Joseph Smith:
The World’s Greatest Guesser
(A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of Positive and Negative Correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya)

Abstract: Dr. Michael Coe is a prominent Mesoamerican scholar and author of a synthesis and review of ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures entitled The Maya.1 Dr. Coe is also a prominent skeptic of the Book of Mormon. However, there is in his book strong evidence that favors the Book of Mormon, which Dr. Coe has not taken into account. This article analyzes that evidence, using Bayesian statistics. We apply a strongly skeptical prior assumption that the Book of Mormon “has little to do with early Indian cultures,” as Dr. Coe claims. We then compare 131 separate positive correspondences or points of evidence between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe’s book. We also analyze negative points of evidence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, between the Book of Mormon and a 1973 Dialogue article written by Dr. Coe, and between the Book of Mormon and a series of Mormon Stories podcast interviews given by Dr. Coe to Dr. John Dehlin. After using the Bayesian methodology to analyze both positive and negative correspondences, we reach an enormously stronger and very positive conclusion. There is overwhelming evidence that the Book of Mormon has physical, political, geographical, religious, military, technological, and cultural roots in ancient Mesoamerica. As a control, we have also analyzed two other books dealing with ancient American Indians: View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. We compare both books with The Maya using the same statistical methodology and demonstrate that this methodology [Page 78]leads to rational conclusions about whether or not such books describe peoples and places similar to those described in The Maya.



The ancient American setting of the Book of Mormon is a subject of debate and discussion. Among the prominent skeptics of the Book of Mormon is Dr. Michael D. Coe, the Charles J. McCurdy Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University.2 In an article published in Dialogue in 1973, Dr. Coe summarized his opinion regarding an ancient American setting for the Book of Mormon in these words: “The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 bc and ad 421 presented in the book has little to do with early Indian cultures as we know them, in spite of much wishful thinking.”3

Beyond this article, Dr. Coe does not seem to have written anything else about the Book of Mormon. An extensive review of his published papers and books using Google Scholar found only this 1973 Dialogue article that deals with the Book of Mormon. However, in a series of three podcast interviews with John Dehlin in 2011, Dr. Coe strongly reinforced his essentially negative view of the historicity of the Book of Mormon.4 Dr. Coe gave three more podcast interviews to Dr. Dehlin in 2018 in which he repeated many of his earlier criticisms of the Book of Mormon and provided some new ones.5 According to Dr. Coe, “99% of everything that the Book of Mormon has as details is false.”6

Dr. Coe is obviously not a partisan advocate for the Book of Mormon. In fact, he cannot be. He doesn’t know enough about the Book of Mormon to offer a valid scholarly opinion one way or the other. He read the Book of Mormon only once, more than 45 years ago.7

Dr. Coe’s synthesis and review of Mesoamerican archaeology thus provides an excellent test of the Book of Mormon. Dr. Coe’s book The Maya makes a number of factual statements about the physical, political, [Page 79]geographical, religious, and cultural aspects of ancient Mesoamerica. Given his very negative view of the Book of Mormon, it is impossible to claim that the facts Dr. Coe selected might intentionally favor the Book of Mormon.

There are strong reasons for suspecting ancient Mesoamerica as the physical location of Book of Mormon events in the New World.8 If so, Dr. Coe’s book should correspond with at least some of the statements asserted as fact in the Book of Mormon, taking into account that the objective of the Book of Mormon is to testify of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is not primarily about the history, wars, geography, culture, etc., of Book of Mormon peoples, although it nonetheless manages to tell us a great deal about these topics. Likewise, we do not expect a book about Italian cuisine to tell us much about Italian architecture or the politics of the Roman Empire, although it may incidentally contain a good bit of such information in context.

If the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be, then it is a work of fiction. It is simply false, as Dr. Coe obviously believes it to be. There are no other rational options. If the Book of Mormon is a piece of fiction, then some person or persons in the early 1800s made it up. If the Book of Mormon is fiction, then its author was guessing every time he wrote as fact something about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. This means we can compare reasonably these “guesses” in the Book of Mormon with the facts presented by Dr. Coe in The Maya.

Thus we take the statements of fact in The Maya as essentially true, and we compare the “guesses” in the Book of Mormon with these statements of fact. To repeat, for purposes of our Bayesian statistical analysis, we accept the universe of facts summarized by Dr. Coe in The Maya as essentially true. We then rate the value of each “guess” in the Book of Mormon (or statement of fact) as evidence using three criteria:

  1. Is it specific? Is it clear that the guess in the Book of Mormon is directly comparable to a statement of fact in The Maya?
  2. Is it specific and detailed? Are there important details in each guess in the Book of Mormon that correspond to at least some of the details given in The Maya?
  3. Is it specific, detailed, and unusual? Is the statement of fact in the Book of Mormon (or “guess”) unusual in the sense that someone writing the book in the early 1800s would probably not have the background or knowledge to include [Page 80]this statement of fact in his work of “fiction,” that is, the Book of Mormon?

We assign a number to the quality or strength of the evidence for (or against) the hypothesis as follows: The numbers 2, 10, and 50 are the strength of the evidence for the hypothesis, that is, the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. The numbers 0.5, 0.1, and 0.02 are the corresponding strength of the evidence against the hypothesis; that is, these are points of evidence that support the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Illustrative examples are given below following a brief introduction to statistics in general and Bayesian statistics in particular.

Insights from Basic Statistics

Statistics describes the probability (likelihood) of events occurring within a given population. A population is a set of related items or events of interest for some test we wish to perform. In this case, the population we wish to test is the factual statements in the Book of Mormon and corresponding factual statements in the book The Maya. We wish to determine whether or not the Book of Mormon agrees or disagrees in a statistically significant way with what is known about ancient Mesoamerica as summarized in Dr. Coe’s book The Maya.

One of the simplest illustrations of probability is given by rolling dice. The statistical population of interest here is the possible values (1 through 6) on the six sides of the die. Since a die has six possible values, then there is a one in six chance (16.66666% of the time) that the value 1 will turn up when the die is cast, and the same probability exists for each of the other values 2 through 6. If two dice are thrown, then each die is independent of the other, and there is still only a one in six chance that any given value will turn up for that die when it is rolled.

Here is a key point for statistical analysis: probabilities of individual, statistically independent events must be multiplied together to calculate the probability of all the individual events occurring simultaneously.

The probability of each individual die coming up with a 1 is 16.666 … %, but the probability of rolling “snake eyes,” or two dice coming up with a 1 on the same roll (simultaneously), is not 16.6%. It is 16.6% (0.166) times 16.6% (0.166), which is about 0.02756, or approximately 2.76% of the time. So, roughly three times out of a hundred times, snake eyes will result when two dice are rolled simultaneously. Further, if we roll three dice at the same time, what will be the probability of rolling three 1s? By the formula, it is 0.166 x 0.166 x 0.166, which is about 0.00457, or about five times in a thousand rolls of the dice.

[Page 81]How about three different events, each with different individual probabilities, all occurring together? Let’s say the first event has a probability of 1 in a hundred (0.01), the probability of the second event is one in a thousand (0.001), and the third is one in ten (0.1). What is the probability of all three of these events occurring simultaneously if they are part of the same population? It is 0.01 x 0.001 x 0.1 = 0.000001 or 1 in a million. The probability that all these events will not occur together is 1.0 minus the probability that they all will occur together. In this example, it is 1.0 minus 0.000001 or 0.999999, or 99.9999%, or 999,999 to 1.

In the real world, we usually don’t experience the mathematically well-defined probabilities that rolling dice offers. Instead, we usually deal with “odds” or “likelihoods,” many of which are somewhat subjective. By subjective, we mean the person performing the test must decide for him or herself what constitutes strong evidence, what evidence is positive, and what evidence is supportive but not particularly strong. These are the three relative strengths of evidence summarized above: (1) specific (Bayesian “supportive”), (2) specific and detailed, (Bayesian “positive”) and (3) specific, detailed, and unusual (Bayesian “strong”).

Bayesian Statistics: A Rational, Scientific Approach to Weighing Evidence

Bayesian statistics provides one approach to the situation in which mathematically well-defined probabilities do not exist.9 In fact, Dr. Coe’s book refers to the use of Bayesian statistics to weight and thereby includes or excludes specific pieces of archaeological data.10 In the Bayesian approach, the strength of each piece of evidence is the likelihood ratio, which is the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.

The Bayesian approach is a powerful and general tool for evaluating hypotheses and then rationally updating one’s prior beliefs in the face of the new evidence. The Bayesian approach has been applied to diverse topics [Page 82]ranging from astronomy11 to zoology.12 Of particular interest here, Bayesian methods have been applied to analyze historical document collections,13 to historical and biblical archaeology,14 and to the detection of fraud and deception.15

We can assign a likelihood ratio or “Bayes factor” to each statement of fact given in the Book of Mormon and compare these statements with corresponding statements of fact in The Maya. This likelihood ratio is the strength of each individual statement of fact as a piece of evidence. It is calculated as the probability that the statement is true if whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing divided by the probability that the statement is true if instead the Book of Mormon is fact-based and essentially historical. The likelihood ratio expressed in this way therefore represents the strength of the evidence in support of the hypothesis, that is, against the factual nature of the Book of Mormon.

Note: only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis; on statements of fact where one or the other book is silent, we cannot factually assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so.

At first glance this method may appear similar to the discredited method of parallels; however, the Bayesian approach overcomes the weaknesses of the method of parallels. First, the Bayes factor specifically accounts for the possibility that the evidence may have occurred under the other hypotheses. This is accomplished in the denominator of the Bayes factor. Second, by using a numerical Bayes factor, the person performing the analysis explicitly estimates the strength of [Page 83]any given piece of evidence. Ultimately, the Bayes method resembles similarity- based techniques for detecting deception in online reviews.16

Once we have chosen the likelihood of guessing correctly about each individual fact, we then multiply the likelihoods of guessing right about each of these specific facts. The number obtained by multiplying all the individual likelihoods together is the strength of the total body of evidence that whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing about these fact claims.

Thus the overall Bayes factor or likelihood ratio is the weighted strength of the evidence, and it tells us how much we should change our prior beliefs based on the new evidence. We start with some prior odds, representing our beliefs about the hypothesis before seeing the evidence. In order to be rational and intellectually honest, once we have seen the new evidence, we must update our beliefs accordingly to obtain our posterior odds, or the odds that the hypothesis is true after accounting for the strength of the new evidence, both pro and con, and our previous beliefs expressed as the prior odds.

The Bayesian approach to data analysis is frequently used in medical tests.17 For example, if a disease is somewhat rare, then a randomly selected individual might have “skeptical prior odds” of 1:1000 against them having the disease. If the test has a likelihood ratio of 100 (a good medical test for screening), then our posterior odds following a positive test for the disease would be 1:1000 x 100 = 1:10 against the person actually having the disease. In other words, the individual piece of evidence given by the test changed our minds substantially (from 1:1000 against to 1:10 against); but because we were initially quite skeptical (1:1000) that the person had that particular rare disease, we still think it is more likely they do not have the disease (1:10). A rational doctor would then call for a more definitive test to give additional information, and we would continue to update our opinion as we received new information.

[Page 84]Bayesian Analysis of the Facts Given in the Book of Mormon and The Maya

For the subject of this article — the factual nature of the Book of Mormon — we choose to start with extremely large “skeptical prior odds” against the book. We allow only a 1:1,000,000,000 (one in a billion) prior odds that the Book of Mormon is a historical document. Thus we start with odds of 1,000,000,000:1 (a billion to one) that the statements of fact in the Book of Mormon are just guesses made by whoever wrote the book.

This means that even before we look at the new evidence, we are very confident that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. We would require cumulative supporting evidence with a likelihood of 0.000000001 (one in a billion) in order to change our beliefs to the point where we would consider “even odds” (1:1) that the book is fact-based. We would require evidence even stronger than that to consider it likely or be confident that the Book of Mormon is not a work of fiction, that is, that it is an accurate historical record, based substantially on facts.

It is a common error (deliberate or otherwise) to consider only a few pieces of evidence when examining the truth or falsity of a given hypothesis. In the extreme, this practice is called cherry-picking. In cherry-picking, evidence against one’s existing hypothesis is deliberately excluded from consideration. This practice is, of course, dishonest. It is another common error to consider some pieces of relevant evidence as having infinite weight or having zero weight compared to other pieces of evidence. This practice is irrational and unscientific.

These practices of cherry-picking or overweighting/underweighting evidence cannot be allowed in scientific enquiry. They are neither rational nor honest. We must consider all relevant evidence if we hope to make honest, rational decisions. Also, no piece of evidence has infinite weight. There are always limitations on the strength of any individual piece of evidence. Assuming a piece of evidence has infinite weight is equivalent to saying the question is already decided and is therefore beyond the scope of further rational, honest enquiry.

The value of Bayesian statistics is that it provides a disciplined, formal way of bringing available evidence to bear on a given question. The evidence is weighted according to its probative value and the cumulative strength of the evidence for and against the hypothesis being tested. The hypothesis (the question of interest to us) in this analysis is the factual nature of the Book of Mormon. The question of interest is: “Is the Book of Mormon a work of fiction, or is it a factual, historical document according to the cumulative, relevant evidence summarized in The Maya?”

[Page 85]To perform our analysis, we assign one of three likelihood ratios to testable facts or “correspondences” between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe’s book. The facts, taken from Dr. Coe’s book, are compared with statements of fact in the Book of Mormon. Recall that the hypothesis we are testing is that the Book of Mormon is false, and we assume a billion to one prior odds in favor of the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is indeed false.

Pieces of evidence in favor of the hypothesis, that is, that the Book of Mormon is false, are weighted by their “likelihood ratio,” which is a positive value greater than one (either 50, 10 or 2). This likelihood ratio is multiplied by the skeptical prior of a billion to one to increase the weight of the evidence against the Book of Mormon.

Points of evidence in favor of the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon (called the converse hypothesis) are weighted by their likelihood ratio, a positive decimal fraction (0.5, 0.1 or 0.02). These fractions are multiplied by the skeptical prior of a billion to one to decrease the weight of the evidence against the Book of Mormon, in other words, to provide evidence for the factual nature of the Book of Mormon.

To illustrate, here are three examples, one for each likelihood ratio, in favor of the converse hypothesis; that is, in favor of the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon.

Specific correspondences: 0.5 (Bayesian supportive evidence for the converse hypothesis). The author of the Book of Mormon might have learned this fact by study or experience, but it is not obvious: for example, the fact that people eat food. We aren’t impressed by the fact that someone ate dinner, but if we know they ate a specific kind of food on a specific day as a religious observance, that has value as evidence. One example is the practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities described in Dr. Coe’s book and also in the Book of Mormon. Such evidence acts against the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fiction, but it is not particularly strong evidence. Instead, such evidence is considered to be merely “supportive.”18

Specific and detailed correspondences: 0.10 (Bayesian positive evidence for the converse hypothesis). Facts assigned a likelihood of 0.1 are details in the Book of Mormon that agree with details in The Maya. The author of the Book of Mormon might have been able to reason out such details, given time, study, or expert knowledge, but we think it would have been very difficult for the writer to have guessed correctly. Thus these correspondences are quite specific and also provide some important details.

[Page 86]One example is the existence of highlands and lowlands within the relevant geography. Dr. Coe’s book repeatedly emphasizes the highland and lowland populations of Native American peoples in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon also repeatedly uses the words “go up” and “go down” when traveling. From its very beginning, the Book of Mormon likewise employs going “up” and going “down” when traveling to and from Jerusalem. Jerusalem sits at a higher elevation than most of the surrounding geography. Thus we assume that the phrases “go up” or “go down” mean to ascend or descend in elevation while traveling. Such evidence is considered to be Bayesian “positive.”19

Specific, detailed and unusual correspondences: 0.02 (Bayesian strong evidence for the converse hypothesis). We believe that facts with a 2% likelihood (one in 50 chance) are essentially impossible to guess correctly, given any amount of knowledge or study reasonably available to the writer of the Book of Mormon. But in order to rigorously test the Book of Mormon’s claims as a fact-based record, we assume that the writer had a one in 50 chance of guessing these correspondences correctly. A one in 50 or 2% chance (0.02) is the maximum weight we will allow for evidence supporting the Book of Mormon’s claims to being fact-based, even if we think the odds are more like one in a million or less. Such evidence is considered to be Bayesian “strong” evidence.20

One example of Bayesian “strong” evidence is the remarkably detailed description of a volcanic eruption and associated earthquakes given in 3 Nephi 8. Mesoamerica is earthquake and volcano country, but upstate New York, where the Book of Mormon came forth, is not. If the Book of Mormon is fictional, how could the writer of the Book of Mormon correctly describe a volcanic eruption and earthquakes from the viewpoint of the person experiencing the event? We rate the evidentiary value of that correspondence as 0.02. We assume a piece of evidence is “unusual” if it gives facts that very probably were not known to the writer, someone living in upstate New York in the early 19th century, when virtually nothing of ancient Mesoamerica was known.

We can also conceive of correspondences that are specific and unusual but not given in sufficient detail to assign them a weight of 0.02. One such specific and unusual correspondence is the existence of an arcane sacred or prestige language as mentioned in Coe’s book and in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 3:19 and Mosiah 1:2). However, insufficient details about this language are given to regard the correspondence as [Page 87]specific, detailed, and unusual, for a weight of 0.02. Instead it is assigned a weight of 0.10, for specific and unusual only.

The uncertainty one feels toward any particular correspondence can also be reflected in the assigned likelihood ratio. For example, if a correspondence seems specific and somewhat detailed but is believed to lack enough detail to warrant the higher evidentiary weight, it can be assigned a likelihood ratio of 0.5 rather than 0.1.

We assume the writer’s religious knowledge came from the Bible; his cultural/social knowledge came from his (and his family’s) own cultural/ social experiences as relatively poor, less-educated working farmers typical of their time; his political knowledge from American and British political institutions existing in the early 19th century, and his knowledge of Native Americans from his own knowledge of Native Americans of his time and place (northeastern North America). Facts that could not have been obtained from those sources in the early 19th century could only have been guesses by the writer of the “fictional” Book of Mormon.

The author’s general knowledge of the ancient Mayan Indians and their area was exactly zero — which was the case for everyone in the world in 1830. As Dr. Coe says in one of his podcast interviews, “until [Stephens and Catherwood] went to the Maya area no one knew anything about it.”21 Stephens and Catherwood visited the Mayan area twice between 1839 and 1842. Their book “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan” was published in 1841, eleven years after the Book of Mormon was published.22

Therefore, it was impossible for the work of Stephens and Catherwood to have directly influenced the Book of Mormon. In contrast, Reverend Ethan Smith’s book, View of the Hebrews, has some very limited information on Indians in Mexico, primarily the Aztecs and Toltecs, and might have influenced the writer of the Book of Mormon. We account for this fact in our analysis as described in Appendix A.

If the Book of Mormon is of early 19th century origin, then, according to Dr. Coe, the author of that “fictional” work could not have known anything about the Mayan area. Thus, if we are rational and honest, we will not attribute to any hypothetical 19th century author of the Book of Mormon the same degree of knowledge and sophistication [Page 88]about cultural, social, physical, geographical, and other characteristics of the ancient Maya that only a few comparatively well-educated people have now in the early 21st century.

The purpose of this article is to rigorously test facts given in the Book of Mormon versus facts given by Dr. Coe in The Maya and in other venues. It is fortunate that our analysis will be naturally conservative, underweighting the evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. Even if we are trying hard to be rational and honest, we have a natural tendency to overestimate Joseph Smith’s likely knowledge of ancient Mesoamerica (or that possessed by anyone else of his time). Present-day educated individuals are likely to know much more about ancient Mesoamerica than did the (supposed) 19th century author(s) of the Book of Mormon.

To illustrate, we examine the three separate statements of fact in the Book of Mormon given above. The Book of Mormon claims to be a real historical record. Either these statements are just guesses, or indeed the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical book. There are no other choices open to us. Each of these statements supports the Book of Mormon’s claim to be a fact-based record. What is the overall likelihood of getting all three of these guesses right: (1) the practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities (0.5), (2) an accurate description of Mesoamerican geography as composed primarily of highlands and lowlands (0.1), and (3) an accurate, quite detailed description of a simultaneous volcano/earthquake (0.02)? The product of these three likelihoods is 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.02 = 0.001 or likelihood of one in a thousand.

But that is not nearly enough. Our “skeptical prior” is a billion to one that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. And a billion to one (1,000,000,000) times one in a thousand (0.001) is still a million to one. So even after considering this evidence we are still quite confident that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction, but we are less confident than we were prior to examining the evidence, due to our rational, intellectually honest assessment of these new pieces of evidence.

However, many more facts are mentioned in Dr. Coe’s book The Maya that we can test against corresponding statements of fact in the Book of Mormon. Specifically, we have found 131 such correspondences. We divide these correspondences into six separate categories:

  • Political (33 correspondences)
  • Cultural/social (31 correspondences)
  • Religion (19 correspondences)
  • Military/warfare (12 correspondences)
  • Physical/geographical (13 correspondences)
  • [Page 89]Technological/miscellaneous (23 correspondences)

We have assigned one of three different likelihood ratios to each correspondence. The specific Bayes factor or likelihood assigned to each correspondence is based on our assessment as to whether the correspondence is (1) specific or “supportive” according to Bayesian nomenclature (0.5); (2) specific and detailed, or Bayesian “positive” (0.10); or (3) specific, detailed, and unusual, or Bayesian “strong” (0.02), as described above and given in the literature.23

Appendix A summarizes the reasons why we have assigned a specific likelihood ratio (0.5, 0.1 and 0.02) to each of the 131 supportive correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. For each correspondence, we first state Dr. Coe’s standard of fact as given in The Maya. Since the Book of Mormon is available to everyone to study and evaluate without cost,24 but Dr. Coe’s book is not, we provide direct quotations or summaries for each of the correspondences from Dr. Coe’s book. Following the quotations from Dr. Coe’s book, the specific book(s), chapter(s) and verse(s) from the Book of Mormon where the correspondence appears are cited. Finally, we provide a few sentences up to a few paragraphs that justify our choice of the assigned likelihood ratio.

Since the truth (or falsity) of the Book of Mormon is a supremely important question, we trust readers will exert themselves and make their own comparisons between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon. We hope they will honestly weigh each piece of evidence for themselves and decide what likelihood ratio, if any, to assign to that piece of evidence.

This is essentially what is demanded of jurors in trial situations. Jurors are to weigh honestly and carefully all the evidence, without prejudging the outcome, and then render a true verdict according to the evidence. But jurors (and honest readers of the Book of Mormon) must not prejudge the case before hearing all the evidence, must not take their duties lightly, and must not arbitrarily reject evidence for or against either side.

Results of the Analysis

We have compiled six different categories of evidence in Appendix A, as noted above. For example, the sixth category includes technological and miscellaneous correspondences. We found 23 specific technological and miscellaneous correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, three have a likelihood of 0.5, eight have a likelihood [Page 90]of 0.1, and twelve have a likelihood of 0.02 (3 + 8 + 12 = 23). Thus the overall likelihood of these 23 positive correspondences, taken as a whole for statistical analysis, is (0.5)3 x (0.1)8 x (0.02)12 = 5.12 x 10–30.

The overall likelihood of the positive correspondences in each of the six categories has been computed in this way. They are, respectively: 4.99 x 10–33, 3.21 x 10–35, 1.28 x 10–24, 2.0 x 10–13, 1.28 x 10–18 and 5.12 x 10–30. We then compute the overall likelihood of all six categories taken together by multiplying these six numerical values together. The result is 2.69 x 10–151.

We can confirm this calculation by noting that of these 131 correspondences, 23 have a likelihood of 0.5; 57 have a likelihood of 0.1; and 51 have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood can also be computed and confirmed as 0.523 x 0.157 x 0.0251 = 2.69 x 10–151 This product represents the likelihood (probability) that the positive correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya under the six categories of comparison are the result of a very, very long series of consistent lucky guesses by the author of the Book of Mormon.

Recall that according to Bayesian methods, our skeptical prior odds were a billion to one against the Book of Mormon being a historical document. Thus we started our analysis by assuming that the statements of fact in the Book of Mormon were just guesses. We must multiply one billion times 2.69 x 10–151 to determine the degree to which the evidence provided by the 131 positive correspondences changes our opinion. The result of this calculation is 2.69 x 10–142.

We have not yet considered the negative correspondences and their impact on our opinions, but will weigh these negative correspondences after briefly discussing sensitivity analysis.

Sensitivity Analysis

In statistics it is good scientific practice to do a “sensitivity analysis” by which the effects of changed assumptions or changed data on the results are determined. For example, if we assign the weakest likelihood ratio (Bayesian “supportive” or 0.5) to each of the 131 correspondences, the overall strength of the evidence is then 0.5131 equals 3.7 x 10–40. We then multiply this number by one billion (109) and find that the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction is less than one in a thousand billion, billion, billion, billion.

As another example of sensitivity analysis, we can choose to admit only half the 131 correspondences to evidence at the same evidentiary weights as given in Appendix A. If we do so, the cumulative likelihood [Page 91]of these correspondences is still about 1.0 x 10–65. When multiplied by the skeptical prior of one billion, we find the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is the result of guesswork is still less than about one in a hundred billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion.

A third sensitivity analysis is as follows. Of the 131 total correspondences, 23 have a likelihood of 0.5; 57 have a likelihood of 0.1; and 51 have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the ratio of the correspondences with respect to their relative strengths is roughly 1:2:2 (specific: specific and detailed: specific and detailed and unusual).

Thus the question is: “At this ratio of 1:2:2, how many total correspondences are required to shift our skeptical prior of a billion to one against the Book of Mormon to a billion to one in favor of the Book of Mormon?” The answer is about 17 total correspondences — only 17 out of 131 correspondences (13% or about one out of every eight) must be accepted at their assigned evidentiary strengths to shift the strong skeptical prior to a strong positive posterior.

Under all three sensitivity analyses, our strong skeptical prior hypothesis of a billion to one against the fact-based nature of the Book of Mormon still gives way to a much, much stronger posterior hypothesis in favor of the Book of Mormon. We conclude that the Book of Mormon is historical, and is based in fact, with odds of many, many billions to one that this statement is true.

Data in Support of the Hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a Work of Fiction

We started with a very strong skeptical prior hypothesis of a billion to one against the historicity of the Book of Mormon. However, to this point, we have considered only data in support of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, that is, in support of the converse hypothesis. What about data in support of the opposite hypothesis, that is, that the Book of Mormon is fictional? As before, the evidence considered here will be statements in The Maya which disagree with corresponding statements in The Book of Mormon.

Again, it is only rational and honest to compare statements of fact which are dealt with by both books. On statements of fact where one or the other books is silent, we cannot assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so because there is no evidence to support our choices.

Surprisingly few pieces of evidence cited in The Maya support the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. We were able [Page 92]to find six such points of disagreement between The Maya and the Book of Mormon, namely the existence of (1) horses, (2) elephants, (3) iron, (4) steel, (5) copper and (6) refined gold and silver. (We combine refined gold and refined silver instead of considering them individually because gold and silver are usually found together, and thus to refine gold is also to refine silver.)

These points of disagreement are summarized in Appendix B. As with Appendix A, we give citations and page numbers from The Maya to support these negative correspondences and citations from the Book of Mormon where the points of disagreement are found. Finally, we provide a brief analysis of each correspondence. We evaluate these six points as having a cumulative strength as evidence of 1.25 x 108.

However, given our own inherent bias on the topic, we choose to overcompensate and deliberately err on the side of skepticism by weighting all six points as strong evidence, with a Bayes factor of 50 for each point of disagreement. We do not think each of these points is actually Bayesian “strong” evidence, but we allow this sensitivity test to severely examine the Book of Mormon’s claims.

Weighting each piece as strong evidence, the strength of the total body of evidence from The Maya supporting the skeptical hypothesis is thus 506 = 1.56 x 1010. Therefore, the total body of evidence taken from The Maya, including the skeptical prior of a billion to one, is 2.69 x 10–142 x 1.56 x 1010 = 4.2 x 10–132.

If one is rational and carefully weighs the evidence, the authors believe that the initial strongly skeptical prior hypothesis of a billion to one that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction must change. It must give way to an enormously stronger posterior hypothesis, namely that the Book of Mormon is indeed fact-based: it has very strong political, cultural, social, military, physical, geographical, technological, and religious roots in ancient Mesoamerica as that world of ancient Mesoamerica is described by Dr. Coe in The Maya.

The Anti-Book of Mormon Hat Trick: Expanding the Body of Evidence

Now, suppose we are not content with this reversal of our skeptical prior and wish to try to maintain it unfairly while still appearing to be rational. One way to do so is to expand our body of evidence unfairly by including not only scholarly works like The Maya but also including purely skeptical, “cherry-picked” evidence gathered from nonscholarly sources.

[Page 93]For example, in his 1973 Dialogue article and in the 2011 and 2018 podcast interviews, Dr. Coe mentions twelve more specific facts to support the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is false. These include brass, chariots, sheep, goats, swine, wheat, barley, cattle, silk, asses, a hybrid Egyptian/Hebrew writing system, and the lack of Semitic DNA in the New World. Analyzing these twelve additional correspondences taken from the podcasts and from Dialogue, we estimate their cumulative weight as 3.13 x 1015 (see Appendix B, last part).

We do not accept Dr. Coe’s (or more accurately, John Dehlin’s) objection to “coins” or “week,” which were also raised as possible negative points of evidence in the podcasts. The revealed text of the Book of Mormon does not include the word coins in the Nephite monetary system described in Alma 11. While the word week does occur in the Book of Mormon, the book does not say that a Nephite week consisted of seven days. Thus these two data points are not admitted to evidence; they are not facts actually asserted by the Book of Mormon.

To enable a very severe but nonetheless fact-based test of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, we grant to all 18 pieces of evidence cited by Dr. Coe a weight of 50 (“strong” evidence) against the historicity of the Book of Mormon. To be clear, we do not think these 18 pieces of evidence actually merit this weight nor that such biased and nonscholarly sources should be admitted to scholarly analysis. According to our evidence- weighting scheme, at most these 18 facts qualify as specific and detailed, for a weight of 10 each. But they are not particularly unusual. Evidence for their existence might not as yet have been found by archaeology, or evidence might be available but still scarce.

Nonetheless, for the sake of the most rigorous possible fact-based test of the Book of Mormon, we admit all 18 of them at the maximum evidentiary strength considered in this article. Thus we multiply 2.69 x 10–142 times 5018 to recalculate the odds of the hypothesis by accounting for the 18 data points provided by Dr. Coe and others. We find that the likelihood that the Book of Mormon is fictional is about 1.03 x 10–111, less than one in a thousand, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion.

Just how small a number is this? No easily grasped comparisons are possible. The mass of the smallest known particle, the neutrino, is about 10–36 kg, while the mass of the observable universe is about 1052 kg. Thus the ratio of the mass of the neutrino to the mass of the entire universe is approximately 10–88. This ratio, the mass of the neutrino to the mass of the [Page 94]universe, is still one hundred thousand, billion, billion times greater than the odds that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction.

Two Control Studies

As controls, we also analyzed two other books concerned with ancient American Indians written about the same time as the Book of Mormon. One book is View of the Hebrews by Reverend Ethan Smith, published in 1823.25 The other book is Reverend Solomon Spalding’s unpublished work titled Manuscript Found.26 We compared both books with The Maya using Bayesian statistics, again with a strongly skeptical prior assumption of a billion to one that these books have little to do with ancient Indian cultures. These comparisons are summarized in Appendix C for Manuscript Found and Appendix D for View of the Hebrews.

In the case of Manuscript Found, our posterior conclusion is much stronger than our prior assumption that this book has little to do with ancient Indian cultures. In other words, weighing the additional evidence, we are even more convinced than we were before the analysis that this book has very little in common with the ancient Indian cultures as described in Dr. Coe’s book. Since Manuscript Found is written as if it were a true account, we conclude that it is not true; it is fiction. (In fact, Manuscript Found is excruciatingly bad fiction.)

In the case of View of the Hebrews, weighing both the positive and negative points of evidence (correspondences) between this book and Coe’s book The Maya, we find that the positive evidences are essentially counterbalanced by the negative evidences. Thus the posterior conclusion is the same as skeptical prior assumption. View of the Hebrews has little in common with the ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures described in The Maya. This book is not written as fiction, but the universe of facts it cites do not agree well with the universe of facts cited in The Maya. This level of factual agreement could likely have been obtained by “guessing.”

View of the Hebrews was published in 1823, well before the Book of Mormon. Thus an important outcome of analyzing View of the Hebrews was to document what Joseph Smith might have known about [Page 95]the ancient Mesoamerican Indians. To make our analysis as rigorous as possible, we did not allow any fact claim in View of the Hebrews that corresponds to a specific fact stated in both The Maya and the Book of Mormon to be classified as “unusual” in our comparison of The Maya and the Book of Mormon (see Appendix D). We did this because Joseph Smith might have known about that fact from reading View of the Hebrews. Therefore, that particular fact could at most be specific and detailed (Bayesian positive) but not “unusual” (Bayesian strong).

Since View of the Hebrews also contains many fact claims that run contrary to facts in The Maya, this begs a question: “Why did Joseph Smith not include those erroneous fact claims from View of the Hebrews in his ‘guesses’ that supposedly form the basis for the Book of Mormon?”

Therefore, those individuals who believe Joseph Smith was strongly influenced by either View of the Hebrews or, more improbably yet, by Manuscript Found, have some serious explaining to do. They must explain why Joseph Smith took only the correct fact claims from View of the Hebrews and why he avoided including incorrect fact claims from Manuscript Found (see, for example, negative correspondences 4, 6, and 9 in Appendix C) or also incorrect fact claims from View of the Hebrews (see, for example, negative correspondences 1, 2, and 4 in Appendix D).

Dr. Coe seems to share the opinion that Joseph Smith was influenced by then-popular ideas such as those found in View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. He views the Book of Mormon as “an amalgamation of the rumors and myths, and understandings about Native Americans” existing at the time.27 Dr. Coe states that the Book of Mormon was “in the air” when it was published.

Well, if so, how did Joseph Smith avoid breathing in so much bad air? Wrong guesses about ancient Indian cultures abound in Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews. How did Joseph Smith manage to avoid making those wrong guesses? And how did Joseph Smith manage to “guess” so much that was overwhelmingly correct?

To name just a few of his correct “guesses,” how did Joseph Smith guess correctly that separate historical records were kept of the reigns of the kings, that large-scale public works were built, that the fundamental unit of political organization was the independent city-state, that the word “seating” meant accession to political power, that an ancient Mesoamerican culture declined steeply and then disappeared a few [Page 96]hundred years bc, that settled marketplaces existed, that large migrations took place toward the north, and so on for 124 more such examples?

Surely, Joseph Smith must be the greatest guesser of all time, succeeding with odds of many billions of billons of billions to one against him.

We prefer a more rational, more intellectually honest conclusion: The Book of Mormon is a real historical record. It is authentic.

Summary

Dr. J. B. S. Haldane, the great British biologist, once said that prejudice is an opinion arrived at without considering the evidence. Book of Mormon scholarly critics ignore a very large body of evidence. They fail to read the Book of Mormon carefully and objectively. In other words, they approach the Book of Mormon with deep preexisting prejudices.

Unfortunately, we know of no exceptions to this rule, including Dr. Coe, who read the Book of Mormon just once, about 45 years ago.28 He missed a few things during that one and only reading.

While Dr. Coe is undoubtedly a great Mayanist, his knowledge of the Book of Mormon is appallingly deficient. He has not paid the price that any scholar must pay in order to offer a credible opinion on a given topic. He doesn’t know his material. He doesn’t know the Book of Mormon more than superficially.

There are at least 131 correspondences between Dr. Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon. In this article, we have cited 151 separate pages of The Maya. Thus, well over half of the pages of Coe’s book contain facts that correspond to facts referred to in the Book of Mormon. Those who carefully read both Dr. Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon can scarcely avoid noticing the many correspondences between the two books.

Thus Dr. Coe’s opinion “The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 bc and ad 421 presented in the [B]ook [of Mormon] has little to do with early Indian cultures” is simply not supported by the evidence provided in his own book. Using Dr. Coe’s own book, we find that early Mesoamerica has a very great deal indeed to do with the Book of Mormon. The cumulative weight of these correspondences, analyzed using Bayesian statistics, provides overwhelming support for the historicity of the Book of Mormon as an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica.


[Page 97]Appendix A
Positive Correspondences between the
Book of Mormon and The Maya

A few comments must be made on the timing of events with regard to the evidence summarized below. Most of the events in the Book of Mormon took place from roughly 600 BC through AD 400, that is, mostly the Late Preclassic period through the first century or two of the Early Classic. The Book of Ether takes place very much earlier.

Dr. Coe’s book strongly focuses on the Classic (Early, Late and Terminal Classic), so it is fair to ask if the cultural, social, political, etc., information summarized in The Maya is relevant to the Book of Mormon. In other words, is it even valid, because of the differing time periods, to make many of the comparisons we have made?

[Page 98]We believe the answer is yes, for three important reasons:

  1. This extended quote from p. 61 of The Maya is critically important here: “The more we know about that period [the Late Preclassic], which lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to AD 250, the more complex and developed it seems. From the point of view of social and cultural evolution, the Late Preclassic really is a kind of ‘proto-Classic’ in which all of the traits usually ascribed to the Classic Maya are present, with the exception of vaulted stone architecture and a high elaboration of calendar and script on stone monuments.” Thus the Late Preclassic period, which corresponds to most of the Book of Mormon events, is certainly relevant to the Classic in terms of “social and cultural” features.
  2. Dr. Coe, in his Dialogue article and later in the podcast interviews, claims that based on his knowledge, the Book of Mormon is false. If Dr. Coe can make such an assertion based on his knowledge, then it is certainly reasonable and intellectually rigorous to use the knowledge summarized in Dr. Coe’s book to examine the opposing hypothesis, namely that the Book of Mormon is true.
  3. Correlations/congruencies/similarities that occur after the Book of Mormon period are certainly not invalid for that reason alone — far from it. We use an alphabet developed by the Phoenicians about 3,000 years ago. The major world religions that influence our culture so much today were founded millennia ago. Our code of laws comes from English common law, about a thousand years old, which was in turn based on still earlier Roman civil law and Roman Catholic canon law. Our numbering system, including the all-important zero, uses Arabic numerals, which were actually derived from Hindu mathematicians working about 1,500 years ago. Our division of the day into hours and minutes comes to us from ancient Babylon and Egypt. The foundations of the modern scientific method go back to the work of the Greek scientist Thales of Miletus, who was active about 2,500 years ago. Even our modern three- course meal structure goes back to the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, written 600 years ago.

Thus, older cultures and societies definitely leave important marks on subsequent societies. It is perfectly consistent with history that the [Page 99]Book of Mormon peoples in Preclassic times might have left significant marks on the Maya Classic period, which is the primary focus of Dr. Coe’s book.

  1. Political Correspondences
    1. Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state

      Coe’s standard: “Sylvanus Morley had thought that there was once a single great political entity, which he called the ‘Old Empire,’ but once the full significance of Emblem Glyphs had been recognized, it was clear that there had never been any such thing. In its stead, Mayanists proposed a more Balkanized model, in which each ‘city state’ was essentially independent of all the others; the political power of even large entities like Tikal would have been confined to a relatively small area, the distance from the capital to the polity’s borders seldom exceeding a day’s march” (p. 274).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: Throughout the Book of Mormon itself there is never a reference to “Nephite nation” or to a “Lamanite nation.” Interestingly, the word nation is used in reference to the Jaredites (Ether 1:43), a very different people culturally than the Lehites. The Book of Mormon uses this phrase: “nations, kindreds, tongues and people.” The Nephites and Lamanites were clearly kindreds. In contrast, the word nation is used frequently in terms of the “nations of the Gentiles.” The noncanonical Guide to the Scriptures has eight references to “Nephite nation,” showing how deeply engrained this idea of nationhood is in modern readers. But the Book of Mormon never puts those two words together for Nephite/Lamanite societies. The nation-state is not a political structure found anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Instead, the Book of Mormon peoples were organized politically in city-states. Often one city-state would dominate a group of other city-states. This dominance is the subject of the next correspondence

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. There is not a single reference in the text of the Book of Mormon to “Nephite nation” or “Lamanite nation.” It is also unusual. Joseph Smith was growing up in the new nation of America, with a great deal of pride and self-identity as an independent nation. How did he avoid identifying the Lamanite or Nephite peoples as “nations”? But he did avoid it. What a lucky “guess” — over and over again during the course of the Book of Mormon history.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    2. “Capital” or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities

      Coe’s standard: “Clusters of villages and communities were organized under a single polity, dominated by a large ‘capital’ village, which could have contained more than 1,000 people. (p. 51).” “Quirigua lies only 30 miles [Page 100](48 km) north of Copan; … that seems, on the basis of its inscriptions, to have periodically been one of the latter’s suzerainties” (p. 137). “Bonampak, politically important during the Early Classic, but by the Late Classic an otherwise insignificant center clearly under the cultural and political thumb of Yaxchilan” (p. 149). “These are Tamarindito, Arroyo de Piedras, Punta de Chimino, Aguateca, and Dos Pilas; the latter city seems to have dominated the rest” (p. 150). “We now know that not all Maya polities were equal: the kings of some lesser states were said to be ‘possessed’ by the rulers of more powerful ones (the phrase y-ajaw, ‘his king,’ specifies this relationship” (p. 275).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:12; Alma 61:8; Helaman 1:27. Zarahemla is clearly the Nephite capital city in the Book of Mormon, with 140 mentions in the book. It is to Zarahemla that the other cities of the Nephites look to for leadership and supplies in their wars against the Lamanites. When the Lamanite chieftain Coriantumr invades the Nephite confederation, he makes straight for Zarahemla, “the capital city,” in the heart of the Nephite lands, and bypasses all the lesser cities. Later the city/land of Bountiful seems to become the Nephite capital city-state.

      Analysis of correspondence: This political model was clearly part of Book of Mormon political arrangements, so it is specific and detailed in both books. It is also unusual. There is no corresponding political arrangement in Joseph Smith’s time which he might have used as a model.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    3. Some subordinate city-states shift their allegiance to a different “capital” city

      Coe’s standard: “Dos Pilas; the latter city … [began] putting together a large-scale state as early as the seventh century AD, when a noble lineage arrived from Tikal and established a royal dynasty. The family was clearly adroit in its political maneuvers, switching from an allegiance to their cousins at Tikal to one with Calakmul, its arch-enemy” (p. 150).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 23:31 and Alma 43:4‒5. The Amalekites and later the Zoramites, both of whom are Nephites by birth but have dissented from the Nephites and built their own cities, go over to the Lamanites as a body.

      Analysis of correspondence: The analysis is specific and detailed. In both cases, whole city-states changed their political allegiance to that of a former enemy. This does not seem unusual to a modern reader and probably would not have seemed unusual even to a country boy in the relatively innocent early 19th century.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    4. Complex state institutions

      Coe’s standard: “In art, in religion, in state complexity, and perhaps even in the calendar and astronomy, Olmec models were transferred to the Maya” [Page 101](p. 61). “Civilization … has certainly been achieved by the time that state institutions … have appeared” (p. 63). “By Classic times, full royal courts came into view” (p. 93). “closer to the heart of the city itself, where the dwellings of aristocrats and bureaucrats” (p. 126).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:1‒2; Alma 2:6‒7, 14‒16; Alma 27:21‒22; Alma 30:9; Alma 51:2‒7; Alma 60:7, 11, 21, 24. Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya clearly show societies that have large, complex state institutions. For example, the Nephites had (1) some form of elections, (2) armies supported by the state, (3) chief judges and lower judges, and (4) kings (at least part of the time). The Lamanites appear to have had kings at all times. Dr. Coe (p. 63) notes that state institutions were developed among the Maya by the Late Preclassic, consistent with Book of Mormon timing for the references provided.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both the British and American civil governments had large, complex state institutions, but the Native American societies certainly did not. This comparison is specific, has quite a bit of detail, and probably would have been unusual to Joseph Smith.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    5. Many cities exist

      Coe’s standard: To name just a few of the cities mentioned in The Maya we have Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, Acanceh, Ek’ Balam, Mayapan, Piedras Negras, Ceibal, Palenque, Naranjo, El Mirador, Bonampak, Uaxactun, Kaminaljuyu, Takalik Abaj, Tikal (p. 9). “the great Usumacinta … draining the northern highlands, … twisting to the northwest past many a ruined Maya city” (p. 16‒17). “More advanced cultural traits, … the construction of cities” (p. 26).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 51:20; Alma 59:5; 3 Nephi 9:3‒10. Many named cities are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

      Analysis of correspondence: By 1830 America had many cities, but there were no cities on the frontier where Joseph Smith translated and published the Book of Mormon. The Native Americans with whom Joseph was familiar did not build cities, although he might possibly have learned about some Native American cities by reading View of the Hebrews, so we do not count it as unusual. Nonetheless, the correspondence is specific and quite detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    6. City of Laman (Lamanai) “occcupied from earliest times”

      Coe’s standard: “Far up the New River … is the important site of Lamanai, … occupied from earliest times right into the post-Conquest period” (p. 85).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 9:10. The strong tendency is for consonants to be preserved in pronouncing words and names. For example, Beirut (Lebanon) is one of the oldest cities in the world, settled 5,000 years ago. The name derives from Canaanite-Phoenician be’erot and [Page 102]has been known as “Biruta,” “Berytus” and now “Beirut,” while always retaining those three consonants “BRT” in the correct order, and with no intervening consonants.29

      In the case of the city Lamanai (Laman), all three consonants, and only these three consonants, namely LMN, are found in the correct order and are the same consonants as given for the city of Laman mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This seems to be a “bullseye” for the Book of Mormon. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” the correct consonants, and only the correct consonants in the correct order for the name of an important city “occupied from earliest times?”

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, detailed and statistically unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    7. Parts of the land were very densely settled

      Coe’s standard: “A few cities, such as Chunchucmil in Yucatan, are amazingly dense” (p. 124). “At Tikal, within a little over 6 sq. miles … there are c. 3,000 structures” (p. 126). Recent work not reported in The Maya confirms that some Mayan cities were very densely populated.30

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 1:7.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Native Americans with whom Joseph Smith had direct contact did not have cities, let alone cities so densely settled. He may have learned about Native American cities from View of the Hebrews, but that book gives no information about how densely settled those cities were. So this correspondence is specific and detailed, but we do not count it as unusual, since Joseph Smith might have gotten the idea from View of the Hebrews.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    8. Large-scale public works

      Coe’s standard: “Civilization … has certainly been achieved by the time that state institutions, large-scale public works … have appeared” (p. 63). Dr. Coe notes that city walls (certainly a public work) were built “when, in places, local conditions became hostile” (pp. 126, 194, 216).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:10; Mosiah 11:8‒13; Alma 14:27‒28; Alma 48:8; Helaman 1:22; 3 Nephi 6:7‒8; Ether 10:5‒6. The Book of Mormon speaks in some detail about the large-scale public works that its societies, particularly its more decadent societies, achieved.

      [Page 103]Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is both specific and detailed. It would also seem unusual. The Native Americans of Joseph Smith’s time and place did not build public works or temples. Why would Joseph Smith have written a book that clearly claimed that “the Indians” did so? However, since View of the Hebrews references temples and walled towns (not in any detail), and Joseph Smith might have gotten the idea from that book, we will only count this correspondence as specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    9. Some rulers live in luxury

      Coe’s standard: “The excavation of two tombs from this period has thrown much light on the luxury to which these rulers were accustomed” (p. 74).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 11:3‒15.

      Analysis of correspondence: Joseph probably knew that the British royal court lived in luxury, but the chiefs of the Indian tribes did not. Why would Joseph have assumed that the ancestors of the Indians had kings who lived in luxury? The Book of Mormon contrasts the reign of King Benjamin, who deliberately did not live in luxury, with decadent rulers who did. So Joseph was correct that some decadent rulers did live in luxury, but there are few details, and this is not particularly unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    10. Elaborate thrones

      Coe’s standard: “Its superstructure’s chambers contain a stone throne in the form of a snarling jaguar, painted red, with eyes and spots of jade and fangs of shell; atop the throne rested a Toltec circular back-shield in turquoise mosaic” (p. 206).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 11:9; Ether 10:6.

      Analysis of correspondence: Again, Joseph might have known about the elaborate throne of the British royal family, so it was perhaps not unusual, but what Native Americans was Joseph familiar with that had thrones, let alone elaborate thrones? How did he “guess” this one correctly? To be conservative, however, we will classify this as a specific and detailed correspondence, but perhaps not an unusual one.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    11. Royalty exists, with attendant palaces, courts and nobles

      Coe’s standard: “We now know a great deal about … Maya societies as the seats of royal courts” (p. 7). “By Classic times, full royal courts came into view” (p. 93). See also pp. 7, 93, 95, 126, and 209.

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:1‒2; Alma 22:2; Alma 51:7‒8, 21.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya refer repeatedly to these institutions of royalty. So the correspondence is both specific and detailed. However, it may be a stretch to call it unusual. While there were no Indian kings, Joseph certainly knew about British royalty, and [Page 104]might have been influenced thereby to put it into the Book of Mormon. So to be conservative, we will not classify this one as unusual, although it is specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    12. Royal or elite marriages for political purposes

      Coe’s standard: “Where such stratagems typically played out was in royal or noble marriages” (p. 97). “An elite class consisting of central Mexican foreigners, and the local nobility with whom they had marriage ties” (p. 103).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:24; Alma 47:35.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific but not particularly detailed in the case of the Book of Mormon. Joseph might also have been aware of the political marriages in the royal houses of England and Europe. So we rate this one as specific but not detailed or unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    13. Feasting for political purposes

      Coe’s standard: “In courts, feasts and gifts helped to bind alliances and keep underlings happy, with effects across the kingdom” (p. 97).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 18:9; Alma 20:9.

      Analysis of correspondence: Neither book offers a lot of distinguishing detail, although the references are specific. The practice seems unusual in Joseph’s frontier setting in democratic America. Why would Joseph Smith attribute this practice (unusual for him) to the ancestors of the Indians? This correspondence is therefore ranked as specific and unusual but not detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1.

    14. Gifts to the king for political advantage

      Coe’s standard: The Maya refers clearly to this practice: “In courts, feasts and gifts helped to bind alliances and keep underlings happy, with effects across the kingdom” (p. 97).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 2:12.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon reference to political gifts is less specific but strongly suggestive. Again, the practice seems unusual in Joseph’s frontier setting in democratic America. Why would Joseph Smith attribute this practice (unusual for him) to the ancestors of the Indians? This correspondence is therefore ranked as only somewhat specific and unusual. The overall likelihood is downgraded from specific and unusual to only specific.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    15. Political factions organize around a member of the elite

      Coe’s standard: “courts did not operate by individual actions alone. They worked instead through factions pivoting around a high ranking courtier or member of the royal family” (p. 97).

      [Page 105]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 1:2‒9.

      Analysis of correspondence: In America in the early 19th century, the party system had already been born, and the party often pivoted around a key political figure like Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, so this idea was not unusual to Joseph. However, it is both specific and quite detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    16. Foreigners move in and take over government, often as family dynasties

      Coe’s standard: “[The Founder of Copan] was another stranger coming in from the west, perhaps from Teotihuacan” (p. 118). “[At Dos Pilas] … a noble lineage arrived from Tikal and established a royal dynasty” (p. 150). “Uxmal … was the seat of the Xiu family, but this was a late lineage of Mexican origin that could not possibly have built the site” (p. 180).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:19; Alma 47:35; Helaman 1:16.

      Analysis of correspondence: Again, both the Book of Mormon and The Maya specifically refer to this practice and in considerable detail. However, Joseph Smith might have been aware of the change in family dynasties in England about a century earlier when the House of Hanover succeeded the House of Stuart as kings of Great Britain, and used this as his model (however unlikely). So the correspondence is specific and detailed, but perhaps not unusual. To be conservative, we assign this a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    17. City administrative area with bureaucrats and aristocrats

      Coe’s standard: At Tikal “closer to the heart of the city itself, [were] the dwellings of aristocrats and bureaucrats” (p. 126), “the palaces were the administrative centers of the city” (p. 128). At Aguateca the archaeologist was able “to identify specialized areas, such as a house which was probably that of the chief scribe of the city” (p. 151). “The House of the Governor was built, probably to serve as his administrative headquarters” (p. 182).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 60:19, 22; Helaman 9:1‒7.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both books are quite specific on this point, but the Book of Mormon does not provide a lot of detail. However, Joseph Smith never saw a state or national capital city with its administrative center and nearby houses for officials until well after the the Book of Mormon was published. So this is unusual and specific.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    18. Records kept specifically of the reigns of the kings

      Coe’s standard: “the ‘stela cult’ — the inscribed glorification of royal lineages and their achievements” (p. 177). “The text is completely historical, recounting the king’s descent from Pakal the Great” (p. 264n169). “The figures that appear in Classic reliefs are not gods and priests, but dynastic autocrats and their spouses, children, and subordinates” (p. 273).

      [Page 106]Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 9:4; Jacob 3:13; Jarom 1:14.

      Analysis of correspondence: Like The Maya, the Book of Mormon is very specific and detailed about separate records being kept of the reigns of the kings. We know of no reason or existing historical model that would have led Joseph Smith to have correctly “guessed” that the doings of the kings were kept separately from the rest of the history of a people. This is a specific, detailed and unusual correspondence.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    19. Native leaders incorporated in power structure after subjugation

      Coe’s standard: “Mesoamerican ’empires’ such as Teotihuacan’s were probably not organized along Roman lines; … rather, they were ‘hegemonic,’ in the sense that conquered bureaucracies were largely in place” (p. 100). “it seems obvious that many of the native princes were incorporated into the new power structure” (p. 206). “Or perhaps Calakmul found it easier … to rule through local authorities” (p. 276).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 19:26‒27; Mosiah 24:1‒2.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya are both specific and detailed about this practice. As Dr. Coe suggests, the only model Joseph Smith might conceivably have heard about for control of subjugated peoples was the Roman one, which was the opposite of the system used among the Maya, and also the opposite of the system used in the Book of Mormon. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that one correctly? Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    20. Tribute required of subjects

      Coe’s standard: “the ruler took in tax or tribute” (p. 93). “Scenes with food, drink, and tribute” (p. 97). “displays of captives or tribute” (p. 124). “On what did the population live? One answer is tribute” (p. 216).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:15, 22; Mosiah 19:15, 22, 26, 28; Mosiah 22:7, 10. Also Alma 23:38‒39; Alma 7:22; Alma 24:9.

      Analysis of correspondence: Once again, the Book of Mormon and The Maya are both specific and detailed about the practice of tribute. However, it is possible that Joseph had heard about this practice either through the Bible or other sources. So we will classify this correspondence as specific and detailed, but not unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    21. Limited number of important patrilineages

      Coe’s standard: “There were 24 ‘principal’ lineages in Utatlan” (p. 225). “There were approximately 250 patrilineages in Yucatan at the time of the Conquest, and we know from Landa how important they were” (p. 234).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob: 1:13; Alma 47:35; 4 Nephi 1:36‒38; Mormon 1:8‒9.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya are very specific and detailed about how important it was to belong to a leading patrilineage. While Joseph Smith might have picked up this idea from reading the Bible (that is, the tribes of Israel) we think this is very unlikely. So we regard this correspondence as specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    22. King and “king elect”

      Coe’s standard: “The K’iche’ state was headed by a king, a king-elect, and two ‘captains'” (p. 226). “royal youths … or the ‘great youth,’ … perhaps the heir-designate” (p. 278).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 1:10; Mosiah 6:3.

      [Page 107]Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon also refers to the practice of an heir-designate, so this is a specific correspondence, but it is not particularly detailed. Also, Joseph may have been aware of the practice of having heirs to the throne of Great Britain. To be conservative, we will assign this correspondence a likelihood of 0.5, although it may perhaps merit a greater evidentiary strength.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    23. There are captains serving kings

      Coe’s standard: “The K’ iche’ state was headed by a king, a king-elect and two ‘captains'” (p. 226).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 22:3.

      Analysis of correspondence: Gideon clearly serves in the capacity of a captain to King Limhi, so the idea is specific or highly suggestive. It also seems unusual. Where would Joseph Smith have come up with this idea? Because of lack of detail, we will assign this correspondence a likelihood of 0.5, although it probably merits a greater strength.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    24. Political power is exercised by family dynasties

      Coe’s standard: “[Spearthrower Owl installed his own son] … as the tenth ruler of Tikal” (p. 109). “King of the great city of Palenque [was] the second son of the renowned Palenque [ruler Pakal the Great]” (p. 161). “There were 24 ‘principal’ lineages in Utatlan, closely identified with the buildings … in which the lords carried out their affairs” (p. 225). “The ancient Maya realm was … a class society with political power … in the hands of an hereditary elite” (p. 234). “the names of the cities themselves or of the dynasties that ruled over them” (p. 271). “dynastic record of all Palenque rulers” (p. 274).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: From the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the key political question was which of sons of Lehi had the right to exercise political power over the rest of Lehi’s descendants; in other words, who would be the leader of an hereditary elite? See Mosiah 1:9; Mosiah 11:1; [Page 108]Mosiah 19:16, 26; Mosiah 28:10; Alma 17:6; Alma 20:8; Alma 24:3‒4; Alma 50:40; Helaman 1:4‒5; Helaman 2:2; Ether 6:24.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both books very clearly attest to the central importance of family dynasties. The Lamanite political model was clearly that of hereditary kings. Even among the supposedly more democratic Nephites, following the political reforms of King Mosiah, the office of chief judge (an elected position) often descended from father to son, for example, Alma to his son Alma, Pahoran to his son Pahoran, etc. Obviously, there was a de facto hereditary elite even during a time of popular elections.

