More Stupid Apologist Tricks: The Nahom Maps

I know, I’ve been trying to scale back on Mormon-related posts, but this week I stumbled across something that I couldn’t pass up. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been fascinated by the ongoing discussion between Baylor History Professor Philip Jenkins and retired BYU History Professor William Hamblin on their respective blogs, Anxious Bench and Enigmatic Mirror.

In May of this year (2015), Dr. Jenkins posted a series of articles about the proper use of evidence in historical research, beginning with “I Want to Believe,” which discussed a book called The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’s Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. He posted without much notice from Mormons for a few weeks, and then he made a fateful decision.

On May 17, Jenkins chose to provide a sort of object lesson in how pseudoscience is done in “Mormons and New World History.” He wrote:

I have a lot of sympathy for Mormonism and the LDS tradition, for multiple reasons. So many of their ideas and principles appeal to me, and my personal dealings with Mormons have been overwhelmingly positive. The church’s phenomenal social ministries fill me with awe. As to whether the church was founded by an authentic prophet: with all humility, I say, God knows. On the academic side of things, if you don’t know Mormon history, you are missing a huge amount of American religious history. If a member of my family announced an intention to join the LDS church, I would disagree with their decision, but I would wish them all success.

But here’s the problem. If I look at the Book of Mormon as a historical text, as opposed to a spiritual document, it is simply not factually correct in any particular. In some controversial exchanges, I have been surprised to find how many clearly educated and literate Mormons think that the work can be defended as a work of history and archaeology. It can’t. The reason mainstream historians and scholars do not point out that fact more often is either that they are unaware of the book’s claims, or that they simply see no need to waste time on something so blatantly fictitious. This really is not debatable.

This kind of sweeping assertion would not go unanswered by Mormon apologists, even though Jenkins outlined quite clearly why he believes there is no positive evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient American document, at least no evidence that meets the requirements of legitimate scholarship (he’s right, I shouldn’t have to add).

Professor Hamblin responded within a day with “Philip Jenkins on Book of Mormon Historicity,” asserting that Jenkins was “seriously mistaken and uninformed on a number of issues.  (My suspicion is that his LDS informants were of the liberal persuasion.)” OK, the line about liberals made me laugh.

Since then, the two esteemed professors have been engaged in a debate of sorts about Book of Mormon evidence. Although some Mormons have complained about Jenkins’s lighthearted and sometimes sarcastic tone, he has consistently made the same request of Mormon apologists: Provide some solid, compelling evidence:

I offer a question. Can anyone cite any single credible fact, object, site, or inscription from the New World that supports any one story found in the Book of Mormon? One sherd of pottery? One tool of bronze or iron? One carved stone? One piece of genetic data? And by credible, I mean drawn from a reputable scholarly study, an academic book or refereed journal, not some cranky piece of pseudo-science.

Or, to reframe the question. Does the Book of Mormon contain a statement or idea about the New World that Joseph Smith could not have known at the time, but which has subsequently been validated by archaeological or historical research?

I’ll spare you the play-by-play action. Suffice it to say that no such “credible fact, object, site, or inscription from the New World” has been presented. That said, several respondents brought up the “Nahom” inscription, with Pedro Olivarria especially taking Jenkins to task for ignoring the real evidence and creating a strawman.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Book of Mormon, the first book, 1 Nephi, tells of a man named Lehi and his family, who were commanded by God to leave Jerusalem around 600 BC. Lehi is said to have begun his journey “by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5). They continued, “following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 16:14) until the death of one of their party, Ishmael: “And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom (1 Nephi 16:34). Nephi then tells us, “And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1). 

And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.

And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters. (1 Nephi 17:4-5.)

This is important because we have an actual place name. Going by the text of 1 Nephi, we should expect to find a place called Nahom (or some variation of that) near the Red Sea, on the southwest side of the Arabian Peninsula; traveling east, we should then find a spot on the shore of the Arabian Sea where there is “bountiful” fruit and honey.

And, lo and behold, there is such a place. I’ll let the folks at FAIRMormon explain the find:

In one instance, however, Nephi does preserve a local name, that of Nahom, the burial place of Ishmael, his father-in-law. Nephi writes in the passive, “the place which was called Nahom,” clearly indicating that local people had already named the place. That this area lay in southern Arabia has been certified by recent Journal publications that have featured three inscribed limestone altars discovered by a German archaeological team in the ruined temple of Bar’an in Marib, Yemen. Here a person finds the tribal name NHM noted on all three altars, which were donated by a certain “Bicathar, son of Sawâd, son of Nawcân, the Nihmite.” (In Semitic languages, one deals with consonants rather than vowels, in this case NHM.)

