"Brother Scott" and The Book of Mormon Spiritual and Temporal Witnesses Presentation Session 2
"Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (John 7:24, ESV).
On February 8, 2018, Aaron Shafovaloff and I went to Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah to hear the second presentation from Kelly Thomas Scott (aka “Brother Scott”). I was the only one to get in. Aaron was immediately confronted by Scott, and told Aaron that he couldn’t come in. Scott didn’t like Aaron’s backpack, and the former assumed it had to do with recording devices. Scott had his son-in-law stand at the entrance to make sure Aaron wouldn’t enter. Aaron got to talk to him, and Aaron took quite a number of pictures of Scott’s presentation from outside the auditorium.
Afterwards, while we were advertising our signs JosephLied.com and GodNeverSinned.com, and as we were praying for Scott, he just happened to pull up next to us on the side of the road with his black truck. Scott said he was happy we were out there doing what we were doing and not inside recording. Aaron asked him why he has been making such a fuss over recording, and why he seemed to be apparently worried about it all getting out there. Scott replied that he is doing his own video recording and it will be forthcoming. Aaron asked him when that would be, and Scott replied he wasn’t at liberty to say and then just took off (recall last time, it was all about the message and not the person giving it). Before he did, though, we told him that we know about the Salt Lake Tribune article on him and that I have done a very comprehensive response to his first presentation. He said that he would look it over and he would sit down with us later if he thought it was worthwhile. I’m not holding my breath!
A number of topics in Scott’s Session 2 were a repeat of Session 1, so I will confine my comments to the unique evidences Scott presented in Session 2.
Focus of Presentation
Scott stated at the beginning, “This presentation’s focus is on the message of the Book of Mormon, not its geography.” After sitting through two sessions now, I really don’t see how this statement is in anyway true. I would say that probably 90 to 95% of the presentation was on Scott’s limited geography theory of Mesoamerica. This is where he claimed it was “highly probably” the events of the Book of Mormon took place. The other 5 to 10% of the presentation comprised items like the witness of the Spirit, how Christ’s teachings in the Western hemisphere are what the Book of Mormon is about, how we need to become students of the Book of Mormon, and try our best to be faithful to the Mormon Church. I’m not even that sure the message of the Book of Mormon was ever specifically stated.
Lehi’s Route to Bountiful
Kelly T. Scott stated that the Book of Mormon’s “Old World geography is precise and credible.” Sure, the biblical places mentioned in the Book of Mormon are “precise and credible” only because we all know where these places are located. Beyond the obvious certain biblical references, all we have is conjecture for the places on Lehi’s route to Bountiful, including Bountiful itself. We have no idea where the river Laman was that became the mouth to the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:8-9). It is from this point that begins the trek south-southeast and then east to Bountiful. Mormons suppose that Wadi Tayyib al-Ism might work, but they are bending over backwards to make a wadi into a river. This is far from what would be considered “precise and credible.”
Scott next cited 1 Nephi 16:34 for the location of Nahom, and then simply asks how Smith would know. What Scott did not say is that the location of Nahom is far from known. The basis for Mormon hopes here is the highly debatable “NHM” theory. Scott did not give any evidence for the location of Nahom; he merely assumed it has been found. This was not helpful to anyone in the audience looking for some actual objective evidence to believe the Book of Mormon.
All that has been found are the three consonants “NHM” and Mormons rushing to judgment that this must really be “Nahom.” It’s not even clear NHM refers to a place. It could be, but it is at least a tribal name. Also, we don’t know how NHM was pronounced when the vowels were added, since the Semitic language didn’t use them in its writing. So it could have been referring to “Nihem” for all we know. As I stated in the Session 1 critique, similarity does not prove identity. Mormons are still grasping at straws.
Further, as I also stated in the Session 1 critique, Smith had a penchant for plagiarizing the King James Bible, so it shouldn’t surprise us if he tweaked the biblical name “Nahum” for his purposes. For more on this and the rest of this Nahom issue, see Bill McKeever’s “NHM – A Place Name from the Book of Mormon?” (Mormonism Research Ministry).
