Are You Willing to Search for Truth?
Thomas Ferguson was a true believer of the Mormon faith. He was on fire for the LDS church. He dedicated his life and fortune to proving the claims of the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith. His life and the results of his search can be a lesson for those who are willing to search for truth…even when it is not what you want.
Archeologists working in Israel in 1961 uncovered an astounding find. It was a partially destroyed marble block found at the site of 4th Century theater. There was nothing remarkable about the marble. What was fascinating was the inscription. It read “to the Roman Emperor from the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate.” Yes, that Pilate. He was the guy who ordered Jesus crucified. The simple slab of marble had been originally part of a 1st Century building at that site built by the man who ordered the execution of Jesus.
Why is this significant?
The Bible identified Pilate for 2000 years ago. He is accepted as part of Christian history. Yet, there was no archeological or historical evidence of his existence before this discovery. Roman records did not specifically mention him in Israel. Many secular historians claimed he did not exist. Other claimed he never was in Israel. Archeology dispelled these arguments and confirmed the Biblical narrative.
The “Pilate Stone, as it is known, followed similar finds confirming the Bible on King David, Hezekiah and many others. It came after years of finding Jewish coins in the Temple Mount. Mountains of archeological evidence have been located that attest to the historical details of the Holy Bible.
The evidence is not just in Isreali dirt either. There are victory columns in Rome depicting the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Roman and Jewish historians wrote of Jesus. John the Baptist, Apostle James, and the Jewish people. Ancient documents and carvings attest in many different ways to the Biblical narrative. There are estimated to be 35,000 distinct Biblical archeological finds alone.
It is incontrovertible that the narrative set out in the Bible actually took place as a result. Everyone agrees that Israel was there until 70 AD and there was a real man named Jesus. For more specifically on the evidence of Jesus read Was Jesus a Real Person, The Christian Sources be sure to read all three parts, Part II – Secular Sources and III – Josephus.
New proof is discovered every day. Christianity is a faith built on mountains of evidence.
The Mormon Historical Problem
The Book of Mormon and the Mormon faith are in exactly the opposite position. The claims made by their founder, Joseph Smith, regarding the fate of the Jewish peoples, the history of the North American people’s, and the very foundation of their faith are a source of great anxiety. The historical assertions are crucial to the founding of their faith. They provide the very basis for the Mormon faith being separate from Christianity.
Yet, there is no evidence behind them. Joseph Smith presents a Mormon historical narrative that should result in a similar mountain of evidence as the Bible. It what Smith claimed to be true was indeed accurate, there would be troves of archeological and historical relics to be discovered. Yet, Mormon historical claims fall apart at the slightest bit of pressure.
A Leaky Foundation of Faith
Joseph Smith made clear statements in the Book of Mormon. He said Jewish people traveled to North America by ship well before the first European settlers. They established great civilizations with cattle, iron, chariots and great buildings. These claims are not set forth as speculation on Smith’s part. They are alleged to be from God to man. Smith claimed he was a prophet of God. It is on this historical narrative that he set out the core doctrines of the Mormon faith.
Joseph Smith’s credibility is the only thing that established that faith. If he is not telling the truth then the faith is a sham.
The huge problem comes for those of the Mormon faith due to lack of evidence. There is no credible evidence that any of what Smith claims is actually true. There is no archeological, historical, or DNA evidence supporting his outlandish tales. There should be an abundance of proof if even what a portion of Smith wrote were true. When Mormons reasonably begin to inspect the archeological and historical record behind these claims and find there is none, it is understandably upsetting. The obvious falsity of the historical narrative tends to destroy their faith. They might soldier on and pretend, but any faith in Joseph Smith correctly dies.
One True Mormon Believer
Ferguson wasn’t impressed by their efforts. “The interested and inquiring mind of the modern investigator is not satisfied with explanations which are vague, unsound, and illogical,” he wrote in an article in a church magazine in 1941. By then he was a law student at UC Berkeley and intrigued by the idea of scientifically testing Smith’s revelation. In a later letter, he wrote, “It is the only Church on the face of the earth which can be subjected to this kind of investigation and checking.” And in another, to the LDS leadership, he declared, “The Book of Mormon is either fake or fact. If fake, the [ancient] cities described in it are non-existent. If fact—as we know it to be—the cities will be there.”
