn't fit a quasi-limited Mesoamerican model, Times & Seasons Editor Joseph Smith informed the public that “the lake country of America” (region of Lake Ontario) is where the Jaredite ancestors, who departed from the great tower, finally arrived? (See Joseph Smith’s editorial, signed “ED.”, on a chapter from Priest’s American Antiquities, Times & Seasons, June 15. 1842, Vol. 3, pp. 818-820)

Joseph apparently agreed with Josiah Priest's work, which suggested that in time, ancient people from the "lake country" (in what is now the United States of America) eventually migrated into Mexico; hence the native flood legends in both countries.

Though the Jaredite nation was utterly destroyed in the region of "Ramah" (hill Cumorah, south of Lake Ontario, Ether 15:8-12, 29-34) It is possible that Jaredites had at some point migrated into Mexico and affiliated with people there. According to Mexican historian, Don Mariano Veytia, the principal ancestors of the people of Central America were not Israelites, but seven families that "came from the dispersion of Babel ..." (Ancient America Rediscovered, First English Translation by Ronda Cunningham, Compiled by Donald W. and and W. David Hemmingway, 2000, pg. 40)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 50, given Joseph Smith's published statement about the Jaredites arriving in "the lake country of America" (region of Lake Ontario); which the Dales fail to mention.

The Jaredites and American Israelites coincide, respectively, with the mound builder Archaic, and Woodland periods of temperate North America's past. But Joseph Smith went even further back into time revealing in LDS Scripture portions of temperate North America's antediluvian past.

Going forward in time, the Book of Mormon ends a little before the end of "ancient history", as modern scholars try to define it.  Remember that Stephens did not consider any of the Mesoamerican ruins which he and Catherwood documents, as ancient. Turns out, Stephens was right on this point. The exuberant apostles manning the Nauvoo printing office were mistaken.

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

2.     Active interchange of ideas and things among the elite

Coe’s standard: “there must have been an active interchange of ideas and things among the Mesoamerican elite over many centuries” (p. 14).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:12‒15; Mosiah 7:9, 13; Alma 47:23, 35‒36; Helaman 4:3‒4, 8; Helaman 11: 24‒25; Alma 63:14; 3 Nephi 1:28.

Analysis of correspondence: Coe is very specific and detailed in his statement. The Book of Mormon is likewise detailed and specific about the many exchanges of people (especially elite peoples) and ideas over centuries among the Book of Mormon peoples. Even a well-educated person, which Joseph Smith was certainly not, would have a hard time thinking of a historical model for this behavior, let alone blending it so seamlessly and unobtrusively into the larger Book of Mormon history. Therefore it is specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02. 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! The Dales cite the wilderness journey of the Nephites led by King Mosiah (father of Benjamin), their encounter, and mixing with the people of Zarahemla. There are of course parallels to this in the Bible. For instance, a mixed company of liberated peoples, converted to the worship of Jehovah, came out of Egypt with the Israelite. (Exodus 12:37-38) One of the wives of Moses was African. (Numbers 12:1), as was the heritage of some of the descendents of Aaron; most notably Phinehas who was given an "everlasting priesthood". (Numbers 25:7-13)

The complex relationships and exchanges between the Jebusites and the Jews, can also be compared to the relationship between the Nephites and the people of Zarahemla. (1 Chronicles 11:4-5)

There are, of course, other biblical examples in which people of different backgrounds mingled. (Ruth 1:16, Ezra 9:1-2, Jeremiah 25:19-26; 50:35-37, Ezekiel 30:4-5) Consider the complex exchange of David dwelling among the Philistines. (1 Samuel 27:16) Consider the Ephrathite Jeroboam fleeing to Egypt, and returning after the death of Solomon to lead the northern landholding tribes away from the house of David. (1 Kings 12:1-4, 15-17) Consider Daniel in the court of Babylonian and Persian rulers, and "Zaphnath-paaneah" (Joseph) in the favored company of Pharaoh.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

3.     Foreign brides for elites

Coe’s standard: “More than a negligible percentage of Tikal’s population came from elsewhere, including the introduction of foreign brides for elites” (p. 109).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:24 and Alma 47:35.

Analysis of correspondence: Ammon was a Nephite prince whom the king of the Lamanites sought as a husband for one of his daughters; and Ammonihah Amalickiah was a Nephite by birth who became king of the Lamanites after marrying the queen, so the correspondence is specific and detailed. There were indeed foreign brides for elites. However, Joseph might have been aware of the intermarriages among the royal houses of Europe, where elites also had foreign brides, so it is not unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! Compare the account of Moses prince of Egypt, being content to dwell with Reuel priest of Midian (Exodus 2:21), with Ammon's "desire to dwell" among the Lamanites in the land of Ishmael (Alma 17:23-24). The Dales meant Amalickiah who married the Lamanite queen, as recorded in Alma 47:35. Had they given it a little more thought they might have drawn biblical parallels with Joseph's marriage to Asenath, or Ahab's marriage to Jezebel, or Solomon's foreign marriages. Come to think of it, this correspondence is rather like one the Dales have already mentioned (see the previous correspondence 12. Royal or elite marriages for political purposes), and which they only assigned a likelihood of 0.5. The Dales certainly seem to be getting some mileage out of Alma 17:24 and Alma 47:35.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

4.     Slavery practiced

Coe’s standard: “[Yucatan was famed for] production of honey, salt and slaves” (p. 19). “Slaves comprised both sentenced criminals and vassal war captives” (p. 225). “Human sacrifice was perpetrated on prisoners, slaves, and children” (pp. 243‒44).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:15; Alma 27:8; 3 Nephi 3:7.

Analysis of correspondence: King Benjamin specifically states that he had not allowed his people to make slaves of one another, strongly implying that slavery was the usual practice. (Mosiah 2:13). The Lamanites offered to become slaves until they had recompensed the wrongs they had done to [Page 113]the Nephites. The Gadiantons offered a partnership with the Nephites as an alternative to slavery. So the practice of slavery is specific and detailed in both books. Alas, slavery has never been unusual, and it was certainly known to Joseph Smith.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Read Jeremiah 34:8-16 on servitude tolerated in Israel under the law at the time of Lehi (1 Nephi 4:31-33); and on proclaiming liberty - an important subject in the Book of Mormon. (Alma 43:45) See also servitude under the rule of kings, e.g. 2 Chronicles 2:17-18.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

5.     Different languages found in pockets

Coe’s standard: “Languages other than Mayan were found in isolated pockets, indicating either intrusions of peoples from foreign lands or remnant populations engulfed by the expansion of the Mayan tongues” (p. 31).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:19; Mosiah 9:6‒7; Mosiah 23:30‒35; Alma 27:22.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon contains examples of both kinds of linguistic “pockets,” both by intrusion and engulfment. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. It perhaps is not unusual, however. Joseph Smith might have reflected on the intrusion of English into the French peoples of Canada, or on the immigration of so many Germans during the Revolutionary War … and then woven this idea seamlessly into the Book of Mormon. Unlikely in the extreme, but possible. To be (probably overly) conservative we rate this one as specific and detailed, but not unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! First consider the difference in dialects between, for instance, certain Gileadites and Ephraimites. (Judges 12:5-6) Consider the variety of languages, according to the Bible, neighboring, and intruding into Israel, and nearby countries. (Isaiah 36:11, Nehemiah 13:23-24, Esther 1:22; 8:9, Psalm 81:5; 114:1) Consider the specific mention of pockets of language. (Isaiah 19:18) Consider the specific mention of the intrusion of language. (Jeremiah 5:15) Consider the diverse convergence of languages in Jerusalem during feasts such as Shavuot (Pentecost, Acts 2:7-11)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

6.     In their creation stories, a great flood caused by human wickedness

Coe’s standard. “men made from flesh. … [Humankind] turned to wickedness and … were in their turn annihilated … as … a great flood swept the earth” (p. 41). “the last Creation before our own ended with a great flood” (p. 249).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 5:11, Alma 10:22.

Analysis of correspondence: The Lehite colony had the five books of Moses, and thus the flood story. Among the Maya and the Lehites, the great flood was specifically due to the wickedness of men. So the correspondence was specific and detailed. However, because Joseph Smith may have read View of the Hebrews  before the Book of Mormon was published (however unlikely, or likely that may be), we are not allowing this correspondence to be unusual. What about things he definitely read, and commented on, after the Book of Mormon was published?

Likelihood = 0.1

Joseph Smith in fact, knew that the Indians of temperate North American, and Mexico had flood legends. This does not mean that he placed Book of Mormon lands and events in Mesoamerica. On the contrary, Joseph Smith had read both the Mexican, and native northern American flood stories which Josiah Priest featured in his later (1838) edition of American Antiquities. According to Humboldt and Priest, knowledge of the great deluge came to America by way of families who had come "immediately from the region of the tower of Babel" and who "were permitted to speak the same language ..."

The Prophet, placed the arrival of the Jaredites, not on a coast of Mesoamerica, but in "the lake country of America", using Priest's/Humboldt's description. The original families, having departed "the region of the tower of Babel ... traveled till they came to a country ... in the regions of the now United States, according to Humboldt." (American Antiquities and Discoveries in the West, "Traits of the Mosaic History found among the Azteca Nations", pg. 209, 1838 edition)

Joseph Smith featured both the Mexican and northern American flood stories in his editorial named after the chapter in Priest's work. ("Traits of the Mosaic History found among the Azteca Nations", Times & Seasons, June 15. 1842, Vol. 3, pp. 818-820)

Priest explained that descendents of those that came from the region of Babel, eventually migrated southward to Mexico, but that was sometime after their ancestors had settled in "the lake country". (Ether 13:2)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 50

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible, and literature on the Mound-builders well, and based the Book of Mormon on these. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

7.     Possible settlement of the Americas by seafarers

Coe’s standard: “The presence or absence of the Bering Strait is thus not necessarily relevant to the problem [of the settlement of the Americas]: the very first Americans may well have taken a maritime route” (p. 41). “From the setting sun we came … from beyond the sea” (p. 224).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 18:8, 23; Omni 1:16; Ether 6:12.

Analysis of correspondence: Coe is specific on this point, but not particularly detailed, at least as regards his interpretation of the Annals of the Kaqchikels. In contrast, the Annals themselves seem to be very specific and detailed on [Page 114]this point. According to the Kaqchikels, their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea. The Book of Mormon is specific that both the Jaredite and Lehite migrations were by sea, and the Lehites came from the west. The Book of Mormon does not say that Lehi's company arrived in America from the west. It says that they crossed "the large waters into the promised land ..." (1 Nephi summary), finally arriving near the shore of a western sea (Alma 22:28). The Book of Mormon hints that this western sea was a large body of freshwater that was resorted to during drought. (Helaman 11:17-20) In Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament), inland bodies of water are consistently referred to as seas, not lakes. (Joel 2:20) The same is true in the Book of Mormon, e.g. "the sea in the wilderness" (Ether 2:6-7). We are not told how the Mulekites arrived. We are told that the people of Zarahemla (a descendent of Mulek, Mosiah 25:1-2) "were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah [father of King Benjamin] discovered them" (Omni 1:16). The reference to "great waters", and crossing "into the land", likely refers to more than an ocean voyage. It suggests crossing great inland waters as well. In Joseph’s day, most educated persons believed in a Bering Strait migration of the ancestors of the American Indians, perhaps by the land bridge. So for Joseph to say that the Book of Mormon peoples came by sea was unusual. Not really! Did the Romans in Spaulding's manuscript arrive in America by land-bridge? No! The manuscript is a historical romance "purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found on 24 rolls of parchment in a cave, on the banks of the Conneaut Creek". The manuscript tells of a Roman ship which discovers America. Another 19th century writer, Josiah Priest, seemed to be open to a variety of migrations, and ways of crossing to American. Priest emphasized that "Romans did actually go on voyages of discovery, while in possession of Britain". He discussed the possibility of "Ruins of a Roman Fort at Marrietta" (a chapter in American Antiquities), and speculated on "Scandinavians in the year 1000, or thereabouts, who made a settlement at the mouth of the St. Lawrence." However, in deference to Coe’s different interpretation of the Annals from a plain reading of that quotation, we rate this one as specific and unusual, but not detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

The fact that peoples of Mesoamerica really did come from the west, from "beyond the sea" (from Asia) might suggest generations of island hoping, not unlike that accomplished by Polynesians. But it could also mean a land-bridge crossing from the northwest - from lands beyond the sea.

Besides, arriving in Central America by boat, or raft didn't have to involve a vast, mid-ocean crossing of the Pacific. Veytia’s historical research lead him to conclude that there were many migrations from the north (temperate North America) by land and by raft, or boat into Mexico and Central America. Ancient people migrated to Central America from “far to the north, beyond the Apache nations…” (Ancient America Rediscovered, pg. 51)

A vast Pacific crossing for Lehi's company, may be one of the most absurd ideas forged into Mormon tradition by intelligent church leaders. We have Frederick G. Williams, and Orson Pratt to thank for their contributions to this folly.

You would think they would have made an estimate of how many souls were on board when Lehi's company set sail near the coast of Africa. Surely the brethren would have made an estimate of how much freshwater would have been needed to cross the Indian Ocean, and then the vast Pacific. Surely the brethren would have looked into the directions of ocean currents, and prevailing winds!

Sailing eastward from Arabia, across more than half the globe, you couldn't count on always making it to a continental coast, or an island. Wouldn't it have been better to keep Lehi's party near the African coast for much of the voyage, resupplying at places like the island of Grande Comore, port Moroni; and then, assisted by steady equatorial currents, and prevailing winds of the Atlantic, cross the shorter distance between the Old world and the New? Didn't the church brethren perceive that the God of Israel would finally guide Lehi's party to temperate northern coasts, where they could actually keep all of the seasonal ordinances of the law of Moses? (1 Nephi 5:10)

On the subject of tribes of Israel migrating to America, Priest wrote, "But suppose the American and European continents, several hundred years before the Christian era, were not united; how, then, did such part of the Ten Tribes as may have wandered to that region from Syria, get into America from Norway? the answer is easy: they may have crossed over, from island to island, in vessels or boats, for a knowledge of navigation, and that of the ocean too, was known to the Ten Tribes; for all the Jews and civilized nations of that age were acquainted with this art, derived from the Egyptians." (American Antiquities and Discoveries in the West, "Course of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel", pp. 64-65, 1838 edition)

Consider 2 Chronicles 9:21; 20:37, Isaiah 60:8-9, 2 Nephi 12:16. Mulek son of Zedekiah could have sailed out the Mediterranean and arrived on the East Coast of North America in a ship of Tarshish. The name Mulek may be short for "MalkiYahu" (מלכיהו), appearing in Jeremiah 38:6, but with the reference to the name of the "creator" removed. (Omni 1:17)

Authors in Joseph Smith's time simply favored land-bridges, especially in the case of Asiatic migrations to American. It wasn't that they thought that an Atlantic crossing was impossible, or that it hadn't happened anciently. See Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact theories.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible, and literature on the Mound-builders well, and based the Book of Mormon on these. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

8.     Steep decline and disappearance of an ancient culture a few hundred years BC

Coe’s standard: “There is some consensus among archaeologists that the Olmecs of southern Mexico had elaborated many of these traits beginning over 3,000 years ago, and that much of complex culture in Mesoamerica has an Olmec origin” (p. 14). “The Olmec civilization went into a steep decline ca 400 BC” (p. 61).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:21 on the people of Zarahemla's discovery of Coriantumr, the last of the Jaredite rulers; Book of Ether, especially chapters 13‒15 on the complete annihilation of the Jaredite nation in the covenant land, unlike the Olmecs of Mexico. Consider Jacob 5:43-44, Omni 1:20-22, Mosiah 8:7-12; 21:26, Alma 22:30; 37:21, 25, 28-31, Ether 2:10-12; 9:20; 11:6, 12, 20-21; 15:11-15, 19.

Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is detailed and specific. It also is unusual. What information or possible model did Joseph Smith have to “guess” a steep cultural decline among a very ancient American Indian culture at the same time the evidence summarized in The Maya says the decline occurred? In a word, how did he “guess” this one? As discussed previously, the archaic period of the Book of Ether Jaredites coincides with the biblical time interval from the tower of Babel to the Babylonian captivity.

Though Jaredites could have migrated to Mexico and interacted with Olmecs, the Jaredites were not Olmec. Modern mainstream archaeologists recognize that certain mound builders of North America built grand and impressive cities before the rise of Olmec civilization - "doing Olmec' before the Olmecs,". (Archeologist Robert Connelly, quoted by Peter N. Spotts, “Dirt Mounds Yield Clues to Antiquity”; Peter N. Spotts is Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, September 19,1997)

The Olmecs may have moved their settlements due to volcanism, thus accounting for the steep decline in Olmec civilization between 400 and 350 BCE. In other words, the Olmecs probably weren't wiped out - they may have just gone elsewhere in Mesoamerica, and evolved into other cultures. It is not generally believed, by mainstream scholars, that the Olmec annihilated each other in war, as the Book of Mormon Jaredites did in "the lake country of America" (region of Lake Ontario).

