1. Chapter 2

    ACT ONE ANALYSIS PART 1 – HISTORICAL CONTEXT CHAPTER 2 THE MOUND BUILDERS

  2. For the purposes of studying the Book of Mormon, we're going to take a step back in time to the settling of America. We need to understand how important religious liberty was to some very important individuals at the time, as well as theories and historical studies embraced by such individuals.
  3. Let's begin with examining the expansion of Protestant Christians coming over the Atlantic Ocean seeking asylum, religious and otherwise. During the 17th century, most of the early settlers of America were European citizens who were escaping the rule of governments that had deep ties with Roman Catholicism or the Church of England.
  4. A number of those American Protestant settlers loathed the intermingling of religion and state and its subsequent authoritarian rule. It's arguable that one of the main driving factors behind the Declaration of Independence was heavily associated with religious freedom, just as much as taxation without representation, occupation, and other steadily compiling factors that drove the founding fathers to compose the Declaration of Independence. A lot of those pressures were the same that motivated them to immigrate to the "New World" in the first place.
  5. This late 18th century and early 19th century time period in world history is very different from what we see and experience today. By the end of the 19th century, all of India and Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, large swaths of Africa, some South American colonies, and the European nations that are part of the U.K. today all were under rule of the British Monarchy. The resources of this massive empire made it possible for people to get the ships and funding necessary to brave the Atlantic Ocean and come settle the New World. (Miller, 1966)
  6. During those years the British Navy was formidable. In fact, they had the most technologically advanced and powerful navy in existence, bar none. They were one of the wealthiest empires, spanning thousands of miles, controlling most of their territory with naval superiority. No nation or empire could contend with the British Navy, which gave them a monopoly of the waters and put them at the forefront of the ever-expanding global trade industry. (Hicks, 2008)
  7. This massive superiority allowed the British Empire the necessary resources to expand their global reach to the Americas. Some of the earliest European settlers made their way to Massachusetts in 1620 and began settling the territory, by accident, I might add.
  8. Things didn't go so well for these settlers. Many people died from starvation, dysentery, small pox, and other unpleasant diseases. Thanks to the Native Americans, the Europeans were able to survive, slowly settle, and propagate into colonial America.
  9. During European settlement of the American continents, many of the Native American communes died off from diseases brought over by earlier exploratory groups. This is a topic of discussion that doesn't seem to gather enough attention.
  10. The Natives didn't have the robust immune system that the Europeans had been cultivating for tens of thousands of years, and the natives simply weren't prepared. Nobody could have foreseen the onslaught of micro organic warfare the Europeans would wage upon the natives, largely doing so unwittingly.
  11. Here we begin to run into some issues with early American history. Some estimates say that hundreds of thousands of natives died, but that's obviously a gross underestimation. Other estimates put that number into the low millions category. Some of the highest estimates say that somewhere between 25 and 30 million Native Americans died from old world diseases before the settlers made their way out across the plains to the west coast. Whatever the actual number, it doesn’t necessarily affect the purposes of our study.
  12. That may sound heartless to say because every one of those Native Americans died a very uncomfortable, disease-ridden death. That's a lot of people dying from very horrible circumstances, all massacred at the hands of an invisible enemy, disease. The natives had absolutely no chance against small pox and influenza. The European settlers didn't even use their guns for the vast majority of the genocide that was committed upon the Native Americans.
  13. The reason the exact number of Natives who died from these diseases doesn't matter is due to the focus of our research relating to the Book of Mormon. These deaths are important and worth pointing out, but all that matters in our scope of research is what happened after those millions of people died. Joseph Stalin has been quoted with saying, “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic.” In the case of the Native Americans, that's all there were. Millions of people had died who didn't die through traditional warfare, and they are just a statistic to us now. That was truly the largest absentee genocide in all of human history.
  14. Let's try to visualize this for a minute. The average large sports stadium can house anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 people. A person watching any major sporting event, can scarcely wrap his mind around how many people are really in the stands. When the cameras pan around to show the crowd, it just looks like a sea of faces with different colored clothes spotted throughout masses. Fifty thousand people in one place are nearly incomprehensible to any one mind.
  15. Hopefully, you have a picture of this stadium in your mind, because now, let’s try to expand your imagination to include a stadium ten times the size of the one you are currently picturing. That's 500,000 people. No single person can comprehend how many people that really looks like. It's an almost theoretical number when it comes to visualizing each of those 500,000 people.
