Science vs. Mormonism:
The Dangers of Dogmatism and Sloppy Reading

Review of Duwayne R. Anderson. Farewell to Eden:
Coming to Terms with Mormonism and Science.

Bloomington, IN: 1st Books Library, 2003. xxx + 350 pp., bibliographical references,
appendixes, and index. $29.95 hardcover, $22.95 paperback.

Science vs. Mormonism: The Dangers of Dogmatism and Sloppy Reading

Reviewed by Robert R. Bennett

     I have trouble understanding why people drift away
from the Church. I’m sure the reasons are different and varied. I can understand
if a person wants to misbehave and has to rationalize to himself. He has to
think he’s all right. But I also understand that people who think they have
to be as smart as the Lord, understand everything, and have no contradictions
in their minds may have trouble. There are all kinds of contradictions that
I don’t understand, but I find the same kinds of contradictions in science,
and I haven’t decided to apostatize from science.

     In the long run, the truth is its own most powerful
advocate. The Lord uses imperfect people. He often allows their errors to
stand uncorrected. He may have a purpose in doing so, such as to teach us
that religious truth comes forth “line upon line, precept upon precept”
in a process of sifting and winnowing similar to the one I know so well in

Henry Eyring1

Duwayne R. Anderson is a former member of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who decided that his understanding of Mormonism
was incompatible with his understanding of science. Farewell to Eden
is his attempt to show how the two are incompatible. It contains an interesting
mixture of science—explained at roughly the level of Scientific
and Anderson’s thin understanding of Latter-day Saint

While serving as elders quorum president, Anderson began to question his
faith. He read the Old Testament for the first time and learned that, according
to the Pentateuch, Moses had ordered (under God’s direction) the slaughter
of all the males of the Midianites whom they had conquered in war (Numbers
31:14–18). Anderson calls any “God” that demanded such actions
a monster. He felt that his concerns with this passage in the Old Testament
were not adequately answered by his church leaders.

Would a loving God command such a thing of his children? Is there a way to
rationalize the command to destroy human life while maintaining a belief in
the goodness of God? God obviously regards life and death differently than
mortals. He gives a general prohibition against the taking of life—”thou
shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13)—and in fact classifies murder as
the most grievous sin next to denial of the Holy Ghost.2
However, he at times makes exceptions to this prohibition, as in the cases
of Nephi slaying Laban and the armies of Israel being commanded to kill conquered
peoples. It is not impossible to believe that God recognizes that mortality
is but a step in an eternal existence, that all people will eventually die,
and that he, as our creator, holds the right to determine the timing.

For Anderson, however, it appears that there is no possible exception to
the prohibition against killing or no possible reason for God to order the
deaths of people. All is black or white.

I finally decided that I simply had two choices. On the one hand, I could
accept the story as written, and conclude that Moses was doing God’s will.
In this case, I would be forced logically to reduce God to a butchering monster.
My second choice was to retain my concept of a benevolent God, full of goodness
and virtue, and conclude that Moses was either a false prophet or that the
historical record had been seriously corrupted. (p. xvi)

The fact that millions of people have read that identical
scripture and still managed to maintain both a belief in a loving God and
a belief in the prophetic mission of Moses seems beyond consideration for
Anderson. That there could be a time, place, and circumstance in which God
determined that it was in the best interest of his children to return the
Midianite sons to him in the spirit world is simply impossible in Anderson’s
black-and-white world. This passage of scripture, of course, is not unique
to Mormonism or even to Christianity. Three major faiths, comprising over
three billion of the earth’s population, regard Moses as a prophet and accept
the Old Testament as the word of God. Anderson’s argument is actually with
all of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Anderson started to “examine critically the church’s conflicts with
geology, physics, chemistry, and biology, and . . . [began] to realize
that the church’s position on many issues related to these branches of science
are [sic] in direct conflict with well-established
scientific facts” (p. xxi). He describes going to his stake president
to discuss this issue, but “the scientific problems simply went over
his head” (p. xxi). Anderson discovered that he no longer believed.
He then read several books critical of the church, including Fawn Brodie’s
No Man Knows My History.3

The most immediate thing I learned from Brodie were [sic] the many
details about Joseph Smith and church history that the church ignored, glossed
over, or denied. I began to resent what was emerging as a pattern of official
intellectual dishonesty by the church and its apologists, in denying or sidestepping
intellectual issues that conflicted with LDS doctrine. I began to see a pattern,
and that pattern was one of deception. (p. xxii)

This is vintage anti-Mormonism—general accusations
of “official intellectual dishonesty” against any and all who are
not in agreement with a critic, without providing any detail for examination.
Reputable scholars have disputed Brodie’s arguments, objecting, for example,
to her tendency to declare what a long-since deceased person’s motives or
thoughts must have been.4

Anderson then discusses his disillusionment with the Book of Mormon and its
defenders. He specifically takes Hugh Nibley to task for “his continual
habit of making arguments that are so broad they can be used to justify belief
in virtually anything, including UFOs and little green men” (p. xxii).
By associating him with “little green men,” Anderson attempts to
make Nibley look absurd to the reader—without engaging any of his arguments.
Of course, the reference to “little green men” is wholly Anderson’s
invention. Nibley never said any such thing. Anderson goes on in his criticism
of Nibley: “Basically, he argued that until someone manages to absolutely
prove with no uncertainty at all that the Book of Mormon is false, then it
has to be admitted that it could be true” (p. xxii). Once again,
this is a gross mischaracterization of any argument that I’ve ever seen Nibley
make, and I daresay he never made such an argument.

In another vein, Anderson conjectures that his life is in danger because
of his apostasy. “Solemn priesthood brethren had taught me that those
who apostatized from the LDS Church died mysteriously of awful diseases”
(p. xxiii). Who are these “solemn priesthood brethren”? The
closest I have ever heard to such teachings are some accounts of the allegedly
untimely deaths of those who participated in the murders of Joseph and Hyrum
Smith.5 I have never heard that apostasy leads
to death from awful diseases. Anderson cites nothing in Latter-day Saint publications
to illustrate this charge. He struggles to put some stamp of official church
sanction on these reported teachings by referring to their being spoken by
“solemn priesthood brethren.” To the uninitiated, this sounds like
official clergy of the church. In reality, though, the phrase priesthood
is synonymous with male church
members over the age of eleven.

Anderson also claims to have been taught that, if he lost his testimony,
he was evil and would lose his job, his wife, his children, his sanity, and
his health. It would be consistent with church teachings to say that it is
unlikely that the apostate would have his wife or children after this
life, but Anderson seems to imply that the church teaches that these things
will be lost in this life. Losing one’s family after this life should be utterly
meaningless to an atheist such as Anderson since he believes there is nothing
after this life.

The book is dedicated to Duwayne Marlo Anderson, a relative of the author
who seems to have followed a similar path out of the Church of Jesus Christ.
The author Anderson gives a rather strange account of the effects of Marlo’s
name being mentioned in a family setting, which gives us significant insight
into his own thought processes. He maintains:

Sometimes I’d overhear a conversation between adults in the other room, someone
commenting that Marlo was “some big shot” working for the government
on scientific equipment destined for a Mars mission. Some in the room would
usually remain silent at the mention of Marlo’s name, and I could read in
their silent expressions the pain of knowing that Marlo was a likely Son of
Perdition. (p. xiii)

Anderson apparently has the ability, by looking at their
faces, to read the minds of those who remained silent, knowing by their expressions
that they believed that Marlo was a likely son of perdition. Did anyone actually
say this, or is Anderson simply ascribing his thoughts to others?

Anderson’s explanation of the sons of perdition is illustrative of his tendency
to misread Latter-day Saint scriptures and teachings:

     In LDS theology a Son of Perdition is someone who has been a member of the
LDS Church, known its doctrinal secrets, had the witness of the Spirit, and
turned away from the Church. Such apostates are considered to be worse than
the devil, and LDS scriptures describe them as being better off having never
been born (see D&C 76:31–32). (p. xiii n. 1)

Language in Doctrine and Covenants 76 describes those
who become sons of perdition, but Anderson has misread the text. It does not
teach that simple apostasy from the church relegates one to being a son of
perdition. The full text states:

     Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know
my power,
and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves
through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth
and defy my power—

     They are they who are the sons of perdition, of
whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;

     For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer
the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;

     Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness
in this world nor in the world to come—

     Having denied the Holy Spirit after having
received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having
crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.
(D&C 76:31–35)

To be a son of perdition requires more than a witness
of the Spirit—they must have known God’s power and been made partakers
thereof. Further, they must defy God’s power—not merely deny, but defy.
Further, they must crucify Christ unto themselves and put him to an open shame.
Joseph Smith taught:

     All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against
the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What
must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost,
have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin
against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance
for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it;
he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him,
and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it
and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many
apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.6

In this statement, Joseph Smith does not describe an apostate who simply leaves
the church. Anderson displays a fundamental misunderstanding of Latter-day Saint

What Is Mormonism?