Thomas Ferguson was a true believer. He was raised in the Mormon faith and took seriously the teachings of Joseph Smith. He truly believed in the Book of Mormon including its historical claims. The book said there were great ancient civilizations in the Americas. He logically believed it. Logic also says that if there were great communities there should be evidence left behind. Ferguson thought it was merely a matter of looking.
Ferguson was working with the fire of Mormonism in his bosom. He believed and wanted to prove Book of Mormon’s claim so he could show the mockers and skeptics. He sought to find evidence of the very clear claims of Joseph Smith about the peoples of pre-Columbus North America. The Book of Mormon is filled with tales of elaborate societies with great cities and warring cultures. Their buildings, chariots, and swords should be discoverable through archeology, Ferguson and many others have reasoned. He would be the one to find the evidence. He would prove all of Joseph Smith’s doubters wrong.
Ferguson spent decades of his life and much of his own money looking for any shred of proof. The Bible has 35,000 sites, secular history, and church history on its side. The book that is called “Another Testament of Jesus” should something, right?
No archeological evidence was found to support Smith’s claims. The extensive architecture and cultures of pre-Columbian America were proven to be unrelated to the Book of Mormon. DNA analysis further removed any doubt. Native American DNA was shown to have no markers for Middle Eastern descent. The extensive proof that should be there, iron chariots, ruins of buildings, evidence of the great wars, was not. The evidence actually conclusively disproved the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. They shattered Thomas Ferguson’s own beliefs in the process.
In 1842, as editor of a Mormon newspaper, Smith published excerpts from a book about the ruins of the Mayan city of Palenque in Mexico, with the commentary: “Even the most credulous cannot doubt … these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites—and the mystery is solved.”
The Book of Abraham Indicts Joseph Smith
If Ferguson’s beliefs were challenged by the lack of archaological fiasco, the Book of Abraham burned them to aches. The Book of Abraham was another book Joseph Smith claimed was more direct revelation from God. It set out the full story of the Patriarch Abraham. Smith said clearly and specifically that it came from when he discovered an ancient Egyptian papyri. Smith said he immediately realized that it was written by Abraham himself. He was further tasked by God to translate it into a cornerstone of the LDS faith. It would become part of their canon of scripture. It includes much of the doctrine that is distinctive to the Mormon Church. It was a similar origin story as the Book of Mormon. Smith claimed to have translated that book from the same source as that book, the ancient Egyptian language.
Here is the important point. No one understood ancient Egyptian at that time. The language of hieroglyphics had been lost. Smith’s “translation” work could not be cross-checked for accuracy as a result. People simply took Joseph Smith’s word that it was true. Smith’s skills went untested until 1966.
Two significant things happened that would greatly undermine Smith’s claims. First, the language of Egyptian hieroglyphics was unlocked. Symbols that had previously been a mystery were now readable and agreed upon by experts. Then, in 1966, the papyri Smith claimed to be the Book of Abraham were found.
Thomas Ferguson was understandably overjoyed at the find. He reasonably conclude this would redeem all of his lost years. It would show all of the doubters would now see the brilliance of Joseph Smith. The historical evidence he searched for was finally discovered. He immediately sent copies of the papyri to experts in the language for review and translation. This is an entirely logical thing to do. If Joseph Smith was telling the truth about translating the Book of Abraham from ancient Egyptian, the proof would be right there in the papyri. Ferguson was a true believer, remember.
The results were clear and shocking.
The results started coming in 6 weeks later. “I believe that all of these are spells from the Egyptian Book of the Dead,” UC Berkeley Egyptologist Leonard Lesko wrote to Ferguson. Three other scholars independently gave Ferguson the same result: The texts were authentic ancient Egyptian but represented one of the most common documents in that culture.
After decades of stressing the importance of the scientific method and using it to shore up his own faith, Ferguson now found himself at its mercy. “I must conclude that Joseph Smith had not the remotest skill in things Egyptian-hieroglyphics,” he wrote to a fellow doubting Mormon in 1971.
