Defense of the Book of Mormon
Some External Evidences that Vindicate Its Claim
BY PROF. J.E. HICKMAN
Of the myriad books that lie on the shelves of the world's libraries, no other book has come before the public under such questionable form as the Book of Mormon. No other book claims to have come from the earth through the intervention of an angel of God. No other book has been so bitterly hated and heartily loved as the Book of Mormon; and yet at the same time, no book in the centuries has had such an influence upon the human family. There are, living and dead, more than a million people who have not only read the Book but shaped their lives according to its teachings and the concomitant doctrines that go with it. Hundreds of millions have read Shakespeare and other famous authors of the world but they are not for the purpose of moulding men's lives in the moral, the social, and the religious lines, but this is the very thing that the Book of Mormon has done and has been more successful than any other one book in so short a time.
It is said that when Joseph Smith had finished translating this record and he stood with the manuscript in his arms ready to take it to Grandin, the printer, knowing that the facts which this work was setting forth, and also knowing that the theories of men were so averse to the claims of this manuscript, that he cried aloud:--"Oh God, what will the world say?" It is claimed that the voice of Jehovah answered him by saying, "Joseph, I'll cause the earth to rise and bear testimony to this book." As a vindication of that promise, I wish to review a few of the myriad discoveries that go to vindicate this promise.
In passing, I desire to answer the question why Joseph Smith chose David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdrey and Martin Harris as witnesses. Many have asked why he did not choose other persons instead. The law requires that a witness whose testimony is to be reliable must have four qualifications: 1st, he must have at least common intelligence; 2nd, his veracity must be above question; 3rd, he must be skilled or have an intelligent knowledge of the thing he is testifying of; and 4th, he must witness the event or be in person upon the scene of which he is giving evidence. You who know the lives of these men know that their intelligence was far above the average of their fellow men. 2nd, I have never known any acquaintance of theirs ever to question their veracity, and, as far as I know I have not seen in print where their enemies have questioned the veracity of these men. Outside of Joseph Smith, there were no other men in the world that knew so much of this record as they: for all three had taken part in translating the book by way of being Joseph's scribes. Oliver Cowdrey had stood with the Prophet Joseph and beheld John the Baptist on the banks of the Susquehanna river. He had seen the Angel Moroni. He with David Whitmer, had beheld Peter, James and John, who had given them the keys of the Melchesidek Priesthood. They had heard Joseph prophesy and had seen his prophesies fulfilled. They knew every word of the Book of Mormon, for they had not only read but transcribed the book. And then, as a final preparation for their reliability as most eminent witnesses, they, at high noon in an open space in the woods of the western part of New York, stood and beheld the Angel Moroni descend out of heaven with the record of the Book of Mormon in a light that virtually eclipsed the noon-day sun. They saw the record as the angel turned leaf by leaf, declaring that the record had been correctly translated by Joseph Smith; and then they heard the voice of Jehovah out of heaven, declaring that the words were true and faithful and for them to bear testimony concerning this book to the ends of the earth. No other three men then living were so eminently fitted to fill the legal requirements of competent witnesses.
Two Ancient Peoples.
The Book of Mormon claims to be the record of two ancient peoples who inhabited this continent. The older was the Jaredite race who came here some two or three thousand years B.C., under the leadership of Jared and his brother. They thrived and became a mighty nation and filled this continent but finally were entirely destroyed due to the turning from God and his prophets. The book within the Book of Mormon that gives their history is called the Book of Ether. In brief, it claims that God led them here and inspired them to make ships or barges with which to weather the great deeps. They claimed to come from Eastern Asia and brought with them the horse, the cow, the sheep, the honey bee (Deseret) and other animals, also fishes and many kinds of seed, with w3hich to improve the flora and fauna of the land to which they were going.
At the time the Book of Mormon was translated, we had no knowledge of the Rock Mountain sheep or of the horse, but were acquainted with the buffalo. We now find that the buffalo and the natua cow of South America are like the cow of India and eastern Asia and nowhere else were they found in the world. Long after the Book of Mormon was published, explorers found the Rocky Mountain sheep from Alaska to the southern part of the Andes and the only sheep like the Rocky Mountain sheep is found in eastern Asia, known as the Ares Crestis. We have found the skeleton of the horse on the North and South American continent, which is the same kind of a horse as is found in eastern Asia. The last few years there is evidence being brought from South America that the wild horse of Patagonia was in evidence when the white men discovered that continent and that horse has a square jaw like the Asiatic horse possesses and is different from the western Arabian horse. This evidence is now to be had in the Smithsonian Institute. If the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be, how, under the heavens did Joseph Smith come in possession of the above then unknown truths? Truth does not go in partnership with error.