In this first chapter, Anderson acknowledges the stress that church leaders
place on education, yet states, “At the same time, while recognizing
the church’s legitimate support of education and learning, it would be an
equal mistake to ignore or deny the force with which the church opposes intellectual
issues that the brethren consider threatening to the institution and/or its
members” (p. 9). He leaves this statement unsupported. The reader
is left to wonder what intellectual issues the Brethren supposedly oppose,
and how exactly this opposition is manifest.

Anderson explains that the Saints are asked to speak in church services but
adds the caveat that “only members who are perceived as being uncontroversial
are invited to speak” (p. 14). The bishop may assign a specific
topic for the speaker, but in my experience there is no degree-of-perceived-controversy
analysis for potential speakers. The Saints who teach and speak in sacrament
meetings are encouraged to teach correct doctrine. Anderson views this as

Anderson has a rather interesting perception of a term that the Book of Mormon
uses—the “church of the devil”; he claims that the Book of
Mormon “describes how all churches except the LDS Church constitute the
great and abominable church of the devil” (p. 15). This represents
an extremely narrow reading of the Book of Mormon and is inconsistent with
the manner in which church leaders from the beginning have described other
churches. Can Anderson come up with a quotation from one of the prophets asserting
that “all churches except the LDS Church constitute the great and abominable
church of the devil”? I’ve certainly not seen one. Generally speaking,
leaders are quite complimentary of the Protestant Reformers, seeing their
work as a necessary step in laying the foundation for the restoration.7 In a discourse delivered in Rexburg,
Idaho, on 17 August 1884, President John Taylor reviewed the accomplishments
of Martin Luther and his able coworker Philipp Melanchthon and acknowledged
that they performed their labors under the influence of the Spirit of God:
“They were good men. They sought to do good, and did do good; for he
that doeth righteousness is righteous. They followed the leadings of that
portion of the Spirit of God which is given to all men to profit withal. They
operated in the interests of humanity.”8

In his book, Anderson presents his own hierarchy of doctrinal authority in
the Church of Jesus Christ (pp. 16–17):

1.     General conference
addresses (by General Authorities)

2.     Church magazine
articles by General Authorities

3.     The words
of living General Authorities

4.     The Book
of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price

5.     The Bible

6.     Sermons by
General authorities to local members

7.     Sermons by
local leaders (inconsequential)

Anderson includes a note explaining why he places the
standard works as number 4 and not higher. “Mormons will say (and honestly
believe) that they hold their scriptures as being more authoritative than
pronouncements by their apostles and prophets. In practice, however, it doesn’t
work that way” (p. 17 n. 17).

According to Anderson, since prophets and apostles interpret the scriptures,
their words carry more weight than the scriptures themselves. Anderson’s example
to illustrate his point is fallacious in that it relies on a misreading of
the Book of Mormon: “Even though the Book of Mormon seems to condemn
polygamy (see Jacob chapters 1 and 2), the LDS Church practiced it under the
direction of the General Authorities” (p. 17 n. 17). Anderson
has simply misread the Book of Mormon. Jacob condemns the unauthorized practice
of polygamy:

     Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and
concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord . . .

     Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to
the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be
one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

     For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of
women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of
Hosts. (Jacob 2:24, 27–28)

This seems to be where all those seeking to condemn
the church’s practice of polygamy stop reading. If they were to read verse
30, they would discover qualifying language: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I
will command my people; otherwise
shall hearken unto these things” (Jacob 2:30). If the Lord commands polygamy,
it is acceptable to him. Thus the position of the nineteenth-century church
in practicing polygamy is completely consistent with the Book of Mormon and
Anderson’s is a false contradiction. Living prophets can instruct the members
of the church when practices should be changed. Nevertheless, the scriptures
continue as the standard by which doctrines and practices are judged.

In a section titled “Hidden doctrines,” Anderson asserts that the
Brethren hide things, its leaders lie, and “one cannot simply trust Mormons
to be particularly forthcoming about what the church teaches” (p. 25).
He attacks President Gordon B. Hinckley in his oft-quoted discussion
of the teaching that God was once a man in an interview with the San Francisco
13 April 1997. If there
was ever a case of making a man an offender for a word, this is it. The damning
citation is as follows:

     Q [SFC]: There are some significant differences
in your beliefs. For instance, don’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?

     A [GBH]: I wouldn’t say that. There was a little
couplet coined, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”
Now that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty
deep theology that we don’t know very much about. (p. 22)

Anderson then quotes several church publications that discuss the doctrine
that God was once a man and claims that President Hinckley is “minimizing
the doctrine” (p. 22); Anderson uses this as an example of the church
hiding its doctrines. The publications Anderson cites are certainly available
to anyone who is interested. A better question might be—is an interview
with a newspaper really the place to go into the significance of this couplet?
President Hinckley merely indicated that we do not know very much about these
matters. In the King Follett funeral discourse, Joseph Smith taught that God
had a mortal existence. But that is about all we know. In fact, Joseph intimated
that God’s mortal existence was similar to Christ’s rather than to the typical
human’s.9 To insist that President Hinckley’s
preference to refrain from discussing an idea about which we know very little
with a newspaper reporter somehow amounts to hiding doctrines seems a significant

What Is Science?

Anderson offers a definition of science for the purpose of contrasting it
with Mormonism. He describes science as “a way of thinking that begins
by assuming the universe is knowable and that we can understand it by study,
experimentation, and observation” (p. 27). He strives to describe
the scientific method and some of the achievements of science; he elaborates
on the application of scientific theories, which has given us “faster
ships, rockets, . . . computers, . . . and vaccines.”
He then concludes that “nobody can deny the practical and verifiable
success of the scientific process. In short, we have faith in the philosophy
of science because it produces such spectacular results” (p. 30).

Anderson claims that “science is based on observations that are verified
by other, critical experimenters. Mormonism is based on revelation that is
accepted by faith, and not generally, reliably, or universally verifiable
by independent and critical observers” (p. 40). Whatever one might think
of this assertion, it does not preclude the truthfulness of Mormonism. In
matters of faith, what constitutes an “independent critical observer”?
One that has no faith? If faith is a necessary part of obtaining a witness
of the spirit, can one without faith conduct an independent assessment? Certainly
tens of thousands of people each year claim to have received a confirmation
of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

He also asserts that “science has no sacred principles that cannot be
questioned. Mormonism is based on certain sacred principles, the questioning
of which is socially taboo, resisted, sometimes punished, and viewed as personal
weakness to be overcome” (p. 40). This assertion is not true. I
would dispute the notion that the principles of science can be freely questioned
without social consequences. Attempts to question fundamental scientific theories
have been met with derision, hostility, and personal attacks. Here, as in
other places that Anderson attacks the Church of Jesus Christ, no references
are provided to back up the accusations.

Anderson further maintains that “critical, skeptical thinking is central
to science, fostered, encouraged, and often rewarded in terms of the quality
of work performed. Mormonism resists and sometimes punishes skeptical thinking,
especially regarding core sacred principles” (p. 40). Again, the dichotomy
is overstated in both directions. In practice, scientists do not always encourage
and foster skeptical thinking, and the church does not necessarily resist
or punish such thinking. It depends on the forum and the attitude.

And Anderson argues that “science demands that theories change or be
discarded when they fail to describe observations. Mormonism demands faith
in sacred principles whether or not they are in disagreement with observation”
(p. 44). I would argue that Mormonism doesn’t demand anything. It teaches principles regarding man’s origins,
destiny, and purpose; what constitutes good and evil; the nature of God; the
role of Jesus Christ; and so forth. It provides a path for people who accept
these teachings to attain and maintain membership in the Church of Jesus Christ.
The church is not in a position to demand.