Scott next claimed that the location of Bountiful is “highly probable.” Again, it’s only “highly probable” if you assume the reality of certain locations. 1 Nephi 17:5 seems to suggest that the abundance of fruits and wild honey at Bountiful was a miracle. It says that “all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish.” There is no reason to think that this is the way it always was or ever will be. Scott seemed to think very naturalistically about this area and pointed to the Dhofar mountain region of Oman. Yes, it is very green, but that doesn’t entail it was a place of an abundance of fruits and wild honey. The Almighty can provide that anywhere.
Until we have the definitive approval of any non-Mormon geographers, I don’t see how Scott can come across as confident as he does. There are three senses of the term “possible:” “logically possible” (no contradiction in affirming a statement of some sort), the “possible of making some sense,” and the “possible in terms of likelihood.” Mormons are yet to give us anything in terms of likelihood, let alone universal acceptance.
Captains and Chief Captains
Scott found it to be amazing that archaeology has uncovered evidence of war captains and chief captains in Mesoamerica, since this is exactly what the Book of Mormon claims for the New World (Alma 2:13 and 16), and scholars used to think there was no war among the ancient Americans. Besides the fact that the evidence he cited is around three centuries later than the time for the Book of Mormon, it really doesn’t seem that difficult to transpose the biblical war stories into New world war stories. After all, according to the Book of Mormon, these were Hebrews that came to populate the New World. Even the description of “chief captain” is referred to Phichol in Genesis 21:22 and 26:26.
Ethan Smith’s [no relation to Joseph] View of the Hebrews talks very clearly of the savage ancient American Israelites wiping out the civilized ancient American Israelites through frequent wars (173). Mormon General Authority B. H. Roberts in his famous A Parallel stated, “Let it be remembered that the work from which this is quoted existed from five to seven years before the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the two editions of the work flooded the New England states and New York” (point 9).
Scott next made a parallel with the numbers of warriors under captains in the Book of Mormon with the numbers of men under the captains of Xicotenga. Scott quotes Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who was a secretary of Cortez, as saying, “Cortés [sic] then learned from them more fully all about the Captain Xicotenga, and what forces he had with him. They told him that Xicotenga had many more men with him now than he had when he attacked us before, for he had five captains with him and each captain had brought ten thousand warriors” (The True History of the Conquest of New Spain , 236). The captains in the Book of Mormon also had ten thousand each with them (cf. Mormon 6:8-15). So again, how would Joseph Smith know?
There are at least a couple problems here. First, this account given to Cortés dates to 1525 AD. That is over a thousand years from the time of the Book of Mormon’s stated ending. Second, as LDS apologist William J. Hamblin stated, “Book of Mormon armies were organized on a decimal system of hundreds, thousands, and ten thousands, as they typically were in ancient Israel and many other ancient military organizations” (“Book of Mormon, History of Warfare in,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism). So again, instead of being so enamored with a coincidental similarity between the Book of Mormon and how numbers were grouped in the 16th century AD, it seems more likely that Smith simply incorporated biblical and other ancient groupings into his New World stories.
Scott referenced Mosiah 2:13 and Alma 27:8 which talk of slavery here in the pre-Columbian New World. How would Smith know? Well again, he transferred the biblical stories as well as his own current nineteenth century situation into the Book of Mormon. Both Book of Mormon passages also mention murder. Should we also find it supernatural that Smith would know of all the murder going on with Native Americans? Or how about stealing and adultery? Why simply focus on one type of wickedness when the passages give other examples? If Scott finds these all equally amazing, then he should also find it amazing that Smith would know about there even being any Indians or any weapons they used.
Kings Fighting Kings
Scott alleged that Smith would only assume what we normally assume today about kings staying back and not fighting with their troops. Yet Mayan expert Linda Schele said that it is a fact that Mayan kings would fight Mayan kings. The Book of Mormon asserts the same thing in Alma 2:16 and 29 when it talks of Alma being a chief judge and governor individually fighting against Amlici, the leader of the Amlicites, and the former killed the latter with his sword.
First, Alma was not a king. He was a judge, and even Scott later acknowledged in his presentation that the rule of judges began after the rule of kings (cf., “A Highly Stratified Society” below).
