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Most Israelis know very little about Mormonism, not to mention their theology. When I guided the first-time LDS church members, I got intrigued and wished to get a copy of the Book of Mormon in Hebrew. It turns out that there is only one partial Hebrew translation of the Book of Mormon from 1981. But it’s long out of print and, worse, unavailable in Israel. Unlike the rest of the world, the LDS Church does not proselytize in Israel, nor does it offer Hebrew translations of their holy book in Israel. They have a policy against giving Hebrew translations of the book to Israelis.
This changed in 2019 after guiding the Southwick family. Through their influence, the church made an exception and supplied me with a Hebrew copy. Moreover, COVID-19 enabled me to find the time to read it – and it is a very long book.


The Book of Mormon Outline

The Book of Mormon’s main claim is that it is an additional testament of Jesus Christ, supplementing the Bible. It records ancient American civilizations that descended from the Israelite Lehi family. They settled in northern and central America, witnessing periods of prosperity and war. It also asserts that at some point Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection. These records were eventually concealed, but Joseph Smith claimed an angel named Moroni directed him to the buried documents in 1827. He translated and published the documents known today as the Book of Mormon.

Archaeological Evidence to Stories in the Book of Mormon?

As a biblical archaeologist, I was intrigued by the possibility of tracking any archaeological evidence attesting to the events in the Book of Mormon. I was especially interested in the book’s first chapters, which record events in the Holy Land. The Book of Mormons begins with the life of an Israelite named Lehi from the tribe of Joseph. He lived in Jerusalem, but following a vision, he left Jerusalem and his estate in the first year of King Zedekiah’s reign. Lehi embarked on a long journey to the Red Sea and across the Arabian Peninsula with his extended family. They arrived at a site named “Bountiful,” from which they eventually sailed to the “Land of Promise.”

Three Possible Links

As in the case of the biblical exodus, archaeologists have failed to find evidence of Lehi’s family journey through the desert. Nevertheless, I found some interesting links between the narrative in the Book of Mormon and biblical archaeology. Below are the top three links:

1. Was Khirbet Beit Loya the Estate of Prophet Lehi?

Khirbet Beit Loya is an archaeological site in the southern Judean Foothills (Shephelah), 50 km southwest of Jerusalem. In the 1980s, Dr. Yosef Ginat, an Israeli anthropologist studying at the University of Utah, suggested Bei Loya was Lehi’s estate. He also presented a testimony of an Arab Seikh from the area of a local tradition relating to a local prophet who disappeared. Excavations at the site proved that the Beit Loya was indeed inhabited in the 6th century BCE. Moreover, a cave beside the site bore a paleo-Hebrew inscription relating to Jerusalem (As Lehi did) and sailing. Perhaps this is evidence of the residents’ intention to sail away from here…?. Images of sailing were also found in the decoration of a church erected at the site centuries later. Perhaps this was preserving the local memory of a residence who once sailed away from Beit Loya?

2. Did Nephi Sneak Into Jerusalem Next to the Broad wall?

broad wallThe Book of Mormon narrates that after leaving Jerusalem, Lehi orders his children to sneak back into the city and confiscate the family’s brass plates held by a person called Laban. Evidence of Jerusalem’s city walls in the time of King Zedekiah was uncovered in the aftermath of the Six-day War in 1967. Following the war, large-scale excavations uncovered, among others, sections of Jerusalem’s northern walls in biblical times. Most famous is a section dating to the time of King Hezekiah called The Broad Wall. However, next to it, a section of the city’s fortifications, including a corner of a gate dating to the time of King Zedekiah, were also uncovered. Perhaps Nephi, the son of Lehi snuck into the city through this gate?

3. Moroni’s Brass Plates and the Copper Scroll

An important component of the Mormon faith is that Joseph Smith found the cryptic history of Lehi and his descendants in concealed metal plates. In the 1950s, a very similar discovery was made in the Holy Land – the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are hundreds of documents that are at least 2000 years old, concealed in caves next to the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea Scrolls link to the Mormon narrative in 3 levels:

  1. The Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden by the last members of the group before they perished. The book of Mormons argues the plates were also hidden when the cultures they document perished.
  2. The Dead Sea Scrolls document a sectarian group that withdrew to the desert. The Book of Mormon also records Lehi withdrawing to the desert.
  3. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls was made of copper, and its text presents treasures with encrypted symbols. The documents Joseph Smith found were also made of metal and also encrypted.

The Copper Scroll and the Brass Plates

The copper scroll forms a fantastic parallel to the plates Joseph Smith found. In both cases, someone created a detailed document on a metal sheet, encrypted it, hid it, and it was found in excellent condition when discovered. While some scholars criticize Joseph Smith as a charlatan and plagiarist, he cannot be accused of fabricating the components matched by the Copper Scroll because his book was published a century after the discovery of the Copper Scroll.

In conclusion, I am not claiming biblical archaeology found clear evidence to the events or figures documented in the Book of Mormon. But found three intriguing cases where the narratives of the Book of Mormon relate to archaeological discoveries made in the Holy Land. I do hope this research will continue.

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