“Check Please”: Shysters, Conmen, and Flimflam Artists
“Check Please”: Shysters, Conmen, and Flimflam Artists
Associated with the Book of Mormon
by Jeff Holt
Copyright © 2015
The contents of all BMAF publications are the sole responsibility of the individual authors and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of BMAF or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In today’s Internet world of artificial truths, forged artifacts, photo-shopped images, and dubious claims, the need for restraint in believing everything about the Book of Mormon on the Internet is greatly required. The desire for sustaining evidence for the Book of Mormon is an invitation for a growing business of “shysters, conmen, and flimflam artists” who take advantage of the unsuspecting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A careful scrutiny of their authorship and their sources is vital in these times of easy deception.
Lady Astor once remarked to Winston Churchill, “If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.”
Churchill replied, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
The point here is that Churchill never said this. It is probably attributed to Churchill because of his rivalry with Lady Astor or perhaps because Churchill was known for his quick wit. Either way, Churchill is given the credit. This account is attributed to the wrong source. Like many of the competing theories of the probable settings for the people of the Book of Mormon, many people and places and effects are given as true when, in fact, they have no connection to the subject at hand.
Many outside the Church of Jesus Christ wonder, if only a little bit, “How gullible can the Mormons be?”
Likewise, within the Church are found those who ask, “How naive can we be?”
Often in the current times of the twenty-first century, members of the Church are taken advantage of because of their trusting nature and natural inclination to believe, especially if the other person is a fellow member. Mark Hoffman, a onetime member and returned missionary for the Church, was also one of the most accomplished forgers in history. Hoffman gained notoriety by passing off fraudulent documents duping both nonmember and member alike.
In a similar vein, some shysters, conmen, and flimflam artists today use fraudulent artifacts to push their ideas upon the unsuspecting member of the Church. Not only will such people use pretentious artifacts but also they will use pseudo scholars to support the sham artifacts.
By false pretentions, some members of the Church have been conned into believing an idea that supports their own religious beliefs. People have always wanted evidence that will support their own religious beliefs. In fact, the science of archaeology grew out of that desire. Many of the biblical sites and their people have been authenticated through the research of archaeologists. For the Latter-day Saint, it is no different. When supposed archaeological evidence comes along that supports the people written about within the text of the Book of Mormon, members are quick to believe it, notwithstanding the incredulity of the evidence. Why do some believe in such bogus evidence? They do so to bolster their own beliefs and quickly accept it for the simple reason that they know if there is archaeological evidence for the Bible, there should be evidence out there that supports their own religious concepts.
How can members of the Church know what to believe? Is reliance upon what past and current leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ say the only source of knowledge to help members sustain their faith? Rest assured that in this high-tech day, the archaeological techniques that are used to obtain knowledge are not only reliable but also are the most correct as well. Detractors outside the Church will always be ready to tear down the Church at every chance. Sadly, some of those inside the Church will wear a false coat of sheepskin but inside be ravenous wolves. These wolves will use fraudulent means to support their agenda, and, like their coconspirators on the outside, these wolves within also lie in wait to deceive. Members, when examining the purported evidences, need to be cautious in accepting such evidence and exercise restraint before quickly promoting and contributing to such counterfeit concepts.
Wayne May, one of the founders for Ancient American magazine, says that he has been interested in archaeology since he was in the third grade. Any third grader who has played in a sandbox can make that same claim. A relevant question to ask here is, “Does interest alone make someone an expert?” Ancient American magazine has the reputation from “real” archaeologists as a fallacious publication that uses artifacts that are known to be fraudulent. May also uses a counterfeit scholar who received his alleged PhD at a diploma mill. Therefore, another relevant question to ask is, “If May uses fake artifacts and a fake scholar, shouldn’t his listeners or readers be at least a bit hesitant before accepting his dubious theories?”
The harm that can come from such acceptance is real. Childbed fever caused the death of many babies because of contaminated medical instruments. The deaths were often blamed on the weakness of the child or the mother when the blame actually belonged to the doctor for not sterilizing his equipment. The same fate came upon President Garfield. He was shot and would have recovered if not for the bumbling, unclean Dr. Doctor Bliss (yes, Doctor was his first name). The gullible Latter-day Saint members who accept the claims of Ancient American magazine and then later find the falseness of such claims have a tendency of transferring the deceptions from the dubious source to placing blame upon the Church and falling into inactivity and later possible apostasy.