An Honest Man
Smith claimed he translated these ancient documents in a time where only he could read them. He said very clearly that they contained a story of Abraham, the father of Israel and it was written by Abraham. He then incorporated this story into Mormon Scripture based on his word alone.
These ancient documents contained nothing like what Joseph Smith alleged. The Book of Abraham is conclusively proven to be a fraud.
A person of the Mormon faith has a choice to make from this conclusion. Do they remain intellectually honest and ask the logical questions that follow? Since Joseph Smith’s claim of translating the Book of Abraham is obviously not true AND he clearly had no knowledge of ancient Egyptian, how can anyone trust his very similar claims of about the Book of Mormon? Smith clearly fabricated one book and claimed it was scripture. Why should anyone believe that he did not fabricate the other?
A jury would certainly never just trust the claims of someone who had been exposed as a forger. Ferguson was an honest man and arrived at the same conclusion.
When faced with the incontrovertable evidence Ferguson arrives at a clear conclusion. Smith showed himself to not be an expert in ancient Egyptian and oh so sadly, his whole life was a waste. He had spent countless hours chasing after proof to support the words of a false prophet.
Broke, bitter and completely disillusioned, Ferguson had no choice but seek the truth. His life about following evidence. It was damning.
Joseph Smith as a forger and false prophet.
Joseph Smith clearly fabricated the Book of Abraham.
There was absolutely no evidence of ancient Israelites in North America.
Smith clearly did not know ancient Egyptian.
One can only honestly conclude that Smith was not a prophet and the Book of Mormon and faith built around it is fiction.
The clear evidence demands this verdict.
Sadly, Ferguson then stops here. This is the path of too many who discover they have been deceived.The Mormon Church and a Conspiracy of Disbelief
He does not explore Christianity. He does not go to the Holy Land and explore any of the 35,000 archeological sites available. He does not read the ancient Roman historians Tacitus or Josephus who wrote about Jesus 2,000 years ago. His faith was built on one man – Joseph Smith – and that was destroyed. He could not recover from that.
Ferguson does not even leave the Mormon Church. He suppresses his pain, hides his disbelief and the smoking crater that is his life and marches on:
Although open about his doubts in his private letters, Ferguson didn’t discuss his loss of faith with his family. He continued attending church, singing in the choir, and even giving blessings. “[Mormons] are so immersed in that culture … [that] to lose your faith, it’s like you’re being expelled from Eden,” Coe says. “I felt sorry for him.
This is the Mormon way and the real tragedy of Ferguson’s story and that of many Mormon’s today. He is so badly burned by Joseph Smith that he completely shuts himself off from any further quest for eternal truth.
How refreshing it could have been for Ferguson to dig up a Pilate Stone or examine the Dead Sea Scrolls? He could have spent his years handling the thousands of pieces of evidence all over Israel.
It is a tragedy that is being repeated by the thousands all over the world today. With the advent of the internet, the overwhelming evidence against the historicity of the Mormon faith is reaching people of that faith in previously unheard of numbers.
Upon reading the many internet sources, the doubts that they had were confirmed and many turn away from the faith, inwardly ceasing to believe in God at all.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a faith built on a firm foundation.
History and archeology do not prove Christianity definitively. They do show clearly that something amazing happened in the tiny country of Israel in the timeline set out by the Bible. This resulted in the most powerful Empire in the world changing its religion to that of a despised backwater country within a relatively short time. It also shows that this faith has remained constant and clear through the Bible and the letters of the Church since the 1st Century.
History also shows that it was only one man, Joseph Smith, who chose to perpetuate a lie. His actions have nothing whatsoever to do with the Truth, Jesus Christ.
If you are reading this and undertaking the same journey as Thomas Ferguson, I urge you to not waste this opportunity the Lord Jesus has given to you. He has shown the many problems with the LDS faith to you and started a journey of discovery of Him that can result in a joy that is beyond anything on his earth. It just takes a willingness to not to stop just at the untruth. To keep searching for God even after you have been hurt.
Keep going and search out the real truth. The real Jesus is worth it!