Review of Jerry L. Ainsworth’s Lives and Travels of Mormon & Moroni, 2000
A copy of Dr. Ray Matheny’s article, An Analysis of the Padilla Gold Plates Reproduced by permission. First published in BYU Studies Vol. 19 page l, October, 1974 (included)
After carefully reading Jerry Ainsworth's above mentioned book, I feel the need to comment on some of his proposed geographical locations for various cities of the Book of Mormon and to question some statements and speculations he has made and evidences he has used.
This article, and its contents, is my sole responsibility. The BMAF has had no part in its writing. All page numbers refer to Ainsworth’s book. All parenthetical notations and emphasis of scriptures and quotes from Ainsworth’s book are mine. All direct quotes from Ainsworth’s book are italicized.
First of all I agree with some of T. Lynn Elliott's review of Jerry Ainsworth's book, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2000 volume 12 issue 2) N.P. PeaceMakers, 2000. Ainsworth’s book does read a little like a novel and he does “bring a heavy dose of enthusiasm plus over twenty years of work, travel, and exploration in Central America to the task.” Elliott further states, “There is plenty of food for thought in all this speculation, and Ainsworth presents his views in a straightforward and engaging way”.
I do not agree, however, that he “provides compelling evidence for the location of the cities of Bountiful, Zarahemla, and Moroni,” and Lehi. It concerns me when Ainsworth misstates or misinterprets what the Book of Mormon actually says. I also think it is, at least, disingenuous, when he continues to push documents as authentic that have been determined to not be authentic, without further testing to prove or disprove the authenticity of said documents.
Ainsworth proposes the authenticity of 12 small gold plates, known as the Padilla Gold Plates, “found” by Dr. Padilla in late 1950’s in Mexico. Ainsworth apparently agrees with Jose Davila that “Jose knew the value of the five gold plates—which he believed to be authentic--to the Book of Mormon. His stated goal was to present them to the LDS church as evidence for that book (page 19)”. Ainsworth believes these plates contain Reformed Egyptian characters of ancient origin (page 268). All twelve of these gold plates have been examined by competent qualified specialists and determined not to be authentic as claimed.
I have chosen a few, among many, misstatements and speculations to discuss. I have also attached a copy of Dr. Ray Matheny’s analysis of the Padilla Gold Plates.
Misstatement and speculation No. 1
The Book of Mormon does not say that the Ammonites remained in Jershon for four years nor that they were there for probation purposes.
At page 265 Ainsworth states:
The people of Ammon were essentially exiled from their home land, the land of Ishmael, to the land of Jershon in 77 B.C. They remained there for four years. After their time of probation, in 74 B.C. they moved to the land of Melek, in the Nephite lands proper. Melek was precariously close to the narrow neck, of which the Nephites were very protective. Essentially it took the people of Ammon four years to prove their loyalty. In scripture, the numbers four, forty, and four hundred indicate times of fullness, purification, or probation…Also, Moroni required Joseph Smith to spend four years in instruction, waiting to obtain the plates …It is entirely possible that the four years the people of Ammon spent in Jershon were the years of purification for exiles.
The Book of Mormon names 3 cities and 4 lands in the lesser land of Nephi as the homeland of the Ammonites, not just the land of Ishmael. To some it may appear trite or insignificant. However, I will show a pattern of Ainsworth not being faithful to the text of the Book of Mormon.
The Ammonites did not remain in Jershon for four years as claimed by Ainsworth. Originally, it was meant to be their land of inheritance, not for a probationary period (Alma 27:22).
The Ammonites (at least 10,000) did not move to Jershon until sometime after the start of the 15th year of the Judges. Alma 16:21, 17:1-4, 27:14-15, 28:7-9 state in part:
16:21 …Thus ended the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges…
17:1…As Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.
27:14 .And they gathered together…all the people of the Lord…and all their flocks and herds, and departed out of the land, and came into the wilderness [the narrow strip of wilderness] which divided the land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, and came over near the borders of the land.
27:15 …Ammon said unto them; Behold, I and my brethren will go forth into the land [city] of Zarahemla [must be not far away] and ye shall remain here until we return; and we will try the hearts of our brethren, whether they will that ye shall come into their land.