Second, and again, Scott didn’t even consider that Smith may have been “inspired” from simply reading biblical sources. The Israelite judge Ehud killed the Moabite king Eglon, and then the former led the Israelites against the Moabites in battle. Shamgar was another judge after Ehud, and Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an ox-goad. King Saul warred against the Philistines and died in battle. King David “returned from smiting of the Syrians” (2 Samuel 8:13). The king of Israel, Ahab, went in disguise as a soldier to fight in the battle against Syria while his friend Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, disguised himself as Ahab (1 Kings 22:29-30).
A “Rameumpton” in the Book of Mormon is a tower for only one person to give a route prayer with hands stretched out to heaven (Alma 31:8-14, 21, Mosiah 2:7, and 11:12-13). Well it just so happens that there are buildings in the Yucatan in which on the top only one person can stand and come in and out of. How would Smith know?
This supposed similarity is rather dubious when the Alma passage clearly says that this Rameumpton was built up “in the center” of the Zoramites’ synagogue (Alma 31:12-13). The pictures on LDS.org convey this as well (“Chapter 28: The Zoramites and the Rameumptom,” Book of Mormon Stories , 78–80). It was not on top of the building.
Scott next confused the Alma passage with the Mosiah passages. In Mosiah 2:7-8, it never calls the tower that is built a “Rameumpton;” it is simply a tower that was built for king Benjamin to get a message out to more people at a time. However, it did not work with the huge crowd of people, so instead he resorted to writing down all his words and disseminating them to those who could not hear him. So this tower’s purpose was for an isolated instance. Further, nothing is said about only one person being able to stand on it at a time to give a route prayer like the Rameumpton inside the synagogue.
Then in Mosiah 11:12-13, king Noah builds two towers. One was a watchtower near his temple, and the other was simply a great tower. Again, there is no mention of a Rameumpton on top of these towers or anything about only one person standing on top and being able to come and go. Of course it wouldn’t be very difficult for Smith to use his natural creativity and incorporate these elements into the Book of Mormon.
City of Nephi
Scott said that throughout the Book of Mormon, the city or land of Nephi must always be traveled “up” to (cf., Mosiah 7:2 and Omni 1:27) and other places one must travel down to (cf. Omni 1:13). Therefore, he claimed that it is “highly probable the city of Nephi is in the highlands of Guatemala under Guatemala City.” How could Smith know?
It is only “highly probable” if one begs the question that Nephi even existed and Mesoamerica must be its location. Further, it isn’t clear that “up” here refers to elevation anyway. It may refer to coming up from down south. In the Bible, one goes up to Jerusalem even if one is going south (cf., Galatians 1:17-18—Damascus is north of Jerusalem), because Jerusalem is elevated on a hill. So again, Scott needs to first prove that Nephi (the individual or land) existed and the term “up” is in fact simply referring to the city’s elevation in present day Guatemala City. Recall that many Mormons don’t buy the Mesoamerican theory for various reasons.
Scott next cited Alma 3:3 that says, “And now as many of the Lamanites and the Amlicites who had been slain upon the bank of the river Sidon were cast into the waters of Sidon; and behold their bones are in the depths of the sea, and they are many.” Scott claimed this river runs north to the sea. Scott said it is “highly probable” that this refers to the river Usumacinta, which starts in the Guatemalan highlands and flows north to the Mayan lowlands. How could Smith know the flow of rivers?
In response, nothing is said here, or anywhere else in the Book of Mormon, about the river Sidon flowing northward, and Scott never had any evidence of that forthcoming. The assumption is based on understanding the location of the “head of the river” in Alma 22:27 to be its source rather than its mouth (cf. “Five Misunderstandings Of The Book of Mormon Text That Veils Discovery Of Its Geography,” The Interpreter Foundation). Scott again needs to address other LDS proposals instead of assuming what he needs to prove.
Mormons are “all over the map” concerning the identification of the river Sidon. Mesoamerican theorists John L. Sorenson, Joseph Lovell Allen, Blake Joseph Allen, and Ted Dee Stoddard all propose the river Grivilja. Heartland theorist Phyllis Carol Olive proposes Buffalo creek or river in New York, and by the way, this water also flows northward. Another Heartland theorist Rodney Meldrum proposes the Mississippi. South American theorist Benjamin Cluff proposes the river Magdelana. Again, Scott mentions none of this infighting and simply asserts his position.