Such discoveries demonstrate as firmly as possible by archaeological means the existence of the tribal name NHM in that part of Arabia in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, the general dates assigned to the carving of the altars by the excavators. In the view of one recent commentator, the discovery of the altars amounts to “the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.”

Turning east from Marib, Yemen, one eventually ends up at the fertile seashore of Oman and Yemen, close matches, we are told, for “Bountiful.”


How could Joseph Smith have known all this information? Only through revelation from God. It’s not as if a name approximating Nahom was on any maps of the Arabian Peninsula that were used in Joseph Smith’s day.

Oh, right, it was. This is from an 1811 map made by one John Cary, published in London.

I had read about this in the past, with apologists talking mostly about French and German maps, but somehow I’d missed James Gee’s 2008 article, “The Nahom Maps.” Gee tells us that the place name “Nehem” appears on 10 different maps published in the years leading up to the publication of the Book of Mormon; 6 of these maps were published in English. Oddly enough, Nehem first appears in a French map in 1751 and then no longer appears after 1814. To most people, the appearance of the name suggests an obvious reliance on contemporary maps. But not to Mormon apologists. Gee concludes:

Of course, not all maps of Arabia between the years 1751 and 1814 recorded the location of Nahom. In fact, it is generally found only on the finest and most expensive maps created by the best cartographers and published by the finest printers. In my searches I found countless maps of Arabia with no reference to Nahom or anything like it. Thus, it is somewhat amazing that the first modern map of the Arabian Peninsula, created by D’Anville in 1751, did record the location of this often ignored or unrecognized district. Furthermore, that same map inspired the Danes to send an expedition to the region to fill in the missing information, and the only survivor was the cartographer, Carsten Niebuhr. Not only did he engrave a place called Nahom on his map but he also gave us more details of the area in his journal. These two maps and the ones that followed all give testimony to Lehi’s epic journey almost two thousand years earlier.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry here.

The FAIRMormon response isn’t much better. Acknowledging that the library at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, had copies of two of these maps in 1830, FAIR tells us nevertheless that the maps were too far away (320 miles) from Joseph Smith’s location to have been the source. Of course, they assume that the place name was inserted while Joseph was at work “translating” in 1829-30. I’m not sure that’s warranted. It’s well-known that Hyrum Smith attended Moor’s Charity School at Dartmouth college between the ages of 12 and 13, so one possibility is that Hyrum had seen the maps. A more intriguing possibility arises when you realize that Meadville, Pennsylvania, is only 75 miles from Mentor, Ohio, where Sidney Rigdon was leading his Campbellite congregation. I’m just throwing those out there, not making a case.

Suffice it to say that the appearance of a place name in the right place on a single contemporary map, let alone 10 maps, is enough to reach pretty solid conclusions.

The apologetic response is predictable but stunningly silly. I’ll explain with an analogy.

Imagine that I discovered a novel written in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1977, which mentions a place south of San Francisco called “Siliconville,” a growing center of technology development. I could easily (and probably correctly) assume this is a reference to “Silicon Valley,” a phrase coined in 1971 but not widely used until the early 1980s. I could show where Silicon Valley is on the map and why it was called that. There are multiple points of convergence, as it were, between the two similarly named places. The conclusion ought to be pretty straightforward. But then I learn that the author of the novel claims it is a true story that was dictated to her by a time-traveling alien. She tells me that Silicon Valley was not a widely known term in 1977, and she had no access to maps, technology magazines, or any other sources where the term might have been used. That it was used elsewhere starting in 1971 doesn’t suggest she got it from a contemporary source but “gives testimony” that she was right about the existence of Silicon Valley in 1977. No one would accept such ridiculous logic.

Apparently, some people would.


83 Responses to More Stupid Apologist Tricks: The Nahom Maps

  1. Daved6 says:

    Alright so Hyrum told Joseph there was a place in Arabia called something like Nehem, so if he wanted to write scripture about people leaving Jerusalem 2400 years earlier he ought to include Nehem to make it look more credible. A little random but cute enough, I suppose.

    One thing is for certain some people are likely to mock and deride others for thinking a piece of data can be considered evidence for their hypothesis, particularly if those who mock do not like those who hypothesize. It’s adorable that our world of scholarship has jumped on that as egos all get involved.