28:1 …the people of Ammon were established in the land of Jershon…
28:7… And thus endeth the fifteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi;
The Ammonites spent some of the 15th year in Jershon, and all of the 16th and 17th years (Alma 43:3 and 35:12-13). The Ammonites left Jershon at the beginning of the 18th year when Moroni moved his army in to protect Jershon from the Lamanites and the Zoramites (Alma 43:4). Therefore, they could only have been in Jershon between about 2 years and 10 months to 3 years and a month or so. They did not remain in Jershon for four years as claimed by Ainsworth.
Another issue is whether or not the Ammonites needed any purification or probation. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon to support this speculation. To the contrary, they were highly favored of the Lord and were more wise, righteous, honest, and faithful than many of the Nephites before they ever arrived in Jershon (Alma 30:20, Alma 22:5-7). The Ammonites were “distinguished in their Zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end (Alma 27 27-30)”.
The Book of Mormon does not say they needed probation. That is unfounded speculation. The Israelites needed 40 years to prepare to enter into their promised land and Joseph Smith needed 4 years to be proven worthy and to become of legal age. The Ammonites had already proven themselves even by giving up their lives in defending their faith in Christ. What higher law of God could have been lived at that time period?
Misstatement and speculation No. 2
The Book of Mormon does not say that the people of Ammon, living in Melek, lived on the periphery of the land of Nephi near the “narrow neck” or that Melek was hilly. Ainsworth erroneously shows Melek to be about 150 miles northwest of Zarahemla. He erroneously shows Jershon southeast from Zarahemla (see page 132). The Book of Mormon does not say or imply that the people of Melek lived a higher law of God than the people of Ammon living in Jershon.
Ainsworth states on page 128:
The people of Ammon traveled westward going “over” to the land of Melek (see Alma 35:13). The land of Melek was hilly. The people of Ammon, having originated in the highlands, would thus have been more comfortable living at a higher altitude. There, they sought refuge with a righteous community of Nephites who lived on the periphery of Nephite civilization “on the west by the borders of the wilderness” (Alma 8:3). …The people of Ammon would thus have become acquainted with the higher principles of the law of God by means of the Nephites who lived in the land of Melek .The migration westward now placed the people of Ammon close to the narrow neck of land. [Ainsworth shows Melek about 150 miles northwest of his proposed Zarahemla at Yaxchilan, Mexico, at page 132].
This is just full of conjecture and misinformation. Alma 35:13 does not say “westward.” (Ainsworth shows Melek northwest from Zarahemla at page 75 and 132) Alma 8:3 does not say, that the Ammonites, at Melek, lived on the periphery of the Nephite civilization, nor does any scripture say the land of Melek was hilly. It does not say that the Ammonites became acquainted with the higher principles of the law of God, or that the Nephites living in the land of Melek gave it to them. The Book of Mormon does not state that the people of Ammon in Melek were close to the “narrow neck of land” which “narrow neck of land” Ainsworth shows as northward from Zarahemla.
I wondered as I read page 132, what were those higher principles of the law of God that the sons of Mosiah did not teach the Ammonites? And what were those higher principles of the law of God that the people of Melek possessed that they passed on to the Ammonites? The Book of Mormon says nothing about this subject. Why speculate?
What the Book of Mormon does say is that the people of Ammon went over from Jershon to Melek which was located due west of the river Sidon from near Zarahemla. And it says Melek was located south of Ammonihah 3 days’ journey for Alma. It also says that both Melek and Ammonihah are within the borders of Zarahemla and not in the western wilderness. Melek must be west, not northward, of Zarahemla because Alma 8:3-5 states as follows:
3…Alma departed from thence [city of Zarahemla] and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by [not in] the borders of the wilderness.
5….and the people came to him throughout all the borders of the land which was by the wilderness side.
6…When he had finished his work at Melek he departed thence, and traveled three days; journey on the north of the land of Melek; and he came to a city which was called Ammonihah
Therefore, Melek can only be west of Zarahemla. Alma was performing his mission of establishing churches first in Zarahemla and then in the regions round about (Alma 30:32). Melek must be a reasonable distance that would be similar to the distance from Zarahemla to Gideon. Gideon was 30 to 35 miles because it was within one day travel southeastward (Alma 2:24-27). Clearly he established the churches in the major cities round about the city of Zarahemla including Gideon, Melek, Ammoniahah, Sidom, and Manti. Ammonihah was the most distant city of Alma’s missionary journey but all were within the borders of the lesser land of Zarahemla.