With these alleged differences between Mormonism and science in mind, Anderson
attempts in subsequent chapters to show how Mormonism is incompatible with scientific

Mormonism and the Science of Complexity

Anderson begins this chapter with a discussion of the Latter-day Saint concept
of God, including the unique belief that God has a body of flesh and bones
and was at one time a mortal man who progressed in knowledge. But his understanding
of Latter-day Saint scripture is rather tenuous. For instance, Anderson makes
the following claim:

     At times, though, the LDS concept of God seems positively
inconsistent. For example, even though the Doctrine and Covenants clearly
states that God has a physical body of flesh and bone, as tangible as man’s,
the Book of Mormon clearly states that God is a spirit:

     “And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness,
and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And he answered and
said unto him that I do not know what that meaneth. And then Ammon said: Believest
thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said Yea. And Ammon said: This is
God” (Alma 18:24–28). (pp. 48–49)

Anderson then explains:

     Historians of Mormonism are likely to view Alma
18:24–28 and Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 as illustrative of the evolution
of Joseph Smith’s concept of God. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, are
likely to explain Alma 18:24–28 as e[i]ther a reference to the Holy
Ghost, or possibly as Alma speaking in a language that the Lamanites could
understand; basically giving them “milk” before “meat.”
(p. 49)

Alma 18:24–28 is a particularly poor choice of
scriptures to use to define the Latter-day Saint concept of God and to show
a contradiction to other scriptures. First, this is not a doctrinal sermon,
but simply an account of a missionary (Ammon, not Alma, as Anderson mistakenly
claims) and an investigator (King Lamoni) seeking common ground for a discussion.
Second, part of what Anderson claims as a possible Latter-day Saint explanation
(speaking in a language the Lamanites could understand) is actually quite
reasonable. This is an account of a Nephite missionary speaking to a person
unfamiliar with the Nephite concept of God. When Lamoni is not sure what Ammon
means by the question, Ammon reframes it in terms that Lamoni can understand.
Third, it would be helpful if Anderson engaged the actual statements that
Latter-day Saint scholars make about this and other topics rather than invent
likely explanations. I personally know of no Latter-day Saint who ever claimed
that Ammon was referring to the Holy Ghost in this passage. Finally, outside
of Ammon’s attempt to speak in a language that Lamoni could understand, this
scripture is actually doctrinally correct without the need to reference the
Holy Ghost. In Latter-day Saint doctrine, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob (and Nephi, Alma, and Ammon) is identical to Jesus Christ. A simple
glance at the bottom of page 255 in the current edition of the Book of Mormon
will show that Ammon’s missionary work to the Lamanites occurred in approximately
90 BC, at which time the premortal
Christ was, indeed, a “Great Spirit.”

None of these explanations is acceptable to Anderson. Instead, he portrays
Latter-day Saints as either inconsistent in their doctrine or simply dishonest.
A footnote to the milk-before-meat sentence above once again impugns the honesty
of Latter-day Saints: “This explanation further illustrates the justification
held within the LDS Church of not always being totally honest and forthcoming
about doctrines espoused by the Church” (p. 49 n. 32). Shall
we also accuse mathematicians of not always being totally honest and forthcoming
when they refuse to teach sixth graders the principles of calculus? Are chemists
dishonest when they describe atoms to their beginning chemistry students as
planets (electrons) rotating around a star (nucleus), completely failing to
mention the particle wave duality of electrons and the fact that the electrons’
locations are best described by a probability function—concepts students
will understand only after considerable additional education?

Further, Anderson betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of
the Holy Ghost. He states:

     LDS doctrine, then, teaches that God the Father
and Jesus Christ are literally two individual men with physical bodies. These
bodies are described as being similar to ours in shape and in size. As such,
God the Father and Jesus Christ occupy a finite amount of space. The Holy
Ghost, though, is a spirit, and through means not described in detail apparently
can permeate space. (p. 50)

Actually, Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that the Holy Ghost is a personage
of spirit. It is also clear in Latter-day Saint doctrine that a personage
of spirit cannot permeate space. A personage of spirit occupies a specific
physical space every bit as much as a person of flesh and bones, as shown
by Christ’s great revelation to the brother of Jared in which he showed him
his spirit body (see Ether 3:16). This spirit body was the same size and shape
as his physical body. Anderson confuses the physical location of God (or the
Holy Ghost) with his influence. The light of Christ is indeed understood to
permeate all space (D&C 88:7–12), despite the fact that Christ himself
occupies a finite space. Similarly, the Holy Ghost can influence people across
the earth without his spirit body actually being present.

According to Anderson, Latter-day Saint doctrine proclaims that God and Christ
(and indeed all resurrected beings) have physical bodies that exist within
our universe. Anderson uses the doctrine of the physical nature of God and
the finite dimensions of his brain to theorize that a brain of this finite
dimension could not possibly be omniscient because of the impossibility of
storing that much information in so small a space. Even granting the possibility
of a planet-sized Urim and Thummim to aid God in storing information (referencing
D&C 130:1–10), Anderson insists that this is insufficient storage
space for all knowledge. He thus believes that he has demonstrated the impossibility
of the Latter-day Saint concept of God. Personally, I am unwilling to take
the position that I understand enough about every possible realm of existence
and every possible method used by God to know all things to make this rash
claim. It seems the ultimate arrogance for man to assume that because he cannot
comprehend how such a thing could be, given his understanding of the universe,
such a thing cannot be.

It is true that God is a physical being, according to the Latter-day Saint
doctrine of God, but it is also true that Latter-day Saints believe that God
is a spiritual being and that he has a glory far beyond that comprehensible
to mortal man. Indeed the glory of God is such that mortal man cannot survive
his presence without a quickening or translation from his current state (see
Moses 1:2, 9–11). Anderson never addresses this part of Latter-day Saint
theology but instead assumes that God’s body consists of nothing more than
standard protons, electrons, and neutrons, of which we have a relatively complete

The final twenty pages of the third chapter are devoted to a fairly detailed
discussion of quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
Briefly, this principle states that a particle’s momentum and position cannot
both be known precisely at a given instant and that there is an inherent uncertainty
in these values that is not the result of our inability to measure precisely,
but rather a property of matter in our universe. This discussion is all fairly
standard physics and would not likely be disputed by any Latter-day Saint
scientist. However, Anderson then uses the Heisenberg principle as proof that
God cannot possibly know all things. “Quantum physics prohibits it. Deterministic
nonlinear chaos prohibits it. This represents, I think, one of the most significant
conflicts between Mormon doctrine and modern science” (p. 74).

Anderson is really stretching here. He ignores the Latter-day Saint belief
that there is a whole realm of spiritual existence beyond the measuring capabilities
of mortal manmade devices. How does spirit matter (D&C 131:7–8), for
example, interact with physical matter? What does “the glory of God”
mean in a scientific sense? What sorts of laws govern spirit matter and spirit
beings? It is illogical to postulate that the Latter-day Saint concept of an
omniscient God is impossible because he has a physical nature and the laws of
physics prohibit all things being known, while ignoring the Latter-day Saint
concept of the spiritual nature of all things. It fails to account for all the
data and thus goes against the very philosophy with which Anderson is so enamored.
If Latter-day Saint theology stated that there is nothing in the universe beyond
that which our senses can detect, then Anderson might have grounds for his argument.
But that is not the case. Latter-day Saint belief in a spirit realm beyond our
physical realm and senses can be neither proved nor disproved using scientific
methods. A Latter-day Saint scientist will seek to use the scientific method
to better understand the physical universe and leave the spiritual realm to
other methods.

Mormonism and Astronomy

Much of chapter 4 is devoted to Anderson’s interpretation of astronomy in
Abraham 3 and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Latter-day Saints
believe that God has created numerous other worlds besides the earth and has
placed his children upon them. Anderson describes the attempts scientists
on earth have made to detect extraterrestrial life and suggests: “If
there really are extraterrestrials out there, and they are transmitting electromagnetic
radiation into space, we ought to be able to detect them” (p. 108).
He further affirms that “intelligent life should be able to spread through
the universe on a timescale that’s short compared with the life of the universe.
So if there’s intelligent life somewhere, it should be everywhere, and we
should have met or heard from them by now. So the fact that, after all our
searching, we haven’t contacted extraterrestrials suggests strongly that there
are none” (p. 109).