      Likewise, The Maya provides many examples of continuing conflict over the question of which lineage would exercise political leadership. So this correspondence is specific and quite detailed. However, it is not unusual. Joseph might have been aware of the various family dynasties in Europe and Great Britain, and their unending conflicts. This correspondence is thus assigned a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    25. Kings rule over subordinate provincial or territorial rulers, some of noble blood (subkings)

      Coe’s standard: “The wily K’uk’ulkan II populated his city with provincial rulers and their families” (p. 216). “At the head of each statelet in Yucatan was the … the territorial ruler who had inherited his post in the male line” (p. 236). “The kings of some lesser states were said to be ‘possessed’ by the rulers of more powerful ones” (p. 275).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:2‒3; Alma 17:21; Alma 20:4, 8.

      Analysis of correspondence: This pattern is clearly evident among the Lamanite kings in the Book of Mormon and also as detailed by Dr. Coe in The Maya. So the correspondence is specific and quite detailed in both books. We know of no political model in his time on which Joseph Smith might have relied to correctly “guess” this correspondence. The kings of Great Britain did not have provincial rulers of royal blood. Thus this correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual. However, because of its overlap with correspondence 1.2, we assign only a likelihood of 0.5 to this correspondence. This choice is due to the specific additional information that sometimes these provincial rulers were of royal blood.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    26. “Seating” means accession to political power

      Coe’s standard: “Epigraphers conclude that pectoral reverse records the ‘seating’ or accession to power, of the ruler in question” (p. 91). “Important glyphs now known to relate to dynastic affairs include … inauguration or ‘seating’ in office” (p. 274).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 8:12; Helaman 7:4; 3 Nephi 6:19.

      [Page 109]Analysis of correspondence: On three separate occasions, the Book of Mormon uses exactly this word seating or seat to describe the holding of or accession to political power. So the correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual. It seems very unlikely that Joseph Smith would have correctly “guessed” this particular word.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    27. Separation of civil and religious authority

      Coe’s standard: “a hereditary Chief Priest resided in that city, … but in no source do we find his authority or that of the priests superseding civil power” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 4:16‒18.

      Analysis of correspondence: Under the leadership of Alma the Younger, the role of the head of state and the head of the church were separated, while they had previously been combined. It appears that this was the pattern afterwards among the Nephites, but we do not know what the pattern was among the Lamanites. So this correspondence is specific, but not detailed. Also, this pattern of “separation of church and state” as practiced in America would not have been unusual to Joseph Smith.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    28. Those of noble birth aspire to power

      Coe’s standard: “Several courtiers were so mighty as to be magnates, perhaps descended from collateral royal lines. They needed to be co-opted and watched, lest their pretensions got out of hand” (p. 93).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma: 51:5, 8.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Alma describes a continuing conflict in the Nephite confederation between those who desired a freely chosen government and those who were of “high birth” and sought to be kings. So the correspondence is specific, but not very detailed in either book and probably not unusual to Joseph, since seeking after power seems to be part of human nature.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    29. Royal courts imitate their enemies

      Coe’s standard: “Courts were often imitative. Through a curious form of standardization, they emulated each other, even those of enemies” (p. 95).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 47:23.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon likewise refers to a specific custom of Lamanite royalty which had been taken from their Nephite enemies. Dr. Coe himself regards this imitative feature as “curious”; so we will agree to that point. It is indeed unusual. However, there is not a lot of detail in either The Maya or the Book of Mormon about these imitative practices, so we will classify this correspondence as specific and unusual, but not detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    30. [Page 110]Royal courts function as “great households”

      Coe’s standard: “A final observation is that courts functioned as ‘great households'” (p. 97).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma Chap. 19 (the whole chapter)

      Analysis of correspondence: Alma Chapter 19 describes a somewhat unusual scene in which many of King Lamoni’s subjects gather to Lamoni’s “house” (not his palace) in quite a familiar, quasi-democratic way and are apparently able to bring their swords along with them. This would certainly not be the case in the court of Great Britain. So the practice is definitely unusual, but there is not a lot of detail, and Dr. Coe is not very specific about what he means by “great households.”

      However, there is enough specificity in the concept of royal courts as households and the idea that King Lamoni had a house, rather than a palace, to warrant identifying this as a correspondence. While this may not be a detailed correspondence or a particularly specific one, it is very unusual. Therefore, we assign this correspondence a likelihood of 0.5.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    31. Candidates for high office had to possess hidden knowledge

      Coe’s standard: Any candidate for high office had to pass an occult catechism known as the ‘Language of Zuywa.'” (p. 236).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Enos 1:1; Mosiah 1:2.

      Analysis of correspondence: King Benjamin “caused that [his sons] should be taught in the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding.” Later, his son Mosiah became the ruler of the people. Likewise, Enos (a prince of sorts) was also taught in the “language” of his father. One is led to ask: “Was the regular course of education not sufficient for these young men; was their common language not enough to qualify them to lead?” Apparently not. This correspondence has some detail, and while it is specific enough to get our attention, and is definitely unusual, we do not think it merits a likelihood of 0.02; instead it is assigned a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    32. Abrupt breaks in dynasties

      Coe’s standard: “Thus, we can expect a good deal of local cultural continuity even in those regions taken over by the great city; but in the case of the lowland Maya, we shall also see outright interference in dynastic matters, with profound implications for the course of Maya history. (p. 100). “there are signs of … profound breaks in the dynasty” (p. 116).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:1‒19; Alma 24:1‒2.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Maya also describes numerous other instances in which one Maya kingdom invaded another and abruptly changed the ruling dynasty. The same thing also occurs in the Book of Mormon, [Page 111]when King Mosiah replaces (peacefully) the ruler(s) of Zarahemla; and later in Alma 24 when the rebellious Lamanites depose their hereditary king. So this correspondence is specific and detailed in both books, but it probably does not qualify as unusual. Joseph might well have known about the many European wars, with multiple rulers bent on deposing each other.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    33. Subservient peoples are said to “possess” the land while ruled by a dominant power

      Coe’s standard: “The kings of some lesser states were said to be ‘possessed’ by the rulers of more powerful ones” (p. 275).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 19:15.

      Analysis of correspondence: It is interesting that this specific word possess is the one used by the Maya to describe subservient rulership. Likewise the Lehites (for example, 2 Nephi 1:9) and the Jaredites (for example, Ether 2:8) were instructed that theirs was a “promised land” and that they would “possess” it as long as they kept their covenants with their heavenly king. That same word possess was the relationship the Israelites were to have with their lands of promise, under God’s rule (for example, Deuteronomy 11:8, 2 Nephi 24:2). The wording here is highly specific, and unusual, but may not be detailed enough in the case of the Maya to warrant a likelihood of 0.02, but it does warrant a likelihood of 0.1. How would Joseph Smith have guessed how appropriate that particular word was to describe this relationship between a more powerful king and his subservient kings among the Maya?

      Likelihood = 0.1

    Calculation of overall likelihood for political correspondences

    There are 33 separate political correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, nine have a likelihood of 0.5, 16 have a likelihood of 0.1 and eight have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 33 positive correspondences is 0.59 x 0.116 x 0.028 =

    4.99 x 10–33.

  2. Cultural and Social Correspondences
    1. Possible ancient origin of Mesoamerican cultures

      Coe’s standard: “Given the similarities among the diverse cultures of Mesoamerica, … its peoples must share a common origin, so far back in time that it may never be brought to light by archaeology” (p. 14).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See the Book of Ether.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon specifically refers to a much earlier migration, the “Jaredites,” from the Old World to the New World thousands of years before the Lehite migration. However, the Book of Mormon does not say, as Coe strongly implies above, that the earlier [Page 112]culture was the common origin of subsequent cultures. Those details are lacking in the Book of Mormon. The pattern is, however, unusual. It is one thing for Joseph Smith to have “guessed” the existence of the Lehite colony, but to correctly guess another much, much earlier culture/migration is quite unusual. We rate this specific and unusual for a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    2. Active interchange of ideas and things among the elite

      Coe’s standard: “there must have been an active interchange of ideas and things among the Mesoamerican elite over many centuries” (p. 14).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:12‒15; Mosiah 7:9,13; Alma 47:23, 35‒36; Helaman 4:3‒4, 8; Helaman 11: 24‒25; Alma 63:14; 3 Nephi 1:28.

      Analysis of correspondence: Coe is very specific and detailed in his statement. The Book of Mormon is likewise detailed and specific about the many exchanges of people (especially elite peoples) and ideas over centuries among the Book of Mormon peoples. Even a well-educated person, which Joseph Smith was certainly not, would have a hard time thinking of a historical model for this behavior, let alone blending it so seamlessly and unobtrusively into the larger Book of Mormon history. Therefore it is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02.

    3. Foreign brides for elites

      Coe’s standard: “More than a negligible percentage of Tikal’s population came from elsewhere, including the introduction of foreign brides for elites” (p. 109).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:24 and Alma 47:35.

      Analysis of correspondence: Ammon was a Nephite prince whom the king of the Lamanites sought as a husband for one of his daughters; and Ammonihah was a Nephite by birth who became king of the Lamanites after marrying the queen, so the correspondence is specific and detailed. There were indeed foreign brides for elites. However, Joseph might have been aware of the intermarriages among the royal houses of Europe, where elites also had foreign brides, so it is not unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    4. Slavery practiced

      Coe’s standard: “[Yucatan was famed for] production of honey, salt and slaves” (p. 19). “Slaves comprised both sentenced criminals and vassal war captives” (p. 225). “Human sacrifice was perpetrated on prisoners, slaves, and children” (pp. 243‒44).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:15; Alma 27:8; 3 Nephi 3:7.

      Analysis of correspondence: King Benjamin specifically states that he had not allowed his people to make slaves of one another, strongly implying that slavery was the usual practice. (Mosiah 2:13). The Lamanites offered to become slaves until they had recompensed the wrongs they had done to [Page 113]the Nephites. The Gadiantons offered a partnership with the Nephites as an alternative to slavery. So the practice of slavery is specific and detailed in both books. Alas, slavery has never been unusual, and it was certainly known to Joseph Smith.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    5. Different languages found in pockets

      Coe’s standard: “Languages other than Mayan were found in isolated pockets, indicating either intrusions of peoples from foreign lands or remnant populations engulfed by the expansion of the Mayan tongues” (p. 31).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:19; Mosiah 9:6‒7; Mosiah 23:30‒35; Alma 27:22.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon contains examples of both kinds of linguistic “pockets,” both by intrusion and engulfment. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. It perhaps is not unusual, however. Joseph Smith might have reflected on the intrusion of English into the French peoples of Canada, or on the immigration of so many Germans during the Revolutionary War … and then woven this idea seamlessly into the Book of Mormon. Unlikely in the extreme, but possible. To be (probably overly) conservative we rate this one as specific and detailed, but not unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    6. In their creation stories, a great flood caused by human wickedness

      Coe’s standard. “men made from flesh. … [Humankind] turned to wickedness and … were in their turn annihilated … as … a great flood swept the earth” (p. 41). “the last Creation before our own ended with a great flood” (p. 249).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 5:11, Alma 10:22.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Lehite colony had the five books of Moses, and thus the flood story. Among the Maya and the Lehites, the great flood was specifically due to the wickedness of men. So the correspondence was specific and detailed. However, because Joseph Smith may have read View of the Hebrews (however unlikely that may be), we are not allowing this correspondence to be unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    7. Possible settlement of the Americas by seafarers

      Coe’s standard: “The presence or absence of the Bering Strait is thus not necessarily relevant to the problem [of the settlement of the Americas]: the very first Americans may well have taken a maritime route” (p. 41). “From the setting sun we came … from beyond the sea” (p. 224).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 18:8, 23; Omni 1:16; Ether 6:12.

      Analysis of correspondence: Coe is specific on this point, but not particularly detailed, at least as regards his interpretation of the Annals of the Kaqchikels. In contrast, the Annals themselves seem to be very specific and detailed on [Page 114]this point. According to the Kaqchikels, their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea. The Book of Mormon is specific that both the Jaredite and Lehite migrations were by sea, and the Lehites came from the west. We are not told how the Mulekites arrived. In Joseph’s day, most educated persons believed in a Bering Strait migration of the ancestors of the American Indians, perhaps by the land bridge. So for Joseph to say that the Book of Mormon peoples came by sea was unusual. However, in deference to Coe’s different interpretation of the Annals from a plain reading of that quotation, we rate this one as specific and unusual, but not detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    8. Steep decline and disappearance of an ancient culture a few hundred years BC

      Coe’s standard: “There is some consensus among archaeologists that the Olmecs of southern Mexico had elaborated many of these traits beginning over 3,000 years ago, and that much of complex culture in Mesoamerica has an Olmec origin” (p. 14). “The Olmec civilization went into a steep decline ca 400 BC” (p. 61).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:21; Book of Ether, especially chapters 13‒15.

      Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is detailed and specific. It also is unusual. What information or possible model did Joseph Smith have to “guess” a steep cultural decline among a very ancient American Indian culture at the same time the evidence summarized in The Maya says the decline occurred? In a word, how did he “guess” this one?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    9. Strong class distinctions based on noble birth, wealth and specialized learning

      Coe’s standard: “The esoteric knowledge of the Maya … served to separate and elevate people in the know from those denied that privilege” (p. 96). “Now, while among some other peoples such kin groups are theoretically equal, among the Maya this was not so, … for there were strongly demarcated classes” (p. 235). “At the top were the nobles, … who had private lands and held the more important political offices, as well as filling the roles of high-ranking warriors, wealthy farmers and merchants, and clergy. The commoners were the free workers of the population, … but in all likelihood even these persons were graded into rich and poor. There is some indication of a class of serfs, who worked the private lands of the nobles” (p. 235).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 32:2; Alma 51:21; 3 Nephi 6:11‒12; 4 Nephi 1:26.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, and both the Book of Mormon and The Maya agree in the details upon which class distinctions were based, namely birth, wealth, and learning. While distinctions based on wealth and learning probably would not have seemed [Page 115]unusual to Joseph Smith (coming from the working poor class), distinctions based on noble birth might have seemed unusual. To be conservative, we will not count this as unusual, only specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    10. Sacrifice of children and others to Maya gods

      Coe’s standard: “When the [Temple of the Feathered Serpent] was dedicated ca AD 200, at least 200 individuals were sacrificed in its honor” (p. 100). “The honored deceased was buried … and [was] accompanied not only by rich offerings of pottery and other artifacts, but also by up to three persons sacrificed for the occasion (generally children or adolescents)” (p. 104). “Human sacrifice was perpetrated on … children (bastards or orphans bought for the occasion), … fit offerings for the Maya gods” (p. 243‒44).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 4:14‒15, 21.

      Analysis of correspondence: The practice is detailed and specific in both books. However, we do not count it as unusual. The practice of sacrificing children and infants is described in the Bible, and Joseph might have learned about it there.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    11. Multiple correspondences with Egyptian culture and concepts

      Coe’s standard: “The function of Maya pyramids as funerary monuments thus harks back to Preclassic times” (p. 76). “The Temple of the Inscriptions was a funerary monument with exactly the same primary function as the Egyptian pyramids” (p. 157). Not mentioned by Coe are several additional ties with Egypt. First, there is the fact that both the Egyptians and the Maya regarded the five days at the end of the year as unlucky.31 “A much-dreaded interval of 5 unlucky days added at the end” (p. 64). Second, the Hero Twins in the Maya story “resurrected their father Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God” (p. 71), just as Horus, the son of Osiris, resurrected his father in ancient Egyptian religion.32 Third and 4th include hieroglyphic writing, and grave goods. We wonder why Coe, who certainly knows of these additional correspondences between the Maya and the Egyptians, did not mention them. So we did it for him.

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 1:2; Alma 10:3; Mormon 9:32.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence here is the tie with Egypt on multiple levels. The Book of Mormon claims to be written “in the characters called among us, the reformed Egyptian.” Nephi starts out his record telling us that he made it “in the language of the Egyptians.” Furthermore, Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh, who was born in Egypt of an Egyptian mother. The correspondences are detailed and specific as far as the Egyptian ties [Page 116]are concerned, and very unusual. Why would Joseph Smith have “guessed” that the ancestors of the Indians had these ties with Egypt? This correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual, but since Dr. Coe mentioned only one of several possible ties with Egypt, we will downgrade the correspondence from 0.02 (specific, detailed and unusual) to merely specific, or

      Likelihood = 0.5

    12. Mobile populations, founding new cities

      Coe’s standard: “Many dynasties were founded in the Early Classic period. Several … appear to have hived off from the southern Lowlands” (p. 108). “What is clear is that, far more than once thought, people moved about in the Early Classic periods” (p. 109).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:12‒15; Alma 8:7; Alma 27:22; Alma 47:35.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya are full of examples in which large and small groups set out on their own to found new cities. In the Book of Mormon we have Nephi’s people separating from the other Lehites after their arrival in the New World; Mosiah and his people leaving the main body of Lehites and joining the people of Zarahemla; Zeniff and his people going up to reclaim the land of their first inheritance; the people of Ammon moving to avoid destruction; the flight of the people who followed Alma the Elder, and so on. The correspondence is specific and detailed, but probably not unusual. Joseph Smith and his family were themselves part of a highly mobile American frontier population, busy founding new communities.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    13. Menial workers, extreme inequality, ignorance and oppression

      Coe’s standard: “The royal cooks and cleaners or other menials … did not merit mention” (p. 129). “Among some other peoples such kin groups are theoretically equal, among the Maya this was not so. … The commoners were the free workers, … but in all likelihood even these persons were graded into rich and poor. … And at the bottom were the slaves who were mostly plebeians taken in war. … Slavery was hereditary” (p. 235). (See the entirety of p. 235.)

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:26‒33; Alma 32:4‒5; Alma 35:9; 3 Nephi 6:10–12.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon details the same sources of inequality as does The Maya: those owing to education, social status and wealth. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. Again, alas, this correspondence would certainly not have been unusual to Joseph and his family … as relatively poor “commoners [and] free workers,” using Coe’s words. Since this correspondence has some overlap with 2.9, we reduce its probative weight from 0.1 to 0.5.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    14. [Page 117]Marketplaces exist

      Coe’s standard: “a variety of men, women and even children involved in the buying and selling of commodities including shelled maize, maize tamales, atole (maize gruel), salt and even vases” (p. 145). “These are unique scenes of daily life within a bustling marketplace. … Such markets have been found at a number of other Classic Maya cities” (p. 146). “There was a great market at Chichen Itza” (p. 233).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 7:10.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon is specific about the existence of markets, but not detailed, except that there was a “chief” market in Zarahemla, which was also the leading city of the Nephite civilization at that time, strongly implying that there were other, less prominent markets in Zarahemla or elsewhere. The Maya is highly detailed, however. This is undoubtedly unusual. What North American tribes did Joseph Smith know of that had settled, stationary marketplaces? So how did he “guess” that one correctly? Specific and unusual for a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    15. People driven from their homes wander searching for a new home

      Coe’s standard: “The Itza … were driven from this town … and wandered east across the land, … where they settled as squatters in the desolate city [of Chichen Itza]” (p. 216) “Those Itza who were driven from Chichen Itza [wandered back] to the Lake Peten Itza” (p. 219).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: The Lehites were driven from their Jerusalem home and wandered for years before they found a home in the New World. Alma the Elder and his people were driven from their homes by King Noah and wandered in the wilderness until they found a home. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were likewise driven from their homes and had to seek a new home in a strange land.

      Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. It also seems unusual. Where would Joseph Smith have gotten this idea of a wandering people seeking for a new home? Most people do not read the Aeneid until college, if they ever read it at all. What other literary work might Joseph have gotten this idea from? Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    16. Wasteful architectural extravagance

      Coe’s standard: “intensification of inter-elite competition, manifesting itself in different ways: not only in ‘wasteful architectural extravagance'” (p. 175).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 11:8‒11.

      Analysis of correspondence: In both books, the correspondence is specific and detailed as to ornamentation and costly excess for the thrones, palaces, etc., of the elite. Joseph Smith was an unsophisticated young man who had [Page 118]lived his life as a member of the working poor. How would he know about such extravagance? How would he know how to describe such ornate things without going overboard? Where would he have seen such things? This is certainly unusual. So the correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    17. Large northward migrations specifically mentioned

      Coe’s standard: “They could have been the Yukateko on their trek north to Yucatan from the Maya homeland” (p. 47). “Old thrones toppled in the south as a new political order took shape in the north; southern cities fell into the dust as northern ones flourished” (p. 174). “The early Colonial chronicles in Yukateko speak of a ‘Great Descent’ and ‘Lesser Descent,’ implying two mighty streams of refugees heading north from the abandoned cities” (p. 177). The Yukateko trek took place many centuries before the Late Classic migration northward, so this kind of thing happened in widely different periods.

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 63:4‒9; Helaman 3:3‒12.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon speaks repeatedly of the “land northward” as the place where the Nephites could flee or go into to settle. The land northward was where the Nephites made their last stand and were finally destroyed. These northward flights also took place over centuries. This is really a “bull’s eye” for the Book of Mormon: a specific, detailed and unusual correspondence.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    18. Constant migrations

      Coe’s standard: “At some point … there was a single Mayan language, Proto-Mayan, perhaps located in the western Guatemalan highlands. According to one linguistic scenario, Wastekan and Yukatekan split off from this parent body, with Wastek migrating up the Gulf Coast to northern Veracruz and Tamaulipas in Mexico, and Yukatekan occupying the Yucatan Peninsula. … The parent body then split into two groups, a Western and an Eastern Division. In the Western group, the ancestral Ch’olan-Tseltalan moved down into the Central Area, where they split into Ch’olan and Tseltalan. The subsequent history of the Tseltalans is fairly well known: in Highland Chiapas, many thousands of their descendants, the Tsotsil and Tseltal, maintain unchanged the old Maya patterns of life. … Other Western language groups include Q’anjob’al, Tojol-ab’al, Mocho’, and Chuj, which stayed close to the probable homeland … The Eastern Division includes the Mamean group of languages. Mam itself spilled down to the Pacific coastal plain at an unknown time” (p. 28).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See: Words of Mormon 1:13; Mosiah 10:10; Alma 2:16, 32; Alma 54:16‒20.

      [Page 119]Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. Book of Mormon peoples indeed moved around a lot, just as The Maya describes. But apart from the large northward migrations already described in 2.17 above, other details are lacking. Also, this is certainly not unusual. Joseph Smith and his family were part of a mass westward migration of Americans that had been going on for a very long time.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    19. Cities and lands named after founder

      Coe’s standard: “an individual called Ek’ Balam, … after whom the place was anciently named” (p. 194).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 23:31; Alma 8:7; Alma 17:19; 3 Nephi 9:9.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya, but Coe does not mention many examples of this practice, so it is not detailed to the same degree it is in the Book of Mormon. Also, in frontier America it was common practice to name small towns and villages after the founder or founding family. So this practice would not have been unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    20. Maya say their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea

      Coe’s standard: “From the setting sun we came, from Tula, from beyond the sea” (p. 224).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: 1 Nephi 18:8, 23. This is clearly the claim of the Book of Mormon: the Lehite colony came from the west from beyond the sea.

      Analysis of correspondence: Coe discounts this statement as self-serving political propaganda by those claiming descent from those hailing from “the legendary home in the west.” Perhaps, but why would it have any political power if the claim itself did not somehow matter to the populace? And since Dr. Coe thinks the Book of Mormon is fiction (or legend), then the Book of Mormon is accurate and detailed in also making that claim, even if fictional. Given similar statements in View of the Hebrews, we do not count this as unusual, but it is both specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    21. Their sacred writing has poetic parallelisms, repetitions

      Coe’s standard: “‘The raised wooden standard shall come! … Our lord comes, Itza! Our elder brother comes, oh men of Tantun! Receive your guests, the bearded men, the men of the east, the bearers of the sign of God, lord!'” (Thus said the prophet Chilam Balam, p. 227). From one of the books of Chilam Balam as follows:

      “Eat, eat, thou hast bread;
      Drink, drink, thou hast water;
      On that day, dust possesses the earth;
      [Page 120]On that day, a blight is on the face of the earth,
      On that day, a cloud rises;
      On that day, a mountain rises;
      On that day, a strong man seizes the land;
      On that day, things fall to ruin,
      On that day, the tender leaf is destroyed,
      On that day, the dying eyes are closed,
      On that day, three signs are on the tree,
      On that day, three generations hang there,
      On that day, the battle flag is raised,
      And they are scattered afar in the forests,
      On that day, the battle flag is raised,
      And they are scattered afar in the forests.” (p. 229).

      In the podcasts, referring specifically to chiasmus and poetic parallelisms, Coe says that “something like that” exists in Maya literature, even as little of that literature as we have. And Coe praises Professor Allen Christenson’s translation of the Popol Vuh as “wonderful.”33 Christenson’s translation is explicitly rendered in poetic parallelisms and chiasms.34

      Book of Mormon correspondence: The reader is referred to Professor Donald Parry’s reformatted version of the Book of Mormon in parallelisms and repetitions.35

      Analysis of the correspondence: It is simply without doubt that the Book of Mormon is written in poetic parallelisms and repetitions. We have Coe’s own citations from Chilam Balam, his praise of Christenson’s translation of the Popul Vuh, etc., to confirm that this correspondence is specific, and detailed. As to “unusual,” Coe says in the podcasts that the fact that the Book of Mormon has chiasms and poetic parallelisms “means nothing,” that this type of language is found around the world.36

      Coe thinks that the Book of Mormon has such language because Joseph Smith knew the Old Testament “very, very well.” We disagree completely. The Hebrew [Page 121]chiasms and poetic parallelisms in the Old Testament were largely erased by the scholars who translated the King James Bible into English.

      Even if Joseph Smith knew about this kind of language, it is entirely another thing to be able to write (or more challenging yet, dictate) more than 300 separate chiasms into the Book of Mormon in such a way that they integrate seamlessly with the message of the book. Moreover, none of Joseph Smith’s own written sermons or other writings use these poetic parallelisms. If Dr. Coe is correct, why did Joseph Smith write these poetic parallelisms into the Book of Mormon and then completely stop writing like this? We find this objection inconsistent and uniformed.

      We invite Dr. Coe or anyone else to dictate a chiasm like Alma Chapter 36. They can’t do it. This is unusual in the extreme. We would like to give it a much higher weight (one in a billion?) but our own weighting scheme forbids that. Instead, we give it a likelihood of 0.02.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    22. Corn first among grains

      Coe’s standard: “This crop [maize] is so fundamental today that its cultivation and consumption define what it means to be Maya” (p. 242).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:22; Mosiah 9: 9, 14.

      Analysis of correspondence: In the Book of Mormon, corn is the first grain mentioned; and not just once but all three times corn is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it is the first or the only grain mentioned, not wheat. So this correspondence is specific and detailed. But we do not count it as unusual, because View of the Hebrews also mentions the primacy of corn among the Indians.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    23. Multiple wives/concubines especially among the rich

      Coe’s standard: “From the ceramics at a site such as El Perú we get an idea of the palace staff described in Chapter 4: the courtiers and attendants, royal ladies or concubines” (p. 129). “Monogamy was the general custom, but important men who could afford it took more wives” (p. 234).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob 1:15; Jacob 2:27; Mosiah 11:4; Ether 10:5.

      Analysis of correspondence: The practice is specific in both books, and is generally limited to rich men taking more wives. So the practice is also detailed to that extent. Joseph would have been aware of the practice of multiple wives among the Biblical patriarchs, and also with David and Solomon. Among some Indian tribes, important men also took multiple wives. So it is not unusual. Specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    24. [Page 122]Important to trace one’s genealogy to a prominent ancestor

      Coe’s standard: “to be able to trace one’s genealogy in both lines to an ancient ancestry was an important matter, for there were strongly demarcated classes” (p. 235).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 25:13; Alma 10:1‒3; 3 Nephi 5:20; Ether 1:6‒33; Ether 6:22‒25; Mormon 1:5; Mormon 8:13.

      Analysis of correspondence: Coe describes this practice clearly and in some detail. The Book of Mormon also describes it clearly and in great detail. Why would this idea occur to Joseph Smith in democratic frontier America in the early 1800s? America had recently thrown off the rule of a class-based society, the British. So the correspondence also seems unusual. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    25. Genealogies kept very carefully by the priests

      Coe’s standard: “According to the early sources, the Maya books contained histories, prophecies, maps, tribute accounts, songs, ‘sciences,’ and genealogies” (p. 239). “Far more is known of later Maya priests. … [They] kept the all-important genealogies” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 3:3, 12; 1 Nephi 5:14; 1 Nephi 6:1; Jarom 1:1; Omni 1:1, 18; Alma 37:3.

      Analysis of correspondence: This practice of the priests (religious leaders) carefully keeping genealogies is specific and detailed in both The Maya and in the Book of Mormon. It is also unusual. We know of no contemporary practice or model in Joseph’s Smith’s world that put such emphasis on priests keeping a careful, written, long-term record of one’s ancestors, a record handed down over centuries. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    26. Homosexuality probably practiced

      Coe’s standard: “The latter include … amorous activities that are probably of a homosexual nature” (p. 258).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 30:18.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon’s reference to homosexual practices is veiled, but clear enough. How else does a man commit “whoredoms”? There are no details in either book, and the practice is not unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    27. Arcane sacred or prestige language

      Coe’s standard: “Ch’olti’an became a literary language of high prestige among scribes … [and like other prestige languages in other civilizations] continued to be the preferred written languages long after the spoken ones had died out or transformed into something else” (pp. 30‒31). “Ch’olti’ … may well have served as a lingua franca among elites and surely evolved, as [Page 123]did Medieval Latin and Coptic, into an arcane sacred language used by few” (p. 270).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 1:2 and 3:19; Mosiah 1:2, 4; Mormon 9:34.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon emphasizes “the language of the fathers,” a written language connected to the language of the Egyptians. It is the language in which the plates were written and was known to very few. It was obviously not the common language. The reference is specific for both books, detailed and unusual. Joseph Smith had not even mastered English at the time the Book of Mormon came forth and certainly knew nothing of Coptic or Medieval Latin, which he might have used as a model for this correspondence.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    28. Practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities

      Coe’s standard: “the Itza … moved into the peninsula … in the thirteenth century, and gave their name to the formerly Toltec site of Chichen” (p. 202).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 9:8; Helaman 11:20; 4 Nephi 1:7.

      Analysis of correspondence: The practice is specific in both books, although Coe offers only one example for detail while the Book of Mormon offers several examples. It is doubtful that Joseph Smith knew of any examples around him that could serve as a model for this practice. America was being built up by founding new cities and towns, not repopulating old or abandoned ones. So the correspondence is specific and unusual. Because Coe cites only one example, we will not claim it to be detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    29. World divided into four quarters or quadrants

      Coe’s standard: “Another pervasive idea was the division of the world into sectors [four of them]. … In the Classic period, eagles were thought to perch in each of the four directions” (p. 246). “The four walls of spectacular … royal tombs … display distinct hills. … Placed in the middle, the deceased became the center of the universe” (p. 247). “a map of world directions, adorned with gods and sacrifices appropriate to each quarter, … celebrations … presided over by a set of four young gods, a nod to the four directions” (p. 249). “The Zinacanteco world is conceived of as a large quincunx, with four corners and a ‘navel of the earth’ in the middle” (p. 292).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 22:25; 3 Nephi 16:5; Ether 13:11.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon are specific and detailed about the idea that the world is divided into four quarters. If Joseph Smith was making this up, why not into halves, or thirds or eighths? Coe (p. 247) notes that this idea is widespread and very ancient among humankind, which is probably why we ourselves talk in this way [Page 124]about the four quarters of the earth, without giving it much thought. Specific and detailed, but for this reason, not unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    30. Maya fascinated by ancient Olmec culture

      Coe’s standard: “there are also good reasons to believe that it was the Olmecs who devised the elaborate Long Count calendar. … Many other civilizations, including the Maya, ultimately drew on Olmec achievements” (p. 54). “In art, in religion, in state complexity, and perhaps even in the calendar and astronomy, Olmec models were transferred to the Maya” (p. 61). “The Maya looked to the west [toward Olmec lands] … as the enduring locus of civilization” (p. 63).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: Because of the 24 gold plates found by the people of Limhi among the ruins of an ancient civilization, The Book of Mormon also looks to an ancient, destroyed civilization as a source of knowledge, but apparently exclusively as a source of depraved knowledge of “secret combinations” rather than of useful accomplishments. For example, see Mosiah 8:9; Alma 37:29, 32; Ether 8:9 and 9:26. It is interesting that both the Jaredites and the Maya were ultimately destroyed because of “endemic, internecine warfare” (Coe’s words; see above).

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is certainly specific, but the details do not match, perhaps because of the very different orientations of the two books. The Book of Mormon tells us that the Nephites were destroyed because of their embrace of the secret combinations also found in the book of Ether, so the Book of Mormon probably would not be inclined to tell us if anything useful and good came from the Jaredite records. It is also unusual. Why would Joseph Smith “guess” that the ancient Indians looked toward an even more ancient civilization for guidance, either for good or bad? This correspondence is specific and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    31. Lineage histories dominate the written records

      Coe’s standard: “It was not just the ‘stela cult’ — the inscribed glorification of royal lineages and their achievements — that disappeared with the Collapse” (p. 177), “Native lineages seem to have deliberately falsified their own histories for political reasons” (p. 199). “[A postclassic site] … consists of plazas surrounded by lineage temples” (p. 225n145).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: The Book of Mormon is a lineage history. It begins with the story of Lehi and his family, and was later edited and compiled by Mormon (“a pure descendant of Lehi,” 3 Nephi 5:20) and his son Moroni. The Book of Ether is likewise a lineage history. Ether was a direct descendant, through many centuries, of Jared.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. It is also unusual. How could Joseph Smith have learned about lineage histories, and woven this correspondence into the fabric of the [Page 125]Book of Mormon in such an unobtrusive and comprehensive way? How did he “guess” this one correctly?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    Calculation of overall likelihood for Social and Cultural Correspondences

    There are 31 separate social and cultural correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, five have a likelihood of 0.5, 16 have a likelihood of 0.1, and ten have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 31 positive correspondences is 0.55 x 0.116 x 0.0210 =

    3.21 x 10–35.

  3. Religious Correspondences
    1. Central role of temples (ritual centers) in society

      Coe’s standard: “Kaminaljuyu … consisted of several hundred temple mounds” (p. 55). “The lowland Maya almost always built their temples over older ones” (p. 59). “On top of this … pyramid had once been a pole-and-thatch building” (p. 82n33). “Even more advanced temples have been uncovered at Tikal” (p. 83).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 5:16; Mosiah 9:8; Mosiah 11:8‒10; Helaman 1:21; Helaman 13:4; 3 Nephi 11:1.

      Analysis of correspondence: Temples, ritual centers, were obviously central to Maya life. So were they also among the Nephites. One of the very first things that Nephi’s small group does after splitting off is to build a temple “after the manner of the temple of Solomon” (2 Nephi 5:16). King Benjamin gathers his people around the temple. After the great destruction, the Nephites gather around the temple in the Land of Bountiful, and the risen Lord appears. While this correspondence is specific and detailed, we do not count it as unusual, because Joseph Smith might — perhaps, possibly, conceivably — have gotten the idea from View of the Hebrews.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    2. Strong Christian elements in Maya religion

      Coe’s standard: “Many Colonial-period Maya identified the risen Christ with the Maize God” (p. 71). “The raised wooden standard shall come! … Our lord comes, Itza! Our elder brother comes. … Receive your guests, the bearded men, the men of the east, the bearers of the sign of God, lord!” (p. 227). “There was … a great deal of … blending between Spanish and Maya religious institutions and beliefs, since in many respects they were so similar” (p. 289).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: From the title page to the last chapter, the Book of Mormon is, as it claims to be, another witness that Jesus is the Christ.

      [Page 126]Analysis of correspondence: In both books, the correspondence is specific, detailed and very unusual. Why would Joseph Smith have “guessed” that the ancient Mesoamericans had strong elements of Christianity in their religious practices? View of the Hebrews claims to find ancient Hebrew elements among American Indian tribes, but not Christian elements. So this is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    3. Change in popular cults; decline of a great city in the highlands in the Late Preclassic

      Coe’s standard: “While the pre-eminence of Kaminaljuyu during the Late Preclassic period is plain to see, its star began to sink by the second and third centuries AD, and most of it was left in ruin at the close of the Late Preclassic” (p. 80), “It is strange that figurines are absent from most known Chicanel sites, indicating that there was a change in popular cults [during the Late Preclassic 300 BC to AD 250]” (p. 81).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman Chapters 10 and 11, 3 Nephi (all), and 4 Nephi 1:20, 35‒40. This is the time period with which the Book of Mormon deals most intensively, and it includes many separate events of religious awakening, increased faith and great prosperity, which are then followed by apostasy and idolatry. Thus there are indeed many changes in “popular cults,” including the final one starting in about AD 200. Fourth Nephi outlines the fall and disintegration of Nephite society, which begins about this time.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in both books, but much more detailed in the Book of Mormon than in The Maya. The timing is also unusual. In the long centuries of Maya civilization (roughly 1800 BC to 900 AD) the Book of Mormon correctly “guesses” the period that Coe recognizes as a dramatic one when “a change in popular cults” occurred. We count this one as specific and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    4. Close association of temples with sacred mountains/hills (pyramids)

      Coe’s standard: “Rising up the corners of the temple’s substructure are monstrous faces representing witz or mountains” (p. 136). “Long thought to be faces of the Maya rain god Chahk, they are actually iconographic mountains (witz), the descendants of the corner masks placed on Classic-period monuments like Copan’s Temple 11″ (p. 180).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: 2 Nephi 12:2‒3.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and quite detailed in both books. The temples are associated with sacred mountains, for example the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Although perhaps Joseph Smith might have gotten the idea from careful reading of the Bible, nothing in conventional Christianity of his day would have prepared him to see the [Page 127]association between temples and holy sacred mountains, a concept shared by the Nephites and by the Maya. This is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    5. Seers and seer stones exist

      Coe’s standard: “Two of the houses were certainly devoted to village rituals; Structure 12 in particular had … a collection of crystals like those used by modern Maya diviners” (p. 107). “Two types of religious specialists practice here and in other traditional Yukateko settlements. One is … seemingly imbued with far greater spiritual and perhaps real power: this is the hmeen, ‘he who does or understands things.’ … These specialists still play an important role in divination and prophecy, using their crystals to scry the future” (p. 296). “The rite begins after the hmeen has consulted his zaztun or crystal” (p. 297).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 8:13‒17; Mosiah 28:13‒16; Ether 3:23‒24, 28.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya. However, we do not count it as unusual, although it will certainly appear unusual to the modern mind. Joseph Smith had his own seer stone before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and might have used that as his model for including seer stones and seers in the book.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    6. Temple and other religious rituals involve bloodletting

      Coe’s standard: “In the great courtyards less private activities took place, including dances, ritual bloodletting from the penis and tongue on calendrically important days” (p. 129). “These were inscribed within a very brief period … and celebrate … temple dedication rituals such as bloodletting” (p. 184). “Before and during rituals, … self-mutilation was carried out by jabbing needles and stingray spines through ears, cheeks, lips, tongue, and the penis, the blood being spattered on paper or used to anoint the idols” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jarom 1:5, 11; Alma 25:15‒16; Mosiah 13:27‒28.

      Analysis of the correspondence: Up until AD 33 or so, the Nephites practiced the Law of Moses, with its temple rituals involving bloodletting. Presumably they also followed the Abrahamic practice of circumcision. While the practices described in The Maya and the Law of Moses correspond in that they involve bloodletting from both human and animals for religious rituals, the details overlap only somewhat. Also they would probably not be unusual to a Bible-reading individual. Specific, but not detailed nor unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    7. [Page 128]Belief in resurrection

      Coe’s standard: “Following their ultimate victory, they resurrected their father Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God” (p. 71). “Modern rendering of a wall painting of the resurrected Maize God surrounded by female figures” (p. 88n36). “Significantly, … the ruler is portrayed not as K’awiil, but as the youthful Maize God, … a representation celebrating resurrection and apotheosis” (p. 195). “Both … had a hero god who died and was resurrected — for the Spaniards, this was Jesus Christ, and for the Maya, the Maize God” (p. 289).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 9:12; Alma 41:2; Alma 33:22 among many others. There are 57 references to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon.

      Analysis of the correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya refer specifically and in detail to a belief in bodily resurrection. The doctrine of a literal bodily resurrection had been in retreat in Christianity for centuries — so there was no intellectual reason for Joseph to put it forward as a prominent part of the Book of Mormon. Also, as far as we know, the North American Indians did not believe in resurrection. View of the Hebrews says nothing about such a belief among the Indians. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” that the belief might be held by distant ancestors of some of the Mesoamerican Indians? Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    8. Baptismal rite among the Maya

      Coe’s standard: “As soon as possible, the anxious parents [of a newborn child] went to consult with a priest so as to learn the destiny of their offspring, and the name which he or she was to bear until baptism. The Spanish Fathers were quite astounded that the Maya had a baptismal rite, which took place at an auspicious time” (p. 233).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 31:13; Mosiah 21:35; Moroni 6:1‒4 and many others. It is interesting that a new name was received at the time of baptism in the Book of Mormon and among the Maya (see above).

      Analysis of the correspondence: The practice of baptism is specific and detailed in both the Book of Mormon and in The Maya. It is also unusual. If the Spanish Fathers were “astounded” at the baptismal rite of the Maya, we should be also. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    9. Ritual walking in straight roads symbolizes acceptable behavior

      Coe’s standard: “At the site of Edzna, … occupants had constructed a massive hydraulic system, consisting of 13.75 miles (22 km) of canals … (resembling aquatic versions of Maya ritual roads)” (p. 90). “Coba is … a whole group linked to a central complex by long, perfectly straight masonry causeways usually called … sakbe (“white road”). … Some have claimed that the Maya [Page 129]sakbe were arteries of commerce, but a purely ceremonial function is far more plausible” (p. 163). “A causeway, or sakbih, 11.25 miles (18 km) long runs southeast from Uxmal through the small site of Nohpat to Kabah, so presumably the three centers were connected at least ceremonially” (p. 182). “Processional routes, the ‘white roads’ or sakbih described earlier, carved straight paths across broken landscapes. To walk along them was to move in acceptable, ritually decorous ways” (p. 242).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 4:32; 2 Nephi 9:41; Alma 7:9.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is quite specific in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya, and it is certainly unusual. What religious practice did Joseph Smith know of that resembled this ritual behavior in the least? But details are not provided in the Book of Mormon, so the practice is specific and unusual, but not detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    10. Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved

      Coe’s standard: “Ultimately, humans were obligated to abide by covenants. A covenant, as defined by the ethnographer John Monaghan, is a binding contract that explains how one should behave. Gods were usually involved, as in the case of maize production” (p. 242).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 5:6‒8; Mosiah 6:1‒2; Mosiah 21:31‒32.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Maya and the Book of Mormon share a common understanding of covenants as a binding contract or agreement between God and man. This is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What existing model or pattern did Joseph Smith rely on to correctly “guess” that covenants between God and man existed among ancient Mesoamerican Indians? In the conventional Christianity of Smith’s day, the importance of covenants was very much downplayed if not absent altogether. So the practice is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    11. Hereditary priests and Chief Priests

      Coe’s standard: “Far more is known of later Maya priests. In contrast to their Aztec counterparts, they were not celibate. Sons acquired their fathers’ offices, although some were second sons of lords” (p. 243). “During the prosperity of Mayapan, a hereditary Chief Priest resided in that city” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 29:42; Alma 45:22‒23; Alma 46:6.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya teach clearly of hereditary priests and chief priests. This correspondence is detailed and specific. It is also unusual. Joseph Smith’s experience of frontier priests would have been of the Protestant variety, who were not celibate, but who instead were “trained for the ministry” and did not inherit their offices; or of the Catholic variety, who were celibate and therefore could not pass on [Page 130]their priestly office to a son. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” that among some of the distant ancestors of the Indians, priests were not celibate and that priestly office could descend from father to son?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    12. Existence of opposites is an essential part of creation

      Coe’s standard: “A relevant Maya term from these ceramics is tz’ak, the idea of ordering. A key part of creation was the establishment of opposites. These are presented in alternative spellings for the tz’ak glyph. … The exquisite Tablet of the 96 Glyphs … lays out a long series of such opposed pairs. It begins with sun and night, followed by possibly life and death, then Venus and moon, wind and water” (p. 251).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 2:11‒15.

      Analysis of correspondence: The words create or creation are used six times in these five verses in the Book of Mormon, all strictly in the context of opposed pairs. The correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What document or religious teaching could Joseph Smith have possibly used that would have led him to correctly “guess” this belief shared by the Maya and the Book of Mormon patriarch Lehi? Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    13. Pantheistic religion and idols

      Coe’s standard: “along with the latter three temples, each of these was consecrated to a single god among the triad of divinities from whom the Palenque dynasty claimed descent” (p. 157). “Flanking the tableau are two strange deities with rodent heads” (p. 160). “On one side, the god K’awiil (left) faces God L, the deity of tobacco” (p. 166n100). “The face of the Jaguar God of the Underworld is surmounted by the heads of other deities, including a Bat God” (p. 166n101).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 7:6; Alma 17:15; Alma 31:1; Helaman 6:31; Mormon 4:14, 21.

      Analysis of correspondence: The references to idol gods are specific and detailed in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya. However, this correspondence is not unusual. The Bible also clearly refers to this practice, and Joseph would have known of it.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    14. Sorcery, magic and witchcraft practiced

      Coe’s standard: “According to one story, by means of sorcery Hunac Ceel drove Chak Xib Chak to abduct the bride of the ruler of Izamal” (p. 218). “or refer to diseases controlled by kings in an elevated, almost dynastic form of sorcery” (p. 256). “Witchcraft is an omnipresent danger; the witch takes the form of an animal alter-ego” (p. 297). “Defeated by the evil magic of his adversary Tezcatlipoca, the king was forced to leave Tula with his followers” (p. 201).

      [Page 131]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 1:32; Mormon 1:19; Mormon 2:10.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Maya and the Book of Mormon both refer specifically, negatively and in some detail to the practice of magic, sorcery and witchcraft among the peoples described in the two books. A belief in the practice of evil magic, however, would probably not be unusual to Joseph Smith. It was part of the world view during the early 19th century in backwoods America. Specific and detailed,

      Likelihood = 0.1

    15. Ritual for the renewal of the community, including transfer of sacred objects

      Coe’s standard: “The entire religious drama is directed toward renewal of the universe and of the community, and ends with the transfer of the sacred objects of office to a new set of cargo-holders” (p. 295).

      Book of Mormon standard: See Mosiah Chapters 1‒6.

      Analysis of the correspondence: King Benjamin’s gathering of his people to the temple, complete with community-wide covenant making at the time of the transfer of his kingly office to his son, along with the transfer of sacred objects, is very nearly a perfect fit with Coe’s standard described above. This is specific, detailed and unusual. What possible model or contemporary practice could Joseph Smith have drawn upon to describe King Benjamin’s gathering of his people so perfectly?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    16. Blurring/combining priestly and political roles

      Coe’s standard: “In other respects, the distinction between priestly and political roles may have been blurred in the Classic period” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 2:1; see also the Foreword to the Book of Alma.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. Priestly leadership and political leadership were sometimes combined/blurred in both books, but not always, as described in correspondence 1.27 above. Also, there is not enough detail provided in either book to rank this as unusual, so the evidence is weighted as specific only.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    17. Divination: consulting oracles for secular guidance and assistance

      Coe’s standard: “Specialists took charge of these prayers or acts of divination … to discern messages from the gods and to understand the imbalances leading to disease, drought, and other problems” (p. 243). “Later Maya priests [administered] … ‘their methods of divination … events and the cures for diseases'” (p. 243). “An important function of all highland shamans is divination. Along with the mechanism of the 260-day count is the casting of certain red seeds or maize kernels, a practice deeply rooted in [Page 132]the pre-Spanish past. … Shamans conduct rituals for both individuals and the whole community” (p. 292).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 3:11; Alma 16:5‒6; Helaman 11:12‒17.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in that God is consulted through his representatives regarding drought and other problems affecting both individuals and the community. Casting of lots (or seeds) is mentioned. This practice is also mentioned in the Bible (for example, Saul and the witch of Endor), so we will not count it as unusual. It is specific and at least somewhat detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    18. Calendars kept by holy men/priests

      Coe’s standard: “The 260 day calendar … still survives in unchanged form among some indigenous peoples in southern Mexico and the Maya highlands, under the care of calendar priests” (p. 64). “For some reason, the calendar priests active in Highland Guatemala today are almost undetectable in earlier times. … But similar figures must have existed.” “Later Maya priests’ … list of duties [included] … ‘computation of the years, months and days'” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 8:1‒5. A “just man” who “did many miracles” was responsible for the reckoning of time among the people.

      Analysis of correspondence: In the Book of Mormon the reference is specific but not very detailed. It does seem unusual. In the (highly) unlikely event that Joseph knew of the origin of the Gregorian calendar (instituted by Pope Gregory XIII), he might also have known of the Julian calendar (instituted by Julius Caesar). How would he have chosen correctly between a calendar instituted by priests or by civil authorities? So we count this one specific and unusual but not detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    19. Virtuous persons “confess”

      Coe’s standard: “Humans existed within a larger set of expectations. The virtuous person was toj, ‘right’ and ‘straight,’ at times a literal term that Colonial Mayan languages tied to cleaning, confession, and prophecy” (p. 242).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 26:29; Alma 17:4; Helaman 5:17.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon clearly tie confession with becoming a virtuous person, becoming clean. Confession also exists within a larger set of expectations (for example, baptism in the Book of Mormon). So the correspondence is specific and detailed. The correspondence also seems unusual. While confession is a prominent part of the Roman Catholic faith, it was not prominent in any Protestant tradition in frontier America in the early 1800s. It was various forms of Protestantism [Page 133]that Joseph Smith was familiar with. How did he “guess” correctly to include confession as an important duty among repentant, virtuous persons? How did he know that some of the ancient Mesoamericans would view confession in much the same light?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    Calculation of overall religious correspondences

    There are 19 separate religious correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, two have a likelihood of 0.5, eight have a likelihood of 0.1, and nine have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 19 positive correspondences is 0.52 x 0.18 x 0.029 =

    1.28 x 10–24.

  4. Military Correspondences
    1. Extreme cruelty to enemy captives

      Coe’s standard: “the opposite of refinement in an unmistakable dehumanization of reviled enemies, a delight in their pain and dishonor” (p. 96). “The Leiden Plaque, which once dangled from a ruler’s belt, has engraved on one face a richly ornamented Maya lord … trampling underfoot a sorry- looking captive, a theme repeated on so many Maya stelae of later times” (pp. 98‒99). “miserable prisoners have been stripped, and are having the nails torn from their fingers or their hands lacerated. An important captive sprawls on the steps, perhaps tortured to exhaustion, and a severed head lies nearby on a bed of leaves. A naked figure seated on the platform summit pleads for his life to the central figure, Yajaw Kan Muwaan” (p. 150).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Moroni 9:8‒10.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific in both books, and the details are similar in the sense of torture to death and extreme, even inhumane, cruelty. Some Indian tribes may have done similar things, but not all tribes did it at all times to all captives, and some tribes adopted white children. The Revolutionary War was not marked with this kind of behavior on either side. So we think it is specific, detailed but only somewhat unusual. To be conservative, we assign this one a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    2. Defensive earthworks with deep ditches, breastworks and palisades

      Coe’s standard: “Becan … was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD. These consist of a ditch and inner rampart, 38 ft (11.6 m) high, and would have been formidable, according to David Webster, if the rampart had been surmounted by a palisade” (p. 122). “Warfare had in fact become a real problem to all the major Petexbatun sites, and a system of defensive walls … topped by wooden palisades was constructed around and within them” (p. 151).

      [Page 134]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 49:4, 18‒22; Alma 50:1‒5; Alma 53:4.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, it matches perfectly in the details, and it is highly unusual. What military example had Joseph Smith ever heard of or seen that was anything like this defensive arrangement? According to David Webster, the Conquistador Hernan Cortes marveled when he saw the Maya towns defended in exactly this fashion (details below). We would like to give this correspondence a weighting of a million to one against the likelihood that Joseph Smith guessed it, but our data weighting approach does not permit a likelihood of 0.000001; instead it is

      Likelihood = 0.02

      For those who are interested, here are some additional details from Dr. Webster’s work that show how exactly Joseph “guessed” this correspondence, and how amazed Cortes was:

      Conquistador Hernan Cortes described fortified cities in the Maya lowlands, as quoted by Dr. David Webster of Pennsylvania State University. Here is Cortes’s description of the defenses he encountered among the Lowland Maya: “There is only one level entrance, the whole town being surrounded by a deep (dry) moat behind which is a wooden palisade as high as man’s breast. Behind this palisade lies a wall of very heavy boards, some twelve feet tall, with embrasures through which to shoot their arrows; the lookout posts rise another eight feet above the wall, which likewise has large towers with many stones to hurl down on the enemy. … Indeed, it was so well planned with regard to the manner of weapons they use, they could not be better defended”37

      Dr. Webster also wrote another relevant, interesting study. Here are some of Dr. Webster’s findings from his study regarding the dry moat or defensive ditch that surrounded the city of Becan, in the Yucatan Peninsula of southeastern Mexico: “The ditch and parapet derive their main defensive strength from sheer size. What I call the ‘critical depth’ of the fortifications (the vertical distance from the top of the embankment to the bottom of the ditch would have averaged something over 11 meters (about 36 feet). … The steep angles of the inner ditch and wall and parapet slope could not have been climbed without the aid of ladders; an enemy force caught in the bottom of the ditch would have been at the mercy of the defenders, whose most effective weapon under the circumstances would have been large rocks. … To throw ‘uphill’ from the outside is almost impossible. Defenders [Page 135]…could have rained long-distance missiles on approaching enemies using spear throwers and slings.” 38

      Thus the Maya at the time of the Spanish Conquest used the same kind of city defense that Moroni had used about 1600 years earlier, namely (1) a single entrance to the city, (2) very deep ditches around the city, (3) banks of earth built above the ditches, (4) strong works of timbers built on top of these banks of earth above ditches, and (5) even taller towers built on the timbers. From these works of timbers and from the towers, the defenders could rain down arrows and especially rocks (a cheap but effective weapon), on their attackers. And the attackers couldn’t effectively get at the defenders — so they were slaughtered.

      So Joseph Smith was either a military genius himself, or he guessed it. Yes, he guessed it in all this detail. A 24-year- old farm kid from upstate New York invented this superb defensive military arrangement, totally unlike anything in the warfare of his time, and which greatly impressed an experienced soldier like Hernan Cortes.

    3. Walled cities, especially during wartime

      Coe’s standard: “When city walls are found, as at Dos Pilas, Ek’ Balam, and Uxmal, they seem to date to the final years of the Classic period, when, in places, local conditions became hostile” (p. 126). “The triple defensive wall that surrounds the site indicates that conditions in this remote part of the Maya lowlands were dangerously unsettled in the Terminal Classic” (p. 194). “Mayapan … is a residential metropolis covering about 2.5 sq. miles (6.5 sq. km) and completely surrounded by a defensive wall” (p. 216).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 9:8; Helaman 1:21; Helaman 13:4.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, and is detailed in the sense that the walls seem to appear mostly in time of war. However, Coe does not see much evidence for the presence of walls until the late Classic, and since View of the Hebrews also refers to walled towns, we rate this one as merely specific.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    4. Thick clothing used as armor

      Coe’s standard: “Left arms were protected by quilted padding” (p. 201). “[This is how] Maya warfare was waged. The holkanob, or “braves,” were the foot soldiers; they wore cuirasses of quilted cotton or tapir hide” (p. 236).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 43:19.

      [Page 136]Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is both specific and detailed. In both The Maya and the Book of Mormon, thick clothing was used as armor. It is also unusual. We know of no contemporary model or example that Joseph Smith could have relied upon to correctly “guess” this correspondence. Even today we doubt that one person in a hundred would know that ancient Mesoamerican warriors wore heavy cotton clothing as armor.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    5. Fighting with “darts”

      Coe’s standard: “Taneko found 217 projectile points … [that] had been used on darts propelled by atlatls, — mute testimony to a final battle sealing the city’s death” (p. 175). “the Toltec warrior, … carrying a feather-decorated atlatl in one hand and a bunch of darts in the other” (p. 201) ” … carried … darts-with-spearthrower. … [The infantry] rained darts, arrows, and stones flung from slings” (p. 236).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jarom 1:8.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya specifically contrast fighting with bows and arrows or spears as being different from fighting with “darts.” What experience or knowledge did Joseph Smith have of fighting with darts? How many educated people, even today, would know about fighting with a “dart-thrower” or atlatl? So this correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    6. Endemic, internecine warfare destroyed the societies

      Coe’s standard: “there might have been fierce internecine warfare or perhaps even a popular revolt” (p. 116). “But most Maya archaeologists now agree that three factors were paramount in the downfall: endemic internecine warfare” (p. 175). “The Maya were obsessed with war. The Annals of the Kaqchikels and the Popol Vuh speak of little but intertribal conflict among the highlanders, while the 16 states of Yucatan were constantly battling with each other over boundaries and lineage honor” (p. 236).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See, among others, Omni 1:10; Alma 62:39; Mormon 8:8.