The later colony that came to this continent was of Hebrew origin. The Book of Mormon claims they left Jerusalem 600 years B.C. and after years of guidance of the Lord, they landed upon the western coast of South America. It claims that after a time due to discord, they divided into factions, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The Lamanites were cursed with a red skin. War and contention was more or less carried on between these two nations for a thousand years until at last the Lamanites prevailed and the Nephites became extinct.
Mexican Native History.
As to the proofs of such a claim, let me say that the aborigines of South America, as well as of Mexico, had a pictorial and ideographic history that tells the story of their ancestors from the time they left some distant land, as they claim and came to this continent (This history was copied by Boterini, a copy of which is to be found in the Lennox Library of New York City).
The scene opens with six persons marching away from rather a dignified altar standing beside an olive tree on whose topmost limb rests a bird that seems to be talking and directing this little colony where to go. The natives claim that was the place their ancestors started from under the direction of the spirit of God, which is represented by the bird. Linguists and anthropologists claim that the altar and the olive tree symbolizes Jerusalem. This agrees with the Book of Mormon wherein it says that Lehi, his wife and four sons started alone from Jerusalem. As we follow the pictographic history of the aborigines, we find five walking now at one junction of the road. This could quite readily be explained as the four brothers returning from Jerusalem after having gotten the records and bringing Zoram with them, who was a servant of Laban. Then later in the scene, we find that the group of people has increased to fifteen or sixteen. The Book of Mormon explains that after several days journey from Jerusalem, the sons of Lehi were sent back to persuade Ishmael and his family to join them in their long pilgrimage to a new land which God had designated they should go. As we follow the pictographic history, we find that they are traveling through a land sparse of vegetation which is beset with poisonous reptiles which are represented as being coiled here and there on their pathway. This quite agrees with the story of the Book of Mormon. According to the native record, these pilgrims walked and carried their burdens. The women and the babes which they carried upon their backs were weeping. This agrees perfectly with the story of the Book of Mormon wherein it says as they marched with their burdens upon their backs, the burdens of the women and children were grievous and they wept. According to the native history, they were seen sometimes to be sleeping upon brush as though they were trying to protect themselves against poisonous insects or reptiles. At two different places in their journey they are carrying a pole with a serpent upon it. This was a custom of the Hebrews when marching through the desert. While sleeping in one place, a man of the company with a long beard is represented as lying asleep and just a few feet from his head lies a ball with certain markings upon it. This quite agrees with the story of the Book of Mormon wherein it said that while Lehi and his colony slept at night, a ball which they called the Liahona, was found lying at his tent door when he arose in the morning and the records say it was of peculiar workmanship and it was a compass to direct them in their journeys and upon which they received revelations for their guidance.
As we proceed farther with the native history, a scene is painted where a man had died and had been buried in the desert and something like half of the company stands around the grave in bitter lamentation while the rest of the group stand just a few paces away and the tears are seen on the cheeks of one or two of that group, showing they are in sympathy with those about the grave. This agrees perfectly with the account in the Book of Mormon, wherein it says that Ishmael died in the desert and there they buried him and great was the lamentation of Ishmael's family.
The native record shows us that farther on a babe lies here and there on that winding route which their ancestors trod, which indicates that a babe had been born at different junctures of their journey. We presume it is not a death for the babe is naked, lying face down but the head is raised from the ground and one leg bent at the knee, showing the babe is alive and trying to raise himself. This agrees perfectly with the Book of Mormon's story wherein it says that babes were born to the colony as they journeyed in the desert.
A Strange Scene.
There is another strange scene in the native record. It shows a tree with fruit upon it. The tree has been cut off just below the limbs and has not fallen to the ground but leans from the place that it has been cut, at an angle of nearly 90 degrees and on the trunk of the tree is seen two arms with hands clasping the tree, and by the tree sits a man as though a presiding priest, and in front of him rests a basket of fruit and five persons stand near. Three are partaking of the fruit, while two stand off a pace with their hands behind them and the corners of their mouths turned down as if in derision.
There is an account in the Book of Mormon that Lehi, in a glorious vision, after wandering through darkness came to the valley of light in which a tree grew and it had delicious fruit upon it which was delicious above all fruit that he had ever tasted and he was told that it represented the love and intelligence of God, and then he longed to have his family come and partake with him and he looked about and saw them in the distance and called them to him and bid them eat, but only Sarah, his wife, Sam and Nephi would eat of the fruit while Laman and Lemuel, his two older sons, refused to partake of the fruit and were derisive in their attitude. Again the pictorial history agrees so accurately with the account given in the Book of Mormon that one stands amazed at the coincidence of the two accounts. The pictorial history finally shows that they set sail upon the waters where they had to go in a boat or vessel.
