Saturday, February 21, 2015

Letter of Arthur Budvarson – Part I

It would seem that by now everyone would know that the so-called Smithsonian Acceptance of the Book of Mormon is not accurate; however, while it is used constantly by critiques to show the Smithsonian does not accept the Book of Mormon as an answer to origination of American aborigines, it is not, in and of itself, of much value. But for those who are not familiar with the original pretext and what led to the Smithsonian response, perhaps a little information would be helpful.
What many critics know about, but perhaps not many members, is that a letter has been circulated since the 1950s, written by Frank H. H. Roberts, Jr. (left), of the Smithsonian Institution, that, in part, states: “The Smithsonian Institution has never officially recognized the Book of Mormon as a record of value on scientific matters, and the Book has never been used as a guide or source of information for discovering ruined cities.”
    Many critics have used this, saying the letter was written because of the claim that some members of the Church have made about archaeologists using the Book of Mormon. As they state: “For instance, we are informed that a letter, which was written to Earnest L. English on May 3, 1936, was duplicated and ‘distributed to LDS church members by leaders (local) in Cleveland, Ohio in 1959," in which the following is given:
    The inquiry you made regarding the Book of Mormon is a commendable one and I will be pleased to mention the part which it has played in helping the government to unravel the problem of the was 1920 before the Smithsonian Institute officially recognized the Book of Mormon as a record of any value. All discoveries up to this time were found to fit the Book of Mormon accounts and so the heads of the Archaeological Department decided to make an effort to discover some of the larger cities described in the Book of Mormon records. All members of the department were required to study the account and make rough-maps of the various populated centers...During the past fifteen years the Institute has made remarkable study of its investigations of the Mexican Indians and it is true that the Book of Mormon has been the guide to almost all of the major discoveries. When Col. Lindbergh flew to South America five years ago, he was able to sight heretofore undiscovered cities which the archaeologists at the Institute had mapped out according to the locations described in the Book of Mormon. This record is now quoted by the members of the Institute as an authority and is recognized by all advanced students in the field.”
    However, this post is not about this so-called letter, but about the Smithsonian letter. So let us follow that line first. A man by the name of Arthur “Art” Budvarson, the co-founder, along with his wife, Edna, of the Utah Christian Tract Society (1956-1990), a group formed for missionary effort to evangelize members of the LDS Church (This group merged with the Mormonism Research Ministry in 1990). A one time member of the LDS Church, Budvarson, became a long-time prolific critic of the Book of Mormon and ridiculer of the prophet Joseph Smith, and author of a very lengthy “pamphlet” criticizing Mormonism in general and the Book of Mormon specifically.
In his pamphlet (page 42), Budvarson cites a letter from the Smithsonian Institution experts in Washington D.C., written to Mr. Robert C. Breeze of Norwalk, California, dated February 16, 1951, from Frank H. H. Roberts, Jr., Acting Director of the Smithsonian Institution (Bureau of American Ethnology):
     It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject of the Book of Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World. The Smithsonian Institution has never officially recognized the Book of Mormon as a record of value on scientific matters, and the Book has never been used as a guide or source of information for discovering ruined cities.”
    In three other letters from the Smithsonian quoted on the same page, it is also quoted, “There is no correspondence whatever between archaeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations, and as recorded in the Book of Mormon," and that, moreover, "we know of no authentic cases of ancient Egyptian or Hebrew writings having been found in the New World.”
    On September 30, 1958, Budvarson wrote a letter to Dr. Roberts in which he named many cultural objects and animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, along with numerous names of Nephite cities. In this letter, he asked Dr. Roberts to comment on the following six specific questions:
1. Have any of the above mentioned cities named in the Book of Mormon been discovered?
2. Does true archeological data of the New World agree with the subject matter of the Book of Mormon?
3. Has the Book of Mormon ever been used or recognized as a guide in archeological explorations?
4. Does the Book of Mormon have any value in connection with scientific investigation and archeological discoveries?
5. Has there been any Hebrew or Egyptian writings found in the ancient ruins discovered on the American continent?
6. What are cureloms and cumoms? Have they ever been discovered? I have referred to numerous dictionaries and encyclopedias and I cannot find any reference to either of them.
The office of the Bureau of American Ethnology (top) produces numerous reports and pamphlets (note the pamphlet is the same pattern that Budvarson above used for his anti-Mormon pamphlet)
    Regarding this letter, Dr. Roberts wrote back, in part, on October 10, 1958, the following:
    With respect to some of the questions which you have raised pertaining to the story in the Book of Mormon relating to aboriginal occupation in the New World, I may say that thus far no iron, steel, brass, gold and silver coins, metal, swords, breast plates, arm shields, armor, horses and chariots, or silk have ever been found in pre-colonial archeological sites. It is not until after the conquest of the New World by Europeans that materials in those categories appear in association with aboriginal artifacts. As a matter of fact there are not many such objects occurring in historic sites. Futhermore, cattle, sheep, swine, horses and asses, such as we know them, were introduced in the Americas by Europeans in post-Columbian times. No actual elephants have been found in any archeological site. In the early stages of aboriginal development during late Pleistocene times the Paleo-Indians did occasionally hunt and kill the mammoth and mastadon, and in some cases appear to have killed and eaten the native horse. Those creatures, however, became extinct at least 10,000 years ago. I do not know of any case where an archeological site has been identified with any of the names of the cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The most likely ruined cities would be those in the Maya area, and they all have native names which do not correspond to those in your list.”  
(See the next post, “Letter of Arthur Budvarson – Pt II,” for the continuation of this article and Budvarson’s six questions that the Smithsonian answered and their evaluation)

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