    Now we have LDS wondering how anyone could hypothesize that Hyrum picked some random place in Arabia, from something he might have seen 15-20 years earlier, when it doesn’t seem Hyrum had any input on the BoM, nor that it likely that Hyrum saw the map or looked at Arabia, and informed his brother that if he wanted to write a book about people leaving Jerusalem he must include this random place, leaving, of course, all other place names out of it. Along side many non-LDS wondering how anyone could hypothesize that a random place on a map, fitting in time and place with a possible scriptural text, can be considered any degree of evidence, all while claiming they only want to see one example of a place, or item that suggests those from the text could have possibly been where the text says and when the text says. they add, “they are stupid and delusional”.

    one side does most the mocking and then complains when the other side says something with a tinge of sass. “how dare they offer to discuss these issues from a defensive pose…those losers”.

    Sheesh, blogs like this only help us love each other and get along, huh?

    • runtu says:

      That’s what you got from my post? Sheesh, indeed.

    • runtu says:

      OK, let me clarify. I can’t believe you think criticism of poor scholarship means I don’t like the people doing the poor scholarship. In a grown-up world, we discuss ideas and evidence, and we don’t worry so much about other people being “mean.”

      I will simply ask you where I’ve said anything about anyone being stupid, delusional, or being losers. True, I think the apologetic argument is silly, but that doesn’t mean the people making it are stupid.

      • Daved6 says:

        No no no. You got me wrong on this. I’m not saying any time you see poor scholarship you don’t like the poor scholar. But I would suggest it is poor scholarship to you because you don’t like “apologists”, for they are, in your view already judged as doing stupid tricks–I didn’t select your word. Thus, when faced with the request to provide evidence, anything, they try and they get told they are stupid.

        And yet the terrible and stupid apologist (so called as a term of derision, we all know) actually think they are misunderstood by those who mock them. “well, we get they think we’re stupid, but it doesn’t seem like they fully understood or accepted our explanation of how the data is evidence”.

        oh this world of large egos.

        How Joseph got a NHM location, at the correct time and place is a mystery to me. But to you it’s beyond stupid, apparently for someone to not realize Joseph’s brother lived at a location, some years earlier, which had a map that had a tiny etch of the place name Nehem on it. Therefore, though the apologists are trying to answer the question of whether there is even one place name that fits in with the text, according to you, it is stupid to think this represents evidence.

        Alright…if this all doesn’t explain problems, mostly brought on by critics, I don’t know what does. It’s set up as if it’s Abinadi talking to King Noah.

      • runtu says:

        Then you have misunderstood me. Apologetics in itself is not “stupid.” There are a number of LDS apologists whom I respect and count as friends, so I don’t automatically write their efforts off. Take the NHM stuff, for example, I really did think this was a good “hit” for the Book of Mormon, but when you have the right name in the right place on 10 contemporary maps, it’s not a hit anymore. There’s nothing egotistical about saying that an argument doesn’t hold up, and this one doesn’t. I have no idea how the authors of the Book of Mormon came across Nahom, but it’s an exceedingly safe bet it came from one of those maps.

        You seem to think this is about being mean to people I don’t like. I find that strange.

      • Daved6 says:

        Not sure how to reply to your latest comment directly.It won’t let me.

        It’s really not as stupid as you like to paint it though. It doesn’t matter if it was found on obscure random maps in Joseph’s lifetime. Lots of things were, including Jerusalem. It’s likely Joseph didn’t know it was on any map–and if he found it he would have had Nehem, it seems. But the location is consistent with the story’s location. If so and Joseph was using a map, there’d have to be other hits. But this random seeming location has a history there for what seems like a good 2600 years.

        What’s the likelihood, if Joseph was using a map and named one place in his narrative that that place had a history of 2600 years? Perhaps not all that likely, I presume. But that assumes a map was involved at all. No accounts indicate a map was consulted and no such map was within hundreds of miles, as it seems. It’s unlikely Joseph travelled some distance to find a spot on a map to include and that spot happened to have a 2600 year history. It’s probably even far less likely that Hyrum as a young student saw the place on a map, in passing, remembered it for years to tell Joseph to include it in his story.

        No body is out there claiming this is anything more than one piece of evidence–one location mentioned in the story that seems to fit nicely with what is the real world. The problem is, of course, it becomes “stupid” and “silly” because, it being the best location to date for BoM authenticity, is so heavily mentioned when this argument (petty as it gets) comes up.

        Thus, somehow “apologists” are playing stupid tricks and it’s all just silliness.

        No doubt this will continue for years. So many will hear more from “apologists” in the future and each time someone will come around to say they are being stupid and silly, even if it really isn’t stupid and silly.

      • runtu says:

        I suspect you and I have different ideas of “likely.”

      • Daved6 says:

        And that difference of opinion someone amounts to the other being stupid, or playing stupid tricks.

      • runtu says:

        In this case, yes. Even if I hadn’t been making a Letterman reference, the argument really is that stupid.

      • Daved6 says:

        Sure. That’s what I suggested with which you took exception with. Something as petty as a difference of opinion about what is likely draws a conclusion from you of stupid.

