Frauds and Hoaxes

The other day I read a blog post about frauds and hoaxes related to the Book of Mormon. It made me think about what frauds and hoaxes have been most influential regarding the Book of Mormon. Maybe there is a potential to reach a consensus on this point.

The article mentioned the Kinderhook plates, the Newark holy stones (including the Decalogue Stone), the Las Lunas Decalogue Stone, and the Soper-Savage Michigan relics.

The article suggested a test for knowing these controversial “antiquities” are forgeries; i.e., they are out of context. “Genuine artifacts relate to their surroundings in discernible, reproducible ways.”


Isn’t that the argument made by those who claim the Book of Mormon itself is a fraud? Certainly Joseph’s account of the plates is not one that “relates to its surroundings in discernible, reproducible ways.” At least, I’m not aware of other ancient metal plates discovered in New York that relate a sacred history. Nor, if the Book of Mormon events took place in Central America, does the text relate to its surroundings.

Of course, the text is not out of context if the hill where it was deposited–the Hill Cumorah in New York–is the site of the final battles it describes.

The four items that the article alleges are frauds and hoaxes are of minor significance, at best. I don’t know of any theory of Book of Mormon geography that relies on them.

In my view, there are far more devastating hoaxes that need to be carefully scrutinized. These have diverted tremendous resources, including millions of dollars and untold man-hours of research, writing, publication, and reading.

The anonymous article in the Oct. 1, 1842, Times and Seasons that claimed Zarahemla was in Quirigua may be the biggest hoax of all. I’m not aware of anyone today who thinks Quirigua could possibly qualify as Zarahemla. The ruins cited in the editorial post-date Book of Mormon time frames, as Stephens, the author of the books, mentioned. Related to that are two anonymous articles dated Sept. 15, 1842, that also claim these ruins date to Book of Mormon times. It is difficult to think of a hoax that has caused more confusion than these anonymous articles. They led directly to the development of the two-Cumorah theory, a theory that an Apostle has specifically said causes members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

Another hoax was the Izapa Stella 5, which, while an authentic artifact, was linked to the Book of Mormon for decades. LDS people have purchased replicas, framed them on the walls of their homes, etc. Mormon critics have long said Izapa Stella 5 has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. Finally, within the last couple of years, at least one LDS expert on the topic has reached the same conclusion. When viewed in the context of the other Stellae at Izapa, it is apparent that #5 has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon.

Much more could be written about the problem of frauds and hoaxes, but maybe this line of analysis will help clear the air among those who study Book of Mormon geography and we can set aside problematic claims going forward.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

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