The Disappointment of B. H. Roberts
As a young missionary in Tennessee, Roberts began to formulate his defense of the Book of Mormon. Upon one occasion he debated a Campbellite minister on the authority of the Book of Mormon. That debate was the beginning of his reputation within the Mormon Church as a leading defender of the Book of Mormon. In time he became recognized as the expert Book of Mormon apologist. In 1909 he published his chief defense of the Book of Mormon, entitled, New Witnesses for God.
The Doubts Begin
"I found the difficulties (raised by the five questions) more serious than I thought...it is a matter that will concern the faith of the Youth of the Church now (and) also in the future."
President Grant responded immediately to Roberts' request for an emergency meeting of the Church's top leadership. Within a week the brethren assembled for an intense two-day conference at which Roberts delivered a 141 page report entitled, "Book of Mormon Difficulties, a Study." Roberts appealed to the collective wisdom of the brethren and said he was seeking the inspiration of the Lord in order to answer the questions.
Roberts continued to discuss the matter through letters with President Grant and continued for some months to meet with a committee formed out of the larger group comprised of one of Grant's counselors, Talmage, and Apostle John Widsoe. But, Roberts never was satisfied with the response of the brethren.
As his investigation continued, he became more and more disillusioned with
the Book of Mormon; and he always resented the response he received at the
two-day seminar. Two months before his death he told a friend, Wesley P.
Lloyd, former dean of the graduate school of BYU, that the defense the brethren
made for the Book of Mormon might "satisfy people who didn't think,
but (it was) a very inadequate answer for a thinking man." He said
Apostle Richard R. Lyman did not take the matter
seriously and the others, "merely one by one
stood up and bore testimony to the truthfulness
of the Book of Mormon. George Albert Smith-in tears-testified
that his faith in the Book of Mormon had not been shaken by the questions."
Concerning the Five Questions
Joseph Smith Did Not Get The Book of Mormon From God!
One must empathize with the elderly Roberts as he came to realize he had spent a lifetime defending something which he now knew was a fraud. It is heartbreaking. It is perhaps, this fraudulent perpetration of the Book of Mormon that is the most heartbreaking aspect of Mormonism. Millions of Mormons base their faith in Mormonism upon this book which is no more than the invention of Joseph Smith. Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt correctly identified the essential question concerning the Book of Mormon when he declared:
What was the final resolution for Brigham H. Roberts? No one can say for sure. However, I am afraid for him. I fear that this giant intellectual, who could stand against the president of the Church and call the Apostles to task, committed intellectual suicide. In a conversation with Wesley Lloyd, just two months before his death, Roberts showed him what he called "a revolutionary article on the origin of the Book of Mormon." In Lloyd's opinion, Roberts' work was, "far too strong for the average Church member."
What Lloyd saw was "A Book of Mormon Study," a 300-page document
in which Roberts sets forth his reasons for concluding that the Book of
Mormon was not of divine origin. In the document, Roberts investigated the
documents (including View of the Hebrews) which Joseph Smith
could have consulted in writing the Book of Mormon. He investigated "the
imaginative mind of Joseph Smith." He quotes Joseph's mother who recalled
how Joseph would give "amusing recitals" in which he would describe,
"the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling,
and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with
every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship."
All this, Roberts acknowledged, "took place before the young
prophet had received the plates of the Book of Mormon." Roberts suggests that Smith became caught up in spiritual "excesses"
out of which he imagined prophecies and manifestations:
The Gold Plates Didn't Exist
THE FIVE QUESTIONS ROBERTS COULDN'T ANSWER
The five questions the Mormon General Authorities could not answer:
1. Linguistics: Riter asked-if the American Indians were all descendants of Lehi-why there was such diversity in the languages of the American Indians and why there was no indication of Hebrew in any of the Indian languages?
2. The Book of Mormon says that Lehi found horses when he arrived in America. The horse described in the Book of Mormon (as well as many other domestic animals) did not exist in the New World before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.
3. Nephi is stated to have had a "bow of steel." Jews did not know steel at that time. And there was no iron smelted on this continent until after the Spaniard conquest.
4. The Book of Mormon frequently mentions "swords and scimiters (scimitars)." Scimitars are unknown until the rise of the Moslem faith (after 600 A.D.).
5. The Book of Mormon says the Nephites possessed silk. Silk did not exist in America in pre-Columbian times.