It is not certain when the people of Zarahemla discovered Coriantumr, the last of the Jaredite rulers. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian army in 587 BCE. Mulek's voyage to America occurred sometime after that. Chief Zarahemla was a descendent of Mulek. (Mosiah 25:1-2) Zarahemla lived generations after Mulek's voyage to America. (Omni 1:5-6, 12-14) In the Book of Mormon, the expression "people of Zarahemla" is used to describe the chief's contemporary people (Omni 1:14), his ancestors (Omni 1:15), and future descendents (Mosiah 25:3-4).

The reference to "first landing" in Alma 22:30 may in fact refer, not to Mulek's possible landing on the eastern seaboard in a ship of Tarshish, but to the "first landing" of the "people of Zarahemla", possibly in canoes, on a southern shore of Lake Ontario. For we read that they "were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land ..." (Omni 1:16) If there was a "first landing", was there then a second landing? Yes, after crossing ancient Lake Tonawanda "into the land where Mosiah discovered them ..."

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, including its timeline, and based the Book of Mormon on these. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

9.     Strong class distinctions based on noble birth, wealth and specialized learning

Coe’s standard: “The esoteric knowledge of the Maya … served to separate and elevate people in the know from those denied that privilege” (p. 96). “Now, while among some other peoples such kin groups are theoretically equal, among the Maya this was not so, … for there were strongly demarcated classes” (p. 235). “At the top were the nobles, … who had private lands and held the more important political offices, as well as filling the roles of high-ranking warriors, wealthy farmers and merchants, and clergy. The commoners were the free workers of the population, … but in all likelihood even these persons were graded into rich and poor. There is some indication of a class of serfs, who worked the private lands of the nobles” (p. 235).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 32:2; Alma 51:21; 3 Nephi 6:11‒12; 4 Nephi 1:26.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, and both the Book of Mormon and The Maya agree in the details upon which class distinctions were based, namely birth, wealth, and learning. While distinctions based on wealth and learning probably would not have seemed [Page 115]unusual to Joseph Smith (coming from the working poor class), distinctions based on noble birth might have seemed unusual. To be conservative, we will not count this as unusual, only specific and detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

The Dales seem to have an aversion to crediting Joseph Smith with gaining societal insights from the Bible. Consider Judges 6:15, Matthew 19:20-23; 1:20, Isaiah 9:7 (2 Nephi 19:7), ST John 8:39.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

10.                                                Sacrifice of children and others to Maya gods

Coe’s standard: “When the [Temple of the Feathered Serpent] was dedicated ca AD 200, at least 200 individuals were sacrificed in its honor” (p. 100). “The honored deceased was buried … and [was] accompanied not only by rich offerings of pottery and other artifacts, but also by up to three persons sacrificed for the occasion (generally children or adolescents)” (p. 104). “Human sacrifice was perpetrated on … children (bastards or orphans bought for the occasion), … fit offerings for the Maya gods” (p. 243‒44).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 4:14‒15, 21.

Analysis of correspondence: The practice is detailed and specific in both books. However, we do not count it as unusual. The practice of sacrificing children and infants is described in the Bible, and Joseph might have learned about it there.

Likelihood = 0.1

Indeed, though not commonly practiced in 19th Century America or Europe, the Bible repeatedly makes mention of child sacrifice to idols. Indeed, Joseph Smith could have first learned about this from the Bible! The practice existed in Lehi's day. See Jeremiah 7:31, Ezekiel 20:25, 31.

Though the Maya were certainly an idolatrous people, their is no explicit mention in the Book of Mormon to "Maya gods".

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

11.                                                Multiple correspondences with Egyptian culture and concepts

Coe’s standard: “The function of Maya pyramids as funerary monuments thus harks back to Preclassic times” (p. 76). “The Temple of the Inscriptions was a funerary monument with exactly the same primary function as the Egyptian pyramids” (p. 157). Not mentioned by Coe are several additional ties with Egypt. First, there is the fact that both the Egyptians and the Maya regarded the five days at the end of the year as unlucky.31 “A much-dreaded interval of 5 unlucky days added at the end” (p. 64). Second, the Hero Twins in the Maya story “resurrected their father Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God” (p. 71), just as Horus, the son of Osiris, resurrected his father in ancient Egyptian religion.32 Third and 4th include hieroglyphic writing, and grave goods. We wonder why Coe, who certainly knows of these additional correspondences between the Maya and the Egyptians, did not mention them. So we did it for him.

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 1:2; Alma 10:3; Mormon 9:32.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence here is the tie with Egypt on multiple levels. The Book of Mormon claims to be written “in the characters called among us, the reformed Egyptian.” Nephi starts out his record telling us that he made it “in the language of the Egyptians.” Furthermore, Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh, who was born in Egypt of an Egyptian mother (Asenath, Genesis 41:44-45). The correspondences are detailed and specific as far as the Egyptian ties [Page 116]are concerned, and very unusual. Why would Joseph Smith have “guessed” that the ancestors of the Indians had these ties with Egypt? This correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual, but since Dr. Coe mentioned only one of several possible ties with Egypt, we will downgrade the correspondence from 0.02 (specific, detailed and unusual) to merely specific, or

Likelihood = 0.5

"Reformed Egyptian" characters copied from the Book of Mormon plates resemble Mi’kmaq logogrammatic writing, not Mayan glyphs.

Nephite Mi'kmaq Comparison

A Reliable Nephite, Mi'kmaq Comparison (Above). Beware Mark Hofmann’s Anthon Transcript Forgery!

 



Egyptian - Mi'kmaq Comparison, Following the Work of Barry Fell

In Incidents of Travel in Central America, Stephens mentioned, " ... the discovery of ... mummies in a cave in Kentucky ..." (Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, 1841, pp. 97-98)

The Prophet Joseph Smith, you will recall, praised Stephens' two volume book saying that it "corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprehensive." (Letter to John M. Bernhisel dated November 16, 1841, in the handwriting of John Taylor)

Joseph Smith would later publish a signed editorial based on a chapter from Priest's American Antiquities titled, "A CATACOMB OF MUMMIES FOUND IN KENTUCKY" (Times & Seasons, Vol. 3, No 13, May 2, 1842, pg 781)

Joseph Smith's editorial features the following extract from American Antiquities:

"Lexington, in Kentucky, stands nearly on the site of an ancient town, which was of great extent and magnificence, as is amply evinced by the wide range of its circumvalliatory works, and the quantity of ground it once occupied. There was connected with the antiquities of this place, a catacomb, formed in the bowels of the limestone rock, about fifteen feet below the surface of the earth, adjacent to the town of Lexington. This grand object, so novel and extraordinary in this country, was discovered in 1775, by some of the first settlers, whose curiosity was excited by something remarkable in the character of the stones which covered the entrance to the cavern within. They removed these stones, and came to others of singular appearance for stones in a natural state; the removal of which laid open the mouth a cave, deep, gloomy, and terrific, as they supposed. With augmented numbers, and provided with light, they descended and entered, without obstruction, a spacious apartment; the sides and extreme ends were formed into niches and compartments, and occupied by figures representing men. When alarm subsided, and the sentiment of dismay and surprise permitted further research and inquiry, the figures were found to be mummies, preserved by the art of embalming, to as great a state of perfection as was known among the ancient Egyptians, eighteen hundred years before the Christian era; which was about the time that the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, when this art was in its perfection. * * * * * On this subject Mr. Ash has the following reflections: "How these bodies were embalmed, how long preserved, by what nations, and from what people descended, no opinion made, but what must result from speculative fancy and wild conjecture. For my part, I am lost in the deepest ignorance. My reading affords me no knowledge, my travels no light. I have neither read nor known of any of the North American Indians who formed catacombs for their dead, or who were acquainted with the art of preservation by embalming."

After the above extract from Priest's work, the editor (Joseph Smith) adds the following commentary:

"Had Mr. Ash in his researches consulted the Book of Mormon his problem would have been solved, and he would have found no difficulty in accounting for the mummies being found in the above mentioned case. The Book of Mormon gives an account of a number of the descendants of Israel coming to this continent; and it is well known that the art of embalming was known among the Hebrews, as well as among the Egyptians, although perhaps not so generally among the former, as among the latter people; and their method of embalming also might be different from that of the Egyptians. (page 781) ________________________________________ Jacob and Joseph were no doubt, embalmed in the manner of the Egyptians, as they died in that country, Gen. [50:] 1, 2, 3, 26. [Genesis 50:1-3, 26] When our Saviour [Savior] was crucified his hasty burial obliged them only to wrap his body in linen with a hundred pounds of myrrh, aloes, and similar spices, (part of the ingredients of embalming.) given by Nicodemus for that purpose: but Mary and other holy women had prepared ointment and spices for embalming it, Matt. xxvii. 59: Luke xxiii. 56: John xix. 39-40. This art was no doubt transmitted from Jerusalem to this continent, by the before mentioned emigrants, which accounts for the finding of the mummies, and at the same time is another strong evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.-ED.

… The Times and Seasons, IS EDITED BY Joseph Smith. Printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH."

The Dales argue that Mesoamerican pyramids evince a connection to  descendants of Joseph of Egypt described in the Book of Mormon. A View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America (1825) makes a similar argument regarding the tribes of Israel, and mentions in some detail the Mississippian "pyramids of the west" made of earth, in addition to the "great Mexican pyramids" of hewn stone (e.g. pp. 199-203).

Why then is there no explicit mention in the Book of Mormon of "pyramids"? Answer: The Book of Mormon is set in pre-Mississippian Mound-builder America, not Mexico, Central, or South America. Additionally, the God of Israel accepts an altar of earth, or piled rocks, but not an altar made of hewn stone, and certainly not one with steps leading up to it. (Exodus 20:24-26)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 50

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it, and on antiquities discovered, and reported in his own country. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

12.                                                Mobile populations, founding new cities

Coe’s standard: “Many dynasties were founded in the Early Classic period. Several … appear to have hived off from the southern Lowlands” (p. 108). “What is clear is that, far more than once thought, people moved about in the Early Classic periods” (p. 109).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:12‒15; Alma 8:7; Alma 27:22; Alma 47:35.

Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya are full of examples in which large and small groups set out on their own to found new cities. In the Book of Mormon we have Nephi’s people separating from the other Lehites after their arrival in the New World; Mosiah and his people leaving the main body of Lehites and joining the people of Zarahemla; Zeniff and his people going up to reclaim the land of their first inheritance; the people of Ammon moving to avoid destruction; the flight of the people who followed Alma the Elder, and so on. The correspondence is specific and detailed, but probably not unusual. Joseph Smith and his family were themselves part of a highly mobile American frontier population, busy founding new communities.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider Genesis 4:16-17; 10:11-12; 11:2-4; 19:20-22, Hebrew 11:16

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

13.                                                Menial workers, extreme inequality, ignorance and oppression

Coe’s standard: “The royal cooks and cleaners or other menials … did not merit mention” (p. 129). “Among some other peoples such kin groups are theoretically equal, among the Maya this was not so. … The commoners were the free workers, … but in all likelihood even these persons were graded into rich and poor. … And at the bottom were the slaves who were mostly plebeians taken in war. … Slavery was hereditary” (p. 235). (See the entirety of p. 235.)

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:26‒33; Alma 32:4‒5; Alma 35:9; 3 Nephi 6:10–12.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon details the same sources of inequality as does The Maya: those owing to education, social status and wealth. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. Again, alas, this correspondence would certainly not have been unusual to Joseph and his family … as relatively poor “commoners [and] free workers,” using Coe’s words. Since this correspondence has some overlap with 2.9, we reduce its probative weight from 0.1 to 0.5.

Likelihood = 0.5

The Dales seem to have an aversion to crediting Joseph Smith with gaining societal insights from the Bible. Consider Judges 6:15, Matthew 19:20-23; 1:20, Isaiah 9:7 (2 Nephi 19:7), ST John 8:39 from previous correspondence 9.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

14.                                                [Page 117]Marketplaces exist

Coe’s standard: “a variety of men, women and even children involved in the buying and selling of commodities including shelled maize, maize tamales, atole (maize gruel), salt and even vases” (p. 145). “These are unique scenes of daily life within a bustling marketplace. … Such markets have been found at a number of other Classic Maya cities” (p. 146). “There was a great market at Chichen Itza” (p. 233).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 7:10.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon is specific about the existence of markets, but not detailed, except that there was a “chief” market in Zarahemla, which was also the leading city of the Nephite civilization at that time, strongly implying that there were other, less prominent markets in Zarahemla or elsewhere. The Maya is highly detailed, however. This is undoubtedly unusual. What North American tribes did Joseph Smith know of that had settled, stationary marketplaces? So how did he “guess” that one correctly? Specific and unusual for a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider Ezekiel 27:13-25, Matthew 11:16; 20:3; 23:6-7, Acts 16:19, 17:17.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

15.                                                People driven from their homes wander searching for a new home

Coe’s standard: “The Itza … were driven from this town … and wandered east across the land, … where they settled as squatters in the desolate city [of Chichen Itza]” (p. 216) “Those Itza who were driven from Chichen Itza [wandered back] to the Lake Peten Itza” (p. 219).

Book of Mormon correspondence: The Lehites were driven from their Jerusalem home and wandered for years before they found a home in the New World. Alma the Elder and his people were driven from their homes by King Noah and wandered in the wilderness until they found a home. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were likewise driven from their homes and had to seek a new home in a strange land.

Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. It also seems unusual. Where would Joseph Smith have gotten this idea of a wandering people seeking for a new home? Most people do not read the Aeneid until college, if they ever read it at all. What other literary work might Joseph have gotten this idea from? How about the Bible? Specific, detailed and unusual. Rather, specific, detailed, but not uncommon. There is overlap here with correspondence 2.12, which the Dales assigned a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! Consider Genesis 4:16-17; 11:2-4; 19:17-22, Hebrew 11:13-16. Consider the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:6-11), and those who fled into Egypt to sojourn there, contrary to the word of the LORD. (Jeremiah 42:13-17) Consider also Jeremiah 48:28 etc.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

16.                                                Wasteful architectural extravagance

Coe’s standard: “intensification of inter-elite competition, manifesting itself in different ways: not only in ‘wasteful architectural extravagance'” (p. 175).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 11:8‒11.

Analysis of correspondence: In both books, the correspondence is specific and detailed as to ornamentation and costly excess for the thrones, palaces, etc., of the elite. Joseph Smith was an unsophisticated young man who had [Page 118]lived his life as a member of the working poor. How would he know about such extravagance? How would he know how to describe such ornate things without going overboard? Where would he have seen such things? This is certainly not unusual. So the correspondence is specific, detailed and not unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

READ YOUR BIBLE! The building materials mentioned in Mosiah 11:8-11 (cited by the Dales) should be compared to the list of building materials prepared by King David for his son Solomon. (1 Chronicles 29:1-5) Note that King David's dedicated provisions can be divided into three categories: (1) metals. (2) wood. (3) stone. Which of these categories is not explicitly mentioned in Mosiah 11:8-11, or in 2 Nephi 5:15-16? Why? See Nephi's Timber Temple.

As for "extravagance", see correspondence 1.10, and biblical examples in 1 Kings 7:1-12; 10:16-23.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

17.                                                Large northward migrations specifically mentioned

Coe’s standard: “They could have been the Yukateko on their trek north to Yucatan from the Maya homeland” (p. 47). “Old thrones toppled in the south as a new political order took shape in the north; southern cities fell into the dust as northern ones flourished” (p. 174). “The early Colonial chronicles in Yukateko speak of a ‘Great Descent’ and ‘Lesser Descent,’ implying two mighty streams of refugees heading north from the abandoned cities” (p. 177). The Yukateko trek took place many centuries before the Late Classic migration northward [starting about 600 CE], so this kind of thing happened in widely different periods.

Mayan Language Migration

Mayan Language Migrations and Dates. See Maya civilization for attribution.