      Analysis of correspondence: With a few blessed exceptions, the Book of Mormon describes continuing war and conflict both between and among the Nephites and Lamanites, a conflict that ultimately results in the destruction of both groups. When the Book of Mormon brings down the curtain, the Lamanites are at war with each other, and “no one knoweth the end of the war.” This is in fact “endemic, internecine warfare,” the very words used by Coe. There was no contemporary example or model that Joseph Smith could use to “guess” a 1,000-year-long conflict that finally destroyed all the parties involved, so the correspondence is also specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    7. [Page 137]Warfare with ambushes and traps

      Coe’s standard: “Nor did the Maya fight in the accepted fashion. Attacking the Spaniards at night, plotting ambushes and traps, they were jungle guerrillas” (p. 227).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See the whole of chapters 43 and 52 of Alma.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and features some detail in both books, especially in the Book of Mormon (in keeping with the fact that the principal editor of the Book of Mormon was the commander of the armies of his people during nearly his entire adult life). But it is not unusual. The Indians of North America were also masters of ambush, and Joseph would have known this. There is also probably not enough detail in The Maya to upgrade the correspondence to specific and detailed. Specific only.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    8. Raids to take captives/slaves

      Coe’s standard: “Hostilities typically began with an unannounced guerrilla raid into the enemy camp to take captives. … Lesser captives ended up as slaves” (p. 236).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 16:3‒4; Alma 60:17; Helaman 11:33.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. However, it is not unusual. Indians also raided the whites and each other to take captives/slaves. Joseph Smith would likely have known of this practice.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    9. Warriors dressing to inspire fear

      Coe’s standard: “Teotihuacan fighting men were armed with atlatl-propelled darts and rectangular shields, and bore round, decorated, pyrite mosaic mirrors on their backs; with their eyes sometimes partly hidden by white shell ‘goggles,’ and their feather headdresses, they must have been terrifying figures to their opponents” (pp. 99‒100).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 4:7.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. In both books warriors sometimes dressed to inspire fear in their opponents. But the details do not line up very well, and this is probably not unusual. Indian warriors, for example, used war paint in part to inspire fear. So this correspondence is rated specific only.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    10. Stones and slings used as weapons for fighting

      Coe’s standard: “On either side of the war, leaders and the idols carried into combat under the care of priests [who] flanked the infantry, from which rained darts, arrows, and stones flung from slings” (p. 236).

      [Page 138]Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:36.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is certainly specific and detailed enough. Stones slung from slings were used to kill opponents. It also seems unusual. While Joseph Smith could have gotten the idea from the Bible, why would he correctly “guess” that some of the ancestors of the Indians fought with stones and slings? The Indians of northeastern North America, of whom he did know something, did not fight with stones and slings. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    11. Cannibalism practiced on captives

      Coe’s standard: “In general, only captive lords were considered fit for sacrifice, or for consumption in cannibalistic rites” (p. 225).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Moroni 9:10.

      Analysis of correspondence: The practice is detailed enough and certainly specific in both books. However, it probably does not qualify as unusual. Joseph Smith may have heard of the ritual cannibalism practiced by the Iroquois.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    12. Deliberate destruction of the records/monuments

      Coe’s standard: “By c. 1150 BC, San Lorenzo was destroyed by an unknown hand, and its monuments mutilated and smashed” (pp. 52–54). “There are signs of widespread, purposeful mutilation of public monuments” (p. 116). “Other cities in the Central Area eventually fell victim to the same cycle of violence, characterized by the systematic mutilation and smashing of stone monuments — the eyes and mouths of rulers are often pecked out, as if to cancel their power” (p. 175).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Enos 1:13‒14; Alma 14:8; Mormon 2:17.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is certainly specific, but the details as practiced among the Maya seem to be directed toward stone objects, while in the Book of Mormon the intended destruction was directed toward the scriptures, both the metal plates and the combustible scriptures, as in Alma 14:8. The practice seems unusual. What accessible written source or contemporary practice would Joseph Smith have known about in which the monuments of enemies were deliberately destroyed? We do not think this merits a likelihood of 0.02, but it does merit evidentiary strength greater than merely specific.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    Calculation of overall likelihood of military correspondences

    There are twelve distinct, separate military correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, three have a likelihood of 0.5, five a likelihood of 0.1, and four a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these twelve positive correspondences is 0.53 x 0.15 x 0.024 =

    2.0 x 10–13.

  5. [Page 139]Physical and Geographical Correspondences
    1. Highlands and lowlands exist within the relevant geography

      Coe’s standard: “While there are profound differences between the subsistence base of the lowlands and that of the highlands (p. 13), … there are really two natural settings in the land of the Maya: highlands and lowlands” (p. 14).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:13; Mosiah 9:3; Mosiah 28:1; Alma 27:5.

      Analysis of correspondence: Dr. Coe’s book repeatedly emphasizes the importance of highland and lowland populations of Native American peoples in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon also repeatedly uses the words “go up” and “go down” in reference to moving geographically in the book. From its very beginning, the Book of Mormon likewise employs going “up” and going “down” to movements to and from Jerusalem, which sits at a higher elevation than most of the surrounding geography. Thus we have strong reason to believe that that phrase means to ascend or descend in elevation. The correspondence is specific and quite detailed in both books, but it is not particularly unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    2. Accurate description of a volcanic eruption

      Coe’s standard: “The Maya highlands by definition lie above 1,000 ft. (305 m) and are dominated by a great backbone of both extinct and active volcanoes” (p. 14). “They and their relatives, the Tz’utujil, live in villages along the shores of the volcano-girt Lake Atitlan” (p. 28). “On an ill-fated day around AD 595, the nearby Loma Caldera volcano erupted, spewing out steam, ash, and eventually volcanic bombs that rained down on the [village of Ceren]” (p. 107).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 8:5‒23.

      Analysis of the correspondence: The account in 3 Nephi is an obvious eye-witness account of a volcanic eruption, with associated earthquakes, terrible storms and lightning, and thick, choking, nearly unbreathable air. This account is highly detailed as well as unusual. Joseph Smith and his contemporaries knew nothing of what it was like to experience a volcanic eruption, nor did they have any published accounts to draw upon. View of the Hebrews mentions volcanoes in Mesoamerica, but says nothing at all about what an eruption is like. This correspondence is therefore specific, detailed and highly unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    3. Periods of terrible drought separated by decades or centuries with resulting famines

      Coe’s standard: “Nor are these rains reliable; in bad years there may be severe droughts” (p. 17). “It is small wonder that the early Colonial chronicles [Page 140]speak much of famines in Yucatan before the arrival of the Spaniards” (p. 19). “Cave deposits show … a similar pattern of droughts that lasted for decades. One episode struck between AD 200 and 300, another from AD 820 to 870, then two more at AD 1020 to 1100 and AD 1530 to 1580. Shorter, severe droughts occurred at AD 420, 930, and 1800. … The most dramatic discovery is the drought from AD 820 to 870. … This period saw the collapse of Maya civilization in the southern Maya lowlands” (p. 32).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 9:22; Helaman 11:5‒7; Ether 9:30, 35.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed in both books. It is also probably unusual. Joseph Smith lived in well-watered country at latitudes that don’t usually experience droughts. Smith could have learned about famines from the Bible, but he would not have known, as attested in both The Maya and the Book of Mormon, that such terrible droughts can last many years, even decades, and that different periods of drought can be and are separated by centuries. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    4. Venomous, aggressive snakes present

      Coe’s standard: “Also lurking in milpa and jungle, and to be avoided at all costs, were vipers such as the dreaded barba amarilla, or ‘yellow jaw’ (Bothrops asper), among the most aggressive snakes in the world” (p. 19).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 8:24; Ether 9:31.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. Poisonous snakes certainly existed. (No problem: the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim to take place in Ireland.) While there are not many venomous snakes in New York, there are a few such species. The unusual part of this correspondence is that there was at least one very aggressive venomous snake. Most snakes, even poisonous ones, will flee from humans. They just aren’t aggressive. But not so the snakes described in Ether 9:31 or the barba amarilla described by Dr. Coe. So the correspondence is specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    5. Easy to get lost, very thick wilderness, cities hidden in the wilderness

      Coe’s standard: “lost and starving among the swampy bajos and thorny forests of northern Guatemala” (p. 139). “The forests of southern Campeche and Quintana Roo form the wildest part of the Maya region” (p. 161). “Safe in the fastness of an almost impenetrable wilderness, their island stronghold was bypassed by history” (p. 219).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:4‒5; Mosiah 8:8; Mosiah 21:25; Mosiah 22:16; Mosiah 23:20, 30, 36.

      [Page 141]Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya are specific and detailed on this point. In fact, the Book of Mormon refers to wilderness a total of 212 times. There was very thick wilderness immediately adjacent to settled areas in which it was possible to get completely lost, even if ancestors had been in the region for centuries. The Book of Mormon and The Maya also speak of what amount to lost cities. The city of Helam was literally bumped into by a Lamanite army as they pursued the people of Limhi. That same army had to be shown the way that led to the land/city of Nephi — they did not know how to get there on their own. How would Joseph Smith have known to put in this unusual, but correct detail? What did he or anyone in his community (from whom he might have learned it) know of lost cities and almost impenetrable wilderness? The American wilderness in which Joseph lived was sometimes thick but by no means impenetrable.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    6. Powerful, ancient central city and culture in the highlands

      Coe’s standard: “A Late Preclassic rival to Izapa in size and number of temple mounds and in the splendor of its carved monuments was Kaminaljuyu during the Verbena and Arenal phases, dating from c. 100 BC to AD 150. This … was once a major ceremonial site on the western outskirts of Guatemala City. Many of the approximately 200 mounds once to be found there were probably constructed at this time; Kaminaljuyu’s rulers must have possessed formidable economic and political power over much of the Maya highlands at this time” (p. 73).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 7:1‒4; Mosiah 9:6, 8; Alma 47:20.

      Analysis of correspondence: The time period 100 BC to AD 150 fits very well with the time of the dominance and power of the city of Lehi-Nephi, or city of Nephi (land of Nephi) in the highlands. This was the principal city of the Lamanites in the time periods just before and just after Christ. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. The exactness of the time, location and dominance of the city taken as a whole are unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    7. Earthquakes present and important

      Coe’s standard: “As the lake dried up, … perhaps due to exploitation of the land, or even to tectonic movements (the region is highly earthquake-prone), the city [Kaminaljuyu] dwindled” (p. 74). “The Aztecs … thought that the universe had passed through four such ages, and that we were now in the fifth, which would be destroyed by earthquakes” (p. 249). “The Zinacanteco world … rests on the shoulders of the Vaxak-Men, the four-corner gods; when one of these shifts his burden, there is an earthquake” (pp. 292‒93).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 5:27, 31‒32; 3 Nephi 8:6, 9‒18.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya are specific and quite detailed about the “shaking of the earth.” Earthquakes [Page 142]play a significant role in both books. Since Joseph may have heard about earthquakes, even if he had probably not experienced one, we would not count this correspondence as unusual except for one thing: on two separate occasions the Book of Mormon refers to a particular prison in the land of Nephi as being shaken violently, one time even to the point of collapsing. We believe the evidence in the Book of Mormon and The Maya support the general area of Kaminaljuyu as the land of Nephi, and Dr. Coe specifically calls out this region as “highly earthquake-prone.” What a lucky “guess” on Joseph Smith’s part. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    8. Deforestation of large areas

      Coe’s standard: “The botanists conclude, with one caveat, that the Tikal Maya had largely demolished the tall monsoon forest by the 740s” (p. 176).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:5‒7.

      Analysis of correspondence: In both books, the inhabitants of the land had rendered it without timber. This correspondence is therefore specific and detailed, but it is not unusual. Joseph Smith and everyone around him were also busy deforesting the land.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    9. Areas set aside for forest regrowth and/or timber shipped in from a distance

      Coe’s standard: “In AD 810, sapodilla was again the species of choice, but beam widths were far smaller than they had once been. Apparently Tikal’s rulers had set aside protected groves of their favorite tree or managed to import it from some distance” (p. 176).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:9‒11.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. In both books, areas were set aside for forest regrowth, and timber was also shipped in for building cities such as Tikal. The correspondence is also unusual. There was no contemporary model for Joseph Smith to follow whereby forests were purposely replanted.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    10. Precious stones exist (but they are not diamonds, rubies, and pearls)

      Coe’s standard: “The volcanic highlands … yielded obsidian — natural volcanic glass. … Obsidian was to ancient Mesoamerica what steel is to modern civilization. It was turned into knives, lance and dart points, … and a host of other tools” (p. 23). Jade was surely the compelling reason for this intrusion of the Olmec [into the Copan valley]. The Classic Maya obtained their green and often dull-colored jade from alluvial deposits [in Copan], … but this was not the distinctive blue-green jade so prized by the Olmec. The mystery of where the Olmec obtained this material has at long last been solved by the discovery in 2001 of several sources in the Sierra de las Minas, [Page 143]far above the Motagua. … Control of both the Motagua and Copan valleys would have given the Olmec a virtual monopoly of a material that was as important to this primordial civilization as gold was to be for the Spanish conquistadores (p. 60). ” … They went from modestly dressed chieftains to true kings endowed with fine clothing and jade or turquoise regalia.” (p. 83). “It is natural that the Maya lavished upon jade, the most precious substance known to them, their full artistry” (p. 171). “Not only jade, but also calcite was worked by the lowland Maya lapidaries; but it must have been a rare substance, for objects made from it are found infrequently” (p. 171). “But other items also moved along these trade networks; the excavators encountered obsidian from the mines in central Mexico, turquoise which had probably originated in the American Southwest (a luxury item prized by the Toltecs and their cultural heirs the Aztecs), and gold from lower Central America” (p. 215).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 17:14.

      Analysis of correspondence: Bruce Dale, the son of a mining engineer, grew up in mining towns in Nevada and Arizona, and was an avid rock hound in his youth. For him, this is a particularly powerful correspondence. Both the Maya and the Book of Mormon people had precious stones, which represented great riches to them (Alma 17:14). So this correspondence is specific.

      It is also unusual in the details not given in the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith “guessed” the Book of Mormon, he would very probably have guessed “precious stones” to be the only precious stones he knew of, namely diamonds, rubies, and perhaps pearls. But Mesoamerica has no rubies at all, nor does it have any significant diamond resources. (Mexico has a few small, inferior diamonds, but no diamond mines.) Joseph Smith would not have “guessed” the precious stones to be jade, obsidian, turquoise or calcite. Nor would the names of those stones have meant anything to all but a very small fraction of those who read the Book of Mormon. (Cureloms and cumoms, anyone?) But Joseph Smith made neither mistake. He (or rather the Book of Mormon authors) simply called them, quite accurately, “precious stones.” We rate this likelihood as 0.02.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    11. Submerged cities

      Coe’s standard: “Lake Amatitlan, a place known for elaborate, aquatic deposits of Early Classic incense burners” (p. 103).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 8:14; 3 Nephi 9:4, 6, 8; 4 Nephi 1:9.

      Analysis of correspondence: Since incense burners are made to burn incense, and don’t work well under water, the conclusion is pretty clear. These incense burners were submerged when the waters of the lake rose to engulf [Page 144]them. (Both Lake Amatitlan and Lake Atitlan cover sunken cities.) So the correspondence is specific and detailed in both books.

      How about unusual? However unlikely, Joseph Smith may have known of the story of Atlantis, but why would he “guess” that story would apply to some of the ancestors of the Indians? And Atlantis was engulfed by the ocean, not by freshwater lakes. We think this correspondence is more than specific and detailed, but somewhat less than unusual. To be conservative we assign a likelihood of 0.1

      Likelihood = 0.1

    12. Perishable writing materials

      Coe’s standard: “None of these bark-paper books hav[e] survived except in the most fragmentary form in tombs” (p. 141). “There must have been many thousands of Classic Maya books written on bark-paper, but not a single one has come down to us” (pp. 171, 173).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob 4:1‒2; Alma 14:8; Helaman 3:15.

      Analysis of correspondence: Specific and detailed. Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon speak of many books. These books were kept on materials that either decay or can be burned. The only thing that lasts is words written on metal plates. The correspondence is not unusual. The paper books and documents in Joseph Smith’s day would also burn or decay.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    13. Refined gold present

      Coe’s standard: “there were no sources of gold and silver in the Maya lowlands” (p. 22). “the richest array of offerings, … including … a gold frog (possibly an import from Panama, and one of the earliest-attested metal objects yet discovered for the Maya)” (p. 194‒95). “dredged from the muck at the bottom of the Cenote, … the gold disks already mentioned … The local lords brought treasures of gold from places as far afield as Panama to offer to the Cenote” (p. 212). “But other items also moved along these trade networks; the excavators encountered … gold from lower Central America” (p. 215).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jacob 1:16; Ether 10:23; Alma 11.

      Analysis of correspondence: Coe resists the idea that the lowland Maya had much refined gold before about AD 800, well after the Book of Mormon times. But the Book of Mormon does not claim to be set among the lowland Maya, so this is irrelevant. There clearly was refined gold present in both books, even if the lowland Maya had to import their gold from Central America. So the correspondence is specific, but it is not detailed nor unusual. Joseph Smith may well have heard of the treasures of gold plundered by the Spaniards.

      Likelihood = 0.5

    [Page 145]Calculation of physical and geographical correspondences

    There are 13 distinct physical and geographical correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, one has a likelihood of 0.5, four have a likelihood of 0.1 and eight have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 13 positive correspondences, taken together, is 0.51 x 0.14 x 0.028 =

    1.28 x 10–18.

  6. Technological and Miscellaneous Correspondences
    1. Millions of inhabitants in the area

      Coe’s standard: “One view perceives as many as eight to ten million people in the lowlands c. AD 800; David Webster of Pennsylvania State University would go as low as two to three million” (p. 22). “But what happened to the bulk of the population who once occupied the Central Area, apparently in the millions?” (p. 177). “What this might mean is that we may have to double our previous population estimates for the Central Area, which already run into the many millions” (p. 176).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mormon 6:11‒15; Ether 15:2.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya affirm that the populations were large, specifically in the neighborhood of 10 million people. In 1830, the U. S. census gave a population of about 13 million. Thus Joseph Smith correctly “guessed” that his fictional group of Indians was nearly as large as the entire population of the United States at the time the Book of Mormon was published. Certainly this is unusual. What Indian population had Joseph Smith ever seen that was anywhere near this large?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    2. Calendar kept by day, month and year

      Coe’s standard: “The Maya Long Count, which will be explained in greater detail in Chapters 3 and 9, is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past (p. 25). “The Maya New Year started with 1 Pop, the next day being 2 Pop, etc. The final day of the month, however, carried not the coefficient 20, but a sign indicating the ‘seating’ of the month to follow” (p. 64). “Maya learning as well as ritual was in their [the Maya priests’] hands. Among them were ‘computation of the years, months, and days, the festivals and ceremonies'” (p. 243).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 10:6; Alma 49:1; 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 2:7‒8; 3 Nephi 8:5.

      Analysis of correspondence: Specific and detailed. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the peoples described in The Maya kept calendars by day, month and year. The keeping of calendars is also unusual. The Indian peoples of eastern North America did not keep calendars at all, and were aware only of [Page 146]the passing of the seasons. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that any Indians kept an absolute calendar by day, month and year?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    3. Multiple calendars kept

      Coe’s standard: “Meshing with the 260-day count is a ‘Vague Year’ or Ha’b of 365 days, so called because the actual length of the solar year is about a quarter-day more. … Although the Maya were perfectly aware that the Ha’b was shorter than the tropical year, they did not change the calendar accordingly. … From this it follows that a particular day in the 260-day count, such as 1 K’an, also had a position in the Ha’b, for instance 2 Pop. A day designated as 1 K’an 2 Pop could not return until 52 Ha’b (18,980 days) had passed. This is the Calendar Round” (pp. 64‒65).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 2:7‒8.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. Not only were multiple calendars kept, both The Maya and the Book of Mormon describe exactly how they were kept. If the keeping of one calendar is unusual, then keeping several different calendars is even more unusual. We would like to give this a higher weighting than 0.02 (1 in a million?), but cannot by the constraints we have imposed on ourselves.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    4. Bee keeping, domesticated bees, honey

      Coe’s standard: “And it might be that the province [Yucatan] relied less upon plant husbandry than upon its famed production of honey, salt, and slaves” (p. 19). “As he still does today, the Maya farmer raised the native stingless bees, which are kept in small, hollow logs closed with mud plaster at either end and stacked up in A-frames, but wild honey was also much appreciated” (p. 231). “A few depictions of vessels marked with the term kab, ‘honey,’ … Valuable Yucatan exports were honey, cotton mantles and slaves” (p. 232).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Ether 2:3.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Jaredites specifically brought with them honeybees, so they had domesticated the bee. The correspondence is specific, but it is not detailed nor unusual. Bees were domesticated many thousands of years ago. Coe makes much of the fact that Maya domestic bees are stingless, versus the Old World bees of genus Apis. But the Book of Mormon does not say that the Jaredites did not switch over to keeping native stingless bees when they arrived in the New World (we two authors would surely have done so!), so Coe’s point seems irrelevant to the issue. Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon specifically note domesticated bees, and this correspondence is also unusual. What Indian tribes did Joseph Smith know of that practiced beekeeping? There were none. How did he “guess” this one correctly?

      Likelihood = 0.1

    5. [Page 147]Art including carving, painting, dancing, metalwork, music

      Coe’s standard: “more advanced cultural traits … and the painting of murals” (p. 26). “In one tomb, over 300 objects of the most beautiful workmanship were placed with the body” (p. 76). “They went from modestly dressed chieftains to true kings endowed [in] … jade or turquoise regalia” (p. 83). “[This] extraordinarily well-preserved fresco … is in fact the earliest Maya painting known, dating to c. 100 BC or slightly earlier. In its beauty and sophistication it equals the famous Late Classic murals of Bonampak” (p. 87). “The finest Maya wood carving known, this seated figure from Tabasco, Mexico, represents a courtier” (p. 95n40), … including some marvelously fine jades and the gold disks already mentioned. [Metals] had now appeared in the Maya area, although they were probably cast and worked elsewhere and imported. The many copper bells and other objects from the well were of Mexican workmanship. The local lords brought treasures of gold from places as far afield as Panama to offer to the Cenote” (p. 212). “Santa Rita also yielded an extraordinary set of ear ornaments in gold and turquoise” (p. 219). “Plazas were the location for most dances. The stelae that now fill some of them petrify kings in perpetual dance, as we can tell by their pose, dress, and explanatory glyphs” (p. 256).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Jarom 1:8; Helaman 6:13; Helaman 12:2; Mosiah 11:8‒10, Mosiah 20:1‒5:4 Nephi 1:41.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and in many cases detailed. Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya speak of art expressed in a variety of materials, including wood and metals, people adorning themselves with precious things, and dance. The correspondence is unusual. What Indian tribes known to Joseph Smith did art work in wood and metal and had fine jewelry? However, to be conservative, since Dr. Coe reports no evidence for metal work in the Book of Mormon timeframe, we will discount this correspondence from specific, detailed and unusual to merely specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    6. Knowledge of the movement of the stars, planets and moon

      Coe’s standard: “Ancient Maya used lines of sight … to plot the rising and setting positions of the sun, the moon, and, above all, the planet Venus. … Maya astronomers had a remarkably accurate knowledge of the apparent motion of Venus” (p. 193). “Venus is the only one of the planets for which we can be absolutely sure the Maya made extensive calculations” (p. 262). “Some have questioned whether the movements of planets other than Venus were observed by the Maya, but it is hard to believe that one of the Dresden tables, listing multiples of 78, can be anything other than a table for Mars” (pp. 262‒63).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:21; Alma 30:44; Helaman 12:13‒15; Helaman 14:5‒6; 3 Nephi 1:21.

      [Page 148]Analysis of correspondence: Alma asserts that planets (not just one planet) “move in their regular form,” agreeing with Coe’s statement that the Maya knew the movements of Venus and Mars. For the Book of Mormon people to know that “a new star did appear,” they would have to know when and where the old stars would appear. So the correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What Indian tribe of the American Northeast had any such detailed astronomical knowledge as that reported in The Maya?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    7. Writing is present, but its genealogy is complicated and poorly understood

      Coe’s standard: “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the New World: hieroglyphic writing” (p. 13). “The relation between Maya and Isthmian writing remains obscure. The earliest Maya writing … comes from c. 300 BC, prior to Isthmian writing. … The genealogy of Mesoamerican writing is therefore more complicated than formerly thought” (p. 68).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 6:1‒3; Mosiah 24:6; 3 Nephi 26:6; Mormon 9:32‒34.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. The Mesoamerican Indians (not just the Maya) had a rare or absent trait: they had writing. And so did the Book of Mormon peoples. Furthermore, the genealogy of their writing is complex. It is not clear how Mesoamerican writing arose, and the sacred written language of the Book of Mormon authors was known to them alone (Mormon 9:34). The correspondence is also unusual. None of the Indian tribes known to Joseph Smith had writing. Thus it was an extremely lucky (or foolhardy) “guess” on his part to have claimed in his “fictional” book that some American Indians did have writing. But he did claim it, and he was right. This correspondence also deserves a much smaller likelihood than a 1 in 50 chance, more like 1 in a million. But to be conservative, we assign a

      Likelihood = 0.02

    8. Engraved writing on stone

      Coe’s standard: Coe’s book is full of examples of writing on stone. Here are just a few: “A magnificent stela was found … in southeastern Veracruz; two Bak’tun 8 dates corresponding respectively to AD 143 and 156 are inscribed on it. These are accompanied by a text of about 400 signs … (the famous ‘Tuxtla Statuette,’ also found in southern Veracruz, is inscribed in the same script and dates to AD 162)” (p. 68). “It was not just the ‘stela cult’ — the inscribed glorification of royal lineages and their achievements” (p. 177).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: Omni 1:20.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya both refer specifically to engraved writing on large stones. This is an unusual [Page 149]correspondence. Writing by itself was unusual, to write on stone was doubly so. What example or model did Joseph Smith have to correctly “guess” this correspondence? However, the Book of Mormon gives only one example of writing on stone, so it is not detailed. Specific and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    9. Many books present, some were kept in repositories

      Coe’s standard: “Maya priests 2,000 miles away were still chanting rituals from hieroglyphic books” (p. 219). “Even more heartbreaking is the loss of thousands of books” (p. 237). “A few probable coffers exist for books, including the recent find of a lidded limestone box from Hun Nal Ye cave in Guatemala” (p. 239).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:15; Mormon 6:6. The entire Book of Mormon is a collection of shorter books or excerpts from other books.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is both specific and detailed. Many books, not just a few, were kept. And in at least some instances, the books were kept together in repositories, essentially in libraries (the “coffers” cited above). The practice is also unusual. What American Indian tribes that Joseph Smith knew of kept even one book, let alone libraries? How did he correctly “guess” this fact about the Maya and the Book of Mormon peoples?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    10. Trading in a variety of goods

      Coe’s standard: “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the New World: … highly specialized markets” (p. 13). “Trading networks brought vast quantities of these objects [manos and metates] down from … Guatemala. … The volcanic highlands yielded … obsidian. … Access to salt sources or to salt trade networks was critical to the growth and security of Maya states. … The Maya elite had other special needs, above all jade, quetzal feathers, and marine shells” (pp. 22‒23). “Its [Lamani’s] location and rich remains attest to its entrepreneurial importance in ancient Maya trade” (p. 85). “[control over] … the movement of goods, which now passed into the hands of trading entrepreneurs or local petty lords” (p. 213).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 24:7; Helaman 3:10, 14; Helaman 6:8; 3 Nephi 6:11; Ether 10:22.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the Mesoamerican Indians traded, a trait that was absent or rare elsewhere in the New World, and therefore unusual by definition. However, while trading in a variety of goods is strongly implied by the wording in the Book of Mormon, only trading in wood is specifically mentioned. So this correspondence is certainly specific and unusual, but [Page 150]it is not detailed enough to count as specific, detailed and unusual. To be conservative, we assign a likelihood of 0.1.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    11. Many merchants

      Coe’s standard: “These somewhat Mexicanized merchant- warriors controlled the great Gulf Coast entrepot of Xicallanco where Mexican and Maya traders met” (p. 178). “God M, who was the patron of merchants, is shown here” (p. 218n138). “Merchants had a privileged status” (p. 225). “At the top [of the class structure] were nobles, … wealthy farmers and merchants” (p. 235).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 6:11‒12.

      Analysis of correspondence: Because this correspondence overlaps somewhat with correspondence 6.10, we will only count it as specific. However, the whole interlocking system of trading, merchants and wealth accumulation through trade is unusual in itself, and perhaps this correspondence deserves a higher weight. Nonetheless, to be conservative,

      Likelihood = 0.5

    12. Roads and causeways built

      Coe’s standard: Coe makes many references to roads and causeways in different areas of Mesoamerica. Here are just a few. “There are two groups of monumental construction, connected by a massive causeway, and in fact a whole network of causeways radiates out from El Mirador across the surrounding swampy landscape” (p. 85). “Archaeologist Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo has even found evidence of road systems running along the base of those hills, connecting the far reaches of the Palenque kingdom” (p. 151). “A causeway … runs southeast from Uxmal through the small site of Nohpat to Kabah” (p. 182).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 6:8; 3 Nephi 8:13.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon speak of many roads, not just a few; and the practice of road-building is widespread in both societies. So this correspondence is specific and detailed, and also definitely unusual. The Indians that Joseph Smith knew of did not build roads. However, View of the Hebrews very briefly mentions road building among the Indians. However unlikely, Joseph might have read about it there. To be conservative, this is rated as specific and detailed only.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    13. Houses with attached gardens

      Coe’s standard: “Also important were the house gardens, still ubiquitous in Maya villages and hamlets” (p. 22). “A few cities, such as Chunchucmil in Yucatan, are amazingly dense, with house lots demarcated by walls; others had extensive space for gardens” (p. 124).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 7:10.

      [Page 151]Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific but not detailed in the case of the Book of Mormon. Strongly implied, but not stated, is a garden attached to Nephi’s house. So we cannot call it detailed. Native Americans taught the Pilgrims what plants grew well in the New World, so gardening/ domestic agriculture among the ancestors of the Indians cannot be called unusual. Specific only,

      Likelihood = 0.5

    14. Foreigners/new rulers introduce/impose a new language/writing system on indigenous peoples

      Coe’s standard: “During the Terminal Classic, [Ceibal] seems to have come under the sway of foreigners, as seen in the strong influence of non-Maya forms of art and writing. … There are more ‘foreign’-looking stelae at Ceibal which belong to this period, with non-Maya calendrical glyphs and iconography; on one, a figure wears the bird-mask of the central Mexican wind god, Ehecatl, with a Mexican speech scroll curling from the beak. … This, however, does not answer the question of the patently Mexican hieroglyphs on other Ceibal monuments” (p. 178).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Omni 1:17–18; Mosiah 24:4‒6.

      Analysis of correspondence: Both The Maya and the Book of Mormon refer specifically and in considerable detail to foreigners who introduce a new language/writing system. This is certainly unusual. What models or examples did Joseph Smith have available to him that would have led him to “guess” correctly that foreigners would impose a new language and writing system on indigenous peoples? The European settlers in North America were not trying to impose a new language on the Native Americans, they were trying to take get rid of the Indians and take their lands.

      Likelihood = 0.02

    15. Writing system changed significantly over time

      Coe’s standard: “The earliest Maya writing, exceedingly difficult to decode, is quite different from its later versions” (p. 266).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: Mormon 9:32‒33.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon and The Maya both refer specifically to a change in writing systems, but very few details are provided. The practice seems highly unusual. What change in written English did Joseph Smith know about? What could he use as a precedent or model? There was nothing. He might perhaps have known about significant changes in spoken English from the time, say, of Shakespeare, but not in the way of writing English. Specific and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    16. Buildings of cement

      Coe’s standard: “The Maya of the lowlands had discovered … if limestone fragments were burnt, and the resulting powder mixed with water, a white plaster of great durability was created. Finally, they quickly realized the [Page 152]structural value of a concrete-like fill made from limestone rubble and marl” (p. 81). Overall, there are 61 references to “stucco” in Coe’s book; stucco is a fine cement.

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:7, 9, 11.

      Analysis of correspondence: Specific, detailed and unusual. Both wood and cement are mentioned as building materials in the Book of Mormon and in The Maya. While some Indians of northeastern North America did use wood to build their dwellings (for example, the Iroquois longhouses), they did not use cement, as did both the Maya and the Aztecs. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that one?

      Likelihood = 0.02

      By the way, cement results from burning limestone and mixing the resulting powder with water. Cement is used to bind all kinds of aggregates (stone, clay, etc.) to produce concrete. There is no justification for being picky about the details of hydraulic vs. nonhydraulic cements. Even experts disagree on what constitutes “true” cement.39

    17. Great skill in the working of cement (stucco)

      Coe’s standard: “Holmul and Xultun, celebrated in recent years for their … monumental stuccos … and Ek’ Balam, an extraordinary site in Yucatan with … some of the most astonishing stucco reliefs ever found” (p. 7). “Many of these were faced with elaborate stucco friezes and stairways flanked by massive stucco masks” (p. 81). “This young man is shown in a magnificent, polychrome stucco relief on a pilaster of Temple XIX” (p. 160).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Helaman 3:7.

      Analysis of correspondence: Not only were the Maya able to build with cement/stucco, they were “exceedingly expert” in working it, as explicitly described in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya (“astonishing,” “elaborate,” “magnificent” are the words used by Coe). This is certainly specific and detailed. It also is clearly unusual. The dominant view of the white settlers regarding the Indians in the early 1800s was that they were savages. How did the author of the Book of Mormon correctly “guess” that these “savages” could work so expertly in cement?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    18. Excellent workmanship practiced

      Coe’s standard: “the finest Maya wood carving known, this seated figure from Tabasco, Mexico” (p. 95n40). “Finally, the Late Classic Maya were … the only American Indians interested in rendering the uniqueness of individual characters through portraiture. The Maya artists excelled in low-relief carving. … Pottery objects of Late Classic manufacture run the gamut [Page 153]from crude … pots and pans of everyday life to real works of art. Among the latter are the fantastic supports for incense burners” (p. 164). (See all of pp. 164‒73.) “The excellence of the workmanship lavished upon it suggests that the Toltec intruders were better off in Yucatan” (p. 207).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 5:15‒16; Jarom 1:8; Ether 10:7, 27. The archaic meaning of “curious” is “made or prepared skillfully, done with painstaking accuracy or attention to detail.”40

      Analysis of correspondence: In the Book of Mormon, as in The Maya, many great workmen practiced excellent workmanship in a variety of materials (including materials other than cement/stucco)). So the correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also highly unusual. As mentioned above, whoever wrote the Book of Mormon lived in early 19th century America, where the Indians were generally deemed to be “savages.” How did that person correctly “guess” that the ancestors of these “savages” were great workmen in many different materials?

      Likelihood = 0.02

    19. Trade goods traveled by sea

      Coe’s standard: “The great majority of goods traveled by sea, since roads were but poor trails and cargoes heavy. This kind of commerce was cornered by the Chontal Maya, or Putun, such good seafarers that Eric Thompson called them ‘the Phoenicians of Middle America'” (p. 232).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 63:5‒10; Helaman 3:10, 14.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, there was a lot of trade by sea, and some detail is provided. Joseph Smith may have known something of the trade between the Iroquois and other northeastern tribes carried on by canoe. However, the trade by the Indians of Joseph’s time was via freshwater lakes and rivers and not ocean shipping, as described in both the Book of Mormon and The Maya. So the correspondence lacks a bit to be considered specific, detailed, and unusual, but it is considerably more than just specific. We count this as specific and somewhat detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    20. Books stored underground in lidded stone boxes

      Coe’s standard: “A few probable coffers exist for books, including the recent find of a lidded limestone box from Hun Nal Ye cave in Guatemala” (p. 239).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See p. xi (Introduction and Witnesses).

      Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence could hardly be more specific and detailed. The Book of Mormon was buried below ground in a lidded stone box. The Maya also (probably) stored some of their books in lidded stone boxes, the one mentioned in a cave. The correspondence is also [Page 154]unusual. None of the Indians of Joseph Smith’s time wrote books, let alone stored them in stone boxes.

      Likelihood = 0.02

      The Maya were not the only Mesoamerican Indians who stored sacred objects in stone boxes. So did the Aztecs.41

    21. Towers built, some very tall, possibly watchtowers

      Coe’s standard: “It has been suggested that the tower was used as an observatory, but it commands a wide view and could also have served as a watchtower” (p. 151). “decoration of perfectly ordinary small ‘palaces’ with high towers imitating the fronts of temple-pyramids; these towers, however, are solid, the steps being impossibly narrow and steep, and the ‘doorway’ at the summit leading to nothing” (p. 161).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 2:7; Mosiah 11:12; Alma 48:1; Helaman 7:10‒11; Moroni 9:7.

      Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon specifically mentions tall towers being built as watchtowers. The correspondence is therefore specific and detailed. We would also count it as unusual. What Indians of Joseph Smith’s time and place built tall towers? However, View of the Hebrews also contains a very brief, undetailed mention of towers. So we count this correspondence as merely specific and detailed.

      Likelihood = 0.1

    22. Multiple formal entrances to villages

      Coe’s standard: “The supernatural world is ever-present in Chan Kom [a traditional Maya village] and in the outlying fields and forest. At the four entrances to the settlement are four pairs of crosses and four balam (‘jaguar’) spirits” (p. 296).

      Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 22:6; Alma 8:18.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific. There were multiple formal entrances to the villages/towns of the Maya people and also among the Book of Mormon peoples. However, no distinctive details are given in the Book of Mormon, nor does the practice seem unusual. Even small towns on the American frontier had more than one entrance. Specific only,

      Likelihood = 0.5

    23. Fine fabrics and textiles, elaborate clothing

      Coe’s standard: “Besides jade, the corpse was ornamented with … rich textiles which have long since rotted away” (p. 106). “Sadly, nothing remains of all the perishable products which must have traveled the same routes — textiles” (p. 113). “The royal corpse had been virtually swaddled, wrapped in layers of lime, palm, and fine cotton textiles” (p. 144). “Every temple, every palace room was surely festooned with curtains and wall hangings” (p. 171).

      [Page 155]Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 28:13; Mosiah 10:5; Alma 4:6; Helaman 6:13; Helaman 13:28.

      Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is both specific and detailed. Both the Book of Mormon and The Maya describe people who had available to them very fine, rich and elaborate textiles and clothing. The correspondence also seems unusual. The Indians of Joseph Smith’s time and place wore clothing made primarily of animal skins and did not have access to the cotton worn by Indians in warmer climates. Specific, detailed and unusual.

      Likelihood = 0.02

Calculation of technological and miscellaneous correspondences

There are 23 specific technological/miscellaneous correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Of these, three have a likelihood of 0.5, eight have a likelihood of 0.1 and twelve have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood of these 23 positive correspondences, taken together, is 0.53 x 0.18 x 0.0212 =

5.12 x 10–30.

Calculation of overall likelihood for all 131 correspondences in six categories

The overall likelihood of these 131 correspondences occurring together is calculated by multiplying the likelihoods of each of the six categories, namely 4.99 x 10–33 x 3.21 x 10–35 x 1.28 x 10–24 x 2.0 x 10–13 x 1.28 x 10–18 x 5.12 x 10–30 =

2.69 x 10–151.

 

We can confirm this calculation by noting that of these 131 correspondences, 23 have a likelihood of 0.5; 57 have a likelihood of 0.1; and 51 have a likelihood of 0.02. Thus the overall likelihood can also be computed as 0.523 x 0.157 x 0.0251 = 2.69 x 10–151.

Appendix B
Negative Correspondences between the
Book of Mormon and The Maya

Points of disagreement between The Maya and the Book of Mormon

  1. Horses existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: “It was then a broad, grass-covered plain, frequented by ‘big game’ — extinct species like horses, mastodons, camelids, the elephant-like gompothere” (p. 44). According to Dr. Coe, the horse was extinct in the Americas by Book of Mormon times.

    [Page 156]Book of Mormon correspondence: Alma 18:9‒10, 12; Enos 1:21; and 3 Nephi 4:4, among others.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is specific and detailed. The Book of Mormon clearly states that there were horses among the Book of Mormon peoples and that the horses existed in both Lehite and Jaredite times. Dr. Coe insists that they did not exist.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  2. Elephants existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: “It was then a broad, grass-covered plain, frequented by ‘big game’ — extinct species like horses, mastodons, camelids, the elephant-like gompothere” (p. 44). “These great elephants were killed by darts hurled from spear-throwers” (p. 44).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Ether 9:19.

    Analysis of correspondence: The only mention of elephants was in Jaredite times, many centuries before the Lehites arrived. The elephants may indeed have been killed off before the Nephites arrived. So this is specific and detailed without rising to unusual.

    Likelihood = 10.0

  3. Iron existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: “But the European invaders brought with them more than their civil and religious order: they imposed a new economic order as well. Iron and steel tools replaced chipped or ground stone ones, and the Maya took readily to the Spaniards’ axes, machetes, and billhooks, which in the lowlands enabled them to cope with the forest as they never had before” (p. 290). Dr. Coe states that there is no evidence of iron or steel in Book of Mormon times.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: 2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 11:3, 8; Ether 10:23.

    Analysis of correspondence: There are several mentions of iron and steel among both Lehite and Jaredite peoples. So this is specific and detailed. However, there is no description of how widely used these metals were, so their use could yet be undiscovered. Nonetheless, to enable a rigorous test of the Book of Mormon, we grant this correspondence the maximum possible evidentiary weight.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  4. Steel existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: See 3 above.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: 2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Ether 7:9.

    Analysis of correspondence: See #3 above. Granted maximum possible weight.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  5. [Page 157]Copper existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: “The many copper bells and other objects from the well were of Mexican workmanship” (p. 212). “But exactly how large trees were felled prior to the adoption of copper axes in the Postclassic … is unclear” (p. 230).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 8:10; 11:3, 8,10; Ether 10:23.

    Analysis of correspondence: Coe says there is no evidence of copper in the Yucatan prior to the Late Classic, while the Book of Mormon states clearly that there was copper among the Book of Mormon peoples during at least part of their history. The Book of Mormon does not claim to take place exclusively in the Yucatan area, and there clearly were copper and full metallurgy in northern South America. Long-distance trade in copper also clearly took place. So the lack of correspondence seems specific and detailed, but not unusual. We give this correspondence a weight of 10.0

    Likelihood = 10.0

  6. Refined gold and silver existed during Book of Mormon times

    Coe’s standard: “a gold frog (possibly an import from Panama, and one of the earliest-attested metal objects yet discovered for the Maya)” (pp. 194‒95). “Detail from a gold disk from the Sacred Cenote, Chichen Itza” (p. 205n126). “Many of the objects dredged from the muck at the bottom of the Cenote are of Toltec manufacture, including some marvelously fine jades and the gold disks already mentioned. … The local lords brought treasures of gold from places as far afield as Panama” (p. 212).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 11:3, 8‒9; Mosiah 22:12; Ether 10:12, 23.

    Analysis of correspondence: The mention of gold and silver in Mosiah 11 and 22 probably took place in highland Guatemala and not the Yucatan. There is certainly gold and silver in highland Guatemala. We don’t know where the Book of Ether took place, but much gold and silver existed in Mexico, so the available gold and silver could have been distributed by trade to the Maya in Yucatan. Because it is “one vast shelf” of limestone, the Yucatan has no metals or metal ores. Since this correspondence is specific and detailed without being unusual, we give this a weight of 10.0

    Likelihood = 10.0

We do not count refined gold and silver separately. In nature, gold is nearly always accompanied by silver, and thus to refine gold by removing the silver is to refine the silver also.

 

Cumulative strength of these six negative correspondences is 503 x 103 =

1.25 x 108.

[Page 158]Points of disagreement between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe in his Dialogue article and in his podcasts

  1. Brass existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: Coe makes no mention of brass in his book but states in the podcasts that there is no evidence for it in Mesoamerica.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 5:15; Mosiah 8:10; Mosiah 11:3, 8, 10.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon states clearly that brass existed among the Book of Mormon peoples, while Dr. Coe says there is no evidence for it in Mesoamerica. We grant a likelihood of 50 in support of the hypothesis.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  2. Chariots existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite) times

    Coe’s standard: There is no evidence of wheeled vehicles in Mesoamerica, although wheeled toys have been found, and potter’s wheels still exist.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 18:9‒10, 12; Alma 20:6; 3 Nephi 3:22.

    Analysis of correspondence: We wonder, given the roads that the Maya and other Mesoamerican Indians undoubtedly constructed and the wheels they also made, why on earth they continued to carry their goods on their backs. We also do not wish to go into the details of what a “chariot” might be. Other scholars have already dealt with that issue and can grant to this negative correspondence whatever weight they choose. We simply grant to this correspondence the maximum weight of 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  3. Sheep existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: In the podcasts Dr. Coe states that there is no evidence of sheep in Mesoamerica.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Ether 9:18. The only unambiguous reference to sheep in the Book of Mormon is many centuries BC. The other references to sheep seem to be of a “religious” nature rather than specific reference to animal husbandry. There are 70 mentions of the word “flocks” in the Book of Mormon, but we do not know what animals these flocks consisted of.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is not particularly strong evidence, even giving the most generous possible interpretation. There is no mention of sheep during Nephite times, nor evidence that keeping of sheep was widespread. As evidence, this correspondence cannot be weighted more than 2.0

    Likelihood = 2.0

  4. [Page 159]Goats existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite and Lehite) times

    Coe’s standard: In the podcasts, Dr. Coe says there is no evidence of goats or wild goats.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: 1 Nephi 18:25; Enos 1:21; Ether 9:18.

    Analysis of correspondence: As before, we wonder what animals the Book of Mormon might mean when it refers to “goats” and “wild goats.” For example, mountain goats are not closely related to the domestic goat or to the wild goat (these are of the genus Capra). The domestic goat is descended from the wild goat. However, goat is the word given in the text of the Book of Mormon, and goats appear to have been important to both the Lehites and the Jaredites. So we give this negative correspondence the maximum possible weight.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  5. Swine existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite) times

    Coe’s standard: Coe claims that the domestic pig was unknown among the Maya until the Spanish conquest. However, he also concedes that modern Maya keep the peccary (New World pig) as pets and a source of food, although he says they do not domesticate well.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Ether 9:18.

    Analysis of correspondence: The only mention of swine is in Jaredite times. Given the historical remoteness of that era, it may not be unusual that better evidence of the domestic pig has not been found. Also, given the existence of the peccary throughout Mexico, Central and South America, it can be plausibly argued that it is the peccary that is referred to in Jaredite times as swine. Specific only.

    Likelihood = 2.0

  6. Wheat existed during Book of Mormon times

    Coe’s standard: Coe states that wheat has not been found in Mesoamerica.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 9:9.

    Analysis of correspondence: There is no claim in the Book of Mormon that those peoples domesticated wheat nor that it was their primary grain. In fact, the Lehite colony specifically mentions bringing “seeds” with them, so it is likely that Old World wheat was among those seeds. Also, the Book of Mormon seems to indicate corn as the primary grain (see Appendix A, Correspondence 2.22). Wheat may not have been widely grown, and therefore the evidence for wheat more difficult to detect centuries later. So at most this correspondence must be regarded as specific, but it does not rise to detailed or unusual.

    Likelihood = 2.0

  7. Barley existed during Book of Mormon times

    Coe’s standard: Coe states that barley has not been found in the Americas.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Mosiah 7:22; Mosiah 9:9; Alma 11:7, 15.

    [Page 160]Analysis of correspondence: As we argued in #6 above for wheat, the Book of Mormon does not claim that those peoples domesticated barley, nor that it was their primary grain. In fact, the Lehite colony specifically mentions bringing “seeds” with them, so it is possible that Old World barley was among those seeds. As noted, the Book of Mormon seems to indicate corn as the primary grain (see Appendix A, Correspondence 2.22), so barley might not have been a principal crop and therefore not widespread like corn.

    By the way, barley (and other grains) were the basis of the Nephite monetary system described in Alma 11. In Han China, officials could be paid in grain or coin — an interesting “hit” for the Book of Mormon. So at most this correspondence must be regarded as specific, but it does not rise to detailed or unusual.

    Likelihood = 2.0

  8. Cattle (oxen and cows) existed during Book of Mormon times

    Coe’s standard: Coe claims that cattle (Bos taurus) did not exist in the Americas until the Spanish brought them. Their bones have never been found.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Enos 1:21; 3 Nephi 4:4; Ether 9:18.

    Analysis of correspondence: Here we really do need to worry about what the word cattle means. Cattle is an Anglo-French word, related to our word modern English word chattel, meaning simply private or personal property. It has evolved to include “domestic quadrupeds,” more narrowly animals of the bovine variety. But the Book of Mormon may use it in the earlier sense of “quadrupeds,” animals used for tillage, labor, or food for humans. Thus in its primary sense, the word may include a variety of domesticated beasts.42

    “All manner of cattle,” the phrase used in Ether 9:18, is likely earlier English usage. However, to once again be rigorous in our test of the Book of Mormon, we will assume that the cattle referred in the book are indeed Bos taurus (including both oxen and cows), which Dr. Coe says did not exist, and we will grant this negative correspondence a likelihood of 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  9. Silk existed during Book of Mormon times

    Coe’s standard: There is no evidence of silkworm culture. The Spaniards were very impressed by the fineness of the fabrics the Maya produced. The Spaniards had no fabrics so fine. The tropical environment has a strong tendency to destroy fabrics.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Alma 1:29; Alma 4:6; Ether 9:17; Ether 10:24.

    [Page 161]Analysis of correspondence: Both the Lehites and Jaredites had a fabric they called silk, and the Maya in particular were able to produce very fine fabrics. Given the tropical climate and the resulting decay of organic materials, we believe this negative correspondence is specific, but not detailed or unusual.

    Likelihood = 2.0

  10. Asses (donkeys) existed during Book of Mormon times

    Coe’s standard: Dr. Coe says there is no evidence of asses (donkeys) in the New World.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: 1 Nephi 18:25; Ether 9:19.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon states that there were asses in both Jaredite and Lehite times and that they were useful for man. Since donkeys are hardy animals and can subsist on marginal feed, their utility would argue for them being somewhat widespread. So we will grant to this negative correspondence a likelihood of 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  11. Hybrid Egyptian/Hebrew language/writing system

    Coe’s standard: Dr. Coe says there is no such hybrid system in the New World, and that the Maya language/writing system is of local invention, not an import from the Old World. However, he also notes that there exist two scripts from ancient America that cannot currently be read because a bilingual (“Rosetta Stone”) is lacking.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 1 Nephi 1:2 and 3:19; Mosiah 1:2, 4; Mormon 9:34.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon emphasizes “the language of the fathers,” an arcane, sacred written language connected to the language of the Egyptians. It is the language in which the plates were written and was known to only a few. It was obviously not the common language. In fact, Moroni (see Moroni 9:34) says that “none other people knoweth our language.” Given the existence of Mesoamerican scripts that cannot be read, and the fact that the sacred language of the Nephites was a closely guarded language, this negative correspondence cannot be regarded as either detailed or unusual. At most it is specific.

    Likelihood = 2.0

  12. Lack of Middle Eastern DNA in the New World

    Coe’s standard: Dr. Coe states that he has never seen any evidence that would convince him of the presence of Middle Eastern DNA in the New World.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: Dr. Ugo Perego has written extensively on this DNA issue.43 There are many reasons why the genetic endowment brought by the Lehite, Jaredite and Mulekite colonies may not be detectable [Page 162]today among Native Americans, not the least of which is the massive die-off of Native Americans, owing to European diseases post-contact. A critical scientific problem is the lack of an appropriate Book of Mormon “control” group against which Native American DNA can be tested. In other words, how will we know “Lehite” DNA if we actually find it?

    Analysis of correspondence: It is tempting to simply dismiss this negative correspondence as having no evidentiary value either for or against the historicity of the Book of Mormon. At most it is specific: “No middle Eastern DNA markers have been found in Native Americans.” But that is not detailed or unusual, given the scientific issues noted above.

    Likelihood = 2.0

Cumulative strength of these 12 negative correspondences is 505 x 107 =

3.13 x 1015.

A few ridiculous objections to the Book of Mormon and a rejoinder to Dr. Coe

Near the end of Podcast #907, Dr. Dehlin invited Dr. Coe to unburden himself about anything that Coe thought should be in the Book of Mormon, but is not. Dr. Coe mentions four things: the absence of (1) books, (2) chocolate, (3) turkeys, and (4) jaguars. Since Dr. Coe does not hesitate to use the word ridiculous to characterize arguments for the Book of Mormon he finds extremely unconvincing, we do not hesitate to use the same word to characterize these particular objections. They are, in fact, ridiculous.

First of all, the Book of Mormon clearly refers to multiple books being present (see Appendix A, Correspondence 6.9). If Dr. Coe had read the Book of Mormon more than once and more recently than 45 years ago, he might have noticed that fact. As for chocolate, turkeys, and jaguars, the Book of Mormon does not claim to be a text on elite foods, poultry, or exotic wild animals. The Book of Mormon, from beginning to end, is meant to testify of Christ and bring all humankind to him.

Chapter 6 of 1 Nephi (verses 3‒6) describes the intent and scope of the Book of Mormon. This is the intent by which the Book of Mormon should be judged (and not by the standards of academic curiosity). Verse 6 reads, “Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.”

Knowledge of turkeys, jaguars, and consumption of chocolate among the ancient Mesoamericans is of no real worth. Knowing about Jesus Christ, about eternal life, about the resurrection, and the mercy that has been made available to us through Christ are topics of supernal worth.

[Page 163]If we are to take seriously Dr. Coe’s objections to the lack of equal time given to subjects as chocolate, jaguars, and turkeys in the Book of Mormon, we have an objection for him about his own book. Bruce and Brian Dale are both engineers, which means we love applied mathematics. Dr. Coe does not mention the extensive use of the “golden section” or phi ratio in Maya architecture, although it is clearly present.44 Why did Dr. Coe not mention this “golden section” in his book The Maya? Shall we disbelieve the rest of his book because of this omission?

No, that would be ridiculous. All books must limit their scope and have a focus. Every author/editor must decide what to include and what to leave out. Dr. Coe did so decide in The Maya. So did the editors and authors of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Appendix C
Statistical Analysis of Correspondences between Manuscript Found and The Maya

The Oberlin College Archives provide this useful introduction to the Spaulding Manuscript (aka Manuscript Found).45

The Spaulding Manuscript in the Oberlin College Library

This library possesses a manuscript which apparently is in the handwriting of Solomon Spaulding, since it seems to agree with fragments of account books which I have seen, and. its genuineness is certified by a number of people who apparently examined it about the year 1839. It is not, however, the manuscript that was said by witnesses to resemble the Book of Mormon, since that manuscript was always spoken of as having been written in the style of the sacred scriptures, whereas this is a plain narrative containing accounts of the wars between the Kentucks and the Sciotos — Indian tribes ascribed to this country.

The manuscript which we have was apparently obtained from Spaulding’s effects at West Amity, Pennsylvania, at some time after the publication of the Book of Mormon, and seems to have been found as a result of a search to find whatever remained of Spaulding’s writings in order to throw light on the question of whether he was the author of [Page 164]the Book of Mormon, or not. The manuscript which we have was copied under our supervision and a typewritten copy furnished to the Shepherd Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, and also to the Reorganized Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, then located at Lamoni, Iowa. It was printed and sold by both branches of the Mormon Church, who gave it the title “The Manuscript Found” — a title which does not appear in any way on the manuscript, which simply had pencilled upon the papers in which it was wrapped, “Manuscript story, Conneaut Creek.”

It seems to have been taken from West Amity, Pennsylvania, to Painesville, Ohio, and there to have come into the possession of a Mr. Hulbert, owner of the “Painesville Telegraph,” in whose office had been printed the first book against Mormonism, in 1836. Apparently the manuscript, after being examined and found not to be a manuscript connected with the Book of Mormon, was laid aside and passed with the files of the office of the “Painesville Telegraph” when it came into the possession of Mr. Rice, a man who owned and edited at one time various anti-slavery papers in northern Ohio. When this Mr. Rice became an elderly man he removed to Honolulu to live with his daughter, a graduate of this institution, Mrs. Doctor Whitney. When President Fairchild visited Honolulu in 1885 he asked this old Mr. Rice if he did not have some anti-slavery literature which he could give to the Oberlin College Library for its anti-slavery collection. This set Mr. Rice to looking over his old papers, and among them this manuscript of Spaulding’s was found. It was given to President Fairchild and added to the Oberlin College Library.

It seems pretty clearly not to have been the manuscript from which the Book of Mormon was written, as it deals with scenes taking place in America among Indians, possibly of the Mound Builders period. Spaulding is known to have been interested in the Indians, particularly of that period, because of certain mounds which were in his home lot in Conneaut. The manuscript is thought by some to have a certain very general resemblance to the outline of the Book of Mormon, but is not at all written in phraseology resembling the phraseology of the Bible, which is the characteristic of the Book of Mormon. The theory of those who believe in Spaulding’s having written a manuscript which furnished the basis of the Book of Mormon, is that he wrote another manuscript in biblical phraseology, which he read to many of his Conneaut friends and thereby came to be known among the young people of the town as “And-it-came-to-pass” Spaulding. The theory of those who accept this explanation is that he subsequently took this manuscript written [Page 165]in biblical phraseology to Pittsburg, where it fell into the hands of a Mr. Patterson, in whose office Sidney Rigdon worked, and that through Sidney Rigdon it came into the possession of Joseph Smith and was made the basis of the Book of Mormon. In regard to that question, our manuscript does not seem to throw very much light.

(From a letter written by Professor A. S. Root, May 12, 1927.)

Positive Correspondences between Manuscript Found and The Maya

  1. Governed by kings

    Coe’s standard: Among many such references: “Among the highland Maya there were real kings” (p. 236). “The K’iche’ state was headed by a king, a king-elect and two ‘captains'” (p. 226). “It is not unreasonable to see one of its [Calakmul’s] kings, Yuknoom the Great, as their Charlemagne” (p. 276).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: References to kings are found all through this document; see for example pp. 17, 19, 32 and 43, among others.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, but by no means detailed or unusual.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  2. Dogs present and were eaten

    Coe’s standard: “One such strain [of dog was] … fattened on corn, and either eaten or sacrificed” (p. 231).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: pp. 24‒26 refer to the sacrifice and eating of dogs.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, but also by no means detailed or unusual. Many Native American tribes also ate dogs.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  3. Dogs were sacrificed as a religious act

    Coe’s standard: “Wild turkeys, deer, dogs … were considered fit offerings for the Maya gods” (p. 244).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 25‒26 describing a holocaust offering of black dogs, while white dogs were eaten.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, and seems unusual for the early 1800s, but it is not detailed in the case of The Maya.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  4. Ancestors emigrated from the west

    Coe’s standard: “It was from the setting sun we came, from Tula, from beyond the sea” (p. 224).