Frank Joseph (aka Frank Collins) became one of the editors of Ancient American to push his diffusionist ideas. Nothing is wrong with the theory of diffusion (the movement or culture of traits and ideas from one society or ethnic group to another); however, the position of editor usually comes from someone of authority or someone who has the professional skills for the job. May is not an archaeologist, and Frank Joseph/Collins has a scary criminal record (pedophile) and was a leader of the National Socialist Party of America (NSPA), a known racist group that held many anti-black demonstrations and had alleged connections to violent crimes. May also uses J. J. Hurtak as an expert to support his theories. J. J. Hurtak has no real academic degrees and uses a known diploma mill (Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico and the University of California) to bolster his scholarly facade.
Readers should check sources of information and the academic connections of the scholars when considering Ancient American magazine for their source of information. Although it was a very popular theory that the lost tribes of the Bible settled in the United States, no archaeological support exists for such a theory. In fact, because of the lack of evidence to support this hypothesis, fake evidence was made up. It was a belief held not only by Mormons but also by many of the early settlers of the United States in times of colonial America. Even many of the founding fathers considered the Native American Indian a savage while at the same time believing the ancient inhabitants of America must have been the lost tribes of Israel. The people of the Clovis, Adena, and Hopewell traditions are the ancestors of the Native Americans, yet the relationship of these groups could not be associated in the minds of the early colonists of the United States.
The term “to vet” means to investigate thoroughly before offering a job. Vetting was originally a horseracing term—one that required the horse to be checked by a veterinarian for health and soundness before being allowed to race. Credulity is the willingness to believe one or many people or things in the absence of proof or knowledge. There are many “out there” who will use counterfeit aims in the intent to deceive, either to get gain, popularity, or prestige or to bolster one’s religious beliefs. In the YouTube videos of May, he states that he was a Sunday School teacher, a seminary teacher, and gospel doctrine teacher. This technique is called a “confidence trick.” It is an attempt to gain confidence and trust. These callings do nothing to add to his knowledge of archaeology. So why does he use them? He does so to sow trust and uses his religious callings as a means to obtain that trust. In one moment, May uses the Apostle James E. Talmage to support his ideas, and in another time in the same video, he says that Elder Talmage was merely a pseudo-scientist.
In a popular video that has been advertised on national television, many real and fake artifacts are used to reinforce the idea of Israelites in ancient America. Such fakes used were the Grave Creek stone, the Michigan relics, the Bat Creek stone, and the Newark holy stones. The use of these objects by May suggests they are legitimate or at the very least scientifically controversial. The placing of these fakes next to real artifacts such as effigy pipes undermines the authenticity of the genuine artifacts, such as Adena effigy pipes, and at the same time is a deceitful effort to legitimize the fakes.
Ancient American magazine uses many arrowheads its writers claim are remnants of warfare from Nephite and Lamanite battles in New York. These claims are refuted by the fact that New York has had many archaeological sites explored professionally. The different colors of stone can be traced to their exact source if the stone is blue, red, gray, or black and also by the pattern of grain (much like that in wood) that the projectile points exhibit. Modern archaeologists and geologists have the skills and technology to trace the projectile points back to the very rocks from which they came. With fishhooks and points made from bones, they can be carbon dated. The site taken in whole can be analyzed by the stratigraphy layers and the dates of the objects. An example of this is a site in which no pattern was found, suggesting that the people were not sedentary but rather were hunter/gatherers. A notable amount of pottery shows that a more agri-dependent people lived there and therefore provides further detail about the period of time in which these people lived.
The manner in which the projectile points were flaked can also indicate which group made the points—for example, were they fluted? If so, they were knapped by the Clovis people. Archaeologists can tell if a site was a restricted area of occupation by one group or more than one or used at the same site but in a different time, even to the level of its being a single cultural group or it involved a shared, common tradition or custom. Archaeologists can tell the difference between an Algonquian or an Iroquoian site, even if the same site was used by both cultures. The sizes of the artifacts also give clues—for example, the larger projectile points were for spears or small javelins, thrown or propelled by an atlatl, whereas larger points were used for big game such as a mastodon (Clovis hunter/gatherers). As big game became scarce, archaeologists have documented a transition to smaller projectile points.
Archaeological evidence is ever abundant in New York. A great amount of archaeological evidence exists for small groups of people. Such being the case for small groups, a natural question is, What about large groups such as a Lamanite/Nephite army? Large migrations or small, evidence should be found for both. However, no evidence exists for such an army around the Hill Cumorah at the time of the final battle. In fact, not only is there no such evidence at that time but also no evidence exists for any other time period. In summary, when someone says “Look at all the arrowheads found nearby the Hill Cumorah,” that does not mean these artifacts came from large Nephite or Lamanite armies. Correspondingly, any mention of baskets full of arrowheads being found is hearsay, and the arrowheads are not from any primary sources.