This is a very bold statement resting solely on conjecture. Many scientists
have argued that we are unlikely to encounter extraterrestrials simply because
the distances between stars are so vast as to make interstellar travel impractical.
Anderson also fails to take into account the length of time that would be
required for signals from extraterrestrials to reach the earth. There could
well be civilizations such as ours sending electromagnetic signals off into
space as we are, but if their technology was acquired more recently in time
than they are light-years away, we wouldn’t be able to detect them yet. To
state, as Anderson does, that the fact that we haven’t yet contacted other
civilizations from other worlds strongly suggests that they don’t exist seems

Anderson attacks the Book of Abraham because of its focus on the rates of
rotation of heavenly bodies (see, for example, Abraham 3:4–10) and because
it calls bodies with slower rotations greater than those with more rapid rotations.
He even carries the argument to manmade satellites:

     It’s easy to make a satellite artificially, for
example, that does not rotate at all. In fact, the Hubble space telescope
is such a satellite. For very precise astronomical observations it must point
directly at a particular part of the sky with exact precision (without rotating)
while its instruments image stars and galaxies. Using Joseph Smith’s criterion,
which equates greatness with slow rotation, we’d have the odd conclusion that
such a satellite would be greater than the greatest star in the universe.
(p. 111)

Aside from the fact that Anderson is stretching the
analogy here, since the Book of Abraham is speaking of the creations of God,
not of man, he really doesn’t even have the science right. The Hubble telescope
Web site reveals that the telescope is hardly stationary in space. The Hubble
site discusses the difficulty of keeping the telescope pointed in the direction
of interest:

     Imagine trying to take a picture of someone from
a seat on a moving Ferris wheel. You’d have a hard time keeping that person
in the camera’s field of view. Astronomers using Hubble have to take this
concept to the extreme. Their “camera” is revolving around Earth
at 17,500 mph . . . and the Earth is moving around the Sun at 67,000

The telescope is thus constantly being adjusted to compensate
for its rapid revolution around the earth, and the analogy, already tortured,
simply falls apart.

Anderson never really addresses what the Book of Abraham may mean when referring
to some heavenly bodies being greater than others. While it does connect rate
of revolution with greatness, it doesn’t really spell out what that means, other
than the rate of revolution or the reckoning of time. The Book of Abraham refers
to the moon (the lesser light to rule the night) as being “above or greater
than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order
more slow” (Abraham 3:5). It isn’t clear exactly what the Book of Abraham
means regarding greatness other than what it spells out—the rate of revolution
and therefore the reckoning of time on a celestial body. Anderson insists on
a reading that is not obvious from the text and interprets it in a way that
makes it look as bad as possible for the Latter-day Saint scriptures.11

Mormonism and Geology

Anderson explains what science has discovered about the history of the earth
and its origins and then contrasts this with his understanding of Latter-day
Saint doctrine. Again, his argument isn’t so much with Mormonism here as it
is with anyone who believes the book of Genesis to be a literal account of
the creation of the earth. Anderson’s actual argument is with his own literal
interpretation of Latter-day Saint scriptures and his own application of that
interpretation as broadly or as narrowly as he chooses.

For example, Anderson provides a table comparing the creation accounts from
the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham and discusses aspects of them (p. 120).
He claims that

     One of the first things the astute reader notices
in the creation accounts of Moses and Abraham is the lack of internal logical
consistency. For example, Abraham 4:1–2 says:

     “And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And
they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and
formed the heavens and the earth. And the earth, after it was formed, was
empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and
darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was
brooding upon the face of the waters.”

     Notice that, in verse 1, the gods are depicted as
organizing the heavens and the Earth, and in verse 2 the argument is given
that the Earth was “empty and desolate” because the God’s [sic]
had not “formed anything but the earth.” Yet the story had just
described that the heavens had been organized, and Facsimile 2 states the
[sic] Kolob was the first creation (not Earth), so the story, and its
sequence of events, is inconsistent. (p. 121)

The inconsistency here is entirely of Anderson’s making,
based completely on his reading of the scripture. Should we really insist
that the account of the creation of this earth in Abraham 4 (as it clearly is from the remainder of
the chapter) has anything to do with the creation of the rest of the universe?
Does the statement “And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and
desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth” necessarily
apply to the entire universe? The sentence itself indicates that it is only
referring to the earth.

It is often quite helpful to look at other scriptures when attempting to
understand which interpretation of a particular passage makes the most sense.
The Book of Moses gives an account of Moses’s vision of the earth’s history
and of a conversation Moses had with God. The Lord told Moses,

     And worlds without number have I created. . . .
But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto
you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of
my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto
man. (Moses 1:33, 35)

Here God clearly specifies that this earth is neither
the first nor the last of his creations. This is consistent with Abraham’s
placing the creation of Kolob prior to that of this earth and with the understanding
that the creation account given in Abraham 4 describes only the creation of
this earth. The inconsistency only comes with Anderson’s insistence that a
verse describing the creation of the earth is really describing the creation
of the universe.

There have been many attempts both by Latter-day Saints and other believers
in Genesis to reconcile the scriptural account of the creation with the theories
of science. None, as far as I am concerned, has been completely successful.
One problem may be that they are trying to assign to the scriptures the same
strictly literal chronological precision demanded by science, a claim that the
scriptures themselves do not necessarily maintain.

Mormonism and Biology

Anderson’s argument in this chapter is not so much with Mormonism but with
creationism—the belief that God had a hand in creating the earth and
its inhabitants. While he specifically attacks anyone who doesn’t fully accept
the theory of evolution, his implication is that anyone who believes in God
is quite ignorant of science.

As is typical in this book, Anderson fails to engage in any meaningful way
thoughtful scientists, whether Latter-day Saint or not, who believe in the
existence of God and that God played an active part in the creation of the
world and the life thereon. As with other chapters, Anderson spends most of
his time giving a primer on one aspect of science (in this case evolution
and the structure of DNA) and then contrasting that with statements from various
Latter-day Saint General Authorities.

Anderson prefers the theory of evolution to explain life on the earth in
all its complexity and goes into some detail to explain why the diversity
of life is consistent with the theory of evolution as it has developed over
the past century or so. Where I believe Anderson makes his mistake is that,
along with thousands of atheistic scientists like him, he assumes that because
it is possible to explain life on the earth through the theory of evolution,
without resorting to bringing God into the equation, that this is the only
or even the best explanation. While creative evolutionists have come up with
various naturalistic reasons why these types of changes occurred, there is
nothing to prove that God didn’t have a hand in the direction and magnitude
of these changes. The problem is that the naturalistic evolutionist begins
with the premise that all changes in nature are explainable by natural laws,
without the need to invoke the divine. Thus, any explanation proffered will
naturally exclude any type of divine intervention. But in the end, all that
remains is a theory developed to explain a set of observations. There is no
proof, and likely none possible, to show that God did or did not direct the
development of species.

Anderson himself admits that not all of the details of the theory of evolution
have been filled in:

While the general forces that drive evolution are understood, factual, and
non-controversial, there are many details that apply to local situations,
and are not fully understood or agreed upon. Roughly 100 years after Darwin
we are still working through the details of exactly what the theory of evolution
is all about. (p. 217)

After saying this, Anderson goes on to bolster the theory
of evolution by observing that virtually all scientists believe it to be correct,
despite disagreements on the particulars, and thereby seems to anticipate
any potential detractor’s arguments that there are holes in the theory. That
said, it still appears to me that belief in the theory of evolution requires
a certain faith. All the answers are not yet there. The evolutionist simply
has faith that they will be there some day.

In the end, I cannot accept the atheistic assertion that there is no ultimate
purpose to life and that the wondrous diversity of life we see all about us,
and indeed in mankind itself, is simply a chance occurrence of randomly changing
DNA molecules. I cannot accept that the beauties and glories of life are simply
due to some fortunate combination of molecules under the right circumstances.
Anderson cites as evidence against divine direction (or even existence) things
like junk DNA—DNA that appears to be left over from previous evolutionary
processes and that no longer serves any useful purpose. While that is certainly
one possible explanation or conclusion that could be drawn, is it really the
only one? Anderson makes final pronouncements on topics such as evolution, while
at the same time recognizing that the picture is still incomplete. He presumes
that if he can’t think of a good reason for God to act in a certain way, there
must be no God at all.

Mormonism and Archaeology

In my opinion, this chapter is the weakest in the book. Much of Anderson’s
dispute with Mormonism is dependent on his broad (geographical and temporal)
reading of certain Book of Mormon passages. For example, he claims that

     The idea of America as a promised land, reserved
exclusively for those who worship Jesus Christ and preserved as an inheritance
for God’s chosen people, is a fundamental and persistent theme throughout
the Book of Mormon. [Ether 2:9–12 is then quoted.] (p. 225)

This seems rather an odd statement since the Book of
Mormon itself describes many people who do not worship Jesus Christ but who
inhabited the continent nonetheless. As a matter of fact, it claims that,
with the destruction of the Nephites, none save Moroni (and perhaps the three
Nephites) is known to worship Christ. Since the Book of Mormon places the
destruction of any in the Western Hemisphere who claimed to be Christian at
around AD 400, we have at least an additional 1100 years prior to the coming
of Christians to the New World during which distinctly non-Christian peoples
possessed the whole of the Americas.