    [Page 166]Manuscript Found” Correspondence: “Their tradition tells them they emigrated from the westward [from across the sea]” (p. 32).

    Analysis of correspondence: We have previously (Correspondence 2.20 in Appendix A) given this correspondence a likelihood of 0.1, and so we use that value here also.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  5. Many cities present

    Coe’s standard: To name just a few of the cities mentioned in The Maya we have Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, Acanceh, Ek’ Balam, Mayapan, Piedras Negras, Ceibal, Palenque, Naranjo, El Mirador, Bonampak, Uaxactun, Kaminaljuyu, Takalik Abaj, Tikal (p. 9), “the great Usumacinta, … draining the northern highlands, … twisting to the northwest past many a ruined Maya city” (pp. 16‒17). “more advanced cultural traits, … the construction of cities” (p. 26).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See references to cities on pp. 33, 35, and 46, among others.

    Analysis of correspondence: Same as Correspondence 1.5 in Appendix A.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  6. Wore beautiful feathers

    Coe’s standard: “Hundreds of resplendent quetzal feathers fan out behind his back.” [peaking of a mural]. (p. 189nxvi).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See pp. 56, 57, 96.

    Analysis of correspondence: This correspondence is specific, but does not correspond in details, nor is it unusual. The Indians of Joseph’s time certainly wore feathers. Manuscript Found refers only to blue feathers, while The Maya refers to the wearing of multicolored quetzal feathers.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  7. Raised corn, beans and squashes

    Coe’s standard: “In these maize fields … secondary crops like beans and squashes … are inter-planted” (p. 16).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 37.

    Analysis of correspondence: The reference is specific but not detailed or unusual. These crops were staples of the Indian diet.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  8. Had domestic turkeys

    Coe’s standard: “Both wild and domestic turkeys were known” (p. 231).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 38.

    Likelihood analysis: Wild turkeys and domestic turkeys were known in eastern North America from very early times. This is specific, but not at all unusual, nor are any significant details given.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  9. [Page 167]Used cotton

    Coe’s standard: “Cotton was widely grown” (p. 231).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 38.

    Likelihood analysis: Specific but no unusual details provided in either book, nor is either reference at all detailed.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  10. Wealthy people had decorated pottery

    Coe’s standard: “an elite class … imported pottery … to stock their tombs” (p. 103). “restored Thin Orange ware vessel in the form of a seated man” (p. 105n47).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 39.

    Likelihood analysis: Specific, but there are no details of the decorations in Manuscript Found. It would not have been a daring leap to surmise that wealthy people had luxury goods.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  11. Handed down both sacred and secular texts

    Coe’s standard: “The traditional annals of the peoples of Yucatan … transcribed into Spanish letters … apparently reach back as far as the beginning of the Postclassic era. … The ‘Books of Chilam Balam,’ which derive their name from a Maya savant [are] said to have predicted the arrival of the Spaniards from the east” (p. 199).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 52.

    Likelihood analysis: Again, specific in both books, but there is little distinguishing detail in Manuscript Found. Also, this idea was not unusual. Western society had been handing down sacred and secular texts for many centuries.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  12. Took hostages of high rank

    Coe’s standard: “Sons were sent … to Calakmul … to serve as hostages securing their fathers’ good behavior” (p. 95).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 62.

    Likelihood analysis: This is the same practice of royal sons being used as hostages. So it is specific and has corresponding detail in both books. But it is not unusual. Hostage taking was a well-known practice.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  13. Had taxes

    Coe’s standard: “The ruler took in tax” (p. 93).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 66.

    Likelihood analysis: Well, this one ought to get a probability of 0.99999 or more, as it is highly specific but has no distinguishing details, and it is so far from unusual as to be commonplace. But to be conservative in the analysis [Page 168](that is, give Manuscript Found its greatest chance), we will not discard this evidence.

    Likelihood = 0.5.

  14. Hereditary chief priests

    Coe’s standard: “During the prosperity of Mayapan, a hereditary Chief Priest resided in that city” (p. 243).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 66.

    Likelihood analysis: This correspondence is similar to Correspondence 3.11 in Appendix A, to which we have assigned a likelihood of 0.1

    Likelihood = 0.1

  15. Used slings and stones

    Coe’s standard: “the infantry, from which rained … stones slung from slings” (p. 236).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: p. 72.

    Likelihood analysis: This correspondence is similar to Correspondence 4.10 in Appendix A, to which we have assigned a likelihood of 0.02.

    Likelihood = 0.02

  16. Land supported millions of people

    Coe’s standard: “One view perceives as many as eight to ten million people in the lowlands. … [Others] would go as low as two to three million” (p. 22). “bulk of the population … [was] apparently in the millions” (p. 177).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 79.

    Likelihood analysis: This correspondence is specific, and somewhat detailed. It is also highly unusual. As we did for Correspondence 6.1 in Appendix A, we assign a likelihood of 0.02.

    Likelihood = 0.02

  17. Cities fortified with deep trenches and wooden barriers

    Coe’s standard: “Becan … was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks … [consisting of] a ditch and inner rampart, 38 ft high, and would have been formidable … if the rampart had been surmounted by a palisade” (p. 122). “A system of defensive walls … topped by wooden palisades was constructed around, and within them [the Maya cities]” (p. 151).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 80.

    Likelihood analysis: This correspondence is specific and detailed, but perhaps not entirely unusual. At least for wooden forts and palisades, these were well known in early frontier America. The correspondence does not have nearly the same level of detail as given in the Book of Mormon and summarized in correspondence 4.2. So it is specific and unusual, for a likelihood of 0.1.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  18. Prophets used a stone to see the future and discover hidden things

    Coe’s standard: “Two of the [Maya] houses were certainly devoted to village rituals. [One house had] a collection of crystals like those used by modern Maya diviners” (p. 107). “[One Maya community religious leader] … is [Page 169]seemingly imbued with far greater spiritual power: this is the hmeen, “he who does or understands things” — that is, the shaman. … These specialists still play an important role in divination and prophecy, using their crystals to scry the future. … These shamans also engage in divination, either by using their magic crystal” (pp. 296‒97, emphasis added).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 107 for a quite detailed account of the use of such crystals.

    Likelihood analysis: This correspondence is obviously specific and detailed. But however odd and unusual it may seem to us, it would definitely not have been unusual in the early 19th century when the use of such stones was an integral part of folk magic. Joseph Smith himself had a seer stone, as we have summarized in Correspondence 3.5 in Appendix A. So this correspondence has a likelihood of 0.1.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  19. Instruments blown at the start of battle

    Coe’s standard: “More formal battle opened with the dreadful din of drums, whistles, shell trumpets and war cries” (p. 236).

    Manuscript Found” Correspondence: See p. 126.

    Likelihood analysis: This correspondence is specific, but it is not particularly detailed, nor is it unusual. Horns and trumpets were part of European warfare, and the shofar trumpets announced Joshua’s battle against Jericho.

    Likelihood = 0.5

Summary of the Positive Correspondences

There are 19 positive correspondences between The Maya and Manuscript Found. Ten of these have a likelihood of 0.5, seven likelihood of 0.1, and two a likelihood of 0.02. The product of these is therefore 0.510 x 0.17 x 0.022=

3.91 x 10–14.

These are evidences that support the hypothesis that Manuscript Found is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. The product of these evidences is multiplied by the initial skeptical prior of one billion to one that Manuscript Found is not an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. The result is 3.91 x 10–5.

Taken by itself, this result would change our skeptical prior of a billion to one against the hypothesis to a positive posterior of more than a thousand to one that Manuscript Found is an authentic record of ancient Mesoamerica. However, we have not yet applied the evidence against the hypothesis, that is, the negative correspondences between The Maya and Manuscript Found. We do this now.

[Page 170]Negative Correspondences between Manuscript Found and The Maya

  1. Manuscript Found claims that the manuscript was found in an “earthern box.”

    Coe’s standard: “A few probable coffers exist for books, including the recent find of a lidded limestone box” (p. 239).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: The manuscript was found in an “earthern box.” See p. 12.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is similar to Correspondence 6.20 in Appendix A, comparing the Book of Mormon to The Maya. We have assigned a likelihood of 0.02 to this fact as a positive correspondence. Thus lack of correspondence, or negative correspondence, in this case must be the reciprocal of the positive correspondence or likelihood 1.0/0.02 = 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  2. Manuscript Found claims that the manuscript was written on parchment.

    Coe’s standard: “These [codices, books] are written on long strips of bark paper” (p. 239).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: Parchment, see p. 12.

    Analysis of correspondence: If the Reverend Solomon Spaulding, the author of Manuscript Found, had guessed correctly that the Maya wrote on bark paper, then that would be specific, detailed and unusual. But that is not the case, so the likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

    Hereafter we will just refer to Reverend Spaulding (also spelled “Spalding”) as “the author.”

  3. Manuscript Found claims that the manuscript was written in Latin.

    Coe’s standard: “At least 15,000 examples of Maya writing have survived” (p. 237). Authors’ note: there is no suggestion by Dr. Coe that the Maya ever wrote in Latin.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: Latin, see p. 12.

    Analysis of correspondence: If the author of Manuscript Found had guessed correctly that the Maya wrote in Latin, then that would be specific, detailed and unusual. But that is not the case, so the likelihood is 50.0

    Likelihood = 50.0

  4. Manuscript Found claims that the men wore shoes, long stockings and waistcoats.

    Coe’s standard: No carvings or murals of the Maya show them dressed as New England gentlemen. They were dressed otherwise. See, for example, pp. 188‒92.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 39.

    [Page 171]Analysis of correspondence: Once again, if the author of Manuscript Found had guessed correctly that the Maya dressed as New England gentlemen, then that would be specific, detailed, and (very) unusual. But he did not guess correctly, so the likelihood is 50.0

    Likelihood = 50.0

  5. Manuscript Found claims that the natives raised wheat.

    Coe’s standard: There is no mention of wheat among the crops raised by the Maya.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 37.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is a specific guess, but little detail is given. It is probably unusual. Wheat is one of the staple grains for humankind and has been for centuries. It would have been unusual if the author had correctly predicted that the natives did not grow wheat.

    Likelihood = 10.0

  6. Manuscript Found claims that the natives had horses and plowed with them.

    Coe’s standard: According to Dr. Coe, there is no evidence that the Maya ever had horses, let alone that they plowed with them. The Maya apparently did not plow at all and did not use draft animals.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 37.

    Analysis of correspondence: Had this guess been correct, it would certainly have been specific, detailed and unusual. The Plains Indians had horses, and the author may have known about those horses, but the Indians did not plow with horses.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  7. Manuscript Found claims that the natives manufactured iron.

    Coe’s standard: “But the European invaders brought with them more than their civil and religious order: they imposed a new economic order as well. Iron and steel tools replaced chipped or ground stone ones, and the Maya took readily to the Spaniards’ axes, machetes, and billhooks, which in the lowlands enabled them to cope with the forest as they never had before” (p. 290). Dr. Coe states that there is no evidence for iron or steel in Book of Mormon times.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 38.

    Analysis of correspondence: As far as we know, none of the Native Americans of the early 1800s manufactured iron or lead. So if the author had guessed this correctly, it would have been specific, detailed and unusual. But he did not.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  8. Manuscript Found claims that the houses and public buildings exhibited no elegance or grandeur.

    Coe’s standard: Since the Maya society was class-based (even exhibiting “castes,” p. 225), their houses would have differed sharply in the degree of [Page 172]elegance or grandeur. But their public buildings exhibited a great deal of elegance and grandeur. “Their upper facades and roof-combs were beautifully ornamented with figures in stucco and stone. Yaxchilan is famous for its many stone lintels, carved in relief with scenes of conquest and ceremonial life” (p. 146). “In the rear of [the miniature temple] stands a magnificent low relief tablet carved with long hieroglyphic texts” (p. 152). See photographs and drawings of the Temple of Inscriptions (pp. 158‒59). “Palace at Xpuhil: … The three towers are completely solid and served no other function than decoration” (p. 163n97).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 39.

    Analysis of correspondence: Had the author of Manuscript Found guessed correctly about lack of elegance in public and private buildings, that would have been specific, detailed, and unusual, since most societies (and rulers) that could afford to have always gone in for a lot of elegance and grandeur. But he guessed incorrectly.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  9. Manuscript Found claims that the houses were one story high, framed and covered with clapboards or shingles.

    Coe’s standard: This is completely unlike actual Maya dwellings.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 39.

    Analysis of correspondence: Had New England-style frame houses with clapboards and shingles ever been found among the Maya, that would have been specific, detailed, and extremely unusual. But once again, the author of Manuscript Found guessed wrong. So consequently the

    Likelihood = 50.0

  10. Manuscript Found claims that the “whole catalog of ornamental trumpery is neglected.”

    Coe’s standard: In contrast, the Maya really went in for the “whole catalog of ornamental trumpery.” They were devoted to ornamentation in dress and architecture. The grandeur of Maya architecture has already been discussed in Correspondence #8 above. There are many examples of ornamentation in dress. “Santa Rita also yielded an extraordinary set of ear ornaments in gold and turquoise” (p. 219), … “a splendid pair of ground obsidian [earspools]” (pp. 276‒77). Also see the various representations of elaborate Maya dress in the figures between pp. 185‒92.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 40.

    Analysis of correspondence: Once again, had the author of Manuscript Found guessed correctly about lack of personal ornamentation and fancy dress, that would have been specific, detailed, and unusual, since rich people have usually gone in for expensive and fancy dress. But he guessed incorrectly.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  11. [Page 173]Manuscript Found claims that the characters (in their writing system) represent words.

    Coe’s standard: “The Maya were writing in a mixed, logophonetic system in which phonetic and semantic elements were combined, … but they also had a fairly complete syllabary” (p. 269).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 42. “Characters represent words.”

    Analysis of correspondence: The author of Manuscript Found incorrectly guessed that the writing system was not at least partly phonetic and syllabic. Had he correctly guessed that a mixed logophonetic system was used instead, that would have been specific, detailed, and probably unusual.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  12. Manuscript Found states how writing was to be read on a page.

    Coe’s standard: “Maya writing was to be read in double columns from left to right, and top to bottom” (p. 265).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 42. The natives “wrote from top to bottom, one character below the preceding one, right to left in columns.”

    Analysis of correspondence: The writer of Manuscript Found guessed wrong in this specific, detailed, and unusual point. Had he guessed correctly, we would have assigned this correspondence a likelihood of 0.02. Since he did not guess correctly, the evidence is counted against the hypothesis for a likelihood of 50.0

    Likelihood = 50.0

  13. Manuscript Found claims that the natives worshipped one supreme omnipotent being.

    Coe’s standard: Among the Maya there were many, many gods.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 46.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is specific and detailed, but perhaps not unusual. The author of Manuscript Found was writing in early 19th century America, where the idea of monotheism was deeply embedded. Since the writer guessed wrong for one of the three criteria, the likelihood would be 1/0.1 = 10.0

    Likelihood = 10.0

  14. Manuscript Found claims that the natives used shovels and wheelbarrows.

    Coe’s standard: There is no mention of these earth-moving implements among the Maya or other Mesoamerican Indians, nor is there mention of wheeled tools like a wheelbarrow.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 59.

    [Page 174]Analysis of correspondence: Had the author of Manuscript Found guessed correctly about the existence of these implements and the wheel in ancient America, that would certainly have been specific, detailed, and unusual. But he did not. So the likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  15. Manuscript Found claims that the natives coined money and limited its supply.

    Coe’s standard: There is no mention of coins in The Maya, and Dr. Coe specifically emphasizes this point in the podcasts with Dr. Dehlin: no coins among the Maya or other Mesoamerican Indians.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 66.

    Analysis of correspondence: Since no Native Americans were known to use coins, a correct guess on the part of the author of Manuscript Found would probably have been specific, detailed, and unusual. But he did not guess correctly.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  16. Manuscript Found claims that there were no wars between neighboring empires for almost 500 years.

    Coe’s standard: “The Maya were obsessed with war” (p. 236). Coe’s book is full of descriptions of war and conquest among the Maya. A bigger difference between the claims of Manuscript Found and the actual situation is hard to imagine.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 70.

    Analysis of correspondence: Human history is one long catalog of violence and men reigning with blood and horror on the earth. The Maya certainly did their part to fill out this dismal catalog of human cruelty. Had the author of Manuscript Found been correct in this amazing claim, it would certainly have been specific, detailed, and unusual. Alas, he was wrong.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  17. Manuscript Found claims that adulterers were punished by throwing rotten eggs at them.

    Coe’s standard: “Adultery was punished by death” (p. 234).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 77.

    Analysis of correspondence: The practice of throwing rotten eggs at performers dates to medieval times in England; only later did the practice migrate to America. If it were practiced among ancient American Indians as a punishment for adultery, that would certainly be specific, detailed, and unusual. But that is not what was done.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  18. [Page 175]Manuscript Found claims that there was a “happy equality” among people and “great similarity” in their manner of living.

    Coe’s standard: This was very far from being the case among the Maya, where there was great inequality. See pp. 93, 95, 225 among others.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 77.

    Analysis of correspondence: Such periods of equality among people have been very rare. Had the author of Manuscript Found been correct in this guess, it would have been specific, detailed, and very unusual. But it was not so.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  19. Manuscript Found claims that “governments were not infested with a thirst for conquest.”

    Coe’s standard: Dr. Coe shows over and over again that the Maya kingdoms were always busy making or preparing for war. “The Maya were obsessed with war” (p. 236). War and conquest were their way of life for centuries.

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 78.

    Analysis of correspondence: Once again, the author of Manuscript Found simply guessed wrongly. The correspondence is detailed and specific. Since early America lived in the shadow of the British Empire, built on conquest, and centuries of conquest in Europe, this would have been highly unusual, if true. But it was not.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  20. Manuscript Found claims that political institutions among the natives guarded life and property against oppressing injustice and tyranny.

    Coe’s standard: There is no mention and no evidence of such nice American liberties in The Maya. As mentioned, it was a strictly hierarchal society with castes and definite ruling classes (pp. 93, 95, 231). For example, slavery, the epitome of oppression and tyranny, was widely practiced in ancient Mesoamerica. (See pp. 19 and 225.) “Other valuable Yucatan exports were honey, cotton mantles and slaves” (p. 232).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 78.

    Analysis of correspondence: Human beings have, much more often than not, oppressed, exploited, robbed and enslaved each other. So a society in which political institutions guarded against such practices would have been quite rare. No such society is recorded by Dr. Coe in The Maya. If true, this correspondence would have been specific, detailed, and unusual. But it was not so.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  21. [Page 176]Manuscript Found claims that there were no political intermarriages among neighboring kingdoms.

    Coe’s standard: (Speaking of political intrigues among rivals), “when Bird Jaguar IV, ruler of Yaxchilan, Guatemala, married Lady Mut Bahlam of Hixwitz, there must have been rejoicing for some and gnashing of teeth for others” (p. 97).

    Negative correspondence from “Manuscript Found”: See p. 81.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is a specific and sufficiently detailed correspondence. Also, if the author of Manuscript Found had guessed correctly, it would have been unusual. Political marriages were well known in Europe and Great Britain. So if the claim were supported by evidence from The Maya, it would have earned likelihood of 0.02. But the claim was not supported.

    Likelihood = 50.0

Summary of the Negative Correspondences

There are 21 negative correspondences between The Maya and Manuscript Found. Reverend Spaulding was a bold and uninhibited guesser. However, he guessed incorrectly much more often than he guessed correctly. Nineteen of these negative correspondences have a likelihood of 50 and two have a likelihood of 10. The product of these is therefore 5019 x 102 = 1.91 x 1034.

This number must then be multiplied by 3.91 x 10–5, which is product of the skeptical prior of a billion to one against the hypothesis and the product of all the likelihoods of the positive correspondences.

The final result is

7.47 x 1029

or roughly a thousand billion, billion, billion against the hypothesis that Manuscript Found describes the same population of facts as The Maya.

Thus the end result of weighing both the positive and negative correspondences is that we arrive at a much, much stronger posterior conclusion against Manuscript Found. This book is undoubtedly a work of fiction. If Joseph Smith had relied on Manuscript Found for the factual details of the Book of Mormon, as some have suggested, he would have included many grossly wrong details about ancient Mesoamerican Indians.

But Joseph Smith did not. Reverend Spaulding guessed his details, and got some right. He got many, many more wrong. For Joseph Smith, however, his correct “guesses” are much, much more numerous and more detailed and powerful than are his incorrect “guesses.” Joseph Smith was truly the world’s greatest guesser.

[Page 177]Appendix D
Statistical Analysis of Correspondences between
View of the Hebrews and The Maya

View of the Hebrews was published in 1823 by the Reverend Ethan Smith, a Congregationalist minister. It is not deliberate fiction but it does advocate a particular opinion, namely that the American Indians are descended from the lost Ten Tribes. The information cited in the book is nearly always second-, third- and even fourth-hand, with very little in the way of written, documented sources, as modern scholarship might require.

Also, View of the Hebrews makes an important caveat about its own claims, namely, “It is not pretended that all the savages (i.e., the American Indians) are in the practice of all these traditions. They are not. But it is contended that the whole of these things have been found among their different tribes in our continent, within a hundred years” (p. 107).

Since View of the Hebrews was published before the Book of Mormon, an important outcome for our article to consider this book was to document in some detail what Joseph Smith might have known about the ancient Mesoamericans. Every specific fact claim in View of the Hebrews that corresponded to a point of evidence mentioned in The Maya was not classified as “unusual” in our comparison of The Maya and the Book of Mormon. We did this because Joseph might have known about that fact from reading View of the Hebrews, and therefore it would be specific and detailed without being unusual.

Since View of the Hebrews also contains many claims that run contrary to facts in The Maya¸ this begs the question “Why did Joseph Smith not also include those erroneous fact claims from View of the Hebrews in the Book of Mormon?” Because we are attempting to be very rigorous in our analysis of the Book of Mormon, we do not account for the additional lack of probability involved with Joseph Smith choosing only correct fact claims from View of the Hebrews and not the incorrect ones.

The effect of ruling out these positive correspondences between The Maya and View of the Hebrews was to reduce the Bayesian significance of these particular correspondences and thus reduce their evidentiary weight in favor of the Book of Mormon by a factor of 59, or about two million. There were nine such correspondences, including temples, a great flood, ancestors coming from the west, roads, watchtowers, walled towns, many cities, volcanoes, and covenants.

[Page 178]Positive Correspondences between View of the Hebrews and The Maya

  1. Temples among the Indians

    Coe’s standard: See pp. 26, 55, 59, 82, 89, among others. Temples were centrally important ritual centers among the Maya.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: pp. 31, 41, 50, 77 and 107 mentions temples but associate American Indian temples with the Hebrew Holy of Holies and observing the Law of Moses

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, but the details do not correspond between the two books; simply having a temple is probably not unusual.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  2. Knowledge of an ancient flood among the Indians

    Coe’s standard: See pp. 41 and 249. “[Wicked humankind was] annihilated, as black rains fell and a great flood swept the earth.”

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: pp. 31, 47 and 107. No details are provided about the flood in this book.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, but the details do not match up. If the details did match up, then the correspondence would qualify as specific, detailed, and unusual, but it does not. It is only specific. In the Book of Mormon and The Maya the flood is sent to destroy the wicked, a key detail.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  3. Possible migration of ancestors of the Indians through the Bering Strait

    Coe’s standard: “One theory holds [that this hemisphere was populated by Siberian peoples crossing Beringia]. … The presence or absence of the Bering Strait is thus not necessarily relevant. … The very first Americans may well have taken a maritime route” (p. 41).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: pp. 32, 47, 63, 65, 84, 86. The potential value of this correspondence is diluted by the fact that the time of the migration of the Lost Tribes to this continent through the Bering Strait as proposed in the book does not accord with the land bridge disappearing about 10,000 years ago.

    Analysis of correspondence: Specific, but not detailed or unusual to a Bible-reading society.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  4. Indians say their ancestors came from the west

    Coe’s standard: “From the setting sun we came, from Tula, from beyond the sea” (p. 224).

    [Page 179]View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See pp. 62, 65. This book does not say that the ancestors came from beyond the sea, but the Book of Mormon does. So View of the Hebrews lacks this detail that is found in both The Maya and the Book of Mormon.

    Analysis of correspondence: Specific and perhaps unusual, but not detailed.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  5. Cotton and corn cultivated

    Coe’s standard: There are many references to corn throughout Coe’s book. This particular quote is important. “[Corn] is so fundamental today that its cultivation and consumption define what it means to be Maya” (p. 242).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: p. 74. The Toltecs cultivated cotton and corn. And of course the North American Indians also had corn, as mentioned by Reverend Smith.

    Analysis of correspondence: Specific but not detailed nor unusual. Likelihood = 0.5. In contrast, the Book of Mormon puts corn first among the grains, which it was not for the Europeans, but certainly was for the Native Americans, as reflected in the quote from Dr. Coe’s book.

    Likelihood = 0.5

  6. Roads were laid out

    Coe’s standard: “El Mirador, some 8 miles northwest of Nakbe, and connected to it by a  causeway which crosses the intervening bajos” (p. 85). “[At Tikal], … building complexes interconnected by causeways [called] “white roads.” (p. 126) “road systems running along the base of those hills, connecting the far reaches of the Palenque kingdom” (p. 151). See also pp. 163 and 182.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: p. 74. Toltecs laid out roads.

    Analysis of correspondence: This is specific and unusual for its time. Most people in the early 1800s would probably not have thought the Indians to be road builders. Likelihood = 0.1. Therefore, in the Book of Mormon we will not classify the presence of roads as unusual, since View of the Hebrews refers to roads (but only once and without any detail).

    Likelihood = 0.1

  7. Watchtowers, forts and monuments

    Coe’s standard: “The tower … commands a wide view and could also have served as a watchtower” (p. 151). Dr. Coe does not use the word fort to describe the Maya defensive structures. Forts are generally thought of as outposts in hostile terrain, and that is not the sense in which the Maya “fortified” their cities.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: p. 77. The Indians had forts, watchtowers and monuments. No details are given in this book on the watchtowers or the monuments, but we limit the Book of Mormon correspondence for watchtowers to 0.1, since View of the Hebrews mentions it, again only once and with no details.

    [Page 180]Analysis of correspondence: Likelihood = 0.1. Specific and unusual.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  8. Walled towns with ditches surrounding them

    Coe’s standard: “when city walls are found, as at Dos Pilas, Ek’ Balan and Uxmal” (p. 126). “the triple defensive wall that surrounds [Ek’ Balam]” (p. 194). “Mayapan … completely surrounded by a defensive wall” (p. 216).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See pp. 77 and 78. Some details provided about the size and extent of the walls.

    Analysis of correspondence: This seems specific, detailed, and unusual. Most Americans of the early 1800s probably did not think of the Indians living within cities surrounded by massive walls. Likelihood = 0.02. Since walled towns are mentioned in this book, we do not claim that the Book of Mormon references to walled towns are unusual.

    Likelihood = 0.02

  9. Had ornamental objects of copper

    Coe’s standard: “The many copper bells and other objects from (the Sacred Cenote) were of Mexican workmanship” (p. 212).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: “Pieces of copper have been found, … [one] in the form of a cup.” (p. 78). “[A mound in Ohio contained] ornaments of copper, … medals of copper” (p. 79). “Many ornaments of silver and copper were found” (p. 80).

    Analysis of correspondence: Most Americans of the early 1800s probably did not think of the Indians as making copper ornaments and other objects. So this is specific, detailed and probably unusual.

    Likelihood = 0.02

  10. Many cities built

    Coe’s standard: To name just a few of the cities mentioned in The Maya we have Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, Acanceh, Ek’ Balam, Mayapan, Piedras Negras, Ceibal, Palenque, Naranjo, El Mirador, Bonampak, Uaxactun, Kaminaljuyu, Takalik Abaj, Tikal (p. 9) “the great Usumacinta … draining the northern highlands, … twisting to the northwest past many a ruined Maya city” (pp. 16–17). “more advanced cultural traits, … the construction of cities” (p. 26).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 80. Mound builder culture was said to have built 5,000 cities in the eastern U.S. Reverend Smith also refers to Mesoamerican Indian cities.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed as the locations of several of these Native American cities were given. It would have probably been unusual in 1823 for Americans to think of the Native Americans as having built thousands of cities. Specific, detailed and unusual.

    Likelihood = 0.02

  11. [Page 181]Volcanoes noted in Central and South America

    Coe’s standard: “The Maya highlands are dominated … by a great backbone of both extinct and active volcanoes” (p. 14). “the nearby Loma Caldera volcano [destroyed the village of Ceren” (p. 107).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 86. Presence of volcanoes noted in South America. No details are given about what an eruption and associated earthquakes are like from the point of view of the person experiencing them.

    Analysis of correspondence: This reference to volcanoes is specific, but not detailed. The existence of volcanoes in Central and South America was probably not widely known in the early American 1800s.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  12. Covenants between God and man

    Coe’s standard: “Ultimately, humans were obligated to abide by covenants. A covenant … is a binding contract that explains how one should behave. Gods were usually involved, as in the case of maize production.”

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 106. No details are given of these covenants in this book, for example, of the covenant of baptism described in the Book of Mormon.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific but not detailed in Reverend Smith’s book. It would have been unusual for Americans to think of “savages” entering into covenants with God.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  13. Offering of first ripe fruits

    Coe’s standard: “The nature gods must be asked for favors, and duly repaid through … the first fruits of the harvest” (p. 297).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 106. “the general Indian tradition of offering their first ripe fruits.”

    Analysis of correspondence: This is specific, but neither book gives details. Again, Indian “savages,” following a Hebrew tradition, would probably have been regarded as unusual by the white population in the early 1800s. Specific, unusual, but not detailed.

    Likelihood = 0.1

  14. “Mexicans” (Mesoamerican Indians) were very skilled in carving wood and stone.

    Coe’s standard: Coe’s book is full of examples of stone carving. “No fewer than 63 stelae were carved and erected in Early and Late Classic times” (p. 132). “The finest May wood carving known, this seated figure from Tabasco, Mexico” (pp. 94‒95).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: p. 75. “The Mexicans have preserved a particular relish for painting, and for the art of carving in wood or stone.” “We are astonished at what they are able to execute with a bad knife on the hardest wood.”

    [Page 182]Analysis of correspondence: Specific, detailed, and unusual to Americans in the early 1800s.

    Likelihood = 0.02

  15. Resemblance of American pyramids to Egyptian pyramids

    Coe’s standard: “Thus it seems that the Temple of the Inscriptions was a funerary monument with exactly the same primary function as the Egyptian pyramids” (p. 157).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 82. This citation does not connect the funerary aspect of at least some of the Maya temples and the Egyptian ones.

    Analysis of correspondence: Specific and unusual for the early 1800s, but not detailed.

    Likelihood = 0.1

Summary of the Positive Correspondences

There are 15 positive correspondences between The Maya and View of the Hebrews. Four of these have a likelihood of 0.5, seven a likelihood of 0.1, and four a likelihood of 0.02. The product of these is therefore 0.54 x 0.17 x 0.024 =

1.00 x 10–15.

These are evidence that supports the hypothesis that View of the Hebrews is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. However, we have not yet applied the evidence against the hypothesis, that is, the negative correspondences between The Maya and View of the Hebrews. To do so, we must consider and weigh these negative correspondences.

Negative Correspondences between View of the Hebrews and The Maya

These are correspondences or pieces of evidence in favor of the prior hypothesis, that is, in favor of the hypothesis that the world of the ancient American Indians as given in The Maya has nothing to do with the world of the ancient American Indians as given in View of the Hebrews. Thus the evidence is weighted as 2 (Bayesian “supportive”), 10 (Bayesian “positive”), and 50 (Bayesian “strong”).

  1. The ancestors of the American Indians observed the Law of Moses

    Coe’s standard: Apart from the offering of first fruits, which was accounted for in the summary of Positive Correspondences above, we do not see anything in the summary of religious practices among the Maya that can reasonably be construed as belonging to the Law of Moses.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: p. 107: succession of high priests, induction by purification and anointing, yearly atonement, three annual feasts, bones of sacrifice may not be broken, places of refuge, etc.

    [Page 183]Analysis of correspondence: If the Maya or their neighbors had practiced the Law of Moses, that would indeed have been specific, detailed, and unusual, for a likelihood of 0.02. In fact, there is no evidence that they did so; thus the likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  2. Language of the native Americans appears to have been Hebrew

    Coe’s standard: If the language spoken among the Maya was Hebrew, that fact has certainly escaped the notice of many hundreds of scholars over decades.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: pp. 36, 107.

    Analysis of correspondence: Once again, had this claim of View of the Hebrews been confirmed by The Maya, it would have been specific, detailed, and unusual. But it has not been confirmed. Again, likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  3. Indians sometimes practiced circumcision as a religious act

    Coe’s standard: See these references among others’ emphasis on self-sacrifice by blood drawn from … penis” (p. 13). “One of the four Hunahpus perforates his penis before an offering” (pp. 88‒89).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: p. 40. The American Indians at some times have practiced circumcision.

    Analysis of correspondence: Penis perforation was practiced by royal or noble adults among the Maya as an offering to their gods. Among the Hebrews, circumcision was practiced on infants of all social ranks as the sign of a covenant. The two practices are not the same. Were they the same, or if they strongly resembled each other, that would qualify as specific, detailed, and unusual. But they were not, so likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  4. They have acknowledged one, and only one God

    Coe’s standard: The Maya were almost unbelievably pantheistic. See pp. 157, 160, 166, 168, 234.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: pp. 64, 65.

    Analysis of correspondence: Polytheism and pantheism are widespread in human history, and so is monotheism, so this cannot be unusual. But it would be specific and detailed if it were observed among both the Maya and the North American Indians. However, that is not so.

    Likelihood = 10.0

  5. The Indians have a tribe corresponding to the tribe of Levi

    Coe’s standard: The Levites were a landless tribe, with priestly duties, supported by tithes from the other tribes. There is no mention in Coe’s book of such a Maya tribe or people.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See pp. 77 and 78. Some details provided.

    [Page 184]Analysis of correspondence: Once again, this would have been specific, detailed and unusual, had it been observed among the Maya. But it has not been observed.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  6. Indians had a theocracy

    Coe’s standard: “A hereditary Chief Priest [resided in Mayapan], but in no source do we find his authority or that of the priests superseding civil authority” (p. 243).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 60. No details at all are given about the supposed Indian theocracy.

    Analysis of correspondence: There is no mention in The Maya of rule by priests. This prediction is specific, but not unusual among a Bible-reading people who might be aware of the Old Testament pattern of rule by religious authorities during part of Israelite history. It is also not detailed in the case of Reverend Smith’s book.

    Likelihood = 2.0

  7. Indians used a lunar calendar and had no name for a year

    Coe’s standard: The Maya kept their calendars by day, month, and year. They kept multiple calendars. “The Maya Long Count … is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past” (p. 25). “How the 260 day calendar even came into being is an enigma. … Meshing with the 260-day count is a ‘Vague Year’ or Ha’b of 365 days. … Within the Ha’b, there were 18 named ‘months’ of 20 days each” (p. 64).

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 61. “They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn and winter. They number their year from any one of those four periods, for they have no name for a year … and count the year by lunar months.”

    Analysis of correspondence: This calendaring system is specific, detailed, and unusual (to Americans in the early 1800s) for both books, but the calendaring systems are not in agreement.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  8. Indians had no historical records

    Coe’s standard: The Maya is full of all kinds of historical records that were kept by the Maya. For just a few examples, see pp. 177, 226 and 274.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 77. “total absence of all historical records.”

    Analysis of correspondence: If Reverend Smith’s book had noted the extent of historical records present among North American tribes that was present among the Maya, it would have been a specific, detailed, and unusual correspondence. But it was not so. Thus the likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

  9. [Page 185]Indians called on the name of Jehovah

    Coe’s standard: The Maya gods have many different names. None of them is Jehovah or anything like that name.

    View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 107.

    Analysis of correspondence: Had the Maya used this name as one of the names of their gods, it would certainly have been specific, detailed, and unusual. But there is no evidence that they did use this name. Thus the likelihood is 50.0.

    Likelihood = 50.0

Summary of the Negative Correspondences

There are nine negative correspondences between The Maya and View of the Hebrews. Seven of these have a likelihood of 50, one has a likelihood of 10, and one has a likelihood of 2. The product of these is therefore 507 x 101 x 21 =

1.56 x 1013.

There is evidence against the hypothesis that View of the Hebrews is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. We multiply this number by the product of the positive correspondences, which is 1.00 x 10–15, to obtain 0.0156. This value is then multiplied by the skeptical prior of a billion to one to obtain about 15.6 million to one, or 15,600,000 to one, posterior odds.

Thus following the analysis, we have no reason to change our previous skeptical prior. We do not have any reason to believe that View of the Hebrews accurately reflects the world of ancient Mesoamerica as set forth in The Maya.




1. Michael D. Coe and Stephen Houston, The Maya, 9th ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2015).
2. “Michael Coe,” Yale University (website), Department of Anthropology, accessed October 22, 2017, http://anthropology.yale.edu/people/michael-coe.
3. Michael Coe, “Mormons and Archaeology: An Outside View,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8, no. 2 (Summer 1973): 42.
4. John Dehlin, “268–70: Dr. Michael Coe — An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” August 12, 2011, in Mormon Stories, podcast, https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/michael-coe-an-outsiders-view-of-book-of-mormon-archaeology/.
5. John Dehlin, “905‒07: Mesoamerican Archaeologist Dr. Michael Coe — LiDAR, Response to John Sorenson, and the Book of Mormon,” April 9, 2018, in Mormon Stories, podcast, https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/dr-michael-coe/.
6. Dehlin, “Dr. Michael Coe — An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” episode 270, 27:32.
7. Dr. Michael Coe, email message to author, December 1, 2017.
8. John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 2013).
9. For a good introductory article to Bayesian statistics, see Wikipedia, s.v. “Bayes Theorem,” last edited October 26, 2018, 10:20, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem#Bayes.E2.80.99_rul.
10. Coe and Houston, The Maya, 7.
11. Thomas J. Loredo and Don Q. Lamb, “Bayesian analysis of neutrinos observed from supernova SN 1987A,” Cornell University Library (website), July 14, 2001, https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0107260.
12. Héctor E. Ramírez-Chaves, et al., “Resolving the evolution of the mammalian middle ear using Bayesian inference,” Frontiers in Zoology 13, no. 1 (2016): 1, https://frontiersinzoology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12983-016-0171-z.
13. Daniel David Walker, “Bayesian Test Analytics for Document Collections,” All Theses and Dissertations 3530 (2012), https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/etd/3530.
14. Thomas Levy, et al., “High-precision radiocarbon dating and historical biblical archaeology in southern Jordan,” Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences of the United States of America 105, no. 43 (Oct 28, 2008): 16460‒65, https://europepmc.org/articles/pmc2575442.
15. Mykhailo Granik and Volodymyr Mesyura, “Fake news detection using naive Bayes classifier” (paper, IEEE First Ukraine Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering, Kiev, Ukraine, May-June 2017), https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8100379/.
16. Niall J. Conroy, Victoria L. Rubin and Yimin Chen, “Automatic deception detection: Methods for finding fake news,” Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology 52, no. 1 (February 24, 2016), https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pra2.2015.145052010082.
17. John K. Kruschke, “Lessons from Bayesian disease diagnosis: Don’t over- interpret the Bayes factor, VERSION 2,” Doing Bayesian Data Analysis (blog), December 27, 2015, http://doingbayesiandataanalysis.blogspot.com/2015/12/lessons-from-bayesian-disease-diagnosis_27.html.
18. Robert E. Kass and Adrian E. Raftery, “Bayes Factors,” Journal of the American Statistical Association 90, no. 430 (1995): 777, doi:10.2307/2291091.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid.
21. Dehlin, “Dr. Michael Coe — An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” episode 905, 31:52.
22. Wikipedia, s.v. “Frederick Catherwood,” last edited October 9, 2018, 04:47, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Catherwood.
23. Kass & Raftery, “Bayes Factors,” 777.
24. “The Book of Mormon,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, accessed September 28, 2018, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng.
25. Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews: Exhibiting the Destruction of Jerusalem; the Certain Restoration of Judah and Israel; and An Address of the Prophet Isaiah Relative to Their Restoration (Poultney, VT: Smith & Shute, 1823), https://archive.org/details/viewhebrewsexhi00smitgoog.
26. Solomon Spalding, Manuscript Found (unpublished manuscript, 1812), https://archive.org/stream/themanuscriptsto00spauuoft/themanuscriptsto00spauuoft_djvu.txt.
27. Dehlin, “Dr. Michael Coe — An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” episode 905, 37:00.
28. Coe, “Mormons and Archaeology: An Outside View,” 40‒48.
29. Wikipedia, s.v. “Beirut,” last modified November 10, 2018, 02:58, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beirut.
30. Jacey Fortin, “Lasers Reveal a Maya Civilization So Dense It Blew Experts’ Minds,” The New York Times, February 3, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/03/world/americas/mayan-city-discovery-laser.html.
31. “History of the Egyptian Calendar,” Infoplease, accessed September 28, 2018, https://www.infoplease.com/calendar-holidays/calendars/history-egyptian-calendar.
32. Wikipedia, s.v. “Osiris myth,” last edited December 9, 2018, 06:57, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osiris_myth.
33. Dehlin, “Dr. Michael Coe — An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” episode 270, 27:30.
34. Allen J. Christenson, trans., Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya: The Great Classic of Central American Spirituality, Translated from the Original Maya Text (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, 2003), http://www.mesoweb.com/publications/Christenson/PopolVuh.pdf.
35. Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelism in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2007), https://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/bookchapters/Poetic_Parallelisms_in_the_Book_of_Mormon_The_Complete_Text_/Poetic%20Parallelisms%20in%20the%20Book%20of%20Mormon.pdf.
36. Dehlin, “Dr. Michael Coe — An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology,” episode 270, 28:10.
37. David Webster, “The Not So Peaceful People: A Review of Maya War,” Journal of World Prehistory 14, no. 1 (March 2000): 80.
38. David Webster, Defensive Earthworks at Becan, Campeche, Mexico: Implications for Maya Warfare (New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute, Tulane University, 1976), 95‒96.
39. David S. Hyman, “Cements at Teotihuacan: A Criticism of Margain’s Appraisal,” American Anthropologist 75 (1973): 313‒14, https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1973.75.1.02a00290.
40. Dictionay.com, s.v. “curious,” last accessed September 28, 2018, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/curious.
41. Robert Draper, “Unburying the Aztec,” National Geographic (November 2010), https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2010/11/greatest-aztec/.
42. Modern English dictionaries explain the origin and evolution of the meanings of the word cattle. See also Webster’s Dictionary 1828: Online Edition, s.v. “cattle”, last accessed September 28, 2018, http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/cattle.
43. Wikipedia, s.v. “Ugo A. Perego,” last edited September 12, 2018, 13:22, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugo_A._Perego.
44. Xensen, “Maya Architecture and the Golden Mean,” Buried Mirror: Latest Reflections, May 20, 2007, http://www.buriedmirror.com/latest/culture/architecture/maya-architecture-and-the-golden-mean/.
45. A.S. Root, “The Spaulding Manuscript in the Oberlin College Library,” May 12, 1927, http://www2.oberlin.edu/archive/oresources/smanuscript/index.html.

 

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About Bruce E. Dale

Bruce E. Dale, PhD, is University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University and the Founding Editor of the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers, and also a Fellow of the American Academy of Inventors. Bruce has published more than 300 archival journal papers, has been cited almost 32,000 times, and has received 63 patents. Professionally, he is interested in understanding how long-term human prosperity and a healthy environment can be based on sustainable agroenergy systems. Bruce joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 16 as a result of his first encounter with the Book of Mormon, that “book of books.” He has read the Book of Mormon hundreds of times since then and continues to rejoice in the truths it teaches and the many powerful ways by which these truths are taught. He and his wife, the former Regina Ruesch, are the parents of five children and 20 grandchildren. Gina and Bruce are now serving as missionaries of the Church in the Utah Salt Lake City Headquarters Mission. They are delighted to have their oldest child, Dr. Brian M. Dale, as Bruce’s coauthor on this article.
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About Brian Dale

Brian Dale, PhD MBA, is a biomedical engineer working for Siemens Healthineers, where he teaches programming, physics, and imaging courses for MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Brian has published more than 100 scientific papers, book chapters, and conference abstracts, and he has 10 patents. In Brian’s research activities he is frequently involved in using Bayesian methods and other standard statistical methods to analyze medical imaging data for accuracy and image quality. With his wife he raises five children and a variety of chickens and ducks on their small farm.

447 thoughts on “Joseph Smith: The World’s Greatest Guesser (A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of Positive and Negative Correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya)

  1. Accumulating Evidence- Looking Forward to More Fun in the Years Ahead

    It is a general pattern in science that as time goes by, evidence supporting correct scientific hypotheses tends to accumulate. As supporting evidence accumulates, more and more correct details also accumulate. Likewise, evidence contrary to incorrect (or incomplete) scientific hypotheses also accumulates, and contrary details become stronger and more numerous.

    My friend Kirk Magleby suggested that this same pattern of evidence for correct hypotheses becoming stronger with time might be apparent for facts summarized in various editions of The Maya when these facts are compared with corresponding facts in the Book of Mormon.

    I thought this would be an interesting experiment. So I purchased a copy of the first edition of The Maya. The first edition was published by Dr. Coe in 1966, almost 40 years prior to the most recent, or ninth edition. The ninth edition of The Maya was the basis for our recent article comparing it with the Book of Mormon.

    I have now read the first edition of The Maya twice. Of the 131 positive correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya (9th edition) that we found in our recent article, 79 of them are also mentioned in the first edition. In other words, there are 52 new/additional correspondences between the Book of Mormon and the ninth edition of The Maya that were not mentioned in the first edition of The Maya.

    Some of these new correspondences are really remarkable. Two examples are the possible settlement of the Americas by the maritime route (which Dr. Coe strongly denies in the first edition but accepts as a very reasonable possibility in the ninth edition) and also the fact that walking in straight paths symbolized acceptable behavior among the ancient Maya (as it does in the Book of Mormon).

    Of the 79 positive correspondences in the first edition, about 30 of these have added significant new details in the ninth edition that enrich our understanding of the world of ancient Mesoamerica. In every case, these new details line up well with the details in the Book of Mormon. Two examples are the fact that existing native Maya leaders were incorporated into the new power structure after subjugation and that monuments dedicated to prior rulers were systematically destroyed.

    I expect that it will take a year or two for me to write, submit, revise and then publish another paper comparing the first edition of The Maya with the Book of Mormon and with the ninth edition. I am sure you are all looking forward to the next publication and the ensuing discussion. 

    Just a heads up, however. It took some work to find a copy of the first edition of The Maya. You might start looking for your copy pretty soon.

    Oh, wait, silly me.

    Very few of the negative commentators have been interested in comparing facts in The Maya with facts from the Book of Mormon. So maybe those folks don’t need a copy of the first edition after all.
    Anyway, I am looking forward to more fun in the years ahead.

    I even have a tentative title for the next paper. It will be: “Joseph Smith: Still the World’s Greatest Guesser—and Getting Better All the Time” 

    Bruce

  2. Breathing an atmosphere that contained high enough concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in air to prevent combustion would lead to death in short order.

    Concentrations as low 2000 to 5000 ppm can result in CO2 poisoning, the symptoms of which are degradation of neurological function. These may not appear for days or weeks after exposure. Concentrations of 10% (100,000 ppm) or more, would cause convulsions with incapacitation and death soon to follow.

    That’s what happened to more than 1,700 people and hundreds of animals in 1986 when a landslide released CO2 from waters of Lake Nyos in Africa. Waters of the lake had been saturated with volcanic CO2 over time., and the landslide provided the mechanical energy to make the CO2 come out of solution.

    As a alternative fuels engineer, Bruce surely knows that combustion can readily occur in an atmosphere in which CO2 concentrations are well over 10% – a level that would result in death for humans in a matter of minutes.

    • Thanks DrW. That was a devastating rebuttal to the “Volcano Theory” which I’ve heard numerous times throughout my life as the explanation for the 3 days of darkness.

      I look forward to the Dales and/or Allen Wyatt’s response.

      • Hate to disappoint you, Brad. First, I don’t consider DrW’s statements to be a “devastating rebuttal.” He didn’t rebut anything; he stated facts with which I agree.

        To “rebut” he would have to point out how his facts negate Bruce’s original assertion — that it is possible that the CO2 pocketed in low-lying areas. If the high CO2 content is, let’s say, no higher than your knees, it would stop combustion at ground level and still allow people to breath because it doesn’t affect the quality of the air above that “boundary.”

        In the Lake Nyos example provided by DrW (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos_disaster) the CO2 blanket was 50 meters thick. That does not mean that all such blankets have to be that thick, just that the one near Lake Nyos was. If the blanket was much thinner it would, as I pointed out, accomplish what Bruce pointed out.

        So, no response other than to say I agree with DrW. He points out facts that Bruce would agree with, but those facts don’t “rebut” anything Bruce mentioned.

        • You say “Since [CO2] is denser, it falls below the air, collecting near the ground — exactly the place where people in those days would have tried to light fires, but not where they would be trying to breathe.”

          I suppose that would work if there were no breezes for 3 days to cause any mixing of gases. Also, the CO2 would need to “fall” with no significant mixing up to infant height, or all the kids would die. It would require everyone not to lie down to sleep for 3 days, or they would die too. And those who tried to light a fire on the ground would quickly suffer the ill effects of breathing levels of CO2 sufficient to prevent fires from burning.

          Bruce quoted the second part of 3 Nephi 8:21. However, the first part of the verse reads:
          “And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches;”

          But does it not seem strange that apparently nobody to try to light candles or torches above the level of their knees?

          So, if you’re looking for a reasonable physical explanation for 3 Nephi 8, using CO2, as Bruce suggests, I think you may have to look a bit further than knee level.

          • You could be right, except on one point — I’m not “looking for a reasonable physical explanation.” I was trying to explain what Bruce was saying. I think it is possible, but I am VERY open to other possibilities, as well.

  3. Dr. Dale,

    Truly unique Maya cultural traits fail to rise up in your correspondences for a reason. The methodology excluded them IF the BoM was not intended to reference Mayan culture. How could unique Maya cultural elements such as references to the ritual use of sting ray spines meet the unbelievable standard of being both in the BoM and the Maya if the BoM “has nothing to do with the Maya”? That is an example of what I am saying shows bias in the paper. The absence of unambitious, uniquely Mayan cultural references is a problem to be addressed.

    Further, I find this troubling, Dr. Dale, as the intitial posts I and others shared were questions on the lack of shared details included in Coe not reflecting the specific, detailed or unique sorting used to assign a likelihood ratio in your paper. This began with the first one regarding the politics and lack of central identity where the BoM uses phrases such as “the people of the Nephites” or just “the Lamanites” also described as being rules by a single monarch yet you assigned the highest improbability Joseph knew about Mayan political structure because the BoM fails to refer to the Nephites as a nation. Or the last before the one above where the idea Joesph was referring to Mayan covenanting rituals can be seen in BoM statements about Christian covenants to obey Gods commandments and become his people.

    When they get raised you say it isn’t following your process and the person raising issues with your paper should spend the time doing the analysis they propose, have it peer reviewed and published and then you’ll address the issue raised.

    Call it – or me for that matter – what you will. To say no one has engaged your correspondences using the source of the Maya by comparison with the BoM seems disingenuous to me.

  4. Time for a bit of fun.

    The interchanges have gotten a bit tense and I really don’t care for contention. Maybe the remaining commentators will enjoy this post.

    Way back in this comments thread, there was a post that I can no longer find, but which I remember had to do with volcanoes in the Book of Mormon and Coe’s book The Maya. I had suggested that 3 Nephi 8 contains an excellent account of earthquakes and probably an associated volcanic eruption…both of which occur with some frequency in Mesoamerica.

    If I recall correctly, one commentator remarked that he found it difficult to believe the report given in 3 Nephi 8:21 which says that there was no light “neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood”.

    I just finished a series of lectures on geology given through The Great Courses. (Highly recommended!) I am happy to report a possible geophysical explanation for the inability to kindle fire noted in 3 Nephi 8:21 (and objected to by Mr. Dubious Commentator.) 🙂

    As many of you probably know, what actually provides the explosive power in volcanoes is the rapid release of dissolved water (as steam) and carbon dioxide from the magma. But it turns out that carbon dioxide is also often released slowly from magma…without any explosion. This carbon dioxide travels upward through fissures and cracks in the rock strata and is released at the surface.

    Carbon dioxide is more dense than air, and especially when cooler than the surrounding air, carbon dioxide can collect in lower spots. Carbon dioxide does not support combustion and would make it difficult or impossible to light fires. Hence 3 Nephi 8:21 is consistent with physical facts surrounding earthquakes and eruptions.

    This article is a nice summary of the effects of carbon dioxide release from magma, and includes some very interesting pictures, including a lit torch that cannot stay lit in a ground surface “pool” of carbon dioxide.

    https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vhp/gas.html

    OK, do I get to count this correspondence in spite of Mr. Dubious Commentator? 🙂 What say ye?

    Bruce

    • The people breathed CO2 for three days? I think this solution creates a bigger problem. But I’m just a dubious commentor. 😉

      • You have to be joking, right?

        I’ll take that smiley face as evidence you are joking, but other may not understand your comment that way. They may think that you are serious.

        For those so inclined, I understood exactly what Bruce was saying, and I hope you do as well. The key is this statement: “Carbon dioxide is more dense than air, and especially when cooler than the surrounding air, carbon dioxide can collect in lower spots. Carbon dioxide does not support combustion and would make it difficult or impossible to light fires.”

        Since it is denser, it falls below the air, collecting near the ground — exactly the place where people in those days would have tried to light fires, but not where they would be trying to breathe.

        • Allen, the BoM states there was no light for three days. It may be we can’t take the BoM author at their word but then where does one draw the line? I wasn’t joking that this was a case of swallowing a spider to catch a fly. The problems created by proposing this explaination are worse than the ones it addressed.

  5. I would take #2 further, noting it is a devastating admission that the methodology applied means the the game was rigged from the beginning and should have been addressed during reviews. No matter how weakly the evidence in support of the claimed Mayan connection is weighted would prevent it from overcoming the skeptical prior? No piece of contradictory evidence could be weighted strongly enough to cast doubt bt on the combined weak, superficial evidence? I question the scientific fields that would not find cause for pause in that admission.

    • No Honorentheos, “the game” was not rigged.

      I did not know how all the analysis we have summarized in our article would turn out when I started the work over three years ago. I had no idea then how strong the evidence was.

      The evidence is what it is. The numbers are what they are. You can either deal with that fact or ignore it and change the subject…which is what you have mostly done during the comments portion of this paper.

      This is an accusation with no basis.

      What basis or evidence from my scientific record or my personal life do you have for calling me a liar and dishonest? Do you really think that I am in the habit of rigging the evidence…that that is how I obtained my excellent reputation in my own scientific field?

      This baseless and almost angry accusation from you is yet another indication to me that evidence does not matter to you and that further conversation is a waste of time for both of us.

      No matter how often I ask you to compare the claims of the Book of Mormon with the claims of The Maya, you turn away and avoid dealing with the subject. In one of the latest of your responses (about covenants in the Book of Mormon and The Maya) you note the presence of covenants in the Old Testament, as if that explains their presence in the Book of Mormon.

      It seems impossible to get you to address the purpose of our paper: to compare the Book of Mormon with Dr. Coe’s book The Maya. We are not comparing the Book of Mormon with the Bible. You entirely ignore the clear presence of covenants between God and man in The Maya and the Book of Mormon…a book which Dr. Coe says has no truth in it.

      Well, gee, Honorentheos. I knew about covenants in the Bible and (probably) so did Joseph Smith. How is that relevant? The issue here is covenants in The Maya and the Book of Mormon.

      Too bad. I had hoped to have an honest and straightforward conversation about the article and the evidence. But you, and many others, just refuse to deal with the article. You change the subject instead.

      Bruce

  6. Bruce,

    This comment addressing your 4 questions was posted to another board. I would like to get your opinion on its merits.

    “Are Dales now writing a new paper?

    From the first section of the paper:

    The numbers 2, 10, and 50 are the strength of the evidence for the hypothesis, that is, the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. The numbers 0.5, 0.1, and 0.02 are the corresponding strength of the evidence against the hypothesis; that is, these are points of evidence that support the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    H-0: Book of Mormon fiction.

    H-1: Book of Mormon not fiction.

    In light of the Dales’ own hypotheses, I’d like to look at their four questions again, and give my answers:

    1. Do you think that a single reading, over 45 years ago, of the Book of Mormon qualifies Dr. Coe as an expert on the Book of Mormon and how it might relate (or not) to ancient American Indian cultures?

    Answer: This question is utterly irrelevant to the topic, and does not belong in an academic journal.

    2. No matter how weakly we weight the evidence for the Book of Mormon, or how strongly we weight the evidence against the Book of Mormon, our conclusion is unchanged. The Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. Do you have a suggestion for a fair and reasonable sensitivity analysis that we have not done?

    Answer: Irrelevant. It is mathematically impossible to conclude the Book of Mormon is nonfiction set in Mesoamerica, by evaluating likelihood ratios of your hypotheses: H-BoM fiction and H-BoM not fiction. If you’ve concluded that “the Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica,” no matter how weakly or strongly you evaluate your (cherry-picked) evidence in face of your two hypotheses, then you are not doing any statistical analysis at all, and this belongs in the faith and testimony section.

    3. If the Book of Mormon is a product of the 19th century and of that century’s understanding of ancient American Indian cultures, why does the Book of Mormon compare so well with The Maya and why do the two other 19th century books focused on ancient American Indian cultures compare so badly with The Maya?