        There’s really no discussion and no pleasing such an emotionally charged position. I know you’ll disagree that you are emotionally charged on this, but it’s pretty clear to me. And no I won’t conclude stupid because we have a petty difference of opinion.

        Keep on writing. Even keep on writing about Mormon stuff. Hopefully somehow people down the road will find a way to advance the discussion since it feels like critics these days aren’t interested.

      • runtu says:

        The only emotion I’m feeling is a sort of surprised amusement that anyone thinks that NHM is strong evidence. So, no, nothing emotionally charged for me. Maybe for you, which would explain why you keep saying I hate apologists.

        I will just say again that pointing out poor scholarship does not equal a petty difference of opinion.

      • Daved6 says:

        Ahh I see that looking down the nose on others–type of stuff. Ok.

        Sure but “poor scholarship” comes down to a difference of opinion on what is likely (with as it turns out, nobody quantifying any likelihood either way), in this scenario. your whole “maps were somewhere so Joseph got the name off a map” is really just dismissive.

      • runtu says:

        I don’t look down on anyone, so I don’t know where you’re getting that. If I am dismissive, I’m dismissive of an obviously poor argument. If someone is going to argue “How could Joseph have known that?” there needs to be something more likely than “a map.”

      • Daved6 says:

        If you say so, but I will point out, even this last reply of yours comes off a bit snooty.

        Odd that the argument regarding NHM is more likely than a map. That’s the whole point of the argument, in fact. Weird way to dismiss it.

      • runtu says:

        No, the argument all along from the apologists is that Joseph Smith couldn’t have known about Nahom. The maps show definitively that he could. I’m sorry if you think I’m being snooty, but it really is that simple.

      • Daved6 says:

        You actually don’t have a map that Joseph could have used to identify Nahom, though. You make a few assumptions–

        very few maps at that time had something similar to nahom on them, so others probably did.


        Hyrum might have seen a map and somehow contributed the location to the story.


        Sydney might have seen the map and could have contributed to the story.

        None of which takes into account the time and subsequent location factor.

        I know you don’t think it matters because it was on a map. But, that is just dismissive and not engaging.

  2. The NHM inscriptions in Yemen would carry more weight if there were simply more corroborating pieces of evidence supporting the BoM historical narrative. It’s silly to argue over this one bit of supposed evidence on the Arabian peninsula when there exists not a single artifact in the Americas to support BoM historicity when the book talks of huge civilizations, massive wars with millions of casualties, pyramids and temples, etc. No corroborating evidence means the most likely source of Nahom is contemporaneous maps. Any other conclusion has to be borne of hope, faith and perhaps delusion.

    • runtu says:

      That’s my point. Until the maps showed up, NHM was the strongest piece of evidence apologists could point to. The second the first map turned up, it was game over.

    • Daved6 says:

      It’s not silly. “Give me one thing” is the demand. Then when it’s given it’s not…”okay, it’s a possible one thing, at least. Not too shabby, but it is just one thing”. It’s more like “this is stupid. You are the worstest thinkers in the world. This could have been found on map because Joseph’s brother spent time in a certain city. This sucks…I hate hearing from you stupid apologists…It’s like talking to dummies.”

      At least that’s almost always the message, or type of message, that is returned.

      • runtu says:

        I think where you’re confused is that you think Jenkins and I are asking for proof and until such proof comes, we won’t believe. That’s not it at all.

        What we have here is apologists (and who says that’s a derisive term?) putting forth evidence that doesn’t hold up under minimal scrutiny. Was I a bit snarky? Maybe, but so what? I engaged the evidence and showed why it doesn’t work. Your response so far is to say I hate apologists.

      • Daved6 says:

        I did not at all suggest you nor Jenkins is seeking proof. But the odd thing is when evidence is given you think some wave of the hand type of response is sufficient to dismiss it.

        you didn’t engage the evidence completely and neither did Jenkins (odd that he quoted critics voices rather than any text from apologists in his response. well not odd but it shows he didn’t want to engage it, which he said, but instead used the work of others to inform himself on the matter.)–not at all. You mentioned possible scenarios that suggest Joseph randomly could have found the name, or something close to it. That didn’t really engage it. That suggested you don’t buy it. And we all know you don’t buy it because you don’t want to. But you can’t really connect the possibility of Joseph finding it on a map and how it appears in the story at the right time and place. I know it’s all waved off because you have Jenkins to fall back on, but then we remain in the pickle I first notified you of.

      • runtu says:

        No hand-waving, just plain old logic.

      • runtu says:

        I’m not falling back on Jenkins. He’s a nice guy, and obviously well-read and intelligent.