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 63:4‒9; Helaman 3:3‒12. The migrations described in these scriptures likely occurred sometime between 60 and 40 BCE. Moreover, Alma 63:4-9 describes migration by sea "to the land northward". Mesoamerican setting advocates argue that the Book of Mormon "west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward" (Alma 63:5) describes the Pacific Ocean near the not so narrow (as wide as Florida) Isthmus of Tehuantepec. So "the land northward", in this case, is argued to be northwest of the isthmus, and not the northern Yucatan lowlands. See the map of the "Spurious Central American Model" in Walk the Walk.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon speaks repeatedly of the “land northward” as the place where the Nephites could flee or go into to settle. The land northward was where the Nephites made their last stand and were finally destroyed. These northward flights also took place over centuries. This is really a “bull’s eye” for the Book of Mormon: a specific, detailed and unusual correspondence. Actually, the dates of Mayan language migrations (see map above) do not clearly fit the Book of Mormon migrations to "the land northward". (Alma 63:4-9, Helaman 3:3-12)

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

Dr. Coe wrote about northern migrations of Maya. We should ask what Book of Mormon people are tied to the Maya? Did Jaredites make contact with the Olmec, who later became Maya?

It was understood in Joseph Smith's day that the Toltecs migrated from the north into Mexico. ("ANCIENT RUINS", Times & Seasons, Vol. V, No. 1, January 1, 1844, John Taylor Editor)

The following extract from Incidents of Travel in Central America, was published in the Times & Seasons, September 15, 1842, under the banner "FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS.", pg. 921. At the time, John Taylor was acting editor in Joseph Smith's public absence:

"According to Fuentes, the chronicler of the kingdom of Guatimala [Guatemala], the kings of Quinche and Cachiquel were descended from the Toltecan Indians, who, when they came into this country, found it already inhabited by people of different nations. According to the manuscripts of Don Juan Torres, the grandson of the last king of the Quiches, which was in the possession of the lieutenant general appointed by Pedro de Alvarado, and which Fuentes says he obtained by means of Father Francis Vasques, the historian of the order of San Francis, the Toltecas themselves descended from the house of Israel, who were released by Moses from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and after crossing the Red Sea, fell into Idolatry. To avoid the reproofs of Moses, or from fear of his inflicting upon them some chastisement, they separated from him and his brethren, and under the guidance of Tanub, their chief, passed from one continent to the other, to a place which they called the seven caverns, a part of the kingdom of Mexico, where they founded the celebrated city of Tula."

Are the Dales suggesting that the Book of Mormon peoples referred to in Alma 63:4-9, and Helaman 3:3-12 are Maya? Prominent LDS scholars have backed off from identifying the Maya as Nephite. Mainstream scholars do not identify the Maya as Israelite. Evidence points to the Maya descending from long ago Asiatic migrations across the Bering land-bridge. The Dales, however, want to chalk up B.S. likelihood factors using a people that not even LDS anthropologists will commit to being Nephites.

Additionally, there are geographic problems with the Dales alleged "land northward" correspondence. In order for Coe's description of northern migrations to correspond to Helaman 3:3-12, the Dales must allege a correspondence with Maya migrations north into the Yucatan lowlands. The seas surrounding "the land northward" in this case, must correspond to "large bodies of water" (Helaman 3:4), or seas described in Helaman 3:8. This leads to a predicament:

land northward (Yucatan)

"And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread [in the same "land northward"] insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth [full extent of the northern land or region], from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east." (Helaman 3:8)

The expression "face of the whole earth" in Helaman 3:8, is a biblical expression meaning the full extent of a local land or region. It does not generally mean face of the whole planet. Consider Genesis 41:56, Exodus 10:15.

The expressions "land southward" and "land northward" are relative. These depend on a reference frame. These expressions are not the names of specific lands in the Book of Mormon. Its ok for the Tehuantepec Model to have a "land northward" that is northwest of the isthmus, and another "land northward" in Yucatan - north of the Mayan heartland. This isn't the problem at hand with the Mesoamerican model.

If we accept a straightforward reading of Helaman 3:8, we see that the frame of reference determining the directions to the seas, is in "the land northward". The northern land is bordered in each of the cardinal directions by bodies of water. Once in the northern land, the people spread, starting from a sea on the south.

We excuse the fact that "the sea south" meaning sea on the south (the Pacific Ocean in the Tehuantepec Model) does not form a southern coast of "the land northward", but is the coast of "the land southward". This is a problem. But not so big a problem as trying to justify naming the sea on the south, "the west sea". (Alma 63:5) If we try to accommodate "the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east" as situating within the wide, lateral Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the poor geographic fit becomes obvious. See Israelite Compass.

Bordered in Each  Direction by Seas  

Shown above, is a "land northward" in the authentic near Cumorah setting, fitting both Alma 63:4-9 and Helaman 3:3-12. Israelite "east" (מזרח) faces sunrise. Lake Erie, the authentic Book of Mormon "west sea", is literally west of the Book of Mormon land of Bountiful, and west of the principal land, and city of Zarahemla. (Alma 22:32-33) Lake Erie is also the unnamed "sea south", meaning sea on the south, in "the land northward" (Ontario Canada) as mentioned in Helaman 3:8.

There are examples from Hebrew scripture of land of Israel bodies of water called "the east sea" (הימ הקדמני) and "the west sea" (הימ האחרון) respectively. See Joel 2:20. Besides prefixing the definite article ה, the syntax is reversed in Hebrew, so it reads "the sea the east", "the sea the west", but it translates "the east sea", "the west sea" in English.

Now compare these named seas with a relative expression that is not a name; an expression that depends on a reference frame. Consider "[the] sea south" (ימ נגבה) in Joshua 18:14. The Hebrew syntax in this case literally reads "yam neg'bah", "sea south", meaning sea to the south - in the direction of the Negev.

Now consider a relative expression (one that depends on a frame of reference) that is comparable to the Book of Mormon expression "the west sea, south" (Alma 53:8). The expression "west sea, south" simply means "on the south by the west sea" (Alma 53:22). The name of the Book of Mormon sea on the west of Zarahemla is "the west sea", not "the west sea, south". Similarly the name of the sea of Galilee in Numbers 34:11 is "the sea of Chinnereth ..." (KJV) not "the sea of Chinnereth eastward". The "eastward" in the verse just gives a relative direction, based on the scriptural frame of reference.

How do we know that "the west sea" west of Zarahemla, is the same "west sea" that forms the western terminus of the land Bountiful - i.e. both lands sharing the same western shoreline?

Alma 22:27 reads " [the land of the Lamanite king] ... bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west ... was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness [not the "narrow neck" mentioned in Alma 63:5], which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore ..."

Earlier editions (1830, 1837 etc.) place a comma after "the sea, on the east, ..." So the reader should be less inclined to think that its the same sea on the east and on the west.

We haven't yet come to the part in scripture where "the west sea" is first named.

Alma 22:27 tells us that there was a "sea west" of Zarahemla, but the verse does not name that sea. In fact verse 27, and verses 28-29 tell us that there was a sea on the west of both the land of Nephi and Zarahemla, but again, these verses do not name the sea. It isn't until we read verse 32, that we learn that the name of the sea at the western end of Bountiful is actually called "the west sea".

How does this verse tell us that this sea is the same sea that is west of Zarahemla? The verse reads, "... Bountiful ... from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water; there being a small neck of land [Batavia Moraine, does not say "narrow neck" as in Alma 63:5] between the land northward [the land Desolation in this case, verse 31] and the land southward [Bountiful etc. in this case]." It is the words "... and thus" that ties all the previous references to a "sea west", and "on the west ... by the seashore ..." to the sea named "the west sea", at the western end of Bountiful.

Not only was the Nephite land of Zarahemla "nearly surrounded by water" (including perhaps rivers), "the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites" their enemies, on the south, and on the east and west, as far north as the southern borders of Bountiful. (Alma 22:27-34, 50:34)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 50

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the geography and antiquities of Joseph Smith own country, and strongly tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

18.                                                Constant migrations

Coe’s standard: “At some point … there was a single Mayan language, Proto-Mayan, perhaps located in the western Guatemalan highlands. According to one linguistic scenario, Wastekan [2200 to 1300 BCE] and Yukatekan [1400 BCE] split off from this parent body, with Wastek migrating up the Gulf Coast to northern Veracruz and Tamaulipas in Mexico, and Yukatekan occupying the Yucatan Peninsula. … The parent body then split into two groups, a Western and an Eastern Division. In the Western group, the ancestral Ch’olan-Tseltalan moved down into the Central Area, where they split into Ch’olan and Tseltalan [200 CE]. The subsequent history of the Tseltalans is fairly well known: in Highland Chiapas, many thousands of their descendants, the Tsotsil and Tseltal, maintain unchanged the old Maya patterns of life. … Other Western language groups include Q’anjob’al, Tojol-ab’al, Mocho’, and Chuj, which stayed close to the probable homeland … The Eastern Division includes the Mamean group of languages [1600 BCE - 1200 CE]. Mam itself spilled down to the Pacific coastal plain at an unknown time” (p. 28). Does the topic seem familiar? The Dales appear to be milking the subject, in an effort  to chalk up another B.S. correspondence.

Mayan Language Migration

Mayan Language Migrations and Dates. See Maya civilization for attribution.

Book of Mormon correspondence: See:  Words of Mormon 1:13 [~385 CE] Mosiah 10:10 [~187-160 BCE]; Alma 2:16, 32 [~87 BCE]; Alma 54:16‒20 [~63 BCE].

What is going on here? The scriptures which the Dales cite have to do with military maneuvers, not migrations. To recap 2.17, the Maya are not the Nephites, and the Mayan language migration dates do not correlate very well with the estimated times of Book of Mormon military maneuver mentioned in the cited scriptures. Additionally, as discussed in 2.17, the geography has problems!

Misfit B of M Map - Mesoamerica

Misfit "B of M" Geography in Maya America: Alma 22:32; 50:34; 63:5, Ether 10:20

[Page 119]Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. Book of Mormon peoples indeed moved around a lot, just as The Maya describes. But the people, the dates, and the geography do not match very well! But apart from the large northward migrations already described in 2.17 above, other details are lacking. I'll say! Lacking or contradicted! Also, this is certainly not unusual. Joseph Smith and his family were part of a mass westward migration of Americans that had been going on for a very long time. What about the Bible? There are voyages, travels and migrations a-plenty described in the Bible!

Likelihood = 0.5 This correspondence factor is probably not warranted.

READ YOUR BIBLE!

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

19.                                                Cities and lands named after founder

Coe’s standard: “an individual called Ek’ Balam, … after whom the place was anciently named” (p. 194).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 23:31; Alma 8:7; Alma 17:19; 3 Nephi 9:9.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya, but Coe does not mention many examples of this practice, so it is not detailed to the same degree it is in the Book of Mormon. Also, in frontier America it was common practice to name small towns and villages after the founder or founding family. So this practice would not have been unusual.

Likelihood = 0.5

READ YOUR BIBLE! Though naming a city after its founder was not always practiced by ancient peoples of the Bible, Genesis 4:17 should count as an example. See also Exodus 1:11. The Hebrew names of the lands listed in Genesis 2:11-14, are names of post-Flood descendents of Noah. "Mitsrayim", known to westerners as "Egypt", is named after a son of Ham.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

20.                                                Maya say their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea

Coe’s standard: “From the setting sun we came, from Tula, from beyond the sea” (p. 224).

Book of Mormon correspondence: 1 Nephi 18:8, 23. This is not clearly the claim of the Book of Mormon: the Lehite colony came from the west from beyond the sea according to Mormon tradition, promulgated by brethren like Frederick G. Williams, and Orson Pratt. The Pacific crossing idea, is not clearly founded in LDS Scripture. The Dales are performing a disservice by promoting this claim as scripture. Their attempt would be more forgivable if it were their only attempt at trying to wring a B.S. correspondence out of the alleged Pacific crossing claim. Previous 2.7 is why this "correspondence" sounds familiar.

Though not mentioned by the Dales, the place of "first inheritance" extended to, and was near the coast of "the west sea". (Alma 22:28-32) This does not mean, however, that Lehi's party crossed the vast Pacific Ocean to get there. See the critical commentary to 2.7. In short, the Book of Mormon "west sea" is not the Pacific Ocean. It is the sea that a large number of people resorted to during a time of drought, and from which they spread after the draught ended. (Helaman 11:17-20) Its a freshwater inland sea. Lehi's company had to "cross the large waters into the promised land" to get there.

In as much as the Dales may continue to bring up the alleged Pacific crossing, some misconceptions should be dealt with here. Some of this topic is covered in the section, "Was Lehi’s company led to a southern shore of Arabia so they could cross the vast Pacific Ocean? NO!" in the article THE 344 DAY VOYAGE OF THE JAREDITES. See also comments on the Feasible Voyage map, and Chapter 3 in CHOICE ABOVE ALL OTHER LANDS, on how the non-scriptural tradition got started.

Lehi's life was in danger at Jerusalem, and Nephi had killed a man of renown to obtain the record of the Jews. For these and other reasons, Lehi's company had to flee into the Negev - the southern wilderness. They couldn't just go to the coast, purchase a ship and sail out the Mediterranean. That would have been unwise. There southeastward, and then eastward trek across Arabia brought them to a secluded southern coast from which they could construct a ship, and put out to sea. It makes sense that they would have been carried by wind and current, and would have steered near coasts (e.g. Africa, the Americas) for most of the voyage.

They were able to stow enough freshwater and provisions onboard to last for the Atlantic voyage across the shorter distance between the western shores of Africa and the New World. Surviving the tempestuous horn of Africa (1 Nephi 18:13-15), their ship would have been assisted by Atlantic ocean currents and prevailing winds to the Western Hemisphere, and then northward to coasts seasonably compatible with keeping the written law of Moses - for which Nephi had killed a man of renown. (1 Nephi 4:14-17, 2 Nephi 5:10)

So where did the idea of a Pacific crossing for Lehi's company come from? The following excerpt from CHOICE ABOVE ALL OTHER LANDS - Book of Mormon Covenant Lands According to the Best Sources, Chapter 3, explains:

"Brethren Speculate ...

“The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship, they traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude, then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia then sailed in a southeast direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chili [Chile] thirty degrees south latitude.”

This popular but unreliable statement was penned by Frederick G. Williams sometime between 1836 and 1845. A similar version (also without attribution) exists in the handwriting of Bishop John M. Bernhisel. The statement is not clearly a geographic revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith, as some have alleged. It was never published in the lifetime of Joseph Smith as a revelation. The official position of the Church regarding the Williams document was issued in 1938 by George D. Pyper (asst. editor of The Instructor) and Frederick J. Pack, then Chairman of the Gospel Doctrine Committee of the Church. Concerning the alleged prophetic origin of the statement, Pack wrote:

“…Its authenticity, however, is subject to grave doubt, as witness the following: “The only known source of authority upon which it rests is a single sheet of manuscript presented to the Church Historian’s Office, in 1864, by Ezra G. Williams, son of Frederick G. Williams, at one time counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency.” (“ROUTE TRAVELED BY LEHI AND HIS COMPANY”, The Instructor, Vol. 73, No. 4, April 1938, pg 160)

Pack further explains that there is nothing on the original, attributing the statement to Joseph Smith, but there is “good evidence” that the statement was written in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams.

Following Pack’s summary, associate editor Pyper noted that President Joseph F. Smith declined to endorse an alleged “landing place of Lehi and his company” stating that “the Lord had not yet revealed it…”

B. H. Roberts critically examined the Williams document and concluded that the evidence in favor of it being “a revelation to Joseph, the Seer” is “very unsatisfactory”. (B. H. Roberts, New Witness for God, Vol. 3, 1895, pp 501-503) ... Elder B. H. Roberts observed that the geography put forth in the Williams document, and later unfairly attributed to Joseph Smith as a “revelation”, dominated for a while the thinking of church leaders on the subject of Book of Mormon geography. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, “IX. - The Geography of the Book”, Vol. 3, pp 499-503) The questionable South American “Sidon” and landing site were even inserted in the footnotes of the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon - removed from subsequent editions. Elder Roberts remarked:

“We need not follow our researches in any spirit of fear and trembling. We desire only to ascertain the truth; nothing but the truth will endure … the proclamation of the truth in any given case, or upon any subject, will do no harm to the work of the Lord which is itself truth. Nor need we be surprised if now and then we find our predecessors, many of whom bear honored names and deserve our respect and gratitude for what they achieved in making clear the truth, as they conceived it to be—we need not be surprised if we sometimes find them mistaken in their conceptions and deductions; just as the generations who succeed us in unfolding in a larger way some of the yet unlearned truths of the Gospel, will find that we have had some misconceptions and made some wrong deductions in our day and time. The book of knowledge is never a sealed book. …The generation which preceded us did not exhaust by their knowledge all the truth, so that nothing was left for us in its unfolding; no, not even in respect of the Book of Mormon; any more than we shall exhaust all discovery in relation to that book and leave nothing for the generation following us to develop.” (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, “IX. - The Geography of the Book”, Vol. 3, pg 503) ...