If Melek was at the location shown on Ainsworth’s map at page 132 it would place Melek over 150 miles northwest from his proposed city of Zarahemla at Yachilan, Mexico, and within about 50 miles of the Gulf of Mexico. This would place Ammonihah (3 days north) on the gulf coast, if not in the Gulf. This clearly violates what the Book of Mormon describes as the location of Melek and Ammonihah, assuming his location for Zarahemla at Yaxchilan, Mexico.
The Book of Mormon does not place Melek “on the periphery of Nephite civilization” as Ainsworth speculates. Remember, the Ammonites were required to give of their substance to help provide for the Nephite army. Melek had to have been in a place fairly close to Zarahemla to be protected by the Nephite armies and so the Ammonites could provide food for the Nephite armies (Alma 27:24). Alma 53:12 states “And for this cause they were brought down into the land of Zarahemla, and they ever had been protected by the Nephites.”
Author Richardson Benedict Gill agrees with studies that prove that the maximum distance foods could be reasonably transported by humans walking to a major city /state would be about 18 to 30 miles or the “radius of one day’s journey (The Great Mayan Droughts, Gill 2000, page 77).
Misstatement and speculation No. 3
The Book of Mormon does not place Jershon southerly of Zarahemla as shown on Ainsworth’s map at page 107.
Jershon can only be east and perhaps slightly north of Zarahemla. This is because Alma 31:3 states:
Now the Zoramites had gathered themselves together in a land which they called Antionum, which was east of the land of Zarahemla, which lay nearly bordering upon the seashore, which was south of the land of Jershon.
If Antionum was east of Zarahemla and south of Jershon then Jershon cannot be southeast of Zarahemla but must be east and maybe slightly northward and both must be near the east sea (Alma 27:22, 26).
Misstatement and speculation No. 4
The Book of Mormon does not say that the western border of Zarahemla stopped east of the high mountains of the Central Depression of Mexico, (Chiapas), nor does it say that the land of Zarahemla did not extend to the western seashore.
Ainsworth says at page 102 that:
“Thewestern border of the land of Zarahemla was east of the high mountains of the Central Depression of Mexico, which was the westernmost part of the main area of Nephite occupation. Theland of Zarahemla did not extend to the western seashore, but it bordered the mountain area that lay east of the Central Depression (Chiapas).”
This is simply not what the Book of Mormon states. Clearly, the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness, in Moroni’s time, was the dividing line between the Nephites and the Lamanites and it went from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27-28). Alma 50:7-11 states (about 72 B.C.):
7. …Moroni …sent forth and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla.
8. And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea].
9…when Moroni had driven all the Lamanites out of the east wilderness, which was north of the lands of their own possessions, he caused that the inhabitants who were in the land of Zarahemla and in the land round about should go forth into the east wilderness, even to the borders by the seashore, and possess the land.
10. And he also placed armies on the south, in the borders of their possessions, [Manti area] and caused them to erect fortifications that they might secure their armies and their people from the hands of their enemies.
11. And thus he cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites between the land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi, from the west sea running by the head of the river Sidon [Manti area] the Nephites possessing all the land northward [from the narrow strip of wilderness] from the east sea to the west sea…
The purpose of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness, for Moroni, was to create a military dividing barrier between Nephites on the north and the Lamanites on the south from the east sea to Manti and from Manti to the west sea. That is why Mormon states in Alma 22:33-34:
33…the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful [including the greater land of Zarahemla] even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south [of the narrow strip of wilderness] that thereby they should have no more possession on the north [of the narrow strip of wilderness] that they might not overrun the land Northward.
34. Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi and wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites—as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.
This is further corroborated by the fact that Moroni was with Antipus in the west sea area protecting the Nephite cities there. Moroni sent an epistle to Teancum in the east sea area. Alma 52:11-15 states:
11…I would come unto you, but behold the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea. And behold I go against them therefore I cannot come unto you.
12…King (Ammoron) had departed out of the land of Zarahemla [from the east sea area] and had made known unto the Queen [in the chief city of Nephi, Alma 47:20] concerning the death of his brother, and had gathered together a large number of men, and had marched forth against the Nephites on the borders by the west sea.
15…Moroni… had established armies to protect the south and west borders of the land.
There can be no doubt but that the greater land of Zarahemla was populated or controlled by the Nephites from the east sea to the west sea. It did not stop “east of the high mountains of the central depression of the Chiapas Valley, Mexico.” where Ainsworth claims.
Misstatement and speculation No. 5
The Book of Mormon does not say that the cities of Lehi and Bountiful are north, or west, of Zarahemla, nor does it mean that the city Bountiful could be located at Palenque, Mexico (see Ainsworth’s map No. 10 at page 75).
