Hebrew in America?

by: Mormon Heretic

April 28, 2014

It’s been a long time since I discussed Book of Mormon Geography Theories. Every so often, I get an email from the FIRM Foundation. Basically Rodney Meldrum has proposed a theory in which he believes that Joseph Smith has indicated that Book of Mormon lands are in America’s Heartland. Meldrum believes that the Hopewell Indian mound builders are the ancestors of Book of Mormon peoples.

One of the Newark Holy Stones, depicting Hebrew writing and the 10 Commandments

For skeptics, one of the biggest problems for the Book of Mormon is that no Hebrew or Egyptian writings have been found in the Americas. In Meldrum’s most recent newsletter (an update of the same information from 2012), Meldrum loudly trumpets a claim that indeed Hebrew writings have been confirmed. He references a History Channel program America Unearthed TV series, aired Nov. 30th, 2013. The episode references the Newark Holy Stones held in the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in Ohio.

These stones depict the 10 Commandments, and have been a suspected forgery since 1860. A man by the name of David Wyrick discovered the stones in a Hopewell Mound. Meldrum believes that the History Channel documentary featuring the stones bolsters his claims that they are authentic.

Why haven’t you heard more about them? Well, it does seem that many consider Scott Wolter, the host of America Unearthed less than credible. Brad Lepper of the Ohio Historical Society Archeaology Blog dismisses Wolter’s claims as “pseudoscience” and that the stones are authentic.

1. Not only has the inscription on the Decalogue Stone not passed the scrutiny of skeptics, no less an authority than the late Frank Moore Cross, Harvard University Professor of Near Eastern Languages, declared it to be a “grotesque” forgery. Jeff Gill has demonstrated that the archaic-looking Hebrew letters on the Decalogue Stone are based on the standard Hebrew alphabet used in the 19th century. It is a 19th century artifact made to look as if it were ancient.

My biggest problem with Meldrum’s theories is that he is overplays his own evidence and he doesn’t address the weaknesses of his own theory. For example, the Hopewell Indians are not nearly as sophisticated as the ancient Nephites. Meldrum also loves to quote Joseph Smith saying that the Lamanites were near Ohio–yet Meldrum does not address Smith’s statements that Joseph claimed ruins in Mexico, Guatemala, and the coast of South America were evidence of the Book of Mormon. Meldrum is just as guilty of pseudo-science as Wolter.

In the comments, Jeff Gill (another writer at the Ohio blog) states:

A number of diverse groups in 19th century Ohio could have been motivated to perpetrate such a forgery — from Mormons to Freemasons. That’s one of the reasons it has been so hard to solve the mystery of whodunnit. My colleague Jeff Gill and I have settled upon the opponents of the doctrine of polygenesis — and therefore opponents of slavery — as the most likely people behind the forgery. The Holy Stones appear to be tailor-made to address the particular arguments of Josiah Nott, the foremost proponent of polygenesis and defender of the institution of slavery. Read our article in the magazine “Timeline” (see the reference in the blog post) for the fullest presentation of our arguments.

I just don’t think the evidence is at all compelling for Meldrum’s model. Have you studied “the Heartland Model”? What do you think of the Newark Holy Stones?

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7 Responses to Hebrew in America?

  1. Jared on April 28, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    The fact that Joseph Smith never spoke as a prophet declaring the exact location where the Nephite history unfolded is telling. For the believer this omission says, don’t worry too much about the geography, the Lord has provided the means to verify the books truthfulness.

    For the nonbeliever it says, if the book were true we would know. The fact that we don’t know trumpets it untruthfulness.

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  2. dba.brotherp on April 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    I think I am going to not doubt my doubts and call it a forgery. It is interesting that forgeries seem to conveniently address what the audience wants hear.

    What would convince me of the model is if they found an ordinary, everyday item, like a shopping list, that says, “Nephi pick up some milk on the way back home from pursuing the Lamanites.”

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  3. Douglas on April 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    Probably no one has taken this artifact seriously enough to subject it to lab scrutiny (ex: looking at the chisel marks under an electron microscope for signs of aging, be they consistent with an “ancient” item or consistent with articles inscribed from about 150 years ago. Apparently it’s been dismissed as a pathetic forgery (use of then comtemporary Hewbrew characters?).

    Even if this article could be plausibly construed as genuine, it’d still be little more than further evidence of more Pre-Columbian transoceanic contact than commonly thought. There is nothing that could reasonably link the Hopewell culture to BoM peoples other than vague (and not unique) descent. Further, even if the Decalogue were genuine, its placement in the Hopewell find could merely be a coincidence. It’s like finding Roman coins in the Americas (assuming that Post-Columbian “contamination” can be ruled out). So a trireme of Romans got WAY off course (ol’ Judah Ben-Hur must have been feeling his oats THAT day when rowing! Ramming Speed!) and the Centurion was missing some pocket change on the way home. Possible? I suppose it could be. What does it prove re: BoM? Not a thing save that a “voice from the dust” is POSSIBLE. Putting Moroni’s promise (Moroni 10:3-5) has been considered a far more useful method of determining its veracity for oneself.

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  4. MH on April 29, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Doug, the chisel marks have been examined closely, and the consensus seems that they were made with 19th century tools. (There’s more info at the Ohio website, as well as Wikipedia in the links above.)

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  5. Roger on April 29, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    “What do I think of the Newark Holy Stones?” That they are comparable to the “Mormon Will” and the Hitler Diaries.

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  6. Brent Hartman on April 29, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    I live in Missouri, and I also happen to live three miles from what Joseph Smith called a Nephite altar. I have no doubts that I live on what was once Nephite land.

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  7. Wyoming on May 1, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    When Chief Joseph as captured, he had a clay tablet with phoenecian writing. When asked where he received, he said he got it from his white ancestors. There hasn’t been much research on it but it is a very interesting story.

    http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/03/24/where-did-chief-joseph-get-his-mesopotamian-tablet-24717

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