    Answer: Why do any coincidences happen and others don’t? Why is outside information about other books’ fictional properties being used to evaluate data points with respect to your hypotheses about a separate book?

    And more specifically, why does assessing fictional or nonfictional properties now include the requirement that those properties must also match mesaoamerican properties? In a paper that egregiously overvalues coincidences and defines related events as independent, this question is particularly irrelevant.

    4. If you want to eliminate specific pieces of evidence from Appendix A which you think are NOT valid points of correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, which specific pieces of evidence are those?

    Answer: This question is also irrelevant, because it bypasses the issue completely. Cherry-picking fewer data points, out of a set of data points chosen because they were all true statements in the Maya that the authors assumed were also in the Book of Mormon, and then insisting that all true points are by definition counted in favor of ‘H -BoM not fiction,’ is not any more mathematically sound than the original cherry-picking.

    So in the end, none of those questions are related to the paper in question, and question one is completely and embarrassingly unprofessional. I just cringe inside at that. The reputation of the Interpreter Journal is taking hit after hit after hit with this paper and now these comments.”

  7. “In the two different scientific communities to which Brian and I belong, if you want your own opinions to be taken seriously, you must competently address the findings of those who may disagree with you. Apparently, this is not a requirement among critics of the Book of Mormon, or that of many of the critics of this article.”

    I don’t believe that I’m properly qualified to address the 4 questions that you would like to critics tackle.

    However, I think that many people, including myself, can comment sensibly on the quoted paragraph. Here are my comments.

    1. Perhaps some “critics” deserve the implied insult in the last sentence, but I don’t think that necessarily “many” of them do. Several have made reasoned arguments, and appear to have spent some time and effort to do so.

    I think that it would encourage more thoughtful discussion to emphasize this, rather than suggest that critics of the Book of Mormon are not engaging in a serious manner.

    2. I’m not sure that the first sentence is true. It is conceivable that “findings” may be based on a methodology so flawed that, until the methodology is fixed, criticism of the findings is moot.

    For example (if an example is needed), if it appears that data points have been cherry-picked for a study, surely the fix is to ensure that the data is valid first, and then to address findings based on valid data, rather than to address findings that were based on biased data.

    I see critics have called into question your methodology, but I don’t see where these questions have been addressed. I doubt, for instance, that reading a poetic parallelism version of the Book of Mormon would address the points raised by Billy Shears in his last comment.

    I might go as far as to say that not addressing serious criticisms of your methodology puts you in the category of people who do not “competently address the [questions and comments] of those who may disagree with you”.

    I am willing to be convinced/corrected on these points.

    Thanks.

    • I believe I overstated my point above: “I see critics have called into question your methodology, but I don’t see where these questions have been addressed.”

      I don’t see where **all of** these questions have been answered – especially the most recent ones by Billy Shears.

  8. July 22, 2019
    To whom it may concern:

    As Brian and I prepared our article, we hoped that commentators would respond to four specific features of the article:

    1. The fact that Dr. Coe read the Book of Mormon only once, over 45 years ago. His knowledge of the Book of Mormon on which he has based his claim that “the Book of Mormon has no truth in it” is therefore minimal. For example, during the podcasts, Dr. Coe seemed surprised to learn there was war in the Book of Mormon. I am tempted to say “duh!” but I won’t. 🙂

    2. None of the sensitivity analyses we did changed our conclusions. No matter how strongly we weight the evidence for the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fiction, or how weakly we weight evidence for the Book of Mormon as an authentic book, our conclusion remains unchanged: the Book of Mormon is an authentic document with strong cultural, geographical, political, social, religious, military, technological, etc. roots in ancient Mesoamerica.

    3. The results from analyzing the two control books (Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews) strongly reinforce both the value of our Bayesian approach and also of our conclusions. The Book of Mormon compares very well with The Maya…but these other 19th century books do not.

    4. Our article never claimed that correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya were unique, never found in all human history. All we claimed was that these were valid, real correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. These correspondences (positive and negative) are the foundation of our article.

    I am nearly done reviewing and trying to respond to all of the comments on the article. We have received well over 400 comments on our paper, and almost no mention has been made by any of the negative commentators concerning these four features of the article.

    I guess silence on these points is an answer all by itself.

    Only one person has taken me up on my offer to provide commentators with a free copy of The Maya to verify correspondences with the Book of Mormon. It is strange to me that more commentators do not seem to be interested in checking the correspondences for themselves.

    In the two different scientific communities to which Brian and I belong, if you want your own opinions to be taken seriously, you must competently address the findings of those who may disagree with you. Apparently, this is not a requirement among critics of the Book of Mormon, or that of many of the critics of this article.

    So I would like to invite anyone who wishes to do so to respond to these specific questions:

    1. Do you think that a single reading, over 45 years ago, of the Book of Mormon qualifies Dr. Coe as an expert on the Book of Mormon and how it might relate (or not) to ancient American Indian cultures?

    2. No matter how weakly we weight the evidence for the Book of Mormon, or how strongly we weight the evidence against the Book of Mormon, our conclusion is unchanged. The Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. Do you have a suggestion for a fair and reasonable sensitivity analysis that we have not done?

    3. If the Book of Mormon is a product of the 19th century and of that century’s understanding of ancient American Indian cultures, why does the Book of Mormon compare so well with The Maya and why do the two other 19th century books focused on ancient American Indian cultures compare so badly with The Maya?

    4. If you want to eliminate specific pieces of evidence from Appendix A which you think are NOT valid points of correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, which specific pieces of evidence are those?

    And please don’t bring up (again) correspondences between the Book of Mormon and other cultures or books. Our article was not about those hypothetical other cultures or books, as I have so often had to reiterate in these comments. Just let me know which of the pieces of evidence in Appendix A you think are not valid.

    Obviously, no pressure from me. You can respond or not as you choose. But I want to invite everyone to respond. And if you wish to respond, I hope you will address these questions.

    Bruce

    • Dr. Dale,

      Being “unique” was one of three criteria used to establish the likelihood ratio assigned to a correspondence. Of course you claimed a large number of the correspondences were “unique” and assigned them a 1 in 50 chance of having been guessed at by Joseph Smith. As has been noted repeated in the comments regarding your paper, the flaws in your methodology include failing to define what terms such as unique might include. For example, starting with the first one, you assigned to lack of the use of “nation” by the BoMs author to describe the Nephites as “unique” despite the BoM specifically describing the Nephites and Lamanites as a people which is not how The Maya describe how the ancient Maya would have self-identified. If we were to now narrow the term to characteristics that only are found in legitimate Mayan culture, we may find references to the use of stingray spines to let blood in an authentic Maya source. This would show up in multiple correspondences you claim, such as the use of paired concepts, in ritual covenants and in religious behaviors. The BoM including such references would truly be evidence of unique knowledge. But the paper’s methodology fails to allow for a way to score the misses of truly unique info as they don’t show up in both the BoM and The Maya, but just The Maya. Some may realize the implications of this, as apparently did Dr. Coe when he stayed the BoM has nothing to do with the Maya people.

      So in regards to the four points above, it seems that the best answer for each involves acknowledging the BoM simply fails to include truly uniquely Maya details so perhaps the paper itself needs reworked.

      It’s worth considering anyway.

    • Also, I believe Billy Shears must own a copy of The Maya given the responses he provided to each of your correspondences raised in the comments. I own a copy of the ninth edition whose page numbers seemed to have remained with those used in the paper. I don’t believe you have taken and critical argument from The Maya seriously as doing so in most cases would require acknowledging the correspondences are largely superficial as becomes immediately evident whenever one follows up in reviewing what Dr. Coe described.

      The issue isn’t that critics of the paper are largely uninterested in Coe’s own words. Rather, it seems The Maya is merely a pretense for pushing forward superficial claims of Mesoamerican culture in the BoM. Anyone reading through these comments and reviewing the replies to the correspondences that were singled out should see this as being the case.

    • Several of us have pointed out the bias introduced by your selection process, which addresses question 3 and renders questions 2 and 4 premature. It appears to me that you still haven’t responded to this, although I may have missed your response.

      This reminds me of the Monte Hall problem. To summarize that problem: A contestant on Let’s Make a Deal is presented with three curtains. Behind one of them is a new car, and behind the other two are goats. The contestant picks a curtain. Monte Hall says, “Okay, you seem nice, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll open a different curtain, which has a goat behind it. Then you can decide whether to stick with your chosen curtain or switch to the remaining closed curtain. That way you’ll have a 50/50 chance of getting the car instead of a 1 out of 3 chance.” Then Monte opens a curtain and reveals a goat.

      The question is: Did Monte state the odds correctly? A second question is: Are the odds affected by the fact that Monte knows where the goats are and intentionally opened a goat curtain, rather than randomly opening a curtain and just happening to get a goat?

      In answer to the latter, the question of how Monte selected a goat curtain does affect the odds. If someone were to answer that it doesn’t, they would be wrong. If a statistician were to peer review and approve that answer, it would still be wrong.

      Your analysis doesn’t take into account how you selected your data points. Your analysis is wrong.

  9. Hi Bruce,

    Unfortunately, I am swamped with some other commitments for the foreseeable future, and probably won’t be able to comment here much going forward. But before I become scarce, I’ll respond to your latest questions and comments and summarize my position.

    You said, “What permeated [19th Century] Protestant Christianity of that day was salvation by grace alone.” I agree. As one 19th Century book says, “it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” (2 Nephi 10:24)

    You asked, “What skeptical prior did you apply to View of the Hebrews being an authentic record of ancient Mesoamerica?” That question has no bearing on the fact that your “weighted strength of evidence” indicates that there is “strong evidence” that View of the Hebrews is an ancient Mesoamerican document.

    You said, “Contrary to your claim, there is no strong evidence (or even weak evidence) that View of the Hebrews is of ancient Maya or Mesoamerican origin. We examined that hypothesis in Appendix D and rejected it for the reasons summarized there.” I agree that there is no real evidence that View of the Hebrews is of ancient Mesoamerican origin. But according to your analysis in Appendix D, the “weighted strength of evidence” indicates that there is “strong evidence” that the View of the Hebrews is an ancient Mesoamerican document. In your analysis the strong evidence of historicity ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the arbitrarily high billion-to-one odds against historicity that you began with before considering the evidence, but that doesn’t change the fact that your analysis indicated that the evidence in aggregate is “strong” in favor of historicity.

    You asked, “Please name me any 19th century work that you think agrees in the details with Coe’s book.” There is no 19th century book that agrees with the specific, detailed, and unusual points in Coe’s book, including the Book of Mormon. That said, if one applied your flawed and biased methodology with the commensurate biases of your subjective judgements to the Bible, that would be indicate the Bible is also of ancient Mesoamerican origins.

    Correspondence 3:10: “Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved.”

    Analysis: The concepts of “covenants” might be specific and detailed, but they are not unusual. The Bible is about God’s covenant people. If somebody familiar with the Bible were writing fiction about how God led some people to a new land, you would fully expect them to talk about Biblical covenants. So this isn’t the least bit unusual. But even if “covenants” are incredibly specific and detailed, that doesn’t indicate that a Bayesian likelihood ratio should be anything other than 1.00. Somebody writing speculative fiction about a Biblical people would in all likelihood include covenants in his fiction. Thus, this detail fits in with the “it was made up” hypothesis just as well as the “it is ancient Mesoamerican” hypothesis. This point illustrates how fundamentally flawed your “specific, detailed, and unique” scoring system is.

    Summary
    1- Your heuristic of “specific, detailed, and unique” as an approximation of Bayesian likelihood ratios is fundamentally flawed, and your subjective judgment as to what constitutes something being “specific, detailed and unique” is incredibly biased—especially by how you insist that under the “fiction” hypothesis the author was making guesses about the Maya rather than writing fiction inspired by the Bible and speculations about the mound builders.

    2- Your assumption that these various points are statistically independent exasperate the above problem exponentially.

    3- The way you insist that only details mentioned in both books may be included for analysis causes your results to systematically biased in favor of historicity. This bias is illustrated by how your analysis of the View of the Hebrews indicating that the entirety of the evidence indicates “strong evidence” in favor of historicity.

    • Hi Billy,
      I understand the time constraints. I feel them myself. 🙂

      Thank you for your respectful interactions over the past weeks. Perhaps we will have a chance someday to sit down and talk about the Book of Mormon.

      You have read the Book of Mormon a dozen times, so obviously you have some interest in the book. As you probably have gathered, I love the Book of Mormon. But more than that, I love my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon has brought me to rejoice in Him, my Redeemer.

      May I suggest that the next time you read the Book of Mormon, you get a copy that is written in the form of poetic parallelisms? It is a delightful and very interesting way to study the Book of Mormon.

      But mostly reading the Book of Mormon in poetic parallelisms is a great way to be impacted by the primary message of the Book of Mormon: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. The Book of Mormon is truly a witness of Him and for Him.

      There is no longer a free downloadable PDF version of the Book of Mormon in poetic parallelisms but I would be happy to send you a PDF version that I have. I promise to maintain your anonymity.

      My sincere best wishes to you in your next reading of the Book of Mormon. 🙂

      Bruce

  10. OK, I finally have some free time during our move back to Michigan to offer another correspondence for your responses.

    While we are on the subject of poetic parallelisms, including chiasms, it is probably a good time to bring up another very important correspondence between The Maya and the Book of Mormon—that of covenants.

    Some of the most beautiful parallelisms in the Book of Mormon are connected with covenants. This chiasm from 3 Nephi 5: 24-26 is a good example. (I am sorry that the formatting limitations do not seem to allow for tabs, which would make the chiasm clearer…but if you have done your homework about parallelisms, you should be able to see this chiasm quite easily.)

    A And as surely as the Lord liveth,
    B will he gather in from the four quarters of the earth all the
    remnant of the seed of Jacob, who are scattered abroad upon
    all the face of the earth.
    C And as he hath covenanted with all the house of Jacob,
    D even so shall the covenant wherewith he hath
    covenanted
    E with the house of Jacob be fulfilled in his own due
    time,
    E unto the restoring all the house of Jacob unto the
    knowledge
    D of the covenant that he hath covenanted with them.
    C And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus
    Christ, the Son of God;
    B and then shall they be gathered in from the four quarters of the
    earth unto their own lands, from whence they have been
    dispersed;
    A yea, as the Lord liveth so shall it be. Amen.

    The Book of Mormon mentions “covenant” or “covenants” 131 times versus 23 times in the New Testament…the Book of Mormon is replete with covenants and covenant language.

    To provide a bit more context about the importance of covenants in the Book of Mormon and The Maya, this brief citation from the Encyclopedia Judaica written Moshe Weinfeld seems highly relevant.

    “The Origin of the Covenant
    The idea of a covenant between a deity and a people is unknown from other religions and cultures. It seems that the covenantal idea was a special feature of the religion of Israel, the only one to demand exclusive loyalty and preclude the possibility of dual or multiple loyalties; so the stipulation in political treaties demanding exclusive fealty to one king corresponds strikingly with the religious belief in one single, exclusive deity.”

    Weinfeld, Moshe. “Covenant.” Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed., vol. 5, Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, pp. 249-253. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/apps/doc/CX2587504681/GVRL?u=msu_main&sid=GVRL&xid=3162d0ba. Accessed 9 July 2019.

    With that as background, here is our correspondence 3.10.

    3.10 Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved.

    Coe’s standard: “Ultimately, humans were obligated to abide by covenants. A covenant, as defined by the ethnographer John Monaghan, is a binding contract that explains how one should behave. Gods were usually involved, as in the case of maize production” (p. 242).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 5:6‒8; Mosiah 6:1‒2; Mosiah 21:31‒32.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Maya and the Book of Mormon share a common understanding of covenants as a binding contract or agreement between God and man. This correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What existing model or pattern did Joseph Smith rely on to correctly “guess” that covenants between God and man existed among ancient Mesoamerican Indians? In the conventional Christianity of Smith’s day, the importance of covenants was very much downplayed if not absent altogether.

    So it appears there are at least two exceptions to Moshe Weinfeld’s claim: “The idea of a covenant between a deity and a people is unknown from other religions and cultures”. One exception occurs among the ancient Maya…and the other among the Nephite peoples of the Book of Mormon.

    The Book of Mormon correctly “guesses” that the idea of a covenant was held by some of the ancient American Indian cultures, one more instance in which Dr. Coe’s claims about the Book of Mormon do not match the facts given in his own book.

    According to the weighting scheme used in our article, we view this correspondence as specific, detailed and unusual, for a likelihood of 0.02.

    What do you think, commentators?

    • Given the amount of material that Joseph Smith Jr. copied from the the Old Testament for the Book of Mormon, attributing covenants to the Nephites in his historical fiction is not surprising – its expected

    • I’m not sure the Mayan mythology that ties humans being created from maize that obliges them to draw blood from their bodies, including penis piercing, is reflected in the BoM.

      I am sure, however, that claiming the Maya were given their mythology from Old World civilizations is a problem.

  11. All,
    I have been packing our household items over the past week and starting our move back to Michigan. I hope to have both the time and internet access to rejoin this discussion sometime after the Fourth of July. Please be patient…I have some good stuff to add. 🙂
    Bruce

  12. Laying aside the Bayesian analysis, not conforming to the req, the hypothesis being tested here is unrelated to the truth of the narrative contained in the Book of Mormon, the text of which makes no claim of taking place anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. What is actually being tested is a claim made for the Book of Mormon – that its narrative took place in Mesoamerica, which is downstream from the issue of whether the events occurred in reality.

    It is logically possible for the narrative of the Book of Mormon to be true – a factual recounting of events which occurred in the real world – and yet none of those events have taken place anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. All we know from the narrative is that if it actually happened then it mostly did not take place around the land of Jerusalem (Lehites) or around the Tower of Babel (Jaredites).

    It is logically possible for the Book of Mormon to be true and Joseph Smith simultaneously not have been a prophet. If the Book of Mormon is true, then at best it shows Joseph may have been a translator, at worst a thief (he could have stolen the book from someone else). Thus even if the Book of Mormon is true, it is logically possible the D&C is false. To be sure, if the D&C is true, the Book of Mormon must also be true, but the reverse does not follow.

    I suggest testing claims the Book of Mormon makes for itself instead of testing claims made for it.

    • Errata: “Laying aside the Bayesian analysis, as the hypotheses being tested do not conform to the requirements for a valid Bayesian analysis to be performed…”

      “It is logically possible for the Book of Mormon to be true – a factual recounting of events which occurred in the real world – and yet for none of those events to have taken place in the Western Hemisphere.”

  13. Drs. Dale,

    From what I can see, you have yet to address an issue that seems uncontroversially problematic:

    Consider each of the items for which the BoM agrees with Coe. In each of those cases, you’re saying that odds of the hypothesized fiction writer contradicting Coe, as opposed to agreeing with him, are 49:1, 9:1, or 1:1. Do you really believe this?

    For example, which of the following do you think a writer is more likely to mention in a counterfeit history:

    a) A city with consonants LMN
    b) The fact that there were no cities with consonants LMN.

    You have claimed that the writer is 49x more likely to mention (b) than (a). I don’t think you really believe that, so I suspect that you’re not aware that you’ve claimed it, or you haven’t given it much consideration.

    Regardless, I submit that this problem applies to most of the positive correspondences between the BoM and Coe, which would invalidate the bulk of your analysis. Is this something you’ll be addressing?

  14. Hi Bruce,

    You said, “Under the Book of Mormon as fiction hypothesis, what the author of the Book of Mormon might have known about ancient Mesoamerican Indians, their politics, geography, culture, technologies, religion and so on, and what he actually knew are two very different things.”

    I agree that they are two different things, however they both have one important thing in common: both questions are irrelevant to the ‘Book of Mormon is fiction’ hypothesis..

    The broadest, most likely “Book of Mormon is fiction” hypothesis is that it is fiction written by Joseph Smith and/or one of his contemporaries, who were riffing off of the speculation that the American Indians were a remnant of a great civilization of mound builders, who in turn were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. According to this hypothesis, the only source he needed was the Bible.

    You said, “Let’s try instead for explicit, open analysis of these two sequential likelihoods: 1) that Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, and 2) that he also knew to include that fact in the Book of Mormon. “

    Okay. Starting from the introduction of Coe’s book, Coe says, “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the new world: hieroglyphic writing, books of fig-bark paper or deerskin that were folded like screens, complex calendar, knowledge of the movements of the plants (especially Venus) against the dynamic background of the stars, a game played with a rubber ball in a special court, highly specialized markets, human sacrifice by head or heart removal, an emphasis upon self-sacrifice by blood drawn from the ears, tongue, or penis, and a highly comple, pantheistic religion which included nature as well as deities emblematic of royal descent.”

    I think the probability that the author of the Book of Mormon knew each of these nine particular facts was about 0%, and 0%^9 is still 0%.

    So what? The fact that the book doesn’t mention any of the traits that “all the Mesoamerican Indians shared“ is totally consistent with the hypothesis that he made it up without having any references or specialized knowledge about anything specific about Mesoamerica.

    Your list of 131 alleged hits is weak. Most of them don’t match in the details. None of them are things that are really unusual, such as the things Dr. Coe mentioned in the above list. Any one legitimate hit from that list would be more impressive than your 131 quasi-hits put together.

    Remember, according to your methodology we are accepting that the statements in fact in The Maya are essentially true. Of course you are going to try and fall back on your claim that “only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis,” as if we could pretend that like all other Mesoamerican Indians, the ancient Nephites practiced human sacrifice by head or heart removal and emphasized upon self-sacrifice by blood drawn from the ears, tongue, or penis, but they didn’t happen to mention these details in their record for whatever reason.

    • “… deerskin …”

      Manuscript Found, unlike the BoM, mentions writing on parchment. For this, MF gets a 50x penalty.

  15. Jared, Honorentheos, Billy et al,

    As you know, Brian and I have taken quite a bit of flak about our Bayesian probability/likelihood analysis. I have responded to those criticisms elsewhere in this series of posts and will summarize our response to the critics in a later post.

    But what I want to point out now is that, whether you know it or not, the three of you are already doing a probability analysis. Our Bayesian likelihood analysis is open and the assumptions are clear. Your probability analysis is not open and the assumptions are not made clear.

    I am going to try to correct those errors now.

    Under the Book of Mormon as fiction hypothesis, what the author of the Book of Mormon might have known about ancient Mesoamerican Indians, their politics, geography, culture, technologies, religion and so on, and what he actually knew are two very different things.

    We cannot reasonably conclude that because someone might have known something, he actually did know it. But that is your underlying assumption, and it has not been made clear. I am making it clear now. Because of my educational resources, I might know a good deal about Thai history. In fact, I know nothing about it.

    It is common among contemporary Book of Mormon critics to assume that because (they think) Joseph Smith could (might) have known something, he actually did know it. Those are not the same thing at all. For this assumption to be true would require Joseph Smith to have a first-rate research library—and to know things about the Maya area that Dr. Coe says no one could know in 1830.

    It is very interesting that this wonderful research library owned by Joseph Smith has remained hidden all these years. None of the early Book of Mormon critics knew anything about the fabulous library at the Smith home. (At least such a library would account for the near-poverty of Joseph’s family…every spare penny must have gone into feeding Joseph’s book habit.)

    In fact, no such library existed. That is simply silly.

    Well, back to my point.

    Critics of the Book of Mormon are often doing an unacknowledged, naive probability analysis, as are the three of you. Knowingly or not, they/you are making two big, unwarranted assumptions.

    First, they/you are assuming that the probability that Joseph Smith actually knew something that he might have known is 100%. How naïve is that?

    Second, they/you are assuming, with 100% likelihood, that because Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, that he would also correctly include it in the Book of Mormon. Again, how naïve is that?

    In both cases, your assumptions are also hidden from view…they are not made explicitly and openly.

    Well, both assumptions are wrong. Such critics are performing a naïve, unacknowledged probability analysis. They are assuming two consecutive likelihoods, each rated at 100% probability, multiplied by each other to give 100% probability overall.

    Nonsense.

    Neither one of these assumptions rates a probability of 100%. Do you remember 100% of the facts from the last book you read? Would you know what facts to include in a book about Thailand based on your reading of books about India and Vietnam?

    No, you would not.

    Let’s try instead for explicit, open analysis of these two sequential likelihoods: 1) that Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, and 2) that he also knew to include that fact in the Book of Mormon. Rate the probability of both steps at 99% and calculate the product of these two probabilities (it is 98%). Raise that product to the 131st power. That gives us an incredibly optimistic, but at least explicit and open, value of 7% likelihood or 7 in 100.

    Let’s try another explicit, open analysis, using very optimistic probabilities of both steps, this time 95% for each step: 1) Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew, and 2) he knew he should include that fact in the Book of Mormon. (To be clear, I think the probability that Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew was actually very, very small…not 95%)

    Calculate 0.95 x 0.95 = 0.90. Raise 0.90 to the 131st power equals about 1 in a million.

    Take comfort…at least it is not one in a hundred billion billion or so.

    • “Let’s try another explicit, open analysis, using very optimistic probabilities of both steps, this time 95% for each step: 1) Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew, and 2) he knew he should include that fact in the Book of Mormon. (To be clear, I think the probability that Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew was actually very, very small…not 95%)

      Calculate 0.95 x 0.95 = 0.90. Raise 0.90 to the 131st power equals about 1 in a million.”

      I wish you were this explicit when estimating the probabilities that make up the Bayes factors in your paper, because your above calculation exhibits the same kind of problem that several of us have been pointing out:

      1) The 131 items that you included in your calculation were chosen by you specifically because they were included in both the BoM and The Maya.
      2) You propose, optimistically, that each item had a 95% chance of being included in the BoM (assuming Joseph Smith knew about them).
      3) You find significance in the fact that all 131 items were included in the BoM, considering the low probability (1/1000) of this happening.

      I trust you see the problem. As is typical with statistical analyses, yours was done on a sample of the overall corpus. What is not typical is that your sample was selected deterministically, and you’ve made no attempt to show that your selection criterion didn’t introduce bias.

      I would bet good money that you (the authors) are quite intelligent and honest. But, like all of us, you have blind spots. If I were involved with The Interpreter, I would be disturbed that the reviewers didn’t catch this particular blind spot.

  16. It’s worth remembering that Joseph Smith lived through a war (The War of 1812) and the young nation of The United States of America had seen warfare of many different types within the generation alive at the time. The description of a fortification in the BoM is very much that of many contemporary fortifications of this period such as this one at Cape Fear in North Carolina:

    https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/485755509799931560/

    One will note the cross section showing the moat and embankment, the plan showing the controlled points of ingress/egress, the watchtowers at intervals along the length of the embankment. Similar fortifications were built by the British to defend against native American and French attacks during the century before the BoM was authored. One need not look beyond Smith’s narrow world to see where the BoM claims originated. But more so, the 19th Century is an exact cultural match where any attempt to place the BoM in the ancient Americas has to stretch and contort itself to make the barest of overlaps seem plausible. That’s not to say the BoM describes the 19th Century. Rather, it exactly matches what people thought about the world in the early 19th Century. That included the concepts regarding warfare between a civilized white, old world race that was destroyed by the savage redskins. Why Christianity is described of a type that predated the evolution in Mormon theology but matches what Smith and others believed in the 1820s. Why the telling attempts to answer the questions of importance to the religious seekers and questioners of that day. Put The Maya up against the beliefs found in the frontier US in the late 1820s and it wouldn’t be close. The BoM is clearly a product of the 19th Century.

    • Honorentheos:
      I will be writing more later, but it looks like I have to point out again that you are not addressing the issue here. This is not new–this has been your usual practice over the past six weeks or so. You continue to evade the issue.

      The issue is: Dr. Coe has claimed that 99% of the details of the Book of Mormon are false. But he is wrong. According to his own book there are many points of evidence for which the Book of Mormon and The Maya agree very well. This is one of them.

      But you don’t address this deep and detailed point of agreement. You don’t compare the statement in The Maya with the Book of Mormon. Instead, you change the subject. You point to British fortifications and in effect you say “no big deal”, this is where Joseph Smith got the idea.

      You don’t have an ounce of proof for that conclusion; you just put it forward as fact.

      Bruce

      • Dr. Dale,

        You went outside of the Maya. I pointed out there are better examples outside of the Maya that match Alma. Billy pointed out The Maya limit the descriptions of the fortresses you cited in Alma to a period centuries later. Jared pointed out there are many similar descriptions of fortifications in other periods of human history and other geogrpahies. You seem to feel that the Cortez reference should be treated as included in The Maya. We’re all working outside the sources you claimed to have bound the study. Mine has the advantage of being contemporary to Joseph Smith in time and geography. I appreciate your concern that I’m not playing by your rules, but really, who is?

        • I want to add to this. The theory the BoM is a product of the 19th Century was presented with evidence that there was a wide spread belief the people who built the mounds/fortifications in North America were a civilized race that was wiped out by the savage “redskins”. If I were to compare the Maya to this claim, the Maya refutes it, as does modern archeology as a whole. Of we compare the Book of Mormon to this claim, it is not only included but is the central narrative of the BoM. It’s a perfect match.

          Now, you find the physical description of fortresses by Cortez 1000 years after the BoM timeframe to be compelling, yet struggle to make a similar match in the Maya in terms of time and place as Billy has shown. I’d point out you note in the correspondence on Gold/silver that the BoM isn’t claimed to describe the lowlands Maya yet your off timeline examples are lowland examples. OTOH, fortresses in the America’s built by the British IN AMERICA for defense from the French and native americans is another match to the BoM. That’s a correspondence with the 19th C. setting Smith lived in and drew from. You want to assign a likelihood ratio how probable Smith, who lived with an uncle in Massachusetts as a boy recovering from his leg surgery during the War of 1812 would describe a fort as having a moat, berm, controlled ingress/egress and towers? Well, the info is in his environment, he lived during a war, and it’s been shown what such forts looked like and they align with the description in Alma. So, seems pretty likely. Specific? Sure. Detailed, yeah in the sense it was describing the features of an earthen fort. Unusual? No, because it’s describing a fort design repeated pretty much everywhere where projectile weapons were used. Like Cortez describes. So your scale for that is 10 to 1 in favor of Smith having not guessed this. Recognizing you weren’t able to fit this into the Maya in the time frame of Alma, that’s a miss (Smith described something that wasn’t consistent with The Maya) or The Maya was silent. Either way, point for the 19th C. authorship theory.

    • Honorentheos:
      No, the Book of Mormon is clearly not a product of the 19th century. See, I can make flat statements also.

      We compared two 19th century works, Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews, with The Maya. Both failed the test the Book of Mormon passed so well. You and the other critics continue to ignore that fact.

      So prove your point. Compare the Book of Mormon with what you think is a typical 19th century religious document, or any other document you think “represents” the 19th century. State your hypothesis. State your Bayesian skeptical prior. Identify all the evidence, pro and con, relevant to your hypothesis. You must include both positive and negative correspondences…not just a handful of cherry-picked points. Weight the evidence. Do a rigorous statistical analysis of your findings, as we have done.

      When you have done so, then publish the results for everyone to see and discuss, as we have done.

      Until then, your flat statements are just noise, verdicts without evidence.

      Bruce

      ps. I think my next correspondence will demonstrate very clearly that the Book of Mormon is not a 19th century production. Stay tuned.

      • Hi Bruce,

        You didn’t compare either alternative text nor the Book of Mormon with a 19th Century understanding of the origins of the people’s of the Americas. You compared them to a book about the Mayan people. Take all three (the Book of Mormon, VotH, and MF) and compare them to a detailed review of historical sources on what people believed about the Native Americans, the Bible, the history of the world, Christianity, etc. and the Book of Mormon is a stand out match. The other two would match as well. Your proposed approach is a red herring and se Ms to poorly comprehend the critical position which is likely fatal to your ability to conduct a reasonable statistically valid assessment as proposed in the paper. But in the end, I’m glad the paper was put out for publication as it serves as a nice focal point for glaring issues in the underlying views of BoM apologetics and the appraisal of evidence. I for one hope it enjoys a long period of public attention.

        • Honorentheos:
          You make yet another unsupported claim that the Book of Mormon would correspond as well to another authoritative review as it does to The Maya as if it were an accomplished fact.

          It is not an accomplished fact. It is just talk on your part.

          You keep brushing aside the comparison that was actually done in our article. For the thousand and first time, please focus on the facts summarized in Coe’s book and the fact claims of the Book of Mormon…which Coe says “has no truth” in it. Well, if that is true, then Coe’s book is also full of errors.

          We have shown that Coe is just wrong in his claim. And not a single negative commentator seems to think that Coe’s decades long false claim is worthy of mention.

          That is a pretty revealing omission, isn’t it? Just about as revealing as the fact that none of the negative commentators have taken me up on my offer to give them a free copy of The Maya so that they can make the comparisons for themselves.

          But as far as your unsupported claim is concerned, please go ahead and pick the authoritative review that you think the Book of Mormon should match and do the work we have done to compare Coe’s book with the Book of Mormon. Set your skeptical prior. Weight the evidence. Be honest, please, and include both positive and negative evidence.

          Then submit your work for peer review, make the revisions the reviewers require, as we have done, and respond to the critics when you publish. Be prepared for it to take a long, long time. A good part of my “free time” over the past three years has gone into writing and publishing this article.

          Until you do that, your claims are just that…claims without evidence. Just air.

          Bruce

          • Dr. Dale,

            I have to admit, your persistence in denying the counter-evidence and use of detail from Coe to illuminate the weakness of the superficiality of the supposed correspondences is quite facinating in and of itself.

            How does one insist that the BoM including Christian expressions of covenanting with the Christian god to obey his commandments is a specfic, unusual, and detailed correspondence to Maya mythology-based ritual covenant that included blood letting and penis piercing in the face of those being facts contained in the two sources you insist act as the limits of the discussion? If you want the discussion to be limited to Coe and the BoM, then ok. But be consistent. And address the conflicting details they contain if you would.

  17. Follow up on Correspondence 4.2

    So far, Honorentheos and Jared Manning have avoided discussing Correspondence 4.2 and Billy has mostly tried to avoid it.

    For those who are new (or old) to this discussion, the only question of interest here is: “is Correspondence 4.2 between the Book of Mormon and The Maya specific, detailed and unusual?” If so, then it counts as evidence for the converse hypothesis. That is all that matters for the purposes of our paper. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. OK?

    So, please, commentators, do you think this point of evidence is specific, detailed and unusual, or not? No need to dodge or throw up smokescreens or infer racism as a motivation for your intellectual sparring partners.

    As follow up on Correspondence 4.2, let me provide this additional information from Kirk Magleby at Book of Mormon Central.

    “Takeshi Inomata is one of the leading dirt archaeologists in Mesoamerica today. He is the lead author of an article entitled “High-precision radiocarbon dating of political collapse and dynastic origins at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala” published January 23, 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The article describes precisely the kind of fortifications Captain Moroni built, just as the Dales have pointed out from Coe and Webster. But, Inomata also reports the likely date the Ceibal fortifications were constructed – 75 BC – a chronological bulls eye for Alma chapters 49 & 50.”

    OK, comments ya’ll?

    Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      You said, “For those who are new (or old) to this discussion, the only question of interest here is: ‘is Correspondence 4.2 between the Book of Mormon and The Maya specific, detailed and unusual?’ If so, then it counts as evidence for the converse hypothesis.”

      That is false. Full stop. That is not the only question of interest. If we are trying to evaluate whether or not Joseph Smith was the world’s luckiest guesser, we need to apply valid Bayesian reasoning. Bayesian likelihood ratios are not measures of how specific, detailed, and unusual correspondences are. They are, according to your paper, “the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.” (That quote is from your paper, Bruce. If you’d like further quotes from the references you cite in your footnotes, let me know and I’ll provide them.) Notice there are two questions implied there. “What is the likelihood of the evidence if the hypothesis is true?” and “What is the likelihood of the evidence if the hypothesis is false?” Your question of how specific, detailed, and unusual a piece of alleged correspondence is does not adequately capture both questions. If we want to do this the right way, we need to ask both questions.

      If a correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya meets some threshold of being specific, detailed, and unusual, and the same correspondence between the Book of Mormon and commonly-held speculations about the mound builders of North America is equally specific, detailed, and usual, then it counts as neither evidence for nor against historicity.

      That isn’t smoke and mirrors. It is the fundamental nature of valid Bayesian reasoning.

      In this particular case Honorentheos has argued with evidence that “the wide spread view of his time was that the mounds left by the mound builders were fortifications built by a lost race overrun by the native American tribes.” If he is right about this, then this particular correspondence matches the “he made it up” hypothesis at least as good as, “it is an ancient record of Mesoamerica” hypothesis.

    • Hi Bruce,

      Please see my post above noting that it is bad form to claim liberties for oneself such as jumping about between sources far outside the BoM and The Maya while claiming foul play when your humble critics follow suite. Perhaps it would be fair to reframe and return according to the rules you wish to follow for everyone?

      • Hi Honorentheos:
        Good point. I should not have introduced the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences data in support of the Book of Mormon’s timing on these defensive fortifications, should I?

        Ooops, I did it again. 🙂 Anyway, fair point. I won’t do it again.

        I can only hope that the critics will respond to the claims of our article and not introduce claims we have not made…as nearly all of the negative commentators have done so far.

        And would it be OK for me to point out that you keep introducing hypothetical sources that you think may explain Joseph Smith’s correct “guesses”? Those supposed sources are irrelevant to the purpose of our article.

        The purpose of our article is to test Coe’s claim that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures. But we have shown that the Book of Mormon has a great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

        Where you think Joseph Smith might have gotten source material for his scores and scores of correct “guesses” is entirely irrelevant. The fact is that he actually made those correct “guesses”.

        So can I ask you to please focus on the correspondences themselves? That is the discussion I am trying to have with the commentators…but with very little success in getting ya’ll to stick to the point. It is a bit frustrating.

        Bruce

    • I’m happy to play ball. But since the context here is a Bayes’ analysis, I’m going to play by those rules. This means that I can counter your proposed correspondence by hypothesizing someone other than Joseph or one of his friends as a possible author. An exhaustive analysis demands this be done anyway.

      The defensive earthworks described in the Book of Mormon are identical to fortifications described by Julius Caesar in his account of the war against the Gauls. Here are a couple of quotes so you get the gist of it.

      “He commanded the camp to be fortified with a twelve-foot rampart, a breastwork to be built on in proportion to the height of the same, a double trench fifteen feet wide in each case to be dug with perpendicular sides, turrets three stories high to be set up at frequent intervals and connected by covered cross-bridges, having their front faces protected by a breastwork of wattles. His object was to hold the camp against the enemy by the double ditch and a double rank of defenders: one rank, posted on the bridges, from the greater safety afforded by height, could hurl its missiles with greater range and confidence; the other, posted on the actual rampart nearer the enemy, would be covered by the bridge from the showers of missiles.”

      “Behind the trenches he constructed a ramp and palisade twelve feet high; to this he added a breastwork and battlements, with large fraises projecting at the junctions of screens and ramp, to check the upward advance of the enemy; and all round the works he set turrets at intervals of eighty feet.”

      I’ll list the similarities for anyone who didn’t bother reading the Book of Mormon verses cited.

      1) deep trenches
      2) next to high earthen walls
      3) topped by palisades
      4) and sharpened stakes
      5) protected by a series of towers
      6) which towers had protections against missiles
      7) from which stones and arrows are cast

      Since I’ve brought up Julius Caesar, I feel I ought to mention a few things about him. 1) He was a great general, 2) He was a great historian, and 3) He was Pontifex Maximus, Rome’s highest religious official. Does this sound like anybody in the Book of Mormon? Maybe a certain father-son duo at the end?

  18. Very interesting article with a great amount of information, along with a large quantity of responses. As I read through all of these, it dawned on me that it must drive those who don’t believe, crazy to see the so-called inconsistencies in the Book of Mormon and yet not be able to truthfully explain where and how the book actually came to be. I mean, on a logical basis only, it’s obvious that it’s more than just a romance or historical novel. The internal consistencies are overwhelming if truthfully considered, and yet, here and there are these unexplained inconsistencies that just drive people crazy. It reminds me an awful lot about what Paul wrote about people who just had to “kick against the pricks” of the Gospel. They can’t leave it alone and they can’t bear to consider that even with its supposed inconsistencies, it might just be true, and so they’re left to “kick against the pricks.” Unfortunately, because all they can do is “kick against the pricks,” they never get anywhere, really. Their arguments just keep going round-and-around-and-around. Sometimes the ability to suspend one’s disbelief in order to allow the glimmer of the Holy Spirit to shine through is more impossible than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. And yet, the amazing thing to me is the knowledge that I have that the Book of Mormon is true. Shucks, I didn’t see a light or have an angel declare it to me, but every time I pick up that book, it speaks truthfulness to my soul. I don’t have the words or know how to describe truth any better than that. I suppose that truth for me is what my perception of truth happens to be, and in this case it is that the Lord used a young farm boy to translate a book by the gift and power of God. On the peril of losing my soul I personally could not dare, –because of this testimony which I bear– I could not dare to ascribe to God what He can and cannot do, regardless of supposed inconsistencies or not.

  19. Brant,

    My proposed author has not been scrutinized yet. In time he will be. I look forward to your input.

    Joseph’s contraption could have been made from scraps laying around a cooper’s shop. At some point I will make a prototype and film a demonstration of the process. I will show the perspective from the scribe’s side of the table and from Joseph’s side of the table. The device will be easy to set up and capable of being stashed with the manuscripts in a box the size of the plates.

    I’m interested in which eye-witness accounts you think make this scenario impossible. Accounts which mention being behind the table during the transmission process or first-hand accounts of seeing something on the stone would be of particular interest.

    • Well, Jared. You have put forward the hypothesis of another author for the Book of Mormon. It is up to you to prove or disprove that hypothesis. No one else is under the slightest obligation to do so. Ball in your court.
      Bruce

      • If you want to do a Bayes’ analysis to support your point you are obligated to make an exhaustive comparison. I put forward my hypothesis only to show that you have not done so. You keep wanting to change the subject but this is a fatal flaw in your analysis.

  20. Bruce,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to me and others with inquiries and criticisms. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think Joseph authored or even co-authored the Book of Mormon. I don’t think any of his close (known) associates did either. The complexity of The Book of Mormon on many different levels suggests to me it was authored by a very well-educated person.

    We have to consider the possibility that Joseph read an existing work to his scribes that had been previously created by a very well-educated person or persons. The principal of exhaustion, in fact, demands we consider this. You cannot simply assert that it didn’t happen that way and then expect others to accept you have been sufficiently rigorous in your analysis.

    • Jared,

      It might not have been covered in the paper, but it is certainly covered in the literature. There is zero evidence for Joseph reading a manuscript. Even if there were a way to hide a page in the hat, there was no light to read it. That was the function of putting the stone in the hat. If there were multiple pages, it would have been obvious. There is no affirmative evidence for such a thing, and specific statements that there was not.

      It is one thing to think some well educated person wrote it, but quite another to support that hypothesis. That hypothesis has so little confirmation that skipping mentioning that possibility is hardly a criticism.

      • Brant,

        I think too much is made of Emma’s very problematic 1879 testimony regarding the translation process. I’ve read all of the known testimony and I see nothing that decisively precludes Joseph from having had a concealed manuscript behind the table. Illusionists of his day were known to use hats and tables as props for concealment when presenting illusions.

        The other options are 1) that Joseph had memorized it or made it up as he went along. These I find extremely improbable, although between them, memorization seems more likely and, I note, would still require a pre-existing manuscript; or 2) that he had supernatural help, which I know you are advocating.

        In order to be exhaustive we must consider all rational options. A scientist does not have the luxury of interpreting the evidence like an apologist. It just isn’t proper in the context of this paper to say we know for certain how the transmission process did or did not occur. There is nothing close to enough evidence to provide scientific certainty on that issue.

        In my view, the apologist’s role is to provide plausibility for the truth of religious claims. Trying to go beyond plausibility–especially if claiming virtual certainty–will only bring criticism, as it should

        • Jared,

          That is a lot of supposition with no supporting evidence. We now have to have Joseph as an expert illusionist (not mentioned in any source), but he has to acquire a manuscript and have no one know about it. He has to find a way to have all kinds of people watch the process, but never see any paper. He has to read a paper while his face is in a hat, and then find a way to change the sheets without anyone knowing.

          That is difficult. Next, however, we have to find anyone who could have written the manuscript. So far, all who have been proposed have been disqualified. So, proposing an unknown person with sufficient education (and I would suggest that is impossible, since much of what we know of the text is much more recent), and then have that person in contact with Joseph–and no one every mentioned anything.

          The golden plates are much easier to believe, and have much more evidence behind them.

          • The content of the BoM and it’s generally recognized lack of correspondence/perceived correspondence to ancient America is the primary evidence for any theory regarding BoM authorship. All statements about it’s authorship, absent the plates for study, are difficult to assign a value to that could possibly swing the needle beyond what the BoM has to defend on it’s own merits.

            It’s difficult to differentiate between statements made about the process used to create the 116 pages we don’t have and the BoM content we do have. The faithful version of the story includes Smith losing the tools for translations andnswitch them around that time. We have a meaningful, measurable change in the pace of content generation with the arrival of Oliver Cowdery that is suspect if Smith is the main engine if production one way or the other.

            In the end, what matters is the content, because the rest is opaque and behind the veil of time.

          • Brant,

            If one is making an apologetic argument, then what you’ve said is perfectly adequate. As I’ve mentioned, I think the bar for apologetics is plausibility. But the authors chose a rigorous scientific method for their analysis. This demands they consider even those things that are hard to believe or not considered likely. Proper scientific investigation does not begin with eliminating the possibilities you don’t like.

            Regarding whether or not Joseph was an “expert illusionist” we know that he was able to convince people he could see things on a stone in a hat. How do you suppose he was able to do that?

            It is a simple matter to sit behind a table and pretend to look into a hat while leaving space to look at something placed in or near your lap. (Try it.) Then all he would have needed was a pair of spools that could be mounted to the underside of the table or his belt. A manuscript wrapped around the spools like a scroll could be advanced with one hand while the other hand held the hat.

            Now imagine Joseph dictated by reading a single line of manuscript, having the scribe repeat it back to him, and then advancing the spools one line. Imagine how easy it would be to leave right in the middle of the dictation, come back the next day, and continue at precisely the spot the scrolls had been advanced to the previous day.

            As far as a proposed author, I do have one in mind that would have been qualified and able in every way to produce the Book of Mormon. But I’d rather not go down that particular path in this discussion. I have already veered too far off course.

          • Jared,

            Yes, this is a detour, but then much of the discussion is somewhat of a detour. In this case, you have suggested that there is a reasonable alternative. I disagree. To date, all attempts to involve someone other than Joseph Smith have been unable to withstand scrutiny.

            You have a method Joseph could have used, but it is pure speculation (and contrary to statements of those who witnessed the process). Assuming that Joseph duped the witnesses in the way you suggest, could it have happened that way? Since there is zero evidence to support the hypothesis, we can only deal with plausibility. Was it plausible? In order for the scroll idea to work, Joseph have to install it in the table of different people’s homes where the translation occurred, without their knowledge. That does not seem plausible. Given his lack of finances, just acquiring the needed materials would have been noticed.

            Then, he has to find a way to remove it with no one seeing, or someone make it so that no one could see it as they passed the table–especially when not in use.

            So is it possible? Possible in the same way nearly impossible things are technically possible.

          • Jared,

            I didn’t answer your question about Joseph convincing people he could see things with a stone in a hat. That is actually something on which there is available literature. A fascinating book is Dr. Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer’s Extraordinary Knowing: Science,Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. The short answer is that he convinced them because they were able to test him and prove it to themselves.

  21. Some notes on 4.2…

    In context, Coe says, “…proof of warfare is remarkably difficult to derive from ‘dirt’ archaeology. A vivid exception to this rule is provided by Becan in the Chenes region just north of the Peten, which was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD.”

    And in context, the Book of Mormon says, “Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land.”

    Forgetting for the moment that the Becan site was constructed about 300 years too late, isn’t it odd that if every city in all the land had such fortifications, that there is only one such city where evidence of these massive “heaps of earth” still remains?

    The Book of Mormon describes savages attacking white Christians who are bunkered up in forts (Where could a fiction writer on the American frontier come up with that imagery?). Of course if Joseph Smith had the mound builders in mind it isn’t that unlikely he would have said they would “dig up heaps of earth round about all the cities.” Further, this idea isn’t that foreign to Joseph Smith’s world in any case; according to Wikipedia, “While moats are commonly associated with European castles, they were also developed by North American Indians of the Mississippian culture as the outer defence of some fortified villages. The remains of a 16th-century moat are still visible at the Parkin Archeological State Park in eastern Arkansas. Further, the term moat was used to describe dry ditches surrounding forts built by colonials or Americans to protect important landmarks, harbors, or cities.”

    In any case, if the main purpose of the paper is to compare the fact claims of the Book of Mormon with the fact claims of Dr. Coe’s book, then the one city that has mounds is a point of correspondence (while all of the others are points of disagreement).

    On the other hand, if the main purpose of the paper is to conduct a Bayesian analysis of the evidence to determine the probability that the Book of Mormon has its roots in ancient Mesoamerica rather than in 19th-century America, the analysis would be along these lines:

    1- If the Book of Mormon is historical and the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica built up motes and mounds “round every city in all the land,” what are the chances that The Maya would say only one city now has mounds? Perhaps 0.01.

    2- If the Book of Mormon is speculative fiction about how a group of proto-Christian Jews immigrated to the Americas before the siege of Jerusalem, turned into the great mound building civilization, and then collapsed leaving the Indians as a remnant, what is the probability the author would have said that the mound builders built mounds and forts as a military defense against savages? Perhaps 0.01.

    Thus, the likelihood ratio for this point is 0.01/0.01 = 1.00.

    • Second to fourth century AD is 300 years too late? Not in the Book of Mormon I’ve read. As for indications of warfare, it is true that some of them are hard to find, but one of the reasons is that the excavations have been in the city centers. Other techniques are showing walls farther out–beyond where they have been digging.

      • According to the versus Bruce cited, the high earthen banks described in the Book of Mormon were constructed in the year 72 B.C. According to Coe, the mounds at Becan were constructed between the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. Yes, this is during Book of Mormon times, but it is centuries after the specific dates when the Book of Mormon mounds were built.

        If our methodology is to look at the correspondences and see how specific, detailed, and unusual they are so that we can score the correspondences with Bayesian likelihood ratios, to give a high score (e.g. 0.1) in favor of historicity based upon correspondences being specific and detailed, the specific details must match. If a correspondence is described in detail and the details don’t match, it doesn’t constitute strong evidence of historicity.

  22. All, here is another correspondence for your comments.

    4.2 Defensive earthworks with deep ditches, breastworks and palisades

    Coe’s standard: “Becan … was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD. These consist of a ditch and inner rampart, 38 ft (11.6 m) high, and would have been formidable, according to David Webster, if the rampart had been surmounted by a palisade” (p. 122). “Warfare had in fact become a real
    problem to all the major Petexbatun sites, and a system of defensive walls … topped by wooden palisades was constructed around and within them” (p. 151).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 49:4, 18‒22; Alma 50:1‒5; Alma 53:4.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, it matches perfectly in the details, and it is highly unusual. What military example had Joseph Smith ever heard of or seen that was anything like this defensive arrangement? According to David Webster, the Conquistador Hernan Cortes marveled when he saw the Maya towns defended in exactly this fashion (details below).

    We would like to give this correspondence a weighting of a million to one against the likelihood that Joseph Smith guessed it, but our data-weighting approach does not permit a likelihood of 0.000001; instead it is likelihood = 0.02.

    For those who are interested, here are some additional details from Dr. Webster’s work that show how exactly Joseph “guessed” this correspondence, and how impressed Cortes was:

    “Conquistador Hernan Cortes described fortified cities in the Maya lowlands, as quoted by Dr. David Webster of Pennsylvania State University. Here is Cortes’s description of the defenses he encountered among the Lowland Maya: “There is only one level entrance, the whole town being surrounded by a deep (dry) moat behind which is a wooden palisade as high as man’s breast. Behind this palisade lies a wall of very heavy boards, some twelve feet tall, with embrasures through which to shoot their arrows; the lookout posts rise another eight feet above the wall, which likewise has large towers with many stones to hurl down on the enemy. … Indeed, it was so well planned with regard to the manner of weapons they use, they could not be better defended”

    Dr. Webster also wrote another relevant, interesting study. Here are some of Dr. Webster’s findings from his study regarding the dry moat or defensive ditch that surrounded the city of Becan, in the Yucatan Peninsula of southeastern Mexico:

    “The ditch and parapet derive their main defensive strength from sheer size. What I call the ‘critical depth’ of the fortifications (the vertical distance from the top of the embankment to the bottom of the ditch would have averaged something over 11 meters (about 36 feet)… The steep angles of the inner ditch and wall and parapet slope could not have been climbed without the aid of ladders; an enemy force caught in the bottom of the ditch would have been at the mercy of the defenders, whose most effective weapon under the circumstances would have been large rocks. … To throw ‘uphill’ from the outside is almost impossible. Defenders…could have rained long-distance missiles on approaching enemies using
    spear throwers and slings.”

    Thus the Maya at the time of the Spanish Conquest used the same kind of city defense that Moroni had used about 1600 years earlier, namely (1) a single entrance to the city, (2) very deep ditches around the city, (3) banks of earth built above the ditches, (4) strong works of timbers built on top of these banks of earth above ditches, and (5) even taller towers built on the timbers. From these works of timbers and from the towers, the defenders could rain down arrows and especially rocks, on their attackers. And the attackers couldn’t effectively get at the defenders— so they were slaughtered.

    So Joseph Smith was either a military genius himself, or he guessed it. Yes, he guessed it in all this detail. A 24-year- old farm kid from upstate New York invented this superb defensive military arrangement, totally unlike anything in the warfare of his time, and which greatly impressed an experienced soldier like Hernan Cortes.

    David Webster, “The Not So Peaceful People: A Review of Maya War,”
    Journal of World Prehistory 14, no. 1 (March 2000): 80.

    Best wishes,
    Bruce

    • The wide spread view of his time was that the mounds left by the mound builders were fortifications built by a lost race overrun by the native American tribes. For example consider this except from the poem The Prairies from 1832:

      I think of those
      Upon whose rest he tramples. Are they here—
      The dead of other days?—and did the dust
      Of these fair solitudes once stir with life
      And burn with passion? Let the mighty mounds
      That overlook the rivers, or that rise
      In the dim forest crowded with old oaks,
      Answer. A race, that long has passed away,
      Built them;—a disciplined and populous race
      Heaped, with long toil, the earth, while yet the Greek
      Was hewing the Pentelicus to forms
      Of symmetry, and rearing on its rock
      The glittering Parthenon. These ample fields
      Nourished their harvest, here their herds were fed,
      When haply by their stalls the bison lowed,
      And bowed his maned shoulder to the yoke.
      All day this desert murmured with their toils,
      Till twilight blushed, and lovers walked, and wooed
      In a forgotten language, and old tunes,
      From instruments of unremembered form,
      Gave the soft winds a voice. The red man came—
      The roaming hunter tribes, warlike and fierce,
      And the mound-builders vanished from the earth.
      The solitude of centuries untold
      Has settled where they dwelt. The prairie-wolf
      Hunts in their meadows, and his fresh-dug den
      Yawns by my path. The gopher mines the ground
      Where stood their swarming cities. All is gone;
      All—save the piles of earth that hold their bones,
      The platforms where they worshipped unknown gods,
      The barriers which they builded from the soil
      To keep the foe at bay—till o’er the walls
      The wild beleaguerers broke, and, one by one,
      The strongholds of the plain were forced, and heaped
      With corpses.

      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55341/the-prairies

      This wasn’t a remarkable guess, and a comprehensive study would have assigned a higher probability this is favors the BoM being fiction rather than fact given its a product of the deeply flawed mound builder mythology that has been refuted by modern archeology. Because it was racist, and still is when is shows up in BoM apologetics.

      • Honorentheos:
        It is really remarkable how long you and a few other commentators dodge the issue. The issue before us is whether the Book of Mormon has many, many correspondences, including some really remarkably detailed correspondences, with Coe’s book.

        You are unwittingly acknowledging the strength of the evidence by refusing to deal with it, aren’t you?

        This is one of those really detailed correspondences, and you and Billy and Jared deal with it by changing the subject. (And you also want to call other people racist without an ounce of evidence.)

        Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon give a very detailed description of a particular type of defensive warfare arrangement that agrees perfectly. It is NOT the earthen walls of the mound builder culture, but something very different and something that amazed Cortez.

        You just blow past that piece of evidence. Afraid to address it?

        Bruce

        • Hi Bruce,

          How so? The majority of this correspondence as cited is not from The Maya and makes rather large leaps outside of the bounds you supposedly used to otherwise constrain and he comparisons. If I may, a poem published two years after the BoM was published, penned by one of the early greats of American poetry, is far closer to the two sources you chose as limits than an account from Cortez describing a fortification from the post classic period. An embankment with a single entrance cites a thousand years after BoM times is your best correspondence? Perhaps you ought to consider if you really want someone performing a detailed review of how well The Maya and the chapters in Alma align. Oh, and the fact your examples are from the lowlands…I seem to recall something about that you may want to reflect on as well.

          Mound builder mythology was pervasive in Smith’s time. It was racist. It’s been swept out of modern archeology for good reason. The LDS faith would do well to do the same by recognizing the Maya are a people who do not need an old world ancestor to explain the immensity of their achievements. Which is the purpose of your paper is it not? To show the BOM people’s overlap with the Maya contrary to what the professionals in the field attest?

          Anyway, if you’d like to constrain your correspondence to the content of the Maya and reframe it, I’ll view that as a reasonable concession to the proposed limits and refrain from posting the much more obvious influence on Smith which was the mound builder mythology. Even if the poem described exactly the very things claimed occured in the BoM but which have proven wrong at multiple levels.

          All the best!

          honorentheos

          • Hi Honorentheos:
            This discussion has gotten so long and has so many people involved that I am having real trouble keeping everything straight…particularly when I only have time once a week or so to follow up.

