By Donald P. Ames
One of the most aggravating things in talking to Mormons is that when their claims are refuted, they promptly come back with such statements as, “But later facts have changed all that, arid now it is viewed differently,” or “But we have read other books which show scholars now agree with us.” Of course these “other sources” are never with them and not specifically pinned down either.
Recently Titus Edwards (who preaches for the Hessville church in Hammond, Indiana) and I had a discussion with a couple of Mormon elders. Several times they referred to the Smithsonian Institute as having material on hand confirming the Book of Mormon. When we showed them a statement by that institution printed in 1959 completely disavowing any support for the Book of Mormon, they promptly came back with the statement that events within the last ten years had completely reversed the Institution’s position, and that our information was now completely out of date.
So, finally, in order to get off ground “zero,” Brother Edwards and I decided to write the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (Dept. of Anthropology) and ask for their “latest” position. Unfortunately, the two Mormons discontinued the study before our reply returned. However, in case you are also answered as these Mormons answered us, here is the reply I received in the mail as of March 16, 1978. 1 believe it is more than adequate.
Your recent inquiry concerning the Book of Mormon has been received in the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology.
The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution does not use it in archeological research. Because the Smithsonian Institution receives many inquiries regarding the use of the Book of Mormon as a guide to archeological researches, and in connection with Mormon statements about the origin and relationships of the American Indian, we have prepared a.”Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon,” a copy of which is enclosed for your information. This statement includes answers to questions most commonly asked about the Book of Mormon.
Statement Regarding The Book Of Mormon
1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book.
2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern,, central, and northeastern Asia. Archeological evidence indicated that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World-probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age-in a continuing series of small migrations beginning about 30,000 years ago.
3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who arrived in the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.
4. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several thousand years before the Christian era. However, these appear to, be the result of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia acid show no relationship to ancient Egyptian or Hebrew cultures.
5. We know of no authentic cases of ancient Egyptian or Hebrew writings having been found in the New World. Reports of findings, of ‘Egyptian influence’ in the Mexican and Central American areas have been published in newspapers and magazines from titre to time, but thus far no reputable Egyptologist has been able to discover` any relationship between Mexican remains and those in Egypt.
6. There are copies of the Book of Mormon in the library of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
A list of books dealing with the history of .the Indian and of archeology in the New World was also included for further reading. I believe this readily shows, however, there has been no change in the position of the Smithsonian Institution in the past 20 years, and such obvious misuse and misstatement of these facts by Mormons (many honestly ignorant, but repeating what they have been told — and some probably just not honest) casts a heavy cloud of distrust over any statement of archeological findings they allege “prove” the Book of Mormon (most of which is alleged by their own Brigham Young University).
So, the next time they tell you “These facts have been altered since 1959,” show them this, and remind them this is dated 1978!
Truth Magazine XXIII: 16, p. 258
April 19, 1979