J. Warner Wallace has written a good, long article entitled Investigating the Evidence for Mormonism In Six Steps. Here’s my outline of the article:
- Joseph Smith could have been motivated by lust, greed, and the pursuit of power.
- Joseph Smith was born and lived during the Second Great Awakening (1790-1845). This period of religious revival also coincided with the rise of a number of unorthodox Christian sects in addition to Mormonism. The culture of the time was fascinated with Native Americans and some suggested that Native Americans were descendants of ancient Hebrews. People in Palmyra, NY, where Smith was raised, were interested in digging for treasures.
- Joseph Smith was a treasure digger and used a seer stone to divine where treasure was buried. In 1826, when Smith was allegedly being visited by angels prior to the writing of the Book of Mormon, Smith was charged with fraud by Josiah Stowel after Stowel lost confidence in Smith’s abilities.
- Joseph Smith said he translated the golden plates in producing the Book of Mormon. No one, other than Smith, ever claimed to have seen these plates with their natural eyes (this claim from J. Warner Wallace does not appear to be accurate). Smith did not need the plates present to translate them. Rather he placed a seer stone in a hat and then placed his face in the hat. He would then receive a translation and someone would write it down for him. It should be noted that this process was similar to the process he used to divine where treasure was buried. One time Lucy Harris was given 116 pages of manuscripts to alleviate her fears that the translation was not authentic. She lost these pages. Instead of re-translating this text, Joseph Smith said he was replacing the text with a different account of the same events.
- The Book of Mormon contains a number of oddities and errors:
- It contains language reminiscent of the KJV instead of the English spoken in Smith’s time.
- It contains parallels with a book called View of the Hebrews (1823) by Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith), which argued that some Native Americans were descendants of ancient Hebrews.
- It contains lengthy quotations from the KJV as if the KJV were the original language of Scripture. The Book of Mormon also has chapter divisions in the same places they are found in the KJV quotations.
- It preserves some translation errors made in the KJV instead of correcting them.
- It preserves text that is in the KJV but that we now know was not in the biblical autographs.
- It contains anachronisms: paraphrases of Jesus before his earthly life, NT paraphrases of OT passages before the NT was written, quotes from the NT before it was written, Old World plants and animals in the New World in pre-Columbian times, and weapons and other technology or innovations that the Native Americans did not have.
- It contains no archaeological verifiable information.
- Joseph Smith claimed to translate the Book of Abraham into what is now called the Pearl of Great Price. Unlike the golden plates, the Book of Mormon papyri has been looked at by others. It has been determined that Smith did not accurately translate the papyrus.