August 6, 2009

Wade Miller: Science and the Book of Mormon

Update: August 21, 2009- Transcript is now available from FAIR here

Wade Miller is a retired professor of geology and paleontology at Brigham Young University. He earned his PhD from UC Berkeley. His new book Science and the Book of Mormon: Cureloms, Cumoms, Horses and More" is forthcoming.These are my personal notes only, you will want to check out the full transcript from FAIR.

Miller began by talking about various projects he has been involved in since receiving his degree. One interesting part was his discovery of a dinosaur egg that they performed a CAT scan on. A small dinosaur embryo was discovered. He was subsequently invited by the CES director in Italy to speak with the youth. The faith of many young Church members was being ridiculed when they would attend University, so he was invited to address the youth on science. He had enough background in science and faith to address the issue.


The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. From the start, people criticized the book for various reasons.

Brigham Young “‘Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all the time?’ says one. Yes, if you please, and when you have done, you may be nothing but a sectarian after all. It is your duty to study to know everything upon the face of the earth, in addition to reading those books” (Journal of Discourses, 2:93–94).

He has been impressed with various scriptures that encourage learning about the world, D&C 88:78-79:

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth...

He discussed some of the ridicule over engraved gold plates, then mentioned that gold plates with writing have been discovered, including some in stone boxes.

He mentioned that people had written to the Smithsonian asking for verification or refutation regarding the BoM from archaeologists. The Smithsonian began using a brief response (read here.) It listed many items mentioned in the BoM that were not thought to be in the New World until after Columbus, thus casting a doubtful shaddow on the BoM.

Where are the BoM lands? 
It is debated. We don't know for sure. John Sorenson has done a lifetime study and feels it occurred in Mesoamerica.Miller seems to follow that same thinking.

He listed items mentioned in the BoM that relate to science and discussed them.

*Steel in the Book of Mormon
Smithsonian: "Iron and steel were not used in the New World before 1492." Miller says regarding iron this is not the case. However, steel is another matter. There are many grades. All it takes to make steel low grade is to apply heat to iron ore, and the carbon and the heat becomes harder than the iron itself.

Ether 7:9 Shule "did molten out of the hill swords of steel."

Miller showed a steel pickaxe head that was discovered from Northern Israel apx. 12th century BC. However, it can rust away in certain climates. There were also swords in Israel from apx. 600 BC.

1 Ne. 16:18, mentions bow of steel. Notes that steel has been discovered for quite some time. Showed an example of an ancient Indian bow of steel.

"I just wonder how carefully some of these archaeologists read the Book of Mormon."

*Glass in the Book of Mormon
"Glass was not used in the New World before the time of Columbus."-Smithsonian.

Ether 3:23, Ether 3:1 notes windows that might be dashed to pieces, doesn't mention glass. Also, the stones molten out of stones "appeared like glass." Blessed so they would shine. All of this is in the Old World, so it isn't a valid criticism.

2 Ne. 14:23, quoting Isaiah, not noting glass in new world.

Glass beads and other objects are known from Egyptian and Ancient Mesoamerica for a very long time, back to years BC.

*Linen and Silk in the BoM
Ether 10:24: had silks and fine-twined linen. Archaeologists know that true linen comes from flax, but we need to keep in mind we are translating from one language to another. We do not know what the original word would refer to. When someone right now mentions linens you might think of bed sheets, etc, which are more often made of cotton here. We must consider the implications of the translation.Showed some Egyptian linen from about 1000BC. Had been known in Old World.

Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6. Fine silks and fine-twined linen. This technology goes back to China to at least 3,000 BC. There could be closely related types of silk in the New World. When the Spanish arrived back in the 1400s there were records of Natives making cloth from rabbit skins which they called silk.

*Food and Plants in the BoM
"Had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice..."-Smithsonian

Wheat and barley have been found in Mesoamerican. Barley as early as 1983 at some sites in the US from pre-Columbian times.

Ether 2:3 says they brought seeds of every kind. [Brant Gardner has something of a different response for this argument, I believe-BH]

Mosiah 9:9, corn is a New World product and it looks different than what we might expect in Mesoamerica. "Sheum" was mentioned. After JS's time they found a word for sheum. (

Ancient wheat in the New World c. 1000 AD, vikings discovered wheat etc.

*Animals in the Book of Mormon
"There were no cattle..." -Smithsonian

Ether 9:18 mentions cattle, etc. brought by Jaredites. 1 Ne. 18:25 mentions finding cow and ox here in the New World already. There are witness statements from Norsemen chroniclers who note "a bellowing steer" bursting from the woods in New World in 1000 AD. Before Columbus. Showed tomb painting in Egypt [Unclear on how that pertains to BOM archaeology-BH]

Some Spanish initially called buffalo "cattle. Etc.

Pigs? Are an old world animal. But there is a New World pig. Ether 9:18 indicates that swine are useful for food. Never mentioned as a food item among Nephites. Pleistocene peccary are interesting pig-like creatures still living in Paraguay.

Sheep and goats: 1 Ne. 18:25. Noted extinct forms of goats in mesoamerica, etc. from BoM times.

Mammoths? Mostly known in north for shaggy hair, etc. There is a close relationship with mammoth, extinct, and Indian elephant (not as close as African elephant). There is a close relationship and these animals can be domesticated much more easily. Ether 9:19- elephants are considered mammoths in paleontology.

Cureloms and Cumoms? 
Noted the infamous tapir.Giant ground sloth? Llama?

Horses? Had a simplified family tree on horses, dates, types, relatives, etc. [At this point time was about out so he had to rush through the end.-BH] Showed picture of a pleistocene horse bones from mexico.

B.H. Roberts: "This [power of the Holy Ghost] must ever be the chief source of evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary to this, the primary and infallible. No arrangement of evidence, however skilfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place; for this witness of the Holy Spirit to the soul of man for the truth of the Nephite volume of scripture, is God's evidence to the truth; and will ever be the chief reliance of those who accept the Book of Mormon, and expect to see its acceptance extended throughout the world.'' (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909), 2:vi-vii.)

Q: Has steel been discovered in New World from the time?

A: Steel has not been discovered in archaeological sites in New World, and given the climate it would be extremely unlikely to find it.

1 comment:

Wild Dog said...

My 8 year-old son and I enjoy reading [the Book of Mormon] together and we thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. I've always been intrigued as to what type of glass the Jaredites might have used for their ships "windows" had they chosen that route. In any case, I'm scouring the Internet in search of YOUR book....

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