Another broad reading leads Anderson to state,

According to the Book of Mormon, the ancient American continent was populated
by three different migrations of people who traveled by ship from the Old
World to the western hemisphere. (p. 225)

While it is certainly true that the Book of Mormon identifies only these
three groups specifically as coming to the Western Hemisphere, it by no means
declares that these groups were exclusive—that they were the only peoples
ever to come to the Americas anciently. The Book of Mormon is essentially
silent regarding others whom the Jaredites, Mulekites, and Lehites might have
found once they arrived. However, several scholars have pointed out passages
in the text of the Book of Mormon that suggest the presence of others.12 Book of Mormon descriptions of early
wars when the Lehite population couldn’t have consisted of more than a hundred
or so adults, of people seeking riches, of polygamous relationships in Jacob’s
day, and of Sherem’s apparent lack of acquaintance with Jacob all speak of
a larger population than could have been derived from Lehi’s group.

In his discussion of the journeys of the Jaredites, Anderson conflates the
accounts of their travels through the Old World with their journey to the

     Upon entering their boats for the yearlong trip
to the Promised Land, the people brought aboard all sorts of plants and animals
from the Old World:

     “And it came to pass that Jared and his brother,
and their families, and also the friends of Jared and his brother and their
families, went down into the valley which was northward, (and the name of
the valley was Nimrod, being called after the mighty hunter) with their flocks
which they had gathered together, male and female, of every kind. And they
did also lay snares and catch fowls of the air; and they did also prepare
a vessel, in which they did carry with them the fish of the waters. And they
did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee;
and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which
was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind” (Ether 2:1–3).
(p. 227)

The problem with this citation is that it is not a description of what the
Jaredites took with them to the New World, but what they took as they journeyed
across the Old. Ether 2:5–6 gives a brief description of these travels
(most assume across Asia):

     And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them
that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where
there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before
them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither
they should travel.

     And it came to pass that they did travel in the
wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being
directed continually by the hand of the Lord. (Ether 2:5–6)

While they travel across many bodies of water in this
journey, they do not cross the ocean. When verse 13 picks the narrative back
up, the Jaredites have arrived at the seashore, where they spend four years:

     And now I proceed with my record; for behold, it
came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to
that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they
pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and
they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of
four years. (Ether 2:13)

It is only after their four-year sojourn on the seashore that they build
additional boats to take them on their journey to the New World; these boats
are compared to the barges that they had previously built, to which Anderson
wrongly refers as submarines. (That they could be submerged under waves without
sinking is true, but they are actually described as being “light upon
the water” Ether 2:16.)

When Moroni finally gets back to the narrative of the Jaredites following
his account of the brother of Jared’s encounter with the Savior, he gives
a somewhat different description of what they took in the barges to cross
the ocean:

     And it came to pass that when they had prepared
all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also
food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that
they should carry with them—and it came to pass that when they had done
all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth
into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God. (Ether 6:4)

This passage does not mention their carrying the fish
or honeybees that they had carried in the Old World. While it could be argued
that this is a minor point of error, I believe it is symptomatic of Anderson’s
careless reading of the scriptures (he exhibited similar sloppiness in his
reading of Doctrine and Covenants 76 regarding the sons of perdition, as discussed

Anderson insists on Book of Mormon inconsistency when it is actually only
his flawed reading of the text that leads to the contradiction. He claims:

     Lehi’s comments in 2 Nephi 1 also illustrate
a point of logical inconsistency in the Book of Mormon, for although Lehi
clearly states that the land had been kept “as yet” from
other nations when he and his family arrived, Joseph Smith’s later inclusion
of the Jaredite nation (inserted out of sequence near the end of the Book
of Mormon) clearly has the Jaredite nation hidden somewhere on the American
continent when Lehi landed there. The confusion, no doubt, resulted from the
elapsed time between Smith’s dictation of Lehi landing, and his later decision
to include the account of the Jaredites arriving from the Tower of Babel.
(p. 230)

Anderson’s reading and assumptions are simply flawed here. Nothing in Lehi’s
statements about the promised land require inclusion of the entire Western
Hemisphere, any more than the Israelite’s promised land of necessity included
all of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is rather unlikely that Lehi had any concept
of the extent of the American continents when he arrived. The fact that there
was a Jaredite nation some hundreds of miles to the north of his landing site
does not negate his statements regarding the land that his family was to occupy.
Certainly people have read Lehi’s statements as being inclusive of all of
North and South America, but that, like the hemispherical model for the Book
of Mormon lands is simply not supported by the text. Throughout the Book of
Mormon, a careful reading of the text reveals that the “lands” that
Nephite prophets describe can be no more than around two hundred miles wide
and several hundred miles long. There is nothing to suggest that the Nephite
writers had a continental concept in mind when writing.

Anderson’s assumption that Joseph Smith somehow forgot about the prophecies
of Lehi when composing the book of Ether seems difficult to reconcile with
the fact that while Joseph was allegedly forgetting whole chapters of prophecy
regarding the New World, he managed to accurately recall dozens of geographical
features of Nephite and Lamanite lands, all the time keeping them consistent
with one another in terms of name, direction, elevation, and distance.

Anderson further compounds his misreading by dreaming up another explanation
for this apparent inconsistency.

     An alternate explanation is that Smith inserted
the story about the Jaredites because he’d realized he’d made a mistake in
2 Nephi. According to the Book of Mormon, when Lehi and his family arrived
in the Promised Land there is the implication that they found domesticated

     “And it came to pass that we did find upon
the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts
in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the
horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which
were for the use of men. . . . ” (1 Nephi 18:25).

     Notice that the Book of Mormon mentions both goats
and wild goats, which might imply that there were domesticated animals
that had gotten [loose] and were running around when Lehi arrived in the Promised
Land. Having realized this earlier error, Smith may have invented the Jaredite
nation as a means of trying to fix the problem. Unfortunately, however, he
forgot to go back and fix Lehi’s prophetic statement in 2 Nephi 1:8.
(pp. 230–31, emphasis in original)

Again, any problems here are entirely of Anderson’s making and are based
on his insistence on reading Lehi’s prophecy as encompassing all time periods
and an entire hemisphere. Like many other anti-Mormon writers, he claims to
see an error in the text by forcing a certain interpretation on it, and then
attempts to read Joseph Smith’s motives for writing the misread text.

First Nephi 18:25 has been used as evidence for the presence of others
in the Americas prior to Lehi’s arrival. Nothing in the Book of Mormon precludes
many people or nations in many parts of the Western Hemisphere sharing the
continent with the Lehites. Second Nephi 1:8 only speaks of the land
being kept from the knowledge of other nations.
This prophecy doesn’t even preclude people from living in the land of Lehi’s
landing, only nations. Nothing
in the text would prevent the presence of people in villages possessing domesticated
goats and losing some into the wilderness. But, to Anderson, this perfectly
reasonable reading is at most a “long-shot” (p. 231 n. 118);
the more likely explanation for him is that Joseph is simply covering up for
earlier mistakes.

Anderson again errs in his basic ability to comprehend the text of the Book
of Mormon in discussing the languages used by the Book of Mormon people.

The Book of Mormon also states that Lehi was able to read the Brass Plates
only because he could read Egyptian (Mosiah 1:3–4). This combined with
the fact that the Book of Mormon says the language of the people was preserved
by the Brass Plates establishes the Book of Mormon claim that the ancient
Americans used Egyptian. Later descriptions in the Book of Mormon describe
the ancient Americans also using Hebrew, which illustrates yet another failure
at internal consistency within the Book of Mormon, since the Book of Mormon
is quite specific that the language which was preserved was the same as on
the Brass Plates, which was Egyptian. (p. 233 n. 121)

Let’s see what the Book of Mormon actually says and whether Anderson is accurate
in his claim of inconsistency. Mosiah 1:3–4 states:

     And he also taught them concerning the records which
were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should
remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and
these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present
time, not knowing the mysteries of God.

     For it were not possible that our father, Lehi,
could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children,
except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in
the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and
teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children,
and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.

Anderson fails to cite verse 2 in Mosiah 1, which asserts that King Benjamin
“caused that they [his three sons] should be taught in all the language
of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that
they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths
of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.”
Although not explicitly stated, this verse actually implies that the “language
of their fathers”—presumably Hebrew or Egyptian—was not the
common language of the Nephites at this time, some 470 years after Lehi left
Jerusalem. It appears that they had to undergo special training (caused to
be taught) in this language so they could understand the prophecies that had
been written.

Anderson’s statement that “the Book of Mormon claim[s] that the ancient
Americans used Egyptian” is too broad and nonspecific. It would be better
to assert that the Book of Mormon claims that some ancient Americans (possibly
a rather small class of nobles in a relatively small geographical region)
wrote in a modified (reformed) form of Egyptian.

The later verses to which Anderson is apparently alluding when claiming inconsistency
between Hebrew and Egyptian, even though he doesn’t cite them, are Mormon

     And now, behold, we have written this record according
to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed
Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of

     And if our plates had been sufficiently large we
should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also;
and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection
in our record.

I’m searching to find the “yet another failure at internal consistency
within the Book of Mormon” that Anderson is claiming here. He seems to
confound language with script. The verses in Mormon 9 describe two forms of
script used by the Nephite record keepers—reformed Egyptian and Hebrew
(also modified). It actually says nothing of the language used. It is also
not unprecedented, nor even unusual, for the educated class of a people to
be bilingual. It appears that in Anderson’s mind if someone knows Egyptian,
or at least how to write using the reformed Egyptian script, it is impossible
or inconsistent that he also knows how to write using the Hebrew script. The
meaning of the text is quite clear—Mormon had the option of writing
his record in either reformed Egyptian or Hebrew, and he chose reformed Egyptian
because it apparently required less space on the plates. There actually is
no inconsistency, regardless of Anderson’s claims.

Anti-Mormons have frequently attacked the Book of Mormon for its claim of
coins in the ancient Americas at a time when there apparently were no such
things.13 Apparently aware that numerous Latter-day
Saint commentators have noted that the Book of Mormon text never uses the
word coin, despite the chapter heading
of Alma 11, Anderson still insists that the Book of Mormon peoples were described
as using coins.

     Alma, chapter 11, describes metal coins made of
gold and silver. Although the Book of Mormon does not use the word “coin,”
it is clear from the context. For example, verse 4 begins: “Now these
are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver,
according to their value . . .” (p. 240 n. 125)

Actually, though, nothing here suggests that these pieces
of gold and silver were anything more than that—pieces of gold and silver.
Nothing indicates that they were minted coins—rounded and flat pieces
of metal with inscriptions stamped or engraved on them. This is all in Anderson’s

The Book of Mormon makes no sweeping claims of the type Anderson seems wont
to make. It does not state that “the ancient American continent was populated
by three different migrations of people”—at least not exclusively,
as seems to be implied by Anderson here. Later, Anderson explicitly claims
that “in summary, the Book of Mormon describes ancient America as a land
kept apart and reserved exclusively for the Christians that God led to the
land” (p. 241). Since the Lamanites and even the Jaredites, for
that matter, are certainly not Christians for most of their history (nor are
the Mulekites, since they spent several hundred years with no teachings of
God), Anderson’s interpretation of the scripture is far too narrow and is
simply inconsistent with the text. Anderson does not seem to allow for the
possibility that God could lead people to the promised land without requiring
that they be Christian. He seems to insist on this narrow interpretation of
the scripture so he can claim that all the people of ancient America must
be Christian or else the Book of Mormon is false.

Anderson spends twenty pages describing current scientific understanding
of the history of man in the Western Hemisphere. (I presume that his summary
is accurate, although I’m not an expert in this field; given his propensity
to misread the Book of Mormon, I’m not sure how valid my presumption is.)
There really isn’t anything here that argues against the Book of Mormon. He
then tries to compare his summary history of the Americas before Columbus
with the Book of Mormon, but he fails to engage seriously any of the substantial
body of literature on the subject, choosing rather to misrepresent it and
then dismiss it almost out of hand. He never actually interacts with the Latter-day
Saint scholars who have studied both Mesoamerican archaeology and history
and the Book of Mormon, such as John Sorenson or John Clark.

For example, he states:

     Some apologists place the Book of Mormon lands in
Central America [so far, so good]. These arguments as they relate to the narrow
neck of land are especially ad hoc and unconvincing. [How about actually engaging
the arguments instead of simply dismissing them? Show us why they are
unconvincing.] Some apologists have tried to associate various Amerindian
civilizations, such as the Maya, with the Nephites, but the dates don’t match
up. The Maya were established in the Americas before the Book of Mormon says
Lehi arrived, they are not Hebrews from Jerusalem, and their language . . .
is not related to Hebrew or Egyptian. (p. 271)

It would be helpful if Anderson could show where any of the more scholarly
treatments of a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon made any of these
claims that he seems to be attributing to them. Is Anderson claiming, because
he can apparently find at least one (unspecified) person who thinks the Mayas
were Nephites, that all proposals about how the Book of Mormon fits into a
Mesoamerican setting are therefore false? This seems to be the implication.
In fact, though, scholars such as Sorenson explicitly address possible interactions
between Lehites and Mayas. And their discussions bear little resemblance to
the simplistic and rather simple-minded caricature that Anderson supplies
on their behalf.

Anderson claims that the civilizations of Mesoamerica during Book of Mormon
times do not look like the civilizations described by the Book of Mormon,
yet he fails to engage those Latter-day Saint scholars who suggest that the
two actually correspond quite closely. He has failed to consider a large body
of scholarship on this topic, particularly that of John Sorenson in An
Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon
and more recently of John Clark in the Journal of Book of Mormon
14 These scholars go into great detail
to show how the culture and geography of the Book of Mormon match well with
what we know of Mesoamerican societies at that time. Rather than engage these
types of scholarly arguments, Anderson takes the rather bizarre course of
comparing Book of Mormon peoples to the Romans, using as evidence the paintings
of Arnold Friberg: “So clear is the Roman imagery in the Book of Mormon
that Mormon artists have inadvertently captured it in brilliant paintings.
Among the best-known LDS painters is Arnold Friberg” (p. 260). Anderson
describes Friberg’s paintings, noting the heavy musculature on the Friberg
men and then drawing the extraordinary conclusion that “except for the
dark skins of the stripling warriors (who were Lamanites) the painting looks
very much as Joseph Smith might have imagined a legion of Roman soldiers marching
off to battle” (p. 262).

The idea that Joseph Smith imagined the Nephites as Romans is completely
an invention of Anderson’s mind. Anderson created a table comparing Rome with
the Nephites (p. 261), apparently to show the connections between the
two civilizations, although many of his connections are tenuous to the point
of absurdity. For example, he suggests that a significant parallel between
the two is the fact that Rome was attacked and pillaged by the Gauls and that
the Nephites were attacked by Lamanites and plagued by Gadianton robbers.
Rome had wars and the Nephites had wars. But so did Paris, Athens, London,
Peking, Jerusalem, and virtually every other city or state that has existed
for centuries. What exactly is the point? Anderson’s chart also notes that
food staples for both civilizations were wheat and barley. These are certainly
not unique to the Roman Empire. They were staples across Europe. How do wheat
and barley tie the story of the Nephites to the Roman Empire specifically?
Anderson somehow finds significance in the fact that both civilizations had
silk. But so did the Chinese. Why isn’t Nephite civilization compared with
China? This is a strange table that Anderson has assembled in an attempt to
show parallels between Nephite and Roman civilizations. Many of the examples
are not parallels at all, and the others could apply equally to many ancient
civilizations. Moreover, Anderson once again completely fails to engage Latter-day
Saint scholars such as Sorenson (and more recently Clark) who have written
extensively on parallels between Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican societies.

Anderson discusses what some view as archaeological evidences for the Book
of Mormon and accepts none of them as valid, arguing that any and all things
mentioned in the Book of Mormon would be what a nineteenth-century author
would naturally imagine ancient America to be like, including the presence
of cement (see Helaman 3:7) and the people being descendants of Hebrews.15

One example that Anderson cites of Latter-day Saint apologists using recent
archaeological discoveries to support the Book of Mormon is the location on
the Arabian Peninsula of a candidate for the river Lehi (presumably he means
the river Laman). Anderson dismisses this discovery as trivial—”why
would we expect a 19th-century writer not to imagine a river in Arabia?” (p. 268).
Anderson notes, just to throw in a little more doubt, that its verification
is still lacking. One wonders what sort of verification he is talking about—verification
that the river is there? Certainly photos of the river verify that it is there.
Does he mean verification that the river is actually the river Laman? This
is impossible without a twenty-six-hundred-year-old inscription saying, “Lehi
was here with his two recalcitrant sons Laman and Lemuel and his two good
kids Nephi and Sam.” Of course, Anderson never troubles himself to try
to find out what nineteenth-century authors might have thought about Arabian
rivers. But he goes on
to criticize the candidate for the river Laman, presumably that identified
by George Potter,16 though never referenced.

Anderson continues his attacks on proposed Book of Mormon geographies:

     In all these attempts to find support for the Book
of Mormon, there are always some details—hundreds of them, actually—that
don’t add up. If the geography can be shoehorned into the Book of Mormon’s
description, the civilizations and dates don’t come even close. If the dates
can be shoehorned into agreement by ignoring what the Book of Mormon says,
and hypothesizing pre-Lehites that are specifically rejected by the description
in 2 Nephi 1, the geography and specific details of the civilizations
(their foods, animals, etc.) don’t agree. What we are left with is something
of a hodgepodge of explanations that lack any coherent, unifying or consistent
theme among them, and disagree in almost every detail with the scientific
evidence. (p. 272)

It is clear that Anderson has done at least some reading of current Latter-day
Saint scholarship on the topic of Book of Mormon geography and cultural connections
to ancient Americans. However, his summary of it is virtually unrecognizable.
Once again, Anderson fails to engage LDS scholarship in any meaningful way.
He interprets 2 Nephi 1 as requiring the American continents to be empty
at Lehi’s arrival (although this interpretation is explicitly contradicted
by the presence of the Mulekites and Jaredites) and then dismisses any argument
that requires pre-Lehites. Since Anderson never does address or reference
Sorenson, Clark, Gardner, or any other Latter-day Saint scholar’s work explicitly,
it is difficult to tell which portion he finds so scientifically untenable.

Anderson does manage to misread a passage from the Encyclopedia of
In a discussion on horses, an ever-favorite target of opponents of the
Book of Mormon, Anderson cites the Encyclopedia thus:

     Book of Mormon mention of horses in pre-Columbian
America has drawn much criticism, and no definitive answer to this question
is at present available. Linguistic data suggest that Book of Mormon “horse”
need not refer to equus, but could indicate some other quadruped suitable
for human riding, as Mesoamerican art suggests (Sorenson, 1985, p. 295). (p. 273)

He then argues:

     This is an extremely specious argument for a number
of reasons. First of all, there is no “linguistic data” at all.
No known ancient American language is a derivative of Hebrew or Egyptian,
which are the languages the Book of Mormon claims were used by the ancient

Anderson here misunderstands the point that the encyclopedia is trying
to make. It doesn’t state that the linguistic data refers to the Nephite’s
language, to Hebrew, or to Egyptian. The argument that has been made by several
Latter-day Saint authors is that there is evidence from other studies that
the names of animals don’t always translate well between languages and that
history shows that explorers tend to name newly discovered animals after the
names of animals with which they are familiar.17 Examples that have been given include the Greeks naming
an animal that was new to them a “river horse” (hippopotamus), even
though it has no connection to a horse. The native Americans apparently called
the Spaniards’ horses “deer that men ride.”18 The linguistic argument
concerns how names of animals translate between languages, and the existence
of Hebrew or [reformed] Egyptian in the Americas is irrelevant to the argument.

Anderson goes on: “Second, the Book of Mormon says the ancient Americans
were Hebrews who sailed to the Americas about 600 BCE. As such, they would
have known what a horse is. In such circumstances, if they found an animal
like a horse, the convention would be for a qualifier on the term, and not
to simply use the naked word ‘horse'” (p. 273). To what “convention”
does Anderson refer? Is he simply imagining what an ancient explorer would
do? Did all ancient explorers go to explorer school so they could be sure
to follow the standard convention when they found new animals? I suspect Anderson
uses this insistence on a qualifier to argue that the hippopotamus analogy
is invalid here because it was called a “river horse” as opposed
to simply a “horse.”

Another of Anderson’s arguments against the Latter-day Saint position is that
since the Book of Mormon is supposed to be an inspired translation, God would
not allow translation errors to creep into the text. I always find it interesting
when atheists purport to know what God would or would not do. Why is God required
to be taxonomically precise, according to current conventions, when aiding in
the translation of a sacred record?

Statistics Relating Mormonism and Science

In this final chapter, Anderson takes sixteen pages to attempt to refute
the teachings that he claims to have received as a young boy that

Mormons are the most scientific people on the Earth. This was a natural thing,
of course, given the belief that all scientific achievements are the result
of the Latter-day Saints who have brought the restoration to the Earth. The
resulting flood of God’s spirit fills not only the Saints, but also all people.
As proof of this, my teachers would point to statistical studies showing that
Utah produces more scientists than any other state in the Union. What more
proof could someone ask, than to see the state of Deseret leading the nation,
even the world, in the discovery of God’s truth? These attitudes persist today,
and can be found on several pro-LDS Internet sites aimed at mollifying Mormons
concerned over the increasingly obvious and serious problems between science
and their religion. Here is an example from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
(p. 294)

I particularly like Anderson’s reference here to the “state of Deseret,”
rather than calling it Utah. Is this an attempt to put Utah back into a nineteenth-century
theocracy? The article Anderson references cites research that makes three
claims: (1) “A 1940 study established that Utah led all other states
in the number of scientific men born there in proportion to the population”;
(2) “from 1920 to 1960 . . . Utah led all other states
by a wide margin in the proportion of its university graduates who eventually
received doctoral degrees in science”; and (3) “unpublished
research indicates that this high productivity continued through the 1970s,
though Utah dropped to second place among the fifty.”19 While he attempts to connect the two, the Encyclopedia
of Mormonism
does not make the claims Anderson contends he was taught as a boy. It
doesn’t say that Utah leads the nation and the world in the discovery of God’s
truth. It doesn’t say that “all scientific achievements are the result
of the Latter-day Saints who have brought the restoration to the earth”
(p. 294). Nor does it substantiate Anderson’s earlier claim that his
Latter-day Saint instructors taught him that “the Latter-day Saints directly
or indirectly, were responsible for every scientific advance” (p. 294).
Since one can point out numerous scientific advancements, such as the printing
press, Newton’s delineation of the principles of physics, the development
of calculus, and Galileo’s development of the telescope, that occurred prior
to the restoration of the gospel, the claim that all advances came as a result
of the restoration is demonstrably incorrect for anyone with even the slightest
understanding of the history of science and technology. In any case, even
if it is true that the rate of scientific advancement has been greater since
the restoration than prior to it (a more reasonable claim for church members
to make, and one that I have heard), it is not the Latter-day Saints but rather
God who is responsible for this increase of knowledge, so individual Saints
have nothing to boast about.

Anderson discusses problems he finds in the studies cited by the Encyclopedia
of Mormonism
article and some of the problems with the use of statistics. His warnings
are certainly good advice, and statistical data should always be used carefully
and with an understanding of the method used to acquire it and its limitations.
It is not clear, however, that the warnings really apply to the articles cited
in the Encyclopedia on Mormonism, although Anderson certainly implies that the studies are
invalid. That said, Anderson’s discussion of the difference between correlated
and causal relationships is right on the mark and is a lesson more people
need to understand.

My response to this whole chapter is—”So what?” So what
if Anderson shows that some of the teachings he claims to have received as
a child were overzealous and inaccurate regarding the accomplishments of Latter-day
Saint scientists? Other than the quotation from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
he never actually cites any statements by Latter-day Saint scriptures,
manuals, or authorities to back up the things he claims he was taught. Even
at that, the encyclopedia article does not make the claims that Anderson says
he heard as a child.

In summarizing his statistics, Anderson falls into the very trap he so
strongly suggests we avoid—he draws unsubstantiated conclusions. Witness
the penultimate summary paragraph from Anderson, after having shown a number
of statistical studies suggesting that Utah does not lead the nation in science

     Reviewing all these data, we see that generally
Utah has average to slightly above-average statistics, though in some important
metrics regarding science education they are below the median. This is consistent
with a world view in which truth and knowledge are respected, while maintaining
a certain aloofness and wariness regarding the “wisdom of man.”
Within these data one can get a glimpse of the dual personality within Mormonism,
in the simultaneous desire for knowledge, coupled with the all-important need
to protect the literal myths of Joseph Smith’s religion. (p. 309)

Again, Anderson is attempting to connect his view of Mormonism with statistics
that do not say any such thing. The statistics, if accurately portrayed by Anderson,
simply show that Utah is somewhat above the median in some educational metrics.
They do not speak of a “dual personality within Mormonism” or demonstrate
the worldview of a respect for truth and knowledge while maintaining aloofness
and wariness regarding the wisdom of man. Whether or not these things are true,
Anderson is abusing the statistics in attempting to connect his view of Mormonism
with these statistical studies.


Is it possible for a scientist to be a believing Latter-day Saint? Anderson
suggests that it is not, at least if the scientist is honest. I consider Henry
Eyring to be an example that contradicts this point. It is beyond dispute
that Henry Eyring was a great scientist. He was one of the most brilliant
chemists this nation has ever produced, while at the same time a most humble
and likeable person. I believe that it is also beyond dispute that he was
a believing Latter-day Saint and that he was honest about both his science
and his belief. This single example alone refutes Anderson’s absolute claim—and
such examples could be multiplied many times over. I began my review of Anderson’s
book with a quotation from Dr. Eyring’s book Reflections of a Scientist.
Duwayne Anderson appears to me to fit Dr. Eyring’s description of people who
think they have “to be as smart as the Lord, understand[ing] everything,
and hav[ing] no contradictions in their minds.” With humility and faith
instead of skepticism, Eyring addresses some of the topics that Anderson discusses:

Questions involving the age of the earth, pre-Adamic man, or organic evolution
may seem to us to be interesting and important. However, I doubt that God
thinks they matter enough to have provided definitive explanations in our
current scriptures. They will all receive adequate answers in due course.
Whatever the ultimate answers are, the gospel will remain, and new questions
will take the place of those we solve. For me, the truth of the gospel does
not hinge on such questions, interesting as they are.20

On the other hand, the exact age of the earth is apparently of so little
import religiously that the scriptures sketch earth history in only the briefest
terms. The present heated religious controversies on the subject will undoubtedly
be resolved in time and will then appear as quaint as the medieval arguments
on the shape of the earth seem to us now.

     In my judgment, anyone who denies the orderly deposition
of sediments with their built-in radioactive clocks places himself in a scientifically
untenable position. Actually, the antiquity of the earth was no problem for
two of our greatest Latter-day Saint leaders and scientists, John A. Widtsoe
and James E. Talmage. However, there are vast differences in the training
and background of members of the Church. Therefore, I am completely content
that there is room in the Church for people who think that the periods of
creation were twenty-four hours, one thousand years, or millions of years.
I think it is fine to discuss these questions and for each individual to try
to convert others to what he thinks is right. It is only fair to warn parents
and teachers that a young person is going to face a very substantial body
of scientific evidence supporting the earth’s age as millions of years, and
that a young person might “throw the baby out with the bath” unless
allowed to seek the truth, from whatever source, without prejudice.

     The Lord made the world in some wonderful way that
I can at best only dimly comprehend. It seems to me sacrilegious to presume
that I can really understand him and know just how he did it. He can only
tell me in figurative speech that I dimly understand, but that I expect to
more completely comprehend in the eternities to come. He created the world,
and my faith does not hinge on the detailed procedures he used.21

Although not in the same class as Henry Eyring, I know for a fact that I
am a believing scientist as well. As a scientist, my personal philosophy is
to search for truth but to recognize that there are ways to access truth beyond
the laboratory. Are there questions to which I don’t know the answers regarding
the scriptural accounts of the creation and the accepted theories of modern
science? Absolutely. Do I believe that modern science has sufficient understanding
of the history of the earth to preclude a belief in the veracity of the scriptures?
No. I believe that modern science has developed a reasonably consistent picture
of the history of the earth and the cosmos given the data and the tools with
which it has to work. Do I put such great faith and trust in the findings
of science that I am willing to jettison my beliefs in God, my faith in Christ,
and my testimony that the Book of Mormon is the word of God? I do not.

There are some questions for which I have no answers, but rather than throw
in the towel and declare myself an atheist because I can’t explain how current
scientific theories square with scripture, I am willing to put those questions
on the shelf, as it were, until additional information is available.

As much as I might try, I cannot explain away the events surrounding the
restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the witnesses
to the Book of Mormon, the life of Joseph Smith, or my own personal experiences
with the workings of the Spirit as nothing more than fraud and wishful thinking.
For example, if a single case of healing by the power of the priesthood, a
visitation by spirit or resurrected beings, visions of the hereafter or any
other spiritual manifestation is true and legitimate, then there are planes
of existence and realities that science is incapable of penetrating or measuring.
If Oliver Cowdery was telling the truth in his accounts of the visit of John
the Baptist or of Peter, James, and John or of Moroni showing him the gold
plates, then there is a vast world of reality that science has not discovered
how to detect. Shall we be so arrogant in our knowledge and understanding
that we simply dismiss anything outside of our instruments as being not only
unknowable but nonexistent? Doesn’t that put us into the same category as
Korihor, who proudly proclaimed, “Behold, ye cannot know of things which
ye do not see” (Alma 30:15)?

I have no reason to doubt that Duwayne Anderson is sincere in his belief
that science and Mormonism are incompatible. However, I believe that it is
a mistake to presume to limit God by virtue of man’s understanding of the
physical universe. I believe that Anderson’s readings of Latter-day Saint
scriptures are flawed and literalistic in the extreme and that he fails to
deal with the large body of literature that addresses some of the very points
of Latter-day Saint doctrine with which he disagrees.


1.   Henry Eyring,
Reflections of a Scientist (Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book, 1983), 47.

2.   See, for example,
W. Cole Durham Jr., “Murder,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
2:970: “Murder is condemned in latter-day scripture just as it is in
the Ten Commandments and numerous other passages in both the Old and the New
Testament. The Doctrine and Covenants declares that ‘thou shalt not kill’
(D&C 42:18). The murderer ‘shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor
in the world to come’ (D&C 42:18). In Latter-day Saint doctrine, murder
is second in seriousness only to the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against
the Holy Ghost.”

3.   Anderson claims that
“the Church had taught me that Brodie was an evil apostate who had been
seduced by the Devil” (p. xii).

4.   One of the more
entertaining discussions of some of the problems of Brodie’s work is Hugh
Nibley’s “No Ma’am, That’s not History,” which is now included in
Hugh Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales
about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young,
David J. Whittaker (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991), 1–45.

5.   N. B. Lundwall,
comp., The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Publisher’s Press, 1952); see Dallin
Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused
Assassins of Joseph Smith
(Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1975).

6.   Teachings
of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
comp. Joseph
Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 358, emphasis added.

7.   For example,
see Thomas S. Monson, “Led by Spiritual Pioneers,” Ensign, August 2006, 3; Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Restoration
and Faith,” Ensign, January 2006, 32–34; Gordon B. Hinckley, “At the Summit of
the Ages,” Ensign, November
1999, 73.

8.   John Taylor,
in Journal of Discourses, 25:264. This
example could be multiplied manifold and hardly represents a belief that all
who are not Latter-day Saints are part of the church of the devil.

9.   See, for example:
“As the Father hath power in Himself, so hath the Son power in Himself,
to lay down His life and take it again, so He has a body of His own. The Son
doeth what He hath seen the Father do: then the Father hath some day laid
down His life and taken it again” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph
312); and “The Scriptures
inform us that Jesus said, As the Father hath power in Himself, even so hath
the Son power—to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious—in
a manner to lay down His body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going
to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. Do we believe
it? If you do not believe it, you do not believe the Bible.” (Teachings
of the Prophet Joseph Smith,

10.   See
(accessed 22 August 2006).

11.   For some Latter-day Saint
viewpoints on the concepts of astronomy as taught in the Book of Abraham,
see John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw
the Stars': The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” and
Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody, “Astronomy and the Creation in the
Book of Abraham,” both in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS,
2005), 1–36.

12.   See, for example, John
L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others
There?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1/1 (1992): 1–34.

13.   See, for example, John
Ankerberg and John Weldon, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1992), 285–86. This
particular anti-Mormon book was reviewed by Daniel C. Peterson in Review
of Books on the Book of Mormon
5 (1993):
1–86, with the brief discussion on coins in the Book of Mormon on p.

14.   John L. Sorenson, An
Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985); John E. Clark, “Archaeology,
Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief,” Journal of Book of Mormon
14/2 (2005): 38–49. See
John L. Sorenson, “Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe,” Review
of Books on the Book of Mormon
6/1 (1994): 297–361; Sorenson, Mormon’s
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000); John E.
Clark, “Archaeological Trends and the Book of Mormon Origins,” BYU
44/4 (2005): 83–104; and
Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical
Antecedents and Early Interpretations,” FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 225–76.

15.   On cement, see John L.
Sorenson, “How Could Joseph Smith Write So Accurately about Ancient American
Civilization?” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W.
Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002),
287–88; and “Concrete Evidence for the Book of Mormon,” in
Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed.
John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2002), 212–14.

See George D. Potter, “A New Candidate
in Arabia for the ‘Valley of Lemuel,'”
of Book of Mormon Studies

8/1 (1999): 54–63.

17.   See Daniel C. Peterson
and Matthew Roper, “Ein Heldenleben?
On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons,” FARMS
16/1 (2004): 202–4.

18.   See Sorenson, Ancient
American Setting,

19.   Robert L. Miller, “Science
and Scientists,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1273.

20.   Eyring, Reflections
of a Scientist,

21.   Eyring, Reflections
of a Scientist,