  16. It pains me to ask you to do this, and these is where historical empathy engages in our study, but now try to imagine that stadium of 500,000 people, all dying horrible and painful deaths from sickness. It's completely incomprehensible to see that many faces and imagine them all suffering from disease. The highest estimate I could find concluded that disease wiped out 95% of all the Native American population. Only a very small percentage of those deaths were committed by European warfare. Almost all of them were due to the almighty invisible killer, disease. This is truly a horrible time of human history, marking the largest loss of human life from disease since the beginning of time.
  17. Considering the practical logistics of the problems those millions of bodies created, let’s conduct a thought experiment. Human beings are one of the very few species to dispose of their dead, and it's a practice that has many evolutionary benefits; a person can easily catch a disease from a dead body, but not if that dead body is covered in dirt or buried in a hole in the ground. Our ancestors who buried their dead tended to survive better than the ancestors who didn't, so today it’s common practice to bury our dead.
  18. If 95% of any given Native American tribe dies, it's incumbent upon the remaining 5% to either bury their dead and move on with life, trying to survive, or they could simply vacate the area and leave the mountains of dead bodies behind. Throughout the entirety of the American continents, both of these situations happened to the luck and dismay of the European settlers. But more important for our studies, the ruins of micro organic warfare became a source of confusion for the new settlers. It was lucky for the new settlers because they didn’t have to conquer those civilizations by force, but it dismayed them by the sheer confusion of how the continent and the remaining civilizations came to be in such a state of disarray.
  19. As people began expanding westward, settling all along the way, they happened upon Native American civilizations. Some were inhabited; others were ghost towns. When the early settlers found native civilizations that had been completely abandoned, some of which were littered with bodies that might be two weeks old or two centuries old, they would understandably have some questions amidst their confusion. Who were those people? Why did they leave? Who killed them? Why weren’t these people killed in battle, and what did kill them? Why didn't the conquering army of Indians bury the bodies from this ghost village, but they did in the last ghost village we found?
  20. “Indeed the form and materials of these works seem to indicate the existence of a race of men in a stage of improvement superior to those natives of whom we or our fathers have had any knowledge; who had different ideas of convenience and utility; who were more patient of labour, and better acquainted with the art of defense. … At what remote period these works were erected and by whom; what became of their builders; whether they were driven away or destroyed by a more fierce and savage people, the Goths and Vandals of America [Indians]; or whether they voluntarily migrated to a distant region; and where that region is, are questions which at present cannot be satisfactorily answered.” (Belknap, 1792)
  21. People were very fascinated with where these civilizations possibly came from and didn’t think it was remotely possible that the savage Native Americans, with whom they were in constant conflict, could be responsible for constructing such architecture. Whether it was racism at its foundation or incredulity based on previous observations, many early settler scholars and historians simply could not believe that the Native Americans were responsible for such amazing works of architecture and civilization; they were baffled.
  22. While some of these civilizations were abandoned, or every person in the tribe had died, there were plenty more where the majority of the tribe had died off, but the remaining left alive decided to stay where they were and bury the dead in mass graves. Mass graves were the only practical solution to getting rid of those millions of dead people; it was either that or burning them all, but burying was much less disgusting, and it may have been more practical on a massive scale in the long run.
  23. This all may seem a bit morbid, but it's not specific to the Native Americans. We've uncovered a lot of mass graves in our time during recorded history. Some of the more recent date back just a few years to Rwanda. Others date back to Jewish mass graves during the holocaust, and there were countless more before that. Most of those graves are underground, and require digging to find. However, some of those mass graves contain thousands of human bodies piled on top of each other, with a bunch of dirt thrown on top of them, making large mounds or hills filled with bodies. Centuries later, archaeologists found those bodies and the interesting things buried with them.
  24. Herein lies another problem. Those mass graves incited curiosity and a need for research, thus leading to many European settlers to dig through dirt piles and  uncover skeletons decorated in various Native American clothing and burial rites. Just like any curious person would in this situation, they were applying post-hoc reasoning to the existence of those civilizations, abandoned or otherwise, and the nearby mounds that were essentially mass graves. They were finding weapons, trinkets, religious paraphernalia, leather pouches with prized possessions in them, and all manner of curious workmanships.