            So, just a few final comments about the fortification issue. I can’t find your comment but I recall that you sent me a Pinterest link showing fortresses from Joseph Smith’s time that you think he might have used as a model for his description of Moroni’s novel forts.

            I looked those fortresses up and studied them a bit. They differ markedly in the description we have of Moroni’s fortified cities.

            First of all, the modern forts were built as military outposts…not as a means of fortifying a city. In most cases, Moroni was fortifying a city as a defensive measure against a much more numerous, invading enemy. The forts you showed me were primarily to house troops in hostile territory. Big difference, and it shows in the rest of the design.

            Second, the pictures of the forts you sent me all have multiple entrances. The Book of Mormon is very careful to point out that Moroni’s fortified cities only had one entrance. If you had to defend a city against huge numbers of invaders, that is what you would do…only one entrance to defend.

            Third, while the forts you sent me obviously have walls, there is no special emphasis on the height of the walls or the depth of the ditch around the forts. That height is a critical feature of Moroni’s defense and is likewise emphasized in Dr. Webster’s discussion of these Maya forts. Webster says “it is almost impossible to throw uphill” and both the Maya forts and Moroni’s forts are specifically designed to render useless any hand weapons hurled from outside.

            Fourth, let’s talk briefly about fort design and contrast 18th and 19th century North American fort design with Moroni’s design. Please look carefully at all the fort designs you sent me.

            What do they look like? Nice guy that I am, I will tell you. 🙂 They are called “star forts” and they are called that for a reason. They were designed with two purposes in mind: 1) to present angled walls as much as possible to attackers so that cannon balls would be deflected and 2) to allow overlapping fields of cannon fire from the fort to repel attackers.

            The key point here is “cannons”. Fort design in the modern era had to take cannons into account and the star fortress design was that response to cannons.

            If Joseph Smith had just adopted the design of forts around him in the Book of Mormon, as you seem to imply, then he would probably have said something about the star design…a total anachronism and point against the Book of Mormon.

            But Joseph Smith did not make this big mistake. Moroni’s forts have exactly the features Webster talks about among the Maya, and no anachronisms. So Joseph Smith is still the world’s greatest guesser.

            Bruce

  23. All,
    Looks like Interpreter is catching up with my comments from last week. I will keep looking for all of my comments/responses to appear and resubmit if needed. Be patient. 🙂

    In the meantime, here is another point of evidence regarding defensive structures in the Book of Mormon and in Coe’s book.
    Bruce

  24. Response to Jared, et al, about “exhaustive” Bayesian treatments.

    Jared’s point about the need for an “exhaustive” treatment is correct, and we did not address it particularly well in the text of the manuscript. We appreciate the opportunity to better address it now. However, this is also an exceedingly minor point as far as the conclusions of our article are concerned.

    For those who may be unfamiliar with Bayesian terminology, “exhaustive” means that the set of hypotheses considered must cover the entire space of possibilities, i.e. be both exhaustive (covers everything) and exclusive (no overlapping). You can think of it in terms of a Venn diagram, there is some space of possibilities and each hypothesis covers some region of that space.

    You want your set of hypotheses to cover all of the space and to not overlap. Our set of hypotheses is that the Book of Mormon is either fiction or it is non-fiction. That is an exhaustive and exclusive set, and that type of partitioning of the space is common (A or not A), since it is the easiest way to form an exhaustive and exclusive set with two hypotheses.

    For the “Book of Mormon as fiction” hypothesis we have named Joseph Smith as the author since under that hypothesis he clearly had an authorship role, but whether or not he worked with any unnamed co-authors is irrelevant to the question of whether the Book of Mormon is fiction or non-fiction. Any co-authors that Joseph Smith could have plausibly worked with would have had a very similar background to his.

    Our assigned Bayesian likelihoods were based on generic considerations of what information could have come to a typical person in Joseph Smith’s historical time and place. They were not based on detailed analysis of letters, meetings, communications, school curricula, or other things that would have tied the analysis specifically to Joseph. Therefore the analysis would cover any plausible coauthors equally.

    The coauthors had to be close acquaintances of his, and none of his close acquaintances were scholars at all…let alone Mesoamerican scholars. (In fact, Dr. Coe says that as of 1840—ten years after the Book of Mormon was published, that “no one knew anything about the Maya area”.)

    It would be equally probable or improbable for Hyrum Smith, or Oliver Cowdery, or anyone else Joseph Smith knew to make those guesses regarding the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. Thus we specified that it was for Joseph. Therefore our weightings (assignment of probability ratios) would not have changed if we considered other individuals as authors.

    So, although we didn’t talk in depth about this “exhaustive” treatment issue in the paper, it is certainly not a weakness of the paper or the methodology.

    Jared, can we suggest that perhaps you are making a mountain out of a molehill? You apparently want us to further partition the “fiction” hypothesis into “fiction written by Joseph Smith” and “fiction written by person , or Y or Z” etc. That could be done, but it is not necessary—not at all. Fiction vs non-fiction, as we have set up the analysis, is already both exclusive and exhaustive. This approach satisfies the statistical requirements and is a common approach to Bayesian analysis.

    Bruce

    • Hi Dr. Dale,

      Thank you for your patience in responding to the many postings, in addition to your sincere and valiant effort to produce and publish the paper. Here is another question, if you could please help clear this up in my mind.

      I am having some trouble following the discussions about your intended hypothesis. If I understood some of your prior responses correctly, the paper was intended to simply address the issue of correspondence between Coe’s description of the Maya and the people described in the Book of Mormon. But in the paper and in this thread you talk in length about the probabilities of Joseph Smith guessing facts about the Maya. Now, if we were to strictly focus on correspondences and the degree to which they match, to respond to Dr. Coe’s statements about the Book of Mormon, why is it necessary to estimate probabilities of Joseph Smith, or anyone for that matter, guessing? Couldn’t, shouldn’t, we set aside questions of origin, authorship, and claims and just focus on the issue of correspondence? And then to throw in the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is/is not fiction confuses me even more. I have a hard time seeing all these as equivalent. So maybe you can explain it to me.

      And another big question I have, how can we justify making valid comparisons between descriptions of the Book of Mormon society in the years BC and the Maya as they were many centuries later, even a millennium and a half later, and then assign such extreme Bayesian factors to these correspondences?

      • Rick,

        The Dales can respond to your first question. I can take the second. I don’t know where you are getting your dating, but you appear to believe that there were no Maya during Book of Mormon times. That is incorrect. There were Maya before and after Book of Mromon times.

        A possible related question could more reasonably ask how well Classic era Maya data might apply to pre-Classic (after the Book of Mormon to Book of Mormon times). That would be a better question. The answer is that there are some things that are known archaeologically from the pre-Classic. Other things are known only from the Classic, because writing on imperishable stone postdated the Book of Mormon. What ethnohistorians do in such cases is to examine how well the later information might be applied to the earlier. In pre-industrial cultures, things changes at a much more leisurely pace than in the modern world, so it is assumed that in at least overall cultural pictures, there is a persistence through time. That becomes bolstered when we find depictions that appear to be related to the Popol Vuh, even though that document is only known after contact. That suggests that major aspects of religious thought persisted for a very long time.

        The comparisons between the Book of Mormon and Maya culture are appropriate in time, and (according to a couple of hypotheses for the Book of Mormon), appropriate to place. Thus the possibility of correspondence is a reasonable hypothesis. Demonstrating the validity of the hypothesis is, of course, a different task.

      • Rick,
        Our paper does indeed address the correspondences between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon. That is the paper’s primary focus. There are 131 positive correspondences against a handful of negative ones.

        The fiction vs. non-fiction paired hypotheses are necessary for the Bayesian analysis to be “exhaustive”. The Bayesian approach we took also required numerical values of the likelihood, which we have discussed extensively in the paper. We hypothesize Joseph as the guesser to help set these likelihoods.

        You may be having trouble following the paper because of the repeated attempts on the part of some of the commentators to change the subject. I can see how that might muddle things for you.

        May I respectfully request that you reread the paper, and also read the intro to Appendix A where some of the chronological issues are discussed.

        My thanks to Brandt for also addressing the chronological issues…much better than I have done.

        Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      You are simply wrong on this point. The way you interpret the evidence, assign the probabilities, and decided that the “guesses” were independent is in fact based upon a devastatingly inexhaustive space of hypotheses. You consistently asked questions like, “Why would Joseph Smith have ‘guessed’ that the ancient Mesoamericans had strong elements of Christianity in their religious practices?” That question is based upon the narrow, specific hypothesis that Joseph Smith was deliberately guessing about what ancient Mesoamerica was like.

      The hypothesis that Joseph Smith was making guesses about ancient Mesoamerica is mutually exclusive from the far more likely hypothesis that Joseph Smith believed that Christianity was true and wrote speculative fiction about how the ancient mound builders of North America were immigrants from Israel. The question “Why would Joseph Smith have ‘guessed’ that the ancient Mesoamericans had strong elements of Christianity in their religious practices?” is from an entirely different part of the space than the question, “What is the probability that Joseph Smith would have included elements of Christianity in his book, assuming that he was a believing Christian who was writing speculative fiction about how God led some proto-Christian Jews out of Israel before the siege of Jerusalem, that this body of Jews settled the new world and became a mighty mound-building civilization that eventually fell and left the north-American Indians as their remnants?

      Can you see how, “What are the chances Joseph would have guessed X about the Mesoamericans” could have a very different answer than the question, “What are the chances Joseph would have speculated X about an imagined group of proto-Christian Jews who came to the new world, developed a magnificent mound-building civilization that collapsed and left the North-American Indians as a remnant?”

      If those two questions have different probabilities, it proves that your space of hypotheses is in fact materally inexhaustive.

      Regards,

      Billy

  25. As an active Church member for many years, I have a deep appreciation for the amazing depht and power of the Book of Mormon. I would love to be further convinced by the reasons presented in the article.

    As I see it, the core of the matter is the (6+12)/131 figure. We can discuss the pertinency of each correspondence found. We can discuss the priors used. It’s easy to get lost in the details.

    What really disturbs me (forgive me if this has already been addressed, I read most of the comments but I didn’t see it) is the possibility of easily getting a very different figure of matches and mismatches. This is where I feel the need for more convincing explanations. For instance, I guess there are many names of places and persons in Coe’s book, as there are many names of places and persons in the Book of Mormon. Could I say that a name in the Book of Mormon that does not find any correspondence in Coe’s book is a mismatch? And if can’t say it, why not?

    Thank you for the all the work done.

    • Estimado Jose:
      Regarding the city “Laman”, I wrote the following in a post on June 1. I hope this helps.

      I am the only coauthor able currently to respond to posts. Mi hijo Brian anda bien ocupado con sus deberes familiares. Excuse me if I have made an incorrect assumption that you are a native Spanish speaker. 🙂

      Anyway, here is the post about the city named Laman. If you will let me know what other things concern you, I will do my best to respond…but it is a real challenge to keep up.

      “Both Mormon and his son Moroni, the principal editors of the Book of Mormon, state specifically that not only would victorious Lamanites destroy the Nephites as a people, they would also destroy their records. Certainly the naming of towns and cities with Nephite names would be a record that the Lamanites could and would wipe out.

      So, I would expect that the victorious Lamanites would make sure that not a single Nephite-named city would survive with that name. And all the records that could be found of the Nephites would be destroyed. (Coe in fact refers to the practice of systematic destruction of monuments whereby “the eyes and mouths of rulers are often pecked out, as if to cancel their power”. )

      Given this background, I think not a single Nephite city name would survive the destruction of the Nephite people described in the Book of Mormon at the end of the 4th century AD. And apparently none did…although the absence of such names is not really very good evidence.

      Although we know very little about the Lamanite cities (the Book of Mormon is primarily a Nephite record, after all), we do know that one was named Laman. Since Laman was the leader of the anti-Nephite faction from the beginning, it is certainly reasonable for the principal city of the Lamanites to be called Laman, and the chances are good that that name would survive.

      Since I accept a limited geography (and therefore limited power) model for both the Lamanites and the Nephites, it is certainly reasonable to suppose that only one city name would survive, and it would most likely be the principal city of the Lamanite confederation. Which is what we observe, at least by the way that I understand the evidence.”

      Bruce

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  27. Have you done an analysis of the “Heartland Model” by Rod Meldrum which strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon lands were not in MesoAmerica but were in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest of the USA? How about doing the same kind of analysis using that as your basis? https://bookofmormonevidence.org/ There are proofs that totally negate MesoAmerica as the Book of Mormon lands. For instance, No tornadoes (whirlwinds that took people away), no migratory animals in Central America, no DNA matching the Holy Land, etc. And a personal letter written in Joseph Smith’s own hand wherein he says to Emma, “We have been traveling through the plains of the Nephites and seeing the remnants of their civilization.” Also, Joseph Smith found the skeleton of Zelph, “a white Lamanite” who died in the last battle. and by revelation Joseph was given to know who he was. Please check it out. Maury Jones, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

    • Hi Maury,
      No, I haven’t done such an analysis. I do know about the Heartland Model and I am not convinced by it. I am not going to argue that model in these pages but I would just point out that hurricanes and the tornadoes they spawn are more than strong enough to carry people away. 🙂

      To do the same kind of analysis for the Heartland model that we have done for the Mesoamerican model you would need a similarly authoritative meta-study like Dr. Coe’s book as an independent summary of relevant facts, positive and negative, relevant to the Heartland area. I don’t know of such a meta-study, but if you do, I hope you will undertake the same comparison we have done.

      Bruce

    • Maury,
      I have studied the “Heartland Model” in some detail, and I am not convinced. There are a few positive points of evidence in its favor, and many more negative ones.
      Bruce

    • Maury,
      I replied to your post on Wednesday this week, and also earlier this morning. So far, neither have been posted. In fact, there are about 10 of my responses and posts that have not been put up yet by the Moderator–either that or I don’t know how to click a mouse.

      So I am sorry to you and others who are awaiting responses from me. I don’t know what has happened, but I am trying to fix it.

      As for Rod Meldrum’s work, yes, I have read some of his work. But I am not convinced. I think there is a lot more negative evidences than positive ones.

      Best,
      Bruce

    • Maury,
      I have been trying to respond to past comments. In doing so I found this post by Mark Parker back in May that is relevant to the Heartland Model.

      “The Heartland model is a poor fit in comparison to Mesoamerica, it lacks the population density, nor does it have evidence of ‘buildings covering the whole face of the land’ that Mormon describes, nor does it have elevated highways between large cities, there are some fortification, but not on the scale the Book of Mormon describes built in the 1st century BC and the 4th Century AD. Nor is there evidence of literacy as in the Maya region with no record nor evidence suggesting a great war of conquest, and the overthrowing of fortified cities in the late 4th century, which is present in the Maya Lowlands and Book of Mormon. Cahokia is lowlands and matches in that respect, but estimated population, even at it’s height in the 13th Century, is low compared to Book of Mormon population descriptions. It’s development is also post Book of Mormon era, being 600AD. With an estimated population of no more than 1000 till around the year 1050 AD, according to studies.”

      Hope this useful.

      Bruce

  28. #3. The way that a “statement of fact” is circumscribed can affect whether it is part of a correspondence, and whether the correspondence is positive or negative.

    Example: As quoted in 6.9, Coe mentions that a “lidded limestone box from Hun Nal Ye cave” is among “a few probable coffers” for books. The BoM, of course, came from plates buried in a stone box (not mentioned in the BoM proper, but discussed in the introductory Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith). The titular manuscript in MF came from an “earthern box” (I assume this means clay) in a cave. By defining our “statement of fact” to include the material from which the box is made, the BoM gets a positive correspondence with a score of 2, and MF gets a negative correspondence with a penalty of 50x. But what if we excluded the material from our statement of fact, and instead included the fact that it was in a cave? Would that give the BoM a negative correspondence and MF a positive correspondence?

    #4. What constitutes a correspondence? Does it require a possibility that the statements from Coe and from the other subject might have the same referent, i.e. the same event, custom, location, etc.? Or is enough that they’re similar, even if their referents are widely separated by time, location, or other details? Should correspondences inform the hypothesis that the BoM is historical, or only the hypothesis that the BoM has similarities with Coe’s book?

    Example: Point 3.6 — Mayan ritualistic bloodletting, both human and animal, is somewhat similar to the practices of animal sacrifice (explicitly mentioned in the BoM) and circumcision (not mentioned, but inferred). Does the Law of Moses, which the Nephites observed, constitute a correspondence with Mayan bloodletting, even though they are clearly not referring to the same thing? The authors say yes, and they award the BoM a 2x gain. (Ironically, VotH is docked 50x for saying that the Indians observed the Law of Moses, and another 50x for saying they practiced circumcision, for a total penalty of 2500x.)

    #5. If statements of fact are similar but not identical, is the correspondence positive or negative?

    Example: Consider 4.12, which compares the destruction of monuments in The Maya with the destruction of records in the BoM, and gives a BoM a 10x gain. This seems to fall in the same similar-in-some-ways-but-different-in-others category as the lidded box and Law of Moses comparisons mentioned above, which are considered positive for the BoM but negative for the control studies. This seems inconsistent.

    #6. The adjectives “specific”, “detailed”, and “unusual” can be interpreted and applied in different ways, allowing for considerable flexibility in estimating magnitudes.

    Example: In 2.22, we learn that “all three times corn is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it is the first or the only grain mentioned”, earning the BoM a 10x boost, because it is “specific and detailed”. By comparison, MF matches Coe by listing not only corn, but also beans and squash. And corn is likewise always the first or only grain mentioned. And in MF it’s mentioned 5 times, compared to the BoM’s 3 times. For this, MF earns only a 2x boost, because it is “specific but not detailed or unusual”. Given this inconsistency, it’s hard to see the “specific”, “detailed”, and “unusual” criteria as objective and well-defined.

    • Honorentheos:
      Just to clarify, if someone in this exceedingly long discussion claimed that all that Joseph Smith needed to write the Book of Mormon was a copy of the Bible, then that person certainly was not either Brian or me. The facts say otherwise.
      Bruce

      • Hi Dr. Dale,

        First, I hope you and your family had an enjoyable 4th, and the time away from this subject was reinvigorating.

        The question that needs addressed isn’t if all Smith needed was the Bible to compose the BoM. Rather, if he needed anything more than would be reasonably available given the context he lived in. Comparing VotH and MF do not address this question, even if we were to rework your control analysis to be consistent with how the correspondences were decided for the BoM. Simply looking at the correspondences you selected typically results in a strong probability that Smith could have developed the content of the BoM knowing nothing of the Maya but instead drawing from the myths of his era regarding the origins of the native Americans, the beliefs about the original Christian Church, and pre-Sidney Rigdon views about the godhead. BTW, I think the later is reasonable evidence against Rigdons involvement.

  29. First, I sincerely applaud the authors for publishing this with their names attached, likely knowing that they would receive significant pushback. They’re the ones showing courage, while anonymous critics like me are playing the coward.

    Having said that, I see several problems in the paper. I think all of them have been mentioned by other commenters, but I’m going to restate them in a way that’s helpful to me, even if it’s useless for everyone else.

    What I see as systemic problems, which I’ll discuss below:

    #1 The authors don’t take into account the bias introduced by their selection criterion.
    #2 The problem in #1 isn’t replicated in the control studies (Manuscript Found and A View of the Hebrews) because the authors seem to apply different standards in those cases. This flexibility in standards is described in #3-#6.
    #3 The protocol doesn’t specify which details to include or exclude when identifying a statement of fact.
    #4 The protocol isn’t clear on what constitutes a correspondence.
    #5 The protocol doesn’t specify how to determine whether a correspondence is positive or negative.
    #6 The protocol doesn’t clearly specify how to determine a correspondence’s magnitude.

    And some problems that I’ll just mention:

    #7 The authors often point out differences between the relatively advanced Nephites/Maya and the more primitive American Indians. Are they tacitly assuming that if Joseph Smith invented the Nephites, he would be likely to pattern them after the American Indians?
    #8 Through logic I don’t understand, the authors claim that the magnitude of a negative correspondence “must be the reciprocal” of what it would be if it were positive.
    #9 The authors are inconsistent in describing the scope of the analysis and results.
    #10 Other miscellaneous problems specific to various data points (“seating”, north, whoredoms, etc).

    Explanations and examples problems #1-#6:

    #1. In order to qualify for analysis, a statement of fact must be mentioned by both Coe and the subject of comparison. This is a tacit condition in all of the probability estimations. The authors have stated their reasons for imposing this condition, but I haven’t seen them argue that it doesn’t introduce a bias (although I may have missed it). I submit that this condition is heavily biased against negative correspondences.

    Example: Point 5.4 deals with the mention of aggressive snakes in the Book of Mormon and The Maya. If the likelihood ratio is .02, then the numerator, i.e. the probability of the positive correspondence given the “guessing” hypothesis, is at most .02. Since the selection criterion dictates that there *is* a correspondence, and the correspondence must be either positive or negative, it follows that the probability of a negative correspondence is at least .98 (again, assuming that Joseph Smith was guessing). This is at least 49x the probability of a positive correspondence.

    So when they say that the likelihood ratio is .02, they’re also saying the following: Given that Coe mentioned that there were aggressive snakes in Mayan country, and if we assume that Joseph Smith invented the BoM, then he was at least 49x more likely to mention in the BoM that there WERE NO aggressive snakes than to say that there WERE aggressive snakes.

    I suspect that the authors don’t really believe that, and yet it follows from their likelihood ratio estimate.

    #2. If the selection criterion is heavily biased against negative correspondences, as asserted in #1 above, then why are there so many negative correspondences in VotH (A View of the Hebrews) and MF (Manusdcript Found)? I submit that the authors didn’t apply the same selection criterion to the two controls that they did to the BoM.

    The negative correspondences between Coe and BoM all deal with statements made by Coe that contradict the BoM. (Most of these statements were made outside of The Maya.) In contrast, almost all of the negative correspondences in VotH and MF correspond to something Coe DIDN’T say, or something he said that doesn’t actually contradict VotH or MF.

    Example: VotH negative correspondence 9 — the Maya didn’t worship Jehovah. The problem with this alleged correspondence is that Coe didn’t SAY that the Maya didn’t worship Jehovah. If this is a correspondence for VotH, then why is it not also a correspondence for the BoM? (Likewise, Coe said nothing about Latin, New England dress, coins, wheelbarrows, shovels, the Law of Moses, Hebrew, circumcision, or a priestly tribe, all of which are counted as negatives against MF or VotH.)

    • Canopy,
      I think we have previously answered all or nearly all your questions. Perhaps you have not taken the time to read the entire paper and the comments? I will repeat a few key points.

      Yes, exactly the same criteria were applied to correspondences between View of the Hebrews and The Maya, and between Manuscript Found, and The Maya. So you are mistaken in this point.

      We deal with the issue of correspondences perhaps not being completely independent in the discussion above. This is a valid criticism, and we have done our best to deal with it by grouping the correspondences by topic and eliminating the weaker ones.

      We have also described our methodology in detail above. I regret that you do not find it clear…or perhaps have not read it carefully. We discuss each and every point of evidence and how we weighted each point in the Appendices.

      The commentators thus far have not dealt with the fact that neither of the two 19th century “control” books (Manuscript Found or View of the Hebrews) corresponds at all well with The Maya. Apart from incompetence or prejudice on our part (the authors of the article), what explanation do they have for that fact?

      Finally, even if we were incompetent or prejudiced, the commentators do not deal with the sensitivity analyses. Even when we give evidence for the Book of Mormon the minimum weight and evidence against the Book of Mormon the maximum weight, our conclusion is unchanged: the Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica.

      Bruce

      • Dr. Dale, sorry I missed that you had responded to my comment. Thank you for taking the time.

        “Yes, exactly the same criteria were applied to correspondences between View of the Hebrews and The Maya, and between Manuscript Found, and The Maya. So you are mistaken in this point.”

        The comment above mentions one specific way in which your treatment of VotH and MF differs from your treatment of the BoM. I’ll repeat it:

        — The negative correspondences between Coe and BoM all deal with statements made by Coe that contradict the BoM. (Most of these statements were made outside of The Maya.) In contrast, almost all of the negative correspondences in VotH and MF correspond to something Coe DIDN’T say, or something he said that doesn’t actually contradict VotH or MF. —

        I gave a specific example of this: VotH and BoM both mention Jehovah, while Coe does not. I asked why this is a negative correspondence for VotH, but not a correspondence for the BoM. I’m still hoping you’ll answer.

        I also gave more examples in the second half (below) of the above comment. It would help if you would address the examples so I could know exactly how I’m mistaken.

        “We deal with the issue of correspondences perhaps not being completely independent…”

        If you think I brought up this issue in my comment, then I invite you to reread it.

        “We have also described our methodology in detail above. I regret that you do not find it clear…or perhaps have not read it carefully. We discuss each and every point of evidence and how we weighted each point in the Appendices.”

        Yes, you individually justified your weighting of each point, but that’s not the issue. The problem is that the operational definitions of your terms are so ambiguous that you end up applying them differently to the control books than you do to the BoM. I have given specific examples of this in my comments, and I’m happy to provide more if you’d like.

        “The commentators thus far have not dealt with the fact that neither of the two 19th century “control” books (Manuscript Found or View of the Hebrews) corresponds at all well with The Maya. Apart from incompetence or prejudice on our part (the authors of the article), what explanation do they have for that fact?”

        My comment above, and the second half of it below, deal with that specific issue.

  30. Friends,
    Last week was a demanding one for my wife and me in our missionary service. Both of us are “oldish” and I didn’t have time or much remaining energy to devote to responding to comments.

    This coming week should be less demanding, and I hope to “catch up” somewhat with past comments.

    While I am catching up, perhaps you would care to comment on Correspondence 3.12 as I have laid it out below?

    3.12 Existence of opposites is an essential part of creation
    Coe’s standard: “A relevant Maya term from these ceramics is tz’ak, the idea of ordering. A key part of creation was the establishment of opposites. These are presented in alternative spellings for the tz’ak glyph. … The exquisite Tablet of the 96 Glyphs … lays out a long series of such opposed pairs. It begins with sun and night, followed by possibly life and death, then Venus and moon, wind and water” (p. 251).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 2:11‒15.

    Analysis of correspondence: The words “create” or “creation” are used six times in these five verses in the Book of Mormon, all in the context of opposed pairs (wickedness/holiness, good/bad, life/death, corruption/incorruption, forbidden fruit/tree of life, sweet/bitter and so on). Counting verse 10, the words “oppose” or “opposition” are used four times.

    Here are those verses.

    11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
    12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
    13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
    14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
    15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

    Please recall that the hypothesis we tested in this paper was that the Book of Mormon has “little to do with early Indian cultures” as Dr. Coe has stated repeatedly over several decades. We accepted the facts summarized in his book The Maya as our standard to test the hypothesis, weighting the evidence both for and against that hypothesis according to three different strengths.

    It seems to me that this idea of establishing opposites as an essential part of creation was clearly held by both the Maya and the Book of Mormon peoples. So in this respect at least, the Book of Mormon has something important in common with at least one early Indian culture.

    What do you think?

    Bruce

    • It’s hard to take seriously your claim that “the Book of Mormon has ‘little to do with the early Indian cultures’” is the hypothesis the paper is testing. This statement appears in the very last paragraph of the paper in the concluding statements. This relates to your conclusion based on the analysis but is demonstrably not the hypothesis being tested (notwithstanding the statements in the abstract and opening paragraph). It’s important we don’t confuse the hypothesis being subjected to Bayes’ with the conclusion (or with pre-existing beliefs).

      The most direct statement of the hypothesis in your paper says:

      The hypothesis (the question of interest to us) in this analysis is the factual nature of the Book of Mormon. The question of interest is: “Is the Book of Mormon a work of fiction, or is it a factual, historical document according to the cumulative, relevant evidence summarized in The Maya?”

      I will quibble a little bit with the second sentence (above) because it is not an exhaustive converse hypothesis since the Book of Mormon could be a factual book set in a location other than Mesoamerica. But I think the first sentence alludes to an appropriate dichotomy occurring many times throughout the paper where you set up a fact or fiction choice for the Book of Mormon that doesn’t specify a location. For instance:

      Pieces of evidence in favor of the hypothesis, that is, that the Book of Mormon is false…

      and

      Points of evidence in favor of the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon (called the converse hypothesis)…

      This hypothesis/converse hypothesis IS exhaustive (putting aside for now the possibility it could be a mixture of fact and fiction). I think the paper got off to a good start as far as this issue is concerned. The problem comes when the hypothesis gets reduced from “the Book of Mormon is false” to “Joseph made it up.” And the converse hypothesis gets reduced from “the Book of Mormon is factual” to “the Book of Mormon is factual and occurred in Mesoamerica.” The hypothesis and converse hypothesis tested are subsets of the appropriate, exhaustive ones identified earlier in the paper and therefore not exhaustive in and of themselves.

      Returning now to the claim that “the Book of Mormon has little to do with early Indian cultures” is the hypothesis being tested, I ask: What is the converse hypothesis? Where do you identify the converse hypothesis in the paper? Why are there two sets of hypotheses/converse hypotheses in the paper?

      I realize you would rather discuss the merits of the particular claims made in the paper, and frankly, so would I. I am not as antagonistic to the truth claims of the Book of Mormon as I have surely come across as (my fault completely). But I think it’s appropriate to discuss methodology since so much of the paper hangs on how it has been applied.

    • I recall this being brought up previously. My comment then, from May 12th:

      Concern 1: The skeptical prior is overcome automatically by simply finding and adding correspondences. The approach taken inevitably overcomes an arbitrarily determined likelihood that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

      Given your methodology and the assigned likelihood ratios, if you were to assign all 131 of the correspondences the weakest probability it was based on knowledge rather than a guess (0.5 or a 1 in 2 likelihood), one only needs to propose a small handful of weak correspondences to overcome what you present as a strong skeptical prior. As you pointed out in your section on sensitivity analysis, that number appeared to be 17.

      Concern 2: The correspondences selected to achieve the results did not need to demonstrate actual correspondence to be included.

      The paper does little if anything to demonstrate the methods for identifying the criteria derived from The Maya for each correspondence and stating them in a way that could be used to determine if the Book of Mormon contains an objectively mapped corollary to be evaluated. I’ve noted this elsewhere in these comments, but since 1.1 is chronologically first in your paper it’s convenient to start with it when pointing to examples. In that example, the quote from Coe described Maya society as being formed into city-states without a centralized government over the whole of the Mayan people. It describes the approximate geography of the city-state polities as approximately the distance a person could travel in a day. These criteria, which seem objectively uncontentious if stated as such, aren’t what you used to compare the Book of Mormon with The Maya. Instead, you chose to focus on the absence of a single word being used in reference to the Nephites, “Nation”. Your methodology did not require the demonstration of actual correspondence between the source material and the BoM that maps in a objective manner. I’d argue it appears to fail on the terms you proposed, where the use of, “Nephites”, “Lamanites”, “the people of the Nephites” and other language used in the Book of Mormon serve the same purpose as would the use of, “nation.”

      And that was determined to have a 1 in 50 chance Joseph Smith could have guessed it correctly, while it seems stepping back shows the Book of Mormon got it wrong rather than included an improbable guess.

      Concern 3: The methodology constrains what Coe described as characteristics that applied to the Maya to things you believe serve as hits or misses.

      Using your chosen example above, 3.12 Existence of opposites, could be discussed under concern 2 above, noting that dualism generically is found in most cultural creation myths and used to explain the universe for obvious reasons. Night/day, darkness/light, sun/moon, birth/death, growth/decay, summer/winter, planting/harvest, action/reaction, Yin/Yang, inhale/exhale, creation/destruction – human societies find paired opposites inherent in creation and have created narrative mythologies to explain them across continents and millennia. Eastern religions have these cycles deeply embedded in them. And its part of the Hebrew creation mythology that God the creator ordered the heavens and the earth, with a greater light ruling the day and a lesser light ruling the night, male and female created He his living creations. Cosmic dualism, or the idea that there is a war between good and evil, is also embedded in post-exilic teachings and was behind Cyrus the Great liberating the captive Hebrews when the Persians concurred the Babylonians. As a Zoroastrian, his concern was with good combating evil at cosmic scales. Yet what the Maya tz’ak describes is more of a two-sides required to have a coin concept. Of the items listed in 2 Nephi by the speaker, Lehi (a pre-exilic Hebrew if one accepts the book as history), the examples are philosophical concepts. Not natural pairings as listed in the excerpt from The Maya.

      This raises multiple questions, not least of which is if it really deserves to be considered a “hit”? It’s inclusion as such is entirely contingent on your interpretation of it being one. And as noted in concern 1, accumulating only a handful of supposed hits no matter how tenuous would overcome the skeptical prior. If the methodology for determining something is a hit is essentially subjective, where does that leave the paper?

    • Hi Bruce,

      The Book of Mormon verses you cite speak of the concept of opposition (not opposites). In context, what it is saying is that to bring to pass the purposes of their monotheistic God, there needs to be tension between things—good and bad, wickedness or holiness, sin and righteousness, happiness and misery. If this tension wasn’t there, all things would “compound into one” and be “as dead, having no life neither death.”

      For the Maya, opposites have to do with cause and effect rather than enduring tension. Just as the Book of Mormon lists several things that are in opposition, The Maya lists several things from a glyph that are opposites. Some of them are obvious: sun and night, life and death, lady and lord. Other opposites are more obscure: Venus and moon, wind and water, green growth and harvested crops, sky and earth, cloud and rain, stingray spine and blood.

      If one generalizes these two concepts to the point they are a match, is there any religion that wouldn’t be a match, too? If opposition in the Book of Mormon is the same thing as opposites in The Maya, isn’t it also the same thing as Yin and Yang in Eastern religion, order and chaos in Zoroastrianism, the unity of opposites in ancient Greek philosophy, the light side and dark side of the force in Star Wars, the proletariat and the bourgeoise in Marxism, etc.?

      While it might be fair to say that Book of Mormon opposition and The Maya opposites have something to do with each other, the correlation is superficial and was cherry-picked from a section of The Maya on religion that depicts a religion that does in fact have little to do with the protestant Christianity described in the Book of Mormon.

      To do a reasonable Bayesian analysis on this point, all of the similarities and differences between Mayan religion and the Book of Mormon religion would need to be considered. An analysis in aggregate would show that Coe was right—they have little to do with each other.

      • No, Billy, Jared and Honorentheos. You are misdirected in your own claims and just flat wrong in your interpretation of our paper’s claims.

        You are trying, again, as many others have done previously, to reframe the purpose of our paper and therefore the terms of this discussion incorrectly and inaccurately. I hope not also “dishonestly”. I hope that adverb does not apply here.

        I have repeated this statement many times in our discussion. The task we set for ourselves in writing this paper was to compare the facts about Mesoamerica as summarized in Coe’s book with fact claims of the Book of Mormon, taking Coe’s book as the standard of “truth” about ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures. We said so at the beginning of our paper and all the way through it.

        Coe himself has said and written multiple times that the Book of Mormon has “little to do with ancient American Indian cultures”, and that “99% of the facts claimed in the Book of Mormon are false”.

        So we set out to test Coe’s statements. We read Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon carefully multiple times to try to identify ALL of the facts stated in Coe’s book with comparable facts stated in the Book of Mormon, i.e., those facts that CAN be compared.

        Where one or both books are silent in a given fact area, it is logically impossible to make any comparison. We don’t know enough to make such a comparison. It is dishonest and unscientific to propose that since Book A says something specific about a particular fact area, that Book B must be false because it says nothing about that fact area…and vice versa.

        Brandt pointed out that the Popul Vuh says nothing about the nixtamalization process. Coe’s book does. So does that mean that the Popul Vuh should be tossed out as a false book? Obviously not.

        We found many, many fact claims in the Book of Mormon that correspond positively to facts summarized in Coe’s book plus a few negative correspondences. The two control books give some such positive correspondences, and many more negative ones.

        We did not ever say or imply that the Book of Mormon and Coe’s book contained facts or practices that had no counterpart in ancient history, as Honorentheos and Jared are particularly inclined to claim or suggest on our behalf.

        When you think about it, however, the fact that the Book of Mormon does correspond to many ancient practices is evidence in its favor. The author(s) of the Book of Mormon guessed all this stuff. Right.

        We have set forth in the paper the qualifications we have assumed for the author(s). If someone wants to postulate that the author of the Book of Mormon had a first rate library of classical literature, he is free to do so. That would certainly help explain the poverty of Joseph Smith’s family…they were feeding his reading addiction. 🙂 Again, right.

        But having a first rate library of classical literature would not do anything to explain the complete lack of information about the Maya area prior to 1840…as Dr. Coe has obligingly confirmed.

        Nor did we claim, as Billy strongly implies, that the Book of Mormon religion and the Maya religion are going to correspond in all points.

        Billy, to re-repeat myself, we did not set out to compare the religion set forth in the Book of Mormon with the Maya religion. We set out to compare the fact claims of the Book of Mormon with corresponding facts in Coe’s book when both books say something affirmative about a given fact area.

        For example, there are many Christian religions, with widely varying practices and beliefs. But all of them can plausibly claim to trace their roots to a certain itinerant Jewish preacher from Galilee who lived about 2000 years ago. They all claim to be Christians.

        Later today I will offer another point of evidence, and let’s see again if we can keep the discussion on track. This point of evidence concerns a certain method of defensive warfare practiced among the Maya…and the Book of Mormon peoples.

        Finally, let me respond directly to Billy’s and Honorentheos’ responses to my previous point of evidence regarding the Maya belief in paired opposites as an essential part of creation.

        Billy, you can’t have “opposition” without opposites. And there are many, many opposites that might be paired. This pairing of opposites is clearly part of the Maya creation story and in the Book of Mormon.

        All of the details need not be identical. That was not the task we set for our analysis. We required that the correspondence be specific, detailed and unusual. It is. But maybe those words “creation” and “opposition” don’t mean what I think they mean, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya. 🙂

        Honorentheos, vide supra. The fact that many ancient belief systems consisted of ying and yang pairs or their equivalents is another mark in favor of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. We never said that the Book of Mormon was unique… you apparently want to claim that…

        • Hi Bruce,

          Rather than a library, it’s been suggested the only book needed would be a Bible. You or Brian, I forget which, were quick to claim the Bible would need to prove itself against the Maya, which showed poor recognition of the opposing argument. It appears such poor understanding continues to plague your attempt to defend the overwhelming counter evidence against the BoM being factual which I believe has been settled on as the premise of the paper now.

          Correspondence after correspondence has been shown to be far weaker or contradictory to the likelihood the BoM is factual. Gaps in your approach that needed filled have been met with dismissal as being out of the scope of your paper, while perfectly sound points showing missing counter correspondences that are misses are also dismissed as not being correspondences. The stasticial methods employed and their reasonable interpretation have been shown faulty to the point describing there flaws as fatal seems justifiable.

          Were the honest intent of the paper tonise Baysian inference to sort out the strength of evidence for or against honestly defined hypothesizes I believe these criticisms would be met with acknowledgement of their effect on the purported results.

          But it seems the paper best modeled how the author perceives the strength of the evidences, against which no criticism of the paper could be well received as that is a subject well outside the reach of scrutiny.

          What then is the point of this ongoing discussion?

  31. It would be nice if we had semi-big papers about small subjects, rather than trying to eat the whole elephant in one go. My main critiques:

    1.) Why is this method (the statistics and all the underlying bits) valid in this context? I see mostly nothing to establish this rather basic question, other than a handful of footnotes.

    2.) The language is hardly neutral. This isn’t just about sounding “scientific”, it’s about being careful with how strongly you present your case. Because everyone has a right to be very skeptical about “big” results, or “small” results, or any results. As such, a huge measure of humility would be nice.

    3.) Very sloppy selection of “correspondences” to test. And, there is no real defense of those that are made. You could do a whole paper about just one of these. In fact, that would be really nice if it was actually exhaustive.

    4.) The authors continually re-state things they’ve said before. While I’m getting older, my brain still remembers stuff I read (mostly…).

    How often has someone done this in the past with other books? How about other religious books? How about books of disputed authorship and/or provenance? Are there any similar studies that rigorously concluded the likelihood of authorship? Certainly there are plenty of things to test in similarly contentious circumstances. We can even control by using known frauds in some situations.

    There should be a trail of papers several miles wide that lead up to an endeavor like this. The number of references is paltry compared to the magnitude of the claims.

    • Andrew,
      Let me see if I can respond directly to some of your comments.

      1) Yes, we have had to repeat ourselves often in this thread because many of the commentators have neglected to read our paper before commenting on it. I am not sure yet if you are in that group. Perhaps you will tell us directly in your next post whether or not you have read the whole paper and the Appendices.

      2) There is indeed a trail of papers “several miles wide” that has led up to our paper. Dr. Coe’s book The Maya is a very well-written and accessible metastudy which relies on hundreds of scholarly papers. I am sure, joined side to side, these papers are at least several miles wide. We analyzed the facts from Coe’s book as Coe has distilled them from hundreds of papers and compared them with the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. We find a very high level of positive correspondences between the facts in Coe’s book and the fact claims of the Book of Mormon.

      3) The paper describes how the 131 positive correspondences were found and Appendix A defends/justifies those choices. What, specifically, do you think is inadequate about our explanation or methods?

      4) This is my answer to your comment on “sloppy selection” of correspondences. I am now offering selected correspondences one by one for discussion by commentators. You are invited to join that discussion so you can tell me in detail why any particular correspondence is sloppy or poorly justified.

      5) Many good studies have been done discussing various specific points of the evidence relative to the Book of Mormon. But more comprehensive studies of the breadth of evidence were lacking…at least as I see it. I thought this was an important lack, and decided to do something about it. Yes, it has indeed been quite an “elephant to chew” as you state correctly above.

      6) So about 3 years ago I started researching and writing this paper to compare the Book of Mormon and a metastudy by a recognized Mayanist, Dr. Coe. Dr. Coe is no friend of the Book of Mormon, so no one can claim that he slanted his book to favor the Book of Mormon.

      7) Over the decades, Dr. Coe has hardly been neutral in his language regarding the Book of Mormon. Since you apparently dislike repetition, I will not repeat some of the very negative things Dr. Coe has said about the Book of Mormon. Had Coe been more circumspect in his language, and had he read the Book of Mormon more than once, and more recently than 45 years ago, I might have been more nuanced in my language.

      8) But Dr. Coe knows almost nothing about the Book of Mormon. For example, in the podcasts, he was apparently surprised to find that there were wars in the Book of Mormon. In fact, there is nearly constant warfare in the Book of Mormon, as he points out was a feature of life among the Maya who were “obsessed with war” in Coe’s words.

      9) Dr. Coe failed in his scholarly duty to treat the Book of Mormon seriously. If you are going to claim to be a scholar, then you need to act like a responsible scholar. When I review a scholarly paper or book within my field, I read it at least three times…then I write my review.

      10) Dr. Coe has used strong language to state his opinion that the Book of Mormon is false, based on a totally inadequate scholarly effort. So I feel more than justified to use equally strong language to push back and state that, based on the facts summarized in his book, that the Book of Mormon has a very great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures–contrary to what Coe has both written and said.

      I trust this is direct and specific enough.

      Bruce

  32. Pingback: Análisis estadísticos demuestran que el Libro de Mormón no es ficción

  33. I’m having fun with this. It’s like watching a good basketball game. Someone goes in to score a point and the ball gets blocked. Then it gets thrown to the other side of the court and the same thing. Can’t anyone prove once and for all whether the Book of Mormon is authentic or not? This has been going on since, like, forever.

    It makes me wonder, could it be that it was intentionally set up this way? Perhaps what the Book of Mormon teaches us really is true: “For it must needs be, that there is opposition in all things….” “…and they are free to choose….” “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith….” “…I would exhort you that ye would ask God…he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I suppose, then, that no one will ever be able to prove it one way or another. It seems to always go back to faith. Do I have faith in the analysts’ data, methods, statistics, logic, and judgments, whether pro or con? Or do I have faith in God’s mercy to provide us with a guidebook for spiritual awakening, personal growth, and goodness? Do I want to believe, or not?

    Anyhow, I still like to keep score at home. By my last count, the game is still tied. Rats! I still have to depend on faith and decide for myself. So, I’m still free to choose?

  34. One thing I failed to mention in last night’s post. King Benjamin and Mosiah his son meet another important criterion of proper leadership set forth as the standard among the Zinacanteco Maya, whose community renewal rituals are briefly described by Dr. Coe. Both Benjamin and Mosiah are truly servants of the people. They do not enrich themselves while in the service of their people. They leave their offices rich only in the honor and respect they have earned as servants who have carried a burden (or “cargo”) in behalf of their people. (See Mosiah 2: 12-16; 6:7 and 29:40). This is so distinct from the normal behavior of community leaders as to warrant mention by both Coe and the Book of Mormon.

    • I wrote my analysis before I saw this post. I think this is a fair point and is the closest thing to a legitimately unusual parallel on this point of correspondence.

    • I think you’re taking a cynical view that is unwarranted. These ideas are not as distinct as you might expect and actually go back at least 500 years. In the wake of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” several Christian writers countered with “handbooks” of their own. Erasmus’ “Education of a Christian Prince” sets out principles that jibe very well with the behavior of Benjamin and Mosiah. In contrast, Noah very well represents the anti-Erasmian ideal. Tyndale also got into the act with “The Duty of a Christian Man and How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern.” Here are a few passages that represent the type of advice they give for being a good king.

      Tyndale: “If kings would be Christian in deed and not only name, then let them give themselves altogether to the wealth of their realms, following the example of Christ. Let them remember that the people are God’s, and not theirs – indeed, they are Christ’s inheritance and possession, bought with his blood. The most despised person in his realm is still the king’s brother, a fellowmember with him, and equal with him in the kingdom of God and of Christ. Let him therefore not think himself too good to render service to his people, or seek anything other in them than a father seeks in his children, indeed, than Christ sought in us. The king, in the temporal regiment, stands in the place of God, and represents God himself, and is better than his subjects,
      without compare. Yet let him put that off, and become a brother, doing and leaving undone all things with regard to the commonwealth, so that all men may see that he seeks nothing but the profit of his subjects.”

      From Erasmus: “[The prince] should rule without expense if he possibly can. The position of the prince is too high to be a mercenary one; and besides, a good prince has all that his loving subjects possess. There were many pagans who took home with them only glory as a result of their public activities which they had honorably discharged. There were one or two (for example, Fabius Maximus and Antoninus Pius) who spurned even this. How much more should a Christian prince be content with a clear conscience, especially since he is in the service of Him who amply rewards every good deed! There are certain ones in the circles of princes who do nothing else except extort as much as possible from the people on every new pretext they can find and then believe that they have properly served the interests of their princes, as if they were the open enemies of their subjects. But whoever is willing to hearken to such men, should know that he by no means comes under the title of “prince”!

      A prince should studiously endeavor to minimize his demands on the people. The most desirable way of increasing the revenue is to cut off the worse than useless extravagances, to abolish the idle ministries, to avoid wars and long travels, which are very like wars [in their bad effects], to suppress graft among the office holders, and to be interested in the proper administration of the kingdom rather than in the extension of its boundaries. But if the prince is going to measure the amount of taxes by his greed or ambitions, what bounds or limits will there be to his demands?”

  35. 24) Important to trace one’s genealogy to a prominent ancestor
    The Greeks wanted to trace their genealogy to one of the gods. The Romans wanted to trace their ancestry to the mythical founders and heroes.
    25) Genealogies kept very carefully by the priests
    What about the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 or in 1 Chronicles 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9 among others?
    26) Homosexuality probably practiced
    Common in antiquity
    27) Arcane sacred or prestige language
    Medieval Latin and Coptic as mentioned by Coe
    28) Practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities
    This was very common in the ancient world. The city of Ilium, for example, was built on the cite of Troy which had been destroyed and rebuilt many times over several centuries.
    29) World divided into four quarters or quadrants
    Isaiah 11:12, Ezekiel 7:2
    30) Maya fascinated by ancient Olmec culture
    Pliny and Livy tell of a Greek King Numa who buried 12 volumes of scripture with 12 volumes of philosophy. They were discovered 400 years later by Romans when a rainstorm exposed them. Many people read them and became familiar with them, but finally the Senate ordered them to be burned because their contents were not fit to be made public. So here we have one great culture finding 24 volumes of scripture/philosophy left behind by another great culture. And ultimately, they were apparently determined to be too dangerous, so they were destroyed. This seems like the same predicament the Nephites were in when they found the 24 Jaredite plates containing, among other things, a record of secret combinations. Alma was concerned that these things not be made known to the people.
    31) Lineage histories dominate the written records
    The OT is a lineage history. Many Greco-Roman epics are lineage histories.

    I think the longer we engage in this exercise the more it becomes apparent that the Book of Mormon resembles classical antiquity and the Bible and not Mesoamerica. But as I’ve said before, I’m confident Joseph was unable to have done this. However, I think it’s only fair we explore whether somebody else could have.

    • Jared:

      You stated:

      I think the longer we engage in this exercise the more it becomes apparent that the Book of Mormon resembles classical antiquity and the Bible and not Mesoamerica.

      I have no expertise in statistics. I use different methodologies. However, one that I try to avoid is parallelomania, where parallel lists become the basis of the analysis. In this case, you have a long parallel list, but the conclusion you draw that the Book of Mormon more resembles classical antiquity is the result of the very methodological problem you are suggesting for the article. It is a list based on a selected set which generates the parallels rather than discovers them. I realize that I am not proposing the results of a more rigorous examination here, but it is necessarily a much longer argument that can fit in the comments. I have written about it, so it is available.

      At this point, I simply want to clarify that your conclusion does not flow from the data you present, but only from the way in which it was presented. The applicability of the statistical examination in the paper is for someone else to examine. Since your conclusion is about the Book of Mormon, and not the article, the clarification is important.

      • Brant, let me provide a little more insight into my approach to this paper. I share your concerns about parallelomania. However, I am not trying to make a case for any specific origin of the Book of Mormon. I am simply pointing out that in a Bayesian analysis we have to consider all possible naturalistic explanations in our counter-hypothesis in order to have an exhaustive data set. I have chosen an explanation that I think covers many of the proposed correspondences, but even then we are still not close to exhaustion.

        The problem with any proposed parallel is determining how strong it really is. We can only determine its true strength by comparing it against the weight of all other possibilities combined. This is the very essence of exhaustion, but is something that is impractical to do. The Dales have chosen one possible explanation for comparison, but it is one that I personally feel is very week. Notwithstanding the fact that many people have reached the conclusion that Joseph made it all up, I find that explanation very unlikely for a host of reasons.

        With my explanations we now have three data sets to compare. (Again, this isn’t exhaustive but at least we are not just comparing against a single weak data set.) I think it’s clear that the bible/classical scholar scenario I’ve presented is more convincing than the Maya parallels (and pay particular attention to this last phrase) as within the parameters set by this paper. In making this comparison I am not engaging in parallelomania. I didn’t choose the points of comparison nor am I attempting to prove a particular position. Instead, I am showing the relative weakness of the position defended by the Dales. I’m making a relative case based on the contents of this paper, not an absolute case about the origin of the Book of Mormon. With that in mind I think my conclusion does flow from my data.

        • Your conclusion about the paper might flow from the data. That wasn’t my objection. Your conclusion was about the Book of Mormon, not the article. That was my issue. There is a difference between saying that the paper doesn’t demonstrate its case and suggesting that the Book of Mormon is best explained by European history.

          • I am not saying the Book of Mormon is best explained by European history. I am saying that, in using the criteria put forth by the paper, it represents a better explanation. There may very well be better explanations than the one I’ve presented, which would actually support my point. My entire exercise has been to show that the paper does not test against an exhaustive competing data set, and that when the paper’s alternative hypothesis is expanded (from Joseph to Joseph + others) it turns out not to be as strong as advertised.

          • You may have missed a subtle, but crucially important component of a proper Bayes’ analysis. The two competing hypotheses must be exhaustive, meaning that one or the other must be true. To say that either the Book of Mormon is an actual ancient record OR Joseph Smith made it up is not exhaustive. Therefore, the analysis using the probability equations in the paper is invalid. The European hypothesis simply fleshes out the idea that there is much more to be considered than the incomplete dichotomy in the paper.

        • Hi Jared:
          It would sure be nice not to have to make this particular point again…but I guess I must do so because it seems to be forgotten…again. 🙂 \

          All we attempted to do in this paper was to test Dr. Coe’s claim that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures. We used fact statements in his book to test his claim.

          Anyone can read Appendix A on their own and decide if the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures…or if it does.

          We are not suggesting that the fact claims of the Book of Mormon, or those of The Maya, are unique and have never been experienced in all of human history. We never made such a claim in the article or any of our comments.

          So please don’t set that as the standard by which to judge this article, because that is not what we claim. Just decide for yourself whether the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures…or if it does.

          Obviously, other conclusions follow rather forcefully if the Book of Mormon does indeed have a lot to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures, as we believe our article demonstrates.

          Bruce

          • I’m all for taking facts from Dr. Coe’s book and showing plausible connections to the Book of Mormon. I think the vast majority of the items you brought up are well thought out, plausible similarities. Had you stopped there, we would likely just be discussing a handful of the controversial claims. By taking the extra step of performing a Bayesian analysis, though, I think you’ve invited criticisms that otherwise wouldn’t be there. If you’re going to use Bayes’ you’ve got to play by a strict set of rules. One of these rules is that the possibilities under comparison be exhaustive. This is the basis of my criticism.

            If you were to strip away the Bayes’ analysis you would have (putting aside the handful of controversial claims for a minute) an instant classic. It would accomplish your stated purpose of refuting the idea that the Book of Mormon (necessarily) has nothing to do with indigenous American cultures. And it would close the mouths of those attacking it based on shortcomings in applying this particular method. Sometimes less is more.

  36. I had so much fun going through Section 1 of Appendix A, I thought I would go through Section 2. Remember, what I am trying to show is that a proper Bayesian analysis needs to be exhaustive, meaning that all possible explanations of the alternative hypothesis need to be considered. In addition to the possibility that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon we also need to consider the possibility it was written by someone well-educated in the Bible and the ancient classics. As such, here is a look at Section 2 from that perspective.

    1) Possible ancient origin of Mesoamerican cultures
    Soon after the discovery of the New World Europeans began speculating about the origin of the indigenous Americans. Among the many ideas were 1) they came from Asia after the Tower of Babel, and 2) they were lost tribes of Israel that sailed across the sea. Trans-Atlantic, trans-Indian/Pacific, and trans-Pacific crossings were all theorized. So, all the migration scenarios described in the Book of Mormon were being discussed hundreds of years before Joseph Smith.
    2) Active interchange of ideas and things among the elite
    The Book of Mormon ideas in the verses cited are the types of information passed on by Ancient Greco-Roman writers such as Homer, Virgil and Livy. These stories were well known by the elites.
    3) Foreign brides for elites
    Cleopatra, Solomon (1 Kings 11:1)
    4) Slavery practiced
    Slavery was ubiquitous in the ancient Greco-Roman world
    5) Different languages found in pockets
    The classical world was dominated by Latin and Greek, but had tribal languages existing in many places including pockets in the Italian peninsula.
    6) In their creation stories, a great flood caused by human wickedness
    The Lehites had the Old Testament. Thus, they had the story of Noah. Is it possible Joseph (or anybody, for that matter) didn’t know the flood story?
    7) Possible settlement of the Americas by seafarers
    See number 1
    8) Steep decline and disappearance of an ancient culture a few hundred years BC
    At the macro level Greco-Roman history is ultimately about the rise and fall of great civilizations. Most historians place the fall of Rome in the 5th Century, less than 100 years after the Nephites were destroyed. The Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC, close to the time of the destruction of the Jaredites.
    9) Strong class distinctions based on noble birth, wealth and specialized learning
    Undoubtedly true in classical antiquity
    10) Sacrifice of children and others to Maya gods
    In addition to the biblical references, the Romans were aware of several cultures such as the Phoenicians and Celts who practiced human sacrifice, including children.
    11) Multiple correspondences with Egyptian culture and concepts
    Egypt plays a prominent part in the OT. We should expect a people descending from Egypt to retain Egyptian culture and concepts.
    12) Mobile populations, founding new cities
    The Greeks were prolific city founders, eventually inhabiting and controlling well over a thousand cities.
    13) Menial workers, extreme inequality, ignorance and oppression
    Undoubtedly a feature of ancient Rome
    14) Marketplaces exist
    Can any civilization be considered a civilization without marketplaces? These were crucial, of course, to the ancient world.
    15) People driven from their homes wander searching for a new home
    You already mention the Aeneid which tells of seafaring peoples founding a new city. And I already mentioned the prolific Greek city founders.
    16) Wasteful architectural extravagance
    1 Kings 7
    17) Large northward migrations specifically mentioned
    After the city of Rome was well established the Roman peoples migrated north, eventually absorbing the Etruscans.
    18) Constant migrations
    See numbers 12, 15, and 17.
    19) Cities and lands named after founder
    Romulus: Rome; Alexander the Great: Alexandria
    20) Maya say their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea
    See number 1.
    21) Their sacred writing has poetic parallelisms, repetitions
    I’m a big fan of Donald Parry’s version of the Book of Mormon. It’s obvious that the Book of Mormon was meant to have these various poetic forms. It had to have been written by someone accomplished in poetry. However, that could mean someone who was familiar with the poetic forms in the Bible and in ancient epic poetry. Poetry has been around for a very long time and extant poems outnumber prose forms in the earliest Greek literature.
    22) Corn first among grains
    Corn is only specifically mentioned in the land of Nephi-Lehi for a short time (Mosiah 7 & 9). Barley also occurs there, and is further mentioned in Alma 11:7,15 as being a standard measure for commerce. It seems barley had pre-eminence over corn. The generic word “grain” appears a whopping 28 times, potentially swamping out the significance of either corn or barley.
    23) Multiple wives/concubines especially among the rich
    Abraham, Solomon, David etc. as mentioned.