Apostle Orson Pratt essentially admitted in 1872, that the Chilean landing idea with its vast Pacific crossing was supposition, not revelation:

“They were commanded by the Almighty to build a vessel…On board this vessel they embarked… As near as we can judge from the description of the country contained in this record the first landing place was in Chili [Chile], not far from where the city of Valparaiso now stands.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, pg 325) ...

[In the fall of 1842, during Joseph Smith's public absence (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 127:1), the following unsigned article was published in the Times & Seasons, featuring a previously quoted (2.17) excerpt from Stephens' 1841 bestseller:]

“FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS” ...

“…Jared and his brother came on to this continent…and covered the whole continent from sea to sea … Lehi went down to the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land, and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien…It will be as it ever has been, the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah…” (September 15, 1842, Vol. 3, pp 921-922)

There is no “-ED” at the end of this piece.

The contributor probably had an appalling Pacific crossing in mind for Lehi’s family, inasmuch as the Isthmus of Darien (Eastern Panama) connects to the western side of South America. The statement, “…a little south of the Isthmus of Darien…” most likely refers to somewhere on the western coast of the Continent. How far south is “a little south”? The article isn’t more specific. Perhaps we are safe in assuming that several hundred miles south of the isthmus is too far.

Joseph Smith is mentioned in the third person in the article. Historians have contended that he was not the author. (“Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations”, by Matthew Roper, section titled “John Taylor’s View”, BYU Maxwell Institute, 2004) Notwithstanding this fact, the Times and Seasons article has found itself inserted among the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith’s assistants in the Historian’s Office of the Church. This has tended to give the article more prominence than it deserves. From this oversight, the anonymous article has ended up in more recent compilation. (Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon, Bookcraft 1997, pg 89)

The well meaning article comes across as confident as the Williams’ document on the subject of Lehi’s landing. But there is a discrepancy of thousands of miles between the two proposed landing sites - Chile versus “a little south of the Isthmus of Darien”.

The author of the “FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS”, article may have been convinced at the time, that the Isthmus of Darien (Isthmus of Panama) was the narrow neck of land mentioned in scripture. This conclusion is all too easily reached by those who cursorily study the Book of Mormon and then turn to maps of the Western Hemisphere."

Analysis of correspondence: Coe discounts this statement as self-serving political propaganda by those claiming descent from those hailing from “the legendary home in the west.” Perhaps, but why would it have any political power if the claim itself did not somehow matter to the populace? And since Dr. Coe thinks the Book of Mormon is fiction (or legend), then the Book of Mormon is accurate and detailed in also making that claim, even if fictional. Given similar statements in View of the Hebrews, we do not count this as unusual, but it is both specific and detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1 This alleged correspondence does not deserve to be included in the analysis, because it is based on a demonstrably false claim. Contrary to what the Dales imply, 1 Nephi 18:8, 23 does not state that Lehi's company crossed the Pacific Ocean. LDS Scripture does not state that the Book of Mormon "west sea" is an Ocean, or that Lehi's company voyaged across the Book of Mormon "west sea" to arrive at the American Promised Land.

Mormon tradition is not as authoritative as the Book of Mormon. The Pacific crossing idea was integral to exaggerated geographies proposed for the Book of Mormon in the early days of the Church.

21.                                                Their sacred writing has poetic parallelisms, repetitions

Coe’s standard: “‘The raised wooden standard shall come! … Our lord comes, Itza! Our elder brother comes, oh men of Tantun! Receive your guests, the bearded men, the men of the east, the bearers of the sign of God, lord!'” (Thus said the prophet Chilam Balam, p. 227). From one of the books of Chilam Balam as follows:

“Eat, eat, thou hast bread;
Drink, drink, thou hast water;
On that day, dust possesses the earth;
[Page 120]On that day, a blight is on the face of the earth,
On that day, a cloud rises;
On that day, a mountain rises;
On that day, a strong man seizes the land;
On that day, things fall to ruin,
On that day, the tender leaf is destroyed,
On that day, the dying eyes are closed,
On that day, three signs are on the tree,
On that day, three generations hang there,
On that day, the battle flag is raised,
And they are scattered afar in the forests,
On that day, the battle flag is raised,
And they are scattered afar in the forests.” (p. 229).

In the podcasts, referring specifically to chiasmus and poetic parallelisms, Coe says that “something like that” exists in Maya literature, even as little of that literature as we have. And Coe praises Professor Allen Christenson’s translation of the Popol Vuh as “wonderful.”33 Christenson’s translation is explicitly rendered in poetic parallelisms and chiasms.34

Book of Mormon correspondence: The reader is referred to Professor Donald Parry’s reformatted version of the Book of Mormon in parallelisms and repetitions.35

Analysis of the correspondence: It is simply without doubt that the Book of Mormon is written in poetic parallelisms and repetitions. We have Coe’s own citations from Chilam Balam, his praise of Christenson’s translation of the Popul Vuh, etc., to confirm that this correspondence is specific, and detailed. As to “unusual,” Coe says in the podcasts that the fact that the Book of Mormon has chiasms and poetic parallelisms “means nothing,” that this type of language is found around the world.36

Coe thinks that the Book of Mormon has such language because Joseph Smith knew the Old Testament “very, very well.” Hear 2011 Podcast Part 3 26:00-30:07, for more of Coe's take on the subject. We disagree completely. The Hebrew [Page 121]chiasms and poetic parallelisms in the Old Testament were largely erased by the scholars who translated the King James Bible into English. Not all poetic parallelism, and repetition in Hebrew Scripture is lost in translation. E.g. Isaiah 1:3. Much of the parallelism in the Isaiah portions of both the King James Bible, and the Book of Mormon survive translation. Start by comparing 1 Nephi 20:1 and Isaiah 48:1.

Even if Joseph Smith knew about this kind of language, it is entirely another thing to be able to write (or more challenging yet, dictate) more than 300 separate chiasms into the Book of Mormon in such a way that they integrate seamlessly with the message of the book. Moreover, none of Joseph Smith’s own written sermons or other writings use these poetic parallelisms. If Dr. Coe is correct, why did Joseph Smith write these poetic parallelisms into the Book of Mormon and then completely stop writing like this? We find this objection inconsistent and uninformed. Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is remarkable, but the Dales go too far in their claims.

In concert with W. W. Phelps, Joseph Smith published a poetic version of the Vision of the Degrees of Glory, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 76. The claim that revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith were void of poetic repetitions, and parallelisms subsequent to the Book of Mormon, is false. Take for example LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:19-24; 88:6-13. The repetition of "We believe ..." in LDS Doctrine and Covenants 134, even qualifies as poetic.

The English Book of Mormon contains both remarkable Hebraisms, and less impressive Gentile-isms, what I call "Goyisms". The latter include imperfect, but familiar terminology from the King James translation of the Bible.

A good Hebrew translation of the Book of Mormon is even more poetic than the English version with all its surviving chiasmus and biblical parallelism. Take for example a translation of the first line, of the first verse of 1 Nephi, wherein the letter e is more accurately pronounce ĕ, and i is pronounced ē:

"Ani Nephi nolad'ti le-horim tovim ..." = "I Nephi was born to parents good ..." = "... אני נפי נולדתי להורים טובים"

We invite Dr. Coe or anyone else to dictate a chiasm like Alma Chapter 36. They can’t do it. This is unusual in the extreme. We would like to give it a much higher weight (one in a billion?) but our own weighting scheme forbids that. Instead, we give it a likelihood of 0.02.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1 This correspondence deserves a strong 0.02 for historicity, but not for any alleged connection to Mayan poetry. Unfortunately, the Dales have conflated the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, with their forgone conclusion that the book's literary setting is ancient Mesoamerica.

Coe makes it clear that the Maya language did not derive from any Old World language like Hebrew. (2018 Podcast Part 3 38:20-41:23) Poetic parallelism, repetition, and even chiasmus are not exclusively found in the Hebrew writings and Maya poetry.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible “very, very well.”, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a strong 0.02 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

22.                                                Corn first among grains

Coe’s standard: “This crop [maize] is so fundamental today that its cultivation and consumption define what it means to be Maya” (p. 242).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:22; Mosiah 9: 9, 14.

Analysis of correspondence: In the Book of Mormon, corn is the first grain mentioned; and not just once but all three times corn is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it is the first or the only grain mentioned, not wheat. So this correspondence is specific and detailed. But we do not count it as unusual, because View of the Hebrews also mentions the primacy of corn among the Indians.

Likelihood = 0.1

"All grain is good for the food of man ... Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox ..." (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 89:16-17)

In Joseph Smith's time, corn generally described any cereal grain (See O.E.D). In the United States, the word corn was used to mean Indian corn, or maize. Though a variety of feed grains can benefit bovine animals, the mention of "corn", i.e. "corn for the ox", in modern LDS scripture, likely means maize. What about the mention of "corn" in ancient scripture?

As in LDS Doctrine and Covenants 89:17, 1 Timothy 5:18 and 1 Corinthians 9:9 (based on Deuteronomy 25:4) mention "the ox" and "corn". These scriptures must therefore be referring exclusively to maize - right? Wrong! The "corn" (KJV) referred to in the Greek of 1 Timothy 5:18, is grain in general. The same is true for 1 Corinthians 9:9. Consider ST John 12:24.

Every plant product named in the Book of Mormon is also mentioned in the King James Bible, except for the arcane varieties "neas" and "sheum".

We should be asking, what is the "corn" mentioned in the King James translation of Hebrew scripture? Keep in mind, that the English Book of Mormon contains "goyisms", which are terms familiar to King James Bible readers, but which, if rendered in the original Hebrew, tend to be error free. (Mormon 9:33) Examples of "goyisms" in the Book of Mormon are "Red Sea", "steel", "cockatrice", "dragons", and of course "corn". Find the biblical Hebrew behind these terms, and you are on your way to a better understanding of what the ancient writer had in mind.

Consider the following Hebrew terms translated, or related to the English word "corn" in the King James Bible: דגן (Genesis 27:28), שבלים (Genesis 41:5), בר (Genesis 41:49), גדיש (Exodus 22:6), אביב (Leviticus 2:14), גרש (Leviticus 2:16), קלי (Leviticus 23:14),  קמת  (Deuteronomy 23:25).

Consider the following Hebrew terms translated, or related to the English word "barley" in the King James Bible: שערה (Exodus 9:31), שערים (Leviticus 27:16).

Consider also the following Hebrew terms translated, or related to the English word "wheat" in the King James Bible: חטה (Deuteronomy 8:8), חטים (Genesis 30:14).

Appropriate Hebrew translations of Mosiah 7:22; Mosiah 9:9, 14 can be obtained from the above selection of biblical Hebrew terms, without the ethnocentric insistence that "corn" in the Book of Mormon must mean maize. Subtle differences exist between these terms, relating to their stage of cultivation, harvest, and preparation - differences that could easily be lost in translation.

The Dales do not appear to understand the importance, to faithful Israelites, of harvesting barley and wheat at appropriate times, for seasonal ordinances set in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

Nephite "sheum", in fact, may have been a form of barley (not an ancient Mesoamerican crop), or even pine nuts. Its possible that in time, the word "bar" (sounds like the Aramaic word for "Son") could have come to designate a particular variety of Nephite cereal grain, distinct from the plant "seorah", and the plant "hitah".

Fully keeping the law of Moses in America, meant being led to places in the Promised Land where important seeds, brought from Jerusalem, could grow, and provide crops essential for the seasonal ordinances of the law. (1 Nephi 18:23-24, 2 Nephi 5:10) Though in time, maize could have been cultivated by Book of Mormon peoples, or their descendents, maize was certainly not among the first essential seeds, that Nephi's people religiously depended on.

It is known that ancient people living near the Great Lakes, cultivated a form of "barley". Norse explorers claimed to have discovered grapes and "self-sown wheat" growing in North America. Though common to Joseph Smith's own time and county, there is no evidence that any of these law of Moses pertinent crops were ever grown in ancient Mesoamerica.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

23.                                                Multiple wives/concubines especially among the rich

Coe’s standard: “From the ceramics at a site such as El Perú we get an idea of the palace staff described in Chapter 4: the courtiers and attendants, royal ladies or concubines” (p. 129). “Monogamy was the general custom, but important men who could afford it took more wives” (p. 234).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob 1:15; Jacob 2:27; Mosiah 11:4; Ether 10:5.

Analysis of correspondence: The practice is specific in both books, and is generally limited to rich men taking more wives. So the practice is also detailed to that extent. Joseph would have been aware of the practice of multiple wives among the Biblical patriarchs, and also with David and Solomon. Among some Indian tribes, important men also took multiple wives. So it is not unusual. Specific and detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

24.                                                [Page 122]Important to trace one’s genealogy to a prominent ancestor

Coe’s standard: “to be able to trace one’s genealogy in both lines to an ancient ancestry was an important matter, for there were strongly demarcated classes” (p. 235).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 25:13; Alma 10:1‒3; 3 Nephi 5:20; Ether 1:6‒33; Ether 6:22‒25; Mormon 1:5; Mormon 8:13.

Analysis of correspondence: Coe describes this practice clearly and in some detail. The Book of Mormon also describes it clearly and in great detail. Why would this idea occur to Joseph Smith in democratic frontier America in the early 1800s? America had recently thrown off the rule of a class-based society, the British; which placed importance on noble lineage. So the correspondence also seems unusual (really? Alma 51:17-18). Specific, detailed and unusual. Actually, the practice is evident in the Bible. So here again, we have the Dales wanting to claim a correspondence as unusual, that is not that unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1. This correspondence smacks of previous correspondences; e.g. 1.12, 1.15, 1.24 etc. Are the Dales forgetting that nobles are mentioned in the Bible? (Exodus 24:11)

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

25.                                                Genealogies kept very carefully by the priests

Coe’s standard: “According to the early sources, the Maya books contained histories, prophecies, maps, tribute accounts, songs, ‘sciences,’ and genealogies” (p. 239). “Far more is known of later Maya priests. … [They] kept the all-important genealogies” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 3:3, 12 (Laban was not a priest); 1 Nephi 5:14; 1 Nephi 6:1; Jarom 1:1; Omni 1:1, 18; Alma 37:3. These scriptures admit that preserving genealogy in written form predates the Nephite record, and was in fact an Old World practice. Numerous genealogical records are present in the Bible. As with Book of Mormon genealogies, biblical records were not all kept by priests, or even by righteous persons. (Omni 1:2-3) Failure to be able to show ones genealogy could result in being barred from higher class distinctions, honors, and authority. (Ezra 2:62-63)

Analysis of correspondence: This practice of the priests (religious leaders) carefully keeping genealogies is specific and detailed in both The Maya and in the Book of Mormon. It is also unusual. We know of no contemporary practice or model in Joseph’s Smith’s world that put such emphasis on priests keeping a careful, written, long-term record of one’s ancestors, a record handed down over centuries. Specific, detailed and unusual. If not "contemporary", how about an ancient record, i.e. the Bible.

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1. Again the Dales seem to have their blinders on.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

26.                                                Homosexuality probably practiced

Coe’s standard: “The latter include … amorous activities that are probably of a homosexual nature” (p. 258).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 30:18.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon’s reference to homosexual practices is veiled, but clear enough. How else does a man commit “whoredoms”? There are no details in either book, and the practice is not unusual.

The Hebrew root of the word translated "whoredoms" in the King James translation of the Bible, is "zanah" (זנה). See for example 2 Chronicles 21:13. The verb "zanah" covers all forms of sexual relations outside the divinely authorized marriage contract. The Book of Mormon use of the word, as applied to both women and men, is appropriate Hebrew usage. Men committing acts of "zanah" doesn't' necessarily imply homosexual behavior. On the topic of "activities ... of a homosexual nature" there is more clear correspondence between the Bible and Coe's Maya, than between Coe's Maya and the Book of Mormon. (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:27) This, of course, is not evidence that the Maya were influenced by the Bible.

Likelihood = 0.5

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

27.                                                Arcane sacred or prestige language

Coe’s standard: “Ch’olti’an became a literary language of high prestige among scribes … [and like other prestige languages in other civilizations] continued to be the preferred written languages long after the spoken ones had died out or transformed into something else” (pp. 30‒31). “Ch’olti’ … may well have served as a lingua franca among elites and surely evolved, as [Page 123]did Medieval Latin and Coptic, into an arcane sacred language used by few” (p. 270).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 1:2 and 3:19; Mosiah 1:2, 4; Mormon 9:34.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon emphasizes “the language of the fathers,” a written language connected to the language of the Egyptians, and "the learning of the Jews" (1 Nephi 1:2-3). It is the language (characters) in which the plates were written and was known to very few. It was obviously (presumably) not the common language (writing system). The reference is specific for both books, detailed and unusual. Except Coe points out that the tongues and writings of the Maya are not connected to Hebrew or Egyptian. (2018 Podcast Part 3 38:20-41:23) So what is the point here, except to push forward an allegedly "detailed and unusual" correspondence by obfuscation? Joseph Smith had not even mastered English at the time the Book of Mormon came forth and certainly knew nothing of Coptic or Medieval Latin, which he might have used as a model for this correspondence.

Another problem with the Dales' claim is that the Book of Mormon never actually states that the Nephites had more than one evolving spoken language. Sure, Mulekite, and Jaredite names and terms could have influenced Nephite (Omni 1:17-18, Ether 1:35-37, 3:22-24), but Moroni writes of "our manner of speech [singular]". (Mormon 9:32-34)

What scripture seems to be saying, is that the Nephites had more than one system of writing (one more compressed than the other, Mormon 9:33), and that both their spoken tongue, and their writing systems became altered. To better understand this, it helps to see how the term "language" or "tongue", is used in translating certain verses from Jewish scripture.

Consider the King James translations of Isaiah 36:11; 19:18, Ezra 4:7, Esther 3:12; 8:9.

Here are the Hebrew texts behind the translated verses, with interlinear English: Isaiah 36:11; 19:18, Ezra 4:7, Esther 3:12; 8:9.

Jewish scripture distinguishes between "language" or "tongue" which is spoken, and "writing" or "script" which is written. (Esther 8:8 - 9)

In translation, however, the terms "language" or "tongue" are sometimes inserted even though they are not explicitly in the ancient text. See Isaiah 36:11 (compare with Hebrew Yesha'Yahu 36:11), and see Ezra 4:7 (compare with Hebrew 'Ezra 4:7). In Ezra 4:7 (KJV) the word "tongue" (i.e. language) is used in describing a written language, or script. The word "tongue" or "language" isn't actually present in the ancient text.

What is translated "Syrian language", or "Syrian tongue" is simply "Aramit" (ארמית), or Aramaic. What is translated "Jews' language", is literally "Yehudit" (יהודית), or Judean, Jewish, or Hebrew.

Similarly, the appearance of the word "language", in 1 Nephi 1:2-3, Mosiah 1:4, and Mormon 9:34, when writing is being discussed, may not have existed explicitly on the plates. The Dales are correct in stating that these scriptures are talking about a "written language", but there is no clear indication in the Book of Mormon that the descendents of Nephi, at any one time, had more than one spoken language. (Mormon 9:32-33)

Lehi's communication skills drew upon "the learning of the Jews". This may simply be a translated reference to what Isaiah 36:11 calls "Yehudit" (יהודית). Lehi's Jewish learning included the ability to speak Judean, and to read and write Hebrew in the characters of a phonetic aleph-bet.

The "language of the Egyptians" could be a translator's way of explaining the word "Mitsrit" (מצרית); meaning, in this case, a logogrammatic Egyptian script. The Egyptian symbols had been adapted to a spoken Semitic language (Yehudit). Thus the Nephites had one evolving, spoken language, and two ways of writing it: a phonetic way, and a more compressed logogrammatic way. Hence Mormon 9:32-34.

The statement "that none other people knoweth our language", refers to the difficulty other peoples would have interpreting the reformed Egyptian (Mitsrit) on the plates (Mormon 9:34); and has less to do with spoken Nephite, which was a form of Yehudit or Ivrit (Hebrew, עברית).

Likelihood = 0.02 0.1

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

28.                                                Practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities

Coe’s standard: “the Itza … moved into the peninsula … in the thirteenth century, and gave their name to the formerly Toltec site of Chichen” (p. 202).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 9:8; Helaman 11:20; 4 Nephi 1:7.

Analysis of correspondence: The practice is specific in both books, although Coe offers only one example for detail while the Book of Mormon offers several examples. It is doubtful that Joseph Smith knew of any examples around him that could serve as a model for this practice. The Dales' assertion is historically incorrect. See Squier's work below. America was being built up by founding new cities and towns, not repopulating old or abandoned ones. Rather, Americans were quite aware of the ruins of what many supposed was a lost civilization, in places where Americans settled. Hence the Mound-builder mystery. So the correspondence is specific and unusual. Because Coe cites only one example, we will not claim it to be detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1 0.5. The Dales, showing some inconsistency, previously assigned a supportive likelihood of 0.5 to this same correspondence. The following commentary was given:

The theme of repopulating lands and cities is certainly a biblical topic (e.g. Jeremiah 6:12; 8:10; 32:36-37, 41-44, Isaiah 49:18-21, also 1 Nephi 21:18-21, Isaiah 54:3, also 3 Nephi 22:3). These facts do not uniquely point to Mesoamerica. What is more, 19th Century colonists populating western NY realized that they were occupying lands that had once been settled by peoples who built earth and timber palisade villages, and forts; not unlike those described in the Book of Mormon. (E. G. Squier, ABORIGINAL MONUMENTS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, 1849) We may in this case consider a likelihood of 2 in support of the near Cumorah literary setting in Joseph Smith's own country. This easily cancels out the Dales' alleged 0.5 Bayesian Statistical (BS) weight for a Mesoamerican setting.

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 2

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a supportive 0.5 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

29.                                                World divided into four quarters or quadrants

Coe’s standard: “Another pervasive idea was the division of the world into sectors [four of them]. … In the Classic period, eagles were thought to perch in each of the four directions” (p. 246). “The four walls of spectacular … royal tombs … display distinct hills. … Placed in the middle, the deceased became the center of the universe” (p. 247). “a map of world directions, adorned with gods and sacrifices appropriate to each quarter, … celebrations … presided over by a set of four young gods, a nod to the four directions” (p. 249). “The Zinacanteco world is conceived of as a large quincunx, with four corners and a ‘navel of the earth’ in the middle” (p. 292).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 22:25; 3 Nephi 16:5; Ether 13:11.

Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon are specific and detailed about the idea that the world is divided into four quarters. If Joseph Smith was making this up, why not into halves, or thirds or eighths? Coe (p. 247) notes that this idea is widespread and very ancient among humankind, which is probably why we ourselves talk in this way [Page 124]about the four quarters of the earth, without giving it much thought. Specific and detailed, but for this reason, not unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

The following excerpt from Relative Directions in Scriptural Lands, is found in the Appendix of CHOICE ABOVE ALL OTHER LANDS:

"The “four quarters of the earth” is an expression used repeatedly in the Book of Mormon and in other scripture. (1 Nephi 19:16; 22:25, 3 Nephi 5:24, 26; 16:5, Ether 13:11) The expression appears in the King James Bible. (Revelation 20:8) In New Testament Greek, it means “the four corners (or angles) of the earth”. The “four quarters of the earth” correspond with the “four quarters of heaven”. The heavenly quarters entail four winds, each issuing from a cardinal direction. (YirmeYahu (Jeremiah) 49:36, Divre Hayyamim Aleph (1 Chronicles) 9:24, Hebrew / Greek interlinear English, LDS Scriptures Advanced Study Guide) The expression “four winds…of heaven” appears in Matthew 24:31, while “four quarters of the earth” occurs in Joseph Smith - Matthew 1:27

The Israelite compass or coordinate system is fundamentally based on the perceived movement of the heavenly quarters. It is well established that Israelite east faces the general direction of sunrise. (MIZRAH; SUN, Encyclopedia Judaica) Old and New World lands of inheritance were divided into quarters utilizing directions set by the apparent movement of the heavens. (Numbers 34:3, Joshua 15:5, Mosiah 27:6)

Mesoamerican settings run into difficulty coordinating the New World seas mentioned in the Book of Mormon. [See correspondence 17, and 18] A literal interpretation of the Book of Mormon rejects the notion that some of its seas are only allegorical. A correct understanding of Israelite directions reveals how spurious the popular argument is that Nephite “west” is really south; an argument that many Mesoamerican models depend on.

Inland bodies of water are called seas in Hebrew scripture. (Joshua 12:3; 15:5, Ether 2:7) The term “lake” is never used in the Book of Mormon to describe a body of water. The expression translated, “the whole earth” can mean the full extent of a local land or region. The ancient expression doesn't have to mean global or planet-wide. (Exodus 10:14-15, Alma 38:7) These facts greatly clarify the following passage:

"And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.” (Helaman 3:8)

Demographic spreading is mentioned twice in this verse. The first mention of spreading states that “…they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward…” This first spreading refers to multiplying and spreading in “the land southward”, followed by migrations to “the land northward”. The second mention of spreading, or rather beginning to spread, states that the people “…did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth…” This refers to the start of a widespread occupation of “the land northward”. The rest of the verse then deals entirely with “the land northward”. The expression, “face of the whole earth” means the full extend of “the land northward”. This land is bounded by seas in four directions (following the directions given in the heavens).

Is there a location in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, adjacent to scriptural Cumorah (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20) that is bounded by seas in the cardinal directions? Indeed, there is a land that matches the requirements exactly. We read that this northern land had a somewhat distinct blessing and curse upon it. (Helaman 6:10; 3 Nephi 3:24, Alma 46:17) This “land northward” resides in what is today Ontario, Canada."

Literary Setting in Joseph Smith's own country (Mound-builder America) fitting into the Mound-builder literary genre drawing on the Bible:

Likelihood = 10

Historicity of the Book of Mormon:

Uncertain. You could go with Coe's negative argument that Joseph Smith knew his Bible well, and based the Book of Mormon on it. I choose, in this case, a positive 0.1 likelihood for the Book of Mormon as sacred history, tied to the Bible. (Mormon 7:9)

30.                                                Maya fascinated by ancient Olmec culture

Coe’s standard: “there are also good reasons to believe that it was the Olmecs who devised the elaborate Long Count calendar. … Many other civilizations, including the Maya, ultimately drew on Olmec achievements” (p. 54). “In art, in religion, in state complexity, and perhaps even in the calendar and astronomy, Olmec models were transferred to the Maya” (p. 61). “The Maya looked to the west [toward Olmec lands] … as the enduring locus of civilization” (p. 63).

Book of Mormon correspondence: Because of the 24 gold plates found by the people of Limhi among the ruins of an ancient civilization, The Book of Mormon also looks to an ancient, destroyed civilization as a source of knowledge, but apparently exclusively as a source of depraved knowledge of “secret combinations” rather than of useful accomplishments. For example, see Mosiah 8:9; Alma 37:29, 32; Ether 8:9 and 9:26. It is interesting that both the Jaredites and the Maya were ultimately destroyed because of “endemic, internecine warfare” (Coe’s words; see above).

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is certainly specific, but the details do not match, perhaps because of the very different orientations of the two books. The Book of Mormon tells us that the Nephites were destroyed because of their embrace of the secret combinations also found in the book of Ether, so the Book of Mormon probably would not be inclined to tell us if anything useful and good came from the Jaredite records. It is also unusual. Why would Joseph Smith “guess” that the ancient Indians looked toward an even more ancient civilization for guidance, either for good or bad? This correspondence is specific and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

31.                                                Lineage histories dominate the written records

Coe’s standard: “It was not just the ‘stela cult’ — the inscribed glorification of royal lineages and their achievements — that disappeared with the Collapse” (p. 177), “Native lineages seem to have deliberately falsified their own histories for political reasons” (p. 199). “[A postclassic site] … consists of plazas surrounded by lineage temples” (p. 225n145).

Book of Mormon correspondence: The Book of Mormon is a lineage history. It begins with the story of Lehi and his family, and was later edited and compiled by Mormon (“a pure descendant of Lehi,” 3 Nephi 5:20) and his son Moroni. The Book of Ether is likewise a lineage history. Ether was a direct descendant, through many centuries, of Jared.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. It is also unusual. How could Joseph Smith have learned about lineage histories, and woven this correspondence into the fabric of the [Page 125]Book of Mormon in such an unobtrusive and comprehensive way? How did he “guess” this one correctly?

Likelihood = 0.02

6.     Calculation of overall likelihood for Social and Cultural Correspondences

7.                 There are 31 separate social and cultural correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, five have a likelihood of 0.5, 16 have a likelihood of 0.1, and ten have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 31 positive correspondences is 0.55 x 0.116 x 0.0210 =

8. 3.21 x 10–35.

9.     Religious Correspondences

1.     Central role of temples (ritual centers) in society

Coe’s standard: “Kaminaljuyu … consisted of several hundred temple mounds” (p. 55). “The lowland Maya almost always built their temples over older ones” (p. 59). “On top of this … pyramid had once been a pole-and-thatch building” (p. 82n33). “Even more advanced temples have been uncovered at Tikal” (p. 83).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 5:16; Mosiah 9:8; Mosiah 11:8‒10; Helaman 1:21; Helaman 13:4; 3 Nephi 11:1.

Analysis of correspondence: Temples, ritual centers, were obviously central to Maya life. So were they also among the Nephites. One of the very first things that Nephi’s small group does after splitting off is to build a temple “after the manner of the temple of Solomon” (2 Nephi 5:16). King Benjamin gathers his people around the temple. After the great destruction, the Nephites gather around the temple in the Land of Bountiful, and the risen Lord appears. While this correspondence is specific and detailed, we do not count it as unusual, because Joseph Smith might — perhaps, possibly, conceivably — have gotten the idea from View of the Hebrews.

Likelihood = 0.1

2.     Strong Christian elements in Maya religion

Coe’s standard: “Many Colonial-period Maya identified the risen Christ with the Maize God” (p. 71). “The raised wooden standard shall come! … Our lord comes, Itza! Our elder brother comes. … Receive your guests, the bearded men, the men of the east, the bearers of the sign of God, lord!” (p. 227). “There was … a great deal of … blending between Spanish and Maya religious institutions and beliefs, since in many respects they were so similar” (p. 289).

Book of Mormon correspondence: From the title page to the last chapter, the Book of Mormon is, as it claims to be, another witness that Jesus is the Christ.

[Page 126]Analysis of correspondence: In both books, the correspondence is specific, detailed and very unusual. Why would Joseph Smith have “guessed” that the ancient Mesoamericans had strong elements of Christianity in their religious practices? View of the Hebrews claims to find ancient Hebrew elements among American Indian tribes, but not Christian elements. So this is specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

3.     Change in popular cults; decline of a great city in the highlands in the Late Preclassic

Coe’s standard: “While the pre-eminence of Kaminaljuyu during the Late Preclassic period is plain to see, its star began to sink by the second and third centuries AD, and most of it was left in ruin at the close of the Late Preclassic” (p. 80), “It is strange that figurines are absent from most known Chicanel sites, indicating that there was a change in popular cults [during the Late Preclassic 300 BC to AD 250]” (p. 81).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman Chapters 10 and 11, 3 Nephi (all), and 4 Nephi 1:20, 35‒40. This is the time period with which the Book of Mormon deals most intensively, and it includes many separate events of religious awakening, increased faith and great prosperity, which are then followed by apostasy and idolatry. Thus there are indeed many changes in “popular cults,” including the final one starting in about AD 200. Fourth Nephi outlines the fall and disintegration of Nephite society, which begins about this time.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in both books, but much more detailed in the Book of Mormon than in The Maya. The timing is also unusual. In the long centuries of Maya civilization (roughly 1800 BC to 900 AD) the Book of Mormon correctly “guesses” the period that Coe recognizes as a dramatic one when “a change in popular cults” occurred. We count this one as specific and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

4.     Close association of temples with sacred mountains/hills (pyramids)

Coe’s standard: “Rising up the corners of the temple’s substructure are monstrous faces representing witz or mountains” (p. 136). “Long thought to be faces of the Maya rain god Chahk, they are actually iconographic mountains (witz), the descendants of the corner masks placed on Classic-period monuments like Copan’s Temple 11″ (p. 180).

Book of Mormon correspondence: 2 Nephi 12:2‒3.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and quite detailed in both books. The temples are associated with sacred mountains, for example the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Although perhaps Joseph Smith might have gotten the idea from careful reading of the Bible, nothing in conventional Christianity of his day would have prepared him to see the [Page 127]association between temples and holy sacred mountains, a concept shared by the Nephites and by the Maya. This is specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

5.     Seers and seer stones exist

Coe’s standard: “Two of the houses were certainly devoted to village rituals; Structure 12 in particular had … a collection of crystals like those used by modern Maya diviners” (p. 107). “Two types of religious specialists practice here and in other traditional Yukateko settlements. One is … seemingly imbued with far greater spiritual and perhaps real power: this is the hmeen, ‘he who does or understands things.’ … These specialists still play an important role in divination and prophecy, using their crystals to scry the future” (p. 296). “The rite begins after the hmeen has consulted his zaztun or crystal” (p. 297).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 8:13‒17; Mosiah 28:13‒16; Ether 3:23‒24, 28.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya. However, we do not count it as unusual, although it will certainly appear unusual to the modern mind. Joseph Smith had his own seer stone before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and might have used that as his model for including seer stones and seers in the book.

Likelihood = 0.1

6.     Temple and other religious rituals involve bloodletting

Coe’s standard: “In the great courtyards less private activities took place, including dances, ritual bloodletting from the penis and tongue on calendrically important days” (p. 129). “These were inscribed within a very brief period … and celebrate … temple dedication rituals such as bloodletting” (p. 184). “Before and during rituals, … self-mutilation was carried out by jabbing needles and stingray spines through ears, cheeks, lips, tongue, and the penis, the blood being spattered on paper or used to anoint the idols” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jarom 1:5, 11; Alma 25:15‒16; Mosiah 13:27‒28.

Analysis of the correspondence: Up until AD 33 or so, the Nephites practiced the Law of Moses, with its temple rituals involving bloodletting. Presumably they also followed the Abrahamic practice of circumcision. While the practices described in The Maya and the Law of Moses correspond in that they involve bloodletting from both human and animals for religious rituals, the details overlap only somewhat. Also they would probably not be unusual to a Bible-reading individual. Specific, but not detailed nor unusual.

Likelihood = 0.5

7.     [Page 128]Belief in resurrection

Coe’s standard: “Following their ultimate victory, they resurrected their father Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God” (p. 71). “Modern rendering of a wall painting of the resurrected Maize God surrounded by female figures” (p. 88n36). “Significantly, … the ruler is portrayed not as K’awiil, but as the youthful Maize God, … a representation celebrating resurrection and apotheosis” (p. 195). “Both … had a hero god who died and was resurrected — for the Spaniards, this was Jesus Christ, and for the Maya, the Maize God” (p. 289).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 9:12; Alma 41:2; Alma 33:22 among many others. There are 57 references to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon.

Analysis of the correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya refer specifically and in detail to a belief in bodily resurrection. The doctrine of a literal bodily resurrection had been in retreat in Christianity for centuries — so there was no intellectual reason for Joseph to put it forward as a prominent part of the Book of Mormon. Also, as far as we know, the North American Indians did not believe in resurrection. View of the Hebrews says nothing about such a belief among the Indians. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” that the belief might be held by distant ancestors of some of the Mesoamerican Indians? Specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

8.     Baptismal rite among the Maya

Coe’s standard: “As soon as possible, the anxious parents [of a newborn child] went to consult with a priest so as to learn the destiny of their offspring, and the name which he or she was to bear until baptism. The Spanish Fathers were quite astounded that the Maya had a baptismal rite, which took place at an auspicious time” (p. 233).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 31:13; Mosiah 21:35; Moroni 6:1‒4 and many others. It is interesting that a new name was received at the time of baptism in the Book of Mormon and among the Maya (see above).

Analysis of the correspondence: The practice of baptism is specific and detailed in both the Book of Mormon and in The Maya. It is also unusual. If the Spanish Fathers were “astounded” at the baptismal rite of the Maya, we should be also. Specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

9.     Ritual walking in straight roads symbolizes acceptable behavior

Coe’s standard: “At the site of Edzna, … occupants had constructed a massive hydraulic system, consisting of 13.75 miles (22 km) of canals … (resembling aquatic versions of Maya ritual roads)” (p. 90). “Coba is … a whole group linked to a central complex by long, perfectly straight masonry causeways usually called … sakbe (“white road”). … Some have claimed that the Maya [Page 129]sakbe were arteries of commerce, but a purely ceremonial function is far more plausible” (p. 163). “A causeway, or sakbih, 11.25 miles (18 km) long runs southeast from Uxmal through the small site of Nohpat to Kabah, so presumably the three centers were connected at least ceremonially” (p. 182). “Processional routes, the ‘white roads’ or sakbih described earlier, carved straight paths across broken landscapes. To walk along them was to move in acceptable, ritually decorous ways” (p. 242).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 4:32; 2 Nephi 9:41; Alma 7:9.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is quite specific in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya, and it is certainly unusual. What religious practice did Joseph Smith know of that resembled this ritual behavior in the least? But details are not provided in the Book of Mormon, so the practice is specific and unusual, but not detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

10.                                                Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved

Coe’s standard: “Ultimately, humans were obligated to abide by covenants. A covenant, as defined by the ethnographer John Monaghan, is a binding contract that explains how one should behave. Gods were usually involved, as in the case of maize production” (p. 242).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 5:6‒8; Mosiah 6:1‒2; Mosiah 21:31‒32.

Analysis of correspondence: The Maya and the Book of Mormon share a common understanding of covenants as a binding contract or agreement between God and man. This is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What existing model or pattern did Joseph Smith rely on to correctly “guess” that covenants between God and man existed among ancient Mesoamerican Indians? In the conventional Christianity of Smith’s day, the importance of covenants was very much downplayed if not absent altogether. So the practice is specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

11.                                                Hereditary priests and Chief Priests

Coe’s standard: “Far more is known of later Maya priests. In contrast to their Aztec counterparts, they were not celibate. Sons acquired their fathers’ offices, although some were second sons of lords” (p. 243). “During the prosperity of Mayapan, a hereditary Chief Priest resided in that city” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 29:42; Alma 45:22‒23; Alma 46:6.

Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya teach clearly of hereditary priests and chief priests. This correspondence is detailed and specific. It is also unusual. Joseph Smith’s experience of frontier priests would have been of the Protestant variety, who were not celibate, but who instead were “trained for the ministry” and did not inherit their offices; or of the Catholic variety, who were celibate and therefore could not pass on [Page 130]their priestly office to a son. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” that among some of the distant ancestors of the Indians, priests were not celibate and that priestly office could descend from father to son?

Likelihood = 0.02

12.                                                Existence of opposites is an essential part of creation

Coe’s standard: “A relevant Maya term from these ceramics is tz’ak, the idea of ordering. A key part of creation was the establishment of opposites. These are presented in alternative spellings for the tz’ak glyph. … The exquisite Tablet of the 96 Glyphs … lays out a long series of such opposed pairs. It begins with sun and night, followed by possibly life and death, then Venus and moon, wind and water” (p. 251).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 2:11‒15.

Analysis of correspondence: The words create or creation are used six times in these five verses in the Book of Mormon, all strictly in the context of opposed pairs. The correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What document or religious teaching could Joseph Smith have possibly used that would have led him to correctly “guess” this belief shared by the Maya and the Book of Mormon patriarch Lehi? Specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

13.                                                Pantheistic religion and idols

Coe’s standard: “along with the latter three temples, each of these was consecrated to a single god among the triad of divinities from whom the Palenque dynasty claimed descent” (p. 157). “Flanking the tableau are two strange deities with rodent heads” (p. 160). “On one side, the god K’awiil (left) faces God L, the deity of tobacco” (p. 166n100). “The face of the Jaguar God of the Underworld is surmounted by the heads of other deities, including a Bat God” (p. 166n101).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 7:6; Alma 17:15; Alma 31:1; Helaman 6:31; Mormon 4:14, 21.

Analysis of correspondence: The references to idol gods are specific and detailed in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya. However, this correspondence is not unusual. The Bible also clearly refers to this practice, and Joseph would have known of it.

Likelihood = 0.1

14.                                                Sorcery, magic and witchcraft practiced

Coe’s standard: “According to one story, by means of sorcery Hunac Ceel drove Chak Xib Chak to abduct the bride of the ruler of Izamal” (p. 218). “or refer to diseases controlled by kings in an elevated, almost dynastic form of sorcery” (p. 256). “Witchcraft is an omnipresent danger; the witch takes the form of an animal alter-ego” (p. 297). “Defeated by the evil magic of his adversary Tezcatlipoca, the king was forced to leave Tula with his followers” (p. 201).

[Page 131]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 1:32; Mormon 1:19; Mormon 2:10.

Analysis of correspondence: The Maya and the Book of Mormon both refer specifically, negatively and in some detail to the practice of magic, sorcery and witchcraft among the peoples described in the two books. A belief in the practice of evil magic, however, would probably not be unusual to Joseph Smith. It was part of the world view during the early 19th century in backwoods America. Specific and detailed,

Likelihood = 0.1

15.                                                Ritual for the renewal of the community, including transfer of sacred objects

Coe’s standard: “The entire religious drama is directed toward renewal of the universe and of the community, and ends with the transfer of the sacred objects of office to a new set of cargo-holders” (p. 295).

Book of Mormon standard: See Mosiah Chapters 1‒6.

Analysis of the correspondence: King Benjamin’s gathering of his people to the temple, complete with community-wide covenant making at the time of the transfer of his kingly office to his son, along with the transfer of sacred objects, is very nearly a perfect fit with Coe’s standard described above. This is specific, detailed and unusual. What possible model or contemporary practice could Joseph Smith have drawn upon to describe King Benjamin’s gathering of his people so perfectly?

Likelihood = 0.02

16.                                                Blurring/combining priestly and political roles

Coe’s standard: “In other respects, the distinction between priestly and political roles may have been blurred in the Classic period” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 2:1; see also the Foreword to the Book of Alma.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. Priestly leadership and political leadership were sometimes combined/blurred in both books, but not always, as described in correspondence 1.27 above. Also, there is not enough detail provided in either book to rank this as unusual, so the evidence is weighted as specific only.

Likelihood = 0.5

17.                                                Divination: consulting oracles for secular guidance and assistance

Coe’s standard: “Specialists took charge of these prayers or acts of divination … to discern messages from the gods and to understand the imbalances leading to disease, drought, and other problems” (p. 243). “Later Maya priests [administered] … ‘their methods of divination … events and the cures for diseases'” (p. 243). “An important function of all highland shamans is divination. Along with the mechanism of the 260-day count is the casting of certain red seeds or maize kernels, a practice deeply rooted in [Page 132]the pre-Spanish past. … Shamans conduct rituals for both individuals and the whole community” (p. 292).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 3:11; Alma 16:5‒6; Helaman 11:12‒17.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in that God is consulted through his representatives regarding drought and other problems affecting both individuals and the community. Casting of lots (or seeds) is mentioned. This practice is also mentioned in the Bible (for example, Saul and the witch of Endor), so we will not count it as unusual. It is specific and at least somewhat detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

18.                                                Calendars kept by holy men/priests

Coe’s standard: “The 260 day calendar … still survives in unchanged form among some indigenous peoples in southern Mexico and the Maya highlands, under the care of calendar priests” (p. 64). “For some reason, the calendar priests active in Highland Guatemala today are almost undetectable in earlier times. … But similar figures must have existed.” “Later Maya priests’ … list of duties [included] … ‘computation of the years, months and days'” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 8:1‒5. A “just man” who “did many miracles” was responsible for the reckoning of time among the people.

Analysis of correspondence: In the Book of Mormon the reference is specific but not very detailed. It does seem unusual. In the (highly) unlikely event that Joseph knew of the origin of the Gregorian calendar (instituted by Pope Gregory XIII), he might also have known of the Julian calendar (instituted by Julius Caesar). How would he have chosen correctly between a calendar instituted by priests or by civil authorities? So we count this one specific and unusual but not detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

19.                                                Virtuous persons “confess”

Coe’s standard: “Humans existed within a larger set of expectations. The virtuous person was toj, ‘right’ and ‘straight,’ at times a literal term that Colonial Mayan languages tied to cleaning, confession, and prophecy” (p. 242).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 26:29; Alma 17:4; Helaman 5:17.

Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon clearly tie confession with becoming a virtuous person, becoming clean. Confession also exists within a larger set of expectations (for example, baptism in the Book of Mormon). So the correspondence is specific and detailed. The correspondence also seems unusual. While confession is a prominent part of the Roman Catholic faith, it was not prominent in any Protestant tradition in frontier America in the early 1800s. It was various forms of Protestantism [Page 133]that Joseph Smith was familiar with. How did he “guess” correctly to include confession as an important duty among repentant, virtuous persons? How did he know that some of the ancient Mesoamericans would view confession in much the same light?

Likelihood = 0.02

10.                        Calculation of overall religious correspondences

11.            There are 19 separate religious correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, two have a likelihood of 0.5, eight have a likelihood of 0.1, and nine have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 19 positive correspondences is 0.52 x 0.18 x 0.029 =

12.                    1.28 x 10–24.

13.                        Military Correspondences

1.     Extreme cruelty to enemy captives

Coe’s standard: “the opposite of refinement in an unmistakable dehumanization of reviled enemies, a delight in their pain and dishonor” (p. 96). “The Leiden Plaque, which once dangled from a ruler’s belt, has engraved on one face a richly ornamented Maya lord … trampling underfoot a sorry- looking captive, a theme repeated on so many Maya stelae of later times” (pp. 98‒99). “miserable prisoners have been stripped, and are having the nails torn from their fingers or their hands lacerated. An important captive sprawls on the steps, perhaps tortured to exhaustion, and a severed head lies nearby on a bed of leaves. A naked figure seated on the platform summit pleads for his life to the central figure, Yajaw Kan Muwaan” (p. 150).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Moroni 9:8‒10.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in both books, and the details are similar in the sense of torture to death and extreme, even inhumane, cruelty. Some Indian tribes may have done similar things, but not all tribes did it at all times to all captives, and some tribes adopted white children. The Revolutionary War was not marked with this kind of behavior on either side. So we think it is specific, detailed but only somewhat unusual. To be conservative, we assign this one a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

2.     Defensive earthworks with deep ditches, breastworks and palisades

Coe’s standard: “Becan … was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD. These consist of a ditch and inner rampart, 38 ft (11.6 m) high, and would have been formidable, according to David Webster, if the rampart had been surmounted by a palisade” (p. 122). “Warfare had in fact become a real problem to all the major Petexbatun sites, and a system of defensive walls … topped by wooden palisades was constructed around and within them” (p. 151).

[Page 134]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 49:4, 18‒22; Alma 50:1‒5; Alma 53:4.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, it matches perfectly in the details, and it is highly unusual. What military example had Joseph Smith ever heard of or seen that was anything like this defensive arrangement? According to David Webster, the Conquistador Hernan Cortes marveled when he saw the Maya towns defended in exactly this fashion (details below). We would like to give this correspondence a weighting of a million to one against the likelihood that Joseph Smith guessed it, but our data weighting approach does not permit a likelihood of 0.000001; instead it is

Likelihood = 0.02

For those who are interested, here are some additional details from Dr. Webster’s work that show how exactly Joseph “guessed” this correspondence, and how amazed Cortes was:

Conquistador Hernan Cortes described fortified cities in the Maya lowlands, as quoted by Dr. David Webster of Pennsylvania State University. Here is Cortes’s description of the defenses he encountered among the Lowland Maya: “There is only one level entrance, the whole town being surrounded by a deep (dry) moat behind which is a wooden palisade as high as man’s breast. Behind this palisade lies a wall of very heavy boards, some twelve feet tall, with embrasures through which to shoot their arrows; the lookout posts rise another eight feet above the wall, which likewise has large towers with many stones to hurl down on the enemy. … Indeed, it was so well planned with regard to the manner of weapons they use, they could not be better defended”37

Dr. Webster also wrote another relevant, interesting study. Here are some of Dr. Webster’s findings from his study regarding the dry moat or defensive ditch that surrounded the city of Becan, in the Yucatan Peninsula of southeastern Mexico: “The ditch and parapet derive their main defensive strength from sheer size. What I call the ‘critical depth’ of the fortifications (the vertical distance from the top of the embankment to the bottom of the ditch would have averaged something over 11 meters (about 36 feet). … The steep angles of the inner ditch and wall and parapet slope could not have been climbed without the aid of ladders; an enemy force caught in the bottom of the ditch would have been at the mercy of the defenders, whose most effective weapon under the circumstances would have been large rocks. … To throw ‘uphill’ from the outside is almost impossible. Defenders [Page 135]…could have rained long-distance missiles on approaching enemies using spear throwers and slings.” 38

Thus the Maya at the time of the Spanish Conquest used the same kind of city defense that Moroni had used about 1600 years earlier, namely (1) a single entrance to the city, (2) very deep ditches around the city, (3) banks of earth built above the ditches, (4) strong works of timbers built on top of these banks of earth above ditches, and (5) even taller towers built on the timbers. From these works of timbers and from the towers, the defenders could rain down arrows and especially rocks (a cheap but effective weapon), on their attackers. And the attackers couldn’t effectively get at the defenders — so they were slaughtered.

So Joseph Smith was either a military genius himself, or he guessed it. Yes, he guessed it in all this detail. A 24-year- old farm kid from upstate New York invented this superb defensive military arrangement, totally unlike anything in the warfare of his time, and which greatly impressed an experienced soldier like Hernan Cortes.