  25. As amazing as all the mass graves and treasures buried within were, they weren't the most amazing things that blew the collective European mind. The most exciting thing about the Native Americans was their ruins and the huge mounds that can still be seen and explored today. Throughout both American continents there were and still are massive ruins of pyramids and temples, along with buildings of gathering, worship, trade, and inhabitation. While most native tribes were nomadic hunter-gatherers, there were some larger cities that were much more modern, wherein empires were established, agriculture was produced on a massive scale, and people exchanged commodities with a fairly modern bartering system along major trade routes. Look at the Aztec or Mayan empires. They weren’t so different from other historic empires.  We simply have a lot less hard evidence about them, as opposed to the evidence we have for other groups of people such as the Roman or British Empires. The Mayans, however, had a structured system of writing and documenting, along with calendars, massive scale agriculture, and mathematics, while most other knowledge of ancient Native American tribes, such as the Shoshone or Navajo, exists only through estimations based on limited archaeological evidence.
  26. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, archaeologists and paleoanthropologists were discovering abandoned ruins and mass graves all over both American continents, and they came up with a number of theories to explain how all of that stunning architecture could have originated and why some of it was abandoned. Most people who were studying the ruins and artifacts of that time had the writings of historians and Spanish conquistadors to reference, but they had the same historical blind spot that we deal with today.
  27. This blind spot, of course, is a lack of written evidence. When it comes to chronicling the ancient American civilizations that aren’t the Mayan empire, it becomes very challenging very quickly. Native American civilizations didn't have any system of writing that was standardized, which was unlike the vast majority of the old world at any given historical time. There are hieroglyphs in caves and on major rock formations, but those are mostly pictographic, and they tell a story in a way that can't be deciphered into typical lingual fashion. If there were some kind of American Native language to record past events, it's long dead, and those who spoke or wrote it probably died off centuries before the European settlers could get to them and record their history on paper in old world languages.
  28. If we look at it objectively, with the exception of the Mayan civilization, we have about 500 years of recorded history dealing with various Native American tribes on record; those we have record of constitute a very small portion of the actual tribes that existed. Our best estimates put the Natives Americans arriving on the continent around 13,000 years ago on a land and ice bridge through the Bering Strait. (Lovgren Stefan, 2003) That means we have historical European recordings of the existence and dealings of Native American tribes for about 2.5% of their actual time on the American continents, and those recordings chronicle only the most influential or largest of the tribes that existed during that 500-year span. This constitutes a huge blind spot in the known historical record.
  29. If we extrapolate out this blind spot by geography, in all our modern studies and archaeology, we are aware of the existence of a very small percentage of the Native Americans. Of those, we know even less concerning their day-to-day lives, religious practices, or styles of warfare, chronicled through first-hand experience that was recorded by post-enlightenment scholars, historians, and anthropologists. This historical blind spot is something that we simply cannot overcome until time travel is ripped out of science fiction and turned into science fact. Unfortunately, for now, all we can do when studying the Native Americans is to work with the evidence we have and consider the ramifications of that evidence through historical empathy. Let's go back to the early settlement of Europeans in America and try to empathize with them a little bit.
  30. Consider the condition in which the Native American tribes were when European settlers encountered them. All we’ve discussed this far is the massive amount of death that occurred throughout both American continents due to old world diseases and the ruins the natives left behind. Most of the natives were kept busy burying their dead or trying to find somewhere to live without piles of dead bodies surrounding them. They didn't really have the time or infrastructure to recover from such a travesty. It can be argued that they never recovered from European expansion, and the little plots of land that we call "Indian reservations" are nothing more than a consolation, attempting to ignore the prior 400 years of genocide.
  31. Let's invoke our favorite tool for learning about history, historical empathy. It would be hard for the current American society to recover right now if it lost only 10% of its population. Think about that for just a minute, and let's create a thought exercise. Let’s say some hypothetical disease that only 90% of the population is resilient to rages throughout the entire population of every major US city. Imagine if, in one year's time, 10%, or 32 million people, died in the United States from a horrible new disease that leaves those affected covered in blisters and constantly vomiting until they died. The whole country would simply fall apart. People would utterly lose their minds.