  37. Bruce and Brian,

    I wonder if you could respond to this criticism brought up by the author at ldsphilosopher.com. I’m not a stats guy, but this really clicks for me in a common-sense kind of way. I have to think it’s something you two would have considered in writing your paper, so I’m curious as to why it was disregarded:

    “In short, all this Bayesian analysis measures is the relative likelihood of finding correspondences in two stories versus finding explicit contradictions. And it turns out to be far more likely to find correspondences than contradictions. My considered opinion is that this is about the only thing the study actually measured (successfully). And this is especially true as, on top of this, there was an additional double standard: contradictions had to be explicit in the text, but correspondences did not. They could take only “veiled” correspondences and include them in the analysis (consider the homosexuality example). So in addition to the natural propensity for correspondences between two texts to be easier to identify than direct contradictions, the authors artificially tilt the ratio even more.”

    http://www.ldsphilosopher.com/a-response-to-the-bayesian-analysis-of-book-of-mormon-historicity/

    Best,

    Jules

  38. “I know of no possible model or contemporary practice in Joseph Smith’s day that he could have reasonably drawn upon to describe King Benjamin’s gathering of his people.”

    For this item, are you considering only “contemporary practice[s] in Joseph Smith’s day” as possible sources for him to draw upon?

    Be that as it may, I see a few points in the Coe/BoM comparison that some may consider to lead to less than “a very strong fit”.

    For example – using only your post as a source of comparison (I don’t have Coe’s book):

    1. BoM, but not Coe, refers to “speaking (chanting) in unison”
    2. Coe, but not the BoM, refers to “renewal of the universe …”
    3. BoM, but not Coe, refers to “receiv[ing] a new name as part of the renewal”
    4. BoM, but not Coe, refers to “community-wide, covenant-making with God”

  39. My thanks to all those who are weighing in on the article. Here is another correspondence between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon that I would like to offer for your consideration. Evaluating this one requires spending some time with Mosiah Chapters 1-6 in the Book of Mormon.

    Ritual for the renewal of the community, including transfer of sacred objects.

    Coe’s standard: “The entire religious drama is directed toward renewal of the universe and of the community, and ends with the transfer of the sacred objects of office to a new set of cargo-holders” (p. 295).

    Book of Mormon standard: See Mosiah Chapters 1‒6.

    Analysis of the correspondence: By reading these six chapters carefully we observe:
    • King Benjamin’s gathering of his community to the temple for a “religious drama” including speaking (chanting) in unison,
    • complete with community-wide, covenant-making with God,
    • by which the community was renewed (and received a new name as part of the renewal)
    • at the same time King Benjamin transferred his kingly office to his son Mosiah, the new cargo holder,
    • along with multiple sacred objects.

    Taken together, the ritual that unfolds in Mosiah chapters 1-6 is a very strong fit with Coe’s standard for a ritual renewing of the community. I know of no possible model or contemporary practice in Joseph Smith’s day that he could have reasonably drawn upon to describe King Benjamin’s gathering of his people.

    Bruce

    • 2 Kings 11 describes an event that has many of the elements you have identified including the coronation of a king (v. 12) at a public gathering (v.14), the people speaking in unison (v. 12), and community-wide covenant making with God (v. 17). The transfer of royal regalia was very common in antiquity and is still practiced in England. Examples of regal items transferred in coronation ceremonies include swords, orbs (globus cruciger), scripture, and many other religious and secular symbols.

      The events in Mosiah 1-6 look a lot like biblical events mixed with medieval practices. I would say this is a much closer match to the Book of Mormon then anything found among the Maya.

    • A few thoughts on this:

      The Maya
      The quote from The Maya is from Chapter 10, “The Enduring Maya.” This chapter describes what the Maya is like today, nearly 500 years after the initial conquest began. It says, “the various Maya groups have clearly assimilated and altered many disparate foreign, and even threatening, elements to fit their own cultural patterns inherited from the pre-Conquest era.”

      The specific quote is talking about the contemporary religious traditions of the Tsotsil Maya of Zinacantan. They associate the sun with “Our Holy Father” and with Jesus, and the moon with the Virgin Mary. They also worship their ancestors, the earth itself, and the Catholic saints. They have a complicated religious hierarchy consisting of 61 distinct positions on four levels occupied by about 250 “cargo holders.” Each position has a sacred religious object which is kept by the person holding the office during the one-year term that he holds it. They have an abiding concern with rank, and each office has a financial burden you have to pay while holding the office—as you rise in the hierarchy your burden increases, so that if you make it to the top you “can expect to retire a poor but highly honored individual.”

      Every January they have large celebrations in honor of (the Catholic Saint) St. Sebastian, where they have dramatized ceremonies where they impersonate monkeys, jaguars, “blackmen”, and Spaniards. The rituals are directed towards renewal of the universe and the community, and end with the transfer of the sacred objects of office to the new office holders.

      King Benjamin
      King Benjamin was a king, and when he got old he had a singular tent revival with his people to announce that he was passing his throne to his son Mosiah, and gave him the plates of brass, plates of Nephi, sword of Laban, and Liahona. When the people gathered they brought the firstlings of their flocks to perform sacrifices according to the law of Moses. The people brought their tents, and King Benjamin erected a tower to speak from. A theme of the speech was that King Benjamin didn’t tax the people, but rather served them. The people entered into a covenant to obey God.

      Analysis
      The Tsotsil Maya of Zincantan have large annual religious gatherings. King Benjamin had a singular gathering. The Tsotsil’s ritual is about the renewal of the universe and the community. King Benjamin’s singular ritual was entering into a covenant to obey God. The Tsotsil’s ritual includes passing on sacred objects associated with each of the 250 positions in the 4 levels of the hierarchy of religious of shamans to the new holder of the objects for the next one-year term. Before the big formal meeting began, Benjamin passed on some sacred objects to his son, who was going to be king for life.

      In short, there are religious gatherings and ceremonies in both the Book of Mormon and in contemporary Mayan life. In that sense, this does count as a something that the Mayans and the Book of Mormon have in common. However, the vast majority of the details between the two ceremonies are different, and there isn’t anything that the Mayas do that can best be explained as being somehow connected to the Book of Mormon. Likewise, none of the details of King Benjamin’s tent revival are uniquely Mayan.

      The few points of similarity are general and superficial, and this doesn’t count as evidence in favor (or against) the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

      Likelihood Ratio: 1.00.

      • Billy Shears wrote: “The Maya
        The quote from The Maya is from Chapter 10, “The Enduring Maya.” This chapter describes what the Maya is like today, nearly 500 years after the initial conquest began. It says, “the various Maya groups have clearly assimilated and altered many disparate foreign, and even threatening, elements to fit their own cultural patterns inherited from the pre-Conquest era.”

        Wow, this is a huge problem for the article. Shouldn’t an error this glaring have been addressed at the peer review level?

        Despite Allen Wyatt’s assurances, I’m having huge doubts this was peer reviewed. How else can you explain something like Billy Shears just discussed?

        • Brad:
          Sorry about your huge doubts, but I can assure you that the paper was peer-reviewed. It took Brian and I months to revise the paper sufficiently to satisfy the reviewers.

          In particular, the reviewers required the “control” study in which we compared Coe’s book with both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. Neither one of those books matched the world of ancient Mesoamerica…but the Book of Mormon did.

          This review was as rigorous a review as I have ever undergone in any of my 300 plus papers and 60 plus patents.

          Yes, it was peer-reviewed.

          Bruce

        • Brad,
          This may end up being a double reply, since my earlier reply to you (written last Wednesday June 12, I think) has apparently gotten lost.

          Let me assure you that the paper was indeed peer-reviewed. I spent about 3-4 months responding to the reviewers’ comments and criticisms before the paper was ready to resubmit.

          In particular, one of the suggestions/criticisms of the reviewers was to do the “control” study, in which we compared both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found with Coe’s book using the same standards and methods we did when comparing the Book of Mormon with Coe’s book. So I read each of them twice, very carefully. Both of those books failed to change the skeptical prior of a billion to one that they did not represent the world of ancient Mesoamerica.

          This was as rigorous a peer review as I have ever experienced in my life as a publishing scholar.

          Bruce

  40. 23) There are captains serving kings
    Correspondence: Many Roman generals served the emperors – Agricola, for example
    24) Political power is exercised by family dynasties
    Correspondence: Many family dynasties in the Roman Empire – Julio-Claudian dynasty, for example
    25) Kings rule over subordinate provincial or territorial rulers, some of noble blood (subkings)
    Correspondence: Common in Roman Empire – Ptolemy of Mauretania, Herod of Judea, for example
    26) “Seating” means accession to political power
    Correspondence: This is a common meaning of the word since the late 16th Century; see “seating” OED 1(d).
    27) Separation of civil and religious authority
    I disagree that there is ever a separation of civil and religious authority among the Nephites. When Alma stepped down, he was replaced as chief judge by an elder of the church. In Alma 50:39 Pahoran takes the oath of office requiring him to “support and maintain the cause of God all his days”. In Helaman 4:14 we see the chief judge, Nephi, preaching and prophesying. In 3 Nephi 3:15 the chief judge, Lachoneus, calls on his people to repent. This relationship between church and state is similar to what is seen in the Old Testament with both judges and kings.
    28) Those of noble birth aspire to power
    Correspondence: Countless figures in Greek and Roman history – Catiline and Julius Caesar, for example
    29) Royal courts imitate their enemies
    Correspondence: The Roman republic was heavily influenced by the Greeks – the republican style of government and pantheon, for example.
    30) Royal courts function as “great households”
    Correspondence: The use of the word “house” instead of “palace” in the Book of Mormon is similar to Genesis 43 where Joseph’s brothers are brought into his “house” for official state business.
    31) Candidates for high office had to possess hidden knowledge
    I am not convinced the Book of Mormon princes were learning hidden knowledge per se. It appears they were learning a priestly language so they could read the brass plates (Mosiah 1:4). This is similar, in some respects, to the Sibylline Books (written in Greek) kept by the Romans.
    32) Abrupt breaks in dynasties
    Correspondence: The Roman emperors had many dynasties, several of which ended by assassination, such as Severus Alexander.
    33) Subservient peoples are said to “possess” the land while ruled by a dominant power
    Correspondence: This is a common use of the word since the 15th Century; see “possess” OED 2(a).

    Now, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to assign probabilities based on my analysis. The reason is that my hypothesis is not exhaustive either. In order to be exhaustive we would need to combine Joseph Smith, my potential author, and every other possible author. Perhaps this could be done with some wild guessing, but I doubt that the results would be meaningful. I think we have to conclude that a Bayesian analysis is not the right tool for this particular job.

    • Jared:
      Please see my response below regarding the purpose of our article.

      I think you may have misinterpreted what we attempted to do in our paper: namely to determine whether the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures as Coe claims…or if it does.

      We think the correspondences between the facts summarized in Coe’s book and the fact claims of the Book of Mormon are many, varied and strong. So we conclude that the Book of Mormon does indeed have a great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

      We make no claim that these correspondences are unique and have never been seen before in human history, as you seem to imply.

      (How Joseph Smith obtained a first rate research library of ancient history, religion and culture in upstate New York in the early 1800s and did such a good job of making correct guesses from those sources and was able to avoid incorrect guesses is another issue… :))

      Bruce

      Bruce

  41. I briefly corresponded on here the week this paper was posted. I wanted to wait for the flurry to die down a little bit to press a few issues (I expect you have regular jobs and families to attend to). My primary concern is the dichotomy that has been set up in this comparison. As you must know, for this type of analysis the comparison need to be exhaustive, meaning that one of the two hypotheses being compared must be true. If the position being defended is that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record, then the other position must include every other possible option for authorship. Instead, you have limited your competing hypothesis solely to Joseph Smith as potential author. In doing so you’ve left out many other possibilities which makes a Bayesian analysis inappropriate.

    As another potential author, consider somebody well-educated in the ancient classics and the bible. He doesn’t have to know much about ancient Mesoamerica, but he is writing a story covering essentially the same time period as the bible and classic antiquity so he incorporates his knowledge of those subjects into the story. Now let’s go through the correspondences and see how likely they might be.

    I’ve gone through the 33 correspondences in the first section of Appendix A and I will look at them here. Remember, our hypothetical author knows the bible and classical antiquity. (As for myself, I don’t claim any special knowledge of the bible or classical antiquity, but I know a little bit and, armed with the Internet, I can almost fool myself into thinking I know something significant.)

    1) Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state
    Correspondence: Ancient Greek poleis, early Ancient Rome
    2) “Capital” or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities
    Correspondence: Athens, Sparta, Rome
    3) Some subordinate city-states shift their allegiance to a different “capital” city
    Correspondence: Italian Peninsula under the early Roman Republic
    4) Complex state institutions
    Correspondence: Many examples – Athens, Rome, for example
    5) Many cities exist
    Correspondence: Many cities in the ancient Mediterranean
    6) City of Laman (Lamanai) “occcupied from earliest times”
    For a city name to be a “bulls-eye” I think we need 1) name, 2) location, and 3) time period to all correspond. The name seems like a plausible hit, but what do we know about location? Time period does not seem to match since the Book of Mormon city of Laman was destroyed in about 34 A.D. while the Mayan Lamanai existed into the post-conquest period. We also don’t know what the “earliest times” means. Does this mean the beginning of the classic period? If so, it would be too late to correspond with the Book of Mormon.
    7) Parts of the land were very densely settled
    Correspondence: Many large cities – Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, for example
    8 ) Large-scale public works
    Correspondence: Ancient Rome – aqueducts, Colosseum, for example
    9) Some rulers live in luxury
    Correspondence: The emperors of the Roman Empire
    10) Elaborate thrones
    Correspondence: 1 Kings 10:18-20
    11) Royalty exists, with attendant palaces, courts and nobles
    Correspondence: The Roman Emperors and their great courts
    12) Royal or elite marriages for political purposes
    Correspondence: This was the norm in ancient Rome – Mark Antony’s marriages, for example
    13) Feasting for political purposes
    Correspondence: Roman public banquets like Saturnalia
    14) Gifts to the king for political advantage
    I see this comparison to The Maya as a stretch. The cited verse in the Book of Mormon simply says that King Benjamin did not seek riches from his people, which I read to mean unfair taxes. There were leaders of ancient Rome, like Cicero (acting as governor of Cilicia) who had a reputation for not taxing the people unfairly.
    15) Political factions organize around a member of the elite
    Correspondence: Roman Civil War involving Julius Caesar and Pompey
    16) Foreigners move in and take over government, often as family dynasties
    Correspondence: Lucius Tarquinius Priscus (a Greek Etruscan) became the fifth king of Rome. His son-in-law was his eventual successor.
    17) City administrative area with bureaucrats and aristocrats
    Correspondence: Roman Forum and surrounding area
    18) Records kept specifically of the reigns of the kings
    Correspondence: Ancient Roman historians – Tacitus, for example
    19) Native leaders incorporated in power structure after subjugation
    Correspondence: Many Roman provinces – Judea after being conquered by Rome in 63 BC, for example
    20) Tribute required of subjects
    Correspondence: The many people conquered by the ancient Romans – Egypt, for example
    21) Limited number of important patrilineages
    Correspondence: Many examples of aristocracies in ancient Greece and Rome – Roman Senate, for example
    22) King and “king elect”
    Correspondence: Roman Emperor Valerian and his son Gallienus

    I’m almost out of available characters so I’ll…

  42. Here’s a well-thought-out review of this paper by a believing member summarizing many of the same issues brought up by critics perhaps more in opposition to the church in general.

    “A Response to the Bayesian Analysis of Book of Mormon Historicity”

    “I want to preface this by saying that I believe that the Book of Mormon is a true historical record, and that of all the potential locations, it likely took place in Central America. So I agree with the conclusions of the authors. But I do not agree with how they arrived at these conclusions. In this article, I explore some reasons why.”

    http://www.ldsphilosopher.com/a-response-to-the-bayesian-analysis-of-book-of-mormon-historicity/

  43. Pingback: A Response to the Bayesian Analysis of Book of Mormon Historicity - ldsphilosopher

  44. I enjoyed the article. Recently I visited the Cartagena gold museum and they stated the civilization was approximately 600bc.to 400 ad.and a ceremonial mask was approximately 2000 B.C. It was most interesting.

    • Hi Lynn:
      Yes, that is a wonderful museum. I have been there myself. I especially enjoyed all the “tumbaga”, the copper-gold (with a bit of silver) alloy that is the likely material on which the Book of Mormon plates were written.
      Bruce

  45. >>> Eric MacRae on June 1, 2019 at 10:45 am said:
    >>> Regarding the DNA issue I would drop from 50 to 10. From national geographic they publish an article saying that scientists found 1/3 of Native Americans to be from Europe/Mediterranian.

    >>> https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

    “Based on the arm bone of a 24,000-year-old Siberian youth, the research could uncover new origins for America’s indigenous peoples”

    “DNA from the remains revealed genes found today in western Eurasians in the Middle East and Europe, as well as other aspects unique to Native Americans, but no evidence of any relation to modern East Asians.”

    “This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians…”

    “While the land bridge still formed the gateway to America, the study now portrays Native Americans as a group derived from the meeting of two different populations, one ancestral to East Asians and the other related to western Eurasians”

    “The meeting of those two groups is what formed Native Americans as we know them.”

    —————————————————————

    >>> Eric MacRae on June 1, 2019 at 10:45 am said:
    >>> This increase the likelihood for the Book of Mormon to be authentic.

    So you’re saying, what, that Lehi, etc., somehow ended up in Siberia 24,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before the existence of Israel? How does that work?

    The finding and DNA research show that there was a migration of people from West Asia and possibly Europe to Siberia (Lake Baikal) over 24,000 years ago. It likely took many generations. These people mixed with other people from East Asia sometime in the 10,000 or so years before they migrated to the Americas across Beringia.

    Best,

    Jules

    • Jules,
      For what it worth, I think the DNA evidence for or against the Book of Mormon’s claims is useless, for reasons that I and others have noted. Ugo Perigo in particular has written some very good material on the issues. I have summarized these arguments elsewhere in this very long thread, but I can’t find it now. Happy hunting if you want to look for it. 🙂

      So the proper Bayesian likelihood ratio is probably 1.0–no effect on the conclusions one way or the other.
      Bruce

  46. I thought the article to be extremely well done. I just spent 8 hours reading through the article and comments. The comments were so repetitive. Good lord the comment was repetitive. I am no expert in statistics. My expertise goes to this extent there are lies, damm lies and there is statistics. Regarding the DNA issue I would drop from 50 to 10. From national geographic they publish an article saying that scientists found 1/3 of Native Americans to be from Europe/Mediterranian. This increase the likelihood for the Book of Mormon to be authentic.

    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

    Also DR. Bruce E. Dale I would take on your offer about the Mayan and read it twice than Analyze it with the Book of Mormon. If this offer is still available. Even though I am late into the discussion.

    • Thank you for reading the whole thing, Eric. I think you are one of the few commentators who has actually done so.

      I have studied the DNA issue in some depth. We gave it a weight of 50 in order to give the Book of Mormon the most difficult possible test within the parameters we set.

      In reality, I think the DNA issue actually a 2 at best. There are two major scientific limitations on any firm conclusions. I don’t think these limitations can be overcome.

      First, “what is the control group”? That is, what is the appropriate genetic benchmark representative of Lehi’s group which we can use to compare with “paleo-Indian” samples? We really know very little about Lehi’s group, particularly for the maternal mitochondrial DNA that is used in most such DNA studies. What was Sariah’s ancestry, and in particular, what was the ancestry of the daughters of Ishmael with whom the sons of Lehi intermarried? We just don’t know.

      Second, what is the appropriate group of Native American DNA samples to compare the Lehite DNA with (if we had the Lehite DNA, which we don’t)? Once again, we just don’t know.

      The problem is made even worse by the genetic catastrophe through which the Amerind populations passed after contact with the Europeans. By some estimates, over 95% of the total Amerind population in the Americas died in the decades after contact. In other words, the Lehite DNA could very well not have survived contact, even if it existed.

      In short, I don’t think DNA evidence is ever going to be useful to “prove” anything for or against the Book of Mormon.

      Yes, the offer of Coe’s book is still open. If you will give me your address, I will see that our friends at Amazon send you a copy.

      Again, thanks for reading the whole, very long, thing.

      Bruce

  47. To carry on with this point, the fact the authors had to look outside of The Maya to find examples where Coe explicitly pointed out misses to be able to include any at all should have told the authors their approach was flawed. Each of the misses explicitly pointed out by Coe when asked for examples would have been easily identified through comparing The Maya with the Book of Mormon but would have required recognizing one can’t simply look for superficialities but needs to look at specifics of the comparative societies and environments to consistently be able to do so. Coe provided a sample of inaccuracies in an interview or paper, and the authors failed to recognize that these should have provided a template for use in identifying the misses in a consistent and wholly internal comparison between The Maya and the Book of Mormon. Had the authors remained consistent with their methodology and kept to the Maya they would have found zero misses. I credit them for recognizing how untenable that result would appear to an outside audience though many would a guess the mathmatical conclusions in the paper are even worse than that and should have resulted in an equally introspective moment.

  48. In a sense, the paper presents the problem as The Maya/Coe representing a coin toss, and The Book of Mormon/Joseph Smith as a callback ng the toss while it’s in the air. The paper suggests that Smith had so many correct guesses (131 out of what, 145 was it?) that the only explaination possible is he had supernatural abilities.

    The reality of the approach is more like this: The Maya/Coe are a coin set to heads on the table. The Book of Mormon/Smith is presented as a coin toss of hits and misses. But rather than count actual hits and misses, the approach only counts when the coin comes up heads to match Coe, and then assigns a very subjective value to how likely it was that that particular instance of heads would be up heads.

    Now, it’s even worse than that as Billy has rightly pointed out the so called hits are primarily superficial rather than culturally substantial matches. On top of which, the critical hypothesis isn’t comparable to a coin toss, but rather Smith using prior existing beliefs about the Hebrews and American Indian origins to composed a cohesive narrative. But be that as it may the complaint those critical of the paper itself are taking issue with the paper itself and it’s methodology independent of the broader issues.

  49. Bruce,
    Just to clarify, by limited scope I do not mean to imply you and your son did not do a lot of work. Obviously you did. But your objective was limited in scope. You accomplished that objective clearly in my mind.
    Best Regards,
    John

    • John,
      That’s correct. We had a carefully limited scope. We compared the relevant fact claims of the Book of Mormon with corresponding fact claims in The Maya. It has been difficult to get some commentators to accept that scope and stick to it. 🙂
      Bruce

      • As noted further up in the comments, using the example of pearls being mentioned on the Bible but not The Maya, even the authors acknowledge references in one book that are missing from the other because they weren’t part of the culture or environment purportedly being described ought to carry some weight. Even more so when the Book of Mormon goes on to make the very mistake the authors note would count against the Bible by referencing Nephites wearing pearls or the resurrected Christ warning the people of the Americas against casting their pearls before swine when neither pearls nor swine would be familiar references to truly ancient Mayan peoples.

        It isn’t a problem with critical of the paper not comprehending the approach proposed. It’s that it wasn’t used consistent and especially when one looks to the other two control books. But also the authors seem to understand as soon as a competitive book such as the Bible is proposed for comparison.

        • Hi Honorentheos:
          Welcome back to the discussion! 🙂

          Sorry, but the geek/chemist/engineer/pedant in me has to point something out. Pearls are calcium carbonate, and are therefore quite soluble in dilute acid. Soil is naturally acidic, particularly high organic matter soil…about pH 5.5. Over time, any pearls in contact with soil or water would probably dissolve.

          I have not studied the issue of pearls among the Maya in any depth, but it is not surprising that pearls, even if present, might not be found after centuries of burial. Likewise, any fabrics are likely to decompose, as Coe points out.

          Bruce

          • Hi Dr. Dale,

            Perhaps there is the possibility the evidence for pearls disappeared. One may expect a culture that harvested oysters for pearls would leave archeological evidence behind but be that as it may, it seems this only became available when the critique was directed at the BoM. You may recall pearls were brought up initially as a point the Bible would have wrong if compared to a Mesoamerican setting, as misdirected as that comment may have been.

          • Honorentheos:
            Maybe some such archeological evidence of pearl harvesting might remain, but I really doubt it.

            What infrastructure was needed? A seagoing canoe? Check. They had those. A guy capable of holding his breath while swimming? Check. They had those. Rocks for bashing open the oysters to look for pearls? Check. They had those.

            What would an archaelogist be looking for to see if the Maya harvested pearls and how would he know if you had found it? This is really a tough hill to climb.

            Bruce

          • Hi Dr. Dale,

            Perhaps it’s a steep hill to climb. But it’s infinitely less steep than there not being pearls and the Book of Mormon having gotten it wrong.

            It’s helpful maintain perspective. 😉

        • Honoren, et al, re the discussion on pearls below, in case anyone gets lost in the thread.

          I will try not to gloat, honest. 🙂

          In doing the research for our article, I failed to notice the single reference in the Book of Mormon (4 Nephi 1:24) in which “pearls” are mentioned in a literal sense…and not perhaps as a metaphor.

          It turns out that Coe’s book, also has a Maya noble arrayed in pearls in his funeral dress. The Maya did use pearls, but there is no mention of diamonds or rubies, which are not found in the New World.

          So, my mistake. Maxima culpa mea.

          Our correspondence 5.2 needs to be revised. The presence, not the absence, of pearls among the Maya is an additional point of evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon.

          Bruce

  50. Bruce,
    I have read your paper and I commend you for you work. I can find no fault in your methodology given that you clearly state up front the limited scope of your objective of your research. I do not claim to be an authoritative expert in statistics, but I have used statistics extensively in my professional career as a flight test and evaluation expert, enough to follow the discussions. Again, I can find no fault in your methodology or your conclusion. What I find interesting is that despite your numerous attempts to clarify the limited scope of the objective of your research, your detractors continue to ignore that fact and choose to try to expand the discussion taking it far outside the scope of your paper. In my humble opinion I think any further attempt to explain the limited scope of your paper will simply continue to fall on deaf ears. Keep up the good work!
    Best Regards,
    John

  51. Correspondence 3.18 “Calendars kept by holy men/priests”

    The evidence
    According to The Maya, there was an office in the church/state called Ah K’in, which means “he of the sun/day.” This priestly office was handed down from father to son, and their responsibilities included, “computation of the years, months, and days, the festivals and ceremonies, the administration of the sacraments, the fateful days and seasons, their methods of divination and their prophecies, events and the cures for diseases, and their antiquities and how to read and write with the letters and characters.” They also kept genealogies and presided over human sacrifices.

    According to Third Nephi 8:1-2, “And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—and now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away…”

    Assuming this was a “guess”
    The author of the Book of Mormon naturally thought that the real calendar ought to start at the Birth of Christ. A sign was given when this old-world event happened, and they immediately reset their calendars to start counting from this date. The subsequent 33 years of history were then carefully counted, so that by 3 Nephi chapter 8, exactly 33 years had come and gone and it was time for the book’s climax.

    Under this assumption, the book is emphasizing to its modern audience who knew Jesus lived 33 years that we were at the end of Jesus’ mortal life in the old world. Emphasizing that the calendar was correct because a “just man” kept the record who proved his ability to accurately count because he was “cleansed every whit from his iniquity” and performed miracles in the name of Jesus seems like nothing more than an odd way of foreshadowing the visitation of Christ to a modern reader, and is a very Joseph Smith way of thinking (e.g.. Moroni 7:16-17).

    So what is the probability Joseph would guess this, assuming the book is made up? I’ll say 0.10, but this should be interpreted in the comparison to the following probability.

    Assuming this is based on Mesoamerican history
    Believing that the count of years since the birth of Christ is correct because the counter was a just man who performed miracles in the name of Jesus doesn’t fit very well in the Mayan world. If a Mayan wanted to convince us that a calendar date was correct he would talk about his training, his systems, his responsibilities as a priest, and his diligence. He wouldn’t talk about successfully performing miracles in the name of Christ.

    That said, there is some overlap between a man who is believed because he performs miracles and a priest who in addition to keeping the calendars performs human sacrifices and cures diseases, so I won’t say this is a total anachronism. On the whole, I’ll give this a probability of 0.10.

    Likelihood Ratio
    As a reminder, the likelihood ratio is the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.

    A man who is believed to be able to accurately count 33 years because he is a righteous miracle worker isn’t the same thing as a Maya Ah K’in who is the calendar keeper because that is a governmental office he inherited from his father. Thus, this isn’t an actual hit. But at the same time, a righteous miracle worker isn’t totally different from a priest either, so I don’t see it as a total anachronism that by itself weighs against historicity. So, I don’t see this tipping the scale one way or the other.

    Likelihood ratio: 0.10 / 0.10 = 1.00

    • Billy,
      The Book of Mormon starts by keeping its calendar from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem, about 600 BC. The footnotes in the modern Book of Mormon naturally use our modern calendar for reference.

      But that is not how the Lehite colony (at least the pious part of that colony) kept their calendar initially. Those folks kept their calendar from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem. This point is made clear in the Book of Mormon.

      Later, the people of King Benjamin (another pious Lehite subgroup) began a new calendar when they instituted a major political change in their society. Their new calendar was counted as the “Xth year of the reign of the judges”.

      Then the sign was given of the birth of Christ and once again, the believers in Christ started their calendar anew. They kept that new start date until they were destroyed (as a largely depraved society) about AD 421.

      So, the Book of Mormon uses different calendars with different starting dates…as did the Maya.

      Regarding your earlier comment about having a calendar with a starting year, month and day not being unusual, I think I have not been clear enough why I believe it was unusual. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Joseph Smith was often accused of getting material or ideas for the Book of Mormon from Rev. Ethan Smith’s work View of the Hebrews. Dr. Coe states that the ideas/myths/rumors found in View of the Hebrews was “in the air” at the time of Joseph Smith.

      But Rev. Smith’s book specifically states (see pg. 184 of our article) that the Indians that Joseph Smith knew had no name for a year. But the Maya and the Nephites clearly did understand what a year was, and they measured time by day, month and year. The North American Indians clearly did NOT measure time this way.

      Thus if Joseph Smith had taken his ideas of calendaring from what was “in the air” among the Indians, as represented by the ideas in Rev. Smith’s book, Joseph would have gotten this point spectacularly wrong.

      But Joseph Smith did not make this mistake. He correctly accounted for multiple calendars being kept and that they were kept by day, month and year among the descendants of Lehi and the Maya.

      It seems to me that there is an immediate problem for those who believe, like Dr. Coe, that Joseph Smith got his ideas about the ancestors of the Indians from then-current ideas like those found in Ethan Smith’s book View of the Hebrews.

      The problem is this: if Joseph Smith didn’t rely on Ethan Smith for his guess on how time was reckoned among the Indians, then what justification is there for claiming that Joseph Smith relied on Ethan Smith for ANYTHING?

      I am not sure I understand your objection to my drawing an equivalence between the fact that calendars were kept by priests among the Maya and by a “holy man” among the Nephites.

      Clearly, the Maya expected their priests to abide by certain standards of behavior, to be “holy men” at least as the Maya defined such standards of behavior. And a holy man among the Nephites was without doubt also a priest (see Alma Chapter 13, for example).

      So I don’t understand your objection.

      What possible example in Joseph Smith’s society would have prepared him to make the correct “guess” that calendars were kept by holy men/priests in his “fictional” Book of Mormon? Holy men/priests did not keep the calendar in Joseph Smith’s day…that was a secular function.

      Bruce

      • While there are those skeptical of the fantastical version of the BoM authorship who may insist it came from Ethan Smith, most I know including commenters in this thread see Smith using the Bible as his source for describing the Nephites. The Lamanites/Native Americans had lost all civilization according to the prevailing theories that informed the BoM. Of course Smith wouldn’t look to them for descriptions of the civilized, Hebrew Nephites. That source was the KJV mingled with frontier folk-Christian beliefs.

        • Hi Honorentheos:
          Nice to know you are approaching the possible origins of the Book of Mormon with such an open mind. “Fantastical” is a pretty loaded word for someone who is claiming (as I think you are) to be an objective seeker of truth. 🙂

          Our paper did not attempt to explain the origins of the Book of Mormon. Please stop claiming that our paper did that.

          All that we concluded was that, to a very high degree of probability, the Book of Mormon is not fiction. In fact, the Book of Mormon fits very well within the world of ancient Mesoamerica. The two control books do not.

          If you want “fantastical” I recommend Manuscript Found to you. Awfully bad fiction.

          Bruce

          • Hi Bruce,

            I served in a bishopric, my spouse and I married in the temple, served an honorable mission, and there was a time when I would have been unashamed to have said I loved the Book of Mormon. I have no idea how many times over I’ve read it, including family morning readings, seminary, institute, and personal scripture study. I say that so you recognize my views come from an informed place, if they conflict with your own.

            The story that an angel provided Smith with plates covered in symbolic language he could not read, but required divine gifts to translate and for which the physical evidence was taken back by the angel is fantastical. There’s no more appropriate word for it. If you view that as pergorative, well…

          • Also, you have all but made the claim that the BoM is factual, and that it overlaps the Mayan culture with such unbelievable correspondence there should be nothing on Earth a person should be more sure of than that. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say you aren’t making a claim regarding the BoMs origins.

      • Hi Bruce,

        From my viewpoint, the issue of priests/holy men is the strongest point in favor of the Book of Mormon that we have talked about in the comments, for the reasons you state. However, I balance that against some reservations I have. First, the only reason the Book of Mormon mentions that the calendar keeper was a holy man was because of the author’s trepidation about having made a mistake. This happens right when the modern reader gets to the point of being able to determine whether the dates in the book correctly synchronize with the old-world events of Jerusalem falling and the Birth of Jesus. Further, why would a Mayan qualify that something happened on date x “if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time”? And why would he say that his ability to perform “many miracles in the name of Jesus” would indicate that he was counting time correctly? Those details don’t fit in the Mayan hypothesis, but fit well in the modern authorship hypothesis. That is why in my judgment, talk of a holy man keeping track of time weighs neither for nor against historicity.

        Regarding dates, let me use this as an opportunity to illustrate the problem with using a probability space that doesn’t exhaust everything that may have happened.

        Evidence
        Before Jesus was born, the Book of Mormon uses dates exactly the same way that the Old Testament does—counting years, months, and days since significant events happened (e.g. Exodus 12:41, 2 Kings 15:1, Jeremiah 25:1). After Jesus was born, the book switches to the anno Domini system of counting dates from the time of Jesus’ birth. This was always done in solar years, and is always thought of as a time line.

        In contrast, the Mayans thought of times in circles. The Mayans simultaneously kept track of multiple cycles: they had 260-day counts, 365-day vague years, and “Great Cycles” of the “Long Count” system which are cycles of 1,872,000 days. In all of these cycles, the new cycle begins when the previous one ends—they never counted from when an event happened.

        Hypothesis 1: Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and “guessed” how Mayans thought of time based on View of the Hebrews
        As you explained, this make no sense.

        Hypothesis 2: The Book of Mormon is an authentic, Mesomamerican document
        The Mayans had calendars and the Book of Mormon has calendars, so this is a “hit.” However, the nature of the calendars were very different—(one counted solar years in a line from a few different significant events, the other is a set of never-ending cycles of days), since the nature of their calendars and their perception of time were so different, both having calendars is only a superficial hit.

        If those are the only two possibilities that could happen, then Hypothesis two wins out, I guess.

        However, there is a third hypothesis:

        Hypothesis 3: Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and thought about time in the way the Old Testament describes time, and in the way he naturally thought about it, having been steeped in the Gregorian system

        This third hypothesis fits the evidence perfectly and if it is included in the analysis, dramatically changes the result.

        • Billy,

          Your comments on calendars underscores the problems of both readings and assumptions. The Maya calendar is described in terms of cycles, but that is not a contrast to lineal time–it is a conceptual overlay on it. There is no reason to assume that general timekeeping was any more cyclical that our weeks, months, and days. Indeed, at some point, the Maya established an origin point, and had a lineal tracking of time from a deep-past origin point.

          The Book of Mormon uses three origin points, and dates years from the origin. The first is from the departure from Jerusalem, the second is the beginning of the reign of the judges, and the third is the time of Christ. Based on the way dates appear, the second had the largest effect on the way information was recorded in the text.

          For those of us who read the text against a plausible Mesoamerican background, there are any number of times when we see an underlying cyclicality informing the way dates are used in the text. Even the construction of certain chapter events follows a type of a Maya period-ending cycle (we have the best information on the Maya for that region).

          In the particulars of calendrics, we are dealing with a text in translation, and translated by a non-Mesoamerican expert. I wouldn’t expect terminology to line up, but I would expect that underlying factors would display the original, non-Western, concepts of time. They do.

          Of your three hypotheses, only the second has actual relevance to the text.

          • Hi Brandt,

            Just to make sure I understand your point, you are claiming that keeping track of time by counting years from the birth of Christ is an “original, non-Western concept of time.” Do I have that right?

            Thanks,

            Billy

          • Of course not. I am saying that you overly simplified the text of the Book of Mormon, skewing it in a way that supported your hypothesis. I cannot fault that, pretty much everyone reads it according to their own preconceptions. However, since you were suggesting things about how time was recorded in the Book of Mormon, you missed some facts.

            The change to dating from the time of Christ is not significantly different from the changing of dating to the beginning of the reign of the judges. When a group finds a particular event meaningful, a change is made. It isn’t even unique in the Book of Mormon.

          • Hi Brandt,

            By way of clarification, determining which hypothesis has “relevance to the text” is not the question. In terms of the Bayesian analysis we are performing, we must answer each of the following 3 questions:

            1- Assuming hypothesis 1 is correct, what is the probability we would see the basket of evidence that we see?

            2- Assuming hypothesis 2 is correct, what is the probability we would see the basket of evidence that we see?

            3- Assuming hypothesis 3 is correct, what is the probability we would see the basket of evidence that we see?

            It sounds like you only think question 2 is relevant because you only read the text against a plausible Mesoamerican background. That is fine if all you are trying to do is show whether or not hypothesis 2 is plausible. But if you want to be more precise and estimate the probability that hypothesis 2 is true, you need to answer all 3 questions.

          • I am quite happy to stay away from questions of probability. It isn’t my field, and I have my own methods of determining significance. What I can say is whether your characterization of the use of time in the Book of Mormon and among the Maya was accurate. That was the issue.

  52. Thanks for the comments of everyone who has decided to engage with the evidence, thanks in particular to Billy Shears.

    Later on this week, I will do my best to address each of comments focused on the evidence (or ask Brian to do so on the statistics-heavy comments). 

    I have already tried to address Billy’s concerns about the northward migration issue. Vide supra.

    But for right now I would like to stick with the calendar correspondences.

    There are two more correspondences in the paper that deal with reckoning of time among the Book of Mormon peoples. These are given in correspondences 3.18 (Calendars kept by holy men/priests) and 6.3 (Multiple calendars kept). So let’s deal with those two correspondences before we go on to other areas of correspondence.

    Recall that I am asking each of the commentators to decide two things.

    First, if you think Joseph Smith had a source as the basis of that “guess”, please cite the source and page number.

    Second, if you think he was guessing, what probability do you assign to him guessing correctly? (Of course, if you don’t think the guess was correct, please say so.)

    For right now, please deal with these two additional calendar-related correspondences.

    So, in the absence of a source, 1) how likely do you think it was that Joseph Smith correctly guessed that multiple calendars were kept by the Book of Mormon peoples and by the Maya and 2) how likely do you think it was that he correctly guessed that holy/men priests kept the calendars among both the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya?

    Use numbers please, preferably using the weighting scale we have proposed, but feel free to choose your own.

    For example, easy guess, dead certain to have guessed correctly = 1.0. Or 0.5, or 0.1 or 0.02 for one in two, one in ten or one in fifty, respectively.

    Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      Regarding the “multiple calendars” point of correspondence, I already addressed that above. In case you missed it, here is the link:

      https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/joseph-smith-the-worlds-greatest-guesser-a-bayesian-statistical-analysis-of-positive-and-negative-correspondences-between-the-book-of-mormon-and-the-maya/#comment-87460

      Reemphasizing the point, Mayans thought of time in circles— 260-day counts, Calendar Rounds, Vague Years, Long Counts, Great Cycles, etc. Speaking of the 260 day calendar, Coe said, “Every single day had its own omens and associations, and the inexorable march of the 20 days acted as a kind of perpetual fortune-telling machine guiding the destinies of the Maya and all the peoples of Mexico.” The 260-day count and 365-day “vague years” were both kept, but not for purposes of recording events, but rather for omens and associations. In contrast, long counts were used for keeping track of historical dates, but again, this was a giant circle that took over 5,000 years to cycle around.

      In contrast, time is thought of as a line in the Book of Mormon. This in itself is a strong anachronism. Before Christ was born, time was kept track of in solar years, and it seems the author is working hard to keep track of time so that there is precisely 600 solar years of history between when Lehi left Jerusalem and Christ is born. Time is counted in years from various events, and in a sense these could be thought of as different calendars, but counting years from the year of a big event is fundamentally different than keeping track of where we are in various circles.

      It’s worth pointing out that counting years with year 1 BC set as the year Jesus was born is known as the “Anno Domini” system, and was invented by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the year AD 525. It is a huge anachronism that the Nephites started using the Anno Domini system at least 516 years before Dionysius Exiguus invented it; it was used from as early as AD 9 and was used continuously until the end of the book in AD 421 (See 3 Nephi 2:8 and Moroni 10:1). This is convenient for modern readers, but not in any way Mayan.

      When you look at all of the evidence surrounding calendars, this is very strong evidence that the Book of Mormon is historical fiction written by a modern author who was very careful about synchronizing his timeline with the timeline in the Bible. I score this a likelihood ratio of 50+.

      • Billy,
        Brandt has done a better job than I could do in pointing out that the Maya thought of time both in cycles and as a linear process. The Long Count calendar is clearly linear. So I think you are setting up an either/or where none exists.
        Bruce

  53. Correspondence 1.6: City of Laman (Lamanai) “occcupied from earliest times”

    Coe’s standard: “Far up the New River … is the important site of Lamanai, … occupied from earliest times right into the post-Conquest period” (p. 85).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 9:10. The strong tendency is for consonants to be preserved in pronouncing words and names. For example, Beirut (Lebanon) is one of the oldest cities in the world, settled 5,000 years ago. The name derives from Canaanite-Phoenician be’erot and [Page 102]has been known as “Biruta,” “Berytus” and now “Beirut,” while always retaining those three consonants “BRT” in the correct order, and with no intervening consonants.

    In the case of the city Lamanai (Laman), all three consonants, and only these three consonants, namely LMN, are found in the correct order and are the same consonants as given for the city of Laman mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This seems to be a “bullseye” for the Book of Mormon. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” the correct consonants, and only the correct consonants in the correct order for the name of an important city “occupied from earliest times?”

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, detailed and statistically unusual. Likelihood = 0.02

    I would like to use this point as an illustration of the correct way to calculate likelihood ratios.

    According to the mnemonic major system, there are ten basic consonant sounds (t/d, n, m, r, l, sh/ch, k/hard-c,f/v,b/p,s/z/x/soft-c). If we assume that on average Mayan names have five consonants, then the chances of guessing the consonants to any five-letter location is about 1/100,000. Some have more and some have less, and some letter combinations are more likely than others, but we’ll say that the probability of successfully guessing that there was a Mayan city with the consonants L-M-N in that order is 1/100,000.

    However, he didn’t make one guess at the name of one specific city. There are about 250 Mayan sites with known pre-Colombian names, and any of them could have been correct with this guess, so the probability of matching something is 250/100,000, or 1/400.

    However, Joseph Smith didn’t take a single guess—there are about 100 names he made up for the Book of Mormon, each of which is an independent guess that could match any of the 250 actual cities. Therefore, the probability of getting at least one guess right is one minus the probability of getting every guess wrong, or (1 – (399/400)^100) = 0.22.

    The Dales correctly defined the likelihood ratio as, “the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.” Above we calculated the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis (that Joseph Smith guessed) is true (0.22). Now, we need to calculate the denominator—the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis (that Joseph Smith guessed) is false.

    So, let’s go ahead and assume that the Book of Mormon is historical and estimate the probability of the evidence in that scenario. As the Dales said in their paper, “The strong tendency is for consonants to be preserved in pronouncing words and names.”

    Let’s assume that this strong tendency is 10%. In other words, there is a 10% probability that the consonants of cities from Book of Mormon times would survive the way the city Laman did. If that is the case, what is the probability that only one Lehite city (Laman) exhibited this “strong tendency”? If there are 100 named Book of Mormon cities and the probability of a name sticking is 10%, then we would expect that 10 Mayan cities would have names that could be traced back to their true Book of Mormon historical roots. The probability that only 1 does is about 0.13% (this was calculated by approximating the binomial distribution with a normal distribution).

    So, dividing the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is true by the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is false is the likelihood ratio, which for this point of evidence is .22/.0013 = 170. In aggregate, this point weighs against historicity. In other words, while it is unlikely that with only 100 blind guesses at a dartboard with only 250 targets that Joseph Smith would correctly guess the name of a Mayan city, it is even more unlikely that that only one name from Book of Mormon times would have been preserved in a historical record, given the strong tendency of consonants to survive.

    Everybody should agree that something unlikely happened—the point of likelihood ratios is to evaluate which scenario is less unlikely.

    • Billy:
      I am not sure if you have read the Book of Mormon more than once. How many times have you read the Book of Mormon, all the way through and carefully?

      This is not meant to be antagonistic. I am trying to gauge your understanding of the Book of Mormon overall–not just the few chapters and verses that my references point to. You will see why I think this is a relevant question in just a moment.

      Dr. Coe only felt it necessary to read the Book of Mormon once, over 45 years ago, to write his original article in Dialogue and then continue to opine from time to time on the historical nature of the Book of Mormon. That is the rule, not the exception, for “scholarly” treatment of the Book of Mormon.

      I think this is one of those points of evidence (like the northward migrations) that becomes stronger the more you look at it. The wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites were a more or less constant feature over their 1000 year history. Near the end of that history the objective of the Lamanites was to exterminate the Nephites, not just subjugate them.

      And they did. See Mormon chapters 4-6 and Moroni chapter 1.

      Both Mormon and his son Moroni, the principal editors of the Book of Mormon, state specifically that not only would victorious Lamanites destroy the Nephites as a people, they would also destroy their records. Certainly the naming of towns and cities with Nephite names would be a record that the Lamanites could and would wipe out.

      So, I would expect that the victorious Lamanites would make sure that not a single Nephite-named city would survive with that name. And all the records that could be found of the Nephites would be destroyed. (Coe in fact refers to the practice of systematic destruction of monuments whereby “the eyes and mouths of rulers are often pecked out, as if to cancel their power”. )

      Given this background, I think not a single Nephite city name would survive the destruction of the Nephite people described in the Book of Mormon at the end of the 4th century AD. And apparently none did…although the absence of such names is not really very good evidence.

      Although we know very little about the Lamanite cities (the Book of Mormon is primarily a Nephite record, after all), we do know that one was named Laman. Since Laman was the leader of the anti-Nephite faction from the beginning, it is certainly reasonable for the principal city of the Lamanites to be called Laman, and the chances are good that that name would survive.

      Since I accept a limited geography (and therefore limited power) model for both the Lamanites and the Nephites, it is certainly reasonable to suppose that only one city name would survive, and it would most likely be the principal city of the Lamanite confederation. Which is what we observe, at least by the way that I understand the evidence.

      Bruce

      • It’s certainly an odd contention given the name of the conquering Lamanite general was Aaron rather than, say, Great Jaguar Paw. But if such wide ranging speculation is allowed then all things are possible I supposed. 🙂

      • Hi Bruce,

        Since you asked, I’ve read the Book of Mormon cover to cover about a dozen times.

        Let’s take a step back. According to The Maya, we know a lot about Lamanai. For example, it lies next to a river and has 718 structures. It was a very important Mayan city in terms of trade and was “occupied from earliest times right into the post-Conquest period.”

        According to the Book of Mormon, all we know for sure about the city of Laman is that it and its inhabitants were destroyed by fire in AD 34, and then may have been rebuilt and repopulated about 35 years later, near the pinnacle of the 4th Nephi Christian Utopia when the people were all converted upon all the face of the land, and there were no Lamanites nor any other type of -ite.

        Analysis:

        1- A city being completely destroyed and abandoned for 25 years doesn’t fit Coe’s implication that it was continuously inhabited from earliest times. Thus, this doesn’t fit.

        2- After it was rebuilt in AD 59, it would no longer have been a Lamanite city—it would have been a Christian city enjoying Utopia under the law of consecration.

        3- If we are now assuming that there is a strong tendency to change the names of cities when new inhabitants with different views take over, shouldn’t we assume that when the explicitly Christian and non-Lamanites rebuilt the city of Laman, they would have changed the name to something that wasn’t associated with an infamous murmurer? I think the chances are poor that the name of this city survived its destruction.

        Be all that as it may, let’s return to the lesson on Bayesian reasoning. My a priori probability of a Book of Mormon name surviving was only 10%, and was intended to be conservative and account for most names not surviving. But if we are changing our expectations and thought that if the Book of Mormon were true, we would expect not to see hardly any Nephite names still around and maybe only one explicitly Lamanite name survive (e.g. finding a Mesoamerican city called “Zarahemlo,” and a river called “Xidon” and a “Land of Nefee” would all count against Book of Mormon’s authenticity), we could change our expectations of matches from 10% down to 1%. If those were our expectations, the probability of exactly one city matching would be (100 * 0.99^99 * .01 = 37%). Thus, under this revised assumption the likelihood ratio would be 0.22 / 0.37 = 0.59.

        • Billy,
          I am sorry to have missed responding to this particular point earlier. Thanks for your multiple readings of the Book of Mormon. I failed to acknowledge this fact earlier.

          As a skeptic of the Book of Mormon, this degree of attention to the claims of the Book of Mormon makes you nearly unique in my experience. I have only known two other such people.

          Congratulations, thanks and kudos. All due respect and praise.

          Bruce

  54. I decided to play with your weights a bit. Everything you labeled as 0.02 I labeled 0.1. 0.1s turned into 0.5s. And 0.5s were seen as so obvious that I threw them out entirely. Then I decided to give extra weight to the correspondences that went against the Book of Mormon. So you gave everything the weight of 50, but I took the 2s and 10s and turned them into 50s (like you), and turned the 50 into 250 (a 5X like the steps up from 2 to 10 to 50). I then did all the same multiplication and in the end still came out with 1.03 x 10^-23.

    I did this because, people (including me) can disagree on some of these correspondences and say, “Oh, this one that you gave a 0.02 should’ve been a 0.1, and this other one should’ve been a 0.5 instead of 0.1.” So let’s just go through and knock *everything* down a peg to be conservative. So are the 0.02, 0.1, and 0.5 arbitrary? They might be used in some studies, but yeah, they feel kind arbitrary. But even if you bring down all these odds to go conservative on that arbitrary feel, you’re still left with 1.03 X 10^-23. Pretty compelling.

  55. Hi Bruce,

    I’m ready to move on and talk about the points of correspondence rather than the statistics. But allow me to make a final “closing argument” on the statistics. But rather than repeat the points I’ve tried to make, allow me to tell two stories.

    Story 1: When I was studying econometrics in graduate school, a major topic we were expected to master was multivariate least squared regression. The professor repeatedly said that these models were based upon 5 assumptions, which he wrote out on the board over and over throughout the course of the semester. First, the underlying relationship between the dependent variable and the independent variables needed to actually be linear. Second, the independent variables needed to be statistically independent from each other. Third, the actual underlying error terms needed to be uncorrelated, normally distributed, with a constant variance etc. I originally found this list somewhat odd, because it was actually quite easy to fit a least squares regression model, regardless of whether these assumptions were all true or not. But eventually I figured out the professor’s point. When you ran the regression, you could fill out an analysis-of-variance table that was brimming with information about your model, including statistics about how close your estimated betas were to the actual unobserved betas, how confident you could be about predictions based upon the model, etc. But it turns out that these statistics only tell the truth to the extent the underlying assumptions are true. Thus, a major part of any responsible analysis that uses regression needs to be evaluating the extent to which the underlying assumptions are in fact true (and in the real world, they are never all true), making any adjustments that you can so that they become less untrue, and finally caveating your results appropriately.

    Story 2: A few years ago, I gave a presentation at an industry conference about how to put prediction intervals around the forecasts of an insurance company’s income statement. Afterward, the CFO of a company came up to me and said “A few years ago, a consultant came to my company and did what you just suggested. When the results came in, they were way outside of the predicted range. The consultant said, ‘Wow! Your results being so far out of the predicted range was a one in a million event. There is no way you could ever be that unlucky again!’ A quarter later, the results came in and the results were even worse than the prior quarter. The consultant said, ‘Unbelievable! The chances of this happening twice in a row is less than one in a trillion!’ That is when I fired the consultant.” The CFO asked me for my opinion on what happened. I said it was one of two things—either he did in fact experience a one-in-a-trillion event, or the assumptions underlying the one-in-a-trillion calculation were not true. We agreed about which of those two things had happened.

    If I wrote an academic paper and claimed that a statistical analysis indicated that in all likelihood the leading experts in a field were wrong about something, I would be extremely careful about understanding the precise assumptions underlying the model and meticulously describing why I believed those assumptions were true.

    • Hi Billy,

      You said “If I wrote an academic paper and claimed that a statistical analysis indicated that in all likelihood the leading experts in a field were wrong about something…”.

      Please be aware that we are not claiming that Dr. Coe is wrong in his field of expertise. Quite to the contrary, in our analysis we assume without reservation that he is completely correct about everything he claims regarding the Mayans, his undisputed field of expertise.

      Dr. Coe, however, is no expert on the Book of Mormon. The analysis indicates that in all likelihood he is wrong on his non-expert opinion about the Book of Mormon.

      • Hi Brian,

        The point of your paper is that “There is overwhelming evidence that the Book of Mormon has physical, political, geographical, religious, military, technological, and cultural roots in ancient Mesoamerica.” If that were true, a competent Mesoamericanist would only need to read the Book of Mormon once to recognize it.

        Your assertion that Dr. Coe is an undisputed expert on the Maya but is not an expert on the Book of Mormon seems to tacitly admit that the Maya and the Book of Mormon are mutually exclusive.

        • Hi Billy,
          Brian and his family are under the weather, and Brian has a three year old boy to potty train while his mom is sick, so I will take it upon myself to answer your comment above.

          You state: “Your assertion that Dr. Coe is an undisputed expert on the Maya but is not an expert on the Book of Mormon seems to tacitly admit that the Maya and the Book of Mormon are mutually exclusive.”

          Here is my response to your somewhat silly comment. This point has been repeated ad nauseam by now.

          It is precisely because Dr. Coe himself claims that, based on his knowledge, 99% of the details of the Book of Mormon are wrong that Brian and I wrote this paper. It is because Dr. Coe himself says that the Book of Mormon has little to do ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures that we wrote this article to see if the fact claims of the Book of Mormon (“guesses” if you assume that it is a work of fiction) of the correspond to facts cited in The Maya.

          So we are here because Dr. Coe himself says that the Book of Mormon and ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures are NOT mutually exclusive–as your comment implies. (And not just for the Maya, as you repeatedly and mistakenly claim.)

          In the article, we take Coe’s charge seriously and find that a great many of the fact claims of the Book of Mormon line up very well with the facts summarized in Coe’s book.

          So, nice try, but no, Billy.

          Bruce

          • Billy,
            One more point about your May 29th post that a competent Mesoamericanist would only need to read the Book of Mormon once to recognize it.

            That is a weak argument. It is a naked appeal to authority unworthy of you.

            I am sure that you are aware of the arguments and disagreement, often very strident, between competent scientists who are looking at exactly the same evidence.

            I have summarized above the long and sometimes hot debate between Einstein and Max Planck about the foundations of quantum theory. Both men saw the same evidence, and interpreted it completely differently. The same thing goes on every day among distinguished scientists in many fields.

            The fact is that several competent Mesoamericanists are indeed believing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic record. John Sorensen is one, but not the only one. John Clark is another. Alan Christenson, whose translation of the Popol Vuh was praised by Coe is yet another.

            But that is all beside the point. In our article, we compare a whole body of knowledge summarized in Coe’s book with the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. We find exceeding strong agreement between comparable facts between the two books.

            Another fact is that a competent Mesoamericanist, Dr. Coe, did read the Book of Mormon once, over 45 years ago. Coe has been quoted extensively and opining ever since about his minimal knowledge of the Book of Mormon.

            Crikey, Billy, in the sixth podcast Dr. Coe was surprised to learn that there is warfare in the Book of Mormon. You have read the Book of Mormon a dozen times. Did you miss the war parts?

            That fact ought to tell you something about Coe’s knowledge of the Book of Mormon…and how a single, skeptical reading of the Book of Mormon decades ago is a totally inadequate scholarly effort.

            Bruce

  56. Correspondence 6.2

    The area of evidence examined here is the reckoning of time. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya reckoned time. So did the North American Indians on which Joseph Smith’s limited knowledge of Indians was probably based.

    But the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya had the same basic approach to reckoning time: a definite starting year, followed by succeeding days, months and years. The North American Indians had another approach as described in View of the Hebrews (see below).

    Since the Book of Mormon approach to keeping the calendar is very similar (“similar” does not mean “identical”) to that used by the Maya, we count this as a strong point of evidence. In this point at least, Dr. Coe is wrong. In this important feature of the reckoning of time, the Book of Mormon is very much congruent with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

    Here is correspondence 6.2 from Appendix A in the paper.

    6.2 Calendar kept by day, month and year
    Coe’s standard: “The Maya Long Count, which will be explained in greater detail in Chapters 3 and 9, is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past (p. 25). “The Maya New Year started with 1 Pop, the next day being 2 Pop, etc. The final day of the month, however, carried not the coefficient 20, but a sign indicating the ‘seating’ of the month to follow” (p. 64). “Maya learning as well as ritual was in their [the Maya priests’] hands. Among them were ‘computation of the years, months, and days, the festivals and ceremonies’” (p. 243).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 10:6; Alma 49:1; 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 2:7‒8; 3 Nephi 8:5.

    Analysis of correspondence: Specific and detailed. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the peoples described in The Maya kept calendars by day, month and year. The keeping of calendars is also unusual. The Indian peoples of eastern North America did not keep calendars, and were focused on the passing of the seasons. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that any Indians kept an absolute calendar by day, month and year? Likelihood = 0.02.

    For comparison, here is negative Correspondence 7 from View of the Hebrews, showing how different the North American Indian approach to reckoning time was from that of the Maya…and the Book of Mormon peoples.

    Negative correspondence 7 from View of the Hebrews. Indians used a lunar calendar and had no name for a year

    Coe’s standard: The Maya kept their calendars by day, month, and year. They kept multiple calendars. “The Maya Long Count … is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past” (p. 25). “How the 260 day calendar even came into being is an enigma. … Meshing with the 260-day count is a ‘Vague Year’ or Ha’b of 365 days. … Within the Ha’b, there were 18 named ‘months’ of 20 days each” (p. 64).

    “View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 61. “They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn and winter. They number their year from any one of those four periods, for they have no name for a year … and count the year by lunar months.”

    Analysis of correspondence: This calendaring system is specific, detailed, and unusual (to Americans in the early 1800s) for both books, but the calendaring systems are not in agreement. Likelihood = 50.0.

    OK, comments or rebuttal, anyone?

    • Dr. Dale:

      Didn’t the world use a calendar system with days, months and years in the early 1800’s? Also, didn’t the bible, too? Given that, perhaps one of these two is where Joseph Smith, young ignorant farm boy, came up with the book of mormon calendaring system? So, it doesn’t really seem all that remarkable that he used a calendaring system in the BofM.

      Also, think about it this way: how remarkable is it that the Maya used a calendaring system like the world does, given how the sun and the rotation of the earth divides the time into days and seasons and years? Not that remarkable.

      So, perhaps the mundane “hit” isn’t so remarkable?

      • No, Monotone One, I disagree completely. It is a remarkable hit.

        The North American Indians that Joseph Smith knew of told time by the seasons, and had no idea of day, month and year. But the Maya did–very precisely.

        Please remember that the comparison in our article is between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Dr. Coe claims that the “99% of the details in the Book of Mormon are false”. But here is one very important detail, the telling of time, where the Book of Mormon is spot on with Coe’s book. So Joseph Smith got that very important fact exactly right.

        If you think that all Joseph Smith had to do to write a fact-based book (the Book of Mormon) was to call on his own knowledge of his surroundings and then extrapolate those to the world of ancient Mesoamerica, then you would be in the same company as Reverend Spaulding who did exactly that.

        If Spaulding’s book Manuscript Found weren’t such awful fiction, it would be very funny in its anachronisms. I invite you to read Appendix C for some examples including pelting adulterers with rotten eggs, writing in Latin on parchment, clapboard houses among Indians who wore waistcoats and knee stockings. I could go on, but why spoil the fun for you. 🙂 Read Appendix C and laugh.

        No, Monotone One, Joseph Smith’s correct “guess” that some ancient Indian cultures kept days, months and years is a really remarkable point of evidence.

        Bruce

    • The null hypothesis of the Book of Mormon is that it is a made-up account of a group of proto-Christian Jews who immigrated from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 B.C. These people brought their Jewish/Christian heritage with them, built a great civilization (as evidenced by the then well-known Moundbuilders who had once inhabited North America), and after 1,000 years they fell from grace and devolved into the “savages” that were discovered 1,000 years after that. Anything that is consistent with how Joseph Smith could have reasonably conceived of an epic story of a group of people who went from being pilgrims from Jerusalem to civilized Moundbuilders to savages over the course of thousands of years is completely consistent with this theory.

      The Jewish calendar is based lunar months, solar years, and pays particular attention paid to the seasons (that is why Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox), and most importantly, seven-day weeks. This calendar eventually evolved into the Gregorian calendar which Joseph Smith used and is still used today.

      Everything regarding dates and calendars in the Book of Mormon is consistent with this. They had seven-day weeks and kept the sabbath holy (e.g. Jarom 1:5, Mosiah 18:25, Alma 32:11). They had lunar months (Omni 1:21). Solar years were carefully counted, sometimes in unlikely ways (e.g. 3 Nephi 5:7). According to this counting, one can easily verify that Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., right before the fall of Jerusalem, that Jesus was then born on cue in 1 BC, and then died, was resurrected, and visited them 33 years later, right on cue. This all seems like it was written by somebody creating historical fiction that needed to calibrate with some events that were predefined and presumed to be historic. The counting is done exactly as somebody using a Gregorian calendar would do it.

      In contrast, here are some quotes from Cole: “The Calendar Round of 52 years was present among all Mesomaericans, including the Maya, and is presumably of very great age. It consists of two permutating cycles. One is of 260 days, representing the intermeshing of a sequence of the numbers 1 through 13 with 20 named days…the 260-day count was fundamental…Meshing with the 260-day count is a “vague year” or Ha’b of 365 days…from this it follows that a particular day in the 260-day count, such as 1 K’an, also had a position in the Ha’b, for instance 2 Pop. A day designated as 1 Ka’n 2 Pop could not return until 52 Ha’b (18,980 days) had passed. This is the Calendar Round, and it is the only annual time count possessed by the highland peoples of Mexico….”

      But for keeping track of history, the Mayans didn’t count Calendar Rounds, much less “vague years.” Rather, they used Long Counts. Quoting Coe:

      “Instead of taking the Vague Year as the basis for the Long Count, the Maya and other peoples employed the turn, a period of 360 days. The Long Cycles are:

      20 k’ins = 1 winal or 20 days
      18 winals = 1 turn or 360 days
      20 turns = 1 k’atun or 7,200 days
      20 k’atuns = 1 bak’tun or 144,000 days

      “Long Count dates inscribed by the Maya on their monuments consist of the above cycles listed from top to bottom in descending order of magnitude, each with its numerical coefficient, and all to be added up so as to express the number of days elapsed since the end of the last but one Great Cycle, a period of 13 bak’tuns the ending of which fell on the date 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u….”

      Analysis: The Book of Mormon keeps track of history in months and years in a way that is indistinguishable from the Gregorian calendar, and is carefully calibrated so that Lehi leaving Jerusalem, the birth of Christ, and the death of Christ can all be reconciled with old-world history. In contrast, the Mayans kept track of historical days using Long Count days, which is really about counting up days since the end of the last “great cycle,” but rather than being “base 10” as we would count, they are counted using k’ins, winals, tuns, k’atuns, and bak’tuns. There is nothing in this that could be construed as months and years, nor could it easily be converted into lunar months and solar years.

      Central to Mayan life were 260 day cycles. Central to Book of Mormon life were 7-day weeks.

      The calendar in the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with the Mayan Calendar. This is very strong evidence that it is not based on Mesoamerican history. I score this a “likelihood ratio” of 50+.

      • Billy,
        More on the calendar issue later, but the null hypothesis you propose is not the null hypothesis we actually deal with in the paper.

        I wish you do us the courtesy of focusing on what we actually did in the paper, not what you think we should have done.

        Our “null hypothesis” or the Bayesian prior we assumed, was that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures as Dr. Coe describes those cultures in The Maya.

        Just set the Bayesian analysis aside for a while and focus on the correspondences without weighting them. Even in that limited case, it is obvious that the Book of Mormon has a great deal to do with ancient Indian cultures as described in The Maya.

        We are going to go through those correspondences as long as the discussion continues or Interpreter is willing to host the discussion.

        Once again, I invite you to read The Maya and the Book of Mormon…then make your own comparisons. And once again, I will happily buy a copy of The Maya for you.

        Bruce

        • Hi Bruce,

          I’m happy to look at the specific points you raise, read the references in The Maya in detail, read the references in the Book of Mormon in context, consider your analysis, and then offer my own.

          However, if you set up your analysis in a way that is invalid and insist that I approach the question in the way that you set it up, I’m not going to play ball.

          Here is why.

          In your paper, you said, “For a good introductory article to Bayesian statistics, see Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Bayes Theorem.'” According to that article, “If the events A1, A2,…, are mutually exclusive and exhaustive, i.e., one of them is certain to occur but no two can occur together, and we know their probabilities up to proportionality, then we can determine the proportionality constant by using the fact that their probabilities must add up to one.”

          This point is crucial, because the formulas you are using implicitly assume that the two hypotheses are in fact mutually exclusive and exhaustive.

          The way I am setting up the problem (A1 = “19th Century fictional origin” and A2 = “ancient Mesoamerican origin” at least approaches two mutually exclusive and exhaustive theories. In contrast, the way you are insisting this be set up (A1 = “Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures” and A2 = “the Book of Mormon is an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica”) is neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive: the book could (and does) have many superficial similarities with ancient Indian cultures, yet the totality of the evidence points strongly to 19th Century American origins.

          We could find an arbitrarily high number of superficial similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Maya, but such comparisons have no bearing on whether the Book of Mormon is “an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica.” If we want to use a Bayesian analysis to answer that question, it needs to be set up properly with two mutually exclusive and exhaustive hypotheses. The mere question “What is the probability Joseph Smith guessed X right?” is not a valid Bayesian likelihood ratio.

          If you think I’m being unreasonable or discourteous by using valid Bayesian reasoning to address the question of whether “the Book of Mormon is an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica” rather than using invalid reasoning to address the question of whether “the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures,” then say the word and I’ll respectfully refrain from making any further comments.

          Best,

          Billy

          • No, Billy, the “totality of the evidence” does not point to a 19th century origin for the Book of Mormon.

            Please name me any 19th century work that you think agrees in the details with Coe’s book.

            Then do the analysis we have done. Compare your 19th century work with Coe’s book. Look carefully for positive and negative points of evidence. Weight them if you choose, or not. I think you will not find the agreement that you speculate (without evidence) will be there.

            I am currently (July 14) working my way through all of the past comments. So I have not yet seen your response to my recent post on Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon. It will be interesting to see how you reconcile many, many hundreds of poetic parallelisms in the Book of Mormon with your speculation that it is a 19th century work. That style of (Hebrew) writing is totally foreign to the English writing style of the past several centuries.

            If you are correct about the 19th century origin of the Book of Mormon, I invite you to show me another 19th century work, religious or otherwise, over 500 pages long, that is written using hundreds and hundreds of poetic parallelisms, including chiasms.

            Finally, if you are correct about the Book of Mormon being a 19th century work, why do the two other 19th century works we analyzed, Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews, compare so badly with The Maya. And why does the Book of Mormon compare so well?

            Simple, Billy.

            The Book of Mormon is an authentic book set in ancient Mesoamerica. Either that or Joseph Smith was the world’s greatest guesser.

            Bruce

      • Billy,
        Getting back to the calendar issue for a moment, based on my multiple readings of Coe’s book and quite a bit of additional study, I think the Maya had both a linear view of time and a cyclical view. It is not an “either/or” proposition as you seem to indicate above.

        It appears to me that the Maya saw time unfolding in patterns that repeated (cyclical view–every baktun of baktuns was one repeating pattern) while traversing a linear path…that is, the Long Count calendar which has a definite starting point a very long time.

        Perhaps a real Mayanist can set us straight on this issue. 🙂

        Bruce

  57. I think evaluating the probability of Joseph Smith’s imagination being the the source for The Book of Mormon by assigning statistical values for items being common with or missing from another book is a very clever idea. But it seems to me these values are assigned pretty much by guesswork and their uncertainties are not considered or evaluated so giving a calculated answer with three significant figures is pretty much meaningless. Maybe all that should be said is that the probability is a small number but the method should be tested. I suggest that it be tested by using The Bible – King James Version – as the other book. I would expect that pretty much all of the items (including horses, chariots, asses, and smelted metals) would get small numbers so we would conclude that Bible cultures are very likely the source of The Book of Mormon. That there are a lot of phrases from the King James Bible that are in the Book of Mormon would seem to support this conclusion.

    • Richard you need to understand what is being compared, the Book of Mormon claims to describe a civilization that existed on the American continent at precise dates. It’s detailed and multifaceted, it cannot randomly match the Bible because all the physical things described are on the wrong continent. The Book of Mormon is specific in lots of areas, some historical. The match with the pre-classic and early classic Maya is detailed and multifaceted, it’s not superficial nor random it’s exact. Both were literate both kept history, now that Maya glyphs can be read we find the history matches, the physical things match, elevated highways, the knowledge of and use of cement, high population density, big cities, buildings covering the whole face of the land, extensive fortifications many of these dating to the 4th century final conflict.

      The Book of Mormon states these things are in the New World, do we find them there? Yes we do,in the Maya area, why there is valuable worth in doing the comparison, in Joseph’s day no one knew the civilization existed, that’s why Joseph was ridiculed for the claims the Book of Mormon made about an ancient culture like this one, the scholars thought it preposterous.

      The Book of Mormon states that in the 4th century the Lamanites and their allies the Gadiantons came against the fortified cities of the Nephites. In the Maya lowlands in the 4th century there was a ‘war of conquest’, it’s described on at least 4 stela at Tikal; Marcador text, it’s referred to as a ‘military conquest’. The year; 378AD the strategic fortified city of Tikal was conquered and a new dynasty installed. The combatants, one Maya faction allied with an army from Teotihuacan in central Mexico against the fortified cities of Maya in the central Peten and across the lowlands. That isn’t the sort of match you can expect building a fiction from the Bible nor from the society familiar to Joseph, there is just massively too much stuff corresponding, the 131 matches in the above article do not exhaust the correspondences but they are more than sufficient to give the likelihood of whether Joseph could make so many unlikely guesses and be so overwhelmingly correct, it’s shown clearly that guessing so much without an accurate source would be impossible, and it’s equally impossible, implausible and daft to think it can be simply explained away.

      • I think that I understand the method of Dale & Dale and think that consideration of uncertainties would make an enormous difference in the number they get and that their method ought to be tested. I’ll go through the steps of their method:

        1) Select two books – Book of Mormon vs Coe (or Spaulding or Smith) (no uncertainty)

        2) Select 149 elements to be compared, many already identified by BoM defenders and a few by critics. There’s a big uncertainty here. (I’m peeved that my favorite word “swords” was not selected.) The uncertainty here could be evaluated by compiling an exhaustive list but I’m skipping this. (I suppose that selecting the words “Jesus Christ” would be inappropriate.)

        3) Assume that these elements come either from Joseph Smith’s imagination or from Mayan peoples living during BoM times. This rules out possibly available printed and folklore sources and the Heartland Model for the location.

        4) Choose an element.

        5) Describe the correspondence in words such as “detailed, specific, and unusual”. There’s a factor of opinion uncertainty here.

        6) Assign a likelihood number 0.02, 0.1, 0.5, 2.0, or 50.0 according to the words. (I’m really peeved that “swords”, mentioned some 30 times in the BoM would get the same likelihood number (50.0) as “chariots” mentioned only 6 times.)

        7) Repeat for all the other elements.

        8) Multiply all the likelihood numbers together and interpret this number as the probability of Joseph Smith’s imagination, not Mayans, being the BoM’s source.

        I’m suggesting that the uncertainty of steps 4) through 8) could be estimated by having someone else besides Dale & Dale perform them. I think I’m reasonable and not daft so I’ll choose myself.

        4) I choose “Buildings of cement” (element 6.16)

        5) – 7) Because Helaman says “houses of cement” and “cities, both of wood and of cement” in a land where “timber was exceedingly scarce” where as Coe describes “plaster, stucco and “concrete-like fill” in association with buildings of stones, I assign the words “negative, detailed, and specific” and a corresponding likelihood number of 50.0. Since Dale & Dale assign a likelihood number of 0.02, there’s an uncertainty factor here of 2500. (Incidentally, I remember reading in an account by explorers of the Southwest wherein dwellings and villages of the Hopi Indians were being described as houses of cement and cities of cement said by them to have been constructed by their distant ancestors and wonder if this might have been in oral or written circulation in Joseph Smith’s time. Step 3) of course would exclude consideration of this.)

        8) Having read through all items, I expect that I’d give pretty much all of them significantly greater likelihood numbers and get an overall likelihood a lot greater than 2.69 x 10^–151.

        As for my proposed test using the King James Bible instead of Coe, I said that I’d expect that pretty much all of the items (including horses, chariots, asses, and smelted metals) would get small numbers so I’d expect a very small overall likelihood number but misstated the conclusion. According to step 3) it should be that it is very unlikely that Joseph Smith’s imagination is the source of all the items – which answer is correct – so the method passes the test! Step 3) prohibits concluding that Joseph adapted information from the KJB to a New World setting.

        RICHARD

        • I think you will find the plaster and stucco Coe refers to is all lime based cement. Same as used on the hundreds of KMs of elevated highways in the Mirador basin between the cities. Dr Richard Hanson in one of his videos taps the 2000+ year old, still smooth, durable surface with his knuckle saying ‘lime cement.’ It’s a hydraulic lime cement which meets the same standard as Portland cement. Stucco is the term used when it’s used for the external surfaces of walls and buildings. One of Dr Hanson’s videos shows them using a big masonry hammer drill to drill into a pyramid at el Mirador. Internal walls is where the term plaster is used. And naturally hydraulic cement, ie adding water sets off a reaction that changes the lime based powder and makes it set like stone, is the key enabling binder used in concrete.

          As for the use of swords in the Book of Mormon there is a good match in ancient Mesoamerica, widely chronicled by the Conquistadores as the most feared weapon was the single and doublehanded native ‘broadsword’, capable of decapitating a horse with a single blow. These weapons can be seen in some variety on Maya stela, some even having curved blades.

          The Heartland model is a poor fit in comparison to Mesoamerica, it lacks the population density, nor does it have evidence of ‘buildings covering the whole face of the land’ that Mormon describes, nor does it have elevated highways between large cities, there are some fortification, but not on the scale the Book of Mormon describes built in the 1st century BC and the 4th Century AD. Nor is there evidence of literacy as in the Maya region with no record nor evidence suggesting a great war of conquest, and the overthrowing of fortified cities in the late 4th century, which is present in the Maya Lowlands and Book of Mormon. Cahokia is lowlands and matches in that respect, but estimated population, even at it’s height in the 13th Century, is low compared to Book of Mormon population descriptions. It’s development is also post Book of Mormon era, being 600AD. With an estimated population of no more than 1000 till around the year 1050 AD, according to studies.

          What we do know about the Book of Mormon, that is conclusive, is that neither Joseph Smith nor any contemporary from the 19th century wrote it. I’ve put that info in a previous post. But basically, scientific studies conclude it had multiple authors, not of the 19th century. What is the actual probability of any 19th C author making sure Nephi used around 600 words that were unique to his writings, and Alma used a different 600 odd words unique to his writings in his portion of the book, and that all the writers used unique words only in their portions? Adapting info from the King James Bible could not account for that. It’s not how it was done.

          • I was thinking that item 6.16 should consider the word “cement” in its context in the BoM wherein it says in some detail, “houses of cement” and “cities, both of wood and of cement” in a land where “timber was exceedingly scarce”. Someone else could consider just any mention in Coe of the word “cement”, or in the context “any old building, pyramid or temple wherein any old form of cement is found” and have the opinion that finding a lot of instances decreases the likelihood of being guessed. I wouldn’t dispute doing this, only point out the uncertainty in likelihood numbers we would get.
            Similarly, for the word “swords”, I note that the BoM mentions “hilts” and iron blades that can rust away whereas others may just consider any old weapon that can lop off heads and arms. We would get different likelihood numbers. And really, how unlikely is it that a person writing about ancient peoples being wiped out in warfare would imagine swords were involved?

    • Richard,
      You are welcome to do this test of the King James version of the Bible versus The Maya. I would be interested in the results.

      But to make it a good comparison with our work, you would have to test claims of fact in both books. For example, the fact that both the Maya and the New Testament had a baptismal rite would count as a positive correspondence, but the fact that precious stones in the Bible are diamonds, pearls and that such precious stones are unknown in Mesoamerica (and unmentioned in The Maya) would count as a negative correspondence..
      Bruce

      • Hi Bruce,

        You said, “For example, the fact that both the Maya and the New Testament had a baptismal rite would count as a positive correspondence, but the fact that precious stones in the Bible are diamonds, pearls and that such precious stones are unknown in Mesoamerica (and unmentioned in The Maya) would count as a negative correspondence.”

        I’m confused on that last part. If the Bible mentions diamonds and pearls but The Maya does not, how can you count that as a negative correspondence? A basic tenet of your methodology that you have repeatedly defended in these comments is that “only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis; on statements of fact where one or the other book is silent, we cannot factually assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so.

        Thanks,

        Billy

        p.s. Pearls were unknown in Mesoamerica? 4 Nephi 1:24

        • This illustrates two problems the paper fails to deal with. The first has been discussed which is the failure to be comprehensive in the comparison and thereby include references from one book that isn’t mentioned in the other in such a manner it fails to identify categorical overlap on the ground the details weren’t the same.

          The other is the widespread use of biblical phrases and comparisons that would make little to no sense to Mayan pre-Christian people’s. Why are the Nephites advised to not cast their pearls before swine? Why are Nephite prophets who never lived in Jerusalem or the Old World able to comprehend the meaning of a parable based on olive arborculture?

          • Honorentheos:
            To help future readers (assuming there are any :)) I would like to offer two points.

            First, let me note my mistake. The Book of Mormon does indeed mention pearls worn as adornment. And so does Dr. Coe in his book The Maya. A point for the Book of Mormon. 🙂

            Second, of course a people will naturally retain ancient cultural and other patterns in their daily life. There is no contradiction about this at all…in fact it is another point in favor of the Book of Mormon. We address this specifically and in detail at the beginning of Appendix A. Here is the relevant material from our article:

            “A few comments must be made on the timing of events with regard to the
            evidence summarized below. Most of the events in the Book of Mormon
            took place from roughly 600 BC through AD 400, that is, mostly the Late
            Preclassic period through the first century or two of the Early Classic.
            The Book of Ether takes place very much earlier.

            Dr. Coe’s book strongly focuses on the Classic (Early, Late and Terminal Classic), so it is fair to ask if the cultural, social, political, etc.,
            information summarized in The Maya is relevant to the Book of Mormon.

            In other words, is it even valid, because of the differing time periods, to
            make many of the comparisons we have made?

            We believe the answer is yes, for three important reasons:
            1. This extended quote from p. 61 of The Maya is critically important here: “The more we know about that period [the Late Preclassic], which lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to AD 250, the more complex and developed it seems. From the point of view of social and cultural evolution, the Late Preclassic really is a kind of ‘proto-Classic’ in which all of the traits usually ascribed to the Classic Maya are present, with the exception of vaulted stone architecture and a high elaboration of calendar and script on stone monuments.”

            Thus the Late Preclassic period, which corresponds to most of the Book of Mormon events, is certainly relevant to the Classic in terms of “social and cultural” features.

            2. Dr. Coe, in his Dialogue article and later in the podcast interviews, claims that based on his knowledge, the Book of Mormon is false. If Dr. Coe can make such an assertion based on his knowledge, then it is certainly reasonable and intellectually rigorous to use the knowledge summarized in Dr. Coe’s book to examine the opposing
            hypothesis, namely that the Book of Mormon is true.

            3. Correlations/congruencies/similarities that occur after the Book of Mormon period are certainly not invalid for that reason alone — far from it.

            We use an alphabet developed by the Phoenicians about 3,000 years ago.
            The major world religions that influence our culture so much today were founded millennia ago.

            Our code of laws comes from English common law, about a thousand years old, which was in turn based on still earlier Roman civil law and Roman Catholic canon law.

            Our numbering system, including the all-important zero, uses Arabic numerals, which were actually derived from Hindu mathematicians working about 1,500 years ago.

            Our division of the day into
            hours and minutes comes to us from ancient Babylon and Egypt.

            The foundations of the modern scientific method go back to the work of the Greek scientist Thales of Miletus, who was active about 2,500 years ago.

            Even our modern three- course meal structure goes back to the Muqaddimah
            of Ibn Khaldun, written 600 years ago.

            One more example that might resonate with someone who names himself Honorentheos. 🙂 We still talk about “going the second mile” as Jesus taught his followers to do when ordered by a Roman soldier to carry his gear for one mile. Everyone understands that anachronism.

            Thus, older cultures and societies definitely leave important marks
            on subsequent societies…this would not exclude olive culture.

            Bruce

      • Bruce,
        For step 2): for items that are found in Coe, I’d restrict myself to your list. For items not found in Coe, I’d also use your list. A lot of items could be considered mostly positive and partly negative and the converse so I’d have to weigh this. I’m saying that I’d expect that I’d assign small likelihood numbers to a lot of them. You’d say O.K. do it and I’d just make excuses because, to tell the truth, I’m lacking in competence and confidence.
        Richard

      • Richard:
        By all means, please go ahead with the analysis you have suggested above. But until you do, and have published it following peer-review, you are just speculating.
        Bruce

    • Richard:
      After all the years I told my students to be careful how many significant figures they used, it is humbling to be reminded of that issue now.

      We only used one significant figure for any individual Bayes factor, so the final calculation can not contain more than one significant figure. Agreed. However, the final calculation can and does contain a lot of orders of magnitude…and it does.

      Bruce

  58. 2.17 Large northward migrations specifically mentioned

    Coe’s standard: “They could have been the Yukateko on their trek north to Yucatan from the Maya homeland” (p. 47). “Old thrones toppled in the south as a new political order took shape in the north; southern cities fell into the dust as northern ones flourished” (p. 174). “The early Colonial chronicles in Yukateko speak of a ‘Great Descent’ and ‘Lesser Descent,’ implying two mighty streams of refugees heading north from the abandoned cities” (p. 177). The Yukateko trek took place many centuries before the Late Classic migration northward, so this kind of thing happened in widely different periods.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 63:4‒9; Helaman 3:3‒12.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon speaks repeatedly of the “land northward” as the place where the Nephites could flee or go into to settle. The land northward was where the Nephites made their last stand and were finally destroyed. These northward flights also took place over centuries. This is really a “bull’s eye” for the Book of Mormon: a specific, detailed and unusual correspondence. Likelihood = 0.02.

    My additional notes:
    Note specifically that in at least one case (Helaman 3:3-12) people fled northward as refugees; that is, in order to escape contention and conflict. So, not only did Joseph Smith “guess” correctly that there were multiple migrations that took place over centuries, he guessed correctly that they fled as refugees in at least some cases, and he also guessed correctly the direction of migration-northward.

    Since there are four principal points of the compass (north, east, west and south), it seems that the correct choice of direction was a lucky guess (all by itself) with a 1 in 4 chance of being correct.
    So, commentators.

    What is your personal estimate of the likelihood that Joseph Smith guessed this one correctly? Justify your choice if you wish.

    Bruce

    • Didn’t John Sorenson claim that for the Book of Mormon’s use of the terms north, east, south, and west to make sense, ” the whole directional card must be shifted more than 60 degrees to the west for this model to fit the geography of the chosen area.” (https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2012/from-the-east-to-the-west-the-problem-of-directions-in-the-book-of-mormon)

      If that is the case, then when the Book of Mormon says they were fleeing to the North, it really means they were fleeing to the west. So, the Book of Mormon says they were fleeing to the west but the real Mayans fled to the North, that is a miss.

      I’d score this 1.1.

      Also, according to the FAIR article above, the Mayans used 5 points on the compass–north, east, south, west, and center. The Book of Mormon mentions 4 of them repeatedly, but never the one that was uniquely Mayan–Center. That is another miss. I’d score that one a 2.

      • Thanks for the mention of the FAIR article. However, if you had read it more closely, it argues that the Book of Mormon, even in translation, seems to describe directions that would indicate that our English terms are being derived from Mesoamerican concepts. Coe’s book is written in English, and conforms to English directions. It is incorrect to suggest that because an underlying language or culture is different from that of the target language, that the target language’s culture is necessarily correct.

        Of course, that shifts the argument to the nature of translation and whether or not the Book of Mormon is a translation–but since that it what it claims to be, arguing that it cannot be a translation because of features of the target language is already a tenuous position.

        • Hi Brant,

          Your FAIR article is certainly a much more subtle and challenging piece than the specific argument the Dales are making in correspondence 2.17.

          My comments are focused squarely on the Dales’ argument. The Book of Mormon says that in the year 56 B.C., 5,400 men, plus their wives and children, left Zarahemla and went to the land “Northward.” The people who left were never heard of more, and Zarahemla continued to be a major city and the center of the action.

          Meanwhile, Coe says that “old thrones toppled in the south as a new political order took shape in the north; southern cities fell into the dust as northern ones flourished.” According to Coe, this happened “c. AD 800-925.

          Coe also said, “If we accept the word of the linguists, they could have been the Yukateko on their trek north to Yucatan from the Maya homeland.” According to Coe, this happened around 2500 BC.

          The Book of Mormon talks about people moving “north”, but when the Book of Mormon mentions north, does it mean the same direction as what Coe means by North? The Book of Mormon talks about this happening in the context of an expanding population. Coe talks about this happening in the context of old cities being abandoned. And most clearly, the migrations Coe mentions happen either 2,000 years too early or 1,000 years too late to be the ones the Book of Mormon is talking about.

          Yet this a bull’s eye where the specific, detailed, and unusual details match?

          • That is why there are two types of discussion about this paper. One is statistics, upon which I have no way to comment. The second is about the nature of the comparisons. The problem of any of the comparisons–even the best of them–is that they are subservient to the statistical use of the comparisons. Matching a text with archaeology is much more complicated, and is more properly the subject of books rather than papers.

            As the Dales indicate long, long ago in this thread, the weightings can be changed–their interest was in the statistics.

            What do we do with your question about north/northward? That would depend upon whom you ask. I will have a different answer than my fellow Mesoamerican proponents who prefer the Usumacinta correlation and whose “north” is different from mine.

            The cultural comparisons are important, but (in my opinion) far beyond the intent of the paper. They can, and should be argued, but I don’t see this paper as the place–or the method. It is also a very different question. The paper looks at Coe–uniquely at Coe. That alone limits the scope so tightly that discussions of the correlation between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican cultures (it should not be limited to the Maya) is immediately more complex that the comparison of the Book of Mormon to Coe’s book.

            Now, if I really wanted to complicate things, I would note that I believe that Mormon’s description of people moving northward has a literary function that supersedes any historical function… but then that is really a different conversation!

          • Hi Billy:
            Just a comment or two to clarify Brant’s remark that our interest was in the statistics.

            Actually, the statistics itself was not our primary interest. Our primary objective was to examine Dr. Coe’s claim that the Book of Mormon has little to do with ancient Indian cultures. This is the hypothesis we examined.

            Bayesian statistics is simply a convenient tool whereby we start with a defined numerical value of the skeptical prior hypothesis (a billion to one against the Book of Mormon), assign a numerical value to each piece of evidence for and against Coe’s claim and arrive at a posterior hypothesis based on the evidence.

            We accept the universe of facts summarized in Dr. Coe’s book as essentially true and compare the Book of Mormon’s fact claims with the corresponding facts from Coe’s book.

            It is also possible to lay aside the Bayesian approach and not weight any of the evidence. We can simply examine each point of evidence as having the same weight. We thought that was a less rigorous approach.

            So what we are doing now is examining each point of evidence. I will continue with another point of evidence tomorrow.

            In the meantime, I promise to address your points about the time periods of the northward migration (and whether “north” means “north”) after we have brought forward another two or three points of evidence.

            I feel certain you will have something to say about each of these additional points of evidence. In fact, I would be disappointed if you did not. 🙂

            Best wishes,
            Bruce

          • Billy,
            Regarding the issue of migrations and their (lack of?) northward direction, I have a couple of comments.

            Cultural patterns tend to persist. For example, Coe mentions repeatedly how much the Maya culture looked toward and drew from the ancient Olmecs. The Book of Mormon takes place between 600 BC and 421 AD, so it places the northward migrations between the two time periods you mention above–Olmec times and the Classic. In my mind, that makes the northward migrations in the Book of Mormon an even better fit with Coe’s book…not a worse one as you suggest above.

            This quote from page 61 of Coe’s book seems relevant.

            “The more we know about that period [the Late Preclassic], which lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to AD 250, the more complex and developed it seems. From the point of view of social and cultural evolution, the Late Preclassic really is a kind of ‘proto-Classic’ in which all of the traits usually ascribed to the Classic Maya are present, with the exception of vaulted stone architecture and a high elaboration of calendar and script on stone monuments.”

            Thus the Late Preclassic period, which corresponds to the time period of most of the Book of Mormon events, is certainly relevant to the Classic in terms of “social and cultural” features.

            Again, as a cultural phenomenon, the northward migration described in the Book of Mormon certainly fits in with established earlier and later patterns.
            Cultural patterns do tend to persist.

            You may be aware, for example, that from at least the time of the Jebusites, (1700 BC or so) in times of trouble the ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem would hide out in the caves that surround Jerusalem, including the caves that face the Dead Sea near the Qumran community (lots of karst features in that general area).

            https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/judean-desert-caves

            In the Book of Mormon at about 600 BC, Nephi and his brothers apparently hid out in one such cave. About 700 years later on, during the Bar Kokhba revolt, Jews also hid out in such caves (eg, the Cave of Letters).

            So both the Book of Mormon and The Maya speak of this exact same cultural feature persisting over millennia, just as the flight to the caves around Jerusalem persisted among many different peoples.

            As far as “north” perhaps not meaning geographical north, I would point out that the Book of Mormon does not claim to be a record of the Maya. Therefore, you cannot assume that a specialized use of the word “north” among the Maya means the same thing as “north” in the Book of Mormon. There is no basis for such an assumption. In Coe’s book the northward direction of migration is plainly meant as a geographical reference.

            Unless there is very specific information to the contrary, I assume that every word in the Book of Mormon means exactly what it meant in 1830 American English…the language into which the Book of Mormon was translated.

            If we can play fast and loose with the plain meanings of the words, then all the objections to the mention of “chariots”, “horses”, “elephants”, “steel” in the Book of Mormon likewise can go away. Words don’t mean anything. 🙂

            Bruce

          • Hi Bruce,

            Thanks for the reply. I’d rather not get too derailed on this one point because many of the other correspondences are more interesting, but I will offer my thoughts on your message.

            First, I don’t think “northward migration” is an example of the type of social and cultural pattern that persists. If a group of people living in Mesoamerica c. AD 2,500 had a cultural pattern of immigrating to the north that persisted through Book of Mormon times and continued until A.D. 900, by then they would no longer be in Mesoamerica—they’d be in the Arctic Circle. The Book of Mormon mentioning a migration to the north that happened in 56 BC is not a bull’s eye for migrations in The Maya that happened 2,000 years earlier or 1,000 years later.

            Regarding whether “north” means “north”, John Sorenson created a Book of Mormon map that rotated the compass, because according to his analysis, that was required in order to make the internal geography of the Book of Mormon more-or-less fit in the real world. But if you reject his work (or aren’t familiar with it), I’ll drop that point and we can agree that north does in fact mean north.

            Best,

            Billy

  59. Prelude to discussing the correspondences

    As promised, I would like to begin an open discussion of the various correspondences (131 of them) that we have identified between Dr. Coe’s book The Maya, and the Book of Mormon. Dr. Coe has repeatedly claimed that the Book of Mormon “has little to do with early Indian cultures”. We examine that claim in our paper and these 131 correspondences are our response to Dr. Coe.

    If these correspondences between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon are real and significant, then Dr. Coe is very wrong. The Book of Mormon in fact has a great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures; and not only with their cultures but also with their geographical, military, religious, technological, etc. characteristics.

    Our paper is really about these correspondences. So I am going to lay aside the Bayesian statistics issue for right now, and focus on how convincing (or not) each piece of evidence is to each of the commentators who choose to respond. You choose how likely you think it is that Smith “guessed” a specific correspondence.

    So, I am asking you, dear commentator, to give your own personal assessment of how likely it is that Joseph Smith “guessed” each correspondence. I suggest we limit ourselves to the three different likelihoods that Brian and I used in our paper. These are: 0.5, 0.1 or 0.02, in other words, one in two, one in ten or one in fifty.

    You can also choose 1.0–meaning you think the correspondence has no value at all as evidence. Your choice. You tell us what you think the likelihood is, choose any number you want. Ball in your court, dear friends. 🙂

    If you think Smith didn’t “guess” these correspondences then he must have had a source. So if you think that, please tell us what the source was, and what page of the source you are citing. We have provided page by page citations from the Book of Mormon and Coe’s book to support each correspondence that we have found.

    You do the same. What is the source and the page number so we can check the source for ourselves?

    One observation that may save you time, frustration and eyesight; it comes from Dr. Coe. In one of the Mormon Stories podcasts Dr. Coe states “until [Stephens and Catherwood] went to the Maya area no one knew anything about it.” Stephens and Catherwood visited the Mayan area twice between 1839 and 1842—long before the 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon.

    So you may have trouble finding a source, but please don’t let us stop you from searching.

    If you think that the correspondence was just common knowledge in Smith’s day, then please cite the source (again with the page) that you think supports your claim that that correspondence was common knowledge in Smith’s day.

    Some commentators think we have been arbitrary in our assignment of likelihood ratios. In fact, we have not been arbitrary, and have already discussed above at length how we chose our likelihood ratios.

    But here is your chance to be as arbitrary as you like. No need to justify your choice of likelihood ratios. (But of course you will have more credibility if you do provide reasons—that is only natural).

    You can use 100%, 99.9999999%, 95%, 90%, 50%, 2% or any other number you wish. This number represents your opinion as to how likely it was that Joseph Smith guessed this correspondence.

    So, pick a number, any number you want. How likely do you think it is that Joseph Smith guessed this correspondence?

    If the commentators are willing to actually participate in an orderly discussion of each correspondence, we will eventually get to the correspondences that some may think are weak or nonexistent.

    But for right now, since this is our paper and we have had two weeks of pretty free discussion, I will choose the first twenty or so correspondences we will discuss. After that, I will be happy to discuss, point by point, other correspondences.

    It seems like this is a minimum courtesy that the commentators “owe” the authors. I would treat each of you with that courtesy.

    How about it, ready to discuss the evidence we have provided in the 131 correspondences? Ready to treat our paper with some open-mindedness and professional courtesy (at least)?

    We will start with Correspondence 2.17.

    Firmly yours,
    Bruce

    • Everyone,
      It is July 14, 2019…and I just want to make one point. In the May 19 post above, I invited the commentators to give a source for the information they think Joseph Smith had.

      In the weeks that followed my May 19 post above (see below), you will see that the negative commentators are very reluctant (or flat unable) to give a source for the information that they think Joseph Smith had.

      To repeat, Joseph Smith got a lot of stuff right about the fact claims of the Book of Mormon and the facts summarized in Coe’s book about ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

      So if Joseph Smith wasn’t guessing, what was the source of his information?

      Bruce

      • I believe you are conflating two issues here. Your comment above assumes the position Smith was speaking of the Maya and asks, “How else could he have known this fact in Coe other than by divine aid in the authentically ancient text of the BoM?” That’s an assumption that has been taken to task multiple times where the information actually describes in the BoM has been shown to be quite different than what actually occurred among the Maya. All too often you have made use of a word or term choice made by Coe to then bridge the gap between widely varied practises and claim they are highly detailed, unusual and specific matches. It’s frankly astonishing that you persist with this still.

        It’s from that point that a more sincere reader will recognize that you have indeed been presented with multiple examples demonstrating the probability Smith is describing something he invented based on the belief the native Americans were responsible for exterminating a civilization of advanced old world immigrants who were descended from Abraham and Israel. His source was the Bible in combination with wide spread mound builder mythology. He wasn’t describing Maya and it’s dishonest to insist that all comparisons be made to Coe. It suggests you are not tracking just how tenuous most of the correspondences prove to be when looked at beyond the superficial that was apparently your true standard rather than sincerely identifying specific details and features that deserves you descriptions. So, I believe as apologists are wont to say your request has on fact been asked and answered.

  60. Hi Brant,

    I hate to be disrespectful, but you can’t say you know. You don’t know. You believe the evidence makes it likely, and I suppose if I thought the BoM we’re true history it’s where I’d see the better fit as well.

    But it’s also a book with countless problems built on a foundational set of ideas that have been eroded away as we learn more about the universe. There was no Adam, no Eve, no Abraham in the sense the stories told are factual. The story of the Hebrew people is different than was believed in the early 1900s, and the racist idea that the evidence of advanced pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas required Old World migration and culture to be explanation need has crumbled and good riddance to it. The DNA evidence, the statements of past LDS prophets on it that were changed try and make it all not tall apart once B.H. Roberts recognized the facts didn’t fit story…it’s a belief that stretches credulity.

    The Mayan people deserve deep respect for what they accomplished. They don’t deserve trying to copy and paste a Hebrew diaspora onto it to cheapen those accomplishments. I find it offense, quite frankly.

    • Honorentheos, of course I can say I know. In what definition of knowledge does my understanding of what I perceive, internalize, and support would one suggest that I cannot know. My knowing isn’t imperative on anyone else, but it demeans discussion to suggest that when I say I know, you suggest that I cannot because we disagree. Wrong definition of knowing.

      Is the Book of Mormon a book with countless problems? Not the one I read. I read a book that was translated. I am amazed at how many read the text assuming that English was the original language. If you make that assumption, you have already decided it isn’t from history–and therefore necessarily find arguments supporting the pre-established position.

      Your arguments about the racist need for advanced civilizations to have Old World connections is correct–but dated. LDS scholars understood that problem decades ago. I am seeing significantly less of that.

      The DNA evidence? Making that statement tells me that you have accepted a particular argument–and haven’t followed the issues. Before DNA, blood-type evidence told us that the Book of Mormon peoples weren’t unique progenitors of all Native Americans. It was, in the scholarly community, a dead issue before it was raised.

      Unfortunately, most of your statements would have been really good arguments fifty years ago. Currently, they are far behind the field.

      • Hi Brant,

        I wouldn’t argue that a person lacks knowledge because I happen to disagree with them. I would, however, argue that a person lacks knowledge and is instead substituting that term in for belief when they are describing a supposition arrived at through their review of the evidence but which view is hardly uncontroversial. It’s difficult to accept you have knowledge of a thing for which no professional mesoamerican specialist in archeology with whom I’m familiar would acknowledge is broadly accepted as fact. I know the common argument is this is due to lack of concern or knowledge of the Book of Mormon on the part of non-lds researchers but frankly, we’re the BoM to prove useful in predicting discoveries or informing questions that weren’t easily answered as occurred with interpreting the glyphs once modern Mayan languages went from an idea to essential, then it would be. No one is going to ignore a source that proves successful in informing that research once it proves it’s value. The issue is it only works in reverse, with the research being used to identify and claim parallels such as the discussion here is apparently moving to.

        • We don’t need to argue epistemology. You are not in a position to know what I know. Declaring that I cannot know it is strange. That you do not know professional Mesoamerican specialists who agree with the Book of Mormon does not mean that they do not exist. They do. However, you qualified it with what you knew. I can’t argue with that. You had a certain realm of knowledge. I have a different one. I do know the professional Mesoamericanists I cited. I agree that there are not as many, but I disagree that the only definition of knowledge is a statistical average of any group. Professionals didn’t believe Knorozov at first. That didn’t mean he was wrong (he wasn’t).

          In history, it often happens that we don’t get new documents, sometimes not even new archaeological finds, and knowledge is advanced because someone sees something that had not been seen before.

          You are correct that (after a time–rarely immediately, and often decades later) information that is successful in informing research will be recognized. In this case, the Mesoamerican world is successful in informing the Book of Mormon. Since most of us don’t suggest that the cultural influence went from the smaller population to the larger–it will be a while before Mesoamericanists find any reason to see their work differently–even though the Book of Mormon fits will into that context.

        • Honorentheos:
          Sorry I missed commenting on this post before now, but this opportunity is just too good to pass up. 🙂

          You apparently believe that scientific/objective truth is established by the consensus of the “experts” at the time. Therefore you say that something has to be “broadly accepted as fact” before we can take it seriously.

          That is just plain nonsense. Accepting your point of view would put an end to all scientific progress.

          For example, Max Planck and Albert Einstein engaged in a very long, sometimes heated discussion about Planck’s work (in the late 1800s and first part of the 1900s) that led to the development of quantum theory.

          At its roots, quantum theory seems truly wacky. Einstein didn’t like the wacky part, and resisted it on those grounds, rather than the evidence. Decades later, as the evidence accumulated, Einstein finally accepted wacky quantum theory.

          Yet wacky or not, quantum mechanics is how subatomic particles actually behave. You wouldn’t have a cell phone if quantum mechanics did not accurately describe the subatomic world.

          However, the established or consensus viewpoint about the physical world among physicists in the late 1800s was the Newtonian viewpoint. There is no room at all for quantum effects in Newtonian mechanics.

          Eventually Planck was vindicated and won the Nobel Prize as the weight of the evidence in favor of quantum mechanics overcame the resistance ( or more likely, as the recalcitrant physicists just died off).

          Regarding that fact, Planck once quipped “Science advances one funeral at a time”. More fully, what he meant was “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

          Well, I could give a lot more examples about the “scientific consensus” of the time being dead wrong–from Thales of Miletus to Richard Feynman. But that might be boring and risk being pedantic.

          In real science, Honorentheos, only evidence matters, not opinion. And an opinion held without examining the evidence is, according to J.B.S. Haldane, simply a prejudice.

          We have summarized a lot of evidence that supports the claim that the Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. Brian and I invite everyone to examine the evidence.

          Bruce

          • Hi Dr. Dale,

            I just noticed this reply. Since the reply was a few weeks behind the original I feel it’s ok to reply late as well.

            I wouldn’t conflate scientific consensus with objective truth as is implied. That isn’t relevant to noting that being at odds with the scientific consensus view requires a compelling argument and extraordinary evidence. As you note, opinion doesn’t matter. And has been demonstrated repeatedly, this paper could have benefited from a bit more rigour in defining and sorting the evidence, and significantly less opinion. So, point taken I suppose.

  61. Doesn’t the way book of mormon society was organized, as described by you above, also resemble European society, known to Joseph Smith? They had various Kings over various areas and Napolean was trying to be King over all. The Eurpoeans and Americans built roads for trade. America at the time had big cities such as Boston and New York and smaller cities/towns surrounding them. This is how humans seem to organize. So, it doesn’t seem all that remarkable that Joseph Smith had his characters organized in this fashion or that there are similarities with the Maya. There are also similarities with many civilizations.

    • The fact that there are superficial resemblances with any culture that has cities (and I don’t know of cities without trade) suggests that we can’t skim the Book of Mormon for connections to either the Maya or to New York. We also cannot stop at the concept of cities or villages, because it is true that they are represented in many locations. There are other indicators, and focusing on simple connections misses the more important, and more unique connections.

      Carefully examining the text for these complex interactions is a long way away from the statistical approach of the paper, so I won’t go into them. However, because I have have seen them (and written about them elsewhere), I also cannot allow a simple suggestion of a possibility stand as any kind of objection to the paper.

      • But doesn’t this go to the subjective assignment of likelihood ratios? If I see something as connecting to the Maya but it also connects to many other societies, there may be a “hit” but the guessing probability or random coincidence probability must rise, especially if I am surrounded by a society that fits the alleged “hit.” More than likely, at least, or highly likely, I obtained the narrative from my surroundings and it is just a coincidence that it also agrees with the Maya. I think this is a problem with the paper just limiting itself to a comparison with the Maya. It may very well be that there are “hits,” but if these “hits” are also found in Joseph’s surroundings, what value are the comparisons?

        • It might speak of some of the particulars they looked at. It doesn’t dismiss the type of analysis, nor the issue that there are correlations that are stronger than those they examined. I can’t deal with the statistical reasoning. I can look at the connections between the Book of Mormon and a particular culture, and since those are stronger than those presented, unless there is a problem with the math–the case is better than presented.

  62. Honorentheos the Book of Mormon describes centralized governments, the Lamanites had Kings over cities and associated lands and a King over all. The Nephites had similar, the Nephite cities in the land of Zarahemla were under that central polity, they built elevated highways between the cities and lands as we see with the pre-classic Maya. These highways were essential to trade. The Nephites classified also the land of Bountiful and the land Northward as lands possessed by them. The Land Northward being accessed also by ships, as we see being the case with the ancient Maya with the northern land of Yucatan with trading ports around its coast and the unique class of Maya who traded by sea. In the pre-classic this distribution of common civilization can be seen in the common religion with the triadic temples built in all those locations, all believed associated with the Maize god, his sacrifice journey through the underworld, resurrection and ascension to heaven according to a 2014 study. Naturally no pre-classic triadic temples have been found in the big polity in the southern highlands.

    Nephite cities were interconnected exactly the same way lowland Maya cities were interconnected. It can be seen in the highway system and the massive fortifications, both indicating a centralized government. Even the ditch and rampart system is the same, a precise match: For example:

    “Among the most startling discoveries was a large fortress complex now called La Cuernavilla. Built on a steep ridge between the Maya cities of El Zotz and Tikal, the heavily fortified site included high walls, moats, watchtowers, and caches of round stones that likely served as ammunition for warriors’ slings. It is the largest defensive system ever discovered in the region, “and possibly in all of the ancient Americas,” says Stephen Houston, a Brown University archaeologist and Maya scholar.
    “This was surprising,” says Houston, “because we had a tendency to romanticize Maya warfare as something that was largely ritualized and concentrated toward the end of the civilization. But the fortifications we’re seeing now suggest an elevated level of conflict over centuries. Rulers were so deeply worried about defense that they felt the need to invest in all these hilltop fortifications. There is an almost palpable sense of fear in this landscape.”
    “… the survey revealed the long-hidden ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.”

    National Geographic. Tom Clynes March 2019.

    So Honorentheos I don’t get why you are again saying these civilizations don’t match when so plainly they do.

    • Hi Mark, that may be, or it may be seeing faces in the clouds. But so far making just on open calculation of a likelihood ratio originally claimed to be evidence for the BoM describing authentic Mayan society turned out to be halfway to overcoming the calculated results of the paper. It doesn’t look like that’s a real bunny smiling ng down at you from the clouds. But maybe. Maybe a book that more closely describes a simplistic frontier Christianity likely common among the people in early 19th c. upstate New York than the modern Mormon religion will turn out to be a true ancient account written by a person living in the early classic period of the Maya. Who knows?

      • Who knows? I do. Of course, since that is a declaration of faith it doesn’t count for a lot. However, I have spent a long time looking at the clouds. The difference between the brain’s visual capacity to create information differs from seeing an actual pattern when the pattern persists. If we see a bunny in the clouds and look away, it is rare to see the bunny again. If, however, you see a pattern in a trompe l’oeil, once you see the pattern you cannot unsee the pattern.

        The patterns that I see in the Book of Mormon are comple, and create connections between specific geographies and specific events. Certain cultural artifacts occur in the Book of Mormon right when those same cultural issues are present in the target region. Events in the Book of Mormon make better sense against a specific culture and time. The movement of the story through time changes certain elements–and those correspond to the movement of events through time in the target region. The known movement of certain people in the region correspond in time, cause, and result with the Book of Mormon. The presence of a regional drought is now scientifically correlated to the time when the Book of Mormon says there was a regional drought. The final demise of the Nephites has an explanation in that particular area for that particular time–explaining why it did not occur earlier (or later).

        Those are too specific an interrelated set of dots that make a pattern that I cannot unsee. It is nothing like a bunny in a cloud.

  63. So our totals are: 10 attempts if we exclude 4 Nephi and Ether, with Mosiah and 3 Nephi being the only hits for H2 while we have 8 hits for H1.

    But what of the probability question? How do we define our (p)s on this question? To be consistent, if we argue that under H1 the probability is based on how our known and assumed 19th c. authors behaved, we could go back to saying it’s a 2 for 3 (BoM and MF) with p1=0.67. And our H2 Mormon author representing the probability that an authentic Mayan would contradict Coe given the methodology? Still seems like 1 in 22,000,000 or p2(0.0000000454545).

    We have this for our probabilities under each hypothesis:

    p1 = 0.67

    p2 = 0.0000000454545

    Since we had ten attempts:

    n!=10

    x1 = 8

    x2 = 2

    So, on to the maths:

    LR = (0.67^8*(1-0.67)^2) / (0.0000000454545^8*(1-0.0000000454545)^2) = (0.1089*0.33)/ (1.8222798756396637381449446161651e-59*0.999999909) = (0.035937/1.8222797098121950549355444449751e-59) = 1.97209022E57

    Based on this one single item, the likelihood ratio for H1 over H2 when it comes to the hypothesis that the BoM is more likely the result of a 19th c. author attempting to describe Mayan governmental organization compared to an authentic Mayan source is 1.97209022E57 to one.

    That looks pretty bad. I think your skeptical prior was way, WAY off.

    The same methods could be used to look at the LR caused by both the BoM and VotH describing coinage but The Maya not, or including the practice of the Law of Moses. We could use it to figure out how meaningful the absence of important features of Mayan society ought to weight in such as jade or cocoa. It’s all goofy math and anyone impressed by your results should see why now. But if we want to play this game, it will get stupid very very quickly and not likely to go in your favor.

    Anyway, I congratulate you both on your paper. I hope it remains relevant to the discussion on the BoM for years to come.

    • Honorentheos,
      As I have done before with other commentators, I invite you to actually perform the analysis you suggest above, and then publish the results, as we have done.

      The analysis you suggest, however, is not the one we have done. Thus it is irrelevant to this discussion. It would help the discussion advance if you would confine yourself to relevant topics…and avoid the kind of unfounded speculation you describe (in totally awesome detail) above. 🙂

      Bruce

      • To the contrary, the analysis I demonstrated is what you should have done. It takes the highly arbitrary decisions in choosing and weighing correspondences and defines the maths behind them explicitly. It is overwhelming representative of how a legitimate attempt to apply Bayesian inference to the question of BoM historicity narrowly compared to the Maya would play out. The description of the people in the BoM speaking Hebrew alone makes the probability the BoM is describing the Maya infinitely unlikely.

  64. Since you argue that this would be more likely to benefit the “credulous” evidence, let’s start with 1.1 then, and see.

    Let’s start with the same process, same hypotheses.

    H1) The BoM was authored by a person or people in the 19th c. CE attempting to create a believable origin story for the Native Americans relying on common myths and beliefs of their time with limited access to reliable prehistory of the Americas.

    and

    H2) The BoM is the result of the translated, compiled history of multiple authors initially completed around the 4th c. CE by a person living within a Mayan culturally influenced or influencing society.

    The data we are considering from The Maya was that, “It was clear that there had never been (an ‘Old Empire’). In it’s stead, Mayanists proposed a more Balkanized model, in which each ‘city state’ was essentially independent of all the others;…the distance from the capital to the polity’s borders seldom exceeding a day’s march.”

    Our job, once again, is to consider if “within the framework of a statistical model, a particular set of data supports one statistical hypothesis better than another if the likelihood of the first hypothesis, on the data, exceeds the likelihood of the second hypothesis”.

    We already know The Maya is going to match The Maya. But what about the BoM? As I’ve noted in these comments, they describe the Lamanites being governed by a single king. They describe the Nephites as being governed by a single king or a chief judge at different points in their history. There are moments when they divide up and we have the City of Zarahemla under King Mosiah, King Noah elsewhere, the people of Ammon, and other splinter groups. But the narrative usually describes these as contentious times, and when they are united they are under central rule. At the end of the Nephite civilization, Mormon is the head of all their armies fighting against a Lamanite king who heads their people. The fighting goes from city to city, land to land, tens of thousands are killed, and it sounds largely like two major peoples are fighting against one another as it’s described in the BoM.

    That’s certainly not an exact match. So how do we go about this one? Understanding that with likelihood ratios the hypotheses can change but the data must hold, I guess we need to change our H’s and evaluate the data to see how likely one H is over the other H.

    Hmmm. How about this?

    H1) The BoM describes primarily two peoples who most often lived under a form of central government, in contrast with how The Maya describes Mayan political government.

    and

    H2) H1) The BoM primarily matches the description in The Maya describing multiple polities centered on single cities with a king over them who are largely Balkanized, non-centralized peoples primarily united by common ancestry and similar cultures.

    This may be more like your dice rolling example. We could go through the BoM and find every mention of the government and determine if it supports H1 or H2. What we absolutely shouldn’t do is take the lack of a single word and claim that lack of a single word shows the hypothetical author in H2 would have had to have specific, detailed, unusual knowledge of the Mayan people. Good thing no one here did that, right?

    Let’s shorthand the discussion for the sake of brevity and this not being a scientific paper but just an exercise in bias confirmation and break it down by books instead. 1 and 2 Nephi? Kings over both. That’s a hit for H1. Jacob? Still the Nephi’s serving as a king over the Nephite people. The Lamanites are not as clear but they are a people. That has to go to H1 as well. The Jarom-Omni books are H1. Nephite people fighting Lamanite people. Mosiah could be said to go for H2 so that three hits for H1, one hit for H2. Alma? Chief judge, King of the Lamanites…definitely a hit for H1. Helaman? H1. 3 Nephi? Hmm. Anarchy could be for H2 so let’s go that direction. That’s five for H1, two for H2. 4 Nephi is unusual as it describes a condition that didn’t exist among the Maya – universal peace and communism. But it also makes the weird claim that after three hundred years they go back to being Lamanites and Nephites because…? I’m excluding this chapter because it doesn’t fit either hypothesis. Mormon, as mentioned above, is a hit for H1 as it described both a king over the Lamanites and Mormon is the leader of the Nephite armies. Ether gets excluded because it is not purported to be in the same period as the Mayans…well, yeah technically since it overlaps with Mosiah it would cover about 100 years but why run up the score? It’s out. Last of all, Moroni. Chapter 9 is the clearest evidence that both the Lamanites and Nephites were considered centralized peoples. That’s also a hit for H1.

  65. Moving on and working with the definition for the Law of Likelihood, “within the framework of a statistical model, a particular set of data supports one statistical hypothesis better than another if the likelihood of the first hypothesis, on the data, exceeds the likelihood of the second hypothesis” we can say without doing the maths that yes, our data set supports H1 being more likely than H2. But by how much?

    Here we have many, many problems that are inherent with your approach which has treated the Bayesian inference like so many rolls of a d