3.     Walled cities, especially during wartime

Coe’s standard: “When city walls are found, as at Dos Pilas, Ek’ Balam, and Uxmal, they seem to date to the final years of the Classic period, when, in places, local conditions became hostile” (p. 126). “The triple defensive wall that surrounds the site indicates that conditions in this remote part of the Maya lowlands were dangerously unsettled in the Terminal Classic” (p. 194). “Mayapan … is a residential metropolis covering about 2.5 sq. miles (6.5 sq. km) and completely surrounded by a defensive wall” (p. 216).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 9:8; Helaman 1:21; Helaman 13:4.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, and is detailed in the sense that the walls seem to appear mostly in time of war. However, Coe does not see much evidence for the presence of walls until the late Classic, and since View of the Hebrews also refers to walled towns, we rate this one as merely specific.

Likelihood = 0.5

4.     Thick clothing used as armor

Coe’s standard: “Left arms were protected by quilted padding” (p. 201). “[This is how] Maya warfare was waged. The holkanob, or “braves,” were the foot soldiers; they wore cuirasses of quilted cotton or tapir hide” (p. 236).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 43:19.

[Page 136]Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is both specific and detailed. In both The Maya and the Book of Mormon, thick clothing was used as armor. It is also unusual. We know of no contemporary model or example that Joseph Smith could have relied upon to correctly “guess” this correspondence. Even today we doubt that one person in a hundred would know that ancient Mesoamerican warriors wore heavy cotton clothing as armor.

Likelihood = 0.02

5.     Fighting with “darts”

Coe’s standard: “Taneko found 217 projectile points … [that] had been used on darts propelled by atlatls, — mute testimony to a final battle sealing the city’s death” (p. 175). “the Toltec warrior, … carrying a feather-decorated atlatl in one hand and a bunch of darts in the other” (p. 201) ” … carried … darts-with-spearthrower. … [The infantry] rained darts, arrows, and stones flung from slings” (p. 236).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jarom 1:8.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya specifically contrast fighting with bows and arrows or spears as being different from fighting with “darts.” What experience or knowledge did Joseph Smith have of fighting with darts? How many educated people, even today, would know about fighting with a “dart-thrower” or atlatl? So this correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

6.     Endemic, internecine warfare destroyed the societies

Coe’s standard: “there might have been fierce internecine warfare or perhaps even a popular revolt” (p. 116). “But most Maya archaeologists now agree that three factors were paramount in the downfall: endemic internecine warfare” (p. 175). “The Maya were obsessed with war. The Annals of the Kaqchikels and the Popol Vuh speak of little but intertribal conflict among the highlanders, while the 16 states of Yucatan were constantly battling with each other over boundaries and lineage honor” (p. 236).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See, among others, Omni 1:10; Alma 62:39; Mormon 8:8.

Analysis of correspondence: With a few blessed exceptions, the Book of Mormon describes continuing war and conflict both between and among the Nephites and Lamanites, a conflict that ultimately results in the destruction of both groups. When the Book of Mormon brings down the curtain, the Lamanites are at war with each other, and “no one knoweth the end of the war.” This is in fact “endemic, internecine warfare,” the very words used by Coe. There was no contemporary example or model that Joseph Smith could use to “guess” a 1,000-year-long conflict that finally destroyed all the parties involved, so the correspondence is also specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

7.     [Page 137]Warfare with ambushes and traps

Coe’s standard: “Nor did the Maya fight in the accepted fashion. Attacking the Spaniards at night, plotting ambushes and traps, they were jungle guerrillas” (p. 227).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See the whole of chapters 43 and 52 of Alma.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and features some detail in both books, especially in the Book of Mormon (in keeping with the fact that the principal editor of the Book of Mormon was the commander of the armies of his people during nearly his entire adult life). But it is not unusual. The Indians of North America were also masters of ambush, and Joseph would have known this. There is also probably not enough detail in The Maya to upgrade the correspondence to specific and detailed. Specific only.

Likelihood = 0.5

8.     Raids to take captives/slaves

Coe’s standard: “Hostilities typically began with an unannounced guerrilla raid into the enemy camp to take captives. … Lesser captives ended up as slaves” (p. 236).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 16:3‒4; Alma 60:17; Helaman 11:33.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. However, it is not unusual. Indians also raided the whites and each other to take captives/slaves. Joseph Smith would likely have known of this practice.

Likelihood = 0.1

9.     Warriors dressing to inspire fear

Coe’s standard: “Teotihuacan fighting men were armed with atlatl-propelled darts and rectangular shields, and bore round, decorated, pyrite mosaic mirrors on their backs; with their eyes sometimes partly hidden by white shell ‘goggles,’ and their feather headdresses, they must have been terrifying figures to their opponents” (pp. 99‒100).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 4:7.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. In both books warriors sometimes dressed to inspire fear in their opponents. But the details do not line up very well, and this is probably not unusual. Indian warriors, for example, used war paint in part to inspire fear. So this correspondence is rated specific only.

Likelihood = 0.5

10.                                                Stones and slings used as weapons for fighting

Coe’s standard: “On either side of the war, leaders and the idols carried into combat under the care of priests [who] flanked the infantry, from which rained darts, arrows, and stones flung from slings” (p. 236).

[Page 138]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:36.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is certainly specific and detailed enough. Stones slung from slings were used to kill opponents. It also seems unusual. While Joseph Smith could have gotten the idea from the Bible, why would he correctly “guess” that some of the ancestors of the Indians fought with stones and slings? The Indians of northeastern North America, of whom he did know something, did not fight with stones and slings. Specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

11.                                                Cannibalism practiced on captives

Coe’s standard: “In general, only captive lords were considered fit for sacrifice, or for consumption in cannibalistic rites” (p. 225).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Moroni 9:10.

Analysis of correspondence: The practice is detailed enough and certainly specific in both books. However, it probably does not qualify as unusual. Joseph Smith may have heard of the ritual cannibalism practiced by the Iroquois.

Likelihood = 0.1

12.                                                Deliberate destruction of the records/monuments

Coe’s standard: “By c. 1150 BC, San Lorenzo was destroyed by an unknown hand, and its monuments mutilated and smashed” (pp. 52–54). “There are signs of widespread, purposeful mutilation of public monuments” (p. 116). “Other cities in the Central Area eventually fell victim to the same cycle of violence, characterized by the systematic mutilation and smashing of stone monuments — the eyes and mouths of rulers are often pecked out, as if to cancel their power” (p. 175).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Enos 1:13‒14; Alma 14:8; Mormon 2:17.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is certainly specific, but the details as practiced among the Maya seem to be directed toward stone objects, while in the Book of Mormon the intended destruction was directed toward the scriptures, both the metal plates and the combustible scriptures, as in Alma 14:8. The practice seems unusual. What accessible written source or contemporary practice would Joseph Smith have known about in which the monuments of enemies were deliberately destroyed? We do not think this merits a likelihood of 0.02, but it does merit evidentiary strength greater than merely specific.

Likelihood = 0.1

14.                        Calculation of overall likelihood of military correspondences

15.            There are twelve distinct, separate military correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, three have a likelihood of 0.5, five a likelihood of 0.1, and four a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these twelve positive correspondences is 0.53 x 0.15 x 0.024 =

16.                    2.0 x 10–13.

17.                        [Page 139]Physical and Geographical Correspondences

1.     Highlands and lowlands exist within the relevant geography

Coe’s standard: “While there are profound differences between the subsistence base of the lowlands and that of the highlands (p. 13), … there are really two natural settings in the land of the Maya: highlands and lowlands” (p. 14).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:13; Mosiah 9:3; Mosiah 28:1; Alma 27:5.

Analysis of correspondence: Dr. Coe’s book repeatedly emphasizes the importance of highland and lowland populations of Native American peoples in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon also repeatedly uses the words “go up” and “go down” in reference to moving geographically in the book. From its very beginning, the Book of Mormon likewise employs going “up” and going “down” to movements to and from Jerusalem, which sits at a higher elevation than most of the surrounding geography. Thus we have strong reason to believe that that phrase means to ascend or descend in elevation. The correspondence is specific and quite detailed in both books, but it is not particularly unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

2.     Accurate description of a volcanic eruption

Coe’s standard: “The Maya highlands by definition lie above 1,000 ft. (305 m) and are dominated by a great backbone of both extinct and active volcanoes” (p. 14). “They and their relatives, the Tz’utujil, live in villages along the shores of the volcano-girt Lake Atitlan” (p. 28). “On an ill-fated day around AD 595, the nearby Loma Caldera volcano erupted, spewing out steam, ash, and eventually volcanic bombs that rained down on the [village of Ceren]” (p. 107).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 8:5‒23.

Analysis of the correspondence: The account in 3 Nephi is an obvious eye-witness account of a volcanic eruption, with associated earthquakes, terrible storms and lightning, and thick, choking, nearly unbreathable air. This account is highly detailed as well as unusual. Joseph Smith and his contemporaries knew nothing of what it was like to experience a volcanic eruption, nor did they have any published accounts to draw upon. View of the Hebrews mentions volcanoes in Mesoamerica, but says nothing at all about what an eruption is like. This correspondence is therefore specific, detailed and highly unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

3.     Periods of terrible drought separated by decades or centuries with resulting famines

Coe’s standard: “Nor are these rains reliable; in bad years there may be severe droughts” (p. 17). “It is small wonder that the early Colonial chronicles [Page 140]speak much of famines in Yucatan before the arrival of the Spaniards” (p. 19). “Cave deposits show … a similar pattern of droughts that lasted for decades. One episode struck between AD 200 and 300, another from AD 820 to 870, then two more at AD 1020 to 1100 and AD 1530 to 1580. Shorter, severe droughts occurred at AD 420, 930, and 1800. … The most dramatic discovery is the drought from AD 820 to 870. … This period saw the collapse of Maya civilization in the southern Maya lowlands” (p. 32).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 9:22; Helaman 11:5‒7; Ether 9:30, 35.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. It is also probably unusual. Joseph Smith lived in well-watered country at latitudes that don’t usually experience droughts. Smith could have learned about famines from the Bible, but he would not have known, as attested in both The Maya and the Book of Mormon, that such terrible droughts can last many years, even decades, and that different periods of drought can be and are separated by centuries. Specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

4.     Venomous, aggressive snakes present

Coe’s standard: “Also lurking in milpa and jungle, and to be avoided at all costs, were vipers such as the dreaded barba amarilla, or ‘yellow jaw’ (Bothrops asper), among the most aggressive snakes in the world” (p. 19).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 8:24; Ether 9:31.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. Poisonous snakes certainly existed. (No problem: the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim to take place in Ireland.) While there are not many venomous snakes in New York, there are a few such species. The unusual part of this correspondence is that there was at least one very aggressive venomous snake. Most snakes, even poisonous ones, will flee from humans. They just aren’t aggressive. But not so the snakes described in Ether 9:31 or the barba amarilla described by Dr. Coe. So the correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

5.     Easy to get lost, very thick wilderness, cities hidden in the wilderness

Coe’s standard: “lost and starving among the swampy bajos and thorny forests of northern Guatemala” (p. 139). “The forests of southern Campeche and Quintana Roo form the wildest part of the Maya region” (p. 161). “Safe in the fastness of an almost impenetrable wilderness, their island stronghold was bypassed by history” (p. 219).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:4‒5; Mosiah 8:8; Mosiah 21:25; Mosiah 22:16; Mosiah 23:20, 30, 36.

[Page 141]Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya are specific and detailed on this point. In fact, the Book of Mormon refers to wilderness a total of 212 times. There was very thick wilderness immediately adjacent to settled areas in which it was possible to get completely lost, even if ancestors had been in the region for centuries. The Book of Mormon and The Maya also speak of what amount to lost cities. The city of Helam was literally bumped into by a Lamanite army as they pursued the people of Limhi. That same army had to be shown the way that led to the land/city of Nephi — they did not know how to get there on their own. How would Joseph Smith have known to put in this unusual, but correct detail? What did he or anyone in his community (from whom he might have learned it) know of lost cities and almost impenetrable wilderness? The American wilderness in which Joseph lived was sometimes thick but by no means impenetrable.

Likelihood = 0.02

6.     Powerful, ancient central city and culture in the highlands

Coe’s standard: “A Late Preclassic rival to Izapa in size and number of temple mounds and in the splendor of its carved monuments was Kaminaljuyu during the Verbena and Arenal phases, dating from c. 100 BC to AD 150. This … was once a major ceremonial site on the western outskirts of Guatemala City. Many of the approximately 200 mounds once to be found there were probably constructed at this time; Kaminaljuyu’s rulers must have possessed formidable economic and political power over much of the Maya highlands at this time” (p. 73).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:1‒4; Mosiah 9:6, 8; Alma 47:20.

Analysis of correspondence: The time period 100 BC to AD 150 fits very well with the time of the dominance and power of the city of Lehi-Nephi, or city of Nephi (land of Nephi) in the highlands. This was the principal city of the Lamanites in the time periods just before and just after Christ. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. The exactness of the time, location and dominance of the city taken as a whole are unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

7.     Earthquakes present and important

Coe’s standard: “As the lake dried up, … perhaps due to exploitation of the land, or even to tectonic movements (the region is highly earthquake-prone), the city [Kaminaljuyu] dwindled” (p. 74). “The Aztecs … thought that the universe had passed through four such ages, and that we were now in the fifth, which would be destroyed by earthquakes” (p. 249). “The Zinacanteco world … rests on the shoulders of the Vaxak-Men, the four-corner gods; when one of these shifts his burden, there is an earthquake” (pp. 292‒93).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 5:27, 31‒32; 3 Nephi 8:6, 9‒18.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya are specific and quite detailed about the “shaking of the earth.” Earthquakes [Page 142]play a significant role in both books. Since Joseph may have heard about earthquakes, even if he had probably not experienced one, we would not count this correspondence as unusual except for one thing: on two separate occasions the Book of Mormon refers to a particular prison in the land of Nephi as being shaken violently, one time even to the point of collapsing. We believe the evidence in the Book of Mormon and The Maya support the general area of Kaminaljuyu as the land of Nephi, and Dr. Coe specifically calls out this region as “highly earthquake-prone.” What a lucky “guess” on Joseph Smith’s part. Specific, detailed and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.02

8.     Deforestation of large areas

Coe’s standard: “The botanists conclude, with one caveat, that the Tikal Maya had largely demolished the tall monsoon forest by the 740s” (p. 176).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:5‒7.

Analysis of correspondence: In both books, the inhabitants of the land had rendered it without timber. This correspondence is therefore specific and detailed, but it is not unusual. Joseph Smith and everyone around him were also busy deforesting the land.

Likelihood = 0.1

9.     Areas set aside for forest regrowth and/or timber shipped in from a distance

Coe’s standard: “In AD 810, sapodilla was again the species of choice, but beam widths were far smaller than they had once been. Apparently Tikal’s rulers had set aside protected groves of their favorite tree or managed to import it from some distance” (p. 176).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:9‒11.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. In both books, areas were set aside for forest regrowth, and timber was also shipped in for building cities such as Tikal. The correspondence is also unusual. There was no contemporary model for Joseph Smith to follow whereby forests were purposely replanted.

Likelihood = 0.02

10.                                                Precious stones exist (but they are not diamonds, rubies, and pearls)

Coe’s standard: “The volcanic highlands … yielded obsidian — natural volcanic glass. … Obsidian was to ancient Mesoamerica what steel is to modern civilization. It was turned into knives, lance and dart points, … and a host of other tools” (p. 23). Jade was surely the compelling reason for this intrusion of the Olmec [into the Copan valley]. The Classic Maya obtained their green and often dull-colored jade from alluvial deposits [in Copan], … but this was not the distinctive blue-green jade so prized by the Olmec. The mystery of where the Olmec obtained this material has at long last been solved by the discovery in 2001 of several sources in the Sierra de las Minas, [Page 143]far above the Motagua. … Control of both the Motagua and Copan valleys would have given the Olmec a virtual monopoly of a material that was as important to this primordial civilization as gold was to be for the Spanish conquistadores (p. 60). ” … They went from modestly dressed chieftains to true kings endowed with fine clothing and jade or turquoise regalia.” (p. 83). “It is natural that the Maya lavished upon jade, the most precious substance known to them, their full artistry” (p. 171). “Not only jade, but also calcite was worked by the lowland Maya lapidaries; but it must have been a rare substance, for objects made from it are found infrequently” (p. 171). “But other items also moved along these trade networks; the excavators encountered obsidian from the mines in central Mexico, turquoise which had probably originated in the American Southwest (a luxury item prized by the Toltecs and their cultural heirs the Aztecs), and gold from lower Central America” (p. 215).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:14.

Analysis of correspondence: Bruce Dale, the son of a mining engineer, grew up in mining towns in Nevada and Arizona, and was an avid rock hound in his youth. For him, this is a particularly powerful correspondence. Both the Maya and the Book of Mormon people had precious stones, which represented great riches to them (Alma 17:14). So this correspondence is specific.