Ainsworth states at page 102:
"The northern border of the land of Zarahemla consisted of many cities built “on the North” (Alma 50:15) One of these cities, Lehi, which was built “in the north”…There were also many cities built north of Zarahemla that are not named, except for the city of Lehi."
And at page 108 he states: "Several ancient sites qualify as candidates for the city of Bountiful. Of these, Palenque, in the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico seems the most likely."
The Book of Mormon definitely places these cities easterly of Zarahemla, not north or west. Ainsworth erroneously assumes “north” in this scripture, to be north of city of Zarahemla instead of north from Moroni or where these new cities were being built. Alma 50:13,-15, states:
13. …the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city, Moroni; and it was by the east sea and it was on the south by the line of possessions of the Lamanites.
14. And they also began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni, and they called the name of the city, or the land, Nephihah.
15. And they also began in that same year to build many cities on the north, one in a particular manner which they called Lehi, which was in the north by the borders of the seashore.
Alma 51:26 and 50:25 state:
26. And thus he [Amalickiah] went on, taking possession of many cities, the city of Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore.”
25…concerning the land of Lehi, and the land of Morianton, which joined upon the borders of Lehi; both of which were on the borders by the seashore”.
Clearly, the city of Lehi was located easterly from Zarahemla (not north) and on or near the east sea area. It was north of the city of Moroni and south of Morianton. Lehi could not have been in the “north quarter” as depicted on Ainsworth’s map 36 on page 260, because Amalickiah had taken these cites starting from the city of Moroni, which he had already captured (Alma 51: 23-24). The cities farthest to the south would have been Moroni,Nephihah, Lehi and Morianton. Amalickiah then went northerly on up the east coast to Mulek, which was very near the city of Bountiful.
Teancum was in the city Bountiful trying to regain the cities south of Bountiful while Moroni was coming to his assistance from the west sea area. Mulek was within half days march south from the city of Bountiful. Moroni had instructed Teancum, who was stationed in the city of Bountiful, to attack Mulek, but it was impossible. Teancum waited until Moroni arrived from the west sea area and then they devised a plan to retake Mulek.
Alma 52:22-28 states:
22….Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore, and Moroni and his army, by night, marched in the wilderness, on the west of the city of Mulek…
23….the armies of the Lamanites did march forth against Teancum…and as Teancum saw the armies of the Lamanites coming out against him he began to retreat down by the seashore northward…
26. And thus Moroni had obtained possession of the city Mulek with a part of his army, while he marched with the remainder to meet the Lamanites when they should return from the pursuit of Teancum.
27….the Lamanites did pursue Teancum until they came near the city Bountiful, and then they were met by Lehi and a small army, which had been left to protect the city Bountiful.
28….the Lamanites had beheld Lehi with his army coming against them, they fled in much confusion, lest perhaps they should not obtain the city Mulek before Lehi should overtake them: for they were wearied because of their march, and the men of Lehi were fresh.
This event occurred in one day and, therefore, the city Bountiful must be not more than a half days’ march north of Mulek and Mulek must be right next to the east sea coast. Therefore, Ainsworth erroneously places the city of Bountiful at or near Palenque, Mexico, which is about 250 miles west of where Ainsworth claims Mulek was located on the east sea coast, somewhere in Belize.
Misstatement and speculation No. 6
The Book of Mormon does not say that the Nephites were nearly surrounded by Lamanites in the year 67 BC.
Ainsworth mixes so many events it is hard to keep them all straight. For example at page 99 he states;
Then as Lamanites captured the cities east of the land of Zarahemla, in what is today Belize (including Mulek, Moroni, Gid, Morianton),[and he should have included Lehi because Lehi was south of Mulek and Morianton] “the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites” (Alma 22:29).
This is a misuse of the scripture. The capturing of the east cities by the Lamanites took place about 67 BC, whereas Alma 22:29 is talking about being nearly surrounded by Lamanites, ten to twenty years earlier between 90 and 77 BC. Alma 22:29 says:
And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore whither the Nephites had driven them. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, (north of the narrow strip of wilderness) at the head of the river Sidon [where Manti was located] from the east to the west…
Misstatement and speculation No. 7
The Book of Mormon does not say that the Lamanites occupied the west coast area from the Land of Nephi to the “western end” of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Ainsworth keeps mixing and adding unsupported “facts”. At page 99 he states:
"Archaeologists refer to these two main groups of ancient inhabitants of Mexico and Central America as the highland and lowland Maya. Their division of land gave the Lamanites a strategic advantage over the Nephites on the western end of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The more idle Lamanites occupied the coastal area from the land of Nephi to the land of Bountiful (see Alma 22:28-29)."