        Of course I engaged the evidence. I provided the complete text of 3 apologetic papers and explained rather clearly why their arguments are poor. It’s not up to me to say how or when or where Joseph came across Nahom, but simply to note that contemporary maps had that name in that place, so any other theory has to be more likely than the simple one: the name came from the map.

      • Daved6 says:

        Ok. If dismissing others as stupid and silly because your idea of what is likely differs from theirs is not waving it off, then it appears we have another difference of opinion. But such differences of opinion has been craftily labeled by you as stupid and silly.

        And in the end, it doesn’t seem like you engaged the “apologist’s” position on this. You merely made a case for the possibility of Joseph inserting the name from a map, which case is really quite weak, when considered.

        With this type of dialogue it’s likely (I realize you will feel differently on this) in a hundred years when 1-50 new topics will be in consideration when it comes to the BoM, someone out there will be telling everyone that any Mormon who disagrees with him/her is being stupid and silly. Conversation will have not moved an inch.

      • runtu says:

        Again, I don’t think people who disagree with me are silly. And of course I engaged their position, which was that Nehem is a real place name that Joseph Smith could not possibly have known about. The existence of 10 contemporary maps with that place name invalidates their argument. It’s pretty simple.

        I’ll give you another analogy. Say my neighbor is out birdwatching, and he says he just saw an Andean condor. I say, that’s impossible because there’s never been a sighting of an Andean condor in Virginia before. My position collapses the second another Andean condor appears.

      • Daved6 says:

        Well Pedro’s little blog pointed out the timing of it all. you did nto address that. the likelihood is pretty interesting. But, you ignored and expressed that a map could have been seen by Hyrum or Sydney (neither of which are said to have any input at all in the text, at least not in any way other than critics claiming it is possible they did).

        Seeing it on a map doesn’t quite address the apologetic argument as a whole.

        But even if you could address the timing issue in hopes to dismiss the evidence, you really only mentioned the Bountiful thing with passing. Looking at a map doesn’t quite define the description of bountiful.

      • runtu says:

        I like Pedro, and we’ve been friends a long time (heck, since the time when I was still a Mormon apologist). The timing is interesting, but it’s irrelevant as long as those maps exist. This really isn’t that difficult.

      • Daved6 says:

        Interesting is about as much as I think you’d ever concede, judging by your disposition on this stuff.

        Too bad this whole world of internet religious talk is so stymied by talk about stupid and silly about something that can clearly be seen as “interesting” when pressed.

      • runtu says:

        Oh, for heaven’s sake. I think a lot of what Pedro has written, particularly about the Book of Abraham, is interesting. What we’re talking about here is the strength of evidence and an assertion based on that evidence. It’s not because I’m a hard-hearted apostate that I have pointed out just how bad the evidence is in this case. Or maybe I am just that mean. You can call me Nehor. 🙂

      • Daved6 says:

        Runtu, I’m not the name-caller, that’s you. I’m pointing out the carelessness in which you label people and ideas. No offense intended.

        It’d be nice if someone actually would engage the apologist arguments though.

      • runtu says:

        I haven’t called anyone any names, not even once. I have labeled arguments silly, which they are. And once again, I have engaged the apologetic arguments.

      • Daved6 says:

        I know by disagreeing about your “engaging” will result in you saying I’m stupid and silly, or some other such stuff, but as I indicated, you really didn’t engage. It was quite near hand waving and hoping it disappeared.

        Calling things stupid and silly is only in the same realm and camp as name-calling. Can’t fault me for using that as evidence of you wanting to call people names.

      • runtu says:

        OK, I’ll leave it to you. Please show why you think it more likely that Nahom came from somewhere other than current maps of Joseph Smith’s day. What’s the evidence? How is it stronger than the Ockham’s Razor answer?

      • Daved6 says:

        I don’t why you’re asking me. There are items written that answer this question. you’ve apparently read them. You’ve dismissed what you’ve read, but apparently you’ve read them.

        How likely is it that out of one place that Joseph includes in his story, that place has a history that goes back 2600 years? He could have grabbed any old place name on any old map, no?

      • runtu says:

        Are you suggesting that no other places in the Arabian desert date back 2600 years? What do you think the likelihood of that is?

      • Daved6 says:

        I didn’t suggest that. But surely not all place names in Arabia date back 2600 years. How did he end up picking one that did?

        And…of course there’s more to it.

      • runtu says:

        Such as?

      • Frank Fourth says:

        David6, everyone has a fund of knowledge they draw on when they write, including you and me, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.

        Exactly how Joseph got Nahom, Moroni, Angola, and Alma in his brain and then on to paper matters less than the fact that the names were easily knowable at the time he wrote and turned up in his work.