It is also unusual in the details not given in the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith “guessed” the Book of Mormon, he would very probably have guessed “precious stones” to be the only precious stones he knew of, namely diamonds, rubies, and perhaps pearls. But Mesoamerica has no rubies at all, nor does it have any significant diamond resources. (Mexico has a few small, inferior diamonds, but no diamond mines.) Joseph Smith would not have “guessed” the precious stones to be jade, obsidian, turquoise or calcite. Nor would the names of those stones have meant anything to all but a very small fraction of those who read the Book of Mormon. (Cureloms and cumoms, anyone?) But Joseph Smith made neither mistake. He (or rather the Book of Mormon authors) simply called them, quite accurately, “precious stones.” We rate this likelihood as 0.02.

Likelihood = 0.02

11.                                                Submerged cities

Coe’s standard: “Lake Amatitlan, a place known for elaborate, aquatic deposits of Early Classic incense burners” (p. 103).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 8:14; 3 Nephi 9:4, 6, 8; 4 Nephi 1:9.

Analysis of correspondence: Since incense burners are made to burn incense, and don’t work well under water, the conclusion is pretty clear. These incense burners were submerged when the waters of the lake rose to engulf [Page 144]them. (Both Lake Amatitlan and Lake Atitlan cover sunken cities.) So the correspondence is specific and detailed in both books.

How about unusual? However unlikely, Joseph Smith may have known of the story of Atlantis, but why would he “guess” that story would apply to some of the ancestors of the Indians? And Atlantis was engulfed by the ocean, not by freshwater lakes. We think this correspondence is more than specific and detailed, but somewhat less than unusual. To be conservative we assign a likelihood of 0.1

Likelihood = 0.1

12.                                                Perishable writing materials

Coe’s standard: “None of these bark-paper books hav[e] survived except in the most fragmentary form in tombs” (p. 141). “There must have been many thousands of Classic Maya books written on bark-paper, but not a single one has come down to us” (pp. 171, 173).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob 4:1‒2; Alma 14:8; Helaman 3:15.

Analysis of correspondence: Specific and detailed. Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon speak of many books. These books were kept on materials that either decay or can be burned. The only thing that lasts is words written on metal plates. The correspondence is not unusual. The paper books and documents in Joseph Smith’s day would also burn or decay.

Likelihood = 0.1

13.                                                Refined gold present

Coe’s standard: “there were no sources of gold and silver in the Maya lowlands” (p. 22). “the richest array of offerings, … including … a gold frog (possibly an import from Panama, and one of the earliest-attested metal objects yet discovered for the Maya)” (p. 194‒95). “dredged from the muck at the bottom of the Cenote, … the gold disks already mentioned … The local lords brought treasures of gold from places as far afield as Panama to offer to the Cenote” (p. 212). “But other items also moved along these trade networks; the excavators encountered … gold from lower Central America” (p. 215).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob 1:16; Ether 10:23; Alma 11.

Analysis of correspondence: Coe resists the idea that the lowland Maya had much refined gold before about AD 800, well after the Book of Mormon times. But the Book of Mormon does not claim to be set among the lowland Maya, so this is irrelevant. There clearly was refined gold present in both books, even if the lowland Maya had to import their gold from Central America. So the correspondence is specific, but it is not detailed nor unusual. Joseph Smith may well have heard of the treasures of gold plundered by the Spaniards.

Likelihood = 0.5

18.                        [Page 145]Calculation of physical and geographical correspondences

19.            There are 13 distinct physical and geographical correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, one has a likelihood of 0.5, four have a likelihood of 0.1 and eight have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 13 positive correspondences, taken together, is 0.51 x 0.14 x 0.028 =

20.                    1.28 x 10–18.

21.                        Technological and Miscellaneous Correspondences

1.     Millions of inhabitants in the area

Coe’s standard: “One view perceives as many as eight to ten million people in the lowlands c. AD 800; David Webster of Pennsylvania State University would go as low as two to three million” (p. 22). “But what happened to the bulk of the population who once occupied the Central Area, apparently in the millions?” (p. 177). “What this might mean is that we may have to double our previous population estimates for the Central Area, which already run into the many millions” (p. 176).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 6:11‒15; Ether 15:2.

Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya affirm that the populations were large, specifically in the neighborhood of 10 million people. In 1830, the U. S. census gave a population of about 13 million. Thus Joseph Smith correctly “guessed” that his fictional group of Indians was nearly as large as the entire population of the United States at the time the Book of Mormon was published. Certainly this is unusual. What Indian population had Joseph Smith ever seen that was anywhere near this large?

Likelihood = 0.02

2.     Calendar kept by day, month and year

Coe’s standard: “The Maya Long Count, which will be explained in greater detail in Chapters 3 and 9, is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past (p. 25). “The Maya New Year started with 1 Pop, the next day being 2 Pop, etc. The final day of the month, however, carried not the coefficient 20, but a sign indicating the ‘seating’ of the month to follow” (p. 64). “Maya learning as well as ritual was in their [the Maya priests’] hands. Among them were ‘computation of the years, months, and days, the festivals and ceremonies'” (p. 243).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 10:6; Alma 49:1; 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 2:7‒8; 3 Nephi 8:5.

Analysis of correspondence: Specific and detailed. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the peoples described in The Maya kept calendars by day, month and year. The keeping of calendars is also unusual. The Indian peoples of eastern North America did not keep calendars at all, and were aware only of [Page 146]the passing of the seasons. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that any Indians kept an absolute calendar by day, month and year?

Likelihood = 0.02

3.     Multiple calendars kept

Coe’s standard: “Meshing with the 260-day count is a ‘Vague Year’ or Ha’b of 365 days, so called because the actual length of the solar year is about a quarter-day more. … Although the Maya were perfectly aware that the Ha’b was shorter than the tropical year, they did not change the calendar accordingly. … From this it follows that a particular day in the 260-day count, such as 1 K’an, also had a position in the Ha’b, for instance 2 Pop. A day designated as 1 K’an 2 Pop could not return until 52 Ha’b (18,980 days) had passed. This is the Calendar Round” (pp. 64‒65).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 2:7‒8.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. Not only were multiple calendars kept, both The Maya and the Book of Mormon describe exactly how they were kept. If the keeping of one calendar is unusual, then keeping several different calendars is even more unusual. We would like to give this a higher weighting than 0.02 (1 in a million?), but cannot by the constraints we have imposed on ourselves.

Likelihood = 0.02

4.     Bee keeping, domesticated bees, honey

Coe’s standard: “And it might be that the province [Yucatan] relied less upon plant husbandry than upon its famed production of honey, salt, and slaves” (p. 19). “As he still does today, the Maya farmer raised the native stingless bees, which are kept in small, hollow logs closed with mud plaster at either end and stacked up in A-frames, but wild honey was also much appreciated” (p. 231). “A few depictions of vessels marked with the term kab, ‘honey,’ … Valuable Yucatan exports were honey, cotton mantles and slaves” (p. 232).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Ether 2:3.

Analysis of correspondence: The Jaredites specifically brought with them honeybees, so they had domesticated the bee. The correspondence is specific, but it is not detailed nor unusual. Bees were domesticated many thousands of years ago. Coe makes much of the fact that Maya domestic bees are stingless, versus the Old World bees of genus Apis. But the Book of Mormon does not say that the Jaredites did not switch over to keeping native stingless bees when they arrived in the New World (we two authors would surely have done so!), so Coe’s point seems irrelevant to the issue. Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon specifically note domesticated bees, and this correspondence is also unusual. What Indian tribes did Joseph Smith know of that practiced beekeeping? There were none. How did he “guess” this one correctly?

Likelihood = 0.1

5.     [Page 147]Art including carving, painting, dancing, metalwork, music

Coe’s standard: “more advanced cultural traits … and the painting of murals” (p. 26). “In one tomb, over 300 objects of the most beautiful workmanship were placed with the body” (p. 76). “They went from modestly dressed chieftains to true kings endowed [in] … jade or turquoise regalia” (p. 83). “[This] extraordinarily well-preserved fresco … is in fact the earliest Maya painting known, dating to c. 100 BC or slightly earlier. In its beauty and sophistication it equals the famous Late Classic murals of Bonampak” (p. 87). “The finest Maya wood carving known, this seated figure from Tabasco, Mexico, represents a courtier” (p. 95n40), … including some marvelously fine jades and the gold disks already mentioned. [Metals] had now appeared in the Maya area, although they were probably cast and worked elsewhere and imported. The many copper bells and other objects from the well were of Mexican workmanship. The local lords brought treasures of gold from places as far afield as Panama to offer to the Cenote” (p. 212). “Santa Rita also yielded an extraordinary set of ear ornaments in gold and turquoise” (p. 219). “Plazas were the location for most dances. The stelae that now fill some of them petrify kings in perpetual dance, as we can tell by their pose, dress, and explanatory glyphs” (p. 256).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jarom 1:8; Helaman 6:13; Helaman 12:2; Mosiah 11:8‒10, Mosiah 20:1‒5:4 Nephi 1:41.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and in many cases detailed. Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya speak of art expressed in a variety of materials, including wood and metals, people adorning themselves with precious things, and dance. The correspondence is unusual. What Indian tribes known to Joseph Smith did art work in wood and metal and had fine jewelry? However, to be conservative, since Dr. Coe reports no evidence for metal work in the Book of Mormon timeframe, we will discount this correspondence from specific, detailed and unusual to merely specific and detailed.

Likelihood = 0.1

6.     Knowledge of the movement of the stars, planets and moon

Coe’s standard: “Ancient Maya used lines of sight … to plot the rising and setting positions of the sun, the moon, and, above all, the planet Venus. … Maya astronomers had a remarkably accurate knowledge of the apparent motion of Venus” (p. 193). “Venus is the only one of the planets for which we can be absolutely sure the Maya made extensive calculations” (p. 262). “Some have questioned whether the movements of planets other than Venus were observed by the Maya, but it is hard to believe that one of the Dresden tables, listing multiples of 78, can be anything other than a table for Mars” (pp. 262‒63).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:21; Alma 30:44; Helaman 12:13‒15; Helaman 14:5‒6; 3 Nephi 1:21.

[Page 148]Analysis of correspondence: Alma asserts that planets (not just one planet) “move in their regular form,” agreeing with Coe’s statement that the Maya knew the movements of Venus and Mars. For the Book of Mormon people to know that “a new star did appear,” they would have to know when and where the old stars would appear. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What Indian tribe of the American Northeast had any such detailed astronomical knowledge as that reported in The Maya?

Likelihood = 0.02

7.     Writing is present, but its genealogy is complicated and poorly understood

Coe’s standard: “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the New World: hieroglyphic writing” (p. 13). “The relation between Maya and Isthmian writing remains obscure. The earliest Maya writing … comes from c. 300 BC, prior to Isthmian writing. … The genealogy of Mesoamerican writing is therefore more complicated than formerly thought” (p. 68).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 6:1‒3; Mosiah 24:6; 3 Nephi 26:6; Mormon 9:32‒34.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. The Mesoamerican Indians (not just the Maya) had a rare or absent trait: they had writing. And so did the Book of Mormon peoples. Furthermore, the genealogy of their writing is complex. It is not clear how Mesoamerican writing arose, and the sacred written language of the Book of Mormon authors was known to them alone (Mormon 9:34). The correspondence is also unusual. None of the Indian tribes known to Joseph Smith had writing. Thus it was an extremely lucky (or foolhardy) “guess” on his part to have claimed in his “fictional” book that some American Indians did have writing. But he did claim it, and he was right. This correspondence also deserves a much smaller likelihood than a 1 in 50 chance, more like 1 in a million. But to be conservative, we assign a

Likelihood = 0.02

8.     Engraved writing on stone

Coe’s standard: Coe’s book is full of examples of writing on stone. Here are just a few: “A magnificent stela was found … in southeastern Veracruz; two Bak’tun 8 dates corresponding respectively to AD 143 and 156 are inscribed on it. These are accompanied by a text of about 400 signs … (the famous ‘Tuxtla Statuette,’ also found in southern Veracruz, is inscribed in the same script and dates to AD 162)” (p. 68). “It was not just the ‘stela cult’ — the inscribed glorification of royal lineages and their achievements” (p. 177).

Book of Mormon correspondence: Omni 1:20.

Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya both refer specifically to engraved writing on large stones. This is an unusual [Page 149]correspondence. Writing by itself was unusual, to write on stone was doubly so. What example or model did Joseph Smith have to correctly “guess” this correspondence? However, the Book of Mormon gives only one example of writing on stone, so it is not detailed. Specific and unusual.

Likelihood = 0.1

9.     Many books present, some were kept in repositories

Coe’s standard: “Maya priests 2,000 miles away were still chanting rituals from hieroglyphic books” (p. 219). “Even more heartbreaking is the loss of thousands of books” (p. 237). “A few probable coffers exist for books, including the recent find of a lidded limestone box from Hun Nal Ye cave in Guatemala” (p. 239).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:15; Mormon 6:6. The entire Book of Mormon is a collection of shorter books or excerpts from other books.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is both specific and detailed. Many books, not just a few, were kept. And in at least some instances, the books were kept together in repositories, essentially in libraries (the “coffers” cited above). The practice is also unusual. What American Indian tribes that Joseph Smith knew of kept even one book, let alone libraries? How did he correctly “guess” this fact about the Maya and the Book of Mormon peoples?

Likelihood = 0.02

10.                                                Trading in a variety of goods

Coe’s standard: “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the New World: … highly specialized markets” (p. 13). “Trading networks brought vast quantities of these objects [manos and metates] down from … Guatemala. … The volcanic highlands yielded … obsidian. … Access to salt sources or to salt trade networks was critical to the growth and security of Maya states. … The Maya elite had other special needs, above all jade, quetzal feathers, and marine shells” (pp. 22‒23). “Its [Lamani’s] location and rich remains attest to its entrepreneurial importance in ancient Maya trade” (p. 85). “[control over] … the movement of goods, which now passed into the hands of trading entrepreneurs or local petty lords” (p. 213).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:7; Helaman 3:10, 14; Helaman 6:8; 3 Nephi 6:11; Ether 10:22.

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the Mesoamerican Indians traded, a trait that was absent or rare elsewhere in the New World, and therefore unusual by definition. However, while trading in a variety of goods is strongly implied by the wording in the Book of Mormon, only trading in wood is specifically mentioned. So this correspondence is certainly specific and unusual, but [Page 150]it is not detailed enough to count as specific, detailed and unusual. To be conservative, we assign a likelihood of 0.1.

Likelihood = 0.1

11.                                                Many merchants

Coe’s standard: “These somewhat Mexicanized merchant- warriors controlled the great Gulf Coast entrepot of Xicallanco where Mexican and Maya traders met” (p. 178). “God M, who was the patron of merchants, is shown here” (p. 218n138). “Merchants had a privileged status” (p. 225). “At the top [of the class structure] were nobles, … wealthy farmers and merchants” (p. 235).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 6:11‒12.

Analysis of correspondence: Because this correspondence overlaps somewhat with correspondence 6.10, we will only count it as specific. However, the whole interlocking system of trading, merchants and wealth accumulation through trade is unusual in itself, and perhaps this correspondence deserves a higher weight. Nonetheless, to be conservative,

Likelihood = 0.5

12.                                                Roads and causeways built

Coe’s standard: Coe makes many references to roads and causeways in different areas of Mesoamerica. Here are just a few. “There are two groups of monumental construction, connected by a massive causeway, and in fact a whole network of causeways radiates out from El Mirador across the surrounding swampy landscape” (p. 85). “Archaeologist Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo has even found evidence of road systems running along the base of those hills, connecting the far reaches of the Palenque kingdom” (p. 151). “A causeway … runs southeast from Uxmal through the small site of Nohpat to Kabah” (p. 182).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 6:8; 3 Nephi 8:13.

Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon speak of many roads, not just a few; and the practice of road-building is widespread in both societies. So this correspondence is specific and detailed, and also definitely unusual. The Indians that Joseph Smith knew of did not build roads. However, View of the Hebrews very briefly mentions road building among the Indians. However unlikely, Joseph might have read about it there. To be conservative, this is rated as specific and detailed only.

Likelihood = 0.1

13.                                                Houses with attached gardens

Coe’s standard: “Also important were the house gardens, still ubiquitous in Maya villages and hamlets” (p. 22). “A few cities, such as Chunchucmil in Yucatan, are amazingly dense, with house lots demarcated by walls; others had extensive space for gardens” (p. 124).

Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 7:10.

[Page 151]Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific but not detailed in the case of the Book of Mormon. Strongly implied, but not stated, is a garden attached to Nephi’s house. So we cannot call it detailed. Native Americans taught the Pilgrims what plants grew well in the New World, so gardening/ domestic agriculture among the ancestors of the Indians cannot be called unusual. Specific only,

Likelihood = 0.5