The next scene shows the colony in a land of rich vegetation. They are sitting down in apparently reclining seats. They are at rest. They seem to be at home, as though they had reached the end of their destined journey. The mark that represents the path that they had traveled so long seems to be extending down into the ground as though they were at their journey's end. This again agrees most accurately with the account given in the Book of Mormon wherein it says that God inspired Nephi and taught him how to build a ship which would take them to the promised land. After many days and weeks, being driven by the winds, they came to this land of rich vegetation and there for the first time in eight or ten long years they rested from their wearisome journey.
Up to this time the pictorial history of the natives of South America and Mexico indicates or shows that all of the pilgrims are white but not long after they are in this land of promise it is shown that there are black or dark men appearing amidst the whites and, from their paintings it indicates that there is a contention between the two factions, for they are in their accoutrements of war, and as the history goes on, it becomes most complicated but always there is shown the dark men at war with the whites. This again is in perfect accord with the story of the Book of Mormon wherein it claims that, after they landed upon this continent Laman and Lemuel with their families and a number of Ishmael's family, drew apart from Nephi and his followers and became warlike and sought occasion against Nephi and his followers and finally God cursed Laman and his followers with a dark skin, which was destined to be their mark across the centuries. I challenge the world to find two accounts so perfectly parallel as the account given in the Book of Mormon and that of this pictorial history of the natives of this continent. It is a case wherein God caused the earth or the earth's records to bear testimony to the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon claims that their native language was the Hebrew but they had as their classical language the new Egyptian, which they used largely for the recording of their history. In various parts of North and South America we not only find evidences of Hebrew writings but we have found in several places hieroglyphics that are close akin to the Egyptian hieroglyphics. If the reader is interested in following this further, I would refere him to "Bancroft's History of the Native Races," also to "America Before Columbus", by P. de Roo.
The Book of Mormon further claims that the Nephites left Jerusalem 600 years before Christ. If this be true, then the Hebrew language they wrote was made entirely of consonants. For eight years after they left Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem and led her inhabitants captive to Babylon and for 70 years they were held as slaves. When they returned to their native land, three-quarters of a century later, their language was so changed and modified through the influence of the Assyrian language that they could no longer write their Hebrew language with consonants, so they introduced vowels, vowel points, and terminal endings into their written language. If it is true that the Nephite colony left before the captivity into Babylon, all the Hebrew writing found upon this continent will be written in the old Hebrew style, with what changes a thousand years of use might bring but entirely at variance with the modified Hebrew as written by the Hebrews after their return from Babylon. Strange as it may seem, this is just what the linguists have found on this continent. They have found quotations from Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy on the North American continent. Indeed at Newark, Ohio, they found in one of the conical mounds a stone box containing a stone tablet and on this stone was recorded in Hebrew the Ten Commandments. In Tennessee some 20 years ago, there was found in another of these mounds some copper coins. On one side of the coins was an olive branch, on the other a vessel of burning incense. Around the edges on either side was printed in Hebrew, "a shekel of Israel" and on the other side was printed, "Jerusalem the Holy." No other people in the world had shekels but Israel. No other people in the world worshipped Jerusalem as a Holy City save the Hebrew race. The olive branch was the emblem of peace to all nations and the vessel of burning incense was symbolic of their mode of worship.
The Book of Mormon claims that the Nephite race brought with them the scriptures from the creation down to and inclusive of Isaiah and that they lived the Mosaic law until after the crucifixion of Christ, at which time he visited them upon this continent. Then he taught them a new doctrine as recorded in the New Testament. There is still found till this day traces of the Mosaic Law amid certain tribes of the Indians, wherein they demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. In some tribes they still have the City of Refuge as the ancient Hebrews had. They even offer sacrifice of the first fruits of the harvest as well as the animals they kill. But they still have a trace of the newer doctrine which Christ taught the Nephites. The Maya race claims that their God who lived upon a far off land in the east, was killed and came to life again and that he came to this continent and visited their forefathers and that he taught them the doctrine of baptism by immersion. He taught them to bless their children and told them that he would send them to Echauc, which means the Holy Ghost.
He taught them that they should often meet together and partake of emblems of his flesh and blood; and to this day the Maya people meet every week or so and eat of bread made of coarse maize mixed with the blood of an animal and baked. They partake of it in great solemnity in memory of their God who was killed by wicked men. They even have an account of his crucifixion and his agony on the cross.
They have a written record which tells of his last words upon the cross, which were not, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me," but "Now, now, I am faint, darkness covers my brow." The Indian tribes up to the time and before they were polluted by the degeneracy of the white race, kept the Ten Commandments with a rigidity that was integrated into their flesh and bones. They never profaned the name of their God. They did not steal within their own tribes. If they left their tents for a day or a week or a month, they would leave a green twig or branch at the tent door which signified, "Thou shalt not steal." They would not lie to each other within their tribe. Adultery was virtually unknown in their race. They had one worship and that was the reverence of the Great Spirit.