        We don’t insists that you prove the exact origin of David6, now do we.

      • runtu says:

        Excellent point. The bigger picture is that the Book of Mormon clearly emerges from frontier American moundbuilder mythology, so it makes sense that the names in it also come out of Joseph Smith’s environment. How they came about doesn’t really matter.

      • Daved6 says:

        Hey Frank the fourth–there’s no “I” in my name.

        My goodness. So Nahom was easily knowable to Joseph? How so? I know Runtu suggests that maps must have had Nehem on them but he can’t find a map that was in reach of Joseph. On top of that it’s not so much that a name was knowable but that it is found in a location exactly where the text describes and at the time it is described. So your claim that it was “easily knowable” to Joseph is really just your and Runtu’s guess. Runtu suggests, bringing memory to McMurrin, since people don’t really get visited by angels and have visions and stuff, then if we employ Occam’s razor, with that ssumption in mind, we come up with the notion that someone else spotted the name on an obscure map and told joseph if he was going to include any named place in his story he must just use this one, or something.

        So here we go. A Mormon is asked to give a location with a name that is found in the BoM and matches the real world. A Mormon does it. The response? “well anyone can write a name down, and get that name somehow…so it surely means the claim that he received revelation and wrote the name is wrong”.

      • Daved6 says:

        Runtu, carrying such an assumption it wouldn’t matter what name or place name is uncovered, it’d always be easy enough to wave off such a find by saying it’s possible he found the name in his own environment, forget time and location matches. It wouldn’t matter.

        Thus the goalposts move all over, conversation is stymied and mockery rules the day.

      • runtu says:

        Well, no. We have one place name in an exact location. We have multiple contemporary sources. Pep pep.

      • Frank Fourth says:

        “Hey Frank the fourth–there’s no “I” in my name.”

        Nahom, Noham, Neham, Nahum, Naham, Nihm, Nehem, Nahm, how could I have known.

      • Daved6 says:

        We have one location in consideration. That place happens to fit nicely with the narrative and with the time consideration. That’s a good match. If joseph used a map and found a place, randomly, like nehem, it’d be quite lucky for that place to have it’s history. And as it turns out he didn’t try to use any other locations from the map. Odd that. he randomly spotted a location..used it and decided not to use any other locations from the map to bring/add credibility to his piece, even though, apparently that’s why he used the one location to begin with.

        of course the big assumption here is that Joseph saw it on a map. The only way we know he could have done is to have traveled a couple hundred miles, or get someone else to tell him about it from memory, unless of course we assume he must have had a map that we can’t identify.

        You don’t have a clue what you’re saying when you say pep pep. Pep pep doesn’t fit where you put it.

      • runtu says:

        Nah, no luck involved. The only ‘history’ that is being touted is that NHM existed in 600 BC, as hundreds of other places in the Arabian Peninsula. And pep pep fits wherever I want it to. So, there. 🙂

      • Daved6 says:

        I understand, Frank. I carry no ill will like Runtu does regarding apologists (-;

      • Daved6 says:

        Well, at least you are consistent with your dismissing anything an apologist might say.

      • runtu says:

        I dismiss what isn’t relevant or compelling, and I’ve explained why. It’s not because it’s coming from apologists.

      • Daved6 says:

        So you say…

        I’m fine with how the discussion went. I don’t think you’re being very reasonable, but that’s alright by me. It’s expected since you’re an awfully mean anti anyway(-;

  3. zuort says:

    Conservatively, p < 0.5 that Nahom came from a consulted map. It may even be accurate to say p << 0.5.

  4. Dr. Shades says:

    How close is Meadville, Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, where Solomon Spalding completed “Manuscript Found?”

  5. CAB says:

    One possible example of a place name in the Old World (if you are willing to overlook quite a lot) is not archaeological evidence of Book of Mormon historicity.

    That Mormon apologists are jumping on such a very thin thread is more evidence of how badly they want something to hang onto, no matter how tenuous, than that real evidence exists.

    The Nahom/Nehim/NHM/Nehem issue inspires in me more compassion than anything else. I spent quite a lot of time at the anthropology/archaeology dept at BYU many years ago when I was studying anthropology. Attempts to find “proof” of the BoM struck me as a little desperate then, and now they seem sad. I feel bad for those people who have devoted their whole lives to the “Truth of the Church.” I understand that desperate need–I used to be one of them. But just because you want very, very badly for something to be true does not make it so.
    I think the LDS faithful would be better served to give up on finding “evidence” and operate purely on the basis of the faith which they claim. Believe because you want to believe, not because there is “scientific proof” for your faith.
    If that is not enough for you, then maybe it is time to start honestly entertaining your doubts, and stop “doubting your doubts.”

    • runtu says:

      I’ve said it before: if the Book of Mormon’s power is in its spiritual teachings and effects, focusing on finding secular evidence is missing the point.

    • Daved6 says:

      It’s as if you think that “apologist” means they suspend faith and are trying so desperately to prove the basis of belief because they lack faith or something. It can be both faith and thinking there is reasonable stuff out there to explore.

      As it is an apologist believes but also thinks there is plenty to learn, it seems to me.

      it doesn’t matter if it’s thin or not. Nobody has based their faith on the Nahom thing. Not one person. It’s one little thing that many consider evidence.

      • Frank Fourth says:

        So stop talking about it.

      • No, I think an apologist is often (assuming a universal definition is not completely accurate for each apologist) the opposite. Faith is sometimes all they have. When Kerry Muhlestein told the D News that he starts with the assumption that the Book of Abraham is what Joseph Smith said it is AND THEN works to gather evidence in support of that belief, I find that revealing. I think other apologists are similarly oriented. They have a belief, and facts are not going to get in the way of that. What reasonable stuff is out there to explore, BTW?

  6. Dr. Shades says:

    Okay, let me see if I have this straight. . .

    NHM being on the west side of the Arabian peninsula is NOT a coincidence, but Moroni being the capital of Camora IS a coincidence.

    Is that about right?

    • runtu says:

      That’s about it.

    • Daved6 says:

      Meh… Joseph could have seen Moroni on a map to name a couple characters and yet still have had nahom somehow revealed to him. It becomes a silly game when you jump topics and issues just because you want to get s hit. Bro shades, cute gamesmanship but ur playing a game that’s been played to death and is the type of thing that has put us where we are now.

  7. CAB says:

    a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.
    “an enthusiastic apologist for fascism in the 1920s”
    synonyms defender, supporter, upholder, advocate, proponent, exponent, propagandist, champion, campaigner; informalcheerleader
    “one of Eisenhower’s better-known apologists”

  8. Cinepro says:

    Perhaps it’s always been a component of belief in the Book of Mormon, but it seems to me that a larger and larger percentage of testimonies rest on “Joseph Smith couldn’t have done it”. Just listen for it, and you’ll constantly hear people talking about how “there is no way an uneducated farm boy could have written this book.”

    It’s a convincing argument to those who make it, and I admit I have a hard time believing he could (I’m not even saying he did). But so much of that argument is based on what I personally know about Joseph Smith’s abilities, the odds of certain words in a long book correlating to other things, and the likelihood of different things happening in general.

    To put it a different way, I think most people have a really poor understanding of what the chances of things happening really is.

    For example, this happened:

    Now, how many people have an understanding of “coincidence” that is broad enough to accept that events like that can happen? Now take a look at any proposed evidence for the Book of Mormon and explain how each one, or all of them together, break the bounds of what could happen by coincidence.

    And even if it does, it may just be setting a new boundary on what can happen; there’s no rule that says there is an absolute limit.

    • CAB says:

      You hear a version of that, yes. But JS was not “uneducated.” He was homeschooled, so people more often now say some version of “unschooled.”
      I am thoroughly convinced that JS could have written the BoM himself. The studies done on style, etc. support that. And if he was anything like those of his relatives I knew personally (including my father), he was definitely smart enough. If he had an eidetic memory like my father did he was well suited to read a lot of material available at the time and then rework it as the Book of Mormon, etc.
      I do not believe that the BoM is the record of ancient peoples, but it is a work of genius and fascinating in its own right.

    • Frank Fourth says:

      The first reference of which I am aware, sometimes referred to as “The Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” “. . . a conversation held in the Herald office during the early days of the present year [Feb 1879], between Bishop Rogers, Elders W. W. Blair, H. A. Stebbins and a few others” [some sources say her sons were present]:

      “[Joseph] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon.”

      • CAB says:

        Curious. Tradition holds that the Smith family was well-read, and Joseph gave a number of inspiring sermons which are referred to and quoted to this day. But he could not write or dictate a coherent letter?? Seems totally legit.

      • I’m sorry, he couldn’t dictate? But he could give extemporaneous sermons? I have trouble believing that, regardless of what Emma says.

      • Frank Fourth says:

        Well, it’s a very interesting statement, David, and one wonders what it was that Emma was trying to do.

      • Something other than testify of Joseph as a prophet, if I can infer a tone of skepticism in your reply?

      • Frank Fourth says:

        No, David. I think she might have been trying to do two things, perhaps contradictory.