Again Ainsworth assumes the Nephites did not occupy the west sea area but that the Lamanites always occupied it from the land of Nephi northward clear up to the “western end” of Tehuantepec. Here is what Alma 22:28-29 says:
28. Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.
29. …the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north even until they [Nephites] came to the land which they called Bountiful.
This does not say that the Lamanites occupied the coastal area from the land of Nephi to the land Bountiful at the western (southern) end of Tehuantepec. Tehuantepec runs north-south not east-west. This is sheer speculation and guesswork on the part of Ainsworth. He does not follow what the Book of Mormon states. Remember in 64 BC Moroni, with his army, was helping Antipus and his army, which was located on the west coast defending against King Ammoron (Alma 52:11). Moroni then took his army to help Teancum save the city Bountiful which was located near the east seacoast, a half days’ march north of Mulek. The Lamanites had taken the cities from the center of the narrow strip of wilderness, at Manti, westerly including Zeezrom, Cumeni, and Antiparah and were threatening the city of Judea. In 62 BC, Helaman and his 2,000 sons came to the rescue of Antipus in the city of Judea which was located toward the west sea and fairly close (“neighboring city”) to the unnamed Nephite city on the west seashore area (Alma 56:30-31).
This is further corroborated by Alma 50:11 which states that Moroni: "…cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon—the Nephites possessing all the land northward…"
Moroni had established a military dividing line along the narrow strip of (mountainous) wilderness from the east seashore westward through the headwaters of Sidon (Manti area) and then westerly to the west seashore, although he had lost part of the defensive line temporarily. Clearly the Book of Mormon states that the Nephites, not the Lamanites, at this time period occupied the west coast area from the unnamed Nephite city northward.
Misstatement and speculation No. 8
The Book of Mormon does not state that the “north countries” were as far as the United States’ southern border.
Ainsworth states at page 257:
I assume therefore that the north countries were located a significant distance from the narrow neck, at least far enough north as to approach the Mexican and U.S. border (see Mormon 2:3).
Mormon 2:3- has nothing to do with stating that the north countries were as far north as to approach the southern border of the United States. Mormon 2:3-6 states:
3…therefore they would not fight, and they began to retreat towards the north countries.
4…we did fortify the city [of Angola] with our might; but notwithstanding all our fortifications the Lamanites did come upon us and did drive us out of the city.
5…and they did also drive us forth out of the land of David.
6…And we marched forth and came to the land of Joshua, which was in the borders west by the seashore.
Where does he get “as far north as to approach the US southern border”?
Misstatement and speculation No. 9
The Book of Mormon does not state or imply agreement between the Lamanites and the Nephites that the Lamanites would occupy the tops of the narrow strip of wilderness and the Nephites the bottoms, nor that the slopes of the mountains would be a no –man’s land. It does not state that the narrow strip of wilderness made a complete circle.
The nature, description, and use by the Book of Mormon people of the narrow strip of wilderness is distorted by Ainsworth. Although it is long, I will quote the most egregious parts of page 256:
…It is also apparent that this narrow strip ran from the tops of the mountains to the bottoms there-of. Although the Book of Mormon does not state it as such, it is apparent that the Nephites and Lamanites had come to an agreement (either formally or informally) that the Lamanites would occupy the tops of the mountains, while the Nephites would occupy the lands at the bottoms. The slopes of the mountains, from top to bottom, would be a no-man’s land or wilderness. ..Because this tall range of mountains also surrounded the Central Depression of Mexico, this narrow strip of wilderness, of necessity, turned north when it reached the west sea. It then extended north, approaching the narrow neck. From that location it turned “round-about,” Continuing south, ending up in the land of Manti at the headwaters of the River Sidon (see Alma 22-27).
On page 103 he states: … the wilderness that ran partially between the sea east and the sea west.
How Ainsworth can justify such conclusions from Alma 22:27 or anywhere in the Book of Mormon is beyond comprehension. First of all one must understand that the narrow strip of wilderness was identified and used as a military line of defense from the east sea to the west sea (it does not say partially) in a straight course Helaman 50:8) from about the start of the reign of the Judges (91BC) until about 30 BC. This is when the Lamanites became more righteous than the Nephites and started coming into the land of Zarahemla.