  32. In recent history, a small number of African countries dealt with a major outbreak of the Ebola virus. Ebola is a horrible virus that is scarcely being brought under control in those regions now, even though Doctors Without Borders and other similar agencies have been working tirelessly to reduce the rate of infections and quarantine infected individuals. Ebola has all but disappeared from the news cycle in America at the time this is being written because Americans believe the disease has been eliminated. However, if we remember back to the headlines during the Ebola scare, American media took the ball and ran with it. Every major news outlet was covering the Ebola crisis without apology or consideration of the facts. It was hard to walk into any public place without hearing somebody talk about how scared they were of Ebola. Irrational questions like, "What if it spreads overseas?" or, "What if it's actually airborne, and all the scientists don't know it yet?" were being asked constantly. They were irrational questions because they were asked from the perspective of ignorance. If we actually look at the data, we can understand that the Ebola outbreak happened because the people in Africa who were getting infected were mainly just the people who were caring for their loved ones who already had Ebola. People were mainly contracting it because they weren’t using any protective measures. The TWO Americans who died from Ebola during the major outbreak, contracted it only because safety measures were ignored or there was a malfunction in their safety equipment. (Fantz, 2014) That's TWO people, or .00000063% of the United States population, but the headlines exploded with fear of the newest threat to American lives. Exponentially more people die per year from getting hit by rogue bowling balls. (Lambert, 2006)
  33. Remembering how sensationalized the headlines were during the Ebola scare, think about how much the American world would collapse in this hypothetical situation we’ve constructed. Let's say this hypothetical supervirus killed off 10% of the United States population. I would argue that people would run around like their hair was on fire! The economy would utterly implode; the already lackluster public health care system in America would be ripped to shambles; the world and our lives would be forever changed. Keep in mind, this is merely a hypothetical exercise wherein 10% of American lives are lost.
  34. Hopefully, this engages a little historical empathy if we think back to what really happened with the Native Americans; there’s simply no possible way to comprehend what happened to Native American society. Possibly 95% of all Native Americans died in a matter of decades. Let that sink in for a moment.
  35. Consider how messed up Europe was during the black plague. Bodies were everywhere being burned in piles. Infrastructure and governmental structure were in pathetic disarray. People were producing fewer goods, and the exports they were producing were refused by many countries due to fear of catching the black death, thus tearing apart the European economy. (Hirshleifer Jack, 1966)
  36. To put some perspective on population death, Europe lost roughly 60% of its population, which is a huge number of people, but it lacks true comparison to the possible 95% population loss the Native Americans experienced.
  37. If you were to take a snapshot of Europe after the black plague, would that be a proper picture of what Europe was before the plague, or would everything be in a perpetual state of strife and unrest? Would you be able to properly judge Europe, based on what you saw in 1355? Piles of burned bodies would be everywhere, infrastructure would be in pieces, and education wouldn't be a priority for anybody. The place would be an utter mess. Europe as it was in 1355 would be nothing but a sickly shadow of its former self. What Europe looked like in 1355 was a disturbing obscuration in comparison to the Europe of 1320 before the plague hit.
  38. If the only evidence for European society that we had was a single snapshot of 1355, wouldn’t we come up with a number of theories to explain why it was the way it was? This taps into something embedded in human nature. Maybe curiosity is the best word for it, or maybe personal vocabulary limits the ability to call it something more nuanced; when humans don't know something or can't look back in time somehow, they tend to guess based on the evidence they collect. It's the foundation for the scientific method in general and the word curiosity, with a broad scope of course, and it seems to get at the roots of this tendency in human nature.
  39. Trying to analyze European society, based on a snapshot of 1355, was exactly what the settlers were doing with Native American Society, only to a much greater extent. That’s how we can historically empathize with what must have been going through the settlers minds during the exploration and study of ancient Native American societies. Our other example of current-day American society experiencing some hypothetical super-bug helps us to empathize with what it must have been like for the Native Americans who were being ravaged by the power of old-world diseases.
  40. Once we engage historical empathy with these two thought exercises, we can start to bring the settlers’ experiences into perspective with historical empathy. We have to do this with thought experiments because we have so little real information about the natives. Some native tribes exist only in the historical record because we heard about them through word of mouth. Historians may have heard about them spoken by natives who were trading with the old world settlers, or those tribes were among the many that settlers were killing off to take over their land. The Mayans were basically the only civilization that had any standardized writing system and language that can be interpreted today, and the Mayan Empire fell in the early to mid-17th Century. We can't see through this historical blind spot in the record or navigate this gaping hole in written history, and it's something that historians and scientists have to wrestle with constantly.