Nearly all the tribes from South America to Canada know of the Christ and that he was begotten by a most beautiful and pure virgin through being overshadowed by the great Spirit. In some tribes he is known as Votan, meaning the "Gentle God." In other tribes as Topilzin, again in others as Quetzalcotel, Bacab; Mesl or Messi. The Iroquois Indians off Canada know him as Degonweda, which means the "Miracle Child." Their account of his conception , birth and life is almost as perfect as the account given in the New Testament. All of these names by which the Christ is known among the natives signify his character or the way he was crucified. Some of them mean the God of the Great Spirit, others the Naked God, others the Gentle God of the Crown of Thorns, and etc.
The Aztecs were not so called by themselves. They knew and called themselves the people of Messi, claiming that this great God, after his resurrection, came to this land and blessed them and gave them this land forever. This is what the Book of Mormon claims. Only the Book of Mormon says if they turn from the God of heaven, strangers will come from foreign lands and dispossess them and kill and drive and maltreat them.
The Book of Mormon also claims that at the crucifixion the land was covered with darkness for three days and nights so thick that they couldn’t light fires, and that the people lay upon the ground and mourned; that mountains were thrown up; that cities were sunken, the seas washed some of them away, the earth broke into yawning chasms and lives were engulfed, and the whirlwinds carried them off, where no one knew. Every element of this great tragedy is told in broken fragments by various tribes of North and South America. Some of them believe their God was dead three days and nights, and during that time, darkness reigned upon the land and time did not exist. The Aztecs, so called, who knew themselves as the people of Messi named their land after the name of their God, whose name was Messi. Add "ah" to it and you have the Hebrew word "Messiah," the Christ, the God who was crucified. III Nephi says the Messiah did promise them this land forever.
Record Taken Away.
The Book of Mormon claims that, due to the wickedness of the people, their record from which the Book of Mormon has been translated, was taken away from the people with a promise that when they had grown better it would be given back to them.
Calvin Colton of England came to America to make a study of the Indians. He was a linguist, scholar of repute, and with all a divine. His thought was to learn the language of some of the tribes and teach them the Christian faith. He went up to the tribes around the Great Lakes near Winnipeg and spent two or three years with the Indians. During the years of 1830 to 1832 he mastered their language and attempted to teach them the knowledge of God, the account of the creation, the history of Israel, the birth and life of the Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection. To all of his teachings they would reply by saying, "Yes, we know," and much perplexed over the monotonous reply, he asked how they knew and in brief they told him this story:
Once long time ago—how long they didn’t know—their forefathers had the book that told all these things and, due to the wickedness of their forefathers, the Great Spirit took it from their midst, promising that sometime when their people grew better, he would return that record to them. They said to Mr. Colton that they felt "In here," pointing to their chests, "that it was going to come back pretty soon." Colton, feeling that his mission was not fully a success due to the weird knowledge that they seemed to possess concerning the earth and its history, returned to London and wrote the account of his mission which he published in two volumes.
The natives were not only correct in the account of the history which is vindicated by the account recorded in the Book of Mormon, but their feelings that "it was going to come back to them pretty soon" were well founded, for the Book of Mormon had already been published. Their feelings were prophetic.
There is no large feature of the history recorded in the Book of Mormon which has not been discovered on this land either through the legends of the natives, or through explorations made by anthropologists, ethnologists and archaeologists.
The Book of Mormon states that there was a white race upon this continent and was made extinct in the eastern part of what is now known as the United States which truth was held in legendary form when the white man came here. The Indians told the whites when they were moving into the land now known as Kentucky not to go there for it was the land of the spirits. Many centuries before their race had fought to death a white people who lived in that section of country and the great exterminating war covered the land with blood and they called the region "Kentucky," which means land of blood and the Kentucky river, meaning the river of blood. In support of that gruesome legend we find millions of arrowheads scattered throughout that region of the country. Some places within a few square rods, a hatful of arrowheads have been picked up. Probably a thousand years hence no more gruesome story than this will be found in "No Man’s Land."
There are still found here and there Book of Mormon names indigenous with the soil. We have a tribe of Indians by the name of Lehi, that once lived in Pennsylvania. Another by the name of Amalakites found in the northeastern part of Canada, another tribe by the name of Moroni in Central America and still another tribe in Central America by the name of Laman. The Shoshone Indians in 1863, had a chief by the name of Lehi.
This brief discussion outlines a few of the overwhelming evidences that now go to prove the claims of the Book of Mormon; and I now wish to close this discussion by saying: "Joseph, the earth has risen and borne testimony to this book."
--Deseret News, Mar 10 1928, Section 3, pp. 6-7.
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