Narrow Pass or Passage
Scott next listed several Book of Mormon passages that refer to either a narrow pass or passage, and then he showed a picture of a passage between two mountains in Central America as the likely candidate. Alma 50:34 speaks of a “narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.” This was at the Book of Mormon land Desolation. For Scott, these seas are an obvious reference to the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Alma 52:9 speaks of fortifying the land Bountiful and securing the narrow pass that led to the northward land. Mormon 2:29 speaks of a land swap between the Nephites and the Lamanites with the latter giving the northward land even to the narrow passage. Mormon 3:5 was also cited, which speaks of a city in the land Desolation that was by the narrow pass going southward.
The basic problem with Scott is that he doesn’t address alternative theories. As such, it is just as empirically equivalent to postulate these other theories listed above concerning the location of the river Sidon. They also have alternative explanations for the narrow pass or passage. Until these are adequately addressed, there is no good reason forthcoming why we should invest with Scott.
Scott next quoted a Mayan scholar, Dr. Edwin Barnhart, who said there were no cemeteries in Mesoamerica; they were all buried under people’s homes. This fits perfectly with 2 Nephi 24:18, which says the kings were all buried in their homes. Then Scott said that Mayan king Pakal was found buried under his temple. Scott concluded by claiming, “It would have been impossible for Joseph Smith to know how and where they would bury their dead. One more evidence that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he could never have been the Author.”
As Wolfgang Pauli allegedly claimed, “This… is so bad, it’s not even wrong.” The 2 Nephi passage indeed claims it was the kings that lie in glory in their own homes. This is contrasted to the king of Babylon who would be disgraced and not be buried in his home. How would Smith know that kings were buried in their own homes? Well, apparently, he would simply plagiarize this from Isaiah 14:18. This is where the idea as well as the 2 Nephi passage originated. Further, Scott never argues why the temple should be identified as a home. Again, Scott begs the question. Typically, we think that a king lives in his palace home and goes to worship in his temple. Finally, the 2 Nephi/Isaiah passage never claims what Barnhart claimed. The latter said all people whereas the former simply refers to the kings.
Culture of War and Wickedness
Scott quoted from a couple scholars who confirm that Mesoamerica was quite bellicose. One scholar described a city that used war as a way of life. Another scholar spoke of these societies being far more violent than our own. Then Scott introduced the Gadianton robbers from the Book of Mormon. He said these scholars must be describing these robbers.
Scott quoted a couple Book of Mormon passages. Alma 7:14 claims it was a way of life for these robbers, and Helaman 6:21 claims they entered into oaths so as not to face any repercussions from their actions. However, nothing these scholars said mention anything about these oaths. Given the pervasiveness of war and plundering stories around the globe, Scott is really grasping at straws here and trying again to force a connection. There is no good reason to assume the warriors of Mesoamerica are identified with what the Book of Mormon calls the Gadianton robbers.
A Highly Stratified Society
Scott then shared how the Book of Mormon describes a highly stratified society of kings, nobles, lawyers, judges, laboring poor, farmers, etc., etc., and then told the audience that vast civilizations are being found in Mesoamerica. However, just because vast civilizations are being found doesn’t entail that all the different elements of society listed in the Book of Mormon have been found to exist in these civilizations. So Scott took one of those elements, viz., the kings, and said that only up until seventeen years ago was it discovered that there were in fact kings in the Mayan pre-classical period (1000 to 250 AD). Jacob 1:11 and Words of Mormon 10 mention kings in this pre-classic period. Again, how could Smith know this unless God revealed it to him?
Just as war and robber stories are pervasive through the centuries, so also are stories of kings. It requires no supernatural power to concoct a story of kings for this New World and even with the time frame given by the Book of Mormon. If one grants the Israelites being “among the ancestors of the Americas Indians” (“Introduction to the Book of Mormon”) hypothesis, then it would seem to follow that they would incorporate their system of kingship here in the New World as well. Further, if one grants the preaching of the coming of the Messiah to these ancient Americans, then it is no stretch to make the pre-classic period fall within that time frame. Only certain Mormons are persuaded by Scott’s line of evidence—particularly those who assume Mesoamerica must be the primary location for the Book of Mormon stories and those desperate for something to count as evidence.
Things went from bad to worse. Scott said that the “highly probable” reason for the pre-classic lowland sites never depicting kings is because the Book of Mormon says that king Benjamin, who ruled in the lowland Zarahemla, appointed judges to rule after him in 90 BC, and the rule of judges lasted 120 years. Scott was mistaken, since the Mosiah 29:11 passage he referred to speaks of king Mosiah making the appointment then. He took over from his father king Benjamin a few years prior to his death in 121 BC (cf. Mosiah 6).
Regardless of this mistake, if, as Scott acknowledged, the pre-classical era ended around 250 AD, what difference does this appointment of Mosiah make in 90 BC (the note in the Book of Mormon says 92 BC)? The story of the subsequent rule of judges has nothing whatsoever to do with no kings being found in the lowlands prior to this time. Again, Scott begs the question in assuming the Book of Mormon is talking about Mesoamerica and the lowlands in particular. He is even begging the question regarding the existence of these Book of Mormon kings and judges. And even if these ancient Mesoamerican lowlands are determined to be the scope here, just because kings have never been documented here doesn’t entail it is because they stopped the rule of judges for about 120 years.
This makes absolutely no sense. Scott is employing a classic fallacy known as an argument from silence. If kings and judges, some with Hebrew names, were reportedly there according to the Book of Mormon, but there is no good outside evidence of their existence, then there is no good reason to accept their existence. And based on no good evidence for their existence, then there is no good reason to believe these fairy tale characters could do anything in the real world, including stopping the rule of kings and transferring power over to judges.
More Hidden Gems of Truth
As mentioned in my first critique, Scott gave examples of traces of the true knowledge of God that the native Americans had distorted over the years. Scott continued with this theme in this second session.
Legend of light skinned people of Quetzalcoatl
In Cortez’s second letter to the king of Spain, the former tells the latter that Montezuma communicated that his people have known for ages that they were not natives, but foreigners from a distant land. They knew they would one day be conquered, and given where Cortez told them about where he and his team came from and the king of who sent them, the Native Americans were their servants and would believe whatever Cortez told them.
Then Scott put a picture up that quoted from Edward Herbert Thompson, a famed Harvard archaeologist. The title for Scott’s picture was “Legend of light skinned people of Quetzalcoatl.” Scott said of Thompson, “In 1932 he published a book, within his book he writes: During my long career in Yucatan I was fortunate to be able to prove the truth, of certain tales that have past as legendary….
These traditions tell us, and carvings on ancient walls and stone columns sustain them, but these traditions so widespread and a legends [sic] so persistent they must have some basis in history.” (It is hard to believe that a Harvard man would write such a poorly worded sentence.)
The next picture Scott put up said,
I will quote from his own words. He said:
1. ‘coming in ships’ ‘sailing through unknown seas to an unknown land’
2. Came to a favored site
3. ‘fair-skinned race’ ‘dark-skinned race’
4. People of the serpent ‘Quetzalcoatl’ separated.
5. Some went North some went South, each with a band of light and dark skinned followers.
6. ‘Gods came down’
7. ‘when all the races of the region merged into one people’
Scott then concluded, “It is Probable [sic] at some point in the remote past, a group of people representing a civilization of which we have lost all trace made their influence felt upon the races indigenous to Mexico.” Scott gave this statement as another imprecise quote from Thompson (Thompson, People of the Serpent, 76).
Scott was cherry-picking certain phrases, which prime facie appeared to be quite like the Book of Mormon story. Again, similarity does not entail identity. The context for Thompson’s statement should be kept in mind, and thus it is important to quote him at length regarding all these points. He said,
[L]egends of the primitive races of Yucatan and of portions of Mexico tell of the coming in ships of a fair-skinned race of men who became the rulers and the leaders of the dark-skinned aborigines. To explain this occurrence as the arrival of some of the survivors of the catastrophe in which the storied ‘Lost Atlantis’ disappeared is unsatisfactory to the scientific mind, and this is putting the matter mildly. The Atlantis theory itself remains to be proved. But a tradition so widespread and a legend so persistent must have some basis in history, and it is legitimate for us to hold as probable that some time in the remote past a group of people representing a civilization of which we have lost all trace made their influence felt upon the races indigenous to Mexico and Yucatan.
…These traditions tell us, and carvings on ancient walls and stone columns sustain them, that unknown ages ago there appeared strange craft at the mouth of what is now known as the Panuco River in the State of Vera Cruz. The sides of these vessels shone like the scales of serpents’ skins, and to the simple natives who saw them approaching they appeared to be great serpents coming swiftly toward them.
In these craft were light-skinned beings, and some of the traditions have it that they were tall of stature and blue-eyed. They were clad in strange garments and wore about their foreheads emblems like entwined serpents. The wondering natives who met them at the shore saw the manner of their coming with the symbol of the Sacred Serpent, which they worshipped, on their brows, and knew the strangers to be their gods come down from their home in the sun to teach and guide them.
Who were these fair-skinned people, tall of stature and strangely clad, sailing through unknown seas to an unknown land? The answer to this question has been lost in the passing of the ages and the destruction of the ancient records.
…The dark-skinned race took the light-skinned people to be their guides and teachers and all went well with them. Under the sage counsels and wise teachings of the Chanes [People of the Serpent], the indigenous race was raised from an almost brutish, savage condition to the status of thinking, reasoning people.
In the passing of time… these wise men, the People of the Serpent, separated, probably in the furtherance of a concerted plan. Some went north and some went south, each with a band of dark-skinned followers.
…Those who went south, the traditions tell… moved onward, teaching and uplifting into the light the savage peoples among whom they tarried when they met them. …The leaders… were ever known as… Serpents’ Wise Men… or… People of the Rattlesnake.
…[A]t last they came to a favored site by two great wells. There they rested finally and there they built Chichen Itzá—the City of the Sacred Well.
Meanwhile a roving branch of… lost brothers [to the southern branch of people]… had turned southward and gone first to the ancient parting-place of the two groups of the Chanes. …[T]hey had become near kin in manners, thoughts, and language to the peoples they had neighbored in the north. They drifted along the ancient trail of [this southern branch of people], down to the capital of… Chichen Itzá. This… occurred but a few centuries before the coming of the Spaniards and when all the races of the region were merged into one people under the name of Maya (Ibid., 75-9).
If Mesoamerican theorists like Brother Scott want to latch onto this as evidence for their position, then they need to be consistent. There is no indication of war happening between these light-skinned and dark-skinned races as is featured so prominently in the Book of Mormon. In fact, there is just the opposite going on according to Thompson.
Further, according to some of the traditions, these light-skinned people were blue-eyed. That ought to indicate that if these legends are to be taken seriously, then they could not have been Israelites as the Book of Mormon story claims. Thoughts of Vikings or some other early European explorers come to mind. Who knows? But there is no indication they were Hebrews. This is a history of the Mayans, and no non-Mormon anthropologist accepts that Mayans are really Hebrews who were cursed with dark skins due to their wickedness (cf. Alma 3:6ff., 2 Nephi 5:21ff., and 3 Nephi 2:14-16).
Finally, given the Mesoamerican location of initially meeting these light-skinned people, other Mormons like the Heartland theorists would not be impressed with Scott’s parallels either.
Scott said that for the Mayans, “blood was considered the essence of life the Ultimate Sacrificial substance.” The Book of Mormon teaches that no other life sacrifice can accomplish what the upcoming infinite sacrifice of the Son of God can accomplish (Alma 34:10-1, and 14). Mayans practiced not only animal sacrifices, but human sacrifices in their temples. The most important rituals involved the latter.
Pagans have been performing bloodletting sacrifices throughout time. It is unclear how this is any justification for the Book of Mormon. A false prophet like Joseph Smith could very easily incorporate these stories into his new scripture, and no supernatural aid is required. Further, a false prophet like Smith could also incorporate the Jewish animal sacrificial system into the storyline of the Book of Mormon. If the ancient Native Americans are really Hebrews, then of course it would be expected that they would be involved in animal sacrifices.
Scott cited a sixteenth century Spanish priest, Torquemada, who noted the similarity between a Mesoamerican temple and the floor plan of Solomon’s temple with an outer court, an inner court, and an inner sanctum corresponding to the Holy of Holies. 2 Nephi 5:16 says that Nephi built a temple after the manner of Solomon’s. Scott then drew parallels with biblical beliefs of the plan of salvation, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection, etc.