  41. Early American scientists and researchers were studying amazing native civilizations that were either abandoned or had only a small contingency of natives still living there. In some of the worst cases, these civilizations had mounds of corpses either laying around or piled up somewhere with a thin layer of dirt covering them.
  42.  As researchers began discovering those seemingly odd civilizations, they came up with a number of theories about how the Natives came to live in such wonders of architecture, who built the cities and mounds, what killed off all of the people, and why some of the civilizations were altogether abandoned. Many researchers believed that the Native Americans had conquered some enlightened race of people who built the civilizations and killed all of them or drove them to a smaller part of the continent or to some island.
  43. This is the point where human curiosity takes a major diversion from the scientific method. Many people studying the Native Americans sincerely believed that white people had come over and ruled the natives and directed them to build the civilizations the European researchers were finding. A number of them sincerely believed that the natives were far too savage and barbarous to actually be capable of such amazing work to build such astounding architecture without the help of an enlightened group of white people to direct them. It’s some kind of white-skinned exceptionalism that drove these biased conclusions of the evidence, and we see it through the quote of Belknap from earlier.
  44. “At what remote period these works were erected and by whom; what became of their builders; whether they were driven away or destroyed by a more fierce and savage people, the Goths and Vandals of America [Indians]; or whether they voluntarily migrated to a distant region; and where that region is, are questions which at present cannot be satisfactorily answered.” (Belknap, 1792)
  45. Belknap was not alone, by any stretch of imagination. This quote placed him with the majority of historians and scientists at the time. The study of American Indians was an ever-growing field which was commonly discussed among readers who were consuming information from people such as Belknap. 
  46. Here is a brief list of books, written before the Book of Mormon in 1829 which espouse and propagate theories of white settlers or emigrated ancient Israelites building the American civilizations that were later taken over by the savage Native Americans. The list includes the name of the author, title, and date of publication, as well as a very brief synopsis of the contents; it was compiled by UTLM.org during their studies of the Book of Mormon origins.
  47. Adair, James, The History of the American Indians, London, 1775.
  48. Adair’s evidence for the Indian-Israelite theory consists of twenty-three parallels between Indian and Jewish customs. For example, he claims the Indians spoke a corrupt form of Hebrew, honored the Jewish Sabbath, performed circumcision, and offered animal sacrifice.
  49. Boudinot, Elias, A Star in the West; or a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, Trenton, 1816.
  50. He relies heavily on evidences compiled by James Adair. He also mentions the Indians’ lost book of God.
  51. Cusick, David, Sketches of the Ancient History of the Six Nations, Lewistone, NY, 1827.
  52. Records Indian fables, which he believes support the mound builder myth. One fable, for example, speaks of the descendants of two brothers continually at war with the other until one group is finally destroyed in North America.
  53. Israel, Manasseh ben, The Hope of Israel, London, 1652 and 1792.
  54. Includes story of a remnant of the ten tribes of Israel being discovered in Peru.
  55. Priest, Josiah, The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed, Albany, 1825 and 1826.
  56. A compilation of many previously published works, includes an extract from Francisco Clavigero's History of Mexico recounting the ancient Mexican traditions of idolatry and human sacrifice and a portion from Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews detailing evidence that Indians were of Hebrew origin.
  57. Smith, Ethan, View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America, Poultney, VT, 1823 and 1825.
  58. Ethan Smith's is by far the most important and interesting work dealing with the origin of the American Indians and the mound builders. Suggests that the first settlers of the New World were the lost ten tribes of Israel. Includes extracts from von Humboldt's description of Mexican antiquities, Atwater's description of the mounds, and evidence from Adair and Boudinot to connect Indians with the lost ten tribes. He also mentions the Indian legend of the lost book of God, which would one day be returned.
  59. Thorowgood, Thomas, Jews in America, or Probabilities That the Americans are of that Race, London, 1652.
  60. He mentions the notion that the gospel was anciently preached in America. Emphasized the millennialistic nature of his Indian-Israelite identification and the importance of the Indians' conversion to Christianity.