        I didn’t give the whole interview but this is the part where she talks about taking diction, he didn’t need anything read back, etc. You probably know it. She’s trying to show that the Book of Mormon is true but she does this overkill of her husband being a fool.

        And that’s the doubling, she had a better formal education and she knew it. So this positive evidence for the Book of Mormon, that her husband was a fool, is also a good dig at the old philander.

        Or maybe not.

  9. Dr. Shades says:

    Even if Joseph Smith couldn’t have produced the Book of Mormon, Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon certainly could have.

    • runtu says:

      I’m not convinced Joseph Smith was incapable of producing the Book of Mormon.

      • CAB says:

        Ditto. I am convinced that Joseph produced it.

      • runtu says:

        I really don’t have an opinion about who wrote it, but I do think Joseph Smith was definitely capable of writing it.

      • CAB says:

        Right, I got that. But from what I know about the BoM and about Joseph and his colleagues, and also his relatives, I think his authorship is likeliest.

  10. Stanford Carmack says:

    One must carefully study the earliest text (Yale 2009 — a solid proxy for the dictation) and earlier English to approach any certainty in the matter. If it is a pseudobiblical text in form, it will give evidence of that. 270,000 words — JS would have slipped up many times. Spalding and Rigdon are highly unlikely given the robust eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence surrounding the dictation. It is either JS’s fraudulent fiction or a revealed text read from the stone in the hat.

  11. jiminpanama says:

    I really liked the Nahom find and followed it from the very beginning. It is too bad Mormons jump to far when something is found. Saying initially JS could never have possible known about Nahom before doing the research is too bad. Still a powerful connection but the facts should have been investigated before the foot went in the mouth.

  12. uft36 says:

    Actually, there is evidence for the Book of Mormon and it is not found on any continent. As far as I know I am the only one that knows about it and has not been published. But of course anything that is Mormon related is automatically trashed as nonsense and anything from Kabbala is automatically assumed occultish and not to be taken seriously either. What I have was not found by me but someone I wish I could have known 20 years ago. The three names Lehi, Nephi, and Ishmael are encoded in Genesis. And that is as far as I am going to go with this. I am not a pious Mormon nor have I been active for a long time for my own personal reasons but I will always believe that this is the one true Church that God intended. No one ever told what to believe nor forced their beliefs on me. I am not a generational Mormon nor grew up around Mormons. I don’t always understand what is being taught but to say that Joseph Smith wrote this book based on these arguments presented is just wrong to me. Read the book Written by the Finger of God by Joe Sampson and work out his arguments like I have for a long time and even developed my own system of learning based on this book and maybe you will understand that Joseph Smith just might be what he said he is, a prophet of God.

    • Dr. Shades says:

      Well, don’t leave us in suspense. Where, and in what way, are the names Nephi, Lehi, and Ishmael encoded in Genesis?

      • uft36 says:

        If you write to me at I can send you what I have and you can decide whether to believe it or not. And I really don’t want to read about how wrong Bible codes are or how wrong Kabbala is either. I am very familiar with all the arguments against the Bible and Bible codes. This is just a very unique example of things hidden in plain sight. As far as I am concerned the chances that these 3 names could be found in any other part of the Bible and connected to this particular passage you will read are very slim.

  13. Baura Kale says:

    I think the “coincidence” explanation is stronger than assuming the name likely came from a map. In making any argument for a connection, one must overcome the “coincidence” possibility–this is the default hypothesis. I don’t think it’s been done here. The argument is made that this is strong evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. But I have to ask myself what is the probability that something this striking could be found assuming the Book of Mormon were not historical without resorting to ties to available maps etc? If one looks only at this one datum then it looks promising. However if one looks at the collection of all possible coincidences that could occur with things in the hundreds of pages of the Book of Mormon and hundreds of thousands of square miles of the middle east and the Americas then the likelihood of something this striking being found from pure coincidence given enough digging, is rather high.

    If you ask “what’s the probability of Joseph Smith coming up with the name “Nahom” when there’s a “Nehem” in the region, then it’s very striking. But this is asking the probability of a single occurrence after it has occurred. Astounding coincidences occur all the time. But that’s only because there are an astronomical number of things that would be considered astounding coincidences if they occurred. The fact that some do is to be expected. For example in Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” it is mentioned that Mars has two moons. It even gives their distances from Mars (in Mars diameters) and their orbiting periods in hours. Strikingly those are, thought not exactly correct, “within the ballpark.” But “Gulliver’s Travels” was written a century and a half before the discovery of either of Mars’ moons.

    Similarly the fact that SOMETHING in the Book of Mormon (A book of 500+ pages) will be very similar to SOMETHING somewhere is to be expected.

    And let’s not forget that there’s an entire book of the Old Testament named “Nahum.”

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