Even Mormon Heartland theorists would not be impressed with all this evidence. They don’t regard Mayans as apostatized Jewish believers or the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon. Again, similarity does not prove identity. There are other religions that practice different forms of baptism or laying on of hands, for example, but that doesn’t entail they are or even were Christians. Their significant beliefs set them apart from each other. As mentioned in my last critique of Scott, FAIR has stated that secondary sources originating from the Spanish regarding Quetzalcoatl are not reliable because they had a vested interested in paralleling as much as they could to convert the Native Americans. The Spanish never held that the Native Americans were a lost tribe of Israel. They simply realized the benefit of taking advantage of any parallel they could grab onto.
Further, when there is only evidence of coincidental parallel without any positive evidence of actual identity, one should suppose there never were pre-Columbian Hebrew temples originally set up in the Americas filled with Jewish believers. The only evidence forthcoming is of pagan practice. One would rightly assume if this Book of Mormon theory were true, there would be at least some undisputed confirmation of Jewish temples with Jewish believers and practices prior to Columbus. We would at least expect some non-Mormon archeologists to go along with this. However, it isn’t even an issue outside Mormon circles.
Mayan Maize God
Up to this point, Scott suggested that Jesus was Quetzalcoatl. At this point, Scott began talking about the “Mayan Maze [sic] God” who died and resurrected out of the earth to save his people and the world, and that he would one day return as the King of kings with peace, love, and harmony. Scott said the Temple of the Sun in Teotihuacan is dedicated to him.
Then Scott talked about “The Maze [sic] God Resurrection” and said, “Highly probable Resurrection comes from or is re-inforced” from a passage in Alma 32 that talks about the word being likened to a seed planted in one’s heart. This is a spiritual reference to rebirth, not resurrection, so I don’t know what merit it has for Scott’s case.
Then Scott offered a painting by the artist Rivera, who died in 1957. It is obvious from the work that Rivera understood Quetzalcoatl to be Jesus Christ (He is worshipped by the twelve), but I am not sure why that means everyone else should believe a twentieth-century artist.
One LDS writer, Diane E. Wirth, concluded her study on "Quetzalcoatl, the Maya Maize God, and Jesus Christ" by saying,
Despite discrepancies among Quetzalcoatl myths in colonial sources and the fairly good mythology and symbolism in pre-Columbian inscriptions and iconography, we are left with several crucial points about Quetzalcoatl and the Maya Maize God that apply to Christ’s premortal state, his mission on earth, and his role in the hereafter. Are there plausible links? Yes. Are there significant differences? Again, yes. This review should help us to see a complex picture of continuities and discontinuities between Quetzalcoatl and the Savior. Because parts of the picture are rather faint, there is a need for caution in our studies when we approach the intriguing and mysterious figures of Quetzalcoatl and the Maya Maize God and attempt to draw connections between them and the resurrected Jesus (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies ).
At least Wirth is cautious whereas Scott is the exact opposite!
Another LDS writer, Brant A. Gardner, critiqued Wirth, and his criticism can equally apply to Brother Scott. Gardner said,
Wirth’s methodology (and perhaps understanding of her task of decoding) is that one finds the similarity to something that the Latter-day Saint people believe and then suggest that it appears because of a continuation of that belief from Nephite times. All differences that might make it “unparallel” are assumed to be part of the process of apostasy. …When parallels are proposed as evidence in the face of contrary data, more is required than the simple assertion that the parallel is ‘strong’” (“Where Much Is Promised, Less Is Given: Review of Diane E. Wirth. Decoding Ancient America: A Guide to the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Review 20/1 : 15–32).
The problem with Wirth, Scott, and a host of other LDS is that the evidence for the Book of Mormon cannot stand or fall on its own. For them, they have their testimonies, and this is what maintains the mere assumption that any significant differences between biblical realities and New World realities must be the result of apostasy rather than simply admitting the Mormon story cannot be empirically verified. Again, similarity does not prove identity.
Now having said all that, for the sake of argument, suppose Jesus really did at one point visit ancient Native Americans and that generations of apostasy continued to distort this event. Would that in itself prove the Book of Mormon story? No, since there is all sorts of information that would need to be proven that makes up that story—Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites, the massive wars between the groups, God cursing the Lamanites with dark skin and then taking their curse away upon repentance, the sorts of animals spoken of including horses, elephants, and others, the places, the kings
with Hebrew names, all the “plain and precious truths” taken from the Bible after the time of the apostles, the various unique doctrines that contradict the Bible (e.g., modalism), etc., etc. So if it turns out to be proven true that Jesus visited these people, all that would do is motivate us to verify whether the Book of Mormon would be a believable account of that event. If the Book of Mormon proves to be unreliable and fraudulent, then we are still left with the fact that Christ visited these ancient Americans and legends that pointed to it have been substantiated.
Finally on this matter, the Bible is clear that Satan himself can transform into an angel of light and his ministers into ministers of righteousness in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 and 13-15. In fact, this passage calls him a serpent and that is how he first appeared to Adam and Eve, beguiling the latter. Recall Thompson’s book People of the Serpent. I am not arguing this is in fact what originated the “Legend of light skinned people of Quetzalcoatl,” and I understand the serpent being lifted up in the wilderness was a type of Christ (cf. John 3:14). I am simply arguing that this Satanic scenario is always a possibility. Satan can get us so preoccupied with himself and seeking after legends or signs that we are led away to another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel.
Scott then quoted from three biblical passages and one Book of Mormon passage in addressing the issue of perfection. In Luke 13:32, Jesus claims He would be perfected when He rose from the dead. In Matthew 5:48, He commanded us to be perfect as the Father is perfect. When Jesus intercedes for us in John 17, He requests that His disciples are to be made perfect (vs. 23). Then in 3 Nephi 12:48, Jesus tells the Nephites that they are to be perfect as He or the Father is. Scott said, "We can become meek and Humble [sic] full of love, charity… However perfection cannot be fully obtained in this world, just as Christ said he was not made perfect until the third day after he left this life. In Jerusalem, he only used his Father as the perfect example. To the Nephites he now says;… as I or your father in heaven is perfect. How would the Prophet Joseph Smith had ever known this? Impossible. Only from a true God our Father in Heaven to his True Prophet.”
Really? If Christ was alleged to have said this to the Nephites after His resurrection, then according to the Bible just quoted, He would have been perfected. I don’t see why this can’t be a matter of private interpretation to concoct a fairy tale rather than a prophetic move of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Peter 1:20). Just because Scott is impressed by all this doesn’t entail everyone else is impressed by it.
Then Scott concluded the perfection point by quoting Elder Gerald D. Lund and Elder Jeffrey Holland. Lund said that Satan tells us that if we aren’t perfect, then we are failing. But God is pleased with every effort we make to better ourselves and that He is more concerned about the offeror than the offering. Holland has recently said that we get credit for simply trying.
In my last critique of Scott, I already dealt with Holland’s “credit for trying.” However, I will only point out here that Scott as well as Lund seem to confuse Christ's perfection with our perfection. His was without sin, and ours is indeed a failing to keep every command God expects us to keep. When Christ was not perfected, He certainly wasn’t failing, since He was without sin. In our imperfect state, we fail every day, because we have a sin nature that loves our self rather than God. It must be crucified daily (cf. Luke 9:23), but if we say we have no sin, we lie and deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8-10). Our righteousness is in Christ alone before all that we can do (Isaiah 64:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9, Colossians 2:10, and Hebrews 10:10-14).
After studying Scott’s use of parallels these past two sessions, it has become much clearer why Mormons have such a difficult time accepting a Christian telling them that they have a wrong God, wrong Jesus, wrong Spirit, or wrong gospel. It is very difficult to persuade Mormons that such is the case, because in their mind it just makes sense that Christianity has gone through close to a couple thousand years of apostasy. To the Mormon mind, Mormons and traditional Christians believe the same things despite the radical differences. It is just that Mormons have been blessed by the restoration. They got to bypass all the years of corruption and have received the original revelation in these latter days, so they focus on all the similarities between the two groups. For many Mormons, it appears any similarity entails identity. (For more problems with the Mormon methodology of “parallelomania,” see the helpful critique of Douglas F. Solomon, “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33, no. 2 [Summer 2000]: 129-56).
R. M. Sivulka
President, Courageous Christians United
February 28, 2018