There is no justification in claiming there was a formal or informal agreement between them and it certainly is not “apparent”. They were constantly at war in the lowlands and in the highlands like Manti which was located in the northern edge of the narrow strip of wilderness high up near the headwaters of the Sidon. Even in the “slopes,” or better stated “foothills,” like at Minon and Gideon, there were battles and people living there. It was not a no-man’s land.
Also it is certain that the city of Nephi was not in the tops of the mountains as the hill north of Shilom was above Nephi and in the southern edge of the narrow strip of wilderness. Ammon had to come down into the city of Nephi from the hill north of Shilom (Mosiah 7:6). The city of Nephi, which was the chief city that the Lamanites occupied, could not have been in the “tops of the mountains as it was not even in the narrow strip of wilderness because this wilderness is what divided the two cities and lands.
To say that the slopes of the mountains from top to bottom would be a no-man’s land is without merit whatsoever. Then to claim that the Book of Mormon supports the proposition that the narrow strip of wilderness turned north and followed the west coast northward until it approached the “narrow neck of land” when it then turned “round about” and returned southward ending up in the land of Manti is full of conjecture and departs from what the Book of Mormon states that the narrow strip of wilderness went from sea to sea and in a straight course.
Misstatement and speculation No. 10
The Book of Mormon does not say, in Alma 44:22, that the “dead were not cast into the river Sidon”.
This pattern of misusing scriptures continues and is clearly manifest in Ainsworth’s construction of Alma 44:22 wherein he claims at page 255 that the “dead were not cast into the river Sidon but into the waters of Sidon.” He was apparently trying to make a distinction that water in a basin or “on the banks of the River Sidon but that had not yet reached the river basin” was different and uses this construction to set the stage for understanding “Land among many waters” as land interspersed with canals and lagoons and still be part of the ocean. See page 255.
The problem is that his premise that “the dead were not cast into the river Sidon” is not true. They were cast directly into the River Sidon. This event occurred in the 18th year of the judges when the Zoramites and the Lamanites united in the land of Antionum in the east sea area to fight the Ammonites and converted Zoramites. Moroni became captain of all the Nephite armies. The Ammonites were sent to Melek in the beginning of the 18th year of the judges and the Nephite armies moved in to defend Jershon. The Lamanites feared Moroni’s army and fled to attack Manti. Moroni, knowing of their plans by revelation from Alma, arrived first. The pertinent parts of Alma 43:27-53 state:
27. …Moroni caused that his army should be secreted in the valley …near the bank of the river Sidon which was on the west of the river Sidon in the wilderness.
31…He divided his army and brought a part over into the valley, and concealed them on the east, and on the south of the hill Riplah;
32…and the remainder he concealed in the west valley, on the west of the river Sidon and so down into the borders of the land Manti.
39…the Lamanites became frightened, because of the great destruction among them, even until they began to flee towards the river Sidon.
40...and they were driven by Lehi into the waters [river] of Sidon, and they crossed the waters of Sidon. And Lehi retained his armies upon the bank of the river Sidon that they should not cross.
53…Zarahemnah saw the men of Lehi on the east of the river Sidon, and the armies of Moroni on the west of the river Sidon,
Alma 44:22 states "…and they did cast their dead into the waters of Sidon, and they have gone forth and are buried in the depths of the sea."
Alma 2:34 further states: "And thus he cleared…the bank, which was on the west of the river Sidon, throwing the bodies of the Lamanites who had been slain into the waters of Sidon, that thereby his people might have room to cross and contend with the Lamanites and the Amlicites on the west side of the river Sidon."
Clearly the terms “waters of Sidon” and the “river Sidon” were used in the Book of Mormon synonymously. The dead were cast directly into the river Sidon both at the time of the battle with Zarahemnah and the battle with the Amlicites.
Misstatement and speculation No. 11
The Book of Mormon does not state or imply that the distance between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi was about 250 miles. The Book of Mormon shows they were much closer.
At page 116 Ainsworth states categorically and without citation that:
We know that the land of Zarahemla (the lowlands of southern Mexico and northern Guatemala) lay about 250 miles distant from the land of Nephi (the highlands of Guatemala) in their main population centers.