  61. Yates, John and Joseph Moulton, History of the State of New York, 1824.
  62. They describe mounds and fortifications in their state and neighboring states, as well as the ruins of an ancient city near Palenque. According to them, these mounds, part of a great chain running down through Mexico and into South America, were built by a separate race of white-skinned people who were destroyed by the Indians. They mention the discovery of hieroglyphic writing and mammoth bones and include reports that Indians in certain locales possessed the signs and tokens of Freemasonry.
     (Tanner, UTLM.org)
  63. As we can see, there were many people publishing various books, pamphlets, and religious materials, as well as publicly lecturing on proposed theories of Native American origins. It was a conundrum that nobody was in a proper place to refute or confirm. They simply didn’t have the level of evidence in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that we have today, which enlightens us to the true origins of the Native Americans’ Asian descent from approximately 13,000 years ago.
  64. A compounding factor to these proposed theories was the belief system that most of these researchers held. The people who settled the American continent were almost exclusively followers of Judeo-Christian religious sects, most being Protestant, escaping the Catholic regime that dominated Europe, which was referenced at the beginning of this chapter. A byproduct of this belief system, something that is pervasive in Judaism and Christianity, is the belief that somewhere in the world lies the "lost tribes of Israel". This is an idea that's not at all exclusive to Mormonism. (“Where are the Ten Lost Tribes?,” 2000)
  65. Throughout antiquity, many Christian religions spread into a new areas and claimed that the people in those new areas were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Currently, Mormonism is doing this with their proselytizing campaigns in Asia, Africa, and South America. The Book of Mormon, along with other Christian writings, tries to shoehorn the world into the pages of the Bible, which tends to introduce problems. One major problem is the fact that all humans aren’t descendants of Noah after the flood. The followers of religions that attempt to make the world fit their world view are consistently trying to apply their existing knowledge onto new facts, and the application doesn't always work. Not everybody in the world is of Hebrew descent, much to the dismay of believers in the Old Testament. The fact that we didn’t all descend from Noah after the flood creates a problem for any religion trying to assert that any given population is a part of the lost ten tribes of Israel.
  66. The Mound-builder Myth

  67. Given the perplexities brought on by the complex civilizations and mounds all over both American continents, a myth began to arise, termed “the mound-builder myth.” Evidence was cropping up all over America that seemed to lend credibility to the myth that the people who built these amazing civilizations and mounds were an enlightened race, far superior to the Native Americans who remained. However, we find an issue with the interpretation of the available evidence and with the preponderance of poor interpretations being asserted as fact. As soon as legitimate scholars and archaeologists began claiming the mounds were built by some enlightened race of white people who were eventually killed off by the dark-skinned natives, newspaper reporters and laypeople wrote articles and books that took the mound-builder myth and ran with it. By the time Joseph Smith was a young man who would have been reading these newspapers and books, there was no shortage of material available that claimed enlightened white-raced origins for the Native Americans.
  68. As discussed in the previous chapter, Joseph Smith was living in the Palmyra/Manchester area of New York from 1816 until 1827. He was a smart individual and no doubt would have been reading any material he could get his hands on at the time, including local newspapers and religious pamphlets. In his own hometown, Palmyra, there were plenty of articles in multiple newspapers that discussed the mound-builder myth. This first article was printed in the Palmyra Register in 1818, a newspaper to which Joseph Smith would have had ready access.
  69. “We can safely infer from them nothing more, than that this immense tract of country, which has every mark of having been for centuries past a desolate wilderness, has been thickly inhabited at some former period by a warlike people, who had made much greater advances in the arts of civilized life, than any of the aboriginal inhabitants of North America[Indians], who have been known since its discovery by Europeans.” (“Indian Antiquities,” 1818)
  70. This next excerpt is from the Geneva Gazette, but was reprinted in the Palmyra Herald, another newspaper to which Joseph Smith would have had access.
  71. “The Indians are reported the aborigines of North America; but I doubt the truth of this proposition. The fortifications and remains of antiquity in Ohio and elsewhere, clearly prove them to be the work of some other people than the Indians. Many of these fortifications were not forts but religious temples or places of public worship. Many of them much resemble the druidical temples still existing in England. 