Wayne May’s YouTube videos and Ancient American magazine have been emphatically proven to contain many errors, and the experts (actual archaeologists) have refuted each claim made by May concerning pre-Columbian Israelites. No proof has been found of Native American writings in the United States before Columbus. The attempts to validate such claims with fraudulent artifacts show how desperate some people are to sell their lies. To use fake artifacts and fake scholars and to twist the words of Smithsonian statements (such as from John Wesley Powell) are gigantic red flags that beg to be looked into deeper and refuted whenever possible.
It is incumbent upon the members of the Church not to be susceptible in accepting every claim that supports the Book of Mormon yet at the same time be vigilant in their pursuit to study, ponder, and search out and continue the quest for knowledge. If people want to find evidence for a setting for the Book of Mormon, I suggest they look to Mesoamerica. Not only does Mesoamerica fulfill the requirements that the text of the Book of Mormon demands but also Mesoamerica is supported by real science and qualified experts.
In conclusion, I have learned to say “Check please” whenever anyone makes a statement about the geography or sociology of the Book of Mormon. A call for references is in order whenever we are faced with dubious claims. In fact, we should check the source of the sources as well. We do not have to be cynical by always questioning the motives of others, but we should be prudent, wise, and hesitant in accepting what we read on the Internet or what comes out of the mouths of fellow members. And we should always remember Mark Hoffman and the adroit ways in which he deceived members of the Church. My experience is that testimonies can be strengthened by the confirmation of the Spirit and surely even every now and then reinforced by science.
Finally, I give below my answers to a few questions that shysters, conmen, and flimflam artists ask about the Book of Mormon:
Question: What about all the skeletons found in the mounds? Surely they represent evidence for the Book of Mormon.
Answer: Not necessarily. The skeletal remains found in many of the mounds are mostly from ritual burials and are not from warfare. Furthermore, the burials are from different time periods than those of the Book of Mormon. That is, for example, most of the skeletons found in the mounds at Cahokia are at different levels representing different groups of people over hundreds of years. The few that are found to be prisoners or from combat are in very low numbers (one such find had at the most nine skeletons) and were found to be from either combat or execution. The largest number of skeletons found that died from warfare involves fifty-five skeletons found in a cave in Utah.
Question: What about the many arrowheads found? Is this evidence of a massive war?
Answer: No. The arrowheads found in the mounds are for ritual purposes and were never used for warfare. They were in pristine condition, new in every aspect, and positioned in the manner where all of them were banded together and placed facing the same direction.
Question: Is there any evidence of a large war at the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York?
Answer: No. There has been no evidence found or any tests done that confirm a war being fought at that hill. The number of arrowheads found and reportedly sold in basket loads has been exaggerated and were arrowheads not from a final battle but were gathered from many areas around that region. Some of them date back to pre-Columbian times, and many date afterwards. They have been sold to Church leaders and other members as a way of making money. They were sold as arrowheads from “the final battle” to get the “Mormon customer.” The arrowheads have been dated by experts who traced them back to where the arrowheads came from, how they were knapped, and what their relationships were with external remains, such as plants and midden that were found with the arrowheads.
Question: Could the Mississippi River be the river Sidon mentioned in the Book of Mormon?
Answer: No, the Sidon is a north-flowing river. The Mississippi is a south-flowing river.
Question: Could New York be the land northward?
Answer: The land northward as spoken about in the Book of Mormon requires that a major part of it was rendered desolate and without timber. This territory could not be the mounds of the Ohio valley, nor could it be in upstate New York—for the reason that there were vast territories of forests in those areas at that time. There were also no known great cities in those regions that would be even close to being similar to those mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
Question: Could not the Adena people be the Jaredites and the Hopewell the Nephites?
Answer: No, because the Jaredites lived northward of the Nephites. The Adena and Hopewell, although two separate groups, lived in the same areas.
Other facts: The population of any of the Mound Builders does not equate with the demographics reported in the Book of Mormon. The largest and most peopled mound was Cahokia around AD 1150 at 50,000 people. Cahokia and other mounds could not be the people of the Book of Mormon because the Cahokia never had enough people, they did not live in the correct time period, and they had no written language. Mesoamerica over time migrated up into the Mississippi and perhaps further. However, further research on that subject needs to be done.
. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Tea (accessed May 9, 2015).
. The term “Mormon” is slang that should be recognized by the formal name, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are sometimes referred to as Latter-day Saints.
. Wayne May, “Book of Mormon Archaeology in North America,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnWAqV-eqa4 (accessed May 9, 2015).
. May, “Book of Mormon Archaeology in North America.”
. “Who Is J. J. Hurtak . . . Really?” http://theobservor.blogspot.com/2006/04/who-is-j-j-hurtakreally.html (accessed May 9 2015).
. “LDS Archaeology,” http://www.ldsarchaeology.com (accessed May 9, 2015).