If he is talking about the greater land of Zarahemla and the greater land of Nephi it is wrong because the distance between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nehi is not more than the width of the narrow strip of wilderness, perhaps some 20 to 30 miles or so at the most. If he is talking about the distance between the city of Zarahemla and the city of Nephi (main population centers) it likewise violates what the Book of Mormon states about these two cities in reference to their location relative to the narrow strip of wilderness. The city of Nephi must be within eye sight, (and south) of the narrow strip of wilderness, not more than a few miles, while the city of Zarahemla must be just down from Manti and within not more than about two days or so march (Mosiah 7:4-6, and Alma 56:25). The distance between these two cities cannot be over about 100 miles or so and certainly not 250 miles.
Misstatement and speculation no. 12
The Book of Mormon does not say that Mormon preached for four years to the Nephites in Zarahemla from the age 11 through the age 15.
Ainsworth states at page 158:
Just four years later-the four years Mormon had preached to them, the Lamanites commenced another war….During these four years it is conceivable that information about Mormon’s calling as the record keeper became public, especially since he endeavored to “preach unto this people” (Mormon 1:16). The people understood that he had been “visited of the Lord, and [had] tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus”
Ainsworth seems to ignore what the rest of the scripture states about the matter. Mormon’s father took Mormon at age 11 from somewhere in the land northward to the city of Zarahemla. The people could not have cared less about anything spiritual that Mormon did or believed. Mormon did not preach to them for four years but he was commanded of the Lord to not preach to them. The scriptures relevant to this matter are as follows (Mormon 1-10-17):
10. And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon [near the city of Zarahemla].
13….but wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.
14. And there were no gifts from the Lord and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.
15. And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.
16. And I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them; for behold they had willfully rebelled against their God; and the beloved disciples were taken away out of the land because of their iniquity
17...But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them…
Mormon did not preach to them for four years. He merely made an attempt at age 15 and the Lord shut his mouth. Why does Ainsworth misstate or misinform what the Book of Mormon actually says especially in light of what he states on page xx of the Preface of his book “I have written with the sincerest effort toward accuracy”?
The truth is what we seek. Honest inquiry and absolute consistency with and faithfulness to precisely what the Book of Mormon states must be the bottom line. Every theory, speculation, conjecture, or evidence must be objectively tested, and verified, as consistent with the description, and intent stated in the Book of Mormon and eventually corroborated by scientific studies and archeological and anthropological research. The end result, however, is not to verify the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon but to study it and give greater understanding and knowledge about the people who lived in that era.
Misrepresentation and speculation No. 13
The Padilla Gold Plates were presented to the Church as evidence for the Book of Mormon (page 19). These plates have been declared not authentic by competent archeologists. Therefore, continuing to advocate them as authentic or as evidence of the truthfulness of Book of Mormon, without proving otherwise, is gross misrepresentation.
The above pattern of misstating and misusing scriptures is so oft repeated that it calls into question most of Ainsworth’s beguiling speculations. It further tends to corroborate professional expert opinions as to the fraudulent nature of his proposed evidence that the Padilla Gold Plates are proof of the veracity of the Book of Mormon. The Padilla Gold Plates have been determined to be not authentic by competent archeologists. Yet Ainsworth continues to claim them to be authentic, and proof of the Book of Mormon. Author Wayne May does the same thing with his “Michigan Plates”. Both seem sincere in their belief that their evidence of ancient writings on their “ancient plates” gives authenticity to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Both evidences have been determined to be not authentic. We do not need that type of evidence. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is spiritual and personal and has nothing to do with the geography or artifacts of the Book of Mormon.
A review of the coming forth of these Padilla Gold Plates is necessary to establish a foundation for their study and to help determine their authenticity. From Ainsworth’s book at pages 17 through 22:
Dr. Jesus Padilla Orozco… was the stepson of Alfonso Caso. Caso was Minister of Archaeology under several Mexican presidents. …As Caso’s stepson, Dr. Padilla was privy to the newest discoveries of ruins, tombs, and other archaeological finds in his day (page 17).
…On such an occasion, in the late 1950’s he was invited to help in an unofficial excavation of a tomb that he reported to be northwest of Rio Verde in the area of San Pedro Amuzgos, in the state of Oaxaca…Each of seven people participating in that excavation took a large number of artifacts for their personal collections. Dr. Padilla stated that among the items he took were twelve small gold plates, which are shown as illustrations 8, 14, and 15 in this book (page 18).
News of the discovery of the plates spread rapidly among Church members. Elder Averett sent a letter to BYU’s Anthropology Department but was discouraged from pursuing the matter further. Ross T. Christensen responded that the plates were probably fraudulent. At that time, Jose Davila heard of the existence of the plates and visited Dr. Padilla in Cuautla. Dr Padilla showed Jose five of the gold plates, including the three that had hinges (ill. 8). He also told him about another, larger gold plate. Jose offered to buy the five plates, but Dr. Padilla refused to sell them (page 18).
…In October of that same year (1961) Senora Padilla visited Jose Davila at his home in Puebla. Jose had previously offered his life’s savings of US $2,000 for the five plates. Now, under financial duress, the Padillas were willing to make a transaction at that price. Unfortunately…Jose claimed he purchased the plates from Padilla, while Padilla claimed he loaned them to Jose. That conflict eventually became bitter and remained without resolution.
In the early 1970’s, the controversy between Jose Davila and Dr. Padilla became so grave, both in private and in public, that both men’s houses were raided by Mexican federales. They confiscated truckloads of artifacts from the home of Dr. Padilla, who had taken precautions to protect his most valuable items (page 19).
This chain of events became so traumatic for Dr. Padilla that he decided to deny that he had the remaining seven plates. Meanwhile, in December of 1961 Jose Davila had taken the five gold plates he had obtained to the LDS church in Salt Lake City (page 19)
During that time, he was referred to the Anthropology Department at Brigham Young University, where he was received less than enthusiastically. Finding himself rejected by those whom he believed would be most supportive, Jose endeavored to create interest in the plates privately among members of the LDS church. Finally, having become a controversial figure in Utah, he returned to Mexico in 1970, disappointed and disillusioned. At that time, he resumedhis profession as a licensed tour guide of archeological sites (page 19).
Following Jose Davila’s failure to obtain support, Dr. Padilla himself sought help. …
In response to Padilla’s letter, Paul Cheesman and Ray Matheny (of BYU’s Anthropology Department) visited Dr. Padilla at his home in Cuautla, Mexico, in January 1972…
In January of the following year, however, Paul Cheesman, Ray Matheny and Bruce Louthan issued a negative report concerning the authenticity of the twelve plates originating with Dr. Padilla (page 20)
In March 3, 1988 Dr. Padilla was very ill and weak but he visited with Ainsworth and Esteban Mejia. Dr. Padilla gave the 7 plates and other artifacts to Ainsworth.
At page 31 Ainsworth states:
"There were other items in Dr. Padilla’s possession we hoped to obtain some day. We felt that our next step was to have all these artifacts authenticated. However, that would be an expensive and perhaps risky proposition. We remembered what had happened to the five gold plates that Jose had taken to BYU. Esteban and I had the option of spending our limited funds on expensive tests, tests that were sometimes contradictory, or continuing doing what we did best, namely to explore and to retrieve. We opted for the latter.
It seems to me that where there is a question about the authenticity of a relic, one should verify, in the name of truth and honesty, before propagating misinformation. The best thing to do now would be to have the plates tested by competent objective specialists to either prove or disprove the conclusions of Dr. Matheny. I hereby offer to pay for such a test.
Dr. Ray Matheny graciously sent me a copy of his expanded report and it is attached hereto. Anyone can read the report and see why Dr. Matheny determined the plates to be not authentic. Dr. Matheny has been a professor at BYU for 40 years teaching Anthropology and Archaeology. He is a scientist of the highest integrity and competence.
I will summarize some of Dr. Matheny’s reasons for declaring the plates to be not authentic:
1. The plates were cut with a fine-toothed jewelers saw.
2. The production of gold alloy sheets with the close tolerances of thickness of the Padilla plates is definite evidence of modern achievement
3. The method of engraving was modern, requiring finely-made hardened steel tools.
4. The cylindrical hinges and soldering could only have been done in modern times.
5. The script used on the plates was copied from a Mexican missionary tract containing part of the Anthon transcript.
6. The plates contain file markings.
7. The plates are too square and evenly shaped to have been made by pounding.
8. The plates use motifs from the Aztec Codex Borbonicus dated about 1,200 AD
9. The motifs copied on the Padilla plates are poor imitations of motifs from the wooden lintel located at Chichen-Itza.
10. The Padilla plates’ metallurgy shows the plates were made out of modern rolled gold stock rather than from a poorer quality of ancient gold hammered sheeting.
Following is the complete report of Dr. Matheny. He has consented to this republication of his article.