  72. The first settlers of North America were probably the Asiatics, the descendants of Shem. Europe was settled by the children of Japheth. The Asiatics, at an early period, might easily have crossed the Pacific Ocean, and made settlements in N. America. The South American Indians probably were the first inhabitants of North America. The descendants of Japheth might afterwards cross the Atlantic, and subjugate the Asiatics, or drive them to S. America...”(“Antiquity,” 1823)
  73. It’s clear to us today that the civilizations and mounds on the American continents were constructed by the Native Americans living in pre-Columbian America. They were advanced enough in architecture and building to construct the massive temples and monuments that we find, as well as to build the huge mounds that are found everywhere from the cliff dwelling Anasazis and the mound-building Mississippians all the way to the various pyramids and cities of the Mayan empire of South America. Native Americans were responsible for constructing massive civilizations wherein, in some cases, tens of thousands of people lived, traded goods, and farmed maize together in harmony. In fact, the Native Americans were responsible for human beings’ first attempt at domesticating any crop, maize. When maize started out, it was a nearly non-edible, hard grass; however, through crop selection and genetic engineering, the Native Americans were able to domesticate this grass and use it for a steady energy source, providing the fuel for them to settle in one location and build massive civilizations. In many ways, the Native Americans were more advanced than their European counterparts, which is a sentiment only recently brought to light through proper historical and archaeological studies.
  74. These mound-builder myths were a steady force that colored many people’s understanding of pre-Columbian America for many centuries. Those previous quotes were just two small examples of newspaper articles from relevant newspapers in the same time and place in which Joseph Smith was living, but those articles in no way properly captured the common misconceptions of the mound-builders during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.
  75. Luckily, for the sake of intellectual honesty and furthering understanding of the history surrounding these civilizations, by the dawning of the 20th century, most of the myths had been dispelled and replaced by more accurate studies of the Native Americans. John Wesley Powell, who was the director of the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnology, wrote in the introduction to the Administrative Report of the Bureau of Ethnology published in 1891, in which he briefly described the Mound-builder myths that had been propagated for centuries by that time.
  76. “It is difficult to exaggerate the prevalence of this romantic fallacy, or the force with which the hypothetic “lost races” had taken possession of the imaginations of men. For more than a century the ghosts of a vanished nation have ambuscaded in the vast solitudes of the continent, and the forest-covered mounds have been usually regarded as the mysterious sepulchers of its kings and nobles. It was an alluring conjecture that a powerful people, superior to the Indians, once occupied the valley of the Ohio and the Appalachian ranges, their empire stretching from Hudson bay to the Gulf, with its flanks on the western prairies and the eastern ocean; a people with a confederated government, a chief ruler, a great central capital, a highly developed religion, with homes and husbandry and advanced textile, fictile, and ductile arts, with a language, perhaps with letters, all swept away before an invasion of the copper-hued Huns from some unknown region of the earth, prior to the landing of Columbus.”(Powell, 1894, XLI-XLII)
  77. He continues on to make a 10-point list that deconstructs the Mound-builder myth, but number 8 is the most concise and complete to include here:
  78. “The explorations of the Bureau exhibit the fact that the mounds of the eastern portion of the United States cannot be distinguished from those of the western portion as belonging to a higher grade of culture, while there is abundant evidence that the western mounds have in part been erected and used by the Indians in historic times. The present Director has himself seen two burial mounds in process of construction—one in Utah, on the banks of the Santa Clara, near the town of St. George, constructed by a tribe of Shoshonean family; the other built by the Wintun Indians in the valley of Pitt river, near the fish-hatching station on that stream. The evidence in favor of the Indian origin of the western structures has been so great and the facts have been so well known that writers have rarely attributed them to prehistoric peoples.” (Ibid., 1894, XLVII)
  79. As we can see, the myth that the Mound Builders were some enlightened race, which was exterminated by the Native Americans was wholly abandoned by most legitimate scholars by the turn of the 20th century. There were still a number of books in circulation that claimed the theory, some of which made it into the list of mound-builder myth books earlier in this chapter, but very few people were still embracing and propagating the mound-builder myth by the time that John W. Powell released this annual report in 1894, except for believers in the Book of Mormon.
  80. One may be asking, why is any of this relevant? We’ll examine this in detail during the Act 3 “Content/Claims” portion of the book, but it is worth noting that the ENTIRE premise of the Book of Mormon relies on the mound-builder myth as put forward in many 17th, 18th, and 19th century books to which Joseph Smith may have had access. The scholarly consensus in Joseph’s day aligned with the myths presented in the books featured in the earlier list. Not only were these books available to Joseph, but some of them, like History of the State of New York by John Yates and Joseph Moulton, were used as text books in New York schools.
  81. Not only was no scholar or historian able to refute the claims made in these books, but studies of the Native Americans simply hadn’t advanced far enough to refute said claims. The evidence we have now wasn’t available to people in order to refute such fantastic theories. The majority of archaeologists, historians, and scholars were propagating the mound-builder myths because that was the scientific consensus at the time, and the Book of Mormon was written while many people believed in such mound-builder myths.
  82. One may argue that the Book of Mormon describes only one small subsect of Native Americans, not all of the Natives as a whole. While that may be true, the Book of Mormon is fairly limited in the peoples it describes. The Book of Mormon claims that in 600 B.C.E., the family of Lehi traveled across the Atlantic Ocean from Jerusalem and landed in the promised land, the American continents. Soon after their arrival, Lehi died.  The majority of the book follows the two denominations of Lehi’s descendants:  the righteous, light-skinned Nephites and the wicked, dark-skinned Lamanites.
  83.  The Nephites are known to be the more blessed and God-fearing of the tribes, and they were responsible for building the majority of the civilizations all across the American continents.  The wicked Lamanites were the savage, tent-dwelling, hunter-gatherer Native Americans that the 19th century people knew and feared. According to Mormon 6:14-15, the wicked and uncivilized Lamanites nearly exterminated the entire race of the Nephites.
  84. “14 And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.
  85. 15 And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each; yea, even all my people, save it were those twenty and four who were with me, and also a few who had escaped into the south countries, and a few who had deserted over unto the Lamanites, had fallen; and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth.”
  86. There’s much more content in the Book of Mormon that reveals it to be a book furthering the antiquated mound-builder myth. We simply cannot ignore the prevailing theories that sought to explain the Native American civilizations during Joseph Smith’s time. We’ll examine the mound-builder myth portions of the Book of Mormon during Act 3 in a much deeper examination, but this has been merely an introduction to the archaeology and scholarship that Joseph would have been exposed to during his lifetime. This information needs to be taken into account when considering the Book of Mormon as a whole. Any person claiming the Book of Mormon to be of ancient origin needs to explain how a 19th century myth was the basis for the entire Book of Mormon, a myth that has been long since debunked and relegated to the science and study of a previous age.
  87. Antiquity. (1823, February 12). The Geneva Gazette, p. 37. Geneva, N.Y. Retrieved from http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/ny/miscnysg.htm
  88. Belknap, J. (1792). A Discourse, Intended to Commemorate the Discovery of America. Boston: Apollo Press. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/discourseintende00belk
  89. Fantz, A. (2014, November 17). Doctor’s death marks second U.S. Ebola fatality. CNN Health. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/17/health/ebola-u-s-/
  90. Hicks, P. (2008). The British Navy, 1739-1802. Retrieved June 14, 2016, from http://www.napoleon.org/en/history-of-the-two-empires/articles/the-british-navy-1793-1802/
  91. Indian Antiquities. (1818, January 21). Palmyra Register, p. 9. Palmyra, N.Y. Retrieved from http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/ny/miscnysg.htm
  92. Jack Hirshleifer. (1966). Disaster and Recovery: The Black Death in Western Europe. Technical Analysis Branch United States Atomic Energy Commission, (February), Summary. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2005/RM4700.pdf
  93. Lambert, T. (2006). Bowling Deaths Double. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://raisedbyturtles.org/bowling-deaths-double
  94. Miller, J. C. (1966). The First Frontier: Life in Colonial America. New York City: Dell Publishing Company.
  95. Powell, J. W. (1894). Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/bureauofethnology00thomrich#page/n49/mode/2up
  96. Stefan Lovgren. (2003). Who Were the First Americans. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0903_030903_bajaskull.html
  97. Tanner, S. (n.d.). Where Did Joseph Smith Get His Ideas for the Book of Mormon? Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/bomindianorigins.htm
    1. Where are the Ten Lost Tribes? (2000). Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/israel/losttribes.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *